Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year

Spirit Name: The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year
Category: Scotch
Country:  Scotland
Region: Speyside
ABV: 40% (But should be 43%)
Price range: 750ml $68.95 CDN
Nose: A little hot and spirity.  Slightly earthiness surounds a core of American oak vanilla and ripe orchard fruits.  A sherry kiss.
Taste:  Good mouth feel improves with a few drops of water, gets creamier.  Malty sweetness is almost candy sweet, but not to the point of cloying.  Sherry influence comes on strong towards the conclusion.  Wood in the form of cedar hides in the background and mingles with some earthy qualities.  Not smokey in any way, more minerals and metallic vegetal qualities.  Hard to pin down but pleasant enough.  Nice spirit warmth coats all the way down.  Typical Speyside fruits and honey vanillas hang about making it a nice experience.
Finish:  Hot, spicy and long.  Chest warming.
Would I buy it again: Oh ya, this will be a regular on my shelf.
Would I recommend it to a friend:  Yes. 
Worthy as a daily dram: Without doubt.
Collection worthy:  Yes, its a must have Speysider.
Comments: I’ve always thought that The Balvenie looked the part of a classic single malt.  Their packaging is relatively plain but still seems to say “I’m the real damn deal”.  Thankfully, what’s in the glass can back up the classy presentation.  This is a really nice dram anyway you cut it.  Even if you aren’t a fan of sherried malts, this only has been “kissed” by the sometimes overpowering sugar sweetness from a sherry cask.  It adds complexity without running roughshod over the whole thing.  Here is what the carton has to say:
“The Balvenie DoubleWood is a 12 year old single malt which gains its distinctive character from being matured in two woods. Over its period of maturation it is transferred from a traditional oak whisky cask to a first fill European oak sherry cask. Each stage lends different qualities to the resulting single malt ~ the traditional casks soften and add character, whilst the sherry wood brings depth and fullness of flavour.”

Lets see what Ralfy has to say:

Monday, 20 June 2011

Ardmore Traditional Cask

Spirit Name: Ardmore Traditional Cask

Category: Scotch
Country:  Scotland
Region: Speyside
ABV: 46%
Price range: 750ml $44.95 CDN
Nose: Earthy peat, minerals and sweet thick rich malt.  Spirity nose from the higher ABV.
Taste:  Damn this is good stuff.  Tangy hot pepper with the sweetness of ripe orchard fruits.  Smoke and earthy peat.  Not an island peat because there is no salty island flavours to accompany the peat.  The peat levels are significant but not like the big 3 Islay malts.  Think more like Bowmore, Talisker or Jura Superstition levels.  This malt is think and oily.  The mouth feel is awesome, slides on your tongue.  This is so thick you could stand a straw up in it!  Damn I’m really liking this flavour package.  No wonder its the backbone of Teacher’s Highland Cream.
Finish:  Hot, spicy and long.  Pleasant peat hangs on as smoke curls up your nose.
Would I buy it again: Yup, I’ve already got two bottles.
Would I recommend it to a friend:  Yes, already have. 
Worthy as a daily dram:  The best taste-to-price ratio of any Scotch on the market.  This is a frigin’ cracker!
Collection worthy:  Yes, buy two.
Comments:  This is the most enjoyable dram I’ve had in this price range.  Its almost too cheap for how good it is.  I wouldn’t hesitate to run right out and nab a bottle.  Its a peat, smoke, and sweet malt clinic.  An education in a glass.  Here is what it says on the bottle:
“Founded in 1898 by one of Scotland’s most famous whisky families, Ardmore Single Malt has a long commitment to quality.  William Teacher was a believer in traditional distilling methods and insisted that Ardmore only use the aromatic smoke from natural, Highland peat fires to dry our malted barely.
Sadly today, the high cost has meant that only one Highland Distillery still routinely fully ‘peats’ its standard malt.  Ardmore is rightly proud to be that distillery.  Our traditional methods extend to maturation.  Ardmore Traditional Cask is double matured, first in the more usual oak barrels, and then in much smaller ‘Quarter Casks’.  These were common in the 19th century, but are too costly for most distillers to use today.
Finally, bottled at 46% ABV, Ardmore is only barrier rather than chill filtered thus preserving the natural flavours.  These methods ensure we maintain the quality of our uniquely complex and rewarding malt whisky.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Poll results: Which country makes the best whisky?

Well its been a week of gathering votes in the poll and I have the results.

Poll question: Which country makes the best whisky?

Scotland - 66%
Japan - 22%
Canada - 11%
Ireland - 0%
USA - 0%

Not a surprising result however there are some interesting things to note:

- Japan took second place.  I know they make some pretty terrific stuff but I would have thought they may have taken third or possibly fourth.
- Both the USA and Ireland received zero votes.  I would have thought that with the population of American whisky drinkers and the resurgence of Irish whisk(e)y fans, there would have been some support for these options.

