Saturday, 30 June 2012

Whisky Discovery #149

Elijah Craig 12 Year Old (47% abv, OB Bottled 2011)
Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Circa £30.00 70cl
Elijah Craig 12 Year Old is listed in Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die
Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old is a true Small Batch premium Bourbon, and had that distinction before the term even existed.

It's bottled exclusively from a dumping of 70 barrels or less, and all drawn from the middle to upper floors of Heaven Hill's traditional rick houses, and the brand carries the name of the Rev. Elijah Craig, the man who is said to have discovered the method of making true Kentucky Bourbon when he stored his wares in barrels that had been charred in a fire.

All straight Bourbon whiskey must be distilled from a mash- a mixture of malt, raw grains (no less than 51 percent must be corn), yeast and water. It must be distilled at no more than 160 proof, put into barrels at no more than 125 proof, and bottled at no less than 80 proof - without the addition of any artificial colouring or flavour additives. It also must age for no less than two years in new, charred white oak barrels. This Elijah Craig is bottled at 12 years old and at 94% proof (47% abv) making it unique among U.S. Bourbons, and comes bottled in a really elegant decanter-style bottle with an oversized cork stopper.

Unlike other distilled spirits, which can add ingredients to overcome "shortcomings" in the production process, Bourbon comes out as it went into the barrel. As a result, the distillation process is as much an art as it is a science.

Elijah Craig is critically acclaimed. It was awarded a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It has twice been awarded “Best of the Best” from Whisky Magazine.

So what did I think?

Rich burnished copper coloured bourbon
This has been on my list for a while now, well ever sice I read Ian Buxton's '101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die', and when my daughter's partner received a bottle last Christmas, I was keen to get myself a dram or two to try.

Jim Murray decribed it as "About as complete a bourbon aroma as you are likely to of the most beautiful noses found anywhere in the world today. A bourbon to keep in the mouth forever."

It's a rich copper colour and certainly has a wonderful herbal vanilla nose, break through the herbs and the sweet caramel vanilla comes through stronger. There's a saltiness to the sweetness and some fruity undertones too. It has a truly magnificent nose to it.

On the palate there is an initial oily spiciness that coats the mouth. It's rich, smooth and creamy with sweet vanilla, a malty fruitiness and even a touch of aniseed.

The finish is long and spicy, a little light smoke, liquorice root and eventually a malty sweetness overcomes it all leaving my mouth salivating at the thought of another dram. This is an extremely drinkable bourbon and one I must have on my shelf soon. Good call Ian!

Whisky Discovery #148

Ardbeg Day NAS (56.7% abv, OB, Bottled 2012 70cl)
Islay Cask Strength Single Malt
£65.00 70cl
I was lucky to get a hold of a bottle of this 'limited' release

Ardbeg Day fell on June 2nd 2012 which was an extended Bank Holiday weekend in the UK due to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I tried to get a sample bottle from the distillery prior to the official release but was told it wasn't possible for whatever reason.   Towards the end of May I had had my heart set of an Isle of Arran Golden Eagle and blew my June budget immediately the merry month of May ended, so thought that I might not get the chance to sample this at all.

I looked on the Ardbeg website regularly over the long weekend, checking the stock of the limited release bottling and longing for a bottle of my own! I settled for another dram of my fabulous Ardbeg 10 on Ardbeg Day, but later saw that @LRWhisky had brought a bottle home from Islay with them. They had cracked it open and were tweeting about the delights of 'dramlaxing' with it. I asked if they would spare me a sample, and a trade was agreed. A miniature of my Arran Golden Eagle was sent off in exchange for a miniature of their Ardbeg Day - we would get together, through Skype, and taste the two whiskies together.

As soon as it arrived I opened it for a sneak peek at the nose. I was immediately smitten and could hold on no longer, sod the budget I was getting myself a bottle or two of this! However, was devastated when I returned to the Ardbeg shop to find out that all 12,000 bottles had flown off of the shelves. Gutted!

