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.
What is the first thing you think of when you think of the Germans?
It’s unfortunate that most people think of the Second World War, but Germany is much more than that. You can’t tar them all with the same brush because one Austrian goes mental and tries to take over Europe. I’ve just finished working with a German supervisor and on the one night we had nothing to do, it was suggested that we watch a movie. I had asked my colleague what he fancied watching, adding “I bet you don’t want to watch a war movie!” I was right. I followed it up a couple of days later by replying when asked what was happening that day “I don’t know – I was thinking of invading Poland.” Yes, the Germans aren’t known for their sense of humour, but this is a mistaken stereotype. So is the idea that Germans don’t have a word for fluffy; they just don’t use it much.
I like Germany. Nearly every German I’ve met has been very friendly and extremely hospitable. The country has many really beautiful sights and it’s unfortunate that many fixate on something that happened in the last century. It truly is worth going out and about and seeing what surprises Germany has to offer.
You might also be amazed to find out that Germany has more distilleries than the UK. It surprised me to find out that Germany has some 29,000 distilleries. Most of these distilleries produce fruit spirits, but they surprisingly have more whisky distilleries than Scotland. There are up to 800 dealing with whisky in Germany, far surpassing the Scottish total, though according to deutschland.de, 130 of these are expressly whisky distilleries, slightly short of the Scottish number.
I’ve always been tempted to try whisky made in Germany, but haven’t been able to get a full sized bottle, as well as not wanting to risk the money on something I may not like without trying first. Thankfully Drinks By The Dram have come to the rescue and I’ve been able to get a mini of German whisky, this being from the Slyrs Distillery and bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
The Slyrs Distillery is based in Bavaria, to the south east of Munich in a town called Schliersee Neuhaus, and is owned by the Stetter family who have a connection to the Lantenhammer distillery to the north in Hausham. This is due to the marriage of Anneliese Lantenhammer and Sigfried Stetter. It was their son, Florian Stetter who founded the Slyrs distillery. He had joined the Lantenhammer distillery in 1985. The distillery made brandy, but it was during a study trip to Scotland in 1994, had noticed similarities with his home in Bavaria – Mountains, fresh spring water and clean air. He felt that it would be possible to produce a whisky in Bavaria.
Florian had bet his friends a crate of beer that he could distill a Bavarian whisky and by 1999 his dream had been realised and the first whisky had been distilled. The result was a release of 1600 bottles of whisky in 2002. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Slyrs distillery was completed and a mountain store warehouse was completed on Mount Stümpfling.
Nobody I know personally has tried a German whisky, other than people I have met online through my blog and social media interactions, so I thought it best to just go ahead and try for myself.
TBWC Slyrs Batch 3
Region – Germany Age -3 y.o Strength – 52.6% Colour – Russet (1.3) Cask Type -American Oak, Crocodile char Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Apricot jam, vanilla, fresh croissants, mandarin peel, coconut. Palate – Sweet arrival, honey, coconut, butterscotch, orchard fruit – possibly pear slightly nutty note too. Finish – Still a bit sweet but hot on departure. Honey with peppery heat, Sichuan peppers possibly. Sense a wee bit of the char coming through. Honey
I have to say that I have enjoyed this whisky. Despite being at what I suspect is an undiluted cask strength, it was an extremely easy drinker. It was on the fruity side with a funk to the nose, but sweetness continued throughout the dram, with various flavours coming through, with no note particularly overpowering any other.
There was a bit of heat that started in the mid palate which continued through to the finish and didn’t overpower the sweetness. All in all quite pleasant. Water subdued the heat a bit and allowed the honey to show on the finish which was of mid to long length.
This is still available at the Master of Malt Website for £74.95. I won’t be buying one right now, but would recommend if anybody was thinking of trying a German whisky, then this is one I’d recommend to try. It won’t be around forever, as only 395 bottles were produced, but I’d imagine TBWC will have more casks in waiting. If you want to dip your toe in before you commit to a whole bottle, 3cl samples are available for £6.90.
The next world whisky in my sights is a bottling from the Netherlands. It’s not a country that you’d instantly associate with whisky distilling, but why not? After all, the busy wee cloggies aren’t just keeping their fingers in Dykes, chasing mice in windmills and making large red round cheeses. They distill a plenty considering all the genever and gin they make, so why not whisky?
I’m not the world’s biggest gin fan, and the only Dutch drink I miss is Advocaat, that having been a regular drink for the underage drinker at Grandmas every new year coupled with lemonade to make a snowball. Yummy! I notice a few of you on social media were enjoying a snowball or two at the time I was drafting this, so perhaps it’s coming back in fashion.
The sample I have to try today is a Millstone 6 y.o whisky. The Zuidam distillery was started in 1975 and is one of the few independent distillers in the Netherlands. The malted barley is milled by windmills, which is pretty cool and traditional. I was gifted this sample by SmileySmoggy, a fellow member of the Whisky Twitterati.
Millstone 6 y.o (TBWC)
Region – Netherlands Age – 6 y.o Strength – 48.9% abv Colour – Russet Muscat (1.3) Cask Type – Not Stated Colouring -Not Stated Chill Filtered – No Nose – Coffee, Chocolate, Red Apple, caramel, slight hint of liquorice. A floral note is present but I can’t place it. Palate – Quite creamy and peppery, orange peel with cloves, slightly sweet but spicy. Medium mouthfeel Finish – Quite long, spicy. Peppery and sweet. Slightly drying towards the end. With water, there was a continuation of the chocolate theme, but for me water really shortened the finish.
