Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Guest blog post - A Distillery Tour With A Difference

We are lucky. From our position at the fringe of the whisky industry, we get to meet some fantastic people who all have a passion for the stuff. These may be fellow bloggers or journalists, consumers, PR/marketing folk, or brand ambassadors and distillery workers. One of our favourites to date is James Saxon.  We first met James on a whisky bloggers trip to the north Highlands about 18 months ago and Matt again met up with him on a pre-Xmas trip to the Balblair distillery.

James' story is a fascinating one and he is one of the most interesting people that you could wish to talk with.  For six weeks in the spring of 2010, he decided to try an visit as many whisky distilleries in Scotland as he could.  Nothing particularly new about that, until you consider that he cycled the whole way.  He wrote a whisky blog with a difference as he and his bike made that epic journey.

We are delighted that James has agreed to write a guest blog post for us about his journey, which can be found below.  To read the full story of the trip and to read what he has been up to since, please visit his excellent and informative Scotch Odyssey blog.  We are returning the favour and saying a big thank you by writing him a guest post, so feel free to check that out on Scotch Odyssey in a couple of days time.  We hope that you enjoy the abridged version of James' travels.

- Karen & Matt
___________

 A Distillery Tour With A Difference
by James Saxon


At Bladnoch distillery, Dumfries & Galloway

Like all good ideas, the ambition to cycle around Scotland, dropping in on as many distilleries with ‘Welcome’ doormats as possible, has no definite genesis. Rather, it was a mish-mash of motives and fantasies, synthesised and cultivated within the confines of my more unusual states of mind. Once established, however, the scheme refused to budge. While my schoolmates would be trekking through South-East Asia or taking the fruits of the English education system to Africa, I would be pedalling through a Scottish spring, keeping an eye peeled for pagoda roofs.

I have always been prone to compulsive absorption in a new hobby, and single malt whisky has proved to be no exception. My procycling magazine subscription became Whisky Magazine and the Cairngorms and coastal regions were of greater interest than the Pyrenees and Alps. However, as a means of transport and experiencing the world, the bicycle remained central to my mission. How else could I remain alive to the sights, sounds and smells of Scotland and her terroir without being so fully exposed and self-reliant?

The road near Carbost and Talisker distillery, Isle of Skye

Day 12 of the Scotch Odyssey to Glen Garioch pointed out some of the flaws in this philosophy. Drenched by the rain and standing water on the A96, demonised by cars and trucks and demoralised by both, the tour had stopped being a gentle spin between glowing stills, reflecting on what implications the proximity of heather and barley might be, and had become a survival operation. For ten fraught and filthy miles I squeaked along the hard-shoulder, praying that the next enormous flat-bed lorry would nudge over towards the centre of the carriageway and not jerk me after it with its slipstream.

Things hardly improved in deepest, driechest Aberdeenshire as the rain continued to dribble out of the sky. Forty miles into the day, I finally squelched into the Glen Garioch visitor centre, and the lady behind the desk must have thought that the creature from the black lagoon wanted on the next tour.

"Have you any radiators I could use, please?" I mumbled, expecting my clothes to inflict a damp death if I put them on again following my tour and they had not had any chance to dry.

"Go over to the stillhouse," she said. "Tell them that Jane sent you to dry some things."

Stripping off in the Glen Garioch stillhouse and hanging my sodden clobber on a rack behind the spirit still is an experience I will never forget, and nor will the tour party who shuffled in just as I extricated myself from my shorts. I had a one-to-one tour with Fiona, and a long chat with both she and Jane in the visitor centre afterwards about my journey. Theirs was a kindly kick up the backside for me, but one which was pivotal to completing the 20 miles back to Huntly, and played a major part in galvanising me for the remaining four weeks.

From the Lowlands, Highlands and Speyside, it was up the northern coastline to Orkney, across to Skye and the remainder of the West Coast. I began to relish the mileage, the scenery and the new flavours that were creeping into the production process as I walked past more and more mashtuns. Islay was a case-in-point, an insistent smokiness pervading each of the incredibly busy distilleries. A word of warning, though: don’t do all eight tours in two and a half days. And not in the week before the Feis Ile festival.

The trusty bike outside Kilchoman distillery, Islay

After weeks of island-hopping, returning to a major centre of population shocked and thrilled me. Pedalling over the Clyde – and nearly joining the M8 – confirmed that I had reached Glasgow and bar a serious bike breakdown which was either impeccably well-timed or laughably unlikely with only a day to go, I loved the city. Glengoyne was my hottest tour and the journey there and back one of the most exhilarating.

The final day through Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway was memorable for many reasons: the nutter on the train, the extraordinary cuteness of the landscape, but most of all the sheer charming oddity of Bladnoch. After a tour that included a sample of oak-aged gin and seemingly every corner of the distillery, I was in danger of missing my train from Barrhill back home.

Martin Armstrong, son of distillery owner Raymond who had kindly opened the place up for me on the Saturday when he ought to have been revising for his university finals, offered a lift as far as Newton Stewart. The bike and panniers were thrown into the back of the Bladnoch Transit van, and we bombed along the country lanes at speeds I had rarely experienced over the previous six weeks while Martin supplied a potted history of the landmarks that passed in a blur. After a quick handshake, it was a fifteen mile time trial back to the station in baking heat. I made it, hairier, sweatier and happier than I have ever been.

I will admit that a car cannot really be beaten for practicality while distillery touring. If nothing else, there is space in the boot for all those distillery-exclusives. However, my solo cycle gave me a first-class, first-hand encounter with Scotland, her whiskies and above all her people – a distinctive, unchillfiltered race whose humour and hospitality materialised when I least expected but most needed it. Thanks to them, every dram I pour enthrals me with a vivid presence and emotive allusiveness more than malt, water and yeast could ever have managed on their own.

All images included in this article are © James Saxon.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Inbox - January 27, 2012

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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. This week again includes our new feature - Tweet of the week. This is our favourite piece of news or information that we have seen on Twitter recently. Here we go with this week's news ...

Cutty Sark -  Tam o' Shanter bottling
The famous blended whisky brand has announced a new limited edition version of their 25 years old expression, so as to coincide with this year's Burns Night celebrations.  The liquid is an enhanced version of the current 25 years old within the core range, and is the first creation of Cutty Sark's new Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell.  The new expression is named Tam o' Shanter after Robert Burns' famous poem.

The link between the brand and Burns is interesting - the famous ship was named after the scanty clothing of the sexy witch in his Tam o' Shanter poem.  A newly designed bottle, based on an antique version of the Cutty Sark bottle, is packaged in a wooden box and a book illustrated by figurative artist Alexander Goudie.  All show scenes from the famous poem. The Cutty Sark Tam o' Shanter is limited to just 5,000 bottles and will be available shortly for a recommended price of £199.

Highland Park - Thor arrives
The distillery from the Orkney islands have announced a new range of single malt whiskies, and the first release within that range.  The award-winning brand will release four whiskies in The Valhalla Collection, all of which will be named after and inspired by Norse legends and gods.  The Orkney islands have a rich Norse heritage dating back to ancient times and Highland Park consistently use this as a thread through their limited edition whisky ranges.