I checked on eBay and there were numerous bottles being touted at double the original selling price, so it just wasn't going to happen. With nothing to lose I sent out a tweet for anyone with a spare bottle to contact me - a real long shot I know, but I had nothing to lose. I had a few 'you'll be lucky replies' before one Arbeg fan who had brought two bottles offered to sell me one of his bottles (only if I was going to drink it!) or share one of his bottles. I asked @Ardbaggie for a 50/50 share of one of his two bottles, which was immediately shipped to me, in the origianl bottle, complete with 'on this day in history' booklet. There really is a wonderful community of whisky fans out there in Twitterland.

So now I had my original sample swap, and my own bottle of Ardbeg Day whisky to enjoy. I decided to hold back until the Skype meeting with @LRWhisky before sampling.

So this whisky was specially bottled to celebrate the inaugural worldwide Ardbeg Day, the cult distillery's contribution to Islay Festival, or Feis Isle as it is more often referred to. Each year at the Festival each of the famous whisky island's eight distilleries, plus Jura across the water, release a special collectors bottling on their individual open days. The Ardbeg open day is traditionally on the last Saturday of the Festival and this year was no different, and so Saturday 2 June the Ardbeg Day single malt was released.

Ardbeg is a small distillery producing around one million litres a year, but it produces some of the peatiest and smokiest whiskies in the world, and has built up a cult following across the world. This Ardbeg Day release was limited to 12,000 bottles, you had to be a member of the Ardbeg Committee to purchase one, and it was limited to two bottles per customer. It was all gone in a couple of days! (If you haven't joined the Committee yet, then you can do for free by visiting

I've been reliably informed that Ardbeg Day whisky is a combination of 8, 9 and 12 Year Old bourbon casks, married for a further 6 months in ex-sherry casks (which may well have been ex-Uigeadail casks).

So What did I think?
Well I was blown away at the first nosing of this from the wee sample bottle received from Living Room Whisky. I initially got a rich fruity nose out of this and was thoroughly enjoying a grapefruit pith like smell that brought back memories of eating grapefruit for breakfast with my Mother  (we used to share one in the mornings when I was an apprentice). However tasting this over Skype, with my daughter sitting next to me, and Mike and Jon from Living Room Whisky through Skype on the screen with us, Mike mentioned the straw from his rabbit hutch, and by auto-suggestion it was all I could get for a while! (and I haven't had a rabbit hutch since the mid seventies!)

The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is very pungent and full on. I've got my grapefruit pithiness back but there certainly is a straw-like rabbit hutch/cowshed nose to this alongside honey and vanilla aromas. The dominant element throughout is an earthy peat smoke, it reminds me of my Nan's coal tar soap There are also hints of ginger, candied peel and raisins, and I've just noticed a minty note too, fantastic stuff!

At cask strength it's initially quite fiery and a little oily. There's a short burst of sweetness which is quicky followed by the fiery spice again. The thick earthy peat smoke takes over your sense for a short moment and as it mellows there's a sooty charcoal taste which I love. With a drop of water the smoky charcoal is more evident at first, but the sweeter notes start to come out, honey and vanilla, there is a dark chocolate note too, aniseed and even a little lime tartness.

A very long finish with a slightly bitter smokiness to the bitter end It is dry, spicy and mouthwatering and I love it. I was recently very impressed by Ardbeg's Uigeadail and would really like to taste this alongside some, so will need to try hard to keep some of this until I can add the Uige to my whisky shelf!

Well done Ardbeg, this has been a blinder but I don't think it is worth the sums of money being asked for on eBay.

Book Review 101 World Whiskies

101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die
Ian Buxton 
Published July 2012

Ian Buxton's new book
I bought Ian's '101 Whiskies to Try before you Die' towards the end of my first year of my whisky journey. I had run through almost everything that I was seeing in my local supermarket shelves and was at a point of not knowing where to go next.

That book gave me new inspiration to expand my horizons and augment the rapidly diminishing wish list that was stuck on our fridge door.

I love this book! My post-it notes on the whiskies tried
It immediately opened up my curiosity to try blended whisky as well as American bourbons which I certainly hadn't considered at the beginning of my journey. (I originally had planned a Scottish Single Malt journey)

My book is now full of small post-it notes on the pages of the whiskies I have owned and tried, with reminders of where I bought it, tasted it, who with, how much and what I thought of it.

