Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #221

Pendleton Blended Canadian Whisky NAS (40% abv)
Canadian Blended Whisky
Not yet available in the UK

I was very fortunate to get a couple of 'colts' of this following a Twitter conversation with the guys and girls of @Pendletonwhisky. I'd not long launched my blog and only just joined Twitter and was posting tweets regarding my journey to date. Asked if I had tried any of their Whisky in my journey to date, I replied that I hadn't yet but it would be on the list. I then went to find out a little more, see where it was available and was unable to find any listing in the UK and cheekily asked if they would be able to send me a couple of 'Colts' which is what their miniature bottles are called.

I was told that US postal rules forbade them to send samples through the mail to me, but they did have some company representatives coming to the UK later in the year, and they would bring some for me, if we could meet up. "Great" I said! 

There was quite a wait between the original conversation, but nearer the time of the planned UK trip I was contacted with a proposed schedule. Being a recent member of the SMWS I was hoping to be able to take the Pendleton representative to the London home, but due to his tight schedule unfortunately we weren't able to actually meet up, but two colts were left with the hotel concierge for me to collect at my leisure.

So this is what I found out from Pendleton:

I wasn't able to find out the distillery it is made at, but can tell you there are three very large distilleries that do 90% of all distillation in Canada, all three are contract distillers producing a unique product for each customer. The mash bill changes from year to year depending on what mother nature brings, grains, just like grapes will vary depending on rainfall, temperature, soils, etc.  It is made up of mainly corn with a less than 10% rye mix, but again will vary from year to year.

The spirit is distilled and aged in Canada and just as Canadian Whiskies do, used Bourbon barrels are used, but they are each re-charred to a specific type, and was told they use a 'type two' or 'medium charring' which will produce a nice soft, smooth, vanilla, caramel, slight maple flavour.

The matured whisky is then transported in bulk to Hood River, Oregon for blending and bringing down to bottling strength of 40% abv and they are very proud to tell you that their water comes from the highest peak in Oregon, Mount Hood, which the peak of is covered in snow and ice year round, so the water used is fresh glacier water run-off from the mountain.

There is no age statement, but the average age is circa ten year, but again this varies from year to year in order to maintain a specific taste profile. It has been said that it could me marketed with a 7 or 8 Year Old statement, but chose not to, however with an average age of ten years means that there are often 12 and 15 year old whiskies in the mix, again to gain a specific taste.

So what did we think?

Kat Says: Not knowing anything about this whisky before I sampled it, I wasn't aware of its long standing connections with the sport of rodeo. I only found out after I had emptied my sample bottle. With hindsight I should be more observant and guessed from the picture on the bottle - a cowboy riding a bucking horse.

However that said, I'm glad that I didn't know anything about this whisky before I sampled it as it didn't give me a chance to form any preconceptions. I would have expected a whisky that’s fit for rough n’ tough cowboys and girls would be bold, gutsy, and being very cliché here, with a kick to it. But this really wasn't It was more delicate and calm, so here’s my tasting note:

On the nose I got a sweet note that reminded me of the sweet, 'Bassett’s Fruit Salad', and then got an overall sense of freshness, like a crisp spring morning with a light scent of freshly cut grass. At the end, after all the liquid had left the glass, what was left was a delightful aroma of burnt sugars. However I wasn't able to pick up this scent at the beginning. 

The freshness carries on into the pallet, for me it crisp note in the nose has transformed into a zesty citrus quality that is nicely balanced with the sweetness, that I'm really glad didn't taste of the Fruit Salads. I think if it did, it might have made this whisky too heavy and lose its fresh qualities. There are some spiked notes of nutmeg and an antiseptic TCP hint to it (that’s probably the alcohol evaporating off my taste buds) which is more pleasant than it sounds. The only thing that was disappointing is that these flavours seemed to disappear so quickly, wish they would stay for ten more seconds so I can enjoy them for a moment longer. Two words: short and sweet. 

The ending does last for a bit longer, simplistically of green oak and that crisp quality. I would class it as a medium finish. Overall for me it was an easy to drink whisky that’s fuss free.

Dave Says: I too found the nose very sweet, but wrote down 'Birds Custard' as the highlight of my 'find' It brought back memories of puddings at home and my Mum's custard (which came from the Bird's custard power tin. I also jotted down Honey, vanilla and a floral note too.

On the palate it was much less sweet than the nose had suggested and crisper and brighter with a light citric sourness to that reminded me almost instantly of 'chocolate limes' There's a lot of grains and the rye comes out towards the end. The limes were evident on the short and sweet finish that had a light rye spiciness. Going back to the empty bottle later and toffee popcorn, with a little walnut nuttiness.

A very enjoyable dram, and very easy drinking. It's not overly complex, but there's certainly enough to hold your interest, perhaps a little more abv would lengthen the finish, but given the opportunity, I'd have a bottle on the shelf. It's not yet available in the UK, so will won't be able to taste this again in a hurry. The Pendleton range consists of this 'core' expression and a 12 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky, named Pendleton 1910 that I would really like to try.

The last part of the story, is the rich heritage of the 'Pendleton Roundup' which just celebrated its 102nd year of competition and celebrating the western lifestyle.

