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.
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
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 Type – Colouring – Chill Filtered – Nose – 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
Time waits for no man and that is a saying that I’m only too aware of. It’s been some time since I’ve written, but forgive me, it has been a hectic time at work. Like so many other professions, we find ourselves short of people and I’ve just not had the energy to catch up with my backlog after shift. With so many reviews in hand, it means I have been a bit reticent about reviewing other samples or bottles lest I fall behind even further.
But in my line of work we often accept that as long as we are not moving backwards, then that is a good thing and I’ve decided to take a plunge in my run of tasting anything but Scotch to try another Welsh whisky. Quite a risk after having the last one which I’ll only remind you that I was glad not to have bought a full bottle.
The inaugural Aber Falls was a keenly anticipated release, but unfortunately wasn’t released in a large volume, with only 2000 bottles reaching market. These were quickly snapped up by those who wanted to drink them and those greedy cretins who wished to flip and make profit. Kudos to the Aber Falls distillery for making a realistic charge of only £45 for your first bottling. Ya boo sucks to those marketing it now for over £300. You are despicable.
I could waste a lot of time by telling you about the distillery but I feel it better to let you visit the website of the distillery itself, so the link is here :- www.aberfallsdistillery.com
Aber Falls Inaugural Release
Region – Wales Age – NAS (3 yrs) Strength – 46% abv Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – American / European Oak, Spanish Sherry, Virgin Oak, Orange Wine Casks Colouring -Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated
Nose – quite tropical initially. Got a big hit of passion fruit. Butterscotch angel delight, orange citrus, vanilla, dried fruit, raisins, sultanas. Slightly nutty, walnuts.
Palate – medium bodied and gives a pleasant mouthfeel. Gingery heat builds straight away but is well controlled. The orange wine casks play a big part, and I get plenty of marmalade notes. The heat subsides and becomes a bit more biscuity and syrupy and floral sweetness, akin to heather honey. This morphs into a creamy smoothness, something similar to American Ice cream soda with that magical tickle on the tongue.
Finish – Medium finish. Coffee, dark chocolate, honey, ginger and oak spices. Drying towards the end.
I was quite surprised by this dram. I wasn’t expecting much from it, but it was quite drinkable, despite the young age. The continual fashion of releasing young whisky irks me somewhat. It is rapidly apparent that this whisky is going to be a good one, so why release it so early? It just seems to be that another couple of years in the cask would have done it a world of good, but I can only imagine that the accountants and those waiting on returns on their investments had other ideas.
So many other distilleries have been releasing at a young age and it seems to have flooded the market with whisky that has just passed its exams and is trying to take on those with a lot more experience. I’ve tasted whiskies which to me did not manage this at all in my opinion, so why make your whisky one more face in that crowd? I’d think it would be a better idea to follow the Adelphi way of thinking and wait 5 yrs to get an nicely balanced whisky with a couple more years under its belt like Ardnamurchan.
Of course this is only my opinion, but getting whisky out as soon as possible seems to also please the flippers who can make tons of money by flipping three year old spirit. The only thing that makes me happy is knowing that those who have paid flipper rates for a £45 whisky will essentially be left with nothing once better, more mature Aber Falls comes out, as that is I suspect to be a very delicious prospect.
One thing I am thinking is whether or not the long line of cask types in this release is sustainable and will they have a core release of say ex-bourbon so we can get a better idea of distillery character? The Orange wine cask had quite an influence on this bottling but I am wondering what a standard core release will taste like. The second release was only £26 so based on this tasting, that is a bargain if it meets the quality of this one.
Despite my various reservations, I would recommend this whisky. The problem is that only 2000 bottles were released and it is fair to assume that those opened will now be long gone, so your only hope is to find one going cheap at auction. During a bit of research for this post, I had seen one for sale at £449 at whiskys.co.uk. Absolutely scandalous pricing as thiswhisky can never expect to hold up to that and anybody stupid enough to pay that must either be really desperate to try it or they have more money than sense. On secondary market, even £100 is overpriced unless you really enjoy it when you drink it.
If you are really interested in trying it, Master Of Malt still had samples at the time of writing (29th March 2022) costing £5.28 for 3cl.
