An Evening With Dominic Roskrow

I sometimes think to myself: “Why do I like whisky so much?”

The smell? The flavours? The experience? The quality?

I can’t narrow it down to one singular reason. Yet there’s something that will continually enthuse me and keep me smiling. The people.

This can range from friends you share a Saturday night dram with, to drinks writers. The main reason this “review” is one of the later.

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Back in May, I was persuaded by Nigel Crew of Sassenachs Dram Whisky Club to cancel my plans and come along to a joint tasting with Lyn Adams of Guildford Whisky Shop. What made this even more tempting, was the fact that it was being taken by celebrated whisky writer Dominic Roskrow. I’m not going to tell you all about him as that’s what Google is for; but suffice to say, he knows his stuff. He had chosen three world whiskies, with Lyn choosing three from the shops range. They were as follows:

- St.Georges English Malt Whisky – Four Lions (Discovery Road)

- Dutch Rye 7yo (Discovery road)

- Dunedin New Zealand 15yo DoubleWood

- Redbreast 15yo

- Balcones Single Malt

- Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

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Dominic is a fun and welcoming chap, who is obviously enthused by whisky and the people around it. His background includes journalism, music writer/critic and a move out to New Zealand (we both share a love of this marvellous country). One of his opening lines – “I’m going to say things that are controversial”, certainly brings excitement, and his interesting views on Scotch whisky are met not only met with raised eyebrows, but many nods throughout the room. He discussed different viewpoints of blending, use of colouring (cynical about it, rightly so), politics and the good ol arguments behind Non-Age Statements, or NAS if you will. Even with his terrible German accent (Sorry Dom), the crowd warmed to him instantly, discovering quickly his passion for world whisky. He just couldn’t contain his excitement whilst talking about St.Georges distillery – his “local”.

Although he loves world whisky, this doesn’t stop him enjoying scotch. He spoke fondly about many Scottish distilleries and I have experienced this first hand after sharing and discussing enthusiastically a magnificent 1972 Balvenie with him at The Whisky Exchange Show this year. His argument for why Scotch whisky is the best in the world: Not cutting corners… i.e. the quality oak.

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For me, I have been in tastings where I’ve been told what to do and what to expect. Whereas here, Dominic instantaneously told everyone “You do what you want with whisky, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” Wise words. He continued to tell us the reason he “…does that he does”, is because he has practiced, not because he is the best taster in the world.

He was engaging and humorous throughout, remaining entertaining all night. His insights into areas such as Irish whisky and conflicts in the whisky world were eye opening, and I came away not only enthused, but educated also. If you get the chance to pop along to one of Dominic’s tastings, I would recommend it. You won’t regret it.

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Here are some quick tasting notes on the whiskies we tried.

St.Georges English Malt Whisky – Four Lions (Discovery Road) (46%)

English Malt Whisky - Four Lions

N: Fragrant and very slightly floral. Buttery softness, some vanilla, maltiness and sweet fudge before quite a bit hit of pineapple. Towards the end I get a hint of dustiness.

P: Nicely smooth. Big malty hit upfront before some gentle woodiness. Sawdust, heather, pineapple and sweet pears. Some light spices balance out the sharpness here.

F: Medium. Liquorice on the upper palate and some raisins lower down too. I look the woody quality here. Quite enjoyable.

Dutch Rye 100% 7yo – Smile (Discovery Road) (46%)

IMG_6320N: Sweet nose. Grain like. Slightly grape-y with some polish/waxy notes. Pretty soft overall with some gentle spices and toffee notes too.

P: Good arrival. Vibrant and exciting. I found some similarities to certain bourbon sweetness. Although pretty sweet, it remains quite dry. Soft toffee, warm spicy tones and even some red liquorice laces.

F: Medium. Slightly dry. Rip fruits including banana. Spices slowly simmer down. This was pretty quaffable.

Dunedin New Zealand 15yo DoubleWood (40%)

Dom discussed the difficulties Willowbank distillery had been having with the naming of this DoubleWood, as you might recognise the name from a certain well brand- here. He also explained that the spirit spent 6 years in American Bourbon barrels, before finishing in French Oak NZ wine barrels, giving its slight pink hue.

IMG_6318N: Quite a light, closed and over ripe nose. With time, I found it a tad thicker with a certain sweetness with dark fruit notes. A slight floral sweetness too.

P: The wine cask jumps out straight away. Far more fruity here with some damp wood and fresh sawdust. Sweet vanilla tones, heavy toffee and slight dry tannic notes.

F: Pretty long. Lots of stewed fruit. Slight savoury/meaty note. Lots of the wood profile comes at the end. Pretty complex and needs time. But overall quite enjoyable.

Redbreast 15yo (46%)

IMG_6319N: Slightly withheld to start with. Dark sweetness, demurrer sugar, sultanas and vanilla pod. Lots of old sweet shop flavours here, especially sherbet fountains. Very fragrant, oily and rich. Similar to certain old grain noses.

P: Light on the palate yet retains the oiliness. Big sweetness followed by some big malt tones. I get some salted meat, especially bacon before some sweet American candy takes over.

F: Medium. Sweetness is there for quite a while. Some sweet apples and light citrus too. This is very drinkable and glides down the throat beautifully. I’m glad I have a bottle already.

Balcones Single Malt (53%)

IMG_6323N: Big bacon and BBQ Ribs notes to start. Not as smokey as other Balcones. Some banana, vanilla and honey before you get the pancetta and peppered notes. Slightly dark and sour too. Pretty creamy character.

P: Warming, brown sugar. Far more fruity than expected. Quite buttery with notes of burnt caramel. I think I get banana bread here.

F: Medium/Long. The wood spices reveal themselves towards the end, with quite a doughy character. Fiery yet relaxed. Another good bottle from this crazy awesome distillery.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014 (46%)

Having just finished a bottle of this the previous month, I was well acquainted with this lovely bottling. It actually came out as the favourite dram for the evening with the Dutch Rye and Redbrest 15yo taking runner up spots.

IMG_6321N: Pretty sweet peat here. Soft stewed fruits and vanilla custard take the lead role to begin with. Sweet chocolate floating on a sea of peat. The smoke continually builds, leaving the sweetness to waft around.

P: I could tell this was Kilchoman straight away. Great powerful arrival with some strong burn straight away. Peppery, citrus and oily. Quite a nutty flavour later on once the young vibrant peat subsides.

F: Medium/Long. The peat doesn’t run away, instead dancing upon the tastebuds. Ashy, wood smoke. The sweetness again maintains its course, balanced with the citrus, a hint of chocolate and a slight cereal note too. Considering the age, this is fantastic. In fact, forget the age… it’s fantastic. I cannot wait to see what Kilchoman is like in 5 years time!

