Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New releases > Jim Beam Red Stag

red stag by jim beamIconic American producer Jim Beam, the world's best selling bourbon, have launched a new product on to the UK market called Red Stag - a version of the famous Jim Beam White Label bourbon which has been slowly infused with natural black cherries. Bottled at 40% ABV, Red Stag will retail at £21.75 a bottle and is currently available from the Tesco and Asda supermarket chains. It is recommended to be consumed straight, chilled or as part of a cocktail. We were delighted to be invited to the UK launch party recently - footage of which can be seen in the video clip below.

Jim Beam is the biggest selling bourbon brand in the world and sits comfortably in the global top 10 for total spirit sales. The current distillery was built at the end of the Prohibition period in 1933 and is located in the town of Clermont, Kentucky. The state of Kentucky is the famous home to America's bourbon industry. The Beam family have a longer whisky heritage, with their first distillery dating back to 1795. This was founded in Washington County, Kentucky by a German immigrant called Jacob Boehm (his surname later became Americanised to Beam). The distillery is currently run by the sixth generation of his family. The Beam empire has grown massively and Beam Global are now one of the biggest drinks companies in the world, holding a vast array of worldwide brands in their portfolio including the famous Scottish whisky distillery of Laphroaig.

Our tasting notes
We have tasted Red Stag straight and at room temperature for these notes. The colour is a rich golden yellow and the nose is delicious and rich. It is packed with vanilla, oak, coconut and sweet cereal grain aromas from the bourbon, with the addition of ripe red cherries (think of a cocktail/maraschino cherries) . More sweet aromas come through in the form of honey, as does an interesting floral note (imagine honeysuckle or maybe orange blossom). On the palate, the vanilla and oakiness are immediately prominent before quickly being complimented by plenty of sweet, luscious and juicy black cherry flavours. The liquid feels rich, soft and warming in your mouth. The warmth is quite spicy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg) and further mellow sweetness created by the cereal grains and honey notes. The finish is long with a combination of the cherry sweetness and the drier, oaky bourbon characteristics vying for attention. The warm spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) really come through as does a citrus note, reminiscent of candied orange peel, before one final blast of sugary cherry.

What's the verdict?
The Red Stag is certainly unique. Other American companies have produced similarly infused items - think of Evan Williams' Honey or the recently released Jack Daniel's Honey - but we have not tasted or come across a bourbon infused with fruit. Is it a gimmick? We don't think so and we both really enjoy it. We like the idea of new products that try and attract new drinkers, as long as they are of a good quality and well produced. Red Stag is good taken straight but is better chilled from the fridge and sipped from a shot glass or as part of a simple cocktail.

Cocktail idea?
We came up with an Old Fashioned type cocktail which seems to suit Red Stag well and tastes delicious - all you will need is a tumbler glass, some orange zest, ice cubes and Red Stag. Put the orange zest in the tumbler style glass, add three or four ice cubes and a good measure of Red Stag. Stir for a minute or so with the end of a spoon, repeat the ice cubes/Red Stag measure and stirring stage, before garnishing with a fresh red cherry (or a maraschino cherry if real cherries are out of season). Yum :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Inbox > May 27, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here's the news that caught our attention this week ...
Glen Garioch > Release a third vintage
glen garioch 1994 vintageThe east Highland distillery of Glen Garioch (pronounced glen-geery) has announced the release of the third whisky in its Vintages range. Following on from the popular 1990 and 1991 bottlings, this new 1994 release has an alcoholic strength of 53.9% ABV and will retail in specialist whisky specialists for around £60. There is to be only 900 bottles released in the UK, with approximately 11,000 bottles distributed to other world markets. The whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks and was produced in the peated style, which the distillery made prior to its closure in 1995. When it was re-opened in 1997, the change was made to an unpeated style.

Isle of Jura > New visitor centre opened
The distillery on the western island of Jura has celebrated the opening of the £100,000 development of a new visitor centre. It opened last week on the first day of the Islay Festival (Feis Isle, as it is sometimes known), in which the Isle of Jura distillery now takes part. The centre is housed on the site of the former distillery shop and runs distillery tours, houses a new shop and contains an exhibition of local myths and legends, plus photos of Duirachs (inhabitants of Jura) past and present. Jura’s popularity has grown massively since 2007 in the UK market especially and the new centre has been built to deal with the increased visitor numbers.

