Wednesday, February 25, 2009
With this 10 years old 'Fine Oak' (the newest edition to Macallan's range), the colour is a yellow amber. The nose is full of vanilla and malty sweetness with something a bit yeast like coming through. There is also some dried fruitiness present (think of sultanas). On the palate, this is light and soft but quite creamy (not as rich as I was expecting). There is vanilla and malt (imagine a sweet style of bread) with some dried dark fruit present also (think of raisins and candied citrus peel). An interesting biscuity note (like a digestive biscuit) joins these. The finish is full of the sweet vanilla and grains and more buttery in flavour than the nose or palate. It is still light and this makes the finish quite short. This is a good whisky that is clean, fresh and very approachable and drinkable! It would be a great choice for someone as an introduction to whisky, as a present if you aren't sure what they like or to refresh your palate on a warm day. It is easy to see why this Macallan is so popular around the world and it is widely available. This 'Fine Oak' is a bargain at £25-30 a bottle.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Independent Bottling Companies
Wednesday 11 March @ 6.30pm £45 each
The evening will begin with a look at the history of whisky and how the spirit is made. The focus will then shift to the independent bottling companies, their history and what they contribute to the industry. We will then concentrate on the work of the Douglas Laing company and have selected five bottlings to taste from across their range, with the emphasis on championing lesser known distilleries.
Wednesday 8 April @ 6.30pm £40 each
The popularity of Japanese whisky is growing rapidly following the winning of a number of high profile awards. Here, we plan to bring the flavours of Japan to a wider audience and explain how they are pushing the traditional boundaries of whisky making. We will look at the history of the industry in Japan and then taste four of the best whiskies that are exported to this country. Come along to try something different and see what all the fuss is about!
GlenKeir Treasures Cask Strength Range
Wednesday 22 April @ 6.30pm £50 each
The GlenKeir Treasures series is exclusive to The Whisky Shop chain. The whiskies are specially selected and those in the Cask Strength range are the premium available. Just one cask of each is released, making them extremely desirable and limited. Each whisky is bottled at the strength that it comes out of the cask to ensure maximum flavour and quality. For this evening, we will taste four whiskies from this series, including a 40 year old, giving further background about each of the featured distilleries.
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Contact 020-73295117 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Family Cask 1979 - The 1979 bottling is one of only three in the entire series that is not matured in a sherry cask (the 1952 and 1984 being the others). This is unusual for Glenfarclas as they are famous for their sherry cask matured whisky. This was matured in a bourbon cask and the colour is golden. The nose is lovely and delicate with toffee and vanilla prominent, with a fruity element coming through (think of oranges). On the palate, the whisky is surprisingly light with some gorgeous vanilla, something nutty (imagine coconuts), a hint of a warm spice (think of ginger and nutmeg) and that citrus fruit (reminding me of orange peel or marmalade). Even more vanilla came with a drop of water. The finish is long and creamy with the toffee in particular coming through. A very good and balanced whisky that offers a chance to try a lighter, bourbon matured Glenfarclas. This will cost approx. £200 for one of the 225 bottles.
