Monday, 30 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #86

The Balvenie/Glenfiddich New Make Spirit (70.8% abv)
Speyside Single Malt

New Make Spirit Sample
Drams 13, 14 and 15 were sampled at The Balvenie stand. We were sipping Balvenie Peated Cask and discussing whisky and blogs with Nicola from the Whisky Boys we got an opportunity to sample a little of the new make spirit from the Balvenie Distillery. I'm not saying that new make spirit should be made available for sale , but I think that everyone on a whisky journey should be allowed to sample the distilled spirit before it is put to sleep in oak to get the full appreciation of what both the distiller has made, and what the oak does. Just another great experience but it would be so much better nosing it at the spirit safe!

I needed a few glasses of water in order to restore senses in my mouth and then followed this with a dram of one of my favourite Balvenies The 21 Year Old Portwood.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #85

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Gran Reserva (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt

Circa £85.00 70cl 

21 Year Old Gran Reserva
Moving onto our final dram at the Glenfiddich stand we tasted their 21 Year Old, which is finished in casks used previously to age Caribbean Rum.

We were told that this had recently been re-launched and now comes in a new shaped bottle, although still three sided as the core range.

The whisky was still the same Glenfiddich 21 year old as previous releases, being matured in a combination of first and second fill ex-bourbon casks, as well as a small amount of ex-sherry cask matured whisky. These are 'married' together before being transferred for a four month maturation in the ex-Caribbean rum casks.

Nose: Barley sugar, malt, dark brown sugar, orange peels, marmalade, manuka honey, Chocolate, foam bananas.

Palate: Full, fruitcake, spices, buttery vanilla, malty. Oak.

Finish: Long, mochaccino, marmalade.

So what did I think?

Heavy sugary aromas to begin with caramel toffee, with sweet vanilla dried fruits, sultanas and tangy orange peel, rich and creamy luxurious sweetness with lots of vanilla. It was very delicious, although quite sweet. I think it could have been better if released at 46% abv. Very different to the 18 year old, but quite a bit more expensive too, but then I have to think again - this is 21 year old whisky, yes it is definitely worth trying!

Whisky Discovery #84

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition (51% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £42.00 70cl

The Distillery Edition 15 Year Old
Dram No.3 at the Glenfiddich stand and No.10 of the afternoon we were treated to the 15 Year Old Distillery Edition.

A special edition Glenfiddich. This 15 year old is non chill filtered and has been bottled at higher strength. This is classic Glenfiddich, but with added complexity and character. 

Matured in American and European Oak

Nose: Fresh flowers and blossom. Summery and crisp with a peppery edge. Hints of custard and almond.
Palate: Malt, very creamy with more of those blossom notes. Now it's all rather spicy with hints of dark, rich fruit, black pepper and cinnamon. Good sherry character too.
Finish:Good sweetness, long and lush.

So What did I think?

This was my favourite of the four Glenfiddich expressions we tasted that afternoon. The fragrant nose, rich spicy taste and cask strength abv won me over. I thought I might have to visit the distillery to get a hold of this expression, but I've seen it listed on the usual suspects on-line shops, and at a competitive price for a cask strength 15 year old.

Whisky Discovery #83

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Vat (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £35.00 70cl

Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera
For our second dram of at the Glenfiddich Stand and ninth of the afternoon we were steered towards the 15 Year Old 'Solera Vat'

I have heard many good things about this whisky, and it's been near the top of my wish list for a while now, so was really looking forward to this one.

The richly layered Glenfiddich 15 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky is innovatively matured in three types of oak cask: American bourbon, Spanish sherry, and new oak, before being married in their unique, hand-crafted Solera Vat.

That's twice this month 'Solera Vat' has come up when discussing whisky. 

Earlier in the month Kirsteen Campbell from Cutty Sark told me about the Solera Vat that they use, and I had to look it up to find out what it meant, then and although Wikipedia went part way there, I had to ask again and so Glenfiddich kindly explained their system to me:

The Glenfiddich Solera System

The original idea was borrowed from Spanish Sherry Solera systems in which the ‘feed from the top, pour from the bottom’ arrangement allows the whisky to be continually blended ensuring a high level of consistency

The spirit is matured for a minimum of 15 years in either used American Oak casks (ex-bourbon casks, giving lots of vanilla character) or used Spanish Oak casks (ex-sherry casks, giving lots of raisin character) However, some of the 15 year old Glenfiddich from the ex-bourbon casks is transferred to new American Oak casks (unused, virgin wood) for a 4 to 6 month “finishing” period, this adds an additional layer of flavour: honey

This gives what Glenfiddich call an “artist’s palette” of three styles of 15 Year Old whisky which are then combined in the Solera Vat.

The Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Vat System Diagrammatic
The Solera Vat is made from Douglas Fir, holds around 37000 litres of whisky and is always kept at least half full. This creates incredible consistency of character in the 15 year Old Glenfiddich as each batch of 18,000 litres is being added to 18,000 litres already in the Solera Vat

The length of time in Solera Vat is variable depending on demand, but the key element that the vat adds, is the mixing with the previous batch to promote consistency.

From the Solera Vat, the cask strength whisky goes to Solera Tuns (approx 2,500 litres) for a further marrying period of at least 3 months. (Glenfiddich marry all of their whiskies in this manner whether it's 12 or 50 years old, each has its own set of marrying tuns. The 50 Year Old is just married in the original casks, whereas the 12 Year Old has an entire warehouse, Warehouse #6, devoted to marrying tuns alone!

