Saturday, 28 January 2012

Whisky Discovery #34

Another Christmas addition

Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak (40%, OB, bottled 2011, 70cl)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £25

The second of my two Macallan 10 Year Olds received for Christmas from my wife. This was an absolute bargain at just under £17.00 at our local supermarket. This is also another one from Ian Buxton’s excellent book 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die

The flagship of The Macallan sherry oak range in the UK market, The Macallan 10 Year Old has become a benchmark for single malt of the highest quality.

This 10 Years Old is matured exclusively in Spanish oak sherry casks, to deliver a deep, rich, deliciously smooth and well-rounded flavour, with a slight sweetness and touch of sherry and wood.

Its deep colour, like that of all of its siblings, is achieved wholly naturally without the addition of any colouring.

Colour: A pale golden amber, though remarkably darker than the Fine Oak

Nose: A lovely hint of sweet toffee balanced with dried fruits and sherry, spice and wood

Palate: Smooth and creamy, nutty with dried fruits, rich sherry sweetness and wood smoke.

Finish: Dried fruits, sweet toffee and lingering and soothing wood spices and soft peat

I am certainly enjoying this quality whisky from The Macallan and is a worthy addition to my collection and my whisky journey.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Whisky Discovery #33

Cragganmore 12 Year Old (40%, OB, bottled 2011, 70cl)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £30

Not a full ‘tasting’ as such, more of a sampling after a lunch with my wife at The Birch in Woburn. On entering I immediately noticed a selection of single malts on display which I thought would need further investigation after lunch. 

We sat down for lunch and ordered a Guinness and was a little taken back when they told me that they didn’t have it ! So had to settle for a cider with my lunch. 

The Birch is a small family run establishment who have earned a reputation in the area for delivering excellent quality food served by friendly and attentive staff. We had never been there before, although it had been on a 'to do' list in my head for some time. 

They have  an extensive menu offering English/Continental style of dishes together with an open griddle area where you can choose from a selection of fresh steaks/fish, cooked to your preference by their chefs. Their 'surf and turf' interpretation with Duck and Crevettes was delicious.

A really nice atmosphere in the restaurant area even on the grey day we were there. Lunch was served and thoroughly enjoyed, we will be back I’m sure.  However as soon as lunch was finished I was itching to check out the whisky shelf spotted when we arrived.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a well stocked whisky shelf and although only signature brands, there were a total of twelve single malts and one blend on display that should satisfy most whisky drinkers:

Lowland:        Glenkinchie 12 YO
Highland:       Dalwhinnie 15 YO, Glenmorangie 10 YO, Oban 14 YO
Speyside:      Cragganmore 12 YO, Glenfiddich 12 YO, The Glenlivet 12 YO Macallan Fine Oak 10 YO
Islay:               Laphroaig 10 YO, Lagavulin 16 YO
Island:            Talisker 10 Year Old, Highland Park 12 Year Old
Blends           Johnnie Walker Black Label

With only the Cragganmore 12 Year Old not previously tasted, I ordered a single to sample before the coffee arrived. My only complaint was that there didn’t seem to be a suitable glass for really enjoying the nose of the whisky, and had to settle for the smallest tumbler which had a slight return camber to the glass.

The notes below are from the distillery as it really wasn’t the right conditions for savouring the whisky properly, although reading the distillery notes I agree with most of them immediately.

A sherried 12 year old single malt from Diageo's Classic Malts range, this bottling from the Cragganmore distillery represents Speyside and proffers a rich, slightly floral whisky with barley notes.