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A massive thank you to Nigel and Lyn for putting on this tasting, and of course to Dominic for bring the fun and insight!

Over(eem) And Out

When it comes to sport, the Australians know what they’re doing. They have a brilliant mix of work ethic, skill, drive and sheer determination that puts the fear into any other team facing them. However, it’s not just the sportsmen we should be in awe of: Their whisky makers are rapidly becoming a rather talented and successful lot.
“Now they’re just showing off”, I hear you cry. “Not only do they have the weather, beaches, wildlife and sports teams… But they now have good whisky too?!”
Yep. Sorry.

I have to admit that even I, Mr Sceptical was…. Well sceptical about it at first. But when I met Neil and Joel (the two likely lads from Caskstrength) for the first time back at Whisky Live; Australian whisky was the first drop they poured me at their masterclass. Overeem whisky to be precise, and I haven’t looked back since.
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  You can imagine how happy I was to hear from them 3 months later inviting me to a tasting of the whole Overeem range that they were hosting in London – quickly becoming two of my favourite people. Yes I’m that easy. A great evening was had tasting this delicious liquid and I was truly converted to the full range.
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   The final chapter to this story however, came just 4 weeks ago when Neil asked me to whip together some tasting notes for an Overeem competition over at Master of Malt. The snazziest, most eccentric (and hopefully fitting) notes for the 43% sherry bottling would win a wonderful prize – the chance to help pick a new bourbon matured expression. Having tried a previous bourbon matured Overeem at the tasting (only bottle in the Northern Hemisphere by the way), this was pretty exciting stuff. I didn’t win first prize, but did come runner up with the good man that is Ben Cops, winning us each a bottle of the sherried expression! You can read our runner up posts along with the victors here.

Overeem New make (68% – I think)
Nose: Sweet, pure, powerful, berries and some sourness.
Palate: Pretty heavy on the tongue, but light in character. Slight sourness still there. Fizzy and sherbet-y like old skool fizzy sweets.

IMG_6377Overeem Port Cask (43%)
(Using Australian “port”)
Nose: Even more vibrant, juicy and full. Slightly dusty too. Spices hiding but start to crash around.
Palate: Good port notes, some berries, woodiness, sweet and slightly gloppy. Cherries and blackcurrant.
Finish: Dryer with a nice build up of spice and sweetness.
Comments: This had a nice delivery, with well balanced sweetness. I was expecting slightly more fruits though.

IMG_6378Overeem Sherry Cask (60%)
(I tried this one at WL, let’s so how I do on second tasting)
Nose: Wow, how can this be 60%?! It’s delicate and so easy to nose. Woody and sweet with some soft tropical fruits. Incredibly moorish.
Palate: Dusty and sweet, with sherry at the forefront. Chocolate covered raspberries. Robust woody spices, fizzy like refreshers (mmm) and a hint of ash.
Finish: Nutmeg, cinnamon, slightly nutty and woody. Less sweet, but with a lingering dryness. Spices lead the way.
Comments: For me, this was the star of the show. It wasn’t trying to show off and the smoothness balanced with the complexity of flavours really kept me on edge. Would never believe this was 60%.

IMG_6379Overeem Port Cask (60%)
Nose: Again, how is this 60%?! Fantastic nose with a beautiful blend of dark fruits, light sweetness and dusty/musky tones. Slight yeasty note too with some dark chocolate. I could nose this for hours.
Palate: Glides down the tongue with a silky texture, feeling more like 48%. Heavier sweetness than on nose, slightly drying with wood spice and berries.
Finish: Long and not too dry. Smooth, velvety and simply glam.
Comments: This had you coming back for more and I spent quite a while on it. It’s mixture of drinkability and complexity made for interesting note taking!

IMG_6374Overeem Bourbon Cask (43%)
(Ex heaven hill casks. We tried the only bottle in northern hemisphere)
Nose: Delicate and very rounded. Lots of fruits: apple peel and tropical fruits that got bigger and bigger. Grassy notes too.
Palate: Quite light compared to the sherried/port expressions. Slightly spicy, but hidden under a bed of fruit and hay. Some ripe apples and pears.
Finish: Short, but leaves the mouth fresh and happy.
Comments: Complex again, with a number of flavours hiding behind corners. Not my favourite of the bunch, but drinkable and tasty (like the rest of the range to be honest). The 60% is now due to be released.

And finally, my completely over the top and slightly tongue in cheek mammoth notes for the competition:
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Overeem Sherry Cask (43%)
As I sit in my favourite armchair on a warm September evening, with John Coltrane providing a certain serenity to the room, I’m enticed by this deep amber nectar of the gods. Much like a Mahler symphony, I don’t know what to expect; utter beauty or simple confusion. I’m welcomed to the glass like a long lost friend, with the first sniff embracing my nostrils like a warm hug. At first, this beast from down under seems rather vibrant in the glass. However, it’s deceptively smooth and rounded, with whiffs of fresh wood and sweet tropical fruits smothered in dark chocolate, reminiscent of old sweets my Nan would hide in her purse. A sudden rush of fruit; especially sticky cherries, banana and plums before the delicate spices start weaving their way through my nostrils, with cinnamon and orange zest clamouring to also get a nod. This is all followed by a wave of nostalgia – chocolate covered raisins. All the while, the light dusting of sweet sherry sneaks in round the back to drive this nose forward. With a dash of water, a sweet note of vanilla interplays with a gentle grassy-ness.
  I find myself desperate to delve into the deep layers of flavour found in this beautiful liquid. An abundance of Sunday stewed fruit crumble with vanilla custard attacks my taste buds before a sudden onslaught of liquorice, raisins and cereal notes appear. A real sweetness you get from demerara sugar or fresh icing sugar on a warm sponge cake is present too. Robust woody spices continue to build with each sip, and frolic on the tongue with a particular dustiness leaving a slight chilli note. Chocolate covered raspberries this time, whilst the sherry now takes a leading role. My favourite note? The fizzy refreshers and slight hint of ash.
  John Coltrane is playing his final number of his ‘Live in Paris’ album. His sweet melodies in “Impressions” leaves me feeling somewhat melancholic, whilst the whisky lingers leaving warm spices, orange infused chocolate, vanilla, and Werthers Originals. Somewhat nutty, with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg from the spice rack and a residual dryness also. There is no hiding it, there has been some quality interaction between wood and spirit here. This is not only strongly robust, but is a vibrant, exciting and alluring dram that glides round your mouth delightfully like velvet. I think it was Santana and Rob Thomas that once sung about this whisky: “Oh you’re so smooth…” When I think about it, this wonderful whisky is much like Mahler’s famous 5th symphony. It is utterly beautiful, starting with a tender movement which elegantly continues to build into a triumphant masterpiece. Complex and fulfilling. It is said that Mahler wrote it as a love song to his wife, with a poem attached: “How much I love you, I cannot tell you that with words. I can only lament to you my longing and love”. My sentiment exactly for this Tasmanian Devil.

