Spirit of Islay Cask Samples

Back in the Whisky Good Ol’ Days ( When bottles were reasonably priced and had an age statement on – remember that – and Distillery Casks were reasonably priced…..) the people who were on the Spirit of Islay Yahoo Club (huh?) and Weekly chats ( well before Twitter tastings….) decided to buy first a Port Charlotte Hoggie then a Bruichladdich Bourbon Barrel . Now 14 years and 8 years on they are rapidly approaching bottling .

Up until March they resided at Laddie Distillery but we had to move them as Laddies shipping policy ( to the registered owners address only ) wasn’t favourable so given that the shareholders don’t all reside around me it was decided to move them somewhere that would be able to bottle and ship them to various countries . The obvious choice was Whiskybroker . So off we went today to meet up with Martin and get a sample from SOI 1 and II . It was only this time last year we were over to get a sample from the Longmorn cask and things have certainly progressed at Whiskybroker central ! Loads more racking , loads more  casks and a new super- duper bottling machine , Martin and Jane are certainly doing a cracking job in Creetown ! So onto the samples……

Spirit of Islay II Bruichladdich 2008

In an ex-Buffalo Trace 1st fill Bourbon Barrel , coming in at a whopping 64.2% ABV . Straw in Colour , since the last time i tried it it is now definitely a Laddie , for the ABV there is no burn on the nose , fresh green fruit , apples , pears , touch of the tropicals as well – Bananas , mango , pineapple . Vanilla custard , Lovely stuff !

The strength hits you on the palate , the fruit is there again covered in custard , quite a long finish but i need to try it with water…..

With Water the fruit explodes even more on the nose , it takes the burn off the palate and brings the flavours forward beautifully , actually noticing the Laddie fudge / toffee now  , it actually takes quite a bit of water . Have to say i’m very happy with how this cask has gone .

Spirit of Islay Port Charlotte 2002

In a (possibly 2nd , 3rd or 4th) Refill Sherry Hogshead , measuring a respectable 59.9% ABV . light Amber in colour , this has moved on so much since the last time i tried it (2014) , the colour now looks like a sherry cask matured whisky , the nose is amazing , still has the PC ash , Coal Smoke , a touch of seashore , there is a lot going on in the nose , really complex , too complex for my nose , where’s Serge when you need him……

Wow ! the palate is beautiful , nice and peaty , a touch of the fishermans friend , menthol , nice hint of lemon , again very complex with a lovely long finish . Water smooths the edges off , but i think i prefer it in it’s original state . Another excellent cask , as Serge once said to me i’ve been a luck B……. with casks and i have to agree !

 

Whiskybrokers site is HERE

A Triple Amrut Taster

Postings have been fewer and farther between of late so to make up here are three new/recent releases from the Wonderful Indian Distillery based in Bangalore . 

Greedy Angels 12yo Chairman’s Reserve

ga_12Continuing on from the 8yo and 10yo we now have a 12yo Greedy Angels , definitely the oldest whisky from Amrut Distillery ! This one is bottled at 60% and limited to around 100 decanters .

This is extremely oily in the glass lots of lingering legs when swirled . The Nose is a fruity little beast , a cocktail of exotic ones , this particular fruit cocktail has a huge dollop of Vanilla custard on top with a finger of shortbread stuck in it for effect ! After a short while there’s a hint of chocolate  and a blast of wood spices , a delightful nose !

The palate again has the fruity blast , like a very thick condensed smoothy , a lovely spiciness along with a hint of the Amrut Liquorice , this is so damn good at 60% i’m very reluctant to put water into it…….. The finish is extremely long , spicy and a touch of wood (nice wood) . 

A wee touch of water actually doesn’t seem to do a lot , only increasing the volume of dram in the glass ! (which was a relief as i’ve seen water completely collapse ‘other’ older whiskies . )

To say this is a stunning dram would be a bit of an understatement , as with all other Amruts a great deal of care and attention has gone into it , it was definitely botlled at the right time !

