Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: Whisky
Showing posts with label Whisky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Whisky. Show all posts

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013

Named by Jim Murray as the "World Whisky of the Year" in his 2015 Whisky Bible and subsequently reaching massively lofty heights in the £££ stakes at auction, we pretty much anticipated this was a whisky we would never taste. And then a chance retweet meant we won a bottle from the kind folks at The Whisky Exchange. A couple of weeks of do-we-drink-it-or-do-we-cash-in followed, before we realised that was a stupid argument, we'd paid nothing for it, we didn't need the money and besides, we actually wanted to know what it tasted like. Also, CHRISTMAS YOLO. Christmas 2014 was a good day...


We've since savoured this dram, always treating it as a "special occasion" kinda whisky, and so World Whisky Day seemed like the perfect time to polish it off. Here are our thoughts.

Colour: Indulgent mahogany.

Nose: Walnuts, raisins, plum pudding, deep dark wood and bags of demerara sugar, with some allspice and cinnamon thrown in for good measure. The sherry influence is hugely apparent and creates an opulent and enticing aroma.

Palate: Rounded and robust. Hints of black forest gateau with cherry liqueur and dark chocolate both identifiable. Dried fruits and rich sugars follow through from the nose. It's suffered somewhat from being open for such a long time, gaining a slight astringency, and in hindsight we should have just got on with it and drank it quicker as the flavours (although definitely still apparent) have diminished slightly. That said, it's still a great drink and in it's heyday was truly magnificent.

Finish: Long, tannic and warming, the chocolate notes in particular lingering along with the wood. Delicious.


To conclude - it's a very fucking lovely dram indeed, we have absolutely no regrets about drinking rather than selling, and we reckon it's well worth the initial £80-100 pricetag. But over a grand? We'd rather have 20 bottles of Uigedail thanks.

Cheers, and a very happy World Whisky Day!

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Peat Reek: Octomore 6.3 vs xeRRex

I love smoke. I love peat.


I love Bruichladdich and I love Yeastie Boys.

By extension, it seems only reasonable that one of the only beers I buy every time I see it should pair rather nicely against a whisky I have long lusted after, but only recently plucked up the courage to buy. 

So I give you Yeastie Boys xeRRex - a 100% peated malt 10% Imperial IPA, and Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, bottled at 64% with a phenol count of 258ppm (to put this into context, Laphroaig 10 is about 40ppm). Both barley grists were malted by the malt magicians Bairds in Inverness.


And so to the booze...

Yeastie Boys - xeRRex 10%, 30-50ppm, 50 IBU

Initially the nose is predominantly peat, as to be expected, with a subtle grassy hop aroma, not a hint of the 10% alcohol with a residual maltiness.

On the palate, there's a slight malt sweetness carried by a bold and decisive bitterness from NZ Willamette that really backs up the malt character. The sweetness is almost reminiscent of a sherry cask but the overwhelming character is unmistakably peat, with a light phenolic character. It reminds me of the wash you can taste pre-distillation on whisky distillery tours (more specifically Laphroaig), albeit more refined. 

I'm well aware this is an opinion-divider of a beer, but for me it drinks delightfully, easily carrying whopping flavours that continue to grow and develop, with a light carbonation, that allows the bold peated character to grow. Somehow there is a subtle saltiness, perhaps the addition of calcium sulphite used to highlight the hop crispness has left a slight minerality - either way it suits the beer amazingly. As the beer warms up there is a little bit more to the alcohol mouthfeel that just adds to the already warming glow. There is no restraint with this beer, obnoxiously peated with a well matched bitterness that reigns in the big smoky flavours. Yum.

Bruichladdich - Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley, 64%, 258ppm

Colour - Light copper

Aroma - Wonderfully bold peat emanates from the glass instantly. A light sweetness follows, with a touch of vanilla and punch of alcohol. Allowing the whisky to open up releases an accompanying layer of oak.

Palate - Sweet initially on the tip of the tongue, then not half a second later tidal waves of peat smoke encompass and fill the mouth. This is then softened by a touch of slight roasted apple and soft vanilla sweetness from the American Bourbon casks. Slowly the peat creeps back for a long finish. 
Conclusion - A great tide of peat smoke swells in and out and around the head like the tidal movements of Loch Indaal. The layers of peat character at every stage of drinking this beautiful dram are exquisite. Not only does it hold all the levels of smoke you could possibly want but it's contained beautifully in a well rounded and surprisingly balanced whisky.


In reality this is not a versus write up and not really a comparison between the two. Just a little muse on my love affair with overly correctly peated alcohol, showcasing the most highly peated versions of each producer's craft. Bruichladdich have the ability and technique to push the boundaries on whisky, and can be considered as one of the pioneers in barrel finishing. Yeastie Boys, led by Stu McKinlay, have a similar ability to push the boundaries for beer, and have produced one of the most divisive brews in modern beer but stand by it with pride.

Slainte,

Jim

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

That Boutique-y Whisky Company - Blended Scotch Whisky #1

We were introduced to this delightful dram by Dave Worthington (@WhiskyDiscovery) at last year's The Whisky Show. We were on the hunt for our first whisky of the day, and Dave reckoned there was no finer breakfast treat than this award-winning blend from the excellent That Boutique-y Whisky Company (it took the title of Best Blended Whisky at the 2015 World Whisky Awards). We felt it befitting of Burns Night, too - truly a whisky for all special occasions and every hour of the day! Here are our thoughts...


Colour: Lacquered mahogany
Nose: Dark chocolate ice cream, a sticky sweetness accompanied by a soft coastal waft towards the end.
Palate: The initial spice that swells across the mouth gives way to a delightful punch of smooth fruity acidity and rich chocolate, it's pretty much black forest gateau. Never at any point do these flavours clash or linger past their stay of welcome.
Finish: As the rich fruitiness gives way, there is a warming blossom honey that lingers on the palate, with gentle salination for balance.


That Boutique-y Whisky Company say that the sphere on the bottle label is testament to the perfectly rounded nature of the dram, and we would heartily agree. The youngest whisky within the bottle stands at 35 years old, and time has worked its magic beautifully. A stunning blend.

Slainte!

Friday, 6 January 2017

Imperial Raspberry Stout: Thornbridge meets Yamazaki

Beer and whisky... in case you hadn't noticed, two of our favourite things. We just so happened to have one of each in the cupboard which we thought would work well in a joint tasting... Thornbridge Brewery's Imperial Raspberry Stout, brewed in collaboration with St Eriks, and a sample of the SMWS 119.14 Raspberry Imperial Stout.

We started with the beer and were instantly hit by the deep, rich raspberry aroma. The flavour bursts with raspberry coulis, slightly tart but balanced by bitter dark chocolate and hints of sweet bonfire toffee, all backed up with a smooth and roasted malty backbone. The finish is surprisingly short for such a robust stout (the ABV weighs in at 10%) but this makes it all the more drinkable. A total delight.


