Monday, July 7, 2014

Cadenhead will release a bourbon

This May I went to the Campbeltown whisky festival with the whiskylassie. A festival I can recommend highly, it was an excellent couple of days, and the organisers did things that makes it worth to travel for this event from all corners of the world. Music, ales, whiskypeople and the most important, a lot of whisky to taste

One of the tasting consisted of a some high end releases from Cadenhead, accompanied by some cask samples. A cask of 25yo Rosebank was opened, gauged and tasted, and anyone who wanted a bottle could purchase this for 150£. This was an excellent malt and offcourse I bought this.

A cask of Rosebank

Another cask sample was a bourbon. This was served blind and caused some puzzled faces amongst the attending whiskyentusiast, I guess most wasn't that experienced with bourbon

Here is my review of the cask sample drawn a few months before bottling.

The bourbon was distilled at the old Heaven Hill just before it burned down in 1996. In 2005 the barrel was transferred to Scotland. This bourbon has been maturing half it's time in Kentucky and the other half in Campbeltown. This makes quite a difference as the temperature differences is much less in Scotland than in Kentucky. This bourbon is a lot less woody than you average bourbon. 

Nose: Sweet, corn, solvent. Does this sound good ?. Maybe not, but it is. Deliciously good. This noses like a sweet grain, but with a lot more body

Palate: Strong, this do for sure have a high ABV. Loads of butterscotchy vanillaed flavours. Remarkable lack of wood compared to what you expect from a bourbon. This reminds me of ryed version of Jefferson's Stitzel Wellers, which I found less woody as well.

This benefits a lot with a bit of water. The alcohol burn, both on the nose and palate dissapears and makes the whisky come to it's true right. Quite surprisingly, a little water makes this whisky more oily, actually remarkable more oily, and the wooden flavours hidden inside comes out

Due to the "double maturation" of this bourbon. 8 years here and 8 years there, I wonder why Cadenhead hasn't claimed they have invented a new whisky catagory. They have done this before. This isn't the first bottling of Heaven Hill to be released from Cadenhead! My suggestion would be to call this kind of bourbon for outland whiskEy, but I think that name has allready been taken by a World of Warcraft realm 

Rating 88/100

There won't be many bottles of this, less than 150 I would say

The festival had many other nice events, like the one shown blow here:

The Springbank Warehouse tasting
With Distillery Manager Gavin McLachlan

Thursday, June 19, 2014

La Alazana

A distillery in Argentina

I have never heard of it, until just recently when I received an email from La Alazana distillery, asking if they could be added to my distillery maps. Off course they could :-)

After asking for the location I have now added it the the "Americas" map, take a look at the location, it's on the east side of the Andes Mountains in the western parts of Argentina.

There is a link to the rest of my maps in the column just right of here------------------------>

It didn't end there. I got a little curious about how it was to run a distillery in Argentina. I asked Nestor Serenelli of La Alazana if he would do a little email interview for this blog which he agreed. Thanks for that, here is my impression from the interview, I went for some hard facts most of all

First, there is a few photos in this post, all from La Alazana's facebook page

La Alazana Distillery

La Alazana, the name of the distillery is actually the name of the farm where it is located. In Spanish, the word "alazan" us used to refer to the copper colour of a chestnut coated horse. The farm is named after a favourite horse, a chestnut mare they used to have. Personally, with the copper reference, I think it's a great name for a whisky distillery

The Stills of La Alazana

Every single step in the proces, from milling to bottling, is done by La Alazana thenselves. The production is very limited, to around 30 casks a year. That's about a third of the actual capacity. 

La Alazana use domestic barley and peated belgian barley for their different levels of peating, so far three levels of peating is used, light, medium and heavy

The fermentation time is 120 hours

They work with high cut points, from 78% down to a minimum of 70%

The different casks are a mix of three types. Ex-kentucky barrels, ex-sherry from Hagmann, an argentinian sherry producer in the San Juan province and finally ex-cognac butts, made from Limousine oak. The casks is filled at 63.5%

La Alazana belongs to the rural area of the small patagonian mountain range town of Lago Puelo, which specializes in growing berries. The distillery started as a fruit brandy distillery, with a small homemade still, then they made corn whisky and then decided to go malt whisky on a larger commercial scale, with a special set of stills as seen above. Not very large compared to most other distilleries I have visited

