Monday, 19 January 2015

Benromach - 10 year old

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

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

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


Friday, 5 December 2014

The Lakes Distillery - Tweet Tasting

On Wednesday 26th November 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 2 samples from the up-and-coming Lakes Distillery.

The samples on show included their unique blend "The One" and their own delicious gin, which brought me my first experience of properly tasting this fine spirit.

Opened in 2014, in a renovated 1850s Victorian farm, the Lakes Distillery is England's largest and has recently opened up it's doors to all who wish to make the trip to the Lake District's only distillery.  

As with many new distilleries, Lakes Distillery have gotten themselves a nice little portfolio to keep us all entertained while we wait, patiently, for their own malt whisky to mature.  To get the ball rolling they are producing their own vodka and gin whilst also having a seriously unique blend named "The One".

"The One" is unique in that fact that it contains whiskies sourced from each country of the British Isles including Ireland both North and South which, for my own interest, would suggest that there is Bushmills malt going on in here.  

It would also confirm that one of the other whiskies involved is Penderyn from Wales and as for England's offering take your pick from St George's or Hicks and Healey.  If I had to randomly guess I'd say St George's.  To continue guessing I'd go for Southern Ireland being represented by Cooley which only leaves Scotland.  This is where I'm completely stumped, some peated whisky has been used for sure but I'll not even begin to start speculating.

With regards to their malt, that's already maturing, first releases are due to be released in 2017 and will be lightly peated in the style of Highland malt but for now we will have to make do with what is already fit to drink and on that note I'll move onto the spirits sampled on the evening.

"The One" - Blended Whisky - 40% ABV

Nose - Light, fresh, candied lemon peel, light peppery smoke, gentle vanilla biscuit and milk chocolate.  Definitely on the young side but shows a great vibrancy and verve.  Tart citrus keeps the feel sharp before it becomes distinctly softer.  Caramel, malt bread and sticky toffee pudding gives a light sense of sherry barrel influence and in all the balance of spice and spirit is delightful.

Palate - The grain shows itself more on the palate.  Initially you get a hit of smoke that's almost bitter / acidic.  The smoke is more evident here than what was found in the nose. White fruit with crunchy white apple and more lemon zing.  The spice is is gentle and kind.  Malty sweetness and some lovely oak feel appears which leads to a slight bitter dryness which is not unpleasant.  Again, great balance.

Finish - In honesty a touch short and, to be fair, I didn't actually expect anything else from a 40% blend but to give credit were credit is due the finish does deliver on more green apple, fresh fruit salad and some more of that gentle smoke which is much more restrained in it's bitterness.

Overall - This is one of the finer blends I've ever had the pleasure of tasting.  It displays, in my opinion, fantastic depth and quality and if this is a measure of what the Lakes Distillery are intent on releasing then we have some very exciting times ahead.

Lakes Distillery Gin - 43.7% ABV 
(Made with juniper, bilberry, heather, meadowsweet)

Nose - Lavender, hairspray, orange blossom and a light herbal note.  Immensely refreshing and when tasted as recommended, which is drunk when chilled in a freezer, you get a great sense of a hot summer evening in a glass.  The fragrant notes continue with parma violets, limoncello and cucumber.

Palate - Light, clean and still hugely refreshing.  Even more orange blossom, limoncello, light herbal spice and thyme.

Finish - Clean with a good last kick of citrus liqueur and clove.

Overall this is an excellent gin and one that's worth getting a hold of.  Whilst having not settled myself down to properly taste gin before I have enjoyed many a G&T and can honestly say that this would be delicious in such a guise.

Fantastic stuff.  This tasting was a great insight into where English distilling is going and the passion of those involved at Lakes Distillery can be found in the products they are already putting out there.  If this continues into the craft and presentation of their single malt then it promises to be a belter.  

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 Lakes Distillery for the excellent samples.  

