Sunday, 24 November 2013

Whisky Discovery Tasting #1

The Embankment Bedford
A full house for our first 'Whisky Discovery' tasting at The Embankment, Bedford
We finally did it, jumped in with both feet, closed our eyes, and hoped for the best. When we finally caught our breaths, the chaos that was left behind was a bunch of strangers brought together by seven beautiful drams, and all having a whale of a night. 

From the reaction of everyone who came to our first tasting, it was a big fat tick in the fun box, and we are delighted that there are enough people interested to start a whisky club in Bedford! Hooray! What this space in 2014 for more news. 

For the evening, we teamed up with the Embankment Pub in Bedford The line-up on the night was seven drams, each paired with a different canapé that were jointly selected by the head chef and me, to complement each dram. 

These are the pairings in order of their appearance on the night:
  1. Smoked Salmon on Sourdough Toast paired with SMWS G10.5 
  2. Sweet Potato and Baby spinach Frittata paired with Paul John’s Brilliance. 
  3. Morn Dew Cheese paired with Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage. 
  4. Smoked Haddock Rarebit paired with The Whisky Lounge’s Salted Sea Dog. 
  5. Pear Crumble paired with Glen Moray Chardonnay cask.
  6. Vanilla Ice Cream paired with Balcones Baby Blue. 
  7. Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart paired with Douglas Laing’s Scally Wag.
It was a big gamble starting the evening with the SMWS G10.5 as it was the highest abv at 61%. Due to food pairing, it was difficult to place it anywhere else in the line-up. It would have been too weird having a smoked salmon in between sweet canapés. It did become a good bench mark dram though, with many really appreciating the freshness and floral qualities of this dram after they had tasted the others. 

So what did we think of each dram?

Whisky Discovery #614

SMWS G10.5 A ‘Schweppervescene’ Moment 23 Year Old (61% abv)
Single Grain Whisky from Strathclyde Distillery 
Circa £68.50 70 cl

SMWS G10.5
This is a single cask, single grain whisky from the Strathclyde grain distillery, located in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. There are no official distillery bottlings of this single cask however it is a popular grain whisky that’s used in many blends. 

Nose:  Punches with freshness, very lively and vibrant. A while later creamier note comes through of young ripe avocado, there’s some acetone notes that tickles the nose, with some sharp lemon/lime sherbets but without the oversweet sugar smell. 
Taste:  It starts with the lemon sherbets, followed by corn flakes and cereal notes, then a hint of bitterness which is nice to give it some depth, and at the end it becomes a minty menthol mouthwash. 
Finish:  The cooling minty menthol mouthwash has stayed, then it becomes warming with the bitterness returning right to the end. A long finish with leaving a dry mouth feel. 

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: First dram is the SMWS schweppervescence. grass & vanilla on the nose. Pepper on the palette, after taste of leather car seat. This one better with water, softens it.
@JohnnieStumbler: Wonderfully fresh on the nose. Grassy with fresh fruits. Great mouthfeel, sweet and grassy with a citric edge. With a touch of water, it really delivers. Paired with smoked salmon on sourdough toast. It really highlights the contrast between sweet and salt. Good shout! Very capable and worth further exploration. Needs time, water and a brave heart.

Whisky Discovery #429

Paul John’s Brilliance NAS (46% abv)
Indian Single Malt Whisky 
Circa £46 70 cl

Paul John Brilliance
The distillery is based in Goa, India, and it is one of only two distilleries in India currently exporting to the UK. It is made with using Indian six-row barley from the Himalayan foothills and has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s non-chill-filtered with no artificial colouring. 

Nose:  Rich and intense aromas. Aromatic and spicy of teak wood and nutmeg, with the smell of warm leather. 
Taste:  Again rich full bodied flavours. Teak wood comes through with some sweetness, for me it’s similar to the taste of flat Coca-Cola, and there’s also a floral notes present. 
Finish:  Begins with sweet cassia bark followed by some spiciness, leaving a mild wood note at the end. Not a very long finish, would have loved for this to go on for longer. 

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: Bloody lovely Indian Whisky. Not as grim as the Amrut. I really like it. Matched well with the sweet potatoe & spinach fritter. Would be excited to try the edited peated from them.
@JohnnieStumbler: Bourbon-a-plenty on the nose. Lots going on for a young whisky. Some rich fruits on the nose. Rich palate balanced out by a spicy finish. Intriguing. With sweet potato and baby spinach frittata, there isn't a stark contrast. Think harmony.
@cecilnorris1988: Plums, dates, a hint of the dreaded vanilla on the nose for me.

