Friday, 11 April 2014

Glenlivet 16 Year Old Nadurra

Glenlivet strikes me as being a bit like Starbucks coffee. The quality of the core product is decent enough (for arguments sake) but it's that most unacceptable of things for foodie (or any) snobs - popular. 
And in much the same way lots of coffee aficionados wouldn’t go in to a Starbucks, likewise a lot of whisky bores aren’t too interested in Glenlivet. They’ll drink it if no other single malt/coffee is available but otherwise they’re more engaged in trying cask-strength, limited editions of Dailuaine or whatever. Not that it’s bad - the 15 in particular I seem to recall is rather nice – but no-one is going boast on Twitter about uncorking a bottle of Glenlivet 12 Year Old.

But this Nadurra edition is a bit more unusual. It strikes me that this is Glenlivet flexing their purist muscle. It has geek credentials, hence you’ve got this well-aged, non-chill filtered (by implication the standard bottles are chill filtered?) edition. Plus it’s bottled at cask strength. It’s big on provenance all numbered casks and traceability etc. Catnip to whisky bloggers.
But let’s not get caught up in perceptions and pour a glass. It certainly seems a bit lighter in colour which suggests it has been untouched. Taking a niff I had roses and syrup sponge pudding. Make that a rose infused syrup sponge. Very pleasant.
It wasn’t as sweet to taste. A bit of heat (understandable given the high ABV) but generally flowery and sweet maybe a bit of bubblegum, all tempered with wood to stop it getting too cloying. Obviously I’ve been lead to this word from the bottle but it seemed “natural” (again, wood and flowers). It’s stripped down and unfussy with a nice subtlety to it.
In addition to all that it’s very nicely priced for a 16yo cask strength whisky - around £45-50. Generally the Glenlivet range is pretty well priced given that you’re getting an age-statement with it (but let’s not get into that just now).

So if you’re interested in trying out older or cask strength whisky this is an excellent choice and good value. And if you’re at all snobbish about it being Glenlivet… well, don’t be. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Mortlach Draft Review

Subject: Mortlach Tasting and Review
Hi guys  - I noticed some other bloggers have posted reviews of the new Mortlachs?! I emailed and tweeted you about the invite to the tasting but didn't get a heads up - suggest someone in admin gets their arse kicked! Anyway, didn’t want to miss out on being one of the first reviews so I’ve pieced together a review from what seen from other blogs. Hopefully the seams won’t show…

Mortlach is the oldest distillery in Dufftown  <note - copy and paste details from ideally 2 or 3 paras>.
Mortlach is well loved amongst the whisky fraternity (or geeks if I may be so bold! LOL!!).  However the much loved and now much discontinued Flora and Fauna bottling was produced in such tiny quantities that prior to being discontinued it could only be found by visiting the obscure websites, like Master of Malt and Whisky Exchange, that might only have stock in the low hundreds of bottles at any one time.
Anyway nobody ever drank the old Mortlach but we're all agreed it deserved wider recognition so now, thankfully, Diageo is breathing new life into this much loved whisky. They are now making this more available to the mass market by launching the entry level “Old and Rare” bottling. The name might seem confusing at first but that’s fine though - things can actually become more rare the more widely available they become. <citation needed>. And I’m pretty sure it’s really Old too I think maybe there wasn’t enough room for the age statement on the bottle <check this>.
By the way the bottles look great don’t they? It’s like a proper glass decanter – and you were probably thinking of buying one of those anyway right? Well here’s one for you. And it has Mortlach written across the front. So there’s that. And after the whisky is finished you might use it for everyday things like putting 2/3rds of a bottle of wine in or 5/7ths of another bottle of whisky.

What I like about it also is that 50cl feels just the right size doesn’t it? I don’t know about you but I’ve always felt 70cl a bit unwieldy for a bottle size – it’s just too much! Besides, by reducing the bottle size more people can get their hands on this very rare and commercially available drop.

Anyway enough about all that. Let get onto the whisky itself, that’s what really matters. As a whisky aficionado I only really care about taste, price just shouldn’t be factor. After all if something tastes good enough it is worth literally any amount someone wants to charge, regardless of any costs related to production. What’s more it’s clear that Mortlach has been undervalued for a long time – probably by a factor of about 7. It’s a wonder other distilleries manage to keep afloat – but then they don’t have the special distillation process <insert details>.
Anyway, I’m getting distracted by the pricing fuss again. So here we go. The Whisky Writer verdict;

Old and Rare
It’s great
Old and Rare Special Strength
I wasn’t too sure whether to risk being slightly dissenting on this one to show a bit of impartiality. But decided to go with below- what do you think?
Really, really great.
18 Year Old
Just awesome. Totally better and different to 16yo F&F bottling which now seems like fucking dog’s piss by comparison (too far?)
25 Year Old
Just perfection. £600 might seem like a lot of money but believe me you won’t be thinking about how much each dram is costing you as you sip this stuff!

Conclusion: I don’t know what the fuss is about for pricing – this stuff is a bargain. Furthermore just show I’m totally genuine I’m going to forgo our family holiday this year and buy one bottle of each.

