Mar 23, 2013

NERAX 2013 report...


So, that happened... I was there for the afternoon session of the closing day and had a blast of three hours. Especially for me who is being the annoying guy around complaining all the time not having enough cask ales in bars in US it was like a "shut your front door and drink!" kind of three hours. The moment I walked in Somerville American Legion Hall 388 the smell levitated me an inch above the ground. It was like walking in a room full of mash tuns in a distillery. The hall was small, the crowd was very serious and the staff was amazingly friendly and helpful. I got my pint glass and started to sample. Thank God they were pouring 1/4 pints so I could sample quite a few brews throughout the afternoon. Needless to say it was impossible to taste every cask offered in the event and a lot of brews I was excited for were long gone in earlier sessions like the Germans but I managed to collect enough tasting notes at least to be able to put my top five of the day:

"Glaslyn" by Purple Moose Brewery from Porthmadog, Gwyneth, Wales (4.2%): Definitely the winner of the session... Nose is like sticking your head in a mash tun in a Scotch Whisky distillery and getting light headed from the CO2 filling in your nostrils. Amazingly tasty, roasted, crunchy malted barley notes on the palate. Superb brew... Yumm!

"400 Pound Monkey" by Left Hand Brewing, Longmont, CO, US (6.8%): The nose is sour and soapy in a beautiful way but not so aggressive. The palate takes all the points from me: heather, tart fruits, damp black garden soil, bread and butter and oaked Chardonnay. Excellent brew from Left Hand Brewing showing that they are not only about the Milk Stout.

"C-Dah Pils by Martha's Exchange Brewery, Nashua, NH, States (5.1%): Ok, this is going to sound a little weird but the nose is resembling urinals of a dive bar... Not disturbing though. The palate is citrusy with lemon zest, grapefruit and kumquat rounded with beautiful toasted wood notes. A perfectly balanced mellow pilsner. Would be a perfect brew to sip at your neighborhood bar right after work on a hot summer evening before you go home...

"Plum Porter" by Titanic Brewery from Staffordshire, England (4.9%): No, kidding! This thing smells and tastes like plums... I am pretty sure it wasn't but that nose and palate make me remember the beer purple in color. Strong, rich but also dangerously easy going. Perfect after dinner brew...

"Wild One" by Bantam Cider, Cambridge, MA, States (6%): It is a cask conditioned cider from the creators of Wunderkind cider. A cider blended from two separate wild fermentations, unfined and unfiltered. Cloudy, dry and sour like Normandian ciders. My kind of an apple brew. Only if I could find it bottled somewhere...

Kudos to Cask-conditioned Ale Support Campaign for putting up a very successful event...


Mar 19, 2013

NERAX 2013...

Nerax, The New England Real Ale Exhibition organized by the Cask-conditioned Ale Support Campaign (CASC) is starting tomorrow, March 20th in Somerville, Massachusetts. It will be hosted by the Somerville American Legion Hall Post 388 and will go through Saturday, March 23th. I will be attending the afternoon session on the closing day. It is my first Nerax but the Festival is actually happening for 17 years. Over 110 firkins of Real Ale and Cider will be served: 60 beers from England, Scotland and Wales and roughly 50 beers from US, mostly from New England. All the beers are cask-conditioned and pulled by gravity or hand-pump. Cannot wait! I think started to drool when I am typing this post... See you guys there..!



Mar 17, 2013

Old Grand Dad Bonded...

