Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Glenlivet - Nàdurra - Batch 0113V - Review

Glenlivet distillery is one that I have had little experience of and naturally I jumped at the chance when a good friend offered me a sample from his bottle of "Nàdurra"

Nàdurra being the Gaelic word for "natural", it comes as no surprise that this expression is a no holds barred, cask strength, beast of a dram.  It continues to impress, whilst in the bottle, with information stating it's age of 16 years, the fact that it is non chill-filtered and has been matured in first fill bourbon barrels.

This particular batch is 0113V which was bottled, in January 2013, at a whopping strength of 56.9% ABV.  This expression can usually be found in supermarkets for around £50 and is also often discounted during key holidays such as Christmas and Father's Day.

With all the boxes seemingly ticked it only leads me to wonder why more distilleries don't offer so much apparent quality for a relatively small cost.  These thoughts are also relevant when talking about the current "NAS vs Aged Whisky" argument but I'll save my views on that for another time.

Onto my notes:

My first observation is that the whisky sits in the glass whilst displaying a beautiful oily texture that coats the sides well.

Nose - Intense spirit with big spices that touch on chilli pepper.  Buttered citrus and lemon oil.  Distinct white wine notes that intensify to almost grappa.  Vanilla is light and gentle with hints of green apple.  The fire of spice continues but never overpowers the spirit nor does it ever become too harsh.  Slight touch of dustiness also evident in here.  As the heat lessens we move back to a candied sweetness which is clean, crisp and fragrant with a little perfume appearing too.

Palate - Sweet, sweet fresh fruits that move over to allow the intense heat to come through.  Prickly, peppery heat arrives and oh my is it a serious kick.  This is more of an eye opener than was evident on the nose but thankfully it stops short of being unenjoyable, but only just.  More green apple and a touch of clove are the main points before I add a good amount of water.  This whisky can take the water so don't be afraid.  This allows the spice to subside a fair amount and the sweetness to return.  Sweet malt, lemon sweets,  apples and oranges.  There's some more dusty notes in here which give a good sense of the oak.

Finish - Huge sour apple sweets with more warmth.   Even after 5 - 10 minutes the apple taste is still rattling around the mouth.

Overall this is an enjoyable dram that pushes the boundary of harshness.  Big on the sweet fruits and spices this whisky really does not hold back.  I love the fact that this is delivered in such a natural form and much prefer this to a bottle of 40% averageness that's been thrown together.  Whilst this may not be to everyone's taste I feel whiskies like this can be of huge benefit when starting out on your whisky journey.  These types of expressions should be treated with patience which should allow even the most novice a chance to get into a whisky over time and find those notes that come from spirit and cask.

I'll be honest and say that whilst this hasn't knocked my socks off it is certainly a bottle I wouldn't think twice about buying and keeping in my collection as spirit that's been presented in this light can last a long time and always offer something different each time you reach for it.

Huge thanks to Jamie for the sample.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI

Sunday, 22 February 2015

New Release - Dunville's - Very Rare Irish Whiskey (2nd Release)

A while back you may remember I brought you all an exclusive regarding the re-emergence of the Dunville's Irish Whiskey brand and this was promptly followed up by a review of the "Dunville's - Very Rare", which was the first bottling to be released under the title of Dunville's in nearly 60 years.

To recap quickly I feel it is important, for those who haven't seen the original update, to quickly go over again where this re-emergence has come from.

Around the start of June 2013 a distillers licence was granted to Echlinville Distillery, which is situated on the Echlinville estate in the small town of Kircubbin, County Down, Northern Ireland, and with this it became the first Northern Irish distillery to receive a licence for over 125 years.


It is this very distillery, under the owenership of Shane Braniff, a businessman from the local area, who is also responsible for bringing you the Feckin' Irish Whiskey brand, that has got it's hands on the "Dunville's" brand and they are intent on reviving the great memory of Dunville's by producing a top quality product to sit in it's bottles.


Echlinville itself has big ambitions for it's own spirit and a quick look on their site shows that they are producing single malt and pot still whiskey, which seem to be maturing in a variety of casks, and the first releases of this unique whiskey should be with us by 2016.


