WhiskyBrother Online Tasting – Twitter Tasting (#WBOT)

I may be a bit late to the party here (see my previous post for reason), but at least this post is still within the same year! So here is my totally true account of what happened at the first ever whisky Tweet Tasting in South Africa, namely the WhiskyBrother Online Tasting, hosted by Marc Pendlebury (aka @WhiskyBrother) at the WhiskyBrother Shop (@WhiskyBroShop) in Hyde Park Shopping Centre in Johannesburg on the 16th April 2014.

WhiskyBrother_Banner_WBOT_The Smoky Dram

The selected lab rats (or should that rather be distillery rats?) for this little Twitter tasting experience, including myself (@TheSmokyDram), were:

WhiskyBrother_Twitter_The Smoky DramWhiskyBrother
@WhiskyBroShop
kojobaffoe_Twitter_The Smoky DramKojo Baffoe
@kojobaffoe
WhiskyGeekSA_Twitter_The Smoky DramGareth Louwrens
@WhiskyGeekSA
AmandaSevasti_Twitter_The Smoky DramAmanda Sevasti
@AmandaSevasti
TheDramDog_Twitter_The Smoky DramBruce Clark
@TheDramDog
Fenyi_Twitter_The Smoky DramOfentse Ruele
@Fenyi
jndub_Twitter_The Smoky DramJacques Du Bruyn
@jndub
ncallegari_Twitter_The Smoky DramNicolas Callegari
@ncallegari
whiskyoftheweek_Twitter_The Smoky DramJohn & Jeanette Wentzel
@whiskyoftheweek
fr1day_Twitter_The Smoky DramMark Hughes
@fr1day

Each of the participants received their four whisky samples, beautifully packaged and that were “hand-crafted in small batches”, put together personally by Marc.

WhiskyBrother_Whisky_The Smoky Dram

Three of the samples were for the official tweet tasting on the evening, while the fourth “mystery dram” was for us to drink and enjoy at our convenience. Though for some people the temptation was too great (*cough* Nic *cough*) and it was consumed on the same evening.

Most tweet tasting are enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, but three brave souls decided to join Marc in store and do the tweet tasting from there. Nic, Kojo and myself were there to give Marc some moral support, enjoy a Locke’s 8yo palate cleanser and to launch Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test’ © 2014 (patent pending).

WhiskyBrother_Shop_WBOT_The Smoky Dram.

As there were no particular formalities on the night, with the only exception being the use of the #WBOT hashtag for all tweets, we were encouraged to be as geeky as we wanted to (Harry Potter fans not withstanding). This lead to some interesting moments and tweets, as you will see below. For each whisky Marc provided a tweet or two with further details before we delved into the nose, palate and finish of the whisky with everyone giving their thoughts. So without a further ado, onto the whiskies that was enjoyed.

 

Kilkerran – Work In Progress 4, NAS with 46% ABV

Kilkerran_Work In Progress 4_The Smoky DramBased in Campbeltown, Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Saint Kerran had his religious cell and where Campbeltown currently stands. The Glengyle distiller (where Kilkerran is produced) was founded in 1872, but closed in 1925. On the 7 March 2004 the distillery reopened, the first in Campbeltown for 125 plus years, and distilled its first spirit again.

Since 2009 the Glengyle distillery started to release their whisky to show the development of the young whisky, hence the name of “Work in Progress”. With that in mind it seems as each new progress release gains a year in maturation, making the Work in Progress 4 around eight years old. It was released in 2012 with only 9000 bottles available worldwide.

Colour: Deep old gold with thick slow legs

Nose: Slightly bready with strong overtones of orange marmalade on toast. There is also a slight hint of stewed pear and burnt sugar as well. The sweetness continues with vanilla and syrup. Background has some sharpness and spiced oranges.

Palate: Starts off with a crisp sweet spiciness, followed by sweet cream, fudge and custard. The middle to back palate has wood spice, touch of pepper with hint citrus fruits. The addition of some water opens it up to more sweetness and cinnamon spiciness.