It's also worth mentioning the awards Pendleton has won: Fast track growth brand 2010, 2011-Beverage Information Group, gold medal 2011 – SIP competition, gold medal 2009- World Spirit Competition, “92” points 2009 -The Tasting Panel.

Speaking to Canadian friends recently I learnt that this Canadian Whisky is not actually available in Canada yet! However it should be available in all US States, and was told that building the US business is their current priority before taking it overseas
Many thanks to HRD Spirits for the samples, as they say at the rodeo’s:  Let’er Buck

For more information check out HOOD RIVER DISTILLERS, INC. on-line at and and you can also follow them on  Facebook, Linkedln and Twitter

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #220

Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Year Old (40%, OB Bottled 2012, 75cl) 
Canadian Blended Whisky
Haven’t found to be available in the UK (yet) 

Canadian Whisky
Another  great photo of Gibson's Finest in Canadian Autumnal (Fall) colours
The second of my five Canadian whiskies from a sample swap with Johanne (@Whiskylassie) who is also half of another great whisky blog 'The Perfect Whisky Match'

Following finishing my draft notes of the Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old, I decided I would pick up with my Canadian Whisky education with their 18 year old expression.

As far as I can tell the 18 Year Old is is made and matured exactly the same way as the 12 Year Old and left for a further 6 years in the casks. Only available in Canada and limited to just 12,000 bottles per year according to their website

So what did I think?

This was very similar to the 12 year old, with a very light or shy nose that needed teasing out of the glass. A very delicate nose that eventually yielded a resinous note that reminded me of freshly sawn softwood at first. It has a sort of dry dusty nose with a spiciness that I guess is coming from the rye. At the same time there is a fruity sweetness, dark fruits.

It was quite thin on the palate and much sweeter than the nose suggested. Smooth and silky mouth feel. Lot's of honey, mild pepper spice and fruity too, juicy summer fruits, apricot and Victoria plums.

The finish comes with a pinch of salt to the fruit sweetness and fades away with a light pepper spice. Not a long finish, but memorable and certainly leaving me wanting more. All I have is the empty bottle, which when sniffed now reminds me of hand rolling tobacco from my mis-spent youth, and the resinous wood note is there again.

Being only available in Canada it looks like it will be a while before I get to saviour this again which is a damn shame. If any of my Canadian friends are heading to the UK, could I ask nicely?
Thanks again for great photographs from Johanne of The Perfect Whisky Match

Monday, 29 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #219

Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old (40%, OB Bottled 2012, 75cl) 
Canadian Blended Whisky
Haven’t found to be available in the UK (yet) 

Canadian Whisky
My first Canadian Whisky on this journey, resplendent in some Canadian Autumn sunshine
What started out as another Whisky Discovery or ‘notch in the bedpost’, has developed into three blog-posts being written, all to be posted at the same time, all three of us will ‘appear’ on each others blog and will share our thoughts on the same whisky. I have the very great pleasure of introducing two guest bloggers to this post. Let me explain; 

I've probably said this a few times but, but there is a wonderful world of whisky fanatics on the 'twitterverse', and I came across a dram of this by way of a five dram sample swap with Johanne McInnis who tweets under the handle of @Whiskylassie and is also half of another great whisky blog 'The Perfect Whisky Match'. 

We had mentioned sample swaps a number of times before finally getting around to sorting out five drams and posting them off to each other. Johanne wanted four Scottish and one English (Chapter 6) whiskies, and I was keen to try five Canadian whiskies from her impressive collection. The only one that was defined on my list was this Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old, purely because it was listed in my latest guide Ian Buxton’s 101 World Whiskies To Try Before You Die. We posted more or less on the same day, and within two weeks we had both received our packages, safely intact.

So with five Canadian drams lined up on the mantelpiece I tweeted one evening asking for advice where to start, Scottish, Canadian or Japanese whisky? The Gibson 12 Year Old was going to be my choice, and Johanne suggested that we blog simultaneously. 

Another Canadian, twitter pal and blogger Jean-Francois Pilon, tweeting as @jfpilon and of the French language ‘Whisky Plus’ blog noticed this thread, and having just jotted down his notes on Gibson’s Finest 12 Year Old, tweeted that he too would like to be involved, and so this ‘Ménage à trois’ was born! 

Canadian whiskies are often referred to as Rye Whiskies, though rye is not always used. The majority of Canadian whiskies are blended and distilled from a selection of grains, which usually include a good proportion of rye alongside barley and corn. This style is quite similar to Scotch blended whisky, save for the often used rye. As with Scotch and English whisky, the spirit must be aged for at least three years, before being called Whisky, and yes no ‘e’ is used in the Canadian spelling of whisky. 

I know very little about Gibson’s whisky apart from what I've read in Ian Buxton’s book and that it is now owned by William Grant & Sons of Glenfiddich and Balvenie heritage. I've not seen it available in the UK yet, so will hand you over to Jean-Francois who has filled me in with a little of the distillery detail:

Saying that Gibson's Finest has a complex story would be too simple. The brand was born in the US as a Pennsylvanian rye. But, like so many others, prohibition forced the distillery to close. Half a century later, Schenley revived it in Valleyfield, Quebec. Gibson's Finest 12 year old was distilled there until the plant was sold to Diageo. It has since, in 2008, moved to Hiram Walker's plant. But the 18 Year Old is still blended and bottled there. Both are very sought after as almost none is available outside of the country and at less than $28 for a 12 Year Old, it is quite a deal. 

