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By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Tullamore Dew 12 yr Special Reserve

Tullamore Dew 12 yr Special Reserve

Day Nine in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Tullamore Dew was an Irish Whiskey I ended up falling into after first falling in love with their commercials. You can watch my two favorite at the bottom of this post. It turns out that they are also doing some really new and cool things in the Irish Whiskey world!

tullamore 12History

Originally started in Tullamore, County Offaly, Ireland in 1829, Tullamore Dew is the original triple distilled, triple blend whiskey. Tullamore D.E.W. is named after Daniel E. Williams who worked his way up the distillery ladder from stable boy to master distiller.

In 1953, it was sold to Powers, and production was moved to Midelton which at the time was responsible for almost all the Irish Whiskey production in the world.

Most recently, they were bought by William Grant & Sons, and they’ve opened a brand new Irish Whiskey distillery focusing on pot-still and malted Irish Whiskey in Tullamore. That means they’re making Tullamore whiskey in Tullamore for the first time since 1953.

Tasting

At first smell of the Tullamore Dew 12yr Special Reserve, all I can think is, “Smells like Irish Whiskey.” Then, before tasting, I immediately tried a heavy smell of the general off-the-shelf Tullamore and it was extremely aggressive. Even found hints of mothballs and nail polish remover. (Keep in mind that I really do like Tullamore Dew. Even the budget line.)

Going back to it again it feels subtler given the context. It’s still triple distilled, blended, and aged, so it’s got all the mild and friendly tones of a lovely Irish Whiskey.

The taste is sweet and candy. There’s a hint of bitterness at the end that you could probably attribute to the 12 years in the barrel. If I drink this first, the only thing I can think is that it’s a really tasty but not overly remarkable Irish Whiskey. Maybe a bit sweeter than usual.

But I had a problem settling with that thought. Because honestly, that’s what I think of the generic budget line Tullamore. So instead I took a generous sip of the Tullamore dew Budget and was greeted almost immediately with a whisky twice as aggressive and 1/3 as sweet. Then going back to the 12yr, I find it’s much smoother than I realized at first.

This is a weird one. I’ve been going back and forth now for half the evening trying to decide what the primary differences are other than age. I can’t say that I’ve pin-pointed it, but I can say that I’ve had a damn fine night.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Balvenie 15 yr Single Barrel Sherry Cask

Balvenie 15 yr Single Barrel Sherry Cask

Day Eight in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Hmmm, Balvenie. Balvenie Double Wood was the first Speyside I tried that wasn’t boring. It’s still a bit sweet for my tastes, but the double wood was an eye opener that Speyside whiskies could be wonderfully complex. Interested to try this one.

balob.15yoHistory

Founded by William Grant in 1893, Balvenie is a Speyside whisky located in Dufftown. Originally built near Balvenie Castle, it was founded by Grant after leaving the Mortlach distillery.

Balvenie has a really wonderful heritage and one of the best marketing and informational campaigns of any distillery in Scotland. More than once I’ve discovered fascinating things about whisky in general by watching a Balvenie produced video.

They have a really wonderful film called “Twilight of the Masters” that discusses the future of 3 Master Craftsmen, one of them being the Malt Master for Balvenie, David Stewart.

Watch the trailer at the bottom of this post.

Tasting

Balvenie 15yr Single Barrel Sherry Cask still introduces itself with butterscotch and caramel just like I’d expect from a good Speyside.

Released from hand numbered casks of no more than 650 bottles, it’s a pretty special release. It’s definitely rich in the way you think of Christmas desserts being rich. Well done, beautifully presented, wonderful smell and taste, but after a few sips I feel like I’ve had just enough and now I need some salt.

It’s so sweet; I’m betting this would go amazingly with a good cigar. A cigar would allow me to enjoy the sweetness juxtaposed with the bitter. I’d probably appreciate it a bit more.

You’ll need to know that my tastes lean towards the heavy smoky whiskies, so I’m not the best or most impartial judge of Speysides. I completely understand why people would fall in love with this whisky. But for me it’s best taken in small doses like New York Cheesecake.

 

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Glen Scotia Double Cask

Glen Scotia Double Cask

Day Seven in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Finally, it’s a whisky that I’ve wanted to try for years but never been able to find anywhere. This is very exciting, and I haven’t even tasted it yet.

I stumbled into Campbeltown after falling in love with Springbank. Further explorations of Hazelburn and Longrow (same distillery as Springbank) and Kilkerran (made by Glengyle) made me believe there’s not a bad whisky to be found in the region.

Now we find out for sure.

History

Scotia Distillery is connected to Scotland’s history. This is from their website, and I love the romance and history.

