Turning Japanese

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

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

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

That should be easy to understand

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.nikka.com

Nikka Coffey Malt

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


Nikka Coffey Grain

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

It’s the season to be jolly.

The festive (or festival) season is here.

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

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

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


Waterwheel that forms part of Speyside distillery.

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


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

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


I like big butts. Sherry butts of course.

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

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

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

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

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

Murray McDavid – Cambus 30. Cognac finish. 47.8%

JG Thompson Sweet Blended Whisky NAS 46%.

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

Benromach 10 Cask Strength. 2012 vintage. 60.2%

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

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

White Peak – Wireworks Inaugural release 50.3%

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

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

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

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

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

People being friendly with liquid social lubricant.

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

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

What’s your perfect festival?

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Ready to take the Fall.

Taste Review #136 Aber Falls Inaugral release

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.

Conclusions

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 this whisky 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.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Going Green.

Taste Review #128 – Mackmyra Grönt Te

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.

Offshore Toilet Paper. Better than sandpaper – only just, and high risk of finger poke-through.

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?

I wonder if Twinings will ever do a Swedish Whisky Green Tea? We can but hope.

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?

Grönt Te. Swedish for tasty.

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.

The Dram

Conclusions

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.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Sheep Lovers Of The World Unite.

Taste Review #122 Thomson Manuka Smoke

Seeing as I am doing a review of world whisky and have already reviewed an Australian whisky, I thought it a bit rude to miss out New Zealand.

I can’t say I know a lot about New Zealand. It’s the other side of the world and I’ve never been. However everybody I’ve met from there seems to be a good laugh. They are also famous for playing rugby, and regularly pump the Scottish Rugby team, although they aren’t always invincible.

One small fact about New Zealand that has always stuck in my head has been the ratio of sheep to humans. It’s quite impressive. From a population of around 5.084 million, there was estimated to be around 26.16 million sheep in New Zealand. That’s better than a ratio of 5-1. Being from the north east of Scotland I can appreciate a decent ewe. In fact I once dated a girl who ran a sheep farm to which I once joked that if she fell out with me, there were 500 other options outside.

Is that a come-on?

Of course, I’m joking. I did say that, but the intention was never there. Besides if you’ve ever been near a sheep, the back end is usually covered in sharn (that’s Doric for sh*te) and their eyes are creepy like goats. I’ll stick to watching lambs frolick in the field on the other side of the fence and wait until they grow up to be a kebab or a decent curry.

But enough about that and let’s move onto todays world whisky. It’s the Thomson Manuka Smoke single malt. The distillery is located in Riverhead, North West of Auckland and was founded in 2014. This whisky uses barley that has been malted using Manuka wood. The distillery only uses ingredients from New Zealand.

The whisky

Thomson Manuka Smoke

Region – New Zealand Age – NAS Strength – 46% abv Colour – Pale Straw (0.2) Cask Type – Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Wood smoke, Honey, sweet Liquorice, Rubbery, Cloves. Palate – Smoke, burnt toast, slight astringency, yet sweetness is allowed to keep its head above water. Orchard fruit. Light to medium mouthfeel. Finish – Short. Sweet liquorice and peppermint tea. Slight smoke.

The dram

Conclusions

Pleasant enough. Had smoky and sweet flavours throughout. You get the sense of a young whisky with a very light mouthfeel. Nothing wrong with this whisky, but I didn’t take to it until the last couple of sips. At 46% and all natural presentation, I felt this dram benefitted from added water.

I wouldn’t rush out to buy this but would think a few more years in the cask would improve it. I’d certainly try it again.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

Sheep – 123rf

All other Photos – Authors Own

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Take Heed Of A Red Flag

Taste Review #121 Penderyn Red Flag (Icons Of Wales)

As I meander through the whiskies of the world, I have to make time for the Celtic cousins of the Scots, the Welsh.

Penderyn was established in 2000 and was the first whisky distillery in Wales since the 19th century. There has been a resurgence of whisky distilling in Wales with a small handful of distilleries starting up. Aber Falls released their inaugural whisky in May 2021 to much fanfare, not only because its reported to be a good whisky but the low price of their first release. New startups take note – you don’t need to be greedy for what is only a three year old product.

