Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year 2019!

Hi all!

Wishing you the best holiday season yet!

Having a little champagne followed by Glenmorangie 18 years!

Look forward to 2020!

Cheers,



Jason

Friday, November 1, 2019

Miltonduff 10 year old (Gordon & MacPhail)

Lately, I have been sampling quite a few single malts from independent bottlers.  Why?  The answer is simple.  They offer an opportunity to try single malts from obscure distilleries that often end up in famous blended Scotch whiskies.  The range of flavour profiles is astounding and the chances of discovering a diamond in the rough for a fraction of the price of a similar quality malt released by the big multinational drinks companies is pretty good too!

Independent bottlers just seem to be hitting it out of the ballpark for me as of late.  Because they typically do not own a distillery, they buy the new make spirit that is excess or unwanted by distilleries.  Sometimes these spirits have a flaw or are a bit off in terms of the house style of a distillery and so they find a home with the independent bottler.  These bottlers are generally old firms that have a huge inventory of casks in all shapes and sizes, and experienced staff who sample the spirit regularly till its deemed ready to bottle.  Expert wood management coupled with the right amount of aging and good judgment can transform an otherwise mediocre spirit into a thing of beauty.

What I have before me is a bottle from the independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail.  While they do own a distillery (Benromach), the bottle before me is not from there.  They have purchased some spirit from a little known distillery, Miltonduff.

Miltonduff is a Speyside distillery that has been in operation since the early 19th century.  Today, it produces about 4 million litres a year and most of the production is destined for eventual inclusion as the malt whisky component of the well-known, blended Scotch, Ballantine's Finest, which by the way, I absolutely despise.   Ballantine's flavor profile can be summarized as Alpenweiss box wine, Fresca and black pepper, suitable as windshield washer fluid only.  If I had known this tidbit of how Miltonduff is used, I probably would not have picked up this G&M release.  But, such is fate.  Sometimes we make decisions (career, marriage, purchase a Mercedes, etc.) without being fully informed.

Gordon & MacPhail have several different 'ranges' of releases.  Some expensive and rare and others not.  I opt for the latter.  The Miltonduff 10 year old is from the Discovery range.  The aim of this range is to serve as an introduction to the portfolio of classic Scotch flavor profiles:  'sherry', 'smoky' and 'bourbon.'  Our little ol' bottle of Miltonduff is the 'sherry' representative.  I am surprised as Ballantine's Finest is not a sherried dram.  But, then I remember in such a blend Miltonduff is one of a great many single malts, and who knows the proportion of malt.  Miltonduff might be only added in relatively small amounts to the blend in comparison with other single malts.

Age Statement
10 years.

Price (in Canada)
$110 (so, not exactly cheap)

Format
700ml.

Closure
Cork stopper.

Color?
Natural!  No E150a.

Chill-filtration?
Yes.  I confirmed this with Mr. Bill Somerville, Brand Ambassador for Gordon & MacPhail in Canada.

ABV
43%

Nose (undiluted)
Distinct sherry, cracked leather, vanilla, summer flowers of roses and peonies.

Palate (undiluted)
A dry, rich, sherry bomb, exotic milk chocolate, hint of mint and spices, fruitcake, rum cake, raisins and toffee.

Finish (undiluted)
Medium length of chocolate, waxen raspberry, melted caramel, dry oak, black grapes.

General Impressions
This is good!  The price is not cheap, but I have absolutely no buyer's remorse.

This bottle exhibits impressive complexity when you first open the bottle.  However, once the bottle has been open a while, the oxidation makes it more sherried and less complex.  Still a good dram for sure, just not as complex.

While the youngest whisky in the bottle is a mere ten years, it certainly seems to have others that are far older.  Gordon & MacPhail have accomplished what they set out to do, namely present a classic sherried Speysider.  Frankly, I prefer this release to its peers: Glenfarclas 12 and GlenDronach.  It might be a little less refined than say Macallan 12, but I really need to do a side-by-side to decide.  If you like sherry bombs with interesting nuances, you will love Miltonduff 10 years.  Highly recommended!