Campbeltown was, reportedly, the ancient seat of the Scottish Parliament set up here by King Fergus in 503AD. Indeed the first site of the Scotia distillery in Parliament Street is said to be on the site from where the Stone of Destiny came, the stone on which all Scottish Monarchs were crowned.”

Campbeltown is a 5th region of Scotch Whisky outside the better known Islay, Speyside, Highlands, and Lowlands. At one point it had 28 distilleries. Unfortunately, we’re now down to 3. It’s now owned by Loch Lomond (but that’s a different story for a different time.)

The double cask goes from Oak barrels to Bourbon Barrels to Sherry Barrels. I can’t wait to see what that does to the inherent briny nature of Campbeltowns that I’ve had before.

Tasting

Immediately from picking up the glass and nosing a bit, I find it more approachable and sweeter than its neighbors Springbank and Kilkerran.

I’ve always thought of Springbank as the whisky that shouts in your ear “Fuck you! I’m Scotch” with every sip. It’s one of my favorite things about it.

Glen Scotia is absolutely nothing like that. Scotia is Springbank’s beautiful young cousin visiting from the Speyside district. From the outside, she stands coyly all light and lilies, but at the very end there’s a bit of a salty kick that let’s you know she is definitely in charge.

She make walk like a lady, but you can bet she’s capable of cussing like a sailor. And if it gets to that, she’ll make you like it.

This is nothing like I expected, but it‘s really enjoyable.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Day Six in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

kilchoman-machir-bay-scotchKilchoman is an Islay whisky. I discovered it first because I am lucky enough to live in Austin, TX where we have Specs. And Specs has enough pull in the distribution industry to get bottlings of scotch made specifically for Specs.

One of the first I tried along those lines was the Kilchoman Specs Single Cask special edition. It was young and aggressive, but I really enjoyed it.

History

Kilchoman is the first new distillery on Islay in 124 years. Located on the western side of the Island, it began production in 2005 and had their first release in 2009 bottling 3 yr old whisky. This run uses bourbon and sherry barrels. The Machir variation was first released in 2012, and released each year since.

Tasting

Peat is first on the nose of the Machir Bay Kilchoman. That’s one thing I love about Islay. I find that regular scotch drinkers gravitate to heavier whiskies the way that beer aficionados gravitate to more and more hops. Maybe it’s a weakness, but it’s a weakness I’m glad to have.

The smoke on the nose is surrounded with vanilla. No doubt a gift from the bourbon gods.

This Kilchoman line is dramatic, and this is no exception. But the combination of the bourbon and sherry casks lends a nuance to this that some of the others lack. You can immediately tell why it won best in class after its release.

It reminds me of an Ardebeg or some of the special bottles released by Port Charlotte like the “The Peat Project” option, but it’s a bit more mild.

Overall, I’m really looking forward to what happens with Kilchoman starts releasing older expressions. I’ll bet a 12 yr Kilchoman will be a really marvel.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Dalmore 15yr Old

Dalmore 15yr Old

Day Five in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

dalmore_15_year_oldFull disclosure. Dalmore is one of my favorite distilleries. When I saw the Dalmore 15 label on this day’s bottle, I was pretty excited already. I own everything I’ve been able to get from Dalmore, so I’ll be working extra hard to keep from simply finding what I’m looking for in this whisky. Liquid gold.

History

Dalmore is located in Alness just north of Inverness. One of my favorite things about Dalmore is the legend of their beginnings.

Dalmore has an amazing video program, so I’ll let them share it with you themselves.

Tasting

My first experience with Dalmore was trying the King Alexander III expression at a whisky tasting at Opal Divine’s in Austin. It was wonderful. I went into the store the next day and bought the only bottle I could find, which ended up being the Dalmore 12yr.

Since then, I’ve decided that everything Dalmore produces is amazing, but my personal opinion is that the 12yr is the best representation of the character of the distillery. It has all the subtlety and nuance of its older brothers, but it has drama that time has erased from the elders. The older whiskies have wisdom, grace, and nuance. But the 12yr also has panache.

The Dalmore 15yr is aged in sherry and American white oak casks chosen specifically by Richard Paterson. He’s known for being one of the best noses in the business with an artist’s touch for blending. It shows.

When I first tasted Dalmore, I thought “Christmas!” Since then, I’ve seen that exact same review and reaction in almost everything I’ve read about the Dalmore whiskies.

There’s no point in reinventing just to be unique when the truth is so blatantly obvious. It has heavy notes of orange, light notes of almond, and hints of cinnamon. It tastes like the way going home feels.

It’s a whisky you would invite home to meet your parents. Maybe this Christmas?