In the meantime though, and as seems the norm, we have these releases of Dunville's appearing, not only to seemingly get the money rolling in, but also for, in my opinion, another more honest reason.  I get a genuine sense that Shane Braniff has a very real desire to get this once great brand back to where it belongs, not as a stop gap, until the distillery's own whiskey is released, but as a high quality product to stand proud in it's own right on the same shelves.


Whilst the ambition is there, and I wrote previously of my excitement of seeing the brand back in our off licences, there was, in my opinion, an initial let down with the first release of the Dunville's - Very Rare.


Not to dwell on it too much I shall simply say that I felt as though it was a rushed release with little substance and little care seemingly put into the finished product and it really showed when tasting.

  
A final point I also noted in the previous review was - "I fully understand the need to get the brand out there with this initial release but I feel if they are to release other bottlings, prior to their own spirit being matured, then, cost permitting, they should secure some matured whiskey that will really start to add a touch of quality to their brand."


Well, I must be clairvoyant.


Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to meet Shane Braniff where I received a bottle of what, apart from a slight change in labelling, is to be the next release of Dunville's - Very Rare and I have to say they are certainly going in the right direction.


This new release is a Irish malt whiskey that will be hitting the shops with an age statement of 10 years old.  Obviously not from Echlinville itself, the spirit has been obtained from elsewhere but "finished" by Echlinville in their warehouses on the County Down coast.


The finish is in the form of PX casks in which the whiskey has been rounded off for about a year and the added quality doesn't stop there.


This new release also benefits from a higher bottling strength of 46% and has not been chill filtered.  On speaking to Shane Braniff he is quick to point out that they do have a chill filtration unit on site, so to bottle this whiskey without the use of this facility is solely down to a desire to obtain that higher quality that the brand deserves.


I've included a picture of the label as it sits at the moment to give you an idea of how it will look when it hit's the shops.


As I mentioned there are a few last minute changes planned for the label, but once finalised the whiskey will be released with a price point of just under £50.  Considering the first release was £29.99 I feel an extra £20 for the extra quality mentioned is a fair amount.


Whether the whiskey itself is worth £50 remains to be seen but on initial taste I can say that there is certainly a lot of potential and I look forward to really getting into the bottle with the hope of positively reporting back soon that Dunville's is now hitting the heights it should be.


Until next time,


Sláinte


SI

Friday, 6 February 2015

An Evening With Bushmills Master Distiller Colum Egan

Previously I have spoken, with great sadness, at the lack of genuine whiskey events taking place in this wonderful city.  Apart from the Hudson Bar's whiskey club and a small number of other excellent establishments, that simply boast a fine selection of whiskey, there really isn't that much to get your teeth into.  

That was until the Merchant Hotel, situated in Waring Street, Belfast, grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and announced their first ever "By The Fire" event.

Being blessed with a sumptuous interior the Merchant Hotel has the perfect setting to host top quality whiskey events and what better way for a Northern Irish hotel to kick things off than by hosting the master distiller of Northern Ireland's most famous distillery, Bushmills.

For, in my opinion, the small price of £25 you were able to guarantee yourself an evening of "whiskey tasting and informative discussion" with Colum Egan himself.

Tickets in hand, my girlfriend and I made our way down to the hotel and entered through the magnificent entrance to be directed towards a side room.  Upon walking into the venue for the evening it was clear that my previous thoughts of the hotel having the perfect setting were spot on.  Lush decor and elegant lighting provided the backdrop to what was going to be a truly intimate tasting.

To kick things off we were treated to a fine cocktail reception but unfortunately I missed the the name of the delicious citrus liquid that cleansed the palate perfectly in anticipation of things to come.

We then took our seats and surveyed the delights that had been laid out in front of us.  Five Bushmills' drams were ready and waiting: Original, Black Bush, 10yo, 16yo and 21yo.

Naturally the first of the night was the Original and this was an ideal whiskey to get us going.  Lighter and smoother than I remember, this allowed all those present to get their bearings and also allowed Colum to guide us into what was more of an engaging discussion between himself and tasters rather than a typical masterclass.

Questions flowed and Colum was not found wanting.  The answers were delivered with a real air of confidence and insight that would have taught even the most experienced drinker a thing or two.

