Sunday, 27 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #299

Braes O’ Glenlivet 21 Year Old Master of Malt (47.4% abv D:23/08/1991)
Speyside Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£64.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

Yes I know the photos are getting very repetitive, what do you want me to do?

Braes of Glenlivet is another 'new' distillery for me and I needed to visit my copy of Malt Whisky Yearbook to find out more. It's now known as the Braeval distillery to avoid confusion with the nearby Glenlivet Distillery.

Another very young distillery which was founded in 1973 by the Chivas and Glenlivet Group. Lying in the prime pastures of the Livet Glen, at the heart of Speyside It changed it's name to Braeval in 1994

Braeval is also Scotland's highest distillery sitting at an altitude of 1665ft (and around a 100ft higher than Dalwhinnie), built on a mountain ridge, and shares its water source, the Pitilie Burn, with the highland based Aberfeldy. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 but started producing again in 2008.

No official bottlings have ever been released, with the whole of it's production going to blended Scotch whisky abut there have been two independent bottlings from Aberko Ltd, in their Deerstalker range releasing a 10 and 15 year old single malt.

This 21 Year Old from Master of Malts new single cask range was distilled on the 23rd August 1991 and matured for twenty one years in a single ex-Bourbon cask. It was bottled on 28th November 2012 yielding just 251 bottles at 47.4% abv.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Butter cream, fresh kiwi fruits and clover honey form a sweet and enticing aroma that draws you in.

Palate: The palate is reminiscent of cinnamon infused honey with the faint floral flavour of violets. Beyond this there are notes of lemon meringue pie and vanilla pods.
Finish: Insanely long and buttery with some clove and white pepper for spice.
Overall: This Braeval is incredibly creamy and honeyed. However, within this sweet flavour profile are subtle floral and spice notes which create a complex and intriguing dram. Lovely.

So What Did We Think?

This light and delicate Speysider was the final dram of a Sunday afternoons dramming entertainment, and perhaps in hindsight should have started my session. The nose is everything those chaps and Master of Malt state, and even my wife, who rarely drinks anything vaguely alcoholic appreciated the light floral nose on this one. The clover honey and kiwi fruits are at the forefront but wait and let the whisky breathe for a while and you'll be rewarded with a sweet fragrant summer meadow of flowers, there's also some tropical fruit with pineapple and passion fruit.

It's wonderfully creamy and floral on the palate too, bags of honey and butter cream and a light peppery spice which lasts long into the finish. There's a light lemon cream note too, lovely! The finish is long and sweet with more vanilla butter cream and the light peppery spice.

Want one? Best be quick as there was just 251 bottles filled. check out Master of Malt 21 Year Old Braeval

A Tale of Two Springbanks

I started off writing two single blog posts, one for each of these two 19 Year Old Single Cask whiskies from Master of Malt as I normally would. Then while gathering my thoughts decided that these needed to be brought together as one, as they were both distilled in 1993 and were both matured for 19 years both in hogsheads, yet there was a noticeable difference between the two.

Fortunately I also decided to taste these alongside each other too, however, not only did I line the received samples up in age order, but samples of the same age were lined up in alphabetical order (hence the Deanston being the first nineteen year old to be tasted) and I even established that Cask 129 should come before Cask 410. Now I distinctly remember sorting these out in age order, but was it just lucky that they then followed alphabetically then numerically or does my OCD work on a sub-concious level too?

Whisky Discovery #197

Springbank 19 Year Old Cask 129 Master of Malt (57.8% abv D: 07/05/1993)
Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky
£72.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

Cask #129
This is a lovely Springbank with a beautiful hue, bottled for the Single Cask series. 

Distilled on 7th May 1993 before a 19 year maturation in cask #129, a hogshead. 

It was bottled on the 27th November 2012 and just 221 bottles were filled at 57.8% abv

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toffee brittle, kelp and hints of linseed oil. Coals on a fire, a little camphor.

Palate: Manuka honey and edamame beans. Rhubarb crumble, allspice, sea spray. Cool smoke.