Old Grand Dad Bonded (50.0%): So, first get this term "bonded" clear: To be labeled as "bonded" or "bottled in bond" the whiskey in the bottle must be distilled in US by one distiller at one distillery and must contain the product of one season. It has to be at least four years old, bottled at 100 proof and aged in a federally bonded warehouse under US government supervision. Also the label must identify the name and location of the distillery. Old Grand Dad is Hayden Family's first brand and has been around since 1840. Now it is under the ownership of Beam Global and comes as three different expressions: Traditional 86 proof, Bonded 100 proof and Barrel Strength 114 proof. The bottle design is my favorite part though... I think that the orange label and the orange plastic cap are landmarks. Color: Clear amber, polished copper. Nose: Vanilla, corn bread, zesty lemonade and clementine peel. Polished wood top of a dive bar counter (and I mean it in a good way...), toasted smell of table saw shavings, varnish, acetone and Aunt Jemima syrup. Palate: Pretty hot when tasted neat. A few drops of water cuts down the alcohol and releases all the sweet notes first. It's more like an aged corn whiskey at the beginning. Sweet corn syrup, warm sweet corn bread, cinnamon and cloves. Oh, here comes the rye... After airing it quite some time rye notes show up. Black pepper dust, dried paprika, roasted almonds and tobacco. It benefits from airing a lot, gets better and better in the glass. Finish: Hot, spicy but fades out pretty quick. Overall: It is not one of the fancy hip whiskeys in the market nowadays and doesn't have the intension to be so but is definitely a solid, great bourbon and also my go to dive bar whiskey especially when accompanied by a pint of an American Ale. It is the perfect definition of an everyday bourbon... I have to say that my favorite part of tonight's tasting has been the "after nosing". I found myself nosing the empty glass for minutes before my second pour. Beautiful stained oak and freshly roasted hazelnut aromas... Absolutely no brainer for $21 a bottle... Every time I walk in a bar it makes me happy to see this pretty orange bottle on the shelf. Always a good sign of a good night ahead...

Mar 14, 2013

George T. Stagg 2010...

George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (2010 release) (71.5%): A legendary bottling that makes every bourbon enthusiast shiver even when they hear its name... As a part of Buffalo Trace's "Antique Collection" it is released annually in very limited quantities and sold out nationwide almost in a few days. It is an uncut, unfiltered, cask strength, low rye - high corn mash bourbon named after legendary George T. Stagg who in 19th century built his distillery with E. H. Taylor now known as the Buffalo Trace distillery. This particular expression is the 2010 release. The whiskey is distilled in the winter of 1993 which makes it 17 years and 7 months old. Throughout 2011 it scored almost at every prestigious whisk(e)y blog/site and magazine over 95 points, got the Top Spirit in the World 2011 Award and announced as the runner-up of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2012 World Whisky of the Year Awards. I am glad that I could get a bottle that time and somehow managed to keep it till today. I guess it's time to uncork it... Color: Deep mahogany, chestnut honey color with a red twinkle when hold against the light. Nose: It is pretty hot when nosed neat... Fried plantains, ripe baby bananas, cloves, star anise and pomegranate molasses. Adding water starts the crazy parade: vanilla pods, spearmint, banana cream pie and bergamot zest. Soft nubuck jacket, caramelized pecan, hard toffee candies and tons of oak. Layers and layers of aromas piled for perfection. Almost impossible to convince yourself to give up nosing this beauty and move on. Palate: An explosion of spices: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, sumac and mahlab. A few drops of water release the whole package... Eucalyptus leaves and dried sour cherries. Dark chocolate covered salted caramel bites, brown sugar and walnut jam. It has a dusty mouthfeel carried by Russian tea and toasted oak notes. Finish: After a while I started to think that it won't finish at all. Endless... Sweet spices, cigar tobacco, over-brewed black tea and dried chili peppers. Mouth drying and peppery. Overall: Hands down this is the most complex bourbon I ever tasted. Every whiskey lover has to experience this someday. I easily spent a full hour with it and every second was a total blast! Stagg is like the respected lonely elder in a small fishing village... He comes down to the harbor rarely but when he does to take a lonely walk, the youngsters behave themselves, the kids keep quiet, the older women start to giggle and the storekeepers greet him offering their best merchandise... He has seen it all and now enjoys the well deserved respect in his village... I am so glad that I finally opened this bottle. Cannot wait to share it with friends...



Mar 12, 2013

Laphroaig Triple Wood (revisited)...

