Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Whisky Live Dublin 2014 - Preview

With just under two weeks until the big day I think it's about time that I touched base with you all to highlight what is by far the premier whisk(e)y event in Ireland.

On Saturday 25th October whisky lovers from all over Ireland, and further afield, shall converge upon Dublin for the annual showcase that is "Whisky Live".

Run by Ally Alpine, who is also the owner of the truly excellent Celtic Whiskey Shop (which I've mentioned from time to time), Whisky Live - Dublin has become a must for anyone with a love for Irish whiskey (or any whisky for that matter).  

The event, as with the other Whisky Live shows around the world, allows fans to get up close and personal with their favourite drams whilst getting some real insider knowledge from the many exhibitors that are present and this year's show has certainly got plenty to offer.

As mentioned the show itself takes place on Saturday 25th October at the Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin which is in a very central location not far from Grafton Street and there will be two sessions available to choose from.  The early session takes place from 2pm - 5:30pm with the later session taking place from 6pm - 9:30pm.

Tickets must be purchased in advance and cost €37.50 with €10 going towards Downs Syndrome Dublin, a very worthy cause I'm sure you'll agree.  

These can be bought either by calling into the Celtic Whiskey Shop itself at 27-28, Dawson Street, Dublin or by telephoning 01 675 9744 (if in the Republic of Ireland) or 00 353 1 675 9744 (if calling internationally).  

In addition tickets can also be bought by visiting https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/whiskey-live-dublin-2014-tickets-12176392919

With regards content, all exhibitor stands were sold out weeks ago with the following highlighted on a recent e-mail circulating details of the big event.  

Midleton are in attendance showcasing their Single Pot Still range and "hopefully a new release or two", while "The Kilbeggan Distilling Company" shall be presenting their brand new Connemara 22yo (which I shall be reviewing later this week) alongside their even newer Kilbeggan 21yo.

These powerhouses shall be ably supported by: Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Teeling, Knappogue Castle, Echlinville Distillery, Blackwater Distillery, Dingle Distillery, Green & Yellow Spot, Irish Whiskey Awards, Jack Ryans, The Palace Bar, Alltech Distillery, Walsh Whiskey, Dubliner, Glendalough and the Celtic Cask range which will teasing us with upcoming releases of Seacht, Ocht and Naoi.  

For some more info on the Celtic Cask range feel free to check out a previous review of the "Sé" release by clicking right here.

From Scotland we will see Arran, Glengoyne, BenRiach, GlenDronach, Glenglassaugh, Gordon & McPhail, Benromach, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch plus others and from further afield Suntory, Nikka, Alltech, Jim Beam, Bulleit, Jeffersons, and more TBC, shall all be treating us to their finest releases.

As with most whisky shows there will be plenty of masterclasses on the day for those wanting to either improve their knowledge, get some real insight into a certain distillery or simply get more samples under their belt.  

Four masterclasses will be open to the public with each costing €10 and taking place at the Whiskey Bar, 37, Dawson Street, Dublin.  The public masterclasses are as follows:

1pm - 1:50pm - "Benromach distillery - A classic Speyside"
2pm - 2:50pm - "Benriach Distillery Company - A Decade of Discoveries" 
4pm - 4:50pm - "How to utilize Irish Whiskey in a world class beverage" by Jack McGarry from "The Dead Rabbit Grocery and Grog" bar New York.
5pm - 5:50pm - "Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey from Midleton Distillery"

Each masterclass is limited to 25 people and can only be booked by, again, either by calling into the Celtic Whiskey Shop or by telephoning.  These tickets are not available online. 

As if all this wasn't enough there will also be a presence from a number of top Dublin restaurants who will be on hand to highlight some fine food pairings to go with your favourite whiskies and the show shall also be partnering with Dublin's top chocolate company "Cocoa Atelier" to again bring some whiskey / chocolate pairings to tantalise the taste buds.

Well......that certainly is one hell of a show they've got planned.  

It goes without saying that I shall be in attendance and after taking part last year, and knowing what to expect, I'm really looking forward to the event and hopefully a lot of you can come along where I'll join you all in raising a glass to a fine day in Dublin.

Until next time,


Sláinte.