The whisky I am tasting for you today is the Penderyn Red Flag from their Icons Of Wales series. It commemorates the first use of a red flag as a symbol of protest which took place over the execution of a miner during the 1831 Merthyr Rising. The miner was called Dic Penderyn (Richard Lewis) and was hung for the stabbing of a soldier during the riots.



Penderyn Red Flag

Region – Wales Age – NAS Strength – 41% Colour – Pale Straw (0.2) Cask Type – Madeira Finish Colouring – Not stated on box Chill Filtered – No. Nose – Caramel, Stewed Rhubarb, Raspberry, Orange citrus. Palate – Medium mouthfeel, obviously young whisky. Grassy, dried herbs that are long out of date, tarragon, unseasoned cashews, orange citrus, Apple Sourz. Finish -Medium. Creamy and nutty. A taste of petrol at the end.



Conclusions

I hate to say this, but in my opinion this whisky was truly awful. Not completely awful as I really appreciated the nose, but it went downhill rapidly from there. The dried grassy herbs note was not pleasant at all, as though I’d necked a jar of out of date Schwartz. I managed to finish the sample but had I bought a full bottle I suspect it would have become a very expensive drain cleaner.

The finish left me feeling as though I’d been syphoning the fuel out of a Rover Metro which for me was just the icing on the cake.

I’ve had a few people tell me that Penderyn wasn’t to their taste. I have given them the benefit of the doubt. But red flags usually signify danger and I’m wishing I had paid attention to my friends and even Clarky on Four in a Bed.

Clip from Channel 4’s Four In A Bed. Clarky gives an honest appraisal

I would have thought a fortified wine finish would have had more body, more sweetness but while this was present in the nose, it was missing in action everywhere else. I cannot recommend this particular bottle. However it has let me know that if I was to try further Penderyn, a sample first before buying will be required.

Of course I will give Penderyn another try, but not in the near future.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

I Come From A Land Down Under

Taste Review #120 Starward Dolce

You just can’t be in two places at one time. As much as there is plenty to go around, you can’t split yourself in two without negative consequences. And that’s why I found myself on a ship in India and not on my usual vessel, which is now in Australia. Twice with this company I have obtained an Australian work visa and twice I haven’t gone. Guess I’m just going to taste their whisky instead.

There are a few distilleries to choose from and in my quest to try a few world whiskies I decided to try one from the Starward distillery. This isn’t your typical distillery hidden in a glen or a valley; it’s set up in the middle of Melbourne. Founded by David Vitale in 2007, the distillery makes use of locally grown ingredients and casks from the Australian wine industry. Add some variable hot and humid weather and you get a perfect environment for rapidly maturing whisky.

The whisky I’m tasting today is the Starward Dolce. Limited to 4800 bottles, it is around the 4 year old mark. Matured in Australian Red Wine casks and finished in a dessert wine cask, let’s see if the New World whisky is as good as some of their wines.



Starward Dolce

Region – Australia Age – 4 y.o Strength – 48% abv Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – Red Wine / Dessert Wine Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Red fruit, strawberries, Raspberries, chocolate, Pink Marshmallow, quite sweet. Salted caramel. Palate – quite spicy on the arrival. Spirit burn to the fore. Ginger, pepper, gives way to sweetness, again with the marshmallow. Dates. Medium mouthfeel, slightly oily. Finish – short and sweet. Pretty pleasant to be fair. The caramel theme carries on and fades into stone fruit. Possibly chocolate coated cherries. The spices drop off quite quickly.



Conclusions

I’m glad the original inhabitants of Australia were poor at evading capture after committing criminal activities, as without those original colonial settlers, we would not have had a whisky as delightful as this one. I picked this one as the tasting notes of fruit were right up my alley and I have not been disappointed in the slightest.

It is worth remembering that despite its young age, the environmental conditions in Melbourne mature whisky faster, and this while still detectably young, drinks like an older whisky than it is. I could go onto wine critics descriptors such as a tango on the tongue, like lambs gambolling across green grass meadows, a party on one’s palate but I won’t. It wasn’t that good. I would however strongly recommend if you enjoy a fruity whisky, this is one to get. I’ll certainly keep an eye out on this distillery.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

An Indian Winter

Taste Review #119 – Amrut Fusion

When I thought of doing a wee run of world whiskies for review and to expand ones horizons, one of the natural choices was Indian whisky. This is most appropriate at the time of writing I am currently working offshore the east coast of India, working from the port of Kakinada.

