Monday, 8 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1565

Wemyss Malts 'Fallen Apples' 1989 Glen Garioch (46% abv)
Highland Single Malt
Circa £110.00 70cl
Glen Garioch 1989
Independent bottler, Wemyss Malts, announced their first Single Cask release of 2016 towards the end of January with six casks selected to showcase the best of Speyside, Islay and The Highlands and, ranging in age from 13 to 25 years old.

The full list from this tranche of single casks released:
  • "Sizzling Charcoal" 1997 single cask from Bunnahabhain Distillery, Islay,
  • "Coastal Confection" 1996 single cask from Bowmore Distillery, Islay, Cask Strength
  • "The Highland Mariner 1997 single cask from Clynelish Distillery, Highlands
  • "Fallen Apples" 1989 singe cask from Glen Garioch Distillery, Highlands
  • "Barrista’s Dram" 2002 single cask from Craigellachie Distillery, Speyside
  • "Toasted Anise" 1996 single cask from Glenrothes Distillery, Speyside
Each cask has been selected and named by the Wemyss tasting panel, under the watchful eye of industry aficionado Charlie Maclean, and Dave was one of the few who received a review sample of the Glen Garioch 'Fallen Apples'

There are only a few hundred bottles from each cask and the suggested retail prices range from £55 to £110. These bottlings will be available in selected retailers in the UK, EU and key Asian markets.

So What Did I Think?
When I saw the press release, two of the six single casks interested me a little more than the others; the 1997 Clynelish and this 1989 Glen Garioch and cheekily asked if there was a sample available to review.

In 1989 Glen Garioch still had their own floor maltings, hence my immediate interest when I saw this list. When the floor maltings were in operation, the malt was peated, albeit to a very low level, at circa 8-10 ppm.The practice discontinued when the distillery was mothballed in 1995, and like most distilleries these days, all the malt is brought in from independent maltsters. 

'Fallen Apples' bottled at 46% abv at the end of last year was distilled in 1989 and just 266 bottles are out there so when it's gone, it's gone!

As with so many of their single cask releases, the Wemyss Malts team are bang on the money with naming this one as an Autumn apple harvest was my first impression when bringing the glass up to my nose. With a drop of water, it's baked apples covered in glazed brown sugar, while a herbal heather note brings up the background. There's also an elusive hint of smoke, not an earthy peat-like smoke, but more like the smoke from a blacksmith's forge (anthracite) and some charred wood.

Apples dominate the palate flavours too, with stewed apples initially, which is followed by apple wood notes, freshly cut at first, seasoned and polished later. The gentle wood smoke comes through right at the end of the spicy finish.
Verdict: I really enjoyed this traditional Highland malt, it's a little over my £100 budget but for a little piece of history, this gently peated 25 Year Old Single Cask Glen Garioch is good buy. Many thanks to Wemyss Malts for the sample (any chance of a sample of the Clynelish too?)

Slàinte! Dave

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1564

Japanese Whisky has been very much in the news over the last twelve to eighteen months and we were very excited about our invitation to the UK launch of the Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 Edition
Whisky Discovery
We'd missed out on the previous release which made all the headlines after being crowned the world’s best whisky by Jim Murray in his 2015 Whisky Bible. A friend and fellow Bedford Whisky Club member who had bought one before the announcement now had a predicament to consider as to if or when he should open it. He actually bought two, one for his Father-in-Law who did open it, and it all went down very well! The second bottle is now in a safe place while he decides if he's going to 'cash in' or wait for a significant 'life event' to open it, but anyway, I digress....

The launch event, organised by Thrsxy was held in London's Savoy Hotel and Suntory's global brand ambassador, Mike Miyamoto, was on hand to take us through the company's philosophy and history, as well as a tasting of three core expressions before introducing us to the 2016 release. Mike Miyamoto joined Suntory in 1978 and is well qualified for the position of Global Brand Ambassador having spent time in all areas of whisky making; from running a cooperage in the USA, running distilleries with Morrison Bowmore, to the blending rooms working alongside the Master Blenders creating their 'alchemy' with both masterpieces and experiments that didn't make it to market. 

The 2013 release was a very limited edition and by the time it was announced as the world’s best whisky, it had all but sold out. The 2016 release is again a very limited edition, the UK allocation of 2,000 bottles will be available from Monday, February 1st from Selfridges, The Whisky Exchange and Harvey Nichols. Priced at a little more than twice the price of the award winning 2013 release, at £200 for a 70cl bottle, it would appear that Suntory has either decided to trade on their previous success or have made the move to reduce the incidences of 'flipping' by speculators.

The birth of Japanese Whisky
Whisky Discovery
Global Brand Ambassador Mike Miyamoto
Before the tasting began, Mike took us through a brief history of Japanese whisky that will be celebrating it's centenary in just seven years.

