The Whisky Advent Calendar 2015
Purposfully I haven’t taken pictures to give to much away! If one takes aside the quality of the whisky and the value for money, there is simply one very good reason to have one of these for Christmas. Sheer entertainment. The excitement of not knowing what is coming next. They may not all be to your taste, but that makes getting one that is all the more exciting.
So to the quality and value. The quality is varied. And by that I mean it starts at very good and goes up from there. There are some unusual and rare whiskies in the calendar from very young to fifty years old! Which brings me onto the value. I don’t know of any of the drams in this pack that you could buy in a pub for the price they average out to here. Well certainly not in London anyway! Some of these whiskies are much more valuable than the average price.
So if you fancy a bit of fun, pleasure and excited anticipation every day of December before christmas, then this is for you. And if you buy this for someone who loves whisky, they will forever be thankful. There is plenty of more information and other calendars on their website: http://www.drinksbythedram.com
Royal Brackla 12 years old 40%
Nose: confected fruits mixed with a little fresh apricots in pastry. Spices and cake mix with a little chocolate.
Palate: Orchard fruits, mainly apples with chocolate. Like Chocolate shavings on a cake. A little vanilla and lemon rind towards the back of the palate and some honeysuckle flora notes.
Finish: Warming and spicy with well integrated oak bring the dram to a dry end.
Another great value whisky from Bacardi. Following on from the Craigellachie 13 this is a cracker for the price.
The Arran Malt Smugglers’ Series Vol.1 The Illicit Stills 56.4%
Nose: Big and rich. Lots of dried dark fruits at first with lighter dried fruits like currents and apricots follow on. Slightly coastal but fleeting. Some honeysuckle floral notes sweeten the oak and spice.
Palate: Lots of fresh plumbs and Christmas spices. Rich and full. The peat builds up but takes its time. Spices really come through well.
Finish: Dry and spicy with lot of smoke. Very well integrated oaky dryness right at the end.
Bowmore 12 years old. Gleann Mor 53.3%
Nose: Honey and fresh peaches at first. Malty with a little nutty marzipan. Citrus zests and a touch of pine forest.
Palate: Very oily and viscous mouthfeel. Luxuriant. Lots of fruit up front, oranges and orchard fruits. Red apples. Some honey and vanilla mix in the background. Very easy going smoke.
Finish: Chilli heat at first becoming herbaceous with a little brioche at the end with burning fire smoke.
This might seem a tad expensive for a 12 year old whisky. But no, it is a single cask, cask strength gem. fabulous mouth feel and fantastic balance.
If you’re into single casks this is a very good, one. If you’ve never ventured into single casks, then I would certainly say this one will not put you off.
A mini tasting of the show bottle from this years London Whisky Show and brought to the show by the brand new http://www.scotchwhisky.com Edited by a team of three whisky heads. Dave Broom, Becky Paskin and Richard Woodard. Anyway onto the whisky: All we know is that it comes from a family run Speyside distillery, but nothing else!
A fabulous new whisky site with lots of content for beginners and aficionados a like. Take a look and get stuck in.
A little something for the UK market and clearly designed with winter in Mind:
Glenmorangie: A Midwinter Night’s Dram 43%
Most good whisky shops and some supermarkets, £40 UK ONLY
A new whisky for Christmas. A Midwinter Night’s Dram’ has been matured in select Bourbon casks made from American white oak, delivering Glenmorangie’s classic house-style which is smooth and soft, and only to be found in the UK.
Nose: Notes of orange marmalade, toffee, walnuts and mulled wine. Tones of wine-soaked fruit, Christmas cake and a distinct whiff of musk or incense.
Palate: A rich, warming, peppery texture leading into myriad flavours of chocolate orange, ginger, walnuts, praline and some sweet butter candy.
Finish: A soft, medium strength, creamy finish, with further notes of malt biscuit and plump raisins.