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

Lakes Distillery webpage - http://www.lakesdistillery.com/en/

Lakes Distillery Twitter - https://twitter.com/LakesDistillery

Lakes Distillery Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/thelakesdistillery





Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ballantine's - Tweet Tasting

On Wednesday 19th November 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 a range of the much loved Ballantine's blended whisky.  

The five expressions on show this evening were the "Finest", 12yo, 17yo, 21yo and their 30yo.  A serious range for a serious tasting in which we were also joined, online, by Ballantine's own master blender Sandy Hyslop.

As many of you know Ballantine's is a huge name in the whisky market.  It has the honour of being the second biggest selling scotch in the world and, considering they are second only to the behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, that is a pretty impressive position to hold.  

The brand is also steeped in history, having been established in 1827, and has a wealth of stock to choose from when making it's blends.  Being owned by Pernod Ricard they can call upon close to 50 different whiskies to compile their whiskies with the signature malts being Miltonduff and Glenburgie.

I was particularly thrilled to be taking part in this tasting as, apart from quickly reviewing the "Finest" last year, I have had no other experience with this brand and on that note I shall move onto the whiskies themselves.


Ballantine's "Finest" - Bottled at 40% ABV this is the oldest recipe in their range having been first created way back in 1910.  There's more than 40 malts and grains in this blend which have been selected from 4 different Scottish regions.

Nose - Crisp, barley, lemon shortbread biscuit, oak resin and sugary orange syrup.  A light grassy note along with slight perfume.  Just the faintest smoke hides in the background then we come back to lemon sherbet and salted butter popcorn.

Palate - Fresh, spicy arrival that moves into zingy citrus, lemon, orange and lime juice.  Bags of toffee and caramel show a serious sweet side to this one and then you get red apple and clove rock sweets which is slightly "new makey".  The smoke doesn't want to show itself on this palate.

Finish - Slightly short but big on sweet red apples.

Overall - A very decent whisky that is perfect as an entry level blend and for the normal price you can pick it up for, especially coming into the festive period, a serious must for when friends call round.

Ballantine's 12 Year Old - Bottled at 40% ABV this holds the distinction of being the favourite of Sandy Hyslop who stated, on the night, that it ticked all the boxes due to it's smooth, creamy, toffee, vanilla.  The maturation of this is a combination of American and European oak and the core malts involved are, as mentioned earlier, Glenburgie and Miltonduff.

Nose - Tropical. Banana, orange, lemon and candied pineapple.  Some red fruits present here and back to the tropical with a feel of tropical mix dried fruit.  With time this becomes more sherried with dried fruit, Christmas cake and mixed spice.  Banana cheesecake and a light, gentle char.  Not obviously smoke and certainly not peat just char.

Palate - Beautiful warm spice and stewed fruits with orange being dominant.  This has a lot more depth then the "Finest".  Blackcurrant / strawberry jam, clove and warm red apple crumble.  Very smooth.

Finish - Slightly short with clove, menthol and deep warm fruit.

Overall - This is an obvious step up from the "Finest" yet shouldn't cost too much more, depending on where you shop, and in that respect this is fantastic value for money.  I'll be buying a bottle this Christmas.

Ballantine's 17 Year Old - Bottled at 40% ABV this is marketed on Ballantine's website as having an extra depth of flavour, due to the longer maturation, which is characterised by a subtle sensation of smokiness that differentiates it from the 12 year old.

Nose - Deep, earthy fruits that are almost mineral in nature.  Light coffee, Terry's dark chocolate orange and a whisp of smoke which doesn't appear to be any more than was present on the "FInest".  More grassy notes with brown sugar syrup.  Feels a lot like the "Finest's" big brother.

Palate - Very smooth but a tad flat.  Brown sugar, malted bread, light clove spice, deep orange and a good initial juiciness.  The flavour builds well enough but fades rapidly to the end with no distinguishable finish.  I tried this several times to confirm my thoughts and each time the experience was the same.

Finish - Short and disappointing.

Overall - The promise of a great whisky, that was shown on the nose, did not deliver in the taste.  A bit of a let down to say the least.