Shinjiro Torii 'The founding father of Japanese whisky' established the first Suntory whisky distillery, now known as the Yamazaki, the birthplace of Japanese whisky, on the outskirts of Kyoto 1923. The stills first ran in December 1924, and initially, Japanese whiskies copied the then current Scottish styles. The Suntory branded 'Shirofuda' released in 1929 did not go down to well being too smoky for the Japanese palate, but just eight years later they got it right when they released 'Kakubin'. It's smoothness and balance was a big hit in Japan. Shinjiro who had a knack for blending whisky, remained master blender up until 1960. The following year, he passed the role of president and master blender on to his adopted son Keizo Saji. The Third and current master blender, Shingo Torii took the helm in 2002, maintaining the family bond, the basic philosophy of the Suntory business.

Unlike Scotland, Japan only has a handful of distilleries, and trading between distilleries just doesn't happen. Suntory has just three distilleries, two making single malts and one making grain whisky and in order to create the range of whiskies, they have had to become a little more resourceful. Yamazaki, for example; has two types of fermenting vats; wood and stainless, 16 pot stills, with seven different types and using both direct firing and steam heated. Then for maturation, they have oak casks of various types, ex-bourbon, ex-wine, ex-sherry and of course, Japanese oak. The variety within this distillery alone allows them to be able to make a number of different whisky styles.

In 1972, Suntory opened their Grain distillery, Chita and it wasn't until 1973 that their second single malt distillery, Hakushu was established. Hakushu, located in the foothills of Mt. Kaikomagatake, is known as Japan’s Southern Alps, where cool, clear waters flow through a bountiful forest environment. Suntory launched Yamazaki as a single malt whisky in 1984, followed by Hakushu in 1994, while their blended whisky came to the market with the creation of Hibiki in 1989. With the introductions over we moved onto a short Masterclass with three current expressions, one from each of the two single malt distilleries and their blended whisky Hibiki before moving on to the reason we were all there.
Whisky Discovery

Whisky Discovery #89

Yamazaki 12 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £120.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
This, a favourite of Mike Miyamoto, is now getting difficult to find, even in Japan, and it was good to revisit this delightful single malt. First discovered fairly early on in my personal journey, at The Whisky Loung London Fest in 2012, I wish I'd brought a bottle or two! The nose came across fruity with plenty of zesty grapefruit at first. Soft peach and ripe pineapple follow along with fudge and vanilla while hints of Amontillado Sherry balance the flavours with a distinct nuttiness. The palate is soft with a gentle sweetness and subtle spices.

Verdict: Fabulous! Unfortunately due to the current trend with Japanese whiskies this is very difficult to find and it's not currently available from either The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #1563

Hakushu 12 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £75.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
Whilst I've tried a few from the Hakushu Distillery, the 12 Year Old was a new Whisky Discovery for me. The nose comes across clean and fresh, with menthol, pine forest notes and an almost 'sanitised note' initially but with time the forest smoke starts to develop in the glass. Herbal with thyme and dried pine needles interplaying with each other. The palate is softer than the nose suggested but still reminded me of a pine forest, although a little more smokey, Lapsang Souchang sprung to mind but the spices that follow remind you that it's whisky, not tea your drinking! The smoke lasts long into the peppery drying finish

Verdict: Lovely fresh smoky Hakushu. This one is currently available at The Whisky Exchange but for how long who knows? It is out of stock at Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #168

Hibiki 17 Year Old (43% abv)
Japanese Blended Whisky
circa £100.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
In Japanese Hibiki means Harmony, and the Hibiki range is a blended whisky, but unlike Scotch, all of the whisky in this blend brings together the many styles of matured malt and grain whisky from the companies three distilleries. I'd forgotten just how lovely this whisky was after first coming across it at Nickolls and Perks Midlands Whisky Show. This is so easy to drink and I was able to go back for seconds of this! The nose comes across clean with a sanitised note initially, perhaps the Hakushu showing it's colours first? Creamy caramel notes follow after some turn in the glass, buttery but again with a herbal oregano note. The palate is smooth and creamy with caramelised banana. Spicy oak flavours develop towards the end

Verdict: I could drink this all night, but, unfortunately, it's not currently available from either The Whisky Exchange or Master of Malt

Whisky Discovery #1564

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2016 (48% abv)
Japanese Single Malt Whisky
circa £200.00 70cl
Whisky Discovery
One of the oldest casks at Suntory was the Sherry Cask. As with all good whisky makers nowadays Suntory select their own oak from the forests of Northern Spain. With the wood seasoned, they work with the coopers to create their own sherry casks, shorter with more girth (puncheons) so they still hold the same capacity as a butt. Oloroso sherry is matured in these casks for three years before they are shipped to Japan for whisky maturation. The new 2016 Yamazaki Sherry Cask release has spent three years longer in oak than the 2013 release, and Mike told us that it contains some 25 Year Old Yamazaki too

So What Did I Think?
Of course, this falls into the sherry monster category, the nose is thick with liquorice, aniseed, and clove initially. Once settled the chocolate notes start to develop, and whilst there is a rich fruity raisin note, there's also a meatiness to it too, a very savoury dram.