Finish: Muscovado sugar, a little vanilla. Still very smoky with just a hint of something medicinal.

Whisky Discovery #198

Springbank 19 Year Old Cask 482 Master of Malt (55.2% abv D: 26/11/1993)
Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky
£72.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

Cask #482
This is a robust, full-bodied single cask whisky from the Springbank distillery, distilled on 26th November 1993 and aged for 19 years in cask #482, a hogshead.

Bottled exactly 19 years later of 27th November 2012 and 250 bottles were filled at 55.2% abv. 

Expect lots of coastal, smoky flavour...

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: An oily, coastal nose with hints of heather honey and charred oak. Smouldering.

Palate: Big oak notes to the fore with brackish and crème caramel. Very coastal, just like the nose, this offers a hint of honey, alongside peat smoke and cooked fruit.

Finish: Long, peaty finish. Dark brown sugar and spice.

So What Did We Think?

Unfortunately Kat didn't get to taste these two nineteen year old whiskies either as although on my first tasting of this pair of Springbanks, cask #482 was my personal favourite, I needed to revisit them again the following evening just to make sure (so sorry once again Kat!) 

Just read the two tasting notes from Master of Malt you can quickly see how different these two are. The nose of each offering great flavours. Cask #129 was malty, with vanilla and spice but after a little while in the glass yielded a delicious nose of buttered toast on my second visit, toasted granary bread dripping with butter. When I experienced this I was about to change my mind on these two single cask bottlings until I revisited Cask #429 which is rich and meaty with Balsamic vinegar, dark soy sauce and some honey sweetness, then there is the coastal notes with damp charred wood and hemp rope.

On the palate there are differences too; Cask #129 comes across as slightly tart at first, there's vanilla and oak and a gentle build up of spicy pepper, which settles back to a light honey sweetness and some gentle wood smoke. Cask #429 is the fruitier of the two, with some red berryies, but the spicy pepper comes in waves building up then falling away to sweetness  before building up again and a definite peaty smoke.

What was brought home by nosing and tasting these two Springbank single casks was the skill required by the master distiller blender to bring different casks together to create the 'house' taste of single malt whiskies, ensuring each batch married casks tastes close enough to the previous batch to maintain the brand style.

I wouldn't be disappointed with either of these on my whisky shelf as I really enjoyed both of them. My favourite of the two was cask #429 due to it's rich and meaty notes, but the buttered toast nose of cask #129 almost swayed me for a minute.

Both of these samples came from the new Single Cask Series from Master of Malt.

Want one? Well you have better be quick to get your mitts on one of these two beauties: If it's cask #129 that is calling you click  Cask #129 and if it's my favourite of these two click Cask #482.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #296

Deanston 19 Year Old Single Cask Master of Malt (53.4% abv D:16/12/1992)
Highland Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£59.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

So next up in the selection from Master of Malts Single Cask range is this Deanston 19 Year Old. Now I know very little about Deanston, it's certainly not one you ordinarily come across in the supermarkets and I certainly haven't seen it at any of the whisky shows we went to last year. I remember seeing a Deanston 12 Year Old in Marks and Spencer once and initially thought it was one of their own brands, so had to delve into my latest copy of Malt Whisky Yearbook to find out a little more while tasting this.

Deanston is located eight miles from Stirling near Doune and just forty-five minutes from Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the distillery sits by the River Teith at the entrance to the dramatic Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Having been a cotton mill for 180 years, Deanston was transformed into a distillery in 1965 and has been distilling whisky using traditional methods ever since.

In terms of capacity it is a little larger than Talisker, a distillery that most whisky lovers will have come across on their travels so I was a little surprised not have heard that much about it. I remember reading that a visitor centre was opened last year, but apart from that very little.