Laphroaig Triple Wood (48.0%): It has been almost one and half years since I posted the tasting notes of Laphroaig Triple Wood on this blog. That bottle was the travel retail only release back then. Basically the whisky is the standard Quarter Cask expression transferred for one year to first fill and for two years to second fill European oak Oloroso sherry casks and then married together. I wonder if anything has changed after they started to distribute the expression world wide. Color: Bright and clear gold. Shines like a cask aged Chardonnay. Nose: Damp cardboard boxes, glossy magazine pages, piles of old National Geographic Magazine copies my father used to save throughout the 70's and 80's for no practical reason. Banana cream pie and fresh hazelnut skins. Mothballs, wet sand and bonfire at the beach still smoking the morning after. A few drops of water brings rubbery and grassy aromas; dried wild grass, party balloons and old eraser rubber. Palate: Hotter, peatier and saltier than I remember. If I am not totally making this up it definitely tastes less sweet than the earlier release. I think I like it more now. Pretty grassy with dying turf and hay. Memories of scraping the remains of a slightly burned and caramelized upside down apple skillet pie. Dusty and ashy... Water adds some sweetness but not even close as I remember. More like a touch of salted caramel, vanilla pods and roasted cocoa nibs. Finish: Long and sizzling hot. Cracked pepper corns, coal ash and butane lighter. Overall: Ok, maybe it is odd but here is what I think: I am not sure if the whisky or my palate has changed but I didn't get those strong sweet notes from European oak Oloroso casks like I did before. Maybe more second fill sherry butts in the vat? I don't know but I definitely like it more now... I wish I had some drops left from my duty free bottle to compare with. Anyway, it's a great after dinner dram. I am pairing it right now with a rich hazelnut milk chocolate bar and they go amazingly well together. Thanks again to Simon Brooking for the sample.


Mar 8, 2013

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength...

Laphroaig 10yo Cask Strength Batch 004 (58.6%): Third big snow storm of the season in New England, it's Friday night and been a long week. So, I think nobody could have a better suggestion about what to pour tonight. Laphroaig Cask Strength it is... The whisky has the batch number 004 and bottled in January 2012. Color: Shines like polished red gold. Nose: Cold sea spray, seaweed, diesel fuel. My hands used to smell like this as a teenager after coming back from fishing and steering the small wooden boat from the oily handle of the outboard engine the whole day. A few drops of water add latex gloves aromas with sweet barley cookies right out of the oven. Palate: Felt like biting a chunk of hot peat. It covers inside of the mouth with a layer of liquid fire place ash. Hot (by all means), sweet and salty at the same time. Like ripping a piece of a warm French baguette and spreading a cube of salty butter on. Chocolate covered salted caramel bites and crunchy toasted barley bits. Water cools it down a little and allows some cooked dried zante currants, dry clay soil and cheap cigarillo notes to show up. Finish: Lingers forever... Black pepper, ground ginger and fired shotgun shells. Overall: Wow, that was a ride... This guy definitely takes no prisoners. It lifts you up, shakes, spins around and puts you back on your couch with a huge smile on your face. Right away you want to do it again. Layers and layers of complexity you peel one by one by adding water. It's a huge and muscular dram. Like I said nobody could pick something better for tonight. Thank you to Simon Brooking for the official sample..!


Mar 6, 2013

Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive Mortlach 21yo...

Gordon & MacPhail Exclusive Mortlach 21yo (46.0%): This whisky is a very limited Mortlach expression from G&M bottled exclusively for World of Whiskies to be sold in their UK travel retail stores only. As you will guess it is a single cask distilled in June 1990 and bottled in August 2012. It spent its entire life in a refill sherry butt numbered 4396 which yielded 684 bottles. Cannot wait to taste... So, here we go, drum rolls please... Color: Clear orange blossom honey color with visible thick slow moving legs. Nose: Quince jam with cloves and warm apple compote. Sweet crunchy malted barley, milk chocolate and lavender. Very distant peat smoke blended with damp rich black garden humus. Palate: Incredibly smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Syrupy with cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Greek baklava, Christmas cake, flamed orange zest, over-brewed sweet black tea and wet tobacco. I feel like I just walked in an old Scottish pub out in the country when it's pouring outside. There is a roaring fire place across the bar and an empty old leather couch in front of it. What else could I dream of? Finish: Goes on and on and on with white pepper and cinnamon. Overall: When I was tasting this dram I remembered Chris Hoban's post on Edinburgh Whisky Blog titled "Is Mortlach another style?" and read it again. Definitely true... Mortlach is a beast of its own and I am a big fan of it. After so many years I still didn't come across a disappointing expression. Many many thanks to Teresa Hartmann for the best house warming gift ever..!