I like the Dutch. While they can appear arrogant, (and sadly some of them are, but us Brits can’t throw stones in that greenhouse) the vast majority of them are really open and friendly as well as being direct. You always tend to know where you are with the Dutch. They also have some awesome food, even just the basic French fries and mayonnaise based saus. Don’t get me started on the food that has come from their imperial conquests in the Far East such as Loempia and Nasi Goering or other street favourites such as shawarma and Frikandel sausage with the sweet curry ketchup. If you haven’t tried these things then you need to.
That’s the same with Millstone. It wasn’t the same style as I am more used to, but it grew on me. I would recommend you try some if you see it on the shelf. It wouldn’t be a go-to whisky for me, but I’d be delighted to receive it as a gift and would drink again.
The only downside is that the That Boutique-y Whisky Company only bottle in 50cl size. This RRP of £54.95 I feel pushes the sense of value, so it wouldn’t be a regular purchase should I be tempted.
Being different. Sometimes it might not be better but it may be right. It’s a topic often discussed amongst my offshore colleagues. At the moment many of us are burnt out due to longer offshore trips, often leaving home without knowing when you will see your loved ones again. Regularly trips are over 2 months, which quashes the image of the typical offshore worker doing 2 weeks on a cushy North Sea platform before coming home to get smashed in the Spiders Web and causing havoc on the train to Elgin. The boat I am on now is running out of fresh water, salad is but a memory and the only fruit available will soon be of the tinned variety. I am sure those in the armed services will have similar experiences. At least I’m not getting shot at. Well, at least not yet.
And there are the little things that you often take for granted that get missed. Good internet is one of them – seeing trees, listening to bird song, home cooked food, being able to watch the TV you want to, going out for a pint or just something as basic as decent toilet paper. The stuff used offshore that is suitable for vacuum toilets is cheap, nasty and if you have piles then you may need to ensure you bring on plenty of Anusol or Preparation H.
Stocking up is the thing to do when working away from home, especially when it comes to the quarantine required before you go offshore. I’m limited to what I can carry. I like carrying those wee Robinson’s Squeezy concentrated squash, packs of chilli coated peanuts and various sweeties that I can’t get offshore. Depending on where I end up going I often bring around 6 packs of Taylor’s of Harrogate Coffee (Lava Java being a favourite) and some green tea.
Twinings do a great range of flavoured green teas, with the Lemon Drizzle Cake, Gingerbread and Cherry Bakewell being my favourites. The aroma of the green tea always reminds me of moist sponge cake. It is different, yet some of the teas snobs I work with turn their noses up at it. But how does Green Tea whisky work? Is it not better but different? Can it be both?
The dram that I bring you for this review has been sold out in most places for a while. Thanks to my myopic concentration on Scotch, I don’t always pay attention to whisky outside that scene. However this is a release of a whisky that had been matured in a selection of ex bourbon 1st fill, 1st fill Swedish Oak, plus new and 1st fill Oloroso casks. These have then been vatted and finished in newly seasoned sherry casks that had been filled with Oloroso sherry and green tea seasoning, rather than whole leaf tea. This triggered my inner inquisitiveness and I’ve been drawn to it for some time. However as this was the 2020 seasonal release for Mackmyra, I never managed to get a bottle, though I felt I had to try it as another trip on my whisky journey. I mean, whisky and tea – what could go wrong?
Mackmyra Grönt Te
Region – Sweden Age – NAS Strength – 46.1% ABV Colour – Amber (0.7) Cask Type – Oloroso / Green Tea cask finishing cask Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Green Apple, Watermelon, white pepper, green tea, sultana, slight nougat, vanilla, floral and sweet biscuity notes. Palate – Quite sweet initially, with red berry notes, green apples, well controlled spicy and slightly drying tannins, cloves, peppery. And more green tea. Finish – short / medium. Earthy notes, fruity and sweet, slightly drying with the ubiquitous green tea taste. Finish had a bit more kick when water added and I detect more spice (firey ginger and pepper) which isn’t overpowering.
Was this different any better? No. It was not any better than any contemporary whisky. However, it was certainly different and a very pleasant experience that I would happily repeat. The green tea effect I felt was light and subdued, yet still noticeable. I felt it was well balanced and any more green tea taste may have led the whisky to be off-kilter to my taste.
I felt it had a fresh, refreshing palate, almost equivalent to a decent cuppa, but while I’d happily have it again, it won’t replace any of the staples in my drinks cabinet for now.
And that is probably for the best, as this was a limited release, so if you were wanting to try this then auction houses are your best bet. At an original release price of £59.90 in the UK on the Mackmyra web shop, the closer you can get to this price the better. At 46.1% abv this represents good but maybe not great value for the experience depending on your opinion.
If nothing else, now I know Sweden is good for more than Abba, Volvo cars, meatballs and flat pack furniture. I feel it will benefit you to consider paying attention to the produce of Mackmyra; I certainly will be doing so now.
Once again it is time for a speed review of some whisky that I don’t have time to properly do a full article for. I’m going to stick solely to the facts.
Bimber is a relatively new distillery based in London. It was founded by Dariusz Plazewski in 2005 and takes its name from the Polish word for moonshine. As I have Polish family, I’ve tasted plenty of home made liqueurs, most of them will blow your socks off, and none have had the abv tested. While they don’t make the base spirit, they purchase a neutral spirit at 94.5% and work from there. I only found out the potential strength of some of the hooch I’d been given when during my last stay with my mother-in-law I found an empty bottle of said spirit. That will explain why one of my wedding guests pretty much knocked himself out drinking the liqueur that was put in decanters on each table!
