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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Slainte mhath

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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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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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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.

McClelland’s

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So this is a single malt Scotch from Islay (pronounced “Eye-la” for some Gaelic reason). imageHaving reviewed a few single malts from this region before I one the profile and can say that this is a great introduction to the style. The style in question is characterized by peaty – smokey – with a slight slant of salty. Sometimes this signature style can be over present and imposing to the uninitiated. This not the case for this expression, it is a great entry into the island mix

To those who wish to explore in a different direction, the price point and assuaged flavour profile are ideal for new comers.

With a nose that gives an easy scent of smoke, peat and spice you are invited to try the palate that is true to the nose. It gives over to a clear mouthfeel. Once on the palate there is a clear presence of imagespice on the tongue, it’s a quick passage but it registers.  The peat and smoke develop as I swish the liquid around my mouth trying to extract any hints of other flavours. I had occasion to share this tasting with a “peat head”, and she was able to discern some accents of sea salt, once it was pointed out I confirm that the tail end of the palate has hints of salt. It’s always nice to have another palate to play out the flavours that one can miss. And sharing a dram over conversation is really the tangible expression of whisky.

The finish is quick, it goes away in a whisp, slightly underwhelming but invites a second take. The peat is almost a suggestion compared to the spicy notes that have a slight medicinal quality. But all of that fades away and leaves a slight glycerol film, not unpleasant, just too fleeting.

This is a good bottle to open up the view on what different scotches can offer, they aren’t all ambrosia and that’s a good thing, a dram for  every taste. As well the price point is attractive, it’s a good stop gap in the cupboard so you won’t drain all the good stuff.image

Aberfeldy 12

imageFirst new bottle of the new year, it’s fitting.  As a new bottle with no expectations I am imagein effect an initiate and this is true for every first tasting. Bring no baggage with you and you will benefit in your sampling. Thinking that you know how something will turnout  can only dampen the experience; either by confirming your bias; it becomes as expected or it blocks the openness required to pick up on subtleties  that take time to develop.  So I venture with a blank slate.

Tabula rasa is a good approach to an initial tasting, this is part of the enjoyment of imagewhisky, palate discoveries. The other thing that I enjoy is discovery through research, wanting to know more and reading can add to the vocabulary needed for description. Broadening what I know sometimes with other more/or less knowledgeable people with equally passionate views adds to the dialogue and enjoyment. Either by hook or crook (read; purchase, gift, exchange or random)  there is no bad way to experience a new experience.  I know with circular, but it’s my circle so grab a dram and friend and have at it.

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Aberfeldy 12yr is actually the first entry, so fitting.

Aberfeldy 12 is a single malt Highland Scotch Whisky,  the Highlands are reputed to be light and floral (I just read this post tasting) and the Aberfeldy 12 plays well into that trope.

The nose is sweet with fruitiness in the front and then mellows out to a floral orange, kinda like if Triple Sec wasn’t syrupy and maybe just a hint of young oak to balance it out.

The palate takes the floral notes and turns them into orange honey, pleasantly covering the lips with a light gloss. The mouth feel is imagea smooth and pleasant, very palatable and easy to consume. It is not a challenging whisky, but rather an inviting one.

The finish is a sweet that lasts with a touch of spice. It also lingers longer than one would expect from the light touch, kind of like a good friend at a party trying to say goodbye to everyone there. You say goodbye to them and then it takes them a while longer to actually leave (in a good way).

Aberfeldy is a product of Dewars, reputed for its blended scotch whiskies, when imageDewars acquired Aberfeldy they decided to keep a portion of the bottling  as a separate independant single malt. Well done Dewars. This is a great bottle for the newcomer to single malts, it’s inviting and easy and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s also relatively cheap for a 12 year, grab it and share it.

Slainte mhath

 

HIBIKI 17

Hibiki 17. Where to start, well HAPPY NEW YEARS, ok that’s done.

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This bottle is the second pillar that holds up my love of whisky. It is far removed from the old guard Scotish gambit; with its well established, identifiable flavour spectrum. The Japanese style is paradoxically old and young. And I love it for that.

Suntory(1899), the (Yamazaki) distillery that makes Hibiki was founded in 1924 by Shinjiro Torii. He had a vision of a Japanese whisky that was emblematic of the imagecountry and its people; harmonious and respectful of its ingredients and process. From the design of the 24 faceted bottle that represent the hours in the day and  “Sekki” the traditional 24 seasons of the old lunar calendar and the hand crafted labeling”Washi“. There is a conscious and concerted effort to produce a beautiful and harmonious blended whiksy.

