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 ?