Good whiskies to drink – Good places to drink them

Archive for March, 2011

An afternoon with Nikka Whisky

Firstly, heart felt condolences to all those who have lost family and friends to the disaster in Japan.

This week I have had a very enjoyable and enlightening afternoon getting to know the Nikka range of whiskies courtesy of the lovely people at Eau de Vie who represent Nikka’s interests.

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Having not really any knowledge of the brand before (the odd tasting at larger events, like the 1990 single cask at whisky live). I opted to run through the range in the recommended order which in hind site was a very good idea.

So I started with the Miyagikyo, moved onto the Yoichi and finished by trying their blends.

I thought the Miyagikyo range was very good. A consistent style through the age statements but growing with complexity. They all display caramel and vanilla, but the difference in the 10 year old is the bourbon barrel maturation, the 12 and 15 being matured in sherry. The 12 and 15 year olds have more floral notes than the 10 and the 12 has a lovely spicy finish at the end.

The Yoichi range on the other hand has more fruit than flora and more spice and wood. The 10 year old having hints of lavender as well. My over all favourite for flavour, texture, aroma and finish versus the cost was the 12 year old. It has a full mouth feel which becomes more oily with a touch of water, good complexity with flavours of vanilla and honey crossed with a menthol and smoky flavour developing in to burnt wood and toffee. it finishes with more burnt wood and peat. The 15 year old has more white fruits on the nose and more pepper and spice on the palate with a touch of praline. This chocolate becomes bitter chocolate on the finish with coffee and right on the end the flavour returns to white fruits, mainly pear.

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

I next tried the Taketsuru 12 and 17 year olds. Both having flavours unsurprisingly of both the previous whiskies, but the two go well together. I thought the 17 year old was good, retailing at around £67, it is very rich with lots of preserved fruit and toffee, creamy texture with hints of hazelnut. it has a distinctive aftertaste of  praline, more noticeable then the 15 year old Yoichi giving it a lovely balance against the spicy flavours of aniseed and citrus notes, leaving a freshness on the palate.

Onto the pure malts. There are a white, red and black pure malt. The white coming from Yoichi, the red from Miyagikyo and the black being a blend of the two. The white is very peaty and salty, the red being sweet and fruity and the black being a little mixture of the two, to the extent that it tastes as if it is literally 50% of each.

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Nikka Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

These are so vastly different that for me it would depend on my mood as to which I would prefer. Today it would be the red.

Lastly I tried the Nikka from the barrel and Nikka all malt. Both very good value for money, the all malt doing exactly what it says on the bottle, malt, caramel with hints of vanilla, quite sweet. The Nikka from the barrel being 51.4% gives a good punch, but has a good rounded flavour of apricots and spice, a bargain at £25

Olivia Plunkett of Eau de Vie guiding me through the Nikka Whisky range © Colin Hampden-White

Olivia Plunkett of Eau de Vie guiding me through the Nikka Whisky range © Colin Hampden-White

Having never tasted Nikka before Whisky Live London 2011, I would imagine a bottle would grace my shelf at most points of the year. There are flavours to suit most seasons. The bottle I have at the moment is a single cask Miyagikyo 1990 which Olivia at Eau de Vie gave me to taste at whisky live, and after a little hunting I found a bottle from a small shop in York. Getting very rare now, (only 349 bottles were produced), it is fabulous stuff and was retailing around the £120 mark, so although not an every day drinker, it certainly deserves a place on any shelf for those who fancy something with a greater complexity, texture and finish now and again.


Limited edition Royal Wedding Whisky

The English Whisky Company’s new limited edition William & Kate Commemorative Decanter

I visited St George’s distillery today and met with Andrew and James Nelstrop and had a good chat and tasting with David Fitt their distiller.

David Frit, the distiller at The English Whisky Company © Colin Hampden-White

David Fitt, the distiller at The English Whisky Company © Colin Hampden-White

David Fitt has chosen a mix of casks which have been married together to create a beautifully flavoured single malt whisky.

Included in the mix of casks is rum, bourbon, red wine and even a port cask. Around 3600 bottles will be produced for the world market at 46%

The decanters being filled © Colin Hampden-White

The decanters being filled © Colin Hampden-White

Aroma: The whisky is fresh with citrus notes with orange zest some spice and hints of vanilla

Palate: The freshness still runs strong and the citrus calms to marmalade with spice with a little light toffee and vanilla, the whisky (like their others), is amazingly forward for it’s age, belying only 3 to 3 1/2 years in cask. Left for a little while, the whisky really opens up and hints of the different casks come through.

