Sunday, 26 February 2012

Whisky Discovery #38

Clynelish 1993 Distillers Edition (46%, OB, Cask No Cl- Br 173-5j, 70cl)
Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
£45 for 70cl at Cambridge Wine Merchants, Ampthill

Just a wee dram this time
I popped into Cambridge Wine Merchants in Ampthill on the way home from work on Friday to speak to owner Chris Woodhall about the piece I had written about his shop for my blog. Chris asked me if I had time to taste something new (for me) I don’t need asking twice. Chris pulled out a bottle of Classic Malts Clynelish Distillers Edition for me to sample, and poured a dram into a long stemmed nosing glass for me to saviour.

I first tasted a Clynelish a year before I started drinking whisky. I can't remember which expression it was although recall it being an independent cask strength bottling, most likely a Cadenheads. (see "In The Beginning")

The Clynelish distillery is located in the East Coast of the Northern Highlands at Brora. The distillery was founded in 1819, under the name Clynelish,and was established by the Marquis of Stafford who, after marrying into the Sutherland family, became the first Duke of Sutherland.

However, in 1967,  build commenced on a new distillery, also named Clynelish, located just across the road from the original Clynelish. Once completed the former Clynelish distillery was renamed Brora (pronounced ‘Broar-err’) in 1969. The name derives from the Old Norse ‘Bru’r aa’ meaning ‘the bridges river’. Brora closed in 1983, and buildings of the Brora distillery are now used by the new Clynelish distillery as a visitor centre and warehouse.

From the Classic Malts Website:
The Distillers Edition was first released in 2006, it was distilled in 1991 and finished in Oloroso casks. The expression I tasted was distilled in 1993 and so was 18 years old when bottled. Each Distillers Edition expression undergoes a second (or ‘double’) maturation in casks that have previously held a fortified wine.

Nose:   Immediate raisins, in fact rum and raisin. Dried orange peel. In time a clean walnut crispness appears. Water makes it softer, dried cherry, sultana, apricot and some honey. There's still a slightly piercing quality - tangerine and chocolate.
Body:   Silky soft.
Palate: Very sweet with plumped up dried fruit. Sultana cake with thick butter and underneath a bowl of nuts; hazelnut and macadamia. A slightly salty quality cutting through the unctuous texture.
Finish:  Short with a hint of nut-shell bitterness.

So what did I think?
From the quick snifter I had I was impressed, but then I usually am – I just love whisky!

Colour: Rich amber

Nose: I immediately got the sherry and raisins, and the orange peel, a little smoke too? I didn’t have the time to really pick out everything and did not add water.

Palate: The palate is sweet and smooth, even at 46%. You can almost taste the salty sea air that the whisky has been matured in. Rich fruitcake with cherries raisins and sultanas, deliciously mouth filling.

Finish: Definitely short, but satsfying

Again I only had one dram of this in the confines of a busy wine shop, and so did not have the time to sit down and fully appreciate it. Would I add it to my wish list? Has the Pope got a balcony? Yes to both questions, and if you're stuck looking for a gift for me I'd be very happy receiving a bottle of this!

I have just checked my Bible and Guide. It’s not listed in Ian Buxton's 101, and Jim Murray wasn’t that impressed with his tasting of an earlier release. However he did go on to say that it certainly had the potential to be a brilliant whisky with the correct selection of casks. I think Clynelish listened as this latest release was proving very popular.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

World Whisky Day

The inaugural World Whisky Day is on March 27th 2012 and is a global celebration of world whiskies

World Whisky Day is a chance for whisky fans and people new to whisky to get together and raise a glass of Whisky/Whiskey/Scotch/Bourbon/Blended Whisky/Single Malt Whisky wherever they are.

World Whisky Day invites all bars, restaurants, hotels, whisky clubs, liquor stores /whisky shops,whisky clubs/whisky societies, whisky distilleries, individuals and groups to register their events to get them added to the World Whisky Day Global Map and celebrate by raising a glass of whisky.

People are taking part all over the world - Let’s Get The World Involved!

Origins of World Whisky Day

World Whisky Day was envisioned by Blair Bowman, a young whisky enthusiast, in June 2011. Since then he has been working single handedly to make World Whisky Day a global success story for whisky. World Whisky Day is a day for people across the world to thank those who work in the global whisky industry.