It has encouraged me to seek out whiskies that I wouldn't have known about before and I know I'm not the only one, it has been a best seller and was clearly evident at Whisky Live London earlier this year, where I noticed a number of visitors were walking around with their copies, checking out which whiskies they should be tasting next and marking them off.

My 'Dad's Whisky Wish List' was suitably extended and I've been steadily working my way through them, and currently I've tasted a third of those listed.

So I'm really pleased to tell you that Ian has just released a great companion book titled '101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die'. It follows the same theme as the first book, but now encompasses whiskies from a great deal further, including not only whiskies from the established whisky-producing countries, but also many newcomers. The book includes whiskies from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, India, Ireland, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA and Wales.

Once again all the whiskies included are both affordable and accessible. Ian doesn't believe in collecting whiskies or investing in whisky, and there is a couple of pages at the beginning of the book explaining Ian's reasoning why.

Ian believes in tasting and enjoying the huge range of whiskies that are available, and this book includes single malts and blends - and provocatively a few renegade suggestions that are bound to offend a few purists! (I was surprised, but certainly not offended!)

The book matches my earlier version perfectly and is the right size for me to flick through while savouring my current dram of choice. The photos of the bottles are clear on the left hand pages and the light heartened descriptions are laid out on the right hand pages, there's a little history, some candid commentary and amusing anecdotes for every entry. There's even a cheeky bonus 'one hundred and second whisky' but you'll have to get your own copy to find out what that one is.

Checking on Amazon I've found it's also available electronically for those of you who have moved onto this medium (I'm not quite there yet and want the hardcopy to thumb through to!).

I asked Ian if there were any plans for an App yet, but nothing in the pipeline yet due to the enormous expense, so come on app experts contact Ian with the right solution at the right price.

101 WORLD WHISKIES TO TRY BEFORE YOU DIE is published in hardback by Headline on Thursday 5th July 2012 and available from Amazon here

The original 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die is still available there too, and if you're exploring the world of whisky, they both really ought to be on your shelf alongside your whisky, and now I need to revisit my wish list and start adding some more gems that Ian has chosen for me!

Ian Buxton

Ian Buxton
Ian Buxton is a former Marketing Director of Glenmorangie and has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. He now runs a successful consultancy business. He was elected a Keeper of the Quaich in 1991, the highest honour of the Scotch whisky industry, and is a member of the international tasting panel for the annual World Whisky Awards and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. Ian lives in Perthshire on the site of a former distillery from where he conducts his love affair with Scotland's national drink.

Check out Steve Rush's insider interview with Ian on The Whisky Wire

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Whisky Discovery #147

Ardbeg Uigeadail NAS (54.2% abv, OB Bottled 2010 70 cl)
Islay Cask Strength Single Malt
Circa £50.00 70cl
Skype tasting sample of Arbeg's Uigeadail
I have been wanting to try Ardbeg Uigeadail for a while now and it's been near to the top of my wish list since tasting the Ardbeg 10 Year Old last October. Unfortunately something else has always come up before it and so seeing this was available on @WhiskyRepublic's whisky shelf, jumped at the opportunity in our five dram sample swap. I was very good, keeping this small sample bottle, untouched, on my whisky shelf for a good few weeks before our second Skype Tasting last week.

It was the final dram of our Skype tasting and directly followed another heavily peated Islay malt that was very different to this Ardbeg. A lot of the whisky community on Twitter have said some great things about this whisky and seems to be a very popular favourite. In 2009, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible named Ardbeg Uigeadail ‘World Whisky of the Year’ – in praise of its “utter silky brilliance” and “complexity on a level only a handful of distilleries in the world can even dream of reaching.” It's also listed in Ian Buxton's great book, "101 Whiskies to try before you die"

Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced ‘Oog-a-dal’) is a special vatting that marries Ardbeg’s traditional deep, smoky notes with luscious, raisiny tones of old ex-Sherry casks. Uigeadail derives from the Scotch Gaelic for 'Dark and Mysterious Place' and is named for the Loch from whence Ardbeg draws its waters. It's non chill-filtered at high strength, which retains maximum flavour and gives more body and added depth.