The finish although not long, but long enough and certainly longer than you would expect for it’s age, mellowing on the tongue and ending with a little flurry of spice.

Royal Wedding Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Royal Wedding Whisky © Colin Hampden-White

Much more complex than any of the whiskies I have tasted before from St George’s. James, Andrew and David are happy men, and so am I with a couple of bottles on order.

Andrew Nelstrop © Colin Hampden-White

Andrew Nelstrop © Colin Hampden-White

The whisky can be pre ordered from their website shop: http://www.englishwhisky.co.uk

There is some cracking stuff to come from them as well. I had a little taster of another peated whisky. Not yet a year in cask, you wouldn’t have believed it. The colour, already a golden amber, nose with a good dollop of peat with under lying smoke. The smoke comes through on the palate but not too strong, a nice balance. Their is a bit of spirit at the end still as it is so young, but expectations are high for when the time is right……

David Frit, looking to the future © Colin Hampden-White

David Fitt, looking to the future © Colin Hampden-White


Gordon and Macphail launch a Glenlivet 70 year old!

On the 8th of March 2011 Gordon and Macphail launched a Glenlivet 70 year old which I attended at Edinburgh Castle.

The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old 70cl Decanter with Wooden Box © Gordon & MacPhail

The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old 70cl Decanter with Wooden Box © Gordon & MacPhail

Put into cask in February 1940! and bottled in December 2010. Launched 8th March 2011

Glenlivet 70 Year Old. Launched today at Edinburgh Castle by Gordon and Macphail. © Colin Hampden-White

In the evening there was a vertical tasting. A black tie dinner with single cask Glenlivets from 1954, 1963, 1974, 1980 and 1991

Well. What a day it was. One to remember.

The Glenlivet 70 Years Old was matured in a First Fill Sherry Butt, and bottled at cask strength (45.9% ABV).  Only 100 70cl bottles and 175 20cl bottles will be released in 2011. The 70cl decanter has a recommended retail price in the UK of £13,000 and the 20cl version has a recommended retail price in the UK of £3,200. It is the second in a series of extremely rare malt whiskies to be released by Gordon & MacPhail under its ‘Generations’ brand.

The Glenlivet cask © Colin Hampden-White

The Glenlivet cask © Colin Hampden-White

Fifty limited edition collector’s packs are also available, containing all five Private Collection whiskies, priced at £2,850 per pack. The packs contain one bottle of each of the following whiskies: Glenlivet 1954 50.6%; Glenlivet 1963 40.6%; Glenlivet 1974 50.1%; Glenlivet 1980 48.5%; and Glenlivet 1991 54.4%.

The Private Collection: Glenlivet Decades bottlings are also available individually, with recommended retail prices in the UK ranging from £95 to £1,250

The whisky was unveiled by Fiona Urquhart and her cousin Richard Urquhart to the sound of a fabulous jazz band playing music form the 1940’s, the year the new spirit was put into a cask.

Fiona and her cousin Richard bring in The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old © Colin Hampden-White

Fiona and her cousin Richard bring in The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old © Colin Hampden-White

Various members of the Urquhart family covering several generations gave us a little history on Gordon & MacPhail and the whisky. They were followed by Charlie Maclean who brought us back to 1940 with stories of what was happening at the time in the whisky industry and Gordon & MacPhail’s part in it.

Charlie Maclean brings us back to 1940 © Colin Hampden-White

Charlie Maclean brings us back to 1940 © Colin Hampden-White

Charlie Maclean then took us through a tasting of the whisky. what a whisky!

Charlie’s tasting notes were as follows.

Appearance: Deep amber, with tawny lights.

Aroma: A mild nose-feel. The first aroma is of an old cocktail cabinet, with Sherry notes predominating: polished wood, soft leather and a trace of candlewax. Behind this are fruity notes, lightly baked apples (even Tarte Tatin), but also fresh orange juice, and just a thread of smoke or ash in the distance. Adding a drop of water suppresses the fruity notes and slightly enhances the sweetness (now tablet) and smokiness.

