Thursday, April 29, 2010

Have just tried ... Hudson Manhattan Rye

An old tradition reborn
Hudson Manhattan Rye is an American whiskey is made by Tuthilltown Spirits. They are located in the town of Gardiner in the state of New York, around an hours drive directly north of New York City. The distillery was opened in 2005 and is the first to produce whiskey in the state of New York since the Prohibition period, which was enforced between 1920 and 1933. Prior to Prohibition, the state was well known for its production of rye whiskies and from this the famous Manhattan cocktail was born.

The idea of two men
Tuthilltown Spirits takes its name from the old Tuthilltown grist mill (founded in 1788, it is the oldest water powered mill in the state of New York), where the distillery is housed. The Hudson bottling name is due to the fact that the distillery lies in the River Hudson valley. The company was founded by business partners Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee and both are distillers at Tuthilltown Spirits. The distillery equipment was designed and built by Lee and Erenzo's son is the Brand Ambassador. Both are self taught distillers having toured various European distilleries, including Cognac and absinthe in France and grappa in Italy. For further information, please visit their website - - and watch the informative short film below.

Locally sourced ingredients
At Tuthilltown Spirits they produce a range of single malt, bourbon and rye whiskies, all of which have their own unique grain recipes. All the grain used in production comes from within a 90km radius of the distillery and the water and yeast used is also locally sourced. Their whiskies are produced in small batches and all bottles are hand filled, capped with a stopper, dipped in wax and then hand numbered with the year, batch number and bottle number. This Manhattan Rye is made from 100% whole rye grains and this makes it one of the few pure rye whiskies available. It is bottled at 46% ABV and costs $45-50 for a 375ml bottle. This bottle is labeled as Year 09, Batch 17, Bottle 250. We thank Lisa Huang for bring us this sample back from the USA.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Hudson Manhattan Rye is a dark golden brown and the nose is very promising with a fresh vibrancy to it. Initially there are plenty of distinct grain and burnt woody notes and the graininess is reminiscent of a sourdough loaf. With a little time some further sweeter aromas start to come through and these combine well with the more bitter initial notes. There is sweet vanilla, coconut (think of dessicated coconut), something fruity (imagine orange zest or oil), some waxy furniture polish and a hint of yeast. On the palate, this whiskey is again light and fresh and has a distinct initial bitterness that grips the inside of your mouth (think of a combination of charred wood, cereal grain husks and wood spices, especially nutmeg). Then the sweeter characteristics start to show - sweet vanilla, honey, candied orange peel, coconut, almonds plus some cinnamon. The combination is simply lovely. The finish is short yet expressive with plenty of toasted almond and vanilla present. A charred woodiness is the last thing to appear and this leaves a pleasant bitterness in your mouth.

What's the verdict?
This whiskey is a gem and feels unique - both of us, and the person that we sampled it with, agreed that it tastes and feels like nothing else that we have tried for a long time. The reason is that is has a different flavour profile and structure to most American whiskies, bourbons or ryes, where the sweetness comes first and is then followed by some bitter notes. Here, this is in reverse with the bitterness up front followed by sweetness. Fascinating and enjoyable stuff that demonstrates the attention to detail that a small boutique distiller can acheive - a great dram.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Have just tried ... Tullibardine 1992 Vintage

drink station logoEarlier this week, Matt wrote a guest post on the soft drinks blog Drink Station. In return, we welcome Drink Station's writer and founder Chris Maclean to Whisky For Everyone. Chris has agreed to write a post for our 'Have just tried ...' series and selected a whisky to sample and review. He chose this relatively new release from the little known Tullibardine distillery. We hope that you enjoy reading! So here goes, over to Chris' review ...

tullibardine 1992 vintageTullibardine is a Highland Malt. The distillery is located at Blackford in Perthshire, and stands on the site of a former brewery. It was designed by the architect Delme Evans and built in 1949, so is relatively young in the context of Scottish distilling.

The distillery has a chequered past, including changes of ownership and a period between 1994 and 2003 when it was inactive (or ‘mothballed’). Since 2003 the distillery has been privately owned, and production has recommenced. The first release of this new production is scheduled for bottling in 2014, with current releases being drawn from stock inherited from the previous owners, Whyte & Mackay.

