Saturday, 28 December 2013

Davin De Kergommeaux Tweet Tasting 2

Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
In the run up to the Christmas holidays this year I spent three very interesting Sunday evenings re-reading Davin De Kergommeaux's 'Canadian Whisky' and joining a group from the ever growing #whiskyfabric from around the globe discussing the book with the author.

This was a 'follow-up' to the earlier event held in May which you can read about here: DavinTT Organised by Johanne McInnis (@Whiskylassie to us on Twitter), and hosted by each week by Johanne's partner Graham MacKenney (@grahammackenney) we reviewed a section of the book, starting from section four 'A Concise History of Canadian Whisky' and working our way through to the nine key distilleries that remain today. A whole host of questions were asked and Davin, tweeting from @DavindeK did his level best to answer each and every one of us, as well as joining in all the 'side discussions' that were taking place. 

In addition to the Canadian Whisky questions we all were asking Davin, there was a competition running. During each #DavinTT2 session a host of questions about Canadian Whisky were asked. Aptly named 'The Scavenger Hunt' all answers would be found in Davin's book and anyone with a copy of the book were eligible to play along. 

The prize up for the winner being an impressive selection of Canadian Whisky samples and other goodies. Ten Questions were asked during the first evening, a further ten questions were asked the following week, all during the twitter event. As you can imagine each week was a pretty excitable couple of hours! Just five questions were asked during the third Sunday, but not during the Twitter event, each of the five had been posted on a different whisky bloggers website. We hosted one of the questions here, and others were found on Tire-bouchonWhisky Plus, Whisky Corner and Whisky Israel

A bonus question was released on Saturday 21st December and the only clue we were given to find this question was that it was being asked by the only non-Canadian to judge Canadian Whisky Awards. 
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Click this picture to visit The Whiskylassie Blog
Similarly to the first DavinTT event, at the end of each session we tasted a Canadian whisky, blind. In the first week we had a double header, tasting two Canadian whiskies at the end of the evening. This is the culmination of those three tweet tastings:

Week 1 (Sunday 1st December)

Whisky Discovery #653

Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask (41.3% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky

Distilled at the Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario. Canadian Club was founded by Hiram Walker in 1858. Walker’s uniquely smooth whisky quickly gained popularity in the late 19th Century Gentlemen’s Clubs throughout the US and Canada and became known as "Club Whisky." Canadian Club is one brand of Canadian whisky that is known in the UK with their core expression being available on some supermarket shelves.

The brand belongs to The Beam Group who also own Teachers, Laphroaig and Connemara among others

Canadian Club Sherry Cask is a small release from whiskies aged for at least 8 years in white oak barrels and then finished in Fino sherry casks imported from Jerez, Spain.

So What Did I think?
The nose appeared chalky initially but quickly develops a richness, big meaty juicy, fruits; caramelised bananas and black cherry were the ones I identified. Fragrant tobacco notes with, vanilla essence and there was a slightly sour note underlying, not sure if that was the something to do with the black cherry I was finding.

This was much softer on the palate than I was expecting so guessed 40% abv (not too far out). Sweet and spicy with a honey sweetness and butterscotch flavours and a spicy heat with notes of ginger and cloves,  then quite dry on the finish.

I didn't entertain with my guess as to what this whisky might be as I was totally clueless but as far as I could tell from reviewing the tweets afterwards no one else was close with a guess.

And Davin's notes?
Redolent of dark fruit, leather, hot candied ginger and pipe tobacco by a crackling fire. Waxy cream sherry resolves into fresh peaches. Sweet spring flowers and bitter black breakfast tea subdue searing hot pepper.

What did everyone else think?
@jfpilon: A touch of butterscotch and talc. far away rye spices as well
@mynameisgone: Nose, dark red fruits, a slight herbal note, quite sweet and very approachable.
@whiskyjourney: Nose is beautiful & rich, fruity, spicy, begging to be tasted
@ansgarspeller: Fruits and wintry spices, and some wood tones, but like sweet ripe fruits in there...
@Macdeffe: This is a warm round whisky. Nose is meaty. Dark Horse'ish (not to be confused with Horse Radish :-)
@themisswhisky: I get sticky, dark ripe cherries and baked bananas, with some apple skins too - lovely & dark
@How2DrinkWhisky: On the palate I get Pumpernickel. Resiny and tastes a little like molasses with some Rum-type bitterness in the finish.

@WhatTastesGood: Sweet, spicy, warming. Poached pears & raisins in a spicy ginger cake.
@ValBradshaw: Rich, full-bodied mouth feel. Brown sugar, caramel flambe banana.
@thomas_speller: Finish is a bit marmalade-like bitter, with a nutty something

Whisky Discovery #654

Wiser's Red Letter Rye (45% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Distilled at the Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario the Wiser's brand originates from one of the pioneers of Canadian Whisky J.P. Wiser whose distillery was in Prescott Ontario. The distillery was closed in 1932 despite it's strong reputation in  the United States throughout the Prohibition years. Production moved to Corbyville until 1991 when Corby's distillery was consolidated with Hiram Walker's plant.

The Hiram Walker plant is owned and operated my Corby Distillers which also owns the Wiser's name. Wiser's is also brand of the Pernod Ricard Group who own The Glenlivet, Jameson and Chivas Regal amongst many more.

