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).
A 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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The casks were previously stored in a cave 100km from the Atlantic Ocean.
- The oak shares its name with a breed of cattle.
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. 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.
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.
- 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!
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!
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.
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.
Thanks again goes to Arran for their generous sample.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Girvan 25yo: Slightly withheld nose, remaining fresh & vibrant considering age. Vanilla, pear drops, ginger & toffee with some dryness on the finish.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
TBWC Clynelish: Strong, meaty, salty and lovely. However, not a typical Clynelish. Some forrest fruits and nuttiness balanced with a whisp of smoke.
TBWC Caol Ila: Classic Caol Ila. Big peat, big smoke, some delicate TCP, earthy and strong. This was like smoking a quality cigar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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 *
Not 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love London. I love whisky…. And I now unequivocally love the excitement, enthusiasm and passion that is driving The London Distillery Company forward.
I don’t like to take things for granted. I know that I am incredibly lucky in certain aspects of my life. I have my health, a wonderful wife, friends, a home, a good job and the time/means to pursue my numerous hobbies.Furthermore, I don’t like taking the generosity of the whisky community (or #whiskyfabric as it is quickly becoming known) for granted. So when I was invited by Joe McGirr to a special bloggers/writers evening at the SMWS, I considered myself very lucky.
On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of attending this event at the Scotch Malt Whisky SocietiesLondon tasting room, for an evening of dramatic drams and glorious grub. For me personally, there was a distinct element of anticipation and excitement rising. Yes I was looking forward to trying what had been described as “Some very special whiskies”,but there was more. This proved to be a gathering of the many whisky bloggers/friends I have made over the last year and a half on twitter.Giving me the chance to meet many of the individuals I regularly chat to on the twittersphere.
The tasting was hosted by John McCheyne: a true legend, who passionately led us through the whiskies with humerous stories, anecdotes and his witty words of wisdom. Here are the six drams we tried…..blind!
SMWS 21.28 ‘Relaxing in a tropical garden’ (48.1%)
N: Rich and strong. Ripe fruit, brown sugar, marzipan, cherries. Some wet wood with ahint of spice in there too. Strong oakiness appears with time before the floral qualities start cropping up. Left in the glass a few hours, it becomes rather tropical.
P: Nice and smooth on delivery. Tropical fruits here too. Spice becomes even more present. Some coconut and freshly cut grass here too. Slightly hot considering its ABV.
F: Medium/short. A nice creamy finish on this one. Brown sugar and spice stay present, but overall it’s soft and delicate, lingering gently on the tongue. Its maturity increases with time.
Quite a beguiling whisky this one. Many of us thinking it was a refill sherry cask, before John revealed it was a refill bourbon instead. Most were also out by 10+ years when guessing its age. Really interesting dram, which we were lucky to try, let alone start with.
SMWS 46.22 ‘An Italian Kitchen’ (50.6%)
N: Sour note here. Some grape notes and a hint of acrylic paint/poster paint. Apple peel, sultanas and dark chocolate. Creamy vanilla, some citrus and grassy notes too. Fills the nostrils right up.
P: Light on palate. Lots of fruit on delivery: apples, pears and grapes especially. Sour note quite obvious, chocolate éclairs, vanilla and slight nuttiness.
F: Long and fruity finish. Sweet and fresh. Slight savoury note right at the end too.
This was a solid whisky. My main note was “This is pretty great!”
SMWS 26.93 ‘Cottage Garden Beside a Church’ (56.3%)
N: Nice nice NICE! Sawdust, almonds, citrus, gently floral and classic Clynelish meatiness. Apple peel, melons and tropical fruit. Vanilla pod, lots of old school sweet shop sweets.
P: Lots of savoury coastal meaty and oaky notes here. Elderflower, malty and some burnt toast. Syrup sponge. Peppery now and slight hint of peat. Ah man….. I love this!
F: Smooth, and it just keeps on going. Quite herbal with a mix of meat, salty Parma ham and peat.
Ok, so I’m currently a big Clynelish fan. The 14yo OB is pretty flawless and gives so much bang for its buck. Most other indie bottlings I’ve tried are great too. This though, was not only powerful, meaty, and smooth, but also had an air of maturity to it. I’m off to get one!
SMWS 121.50 ‘Xmas cake and Afghan coats’ (61.3%)
N: I automatically thought this was a Highland Park before it started opening up. Prickly. Coca Cola, dark chewy toffee and raisins with some savoury notes (smoked ham). Quite salty with a slight BBQ glaze. Dusty sherry and a slight ‘off’ note.
P: Dark, hot and powerful. Really peppery. More fruit on palate than nose and water just increases that. Sherry just gets bigger and bigger with time.