This bottling was distilled in 1992 and bottled at 46% ABV (alcohol by volume) in 2006. It has been drawn from a combination of bourbon and sherry casks, and should be priced around £30- £35 from specialist retailers.

The whisky is a pale lemon yellow colour. On the nose aromas are clean, fresh and light: Lemon citrus is followed by a sweet grassiness, milled cereal and pears. As the whisky opens up the elements become warmer and richer, with vanilla, honey, almonds and even butter coming through now.

Moving to the palate, flavours are lemony fresh, with a mouthwatering zest and good intensity. There is enough malty, honeyed sweetness to balance this, and a buttery texture to chew on. This bottling has a firm finish, drying and turning pleasantly bitter as it slowly fades.

In conclusion, with such clean, zesty flavours this would make an excellent aperitif whisky. It is light but shows excellent intensity and length on the finish, no doubt aided by the 46% ABV bottling strength.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A guest blog post ...

drink station logoA couple of months ago, we were asked to write our first guest article by Jason of the Guid Scotch Drink blog (then known as WhiskyHost). Well now it has happened again! This time it is slightly different though as Matt was asked to write a post for Drink Station - a blog that samples and reviews soft drinks and beverages.

Drink Station is written by Chris Maclean and his aim is to sample, write and review soft drinks in the same way that everyone samples, writes and reviews alcoholic drinks, beers, wines, spirits and cocktails. While there are many blogs, websites and people writing about alcoholic drinks there are very few that do the same job for soft drinks. This is where Chris comes in with his detailed information and tasting notes. The blog seems almost unique in its content, so the chance to write on it was taken and the soft drink selected. The deal is that Chris has to write a return whisky related article to appear on Whisky For Everyone in the near future. Look out for that!

Read Matt's review of Power Horse - an Austrian energy drink with an interesting history - on Drink Station by clicking here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New releases ... St. George's 3 years old 'Chapter 6'

Today is St. George's Day and here in England we celebrate our national day and all things English. So we thought we would honour the day with some of the much publicised English whisky. St. George is the patron saint of England (and other places including the Catalunya region of Spain, where he is called St. Jordi) and all celebrate on the 23rd April. Part of the national celebrations included the revival of the Parade of St. George through the City of London. This is the first time that such a pageant, including St. George dressed in all his regalia (pictured, above), has happened since 1585.

The first English whisky
St. George's is the first whisky distillery to be built and produce whisky in England for almost 200 years. The distillery is located in the heart of East Anglia, close to the town of Roudham in Norfolk (about 2 hours north east of London). The distillery is operated by The English Whisky Company, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop. The construction of the new facilities began shortly afterwards and the first spirit came off the stills in November 2006. The legendary master distiller Iain Henderson was employed to oversee production and he has previously managed Laphroaig on the island of Islay.

st. george's chapter 6A new chapter
St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured in ex-bourbon casks. They are currently producing and maturing both a peated and unpeated version of their whisky. This Chapter 6 is the latest release from the St. George's and is bottled at three years of age with an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV. It is one of the first official 'whisky' releases from the distillery, as whisky legally has to have been matured for a minimum time of three years. The English Whisky Company have been bottling new make spirit and partially aged spirit (they are not allowed to call these whisky!) and these form the other parts of the Chapter series. All are available from the English Whisky Company website, selected specialist retailers or Gordon & MacPhail and should cost £35-40.

Our tasting notes
St. George's Chapter 6 is pale lemon in colour and the nose gives off a pleasant scent that improves with time. Initially, it feels very fresh and zingy with plenty of tart citrus (think of lemon zest) and alcohol spirit present. With time, it evolves and numerous other elements come to the fore. The freshness remains and there is a lovely combination of vanilla, dried grass (imagine hay), fresh green pears and apples and caramel honeycomb (think of that hard stuff that you get in confectionary and fairgrounds). On the palate, there is again plenty of freshness with the same zingy citrus note and spirit from the nose combining well with the fresh green fruits (those pears and apples again, joined by some melon). The palate grows with time with distinct dried grass and cereal grain characters coming through, as does some further sweet vanilla, toffee and a hint of hot, spicy peppercorns. The combination is enjoyable. The finish is short, sharp and intense with more dried grass and cereals present. The pepperiness from the palate is a pleasant addition also.