So what did I think?

It has a lovely deep golden colour and thick legs slowly run down my nosing glass when swirled. It has the most awesome nose with notes of peat, lump coal, tar, dark brown sugar, freshly ground coffee beans, and some fruity notes. There's a slight whiff of a disinfectant or elastoplast too, actually I'm starting to think it is Germoline or even Deep Heat!

I love the nose on this, after getting used to the medicinal notes, so much more lies underneath this smouldering smokey coal fire; Sweet treacle toffee, rich Christmas cake, a touch of pine forest and freshly cut cedar wood. With water there's definitely a hint of diesel engine amongst the tarry smoke, but the toffee sweetness and coffee walnut cake keeps making a welcome appearance through the haze. Just spectacular!

An initial sweetness hits the tongue, rich fruits from the Christmas cake, a hint of marzipan before being followed by a spicy smokiness which is just heavenly, the medicinal notes come through that remind me of the old Victory V lozenges I used to like as a schoolboy. Wave upon wave of sweetness balanced with the peaty smokiness take over the senses

The finish is intense.It is incredibly long and initially very hot peppery spice which is promptly followed by a sweet caramel and malt, balanced by that smouldering coal fire again. The peaty tang remains for long time. I finished my dram over an hour ago, and can still taste the peaty smoke at the back of my mouth! This whisky will remain high on my wish list, and I think will need to be on my shelf at all times. If you are ever wondering what to buy me, a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail would always be welcome - I could never have too much!

Whisky Discovery #146

Connemara Peated Whiskey NAS (40% abv, OB 2011 70cl)
Irish Whiskey
circa £27.00 70 cl
The golden Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey

This was one of the five whiskies I received in a sample swap and was part of my second Skype Whisky Tasting. I had not come across anything from Connemara in my journey to date and so needed to find out a little more about them:

Connemara is made by the Cooley Distillery, which was established by John Teeling. After studying in America, John concluded that there was a solid market for a new Irish Whiskey brand.

He acquired the Dundalk-based, potato alcohol plant, Ceimici Teo Distillery in 1987 converting it to a whisky distillery, renaming it Cooley, and it was the first whiskey distillery to be founded in Ireland for over a century.

It was not long before the owners began to acquire famous brands and distilleries which had been mothballed. Tyrconnell and Kilbeggan being amongst them. The Kilbeggan was reopened in 2007 and is run in conjunction with Cooley and proffers the company’s storage facilities. In 1989, a pair of pot stills was installed, furnishing the distillery with the means to distil both malt and grain. During the 1990s, the Cooley distillery launched Connemara, Ireland’s only peated whisky. Cooley is was Ireland’s only Irish-owned whiskey distillery, until recent acquired by Beam Global

Connemara Peated Whiskey has been inspired by the ancient Irish tradition of drying the malted barley of peat (or turf as it is locally known) fires, and it is distilled in small batches using copper pot stills.

So what did I think?

I first tasted this during my second Skype tasting session, and it immediately followed two glorious Speyside malts. I couldn't believe the nose I got from this initially, it was so rubber, like the inside of a tyre shop, and even brought back memories of my first summer holiday job working in ITS Rubber Limited in Petersfield, where I trimmed rubber soles for commando boots, rubber grommets for Triumph cars and rubber hoses for Hoover vacuum cleaners! We laughed over the fact that we were going to drink whiskey that smelt so heavily of rubber, caramelised inner tubes was the descriptive we decided upon during the Skype tasting.

I went back to this later and eventually the rubber subsides with a little air, and a honeyed sweetness comes through a peaty smokiness, there's a herbal heather freshness and even some floral notes buried within. However going back to a new dram, the rubber tyre shop hits me first!

It's very smooth on the palate but I still had the rubbery note to this malt, The sweetness eventually comes through with barley and  honey, and perhaps a little vanilla and musty wood too. The finish is long with pungent rubber, honey sweetness and light peat smoke. It was very different to what I was expecting from a peated whisky.

