Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The First Dram Of The Year!

Whisky: GlenDronach 1990, 23 Year Old, PX Cask, Cask #1240


GlenDronach 1990 23 Year Old Cask 1240




I seem to be on a bit of a GlenDronach kick lately, having recently enjoyed Abbey Whisky's first ever bottling of GlenDronach, a 20 year old cask strength from an Oloroso Sherry barrel and then a few whisky friends of mine have been introducing me to more and more GlenDronachs.

I've been loving it to be honest, a great sherried whisky, at an affordable price, what's not to like!

A very good friend of mine recently introduced me to a very special GlenDronach, a UK exclusive, 23 year old, aged in Pedro Ximenez casks and bottled at cask strength.

When he told me he'd picked up a PX cask strength GlenDronach, well I won't lie, I had a little accident in my pants.  I was that excited!

Pedro Ximenez, my favorite style of sherry, paired with a great Speyside distillery, yeah I knew I was in for a treat.

My friend wound up bringing this whisky over to our house on Boxing Day and then was kind enough to give me the bottle, which meant that my treat was becoming a super treat!

This GlenDronach pours out thickly, almost letting you know in advance that it's going to be beautiful and syrupy.  Beautiful and a dark dark burnished golden color that just makes you start salivating.

The nose immediately lets you know how sweet this whisky is going to be, with the Pedro Ximenez cask all over the nose, rich luscious dark fruits, sultanas, figs, chocolate, toffee, honey, toasted oak, soft spices, cinnamon, thick, sweet and honestly just a heavy nose.

This for the record is a nose that NEEDS to breathe.  If you give it a nose right after pouring it's just thick with the PX cask.  I wound up doing this review after the whisky had been sitting for roughly an hour to 90 minutes in it's glencairn.

It's lovely and it makes you think of a deep freeze in the middle of a snowy winter in the heart of Speyside, with the snow piling up 4 feet deep, the temperature plummeting and you're sitting in your house with a roaring fire and a great whisky in your hand, keeping yourself toasty warm.

Time for a drink though!

Oh god that is bloody delicious!

Spices, dark fruits and a huge explosion of chocolate espresso.  Let's go deeper shall we?

Sultanas, raisins, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, all spice, hint of coriander, rich PX cask influences, then just a massive explosion of the chocolate espresso.

Very sweet, but very delicious, however that sweetness might be too much for quite a few folks that I know.

The finish is long, feeling like it last forever on the palate with the chocolate espresso and some hints of the dark fruit.

This is an awesome whisky, rich and complex, big, quite big, with the PX cask just roaring around the whisky in a delicious way that makes me grin.  I couldn't have too many drams of these in a night, but man, having one or two over the course of an evening after a long crappy day at work?

Yeah that would go down a treat.  This is a single cask bottling, so you're looking at 592 bottles in this batch, and it is running at roughly $200 to $250 AUS, but if you want one you'll need to move quick as most retailers in the UK are completely sold out.  If you like your whiskies sweet, big and complex then you'll love this bad boy!

Nose:       24/25
Taste:       24/25
Finish:      22/25
Balance:    23/25

Overall:     93/100
One Whiskey To Change One's Life!
Whisky: Knob Creek 9 Year Old

Knob Creek

Knob Creek 9 Year old



Old Sauternes

I've always considered myself a whiskey man, ever since I hit the legal drinking age of 21 in the US.  Actually I considered myself a whiskey man at the age of 18, when I enjoyed my very first whiskey and coke.

See I grew up thinking that that's how whiskey was drunk, always in coke or taking it as a shot.  I knew no better.  I drank pretty good whiskies, I remember at one point pouring Glenfiddich 21 year old in coke.

I know, oh the humanity!

This was my life for quite a few years, mixing whiskies, good and bad, into coke.  And why might I do that if I considered myself a whiskey man, you may be asking yourself.

Because whiskey tasted like...well whiskey.

Alcohol tasted just like that, alcohol, burn.  If it was good there might be a "smooth" in there, but that was the extent of my knowledge, of my palate.

And then one day the pain began, agonizing pain.  My wisdom teeth were coming in, and even worse I couldn't afford a dentist.  When I was informed I'd have to pay something along the lines of $600 to $800 a tooth, I went into shock.  How the hell was I going to be able to pay that kind of bill, living on a very low wage, which left little money free at the end of the week.

Long and short of it, I couldn't.  That wasn't an option.

So I drank.  A lot.  During the day while at work I used medicine that would do a half assed job of numbing your gums and mouth, but at night, every night for about a month, I drank.

I was actually drinking so much due to the pain that I was easily going through a couple of bottles of booze each week.

All of it mixed with coke.  But thankfully the bottleshop was just down the street.  Easy walking distance.  And late one afternoon after work as I was walking home I stopped into the bottleshop for a resupply.

This time I picked up a new whiskey, a bourbon called Knob Creek.  I knew nothing about this whiskey, but I figured what the hell it's $35 for a bottle, why not.

And so the night begins with me pouring the whiskey into coke, and as the night goes on the whiskey pours quickly account for more and more of the whiskey and coke, until it's more whiskey then coke.

And then something magical happens, the whiskey and coke changes, there's something else coming off my mixed drink.  It's vanilla, lots and lots of vanilla, and some cherries.

My whiskey doesn't taste like whiskey!  It tastes like something else, fruit and spices and vanilla and all sorts of things that don't belong in whiskey.

Thus began an obsession into whisk(e)y, trying to figure out what they smell like, taste like and why they are the way they are.

Then I moved to Australia and I discovered that Knob Creek was rare, quite rare, and bloody expensive at around $100 AUS a bottle.

My favorite American whiskey wouldn't be so easily obtained anymore.  And so for several years I didn't even see a bottle of Knob Creek.  And then while in Singapore I was able to finish the last of a bottle while visiting the Auld Alliance.

Yeah I fell in love all over again.  And I FELL HARD.

So when I heard that 2400 bottles were coming into Australia I knew I had to get one.  And tonight, New Years Eve, I've got this bad boy open and I'm enjoying my very last dram of 2013.

Let's get into this whiskey shall we!?

The nose is a fairly typical bourbon nose, but it's bigger, better.

Toasted oak, heaps of vanilla, red vine licorice, cherries, some low level rye spices, and rich caramel.

Time for a drink though!

Drying, rye spices, mints, red vine licorice (totally love it when that comes off my whiskey!), vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.  It's delicious!

A long sweet, yet drying finish that's full of those red vines.

Love, love this whiskey.  Cant exclaim that enough.  Can't emphasize that enough, and at the $35 dollars a bottle or so that it runs in the USA, I'd ALWAYS have a bottle of this on my shelf.  However sadly with how rare it's imported into Australia and at it's price tag at $100, I'll save it for my special treat!

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

Overall:     90/100

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Are You Dram Full?

There is a new whisky club in Australia, a different kind of whisky club.  One that is slowly spreading across the country, bringing dozens of members to the fold in each of the cities that it opens in.  Dram Full is a different kind of whisky club, where it doesn't matter if you like American whiskey, Irish whiskey, Canadian whiskey, Taiwanese whisky, Japanese whisky, Australian whisky, Scottish whisky or any whisky from any country in the world. 

It doesn't matter if you drink bourbon, single malts or blended whiskies, as long as you enjoy whisky, enjoy sharing that passion for whisky with other like minded people, you'll be fine.

With too many whisky clubs there's always the feeling that maybe you don't belong, especially if you look at the other members and ask what Port Ellen is or why is Brora so highly coveted, if you don't know the difference between what a sherry cask and a bourbon cask and what they'll do to the spirit stored inside.  In Dram Full clubs you can ask these questions without fear of being mocked, or of other members thinking less of you.