Thanks once again goes to Neil and Joel from Caskstrength.net – look out for their new book, they know what they’re talking about!

Parliament is in session: Some tasty Glendronach’s

I enjoy whisky from Glendronach. I really do. They’ve just got it right. I love the complexity of flavours involved and their use of wood and particularly sherry. Their two main OB’s: 12yo Original and 15yo Revival are both solid drams that provide lots of scrumptious flavours. Their single casks are even better (even if some people find some of them too “sulphur-y” or “rubber-y”). Abbey Whisky released a fantastic single olorosso sherry cask bottling, which is sadly sold out now – but a real gem.
Following on from my last post….. I popped along to my local ‘Whisky Shop’ for a tasting of the BenRiach Distillers range; Glenglassaugh, BenRiach and Glendronach. The final three whiskies, two out of the three were my winners of the night, each had individual qualities that made my taste buds prick up their ears… or mouths…. Oh I don’t know… I enjoyed them ok!

Glendronach 15yo Port Cask (46%)
grnob.15yov3N: Slightly funky start before opening up. Quite spicy and sweet. Lots of raisins here. I get some earthy note and a slight sour one too. Slightly confusing.
P: Much easier on the palate. Soft, sweet, full, and rounded. Rich and full of fruits. Spiciness takes the lead before it gets quite peppery. Coats the mouth in sweetness.
F: Medium. Light and refreshing take on a port cask maturation. The sweetness works well with a very slight dryness at the end. Not what I was expecting, but I’d have this as an apertif whisky.

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 3 (54.9%)
grnob.non6N: Strong, powerful and prickly. Dusty sherry, hay and a vibrant oakiness. Nice mix between sweet & dry Olorosso/PX used (15 different casks apparently). Glupey sweetness and slightly oily. Berries, figs, peppery and a great spiciness quality. Although big, it’s pretty soft for its abv.
P: Rich, thick and relatively zesty. Deep sherry notes are sweet and warming with some good dusty tones too. Slightly bitter and herbal. Powerful, retaining the dark fruits I like from Glendronach. Again the spices are beautifully balanced. Really tasty.
F: Long, smooth, warming, perfectly balanced sherry-bomb. Yet it’s not over the top on the sherry as it retains a delicate velvety tone throughout. Incredibly drinkable and enjoyable. I bought a bottle with a friend within 5 minutes of tasting this one. For the price, I can’t recommend it enough!

Glendronach Parliament 21yo (48%)
grnob.21yoN: Again, nice and strong but has a gentler approach. Big sherry. Musky, dusty and nose filling. Beautiful balance between sweetness and woody dryness. I like the high spice profile here, it’s warm, earthy and herbal. I got some damp wood too. Nice and complex and completely moreish.
P: Fantastic arrival. Soft yet full of flavour. Musty, earthy and dark like a murky warehouse. Hint of old rum and slightly sour. Full of dark fruits covered with spicy, woody overtones. Smooth yet pretty complex. So much to enjoy.
F: Goes on and on. Love the hint of chocolate on the finish. Some dark berry notes are left, with a smidgen of woodiness. Lingers beautifully around the tongue. This is brilliant stuff with an array of complex flavours. Again, it was purchased very quickly. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this whisky, and for it’s age (let’s not just focus on that) and what you get inside the bottle, it is a cracking price. Currently at Master of Malt for £66.52. here

Thank you Glendronach. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll keep this whisky drinker happy.

Some Glenglassaugh and BenRiach

Nowadays it’s pretty common to see one distillery/company owning more than one active distillery. For example Morrison Bowmore with Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Bowmore. One that is becoming more popular by the day is the BenRiach Distillery Company which owns BenRiach, Glendronach and most recently Glenglassaugh. I heard along the grapevine that they were doing a tour across the chain of ‘The Whisky Shop’, and liking to support whisky in my local area, I trudged down to Guildford’s Whisky Shop with pen and pad in hand and met the ever smiling and wonderful Lyn. She promised that it would be a good night and she wasn’t wrong.

Here was the selection of Glenglassaugh and BenRiach we got to sample. There were three Glendronach present also, but they will appear in a separate blog post (because Glendronach is my favourite of the three distilleries).

 

Glenglassaugh Evolution (50%)
(5 years old)
ggsob.non8N: Young, spirity, light and relatively fresh. Richer than I thought with lots of highland style barley flavours, whilst retaining a Speyside nose by nature. Heather, toffee, fruitiness & some vanilla. I can really smell those bourbon casks. Over all, pretty sweet and buttery.
P: Slightly prickly throughout. Big vanilla hit upfront, but the 50% cuts through that sweetness quickly. Slight aggression whilst retaining some softness. Lots of peat, apples and freshly cut grass here. The bourbon notes again quite present along with the barley character (apparently from the hard water source). Earthy, mineral notes before the caramelised pears appear. Even a slight whisp of wood smoke?
F: Medium. Flavours competing for top spot here, maybe not enough focus? Hay, heather and floral sweetness are overriding notes. Pretty dry in general. Fresh in mouth like listerine, with an overriding sweetness. Pretty young stuff… I think this will be nice when it reaches 10/12 years, but for now it seems pretty pricey for what it is.

Glenglassaugh Torfa 50%
(3yo) (30ppm)
ggsob.non10N: sweet, vegetal peat, slight coastal air whiff before the ashen wood smoke notes appear. Similar to Evolution it has grassy, heather and wet mossyness. Quite farm-yardy in character.
P: Quick brash arrival of sweet peat, sitting upon a bed of young spirity liquid. Sweet fruits, stewed rhubarb and some burnt straw. The ashy light peat actually works well with the young vibrant zest and saltiness. Bourbon notes towards the end with some fresh oak and peppery tones.
F: medium again, with a drying quality that leaves the tongue feeling slightly abused. Smoke doesn’t linger for long, but oakiness and flashes of bourbon do. Quite drinkable, but I’m not sure whether I’d enjoy the whole bottle. Again, pricing point is interesting.

BenRiach 16yo 40%
bnrob.16yoN: Slightly harsh and spirity nose which is interesting. Grassy, fruity and overall pretty quintessentially Speyside. Some vanilla and dark caramelised fruits sit nicely with a note of chocolate covered raisins.
P: Slightly thin start. Huge punch of apples, pears and creme caramel and papaya. Some tropical fruits too, mostly pineapple. The sweet overtones balanced with the light sawdust hold the tongue before a splash of barley appears towards the end.
F: Medium and quite drying. Lots of dried fruit and raisins. Some nice gentle chocolate notes also. Inoffensive, light and delicate. This was nice, but having had a bottle of the 12yo before, I can’t really see that much of a change. Easy enjoyable drinker that benefit at 46%.