This single malt is then left to settle in the Solera Tun before bottling. The resultant Glenfiddich 15 Year Old has complexity beyond its years – honey and raisin are the primary aromas/flavours but also cherry, orange peel, marzipan -reminiscent of Christmas cake!

The result? A full and fruity nose, with delicate honey and vanilla notes. The taste is elegantly smooth, with a deep flavour that reveals fruit, gentle spice and a touch of oak. The finish is long and satisfying.

Nose: Sherry, citrus - orange in particular, dry wood. Slight suggestion of smoke? Palate: Medium, sherry, raisins. Fruitcake, spices, sweetness.
Finish: Candied fruits, raisins, spices, Christmas pudding, oak takes over.
The Glenfiddich Solera Vat (with the Solera Tun in the foreground)
So what did I think?
Well this certainly didn't disappoint me, and is amazing what a few more years in the cask and a unique vatting can do to a whisky. The Glenfiddich 15 Solera is so very different to the 12 Year Old and overall it is really worth the extra price over it, it's just a shame that this wasn't bottled at a slightly higher abv. That said, this is a great 15 year old from the Glenfiddich distillery, and consistently wins Gold Best in Class at IWSC and ISC awards each year.

It will be staying firmly on the wish list until it's on my shelf. With a birthday and Fathers Day looming I'm hoping I won't be waiting too long!

(Many thanks to Jamie Milne of Glenfiddich for supplying the Solera Vat Photo and process description and diagram. I will get up to see it for myself one day!)

Whisky Discovery #82

Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Rich Oak (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £35.00 70cl

Glenfiddich Rich Oak
The next stand visited at the Whisky Lounge London Festival was Glenfiddich. With their core bottlings on display, we made our way to the front and asked about the range.

I've already enjoyed a bottle of their 12 Year Old and still have a bottle of their 18 Year Old on my shelf, so didn't need to sample these this time. After explaining this we were told that we should start with the Rich Oak, and this was dram number eight of the afternoon

First released in Spring 2010, Glenfiddich Rich Oak is a completely unique single malt, delicately finished for up to 12 weeks in brand new American and new Spanish oak casks after being patiently matured for 14 years. The use of untouched Spanish oak casks is a first for the single malt Scotch whisky.

Alive with flavour, the new casks need precision handling by the Malt Master to deliver just the right amount of extra flavours; creamy vanilla, a soft toffee sweetness and spicy oak with layers of ripe summer fruit, creating a rich and complex single malt.

They say the American oak adds spice, vanilla and fruit, and the Spanish oak brings elegant fruit, spices and complexity.

Nose: Initially spicey oak notes and rich vibrant vanilla, hints of fresly sawn wood and dried fruits. With time softer toffee notes, pear and floral aromas apear.
Palate: Spicey at first, rich and creamy vanilla followed by zesty fruit a complex nuttiness and a spicy aromatic wood finish.
Finish: Long and lingering with warming oak notes

So What did I think?

What a great start to the four expressions we tried on the Glenfiddich stand. I really enjoyed my bottle of Glenfiddich 12 year old, but this is so much better all round.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #81

Powers John's Lane 12 Year Old / Single Pot Still (46% abv)
Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Circa £48.00 70cl

Powers John's Lane - Stunning!
The final dram on the Midleton Stand and my seventh of the afternoon. I'd only recently found out about this whiskey recently after joining The Midleton Distillery's whiskey club 'The Stillhouse'.

The Stillhouse sent me a very nice notebook for recording tasting notes, the front section of the book outlining a little about Irish whiskey and the history of the Midleton Distillery. Power's John Lane 12 was 'marked' on their flavour map, but they missed the opportunity to list their single pot still whiskies in any detail. 

They also sent a smashing bronze key ring which instantly doubled the value of my car when I attached the car keys to it.

The comments around the stand from those who had just tried it were very favourable, and the nose did not disappoint.

Named after the, now extinct, original distillery, this new Powers is matured in bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks. It was rated by Jim Murray's Whisky Bible Awards as the Irish Whiskey of the Year 2012, and World Whiskies Awards 2012 - Best Irish Pot Still Whiskey and Best Irish 12 years and under Pot Still Whiskey

This is a big whiskey made using a combination of bourbon and oloroso sherry cask matured spirit and a great entry into the Irish Distillers range.

The keyring and note book

Official Tasting Notes

Nose: An abundance of earthy aromas, leather, tobacco with layers of charred wood, dark chocolate and treacle toffee.

Taste: Full bodied spice front followed by vanilla, honey and dried apricot.

Finish: Lingering honey sweetness on toasted oak.

This was really very good, and firmly my favourite of the three we tasted on the Midleton stand. It was so good I went back for a second shot! This is something I will definitely be looking out for, and is firmly on my wish list.

I think we took a short break after this whisky and so missed the Jameson expressions that were also on this stand. Another time perhaps.........