Amrut Double Cask

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Back at the end of February 2010 a group of Geordie Whisky enthusiasts gathered at The Hilton Hotel in Gateshead for the launch of a brand new Amrut release , Double cask . It’s the only Whisky release i’ve been to…….  Now 6 years on have Amrut released a 2nd edition , the first was two ex-bourbon casks aged 7 and 7 1/2yo , this one is one ex-bourbon 7yo (#3452 filled June 2009) and one PX-sherry 6yo ( #3803  filled May 2010 ) both made with unpeated Indian Malt , it was bottled in August 2016 at 46% .

This one is slightly darker than the 1st edition ! The PX cask definitely makes a difference….. Again very oily in the glass , the sherry is the first thing that catches the nose , lots of dark fruits and especially cherries , there is nothing subtle about this sherry nose !

The sherry is a tad more relaxed on the palate but is still the most prominent , again dark fruits with lots of cherries , eventually the Amrut traits do sneak past the sherry but the PX does dominate . The finish is very smooth , dry and very long and sherried with a touch of vanilla , spice and  liquorice .

Amrut sherry cask fans are going to love this (the intermediate Sherry Brigade) , i will say it’s dangerously smooth and quaffable , an ideal Christmas dram and very warming on a cold Autumn night .

Amrut Rye

amrut_rye

Yes , Amrut Rye ! 100% pure Malted Rye , it says ‘Single Malt Whisky’ on the label and it is !  Made from European Rye and matured in New American Oak casks . I have to admit to having tried this before , in 2015 while we were visiting the Distillery , Ashok and Surrinder gave us a wee dram of this , not telling us what it was , we were gobsmacked by it ! So what is it like 14 months on ?

Bottled at 50% , the Nose is….. Rye , lovely warm Rye bread , surprisingly there is quite a bit of tropical fruit in it ( usually found in some of the more elderly Amruts i’ve found) , there is a touch of butterscotch after a while .

The palate is WOW !

The Rye explodes on it , there’s no other way to say it but it’s Rye , there is a slight hint of the tropical fruit on the palate but it’s super smooth rye 99% of the way . The finish is long, smooth Rye ( surprise surprise ) and spices , wonderful !

What can i say ? It’s not like Canadian Rye ( i love the stuff ) , it’s closer to Zuidam’s Millstone 100 Single Rye…… only better . It’s so easy drinking and very tasty .

 

Once again Amrut have come up with the goods , Surrinder you are some Man !

Thanks to Ashok for the samples .

Two 15yo Longmorns……

I like Longmorn , it’s the best Speyside ( and Non-Islay) Whisky by a mile in my humble opinion .

I like it so much that when i got a chance i bought a cask of new make with a group of like minded Longmorn lovers . I had a few bottle through my hands , especially SMWS bottlings ( oh to buy those ancient ex Sherry beauts again at the same price……) , today we’ll be sampling 2 15yo’s……IMG_0506Longmorn 15yo Bottled by Gordon and MacPhail  

Distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2014 at 43% , from Refill Cherry casks apparently , pale gold in colour , lots of ripe bananas and malt on the nose initially . Then rich vanilla custard with a huge dollop of marzipan , the palate kicks off a bit spicy , then progresses to a fruit cocktail with cream . The finish is again spicy and goes on a while for 43% .

An absolutely delightful Longmornt hat doesn’t disappoint even at 43% , so glad i picked this one up when i saw it at The Lindisfarne Winery!

Longmorn 15yo O.b.

THE Classic Longmorn , bottled at 45% and unfortunately no longer available . Golden Marmalade in colour , Once again the nose commences with malt , then digestive biscuits , loads of vanilla and a touch of the Longmorn fruitness . The palate is definitely a cocktail of fruit mixed in with a delightful spiciness . The dram flows smoothly across the mouth , the finish is long and extremely spicy .

The extra 2% certainly seems to make a difference giving it a tad extra punch .

Both are really good drams but the O.b. takes it with a bit more presence .   

