Monday 21 October 2013

Tweeddale Tweet Tasting

Whisky Discovery
I wanted to write this post a while back after meeting Alasdair Day at The Whisky Lounge London Festival in May. (another post still in draft form and needing finishing). I was actually working at the Show spreading the love for Balcones Whisky that afternoon, but before my session started got to meet Alasdair, hear the story of how it all began and revisit the second batch of his 12 Year Old Tweeddale Blend (first tasted at our 12 Blends over Easter) as well as taste the newly launched  batch 3.

Well the summer raced by with lots to do both at home and at work, and while we were still discovering whisky, as well as maintaining my mission statement of buying (at least) one bottle of whisky a month, the blog was left behind for a little while.

So it was down to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire organising this Tweet Tasting which prompted me to complete the blog post I had been putting together, adding two bonus drams to the original posting with samples from the now hard to find Batch 1 as well as the latest release, Batch 4.
Whisky Discovery
The carefully wrapped package of samples
Talking to Alasdair at the show back in May I asked him how it all came about.

Alasdair's great grandfather, Richard Day produced the Tweeddale Blend in Coldstream by the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders from 1899 until the beginning of the Second World War, however the history goes back further than that, being first created in the mid 1800's by J&A Davidson, brewers and blenders, first established in 1820.

From the age of 19, Richard Day started to learn the art of whisky blending, and throughout his career kept all of the details of his recipes, neatly written in his 'cellar book'. Richard eventually went on to take over the business, changing it's name to Richard Day and operated it right up until the beginning of the Second World War.

Alasdair's family all knew about the whisky blending heritage of course, and how it stopped when the last of  Richards casks were sold after the war. All that was left was the 'cellar book' that had the Tweeddale blend recipes listed, and they had often joked about re-starting the business using  his cellar book to recreate the blends, but it wasn't until 2009 when Alasdair established the company Stonedean Limited with the sole purpose of recreating one of his Great Grandfather's whiskies. 
Whisky Discovery
The Tweeddale Blend reborn
It took Alasdair until May 2010 to get the first batch of The Tweeddale blended and bottled. He was still working full time in his 'day job' back then, and was building this business in his spare time. He purchased nine casks of aged whisky, one grain and eight malts to produce the first batch. The grain and the youngest malt were 10 years old, and the oldest malt was a 21 year old Speyside.

The second batch was created in June 2011, and in this blend a 15 year old grain was used with the youngest malt being a 12 year old. It was this batch that received a liquid gold award from Jim Murray with a score of 94.5 in his 2013 Whisky Bible and Best Scotch Blended 12 years and under in the World Whiskies Awards 2013.

Every time J&A Davidson produced The Tweeddale Blend, each batch would be slightly different as it's produced from various quantities from single casks. Each batch requires some "new" casks to build the blend and so would be slightly different each time. Alasdair has decided to to maintain this process rather than build the blend to the same profile each time, thus creating a Limited Edition, Small Batch nature to the brand and tells me he has great fun choosing different cask types, sizes and ages while always keeping the backbone of the blend from the 'cellar book'

Alasdair added colour to the first two batches, as his Great Grandfather's recipe used rum or sherry for colour the blend, but of course could not use rum or sherry and label it as Scotch Whisky but  wanted it to be as close to the original recipe as possible. Building on the feedback from the first two batches, the 3rd and 4th releases are both natural colour, and all four batches are non chill filtered and 46% abv again in keeping with the original recipe.

Throughout all four batches, seven of the malts are from the same distilleries and casks, so Alasdair has used the single grain and one of the malts as his means of making each batch unique.
Whisky Discovery
All set to go at Whisky Discovery HQ
..and onto the Tweet Tasting
This tweet tasting was to promote the recent launch of the fourth release of The Tweeddale Blend, a 14 Year Old this time, but luckily for us all four releases would be sampled for the tweet tasting with Steve Rush of @TheWhiskyWire and Alasdair Day from @TweeddaleBlend

Whisky Discovery #599

The Tweeddale Blend Batch No.1 10 Year Old (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
You might be lucky finding one of these!
Whisky Discovery
The Tweeddale is an indulgent blend of a single grain whisky and eight single malt whiskies, it has a high malt content, it has not been chill filtered and has been bottled at 46% alcohol by volume in keeping with the original recipe.

First bottled in May 2010, each of the eight malt whiskies in the blend is drawn from a single cask. The grain whisky is 10 years old, the eight malt whiskies range from 10 years old to 21 years old. Predominantly Lowland Scotch Whisky has been used but it also contains Highland, Speyside and Islay malts. There were just 1,200 bottles released of this first batch.