Blended whisky has always been popular in Argentina and there is a growing market for single malt whisky. Nestor has been a whisky lover since his youth, so it was a natural evolution for him as a distiller to turn toward this product. With his partner Pablo Tognetti, they started the first licensed malt whisky distillery in Argentina

 La Alazana casks to be filled

Expect the first bottling of La Alazana whisky to be bottled at the end of this year. I hope for the argentinian whisky entusiasts and La Alazana that it's going to be tasty

More info on the website of La Alazana

The nice photos and just looking at the map, makes me consider doing a whisky trip to Argentina :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Just one of them lucky months - part 1: Sherry

May was a very lucky month for me, whiskywise.

I was lucky to experience a range of new places and meet a range of very nice people

Here is part 1

Through facebook I had the luck of meeting Alberto Corales of Toneleria del Sur

This is a cooperage located in Montilla in Andulusia, Spain, about 1 hours drive north of Malaga. I had the pleasure of visiting Toneleria del Sur and the nearby Bodegas Pérez Barquero where they make, what us ignorants just call sherry. But this isn't Jerez, and here it's called Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and PX. Not Sherry. Fino. It was repeated to me a few times when I said the S-word

Now, my knowledge of these products were next to nothing, and my interest in these wines comes from the fact that the casks used to mature it, can later be used for maturing whisky. It was time for learning

Traditionally Pérez Barquero Fino is made on a solera system, with three layers of casks. The new wine is filled on the top level. Every now and again, 40% is drawn from the bottom level casks, which is filled from middle level, which is then filled from the top level, which is filled with new wine

Fino Solera

Some of the casks were very old, and you could arguably ask how much wood influence would be left for the Fino and Amontillado versions prepared. Not much I would expect, but I was proven wrong. Both the Fino and Amontillado had a destinctive wooden flavour, which I really liked (I drink whisky for a reason). Some of the casks were said to be near 100 years old so this is remarkable.

Our guide was spanish speaking, she spoke to Alberto in spanish, who translated to me in english, which is neither of us first language and then I translated to my parents to danish. I wonder how much got lost in translation there..

I managed to pick up a few things. All products were made from the same grape called PX, Pedro Ximenez

It's a white wine. The dark colour of oloroso and PX is a result from oxidations. The oxidation in Fino is biological, but limited since the wine is protected by a layer of natural yeast laying on the top of wine in the barrel. If the yeast is allowed to die, the wine will undergo oxidation and becomes quite darker. This is known as Amontillado. Both Fino and Amontillado are dry and woody, and quite delicious if you ask me. Especially the version made by Pérez Barquero, which were well aged for longer than 10 years (I still wonder how this is defined in a Solera system)

Oloroso is fortified and has the yeast removed in an earlier stage, giving a much bigger oxidation and a darker brown wine, with a nuttier taste.

Pedro Ximenez, named after the grape, is made with a wine from dried PX grapes and is also fortified. This is a very dark, very sweet thick fluid, and actually far too sweet for my likings. Tastes like raisins more than anything, and no surprise, as it's made from dried grapes. I don't like PX sherry, but I really like the whisky that can be produced from casks that held PX sherry, so I think you all should do me a favour of go out and buy a bottle and drink it. Most others has this as their favourite amongst the different varities coming out of Andulusia, so please do :-)

The spirit used for fortification is wine spirits

Sherry Casks

After the Bodega, we went for a short tour at the Toneleria del Sur cooperage, which is a small cooperage in Montilla that specialises in repairing and preparing sherry casks for the scotch whisky industry.

They also make new sherry cask to be seasoned. Seasoning sherry casks is done a lot these years as the demand for sherry casks is high and the natural production isn't sufficient for the big distilleries in Scotland

American Oak is the main oak used

This is an old cask

A cask is getting a new stave

The workshop

When in Spain, I decided to try a few local brandies. I was very positively surprised, as I am not usually a fan of say Cognac

The brandies I tasted had a clear impact from the sherry cask they have been matured on (also Solera style typically). My favourite was this one

Now where do I get a cask strength version of this ?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Distillery Pagoda's in Kentucky. Diageo reveals plans to get back into Kentucky Bourbon

New distillery in Kentucky

Diageo announced yesterday that they plan to build a $115 million in Shelby County, Kentucky

Pagodas in Kentucky..

