Chivas Regal 12yr

IMG_5581People are kind, this post is brought to you by altruism.  Chivas Regal is a standard first choice for regular bar kids who want to upgrade from their other perennial favourite; Jameson. And all I know about this particular dram is it’s from Speyside and that as a blended 12yr old, the youngest whisky in the barrel has to be at least 12years old. And that’s about it. So it’s with a sense of anticipation that I will try out this standard.

The nose was fruity with a dusting of smoke, it vaguely reminded me of the Crown Royal Harvest Rye in that there is a slight medicinal quality. The nose is quite sIMG_5586harp brimming with brute force despite the 12year maturity.

The palate is a little sharp at the front of the taste and would do well with a drop of water to open it up.  Without the extra room provided by the droplet the expression rolls around the mouth lacking a place to settle down and open up.

The finish is light and tingly on the side of the palate. This expression has all the flash with only just enough meat to back it up.IMG_5606.JPG

Tasting is sharing; Nikka & Balvinie with a nosing of Ardbeg

So when you have no more whisky to sample, but you still have friends who haven’t tried them. What is one to do…Impromptu (ish) whisky tasting. So my friend came over after many, many failed attempts to connect in purely whisky tasting way.  On Saturday afternoon, I haphazardly threw a baby bok choy and scrambled eggs taster. My friend had previously stated that he was a Chival Regal fan, and that was his go to whisky of choice. Having only a vague idea of what Chival Regal is about (i.e. Speyside, blended. So warm, inviting with a medium body, maybe). With that in mind I endeavored to create a new tasting experience based on similar yet distinctly different palate and mouth feel. So I went with what would be a nice entry into the world of Japanese whisky and a higher end Speyside single malt first fill Balvinie.

Part of hosting a whisky tasting is sharing, ideas, impressions and new expressions. So I tried to suggest a progression of flavours that would ease one on top of the other without overpowering. So the rest of this post is mostly my friends reactions to trying these to whiskies and his candid discoveries that were similar but different than my own.

A little advice that I tried to give in the tasting process was, take your time at every level of discovery. Take a whiff let the flavours roll in your nose and repeat the process. Then do it one last time but, at you inhale through your nose, open your mouth and see if you can delve into the next layer. It’s a fun little trick and the payoff is watching someone do it for the first time and getting that extra note. It was fun and the notes that were taken down on paper somehow seems to add to the experience and is helpful if you want to recall your impressions for posterity. And the notes for the Nikka Coffey Grain were:

Nose: Citrus and vanilla (the vanilla came after)

Palate: Smooth, sweet at the front and vanilla, coconut and pear in the follow through. This combined with a light tingling in the mouth feel that transitioned to the finish.

Finish: Light and long lasting

For the second selection I wanted to add a bit of a wow factor and the Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill was  assuredly the way to go. I had a good idea that the contrast in intensity would garner a different reaction from the more subdued Nikka. And I was right the full 57%ABV creates an effervescent rollercoaster on the palate and it was aptly described as a red carpet unrolling in your mouth.

And the notes for the Balvinie are as follows:

Nose: Sexy, sweet and plum

Palate: Carpet rolling out, heavy yet smooth layers

Finish: Mild after taste

This was a new experience for the both of us and I enjoyed the role of purveyor of information and tips. Maybe the best tip I could leabe you with would be this old chestnut, Try to leave the dram in your mouth for moment while your saliva is activated and see the difference in flavour as the alcoholic content is lowered with the addition of water. It’s a low tech way to bring out those additional notes in higher alcohol percentage.

And the last thing I did was make my fiend nose my Ardbeg Uigeadail, really just to see how he would react to the vastly different flavour profile. I don’t have a picture but his initial reaction was: is that medicinal rubber mixed with fresh leather. And a deeply wrinkled nose. I can’t help but smile, that tasting will be for another day.

 

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Balblair 03′

Easter Brunch was had and a surprise cache was found, and out of the cache a single malt was selected for the after-meal digestif. Packaging was a factor in the selection, a center joint opening box, it’s a nice alteration, and another particularity to this is expression is that there is no age statement on the bottle, only the year it was bottled, in this case 2003. IMG_5499

Having been advised that this Balblair 03′ was a cask strength first fill expression there was an anticipation of full a frontal assault to the palate. And to the nose it was surprisingly unassuming, with wafting notes of an airy oak and some light fresh cut hay, or what i assume is fresh cut hay. Not to say that I was dissapointed  with the advertisement of cask strength being mild, it was a slow lead in to what was a surprising first sip.

