Monday, 27 May 2013

The Glenlivet Tweet Tasting

A pretty special Tweet Tasting featuring three 'core' expressions from The Glenlivet range and for the finale dram, to newly released, and mysterious Alpha, a limited edition release with very little information published yet.

Famously the first legal Scottish distillery in Speyside after owner George Smith took the brave step of applying for the first license to distil following the Excise Act of 1823, Glenlivet became so synonymous with the best quality that the company was forced to take legal action in the 1880s to prevent its rivals passing off their own wares as 'the Real Stuff'. Despite the Smith family winning the exclusive right for their product to be known as 'The' Glenlivet, dozens of other distilleries persisted with the usage of the Glenlivet suffix (eg Macallan-Glenlivet) for decades afterwards.

Although the distillery's standard 12 Year Old epitomises the kind of soft, smooth, lighter style of Speyside malts loved by so many whisky fans, Glenlivet's spirit has also proven itself to be more than capable of withstanding long years of wood-ageing. The ongoing Cellar Collection was created to showcase some of the superb older malts in the distillery's archives, and some extremely old sherried vintages going back to the 1930s have been bottled by Gordon & Macphail.
Whisky Discovery
All set up at Whisky Discovery HQ complete with my new Glenlivet glasses!
We were joined by International Brand Ambassador Ian Logan @iantheguardian who was on hand to answer all our ‘The Glenlivet’ based questions. So with the clock at 7:00pm precisely we started our evening with The Glenlivet 12 Year Old. 

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £28.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
This was one of my early 'Whisky Discoveries' and reading back through my initial 'liquid log' entry I think it is high time I revisited this and gave it the proper review it deserves.

The delicate and complex character of the 12 Year Old derives from the height and width of stills at The Glenlivet Distillery. This expression is matured in a mixture of cask types, including American and European Oak. Maturation in American oak imparts vanilla notes and gives the whisky its distinct smoothness. The mineral rich water from Josie's Well ensures the best possible results during mashing and fermenting to form the flavours that define this expression.

So what Did We Think?

Kat: Nose: Red apples, dried fruits (figs & raisins), some oak, dried hay, with hints of dark roasted coffee bean powder. With a little time, some more fruit notes develops of under ripe mangoes and red berries. 

Taste:  Zesty citrus, some spices (more like all spice berries), cooked lemons, and the apple note comes through as well. Overall a fresh and light taste. 

Finish:  White pepper, hint of spices this time of cloves, and leaving a bit of a dry mouth feel. Medium long finish. 

Dave: This has a lovely fresh floral nose, it reminds me of grassy summer meadows. There is gentle vanilla and tropical fruits too, I certainly noted pineapples, but later these turned more apple like and less pine like. With the teeniest drop of water the nose becomes much sweeter and refreshing with a crisp pear note

The palate is gently fruity at first, having a 'fruit salad' sweet like fruitiness to it. There is lots of creamy vanilla and some gentle peppery spice, and it all finishes rather quickly with gentle sweetness, a littler sherbet and quite dry.

Verdict: I'd forgotten how simply delicious this is. It is not an overly complex dram, but simply crisp, clean, very refreshing and oh so drinkable.

What did the others think?
@MasterOfMaltJM: Honey, pineapple, vanilla, pressed apples and a little cinnamon
@TheWhiskyBoys: Sipping now, vanilla and gooseberries, quite rich and creamy runny toffee
@whiskycast: That touch of green apple from the nose is still very subtle on the palate, but comes back out to play on the finish
@ifotou: Taste light and refreshing oaky and fruity with definite wood notes, young and fresh and vanilla custard
@steveprentice: On the palate is smooth and easy to drink, gently oily and mouth warming with some spices after a while.
@whiskywardrobe: Lovely vanilla on this, a bit light but I like the touch of tobacco that it has. Nice dram. 

Whisky Discovery #422

The Glenlivet 15 Year Old (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £40.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
The 15 Year Old’s distinctive character is the result of selective maturation; a proportion of the spirit is matured in a selection of French Oak casks for a limited period, so as not to overpower the final result.

The Glenlivet was one of the first distilleries to use French Oak in the whisky making process, a technique that has since been imitated by many others. Limousin Oak, which is cut in the Dordogne region of France, is often used to mature fine wines and cognacs. In the case of The Glenlivet, its low density allows the spirit to penetrate deep into the wood, imparting the expression’s distinctive spiciness. The French Oak also increases the intensity of the whisky, resulting in a richer and creamier finish.

So what Did We Think?

Kat: Nose:  Firstly you get this floral perfume that reminds me of a field of dandelions (the field opposite my house is just full of them in bloom at the moment), this is followed by strawberry jam, hints of milk chocolate, and madeira cake. No dried fruits being picked up. 

Taste: Interestingly I taste dried fruits (figs and raisins ) but nothing in the nose. I was expecting to get these flavours in the 12 year old but didn’t. Again it’s fresh and light, with the difference of the spices here being of cinnamon and liquorice. 