As the "Original" was finished off a number of hotel staff swooped in and provided us all with small plates of Canapés to be enjoyed as food pairings for each of the remaining four samples and the match ups were as follows:

Black Bush - Foie Gras
10yo - White Chocolate Fudge
16yo - Blue Cheese
21yo - Dark Chocolate Truffle

Each was absolutely delicious!!

Although we had a set list of whiskeys, that were in a regular order, the questions touched on all aspects of Bushmills, and each of their whiskeys, in random order. 

While discussing the 21yo we were informed that this age was selected as it resonated perfectly with a "coming of age".  Colum continued by touching on stock control and the work that has to go into ensuring that the 21yo, and all expressions for that matter, are continuously released to the same high standard year on year.

As Colum spoke you got a true sense of passion and pride with his number one priority appearing to be the task of producing all Bushmills whiskey in the same manner that it has been produced for 100's of years.  This, he says, is his belief why Bushmills has stood the test of time.

We moved onto discussing the 16yo and, not for the first time, it was described as possibly being "pound for pound, the best whiskey in the world".  Whether this is a marketing ploy that has been slowly circulating around the whiskey world, or a genuine feeling from everyone who samples the 16yo, it is obvious that it does display a serious amount of brilliance for a relatively small price.  I have, at certain times, seen this as cheap as £30 in Sainsbury's.

While discussing all of the whiskeys on show we discovered that, generally speaking, the 16yo and 21yo are more or less completely made up of whiskeys of that age whilst the 10yo contains a certain amount of 13yo.  

As the night ticked on we inevitably got onto the hot topic of the last few months...the change of ownership.

For those of you that have been living in a whiskey void it was announced a few months ago that Diageo were relinquishing their control over Bushmills to further their interest in the tequila market.  The new owners are to be Jose Ceurvo who bring with them a feeling of a family run business with the focus going back towards craft and quality.

As we spoke of the exciting times ahead Colum was quick to praise Diageo and their internal investment citing a figure of £50 million that had been spent in the 9 years they were in control.  It is obvious that Bushmills has benefited from the Diageo ownership but in a time where whiskey companies are expanding their portfolios it seems the right time for Bushmills to get a new lease of life.

A feeling was talked about that Bushmills was about to go from being the small fish in a big pond to a rather large fish in a small pond thus allowing the focus to be on the spirit they produce and the people who make it.  As highlighted in a recent article in "Whisky Magazine" the people of Bushmills know their whiskey and know what works so, for god's sake, please let them do it.

As the discussion progressed there was a great sense of hope and excitement of what the future might bring, with murmurings of possible innovation and new ideas coming to life, could we be on the cusp of seeing some absolutely stunning whiskey coming out of Bushmills?  

In my opinion single casks would be a good start and, after my personal tastings of recent Celtic Cask releases, I know fine rightly that some interesting cask finishes wouldn't go amiss either.  I live in hope.  What is clear though that any new styles, or releases, that may appear, are still a few years away.

As the night finished off we ended on a touching note.  Having enjoyed our time with Colum, and the delicious Bushmills drams, we were cordially welcomed into the Bushmills family.

After the event we moved into the main bar where the bar manager took the time to gain valuable feedback from those involved and inform us that more events are in the pipeline with the next possibly being a visit from the mighty Midleton.

I know one thing is for sure, as Belfast grows, and moves forward, events like this are imperative to it's success.  When events like this take place, and more specifically whiskey events, it can only but improve consumer knowledge and bring many more into our already growing Belfast whiskey family.

Many thanks to Colum and The Merchant Hotel for an excellent evening.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI



Wednesday, 4 February 2015

New Release - Redbreast - "Mano a Lámh"

One of the many ways I am looking to improve this blog, as the year goes on, is by starting to provide you all with some of the latest news coming out of the Irish whiskey scene and this seems like the perfect time to kick things off after receiving a a fresh press release yesterday from Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard.

Those of you who were keeping tabs on trending topics yesterday will of course know that this was in relation to the latest release from Redbreast Irish Whiskey.  

"Mano a Lámh", meaning "hand in hand" in Spanish and Gaelic, is the representation of the close relationship that has been forged between Midleton Distillery and the collective of artisans in Spain, who have crafted the distillery’s sherry butts for more than 20 years.