Jack Daniel’s > New bottle design

jack daniel's new bottle designHere we reveal the new design for the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 whiskey, which is made in Lynchburg in the American state of Tennessee. The bottle will be available worldwide shortly and shows an adaption of the famous square shape (the corners are more angular), plus the lettering and logos on the label have been tidied up. The whiskey inside remains the same as before!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Balvenie Whisky Den

balvenie whisky denThe Balvenie Whisky Den is a new consumer experience from the guys at the famous Speyside distillery. They have created an interactive whisky experience in the centre of London by taking over a disused shop space for a month. The Whisky Den is located in Tavistock Street (nearest tube - Covent Garden) in the heart of Theatreland and offers everyone the chance to witness some of the hand crafted skills that make Balvenie whisky. Marketed as 'bringing a piece of Speyside to London', a creative installation has been created which is evolving over the duration of the month. It is open to everyone every day between 1pm and 8pm and will run until Sunday 5 June. There is also a sampling bar within the installation, which offers drams of the Balvenie core range plus a couple of special limited edition expressions.

Balvenie is one of the most famous names in the world of whisky. It was founded in 1892 by William Grant, who wanted to build a new distillery in the Speyside region so as to help his other distillery at Glenfiddich to meet increasing consumer demand. Grant decided to renovate nearby Balvenie House and its outbuildings. Balvenie is a large distillery capable of producing 5.5 million litres of spirit a year and is described as 'the complete distillery', due to the fact that every process of production takes place on the site - they grow some of the barley on land adjoining the distillery buildings (the only distillery to do this), have an active malting floor and make casks at their own cooperage. Balvenie has been one of the world's best selling single malt whiskies for a number of years and consistently remains in the top 10.

For further information on the Balvenie distillery, please visit the distillery profile page on our website www.whiskyforeveryone.com.

Over the last week, both of us have visited The Balvenie Whisky Den. It is a unique experience that combines the sampling of some fine single malt whiskies with the elements and skills that it takes to make it. If you are in central London before 5 June, we urge you to go and take part in the Whisky Den and sample some of Balvenie's whiskies, including the new Batch 4 of their Signature bottling - our review of this will follow shortly! If you can't make it, then we have put together a short video tour of the Whisky Den and all of its installations (including a malting floor and some very creative sculptures and furniture!) for you. Click below and we hope that you enjoy.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Have just tried > Big Smoke 60

Big Smoke is a blended whisky created by Duncan Taylor Scotch Whisky Ltd, which are one of Scotland’s largest independent bottling companies. There are two whiskies in the range – the Big Smoke 40 and the 60 – and both are blended in small batches. These are the same whiskies but are bottled at different alcoholic strengths – 40% and 60% ABV respectively. Big Smoke is a young blend and contains a large percentage of smoky single malts from the western isle of Islay. The island is traditionally famous for this style of whisky and this whisky has been created to appeal to fans of big, peaty and smoky characteristics. This new batch will retail at around the £30 mark from specialist whisky retailers.

Duncan Taylor were set up in Glasgow in 1938 with the plan to bottle and blend whisky for export to America following the Prohibition period there. They are now based in the town of Huntly, close to the Speyside whisky region of Scotland. Duncan Taylor are reported to have one of the largest privately held collections of rare whisky casks in the world and bottle approximately 200 different whiskies a year. Their range is extensive and has numerous branches to it. For more information on their ranges of whisky and Duncan Taylor, check out their website www.duncantaylor.com.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is immediately fresh, vibrant and punchy. The name of the whisky should be a clue as to what to expect - BIG SMOKE! This smokiness has an intense burnt ashy quality to it, which is backed up by some bitter iodine and phenol notes plus a whiff of surgical spirit. The high alcohol level and intense smokiness present a barrier to begin with but slowly other aromas appear as the whisky settles in the glass - plenty of cereal grains and dried grass (think of straw and hay), some vanilla, honey and a hint of tangy lemon. On the palate, this immediately numbs your taste buds and seems brash and overpowering but it is better than that. Once your mouth gets used to the alcoholic strength, the characteristics of the whisky begin to reveal themselves - this is fiery and hot with plenty of burnt ash and chilli spice, with sweet notes of vanilla, icing sugar and honey giving balance. There are also notes of robust cereals (imagine oatcakes especially), that dried grass from the nose, some salty brine and juicy, zesty lemons. The finish is long and spicy with the ash and chilli notes lingering in particular. The robust cereals/oats come through more and more with time.

