The hill with a mill and now some stills.

Taste Review #143 Tamnavulin Sherry Cask

Always a bridesmaid but never a bride. That’s the phrase that continually comes to mind when I think about Tamnavulin. It always seems to have a presence on any supermarket shelf, and never ever near the more premier brands. I’m a bit wary of Whyte and Mackay whiskies, as I can never understand their seeming obsession with chill filtering and adding colour, especially to Dalmore. I’ve never really connected to Fettercairn yet and the less said about Jura the better. I have thankfully connected to Invergordon, but normally just the independent bottlings. So that leaves the shelf queen of Tamnavulin. One of those whiskies that always seems to be available for £20 at the Co-op. As this price range often includes the Glen Keith NAS Distillery edition, you’ll understand why I give it a miss.

The Sherry cask edition appeared on Tesco shelves for £45 but it seemed to be a little more than I wanted to pay for a litre of whisky I may not like. But when it made a drop down to £30 it was a no-brainer to try. I did buy a bottle, but was reticent about opening it, so put it in the drinking pile in storage and then bought the sample from drinks by the dram.

According to the information on the Tamnavulin website, this has been matured initially in American Oak, which I am going to assume is Bourbon, and finished in a range of three sherry casks. I’m going presume that will probably be PX, Oloroso and I’ll assume another oxidatively matured sherry such as Amontillado, but no further details are given.


The Tamnavulin distillery opened its doors in 1966, so it is a relative newcomer to Speyside. It is one of three distilleries in Glenlivet, with Glenlivet being the most northerly one, Tamnavulin being the middle one, in the hamlet of Tomnavuilin on the B9008 Ballindalloch to Tomintoul road. The most southerly distillery in Glenlivet is Braeval, which is the highest distillery in Scotland according to my GPS. The whole area is quite remote and I’d hate to live up there in winter, but it’s easy to see why Glenlivet was so popular with illicit distillers.

Being on the west river bank of the River Livet, at this point the Tamnavulin distillery just sneaks into the Cairngorm National Park boundary. This distillery takes its name from the Scots Gaelic meaning ‘Mill on the hill’. There happens to be an old carding mill within the distillery grounds which is where local shepherds would take fleeces to be made into wool.

Rather than spinning out a story, let’s take a look at the whisky.



Tamnavulin Sherry Cask

Region -Speyside Age – NAS Strength – 40% ABV Colour – Deep Copper (1.0) Cask Type – Sherry Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – a sharp acidic note which I am assuming to be E150, honey, vanilla, red apple, dried fruit, brown sugar, sherry notes, slight maltiness Palate – Slightly oily mouthfeel but thin. Cadbury Caramels – caramel and milk chocolate, blackberry jam. Slight nuttiness Finish – medium. Chocolate, sweet, slight wood spice, creamy.



Conclusions

There is nothing better than being proved wrong. I thought I was potentially up for a stinker of a whisky and I was mistaken. Premium this is not, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not complex in any way, but drunk neat this to my mind is a well balanced whisky. No sharp spices or alcohol burn. I mostly got fruit, caramel and chocolate from the smell and flavour notes.

In my humble opinion, £45 for a litre may seem to some as expensive but perhaps not. While I’m normally unlikely to pay that for supermarket whisky at NAS, at £30 this has to be a very good value bottle. I’ll probably buy another and open it, leaving one in store for later on as it would be something I’d want to drink again in the future.

My only complaint would be for Whyte and Mackay to stop chill filtering and colouring this whisky. I’m not a snob and I do enjoy whiskies that have been filtered and coloured, but I think it would be better without. 40% seems to be fine for what it is, I found the lack of burn was part of what made this experience much more enjoyable, so the flavours came through more strongly. For enthusiasts this may not the best whisky in the world, but enough of a sherried whisky experience without the sherry overpowering everything else, and would be a good whisky for a beginner to try. It certainly has my favour over the Aberlour 12 which at a similar price proved to be disappointing.

I’d say this whisky can represent value even at £45 for a litre. If you see it offered for less, snap it up. A 70cl bottle is currently being sold on Master Of Malt for £32.95 at time of writing and at Tesco £40 for a litre. At these prices you cannot go wrong. However I encourage you to seek this whisky out at your independent spirit specialist, as the big boys don’t really need your money.

Yours In Spirits,

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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All Photos – Authors Own

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Have special releases lost their meaning?

No, it’s not that wonderful time. Hopefully you don’t have Andy Williams singing that seasonal song burying itself into your brain as a particularly vicious ear worm. By time I’m likely to publish this article, we’ll be well into the Christmas shopping frenzy. But even in September when this article had its genesis, the Christmas cards are already in the shops and adverts for booking the works festive night out are all over local and social media. It’s just inescapable and it really boils my carrots when we have still to mark Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night. We’ll soon meet that point on a virtual retail Venn Diagram calendar when items for all three celebrations are on the shop floor. For me, what should be a special time of year for those who celebrate the birth of sweet baby Jesus, the failed Government assassin or even Freddie Krueger, the commercialism has just taken the shine off of things.

The whisky world isn’t immune from annual events. Whether it’s waiting for the latest whisky book from Ingvar Ronde or Jim Murray, your favourite whisky festivals or a whisky holiday, there is always something to perk our heads up like the whisky loving meerkats we are. There was one whisky event that I used to look forward to, but now I’ve become a bit jaded about them and it seems to have lost that specialness. You may have guessed that I’m talking about the Diageo Special Releases. For the past 10 years I’ve always kept an eye out for the announcement of what is getting released, to see if there is a particularly enticing bottle, especially from one of their closed distilleries. Of course I was never going to be in the market for the Port Ellen or Brora, but I’ve always kept my eyes open for a Convalmore, Pittyvaich or even a sneaky wee Benrinnes should one arise; alas for me pickings over the past 5 years have been pretty disappointing.

It hasn’t just been the selection of whiskies that have been included within the special release portfolio that has disappointed. I’m going to express a personal opinion but it’s the artwork and labelling that have started to drive me away. In recent years special releases have started to have a theme associated with them, most notably in the artwork, with the 2018 having apparently the last individual labelling style on the bottle, with 2019 and 2020 having a wildlife theme for most of them, almost like a parody of the Flora and Fauna bottlings, but still tasteful. Then came 2021, and for me things started to unravel. The theme of Legends Untold and the artwork from what may be a Dungeons and Dragons illustration makes me think that they aren’t trying to sell that whisky to the likes of me – they are aiming for a completely different kind of market.

The 2022 Special Releases have been termed ‘Elusive Expressions’ and this time they’ve decided to go full Tonto with the artwork. My attention was first brought to this in a Nickolls & Perks promotional e-mail, and it was this that really put me off looking any further. I hadn’t even noticed the prices until they were pointed out and at this point I had to just stop and ask – is this really worth it? What makes these special? Was I just being grumpy for the sake of it, or did other people feel the same?