India is for me one of these countries of extremes. It can be filthy, yet colourful. It has many rich people within, yet sees the extremes of poverty when you do an excursion around the Dharavi slums, made famous by the film Slumdog Millionaire. You can experience the mountains of the North, leading onto the Himalayas, or have a beach holiday in Goa, and everything between.


Cows everywhere in the streets of Kakinada – I think this one is interested in seeing a moo-vie

When I last worked in India during 2009, we used to fly from an airport called Rajahmundry, about an hours drive from the port of Kakinada in Andra Pradesh. The journey between the two towns was in a rural area giving the opportunity to see some very pastoral scenes. The city sits on the eastern bank of the sacred Godavari river, and we’d often get a night in a hotel there before flying out the next day. One of the hotels I remember sat on the riverside and we used to have our well deserved beer after 6 weeks of abstinence. Forget the ideas of Kingfisher lager – we were in India and the brands we were offered were Haywards 5000, Royal Challenge, Knockout and Maharaja. If you know the Scottish sit-com Still Game, you’ll understand when I say images of Fusilier lager came to mind!

And so it comes to pass that Indian whisky has always been in my head as an unknown quantity. Totally incorrect I will have to admit. As I am writing this, I don’t have any facts and figures to hand, but I’m sure that I remember that Indian whisky is the largest seller worldwide. You’ll need to check the Malt Whisky year book to confirm, but I’m sure Johnny Walker is the highest selling Scotch brand but only manages third place. So, if Indian whisky can sell so much, it can’t be bad, eh?

Because I didn’t want to invest in a whole bottle that I may not take to and I already have a surplus of open 70cl bottles, I chose to buy a variety of world whiskies using the Perfect Measure from The Whisky Exchange and Drinks by the Dram from Master Of Malt. The Indian sample I chose was from The Whisky Exchange and is Amrut Fusion.

Amrut Distilleries started out in 1948 after the British Colonising forces withdrew the previous year. Based in Bangalore, the current distillery was built in 1987. It came to more attention when whisky ‘expert’ Jim Murray gave their whisky a 82 out of 100 in 2005 and 2010. These were in the days when many Indian whiskies were made up of cheap imported Scottish whiskies blended with local spirit, so the bar had been raised for Indian whisky.

Maturing spirits in a hot and humid climate is totally different to doing it in Scotland. The higher temperature gives a much higher evaporation rate of around 10-12% compared to 2% in Scotland. Therefore I doubt we’ll ever see significant age statement Indian whiskies in quantity.

The whisky I chose was Amrut Fusion. This was originally launched in 2009 and it is made with 25% peated Scottish barley and 75% Indian unpeated barley. While some of the ingredients have Scottish provenance, it is very much still an Indian Whisky. So let’s see if the fusion of Scottish and Indian barley makes a taste sensation on my palate.


Amrut Fusion – a fusion of Scottish and Indian Barley

Amrut Fusion

Region – India Age – NAS Strength – 50% abv Colour – Chestnut Oloroso Sherry (1.2) Cask Type – Oak Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Barley, wood shavings, light smoke, peaches, orange peel, runny honey, barley sugar. With water added got an ozone note of distressed electrical equipment. Palate – gentle arrival, light / medium mouth feel. Pineapple, wood, barley, chocolate (?), smoky peat. Creamy caramel. Orange rind. Finish – medium / long. Peat smoke, astringent, brine, woody taste (oak). Fades into a marmalade-esque sweetness and a bit of a spicy burn. Water takes away most of the spicy finish.


The Dram

Conclusions

Not too bad is my conclusion. I’m not a regular drinker of world whisky, so my experience of this is limited. I’d drink this again, but not sure if I’d buy a bottle. I’d say I much preferred this with a drop of water.

I don’t understand how Jim Murray can say this was the third best single malt whisky in the world in 2010, as I can think of many more that I’ve enjoyed more than this, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad whisky at all. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to pick some Indian whisky up on the way home…

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


All content subject to copyright and must not be replicated without permission.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

In The Bleak Midwinter

Taste Review #117 Glenmorangie A Midwinter Night’s Dram.