Family Cask 1959 - One of the oldest bottlings in the collection, this will cost you around £650 for one of the 194 bottles. This has the more traditional Glenfarclas sherry cask maturation and after almost 50 years in the cask the colour is a very dark brown. On the nose, this blows you away with its richness. There is lots of the dried fruits (imagine raisins and cranberries) that you associate with sherry cask maturation, but there is also something spicy (a bit like cloves, I think). The overall feeling is that of an intense, rich Christmas cake! The palate is even richer with all of the elements from the nose being joined by something darker and slightly bitter (think of an espresso coffee and dark chocolate), some creamy vanilla and burnt sugar. This is very complex and feels thick in your mouth. With water, it demonstrates the creaminess more and takes the edge off the bitter qualities. The finish goes on for ever as everything combines for one last hit. An exceptional (but pricy!) dram that is not for the faint hearted or those who don't like too much sherry cask influence.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
This 57° North is a limited but new addition to the Talisker range. The name is derived from the point of latitude on which the distillery is situated and I recently had the pleasure of trying this in the company of Mark Lochhead, the Distillery Manager at Talisker. It is bottled at cask strength (57% ABV) and has secured this limited UK release following a successful release in the Duty Free/ travel retail sector. The colour is golden and the nose is full of dried fruit (think of sultanas), something spicy (imagine black peppercorns - Talisker is famous for having this unique characteristic) and peaty smokiness (imagine a bonfire or embers in a fireplace). On the palate, this is full bodied and feels thick in your mouth. The power of the alcohol is balanced with intense and complex flavours. There is a mixture of sweet malted barley, vanilla, that dried fruitiness and smokiness from the nose, maybe just a hint of saltiness and some warm spices (that pepper again, with some nutmeg possibly). A touch of water really brings out the sweetness of the barley and the peat at the expense of some fruitiness. The finish is long, warming, smoky and spicy. 57° North is an truly excellent whisky and should cost around £50-55 a bottle from independent retailers.
This whisky has a colour of dark reddish amber and the nose is sweet and initially pretty aggressive. There is lots of spirit rawness that attacks your nose hairs but once you get passed this there is sugary caramel and toffee present, some woodiness and maybe just a hint of peaty smokiness. On the palate, things take a similar course. You are immediately hit with raw spirit (this suggests that there is some young whisky in the blend) but again once your mouth gets used to this some more pleasant characteristics come through. That caramel (reminding me of burnt sugar, I think) is present again as is the woodiness (that is almost makes it a little bitter) and the smokiness in the background. There is also lots of malted barley that gives a slightly bittersweet feeling. The finish is fairly short with the lasting characteristic being the raw alcohol spirit. This is a cheap blended whisky and while not being my favourite whisky when drunk straight, I think that it would be a decent whisky to have with a mixer as it has enough interesting elements present. Certainly not too bad for the price.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
This has a gorgeous golden colour and the nose is very promising. There is a sweetness that is a cross between malted barley and butterscotch, with some vanilla and nuts (imagine almonds). When tasted on the palate, the first thing that is noticed is that this whisky feels very creamy and thick. It is full of vanilla and that butterscotch again. That almond nuttiness starts to come through and more interesting elements join too. There is a hint of a warm spice (like nutmeg or cinnamon), something citrus that pleasantly cuts through the creaminess and some dried fruit (think of sultanas). Maybe, there is a slight salty tang to it also. The finish is quite long and warming with the butterscotch particularly prominent. A very pleasing dram that would be an excellent choice to give to someone who thinks that they didn't like whisky or who hadn't tried much whisky. It is very approachable and easy drinking and is well worth hunting down a bottle.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Having first tried this at the Distil 2008 trade show last year, I got the opportunity to taste this Jura 16 years old again. The colour is golden and the nose is very promising. A malted barley sweetness hits you with a dried fruitiness and a whiff of earthy smokiness coming through. The whisky feels creamy in your mouth but is not rich. Instead it is light with the malted barley sweetness prominent again. There is a slight saltiness to it and this mingles with the dried fruit again (think of sultanas and raisins), a citrus note (imagine candied peel or zest) and that earthy smoke from the nose (it reminded me of damp moss). The finish sees the sweetness replaced with a drier woody character (think of vanilla) and the saltiness and smokiness particularly noticeable. This is a good whisky that is more rounded, enjoyable and approachable than the younger versions of Jura that I have tried. It would be a good choice for someone who likes a bit of smokiness in their whisky but not too much or as an introduction to the smoky style. A bottle should cost around £40.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Glenfarclas use sherry casks to mature their whisky and this is evident everywhere, starting with the colour which is dark amber/gold. The nose is full of dried fruit (imagine raisins and sultanas), candied peel (especially orange), rich butterscotch and something sweet (it sounds strange but it reminded me of candy floss). There is also some warm spice present (think of nutmeg). The palate is rich and creamy, feeling thick in your mouth. The dried fruit is prominent again and mixes with the butterscotch note. Also, there is a slight herbal and woody note that comes through and something a bitter (reminding me of dark chocolate or black coffee). With water, the fruitiness opens out and this is joined by some maltiness from the barley. The finish is long, creamy and warm. A very good example of a cask strength whisky that despite being very easy drinking at 60% ABV, gets even better with a dash of water. A bottle should cost £35-40.