Nose:    Aromatic, floral. Heather, fruit salad, creamy texture. Smoked almonds, stemmy hay.
Palate:  Rich, honey, stone fruits, chestnuts, walnuts, almonds. Berries.
Finish:   Smoky, good length, delicate peppery spice

You can find the The Birch at Woburn by clicking this link:

Home Page Image
The Birch at Woburn

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Whisky Discovery #32

The Balvenie Craftsman's Reserve No.1 The Cooper 15 Year Old (59.4%, OB, bottled 2012, 10cl)
Speyside Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Not currently for sale

The tasting kit sent to the lucky Warehouse 24 members
The wonderful people of Balvenie offered an opportunity to all it's Warehouse 24 UK members  to register for a live on-line tasting event. 1000 bottles were sent out to the lucky recipients. Each 10cl was hand labelled and came packaged in a very well made presentation box, complete with two nosing glasses. The condition was that the whisky should not be tasted until the live on-line event.

I'm not sure how many actually attended, there were circa 250 signed into the website, but there were others on Twitter and Facebook too. The event was beamed live from the Balvenie cooperage was hosted by Balvenie Ambassador Sam Simmons along with their Malt Master David Stewart and Head Cooper Ian McDonald.

The whisky, drawn from a single second fill sherry cask, was distilled 15 years ago and bottled at cask strength of 59.6%

My first dram
Colour: a rich golden amber, typical of a sherry malt.

Nose: definitely the sweet honey Balvenie trademark, with raisins and sultanas, fruit cake,Christmas cake, cherry, toffee and caramel, and vanilla. Lots going on, the nose is just wonderful. I can sniff this all night !

Taste: sweet and smooth, even at cask strength. Rich fruits and sherry, spices

Finish: warming and sweet spiced honey

Just 315 bottles will be released for sale to the Warehouse 24 members and I'll definitely be looking out for this opportunity.

What a great evening this has been!

Whisky Discovery #31

Isle of Jura Superstition NAS (43%, OB, bottled 2011, 70cl)
Island Single Malt Whisky
Circa £25

A Christmas Gift
Another of my Christmas gifts, this one was from my eldest daughter.

The packaging, although only a simple box, really is quite eye catching, with it's black and white rocky shoreline, low hills in the background and with the silver printing. The bottle is another work of art with minimal labelling, but the silver 'ankh'  taking central stage on the front of the bottle.

Subtly sweet yet smokey, on the small label under the ankh, and despite having the HM Revenue and Customs logo on the back, the fact that the colour of this whisky has been 'standardised' by the addition of caramel colouring, has been carefully hidden on the bottom of the box, in German. Why do distillers hide the fact that they have added caramel colouring? Sometimes it's in French, other times in German, never in English !

I asked the distillery how the expression came about, and what whiskies were used in it's bottling. Jura immediately came back to me with the following:

As you are probably aware when the Distillery re-opened in 1963 Jura started producing very soft highland style malt, and this in the main, is what they are known for. In 1999 Jura started spending four weeks out of every year producing a heavily peated version using barley that was up to 60ppm or parts per million peat based as opposed to their normal 2ppm.

The Superstition is actually a marriage of both of these styles of whisky together. There is an old superstition on Jura that it is unlucky to cut peat before the beginning of May, and so the name was born

Within it are:

7 Year Old heavily peated (7 year itch; 7 years bad luck if you break a mirror)
13 Year Old Highland style (unlucky 13)
21 Year Old Highland style (coming of age when you get the keys to the door)
The ankh is the Egyptian symbol of eternal life; the Gaelic for whisky translates as - the water of life, and on Jura there are graves that house the bodies of people that were reported to have lived more than 130 years.

In order to drink the Superstition properly you must hold the bottle so that the ankh touches the palm of your hand when you pour - that way you get the full benefit of our best wishes for a long healthy and prosperous life.

And so I carefully poured a healthy dram into my nosing glass, making sure the ankh was in the palm of my hand. The colour of autumn leaves, a rich almost orange gold.

Body: an oil like coating the inside of the glass with long legs trailing back into the liquid

Nose: lightly peated, fresh, orange blossom, floral, butterscotch, white pepper, definitely white pepper.

Palate: salty or briny, the white pepper again, butterscotch and vanilla, smooth and quite light in the mouth.

Finish: long spicy with a little smoke, but not a heavy Islay peaty smoke, and the saltiness is there.

