Walsh Whiskey Tweet Tasting

I was invited to take part in another whisky – or in this case whiskey – tweet tasting recently, but was unable to take part due to a last minute change of plans. I tried the usual suspects to see if they would like to take part but no one was free. Seeing as how I had the samples, and I said to the chaps at Walsh Whiskey that I would let them know what I thought, I thought I might as well to a wee tasting myself.

The tweet tasting included four samples supplied by Walsh Whiskey Distillery, if you have never heard of Walsh Whiskey then you may have heard of some of their bottlings, namely the Irishman and Writers Tears which have won several awards over recent years. They are an Irish company which only recently started producing their own whiskey, but they also have a range of blends, single malts and Pot Still bottlings that they sell while waiting on their own stuff maturing.

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The tasting pack came with a folder including some distillery information and some information behind the whiskeys that we would be trying on the evening. The samples were as follows:

  • Pot Still New Make Spirit – 75.5% ABV
  • The Irishman 43% ABV
  • Writers Tears Copper Pot 40% ABV
  • Writers Tears Red Head 46% ABV

I tried to not look at my twitter feed before I had my wee sampling session as I like going into things blind and not be led by what others found in the drams, hopefully I’m not too far off the mark, so let’s get to it!

Pot Still New Make -75.5% ABV:

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In Ireland there are 3 main types of whisky produced. The first two, malt and grain whiskey, are quite common, the third is a little bit different and this is known as single pot still whiskey. Single pot still whiskey, as it sounds, is produced in a single pot still, the same style as those used for malt whiskey. The difference here though is that the mash bill will comprise of both malted and unmalted barley. This sample has come from the Pot still side of production at the Walsh distillery.

Nose

This is a very sweet and fruity character of new make, and very light as well, as a result of the triple distillation. The big thing that comes through on the nose here for me is apples and fresh berries – mostly brambles (black berries) for me – with a light suggestion of malt, and a lot of sugary sweetness. With time, baked apples, yoghurt coated raisins and bruised pears. There is remarkably little alcohol on the nose for how strong it is.

Palate

Well. There is the alcohol, and a strange bitterness too through the development. On the palate there isn’t much to discuss, there is a bitter-sweet grassy note, again a touch of apple and thats about it. New make is always a strange thing to try; I’ve never been a big fan of drinking it. It is always very fruity and sweet on the nose, almost sickly sweet. Then on the palate it has a big blast of alcohol and the flavours are more driven by the grains used. There is good reason they lock this stuff away in a cask for years on end, it’s drinkable, but not overly palatable.

The Irishman 12yo single malt – 43% ABV:

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The Irishman is a single malt – back on familiar ground – that has been triple distilled and then matured in 1st fill Bourbon casks, meaning they have been used previously for the maturation of Bourbon in America and this is the first time that they have been used for the maturation of Irish whiskey. Being matured solely in first fill casks and being triple distilled I’m expecting some big cask influence to come through here.

Nose

It’s quite unusual on the nose this one. The first thing that comes across to me is green apples, but not fresh apples, it’s almost like a synthetic green apple sweet taste. This is accompanied with rich oak, demerara sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon, vanilla and some coconut too, and strangely enough I think I can get strawberries here too. You can tell straight away that fresher casks have been used here as there are quite a few Bourbon-like characters coming through.

Palate

Wow, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here, I hate using the word smooth in relation to whiskey but this just is, it is so smooth and light on the palate, its lovely. A good amount of spice comes through on the palate; there is some white pepper, nutmeg and again a slight sprinkling of cinnamon. Nuts are fairly prominent here too with coconut again and a fatty almond-like taste too, all with a good pasting of golden syrup over the top.

Writer Tears, Copper Pot – 40% ABV:

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Copper pot is a blended Irish whiskey comprising of around 60% malt whiskey and 40% Pot still whiskey, no grain whiskey is used in this blend. All the content has been triple distilled and has again been matured in former Bourbon casks. This blend is sort of a remastering of an old recipe, known as the ‘Champagne of Irish Whiskey’, which is said to have been enjoyed by many writers in its day. It is said that they enjoyed drinking this so much that when they cried their tears would be Whiskey – alcoholics!