The Last Barrels

Unfortunately this year we haven’t managed a trip to Canada (next year hopefully….) and to be honest i’ve missed it , One thing i have really missed , apart from the wonderful country and our good friends , is picking up a few Canadian Whiskies to bring home as there is a slight lack of them available in the UK ! Only Canadian Club is available here on a regular basis , although a well known UK online shop does carry a selection of USA Canadian releases the good ones tend to be at an inflated price . A few months ago – about the time we’d regularly visited Toronto in the previous two years –  a new release from Wisers was announced as an LCBO exclusive . This release was interesting in a few ways…….

last_barrelsIt was the Final Distillation by Distiller Jim Stanski before he moved up into Management at Hiram Walker * and it was made Bourbon style in the mash , In Canadian whisky the grains are distilled individually then blended later where as with this one the grains were blended before mashing them (  80% corn grist, 11% rye and 9% barley malt ) * .

Luckily for me our good friend Paul ( @MarkhamWhisky ) kindly offered to purchase and send over a bottle to my good self , you are a top man Paul ! So What’s it like……

Matured in used Bourbon Barrels for 14 years , the colour is of Olde Orange Marmalade , the nose is exquisite , a cross between a well aged Bourbon and Rye . To me there is still a strong presence of Rye . Bags of vanilla , freshly cut sawdust , wood spices and a Butterscotch sweetness , A joy on the nasal passages ! It is definite more bourbonesque on the palate , Again loads of vanilla and wood spices , not over-powering but very pleasant , the finish is long and spicy .

A Beautifully Different Canadian Whisky ! I just wish Wiser’s and several other Canadian Drams were more available this side of the pond , i’m sure they’d go down a storm….. Well i love them anyway ! 

* Additional info from Davin’s Wonderful CanadianWhisky.org Site

Lagavulin 8yo 200th Anniversary Edition

It’s been a while since i posted a Tasting Note , mainly because i haven’t had anything new to taste ! I haven’t been buying a lot , make that anything . I’ve been passing on a lot of the recent special releases due to either price ( i’m not prepared to pay stupid prices ) , previous releases being below standard ( The Perprtuum springs to mind….) or Both ! So when a reasonably priced special release comes along i jumped at it……..

laga8

Bottled at 48% , this is a young Lagavulin , 8 years young or as Pinkie used to refer to it  in his warehouse tastings ‘Baby Lagavulin’ , there was always an 8yo on Iains tour , usually sherry cask , but it was usually a front runner on the tasting . This is very light , Very pale straw , lots of lovely legs in the glass . The nose was initally very young but left to open up it soon got peaty and smoky , there is also strong lemon citrus and malted barley . It’s not one of those noses you can sit and linger on , it demands to be drunk !

The palate isn’t overwhelming for it’s youthfulness , it’s quite dry , it’s quite peaty , it also reminds me of a certain lemon throat sweet , there’s a nice peppery spiciness to it . The finish is medium with a pepperyness .

I tried it with a bit water and on the nose it brought the lemon out forward . On the palate it fetched the spices out . This is a pretty good dram , you’ll be more than happy if you are an Islay Peet Heed !

I wanted to try it up against something of a similar age from the distillery and the only thing  i could find was was the Elements of Islay Lg2…..

elements  This is a whole 10% abv higher than the 8yo , The nose is pretty much the same , peaty smoky , lemon , etc etc , the palate packs a much stronger kick but is pretty much the same again . There isn’t much to chose from between the two apart from the extra ABV . Who ever approved this beast of a Laga must have been extremely knowledgable about Islay and it’s malt and must have a very good palate for these things , could also be a pretty good looking chap , intelligent as well……….

Me at Lagavulin

 

2015 , A strange sort of Year…..

As another year draws to a close , as usual the last (or nearly last….) post of the year is a reflection on what has been a strange sort of year for us , extremely good highs but worrying lows…….

We were supposed to see the New Year in on Islay but just before Christmas i got a very bad cough that resulted in us cancelling the trip , a real shame as we’d been looking forward to the stay in Bowmore .The cough actually lasted 3 weeks and went just as the time came up when the Doctors were willing to treat it !

