Friday, October 12, 2018

Scotch Review: Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Red Rye Finish


Yeah, I know it's been a while since my last post.  What can I say?  Part procrastination, and part I dunno.  Anyhow, I'm back and a big thank you to those readers who reached out to me via email since my last post in May asking if I was alright.  Don't worry, this kid is alright!  Ok, are you ready?  Let's go and check out Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch Red Rye Finish!

Diageo, owners of the Johnnie Walker brand, are always rolling out brand extensions.  Some are a success, some are not (e.g. Explorers' Club).  Blenders' Batch is another attempt by this multinational, billion dollar plus, publicly traded company to inject some excitement and spontaneity in to their well established brand.  And, how they have done that is by taking blended Scotch spirit, aged exclusively in first-fill bourbon casks, and then 'finishing' (fancy word for transferring to another type of cask) the spirit in of all things ex-rye casks.  I must say I was intrigued.  Scotch whiskies are usually finished in port pipes, Sauternes, and even Barbaresco (a mysterious Italian red).  So, when I heard Diageo had come up with the idea of a finish in red rye casks, I was interested.  Intuitively, I thought rye casks could compliment blended Scotch spirit that had been raised in ex-bourbon casks.

Launch Date
2016

ABV
40%

Closure
Metal twist off cap

Format
750ml bottle

Age Statement
None

Production Notes
A blend of three grain whiskies along with malt whiskies from Cardhu and the now defunct Port Dundas.  As I mentioned above, the spirit was aged in first fill bourbon casks before being finished for up to six months in ex-rye casks.

Nose
Apples, cinnamon, a floral sweetness and some caramel.

Palate
Honey crisp apples, caramel crisp, apple crisp, a citric note of grapefruit and orange is present and of course some spiced rye appears.

Finish
Oak, vanilla, spiciness with herbs like mint and tarragon, a wee grainy with some slight smoke.

General Impressions
I was really surprised by this blend.  Frankly, quite impressed.  I particularly like the influence of the rye casks on the spirit.  The rye imparts spiced rhubarb and a dry note.  Really like this for the price.  I would imagine it would perform well in a cocktail too!

Worth a try!  I wouldn't hesitate to buy again when low on funds.

Here's my YouTube video review of this blend:  

Thanks for your patience and I will endeavour to post more regularly!

Best,



Jason Debly

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Scotch Review: Craigellachie 13 years old Single Malt Scotch

What time is it?

Damn, it's gotta be five o'clock somewhere.

I gotta leave work.  Leave this soul crushing drudgery behind till tomorrow.

You ever get that feeling that you were meant for so much more in life and one day it dawns on you that . . . shit . . . this is it!  WTF?  I didn't sign up for this.  But, actually I did.  Ahh well, life's regrets and before we know it, we got bills, overhead, whatever we wanna call it and a guy can think he is kinda trapped.

I have a real button-down type of occupation and some days I think, how did I get here?  And, I know I am not a victim because I put myself here.  Some good decisions and some bad ones.  But, if I have learned something, I can tell you this:  every time I do something for the money I always regret it.

Ok, enough of the rant.  Just had to get that stuff off my chest.

I have left work now.  I am on the Woodstock Road that snakes next to the St. John River.  I am half tempted to pick up Roger and just drive west!  West to where?  I dunno?  Just drive man and we will find the answer on the road.  Eventually, I discard that idea as I pull into his dusty blue gravel driveway.  It's about 5pm with the sun in the western sky slowly sinking behind his red brick ranch style house.

"You look like you could use a drink," Roger opined from behind his smoking barbecue.  He leisurely turns over some chicken legs and reaches for the water spray bottle to shoot down the flames.  Santana's Soul Sacrifice plays on an unseen radio.

I head into the house through the back patio screen door and open the liquor cabinet.  I survey the most eclectic collection of spirits ranging from Swiss absinthe to Croatian plum brandy.  I am not that adventurous, but I do want something different.  I scan in search of something new, strange, unpredictable, unsafe, but from Scotland.  My gaze comes upon:  Craigellachie 13.

Aged 13 years?  What kind of a single malt is aged 13 years and then released?  In the marketing world 13 is regarded as unlucky, which is why there are so few whiskies with a 13 year age statement or 13th floor elevator buttons in nearly all hotels.

The Craigellachie distillery has been around a long time, like back to 1891 I think, but the reason I had never heard of it is because up until about 2014 the distillery's output was sold almost entirely for blends like Dewar's and even some White Horse.  Alright, maybe an independent bottler or two prior to 2014 managed to pinch some stock and release it, but the bottom line is that there was not a lot of single malt available from this distillery.  That all changed in 2014 with the release of a 13 year old, a 17 year old and some others.