So what did we think?

Johanne Says:

Nose: Very distinguishing rye spiciness. This one in particular reminds me of dark rich earth on a warm day, almost like walking through the forest after a rain storm. Very "organic" in nature. A bit of nail polish remover at the back but with a sweet attached to it, like a creme caramel. I do get a hint of sweet vanilla. With a bit of water added, it opens to a softer sweetness but I really had to hunt for what I thought it was, it reminded me of standing in an apple orchard when the blossoms are full out. 

Palate: Such a typical spicy whisky, I can taste a gingery or hot cinnamon type of spice. A bit of bitterness of a pink grapefruit, sweet but makes the back of your mouth sort of stand to attention. It's very tannic in nature. Once I added water, it becomes a bit oilier in nature, and very recognizable flavors of wood appeared.

Finish: Still quite spicy in nature, more citrus pith (almost like a palate cleaner containing lemon peel). I would say this has a small-medium finish. 

It doesn't stay with you for long, and I really had to work at this one, especially after I added water. One afternoon, I let it sit for almost a full hour and then went back to it. I found this very helpful as far as getting so much more on the nose from it. However, most people would not let their whisky sit for an hour before they drink it.

Jean-Francois Says:
Well, the nose has nice fresh oranges and more than a touch of rye bread with those classic earthy rye spices. There are also whiffs of white wine laid down in casks. Some banana nuts muffins. And some echoes of bourbon: sweet corn, vanilla and acetone. Finally, we get dry dust, just to strengthen the wine cellar and earthy rye feel. Dry and complex. 

Once it hits the tongue, we get sweet citrus at first that then becomes spicy, with pepper, clove and nutmeg. Following that, we get that wine thing again: it is now clearly Pineau des Charentes. It evolves once more into rye spices (cloves) and nuts. 

The finish is sweet oranges with touches of pith. Somewhat long and juicy. 

All in all the Gibson's Finest 12 YO is a very refreshing dram with some nice complexities. A day dram; it does well as an aperitif, and would easily replace the aforementioned Pineau des Charentes. You could even enjoy it thusly on ice. You'd then get dry woody oranges with a spicy grape finish on burnt wood.

and Dave says: 

Gibson’s Finest is quite similar to a blended Scotch whisky, with the exception of the Canadian rye, and is made from rye, barley and corn. The rye and malted barley are fermented separately from the corn to maintain the distinct fermentation flavours in the mash. This fermented grain mash is distilled, again separately, to produce both a grain spirit and a corn spirit which are then blended together before barrel maturing in ex-bourbon barrels. 

On opening the bottle I noticed an immediate bourbon rye note which quickly settled. It doesn't have a strong nose, in fact at times it seems to fade away quite quickly until the glass is swirled to release the spicy, herbal bouquet of dusty rye, caramel custard, butterscotch candy and vanilla bourbon notes. The fruit comes through with banana bread, dark cherry, then spicy cardamom, fennel and caraway seeds. However let the glass settle and the nose retracts back into itself until swirled again. 

On the palate it is silky smooth and sweet, although not overly, and with lots of bitter citric zest. There’s a fresh-cut wood feel, candied orange peel, spicy white pepper, but again not overly, and perhaps even a hint of ginger beer. It’s all over quite quickly and fades out with a little peppery spice, some sweetness of crème brûlée fading to nothing while the oak tannins start drying the mouth making me want some more – too late! The sample has all gone.

So, my first Canadian Whisky of my journey, and I was pleasantly surprised, very easy drinking and would give a good number of our blended scotch a run for it’s money. Why isn't this available in the UK? Come on William Grant & Sons, bring it on! One down, four to go, I'm looking forward to continuing my first trip to Canada.

Thanks due

Thank you Johanne @Whiskylassie and Jean-Francois @jfpilon for making this post a little different. Please check out their blogs and make sure you're following them on Twitter - the links are all here!

Finally many thanks to Johanne for supplying some very artistic photographs for this post, I hope I'm able to reciprocate with mine!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #218

anCnoc Peter Arkle 2nd Edition (46% abv OB, 2012, 70cl)
Highland Single Malt
circa £50.00 70cl
anCnoc Single Malt
The new limited edition Peter Arkle Second Edition launched September 2012
Following the first release earlier this year, the anCnoc Distillery unveiled their second expression in a series created in collaboration with a renowned Scottish illustrator based in New York – Peter Arkle. The partnership, launched in April 2012, revolves around a series of limited anCnoc expressions presented in packaging designed by the artist.

The illustration for the Limited Edition No. 2 is a powerful image of rows of casks disappearing into darkness of a warehouse. It was inspired by Peter's visit to Knockdhu where he did much of his creative work for the project and where all anCnoc Single Malt is made and matured. The artist later commented: ‘Working with anCnoc as a collaborative partner on its limited edition campaign has been an incredible thrill, and I am delighted with this new release. My illustration aims to capture the essence of what makes the whisky so special – time, as the sense of time passing was almost tangible inside the warehouse. I hope that drinkers get as much enjoyment from my design as they do from the magic inside the bottle!' 