As detailed in the press release, oak is felled in the forests of Galicia, north-west Spain, and then crafted and seasoned by some of the country’s most prestigious family businesses. 

The Antonio Páez Lobato Bodega in the South crafts the oak into casks, which are then seasoned with Oloroso sherry for two years at the prestigious Páez Morilla Bodega in the nearby sherry capital of the world, Jerez.

The freshly seasoned sherry butts are then shipped promptly, during the cooler winter months, to Midleton Distillery where they are then filled with new make pot still whiskey.

While the core Redbreast range is matured in a combination of American bourbon and Spanish oloroso butts, Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" revels in this signature sherry style by bringing together whiskeys which have been matured exclusively in first fill Spanish oloroso sherry casks, imparting distinct, rich, fruity flavours and a full body.

Limited to just 2,000 bottles, and priced at €65 Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" is non-chill filtered, bottled at 46% ABV and is available exclusively to members of "The Stillhouse" from this month.  For more information be sure to visit www.singlepotstill.com.  

Redbreast "Mano a Lámh" tasting notes by Billy Leighton, Midleton Master Blender


Nose: Very deep dried fruits, raisins and sultanas with the more earthy tones of fig, dates and prunes. The sweetness is from the fruit and balances perfectly with pot still spices such as dill and black pepper, and the contribution of the toasted Spanish oak.
Taste: Silky smooth and deceptively sweet, full of rich, ripe, dark fruit with the leisurely emergence of the signature spices.
Finish: The rich fruit slowly gives way to the perfection of the Spanish oak.

In months to come I shall give you my own opinion on this fine sounding whiskey as my bottle is already bought and hopefully on it's way.


Until next time,

Sláinte


SI

Monday, 19 January 2015

Benromach - 10 year old - Review

From the moment I first became interested in whisky I, like you all, have used the internet as a great resource to learn from and, from following "ralfystuff" on YouTube, I always enjoy getting to the Christmas period when Ralfy reveals his "malt of the year".  Last year was no exception and I was pleasantly impressed when he tore the paper away to display a shiny box of Benromach 10 year old.

Not only does Ralfy always try and factor in value for money, in his malt of the year, but he always manages to get it spot on when it comes to quality and with Benromach he has certainly ticked that box.

Back in October 2014 I headed off down to Dublin to enjoy "Whisky Live" but before the show itself I decided to get myself involved in a Benromach masterclass.  What we were presented with was a story of tradition, quality, passion and whiskies that are being made the way they were many years ago.

Benromach started life way back in 1898 but was closed nearly a century later in 1983.  After being bought by Gordon & McPhail, in 1993, they set about reviving the distillery and recreating a true Speyside style reminiscent of the 1960s. 

Since then they have went from strength to strength and hit the heights last year when the 10 year old won "Best Speyside Single Malt - 12 years and under" at the 2014 World Whisky Awards.

During the tasting we tried a good range from Benromach but in honour of Ralfy's award, and also because it is the easiest to get a hold of, I shall review the 10 year old.

The Benromach 10 year old is bottled at 43% ABV and is a combination of 80% Bourbon barrels and 20% Sherry Hogsheads that has spent it's final year in a first fill Oloroso cask.

Nose - Naturally big on Christmas cake with cinnamon, dried fruit and stewed orange.  Some tropical notes come through with banana being the most easily identifiable.  Milk chocolate, buttered popcorn and warm apple crumble with vanilla ice cream.  There's a slight hint of hairspray in here, which isn't unpleasant, and the faintest whiff of smoke.

Palate - Sweet, very sweet.  Again, big on the dark, dried fruits. Raisin, mixed spice and dried orange peel.  More gentle smoke and nice feel of oak wood.  There's quite a kick to this dram but it's not by any means harsh and the orange flavours continue with more stewed orange and chocolate orange.

Finish - Medium length and very enjoyable with more dried fruit and and a, nicely warming, lingering spice.

Overall this is a very good whisky.  The passion that was spoke of is noticeable throughout the 10 year old, along with all the other whiskies that were sampled.  You can sense that Benromach are taking a huge amount of pride in the whisky they are producing and that can only be a good thing for us consumers.  I would have no hesitation in going back to Benromach in the future to continue my education of Speyside and the story they are telling.