Taste: A waxy, teeth-coating, mouthfeel; smooth and voluptuous. The taste is sweetish to start, then savoury, with a trace of salt – might this be a rare example of ‘umami’ in whisky, the elusive fifth primary taste? The finish is long, with a faint smokiness

in the aftertaste. Drinks well at natural strength. With a drop of water the flavours remain intact.

“Made at the height of the Battle of Britain, The Glenlivet 1940 opens a door into a different time, another country. To smell and taste this exquisite whisky is to experience the past in a unique way – layer upon layer of flavour, profound and evocative. Its companions from the succeeding five decades provide an unrepeatable opportunity to explore subtle differences in the flavour of this Prince of Whiskies over half a century – as well as being a Blue Chip investment!”.

Fiona Urquhart daughter of Michael Urquhart and Richard Urquhart son of David Urquhart in 1940's costume having just unveiled the Glenlivet 1940 70 year old at Edinburgh Castle on the 8th of March 2011. They are standing in front of the cask from which the whiaky came © Colin Hampden-White

In the evening we gathered back at Edinburgh Castle. The evening began with a private viewing of the Scottish Crown Jewels facilitated by Historic Scotland, followed by a Champagne reception (Cordon Rouge)

The Honours the Scottish Crown Jewels © CROWN COPYRIGHT REPRODUCED COURTESY OF HISTORIC SCOTLAND

The Honours the Scottish Crown Jewels © CROWN COPYRIGHT REPRODUCED COURTESY OF HISTORIC SCOTLAND

The diner was in the Jacobite room which has views from the castle overlooking the whole of southern Edinburgh. With each course we were served one of ]The Glenlivet Private Collection. With Charlie Maclean setting the scene for each decade. He described the music, products and political landscapes of the periods with eloquence and amusing anecdotes.

Charlie Maclean in full flow at Edinburgh Castle's Jacobite room © Colin Hampden-White

Charlie Maclean in full flow at Edinburgh Castle's Jacobite room © Colin Hampden-White

We were then taken though the tasting of each whisky by a member of the family, with the younger generations guiding us through the younger whiskies and generation above the older whiskies. David Urquhart took us through the 1940 tasting. Between whisky we were served with a lovely Château Kerwan 2005.

David Urquart speaking about the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection © Colin Hampden-White

David Urquart speaking about the Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection © Colin Hampden-White

The whiskies and their tasting notes:

GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION GLENLIVET 1954 50.6%

135 x 70cl bottles available for sale in selected markets worldwide.  Recommended retail in the UK is £1,250 per bottle

Appearance: Deep amber, with rose lights.

Aroma: Very mild nosefeel; with an increasingly drying effect. Immediately, a profoundly fruity nose – juicy to start, then raisins and currants macerated in liquor; dry dates and figs; a trace of glace orange peel. A shake of fine hard-wood sawdust. Add only a spot of water to open it: now the aroma becomes sweeter, with an initial trace of fondant, then more vinous (old Madeira?), with a hint of pencil-boxes.

Taste: Sweet, then drying, with considerable spice in between and a long dusty finish, leaving a venerable ‘old wine’ aftertaste. A drop of water reduces all these characteristics slightly but leaves them intact.

GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION 1963 40.6%

169 x 70cl bottles available for sale in selected markets worldwide.  Recommended retail in the UK is £750 per bottle.  Pricing in international markets may differ due to exchange rates and local taxes.

Appearance: Pale amber.

Aroma: The low strength means a very mild nosefeel and a low aromatic intensity. The first nose was lightly fruity (fresh peaches in mixed fruit salad, becoming more acidic after a while – Kiwi fruits?), with a slight eucalyptus-leaf medicinal note, combined with a faint smokiness. Fresh and interesting.

Taste: Sweet and smooth, even slightly oily. A predominantly sweet taste, but with a slight citric tingle and a lengthy, warming finish. Liqueur chocolates in mid-palate and peach cream, soft-centre chocolates in the aftertaste.

GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION GLENLIVET 1974 50.1%

189 x 70cl bottles available for sale in selected markets worldwide.  Recommended retail in the UK is £500 per bottle.  Pricing in international markets may differ due to exchange rates and local taxes.

Appearance: Deep amber, with crimson lights; Cream Sherry.