If you are reading this then I’d say there is a fair to middling chance that each one of you don’t have much space for more whisky. Of course, this is a really stupid statement as there is always space for more whisky if you are a whisky enthusiast. (Enthusiast sounds much better than geek and infinitely better than alcoholic).
A recent tidy up of the open bottles found a few that were ready to be dispatched. Any decent open whisky gets kept in the study after a wee accident with a bottle of Yellow Submarine and its subsequent consumption by my wife and mother in law. For them it could have been Bells or Grants, they wouldn’t have been worried. Therefore now only bottles I’m not too bothered about stay in the side board. There’s a healthy component of older Wild Turkey at 86 and 101 proof, but also there is what I’d describe as shite whisky.
I was a bit late to stop a backlash from one individual on Twitter when I used this term to describe a bottle. I’m well aware that nobody deliberately makes a “shite” whisky; this is only my opinion of whisky that I have just not engaged with or have no connection to it at all. While this individual contested he’s never had a bad whisky, only some better than others, that sounds like a ploy to ensure he offends nobody and the freebies keep coming. Sometimes I prefer delivering much more direct feedback. Anyhoo, room in the shite corner is limited, so for something to move in, something has to move out. And to this end we’ve had to have a couple of bottle kills.
Number one on the chopping block was the Glen Keith distillery edition. This is a whisky that I’ve conflicted thoughts about. I have bought a bottle of this as I liked the packaging and never have had an OB Glen Keith at the time of purchase. It went to the back of the cupboard and eventually into store as my wife bought me a bottle as well. It was going to be opened to show gratitude, but to be honest I didn’t think much of it. See my initial appraisal here – Giving Keith A Kicking.
After three years open, had my thoughts changed? There is a good chance they might but is it right to expect much from a £20 whisky from the Co-op? My thoughts on this dram quickly saw it relegated to hot toddies or guests who knew no better. But something kept dragging me back to find something positive about it. I can’t explain why, as it was rougher than an Ardvaarks knackersack. However, after recently making a hot toddy to try and shift an enduring cold, I thought I’d drink some neat. And what a surprise that turned out to be.
Was it good? Not quite. Much more tolerable is closer to the mark. Still quite thin on the mouth and the spirit burn was a little out of balance to be kind, but the orchard fruit really came through. I got pears first and then the green sharp apple. It was a lot clearer than when I last took this dram neat about 2 years ago.
Glen Keith Distillery Edition
Region – Speyside Age – NAS Strength – 40% abv Colour – Bright Gold Cask Type – Not stated but likely Bourbon Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Toffee, vanilla, orchard fruits, mostly pear but a hint of sharp green apple. Palate – Thin mouthfeel. Little spirit burn on arrival, more pears, caramel, slight custard and banana, vanilla Finish – Short, sharp and drying. More orchard fruit. Caramel and vanilla plus a faint whiff of smoke.
A lesson learned?
Most of you reading this will know that drams do change if left open to oxidise a little bit. I’m glad that I didn’t give up on this dram, as the time I spent with it in the dying days of the bottle were not bad. Not special, not memorable but it basically did it’s job as a relaxing alcoholic drink. You know it’s young whisky, low ABV, coloured and chill filtered, but it still served its purpose. I’m going to forgive it’s place in Shite Dram Corner, as it was never going to meet my expectations in terms of what a decent whisky is.
The tipping point for this was smelling the glass the morning after. What a wonderful rich toffee smell. I raised this in my initial review and to me, the extra time spent in the bottle has only improved the nose, if not the palate. I was a bit of a junkie going back to the glass throughout the day for a sniff before I succumbed to loading the dishwasher. So this led to a greater effort to drink it and appreciate it more. I don’t know if I can say it gained more in my estimations but I felt happy I’d found more positive notes, resulting in a smidge of regret when the bottle kill happened. On to the next victim.
With one bottle out of the cabinet, it was now a bit easier to see another long term resident – my half bottle of Jura Journey. I really disliked this dram for a variety of reasons. The main one was that it has very little taste or mouthfeel. A slight spirit burn and a hint of whisky taste and that’s your lot. I’ve also written about this in the past – A road best less travelled. This may be a little bit of a harsh review but I’ve kept it live as it is a true representation of how I felt at the time.
