Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Whiskybroker.co.uk - Christmas Malt 2013 - Review

Hello there,

How's everyone feeling after the Christmas madness?  All suitably fed and watered I hope.

Well if you have some room left for another blast of malt whisky then I may have the dram for you.

Over the Christmas period I treated myself to a small bottle of the www.whiskybroker.co.uk Christmas Blended Malt.  It's a blended malt of 4 whiskies from Glengoyne, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes and Tamdhu.  The youngest whisky is 12 years old and it appears that the whiskies led separate lives before being vatted into a sherry butt in 2006.  

It was bottled on 2nd December 2013 and has been presented at cask strength, 45.9%, with no colour added and no chill filtration.  From comments posted on whiskybroker's Facebook page, which can be found by clicking here, little is known about the previous lives of the individual malts except to say there is much older whisky involved which would suggest the low ABV.

Onto the tasting notes of this fine dram :

Nose - Instant whack of crunchy red apples, light marzipan, raisin, fig, sweet rich orange marmalade, slight touch of menthol / deep heat (but in a good way), xmas cake, mixed spice, mild creme brûlée and with water this really brings the orange and apple to the fore.

Palate - Very smooth, no alcohol heat here, big sherry notes of dark red fruits, dried fruit, mixed spice again, this is really juicy and sweet, as you "chew" on it the nose notes of orange and menthol appear with some clove and red apple only this time they are more sour sweet like.

Finish - Warming gentle spice with more red apple which just lingers on and on.

This, for me, is the perfect winters dram.  Gentle yet full of all the flavours you would expect from any sherry monster.  This is so easy to drink and with a touch of water it could nearly be pressed red apple juice with some alcohol in it.  Gorgeous stuff.

I'm off now to celebrate NYE but stay tuned as in the coming weeks I'll have a few cracking drams coming up plus maybe a wee highlight of the Belfast whisk(e)y scene which is ever expanding.

Well all that's left to say is may you all have a happy new year and I hope 2014 brings you all great fortune and excitement.  

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Hudson Whiskey Club - The Last Four Drams

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, apart from Stuart typing up this blog.

All shopping done, all presents wrapped and as promised here I am to finish off the review of the Hudson Bar's "End of year whiskey club".

If you've been following along you'll have seen we've already been from Scotland to Ireland and now we're off on a whirlwind tour of the globe (a bit like Santa) stopping at USA, Taiwan and Japan before zooming back home to sunny, tropical Belfast to finish off the night.

Given the time of the evening and the fact I'm just starting to enjoy a drink or two I'll be flying through these last four drams rather quickly.

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon - 12 year old - 47% ABV

Nose - Sweet wood resin, ripe banana, touch of sweet smoke and honeyed orange

Palate - Initially undrinkable, really nasty hot alcohol (and this isn't just the 47%), feels almost toxic, eventually it does fade to give some sweet vanilla ice cream and with a good bit of water the orange re-appears

Finish - Mercifully short

Not a dram I'll be going back to anytime soon


Kavalan Single Malt "NAS" - 40% ABV

Nose - Initial fizzy citrus sherbet, light wood sap, opens to become richer stewed fruits, toffee, sweet rich caramel, fruitcake and mixed spice.  Very good nose.

Palate - Sweet malt arrival with rich stewed dark fruits, dried fruit (especially raisin), strangely in the middle there is a very evident old foosty, leathery note which is actually very pleasant.  This reminds me of an old Scottish blend that's been sitting in the bottle for 20+ years.

Finish - To be honest it's non-existent but it doesn't take away from the rest of the experience which is top notch.

Overall this is a well made whisky that has wisdom beyond it's years.


Yamazaki 18 year old - 43& ABV

Nose - Big, traditional, Japanese style wood resin, the faintest whiff of smoke, satsumas, lemons, light sweet caramel and with time more sherried notes come to the fore.  Even for 18 years you can still get the light fruity spirit notes coming through but I feel the casks are just edging this one.

Palate - Sweet, rich, light smoke, deep mega orange, sweet vanilla.

Finish - Drying and warm with beautiful wood spice.

Overall this, for me, is equally as good as the 12 year old.  Both are fantastic single malts that have been crafted to the highest standard but the 18, with more wood influence, is definitely ideal for this time of year.