Whilst tasting the 105 above, I was offered the chance to try the newly released Glenfarclas 105 40 years old. This is again bottled at 60% ABV but has been in a sherry cask for 40 years and costs considerably more at over £500 a bottle! I was not going to turn it down! This is dark brown, almost black with a tinge of maroon. The nose is full of dried fruit (raisins and candied peel) but there is a rich dark chocolate character that is the difference with the regular 105. This gives a warming and slightly burnt quality to the nose, that was reminiscent of a mix of dark bitter chocolate and a strong espresso coffee. In your mouth this is rich, creamy and full bodied with the fruitiness taking a back seat to the chocolate and coffee notes. There is just a hint of woody bitterness, but certainly not as much as I was expecting considering how long it has been in the cask. The finish just went on and on and the addition of water brought even more complexity through (especially some dried berries like cranberry or currants). A truly gorgeous whisky.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
The cloudiness is caused by the natural fatty acids, esters and proteins that are present in the whisky. These occur naturally during the distillation process and are also imparted from the cask during maturation. When the whisky is cooled, these fatty acids, esters and proteins clump together to give the cloudiness. A whisky that is not chill filtered is also likely to develop sediment in the bottle if stored in a cool place. During the early 20th century, it was realised that this ‘fault’ with the whisky could actually be used to the distiller’s advantage and that if they chilled the whisky, then these elements could be removed more easily.
The process of chill filtration involves dropping the temperature of the whisky to zero degrees Celsius in the case of single malts and -4 degrees in the case of blends. The temperature for blends is lower as they contain grain whiskey and these have a lower natural concentration of the fatty acids. Once chilled, the whisky is passed through a series of metallic meshes under pressure. The amount of residue collected depends on the number of filters, the pressure used and the speed with which it is done. The slower a whisky is passed through the filters at a lower pressure, then the more residue will be collected but this is also more costly. During this process, any other sediment or impurities from the cask (called ‘coals’) that are present will also be removed.
The subject of chill filtration is a current hot topic in the whisky industry. It is looked upon badly by some, as consumers demand more natural or organic products in all areas of their lives. The other contentious issue is whether chill filtering a whisky affects the taste. Those against it are convinced that the removal of the natural fatty acids, esters and proteins alters the aroma, flavour and characteristics and leaves you with a diluted product. Those for the procedure argue that the taste and characteristics remain intact and that filtering gives better control to produce consistently high quality whisky. In reality it is difficult to compare as no one releases the same whisky in a chill filtered and non chill filtered form.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
This bottling is released by an independent bottling company called Douglas Laing & Co. They are based in Glasgow and have been bottling whisky since 1948. They buy casks from different distilleries around Scotland and bottle them in a number of ranges. This range is called 'Old Malt Cask' and everything is released at 50% ABV and is from just one cask, so the amount of bottles available in each release is very limited. This Glen Ord is an 18 years old and is one of just over 800 bottles. The colour is rich and golden and the nose is very promising. It is full of vanilla and coconut with a hint of warm spice (imagine nutmeg or cinnamon). This is warming and full bodied on the palate with lovely, creamy vanilla sweetness, a good level of malted barley that gives a slight bitterness, some warm spices (especially ginger, I think) and just a tiny hint of smokiness in the background. Due to the strength of alcohol, I decided to add some water and this really brought out that gingery spiciness, some coconut and maybe a floral note (imagine heather). The long and creamy finish makes this a very good all round whisky and is a bargain at £60ish a bottle, considering the quality, the limited release and the age.