The first release in The Valhalla Collection is the Highland Park Thor, named after the most famous of the Norse gods.  His hammer is depicted on the bottle and the release is a limited edition (if you can call 20,000 bottles limited ...). It has been bottled at 16 years of age and at the natural cask strength of 52.1% ABV. It is presented in an extraordinary wooden box, which represents the head piece on a Nordic long boat. The retail price will be around the £120 mark. Thor will be available to UK consumers from Monday 30 January via Highland Park's shop, and then elsewhere in the UK and around the world from early February. For further information on the Thor release and The Valhalla Collection - visit the special website www.whiskyofthegods.com.

twitter logoTweet of the Week
@WhiskyParty - What are US micro distillers up to lately? Chuck Cowdery has the lowdown - http://bit.ly/xwhK2q

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wemyss Malts Week - Part 4

Over the last few months we have received a series of packages containing whisky samples from Wemyss Malts. As a result of various circumstances, we have not been able to review and taste them ... until now.  We have decided to put all of these samples together and review them in one week - our very own Wemyss Malts Week.  This will be a four-part series which showcases some whiskies from the companies ever expanding range.

Welcome to the fourth part of the series.  Yesterday, we covered three of the whiskies in Wemyss' single cask bottling range, while on Monday and Tuesday we covered the eight and 12 years old blended malt range with a run down of the company's history and ethos.  Click here to read any of this information from Part 1, to save us covering old ground on each of our posts this week.

In today's final part we continue with Wemyss' range of single cask bottlings.  These are specially selected by the company, with the help of whisky industry legend Charles Maclean, and the range covers different regions of Scotland and different ages of whisky.  Each single cask has been given a name which reflects flavour profile and style of the whisky, rather than the distillery where it was produced.  The single casks are all bottled at 46% ABV and are priced differently according to their age.  The price, plus other cask information, is included in each review below.  Today, we turn our attention to a selection of older single casks from the 1980s and early 1990s.


Caribbean Fruits - Highland
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has the 'fruit' from the name immediately leaping out of the glass.  There are aromas of peach, apricot, pear and a tiny hint of pineapple, which are complimented by some lovely honey, vanilla and sweet malted barley notes.  There are also background hint of cinnamon bark and wet tea leaves.  The palate begins with plenty of bittersweet malted cereals and drying oak spice. It takes time for the sweeter and the fruity notes to kick in and when they do, they are not as expressive or vibrant as on the nose.  The vanilla and honey notes are joined by some golden syrup, while there are again notes of peach, pineapple and pear (this is the only note from the nose which seems stronger now).  Then the drying oak spices fight back and take you into a sparse finish that hints at the vibrant fruits from the nose but little else. There is a little barley sugar-like sweetness in the background. A little hard work from the drinker needed for this one.

Distilled - 1990, bottled - 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 320, price £72, distillery named as - Glencadam

Lemon Grove - Speyside
The colour is pale gold and the nose is fresh and full of vibrancy. A number of uplifting aromas contribute to a wonderfully scented nose - lemon zest, honey, vanilla, fresh green fruits (think of pear and apple), malted barley, something floral (maybe honeysuckle?) and a hint of creamy yeast , which reminds us of pastry.  On the palate, this has an immediate tangy and zesty quality that does have the 'lemon' as suggested in the name.  The fresh feeling in accentuated by a note of crisp green fruit and before it gets to much, some sweetness (vanilla, honey and a little toffee) and drier notes arrive (bittersweet cereals, wood spices and a hint of dried grass).  Again the combination is lovely. As we move in to the finish, the lemon notes soften and become more like lemon curd than the zest.  The finish begins sweetly and gets drier with the wood/baking spices coming through well.  This is a very good cask that has maintained some youthful vibrancy despite its age.

Distilled - 1989, bottled - 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 371, price £69, distillery named as - Cragganmore

Whispering Smoke - Islay
The colour is golden yellow with a slight brown hue.  As with the previous two whiskies, this has a nose with a vibrancy and freshness that defies its age. The peat smoke is obvious and has a distinct whiff of hot tar, but as the name suggests it wafts around your nostrils allowing you to capture the other aromas - green fruit (pear and apple), oatcake biscuits, woody pencil shavings, dried apricot, brown sugar, vanilla, honey and some minty menthol and liquorice.  On the palate, this feels delicate with many subtle notes combining with the soft, smouldering peat smoke (this still has the tar-like feeling). The mix is complex and includes elements of malty barley, vanilla custard, honey, peach, apricot, toffee, toasted oats and an abundance of wood/baking spices - think of cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice.  The delicate yet complex nature carries on in to the finish, which balances some lovely fresh sweetness with increasing drying spices and slightly acrid tar-like smoke.  A very good dram indeed.

Distilled - 1981, bottled - 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 228, price £150, rumoured to be - Caol Ila

What's the verdict?
Where do we start?  This has begun to feel like an epic journey as the week has progressed ... 4 days + 12 whiskies tasted = sensory overload. However, by reviewing the whiskies back-to-back in this way has allowed us to establish a number of key signature characteristics about the Wemyss Malts range. 1 - the quality of casks selected for the single cask range is very high, across all of the regions and styles. 2 - the quality and balance of the blended malt range is equally as high. 3 - because of this, both ranges offer exceptionally good value for money.

The overall range maybe concise but the quality is above that of some of Wemyss' independent bottling contemporaries, in comparison to whiskies that we have tasted to date. The selection of fine casks is clearly key to this and we like the idea of de-emphasising the distillery of origin in favour of flavour characteristics - this removes any preconceptions about the distillery, negative or positive. They are deserving of your attention and that of a wider audience.

Our personal favourites were difficult to pick given the quality whisky on offer, but if we had to stump for two they would be the Peat Chimney eight years old from the blended malt range and the Lemon Grove from the single cask range. All bottlings are available for sale from wemyssmalt.com and from selected specialist whisky retailers.

Post Burns Night blues?

robert burnsYesterday was Burns Night and if you attended some sort of celebration event, then you may be waking up with a slight hangover due to 'one too many' drams of whisky or have a slightly bloated feeling from eating too much haggis and clootie dumpling.  There is also a distinct possibility that once the whiskies began flowing later in the evening that the significance and origins of Scotland's unofficial national day can be forgotten.

A couple of years ago, we wrote a blog post explaining about the history, customs and facts about Burns Night and why it is heavily linked to the world of whisky.  Please click here to find out or re-aquaint yourself with the background behind this famous annual event.  However, if that hangover is hanging around and inhibiting your reading skills, then we have an alternative option ...

Yesterday, Matt met up with Clark McGinn, a good friend and supporter of Whisky For Everyone since we first met him two years ago.  Clark is a world authority and eminent speaker on Robert Burns, his poetry and his language - he has a website called seriousburns.com, has hosted hundreds of Burns Night suppers around the world and has a couple of books about the subject under his belt, including The Ultimate Burns Supper Book.

Clark kindly agreed to record a short video clip for us, in the midst of his busy schedule, that explains briefly about the origin and customs of Burns Night, plus what it has to do with whisky. Watch below as he also recites part of the famous Burns poem Address To A Haggis, which is traditionally read at Burns Night suppers.  Enjoy ...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wemyss Malts Week - Part 3

Over the last few months we have received a series of packages containing whisky samples from Wemyss Malts. As a result of various circumstances, we have not been able to review and taste them ... until now.  We have decided to put all of these samples together and review them in one week - our very own Wemyss Malts Week.  This will be a four-part series which showcases some whiskies from the companies ever expanding range.

Welcome to the third part of the series.  Yesterday, we covered three of the whiskies in Wemyss' 12 years old blended malt range, while on Monday we covered the eight years old blended malt range plus a run down of the company's history and ethos.  Click here to read any of this information from Part 1, to save us covering old ground on each of our posts this week.

In Part 3 we are turning our attention away from the blended malts and towards Wemyss' range of single cask bottlings.  These are specially selected by the company, with the help of whisky industry legend Charles Maclean, and the range covers different regions of Scotland and different ages of whisky.  As with the blended malts each single cask has been given a name which reflects flavour profile and style of the whisky, rather than the distillery where it was produced.  The single casks are all bottled at 46% ABV and are priced differently according to their age.  The price, plus other cask information, is included in each review below.  Today, we kick off with three single casks from the 1990s.