Interesting.  Thanks to those that participated!


Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Gibson’s Finest 12 Year

Spirit Name: Gibson’s Finest 12 Year
Category: Blended Whisky
Country: Canada
Region: Ontario
ABV: 40% (but should be at 43% or above)
Price range: 750ml $28.25 CDN
Nose: Sweet warm spirity nose.  Typical Canadian but with more refinement because it thankfully isn’t “corn forward”.  There is a nice spice and rye undertone propping everything up.
Taste:  Wow, this is a fine example of what Canada can produce if we aren’t trying to fill the world’s requirements of cheap brown spirits to mix with ginger ale.  Its nicely matured and yet has some vigor provided by the spicy rye influence.  Its finely balanced and has a nice depth for a blend fronted by the strong anise tones throughout.  It’ll never be mistaken for Scotch or Bourbon; it is it’s own animal, and this sucker has fangs!
Finish:  Pleasantly warm on the palate.  Not too long but it’ll do the trick.  Sweet coating on the tongue hangs out and dances for a bit.
Would I buy it again: Yup, I’ll always have a bottle at the ready.  It’s also a great option to give someone who wouldn’t appreciate that bottle of Talisker on the top shelf.
Would I recommend it to a friend:  Yes, already have. Turned him away from his Crown Royal (corn based swill if you ask me) and onto this.
Worthy as a daily dram:  An excellent Canadian option for an after work nip. 
Collection worthy: Not this one, but the 18 year is a must have.
Comments:  If only Canada would spend more time producing something like this Gibson’s 12 Year we’d be MUCH more respected on the world whisky stage.  This whisky (although its a blend) can stand tall beside many of the worlds best blended options.  Its readily available throughout Canada for less than $30.  It isn’t however exported, even though its owned by William Grant & Son’s (think Glenfiddich/Balvenie).  I’m torn over wanting WG&S to show this spirit to the world.  If they do, I’m sure it will be well received and therefore constrict supply in Canada.  And that just wouldn’t do...
From the bottle:
“Gibson’s Finest 12 Year old is a superb blend of fine aged Canadian whiskies.  The result is the exceptionally smooth, soft and mellow taste unique to Gibson’s Finest, now recognized as one of Canada’s finest.”

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Spirit of Toronto - recap and review

The Spirit of Toronto

So this year was my first time attending the Spirit of Toronto event.  I was really rather excited about the prospect of being in a room with dozens of distillery representatives wanting to force their wares on me.  After all, who am I to deny anyone their wishes?
For those that haven’t been to the event, the price of admission looks like this:
Event ticket - $129
Early admission fee - $29 (gets you in to the 5:30 master class and into the tasting hall before general admission)
Master classes - $10
Dinner is included as part of the cost and ALL tastings at the booths are FREE.

I went with a friend and we both chose to get the early admission so we could attend John Glaser’s Compass Box master class.  At the class we tasted a number of things of their’s including the original Spice Tree (now illegal) and the LCBO only botting of Magic Cask.  WOW, such tasty malts.  John’s a bit of a magician I think (pardon the pun).

We then attended Davin de Kergommeaux’s “Golden Age of Canadian Whisky” master class.  Very well presented and quite a learning experience.  We tasted some old beauties like Bush Pilot's Reserve and Lot 40 that have long been out of production.  Quite an interesting experience and very novel to meet Davin (a real Malt Maniac).

The rest of the night was spent roaming around the show floor at Roy Thomson Hall (a circular opera house by rights) sampling various spirits.  There was a broad selection of Scotches, Bourbons/Rye’s, Canadian whiskies and other world offerings including Australia and Japan.

The show is quite well done and gets a lot of international attention.  The only thing I was somewhat disappointed in was the bottle selection on the various brand booths.  It seemed to be limited to the offerings available as SKUs at the LCBO.  For instance Laphroaig only had their Quarter Cask at the booth, that’s it - 1 malt.  I mean WTF is that about?  Where is the 10, 18, 25 Year or some of the Islay Festival bottlings?  The same held true with other booths too, just odd really.
Would I recommend going back?  Absolutely without question.  
Would I recommend it to a friend?  Yup, already bugging my buddies about next year.
Anyone want to join me?!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Old Pulteney 12 Year