You have to remember that besides being grumpy, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. A whisky Calvinist of sorts, where any distraction from the liquid is seen as unnecessary, distasteful thing to be avoided, in similar way to how the original Calvinists thought music, dancing and fun was unholy in church. I like plain, understated labels or those labels that hark back to a previous era, as we all know that some things were actually better in the past. This may explain part of my love for Flora and Fauna bottles or the Gordon and Macphail distillery label whiskies. Of all the special releases, the 2005, 2013 and 2017 Convalmore offerings were for me a pinnacle of subtlety, evoking an era long past and memories of a silent and unlike Brora and Port Ellen, never likely to return to production.

In his recently released book, whisky author Dave Broom writes in the introduction about how whisky can be seen as a cultural product, and a way of “looking at a country: it’s history, people, stories and thinking.” This is something already mentioned by David Hayman when he presented the BBC Scotland three part documentary entitled Scotch! The Story of Whisky. He tells the story of how Scotch is so ingrained with the culture and identity of the country. So when we look to the special releases, for me the design evokes nothing of Scotland, except some lurid artwork and a fantasy story on the back. Of course, Scotland is a modern country and we shouldn’t be adverse from being colourful and fanciful, but when you know these twee stories are the whims of a marketing team, then the lustre dims somewhat. Some of us have progressed beyond the crayon eating stage.

Was I on my own? I decided to run a small poll on social media to find out if I was on my own with my thoughts.



Don’t let the small sample size fool you. The direction of flow was pretty much one way, with 90% of people expressing what might be seen as a negative outlook, or at the very least find that the special releases not special anymore. 150 people described them as a con. Whether this meant that they were a rip off for the money or just pulling the wool over our eyes as to how special they are, I’ll never know. I’m also surprised that 6 people class the Special Releases as good value. Perhaps they are, but I’m not so sure. While I can understand why people think they are a con, that’s not what I think. You can’t tell without drinking them and I’m not prepared to buy the set, though I will admit that I think they just aren’t special any more.

Let me tell you why I feel this way.

The Spirit

Firstly, let’s look at what is truly important, and that is the liquid itself. I have no doubt that these whiskies are all good, solid whiskies. Of course you may not enjoy every single one, but all of these whiskies are cask strength, non chill filtered and as far as I can see there’s nothing stated about natural colour, so we’ll have to assume there has been some added. Mind you, even Meatloaf thought 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, and there was nothing wrong with Meatloaf. Each one of these should be a great whisky, and I’ve heard that some of them are quite tasty, enough to get me thinking that I may spring for a bottle. But there’s more elephants in the room than at PT Barnum’s circus when we turn the attention to the prices, which for a drinker is possibly the second most important thing, if not the most.

The Price

Perhaps I have got this wrong. Maybe the price should be looked at first to then decide if you can afford to spring for a bottle, but for me I decide whether I may like it first, then look at the price. And to me, while some prices seem to have kept pace with inflation, plus bearing in mind that there has been a massive increase in costs recently, I don’t find the prices outrageous, but lets get this straight now – they are adventurous at best. While they don’t have the four figure price tags of Port Ellen, Brora and latterly Convalmore, these are certainly within the reach of more people, but there are still a few that have prices that raise a few eyebrows.

If you choose to pay £275 of your hard earned pounds for grain whisky that is only 26 years old (Cameronbridge) then I would suggest that the special thing about that whisky is when you drink it, you’ll know it to be an expensive drink (read: over priced). Similarly for the Mortlach NAS. £250 for what could be a spirit with an average age of 12 years is maybe justifiable in the eyes of the producer, as they know the make up of the vatting, but for the consumer, this price point is a lot to take a punt on. Let the fact that Diageo released a 30 y.o Mortlach for £3700 in August 2022 sink in before you consider purchasing an NAS.

The Uniqueness

Have we come to the point where special now ceases to mean what it was truly meant to? I think we have come to misuse this word in a similar way to the whisky industry also uses the word ‘rare’ and ‘limited’. While the Cameronbridge makes its first appearance in the Special Release line up, the other selections have appeared more than once. Yes, they may be a rarely seen expression, but does this alone make them special when so many of their contemporaries are doing the same thing? Will it remain unique if a similar release is made in a few years time? That I can’t say, but the cynic in me feels these aren’t unique at all.

Availability

Let’s think back to the days of the mid 90’s, for that was when a forerunner to Diageo, United Distillers, released the Rare Malts series. This was a step up from the Flora & Fauna, and was a truly limited release, as the bottles were usually numbered, but not always.

Looking on the internet. It doesn’t take long to find some special releases from 5 years ago still on the primary market. There is a cask strength Dalwhinnie 30 y.o from the 2020 releases on the Master of Malt site for £574.86 – the initial RRP was £550. However I have a 25 year old cask strength Dalwhinnie that I bought from the distillery for £180 a few years earlier at nearly a third of the price. While it seems that I am comparing apples and carrots, it gets easy to see why unless you know why they are priced the way they are, the selling prices seem to be that bit more arbitrary.

While the average prices of the special release sets have come down, they are still expensive for what they are, and if you see 2017 releases still on primary retail (Collectivum XXVIII £150) perhaps you’ve misjudged things a bit. Something summed up by another whisky social media user. Link here to see thread for context.

Get the price wrong and it will sit on the shelf. However, its worth remembering that Diageo or any other large whisky producer don’t really worry. They can wait.

Where have the big priced bottles gone?

As I outlined earlier, I anticipated the Special Releases for the ability to obtain older whisky from distilleries that have fallen silent, Convalmore and Pittyvaich in particular. But now with Brora back into production and Port Ellen soon to follow, plus rumours are that there isn’t a lot of Convalmore left, this leaves the collection lacking in the rarer big guns. Some of these are now are sold in a range called Prima and Ultima. It’s an 8 bottle set which costs £36500, but this has put older whisky well outwith the range of many common enthusiasts. You can go to the web page Diageo uses for the premium whiskies and buy separately, but no price is given for single bottlings. I have seen a bottle of Convalmore 36 from 1984 in the Prima and Ultima range being sold for just over £2000, on the Justerini and Brooks website, it is something that is perhaps beyond many of us, unless we have deep pockets and few responsibilities and even less common sense.