The distillery, being once a mill, was located next to a river to make use of the water to power all ofthe weaving equipment. The wheels have since been replaced with turbines and Deanston is the only distillery that is self-sufficient for it's electrical requirements, generating all it's own power requirements

This 19 year old was distilled on 16th December 1992 and was bottled almost 20 years later on 20th November 2012. Just 260 bottles were filled at 53.4% abv and just for the record is naturally coloured and non-chill filtered

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Peppermint cream chocolate followed by spearmint with a little fresh-ground coffee and cocoa powder for richness on the nose.
Palate: Peppermint on the first sip, but oaky vanilla and firm malt are the main characters which play off one another with exceptional balance. Beyond this there are elegant notes of exotic spice, kiwi fruit and double cream.
Finish: The finish is incredibly long with notes of Bourbon cask spice, rich toffee and rhubarb crumble in equal quantities.
Overall: This Deanston is a minty dram with a chocolatey richness and subtle notes of juicy fruits beneath this. A grand showing from this Highland single malt.

So What Did We Think?

I had a definite chocolatey note on the nose of this one but wasn't able to find a definitive minty note - I had to go back to this after reading Master of Malts notes and hence drank the 'share' I was saving fro Kat (sorry Kat) Perhaps I'm still struggling with the after effects of New Year manflu and my senses have been dulled? It does come across as gloriously malty and after a while some rich dark fruits come forth, dark plums and black cherry, and was starting to become a Black Forest Gateaux with the chocolate and cherry.

It had a rich and creamy mouth feel, again very malty with building spice. There are some old wood furniture notes with polish too. Overall very enjoyable for my first taste from the Deanston Distillery

Want one? You'd better be quick as there were only 260 bottles of this. For more information and to buy see Master of Malt 19 Year Old Deanston

Monday, 21 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #295

Tobermory 17 Year Old Single Cask Master of Malt (57% abv D.26/04/1995)
Island Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£59.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)

Tobermory 17 Year Old
The 17 Year Old from the Tobermory Distillery

Number three of the Master of Malts Single Cask Collection, and as I lined these up in age order led me to this Tobermory 17 Year Old. I only tried my first Tobermory (the 10 Year Old) at the recent Birmingham Whisky Show so have had very little exposure to this distillery, based on the Isle of Mull. This spirit was distilled on 26th April 1995 and laid down to mature in a refill hogshead cask and yielded just 274 bottles.

This is a peppery style with deeper notes of mulling spices and roasted malt with a gloriously long finish.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Pepper and cranberry open the nose followed by milk chocolate and the fresh aroma of a conifer forest.
Palate: Peppery and malty with a coastal character and an oily mouth-feel. Slowly but surely notes of mulled wine fill the mouth and announce the finish.
Finish: Big spicy notes of course ground pepper, cumin and nutmeg with sweet popping candy on the tail.
Overall: A rich single malt from the Isle of Mull with warm spicy notes and a great mouth-coating quality.

So What Did We Think?

This Tobermory has been my favourite of the three tasted so far, it a rich, meaty dram with bags of flavour. From my brief notes from Birmingham and recollection it shares similarities to the  standard 10 Year Old, but everything has been increased, like it has been put through and amplifier and played at full blast.

Again the colour of this 17 year old is very pale, like a white wine being naturally coloured, only taking the colour from maturing in the refill hogshead during the seventeen year maturation.

The nose is rich and meaty, a definite peppery note, almost chilli like, yet with a balsamic sweetness with soy sauce and pine cones, conifer forest as the Master of Malt notes say. I wasn't able to find the chocolate on this dram however, but I love the nose of this one. The empty glass the following morning is also appealing; malty with some chocolate notes which I found at last.

This has a big powerful entry, it's peppery, malty, with a rich sweetness again reminding me of a balsamic/soy sauce dressing and there's a light brine maritime edge to it too. The spicy peppery notes remained to the end with some sweet toffee notes at the end.

Want one? You'd better be quick as there were only 274 bottles of this. For more information and to buy see Master of Malt 17 Year Old Tobermory

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #294

Arran 16 Year Old Single Cask Master of Malt (55.4% abv D.12/06/96)
Island Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£53.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
Master of Malt Single Cask Range

Number two in my line up of the recent Single Cask Collection from Master of Malt, is a sweet, fruity whisky from the Isle of Arran, that was distilled on the 13th June 1996, matured in a single refill sherry hogshead, and yielded just 218 bottles sixteen year later.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Seaside aromas with soft, youthful malt. Hints of orange blossom honey. Apple strudel with brandy butter and dried mango.
Palate: Buttery palate with stem ginger in syrup, a touch of sweet Gewurztraminer, nutmeg and pannacotta. Barrel char and allspice.
Finish: Wine-like finish with over-ripe grapes, cassia bark and clove oil.