Cheers,



Jason Debly

Monday, October 28, 2019

Scotch Review: 9 year old Teaninich "Hepburn's Choice" (Hunter Laing)

Hepburn's Choice is a line of single malt releases put out by the independent Scotch whisky bottler Hunter Laing.  This product line always features 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and natural color.  Even more interesting is that the bottles are poured from a single cask.  The bottle I have is one of 420 poured from a single cask.  And the best tidbit, I save for last: the price is not bad.  Quite reasonable actually for a single malt with the aforementioned attributes.

Earlier this year, I picked up another in this series, namely a 10 year old Linkwood, which was truly amazing.  I went back to the liquor store and bought up the remaining four bottles.  I reviewed it on YouTube, but never got around to posting it on here.  That was a spellbinding, quintessential Speysider.  Well worth seeking out, if you can find it.

Distillery
The Teaninich Distillery was established in 1817.  Currently owned by Diageo and the massive quantity of malt produced (10 million litres annually) is mostly used as an ingredient of Johnnie Walker Red Label.

Region
The distillery is located in the Highland region of Scotland.

Category
Single Malt.

Independent Bottler
Hunter Laing have bought up some of the new make spirit of the Teaninich distillery and supplied the casks the spirit is aged in.

Age Statement 
9 years (distilled in 2008 - bottled in 2017).



Nose (undiluted)
Hay, citrus, slight peat (low phenolic level), sweet dandelion.

Palate (undiluted)
Citrus, lime note, lemon pith, grapefruit chunks. Delicate.

Finish (undiluted)
Sour white grape/wine gums. Lemon meringue pie, limes and a grapefruit pith bitterness.

General Impressions
This is a light whisky that showcases bitter and sweet white wines/grapefruit pith.  It's a different type of malt.  The grapefruit pith bitter notes mostly on the finish may put some people off, but I kinda like it.  When I first opened the bottle, I was not impressed with that bitter finish, but the oxidation that transpired over a couple of weeks took that bitterness down sufficiently such that you can really enjoy it.

While it is 46% ABV, I wouldn't add water.  Works nicely neat.  The lack of chill filtration and artificial color contributes to the complexity of this malt.

Again, the price point is really reasonable for this malt and this factor makes it worth trying.  If you are looking for something different and wondering what some of the ingredient malts of Johnnie Walker Red taste like, try Hepburn's Choice 'Teaninich 9 years.

Best,


Jason Debly

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: Martell Blue Swift

Martell is a very old and well established Cognac producer, dating back to 1715.  This producer is famous for a number of offerings.  I am a fan of their Cordon Bleu.  Nice stuff.

In April 2018, Martell 'Blue Swift' was launched.  It's a bit of a departure from what this cognac house has produced in the past because the 'Blue Swift' is not technically a cognac.  While the spirit is made up exclusively of VSOP cognacs, they are aged further, or what we call 'finished' for a couple of months in ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky.  We don't know the distillery that the sourced casks are from either.

French law governing cognac requires that the spirit be aged exclusively in French oak, and because Blue Swift has additional aging in ex-bourbon casks, Martell cannot market it as cognac.  Accordingly, on the label, the words 'Spirit Drink' appear.

Ok, enough said.  Let's move on to the review.

Martell 'Blue Swift'

Category
Spirits

Age Statement
None, but as it is made up of exclusively VSOP cognacs, we can say that there is no spirit less than 4 years of age.  May not sound like much in the whisky world, but in the realm of cognac, 4yrs denotes quality.

ABV
40%

Artificial Color?
Yes.

Closure
Cork stopper.

Format
750ml

Launch Date
April 2018.

Nose
Candied, warm apple crumble, melted toffee, distinctly sweet.

Palate
Sweet arrival of apple cider, creme brûlée's, oak, ginger and a lot of vanilla.  Too much!

Finish
Warm caramel, tingling baking spices, oak again, very heavy oak and then vanilla.



General Impressions
When I first opened this bottle, the Blue Swift tasted pretty awful.  The caramel flavour tasted artificial and burnt.  Just dreadful.  But, two weeks or so later, having gotten some oxidation going on as the bottle was now opened, it improved in taste.  The improvement was to something that is tolerable, but that over-the-top vanilla and oak was still there while the artificial caramel notes had settled down.  I am still not a fan, and would not recommend this spirit drink.

When I consider the price point of $100 in Canada and $60 in the US, I don't think it delivers value for money.  It probably works as a base of a cocktail, but again its expensive mix.  This spirit is not well suited to sip on its own.

