Thursday, 23 February 2017

Blind Twitter Tasting with Wishky

Last night I spent a very enjoyable #wishkyhour drinking whisky with no one! Well that isn't entirely true.... Let me rewind a week or so!

I'm a huge fan of Twitter and follow a whole load of people in the #WhiskyFabric exchanging news, thoughts and sometimes dram samples. A post from one of these was an invite to a Twitter Tasting, I immediately signed up and a week or so later a bottle appeared in the post!

Beautiful bottle

What I failed to realise at the time, but did once I'd looked at the bottle, was that this was going to be a blind tasting, we didn't know in advance what the whisky was! I was both intrigued and worried: how was I going to identify the dram, what if I didn't like it?

As the night grew closer a few messages were exchanged with other testers about the colour and possible source, but we all managed to avoid opening the bottle before the night!

Concerning the bottle: I've received many different ones in the samples I've received from companies and the #WhiskyFabric but none have been as nice as this. It was a little 50ml glass bottle with a lovely cork stopper and sealing sticker labeled "Hand Filled".

So on to the night: I connected to Twitter and set up a window showing the agreed hash tags #wishkyhour and #wishkyone and waited for the fun to start. Most of us were ready for the 8pm start time and we all eagerly poured a dram.

Ready to pour!
Appearance: lovely amber colour with slow falling legs when swirled around the glass, quite oily.
Nose: Winey, honey and lemon - later vanilla with a little pepper?
Palate: Loving the taste - coating my tongue - it's floral - cut grass? But no honey in the taste
Finish: Nice lingering finish - vanilla
Overall: Not peaty (like a normally drink) I detect maybe a little sherry?

My guesses were that we were trying an unsherried, 8-10 year old Speyside, I also suggested maybe an Arran. Other suggestions included Ballantines, anCnoc or Glengoyne.

All done - but what was it?

We all agreed that we enjoyed the dram and we're eager to find out what it was! Right at the end one of the group @jonpearcewhufc guessed correctly!

If you haven't guessed what dram we were drinking yet from my notes - have a look over at the wishky blog.

Many thanks to Neil @wishkyco at for organising and @jwbassman_ @richinspirit @B_R_Drams @bgmearns @GentlemanGrimm @TheAndrewCarr and @mgilberties for making it a really enjoyable evening by myself!

There's another great write up here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Looking at Lagavulin

With the recent price reductions at Tesco and a little persuasion from the #whiskyfabric (@dvdbloke @ocdwhisky @DrinksByTheDram ) I bought a bottle of the Lagavulin Distillers Edition to join the 16yo in my 'collection'. Here's my side by side taste test.

DE and 16yo

Distillery : Lagavulin
Whisky : 16 Years Old

Presentation : Square box, dark brown bottle with some distillery and whisky information.
Source : Tesco
Price : £48

Characteristics : 700ml, 43% ABV, Not Coloured, Chill Filtered 😒
Box/Bottle Information : "Pungent and potent, this is the great Islay malt. With richly peaty, deep, smokey flavours, it has an intense, long, ambrosial finish."

Colour : Deep Copper.
Glance : Oily, leaves thin slow moving trails when swirled around the glass.
Nose : Medicinal, smokey with pears.
Taste : Tongue coating, oily, chewy, smoke and pears dominate and surprisingly very dry.
Finish : Medium length, drying finishing smoke with vanilla and pepper.
Link : 16 Year Old

Distillery : Lagavulin
Whisky : The Distillers Edition 1999-2015 (lgv. 4/504)

Presentation : Square box, dark brown bottle with some distillery and whisky information.
Source : Tesco
Price : £55

Characteristics : 700ml, 43% ABV, Not Coloured, Chill Filtered 😒
Box/Bottle Information : "Double maturation in specially crafted Pedro Ximenez cask-wood. Its accents of rich, sun dried grape sweetness have been chosen to complement this spectacular single malt's rich complex style. This is an unforgettable, richly flavoured malt whisky with intense layers of raisin sweetness and smokey flavour."

Colour : Deep Copper - the same as the 16yo
Glance : Oily, leaves thin trails when swirled around the glass.
Nose : Smoke like a bonfire, honey - quite different from the 16yo
Taste : Tongue coating, chewy, silky smooth, honey, vine fruits, vanilla, not dry like the 16yo.
Finish : Pepper, peat, vanilla - not as long as the 16yo.
Link : Distillers Edition

Overall : I love Islay malts, I love peat and I love Lagavulin, the bottle of 16yo sits proudly on my whisky shelf giving up regular drams for my enjoyment! When I saw the offer in Tesco for the DE, £55 from £70, I was tempted - a little banter from my friends on Twitter and I was persuaded!
They are two quite distinct drams, the sherry finish obviously making the difference but not in a overpowering sherry way. The dryness of the 16yo has gone and honey replaces the pear flavours on the nose and in the mouth. The DE is a lot 'easier' to drink if you aren't keen on Islay Peat Smoke - the sherry influence makes it smoother and less pronounced - but it is still there! Worth a try at £55 but maybe not at £70.

Monday, 13 February 2017

101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die

I've just finished Ian Buxton's recently updated '101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die' which I received for Christmas. Rather than rushing through it I treated it like a good Islay malt and sipped it slowly - reading only 5 reviews a night!

This is the third edition of the book first published in 2010, Ian has updated it each time when his selected whiskies fall outside of his two rules : either no longer available in a decent whisky specialist or online retailer or have been priced outside of his affordability limit. As he says "This book is for whisky drinkers not Russian plutocrats"!