Onto the whisky - a single barrel Yamazaki bottled at 53.9%. Classically Japanese, light and distinctly yet delicately tannic on the nose, but with a fruity twist. Spicy and earthy with deeper woodiness on the palate, all alongside sweet raspberries. With time in the glass it opens up and becomes a little more rounded with a softer character that allows for more of the sherry to come through from the bota corta cask. Overall though, not particularly balanced for an 11 year old whisky, but no worse for this - it's a real experience to drink and excites the palate with every sip.

Obviously we couldn't resist mixing a bit of each together to create a boilermaker and it was a TRIUMPH. 

Cheers,

J&L

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Whisky Review: The Half Century Blend

It is always an excellent post day when a little surprise dram drops onto the doormat, and this one was one of the most special and exclusive we've ever received. After the huge success of their previous two multi-award winning whiskies (The Lost Distilleries Blend and The Golden Age Blend), The Blended Whisky Company have absolutely excelled themselves with their newest limited edition release - The Half-Century Blend (ABV 45.5%).

Every single drop of this whisky has been aged for a minimum of 50 years. The Blended Whisky Company state, "Proving that patience has its rewards, the slow-maturing whiskies contained in The Half-Century Blend were produced in an era where flavour - not forecasts - ruled the roost". So what did we think?


Colour - Rich gold.

Nose - We poured this in the kitchen before taking it through into the living room. The nose is so wonderfully fragrant that the aroma was left wafting through the house, utterly delightful. Pudding-y notes come to the fore, with vanilla custard marrying with light nutmeg spice and a fruity edge akin to maraschino cherries. Beautifully rounded alcohol aroma with a slight salination appearing as the dram warms and opens up, with a sweet tannic nature too.

Palate - Oozing elegance and sophistication, this is a mighty refined little dram. Light, with candied peel and sweet cereals. Evokes the impression of being sat in a warm wooden panelled retiring room, autumnal oak combines with rich cherry, dark chocolate and a hint of fruit cake.

Finish - Incredible depth and complexity, with ever growing and lingering spice. There's something herbal yet delicate in there which reminds us of lavender, with soft hints of tobacco for balance. Lasts for AGES. Expertly put together, a real treat of a dram.

768 bottles of The Half-Century Blend have been produced for this first batch - coming very soon to retail (RRP £599.95). A list of stockists is available here.


Slainte,

Jim & Laura


Monday, 15 August 2016

Whisky Review: Aberlour 16

We were first introduced to Speyside distillery Aberlour through a Waitrose offer a few years ago, with their no-age statement A'Bunadh being one of the first single malts we invested in. Since then it's always been one of our top "go-to" distilleries, with the 10-year being a regular feature on our whisky shelf, so when we spied it's older sister at Bakewell's excellent whisky shop The Wee Dram we couldn't resist. The 16-year is double cask matured in traditional oak and sherry, and is bottled at 40% ABV.


Colour: Rich copper.

Nose: Creamy, with hints of raisin from the sherry cask balanced by a fresh woody characteristic from the oak. The aroma deepens as the dram opens up, giving off an inviting edge of sugary sweet mocha. Given the ABV, we chose not to add water.

Palate: Very well balanced, with the two woods complementing each other and providing delicate harmony in the dram. Nutty, with flavours of almond imparting a marzipan character but without overwhelming sweetness. A honeyed smoothness envelops the tongue as you drink.

Finish: Sweet maltiness and oodles more honey linger on.

Slainte,

J&L

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Isle of Arran: Distillery Tour

Set in a stunning valley just outside the small port town of Lochranza at the north point of the wonderful island of Arran, the still pretty youthful distillery of Arran sits. Since opening in 1995, the distillery has grown in capacity steadily, to the point where this year they will be producing 650,000 litres of spirit from their two stills. Yet still, this is the 6th smallest producer of whisky in Scotland.
The tour itself, which started from beside the impressive indoor waterfall in the centre of the award winning visitor centre, opened with an introduction from our charismatic bearded host Stewart, a pre-midday dram of the Arran 14 year old, and a short informative video to give a background to Arran's colourful distilling history - smugglers and household pot stills having been absolutely rife in the past! After the introduction, we moved on to the only production building in the distillery, housing everything from the grist mill right through to the spirit safe. 

As you can imagine, the smell in the building was intoxicating. Starting with 2.5 tonnes of malted barley in the mash, with 13,000 litres of water, it's undoubtedly a busy little place - continually mashing in sometimes up to 13 times a week to keep up with demand. Imported barley is used, as we learned that the proximity to the Gulf Stream means that barley grown on the island is not suitable for whisky production, as the warm climate leaves the grain low in the sugars needed for making the required alcohols. The six wash backs vary in age, again a reflection on the amount the distillery has grown over the past twenty years. The stills looked vaguely familiar to us, and we discovered that this is because they are modelled roughly on the shape of Bowmore's stills - the master distiller, James MacTaggart, having spent the first part of his whisky career there.

Back to the tasting bar, for a nip of Arran Gold - a whisky cream liqueur made with Arran 10. Not being quite Jim's thing, Laura enjoyed a duo of these! After the standard tour was finished, we stayed behind with our bewhiskered host and a couple of other visitors to taste a few more. With three choices each, we had the opportunity to taste some of the excellent finishes that the distillery has to offer...


Amarone Cask Finish - 50% 

Colour: Sparkling ruby

Nose: A wave of sugared almonds and oodles of honey gush forward initially, with lashings of sour fruits. The dry red wine cask is certainly apparent with a distinctive grape-iness that carries delicately with unsweetened cocoa.

Palate: A level of spice that was not apparent on the nose opens up on the tongue, with cinnamon and liquorice root, stewed dark fruits such as plums and cherries follow up with a prickle of spice. The cocoa from the nose evolves into a rich dark chocolate, with a little more sweetness.

Finish: The spice remains on the tongue for a good 15 seconds accompanied with a sweetness that engulfs the mouth.


Single Cask Bourbon 1999 - 58%

Colour: Polished copper

Nose: The American oak is a big part of the nose, as you would expect - the wood sings sweetly from the glass, with vanilla and an almost toffee sweetness along for the ride.

Palate: To drink it is almost creamy in texture from 15 years in the barrel, but maintains a zesty freshness reminiscent of citrus peel. Vanilla pod luxury marries beautifully with a nutty oak characteristic.

Finish: A full, fresh mouth for a short moment, that ebbs gradually away with a sweet creaminess.


Machrie Moor (Cask Strength edition) - 58.4%

Colour: Golden barley

Nose: A sweet smoke nose initially, with tropical fruits coming later. The blend is intoxicating, like chargrilled pineapple.

Palate:  Vanilla custard becomes a large part of the taste, with more BBQ'd fruit, this time bananas by the fireside. Unmistakably peat and as it's the only peated release from the distillery, this seems to be MacTaggart's homage to his Islay heritage. The ABV certainly helps to carry great waves of peat but does so beautifully, without becoming over powering.

Finish: Much like you can still smell the smoke from a BBQ days after, the peat lingers beautifully in the mouth, but with a sweet accompaniment of dark dried fruit.