A whisky of this strength suggests that some water should be added. Up on doing this (just a few drops) the characteristics are immediately softened and the effect of the powerful alcohol is lessened. The smokiness is soft and gentle now (think of damp embers), although still ashy with a hint of hot peppery spice. Plenty of vanilla and milled oat notes are present, as is a new vegetal note which is reminiscent of cooked asparagus. The palate is creamy with vanilla again prominent. The soft smoke and sweet notes above combine well and more dried grass is evident. The finish is shorter but very pleasant and leaves a slight bitter freshness in the mouth.

What's the verdict?
This is a lively whisky that is enjoyable and a good example of the smoky style at a high/cask strength. However, we recommend drinking it with some water as while it shows its potential without, it is a little hard on the senses. With water it truly reveals its quality. Having said that, you will have to really be a fan of the smoky/peaty style of whisky to fully enjoy this and it is not for the faint hearted! Others may find it too strong or concentrated in flavour. Duncan Taylor have produced a very good whisky here and it offers plenty for your £30.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Inbox > May 20, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here's the news that caught our attention this week ...
Balvenie > Speyside comes to London!
balvenie whisky denThe guys from the famous Speyside distillery of Balvenie have created an interactive whisky experience in the centre of London. The 'Whisky Den' is located in Tavistock Street (nearest tube - Covent Garden) and offers everyone the chance to witness some of the hand crafted skills that make Balvenie whisky so special. Marketed as 'bringing a piece of Speyside to London', a creative installation has been created which will evolve over the duration of the 'Den'. It is open to everyone every day between 1pm and 8pm and will run until Sunday 5 June. There is also a sampling bar within the installation, which offers drams of the Balvenie core range plus a couple of special limited edition expressions.

Diageo > Two special Feis Isle whiskies announced
The Islay whisky festival, known as Feis Isle in Gaelic, starts today and runs until Sunday 28 May. Diageo have announced a special release from both of the distilleries that they own on the island - Caol Ila and Lagavulin. Historically, these whiskies are sold on a first come, first served basis and always sell out quickly.

The Caol Ila Bodega Cask was filled in February 2000 and is a single ex-sherry cask whisky release of 600 bottles. It has a natural cask strength of 64.3% ABV and the cask was selected by Caol Ila's long serving distillery manager, Billy Stitchell. The Bodega Cask will go on sale from Monday 23 May, which is Caol Ila's festival open day, and will cost £79.95 a bottle. The Lagavulin 13 years old has been maturing in a refill ex-sherry cask since February 1998 and the cask was selected by lond serving warehouseman Iain McArthur. It has a natural cask strength of 51% ABV and only 588 bottles will be available. Again, this will cost £79.95 a bottle and will be available from tomorrow (Saturday 21 May) at the Lagavulin distillery open day.

Highland Park > Two new releases
highland park 1978 and leif erikssonHighland Park, the multi award winning distillery located on the Orkney islands, has announced the release of two new whiskies. Both are exclusive to the travel/Duty Free sector and will be available around the world. The Leif Eriksson (pictured on the right) is named after the Icelandic Norseman who is widely regarded as being the first European to ever reach the North American continent in the 11th century. He was a regular visitor to Orkney, which has a strong Nordic history. The whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, although these sherry casks are unusually made from north American oak rather than European oak. Leif Eriksson is bottled at 40% ABV and will cost around the € 65.00/£ 55 mark.

The second release is a 1978 Vintage that joins the popular travel retail Vintages range. The other four whiskies in the range are bottled at 40% ABV but this comes in at 47.8%. As yet we are unable to find the retail price of this - can anyone help us out? The designs on the packaging are images of a dragon wood carving found during a Nordic archaeological dig in 1904.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Master of Malt Blending Challenge > Part 2

Recently, we were delighted to be asked to contribute to an exciting project by Master of Malt, the innovative independent bottling and online whisky retailing company. The project was to create a new blended whisky for the Master of Malt portfolio and they invited 10 whisky blogs, including us, from around the world to take part. Each blog was sent an identical pack containing numerous whisky samples of differing ages and styles, plus various shapes and size of measuring equipment.

Our brief was to create our own blend from what was provided and send back the recipe to Master of Malt. This was done with much fun, experimentation and stress along the way. To read our perspective and findings on this first part of the process, click here.

Well, now the second part of the process is upon us. Master of Malt have now created each of the 10 whisky blend recipes that they received from the bloggers and have packaged them up in a set (pictured, above). This set, which has been named The Blogger's Blend, contains one 3cl sample of each blend and each sample is numbered 1-10. There is also a booklet that explains about each of the participating blogs. This special set is now available from www.masterofmalt.com and more information can been found on the Master of Malt blog. The Blogger's Blend costs £29.95 plus postage.