Nose

Like with what we have tried so far again apples are quite prominent, red apples this time. Plenty of sweetness too here with a lovely milk chocolateyness, salted caramel and a creamy vanilla custard. There are lots of fruits present too with nectarines, strawberry jam and kiwi fruit, as well as a pear cider-like smell. All finished off with milky porridge with drizzly honey on top.

Palate

More spice is present here with vanilla, ground dried ginger and cracked white pepper. The apples again come through with over ripe pears and dried orange. It is also quite woody on the palate with bitter tannins and a fair amount of drying woodiness, which is joined by the slightest touch of cask char through the development and bitter dark chocolate.

Writers Tears, Red Head – 46% ABV:

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The final dram of what has been an excellent selection thus far. The Red Head is so named as it has been matured solely in Oloroso sherry casks, though to my eyes it isn’t hugely darker than the other samples so I’m assuming it must be mostly refill sherry casks. Like the others this has also all been triple distilled but this one is again a single malt and not a blend like the Copper Pot.

Nose

It is definitely refill casks that they have used here and I think it’s is just as well, the light character of Irish whiskey would be completely dominated by the use of first fill sherry casks resulting in you basically getting sherry, the fact that they have used refill casks means that it still actually tastes like whiskey as opposed to sherry, which personally, is what I want my whiskey to taste of! There is a gentle aroma of fruity Oloroso sherry with raisins, mixed peel and walnuts, as well as a nice sherry cask spiciness with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. There is a big note of pear drops to start with which over time merges with the other aromas creating a strange carrot cake-like nose.

Palate

The spice from the casks is much more robust here with a fiery ginger mouth feel accompanied by cinnamon sticks and crushed cardamom pods, as well as a drying sherry oak wood character. Dried fruits and mixed peel come through with baked apple pie and rum and raisin ice cream. The development becomes quite tannic but is lifted by a honey character which rides through to the finish.

Well. That was a lovely wee tasting. I wish so much that I had been able to take part in the actual tweet tasting as I’m sure it would have been a great night and it is interesting comparing notes with others. I must say a massive thank you to Steve Rush from the Whisky Wire and the good folk at Walsh Whiskey for providing the samples, and also apologise for not being able to take part in the night. I will definitely enjoy what’s left of these samples and may have to look into getting a bottle of the Writers Tears Red Head, my definite favourite of the four.

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Sláinte

Gary

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Wemyss Malts Tweet Tasting

On Wednesday, the 9th of November, I was invited to take part in a Wemyss Malts Tweet Tasting, hosted by Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire. If you have never heard of a tweet tasting before then it is exactly as it sounds, you get sent out samples then at a certain time on a certain date you savour the delicious drams and tweet live your thoughts with others who are partaking. On the night in question I was also joined by Richard from the Edradynate whisky club, a repayment if you will as he and Hugh let me join them on a previous tasting which they had been selected for, as well as him being a fine chap indeed.

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On the night we were given the opportunity to try three of Wemyss’ new Batch Strength blended malt bottlings, all ranging between 54.5% and 57%ABV, as well as a premixed Rob Roy cocktail. The blended malts that we would be sampling were all launched just last month and are all limited edition, to just 6000 bottles of each. Each of these blends will use signature malts, from all across Scotland, which are used to define their main flavour’s and aromas, which lead to the names they are given i.e. Hive, Peat Chimney.

The Blended malts that we were given to sample were as follows:

Wemyss Malts The Hive (54.5%ABV)

Wemyss Malts Spice King (56%ABV)

Wemyss Malts The Peat Chimney (57%ABV)

All of which were proudly labelled as Unchillfiltered and natural colour, absolutely smashing!

I was getting rather nervous as the tasting approached and my samples still hadn’t arrived in the mail, I think a lot of people were in the same boat here, bloody couriers. Then, finally, about 5 hours before the tasting was meant to begin there was a knock on the door. Low and behold it was my samples, the relief and excitement was amazing. A sleek brown cardboard box with a trio of blended malt delights and an intriguing cocktail, and not a moment too soon!

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As 7pm arrived, samples ready to be cracked open, it was time to get stuck into some whisky! So here is how the night went, and my thoughts on each blend.