Now, on the night we thought this was going to be the end of the festivities but, thankfully, we had one last treat in store.  After working are way through the ages and richness we came straight back to youth with a taste of the Titanic 5 year old blend.  

Although produced for the Belfast Distillery Company this whiskey was produced by the Cooley Distillery in County Louth and is a blend of roughly 20% malt and 80% grain.

It was released along with a 10 year old, which is practically impossible to find, but it appears that, until Belfast Distillery Company have their own Belfast produced 5 year old, we shall only see an even younger version being released.  This is possibly due to the fact the Cooley have since been taken over by Beam Global and they could be less favourable to releasing older stock.

Titanic 5 year old Blend - 40%

Nose - Rice Krispies (British breakfast cereal), sweet grain, light toasted cereals, sweet vanilla, bubblegum, fresh zingy citrus….this is 10 times the blend Bushmills original is.

Palate - More light, sweet cereal, pangs of lemon and fresh orange, some sweet malt, incredibly smooth.  Fresh, clean, light and extremely refreshing.

Finish - Medium with more sugary sweetness.

Overall an amazingly light and refreshing dram and one that I shall revisit when the warmer weather returns in spring.


Well that's that for the review of the Hudson's Whiskey Club.  A fantastic night with a great range of whiskies on show.  I can't wait for the new year to see what they have in store for us.

All I can say now is that I wish you all a very merry Christmas and hope you all have a special bottle, or two, to open tomorrow….I know I do.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Monday, 23 December 2013

Hudson Whiskey Club - The Irish Two

On Wednesday 18th December I attended the Hudson Bar, Belfast for their end of year "Whiskey Club".

To follow on from my review of the Scottish Malts that were on show on the night, which can be found by clicking here, I shall move on to the next two whiskies that were being sampled.

For this we moved across the Irish Sea from Scotland to Ireland and were dished up the ever popular Redbreast 12yr old and Bushmills 16yr old.

As with all the whiskies the drams were poured from a freshly opened bottle and these two were both bottled at 40% ABV.

Redbreast 12yr old is an Irish Single Pot Still whiskey, which is a style unique to Ireland and is only produced at the Midleton Distillery in County Cork.  It's created by making a mixed mash of malted and unmalted barley and came about many years ago, in the 18th century, as a way of easing the cost of taxes that were being imposed on malted barley.

Nose - AMAZING!!!!  Smooth vanilla, creamy nougat bars, fresh light spice with big whacks of ripe banana and coconut.  The nose continues with some dried lemon / orange peel and a touch of fruitcake.

Palate - Fantastic oily mouthfeel, coats the inside of the mouth beautifully. Creme Brûlée, gentle spice, toffee, caramel, pineapple, lemon, and some sark fruits. It's a great combination of fresh zingy citrus with some comforting sherry style notes.  Truly awesome.

Finish - Long, lingering and incredibly moreish.

This really is a whopper of a whiskey.  Can easily hold it's own against anything in the world and sets you up perfectly to move further through the Redbreast family which is highly impressive all round.  

At this point I would have happily stayed with the Redbreast all night but we rapidly moved onto the Bushmills 16yr old.

This is a triple distilled single malt from the Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim.  The new spirit is matured separately, for 16 years, in bourbon and sherry wood before being finished off in port wood.

Nose - Massive red fruits, strawberry jam, raspberry puree, fruitcake, light banana, clove spice, wood spice, mulled wine syrup, mince pie in all butter pastry. Xmas pudding in a glass!! It's also worth nothing that the colour is amazing….caramel added???

Palate - Big, rich, warming, festive, spiced berries, mixed spice, nutmeg, dried fruit and nuts, some dark chocolate.  This is one for sitting in front of the fire with all day on 25th December.

Finish - Warming with xmas cake, mixed spice and more dark chocolate.

This dram is amazing in it's own right.  The marriage of bourbon, sherry and port wood is seamless and gets richer and richer the longer it stays in the glass.

It's almost impossible to choose between these two whiskies but for me the Redbreast edges it.  Although it's a debate I'll enjoy pondering for years to come.

Next up, to finish my review of the night off, we'll be moving across the globe, from west to east stopping at USA, Taiwan and Japan with a wee cheeky finish in Belfast (Dundalk).  All shall be revealed tomorrow.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Hudson Whiskey Club - The Scottish Two

On Wednesday 18th December I attended the Hudson Bar, Belfast for their end of year "Whiskey Club".