While starting to come to a conclusion, a DM conversation that I had with a well known face in the whisky world about casks suggested that there are three types of people in the cask investment world. This caused me to smile as I can see parallels in the bottled whisky market. Whether you are a seasoned pro with the right connections, knowledge and a bit of cash behind you, or the dabbler who has an idea, but perhaps not the cash, full knowledge or the connections, or lastly the idiot – money to spend and has bought into hype. Perhaps this is how brands like Diageo see their consumers – those with the cash to buy the premium and truly rare, those who can make do with the special releases, or those who choose to buy a full set of Game Of Thrones whisky who expect to make their fortunes because of the hype. I see the Diageo special releases becoming more hyped and no obvious uniqueness about them. Regardless if I have misjudged this, for me the shine has fully rubbed off and I don’t really see that these bottlings can be seen as anything special in the face of so much other good and cheaper whisky. It is a marketing exercise and nothing more; there will be more Lagavulin or Cardhu etc, what you are doing is solely buying a brand, pretty much like buying a new car from the same dealer every 5 yrs or so, and if you want something much rarer like a Bentley, then you need to dig deep into the wallet.

With a twist in the tail, I have to admit, my interest was piqued at the 10 year old Oban. I visited the distillery in 2019 and enjoyed the cask strength 9 year old they gave us as a part of the tour, much more than the mundane 14 yr. old. In an effort to see if there really was a specialness in the release, I decided to take a chance to see if I could rekindle memories of that glorious sample.


Taste Review 142 – Oban 10 Special Release 2022.

Elusive Expression Oban. Cosmic Bunny not included.

Region – Highland Age – 10 y.o Strength – 57.1% abv Colour – Amber (0.7) Cask Type – Bourbon / Sherry / Amontillado Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – No Nose – Sweet. Blackberry, cherries, dark chocolate, salt air, seaweed, hint of black pepper and smoke. Palate – Instantly salty, if you can’t taste the maritime notes I’ll be surprised. Heavy cream sort of mouthfeel, yet no big spirit kick which is surprising given the strength. I found the salt became sweet with a hint of plums, oranges, and turned again with a peppery note going into the finish. Finish – medium length finish where the heat and spicy notes build. The oak starts to express itself with a slightly dry, tannic note but there is continued sweetness along with a hint of smoke coming out. The heat changes from a peppery heat to one with a hint of chilli as it slips down the throat, but it still doesn’t really have a need for water to calm it. Adding water gave me a burst of mint in the finish.


The Dram.

Conclusions

When all said and done, this is a nice dram. There’s plenty there to engage a whisky drinker with. I would say that if you like coastal drams, then this one should be considered. Was it as good as the 9 y.o I had at the distillery in 2019? I can’t say, as it is too long ago to make accurate comparisons as my memory isn’t that good. However I enjoyed it a lot. But was this dram special?

No It wasn’t.

I’m beginning to see why so many people think the Special Releases are a con. What I have tasted is no different to what an independent bottler would turn out, probably at a much lower price. This would appear only to be special as Diageo haven’t used these barrels for blending fodder, nor have they diluted them for core bottles or Distiller Editions. Should we all sit up like meerkats just because something is ‘special’ due to the way a distillery holds onto its casks? I could quite easily buy two independently bottled whiskies that are just as good for the same money. And two cask strength bottlings wouldn’t cost not much more.

The only people who would see these as being really special are Diageo themselves, as it is they who control the release of casks to the brokers and independent bottlers. Oban isn’t a common independently bottled whisky. But when there is only a description of being ‘limited release’ then there could be multiples of thousands released or more, and for me knowledge that my be the case takes the sheen off of the specialness. Bit like the knowledge Macallan Folio 5 was released not with 2000 bottles, but around 20,000

The last point is the price. Over £100 for a 10 year old whisky is pricey. Are we seeing the insidious creep of premiumisation here too? An unusual release shouldn’t be the excuse for jacking the prices up, as you may find the market you are aiming for will reject it, and those who do buy in will eventually move onto something else when the next fad comes along.

Despite being described by one whisky journalist on their Instagram as “good value”, I’d contend that these special releases are no longer that special. They are only special as we are being told they are but fancy artwork, hiked prices and slick marketing do not necessarily make a special whisky. While the whisky itself may be perfectly acceptable, the only thing making this special in my opinion is the fact we are being told that it is.

I think Diageo need to perhaps rethink the Special Release as for many they have lost their sparkle. I for one will not be buying another Special Release when so much other good value whisky is available. Special means different things to each of us, but for me this falls short of the mark.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

A Speyside State Of Mind

This year I managed the change to GMT from BST well. I happened to be awake and while everybody else in the house slept, I decided to manually adjust the clocks that needed it. I hope that my wife was impressed, but in reality I missed the one in my daughters bedroom but I’m sure we will manage for a couple of days.

This article isn’t going to be the easiest to read, but to be honest won’t be the easiest to write, as I am going to attempt to write it in one go without modifying a draft. While I try to base everything I write on this page about whisky, there are somethings that need discussed whether or not we drink whisky or not. So bear with me and pour a dram, then read.

The Friday before the clocks changed, I had the privilege of driving through a very autumnal Speyside. The A95 whisky road has some spectacular views on its winding path from Aviemore to Craigellachie, where it branches off towards Keith, away from the River Spey. If you have any sense, you can continue north from Craigellachie towards Elgin and still get entertained by a riot of colour as the trees begin to give into the approaching winter and prepare to shed their leaves. If you haven’t driven it yet, I recommend you do, as I’ve been treated to some really spectacular sights. Just keep out of my f***ing way and pull into the side of the road if you see anything you want to photo, as I’ve enough to contend with given the amount of whisky HGV traffic I can’t overtake, let alone a dawdling tourist.

Winter is coming. View from the A95 towards Cairngorm, Bynack More and Broomhill Railway Station, current terminus of Strathspey Steam Railway.

The Spey valley does give some amazing sights and while I have not been able to catch them as effectively as I have hoped to have, you’ll have to make do with the description of driving just after the start of dawn, heading from Aviemore to Grantown on Spey, with the mist just sitting over the River Spey and the first vestiges of pink light rising in the east. As you head north, you’ll pass the Cairn Distillery, Tormore and Ballindalloch at the road side. Descending from Tormore, you get your first good view of Ben Rinnes looking over the lower valley of the River Avon. A couple of steep climbs and it takes you to Glenfarclas, and the start of another descent towards Aberlour.

Benrinnes from above Cragganmore looking across Lower Avon Valley.

It is on this road you can get almost a drivers whisky heaven. At dawn, if you strike your timing right, looking towards Ben Aigan further down the Spey Valley, you can often see the steam rising from Dalmunach, Dailuaine, Aberlour, Macallan and Craigellachie distilleries as they start a mash. Sometimes on this stretch of road you can smell mash. Look right as you drive towards Aberlour and you may see similar from Benrinnes and Glenallachie distilleries. It’s even better on a crisp, frosty day. Winter has its advantages, even if it is for those whisky geeks who know that Daftmill will be producing again once the harvest has been gathered.

River Avon at Ballindalloch/ Ballindalloch Castle gate house.

But winter also has its drawbacks. Daylight savings time doesn’t suit all, and suddenly our afternoons get cut short in the rapidly approaching darkness. The arrival of autumn also lets us know that the year is coming to an end and we think back of what has happened over the year. I’ve had a busy year with work, family illness and a persistent cold, but one thing I can’t get totally out of my head was the suicide of a distant acquaintance, and these thoughts motivated me to write this.