Finish: That sweet spiciness again with lingering warm cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness with liquorice at the very end.

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test': “Closest I could get to toast was the Crème crackers on the table. Not a good pairing. Consume separately.” & “The “WIP4″ stands for “Work in progress 4″. Okes, job done. Bottle that sucker and sell it. But not with Crème Crackers.”

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:  

  • Nose of the #Kilkerran – really pleasant on the nose. Hints of maple syrup/honey. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • First dram #Kilkerran, beautiful gold in colour, get some orange on the nose #WBOT – @jndub
  • #WBOT Kilkerran WIP 4 Also getting jam or marmalade on the nose, still lots of fresh wood, hint of spice – @WhiskyGeekSA
  • #WBOT #1 vanilla, fresh fruit & oak. Mild spice. Nice body – @whiskyoftheweek
  • #Kilkerran nose: Quite spirituous, alcohol is a bit evident. Probably do well with a drop of water. Some white grape. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Marmalade! I want to dip a piece of toast in this dram! #kilkerran #wbot – @ncallegari
  • Kilkerran WIP4 Palate: Wood spices reminiscent of burnt tinder and cloves, with luscious sweetness kicking in right after #WBOT – @fr1day
  • I like the Kilkerran with a little water. Makes it gently & strangely fuller. Less of a spicy bite #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • #WBOT nice long finish with plenty of space at the end – @thedramdog
  • A beautiful long finish which is where the spices really shine. I wasn’t kidding about having hot cross buns with this! #Kilkerran #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti

 

Arran – Port Cask Finish, NAS with 50% ABV

Arran_Port Cask_The Smoky DramAs we all know the oak casks used to mature whisky in are influential to the development of flavour of said whisky. A final and shorter maturation, known as finishing, has become a fairly common place practice these days (since the early 1990’s). Finishing is where the whisky is emptied from its original cask into another cask (of different origin) to add additional flavours.

After initially maturing in traditional ex-bourbon oak casks for approximately 8 years, the Arran Single Malt in this review was finished in the highest quality Port wine casks. Arran’s Master Distiller, James MacTaggart, carefully monitored the period of secondary maturation to ensure the perfect balance is struck between the Port casks and the intrinsic sweet-fruity character of The Arran Malt. This expression was released in 2010.

Colour: Burnished to tawny with long thick legs

Nose: Nutty with dried fruits (trial mix) and some citrus fruits mixed in as well. There is a vanilla sweet dustiness about it mixed in with some caramel. Raisins, winter spices and Xmas cake with cinnamon round out the port part of the nose. Has some woodiness as well with a red berry like character.

Palate: Classic spicy and oily, with fruit (of the stewed variety) and spice combined plus some maltiness thrown in for good measure. Not to mention fruit cake and raisins as well. Water softens it to reveal brown sugar, salty & savoury, citrus fruit spiciness, sweets, dried fruit and cinnamon again.

Finish: Very long and lusty showing the wood and port influence.

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test': “Ok. Crème Cracker test. Much better pairing. If all you can afford this month is this whisky & Crème crackers, life is good.”

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:  

  • I love The Arran caramel-peach colour with a touch of blush. Reminds me of my favourite eyeshadow. #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti
  • #WBOT @Arranwhisky Port Cask Nose: unusual… raisins, slight vanilla, butter, sherbert – @WhiskyGeekSA
  • fruits, chocolate and some sea air #WBOT – @jndub
  • @Arranwhisky Port Cask Nose: Nutty character, apple peel, caramel and a whiff of dessert wine #OBS anyone? ;-) #WBOT – @fr1day
  • Sip. Pour more. Sip. Holy crap this stuff is good. Nuts…in and around my mouth. #arran #wbot- @ncallegari
  • Arran Port Cask palette is soft with honey and jam, some spice and an elegant oily texture #WBOT – @thedramdog
  • #WBOT #2. .@Arranwhisky Palette not as sweet as expected. Fruit cake, dried fruit and spice. We think finish has notes of spice and pepper – @whiskyoftheweek
  • Water has definitely developed the sweet palate of arran port cask.. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • With a dash of water, sweet and comfortable. It lingers wonderfully. Taste buds do a slight shudder #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • @Arranwhisky finish: Slight wood bitterness but then countered with the fruit sweetness. Cereal (barley) notes now. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Advantage of tasting at home – I have Lindt in my cupboard. RT @jndub: #WBOT the Arran will go nicely with some dark chocolate in the mouth – @AmandaSevasti