Finish:  To me, it’s not too dissimilar to the 12 year old. 

Dave: I immediately found spiced pears on the nose, with a rich honey sweetness, and some interesting spiciness coming through. There was an unexpected strawberry note, which as Kat pointed out was similar to a rich strawberry jam note. Rich toffee notes appear a little later.

This was so smooth and creamy on the palate, just mouthwatering, reminding me of a  warming vanilla custard with a sprinkling of nutmeg. The oak spiciness builds and remains with the finish

Verdict: I really enjoyed this dram and can see why a lot of people have been saying good things about this expression. Although similar in profile to the 12 Year Old it is much more spicy and richer in flavour too.

What did the others think?
@EdinburghWhisky: nose: more creamy, biscuity, hints of pastries and then the apples, almonds, and butteriness
@TheWhiskyBoys: Colour, doorknocker brass, Nose a rich sweetness,marzipan and a citrus hit Caribbean fruits quite complex
@GuidScotchDrink: red apples and toasted caramel with honey covered grapefruit and hints of Moroccan bazaar
@weheartwhisky: lovely and rich, with some excellent spices but not overpowering in anyway. Figs dusted with icing sugar
@steveprentice: A summer dram, it's not got the fresh grass and apples in quite such abundance, instead stewed summer fruits with a dollop of vanilla yoghurt on the nose
@DramStats: Ripe banana at first then warm apple pie filling with cinnamon and sultana, then fudge and apricots 

Whisky Discovery #423

The Glenlivet 18 Year Old (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £50.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
The rich palate of the 18 Year Old is the result of a combination of several different cask types. The Glenlivet Master Distiller Alan Winchester has a wealth of quality casks to choose from when creating this complex expression, with American and European Oak, first and second fill, all playing their parts.

European Oak imparts spicy hints and brings additional complexity first-fill American Oak adds tropical fruitiness

So what Did We Think?

Kat: Nose:  This shares some similar profiles to the 12 year old. Has same apples and dried fruit notes but overall richer. The apple notes is present, initially starting off as fresh apples but later turns into the smell of apple crumble. In addition there’s dark chocolate, hint of roasted coffee beans, and the smell of boats (ah it brings back fond childhood memories) with its damp decks and wet ropes. 

Taste:  Deliveries a full body richness which reflects the nose but more spices. Here is of black pepper. Towards the end there’s a brief moment of sweetness that’s reminds me of the taste of a trifle. 

Finish: Warming with a long peppery finish. 

Dave: Wax furniture polish was the first this that came to mind when I first nose this, but it settled down quickly. Vanilla started sneaking out, fresh vanilla pods, then tobacco, followed by dried fruits, rich toffee and slowly evolves to become wonderfully sweet

This is so smooth and creamy, rich and sweet with toffee and dates. Spices build with ginger and white pepper turning more nutty towards the end leaving quite a dry finish while still remaining spicy with a chilli heat.

Verdict: I can see why Ian Logan says that this is his favourite Glenlivet, it is dangerously drinkable!

What did the others think?
@ifotou: A really light nose which begins with light oak fresh vanilla pods and Ecuadorian dark chocolate
@weheartwhisky: tobacco on the nose with toffee apple, figs again, vanilla pods and creme caramel
@themisswhisky: Nose: Peaches, cherries and grassy note found in 12 comes back but more sour, silage now for me
@TheWhiskyBoys: Rich gold in colour, nose - florist shop fragrance. Bourbon infused fruit cake.hint of peat
@steveprentice: Late autumn gold in colour. A fabulous nose, juxtaposed fresh fruits but old wintery fruits at the same time, but married together very happily. Earthy mossy dunnage cask oak notes with apples around it in harvest festival style
@lucycryle: Toasted seeds are all over this palate, followed by very ripe 

Whisky Discovery #424

The Glenlivet Alpha NAS (50% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £100.00 70 cl
Whisky Discovery
The Glenlivet Alpha was released on the 8th of May, 2013 A unique new whisky, limited to just 3,350 bottles, with only 600 bottles available for the UK. This has been released without any details about the cask maturation or any tasting notes, even the colour of the whisky was mystery as packaging consists of a solid black bottle. 

So what Did We Think?

Kat: Nose:  Your first hit by the almost overpowering aroma of those foamy banana sweets but this does take a back seat to allow the other flavours to come through, but still lingers in the back ground. This is followed by raw dark chocolate chip cookie dough, fresh strawberry and vanilla ice cream milkshake, Madeira cake (like the 15 year old),  and some butterscotch. 

Taste:  This reflects the nose beautifully with some spicy warmth from black peppers. This is also a full bodied whisky but not with the dark roasted qualities. Maybe full bodied is not the right description, perhaps saying it has richer flavours is more accurate. 

Finish:  Warming, long peppery finish. 