Not recommended.

Cheers!


Jason Debly

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Scotch Review: Bowmore 18 years Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Sam lived across the street in a Dijon mustard yellow stucco, three-storey walk-up, whose horseshoe arched windows were trimmed in provencal blue paint.  He was about to turn in for the night when he happened to gaze through his bedroom dormer and see a dim light on in Rick’s Café Américain.  He had seen the bar keep, Sacha, snap the lights off when they closed earlier.  With a big sigh, Sam thought a moment, and rather than retire for the evening, headed back downstairs and across the street to the Café.

“Boss, what’s wrong?”

Rick, seated at a table next to the piano, grunted something unintelligible, and stabbed a finger at the iPad that lit up at his touch.  “Why me?  Sam?  Why?,” Rick asked.

Sam glanced at the iPad.  It displayed an email, but before he could read it, Rick continued.  “I got my Heritage Tree DNA results back and their not good . . . I’m a match with Ilsa.”

“A match?”  Sam left school at 16 and played piano full time on a riverboat.  Being a geneticist was not a possibility on the bayou, but Sam had a good idea what Rick was hinting at.

“Yeah, we’re related.”

Sam read the email that contained the DNA test results.  “But, Boss it says you and her shared a common ancestor ten generations ago on your father’s side.”

“We are related.  That’s the end of it.  I been really bad.  C’mon Sam, you know . . . that’s sick.  But, I’ll show them sons a bitches!”  Rick pointed at the bottles lining the back of the mirrored bar.  “Gimme that one!”  Realizing he was bellowing at Sam, he lowered his voice, and whispered “that one.”

Sam had no clue what bottle Rick wanted, but made a random grab anyway, and set a bottle of Bowmore 18 years old single malt down on the table.  Rick was busy tearing open a new DNA test kit, in the semi-darkness of the bar, all the while muttering “I’ll show 'em, I’ll show 'em,” as bubble wrap fell all around him.  He poured the Bowmore into his tumbler, with a Q-tip, he swabbed the inside of the glass, and then dropped it into the specimen container.  Sam sent it out by courier the next day because he feared the use of the local courier service would soon be banned.  This is not outside the realm of possibility thought Sam, given the fact that a Nazi Major Strasser had arrived in town to investigate the recent murder of two German couriers and the disappearance of their precious cargo: Letters of Transit.  But, that's a story for another day.

A month or so later, Rick got a new Y-DNA 37 test result back that said:

Rick Blaine Y-DNA Test (AKA: Bowmore 18yrs Single Malt Scotch Whisky)

Price
Reasonable considering it is an 18 year old single malt Scotch.

ABV
43%

Artificial Color?
Yes.

Chill Filtration?
Yes.

Wood Management
A combination of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks.

Closure
Cork stopper.

Distribution
Widely available.

Region of Scotland
Islay.

Nose (undiluted)
Fragrant, sherry, light smoke, slight peat, seaweed.  Orange peel, orange chocolate.  Solid oak and malt notes.

Palate (undiluted)
Fruit forward, like a Napa Valley Cabernet, delivering cherries, black grapes, toffee, salted caramel, brown sugar, molasses, which is accented by a light treatment of peat and smoke.

Finish (undiluted)
Good length.  Red wine Bordeaux, bacon, vanilla, raisins, cigar smoke.

General Impressions
The stereotypical Islay single malt Scotch is a peat and smoke blast, and then, well more peat and more smoke with maybe some black pepper for good measure.  Bowmore 18’s DNA contributes to a departure from the aforementioned stereotype.  This Islay malt is sweet, soft, the peat and smoke is delicate, restrained and even muted by the aging in Oloroso sherry casks.  With a rather modest phenolic level of 35 ppm, it’s the sherry notes that dominate the peat and smoke of Islay.  Not the other way around, as one would normally expect of an Islay malt.

Bowmore 12 and 18 are very different malts for this reason.  The 12 is peated, briny and of the sea, so to speak. There can be no doubt of it’s regional origin, Islay.  But, if someone told me in a blind tasting to guess the ancestry of Bowmore 18 I would have thought the Highlands.