It is one of those sayings that when you drink tap water in London, it’s already been through 5 people before you. I am not so sure how true this is, but Bimber is made with water from public supply. While it will not have the minerals of a gushing mountain stream from the Highlands where many distilleries only have to filter their water for particulates and UV treat it, the Bimber water must be of a good enough quality. And when you think that in the process, the water gets boiled pretty much more than once, I doubt you will have to worry if the male population of London suddenly take a massive passion for eating asparagus.
I don’t have much time to write much more so I’m going to crack on with tasting this dram.
Bimber Oloroso cask Batch 4
Region – English Age – NAS Strength – 51.2% abv Colour – Amontillado Sherry (0.9) Cask Type – Bourbon / Oloroso Butt Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Malty, dusty hay barn, raisins, creamy vanilla, red apple, lemon, hint of ginger nuts. Palate – spirit burn on arrival, creamy milk chocolate, blackberry preserve, dried fruit, sweet, medium body. Adding water releases more nutty note, a waxy walnut. Finish – Short – medium length of finish. Velvety warming spices, cinnamon, ginger, sweet sherry departure. Water calms down the spices on the finish and adds an almond nougat. The last sip gave me chocolate caramel
This was wonderful. I have to say it was an instant like and no wonder Bimber is hard to get. This was my first experience of Bimber Whisky, and I have to give this a massive thumbs up. Who cares about where their water comes from? They source all their barley from one farm, so were a Single Farm distillery long before many others who now claim the same thing.
Only 975 bottles of this were released, and seeing as Bimber is often harder to obtain than unicorn farts, if you see one, grab it. Just don’t over pay at auction.
English whisky may have some way to go to catch up to Scotch, but this one is definitely a contender.
Taste Review #126 – The Original (English Whisky Co.)
What are the things you most associate with Norfolk? No hills, tons of tractors and combine harvesters holding up traffic, the Norfolk Broads and quite possibly inbreeding. You city slickers should watch Deliverance before you take a boat trip on the Broads! Have you ever heard the joke about how you know when you are at a Norfolk wedding? Both families are at the same side of the church.
Of course, I jest, and I think that I’m entitled to, as my own father hails from a village on the Broads just outside Great Yarmouth, so I know the truth about the area. I hope I don’t need all 12 fingers to count how many people I’ve just potentially offended.
No, the one thing that you don’t really associate Norfolk with is whisky. This should change. England is starting to blossom with whisky distilleries and the first one I became aware of was the St Georges Distillery in Norfolk, located north east of Thetford. This was the first distillery to produce whisky in over 100 years in England. The distillery started production in 2006.
The distillery while modern has been built in a building that is reminiscent of traditional agricultural style of East Anglia. It houses only two stills, which had to be at least 1800 litres in capacity due to constraints issued by custom and excise. This is larger than many stills at some of the smaller distilleries in Scotland.
When perusing for world whisky samples, this one came up. I’d already purchased a Bimber but I felt it important to try a whisky from the oldest whisky distillery currently operating in England.
The English – Original
Region – England Age – NAS Strength – 43% abv Colour – Old Gold (0.6) Cask Type – ex Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Light malt, grass, banana, mango, vanilla ice cream, hazelnut. Palate – a nice syrupy mouth feel. Sweet, malt, vanilla, orange, mango, nutmeg, light wood spices but nothing overpowering. Finish – medium but satisfying. Still a good mouthfeel, like after eating a chewy sweet. Nutty and fades into a milky chocolate orange.
Going to keep it short but sweet here. It’s a thumbs up. While I really liked this whisky, it was mainly for its easy going nature, sort of like a Broads cruise on a motorboat. I didn’t find it complex, but it was a pleasure to sip and relax with. The English distillery has certainly delivered here.
I would recommend and I’d probably buy if I saw it in a shop, but I feel this has mostly served it’s purpose as a gateway into the produce of the St George’s Distillery, therefore I’m likely to seek out the more sherried whiskies if I follow my usual form.
The price of whisky. If you were to compare the amount of times people complain about the prices of bottles compared to those who praise the low prices of some well regarded value drams, you are going to find the quantity skewed to one side. Whisky it seems is getting more and more expensive and you’ll not find many aficionados praising that current trend. At the time I started to draft this blog (mid Feb), we are maybe only days away from Diageo raising some of its prices, most notably the cost of Talisker 18 year old. Available for around £75 to my mind this not a bad price for an 18 year old whisky. By end of Feb 2022 it will suddenly cost way north of £100. But is that still too expensive for a mass market whisky? And it isn’t the only Diageo brand getting this treatment, it’s also Lagavuilin 16, Oban 14 and Mortlach I’m led to believe and possibly more.
Looking elsewhere, as an appreciator of Glendronach 18 Allardice, I’ve noticed a subtle yet quite visible rise of this bottle from £75 to what is around the £100 mark and over at some retailers, so Diageo aren’t alone. So what gives? Why are prices rising? Are we seeing quality maintained as the prices rise or is that also slipping? Where is the transparency in the price change? Let me just tell you now, if you think it is going to get better, then think again.
Recently it’s noticed that retailers (or resellers) have been guilty of jacking up prices. Just cast your mind back to Springbank Local Barley where one retailer was charging £150 a bottle yet if I am right in remembering only cost £100. Even now, Hard To Find Whiskies are charging £700 for a pop of the 2021 bottle. Some of the resellers are taking the mickey, yet it is the mugs that buy it that are to blame. If there wasn’t the demand, the price would fall. 8500 of these bottles released, so not exactly rare. The whisky itself cannot stand up to that several hundred pounds price tag , but if people will pay that, can you blame a manufacturer from getting more of a share of the perceived worth? Of course all that could be set in motion would be an increase on reseller or secondary market costs and a upwards spiral would be created which will eventually inflate prices far beyond what the actual liquid is worth.