Dram full is full of folks from all walks of life, from whisky brand ambassadors, to whisky distillers, to whisky bloggers, from bartenders and bottleshop owners to just every day folk who've just purchased their very first whisky. 

These folks, all of these folks, help to make Dram Full Singapore, Perth, and Melbourne (for the time being!) what it is.  Instead of just being a place where folks post nothing but boring dusty notes on whisky from the 1890s (personally I think that's cool as!) you'll find folks in touch with the whisky scene in your city, who'll know where the good whisky shops are, which whisky bars to visit and which ones to avoid, where all the cool whisky tastings will be held and even cooler, if you're traveling around Australia, around Singapore, around Scotland, you have folks in all of these places who can help make you travel even better.  Not sure of good whisky bars in Singapore?  Cool!  Let us help!  Planning a trip of the lifetime to Scotland and not sure which distilleries to visit?  Cool many of the members know brand ambassadors and distillers in the motherland.

If this interests you, or if you think someone you know would be interested in something like this, join us on Facebook at Dram Full Singapore, Dram Full Perth and Dram Full Melbourne.

So all you gotta ask yourself folks is, are you Dram Full?  Well are you?!
Overeem's Christmas Present! 
Whisky: Overeem Bourbon Cask


Overeem Bourbon Cask



I recently received a Christmas present from the Old Hobart distillery, a small sample bottle of their very first bourbon cask release.

Those who know me, know that when I fall in love with a distillery, I fall hard.  I become like a newly born again whisky Christian, preaching the gospel to the heathens.

Or in this case I just let all the bottleshops and bars in the area know how awesome this whisky, this distillery is.  And I let them know that they should be carrying these whiskies for their customers.

I do this with any whisky that catches my eye, any distillery, from any country, as I feel that the more good whiskies that are available locally, the more that people will get into good whisky, the more incentive for the bottleshops, bars and importers to bring more cool and weird whisky into the city.

It's sort of like a big circle and you need to jump start that circle, to rev it open, before the revolutions can build up.  I personally consider it part of my goal to help jump start that circle.

Because of this quite a few of the local bottleshops whisky selections have expanded, by quite a bit and one of the most recent additions was the Overeem range.

I love the Port and Sherry casks, both the entry levels and the cask strengths of the Overeem range, quite a lot actually and so when Overeem released the bourbon cask, I was understandably very interested.

So interested that I contacted Jane and asked her to let me know when it would be possible for me to purchase samples of the bourbon casks for review.

She said that she'd let me know and then for a few weeks and then I received a text message from Jane, informing me that she'd sent me a Christmas present as a way of thanking me for promoting Overeem in Western Australia.

I was surprised and very touched, and very very excited.

It took a few weeks for my package to arrive, but it was totally worth the wait.  Inside the box was a little 200ml sample bottle of Overeem Bourbon Cask, 43%, looking as pale as pale could be.

Having discussed some of the details with Jane prior to the Bourbon cask release I knew the barrels had been sourced from Heaven Hill distillery, the age was roughly the same age as the other Overeems, so roughly 5 years old and that was it.

The first night after it arrived it had been a very crappy day at work, a day that is definitely not meant for enjoying good whisky, so I decided that we'd just give it a crack and give it a nose, we'd enjoy it another night, but man oh man the smell of pears filled the room.

Oh god I can't wait to finally taste this!

So come Boxing Day we have a group of friends and family over for our Christmas dinner and we all wind up in the backyard for some cuban cigars and good whisky.

The first bottle of the night to be cracked was my Overeem Christmas present, the Overeem Bourbon cask.

Into everyone's glencairns it goes and again the aroma of pears surrounds us.

Pears, spices, cinnamon sticks and nutmeg, honey, vanilla, poached pears in fact.

It's a very light, summery kind of nose.  I say that because someone recently told me that whisky was a winter drink, that there was no good summer whiskies, at which point my mouth dropped open in shock.  

The nose on this whisky drove home again for me, that there are some great summer whiskies out there, and while I consider most of the Overeem range great for winter drinking this bourbon cask is a welcome addition for the hot Australian summer seasons.

The flavors follow the nose very closely, but with quite a bit more vanilla and the spices retreat a bit. The poached pears are still there, but this time they're wrapped in vanilla.

Delicious!  Not the world's most complex whisky, but very delicious!

The finish is faint, with cinnamon sticks and pear lingering.


The price point for this whisky will be roughly $130 AUS just like the other entry level Overeem whiskies, and I've been informed that after this first cask the Overeem Bourbon Cask Strength will run roughly $180, just like the other Overeem cask strengths.  Pretty good value for money!

I'm extremely interested after trying the normal bourbon cask to see what the bourbon cask strength will hold in store for us, but I'll say again what I said as soon as I opened my Christmas present.

I think Overeem is going to be a distillery to keep an eye on for years to come.

Nose:       23/25
Taste:       22/25
Finish:      22/25
Balance:    21/25

Overall:     88/100

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Our First Speyside Whisky 
From Our First Speyside Distillery

Whisky: Benromach 2005 Peat Smoke


Benromach 2005 Peat Smoke



Pale Straw

The very first distillery that my wife and I visited while we were in Speyside Scotland was Speyside's smallest distillery, Benromach. 

This distillery, owned by Gordon & MacPhail, was a distillery that I knew nothing about.  I'd never seen a bottle in Australia, until Whisky Live Perth.

We decided it would be our first distillery visit in Speyside and would just do the normal tour, as it's the easiest to schedule considering the entire distillery is run by just 2 guys.  The second distillery of the day was going to be Balvenie.

We enjoyed our tour, a lot, so much so that we bought a bottle of Benromach Peat Smoke for my father in law.  It'd been my favorite whisky on the tour and my father in law is a very difficult man to purchase whisky for, and knowing that he likes the Islay whiskies, made us think that maybe he'd enjoy it.

That idea lasted all of about 12 hours before my wife and I decided that he wouldn't actually enjoy the bottle and might snub it.  So we decided to crack it open that night.

Sadly we had to leave the rest of the bottle behind in Singapore in order to ensure that the rest of the whisky purchases would make it through customs as we were above the limit, but I miss that little whisky.

Thanks to Alba Whisky though I was able to revisit it recently.  On today, the day of my second Christmas whisky tasting I cracked the sample bottle that they sent me open.

It's peated to 53ppm, which I've been informed is the same degree of peat as Ardbeg 10 year old, but it's a very different style of peated whisky.  It's softer without the heavy medicinal notes so often found in Islay malts.

The whisky is fairly young, by Scottish standards, sitting at roughly 8 years old or so, and it's definitely a bourbon cask going by the color.  Sneaky feeling is a 2nd fill bourbon cask, but that's just me guessing.

The nose is very enjoyable with a nice blend of Speyside and Islay, with ashy peat, vanilla, citrus fruits (lemons and oranges) and some slight mineral notes.

Time for a taste though, considering this taste has been about 6 months in the making! 

Scooty ash, with heaps of vanilla and some very minor fruit notes hiding beneath all of the smoke and vanilla.

A mild finish ends the whisky, a finish filled with ash and citrus fruits, again the oranges and lemons appear.

This is a mild whisky, but an interesting take on the typical Speysider with the high peat content.  It's not incredibly complex, but it's also a whisky that I'd love to see at 18 or so years old, to see what the whisky would evolve into.

This whisky runs around $100 AUS and would be a good little whisky for those looking to avoid the intensity of the Islay whiskies, but want a Speyside that's quite different from Glenlivet and Glenfiddich.

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

Overall:     80/100

Thursday, 12 December 2013

So You Want To Invest In Whisky....?