Aroma: Very mild nose-feel. Takes a while to open up, but then cooked fruits, led by fresh strawberry jam, becoming ‘Jammy Dodger’ biscuits, then mince pies. Lightly nose-drying, with traces of lint bandages and sunflower oil. Water increases the oily note, and momentarily introduces a whiff of sulphur, soon vanishing into crème caramel.

Taste:

Sweet and voluptuous; plenty of body; warming and drying as you swallow. A sweet taste overall, with a long finish and some bitter dark chocolate in the aftertaste. Becomes sweeter and drier with water, with some burnt caramel in mid palate and chocolate in the finish.

GORDON & MACPHAIL. PRIVATE COLLECTION GLENLIVET 1980 48.5%

61 x 70cl bottles available for sale in selected markets worldwide.  Recommended retail in the UK is £250 per bottle.  Pricing in international markets may differ due to exchange rates and local taxes.

Appearance: Dark gold.

Aroma: Very slight prickle, and somewhat nose-cooling (pine sap). Dusty, with faint dried mixed herbs, and slightly waxy, but then increasingly sweet (even apricot-jammy for a moment), with an elusive scent of sweet chestnuts. Opens considerably when water is added; light coconut to the fore, with natural turpentine and fragrant wood behind.

Taste: Sweet and smooth, but with some peppery spice over the surface of the tongue. A return of the apricot jam in the aftertaste, which is surprisingly long. Water sweetens it, simplifies it and reduces the spiciness. Pleasant and easy to drink, with desiccated coconut in the aftertaste.

GORDON & MACPHAIL PRIVATE COLLECTION GLENLIVET 1991 54.4%

203 x 70cl bottles available for sale in selected markets worldwide.  Recommended retail in the UK is £95 per bottle.  Pricing in international markets may differ due to exchange rates and local taxes.

Appearance: Light gold.

Aroma: Mild nosefeel. A predominantly fresh-fruit aroma – fruit salad including apples, pears, figs and pineapple. Behind this a trace of marzipan, becoming sweet fondant. Somewhat shy and withdrawn before water is added, but with a dash of water opens up, becoming more floral-fragrant, with whin flowers and almond cream chocolates. Also more typically Speyside.

Taste:

Sweet and fresh, with a fresh citric acidity, and light coconut (whin flowers) in the finish and aftertaste. Warming. A soft texture at reduced strength; not so sweet, but retains the lively acidity, and a curious taste, possibly umami, the mysterious fifth primary taste, rarely encountered in whiskies, and loosely described as ‘savoury’.

A great night was had by all.

 

Fiona Urquhart with The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old © Colin Hampden-White

Fiona Urquhart with The Glenlivet 1940 70 year old © Colin Hampden-White


Whisky Live London 2011

Walking with the Wounded with their huskies

Finally the day arrived. The first big whisky event of the year in London.

Located in the fabulous hall of the Honourable Artillery Company in the heart of the city of London.

Whisky Live 2011 London 4th – 5th March

Before the show, the Walking with the Wounded mission gathered with their huskies in front of the Honorable Artillery Company.

Walking with the Wounded with their huskies

Walking with the Wounded with their huskies © Colin Hampden-White

The Walking with the Wounded mission will embark on an unaided journey to the Geographical North Pole in April.
To mark this epic achievement, and to help raise money for the charity, Whisky Live London is unveiling a special blend created by Whyte & Mackay master blender Richard Paterson.
Inspired by the find of a crate of 100 year old Mackinley whisky left in the South Pole by explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, Paterson will send the Whisky Live charity blend up to the North Pole to reward the Walking with the Wounded soldiers on their arrival.
Richard adds: “Although very different from Shackleton’s whisky, this blend of the finest whiskies exhibited at Whisky Live London is very much in the spirit of the great explorer’s journey. The Whisky Live London blend is a fitting tribute and celebration to mark this daring undertaking.
Among this group will be military servicemen who have been wounded in the line of duty and have subsequently lost limbs to amputation or have been equally incapacitated by their injuries.

Richard Paterson presenting Walking with the wounded with his special blend © Colin Hampden-White

The whisky is superlative, with great depth, it’s fresh on the nose but with hints of caramel, forest fruits and toffee. The caramel comes through on the taste and the toffee becomes darker and burnt with other flavours of coffee and dark chocolate all circling but never vying for position.  Waves of citrus and vanilla also play. The finish is long and the different flavours present again especially the toffee and orange citrus.