 

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Elijah Craig 12yr Small Batch Bourbon

Elijah Craig 12yr Small Batch Bourbon

Day Four in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

I’m not as much of a bourbon guy as my friend and fellow Whisky School Instructor, Tom Fischer, but I’ll do my best on this one.

History

elijah-craig-12-bottleElijah Craig was a Baptist Preacher in Virginia in an area that later became Kentucky. He is credited by some (including Heaven Hill who owns the Elijah Craig distillery) as the founder of Kentucky Bourbon, but it’s widely disputed and based mostly on conjecture and possibilities. Chuck Cowdery is one of many who have covered this extensively.

That’s something I’ve never understood. When you have a product as tasty as Elijah Craig, sticking to the facts and science should be enough. The whiskey stands on its own. No need to inflate it with dubious claims.

The distiller is located in Louisville, KY and Heaven Hill is responsible for quite a few well-known whiskies.

Tasting

The 12yr old Small Batch Elijah Craig is a really great example of a small batch whisky. Bourbon is a newer thing for me, and I’m having to get used to the aggression of a new wood ages whisky and the heavy sweetness of the corn.

Think back to the first time you tried black coffee or an IPA. The dramatic points in the beverage, bitterness and hops respectively, tend to take over the flavors and overpower the subtly. It’s not until you gain experience that your brain can turn those dramatic front notes into background noise that you can discern the light flavors beneath.

I had the same experience with Islay and Campbeltown whisky. But now I can pick up sweet notes of sherry in even the 12yr old Cask Strength Springbank which is a truly aggressively peaty scotch whisky.

I haven’t hit that yet with bourbon. In this one I am overpower with the sweetness of the corn and the aggression of the new oak barrel.

But there are ways around that. Richard Paterson (the tasting and entertainment genius) uses a really cool way of breaking down tasting and smelling (watch his video below). Essentially you take short quick smells, pull the glass away, try to categorize the smell that first comes to mind, and then mentally push it to the side before you go back and look for other smells and flavors.

I find that the mental exercise of doing that with whisky really improves my ability to separate smells out of the mix in something I’m trying for the first time.

Doing that with Elijah Craig 12 results in me finding small hints of anise and bits of hard candy like butterscotch or a Werther’s Original.

For me, bourbon is still a world I drink to learn instead of merely drinking to enjoy. This is a tasty one, but it’s a step back in my whisky preferences.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Single Malt vs Blended Scotch

Single Malt vs Blended Scotch

Scottish whisky variations aka “Mom, Dad, and the three kids”.

Quite often, a newcomer to the world of Scotch will find a lot of confusion in the variety of Scottish whisky variations. Blended Scotch, Single Malt, Blended Whisky, Scotch Whisky, Single Grain, and on and on.

I’ve found that the analogy I used when teaching our whisky certification courses has been extremely helpful. I stumbled onto the idea originally from Lew Bryson’s wonderful book, “Tasting Whiskey”. Buy it if you don’t already own it. No need to live a life of regret.

He had this graphic in his book:

5 types of scotch

So let’s break it down.

We’ll start with Dad and Mom.  In this case Dad is “Single Malt Whisky” and Mom is “Single Grain Whisky”.

Single Malt Whisky = Whisky from one distillery made from 100% Barley
Single Grain Whisky = Whisky from one distillery made from a mix of grains

The other three categories are products of combinations of Mom and Dad. For example,

Two Dads = Blended Malt Whisky
Two Moms = Blended Grain Whisky
Dad and Mom = Scotch Whisky

Would it help if you had examples?

Dad = Any Single Malt Scotch.
Mom = Single Grain Scotch like Cameron Brig, or Port Dundas

Two Dads = Blended Malt Whisky like many of the Compass Box variations or Monkey Shoulder
Two Moms = Blended Grain Whisky like Compass Box Great King Street series
Mom and Dad = Blended Scotch like Ballentine’s, Dewar’s, or Famous Grouse

 

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Compass Box Great King Street “Artist’s Blend”

Compass Box Great King Street “Artist’s Blend”

Day Three in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

History
compass-box-great-king-street-artists-blend-whisky-webCompass Box is one of my favorite Scotch blending companies. I have yet to experience a whisky from Compass Box that wasn’t wonderfully done.

Located in London, England, Compass Box was founded in 2000 by American John Glaser. They are a true blending only company, which means they don’t distill any of their own whiskies. Their blenders select whisky from across Scotland choosing the distillery, grain, and age to create a specific taste profile. It’s often aged further after the blending process.

If you’re not clear on the difference between single malts and blends, you can read a full explanation here.

Great King Street “Artist’s Blend” is a product of quite a few whiskies. And Compass Box is generous enough to be completely transparent on what that breakdown is.