Dave: Well I can confirm it certainly wasn't pink as @whiskycast tweeted to see if the PR team would bite! As I poured the reassuringly whisky coloured golden liquid into the glass it reminded me of rhubarb and custard sweets from when I was a lad. The nose came across as fresh and clean. Tropical fruits started to develop, and a sweet melon note, I couldn't remember the variety, but I remember finding them in France a little while back at a family wedding. Alongside the melon there was honey mango, passion fruits, and citrus flavours oozing from it, limes, lemon drizzle cake. After a little while in the glass some spicy wood notes started to develop. I was keen to taste this one!

It was very light and fresh on the palate, getting back towards a summery garden dram. The  tropical fruits picked up on the nose come through on the palate too still there. There was a creamy vanilla note before the spices started to build with some peppery heat before settling back to being smooth and creamy.

The peppery spice remained on the finish, while starting to turn quite dry, similar to finishing a Fino sherry.

What did the others think?
@TheWhiskyBoys: Colour pale sunrise yellow gold. nose, mixed soft fruits and heather honey and bounty bars
@themisswhisky: Wowzers - waves of tropical fruit hit the nose with a backbone of spicy intrigue on this 
@champdenwhite: Different from others, yet still that family backbone, very well integrated wood, so much so it's just there
@lucycryle: Smells like a lemon drizzle cake I use from a family recipe - slightly undercooked to give a creamy sweet flavour
@EdinburghWhisky: Palate: grapefruit, pears, gooseberry, lime, lemon. It's like a very high quality pinot gris
@ifotou: Gentle bourbon influence with freshly scraped vanilla pod mixing with red crunchy apple fresh pineapple chunks and a touch of caramel

Our favourites?

Kat: Out of the four whiskies, my favourites are the 18 year old then the Alpha. For my taste, I find the 12 and the 15 year old too light and much prefer the fuller richer flavours of the others. However my absolute favourite, from what I’ve tasted so far from Glenlivet has to be the 25 year old. I had this at Whisky Live earlier this year but sadly didn’t take tasting notes at the time. Fingers cross, I will be able to taste it again soon and will be sure to post my thoughts. 

Dave: I totally agree with Kat (and Ian Logan!) the 18 Year Old was my particular favourite of the four, and was feeling rather smug with myself as I had only recently bought myself a bottle of it which was unopened at the time of the tweet tasting. The Alpha is an exceptional whisky with bags of fruit. I'm a little sceptical of the marketing campaign, however it is very brave of Glenlivet to release a whisky with no information at all. Information is slowly being revealed through their website and Facebook pages and I've recently learnt that it is a marriage of two cask types, first fill bourbon, and second fill new wood. Unfortunately I expect much of this to be snapped up by collectors, and not drunk - it should be, because it is very very good. I was also impressed with revisiting the the core expression, 12 Year Old is a great re-discovery and I would be very happy to have a bottle of the 15 Year Old French Oak on my shelf.

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

Yet another great experience and another highlight of our whisky journey, with three new discoveries for us, Tweet Tastings really are a great way to taste whisky.

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, International Brand Ambassador Ian Logan @iantheguardian to all the team at @The_Glenlivet and of course the tweet tasters.

This events tweet tasters were:
@TheWhiskyWire @EdinburghWhisky @WeHeartWhisky @MasterOfMaltJM @themisswhisky @TheWhiskyBoys @cowfish @whiskycast @Whisky4Everyone  @malthound @ScotMaltWhisky @themaltedmuse @TheWhiskyLounge @ifotou @whiskywardrobe @thinkingdrinks @GuidScotchDrink @WhiskyDiscovery @steveprentice @Girl_Whisky @dramstats @WhiskyDiscovKat @PlanetWhiskies

For more information see: and

Friday, 24 May 2013

Balblair Tweet Tasting

I was really excited to receive an invitation to this tweet tasting featuring three Balblair vintages including an exclusive single cask only available through Master of Malt. I have tasted a number of Balblair vintages at various whisky shows and have been a bit of a fan, but my blog posts for individual expressions have been lacking and I'm hoping to change that soon.

I wasn't immediately sure what we would be receiving through the post, but arriving in good time were three vintages, two of which I had come across before and one new Whisky Discovery. I had originally planned to be at the office for the day of the tweet tasting, but right at the last minute received a text from my boss asking me to stand in for him at a Trade Show in Earls Court. Not knowing what time I would be getting home from London, I went armed complete with the three samples and nosing tasting glasses so I could attend and join in wherever I was.
Just managed to get home in time for the start
I managed to get home in time for the eight o'clock start, but unfortunately my home Internet decided it would drop out halfway through the first dram, having only posted my first few notes. OK, so I could have carried on using my phone on 3G, and in hindsight could have created a hotspot on the phone, but I'd just spent three days commuting in and out of London running our stand at the Railtex trade show, was really tired and so carried on tasting the three drams in my own time while writing my notes down on paper - the old fashioned way. 

