Balblair 1978 : Day 6 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Sticking with the Highlands, I found this old Balblair in today’s spot. This will be the oldest Balblair I’ve tasted to date and I heard that the 1975 was spectacular, so I’m looking forward to this. This was sent nearly a year ago by the duo which bring us WhiskyCorner. Stewart and Kirsty are a Scottish couple who constantly show their passion for whisky (not just Laphroaig!) again and again online. Now the couple write reviews, interviews and news for their ever expanding website. I met the couple very briefly at Whisky Live last year and I’m sure I’ll bump into them again at some point. I know I’m not the only member of the #whiskyfabric who they have generously donated special drams to; we are all very grateful.

Balblair 1978 (46%)
IMG_0024N: This has such a grassy hay like quality to it, clumpy and thick, reminding me of picking wet grass out of the lawnmower. Really fresh and fruity with lots of green apples – there are similarities to the Tomatin 30yo I tasted a few days ago. There’s quite a waxy quality, with a slight nuttiness and some salt. With time in the glass it gets slightly more meaty and coastal with the fruits taking a back seat. Quite a gentle easy going nose.

P: This glides down easily whilst retaining a thick mouthfeel. Pears, grass again and some orange zest. Strong oaky flavours with a few rough and ready edges. Pretty smooth this and towards the end I got some dried fruit. No huge complexity here, but some nice notes.

F: Medium. Some forest fruits along with a minty toothpaste edge. Quite a bit of bourbony flavours at the end, and quite a dryness too.

Comments: This is an easy drinker for its age (30/35 years?!) Fruity, fresh and ripe, whilst retaining an edge of maturity. I wouldn’t have guessed it’s age though as it felt like there was less interaction with the wood than a lot of 30+ year old I’ve tried. It does lack a bit of complexity and it’s not the most balanced Balblair I’ve tasted, but it’s their oldest expression I’ve tried and I still thought it was quite nice…. Just not blown away! 86

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Thanks again to Kirsty and Stewart

 

 

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Glenmorangie Companta: Day 5 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

It’s harder to sit down, taste a new whisky, take notes and then write a blog about each day, than I thought! I’m a few days behind already, but luckily I’ve been having some special whiskies to help me through.

Trying another highland whisky today – Glenmorangie to be precise. A lot of “serious whisky drinkers” (whatever that means) write this distillery off rather quickly. I do understand why, but they can’t have got to where they are now without producing solid whisky. Today’s Glenmorangie Companta followed the previous Ealanta in their range of experimental releases. It was initially matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels before spending time in Burgundy wine casks and Rhône Valley casks which previously held Rasteau. There was a lot of chatter about this last year, even scooping a top place in Jim Murrays 2014 Whisky Bible (the prices weren’t as crazy as the current Yamazaki Sherry Cask).
The man that made all this possible is the brilliantly funny Jon Webb, or @dvdbloke as many know him. I first met Jon at last years Whisky Live where we spent a good few hours towards the end trying many great That Boutique-y Whisky Company samplings, it was a great day. Since then, we have participated in a few sample swaps and this Glenmorangie cropped up one day, thanks Jon. Go check out Jons reviews at Scotchandscifi.

Glenmorangie Companta (46%)

IMG_0023N: Automatically get those wine notes I was expecting. Orange zest appears followed by strawberries and raspberry infused chocolate. Quite a juicy and penetrating nose with a real thick sweetness. Floral notes with some tropical fruit and spiced pears. There is quite a woody aspect to this nose too, very much old wine barrels. The wiOne really does seem to dominate, at times, it is right on the verge of smelling like whisky. Very elegant though.

P: Very spicy start followed by some sweetness. Feels relatively thick and syrupy. A real zestyness to this, but not in a light and vibrant way. Vanilla, raspberry jam and cherries. Deep, dark chocolate, liquorice and peppered meat. A sense of charred wood or burnt toast. Strong and tannic.

F: long, sugary sweet and slightly woody. Tannins seem to bring out the dryness too. Lingering dark fruits upon a base of notes.

Comments: Loads of wine character here, which some would love, others maybe not so much. The chocolate and spices hold it together somewhat. It verges on too much wine influence, but I have to say that I really like this. I’m a big fan of wine finishes and this one works for me. Although not to everyone’s taste, I would snap it up if it was still available. 89.

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Thanks again to Jon for this.