Moving onto the palate, the quality of the balance is immediately evident with a velvet-like smoothness. My initial note written was Black Forest gateau, rich with chocolate, and dark cherry while the woody notes start to build, clove and woody cassia dominating the spices for me. As expected, it's drying, and you can almost feel it starting to suck the moisture from your mouth as the body builds! On second sip a sour cherry note was more evident, reminding me of the Chinese dried plums/cherries I used to love in the Far East, but the savouriness continues reinforcing the meatiness I noted on nosing.

Verdict: It would have been amazing to be able to try the new 2016 release against the previous release, I don't suppose there are many that will get the opportunity to do this though.

I used to be a big fan of Sherry monsters, however, some bad experiences over the years with some real woody drams, I'm a little more apprehensive with them nowadays. I must admit, this recent release from Yamazaki is something special and there's not a hint of 'struck match' sulphur. I'm fairly certain this will be another Jim Murray hit, but by the time the next release of his Bible comes out it'll be all gone! In fact, if you're umming and arh-ing like I am on whether you should get a bottle, you're probably too late as well!

Splendid stuff! Now can I really afford £200 for a bottle of this?

Slàinte! Dave

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Whisky Discovery #1560

Glenmorangie Private Edition 'Milsean' 46% abv
Highland Single Malt
Circa £76.00 70cl

Private Edition
Candy stripes on the bottle seal but wait till you see the box!

We always look forward to marking the start of the year with a Glenmorangie Private Edition release! On cold grey Tuesday afternoon in mid-January, we sneaked out from our respective 'day jobs' early in order to make the 1700 train into London and headed down to Browns Hotel Ablemarle Street to join Dr. Bill Lumsden and his team for the launch of the latest release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition series.

Milsean (pronounced ‘Meel-shawn’) meaning 'sweet things' in Scots Gaelic, marks the seventh release in this range, and follows Tusail in 2015, Companta in 2014, Ealanta, Artein, Finealta and Sonnalta PX from previous years.

In a packed room, dressed with jars of Flying Saucers, Dolly Mixtures, Sherbet Lemons and icing sugar dusted Bon-bons (both strawberry, and lemon flavours) to remind you of an old-fashioned sweet shop. Dr Bill Lumsden commenced proceedings with a dram of The Original, the single malt that almost all of the Glenmorangie releases start from.
I wish all sweet shops looked like this!
OK, perhaps the sweet shop was a little stretch of the imagination with the back wall lined with alternate bottles of The Original and the new Milsean, but there were plenty of sweets to go round, and we all had at least one bag of sweets to take home with us. Dr Bill explained his love of old-fashioned sweets before going off piste for a short while, telling a story of the state of teeth in Scotland, and his relationship with his dentist!

Back on script Dr Bill went on to explain how the Private Edition series came to be. Prior to the first release, Glenmorangie had released some single cask editions that were very well received (and now highly collectable) but single casks make each release very limited, and exclusive, and a wider release was desired.

Extra-maturation is a process pioneered by Glenmorangie. Whisky is first matured in one type of cask (such as ex-bourbon), then is transferred into a different type of cask (such as ex-wine casks) where it spends additional years gaining further layers of flavour. With a greater outturn the risk is higher, so for the first Private Edition release Dr. Bill decided to stick with a known 'finishing' cask, Pedro Ximenez Sherry.

Milsean is the first Glenmorangie expression to be extra-matured in heavily toasted Portuguese red wine casks. Milsean, draws on the effect of charred wine casks, unlocking an unusual dimension in extra maturation.

Created from Glenmorangie first matured in ex-bourbon oak casks, Glenmorangie Milsean then spent a number of years in casks which had contained Portuguese red wine. Yet before they were used to create a Glenmorangie Private Edition, the casks were heavily charred to enhance the sweeter notes of Glenmorangie, which has created a whisky with such attractive hints of sweetness, that it has surpassed even his expectations.
Tthe Douro valley is said to be one of the most distinctive terroirs in the history of world viticulture
Before presenting the Milsean, Dr Bill had a glass of the Portuguese Red Wine for us to adjust our senses while introducing future successor Brendan McCarron who played a major part in creating this new release.

Dr Bill told us: “A glass of Glenmorangie Milsean transports me straight to an old-fashioned sweet shop with its sweet and spicy bouquet, with hints of sugar cane, ripe fruits and fudge. Extra-maturing Glenmorangie in heavily toasted red wine casks for the first time, has allowed us to create a whisky recalling a bygone era. I hope its deep tastes of cherries, angelica, candied orange peel and unusual intensity of caramelised fruits, will surprise and delight whisky aficionados and malt connoisseurs.”