This was a strange one; I don't think I'll be tempted to rush out and add this to my shelf, but I did find it strangely alluring after a little while. I'll certainly look out for it when I'm out and about, and will find the Cooley stand at the next whisky show I visit as I would like to compare this against the other expressions from Connemara. I'd really like to hear from anyone else who found this to be rubbery as I haven't seen any other tasting notes describing this in my searches.

Skype Tasting #2

Tasting #2
A little while ago fellow whisky tweeter @WhiskyRepublic and I 
swapped five different whiskies from our shelves with each other and held a tasting session using Skype. 

We managed to run through five drams on our first meeting, so scheduled a second session last week to finish of the remaining five whiskies.
The five drams received from @WhiskyRepublic
With three peated whiskies left, alongside two Speysiders, and three of the five were also at cask strength, some careful planning was needed to get the balance right and make this session as enjoyable as the first one.

We started off with two from my shelf, The Balvenie 21 PortWood which although a rich Port finished Speysider it is bottled at 40% abv and the honeyed sweetness that is synonymous with the Balvenie range could be enjoyed and savoured without any other influences from either cask strength alcohol or heavily peated whiskies. The PortWood is one of my favourites from Balvenie.

We followed The Balvenie with an 18 Year Old Glenfarclas from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.  SMWS 1.162 is bottled at 58.8% abv, and was from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead and was one of 234 bottles. It seemed to follow The Balvenie perfectly.
The drams I sent to @WhiskyRepublic in front of their parents
With three peated whiskies left, two at cask strength, the Irish Connemara Peated Whiskey was next and what a surprising nose this had! This was my first experience of Connemara, and I have smelt a little rubber in whiskies previously, but nothing compared to what hit me here. It was unbelievable! It reminded us of changing tyres and we were both laughing that we were drinking whisky that smelt like rubber! The phrase 'caramelised inner tube' was coined to describe the nose we were 'enjoying' during this tasting.

We followed the Connemara with a Heavily Peated 13 Year Old Bunnahabhain from Signatory's Cask Strength Collection. This is a smashing drop of whisky that I've been nursing for a year now!

The final dram of the evening was the one I had been really looking forward to since receiving the sample; Ardbeg Uigeadail. Another heavily peated whisky, but a total contrast to the Bunnahabhain. Both Islay single malts, both cask strength, but the Bunnahabhain had been matured in two ex-bourbon hogsheads and the Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced 'oog-a-dal) is a vatting that marries traditional smokey Ardbeg with spirit matured in old ex-sherry casks.

Another very successful and hugely entertaining Skype tasting. Overall, five new whiskies were introduced to each of us, and we had two great evenings from the comfort of our own computers! There's not much of a whisky scene in the Bedford area yet, but I'm looking to start something in the near future. If you are interested in either a whisky club in the Bedford area or Skype tasting, please contact me and check out my shelf for Skype sample swaps - it is always changing as I drink from it almost daily, and add at least one bottle to it every month!

Whisky Discovery #145

Isle of Jura 'Elixir' 12 Year Old (40% abv OB, 2012 35cl)
Island Single Malt
Circa £17.00 35cl
Jura's elusive 12 Year Old addition to their core range Elixir
This expression from Jura seems to be only available from Sainsbury's as I have not found it anywhere else yet. It appears to have been launched at the end of 2011, and only available in 35cl bottles. I am on the Jura Diurach mailing lists and don't recall any publicity regarding it's launch and is not available to purchase from their online store. A little searching through the Jura blog and I eventually found some information in a blog post dated 18th November 2011 which launched Elixir.

The name Elixir refers to a local folklore. You may be aware that, Jura have a tradition of drawing upon the island’s myths and legends as inspiration for their whiskies, and Elixir is no exception. This folklore says that the island’s water, used in all their whiskies, has life-prolonging and mystical health-giving properties. Several Diurachs claimed to have lived to their hundreds, including one man who, according to his gravestone, lived to be 180 years old. They go no to say "We obviously don’t claim that drinking whisky does make you live longer, but it’s not called the water of life for nothing you know!"