Criticisms?  Bowmore 18 takes no chances.  It’s a gentle malt, balanced to the point of being a bit boring/flat if you are into powerhouses with higher ABV’s or seeking complexity.  I really think had this whisky been non-chill filtered and no artificial color, we would be tasting more complexity.  Most 18 year old single malts will wow you in taste and complexity.  Bowmore 18 does not.  Nevertheless, very drinkable and my bottle disappeared quickly as I sampled and pondered it’s lack of nuance.  

So, if you are relatively new to whisky and want to try an inviting, balanced, easygoing single malt with an 18 years age statement, Bowmore 18 fits the bill.  If you consider yourself a serious connoisseur of malts where emphasis is placed upon complexity, power and the glory of single malt, well, you be best to pass on this.   And now, back to the story . . . 

Sam looked over the new DNA test results and said, “Mr. Richard, I don’t see Isla’s name here.  You’re good.  Just some distant relatives Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Port Ellen, whoever she is.”

Rick nodded and said, “I’ll drink to that!”

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Whisky Review: Canadian Club aged 20 years

In my college days, I was into the music of Miles Davis.  Albums of his like 'Round About Midnight, Kind of Blue and an obscure soundtrack he recorded for a Louis Malle film, Ascenseur pour l'échafaud served as a soundtrack to my leafy campus life.

It was my habit then and today to go real deep into hobbies and interests, which meant I sought out all of Miles' albums.  One of them I read a lot about was Bitches Brew.  A friend lent me the record (I didn't like CDs then, a purist addicted to the deep timbre of vinyl).  I put it on and sat in my dorm room with a French roast coffee (but no black turtleneck and beret) in front of my four foot high or so Yamaha speakers and prepared to be wowed.

I was . . .  not.  The music sounded like a cacophony of unskilled players all playing out of key to very different melodies and rhythms only known to them.  To my ears, the discordant sounds caused me to turn it off within minutes.  I couldn't handle.  It was auditory chaos. I was more bitter about this listening experience than my coffee.

Fast forward 30 years and I am driving to work and decide to give da Bitches another go.  I had basically memorized everything else Davis had done in what I called the classic age,  and was frankly a bit bored.  So, my ears sip on the Brew once more with no expectations.  What the hell?  As I get older, I like stuff that pushes the boundaries more and more.  I mean now I 'get' Andy Kaufman . . . I think.

Anyhow, the record spins again, only now as an iTunes selection off my iPhone in my car via Bluetooth.  I listen.  The music starts quiet and builds into a crescendo of electric piano, electric guitar, basses (two different players), drums, trumpet and sax.  There is a musical motif here, a theme over there, but each musician approaches these soundscapes in his own, unique way.  I am listening and liking the shocking liberties these guys are taking with the conventions of classic jazz I had inhaled since college.  And, then it dawned on me, now I GET IT!  I understand what Davis was doing on BB.  He's bored with the jazz of the past and now throws in discordant sounds hinting at rock and funk music.  There are complex layers of melodies and rhythms that fade in and out, some making a singular appearance while others recur.  The music sounds random, but it's not.  It creates an unnerving atmosphere at certain points, but then becomes soothing at others, kinda like life. 

I reviewed Canadian Club 20 years old many years ago .  I wasn't kind.  I said some incredibly stupid things like Canadian Club 20 years disappoints.  Just as I did not understand Bitches Brew 30 years ago, so too I didn't understand Canadian Club 20 years old whisky.

In my old review, I had made the rookie mistake of equating the Canadian whisky category with the single malt Scotch category.

Malted barley exhibited the flavour profile that I seemed to like best.  Something magical about malted barley, when combined with great casks, water and of course age.  Such a combination delivers amazing golden cereal and honeyed toast notes, sprinkled with berries and plum due to sherry and port casks, and depending on the region, other flavors could emerge like the brine of the sea and the smoke of a bonfire. Great single malts seem to soar to heights of flavour or can at the same time be subtle like the patter of warm summer rain.  Expecting these attributes and conventions of spirit, if you will, in Canadian and other whiskies of the world, will only lead to disappointment if Scotch is to be the benchmark of flavor attributes.

Canadian whisky is different.  It offers a more narrow palate featuring rye, corn, wheat and big oak at times.  This not necessarily a flaw, but a fundamental difference when contrasted with Scotch whisky. 