In the years following the American Civil War, one of the most sought-after whiskies in America was called Wiser’s Red Letter. This Red Letter Rye follows the grain recipe found in Wiser’s old records, and master blender, Dr. Don Livermore has followed that recipe carefully, and finished in virgin oak

So What Did I Think?
The nose opened up with woody notes for me; Cedar or pencil shavings, it seemed resinous, sappy, with pine needles and menthol. Again that slight sourness that Davin often describes as 'pickles' was here, which must be one of the signatures of Canadian rye whiskies. After a little while airing it turns more earthy and perhaps a little dusty too.

On the palate this is sweet and spicy albeit more powerful than the previous dram and guess that this would be around 45% abv (wahey! points on the board). There was a creamy sweetness to this, corn notes, buttery corn on the cob, along with tons of spice cloves, ginger and a touch of cinnamon too.

And Davin's notes?
Newly sawn oak, lacquer, roasted grain, butterscotch, vanilla, sweet tingling ginger and glowing hot pepper. Creamy sweetcorn whisky loaded with Christmas spices - cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Sour rye bread, black fruits and earthy rye

What did everyone else think?

@ansgarspeller: The nose gives me first pencil shavings and earthy tones next to some spices...
@How2DrinkWhisky: On the nose, pencil shavings and cumin seed. Moments of manure and dried basil leaves.
@jfpilon: Sweet on the nose, with caramel, maple syrup, lime, oranges, rum!
@mynameisgone: Nose, slightly more rye spices, a nice hint of oakiness, in the background a hint of play doh
@themisswhisky: A lot of grainy marzipan at first . Something dark in background (images of rubber boots, earth & rain come to mind)
@WhatTastesGood: Definitely also getting hay, wood/pencil shavings on the nose. And dried lavender, mint, maybe also fenugreek. And cedar, and pine needles. Like walking through a forest on a chilly damp day. Love it.
@whiskyjourney: Nose - Fresh rye bread, pine tree, clove, and @mynameisgone is right about the play-doh 
@PWulf: Coconut and cream slight hint of toffee.
@ValBradshaw: Feinty nose, kind of waxy. Some forest influence and dried herbs.
@ansgarspeller: The palate on this one is so sweet and full with all kinds of nice! A lot of liqeurish notes, dried fruit, ginger bread, citrus, vanilla, butterscotch, a lot of fruit notes. And honey and some nuts
@thomas_speller: Smelling the dry glass. Eucalyptus all the way!

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the first 10 questions we were set. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:

  1. What is the primary grain distilled at each of Alberta’s three distilleries?
  2. What is the oldest whisky bottled in Canada in the past decade?
  3. True or false: Late 18th Century Canadian whiskies were blended.
  4. In what year did Thomas Molson first distilled his whisky?
  5. Where was Henry Corby born?
  6. In what year did the Government of Canada introduce the practice of bottling in bond?
  7. Using the “sour mash” process is unique to the USA and never used in making Canadian Whisky. True or False?
  8. What process essentially lead to the development of Canadian Club’s “secret recipe?”
  9. According to the Montreal Gazette, what was the largest distillery in the world in the early 1860’s?
  10. One of Canada’s best-known distillers, Hiram Walker lived most of his life in the USA, True or False?
Week 2 (Sunday 8th December)

Whisky Discovery #665

Alberta Premium (40% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
This whiskey is made by Alberta Distillers in the heart of Canada’s rye-growing country - where cold barren winters give way to an abundant crop of the finest rye. Made by blending two aged whiskies, one of which is aged for flavor in used bourbon casks. Then, after blending, it is aged some more. Alberta Premium is aged for 5 years. The slow ageing in cold temperatures preserves the natural rye spice. Known for its full flavour.

The Alberta Premium brand also belongs to The Beam Group who also own Canadian Club, Teachers, Laphroaig and Connemara among others

So What Did I Think?
The nose opens dusty, chalky, or broken dry slate initially. Fresh pine needles follow with spicy rye and a pinch of salt. After a little while in the glass a citrus note started to develop while still remaining quite dry. When I poured a top-up I got a toast like note from this addition, only fleeting, but definitely there. The citrus note developed eventually giving a more soft orange juice than sharp lemon. Adding a drop of water gives floral notes.

This is sweet and mouth coating, with a really creamy mouth feel. Those soft orange notes found on the nose follow onto the palate along with citrus pith. The spice follows with a white pepper feel to edge of tongue and fresh ginger adding to the flavour profile. Overall I found this to be quite a gentle dram and guessed at 40% abv (bang on the money!). The finish starts quite spicy with fresh gingers before turning quite dry with a grapefruit pith like bitter end.

And Davin's notes?
Crisp, flinty, clean rye spices greet searing white pepper, maple syrup and the softest tannins. Rich and fruity with a refreshing grapefruit pithiness. The brawn of youth and clout of maturity.

What did everyone else think?