 

FullSizeRender 6The first sip fills the cassem with a gentle brush fire that sparkles.  The sparkles then coat the mouth with notes of honey and light citrus matching the naturally clear appearance of the dram. This is followed further down with other layers of equally light floral citrus and plays around in the fields of fresh vanilla orchids. Despite the power of the ABV (46%) which seems low for a cask strength, having seen measures upwards of 58% there is a pay off on the back end of this expression, the finish, the finish  finishes for a good long  long time. This finish can take a few sips of coffee, compliment the delicate poached cardamon and saffron pear dessert and slowly phase out.

This is a stand out dram, the light and balanced flavours pair well against the strength of the intense mouthfeel. I enjoyed the surprise discovery and am excited to delve into the many other surprises that lurk patiently to be explored.

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Glasses; the things that we put the whisky in

This is a simple post of pictures of glasses, they can be fancy, practical and re-purposed sample jam containers. They all serve a function and have there own beauty. Featured are a Spiegelau whisky tasting glass and a Glencairn tasting glass. The Glencairn is the standard for the industry and recognized as such. The Spiegelau is less tapered and more voluminous with a wider mouth. Aestheticlly I prefer the Italian glass, its slightly larger dimensions allow for a more comfortable grasp and the waist is sinched just enough to capture and collect the notes for my admittedly large nose. And the last type of glass is a leftover glass jam jar from a strawberry jam preserve.

So enjoy a simple pastiche of photos I have taken.

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Canadian Club

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So I have become a beggar meandering from friends house to parent’s pantry searching for any dram to have. And foraging of the pantry resulted in the staple common to probably every bar is Canadian Club.

When a childhood friend ordered a whiskey and coke, they weren’t taking a top shelf bottle. The goal of a whisky & Coke is really just to get a little kick to your Coke and Canadian Club fulfills the need.

Much like everything. Everything has its place and just because you’re the bottom rail doesn’t mean you can’t join the party.

imageSo I drink into this tasting with the same open spirit as I do the more exalted expressions. And here you go, it’s simple. The the nose it has a story, roasted caramel. The closer you get to the nosing the more the youth and alcohol affronts the senses. This expressions is a candidate for a drop of water. By definition whisky is stored for a minimum of 3 years. The relative youth is in evidence, not having time to smooth over the more harsh elements.

There is a smooth burn on the palate and down the throat but it cancels out the more subtle notes that haven’t had time to develop in the barrel. This leads me to realize that this is why it is considered a mixing whisky, you’re not really going for the taste, you’re going for the burn and quite frankly the affordability makes sense and is attractive.

The palate has a heavy ex-bourbon presence that leads little room for the light caramel and vanilla notes to grab hold and compete against the predominant burn. The mouthfeel is really a simple  affair, assertive and straight forward, eliciting very little surprise. The finish is short and doesn’t surprise or add any extra value.

All in all it doesn’t try be something it’s not, so no big surprises or reveals but it is as advertised. So there is a place for this expression and different ways to enjoy it.

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The Glenlivet Hyatt Tasting

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I’ve hosted my own tasting, I’ve been to paired down multiple expression tastings. But this was my first proper sponsored tasting event.  The Hyatt Regency’s Six Resto Lounge hosted a Glenlivet exploration, showcasing  there new Founders Reserve, then following it up with a solid showing of Glenlivet 15yr and rounding it out with the Glenlivet Nadurra.

Now, the stand out difference between the previous iterations has to be the addition of a stand out brand ambassador for Glenlivet (Pernod-Ricard), Frank Biskupek.

The added information and expert presence elevated the night from a group of like minded people enjoying a dram to a captivating learning experience both anecdotal and factual. Helpful hints on better nosing, to construction of the casks to give the various flavour profiles that result in the wonderful  range of expressions.  An incidental bonus is listening to Frank’s roguish brogue, as he regales his audience with stories of ‘Josie’s’ well, the original source of water for Glenlivet. The same source is still used but the water is now diverted directly to the distillery and helps produce the over 15 million litres of product.

The event was attended by about 25 people ranging from a corporate group of ten to some private wine importers..whisky enthusiasts. Even a couple having a date night. Something for everyone. And me, the guy with the notepad, taking forever to sip and let the taste sink in. The staff were courteous and unobtrusive, passing by cleansing amuse-bouches between each dram.

This event is clear and away the most fun I’ve had drinking quality expressions with strangers. Furthermore the price tag of 22$ is more than reasonable.

The whisky evaluations will be generalized as this posting is proving that I might need solitude to give an individual expression it’s due.

