Sunday, 29 September 2013

Reading List

The other day I was reading The Whisky Lassie's new blog post and her interview with Dominic Roskrow. At the beginning of the post Johanne tells us that she has always been a writer, something that I have never professed to be!

In my school days I was the most likely candidate for being thrown out of my English lessons. I'm not sure that I really did anything wrong, I just told it how it was, I was only interested in engineering and sciences, where everything was either right or wrong and there was no real 'middle ground', so when it came down to expressing how I felt about a particular poem, I usually let my teacher know exactly what I felt....that usually got me thrown out of the class. But why should I have feelings for a poem or a story? It was just a group of words, and certainly not real and of any use to me at the time.

In retrospect it was the English teacher that was wrong, he was unable to convey his love of the English language across to me, and instead of persevering, decided it would be in my best interest to stand in the corridor outside the classroom during a considerable number of lessons. I'm still the same with poems, I don't really care for them, however have learnt to appreciate them.

However when reading Johanne's post, and before she introduces Dominic to her readers, she tells us about her favourite whisky writer, Michael Jackson. Michael died in 2007, long before I had started my whisky journey, and although I have heard only great things about the man, I've never read any of his work.
Not mine, but some of The Whisky Lassie's books
I took a look at the handful of whisky books in my collection, not enough attention had been paid to it and that must change, especially now the nights are drawing in at the end of a particularly fine British Summer. The first whisky book I read was Ian Buxton's 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die. This book was a major milestone. It opened my eyes to the whole world of whisky when I was looking for inspiration and direction to my own whisky journey. 

I also bought a couple of others books at the time, Jim Murray's Whisky Bible and Ingvar Ronde's Malt Whisky Year Book which gave me all of the technical data I often crave. 

Later additions include Richard Patersons's Goodness NoseIan Buxton's 101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die and Davin De Kergommeaux's Canadian Whisky, but nothing from Michael Jackson at all.

Not knowing where to start I thought I'd use the Whisky Fabric on Twitter and tweeted the question: What is you favourite whisky book? I was confident that some of Michael's work would be listed along with some other gems. This is the list of books I received and I've already put out a number of enquiries to start adding these to my reading list and bookshelf.
  1. Malt Whisky Companion by Michael Jackson
  2. World Guide to Whisky by Michael Jackson
  3. Whisky A World Guide by Michael Jackson
  4. Everyday Drinking by Kingsley Amis
  5. Raw Spirit by Iain Banks
  6. The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom by Alfred Barnard
  7. World Atlas of Whisky by Dave Broom
  8. Peat, Smoke and Spirit by Andrew C Jefford
  9. Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald 
  10. Whiskypedia by Charles MacLean
  11. Malt Whisky, the Complete Guide by Charles MacLean
  12. The Whiskies of Scotland by R.J.S. McDowell
  13. How to Drink by Victoria Moore
I've just secured a copy of Whisky by Aeneas MacDonald which I'm very excited about, and have ordered a couple of Michael Jackson books; Malt Whisky Companion (4th Edition) and World Guide to Whisky (1987).

I've also picked up a copy of Raw Spirit and will be trawling local bookshops to see what else I can dig out! As I get to them, I'll be posting reviews so keep a look out for them. In the meantime, if you have any others that you think I should add to this list - please let me know, and I'll update it! If you've read something you really liked, why not review it and send it to me, we'll post it here on our Whisky Discovery blog.

Slàinte! Dave

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Old Particular Tweet Tasting

Glasgow-based Douglas Laing & Co are independent Scotch Whisky bottlers and blenders. Founded in 1948 by Fred Douglas Laing, which in turn was passed down to his sons Stewart and Fred until May 2013 when the two brothers decided to split the family-owned company in two, after reaching an amicable agreement that secures the business for the next generation. The pair are now at the helm of two separate businesses that feature key roles for their respective children. 

Douglas Laing & Co has continued with with Fred Laing at the helm, and he has been joined by his daughter Cara as head of brands marketing.

Cara has brought considerable industry experience to the role, having moved from Morrison Bowmore Distillers, where she led the Bowmore and Glen Garioch brands as marketing manager. She is also a former global brand manager for the Isle of Jura single malt and has worked previously with both Dalmore and Whyte & Mackay.

This tweet tasting coincided with the launch of Douglas Laing & Co Ltd's new flag ship range 'Old Particular', a series of selected single cask bottlings and five blind samples arrived in good time at Whisky Discovery HQ for the tweet tasting with Steve Rush of @TheWhiskyWire and Cara Laing from @DLaingWhisky
Whisky Discovery
All set to go at Whisky Discovery HQ
The bottles were simply numbered one to five, no other information was given and all five were tasted blind and only revealed at the end of each tasting. Whilst we all tried guessing the distillery I don't think their were many 'Gold Stars' awarded for our whisky tasting prowess, although I did get the last one right on first nosing. Right from the start a new Whisky Discovery was recorded in the Liquid Log.

Whisky Discovery #524

Old Particular Auchentoshan 15 Year Old (48.4% abv)
Lowland Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC
Old Particular
Auchentoshan was one of only three remaining Lowland malt whisky distilleries, however recent openings and re-openings have increased that count to six now (Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie, Bladnoch, Daftmill, Annandale and Ailsa Bay) Founded in 1800 and located just on the outskirts of Glasgow, Auchentoshan is probably the most accessible Lowland distillery, being just a short taxi ride away from the city centre. Interestingly, Auchentoshan triple distills it's spirit which is said to give a lighter, more delicate and sweeter flavoured malt whisky.