BenRiach Authenticus 25yo 46%
203_Authenticus25yoN: Unique, rich, mature and smooth. Barley is quite prominent before hints of sweet sherry. Mossy with a slight dampness to it. Peat lurks about not giving too much away. Quite a moorish nose.
P: Catches you off guard. Slight damp grass/hay, but less fruity that I was expecting. A broad spiciness before the round warming peat arrives. The damp grass turns into cut grass as it becomes more vibrant and smooth. The sherry doesn’t make an appearance until later on once the peat fizzles away.
F: Medium. Earthy, grassy and relatively gritty. Quite balanced throughout and in general a very different dram. I can’t work out whether I love it or I’m just plain confused by it.

A big thank you to Lyn and the Whisky Shop Guildford for getting these whiskies in for the tasting. A nice evening and good to try a variation of drams coming from these distilleries.

The Dark Side Of AnCnoc

Dark_Side_of_the_MoonA certain album released in 1973 by some chaps called Pink Floyd caused quite a stir and turned into an immediate success. That album became an iconic piece of music that will continue to fill record shelves for years to come. Many believe that ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ took the band to new realms of popularity…. not that they weren’t popular before. Could this be the same for anCnoc and the new “Dark side of their whisky”?!

 

If you haven’t heard about these new peaty offerings from anCnoc, then you’ve been in hibernation. In short: This new collection is a blend of anCnoc’s classic light, fruity style but with a dark and smoky twist. They are all bottled at 46% ABV, are non chill-filtered and at natural colour. Good-O! There are three to choose from, all NAS and all distinctly tasty.

anCnoc Rutter
anC-Peaty-Rutter_Both(Peated to 11ppm phenol & matured in American oak hogsheads)

Nose: This is peatier on the nose than I was expecting! Lots of apples (apple bubblegum), vanilla and honey. Lemon drizzle cake with a lovely candied sweetness. Some nice earthiness and muddy peat too. All with a gentle hint of spice.

Palate: Nice start on palate. Peppery, mineral note, slight menthol. Beautiful earthy peat smoke and some nice spice on the tongue. Not too heavy a mouthfeel, but it isn’t too thin either. Some creamy vanilla touches that linger towards the finish. Slight liquorice note too.

Finish:  I got some apple peal and some charred oakiness on the finish. Slight dryness holds the peat nicely. Summery peat indeed. I would so have this with a summer BBQ, after a few beers on the decking with some quality meat.

 

anCnoc Flaughter

anC-Peaty-Flaughter_Both(Peated to 14.8 ppm phenol and matured in a selection of American oak casks)

Nose: Heavier, muddy and slightly waxy. More rigorous than Rutter. Crunchy apples and dark chocolate. Seems more complex than Rutter. Requires you to think a tad more with some withheld notes that need to open up. I’ve actually got less peat reek to start, before it really opened up. A nice old school sweet shop vibe going on here.

Palate: Slightly gravely on first sip. Some dark stewed apple, with some rich sweetness. Pretty dry too. Lemon sherbets, manuka honey and brown sugar. Some earthiness balanced with tar too. Peat blended into surroundings nicely with a big warming smokey BBQ note.

F: A muddy, oily end to this one (reminded me of my old cricket bat when I used to put linseed oil on it!) Pretty dry too, like very fine sandpaper. But it works nicely. Earthiness, anise and spice to finish off. A campfire on a beach in July, watching the sunset with smoked mackerels. Bam.

 

anCnoc Tushkar

anC-Peaty-Tushkar_Both(Peated to 15 ppm phenol and matured in 1st refill American ex-bourbon barrels)

Nose: This is again really different. Loads of light, higher scented fruits, caramel and lemon meringue pie. Lots of candied fruits in fact. The peat is playing hide and seek with me…one minute there, the next, gone… Faint notes of bonfire with some seafood too, yet I can’t get over the crazy amount of sweets. I’m getting lemon sherbets and apple chews. My teeth might just fall out when I try this.

Palate: Slightly ashy, light green apples. Big sweetness, but not as much as I was expecting. Also a slight sour note on the back of tongue. Peppercorn sauce too. I like this mouthfeel. Some sweet orange, quite a bit of coconut and vanilla pod. Well integrated with some ashy peaty tones.

Finish: Longest of the lot. Very fresh and vibrant leaving me with a gentle sweetness. Tasty and pretty balanced, but I have to say my least favourite of the bunch (which is good as there’s no chance of me getting hold of this one unless I end up flying to Sweden).

 

A great offering of interestingly peated whiskies here. I am fan of anCnoc as it is, with their 12yo & 16yo old favourites, but these three really shine. An enjoyable experience, offering a rare opportunity to try a light summery peated option.  I can guarantee that these will become incredibly popular as soon as people get the whisky to their lips. If you get the chance to try any of them, then I’d highly recommend it. A bottle of the Rutter will be making it’s way to my house for BBQ season, I know that for sure. Oh and another thing…. for those who say all NAS are lame lifeless whiskies, put these in your pipe and smoke it!

 

*A big thanks to anCnoc whisky for sending these samples. Very kind indeed*

 

 

 

 

Glen Garioch Drambassador: Mystery Dram

Well aren’t I lucky?! I got an email the other day telling me that I had been chosen to be a Glen Garioch ‘Drambassador’. “What is that?” I hear you cry. In answer to your question, it means that I have been given a unique opportunity, along with only 19 others, to sample some of their new, gorgeous, unreleased single malt whisky. Did I mention how lucky I was?! What I forgot to mention was that I don’t know anything about this liquid, apart from its ABV. Oh… and there’s one more thing. If my tasting notes match those of Rachel Barrie (Glen Garioch’s Master Blender) then I might be lucky enough to join her for a trip to the distillery. I couldn’t think of anything better.

P1040891

 

unnamed If you follow me on twitter (@mattveira), then you may know how much I enjoy a drop of Glen Garioch. I was lucky enough to come across them in the last few years and I’ve enjoyed a number of their expressions since – especially the 12 year old, 1995 and 1986 vintages. So when a snazzy gift box arrived on my doorstep, I was intrigued to say that least. On opening the chest of goodies, I discovered not only a sample of the mystery dram, but some pairing items (jar of jam and a bar of dark chocolate studded with crystallised ginger) and a scroll containing a number of clues, set to help me on this treacherous task.