Lately there have been quite a few online posts, and even worse news articles/news segments on investing in whisky.  

Now normally I'm a huge fan when anything whisky related is on the TV or in the news, although I'm often irritated by how much they get wrong.  The inaccuracies, the exaggerations, and even more how oh so often myths become taken for fact.

But these news articles pissed me off to a surprising degree, to a degree that I was seeing red.  I'm a whisky collector and a whisky investor, yes I'm small time, there's no denying that, but I put my money where my mouth is.

And the thing that had me furious about these "news articles and updates" was that quite a few people, just getting into whisky, will see these sorts of articles and think that since they want to invest in whisky that this will be the way to go about it.

What do these "news articles and segments" say, you might be asking yourself.  Well there were statements that older Speyside whiskies were not as good as older Islay whiskies, that you should run out and buy casks from the distilleries, that certain bottles would more then quadruple in price, from 200 pounds to 40000 pounds.

Now most of the online whisky community just laughed these off, the experienced guys, knew that these posts and articles were full of garbage, but I heard quite a few people commenting "wow I didn't know that" "That's interesting" or "I should think about investing in whisky".

So I'm hoping to remove some of these myths, put out some truth.  This isn't from a professional, this is just from a guy who really loves whisky.

First off if you want to make money, you have to spend money.  No your $50 bottle of Jack Daniels will never be worth thousands of dollars, no matter how much you love your Jack Daniels.

Second look for small batches, but nothing silly small.  When a limited release is limited to twenty to forty thousand bottles, that's not limited.  Limited is anywhere from several hundred to say ten thousand bottles, worldwide.  You don't want something where only 4 or 5 bottles were produced, yes that's rare, but whiskies that generally go up in value, well enough people have to have tried it and gone "that's AWESOME!  I want more"  If no one gets to try it, then there's not going to be any serious demand for the bottle.

Third understand that the value of your bottle is not going to skyrocket overnight, or even a few years. Rare whiskies, extremely valuable whiskies such as the Port Ellen First release, or even The Black Bowmore, took 10, 15 years to shoot up in value.  If you're investing in whisky, you're looking at LONG TERM investments.  Anyone telling you that your whisky is going to double or triple in a year or two is full of garbage.

Fourth spend at your level.  If you can't afford a $500 dollar bottle, and by afford I mean to drink it, then don't buy it.  Not every investment will go the way you hope.  If you're not happy to drink the bottle at $500, then don't buy it at $500 thinking it'll be worth $5000.  ALWAYS be willing to drink the bottle happily at the price you paid for it.

Fifth and this goes in with the fourth guideline, have a theme.  Now some people just started laughing but here's what I mean when I say have a theme.  Don't buy whisky from a distillery that you can't stand for an investment.  I love the dead distilleries, so I collect them.  The criteria is that it HAS to be cask strength (personal preference) and it has to score very well by the Malt Maniacs.  I personally will not use Jim Murray's Whisky Bible here.  If the bottle has no reviews up, then I HAVE to have tasted it so I know that I'll enjoy it if my investment goes bust.  I love Talisker, always have and barring something crazy and unforeseen, always will.  So I collect Talisker.  Will it go up in value, likely to a small degree, but nothing crazy, but I'm very happy to drink my bottles at the prices I paid.

Sixth, educate yourself.  Figure out what whiskies you love, which ones tend to perform well long term, and which ones you can afford, and start small, just a bottle or two and then see how that whisky goes.  Is it slowly going up in value, by $5, $10, $20?  Or is it going down in value?  Also realize that you have to figure out in advance who's going to buy the whisky.  If it's a $100000 bottle, well the segment of the population who can purchase something like that is very small, so more likely then not, you're not going to see a good return on that investment.  If it's a $400 bottle, there's room for it to grow and more of the population can afford to purchase it.

And last, if an offer seems too good to be true, it usually is.  If someone is offering to see you a Black Bowmore for $5000 and you're going "Holy crap it's worth like 15000 pounds!  I've got to buy it" I'd be very leery.  There are lots of whisky fakes out there and if it sounds too good to be true, I start some serious investigations. 

Last, but not least, Have FUN!  Whisky is about enjoying the good times, so don't let it turn into something deathly serious!
A Perfect End To A Shitty Day

Whisky: Benromach 30 Year Old


Benromach 30 Year Old



Full Gold

It's Christmas time and that means all the morons come out to play if you work in retail.  Bosses scream that a million things need to be done last week, even if the problem has just arisen, customers have crazy expectations because it's Christmas time and by golly what they want goes.

Personally Christmas can take a long walk off a short cliff as far as I'm concerned, but hell I'm Ebenezer Scrooge as far as most people are concerned.

A long crappy day and I knew I needed something special to cheer me up, and I figured what could do that better then a 30 year old Speyside whisky.

A sample from one of my whisky friends, I've been saving this for a special occasion and I figured this kind of day fit the bill, a whisky to put everything into perspective.

So first thing I do when I get home is crack open the sample bottle and pour it into one of my brand new glencairns.

The whisky is a Benromach 30 year old, which recently scored a 95.5 in Jim Murray's 2014 Whisky Bible.

This whisky comes from before Gordon & MacPhail purchased the Benromach distillery, there's no peat (which makes you blink a little bit if you're used to the current Benromach range)

This whisky has been aged in first and refill sherry casks and you can tell.  It's quite a bit darker then your standard Benromach, although not as dark as I first thought it would be.  There's been no caramel coloring added.

I hand the glencairn off to my wife first thing and the first thing she says after nosing the whisky is "apricots"

And she's correct.  This is definitely a fruity whisky, with apricots, sultanas, peaches, nectarines, mild spices, very mild, cinnamon,  soft vanilla, very soft smoke, a cigar humidor, charred oak, honey, this nose is completely about subtlety, nothing is huge, nothing is massive, this is a whisky that sits there and tells you to shut up and pay attention to it, the hell with the football game.

The nose invites you in, quietly, begging you to take a taste and see if the body will be as subtle as the nose, if it'll be as quiet and complex.

Oh jesus that's delicious.

A small sip, screams for more, honey, sweetness, vanilla, drying, spices, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, oranges, want more, must take another sip, so very good, bitter dark chocolate, liquorice, apricots, the palate screams subtlety, it screams more, give me more.

The finish is long, so very long, with lingering spices, oak, some dark fruits, figs, and is so very dry.

Oh god where has this whisky been my entire life?!  This is smashing!  As my wife said those just getting into whisky would describe it as "smooth" a word that I personally hate when it comes to describing whisky, but it is indeed smooth.  It's inoffensive, you could give it to anyone and they'd love it.  The alcohol burn is so mild as to be a "who cares" thought, and it makes you want another sip, another drink.

This is dangerously drinkable, dangerously, which is a pity because at $400 to $500 AUS it would be so very easy to go through a bottle of this with friends.  If you ever get a chance to try this whisky, do so.  Simple as that.  A huge thank you to Ian for the sample, you really made my day with this one!

By the way if anyone wants to buy me an awesome Christmas present, yeah I'd totally be happy with a bottle of this!

Nose:        24/25
Taste:        24/25
Finish:       24/25
Balance:     24/25
Overall:       96/100

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

An Interesting Little Entry Level Speyside

Whisky: Benromach Tradtional


Benromach Traditional




I've not been able to write as much as I would have liked to lately, with exploding computers, dying email and a sick wife.  The most difficult part has been the sick wife.

See the thing is that my lovely wife takes part in my whisky reviews, pointing out some hilarious observations about the different whiskies that I enjoy, observations such as "definitely baby diaper" off lovely Taiwanese sherry casks, etc. 