To follow on from my general review of the night, which can be found by clicking here, I shall spend the next few days going through the whiskies that were on show and giving you all some of my personal opinions on them.

First up, for the evening, we headed in the direction of Scotland to sample arguably the best Scottish Blend on the market today and a newish release from the Island of Islay.

The whiskies I'm alluding to are Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yr old and Bowmore's Small Batch Reserve.

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yr old is without doubt one of the most famous blended whiskies in the world and has been a cornerstone for this great brand since the early 1900's.  All in all it is a blend of around 40 different whiskies and is bottled at 40% ABV.  

It would be remiss of me not to also mention that Jim Murray has, for the past 3 years, published his iconic whisky bible showing this blend to have the whopping score of 95.5/100.  Only a handful of Scottish blends get awarded more.

Nose - Poured from a freshly opened bottle the initial creamy vanilla moves aside to allow a beautiful light peat smoke to come to the fore.  Red berries, fruitcake and mixed spice lie within the glass and move through the air with a great richness.

Palate - First to hit the taste buds is the warm mixed spices which ease into amazing dark red fruits, more cake arrives but appears as Christmas cake with a healthy dollop of vanilla cream.  The gentle spice remains throughout but serves to keep the dram beautifully warm and rich and the slight smoke just about shows through.

Finish - Rich but relatively short with more fruit coming through but this time in the form of crunchy red apple and light peach.

Overall this is an amazing blend and certainly beats my previous two reviewed blends of Ballantine's Finest and Grant's Family Reserve but, obviously, I could confidently say that this is mostly down to the 12yr old age statement.  It is well rounded with a perfect mix of Islay/Speyside nose, Speyside/Highland/Islay palate and Speyside/Highland finish.


Next up was the Bowmore Small Batch Reserve.  No age statement and bottled at 40% ABV led me to guess that this was going to be a wild, rough, hot, beast of a young malt but surprisingly I was completely wrong.  A small amount of research would also show that this single malt has been aged in 1st and 2nd fill bourbon casks, and married for an extended period of maturation.

Nose - Unbelievably light and fresh.  Light, gentle, almost fruity smoke turning into wafts of nearly invisible earthy peat.  Toasted oats, soft vanilla and toffee.  Still sea breeze and some sweet honey malt also appear here.

Palate - This is so clean and fresh.  The lightest hint of peat smoke combines with lemon and honey to provide an amazing taste in the mouth.  The smoothness is undeniable and I have to keep reminding myself that this is a young "NAS" malt.  There is simply no hot nip of alcohol present.  

Finish - Is unfortunately short but the turf smoke continues in it's lightest form with some slaty sea air.

Overall this is an Islay whisky like none I've tried before.  The lightness and freshness makes this seem more like a lightly peated young Highland malt (thinking young Balblair).  It is incredibly smooth and a cracking dram to sip away at.  Given the lack of alcoholic nip it would be interesting to see this bottled at 46% to see if it could get away with it and maybe add some extra young spirit complexity.

When first being presented with these two drams to start the "Whiskey Club" evening I was worried that my taste buds were going to be peated away to nothing but nothing could have been further from the truth.  We were only getting started

Next up I shall touch on the Irish contingent of the night where we sampled two of my favourite Irish whiskies.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Hudson Whiskey Club - "End of Year Special" - Review

Hello there,

It's been the better part of a week since I've updated this but it's been a bit mental with the build up to Christmas and all.  Now I think all is sorted, and bought, I'll be blasting away at the blog over the next week highlighting the whiskies that were on show when I attended the Hudson Bar, Belfast's "Whiskey Club" yesterday evening.

In the build up to the event it was billed as being an end of year special, showcasing no fewer than 8 whiskies that had wowed the attendees of the club over the year.  With a bit of food and great craic thrown in I think you'll agree it was pretty good value for £15 a ticket.

Upon arrival the mystery line up was revealed.  The whiskies on show were:


The Line-up for the evening
Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yr old
Bowmore Small Batch Reserve
Redbreast 12yr old
Bushmills 16yr old
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon 12yr old
Kavalan Single Malt
Yamazaki 18yr old
Titanic 5yr old Blend

As i mentioned earlier I shall update here regularly over the next few days to break down the whiskies that were on show and review them in pairs.