So What Did We Think?

Naturally coloured and looking like a white wine, and swirling it around in my nosing glass leaves legs slow to move down the sides of the glass eventually leaving an oil like beading around the glass

My immediate thought when nosing was that this is very malty, then there's a spicy ginger note which is quickly followed by softer notes;  gentle honey and some orange blossom. There is also herbal note that I couldn't put my finger on. After a little time to air I stated to get some sultanas and green grapes

On the palate there's an initial sweet note which slowly builds with spicy ginger. There is a definite wine like note although I'm not familiar with many white wines, especially sweet GewurtztraminerThe ginger remains and gently fades with the faintest note of cinnamon while leaving a peppery  tingle on the middle of the tongue and sweetness towwards the back of the tongue.

I'm beginning to become a bit of a fan of whisky from the Isle of Arran and this single cask from Master of Malt is another fine example.

Want one? You'd better be quick as there were only 218 bottles of this. For more information and to buy see Master of Malt 16 Year Old Arran 

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #293

Clynelish 15 Year Old Single Cask Master of Malt (56.1% abv D.02/04/97)
Highland Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
£74.95 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
Master of Malt Single Cask

I was delighted to receive a very generous package of whisky samples from the Master of Malt single cask collection. In all eleven expressions were received safely at Whisky Discovery HQ in the superb packaging that Master of Malt are renowned for.

I decided I would need a plan in order to review these in a timely manner and immediately lined all eleven samples up in age order, is this OCD? After opening this Clynelish I started wondering if perhaps I should have lined them up alphabetically, but it was too late, I'd opened the first bottle, and registered the 'discovery' in the Liquid Log.

Clynelish is a distillery I've had little exposure so far, however it was a Clynelish that is registered as the 'acorn' sowing the seed of this whisky journey in the very beginning, a year before I bought my first bottle of whisky. I've sampled the Distillers Edition in my local Cambridge Wine Merchants and a 'Distillery Only' edition at Whisky Live last year, but haven't even tried their core expression yet.

This 15 Year Old is one from the latest Single Cask Range, and is said to be a fruity number bottled by  Master of Malt from a Refill Hogshead after fifteen years of cask maturation. Just 225 bottles resulted bottled at 56.1% abv

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Stem ginger and waxy fruit aromas initially, followed by fresh lemon and orange notes with some ripe pear and apricot with time in the glass.
Palate: This is a mouth-coating dram with tropical fruit flavours, notably melon and mango with a little peach sweetness at the back.
Finish: A fruit salad of peach, lychee, raspberry and dried apricot. Delicious and lingering.
Overall: Clynelish doing what Clynelish does best. This is a fruit-forward whisky with the merest hint of the Scottish coastline.

So What Did We Think?

Cracking open the wax seal and pouring myself a small dram I was reminded of sweet jelly beans initially! However once exposed to air it quickly settled down and my notes were remarkably similar to the Master of Malt notes above. I wrote in my notebook; fresh ginger, fresh and fruity, citrus fruits followed by apricot and cantaloup, tropical fruits. Returning the empty glass there's heather honey and toffee notes.

On the palate there is an immediate spicy kick which quickly mellows revealing the fruit again, melon and peaches. The mouth feel becomes smooth and creamy and I tweeted 'peaches and cream, dusted with black pepper' The sweet peaches and spice slowly fade away and I picked up a lovely faint aniseed flavour as a light saltiness finishes the experience.

Want one? Best be quick then as there were only 225 bottles to begin with. You can find out more and buy it here: Master of Malt Clynelish 15 Year Old

Friday, 18 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #292

Balblair 1969 Vintage (41.4% abv)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
Circa £2,200.00 70cl
The recently released Balblair '69 Vintage
Towards the end of last year Balblair launched the 1969 Vintage, one of the oldest Balblair Vintages ever released. Unfortunately I wasn't able to attend the launch party, but was able to get my hands on a sample to review. 