It always makes my night and since she's come down sick and unable to taste anything, my tasting has quickly dried up.  However tonight she looked at me and informed me that I should crack a bottle.  It's been too long, I know you miss it, it doesn't matter if I can't fully taste it.

She informed me that she didn't want anything big and smoky so I looked into my Speyside section, and after eying a cask strength Benromach, Benromach Peat Smoke, Benromach 30 year old, amongst a heap of Grants, Glenfiddichs and Glenlivets I finally settled on Benromach Traditional.

God only knows why, other then that I found the peat to be less intense then the other Benromachs and I just didn't feel like any of the other Speysides on hand.

Plus I really wanted to play around with a Benromach.

See Benromach tends to be a peated Speyside whisky, but nothing as intense as an Islay, so when I poured the whisky into it's glencairn the first thing to waft up was some gentle peat smoke.

The second thing that strikes me is it's pale pale color.  Almost clear.  I'm stunned by the color so I immediately take to our good friend, the internet, to pull up some information about the casks used.  In theory it's made up of entirely first fill casks, 80% bourbon, 20% sherry.

Well I can tell what most of the cask influence is going to be by the color, but I'm a firm believer that it's not the color of the whisky, but the aromas and flavors that matter the most, and I love having a light naturally colored whisky vs a whisky full of caramel coloring.

I hand the glass to my wife who wrinkles her nose and says that it smells like cigarettes to her.  Hahaha I do believe that my choice for the evening was not the best one that I could have made.

She then takes a sip, and while she says it's smokey, she doesn't mind it at all. 

Let's give this bad boy a shot shall we?

The whisky is driven along by the spirit, not the casks, or so I believe, with peat being a standard characteristic.

The nose has some soft peat, smoke, definitely some phenols so cigarettes is a pretty good description, some fruit, definitely citrus, lemons? small honey, and a small hint of vanilla hiding in the background.

Not too shabby, but let's see how the palate holds up.

Mildly floral, some peppery spiciness, heather, peat smoke, malted barley, mild vanilla.

It's not incredibly complex, but mind you this is one of the entry level Benromachs, so I'm not expecting a heap of complexity anyway.

It has a mild finish with the peat being the leading man.

Not too shabby, a nice little whisky, which would run at around $70 or so AUS, which is reasonable for an entry level Speyside.  If you're looking for a whisky that's not as intense as an Islay, but isn't the normal run of the mill Speyside, you could do a lot worse then Benromach Traditional.

Nose:       20/25
Taste:       19/25
Finish:      17/25
Balance:    19/25

Overall:     75/100

Thursday, 5 December 2013


Whisky: Overeem Sherry Cask Strength


Overeem Sherry Cask Strength



Old Gold

I first encountered Overeem, a little Tasmanian whisky, at Whisky Live Perth this last year.  Before that I'd never heard of them.  At Whisky Live I got to chatting with the head distiller of Sullivan's Cove who suggested I give the Overeem a try.

And I was blown away.  Completely and utterly.  enjoyed their entry level whiskies, love their port cask strength, but it was the sherry cask strength that for me, took away the title best whisky in the show.

It was so awesome that I dragged my entire whisky club to the booth to try it, and everyone responded with whoa!

However outside of my local whisky friends, whenever I'd say that the sherry cask strength was my favorite, everyone would look at me and go "Really?!  Even more then the port cask strength?!  We all prefer the port cask strength, I can't believe you love the sherry cask strength, I mean it's great, but better then the port?!"

Those thoughts were echoed by fellow connosr member and good buddy, Systemdown, and even Jane Overeem, one of the owners of Overeem.  Everyone!


Oh well different strokes for different folks.

And then the latest Whisky Bible was released, and I wound up chatting with Jane over the phone and one of the first things she said to me was "Well I guess you're right."


Turns out that Jim Murray shares some of the same tastes as myself, he loved the port cask strength, but his baby was the sherry cask strength, giving it a 95/100.

Haha, I knew I wasn't crazy, or am I?!

Anyway this is one of my favorite Australian whiskies, one that I'd love to get as a Christmas present and seeing as how I've got a slight Christmasy theme going on in my reviews, I figured I'd do a write up on it.

This is bottle 34/135 from cask 32.

Love, Love the nose!

Big Christmas nose, spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, mint, cloves, dark fruits, sultanas, figs, raisins, plums, citrus, burnt caramel, mild vanilla, dark chocolate, some leather, the very faintest hint of meat (trust me it's there, pork crackling).

Yeah I definitely love that nose.

And personally I find the palate just as awesome, again the huge spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, the dark fruits, sultanas, figs, raisins, but they lurk in the background behind the spices, citrus, dark chocolate, cocoa, cocoa is dominating towards the end, with the spices, sweet fruits and bitter cocoa playing together in a way that has me grinning from ear to ear.

Even nicer is that I don't find the palate on this as hot as the port cask strength, so it'd be a good introduction to Aussie cask strengths in my opinion.

Super long finish, spices again dominating.

Yeah it's safe to say that I love this whisky.  I've had batches that were just great to batches that are phenomenal, as is the case with all single barrel releases, but I haven't had a bad one yet.

Price point is around $180 or so here in Australia, but you might struggle to find them in bottle shops as they're just gaining some traction here in Western Australia, but if you can find, it's definitely worth a purchase in my opinion.

Nose:      24/25
Taste:      24/25
Finish:     23/25
Balance:   23/25
Overall:    94/100

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tasmania Kicks Butt...Again!


Whisky: Overeem Port Cask Strength


Overeem Port Cask Strength




Full Gold

It's December which means Christmas is right around the corner I figured I'd post some write ups on a few of my favorite whiskies that I've yet to review.

First on the block is Overeem.  Specifically the cask strengths.  I've posted reviews of the entry level Overeems which are quite enjoyable, but as with most things whisky related in my life, it's the cask strength where it's at.

I'd encountered Overeem at the Whisky Live Perth this last year, which is where I first tried their entire Overeem range.  And I knew I needed some bottles.

This bottle is from cask 21, and as with the entire cask strength range of Overeem, sits at 60%.  I'm going to guess that it's roughly 4 to 5 years old, and has spent it's entire life in Port barrels.

This is bottle 103 out of 125 bottles from the cask.

The nose is very lovely, as with everything Overeem I've tried, with spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, burnt caramel, vanilla, grapes, and some slight citrus on the nose.

Big on the palate, the 60% makes itself known, with big flavors.  Some slight fudge, vanilla, lots of vanilla in fact, some of the spices, nutmeg more then cinnamon, grapes covered in vanilla, sultanas, delicious. 

The finish is big and spicey with the cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and more vanilla.

Once again I have to be honest I'm surprised at how much Overeem has impressed me within the last 9 months or so.  They literally came out of no where for me and have been consistently sitting at one of the top Australian distilleries in my opinion.  Even better is that they haven't priced themselves too far out of the Australian whisky market with their entry levels running at around $130 and their cask strengths sitting at $180. 

Tomorrow I review the Sherry Cask Strength, easily one of my favorite whiskies that is always in my cabinet!

Nose:      24/25
Taste:      23/25
Finish:     22/25
Balance:   22/25

Overall:    91/100

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Abbey's Twitter Tweet Tasting!

Whisky: Abbey Whisky's Ben Nevis 16 Year Old Rare Casks 3rd Release

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis 16 Year Old The Rare Casks Abbey Whisky



Old Gold

A Quick Note:  This Post will actually be two whisky reviews.  From the latest releases from Independent bottler Abbey Whisky.

A little over a month ago I was contacted by the owner of Abbey Whisky who asked me if I'd like to try a couple new whiskies that he'd just bottled and better yet would I like to try them in a tweet tasting.