Now on the way to the airport to visit Balvenie there’s a moment to reflect on the DCS compendium launched last night at the Wallace Collection in London.
Firstly, the whiskies are wonderful and show through their differing ages and styles a fabulous story whilst keeping that distillery heart of honey, lemon and flowers.
Beyond the whiskies themselves, there is the concept. 5 whiskies released every year for 5 years. All single casks from different decades. A fabulous journey through the years, flavours and knowledge of David Stewart, the Malt Master at Balvenie. The longest serving malt master in Scotch whisky history at 53 years in the job!
Launched with aplomb, comedy and history it was an event like no other from Balvenie and they did a good job, lets hope they do more!
Details of the whiskies to come shortly…
Richard Paterson celebrates 45 years in the whisky industry. Whyte & Mackay put out this press release this morning, and I just happened to be reading a fabulous book which I think every whisky drinker would enjoy. Goodness Nose by Richard Paterson and Gavin D. Smith. Easily found on Amazon, it’s very entertaining. Well worth making the time for.
From Whyte & Mackay:
Richard’s unwavering dedication to whisky began when he followed his Grandfather and Father into the industry.Richard honed his craft at A. Gillies & Company Whisky Blenders & Brokers where he worked as a production assistant, learning the art of whisky distilling and blending. He then joined Whyte & Mackay, becoming their Master Distiller at the age of just 26.
Over the last 45 years his innate ability to assess and taste whisky has earned him the nickname of ‘The Nose’. He has a reputation as both an exceptional whisky creator and an illustrious showman. He is loved by whisky fans the world over and has been responsible for creating some of the world’s most iconic whiskies such as The Dalmore Trinitas, the Mackinlay’s Shackleton blend and of course Whyte & Mackay Blended Scotch.
Bryan Donaghey CEO of Whyte & Mackay said: “Richard’s contribution to Whyte & Mackay and indeed the whisky industry as a whole over the last 45 years has been phenomenal. His commitment and passion never ceases to amaze me and I can confidently say, on behalf of the team at Whyte & Mackay, the industry and of course all of the whisky aficionados out there , that we all look forward to working with him for many years to come.’
As a whisky writer I am very fortunate to be able to taste many different whiskies from all over the world. Not all good, some spectacular. The Spectacular ones end to make it into print, in either Whisky quarterly, Whisky in Poland, or one of the other magazines I write for such as LUX or the Partner. However this leaves an awful lot of whiskies which are still very good, and don’t get a mention which seems hardly fair.
This brings me to revive this blog I set up a few years ago. I’m not going to give lengthy tasting notes, just brief ones along with my general musings on the quality and style of the whisky and why I think they would be good to buy. As always these are my opinions and as we all have different palates, not a definitive guide! But I hope people find them interesting and even slightly helpful in deciding what to buy.
There may be a few musings on trips, events, shows and general fun where whisky has been involved.
A rare Springbank 21 year old, single cask, cask strength, distillery bottling of 150 bottles from a Bourbon hogshead, is about to come on the market. Distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2013 at 51.9% from cask 248 it even has a funky label by Scottish artist Chris Watson
Fine peat and smoke, not too powerful so it doesn’t interfere with the other aromas. Next, there is a sweetness from cereal with a touch of honeysuckle. A tiny amount of vanilla and some sweet hazelnut.
The cereal notes are joined by more flowers and a dry oakiness which compliments the peat and smoke and gives some grip at the sides. The centre is full of exotic fruits running along different spectrums from lemon citrus to a touch of sweet figs. The fruit is fresh, rather than dried, which gives the whole whisky a lift, again with touches of vanilla but subtle touches. With the addition of a little water the floral notes are more prevalent and the citrus notes come to the fore, but it reduces the overall depth of flavour so it’s better without water.
Quite long with dry oakiness but not in a harsh or acrid way at all. Then the sweet centre returns for a moment before the oak integrates again with the peat and smoke. Some nutty flavours right at the end.