Canadian whisky can be light, yet elegant and complex.  The complexity is delivered typically via a backbone of rye, sometimes spicy.  Oakiness is not a flaw in Canadian whisky, whereas in the case of Scotch, too much oak is not as pleasant an experience.  Lots of oak, so long as not becoming bitter, is an acceptable flavor motif of Canadian whisky, as is the spiced rye notes.  In a nutshell, the flavor conventions of Scotch should not be applied to Canadian whisky nor vice versa.  Recognize the 'conventions' of each spirit category and appreciate them within that category.

Canadian Club 20 years old

Mashbill
Rye, corn, malted barley.

ABV
40%

Chill Filtration?
Yes.

Artificial Color?
Yes.

Nose (undiluted)
Soft notes of sweet hay, rye, copper pennies, and oak.

Palate (undiluted)
Golden wheat, rye and cinnamon unite in a wonderful way.  They are joined by toffee and caramel in a spicy, warm embrace.

Finish (undiluted)
Sweetness is gone with a move to dry toast, creme brulee, sawdust and more rye.  Some black pepper too.

General Impressions
Canadian Club 20 years old is an excellent Canadian whisky.  It delights in notes of maple sugar, oak and of course Canadian rye for spice and backbone.

Comparing Canadian Club 20 years to Scotch whisky and then proceeding to criticize it for lacking the flavor attributes of Scotch would be a mistake.

Have a sip of Canadian Club 20 years, and maybe you will GET IT! like how I GOT IT! listening to Bitches Brew.

Best,


Jason Debly

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Scotch Review: Grant's "Sherry Cask Finish"

MeI'm stalking a wall of economy blended Scotch whiskies, and trying to decide which one to abduct and hustle to checkout.

CustomerA soccer mom in an expensive red and yellow Manchester United jersey approaches with two boys in tow.  I am guessing 8 and 12.  I think my friend Keith has the same Kankichi Ryotsu shirt as one of the boys.




"Can you tell me what aisle the Grand Cru Saint-Emilion is in?"

Me:  "Sorry, I don't work here."

Customer:  She stares clinically into my eyes like she might catch a glimpse of the depths of my soul.  Then, her nose flares, as if she has found my soul located on a tropical island littered with bikinis, white sand, waves and Johnnie Walker Black on ice that never melts in spite of the heat of the nearby hibachi and the endless summer afternoon.

"I have seen you here before.  I am sure of it."

 Me:  "I have been here before because I am a regular, but I don't work here," I somewhat sputter.

Customer:  "You are wearing black pants and a red golf shirt like the rest of them."

MeSo, does Tiger Woods on the Sunday afternoons.  

Customer:  "This is unbelievably bad customer service!"

MeBefore I can say anything, she storms off with her offspring, much to my bewilderment.  I turn back to my wall of shame, and try to choose a blend that is cheap.

CustomerShe points at me, followed by an employee, presumably the 'supervisor' who is also wearing a red polo shirt and black chinos.

"That's him," she hisses.

SupervisorHe looks me up and down and maybe also sees my soul's quest for rest at a Caribbean island beach under a palm tree that would be fitting for an Axe deodorant commercial.

"Ma'am, he doesn't work here."

Customer:  "Are you sure?"

MeI don't even wait for the supervisor to respond.  I randomly grab a bottle and hightail it to checkout, where I pay the ransom.



















Grant's Cask Editions "Sherry Cask Finish"
I can't make this up.  I get out of the liquor store and am headed to my Ford with all the urgency of Steve McQueen in Bullitt, only my all wheel drive Escape doesn't squeal in spite of me tramping the pedal, as I exit the liquor store parking lot.  I knew I should have bought that Mustang in the showroom.

Once home, I look at my Friday night purchase with little enthusiasm.  Been drinking a lot of Teacher's Highland Cream lately and was thinking I need some variety, but the choices are pretty slim in the economy blended Scotch category.  A lot of blends are designed for mixing and I don't want a cocktail.  I want a cheap, but pleasant sipper that I can enjoy neat.

So, I grabbed the Grant's, off the shelf (bottom shelf that is), figuring it's been about six years since my last review.  Maybe it has changed a bit in flavour.  You'd be surprised how many blended Scotches can change for a number of reasons ranging from new corporate ownership (e.g. Teacher's) or new staff (e.g. master blenders).  Sometimes there is substitution of old faithful malts with new ones because head office bean counters (e.g. pinstripes at Black Bottle) decide to use other distilleries in their portfolio to contribute to the blend rather than others who are not owned by them.  That's what happened to Teacher's Highland Cream.  GlenDronach was a key malt for decades but a change in ownership triggered the decision to drop GlenDronach from the blend and use another sherried malt from a distillery already owned by the company.  The change was not good for Teacher's.  Fortunately, since then they have improved the quality of sherried malt in the blend once more.