A lovely dram.

Into the show.

Well laid out with lots of space between the stalls in a setting with lots of atmosphere.

I started with The Dalmore and their four new “River” whiskies. All priced at around £40 I was surprised by the quality. They all have their subtle differences but yet hold onto a central Dalmore flavour of  caramel toffee and marmalade. With the Spey being lighter and fresher, the Dee having more Christmas cake and spice and the Tay coming forth with Crème brûlée, the Tweed was the only one I found lacked a little individual character, but is a good enough whisky for the money. A little of the profit goes to charaties based along the banks of each river.

I moved from there to The Glenlivet where I revisited the lovely XXV and had a good chat to Phil Huckle, the brand ambassador in the UK for Chivas Bros, from whom I learned there will be a new luxury whisky bar arriving in the capital soon, boasting over 1,000 whiskies behind the bar! One to look out for.

The Glenlivet had a VIP balcony overlooking the whole show and was hosted by the ever genial Ian Logan.

Ian was doing a master class at the show, but before he dashed off he ran through the range and we tried two top whiskies together:

The Founders Reserve

Distillery Release at 55.6% Cask Strength.

To celebrate the opening, The Glenlivet distillery  created a special bottling, “The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve”  Released in a limited quantity of 1824 bottles to reflect the year of the distillery’s foundation.

Ian Logan from The Glenlivet holding a bottle of the Founders Reserve © Shai Gilboa

Ian Logan from The Glenlivet holding a bottle of the Founders Reserve © Shai Gilboa

Using 19th century methods This cask strength single malt is non chill filtered, Giving the whisky richness and complexity.

This 21 year old whisky has been produced using hand delected casks giving aromatic notes of sherry and oak

numbered bottle of 1824 bottles.

Selected from among glenlivets most precious casks, this exceptional 21 year old whisky  is incredibly smooth, enveloping the mouth with delicious rich orange flavours and soft caramel toffee sweetness, with its velvety smooth coating and incredibly long finish this can be considered as The Glenlivet at its best. Made specially for the Prince of Wales recent visit to the distillery, and the incredible 1964.

Very rich and smooth on the nose. On the palate there are hazel nuts, dried fruits with orange peel, hints of walnuts and even a little banana with underlying flavors of oak, tannins and a little pepper. On the finish there is a little apple mixed in with lots of spice and it goes on for ever.

From here onto Nikka. With their usual offerings on display and having their Taketsuru 21yo scoop the title of ‘World’s Best Blended Malt Whisky’ at the World Whiskies Awards for the third time in four years, they were in jubilant mood, although it was a shame they didn’t have any at the show. They did however have the Nikka Miyagikyo 1990 single cask. This whisky was distilled 16.1.1990 and matured at Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery in cask 36385. Bottling took place on 13.7.2009 at 61%abv.

A dark caramel, it is easy on the nose with a palpable sweetness.

On the palate it’s warm and smooth with a deep rounded taste with quite a bit of sweetness which adds to the dram. There is enough spice and hints of oak with a fair amount of smokiness and chocolate to keep it interesting.

The finish is long and spicy as the sweetness fades away.

At £117.45 at Master of Malt, very good value.

The last whisky I tasted was at the Springbank stall. It was a 6 year old Kilkerran.

Lots of fruit on the nose  and very fresh, fruit salad. More citrus especially lemon zest.

Oak and sawdust on the palate, vanilla and peaches a touch of Coconut and orange rind.

The finish shows its youth, being relatively quick, and woody with a little seawater in the mix.

Before leaving I had a chat with Rob Allanson editor of Whisky magazine and he ran through the fabulous “Journey’s Blend” he created with Tom Morton and Ken Hamilton on their epic trip around Scotland on Motorbikes.

Having snapped up a couple of bottles I believe there are 4 left out of the 50 bottles (I imagine they may well have sold out by the time this is published).

Over all I thought Whisky Live was excellent this year, more on show with some of the exhibitors bringing not just their usual ranges. The VIP areas are a very good idea, and the venue being in the centre of London a great deal more accessible than the Hurlingham Club. The show is excellent value and although it gets busy, it is never over packed, and the Friday crowd I encountered were a good mix, and I met people from all over the world from Sports bar owners from Denver Colorado, to a journalist from Israel.

A good time had by all.

Food