SI

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Oban - 14 year old

Whilst planning, and looking forward to, a recent holiday to Paris I had the best of intentions to seek out many unheard of French whiskies, and alike, whilst making my way around the little back street bars and cafes, but the allure of local red wine and continental beers, along with a disappointing lack of selection in the bars I visited, meant that as the holiday drew to a close I found myself having not had one single glass of whisky.....this disaster had to be averted.

One opportunity had arose when I was contacted by Donal Loughney, an Irishman, now living in France, who invited me to his bar to sample one, or many, of his massive collection of Irish whiskies, of which he states is the largest selection in the world, but unfortunately time was not on my side and I could not make the journey across town which only frustrated me further in my search for a good dram. (Incidentally the bar in question was "Patricks Le Ballon Vert" located at 33, rue de Montreuil, Paris and which is also a recent nominee in the Irish Whisky Awards 2014 - International Whiskey Bar category)

Still determined to try something new, of the single malt (or grain) variety, my girlfriend and I found ourselves in a fantastic wee literary bar, deep in the Marais area of Paris, named "La Belle Hortense".  

The delightful "La Belle Hortense"
Bursting at the seams with charm and charisma this little place was the perfect location to unwind and relax with a glass of the good stuff.

Looking across the shelves I noticed a lot of recognisable bottles and a lot that I had tried before, certainly no French whiskies in here, but thankfully I spotted a bottle containing a dram I had not yet sampled........Oban 14 year old.

From knowledge I knew that this was a west coast distillery that belongs to the enormous Highlands region and with a little more research I discovered that the distillery was founded in 1794 and has only two stills making it one of the smallest in Scotland.

Oban is currently owned by the beast that is Diageo and is best known for this 14 year old bottling which was first released in 1988.  They also have an 18 year old and a 32 year old release which I can only imagine requires a small mortgage to purchase.

Reading that this distillery benefits from a "West Highland flavour that falls between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands" made me quite happy indeed as I am increasingly finding great enjoyment in Highland and Island drams.

Onto my notes (which were quickly recorded on a mobile notepad app) -

Nose - Honeyed citrus and red apple which gives way to a distinct classic, coastal, salty note with obvious hints of fresh cut grass and some light buttered peat smoke.  Certainly seems to back up it's suggested flavour profile and is definitely enjoyable.  As this sits in the glass it holds it structure well and doesn't fall away like others which I personally would put down to a good character of spirit and a slightly stronger strength at 43% ABV.

Palate - WOW, without water this is truly a feisty beast that needs a little taming.  With some H2O the arrival is very measured with a fine balance of sweet malt and fresh fruits of which orange and red apple dominate.  Chilli pepper also has it's say throughout and at times still feels a tad overbearing (more water maybe?), and towards the end some soft oak wood shows itself.

Finish - Longish with a emphasis on pepper and more apple.

Overall I feel that this is a decent malt that has some depth but it needs a lot of time, patience and experience to get the most out of the glass.  In comparison it reminds me a little of the Caperdonich I reviewed back in June.  I think I'll be back to give this some more serious attention at a later date.

Well there you go, a malt review and a super quick snapshot of what Paris can offer.  Whilst disappointed not to get to try some local whisky, or visit Patricks Le Ballon Vert, I hope to return to Paris very soon and satisfy both these urges.

Onwards and as we move rapidly towards October I shall be back soon with a close look at the up-and-coming "Whisky Live - Dublin" which takes place on Saturday 25th October and is a must for all Irish whiskey fans.

Until next time,

Sláinte.


SI

Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Girvan Patent Still - Tweet Tasting Review

Towards the end of August I was lucky enough to take part in another excellent tweet tasting which was, as usual, hosted by the wonderful Steve Rush from TheWhiskyWire.com.  

The whisky on show on this particular evening was that from Girvan Grain Distillery which is situated in South Ayrshire and is a distillery which I had no previous experience of.

Set up in 1963, in an unused munitions factory, Girvan Distillery was established by William Grant and Sons as a staple source of grain whisky for blending purposes.  It boasts a highly impressive annual production capacity of 15 million litres and also is the location for a new single malt distillery called Aisla Bay.  This, however, is not Girvan's first foray into the world of single malt as back in the 60's they expanded the distillery to produce a single malt named Ladyburn but this did not last long and eventually died off around 10 years later.