This 12 year old malt has been finished in a mixture of American White Oak and Sherry Casks, this combination includes crushed almonds, pineapple and fresh roasted coffee aromas

So what did I think?

This is a very sweet whisky, both on the nose and the palate. The colour is a rich golden amber and the nose is initially very rich and sweet. There are huge obvious aromas of caramel, sultanas and toffee, but with a little time, other aromas penetrate the intense sweetness. There is a herbal note which I can't quite put my finger on, and a spiciness like nutmeg, a light cinnamon dusting, and a hint of wet, earthy potting compost.

On the palate, it feels a little thinner than I was expecting given the richness and sweetness of the nose. The sweetness is strong in the form of the caramel toffee with juicy dried fruits of sultanas and raisins, and a lovely spiced orange peel. A smoky herbal spiciness eventually comes through with and it finishes with a nuttiness to the light wispy smoke.

This is an interesting whisky and it certainly doesn't come across as the sherry bomb I was expecting. It was first introduced to me by my eldest daughter, but was fortunate enough to be given a bottle of this by my youngest daughter for my recent birthday, so it's on the shelf. 

As I said initially this is a very sweet whisky, probably perfect for a dessert whisky?

Sunday, 17 June 2012

World Record Whisky Tasting

2 Great Men
3 Great Whiskies
8 Whisky Shops
24 hours and 683 miles
I was there....well for the Oxford session anyway

Not long ago, Dominic Roskrow of The Whisky Shop and John Glaser from Compass Box Whisky Company decided that it would be a good idea to mark the arrival of three Compass Box whiskies in The Whisky Shop branches, to hold eight different whisky tastings, in eight different Whisky Shops, from Inverness to Brighton. Madness? It must have seemed a good idea at the time! 
On Friday 15th June 2012 the world record event was to begin.

I had just booked that Friday off of work when I found out about this crazy event, and thought, if I get up early on the Friday, get my chores done, I should easily make it for the six o'clock session in the Oxford branch of The Whisky Shop which seemed like the nearest event to my house at fifty miles door to door.

Each of the whisky tastings were with a trio of award winning core expressions from the Compass Box Whisky Company, Great King Street, The Spice Tree and The Peat Monster. Each whisky tasting event at each Whisky Shop had a different theme to it too, but the same three whiskies were used throughout and in an attempt to set a whisky tasting world record and raise money for charity along the way, the whole tour happened in just one day.

It all started with a one-minute-past-midnight tasting at The Whisky Shop in Inverness and finished in Brighton with a grand finale at 11.30pm

At Inverness there was a classic tasting session and grand departure. By 0430 they were in Edinburgh with the history of blended whisky and the rise of the Highball. Making it to Newcastle for 0830, breakfast pairings was on the agenda; Haggis and Spice Tree, Kippers with Peat Monster. Great King Street and cornflakes? (I made that last one up, but might try it next weekend) 

In York at 1130, and the art of blending was explained, and onto Birmingham for 1530; Oak, the magical ingredient was the order of the session. The Oxford session started at 1800, before moving onto London for 2100 and whisky cocktails and there was something special to finish at Brighton at 2330 

Chris Maybin and two regulars outside the Oxford Whisky Shop in Turl Street
The Oxford tasting was due to start at 1800 and the order of the session was food and whisky matching. I got to Oxford in good time, found somewhere close to park (it really isn't easy to park in Oxford!) and strolled into town to find The Whisky Shop which was tucked in the middle of the historic section, and halfway down Turl Street.

Chris Maybin, Commercial Director, from Compass Box Whisky was already there, and along with Oxford Whisky Shop Manager, Peter Hack, were preparing the shop for the tasting. Telephone calls from the travelling party were reporting that due to traffic (Friday afternoon rush hour from Birmingham to Oxford) they might be a little late. The shop was starting to fill with enthusiastic regulars, wanting to be part of this event, and even the sun was shining, which was surprising with the weather forecasts predicted for the weekend.

