Monday, 30 October 2017

Wemyss #TweetTasting

Last week I was lucky enough to be selected for @SteveRush latest @TweetTasting - this time trying whisky from the independent family bottling, and soon to be distilling, company Wemyss.

Based in Edinburgh the company produces a range of single cask malt and blended scotch whiskies, on this occasion we were trying two additions to their Family Collection released in August of this year, both blended malts are bottled non chill-filtered, at natural colour and are 46% abv.

Vanilla Burst is a blend of only 2 Speyside single malts with a light and fruity character that were chosen to mature in 15 1st-fill ex-bourbon barrels. The 4800 bottles of Vanilla Burst perfectly demonstrate an intense 1st fill bourbon wood influence on a light and sweet Speyside malt Scotch whisky.

Treacle Chest is a blend of only 2 Highland single malts with a sweet, cereal character that were chosen to be matured in just 14 1st-fill ex-sherry hogsheads. The resulting 6300 bottles of Treacle Chest are a perfect example of how rich and weighty 1st fill ex-sherry casks influence unpeated Highland Scotch malt whisky.

We also got to try one of their regular range - Spice King, known for its sweet spicy character, this blended malt whisky has over ten single malts from across Scotland and a signature malt from the Highlands and Islands. 46% abv.

A few days before the tasting a parcel arrived containing a beautiful presentation box:

As an additional bonus Wemyss had included a bottle of Spice King Old Fashioned. Their presentation was go good Billy wanted to frame them!

I preferred to drink them and at 7pm the tasting began!

First up the Vanilla Burst

My Thoughts:

Nose: very grassy, obvious vanilla, some toffee, lots of icing sugar, the longer it is in the glass more spice is developing.
Palate: lots of spice - a little creamy fruit and some dry biscuit notes
Finish: short spicy finish - definitely pepper. Leaves a little apple aftertaste on the palate.

Other People's thoughts:

Next the Treacle Chest

My Thoughts:

Nose: a little vanilla, some brown sugar and a little citrus peel, getting a little smoke but there's no peated barley. Nose a little more gentle than the VB, a little sherry coming through but also some thick honey.
Palate: a little spice on the palate, some honey or treacle(!) - a little oily or buttery
Finish: slightly disappointed with the finish, lets it down, spicy but quite short.....

Other People's thoughts:

Final dram the Spice King

My Thoughts:

Nose: this wasn't the spice bomb I expected - more earthy and malty - some grass.
Palate: WOW - it's a completely different dram! Lots the spice and also an oily sweetness and some brine! The spice isn't really in for face - it just lingers.
Finish: long lingering chilli finish - nice!

Other People's thoughts:

Overall I preferred the Spice King to the first two but it was interesting that on the nose the Vanilla Burst probably had more spice! Three good blends that are worth hunting out and trying.

And as a bit of a treat an Old Fashioned.

This was the first time I'd tried a whisky cocktail - this one was pre-made with Spice King and all we needed add was some ice and a slice or two or orange peel.

I loving the nose on this, it was the whole of Christmas in a glass - whisky, spices, especially cinnamon, orange - yummy!

Many thanks to Steve for organising, Wemyss for supplying and all my fellow twitterers for sharing the experience!

Other reviews:

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Does the Barley make a difference?

Bit of a sad one this a it sees me finally finishing off #HeelSlaying my bottle of Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte Islay Barley. This has been a fantastic dram, easily in my top 5 of the year (more of that in December!) and it's a real shame to see it disappear.

The evening was made slightly better as I turned it into a bit of a side by side comparison with a drample of the Scottish Barley version I'd swapped with a friend Paul.

Scottish v Islay

So for the one person out there who doesn't know Bruichladdich is an Islay distillery founded in 1881 but in it's new 'Progressive Hebridean Distillers' guise since 2000. They create three different ranges of malt - Bruichladdich (unpeated), Port Charlotte (Heavily Peated) and Octomore (Ultra Heavily Peated). Bruichladdich make big claims about terroir a concept that encompasses the influence and inter-action of soil, sub-soil, exposure, orientation, climate and micro-climate on the growing of a their barley. Try as they might they aren't able to source all of their barley requirements from Islay but do ensure that it all comes from Scotland, unlike lots of other distilleries! So my question in this blog is "Does the Barley make a difference?" I'm trying the last of my Islay Barley (IB) version of heavily peated Port Charlotte against a sample of the Scottish Barley (SB).