The whisky has been matured in a fifty/fifty mix of Spanish oak ex-sherry butts and American oak ex-bourbon barrels, both first fill, with a predominant age of eight years, although released with no age statement. Although a limited edition, 12,000 bottles have been released which is double that of the first release. The whisky is bottled at 46% ABV, unchill-filtered and presented at its natural colour.

Official Tasting notes

Colour: Light amber.
Nose: Sweet and full-bodied bursting with spicy vanilla and rich toffee aromas followed by fresh lemons, cooked green apples and a just hint of coconut.
Taste: Sweet, warm and spicy. Dried fruit cake, creamy vanilla and toffee are followed by a distinct note of zesty orange peel and enveloped in leathery richness.

So What did I Think?

With a 50:50 mix of sherry butts and bourbon barrels I was expecting a little more of the sherry influence to come through on the nose. There is bags of vanilla and butterscotch initially, before the fruit first emerges in toffee apples. There's also a little furniture polish, or rich polished wood notes, with some spice and a delicate floral note like orange blossom that drifts in and out as on a breeze wafting through. I left the residue in the glass over night - covered, (a tip I picked up from The Perfect Whisky Match) and re-nosed in the morning; Figs and walnuts! Lovely!

It's sweet on the palate with honey and vanilla but with a good measure of white pepper and a light syrupy texture. I started to get a sweet stewed apples note which reminded me of my Mum's home-made apple pie (we had apple trees in the garden, and around this time of year there always seemed to be stewed apples on the stove!).

The finish was long, ending up quite dry, like finishing a cup of Earl Grey (black of course!) with light spice and a touch of salt at the very end.

A very nice drop of drammage, and certainly compliments the first edition nicely. The bourbon casks are certainly at the forefront of this expression, but the sherried fruits coming through in the end.

Thanks to anCnoc, The Edinburgh Whisky Blog and @alembic_tweets for the sample

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #217

Robert Burns Single Malt Whisky NAS (43% abv OB Bottled 2012, 70cl)
Island Single Malt Whisky
Circa £30.00 70cl
Isle of Arran Distillery
The new 2012 Robert Burns Single Malt from the Isle of Arran Distillery
Released at the beginning of September and bottled under the Robert Burns label, this edition of the Arran Single Malt has been created by combining different ages to create a beautifully rounded whisky that is smooth, malty and sweet with a delicious spicy twist on the finish.

Since 2000 The Isle of Arran Distillers have been granted life membership of the World Burns Federation - an organisation based in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire which is dedicated to the life and works of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns. 

This is the 'official' Robert Burns whisky – accept no imitations!

Robert Burns (1759-1796)– national poet of Scotland and a global Scottish icon was born in Alloway, Ayrshire in 1759 and his links with Ayrshire and Arran are well known. In fact, although the bard never actually visited the Isle of Arran, he is certain to have been able to see it on clear days as he laboured in the fields of Ayrshire on his father's farm. At that time there were several illicit stills on Arran which produced whisky that was claimed by many to be "among the finest whiskies available". This was shipped to Dunure in Ayrshire - then the centre of the illegal whisky trade - before being shipped to the gentry in Scotland's major cities where they "took the Arran waters".

Using mainly American oak ex-Bourbon casks in maturation has accentuated the sweet-fruity notes of Arran whilst a smaller proportion of ex-Sherry hogsheads have added depth and richness. Matured in a selection of finest ex-Bourbon & ex-Sherry Casks and bottled at 43% abv, and like all Arran Malts no artificial colouring is used.

Official Tasting Notes: 

Colour: Ayrshire Sunshine 
Aroma: Sweet & creamy with notes of honey, toffee-glazed pecans and fresh summer fruits. 
Palate: A perfect combination of rich malt and lush vanilla notes forms a beautifully refreshing and smooth palate. Light and sweet at first followed by tantalising spice and oak. 
Finish: Clean and fresh with an aftertaste of hazelnuts and milk chocolate. A true drop of liquid poetry and the perfect dram with which to toast the Bard! 

So what did we think? 

Dave said: I tweeted 'Summer in a glass' when I first started nosing this whisky, because alongside the sweet creamy vanilla, bags of toffee and summer fruits; most noticeably kiwi fruit, I was struck by the almost hedgerow elderflower note to this. However it had a further trick up it's sleeve too; with time in the glass the nose took on a minty chocolate note - certainly a lot going on in here!

Kat said: Just after I poured it into the nosing glass the first aromas I got was a mineral quality like spring water, a hint of Werthers originals, and citrus pith. After about five minutes in the glass I found that it had developed a creamier note which reminded me instantly of the sweet creaminess of a Milky Bar, and definitely of white chocolate. The minerals were then taken over by the smell of dry straw. 

Dave said: This is definitely a smooth and easy drinking malt from The Arran Distillery. However the sweet creamy vanilla is nowhere near as prominent on the palate, being much more spicy with light notes of Burmese/Vietnamese coriander, pepper and green oak, which is all balanced by a toffee sweetness, a briny saltiness and rich malt. 

