Aug 30, 2015

The Whisky Extravaganza...

To be honest I have no idea now how autumn will look like here in SoCal... I've been living for 13 years on the East Coast and I am pretty sure it won't feel anything like that. It will be the first autumn where probably I won't see leaves falling, temperature dropping to 40s or people unpacking blankets and sweaters. Well, at least the days will start to get shorter, that's something and guess what? The Whisky Extravaganza Fall Chapter..! Done... The Scotch Malt Whisky Society will be bringing 22nd Annual Whisky Extravaganza to Los Angeles on November 19th.


It will be another hell of an evening like every year of unlimited whisky tastings, extraordinary dinner buffet and friends from all over the world. It's definitely an unmissable chance to sample the newest releases of participating distilleries, blenders and independent bottlers, to meet the brand ambassadors and whisky enthusiasts. The event will be held at Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles. Believe me you don't want to miss this evening, especially with the discount code I will give right now... Take your pens and note this: The code "EXTD2015" will bring a 10% discount to all tire-bouchon readers for any The Whisky Extravaganza event when you order your ticket. You can purchase your ticket directly from this link, by visiting The Whisky Extravaganza's website or simply by calling the number (800) 990 1991. 

All events start at 6:30pm and end at 9:00pm. Don't be late for registration not to miss any minute of the night since it starts at 6:30pm. Put your kilts on if you are seeking extra attention, always a winner... Remember it's on Thursday, November 19th. Make sure to find me there to chat and/or to share a dram..! Slainte..!


Aug 26, 2015

Blend Project: Standings...

The Druid, Cambridge MA
In two years I tasted 19 blended Scotch whiskies under the Blend Project tag on this blog. The search is not completed without a doubt... There are many more candidates out there and I will keep tasting. Let me remind you what my goal was to begin with though: I wanted to find the best price/value bottom shelf blended Scotch to keep you company and your favorite ale when having a good time at your local bar or pub... I had two rules: It should be priced less than $30 a bottle and it shouldn't be an exclusive release. If I did include a few bottles bending those rules I made sure that they lost extra points against a cheaper and/or higher volume release to keep the ranking fair.

Actually the more important reason I wanted to go through an experience like this is, that I always respected well done budget blends... I think to blend a whisky to be sold in five continents over 100 countries with the same consistency for decades and decades and still to manage to keep its price tag under 30 bucks a bottle is way harder than bottling a few hundred bottles of a 40 year old single cask single malt whisky and selling it for thousands of dollars in a few duty free shops. And I truly respect that...

So, after more than two years and nineteen bottles my top five (not particularly in this order) is below. You might disagree with it and its all ok. Like I said before I will continue tasting and will keep updating the list. Let's check the list again after I hit the thirty mark...

Highland Fusilier
Campbeltown Loch
Slaintheva 12yo
Scottish Leader
Bell's

Needless to say it is all based on my own personal scorings... Please let me know what you think. Drop me a message, leave a comment below or send me a sample if you want to see your favorite blend in the list.

The Old Duke, Bristol England

The Ardview Inn, Port Ellen Scotland

Aug 23, 2015

Single Cask Nation Westland 2yo...

