Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Distil 2010, London - whisky reviews

distil show 2010 logoDistil 2010 is a trade show that is held annually at the Excel exhibition centre in east London and it is run in conjunction with the London International Wine Fair (LIWF), which is one of Europe's largest wine shows. The theme of the fair is to showcase new and unusual products to retailers, restaurants etc. We attended the show and sampled some of the products on offer. Compared to previous years, the number of whiskies was disappointingly low, although this did allow us to try some other genre of spirits. Below are basic tasting notes and thoughts of our five highlights - as and when we taste them again, then these notes will be expanded giving more detail and distillery information.

Bernheim Original
This is the only wheat whiskey that is regularly commercially available and is made at the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky, USA. It contains a mix of wheat, corn and malted barley and is bottled at 45% ABV. The colour is amber orange and the nose is warm, spicy and appetising. There is a lovely mix of coconut, cinnamon, orange peel and toasted almond. On the palate, this is again warm and spicy - plenty of oak, vanilla and wood spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) are present plus more delicate notes of almond, orange, coconut, caramel and a hint of apricot and peach. The finish is robust and grainy with plenty of wood spices again. The sweetness turn very dry towards the end and leaves you wanting more. Excellent - the whiskey of the day for us.

danny boy irish whiskeyDanny Boy
This is a new Irish whiskey that is the brainchild of former lottery winner Peter Lavery from Northern Ireland. He has been developing the range of whiskies for the last 10 years and it now includes the Premium - a blend of four and five years old whiskies, a 15 years old blend and a cream liqueur. All whiskies are made at the Cooley distillery.

The Premium is golden in colour and has a sweet, refreshing nose. There is a combination of caramel, cereals, dried fruits (especially sultanas and raisins) and a hint of wood spice (think of cinnamon). On the palate, this is again sweet but softer than the nose suggests. There is plenty of dried fruits, caramel and citrus zest (think of lemon) with a distinct grainy note backing it up. The finish is short, sweet and pleasant. Also sampled was the cream liqueur, which was served in a chocolate cup that you ate at the same time as drinking the liqueur. The combination was good and should be marketed!

Elijah Craig 18 years old
Elijah Craig is another bourbon that is made at the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky, USA. It is named after one of the fore fathers of the American whiskey industry. Older bourbons are rare so the opportunity to try this had to be taken. The colour is a rich amber and the nose is robust and distinctly woody. There is a ton of oak here with vanilla, coconut, toasted almond, orange oil and cinnamon spice backing it up. On the palate, this is spicy and grips your mouth with cinnamon and nutmeg particularly prominent. Softer, sweeter notes battle through - vanilla, cereal grain, oranges, caramel and honey. The finish is again robust and long lasting with the woody and spice notes almost overpowering the softer elements.

evan williams honeyEvan Williams Honey Reserve
This liqueur contains Evan Williams bourbon that is infused with honey. The Evan Williams bourbons are produced at the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky, USA and are made using one of the oldest bourbon recipes in existence - Williams, a Welsh immigrant, first started producing whiskey in 1783! It is bottled at 35% ABV, which is reasonably high strength for a liqueur.

The colour is golden yellow and the nose has less honey aroma than expected. If feels sweet and fresh with some oak and vanilla mixing with zesty citrus (think of lemon and orange) and the honey. More honey comes through on the palate and combines well with the lemon and vanilla notes. There is a slight bitter edge which balances the intense sweetness. It is reminiscent of a lemon and honey cold and flu remedy. The finish is long, smooth and warming. One of the nicer liqueurs tasted to date, although the bourbon gets slightly lost somewhere.

old st andrews 'clubhouse'Old St. Andrews
This is a range of whiskies that are blended and released by the small family owned Old St. Andrews Company. The range plays on the golfing theme by using the name of the famous Scottish course and bottling its whisky in a golf ball shaped bottle. The range is to expand later this year, where the current Clubhouse bottling will be joined by three others. These are to be labeled as 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'). We had the opportunity to sample all four, so here goes ...

The Clubhouse is amber in colour and sweet on the nose - plenty of cereals, caramel and dried fruits (think of sultanas, raisins and candied peel). On the palate, these notes are repeated and are joined by distinct woody spices (imagine cinnamon and nutmeg) and some honey. The finish is of decent length and is sweet and quite sugary, yet refreshing. Decent value for about £15 a bottle.

The Twilight is fresh and vibrant on the nose with a light straw-like colour. The nose and palate demonstrate zingy citrus (think of lemon zest), honey, vanilla and light floral notes, with an uncomplicated finish that is short and sweet.

The Fireside is marketed as 'the smoky one' but it is very light and subtly smoky on the nose and palate. There are cereals, vanilla and damp earthy peat present, with just a hint of saltiness. The finish is less sweet with some warm spice coming through that is reminiscent of ginger and nutmeg.

The Nightcap is by far the richest of the set. It is dark amber in colour and packed with dried fruits - sultanas, raisins and candied orange peel - cereals and caramel on the nose. These follow through to the palate and it feels thick and creamy in the mouth. There are also some wood spice and honey present. The finish is long and warming with plenty of sweetness.

A full review of the new Old St. Andrews range will appear nearer to the release date in September.

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