Bottled at 46% abv, and non-chill filtered for extra body and texture, Glenmorangie Milsean will be available from specialist whisky shops worldwide, including The Whisky Exchange, Soho’s Vintage House, Selfridges and Royal Mile Whiskies from 19th January 2016

mmmm Flying Saucers and even a hint of giraffe!

So What Did We think?

Kat says: The difference with this year's release that interested me was the way the cask was toasted. The wine cask was re-toasted over a brazier of oak chips before the whisky went in, instead of the whisky going straight into a wet cask. Their plan was to make a whisky that smells and tastes like old fashion sweets. This explains the red and white stripped packing resembling the striped paper bags you get in the older or traditional British sweet shops. It's very cute, very playful.

Nose: Begins with a full on sugar hit, full of fudge, Dolly mix sweets, sticky sweet tobacco and figs. With some time in the glass, the more familiar house style of orange zests starts coming through with more aromatic notes specifically picking up bay leaves. Lacing between all of this, more robust notes of toasted coconuts and sesame seeds, adding some good depth. The general feel is sweet without feeling sticky or clinging, the sweetness being uplifted by the zesty notes, and the toasted aromas offering dryness offering some balance to the sweetness.

Taste: It came as no surprise that the sweetness carries on through into the taste. Found it to be a straightforward sweetness of white caster sugar, with the same consistency as watered down sugar syrup. Following on is orange zests, providing a nice all-round light coating of orange essential oil, same as the nose, this provides a balance to and lifting the sweetness stopping it becoming sickly sweet. As time goes on, other notes that were picked up on the nose is pretty much mirrored in the taste and in a similar sequence. Leather notes and toasted coconut emerges with some welcome dryness, allowing spice notes of mace and nutmeg to come through. Subsequent sips still begin with plenty of sweetness but turns more complex, becoming more of Dolly mixture sweets and fudge.

Finish: Here surprisingly, it’s not overcome with sweetness but of toasted oak and coconuts. Some of the essential oils are also here, with some spices that vanish a bit too quickly for me. Would say a medium finish but only because I wished it would linger for a little longer.

Dave Says: Well not quite as much as Kat! When someone is waxing lyrical about something they are passionate about, it's easy to be led through the power of suggestion, especially when you're in a room dressed as a sweet shop, with open jars and bags of sweets that we were 'expected' to find during the tasting. It had been an awfully  long time since I'd had 'Flying Saucers' and these made a very happy food pairing with Milsean for me! Fortunately not only did we get to enjoy this at the launch event, we were also sent a review sample to follow up on.

Whilst this is a very sweet dram, something I picked up on both at the tasting and at WDHQ, was that the distillery character certainly comes through and much more evident than the previous four editions that we've tasted.

Nose: There really is a great deal going on in here. The sweet shop notes are all here as initially directed, Dolly Mixtures and Sherbet Lemons for me. The bags of sweets given to us at the beginning of the tasting made a great reference point for candied fruity notes. I picked up some summer fruit notes too though, raspberries in particular. The 'house-style' orange notes were clear but there was also an interesting toasted coconut flavour.

Palate: This is a definitely a dessert whisky. with soft fudge leading the flavours, before a cornucopia of sweet fruits evolve, with ripe cherry, golden plum, melon, mango and a hint of BBQ'd pineapple, alongside citrus, which was more grapefruit than orange for me. The sweetness is balanced by the spices that follow, ginger predominantly but hints of cinnamon were noted, and I found that toasted coconut coming across towards the short and sweet finish.

Finish: As mentioned above, short and sweet is most apt. There are so many interesting flavours, both on the nose and on the palate, but once swallowed, it seems to finish abruptly.

Verdict: Definitely moreish! Compared with the previous two releases, this stayed much closer to the house style and flavours of The Original. It is a seriously sweet dram and those without a sweet tooth, this is not the whisky for you. Dr Bill and his team set out to make a whisky that resembled the smells and tastes of an old-fashioned sweet shops and Milsean pretty much did that.

This was also the second time we had met Dr. Bill Lumsden, and was very happy that we managed to have a good chat with him. We discussed the flavour profile of the previous release Tusail and what the Maris Otter barley brought to that whisky. Kat told him how she would be interested in doing a side by side comparison with Tusail and The Original, and Dr. Bill agreed this would be an interesting comparison. Something they carried out at the time, with The Original acting as a control.

Having been fortunate to taste the last four Private Editions we'd really like to run a tasting with them all alongside each other with The Original acting as control. At the time of the release of Ealanta, I wasn't a huge fan. I'm not sure 'I got it' then, so would really love to revisit it. Now to get my hands on a bottle of Ealanta…

Slàinte! Dave and Kat