 

I spent some time investing some of these clues, mostly having little luck. It wasn’t until I started tasting the dram, that ideas started forming. Let’s start with the gorgeous little drams tasting notes:

unnamed-2Colour: Beautiful dark golden amber, with a slight red/pink haze

Nose: Glen Garioch profile obvious here with a slight spice and grassy note with some veiled sweetness. Fresh, fragrant and sweet. Manuka honey before the fruit hits – blackcurrant, plums, berries and toffee apples. Nicely sweet, with a slight sour note too. Grassy/heathery notes making more of an appearance with some vanilla ice cream. Some oakiness leaps out before the chocolate comes to play – reminiscent of fruit & nut. Later, there is a heavier oak and spice with flashes of fudge, raisins and menthol right at the end. This is nicely complex whilst retaining its balanced quality.

Palate: Rich, sweet and relatively thick, coating the mouth nicely. Fruits at the forefront with strong blackcurrant and sweet berries; a slight fruit cake quality here. Similar to the nose, the spice grows filling the mouth beautifully, balanced with some woodiness. The rich chocolate really starts weaving in and out of the oakiness beautifully with some powerful nuttiness. Moderately peppery, with a hint of ginger (helped by the crystallised ginger), and touch of bitter tannins. The initial creamy sweetness gives way to a slight sour acidity with tangy apples. Finally, an oily/silky mouthfeel with a smidgen of mint and citrus astringency leaving the mouth feeling pretty fresh/clean.
Finish: Long, spicy, velvety and warming. I find it quite smooth and creaming with very few rough edges. An oaky and nutty character continues throughout, even flashes of liquorice and orange. Moderately dry, but overwhelmingly lovely.
Comments: A wonderfully crafted whisky. Interesting, individual and intriguing. For me it hit the spot, providing the smooth character I enjoy, coupled with a beguiling interchangeable disposition. A chameleon of a whisky. If I were to guess an age, I would go for 14/15 years.

 

The clues we were given:

  1. The entire batch of this expression was distilled one summers day when Scotland took part in a global sporting event. The country where this event took place is closely linked to our tasting notes.
  2. Our whisky is a perfect marriage of two regions and you may find our whisky’s robust structure and complex flavours remind you of something else.
  3. The casks were previously stored in a cave 100km from the Atlantic Ocean.
  4. The oak shares its name with a breed of cattle.

Clue 1
One of my other loves, away from the whisky and music worlds, is sport. So i scoured my brain, noting down each ‘global sporting event’: Olympics, Rugby World Cup, Commonwealth Games, Football World Cup?! I realised quite quickly that the Rugby World Cup is usually held during the winter, so that was one down. Scotland don’t compete in The Olympics on their own either, leaving me with two remaining ideas. My initial thought was The Commonwealth Games, coinciding with Scotland hosting later this year. Manchester, Kuala Lumpur, Canada and New Zealand were all possibilities, with NZ (great wine producing nation) being my favourite. Annoyingly, I discovered that they held it in January. 1998_FIFA_World_Cup_logo.svg I decided to go down the final route and look at the Football World Cup. Scotland qualified for the ’90 WC in Italy and the ’98 WC in France (I didn’t think it could have been earlier than 1990!) Remembering that the ’98 French World Cup was held during June & July (I remember watching it), coupled the fact that there is no 1998 Vintage in the Glen Garioch range made me prick up my ears. I might be on to something.

 

Clue 2
A perfect marriage between two regions, initially made me think of two whisky regions. It wasn’t until I thought that the French connection could mean that the casks could be from another region? If this is the case, France not only has a plethora of wine regions but copious spirits too; Brandy, Armagnac, Cognac etc… sadly I’m no expert in any of these either. But this could explain some of the rich complexity and interesting notes to the whisky.

 

Clue 3
Cognac_Map_Total3 This was when my four years of degree research payed off – ie Wikipedia helped out. I narrowed it down to two choices:

  • The Bordeaux region of France is precisely 100km to Soulac-sur-Mer right on the French coast
  • The town of Cognac is around 100km to the famed La Rochelle on the French coast.

My C in French GCSE finally helped me like Mrs Smith said it would, and I remembered that “cave” in French mean “cellar”. Great!

Clue 4
heifers AUGUST 2011 183 Although I know my cattle really well *coughcough*, I’m sadly not at the age for Countryfile etc just yet! I discovered that Limousin is not only a region of France known for its oak AND breed of cattle, but Furthermore, this French Oak is particularly favoured by many including Rémy Martin (known for Cognac) for a number of years.
The chocolate, ginger and jam helped bring some of the tasting notes to mind. The chocolate matched the rich sweetness of this this whisky, but I didn’t think that France was well known for its chocolate or ginger people (oh dear). I was certain that the jam was blackcurrant, but every now and then would get a plum like note. I know that blackcurrants grow abundantly in Burgundy, especially Cassis; and discovered that Greengage (a cultivator of the European Plum), sometimes known as a sugar plum was bred in Moissac, France. We seem to be on a roll now….

 

For a few days I grappled with all this…. I was torn… maybe I still am! I wasn’t sure whether this whisky was aged/finished in Cognac casks due to the rich complexity involved; or Bordeaux red wine casks, due to certain tannins, blackcurrant notes and dark the red/pink colour. There are certain characteristics that remind me of a wine cask matured Bowmore I own somewhere in my cupboard. However, due to the richness and flavours reminiscent of certain brandies I’ve tasted, I won’t go with the red wine casks (watch me slap myself later!)

 

Conclusion: I believe that this mystery dram is a 48% 1998 Vintage, making it a strapping 15 year-old (maybe even 16, depending on the release date), aged in Cognac casks, with the use of Limousin oak. Furthermore, as I was torn between Bordeaux/Cognac, I will guess that they may have started life as Bordeaux casks before they were used to age the Coagnac. Moreover, meaning that these quality casks would have spent time in not only the Bordeaux region, but that of Gascony too; another marriage of two regions!

What a great experience this was. The whisky was sublime, challenging and exciting. The task…. pretty much the same. I may have less hair after this challenge, but it was definitely worth it. I also may be miles off with all of my guesses, but I don’t care. Glen Garioch have produced another cracker and I’m eager to discover the true identity and story behind what will turn out to be a very popular expression. Thank you to Glen Garioch for choosing me and organising this exiting task. I hope this isn’t the end of my Drambassador role. Good luck to all the other 19 #GGDrambassador’s – it’s been exciting to say the least!

Review: Arran 17 Year Old

Staying in the Arran frame of mind, it makes sense to whip out a quick review of their latest offering. Arran whisky seems to be getting better and better with time and I love many of their bottlings, especially their 14 year old (see what I thought of a range of Arrans here). Now have released their oldest bottling to date, let’s see how it is.