Ballantine's 21 Year Old - Bottled at 40% ABV, we moved into the big hitters.  Hoping to see some great cask influence we were informed that this blend contains a higher proportion of European cask matured whisky than the rest of the range.

Nose - Rich and enticing.  Banana, grapefruit juice, orange and lemon oils.  Brown sugar, wood polish with rum and raisin ice cream.  Rich vanilla cream, perfume and an even more gentle whiff of smoke.  Huge deep leather and malt.

Palate - Sweet, sweet arrival with a good kick of clove and chilli spice.  Rich malt, dark red fruits and more red apple.  As hoped, there is a good sense of oak influence going on here.  In time you get a dustiness of old books and leather and right at the very end you get a little taste of smoke, first time it has shown itself in the palate.

Finish - Very good with dusty spice and right at the end you get a last taste of melted butter.

Overall - A great whisky and a great balance of age and spirit but you get the sense, as with the previous expressions, that this could do with a % or two more.

Ballantine's 30 Year Old - Now for the grand finale.  Bottled at 43% ABV, praise for the extra %, this is described as being the ultimate balance between distillery character and cask influence.  We are also informed that some of the whiskies involved are incredibly rare with the distilleries no longer in existence, but we get let in on the secret that these include Dumbarton and Dalmunach.

Nose - Old, dirty, damp smoke which I mean in the nicest possible way.  Thick oily feel to this one.  Old worn leather with lovely vanilla.  Tropical notes in here but the age dominates fantastically.  Ripe, mashed banana and more polished wood.  Dark melted chocolate and with time the, surprisingly fresh, fruit comes along with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Palate - Bitter / sour arrival.  Massive amount of damp, dusty wood that dries the mouth nicely.  Fruit is intense with a great feel of concentrated blackcurrant juice.  The rich malty notes interplay well with gentle spice.

Finish - Great length and moreish with blackcurrant, spice and an end of orange zing.

Overall - The star of the show which obviously comes at a price.  Great old flavours and sense of cask influence with intense fruit.  

Well that has certainly increased my knowledge of Ballantine's.  An excellent blend that shows great consistency of flavour through the range.  Their young blends are fantastic for the price with the serious oldies being of great character.  As for the 17 year old?  I'm not sure what happened there but maybe I'll try it again in the future and see if I'm impressed any more.

Once again a huge thanks 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 Sandy Hyslop of Ballantine's for passing on his knowledge on the night and giving us an extra insight into the whisky itself.

Until next time,


Sláinte


SI


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



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


Monday, 17 November 2014

The "NEAT" Glass - A New Era in Drinking Whisky?

A month ago, to the day, I was scanning through the realms of Twitter when I happened upon an offer from "The NEAT Glass UK" to sample their hot new piece of glassware.  Naturally I jumped at the chance and awaited it's arrival.


Upon arrival I was also treated to fine page of additional info which highlights the "NEAT" glass as being brand new to the U.K. and Irish market, hand blown and describes it as "the ultimate whisky tasting glass".  A pretty high claim if you ask me.

The secret, apparently, is in the shape.  The word "NEAT" stands for "Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology" and refers to the patented shape that is suggested to contribute to the "new whisky nosing experience."

The science behind this claim is that the neck of the glass concentrates the whisky whilst the flares disperse the ethanol over the rim thus eliminating the alcoholic burn in the centre of the "sweet spot".  The diagram below, taken from the "NEAT" glass website illustrates this beautifully.



The "NEAT" glass has won numerous awards including the Editor's Pick Award of Excellence 2013 in the Beverage Industry News Awards whilst also being the official glass for many competitions including the SIP Awards International Spirits Competition.

In order to examine this glass appropriately I felt it only fair to compare it directly with the one glass that it possibly trying to replace...The Glencairn.

Furthermore I also decided that it would only be right to compare the glasses over different styles of whisky so for this test I decided to compare the two glasses, firstly, over a cask strength (55% ABV), bourbon cask matured, whisky that I find to be particularly hot with alcohol, and, secondly, over a heavily sherried whisky bottled at 43% ABV.