This 15 Year Old 'Old Particular' Auchentoshan was distilled in October 1997, matured in a refill hogshead, and yielded 336 Bottles when bottled in August 2003

So What Did I Think?
The nose comes across as grassy initially with sweet floral notes before the vanilla starts to take over. Malty fruit follows, with apples, pears and the small of fresh Victoria plums (which came to mind as I had just been picking them from the garden) There's a leafy herbal element too, which I noted as Elderberry leaves while underneath the fruit there's a slate like note

The palate comes across much sweeter and more delicate than the nose was suggesting. A little less interesting too. Opening light and sweet you are met with a citrus zest and pepper 'zing' with a sherbet feel with a trace of cinnamon spice. The mouth feel turns creamy towards then end and finishes dry with a touch of salt. 

Verdict: I had an inkling that this one was Auchentoshan but didn't 'tweet up' at the time. This has an interesting nose but not meeting my expectations on the palate, perhaps too light and delicate for me? I've not tried many Auchentoshans in my journey to date although do like their Three Wood.

So what did the others think?
@cowfish: First dram has a nose with grass and leafiness, as well as spice and sweetness. Seems to be changing a lot
@LaCaveDeCobalt: First nose is a bit estery with green apple and pear notes. Also, something sweet like cotton candy.

@jalcock1982: Nose: vanilla, apple, grassy, very sweet, toffee, pear drop, boiled sweets. mouth watering
@MasterOfMaltJM: Nose: Apple, vanilla, touch of honeycomb and maltiness. Dried papaya. Wet rock/shell.
@steveprentice: On the palate this is much smoother than I expected, creamy, rich, malty, slight coastal notes and apples.
@andrew1bardsley: Warm in the mouth, with a mellow spice to it. Less fruit than I was expecting. Classic American oak flavours
@sjoerd972: Taste: not too sharp, some vanilla, grass, lemon oil, granny smith, simple syrup, white tea.

Whisky Discovery #525

Old Particular Caperdonich 18 Year Old (48.4% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
circa £76.00 70cl
Old Particular
The Caperdonich Distillery is one of our 'lost' distilleries. Although founded in 1898 it had a very short life before being resurrected in 1965 and ran until 2002 and later demolished in 2010. I've only ever tasted one Caperdonich before

This 18 Year Old 'Old Particular' Caperdonich was distilled in June 1995, matured in a refill hogshead, yielding 312 bottles when bottled in August 2013 

So What Did I Think?
A gentle delicate nose that needed teasing out. Spicy initially with a little menthol too. There's a hazelnut nuttiness before some softer fruit notes develop with waxy apples, but dry with soda water and a chalky note. The nose was much more restrained than the first dram of the evening and to be honest, was not doing a great deal for me so wanted to move on quickly to taste it

As a complete contrast to the Auchentoshan, the palate was much more interesting than the nose. Sweet, rich and malty with sultanas, vanilla cream and a dab of sherbet. There's a grapefruit pith note towards the end along with some gentle aniseed spice

Verdict: I didn't have a clue before the reveal, although I was beginning to think Speyside. While the nose was perhaps a little to delicate for me to appreciate fully in the time we had during the twitter tasting, the palate more than made up for it and I really enjoyed this super smooth 'Speysider'.

So what did the others think?

@MaltReview: Nose: More muted than the first. Much more a kind of heady wood and cream cheese aroma. Understated, yet subtle.
@MCRWhiskyClub: Nose Light, vanilla, lemon curd and then a rather sour note, coming back round to baked apples glazed with honey.
@PWulf: Very faint smell of an old leather boot? Swampy cellar
@MasterOfMaltJM: Palate: It's those slices of apple that are drying out (very specific!) that I had on the nose for me, only more so now!
@TheWhiskyWire: Is there such a thing as peach sherbet? If not I've just discovered it.
@LaCaveDeCobalt: Oily and creamy on the palate with salty/sugary notes. Very warming. Much more my kind of dram.
@rodbodtoo: The palate is malty and rounded. A wee bitty hot in the finish. Also getting fruity.

Whisky Discovery #526

Old Particular Glen Ord 16 Year Old (48.4% abv)
Highland Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC
Old Particular
I've not come across anything from the Glen Ord Distillery in my journey to date. Yes, I've heard of the distillery, but the only expression that I could think of was the 'Singleton of Glen Ord. I had to Google the distillery initially to find out where it is located (the Black Isle, Ross-shire) although later returned to my trusty copy of The Malt Whisky Yearbook for more details.

The Glen Ord Distillery is owned by Diageo and the majority of the Whisky made is used in the Singleton of Glen Ord range which is an exclusive to South East Asia although the 12 Year Old can be found in their visitor centre.

This 16 Year Old 'Old Particular' Glen Ord was distilled in April 1997, matured in a refill hogshead, yielding 396 bottles when bottled in August 2013

So What Did I Think?
Opening with malty berry fruits, there's a certain oiliness to the nose of this one. Not a heavy oily note, more of a light olive oil note. An earthy chars lies under with a touch of brine too.

The palate is rich, creamy, and very tasty with blackberries, a leafy herbal note that reminded me of brambles, white pepper and lemon zest, finishing with a little charcoal char and a maritime edge.

Verdict: I was impressed with the Glen Ord, and this quickly became my favourite of the evening so far. My stab at guess for the distillery was way off! this rime, and for the record I tweeted Glen Scotia, well I got half the name correct!