Between us we also sampled the Sauternes cask finish and a Private Cask bottling for Glasgow's Whisky Club (both of which we bought bottles of, so reviews to follow!).

Afterward we were treated to a sneak peek in the warehouses, past warehouse six, the newest and last to be built on the site, to warehouse two and three which contained some of the more famous private casks, including a cask belonging to Ewan McGregor.

Finishing off with a delicious lunch at Cask cafe, a great afternoon was definitely had by all.

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Bruichladdich Octomore 06.3 - Islay Barley

It's Feis Ile on Islay this week, and we are so near yet so far away... spending the week on the beautiful island of Arran. In honour of Bruichladdich day, however, we thought it was only right to bring something a little bit special with us. Behold! The first Octomore to be made with 100% Islay barley. Prestigious, unique, and definitely a big hitter.


Colour: Silken amber

Nose: Although peated to 268ppm (wowza) the nose on this is initially remarkably restrained on the smoke. It's undoubtedly prominent, but beautifully balanced by a sweetness akin to proper Scottish tablet ice cream on a buttery, digestive biscuit base, with a grating of dark chocolate atop. Sweet, spicy, and ever so alluring - you can still smell the malt floor that this was born on.

Palate: So THAT'S where all those sneaky little phenols are. The 64% ABV is apparent without overpowering the dram, still allowing a multitude of beautifully balanced flavours to pour forth. There's dark and citrus fruits (a light sparkle of cloudy lemonade, with a maraschino cherry garnish), oodles of gloriously fresh tobacco, and a good dollop of vanilla clotted cream. Finally, the malt comes through at the end with a cinnamon and toffee edge.

Finish: Warms you up right down to the soles of your feet. The peat lingers, but gently mellows as time progresses to leave behind a moreishly sweet glow. Cosy from your bonnet to your slippers.

Slainte,

J&L

Monday, 4 May 2015

Whisky Review: SMWS 3.243

Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy

Feis Ile is undoubtedly one of the key events in any whisky lover's calendar, with thousands converging from around the world on the beautiful island of Islay to celebrate all things whisky. For the first time this year, the folks at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, already renowned for their unique bottlings of a huge variety of Islay drams, are plunging into the festival atmosphere with their very own Feis Ile release. Bottling 3.243, 'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' is a 17 year old peated Bowmore, aged in refill ex-sherry butts and bottled at 57.1%.


On the nose, the sherry cask is hugely prominent. Sweetness abounds, with festive dried fruits - raisins and figs - and just a hint of fresh raspberries. There's some gentle smokiness which doesn't overpower, just enough to give a real meatiness to the aroma. Reminiscent of a summer's BBQ, at that point of the day where the sun is just falling below the horizon, and the embers are all dying down.

The palate has a blast of spice, and a more intense meaty nature, but always balanced by that sumptuous sweetness - like dipping a chillied chorizo in a sherbet fountain. The combination of 'meat and sweet' is wonderful... tempted chuck a few chunks of smoked sausage in our Christmas cake this year with the aim of recreating it. As we continue to sip, a dark chocolate note starts to come through, with pink peppercorns that tingle on the lips.

The finish leaves behinds lashings of sea salt, with that unmistakeably Islay coastal brininess and a peaty nature which lingers on long after the last sip has been swallowed. Glorious.

The SMWS Tasting Panel recommended drinking this whisky 'between dances at a Spanish barbeque party' - whilst we didn't quite have the music available for our own flamenco masterclass, we couldn't resist spending Bank Holiday Monday cracking out the BBQ. Our salsa verde lamb shoulder was a great accompaniment to this hearty dram - especially the somewhat more chargrilled pieces!

'Dark, smouldering flamenco gypsy' will be available for members and non-members alike to get their hands on at the SMWS Feis Ile Open Day, 22nd May 2015, at Islay House. Well worth a visit if you're lucky enough to be attending the festival.

Slainte,

J&L


Thanks to SMWS for the sample!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Whisky Review: Mackmyra First Edition

Our first experience of the Swedish distillery Mackmyra was yet another Drinks by the Dram whisky advent calendar find, and their Brukswhisky release is one of our go-to favourites.

Bottled at 46.1% ABV, as their flagship core release the First Edition is a statement of intent, showcasing the Swedish oak casks used in maturation with pride.

Colour: Light straw.

Nose: Oaky character, with a basil herb freshness, hints of caramelised pears and lavender honey.

Palate: Gentle, smooth, and well balanced. The key characteristic is of sweet oak, but not the bourbon oak we are more used to - this has a spicier tickle that is still reminiscent of the initial honey present on the nose. The flavours are closer to an actual bourbon than a whisky aged in bourbon, as the lovely new oak brings a wonderful fruity freshness to the dram. When imbibed with a savoury snack (we picked a mild Bombay mix), a beautiful sweet apple note punches through with more prominence.

Finish: The prickles of pepper spice remain on the tongue, but are rounded out with a little apple freshness and a robust dark chocolate creaminess right at the end.

Overall, a unique and interesting whisky that places Sweden firmly on the distiller's map.

Skål!

J&L

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Whisky Broker

There are plenty of independent bottlers out there, but Whisky Broker as one of the smaller companies on the market provide a level of personal service that for me is beyond expectation. Stocking a range of products from 5cl samples to almost 500l butts, from a range of distilleries from across Scotland and at the moment from the North British distillery as well, there's a huge amount of variety available but with the emphasis remaining on quality products.

The passion of Martin Armstrong, the frontman of Whisky Broker, is evident through all aspects of their business. The cost of each of their bottlings is always great value for money, for single cask releases that all have a decent age on the bottle.

My first purchase from Whisky Broker was initially hampered by a sub-par level of service from a courier company who refused to finish delivery, due to a smashed bottle. Despite this most likely to be the fault of the delivery company, Whisky Broker went ahead and sent me two new bottles, through a different courier, free of charge, providing speedy responses to all my communication despite being in America at the time. This push for excellent customer service certainly draws me back to returning for more.

If what you are looking for in a whisky is a fancy bottle and elegant label, then you'll be disappointed, but if you can look past the word art labels and into the liquid deliciousness inside you are sure to be in for a treat. So without further ado:

Linkwood 18 - 51.4%

The Speyside distillery Linkwood, nestled on the out-skirts of Elgin, has a capacity of 2.5 million litres of spirit per year. While most of this output goes to use in blends (including Johnnie Walker and White Horse) the whisky comes to the market from independent bottlers at a very high standard and this is one such bottle.

Colour: Pale, light sand.
Nose: Mellow tones of nectarines coupled with a fresh citrus nose, seasoned with cinnamon and smothered with vanilla custard. A twist of cracked black pepper comes in near the end.
Palate: Clean and soft... butterscotch sauce bordering on creme brûlée, with just a slight essence of burnt sugar. A great bold roundness of sweet crunchy apples provides balance. The mouth feel is warming yet gentle and smooth considering the 51% ABV.
Finish: Red pepper, and a little Szechuan peppercorn heat initially, giving way to a malty chewiness that lingers lightly on the palate.