This is clearly a complex whisky that has some age to it, but there are elements which belie that age and enhance the experience, such as the fresh fruits. It’s not just a whisky to contemplate, but to purely enjoy. It’s very easy to drink so don’t invite too many friends to join you!
It is intense enough to hold up to food and a good cigar, has enough strength for those who like their whisky on the rocks, but I would most happily drink it by itself and by myself. Find your own bottle.
This will be on sale exclusively with Farr Vintners very soon at £180 a bottle in bond, and will sell out in a flash: www.farrvintners.com
But still worth writing about
Glenmorangie launched its Private Edition 5 in mid-January: Companta (meaning friendship is Gaelic). Caroline Hampden-White was there to taste the new edition to the series.
This new whisky was introduced to the gathered whisky lovers by the very entertaining, but also brilliant Dr Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation at Glenmorangie.
It comprises 60% Glenmorangie finished in Clos de Tart Grand Cru Burgundy barrels. The whisky is about 11 – 12 years old before being finished for 4 years in the burgundy barrels.
40% Glenmorangie from 1995, finished for 8 years in fortified sweet wine from Rasteau in the Rhone.
They were left to marry for 6 months and the result is delightful.
Colour: A very reddy-brown with a touch of a golden hue.
Complex, stewed fruits, mainly plums at first followed by lots of spice and black pepper. There are earthy and leathery notes which although take a little time to evolve, come through, and just on the end there’s a touch of nutty sweetness and wisps of candle wax.
The spice comes through first with sweetness at the front. There is a definite wine profile of cherry and port flavours and even a touch of tannin. There is vanilla and chocolate and integrated oak. More spices, including some star anise.
There is a little black pepper on the finish along with orange peel, spice and a little cocoa sweetness. Very long.
Overall, the wine flavours are very prominent, so if you like wine finishes with your whisky I suggest you will like this very much. I do like this whisky very much. It won’t hang around for long, and most places have already sold out. But The Whisky Exchange has a little and at £66.95 is a bargain. http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Soft and a little sweet at first, followed by some sea salt and tiny wafts of smoke and a little iodine and sweet peat.
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.
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.
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.
This is a one-off release of 750 individually numbered bottles, hand signed and presented in very nice, but not over the top packaging. According to the distillery the whisky was discovered by Master Distiller Ian MacMillan, the casks were found listed in the distillery ledgers. “It was an exhilarating moment to stumble on such a special find,” he said. “There are very few 40yo Islays and unlike any other, Bunnahabhain’s taste is considered unique because the distillery does not heavily peat the fine malted barley. There are just 46 bottle for the UK market.
My first encounter with this whisky was at the whisky show. I tried it having tasted a good few whiskies before, and although I could tell it was a belter, I longed to sit with it and an unsullied palate and some time. Last week that opportunity arrived in the form of a lovely sample. I squirreled it away with anticipation of a quite while to my self during the weekend.
At first sweet citrus notes of Oranges and fresher lime, there are some floral notes, but there is so much going on that they are not the predominant aroma, although there is a definite note of Parma violets. There is underlying vanilla and caramel and even a hint of honey when left for a while. It is worth leaving this whisky in the glass to develop for 15 minutes at least.
Molasses at first and caramel, then lighter tropical flavours, even a little papaya and banana distinguishable amongst the other fruits, fresh for it’s age. Then comes the honey, caramel and light touches of vanilla. Letting it coat the tongue well brings forth amaretto and a tiny bit of burnt butter.
The finish is long, starting with the finishing flavours of the palate, and then the more unctuous flavours of caramel and vanilla come back and linger. Right on the end the oranges can just be sensed.
Old whiskies such as this are keenly anticipated and when they deliver it is usually with a sense of relief, but with this whisky it is with a much greater sense of pure pleasure. It’s a hefty price tag, but if treats come at this level for you, then you will be well rewarded, a fabulous whisky and one of my favourites of the year.