It's not long since they talked about reopening Stitzel-Weller, but these plans have been cancelled. Instead a brand new distillery in a better suited location has been planned. Stitzel-Weller, once rural is now located in suburbia Louisville. There is problems with watersupplies, locals complaining about black mold etc

Diageo's last operating distillery in Kentucky was Bernheim, which they sold to Heaven Hill in 1998. Since then they have been on the bourbon market with the Bulleit brand, which has been contract distilled, mainly at Four Roses

Bourbon is booming. Scotch is booming. It was quite predictable that Diageo would come back into Kentucky for a couple of reasons

1. With bourbon being so popular, it is not reliable to rely on external producers for supply. Everybody is having trouble to make enough whiskey for themselves these days, and want to keep the whiskey they do produce for themselves

2. Diageo needs ex-bourbon barrels for their scottish and canadian distilleries. With Suntory's recent acquirement of Beam, I guess Diageo got a little bit worried about supplies. At the moment Diageo is expanding several of their scottish distilleries and also building a brand new distillery next to Teaninich (as well as expanding Teaninich itself), so the demand for barrels and casks able to mature whisky will be high

Speeddramming the new SMWS outturn

Yesterday, Lars P, Dennis K, Steffen B and Peter L of the Danish Drinking Team went through the new SMWSDK outcome, in a less than 2 hour speed BLIND dramming session

Highlanders Bar in Aarhus and SMWS Brand Ambassador Thomas with the team

Here are our verdict - with our average scores and a few short words that were thrown about

1.182 - 85.5 (11yo Glenfarclas) Bourbon
17.38 -  84.5 (18yo Scapa) Light
39.89 - 85.4 (12yo Linkwood) Toothpaste
50.54 - 78.8 (23yo Bladnoch) White Wine
26.103 - 85.5 (10yo Clynelish) Vanilla
123.8 - 78.5 (12yo Glengoyne - Refill Port Pipe) Sulphur
13.46 - 84.5 (8yo Dalmore) Sour
3.223 - 87 (24yo Bowmore)
35.113 - 88 (10yo Glen Moray - 1st. Fill Chenin Blanc Hogshead) Marcipan
53.209 - 86.3 (18yo Caol Ila)
1.181 - 88 (11yo Glenfarclas)
10.78 - 82 (6yo Bunnahabhain) Too young
39.101 - 87 (23yo Linkwood) Woody, Grape Fruit
4.193 - 86 (13yo Highland Park) Toasted Oak
27.106 - 88 (13yo Springbank) Christmas, cloves, cinnamon
29.155 - 85.3 (18yo Laphroaig) Asparagus
53.208 - 87.3 (17yo Caol Ila)
3.221 - 88.3  (19yo Bowmore)
26.102 - 90.4 (29yo Clynelish) Very delicious

My personal favourites were the 26.103 (91), 27.106 (89) and 26.102 (90) while I had a terrible problem with 123.8 (74) which I found terible sulphured

The Bladnoch 50.54 really split the votes, the average of 78.8 was scores of 65-78-83 and 89. Dennis had bought this bottling, and he blind scored it 89 - seems like he will have to drink it himself alone though

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A couple of new Bowmore's

This easter, or a couple of weeks after actually, I got a small present from Bowmore. A box with a chocolate easter egg (it was shattered in thousand pieces) and a couple of designer chocolates (more about them in a future post), as well as two miniatures of some of Bowmore's recent releases

1. Bowmore small batch 40%
Bourbon Cask Matured

The first thing I note is the low ABV and the print "Mit Farbstoff/Farven justeret med karamel". According to german and danish law, whisky and other spirits has to be labeled if any e150 (caramel colouring) has been added.