So what did the others think?
@MaltReview: Wow, radically different. Lighter, fresher, but still intense. Massive Jarlsberg cheese note there. Lively as hell.
@kristy_kristy: Nose: dark chocolate, creamy, quite savoury... Now cheese has been mentioned I can smell it.
@andrew1bardsley: bananas. Little less sweet but still a lovely nose.
@jalcock1982: Nose: strong cheese, meaty, difficult to get past at first, shortbread, creamy, vanilla, I like it.
@WorldWhiskyDay: I'm really enjoying this. Beaches, waves, honey, chimney smoke, sea spray! Superb!
@RLemkin: Initial mouthfull had me wondering what it'd be like to try to eat a forest floor.
@sjoerd972: Finish: oak, all of a sudden. Green fruit, bitter at that. gin-like, and engine grease.

Whisky Discovery #527

Old Particular Glen Scotia 21 Year Old (51.5% abv)
Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky
circa £85.00 70cl
Old Particular
Glen Scotia, another distillery I have had little experience of with only one Whisky Discovery recorded on the Liquid Log. Glen Scotia from Campbeltown, the Victorian Whisky capital of the world, is one of the three remaining distilleries from this region.

This 21 Year Old 'Old Particular' Glen Scotia 21 was distilled in May 1992 and matured in a refill barrel, yielding just 240 bottles when bottled in August 2013

So What Did I Think?
With the smells of sweet polished wood and barley husks initially on the nose this turns more earthy with a used Swan Vestas matchbox note to it too (like smelling the strike pad of the box). Fruit appears with dark sweet cherries.

The palate is sweet and earthy, oily peat smoke turning the sweet cherry a little sour, wit h a touch of brine too.

Verdict: I really loved this one and it became my new favourite of the evening. I was beginning to this that this was an old Glen Garioch, but again only got half the name correct. This is a superb Glen Scotia would love to have a bottle of this on the shelf.

So what did the others think?
@steveprentice: Gosh, this one's a slippery changing little one, had an Auchy Valinch nose at first, all gone now and creamy / fruity

@MCRWhiskyClub: Some sort of peppery steak sauce, this is an altogether different beast, very deep, meaty.
@rickfurzer: Nose opening into brazil nut toffee.
@TheWhiskyWire: A whole wealth of sweet & savoury evolving wonders. This dram just will not stand still on the nose.
@cowfish: Touch of the forest floor rancio to this one - damp earth, bark and leaves.
@rickfurzer: Palate: a lot of cocoa on the palate here and back on the Nose.
@MasterOfMaltJM: Palate: Viscous and seriously lip smacking with cigars.

Whisky Discovery #528

Old Particular Bowmore 25 Year Old (50.2% abv)
Islay Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC

Old Particular
From Islay's oldest distillery this 25 Year Old 'Old Particular' Bowmore was distilled in December 1987, matured in a refill hogshead, yielding 234 bottles when bottled in August 2013

So What Did I Think?
The instant I nosed this I was convinced I had an old Bowmore. The nose opens with sweet driftwood beach bonfire smoke and the smell of parma violets

The palate opens with a huge hit of sweet parma violets, much more floral than I was expecting. Once you get over the sweet perfumed notes the driftwood smoke returns, finishing with the gentlest of peat reek and the dying embers of that beach fire with burnt sand and sea salt.

Verdict: Whilst the sweet scented nose initially drew me in there was just a touch too much parma violets on the palate for me. I really thought that this was going to be my favourite of the evening it probably slipped back into second or third with the Glen Scotia in front and Glen Ord just pipping this Bowmore.

So what did the others think?
@steveprentice: Peat! Whoop. I suspect this is old, really old, and probably expensive. And not from Islay?! Humm, must ponder that.

@kristy_kristy: Nose: lightly peated strawberries and cream.
@sjoerd972: Oak leaf lettuce, lavender, some peat, cream and barley, chalk, parma violets. I like.
@jalcock1982: Nose: rum, raisin, smoke, coastal, salt, oily, sherry, faint sulphur, tempting me in.
@PWulf: There is floral fight in my nose: In the right corner heather and and in the left the champ violet.
@cowfish: It's hard to get past the big floral hit on the nose. If you're sensitive to it then it's a bit overpowering. And I am...
@rodbodtoo: Palate is sweet and salty, with quite an oily texture. Lovely
@MaltReview: It's almost a classically well-balanced peated whisky, but just turned up a notch. A charred wood influence here
@SimplzW: Wowzers, Packs a real punch! Salted caramel ice cream, with extra salt, lovely 

And finally.... 
As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #OldParticular hashtag on twitter for the full story. Being new single cask releases the were five Whisky Discoveries to record on the Liquid Log as well as a new distillery to log 

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire and Cara Laing from @DLaingWhisky for sending out all of the samples to us and of course the tweet tasters who were: 

@The WhiskyWire @MasterOfMalt @WorldWhiskyDay @PMaitlando @robertcjackson @jalcock1982 @WhiskyDiscovery @SmokieChops @kristy_kristy @Grahamyus @kizzsmyth @MaltReview @MCRWhiskyClub @rodbodtoo @SimplzW @janmccurdy @andrew1bardsley @steveprentice @cowfish @rickfurzer @andotron @LaCaveDeCobalt @sjoerd972 @JayDieNL @PWulf @fr1day 

For more information see: and

Monday, 23 September 2013

The Macallan Tweet Tasting

The Macallan 1824 Series Tweet Tasting
This was the official Tweet Tasting launch of the 1824 series of Single Malts from The Macallan. Four new expressions based upon colours with no age statement replacing the current 10, 12 and 15 year old single malts. I was really pleased to get the opportunity to taste these again, as although I was at the UK launch when brand ambassador Joy Elliot introduced them at April's Midlands Whisky Show I really wanted to revisit these.

