Tuesday, 4 March 2014

A Different Kind of Talisker!

 

Whisky: Secret Stills 1.2 Talisker

Distillery/Brand:
Talisker

Bottling:
Gordon & MacPhail Secret Still 1.2 Talisker 21 Year Old Sherry Cask

Region:
Islands

ABV:
45%

Colour:
Copper

Review:
If you've known me for longer then 15 minutes you know that my favorite Scottish distillery is Talisker, hands down.  I've visited the distillery on the Isle of Skye, I was one of the first people in Perth to try the Talisker Storm when it first came out, I LOVE Talisker.

Whisky is an emotional thing and it should be in my opinion.  Alcohol isn't just about what it smells and tastes like, it's who you're with and what you're doing, what special event you're celebrating.

Several years ago on my wife's and my first wedding anniversary we decided to go back to the hotel where we'd spent our wedding night and have dinner.

We'd spent our honeymoon at a whisky bar in Melbourne so we decided we'd have a whisky or two at the hotel over the course of our dinner.  In preparation for that we'd brought our whisky bible.

However when we got to the hotel restaurant the whisky selection was abysmal and everything was more expensive then we'd remembered.  Even worse at this stage my wife and I only recognized names on the whisky list, we'd never tried any of them.

So I pulled out the whisky bible, did a quick flip through and saw that the Talisker 10 year old had scored very well, 90+ so we ordered that.

And out it came in the world's biggest tumbler, this tumbler was unbelievable!  And off the tumbler swirled smoke and white peppers and the most amazing aromas.

I fell in love with Talisker then and there.

Diageo further cemented that love for me when they found out that I was heading to Scotland and gave me a behind the scenes VIP tour of Talisker with a tasting covering the entire range.

Now my Talisker collection has moved from the 10 year old into Talisker 57 North, 3 different releases of the 25 year old, and the Talisker 35 year old.

Everytime I see a new Talisker I have this compulsion to purchase it, and with a easy going wife that's usually possible.  So when I returned from Scotland to find out that the company I work for was letting me choose the whisky selection for both the shop that I run and our sister store I was over the moon.

I completely lost the plot when going over the Gordon & MacPhail pricelist I discovered a 21 year old sherry cask Talisker, part of their Secret Stills range.

I needed it, in fact I needed more then just one.  So I quickly ordered a few bottles and was a happy man.

And for almost a year those bottles have sat on my shelf, awaiting a special occasion worthy of me cracking one open, and a couple of weeks ago that occasion occurred.

I've taken to doing industry whisky tastings at my house where bottleshop and bar owners come to my house to learn about whisky.  A quiet environment where they're not busy running around dealing with customers, but instead a place where they can sit down, relax and ask whatever whisky questions that they might have.

I had told my brother Vinesh that if he came over I'd crack open something really special and over the course of the evening I cracked open two special bottles, a 22 year old Rosebank and a 21 year old Talisker.

Into the glencairns goes the 22 year old Talisker and while we nose here's some details on this bad boy.

Distilled in 1986, aged for 21 years in first fill sherry casks.  The casks were 1361, 1362 and 1363.  Bottled in 2007 at a strength of 45% abv by Gordon & MacPhail with a total of 1860 bottles coming out of the casks.

Everyone immediately goes into contemplation mode, sitting there looking at their glencairn, nosing the whisky, lost in contemplation over their drams.

The color is glorious and you can immediately say to yourself "yep sherry cask!"  Lovely and dark as can be.

The nose isn't your typical Talisker nose, there's a little bit of smoke, a small amount of peat, some iodine, chocolate fudge, citrus, soft vanilla.

It's interesting as the nose moves back and forth in the glass from softly smoky with light sherry notes to more strongly sherry with the smoke and peat in the background.

It's a nose that I could easily play around with for 20 or 30 minutes.

Time for a drink!

Oak, quite oaky in fact, bittersweet, starts off sherry, minty, thin mouthfeel, iodine, faint peppers, ashy, cigarette ash with chocolate, slight citrus, more chocolate.

A medium length finish, smoky, with soft citrus ends this whisky.

It's quite good, and definitely not your average Talisker, and to be honest I can't make up my mind if that works in this whiskies favor or against it.  The weak mouthfeel is a bit of a disappointment, but I really enjoyed the flavor combination so 6 of one half a dozen of the other I guess.

A bottle retails out at around $270 to $300 a bottle, would I buy another bottle?  Yes, especially now that I've tried it I'm going in with eyes wide open where before I just had an idea in my mind of what it'd be like.

If you're thinking of buying a bottle just keep in mind that it's not your typical Talisker, yes it's a very good whisky, but it's likely not what you're expecting!