So What Did I Think?
Colour: Pale Gold, but aren't they all?
Nose: Malty with orchard fruits initially. Creamy toffee develops and I'm picking out the slightest hint of smoke as the spices develop. After a while the malty notes turn more biscuit like as soft citrus, heath heather and fern notes evolve from the glass. It's peppery too and there is the smell of well seasoned wood.
Palate: this has an oily mouth coating feel with a sweet grassy entry with hints of melon and lemon. Spices build with pepper and ginger while an earthy smoke sits in the background.f
Finish: Good length of finish with some charred wood and a lingering spiciness and a touch of sherbet.

So what did the others think?
@BeersIveKnown: Fairly gentle on the nose with a woody spiceiness and fresh baked shortcake@JohnnieStumbler: Nosing beeswax and Sicilian lemons. Hints of pineapple and grapefruit.
@steveprentice: On the nose... subtle fruits, but some more tannic and salty notes I think that give it a more savoury background?
@Grahamyus: A sherried honey with just a wee hint of woodsmoke is what I get. Perhaps will open with a minimal drop of water?
@mynameisgone: Malty, lemon and lime, biscuits, hints of smoke, lightly spiced stewed apples
@patrickhadfield: Initial taste (no water): tangy, spicy, raisins. Very smooth, too. 
@StroudWhisky: 1 Upfront you get honey, light smoke, sea salt then pepper, apple, oak with a tongue tingling spiciness to end.
@TheWhiskyLounge: picy apple crumble (burnt sugar) with hints of cinnamon & cloves. Long, quite dry & touch of chili pepper on the finish.

Whisky Discovery #376

The Tweeddale Blend Batch No.2 12 Year Old (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
Again you might be lucky finding a bottle of this!
Whisky Discovery
This was one of the blends from our 12 Blends competition at Easter, where a group of twelve tweeters each sent a blended whisky of their choice, blind, to each other. It was twelve evenings of great entertainment and my first introduction to The Tweeddale Blend. It went down well then too.

Just as every batch was different when his Great Grandfather produced it over seventy years ago, the second batch was bottled as a twelve year old. In this blend Seven of the eight malts are from the same casks as the first batch. The eighth malt is from a new cask and it is the same grain distillery, from a sherry butt again but 15 years old instead of 10 years old. Just 1600 bottles were released in June 2011.

So What Did I Think?
Colour: It's a little darker than batch one, so not so pale gold?
Nose: Sweeter and richer than Batch 1 and more of a definitive sherry touch to it. Sweet berry fruits with ginger, malty with creamy toffee too. The smoke has been replaced with an forest floor earthiness, and becomes much fruitier with a little air.
Palate: This has a great rich sweet and creamy entry. It feels almost chewy in the mouth with sweet berry fruits, fruit leather, pepper and sherbet.
Finish: Again, a good length finish with stewed plums and sherbet, becoming dry.

So what did the others think?
@Grahamyus: Beeswax polish dabbed on your favourite leather chair
@patrickhadfield: I'm clearly suggestible - I get fig rolls! Spices too - ginger. No peat for me, unlike batch #1. Quite fiery.
@whiskyrepublic: Seems to be the darkest of the 4, definitely an ever so subtle sherry influence for me, a cornucopia of fruit From the moment it hits the tongue good things happen. Rich, sparkling mouthfeel, orange zest flirting with soft spice
@KiltedMoose: Nose: plum jam and I'm also getting the previously mentioned icing sugar - but mixed with wood shavings
@ifotou: Taste; packed with more tropical fruit, pineapple and kiwi with touches of cereal notes and a gentle kick of spice
@kizzsmyth: It's pudding in a glass! Home made banoffee pie with fresh cream
@rodbodtoo: Palate is richer and fruitier than #Batch1. Less hot in the finish. A clear, precise evolution from 10yo to 12yo
@steveprentice: Palate: seemingly sweeter than batch 1, creamy and light with more summer goodness and a dollop of spices, yummy!
@mynameisgone: Palate, very rounded, honeydew melon, cream, slightly fizzy like refreshers
@LRWhisky: Richer and deeper than Batch One - feel the further maturation helps it; lots of banana and vanilla too
@dvdbloke: Finish - sweetness and light! drying out, but always remaining creamy throughout the long finish.

Whisky Discovery #427

The Tweeddale Blend Batch No.3 12 Year Old (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
£39.99 70cl
Whisky Discovery

Alasdair launched this batch at the round of Whisky Shows in April and I first tasted this at The Whisky Lounge London Fest and met Alasdair and his wife, and found out all about his remarkable story. Up until that time Alasdair had been working full time in his day job but had just resigned in order to drive the business forward and become full time.