It was only a little after six when John and Dominic arrived, and after very brief introductions (they were on a mission) the tasting session got underway.

John Glasser in full flow, Great King Street The Artist's Blend with Dominic Roskrow listening intently
First up was Great King Street, The Artist's Blend which had been paired with vintage cheddar cheese. John explained the history of Great King Street and the importance of blended whisky, and why he decided to start blending his own. Someone told me a while back, to think of a single malt as a solo instrument and a blended whisky as a band or orchestra. I tried The Artists Blend at the London Whisky Fest in April, but the food pairing with vintage cheddar cheese brought a whole new dimension to it. It quickly became a luxurious vanilla ice-cream, just delicious!

Moving swiftly on and Salmon was the food pairing for The Peat Monster. This was my favourite Compass Box Whisky at the London Whisky Fest so was really looking forward to tasting this again and it worked beautifully with some superb quality pepper-crusted salmon.

For our final dram, The Spice Tree had been paired with a rich fruit cake, however while nosing the dram John explained a little of the history of the Spice Tree whisky and the experiments with the wood they had initially undertaken. Both the fruit cake and Spice Tree whisky were delicious and went well together, although John thought that this would have been better matched with a rich Jamaican ginger cake. I'm looking to try that very soon!

The three whiskies, Smoked Salmon and Fruit Cake

With the tasting session over, John and Dominic were quickly bundled into their car and were rushed off to London. They made the final two events in time, and hopefully made it into the Guinness book for Records for the event, but if it didn't happen, it didn't really matter, some 200 people attended the events nationwide, each shop raised money for their local charities, and a lot of people when away with an education in Compass Box Whisky.

As I was driving I was unable to fully partake in the tasting, however I was allowed to take my drams home in sample bottles before the main bottles were drained by the rest of the tasters. So now I can get my own vintage cheddar cheese, smoked salmon and Jamaican ginger cake and hold my own food pairing at home. I always have smoked salmon in the fridge, have just bought some vintage cheddar this afternoon, so just the ginger cake to get tomorrow then!

All participants were also handed a limited edition T-Shirt to commemorate the event, unfortunately they were obviously designed for younger more svelte whisky drinkers, as only mediums were available - I haven't been a medium for 35 years! So it was promptly 'blagged' by my youngest daughter when I got home. She's modelling it for me here!
The front of the limited edition t-shirt.....
and the back of the limited edition t-shirt

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Whisky Discovery #144

Isle of Arran 'The Eagle' 1999 (46% abv, OB, Distilled 1999, Bottled 2012 70cl)
Island Single Malt
Circa £48.00 70cl
Icons of Arran No. 4 The Golden Eagle

I remember when the Isle of Arran Distillers released this back in February 2012. I saw the advertisements and the tweets before I had even tasted a whisky from this distillery. I tried to get a sample from the distillery at the time. Although unsuccessful with getting a taste of the Golden Eagle, I was very fortunate to be sent a sample of their 10 Year Old and their 14 Year Old.

I was blown away by this offer of samples and started to find out more about this distillery, and the' Icons of Arran' range, of which this is the fourth and final expression from this series. It all started four years ago with the release of 'The Peacock' which received great reviews and is highly sought after. The following year 'The Rowan Tree' was released and then last year 'The Westie' which I believe, you can still find a bottle of if you look hard!

The Golden Eagle is a special edition bottling limited to just 6,000 worldwide, and after looking out for it at the Stratford upon Avon Whisky Festival (and not seeing it) was determined to make this my official June purchase. I almost left it too late as a number of retailers had sold out, and it wasn't available from the distillery any longer. After some frantic telephoning to a number of independent retailers I found myself a bottle just in time!

This single malt was drawn from a combination of 14 bourbon barrels and 7 sherry Hogsheads, all selected by Master Distiller James MacTaggart from the 1999 distillation. It was bottled earlier this year and released in February.

As with all of the other 'Icons of Arran' it has been named after something synonymous with the Isle of Arran and/or it's distillery and this has been named for and dedicated to, the pair of Golden Eagles who nest behind the distillery in the mountain above Lochranza.