Nose:       23/25
Taste:       23/25
Finish:      22/25
Balance:    22/25

Overall:     90/100

Monday, 3 March 2014

A Whisky For A Whisky Family

Whisky: Glenlivet 25 Year Old

Distillery/Brand:
Glenlivet

Bottling:
Glenlivet 25 Year old XXV

Region:
Speyside

ABV:
43%

Colour:
Madeira

Review:
I originally got my start writing about whisky talking about the important things.  These things were not just tasting notes, or the history of the distillery or the history of the barrel.

These things were the events surrounding the of the tasting of the whisky, who I was with, what was happening and even more important, what that wound up meaning to me in regards to the whisky.

For a year now I've been getting whisky samples from distilleries and importers and this is great, there's no denying it.  I get the chance to try all sorts of really cool whiskies that I normally wouldn't, but what has happened as a result of receiving all of these cool samples is that there oftentimes isn't a cool story behind me tasting it.

It's just an incident of me receiving a sample, what are the tasting notes and what I think of the whisky. 

Because of this I've found that I'm writing less and that when I write I don't take as much pleasure in it as I used to.

It's time to get back to my roots, the people who make whisky special for me.

This story spans 9 months and 2 cities in Australia, Perth and Brisbane.

I try to help everyone in the whisky industry in Australia, and to be honest anywhere else in the world.  I figure that the more exposure that good whisky gets around the country and indeed the world, the more selection that myself and other whisky geeks get access to.

In the course of a whisky tasting that I attended I wound up meeting one of the owners of Whisky Live here in Australia.  I had purchased tickets for my wife and myself to attend Whisky Live Perth and over the course of the evening myself and the Whisky Live guys got to chatting.  They were surprised to find out that I was a whisky blogger, and even more surprised to find out that I'd purchased tickets to the events as opposed to sending them a request for a free ticket or two.

I didn't find anything too special about it, preferring to purchase as much of my whiskies and tastings.  I didn't and don't want any special treatment, especially if I don't deserve it.

Over the course of Whisky Live Perth I helped the guys out, making suggestions for next year, giving feed back about the event, and also writing about what would be occurring as I received information, what whiskies would be available and such.  Nothing too fancy, but the guys appreciated it.

It wasn't until after Perth that I found out how much they appreciated my help.  They said that I could have free access to any Whisky Live in the country and invited me to attend the rest of the cities in Australia.

Exciting as it was, I had something even better coming up, a 4 week trip to Scotland and Singapore with my lovely wife, to be joined by my brother, brother in law and sister in law for a week in the motherland.

You may have read about my journey to the motherland, it was everything that I described and so much more, I honestly never wanted to head back to Australia or the US, trying to convince my wife to buy a house over there in Scotland.

But upon my return I saw that there was one Whisky Live to go, Brisbane.

My very good Connosr buddy, Othmar, who many may know as Systemdown, lives in Brisbane, so I talked to the guys and asked if they'd mind if I went to Brisbane.

Come on down!  Bring your buddy!

So I did.  I got on a plane on Thursday night and was in Brisbane early Friday morning.  I checked into my hotel which was where the Whisky Live guys were staying, met up with them once they'd woken up and chatted about Whisky Live 2014.

After that it was a quick nap while I waited for Othmar to join me in the city.  He arrived around noon, and joined me in a few whisky barrel aged beers that I'd purchased from a bottle shop over here, Cellarbrations at Carlisle.  Working in the beer industry I thought it might be nice to introduce Othmar to some cool and weird beers.

We enjoyed them, but quickly decided that we wanted to play around with some whisky, at which point Othmar took me to the best whisky bar in the city, Cobbler.

A brilliant bar, where Othmar and I played around with Glenmorangie Signet (totally not worth the hype in my opinion!) amongst other whiskies.

And then it was time for Whisky Live.  Othmar and myself snuck in before it opened at which point we wandered around the different exhibitors, chatting like old friends who'd known one another for years instead of guys who'd just met for the first time in person.

We tried for our very first whisky a whisky that I loathe, Hellyer's Road.  We made that our first stop as Othmar had heard about my intense dislike for this whisky and found it very odd as normally our palates line up together in harmony.  He couldn't understand why I hated it so much, especially considering how he'd tried it at a prior whisky show in Brisbane.

Once we tried it, he totally agreed with me about how nasty it was.  I couldn't stop laughing due to his facial expression.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, they lie, it's worth at least a million words.

The evening went well, but with very little surprises.  Until we met Laura Hay.

Laura Hay is the Glenlivet Brand Ambassador for Australia.