The package from The Macallan was one of the best I've known in the Tweet Tasting series and had enquiries from enthusiasts the moment I posted a photo of the set on Twitter. I've since seen these sets on auction sites fetching incredible values. Mine is now fully emptied and safely stashed away, although open to offers!
The Macallan Tweet Tasting
The Macallan's whisky maker, Bob Delgarno has created each of the expressions by identifying the natural colours created during maturation in the different cask types and putting them together to create the character of each of the colours. As you progress up the range the whiskies, the colour becomes richer and the flavours more intense. 

All of these expressions are naturally coloured, no E150 has been added to achieve them, it has all been achieve by cask selection, which just shows what can be achieved by careful cask management.

Whisky Discovery #391

The Macallan Gold NAS (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £35.00 70cl
The Macallan Gold was released in late 2012, in fact I think it was first seen at The Midlands Whisky Festival last September. This is the entry level single malt of a series of colour-themed bottlings introduced to replace the distillery's age-statement expressions. Gold has been produced from 9 to 15 Year Old first fill and refill sherry casks and replaces the now obsolete 10 Year Old Sherry Oak and 10 Year Old Fine Oak expressions.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: This opens with lots of vanilla and lemon notes. Sultanas and honeydew melon are in the mix with a light linseed oil note too. After a short while in the glass sweet wood notes develop which were almost apple wood like to me. A drop of water really brings out the fruit; sultanas and raisins in a cake mix.

Taste: Smooth, creamy vanilla and some spicy ginger adding to the candied lemon peel and boiled sweets.

Finish: There's a good shake of pepper leaving the tongue and roof of the mouth tingling for a short while leaving the taste of sultanas behind while turning dry with the oaky tannins

What did the others think?
@mattveira: Fresh nose. Big hit of lemon citrus, then orange peel & soft sweetness of sorts. This sweetness doesn't eliminate the zest.
@WorldWhisky: Fresh and fruity nose. Summer in the glass! Citrus, apple, some acacia honey
@steveprentice: On the palate it retains the lightness that you found on the nose, it's easy on the palate, smooth and easy drinking. A little youthful tasting with summery grass notes alongside oaks and chocolate sprinkles. There's a pinch of spices, also green apples and other autumn fruits at the tail end.
@mynameisgone: Palate getting some chocolate mingling with the fruits now, still loving that dash of pepper that comes through.
@dvdbloke: Palate - Smooth and clean. More fruit on the palate than in the nose. Some Vanilla, apples, pineapple, with a peppery development. Very light and easy to drink.
@DramStats: Palate: Sweet early with fig rolls and milk chocolate, caramac bar and sultanas before it gets a little spicy

Whisky Discovery #392

The Macallan Amber NAS (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £45.00 70cl
Next in the 1824 series range is Amber which again has been matured in a mixture of first fill/refill sherry casks but with a higher proportion of European Sherry Oak in the make up. 

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Slightly richer than the nose of 'Gold' with the citrus notes becoming more orange like. There's a late summer meadow floral quality initially which richens with fruits, apples and sultanas complimenting the orange notes. As the nose develops in the glass vanilla pushes through with creamy toffee.

Taste: This is very smooth and creamy. Whilst opening with a gentle sweetness, soft pepper and ginger spices build, before fruit takes over with stewed apples, sultanas and raisins. The palate comes across as more 'rounded' than the Gold.

Finish: A fruity sweetness at first, more of those sultanas, this turns quite dry at the very end. Very drinkable

What did the others think?
@dvdbloke: Nose. similar, but more fruitier a nose than the gold. Apple, pineapple, lemons all up front.
@DramStats: Amber Nose: Vanilla, sherry soaked sultana, orange oil, lemon balm and freshly chopped braeburn apples
@ChrisWhiskyman: Hints of polished wood, raisin, sultana and a touch of grass
@whiskywardrobe: Nose is more Macallan; sultanas, oranges, wood and honey. Impressive!
@TheWhiskyWire: mmmmm toffee apples & lemon citron tart.
@abbeywhisky: Tropical fruits and toffee coming through the warmer the whisky gets... More vanilla, hints of almond

Whisky Discovery #393

The Macallan Sienna NAS (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £66.00 70cl
Sienna follows Amber both in depth of colour and price. The alcohol content has been increased to 43% abv too. Sienna has been matured in first fill only sherry casks. Containing older matured spirit that the first two expressions, and produced in smaller batches.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: A much heavier sherry influence immediately apparent, then overripe pineapple and orange oil, spicy too with cloves and cinnamon while vanilla trys to push through the cream sherry notes of raisins and dates. There is a 'dusty book' note to this too. With a little air polished wood is picked up

Taste: Rich and creamy, the sweet oloroso sherry notes coming through with figs, dates, dark chocolate and some cloves, white pepper builds around the periphery of this rich and creamy 'experience'. It finishes with more Oloroso Dulce notes making my mouth water yet at the same time the back of the tongue is drying. The finish is longer and the dryness has a sherbet edge

What did the others think?
@whiskywardrobe: Figs? Raisins? Orange zest? Spices? Awesome? Aye!
@ChrisWhiskyman: Touch of baked apple but a fresher edge. Hints church incense and violets
@whisky_facile: Clear red fruits, and very creamy: toffee, banoffee pie!, tarte tatin. A bit of pipe tobacco and nuts
@dvdbloke: Time gives some polished mahogany, leather, some tobacco. Its a beauty alright, chocolate orange. Scrumptious.
@TonyWTC: Smooth and luxurious. Wood spice kicks in and takes it through to the end
@steveprentice: On the palate this dram is still silky smooth, medium oils in your mouth with just a sprinkling more of spice, mostly due to the slight hike in ABV, which is a welcome thing (although still quite low for the price point). Hold it on your tongue and the spices dissipate leaving the buttery creaminess that you found on the nose, it's rich plum pudding with a small dollop of vanilla ice-cream that's all melted down.