@jfpilon: Nose: initial corn hit. Followed by some vanilla and dust. Alcohol. Spices. Aniseed or caraway. Touch of toffee
@cooperedtot: Color: dark gold to light amber. Nose: river stones, herbal oil, raw rye grain, mineral, linseed oil.
@How2DrinkWhisky: Nose: Caramels on a hickory plate. Naphthalene on white bread. Lemon curd and canned tuna.
@whiskyjourney: Nose: Nail polish remover, lemon zest, rye mintiness. 
What the living room smells like when my wife is taking off nail polish and I am dusting with Pledge
@WhatTastesGood: Nose is lemon-lime soda and dried grasses. Some light sweet butterscotch underneath.
@ValBradshaw: Getting some spice, but not the lemon everyone else seems to be nosing. I get more brown sugar and yeast/white bread-like.
@ansgarspeller: Lemon soda, some pepper, creamy and minty almost on the palate Like a lemon candy...
@bozkurtkarasu: Palate: Bergamot jam... White grape juice and a little Sauternes...
@cooperedtot: Palate; Gentle creamy sweetness, spicy rye glow on expansion with astringency, white pepper, and some grapefruit pith on finish

@mynameisgone: Very creamy mouthfeel, sweet, quite soft, citrusy lemons and grapefruit, I'm going 40% alcohol wise

@Bob_Caron: Very dry in the finish, makes you thirsty for another sip.

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the second 10 questions we were set. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:

  1. 3 major Whisky Brands are distilled at Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, name them?
  2. What three ingredients are used to make whisky?
  3. Which fully aged Canadian Whisky is as colourless as vodka?
  4. Which Canadian Distiller became a member of Parliament in 1878?
  5. What Canadian distillery is built on the banks of MacLellan's brook?
  6. What is the largest distillery operating in Canada today?
  7. On what page of Davin's book will you find Mark Gillespie's name listed?
  8. Although J.P. Wiser’s name is on the company, who can be credited with much of Wiser’s financial success?
  9. At the time that this book was written, how many distilleries were producing Canadian Whisky?
  10. Which Scottish Distillery was Glenora distillery closely associated with?
  11. The Glenora distillery was closely associated with the Scottish Distillery Bowmore
Week 3 (Sunday 15th December)

Whisky Discovery #672

Forty Creek 'Heart of Gold' (43% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Heart of Gold is a whisky that was inspired by both the heart of the distillation and the heart of the maker, John Hall of the Kittling Ridge Distillery. 

John tells us “This project started nearly a decade ago, focusing specifically on Canada’s noble rye grain. I have always brought out the spicy, fruity notes of rye in my whisky, but this time, I wanted to perfect capturing the underlying delicate floral notes of the rye that too often get lost in the process. I decided to use a wine yeast strain for the fermentation because I felt this approach would allow the floral aromas and flavours to prevail.

Capturing the subtleties in the distillate was another challenge. Capturing alcohol is easy, but capturing the natural, subtle flavour of the rye is much more difficult.  A quicker cut and a narrower band of the heart during distillation helped keep the integrity of the delicate rye character."

Aged in lightly toasted barrels to ensure the oak did not overwhelm the subtle flavours captured in the heart of the distillation. It is not 100% rye as it includes some barley whisky for nuttiness and some corn whisky for weight and body. Heart of Gold is a limited edition of 9,000 bottles and each bottle is individually numbered.

So What Did I Think?

When I first poured this I was met with the aroma of hot buttered toast, granary bread of course, and real butter. No one in the house was eating toast and I don't recall anyone mentioning toast either. After a little while the bread note seemed more doughy. Fruity notes follow; dates and hints of apricot.

This has a great creamy palate, the initial sweetness quickly turning to grapefruit pith bitter. Woody notes follow which reminded me of birch wood. I really enjoyed this one, it was rather more-ish and my sample quickly disappeared. I wasn't sure what this could be but it did appear to be an aged whisky. It felt quite gentle in the mouth and so guessed at 40% abv (no cigar!)

I was beginning to think that we were tasting a Forty Creek as I knew Johanne and Graham had spent some time at the distillery, posting amusing photos on Facebook of themselves hiding amongst the barrels, or even in them (or pretending to be in them). We also finished with a Forty Creek expression on our first DavinTT too, that was Portwood, but this definitely was not. I checked my notes for their Confederation Oak, a sample Johanne had sent me previously, similar profile but no cigar, and then it hit me. I remembered the considerable twitter buzz when Heart of Gold  was released by Forty Creek 43% abv, I was fairly certain that Johanne and Graham brought a truckload home from their trip. (Full points for my Sherlock Holmes like deduction)

And Davin's notes?
Unfortunately Forty Creek's Heart of Gold did not feature in the first edition of Canadian Whisky as it hadn't been released at the time but you can read Davin's notes here; Heart of Gold

What did everyone else think?
@How2DrinkWhisky: Nose: Maple syrup over pancakes with a little char on the edges. Roasted cheddar bits? Yeasty for moments.

@bozkurtkarasu: Nose: Damp cardboard boxes, birch plywood sawdust. Pine cones, tomato juice and olive brine... Wait a minute... Am I nosing Bloody Mary?
@cooperedtot: Nose:minty creamy floral rye, with cedar forest, pencil shavings, mineral dust, and an undercurrent of red fruits: jujubes. Deep underneath sherry, fig cake, and maybe a hint of leather.
@ValBradshaw:  Holy Roses! on first nose only. Waited a few minutes, then lovely peach, cedar & soft cinnamon. Butterscotch oat square (ask me for the recipe-they're delicious). With creamy butter, vanilla. Oats all over it; almost crunchy.
@WhatTastesGood: Nose; minerals, wet earth, nutmeg, caraway, dried citrus peel.
@robinburke: On the nose I get a hint of wine but quite vegetal to me.
@thomas_speller: Nose: uncooked pancakes, musty, pencil shavings, tomatoes and eggplant… what!?