Starting with the Founders Reserve, a new offering from Glenlivet. It positions itself as a great entry into the night. The nose gives off a confident citrucy oak.  The palate turns the rather simple nose intro a more nuanced and deep experience. The first sip tingles the tip of your tongue and then proceeds to hug you all the waydown. The finish stays comfortably in the mouth and holds well.

The 15yr has a sweet and spicy nose, and the palate makes your mouth water for more, with a smooth citrucy wave that folds over to creamy hints of vanilla and oak.

The Nadurra was the stand out expression of the night, it has the brilliance of flavour from the first fill ex-bourbon casks. The nose is neutral and unassuming, it doesn’t give away the surprise. The surprise is a full mouth experience, the flavours of robust citrus and vanilla that roll around and hug the senses. It reminds me of a super smooth bourbon that I couldn’t afford. It doesn’t burn, it glides down the throat and opens up into a slight banana mellowness and transitions to light pleasant tingling.

All in all this is an experience to do again, and again.

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Hakushu 12yr

So writing a weekly weekly blog is more than a past time. This new transition is an adventure and a growing passion for flavours and experiences. I have been blessed with a pretty solid starter pack…imagethat varies from light and smooth to deep and peaty smoky. This stock pile has reached it’s nadir.

This post is brought to you by a kind and thoughtful reader, and again this review is a reprisal from the tasting from 2 weeks ago.

So let’s give this tipple it’s due.

Hakushu 12yr, a Suntory staple; represents a different offering from your average Japanese whisky. It seems to try to embody a narrative that is more akin to the Islay island scotches. Straight off  the bat the perfume that hits the nose is loaded with evergreen and sliced apples. The back end reveals a citrusy medicinal quality.

Once on the palate the Japanese style hems through…It’s a clear dram; notes develop imageclearly independent of each other. The medicinal citrusy notes start on the front of the palate with the body coming from the oak barrel. And on the first sip this seems to be the whole story however with subsequent tastes a clear hidden taste of smokiness reveals itself, but only as long as it lingers in the mouth. The mouthfeel is complimented with a clear film that dissipates once you swallow.

The finish is lacking staying power. It’s there and then it’s gone. But it’s enough to warrant going back for more.

Maintaining this weekly production is a pleasure, however the well is starting to run dry. So when my friend said she would drop of a bottle so that is could get another chance to better make observations I thought it would be a dram on the go. Instead:

an interesting option, certainly more economical option, also it’s really cute.

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Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill 12yr

imageBalvinie Single Barrel First Fill second look. Although I have previously mentioned this particular bottle before however I did not give it the time and description it deserves. So I took the time to delve into this expression.

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Things to note about this expression, the specifications written on the bottle: single barrel  first fill refer to fact that this is a small batch production. Meaning. Each bottle is taken from a single cask (approx 250-300 bottles per cask) and numbered by hand this is cask 5821bottle #44.

 

The second thing to note on the bottle is “first fill”, and this has a major influence on the taste. Balvinie and many other distillers use ex-bourbon barrels to imbue additional complexity to the nose and palate. This practice adds the strong fruitiness, corn sugars, and eventual vanilla and caramel layers [Aside: as I write my blogs in a Starbucks it strikes me that describing whisky could be mistaken for ordering a really pretentious macchiato]. And because it’s a first fill this batch benefits from all the transition of purpose from ex-bourbon cask to whisky.

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The nose springs to step with a lively evergreen freshness, and the more you dig your nose into it the more it develops additional hues. Moments of crisp granny smith apple and mellow vanilla languish around and urge you to get on with it and taste.

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The palate tingles as you sip the dram, and that’s because there is a solid 47.8%ABV behind it. As it mellows on your tongue the spicy tingle rolls over to honey sweet and a creamy mouthfeel. Left long enough on the palate and notes of the apple return with a vanilla denouement.

The finish is long and sweet trailing along with notes of the vanilla whispering to take another dram.

This is a great bottle that takes a time to develop when tasting, the patience is rewarded with those added complexities. The oak presence is there but really it’s just a supporting character to the other party guests. The first fill is a young tasting whisky, but reveals a real drinkable journey.

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Saturday Night Tasting

(A quick aside for this post, I will not be giving full tasting notes on the bottles sampled. This is in part because the evening was such a social success,that as much as I tried, I could not break away from the conversation and picture taking…That being said,please enjoy my musings on hosting my first tasting)

 

Hosting my first tasting was a wonderful endeavor not however without trepidation. Things to consider when you will be hosting, that are not initially about the expressions. Things that go with whisky,well food is the obvious and tasty answer. But what kind of food is appropriate and conducive to compliment the star of the night.

