Why whisky and flux capacitors do not mix


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! 

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.


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)


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.

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (always 43.2%-45.2% ABV) is produced at the company’s distillery is in Woodford County, in central Kentucky. Distilling began in 1780 and the distillery building itself was erected in 1838, making it the oldest of the nine bourbon distilleries in current operation in Kentucky (as of 2010).

Woodford Reserve_Bourbon_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Woodford Reserve Distillers Select, 43.2% ABV (Cost around R400) 

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

Age: NAS

One of the legislation points which specifies when a whiskey can be called a bourbon is that the mixture of grains used has to contain at least 51% corn (in most cases it is higher, 65 – 80%). The other portions of the grain mixture are rye and malted barley (usually around 10 – 15%). Each distillery has its own formula for this grain mixture, also known as the mashbill in the States.

The mashbill for Woodford Reserve features a high percentage of rye: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt.  Woodford Reserve is furthermore also unusual for being triple distilled and having the lowest proof upon entering the barrel, where it matures for at least six years. Each bottle is numbered with a batch number and bottle number.

Colour: Auburn to Tawny with medium to thick legs.

Nose: Upfront toffee cream, and vanilla sweetness. There are also some biscuit notes coming through. Sweet and soft ginger spiciness creeps across with some woodiness, chocolate and slight peppery smokiness along for the ride as well.

Palate: Complex and rich with oily and full mouth feel. Sweet (vanilla and syrup), nutty, cocoa and warm with soft winter spices (especially ginger). Some cereal and woodiness swirling around towards the end.

Finish: Medium to long sherry spicy finish which is damn nice with a sweetness on the back of it.

Overall: I love the thick viscosity on this bourbon, I think my exact thoughts when tasting this was “Bloody nice”. There is plenty of richness and character in this bourbon.

Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Strength

My next review is from another region I have always wanted to try, Taiwan and their Kavalan Solist Sherry whisky. Solist Sherry means that this whisky was matured in one single Spanish oloroso sherry butt and in this instance it was cask number S06090404. It is bottled without any vatting, finish, chill filtration or reduction. Furthermore it is also bottled at cask strength.

Kavalan_Solist Sherry_Cask Strength_S060904046_The Smoky DramWhisky: Kavalan Solist Sherry Cask Strength (#S060904046), 58.6% ABV (Cost around R1500) 

Region: Taiwan

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

Kavalan, the earliest tribe that inhabited Yilan, represents sincerity, honesty, and the spirit of step-by-step cultivation. A tradition that the Kavalan distillery continues to this day. The founder of the Kavalan distillery spent years looking for the ideal water supply. He chose Yilan as the site for its abundant supply of cold, spring water flowing through the Snow Mountain. The process water is drawn from the springs in the Snow Mountain and Central Mountains imparting a smooth and creamy mouth feel to the whisky.

One of the big differences in the making of Kavalan whisky, compared to their Scottish counterparts, is the percentage of Angel’s share. Angel’s share is the quantity of alcohol lost to evaporation from the casks during maturation. The light sipping angels in Scotland average around 2% per year, whilst the heavy drinking angels of Taiwan enjoy around a 15% share per year. This allows for an extremely accelerated maturation process.  In other words, 3 years in these type of conditions is probably equal to 4 or 5 times that length of maturation in the more sedate Scottish regions (and other cooler whisky making regions as well). 

Colour: Stunning colour, a burnt umber to mahogany, with very thick, very slow long legs.

Nose: Marvellously complex and layered nose. Dark fruits, being led by black currants (fruit pastilles) and cherries. Brandied raisins and fruit mix, Christmas cake, date loaf and dried fruit coming through strongly as well. Also in the mix is caramel, marzipan, winter spices and a vanilla sweetness that has a nuttiness to it.

Palate: Seriously powerful with lovely depth and character. Mouth feel is rich, oily and full. Palate is warm and dry with winter spices (cinnamon, cloves and some ginger), marzipan, sweet (caramel), dried dark fruits (dates, sultanas) and some almond nuttiness thrown in. Spicy tingle on tip and sides of ones tongue. Black currant follows and towards the end some dark chocolate.

Finish: Long with sweet winter spices, dried fruit and quiet hotness at the end. Quite drying, very warm and spicy.

Overall: A cracker and beauty of a sherried dram that is powerful and rich with lovely complexity and personality. If you love sherried whiskies then this is one to try.