Whisky Discovery #394

The Macallan Ruby NAS (43% abv)
Speyside Single Malt
circa £118.00 70cl
Matured in only the finest first fill Sherry casks, and containing the oldest spirit in the 1824 Series Ruby is the darkest and most expensive of the new range.

So What Did I Think?
Nose: Again starts dusty, Oloroso sherry is evident but not as sweet as Sienna. Rich dried fruits, notably figs and candied peels, spiced with cloves, and notes of tobacco with a trace of menthol.

Taste: Starts sweet and quite gentle, spices build, with pepper and ginger, all the time getting richer and darker. Cloves take over as it gets richer then the wood notes start to come through, old polished wood. The finish is long lasting reflecting many of the flavours experienced with the polished wood notes staying to the very end.

What did the others think?
@DramStats: This is what good first fill oloroso is all about
@FrazerJ: Nose rich fruit, slight nutty-esque.. /maybe coffee/coca edge? nose is best so far for me.
@whiskywardrobe: For me this one isn't so sherried... brown sugar, oranges, spices, cinnamon and woody
@BeckyPaskin: Taste: Figs, caramel, rich fruit cake, tobacco, cinnamon. Yum.
@caskfinishcom: Palate Ruby starts with a sweet and gentle taste with pepper and ginger getting richer and rich together with the citrus
@steveprentice: On the palate there's an instant hit of oak that quickly subsides into fizzy fruitiness, late autumn to winter fruitcake type notes; hedgerow fruits stewed for pudding with lashings of vanilla custard.The oak then returns on the finish, which is long and brooding, a full and frank fruity mixture that I love

My favourite of the four expressions when I first tasted these in April was Sienna and revisiting these again during this tweet tasting affirmed my earlier decision. Whilst all four are exceptional quality whiskies the balance of Sienna certainly appeals to my palate more than the other three, and is the most likely addition to my Whisky shelf later this year. 

If was was going to pick a second bottle it would be Amber, a very drinkable dram without breaking the budget. I really struggle to justify spending over £100 on a bottle of Whisky.

And finally....
As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #TheMacallan1824 hashtag on twitter for the full story. Ok so no new discoveries but an opportunity to revisit four new expressions and write some proper notes down.

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, Brand Ambassador Joy Elliott and all the team at @The_Macallan and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @WhiskyDiscovery @KirstyPryde1 @sjjgo @BeckyPaskin @LRWhisky @rodbodtoo @dvdbloke @steveprentice @TonyWTC @abbeywhisky @mattveira @simon_m_field @bumpythechemist @FrazerJ @mynameisgone @ChrisWhiskyman @rlemkin @dramstats @hoftj @whisky_facile @worldwhisky @caskfinishcom @whiskywardrobe

For more information see: and

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Four single casks from Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd.

Whisky Discovery
Four single cask samples arrive at Whisky Discovery HQ
Hunter Laing and Company was formed when the brothers behind Douglas Laing & Co Ltd. decided to split earlier this year. Stewart and Fred Laing went their separate ways commercially in May 2013 after running the company they inherited from their father more than 40 years ago. The brothers are now at the helm of two separate business featuring key roles for their respective children.

Stewart Laing has been joined by sons Andrew and Scott in their new venture, Hunter Laing and Co. Ltd. Retaining half of the original companies brands including Old Malt Cask, Old & Rare, Douglas Blend, John Player Special and Sovereign as well as it's bottling operation in East Kilbride.

Samples of four of their latest single cask releases were sent to me recently, three from their Old Malt Cask range and one from their Sovereign range.

Old Malt Cask is probably one of the most established brands in the single cask market. Invariably bottled at 50% abv, each expression is non-chill filtered and naturally coloured. 

Whilst releases are regular, being from single casks, the number of bottles available are of course, limited, being dictated by the original size of the maturation cask, and the 'Angels Share'. These releases are also spread amongst a number of retailers.

The Sovereign range does what Old Malt Cask does for Single Grain Whisky which looks to be bottled at natural cask strength.

I decided to sit down one evening and run through the range in age order, I'm an engineer and I need order, so this is the order they were listed in the Liquid Log.

Whisky Discovery #520

Old Malt Cask Braevel 15 Year Old (50% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC 70cl
Whisky Discovery
The Braeval Distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, currently owned by Chivas Brothers Ltd (Pernod Ricard). Founded in 1973 and originally called Braes of Glenlivet until 1994, it also went through a short period (2002-2008) of being closed or mothballed.

There are no official bottlings from this distillery with the whole production being used for blended Scotch. Independent bottlings come up from time to time, and this refill hogshead cask was filled in September 1997, and just 309 bottles have been released.

So What Did I Think?
The nose opens with a slightly charred wood note before settling down with sweet baked apples and lemon zest. Malty biscuit notes develop, not unlike Malted Milk biscuits, which is followed by vanilla creams.

On the palate this is not quite as sweet as the nose was suggesting, but has some lovely crisp pear flavours intertwined with the malty biscuit notes. Citrus flavours, more Mandarin orange than lemon pushes through while gentle cinnamon spice fleets across the taste buds. As the cinnamon fades a faint charcoal notes returns at the very end.