Just to add onto the perfect storm of a prices increasing, there has been the small matter of a pandemic, increasing not only production costs but also staffing costs as there is a shortage of staff in many workforces that has interrupted production and made raw materials hard to get or expensive. People being at home and ordering lots of stuff has helped create a shortage of shipping containers, raising the cost of getting casks shipped into the UK, if not just the availability of new stock. The cherry on top comes with the short sighted decision of the UK to break away from its largest trading partner, further increasing the cost of doing business by additional red tape and the exodus of EU lorry drivers back to Europe. If you want to get your Christmas presents for 2022, you may be better off shopping on the M20 motorway in the queues of lorries.
Let’s also point to a large elephant in the room that Europe may be on the brink of war in light of recent violence conducted by Russia against the Ukraine. Much of Europe’s energy supplies come from Russia and the Ukraine. If you think your petrol prices are expensive now, just wait. And if the cost of energy goes up, so does everything else. Soon the tree huggers will be begging us to drill West of Shetland oil fields as the costs for their smashed avacado on toast and mochachocolatte hits sky high prices.
While having spoken of shooting ourselves in the foot, some whisky buyers not only vote unwisely in referendums but also don’t know what on earth they are doing in whisky auctions. I’m not going to debate the absurd money that gets thrown at flippers to obtain the new releases, but just take a look at many limited or premium bottles in some auctions reach prices well in excess of RRP. While the auctioneers are rubbing their hands with glee, so must another bunch of observers be smiling – the producers. It surely cannot be unnoticed what prices are potentially able to be sustained with a quick glance at the secondary market. If people are prepared to pay it, then it can’t be a rip off, right?
I suppose that it is value that drives the majority of the average whisky geek. We want to know we are getting a proper bang for our buck and while age of whisky is not really an accurate guide for quality, I feel it is still a benchmark for what to expect. With many young whiskies now also being released at prices that rival or exceed the cost of a Glendronach 18 or even the 21 y.o, which has jumped from the £120 mark to close to £160 in some cases during a similar timeframe, are these new whisky prices just pie in the sky due to producers knowing there is a market there that will sustain it? I think it’s a dangerous strategy if it is.
Let me turn my attention to the dram in question for today – Arbikie 1794 Highland Rye. Arbikie is a farm distillery close to the North East coast of Scotland. It is located to the north of Inverkeilor in the county of Angus. It owned by brothers David, Iain and John Stirling. While I have been following Iain on Twitter for some time now, I haven’t been paying close attention to Arbikie distillery. There’s a few reasons for that, the biggest one being that I’ve not been engaged with a brand that so far only has released rye whisky as it’s brown spirit offering, but that’s possibly an error on my part.
What turned my head towards Arbikie was a minor stooshie on social media with regards another release from the distillery, the Highland Rye 2 which was a 4 year old Scottish Rye that had spent time in Armagnac casks. At £250, it certainly made me take a sharp intake of breath. Even the 1794 Highland Rye I bring to you now was £130 a bottle, with the 2021 release being a still expensive but more accessible release at £95, given that some distilleries market their inaugural releases of the same age have been half the price. Yet that isn’t the whole story in this almost unique case, as Arbikie are the first Scottish distillery to make a Rye whisky in a very, very long time. Speaking of long times, I’ve been writing quite a bit now, so let me wet my whistle.
Arbikie 1794 Highland Rye 2020 Release
Region – Highland Age – 3 y.o Strength – 48% abv Colour – Yellow Gold (0.5) Cask Type – New Charred American Oak Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Dusty Barn, Toffee Fudge, Nutmeg, Egg Custard Tart, Fresh Oak. Palate – Earthy. Medium mouthfeel, slightly oily, nicely controlled spicy burn, pink peppercorns, cinnamon, touch of honey and more fresh wood. Cherry notes. Finish – medium length. Sweet cherry note continues but turns sour with a taste that tastes like the dregs of a pint of hoppy beer. For me this then turned soapy and citrus like, almost like I’d expect a urinal block to taste like.
Having said that, water brought the finish into more positive territory. The palate became more floral and the finish developed into something a lot less sour, sweetening to something more like cherry cola.
Straight away I’d like to point out a couple of very important points.
I do not know what urinal block tastes like. It’s a memory of primary school toilets with blocks so strong the smell went up your nose and coated your tongue. Especially more so if you are a mouth breather.
I am not a mouth breather
I am in no way suggesting this whisky is bad and is equal to drinking out of a public toilet.
With those important disclaimers in place, I can move forward. Keeping it short and sweet, while I have experienced rye whiskey before (obviously not Scotch rye as Arbikie are the first to have done this in years and years) I have to say it wasn’t for me. For me the finish was not to my taste and that’s as much as I can say. It did have some good points, like not burning my throat but ultimately not for me just yet. That shouldn’t detract from the good work done at Arbikie. Perhaps a different cask or age may make a difference and it is very important to keep an open mind. Just as I haven’t liked Jura Journey, I do like one or two other Jura. I only paid about £10 for the sample from Master Of Malt so I avoided the hit of £130 for a bottle I would not have enjoyed in its entirety.
In Arbikie’s example however, I think they may be justified in having high prices. They run a small operation where they grow their own grains, they distill, mature and bottle on site. In the future they also hope to malt their own grains as to close the circle and be a complete single location operation. Arbikie can trace all the provenance of their ingredients and having farmed the land at Ardbikie since the 1920’s they will have a better idea of the terroir their grains are planted in than most. As customers start to demand to know provenance, traceability and all sorts of other geek stats, it’s worth knowing that these things come at a cost above that which a mass produced whisky will have.