@themisswhisky: Mmm first wee sip is really pleasant - loads of tinned pears for me
@ansgarspeller: Bit woody, rye, creamy, white and milk chocolate, herbal. Thinking of rye mixed with sherry?
@arok: Second sip builds on the first, sweeter but even more plumps raisins.
@cooperedtot: Rich mouth feel. Excellent flavor density. Rich rye w/the cocoa & leather of sherry. Dense. Delicious. 
@mynameisgone: Palate, dark and heavy, like the burnt edges of a fruit cake, with the rye spices and sweetness following up.
@The_Casks: Brown sugar and slight citrus zing. peppery notes, clove, powdered ginger, pine resin...

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the final 5 questions we were set and the 'bonus' question is also included. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:
  1. What Canadian whisky distillery had their two copper pot stills seized by US customs after they had been shipped from Scotland via the Panama Canal?"
  2. How many tasting notes for whiskies are found throughout the book?
    a)  1-50 b)  50-100 c)  100-150 d)  There was tasting notes?
  3. What is “blending at birth?”
    a)  Canadian term for mixing different grains together to form a mash bill.
    b)  Mixing 2-year-old rye whisky with base spirit and then put into a cask to mature.
    c)  An in-house breeding program used by a prominent Ontario distillery to insure a bloodline of Master Blenders.
    d)  Blending different new make spirits from multiple distilleries and grains to form a Canadian Blended Whisky.
  4. What change needs to take place at Glenora distillery to facilitate being able to increase production from the current 50,000 litres per year to up to 400,000 litres per year?
  5. What prevents Canadian distilleries from being seen as lucrative an investment as Scottish and American distilleries?
    a)  The high level of taxation leading to low profit margins.
    b)  Unpredictable grain yields due to inclement weather.
    c)  With large distillery plants owned by large multinationals there is no room for competition.
    d)  Investors don’t like the cold.
Bonus Question

Found on Mark Gillespie’s Whisky Cast 21st December Podcast Where Graham MacKenney asks: Why is Yeast not considered as an ingredient of Whisky?

And Finally..
A huge thanks to Johanne McInnis and Graham MacKenney for sharing their Canadian whiskies with us all and for Davin De Kergommeaux for spending time with us all, three Sundays running, and answering all of the questions we were bombarding him with.

If you want to find out more about Canadian Whisky then I recommend you get a hold of Davin's book first and make sure you're following these people on Twitter! @DavindeK @Whiskylassie and @grahammackenney Then you should point your browser to Davin's Canadian Whisky website here: Canadian Whisky

The deadline for the answers to the Scavenger Hunt was 28th December and their was two hours to go when I was proof-reading this post. Yes, I managed to complete my answers in good time, and confirm with Johanne that they had been received. My fingers are crossed, and this post will be published as soon as the deadline has been passed.

The winner will be announced on Sunday 29th December at around 2000 GMT on Twitter under the #DavinTT2 hash tag. At the time of writing this post (late on Saturday evening) Johanne had received over fifty entries to the competition and was busy marking.

Just four out of the sixty four entrants achieve a 100% score on the Scavenger Hunt, @bozkurtkarasu, @robinburke, @mr_goalie7959 and I was pleased to find out that I was the last of the four. 

I initially thought there was just one 'winner takes all' prize but I picked up the runners up prize as @bozkurtkarasu took the first prize. Congratulations to my fellow 100%ers!

Slàinte! Dave

A Whisky Advent Calendar

Towards the end of my first year of discovering whisky I was wondering how on earth would I be able to increase my catalogue of whiskies tasted and adding to my liquid log. Although I was buying at least one bottle a month reaching 101 whiskies looked a long way off.

It was early December when the kids were enjoying their traditional chocolate advent calendars that I thought it would be a good idea if I could have a whisky advent calendar with a miniature for each day of December leading up to a full bottle for Christmas Day. This would allow me to sample 24 new and different drams. I sketched it out, I was going to make it from veneer faced plywood (bringing my old boat building skills into play) with 12 small doors either side of a large pair of doors where I could put a full sized bottle for Christmas. I worked out how much it would cost me to do, just sourcing the miniatures, and realised that it would be very expensive to do, and would probably take me more than a year to complete in my 'spare time' and put it all to one side.

The next Christmas I was a little deflated when I saw that Master of Malt had launched their own Whisky Advent Calendar, using their 'Drinks by the Dram' 3 cl miniatures, in a disposable / recyclable cardboard calendar. I say deflated because in my head I had wanted to bring my design to market and was beaten to it.

This Christmas we were kindly given one to give away in our Christmas Competition and one of our Twitter followers, David Churcher (@smokiechops) won this awesome prize. Imagine how surprised and thrilled I was when I received one of my own from my wife. So here is how it went.
Day 1 Balvenie Double Wood 17 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #457)
I first tasted at Balvenie Fete in London back in June this year where I met David Stewart and tasted my first Tun 1401 at the launch event for Batch 8. No tasting notes were made at the time, and so it's great to be able to revisit and finally jot some notes down.

Day 2 Talisker Port Ruige (Whisky Discovery #409)
I was fortunate to receive a sample when this was first released earlier this year. You can see what I though of that here: Whisky Discovery #409 and I'll save this for Kat to enjoy

Day 3 Nikka 'From the Barrel' (Whisky Discovery #674)
A NEW whisky discovery and one I really should have tried before as I've only heard good things said about this Japanese blended whisky.
Initial nosing note; Chrysanthemums and Lapsang Souchong.