Category: Scotch
Country: Scotland
Region: Highland
ABV: 40% (but should be at 43% or above)
Price range: 750ml $79.95 CDN
Nose:  Sea brine, ripe fruits trending towards dry fruits, mineral accents, warm nose of dry wood.  Intriguing and gets much better after sitting for 15 minutes.
Taste:  Salty tangy on the sides of the tongue, gentle alcohol warmth coats the palate.  Its fruit forward with earthy mineral notes.  There is oak dryness and the sweetness from red licorice or Swedish berries supporting the whole thing.  
Finish:  Relatively short but the salty nip adds to the effect and makes it memorable.
Would I buy it again: Sure, but only from travel retail because of the price. Only $50 at duty free for a 1 Liter bottle.
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes, but I would tell them to buy it in the US so its cheaper.
Worthy as a daily dram: Yes, its an interesting representative of a highland malt.
Collection worthy: Not this one, maybe the 17.
Comments: This is a very interesting single malt.  Its “sea shore” salt influence plays a big role but not like the salt in an Islay malt.  This comes without the iodine and seaweed flavours and is basically a Speyside but with straight table salt added.  Odd but intriguing.  Here is what the bottle says:
“Pulteney Distillery is located in the windswept, rugged town of Wick on the tip of the North-east coast facing the Moray Firth.  This location has a dramatic effect on the maturing spirit.  After its 12 years of maturation, Old Pulteney is intricate and memorable, balanced, with a hint of sea air on the gentle clean finish.  A rich smooth expression, in fact a distinct and unique spirit.”
From Jim Murray, Whisky Magazine issue 12:
Nose - Attractively floral with significant oak input. Polished floorboards and a scattering of crushed hazelnut: firm to the point of being rock hard.
Palate - Hard and bullet-like from the off with an almost Irish pot still firmness.
Finish - Medium length and remains pretty sharp and crisp.
Comment - Pretty impressive and singular in style. First-rate bittersweet balance.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Glenfiddich 12 Year

Spirit Name: Glenfiddich 12 Year
Category: Scotch
Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
ABV: 40% (but should be at 43% or above)
Price range: 750ml $46.95 CDN
Nose: Fresh, cheery, bright, fruits particularly apples and unripened pears.  Vanilla, but not sweet vanilla - there is very little sweet here.  Rather a straight forward presentation.  Don’t bother looking for more complexity because you just won’t find.  
Taste: Youthful barely sugar caramels and vanillas from the American oak maturation strike first.  Gentle but persistent spirit heat coats the tongue, quite pleasant actually.  You are left with a candy coated apple after taste and the hinting suggestion of some smoke in there somewhere but its hard to pin down.
Finish: The finish is all on the tongue and roof of the mouth.  Not much happening on the rest of the trip.  It lasts long enough not to disappoint, but that’s about it.
Would I buy it again: Sure, its under $50 and often on sale - can’t go wrong.  
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes, but only as a beginner for a whisky first timer or to drink... let’s call it “with enthusiasm”.
Worthy as a daily dram: Yes, simply because its the de-facto standard “starter malt”.  It should be somewhere in your rotation.
Collection worthy: Not this one, maybe the 15, 18 or 25.
Comments: A lot of us have moved past this malt and its likely become invisible on the retail shelf, I get that.  That doesn’t mean it doesn’t still deserve our respect.  This malt started it all for most of the people reading this.  Its a relatively simple malt but it does deliver on what it tries to be, uncomplicated and a good place to start.  If you aren’t in the mood for something with peat or sherry and you just want something pleasing with some warmth to quaff, this is your answer.  I encourage you to revisit the Glenfiddich 12 year if you haven’t for a while.  I bet you’ll be surprised how much you like it.

Let's see what Ralfy has to say:

Friday, 3 June 2011

Auchentoshan 12 Year

Spirit Name: Auchentoshan 12 Year
Category: Scotch
Country: Scotland
Region: Lowlands
ABV: 40% (but should be at 43% or above)
Price range: 750ml $48.60 CDN
Nose: Fresh and zippy candied oranges.  Vanillas, caramels and cocoa.  American oak influences.  Extremely interesting and smooth after 5+ minutes in a glass.  A dry empty glass smells like hot sauna, very cool.
Taste: Yummie and pretty smooth with a nice mouth feel.  The nose transfers through to the taste.  Tastes like eating spiced dark orange chocolate.  Youthful spirit nips at your taste buds like capsaicin.  10 minutes in open air lets the toffee flavours come to the surface.
Finish: Surprising bite for 40% ABV with a warm glowing finish which doesn’t diminish much with water.  Gradually fades leaving a pleasant after taste.
Would I buy it again: Absolutely, without question.  
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes, and in fact I have.
Worthy as a daily dram: 100% yes run out and get it right now!  
Collection worthy: It should be a on your daily dram shelf representing the Scottish lowlands.
Comments: I REALLY like this malt.  Its one of only 5 triple distilled whiskies in the world and the only Scottish representative.  Its a hold over from the Irish influence in the Southwestern part of Scotland.  Its purported to make the spirit more refined and smoother to the palate.  Here is the text from the bottle/box:
“Triple distilled and matured for over 12 years.  The result is a Lowland single malt whisky with the tempting aroma of toasted almonds, caramelized toffee and the signature smooth, delicate, Auchentoshan taste.”
Sounds about right.  I have a friend who is pretty experienced with malts and has a nice collection of his own.  He focuses on Sherried Speyside malts though and sticks to his guns.  I let him have at my cabinet and he picked this Auchentoshan 12 Year as his favourite of the bunch.  This would be a perfect SWM to hook a non-whisky drinker with.  Its kind of like The Glenlivet turned up to 11 ;)