As you may or may not know, grain whisky is usually produced through the use of a "Coffey" still, also known as a continuous column still, and as a result the spirit that comes off these stills can be lighter, higher in ABV and usually less flavoursome to the single malt spirit that would be produced in a pot still.

This allows the grain whisky to become very useful in the blending process by smoothing out harsher single malts whilst allowing the blenders to achieve a good consistency in nailing down the flavour profile their brand has established.

On the other hand though, as this was my first time seriously sampling grain whisky, I was wondering how these would stand up against my favourite single malts.  Surely with a lighter, less flavoursome spirit, there'd need to be some seriously impressive maturation going on?

The first thing I have to say is that "The Girvan Patent Still", to give them their proper name, have got their marketing and presentation of product down to a fine art.  As you can see the samples arrived in elegant glass vials which themselves were contained within a fantastic presentation case.  This allowed one other taster to comment on how this almost felt scientific.  Certainly got my excitement levels up.

As for the samples, there were four on show.  New make, No.4 Apps, 25 year old and 30 year old.  All were bottled at 42% ABV, including the new make which was done to allow better comparison, and all were natural colour.  





New Make Spirit - Normally this would come off the still at 94% ABV and, as pointed out on the accompanying taste card, this obviously can not be called whisky until matured in oak for at least three years.  The card also suggests a fresh, fruity and vibrant spirit that is a perfect starting point to show how the flavours would develop over time.

Nose - At a lighter strength the spirit is deliciously fruity, prune juice, raisin, concentrated lemon juice, white wine vinegar and a sugary / sherbety feel to it which comes across as fruit pastilles.

Palate - Sweet and sour arrival with warm spice.  A touch watery and vodka-esque.  Lemon, apple and slightly herbal.

Finish - Great green fruit aftertaste with some more herbal notes (maybe basil strangely enough)

Whilst a great experience to try, and while I understand the reason behind bottling it at 42%, I felt that this would have benefited from being closer to 50%.  The watery, vodka-esque feel was a touch bland but there were some distinct delicious flavours in there.

No.4 Apps - In 1992 GIrvan installed a pioneering new still which they named "No.4 Apps", with "Apps" being a term for apparatus.  This new still, operated under a vacuum, permitting distillation at low temperatures.  This, according to the card, produces a pure, fruity and intense spirit.

Nose - Soft, creamy, green fruit, vanilla biscuits, perfumed and aromatic with more cereal notes.  When nosing this you get a sense that the spirit is working well with the effects of maturation.  After time the raisin returns along with a strange feel of a milk ice lolly.  Reminds me a lot of the Irish grain whiskey Greenore.

Palate - Fantastic warm fruit arrival with great strength.  Bags of oak spice.  Sweet, toffee, green apples and the lemon is now zingy and sharp.  Gorgeous spice throughout and towards the end some pepper and chilli which is not too harsh.

Finish - To be honest, slightly short, warm and drying with some more green fruit.

This for me was an excellent example of grain whisky.  Good spirit being married well with good casks and the balance wasn't too bad either.  My only complaint, and this does run throughout, is that the finish could be longer and I think this could also benefit from being bottled at a slightly higher strength.

25 Year Old - Priced around the £250 mark, this whisky has been matured in american oak and should show "notes of toffee, vanilla and caramelised fruits."

Nose - This is distinctly tropical, banana, raisin, stewed orange, red apple, light pepper with more toffee and very perfumed.  Huge sherry feel and great wood effect going on here.  Gets better and better becoming fudgy and unctuous which was perfectly described, by another taster, as sticky pudding.  After 10 minutes it's age starts to show through with a typical dustiness.

Palate - Spicy toffee apple, citrus lemon and orange, caramel, pepper, vanilla cream, ginger and more sweet, sugary sticky pudding.

Finish - Medium in length with after notes of the palate but again the finale just feels, well, a little flat.

The standout dram of the evening.  I don't know if it's worth £250 but it certainly won the battle of the four grain samples.

30 Year Old - Distilled in 1984, this dram is unique for having maize included in the mashbill.  It is lighter in colour than the 25 year old and as pointed out age is not necessarily a guarantee of darkness of colour.  A final read of the cards would highlight "notes of vanilla, zesty fruit and woody spiced finish".

Nose - Still in the tropics, banana, pineapple, menthol, mint and vanilla toffee.  Cereal and oats.  The raisin and prune is still hiding in there but the citrus has eased off compared to the 25 year old.  More light pepper and again no initial sense of age but this comes with time along with another sherried feel.