Naturally, we would love for this to be a success and have enjoyed taking part to date. We are proud of the blend that we have produced. However, the process doesn't end here ... within the set is also a voting form. Anyone that buys The Blogger's Blend set gets the chance to choose the winning blend from the 10 on offer. You simply pick your favourite, mark the corresponding number (1-10) on the form and send it back to Master of Malt! To remove any possible bias towards one blog or another, Master of Malt have not revealed which blog's whisky relates to which numbered sample.

We plan to review each blend in the set shortly and will continue to report on the further stages of the process, which includes the selection of the winning blend plus the naming of the whisky and the designing of the label. If you buy The Blogger's Blend set, then let us know what you think and hope that you enjoy the 10 whiskies!

master of malt logo

Monday, May 16, 2011

Have just tried > Glen Garioch 1991 Vintage

Glen Garioch (pronounced glen-geery) was founded in 1797 by Thomas Simpson, making it one of Scotland's oldest whisky distilleries that is still in operation. Glenturret is the oldest having been opened in 1775. The original name was Glengarioch (the Garioch is a fertile strip of local farmland that is well known for producing top quality barley) before changing to Glen Garioch in the 1930s. It is located in Oldmeldrum, a small town in the Highlands, which is close to Aberdeen. The distillery is Scotland's most easterly and has an annual production capacity of approximately one million litres.

Glen Garioch is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, which is a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory. They took control in 1994 and one year later, they decided to temporarily close the distillery (this is called mothballing - the process where a distillery is closed but all the equipment remains intact and ready to go again, when required). Until then, Glen Garioch had produced a lightly peated style of whisky but when it reopened in 1997, Suntory decided to stop this practice and go for a non peaty style.

The range of Glen Garioch single malt is small and was revamped and repackaged in 2009. The Founder's Reserve and a 12 years old form the main part of the range and these are joined by a number of younger and older vintage expressions, of which this 1991 Vintage is one. These 'vintages' are released in small batches - this 1991 is Batch no.38 is the latest bottling, which comes at an alcoholic strength of 54.7% ABV and has been maturing in American ex-bourbon cask for 19 years. It should cost around £65-70 from specialist whisky retailers.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a bright golden yellow and the nose is intriguing and fresh, with plenty of aromas vying for your attention. Initially there are sweet notes of vanilla, toffee and particularly honey. These are quickly joined by robust cereal grain aromas, reminiscent of oatcake biscuits, some fresh green apple and dried grasses, especially hay. The combination is very pleasant and is complimented by a hint of soft, gentle peat smoke, which has a lovely floral heathery note. On the palate, this is equally as intriguing as the nose and follows a similar path. The sweet notes (think of vanilla and honey especially) hit the taste buds first, but are quickly joined by bittersweet cereals and plenty of dry, oaky wood spices (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg). There is a yeasty, almost biscuit-like flavour that is in the background. Again, these characteristics are complimented well by soft, heathery peat smoke and a tangy, fresh citrus note that is reminiscent of orange oil. The mix of notes - the robust cereals, the sweetness, the delicate smoke and the tangy citrus - adds a good depth and complexity to the palate. The finish is quite dry and long, with plenty of oak, cereal and wood spice holding on to the inside of your mouth.

What's the verdict?
This Glen Garioch is a lovely and complex whisky. It benefits from prolonged time in the glass, as it opens up more and more. Initially, it appears robust, grainy and a little brash but time reveals a more subtle set of characteristics, which benefit the whisky greatly and add wonderful depth. The bittersweet nature of it may not be to everyone's taste but it is worth persisting with if you initially don't think that you like it. This should be tried and given time, you will find a splendid whisky from an under rated distillery.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Inbox > May 13, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here's the news that caught our attention this week ...
Ardbeg > Chopper gets ready for lift off!
the ardbeg chopper motorbikeThe cult Islay distillery of Ardbeg have come up with a unique way of bringing their single malt to the masses – they are going to drive it around northern Europe on a motorbike! The motorbike, nicknamed the ‘Ardbeg Chopper’, has been custom-built by cult US manufacturer Orange County Choppers. The Ardbeg Chopper will begin its tour at Glasgow airport and drive 2,000 miles across Europe before eventually returning home to the distillery. The bike will pull in at bars, whisky shops and festivals in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Netherlands and the UK. Fans of Ardbeg will be encouraged to pose with the Chopper and sample a wee dram of the award-winning Ardbeg 10 years old. You can follow the Chopper’s progress on Ardbeg’s Facebook and Twitter accounts or by visiting www.ardbeg.com.