Nose (undiluted)
Sweetness of vanilla, bread, dandelion and sliced oranges.

Palate (undiluted)
Apples, honey, fruit cocktail, orange rind, cheerios cereal, white cake bread, pleasant oak.

Finish (undiluted)
More orange rind, citrus, a wee peat, a puff of decent smoke, and then it's gone in a flash.  The finish is short, but hey this is a cheap blend.



General Impressions
This has improved since my last review.  The improvement is in the finish.  Six years ago, I sampled two bottles and the finish is where the wheels came off the wagon.  It would be bitter on the finish.  Not so now.  You are left with a simple but pleasing sherry note that manifests itself as Florda oranges and rind.  All pleasant.

The nose was good on this blend, and the palate was not offensive in the least.  With no change in corporate ownership at Grant's, I would attribute this improvement to the blending team's attention to detail.  Well done!

I am not a huge fan of the Grant's Family Reserve, but this Sherry Cask Finish is much better.

Worth a try, especially if you need a cheap daily sipper!

Cheers!



Jason Debly

P.S.  I am back from a bit of an entrepreneurial sabbatical and ready to post much more regular, so get ready for lots of my nonsense!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Scotch Review: Benromach 'Triple Distilled' Scotch Whisky


Benromach 'Triple Distilled'

Distillery
Benromach.

Region
Speyside

Category
Single Malt Scotch

Distribution
15,600 bottles

Price
Under $100

Distillation Date
2009

Bottled
2017

ABV
50%

Chill Filtration?
No

Artificial Color?
No

Wood Management
Aged in first fill ex-bourbon casks

Note on Distillation
The spirit was distilled three times. Once run though the wash still and twice through the spirit still. Usually triple distillation will produce a lighter and smoother whisky. Not here. This whisky is powerful and interesting but never smooth which is fine with me.

Nose (undiluted)
Buttercups, floral, vanilla, fruity. (Well balanced nose. Nothing offensive here.)

Palate (undiluted)
Ripe tangerines, ginger, apricot jam, pears, pear juice, lemons and peppery.

Finish (undiluted)
Soft caramel, creamy, salt and deep oak and malt. A long finish.


General Impressions
Excellent! Complexity abounds as the flavours of apricot and pear marry with salt and pepper.

Highly recommended!

Cheers!




Jason Debly

Monday, March 25, 2019

Scotch Review: Benromach 15 years Single Malt Scotch



Benromach 15 Years Single Malt Scotch Review
Region
Speyside, Scotland

Category
Single Malt

Age Statement
15 years

ABV
43%

Format
700ml

Closure
Cork stopper.

Wood Management
70% Bourbon Casks (First Fill)
30% Sherry Casks (First Fill)

Nose
Strong pickled beets, ginger, chilli peppers, oak, vanilla

Palate
Herbaceous, pine cones, ginger, ginger root, strong pungent raw honey, celery stalk.

Finish
Sour dough, pickled turnip, ginger root again, faint root beer, just too much ginger again.


Conclusion
Not impressed. Spearmint gum fans would like this. A little stale smoke, but just nothing great here. Adding a few drops of water did not help. Nominal peat and smoke and very very little sherry. The bourbon casks dominate with ginger notes. Just not liking this.

Not recommended.
People who like Glenkinchie 12 might like this, but I am not a fan of that malt either.

Best,



Jason Debly

Whisky Review: Lot no. 40 Rye Whisky



Lot no. 40 Rye Whisky

Category 
Canadian Whisky 

ABV 
43% 

Format 
750 ml

Closure
Cork stopper

Mashbill 
100% unmalted rye 

Wood Management 
Virgin Oak, heavy char 

Distillery 
Hiram Walker Distillery 

Distributor 
Corby Spirit and Wine Ltd. 

Age Statement 
None. 

Nose 
Copper pennies, rye bread, a little floral. 

Palate 
Dry, dusty rye bread, cinnamon, bruised oranges. 