Aultmore 20, 54.4%

Opened initially in 1895 by Alexander Edward (owner of Benrinnes), this Highland distillery was powered by water wheel, until a fire spurred a change in power source to electricity in 1896. More recently, Aultmore has been rebuilt and expanded under the ownership of Dewars. Again, most of the spirit is sold to blenders, notably Dewars White Label, with a few bottles of single malt released by the owners, but predominantly available through independent sectors.

Colour: Sanded wood
Nose: Lightly vanilla'd touches of oaky dryness. Cinnamon with coffee and cream.
Palate: A creamy texture and vanilla roundness waves across the palate. A crush of baked apples, with powdered cinnamon and ginger, and a little icing sugar. While I prefer the dram neat, a little bit of water springs a citrus freshness into the mix.
Finish: The oily nature of cask strength coats the mouth with light ground spice, ending in dark chocolate and coffee.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Whisky Review #5: Bowmore Darkest

Having visited Islay twice, most recently staying in Bowmore itself with a view of the distillery chimneys through our bedroom window, their whiskies are always going to have a special something about them for us. Darkest is absolutely no exception - bought just over a year ago as a Christmas present "for the house" having been one of our favourite drams from the 2013 Drinks by the Dram whisky advent calendar, purchased from Master of Malt - you can read our initial ponderings on this lovely drop here.

Aged for 15 years (with the final three of those being in Oloroso sherry casks) before being bottled at 43%, Bowmore Darkest is definitely a multi-layered dram. Because of this, it's also been one of our favourites to pair with food - it goes with cheese, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, and a splash even found it's way into some homemade smoked salmon pate.


Without further ado, here are our thoughts...

Colour: A richly sherried deep bronze.
Nose: Robust, with dried fruits bursting forth - dark cherries and plump raisins. A savouriness lurks in the background, but in the year we've had the bottle open the peaty nature of the aroma has faded a tad.
Palate: Loads going on here! The Oloroso cask provides a fruity yet woody sweetness, whilst balanced peatiness allows waves of sea salt and smoked fish to crash over the palate.
Finish: The combination of smoky and sweet continue to fight for attention in a long, lip-smacking finish.


Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Burns Night 2015

"There's a lot you can do with a haggis." This was to become the motif of the evening, as quoted on numerous occasions by our new friend Martin - true Scot, Robbie Burns fanatic and Master of Ceremonies for the night.


Regular visitors to the page will know that we tend to enjoy the whisky tastings held at the Broadfield, and for January they'd decided to do something a bit different. In celebration of Burns Night, a four course meal with traditional Scottish fayre (and whiskies to accompany of course) was on offer. We arrived to an absolutely packed dining room, with the sound of bagpipes blaring and a proper party atmosphere.

A poetry reading from Martin's well-thumbed, 40-year old collection of Burns' works, finished off setting the tone for the evening, before the food started to arrive. The first course was black and white pudding in blankets, rich and hearty with the bacon being a great addition.

The fish course was next, and our favourite dish of the night - the Broadfield's take on an Arbroath smokie, served atop a tattie scone with a perfectly poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.

At this point, Martin returned on top form to read "Address to the Haggis" whilst our main course was brought out... haggis, neeps and tatties, of course, with crispy fried leeks. To toast, we were presented with a dram of Auchentoshan Three Wood, which was powerful enough to stand up to the hearty flavours of the meat with just enough sweetness from the Pedro Ximinez casks to cut through for balance. Martin's monologue on the versatility of haggis provoked a healthy discussion amongst our table on just exactly what could be done with this little mountain of offal-y joy... haggis ice cream, anyone?!


Before pudding was brought out, Martin read out his own Address to the Lassies, as we raised a dram of Arran's Robert Burns Single Malt - light and fruity, with a sumptuous orchardy undertone. Dessert was a beautifully flaky Ecclefechan tart, stuffed full of sweet dried fruits, nuts and cherries, with a generous dollop of whisky cream to serve.

The night overall was an ideal warm-up to Burns Night itself, with top-quality traditional food and classic whiskies to accompany. We'll definitely be raising a few more drams tonight.

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Obligatory Drinks Roundup Post of 2014

Somewhat belatedly, we thought we'd do a quick review of our favourite tipples of last year, as we aim this month to sample new things through #tryanuary.

Whisky:
Dram
Jim - Bruichladdich Octomore 0.5 - an early test of the 'most peated whisky ever made' in a beautiful Chateau D'Yquem cask, this was drunk in warehouse one of the distillery, making this the most memorable whisky I've ever drunk (more about it can be found here).
Laura - Bruichladdich Duplex - sampled at the Broadfield's "Old and Rare" whisky tasting this was a private bottling of incredible interest. This Petrus cask aged dram encompassed flavours I've never experienced before or since in a whisky. 

Bottle
J - Bruichladdich Cuvée 407 - a rich, chewy, intense whisky, aged for 21 years in Bourbon before being finished in Jerez Pedro Ximinez casks, it is a wonderful full mouthed dram, pleasingly sweet and spicy.
L - Aberlour 16 - put simply, this is just my kind of whisky, enjoyed again and again and never disappoints. Another sherry casked beauty which has a gorgeous Christmas-cakey stickiness to it.

You will see that these whiskies are predominantly from Bruichladdich, with wine and sherry casks featuring heavily - 2014 seems to have been the year that we have discovered our "type" when it comes to whisky! Which is not to say that variety has gone unappreciated - we've been lucky enough to sample a huge range of drams across the year. Honourable mentions to Yamazaki 18, Ardmore Traditional Cask and Sullivan's Cove French Oak.


Beer:
Bottle
J - Great Heck Yakima IPA - this is the only beer that I have bought more than two bottles of to drink this year, and is a wonderful example of how a heavily hopped beer can still have a bold malty mou feel, without the main flavour being just hops.
L - Siren Odyssey 001- another wine cask aged beverage for me! This was enjoyed at the Beer Central bottle share at the Bath Hotel. This was just a fantastic night all round and this luscious 12.4% imperial stout really topped it off. The wonderful Sean from Beer Central has written more about the night here - any Sheffield based readers would do well to keep their eyes peeled for the next one!

Cask
J - Blue Bee are easily one of the most improved breweries this year, with new owners and head brewer who have transformed them from producing middle of the road 'traditional' beers to a more robust lineup of excellent regular cask beers. Into The Abyss is the best of the bunch for me - a Black IPA, that retains the great malty features of a dark beer coupled with a light hoppy freshness. (Drank at The 3 Tuns)
L - Waen Brewery's Snowball is my most memorable beer of the year - a 7% chocolate and coconut stout with a smooth vanilla hit. All three flavours come through powerfully yet maintain tasty, tasty harmony. The highlight of Sheffield's CAMRA beer festival for me.