Kat said: On my initial sip, I got a hit of bitterness and zest of a grapefruit which stays for the duration. The sweetness and creaminess is less than what I was expecting giving how strong these were on the nose. For me the sweetness was not of organic origin, what I mean by this is that its not like honey or cane sugar, it was more of artificial sweeteners like the taste of Splenda. I did like that it was light yet still keeping the creaminess, rather than being more syrupy, and in between all of this was hint of white pepper and coriander seeds. 

Dave said: The finish seemed to be a balance of the senses; sweetness, saltiness and a little peppery heat

Kat said: For me the finish started with grapefruit zest for a few seconds, developing into bitter qualities of citrus pith/oak tannins which stayed to the end.

Overall it was light and refreshing whisky that I would have again as it was a nice finish to a home cooked lamb curry, especially when the curry was cooked by my other half! Yep, all I did was eat then put my feet up sipping my whisky!

And finally:

We're indebted to Isle of Arran Distillers for sending us a generous sample of this new release of the Robert Burns Single Malt release to review.

Both the Robert Burns Single Malt and Robert Burns Blended Scotch are part of Isle of Arran Distillers‘ core range, but they are considered like a mini-brand within Arran and have their own section on their website.

A new website is being launched in January 2013 dedicated only to Robert Burns Malt and Blend. A Facebook page has already been established dedicated to the bard and these two whiskies, and for further information see their website

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #216

Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve NAS (48% abv, OB, 2012, 100cl)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
Circa £30.00 70cl

This was another of my airport purchases with 2 litre bottles of whisky for £55.00 was on offer. I've not tried anything from Glen Garioch before (pronounced Glen 'Geery'!) and this NAS bottle was calling out my name as I was quickly determining which two litres were going home with me.

The Glen Garioch Distillery was established in 1797 and is Scotland’s most Easterly distillery. Situated in the historic town of Oldmeldrum, in the Valley of the Garioch, which was, I understand, traditionally the finest barley growing area in all of Scotland.

Curiously, the distillery is named ‘Glengarioch’, but its single malt whisky has long been known as ‘Glen Garioch’. At the same time, ‘Oldmeldrum’ was formerly ‘Old Meldrum’… Why this should be is a mystery? The town's name derives from the Gaelic, Meal-drum, ‘a ridge’, which well describes its situation, overlooking the rolling country of the Garioch. This was the heartland of the Northern Picts, and the district has the greatest concentration of carved stones and Pictish monuments in Scotland.

So What Did I Think?

Well before you ask, this whisky was not distilled nor bottled in 1797, despite seeing erroneous claims on eBay once. (As a side note, please be so careful buying whisky from eBay, I've seen some supposedly 'rare' whiskies listed that I've just seen on the shelves of my local supermarket for less!) The 1797 refers purely to the founding of the distillery in 1797.

I love the bottle shape and the detailing on the wooden top cork stopper, both with the '1797' recessed in the top and marked on the side of the cork too. I think this bottle will be destined to become, either another water carafe for the table, of for starting the 'Whisky Discovery Blend'

The Founders Reserve is bottled at a very respectable 48% abv and is non chill-filtered, however the German 'Mit Farbstoff' is printed in very small letters at the bottom of the box, which means colouring has been used.

I found that this needed a long time in the glass before it started to reveal it's true character. On initial pouring it has an almost 'oriental' spicy nose to it. Eventually the sweet vanilla and butterscotch show the influence of the North American Oak. There is some crisp green apple and a light pepper spiciness. I was also reminded of the large grapefruit or Pomelo I used to enjoy eating on the beaches in Thailand.

At first the palate is sweet with hints of butter-cream, vanilla and heather honey As this begins to ebb, the fruitiness of the crisp green apple skin and citrus comes through before the spicy pepper kick attacks and fades very quickly, although the finish as a whole is long with a grapefruit bitterness at the very end.

Kat said: I listened to Dad and left it in the glass for while before writing down my thoughts. There was a noticeable difference to the nose from the initial pouring. I jotted down that I was getting creamy butter, green oak and demerara sugar on the nose. It is creamy, sweet and mellow on the palate, with some citrus zest. I have to totally agree with Dad's finish notes too!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Old Ballantruan Tweet Tasting

A rather special Tweet Tasting organised by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire and Tomintoul Distillery to launch the rare peated Speyside Single Malt, Old Ballantruan 10 Year Old Single Malt. Alongside Steve was Master Distiller Robert Fleming from the Tomintoul Distillery.

Old Ballantruan is made in the Tomintoul Distillery within part of the most famous Scotch whisky producing region, “Speyside Glenlivet” using peated malt barley. It's unusual to find a heavily peated malt whisky from Speyside. The Old Ballantruan whiskies contain the smoky phenolic notes that are associated with Islay malts while in the background are sweet notes that characterise the Speyside region.

Old Ballantruan is made using heavily-peated malt barley with a total phenol content of 55 ppm (parts per million). This sits at about the same level as some of the peatiest Islay malts, whereas the most delicately peated malts may have a ppm content of as low as 2 or 3.

The tasting samples came beautifully packaged, with the two bottles nestling in a bed of hay within the 'Old Ballantruan' marked box, which had been carefully tied with string.

So promptly at seven o'clock, Steve and Robert kicked of the evenings educational entertainment. These two whiskies certainly qualified as new whisky discoveries for me and from the pre-tasting banter on Twitter, Old Ballantruan was a new experience for many of the tasting panel.