Glendronach > New expression launched
glendronach 15 years old tawny port finishThe innovative independent distillery at Glendronach have announced the launch of a new addition to their Wood Finishes range – a 15 years old Tawny Port finish. The whisky has spent a majority of time maturing in European oak ex-sherry casks, before being transferred to Port casks. This expression has been bottled at 46% ABV and will be available in specialist whisky retailers in the UK and 20 export markets. It is non-chill filtered, natural in colour and there will be only 6,000 bottles in the release. Sales Director of owners The Benriach Distillery Company, Alistair Walker says “Last year we launched the first of our four wood finishes which included a 20yo Tawny Port finish. This whisky was a great success, so we decided to release a second bottling again this year. We have carefully selected whisky that has been gently maturing in lighter casks so that aficionados experience the full impact of the port. The very pleasing result contributes extra depth and concentrated stewed fruit flavours.

Old St. Andrew’s > Range gets new bottles
old st. andrew's new rangeThe range of whiskies that are blended and released by the small family owned Old St. Andrews Company have undergone a major packaging revamp. In a move away from bottling their whisky in a golf ball shaped bottle, the company’s premium blended range will shortly appear in a fresh clean designed bottle with straight sides – this will allow easier shelf display and pouring. This range will continue to draw on the brand’s golfing heritage and includes the Clubhouse bottling, the Twilight (a 10 years old blend tagged 'the fresh delicate one'), the Fireside (a 12 years old blend - 'the smoky warming one') and the Nightcap (a 15 years old - 'the rich honeyed one').

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Have just tried > Greenore 8 years old

Greenore is a whiskey that is made at the Cooley distillery in County Louth, Ireland. The distillery lies roughly half way between Belfast and Dublin and is one of only three whiskey distilleries currently in operation in Ireland (Bushmills and Midleton are the others). Cooley was founded in 1987 by John Teeling and his idea was to resurrect some of Ireland's oldest whiskey recipes and traditions that had become extinct during more difficult times. He converted an old vodka distillery and Cooley has since won over 100 awards worldwide, including the title of European Distillery of the Year at the prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) awards in 2010.

At Cooley they produce whiskey using traditional recipes, each with a different mixtures of barley and other grains. Their range includes some famous Irish whiskey names such as Connemara (the only peaty Irish whiskey), Kilbeggan, Locke's, Michael Collins, Millar's and Tyrconnell. Around 95% of all the whiskey produced at Cooley is exported, with the UK, mainland Europe and South Africa being the current main markets. Greenore is unique as it is the only Irish grain whiskey that is in regularly production. Grain whiskies contain no barley but are made from a mixture of other grains instead. This Greenore 8 years old is part of Cooley's core range and has won a Gold Medal at the IWSC awards. It is bottled at 40% ABV and is available from specialist liquor retailers. A bottle should cost around the £32 mark.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a bright golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and tangy. Initially, it has plenty of cereal, honey and oaky coconut aromas and these are joined by more subtle notes with time. These notes includes some zesty lemon peel, light brown sugar, warm buttery biscuits and a hint of dried grass (think of hay). The nose is very pleasant - you could sit and sniff it forever! On the palate, this is smooth, creamy and sweet with lots of distinct cereal grains (imagine the more bitter husks especially) to begin with. Then comes a delicious mouth-coating combination of sweet vanilla, honey, almonds, warm woody spices (think of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg) and plenty of freshly grated coconut. The progression from the sweeter to the more bitter/spicy elements is sublime and very, very enjoyable. It just seems to melt in your mouth. The finish is warm and honeyed with plenty of enjoyable bitter cereal notes coming through and a good dry woody spiciness at the end. The only slight downside is that the finish is slightly short and disappears too quickly (sadly).

What's the verdict?
This is an easy one - Greenore 8 years old is delicious. And enjoyable. And rich. And very moreish. And complex. And well balanced. And offers high quality. And value for money. And is unique ... you get the idea! It is easy to see why this has won numerous awards as it offers winning combinations of aromas and flavours in abundance. If you have never sampled grain whiskey before, then you have to try this one as it is an excellent example.