Day 4 Glencadem 21 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #662)
A NEW Whisky Discovery and my first from the Glencadem Distillery. I didn't know anything about this Distillery until researching in the latest Malt Whisky Year Book.
Initial nosing note; Very biscuit like followed by a citrus burst.

Day 5 Glen Garioch 12 Year Old (Whisky Discovery No.453)
First tasted at a Glen Garioch tweet tasting with Rachel Barrie, and it also featured during the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak Launch and I've since added one to my shelf too. You can see what I thought of that here: Whisky Discovery #453

Day 6 Chivas Regal 18 Year Old (Discovery No.663)
A NEW Whisky Discovery. Whilst I have tasted the 12 Year Old before this 18 Year Old was new to me.
Initial nosing note; Malty oranges with hazelnut toffees
Day 7 Smooth Amber Old Scout 7 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #664)
A NEW Whiskey Discovery and the first whiskey from America. Smooth Ambler is a modern, state-of-the-art Craft Distillery in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
Initial nosing note; Chalky blackboard rubber with rum notes.

Day 8 Blue Hanger 9th Release (Whisky Discovery #675)
A NEW Whisky Discovery. I've tasted a few Blue Hangers before, spending an evening in the Berry Bros & Rudd cellar with Doug McIvor tasting the 2nd, 4th and 6th releases as well as previewing the 7th release. You can read about that here: Blue Hanger.
Initial nosing note; Soft malty with a gentle peat reek

Day 9 Bowmore 15 Year Old 'Darkest' (Whisky Discovery #196)
First 'discovered at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012. You can read all about my day at the show here: TWE Whisky Show 2012 Pt1 I also revisited it at a private tasting with Morrison Bowmore brand ambassador Phil NicksonWhisky Discovery #196

Day 10 Grants 25 Year Old  (Whisky Discovery #676)

A NEW Whisky Discovery from William Grant & Sons, and their oldest blended Scotch whisky containing 25 different malt and grain whiskies.
Initial nosing note; Soft malty with rich sherried fruits and plasticine

Day 11 Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage  (Whisky Discovery #677)
A NEW Whiskey Discovery and the second from America in the advent calendar. This 10 year old bourbon is distilled in Kentucky's Heaven Hill Distillery.
Initial nosing note; Dusty grain with hints of cinnamon

Day 12 Mackmyra 'Brukswisky' (Whisky Discovery #359)
First tasted at Whisky Live earlier this year with their award winning Master Blender Angela D'Orazio. I have a few Mackmyra samples to review so a full blog post will follow eventually. You can read all about our trip to Whisky Live London 2013 here: Whisky Live London 2013

Day 13 Balcones Texas Single Malt (Whisky Discovery #346)
First tasted in March 2013 and from a sample from @Whiskylassie, the founder of the #WhiskyFabric on Twitter. This is a firm favourite and has been experienced many times at shows where we have worked with Balcones, educating attendees in the power of Texan whiskies and a Twitter Tasting with @TheWhiskyWire. You can see what I thought of that here: Whisky Discovery #453

Day 14 Tomintoul 14 Year Old NEW (Whisky Discovery #678)

A NEW Whisky Discovery from Speyside distillery Tomintoul who have a core range of nine single malts ranging from 10 to 33 years old. Tomintoul is known as 'The Gentle Dram'
Initial nosing note; Danish pastries and apple blossom

Day 15 Dalmore 18 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #278)
This was first tasted at The Dalmore Tweet Tasting with  @TheWhiskyWire and revisited again at this years Midlands Whisky Festival at an amazing Master Class with David Robertson where we tasted four of the prohibitively expensive Constellation Series. You can see what I thought of that here: Whisky Discovery #453

Day 16 Balvenie Caribbean 14 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #190)
First 'discovered at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012, and subsequently a bottle was added to my shelf a little later on. You can read all about my day at the show here: TWE Whisky Show 2012 Pt1 and yes, I still need to post my notes!

Day 17 The Glenlivet Nadurra  (Whisky Discovery #59)
Tasted at the first whisky we ever attended, Whisky Live London 2012. This show was a huge turning point in our journey. We love visiting Whisky Shows and try to attend as many as possible. You can read all about our first whisky show here: Whisky Live London 2012

Day 18 Yellow Spot 12 Year Old  (Whisky Discovery #193)
First 'discovered at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012. You can read all about my day at the show here: TWE Whisky Show 2012 Pt1 while I write my notes
Day 19 Auchentoshan Three Wood (Whisky Discovery #35)
This was my 'Official' January 2012 purchase and was the first I ever posted on the Whisky Connosr website. You can see what I thought of that here: Whisky Discovery #35

Day 20 Johnnie Walker 18 Year Old 'Platinum' (Whisky Discovery #165)
This was one of the '12 Blends' tasted earlier this year back in April 2013. A group of 12 Whisky bloggers all sent each other a blended whisky dram, blind, for 12 evenings of highly entertaining madness on Twitter. You can read about that here: #12Blends

Day 21 Scapa 16 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #270)
I first tasted this at the Birmingham Whisky Club's trial Show back in December 2012. No notes were recorded at the time so it's good to be able to revisit and make some legible notes. You can read all about that show here: Birmingham Whisky Show

Day 22 Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition (Whisky Discovery #84)
I first tasted this at the second whisky show we ever visited, The Whisky Lounge's London Show in April 2012. I actually managed to get some notes down that day too! You can see what I thought of that here: Whisky Discovery #84

Day 23 Yamazaki 12 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #89)
This was also first tasted at The Whisky Lounge's London Show in April 2012 but sadly no notes were recorded. I also revisited this at The Birmingham Whisky Clubs' Trial Show in December 2012 and again no notes so it's good to finally put some notes down.