I had a short but very informative chat on Twitter with Iain Stirling from Arbikie who points out that to produce such a whisky is expensive. Growing rye in Scotland isn’t easy as it really depends on the weather, and while the weather on the east coast of Scotland can be less wet than that of the west, it can still hamper crops. Arbikie became pioneers as they had nobody to follow in growing and distilling Scottish rye, although Iain did say that 200 years ago this would have been more common.
The expenses also build when you factor in that Arbikie are growing their own heritage barley crops, and have invested in good quality casks. I got the impression that they did want to do things to the best of their ability. In my opinion they are quietly going about their business and doing something similar to a certain Irish Distiller without having to concentrate on the smoke and mirrors of pushing the terroir aspect. While it is still very much something that is important to Arbikie, there is at the moment less fuss about it. Let the whisky do the talking when it arrives.
Like some other young distilleries they also make vodka and gin on site also to generate income, this being a climate positive operation which led to the world’s first climate positive spirits. Nàdar (Scots Gaelic for nature) gin and vodka have base spirit made of peas, which does not require soil fertiliser in the same way as other crops as peas get nitrogen from the air, not the ground. So eco friendly as part of their operations. Are they tree huggers there? Well, Iain informed me they are also growing their own oak trees which take 50 years to maturity. But imagine a Scotch whisky where even the wood for the barrels is grown on site? That’s amazing to me, definitely a cut ahead of others! Iain added (and I’ll paraphrase a little bit) “we are trying to do things right in the context of being a self funded entity while also building a legacy family business.”
Chew that over. Legacy. More importantly sustainability. Trust me, my friends, sustainability will be more and more important in the coming years. We do need to address this.
Prices like Arbikie’s Highland Rye might not be Pie In The Sky for what you are getting once you dig deeper. They are providing what some of us whisky geeks have been crying out for – traceability, provenance, heritage grains, experimental distillates, quality casks – some of which will be built from wood grown on their land. Of course some of these things we will not see the benefit of until they release their malt whisky, which as they plan to give it a decent length of maturation before release may not be marketed until 2029. And some things we won’t see, for example as by time the wood is ready for the casks I’ll be about 100 years old. Regardless, if geeks want all these things, be prepared to pay.
If you want the low down on what Arbikie are about why not visit their site? http://www.ardbikie.com or why not subscribe to their mailing list to find out when you can visit them, as their visitor centre opens in the spring.
So what about higher whisky prices in general? This has been a brief look at them, and while opinion is that prices are higher – in some cases as business costs increase, then the prices will too. But some people think that some whiskies have been underpriced for years. Taking a look at a recent Malt article, the author puts this opinion forward but to me it is a nonsense. A business will sell at a price it can make a sensible profit on. Too high and it won’t sell. To suggest a whisky is too cheap is madness, unless the producer is not making enough of a fair margin, given the rises in expenses recently. Are the Diageo rises fair? In my opinion, not entirely. Would that MALT writer prefer to be ripped off with underpriced whisky undergoing caviller price hikes? For me it’s the seemingly arbitrary nature of these massive increases. I suppose we all have a different take on things but pricing things to manoeuvre your product into a market bracket rather than based on cost to produce seems another way of saying to consumers it’s no longer the best value.
Looking forward, my prediction is that eye watering prices across the industry are just beginning and it isn’t going to get better. Perhaps with buyers spending more carefully (if at all) could herald the start of a deflation of the whisky market rather than an actual bubble bursting. Boom times never last forever and will eventually reach saturation. I’ve already noted softening auction prices in some areas of the secondary market, which perhaps point to the current whisky craze faltering as a glass loch in cupboards builds or people can no longer afford the prices expected. Or people are moving to something else? A sharp rise in the cost of living will certainly focus minds on both sides of the consumer – producer relationship, especially for luxury goods. Or perhaps it is time to spend time trawling the auctions for the bargain bucket bids, a sure fire way of getting cheap whisky.
So, in starting to come to a conclusion, perhaps in some cases higher prices are justified. Independent distilleries are more likely to be doing what the consumer wants in the case of higher ABV, better wood, experimental distillates, environmentally friendly production, heritage barleys. It all it takes is someone to take that financial risk, as it can be expensive and risk of failure may be high. But on a personal level, I’d now rather give my cash for whisky to a bespoke or craft producer than a big corporate entity who seems to think a hefty price rise to satisfy shareholders is necessary. I accept prices have to go up, but don’t take the mickey. And when sustainable processes become more and more mainstream, both producers and consumers will be affected when it comes to prices.
For my last comment, if you feel it’s too expensive, don’t buy it. The price will soon drop or the item will be discontinued. There is always more whisky. Exciting whisky, innovative whisky experimental whisky, sustainable spirits. If we want a new wave of that, then we have to look at independent producers who will give customers what they want. Just be prepared to pay for it while remembering it’s often small businesses taking big risks that we are talking about, not charities.
I think I’ve given many things to unpackage and think about. What happens is anybody’s guess and I’m certainly no expert but just another whisky consumer with an opinion and an internet connection. Certainly don’t expect whisky prices at retail to drop much any time soon, yet be braced for higher prices across the board.
It’s been a busy time at work and to be honest I just haven’t had the time to put the same effort into every review. Disappointing I know, but sometimes short and sweet is the best.
I came across the Lakes Distillery when a much misjudged article was attached to a Malt-Review regards terroir. I was reminded of this during my last review which was a Waterford whisky. That contentious article is now no longer available, apologies made and hopefully waters are now calmer. I don’t intend on re-igniting anything.