Let's see what Ralfy has to say:

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Glendullan, The Singleton of... 12 Year

Spirit Name: Glendullan, The Singleton of... 12 Year
Category: Scotch
Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
ABV: 40% (but should be at 43% or above)
Price range: 750ml $46.45 CDN
Nose: Enticing, warming. Noticeable sherry influence, orchard fruits, creamy vanilla with fresh flowers.  This is really nice to spend time with. 
Taste: The taste matches the nose.  Pronounced sherry but not off the charts like The Macallan.  More restrained and balanced with the vanillas and carmel notes from the American oak.  Fruits, flowers, malty sweet - but not too sweet.  Let it sit for a while and it reveals itself.  Very nice, tastes like more...!
Neat or water: Water mellows everything out but too much can wash it out.  Try it neat then add drops until you dial it in.
Finish: It fades quicker than I would like but it doesn’t disappoint.
Would I buy it again: Absolutely, without question.  As a matter of fact, I’m almost done my bottle so I have to!
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes, and in fact I have.
Worthy as a daily dram: 100% yes run out and get it right now!  Why are you still here?  GO!
Collection worthy: Its not really something to put behind glass.  But it should be a staple on your daily dram shelf.
Comments: This has a little bit of everything except Islay.  If you are a fan of anything mainland, you will want a bottle of this.  Hats off to the master distiller/blender on this one as the balance is great.  The back of the bottle reads:
“This rounded, elegant and beautifully balanced malt comes from the heart of Speyside.  We make it slowly, traditionally, with selected barley and pure water from the high hills above the glen.  Long aging in a unique balance of European Sherry Oak and American Bourbon Oak casks allows The Singleton of Glendullan to develop its rich, smooth character.”
That’s fluffy marketing propaganda, but a pretty good description in actual fact.  The only thing detracting from this is that its a big new branded SMW from Diageo.  If you can manage to set that aside in your mind and just enjoy it for what it is (a pretty kick ass SWM for only $45), then you’ll always keep this in stock as a daily “go to” dram after a long hard day.

Let's see what TomC the peatluvr has to say:

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

So let’s get started...

I guess I should set the stage for how I’m going to conduct my product evaluations.  My thoughts are this, NO point system.  I think a product profile and list of comments is more realistic and gives people a general feel for where a product lands in my opinion.  Let’s face it, I’m not an expert.  As a matter of fact, I’m just another cliche blogger on a soap box.  My goal is simply this - I’m going to share my experiences with those that care to read them.  If I manage to learn something along the way and help point someone towards a spirit they might enjoy, even better.
So here is how its going to look (example below):

Spirit Name: Alberta Premium NAS
Category: Rye
Country: Canada
Region: Alberta, western Canada.
Price range: 750ml $23.40 CDN
Nose: Typical rye spice, “Canadian” sweetness but with no corn flavours to ruin things, young fresh spirit but not in a bad way, black licorice, muted floral notes hidden underneath. 
Taste: Wow spicy as hell, warm sweet candy, vanilla, mildly sour rye influence, pronounced Australian black licorice to the point of over powering everything else.
Neat or water:  Water makes it more gentle and brings out the other subtle flavours that the black licorice stomps all over and hides when neat. Recommended but try it neat first for the full impact.
Finish: Warm and soothing but nothing to write home about.
Would I buy it again: Absolutely, without question.
Would I recommend it to a friend: Yes, but its so cheap I’d almost be embarrassed to.
Worthy as a daily dram: 100% yes run out and get it right now!
Collection worthy: Not really, but the 25 or the 30 year are a must for your shelf.
Comments: Reminds me of an odd but extremely pleasant single malt.  When you break it down, its basically a 5 year old Canadian 100% Rye grain single malt.  Too bad its only available in Canada, sorry guys.  I have to say, its extremely tasty for something marketed as so “run of the mill”.  What are they thinking with that bottle and package design, 70’s anyone?  It needs some brand attention.  A new bottle, better label design and a $20 price increase - then you’d have a presentation worthy of the liquid inside.

More information on Alberta Premium NAS

Let's see what Ralfy has to say about it...