The Hive Batch Strength:

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Nose

It becomes apparent straight away as to why they have called this one hive, immediately on the nose you are met with a rich and earthy Manuka honey and loads of waxiness. The hive has an almost savoury nose; there is sweet beeswax candles, fatty smelling almond butter and savoury rice cakes. With time more sweetness comes through with salted caramel, mixed peel and a light suggestion of marmalade and suet dumplings.

Palate

The palate is just totally different from the nose. There is so much more richness and spice pushing its way through, backed up by a good dose of alcohol. The hive is very lively on the palate with nags of woody spice, especially nutmeg, milk chocolate and a touch of salt.

Spice King Batch Strength:

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Nose

For me the nose had a lot of similarities to the Hive, that fatty, waxy aroma was still present, again with honey, a touch of peat smoke and a bit spicier too. Both of these first two drams had a lot of similarities and put me very much in mind of Clynelish. The nose is quite maritime with sea spray, spice, caramel, burning heather and digestive biscuits. It’s very exciting!

Palate

The Spice King is very big on the palate; the smoke that was really soft on the nose is much more prominent now. Vegetal/earthy peat, white chocolate and bitter lemon rind, with time and a dash of water more fruitiness and nuttiness comes through with sultanas and diced walnuts.

Peat Chimney Batch Strength:

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Nose

As the name may suggest, yes, this is peaty, but its not overly smoky smelling. It smells of damp, vegetal, smouldering peat, damp grass and like the others quite coastal and mineral rich too. After smoke time in the glass it becomes a bit meatier too with smoked gammon/pork crackling.

Palate

The palate is hugely drying and also a bit fizzy; there is a big blast of smoke, like burning leaves, and heaps of chilli too. The meatiness from the nose also comes through on the palate but to me I was more like meat flavouring, it reminded me a lot of McCoy’s flame grilled steak crisps – if you have never had them then get them tried! – it’s a very odd tasting note I know. And a bit of icing sugar dusted over the top too to tame the smoke.

Rob Roy:

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This was a very divisive part of the evening, the whisky ‘purists’ were somewhat offended but as always with whisky drink it how you like it, be that neat, with water, ice or even in a fantastic cocktail such as this. I am quite a fan of a good Rob Roy and so I was looking forward to this. It wasn’t like a Rob Roy that I had ever had before, firstly because it was made using peated whisky, their Peat Chimney, and also had sherry and cherry bitters in it!

The recipe was as follows:

50ml Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney – Batch Strength

30ml Sweet Vermouth

10ml PX Sherry

10ml Demerara Syrup

Dash of Cherry Bitters

I would definitely recommend trying this cocktail, or others, as cocktails are a great way to enjoy whisky, and can bring a whole new dimension to what is a great spirit.

And with that, the night was over, the highlight for me was definitely the Spice King and everything else a very close second. Thank you so much to Wemyss Malts for providing the drams for the night and to Steve Rush at The Whisky Wire for hosting. Also to Richard for his company and for drinking half my samples…

Sláinte

Gary

Clynelish 14yo

After a prolonged period of hiatus, for no particular reason, I am getting back into the swing of writing tasting notes to go with my drams as opposed to just sitting and enjoying them. So to get the show back on the road I am taking a look at a whisky that is apparently held in high regard by ‘connoisseurs’. It is the official bottling of Clynelish, at 14 years old.

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Now, before I start getting into the review and tasting the whisky and all the rest there is an issue I feel I have to raise regarding the packaging. It states rather proudly on the packaging that this distillery was founded in 1819 which, if you know your distillery history, is not technically true. The Original Clynelish distillery was indeed founded on this date, but the distillery which this spirit came from was not built until around 1967/68. This is as on this date a second Clynelish distillery was built next to the first. The first, and original, being renamed Brora before being closed just a few years later. It just seems a bit unnecessary to bend the truth here as it’s not going to affect someone’s decision in buying the bottle, it just a bit daft to me. Anyway, swiftly moving on.

Clynelish is a Northern Highland distillery, situated on the coast, in the village of Brora. Like I said previously the distillery that this Clynelish came from was built around 1967/68 and like so many of DCL’s distilleries that were built/rebuilt/extended at this time it was constructed in their modern ‘Waterloo street’ style. A style that can be seen in many distilleries today. A curiosity of Clynelish is their still house. They have six stills at Clynelish, three wash and three spirit, all of a boil-ball design, yet the spirit still are larger than the wash stills unusually. Diageo unveiled plans for expanding the distillery mid 2014 which when completed will see the distillery producing circa 9m LPA.