I'd heard of tweet tastings before, tastings where whisky geeks from all over the world get together at one agreed upon time and try whiskies live on twitter, comparing notes on the spot with what do you think, what distillery, what age, everything.

To say that I was surprised and honored would be a massive understatement.  I would be thrilled to take part in such a tasting.  However when I was informed of what time the tasting would be my heart sank just a little.  Around 3am local Aussie time.  In the middle of the week.

Oh well who the hell needs sleep!?

About a week before the twitter tasting the whisky samples arrived, which partially surprised me considering the Aussie Postal Service.  Inside the box were 4 different whisky samples.  Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 1: Caperdonich 17 yr old (a favorite!)Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 2: Bunnahabhain 23 yr old, Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 3: Ben Nevis 16 yr old (a new one!) and a mystery dram!

Excellent!  A whisky that I love, a whisky that I enjoy and 2 new whiskies!  I've got to be honest I am a huge fan of Abbey Whisky's bottlings, having owned quite a few and sampled even more, I knew I was in for a treat.

Eventually the night of the tasting came along, wound up being a perfect day as everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, but I had Abbey's tasting to look forward in the wee hours of the morning.

I crashed at 9pm, having set an alarm for 2:30am, time enough for me to shower and wake up in time for the tasting....and ding! It's 145am and I'm awake.  Oh well as with so many things, it's easy come, easy go with sleep.  I hop into the shower to wake up and am at my desk in time for the tasting.  I log into Twitter, excited even though I'm tired.

Wow, there are some very well known people in this tasting, brand ambassadors, famous whisky writers, I've heard of everyone of them.  And I;m involved in this?!  Holy cow I'm going to learn heaps! 

We start with the Caperdonich 17 yr old which is a personal favorite, however while enjoyed by all of the other tasters, you can tell it's not a favorite for many of them.  We then move onto the Bunnahabhain 23 yr old which is an instant favorite for most of the other tasters, but is just enjoyable for me.

It's awesome to say the least being in this tasting, watching and typing in tasting notes live, sometimes seeing someone throw out an observation and other people pick it up.  Even cooler is that I seem to be keeping up ok.  I normally will take an hour or 90 minutes to review a whisky from start to finish.  Here our time schedule is about 30 minutes per whisky.  You can take longer if you want, but generally speaking everyone has moved on to the next whisky after 35 or so minutes.

We then move onto the Ben Nevis 16 yr old.  it's obviously a sherry cask aged whisky by the deep dark color.  It's a distillery that I've never tried before, but drove near it while my wife and I were in Scotland.  It's named after the biggest mountain in Scotland, and I'm so excited to experience a brand new distillery.

I pour half of my sample bottle into a fresh glencairn as how been my routine for this tasting, fighting the yawns and the grins.  I refresh my palate and start nosing the glass.

Definitely big sherry notes here, there's a faint burnt match/rubbery aroma from some sulfur, but it isn't unpleasant at all, in fact it's growing on me.  Spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, some chocolate, subtle smoke, tobacco, in fact cigar tobacco.  It's a bold nose and at one point I request that a bottle be set aside for me off the nose alone.  I'm loving it!

After about 10 to 15 minutes nosing the whisky it's time to taste,  some of the tasters are adding a drop or two of water after having tried the whisky neat, but I'm not, as is usual for me and my cask strength whiskies!

The Ben Nevis is clinging to the glass, quite oily, and when I take a sip it blows me away.  This is a whisky that drinks above it's weight.  It's big and bold!  Huge spices, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, nutty and chocolate, dark fruits, sultanas and raisins, leathery, delicious!

The finish is massive, long, huge in fact, again punching above it's weight with the sherry and chocolate just lingering.

This is an awesome whisky, huge and breathtaking, and bloody affordable at around $100ish AUS.  However if you're picking up a bottle you'll need to move quick as there's only 96 bottles in this outturn and at least one is coming home with me!

Abbey Whisky Rare Cask 3 Release: Ben Nevis 16 Year Old
Nose:        23/25
Taste:        23/25 
Finish:       22/25
Balance:     22/25

Overall:      90/100

Whisky: GlenDronach 1993 20 year old Abbey Whisky bottling


GlenDronach 1993 20 Year Old AW




After enjoying the lovely Ben Nevis 16 year old, Rare Casks 3rd Release, we were moving onto the mystery dram for the night.  It was a deep dark, almost black color. 

At this point in the tasting it's now about 415am or so for me, I've had about 4 hours of sleep and have just tasted half drams of 3 cask strength whiskies.

I'm having a massive amount of fun, really wishing that my wife was up and joining us, but she works even longer hours then I do and there's no way in the world she'll be able to get by on 4 hours sleep. 

But this tasting is brilliant, possibly one of the best tastings I've ever taken part in.  Roughly 3 dozen different whisky geeks, from all walks of life, enjoying the exact same whisky at the exact same time, all over the world.

And the night was going to end with a bang.  Up comes the mystery dram and the first thing everyone is commenting about is the color.  This deep, dark sexy color. 

People all over the world are nosing this whisky and there are exclamations of joy and surprise with wild guesses abounding!

It's a Glenfarclas, no it's a Macallan, no it's Aberlour, no it's an ancient grain whisky, it's young, it's ancient!

I'm right in there with them, guessing first a Glenfarclas and then I hesitate.

The nose is familiar, very familiar.  It's not a distillery that I've had much of, but there is a tingling in the back of my head.

Throughout this Abbey Whisky just calmly says "no" to all the guesses.  Heck we don't even know the ABV on the whisky, the only thing we know is that it's a sherry cask by the color.

Let's start with the nose shall we?

Typical sherry nose, but it's darn near perfect, none of the sulfur notes that you oftentimes will pick up from sherry buttes, no burnt matches or rubber or anything along those lines.

Just lots and lots of dark fruits, cherries, sultanas, plums, spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, it is just lovely plain and simple.

The nose is reminding me of something, something important. 

Everyone's tasting notes are flying across the screen, along with minor discussions on age and distillery of this mystery dram.

Tasting time, maybe that will give me the final clue.

Dark chocolate, coffee, leather, sultanas, figs, cherries, cinnamon, lots of nuts, almonds.  Reminds me of an older Glenfarclas, but that's not it.

The finish is long, intense, perfectly balanced with the sherry notes hanging on forever.

Where have I tasted something like this!?


It's got to be a GlenDronach!  The very last time I had a GlenDronach was while in Scotland while overlooking the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye, Roy our guide had given me an as unyet released cask strength GlenDronach, bottled by Cadenheads.

Just as I announce this happily and with heaps of pleasure, in my twitter feed appears the information that it is indeed a GlenDronach!

I was right!  Not that I could prove it as pretty much those tweets appeared at the same time, but I feel an enormous sense of pride.  I can tell most of the Aussie distilleries apart by nose, but I hate to say it, with the Scottish distilleries I sometimes struggle and feel a little bit like an idiot.

Huzzah for not being an idiot!

Let's jump back to the whisky details really quick as it's now been revealed what distillery this mystery dram is from.

It's a 20 year old GlenDronach, from 1993, cask 33, bottled at a cask strength of 59.1% with 592 bottles coming out of an Oloroso sherry butte, it was bottled exclusively for Abbey Whisky.

The bottles are currently selling for 90 pounds, including VAT which translates roughly into $140 AUS which is bloody good value in my mind.  I will be picking up a couple bottles of this one for drinking pleasure along with the Ben Nevis 16 year old.  However unlike my Caperdonich 17 year old (Rare Casks 1) these are all for semi immediate consumption.