Tomatin 30yo: Day 4 of #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Tomatin is one of those distilleries that slipped my radar when I first got into single malts. This was a huge mistake as they produce some fantastic whisky. Over the past year I have been pointed towards some lovely expressions from a number of #whiskyfabric friends including a certain Ben Cops. A blogger who writes very regular reviews on Benswhisky.com, Ben has opened my eyes to a number of new distilleries, is incredibly persuasive when it comes to bottle shares and an all round good chap. We don’t meet up enough, but when we do, he is always a bad influence good fun. Not to forget he is a generous sharer of his fabulous whisky collection (I don’t know how he has space in his study!) This sample was given to me a number of months ago and has been sitting with a few others, waiting to be enjoyed and reviewed, so here we go.

Tomatin 30yo (46%)
IMG_0017N: A really full and rounded nose which noses stronger than the ABV suggests. Sweet and waxy to start. I get sour apple Hubba Bubba chewing gum straight away with huge juicy fruits, in fact very fruity without being overbearing. Apples, pears, pineapple and mangos. Old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, marshmallows and gummy bears. After some time in the glass, lots of honey and a herbal note towards the end. Quite an enticing nose this one. Enjoyable.

P: Oaky…. Very oaky in fact. Fresh and vibrant on the tongue with freshly cut grass and fresh fruits again; Bananas, apples and mangos. Lots of penny sweets, particularly Fruit Salad sweets. Victoria sponge cake with vanilla icing sugar. Hint of honey again.

F: Long, oaky finish with a soft fizzle of spice. Well balanced. Fruits still hanging on with some rich tea biscuits too.

Comments: Robust and fresh fruit bomb. Nice and vibrant for a 30yo, I would have guessed at it being a 21yo. Sweetness leads this one, but doesn’t dominate. 88.

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Thanks again to Mr Cops for the sample. Go check out his site!

Mosstowie 33yo (1979) : Day 3 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

My second 33yo in three days, and again this is a new distillery discovery for me too. Well I say that, but Mosstowie was never really a distillery. It is actually just whisky made at Miltonduff distillery with the help of ‘Lomond Stills’ between 1964-81. So you can understand why it’s hard to get hold of bottles of this stuff. Mosstowie has never really been on my radar until I tried some single cask Miltonduff last year that really excited me and I started doing some research. So I’m glad this bottle found its way into my sample box.

This whisky came in a sample swap with the gentleman that is @Jihmmiestumbler from The Nosing Arse Blog. We bonded over a love for whisky, cigars and sardonic humour (he’s a funny man!) which led us to swap samples of some of our most interesting bottles. I would highly recommend this as it’s a great way of being able to try as much different whisky as possible without having to constantly buy new bottles. I’m sad to say that we have never met, but I look forward to the day that we sit in the SMWS with a dram in hand and put the world to right.

Mosstowie 33yo (1979) (48%)
IMG_0014N: Sweetly aromatic nose. It’s light, playful, clean cut and very well balanced. This has similarities to certain older grain whiskies including certain Invergordons I’ve tasted from the 70s/80s. Grassy, lots of vanilla and pink marshmallows. Hint of citrus to start with before taking over as one of the main aromas. Delicate spices and some menthol toothpaste too. Pretty summery, intricate, mature and smooth. Like older grain, this is very enjoyable to nose.

P: Grass and hay like quality. Lightly fruits with a faint taste of green apples. It arrives incredibly gently before exploding with powered sweetness round the mouth. I’m in a sweet shop; marshmallows, penny sweets, red liquorice and mint imperials. Quite a menthol edge to this one too, but it integrates really well. Rounded off nicely with some cinnamon and gentle spices.

F: Long, creamy and increasingly tasty. Lots of vanilla and oakiness towards the end with more spices. Lingers beautifully.

Comments: This was one delicious dram. Brilliantly put together, beautifully balanced and very moorish. Held up well with age taking lots of varied flavours from the bourbon cask. Worked really well at 48% too. Perfect for a summers evening on the decking, but that’s not to say it wasn’t fantastic on this cold winter night by the fire either. Seems like a rare distillery to come across, so I’m really glad I have.