 

I chose to make a flank steak with a cinnamon and cocoa rub; slow cooked for an hour and a half, making almost a brisket. The rub was meant as a compliment and highlight to the flavours of the Scotch, the sides were a mushroom medley and lightly salted rice balls. In addition my guests brought prosciutto and and brie. All this food had relatively light flavour profile. The idea behind the food to is to compliment not overpower the Scotch /whisky.

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The next thing to consider and really is the function of the night…what should I chose as  a good Scotch and the answer is is simple, there is no bad Scotch. But it helps to have a theme; geographic,flavour profile, age statement etc.

For this tasting I chose a “light” flavour profile; Balvinie Single barrel first fill 12 yr, Glenmorangie 18yr, Aberfeldy 12 yr.  All relatively mild and delicious.  My guests brought with them : Hakushu 12 yr, a Nikka and a Glenlivet 12 yr. All around more than enough whisky for the night. The Japanesse whisky was a good compliment to my offerings.Wisky_tasting-125

So we were set. We had our food, whisky, glasses and a passion for taking pictures of food and drink. We plated, poured and instagramed. The tasting was on.

We stWisky_tasting-113arted with what I thought would be the lightest fare, the Balvinie Single Barrel First Fill. It presented as a light but complex first tasting, with our paletes fresh people starting proclaiming their results. Some found it plain and unremarkable, lacking a boldness they found in there particular favorite. I tried to delve deeper into its profile and was able to pick up on an early evergreen note in the nose that mellowed to a honey oak in the palate, and left with a long finish.

Quietly the attention shifted from the tasting to the picture taking and this was a great way to give time to wash out the tasting glasses and ready them for the next expression.

The Hakushu 12yr was a new bottle to me and I was looking forward to it giving it the time give it a caring evaluation. The nose was a classic fresh and floral Japanese crispness with a hint of smokiness that was pointed out to me by the owner of the of the bottle; and indeed that hint of smokiness was something that I had glossed over.  This is the fuimagen part of tasting with others, you’re exposed to other people’s palate as well. As I tried to concentrate on the finish of this whisky the attention in the room moved to how best backlight the a bottle that was being shot, the answer two cell phone flashlights. In the interim a small dram of the Nikka Taketsuru was poured while the photography continued. We simply enjoyed the Nikka and I did not take any notes (sorry).

At this point we were arriving at our fourth dram and attention fatigue was setting in. Ideas for pictures were flattening and palates were starting to be over-saturated by Wisky_tasting-150similarity and it was getting late in the evening, So finally we poured the the Glenlivet 12yr and to my surprise it had a strong balanced presence, matching smoothness with an assertive mouthfeel. I stood up to the long night of tasting and to me deserves a revisit. As did the others  but thanks to the primary/recency effect this is what stood out in my mind these days latter as I write (hence, always take notes).

The tasting was a resounding social success, whisky was had, people had new experiences, conversations and photography were had.

I can’t thank my friends enough for their participation in my first tasting. I have learnt much and hope to do this again. I might change a few things but not the spirit of the night. That we got spot on.

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-I don’t offer a master class, I’m just a friend that like whisky maybe a little more than you-

 

Slainte Mhath

Glenmorangie Extemely Rare 18yr

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Glenmorangie is a distillery in the highlands of Scotland and man do they do smooth well. This expression has been aged in ex-bourbon casks for at least 15 years and then finished imagein sherry barrels. The result is a natural honey sweetness overlayed by strong fruity notes. The use of those bourbon casks really is the underpinning of the flavour profile. The sweetness and character are a result of the maturation process, the slow transfer of caramelly and fruity notes take time to develop and mellow. Once imbued, the finish in the sherry casks serves to add a subtle brightness that develops in a slow rolling tide.

The nose of this single malt gem is instantly sweet and complex, at the onset you pick up on a clear honeyed orange aroma that parlays into a light caramel undertone. It feels like you’re only getting the sweetest aspects at first but that floral orange belies a more complex palate to come.

imageThe dram is a gentle wave pleasantly rolling through the mouth with a gentle warmth. What is clear is the eminent smooth drinkability of this expression, it shimmers with hints of vanilla and buttery complexion. The captivating result from the mellowness is a mouthfeel that has a present and agreeable presence. This aspect will continue to appreciate after every sip, creating a languishing sensation of buttery caramel.

The finish builds on the enveloping warmth in the mouth and plays on the notes of the floral fruits from the nose and hums slowly away, inviting you to take another sip that play across your tastebuds again.

This is a well rounded pleasure, the only downside is the price point, it’s a bit of doozy. This is a top shelf affair the bottle and the box to match; and should tasted if and when the opportunity arises.