What's the verdict?
This St. George's Chapter 6 is a lovely refreshing whisky. OK, it is very young and does demonstrate the characteristics associated with youthful whiskies (the alcohol spirit and fresh green fruits especially). What this whisky does is to be good at its current age, while also showing enough complexity and promise to make you want to try further aged releases - what will it be like as a 10 years old, for example? It is definitely worth a try, if you get the chance and is a very good dram. We thank Lizzie and Sarah at The English Whisky Company for the chance to try this sample.

Happy St. George's Day!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Have just tried ... Four Roses Single Barrel

From the heart of Kentucky
Four Roses is an American whiskey distillery that is located in the town of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky is the famous home of the American whiskey industry with seven companies currently operating and producing numerous brands of whiskey and bourbon. Four Roses is currently owned by the Kirin Brewery Company from Japan and is one of Kentucky's largest distilleries, producing eight million litres of whiskey a year. Much of this is released under the Four Roses name although, as with the other Kentucky distilleries, they also release whiskies and bourbons under different names. These all use different traditional recipes during production and the most well known example made at Four Roses is Bulleit bourbon.

For further information on American whiskies and bourbons, then check out the American page on our website -

Details of the whiskey
This Single Barrel forms part of the revamped Four Roses' core range which also includes the best selling Yellow Label and a Small Batch release. As the name suggest, this whiskey is released from a single casks and each bottle is hand signed and labeled with the master distillers initials and the warehouse location from which it was taken (this is cask number 36-1M - 36 being the warehouse number, 1 being the row of the warehouse and M being the shelf/rack that the cask was stored). Single barrel expressions of American whiskies are rare, although this is changing as consumer demand grows. Four Roses Single Barrel is aged for approximately eight years, is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 50% ABV and has won numerous awards since it was first released in 2005. It should cost £35-40 a bottle from selected specialist alcohol retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Single Barrel is golden amber and the nose is very intense. The alcohol (50% ABV) hits first and gives a warm spiciness, before plenty of woody and vanilla notes kick in - think of fresh oak, wood shavings, sandalwood and coconut. It feels fresh and vibrant with other aromas coming through such as caramel, some citrus (imagine orange oil) and a hint of tropical fruit (think of banana and peach especially). On the palate, this is equally as big and intense as the nose suggests. Again, the alcoholic kick is hot and there is plenty of woodiness (especially the fresh oak and coconut husks). This is on the borderline of becoming bitter before some softer and sweeter notes come through - think of caramel, brown sugar, cereal grains, vanilla and those tropical fruits from the nose. Additional wood spices (imagine peppercorns and cinnamon) combine to give great depth. The finish is very long and warming with the spiciness and woodiness in abundance, in addition to a burnt orange note.

The high alcohol strength and intensity of Four Roses Single Barrel suggest the addition of some water. How much you add is up to you! With a few drops, the alcohol strength and the spiciness is softened and allows more of the sweeter vanilla, caramel and fruit elements to come through. The addition of some water may make this whiskey more palatable to a wider audience.

What's the verdict?
Wow! This is one hell of a dram and it takes no prisoners. It is a big, intense whiskey that is not for the faint hearted, but one that softens while still holding its complexity with the addition of water. It is interesting to try a bourbon at a higher ABV strength and from a single cask - if they are all this good then it is only a matter of time before more companies release them. Single Barrel also offers good value for money, especially when compared with a similar product from a Scottish single malt distillery which would start at around £50 a bottle.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Have just tried ... Bailie Nicol Jarvie

bailie nicol jarvieInspired by fiction
The Bailie Nicol Jarvie is a well regarded blended whisky that was first produced in the 1890s. The original version of the blend, or BNJ as it has become affectionately know, was devised by business partners Roderick MacDonald and Alexander Muir during 1893 in the Scottish town of Leith. They named it after a character in Sir Walter Scott's renowned novel Rob Roy - a magistrate who tackled a sword wielding Highland clansman in a remote pub by setting his attacker's kilt on fire! The blend was particularly popular in the early 20th century before suffering a dramatic slump in the 1970s and 80s.