Whisky Discovery #80

Redbreast 12 Year Old (40% abv)
Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
Circa £40.00 70 cl

Redbreast 12 Year Old
This was our second dram at the Midleton Stand and dram No.6 of the afternoon. I was really looking forward to trying this as I've heard lots of good things about Redbreast 12 Year Old and have been trying to decide whether I should buy this expression, or spend the extra and get the cask strength'

It was first launched in 1939 as the brand name given to the pot still whiskey supplied by Jameson to whiskey bonders before bottling at the distillery became the norm in 1968. Stocks of whiskey in bonders' stores petered out, and thus Redbreast all but disappeared until its re-launch by the distillery in the 1990s as a single pot still whiskey.

This pure pot still whiskey is matured for a minimum of 12 years in sherry casks and Bourbon barrels. Like all good pot still whiskeys, it is strongly flavoured and assertive, making it a rare treat for the connoisseur of fine old whiskey.

Redbreast 12 Year Old was awarded the overall trophy for the second consecutive year in the International Wine & Spirits competition. Also Winner of Double Gold at the 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Nose: A mature fruitbowl (pears, brown bananas, strawberries), vanilla, and cloves.

Palate: Thick texture, floral and creamy with burnt ginger cake

Overall: Rich and complex but still easy-drinking…“Classy”.

Remains an all-Ireland great...a treat for even the most experienced connoisseur' (Jim Murray). 'Highly Commended' in the Irish Whisky category at Best of the Best.

Another whiskey listed in the 101 and it was as good as I had been anticipating, even at 40% abv. However for my shelf I think I will be going for the cask strength expression.

Whisky Discovery #79

Green Spot NAS (40% abv)
Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey
circa £36.00 70cl

Green Spot Irish Whisky
Dram #5 of the afternoon found us on the Midleton Distillery Stand and started with Green Spot.

Green Spot is a single pot still Irish whiskey, produced specifically for Mitchell & Son of Dublin, by Irish Distillers at the Midleton Distillery Cork Ireland.

It is one of the only remaining bonded Irish whiskeys, and is currently the only brand specifically produced for and sold by an independent wine merchant in Ireland.

It's not known exactly when Green Spot was first produced, but it is known that by the 1920's, Jameson's Bow Street Distillery was supplying Mitchell & Son with at least 100 sherry hogheads of pot still distilled whiskey per year.

The blend was originally known as "Pat whiskey", and the labels carried the logo of a man on a green background. This soon lead to the name "Green Spot".

When Jameson moved production from Bow St. to Midleton, the make up of the whiskey altered for the first time in living memory. This coupled with low stocks of maturing whiskey led Mitchell & Son into an agreement with Irish Distillers, whereby the whiskey would be matured by the distillery in their own casks, with Mitchell & Sons having sole rights to market, sell and develop the whiskey.

The current Green Spot is slightly younger than the original. We were told it is a blend of 7-10 year old single pot still whiskey, 25% of which has matured in sherry casks. It is not easy to find, as production is very small and most of this is sold through Mitchell & Son's shop in Dublin. As a result, it is often difficult to obtain outside of Ireland, except in specialist retailers.

Nose: Fresh aromatic oils and spices with orchard fruits and barley on a background of toasted wood.

Taste: Full spicy body. A hint of cloves along with the fruity sweetness of green apples, rounded off with toasted oak.

Finish: Lingering flavours of spices and barley.

This is one of the whiskies listed in Ian Buxton's '101 whiskies to try before you die' and so had been on my list for a while now. Out of the three I tasted it wasn't my favourite, but it was the first of three great Irish Whiskies we tasted that afternoon.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #78

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £98.00 70cl

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old
The final dram at the Glenfarclas stand and for our fourth of the afternoon we were presented with the 25 Year Old.

A rich full bodied whisky. Again the tasting notes are from their website:

Colour: Amber with dark gold highlights.

Nose: Complex, yet refined, delicately peated, with fresh tempting aromas of marmalade, honey, freshly ground coffee, sherry and nuts. Some oaky tannins.

Flavour: Full-bodied and robust, the sherry and the oak fight for your attention yet neither is overpowering. A powerful nutty smokiness.

Finish: Intense, long lasting, dry smoky and malty. A beautiful dark Belgium chocolate taste at the back of your mouth to complete the flavour of the 25 Years Old.

Comment: A great after-dinner whisky so rich and full that it is a dessert in itself, with a finish that goes on forever.

Whilst it certainly didn't disappoint, I much preferred the 15 Year Old, and went back for a second taste afterwards.

Whisky Discovery #77

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old (46% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £40.00 70cl

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old
The second of the three Glenfarclas's we sampled at The Whisky Lounge London Fest. and our third dram of the afternoon.

Glenfarclas is renowned for producing Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky in the traditional Speyside style, with a heavy Sherry influence

Since 1865 Glenfarclas has been owned and managed by just one family, the Grants of Glenfarclas.

On the 8th of June 1865 John Grant acquired the tenancy for the Rechlerich Farm and as part of the transaction purchased the Glenfarclas Distillery for £511.19S.0d.

To this day Glenfarclas is one of only a few distilleries in Scotland to remain family owned and managed. Now in the hands of the fifth and sixth generation of the family, the Grants remain committed to the vision of creating the best quality Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, in the traditional Speyside style.

Tasting Notes by George S Grant, Brand Ambassador and Sixth Generation from their website:

Colour: A rich golden amber.
Nose: Complex, sherried, deliciously peated, light butterscotch aromas, with a hint of dried fruit.

Flavour: Full bodied with super balance of sherried sweetness, malty tones and peaty flavours.