Day 24 Glenfarclas 40 Year Old (Whisky Discovery #187)
The final dram was a great surprise. A 40 Year Old from Glenfarclas. OK, so not a new Whisky Discovery having first tasted this at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show in 2012. You can read all about my day at the show here: TWE Whisky Show 2012 Pt1 while I write my notes

So What Did I Think?
Well considering I thought of it first, this is a fabulous idea! 

In their first year just two advent calenders were launched featuring whisky in One and Gin in the other. This year additional spirits were covered with Tequila, Rum and Craft Gin Cognac, Armagnac Vodka and Absinthe as well as the introduction of a Premium Whisky Advent Calendar which along with the Whisky and Gin calendars should satisfy most spirits adventurers! (all details can be found here: Master of Malt Advent Calendars)

Whilst I had just eight new whisky discoveries to make, I had at the time of opening already logged over 600 different whiskies in my journey. Just three of the calendar had been or are already on my whisky shelf meaning the other thirteen drams were all just fleeting tastings at Whisky Shows where I rarely get the chance to scribble some meaningful notes. especially if tasted towards the end of the show where notes, if legible, consist of smiley (or sad) faces or stars.

Out of interest I went to see if I could have purchased all of these drams from Master of Malt in their 'Drinks by the Dram' range. Although many were available six of these advent calendar drams were 'money can't buy' drams albeit that five of these are within my whisky budget and may eventually grace my whisky shelf one day

If you are starting your own whisky journey or you haven't expanded your whisky tastes past the supermarket offerings then this is a must for you! So much better than chocolate I really looked forward to coming home and opening my advent calendar. I quite fancy a Tequila one next year, and I've never tried Armagnac and Cognac - so a few more to keep the run up to my Christmas merry and bright!

Wishing you all the very best for 2014 Slàinte! Dave

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Abbey Whisky Tweet Tasting

Whisky Reviews
I have been fortunate in tasting the first two releases for 'The Rare Casks' from Abbey Whisky previously and both were crackers. I wrote at the time that I must do something about getting hold of a bottle of each of them. But you know how it is, each month more special bottlings are released and unfortunately my whisky budget is not endless and neither is my capacity to consume it all. So I forgot about trying to get hold of a bottle until the opportunity to revisit them arose with an on-line tasting hosted by the 'King of Tweet Tastings' Steve Rush aka @TheWhiskyWire
Whisky Reviews
Four samples were sent out by Abbey Whisky, the first two releases for me to re-visit and a first tasting for the newly released third bottling in the Rare Casks series from Ben Nevis distillery, one that has not appeared on my Liquid Log to date. Also in the package was an Abbey Whisky exclusive - no details, so we'd be tasting it blind.

So under the #abbeywhisky hash tag we boldly marched on with this the first Tweet Tasting with Abbey Whisky.

Caperdonich 17 Year Old Abbey Whisky (57.8% abv, IB, D.1995)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£59.50 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
The first release in 'The Rare Casks' series by Abbey Whisky is this magnificent Caperdonich 17 year old single malt Scotch whisky. This limited edition release was distilled in 1995 and left to rest for 17 years before being bottled in 2012 with only 96 bottles filled. I first tasted this back in November last year and loved it. You can see what I thought about this first time around here: Whisky Discovery #259

Caperdonich is one of the 'lost distilleries' being mothballed in 2002 and never to be reopened. In 2010 it was sold and subsequently demolished. So while there will be maturing stocks for a little while yet, this stock cannot last for ever and so an opportunity to taste this again was bonus. 

Interestingly, the old Caperdonich stills are still in use. When the Belgium Owl Distillery were looking to increase their production, they picked up the old Caperdonich stills from the new site owners, Forsyths of Rothes, the Scottish distillation equipment experts. 

So What Did I Think?
I found this to be full of tropical fruits first time, and I was pleased to say they're still there for me; Papaya and lychee, and a sweet floral fragrance too with a faint note of Parma Violets and a dash of lime With some time to breathe waves of vanilla scents started coming through along with some fresh coconut too.

The palate has a big punchy chilli heat initially, but this settles to become creamy and mouth coating. I'd forgotten just how punchy this was! With notes of fresh ginger and grapefruit,  and very drying at the end, grapefruit pith like and the fresh ginger stays right through to the finish. A drop of water totally tames this dram turning it sweet and creamy with fresh floral notes.

