Good whiskies to drink – Good places to drink them

General Tastings

Penny Blue Batch 4 Rum

Penny Blue XO Mauritian Rum 43%

Penny_Blue_Batch_004_LR-CUT

Penny Blue Batch 4

bbr.com £40

I know this isn’t a whisky, but of all the rums I know it is certainly a whisky drinker’s rum. It’s unchill filtered with a natural colour. To be sipped and savoured.

Nose: Tropical fruits come first followed by some sweetness, but very balanced – no added sugar here. Touches of eucalyptus and spice mingle with vanilla and citrus zests.

Palate: The sweet flavours follow on to the palate as well as the delicate tropical fruits. Wood spice and fresher citrus fruit flavours come together to balance it beautifully.

Finish: A long finish, especially for rum. Dry oaky notes with soft spices, a little ginger tingling on the tongue right at the end.

A glorious whisky drinkers rum, no molasses added here. Sip away and be pleased you went out and bought one. Then buy another before you get to the end of the bottle. This small batch rum won’t last long.


I liked this so much I bought three of them!

BenRiach 1999 ©Colin Hampden-White

BenRiach 1999 ©Colin Hampden-White

Benriach 1999 Cask 9424 15yr old bottled June 2014 Virgin Oak Hogshead 329 bottles, Cask Strength 55.8% Natural colour, non chill filtered.

Specially selected and bottled to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Polish accession to NATO

This whisky is what I would call session whisky. I just kept wanting to come back for more. It is beautifully balanced with big toffee and confectioned fruit notes. Highs of lemon and orange zest to keep the palate clean, but with lots of depth from dried fruits such as apricots and tangerines crossed with fresh apples and pears. Honey comes through on the palate with floral notes, which are rich rather than like hand cream and there is a little soft spice to boot, especially on the finish. not a huge finish, which keeps you wanting more.

Simply lovely, not too complicated, this isn’t an armchair and cigar whisky, but a very good all evening one.

Obviously not the easiest whisky to get a hold of, but this is the retailers site in Poland. 469 zl is about £78

http://www.wina-mp.pl/alcohol/benriach-mp-cask-9423-552-15yo/


Marks and Spencer whisky: Box of four malt whiskies of Scotland

Marks and Spencer four Scottish Malt whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Speyside – Highland – Island – Islay: four 20cl bottles

Not a unique idea in Scottish Malt whisky, but then it all depends what the whiskies are like. The packaging is very good, easy to understand the concept and nice to display and make a very attractive, smart Christmas gift. But as I said it all depends on what they taste like, I expectations weren’t huge so the tasting was a nice Sunday surprise:

Speyside

Speyside ©Colin Hampden-White

Speyside ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

A little bit of Fudge and toffee and then some sweet floral notes followed by citrus flavours, predominantly orange, but there is a bit of lemon zest. Touches of Vanilla and caramel, but very light.

Palate:

Vanilla at first with a creamy texture, smooth, but not too viscous, lots of marmalade citrus fruits, the sweetness on the nose isn’t prevalent on the palate, but the floral notes persist. Quite herbaceous.

Finish,

The finish is long and dry, very herbaceous with Juniper and Lemon. Leaves your mouth feeling clean and dry

This is lighter than a normal Speyside and makes for easy drinking, It has enough complexity to be interesting, but isn’t to intellectual. A good balanced whisky which without the inclusion of a lowland whisky in the four provided, a welcome addition.

Highland

Highland ©Colin Hampden-White

Highland ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Quite closed on the nose. Apple crumble but not much sweetness. A little rubarb and some stewed black stone fruits. A bit of burnt caramel and butterscotch.

Palate:

A deeper and more robust whisky than the Speyside, with stewed apples and pears. Some toffee, butterscotch and damson marmalade, a little aniseed right at the end.

Finish:

The damsons stay with you for a while then it becomes more herbaceous with lemon and lime zest peeking in at the end.

A good everyday whisky, like the Speyside it has enough to be interesting, but not too much to complicate the casual whisky drinker. Light on the nose than expected, but makes up for it on the palate.

Island:

Island ©Colin Hampden-White

Island ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Smokey and a little peaty, followed by used dockside lobster crates freshly brought in from the sea. Then lightly smoked fish like a sea trout, not too salty.

Palate:

Sweet at first, then the smoke and peat comes washing in in spades, very smooth. There is orange marmalade and then other citrus notes to follow.

Finish:

There is spice on the finish mixed in with a little honey sweetness and heather flowers. A touch of vanilla and caramel squeeze in at the end before you are left with a smoke and hearth ash.

This is a much more complex whisky than the first two, lots going on. It is not unlike Talisker, and for me is the best whisky in the bunch, but then you have to like smoky and peaty.

Islay:

Islay ©Colin Hampden-White

Islay ©Colin Hampden-White

Nose:

Soft and a little sweet at first, followed by some sea salt and tiny wafts of smoke and a little iodine and sweet peat.