Whisky Discovery #454

Glen Garioch 1995 Vintage 17 Year Old (53.3% abv)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £50.45 70 cl

Glen Garioch 1995
They don’t make it like this anymore! This vintage bottling was distilled in the last year that the distillery used peat in its kiln to dry it’s barley before malting, due to this, there is some peat present but at a very low ppm. Not really noticeable as peat. It’s been matured in first fill ex-bourbon barrels. 

Dave has tasted this whisky before as part of a tweet tasting, click here to see what he thought then.

Nose:  Very spicy with a sweet bread aroma that’s like Panettone bread, there’s an Ovaltine note, and the smell of lemon butterfly cakes. 
Taste:  Begins with a spicy chili heat, followed by barley sugar sweets, sugared covered roasted hazel nuts, slight hint of smokiness and floral notes that’s like a mild black cardamom taste. 
Finish:  Warming spices with a touch of sweetness and smokiness, then spiciness returning right at the end, leaving a dry mouth feel.

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: Smells divine, light hint of peat, sweet, candy & grass on the nose, sting like chilli aftermath. Good warmth. This is a sexy Whisky.
@cecilnorris1988: I've had this before with @JohnnieStumbler. As good now as it was in the Summer '13 A huge shout out to Morn Dew Cheese too. Your marriage with the Glen Garioch 95 17 Year Old is a beautiful one.
@JohnnieStumbler: I'm hugely biased as this is one of my go-to drams. Wonderful. With Morn Dew cheese. Works splendidly. The creaminess of the cheese just marries with the mild peatiness perfectly.

Whisky Discovery #616

The Whisky Lounge ‘Salted Sea Dog’ Batch No. 2 NAS (46% abv)
Islay Single Malt
Circa £21.00 20 cl

The Whisky Lounge Whisky
This is an independent bottling from the lovely folks at The Whisky Lounge. All we know is that it’s from one of the well-known distilleries on the North-East of Islay, and who are not normally known for their peated whiskies. This is non-chill-filtered and free from artificial colouring. 

Nose:  Peat is noticeable but not overpowering. Warm banana bread aromas followed by powdered ginger, and the smell of very dry crumbly fruit cake that’s gone stale. 
Taste:  Nice balance of peat smoke and sweetness. Texture and flavour of watered down cinnamon infused sugar syrup, with some bitterness at the end from lemon pips. 
Finish:  Initially warming with hints of sweetness that lingers, and then warms again, this time of white pepper giving a good length finish.

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: I AM IN HEAVEN! I am not sharing that with anyone. *sits in the corner and has a moment* Salty sea dog, is heavy peat that melts away making you want more. Coal dust, seaweed & a slight twang of 2p pieces #wdt1 #buymeabottle
@JohnnieStumbler: Beautiful peaty, coastal nose. Less of a peat assault on the palate. Gentle and moreish. With smoked haddock rarebit, a symphony of smoke and sea spray.
@cecilnorris1988: Back at St Peter Port in Guernsey. Salt (surprise surprise), seaweed, PEAT!
@Johnnyboythrash: Not a fan of the smoky whisky that we experienced, but this is my & @rosetintvintage first whisky tasting, so still finding palette.

Whisky Discovery #132

Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask (40% abv)
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
Circa £25.00 70 cl

Glen Moray 10
Glen Moray still doesn’t seem to be that well known, it is only a smallish distillery and one of the seven distilleries listed on the Speyside Single Malt Trail, and are located in Elgin, Morayshire. This whisky has been fully matured in for its entire life in Chardonnay cask which gives this dram a light delicate floral feel. 

We first tasted this dram last year. Dave wrote about a posted in thoughts back in May 2012, you can read about it here 

Nose:  Noticeably creamy and smooth, with vanilla, hints of dryness, sweetness from clear honey, and a floral bouquet throughout. 
Taste:  Instantly of the clear honey, leading to a fresh citrus zest which prevents the dram being overly sweet. The sweetness is however present throughout. Texture is a smooth silky feel. 
Finish:  The honey note stays for a split second, a lot shorter than I had expected. A fresh fruity chili heat, like a Scotch bonnet chili, appears and stays, while cereal notes arrives at the same time as leaving the mouth with a dry mouth feel with some bitterness right to the end.

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: Not blown away, a bit too nicey nicey & soft after taste. I like whisky with balls! this is light, sweet, pear drops apples on the nose. It's nice but too nicey nicey.
@JohnnieStumbler: This is a little sweetie on the nose. Fruit and gentle oak. Sweet and lightly fruity; a dessert whisky. Overpowered by the butteriness of the pear crumble.
@Johnnyboythrash: Just found a whisky I really like, and @rosetintvintage agrees.

Whisky Discovery #321

Balcones Baby Blue NAS (46% abv)
Texas Blue Corn Whisky
Circa £55 75 cl 

We have tasted this whisky many times, and it’s one of my personal favourites. You can find out what Dave thought about it when he first 'discovered' it here. 