We even had a tweet from the distillery itself, @Arranwhisky – Love all your comments folks, pleased to see the port Finish going down well! #WBOT

 

Octomore 6.1, 5yo with 57% ABV Scottish Barley

Octomore 6.1_The Smoky DramMost of the heavily-peated whiskies, from the likes of Ardbeg or Laphroaig, have a phenol measure around 50 parts per million (ppm). This Octomore is an astounding 167ppm! One would think that with such an extremely high phenol count it would be so smoky and one-dimensional with little else on offer. That assumption, in this case, is wrong. Though there is that abundance of that beautiful peat smoke, there is also a myriad of other flavours and complexities. That said, it still remains an acquired taste.

Produced by Bruichladdich and released in annual limited batches, 18,000 bottles were released worldwide of the 6.1, this whisky has built up quite the cult following. It is finally available for the first time in South Africa and I know quite a number of peat lovers, myself included, who welcomed this little gem into their collection.

Colour: Deep gold to old gold with very thick and lovely legs.

Nose: Beautiful peat smoke with seaweed, sea salt spray and freshly ground black pepper. There are hints of lemon in the background together with iodine and some burnt fruit cake. It’s like sitting next to a burnt out wood fire at a seaside harbour.

Palate: Simply stunning, with thick treacle/molasses and that lovely peat smokiness that is further interspersed with sea spray saltiness and seaweed that smacks you around some. Sweet oak, freshly ground black pepper and lemon zest backing up the rest of the palate. It’s like licking an alligator charred burnt log* – not that I have tried. Really, I haven’t.

Finish: Very long and lingering, wrapping your mouth in warm sweet smokiness.

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test': “Octtomore Crème Cracker test: *koff* uh…no.” with a reply from Kojo “<- ::looking through watery eyes:: emphatic no.”

* It is hazardous to your health, and not to mention your taste buds, to lick an alligator charred burnt log. It is hazardous for your taste buds as you may develop a taste for it and need to supplement that craving that only Octomore can fill!

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:

  • Now for sample 3. Looks and sounds like a Bond villain. #Octomore 6.1. #wbot – @ncallegari
  • #WBOT #3. OMG. PEAT and as you get up off the ground – boom, more PEAT. Iodine, TCP, medicinal. Classic Islay :) – @whiskyoftheweek
  • #WBOT @Bruichladdich Ocotomore 6.1 Nose : Crisp smoke, salt, bacon, bbq’d meats…now we’re talking!! – WhiskyGeekSA
  • This is some seriously powerful peatiness.. Reluctant to try it with water though. Octomore. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • @WhiskyBroShop I’m getting some burnt fruit cake on the nose with smoking spices on a weber, a 56cm weber to be exact ;) #WBOT – @jndub
  • @Bruichladdich #Octomore 6.1 Palate: Strolling along the Islay coast, rotting seaweed, marine air, heather and a damp bonfire #WBOT – @fr1day
  • .@Bruichladdich #Octomore 6.1 Palate; CAUTION: Do not exhale near smoke detectors! I did and mine exploded ;) #WBOT – @fr1day
  • I feel like Harry Potter just did a smoke spell in my mouth. #Octomore #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti
  • #Octomore finish: It’s rugged & rough but beautiful & serene at the same time. Like sitting on next to the sea as a storm comes in. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Add water to the #octomore and have a sip. Or pour water on a braai and inhale. Whatevs. Same same. #eishwena #wbot – @ncallegari
  • I could happily sit on my patio on a winter’s night with a deep glass of the #Octomore & solve the world’s problems @Bruichladdich #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • #Octomore 6.1 Quote “Like a woman with a whip. You have to approach cautiously!” #WBOT – @TheSmokyDram