The edition of the one that was reviewed in that fateful article was the Port edition. Now, I’m more of a sherry cask man myself and in my quest to find an English whisky to review as part of my world whisky reviews, I actually ended up with three. This is the most northerly of the trio, which is a blend of British whiskies which have been finished in a sherry cask.
I could tell you all about the Lakes distillery, which has the ethos of expressing the Lakes through flavour, but it would be better for you just to visit their website and find out all about it there.
I’m sure they can do a better job than me of describing their story, but if their whisky is half as beautiful as the Lake District, then we have a corker of a whisky on our hands.
The One – Sherry Cask Expression
Region -England Age – NAS Strength – 46.6% ABV Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – Blend – Sherry Cask Finish Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Dates, Caramel, cereal, chocolate, citrus, dried fruit. Spirity Palate – Sticky toffee pud. Dried fruit, dark chocolate, gingerbread. Syrupy mouth feel with a lingering sweetness. Finish – medium. Chocolate and raisins continue with drying tannins
Yeah, going to hold fast on the short and sweet aspect of this whisky review. And this dram? It is both of these things, and I really liked it. As you can see, it has many of the flavour notes an eating enthusiast such as myself would like. Would I buy it? Yes, I probably would, but most likely as a present for somebody else. I would not be disappointed if I received this as a gift. The only reason I would not buy this for myself is that I am swimming in other whiskies, but I would recommend this. Give Master of Malt 44 of your pounds and they will send you one of these in 70CL format, and may even give 5p change. Of course you can do the decent thing and seek this out at your local specialist whisky emporium and support a local business. At this price it is decent value.
I’ll start this review with some apologies. I’m sorry to Mr Nicoletti of Dublin, a follower of Scotty’s Drams almost from the start. I’m sorry that it has taken me so long to taste and review this whiskey.
And I’m going to continue with the apologies, as I am sure I am going to offend people from both sides of the debate regards this review. But you should really know me by now if you are a regular reader of my social media interactions – I really don’t care. If you feel the truth is offensive, then perhaps you need to review your choice of blog.
Waterford has been controversial from the start. The man at the top has been fond of courting controversy for quite some time, starting with his tenure at Bruichladdich, where the team he was at the head of successfully reinvigorated a run-down distillery which it would be fair to say had seen better days. Innovation was needed, care was given to the ingredients and their origin and it is at Bruichladdich we see the word Terroir come to the surface within the whisky world. It is something that Mark Reynier would be very familiar with given his time within the wine industry. And thanks to his vision, the distillery really went on to see better days than before, being so successful it was only a matter of time before somebody bought them out – and in July 2012 Remy Cointreau did just that.
So, with some money in his back pocket from the sale of Bruichladdich, it was time for Mark to consider his next move. I was personally not surprised when he decided to buy a former brewery in Ireland and convert it into a distillery. And this wasn’t to be any old distillery – this one was going to develop on the concept of Terroir in whisky that had been started in Bruichladdich.
Mark tells Irish Central – “For years folk have been hoodwinked on where whisky’s quality truly lies – once stills, then water, now wood. We want to shine the light on what really makes malt whisky the most complex spirit in the world,, the primary source of all that extraordinary flavour; barley.”
Terroir in drinks is not a new concept. For those of you reading this who do not know what it means, it essentially is the environmental factors that affect crop growth, and in turn will make a difference to the quality of the crop. Such factors could be the soil, the mirco-climate, the type of land the crop is grown on, how much sun it gets. This look is just a very small part of what terroir is about, just to give you an idea. The concept behind Waterford is a positive one where the barley for distilling is grown on individual farms and is used individually, thus producing a single farm origin whisky. The terroir is recorded and can be seen online if you type in your bottles ‘Teireoir’ code. Apparently thats Irish Gaelic for terroir.
Scoff all you want, entering this code in gives you access to all sorts of information about how the barley was grown and how the whisky was made, detailing all sorts of information that you desire to know about your whisky. It gives rise to another T word – transparency.
There were all sorts of arguments on whisky social media about the existence of terroir. It escalated so much that there was a couple of spats on Twitter which basically seemed precipitate the dissolution of the original Malt-Review website team. While Malt is still on the go, think of it like Glasgow Rangers Football Club. They may play under the same team name, but they are entirely different companies. (Sorry Bears, as a Dons supporter I couldn’t resist. All in jest!). There were arguments over whether or not Terroir existed, what it meant to the whisky community and would Waterford be the best single malt whisky in existence?
You can’t escape the existence of Terroir. As much as you may try to deny it, Terroir does exist and you cannot escape this. If you want a good example of this, think about the situation that you’d be in should your neighbour build an extension to his house that blocks out the sunlight from your strawberry plants. While your strawberries will still grow, they might not be as juicy and tasty as before. That my friends is terroir in action.
What we need to know is whether or not Terroir matters in whisky? One way of finding out is to drink some!
Waterford Bannow Island 1.2
Region – Irish Age – 3 Years Old Strength – 50% abv Colour – Jonquiripe Corn (0.4) Cask Type – Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Dry white wine, Malt, floral notes, red berry fruit, a hint of dusty seed barn. Peach. Palate – light to medium mouth feel, slightly oily. Breakfast cereal – a sweet one at that, malt, green apple, vanilla, ginger, a tingle on the tongue but no strong spirit hit. On swallowing I got a vegetal note, leafy. Finish – Short to medium, drying like white wine, vegetal note continues, chocolate digestive at the end. Was left with a lingering burn.
With water, the alcoholic tingle on the tongue subsided as did the ginger. It led to an increase in creaminess, more vanilla notes and an increase of vegetal notes in the finish. The finish increased in length with water but was still subtle.