Benrinnes from Dufftown / Huntly road. There’s a multitude of distilleries on the other side.

I don’t want to name the guy, as I do not want to cause his family any more distress should they read this, but I knew this guy since at least the mid 90’s. I remember him from the youth groups in the Aberdeen suburb we both grew up in, although I was some 8 years older. This guy always seemed happy to help, participate and just get on with things. He was a talented guy, but once I moved away from that Aberdeen suburb, my contact with him dwindled. It wasn’t until I saw mutal friends on facebook post requests for information on his whereabouts that I thought about this guy again. People drift apart as we move and life takes us in different directions. When the tragic news of the discovery of his body was announced, it hit me hard a little bit, as you never think that the person you had in your mind would do such a thing. But that theory doesn’t hold water. Just mention the name of Robin Williams and we know that the shadow of depression can fall on any one of us, yet we never know when or even how we will react. I’ve been in that situation where I was depressed enough to seek professional help and was under the care of a psychiatrist for nearly a year, but for some even that’s not enough.

View from the A95 just past Glenfarclas looking down towards Marypark. Steam coming from Cragganmore.

So why I am I mentioning this topic on a whisky blog? Well, while the changes of the season are quite noticeable and often beautiful, for some they won’t be so spectacular as they dread the long nights of the months ahead. Some people may seek solace in drink and this is not the best course of action. This weekend, Catherine, The Princess of Wales stated that nobody chooses to be an addict. Despite my long ago past experience of depression, it’s easy to see how people can seek crutches to help them through the day, and alcohol is an easily available and legal drug. We eventually get used to the effect it has, and we then need to take more to get more effect.

Social media often offers the anonymity where we can interact with people yet not show our true selves. People don’t want to admit weakness and just want to belong, appear normal and yet not manage what is dragging them down. While the majority of us won’t have this issue, you never know who will. Who would have guessed Robin Williams would be as sad as to kill himself?

You don’t have to be as miserable as this bugger to suffer from depression or other mental illnesses. Just noticed the rapid advancement of grey hair. Clippers here we come!

If nothing else, its worth remembering behind every winter comes a spring. Few things we do in our lives is truly permanent, and everything can also take a turn for the better if you feel you need to make a positive change. One of my fellow bloggers recently posted an article entitled “It’s Good To Talk” and while this sort of talk may be different, it still holds true. Nobody needs struggle. Everybody has a burden they will find hard to bear at some point in their lives, so you are not unique if you are struggling. It’s OK not to be OK.

Don’t be like my acquaintance. A guy who hadn’t even reached middle age and left behind a young family. Talk to somebody, even me if it has to be but I’d recommend professionals like the samaritans who may be able to point you to the right direction to resolve your issues. Their website can be found at samaritans.org or phone 116 123.

Tormore.

For those of us not struggling, be aware that some are. Be ready to be that post that someone may need to lean on. Tough times are coming for many this winter with the cost of living rising rapidly. Keep an eye out for people; keep in touch with those you know.

We’ve seen many examples of people talking about the ‘Dram Fam’. Let’s make sure we are just that for those who may need us.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Coming out of the closet.

Taste Review #141 – Wild Turkey Rare Breed

I guess there will be a few people that know me will be wondering if I’ve suddenly decided that my lifestyle choices have been re-evaluated. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but even if you think that from time to time I’m more queer than a bottle of crisps; this closet isn’t where I keep my sexuality but rather one where I keep my whisky.

One of the oldest bottles in my closet, one bought pre-Louisiana visit. It’s still there.

A long time ago, before I became a total whisky nerd, (instead of just a techy nerd), the company I had just started working for sent me on a trip for a month in the USA to learn all about ROV’s. As you might already know, I work offshore as Remotely Operated Vehicle pilot, but back then this was a job you learnt as you went. My then company decided this was a bit backwards and developed quite an intensive course on the equipment they had designed and built. The idea behind it was that you could hook somebody out of a Macdonalds restaurant and change them from flipping burgers to operating ROV’s. In reality, it didn’t always work that way. I only got to do the electrical part of the course, then never saw the equipment for another two years. Some of the geniuses that had graduated from the university where Ronald MacDonald was the chief lecturer weren’t the freshest patties ever on the hot plate either, failing open book exams.


The Americans loved their decals. I think on this job in Morgan City the only things I feared were running out of beer or being told I had a pretty mouth a la Deliverance.

For the record, I got 97% and only used an hour of the allotted three hours. But this isn’t the education I remember the most. For we were sent to Morgan City in Louisiana and I started my bourbon education. At this point I was already a Wild Turkey drinker, but got to try others. However, on the way home I decided to stick to my first love and took home a bottle of Rare Breed. it was something that I never saw in the shops or bars back home. The internet was still in relative infancy back then, so I couldn’t rely on online retailers.

Well, I guess us Brits on that course did!

Anyway, the bottle was opened and sampled with friends then got stuck in my drinks cabinet. And there it stayed, as at the time I lived alone and preferred to go out to drink. This bottle survived 3 house moves before I realised I still had it, hidden behind the other Wild Turkey in the cabinet. After nearly 24 years since I bought it, it would be a foregone conclusion that the cork wasn’t good and I wasn’t surprised when the impressive wooden stopper came away in my hands.


After a nifty bit of decanting, we got the cork out and the whiskey back into its original bottle. But was the whisky as bad as the cork? Only one way to find out…

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (1997)

Region – USA (Bourbon) Age – NAS Strength – 54.4% Colour – Mahogany (1.6) Cask Type – American Oak Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Dusty wood, acetone, dark fruits, vanilla, creamy fudge, Macgowans Highland toffee. Palate – Quite sharp on arrival. Caramel, wood, dark fruit (Blackberries, Cherries). Aniseed Peppery heat with some cinnamon in there. Finish – Heat well controlled and doesn’t increase until you swallow. More cherries, dusty wood, bit of cinnamon, vanilla and tannins, drying on the mouth. Dusty vegetal aftertaste.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed – 1997 Bottling

After drinking some of it and passing on my thoughts to a fellow whisky geek, there was a suggestion that perhaps I should compare it to a modern edition to see if the older bottle was really faded compared to an original. Only one way to find out. At least I now had the luxury of online retail rather than a trip to the US.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (2021)

Region – USA (Bourbon) Age – NAS Strength – 58.4% Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – American Oak No.4 char Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Wood, vanilla, caramel, honey, orange rind, cherry. Palate – Immediately sweet on arrival. Caramelised brown sugar, vanilla, cherries, milk chocolate. Wood notes with a peppery heat. Finish medium length finish, a bit of solvent, with more sweetness followed by cherries, oak, slightly floral towards the end.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed 2021 bottling

Conclusions

I think I got away with the older bottle. I suspect there has been some deterioration but not too much. While the newer bottle had a bit more kick, it was bottled at a higher abv. Tasting both side by side revealed a close similarity but not quite. The older bottle had a more vegetal finish which I suspect could be a hint of old bottle effect. Both bottles still pleasant to drink, although the older bottle benefited more from water.