So batch three is again slightly different. Blended in February 2013 and bottled in March, it uses the same grain distillery from a sherry butt again but an 18 year old, helping to increase the complexity yet adding slightly smoother mouth feel. The youngest malt was a 13 year old and the blend still has 2% Islay but a wee bit more subtle than the hint of smoke evident in the first batch resulting in a smoother, refined batch.

This was Alasdair's largest batch to date, but the majority of it went overseas, mostly to Canada with 1,200 bottles to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) and 240 bottles to La Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) 900 bottles to the USA and just 300 bottles for the UK

It received Best Buy in the tasting section of Whisky Magazine in the Aug/Sept edition this year, and a large part of this batch went to the LCBO in Canada. Although the youngest whisky was 13 years old the LCBO requested that the age statement remained at 12 year old to tie in with the awards received by batch 2 (even although the youngest whisky was 13 years old).

So What Did I Think?
Colour: You guessed it, pale gold, but completely natural this time. 
Nose: Quite sour initially, especially when compared to the previous two batches. It comes across as more herbal too with damp mown hay and parsley. There's a struck match element here too. It certainly benefits with a little time to breathe as after a minute or two it becomes much softer and sweeter with sherried fruits of plums and cherry and red grapes. 
Palate: The sherried influence is greater again here, and I definitely found that struck match element, but it was not offensive, in fact I really got too like it over two evenings. It reminded me a little of Glenrothes and I was convinced some of that may have gone into the blend, but only Alasdair can answer that! I picked out spiced oranges with dark honey, ginger and sherbet, as well as a touch of earthy charred wood and peppery spices. 
Finish: Another lengthy finish, peppery spices and the charred wood remaining till the very end.

So what did the others think?
@rodbodtoo: Nose is much more obviously sherried, with dried fruit giving way to woodier notes
@ifotou: A sweet honey note then dewy grass reminds me of a very good quality grain, hints of malt loaf, pineapple & smoke. Really sweet to taste, demerera sugar, crunchy candy icing, & caramel topped digestive biscuits, yum
@Whiskylassie: I get fresh pressed apple juice. Followed by a lovely custard in graham cracker crust! Whisky morph's so quickly in the glass. Batch 3 turns into lovely clean & green smell - wild flower field after it rains! Sweet oaky predominance, candied ginger and mouthwatering
@kizzsmyth: Smells 'green' this one... grass, parsley. Olive oil finish
@TheWhiskyLounge: Definite farmyard/farm distillery scents. There's that salty popcorn again. Very intriguing, complex and beguiling. Fave
@StroudWhisky: On the palate rich honey, floral notes, sweet apples and melons, this is more like batch 1 than 2
@ben_cops: Nose - more restrained, older sherry at first, but much sweeter deep down. Later green apple and dewy moss. Then tropical fruit starting to develop. Pear drops, some wax, buttered popcorn, and furniture polish.
@BeersIveKnown: It's really sweet on the palate, almost unfinished..unfermented out, sweet Italian vermouth with added canderel
@dvdbloke: Finish; I love this stuff. medium-long, creamy, light, drying, pepper/ginger spiced finale with a hint of milk choc
@mynameisgone: Palate, spiced fruits, brown sugar, coats the mouth wonderfully, a little warmth like a good ginger beer
@whiskyrepublic: Honey base with an overlay of damp, meaty, forest floor notes.....a really "chewy" mouthfeel....lovely
@patrickhadfield: With just a drop of water: much smoother, creamier, loses the island feel. Back to sherried fruit, touch of spice.
@Sherry_Ben: Water brings out an unexpected creaminess, slightly smoky and still with that wonderful finish.This is really growing on me

Whisky Discovery #600

The Tweeddale Blend Batch No.4 14 Year Old (46% abv)
Blended Scotch Whisky
£45.00 70cl

Whisky Discovery

This release could be described as an autumnal edition of the third release, ideal for the season and by the fire side. For this batch the age of the single grain has been reduced to 16 years old and a 14 year old lowland malt that has been matured in an Islay cask is also in the blend. The other seven malts are from the same distilleries and the same casks as the previous three editions. This has been blended to give a more robust, full bodied batch to contrast with batch 3 and just in time for autumn / winter.

Blended in August and released in September this limited edition batch has just 1,420 individually numbered bottles.

So What Did I Think? 

Colour: Really? You expected something different? All natural of course though.
Nose: this comes across as a little shy at first. Sweet grain notes, drier and dustier than the previous three, with notes of ginger ale. However as it opens up the sherry notes come forward with the rich dried fruits and a touch of dark chocolate. The signature peppery sherbet comes through later. 