First things first – there are a couple of things I really detested about this whisky. While I used to think the bottling was pretty smart, things change when you get to handle the bottle in person. That stopper is bloody awkward to open compared to a standard cork. The second time I opened it, I ended up spilling a bit of whisky on myself. Not good.
Secondly – is that ribbing on that bottle really necessary? It reminded me of a product that you can get from vending machines in gentlemen’s toilets that had the selling point of being ‘For Her Pleasure.’ Somebody else mentioned this and now I cannot get it out of my mind. Can somebody please make it stop? It’s kind of putting me off. However at least it helped me get a better grip of the bottle to get that sodding awkward stopper off.
I am sure that I am going to maybe feel a slight bit of derision from my peers in whisky social media circles as I am going to say that I kind of liked this whisky. It was certainly inoffensive, tasted of whisky, albeit noticeably young spirit with a degree of complexity, but nothing stunning. I personally found it a lot better than expected, as young whisky does not mean rubbish whisky in every case. While I would happily drink this again, would I buy it? No, I wouldn’t because to my palate it wasn’t exciting enough. I’ve had some whiskies over the past year that I only managed one nip of (and it was more than I’d normally pay) but I’d give my right bollock for to taste again. Scrub that, I’ve had all the children I want, I’d give both bollocks for that Linkwood Darkness 19 year old. But not for this whisky – my testes will remain intact. It was pleasant enough to sip along with and while I’d also be interested in tasting other Waterford bottlings, this one didn’t light my fire enough to want to go out and buy them yet.
Does Terroir Matter?
And here is where I earn my hate mail. Does Terroir matter in whisky? In my opinion, not really. While this whisky is said to be terroir (barley driven), I wonder if it was released so young to make sure that the lumber that the cask was constructed of would have no discernible impact on the spirit? Smoke and mirrors perhaps? You certainly taste the barley impact, even on a palate as abused as mine, but to me it tastes of nothing special.
The kicker is for me though that to be able to discern the true impact of terroir, I’d have to taste Bannow Island 1.3 and compare it to this one. Would I be able to discern a difference? Possibly. But then to narrow it down to solely the terroir, and looking at it from an engineers perspective, everything else apart from the barley would have to be the same. The same casks in the same position in the warehouse in the same climate as the previous editions. Exactly the same yeast, the same fermentation times. Each one of these things can have an impact on the maturing spirit. Certainly thats how I fault find electronic systems, as if you change more than one thing at a time, you will never really know what had most effect on the final outcome.
And that is it – I’m not going to be buying multiple bottles of Waterford or any other whisky to see if Terroir really matters. Whisky from each brand does change over batches, however subtly and different people will pick up these changes differently and interpret them differently. At the end of the day, all they want to drink is a tasty whisky. And I suppose by drinking Waterford, many people will get just that; it’s all subjective.
But it wasn’t only ever really about Single Farm Origin (although I do think this is a laudable and interesting concept). It seems the main aim was to produce a Cuvee, a practice similar to what exists the wine industry that Mark Reynier hails from. Basically a blended whisky, but not a blend likes of Bells or Grants. It’s a vatting of whisky of all the Single Farm Origin whiskies, so in reality is no different to any other major brand which may take its barley from a variety of sources. So to me, it sort of makes the Single Farm origin a bit pointless. I suppose people go for that sort of thing, just like they do for wine, but to me it’s just another way of persuading me to continually purchase Waterford, and that ain’t happening.
The best way to purchase Waterford if you want a bargain is at auction where even first editions are selling at below RRP. At an average of around £70 to buy from a retailer, for a 50% whisky, it isn’t the worst value you could achieve. Personally for the experience I had with this one, I’d not say it’s worth £70 but that’s another individual opinion and others may have a different point of view.
I want to end this on a positive. I do like the way transparency is addressed using the Teireoir Code. That way I can see more information about my whisky. It will be good for when I have my geek moments, or if I do actually taste more Waterford and want to compare. While I have opinions about who cares about all the information; it’s whether or not the whisky tastes good but at least the information is there for you to do your own personal geek out.
Mark Reynier as I have said before often courts controversy. It’s not quite any publicity is good publicity, but it amounts to the same thing. Waterford has got people talking and whether or not you buy into the ethos behind the whisky (to me it’s a massive marketing gimmick), the spirit itself is worth trying at least once. All said and done, I think I would buy Waterford for myself, but perhaps I’ll wait and see what the older editions taste like. If they let the casks sit for more than 12 years.
Yours In Spirits
Thanks to Michele who gifted this lovely bottle. It was greatly appreciated and I sure I will get enjoyment out of it. It was a nice easy drinker, I just don’t think it deserves the hype.
This blog entry has been inspired totally by one of the accounts I follow on Twitter. Robert For All (@RobertFiFoot) is an Aberdonian exile living in the Netherlands and runs a highly successful and often unintentionally thought-provoking blog called BrawBags. You can see the blog by clicking the link below.
I think this will be a controversial blog entry so if I say anything controversial, it’s all Robert’s fault. He put me up to it. The opinions are all my own. And I am sure I will ruffle up some feathers, so buckle up buttercups, as one or two of my following reviews will provoke similar reaction.
Today I want to speak a little about new stuff. There’s tons of new stuff. New stuff is everywhere. Most of us like new stuff, apart from me, as I am pretty comfortable with old stuff, which was new when I bought it, but I love it more and don’t want to part with it. Especially my rock concert tour t-shirts. One can’t beat wearing an original New Model Army T-shirt from 1990’s Impurity tour. Only I can’t, as when I was newer (or less old), I was a good few chest sizes smaller, so even if I could get into that T-shirt, it would look spray-on and show my moobs in a way that would make everybody feel slightly awkward and uncomfortable. Especially you, as I’m old enough I don’t have to give a flying duck anymore.