Ready for the Tweet Tasting kick-off
Whisky Discovery #214

Old Ballantruan NAS (50% abv)
Speyside Glenlivet Peated Single Malt Whisky
circa £32.50 70cl

The Original' Old Ballantruan'
For our first dram of the evening we started with the standard Old Ballantruan, a no age statement whisky, that has been around for just over ten years being first produced in 2001 as an experiment at the Tomintoul Distillery. 

It is bottled at roughly five or six years of age from a mixture of  refill hogsheads and refill barrels, at 50% abv without any chill-filtration.

Robert told us that the peat used not sourced near the sea hence more burnt wood notes than medicinal notes would be expected

So what did I think?

On the nose I was getting stable straw/hay, musty peat, fresh firm strawberries, there was a light BBQ smokiness and sweet caramel toffee drifting in and out. With a drop of water the strawberries ripen!

On the palate it was smooth and peppery, but not overly so. There was a sweet smokiness, orange peel and charcoal notes. There's an immediate pepper blast on the long finish which turns salty with an earthy peat taste with cumulates in a coffee bitterness.

Some of my favourite tweets for Old Ballantruan:

@whiskyrepublic Pungent, thick, overripe bananas
‏@WhiskyTasting The smell of a big damp warehouse or cricket store at the end of winter... 
@TIA568B Strong peat notes, cereal malty character, I think there's a bit of creaminess in there some where, quite meaty - BBQ and some hay
‏@LRWhisky It is very sweet and smoky, almost like burnt damp wood with heather on 
@RMWEdinburgh Good nose! Plenty of sweet cream and smoky peat but what really hits is strawberry yoghurt
@KirstyPryde1 Peatier then I expected, very smooth, very little burn, soft vanilla, caramelly sweetness 

Whisky Discovery #215

Old Ballantruan 10 Year Old (50% abv)
Speyside Peated Single Malt Whisky
circa £46.00 70cl

The new 10 Year Old
We then moved on to the headline dram of the evening, and tasted the recently released 10 year old. Again this has been matured in selected oak casks and bottled at 50% abv without chill-filtration in order to maintain it's layered and integrated peaty flavours.

Robert informed us that Faemussach peat is used for the 10 Year Old with malt kilned in Kirkcaldy. The same cask types are used, refill hogsheads and barrels, but the longer maturation mellows the peat slightly. 

Official Tasting Notes:
Colour: Rich gold
Nose: Gently spicy with smoky “peat-reek” deliciously balanced by a sweeter creamy core 
Palate: Some gentle peaty smokiness equipoised with a sweet, creamy, malty backbone
Finish: Climbing finish of sweetness gradually replaced with smoky depth

So what did I think?

It's amazing what the extra years in the casks has done to this peated spirit. This was much lighter on the nose with lemon notes almost floral and very delicate.

On the palate I was getting creamy lemon cheesecake  complete with the malty digestive biscuits. There was light peppery kick at the very end, with the smokiness of the peated spirit only coming through in the finish.

I went back to the remainder of my sample a few days later. Again I poured both drams and decoded I should nose the 10 Year Old first this time. The peated whisky is more evident second time around and without the Original dominating my senses first. It is still much more delicate that the Original and I'm still getting the lemon cheesecake, but the gentle peat-reek is definitely there now, drifting across the vanilla and creamy core.

Some of my favourite tweets for Old Ballantruan 10 Year Old:

@WhiskyTasting Golly this is totally different. Drier, more Autumnal, far less coastal. This could go either way
@the_josephellis I'm getting smoked mangoes on the nose!! Do smoked mangoes even 
@MasterOfMaltAM softer and sweeter definitely, i'm getting some stem ginger also, with some bread on the side
‏@KirstyPryde1 autumn leaves, on a crisp day, toffee apples and damp, peat and horses breath 

‏@ifotou Nose sweet and mellow a little white wine like, more hay and wheat some smoked campfire smells mixed with fleshy fruits
@themisswhisky On palate: white grape juice, buttered toast, cardboard from cereal box, @TIA568B Really creamy lemon curd, delicate sweetness, homemade shortbread (corners), saltiness still there, but died down almost baking soda 

As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #OB10TT hashtag on twitter for the full story!

Yet another great experience and another highlight of my whisky journey, registering a fabulous four new ‘discoveries’ A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire and to Robert Fleming and everyone at the Tomintoul Distillery @TomintoulWhisky

This events tweet tasters were: @TheWhiskyWire @TheMissWhisky @MasterOfMaltAM @WhiskyDiscovery @ifotou @rodbodtoo @LRWhisky @WhiskyRepublic @theWhiskyReview @WhiskyTasting @steveprentice @galg @EdinburghWhisky @TIA568B @Whisky_Demon @Saint_Jimmy @KirstyPryde1 @TWSYork @the_josephellis @fr1day

If you want to be included in the next Tweet Tasting make sure you are following @TheWhiskyWire on Twitter to find out what is happening.