From the colour it doesnt look like much e150 have been added, unless the whisky was very pale from the cask. The colour is best described as light golden. I seldom refer to the colour of the whisky when blogging, but here is an exception

The peat is quite present in this. It's an archetype Bowmore, with a lot of floral notes mixed in tropical sweet fruits, resulting in a sweetish whisky,  and the low ABV makes this very easy drinking

Quite oily for the low ABV and a hint of vanilla in the background. The floral part of this Bowmore is quite present, much more than in recent independent bottlings I have tried, and just a bit too much for my taste

rating 81/100

No batch number on this miniature, but the letters L4141 is printed on the side which probably refers to something

2. Bowmore Darkest 15yo 43%
Sherry Cask finished

Also labeled with colouring warnings, but again, the colour is much the expected. My main problem with colouring whisky is when colour and taste doesn't much (the blue ketchup effect), and that is not the case with any of these two

The nose of this is very pleasant. I am very sulphur sensitive and whenever I get a sherried whisky which is untainted, I get a happy smile on my face. The nose is classical pure sherry mixed with peat. On the palate I get a bit of rubber, just the faintest. At this level I consider the rubber a benefit to a whisky, it's quite delicious. It also add some texture or mouthfeel to the whisky. This is very complex, with dried fruits, licorise and peat partying around my palate

Very good. A lot better than the Devil's Cask in my opinion, which also were a recent sherried Bowmore, which seemed to be very popular with everybody else but me.

rating 88/100

Leave this in the glass for a short bit, and it evovles into something even better. It gets more balanced, loose some bitterness and gains some nice spices. Very well done Bowmore

Friday, April 18, 2014

Peated anCnoc

anCnoc is whisky from Knockdhu distillery, a distillery located in the scottish highlands, just inside Speyside by the SWA definitions. They do label themself as "Highland" though, which is okay, since all Speyside is also Highland. The company behind anCnoc has decided not to brand their whisky as Knockdhu, but anCnoc instead. I have heard it's so they won't be confused with Knockando, which is a totally diferent distillery, located further down south in Speyside

I was sent these samples to participate in a twitter tasting, but weren't able to participate so decided to put them on the blog instead. Lukasz (one of the Edinburgh Whisky Blog guys) now works in marketing for Inver House (anCnoc, Balblair, Pulteney, Balmenach and Speyburn) and he occasionally sends me a sample or two even if he once described me as the toughest reviewer on the internet, I took that as a compliment :-)

Look at the tools

The weird names of these whiskies, rutter, tushkar and flaughter are the actual names of traditional tools used to dig peat. If you look at the labels you can see drawings of them.

On my first trip to Islay in 2001 I have actual tried to use a tushkar, when I "helped" some locals cut some peat near the airport. I think I was no good at it, as they decided after 3 minutes that they didn't need my help anyway.

All three are NAS (No Age Statement). All are 46%

rutter is peated to 11ppm, flaughter to 14.8ppm and tushkar 15.0ppm

Peat is measured in phenol content parts per million (ppm). Peated whisky is normally associated with whisky from Islay, where Bowmore is 20ppm and the rest is higher with Caol Ila/Lagavulin at 35ppm and Ardbeg/Laphroag in the 45-55ppm range. So by the peat content this is lightly/medium peated. This is before tasting them, I still expect some peat, as peat deterioate with time in the barrel and as this is NAS therefore likely to be younger whisky, I still expect the peat to be present. 

Drinking too much peated whisky in my early years has sometimes made me peat immune though

Here we go

1. anCnoc rutter. 46% 11.0ppm
Matured in american oak hogshead

My immediate reaction when nosing this is youth, but it's almost immediate overtaken by a very nice warm citrusy nose. Is citrus normally coming with a "warm" feeling to me. No. 

Easy to drink. A faint hint of peat, but this is more about juicy fruityness to me. Citrus, little bit of vanilla, lip balm,  

The finish has  a little bitterness, much more vanilla and is again fruity and citrusy. Medium-long. And even more vanilla. Loads. The finish is a winner on this one. 

A bit youthful, but if you like vanilla, peat and citrus this is your thing

Rating 83/100

2. anCnoc flaughter. 46% 14.8ppm
Matured in a selection of american oak casks

Again a little young on the first impression, but not much. Sweetness and maltyness is the first thing coming into my mind, the a bit of peat. This is like a slightly sweeter version of rutter, more oily, and again a lot of vanilla. Creamy vanilla, a full bodied dram. Slightly more peaty than the rutter as the ppm also suggests.

Rating 84/100

3. anCnoc tushkar. 46% 15.0ppm
Matured in first refill american ex-bourbon barrels (This means right after bourbon, I asked!)