As always, up until now, the evening was hosted by Michael Morris, a co-owner of the bar and someone who is also involved with setting up of the new Belfast Distillery Company.  However he began the evening by announcing that this was to be his last hosting of the club as there are plans to expand the club in the new year.


Fine nibbles that were quickly demolished
He revealed that the new year shall bring with it a more professional style whiskey club with guest hosts attending from various distilleries and whisky companies.  This news, along with quiet murmurings of a possible yearly subscription to the club, means that 2014 shall be a very exciting year for whiskey lovers in Belfast.  Anyone wishing to check out the Hudson's Facebook page can do so by clicking here.

To conclude I would just like to say that the Hudson Whiskey Club is easily the most popular whiskey event in town and it promises to only get better and better.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Friday, 13 December 2013

Hudson Bar Whiskey Club **End of Year Special**

Hi there,

Just a short update to make all you Belfast whiskey lovers aware that the Hudson Bar, Belfast shall be having one last rattle at their amazing whiskey club before the year draws to a close.

The night in question is Wednesday 18th December and as per usual proceedings shall be kicking off at 8pm.

Tickets for this "Club" shall be a little dearer at £15 but by all accounts it's going to be an absolute (Xmas) cracker.

To date the Hudson Bar have not released any info or posters for this event but a little bit of insider knowledge would suggest that 8 whiskies shall be on show with the starting point being around the £60 - £70 range after which the only way shall be upwards.

Numbers are strictly limited to 40 and tickets have been on sale for a week or so but due to lack of overt promotion there seems to be a good few still available so give them a bell on 028 9023 2322 and get yourself down to nab a ticket or two.

It really does promise to be a stonker of a night and the best way to springboard into the Xmas week.

Needless to say my ticket is already bagged so hopefully I'll see you there.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bargain Blends (Ideal for Xmas)

As I started this week I began, as mentioned previously, with the best of intentions to push on with my whisky exploration.  That suffered a slight setback when I woke to discover a minor flood in our kitchen this morning….thankfully my whisky was unharmed.

As the last area of the kitchen was drying off I glanced up to my ever growing collection and took in the various styles and quality on display.  To the bottom end of this scale I noticed my two budget blends - Grant's Family Reserve and Ballantine's Finest.  These were both picked up in a local supermarket recently for £25.  Extremely reasonable in today's whisky prices.

As we move into the season of goodwill, we should all get ourselves down to our local supermarkets as there are some pretty serious bargains to be had.  Each week the bosses at these stores will drive their prices down in an attempt to persuade all of us to come their way and spend our pennies.

Now, some of you just getting started on your own whisky journey may think that the reason these bottles are so cheap is that they are of poor quality and only exist to be mixed in large amounts with Coke or Lemonade but the reality is that there are some great whiskies out there as the two reviews below will hopefully show.


Ballantine's Finest Scotch Whisky - 40%

Nose - Light and fresh spirit.  Unripe banana, candied lemon and a hint of bubblegum!!! Light grains make an appearance along with some fresh cut wet grass.  There is a faint whiff of smoke but not peat.  This nose has a feel of a Highland whisky with no obvious sherry present.

Palate - Light and inoffensive and eventually some clove spice and sweet malts take over.  With a touch, and a mean a touch, of water the sweetness and spice arrives much quicker accompanied by the fruits picked up on the nose.

Finish - Light, clean and warming spice settles and fades into more fruit with emphasis on peach and red apple.

Overall - This was bought for £15 and to be fair it feels that this was a nice price to pay. It's a nice, decent blend with lovely light fruits and spice.  It is perfectly drinkable and grand as far as value for money goes.


Grant's Family Reserve - 40%

Nose - Initial hit of fresh peat smoke which fades over time.  Stewed blood orange, soft grains and light honey.  Time in the glass allows sherry malt flavours to come through in the form of dried fruits, ginger spice and Christmas cake.  Throughout the nose there is an underlying nail varnish remover / ladies perfume note but it's nothing more than a slight background effect and is in no way unpleasant.  With water some gentle pear and green apple decide to show their faces.

Palate - The very initial arrival is that of light alcohol spirit, which would account for the underlying varnish note, but this fades quickly in the mouth to reveal sweet malt and grain along with juicy red fruits (strawberries, red currants, etc etc).