This is Texas whisky and the only distillery in the world using blue atole corn to make whisky.  Atole corn has a nutter flavour than yellow corn. It gives the whisky extra depth to other corn whiskies but still keeps the freshness and verve of a traditional corn whisky with a smooth finish.

Nose: There’s some sweetness from Demerara sugar, some dry oak notes but more like oak shavings and saw dust, and there’s some creaminess there also. 
Taste:  This reflects the now, starting with caramel notes with some dry oak. Then the nutty flavour of roasted hazel nuts and hints of burnt toasts comes through, balancing out the sweetness. It has a very smooth Crème Brule like texture but without the heavy feel.
Finish:  Again the same flavour profile that you get throughout this dram but begin with warming black pepper. The caramel, toasted bread, and oak notes comes through afterwards, these lingers right through to the end.

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: Honey, macadamia nuts, vanilla on the nose. Let down on the palette, hard corn spirit. It's so unusual it draws you back. Strangely I'm not a huge fan but I can't stop retrying it. Popcorn Whisky.
@Johnnyboythrash: Ooh, the Balcones is even better. Was trying to describe & @rosetintvintage  says nuts & toffee...I'd agree
@JohnnieStumbler: This has corn chips and nuts all over the nose.The palate doesn't live up to the nose but not bad at all. With vanilla ice cream, it's Doritos time!
@cecilnorris1988: Damn you vanilla! The penultimate whisky. I know @JohnnieStumbler and @Mooley are fans of the nose.

Whisky Discovery #610

Douglas Laing Scallywag NAS (46% abv)
Speyside Blended Malt Whisky
Circa £38.00 70 cl

Douglas Laing Scallywag
Douglas Laing has been in business for the last 65 years as the leading independent Scotch whisky master blenders and bottlers. They specialise in selecting single casks and small batch whiskies. I find it incredible that the business was started by Fred Douglas Laing in 1948 and today, it is still owned and run by the Laing family; Fred Laing Jr and his daughter Cara Laing. 

Scallywag has been blended from Speyside malts, all we know is that it includes whiskies from Mortlach, Macallan, and Glenrothes. It’s non chill-filtered and uses predominately whiskies that’s been matured in various Spanish sherry butts, but there is some first filled bourbon casks in there as well. 

Nose:  Initially of some new make spirit then as it opens up to give some vanilla and creamy notes, reminds me of raw Victoria sponge cake mix, and soft butter. There’s also some fruitiness there as well, mainly raisins. 
Taste:  On the initial sip, I found it to be full of almond essence that turns into Amaretto liqueur after several sips. This is followed by the taste of Plumb Schnapps, and then the fruity richness arrives, full of dates and raisins but doesn’t make the whisky feel heavy. Towards the end there’s some lovely creamy shortbread. 
Finish:  Lemon zest and hint of lemon pith, then honey and vanilla notes with raisins right at the end.

Some tweets we picked up from our tasters:
@Mooley: Not out on retail yet! Scallywag Douglas Laing.Toffee, dates, WITH A MASSIVE HIT ON THE PALETE. Amazing So @amjohnno has preordered me a bottle of Scallywag for Christmas. I am a very lucky girl! 
@JohnnieStumbler: A little young on the nose, a tad feinty perhaps.A privilege indeed; trying before general release. With hazelnut tart, it just works really well. Good call. Christmas on the palate. Worth a punt but this whisky hound likes the peat.
@Johnnyboythrash: I like this Douglas Laing Scallywag, and the badge...awesome!

Going by the ‘mmmm’ factor from the room, the top 3 most popular pairings were Douglas Laing’s Scallywag with chocolate and hazelnut tart, The Whisky Lounge’s Salty Sea Dog with smoked haddock rarebit, and the Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask 10 Year Old with pair crumble. These pairings just worked so well together.

My favourite moments from the evening was someone wanting the Smoked Haddock rarebit and Salty Sea Dog on tap, and a lady who was pretty sure she wouldn’t like the Glen Moray because she hated Chardonnay, turned out to absolutely love the Glen Moray! 

Check out our album on Facebook page for some more pictures from the night. 

Lastly thank you…..
We were very lucky to be given a bottle of Douglas Laing’s new little scamp, Scallywag, before it was available in the shops. A big thank you goes out to them, it was the cherry on top of the cake. You can check out their whiskies on their website here. Douglas Laing

I would also like to say thank you to the other independent bottlers and distilleries for their support, and for creating some beautiful drams. For more information on all of the other drams listed in the tasting, and where you can purchase them, visit these websites below:
Until the next time, Slàinte! Kat

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