Both needed a bit of water, though I did also enjoyed both neat. The newer one was obviously brighter on the palate but not overly so. I’d say these are going to be my winter drams as quite warming. However the older dram was more astringent and left my mouth very dry afterwards.

While I don’t recommend leaving open bottles of whisky 24 years before drinking again, it’s safe to say you can get away with it if the bottle has been kept properly.

This concludes my planned sampling of world whisky and it will be back to Scotch next time. Or will it? I still have some German, Danish and South African whisky left that was given to me by followers on Twitter. There might be a wee mini review in the future, but next I return to Speyside for a pleasant change.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Dead In The Water

Taste Review #140 – Milk & Honey Apex (Dead Sea Aged)

You couldn’t get a much more appropriate title for this review, but I’d like to heavily stress that this does not refer to what I thought of the the whisky that I’ll be having later. For this whisky has been at least partially matured by the Dead Sea, the lowest place on dry land throughout the planet. Plus, (and somewhat unusually) I’ve a story to tell for this world whisky review.

I’ve been to Israel twice for work purposes, the first time was for the recovery of a two seat F16 jet that had crashed into the Mediterranean Ocean. That was certainly dead in the water. Come to think of it, for the more observant of you may notice a lot of my blogs are entitled with a musical theme. The David Gray song “Dead In The Water” was banned in many ROV control rooms as the more superstitious amongst us reckoned it was likely to induce breakdown as soon as the machinery got wet. You’d go to the music hard drive, and in some cases find the song deleted from the folder. Personally I’d be just as happy if all of David Gray’s depressing music was deleted.

F-16D Fighting Falcon. (Georgios Pazios)

The fighter that we recovered in the late 1990’s had suffered an engine failure. Thankfully the crew had ejected and the aircraft had hit the water and fell another 800m to the seabed. This was on the very limits of our equipment, and we were crossing fingers that there wouldn’t be a catastrophic leak into our electrics. I remember the water being so clear, with lights being visible up to 100m deep; in the North Sea it’s lucky to see lights much more than 30m down.

As you may imagine, there wasn’t a lot of the aircraft left. The engine was the main part that was needed for the investigation and whatever else we could recover. As a small aircraft like an F-16 was spread out over an area 250m x 250m, this was a tall task, but in the end we managed to recover about 50% of the aircraft, due to it being held together by the cabling.

In the days when I had a ‘real’ job, I trained in avionics, so was pretty keen to see if I could get a memento from the wreckage of something I could identify. When I asked the military person on board if I could have something from the aircraft, I was told it would be not a problem. Most of both cockpits had come up, again mostly held together by wires, though I knew what I was looking for. Piece by piece I was then told I couldn’t have, due to it being needed in the investigation or was top secret. In the end, a yellow handle stood out and I grabbed it. This got the green light from the Air Force, and it turned out that I got a panel that had held the Canopy Jettison handle.

Before…
…and after

So, with that bird dead in the water, we turn to the Dead Sea. I’ve never been there, but I’m quite sure that there isn’t a lot of life in it given that it’s about 9 times saltier than normal seawater. Being so dense, if you are scared of learning to swim it would be the perfect place as it’s not easy to sink. Even normal salt water gives a massive increase to buoyancy over fresh water. One of my colleagues trimmed an ROV in a fresh water lagoon once; he had a pretty red face out at sea when we were trying to get the thing to sink!

With such a salty environment, I’m banking on plenty of brine notes, but let’s see what happens.


Milk & Honey Apex (Dead Sea Aged)

Region – Israel Age – NAS but 3y.o going by dates on bottle Strength – 56.2% abv Colour – Chestnut Oloroso (1.2) Cask Type – Red Wine / Bourbon / STR Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No. Nose – Vanilla, oak, mint, chocolate, marmalade. Palate – slightly oily mouth feel. Spicy but not aggressively so. Vanilla, caramel, cinnamon, chocolate, slightly tannic, orange citrus, possibly something fruity and creamy in there as well – banana? Finish – medium finish. Pleasantly light but there is a slight sour note there, a bit like the last dregs of an IPA. Cinnamon, honey and a hint of brine.

Conclusions

Never got the expected large amounts of brine although there was brine present in the finish. Nice enough but not enough going on for me to engage with a whisky that costs £105 a bottle. Sample cost me £9.25, which is saltier than the Dead Sea. If you can see the past the current uniqueness of where the spirit has been matured, and have the means to spend on this whisky, I wouldn’t imagine that you’ll be disappointed, but I also doubt you are going to be wowed on the basis of value if you are counting your pennies. You can get a lot more for a lot less by drinking an independently bottled, cask strength Scotch. But that’s just my opinion, others may disagree. I don’t want to dismiss this whisky completely, but didn’t really engage my palate to justify seeking out a bottle.

Perhaps there is a difference with maturation occurring a lot quicker in a hotter climate compared to northwestern distillates, with the cask maybe not passing on the brine quick enough. That I don’t know.

I would say that the produce of the Milk And Honey distillery have my attention and I’d love to try other samples should I come across them. However I won’t be seeking them out.

L’Chayim! / Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own EXCEPT – F16D, – Georgios Pazios

Turning Japanese

Taste Review #139 – Nikka Coffey Malt / Nikka Coffey Grain

Like many millions of people the world over, I like to start my day with a coffee. My caffeinated drink of choice is very important to me; you can’t beat a slightly sweet and milky coffee.

People often make the mistake of trying to communicate with me in the morning before I’ve had any coffee. This can be hazardous to your health as I’m not able to issue much more than a grunt. Indeed, on the last day of an offshore trip where I was ambushed to sign off paperwork before I even made it to the mess room for breakfast, it was all a semi-conscious blur. I could have been signing death warrants, as being without liquid stimulation I wouldn’t have been able to tell. Thereupon I have decided for everybody’s safety, it has been necessary that I invest in a new t-shirt.

That should be easy to understand

Of course I’ve been talking about the wrong coffee. I actually meant Coffey, which is a continuous running still, designed in the 19th century by Aeneas Coffey, normally being used to produce grain whisky. These are a lot more efficient in distilling spirit compared to a traditional pot still, easily capable of reaching over 90% alcoholic strength. Not that you’d want to be drinking that, as you’d possibly go blind, and nobody wants that.

This is the first Japanese whisky that I’ve reviewed. I’m not that adventurous with world whisky, although I have had some in the past. The last experience I had was Hibiki 17, long before the blog started. I can only dream of drinking that now, such has been the rise in secondary market prices since it was discontinued.