I'd just had a nip of the Glenlivet 18 year old, when Laura Hay called me over.  She told me that she'd been informed that I was a serious whisky lover, a hardcore whisky lover and if I came through a little bit later when it had quieted down a wee bit she might have a special surprise for me.

Othmar and myself shared a quick with one another and said the only thing one says at a moment like that.

"Ok!"

Half an hour, 45 minutes later Othmar, myself and a couple of guys that Othmar knew swung by the Glenlivet stand, glencairns in hand.

Laura grins at us and out comes a bottle of Glenlivet 25 year old.

Oh my god!?!  That's a $500 bottle!?!?!  Our mouths are hanging open in awe as Othmar and myself stare at one another.

She pours a wee nip in mine and Othmar's glencairns which was shared with the other two guys. 

And then it began!

Othmar and I stared at one another in amazement, the nose was lovely, the palate to die for, unfreaking believable!

The other two guys just stared at us in confusion, not quite getting why Othmar and I were so excited.

Fair enough, it's all relative.

For both Othmar and myself it was easily the whisky of the show.  Mindblowing, special, epic, words wouldn't do that whisky or even the moment in time justice.

And that was that.  I never thought I'd get to try the Glenlivet 25 year old again. 

Until I met my brother Vinesh. 

Vinesh is my Indian brother from another mother to put it simply.  I introduced him to great whisky and he introduced me to great cigars.  He started out as a customer of mine through the beer shop that I manage, but our friendship quickly grew.  We'd hang out every couple of weeks, chatting whiskies and cigars.

He recently returned from a trip to Singapore and having heard me rave about the Glenlivet 25 year old, had decided to pick up a bottle from Duty Free for roughly $325 AUS (What a freaking awesome price!!  I'd have 4 bottles at that price!!)

When he'd returned he invited Squidgy and myself to his house for whiskies and cigars and a surprise.  Once we arrived he grinned at me, a huge Cuban cigar in his mouth, and held up the Glenlivet 25 year old box.

Surprise!!

We cracked the bottle then and there, poured the whisky into three glencairns and then

"Cheers!"

We all nose the whisky, quietly absorbed in this beautiful little Speyside.

Deep ancient oak, like being in a library full of ancient books, heavy sherry influence, sultanas, figs, cinnamon, nutmeg, tobacco, old leather, dark chocolate, vanilla, pears, honey, almonds, hugely complex and easily the best nose I've picked up off a Glenlivet.

Then the flavors!

Toffee, sultanas, figs, honey, red vine liquorice, pears, citrus fruits, oranges, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, sherry, creme brulee, delicious, so very delicious.

The finish lasts forever, with the fruit, peaches, pears and spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, lasting forever, lingering on and on before finally vanishing with just the slightest wisp of spice.

I love this whisky, if you can't tell, but Vinesh looks at me after his dram and says "I don't like it, at all, totally not my thing, I can't stand it"

Both Squidgy and myself love Vinesh dearly, but this is one area where I disagree with him on whisky.  Squidgy and myself have been able to enjoy this whisky multiple times now due in large part to Vinesh and Laura Hay, and a huge thank you goes out to the both of them.

If you can't tell, if I could afford to I'd have two or three bottles in my cabinet at all times.  If you ever get a chance to try this whisky, do so.


Nose:       24/25
Taste:       24/25
Finish:      24/25
Balance:    24/25

Overall:     96/100
The Last Texan Dram Down Under!

 
Whisky: Balcones True Blue Cask Strength

Distillery/Brand:
Balcones Distilling

Region:
American


Bottling:
Balcones True Blue Cask Strength

ABV:
58.2%

Colour:
Old Gold

Review:
The very last Balcones that I've got a sample of, and it's Labour Day here in Australia.  I'm sitting here listening to Ray Donovan in the background, my wife Squidgy is in the other room on the computer, typing up her notes on this American Corn Whiskey and I'm looking forward to hearing what she thinks about it.

As Donovan plays it free and loose with the law, entertaining me, even when he isn't drinking Glenlivet or Highland Park, I'm nosing this whiskey and I'm once again surprised at how impressed I am by this little American micro distillery.  It's very nice to see some great whiskey come out of my homeland that isn't a bourbon or a rye.

And as I sit here pondering this my wife hands me her first set of tasting notes, for the nose.

A bourbonish nose for her, with "coconut, triple X mints, tree musk and hot flat coke."

Alright my turn, what's on this bad boy!?

There's definitely a bourbonish nose to it, with oodles of vanilla and coconut, but that's not it, there's so much more.

Some dark chocolate/cocoa flakes, slightly dusty, corny at times, cinnamon and nutmeg, brown sugar, dusty book shelves, pears, very sweet nose.

