Saturday, 28 December 2013

Davin De Kergommeaux Tweet Tasting 2

Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
In the run up to the Christmas holidays this year I spent three very interesting Sunday evenings re-reading Davin De Kergommeaux's 'Canadian Whisky' and joining a group from the ever growing #whiskyfabric from around the globe discussing the book with the author.

This was a 'follow-up' to the earlier event held in May which you can read about here: DavinTT Organised by Johanne McInnis (@Whiskylassie to us on Twitter), and hosted by each week by Johanne's partner Graham MacKenney (@grahammackenney) we reviewed a section of the book, starting from section four 'A Concise History of Canadian Whisky' and working our way through to the nine key distilleries that remain today. A whole host of questions were asked and Davin, tweeting from @DavindeK did his level best to answer each and every one of us, as well as joining in all the 'side discussions' that were taking place. 

In addition to the Canadian Whisky questions we all were asking Davin, there was a competition running. During each #DavinTT2 session a host of questions about Canadian Whisky were asked. Aptly named 'The Scavenger Hunt' all answers would be found in Davin's book and anyone with a copy of the book were eligible to play along. 

The prize up for the winner being an impressive selection of Canadian Whisky samples and other goodies. Ten Questions were asked during the first evening, a further ten questions were asked the following week, all during the twitter event. As you can imagine each week was a pretty excitable couple of hours! Just five questions were asked during the third Sunday, but not during the Twitter event, each of the five had been posted on a different whisky bloggers website. We hosted one of the questions here, and others were found on Tire-bouchonWhisky Plus, Whisky Corner and Whisky Israel

A bonus question was released on Saturday 21st December and the only clue we were given to find this question was that it was being asked by the only non-Canadian to judge Canadian Whisky Awards. 
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Click this picture to visit The Whiskylassie Blog
Similarly to the first DavinTT event, at the end of each session we tasted a Canadian whisky, blind. In the first week we had a double header, tasting two Canadian whiskies at the end of the evening. This is the culmination of those three tweet tastings:

Week 1 (Sunday 1st December)

Whisky Discovery #653

Canadian Club Small Batch Sherry Cask (41.3% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky

Distilled at the Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario. Canadian Club was founded by Hiram Walker in 1858. Walker’s uniquely smooth whisky quickly gained popularity in the late 19th Century Gentlemen’s Clubs throughout the US and Canada and became known as "Club Whisky." Canadian Club is one brand of Canadian whisky that is known in the UK with their core expression being available on some supermarket shelves.

The brand belongs to The Beam Group who also own Teachers, Laphroaig and Connemara among others

Canadian Club Sherry Cask is a small release from whiskies aged for at least 8 years in white oak barrels and then finished in Fino sherry casks imported from Jerez, Spain.

So What Did I think?
The nose appeared chalky initially but quickly develops a richness, big meaty juicy, fruits; caramelised bananas and black cherry were the ones I identified. Fragrant tobacco notes with, vanilla essence and there was a slightly sour note underlying, not sure if that was the something to do with the black cherry I was finding.

This was much softer on the palate than I was expecting so guessed 40% abv (not too far out). Sweet and spicy with a honey sweetness and butterscotch flavours and a spicy heat with notes of ginger and cloves,  then quite dry on the finish.

I didn't entertain with my guess as to what this whisky might be as I was totally clueless but as far as I could tell from reviewing the tweets afterwards no one else was close with a guess.

And Davin's notes?
Redolent of dark fruit, leather, hot candied ginger and pipe tobacco by a crackling fire. Waxy cream sherry resolves into fresh peaches. Sweet spring flowers and bitter black breakfast tea subdue searing hot pepper.