Palate:

Sweet peat, not harsh in the slightest with a saltiness which has a sweet edge to it. Oily mouth feel. Like having porridge with a little sea salt and honey. Heather flowers and some lime rind and lemon zest.

Finish:

The floral and herbaceous nature of the whisky comes through, but is fighting through a layer of sweet smoke and honey, but eventually wins out, leading onto the citrus.

The Island might be the best whisky, but this is the most loveable. It has everything a Islay whisky needs. It is so well balanced, with each element adding to the overall mix rather than dominating. This might annoy a purist who enjoys a particular Islay malt, but for an all round whisky explaining the islands character, this is a winner.

Overall four:

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Although good, I was a little under whelmed by the Speyside, Warmed by the Highland, wanted to think about the island, and just loved the Islay. I found little to fault this little foray through four of Scotland great whisky regions. And even though region seams to have less and less to do with exact regional flavours these days, these whiskies give a very good display of the range of flavours and excitements on offer. Beautifully packaged with a clear message as to what the set is all about, at £50 I think this makes a great addition to the multitudes of Christmas gifts on offer, and one would hope it continues into the new year, for whisky drinkers who need a little taste of what makes up Scotland’s malts from time to time, and even for those who are well versed in Scottish Malt and just want an easy drinking dram giving many of the atributes of the regions they represent.

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White

Marks and Spencer Four Scottish Malt Whiskies Box ©Colin Hampden-White


GlenBridge: A 40 year old single malt speyside whisky from Aldi

Glenbridge 40 year old from Aldi ©Colin Hampden-White

Glenbridge 40 year old from Aldi ©Colin Hampden-White

This morning, as a freelance journalist, was not what I am used to. Getting up well before sunrise.

Another thing I am not used to is premium whisky being sold by a supermarket chain, and rather than that supermarket being the rarefied Waitrose, Aldi was the shop to go to.

To find (having been tasted by Jim Murray, amongst others), the best value 40 year old whisky on the market. With only 3000 bottles produced and 450 stores country wide to distribute them around, there were to be only 6 bottles for most of the stores.

I decided to go to Aldi on the Old Kent Road in London. A good choice I found. I arrived at 7.30 for an 8 o’clock opening and was the 6th person in the queue. A couple of minutes later a 7th joined us and within ten minutes  there were 40 of us. A nice lady popped out of the shop, explained there were only 6 bottles and gave us lucky 6 a ticket each.

The other lucky five were a mixture of two present baggers, a real whisky fan, another whisky journalist writing for Whisky Magazine and a brand ambassador for Drambuie. So for once, the idea of first come first served, no exceptions had worked. There was no preferential treatment for journalists or big whisky buyers, even the staff were not allowed first dibs.

Joel, of Whisky Magazine was getting texts from other stores around the country where people had started to queue pretty early, from 3am in Oxford, and there were stories from others turning up that other shops in London had very long queues, up to 200 in Catford.

So was all the fuss and early starts really worth it for the luck few?

Tasting the Glenbridge 40 year old from Aldi ©Colin Hampden-White

Tasting the Glenbridge 40 year old from Aldi ©Colin Hampden-White

Well I supose one has to start by saying that even if the whisky wasn’t good, there would be elements of it at 40 years old which would certainly make it interesting, at £50,

But no, the lovely amber brown liquid  wasn’t good, it was very good. A bigger bargain one could not imagine for a 40 year old dram.

So what did it taste like, well.

On the nose:

Dried Fruits, lots of sherry, a little bit flinty, and a touch of spice

On the Palate:

Sherry again, and chrystalised fruit, nuts and dates folowed by some spice, nutmeg, sweeter on the end.

The finish:

Bits of spice and a little orange peel. Oaky from the cask, but not overbearing.

All in all a pretty good dram, I certainly have poured myself another, and leaving it to open out a little gives it a bit more complexity in the spice range.

This would be good value at four times the price, so I can’t really complain about getting up early for once!


Highland Park 1976 and 1971

Well, apart from the distinctive underlying style of Highland Park, these two whiskies are really very different. Both are good whiskies, but one is most definitely better than the other.

Highland Park 1976 and 1971 ©Colin Hampden-White

Highland Park 1976 and 1971 ©Colin Hampden-White

1976

Nose:

Herby and floral at first followed by white fruits and iodine, wisps of smoke, spice and then sea salt.

Palate:

More of the above and in the same order, the heather becomes more prominent and there is a sweetness of boiled sweets.

Finish:

Dry and long, especially concentrating on the high floral notes.

1971

Nose:

Caramel and vanilla, honey sweetness, lots of depth, meadow flowers on the high notes.

Palate:

Bananas and caramel, followed by flowers and heather, little bits of toffee and milk chocolate, some spice and smoke comes through towards the end.

Finish:

Very smooth with waves of smoke followed by the sweet caramel and finally, flowers again.

A belter of a whisky, one of my recently tasted favorites. Both these whiskies have the spice and smoke of Highland Park, but the 1971 has all the extra depth.


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.