High malt content
The brand was reborn in 1994 by the Nicol Anderson & Co. Ltd, who are also based in Leith near Edinburgh. Today, they remain one of the few independently owned companies in Scotland that still do their own blending. The composition of the blend was changed from the original recipe due to market forces. Only eight single malts from the Highlands (including Glenmorangie), isle of Islay and Speyside (including Glen Moray) are blended together with grain whisky from the Girvan distillery in Ayrshire. In comparison, many blended whiskies contain between 20-40 single malts. The minimum maturation time in a cask is six years and the final BNJ whisky contains 60% single malt and 40% grain whisky. This is one of the highest single malt percentages of any blend on the market.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Bailie Nicol Jarvie is golden yellow and the nose is light, fresh and delicate. There is initial zingy citrus (think of lemon zest) and this is then joined by other aromas, including vanilla, honey, slightly bitter cereal grains, dried grass (imagine straw and hay) and just the smallest whiff of some peat smoke. On the palate, this is again light and fresh with a lovely clean and crisp nature. There is more noticeable peat smoke than on the nose, but it remains subtle and compliments the other notes that are present - cereal grains, toffee, vanilla, dried grass and nuts (think of almonds especially). These notes give the whisky a richness and sweetness but a distinct citrus element (that lemon zest again) comes through and counteracts this. The zingy nature of the citrus is what helps with BNJ's refreshing lightness. The finish is reasonably long for something of this delicacy and is well balanced. The citrus zing and sweet honeyed notes work well with the more bittersweet cereal notes.

What's the verdict?
Bailie Nicol Jarvie is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 40% ABV and should cost £15-20 a bottle. It seems to be becoming harder to find these days but can be purchased from specialist alcohol stores. BNJ is a lovely fresh and delicate whisky that is very easy to drink. Some whiskies in this style can be a little wishy-washy, but this has complexity and depth that have come from the use of good quality casks during maturation and the skill of the blender. A good dram at a good value price.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Have just tried ... Asyla from Compass Box

Whisky innovators
Compass Box is a boutique independent whisky producer that was founded in 2000 by John Glaser. They have offices and blending rooms in both west London and Edinburgh. Their ethos is to buy whisky from a small number of distilleries and then craft them together into their own unique whiskies. The range includes single grain whiskies, vatted malts, blended whiskies (such as this Asyla) and other occasional releases. All are produced and released in small batches, often using only two or three single malts to create a unique product with a catchy name. By doing their own blending and vatting, Compass Box have less restrictions than other traditional independent bottlers and as a result, is a former winner of the prestigious Whisky Magazine's Innovator of the Year.

For further information on Compass Box and other independent bottling companies, then visit their page on our website

The story of Asyla
Asyla is a multi award winning blended whisky that forms part of Compass Box's core range. The name translates from the Gaelic language as 'a place of retreat and security' and it is made up of three single malt whiskies - Glen Elgin, Linkwood and Teaninich - and one grain whisky from the Cameron Bridge distillery. All the whiskies have been matured in ex-bourbon casks and are then blended together 12 months prior to bottling, so that they marry together perfectly. The final Asyla whisky is bottled at 40% ABV and should cost £25-30 a bottle from selected specialist alcohol retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Asyla is a pale lemon yellow and is almost straw-like. The nose is very promising with a number of subtle and delicate notes present - vanilla, cereal grains, oak (imagine wood shavings/sawdust), citrus (think of lemon zest), apples and dried grasses. On the palate, this is light and fresh but again has a lot going on. It is unusual to find a whisky that is so light in nature but that also has the depth and complexity of flavour. There is plenty of sweet vanilla and this feels a little creamy in the mouth. This is followed by a lovely oakiness and some slightly bitter cereal grain characteristics (these give a good balance to that initial sweetness). Other elements that combine to form this lovely palate include some fairly intense lemon, dried pears and apples, almonds, honey and just the tiniest hint of some peaty smoke. The finish is short and crisp with plenty of vanilla and honey present. The overall feeling is that Asyla is refreshing and palate cleansing.