One last thing I would touch upon is the value for money aspect mentioned at the beginning of this update.  What I am starting to see with most family run distilleries, and most distilleries that focus on craft and tradition, is that they don't seem to charge over the odds like some that are all about marketing, or those that are owned by the big companies like Diageo and, with this in mind, Benromach don't seem to be any different with the 10 year old being available for a little over £30.  In my eyes this is a small price to pay for a whisky that exudes so much style and substance.  Whilst I enjoy all whiskies, and enjoy sampling from all styles, these quality bottles are most definitely the ones that should be paid the most attention.


Until next time,

Sláinte


SI

Friday, 16 January 2015

Celtic Cask - Ocht - Review

Hello there and let me begin by wishing you all a very happy New Year.  A touch late I know but I better late than never.  In honesty though, I've been a little absent over the last month as I took the festive period to truly unwind and spend quality time with friends and family, as I hope did all of you.

Not to worry though, with all that relaxation I had plenty of time to enjoy a lot of all things whisky and have plenty to be writing about as we move swiftly through the first month of 2015.  Furthermore I fully intend to crank this whole blog up a notch or two and look forward to expanding and pushing myself on to bigger things.

For now though I'll jump straight in with something new and Irish.

Roughly this time last year I typed out a review highlighting a latest release from The Celtic Whiskey Shop, which is based in Dublin City Centre.  That review looked at a bottling from their very exciting "Celtic Cask" range - the Celtic Cask Sé.

To recap the Celtic Cask Sé was a 22 year old, single malt whiskey that was born in September 1991 and bottled in November 2013.  It was double distilled and came from from an unnamed distillery that normally practices triple distillation.  The cask, number 1916, came to the company courtesy of the increasingly awesome Teeling Whiskey Company and was finished, for about 4 months, in one of their Anima Negra wine casks.  It was bottled at 46% ABV and another interesting note was that the initial spirit had been distilled from crystal malt, which is more commonly used in brewing to add colour and body to ales.

Back then I suggested that the spirit itself came from Bushmills but now I'm completely certain.  

Fast forward a year or so and here we have their brand new Celtic Cask Ocht.  The Celtic Cask Ocht, at 23 years of age, is quite simply the same whiskey as Celtic Cask Sé but with a year or so longer in the fantastic Anima Negra cask.

Further information provided, for the anoraks amongst you, told us that the cask was 225 litres, made from French Alier oak and the wine, it held previously, was in the barrel for 20 months. 

When I received this sample I did wonder how much more influence the extra year was going to put into the whiskey and I looked forward to getting stuck in as I had really enjoyed the Celtic Cask Sé.

Without further ado here's my notes:

Nose - Deep red and black fruits, blackcurrant, strawberry and redcurrant.  There's a lovely buttered nuttiness running through this which is creamier than I recall in the Sé.  Ripe banana and Christmas spices.  Some menthol and a hint of peppermint.  Deep dark chocolate orange.  In the background you do get a slight sense of age with some dusty citrus lemon and orange coming through.

Palate - As with the Sé, this is a huge juicy arrival.  Tons of rich red fruits which are extra sweet with the malt.  Light clove spice and some red apple.  Dusty leather comes towards the end with rich orange.  Drying towards the very end with more creaminess throughout.

Finish - Lightly spiced red fruit that drys and lingers wonderfully.

Overall this is still a big red fruit beast of a dram!!  Fantastic berry flavours run throughout this whiskey as it has clearly taken to the cask extremely well.  The Ocht for me is every bit as good as the Sé and then some.  What I found surprising with the Ocht is that it displayed a layer of creaminess, that wasn't obviously apparent to myself in the Sé, and this has easily added an extra dimension to the whole experience.  

As with the Sé this is not a heavy sherried style whiskey but is beautifully light and fresh for 23 years of age.  The Bushmills spirit works wonderfully when treated with the respect it deserves........COME ON BUSHMILLS, SORT YOURSELVES OUT!!!

The Ocht comes in at roughly £170 compared to roughly £150 for the Sé and for me if you're willing to spend £150 you may as well throw in an extra £20!!  

Yet again the Celtic Whiskey Shop have pulled out all the stops to bring us high quality Irish whiskey that's been finished to high, high standard!!