Now the whisky at hand. The nose and fragrance evokes a warm and fresh aroma that is crisp to the nose with warm floral citrus and sweet honey. With a slight trace of young oak.

imageThe palate rolls up your mouth with an effervescence leaving a gentle spicy tingle on the tip of the tongue. In the mouth the there is balanced richness that lets the citrus play with the oak and honey flavours from the nose. The mouth feels is clean and pleasant, present but not imposing.

The finish continues and is long lasting with a subtle complexity highlighted with a creamy floral note that allows for some interpretation.

I think I notice the oak and honey most imagebut there is this light note of citrus blossom just underneath. I find this whisky accessible and delightful, well suited for sipping in the summer with its crisp taste it doesn’t weigh you down; rather it carries you along with whispers pleasant nothings on your palate. If you can find this bottle. buy it and enjoy it. I am down to my last dram and am grateful for the gift that it truly was.

 

 

Happy New Year

Thank you for joining me on the beginning of my whisky adventure. I hope you enjoyed my musings and imageobservations. With a new Christmas haul, I have some new content to deliver in the new year.  And I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you all.

 

All and only the best from your friend who likes whisky.

 

Slainte mhath, enjoy a dram.

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Crown Royal Northern Harvest !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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So I took my time for this one. It’s special this is the first time that I’ve reviewed a #1 world whiskey winner. I have written a review of the announcement that surprised us  all. Kind of out of left field, a Canadimageian whiskey, #1 really… OK, great, I was excited to try it out but then quickly found out that it was not available in my region or province and soon to be backordered in the country. Jim Murray  (renown whisky reviewer) has the ability to make stock disappear so I thought that one day I would get to set my lips to this expression, one day…..

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Christmas miracle, a dear friend shipped a bottle on the sly and I was shocked, touched and exited. How to get ready to experience the best whisky of this year. Well dive in, take pictures, pour a dram and take the time it deserves. I also have not read the Jim Murray review in an effort to not skew my own observations.

 

IMG_4358Resting comfortably on my over-sized couch I opened the bottle and poured a dram. The nose on the onset is rounded and deep, it does not attack the nostrils but lets you inhale deeply to reveal a predominantly sweet aroma with a subtle rye note. It resemble cherry strudel with a slice of rye bread: it works. It also gives a clear idea of how the palate is going to play out.

 

The sip hits the palate smooth and pleasant with a strong flavour of medicinal cherry; not quite like a Halls lozenge (but if you like that, then you’ll love this)  and a little spicy. The mouth feel takes a little coaxing, I imagehad to swish and aspirate (sucking in air, snooty wine snob style) a little to elicit a little extra depth. That little extra is a hint of sweet butterscotch, and I’m stretching to find something that goes beyond the agreeable cherry essence. The glycerol that is evident when you swirl your glass  coats the inside of your mouth with no more than a few seconds of coverage and then it slips away into the finish.

The finish is quick and warm, the warm stays longer than the finish and still leaves you wanting more. It’s clean and easy but does not develop into anything remarkable.

So there you have it, this years best whisky as reviewed by me. Final thoughts are that this is a fine blended whisky, it’s easy on the palate and goes down smooth. It’s flying off the shelves and Crown Royal (owned by Diageo, a huge spirits company) has done well because the bottles that are bought will be finished quickly and will gladly need to be replaced.

 

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The (a) List

It’s the holidays, let the wish lists begin. I am officially the easiest person to shop for during the festive season. That being said a little nudge, guidance and information can only only help myself and others. Whisky being a large and foreboding milieu for the un-initiated and the for any one staring blankly at the multitudes being offered at your local booze dispensary. Here are some things to consider.

scotch whisky map regions of scotland

Price isn’t the point. Novelty with forethought can go a long way to bringing a smile. If you know you’re market (gift receiver) then think laterally and move away from their favourites. Don’t be drastic; if they like a certain style try to slide up or down the intensity scale.

So here is a simplistic map outlining the predominant regions and resulting flavour profiles. If you’re still not sure and to be fair that’s entirely normal. Let  the expectations go and just go with a Gaelic sounding thing and see where things land.

A gift of whisky is a gift,  and can lead to new experiences or bring back fond memories that were forgotten. Like that time you “tasted” a 3/4 of a bottle with a friend because the bottle looked pretty (I’m looking at you OId Pulteny 12yr). Below is a helpful chart, through a dart and make someone happy.

 

Slainte Mhath