Well Mannered Mint - Islay
The colour is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is light in body but powerful in aroma. It is feisty, bracing and very smoky.  The smokiness has a distinct vegetal quality to it and is reminiscent of heavy bonfire smoke mixed with surgical bandage.  Other aromas are difficult to get, but with a bit of work you can battle through the peat smoke and find lemon zest, oatcakes, vanilla, fresh green fruits (think of pears and apples) and brine.  On the palate, the acrid smoke has that bonfire/bandage feel again, with plenty of chilli heat and spice.  The smoke becomes distinctly ashy and dies away slowly to reveal other notes - vanilla, sweet honey, malted barley, tangy lemon, crisp green apples and a good pinch of salt.  The finish is long, drying and very smoky and salty with some lovely vegetal earthy notes underneath. No mint really anywhere, just a hint of menthol maybe. Good stuff but one for the serious peat lovers only.

Distilled 1999, bottled 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 307, price £45, rumoured to be - Laphroaig

Vanilla Summer - Highlands
The colour is golden yellow and the nose seems delicate, but highly scented with initial notes of honey and vanilla.  Underneath are lovely aromas of sweet malty barley, ripe peaches and honeysuckle. With time, some further aromas of green apple and the faintest whiff of gentle peat smoke are detected. It is very promising.  On the palate, this is instantly more smoky than the nose suggested.  The peat smoke is soft and gentle, and quickly mingles with plenty of vanilla, honey and wood spice notes (think of oak, cinnamon and nutmeg).  It feels a little waxy and creamy in the mouth and a distinct creamed coconut element develops with time.  A zesty lemon tang rounds things off. The finish is on the short side and continues with the honey and wood spice theme, with the green apple note returning. This is clearly from a cask of excellent quality. A delicious dram.

Distilled 1997, bottled 2011, cask : ex-bourbon hogshead, no. bottles - 363, price £61, rumoured to be - Clynelish

Honey Spice - Islay
The colour is dark amber and the nose is immediate and very expressive.  There are the classic ex-sherry cask aromas present - imagine caramel, dark dried fruits (especially raisins), cinnamon and some candied orange peel.  However, there is much more than just these classic aromas going on. There is some brown sugar, burnt butter, rich malted barley, leather and a lick of tobacco smoke. The combination is lovely.  On the palate, this feels silky but with a slight spicy, peppery twist.  There are again plenty of notes fighting for attention once this pepper begins to fade - raisins, spiced orange, caramel, burnt brown sugar and dark chocolate, plus a savoury leathery element that combines well with some integrated soft peat smoke.  The finish is long and rich with the caramel and spiced orange particularly prominent, along with the tobacco-like smokiness which takes ages to fade.  Another excellent and very enjoyable whisky.

Distilled 1991, bottled 2011, cask : ex-sherry butt, no. bottles - 743, price  £69, distillery named as - Bunnahabhain

Join us tomorrow for the final part of Wemyss Malts Week, where we sample and review three of the older single casks bottlings from their range.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wemyss Malts Week - Part 2

Over the last few months we have received a series of packages containing whisky samples from Wemyss Malts. As a result of various circumstances, we have not been able to review and taste them ... until now.  We have decided to put all of these samples together and review them in one week - our very own Wemyss Malts Week.  This will be a four-part series which showcases some whiskies from the companies ever expanding range.

Welcome to the second part of the series.  Yesterday, we covered three of the whiskies in Wemyss' eight years old blended malt range, plus a run down of the company's history and ethos.  Click here to read any of this information from Part 1, to save us covering old ground on each of our posts this week. 

Today, we turn our attention to the Wemyss Malts range of 12 years old blended malts.  These follow the same idea as yesterday's eight years old range, as they are all named to reflect the flavour profile and give the consumer a clue as to its characteristics.  Each whisky in the range is made from a hand selected selection of single malts, which are married together for a period of time before bottling.  They are all bottled at a strength of 40% ABV and retail for £35 each.  For further information about Wemyss Malts, their ranges and to purchase, please visit www.wemyssmalts.com.


The Hive - 12 years old
The colour is a vibrant golden yellow and the majority of the single malts used here are from the Speyside region of Scotland.  The nose is packed with honey aromas (we guess the clue was in the name, right?), along with plenty of vanilla and malty cereal grains. There are other aromas of golden syrup, stewed apple and a pinch of baking spice. On the palate, this feels a little tangy with some unexpected orange zest up front.  It then settles down an plenty of sweet honey notes are present, along with vanilla, toasted nuts, burnt sugar, some wood/baking spice (especially nutmeg) and some malted barley which gives a pleasant bittersweet edge and stops it from being too sweet.  This maltiness seems to increase in to the finish and gives the whisky a good grip in the mouth.  The finish is short-ish but with another good dollop of honey towards the end, plus a hint of faint tobacco leaf.

The Spice King - 12 years old
The colour is golden amber and the signature malt here is from one of the islands of Scotland.  The nose is rich and full of harmonious aromas - honey, vanilla, candied citrus peel, sultana, stewed apple, baking spice (especially cinnamon), plus hints of custard and soft, gentle peat smoke.  On the palate, this feels soft and velvety before a hit of peat smoke and spice kicks in to add some vibrancy.  The dominant notes are sweet - think of honey, cereals and dried fruits in particular - with plenty of candied and spiced orange coming later.  There is a pudding-like apple crumble type note also.  The underlying spices and peat become softer and mellower with time.  The balance is very good with the spice/peat combination stopping it from being too sweet and sugary.  The finish is of decent length with a highly enjoyable combination of brown sugar, cinnamon, honey, soft peat and tangy orange peel.  The eight years old version was good but this raises the bar to a new level.

The Peat Chimney - 12 years old
The colour is golden yellow and this is a complex blend of 16 single malts, with the emphasis on the smoky Islay whiskies. The nose is packed full of punchy peat smoke aromas and these have a fresh, bracing quality.  The peat is sweet and fragrant.  The other aromas are also sweet with notes of honey, brown sugar, vanilla and malty cereals all present.  Underneath is a whiff of salty brine and something vegetal and a bit mossy.  On the palate, this is obviously sweet and a little sugary (think of icing sugar) but then ... boom, the spicy and peppery hot peat smoke kicks in.  The feeling creates a mouth watering freshness.  Once the heat and smoke settle, an underlying malted barley note is joined by other more delicate flavours - vanilla, honey, fresh green pear, lemon zest, oatcake biscuit and a pinch of cinnamon and ginger spice.  There is also some of the salty tang from the nose detected.  The finish is long with the strength of the peat smoke combining delightfully with the sweet honeyed notes.  Very good, especially for the price point of £35.

Join us tomorrow for Part 3, where we move on to sample and review some single cask offerings from the Wemyss Malts range.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wemyss Malts Week - Part 1

Over the last few months we have received a series of packages containing whisky samples from Wemyss Malts. As a result of various circumstances, we have not been able to review and taste them ... until now.  We have decided to put all of these samples together and review them in one week - our very own Wemyss Malts Week.  This will be a four-part series which showcases some whiskies from the companies ever expanding range.

Wemyss Malts is a Scottish based company which specialises in hand crafted whiskies.  It forms part of the larger Wemyss brand, which includes Darnley's View gin and two wine brands - Fonty's Pool from Western Australia and Rimauresq from Provence, France.  All are owned by the Wemyss family (pronounced weems), whose base is Wemyss Castle in Fife.  The castle overlooks the famous Firth of Forth estuary and has been the family home since 1421 when it was constructed by Sir John Wemyss.