Region
Speyside

Category
Single Malt

ABV
46%

Chill Filtration?
No.

Artificial Color?
Depends on what source you consult.  Some say yes, some say no.  I don't have a definitive answer.

Price
Very reasonable!

Nose (undiluted)
Sweet notes of dandelion and hay.

Palate (undiluted)
Creamy body builds to a weighty delivery of honey, butterscotch and golden barley.  Buttered toast with brown sugar.  Grassy notes with white pepper!

Finish (undiluted)
Bacon smoke, drying, malty, marmalade, chilli powder and a slight but distinct sulphur note that strangely works!

General Impressions
I gotta hand it to Roger.  He always teaches me something new.  I never heard of this single malt.  It's an odd malt in the sense that it is non-chill filtered but I am pretty sure it has artificial color (e150a) added, and at the same time has a great above average ABV of 46%.  Speaking of 46% ABV, it really calls for some water.  I recommend a teaspoon to a double pour.

This is a classic Speysider.  Golden honey with spiced marmalade.

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird is playing now on an old transistor radio.  Maybe it is a sign.

Cheers friend!



Jason Debly

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Old School! Scotch & Water

When I started drinking Scotch, I only liked what was smooth and generally sweet.  Blends were the order of the day with a couple of ice cubes.  Chivas, Famous Grouse, John Parr, Hankey Bannister and others.  I couldn't fathom  drinking Scotch with water in a ratio of 50/50 or something close to it.  My melted ice was all the dilution I wanted.  Anymore was a waste.  I had seen it in movies from the 1940's and it baffled me.  Scotch and that much water?  I tried it then and thought it was terrible.

Pictured above is Humphrey Bogart on the set of The African Queen.  A film shot in the African Congo where nearly everyone on the set got sick except for Bogie and  director John Huston.  Bogart explained their good fortune this way:

"All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whisky. Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead."

In countless films from the 1940's Bogie is invariably in some night club or dinner club where the leading lady sings and then joins him for a drink:  Scotch and water (sometimes Scotch and soda) in a highball glass.  I was baffled how they could down that stuff.











I have read a few biographies of Winston Churchill and one of them stated Mr. Churchill liked to start his morning with a splash of Johnnie Walker Red, a tiny amount and then fill a tall glass with water.  He would sip it all day.  Humphrey and Winston were no poster boys for drinking in moderation and I am not suggesting to follow their example whatsoever, but both seemed to be adherents to Scotch and water, like many people of their time.  This evening, I chose to also heed the words of Winston from his time spent in India:

"The water was not fit to drink.  To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort I learned to like it."

Well, I am not in 1890's India, and I suppose my tap water is potable, but I am going to mix my water with whisky and see what happens.

I had a heel of Johnnie Walker Red sitting on a shelf that looked forlorn amongst all the tall and distinguished single malt bottles and pricier blends.  

I poured 50/50 water and Johnnie Red plus a couple ice cubes.  Let it set a moment and took a sip.

It wasn't bad.  Not great, but what I enjoyed was the cloyingly sweet notes of the Red Label was gone.  Now, it was not sweet, but rather an evergreen or spearmint bitterness that reeled me in for more sips.  The flavour was not bad.  I was doing paper work for an commerce venture that is the reason I have not been posting lately, and I found this drink was a nice companion.  Not needy like a high school girlfriend, but just a pal hanging out.

I must say that as I get older my tastes in whisky have evolved which may be contributing to my new found enjoyment of the occasional whisky and water.  I no longer value sweetness and smoothness in a whisky.  The water added to a cheap blend will take away the sweetness or other overpowering qualities and replace with a softer and even aromatic flavour profile.  I am liking this!  Maybe Bogie and Churchill had it right or maybe I am turning into an old man like them.

Cheers!


Jason Debly

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Whisky Review: Aultmore 12 years Single Malt Scotch

A good friend of mine (though I would never tell him I consider him as such, given my faux-British stiff-upper lip adoption caused by filling my teen years binging on Fawlty Towers, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin and Churchill documentaries) did gift me for my birthday a bottle of Aultmore 12 years Single Malt.

I had seen this bottle as a newcomer to the shelves of the local liquor store, but wasn't keen on buying a totally unknown commodity.  I mean who has heard of Aultmore?  I did a quick internet search and learned that this distillery is basically a source malt for what goes in Dewar's blended whisky.  Not the strongest lineage in the whisky world. I mean we all know about Highland Park, Macallan and others, but Aultmore?  The name sounds like a medical condition.  I can just imagine my near centenarian doctor with his bifocals low on the bridge of his beak as he peers at me with clear disdain and says with a hint of Lanchashire, "you've Aultmore of the privates m'boy and it has spread to the lower GI tract."