I've tasted a number of Balblair vintages on my journey to date, mostly at whisky festivals, but have owned my own bottle of 1989 Vintage since seeing it listed in Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die I must admit, I've been impressed with everything I've tasted to date so had high expectations.

The 1969 Vintage is the successor to the acclaimed 1965 Vintage, named Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask) in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013; it scored 96.5/100 and Murray observed “it is almost too beautiful for words.” 

This rare whisky was originally distilled on 7th February 1969, five whole months before Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the surface of the moon. In those days the spirit in the cask came from the old coal-fired stills, The barley was malted on site and there was a workforce of twenty-two men. All dedicated to the art of timing and perfection.

The 1969 Vintage is limited to 999 bottles and, as with every expression of Balblair, it is un-chill-filtered and naturally coloured. Bottled at its natural strength of 41.4%, this rare Vintage has matured for the last 43 years in American Oak, ex-bourbon remade hogshead casks.

Distillery Manager John MacDonald observes of his latest selection: “This extraordinary, venerable Vintage has spent several decades slowly maturing – it has taken enormous discipline to wait this long to bottle it. I’m confident whisky enthusiasts around the world will agree when I say it has been worth the wait.”

Balblair 1969 was launched in the USA at the end of last year at $3500, then will be released during 2013 in other focus markets including the UK, France, Russia and South East Asia.

So What Did We Think?

This has a fabulous lively nose with a great deal going on, and so much fruit both at the beginning and at the very end! I was immediately reminded of bananas, well ripened ones, green pears, lemons and limes and there was some linseed oil putty. The vanilla starts to come through after a little while in the glass, along with a new leather note, like a brand new leather belt. Once the vanilla come through, it evolves towards toffee and butterscotch, but later the fruit returns with cantaloup melons.
A treasured sample from Balblair distilled in 1969
With all of the fruit notes on the nose I was expecting it to be much sweeter on the palate, but was pleasantly surprised to find a citrus freshness to the fruity cantaloup melon, and spicy white pepper too. A truly delightful vintage from Balblair, but unless I have a lottery win is slightly above my budget.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #268

Paul John Single Cask 161 NAS (57% abv, 2012)
Indian Single Malt Whisky
Circa £60.00 70cl
The first release from Paul John
I've decided to post this blog post out of sequence as this was first tasted at the Birmingham Whisky Club's Whisky Show in December, and although registered as a 'Whisky Discovery' never sat down and completed a full 'blog post' at the time. Ordinarily I would back-date any blog post subsequently written, so that it followed in numerical sequence. To be honest it's what I would have preferred, and have done to date, but sometimes these posts are written quite a while after the original tasting experience, either due to getting a bottle myself or being sent a sample from fellow whisky enthusiasts or PR from the brand. If you think I should put them back into order - let me know, I always appreciate your feedback.

I remember this whisky being launched at The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show last October however never managed to get to taste it on either of the two days that I visited. Kat did sample it at the end of the day she visited, however being one of the final drams of the day little was recorded. When we saw it was being exhibited at the Birmingham Show it was our first port of call, and certainly appeared to be one of the highlights for the visitors that afternoon

Reading my copy of the latest Malt Whisky Handbook (essential for every whisky enthusiast) I have learned that Indian whiskies feature significantly in the top 30 whiskies of the world, and seven of these are listed in the top 10. John Distilleries is the world’s seventh largest whisky distiller, and this single cask release is it's first foray into the premium market.

Cask 161 has launched with a ‘Liquid Gold’ award from Jim Murray’s ‘The Whisky Bible’ following a rating of 94 points, putting it among top whiskies in the world according to the renowned whisky expert. In a further endorsement of Paul John’s debut cask, Difford’s Guide has awarded it with a ‘Quality Recommended’ 4.5/5.