The Wemyss family have traditional ties to the whisky industry and these remain, as barley grown on their estate is still used by leading distillery companies.  The ties date back to the beginning of the 18th century when the family allowed a tenant called John Haig to build his first distillery on some of their land.  His whisky, called Haig's, proved to be very popular and remains a best seller today.

The range of Wemyss Malts are all hand crafted and designed to make things easier and more accessible for the consumer.  The are split in to two categories - blended malts and single cask malts - and each release is given a name relating to its flavour profile, rather than the distillery of origin.  This is to help with the consumer recognising what the whisky will taste like and selecting one through their personal preferences.

The whiskies are all from casks which are hand selected by the family under the guidance of whisky legend Charles Maclean.  The blended malt range are all bottled at 40% ABV and appear at age points of five, eight and 12 years.  The single cask malts are of a variety of ages, are all taken from premium single casks within the Wemyss collection and bottled at 46% ABV.  For further information about Wemyss Malts, their range and to purchase - visit www.wemyssmalts.com.

We kick off our Wemyss Malts Week with three offerings from the eight years old blended malts range (pictured, above).  Each of these contains just single malts whiskies, with up to 16 blended together in some cases, and each has a definitive flavour style which lends its name to each blend.  The minimum age of any whisky included is eight years old. Once selected and blended, each of the new whisky combinations are left to marry together for a number of months to give the most integrated flavour profile possible. All are £29 for a bottle.

The Smooth Gentleman - 8 years old
The colour is golden yellow and the majority of the malts in this are from the Speyside region. The nose has a decent and sweet scent that includes aromas of caramel, dried fruits (think of raisins and sultanas), malty cereals and a hint of spiced orange.  It seems youthful with some vibrant spirit showing through.  Underneath are some aromas of honey and cinnamon bark.  On the palate, this has initial notes of malted barley and bitter orange.  The sweeter honey, caramel and dried fruit notes fight through once the youthful spirit settles down and this leads to a pleasant and refreshing end to the palate and finish.  There is also a hint of faint tobacco-like smoke present. The finish is initially sweet with plenty of caramel present. It becomes drier towards the end, with some good wood spice notes finish things off. Slightly disappointing and not particularly 'smooth' to our palates.

The Spice King - 8 years old
The colour is golden yellow with a hint of amber and most of the malts included are from the Highlands and islands of Scotland. The nose is vibrant and the 'spice' in the name is present in the form of an interesting peppery note. There are also aromas of golden syrup, light earthy peat smoke, caramel, fresh orange zest and sultanas. On the palate, the peat smoke is more evident and is the first element to hit the taste buds. Then comes the spicy peppery note followed by some sweetness which adds balance, depth and complexity.  The sweet notes include honey, brown sugar, caramel and dried fruits.  A twist of bittersweet orange zest creates further interest.  The finish is quite long and enjoyable with the damp earthy peat smoke and some bittersweet cereals lingering for ages. This is a lovely whisky that offers plenty on all levels, although it seems more smoky than 'spicy'. Delicious and a very well constructed whisky.

The Peat Chimney - 8 years old
The colour is golden yellow and the majority of the whiskies present are from the famous whisky island of Islay. The nose is vibrant and a little feisty with plenty of peppery, almost chilli-like peat smoke. Underneath are aromas of sweet honey, vanilla, green fruit (maybe some apple?) wet moss, heavy malted cereal grains and some dried grass.  Considering the strength of characterful aromas, this comes across as being quite light and heady. It's all very promising.  On the palate, there is a lovely initial mix of sugary (almost icing sugar-like) sweetness and burning damp peat smoke. Some honey, vanilla and oatcake notes add depth and the combination works very well.  The sweet honey continues to build with time. Towards the end, a pinch of drying wood spice appears and the sweet smoky element in heightened by this.  The finish is full of malty sweet cereals and smouldering bonfire-like smoke, and hangs around for ever.  A very impressive dram, especially for the price of £29, and our favourite of the three whiskies tasted today.

Join us tomorrow for Wemyss Malts Week - Part 2, where we sample and review some more of their blended malts range.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Canadian Whisky Awards


The second annual Canadian Whisky Awards have just taken place in Victoria, British Columbia as part of the Victoria Whisky Festival.  The gala ceremony was held to celebrate some of the best and most innovative whiskies produced in Canada during 2011 and the contribution of pioneers from within the industry.

Now, we choose to not normally comment or report on the numerous whisky awards ceremonies around the world - it is hard to keep up with the exploding number of such awards and this makes it difficult to select which awards hold more gravitas and importance. However, we openly admit that we know very little about Canadian whiskies and the industry in that country.  This is something that we are currently working on given the growth in popularity of Canadian whisky and a recent email that we received kindly telling us, "how can you call yourselves Whisky For Everyone, if you never mention Canadian whiskies ...?" Watch this space.

The Canadian Whisky Awards are the brainchild of Davin de Kergommeaux - the world authority on Canadian whisky and writer of the must-read website canadianwhisky.org.  His goal is to raise awareness about the fine whiskies coming out of the country and bring further information to a wider audience. Davin was head of the seven man judging panel, which included some of Canada's best known whisky writers, bloggers and broadcasters.  The whisky producers were asked to submit their best whiskies and each was sampled and scored in a blind tasting by the judges.

Gold Medals were awarded to just five exceptional whiskies -  Forty Creek John's Private Cask No.1, Gibson's Finest Rare 18 years old, Masterson's Rye, Wiser's Legacy and Wiser's Small Batch.  A further 12 whiskies were awarded Silver Medals and eight were awarded Bronze Medals. The most prestigious prize of Canadian Whisky of the Year 2011 went to the Forty Creek John's Private Cask No.1 (pictured, above), which is produced by Kittling Ridge Estate Wines & Spirits. Numerous other awards were presented, including the Canadian Whisky Innovations category which saw the White Owl whisky - a filtered, clear rye whisky made by Highwood Distillers in Alberta which has taken the cocktail world by storm (pictured, below) - take the first prize.

As we say, we have not tried very many Canadian whiskies to date but hopefully the increased popularity and exposure that they are receiving will result in more becoming available in the UK. We hope to track down, taste and review the two winners named above. In the mean time if you have tried either of them, please leave a comment below and let us know how they taste, what they are like and any other notes that you may want to add.  We look forward to reading the results.

For more information about the awards and prize winners, and Canadian whisky in general - visit www.canadianwhisky.org.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inbox - January 20, 2012

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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. This week again includes our new feature - Tweet of the week. This is our favourite piece of news or information that we have seen on Twitter recently. Here we go with this week's news ...
Benriach - Sweet seventeen
The innovative Speyside distillery of Benriach have announced the launch of a new single malt in to their core range.  The Septendecim is a peated, smoky whisky which joins the Curiositas and Authenticus in the award-winning smoky section of the range.  The new release sits in between the two in terms of age at 17 years old. Septendecim is the Latin word for seventeen. The Septendecim is bottled at 46% ABV and will be available worldwide shortly.

The Sales Director of Benriach, Alistair Walker says, “Septendecim is a real robust heavyweight, full-bodied and beautifully balanced with enormous impact. It’s another fine example of our distillery going back to its nineteenth-century roots - a time when, unlike today, the majority of Speyside distilleries were producing peated whiskies.”

Dalmore - The Cigar Malt returns
The Highland distillery of Dalmore has announced the re-birth of a classic whisky from their collection. The previous incarnation of the Cigar Malt was retired in 2007.  This new version is named the Cigar Malt Reserve and has been matured in a combination of ex-Oloroso sherry, ex-American oak bourbon and ex-Cabernet Sauvignon red wine casks. The CMR is aimed at whisky connoisseurs and cigar aficionados and is bottled at a strength of 44% ABV.  It will be available from February in specialist whisky retailers and in the travel retail sector, costing £70 a bottle.