Whisky Discovery #521

Old Malt Cask Mortlach 18 Year Old (50% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC 70cl
Whisky Discovery
The Mortlach Distillery is another Speyside distillery and in terms of capacity is of a similar size to Braeval. Own by Diageo, Mortlach is a key component of their blended Scotch and in particular Johnnie Walker Black Label. The are no current official releases from Mortlach and so single cask releases are the usual route for the whisky connoisseur.

This 18 Year Old was distilled in June 1995 and matured in a refill hogshead yielding just 279 bottles when bottle in June 2013

So What Did I Think?
A sweet rich and malty nose with hints of dark chocolate right from the start. There are some sweet citrus notes alongside creamy vanilla toffee, Demerara sugar and honey. I love the sweet richness of this nose.

Matching the sweet nose, the palate meets expectations. It's rich and creamy and oh so smooth. Opening with the sweetness of honey, the woody peppery spice builds before revealing notes of malt, tangerines and chocolate.

Whisky Discovery #522

Old Malt Cask Ledaig 20 Year Old (50% abv)
Island Single Malt Whisky
Price TBC 70cl
Whisky Discovery
Ledaig is an odd one. Firstly it's not pronounced how it reads, Led-chig is a little closer, and is Gaelic for the original name for the area, apparently meaning 'safe haven'. Secondly the Ledaig Distillery is now known as the Tobermory Distillery. 

Founded as the Ledaig Distillery in 1798, the distillery was finally closed in 1975 following filing for bankruptcy  When it reopened in 1979 it was renamed Tobermory after it's location and is the only distillery on the Hebredian Isle of Mull.

Ledaig unlike Tobermory is distilled form heavily peated malted barley and reintroduced in 1996 when it was decided that they would recreate the old style of Tobermory Single Malt.

This 20 Year Old Ledaig was distilled in March 1993, matured in a refill hogshead and yielded just 162 bottles in June 2013.

So What Did I Think?
The nose is surprisingly light sweet and fresh. I was expecting a much mustier nose for a 20 Year Old, but this feels remarkabley lively. Sweet fresh green wheat and barley fields in warm summer sun come to mind, fresh beansprouts, quite herbal and 'hedgerow' like. Not the peaty monster I was initially looking for. Vanilla eventully breaks through but I was finding sherbet sweets; Refreshers and Flying Saucers.

While starting light and thin on the palate, it seems to noticeably 'thicken' in the mouth. sweet and malty, like chewing sprouting barley, turning creamy with vanilla, baked apples and lemon zest. Towards the end it turns more malty and woody with some pepper spice.

While I was initially expecting the Ledaig to be peated, it is certainly evident form my notes that the malted barley used in this distillation was not.

Whisky Discovery #523

The Sovereign Cameronbridge 23 Year Old (50% abv)
Single Grain Whisky
Price TBC 70cl
Whisky Discovery
The Cameronbridge distillery is said to be the largest of the grain distilleries in Scotland. Now owned by Diageo, Cameronbridge is no longer solely a large-scale grain Whisky distillery, being changed into a dual purpose site in the late 1980's manufacturing Grain Neutral Spirit for white spirits and sweetened products (Gin, Vodka and other flavoured spirits and liqueurs).

Ordinarily the grain spirit distilled and matured in oak is used in their blended Scotch but occasionally casks are matured for a considerable time resulting in long aged single cask releases such as this 23 Year Old, distilled in 1990 and bottled at cask strength in June 2013.

So What Did I Think?
The nose is very 'Bourbonesque' with vanilla, Demerara sugar, cloves, cinnamon and white pepper. There is just a hint of coconut too. On the palate again you could quite easily think you were sipping a Bourbon, the faint coconut notes picked out on the nose becoming more prominent. The spices build with cloves being the dominant flavour, remaining smooth and creamy with vanilla and more coconut  until rich, woody pepper spices close the experience, leaving a tannin dry mouth feel.

And Finally

Many thanks to Hunter Laing & Co Ltd for getting in touch with me and sending me these four samples. I've seen Old Malt Cask releases in a few Whisky shops before, but these were the first  I'd tasted on this journey to date. My favourite of these four would be the Mortlach.

I've not been able to find any of these releases for sale yet, hence prices TBC. Whether these are still available or yet to reach the shelves, I'm not certain.

To find out more about Hunter Laing & Co Ltd. check out their website

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Balcones Tweet Tasting

Balcones Whisky
I was very fortunate to be invited to join the Balcones Fifth Anniversary Tweet Tasting at the end of August. Although I'd tasted all of these before (and you can find out what I thought of them then by clicking this link), it's always good to join in with a tweet tasting and read what others think as they nose and taste the drams.

Kat and I helped out Balcones at Whisky Live earlier this year, so have had the great fortune to meet Chip as well as revisit all of the drams we'd previously tried. One of the 'secret' drams he brought over to the UK at Whisky Live was his 5th Anniversary Bourbon albeit that the official labels didn't arrive in time (or got held up in customs) and so the bottle had a packing tape label.

We first saw the 'real' 5th anniversary Bourbon at Imbibe Live in June and have been eagerly awaiting it's release.
Both Chip Tate, President and Head Distiller at Balcones and Winston Edwards, Brand Ambassador joined us from the United States and were tweeting in on the action and on hand to answer any questions.

Just for the record, all 100% of Balcones whisky is mashed, fermented and distilled at their distillery. They never resell whisky from other distilleries or source aged whisky barrels for blending under the Balcones label. This is authentic craft whisky. It has not been chill-filtered, coloured or otherwise unnecessarily tampered with to ensure that its full aroma and flavour are preserved.