In my outlook, you have to be fair when reviewing whisky and accept there are will be whiskies you just won’t like and some may take time in the bottle to oxidise and lose their sharp edges. Seeing as I did this with Glen Keith, it’s only fair I do this with Jura Journey.
I would write tasting notes for the dram again, but it’s impossible. There is definitely nothing redeemable about this dram. It firmly deserved its place in my collection of drams below par. There is just no hit to it at all. While I can accept that everybody needs a beginner whisky, this just wouldn’t be it. On social media I hear more up to date bottlings of Jura Journey are worse than before, which I struggle to believe. Honestly Whyte and Mackay, this is an edition that in my opinion is negatively affecting the Jura brand. I’ve had Jura that I’ve enjoyed enough to go out and buy a full bottle, but not this one.
Life is too short to be drinking poor whisky and this one has been opened long enough to know it won’t change. Time to just accept that it’s time for a one way journey – down the sink.
In the greater scheme of things, both these drams are forgettable. While it’s nice to try different things, there are some clues that point to shite whisky straight away. Being on offer at the Co-op is a prime one. 40% whisky with no age stated is another when it’s on a supermarket shelf.
It isn’t so long ago that I was standing in the till queue in a local Co-op where somebody asked for a bottle of Jura Journey. I resisted the urge to tell him it wasn’t the best and for the same price or slightly above there were far better options, but I didn’t. You have to remember that somebody will like it, and that’s their personal taste and shouldn’t be mocked. For me, looking back on both these drams, being able to forgive, forget then move on is probably for the best. Make room in the cabinet for more deserving drams. There are thousands out there.
So, in this quick review, we name check an Alabama 3 song when we look towards the dram of the review. It’s a Paul John whisky released by That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC). I felt that just reviewing one whisky from India wasn’t fair, considering the amount of the stuff they make. Thankfully only decent stuff makes it out of the country.
Well, it’s good news all around. I’m not having to go back to India for a wee while. The heat for somebody as pale skinned as I am is a little too much. Plus I’m fed up of eating curry.
Going to keep this one short and sweet, and therefore provide a link to the distillery website here and say that this was a brand which started releasing whisky under its own brand in 2012. Independent bottlers TBWC released this batch in 2016, which amounted to 173 bottles.
Paul John TBWC Batch 2
Region – India Age – 6 y.o Strength – 52.9% abv Colour – Russet Muscat (1.3) Cask Type – Not Known Colouring – Not Stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Thick caramel, millionaires shortbread, green apple, slight salt and pepper. Hint of peat smoke. Palate – cooked orchard fruit. Apple, vanilla. Peppery, slight smoke, hint of chocolate Finish – medium long finish. Peppery spices, berry fruit and a whiff of peat smoke and iodine at the very end
Aye, pleasant stuff. If I was going to see this in a bar or a bottle going cheap at auction, I’d spring for it. Smokiness is well controlled and not overpowering for those who don’t like peated drams that much.
A decent introduction to a brand I haven’t tried before and would recommend you try if you haven’t already.
I hasten to add that I am fond of a bit of a black mood but in no way am I going to start becoming hypocritical for one second. Every silver lining has its cloud and so on and so on. However some sectors aren’t immune from using negative or incorrect statements to make themselves look better. As much as this pains me to say this, it has to stop.
I chose this topic because I’ve noticed a few things that made me sit up and think that something wasn’t quite right. If you are going to have a dismal outlook then it’s always better to have it based on fact or something quantifiable that you can show on why you’ve come to an assumption. It’s all very well making statements about whisky, but at least make it fair and be prepared on back it up.
I will say how this particular rant started by feeding back something that was passed onto me from one of my whisky brothers. This is person who I keep in contact to chew the fat, swap the odd sample and also just have a good old burst of negativity in private so I’m not so much a gurning git online. He had visited an Irish distillery where the person doing the tour had mentioned how Irish whisky had to be matured for 3 years yet Scotch only had to be matured for 2 years. This seems to be common amongst proponents of the Irish Whisky Industry where many mistruths are either intentionally or unintentionally propagated. The problem is that sometimes the falsehoods are believed by those who know no better and the erroneous statement keeps going.
Of course, unintentionally making an error is fine, and this can be corrected by education, but needs to be done ASAP. Even I’m not immune, haven fallen foul of misinformation myself with regards a couple of times, sometimes based on a certain year book or a flat capped vBlogger. Best make the correction and move on.