For more information see: and for information about Old Ballantruan Whisky see

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Whisky Discovery #196

Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest (43% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Circa £50.00 70 cl
The first of my four dram Bowmore experience
First unsuccessfully tasted at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show, however I got a second opportunity at a recent meeting with  Morrison Bowmore Distillers UK Regional Sales Executive, Phil Nickson where being the first of a four dram Bowmore introduction went down a great deal better.

The 15 Year Old 'Darkest' has been matured in an inspired combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, it's the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives the rich, deep colour reflected in its name, and its warming finish.

So What Did I Think?

Like I said this went down MUCH better than my first attempt, and it really is a great dram. I wouldn't take too much attention of the references to it's colour as this has been 'homogenised' with the addition of spirit caramel as so many of the whiskies seem to be these days.

That said, don't let this put you off. The nose is rich and fruity, dried fruits with figs and dates, some candied peel, there's dark toffee and chocolate notes. There's that Bowmore Islay smoke  along with some sweet licorice.

Again a good rich feel in the mouth and on the palate the candied peel tastes decidedly more orangey. There's a little spicy wood, and a pine or cedar type note, and dark cherries. The finish seems to be drying, almost like black tea tannins before some whispy wood smoke rolls in and gently fades.

This is definitely one I would like to add to my shelf in the future.

Whisky Discovery #195

Bowmore 1985 (52.3% abv OB, Bottled 2012, 70cl)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Circa £300.00 70cl
My second 'Dream Dram' on the Sunday afternoon
This was my second 'Dream Dram' at the 2012 Whisky Exchange Whisky Show and one of just 747 bottles released 26 year old distilled in 1985 and bottled in 2012

The Bowmore Vintage 1985 has been aged for 26 years in hand selected bourbon and sherry casks, and matured in the legendary No.1 Vaults, Bowmore's warehouse which is located below sea-level on the island of Islay.

The expression is remarkably rich and fruity, balanced with the trademark Bowmore sea-salt tang, and possesses more smoke and depth than the earlier Vintage releases. This unique edition is a classic Bowmore; smoke, fresh Atlantic sea-salt and layers of fruit complexity.

It comes presented in a wooden gift box with a ‘weather-beaten’ brown leather strap and copper buckle, each bottle is also accompanied by a hand-signed and numbered certificate by the Bowmore Distillery Manager, Eddie MacAffer.

So What Did I Think?

Despite the photograph showing this to be golden it was much darker without the camera flash casting it's brilliant white light through it.

The nose had some lovely peat smoke aromas wrapped around chocolate and dark cherries. Citrus notes of orange and grapefruit come through on the palate, not light and fresh citrus but moodier and darker. The chocolate notes continue on the palate along with some sweet honey and a salty tang. It finishes with the cherries, dark cocoa rich chocolate and the delicious almost 'leathery' peaty smoke.

Unfortunately it's still above my drinking budget, so won't be something I'll be buying, but if you can get the chance to taste this, grab it with both hands!

The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show Part 2

Monday the 8th of October was the Trade and Press Day and, fortunately for us, bloggers were invited, so Kat and I made our way down to London following the morning rush. Unfortunately it wasn't as nice a day on the Monday, the heavens opened when we got to London Bridge so had to purchase an umbrella at London Bridge Station for Kat (you can’t mess a girl’s hair up) then dodge the puddles running from shop front to shop front trying to keep dry. We’d arrived a little early so decided we’d stop for a coffee and a bite to eat before making our way down to Vinopolis.

The coffee served was so hot when I went to sip it, that it cleaned of my taste buds from my tongue leaving my palate ruined for the whisky show. I really wasn't expecting that from what I thought was a quality deli. Coffee should never be made with boiling water and this was absolutely scalding.

Stopping outside Vinopolis and hiding under the railway bridge we spot Jon from Living Room Whisky (@LRWhisky)and shelter from the rain until the queue subsides, before making our way into the show to pick up where I left off yesterday.
The first dram of the day
It seems that our preferred starting point for whisky shows is the SMWS stand when in attendance, so that’s where we headed for catching up with Joe McGirr (@SMWSLondon) and meeting Georgie Bell (@BellesWhisky) for the first time. Explaining my palate predicament to Joe he suggested a light palate conditioner in the form of SMWS 35.60, a rather special 39 Year Old Glen Moray, distilled on the 11th October 1971 which was just so amazing I had to go back for a second take.

We caught up with Jon again and while he was being introduced to the Yoichi I tried yesterday and with my palate suitably refreshed I looked for something else that would be gentle on my palate and picked SMWS 7.78, a fabulous 20 Year Old Longmorn which again needed a double take it was that good. 

We popped across to see Melanie Stanger at the Springbank stand on the way over to catch up with Darren Rook of The London Distillery again before heading upstairs to the food pairing room, (like me, Kat is always hungry) which we hadn't stopped at yesterday. Spotting Mackmyra Whisky and the lovely Angela D’Orazio (@AngelasShare) we sampled the 05 Special and the new 09 Special while nibbling canapes.
We decided to look for some lunch in the Brasserie only to find that there was no hot buffet today and that sandwiches would be brought out later, and so we headed on up to the Mezzanine and bumped into Amanda (@TWLAmanda) and Eddie Ludlow (@TWLEddie) from The Whisky Lounge (@TheWhiskyLounge) on The Glenlivet stand and managed to catch up with Ian Logan (@ianthegaurdian) again.