What did everyone else think?
@jfpilon: A touch of butterscotch and talc. far away rye spices as well
@mynameisgone: Nose, dark red fruits, a slight herbal note, quite sweet and very approachable.
@whiskyjourney: Nose is beautiful & rich, fruity, spicy, begging to be tasted
@ansgarspeller: Fruits and wintry spices, and some wood tones, but like sweet ripe fruits in there...
@Macdeffe: This is a warm round whisky. Nose is meaty. Dark Horse'ish (not to be confused with Horse Radish :-)
@themisswhisky: I get sticky, dark ripe cherries and baked bananas, with some apple skins too - lovely & dark
@How2DrinkWhisky: On the palate I get Pumpernickel. Resiny and tastes a little like molasses with some Rum-type bitterness in the finish.

@WhatTastesGood: Sweet, spicy, warming. Poached pears & raisins in a spicy ginger cake.
@ValBradshaw: Rich, full-bodied mouth feel. Brown sugar, caramel flambe banana.
@thomas_speller: Finish is a bit marmalade-like bitter, with a nutty something

Whisky Discovery #654

Wiser's Red Letter Rye (45% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Distilled at the Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario the Wiser's brand originates from one of the pioneers of Canadian Whisky J.P. Wiser whose distillery was in Prescott Ontario. The distillery was closed in 1932 despite it's strong reputation in  the United States throughout the Prohibition years. Production moved to Corbyville until 1991 when Corby's distillery was consolidated with Hiram Walker's plant.

The Hiram Walker plant is owned and operated my Corby Distillers which also owns the Wiser's name. Wiser's is also brand of the Pernod Ricard Group who own The Glenlivet, Jameson and Chivas Regal amongst many more.

In the years following the American Civil War, one of the most sought-after whiskies in America was called Wiser’s Red Letter. This Red Letter Rye follows the grain recipe found in Wiser’s old records, and master blender, Dr. Don Livermore has followed that recipe carefully, and finished in virgin oak

So What Did I Think?
The nose opened up with woody notes for me; Cedar or pencil shavings, it seemed resinous, sappy, with pine needles and menthol. Again that slight sourness that Davin often describes as 'pickles' was here, which must be one of the signatures of Canadian rye whiskies. After a little while airing it turns more earthy and perhaps a little dusty too.

On the palate this is sweet and spicy albeit more powerful than the previous dram and guess that this would be around 45% abv (wahey! points on the board). There was a creamy sweetness to this, corn notes, buttery corn on the cob, along with tons of spice cloves, ginger and a touch of cinnamon too.

And Davin's notes?
Newly sawn oak, lacquer, roasted grain, butterscotch, vanilla, sweet tingling ginger and glowing hot pepper. Creamy sweetcorn whisky loaded with Christmas spices - cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Sour rye bread, black fruits and earthy rye

What did everyone else think?

@ansgarspeller: The nose gives me first pencil shavings and earthy tones next to some spices...
@How2DrinkWhisky: On the nose, pencil shavings and cumin seed. Moments of manure and dried basil leaves.
@jfpilon: Sweet on the nose, with caramel, maple syrup, lime, oranges, rum!
@mynameisgone: Nose, slightly more rye spices, a nice hint of oakiness, in the background a hint of play doh
@themisswhisky: A lot of grainy marzipan at first . Something dark in background (images of rubber boots, earth & rain come to mind)
@WhatTastesGood: Definitely also getting hay, wood/pencil shavings on the nose. And dried lavender, mint, maybe also fenugreek. And cedar, and pine needles. Like walking through a forest on a chilly damp day. Love it.
@whiskyjourney: Nose - Fresh rye bread, pine tree, clove, and @mynameisgone is right about the play-doh 
@PWulf: Coconut and cream slight hint of toffee.
@ValBradshaw: Feinty nose, kind of waxy. Some forest influence and dried herbs.
@ansgarspeller: The palate on this one is so sweet and full with all kinds of nice! A lot of liqeurish notes, dried fruit, ginger bread, citrus, vanilla, butterscotch, a lot of fruit notes. And honey and some nuts
@thomas_speller: Smelling the dry glass. Eucalyptus all the way!