Finish: Long lasting, gloriously sherried, sweet, gently smoky, and distinguished.

Comment: With greater complexity than our younger whiskies, this is a great whisky drinker’s whisky. We bottle this at 46% simply because my grandfather preferred it at this strength. It’s still a family favourite. In his 2007 Whisky Bible, Jim Murray gave Glenfarclas 15 Years Old a score of 95/100, one of the highest scores he has awarded.

This was my favourite of the three we sampled on the Glenfarclas stand, and one I will be adding to my wish list.

Whisky Discovery #76

Glenfarclas 10 Year Old (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
Circa £29.00 70cl

Glenfarclas 10 Year Old

This was our second Dram at The Whisky Lounge London Fest, and the first of the three cracking Glenfarclas drams.

I've never tried a Glenfarclas before and know little about the whisky or the distillery, but have had a couple of expressions on my list through previous recommendations.

I've found out that Glenfarclas were awarded 'Distiller of the Year' in 2006 by Whisky Magazine for being consistently staying true to it's core values. The distillery relies on six traditional direct fired copper stills and maturation in plain oak or Spanish sherry casks to produce naturally coloured whisky.

From their website:

Colour: Vibrant straw-gold

Nose: Tempting sherry-sweet malty tones combine with delicate smokiness, releasing subtle spices. Warming the glass reveals honey, vanilla and pear drops.

Flavour: Delicately light, with a mouth-watering combination of maltiness, smokiness and sherry sweetness. Hints of dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves tempt the taste buds further.

Finish: Long, smooth and spicy, with a delicious, yet delicate, lingering smokiness.

Comment: Gloriously smooth, yet with the depth and finish you would normally only expect of a much older dram. A wonderfully sherried whisky, and an excellent aperitif.

It was a nice introduction to the Glenfarclas family of whiskies. I wrote in my notes that it had a lovely citrus nose to it. It's also at a competative price for a 10 year old Speysider.

Whisky Discovery #75

SMWS 36.56 22 Year Old (53.6% abv, Single Cask)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky

Club bottling, not for general sale

SMWS 36.56
The first dram of the day at the recent Whisky Lounge Fest London enjoyed at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Stand. I had a second dram of this when we visited the London Distillery stand too.

The label describes this as 'A magic carpet ride' and their website says it is a 'Tasting Panel High Scorer'. I checked their website when I got home from the show and saw that all bottles had been sold

Distilled on 9th March 1989 and aged for 22 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead cask, which was bottled at cask strength and yielded just 269 bottles.

Sam told me that this was a Speyside Malt and came from the Benrinnes Distillery. (The SMWS don't publicise the distillery, although it is easy to find out from a number of websites.Each distillery is given a number which is the first part of the bottle code, and the second part is the cask number, i.e this whisky was from the 56th cask they had bottled from the 36th distillery)

The label read:

On the nose, sappy, leafy, green fruit freshness gave way to toffee, malt, sweet tobacco and the aromatic essences of dried orange-peel, balsamic and honeysuckle. 
The palate was a mouth-watering explosion of oriental, exotic flavours – sherbet, blood orange, pineapple, sabayon, sugar-coated fennel seeds, tobacco and spice. The reduced nose took us on a magic carpet ride to a Bedouin tent on the desert’s edge – jasmine, sultanas, baklava, cumin, vellum and exotic fruits. The reduced palate, with spices, liquorice, elderflower and Turkish delight, did everything a twenty-two year old whisky should do. The original distillery was washed away in the 1829 floods. 

Drinking tip: The perfect dram for watching shooting stars - or whenever you need to escape from the world.

All very imaginative, but it was a cracking way to start the show and I really need to consider the benefits of becoming a member carefully.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Whisky Lounge London Fest 2012

I have been looking at attending one of The Whisky Lounge events for a while, but to date most were either out of reach or bad timing for me. I saw the London event advertised, but was too slow to get Saturday tickets and so was resigned to reading the tweets of the event while re-furbishing our bathroom. On the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the show the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tweeted a competition for a pair of tickets to the event, and all I had to do was re-tweet their tweet. With fingers firmly crossed I re-tweeted each time I was asked, and on Friday morning received a message from Joe McGirr of the SMWS that I was ‘the chosen one’!

A quick call to my daughter Kat, to see if she was free, and whatever plans she had were immediately cancelled – my arm had truly been bitten off.

So in within four weeks of our first whisky show we were attending a second! We decided to attend the last session on Saturday 21st which started at 1600, took the First Capital Connect train into the City, a short leg on the Tube and we emerged from Victoria Station to warm sunlight as we made our way down to the venue. Arriving a little early we found a coffee shop and waited before joining the queue to collect our tickets. True to form the weather turned as we made our way to the back of the queue, but were soon inside in the dry.

First dram of the day
After being wrist banded, we collected our glass, water and guide, and made straight for the SMWS stand to say thanks to the team that put up the tickets for us. I knew Joe McGirr wouldn’t be there, but we had met John McCheyne at the recent Whisky Live Show. John was quickly over-run with members wanting to talk to him so had a our first dram of the show with Sam on the SMWS stand. Sam chose 36.56 for us, which he told us was a 22 Year Old Speyside Malt (Benrinnes). It was a great way to start the show. 