In February the 4th cask i had an interest in got bottled , A Peated Bunnahabhain that had been purchased through Raymond at Bladnoch Distillery , the full story is HERE

Margadale-Bottles

At the end of February we headed north to spend a night with some good friends of ours , The Cuthberts , it was great to see Francis , Hazel and the kids again , it gave us a chance to catch up and also see how Francis’s whisky was maturing , i also managed to talk Francis into letting me have a sample to take to Toronto (More about that later….) , another old friend from the area , Liv , also popped in for dinner .

Hmmm..... Which one ?

Hmmm….. Which one ?

March saw us resuming the Whisky Festivals representing Amrut and our good friend Ashok , We did 3 this year , Newcastle in March , Edinburgh in June and York in September .

whisky-solstice-2015

All were very good but i think we enjoyed Edinburgh the best , it was a glorious day , it was in a marquee and it was in a glorious garden in the New Town ! The only bummer about it was we had to do a course to serve at it as the Licensing laws had changed in Scotland. But it wasn’t the only online course i had to do to serve Whisky at a Festival , i had to do the Smart Serve Course for the Toronto one and that was a bugger ! Beware anyone that wants to serve Alcohol to the public in Ontario !!! As it turned out the York festival was our last serving behind the Amrut Table as (a) we didn’t make it to Manchester due to unforseen circumstances and (b) the UK distributors were taking over the running of the tables after Manchester . We’ve had a great time representing the Distillery at The Whisky Lounges Festivals , meeting people and enlighting them about Amruts Great Whisky , it is hard work but great fun !

Talking of Toronto…..  We decided to return there again in May , we originally were just going back s ‘punters’ this time but once Johanna and Charles found out they asked if we could do another Masterclass (must’ve done something right the last time…..) , we did , A Caol Ila one with a Daftmill thrown in for fun . We had a great 4 days in Toronto , The place is wonderful but the people make it extra special , a huge thanks to Johanna and Charles , Wendy , Rick , Paul and Nancy , Rob and many , many more for once again making us thoroughly welcome and hopefully we’ll see you in the not too distant future !

Toronto Skyline 2

You can read all about our visit HERE and HERE

Another strange thing about this year is it is the first year since 1998 that we haven’t set foot on Islay ! Normally we would spend at least our summer fortnight there , not this year as for our summer vacation we were invited by Amrut to visit India !

So come the end of August we boarded a flight at Newcastle with the eventual destination of Bangalore . To say we had a fantastic time is a bit of an understatement ! There were so many highlights, of which the top one for me has to be the day spent at the distillery in the company of the Master Distiller Surrinder Kumar and our good friend Ashok .

30_surrinder36_gordon_mel_ashok

The whole trip was an experience we’ll never forget , Our thanks to all at Amrut for their Kindness and Generosity , Rick , Ashok , Surrinder , Pramod , ‘Aunty’ Valli Margreat , Purshotham and Prakash you made it a very special holiday !

You can read about the Indian adventure on my other Blog , Amrut….. The Spirit of India ! , HERE , HERE , HERE and HERE

A few weeks after our return life was going to take a slight turn for the worse , on the morning of the 25th Sept i had a myocardial infarction , a heart attack as it is commonly known though not technically correct , luckily (if there can be such a thing for a MI) I was working at a local hospital and got took straight around to the Walk In Centre , from there I was whisked off to the brand new , super duper , Emergency Specialist Hospital at Cramlington accompanied by Melanie,  who’d been dropped off from her work place , After various tests and 10ml Morphine (have to say I’ve had a bigger kick off Jura than that…. But it did kill the pain) they said I’d had a MI and would have to be moved to The Freeman ( The Regional Heart Centre )  for a Angioplasty .

I spent the Friday night in Cramlington and was moved to The Freeman late on the Saturday night , they explained the procedure , they go in through my wrist with a tube , inject dye in , see what was wrong with xray cameras and if not much repair , all under ‘Local’ , would take about an hour or so . They might do it on the Sunday if an Emergancy comes in and they can utilise the team but more or likely on the Monday .