We started with the 2nd Release from the 1997 Vintage:

Balblair 1997 Vintage, 2nd release (46% abv, bottled 2012)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £53.00 70cl
Following the success of the initial release, the 1997 Vintage returned in 2012 with more maturity. From first refill American oak ex-bourbon casks, bottled at 46% abv, non chill-filtered and natural colour this has a lovely golden amber colour. I first tasted this at The Birmingham Whisky Club Show last December, though wrote only the briefest of notes at the time.

So What Did I Think?

Nose: Lots of fruit here, a touch tropical with pineapple for sure, some classic Balblair banana notes too. There's creamy vanilla, peach or nectarine, coconut, and apples. With a little air the coconut is really coming out and I know coconuts - our house is full of them! The nose evolves after a little time into rich creamy toffee notes.

Palate: Quite sweet yet malty to begin with then turning more cheesecake like, creamy and sweet with a little ginger spice. Oily and mouth coating feels very rich and smooth before some spicy pepper builds.

Finish: It finishes with some light chili heat (well, light for me as we eat a lot of chillies at home) there was some woody notes and it was quite a dry finish. 

Verdict: Looking back through my scribbled notes from the Birmingham, I noted that I liked this more than the very delicious 2002 vintage, and found pears and small finger bananas on the nose. Great to re-visit this and it would appear that it was just as good as the first time around!

So what did the others think?
@yoavgel: Nose: creamy, light lovely vanilla aromas hiding beneath a river of fruits - pears and apples comes to mind. sweet honey too
@Whiskylassie: My first thought on the nose for 1997: fresh cut hay after harvest, very clean and green
@ansgarspeller: Smelling a lot of fruits in there, dwelling through the grocery right now.
@TIA568B: Palate. opal fruits and a little white pepper, but mainly opal fruits, which were rebranded a year after this was distilled
@HMcnee: Taste sweet, light with a bit of spice and i don't mean old spice. Nice clean, refreshing though quick finish
@rodbodtoo: Palate: really bright tangy lemon (lemon sauce? Lemon meringue? Lemon sorbet? And smooth and warming
@saint_jimmy: Finish: Gentle and silky finish. Soy milk, butter and dates

Whisky Discovery #419

Balblair 1990 Vintage, Cask 1466 (50.4% abv, bottled 2013)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £125.00 70cl (only available from Master of Malt)
This 1990 Vintage is a Balblair with a difference, whether by accident or design this unpeated spirit was aged in an American oak barrel which previously held a maturing Islay malt. (I believe the peated Penderyn was originally accidental, although the peated cask Balvenie was by design.)

So this Single Cask vintage has acquired its smoky flavour through non-traditional methods, and so warm, peaty flavours have been introduced to the spirit through the wood. It's a highly unusual expression of Balblair, the residual peaty character of the Islay-seasoned wood had a significant influence on the maturing Balblair spirit over the 23 years of ageing, but not so much as to hide the distinctly fruity and spicy house style. This single cask bottling is available exclusively from Master of Malt (

So What Did I Think?

Nose: I found this to be a little chalky upon pouring, but then as it settles in the glass the gentle peat reek started to emanate, building gradually with a sweet fragrant smoke. There were hints of toffee apple and an orange note, I started picking up those old fashioned aniseed balls too.

Palate: The peat seems more prominent on the palate, although comes across as quite sweet. A rich malty fruit cake came to mind as I scribbled my notes. Plenty of warming spices too with cracked black peppercorns.

Finish: Quite a long finish with a sweet fragrant smoke, gentle pepper spice and even a light salty note

Verdict: An interesting peat infused version of a classic Balblair.

So what did the others think?
@ansgarspeller: Nose; citrus, salty, pepper, coriander, ginger, slightly smoke far away, orange, floral, butterscotch and red apple?
@mynameisgone: Nose, very lightly smoked pear drops with a hint of smouldering hay
@bumpythechemist: More smoke than peat, melon apple and pear on the nose
@sjoerd972: Palate has pepper, light peat, a bit more wood with apple and pear, and a touch of salt.
@Whiskyblogg: Lovely tannins on the palate, like that thin peel on almonds and butterscotch of course. I get a wee bit of ginger in this one too
@Quintsharktours: Wow the taste of the 1990 is immense oily wood smoke leading to spices and citrus, cracked black pepper slight taste of treacle
@yoavgel: Palate: oh my... gentle peat and brine. oily and chewable. then the fruits comes up.apples, Chinese fried banana desert

Whisky Discovery #152

Balblair 1975 Vintage, 2nd release (46% abv, bottled 2012)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £220.00 70cl 
I'd first tasted this in an earlier tweet tasting and it was fantastic then, so it was good to be able to revisit this second release of this 1975 Vintage bottled last year. For some reason I didn't write a post back then, I think I was unable to attend the actual tweet tasting as had been sent off somewhere for work at the last minute. It was registered as Whisky Discovery #152 in the liquid log and I started a draft post, but never completed it.

This Balblair, now at least thirty six years old was matured in American oak ex-sherry (Fino) casks, and bottled at the usual 46% abv, non chill-filtered, and natural colour, of course.