My Jura Origin 10 Year Old took time to grow on me, but I really loved it by the end of the bottle. I think the Superstition has taken off where the Origin left me and have really enjoyed starting this bottle. Although I understand it is not to everyone's taste, I love it.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Whisky Discovery #30

Aberlour A'Bunadh NAS Batch 37 (59.6% abv, OB, Bottled 2011, 70cl)
Speyside Cask Strength Single Malt Whisky
Circa £35

Christmas 2011 - A gift from my son
My first Aberlour and #30 in my own whisky journey. It's also listed in Ian Buxton's 101.

A'bunadh, Gaelic for 'of the origin' is matured exclusively in Oloroso Sherry butts. It is a natural cask strength malt whisky produced without the use of modern chill-filtering methods or the addition of water.

Aberlour A'Bunadh is released in small batches, and the distillery kindly informs us that the flavours may vary slightly from one bottling to another. Reading  Jim Murray's 2012 Bible seems to verify the batch variation, but I can confirm Batch 37, bottled at 59.6% is stunning. I will be interested to read his thoughts next year though!

I love the bottle shape, the support within the tube that carefully cradles the bottle base and the wax seal to the top. I really didn't want to destroy this wax so carefully cut between the top of the bottle and wooden stopper.

With some anticipation I poured the first two drams, one for me and one for my eldest daughter, well it was her birthday.

The deep rich amber liquid filled our Glencairn's and we gently tilted our glasses, rotating them slowly to see the body of the whisky as the 'legs' crawled down the side of the glass. (does anyone know why Jim Murray does not favour the Glencairn ?)

We carefully nosed the dram, being at cask strength we didn't want to anaesthetise our senses with alcohol burn!

A rich and full nose, spices and oranges, the strong thick cut marmalade my Dad favours, Christmas cake, rich dark chocolate and lots of sherry as expected.

The taste was intense, rich and creamy, I love the feel of it rolling over my tongue, the tingling from the alcohol, yet silky smooth, with the dark chocolate again, ginger and the sherry and oak.

The finish was very long and warming, rich and oily, with spices again. The lasting finish being like a clove oil.

We added some water, and the nose opened up, more oranges and almond came through. Obviously lighter, though still creamy and the almonds turn sweeter with a marzipan taste.

I love the nose of the empty glass as the sherry disappears and the malty oak remains, with even a little smokiness.

I've since gone back to it neat as I prefer the cask strength kick. It is in my opinion, a first class batch and I would like to compare this against other batches.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Happy New Year !

All in all I had a great December tasting four new whiskies for the first time, and with Christmas gifts still to open and sample! The Christmas gifts included a bottle of Aberlour A'Bunadh batch 37, a bottle of Jura Superstition and two Macallans, the 10 Year Old Fine Oak which I opened earlier and the standard 10 year old.

I toasted the New Year in with a Lagavulin 16 Year Old, one of my favourite single malts. It was swiftly followed by a second, and for a nightcap finished with a Highland Park 12 Year Old.

With so many bottle on the whisky shelf I decided that I really ought to finish one or two bottles before opening one of the new ones.

Week one of 2012 saw the end of my fabulous Highland Park 12 Year Old and the Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old. I have loved every smooth drop of the Orkadian, but as much as I have tried to get into the Dufftown, I really haven't got much to say about it at all. It's not offensive, and certainly quite drinkable, but I found it fairly ordinary, "nothing to write home about", for my taste buds anyhow. They do have a 15 Year Old available, but I'm not sure I would invest in a full size bottle of this, I would need to try a miniature first. However I certainly will be trying other expressions from Highland Park.

From my very first 'tasting' just over a year ago I feel I immediately entered a 'zone' of whisky appreciation and have been hooked ever since. I have a need to know more about taste and flavour - I am starting to feel this is going to be a very long journey! So, in order to fulfil my thirst for knowledge I have invested in a copy of the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2012, lots of information for the whisky geek ! 

HAPPY NEW YEAR and I'm looking forward to a very interesting second year of my journey.