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the first 10 questions we were set. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:

  1. What is the primary grain distilled at each of Alberta’s three distilleries?
  2. What is the oldest whisky bottled in Canada in the past decade?
  3. True or false: Late 18th Century Canadian whiskies were blended.
  4. In what year did Thomas Molson first distilled his whisky?
  5. Where was Henry Corby born?
  6. In what year did the Government of Canada introduce the practice of bottling in bond?
  7. Using the “sour mash” process is unique to the USA and never used in making Canadian Whisky. True or False?
  8. What process essentially lead to the development of Canadian Club’s “secret recipe?”
  9. According to the Montreal Gazette, what was the largest distillery in the world in the early 1860’s?
  10. One of Canada’s best-known distillers, Hiram Walker lived most of his life in the USA, True or False?
Week 2 (Sunday 8th December)

Whisky Discovery #665

Alberta Premium (40% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
This whiskey is made by Alberta Distillers in the heart of Canada’s rye-growing country - where cold barren winters give way to an abundant crop of the finest rye. Made by blending two aged whiskies, one of which is aged for flavor in used bourbon casks. Then, after blending, it is aged some more. Alberta Premium is aged for 5 years. The slow ageing in cold temperatures preserves the natural rye spice. Known for its full flavour.

The Alberta Premium brand also belongs to The Beam Group who also own Canadian Club, Teachers, Laphroaig and Connemara among others

So What Did I Think?
The nose opens dusty, chalky, or broken dry slate initially. Fresh pine needles follow with spicy rye and a pinch of salt. After a little while in the glass a citrus note started to develop while still remaining quite dry. When I poured a top-up I got a toast like note from this addition, only fleeting, but definitely there. The citrus note developed eventually giving a more soft orange juice than sharp lemon. Adding a drop of water gives floral notes.

This is sweet and mouth coating, with a really creamy mouth feel. Those soft orange notes found on the nose follow onto the palate along with citrus pith. The spice follows with a white pepper feel to edge of tongue and fresh ginger adding to the flavour profile. Overall I found this to be quite a gentle dram and guessed at 40% abv (bang on the money!). The finish starts quite spicy with fresh gingers before turning quite dry with a grapefruit pith like bitter end.

And Davin's notes?
Crisp, flinty, clean rye spices greet searing white pepper, maple syrup and the softest tannins. Rich and fruity with a refreshing grapefruit pithiness. The brawn of youth and clout of maturity.

What did everyone else think?

@jfpilon: Nose: initial corn hit. Followed by some vanilla and dust. Alcohol. Spices. Aniseed or caraway. Touch of toffee
@cooperedtot: Color: dark gold to light amber. Nose: river stones, herbal oil, raw rye grain, mineral, linseed oil.
@How2DrinkWhisky: Nose: Caramels on a hickory plate. Naphthalene on white bread. Lemon curd and canned tuna.
@whiskyjourney: Nose: Nail polish remover, lemon zest, rye mintiness. 
What the living room smells like when my wife is taking off nail polish and I am dusting with Pledge
@WhatTastesGood: Nose is lemon-lime soda and dried grasses. Some light sweet butterscotch underneath.
@ValBradshaw: Getting some spice, but not the lemon everyone else seems to be nosing. I get more brown sugar and yeast/white bread-like.
@ansgarspeller: Lemon soda, some pepper, creamy and minty almost on the palate Like a lemon candy...
@bozkurtkarasu: Palate: Bergamot jam... White grape juice and a little Sauternes...
@cooperedtot: Palate; Gentle creamy sweetness, spicy rye glow on expansion with astringency, white pepper, and some grapefruit pith on finish

@mynameisgone: Very creamy mouthfeel, sweet, quite soft, citrusy lemons and grapefruit, I'm going 40% alcohol wise

@Bob_Caron: Very dry in the finish, makes you thirsty for another sip.