 

“Mystery Dram”

Was meant to be enjoyed at our own time, but some were just too eager, as shown by the following exchange:

So…what’s the deal with the mystery dram? Now or now now? @WhiskyBroShop #wbot – @ncallegari

I snuck a knertsjie of the Mystery Dram. Light. No smoke. Full of vanilla. Like hot ice cream. What is it @WhiskyBroShop? #wbot – @ncallegari

@ncallegari The mystery dram is a… <close your eyes fellow #WBOT members>… @glenfarclas 12yo – @WhiskyBroShop

You can read my review of this whisky here.

Final words
It was a great first South African tweet tasting experience with a cracking selection from WhiskyBrother Marc. A very big thank you has to go out to Marc Pendlebury from WhiskyBrother Shop, not only for hosting us, but putting up with the deluge of questions and geekiness from us. Further thanks are also needed for Kilkerran, Arran and Bruichladdich (Octomore) for making the brilliant whiskies that they do.My favourite from the tasting was the Octomore 6.1 and it seemed to be the favourite for the majority of the tasters. That being said all three are brilliant whiskies in their own right and for different instances. So Marc, the question we all have now is when is the next one?

I will leave the final word for Marc – “Again, thank you all so much! It has been a pleasure and honour having you be part of our, & #SouthAfrica’s, first online tasting! :) #WBOT”

Sláinte
Edward

Glenfarclas 12yo

From Ireland we travel back to Scotland for my thoughts on the Glenfarclas 12yo. The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are matured almost solely in sherry butts. Interesting to note is that the Glenfarclas 12yo was originally bottled for export and travel retail markets.

Glenfarclas_12yo_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Glenfarclas 12yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

Glenfarclas, meaning Glen of the Green Grassland, was founded by Robert Hay in 1836 where on the original site there is some evidence that there was a distillery on the site over a century prior since 1797.

The single malt whiskies of Glenfarclas are aged in the considerable onsite warehousing facilities; the 28 warehouses hold 52,000 casks with stock from every year from 1952 to the current year. The whisky distillery has an extensive range of single malt whiskies, particularly so after the 2007 release of the Family Casks range with a bottling from every vintage between 1952 and 1994.

Colour: Deep amber gold with very many thick, slow and long legs.

Nose: Polished wood (pine wood polish), citrus fruits, raisins and dried fruits. There are hints of smoky creaminess with some medicinal notes, caramel (crème caramels) sweetness and a touch of spiciness. A rather delicate, smooth and light nose.

Palate: Medium to full bodied with a lovely sweet, spicy and smoky character. Medicinal, but not Laphroaig like, almost earthy. Has a sharp bite upfront but mellow out with melon, sherry notes and a whisper of smokiness.

Finish: Long, spicy and warm with a sweet smokiness at end.

Overall: A great introduction to the Glenfarclas range. I find the 12yo to be a rather well balanced and put together whisky. Quite a gentle and elegant whisky.

Why whisky and flux capacitors do not mix

IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!

Oh, wait. I am getting my movies mixed up. GREAT SCOTT(ish whisky)! The time circuits must have malfunctioned! I blame my absence from my blog on flux capacitor malfunction.

Flux Capacitor_The Smoky Dram

There I was, happily traipsing through time looking for those now-hard-to-get-bottles (Ardbeg Supernova 2014 Edition anyone?) when they are not so hard to get, when trying to get home to my own time I ran out of plutonium 252! Needlessly I could not generate the needed 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the flux capacitor.