The Nikka company has two whisky distilleries in Japan, the Yoichi distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido and the Miyagikyo distillery in the northern part of Honshu. While I’m not fully sure what distillery these whiskies were created in, the Yoichi distillery is capable of grain and malt production, so I’ll hedge my bets and say it originates there, as the latter only has pot stills. The Yoichi distillery is also the oldest of the pair, being founded in 1934 by Masataka Taketsuru.

On the right; the not so perfect measure. Irony at its finest.

Masataka learnt his trade in Scotland, having studied in Glasgow, then obtaining an apprenticeship in Longmorn distillery near Elgin. Later that year he moved to the Lowlands to the Bo’ness distillery and onwards to Campbeltown’s Hazelburn distillery. He returned to Japan to work for Suntory and by 1934 had founded his own distillery in Yoichi.

You can find out more about Nikka and their brands at their website :-

www.nikka.com

Nikka Coffey Malt

Region – Japan Age – NAS Strength – 45% Colour – Yellow Gold (0.5) Cask Type – Not known Colouring – Not Stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Initially I get fresh fruits, lemon zest, then moves on to Danish pastries, caramel, cocoa. There’s something solvent-like in there as well. Wood note is there too, and smells like freshly cut timber. Palate – medium body palate, with a pleasant mouth feel. Velvety. Quite timid on the arrival with more solvent, but less lemony and more caramel and vanilla. Sweet taste, like honey or foam banana candies. Quite light on the wood spice, there is a taste of chocolate and coffee going on there as well. Finish – bit of spice after swallowing leads on to a relatively short finish, with malty, coffee and chocolate notes, coupled with a hint of vanilla.


Nikka Coffey Grain

Region – Japan Age – NAS Strength – 45% Colour – Yellow Gold (0.5) Cask Type – Not known Colouring – Not Stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – very subtle. Slight solvent note, but vanilla ice cream, camomile tea, slightly floral, but because is so subtle I am struggling to sense much of a nose. A hint of grain perhaps. Palate – very light and dare I say delicate? Totally different to the Coffey malt. The mouthfeel and initial taste to me is like sugared water with a hint of almond. In fact; sugared almonds can also be sensed. It has a light, creamy and custardy taste, almost like the cream in a custard cream but I don’t get the biscuit component. If I get any grain influence, I’d say it’s unseasoned popcorn. While there are solvent notes on the nose, these hardly carry through to the palate, unlike most other grains that I have tried. Finish – very short. Bit of oak spice and fruit on the finish and a hint of dairy milk chocolate.

Conclusions

The Coffey malt wasn’t anything challenging and was quite easy to drink.

The Coffey grain was completely different; a lot lighter and delicate yet still very pleasant. I liked both drams but if I was to express a favourite of the two it would be the grain version. And then I change my mind, preferring the malt. It’s all so confusing.

Let’s just make it easy. Both are good and are worth a purchase. However the price is a bit salty, both being north of £50 unless you hunt about. At 45% I’d expect it a little cheaper, but you are going to get an subtly expressive drink that I think most people would enjoy.

These are often seen in travel retail and next time I see one, I may buy a bottle.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Made In Taiwan

Taste Review #138 – Kavalan Classic / Sherry Cask

Made In Taiwan or Made In Hong Kong. That seemed to be the manufacturing location of a good proportion of the plastic toys I had as a kid. Back in the 70’s, this was the indication that your toy was most likely to be mass produced crap. But without casting aspersions over the quality of these goods, even though the vast majority of Christmas presents that originated from there were broken by Easter, that isn’t always the case with everything now.

Of course, Hong Kong has now returned to China, and Beijing still has eyes on Formosa, which it sees as part of its empire whereas the rest of the world knows its Taiwan. And the quality of produce from there has certainly taken an upward swing from the toys of the 70’s and 80’s to the adult beverages of the new millennium.


I’m being erroneously swayed by the colour!

Kavalan is a new distillery, built in 2005 and had its first spirit out by 2006. I’ll be upfront here as I’m being lazy and just regurgitating Wikipedia, as I’m trying to kill my backlog of pending reviews. But according to that most reliable resource of fact (or opinion), Kavalan did well enough to beat Scotch whisky in a Burns Night blind tasting in 2010. Jim Murray of sexy whisky infamy gave Kavalan Solist Sherry cask malt his award for new whisky of the year. I’d already heard on the grapevine that this was a distillery to sit up and take notice of, so z zzz who am I do doubt the behatted one?

As usual for now, I’ve no real tales to tell about this distillery, so let me refer you to the distillery website

www.kavalanwhisky.com


Kavalan Classic

Region – Taiwan Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Deep Gold (0.8) Cask Type – Not Stated Colouring – Not Stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – wood polish, bananas, mango, vanilla, egg custard. Coconut and freshly cut green grass. Palate – light to medium mouthfeel. Vanilla, foam banana, dry white wine – possibly Chardonnay. Mango in background, along with creamy vanilla. Finish – short finish, quite unremarkable. Walnuts and a slight brine note. Drying towards the end.

Kavalan Sherry Oak

Region – Taiwan Age – NAS Strength – 46% Colour – Auburn (1.5) Cask TypeColouringChill FilteredNose – strawberries, blackberries, tobacco, puff pastry, cherries, almond. Quite sweet with a slight vegetal note. Palate – bitter oak, blackberries, raisins, unami, orange peel, caramel, slight malt there. Finish – drying. Medium length. Raisins, dark chocolate, slight note of hops and salt.


Conclusions

Not a lot to say here. To be short and sweet neither won me over. Having said that, these weren’t bad drams – just not for me. I got the cask notes without a problem I feel but for me there were notes in both that I didn’t resonate with. Starting with the classic, there was a white wine note there that was a bit too dry for me and brought back memories of drinking white wine at Christmas as soon as my family thought me old enough. It was usually Chardonnay and that’s a wine I avoid. Give me a good German Spätlese or Auslese, even a delicious Eiswein. Now we’re talking.

While I can be a bit of a colour-tart, regularly giving into the dark sherried whisky (because that is usually the flavour profile I crave; I know it doesn’t mean premium whisky) , I was surprised not to enjoy the sherry Kavalan. Again, a bit of dryness from the sherry wood; unmistakably Oloroso, the dry dark fruit was marred by the sourness and saltiness I picked up. The savoury note on its own was fine, but I was expecting something with a more prominent dark fruit note which was not as forward as I had hoped.

It’s always a disappointment when something you have looked forward to doesn’t float your boat, but that’s just the way it is. However I’d say there is enough there to try some more Kavalan in the future.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

It’s the season to be jolly.

The festive (or festival) season is here.

No, don’t panic, it’s still over three months until that season at the time of writing. It’ll be some time before your kids will be getting excited by a fat man in a red suit carrying a large bag. My kid gets that any time of year I put on an old pair of work overalls to do some tidying up in the garden. Just need the reindeer to finish the look.