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Arran 17 Year Old

Nose: Incredibly floral with a light a fragrant sweetness. It’s like an orchard here with lots of sweet fruit to start, before a sweeter stewed quality appears. I get some zesty citrus (lemon or orange, I’m not sure) and some vanilla too. Lots hiding beneath the surface including cinnamon and sweet manuka honey, with a slight sawdust note. Pretty complex and really delicious. Great start.

 

Palate: Slightly prickly to start. Crunchy green apples dominate at the start (with a hint of pears). The floral sweetness on the nose is still present, but is balanced with some honeyed sweetness too. The sherry works well with the fruit here, some vanilla custard over apple crumble, with a small hint of gentle spice. Some fantastic quality maltiness here with a very gentle oakiness too.

 

Finish: Medium-Long. It lingers nicely with raisins, apples and a warming woodiness with some toffee. Not too much sweetness here and not that drying either. Beautiful warming throughout. Cracking.

 

Now let’s get something straight. This isn’t good. It isn’t even very good. It’s bloomin fantastic! Arran was great up to now, but this is some seriously mature, classy, quality stuff. These clever chaps have pulled it out of the bag (yet again). This is not only good news for Arran, but for the whisky industry in general; Non-chill filtered, no added colouring and simply delicious. This is my favourite Arran to date and will be purchasing a bottle. I would recommend doing the same before they all fly off the shelves.

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Thanks again goes to Arran for their generous sample.

An Array Of Arran’s

Recently, there seems to be a distillery that constantly turning heads… and all for good reasons! Arran distillery seems to causing a stir and once you have tried some of their whiskies, you can understand why. The water of life has an intriguing past on this island. In the 19th century, the Isle of Arran was once home to more than fifty whisky distilleries. Which for a island with only 432 square kilometres of land, is rather impressive. However, most of these distilleries were illegal, or known as moonlight distilleries. Hidden from many prying eyes (mostly the taxman I would expect), they spent years producing illegal malt whisky which was shipped across to the mainland to be drunk by the wealthy and elite. The last legal distillery on Arran was ‘Lagg’, which closed in 1837. So when Harold Currie stepped forward to build a new distillery, you would think it would have been plain sailing. Not quite! During the construction of this new distillery, a nest was found on a cliff near the site. This nest later turned out to be the home of two Golden Eagles; a protected species! Construction was temporarily halted, but luckily for us, the distillery opened in 1995.

For me it was a question of being able to get my hands on some samples to try. My good friend Toby Stokes, being the generous chap he is, gave me some samples left over from the Arran Tweet Tasting last year (how generous are Arran with their samples – good job!) I also acquired two very special samples during some swaps I had been involved in over the new year; with Dave Worthington and Ben Cops being the two bounteous fellows.

I tasted six expressions for this vertical, all OB’s:

- 10 Year Old
– 14 Year Old
– 12 Year Old Cask Strength
– Millenium Casks
– The Golden Eagle 1999
– Devils Punch Bowl II

Arran 10 Year Old

Nose: Light, fragrant, floral, sweet toffee. Slightly spirity and not overly complex.

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Arran 10yo

Palate: Pretty sweet, feels relatively heavy on top palate. I get some heather, honey and pears. Gets more floral and syrupy with time. Slightly perfumed too.

Finish: Medium/short, not lingering much at all. Heat on tongue sticks around though. For an islander, it leaves the mouth feeling pretty fresh. It’s young, energetic and bright. I enjoyed this, but at times it seemed quite young.

 

Arran 14 Year Old

N: Even more floral than 10yo. Demerara sugar. Dull sweetness before some sawdust and honey.

Arran 14

Arran 14yo

P: Good mouthfeel and already feels more mature. The floral quality is there, less so than nose. Woody, slightly spicy, salty with some toffee.

F: Short. Slightly spicy on tongue. Leaving some stewed fruit and sugar. Nice smooth aftertaste and relatively robust. There’s been some quality work that’s gone into this. Without a doubt a session dram that you could enjoy all night long. The most easily accessible in the lineup. Put it in your collection.
Arran 12 Year Old Cask Strength

N: Relatively withheld nose to begin with. Some apples and melons, but with time in the glass, more complex fruitiness appears. Really fresh and zesty.

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Arran 12yo CS

P: Nice strong start. I love it at cask strength, works very well. Sultanas, apples, brown sugar. Some quality oak here too it seems.

F: Medium. Really warming with some lovely mellow fruity notes. It’s actually quite a delicate finish. Tad dry. Definitely more complex than the 10yo & 14yo, but I feel it gives a lot more too. (This is incredibly mature compared to most of the 12-year olds I teach at school!)


Millennium Casks

N: Sticks nicely to the Arran nose profile you get accustomed to. Slightly withheld again, but it really opens up in the glass. Pretty complex. Fresh. Fruitiest of the bunch. Quite spicy. I get loads of stewed apple with cinnamon here.

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Arran Millenium Casks

P: Mmm this works, pretty sweet again but not overpowering. Vanilla. Some great work between malt and oak. Warm spices build continuously. I applaud the balance between the bourbon and the sherry.

F: Medium/long. Beautifully balanced, lingering nicely on the tongue. Rich toffee, heather, and a hint of Manuka honey. Its great at CS again, yet soft considering the ABV. I really enjoyed this sample and would recommend getting hold of a bottle before they sell out…. not too many of them around.

 

Arran The Golden Eagle 1999

N: SWEET. Apple peel, sugar cane, peaches. Did I mention it was sweet?

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Arran Golden Eagle 1999

P: Malty. Very highland-esq. Bold fruitiness, especially sweet crunchy apples. Golden syrup and toffee apple sweetness. Old penny sweets. I did find it quite thin though.

F: Medium. Sits on tongue before evaporating quickly, leaving a lingering sweet sensation. I personally find the sweetness overbearing here, covering many other aromas. Nice delicate expression, but I feel like my teeth will all fall out if I drink too much of this. Just too much sweetness here for me… Shame.

(A big thanks to Dave Worthington from Whisky Discovery for the sample)

Arran Devils Punch Bowl II 

N: Slightly withheld to start before some dried fruit appear – apples and apricots. Some gentle spices, vanilla and a hint of milk chocolate. Nutty notes followed by fresh cigars. With time it becomes even fruitier. Incredibly intricate nose, which needs time due to its complexity.

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Arran Devils Punch Bowl II

P: Nice powerful spicy start, whilst remaining delicate. Far more sweet than the nose suggests. The spice sits playfully on the tongue; lovely. Juicy fruits and vanilla sitting together with some dry oakiness. Some bourbon, damp wood with a hints of peat towards the end.