Lucky for me I still had a nip or two of Octomore 6.1 in my trusty hip flask. Surely the 167ppm would be more than powerful enough to kick the flux capacitor into action? Well I found out that it did not, just as my stainless steel encased ox-wagon was about to hit 88 miles per hour (or 141.6 km/h for those who have not seen the trilogy yet), and as you can see below I fell just short of my timeline.

Time Circuits_Flux Capacitor_The Smoky Dram

So it took just little longer than expected to get back to my own time again (again), maybe one should not program the time circuits after a nip or three from the hip flask? So now that I am back, hopefully with no more temporal excursion anomalies, some things to look forward to on The Smoky Dram blog:

  • The first SA tweet tasting with Marc of WhiskyBrother (@WhiskyBrother) and WhiskyBrother store (@WhiskyBroShop).
  • Other twitter tastings and events I have been privileged to be part of
  • More musings, more whisky news (mostly via my twitter feed –  @TheSmokyDram) and even more reviews!

So until then, happy dramming! 
Sláinte
Edward

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Jameson 18yo Limited Reserve

Onwards with my reviews of 18 year old whisky and this time it is a short jump from Scotland to Ireland for my thoughts on the Jameson 18yo Limited Reserve. This whiskey is for at least 18 years in hand selected American bourbon barrels and European oak casks, and are finished in first fill bourbon barrels.

Jameson_18_Irish Whiskey_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Jameson 18yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R1300)

Region: Ireland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 18 years

The story of Jameson’s whiskey started on the 5th of October 1740 when John Jameson was born to a family whose motto, ‘Sine Metu’ (‘Without Fear’), was awarded to them for their bravery in battling pirates on the high seas in the 1500’s.

When John Jameson acquired the Bow Street Distillery in 1780 it was producing about 30,000 gallons annually. By the turn of the 19th century, it was the second largest producer in Ireland and one of the largest in the world, producing 1,000,000 gallons annually. Dublin at the time was the centre of world whiskey production. It was the second most popular spirit in the world after rum and internationally Jameson had by 1805 become the world’s number one whiskey. Today, Jameson is the world’s third largest single-distillery whiskey.

Originally one of the six main Dublin Whiskeys, Jameson is now distilled in Cork. In 2013, annual sales topped 4 million cases (48 million bottles).

Colour: Deep gold (old to burnished) with many thick, long and slow legs.

Nose: Black currant fruit pastilles, fruity – dark berries with more sweetness in the form of toffee, milk tart and toasted marshmallows. More tempered sweetness in some sweet and spicy wood with sweet spiciness (nutmeg) coming through as well. An absolutely beautiful and fragrant nose.

Palate: Spicy fruity burst on tip of tongue followed by grape and black currant fruit pastilles and rounding out with some nuttiness. Some of that toffee and spiciness still around. Complex with a very smooth and mellow mouth feel that has a sweet lining of black currant.

Finish: Fairly long with the spiciness and toffee sweetness that carries you to the spicy warm end. A fantastic finish, it is incredible going down.

Overall: A very well rounded and fairly complex whiskey that is exceptionally smooth with a beautiful fragrant nose and palate that delivers lovely sweet spiciness and dark berry flavours.

Springbank 18yo

Continuing on with my reviews, and as I seem to be on a bit of an 18yo kick at the moment, we move from Islay to Campbeltown for my thoughts on the Springbank 18yo. This whisky is matured in a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.

 
Springbank_18_The Smoky DramWhisky: Springbank 18yo, 46% ABV (Cost around R1300)

Region: Campbeltown, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 18 years

 

Springbank Distillery is the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the full production process on the one site. 100% of the traditional floor malting, maturation and bottling is done at the distillery in Campbeltown.

Even the peat used to dry the malt is cut within a few miles of the distillery by the company itself. Springbank is produced using lightly-peated barley (around 15ppm) and a unique two-and-a-half-times distillation (most single malts are only distilled twice) process.