Balcones #1 Texas Single Malt NAS (52.7% abv)
Texan Single Malt Whisky
Circa £75.00 70cl
This was the first Balcones we would pour at Whisky Live (if requested to run through the range) before we'd introduce the Blue Corn whiskies. This was first released in July 2011 and is a unique style of malt whisky, Texan style! Made from malted Golden Promise barley imported from the UK and made in the traditional way it would have been in Scotland right up through to the distillation process. The difference being the maturation; Balcones careful cask selection and management alongside the Texan climatic conditions.

So What Did I Think?
The nose on this has lovely sweet roasted malt notes, with hints of maple syrup and the smell of a wood shop. After a short while buttery notes start to evolve like butter melting in a frying pan. A drop of water really sweetens this nose and let's the fruit notes out, toffee apples and a little cinnamon 

The rich roasted malt notes come through on the palate, spiced with cloves and cinnamon. The wood shop notes come through as sawdust 

What did the others think?
@abbeywhisky: Nose soft vanilla, honey, chestnut stuffing, toasted malt, sweet orange zest, dried figs & a touch of maple syrup followed by hints of spice, cinnamon & nutmeg.
@ansgarspeller: Dark nutty raisin bread, with some almonds and pistachio. Sugar cane, vanilla, citrus, toast, sweet, pear, apricots, orange
@RLemkin: Sweet mixed fruits, cinnamon, something that reminds me of velvet.. so a wee bit musty?
@HMcnee: Malt, sweet, honey, candied orange peel, mixed spice almost like a rich fruit cake
@StewartCraigon: Mmm, creamy chocolate swirls in a pool of honey and orange jus.
@dvdbloke: Palate - oily, silky, burnt toffee/barley sugar. Certain creaminess, nutmeg spices and a dash of honeyed chilli.

Balcones Baby Blue NAS (46% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £55.00 75cl
This was the first Balcones we tatsed and it was Chip’s first whisky released from his new Texan distillery. Baby Blue, was the first whisky to be distilled (legally) in the state since prohibition.

This is a unique corn whisky made from atole, a roasted blue corn meal. Corn whisky isn't new, and common to American whisky making tradition, however Balcones are the only distillery to date to use a blue corn. This has become a favourite of Kat

So What Did I Think?
I've smelt the roasted blue corn as Chip brought over a bag of the stuff to Whisky Live, and as soon as I start nosing this dram was reminded of it. But as this starts to breathe the melted buttery notes start sneaking out with the slightest hint of well caramelised banana. It has a lovely sweet buttery nose.

At 46% abv I really don't think Baby Blue needs water. There's quite a lot of wood spice and some chilli heat on the palate at first, but this settles quickly, leaving an earthiness that I don't remember experiencing previously. It certainly doesn't taste as sweet at the nose suggests, however I think this would be perfect drizzled over vanilla ice cream, freezing the whisky first to thickened before pouring

It finishes with the earthiness and some aniseed, while being quite dry

What did the others think?
@MavDrinksCat: Whoa, momma. Baby blue is super creamy on the nose... 
@thomas_speller: Fat, salted butter, herbal and spicy too on the nose...
@StewartCraigon: Boiled milk from a saucepan on the nose, very malty, Ovaltine.
@TheWhiskyWire: Hot buttery sweet corn topped with autumn berry jam, yumzy! 
@emilymayfox: Palma violet hint with spice and pepper on the palate - bounces around your tongue!
@rodbodtoo: Baby Blue has a really soft, round mouth feel. burnt / creme brulee flavours, lovely.
@KirstyPryde1: Taste the oils on the tongue. Definitely has the chew factor 

Balcones True Blue 100 NAS (50% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £68.00 70cl
Out of the Balcones expressions currently available in the UK, True Blue 100 is my personal favourite. If the True Blue Cask Strength was available, I'd pick that, but this is the next best thing!

Introduced in 2012 this is 100 proof roasted blue corn whisky, a sibling of Baby Blue, but with deeper wood notes. it's made from the same select barrels of their blue corn whisky that have always gone in to their True Blue Cask Strength, but diluted down to 100 proof.

Since the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, '100 proof' has long stood for quality and authenticity. True Blue 100 carries on that tradition. 100% of the whisky in this bottle was born, raised, and bottled at Balcones-from mash to glass.

So What Did I Think?
True Blue is Baby Blue that's grown up, a lot spicier on the nose, with a little sourness too, an almost Balsamic sourness, with richer wood notes, clove oil, tee tree oil, coriander seeds and fennel . After a little while in the glass the sour note mellows, and becomes more tobacco like, drying tobacco leaves, sweetened with vanilla .

On the palate there is a woody char with a shot of licorice, but there's so much more. Wood notes remind me of the old boatyard I used to work at. 

Finishes with woody cloves and a slightly metallic taste

What did the others think?
@rodbodtoo: nose is suave, smooth. Like very expensive aftershave - lots of cedar & clove notes
@dvdbloke: Baby Blue with added OOOMPH. If it were possible to breath carameled treacle toffee I guess this is what it would feel like
@BeersIveKnown: Furniture wax, crème caramel and white pepper
@TheWhiskyWire: A Spinal tap version of Baby Blue with all its gargantuanly glorious blue corn bounty cranked up to 11.
@KirstyPryde1: Warm figs drizzled in honey, spicy, cloves touch of cinnamon, warm washing from the tumble dryer, vanilla
@petedrinks: Ppretty damn tasty - rich alcohol-soaked fruit, chocolate, slight tannic finish

Whisky Discovery #355

Balcones Straight Bourbon (53% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £65.00 75cl
As I mentioned earlier I've tasted this a few times and have been dying to get my hands on some. It was one of the highlights of Whisky Live London for a lot of people.