But moving on from comfortable T-shirts and dressing inappropriately for one’s body size and age, there are still tons of new things bombarding us daily. There are new ways of having currency like Crypto-currencies. Bet that will make your wee nephew happy on Christmas morning when he opens his gift of some digital currency that is pegged to nothing and will be worth a tenth of what is was by the end of the day. Of course we can buy art in new ways, even whisky by purchasing NFT’s. NFT’s aren’t entirely new but are taking off in all sorts of ways. Some people think they are brilliant, some aren’t so sure and others think they are crap, and nobody really seems to know what they are. Having a certificate to say you own something that you can’t physically hold seems kind of pointless. It’s a bit like having a marriage certificate and everybody can get a chance to shag your wife for a price. No sirree! Not for me are these NFT’s, I’ll stick to physical products and keep my wife un-propositioned thank you very much.
But do you know what is better than new stuff? Old stuff. Stuff that has been around for ages and we know we like it. It makes us feel warm and fluffy, unless you are German as they don’t apparently have a word for fluffy. Well, that is old tosh, as it is “Flaumig”. So old stereotypes aren’t good. I have lots of old stuff, all of it makes my heart go fluffy. Favourite clothes, my favourite screwdrivers, my preferred side cutters for trimming cable ties at work. Even my old stuffed toy from childhood (it’s a bunny called Bobby) and life would not be worth living without my ancient toasted sandwich maker. All important old things.
Even the oldest guy I regularly work with can be a bit of a curmudgeon, though people like working with him as he can be quite entertaining when he gets wound up. Old is good. But we mentioned whisky and seeing as this is a whisky blog, I guess this better turn to whisky at some point. I’ve loads of old whisky too. Not that old whisky is better than new whisky, but some whisky is betterer (sic) than others. But over the past 5 years more and more people have been going mental over three year old whisky and that isn’t just a bad thing in itself, but it’s the prices some will pay for it just to drink it or store it away in their cupboards. That is mental. Especially when there is a good chance the distillery may release much better older new stuff in the future and the new young stuff they are punting out is just to ensure they have capital to make the older new stuff. Plus, it’s an example of how wrong people can be craving new stuff with the first releases seeming to magically go up in value just because they are new; given their young age, you couldn’t get much newer. Spot the buyers remorse over somebody buying a brand new bottle that is worth £45 for £100 at the first auction, only to be disappointed when the price drops back to less than RRP. Flooding the market with new stuff was a smart move from those clever blighters at Lindores. It’s smart as I got mine under RRP at auction and Lindores got the full price on the initial sale. So me and Drew at Lindores are delighted as are the auctioneer. The person selling not so happy.
Of course there are the people who sell their new stuff at wildly exorbitant prices for liquid at three years old. Over 200 quids for an whisky only 4 years old is taking the mickey somewhat. I don’t care how unique your whisky is. It’s totally pie in the sky pricing. It might as well be unicorn pish, and even then, I doubt I would be getting value for money. Having said that, I’ve bought a 4 year old Starward for 3 figures, but that was a tasty dram, and I want more of that new stuff now. Even blogs aren’t immune. There used to be a great whisky blog but some Americans took over and now it’s not so good. I don’t know how it’s readership Cope(s). I’m not wrong as many like me prefer the older original version and not the new and ‘improved’ version. Goes to show they aren’t the only one who can make sly digs on their website in their laughinly ‘independent’ way. I don’t depend on samples from others or Patreon, so how do you like those apples?
Yes, stuff may be new and experimental, but is it going to be as good as old stuff? So far the verdict is certain in my less than humble opinion. Give me lots of old stuff. Aged Macallan before Edrington screwed with the winning formula, and the same goes for Highland Park. Give me old Talisker before Diageo decided to up the prices and make it a brand I won’t drink anymore. New and improved is rarely the case, especially if the result is not as comfy as an old pair of Doctor Marten 8 hole boots. Plus my Old Versus New research last year proved beyond all doubt that I am right. So yah boo sucks to the doubters. Time for a few more of those new-tangled emoji; I like them. 😉😉🤣🤣🤯
Even my favourite bakery products, the humble rowie isn’t as good any more as vegetarians have spoilt that too. Gone are the recipes that include lard, replaced by vegetable oil and Palm oil. Well that’s no good as it makes them environmentally unsustainable now. Trust vegans and vegetarians to spoil everything. At least we use all the animal that makes lard. Do you use all the palm tree?? Plus, if I want a good old-fashioned heart attack, a rowie made with lard is the most comfortable and environmentally friendly way to do it. And it’s the tastiest way of guaranteeing Scotland’s place on the bottom of Health League tables.
Lastly we have to look to our elders, those who say the olden days were better. As we weren’t alive to say otherwise, how are we know if being ravaged by an illness that is easily controlled by vaccine, being bombed by foreigners with dodgy accents (no blacks or dogs either), three day weeks, power cuts, winters of discontent, strikes, hyper inflation with double digit interest rates and rubbish rotting in the streets isn’t better than it is now? Must have been pure dead brilliant as the doddery and infirm keep voting in the Tories who appear to be content to let these things happen again. Even our fish are happier fish because of it.
I guess I can’t keep ranting. I’ve said a few controversial things and maybe it’s better that I stop. I usually end with a conclusion and I think I’ll nail my flag to the mast with “New = bad; old = good.”