Seeing that John McCheyne was tied up with members we thought we would come back and see him little later, and headed over to the first stand that was on our right when we came in and made our way anti-clockwise around the room.

First stop was the Glenfarclas Stand. I’ve never had any Glenfarclas before and we sampled three of their core bottlings, their 10 Year Old, 15 Year Old and 25 Year Old. Three cracking drams, but my favourite was the Glenfarclas 15 Year Old, and went back for seconds of this one

Next up and The Midleton Distillery had three Irish Whiskies I really wanted to try. Ed McAvoy, the Jameson Brand Ambassador took us through Green Spot, Redbreast 12 Year Old and Powers 12 Year Old. Another three great drams and will be looking out for a cask strength Redbreast 12 for my collection. My favourite was the Powers 12 Year Old and I went back for seconds of this one too. A colleague is just on his way to Ireland tomorrow, so I gave him my wish list!

The next stand was The London Distillery Company where we met Darren Rook who told us of his plans to build the first London Distillery for 100 years. I had heard of this project and have been following it on-line. There is an excellent interview with Darren on Whisky Marketplace TV

Darren also had bottle of the SMWS 36.56 that we started our day with, and shared a dram with us while outlining his plans. For further information check out their website but the key points are that they plan on using organic malted barley from Wiltshire, and will then use innovative handcrafted copper stills to produce a spirit which is aged in oak casks. The whisky will be natural from the cask. non-chillfiltered and won’t contain artificial colouring. Capacity will be small so whisky released from the distillery will be in limited quantities.

Darren outlines his plans to Kat
With funding now complete they are planning to be up and running later this year, and there is a release schedule now on the website, and after the New Make and Aged Spirit releases the first London Single Malt Whisky should be available in 2016

From The London Distillery we moved on to the Glenfiddich Stand.

I’ve enjoyed the Glenfiddich 12 in the past, and I’m still enjoying a Glenfiddich 18 but was keen to sample a few more of the core range. We collared Dre and asked him to run us through the range and sampled four of the core expressions on display starting with the Rich Oak a 14 Year Old and moving on to the 15 Year Old Solera Vat, the 15 Year Old Distillers Edition and finishing with the 21 Year Old Rum Cask Finish. Four top drams and all worthy of being added to my shelf in the future, but my particular favourite was the Distillers Edition 15 Year Old.

Nicola and Kat
Next door to Glenfiddich was The Balvenie where we stopped to chat to Dr Andrew Forrester. I’m a big fan of The Balvenie and currently have five expressions on my shelf, with my most recent find being a bottle of their 10 Year Old Founders Reserve.

I asked Andrew if he had anything special behind the counter and he produced a bottle of their 17 Year Old Peated Cask which I have tasted before, but don’t have on my shelf yet, tho' is on the list! 

If you haven't joined Warehouse 24 then you really ought to, it is one of the best Distillery Clubs on-line that I have found

Andrew then introduced us to Nicola who is one of the Whisky Boys. The Whisky Boys are a Father and Daughter team, which we were becoming! Nicola told Kat that she must start writing on this blog too, then let us have a wee sniffer of the new make spirit which was hidden under the stand. At just over 70% abv it was very over powering, but a great experience none the less. We finished off with a dram of 21 Year Old Portwood before moving onto the next stand.

There were a number of brands on the next stand, but we only managed to sample a few as it was very busy around the Bowmore bottles. Three different expressions tasted; Auchentoshan 12 Year Old, Auchentoshan Valinch, which I went back for a second dram, and a Yamazaki 12 Year Old which was very good too. We weren’t able to get close to the Bowmore and with the SMWS still over-run we proceeded to Compass Box

We pushed our way to the front and asked about the brand and the range on display. We were fortunate to be able to spend some time with Céline who took through them all and tasted seven different expressions; Asyla, Great King, Oak Cross,Spice Tree, The Peat Monster, Hedonism and finished with Orangerie which was served in a small plastic tot in order to preserve the Glencairn! The Orangerie did exactly what it said on the label and I’m glad it hadn’t tainted my nosing glass! My favourite from Compass Box was The Peat Monster, so went back for a second which helped clean the palate of the citrus flavours and set me up nicely for Kilchoman on the next stand.

On the Kilchoman stand we sampled everything on offer and tasted four top quality drams; Their 100% Islay, 2006 a 5 Year Old, their recently released Sherry Cask and finished off with Machir Bay a no age statement blended malt of 3,4 and 5 year old whiskies. All four were magnificent Islay drams, and my favourite of the stand was the 2006.

With time starting to run out now, we decided to rush over to try some Indian whisky. Amrut has been on my wish list, but unfortunately we arrived just as they had finished poring all of their samples on offer – they had been drunken dry and were starting to pack up early.

Moving to our right there were a couple of Benromach on offer and before last pours were announced managed to try both the 10 year old and the Organic.

With the show now packing up and most of the visitors making their way out we managed to get a few words with John McCheyne at SMWS as well as finally meeting Alwynne, (@themisswhisky, and @gwiltypleasures) Billy (@cowfish) and Joe (@TWLJoe) who we’ve tweeted with, but never met in person.

All in all another great experience, a great venue, well organised and we met some wonderful people from both behind and in front of the stands and certainly looking forward to doing this all again in the near future. I also passed the 100 mark and have now tasted 101 different whiskies in my journey to date.