University of Aberdeen student Blair Bowman, 21, decided to found the special day after discovering there was no dedicated international celebration in honour of the drink. He has founded what is said to be the first World Whisky Day to celebrate the spirit.
More than 7,000 people around the globe have signed up to register events as part of the celebration on March 27.

Through his website, people from as far afield as India, the United States, South Africa and even Kyrgyzstan have signed up to take part. The student, who is in the third year of an MA in Hispanic Studies, said: "I've already had messages from people saying they're planning to open 40-year-old bottles to mark the occasion and a whisky bar in Kuala Lumpur is holding its grand opening on the day. He came up with the idea for World Whisky Day when he travelled to Spain for the year abroad which was part of his degree.

"World Whisky Day is about sharing and appreciating the drink with friends - not binge drinking - and will be a great way for those new to the spirit to get involved. I'm hoping the day can grow year-on-year and I'm already looking to 2014 as it is such a significant year for Scotland, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and more Homecoming celebrations planned."

Blair works part-time as a barman at St Machar Bar in Aberdeen, has also created his own blend through the Master of Malt website to mark the occasion. Blair's interest in whisky came from his parents and grew when he joined the university's malt whisky society. He was the third member to join the newly-formed society which now has 250 members, around 50% of whom are women.

Please check out his website:

If anyone is doing anything in Bedfordshire / Buckinghamshire please let me know!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Whisky Discovery #37

Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban 12 Year Old / Port Finish (46%, OB, bottled 2012, 70cl)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
Circa £38

Just a taster dram at local wine merchants
A sneaky dram in my local Cambridge Wine Merchants in Ampthill while reviewing their whisky wall and picking a bottle of their Sound of Islay for myself. (more on both Cambridge Wine and Sound of Islay later). I had heard they keep a few bottles open from time to time, so asked what was, and this Glenmorangie was pulled out and poured into a nosing glass 

Glenmorangie's Quinta Ruban has won a number of awards, most notably ISWC Gold Best In Class (Single Malt, Highland) in both 2008 and 2009. However, it was upgraded in late 2010, and is now sporting a 12 Year Old age statement where previously there was none.

The darkest and most intense whisky in their extra-matured range, Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban has spent 10 years maturing in American white oak bourbon casks, before being transferred into specially selected ruby port pipes from the Quintas, or wine estates, of Portugal. 'Ruban' is Gaelic for ruby, hence the name.

Extra maturation in these port pipes develops Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban into a voluptuous spirit with a complex balance of sweet and dry flavours and an intriguing contrast of smooth and crisp, cooling textures.

Because it is non chill filtered and bottled at 46%, this imparts added body, taste and texture to the spirit.

So what did I think?
From the quick snifter I had I was impressed. It was the first whisky my wife had actually said that she liked the smell of, so am I slowly winning her over?

Colour: Sunlit ruby gold

Nose: Dark chocolate, with a hint of mint? Marmalade oranges, a good touch of Port, slightly nutty, spices and pepper.

Palate: Like sipping velvet! The palate is sweet and thick, the Port being chewy and rich. Chocolate and nuts again, more sweet marmalade oranges. Christmas fruitcake with lots of dark plums, raisins, absolutely mouth filling.

Finish: Long lasting, fruity silky and sweet, the aftertaste leaving dark chocolate and traces of orange and apricots.

I only had one dram of this in the confines of a busy wine shop, and so did not have the time to sit down and fully appreciate this whisky to the level I try to when enjoying a new whisky at home. I was however, impressed by this whisky and certainly adding this bottle to my wish list.

Have just checked my Bible and Guide. It is listed in Ian Buxton's 101 and Jim Murray gives it a 'brilliant' 92 points. Can't be bad then !

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Whisky Discovery #36

Jameson Irish Whiskey NAS (40%, OB, bottled  2011, 70cl)
Irish Blended Whiskey
Circa £22

A' Brucie Bonus'
An unplanned and unexpected bonus at the end of a Friday afternoon meeting at my MD’s house. We often stop off for a beer on the way home on Friday evenings – we have a ‘moaning’ chair where we can sit and discuss the week’s ups and downs, plans for business development, family and of course, the weekend ahead.

The MD was working from home this Friday, and we needed to put in a conference call to the US, so I left the office just after lunch, made our plans, the call and then summarised. After the meeting it was time for a quick drink before heading home and a bottle of Jameson was pulled out of the drinks cabinet.