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Thanks again to Mr Stumbler for the sample

 

 

 

Banff 21yo (1982) Rare Malts : Day 2 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Day 2 revealed not only a closed distillery, but for my palate, a new one too. Never having coming across anything from this now silent distiller, I did wonder when and if I would be able to try some of their whiskies as it’s not necessarily a brand you come across that often. Thankfully for me, a top class Frenchman stepped in to help me out. Franck Debernardi (@LaCaveDeCobalt) from lacavecobalt.com is a top man who has proved to many of the #whiskyfabric that not only is he knowledgable, but also incredibly friendly and generous. A few months back Franck saw that I had mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of the Highland Park bottlings I had recently tried, and took it upon himself to send me a sample from a very nice bottle from his Highland Park collection; all without me mentioning anything. Generosity right there. I’m really glad that we met at this years Whisky Exchange Show and had a great time chatting over some exquisite Balvenie (that’s a story for another time!) This sample was from a special batch of goodies he handed over to me then.

Banff 21yo (1982) (57.1%)
unnamed-3N: Scrumptiously rich this one. Clean and full bodied. Switched between orchard fruits with grass to dark chocolate with hazelnuts. Quite a nutty quality overall actually. Going deeper into the glass brings block palate paints from primary school and a slight metallic note. Hints of citrus and warm spices, with the fresh oak and apples dominating towards the end. Still seems pretty delicate for 57%.

P: Huge hit of fruits upfront, nearly overwhelmingly so as it’s slightly aggressive. Sharp green apples and orange zest. Some strong maltiness here with lots of oak. Sultanas, coconut and lots of thick sherry. The spices really dominate after a while and give a real zingy quality. With water, the sharp fruits simmer down and brings some hay and freshly cut grass.

F: Long. Lingering wood, spices and a slight bitterness. On some sips, even a faint hint of smoke. Quite earthy actually. I found the finish less balanced than the general body here and it had quite a peppery and bitter finish.

Comments: Incredibly fruity, spicy and oaky. It’s always good to try different distilleries, especially closed ones and for my first try of Banff, it wasn’t a let down at all. I was impressed by the chameleon like character of the nose and the fullness of the palate, even if the fruits slightly overwhelmed me. It felt slightly younger than a 21yo due to its vibrant nature, but it’s always a pleasure to try whiskies distilled in the early 80s.

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Myself and Franck at TWE Show 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks again goes to Franck.

A Brace Of Balvenie

I once heard a musician remark: “Jazz is smooth and cool. Jazz flows gently like water. Jazz isn’t over the top, but it isn’t messy either. Jazz is a relaxed conversation”. Whilst I sit here contemplating Balvenie, I would be tempted to use these adjectives again. Balvenie can be incredibly smooth in taste and character. It has become one of the “cool” brands in the whisky market at this time. Whilst drinking, it can certainly flow gently, enticing the taste buds with each sip. The whisky and branding, in my opinion, is not over the top, or messy and slapdash in any way. Finally, drinking Balvenie really is like a relaxed conversation with an old friend.

I enjoy much of what Balvenie produce and I’ve never been disappointed by one of their whiskies. Saying that, I have only tried two of their expressions that have really made me jump up and down with excitement and they were both at The Whisky Exchange Show last month (you’ll have to wait to hear about them). I find that Balvenie constantly churn out gentle, solid and beautifully crafted whiskies. I know many whisky drinkers who simply find the core range “boring”, but I would have to disagree with them. It’s not necessarily  (apart from the Tun 1401/1509 series) ground breaking whisky, but it is one that you can constantly rely on to bring enjoyment to your tastebuds.

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A few months ago, I popped into another local whisky tasting held by the lovely Lyn at the Guildford Whisky Shop. This time the Balvenie core range was on the menu, tempting stuff. What helped me make my final decision though, was the news that Alwynne Gwilt, or Miss Whisky to some of you, would be taking the tasting. I had been lucky enough to meet Alwynne at a number of whisky events and meets in London over the past year and thought it would be good to get along to one of her tastings. I would highly recommend checking out her website here. My drinking partners for the night; John McCheyne, a good friend and a SMWS Ambassador and Ben Matthews of Littletipple.com.

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We tried six expressions:
Doublewood 12yo
Doublewood 17yo
Portwood 21yo
Caribbean Rum Cask 14yo
Single Barrel 12yo
Single Barrel 15yo

I already reviewed the Doublewood 12yo on this site last year (here), and wrote down similar notes: vanilla, raisiny sweetness, nuttiness and overall smoothness. It’s a solid, warming dram that won’t let you down, but won’t necessarily excite you that much. Looking at low 80’s.

Balvenie Doublewood 17yo (43%)
IMG_7315N: Similar to the 12yo, but shyer, slightly fuller and richer. Balanced between some fresh oak and raisiny sweetness before I got quite a bit of vanilla and coconut. Some hint of roses and crunchy apples too.  To me it felt more complex but also quite withheld.