So What Did I Think?

Nose: For me this opened up with the classic Balblair banana notes, and it was the first thing I wrote down in my book. Not fresh green bananas, but very ripe, perhaps over-ripe this time, There is a wonderful rich spiciness to the nose too, which slowly reveals itself with a little time, cinnamon and licorice  Fruits start to come forward, dark and dried fruits Cherry, prunes, rich dark orange marmalade  dates. Wood and leather notes develop too; old polished oak and musty leather, perhaps even a little pipe tobacco - fabulous nose

Palate: The banana note comes through on the palate for me too on this rich and mouth coating dram, Wood tannins and tobacco notes more prominent than on the nose along with raisins and nuts, becoming quite dry towards the end.

Finish: Long warming and finishing quite dry

Verdict: I expected this to be a little lighter in profile coming from a Fino cask, but it comes across as a rich luxurious whisky with a fabulous nose. I certainly consider myself to be very lucky to get the opportunity to re-visit this outstanding vintage. £220 is a considerable wedge of money to spend on a bottle of whisky, but this is really quite special.

So what did the others think?
@LaCaveDeCobalt: This has a thickness, even on the nose, with a toffeeness moving to a light peatiness, evolving into an oaky loveliness.
@galg: Nose: used bookshop up front. , some peat , yes peat, prunes too , wooden shelves
@rodbodtoo: Nose: relaxed, mellow. Old wood, a mineral note, but still there's some citric fruit 
@ifotou: Nose grassy floral almost grain/lowland like, some honey & vanilla in there a touch of green leaves with some twinings green tea
@Whiskylassie: I love the way this one envelops your nasal passages and takes you back in time, old leather, books, a bit of dust...
@DH17slijterij: A great example of an amazing -older- sherried whisky. Not to much, just perfect. Leather, prunes, cacao, a little bit of tobacco

I didn't have a full list of Tweet Tasters taking part, and I think some of the participants did not receive their samples in time for this event. As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #Balblair hashtag on twitter for the full story.

Yet another great experience and another highlight of our whisky journey, with just the single new discovery, but it was great to re-visit the other two, and finally get some notes posted!

A massive THANK YOU to Lukasz Dynowiak from Alembic Communications Ltd (@alembic_tweets) to the team at Balblair, (@Balblairwhisky) and of course the tweet tasters.

For more information see: and

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Whisky Discovery #409

Talisker Port Ruighe NAS (45.8%)
Island Single Malt
circa £45.00 70cl
This is the second of two new recently introduced Talisker whiskies which we have been fortunate to receive review samples of. It's also the first ever Talisker release which has been double matured in ruby port casks.

It has been named Port Ruighe after the ancient name of the principal town and port on the Isle of Skye Portree or Port Righ to use it's current Gaelic name. Like the recently released Storm, Port Ruighe is a permanent addition to the current core range of single malts.

Master Blender Maureen Robinson explains: “Talisker Port Ruighe is a combination of spirit that has been matured in American Oak and European Oak refill casks in the traditional manner along with spirit that has been filled into specially conditioned deeply charred casks. The spirit is then finished in casks that have previously held Port Wine which endows it with spicy fruit notes. These bond elegantly with that clean, fresh smokiness that signals its essential Talisker character.”

So What Did We Think?

Kat: Nose: Wood charcoal, fresh Victoria plumbs at peak ripeness, little bit of mahogany wood, sticky raisins, butter notes, spices – cloves & cinnamon. Overall reminds me of very rich fruit cake. I swear I can even pick out a bit of blanched almonds. With water it’s like a dampened fire, more mossy earthy smells, instead of fruit cake it’s more Victoria sponge, and the only spice present is sweet cinnamon. 

Taste: Initially a sweet/sour taste, not unpleasant but hard to described, almost like Balsamic vinegar. This doesn't stay for very long, is replaced by maple syrup notes with a melt-in-the mouth quality, wood notes and wood smoke follows (their signature flavours as you would expect), spices – just cloves this time, towards the end there was some bitterness and oil from lemon zest. This bitterness and the smoky characters balances out the sweet notes so it’s not sickly sweet. With water, it becomes more smooth and silky. Is sweeter but mellow, with some smoke which reminds me of the smell of pipe tobacco, or cigars. And instead of raisins, it’s more like sultanas, not as rich. No spicy 

Finish: Tingly warm from spices (more from cloves), leaving a little bit of a dry mouth feel with bitter black coffee notes at the end. A long lingering finish. With water it is not as intense, there is still some warmth, little bit of spices with wood smoke at the end. 

Overall it’s a very nice dram, which is just as nice with or without water, would very much depend on my mood but I do like it’s adaptability. Short summary I would say robust and punchy without water, mellow but still retains a full body character with water. 

Dave: The nose comes across as sweet with strong notes of caramel at first before that peppery maritime note Talisker is famed for comes through. With notes of oiled hemp rope, damp peat and a touch of brine, the Port cask influence brings the fruity flavours of ripe plums, and throughout there's a sweet smokiness.