Let me know what you think – PS any chance of a sample? Cheers WW


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

It’s taken me a while to get round to Bunnahabhain, I've previously given it a miss with my attention has being drawn to the more peaty/smoky whiskies from elsewhere on Islay. But now, thankfully, I've got around to picking up a bottle. 

And I'm glad I did as this stuff is very good. Three words came immediately to mind as I tried it – dry, spicy and full. As those words suggest it’s very tasty, almost savoury in a way. It has a sort of unsweet sherry flavour to it - by which I mean it has the fullness of flavour that sherried whisky has but without the sweetened taste.
There were oranges there too. But not like orange juice orange, this was more like opening a wooden crate that has whole oranges stored inside, but a crate that’s been at sea for a while. It has the promise of orange mingled with wood and salt. Also lurking in there was a touch of cigar and of leather. Very refined and very savoury.

This really strikes me as a very unique whisky. Very singular, a bit like Old Pulteney in the sense that it serves up something I've not really found elsewhere.
It looks wonderful in the glass too Рdark caramel, it's the same colour as the singed top of a cr̬me brulee.
It has a kind of dignified air about it. The packaging is not showy or shouty and I like that. The whisky generally is like the quiet guy that sits in the corner at a party rather than clamouring to be the centre of attention. But when you actually get around to speaking to them you find they actually have the most interesting things to say. Or maybe I'm getting carried away looking at the old fella on the bottle...

So, where was I? This is not a typical Islay, it’s not a typical anything. Pricing-wise it’s a slightly more expensive entry level bottle going for about £35. But it's worth picking up. For me personally getting this bottle was partly about completing  an Islay set (i.e. a bottle from every (working) distillery on the island) but it's without doubt worth picking up on its own merits.


Friday, 14 March 2014

An Irish Trio

Well it’s nearly St. Patricks day and here are my thoughts on three random Irish Whiskies that happen to be in my possession; because that’s about as close to a coherent theme as I’m going to get.

First up the Clontarf Classic Blend – I happened to have this after a friend gave me half a bottle he had left over. It’s a blend and it looks very stylish with its black label. But I’m sorry to say that I thought this was pretty poor. I really struggled to get anything out of it beyond the sharp alchohol taste. There was a tiny hint of vanilla (subtle if you were being kind) but beyond that it was very spirity. Water just seemed to make it flatter. I don’t know – not the one for me I’m afraid. Also I don't know how my mate came by it because it seems tricky to get hold of.
Jameson – ah, now I’ve heard of this one. This was a little half bottle knocking about the cupboard. Darker than the Clontarf, certainly sweeter on the nose. Very pleasant nose,  I was getting Rhubarb and Custard.  It was nicely smooth – albeit with a bit of grain spirit edge, I wrote down burnt grass which represented a little bitterness. Not a long finish but pretty good all in. Plenty to recommend it, goes for about £21/bottle.
Finally Cassidy 5 year old. I have no idea if this exists outside of a M&S tasting pack – I’ve not found it for sale any other way. So I don’t know anything this distillery but there it is, I hope you weren’t coming here to be enlightened. To taste, less sweet than the Jameson but more buttery with a bit of vanilla – which I think is imparted by grain. A bit of alcohol burn but not bad. In my unscientific opinion it seemed like the edge was taken off with the aging. The best of the three.

So there you have it - 3 whiskies brought together for comparison for no other reason than the fact that they are Irish and it’s mid-March.

I don’t know if there’s much to conclude except that I won’t be buying another Clontarf, (even if I could find the stuff) I wouldn’t be averse to picking up a Jameson (although I have other blends to explore first). And I’ll probably never see another bottle of Cassidy again (unless it’s another M&S stocking filler).


Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Or, fun with home blending.

I went to pour myself a drink a couple of weeks ago, whilst perusing the options I noticed my almost entirely empty bottle of Dalmore Dee standing there.
It was a nice whisky but for whatever reason I’d never quite got round to finishing it off, nor was I in the mood for it right then. And finishing off whisky should never be a chore, so what to do?
I remembered something I’d seen watching this video from the excellent Ralfy. The video is mainly about keeping whisky fresh but towards the end of the video he blends together 3 whiskies from the Springbank distillery (Springbank, Hazelburn and Longrow) – I forget why but it seemed an interesting thing to do.

Since there was only a drop left I thought I’d give it a go with the end of my Dee bottle… pouring it out there was 60ml left. Based on Ralfy’s advice I needed another 2 whiskies to be added in equal measure. What to choose? I looked around at what else was open - a newly topped bottle of Bunnahabhain? Yeah - I could spare 60ml of that. A fancy bottle of SMWS … hmm… that seemed a touch extravagant so I settled on the some Glenlivet Nadurra. Three nice whiskies all of a similar value (£35-45). I mixed them together then poured the concoction into couple of empty miniature bottles and left them for a week.

Fast forward a week and I poured myself a drop of the newly created world’s first Daldurrahabin.