This 13 year old single malt has been bottled at 46% abv and is naturally coloured and non chill-filtered

So what did I think?

I opened this on the Friday evening it arrived and tweeted about it to a few friends who were interested in what I thought. I spent my time getting to know this and nosed it a number of times before tasting it.

On the nose I tweeted; Lemony vanilla with a sherry fruity notes, kiwi fruit, lovely nose! There's peaches too and pink grapefruit. It is almost a tropical fruit salad, with vanilla, caramel and some nuttiness too.

It's quite similar on the palate, but there is a little spiciness too. Creamy buttery vanilla with some great citrus notes. I also got the slightest aniseed tang to it too, yes it is delicious!

The finish seems quite short, sweet and peppery at the end, and a little nutty dryness.

I'm so glad I managed to find a bottle of this having missed out earlier releases, it is a lovely drop of whisky and if you can find a bottle you really should snap it up, if you don't like it you can always send it to me - where it will be gratefully received.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Whisky Discovery #143

anCnoc Peter Arkle NAS (46% abv OB)
Highland Single Malt
circa £48:00 70cl

The limited edition Peter Arkle anCnoc
The last week if May was a very busy whisky week! A five dram Skype tasting on the Tuesday evening, a four dram Tweet Tasting with The English Whisky Co on the Wednesday and this Tweet tasting was on the Thursday.

Hosted by The Edinburgh Whisky Blog and Alembic Tweets I was sent a wee sample of the new limited edition release from the anCnoc distillery. I've not come across anCnoc in my journey so far, so this was the first expression from this distillery, although the 16 year old has been on my list for a while.

Knockdhu, which means 'black hill' was built in 1894 at Knock seven miles from Huntly. Knockdhu is unique in that it was the only distillery to have been entirely built by the old DCL company, and was constructed mainly to supply malt to the Haigs blend which it did until closure in 1983. The distillery was bought in 1988 by Inver House and re-opened the following year. It was only in the early 1990's that the distillery make was bottled as a single under the name of An Cnoc (in order to avoid confusion with Knockando). Independent bottlings from the distillery are sometimes still bottled as Knockdhu though, just to add to the confusion.

Peter Arkle Project

Peter Arkle is a reknowned Scottish illustrator based in New York who has worked with some of the worlds biggest brands (Guinness, Nike, and Starbucks are just a few!) He has developed an exclusive range of limited edition designs for anCnoc, of which this is the first.

While sipping his anCnoc, Peter found himself considering the ingredients: Yes, it’s made from malted barley, spring water (from the nearby Knock Hill), yeast, heat and the passing of a lot of time (ageing in a cask). However there’s another ingredient... something that can’t really be seen: something MAGIC!

If you look carefully, you will see that Peter has captured all these ingredients in his design for this pack. The liquid inside is also very special. Selected by the Distillery Manager, Gordon Bruce, this Limited Edition is matured in Spanish oak sherry butts. Traditionally anCnoc is matured in American wood. This gives the whisky a darker colour and notes of dark spices and dried fruits.

The Tweet Tasting
So what did I think?

Bottled at 46% abv, the whisky is naturally coloured and non chill-filtered. On the nose it was rich and spicy. There was vanilla, butterscotch toffee, a bit of a fruit cake aroma to it, some orange zest, there was a salty note too.

The nose got better the longer it was in the glass, the vanilla started to build and then sweet caramelised bananas, sticky toffee pudding, yum yum yum

It had a lovely mouth feel, honey smoothness with raisins, creamy vanilla, light apple juice then richer fruit, black cherry.

There was a good long peppery, spicy finish to it, a little sweetness, a little saltiness - nicely balanced.

I was really impressed with this first anCnoc and the smell in the glass at end of the evening was very alluring, leaving me wanting some more. I've now ordered myself a bottle to add to my shelf!

Thanks to anCnoc, The Edinburgh Whisky Blog and Alembic Tweets for the sample and hosting the Tweet Tasting, and Royal Mile WhiskiesanCnoc and Alembic Tweets for the images.