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the second 10 questions we were set. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:

  1. 3 major Whisky Brands are distilled at Hiram Walker Distillery in Windsor, name them?
  2. What three ingredients are used to make whisky?
  3. Which fully aged Canadian Whisky is as colourless as vodka?
  4. Which Canadian Distiller became a member of Parliament in 1878?
  5. What Canadian distillery is built on the banks of MacLellan's brook?
  6. What is the largest distillery operating in Canada today?
  7. On what page of Davin's book will you find Mark Gillespie's name listed?
  8. Although J.P. Wiser’s name is on the company, who can be credited with much of Wiser’s financial success?
  9. At the time that this book was written, how many distilleries were producing Canadian Whisky?
  10. Which Scottish Distillery was Glenora distillery closely associated with?
  11. The Glenora distillery was closely associated with the Scottish Distillery Bowmore
Week 3 (Sunday 15th December)

Whisky Discovery #672

Forty Creek 'Heart of Gold' (43% abv)
Canadian Whisky
Not available in the UK yet
Whisky Discovery, Canadian Whisky
Heart of Gold is a whisky that was inspired by both the heart of the distillation and the heart of the maker, John Hall of the Kittling Ridge Distillery. 

John tells us “This project started nearly a decade ago, focusing specifically on Canada’s noble rye grain. I have always brought out the spicy, fruity notes of rye in my whisky, but this time, I wanted to perfect capturing the underlying delicate floral notes of the rye that too often get lost in the process. I decided to use a wine yeast strain for the fermentation because I felt this approach would allow the floral aromas and flavours to prevail.

Capturing the subtleties in the distillate was another challenge. Capturing alcohol is easy, but capturing the natural, subtle flavour of the rye is much more difficult.  A quicker cut and a narrower band of the heart during distillation helped keep the integrity of the delicate rye character."

Aged in lightly toasted barrels to ensure the oak did not overwhelm the subtle flavours captured in the heart of the distillation. It is not 100% rye as it includes some barley whisky for nuttiness and some corn whisky for weight and body. Heart of Gold is a limited edition of 9,000 bottles and each bottle is individually numbered.

So What Did I Think?

When I first poured this I was met with the aroma of hot buttered toast, granary bread of course, and real butter. No one in the house was eating toast and I don't recall anyone mentioning toast either. After a little while the bread note seemed more doughy. Fruity notes follow; dates and hints of apricot.

This has a great creamy palate, the initial sweetness quickly turning to grapefruit pith bitter. Woody notes follow which reminded me of birch wood. I really enjoyed this one, it was rather more-ish and my sample quickly disappeared. I wasn't sure what this could be but it did appear to be an aged whisky. It felt quite gentle in the mouth and so guessed at 40% abv (no cigar!)

I was beginning to think that we were tasting a Forty Creek as I knew Johanne and Graham had spent some time at the distillery, posting amusing photos on Facebook of themselves hiding amongst the barrels, or even in them (or pretending to be in them). We also finished with a Forty Creek expression on our first DavinTT too, that was Portwood, but this definitely was not. I checked my notes for their Confederation Oak, a sample Johanne had sent me previously, similar profile but no cigar, and then it hit me. I remembered the considerable twitter buzz when Heart of Gold  was released by Forty Creek 43% abv, I was fairly certain that Johanne and Graham brought a truckload home from their trip. (Full points for my Sherlock Holmes like deduction)

And Davin's notes?
Unfortunately Forty Creek's Heart of Gold did not feature in the first edition of Canadian Whisky as it hadn't been released at the time but you can read Davin's notes here; Heart of Gold

What did everyone else think?
@How2DrinkWhisky: Nose: Maple syrup over pancakes with a little char on the edges. Roasted cheddar bits? Yeasty for moments.

@bozkurtkarasu: Nose: Damp cardboard boxes, birch plywood sawdust. Pine cones, tomato juice and olive brine... Wait a minute... Am I nosing Bloody Mary?
@cooperedtot: Nose:minty creamy floral rye, with cedar forest, pencil shavings, mineral dust, and an undercurrent of red fruits: jujubes. Deep underneath sherry, fig cake, and maybe a hint of leather.
@ValBradshaw:  Holy Roses! on first nose only. Waited a few minutes, then lovely peach, cedar & soft cinnamon. Butterscotch oat square (ask me for the recipe-they're delicious). With creamy butter, vanilla. Oats all over it; almost crunchy.
@WhatTastesGood: Nose; minerals, wet earth, nutmeg, caraway, dried citrus peel.
@robinburke: On the nose I get a hint of wine but quite vegetal to me.
@thomas_speller: Nose: uncooked pancakes, musty, pencil shavings, tomatoes and eggplant… what!?