Palate - Raisins, allspice, clove, dark dried fruit and cinnamon.  Heat is less intense and eases for amazing juiciness.

Finish - Medium, warm and juicy.

Whilst being highly accomplished this just did not feel as good as the 25 year old and to nab this old liquid will set you back about £360.  The underlying strength issue is still here, as with all, but like I said, it is highly accomplished and worth trying.

All in all this was one amazing experience.  A great journey through the life of single grain whisky and a journey that can regularly be experienced through the likes of the tastings hosted by TheWhiskyWire.com.  I can not recommend enough to get yourselves out there and try any tastings you can, however they may be found.  

As for these drams I would have to go out there and say that while the 25 year old was my favourite I'd opt for the "No.4 Apps".  I put this down purely to value for money and the fine balance that this whisky displays.

To nearly finish off I'll take a short moment to highlight that I shall be back again, very soon, with my views on the Oban 14 year old, which I had the huge enjoyment to sample whilst recently in Paris and to finally finish off I'll give a huge thanks to Girvan Grain and Steve @ TheWhiskyWire.com for yet another fine tasting.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI


Thursday, 21 August 2014

Jura - Prophecy

When I first got into the world of whisky I used to look upon other enthusiasts with a little playful envy as social media feeds were often updated with the latest "whisky fairy" delivery of a sample unknown, or some new release previously unseen, and frequently I found myself thinking "will I ever have a mass of samples to look upon?"  

Fast forward about 3 years and now, here I am, slowly amassing my own little collection of sample bottles, and as my whisky blogging continues to grow I hope the collection shall grow with it and then also, in turn, diminish as I send them off to other grateful recipients and so the cycle will continue.

So, what better way to move the blog onward by dipping into one of these samples that I have gratefully received.  As I made my way over to the bookcase, where my collection rests, I simply reached out to the nearest bottle and as I picked it up I was quietly excited to read the label "Jura - Prophecy - 46%"

Jura "Prophecy"
Jura is a distillery I've had some previous experience of, and like most island whiskies I'm rarely disappointed, but the "Prophecy" expression is not one I had encountered before (hence the quiet excitement).  Made from a selection of "old and rare" Jura whiskies this expression is "heavily peated" and matured in Limousin French Oak.  As I've already stated it's bottled at 46% and without chill filtration but I do believe, from various research, that colour has been added.

Like the rest of the core range, this Jura is reasonably easy to get hold of and can sometimes be picked up at a very good price, around Christmas and father's day, so keep your eyes peeled because I think, after having a good taste, that this is a bottle worth getting.  

And on that note, onto my tasting:

Nose - Starts off with little touches of white fruit but that quickly makes way and the peat influence takes over.  This isn't as earthy as most Islay whiskies but more dry fire smoke, specifically peat + wood fire.  Toasted oats and tropical fruit come through with emphasis on banana and pineapple and after about 5 minutes or so the smoke balances out with the fruit almost perfectly.  With a little drop of water the smoke eases and allows a tangy, citrus, perfumed lemon note to appear and after some time a strange sense of creamed rice also shows itself.  That is a new one on me.

Palate - Steady sweet arrival that builds into a heady mix of smoke and peppery spice.  On a second taste the arrival has little nuances of green apple and honey along with other fresh fruits but when the smoke appears it's heavy, intoxicating and very good.  The smoke effect is still most definitely dry smoke and not earthy in the slightest.  The pepper, and now some chilli, remain throughout but never dominate in the slightest and are certainly not harsh.

Finish - In fairness it's a tad lacking in depth but is of good length with more green apple, this time sour, and more smoke.

Jura distillery
Overall this is a impressive whisky that has enjoyed the addition of peat whilst still retaining it's original island character.  It's also extremely well balanced and I would have no hesitation in recommending this to anyone.  With that in mind though, if I had to find any fault then the "Prophecy" could maybe do with another layer or two of depth and complexity but I say this in the knowledge that I really am being overly picky.  This truly is a very good whisky.

Well there you go, another fine whisky sampled and another review posted.  

In the coming weeks I hope to push myself on and jazz things up a bit by heading out into the wider world to bring you all a few updates with the focus on some excellent Irish whiskey destinations, but I shall also be keeping things ticking over by continuing through my army of samples, so stay tuned.