Chip decided that he should be marking the distillery's fifth birthday with the launch of something special and this Straight Bourbon is claimed to be Texas's first single barrel Bourbon release.

US Federal standards state that Bourbon is made from a mashbill that is at least 51% corn. This Balcones Bourbon is 100% Blue Corn

Bourbon has no minimum specified duration for its aging period, and spirit aged for as little as three months can be sold as bourbon. However to be called a 'Straight Bourbon' the spirit must be matured in virgin oak for a minimum of two years

Just 10 bottles from the 53-gallon barrel will be made available in the UK from mid-September with an RRP of £95 through whisky specialist Master of Malt.

So What Did I Think?
This packs a punch on the nose, you need to sneak up on it! It really is quite meaty on the nose, and was getting a burnt bacon note, maple syrup and a sweet wood smoke. Earthy notes start to come through once the initial alcohol burn lifts, spices with cardamom seeds, cloves, licorice and some mown hay notes too.  

The palate opens with rich spiced orange notes followed by a huge hit of chilli pepper heat. Once the burst of chilli pepper fades it thickens in the mouth, coating everywhere with a sweet and sour sauce. Softer spices follow, with some dark fruits, black cherry, blackberry turning earthy towards the end with the earthiness of turmeric right at the very end.

What did the others think?

@simon_m_field: Wow, the aroma is quality, very oaky and reminds me of a famous bourbon I wont mention !
@petedrinks : Dried citrus fruit, almond, molasses and did I mention a lot of alcohol
@KirstyPryde1: Sugar almonds wrapped in soft organza, musty like a vintage dress, warm hay, crème Anglais, star anise
@abbeywhisky: An inviting nose, pulls you in.... orange, touch of smoked wood & spice followed by dried pear, apricot & subtle vanilla
@BeckyPaskin: Bold and creamy with punchy toasted almonds, dried fruit and warm liquid caramel
@ansgarspeller: A full body, with a finish of some nuts, cinnamon, dark chocolate and coffee. has a bit more of a bitter in it then the 1st

Balcones Brimstone NAS (53% abv)
Texan Corn Whisky
Circa £65.00 75cl
Brimstone was launched in May 2011 and rather than using Scottish peat smoke, this 'one of a kind whisky' is smoked with sun-baked Texas scrub oak using Balcones own secret process. The result is a whisky full of fresh youthful corn and light fruit notes married with a bold smokiness.

Whether you like smoky whiskies, or just have a penchant for big, new flavours  Brimstone is sure to be memorable pour. Aromas of masa (a corn dough), Texan camp-fire and powdered sugar tempered with an almost salty goodness. Bold yet balanced, Brimstone is yet another Texas first from Balcones. Brimstone is the world's first wood smoked whisky ... a Texan camp-fire in a bottle. This is another of Balcones corn whiskies made from roasted Atole, the Hopi blue corn meal.

So What Did I Think?
When I first tasted it I got it immediately, all the BBQ sauce flavours, but once I picked up rubber on the nose these come straight to the fore for me every time I revisit. This evening was no different and it was like new school plimsolls! A drop of water tames the Brimstone rubber and the sweet and smoky BBQ flavours are back, perhaps that was where i was going wrong? 

This has such an insanely long finish that it's only place in a whisky tasting is the final dram as the smoky flavours will overpower everything else afterwards. If you have a few drams of this late into the evening I can almost gaurantee that I will wake up still living with the finish!

What did the others think?
@KiltedMoose: Nose: Smoking wood, honey-cured bacon, burnt salted popcorn, Dry roasted peanuts, dark chocolate, brown sugar.
@dvdbloke: Imagine pig skin was barbecued for 100 hours, and then its essence was magnified by the power of 7.6, and put in the glass
@glasgowgastro: Getting that smokey aroma, a bit peaty like some malts. 'Smokies' from Abroath (smoked haddock to non-natives)
@lvwhsky: Pretty unique stuff, Big mesquite woody note, sticky barbecue sauce, clove/allspice fragrance & an orange note
@rodbodtoo Black pepper, sezuan pepper, barbequed aubergines. Wow that's a different beast
@thomas_speller: A strange combination of thoroughly baked bacon, burned matches and honey on the palate. Not sure yet...
@abbeywhisky: Lovely spice & BBQ sauce flavours combine. Smoked ham, hint of salt. licking the edge of a really salty but tasty crackling
@KirstyPryde1: Can't get enough of the smoke, I love that there's a little rubber on the palate

And finally....
As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the  #BalconesWhisky hashtag on twitter for the full story. Although no new Whisky Discoveries to log, another entertaining evening revisiting the Balcones range currently available in the UK

A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire, Chip Tate and Winston Edwards from @BalconesWhisky, Emily Harris @emilymayfox from Mayfox Communications for sending out all of the samples to us and of course the tweet tasters who were:

@TheWhiskyWire @emilymayfox @beckypaskin @WhiskyMavericks @TheWhiskyBoys @LRWhisky @WhiskyDiscovery @Sherry_Ben @petedrinks @whiskyrepublic @abbeywhisky  @ardbaggie @beersiveknown @SquareMeal @rodbodtoo @dvdbloke @simon_m_field @rlemkin @HMcnee @paulnwright @glasgowgastro @KirstyPryde1 @TWLJoe @ansgarspeller @girl_whisky

For more information see: and