Then comes my wife's tasting notes, which make me grin!

"hot in the mouth, tastes of iron, like warm blood, purple grapes, the big ones with seeds, and then the bloody iron taste returns"

Ok, not sure if I should be looking forward to trying this whisky or not!?

Oh well here goes!

Big oak, lots of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, some chilli, oranges, vanilla, slightly bitter, then caramel, more vanilla.

It is very warming and drying on the palate, so I totally get the heat that my wife is talking about, but no blood, thank goodness.

The finish is long, but then completely disappears.  It's full of mild spices and vanilla.

Tasty!  And very enjoyable.  The high abv, in this case, 58.2%, is noticeable, and like the rest of the Balcones that I've tried, I've got a sneaky feeling that the whisky is going to be much younger then you think, 2 years, 3 years, maybe 4 years old, but it makes for an enjoyable change of pace from the profusion of American Bourbons and Ryes that we get here in Australia, seeing that American Single Malts tend to be very few and far between.

This bad boy runs around $170 or so AUS, which in my opinion is a little too much to pay for this.  I'd prefer to see it at around $150 or even better $140ish, but sadly this is Australia and good cheap alcohol is rare.

However the sweetness might put you off, so I'd suggest trying it at a bar if possible before running out and buying a bottle.

Nose:      23/25
Taste:      21/25
Finish:     21/25
Balance:   21/25

Overall:     86/100

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Texas and Scotland Meet...Down Under!



Distillery/Brand:
Balcones Distilling

Bottling:
Balcones Single Malt

Region:
American

ABV:
53%

Colour:
Full Gold

Review:
Continuing with my Balcones exploration I decided to crack open the single malt last night.  It's listed as 53% and I figured a nice biggish whiskey would paired up with the latest episode of The Walking Dead would be the perfect way to end the evening.

A fruity, sweet, vanilla nose, with dusty cocoa, bananas, pears, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, some citrusy oranges, and a slight nuttiness.

Let's see if the palate matches up with the nose!

Very sweet whiskey!

Citrusy oranges, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla, bananas, buttery apples, honey, more oranges, and cinnamon.

Very enjoyable, although a little too sweet for my palate.

A very long sweet finish, full of oranges, apples, other orchard fruits and vanilla ends the whiskey.

Personally this whisky is a little too sweet for my palate, but is still very enjoyable. 

The Balcones single malt has no age statement, but I personally reckon it's along the lines of a 2 to 3 year old whiskey, but that's very much a sneaky guess I could easily be wrong. 

Regardless I will be picking up a bottle of this in the near future.  Sometimes you just want a single malt that's not your typical Australian, Japanese or Scottish whisky and I think this whiskey fits the bill perfectly!  It retails at around $160-$170 AUS, so if you get the chance, try it before you buy it, because it is quite sweet.

Nose:       23/25
Palate:      21/25
Finish:      21/25
Balance:    19/25

Overall:    84/100

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Texas Goes Down Under With Style!

Balcones True Blue 100 Whisky


Whisky: Balcones True Blue Corn Whiskey

Distillery/Brand:
Balcones Distilling

Bottling:
Balcones True Blue

Region: 
American

ABV:
50%

Colour:
Copper

Review:
Still sitting here, playing with some interesting new corn whiskies from Texas.  It's the start of the week and it's already been a crazy one, so crazy in fact that I havent had any time to sit down and enjoy some good whiskies, so when I got home tonight, I decided that come hell or high water I was going to enjoy a dram by god!

So I'm sitting here watching American Gangster, staring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, with a dram of Balcones True Blue 100% in my hand and I'm really impressed.

Not just with the movie, which I already knew was good, but this whiskey, or to be more honest, with these corn whiskies. 

I'd always thought of corn whiskies as being moonshine, white lighting, high octane, unaged, alcohol that you used to just get completely smashed.

But instead I'm encountering a whiskey with startling complexity, much more complexity then I'd have thought.

The nose is surprisingly rich with mangoes, lychees, apricots, slight citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, vanilla ice cream, covered in brown sugar, and dark cocoa powder.

Wow!  That's a huge step up from the normal 46% abv. 

Time for a taste!

Sweet, oodles of vanilla, dark chocolate, tobacco, oranges, caramel, couch leather, soft bananas, charred oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, buttered caramel popcorn and a hint of corn.

Very nice whiskey, very nice!  Totally enjoying this while I watch my movie.

The finish lingers for a long time, 4, 5 minutes after my last sip with again the rich vanilla, lots of dark chocolate and some fruity hints lurking in the background, trying to track what fruits down without success, all I know is that it's delicious!