Palate: Sweet, creamy, light and fresh initially with soft grain, vanilla and gentle citrus notes. With a little time in the glass it becomes richer, sweet and malty with some dark chocolate orange notes and spicy ginger 

Finish: good length of finish with a charred cask note and a hint of peat.

So what did the others think? 
@StroudWhisky: Nose is more islands than before. Sea salt, honey again, smoke, peat and vanilla. Mesmerising
@steveprentice: Nose a little more like 1&2 again, oranges and summer tones along with bourbon vanilla and zingyness. 
Palate is sweet with autumn fruits, autumn smoke hints and general yumminess. Good stuff! Batch 2 & 4 my faves.
@ifotou: A wee hint of smoke followed by malt loaf some lovely vanilla notes, ending with pear drops and freshly cut grass.
@TheWhiskyLounge: Whisky-soaked plums, burnt sugar, raspberry-topped panacotta, hint of tarragon, woody spice, sprinkle of black pepper.
@dvdbloke: Nose - getting some grassiness coming through now, a little peaty earth in there. On the 
palate - sweet, apple, chewy, vanilla, honey, toffee, pepper, a little sherried, happy, lovely balance, enjoyment. Fizzy sherbert lemons coming about, with a creamy overtone.
@mynameisgone: Nose, for me its a vanilla baked cheese cake on a ginger nut base with lemon peel as a decoration. On the 
palate, the fizz is back, that spiciness and fruit is ever present, more red fruit and icing sugar sweetness
@JohnnieStumbler: Condensed milk spiked with wood chips. Lovely creamy smoke.
@ben_cops: Nose - big tropical nose, more banana with lemon sherbert. The most elegant, balanced yet, but very rich.
@BeersIveKnown: more of the spicy notes in the taste, alongside wine gums and some rounded sweetness. Well balanced but not quite my bag.
@rodbodtoo: The palate is rich and mellow. More fruit, less cream, more smoke, still a wee rasp of fiery heat
Palate: Smoother than a snakes belly, a warmth that builds with that white pepper & gentle spice, soothing.
@Sherry_Ben: Lovely mouth coating fruit with a touch of the sherry fruit and mild smoke. I'm finding this one a bit elusive
@TWLJoe: Loving the batch 4. The palate is juicy, fruity, sweet, spicy with a lively popping candy feel

Verdict The second batch was an absolute belter at our 12 Blends competition, all of us were very impressed leading us all to find out more. On the evening I still though Batch 2 was the best of the four, with the latest release a very close second. The following evening I tried them all again, at a slightly more leisurely pace giving myself time to reflect on each one, without the necessity of tweeting my thoughts immediately, or even having to write extra notes, unless absolutely necessary. My initial order of preference at the end of the tweet tasting was Batch 2, followed by Batches 4, 3 and 1, but following my extra evening with them I really got into the differences of the third and fourth releases and ended up with probably the order Alasdair had hoped for; 4,3,2,and 1!

Reviewing the Twitter feed while writing this post and selecting the tweets to add to this post, I think the underlying trend agreed with my final evaluation too.

These are all very drinkable, artisan blended whiskies, and the remarkable story of it's reintroduction from the great grandson of its last producer, with no whisky blending experience, just a passion to recreate this lost blend, is inspirational.

What's Next for Tweeddale?
After the Tweet Tasting I wanted to ask Alastair a few more questions, I was interested to learn what was next for Tweeddale? Alasdair's immediate plans are to bottle the single grain and Lowland malt from batch four as single cask bottlings, so look out for them very soon.

However, more exciting still is that Alasdair is now raising funds to build a craft distillery in the Scottish Borders. The distillery will be the first in the Scottish Borders since 1837. Plans for it's location is between Peebles and Galashiels in Tweeddale rather than Coldstream, wanting to take The Tweeddale home for the year of homecoming 2014.

I wish Alasdair and his team every success for this new venture

and finally....
As per previous Tweet Tastings there was a great deal of tweeting going on and to see what happened search on the #TweeddaleWhisky hashtag on twitter for the full story. Just the two Whisky Discoveries to record on the Liquid Log this time, but a story I really wanted to tell.A massive THANK YOU to Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire and Alasdair Day from @tweeddaleblend for sending out all of the samples to us and of course the tweet tasters who were: 

@TheWhiskyWire @TWLEddie @WhiskyDiscovery @StroudWhisky @WhiskyRepublic @rodbodtoo @SimplzW @steveprentice @Kiltedmoose @ben_cops @WhiskyDiscovKat @dvdbloke @patrickhadfield @kizzsmyth @mynameisgone @beersiveknown @LRWhisky @windsorBeerFest @LocalsGuidetoEd @ifotou @JohnnieStumbler @motleyspicer @Sherry_Ben @Grahamyus @DaveMcKinnon23

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