For some strange reason there is some sort of misconception I seem to be aware of, whether it’s anecdotal or something I have directly heard, I can’t remember but there is a tendency for some people supporting the Irish Whiskey industry to say things like “Scotch is peated and smokey, whereas Irish is smooth because we triple distill and they only double distill.” That is obviously a gross misrepresentation of the facts, as the majority of Scotch is not peaty and smokey and at least two distilleries triple distill and a few have utilised a partial triple distillation method.
Why say negative stuff like that? It’s a pretty poor show when you have to knock down another product just to make your own look better. My source revealed that Scotch gets mentioned at a few of the Irish distilleries he’s visited and not always in a positive light. Yet when I visit a Scottish distillery, I’ve yet to hear mention of Irish whiskey.
Yes, there is a difference between Irish and Scotch whisky due to the subtle difference in production. But for some, here is a newsflash – Irish whiskey has traditionally used peat in the past. Even the light and floral Speysiders did, as once upon a time the distilleries would have used the fuel available to them. I mean, how likely is it a nation that has nearly a fifth of its landmass covered by peat not use it as fuel? The Irish weren’t given the nickname ‘Bogtrotters’ because the lived on a land entirely of loamy soil.
The Irish distilled whisky before the Scots. That’s a fact. However the Scots were the ones who where arguably to become more successful in a commercial sense with it – for now at least. That doesn’t make Scotch any better than Irish Whiskey either.
Here’s a thought. Why not just get on producing your whiskey without worrying what other distilleries are doing and just concentrate on making the best whiskey you can? The Irish scene is certainly flourishing now with new craft distilleries coming on line, so if you are wanting to get into Irish whisky now is the time. And a few are making peated spirit.
I’ve been doing an occasional series on different world whiskies. Not once have I compared them to Scotch. It just wouldn’t be fair as everything about them is different from barley sources and water sources, climate and production practices. Just take your whisky as you find it. Let the liquid do the talking and ignore preconceptions. I’ve found the whisky from Scotland’s historical foe to be quite good so far. That doesn’t bother me; all that matters is that I am enjoying what is in my glass. And yet it seems yet another Battle Royale could be in the making. A recent article was published in the Telegraph. The article is paywalled but you’ll get the drift. English Whisky Rivals Scotch
Anyway. To conclude the battle of whether Irish is better than Scotch, I decided to pitch two common blends against each other, one from each country. As Scotland has more whisky distilleries I thought I’d give the Irish a more fighting chance by allowing it a partner.
In the Red Corner we have Famous Grouse, the most popular blended whisky in Scotland. In the Blue Corner we have Jamesons and his companion Tullamore Dew. Let battle commence!
Region – Scottish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Amber 0.7 Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Malt, Buttery, Caramel, Werthers Originals, a hint of grain, Orange peel Palate – Quite sweet. Light to medium mouthfeel. Burst of alcohol burn on first sip but quickly subsides to leave flavours of malt, sultana, butterscotch, hint of ginger nuts and a very slight smokiness. Finish – Medium and pleasant. Malt continues with a slight drying in the mouth. Digestive biscuits with a suggestion of grain whisky
Jamesons Blended Irish
Region -Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour -Deep Gold (0.8) Cask Type -N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Sweet Malt, almost like a frosted breakfast cereal. Stone fruit, Apricot, tinned peaches, chocolate raisins. Palate – quite mild and approachable. Slightly oily mouthfeel with the grain components being immediately available. Sweet biscuity taste, a little spice from ginger and nutmeg. No strong burn, the sweetness reminds me of a candy that I can’t quite remember the name of. Almond also in there. Finish – Not that long and complex. The sweet components hang on in there. Nutty, candied almonds rings a bell, possibly the candy I was thinking of in the palate. A bit of grain remains with apricot in the finish and a hint of mint.
Region – Irish Blend Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not stated Nose – Buttery biscuits, custard cream, honey Palate – Harsh alcohol, grains, Malt, vanilla, pink peppercorn spice, blackcurrants, slight citrus Finish – hot finish with more tannic spice, burning alcohol, drying, hint of lemon in the end.