As I write this, the bleakness of a Highland winter couldn’t be further from my mind as I head to warmer climes. Pity it’s not a holiday and will mean Christmas away from my family again. But on one point I can’t really pretend to be sorry, as who really misses having to constantly shovel snow off the path, de-ice windscreens and the long dark nights? No, I didn’t think there would be many hands shooting up with keen voices shouting “Me, Me, Me!” If you were one of these deranged people then I’ve got a wee job for you…


A hard frost this morning. Nae looking forward to de-icing the car.

Thinking of the title of this latest review, I was reminded of a snowy winter scene. I am a bit nostalgic for the winters we used to get as children. Snow was often a magical, beautiful thing and it’s arrival often was around the time that the fat guy in the red suit started leaving presents. I remember way back in the day going round the streets of my home village in Aberdeen singing carols at Christmas time. In the snow was the best, as it seemed to deaden the sound of the adjacent airport and made the whole activity seem that little bit more traditional.

But the truth of a Scottish winter can be miserable with short days and long nights for months on end. It’s no surprise that the suicide rate in the Northern Highlands and Islands is sadly so high. So the kind bosses at the Ross-shire distillery Glenmorangie used to have a tradition that saw them give the workers a gift of whisky to help them warm themselves at home over the festive season. Perhaps giving people alcohol to assist their mental health may not be so approved of nowadays, but in the past this would have been appreciated when distilleries employed far more people and times were definitely not as easy as today.


That’s a bit of a frost. Midwinter in Kingussie 1978. The building on the right is the Tipsy Laird pub. I won’t be complaining of de-icing the car so much now. (Am Baile)

As a nod to this tradition, Glenmorangie released a whisky called a Midwinter Night’s Dram. It harks back to that whisky that was given to employees. It’s supposed to be fruity and spicy so sounds as though it’s just the job to cuddle up to on a cold winters night.

I managed to get this sample as part of a delivery from the Really Good Whisky Company. They had a bit of a flood and stock was damaged. So they had a draw in which you paid £49.50 for a ticket. The bottle would be at least that value. There was at least one bottle that was worth £1800. While I wasn’t imagining I’d win the first prize, I thought the chances of me getting something worth more than £50 was high.


Unrequested freebie. Still, all said and done a nice touch.

Well, me and a lot of others were disappointed as what we got was an old style Glenturret. This had been discontinued in this packaging for over a year and I couldn’t help but feel I had been duped into entering a draw to move new-old stock. I was livid, as my bottle was completely undamaged. If you know my whisky journey, you’ll understand that I know exactly what a flood damaged bottle looks like. But now I’ve calmed down and now we approach Christmas and the season of goodwill, it is time to forgive and move on. Perhaps this is the appropriate dram to have.

Glenmorangie – A Midwinter Night’s Dram

Region – Highland Age – NAS Strength – 43% abv Colour – Burnished (1.1) Cask Type – Bourbon / Oloroso Colouring – Not Stated Chill Filtered – Not Stated Nose – Red apple, orange peel, biscuit, caramel, biscuit. Palate – Medium body – oily. Malted biscuits, orange, slight drying bitterness. Caramel in background but hidden a bit by oak spice – cinnamon and nutmeg. Peppery too Finish – spicy and drying. Medium length. Pepper, cinnamon, citrus – more lemon / lime bitterness.



Conclusions

Not requested or expected. That’s the best way to sum up this free dram. I thought it to be a nice touch in all honesty and had discounted its value when thinking of my raffle prize. Eventually I’m going to get calm about TRGW Co using me as a patsy to shift excess stock. And it was a Glenmorangie I wouldn’t have otherwise bought so I got an experience that was reasonably enjoyable.

Would I buy it? No, not based on this taste but not because there was anything wrong with it; the whisky didn’t light my fire, as simple as that. However given that it was free was a big plus point. Being Aberdonian made me see the value. Should I be offered this again I’d be happy to drink it. The whisky for me was spicy and drying while I prefer the more sweet and fruity drams.