What's the verdict?
This is so easy drinking that it is dangerous! Asyla is a very good whisky that is light, delicate and fresh but still offers up plenty of sweetness and interest to the drinker. It may be too light for some but would be a great choice for a beginner or as an aperitif drink. Compass Box recommend it as such and say to try it chilled, straight from the fridge. Asyla demonstrates what happens when you have quality whiskies matured in quality casks that are then put together by a skilled blender. An excellent whisky at a good price too.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Have just tried ... Woodford Reserve

woodford reserve bourbonPrize winning bourbon
Woodford Reserve is a bourbon that is produced in small batches by the Labrot & Graham distillery. The distillery is located in the American state of Kentucky, close to the town of Versailles. Woodford Reserve whiskey is presented in a recognisable narrow square bottle and varies in strength from 43-46% ABV, depending on the batch. It is made using a secret combination of corn, rye and malted barley grains and is the only bourbon that undergoes a triple distillation (most others are distilled twice). Woodford Reserve is the official bourbon of the world famous Kentucky Derby horse race and has won many prizes worldwide. These include a Double Gold Medal at The World Spirits Competition in 2000 and this made it the first bourbon to ever win that prestigious prize.

Kentucky's oldest
The distillery was founded in 1812 by Elijah Pepper, making it the oldest operational whiskey distillery in Kentucky. Kentucky is widely regarded as the heart of the American whiskey industry. The current distillery buildings were erected in 1838 and it was named the Oscar Pepper Distillery after Elijah's son. In 1878, Leopold Labrot and James Graham became the new owners and they changed the name to the Labont & Graham Distillery. This name appears on the current bottles of Woodford Reserve.

The birth of Woodford Reserve whiskey
Labont and Graham ran the distillery until 1941, when they sold up to the Brown-Forman Corporation. Brown-Forman are still in ownership and also own the Jack Daniel's distillery in the neighbouring state of Tennessee. They mothballed (the process where a distillery is taken out of service but remains intact) and sold the distillery in 1968. However, they decided to start producing premium small batch bourbons and re-purchased the Labont & Graham distillery, which they saw as ideal for the purpose. This was in 1993 and following a complete refurbishment, including new stills made in Rothes in Scotland, production was restarted. Woodford Reserve, which is named after the Woodford County where the distillery is located, was first introduced in 1996 and we are now on the release of batch number 59.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Woodford Reserve is a rich amber orange and the nose is intense, sweet and spicy. There is an immediate hit of vanilla and oak and it feels very woody (think of new oak furniture or wood shavings). Underneath this, other elements reveal themselves - coconut, honey, maple syrup, orange oil and warm spices (imagine ginger and nutmeg). On the palate, a similar thing happens - your mouth is hit with a ton of oak and vanilla before other notes begin to come through. The vanilla has a creaminess to it and the combination of the coconut, orange oil and warm spices (especially the ginger) from the nose in addition to some brown sugar and slightly bitter cereal grains, give the whiskey depth and complexity. The initial oak grips your palate and hangs on right the way through to the long finish. The finish becomes increasingly dry, tannic and spicy - imagine a combination of heavy oak, cereals (especially the more bitter rye grains), ginger, nutmeg and a touch of hot chilli.

What's the verdict?
Woodford Reserve is one of the increasingly popular bourbons within the cocktail world. It is easy to see why as its exaggerated flavours and deep complexity would manage to stand out when mixed with any manner of other things. When taken neat, this is a lovely bourbon for those same reasons but it may be a little too rich, woody or spicy for some palates, especially the uninitiated bourbon drinker. However, that should not stop you trying this excellent whisky. A bottle should cost between £25-30 from specialist retailers and some larger supermarkets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And the winner is ...

birthday cakeA couple of weeks ago, Whisky For Everyone reached its second birthday. We decided to celebrate the fact that it was two years since our first ever blog post by setting a competition - we asked for ideas about articles or features that you would like to see us write about on our blog.