Now for the results:

CASK STRENGTH WHISKY IN GLENCAIRN - An intense flavour profile and in honesty now that I'm comparing the two I can get a sense of the alcoholic burn in the middle of the nose which is a tad unpleasant when inhaled at any length, but in fairness a cask strength whisky would obviously be treated with more respect when being nosed by itself.  The flavours are bold and last forever in the glass.

CASK STRENGTH WHISKY IN "NEAT" GLASS - First thing to say is that the glass is a delight to hold, but holding at length might warm the whisky as your palm holds right around the base where the liquid is held.  It is also important to note that it is perfectly fine to drink from and quite obviously does not alter the taste in any way, but of course this is about the nosing.  In that respect; to get the full experience you really need to get your nose right into the glass.  They are perfectly correct in their claim that the alcoholic burn is taken out of the nose, there is simply no sting whatsoever.  The flavours are light and subtle, and you could argue that this allows you to discover the finer points of the whisky, but initially this made it difficult to distinguish definitive flavours but with a little practice, and adjustment of inhalation, you can get the hang of it.

VERDICT - While, undoubtably, it does exactly what it says on the tin, by eliminating the alcoholic burn, I'm left wondering if we're losing some of the spirit character, and with that some flavour, with the ethanol that is being dispersed over the rim.  I am of course no chemist and am unsure of exactly how much flavour, or character, is contained within the ethanol itself and with a lot of searching on the internet I'm still none the wiser.  Please feel free to respond if anyone knows the exact answer on this matter.

With the result decidedly ambiguous it was time to move onto the heavily sherried whisky bottled at 43% ABV.

SHERRIED WHISKY IN GLENCAIRN - Fresh and potent with the initial emphasis on fresh fruits before eventually moving onto the deep sherried notes after time.  Again is this the spirit showing through first?  With the Glencairn you can certainly take your time as the whisky seems to evolve a lot slower in the glass but yet again the extra alcohol is noticeable on the nose when compared to it sitting in the "NEAT" glass.

SHERRIED WHISKY IN "NEAT" GLASS - For me this is where this glass really comes into it's own.  With the dispersed ethanol we can immediately get into the sumptuous sherried notes.  Masses of dark fruit and Xmas spices, it's deep and inviting...everything a sherried whisky should be.  With the shape of the glass, and the lack of alcohol, you can really get into the whisky in the nosing sense.  Initially I felt that this was lacking in the fresh fruit that was noticeable in the Glencairn but to my great surprise, just as the Glencairn was easing on the freshness and alcohol, the whisky in the "NEAT" glass started to become fresh with fruit.  Completely unexpected but brilliant.  

VERDICT - With this particular whisky the "NEAT" glass is an absolute triumph.  To allow you access the whisky in so much detail but then bringing out the fresher notes towards the end goes against anything I was expecting.  All the flavours on show in the Glencairn were here in the "NEAT" glass in abundance but without any sting on the nostrils.  Fantastic stuff.

OVERALL VERDICT - First and foremost I feel it's important to state that you should all drink your whisky in whatever you find enjoyable.  The most vital thing is that you enjoy the whisky that you've chosen to spend your time with.  That said, I also believe that it is important that we push ourselves to experience our whisky in new ways and this is certainly a new way.  

Whether the "NEAT" glass establishes itself as a major player in the U.K. and Irish whisky market will remain to be seen but one things for sure, it's worth the try.  

I'm not going to sit here and say I've covered all the bases as it would take a serious amount of comparison to get to the bottom of how good the glass is but from what I've seen, especially with the sherried whisky, the "NEAT" glass has a place in the whisky world.  

Obviously if the "NEAT" glass can replicate that experience with all forms of whisky, old and young, including, heavily peated and blends, then we are all going to have to sit up and take notice.