Keg
J - Mikkeller Black is one of the most interesting keg beers I have drunk this year. When it was released, the 17.5% beer was the 'strongest beer in Scandinavia' and unlike other brews of a similar strength, the high ABV wasn't achieved through freeze distillation but through brewing acumen. (Drank at Brewdog Sheffield)
L - Hitachino Nest White Ale - another drink enjoyed at Brewdog Sheffield (where we've spent many a happy afternoon over the course of the year) this was also one of my favourite bottles of the year, with orangey flavour and a pleasing spiciness. As well as this, the bottle has a very cute owl on it - what's not to like?!

Pub
J - The Sheaf View - Consistently excellent and ever changing bar, with a great selection of not just ales but whiskies and other spirits too. This is my weekend haunt - as a friday evening drink the atmosphere is lively and friendly, and for a Saturday afternoon sandwich the pub is quiet and relaxed and often a completely different selection of beer can be found on the bar.
L - The Bath Hotel (see also our write-up here) - we've made many happy memories there over 2014, including nights with good friends winning the quiz and drinking too much Thornbridge Charlie Brown's peanut butter beer, and of course Sheff Brew Fest, one of our highlights of the year.


With multiple beer festivals (we NEED to go to IndyMan this year...), a gin distillery trip, a holiday to Arran and much more adventuring round Sheffield and beyond to do, 2015 is already gearing up to a be a good 'un.

Let us know your "golden beverages" of the year!

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 19-24

Another adventurous advent reaches its boozy crescendo!

19th

Whisky
Timorous Beastie, 46.8%
Colour: Pale straw
Nose: Cereals with a sweetness of toffee, dry notes of sherry and strong sea breeze.
Palate: Sticky fruits and lightly spiced with a bold peat hit, with an essence of a mashtun in the form of toasted yeasty grain.
Finish: Winter spice that hangs around for ages all over the mouth and the peat stays up in the forefront.

Vodka
Breckenridge, 40%
Created at the world's highest distillery in Colorado, this is a clean, crisp and refreshing vodka, which I found a really good combination of traditionally flavoured but with a quirky slightly medicinal twist of pine and a hint of floral perfume. Interestingly, this is made from snowmelt water, and you can almost taste the icy environment! Another thing I've discovered this month whilst tasting such an array of top-quality vodkas is the importance of choosing the right tonic - I paired this with my new favourite, Peter Spanton No. 1, which brought forth more sweetness from the Breckenridge.

20th

Whisky
Girvan Grain Patent Still: No. 4 Apps, 42%
Colour: Pale sand
Nose: Fresh and grassy with hints of apple.
Palate: Refreshing lemon oiliness with light oak and a hint of chocolate for balance.
Finish: Very light - not quite enough oomph for my liking, but a gentle peppering with a smooth fruity finish.

Vodka
Finlandia Grapefruit, 37.5%
This was a revisiting of an old favourite... one of the first quality spirits I ever treated myself to a bottle of! I still find this absolutely delicious, with vibrant aroma and flavour of grapefruit - sweet and zingy on the nose and with a more robust almost bitterness on the taste. The addition of Peter Spanton tonic (again) made this sing.

21st

Whisky
Mortlach Rare Old, 43.4%
Colour: Vibrant toffee
Nose: All things Christmas... nuts, fruits, and a dry spiciness with an oddly fresh minty hit.
Palate: Sweet and sherried stickiness with hazelnuts, and a strange savoury hit of wood in the background.
Finish: Long, with festive spice and a dry oaky edge.

Vodka
42 Below Manuka Honey, 40%
Such an intense honey aroma on this one... amazingly creamy and sweet scent. It's fresher on the palate with an alcohol tang. I turned this into a twist on a Toblerone cocktail, with Baileys, coffee liqueur and milk. Impressively the heady honey on the nose was in no way diminished by adding other ingredients to it, and it softened the flavour wonderfully. The top cocktail all advent.


22nd

Whisky
Mackinlay's Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt, The Journey, 47.3%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Fresh orchard fruits with a twinge of tropical sourness that cuts through, leaving a light spice.
Palate: Raisins and sticky honey, plus a tickle of spice with milky coffee and dark chocolate.
Finish: A little crunch of spice, rounded wood together and an oily orange peel character. A lingering full mouth nature of dark coffee.

Vodka
Pinky, 40%
A stunning little vodka, with a lovely rose hue and the scent of strawberries. Clean and more herbal in the flavour but still with a great fresh fruity, berry nature that doesn't overpower.This worked really well with a good splash of elderflower tonic and would definitely enhance a whole array of fruit juice based cocktails - I can imagine this tasting fantastic with cranberry or pink grapefruit juice. A very elegant drink.

23rd

Whisky
Macallan Amber: 1824 Series, 40%
Colour: Unsurprisingly, it's amber.
Nose: Tons of citrus, with fresh lemon and orange zest. Dried nuts feature in the background.
Palate: Delicate, with spice and dried fruits, predominantly raisins. A perfect breakfast dram.
Finish: Cinnamon and chocolate come through on a short but tasty finish.

Vodka
Aviy Pear, Strawberry and Mint, 37.5%
Seriously sweet-smelling... the pear and strawberry both come out strongly on the nose, with the mint more difficult to detect. Smells and tastes just like those candy necklaces you can get! The mint isn't particularly apparent in the flavour either but helps to balance the drink and provides a drier edge to the finish. Really interesting.

24th - the final dram

Whisky
Lost Distilleries Blend, batch 6, 49.3%
Colour: Delicate spun gold
Nose: Fresh fruit, cider apples and light black pepper. Overall, swaddled just like the baby Jesus but in delicate peat, as opposed to a manger. Massive depth to explore... almost salty but with sweetness, like a piece of salted caramel fudge. Given time, the black pepper returns with a hint of pomegranate.
Palate: Chocolatey, fruity, with oodles more peat and a wave of the seaside. An orange oiliness fills the mouth with elements of leather, tannins and fresh tobacco, that become spicy as the flavour develops.
Finish: Nuts and demerara sugar, a salty finish and a majestic peated element which closes the show with multiple encores.

Vodka
Bainbridge Organic Vanilla, 40%
Tons of sweet vanilla, toffee bonbons and creme brulee fill the nose. This didn't quite all come through on the flavour neat, but it made an EXCELLENT rich, creamy and flavoursome White Russian. Well, I couldn't have ended Vodka Advent any other way!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 13-18

Having reached the half way point, our intrepid journey through the world of fine spirits shows no sign of slowing down...

13th

Whisky

Paul John Edited, 46%
Colour: Dried Straw 
Nose: Aromatic - light peat, sugared mint leaves with a dried fruit and an edge of fresh strawberries.
Palate: Fruity on the tip of the tongue, a really smooth mouthfeel complemented by a bit of fresh red pepper
Finish: Oily star anise on the end, with a soft crunch of coffee bean to close and a deep tannin undercurrent.


Vodka
English Spirit Raspberry, 37.5%
A beautifully rose-tinted, light and fruity vodka, made with freshly picked raspberries. I'm not sure this was quite the season to be drinking this as the subtle flavours would be perfectly suited to a hot summer's day. Delicate and aromatic, a dram of this neat didn't quite stand up to my cosy evening in, so I added a dash of Chase elderflower liqueur, which created a smooth, rich and luxurious short.