Finish - The finish is shortish but is very smooth, warming and ends with vibrant peach and apricot.

Overall - This was bought for £10 and in my opinion is an absolute belter for that price.  Considering some supermarket, own brand, "white label" spirits retail for roughly the same price, this is a whisky that can not be ignored, when on offer.  This really is a great example of what can be bought if we take a bit of time and examine closely what's in our local stores.

If I had to pick a winner it would definitely have to be the Grant's and to be honest, whilst the price is a big factor, I still would have this as the victor if the prices were the same.

To conclude I would simply highlight that it is not only the blends that can be found at scarily good prices.  At this time of year some of our most favourite single malts can be found at prices we would never see anywhere else.

Get out there, get looking and enjoy.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Monday, 9 December 2013

Two more Balblairs

After a busy weekend socialising and rugby watching it's time to get the head down and push on further with the Whisky journey.

As mentioned last week, as a warm up and a finish to the Balbalir tweet tasting, I took part in on Thursday, I sampled a couple of other drams to complement the new vintages that were on show.  

One of these was the '97 vintage which was a sample kindly supplied by a good friend and the other was the '01 vintage which I picked up on my last visit to Scotland.

First up was the 1997 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered - (second release):

Notes from the Balblair website: This exceptionally well balanced dram has been maturing  in first fill American oak, ex bourbon barrels since 1997. The 2nd release of 1997 is on track to secure just as many recognitions and awards as the first release. 

Nose - Light, fragrant, fresh cut grass.  Opening up to reveal lemon, fresh orange, light ginger spice and a little touch of nail varnish, but in a nice way.

Palate - Great mouth feel.  Sweet malt into extreme fresh lemons and oranges.  Warm christmas spices and a light oak note.  Very smooth.

Finish - Very smooth with warm spice.  Prickly heat that drys the mouth.  This settles to leave an intense peach flavour with hints of cream.  The peach finish is something I'm finding very familiar in Balblair and in a wider context quite a familiar in quite a few light Highland malts.


Balblair 2001 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered:

Notes from the Balblair website: This full bodied malt displays unmistakable Balblair characteristics: floral notes and aromas of fresh fruits such as oranges, apples and lemons. Released in November 2011, this Vintage replaces Balblair 2000.

Nose - Buttered grass, fresh clean spirit note, zingy green herbal notes, warm spices almost like freshly chopped green chilli.

Palate - Butter arrives back in the guise of toast with lashings of butter.  Sugary sweet malt moves back into the green grassy notes.  The characteristic spice arrives and then dissipates to reveal warm stewed oranges with extra lemon citrus.

Finish - Bags of fresh citrus with emphasis again on orange and lemon.  Sweet sugar with warm cinnamon and clove.


As I finished the night off and examined each set of tasting notes you can really get a feel for the style and character of the Balblair stills.  Fresh fruit and warm spice dominates the younger vintages with huge tropical notes making their presence felt the older you go.  All in all this is a great, light Highland malt and what I feel the distillery are achieving by releasing vintages, rather than age statements, is a portfolio of truly individual malts that are able to constantly display the true distillery style whilst each having their own little quirks and qualities.  

Whilst the results are this good, and taking into consideration how much I enjoyed the 1990, I still think that the distillery should continue along this line and not mess about too much with weird and unusual finishes which seem to be the ever increasing norm…if it ain't broke, don't and fix it!!

Well, that was a big bag of Balblair fun.  Think it's now time for me to race through my collection and get some of my thoughts down on paper.  It seems I've fallen into a trap of buying more than I can get through so will definitely have to redress the balance.  This shall start this week as I quickly review my two basic blends but don't let this put you off, whilst they might not cost much or have the same standing as a single malt they are both belters.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI




Thursday, 5 December 2013

Balblair - New Vintages

On Thursday 5th December Balblair Whisky took to the world of Twitter to host a tweet tasting showcasing their new vintages.  The new vintages on show were the 2003, the 1990 and the 1983.

All three of the new vintages have been matured in American Bourbon oak casks, with the 1990 also spending some time in Spanish oak ex-Sherry butts.

Established in 1790 Balblair is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and releases it's whiskies by vintage, distinguished by the year the whisky was laid down, rather by an age statement.

Balblair 2003 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered

Notes from the Balblair website: Balblair Vintage 2003 replaces Vintage 2002.  The American oak, ex-bourbon barrels used in maturation impart toffee, butterscotch and vanilla notes.