Not expensive, but not the cheapest 12 year old single malt.  It is priced moderately and does boast on its packaging non-chill filtration and no artificial colour.  Plus it weighs in at a hefty 46% ABV so that could augur some complexity of flavour or disaster.  As you know friend, only one way to find out.

Region
Speyside

Category
Single Malt

ABV
46%

Artificial Color?
No!

Chill filtration?
No!

Wood Management
Ex-Bourbon casks.  Not tasting any ex-sherry casks.  Don't believe any are used.

Nose (undiluted)
Floral notes of dandelion, roses, apple blossoms, honey sweetness and butter.  Very balanced and pleasing drawing you in again and again.

Palate (undiluted)
Powerful burst of graprefruit and pears.  Honey, fruit cup syrup (in a good way!), golden wheat, barley, vanilla, banana, English cream and custard.

Finish (undiluted)
Cream, lemons, sea salt, limes.  The flavors linger a long time!

Add Water?
Yeah, you could but you would rob yourself of the wonderful complexity of this single malt.  When you have no artificial color, no chill filtration and a higher ABV, that is a recipe for greater complexity and you get it here!

Peer Review
If you like Chivas Regal 12, 18, Dalwhinnie and Glenfiddich 15 Solera you are gonna love Aultmore 12.

Conclusion
Friend, I love this stuff!

It's affordable, non-chillfiltered, no artificial colour and a high ABV of 46%. All of these factors plus the Master Blender's tremendous talent in never letting this malt taste hot or fiery makes it a must buy.  Amazing that a whisky devoid of smoke, peat and sherry can be so good, but it is.  Put it on your list!  It's good for what ails you!  Especially if you contract Aultmore of the privates!

Cheers!



Jason Debly

Sunday, January 7, 2018

My 2018 New Year's Resolution!

I know my Canadian Winter is here when I can see wisps of my breath in the air.

This morning, in search of steaming orange pekoe tea and toast, I was meandering down the tree-lined street I grew up on.  I was headed to my parent's early '70's red-brick, ranch style house, sans baby blue shag carpet, and encountered this wintry scene.  I stepped out of my ice encased SUV onto crunchy snow and ice underfoot and snapped this pic with my phone.

Taking the photo in the cold, cloudless morning air was ironic.  The irony stems from the smartphone.  On the one hand, it captures this moment in a manner no words could ever convey to you, and on the other, my use of the phone has made me less and less aware of simple beauty around me.  It dings at me all day with notifications of texts, emails, Ebay reminders about auctions ending and sports updates.  There is seemingly no respite.

Lately, my phone has caused me to become a person I don't like.  Head down, constantly distracted and basically in a higher level of stress than I would have been had I never owned one.  A subtle hurry-sickness gradually casts a long shadow over much of our soul as we get updates on Trump's latest tweet, Pinterest, Instagram, NFL scores and whatever social media we have stupidly signed up for.  Most of the information is useless and will not make a difference in our lives, but somehow we want more and more.  Maybe our little phones make us feel intelligent and important when actually they cause the opposite.

The snowbound street got me thinking.  I need to put the phone down and focus on what is important.  Simplifying my life.  Staring at a tiny, handheld screen a couple of hours a day is not the answer.  Of course, I can't get rid of it because of work issues, but I can minimize its use big time.  So, today, I decided here in 2018, my New Year's Resolution is to disconnect for small periods of time like a morning, then an afternoon, and maybe a whole day, so that weekends become weekends again.

Today, I experienced technological withdrawal.  I shut the phone off, put it in a drawer in my basement office, and I went upstairs to the living room, grabbed a copy of The New Yorker and started reading.  But, reading was difficult because I felt the irrational need to have that cursed phone nearby.  Maybe there is a text or a call I will miss?  I got through the afternoon somehow.  It didn't help that my significant other sat across from me on her iPad in the sunny living room, but I somehow conjured up the courage to continue.

A view from downtown near my favourite coffee shop!
And you know what?  I felt better.  Eventually, I forgot the phone and just read some brilliant writing on what is going on in Gotham's art and theatre scene.

That's what's great about a pastime.  You lose yourself in it.  You forget about work and the stresses weighing down on us.  When I go golfing or fishing, I escape my worries.  So do you.  My challenge to you friend, is disconnect and get reacquainted with your favourite pastime.  You will feel much better.  Just ignore the irony of me having uploaded this post from my phone!

Happy New Year!


Jason Debly

P.S.  Don't worry, I won't be to preachy in my next post.  It will be back to some whisky reviews!