The first release from Indian whisky producer Paul John, launched at The Whisky Show 2012, a single cask bottled in 2012.Only 150 bottles were available in the UK.
Firstly there is tropical sweetness and some bourbon flavours, vanilla and some caramel. A touch of spice and toffee and a little fresh tropical fruit. Great depth for a young whisky, there is a soft peaty blanket over everything.
The palate mimics the nose well, the only difference is the peat which comes through on the front and is a separate entity form the tropical sweetness.
All the sweet honey flavours and florals come out with water. The whisky becomes lighter and creamier.
Lots of dry herbal and peaty smoke, bits of spice with the sweetness just coming back in before the end. A pretty long finish.
This is a fantastic whisky, not just for its age. If this is where the whiskies from Paul John are starting, then bring on some more. Great price too £60
This is a very limited edition bottling from The English Whisky Company celebrating all that has happened during 2012, from the Queen’s Jubilee to the Olympics. Limited to just 366 bottles, one for each day of the year.
Quite a bit of fudge at first, the citrus notes come through. Mainly oranges. Then some concentrated boiled sweets followed by some lighter floral notes. The floral notes are of sweet spring flowers, but not honeyed.
The fudge dies down, but toffee and honey takes the place of the fudge, lots of honey and it is very smooth. There is vanilla and caramel as well. This has a lovely depth for a young whisky.
The finish is drier and more herbal, a long finish and quite crisp.
A stylish whisky with plenty of depth to hold interest, but not so complex to just be an intellectual whisky. Very drinkable.
This is a limited edition bottling by Chief Distiller David Fitt of carefully selected casks including Port, Rum and Sherry. This is not available in shops, only available if you visit the distillery. There are 960 bottles in the batch.
This has both light and airy notes as well as dark ones. Meadow flowers with touches of caramel toffee. A touch of dark chocolate with orange zest and spice. Nice ginger notes.
Very smooth on the front palate followed by touches of sweetness. A dryness and herbaceousness then comes through but it is still delicate. There are also notes of sherry and dried stone fruits.
Nice and dry, herby with little citrus notes of lime rind.
This whisky is complex and interesting, there is depth which will keep you coming back.
Bowmore 1985 52.3%
Launching iminantly is this Bowmore 1985 coming from a mixture of Bourbon and Sherry casks.
Deep golden with dark amber and caramel
Sweet at first, then very clean with herbal and floral notes over a layer of iodine. Touches of lime marmalade and boiled sweets. Light notes of Vanilla and when left a little a little smoke and fruit comes out.
Very dry at the start and still quite herbal with that typical salty iodine Bowmore backbone, but well balanced and never too much. heather and floral notes are then followed by the sweeter fruit and caramel.
Long and dry with smoke and a little sweetness which disappears leaving herbals and a touch of sea salt.
This was not as rich and fruity as I was expecting, however the whisky, although not as rich, still entices and has remarkable flavour and depth. I only had a small sample and would have liked more so I could have left it to open up and come back to it again. At £300 this is certainly a good whisky and I look forward to tasting it again in the future.
The Glenfiddich Millennium Vintage Limited Edition single malt whisky is the latest exclusive from Glenfiddich. The whisky was distilled and placed into casks during the Millennium celebrations of 2000 and bottled in 2012 from casks hand selected by Brian Kinsman, the Glenfiddich Malt Master. This new vintage was initially unveiled in the World Duty Free stores at London Heathrow on Friday July 13 where it was exclusively available for 12 days. On July 25, the limited edition whisky was then rolled out to all World Duty Free stores across the UK.
On the nose;
Firstly fruity, with dried apricots and marmalade, there is an underlying nutty note and a touch of vanilla and caramel when left for a while.
On the palate:
Initially it is sweet, but dries. The dried fruit flavours being dominant, but underlying the fruit there is a waxy layer before vanilla and caramel come in to join the fruits.