The season that I refer to is my whisky season, where I get a free pass from her that must be obeyed to enjoy myself by doing some tours and sampling some whisky. Traditionally it is a bit busy for my work over the summer months, so I always tend to try and take breaks in September or October when the weather in Scotland can still be settled before the onslaught of winter. Whisky season for me this year involved three distillery visits and a small whisky festival.

Distillery 1 was the small and very scenic Speyside distillery. It’s on the opposite side of the River Spey from me, a short 5 minute drive. Despite living in the village for 8 years, I’ve never actually been. The tour was good enough, but I found myself as pretty much the only person on the tour who had been around a distillery before, so I just absorbed the atmosphere and the sights, plus chatted to one of my former work colleagues who is now a senior operator on the site.


Waterwheel that forms part of Speyside distillery.

Distillery 2 was Ballindalloch. I’ve visited a few times in the past and this time I redid the Art Of Whisky Making experience. Pricey at nearly £200 but still a great experience to see first hand exactly how whisky is made. Questions are encouraged, with each staff member being very knowledgeable about the process. On Thursdays it is casking day, so you get the experience of filling casks of the previous weeks spirit and then getting them stored in the warehouse. Can you master the art of ‘clocking’ your casks to ensure the bungs are always at the top? That is certainly an art!


The perfect mash. By me. With a wee bit of help.

My final distillery visit was Cragganmore. I nearly first visited this distillery in 2019, but never managed to fit it into my schedule. The tour is about an hour long, but much better than my last visit to a Diageo distillery. The tour guide this time knew a lot about the process and she kept the tour fun, interesting and engaging without pushing the company line. I even got extras from the gift shop of the rarer malts, one of which was the distillery 2016 special release of which I have a bottle. A really nice touch, one I’m very grateful for. I’d definitely recommend this tour.


I like big butts. Sherry butts of course.

Well, I’d love to say this was my last distillery visit, but I’m lying as I popped into Strathisla for a bit of retail therapy and purchased I a couple of distillery reserve collections, both the produce of sherry butts. One was a Longmorn, and another local malt that I dare not speak its name. The disappointing thing about the Pernod-Ricard distillery reserve is the fact they are often 50cl bottles. However, they are usually at cask strength and single cask. The non-single cask ones are often 70cl.

And on to the National Whisky Festival, Aberdeen. The main reason for taking the month of September off, to ensure that I got a chance to meet Nick (twitter – @ayewhisky); a fellow Aberdonian who has exiled himself to Belfast. But it doesn’t end there as I also bumped into a couple more of the Twitterati. It goes to show that it is indeed a small world. Firstly it was Steve Gray and his pal Alan, who I first met on a tour of Glendronach in June 2019, then Paul Dempsey (twitter / @whiskyweegie) who was formerly a brand ambassador for Speyside distillery but is now working for Brave New Spirits. It was also a pleasure to meet Colin Sim (Twitter @distillerybikes).

Alan, self and Steve. Oh, and THAT shirt.

There were plenty of drams to try but I’m not even going to attempt to remember all of them but I’ll have a go –

Murray McDavid – Glenburgie 13. Sherry butt with a Sauternes 1st fill finish. 58.2%

Murray McDavid – Cambus 30. Cognac finish. 47.8%

JG Thompson Sweet Blended Whisky NAS 46%.

Brave New Spirits – The Nailed Puppet. Tormore 11. 1st and 2nd fill a bourbon. 52.6%

Benromach 10 Cask Strength. 2012 vintage. 60.2%

Speyside Distillery – Spey Tenne CS NAS Batch 4. Tawny Port Finish. 57.7%

Glenallachie – 8 y.o 46%. Sherry, Red wine matured.

White Peak – Wireworks Inaugural release 50.3%

Dalmore – cigar malt. 44%. American White Oak, Matusalem Oloroso and Cabernet Sauvignon casks.

Balblair – 15 y.o Bourbon with 1st fill sherry finish

SMWS – 4.311 “Tiptoe Through The Heather* Highland Park 13. 1st fill bourbon. 61.1% (*this is a guess as it was a scrum to get to the stand as some idiots were treating it as a public bar, and I only got a glimpse of the bottle as it was being poured. I had no chance of speaking to the guys pouring).

If anybody can help me out with the ID of the Highland Park, I’ll be grateful.

So only 10 drams. It wasn’t a lot but you do try to savour as much as you can to get the flavours and aromas, but after so much cask strength spirit, it’s impossible to really appreciate some of the drams. Plus I was constantly getting interrupted due to positive comments on my sartorial excellence with one of my specialist Hawaiian shirts. The way I’m going to choose to look at it is that we say whisky is a social drink, therefore it’s probably more important to focus on people rather than solely the whisky and trying to drink as much as you can in the allotted time.

People being friendly with liquid social lubricant.

Any stand out drams from the festival? No, not really. I was surprised at this. I was however pleasantly surprised by the Tormore, really enjoyed the sweetness of the Glenburgie and the smoothness of the Cambus. Dram of my night was probably the Tormore.

A quick pint before going our separate ways in the Howff (where I had my first proper Bourbon at age 18!), saw me back into the hotel before 10pm and thus the curtain was drawn on this years festival of whisky. Old friendships renewed, new ones made. A perfect end.

What’s your perfect festival?

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

It’s not what you say, but…

Or AITA?*

Diplomacy. Not my finest skill.

Let’s just say that when it comes to diplomacy I do try hard but unfortunately there are the odd moments you’d wonder if it would have been better to allow a bull to wonder around that metaphorical china shop rather than have me open my mouth.

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as a recent offshore trip put me into a position that I’m not usually in and required a little more tact than normal. Rather than be the sort of person that would make Saddam Hussein look like a pussycat, I preferred the softly softly approach to get the team to move in the direction I needed them to head towards, rather than dragging them there. After all, you get better results with carrots than you do sticks, plus it keeps the amount of upset people to a minimum.

There were some hiccups on the way, and in one incident, I found one of my techs made an error and got the equipment caught round the crane wire. No dramas, as the senior pilot was all over the situation and managed to help the less experienced guy correct his mistake and complete the task of hooking up a subsea basket to the crane for recovery to deck.


The wee yellow beastie. Lives to fight another day.

The senior pilot reported the incident to the other senior coming on shift that they may want to inspect the equipment for damage when it came on deck. This is correct procedure, but the new senior pilot couldn’t wait to tell the superintendent in the morning that the junior pilot had been caught on the crane wire and it was a disaster. But it wasn’t a disaster. The correct actions had been taken to ensure no damage had been caused and better still the pilot in question had gained a little bit more experience. Somebody just wanted to look a bit better than somebody else at their expense. That’s very bad craic. There are gentler ways of imparting this information and it ensures harmony is maintained within the group.