Whisky : Port Charlotte Islay Barley (Peated to 40 ppm)
Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV.
Colour : Pale Gold
Nose : Smoke, smoke and just a little more smoke - but very maritime along with it, hints of smoked kippers.
Palate : The 50% ABV hits you straight away - slightly oily, lots of spice on the tongue, some sweetness and a background of dry biscuit.
Finish : A long smokey finish, slightly drying and nutty.
Overall : In the top 5 of my dram tastings this year - a definite favourite and I'm really sad to see it go - hopefully anew version will come along soon!

It doesn't really come out in the photo, but half way through each dram the IB is nearly transparent, the SB still holds a little colour.

Scottish v Islay
Whisky : Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (Peated to 40 ppm)
Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV.
Colour : Yellow Gold (just a shade darker than the IB)
Nose : Smoke and more smoke - not quite the same as the IB and seems to lack the maritime element - there is citrus instead and some nuttiness.
Palate : Very, very smooth - completely different from the IB - there isn't anywhere near the same amount of spice - it's more buttery with a chewy feel?
Finish : Not as drying on the finish, equally as long but doesn't seem to have the same amount of smoke. There is more spice on the finish that the IB.
Overall : A beautiful dram, I wish I'd had more than a sample to be able to spend time with as I'm sure this would have been up there in my ratings.

Thoughts : I'm sure there are loads of other factors which could go into making these drams taste different other than the barley - the casks they were matured in, the water used to distil and dilute them etc but lets for the sake of this argument ignore them and say it's all down to the barley - they are different - quite remarkably so!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Springbank Wood Finish Series

Springbank is one of the few remaining Campbeltown distilleries and located just around the corner from my Mother-in-laws house! Their Wood Finish Series from the early 2000s included a 14yo Port Wood Finish which was one of the first bottles of whisky I purchased.

It's taken a long time but I finally got round to finishing it (Heel Slaying) in a comparison with a drample of Claret Wood Finish from the same series which I received from @Pop_Noir

Both of these drams have a high ABV so I tried pouring and leaving with lids for 20 minutes.

Whisky : 14 year old Port Wood Finish (Dist:1989)
Characteristics : 700ml, 52.8% ABV
Colour : Old Gold
Nose : Wine, port, some faint licorice, some nuts
Palate: Mouth filling, chewy, pineapple and bitter orange, it's huge, obviously the 52,8% ABV gives you that but the mouth feel is fantastic, it hits you then quickly goes dry. Each new sip lubricates your mouth then it's immediately dried again.
Finish : Medium oily finish some pear and very drying, a little spice.
Overall : Slightly different notes from my previous review but it's still the same huge oily drying dram. I'm going to miss this one, it's sat at the back of my shelf for a while, I've swapped a few dramples but kept the last bit for myself.

Port Wood and Claret Wood
Whisky : 12 year old Claret Wood Finish (Dist:1997)
Characteristics : 700ml, 54.4% ABV
Colour : Deep Gold
Nose : Wine, dark chocolate fruit and nut
Palate : Initially similar to the Port - Mouth filling, chewy, some pineapple but the bitter orange is replaced by a buttery honey with lots of spice - it numbs the top of your mouth. A light smokey taste.
Finish : Smokey finish (I don't know if the barley was peated?) Longer than the Port, not as drying but very spicy.
Overall : This is another lovely dram, similar but also very different to the Port Finish - a lot more spice ion the palate and the finish and that strange, but not unpleasant, numbing of the top of the mouth!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

#TBWCturns5 (with a little help from some older toddlers)

At my age it's not very often you get invited to a 5 year old's birthday party, and it was with some reluctance that I accepted the invitation from @BoutiqueyDave, and as expected there was jelly and ice cream all over the walls, cake stamped into the carpet and lots of excited children running around like... well like 5 year olds and this was just the DM before the party!