 

Colour: Old gold with many thick legs.

Nose: Rich and powerful with some soft, peaty smoke upfront. A charming vanilla sweetness follows and grows into nutty (almonds) and sweet berry fruit (strawberries and blueberries) notes. I also pick up some marzipan, dried fruit, spices and a hint of savouriness. A gentle, fragrant and balanced nose in which the complexity increases with time in the glass.

Palate: Well balanced, complex and full bodied with a lovely thick and oily mouth feel. Nice spicy burn (tip of tongue) greets you before some mellow smokiness, liquorice and aniseed leads you further in. Zesty with some salt and pepper like spiciness. All this is backed up by some honeyed and rich fruit (citrus mostly).

Finish: Fairly long with chocolate and sweet spices and a soft smokiness to the end.

Overall: A very drinkable dram that is not only powerful and complex, but backed by some lovely rich and gentler notes as well. I loved the back and forth between the sweet and spicy notes

Celebrating a couple of ones

Why a celebrations of ones? Well instead of the usual my blog is 1 year old, I decided to wait a little while longer, so I could celebrate my blog being 1 year, 1 month, 1 week and 1 day old! Hence the:

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

My first posts were on the reasons for another South African whisky blog, my first review (the stunning Laphroaig 10yo) and the news that a South African whisky, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, won the award for the World’s Best Grain Whisky in the 2013 World Whisky Awards. Together with my blog I also joined the #WhiskyFabric on Twitter with my @TheSmokyDram handle.

Some of my milestones and statistics were: 

  • 50 blog posts (this one being the 50th!)
  • 37 blog followers
  • 30 reviews done (so far, more to come)
  • 1525 Twitter posts
  • 383 Twitter followers
  • 4 Tweet tastings (including the first one for South Africa)
  • 180 whiskies tasted

Some of my highlights from my first “official” year on my whisky journey were: 

What an amazing ride it has been so far. I am looking forward to the next leg(s) of this journey.

Sláinte

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Two new whiskies from The Balvenie heading to South Africa

The Balvenie’s family of single malt Scotch whiskies is set to grow in South Africa with the arrival of The Balvenie DoubleWood, Aged 17 Years as well as The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, Aged 14 Years, both of which will be launching in South Africa from June 2014.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

The Balvenie_Caribbean Cask_14yo_The Smoky DramThe Balvenie Caribbean Cask was created by The Balvenie Malt Master, David Stewart, who celebrated an incredible 50th anniversary at the distillery in 2012. This single malt has had a 14-year maturation period in traditional oak whisky casks, before being transferred to casks that previously held Caribbean rum to finish aging.

“This expression is a beautifully rounded whisky that combines traditional Balvenie vanilla notes with rich toffee, a hint of fruit and a warm, lingering finish. We are very excited for The Balvenie Caribbean Cask to be launching in South Africa for the very first time!” adds Marketing Manager Lauren Kuhlmey.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask, Aged 14 Years, has an ABV of 43% and has an MRP of R799.

 

Tasting Notes

Nose: Rich, sweet and creamy toffee on the nose combines with fresh fruit notes
Taste: Rounded with vanilla and sweet oak notes, with a fruity character that develops with time
Finish: Soft and lingering

The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood

The Balvenie_DoubleWood_17yo_The Smoky DramThe DoubleWood 17 Year Old is an elder sibling to the DoubleWood 12 Year Old, The Balvenie’s most popular expression. This new aged version shares the same DNA and the honeyed, spicy characteristics as the 12 Year Old, but it is distinctly different, with deeper vanilla notes, hints of green apple, creamy toffee and a striking richness and complexity.