So my first Irish whiskey on my journey, although I’m sure I must have tried this in the past at sometime, although not in the current mindset of trying to unpeel the layers within each new whiskey tasted. (I’m sure Jameson were at one of the boat shows I attended many years ago, handing out samples which would have been used as chasers to the Guinness we normally consumed at these events)

Although Bushmills will claim to be the oldest Irish whiskey, there can be little doubt that Jameson is the most famous and widespread. The company was established in 1780 when John Jameson established the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin

Jameson was actually Scottish, a lawyer from Alloa who had married Margaret Haig, a sister of the brothers who founded the main Haig firms, and related to the Steins, a Scottish distilling family with interests in Dublin. A Whisk(e)y Dynasty? His family motto and guiding philosophy was "Sine Metu", meaning "Without Fear", which appears today on every bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey.

Originally one of the six main Dublin Whiskeys, distilled at the famous Bow Street distillery Jameson is now distilled at Midleton, an enormous modern distillery in County Cork built by Irish Distillers to streamline the production of its many brands. This brought an end to nearly 200 years of Jameson production in Dublin, but the Old Jameson Distillery in Bow Street is now a visitor's centre although I understand vatting still takes place in Dublin.

The Midleton distillery is home to many other brands beside Jameson, including Green Spot, Paddy, Power's, Redbreast and Tullamore Dew.

Jameson is similar in its adherence to the single distillery principle to the single malt tradition, but Jameson combines malted barley with unmalted or "green" Irish barley, all sourced from within a fifty mile radius around the distillery in Cork. The barley is dried in a closed kiln fired by clean-burning natural gas, and formerly anthracite coal, to preserve its flavour. The most famous component within Jameson is the "Pure Pot Still" distilling tradition.

Legally Irish Whiskey must be matured on the island of Ireland for a minimum of 3 years. Jameson is, however, matured for between 3 and 7 years. Like most Irish whiskey, Jameson is triple distilled for optimum smoothness. 

The philosophy is balance, ensuring that no one flavour element overpowers another. The end result is a sweet-tasting whiskey:
  • The balance between just the right amount of malted and un-malted barley to give a natural barley flavour.
  • Balancing the exact proportions of triple distilled Pot Still Whiskeys and then triple distilled Grain Whiskeys to deliver exceptional smoothness.
  • Balance the sweet, nutty flavour from Sherry casks with the toasted wood and vanilla notes from Bourbon casks.
So what did I think ?
I was really surprised by this Jameson. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but I wasn’t expecting this! The levels of complexity from a mass produced signature blend was quite stunning. I’m not sure if it is the mixture of the malted and un-malted barley, the mixture of the Pot Still Whiskey and the Grain Whisky, but I’m liking it.

Colour:   Golden amber

Body:      Rich, the legs taking an age to return to the glass

Nose :    The nose is full and floral with a smooth sweetness. Marmalade and fudge, sherry          undertones, peppered with spicy wood  and a little cut grass note

Taste:     A great balance of spicy, nutty, woody and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness.

Finish:    Medium-length with spice and honey, Incredibly smooth and mellow

I consulted Jim Murray’s whisky bible the following day, he liked it too, and gave it very high marks, an incredible 95 points putting it on a par with the likes of Argbeg 10 and Glenfiddich’s Snow Phoenix.

In terms of bang for your buck, this has it !

My ‘Brucie bonus’ was I got to take the bottle home to add to my whisky shelf at the end of the day so I can revisit this at least until the bottle is drained.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Whisky Discovery #35

Auchentoshan Three Wood NAS (43%, OB, bottled  2011, 70cl)
Lowland Single Malt Whisky
Circa £35

My first Toshan
My first Auchentoshan, but not my first Lowland whisky as I've previously sampled Edinburgh’s Glenkinchie 12 Year Old at the beginning of my journey (Whisky Discovery #3).

This is January 2012’s official addition, and recommended by the Toshan Man himself, Mark Dermul ( who I have become acquainted with on The Whisky Social Network ‘Whisky Connosr’ (

I was going to go for the Classic as listed in Ian Buxton’s book, but Mark steered me this way. I’m really pleased with his recommendation, but will be back for the Classic (and more) later !

Auchentoshan (ock-un-tosh-un) is, as I said earlier, a Lowland whisky and the distillery is located to the North West of Glasgow in Clydebank. With no age statement on this expression I wrote to Auchentoshan and asked what age whisky this was. They replied that this was a 12 year old whisky, matured for 10 years in bourbon casks then finished for one year in Oloroso Sherry and then one year in Pedro Ximenez Sherry.