Seeing sandwiches being brought up we decided we ought to grab some quickly, along with a coffee from Weanie Beans Coffee Lounge conveniently set up in the middle of the Mezzanine. We met up again with Jon from Living Room Whisky here and sat down for a short while, and we managed to get Colin Dunn to come and serve us a drop of Brora 35 Year Old while still sitting in the coffee lounge – yes we were waited on by Colin!  
After thoroughly enjoying the Brora we shifted over to the Diageo stand and were introduced to James Hill where we sampled the recently released Lagavulin 21 Year Old which was just stunning – no, really stunning. We met Oliver Klimek (@OliverKlimek) here too, who was also enjoying the Lagavulin 21 Year Old. 
So what do you follow a Lagavulin 21 Year Old with, why a Port Ellen of course! Yes we sampled the 12th release from Port Ellen, a 32 year old gem of a whisky.
We had to beat a hasty retreat from the Diageo stand after that having booked ourselves on a Cocktails Masterclass with Colin Dunn and Alessandro Palazzi from The Dukes Hotel. I've never been a cocktail drinker, I've had Margaritas and Gin and Tonics before which is the closest I've been to one, so thought I might learn something, and with Colin Dunn in charge thought it could be a bit of fun too!

Three whiskies were used for the the base of the cocktails, two I had tried before, Talisker 10 Year Old and The Singleton of Dufftown 15 Year Old, and one new to me, Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve

Cocktail Discovery #2

THE FABULOUS NEGRONI (Rocks Glass) Twist on Negroni

  • 30 ml Talisker 10
  • 30 ml Aperol
  • 20 ml Cynar
  • Method :Build
  • Garnish : Orange and Lemon peel
Cocktail Discovery #3

THE GOLDEN ERA (Frozen Martini Glass) Twist on Rob Roy

  • 50 ml Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve
  • 10 ml Ratafia
  • 20 ml Calvados
  • Lemon Twist
  • Juice of Griottines  Cherries 1 jar( if you have)
  • Method :Mixing Glass, Shaken
  • Garnish : 2 Cherries

Cocktail Discovery #4

JOHN’S WELL (Rocks Glass) Twist on Manhattan

  • 45 ml The Singleton 15
  • 15 ml Kina Martini
  • 15 ml Crème de Cacao
  • Juice of Griottines Cherries

I'm glad we got a chance to try each of the whiskies on their own beforehand as the cocktails didn't do it for me. It was great fun, but I preferred my scotch neat.

Realising that time was rapidly running out and that I still had yet to meet Marcin Miller at Number One Drinks for my introduction to Japanese Whisky. The stand was packed and Alwynne (@themisswhisky)  and Jon from Living Room Whisky were propping one end of the stand up having spent the previous forty five minutes minutes getting their introduction.

Marcin handed me over to Ed who took me through a fabulous collection of very special Japanese whisky starting with something that I had heard mentioned a number of times during the day, Chichibu The First. A long awaited release from Ichiro Akuto's Chichibu distillery - their first whisky, aged for three years and bottled at 61.8% abv

From Chichibu we moved to the Karuizawa distillery and ‘Spirit of Asama’ was tasted before what was one of my highlights of the day a 30 Year Old from a 1982 Bourbon Cask.

This was promptly followed by the Karuizawa 1983 ‘Noh’ Sherry Butt 28 Year Old and for my final dram of the show the Karuizawa 1984 Sherry Cask 28 Year Old
It was great to catch up with so many people we know on Twitter, as well as meeting some new friends. You can find all the photos of the drams we tasted on our Facebook Page - pop across and 'like-us' there please!

The full dram list with links as and when applicable!
  • Whisky Discovery #201 SMWS 35.60 39 Year Old Glen Moray (42.3% abv) 
  • Whisky Discovery #202 SMWS 7.78 20 Year Old Longmorn (53.6% abv) 
  • Whisky Discovery #203 Mackmyra 05 Special (47.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #204 Mackmyra 09 Special (47.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #205 Brora 35 Year Old (48.1% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #206 Lagavulin 21 Year Old (52% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #207 Port Ellen 12th Release (52.5% abv)
  • Cocktail Discovery #1 Monkey Shoulder & Oranges
  • Whisky Discovery #16 Talisker 10 Year Old (45.6% abv)
  • Cocktail Discovery #2 Talisker based cocktail with Aperol and Cynar
  • Whisky Discovery #208 Johnnie Walker Gold Reserve (40% abv)
  • Cocktail Discovery #3 Johnnie Walker Gold based cocktail with Calvados VSOP and Ratafia Cherry
  • Whisky Discovery #115 The Singleton of Dufftown 15 Year Old (40% abv)
  • Cocktail Discovery #4 The Singleton based cocktail with Chino Martini and Crème de Cacao
  • Whisky Discovery #209 Chichibu The First (61.8% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #210 Karuizawa Spirit of Asama (48% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #211 Karuizawa 1982 Bourbon Cask 30 Year Old (46% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #212 Karuizawa 1983 ‘Noh’ Sherry Butt 28 Year Old (57.2% abv)
  • Whisky Discovery #213 Karuizawa 1984 Sherry Cask 28 Year Old (64.5% abv)