F: Medium. Quite warming with a nutty and sherried dryness. Lots of chocolate, vanilla and lingering spice. Not as dark and scary as the name suggests, but that doesn’t stop it being an interesting and complex dram with lots to pick out and enjoy. I’d by a bottle to enjoy if they weren’t so expensive at auction.

(A big thanks to Ben Cops from Bens Whisky for the sample)

 

If you haven’t tried any of the expressions from Arran, then I would implore you to do so. You won’t regret it. Hey, if you don’t like it…. then just send it my way!

Whisky Live

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… But I attended my first ever whisky show the other week. I know it’s bad. It’s taken me this long to get myself in gear. However, I can tell you something else. It will not be my last. I had heard quite a bit about Whisky Live from my numerous twitter/blogging friends, so I made sure I didn’t miss out on this years. Held at the beautiful Honourable Artillery Company (a somewhat hidden gem in London), Whisky Live gives whisky lovers the opportunity to socialise, try lots of new whisky and meet brand ambassadors.

After a fantastic night at the SMWS the night before, and an exciting tour round The London Distillery on Friday; a large rowdy group of us descended upon Whisky Live with Glencairns in hand and a gleam in our eyes.

 

Teeling

Teeling Single Grain, Small Batch Blend & Vintage Reserve 21yo

First port of call was the Teeling Whiskey stand. I’d heard too many good things about this whiskey, so I thought it would be a great start. I met the familiar friendly faced Sam (who gave me my first ever SMWS dram) who represents Teeling. He not only gave me three crackers to try, but also a great knowledge of them all.
Teeling Single Grain: Sweet grainy nose with slight menthol/smoke hint. Incredibly smooth leathery palate, with some grass, sweets & wine on the finish.
Teeling Small Batch Blend: Again quite a sweet grainy nose, but rum finish is apparent upfront. Warming, grassy, slight metallic rum note. Lingers nicely leaving cut grass & raisins. I liked it a lot.
Teeling Vintage Reserve 21yo: A powerful, fruity nose. Really intriguing palate delivering smooth sweetness before dark sour fruits bounce over the tongue. Mysterious & complex, I loved it! Thank you Teeling Whiskey, you’ll be in my cupboard soon.

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Mark Thompson: The Grain Man!

Following the Grain theme, I ventured over to the legends of grain – Girvan – where I met Mark who treated me to four of their delightful grains. And delightful they were.

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Girvan No.4 Apps

Girvan No.4 Apps: Oily, musky, floral nose. Palate was fresher & more vibrant with a slight savoury edge. Lingered nicely with a small hint of smoke on the finish.

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Girvan 25yo

Girvan 25yo: Slightly withheld nose, remaining fresh & vibrant considering age. Vanilla, pear drops, ginger & toffee with some dryness on the finish.

 

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Girvan 30yo

Girvan 30yo: Subtlety floral, musty, fruity & chocolate notes on nose (some corn too?!) Oaky, sweet, sawdust and leafy character. Stays fruity & smooth throughout whilst having a slight zestiness to it. Again pretty vibrant for age.

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Girvan 40yo

Girvan 40yo: Rich and quite spicy on the nose. Pretty creamy. More oak and sherry here. Warming with red berries and hint of sawdust. Nicely aged with lots of sawdust and sherry sweetness. Magnificently mature.

 

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Preparations for the masterclass

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Neil spinning his magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to attend two masterclasses on the day, the first being led by three cracking gentlemen: Rob Allanson, Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (Caskstrength). Providing knowledge and humour, they led us through the previous nights WWA Winners – weren’t we lucky! All interesting whiskies in their own right, showing the vast quality and variety we are lucky to have in the current market.

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WWA Winners

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Nikka Taketsura 17yo

Nikka Taketsura 17yo: Gentle, mossy, spicy, floral, dried fruit and tobacco – complex nose. Dark arrival with oak, cinnamon and liquorice. Fruity, floral characteristics before hidden whisp of smoke appears. Relatively smooth & slightly drying.

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The Lost Distilleries Blend

The Lost Distilleries Blend: Strong but mellows. Grainy, woody & spicy before peat starts to appear. Some leather armchairs too. Floral/citrus notes upfront with coriander and gentle peat balanced with a hint of zest. Very smooth dustiness with hints of peat here and there. Quality!

 

 

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Sullivans Cove

 

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask: Musty, oaky, bourbon, cereal and almonds on the nose. Quite thin on arrival. Vanilla, honey and spices.Woody, drying and complex. The vanilla continues into the finish with some nuttiness too. Nice, but not my favourite (although it was voted worlds best single malt!)

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Overeem

Oveream: Powerful, sherried & slightly metallic. Fruitcake, caramel and spice. Sweeter on palate, with BBQ and burnt barley. I keep getting cinnamon. Nutty with vague smokey notes. Long finish with dark fruits & spiciness. Some cocoa there too before the sherried fruits take over.

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Balcones Brimstone Resurrection

Balcones Brimstone Resurrection: Very different. Oily, sweet BBQ meat, burnt hay & smoke on nose. Even meatier on palate, with powerful dark dusty flavours coupled with some menthol on the long booming finish. Yikes!

 

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A selfie with Balcones Chip Tate – Legend!

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Balblair tasting

I obviously wasn’t content enough with one masterclass, so I popped along to Balblair’s later that afternoon. We weren’t led as well this time around, but we still got to try some of their nice vintages.

Balblair 2003: Spirity, grassy and floral, really fills the nose. Full on palate with sweet oranges and apricots. Similar to certain new-make. Evaporates quickly leaving apples, wet wood, vanilla and hint of sherry.

Balblair 1997: More tropical fruits on nose with raisins and a sweetness again. More fruity and delicate with some citrus and heather. Vanilla, brown sugar and bourbon notes on finish.
Balblair 1990: Fresher nose, with sherry soaked fruit and sawdust. Dusty, floral, smoothly sherried with very small hints of peat. Long warm finish with lots of depth.
Balblair 1983: Dark fruits, wet wood, toffee and an old sweet shop on the nose. Palate’s less sweet, giving a dry maltiness mixed with a fruity depth. Slightly edgy on finish showing its maturity and smoothness. I love this one.

 

Twas time to move away from the Scotch and try something else, and after chatting with my friend Scott, we decided to head to the Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. All five whiskies we tried were well made, with the Kavalan Classic and Kavalan Port getting some good nods and the KingCar whisky giving me a big juicy, fruity, briny, smile! It was the three ‘Solist’ bottlings that stood out however.

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Kavalan Soloist Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Bourbon: Strong bourbon nose with sour fruits and sawdust. Strong palate giving lots of berries, raisins and some earthiness. I could have drunk it for days.