14th

Whisky
Balvenie 12 Year, Single Barrel First Fill, 47.8%
Colour: Light straw
Nose: Alcohol initially, apple brandy followed by a sweet coffee.
Palate: Light spice with apple juice sweetness, all rounded off by a crisp woodiness.
Finish: A robust oakiness with a lavender honey flavour to follow up

Vodka
Vestal Pomorze 2013, 40%
I found this to have an overwhelming, slightly one-dimensional nose - earthy and a little petrol-esque. The palate was much lighter and more fragrant, but overpowered by the smell. This wasn't quite to my taste, however it would have been really interesting to have drunk this alongside the Kaszebe from earlier in the month to have a direct comparison of the effect of terroir... I could definitely notice a difference but couldn't quite work out what it was.

15th

Whisky
Rock Town Arkansas Bourbon, 46%
Colour: Stained Oak
Nose: Very fresh initially, strawberries seasoned with fresh ground pepper, with dusty wood and bibles.
Palate: To sum up the taste in a noun, I would have to say "church"... the oak is delightful and there's a pleasing underlying brown sugar sweetness.
Finish: Nutty, with more brown sugar in the undertone.

Vodka
Davna Czeri, 38%
This. Is. Phenomenal. A traditionally produced Polish cherry vodka which just absolutely sings of all things cherry. A nose of those cherry lip sweeties, with a slightly medicinal flavour like cherry cola or children's cough mixture (and I mean that in a good way). Little hints of spices including clove and cinnamon are hidden underneath, which makes the whole drink much more rounded. Despite the high ABV this was an easy sipper, more like a liqueur than a spirit. This was enjoyed neat alongside a little piece of dark-chocolate coated gingerbread. Hideously festive.

16th

Whisky
Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Old Special Reserve, 40%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Light and fresh with a prickle of sweetness and a dash of spice smothered over dried fruit.
Palate: Light orange chocolatey flavours with honey and a smooth and creamy texture. The sherry element of the ageing process becomes really apparent all the way through.
Finish: A vanilla custard tickles the tongue with a bourbon chewiness at the very end.

Vodka
Chase Rhubarb, 40%
I really enjoyed this one. Old fashioned sweetie shop all round... gentle, deliciously enticing nose encompassing nougat and Love Hearts, with a flavour that was whole-heartedly those hard boiled rhubarb and custard sweets. Again, I drank this neat, but this would work brilliantly in a berry-based cocktail or in a bellini. Chase can quite simply do no wrong.

17th

Whisky
Nikka From The Barrel, 51.4%
Colour: Reddish Straw
Nose: Sweet sherry with a freshness, and a delicate floral splash that rounds off with oak.
Palate: A bold sweet spice coupled with deep raisin, and a hint of charred oak that underlines the richness.
Finish: A light cinnamon and a tickle of prickly spice, alongside a herbal note verging on rosemary which fills the nose.

Vodka
Stolichnaya Chocolat Kokonut, 37.5%
Liquid Bounty. Mmm. Rich, tropical aroma leads on to a flavour which starts off as fresh coconut and builds to a tasty chocolatey smoothness. As with the Ciroc coconut earlier in the month, I just had to White Russian this (and the Stoli just edged it). Well, it is Christmas...

18th

Whisky
Arran Batch 4, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, 52%
Colour: Pale golden
Nose: A sweaty sailor clutching a dry sherry with a red wine smile.
Palate: Phenolic, herby and grassy with rounded mouth of a deep richness of more red wine.
Finish: a light delicate spice with a bold deliciousness verging on orange.

Vodka
Square One Basil, 40%
Made with four different types of fresh basil, this is one herbaceous little beverage. The nose is fresh and fragrant, with a hit of liquorice root which makes the smell oddly absinthe-esque and a touch medicinal. On the palate, fresh basil is balanced by a rich, smooth and spicy fruitiness. I added Peter Spanton Lemongrass tonic to this which allowed the more heady, perfumed notes of the vodka to come through, and a grinding of fresh black pepper to cut through the aromatics and add a crisp edge.

We'll be back next week with the final instalment (cracks out tiny violin).

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Advent whisky and vodka calendars: windows 7-12

And so our epic advent spirits quest continues...

7th December

Whisky
Glenfarclas 10, 40%
Colour: Straw gold
Nose: Sherry, with apples, raisins and hint of spice through the high-alcohol hit.
Palate: The drink begins smooth but builds to a sticky, burnt oak-y character with a sweet winter spice and a light fruit.
Finish: Stays around in the mouth for a long period of time with oak and spice and tickles with a light spice.

Vodka
Blackwoods Botanical Vodka, 40%
Primarily known for their gin, Blackwoods also distil this product using a range of local Shetland botanicals including meadow sweet and marsh marigold. My first impression upon opening the bottle was a huge hit of pure alcohol which was slightly off-putting and meant I wasn't expecting much complexity of flavour. However, it was clear from the first sip that I'd underestimated this spirit - delicately perfumed flavour with hints of parma violets and soft citrus including grapefruit, and really smooth in the mouth.

8th

Whisky
Dalmore 15, 40%
Colour: Ruby
Nose: BAMM, sherry right off the bat, with a nutty sweetness, like hazelnuts and sugared almonds.
Palate: Sherry continues with orange oil and a sticky sweetness, with a drier nut taste than compared to the nose. A great tickle of sticky ginger and a hint of seasonal spice follow.
Finish: A little prickle of Christmas, nuts and malt with sherry sweetness that ends out the drink.

Vodka
Square One Cucumber Vodka, 40%
I'll admit I wasn't overly looking forward to this one, as I couldn't really imagine how it would work - and I'm not generally the world's biggest cucumber fan. However, I was truly pleasantly surprised - the cucumber flavour was delicate, yet completely balanced out any alcohol rawness from the vodka, resulting in a refreshing and very quaffable little dram. I think this would work really well in a summer cocktail, and can imagine sipping on it alongside a chunk of watermelon. I'd anticipated adding tonic to this, but when it came down to it I didn't want to overwhelm the dainty flavour of the drink, so drank it neat with a squeeze of lime.

9th


Whisky

Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43%
Colour: Deep, rich bronze.
Nose: Complex - sherry prominent, bursting with dark fruits.
Palate: Fresher fruit with an almost liqueur-esque edge of cherries.
Finish: Nutty earthiness with a fresh cream finish and a pinch of spice. The sort of whisky you can chew over for hours.

Vodka
Konik's Tail, 40%
Thickly sweet and creamy, with a pleasing level of just-enough alcohol bite, this small batch spirit is the quintessential elegant vodka. It's rich and complex, with a perfumed edge that reminded me a little of parma violets. Definitely made for sipping, for me this almost compared to a good single malt whisky and I couldn't bear the thought of adding anything to it. Straight up, room temperature, delicious.

