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

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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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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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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-

 

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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.

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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.

 

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Black Label 12 yr

image    What comes to mind when you hear Black Label, serviceable, Middle of the row, adequate, every day. But what’s wrong with that ? We can’t always be sipping on the finest of dram we can’t always be sipping on the finest of drams. Every shelf has its highs, lows and gifts. To fill out a collection and have it last there has to be a good middle ground, it doesn’t have to break the bank and it fills a role. It’s not for special occasions but it is there after a good day of work.

Johnnie Walker imagehas an offering that fits the brief. With a wide range of expressions that vary from the work-a-day Red Label to the much vaunted Blue Label there is s middle ground.  Johnny Walker Black Label 12 year blended Scotch whiskey is that middle ground and it serves it well. The blend itself is comprised of about 40 different whiskies taken various areas all around Scotland. They have all been ages for 12 years. The result is a smooth, relatively light experience.

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The nose has pleasant smokiness with an underpinning of deep salt. After repeated sniffing, trying to gain any other insights from smelling and then for a fleeting ephemeral moment I think I smelled a plume of plum. I suppose that can be the joy of blends. If you keep digging you can experience moments singular to the expression.

The palate has a simple introduction, the light spice washes quickly through subsiding while leaving a deposit of light peat. The mouthfeel for this dram is a mixture of light handed and just out of reach. You think something will develop but then it doesn’t.

The finish matches the nose and the palate, pleasant but fleeting. It seems that the numerous blends that provide the smoothness also muddles the various interesting notes. Blending is an art and by all means  Johnny Walker has a fine handle on this expression.

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