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Kavalan Solist Sherry

Kavalan Solist Sherry: Big, rich and dark! This is serious sherry on the nose, palate and eye. Holds the tongue with dark fruits, brown sugar and sawdust. Long long finish.

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Kavalan Solist Wine Cask

Kavalan Solist Wine Cask: Cracking nose, subtle yet powerful. Sweet, wet wood, grapes, some tannins and dryness. I just wrote “lovely lovely stuff”.

 

 

 

We decided to try some non distillery bottlings after this, so slid over to That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The delightfully cool Cat Spencer guided us through some of the cracking bottles they had on show. I’ve got a few of TBWC’s bottles, and I can tell you that their awesome comic book bottle labels are just the start!

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TBWC Clynelish

TBWC Clynelish: Strong, meaty, salty and lovely. However, not a typical Clynelish. Some forrest fruits and nuttiness balanced with a whisp of smoke.

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TBWC Caol Ila

TBWC Caol Ila: Classic Caol Ila. Big peat, big smoke, some delicate TCP, earthy and strong. This was like smoking a quality cigar.

 

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TBWC Kilchoman

 

TBWC Kilchoman: Peat-tastic! Slight farmyard peat on nose, with floral notes lurking behind. Doesn’t feel too young (even though it obviously is). Great mix of apples, earthiness, peat and biiig sweet smoke. This was awesome and my favourite of the TBWC bunch!

 

 

Another indie cask strength stand, and our friends over at The Whisky Exchange offering some Elements of Islay. The wonderful Billy and (my good old friend) Andy had some great choices.

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Br5 – Bruichladdich

Br5: Old Bruichladdich nose, salty, briny, earthy with some grass and sultanas. Strong on the palate with apples, grass, bourbon and hint of smoke on the tail. Beautifully balanced with some toffe at the end. This seems like an older laddie to me…. but I could be dreaming.

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Bw3 – Bowmore

 

Bw3: Great nose. Mellow peat, some salt with a slight fragrance to it. Peaty clings to top palate with some ripe fruit (grape & blackcurrent). Nice stuff, seems like a mid-aged Bowmore to me.

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Lp4 – Laphroaig

LP4: Less TCP than other Laphroaigs. Sweet peat, smoke and a very small savoury hint. Smooth palate with peat gliding over the tongue with a earthy quality. The smoke here was spot on. All three bottles showed some real quality.

 

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Chris – Cracking Chap!

We did make it to various other stands, but sadly 6 hours just wasn’t enough time to  visit them all, which is a shame. A big shout out to Chris on the Compass Box stand. As usual, he was delightfully personable and gave some lovely whiskies to sample. [Watch out for an upcoming Compass Box vertical]

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Chris chatting to John Glaser… Mr Compass Box!

Some of the other whiskies I got to try throughout the day: Glencadam 14 Olorosso, Glencadam 18, Compass Box Hedonism, Balcones Baby Blue, Balcones Brimstone, Balcones Number 1 and Nikka 15yo.

 

A wonderful afternoon, trying some marvellous whiskies. Could you ask for more? Oh yes… the fantastic company I had throughout the day. New friends brought together by the love of this magical liquid. A big shout out goes to Scott (@saunders_afc), Tommo (@ifotou), Stevo (@steveprentice), Ben (@ben_copps), Jon (@dvdbloke), Dave (@whiskydisovery), Andy,(@ardbaggie) Dave (@whiskyrepublic), Kat (@whiskydiscovkat), John (LRwhisky), Adrian (@mynameisgone), Stewart/Kirsty (@whiskycorner). Just a selection of the #Whiskyfabric

 

* Thanks goes again to Whisky Live for the pass and for putting on a great event *

Love London? Love Whisky? Love the London Distillery Company

 

1-2013-03-30-13-13-56Not many people know (myself included until recently) that London had a rich whisky heritage at one stage, possibly dating back to the thirteenth century. Who knows…maybe even Chaucer himself, enjoyed a London whisky from time to time on his way to Canterbury. I’d like to think so. The important point to remember is that there hasn’t been a distillery in the capital since the early 20th century, when the Lea Valley Distillery (where some of the Olympic park now sits) closed in 1903 due to a crash in the market.

Step in Dareen Rook and co!

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Darren giving us some background info

 

A craft distillery I hear you cry? Well, plans for a new distillery go back to 2010. Four years on, lots of planning, searching, fundraising and renovating later… There is a converted Victorian dairy cold room in Battersea that is now known as the London Distillery Company. This is still a relatively new venture, but an exciting one nonetheless. One that will hopefully encourage an industry that was once active in this great capital to rise up again.

 

 

Do I sound excited? I would hope so. This excitement peaked when I got an invite (along with a number of other whisky blaggers bloggers) from the lovely Kirsty Chant, inviting us for a personalised tour with Darren himself. It was a great insight into his mind. His vision, enthusiasm & passion was intrinsic. They are still in what you might call the experimental stages; doing many experiments with yeast varieties whilst trying to find the perfect mix of yeast/barley etc.

 

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A heavy yeasty aroma greets us on entrance, coupled with the sound of hard work and excitement. Some could be fooled into thinking that this is just a bunch of enthusiastic guys throwing some stuff together for fun… But let’s get something straight. These guys know what they are taking about. Darren, a highly knowledgeable chap with years of whisky/spirit experience not only shows great enthusiasm, but a real understanding of this process and the science behind it. He was kind enough to let us nose a selection of his new spirit, explaining the different methods used in production before the filling of the casks and maturation. Darren explained how it will be interesting to see how consistently the sprit will mature over time.

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Matilda

Two stills currently sit, pride of place, in the distillery: Matilda and Christina (names after Darren’s Grandmother and wife). He was overflowing with pride whilst speaking about these two highly polished stills, even showing discomfort when noticing someone’s dirty handprint on Matilda! Christina, the smaller of the two, is currently used to produce the now infamous Dodds Gin produced at the distillery. However, she is also licensed to distill whisky spirit, which comes in handy during these experimental stages. Matilda on the other hand is a pot & column still, and will be the main still during the distillation of the future spirit.

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Christina

 

 

We all agreed from the nosing of the latest spirit, that there are many distinct, exciting and promising points to the spirit. We were told by Darren that they would eventually all be single cask releases which again shows great promise. I heard somewhere that the end of 2016 will signify the whiskies coming of age, but please don’t quote me on that one. Nonetheless, when we finally do see bottles of whisky leaving the doors of this place, it will be a day to celebrate. Whether you are a Londoner or not, watch out for these guys as there are exciting things brewing. I can guarantee that.

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Shiny Matilda

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Stay classy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I love London. I love whisky…. And I now unequivocally love the excitement, enthusiasm and passion that is driving The London Distillery Company forward.