Monday, May 9, 2011

New releases > The Douglas of Drumlanrig range

drumlanrig castleThe Douglas of Drumlanrig is a new range of independently bottled single malt whiskies. The range is named after Drumlanrig Castle (pictured, left) which is located near to the Dumfires & Galloway town of Thornhill in the south western corner of Scotland. Drumlanrig is not actually a castle but a large country house, which is one of the best examples of baroque architecture in the UK. The house was built between 1684 and 1691, and is the ancient stronghold of the famous Douglas clan and current home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch & Queensberry.

the douglas of drumlanrig whisky rangeEach of the bottlings in this initial release of the Douglas of Drumlanrig range is from a specially selected single cask and is non chill-filtered with an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV. The selection process has an emphasis on whiskies from cult, boutique or closed distilleries. The range is being sold exclusively in The Whisky Shop - the UK's largest specialist whisky retailing chain - and can be purchased in one of their 16 stores or online at www.whiskyshop.com. We have recently sampled four of the new range and our tasting notes are below.

Ben Nevis 12 years old
ben nevis 12 years old - douglas of drumlanrigInfo > ex-sherry cask/distilled December 1996/764 bottles/£47.99
The colour is golden amber and the nose is packed with dried fruit (especially sultanas and raisins), toffee and malty barley grains. There is a hint of sharpness, reminiscent of a tart style of apple, and some honey aromas that come through with time. On the palate, there is that tangy apple note but this gives way to softer sweeter toffee, caramel and dried fruity characters - think of the sultanas and raisins again, but add in some dried pear and apple. The robust malty cereals add grip, as does a pinch of a woody spice like cinnamon and some liquorice. The finish begins sweetly but turns drier with plenty of the cereals and wood spice present. These combined with the tangy apple notes give a pleasant mouthwatering quality.

Dailuaine 11 years old
dailuaine 11 years old - douglas of drumlanrigInfo > ex-sherry cask/distilled August 1997/715 bottles/£46.99
The colour is a coppery amber and the nose is fresh and fruity. There are strong aromas of caramel, dried fruits (think of raisins and apricots especially) and orange oil. Under these are distinct notes of oak, barley sugar and sweet honey, which mingle with some nutty bitter spices (imagine nutmeg). On the palate, this feels creamy and rich with some lovely warm spicy notes (the nutmeg again) combining with sweet cereals, toffee and the dried fruits. There are also elements of yeast, honey and the orange note is again quite strong. The woody spices and the barley flavour increase with time. The finish begins sweetly before dramatically turning bitter and try, leaving a pleasant astringency in the mouth. The orange oil note helps counteract this a little.

Linkwood 13 years old
linkwood 13 years old - douglas of drumlanrigInfo > ex-bourbon cask/distilled May 1997/242 bottles/£54.99
This has a pale straw gold colour and a light, fresh and vibrant nose. There are aromas of icing sugar, vanilla, honey and fresh hay or grass. After this come further aromas of malty cereals, green foliage, freshly sawn oak and a twist of lemon zest. The palate is also fresh and tangy with the citrus, oak and grassy notes to the fore. These are quickly joined by a sweet nutty almond note (reminiscent of marzipan?) and further sweetness in the form of honey and delicate cereal grains. The oakiness threatens to become overpowering but the over riding sweet notes reign it back in, as does an interesting sherbet characteristic. The finish is crisp, clean and refreshing with plenty of honey, zest and oak present - this would be a perfect summer dram!

Macallan 8 years old
macallan 8 years old - douglas of drumlanrigInfo > ex-bourbon cask/distilled September 2002/264 bottles/ £47.99
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is fresh with distinct grassy and grainy aromas particularly prominent. Further freshness is added with aromas of fresh green pear and apples, plus a whiff of alcoholic spirit. Underneath are delicate notes of honey, vanilla, oak and just a hint of cinnamon spice. On the palate, the fresh and clean notes are continued with the green crisp fruit and a hint of zesty lemon at the forefront. This is tempered by some subtle sweetness driven by notes of honey and vanilla in particular, but also malty cereal grains and increasing amounts of fresh oak. There is also a hit of peppery heat from the youthful alcohol. The finish is a little short but with a drying wood spice quality (that cinnamon again). Sadly, it is gone before it really gets going. Again, another good dram for warm weather.

In addition to the whiskies sampled above, the new Douglas of Drumlanrig range also includes >
Aultmore 13 years old - ex-sherry cask/distilled January 1996/£54.99
Caol Ila 9 years old - ex-bourbon cask/distilled December 2000/£56.99
Glentauchers 9 years old - ex-sherry cask/distilled November 2000/£41.99
Glen Ord 11 years old - ex-bourbon cask/distilled March 1998/£46.99
Mortlach 12 years old - ex-sherry cask/distilled September 1997/£54.99
Port Ellen 27 years old - ex-bourbon cask/distilled March 1983/£209.99

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Have just tried > Bowmore Tempest Small Batch Release 2

Bowmore is the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on the famous whisky making island of Islay in Scotland. It was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, which also makes it one of the oldest in Scotland. The name of Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. Bowmore one of only a few distilleries which still produces its own floor malted barley, hand-turned by a traditional wooden malt shovel and lots of hard back-breaking work. Water used to make their whiskies comes from the local Laggan River which runs over richly peated grounds, the same peat that is used to fire their kilns.
The distillery is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore - a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, who also own the other Scottish distilleries at Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch. Bowmore has an annual production capacity of two million litres and is one of the biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty style.