Dalmore's Master Blender Richard Paterson says, “Many fans were disappointed when the old Cigar Malt left the range, so we set about creating an even better whisky that would allow those fans to experience a great single malt that has been specifically crafted with cigar pairings in mind. It’s a great match to a number of cigars but I would highly recommend enjoying it with a Partagas No.2 cigar as the flavours work in perfect harmony together."

twitter logoTweet of the week 
@PenderynWhisky - Complete the sentence: If I were a whisky, I'd be... (and tell us why!) - click here to tell us.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have just tried - The Tweeddale Blend (Batch No.2)

The Tweeddale Blend is a whisky created by Stonedean Limited. The company was established by Alasdair Day, who is currently the director, in January 2009 and his aim was to resurrect an old blended whisky recipe that was last produced over 70 years ago. This was named The Tweeddale Blend and was originally produced by Alasdair's great grandfather Richard Day, a licensed grocer from Edinburgh in the 1920s.  The recipe for the blend dates back even further to the 1820s when previous owners of the shop, J&A Davidson, started producing their own range of blended whiskies as many such businesses were doing at the time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New release - Glenmorangie Artein

The famous Highland distillery of Glenmorangie has announced the third release in its Private Editions range. Named Artein, which is the Gaelic word for stone, the new single malt joins the popular Sonnalta and Finealta in the range. The name refers to the influence the local limestone has on the water used in Glenmorangie's whisky production. Glenmorangie Artein is crafted from American white oak ex-bourbon casks of 15 year old and 21 year old whiskies (in the ratio of 2:1), which were hand selected by Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr. Bill Lumsden. These subsequently underwent an extra maturation period in Super Tuscan Sassacaia wine casks.  Artein has been bottled at 46% ABV and will retail at £70 a bottle.

The name of Glenmorangie is one of the most famous in the world of whisky and their innovative single malts continue to add to hefty list of major awards. The distillery is located in the Highland town of Tain and is approximately 40 miles (65km) north of Inverness. The distillery was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and is now one of Scotland’s largest whisky distilleries with a recently increased annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills at Glenmorangie are also the tallest in Scotland at 5 metres (16.5 feet) high and makes the still house resemble a cathedral. They are all exact replicas of the original stills that were purchased from a gin distillery in London in 1843. The current owners of Glenmorangie are LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey), who took control in 2004.

Our tasting notes
The colour is amber with a distinct reddish/russet hue. The nose is highly perfumed and combines strong fruitiness and sweetness.  The fruitiness is that of rich, dried fruits (think of raisins, sultanas, cherries and cranberries) and the sweetness has a brown sugar and honey-like feel to it.  Under these are more subtle aromas of orange zest, vanilla, malty grains and wood spice (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg). The nose gets better and better with time and is very promising - it makes you want to taste the whisky. 

On the palate, there is again the mixture of fruitiness and sweetness, but with more prominent wood spice now (plenty of tannic oak and warming cinnamon bark notes).  There is plenty of red fruit (think of plums, cherries, fruit jam) mixed with some softer dried fruits (raisins especially). The effect is quite wine-like and increasingly savoury, especially when the brown sugar and honey notes fade and the drying wood spices and tannins start to kick in towards the end of the palate and on the finish. The delicacy of the light, vibrant Glenmorangie spirit is somewhat lost, with the more subtle notes struggling to get through.  The finish is long, savoury and quite dry with a pleasant dash of jam-like sweetness and a hint of burnt orange peel.  A woody, tannic dryness takes an age to fade from your mouth.

What's the verdict?
Glenmorangie have created a very interesting and expressive whisky here. However, it will not have universal appeal - if you are a fan of Glenmorangie's light style of single malt, then you may struggle with this.  Artein is full of luscious and warming flavours but it offers a good challenge, especially on the palate.  The influence of the wine cask is in danger of hijacking the whisky. 

In something like Glenmorangie's Quinta Ruban, which has been part-matured in ex-Port casks, the sweetness compensates for the richness that the wine cask brings.  In the Artein the influence of the red wine cask gives a much more savoury feel.  This creates a very drier, spicier and more tannic flavour profile. As we said, it is very interesting stuff and worth searching out, especially if you have never tasted a whisky that has been matured in ex-red wine casks before.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Have just tried - Sazerac Rye

Sazerac Rye is an American whiskey that is made at the Buffalo Trace distillery.  The distillery is located in the town of Frankfort, which is in the famous American whiskey making state of Kentucky.  The whiskey was originally made in the early 1800s in New Orleans by The Sazerac Company, which was owned by entrepreneur Thomas H. Handy. It was designed to be the house whiskey in his business The Sazerac Coffee House, which is the birthplace of the popular Sazerac cocktail. The Sazerac Company was purchased by Buffalo Trace in 1992 and they have produced the whiskey at their distillery ever since.

The striking award winning bottle was created by the US design agency SPAR. They used the influence of antique bottles found in The Getz Bourbon Museum in Bardstown, Kentucky to design a stunning bottle with a mid-1800s period feel. Sazerac Rye is matured for approximately six years and is bottled at a strength of 45% ABV (90° Proof).  It is still relatively difficult to find in the UK but can be found within a small selection of specialist liquor retailers.  It should cost around the £30-35 mark for a 75cl bottle.

In America whiskey is made using a mixture of grain types, most commonly wheat, corn/maize, barley and rye. These are mixed in different proportions and percentages with each other to create the unique recipes for each whiskey.  In Sazerac Rye, as with all rye whiskies, the percentage of rye grain in the mash mixture has to legally be greater than 51%.  Other laws stipulate that rye whiskey must be distilled at an alcohol level less than 80% ABV and that it must be matured for a minimum of two years in new American oak casks.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow and the nose has a real 'wow factor' - it is vibrant with a lovely, promising scent. There are initial aromas of sweet vanilla, fresh coconut, tangy orange zest, sweet honey and robust bittersweet cereals.  The vibrancy is highlighted by plenty of woody and spicy notes that grip your nostrils - cinnamon bark, nutmeg, sandalwood, cedarwood, toasted almonds.  On the palate, this spiciness continues unabated with an initial wave of drying woodiness.  It replicates the aromas from the nose very closely and much like on the nose, these notes grip the palate. The fragrance that comes from it in the mouth is almost overwhelming. Then comes another wave of sweet orange, coconut, something floral and plenty of honey, all of which balance the prominent spice notes.  The combination is challenging and intense but delicious.  The finish is dry, spicy and bittersweet.  Plenty of the rye grains are present here, along with the wood spices, which leaves your mouth watering.

What's the verdict?
Sazerac Rye is a deliciously vibrant and expressive whiskey which sets you a challenge from the first moment that you encounter it.  It is intense and has a lovely combination between the dry, spicy, sweet and bittersweet elements, which are all battling for your attention.  Having not tried many rye whiskies, we cannot really say if these are typical notes for the genre but it has made us want to sample others.  To be fair, the whiskey is a little hard work on its own and seems perfectly suited for mixing in such cocktails as the Sazerac or Old Fashioned.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Inbox - January 13, 2012

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we 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. This week also includes a new feature - Tweet of the week. This is our favourite piece of news or information that we have seen on Twitter recently.

Things are slowly getting back up to speed in the whisky world following the festive period - here is what has caught our attention this week ...

Glenrothes - Last chance to create a Vintage
Back in October, we reported on the launch of the Glenrothes Vintage Maker 2012 competition. With the entry deadline fast approaching, the Speyside distillery have released the short video below to help with some inspiration.  In it, Glenrothes' Brand Ambassador Ronnie Cox talks about the Vintages and the competition. There will be three separate competitions resulting in four winners each from the UK, the USA and from the rest of the world. The winners will be recruited to work as The Glenrothes Vintage Makers to create the Glenrothes Vintage 2012.