We received a number of very good and interesting suggestions but we decided to leave it to an independent panel of judges/friends to decide the winner. These included Chris Maclean, the manager of The Whisky Shop's London branch and Tom Driver, the man who designed our Whisky For Everyone logos.

So, here goes ... drum roll please. Our judges all went for the same idea, so therefore the unanimous winner is Stephen from Minneapolis in the USA. He wrote,
"I would love to see an article on ideas for hosting a whisky tasting party for friends and family. The more we share our passion with others the more the culture will grow and mature which is a win for all parties! Keep up the great work!"

Well done Stephen and the prizes - a 20cl bottle of Talisker 10 years old, a sample of a forthcoming mystery dram (this will be posted within the next week or so) and a few other goodies - will be winging their way across the Atlantic shortly. Please contact us at and we can arrange this. Our article about hosting your own whisky tasting will appear shortly.

We would also like to thank everyone who has left us a birthday message either here on the blog, via email or on Twitter @whisky4everyone - these are much appreciated by us both.

Karen & Matt

Monday, April 12, 2010

Have just tried ... Aberlour 16 years old

aberlour 16 years oldA beautiful location
Aberlour is a whisky distillery that is located in the picturesque village of the same name. The village sits on the banks of the River Spey in the heart of the Speyside region. It was founded in 1826 by James Gordon and is currently owned by Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard beverage group. In 1879, the distillery was completely destroyed by fire and was re-built on a different site at the opposite end of the village by a wealthy local man called James Fleming.

Fleming had further massive influences on the village of Aberlour by financing the building of its town hall (which still carries his name), a cottage hospital, a school, the installation of electric street lamps and a toll bridge across the River Spey.

Numéro un en France
Aberlour is currently one of the best selling single malts in the world and is known for its use of quality sherry casks during maturation. It sits comfortably within the world’s top ten for volume of sales (7th place in 2008) and is the best selling single malt whisky in France, who consume the most whisky of any country in the world! Aberlour is also popular in the UK and southern Europe. The core range consists of this 16 years old plus a 10, 12 and 18 years old. These are joined approximately once a year by a cask strength single batch whisky named A’bunadh (pronounced a-boona). The distillery is well known and renowned for its use of top quality sherry casks during the maturation of their whisky.

For further facts and information on Aberlour, please click on our distillery visit post from last Autumn.

Our tasting notes
This Aberlour 16 years old has undergone a double cask maturation - 50% has been matured in ex-bourbon casks and 50% in ex-sherry casks, before they are married together for six months. The whisky is bottled at 43% ABV and should cost approximately £40 a bottle from specialist liquor retailers.

The colour is a lovely deep golden amber and the nose is rich, sweet and expressive. There is an immediate hit of soft dried fruits (think of raisins, sultanas, prunes and apricots) and honey. Then comes plenty of caramel, woody spices (imagine cedar wood and cinnamon) and some orange oil. Finally something floral (this is hard to pinpoint but has a petal-like aroma) comes through. The overall feeling is like a rich, sumptuous fruit cake or pudding. On the palate, this is again sweet then spicy. First comes some honey, dried fruits (especially the sultanas and raisins, with the addition of candied orange peel) and cereal grains. Then a good balance of spices - cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of anise. Other elements present include some toasted almonds, caramel and fresh stone fruits (think of peaches, plums and apricots). The finish is long, warming and rounded. It is fruity, grainy and sweet but this is counterbalanced by some drying woodiness and pleasant wood spice.

What's the verdict?
Aberlour need congratulating for this whisky - this is a top dram. It is a good advert for the use of quality casks - the marriage of both ex-bourbon and sherry casks makes it a little more accessible than some pure sherry cask whiskies, that can often be very sweet or woody. Here, they have created all-round balance and this whisky offers a good easy drinking nature, complexity and top quality for the price.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New releases ... Glenfiddich 14 years old 'Rich Oak'

glenfiddich 14 years old 'rich oak'World famous whisky
Glenfiddich is the most famous whisky distillery and brand in the world. The distillery is located on the outskirts of the town of Dufftown in the Speyside region of Scotland. The name is taken from the Glen Fiddich, the valley in which it lies and translates as 'valley of the deer' from Gaelic. The distillery is massive and has a capacity of 10 million litres per year, making it Scotland's largest distillery.