Details of Bowmore Tempest
The Tempest is a small batch bottling that is released approximately twice a year. Batch 1 was released in early 2010 (read our review) with this second release coming out late 2010. The third batch is planned for release mid to late 2011. Similar to the first release, this whisky is aged for 10 years in first fill ex-Bourbon casks. It comes bottled at 56% alcohol volume and retails in the UK at around the £40-£45 mark.

Our tasting notes
Bowmore Tempest is a warm golden colour. On the nose there is bracing and warming woodfire smoke, sugary sweetness or honey comb (something like a Crunchie Bar sweet), wildflower florals, sweet caramel vegetal notes (we thought of roasted red peppers or red chillis), freshness in way of Bowmore’s characteristic citrus notes plus an added pinch of saltiness. Adding water brings out more of the floral notes and sugary sweetness and dulls down the smokiness and general bracing hit on your senses that you get from a high ABV whisky.
On the palate this is feisty dram. The alcohol volume does kick your taste buds around a bit, and the first sensation is of spicy pepper, which is something the nose really didn’t prepare you for. This is followed by some tangy saltines then that sugary sweetness combined with citrus (we though of lemon sherbert). Adding water tones down the initial fiery hit a notch while leaving the spiciness. This whisky has a very long dry finish with vegetal and citrus notes laced with fiery hot ashy smoke.

What's the verdict?
We were anticipating this release with a combination of excitement and apprehension. For us the first release was an exceptional dram, so how would the second compare? We immediately got the impression that this is a very different whisky to the first release. Our overall impression was this second release of Tempest is a feisty and complex dram. Its freshness and smokiness is met head on by a peppery fieriness. This is a complex whisky that reveals itself more over a period of time. This is a whisky to go back to and appreciate at leisure.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Whisky Round Table > May 2011

The latest edition of The Whisky Round Table is now available for all to read. The host this month is Chris Bunting, who runs the informative Nonjatta blog which is based in Japan. If you want to know anything about Japanese whiskies, the industry or drinking culture of the nation then Nonjatta is THE only place online to visit. We are delighted to be part of the Whisky Round Table, so hope that you will join us and our colleagues for this edition. Chris has decided to get a cheeky discussion going about each of the Round Table members whisky tasting skills and whether it is possible to categorise a sip of whisky in words - to read this month's sitting of the Whisky Round Table - click here.

The Whisky Round Table is the brainchild of Jason Johnston-Yellin, who is the author of the 'must read' whisky blog Guid Scotch Drink. His idea was to gather together 12 whisky bloggers from around the world and get them to discuss a whisky topic once a month. The hosting of The Round Table is passed around the 12 members, with each host setting the question for each month - the subjects have been wide and varied to date. Chris at Nonjatta is the last of the 12 to host, so we have now gone full circle and will revert back to Jason for next month's question/discussion. Links to the previous editions of Whisky Round Table articles can be found by clicking here. Enjoy!

The Whisky Round Table can also be followed on Twitter. Come and join us @WhiskyKnights.

Inbox > May 6, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox returns after a week off for the Royal Wedding holiday here in the UK. Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has found its way in to our email inbox. Sadly, we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive, so Inbox was born! It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here's the news that caught our attention over the two weeks ...
The Glenlivet > Single malt range gets a revamp
the new glenlivet packagingThe Glenlivet, which is one of the most iconic single malts and second best selling in the world (behind Glenfiddich), have announced new packaging for their range of whiskies. The 12 years old remains unchanged in its green bottle, while the 15 years old will be sold in clear (rather than the previous green) glass for the first time, so as to show the rich golden colour. Both will be presented in a new luxury carton. The 18 years old (the most highly awarded whisky in the range) and the limited edition Nadurra series will move to the premium bottle shape used for the 21 years old and 25 years old expressions. This shape includes a heavier base, broader shoulders and a shorter neck. The 18 years old will also get a permanent gift box rather than the current cardboard carton. In addition to the different packaging, the embossed stamp of the distillery's founding family (George & J. G. Smith) plus the foundation date of 1824 have been given more prominence on all bottlings.