This will involve learning the art of making The Glenrothes and spending time working at each stage of the production process - this includes testing the purity of the water source, milling the malt, mashing, adding yeast to the washbacks and overseeing fermentation, distilling new make spirit in copper pot stills and making casks at the cooperage. The winners will also nose single malt from maturing casks and will stay in Rothes House, a private home belonging to the family that owns The Glenrothes. For further information and to enter, go to www.theglenrothes.com/vintagemaker.



Morrison Bowmore Distillers - Announce new Master Blender
The company which owns the three Scottish distilleries of Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch have announced the appointment of Rachel Barrie to the newly created position of Master Blender for their single malt whiskies. She will also head Morrison Bowmore Distillers' laboratory and Spirit Quality Control units.

Rachel Barrie is best known for her recent work in the positions of Product Development Manager and Master Blender at The Glenmorangie Company, where she was responsible for the creation of such award winning master pieces as the Glenmorangie Signet and Ardbeg Corryvreckan.  She will report to Andrew Rankin, the Operation Director and Chief Blender for Morrison Bowmore Distillers.  He comments, "We have a very strong blending team within the company and this appointment will massively strengthen and reinforce our commitment to producing the ultimate in quality single malt Scotch whiskies.”

twitter logoTweet of the week
@TheBenRiach - Update from the malt floor: we're starting to malt our own barley in March/April. Earlier than expected. Good times ;)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New releases - Highland Park 1971 & 1976 Orcadian Vintages


Just prior to Christmas, Highland Park - the single malt from the Orkney islands - added two further limited edition Vintages to their esteemed range of premium whiskies. The first was distilled in 1971 and the second was distilled in 1976. The pair will be appearing in specialist whisky retailers shortly and join three other whiskies that are currently available in the Highland Park Orcadian Vintage range - the 1964, 1968 & 1970. All are bottled in the same bespoke black glass bottles, which feature an embossed amulet of the Highland Park logo and are presented in a wooden casket.

Highland Park is the most northern whisky distillery in Scotland. In fact, it is one of the most northern distilleries of any kind in the world, beating others in Canada and Russia. As mentioned, Highland Park is located on the Orkney islands, which lie just off the north coast of the Scottish mainland.  It is found close to the capital of Kirkwall and is one of only two distilleries on the main island (Scapa being the other). Highland Park has one of the best selling and most highly awarded single malt whisky ranges in the world. It is currently owned by the Edrington Group and has an annual production capacity of 2.5 million litres.

Highland Park is one of the oldest whisky distilleries in Scotland and was established in 1798 by the legendary Magnus Eunson. He was known as the 'whisky priest' - he was a priest by day and an illegal whisky distiller by night! The story goes that he used to store the whisky in the crypt under Kirkwall cathedral so that it would be safe from the nosy Customs & Excise men!

Here, we will be sampling and reviewing the two new releases, along with the 1970 Vintage, which we were delighted to also get the opportunity to taste at a recent event. Let's kick off with that ...

Our tasting notes - 1970
Strength - 48% ABV/ Casks - mix of ex-bourbon & ex-sherry/ Bottles - 1,800/ Price - £2,300
The colour is a dark golden amber and the nose is rich, complex and enticing. There is so much going on here that it is difficult to pin down specific aromas.  There are prominent aromas of butterscotch and dark dried fruits, plus some exotic fruits such as peach and apricot. The fruit jumps out, but other aromas include muscovado sugar, honey, vanilla and stewed apple, plus background tobacco smoke and baking spice. On the palate, this hits the spot - its warm, soft and very rich.  A creamy coffee notes hits first, then comes a delicious barrage of the dried and stewed fruits from the nose.  Then come notes of peach, oak spice and soft, delicate peat which add further depth. The finish is wonderfully sweet and long with a lovely balance of oak spice and distant earthy peat smoke. A magnificent whisky.

Our tasting notes - 1971
Strength - 46.9% ABV/ Casks - ex-sherry Spanish oak/ Bottles - 657/ Price - £2,300
The colour is a bright golden amber and the nose is fragrant but with a surprising delicacy. There are plenty of burnt brown sugar, toasted nuts, earthy peat smoke and waxy furniture polish aromas and these mix beautifully. Underneath are hints of baking spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice), some dried fruit (especially citrus peel) and a leafy, herbal note.  On the palate, this is rich and powerful but velvety with a number of delicious, mouth watering notes combining expertly - crumbly brown sugar, drying and soft earthy peat, roasted/toasted nuts plus hints of dried tropical fruits, coffee beans, cocoa powder and baking spice.  The leafy, herbal note is also there again and is reminiscent of dried tobacco.  The initially sweet finish lingers for ages and becomes drier towards the end, with the smokiness outlasting everything.

Our tasting notes - 1976
Strength - 49.1% ABV/ Casks - ex-bourbon American oak/ Bottles - 893/ Price - £2,000
The colour is a golden honey yellow and the nose is vibrant, fresh and promising.  There is prominent initial peat smoke and the earthy aromas fade to reveal some vanilla, honey, dried grass and sweet butterscotch and zesty lemon. The dried grass herbal notes carry on through to the palate.  There is plenty going on and the smokiness is again prominent and earthy. Other notes include oatcakes, honey, vanilla, coconut and cocoa powder. It feels creamy with a slight minerality and switches from sweet to savoury very well.  Some tangy lemon zest again adds even further depth. The finish is long and drying with the peat smoke fading after significant time.

What's the verdict?
These are an excellent selection of whiskies. We don't often get to sample such expensive single malts and the few sips that we had of these were a privilege.  Which one is our favourite?  That is difficult to answer - it would be like if we had three children and asking which of those are your favourites.  You love them all but each for a different character and reason. The only problem is that the price puts them out of most people's reach, including ours.  Commonly, people think that older whiskies are better - this is not always true but in this case, Highland Park have hit the mark and given us three exceptional whiskies.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New release - Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or 15 years old

The famous Highland distillery of Glenmorangie has increased the age of its popular Nectar D'Or single malt whisky. The decision sees the whisky still matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for 10 years before being moved to ex-Sauternes dessert wine barriques for five years - an addition of three years to the previous 12 years old release. The new version is non-chill filtered, bottled at 46% ABV and should retail in the £45-50 price band - it will be available in specialist whisky retailers and larger supermarkets.

Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie is the whisky's creator, and he comments, “The result of extra-maturing for an additional three years has improved an already outstandingly voluptuous whisky; Nectar D’Òr 15 Years Old is characterised by rich flavours of luscious desserts and spicy oak tannins".

The name of Glenmorangie is one of the most famous in the world of whisky and their innovative single malts continue to add to hefty list of major awards. The distillery is located in the Highland town of Tain and is approximately 40 miles (65km) north of Inverness. The distillery was founded in 1843 by William Matheson and is now one of Scotland’s largest whisky distilleries with a recently increased annual production capacity of six million litres. The stills at Glenmorangie are also the tallest in Scotland at 5 metres (16.5 feet) high and makes the still house resemble a cathedral. They are all exact replicas of the original stills that were purchased from a gin distillery in London in 1843. The current owners of Glenmorangie are LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey), who took control in 2004.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a wonderful bright golden yellow and the nose is vibrant, fresh and sweet.  There are some delicious initial aromas that hit the nostrils - vanilla, sweet golden syrup, lemon zest and fresh almonds.  With time, further aromas start to reveal themselves and the combination with those initial ones is very good and makes you want to taste the whisky.  The further aromas include sultanas, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, coconut and some crumbly brown sugar.  On the palate, this grips the taste buds and holds on.  It feels rich and has plenty of initial wood spice to balance, but never feels too heavy or syrupy.  This spiciness manifests itself as notes of oak, cinnamon and nutmeg.  There is fresh sweetness that is driven by notes of honey and vanilla, and these are counteracted by some fresh vibrant citrus characteristics - think of zesty lemon and tangy bittersweet grapefruit.  The palate has continuing depth, warmth and complexity to it. The finish is again warming with plenty of zesty citrus and wood spice being complimented by sweet sultana and honey notes.  It fades elegantly and becomes a little dry right at the end.