I’m pretty pragmatic about these sorts of incidents. Bad things sometimes happen during our operations, but careful planning of what should happen in the event of an occurrence is often all that is needed to help people succeed when things aren’t what they should be. I’m old enough and certainly ugly enough to know that not everybody is as far down the journey of experience as others, and it is our responsibility to aid these people down that route rather than blab to the superiors or public. It just makes you look like a prize cock, as there are ways and means of doing this that don’t need to be quite so direct, yet achieve a more gentle yet effective result.

So what has this story got to do with whisky? To be honest, not a lot. There won’t be a review at the end, but hopefully an edifying conclusion, and we will all be in no doubt where I stand.

I’ve written a couple of blogs this year where I’ve maybe not been the most diligent of researchers or my source material hasn’t been the most accurate. I’ve been sort of fortunate in that I’ve had somebody point it out, but unfortunately they are lacking a wee bit in the etiquette department, so I’m going to use some of my diplomacy skills to help them see the errors of their way.


Ready for re-education?

Firstly, I agree facts are important. It’s good that any errors are pointed out. However I am not going to alter something when it’s just a matter of semantics and not actually incorrect.

Secondly. As I have already told the person who kindly pointed out the errors in my blog, I don’t have endless time to trawl the internet for obscure data. Indeed, I don’t even have access to decent internet for 7 months of the year due to being at sea. This is something I make apparent when explaining the infrequent nature of my posting and the basic look of my blog. I’m not going to know about the Nepalese whisky with its barley malted by yeti dung unless it’s a well known thing. If you know about it then you’re just a bigger geek than me.

Thirdly. Entertainment. If you are looking at my blog solely for facts, you’ve come to the wrong place. While I make reasonable endeavours to make sure what I write is accurate, and will correct any errors pointed out if necessary, I try to tell a short story first. If I can I’m going to try and make it amusing, and I enjoy some self deprecation as I’m primarily writing for entertainment (mine and yours) and maybe letting people smile a bit at least. Then I’ll drink a whisky and let you know what I thought so we can all smile. It’s never a recent release, so I’m providing a wee retrospective look at drams long gone and sometimes from distilleries that have fallen silent and won’t ever produce again. To recap, key points of my blog are tasting notes and an entertaining story if possible, which in most accounts seems to be working.

Fourth point is that I’m no expert. I’ve never claimed to be, and I never want to be. Whisky is a hobby. I get enjoyment from drinking it, telling stories or sharing experiences from it. You’ll never catch me going for a WSET as I don’t want to be in the industry in such a way that it would be any benefit. I can see why people in the industry do these courses, but I’m old school – I’ve only ever learnt on the job. If I ever retire from the offshore life, a full time distillery tour guide will be as far as I fancy reaching. I can share my enjoyment and knowledge with those who want to visit. There’s enough wannabe limpets around the industry as there is and I’m not going to be one of them.


The real experts write books like this or work in the industry. The rest of us are enthusiasts.

I also don’t need to be spoken to in such a way that makes me feel as though I’m a school kid who has made a mess of his homework. I’m an educated 40-something, and while I’m no expert, I’m certainly not an idiot and I don’t need to be treated like the person who enjoys the taste of window glass.

My fifth and final point is on the nuances of social behaviour. As alluded to previously, there are subtle ways of handling people when errors are made in such a way that they don’t lose face and the person giving correction doesn’t look like a twat. I’ve always been of the opinion that you praise in public, correct in private. It’s the work of a total cad to make your point in public and show off you know more. All you are doing is making yourself look like a cretin. If you really want to correct somebody, consider a DM, as you may also be wrong. And you wouldn’t want to look like THAT person, would you? After all, you were likely the only one to have an issue if nobody else mentioned it. And how important is it that you need to correct it, or are you really just using it as an opportunity to massage your ego?

Anti-social media strikes again.

I’ve made more than one blog post on the subject of social media and the fact that it is often not social at all. Yet again, the internet has left me unsurprised and I get to be Mr Grumpy for a while. I know it’s a bit hypocritical of me to say that about correction being in private then writing this article, but I’ve not mentioned the person in question. They alone will know who it is if they read this post and ask themselves AITA?* Of course, they probably only thought they were trying to help, but they didn’t really go about it in an appropriate way for a second time, so I’ve decided a wee bit of social guidance needed.

If anybody has really got an issue with what I write in my blog, then please feel free to unfollow me. I’ll live. I’ve thicker skin than an armadillos knackersack. But if you really must give your tuppenny worth, consider taking the advice of that it isn’t what you say, but the way that you say it that matters.

*Am I The Asshole.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

High Sea African Adventures

Taste Review #137 – Three Ships TBWC Batch 1

Adventures at sea in Africa. I’ve had a few, but one of the places I haven’t is South Africa, apart from sailing past Cape Town. It isn’t really a place you would tie into whisky production. This year and last I’ve worked with a couple of South Africans who could only name Bains as a a whisky coming from South Africa. They were surprised when I told them of another. They should hang their heads in shame as the distillery in question makes both the Bains brand and the Three Ships whisky I try today.

The James Sedgewick distillery was founded in 1886, and is now owned by Distell. The distillery was named after a former seafarer of the same name, who after hanging up his sea boots became a pioneer of the South African spirits industry. Their current master distiller, Andy Watts, should be well known to Scotch whisky geeks as they also own Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory distilleries.

This distillery as far as I can find out is the only commercial whisky distillery in Africa. Having seen some of the hooch proffered as I’ve travelled through many countries on the West Coast of Africa, I’d tend to believe this is true. There is whiskies made by Copper Republic and Qualito Craft Distilleries, although these are not solely whisky distilleries as they make other spirits too.

Due to my backlog of reviews and lack of any decent stories about this whisky, I’m going to do what I’ve done in the past and refer you to the brand websites so you can get the full picture there.

www.threeshipswhisky.co.za

www.jamessedgwickdistillery.co.za

This dram was bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company, and is batch 1. The sample was bought from Master Of Malt.

Three Ships Batch 1 (TBWC)

Region – South Africa Age – 6 y.o Strength – 53.7% abv Colour – Auburn (1.5) Cask Type – Bourbon / PX Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No

Nose – Raisins, almond nougat, honey, vanilla, oak char, dark chocolate. Slight floral note.

Palate – creamy mouth feel. Luxurious. Quickly into oak spices. Honey and liquorice, aniseed. Dried fruits and dark chocolate

Finish – medium long finish with chocolate and raisins. I detect a leathery note too.

Conclusions

Nice enough. Nothing I’d abandon Scotch for, but a decent dram from overseas. The palate for me was the high point, and had I bought a full bottle I’d feel I was getting my moneys worth. However I have to factor in the fact that TBWC only release 50CL bottles, so would have to consider buying an original bottling should I wish to buy in the future

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

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Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own