This is really quite smooth and mouth-coating. It's sweet to taste at first, before a peat reek comes through before the hot pepper builds and fades back to a creamy smokiness. The ripe plums come through on the palate and there is even a hint of cherry. The finish is long and lingering with a drying smokiness.

Verdict: Again I really quite enjoyed this one, am I going to rush out and buy a bottle? Probably not, as previously mentioned on the Storm post, my wish list is long and I really want to add a bottle of Distiller's Edition and their 18 Year Old to my shelf beforehand, but I would happily have this on my shelf.

And finally, many thanks for Talisker's PR team for sending us the sample, photograph and information. For more information take a look at their website;  Talisker Whisky

Monday, 6 May 2013

Three evenings at SMWS London

I don't often get the opportunity to spend an evening in the SMWS's London headquarters but a recent Trade Show held at Earls Court had me commuting down from Bedfordshire for three consecutive days. (I was originally scheduled for just two days manning our stand at the RailTex exhibition but my MD pulled out of his final shift and called me in at the last minute).

It so happens that 19 Greville Street, the London home of the SMWS, lies on the Bedford to London main line just a stones throw from Farringdon, and so my mission was to ensure I went home from Earls Court via Farringdon underground. If they had been open early for breakfast I would have made sure I was there for that too!

On my journey home after the first day of the show I could only stop for a couple of drams as I had foolishly left my car at the station and would have to drive home later. I carefully read the current out-turn and found an interesting bottling from Jura's only distillery, so first on the menu was 31.26

Whisky Discovery #410

SWMS 31.26 'BBQ Smoke by a Rolling Sea' 24 Year Old (53.6% abv)
Highland Island Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
I'd not come across a club bottling from the Isle of Jura before and was really looking forward to this recent release. Distilled on 27th September 1988 this was matured for 24 years in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead, resulting in just 262 bottles at 53.6% abv)

It certainly didn't disappoint with some smoky aniseed and plenty of brine on the nose, along with the sweet scent of butterscotch popcorn. The peat smoke was much more forward on the palate, with a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce and earthy notes.

Knowing that I could only have one more dram I asked Phoebe (@whiskybars) for a recommendation and this recent bottling from the Ardbeg distillery was selected.

Whisky Discovery #411

SWMS 33.125 'Salted Caramel Lollipop' 7 Year Old (64.4% abv)
Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
I love a peaty Islay whisky and this complemented the Jura perfectly. So this young Ardbeg was distilled on the 9th May 2005 and matured for just seven years in a first fill barrel yielding just 250 bottles at an impressive 64.4% abv.

It was delicious and just what I was expecting; lots of smoky peat, with notes of tobacco and leather on the nose. It started off a little medicinal to begin with on the palate but settled down to be more sooty. with some sweet smoke and a little brine.

With my fix for peat satisfied I made my way back to Farringdon Station, jumping on the first train heading towards Bedford only to find that the train I had jumped on was going to go right past my station without stopping. My wife and her friends had done just this only the week before, and I remembered laughing at them asking why they never read the information board beforehand, and here's me doing exactly the same thing. Unlike them I heard the train announcements on the journey (they would have been far too busy talking) and so made plans to hop off at Luton to wait for the next train that would stop for at my station.

Day 2 For my second day of playing commuter I'd organised being dropped off at the station in the morning so I would be able to have a couple of extra drams after the show. 

My show partner for day two was our Production Manager, Peter. I've worked with Peter for 15 years and we've had a few beers over that time, but never a whisky. Peter lives along the same main line into London, so it was fairly easy to convince him that we should stop off for a drink or two on the way home from the show. I had told him about the SMWS lounge and he was keen to find out more. With Peter not being a whisky drinker we started with a beer, settling for a 'Bitter and Twisted'  from the Harviestoun Brewery while I explained how the SMWS started and as we started reading our way through the menu, the numbering system and how the wonderfully inventive names are created along with the sometimes contradictory tasting notes printed on the labels.

Since 'converting' to whisky I have been very keen to preach what I have learnt so far and to demonstrate the vast range of smells and tastes that can be found in the different expressions.  Our first dram was chosen for us, and with the help of Sam (@DramforSam) we tried to convey some of the wonders that always amaze me in some fine whisky.

Whisky Discovery #412

SMWS 59.43 ''Caramel Swirl Ice Cream' 29 Year Old (56.4% abv)
Highland Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
We started of with one of the special 30th Anniversary bottlings and a 29 year old from the Teaninich Distillery. I'd not heard of this distillery before and had to look it up in Malt Yearbook to find our more! The majority of this whisky produced at Teaninich is used in the Johnnie Walker blends and it is all matured off site.

So this anniversary dram was distilled on the 8th November 1983 and matured for 29 years in a refill hogshead yielding 252 bottles at 56.4% abv

This started with sweet fruity notes, especially pineapple, and there was plenty of vanilla caramel too. It was quite dry on the palate, black tea like, yet still quite sweet and creamy, a great start to our evening!