Well, the first whiff was alcohol and not much else. Disappointing - had I flattened the whole thing and killed the flavours? I gave it another minute before trying again. This time it was much sweeter, much more like the Nadurra in fact.
So now I worried the Nadurra was dominated proceedings. But then that sweetness started to be tempered that distinct Bunnahabhain spiciness, which worked nicely.
What about the Dalmore that prompted this in the first place? I wondered if the Dalmore had been a bit lost but it kind of sits in the middle of those two whiskies anyway. Certainly this was smooth like the Dee – it didn’t need water.
Anyway, there’s little point going into the tasting too much since I can pretty much guarantee no one else will ever make this blended malt (?).

The verdict on home blending generally: I wouldn't for one second say I had improved on the whiskies but it was good fun to test the theory out and I was pleased that I hadn't created a total abomination. I had created something new and interesting, but that could also be traced back to its roots.
I doubt I’ll be risking any serious quantities on this type of venture, but I do think it could be a fun way of throwing together ends of bottles in the future. It was genuinely quite exciting to test what had been produced. One last thought is that I’m glad I kept the standard of whisky roughly similar. Not point slinging a rough blend in with a 50yo MacCallan, you're only going to ruin a good whisky rather than improve a bad one.

Back to proper reviews for the next post.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ardbeg 10 Year Old

Ardbeg 10 Year OldLet’s face it, there are surely only two possible reasons that you might be reading this review. Either you’ve never tried Ardbeg 10 year old whisky before and you’ve decided to find the most obscure review possible before committing to buy it or not. Or else you already know the drink and are looking at this to reinforce your opinion that you love or hate Ardbeg.

I suppose a third option would be that you’ve stumbled across this by accident and haven’t made it past the first sentence before clicking away. So well done for making it this far.

Ardbeg – it clearly a manly drink for manly men. I mean just look at that bottle for a start – so dark, so brooding, they could slap a label on there saying ‘It’s not for girls’ if it weren’t a direct breach of copyright to do so. But you’ll probably know Ardbeg, like Laiphroaig and most of the other Islay are the Peaty Beasts. Strongly flavoured, medicinal and often seen as an acquired taste.

Looking at reviews and comments online you see the same phrases coming up – it's all "blasts of peat smoke" this, "full flavoured" that and "monster" the other. Everything is very big and aggressive. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of subtlety but it clearly inspires some serious dedication.

I do like a peaty whisky and I’m pretty familiar with Ardbeg but this is the first time I’ve thought to compile any notes on a bottle. So here goes;

There’s no doubting is a serious no-nonsense whisky. I think it keeps things simple and plays to its not inconsiderable strengths. It’s too brawny to be considered smooth but it’s not harsh. A bit of burn so it’s worth a little dash of water. As you’re drinking it you realise it’s a little lighter than you might expect with a bit of sweetness - citrusy fruit rather than sherry. Also, it looks paler than you might expect given the expectation of full-on monster flavour.
Obviously the smoke is there there’s no getting around it but there’s more to it than just a face full of peat. It’s not the same sledgehammer that you get with Laphroaig. It’s more of a fire in the hearth rather than the house being on fire.

So it’s pale, it’s smokey, it’s a little bit sweet. It’s just good stuff but you probably knew that already. Or else you hate the stuff because you don’t like smokey whisky, in which case I can’t really help you.


Friday, 31 January 2014

Jura Superstition

My review of Jura Superstition (with added commentary) 

didn’t really know what to say about this whisky (an inspired start!). Jura added this to their standard range a couple of years ago on the back of a load publicity (topical, still at least you avoided going for a spoooky or supernatural Themed Review).

As I worked my way through the bottle over a number of weeks I scribbled a few notes. But ultimately the conclusion I was coming to was that that this was a solid if slightly unexceptional dram (*round of applause, garlands thrown, phones Nobel literature prize judges*).

But then something struck me (*sits forward, intrigued* Do go on). The bottle I’d just finished seemed to have disappeared much faster than the others that I had on the shelf (so, you’ve gone for the spooky angle after all?) The last thing I had written down was “very suppable” (the last thing before you passed out?).

So on reflection I came to realise that this is actually a very good whisky.  I found I kept turning to it when I couldn’t decide what to have – the times where I didn’t fancy anything too peaty or sweet or too expensive this was the one to go for. (That sounds like you’re damning it with faint praise).
That sound as if I’m not damning it with faint praise (See!) but at the same time that’s quite an achievement to produce such a crowd-pleaser, something you know you'll be happy with. I found it also went down well amongst friends. This is the whisky you can pour out and say “Try this, you’ll like it”. It became something of a go-to (or standby?) whisky during its short life.

What else to say? (How about some normal tasting notes?). The smell is sweet and pine-y. The colour is a dark treacle toffee. It’s very smooth, no water required at all (If I might interject. Personally, I think the smoothness is the biggest strength). It's got a nice bit of smoke, sweet and woody rather than damp and peaty.
Value wise, it’s good, £30+ which is not exorbitant (although is it just me or have Jura pushed their prices up recently?). As ever the No Age Statement makes judging the value a little opaque but at least they’re not asking £40+ like so many other NAS whiskies. The debate on No Age Statements has been raging on amongst whisky nerds for a while especially since (Blah blah – skip to the end).

The End