Finish 
Long with plenty of guess what? Rye! Organic, dark German sour bread comes to mind. A little minty with green bitter lemongrass. 

Conclusion 
If you like a bold rye whisky then do try this. The price is reasonable and it delivers a lot of strong rye notes.  For the price, you get good value for money. If you like gentle American ryes with a bit of corn in the mash bill to soften and sweeten things, then you may not like this whisky. 

Cheers! 




Jason Debly

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Scotch Review: 'Hedonism' by Compass Box Company

I like the Compass Box Company.  They put out some really interesting releases.  So, when a reader suggested I continue to explore the product line of this innovative independent bottler, the question was 'where to next?'  My reader suggested 'Hedonism.'

'Hedonism' is different from nearly all other offerings of Compass Box or frankly most other Scotch brands period.    How is it different?  Simple.  It's not a single malt, blended malt or blended Scotch whisky.  Hedonism is a 'blended grain whisky.'

A blended grain whisky from Scotland will have a little bit of malted barley but is principally a mash bill of other grains like wheat, corn, oats, etc.  The various grains are cheaper to acquire than barley.  The lower cost grains and the whisky they produce is the chief reason they are used to bulk up blended Scotches.

Additionally, grain whiskies don't enjoy the best reputation because they tend to be young and often aged in inferior casks.  So the taste aint the greatest leading to a less than stellar reputation.  Think of say Ballantine's Finest, a dreadful blend in my opinion.  It is made up of a lot of young grain whiskies that I think were aged in lower quality casks (e.g. not 1st fill or even 2nd fill).

Grain whisky can be good whisky.  It can be a delight, but the whiskies need age, careful blending, and good wood management.  What would happen if you had an attentive master blender, using aged grain whiskies that matured in first and second fill casks?  Would it be good?  This is what Hedonism by Compass Box attempts to do.



Region
Scotland


Category
Blended Grain Whisky

ABV
43%

Format
700ml

Age Statement
None

Artificial Color
No

Chill Filtration?
No

Wood Management
Aged in 100% first fill American oak or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads.

Nose (undiluted)
Sweet breads, orange blossoms, honey and buttercups.

Palate (undiluted)
Sweetness but not cloyingly so. Creamy, vanilla, sponge cake, white cake bread, Dutch butter cookies.  Oven warm dinner rolls.

Finish (undiluted)
Transition from sweet to dry with kitchen spices of kosher salt, tarragon and oregano.  Nice structure of wheat and cereals, and lemon pith too, but just faintly.

General Impressions
I really like this and demonstrates that you do not have to have a single malt in order to enjoy a quality Scotch whisky.

Not sherried and very little if any peat.  When this dram passes your lips you are left with a nice lingering spiciness.

I think this would be very well liked by the novice Scotch fan.  A newbie would like this.  Old whisky dogs might be taught a new trick with this one too.

If you like Glenmorangie 12 Nectar DO'r or Glenfiddich 15 Solera, then you will like this.

This tastes like pineapple, honey, malty with some lemon juice in the background.  If I had a slight criticism, it would be that it is quite sweet.  However, I don't mind it.  For this reason, I really think the Scotch newbie would enjoy this dram.

A glass of sunshine waiting for you!

Highly recommended!

Best,




Jason Debly

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Review: The Macallan 12 years Double Cask

"So, get this," Roger peers closer at the two day old New York Times, as he is too vain to get glasses, and continues.  "The Clemson Tigers won the national college football championship right?"

"Yup," I say only wishing I could have watched some of it, but family and work life is very busy at this point for me or should I say unbalanced.  I envision a retirement where Saturdays are devoted to college football and Sundays to NFL.  Haven't broached that retirement vision with my Significant Other though.  Gotta have dreams, aim high they say.

"Trump fetes the team at the White House.  This is what he says: 'We ordered American fast food, paid for by me.  Lots of hamburgers, lots of pizza.'  He bought Wendys, Burger King and McDonalds!  I mean for chrissakes.  It's the White House."

"They are college students.  He's giving them what they want.  When I was 21, a burger was the centre piece of my diet."  No doubt, Roger would be thinking foie gras on a baguette with white pepper should be served to a winning football team, but this just reinforces for me that Roger and his democrats are out of touch with Main Street.   If Obama served burgers and fries the Times and the New Yorker on his rustic coffee table would have headlines celebrating such a move as in touch with college and ordinary people.  Trump does it and liberal heads explode.