So what did the others think?
@BeersIveKnown: Pale blonde in the glass with spicy woody notes, caramel and some alcohol in behind.
@surfpunkian: Love this Caperdonich on the nose, great start with sweet vanilla and a hint of spice, my mouth is watering
@BarryMBradford: Nose: Lemon citrus, floral primrose, sweet woody oak and Peach Schnapps?
@MCRWhiskyClub: Nose - Warm lemon tart, candied peel, vanilla cream and cinnamon for me to start
@JohnnieStumbler: On the nose I'm getting fresh apples and a hint of rose petal. Bit of ripe pear.
@rodbodtoo: Spirity (57.8%!), & fruity/biscuity. Chocolate Garibaldis don't exist, but this is what they smell like.
@TheWhiskyWire: Waves of vanilla infused poached pears, pineapple upside down cake, wood spice & spices wafting from a Thai restaurant.
@thirstyscotsman: Mouthwatering! Juicy pears, black pepper, oily mouthfeel with aged wood tannins. So smooth after heat for a cask strength
@Ashamantms: Here comes honey and citrus, but man everything takes a back plate to that chilli

Whisky Discovery #350

Bunnahabhain 23 Year Old Abbey Whisky (44% abv, IB, D.1989)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
£72.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Review
The second release in ‘The Rare Casks’ series by Abbey Whisky is this 1989 vintage Bunnahabhain. Aged in a refill bourbon barrel for 23 years before being bottled at natural cask strength of 44% vol. As with the first release only 96 bottles have been filled and made available for this limited edition release.  I first tasted this when it was released in February of this year and again loved it. You can see what I thought about this first time around here: Whisky Discovery #350

I might have mentioned this before several times but I'm really becoming a fan of Bunnahabhain. Their core range is great and it won't be long before an 18 Year Old graces my shelf, but there are also some fabulous single cask Bunnas around and this happens to be one of the highlights.

So What Did I Think?
The nose on this 23 year old Bunna is soft and fragrant and oh so dreamy. More tropical fruits but so much softer, pineapple and mango flavours initially turning floral with a touch of putty too, linseed. After a while with the glass covered an earthy peaty note develops, but lift the lid and 'wake' it and it's back to gentle fragrant notes.

There's lots going on with the palate too with a faint peaty char at the back too. I tweeted at the time "I could quite happily have this for breakfast!" for which I apologise - very irresponsible of me. This is such a gentle almost caressing dram, a tender sweetness, gentle citrus blossom flavours finishing with a soft peppery spice highlighted by a pinch of salt, and all through the dram there's a delicious faint peat reek.

It is unlikely that this Bunnahabhain was peated as the distillery didn't start using peat in kilning their malt until the late 1990's and so it's more likely that the cask that this whisky was matured in had held a peated spirit previously.

So what did the others think?
@steveprentice: Nose: Instantly relaxing, sweet, subtle old smoke, it's just a cracker. Very early experiments with peated malt.
@galg: The nose is very restrained with nice sea spray, malt and brine, with some lemon and candy floss
@JohnnieStumbler: On the nose there's some buttery toffee to start, with a little hint of smoke and underlying peat.
@Whiskyblogg: Nose is lovely, melted butter, vanilla and malty sweetness
@ifotou: Light gentle toffeed smoke with hints of floral gums, dried dark fruits and lashings of vanilla cream
@MyWhiskyGuide: Palate - smoky but not overpowering, sweet and creamy again and then a little salty on the finish
@Ardbaggie: Palate soft light hint of peat citrus vanilla woody
@rodbodtoo: Palate is a surprise. Honey & chillies, then salty, then beery malt, then fusty/damp wood
@HHWhiskyClub: Tasting: sweet, toffee muffins, almonds, apples, lemon with a little pear, then the gentle smoke and saltiness
@mattveira: Finish: Light, vanilla, sexy, smoky sugar, barley and some saltiness. Lovely jubly!

Whisky Discovery #632

Ben Nevis 16 Year Old Abbey Whisky (55% abv, IB, D.1997)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
£64.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
This was the first revealing of the third release in the Rare Casks Series. This Ben Nevis, from the Highlands of Scotland was distilled in 1997 and aged for 16 years in a single sherry hogshead, the whisky has been bottled at natural cask strength and only 96 bottles have been filled and made available in this release. Following the first two releases this whisky has been bottled in its natural form, at full cask strength, 55% vol, without chill filtering or colour additives.

So What Did I Think?
I was fairly certain that Ben Nevis was a new distillery to my journey and had to check my Liquid Log to confirm it. This is a heavily sherried dram and my initial noseing resulted in that 'struck match' note. It certainly needed to breathe a little before giving up it's dark fruits; tinned prunes, large sticky dates, burnt fruit cake, and sherry soaked cork, a fabulous savoury nose.

It didn't disappoint on the palate either. Although that struck match note is there, quite typical of a sherry cask matured malt, this is so very rich, dark and spicy with plenty of punch too being 55% abv. Like a mulled wine concentrate sweet dark fruit, blackcurrent, blackberries heavily spiced with cloves and a touch of aniseed finishing with smoked chilli and pepper. This has a very long finish and quite drying at the end, oaky dry of an aged Oloroso

So what did the others think?
@Girl_Whisky: Nose: Vanilla, parsley, basil, red apples, wet wood, sandy rocks, peaty, sawdust
@Whiskyblogg: Nose: cedar wood, walnuts and some subtle pipe tobacco. Maybe dark, almost bitter chocolate.
@JohnnieStumbler: Wow. Lively nose. A little spirity with some dark chocolate
@steveprentice: On the nose is strong, in your face, heavy sherry and oak, a little rubbery from the strong xmas pud fruits.
@thirstyscotsman: Lots of polished wood and a little gunpowder smoke. Cloves, pepper and maybe cardamom
@LaCaveDeCobalt: Nose is so like the sherried Bunnas I was referring in a previous Tweet… Big fan !
@TheWhiskyWire: Fruit cake bursting with sherry soaked fruits, served on a slab of dried oak.
@SCOTTDOGG11: Palate, SMOOTH caramel, followed by faint cigar smoke, feels very light on the tongue.
@BarryMBradford: Palate Dark brown sugar, treacle, figs, cinnamon/nutmeg spice builds to pepper
@rodbodtoo: Palate is rich, soft, heavily sherried. Like a mouthful of plum pudding with brandy sauce
@CuanBrown: Sophisticated, not as punchy or bold as expected. Velvet coating of sherry, hint of apple wood then butter and toffee apples
@chrismiles303: Espresso coffee on the finish with a bit of sticky toffee pudding. lovely - and I'm not a big sherried fan.