Bottled to cask strength 57% abv, just a single cask of John Distilleries inaugural whisky was released totalling 150 bottles. The whisky is made from 100% Indian Malted Barley and has been aged in Ex-Bourbon barrels. It is distilled using the traditional copper Pot Stills.

So What Did We Think?

When I wrote our blog post following the Birmingham Whisky Festival I noted that I wished that I could spend some more time with this whisky, in the comfort of an armchair, to sit and saviour. Well my wish was granted and was very kindly sent a sample of this to review at my leisure. Unfortunately by the time I had sat down to enjoy this I found out that it had sold out from the sole UK retailer The Whisky Exchange. However with only 150 bottles available this was pretty rare stuff. Just 150 bottles is not a lot of yield from a single bourbon cask, being distilled and matured in Goa, the Angels Share is a whopping 10%.

Nosing this whisky gave me vanilla notes and a sharp orange marmalade aroma. This is followed by wood notes, like working with some old hardwood furniture, there were also some licorice there. After a little while in the glass some sweet and spicy flavours appear with honey, cloves and a touch of white pepper.

It was malty on the palate with some butterscotch flavours and lots of spicy pepper heat. OK, so not as much going compared to the nose, but a very enjoyable mouth feel. Towards the end there is a brine like saltiness which balances the sweetness and finishes with a dry hazelnut nuttiness.

So I missed the boat on this first release. That's the trouble with having a huge established wish list, and lots of great whiskies being released regularly so I can't keep up! However I will be looking out for new releases from Paul John at the whisky shows coming up, and if I haven't already blown my budget will definitely consider adding a bottle to my shelf.

Did any of you try this at any of the whisky shows at the end of last year and did you get your hands on a bottle? We'd be interested to hear what you think.

You can find out more information about Paul John Indian Single Malt on their website here:

Monday, 14 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #291

Compass Box 'The Entertainer' (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
Circa £85.00 70ml (only available from Selfridges)
Check out the detail in this tasting sample label!
Once again we have been very lucky and have been sent a sample of this exclusive blended whisky to taste. The Entertainer is a unique and bespoke whisky, created exclusively for Selfridges by the award-winning whisky maker Compass Box

With only 1000 bottles produced, The Entertainer, is a unique collaboration and only available at Selfridges’ stores in London, Birmingham and Manchester and from their website for £84.99

So What Did We Think?

I put a dram of this in Kat's hand as she walked through the door the other evening and demanded her tasting notes immediately (she has been busy with her college work recently) I wrote them down while she nosed and tasted!

Kat said: On the nose I immediately thought of mothballs, which although sounds unfamiliar as a whisky tasting note was really quite pleasant. I thought it was quite musky, with notes of fresh cotton, wet green oak, a hint of lemon zest and a green vegetable note; kale or spring greens.

The initial taste is sweet and zesty and reminded me of Lemon bonbons, it has an oily quality with a little smoke, and spicy with fresh ginger. The smoky character and fresh ginger feature in the quite short finish too.

Dave Said: I on the other hand had time to sit down and relax with my dram, and was able to revisit the following evening and started tweeting my 'findings'. There was lots on the nose as you would expect from this blended Scotch. I thought it had a great nose; With a honey sweetness at first, after a short while the sweetness turns fruity with sultanas and figs. As the nose develops there are some nice malty cereal notes, and a gentle Islay peat reek. With more time the nose started to evolve with a floral fragrance, followed by some liquorice notes. Returning to nose this after the first taste I started getting some Demerara sugar, camphor and Sherbert lemons! Quite entertaining

On the palate it was sweet and spicy with, barley sugar and honey, zesty citrus, spices with fresh ginger, white pepper. The peppery finish gently fades with a little brine.

As with all Compass Box Whisky this is naturally coloured and bottled without chill filtration. The label and packaging is one of the most detailed I have seen from Compass Box, and is truly a work of art in itself, and this whisky does exactly what is says on the tin 'Quite Entertaining'.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #290

Great King Street 'New York Blend' (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
£60.00 750ml (from Compass Box Website)
Great King Street New York Blend
Another fabulous label design from Compass Box
We feel really lucky to have been able to taste this, the first release from Compass Box's Great King Street brand of blended whiskies. New York Blend is the first of it's limited release regional blends and was launched on Saturday, October 27th, 2012 at the New York Whisky Fest in Manhattan. Only 1,840 bottles were released and it was available primarily in the New York metropolitan area and via the Compass Box Whisky Company web site. 