There are no ratings just a 'simple' alphabetical list of 101 whiskies which Ian suggests you should "try before you die!" The book includes whiskies from all over the world - 65 from Scotland and others from Japan, Ireland, India, Australia, Wales and the USA. Most are single malts, some are blends and others made from rye or corn.

Each selection is given a two page spread with simple details about the whisky above a photo of the bottle followed by a whole page description (or story) of the whisky and distillery, some are very funny! Most then finish with brief tasting notes - one doesn't as Ian didn't receive a sample and another because as Ian says "try it in a cocktail .... as taste isn't really the point" !

Ian is obviously passionate about whisky and this book clearly shows that - his little anecdotes make this a fun book to read and I'd recommend it to anyone with even a passing interest in Whisky.

 As with all things whisky this list is Ian's and some of us may not agree with all of his choices! Whilst he includes some of my favourites, he excludes others and even include a couple I wouldn't clean my toilet with (You know who you are WR.....)

The book is published by Headline and can be purchased for around £10.

Caol Ila 12yo

Distillery : Caol Ila
Whisky : 12 years old

Lovely Dark Bottle
Presentation : Dark box with info about the whisky and distillery information, lovely dark bottle with cork stopper
Source : Tesco supermarket
Price : £30

Characteristics : 700ml, 43% ABV, No info on colouring or Chill Filtering (but believed to have been both coloured and chill filtered)
Box/Bottle Information : "Fresh, sweetly fruity and smooth bodied. Caol Ila 12yo is as rounded and clear as the shapes of the still-room, glimpsed by hazy shafts of sunlight glancing through the morning cloud."

Colour : Pale Gold
Glance : Very Oily, leaves thin slow legs when swirled around the glass.
Nose : Sweet smoke, not medicinal like other Islay drams.
Palate: Smooth and mouth filling. Vanilla and pepper are prevalent on the tongue with .
Finish : Medium smokey finish with some drying pepper and citrus on the finish.

Overall : As I've said before I love smokey peaty Islay drams and grabbed this one when reduced to £30 in Tesco - I wasn't disappointed! Caol Ila (pronounced Cull EeLa) 12yo has only been available since around 2002, previously most of the malt was used for blending, but now it's fairly easily to get hold of and for £30 you can't go wrong!

Link : Caol Ila 12yo

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Port Charlotte Islay Barley Heavily Peated

Distillery : Bruichladdich
Whisky : Port Charlotte Islay Barley Heavily Peated

Presentation : Metal Tin, embossed with Islay Barley loads of info about the whisky's terroir (more later) and distillery information, clear bottle with cork stopper
Source : Booths supermarket
Price : £48
Liquid Gold

Characteristics : 700ml, 50% ABV, Colouring Free, Un-Chill Filtered
Box/Bottle Information : "Peated to 40ppm and bottled using Islay spring water from the Octomore field of farmer James Brown. Although elegant and floral, these are heavily peated whiskies, evocative of the characteristic style of the old 19th century distillery that finally fell silent in 1928."

Colour : Pale Gold (Showing it's youth).
Glance : Oily, leaves thick trails when swirled around the glass.
Nose : SMOKE - it really hits you when you uncork the bottle never mind put your nose anywhere near it! Once that has settled down there is a lovely aroma of freshly smoked kippers - reminds me of trips to Whitby! The additional of a little water enhanced the smoked kipper smell.
Taste : Sweet and mouth filling, dried fruits and oats. The addition of a little water brings out the peat and a biscuit taste, also making the whisky very smooth.
Finish : Long and drying, initially with a slight alcohol burn (it is 50%), but this goes after a few more sips. Roast nuts and oak linger.

Overall : I'll admit I'm a bit (a lot really) of a Islay peat fan-boy, I love Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg and this Port Charlotte is in the same class but slightly different - it has the peaty smoke and the mouth coating characteristics of the others but not the medicinal overtures. It's signed by Jim McEwan, who's now retired, and come out of retirement to join the new Ardnahoe Distillery team! I love it, it's my current go-to dram for a cold Winter's night (and Spring at the moment)!

Link : Port Charlotte Islay Barley Heavily Peated

Bruichladdich are strong advocates for #transparency in whisky, I've talked about this in one of my previous blogs, and I'm really impressed about the amount of information they give you on the tin and bottle:

  • "We believe that Islay whisky should have an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and where it is matured. From the philosophies of those who distil it; a sense of place, of terroir, that speaks of the land, the barley and water from which it was made, and of the human soul that gave it life."
  • "Bruichladdich has made commitments to Islay farmers who now grow for us enabling us to distil single malt from 100% Islay barley for the first time in the island's history. Multiple farms, multiple terroirs. Our aim is to create a product of flawless integrity and the most thought provoking whisky possible."
  • "2008 Islay Barley, 6 farms, 6 terroirs : Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill, Sunderland"
  • "Distilled, matured and bottled un-chill filtered and colouring free."
  • "Peated to 40ppm, and bottled using Islay spring water from the Octomore field of farmer James Brown."
  • "We believe Terroir matters - we believe in Islay, we belief in people. We believe in authenticity, provenance and trace ability. We believe in slow, we believe in challenging convention. We believe in the soul of the artisan."

Much better than "Perfectly balanced, naturally rich and smooth" than you get on some bottles.

But then Bruichladdich go one step further : with some of their whiskies you can enter a code from the bottle on their website and they'll tell you all about it - stuff their not allowed to but on the bottle because of EU regulations. Even better you can get in touch with them and they'll tell you - they are really a friendly lot!
For instance they told me that this whisky was made with Optic and Oxbridge barley harvested in September 2008 from the 6 farms mentioned on the box;  that it was distilled in December 2008 and that my wonderful dram was matured in American & European oak casks.

Why wouldn't we want to see all this information on the box or bottle?