Did Ireland beat Scotland? No. Not at all. It was like comparing oranges to a combine harvester. However in the battle of the blends, the Tullamore was like the mate who can’t fight trying to help you in a square go. Why is it legendary? Well perhaps to cut it down to brass tacks, is it because this bottle was totally pish. In its defence it was an old bottle and slightly evaporated but it only just missed going down the sink. As I drunk it while in quarantine in Colombo I was just grateful for the booze.
The Grouse had more body, the Jamesons was lighter and smoother, and to my palate was boring and bland. But that’s just me. It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either. The competition it faced was Grouse. Hardly the best in the world either.
While technically Scotland should win on points as Jameson was founded by a Scot, the true result is a draw. Just go where your palate takes you as the best whisky of the time is the one you enjoy the most. Be it Bourbon, Scots, Japanese, English, Welsh, Irish or even Icelandic, it really doesn’t matter.
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of Canada? I am going to guess whisky isn’t the first thing you would think of. For me, I just think of a country that has vast wildernesses, say “ay” at the end of sentences a lot, and are pretty laid back. Canada is a place I have worked in the past and I’ve really enjoyed being there. In 2002 I spent some time there while working on a drilling rig that wasn’t too far away from where the Titanic sank. I remember flying over the snow covered coast on a helicopter on the run in to Halifax airport watching people go across the landscape on skiddoos. I guess being in Canada looks a lot of fun with not a lot of people to get in your way outside of the cities.
Canadian Club is the first whisky I think of when I think of Canada. I realise there are others but I’m not particularly interested in Canadian spirits, but I felt them worth a try. The brand was started by Hiram Walker in 1858 and was originally known as Hiram Walker’s Club Whisky. It became popular and due to a change in American law which required foreign whisky to state the country of origin on the label, it eventually became known as Canadian Club.
As per usual, brands change hands, and Canadian Club isnow owned by Beam Suntory. There isn’t really a lot to write about this whisky but I’ll say more later.
Canadian Club 1858
Region – Canada Age – NAS Strength – 40% Colour – Deep Copper (1.0) Cask Type – Not stated Colouring – Not stated Chill Filtered – Not stated Nose – sweet, corn, biscuits, caramel, vanilla. Palate – very light mouthfeel, watery. Woody, melon and apple juice, Tinned pears syrup Irn Bru spices – ginger and cinnamon combined. Fizz on the palate almost like a slightly flat soda water. Finish – a slight heat and fruity finish. Medium short and drying.
There were a fact or two I discovered about Canadian Club. I didn’t realise this is the only North American whisky to gain a Royal Warrant. Not just one – Queen Victoria, Kings Edward VII, George V and George VI plus even Elizabeth II have given this whisky their blessing. They must have been using laudanum as their mixer I presume. I have to say that I was hoping this would be a smooth drink that would take me to a gentleman’s club with wood panelling filled with chesterfield sofas with a light whiff of cigar smoke in the background. I’m afraid to tell you that I was massively disappointed in that this whiskey did absolutely nothing for me at all. It was almost as though I was drinking a watered down drink. But this a chance a seasoned whisky drinker takes when they go back to basics then there just isn’t enough there to entertain them. It was as though I wasn’t drinking a whisky at all, but a flavouring used in food.
The other fact (and this is highly dubious) is that according to Tesco, Canadian Club is the only recognised Canadian whisky in the UK. I suspect this is not true. This ignores Crown Royal altogether.
Canadian Club 1858 is sold in Australia and New Zealand at 37% abv. God knows why, as this is a whisky that isn’t going to blow anybodies head off. Speaking of heads, I sort of wanted to start with some sort of questionable humour about when I think of Canadians and clubs, I also include baby seals in that thought. But due to the lack of kick in this whisky, that’s the only sore head that anybody will be getting with a Canadian Club. Of course, this assumes you all drink responsibly. Of course you do.
But to be fair, this isn’t a completely bad whisky; I could enjoy this as a very light refreshment in a cocktail but as a straight drink it just doesn’t work for me. New whisky drinkers may enjoy it, so it isn’t to be a total write off. Every drink has its place and this is far from the bottom of the pile.