“The “cask finishing” technique is at the heart of The Balvenie DoubleWood – it sees the whisky matured first in American oak barrels, which impart soft sweet vanilla notes, before being transferred to European oak sherry casks. The second cask ageing adds a depth and fullness of flavour. We are very excited to be introducing the rich, spicy flavours of the 17 Year Old Doublewood to the South African consumers,” adds Marketing Manager Lauren Kuhlmey.

The Balvenie 17 Year Old DoubleWood, has an ABV of 43% and has an MRP of R1 399.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Elegant and complex with oak, vanilla, honeyed sweetness and a hint of green apple
Taste: Sweet with dried fruits, sherbet spice, toasted almonds and cinnamon, layered with a richness of creamy toffee notes and traces of oak and deep vanilla
Finish: Vanilla oak, honey and spicy sweetness

About The Balvenie

The Balvenie’s Malt Master David Stewart first showcased his double-cask maturation technique when he created The Balvenie Classic in the 1980s. This pioneering release is one of David’s greatest achievements and was one of the first examples of cask finishing in the Scotch single malt whisky industry. The success of The Balvenie Classic led to the release of The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old in 1993, a celebrated example of cask finishing, which is now at the heart of The Balvenie range.

The Balvenie is dedicated to the five rare crafts that are used to create The Balvenie’s distinctive taste. It is the only distillery that still grows its own barley, uses traditional floor maltings and keeps both coppersmiths and coopers on site – making The Balvenie the most handcrafted of malts. Having coopers on site at the distillery allows David Stewart to work closely with them to make new types of wood finishes.

The Balvenie Single Malt Scotch Whisky is produced by William Grant & Sons Ltd, an award-winning independent family-owned distiller founded by William Grant in 1886 and today run by his direct descendants.

News source: Press release from Butter Knife PR (www.butterknife.co.za)

Sláinte
Edward

Bunnahabhain 18 YO

The name Bunnahabhain is Gaelic for ‘Mouth of the River’ and refers to the Margadale River. The location of the distillery was chosen mainly because it is easily accessible from the mainland by boat. Furthermore, Bunnahabhain is one of the gentler single malt Islay whiskies available and its taste varies greatly from other spirits to be found on the island of Islay by being notably a less-peated dram.

Bunnahabhain_18_The Smoky DramWhisky: Bunnahabhain 18, 46.3 ABV (Cost around R940)

Region: Islay, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 18 Years

The Bunnahabhain Distillery was founded in 1881 near Port Askaig on Islay. The village of Bunnahabhain was also established in 1881 to house the distillery’s workers, and the distillery still employs the majority of the village’s workers. In 2010 Bunnahabhain increases the proof of their official bottlings from 40% or 43% to 46.3% ABV. And in 2013 Burn Stewart Distillers (the owners of the Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory distilleries) was sold by CL Financial to Distell from South Africa for £160 million.

The 18 year old is a comparatively recent release from Bunnahabhain and this single malt has been matured in an approximate mix of 40% ex-sherry and 60% ex-bourbon casks for 18 years. It was recently re-introduced as an un-chillfiltered spirit at a higher strength of 46.3% and the packaging has been slightly revised to complement the new expression. The label highlights the move to natural colour and un-chillfiltered.

Colour: Deep burnished gold with slow forming and many thick legs.

Nose: Caramelised nuts and toffee sweetness with some seaside saltiness. Also picking up notes of Christmas cake, sherried dried fruit and cinnamon. On the slight side of things there are hints of salty brininess, woodiness and malt cereal. And finally in the furthest reaches of the background a very gently smoke lingers.

Palate: Very smooth with a mellow spiciness bite. Attractive wood spice (tip of tongue burn), that seaside saltiness once again and malty. There is also fruit sweetness (pears) to it. Again some of that very gentle smoke hanging in the background. The palate completely coats one’s mouth.

Finish: Long with lingering sweet spiciness that ends in a salty, yet fruity, and dry finish. With the barest of gentle smoke at the end.

Overall: A very nicely balanced whisky with the lovely mixture between spice and fruit sweetness. The smoke is also there, but very faint and you have to go looking for it, to round it out.