It's a very dry whiskey, making you want to grab another dram, it is very good.  Too good in fact as I feel like I could drink it all night.

Running at roughly $150 AUS a bottle a whiskey like this makes it very easy to see why Balcones is considered one of the top American craft distilleries.  If you're looking for something delicious and a little bit different this just might be up your alley!

Nose:      23/25
Taste:      23/25
Finish:     23/25
Balance:   23/25

Overall:    92/100

Monday, 10 February 2014

Texas Goes Down....Under!

Whisky: Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey

Distillery/Brand:
Balcones Distilling

Bottling:
Balcones Baby Blue

Region:
American

ABV:
46%

Colour:
Amber

Review:
I'm starting to plan an American whiskey tasting for our club in Perth and being the odd man I am, I want a variety.  I don't want to do an American tasting based around just bourbons and ryes, I want single malts, corn whiskies and anything else cool.

With that in mind I gave the guys at H & R Craft Beverages, the importers of Balcones, a call about purchasing some samples.  A week later those samples arrived.

Balcones is the first whiskey to be legally distilled in Texas, and tends to be corn whiskies instead of bourbon and ryes.  The first whiskey to be tasted is Balcones Baby Blue, which is the entry level whiskey, made with Atole, a roasted blue corn meal.

In fact most of the whiskies in the Balcones range are corn whiskies, which makes me excited as variety is the spice of life!

The nose is young and spritely with the corn immediately evident!  My wife, brother in law and myself all blinked when we immediately picked up corn on the nose.

Corn, creamed corn, popcorn, toffee, bananas, toasted oak, and vanilla make it a nice and refreshing nose.

Time for a taste!

Baked apples, bananas, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, caramel, slight smoke and hints of corn make up the palate.

Very tasty whiskey! 

A surprisingly long sweet finis ends this whisky, with the caramel and vanilla seeing it through to the end.

This is a no age whisky, but I strongly suspect it's less then 5 years old and that's not a bad thing as those who know me will tell you, in fact it's an awesome thing.

This whisky is very smooth, a term that I honestly hate with whisky, but it's true.  There's no harshness that so many folks associate with young whiskies.  It just goes down so easily.

This Balcones normally retails for around $130 Aussie from everything I've been able to dig up, which isn't a bad price to pay for something a little bit different, but I don't think I'd ever use this whiskey as my normal every day session whiskey.

However now I'm REALLY interested in playing with the more advanced whiskies in the Balcones range!

Nose:      20/25
Taste:      20/25
Finish:     18/25
Balance:   19/25

Overall:    77/100

Monday, 27 January 2014

Smokey Fruit!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 










Whisky: Benromach Origins Batch 4: Port Pipes

Distillery/Brand:
Benromach

Bottling:
Benromach Origins Batch 4: Port Pipes

Region:
Speyside

ABV:
50%

Colour:
Old Gold

Review:
I've been playing around with the Benromach range lately, most recently enjoying a 30 year old Benromach that was just lovely.

And then a couple of days ago more whisky toys arrived, specifically a Benromach Port Pipes...how awesome does that sound!?

A Speyside whisky, 10 years old, mildly peated (8ppm) and then finished in Port barrels....well to say that I was looking forward to it would be a huge understatement.

And even better is that my wife, Squidgy, would be joining me once more in my whisky reviews, after a long hiatus due to work.

Yeah I'm really looking forward to cracking this!

Australia Day comes and Squidgy and I look at one another and decide that tonight is the night to crack this whisky open!

We have fond memories of our trip to Benromach, having enjoyed everything that we tasted and purchasing the Benromach Peat Smoke, so here we go!

The nose is softly smokey, with tobacco, cherries, aniseed, strawberries, vanilla, pears and apples.

My lovely wife picked up some different aromas, which she informed me in a voice that made me grin from ear to ear.

She wound up picking up beach sand, almonds, trees, spices, petrol, almond skins and tree leaves with oak spices.

Love her tasting notes!

Time for a taste though!

Again softly smokey, very fruity, strawberries, raspberries, pineapples, apples, spices, pepper, tobacco leaves, vanilla, caramel and a hint of cooked bacon.

My lovely wife was tasting smoke and tobacco leaves.

A soft smokey, fruity finish wrapped the whisky up.

I really enjoyed this whisky, it wasn't my wife's cup of tea, but I felt like that I could drink it all night.  Probably in my top two or three entry level Benromachs.  And at roughly $100-$120 AUS for a bottle, more then reasonable.

Plus I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for the pretty tins that the Benromach range comes in.

Nose:       22/25
Taste:       22/25
Finish:      21/25
Balance:    21/25

Overall:     86/100