A final HUGE thanks to the Single Malt Whisky Society who kindly gave me the two tickets, The Whisky Lounge for organising events like this and to everyone we met at the show.

For more information checkout the following and  

The full dram list with links to separate blog posts (as they are finished)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #74

Cutty Sark Tam O'Shanter 25 Year Old (46.5% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
circa £200.00 70cl
The Tam o'Shanter - aimed at the collector, but a stunning whisky none the less
Cutty Sark Tam o’ Shanter is a new variant of the existing award-winning Cutty Sark 25 year old blend with a distinctly darker, wilder side.

Released to celebrate Burns Night 2012. This Cutty Sark Blend is named after one of Burns's most famous poems, the epic Tam O'Shanter, a tale of staying too late in the pub and the ghostly visions that Tam saw on the way home.

Now I must admit I didn't know this beforehand so had to research and read the poem before the event, a quick search on the internet revealed dozens of pages and a couple of them had the original poem on one side of the screen, and an English translation on the other!

The whisky comes in a bespoke oak box and both box and bottle are adorned with scenes of the horrors that Tam encountered. It comes with a beautiful book featuring the full text of the poem, some history and a over 50 illustrated scenes by the late Alexander Goudie, widely considered to be one of Scotland’s finest figurative painters. The book and bottle are presented the box which has also been decorated in the style of Goudie.

Limited to 5,000 bottles, the glass bottle has been created specifically for this new expression and is based on the oldest in in the Cutty Sark archive. It features the famous chase scene from the Robert Burns poem Tam o’ Shanter, etched around the entire bottle, as well as a wax closure showing Tam’s face in relief.

This was the last dram of our Cutty Sark Tweet Tasting and for most of us it was the highlight of the evening, with tweets of anticipation:

  • @boardsy I have been waiting all week for the Tam O' Shanter. It smells like xmas, feels like I've been waiting for xmas!
  • @LRWhisky *pours excitedly*
  • @rborghma with a roll of drums I'm pouring the Tam O'Shanter 25yo in my glass
  • @TheWhiskyWire Could quite happily just nose this whisky for the rest of the night.
  • @TWLJoe dark, deep and musty, caramelised orange, dark chocolate, toasted marshmallows and plenty spice. What a nose!
  •  @TIA568B Deep, an old high backed leather armchairm sherry, spices, pipe smoke, dried fruits, som one bottled a classy old guy!
  • @jonmbryant Indeed, one Sherlock Holmes would drink in his den
  • @TWLJoe Sherlock Holmes, catching Watson snuffling fruit cake in a sheesha bar on an egyptian adventure

Tweet Tasting
So what did I think?

Colour: Rich, dark amber

Nose: A great spicy nose, with some light smoke behind some scented jasmine. This was certainly the best 'nose' of the evening and eventually we mostly agreed on the sweet pipe smoke note in the nose, but there was so much more. Rich, sherried with overripe banana, soy sauce, nuttyness, raisins, sandalwood

Palate: Sherried fruitcake with delicate peat smoke, tar, waxy orange zest and a pinch of spice. Full bodied, sweet and velvety smooth, dark chocolate, eucalyptus, cracked black pepper and toffee. Waves of flavour and texture teasing your taste buds.

Finish: Lingering, long, rich, sweet yet spicy. A magnificent dram!

This is an outstanding whisky, and seemed to be the favourite for most. The nose on this whisky is very complex with plenty to tease out. However I fear that because of the market it is aimed at, I doubt too many will get to experience this which is a great shame. I would have liked to have compared this with the standard 25 year old expression, which should be similar, but without the expensive packaging should be within a drinkable budget.

Whisky Discovery #73

Cutty Sark 18 Year Old (43% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
circa £57.00 70cl

And so onto dram number three of the Cutty Sark Tweet Tasting.

Their website states: Cutty Sark 18 Years Old is a luxurious Scotch whisky of inspirational quality for successful, consumers who look beyond the obvious. Cutty Sark 18 Years Old is distinguished by its elegant balance and a long smooth finish.

Kirsteen told us the nose is rich with citrus fruits and honey plus vanilla (the DNA of the range) but when we talk about sherry here for Cutty Sark, we're talking American oak rather than European oak. The American oak gives us the vanilla hit. European oak is giving it that spicy undertone, but to a lesser degree.

Another great nose on this whisky and the tweets came in thick and fast:

  • @LRWhisky 18 is like a mellowed fruitcake with hints of ginger and cloves on the nose
  • @boardsy can anyone else smell toasted hot cross buns?
  • @TheWhiskyWire Absolutely and the citrus peels in the said toasted Hot Cross buns
  • @rodbodtoo Biscuits? Buns? Have you not had your tea yet?
  • @rborghma what are toasted hot cross buns ? Not familiar with those in Belgium :-(
Tweet Tasting  Cutty Sark 18 Year Old
So what did I think?
Colour: Deep amber, drawn from the sherry seasoned casks the whisky has aged in

Nose:  Another fine nose! Sherried peels, and a softly peated aroma, definitely no seaweed though. Christmas cake. Malt, medium Sherry and a hint of sweet wood smoke. With time, caramel and discreet liquorice notes emerge,

Palate: Vanilla, dark brown sugar, rum spice, sherry. Rich and bright, and elegantly balanced, nice!