I for one will not be abandoning my beloved Glencairn but I will also most definitely not be abandoning my "NEAT" glass and I can only look forward to trying a lot of my future whiskies in each glass and bringing some of the results to you.

All that's left to say is a huge thanks to "Beaumont PPS" for sending me the "NEAT" glass and I highly recommend you all check out the website, I've linked below, where you can find an absolute wealth of further information explaining the science behind the glass in more detail than I could ever imagine to cover.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI

The "NEAT" Glass UK website - http://www.theneatglass.uk

The "NEAT" Glass UK Twitter - https://twitter.com/theneatglassuk

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Beam Suntory's "Peated Malts of Distinction" - Tweet Tasting

On Wednesday 12th November 2014 I sat myself down for another evening's Tweet Tasting fun in which all involved were presented with Beam Suntory's newly named "Peated Malts of Distinction".

The four whiskies that make up this collection are:
The Ardmore - Legacy, 
Connemara - Original,
Bowmore - Small Batch, 
Laphroaig - Select.

Capitalising on their "leading position in the category", Beam Suntory have brought these whiskies together to allow "both the trade and consumer to explore an extensive variety of peat flavours and taste profiles."

The whiskies involved are powerhouses in their own right and for this collection they have chosen to use NAS presentation (bottled at 40% ABV), which, in my humble opinion, will provide a great entry level insight into peated whisky and allow anyone, who has maybe stayed away from peated whisky in the past, to re-approach this unique flavour in a fresh way.

An accompanying press release, that arrived with the samples, provided some insight into rise of the peated malt category by suggesting that it is currently experiencing a 8% growth rate in the Europe, Middle-East and Africa region.  We are also informed that peated malts currently represent 17% of total malt volume sales within the same area.  

Perfect timing then for such a collection to be presented to the world?

Onto the whiskies themselves.

First up on the evening was The Ardmore - Legacy.

Replacing the "Traditional Cask", as it's core expression, it is described as being "aimed at challenging mainstream single malt brands, offering a lightly peated liquid that is sweet and uplifting."  

To push the boundaries Ardmore have experimented by balancing unreleased unpeated malt with their traditional peated malt.  They have also gone "all out" with the packaging by having a design that "reflects the spirit of Ardmore" which, by their account, is a symbolic eagle and a contour map of Ardmore's home Kennethmont.

Nose - Crisp smoky bacon, lemon biscuits, mashed banana on toast.  The smoke is light and playful.  Sweet, creamed rice pudding with citrus honey.  Not much spice going on here and with time the sweetness eases to allow it to become more green with grass and pine.

Palate - Sweet with underlying earthiness that wasn't too visible on the nose.  Incredibly smooth (possibly too smooth, if possible).  Orange peel, lemon citrus and some menthol.  Spice is still absent and the green flavours lurk in the background with the emphasis again on grass.  Also a light caramel flavour running through the spirit.  Obviously not Islay but great to try against them.

Finish - Short with slight smoke and fresh fruit.

Overall - A very easy drinking malt that's interesting to try against the bigger Islay flavours.  A touch on the thin side and, as with all these whiskies, could do with a bit more oomph on the ABV front.

Connemara - Original  

This is one worth watching as time moves on.  I have long been a fan of the whiskey produced down in Cooley, with Greenore single grain and Locke's being two stunners, but I have to be honest.  Recently, as you may know, I wasn't at all blown away by the new Connemara 22yo and again, with this tasting of the "Original", I've been left feeling a little let down.  

I can't quite work out what the problem is.  Is it that the lovely spirit character of Cooley does not integrate well with peat?  Is it that they are being too restrained and need to pump more phenols into their entire range?  Is it that they have rested on their laurels too much from the days when Connemara was winning awards across the world?  The honest answer is that I do not know but, as I stated, I'm looking forward to seeing how this brand develops under the new Beam Suntory regime because I love Irish whiskey and would love to see this become a great, great representative of what we can produce. 