For our next dram I thought we should try something young and lively, light and fragrant and Sam chose this Mortlach for us. I tend to think of Mortlach as a sherried whisky, usually with an element of 'struck match' to it but this was not the case with this single cask offering:

Whisky Discovery #413

SMWS 76.95 'Tropical Fruit Salad' (58.2% abv)
Speyside Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
A ten year old distilled in 2001 matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead yielding 307 bottles at 58.2% abv. Tropical fruit is what it said on the label, and tropical fruit is what we got!

After two quite light fruity numbers I wanted Peter to experience a sherry cask and asked Sam to find a suitable number. An eleven year old from the Glen Moray distillery was poured

Whisky Discovery #414

SMWS 35.86 'A Sumptuous Breakfast Dram' 11 Year Old (59.3% abv)
Speyside Lossie Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
A fabulous contrast to the first two drams which was immediately noticed by my guest. This Glen Moray was distilled on 17th May 2001 and matured in a First-fill ex-sherry butt yielding 629 bottles at 59.3% abv

With a fabulous rich nose of toast and rich marmalade, polished wood and dates. Wonderfully rich on the palate with a heavy fruit cake, perhaps just the hint of struck match? Peter's first thoughts when nosing this whisky was that it reminded him of the gas used in the dentists when he was a child, and I told him that there were no right or wrong answers, it's all perception from your own experiences.

With a tick in the box for a sherry cask malt, I though I would try to explain the difference between a single malt and a single grain. Sam recommended his current favourite and poured us our next dram

Whisky Discovery #415

SMWS G4.2 'Attractive spirit in a cloak of oak' 28 Year Old (55.4% abv)
Single Cask Single Grain Whisky
A single cask grain whisky from the Cameronbridge Distillery, distilled on the 6th April 1984 and matured in a refill ex-bourbon hogshead for twenty eight years, yielding just 218 bottles at 55.4% abv

I explained to Peter the differences between grain whisky and single malts, and that the majority of whisky made is grain, and used for blended whisky. I told him what I had recently learnt following our Glory of the Grain tweet tasting a few weeks back, and that a good single grain whisky is all about the wood it's been matured in.

There was plenty of wood notes in this one, it reminded me of the wood shop we had at the yard, where we would season some of the best cuts of wood naturally. There were also notes of tobacco and sweetness of a rich honey. Quite bourbon-esque on the palate, sweet with a hint of liquorice.

I was keen to show Peter some peated whisky next and so we moved our tasting journey across to Islay. Sam picked this next one as it was a good balance between the peated spirit and a sherry cask

Whisky Discovery #416

SMWS 3.193 'Baby Faced Arsonist' 14 Year Old (57.7% abv)
Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
So this Bowmore was distilled on the 25th September 1997 and matured in a refill sherry but for 14 years, yielding 601 bottles at 57.7% abv

A lovely sweet scented smoke came across on the nose, but there was a definite maritime note underlying with a salty seaweed type note. On the palate the maritime note was foremost to me with smoked mackerel with honey and mustard. I loved this and thought it was a great introduction to the peated spirit

With time ticking on, and now knowing that I had to make a return journey the following morning (my notice came via a text message during our adventure) I went back to Sam for our last dram for the evening. I wanted something a little more medicinal.

Whisky Discovery #417

SMWS 53.176 'Pain is so close to Pleasure' 20 Year Old (56.6% abv)
Islay Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
What a fabulous name for this twenty year old Caol Ila. It was a single cask Caol Ila that started me off on my whisky journey, so a fitting end to the evening? Distilled on the 17th January 1992, this was matured in a refill hogshead for twenty eight years yielding 285 bottles at 56.6% abv

Great Islay nose with heavily peated notes, although by no means as heavy as a Laphroaig or Port Charlotte (I'll try that with Peter next time). Wood smoke and barbecued mackerel complete with burnt skin, a touch of menthol too. It's peaty on the palate and quite different to the previous Bowmore. 

A perfect end to our evening which had me savouring this for the first part of the journey home. So what was our favourite? Peter really liked the sherried Glen Moray, 35.86 which I must admit was a damn fine dram (I went back the following evening with every intention of revisiting it alongside 35.85, but there was none of the earlier release left). For me The Caol Ila was my favourite of the evening, but it was a close call between the six excellent drams chosen.

Day 3 My re-arranged third day at the trade show was spent with our Sales Manager Philip, the man who first introduced me to whisky and so I was planning on taking him to 19 Greville Street after the show. Unfortunately he already had other commitments and so I returned alone.

It was a glorious afternoon in London so I started with a cold beer - I needed it! I sat down to review the menu while contemplating whether I should make an evening of it or return home in time to make the Balblair Tweet Tasting scheduled for later on in the evening. I had come prepared, bringing both whisky samples and glasses with me so I could take part wherever I ended up at eight o'clock. I decided (quite sensibly) that I should make my way home for it and settled for just one dram before catching the six o'clock train home.