What's the verdict?
This is a high quality and indulgent whisky.  It manages to combine softness and sweetness with spice and intensity of flavour very well.  It is only natural to compare with the previous 12 years old version, which from memory was a little more delicate and floral. Glenmorangie are one of the leading pioneers in the field of 'finishing' and the use of un-orthodox casks. The nature of their continued innovation and the rarity of anything matured or part-matured in ex-Sauternes casks, in addition to the quality of Nectar D'Or, makes you wonder why more distilleries do not do the same.

For further information on the Glenmorangie distillery - click on the distillery profile page on our website. If you would like to compare this review of the new version with that of the previous 12 years old version of Nectar D'Or - click here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New release - Jura Elixir

Just before Christmas we reported on the release of a new single malt expression in to the popular island distillery of Jura's core range.  Named Jura Elixir, the whisky received a 'soft' pre-Xmas release, seeing it bottled in the half-bottle 35cl size.  The new whisky has been produced to be 'fruity and spicy' and is produced from a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry cask maturations.  It takes its name from the fresh local water, which the islanders call the 'elixir of life' and was believed to have been blessed by St. Columba in 560AD.  It is this water that is used to make whisky at the distillery. The Elixir 35cl costs £16.49 and is currently exclusive to Sainsbury's, the major UK supermarket chain. Plans for a full 70cl bottle are planned to follow.

The Jura distillery is located on the isle of Jura, which lies off the west coast of Scotland next to the famous whisky island of Islay. The distillery was founded in 1810 by Archibald Campbell and was originally called the Small Isles distillery - named after the numerous small islands located in Craighouse Bay, which the distillery overlooks. It was closed for a long period between 1901 and 1960, at which point it was rebuilt and re-named as Jura by Charles Mackinlay & Co. Production restarted in 1963.

The name of Jura translates as 'deer island' from the ancient Nordic language, and deer still outnumber people by a ratio of 20:1 on the island. To put that amount in to context, there are only 220 who live on the island according to the last UK Census in 2011. The distillery has an annual production capacity of two million litres and is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay, a subsidiary of Indian company United Spirits. The addition of Elixir to the core range is planned to cement Jura's position as one of the fastest growing single malt brands in the category.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden amber and the nose is initially very sweet.  There are huge obvious aromas of caramel, sultanas and toffee.  It feels soft and sugary and with time, other aromas penetrate the intense sweetness.  There is something buttery, malty cereal grains, warm cooked biscuits, a decent pinch of baking/wood spice (think of cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice) and a hint of wet, earthy peat.  On the palate, this feels a little thinner than expected given the richness and sweetness of the nose.  The sweetness is still there in the form of the caramel/toffee but there is a slight edge to it, reminiscent of burnt brown sugar.  The juicy dried fruits (imagine sultanas and raisins) temper this note, as does a pleasant spiced orange peel characteristic.  Underneath are notes of oat biscuit, vanilla, wet earth, honey and another decent pinch of those woody baking spices.  An increasing element of damp, slightly acrid peat smoke seems to rise from the wet earth note as the whisky sits on the palate for increasing time.  The finish is again initially sweet with plenty of honey, caramel and dried fruit.  These notes then give way to some drier notes, which give much needed balance.  These notes include some bittersweet malty cereals, nutmeg and a hint of dried grass.

What's the verdict?
This is an interesting whisky ... but you will need to enjoy an unrestrained level of sweetness to fully appreciate it.  To this end, it would be a perfect choice for a whisky beginner who has a sweet tooth.  The sweetness is tempered by a refreshing lightness (normally extrovert sweetness brings heaviness and richness) and the background smokiness. The combination works quite well. A good, solid offering and maybe worth a try for £16.49.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Have just tried - Glenfarclas 17 years old

Glenfarclas distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, close to the small town of Ballindalloch. It is owned by J&G Grant and is the second oldest family owned distillery in Scotland. Glenfarclas translates as ‘the valley of green grass’ from Gaelic. The distillery has an annual production capacity of three million litres and boasts the largest stills in Speyside. They are reknowned for their use of quality ex-sherry European oak casks for maturation and release a comprehensive core range of single malt whiskies. 

George Hay founded a distillery on the current Glenfarclas site in 1836, although records show that an illegal farm distillery had been operating there since 1797. He named the distillery Rechlerich (pronounced reck-leh-rick). In 1865, it was sold to neighbour John Grant and here started the second longest continuous line of family ownership in Scottish whisky history. Only the Mitchell family, who own Springbank in Campbeltown, have owned the same distillery for longer. In 1896, the distillery was completely rebuilt by John’s son, George, and with that came increased production and success, plus the name change to Glenfarclas. The distillery continues to be owned by the sixth generation of the Grant family to this day.

This 17 years old release is slightly more limited than its siblings in the core Glenfarclas range.  It is bottled at a strength of 43% ABV and should retail for between £65-70 a bottle.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a  golden amber and the nose has a number of lovely scents vying for your attention - imagine golden syrup, dark dried fruits (especially sultanas), candied orange peel and a pinch of baking spice, reminiscent of cinnamon and nutmeg.  With time, some further more subtle notes appear and combine well with the initial aromas.  These include some dried apple, brown sugar and a hint of fresh peach.  On the palate, this whisky is warming, velvety and soft with plenty of initial flavours coming through.  There is plenty of freshness, which can be lacking in whiskies with a heavy ex-sherry cask influence.  Initially there is a pleasant cereal note that mixes with sweet honey, some heavily spiced orange and sultanas.  These continue throughout and are joined by further notes which add depth and complexity - soft brown sugar, cinnamon bark, dried pear and apple, some drying oak and just the merest hint of distant earthy peat.  The finish is just as rich.  It begins sweetly, with plenty of honey and dried fruit, before turning drier and spicier.  The malty cereals and wood spices are particularly prominent here, as is the zesty spiced orange.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely expression of Glenfarclas and one which is not quite as rich, sweet and heavy as some of the others in the core range.  It manages to combine a good level of sweetness and fruitiness with a balance of wood spices and dryness.  The element of prominent zesty orange is very pleasant and this, along with the hint of peat, gives a wonderful depth of character.  This is one of our favourite Glenfarclas single malts to date and a great addition to an already excellent range of whiskies.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Inbox - January 6, 2012

whisky for everyone inbox logoInbox returns following a brief festive break with the first edition of 2012. Both of us would firstly like to wish everyone a slightly belated Happy New Year. For those of you who may have discovered us recently ... welcome to Whisky For Everyone.

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we 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.

The Christmas and New Year period is traditionally a quiet time in terms of marketing and PR.  However, things will soon start to warm up again. A few articles of interest have landed in the last couple of weeks, so here goes ...
Balblair - Oldest Vintage get a revamp
The Balblair distillery in the north Highlands have revealed stylish new packaging for their prestigious Vintage - the 1965.  This is the oldest Vintage in their current range and has been re-launched in a deluxe gift box made from black satin wood and lined with cream leather.  It also features a draw which contains a certificate of authenticity signed by Distillery Manager John MacDonald and a booklet containing tasting notes. The whisky has been taken from a single ex-bourbon cask and this has yielded just 350 bottles.  It has an strength of 52.3% ABV and is available now from high-end specialist retailers at a cost of £1,200 each.