F: Long, sitting for quite a while. Some spiciness and ginger. Cloves and a hint of meat and leather. Quite drying.
I’ve tastedfive different Arrans in the last 3 weeks and would have never have guessed this was from the same distillery.This is a grower, and again we were very lucky to have been able to try this as there aren’t many of these around nowadays.
SMWS R2.3 ‘Visiting a Gothic art gallery’ (69.5%)
N: First note was “I’m not sure I like this one”. Sourness, rubber bands, old cheese paint and high metallic and old herbal notes. Very weird indeed. I can’t really place this. Most thought this was aged in a different spirit.
P: Bonjela and feels like I’m at the dentist. Cloves, chilli, very metallic and liquorice. Root beer, old bubble gum. Nah…
F: Waxy and peppery. Grapey, flat fizzy drink, numbing. Better than the palate… but for me that wasn’t hard.
This came out of nowhere! John told us that all the whiskies would be scotch. However, he “forgot” to mention that there might be a rum involved. I’m not a rum fan, and this never sat well with me. I’m sure some would enjoy it though.
SMWS 129.1 ‘A Smokey, Peachy, Yoghurt of Loveliness’ (60.2%)
N: Beautiful stuff. Peat, gentle smoke/ash, damp wood and moss. Slightly menthol and mossy. Stays fresh with some ripe fruit. I could have nosed this for quite a while.
P: Lovely stuff. Burnt wood and charcoal notes to start before punchy peat (not too heavy) arrives. Buttery goodness and peaches. Peat sweetens out with some nice oaky notes too.
F: Long. Smoke beautifully on the tongue. Sweet peach and woodiness lingers around the mouth tempting the taste buds.
The youngest whisky of the night, and an absolute cracker! Enjoyed by all, it was incredibly drinkable and moorish (John may have poured me a few extra glasses at the end). For its age, it is incredibly balanced, working really well. It instantly became my favourite Kilchoman that I have tried. If only I could buy one.
What a fantastic evening. The food, atmosphere, wisdom and whisky were fantastic. However, all this was eclipsed by my simply wonderful whisky companions. I want to thank Joe McGirr and John McCheyne for the most splendid night at this special venue.
London is a busy, noisy, dirty place…. But I love it. I could never live there, as I’m a country suburb kinda guy…. But that doesn’t take away its appeal. The hustle, bustle and atmosphere is great, but it’s what the capital offers you in venues, bars and events that makes it truly awesome. The Whisky Exchange is one of London’s leading whisky venues. Not only a Mecca for whisky drinkers in the bustling London Bridge area, but also an incredibly good venue to hold tastings. When I heard about the possibility of an upcoming Glenfarclas tasting event, I knew I had to get hold of a ticket. Lucky for me (and four of my friends) I did.
The whole evening was led by the man himself, George S. Grant of Glenfarclas – an incredibly engaging, knowledgeable, funny and passionate man. He led the tasting brilliantly, providing insight, tasting notes and a plethora of humorous anecdotes. We were treated to a fantastic range of expressions on the night with a collective age of 185 years of Glenfarclas matured whisky – older than Glenfarclas itself.
I’ve always been a quiet fan of Glenfarclas, after trying their 10yo a number of years ago, and having had the 12yo and 105 expressions on my shelf at different times too, I was excited to try more expressions. They are an incredibly reliable, honest distillery, providing quality whisky of numerous vintages; stretching back 61 years in their warehouse. George told us that they are soon to release a 60 year old: Six decades. 360 bottles. £10,000 per bottle!!! (Nice way of making £3.6 million!)
I loved all seven whiskies we tried and can honestly say that there wasn’t a “let down” in the collection at all. (Even the Glenfarclas new make was great stuff: fruity, spirity and slightly oily). Huge amounts of quality sweet Olorosso sherry used to perfection here. These guys know what they are doing!
Glenfarclas 15 year old 46%
N: Not too powerful, whilst retaining some good strong qualities. Fruitcake, sultanas, apple, hint of sawdust, toffee and some orange zest is present. Nice oak after a while and then the sweet sherry starts working beautifully. Cracking start.
P: Real sherried goodness here. Sweetness is very present but skillfully balanced with strong fruit flavours. Some zestiness reminds me of a chocolate orange. Small hints of cereal, wood and (very small hint of) peat. Sherry isn’t as dusty as nose wouldn’t suggest.
F: Medium. The sherry leaves a delicate sweetness. Fruit is still there, but with a more sugared/stewed quality. This isn’t too heavy at all, but works nicely at 46%. Smooth, perfectly balanced and simply lovely. I’m glad I have a full bottle of this in the cupboard.