Nose - My first instant impression was of a tequila shot with all the elements of salt, tequila spirit and lemon present.  The spirit was light and fresh with hints of grass and spice coming through.  This then gave way to allow the traditional Balblair fruits to come to the fore with orange and lemon being the main protagonists.  With a touch of water the nose became softer and sweeter.

Palate - Fresh sweet malt developing into warm spices.  With time in the mouth the spice moved to the side to allow some fizzy citrus fruits to come through with the emphasis again on orange and lemon.  


Finish - Medium to short and smooth with warming spice, fresh clean zingy fruit and a pleasant final note of juicy peach.

Overall a clean fresh dram which highlights all the fresh characteristics that I've come to expect from Balblair. 


Balblair 1990 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered

Notes from the Balblair website: Matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak ex-sherry butts Balblair Vintage 1990 2nd release is truly exceptional. Recently released to replace our award-winning 1989 Vintage, this incredible dram is sure to become a firm favourite amongst Balblair fans and whisky connoisseurs.


Nose - Rich ripe banana, almost similar to banana that's been crushed and spread onto toast.  Further tropical notes, specifically sweet pineapple, along with dried fruit and raisins (tropical mix?).  Gentle warm wood spice starts to appear with notes of cinnamon, cocoa, ginger cake and christmas cake.

Palate - Instant blast of juicy red fruit which develop into warm, prickly christmas spice which grows in the mouth before making way for dark chocolate and just the slightest waft of coffee granules.

Finish - Medium, warm and fruity with more dark chocolate, oak spice and sherried fruits.


Overall this is a lovely winter warmer.  A dram that has been aged and finished to perfection.  Neither the sherry or the spirit are dominant but more like they are walking hand in hand completely parallel.  Great to see the sherry working with the spirit rather than beating it into submission like some sherry monsters out there.

Balblair 1983 vintage - 46% - natural colour - non-chill filtered


Notes from the Balblair website: Matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels, Balblair Vintage 1983 is a rich, warm dram, combining all core Balblair characteristics. Only just launched to replace the 2nd release of 1975 this stunning dram is sure to be just as popular as its predecessor.


Nose - More banana that was present on the 1990 but this time it's fresher. Light satsuma orange, wood resin, pineapple.  This is lighter and cleaner than the 1990 and on the nose doesn't appear to be a 30 year old whisky.  The nose continues with sour red apples (like jelly belly jellybeans), candied lemon and freshly cut melon.  The age is more on show via complex flavours rather than the old wood notes you get in some other old whiskies.

Palate - Here comes the age.  Old wood flavours accompanied by dusty citrus fruits namely lemons and oranges.  Spice arrives in the mouth as with the other vintages but with time this settles and moves over to allow the fruit to return but this time it's a touch less dusty and a touch more fresh with a return to the tropical.  This one goes down very smooth.

Finish - More warm spice clearing away to leave peaches and cream.

Overall the 1983 is mellow and smooth, which you would expect from 30 years in the cask, yet still it retains the lovely fresh fruits found in younger Balblair's.

All three vintages have the beautiful tropical and citrus Balblair fruits present throughout, yet each vintage has it's own personal character.  

In all honesty I think all three work really well but for me the 1990 just edged the others out to be my whisky of the night.  It was tropical yet sherried and never before have I seen sherry flavours being presented so subtly whilst allowing the original spirit to still shine through and have it's say.

As you can see from the pic at the start the 2001 vintage was present along with a sample of the 1997 vintage which was kindly brought along by a good friend who also was taking part in the tasting.  These were also both tried and tested and reviews shall be posted over the weekend.


Now all that's left is to say is a huge thank you to Balblair for providing the samples and hosting an excellent tweet tasting.  I can honestly say that all three vintages really impressed me and it appears that Balblair is only growing stronger and stronger.


Until next time,


Slainte.


SI

Friday, 29 November 2013

Hudson Bar Whiskey Club Review

On Thursday 28th November, as America was in the midst of celebrating Thanksgiving, I made my way to Belfast's Hudson Bar to attend their, ever more popular, whiskey club.

With a nod to the American Holiday the line up for the evening's proceedings was to be small batch American whiskies, ryes and bourbons.