Nose - Fruity, orange, lemon, pineapple and some red apple.  The smoke builds slowly.  Not massive, earthy, turf but rather light, gentle, peat smoke that drifts lightly over the fruit.  Slight perfumed note hiding underneath and you get a great sense of freshness and vibrancy.  Pear drops appear and a strange plastic note comes through but not in a bad way.

Palate - The very instant fruit arrival is quickly dominated by spice and heat.  Chilli pepper, black pepper and cloves.  After a while the orange and lemon return but you get a feel that it's all a little watery and thin.  There is some wood influence showing through and again the peat smoke just hides in the background.

Finish - Medium due to the heat which lingers on in the mouth.  To get any big sense of the peat you really need to take a hell of a gulp which a) will get you hammered, b) burn your mouth to a cinder with chilli and c) give you no sense at all of what this spirit should be.

Overall - I just find this OK.  Does not fill me with excitement and I certainly wouldn't rush to buy a bottle.  Work needs done to turn this into a whiskey that can truly contend with the big Peat champions out there.  By all means try it if you can and formulate your own opinion but in comparison to the likes of Locke's and Greenore this does not hold it's own.

Bowmore - Small Batch

Any of you that have followed this blog from the very start will know that this was briefly reviewed by myself back in December 2013.  Back then I stated that I was worried about the NAS presentation and expected it to be a young, feisty dram that would be hard to like and to my surprise I was delighted with what I had tasted.  

Naturally then I was excited to see this in the line-up, to give me a chance to confirm what I had thought last year, and compare it amongst it's other entry level rivals....again I was not disappointed.

Nose - Salty, plastic seaweed.  Proper earthy mineral peat that feels it has been ground into the malted barley.  It is by no means over the top though and the peat asserts itself in a restrained way.  Citrus freshness is here in abundance and is accompanied by toasted oats, light vanilla honey and milk chocolate.  The feel becomes lighter with time but does not detract from the fact that this is extremely well balanced.

Palate - Clean, fresh with a lovely combination of lemon, honey, smoke and spice.  A light wood smoke comes through along with some more salty notes.  The spice is perfect and integrates so well with the other flavours.  Yet again I can not believe that this is a NAS whisky.

Finish - Slightly longer than I remembered with smoke, spice and a serious urge to drink some more.

Overall - This has once again taken my breath away.  For a NAS whisky to be so well balanced and, comparatively speaking, so complex is truly a wonder.  With talk that you can pick this up for as little as £25, in certain stores, all I can say is BUY, BUY, BUY.  Really magnificent stuff.

Laphroaig - Select

A release that was chosen out of 6 different samples by the "Friend's of Laphroaig", who also chose the name.  This particular whisky is a real mix up with Oloroso sherry butts, straight American white oak (non-filled with bourbon), PX seasoned hogsheads, Quarter Casks and first fill bourbon casks all being represented here.

Having not tasted this before I was naturally curious as to how all these strong influences would marry together (if even they do?)

Nose - Sweet, malty peat smoke.  Iodine, salted popcorn, pine and pineapple (yes both), sticking plasters, some dark chocolate and with time the sherry notes appear with dried fruit.  As with the Ardmore I get some rice pudding and familiar Laphroaig toasted oats are here.  This is distinctly Laphroaig but much, much more restrained.

Palate - BOOM, we're definitely in Islay now with big earthy peat smoke. Mineral, iodine, TCP, sweet with a little red apple and salted caramel.  Some chilli spice in here which is maybe it's age showing through and towards the end a little tar / oil feel comes into play.

Finish - Decent length with a nice linger of peat.

Overall - A good solid whisky but could this be too over complicated?  Have too many cooks spoilt the broth?  I think this is one that I would need to spend a lot more time with before making a real final conclusion.

Well that's all for this journey through the peated drams of Beam Suntory.

Once again a huge thanks 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 Alexandra Gerolami of Focus PR for the lovely samples and press release.

Until next time,


Sláinte


SI


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



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

Focus PR - http://www.focuspr.co.uk/

Focus PR Twitter - https://twitter.com/FocusPR