P: There is an overriding sweetness here. Toffee apples, dark fruits, slightly nutty. There seems to be quite a bit of oak here, which isn’t always a bad thing I guess. With time I got some orange zest on delivery. Again seems confidently more complex than the 12yo.

F: Medium/short. Honey, heather and a lingering dryness. I was slightly let down by the finish as I felt I was slightly overwhelmed by the oakiness and not much else. It’s an interesting one, but for me, a slightly more complex version of the 12yo but at more than double the price. Mid/Low 80’s for this one.


Balvenie Portwood 21yo (40%)

IMG_7316N: Again, this is a fair bit richer. For 40% it feels slightly punchy. Heather, dark Manuka honey, dark fruits, ripe summer berries and tannins. Light yet full of structure and elegance.

P: Slightly disappointed by initial arrival, until the spices arrive. Dark red fruits, honey and raisins. When the port notes arrive, they seem pretty delicate with a duty sweetness. Quite a jam like quality, but seems slightly thin.

F: Medium. Pretty peppery and dry. Cocoa powder with a hint of bitterness. It is quite graceful, but seems to be lacking something to fully hold my attention. For me, the spirit and the port don’t seem to be coupled as well as other port matured/finished expressions that i’ve tried and that it also suffers at the weaker strength of 40%. A bit more bite would round it off a tad. Mid/Low 80’s again.


Balvenie Caribbean Cask (43%)

IMG_7312N: Sweet spices grab you at first, before the honey, vanilla pod, and red currents take hold. Some fresh fruit and dusty tones too. A strong sweetness leads the way with some fresh coconut before a slight metallic note towards the end. Pretty shy nose again.

P: Better arrival this time. Similarities to the Doublewood’s but spicier with hints of cinnamon. Glides around the mouth more, giving some heathered honey, vanilla and tropical fruits. Citrus, fudge and brown sugared sweetness. Nice levels of oak throughout.

F: Medium. A lingering dryness doesn’t dominate the quality malt and oak notes. At times I found the sweetness to be slightly cloying, but the robust maltiness balanced it nicely. This is a session dram in my book. Easy drinking, graceful and slightly sweet. You could sit down with a friend and finish this bottle before you knew what hit you. Mid 80’s.


Balvenie Single Barrel 12yo (47.8%)

IMG_7309N: Now we’re talking! Wide, full and fruity – mostly apples, but hints of melon too. Rich and honeyed sweetness. Lots of vanilla ice cream. Marshmallows over an autumnal fire. Very moorish nose right here.

P: Beautiful. Complex flavours intertwining gracefully. Fruity, malty, slightly prickly and exciting. Freshly cut strawberries & bananas  balanced with a graceful oakiness. Slight sawdust note with lots of vanilla. Absolutely spot on!

F: Long. The fruits linger nicely leaving fresh overtones, with some gentle sweetness throughout. Quite simply gorgeous. This is quality whisky with some fantastic flavours. Simply enjoyable. If you can get your hands on a bottle, do it! Elegant, graceful, complex and exciting. Whisky of the evening. High 80’s.


Balvenie Single Barrel 15yo (47.8%) 

N: You can tell this was fully matured in sherry casks. Noses just like a sherry. Leathery, dusty, sawdust, daaark fruits with orange and honey. A hint of wood polish towards the end. Overall fruity and spicy.

P: Feels lighter than the Single Barrel 12yo, but it does continue to build on the palate. The sherried fruits couple with notes of leather and wet wood to bring quite a heavy feel on the tongue. I got some notes of burnt fruitcake, especially strong chewy raisins. This has quite a musty feel to it.

F: Medium/Long. Dry and dark. As the sherry subsides it leaves a slight bitter note. Rum and raisin ice cream. It does have quite a creamy character. I did find the finish slightly cloying, but some would find it spot on. Enjoyable and the sherry works nicely, not over the top at all. Second best of the night. Mid/high 80’s.


A great evening had by all. Alwynne was entertaining, informative and as always, fun. My pick of the evening was the 12yo Single Barrel. Although I’m a big fan of sherry matured whiskies, I felt the 12yo (the cheaper of the two) had the upper hand this time.

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 bringing the fun and insight!

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.

Review: Four Core Laphroaig’s

Back in November I was one of the chosen “Tweet Tasters” for a Laphroaig Tweet Tasting, organised by the non stop Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire. The lineup included their 10yo, Quarter Cask, Triple Wood and 18yo. With the QC being an old favourite of mine, I was interested to know how the other expressions fared in this lineup. It was a fun evening full of peat, medicinal goodness and great company.