So on the Sunday afternoon (27th) at 3pm I got the call to get changed…….

They started at around 3.45pm , I was in for 3 Hours ! It’s not easy lying still for 3 hours while people shove things into you ! they eventually had to make a 2nd entry at the groin as it wasn’t as straight forward as they thought (never is with me…..) , in the end they fitted 4 Stents and I’m surprised there isn’t a hole in the ceiling when the removed the tube from my groin area……

Eventually I was returned to the Ward for possibly the most uncomfortable nights sleep, well not sleep, I’ve ever had , I had to keep the leg they’d used straight all night and a couple of “characters” on the ward didn’t help ! I was released from Hospital on the Monday Evening with a fine collection of Medication , I have to say the staff at all the hospitals were excellent , especially the procedure team .

I then spent the next 8 weeks recouperating , missing a few whisky events in the process , before returning to work at the end of November . So that is basically 2015 , 2 great Holidays and a major health scare ! There is one person i haven’t thanked yet , the person who accompanied me on all my adventures and who was my rock during the health scare , The love of my life , my gorgeous wife Melanie , she is one hell of a woman and got me through the recent months ! Thank You My Love !

So to the Good things /Bad things of this year……

The Good things……. Canadian Wine (again) , Canadian Whisky (again) ,  Indian Wine , Anything in Amruts Warehouses ! ‘Aunty’ Valli Margreats Biryanis , My Bunnahabhain Bottling !.

The Bad Things….. Ardbegs recent offerings (come on guys, get a grip you can do so much better!) , Lots of the Whisky Community ( get over the obsession with Jim Murray , if you don’t like what he does , don’t give him the publicity , just move along) , Even more ridiculous pricing of Whisky (that’s a good way to lose custom ) .

I hope everyone has a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous New Year ! 

sheridee

Gooderham and Worts Four Grain

I’m happy to say i’m a fan of Canadian Whisky , even before “The Man in the Hat” declared one the Worlds Best Whisky of 2016 , though i have to say that particular brand doesn’t come near the top of my favourite Canadian Whiskies……..

Gooderham and Worts was a distillery in Toronto that shut down in 1990 after over 150 years of production , in 2001 the property was purchased by a development company and was turned into a tourism area that is now known as the Distillery District which includes Arts and Craft shops , and Cafes and Restaurants . We can thoroughly recommend the Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill as somewhere to have a great meal and if you go out to the rear of the restaurant you’ll find a rather interesting collection of Spirit samples from the Distilleries past……..

Pure Spirits Collection

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The Godderham and Worts name has passed through a few ownerships (including Hiram Walker and Allied Lyons) and is now part of the Corby Distillers group owned by Pernod Ricard and based in Windsor , Ontario which also includes the fine Canadian whiskies such as Wiser’s ( 18 , Red Letter , Legacy to name a few) , Pike Creek and Lot No.40 .

G&W

Gooderham & Worts Four Grain , as the name would imply , consists of spirit made from Four Grains ( Corn , Barley , Wheat and Rye) , Bottled at 44.4% abv , this one is from Blend A.A1129 (whatever that means….) .  A lovely Golden Syrup colour in the glass , The initial nose is of Rye , there seems to be quite a lot of Vanilla as well , Butterscotch toffee follows , a nice whiff of fresh bread and wood spices . It has a lovely complex nose , a bit of fruitiness rises from time to time . On the palate we again have an abundance of Rye alongside Butterscotch , a wonderful spiciness with a touch of Maple Syrup, very warming on the palate . The finish is medium to long with Rye , Barley and spices .

An absolutely wonderful dram , just what i’d ask of a Canadian Whisky , have to say if this was readily available here , this would be a regular on my whisky shelf .

I’d like to thank a good friend of mine in Toronto for sending me this bottle and giving me the chance to try it , Paul (@MarkhamWhisky) you are a Superstar !