Glenmorangie > new luxury Pride 1981 announced
glenmorangie pride 1981The famous distillery from the north Highlands has announced a limited edition whisky addition to its luxury/premium range. The Pride 1981 is presented in an extraordinary piece of packaging (pictured, left), comprising of a bespoke wood and metallic box and a Baccarat crystal decanter. The whisky was distilled in 1981 and has undergone maturation for its first 18 years in first fill ex-bourbon casks, before being transferred to premium Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes dessert wine casks for a further 10 years. It has been bottled at an alcoholic strength of 56.7% ABV and only 1000 bottles will be released worldwide on 1 July. Each bottle will cost £2500.

Master of Malt > launch world's oldest whisky liqueur
masters of malt 40 years old whisky liqueurThe award winning and innovative online whisky retailer and independent bottler Master of Malt have released the world's oldest whisky liqueur. The liqueur is made using 40 year old single malt from an undisclosed Speyside distillery, along with other ingredients such as cinnamon bark, cloves and orange peel to compliment the flavours of the whisky. The liqueur is available from the Master of Malt website at the price of £219.95 for a 70cl bottle. It has been bottled at 43% ABV. The 40 year old liqueur joins a range of new liqueurs that includes ages of 10,15, 21 and 30 years of age which are £26.95, £39.95, £59.95 and £109.95 for a 70cl bottle respectively. Alternatively, you can order a 3cl sample of each one in a five piece set for £29.95.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New releases > Old Pulteney WK209 'Good Hope'

old pulteney wk209 'good hope'The Old Pulteney distillery is the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland. Located near to the Highland fishing town of Wick, it lies around 15 mile south of John O'Groats. Old Pulteney is currently owned by Inver House Distillers and has a production capacity of three million litres a year. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson and Wick was the the main European hub for herring fishing industry at that time. The distillery was named after Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, the herring industry's leading light of the day and this makes it one of the few distilleries to be named after a person. To read further information about the distillery and our visit there - click here.

Old Pulteney's core range consists of a 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old. The brand has grown massively in the last three years and this has seen Old Pulteney climb into the top 20 for world sales of single malts. Worldwide sales grew by 16% alone in 2008. This exclusive addition to the range is only available in the travel retail/Duty Free sector and is limited to 9,600 bottles. Each one litre bottle will retail at around the £35 mark and it has just been released.

the trawler 'good hope wk209'Old Pulteney's new whisky is named after the trawler Good Hope (pictured, left), whose home port was Wick and carried the registration number WK209. It was built in 1948 and was the first trawler from Wick to use echo location technology to find schools of fish. The whisky has been bottled at an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV and has been entirely matured in European oak ex-sherry casks. The age is not stated, but is rumoured to be a mix of 8-12 year old whiskies, and WK209 follows on from the previous exclusive WK499 release, named after another trawler (the Isabella Fortuna). To read our review of WK499, click here.

Our tasting notes
The colour of WK209 is a vibrant golden yellow and the nose is fresh and promising. There is an immediate aroma of juicy sultanas, followed by some candied citrus peel (especially lemon, with a hint of orange) and crumbly brown sugar. With time aromas of stewed pear and apple appear, which are reminiscent of a fruit compote - this is further confirmed with a whiff of cinnamon and nutmeg spice. The increasingly complexity of the nose also includes aromas of rich butter and salty brine. On the palate, this feels clean, fresh and tangy with a very pleasant initial mix of the salty and sultana notes from the nose. Further dried fruits appear (think of raisin and a hint of candied orange peel), along with the crumbly brown sugar and stewed fruit compote characteristics. The initial sweetness of the palate is helped by a note of honey, before some drier elements turn it in a slightly different direction and add balance and depth. These include notes of toasted almond, wood spice (especially cinnamon) and further salty brine, which seems to increase with time and helps the whisky retain its freshness. The finish is slightly short but pleasant, with the same movement from the sweeter notes to the drier, spicier, saltier ones.

What's the verdict?
This whisky is lovely and offers something different from Old Pulteney. Most of their whiskies are matured in ex-bourbon casks or in a mix of ex-bourbon and sherry casks, so it is interesting to try one from purely ex-sherry casks. It has a pleasant and surprising freshness for a pure sherry cask matured whisky and the combination between the bracing signature saltiness of Old Pulteney and the dried fruity quality from the ex-sherry casks is excellent. WK209 also seems a cracking bargain for the price.