There are a few spices and a hint of floral flavour over the top of the fruits, but over all it is a sweetish but palate cleansing whisky.
The finish is very similar to the palate, with a medium length. The nutty flavours come back and leaves the mouth clean.
This new expression from Glenfiddich costs a little more than the regular 12 year old, but I would say it is certainly worth a little extra. The finnishing in the ex-bourbon barrels adds an extra depth. An excellent dram in this price bracket.
The Macallan Diamond Jubilee Whisky.
I am told this whisky is made up from several casks from the 1990s, the earliest being 1991 and the oldest apparently is not 1999, so 14+ it must be then. With only 2012 bottles available, this won’t last long on the primary market.
So to the whisky:
Dark golden – mid caramel.
A light toffee note comes just before the alcohol kicks in. Then dried fruits of apricots and plums, a little heather and caramel.
Smooth at first with apricots and honey. The 52% gives a warming heat which is not overpowering and ideal for the style and richness of the whisky, nether too powerful or too light. After the warmth subsides a little marzipan laps over the already prevalent sherry flavours and a touch of orange peel. There comes a small amount of sweetness of flowers and smoke.
A long finish with waves of rich sherry and higher floral notes interweaving with each other and with wisps of smoke.
Overall a wonderfully complex whisky and very moreish. Whisky of which (unfortunately) very little will actually touch the lips of mere mortals. I suspect there will be more bottles placed neatly on a shelf than ever will be opened except by those who can easily afford the current £350 ticket and probably quite a bit more, once this sells out and hits the secondary market.
My advice: If you can’t afford simply to buy and drink one, buy two. Drink one and in a while sell the other to pay for the first. Or raid the piggy bank. I think as many people as possible should have the chance to drink this great dram.
The English Whisky Company. St George’s Diamond Jubilee whisky.
Of all the distilleries in the world one would have been very surprised had St George’s not released a whisky for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. And it’s priced at a very reasonable £60 as well (Whisky Exchange http://www.thewhiskyexchange.com/P-16794.aspx).As with their previous decanter bottled releases, there is a limited run, this time of only 3,300 bottles.
Well, one has to think about whether this bottling is simply a gimmick, so let’s get to the whisky.
Nose: Firstly, lots of fresh and dried fruit comes forth, marmalade flavours of citrus and apricot. There is an underlying sweetness of boiled sweets and top notes of alpine flowers, bringing a lightness and fragrance to the whisky.
Palate: Harmonious. The dried fruits come through more with the apricots taking centre stage and touches of orange to follow. It is fresh with a slightly herbal edge, mixed with floral notes and moments of honey.
Finish: Quite a long finish, with the fruits subsiding to leave the herbal and floral flavours.
The overall complexity for a whisky of such a young age is impressive. The sweetness is nicely balanced with a fresh appeal. A whisky perfect for summer evening drinking (if we ever get a summer here in the UK!).
The whisky coming out of the St George’s distillery seems to go from strength to strength. Their whiskies have lovely differences yet manage to keep an underlying style which is imparting a distinct identity upon the distillery amongst the rest of the field. Well, I did buy a bottle of this and having reminded myself of how much I liked it, I’m off to find another!
English Whisky Company:St George’s Diamond Jubilee Commemorative whisky.
Very Floral, with a mixture of spring meadow flowers on top of lots of citrus crystalline fruit. There are hints of caramel with high notes of sherbet.
Caramel and sherbet with a nice edge of boiled citrus sweets giving a nice balance of dry and sweet. The high notes are of heather flowers with hints herbs. Overall the weight is medium with an overall spring feel.
This is a lively and dry whisky, dancing on the palate as it finishes, worthy of celebrating our sprightly Queen’s jubilee with. Crisp and polished.
With under 3000 bottles for the world market, I’m very glad I booked my bottle.