Of course this was no regular 5 year old's party - this was That Boutiquey Whisky Company's 5th birthday and 20 of us 'older toddlers' were invited to a Twitter Tasting Party!

After the usual issues that this kind of thing causes the Post Office in this country - my parcel arrived 5 days late, on the day before the party.

Inside were 5 marvellous drams spanning the five years the company has been bottling and selling their wares.

So at well past all of our collective bedtimes, well 7.30pm, we all gathered to sample them!

As usual with TBWC, all the labels were created by Emily!

First up was a whisky not much older than those of us at the party - Speyburn 7yo Batch 1

: Speyburn 7yo Batch 1. 49.5% ABV. 233 bottles
Nose : Vanilla, honey, pear drops.
Palate : Warming spicy mouth feel with a big kick from the alcohol.
Finish : Long and spicy with a hint of digestive biscuit.
Overall : Although quite a young dram it had pretensions to be older - like the rest of us at the party! We were a little disappointed that the fish pictured on the label didn't appear in the taste!
Other toddler's thoughts:

Second up was the 'secret' Irish Single Malt 14yo  Batch 1

Whisky : Irish Single Malt 14yo Batch 1. 48.6% ABV. 357 bottles
Nose : Airfix glue, red apples and oak (the glue disappeared after a while).
Palate : Sweetness, chocolate covered in sprinkles of dark brown sugar.
Finish : Drying with chocolate overtones.
Overall : A rather pleasant dram after getting past the initial glue on the nose! There were a few guesses at the 'secret' distillery but most of us settled on Bushmills.

Other toddler's thoughts:


Third of the evening was the Blended Scotch Whisky #3 Batch 1

Whisky : Blended Scotch Whisky #3 23yo Batch 1. 48.2% ABV. 463 bottles
Nose : Charcoal in a bag, salted caramel, chocolate orange.
Palate : Smooth creamy vanilla with some spice.
Finish : Long and smokey - some Islay influence?
Overall : I was really interested in this one as I've bought a bottle of the #1 Batch 5 Fifty year old for my 50th birthday next year. If it's anything like this one it won't disappoint! Beautiful on the nose and palate and I loved the long smokey finish. The chrome bar stretching into infinity is to show the long finish!

Other toddler's thoughts:

Fourth of the evening was the Invergordon 43yo Batch 11 Single Grain

Whisky : Invergordon Single Grain 43yo Batch 11. 48.2% ABV. 186 bottles
Nose : Toasted coconut then some red fruit : strawberries or raspberries - just like a good Manchester Tart.
Palate : Smooth as silk - maple pecan slice with a little sprinkling of the toasted coconut.
Finish : Long toasted coconut finish.
Overall : WOW - this was a surprise right from the beginning - an absolutely wonderful nose, sublime on the palate and an infinitely long finish - longer than the Blended. This one blew me, and most of the rest of us, away it was absolutely wonderful. Easily the best of the night and probably one of my top 3 of the year. And it was a grain whisky! I've written previously about grain whiskies and about the Douglas Laing Strathclyde 25yo I tried at @MaltmanMike's #GBMM2017 which was also excellent and completely changed my view of grain whisky! If you can find a bottle of this Invergordon buy it immediately (and split it with me!)

Other toddler's thoughts:

The final dram of the evening had a lot to live up to - it was the Macallan 29yo Batch 6

Whisky : Macallan 29yo Batch 6. 43.5% ABV. 293 bottles
Nose : Rich strawberry jam, sherry developing into plum sauce.
Palate : Dry, sherry tones, hint of sweetness
Finish : Long smooth coffee / chocolate finish.
Overall : To be honest I was disappointed with this one, maybe from being spoilt rotten by the Invergordon Grain (but isn't that what birthday parties are all about!). It just didn't live up to expectations, yes it was complex, yes it was from Macallan but ultimately it disappointed.

Other toddler's thoughts:

Huge thanks to Dave for guiding us (and helping to get my parcel here on time!), TBWC for supplying the drams and all my fellow party goers for a fantastic evening! Here's to the 10th Birthday Bash!