As I wandered through the bar and out towards the "Heel Bar", the regular venue for the bar's whiskey sessions, it became immediately obvious that the club's popularity was becoming greater and greater.  The room, which has always been more than adequate for the numbers that attend, was visibly packed and I managed to acquire one of the few seats that were remaining.  Even with the room already at breaking point there still was time to squeeze a few more punters in which gave the room a more than cosy feeling.

As usual the charismatic Michael Morris, one of the bar's owners, was to be master of ceremonies for the evening.  A more than able person for the role given he is also heavily involved in the new Belfast Distillery which is being set up in North Belfast's notorious Crumlin Road Gaol.

Right, enough of the introduction and onto the whiskies.  The format of the tasting was to start at the lower end of the whiskey range and work through seven, yes seven, whiskies to the upper end of the market.

George Dickel - Cascade Hollow - 3 year old - 40%


Nose - Familiar bourbon aromas of sweet vanilla, spicy oak and hints of honey and maple.

Palate - The spicy wood from the nose is here in abundance along with soft vanilla, some sweet dark fruits, and hints of smoke in the background.  A very smooth whiskey which is light and unoffending although there's not much complexity here.

Finish - Short but warming and drying.  A decent, simple whiskey that's very easy to drink as a relaxing dram but it won't set your world alight.

Roughstock Montana Single Malt - 45%

Nose - WOW this is different.  Like no single malt I've ever nosed before.  Tea leaves, light coffee and sweet cigars make way for raisin notes combined with chocolate, think Cadbury's fruit and nut.  With a touch of water some  sweet malt, toffee and caramel notes come through with just a waft of light smoke in there lingering in the shadows.

Palate - Sharp and fresh, as the initial sharpness fades sweet dark fruit flavours come through with vanilla cream, Christmas cake and again there's that smoke.  The dark fruits really take over towards the end with touches of cinnamon and nutmeg.  Has a sherried feel to it and the small addition of water definitely brings the sweetness out.

Finish - Fruity and medium.  Highly enjoyable due to it being so far removed from what I normally would take a single malt to smell and taste like.

Evan Williams Single Barrel - 9 year old - 43.3%


Nose - Pine wood, glue (in a good way), green herbs, light oak and with water a more citrus feel comes through with orange and candied lemon sweets

Palate - Very fresh, high levels of orange and lemon with wood resin and light smokiness.

Finish - Short, sweet and spicy.  Again a very different style of whiskey with unusual flavours competing with the more regular bourbon notes but definitely drinkable.

Four Roses Straight Bourbon - 40%


Nose - Youthful with raw alcohol spirit.  Takes a while and some water to settle it down at which point green apples, light smoke and floral notes appear.

Palate - The young raw alcohol attacks the mouth and has a touch of chilli heat about it.  Not really that pleasant.  Eventually the apple comes back with spices such as cinnamon, clove and pepper.  The usual bourbon vanilla also makes an appearance.

Finish - Drying heat leading to spices.  In my opinion this is not enjoyable and is best avoided.

Knob Creek - 9 year old - 50%

Nose - Initial impression is that of crispy smoked bacon like the crispy cooked bacon you can buy to fill in sandwiches.  This develops into some toasted oats, oak, nuts and sweet light spices.

Palate - Lovely warm spice and fruit in the style of mulled wine.  Lovely juiciness which fills the mouth and moves into sweet oak flavours.  This can take a drop of water which only adds to the experience.

Finish - Medium to long and again warming in a nice way, not like the burn of the Four Roses.  This is most definitely a winter dram.

Jim Beam 6 Grains Signature - 6 year old - 44.5%

Nose - Gorgeous, amazing chocolate notes with lovely light sweet vanilla.  As it develops in the glass some amazing dark fruits come through with the oak.  Another with a very sherried feel.

Palate - Equally as good as the nose.  Crisp and fresh leading to vanilla, oak, light warming spice and more juicy dark fruit.  Lots going on and a little touch of water helps to open up the fruits to bring in some stewed oranges.

Finish - Medium, spicy and clean.  Very smooth and very enjoyable.   Not sure where the sherried feel comes from but it's an interesting and tasty move away from the normal bourbon flavours.

Maker's Mark 46 - 47%


Nose - Wood resin and oak.  Very similar to Japanese whiskey such as Yamazaki.  Herbal notes and green fruits come through with sweet vanilla, caramel and toffee.