Once again I find myself looking at another world whisky as I endeavour to try whisky other than my preferred option of Scotch. And this time the pin in the map has landed on Denmark. Its not a country you really associate with whisky production but believe it or not there are a handful of distilleries in Denmark. It’s something that I have never tried before, so it was on my list to try for some time.
At one time I used to do tastings at a hotel my wife used to run, with one of the best customers was a Dane called Ulrik. It was he that introduced me to the fact that Denmark had a burgeoning whisky scene. According to the Malt Whisky Yearbook there are 16 whisky distilleries within Denmark, which came as a surprise to me. And here is me thinking that all Denmark was famous for was Danepak Bacon and the delicious butter cookies we often get offshore. I guess there is a reason for the Danish nation topping polls of who is the happiest nation. With biscuits, bacon and whisky. That is a country that has a lot going for it!
The Stauning distillery was founded in 2005 by nine friends and had a somewhat unconventional beginning. While it was quite normal to source your barley from somebody locally, perhaps the fact (according to the distillery website) they malted on a butchers cold room floor and used an old mincer as a grinder to make their grist. However it wasn’t until 2011 that the first commercial bottlings were released. There is absolutely no point in me telling you things you can read for yourself, so please take a look at their website at stauningwhisky.com
Stauning Floor Malted Rye
Region – Denmark (Rye) Age – NAS Strength – 48% Colour – Burnished (1.1) Cask Type – New American Oak Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose– Lime zest, Rye bread, malt, honey, fruit jelly candies, freshly crushed black peppercorns, Palate – Sweet and subdued with an oily mouthfeel, for me the taste is dominated by peppery oak, there is a hint of cherries and blackberries / Forest fruits, but not as sharp as a a raspberry. Finish – medium and drying – peppery oak and citrus peels. I get a taste of sour beer at the end as well. Adding water really balanced out the peppery oak in the palate and made the citrus sour taste in the finish more prominent and pleasant.
Region – Denmark Age – NAS Strength – 46.3% Colour – Burnished (1.1) Cask Type – American Oak with 6 months Mezcal Finish Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Honey, Rye cereal notes, smokiness like toast crusts, Apple, strawberries, quite fruity under the grain and honey notes. Saline note also Palate – Medium body. No real spirit burn on arrival. Oaky, spicy, drying. Ginger, dry well fired toast gives a slight smokey note. Brown sugar. Finish – Spicy and hot on the way down. Quite a surprise given the lack of a spirit burn in the mouth. The finish is quite short and addition of water doesn’t do that much for the heat. Dry finish, brine, oaky spice ending in a brown sugar note.
I felt that the floor malting version slightly unbalanced with the peppery oak on arrival, but having added only a few drops of water from the pipette, this steadied the ship a lot more and it became a decent dram much to my liking. While I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, this would be happlily received as a gift, and should I know somebody who appreciates a rye whisky, I’d consider recommending it or giving as a gift. I do not know the age of this whisky. I would recommend this to people who want to experiment and try Danish spirits.
Given there was quite a gap between publishing this post and it’s writing, within this time I received a wee dram from one of the page followers of some Stauning Rye. It’s a bonus that I’ll enjoy this whisky straight away as I’ll know to add water to it.
The Bastard whisky? Well, it was an expletive that I nearly expressed when I swallowed for the first time. There was a sudden burst of heat that was unexpected given the lack of spirit tingle on the tongue while I held it in my mouth. This has been in a new American Oak cask for three years prior to a six month spell in a Mezcal cask. As I have never tasted Mezcal, I can’t say for definite if I could identify it, but I wonder if the sudden spirit burn was as a result of this. To counter that unpleasant spirit burn, I had to add a good dose of water to the glass. It then became a lot more drinkable but to be honest I wouldn’t recommend it. I think I’ll just stick to the Danish butter cookies and bacon in the future rather than have this again.
It wasn’t so long ago that I have tried a rye whisky that was similar, in that it needed water to become more palatable. Due to my relative inexperience of such grains in whisky compared to malted barley, it’s hard for me to say if this is just a general rye characteristic or if it’s just my personal preference. it’s worth noting that these two whiskies also have malted barley in the mash bill, meaning it’s not all the fault of the rye. I’m going to guess it’s just my preferences that may be why I’ve felt that these whiskies need water.
As for Stauning? I’d certainly be looking at more of their produce in the future, but will have the water on standby.