Finish: The finish is long and smooth, fruitcake, buttery, fudge, oak.

Deliciously drinkable! Perhaps this could have been bottled at a slightly higher abv, but this is another stunning whisky and certainly worth seekeing out. I have recently read something like “A fine old blend can be considered in the same way as a great single malt.” This blend would certainly fit this statement.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #72

Cutty Sark 12 Year Old (40% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
circa £31.00 70cl

Tweet Tasting Cutty Sark 12 Year Old

For our second dram of the evening we sampled the 12 year old expression.

Kirsteen told us that the cask make-up for  is mainly American Oak influenced, like the Blend, but also European Oak in refill casks

A testament to the art of blending, Cutty Sark 12 Years Old is light, bright and elegant. It has the Cutty trademark hint of sweetness and a rounded finish.

Cutty Sark 12 Years Old is especially blended for those consumers who are looking for a deluxe Scotch whisky with exceptional depth, yet with the elegant balance and long finish that is characteristic of the Cutty Sark house style.

Michael Jackson suggested this as "a whisky for the beach" 

My favourite tweet for the 12 Year Old came from @boardsy who tweeted "I'm sure I can taste those little biscuits you get with an espresso when you are abroad!"

So What Did I Think?

Colour Golden Straw, clear and bright

Nose: Well I got an immediate pear drops note on the nose which surprised me! This was followed by a buttery heavy set marmalade on toast - I suggested that it might be perfect for breakfast! On a second dram the sherried fruits, sweet toffee, honey, oak, the salty seaweed experienced in the Original blend, maybe even a little chocolate - definitely another complex nose

Palate: Light and soft with sweet vanilla, a touch of tropical fruit, perfume note, citrus. Elegant,

Finish Fairly short on the finish with a salty dried seaweed taste

Another smashing dram and worth looking out for. A very complex nose with so much going on. Another thumbs up from me, and the rest of the Tweet Tasters agreed too, with a couple saying it will be on their shelves soon.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Whisky Discovery #71

Cutty Sark Original (40% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
circa £18.00 70cl

Tweet Tasting Cutty Sark Original Scots Whisky
The first dram of the Cutty Sark Twitter Tasting hosted by Steve Rush of @TheWhiskyWire and Kirsteen Campbell, Master Blender from Cutty Sark @cuttysarkblend

Cutty Sark Original is one of the top 10 best-selling blended scotch whiskies in the world, although not often seen in the UK it was very prominent on the supermarkets on a recent visit to Spain.

Carefully selected single malt whiskies, predominantly from Speyside (the cradle of single malt whisky distillation), are expertly blended with top quality grain whiskies to make Cutty Sark.

It is matured predominantly in American oak casks which impart less colour to the spirit but impart further subtle and complex flavours. But Kirsteen also told us that some European Oak refill too.

Once matured, the malts are blended together, as are the grain whiskies. This process is a particular feature of Cutty Sark and ensures the final blend is harmonised and, therefore, consistent in colour and flavour. Kirsteen informed us that they use a Solera Vat system for marrying (which I had to look up too!)

I asked what the the malt vs grain ratio was in this blend, but was quickly informed that this was a commercial secret and that I would be hard pressed to find a blend to reveal that. Funnily the Teachers Highland Cream I had been recently enjoying proudly stated that their blend contained at least 45% single malts, hence my question to Kirsteen.

My favourite tweet of the evening for this expression came from @LRWhisky who tweeted:

"on the nose alone it's well worth the asking price"

So what did I think?

Colour: Light Straw

Nose: Light, gentle, grassy, fresh hay and fragrant, sweet vanilla, jelly beans, floral, Very faint seaweed, Estery. A very complex but delicious nose.

Body: Light and smooth

Palate: Very light-bodied, sweet, smooth and fresh but with interesting flavours. Malted Milk biscuits, light grain presence, barley, vanilla and oak character from the American oak casks, fruity mixed peels.

Finish: Good length, warming, malt, salty tang to the end

The nose on this whisky was absolutely stunning, the whiskies used are probably quite young hence the sweet candied nose, but this was a great start to the twitter tasting event. Light and very smooth to drink this would be a great whisky to introduce new drinkers to, and the consensus of the Twitter tasters that this was a great summer whisky. I loved it and will be happy to have this on my shelf.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Cutty Sark Twitter Tasting

My second Twitter tasting event hosted by @TheWhiskyWire

I distinctly remember the classic Cutty Sark label on whisky bottles in my Dad's drinks cabinet, so was particularly excited to receive my invite to this event. However, apart from the Cutty Sark label I recalled I didn't know anything about their whisky, so decided I ought to do some homework before the event.

Cutty Sark is a range of blended Scotch whisky produced by the Edrington Group of Glasgow whose main office is less than 10 miles from the birthplace of the famous tea clipper ship of the same name.

Francis Berry and Hugh Rudd originally created Cutty Sark on March 23, 1923 when the market at that time was dominated by the heavier, coarser blends. Cutty Sark challenged existing scotch whisky standards by producing a smooth, softer blend (akin to Cognac) based on the finest single malts, those from the Speyside region, with the home of the blend considered to be at The Glenrothes distillery.

Although single malts from all over Scotland are used in the Cutty Sark blend, with Islay providing 'freshness', the Highlands 'smokiness' and the Lowlands 'fruitiness', at its heart lies The Glenrothes Speyside Single Malt. This malt contributes elegance and complexity, as well as some heathery honeyness.