Single Cask Nation Westland 2yo (60.0%): Within a week after I moved to Los Angeles I realized that Joshua Hatton and Jason Johnstone-Yellin from Single Cask Nation were coming to town to conduct a tasting. Boom..! Guess who was first in line..? To be honest in the midst of all the moving to West Coast craziness I pretty much ignored my responsibilities to keep track of the new bottlings in the whisk(e)y world including the new expressions of SCN. So, it was a great chance to catch up with them and also meet some LA whisk(e)y enthusiasts. That night we tasted SCN's entire line-up including soon to be released casks and I ended up with two clear winners. While my number one choice is still trying to make its way through the US customs I went ahead and ordered this bottle which was my second choice. It is a peated single malt whiskey from Westland Distillery. Westland is founded in 2010 in Seattle and became one of my favorite new American distilleries this winter with their very impressive current line-up. This particular whiskey is aged in a first fill Oloroso Sherry cask which was numbered as cask #284 which yielded only 204 bottles. Color: Dark amber, chestnut honey. Nose: Brown Muscovado sugar and burnt orange peel. Cheery pie, root beer and buckwheat honey. With a few drops of water it gets sweeter: Banana cream pie, pipe tobacco and caramel rock candies. Also a touch of new car smell: dashboard, leather seats, etc... Palate: Hmmm, sour goodness... White grape juice and caramelized apples. Lapsang souchong tea, bergamot zest and lavender. Sweet and sour barbecue sauce, aged grappa and eucalyptus flavored cough drops. Water thins the texture down but the whiskey still stands up: Cooked prunes, beef stew, sap gum and over-brewed hibiscus tea. Finish: Long and dry. Menthol, fresh peppermint leaves and tri-color peppercorn mix. Gosh, it is a 120 proof whiskey and I forgot to add water..! Incredibly drinkable as it is. Let's add a few drops and then some new notes to the lines above. Overall: Well, obviously I liked it since I ordered a bottle right away. I still cannot put my head around the fact that this whiskey is only two years old. Although Single Cask Nation proved more than once that a two year whiskey can blow your mind it is still very impressive. Great cask selection like always... Kudos once again to the boys...

Aug 21, 2015

Old Carrick Mill Distillery...

Earlier this week one of my fellow bloggers informed me about an Irish lad who is trying to raise money to open his own distillery... Well, who isn't these days? Let me introduce him: His name is Steven Murphy and working pretty hard to make his journey known and create awareness around his project. You can reach the long story by clicking his kickstarter link below but the shorter version is, that he is trying to raise 40,000 Euro in a 40-day time period... Apparently he found a beautiful mill that he wants to restore and convert to a distillery. It is called Derrylavan Mill, built in the 18th century and located in Carrickmacross, a little town just south of Northern Ireland border. Anyway click the link below, give a little time to his story and maybe the project will be an interest to you.

Oh, by the way he actually started to distill a gin this spring already but his main goal is distilling whiskey obviously. Here is his link: Save The Old Carrick Mill Distillery...

I wish Steven nothing but success and luck..!


Aug 19, 2015

Blend Project #19 Dew of Ben Nevis Special Reserve...

Dew of Ben Nevis Special Reserve (40.0%): Here is a brief history lesson before we start with the tasting: Ben Nevis Distillery was built on the outskirts of Fort William right next to the tallest mountain of Britain of the same name in the year of 1825 by "Long John" Macdonald. Long John Macdonald was a six foot four inches tall lad and he marketed his whisky as "Long John's Dew of Ben Nevis" back then. Later in 20th century Macdonald family lost the ownership of the distillery as well as the rights of the "Long John" brand. The distillery got mothballed twice after and finally Nikka Distilling purchased the distillery starting the production right away the following year. Although Ben Nevis has only a 10yo single malt expression as a regular distillery release nowadays, actually it is quite possible to find several independent bottlings around. But they do have a solid blended whisky line-up under the "Dew of Ben Nevis" brand which is pretty popular in Japan and the entry level expression of this range is called "Dew of Ben Nevis Special Reserve". According to the distillery's website this blend is added to their range after some of the fans felt that "Supreme Selection" was too smooth... So, let's crack open the 20th candidate in the blend project and taste. The bottle is a house warming gift from a dear friend and carries an UK tax stamp. Color: Medium amber. Looks like a pretty healthy dose of caramel coloring to me. Nose: Noses like 70's Scotch blends. My father's liquor cabinet used to smell like this. Furniture polish, malt and orange blossom honey. Hardwood table top, vintage clothing store filled with leather jackets and golden raisins. After allowing it air a few minutes some smoke and peat evolves. Quite nice... Palate: Toffifee caramel candies, roasted hazelnuts and malt. Rich and oily. Caramel fudge, whole cloves and toasted oak. Cinnamon and young malt whisky. There is an artificial sweetener taste though lingering in my mouth as an aftertaste which bothered me a lot. Finish: Alcohol burn and black pepper. Actually longer than expected with burnt sugar on top of the burn. Overall: Quite ok... I say it is in the same league with Scottish Leader and Bell's but a little less balanced. Good price/value ratio, handles ice well (actually very well) and would pair great with your favorite ale. Gosh, I have such a soft spot for these drinkable lower shelf blends... Give it a try if you see it somewhere.