Back to the tweet tasting!  As mentioned in the Ben Nevis review to say that it was an honor to be invited along, to sit with so many very experienced whisky bloggers and reviewers and even more to have my thoughts carry weight.  So many of these bloggers have THOUSANDS of twitter followers, I have 35 followers, and I picked up 9 through the twitter tasting.  To be allowed to express my thoughts about this whisky, these whiskies, in a serious medium, was just amazing.  Out tasting wound up trending #3 in the entire UK by the time we finished.  Literally thousands upon thousands of people, in fact possibly tens of thousands, wound up reading our words.  How cool is that?!

First off thank you Abbey Whisky and The Whisky Wire in including me in this tasting, secondly if you enjoy a really good sherry cask whisky I do believe you'll love Abbey Whisky's GlenDronach!

Nose:        24/25
Taste:        24/25
Finish:       22/25
Balance:     22/25
Overall:      92/100

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Something Awesome This Way Comes 2!

Whisky: Master of Malt Clynelish Batch 2 Boutiquey Whisky Company

Master of Malt

Clyenish Batch 2



Pale Gold

I work for a craft beer importer here in Perth Australia, I've worked here for almost 2 years now.  During that entire time I would talk whisky again and again and for the longest time there was no interest in us importing, distributing or even selling whisky.  We wouldn't be able to do enough in sells to justify it, our 9 litres of alcohol minimum purchase that is government required would ensure that we couldn't sell spirits.

Obstacle after obstacle stood in the way and I had resigned myself to the fact that we would never sell whisky.  I contented myself by making whisky suggestions to our retail sister store, some of which were heeded and some of which were ignored.

And then came Whisky Live and my wife's and my trip to Scotland.  I started being invited to whisky events around Australia and when my wife and I went to Scotland almost every distillery and bottler that we visited did something special for us.

When I got back, things had changed.  The bosses were interested in whisky.  We had a new manager for our sister shop and the bosses informed me that I was in charge of the whisky selections of both shops.  It didn't matter what I chose as long as it sold.

I started with what I term "shadow imports."  Whiskies that would come into the country in very small numbers, independent bottlers, etc.  Nothing that the big chain stores would carry, nothing that they'd be able to sell and the whisky took off in a way that I couldn't believe.

We were selling a dozen or more whiskies each week, no sooner then I'd place an order and most of it would be sold out, even before it arrived.  It was mindblowing.

I kept bringing up the possibility of importing whiskies into the country for sell, but there was no interest, none at all.

Fair enough.

At one point I was informed that if I wanted whiskies from any countries that we currently brought beer in from that it wouldn't be a problem, so late one Saturday afternoon I made a decision.  I wanted whisky from a very specific bottler, for both my store and my sister store.

I chose Master of Malt Boutiquey Company whiskies, 500ml bottles of cask strength small batch whiskies, mainly single malts, with an awesome comic book label on the bottle, usually showing scenes from each of the distillery's history, but sometimes just awesome labels.

That's what I wanted.

I emailed the bosses a list of the whiskies that I wanted, asking what it would run us to bring them in for our shop.  And when I got into work on Tuesday I got a massive surprise.

The bosses were thrilled, these whiskies looked dead sexy, reasonable price points, did I think we'd be able to sell these whiskies to other bars and shops?


I came up with a list of bottle shops, restaurants and bars where I thought it'd take off.  We made an order, and then that order doubled and was then doubled again.  The order has been placed and in a few months some new whiskies, never before seen for sale in Australia start coming in.

This sample is from Master of Malt which was sent to me months ago, in fact a few weeks before my wife and I visited Scotland.  And now with awesome toys on the way it's time to give it a crack!

This is Clynelish, which is the sister distillery to the legendary dead Brora, with a release of 319 bottles.  The label features three cats, a mother cat, a black cat who is Brota and a ginger tom, Clynelish, asking about eating cheeseburgers.  The mother cat is asking Clyenish why it can't be more like Brora who is very disdainful of his younger brother's labels.

God I love these labels!

The whisky pours a pale pale gold which is screaming bourbon barrels to me and is a slightly higher abv then the Highland Park that I recently tried, coming in at 50.6% ABV.

Let's tuck into the whisky shall we!?

The nose is so very fruity, melon, apricots, pears, peaches, honey oozes off the whisky in waves, hay, spices, coriander with some citrus, reminding me of a Belgian Wit beer, ginger, salt and the faintest wisp of smoke.

Very enjoyable nose, loving all the fruit and spices!

Time for a taste though, time for me to see if the body lives up to that nose!

Oh wow, I'm really digging this, oily, actually surprisingly oily.  Lots of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, heaps of toasted oak, my wife says it tastes like sucking on a piece of bark, I disagree, but hey different strokes for different folks, white peppers, lots of lemon zest and salt (is this a margarita?!), sultanas, dark chocolate, coriander, hints of pear in the background.

WHOA!  I am definitely loving this whisky, there is a long finish with big oak, pears, apples, faint smoke, and caramel.

I really enjoyed this whisky and even though I haven't had a lot of experience with Clyenish what I have had, makes me want to go out and explore it more.  I personally suspect that this is a rather young whisky (which as those who know me know I do tend to really enjoy young whiskies with their vibrancy and omph). While being quite a bit more complex then the Highland Park, it's still not such a huge whisky that a beginner would be intimidated by trying it.

As mentioned earlier the abv is higher then the Highland Park batch 1, but is still not at a high enough level where I would think people would be reaching right for the water.  However after these two Boutiquey whiskies that I've tried, both neat, I've decided that I need to go out and purchase some more samples and see how well they play with water with new flavors stepping out and such.  I think for Christmas I need to ask my wife for samples of all the boutiquey's because I'm really enjoying them at this time!

Nose:        24/25
Taste:        23/25
Finish:       21/25
Balance:     21/25

Overall:     89/100

Monday, 11 November 2013

Something Awesome This Way Comes 1

Whisky: Master of Malt Highland Park Batch 1 Boutiquey Whisky Company

Master of Malt

Highland Park Batch 1



Pale Gold

I work for a craft beer importer here in Perth Australia, I've worked here for almost 2 years now.  During that entire time I would talk whisky again and again and for the longest time there was no interest in us importing, distributing or even selling whisky.  We wouldn't be able to do enough in sells to justify it, our 9 litres of alcohol minimum purchase that is government required would ensure that we couldn't sell spirits.

Obstacle after obstacle stood in the way and I had resigned myself to the fact that we would never sell whisky.  I contented myself by making whisky suggestions to our retail sister store, some of which were heeded and some of which were ignored.

And then came Whisky Live and my wife's and my trip to Scotland.  I started being invited to whisky events around Australia and when my wife and I went to Scotland almost every distillery and bottler that we visited did something special for us.

When I got back, things had changed.  The bosses were interested in whisky.  We had a new manager for our sister shop and the bosses informed me that I was in charge of the whisky selections of both shops.  It didn't matter what I chose as long as it sold.

I started with what I term "shadow imports."  Whiskies that would come into the country in very small numbers, independent bottlers, etc.  Nothing that the big chain stores would carry, nothing that they'd be able to sell and the whisky took off in a way that I couldn't believe.

We were selling a dozen or more whiskies each week, no sooner then I'd place an order and most of it would be sold out, even before it arrived.  It was mindblowing.

I kept bringing up the possibility of importing whiskies into the country for sell, but there was no interest, none at all.

Fair enough.

At one point I was informed that if I wanted any countries that we currently brought beer in from that it wouldn't be a problem, so late one Saturday afternoon I made a decision.  I wanted whisky from a very specific bottler, for both my store and my sister store.