A review sample arrived at Whisky Discovery HQ just before Christmas, However checking the Compass Box website it is available on the UK, although for how long I wouldn't guess.

So how did this all come about? I initially read about it in Whisky Advocate blog, where John Hansell explains how he asked John Glaser if he would create a new whisky and debut it for them at WhiskyFest New York. John thought this would be a great opportunity to start a series of regional blends, something he'd wanted to do for some time.

John made two key discoveries that inspired this one-off, limited edition bottling. One was an ancient New York Times article describing an 1890's bartender named Patrick Duffy who was responsible for instigating the importation of branded Scotch whisky in glass bottles for the first time into New York. The second was an old Scotch blend recipe from a Glasgow blending house from the same era. John fashioned a blend based on the old recipe dedicated the bottling to Duffy, and the New York Blend was born.

The New York Blend uses lots of peaty single malts, plenty of sherry cask-aged single malts, and a much higher proportion of malt to grain whisky (80%/20%) than is typically used today (generally 30%/70%).

As with all Compass Box whiskies this is bottled with no added colouring and without chill-filtering.

Compass Box plans more Great King Street regional blends in the future, but for now there are no details of where or when, so to make sure you're the first to know it would be a good idea to sign up for the Compass Box newsletter on their website (we have!)

So What Did We Think?

Kat: My nosing notes were rattled off: Malty, sweet, gentle smoke, citrus candied peel, Johnson's Baby Powder, Morning Dew.

On first taste I exclaimed 'Wow this is really nice, I think I might have to get a bottle of this.' Light and delicate on the palate, fresh, spicy cloves, gentle smoke, malty notes. Towards the end I was getting a bitter dark chocolate notes or coffee beans.

Dave: The high percentage of malt whisky in this blend is immediately evident on the nose leading with malty notes. Fruity notes of sultanas and sweet clementines develop shortly afterwards. There is less peat smoke than I was expecting especially when a quarter of the recipe is said to contain heavily peated single malts from Islay, it's there, but quite gentle

However the Islay peated malts certainly make themselves known on the palate. It starts off with with a light sweet toffee note before a spicy chilli heat takes over, all the while the soft peaty smoke hangs in the background. The spice subsides leaving a dark chocolate bitterness and a medium length gently spice finish

If you're quick you might be able to blag yourself a big US style bottle at the Compass Box Shop If you have tried this let us know what you think!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #289

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin 2012 NAS (51.2% abv OB, 2012, 70cl)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
circa £45.00 70cl

Laphroaig was the first whisky I ever bought, and the first whisky club I joined too. I immediately joined 'Friends of Laphroaig' upon finding the unique bottle code on the leaflet within every bottle of Laphroaig, and promptly became a landowner, owning one square foot of property on Islay!

The beauty of becoming a Friend of Laphroaig is that you automatically get 10% off of most shop sales, and then on your birthday, you are sent a voucher which entitles you to a further 10% off of your purchase. The voucher is valid for a good few weeks so you don't have to make any rash decisions. I was about to spend my voucher on an 18 Year Old, but this limited release came up and I had to have it. Perhaps I'll get the 18 Year Old on my next birthday, it's definitely on the wish list after tasting it at the Birmingham Whisky Club Whisky Show last month.

So, getting back to the blog post, this bottling was released at the Feis Ile, to celebrate the very popular Friends of Laphroaig whisky club turning 18 years old. Càirdeas means friendship in Gaelic, a which is rather a fitting name for this expression, although probably difficult to pronounce unless fluent in Gaelic!