10th

Whisky
Glen Garioch 1797 Founders Reserve, 48%
Colour: Rose copper
Nose: Spiced sherry and cherry with a sprinkle of pepper for balance.
Palate: Buttery cherry brandy and oak, with star anise and cinnamon.
Finish: Sweet nuttiness with a light sherry character that sits in the mouth with a delicate spice, and a fresh dusting of ground nutmeg.

Vodka
Brennen & Brown Vodka with a hint of Cardamom & Plum, 38%
Definitely the most intriguing sounding vodka so far, I was really looking forward to this one. A huge waft of Christmas aroma hit me as soon as I opened the bottle, with cardamom prominent but alongside cloves, brown sugar, and fruity festive undertones. This all carried through into the taste - my favourite local bakery, Forge Bakehouse, make an amazing little pastry called a cardamom snurr, which I still haven't quite worked out if they're sweet or savoury - and this vodka provided the same sensation on the palate. I also thought this would have tasted phenomenal alongside a good chunk of Christmas cake. My favourite to date.

11th

Whisky
Glenfiddich 18, 40%
Colour: Golden copper
Nose: Raisins, apples and plums, with a lightly medicinal hint. A little like a used wallet. Caramel and mint also featured.
Palate: Heaps of tannin and dark chocolate, plus a hint of sweet mint, with a cranberry-like finish
Finish: Spice and light smoke with a fruity sweetness that stay on the palate for a long while.

Vodka
Faust Cranberry, 40%
This shocked me when I pulled it from my advent box of treats with it's vibrant scarlet hue. The scent and flavour was all-out cranberry, no surprises there... clean, smooth, slightly dry, and fruity. I turned this into a little martini, with sweet vermouth and orange bitters, which made a really tasty and (oddly) slightly medicinal cocktail. I enjoyed this, but it was the first one all advent that didn't deliver anything above expectations - does what it says on the bottle.

12th

Whisky
Monkey Shoulder, 40%
I've heard a lot about this Dufftown blend but not previously had the opportunity to try it. Having recently found some excellent blended malts including Big Peat, I was looking forward to sampling this.
Colour: Vibrant copper
Nose: Toffee and orange, very light. Sherbet limes and Bucks Fizz.
Palate: Almost fizzy... more sherbet and a lemony citrus flavour, combined with honey. Very easy to drink.
Finish: Just the right amount of fieriness, mingled with icing sugar. A fine example of how good blends can be.

Vodka
42 Below Feijoa Vodka, 40%
Now I am always a fan of learning a new word, and feijoa was definitely a new one on me. Apparently it is a tree which produces fruits also known as "pineapple guavas". I have to say though I didn't think this smelt or tasted of either of those things - the aroma reminded me of antiseptic medicine and the flavour a little of mouthwash. Having said that I wouldn't say I disliked it... just very odd! After sampling a little bit of this I've saved the rest for a cocktail night - I can imagine it working well either just with soda water or lemonade, or with apple/pineapple juice for a more tropical flavour.

So there we have it, half way through!

Cheers,

J&L

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Whisky and Vodka Calendars: windows 1-6

Following on from one of the best purchases of last year we have again bought a Drinks by the Dram advent calendar each. For Jim is the whisky calendar and for Laura a change from last year's gin selection to flavoured vodkas. 

1st December

Whisky
Haig Club, 40%
Colour: Light straw coloured grain whisky.
Nose: Prickling with sweet Szechuan peppercorn from the initial high alcohols, with almost cinnamon swirl sweetness later on as the drink opens up.
Palate: Sticky almost sourness of oak and bourbon with a mouth feel that is ever so slight, accompanied by vanilla custard on a baked banana.
Finish: Surprisingly short, with just a tickle of alcohol and a demerara sugar sweetness. The mouthfeel is a bit on the thin side, but with an interesting overall taste.
Marketed by David Beckham (an excellent marketing ploy), and showcased in a rather garish blue bottle, this whisky is definitely a talking point but the drinking experience overall is ultimately a little underwhelming. Interesting though, and would be a good way to introduce a non-whisky drinker to the world of whisky.

Vodka
Cold River Blueberry, 40%
Full of fresh blueberry scent that whacks you in the face as you open the bottle - this follows into the flavour as would be expected. This fruitiness is balanced on taste by a herbal note, which I couldn't quite work out (possibly sage?). Overall, this has quite a heavy, cloying flavour - but in a pleasant way. I kept it simple with just a lime wedge to accompany to get the full flavour from my dram, but this would work really well with lemonade or in a cocktail - I'd go for a julep with simple sugar syrup and a good sprig of mint.

2nd

Whisk(e)y
Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey 46%
Colour: Sanded oak
Nose: Orchard apples and fruit with a tingle of warmth, with a light overall aroma.
Palate: Fruits and cinnamon and a hint of clove. An overall apple pie flavour rings through the drink.
Finish: Light herbal finish, almost lavender.


Vodka
Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Besmoked Vodka, 40.2%
I've sampled this in a pub before as sheer curiosity made this absolutely irresistible, and I was really excited to open my little window and find this hiding in there. I was originally disbelieving that this would live up to it's name, but I will readily admit how wrong I was - it is just unbelievably smokey! To the extent that it tastes almost like a meat... a really good bacon to be more precise. Oddly, though, it's still a refreshing beverage, and the smoky nature mellows into sweetness on the finish. I chose to drink this neat which was powerful and delicious but if we'd had any tomato juice in I'd have gone straight for a Bloody Mary! This is the most intriguing vodka I've ever come across, which takes you on a journey from full-throttle fire to delicate embers.

3rd

Whisky
Evan Williams Single Barrel (2003 Vintage), 43.3%
Colour: Deep ruby
Nose: Cherries, apples and cinnamon, with hints of chocolate and a classic bourbon oakiness.
Palate: A sour apple freshness, accompanied by a delightful oaky flavour with a light plum wood char.
Finish: A short finish that prickles with a little black pepper, accompanied by a BBQ'd orchard fruits skewer.

Vodka
Chase Marmalade, 40%
A gorgeously bitter-sweet drink that more than meets with expectations, this has an intense marmaladey hit that's full of orange zest, with the vodka itself even having a light orangey hue.
The sweetness lingers for ages after polishing this off. My garnish of choice for today's dram would most definitely be a good twist of orange peel, and for a cocktail a glug of sparkling wine would allow this to really shine. Utterly lovely.

4th

Whisky
Jura 16 Year - Duirach's Own, 40%
I first had this on a sunny day at the Jura Hotel, the distillery tap (almost) a child's stone throw across the road from the picturesque stillhouse on the island, and an adult's stone throw from Islay.
Colour: A light ruby red
Nose: Biscuity, sweet sherry oak smell
Palate: The flavours move on to a bolder slice of Christmas cake with nutty marzipan and an oily, quite creamy coffee.
Finish: Like being sat by the fire warms your outside, this dram warms your inside with oak and dark chocolate. The oak barrels permeate all the way through all sensory aspects of the dram.


Vodka
Vestal Kaszebe, 40%
This vodka has been recommended to me on many an occasion but isn't one I've tried before. On the first sip I was somewhat baffled - it has quite a raw, earthy flavour that reminded me of potato peelings! Not unpleasant, just something totally different to any spirit I've tasted before. A splash of high quality tonic lifted the whole flavour to a delicate yet complex herbal delight.