All that's left to say is a massive thank you to Jamie for the awesome sample.  The favour shall be returned.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI


Monday, 18 August 2014

Linkwood - 18 year old - Whiskybroker.co.uk

Well hello there!!

Those of you who follow my posts regularly will have no doubt noticed that the updates have been a little bit few and far between recently, and for that I do apologise, but powers beyond my control have had me a touch busy over the last 6 weeks or so.

Not to worry though, time is back on my side again and I'm firmly back on the whisky trail, exploring my way through this dramtastic world and bringing it all to you in true Whiskey_Belfast blog update style.

To kick things off I'm heading back to an area visited a couple of months ago and as you have obviously noticed, from the title, I'm back at a Whiskybroker.co.uk bottling.  For those of you not familiar with this website please take a look at the previous update by clicking here and this should get you all up to speed.

This time around I shall be enjoying the delights of Linkwood Distillery.

Based in Elgin, Speyside, and built in 1821, this distillery has enjoyed a rather unnoticed history.  A few closures and even fewer official releases have resigned this dram to the long list of "blend fillers" and this could be where it gathers the majority of any fame it has, as it's most noticeably used in the make up of Johnnie Walker.

Linkwood Distillery
In 2008, current owners, Diageo allowed some scope by releasing some aged stock but it remains to be seen what the future holds for this distillery.

Taking all that into consideration don't be fooled into thinking that this whisky is anything less than decent.  In fairness I have no experience of this dram but was pleasantly surprised by what I found when sampling this offering bottled by Whiksybroker.co.uk.  


As with all Whiskybroker.co.uk bottlings this has had only basic filtration to remove large lumps of cask and there's obviously no colour added.  This particular bottling was distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2013 at a strength of 51.2%.

Nose - Not your typical sherried Speysider.  White fruit, green apple, grapefruit, lemon drops, grainy biscuit.  Can sense the 51.2% with peppery heat.  A slight green / herbal note appears to give the whole experience a great freshness to it.  Just hiding, in the background, is a old wood note but it's so subtle that you could easily miss it.  With water the biscuit and grain becomes more obvious.

Palate - WOW!!  That is hot!!  Fighting through the heat an intense zing comes through.  As the alcohol settles the fruit comes back.  More lemon, nice dusty aged notes hiding within green apple.  Sour apple sweets, sweet malt, very juicy and not drying.  With water this dram becomes unbelievably balanced working it's way between age, fruit and malt.

Finish - Good length and still fruity.

Overall this is one highly enjoyable glass of whisky and one that you could spend an age with.  As with each Whiskybroker.co.uk bottling I've tried there is always a string alcoholic nip that undoubtedly comes from the presentation but when you allow them to settle and give them time and respect the whisky experience is utterly rewarding.

Well that's me back and stayed tuned as the updates shall be coming thick and fast....I've certainly plenty of drams to keep me busy.

All that's left is for me to give a HUGE shout of thanks to @MashtunandMeow who kindly supplied me with this fine sample.  If you happen to be on Twitter then I highly recommend you check them out for some excellent views on food, beer and fine spirits....with an occasional cat thrown in for good measure!!  Cheers guys!!

Until next time, 

Sláinte


SI


Friday, 4 July 2014

Four Arran Whiskies (and 1 New Make) - Tweet Tasting Review

Those of you who follow me at @Whisky_Belfast will have no doubt noticed, on Monday evening past, my involvement in the latest fantastic tweet tasting to be hosted by Steve Rush from TheWhiskyWire.com.

This was the second tweet tasting to have been held in conjunction with Arran Distillery and having followed the first with envious eyes and salivating taste buds I was eagerly anticipating getting stuck into the 4 generous samples that were kindly provided by Arran themselves.

The moment the samples arrived at my door I was even more excited to see that they were accompanied by a small hessian bag that contained some malted barley, grist and........NEW MAKE!!!!!!!  A real treat indeed.

As I had admitted before, on a review of the Robert Burns Single Malt which can be found by clicking here, I have had very little experience of this distillery but at the same time I felt that the Robert Burns gave a good insight into the potential character of the distillery, hinting at a great spirit being aided by excellent casks.  Surely I wasn't to be disappointed on this evening?  Not a chance.