Monkey Shoulder

Malt Master David Stewart decided one day to create the world’s first ‘triple’ malt, by combining single malts from three of Speyside’s distilleries – Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. Also to note is that there is not a single drop of grain whisky in Monkey Shoulder.

Monkey Shoulder_NAS_The Smoky DramWhisky: Monkey Shoulder, 43% ABV (Cost around R360)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Blended Malt (aka Vatted Malt)

Age: NAS

The term ‘monkey shoulder’ is a reference to a condition that maltmen sometimes picked up while working long shifts, turning the barley by hand. It had a tendency to cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, so they nicknamed it ‘monkey shoulder’. While the maltmen at Moneky Shoulder are among the few whom still turn the barley manually, working conditions have changed which means this injury has been consigned to the past.

For Money Shoulder the chosen malts are matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks. The three Speyside malts are then blended together in a small marrying tun for anything from three to six months. This is a 100% malt Scotch whisky, distilled, matured and bottled in Dufftown, Scotland.

Colour: Deep gold to burnished with some slow and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet with lots of vanilla, slight floral influences and oak wood notes. A smattering of winter spices (cloves and nutmeg) adds to the depth of the nose. Also get some slight Christmas cake, brandy tart and some fresh fragrant fruits (pears and peaches).

Palate: Smooth and creamy velvety mouth feel. Vanilla is more subdued on the palate with some fruit fudge and wood spice coming to the fore. The sweet winter spiciness (nutmeg and cinnamon) creates a spicy tingle on one’s whole tongue. Drinks very easily.

Finish: Remarkably smooth, medium in length and fairly lingering with a lovely warm and sweet heart.

Overall: An easy to drink dram that is not only very well made, with a gorgeous nose and great palate, it is also very well priced.

Nikka Gold & Gold

Nikka Gold & Gold, my second review of a Japanese whisky, was launched in 1968 and for quite some time it was one of the core whiskies of the Nikka blended range. These days though it is a little harder to find.

Nikka_Gold & Gold_The Smoky DramWhisky: Gold & Gold, 40% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Japan

Style: Blended Whisky

Age: NAS

Previously on The Smoky Dram’s Japanese whisky tasting adventure we mentioned the story of Masataka Taketsuru, father of Japanese whisky, and his journey to establish Nikka.

Masataka established Nikka because he was determined to introduce his fellow Japanese to the joys of authentic whisky. His vision of whisky was formed by his experience in Scotland, and he knew that the right environment was essential. In Yoichi, he saw numerous reminders of Scotland, and this convinced him that this should be the home of Japanese Whisky. The location was selected because of its clean air, just the right humidity for storage, and abundant underground water filtered through a layer of peat. Yoichi produces a rich, peaty and masculine malt.

The Miyagikyo Distillery is also in northern Japan, in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Honshu. Travelling in the area one day, Masataka came upon this site completely enclosed by mountains and sandwiched between two rivers. He immediately knew that this was the perfect site for whisky distilling. Sendai’s fresh water, suitable humidity and crisp air produce soft and mild malt.

Colour: Bright amber to burnished with long and slow medium to thick legs.

Nose: Fairly dry and malty start before the emergence of the sweet flavours; toffee, vanilla and soft sweet spices (ginger). Towards the get some Christmas notes; warm spices, brandied dried fruit, brandy tart and some very light Christmas cake.

Palate: Smooth, round and warming, especially with some time, with a subtle hint of peat. Sweet spiciness (cinnamon and ginger) again, some pepper notes, maltiness and a wood spice warm tingle at back of one’s mouth. A pleasant enough palate.

Finish: Medium to long finish that is warm with sweet soft spiciness (pepper and ginger) and slightly drying.

Overall: While a good quality blend, where I enjoyed the subtle play between the malt, sweet and spicy flavours, there are other blends from Nikka that are more readily available that I enjoyed more and preferred.