Running through the menu I was intrigued by the description of this:

Whisky Discovery #418

SMWS 85.23 'Burnt granary toast with bramble jelly' 12 Year Old (59.4% abv)
Speyside Lossie Single Cask Single Malt Whisky
I later found out that this was from the Glen Elgin distillery, another new one to me and one you don't see around ordinarily. This distillery too is owned by Diageo and usually found in blended whisky only.

Distilled in September 1999 and matured for 12 years in an ex-sherry butt, yielding 367 bottles at 59.4% this has the typical sherry influence note of struck matches. I quite like the light sulpher notes when it's like this. There's also that yeasty note when making a granary loaf. It's sweet on the palate though as the label note says quite aggressive, though I'm not sure if that was because of the high abv. A drop of water gives that burnt toast note and the jammy note compliments the toast!

So in three evenings of dropping into the SMWS London home I had made nine new whisky discoveries, but to be fair I could find a new whisky discovery every evening for a long time in this place! I'd also introduced a friend to the pleasure of a quality single malt who has already asked when will we be going back again.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Whisky Discovery #405

Talisker Storm NAS (45.6% abv)
Island Single Malt Whisky
Circa £40.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
This is the first of two new recently introduced Talisker whiskies which we have been fortunate to receive review samples of. Storm is said to be an exuberant new expression, more intense and smoky, with enhanced and vibrant maritime notes, smoothly balanced with Talisker’s signature hot sweetness.

This new expression which will be a permanent addition to the Talisker family sits between the Talisker 10 and Talisker Distiller's Edition and  comes from a marriage of rejuvenated and refill casks at different ages and is bottled at the traditional Talisker strength of 45.8% ABV, without an age statement.

I remembered reading about 'rejuvenated' casks a little while back and so delved into my archive to re-read and digest.

Rejuvenated casks have been around for a few years now, ex-bourbon casks were subjected to steaming and scraping  thus creating a new wood surface which would be charred with a gas flame before re-using.

More recently the Cambus Cooperage installed a new system for rejuvenating casks. When casks come to the end of their usable life (usually after the fifth fill) they run through this new processing line which keeps all the cask parts together via a RF (radio frequency)  tag system. 

The casks are de-charred via a machine that shaves the inside of the barrel surface away, taking around 3-4 mm , exposing the new wood, this is said to be much better at removing the 'undesirable' elements than the original scraping or flailing process. The casks can then be re-charred before being put back into service

Whisky Science have a great article on cask rejuvenation and the effects on flavour profiles here but in short summation de-charred and re-charred exhausted ex-bourbon casks seem to produce more sweet and woody notes whereas refill casks tend to bring out the drier woody notes. 

So What Did We Think? 

Kat: Nose:  Rich and robust. Sweet slightly moist tobacco (half cigar, half rolling tobacco), juicy raisins, nice balance of wood smoke, and the smell of rolls of damp turf. 

Taste:  Slightly burnt caramel, some honey notes, warming mouth feel from fresh chillies, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, similar taste to Soreen loaf with butter without the heaviness, and lemon Lockets. 

Finish: Relatively long. Starts with the lovely wood smoke, followed by the warming chilli heat, and honey towards the end.  

Dave: I needed to reacquaint myself with Talisker 10 before I started tasting Storm. Talisker 10 was one of the early bottles I bought right at the beginning of this journey, it came highly recommended from the man who converted me to whisky, it was one of my early favourites. The bottle had long gone, and reading my blogpost for it gave me no real details (at the beginning it was just a 'liquid log' with very few tasting notes, if any). So it was off to the pub to catch myself a healthy sample to sit alongside it.

Colour-wise there is very little difference between the two expressions but as there is no mention of these being naturally coloured I would suspect that the harmony has been maintained with a drop or two of spirit caramel

On the nose there is gentle peat reek over the Talisker white pepper, however the seafood liquor experienced in the Talisker 10 Year Old is no longer there. There's a sweet note, honey like and slightly floral almost though certainly not delicate. The sweetness extends to the light smoky notes which start to slowly creep out of the glass. The maritime saltiness is there as is the white pepper.

This has a oily mouth-coating feel to it with sweet gentle honey notes, the spices build slowly giving that Talisker heat profile one comes to expect. The wild fennel note picked up on the 10 year old is evident here too, and that sweet smokiness found on the nose comes through on the palate too, but this is well balanced by the briny note.

It finishes with a smoky beach fire, salty driftwood smouldering. The white pepper remains with the sweet peat smoke and there's some woody notes too. Later the empty glass smells of that sweet smoke.

Verdict: not a bad drop of drammage, am I going to rush out and buy a bottle? Probably not, as my list is long and I really want to add a bottle of Distiller's Edition and their 18 year old to my shelf beforehand.

And finally, many thanks for Talisker's PR team for sending us the sample, photograph and information. For more information take a look at their website;  Talisker Whisky