Auchentoshan’s clean, complex character starts with malted optic barley. Only gently kilned, completely un-peated barley lets the Auchentoshan taste shine through. They grind the barley to suit their lauter tun. It’s vital to have evenly milled starch grits – this maximises the amount of starch that converts into sugars during mashing. The milled, malted barley and pure water is fed into their lauter tun, first of all at 63.5°C. The heat helps turn the starches into sugar. After two fillings it’s ready for fermentation – the third filling is used as the first water in the next mash.

Many distilleries prefer the consistency that comes with stainless steel washbacks, however, Auchentoshan use Oregon pine instead – so the results are always a little different each time, this also means that an especially keen eye on everything is needed. All this effort means a fresh-tasting, clear wort from the lauter tun.

Auchentoshan is the only distillery in Scotland to have a third still, truly triple distilling every single drop. Triple Distillation takes the fermented liquid from around 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) up to 81%. No other Scottish distillery insists on this for every drop – double distillation usually reaches just 70% ABV. Auchentoshan new spirit is the highest distillate of any single malt distillery in Scotland. They say that when you taste the new spirit, strong notes of fruit and citrus are revealed because they have distilled away all the impurities in the liquid. You can read much more about it on their superb website

So why triple distillation ? It’s more time consuming. It’s more expensive, and it’s also absolutely unique in Scotland – no other Single Malt Scotch Whisky goes beyond two distillations (unless of course you know otherwise!) The extra distillation takes the spirit to around 81% – not 70%. This dramatically affects the character of the new make spirit, helping to create a subtle whisky that matures beautifully in oak.

So what did I think ?
Colour: A rich and deep amber from the Sherry, although reading the very small print on the bottom of the box I think this has been stabilised with caramel (it’s in German hidden under the bar code - but Google translate got me through it)

Body:              Oily, rich, and smooth, legs slow to drain in my Glencairn

Nose:              Just Delicious ! Rich and sweet, fruity, raisins, brown sugar, caramel toffee, slight butterscotch, even a slight marmalade scent

Palatte:           Delicious ! Mellow and smooth almost creamy, the sherry comes across strong, but there is more underneath, the vanilla and oak coming through the sweet fruits

Finish:             Delicious ! The finish is warming and very long, fresh and fruity. I always enjoy nosing my empty glass again after a minute or two, and this one is no exception, the final pleasure of whisky tasting, and was surprised getting some lavender at the very end.

Overall verdict: Loved it – A great discovery !

Mark has recommended I try the Valinch next – it’s on my wish list already !

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Happy February !

So that was January 2012 ! For my January addition to my journey I bought a bottle of Auchentoshan Three Wood, (ock-un-tosh-un) but with all the other Christmas additions I haven't had the chance to open and savour this yet. I haven't even got around to opening December's official addition, a Balblair 1989 and I'm already looking forward to buying February's bottle!

I'm actually hoping to get a hold of two bottles this month - well it is a Leap Year ! 

Jura are releasing a first ever Diurachs exclusive bottling later this month, and The Balvenie will be releasing their Craftsman's Reserve No.1 which is also a member only release. I have been told that I have been successful in my interest in the Jura, but still waiting for The Balvenie news.

The Diurachs - Isle of Jura - In a world of it's own

Two more bottles were emptied from my whisky shelf over that last couple of weeks. An excellent Talisker 10 Year Old and the evergreen Glenfiddich 12 Year Old. The Talisker was just glorious and was sorry to see the last dram in my Glencairn. I missed an opportunity to visit the distillery when was on holiday in that area. Perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I would now, as I wasn't a whisky drinker back then. 

The Glenfiddich was March's  and Talisker was July's addition

The Glenfiddich 12 Year Old also has it's qualities, however it is easy to find this almost anywhere so perhaps I won't yearn for this dram quite so much.

What do you do with all the empty bottles ? Some are just too good to simply throw out (recycle) with the other glass jars, but how many can you keep before it becomes obsessive ? I have kept the Highland Park and Singleton bottles as I liked their shape (and colour of the Singleton) both hold our drinking water in the fridge now. I have recently noticed that Talisker have recently changed the packaging of their 10 year old, so should I keep the box of mine ?