The thoughtful chaps and chapesses at Laphroaig retained some of the very first Càirdeas for the ‘Friends’ 18th birthday expression .This whisky is now between 13 and 21 years old. It was then blended 50:50 with some new spirit fully matured in quarter casks for 7 years and bottled it without any chill filtering for maximum flavour, and at 51.2% abv strength, the last two digits matching the year of production.

So What Did We Think?

I'll come straight to the point - I just love it. There's a flash of citrus zest before the iodine medicinal notes strike. I was tasting this alongside the Bowmore Enigma and it's much more earthy than the fruity Bowmore. Its grassy with straw bales and charcoal, ash and dust it's a deliciously 'dirty' dram and reminds me of the charcoal village that I used to drive through when I lived in the Far East - I loved driving through that camp where they made lump wood charcoal. Eventually I was able to tease some fruit out of it - firm white grapes, and some very faint toffee notes.

Water seemed to have little effect on the nose, the charcoal remains dominant throughout.

On the palate the peat hit is instant, there's a light sweetness accompanied by some salty brine. The citrus zest found on the nose appears on the palate too. There is an immense spicy pepper build up in the mouth, attacking the tongue, but it subsides quite quickly once swallowed, leaving a delicious earthy peat flavour.

Water tames the fire and makes the dram both sweeter and softer.

The finish is long and satisfyingly warming with a balance of smoke peat, charcoal, a tangy sweetness and light brine. Long and lingering like a dying beach bonfire and then right at the very end, liquorice root appears. I just adore it. Have you tried it ? What did you think?

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Whisky Discovery #288

Bowmore 12 Year Old 'Enigma' (40% abv, OB, 2011, 1ltr)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Circa £40.00 (Travel Retail Exclusive)
Bowmore's Travel Retail 12 Year Old
The Bowmore Enigma is a 12 Year Old whisky normally only available in 'duty free' shops for travel retail, however I have seen it advertised for sale in the usual on-line whisky stores.

This bottle has been on my shelf for a long while before I got around to opening it. It should have been my first Bowmore of my journey, but with so many things going on I never got around to opening it until the weekend before Christmas. It was given to me by a friend who had been on a business trip in France or Germany and saw that it was on offer at two (litre) bottles for £55.00. He bought a pair and sent one over for me, arriving at Whisky Discovery HQ way back in March on the first International Whisky Day!

This 12 Year Old Bowmore is an unusual expression of Bowmore boasting a higher proportion of sherry matured spirit in its make-up, resulting in a much richer and sweeter style.

So What Did We Think?

You'll have noticed (hopefully) that I've been blogging alone for a few posts recently, that's because Kat has been busy with an Open University Degree course, and has a pile of assignments to complete which understandably take priority over writing her thoughts about the different whiskies we're tasting. She has still been tasting most of the whiskies with me though, and shared this one with me on the Sunday after Christmas.

The Enigma's colour is quite a rich bronze colour, however it would be because colouring has unfortunately been added. I'm not sure if the colouring has any effect on the taste of the whisky as have heard conflicting stories from both sides of the camp, however, I just feel it shouldn't be necessary any more, let the whisky take on it's own colour from ageing in the casks, and who cares if there is a variation from one batch to the next? Well that just my personal opinion.

On the nose this has a subdued Islay smoky peat, rich sherried fruits and malty toffee notes. The sherried fruit notes get stronger with more time in the glass, as does the toffee notes which start to turn more like toffee popcorn. Breathe deeply and there is the zest of a lemon. With water the maritime notes develop giving some fresh seaweed aromas. The nose really appealed to me, and I could quite happily sit nosing and sipping this one all evening.

On the palate it is quite sweet initially but slowly builds up to a hot and spicy kick on the tongue which quickly subsides returning to sweet toffee flavours before a robust smokiness pushes through with the faintest touch of salty brine.

The finish is long with a little white pepper, a salty sweetness and a dying smoky peat fire gradually fading. I'm really enjoying this Bowmore and wish I had opened it earlier. The nose is rich and fruity with the gentle smoke underlying and in the mouth it's full on and almost chewy. This is definitely worth slipping into your bag on your way home.

(Photo credits to my youngest daughter - she made me add this last line)