5th 

Whisky
Bowmore 12 Year, 40%
Colour: Light copper
Nose: Salty earth notes, lemon sweetened with honey, and balanced overall with a light bourbon edge plus sweet peat.
Palate: A light peat that ripples with more honey sweet lemon, and a tickle of vanilla with a slight seaweedy underlying flavour.
Finish: There is a strong peat that hits all the way through the drink, with seaweed and warmth from the sweet oak, that keeps this delicious whisky hanging around in the mouth for a long time.

Festive Bison
Vodka
Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, 40%
This is one of the most popular Polish vodkas on the market, but not one I've had the pleasure of sampling before. Neat, the nose is sweet and full of dessert aromas, all marzipan and apple pie. The palate is more herbal in nature, with a hit of sweet hay. I made this into a little cocktail creation with the classic apple juice pairing. My version used cloudy apple juice, with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top for a festive edge - a perfect winter drink.


6th

Whisky
Spirit of Hven - Seven Stars No.2 Merak, 45%
Colour: Vibrant Copper
Nose: Black pepper and dark chocolate Toblerone giving honey nut sweetness,
Palate: A smooth chilli spiciness of black pepper that punches straight up front and with a light cinnamon heat that continues along the tongue.
Finish: The crisp heat continues for a lovely length of time, with a great hint of dark chocolate sweetness lingering on the palate.

Vodka
Ciroc Coconut, 37.5%
Originating from France, this grape-distilled vodka is a real twist on the sort of spirit I'm used to. The nose is packed full of sweet, sticky coconut accompanied by other tropical fruits including pineapple, meaning the aroma as a whole is rounded pina colada. Given time to breathe, a fresher scent that's more coconut water becomes apparent. The flavour is smooth, soft and sweet - just like a Bounty! After sampling this straight up, I just couldn't resist turning this into a White Russian cocktail with coffee liqueur, whole milk and a tiny squeeze of chocolate syrup. Mmm!

Cheers,

J&L

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Whisky Review #4: Glenrothes Select Reserve

I bought this whisky about a year ago from a chain supermarket for around £30 (there are often similar offers on, so worth keeping a look out). A no-age-statement dram bottled at 43% ABV, from a distillery with over 130 years of whisky production, this is marketed as a typical example of their signature style.

Colour: A light, straw-coloured dram.

Nose: The palate is of salty creme brûlée and an odd sweetness of strawberry bonbon, with hints of a light pepper heat. Given time to breathe, the pepper character grows to a prickle heat with slight clove.

Taste: Strong wafts of toffee and toasted coconut, coupled with sweet coffee. As the whisky opens up there's additional hints of sea spray, dry cereal, and custard. It's a smooth, fresh palate with a cheeky tickle of winter spice.

Finish: Vanilla and more sweet coffee present on the finish, which isn't a particularly long one flavour-wise, although the alcohol essence does provide a spice which lasts a good while in the mouth. The final note is a light, sweet barley end with just a little hint of sherry.

It's a decent all round whisky which has tempted me into trying the Glenrothes selection of vintages too. Definitely worth a try for the price tag.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Lakes Distillery

Set in a beautiful old barn that was once home to a Victorian model farm, a stones' throw from the River Derwent, at the northernmost tip of Lake Bassenthwaite lies the soon-to-be fully operational Lakes Distillery.

We were thrilled to be invited along to visit the distillery before the Grand Opening (pop 15th December in your diaries!) and even more delighted when we were greeted by "Is it too early for a whisky?" at 13.07 (you probably won't be surprised to read that a resounding "no" filled the room at this stage). The whisky in question, ahead of their own production, is the Lakes Distillery's blend, The One: a tasty, versatile, easy-drinking dram which worked just as well in the early afternoon as the evening (you can read our full review here). Whilst we sipped on our first taster, we got chatting to Katie Read - business development manager of the Lakes Distillery and the very epitome of a woman who loves her job, combining her passion for malt whisky with a drive to promote Cumbria in the very best way.


The building itself took Paul Currie, Founder and Managing Director, 9 months to find, due to the extremely strict regulations regarding new buildings in the Lake District. How
ever, this "impossible dream" has been achieved in spades - the distillery itself is stunning, and the use of original buildings gives it a feeling that it always been there, a natural fit to the surroundings. The abundant natural resources and the quality of the water source also ensure that the distillery remains at one with its environment.

Beautiful scenery surrounding the distillery
Whilst we listened to Paul share his insights about the distillery, we had an absolute feast of a buffet created by Michelin-starred chef Terry Laybourne, who will hold responsibility for the bistro once the distillery opens next month. Our lunch had the theme of a top-class autumnal English picnic - beef and horseradish sandwiches, and homemade pork pies, Scotch eggs and sausage rolls. The miniature puddings were beyond delicious - pistachio and raspberry macaroons which just melted in the mouth and were the perfect pairing for The Lakes Gin (review of this to follow), and a sumptuous chocolate caramel tart (which Laura ended up absolutely covered in - can't take her anywhere). We'll definitely be back in the future to sample the full menu, and this enterprise helps to ensure that the distillery's appeal will reach out beyond the spirit it produces.
Plans!
Once replete, we headed on over to the distillery building itself to take a look at where the magic will happen. Our tour was conducted by Master Distiller Chris Anderson - an Ileach! After a career spanning distilleries including Caol Ila and Aberfeldy, Chris has now come to take the helm at the Lakes Distillery. Chris is partnered by John Drake, distillery manager, who is passionate, super knowledgeable despite being relatively new to the whisky scene, and just generally an all-round top bloke. The whole whisky-making process takes part under the one roof, with the stainless steel mashtun and washbacks on one side, and the beautiful stills on the other. Traditional at heart, unusual touches adorn the workings of the distillery - our favourite was a little window on the stills, rather than the traditional copper door, meaning you'll be able to peek inside to have a look at just what exactly goes on in there!


As well as their gin, The Lakes Vodka production is due to begin in early December. Both these spirits will be produced in "Chemmy" - a rather cute still named after distillery ambassador and champion skier Chemmy Alcott.

Being situated outside of Scotland (although this will be the closest English distillery to the border), the Lakes Distillery won't be bound to the laws of "Scotch", and it seems they are going to use this very much to their advantage. One idea which really made us prick up our ears is the prospective concept of "Mad March", where each year this month will be spent doing something a little bit different - for example, as the distillery won't necessarily need to use oak casks, they are thinking about exciting possibilities including chestnut, birch and maple. In a world first, there's also the option to use a condenser made from copper and stainless steel, which is hoped will add more character to the final spirit. 

The Lakes Distillery is the perfect mix of old and new - it already feels full of tradition and heritage, yet with an industrial edge. This is mirrored by the whole ethos which we got from our trip: traditional ideas and knowledge make up the core values of the distillery, blended with experimental flair and innovation.

Watch this space!

Cheers,

J&L