In addition, Glenfiddich is unusual as it is still a family owned business. The distillery is owned by the same family that established it - William Grant began construction of Glenfiddich distillery in 1886 and William Grant & Sons was formed in 1903. Today, they own the neighbouring Balvenie and Kininvie single malt distilleries, as well as the Girvan grain distillery and new Ailsa Bay single malt distillery in Ayrshire.

For further information on the Glenfiddich distillery and its history, then visit the distillery profile page on our website,

Rich Oak?
This is Glenfiddich's newest release and will form part of their extensive core range. The Rich Oak is matured for 14 years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred for 18 weeks in to brand new casks (12 weeks in fresh American oak and then six weeks in fresh European oak casks). The introduction of new wood to the whisky gives new and more intense flavours, as new wood contains more natural oils called vanillins. It was launched in February at this year's Whisky Live, London and should cost £30-35 a bottle from numerous retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Rich Oak is deep and golden with a hint of amber. The nose is enticing and fresh with plenty of aromas fighting for your attention - vanilla, fresh green fruits (think of pears and apples), woody spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), caramel, oak, cedar wood, dried fruits (imagine raisins, and sultanas) and stone fruits (think of peaches and apricots). It is the sort of nose that you could sit and sniff for ages but gets you wanting to try the whisky as soon as possible. On the palate, this is rich but has a zingy freshness and spiciness to begin with (imagine some orange peel/zest and those cinnamon/nutmeg wood spices from the nose). Then comes the fruitiness - this time the fresh green fruits and the stone fruits feel less fresh and more like stewed fruits in a desert and this is enhanced further by the dried fruit characters. Other elements including sweet vanilla, some cereal grains, caramel and further spice (this is slightly peppery in nature) give the whisky a great balance. The combinations are delicious. The finish is warming and full of the cedar wood, oak and wood spice notes. Despite this, the whisky remains soft and that lovely fresh green fruit notes comes through right at the end.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely dram that offers a great flavour profile, while maintaining Glenfiddich's soft and easy drinking nature. The freshness, woodiness and spiciness may put some people off but these make Rich Oak a very interesting whisky and one that should be tasted. It also offers good value for money and is, in our opinion, one of the best new whiskies of the year to date. That is why one has made its way in to our whisky cupboard!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Have just tried ... Hanyu 21 years old 'Big Butt'

hanyu 'big butt' labelHanyu is a Japanese whisky distillery that is no longer in production. The Tao Shuzo Company, who ran Hanyu, went bankrupt in 2000 and the distillery was dismantled in 2004. It was located in the town of Hanyu, to the north of Tokyo, and was founded in 1946 by Isouji Akuto. Akuto was the 19th generation of a famous sake producing family, who had originally started distilling sake in the 1690s. Hanyu produced sake until 1980, when the decision was made to start making single malt whisky in the Scottish style. This followed a boom in the whisky industry in Japan and in drinking imported Scottish and Irish whiskies.

Rise from the ashes
The success of Hanyu was relatively short lived, as financial problems began to surface in the late 1980s. The boom of the 1970s and early 80s was followed by a spectacular crash in the Japanese whisky industry, as cheaper imported whisky flooded the market. In 2004, Ichiro Akuto purchased approximately 400 casks of Hanyu whisky that were destined to be destroyed as part of the distillery's demolition. Ichiro is the grandson of the original founder of Hanyu, Isouji Akuto, and he subsequently established his own company called Venture Whisky. They have been bottling these rescued Hanyu whiskies since 2005 in a number of guises, including the award winning Ichiro's Malts series which are all named after different playing cards. Akuto has also founded Chichibu, Japan's newest whisky distillery, and it distilled its first whisky in 2008.