This will be the last review before Christmas, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2022. Here’s hoping it’s an improvement on 2020 and 2021.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

Kingussie High Street November 1978 – Am Baile Highland Archive

All other photos – Authors own

All content on this site is subject to copyright and may not be reused without permission. Image copyright remains with the photographer or copyright holder and is credited as appropriate.

A hidden Islay.

Taste Review #113 – Finlaggan Old Reserve

Hiding in plain sight. Thats often what I think when I essentially ransack my study or bedroom looking for something that is sitting innocently on a shelf in full view when I am doing my mental calculations as to where I last saw it. Before I left for my last offshore trip I couldn’t find my head torch. I always have a dirty one for work, yet also carry a clean one if I am going to be staying in a hotel or have one in my cabin. Should there be a fire, you never know when you will need help. After wasting a day and a half looking for it and realising that I could have left it in a hotel in Borneo, I was only able to start to end the mental anguish by ordering a new one. And 6 hours after ordering, I found the old one tangled up in the lanyards of my memory sticks. I shook my head, as I tipped that bag out twice. It’s never easy being me sometimes.

The dram that I am going to review just now is the similar, although I haven’t had to waste a whole day looking for it. Sitting on the shelves of whisky retailers and even sitting on the shelves of my local Tesco Extra from time to time, Finlaggan was another of those whiskies I kept clear of because I did not know what distillery it was from and I’ve plenty of other drams to keep going on with. I remember seeing it on the shelves of the Whisky Shop Duffown, plus in their 5cl range, but I decided against it. “I’ll stick to what I know of” I kept saying to myself.

It was a trip into Inverness to a kilt makers of all places that also had a range of tourist souvenirs that prompted me to look in by. It was actually a recommendation of the Edinburgh Woollen Mill across the road, which incidentally also have a good range of miniatures. I know what I said about going into the touristy places in my Loch Lomond review, but it was in the EWM that I found a 16 year old Glentauchers G&M miniature for £7. You just need to be careful but bargains can be had.

Finlaggan is an anonymous Islay Single Malt which is released by the Vintage Malt Whisky Company, formed by Brian Crook in 1992. Brian was a former director from Morrison Bowmore Distillers. Finlaggan was one of its launch brands, which were updated in 2014. Currently the core range is Finlaggan Old Reserve at 40%, Eilean Mor at 46% and a cask strength one at 58%.


Finlaggan Castle and Chapel

As the whisky distillery is anonymous, the brand is named after Finlaggan Castle, which sits on an island in Loch Finlaggan, Islay. There isn’t really a lot to write about it, so I’ll just proceed with the tasting.

Finlaggan Old Reserve

Finlaggan Old Reserve

Region -Islay Age – NAS Strength -40% ABV Colour – Old Gold (0.6) Cask Type – Not known Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Peat, hard cheddar, iodine, toasted wholemeal bread, citrus. Palate – Light mouthfeel, brine, lemon, peat, nutmeg. Finish – medium short. Peat, brine, sweet. Strong wood spices going down the throat, but a small splash of water brings it into control. Drying in the end


The Dram

Conclusions

I don’t like judging things on first tastes, but my first taste of this to be honest was not positive. Not too bad a nose, a calm palate with spice building and the insanity breaks out once swallowed. Hot spices and a weak peat, the sweetness turning to dryness. It became more balanced with a splash of water.

I like peaty whisky, so it’s not that I don’t like peat. In my opinion this is a young Caol Ila. I’ll base that thought on that it is the closest distillery to Loch Finlaggan and it is probably the distillery most likely to have the capacity to keep up with demand for the independent sales. It doesn’t taste anywhere near as nice as other Caol Ila’s I’ve had and that’s being kind. I hate to admit this, but I couldn’t finish it and sadly had to dispose of it down the sink. You can’t like everything unfortunately.

It may be cheap, but I’ll be leaving this one on the shelf though in my opinion it’s best left in a dungeon, never to escape. I’ll be continuing to hunt for something more tasty. However if I see a mini of one of the other drams, I’d love to try for a second go, but this dram was definitely not for me.

*** There will be a following article about this review in the very near future. Be sure to catch it ***

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


Photo Credits

Finlaggan Castle – Heikki Immonen (CC BY-SA 3.0)

All Other Photos – Authors Own