Here is their explanation direction from their website:

compass box artist blend breakdown

Tasting

The fact that it’s a blended scotch (mix of barley with other grains) means that it’s bound to be a bit mellower and smoother. Adding other grains to barley inevitably adds sweetness to the mix taking it further in the direction of an Irish Whiskey instead of the traditional heavier Scottish Malts.

The first thing I noticed in the nose was a heavy cherry smell. If you’re from the west coast, you may recognize it as the smell of Red Vines. Very weird thing to pick up, but once it stuck in my head, I couldn’t get it out.

It’s a bit too sweet for my taste, but it still has a nice dramatic punch on the back end with plenty of character. The oak flavor keeps it from being too boring and the caramel notes don’t overwhelm the taste.

I can only imagine that’s a combination of the Sherry barrel flavor mixing with the vanilla notes of new oak.

It’s dramatic for sure! I tried the Compass Box Spice Tree because I thought I remembered a similar taste, and I was right. The difference is that Spice Tree is a bit more mild and mellow.

I also picked up something I recognized from Irish whiskey. I detected hints of it in Redbreast Single Pot Still, but it is definitely its own animal.

Even if this is not your thing (like me), keep in mind that Compass Box should be represented on every whisky shelf. His motto could be “making blends cool again since 2000.” He’s an artist. This is a perfect example of that.

 

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Miyagikyo Single Malt

Miyagikyo Single Malt

Day Two in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

History

MyBottleShop.com.au

MyBottleShop.com.au

Today’s whisky is brought to us by Nikka Distillery Co which owns both Yoichi distillery and Miyagikyo Distillery among many others. (The also own Ben Nevis in Scotland)

Yoichi has impressive heritage in Japan since it is the distillery started by Masataka Taketsuru after he left Yamazaki (currently Suntory) distillery in southern Japan. He trained in Scotland, married a Scottish girl, and then helped to found the first Scottish style whisky distillery in Japan with Torii Shinjiro called Yamazaki at the time.

They had a difference of opinions that led to him leaving after a decade and starting his own distillery in northern Japan on the Island of Hokkaido. His distillery (Yoichi) named itself Nikka in 1952 and in 1962 became the first to introduce true quality Scottish style whisky in Japan.

Taketsuru opened Miyagikyo with the goal of using it as another source to help provide complexity in his whisky blends. They still provide the grain whisky used in most of Nikka’s blends. They also use two of the only remaining active Coffey Stills!

Tasting

There’s no age statement on this little bottle, and the next marked single malt from Miyagikyo is the 10yr old, so I’m guessing it’s younger than that.

It’s lovely. I compared it with the Nikka 12 and the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky because I’m guessing the Coffey Grain was made at the same distillery.

It comes off as smooth caramel with a bit of a grassy bite at the end. Nice warmth from the wood and not at all harsh from the young age.

The wild thing is that I felt I recognized it the moment I tasted it. Luckily I had a bottle of the thing it reminded me of so I was able to do a taste comparison. Turns out I was right. It tastes freakishly close to the Scottish Single Malt, Glendronach 15.

Definitely worth getting if you can find it. If you can’t get it in your area, try tracking down the Glendronach 15, and you’ll come pretty dang close.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Kavalan Concertmaster

Kavalan Concertmaster

The Champagne of Whisky

kavalanconcertmasterLast week I stumbled on a bottle of Kavalan in a store. I’d never heard of Kavalan, and a bit of Google research told me it was from Taiwan. That sealed it. An unheard of whisky from Taiwan? I needed it to be mine.

I settled on the Kavalan Concertmaster, and escorted it home gently buckled into the back seat.

Kavalan started in 2005 in Yuanshan in the county of Yi-Lan on the Northwest coast of Taiwan about an hour south of Taipei. Started by Mr. Tien-Tsai Lee of the King Car Conglomerate it involved Blender Ian Chang to create the new Kavalan line.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Concertmaster was more complex that I had anticipated. It has almost a champagne kind of lightness to the flavor with a bite of oak and a finish of the almond flavor in tawny port.

Concertmaster is started in American Oak and finished in Port casks (Ruby, Tawny and Vintage), and it shows in the lingering sweetness on the back end.

In smell, I pick up similar tones to a Balvenie Double Wood or the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. It’s a bit more aggressive in taste that the Glenmorangie, but it has similar after tastes.

I really enjoyed it, and it didn’t get any less flavorful as the night wore on. It’s a bit on the sweet side for my taste, but I would definitely recommend as an introduction to good whisky made outside the traditional environs of historical whisky areas.

If you can’t find it in your area, ask me for a taste when you make it back to the school.