I shall quickly preview each sample before moving onto tasting notes for each:


Arran - New Make spirit

What else can I say other than this is, obviously, newly distilled spirit which comes in at a whopping 68% ABV.

Nose - Clove rock sweets, sweet malty raisins, rich and sumptuous, some stewed berries and with a little water a more cereal note comes through.

Palate - For the strength on show it is incredibly smooth and rich.  Dark dried fruits and more clove rock sweets dominate.

Finish - Evaporates at light speed off the tongue but is very tasty with sweet red apples.

Arran - 10 year old

Bottled at 46% ABV, without colour and non-chill filtered this is the latest release of their core bottling and is made with a mix of 80% bourbon barrels and 20% sherry hogsheads.

Nose - Lemon biscuits, fresh grassy note, light honey, buttery with mint / menthol through the background. More clove rock sweets that were found on the new make and with this the spirit style is evident here.

Palate - Sweet arrival, vanilla, more zingy lemon and now some orange. Initial warmth dissipates quickly to show some red fruit and red apples. With water the experience becomes sweeter.

Finish - Nice length, fruity, juicy and moreish.

This is a lovely light, fresh, summery whisky and obviously similar to the Robert Burns malt.

Arran - 17 year old

This is the last release in a trilogy counting down to the launch of the 18 year old in 2015.  The oldest official bottling from the distillery at the time of release, this was matured exclusively in ex-sherry hogsheads, bottled at 46% ABV and non-chill filtered with no colour added.

Nose - Tropical, banana on toast, orange, some more grassy elements but now accompanied with some perfume / floral notes.  Honey and mint with gentle pineapple.  The sherry cask has worked wonders with this and with some water an old woodiness appears.

Palate - Sweet red berries, red apple, warming spices, stem ginger, all spice, dark chocolate and stewed orange.  Fruit cake with lashings of butter and with water the spice reduces and the dark dried fruit influence increases.

Finish - Long, lingering, juicy and rich.

Fantastic dram with great range of flavours going on.  The balance between spirit and cask is near perfect.  Here's to the 18 year old when it arrives.

Arran - The Devil's Punchbowl III

In short the Devil's Punchbowl Series is a trilogy which started in summer 2012 and will conclude in 2014.  It is a blend of some of the finest Arran casks with this one having no peat influence but some influence of French barriques.  Bottled at 53.4% ABV, without colour or chill filtration this, last concluding bottle of the trilogy, shall be available very soon.  For a greater insight into this I shall add a link below.

Nose - Earthy and vegetal before sherry notes take over.  Xmas cake, mixed spice, creme brûlée, sweet orange marmalade.  Still tropical with banana and coconut.  Salted caramel and sweet & salted popcorn also make an appearance.

Palate - Intense spice, sweet malt and red fruit.  With water a more exotic waxy feel arrives with peppermint, clove and pepper.

Finish - Long and lip smacking.

To be honest, while this is again an extremely well made whisky, it's not quite my cup of tea.  A wee bit rough around the edges and a touchy spicy but as with all whiskies this may simply be a dram that you need to take your time with as you can still see certain qualities within.

Arran - Miss Black  

Bottled at 51.6% ABV this, distillery only bottling, is now completely sold out with your only chance of getting your hands on this awesome whisky being a constant trawl through the various auction sites out there.  This cask was specially selected by the Arran Distillery visitor centre manager Faye to celebrate her wedding.  Bottled at cask strength this sherry hogshead is just under 17 years old.

Nose - Rich, cocoa, coffee, stewed orange, banana, spicy coffee cake, brown sugar syrup, pineapple chilli jam, slight rubbery note (but not bad at all).  Moves effortlessly into rich red fruits, sweet tobacco / cigar, loads of dried fruit and with water it becomes more exotic with dark chocolate coffee creams......FANTASTIC STUFF!!!!

Palate - Sweet, rich and very, very smooth.  Dusty leather, dark chocolate, woody coffee, dried fruit and red fruit.  Stewed orange, chocolate orange and an amazing balance of sweet fruit and spice.  ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!  

Finish - To be honest this one is a little short compared to the others but I simply do not care.

This is easily one of the best whiskies I have ever tried.  Amazing complexity and balance throughout and one which delivers on nearly every level.  Such a terrible shame it's no more.  I for one shall be keeping an eye on the auction sites.