Benriach - New Solstice released
The award winning independent Speyside distillery of Benriach have bottled a second version of their popular Solstice single malt.  It was released on 21 December - the day of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  The first bottling was released on the same day in 2010 and was highly regarded with Jim Murray describing it in the latest version of his Whisky Bible as 'spellbinding'.  This release, like the first edition, is heavily peated and has been matured in ex-bourbon casks, before finishing in ex-tawny Port casks.  It is older at 17 years of age and has a strength of 50% ABV. Sales Director for Benriach, Alistair Walker said: “Our new malt is a superb marriage of peat and fruit, a worthy successor to our 15 year old Solstice ... and just as spellbinding".

Benriach - 10,000 casks and counting
More news from Benriach, this time in the form of a milestone.  Just before Christmas, the independently owned distillery filled its 10,000th cask with new make spirit since the new ownership re-started Benriach in 2004. The cask in question was a second fill ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon, which holds approximately 500 litres. Benriach's Distillery Manager and friend of Whisky For Everyone, Stuart Buchanan (pictured in the slightly fuzzy photo to the left) commented, "There is no doubt in terms of blood, sweat and tears, this has been the busiest year we have had at the distillery since it became independent. As we entered December, we had a wee suspicion that we might hit the magic 10,000 cask number and we eventually filled cask it on Wednesday December 14th.”

Glenmorangie - Artein hits the market
The famous Highland distillery has announced the third release in its Private Editions range. Named Artein, which is the Gaelic word for stone, the new single malt joins the popular Sonnalta and Finealta in the range. The name refers to the influence the local limestone has on the water used in Glenmorangie's whisky production. Glenmorangie Artein is crafted from American white oak ex-bourbon casks of 15 year old and 21 year old whiskies (in the ratio of 2:1), which were hand selected by Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation Dr. Bill Lumsden. These subsequently underwent an extra maturation period in Super Tuscan Sassacaia wine casks.  Artein has been bottled at 46% ABV and will retail at £70 a bottle.

Mackmyra - Open new distillery
Just before Christmas, the Swedish distillery in the town of Gävle has opened its new distillery.  The move was driven by the ever growing popularity of Mackmyra's single malt whiskies, which continues to win plaudits around the world.  The facility, known as the Mackmyra Whisky Village, was designed by architect Thomas Eriksson and features a set of underground maturation warehouses. It also features an innovative system that uses gravity to aid whisky production, with the milling and mashing processes starting things off at the top of its 37 storey high building.  The MWV has an annual capacity of 1.2 million litres, which quadruples the output of the original distillery built in 1999. Full production and visitor tours will commence in the Spring.  In the meantime, check out the short video below which shows the opening event on 17 December 2011. You will have to brush up on your Swedish though ...



Tullamore Dew - UK release for Special Reserve
The popular Irish whiskey brand has released its award winning 12 year old Special Reserve expression on to the UK market. New owners William Grant & Sons have seen this expression sell exceptionally well in the USA. It is a unique blend of three different types of triple distilled Irish whiskey - Irish pot still, malt and grain - all of which have been aged between 12 and 15 years. The whiskey has been matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks to create a blend of great depth and complexity.  The whiskey is available now in good supermarkets and specialist retailers with prices starting at around £30.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Our Top 10 whiskies of 2011 - Numbers 1 to 5


Welcome to our Top 10 whiskies of 2011. Some people like Top 10s, some don't. They are always subjective and therefore contentious as a result - everyone has differing opinions at the end of the day. We have tried to select our Top 10 on a ratio of quality, value for money and availability to the public. To this end, there are not really any single cask or independent bottlings included, despite some excellent ones being sampled throughout the year. However, some are limited edition bottlings that are still available to purchase.

We have split our choices in to two parts. In this second part we cover our Top 5, including our 'Whisky of the Year', plus a short list of some excellent whiskies that didn't quite make the final cut for one reason or another.  The first part covering numbers six to ten was published yesterday - to read this click here. Please feel free to leave any comments about our selections at the bottom of either post.

So without further delay, let's get down to business and announce our 'Whisky of the Year' and the Top 5.  Drum roll please ...

Whisky For Everyone's Whisky of the Year 2011

Great King Street

When boutique whisky blending company Compass Box released this blend back in the Summer, they cannot have imagined what a stir it would cause. Nicknamed 'The Artist's Blend', it has received a plethora of rave reviews and laughs in the face of those that think that blends are an inferior product to single malts.   

Great King Street (named after the street where the company's Edinburgh HQ is located) re-affirms the high standards of excellence that Compass Box have set themselves in the last decade and will surely go on to win a heap of awards around the world.

Not only is it our favourite whisky of the year in terms of quality, flavour and character but it is also highly affordable at just £25 a bottle. It ticks every box for us and is a fantastic product.
Reviewed on 9/8/11 - click here for original notes.

2 - Auchentoshan Valinch
This whisky was also released back in the Summer and the Lowland distillery came up trumps. To release Auchentoshan's soft triple distilled spirit with a powerful alcohol strength of 57.7% ABV could have been a tricky marriage, but it worked a treat.  Sympathetic casking and the skill of the Master Blender are evident here. It can take plenty of water also, and holds up very well. The Valinch is planned to become a regular annual feature for Auchentoshan and if each batch is this good, then we can't wait for this year's version. Another bargain at around £40-45 a bottle.
Reviewed on 25/7/11 - click here for original notes.

3 - Benriach Solstice 15 years old
The first 'wow' moment of 2011 was provided by this whisky from one of our favourite Speyside distilleries. Standing at the Whisky Live show in London the Solstice announced itself with a splendid mix of intensity, smoke, fruit, wood spice and warm biscuit notes. It is unusual for a Speyside single malt in that it is heavily peated and has been part matured in ex-Port casks.  The combination works superbly and makes you think that more distilleries should try it. A new 17 year old version has just been released in a similar vein, so we cannot wait to try that and hope it is as good as this beauty.
Reviewed on 9/3/11 - click here for original notes.

4 - Greenore 18 years old
Hailing from the Irish distillery of Cooley, this is the first single grain whiskey to appear on one of our Top 10 lists. To put it simply - this is the best single grain whiskey that we have tried to date and the only one to which we have returned on numerous occasions. If you have never tried a single grain whiskey before, then this Greenore would be a good introduction to the genre.  It offers wonderful bittersweet cereals, creamy vanilla and coconut, spiced orange and plenty of wood spice characteristics. All are perfectly balanced and the result is delicious and rich.
Reviewed on 6/2/11 - click here for original notes.

5 - Shackleton Highland Malt
Another blend in the Top 5 - what is going on?  This is a whisky with a difference - it has a unique story (synopsis - someone finds old bottle under Antarctic ice after 100 years, someone else brings bottle back to Scotland and recreates replica as near to the original as possible), but also a unique flavour profile. The original was from an era where single malts did not exist as a product and this was produced in the old Highland style with some richness and smokiness. The back story is great but for us the most important thing is that the whisky in the bottle stands up on its own.
Reviewed on 26/4/11 - click here for original notes.

As mentioned, the selections for numbers 6-10 in our Top 10 were revealed in the first part- click here to read if you missed it.

We found it tricky to select our Top 10, as we have sampled so many good new whiskies throughout the year.  Naturally, some excellent products did not make the cut for one reason or another.  Below is a list of some others that we felt deserved a mention.  We have also attached the links to the original reviews, if you wish to take a look at them.