I chose Master of Malt Boutiquey Company whiskies, 500ml bottles of cask strength small batch whiskies, mainly single malts, with an awesome comic book label on the bottle, usually showing scenes from each of the distillery's history, but sometimes just awesome labels.

That's what I wanted.

I emailed the bosses a list of the whiskies that I wanted, asking what it would run us to bring them in for our shop.  And when I got into work on Tuesday I got a massive surprise.

The bosses were thrilled, these whiskies looked dead sexy, reasonable price points, did I think we'd be able to sell these whiskies to other bars and shops?


I came up with a list of bottle shops, restaurants and bars where I thought it'd take off.  We made an order that doubled and then doubled again.  The order has been placed and in a few months some new whiskies, never before seen for sale in Australia start coming in.

This sample is from Master of Malt which was sent to me months ago, in fact a few weeks before my wife and I visited Scotland.  And now with awesome toys on the way it's time to give it a crack!

Highland Park Boutiquey Whisky Company batch 1, 44.7% abv.  241 bottles in this release.

I'm sitting down for dinner with my wife, I've just poured it into a gift from another whisky company, a cut crystal glencairn, bloody well love the heft on this bad boy!

Pale color so I suspect it's mainly bourbon casks in this release.  The Boutiquey Whisky Company is completely NAS or No Age Statement and when I asked them months and months ago regarding this I was informed that the Macallan I was looking at had about 5-10% 5 year old Macallan with the rest of the spirit being 30+ years old, which explained the price.  If they'd gone with an age statement the bottle would have read 5 years old and who's going to pay a hefty chunk for 5 year old Macallan?

Also due to the blending of single malts this is not single cask releases, however from everything I can see they are bottled at cask strength.

Let's give this little guy a spin shall we?

The nose is both savory, spicy and sweet.  I'm picking up mushrooms, a bit of burnt meat, salt, big oranges, vanilla, caramel, sweet smoke, heather, honey, fruit, peaches.

Very enjoyable nose and a nose that requires that you spend some time with the whisky.

Time for a taste now!

White peppers, cloves, light peat, soft smoke, quite nutty, honey, citrus and apricots, big oak, bitter dark chocolate, vanilla.

Enjoyable, a good session dram, not incredibly complex, but very enjoyable.

A long oaky finish with soft smoke completes the whisky.

As I said before this to me is going to be a great session whisky.  If you want to sit there and play around with water and seeing what the nose and body will do you can, but if you'd just like to sit down and have a few drams after work and not think about life, you'll be able to as well.

Tomorrow will be the Clynelish batch 2!

Nose:      23/25
Taste:      22/25
Finish:     21/25
Balance:   20/25

Overall:    86/100

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

An Interview With Frank McHardy, 
Ex Master Distiller for Springbank Distillery

Recently I was able to sit down for lunch with Frank McHardy, Springbanks ex head master distiller.  It was an exciting experience to say the very least, meeting one of the legends of the whisky world, and over lunch Frank was kind enough to agree to an interview with myself.  Here is that interview.

SquidgyAsh: Let's start with a little information about you, You've been in the whisky industry for over 45 years, getting your start in 1965? at Invergordon, correct?

Frank McHardy: Good Morning Squidgyash. First of all you should appreciate that I retired from full time employment at Springbank Distillery on July 31 st this year . I continue to do " special " tours on the distillery's behalf and will also do the Springbank Whisky School during May / July 2014 . I also have my own company , Craigowan Distillers Ltd , and have set myself up as a " Consultant " within the world of Whisky/ Whiskey .I can advise on all matters regarding the production of the product and the design of new distilleries . I also carry out tastings on demand . I started work at Invergordon Distillery in March 1963 and was fortunate to be involved with Invergordon , Tamnavulin, Bruichladdich , Bushmills and of course Springbank .

SquidgyAsh: What were some of your highlights or greatest moments in your career?

Frank McHardy: I would say that the highlight of my career was to oversee the reopening of Glengyle Distillery in Campbeltown . I was responsible for the sourcing of all the equipment and the design of the layout of Glengyle Distillery . From the purchase of the building to the distillery producing Spirit took from 2000 - 2004 . Glengyle Distillery produces Kilkerran Whisky and the first of the distillation from 2004 will of course be 10 years old in early 2014 . Good excuse for a celebration.
SquidgyAsh: What made you get into the whisky industry?
Frank McHardy: I initially got into the Whisky industry because I need employment . One I moved to Tamnavulinn Distillery in 1966 I quickly realised that this was the career for me .

SquidgyAsh: At our lunch you were talking to me about the different methods in which Springbank distillery produces their whiskies, with the Hazelburn being a triple distilled non peated whisky, Springbank a 2.5x distilled partially peated whisky and Longrow being a double distilled heavily peated whisky. You're explaination on how the Springbank was distilled was extremely enlightening, would you be so kind as to explain it once more, this time for my readers?
Frank McHardy: Springbank is often described as being 2.5 distillation spirit and the way it works is as follows . We have three stills , one wash still and two Low wines / Spirit stills . The wash still produces Low Wines and they are stored in the Low wines receiver . Low wines are distilled in Low wines still no 1 and the total of this distillation is collected as feints in the Feints receiver . When enough Low wines and Feints are produced a mixture containing 80 % of Feints and 20 % Low wines are pumped to Low wines still No 2 . The middle cut of this distillation , average strength 71 % alcohol is retained as Spirit , The heads and the tails are returned to the Feints receiver . The process is known as 2.5 distillation .

SquidgyAsh: Springbank is a distillery that does things a little differently from everyone else in Scotland, controlling the entire process from malting the barley to bottling the whiskies, I've heard that the family that owns the distillery feels it's their obligation to help provide jobs in Campbeltown. Can you confirm or deny this for me?
Frank McHardy: Part of the reason that we carry out all of the processes from malting through to bottling is that we can control everthing in house . We also feel a responsibility to the people of Campbeltown and do take pride in providing employment in the area .
SquidgyAsh: With Springbank whiskies I've heard that almost all of the whisky is actually bottled as single malts as opposed to going into blended whiskies, is this correct? And if so why does Springbank bottle so much whisky as a single malt, unlike the majority of the other Scottish distilleries where the majority of their stock goes into blended whisky?
Frank McHardy: Pretty well 98 % of the single malt that is produced at Springbank Distillery is bottled as such . If you think about it there are so many blends out there with many being produced quite cheaply which we could never compete with. Springbank prefer to market their single malt as such and have a big following due to the fact that we carry out all processes on site .
SquidgyAsh: The whisky industry has changed radically in the last 40 or so years, moving from an industry where high quality sherry casks were plentiful, stills were fired with coal, and age statements were king, what do you see changing over the next few decades as more and more of the industry becomes driven by American bourbon casks, indirect firing of the stills and the rise of NAS whiskies. Do you think these changes will be for the better, the worse, or just different?
Frank McHardy: I think that we will continue to see the rise in popularity of Single Malt and especially that produced at some of the smaller and independent distillery companies . Casks , of course are all important , and I firmly believe that 60 % of the flavour in a single malt will come from the cask . There are still plenty of good Bourbon casks available and , while sherry is not such a popular drink , there are good casks being laid down in Spain and put through the Solera system especially for use in Whisky maturation .
SquidgyAsh: Most of the whisky affaciados that I know love Longrow the most of the Springbank line up, but I've heard that only 100 casks of Longrow are distilled each year, do you see an increase in that output in the future or no? If not is there any specific reason why the output of Longrow is so low?
Frank McHardy: All Springbank , Longrow and Hazelburn production each year is geared to satisfy future case sales and will continue to do so.
SquidgyAsh: Right now in Scotland and all over the world in fact, whisky is booming more then ever, however the last big whisky boom was in the 1960's to mid 1970's before the big whisky bust which saw the closure of many beloved distilleries such as Port Ellen, Brora, Banff, and St Magdalene, do you see a similar whisky bust in the future?
Frank McHardy: All distilleries produce to satisfy perceived case sales in future years otherwise you would have either shortages or " lakes " of products in future years.  I think that companies have learned their lessons as far as the " boom and bust " years and as I previously said tailor production to a fixed plan
SquidgyAsh: Do you have any particular favorites in the Springbank line up? Either a specific bottling or even a specific line?
Frank McHardy: I have had quite a few favourite Springbank bottlings over the years but I think that the current 18 year old is quite stunning . So malty , sweet , full bodied and rich that it a stand out to me .
SquidgyAsh: Springbank has been playing with lots of delicious different wood finishes such as Longrow Gaja Barolo, Springbank Calvados, etc, are there any new upcoming releases that my readers and myself, should keep an eye out for? Any words of advice for anyone of my readers looking to get into the whisky world, either as a drinker, collector, or someone in the industry?
Frank McHardy: The best thing to do as far as looking out for new releases is concerned is to keep an eye on Springbank web site which will give details . Finally I stress again that I am retired and Gavin McLachlan is the new Distillery Manager .
SquidgyAsh: Thank you very much for your time Frank, it's greatly appreciated and I look forward to catching up with you when my wife and I head back to Scotland in 2015!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Japanese Surprise!