Glenfarclas 21 year old 46%
N: Seems more powerful on nose than the 15yo, with the sherry not as present here. It is still dark and playful, however it seems more complex. With time it becomes incredibly smooth and balanced. Fruits working wonders with sweet woodiness. Fills nostrils brilliantly providing a rich, brooding character. I could nose this for hours.
P: This is crazy smooth! No rough edges at all. The sweet sherry starts stepping up, but far less sweet than the nose suggests. Some grape, spice and floral notes show their heads too.
F: Smooth smooth smooth. Pretty long and lingering with a hint of oiliness. Incredibly light for the power this whisky brings. Hints of chocolate, zest and sawdust towards the end too. I love the gentle and elegant way it moves round the mouth. [I may or may not have purchased a signed bottle of this…]
Glenfarclas 40 year old (Batch 2) 46%
N: Delicate old nose here with some cracking aromas… incredibly complex. When it starts to open up, some beautiful notes of fruit coated in olorosso sherry, chocolate, nuts and warm leather. Later on, I start getting some spiciness, cinnamon especially.
P: This just gets more and more complex, coating the mouth beautifully with dusty sherry (less sweet than the 15yo & 21yo). Dark berries, chilli, light woodiness, sultanas and chocolate covered raisins. This holds the tongue delightfully, presenting some malt, sawdust and wet wood.
F: Medium-Long in length. Not as smooth as 21yo, yet it sits in the mouth really well, leaving it feeling quite fresh. Driest we’ve tasted so far and gets dryer and dryer. Maturity and complexity really made apparent on finish. Impressive old whisky here; shame its out of my price range.
Glenfarclas 25 year old Quarter Cask 42.4%
N: Interesting nose, differing from the rest of the range. It’s an evolving one without a doubt. Strong one second and delicate the next. Sherry is there but the fruity notes are more present. Honey, fruit, wet wood, slightly floral with hints of vanilla pod. I find this one incredibly sweet compared with the rest of the range.
P: Nicely fresh and delicate on delivery. Vanilla far more present now, and the oak is at more at play. Far less sherry than 40yo. Sweet, fruity and slightly earthy this one. Less complex than the rest of the range.
F: Medium. Doesn’t linger too long, but gives some nice sweet flavours. The vanilla still hanging about. Fruit soaked in sugary sherry. Slightly dry with hints of oak. Again, complexity of finish isn’t as high as 21yo or 40yo. However, you can tell that there are far older whiskies than 25 years old in this one.
Glenfarclas 31yo Port Cask
N: Wow, this is different. A bed of Glenfarclas covered in sweet heavy port. Slight sour note. Sawdust, citrus, vanilla & sour fruitiness. Wood becomes more present with time. Remains delicate throughout.
P: Very soft/light on tongue. Not as sweet as I’d expect. Delicate, with slight rough edges on lower palate. Less floral towards front of tongue. Some wet straw. Nice & mature.
F: Medium. Plays nicely & holds tongue with the sweetness of the port. Relatively dry, retains delicacy throughout. Evaporates leaving sweet vanilla & port soaked oak.
Glenfarclas 1979 family cask
N: Powerful, rounded & edgy. Very fruity – in fact so many different fruits. Apples, bananas, pineapple and gooseberry. Some great sherry notes on nose. Fantastic balance of sherry/fruit/wood here.
P: Mmm powerful, whilst retaining the Glenfarclas smoothness and delicacy. Sherry is strong, dusty & wonderful. Not as sweet on front palate as I was expecting. Slightly tingly on the tongue. Sweetness comes in waves with butterscotch, candy floss and old school sweet shops. Wowzers!
F: Rich, strong, dusty, dry, ancient and beautifully mature. Lingers on the tongue tempting the taste buds with strong powerful aromas of wood, liquorice and old oil. Not overly sweet, and costs the mouth fantastically. Great at full strength, but more fruit cake with water. Great experience.
Glenfarclas 20yo ‘105’
N: This is the 105 nose I know, but stronger, more mature and knowledgable. Even for a 20yo this is complex. Lots of sultanas, banana and cocoa. Musty wood and sawdust. So strong and powerful (not like young feisty CS out there, but more mature and complex), really filling up nostrils. Tad closed perhaps?
P: Yep. Wham bam thank you mam! Strong on tongue, but not too overpowering as the nose would suggest. Strong woody notes, lovely chocolate covered raisins. Lots of gloppy sherry too.
F: Long. Good stuff. Really smooth and sweet considering strength. Combination of fruity flavours flickering around. Sherry stays strong & to forefront throughout. Powerhouse of an aged whisky.
A fantastic evening had by all. A big thank you goes to The Whisky Exchange for organising it, and of course to the brilliant George Grant for leading such a fantastic tasting. I went a fan. I left besotted!