hanyu 'full proof' labelInteresting labels!
Big Butt is part of a limited series of single cask malts that have animated characters on the label, all with a buttock related theme. This one shows a sumo wrestler's backside (Big Butt ... do you get it?) and another one is Full Proof (pictured, left), which shows a Japanese girl in a skimpy, cheeky short skirt. This Hanyu Big Butt was distilled in 1988 and bottled at 21 years of age in 2009. There were only 200 bottles released, so we were very grateful to receive a small sample and try this rare dram from a distillery that we have not tried before. It has been matured in a large sherry cask (these are called butts, so we have another butt reference!) and is bottled at 54% ABV. These whiskies are bottled for the European market and cost €140 a bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour of Big Butt 21 years old is a dark golden amber and the nose is intense and rich, with plenty of potent aromas coming through - toasted almonds, dried fruits (think of raisins, prunes and candied orange peel), brown sugar, cereal grains, dark polished wood, a whiff of sulphuric coal smoke and an extraordinary, almost overpowering smell of burnt popcorn. On the palate, this seems stronger than its 54% ABV and the alcoholic burn is slightly off putting. However, once this dies then other characteristics are allowed to develop. Initially, this offers some burnt sugar, slightly bitter cereal grains and lots of woody oak. These are balanced by some sweeter elements such as the dried fruits (the raisins and orange peel are particularly prominent), nuts (think of hazelnuts and almonds) and crumbly brown sugar. It coats your mouth and is rich and intense in nature. That sulphur smoke from the nose returns along with a ginger note. The finish is relatively short considering the richness of the whisky. It is woody and dry with the burnt sugar and popcorn taking over. The addition of water makes Big Butt a little easier to drink. Some of the initial bitterness is taken away and it becomes creamier and sweeter (imagine toffee or butterscotch) on the palate.

What's the verdict?
It is always interesting when you try a whisky from a distillery that you have not tasted before, and this is no different. Big Butt is intense and expressive with a number of unusual characteristics (especially the burnt popcorn note throughout). This comes across as a 'difficult' whisky and it is not the easiest to drink, especially straight. However, given time and a touch of water the elements start to loosen up but it still feels a little awkward. A very interesting dram that is unlike anything else that we have tasted to date.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

New releases ... Springbank 12 years old Claret Wood

A small, almost unique distillery
The cult Springbank distillery is located in the town of Campbeltown, which is located on a narrow peninsula on the west Highland coast of Scotland. It is Scotland's oldest distillery that has been under the same continuous family ownership, the Mitchell's. Springbank was set up in 1828 by the Reid family (they were related to the Mitchell's by marriage) and it later passed fully to the Mitchell family. Springbank has a small capacity with a maximum production capacity of 750,000 litres per year and is one of the few distilleries to do all parts of production on their own site including malting the barley, distillation and bottling.

Details of Claret Wood
This 12 years old joins an expanding list of innovative limited edition whiskies in Springbank's Wood Finishes range. It was recently previewed at Whisky Live London 2010 and there are just 2360 bottles. The whisky is bottled at cask strength (54.4% ABV) and has been matured for nine years in ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to ex-Claret red wine casks from Bordeaux for three years. A bottle should cost around £40-45 from specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour is amber with a reddish hue and the nose is rich and fruity. There are a pleasant combination of aromas present - butterscotch, caramel, cereals, plenty of dried fruits (imagine raisins, prunes and dried peel) and a whiff of slightly sulphuric coal smoke. On the palate this whisky is fresh and vibrant, with an initial lovely sweetness. There is plenty of juicy fresh red fruit (think of red berries and plums) underpinned by vanilla, caramel, dried fruits (the raisins and prunes again), orange peel, some saltiness (think of brine) and woody, earthy spice notes (imagine cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns and nutmeg). Finally, a hint of the smoke from the nose appears. The finish is drier and spicier (more nutmeg and pepper) than expected. It is long and very enjoyable, with the whiff of earthy smoke slightly more prominent than before.

What's the verdict?
This is a possibly our favourite Springbank to date - it offers rich complexity, intense flavours and good value for money (considering that it is cask strength and a limited release). This whisky would give a good introduction to the relatively new phenomenon of wine cask finishing. It is one of the better examples but sadly, all are not quite so good. The combination of juicy fruits, caramel, spiciness and small amount of smokiness is very good. Grab a bottle while you can!