Whisky: Hibiki 12 Year Old

Suntory Hibiki

Suntory Hibiki 12 Year old



Young Sauternes

A good friend of mine recently brought me a gift.  Half a bottle of whisky that he had recently purchased that he thought that I should try.

You see we're whisky friends.  Our friendship started when he came into my shop and purchased whisky and beer from me.  Then we started hanging out in a whisky club together.  Pretty quickly we were buddies with me advising him at times on what whisky he might want to purchase, whether through me or another shop.

At one point he was telling me about how much he loved this Japanese whisky, a blended whisky, called Hibiki.  A blended whisky that combined  single malt whiskies from the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries and grain whisky from the Chita distillery.  The whiskies were aged in American ex bourbon casks, European ex sherry casks and interesting enough American casks that had previously held Japanese plum liqueur.

My friend told me that this was a light whisky that he had immediately fallen in love with and had I tried it?

I honestly couldn't remember if I had, I thought I had, but wasn't 100% sure.  So my buddy said that he'd bring a sample by for me to try.

At the end of the week he brought the Hibiki 12 year old sample by for me, a sample that made my mouth drop open in surprise, as it was half the bottle or thereabouts.

This was way more then I was expecting, too much in fact.  Not at all my friend assured me, just enjoy it as I have.

That night when I got home my wife and I cracked the bottle open and poured it into our glencairns.

Oh my the nose!  The nose is unbelievable and oh so very lovely.  Very light, but surprisingly complex.  Tropical fruit, pineapples, rockmelon (cantaloupe), lychees, plums, oranges, heaps of vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, caramel.

Beautiful and very light.

The nose has really surprised me and has me very excited about finally taking a sip, to see if the body matches the nose.

Cloves, pepper, lemon peel, plums, again the massive vanilla, oranges, caramel, big oak.

Wow, just wow.  Absolutely delicious, and entrancing.  This is a whisky that begs me to take another sip, then another drink, then another glass.  Very dangerously delicious.

A long nutty, caramel and vanilly finish polishes off this whisky.

This whisky is brilliant and once and for all finishes the debate as to whether a blended whisky can be just as good as a single malt.  This little Japanese whisky blows quite a few of the single malts on the market out of the water quite easily.

In fact this whisky might just have become a new staple in my cabinet, especially with the coming summer months ahead.  However this whisky isn't the world's cheapest, coming in at around $120 up to $150 AUS and can be quite difficult to find in most bottle shops, however at that $120 AUS mark, it's worth the effort.  If you have to pay more then that though, move on, there's better whiskies out there at that price point.

My friend, you know who you are, thank you very much for introducing me to this whisky, now I just have to hunt down the 17, 21 and 30 year old bottles!

Nose:       24/25
Taste:       24/25
Finish:      21/25
Balance:   20/25

Overall:    89/100

Friday, 25 October 2013

The Whisky Shall Come To You Final!

Whisky: Ardbeg Uigeadail 


Ardbeg Uigeadail



Old Gold

A Quick Note:  As I've been sick lately and due to this I sadly have been unable to enjoy the beauty that is the water of life and folks have been emailing asking for more reviews I thought that I'd post some reviews that I did earlier for another website.  The following review was done on April 19, 2012. 

So my wife and I have been planning on going to the whisky bar in our city for months now. Every time we make plans SOMETHING always come up. I get called into work a day early, we can't afford to go out, a public holiday that we forgot about is occurring on the day we're going and they're closed or as just happened this last time around, my wife and I got sick.

This has been extremely frustrating for me as this bar has quite a few whiskies I've been meaning to try for a while and so as the day was ending yesterday I was feeling a wee bit down. To the rescue comes my brother in law! I get a text message from him saying "If you can't go to the whisky then the whisky shall come to you!"

A couple hours later my brother and sister in law arrive at the house and he brings with him a bag of whisky. In this bag are a couple whiskies I've never had before along with a couple I've tasted.

Now the first 4 bottles of his collection I just recently reviewed. The Macallan 10 yr old Sherry Cask, Sazerac Straight Rye Whisky, Johnny Drum bourbon, and Lagavulin 16 yr old. The last bottle on the tasting block tonight was the highlight of the night: Ardbeg Uigeadail!!!

Now as you may have noticed in my last review which was the Lagavulin 16 yr old, I'm not a huge smoke and peat head. Amusingly enough if you've ever had Ardbeg, pretty much any Ardbeg, you know it's ALOT of smoke and ALOT of peat hahaha.

I poured myself a hefty dram as I was going to be tasting this tonight and tomorrow for this review. I handed the glass to my wife who took one whiff and went "Whoa!! Burnt bandaids!!"

As I smell this dram I get sherry with smoke and peat and quite a bit of phenols. Now this is the second time
I've had this whisky, both from the same bottle. At this tasting the bottle had been open for several months and was down to just a few drams left. At the first tasting smoke with sherry and TONS of phenols and burnt bandaids came through. As I immediately noticed this bottle has opened up and oxidized and the nose profile has changed abit. I'm very curious as to how the flavor profile has changed.

My wife immediately declined to taste this bottle this time as she is very much not an Islay fan. So I'm blessed with just having this to myself!

Now this bottle is sitting at around 108.4 proof. And it does have that taste but it's not overpowering. On first sip the peat jumps to the front of my tongue and then smoke with the phenols, specifically the burnt bandaids. There is the taste of sea air on my tongue and some brine. For sweetness the sherry shines through. This is quite an enjoyable whisky. I've not had the Ardbeg 10 yr old or the Corryvakin yet and I'm keen to try them after this bottle. I'd be quite keen to also try this bottle just after opening and see how the flavors differ.

The finish is quite long with the alcohol biting quite abit and the smoke, peat and bandaids linger on the tongue for a while.

This is a very nice whisky and another one I wouldn't mind having on hand when I really want to taste some heavy smoke. However the price might be a little out of my range for a casual bottle. This bottle sits at around $135 AUS and can be a little difficult to put your hands on over here.

This is a good complex whisky, but I'd NEVER use this or any Ardbeg to introduce any whisky novice to Single Malts.

Now the ratings on this review are given based upon a bottle that has been oxidizing for quite a while and does tempt me to buy a bottle or try a newly opened bottle as soon as I can get a chance!

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

Overall:    92/100