"What's gonna happen after the Super Bowl?  Have Hooters or Twin Peaks cater the White House reception for the winning team?"


'Limousine liberal' Roger and I didn't see eye to eye on politics, but I didn't help bridge the gulf with my view that Trump is really an acolyte of Andy Kaufman, performing the greatest performance art act of all time.  Fortunately, sitting between us on his chic farmhouse coffee table that Saturday afternoon were two bottles of Macallan 12 Double Cask capable of mediating our political differences.

So, here's the deal.  In the last couple of years, I have not been a fan of The Macallan distillery because for a time they had stopped distributing in Canada age statement whiskies and had moved to a color scheme of younger, inferior but still high priced malts.  Think the NAS '1824 Series' with the Gold, Amber, Ruby and Sienna releases.  Gold was terrible and Sienna was the only impressive one of the lot, but super expensive.  Macallan also put out a 10 year old Fine Oak that was horrid and well borderline rancid.

The Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group who I think have really been suffering from a case of identity crisis.  Can't really commit fully to age statement whiskies and so release some no age statement stuff but still hold on to the old 12 year sherry wood and some age statement Fine Oak stuff.

So, I found myself at Spec's, a huge liquor retailer in Houston, in early December.  I was there for an NFL game at the generous invitation of my cousin and her husband, Greg.  Sitting on a shelf amongst all the brands preening for my attention was The Macallan 12 year old Sherry Wood.  I bought it, got it back to my cousin's house, pulled the cork poolside and had a sip.  It was boring.  A balanced, pleasant but oh so boring.  No zing, no panache, nuthin'.  Americans love Macallan.  I mean really love it.  Huge sales in the USA.

Christmas arrives in Canada and Greg, up here for a visit, gifts me a bottle of The Macallan Double Cask 12 years from Texas.  I smile, accept graciously thinking 'ahh shit this will be another super boring malt.'

But, it's not.  This Double Cask is the Clemson Tigers of the 12 year old malts.

Edrington takes new American oak and sends it to Spain.  There they build the casks.  Obviously, the newly made casks have not held bourbon.  Instead, the virgin American oak is filled with sherry for a while.  Not sure how long the sherry is in the barrel because of highly guarded proprietary secrets of Edrington, plus we are not exactly chummy, me a lowly conservative blogger and them a high minded multinational.

In any case, the sherry is eventually emptied out and the casks are shipped to Speyside.  At the distillery, in goes Macallan spirit.  Thereafter, These seasoned sherry casks now holding Macallan spirit are blended with other Macallan spirit that aged in their traditional European oak.  What you end up with then is a malt aged partly in American oak and then European.  Hence, double cask.  Let's have a taste friend:

The Macallan 12 years 'Double Cask'

ABV
43%

Age Statement
12 years

Category
Single Malt

Region
Speyside

Nose (undiluted)
Sherry for sure, but its rich, high quality, red fruit, and then the oak and vanilla.

Palate (undiluted)
Nice balance between sherry and oak; the oak is unique and complex.  Spices of thyme and tarragon come to mind.  High quality oak for sure.  Creamy notes too.  English cream follows the sherried entry onto the palate.  Not as sherried as the sherry oak 12 years.

Finish (undiluted)
More cream, wood char, limestone oddly enough but totally in a good way, spring water, red apple and some nutmeg.



General Impressions
This is really good!  It has restored my faith in the brand.  So excited was I upon discovering this fine malt, I went to my local liquor emporium in Canada and bought two more bottles.  One night I open one of those and have a dram and to my dismay it is toned down, flatter, thinner, and much less complex.  What has happened?  I am baffled. Looking at the bottle bought in Canada I see it is bottled at 40% whereas the American release is at 43% and that in my opinion makes a big difference.  Look closely at my photo above of the two bottles and notice the differing ABVs.  Why the discrepancy?  An industry insider says bottling ABV levels are according to regional tastes.  Another insider says its all about taxes.  Some regions tax higher ABVs higher.  So, those high tax regions sometimes get lower ABV malts to keep the price a little less.

Damn!

I hold the American bottle up to Roger as proof Trump may indeed be making America great again!




Jason Debly