Well there you have it, the first review of what promises to be a fantastic and exciting year.  I hope you all stick with me for the journey.

As always I've thrown in a few relevant links below for you to peruse at your leisure and if you fancy another look at my review of the Celtic Cask Sé you can do so by clicking right here.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI

Celtic Whiskey Shop - http://www.celticwhiskeyshop.com

Celtic Whiskey Shop Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Celticwhiskeyshop

Celtic Whiskey Shop Twitter - https://twitter.com/Celticwhiskey
  

Monday, 8 December 2014

Teeling Whiskey Co. - Single Malt - Tweet Tasting - Review

On Monday 8th December 2014 I took part in another fantastic Tweet Tasting, hosted of course by Steve Rush of "TheWhiskyWire.com", in which all involved were presented with the latest release from the Teeling Whiskey Co......their "Single Malt".

December has already been a busy month for the lads at Teeling, with the arrival of the new stills at their Dublin distillery, so it would seem that tonight was the perfect time to have this tasting.

Since releasing their small batch, rum cask finished, blend back in 2012 they've been churning out various fine bottlings including a 21 year old "Silver Reserve" single malt, finished in Sauternes casks and a particularly exceptional "Single Grain" that's matured 
fully in Californian red wine casks.

This latest release continues on their growing tradition of taking fine spirits and pushing the boundaries in terms of maturation and finishing.  

The Teeling "Single Malt" is a no-age statement whiskey but don't let that fool you.  This excellent bottling contains a unique combination of Irish whiskey aged up to 23 years in
five different wine casks – Sherry, Port, Madeira, white Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon.

In addition the "Single Malt" has been bottled at 46% ABV and is un-chill filtered.

The obvious question here is can Teeling can pull off the marriage of these five very different cask finishes to produce an end product that really sings from the glass and the answer to this is that they didn't just marry these finishes together perfectly but they've knocked it out of the park.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Lemon oil, sweet malt, all butter fudge and red fruit that comes through in the form of cranberry / raspberry / strawberry jam.  Fragrant, rich and indulgent.  White grape juice, pressed apple juice and a touch of cracked black pepper.  Undiluted blackcurrant juice and stewed oranges.  A little dusty "aged" note arrives over time alongside some polished wood and with more time the nose becomes more sherried with notes of dried fruit, mixed spice, ginger, rich fruit cake and rich cream.

Palate - Initially fruity with aged malt and lovely warm clove spice.  Develops wonderfully into deep orange and more intense red fruit which is almost like raspberry coulis.  Red apple, blackcurrant and mixed berries.  The red wine cask influence is really starting to go into overdrive here.  Delicious.  To hold this in the mouth, and allow the alcohol to ease, creates one intense mouthful of rich fruit juice.

Finish - Fantastic length with a lovely drying feel caused, presumably, from the older whiskey and excellent interaction with the wood.  The finish lingers on with light mixed spice and crunchy red apples.

Overall this is a stunner.  A brilliant marriage of flavours that have been presented in a perfect form.  The spirit has taken on these various flavours with aplomb and it really does show.  Even as I write this the flavours are evolving in the glass and you get the sense that you could spend an entire evening with just two pours of this whiskey and never get bored.  This, alongside Teeling's "Single Grain", is one of the finest Irish whiskies I've ever tasted.  At no point do you get a sense that this has been hurried, or treated with disrespect, and the reward for this care is evident in every mouthful.

On a side note there is the question, that some would ask, as to where did this spirit originate from and if I had to guess I'd go with Bushmills.  

If Teeling going forward, with their new distillery, can replicate this form with their own spirit then they could own Irish whiskey in years to come.  A bold statement I know but why not?

All I have to say is a huge thank you to Steve Rush at TheWhiskyWire.com, where anyone can apply to join in the fun of the tweet tastings, and also a big thank you to the Teeling Whiskey Co. for the excellent sample.  

As with most of my updates I've included a number of relevant web links below.

Until next time,

Sláinte

SI


The Whisky Wire - http://www.thewhiskywire.com



The Whisky Wire Twitter - https://twitter.com/TheWhiskyWire


Teeling Whiskey Co. - http://teelingwhiskey.com