Well, there you go, that is me now well and truly acquainted with Arran and I have to say, I've been missing out.

Once again a huge thanks to Steve Rush at TheWhiskyWire.com where anyone can apply to join in the fun of the tweet tastings.  It's a truly great way to experience fantastic whiskies and meet fantastic people.  A huge thanks also to Arran distillery for producing fantastic whisky and being generous enough to share it with us all.

As with all of my updates further, relevant links can be found below.

Until next time,

Sláinte


SI

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

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


Arran Whisky - The Devil's Punchbowl - http://www.arranwhisky.com/story/468




Friday, 27 June 2014

Midleton - Very Rare 2014

Since taking over from Barry Crockett in March 2013, as master distiller of Midleton Distillery in Country Cork, I'm sure Brian Nation has already experienced many a high but I'm also quite sure that overseeing the upcoming release of his first bottling of the iconic Midleton Very Rare will be a moment that he treasures for years to come.

Launched in 1984 the Midleton Very Rare is a yearly release of 50 exceptional casks that have been handpicked by the master distiller and blended together to showcase all that the distillery has to offer.  This exclusivity and personal touch ensured that, from the first release, the Midleton Very Rare was to be revered and cherished.  An iconic status soon followed and now these bottles are sought out all over the world to be placed as a star asset in many a whiskey drinker's collection.  

All vintages are still available out there but be ready to pay a hefty price for the early releases with the Celtic Whiskey Shop, in Dublin City, offering the first release for a wallet beating €899.99.  Incidentally the very same shop can offer all of the 30 releases that have ever been released....up to this date.

And it is with this statement that I shall move onto the, soon to be released, 31st vintage - Midleton Very Rare 2014.

A good few weeks ago I arrived home to find yet another Dublin post stamped parcel lying in my hallway and upon seeing this amongst the other nonsense, that had been posted that day, I instantly became utterly excited as I knew that this little package of joy contained yet another sample from "The Celtic Whiskey Club".  Needless to say I was over the moon when I opened it to find a sample of the latest Midleton Very Rare neatly hiding within. 

For a little more insight into the whiskey itself it's worth pointing out that all Midleton Very Rare releases are a blend of the many styles of pot still whiskey made at Midleton Distillery along with some older grain whiskey.  The whiskey is matured in 1st fill bourbon casks which allows this to be regarded as one of the smoothest Irish whiskeys available.  With regards to age many age ranges are used, starting from around 12 years old all the way up to just under 30 years old.  

This particular bottling is bottled at 40% ABV.

As with all "Celtic Whiskey Club" samples a date and time is set aside for all lucky members to come together, via Twitter, for a "tweet tasting" and this particular tasting took place on Wednesday 25th June.  If you're quick you can still check out the tweets from the night via the hashtag #midleton14.

Here's my tasting notes:

Nose - Tropical with banana, mild orange and a nice underlying sweetness.  Unmistakably Irish and unmistakable pot still notes.  Initially the wood is understated but towards the end a distinct wood sap note appears which also gives a slight green / herbal feel to the whiskey.  Toffee and creme brûlée come through with the sweetness yet at the same time a lovely peppery spice sits in the background.  There's a great balance here between fruit, spice and sweetness.

Palate - Sweet, brown sugar, arrival.  Very, very smooth.  Pepper and ginger take over then give way to a green herbal note which feels more vegetal.  The fruit then starts to show with more banana, orange and now lemon juice.  Then after a few tastes the vegetal note turns back to the distinct wood sap that was found on the nose.  Very nice indeed.

Finish - Decent length with more fresh fruit and a tingling of ginger and clove all over the mouth.

Overall this is an impressive dram and an excellent start to the Brian Nation era of Midleton Very Rare.  The whiskey is balanced perfectly and the casks used have been particularly excellent with clearly a fair amount of life in them to deliver a wood sap note I've only ever experienced before in virgin oak matured whiskey.  

Long may his reign continue.

Thanks, once again, to the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Celtic Whiskey Shop for sourcing such a wonderful sample to enjoy.  I for one shall be renewing my membership when the time comes.

As always you can find some relevant links below.

Until next time,


Sláinte


SI

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


Celtic Whiskey Club - Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/CelticWhiskeyClub

Celtic Whiskey Club - Twitter Page - https://twitter.com/CelticWhiskeyCl