@themisswhisky: Mmm first wee sip is really pleasant - loads of tinned pears for me
@ansgarspeller: Bit woody, rye, creamy, white and milk chocolate, herbal. Thinking of rye mixed with sherry?
@arok: Second sip builds on the first, sweeter but even more plumps raisins.
@cooperedtot: Rich mouth feel. Excellent flavor density. Rich rye w/the cocoa & leather of sherry. Dense. Delicious. 
@mynameisgone: Palate, dark and heavy, like the burnt edges of a fruit cake, with the rye spices and sweetness following up.
@The_Casks: Brown sugar and slight citrus zing. peppery notes, clove, powdered ginger, pine resin...

If you've got a copy of Canadian Whisky and are up to the challenge here are the final 5 questions we were set and the 'bonus' question is also included. No prizes on offer but feel free to email me your answers which can all be found within Davin's book:
  1. What Canadian whisky distillery had their two copper pot stills seized by US customs after they had been shipped from Scotland via the Panama Canal?"
  2. How many tasting notes for whiskies are found throughout the book?
    a)  1-50 b)  50-100 c)  100-150 d)  There was tasting notes?
  3. What is “blending at birth?”
    a)  Canadian term for mixing different grains together to form a mash bill.
    b)  Mixing 2-year-old rye whisky with base spirit and then put into a cask to mature.
    c)  An in-house breeding program used by a prominent Ontario distillery to insure a bloodline of Master Blenders.
    d)  Blending different new make spirits from multiple distilleries and grains to form a Canadian Blended Whisky.
  4. What change needs to take place at Glenora distillery to facilitate being able to increase production from the current 50,000 litres per year to up to 400,000 litres per year?
  5. What prevents Canadian distilleries from being seen as lucrative an investment as Scottish and American distilleries?
    a)  The high level of taxation leading to low profit margins.
    b)  Unpredictable grain yields due to inclement weather.
    c)  With large distillery plants owned by large multinationals there is no room for competition.
    d)  Investors don’t like the cold.
Bonus Question

Found on Mark Gillespie’s Whisky Cast 21st December Podcast Where Graham MacKenney asks: Why is Yeast not considered as an ingredient of Whisky?

And Finally..
A huge thanks to Johanne McInnis and Graham MacKenney for sharing their Canadian whiskies with us all and for Davin De Kergommeaux for spending time with us all, three Sundays running, and answering all of the questions we were bombarding him with.

If you want to find out more about Canadian Whisky then I recommend you get a hold of Davin's book first and make sure you're following these people on Twitter! @DavindeK @Whiskylassie and @grahammackenney Then you should point your browser to Davin's Canadian Whisky website here: Canadian Whisky

The deadline for the answers to the Scavenger Hunt was 28th December and their was two hours to go when I was proof-reading this post. Yes, I managed to complete my answers in good time, and confirm with Johanne that they had been received. My fingers are crossed, and this post will be published as soon as the deadline has been passed.

The winner will be announced on Sunday 29th December at around 2000 GMT on Twitter under the #DavinTT2 hash tag. At the time of writing this post (late on Saturday evening) Johanne had received over fifty entries to the competition and was busy marking.

Just four out of the sixty four entrants achieve a 100% score on the Scavenger Hunt, @bozkurtkarasu, @robinburke, @mr_goalie7959 and I was pleased to find out that I was the last of the four. 

I initially thought there was just one 'winner takes all' prize but I picked up the runners up prize as @bozkurtkarasu took the first prize. Congratulations to my fellow 100%ers!

Slàinte! Dave

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