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Laphroaig 10 Year Old
Nose: Big, powerful and open. Strong heavy peaty notes
upfront, also spices, hints of liquorice and plenty of salty sea air. Sweeter than I remember, but big hits of the classic iodine we all expect. With some time in the glass, a slight sweet woodiness appears.

Palate: Oh I remember this first taste. Big sea saltiness leads the
way, before giving way to the TCP flavours coupled with vanilla. Fair
amount of oiliness with some delicate spices too.

Finish: Tarry notes are there, with lots of oak, iodine and smooth smoke.

Comments: It’s an old favourite of many, and there’s a reason for that. It’s not my favourite Laphroaig expression but it provides the peat bomb/medicinal whisky many crave.

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Laphroaig Quarter Cask
Nose: More delicate, oily & sweeter than the 10yo. You get the dirty soot, coal and smoke, but my favourite note is the barbecue. A real clean ripeness here with hints of fruit, chocolate and cinnamon. Sometimes find myself just sticking my nose in a glass of this it’s that good.

Palate: Man I love this mouth feel. It’s so rich, full bodied and
gusty. It’s so big, yet soft on arrival. Toffee, malty, oaky & and
strongly peaty. Waves of coal and peat splashing about, balanced with warm sweetness.

Finish: Lingers nicely on the tongue. It’s long, beautifully sweet,
dense and ashy.

Comments: I’ve always enjoyed this bottling. I feel like my shelf is empty without a bottle of this. It started my love affair with Laphroaig and due to its lovely balance of sweat peat, smoke and ash, it will always be a favourite of mine.

 

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Laphroaig Triple Wood
Nose: What strikes me most is the difference between this & the
10yo/QC. Straight away, the dusty sawdust note & woodiness makes
itself present. More oily again with some toffee too. I’m getting
vanilla with some sweet fruit & nuttiness. Some cool smoke too, but not lots. Seems that the woodiness slightly masks the heavier peat.

Palate: Strong and heavy on first sip (much more so than the QC).
Spice, wood and bits of fruit. You can tell this is MUCH more dry than the previous two also. The peat & smoke are still present here, but seem far subtler. The sherry notes really show their head, not only in the dryness, but the big fruitcake taste you expect from sherry notes. It’s interesting to have the blend of these fruitcake flavours balanced with Laphroaigs classic peat and smoke.

Finish: Dry dry dry….oh and quite oaky. The oil and slight spiceyness
hang around a fair bit, sitting on top of the musty sherry notes. Did I say dry?

Comments: Definitely darker in colour compared to the other too. The third maturation in Oloroso sherry obviously made a difference. This started out as a travel retail bottle, so it’s good to see they’re making it more accessible. It’s a different expression with lots to like…. I’m just trying to work out how much I like it….

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Laphroaig 18 Year Old
Nose: Nice big start, you can tell this is one mature beast just
from first sniff. You get the standard Laphroaig notes of big peat and smoke, but it is balanced with some cereal and citrus notes. After some time in the glass it mellows out somewhat, revealing some menthol, apples and lightly smoked wood. I could nose this
for days.

Palate: Wow, I know why people rave about this one. I actually smiled on first sip. The mouth coating is great and is the
creamiest of all the Laphroaigs I’ve tasted. It is loud yet quiet,
powerful yet soft and angry yet completely calm. The extra years on this has really mellowed it out, whilst keeping the fieriness Laphroaig brings to its whiskies. Incredibly rounded throughout,
providing charred wood, spice, honey, vanilla, chocolate & some briny saltiness. This all provides a lovely base for the coal, tar & peat
smoke.

Finish: Beautifully long, smooth and salty. Some liquorice, seaweed, orange & brine still hanging about.

Comments: This is a monster, but not necessarily the way you would expect. I find it less medicinal compared to its siblings. It is the gentle giant from Laphroaig. This
is gentler, softer, creamier, & more intricate than the others. Providing me with pure unadulterated whisky joy! (No chill-filtering &
at 48%…… what a bonus!)

What a great core lineup to have. Aren’t Laphroaig a lucky bunch. There is a reason why they are so popular, and that is down to the quality inside the bottle. If I *had* to rank the whiskies, I would put the Triple Wood last, followed by the 10yo and Quarter Cask, with the 18yo easily taking top spot. A beautifully aged whisky right there. I can’t wait to own one.