Jan 21, 2013

Single Cask Nation Benriach 17yo...

Single Cask Nation Benriach 17yo (53.2%): Let's see what the boys of Single Cask Nation are offering us this time. As you will remember I reviewed their 12yo Arran Malt and 4yo Kilchoman  before and absolutely loved them. So, I was pretty excited receiving the sample by mail last week. The whisky is from one of my favorite Speyside distilleries Benriach. It is distilled in 1995 and spent 17 years in a 2nd fill ex-bourbon cask numbered #2522. The cask yielded 225 bottles at 53.2% abv. Color: Incredibly pale for a 17yo. spirit. Like a young pinot grigio. Nose: Damp, muddy peat field. Diesel fuel, sea salt and dried rope mop used to clean the greasy, oily mess of the ship deck. Baby bananas, soft red apples and vanilla custard. Did I just nose some Calvados in the mix? Palate: Massive peat slap on your face. First wave is very dry, oily and peppery with a burning sensation. Adding a few drops of water makes it much more enjoyable, more like slowing it down. After what I got from the nose I was expecting a salty palate but instead it is beautifully grassy and dusty. It is definitely showing the Speyside character of the spirit, not coastal at all. Red delicious apples, nutmeg and middle-eastern rock candies with sesame seeds and cinnamon. Finish: Dry and smoky... Quite long. Overall: Another great cask from Single Cask Nation. I think it's also their boldest choice among the three cask offerings. Kind of messes up with your predictions: The whisky is not showing its age in a traditional way and also a quite heavily peated spirit you wouldn't normally expect from Benriach. Perfect choice for the whisky nerds. At the end I can easily say that I liked all of the three expressions they offer in their first year. Great start guys..! It gives us a lot to be excited for.

Jan 6, 2013

five books to booze with in 2013...

Among all the books about booze I had the chance to read in 2012 I have chosen five to mention here if anybody needs a good book recommendation in the new year. I enjoyed them immensely and I hope you will, too...

"Canadian Whisky"
The Portable Expert
by Davin De Kergommeaux

Indisputably one of the the best books of 2012 about whisky. It is written by Davin De Kergommeaux who gave us canadianwhisky.org. It is a compact encyclopedia I learned something new from its every single page. Incredibly gripping, easy to read and stylishly designed. Great way to start to learn Canadian Whisky. Kudos and thanks to Davin De Kergommeaux.

"London's Best Pubs"
A Guide to London's Most Interesting and Unusual Pubs
by Peter Haydon & Tim Hampson

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I got a little obsessed about the city's beautiful historical pubs during my long Summer in London this year. I purchased this book to accompany my daily evening visits and got hooked up pretty bad. A very elegant layout with beautiful pictures and very good writing. If you like old drinking establishments like I do you will love this book.

"101" World Whiskies to Try Before You Die"
by Ian Buxton

None of us will admit it easily but when Ian Buxton published "101 Whiskies Before You Die" in 2010 he put all the whisky geeks on an unspoken challenge. I have seen that book so many times with small check marks on its pages or with a small list hidden in it. Personally I go with checkmarks and always keep a pencil next to it... When I first heard that Ian was preparing this new volume I was expecting an extension to the first one but it is more than that. This time instead of giving the whisky drinkers a suggestion list it encourages us to try new whiskies and new distilleries from countries all around the world. Great work, a great read and more importantly a great new challenge... A must have...

"Malt Whisky Yearbook 2013"
edited by Ingvar Ronde

What can I say? My absolute favorite periodical whisky publication. It makes every November a month to be excited for... Amazingly well written articles by the most important whisky writers of our time, great tasting notes and everything you would need as a reference book about the malt whisky industry. Ingvar Ronde is setting up the bar higher every year right when you were thinking that he reached perfection with his previous edition. I love what Sam Simmons', a.k.a. Dr. Whisky said about this book a couple of years before and I totally agree with him: "If I could carry Charles Maclean around in my pocket then I probably would, but until then, The Malt Whisky Yearbook is the only crib a whisky enthusiast need."

"Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers, and Spirits"
by Harold Grossman

Now, this is something different... It's not a contemporary book but I can say that it is the Holy Grail of alcoholic beverage guides. I found it during one of my regular visits to Argosy Books in New York. Grossman's Guide is first published in 1940 and revisited after periodically. This one is the sixth revised edition printed in 1977. Written like a text book it has the attractiveness of an old beautiful encyclopedia. A great look back in the old days of the industry. It's also not a rare find, you can easily spot one online for a reasonable price. Highly recommended if you are interested in near history.

Jan 1, 2013

Virginia Highland Malt Whisky...

Virginia Highland Malt Whisky (46.0%): You will remember me talking about Virginia Distillery Company in one of my very early posts. They are the folks who saved the original Scottish pot stills of the Turkish whisky "Ankara" and brought them to the new world to produce their very own single malt whisky in the State of Virginia. As everybody knows new distilleries have to make money somehow before they introduce their product. But unlike many others Virginia Distillery didn't have a chance to distill vodka or gin because of their choice of stills and also didn't want to build a business plan relying on bottling their new make or under-matured whisky. Instead they first imported blended malt scotch whiskies under the label Eades Double Malt Whisky and then this year they started with their own finishing experiments by releasing a new expression called Virginia Highland Malt Whisky. The whisky is again a blended malt imported directly from Scotland but this time finished for an additional period on the US soil in French oak, ex port-style wine barrels sourced from a vineyard few miles from the distillery. It's a pretty clever move to create the necessary early income and at the same time to gain an invaluable experience on different cask finishes and maturation techniques which will help them immensely in near future when they start to fill the barrels with their own spirit. I have to give them the credit here to be very "patient" on their path as a new distillery which in my book the most important quality lacking in American craft distillery movement nowadays. Color: Reddish, dark amber. Shines like a fine aged cognac. Nose: Unripe and sour blueberries and blackberries. Poached quinces and green apple compost. Chewed cigar butt, sumac and cooked zante currants. Adding a few drops of water shifts the nose to the sweeter side. Palate: Berries are dominant on the palate as well but now lighter in color and sweeter like raspberries and strawberries. Orange peel jam, clover honey, warm oatmeal raisin cookies and some cinnamon dusting. Water erases hints of alcohol burn on the tongue and smoothens the palate nicely. Finish:  Ongoing sweet burn of warm orange-cardamom baklava syrup. Definitely longer than I expected and also quite peppery. Overall: If this whisky is giving us a hint of what they would like to see in their own whisky I am more excited than before. It's a chewy, bold and flavorful dram. A well chosen vat and very successfully executed finish which could go easily wrong due to the very active French Oak barrels and the climate of Bardstown, Kentucky where the whisky is matured. Looking forward to visit the distillery when they start with the operation. Many thanks to Pat Jones-McGray for the official sample.