The samples arrived in time for the event and this time all bottles arrived intact.

The Cutty Sark Whisky Samples
The event was hosted by Steve Rush @TheWhiskyWire and Kirsteen Campbell, Master Blender at Cutty Sark Whisky @cuttysarkblend and started promptly at seven.

In order to follow the action we all had to make sure we were following each other and to use the hashtag #CuttyTT within each tweet. I was a little better prepared for this Tweet Tasting and was a little better at keeping up with all the action this time!

The pre-start banter revealed that many of the tasters had never tried any of the Cutty Sark range, so it would be a new experience for many of us. To get myself in the mood for some nautical whisky drinking I dialled up 'Rogue's Gallery' Pirate Ballards, Sea Songs and Chanteys on itunes - this is normally reserved for 'International Talk Like a Pirate Day'

So once we got started Steve and Kirsteen walked us through the four expressions, beginning with the Classic Blend and running through the range before finishing with the recently released Tom o'Shanter.

The quality of the whisky was simply stunning. Having just read Richard Paterson's 'Goodness Nose' I had a much greater understanding of the art of blended Scotch whisky and so this event seemed to be timed perfectly for my journey!

Although not ordinarily seen on our UK supermarket shelves, all of the the whiskies tasted are easily available from the on-line whisky stores. Top markets are Spain, Portugal and Greece. It's got a good presence in the US as well.

There was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #CuttyTT on twitter for the full story!

Another great experience and another highlight of my whisky journey, and registering another four ‘discoveries’.

The dram list for the evening (with links to separate posts):
A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire and Kirsteen Campbell, Master Blender at @cuttysarkblend

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Book Review

Goodness Nose

Goodness Nose. The passionate revelations of a Scotch Whisky Master Blender by Richard Paterson and Gavin D. Smith. Richard Paterson is one of the world's most prominent whisky blenders working with Whyte & Mackay in Glasgow. Gavin is a leading whisky writer and journalist with several books on the subject to his credit.

I have just finished reading this and thought it would be appropriate to write a quick review for my blog as I consider it to be part of my continuous whisky development

I knew little about Richard, however recently saw the excellent documentary Shackleton's Whisky in which Richard flies to New Zealand to the whisky bring back home and recreate the blend. After watching this program (and I have it firmly saved in my TV box memory) I decided I really ought to find out a little more about Richard and searched the internet to find out more.

I had the rather good fortune of meeting Richard at the recent Whisky Live Show in London. It was my first whisky event in my journey so far, and really was hoping to be able to 'bump' into Richard during the show.

Knowing his association with Whyte & Mackay, Dalmore and Jura we made our way down to their stand to sample their whiskies on display with a hope of seeing him. We were not disappointed! Within a few minutes of finishing a couple of Dalmore expressions Richard appeared and I introduced my daughter and myself to him.

When I told Richard that I was introducing my daughter to whisky he immediately told her that she ought to have a copy of his book that would explain it all! He disappeared to behind the Whyte & Mackay stand and reappeared with a paperback copy of his book and promptly signed it for her!

I've just spent my Easter weekend reading it, well finishing it, as I had started it after the show, and what a great read it is. Most of my journey to date has been with single malts, and before reading this book have only tasted one blended Scotch whisky, that being Black Grouse. Although I have had some blended whiskies on my wish list, I have always overlooked them for another single malt. This will have to change from now on!

Meeting Richard at Whisky Live London 2012 was a highlight of the day
So, onto the book

Richard Paterson almost has Scotch whisky running through his veins. His grandfather and father were both prominent in the Scotch whisky industry in Glasgow for decades before Richard joined a competing whisky brokerage firm to start his apprenticeship.

This book is not the answer to the art of blending whisky, nor is it a book filled with tasting notes of various expressions. It is his personal account of a remarkable career in the Whisky business, his personal view of the Whisky industry during the last four decades. It is also a comprehensive and entertaining story of the art of Whisky blending.

There's plenty of humour alongside the history and the story starts with Richard's first exposure to whisky, at just eight years old, in his Father's Glasgow bond. The foundation had been laid and Richard reveals how he eventually started an apprenticeship with a rival firm, before moving to Whyte & Mackay rising through the ranks to the top of his profession and a third generation Master Blender.

Richard really know's his whisky and his whisky history and every page is filled with the passion he has for the business and the respect for the people who made Scotch whisky what it is today. He also candidly reveals some of the secrets of his craft and gives his thoughts on where he feels the industry is heading today. Im sure this is destined to become a whisky classic and will be an essential item on every whisky fan's bookshelf.

I have learned a great deal from reading this book as it contains plenty useful advice for would-be whisky connoisseurs – pour the whisky into a proper nosing glass, hold between thumb and forefinger, keep it at room temperature, swirl a few times, put your nose right into the glass (don't sniff forlornly from six inches away) and take plenty time to get to know the whisky before sipping.

Richard says that, to him, nosing alone is sufficient to assess the qualities of the whisky nearly 99% of times. Very rarely will he need to taste a sample – and in most cases it ends up in the spittoon, however if it is a particularly

Richard Paterson is a true ambassador of the Whisky industry and of Scotland, and if you really want to know more about Scotch Whisky, get yourself a copy of this book.