Wow, this is very spicy vanillaed, the fresher wood really shows. Very fresh, the peat is also apperent but still on the subtle side. Again, like the others, I have the vanilla dominating the finish, and the vanilla in the tushkar finish is a lot more present, compared to the first two. Really nice

The tushkar is for the swedish market only

Rating 85/100

These drams would be a perfect way to introduce peat to people who are a little fragile to the Islay style

I am glad they didn't do any marsala, redwine, grand marnier or tokaji finish or whatever way it's trendy to ruin whisky these days, but chose this way of presenting this style in different lights!! But where's the cask strength version ?. A few bottles for entusiasts wouldn't hurt. I actually think that the swedes should have gotten a full strength version. Us scandinavians like rough strong whiskies, and peat is very popular

Note: I am positively biased to AnCnoc, they hosted one of the best events I have joined at the numerous Spirit of Speyside festivals I have attended. You know, one of those events that is affordable, the whisky free flowing and the tour and tasting relaxed and personal. Doesn't happen that often anymore in the big world of whisky

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Danish Drinking Team and the new SMWS outturn

This friday, me and two of my friends made a visit to the danish chapter of SMWS

This is a report of the new outturn

SMWS is a very nice whiskybar in Vejle, in fact, it's the biggest SMWS bar in the world, more than 300 open bottles in the bar, I didn't count them. I counted the Mortlachs just to see. 18 open Mortlachs. I can recommend the 76.94, it was great. Probably sold out. I didn't like the 76.95 at all. But that's SMWS, they like to bottle different things.

The host, Terje Thesbjerg, who runs the danish SMWS, and does it very well, was so nice to pour the 16 drams of the new outcome for us blind. 14 actually, as 2 wasn't availbale in the bar, but he threw in two substitutes instead.

So we went through the 16 drams blind and here are our average scores of the new outturn

9.83 - 88.7 (25yo Glen Grant)
37.56 -  79.0 (9yo Cragganmore)
35.108 - 84.3 (12yo Glen Moray)
1.178 - 88.3 (11yo Glenfarclas)
76.115 - 89.0 (18yo Mortlach)
29.153 - 81.7 (23yo Laphroaig)
132.2 - 81.3 (22yo Karuizawa)
53.203 - 82.0 (17yo Caol Ila)
39.97 - 91.0 (23yo Linkwood)
93.59 - 86.3 (14yo Glen Scotia)
127.39 - 80.7 (11yo Port Charlotte)
66.48 - 82.0 (Ardmore)
73.62 - 86.3 (25yo Aultmore)
4.189 - 86.7 (13yo Highland Park)
93.58 - 85.0 (14yo Glen Scotia)
4.186 - 88.7 (22yo Highland Park)

We rated all the whiskies indepently and only shared the scores after we all had a taste.

Now these are just average score and they do reflect that 2 of 3 in the group are known beforehand of not liking peated whiskies (the other two), but it only showed in one of the others ratings, he rated a couple  distinctively lower than the rest of us. I must say I wasn't a big fan of the Laphroaig or especially the PC myself, the latter having a terrible nose and awful finish, only saved by a somewhat decent palate.

By some facebook recommendations I had preordered the 35.108, but I returned it after tasting it blind, and got myself the Linkwood and Mortlach instead. Two distilleries that I normally don't rate that high. The Linkwood was the best whisky of the night, we agreed on that all three of us. I also found the 4.189 particular good for it's age and not like Highland Park at all. In fact I crossed it out as the whisky I hoped was the 35.108. Unfortunately it wasn't. It was very caramel-fudge-butterscotch in character.

But this is a great way to shop whiskies. Go by your palate. No labels or distillery names to distract you. In fact, this was the way I was introduced to the society in 2001. Back then I didn't really know a lot of distilleries. So I just went in, tasted some random whiskies trying to choose from the weird descriptions, and then purchased the bottle I like the best. It was SMWS that in this way introduced me to distilleries like Caperdonich and Glen Moray. I remember buying these whiskies and having no clue what the distillery was until I finished the bottles and decided to ask somebody

Of the above whiskies, it was the Aultmore where I was not in agreement with others. I rated it quite a lot lower as I found it to be sulphured

Getting ready for the blind tasting