Aug 15, 2015

Springbank 15yo...

Springbank 15yo (46.0%): About a month ago just before I left Cambridge a friend of mine sent a bottle of Springbank 15yo as a thank you gift for some help I offered to them a while ago. The note attached to the bottle said: "Everything is better with a bottle of Springbank..." Well, it is indeed... I don't deny that I favor anything coming out of Springbank Distillery but Springbank 15yo has been always one of my favorites. And on top of everything this particular bottle survived the trip all the way across the country from Cambridge to West Hollywood. So, I think I shouldn't let it stay uncorked on the shelf any longer and pop it open at this beautiful weekend... Color: Light amber, oaked Chardonnay. Nose: Salty olive brine, wet black gardening soil, heather, burnt orange peel and quince paste. Crushed peppermint leaves, Dole canned pineapple rings, guava and salted caramel drops. Oily hemp ropes on a deck of a boat, rosemary and diesel fuel. Palate: Creamy, thick but also pretty chalky... Peat, campfire fueled by pine wood, cinnamon sticks and dried whole cloves. Green gummy bears, cooked zante currants Niederegger chocolate marzipan loaf and dried papaya slices. Cold pear and apple compote. Finish: Dry and long. Oak, sizzling black pepper and cloves. Still smoking campfire you wake up next to at dawn and pipe tobacco. Overall: Every batch is slightly different but always so good... A blend of perfectly well chosen sherry casks. Layered with bold notes like an old and mature whisky but also vibrant and energetic at the same time like a youngster under ten years old. If I had to find an equivalent style for this whisky it would be Lou Reed rocking in 1990's... Well, truth to be told: If I was making more money, Springbank 15 would be my everyday whisky, period but for now I will take it easy and make sure that this bottle will last long enough in this household... Highly recommended.

Aug 2, 2015

Hyde 10yo...

Hyde 10yo (46.0%): Gosh, it's been forever since I posted my last review... In two months I traveled to Prague and Istanbul, toured to Great Barrington and moved to Los Angeles..! Yes, tire-bouchon's new home is in West Hollywood, Los Angeles and my first review from West Coast is a ten year old single malt from Ireland. Hyde is a brand owned by Hibernia Distillers named after Douglas Hyde, the very first president of Ireland. They are located in West Cork and are the new boys in the lightning fast growing Irish whiskey industry. While they are planning to distill their own spirit within five years they source their whiskey from other distilleries for now. This single malt in my sample bottle is coming from Cooley Distillery owned by Beam Suntory located in County Louth. It is aged in first fill bourbon casks and then finished in toasted Oloroso sherry casks about six months. 5,000 bottles are released worldwide. Color: Medium amber, copper tubing. Nose: First it noses younger and higher proof than it is. After airing it a few seconds I start to get a large summery fruit bowl nose topped with light honey and whipped cream. Quiet nice: White peaches, apricots, baby bananas and oranges. Peach Melba... Orange blossom honey, American diner style banana cream pie and lemon zest cookies. With a few drops of water tons of malt, honeysuckle and dry hay notes surface. Palate: More grassy and spicy and less fruity than the nose suggested: Cinnamon, rock candies and spearmint. Water rounds the spicy edges very nicely. Toasted oak, white pepper and nutmeg. Finish: Medium - long with sizzling red and black peppercorns. Actually lasted way longer than I expected. I am still getting some lingering spices at the back of my tongue. Overall: Well, definitely not your usual Irish whiskey. It has a great distinct character and I am sure a lot of people will describe it as "like a Scotch" and it is damn true but I don't think that it is fair to the Irish Whiskey community. I will feel better to say that it tastes like a single malt whisk(e)y as I expected it to be and it is a good one. Actually this is the second single malt whiskey I sampled from Cooley Distillery within a week (other one from an independent bottler) and they both tasted great... I think Single Malt Irish Whiskey is about to be a better known category by itself pretty soon. Thanks to Hibernia Distillers for the official sample.