Whisky Discovery #633

GlenDronach 1993 Abbey Whisky Exclusive (59.1% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
£89.95 70cl only available from Abbey Whisky
Whisky Reviews
An exclusive bottling for Abbey Whisky from the GlenDronach Distillery. Distilled in 1993 this whisky has taken on a beautiful, dark crimson colour thanks to its twenty year slumber in an Oloroso sherry butt, single cask #33 to be precise. Bottled in 2013 with an outturn of 592 bottles and at 59.1% abv it packs quite a punch!!

GlenDronach Cask #33 Tasting Notes
The nose is luscious, lovely stewed prunes and sweet plum syrup hold fantastic depths of gentle clove, cinnamon and rich orange marmalade. The palate, a full-bodied traditional sherried character that gives tremendous waves of sun dried raisins, dates and spiced plums. Richly roasted coffee beans with touches of almond and walnut add a depth and complexity to the long, robust finish. The perfect winter warmer…

So What Did I Think?
We tasted this blind and so did not have a clue as to what this could be. My initial thoughts upon first nosing that this could be an old grain whisky as it was reminding me of some very old single grain form Girvan at around 60% abv. I was of course miles out but here are my notes for a giggle:

Very dark in colour, even darker than the Ben Nevis with a heavily sherried nose. Dark aged rum like notes, molasses, sticky Christmas dates, old fashioned furniture polish, heavy and waxy. As I said this reminded me of a 40 plus year old single grain, but reading back through the tweets I wasn't the only one.

It's big and bold on the palate too. Lots of old wood notes, along with the richest Dundee cake, dark fruits and old sherry flavours, but still with an aged rum like quality with burnt cane sugar notes. It's spicy too with a chilli heat to the licorice and cloves.

I was certainly very surprised on the reveal as I was still convinced that I was sipping a single grain, it had so many of the qualities of a recent experience of a 1964 Girvan. It definitely had the signs of a 20 year old plus single grain to me at first, and once in my head it stayed there.

I've not tried much from GlenDronach to know it's characteristics just three expressions are listed on the liquid log, and all three were tasted at the end of a whisky show, so no real recollection of notes possible!

So what did the others think?

@Whiskyblogg: Heavy on the nose: sherry, coffee beans, walnuts, leather and almost old, sherried grain

@Ashamantms: Big sherry nose! heaps of dark fruit and spices, I'm immediately in love! Love the color, I am going to need a bottle of this
@JohnnieStumbler: Polished mahogany and dark fruits. Bitter oranges. Milk chocolate. Immaculate.
@surfpunkian: BOOM! Deep, old south. sticky molasses, bacon, tobacco and smooth warming rum....
@Ashamantms: Dark chocolate, cinnamon nutmeg, cherries, sultanas, leathery, nutty, smells very old, a Glenfarclas?!
@MCRWhiskyClub: I might be thinking this is an older grain whisky.. a very old grain whisky? very spicy nose now, alongside cola bottles
@HHWhiskyClub: Going grain on this one and old, 37 year old maybe? Loving the toffee cereal notes, with a tropical undercurrent
@CuanBrown: Sherried fruit and raisins for xmas cake, nose is softening alot, this must be old. Fruit punch with a sneaky shot of sherry
@mattveira: Palate: Man, that's pretty good. Spicy & warm, bold, big sherry and fruit here. Hints of wood, and burnt sugar
@rodbodtoo: Palate is hot 55% or +. Sweet, treacly, sherried, creamy, super smooth (fudge!)

And finally....

Whist the Bunnahabhain was, by far, the star amongst the four drams of the evening, I was left with a dilemma at the end of this Tweet Tasting. Having tried the first two 'Rare Cask' series earlier and deciding that I really wanted one of these I thought I'd better act quickly. With 96 bottles released the stock would be running out soon.

However the two new discoveries were also excellent and I wanted them too! With only a finite budget I immediately purchased the Caperdonich and the Bunnahabhain, my reasoning being that there would be less of this around having been released earlier. Hopefully in the New Year I will be back to pick up at least one of each of the two new releases, and if there is any more of the Bunnahabhain left, perhaps another one of these too. So just two new Whisky Discoveries to report, and two to add to my wish list!

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, to Mike and the team at @abbeywhisky and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @abbeywhisky @HHWhiskyClub @WhiskyDiscovery @ScottDogg11 @MCRWhiskyClub @MyWhiskyGuide @gothick @surfpunkian @rodbodtoo @smokiechops @steveprentice @Gregwil76 @thirstyscotsman @chrismiles303 @ifotou @CuanBrown @beersiveknown @TheWhiskyKiwi @galg @ardbaggie @EdinburghWhisky @BarryMBradford @johnniestumbler @mattveira @SimonElliott86 @Ashamantms @WhiskyWardrobe @girl_whisky @whiskyblogg @LaCaveDeCobalt

For more information see: and

Slàinte! Dave