Palate - Spicy, warming and sweet.  Lovely oak hints and creamy vanilla in the style of creme brûlée.  More fruits towards the end with oranges and raisin dominating.

Finish - Lovely, smooth and pleasantly warm.  Great sweet aftertaste takes over and lingers for quite a while.  Great dram to have in front of the fire.


As the tasting ended we were given a teasing notification that the Whiskey Club shall return on Wednesday 18th December with it being billed as a "night to remember".  The general idea seemed to be that we shall be starting with a whiskey around the £70 mark and moving up the scale.  It promises to be a belter.  

Numbers for this event are being limited to 40 and tickets are to go on sale this Monday coming.  I know I'll be at the bar first thing on Monday to guarantee my ticket.

All whiskies tried and tested all that was left to do was head back into the main bar and continue the discussion.  Yet again the Hudson presented another cracking Whiskey Club night and all this for only £10, absolute bargain.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hudson Bar Whiskey Club

Last minute update about The Hudson Bar, Belfast's latest Whiskey Club happening tomorrow night, Thursday 28th November 2013, at 8pm in their bar located at Gresham Street, Belfast.

Given the date, this month, they are celebrating all things American in a nod to Thanksgiving Day.

From the notes on their poster they shall be sampling some small batch bourbons, whiskies and ryes.

It also seems they shall be kicking off proceedings with an old style Speakeasy style cocktail.

I've been to one of these nights before and I have to say it's well run, very affordable at £10 and extremely good fun.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone looking to expand their whiskey knowledge or simply looking for a good night's craic, and don't worry there's usually plenty of whiskey to go round.

I shall be heading down myself as, to date, I've had very little experience of anything American apart from what little I've tried at a few whiskey festivals here and in Scotland.

On a side note the bar is also well known for showing the live NFL games and seeing as there's 3 on tomorrow night, for Thanksgiving, it appears a "full-on" USA night shall be had.

Hope to see you there.

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

First whisky blog

Just a quick update to at least get one whisky related post on here to get me going.

After watching a +ralfystuff vlog, a while back, I decided to start up my own "solera bottle".

I thought this was an amazing idea and promptly set about holding an empty bottle back to start the "Whisky Belfast Blend".

Well anyway thought I'd stick on a wee post highlighting what's gone in so far.  I shall add to this over time and keep you all well informed.

To date I've refrained from sampling the blend in order to allow it to marry fully but no doubt I'll have a wee taste over the Christmas period and maybe add a few more in.

Well, without further ado, here's the mix so far:

Bunnahabhain 10yr - Carn Mor single cask bottling - 46% - 100ml
Balvenie 12yr Doublewood - 40% - 40ml
Aberlour 10yr - 43% - 100ml
Sainsbury's Islay Single Malt 12yr (Craft presentation) - 46% - 40ml
Bowmore 12yr - 40% - 50ml
Glenmorangie 10yr - 40% - 100ml 

Not much, as of yet, and by no means anything fancy but already the smell is fantastic with wafts of sweet sherry with hints of smoke in the background.  Can't wait to get this into a Glencairn and give it a good proper nosing.

I have some excellent whiskies nearing the end of the bottle so the blend should be boosted sooner rather than later.

Right, must be off now, time to get some Christmas shopping done.  

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI

P.S. Click here to see Ralfy's vlog that gave me the urge to get the blend started.


Hello "Blogworld"

Hello there,

If you are reading this then you are witnessing a great beginning.

I've never tried anything like this before but now is the time to take the plunge, try something new and enjoy myself on the way.  Why the hell not?

As I explore my way through this new "blogworld" I hope to have some craic (Irish slang for fun) whilst documenting my hobbies, interests and experiences.  These documented ramblings should mostly comprise of my ever growing love of whisky / whiskey but I have no doubt that other topics shall creep in from time to time.

I think, as I have become more interested in whisky, I have noticed more and more ways of getting information across through all forms of media and am interested in seeing what this shall evolve into.

Now I'm not saying that I know anything about anything but I'll have a go at passing on my humble opinions and hopefully it'll all help towards a greater learning for myself and others.

Well anyway I think that's enough to get me going and will give the page a less empty look while I desperately work out why I have started this and what way to best keep it going :)

Until next time,

Slainte.

SI