For the Clynelish 14yo we are looking at I am happy to say it is bottled at higher strength of 46% which would likely mean that it hasn’t been chill-filtered, though I can’t find a solid answer to that, and I doubt that this is natural colour but I could be wrong.

Nose

This is a classic Northern Highland whisky. There is earthy Manuka honey, butter scotch, salty sea spray and a maritime spiciness to it too. The first thing that comes forward with this dram is that there is a pronounced sherry cask character coming through. It’s not overly sherried though, it is certainly mainly refill casks that have been used here. Dates, stewed figs and raisins backed up with a maritime spiciness. Sweet vanilla, white pepper, a light dusting of nutmeg and again a salty tang. There is also this classic Clynelish waxy character coming through as well, Clynelish is a very waxy dram and it really does smell waxy on the nose, it’s remarkably like beeswax candles. As well as this there is a fruitiness with notes of lemon rind, bruised pears, tangerines and dried mixed peel. The nose is finished off with fresh almonds, a Turkish delight-like aroma and the gentlest whiff of smoke.

Palate

The palate starts off sweet with runny honey and white chocolate before quickly becoming very bitter and drying. It’s very woody on the palate and really cask dominated. Drying, tannic seasoned oak comes through with nutmeg, tobacco leaves and damp sawdust. After this blasting of woodiness there is bitter lemon rind, bay leaf, coriander and again that almost waxy character with a perfumed heathery taste. The salty tang becomes prominent again about halfway through the development and carries on right through to the finish.

Finish

The finish is medium in length and has a fairly waxy mouth feel. There isn’t a great deal to say about the finish. The bitterness and saltiness from the palate just carry on through the finish with a light amount of spice and tonnes of woodiness. A slight touch of smoke mingles in with the bitterness but it’s fairly nondescript.

Well, I must say for a whisky so revered and held in high esteem by so many I must say I was a bit disappointed, but everyone has different tastes. The nose here was a definite highlight, the nose was so busy and inviting, but when you go to taste it it just falls a bit short of expectation. I think that it is just as well that they bottled this at 46% as I think if it was presented at 40% it would be pretty underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong here, I still enjoyed this whisky, I’ve already enjoyed about half the bottle and will definitely enjoy the second half just as much, it’s just that for me I would like a bit more liveliness on the palate. For a 14yo whisky at a pretty reasonable price – usually around the £40 mark – I think the nose is certainly up there amongst the best for this price range, but for my taste the palate and finish are not quite there. But that is the wonder of whisky; everyone has different tastes and like different things.

Sláinte

Gary

 

Tomatin Tasting at The Royal Mile Whisky Shop

I have always been a big advocate of Tomatin, everything of theirs that I have tried has been of great quality and very characterful, though I have tried much less of their range than I would like. So when my good friends Richard and Hugh of the Edradynate Whisky Club informed me that they had a ticket going spare for a Tomatin tasting at the Royal Mile Whisky shop how could I possibly refuse?

The tasting was held at the Royal Mile Whisky shop in Edinburgh, funnily enough on the royal mile – who would have guessed – and was hosted by Tomatins current Master Distiller, Graham Eunson. I always enjoy going to tastings when you get someone who knows the ins and outs of the distillery and production and know their product inside out instead of just repeating some marketing bumf, and the chance to enjoy some fine drams of Tomatin with the man who makes it was a real treat!

As soon as we arrived at the shop we were handed a dram of the Tomatin 12yo, an excellent ‘entry level’ bottling with loads of character for its age, to get our palates going while we waited on everyone else arriving. We arrived about 10 minutes before the tasting was set to begin so we savoured our sample and wandered around the shop looking at the countless bottles of whisky and chatting away.

Once everyone arrived and Graham introduced himself and gave us a bit of his story we got down to the tasting. The first whisky of the night was the Tomatin 12yo, which we had been enjoying while waiting on everyone else arriving. Graham generously topped up our glasses so that we had something to nose while he took us through our first of the drams on offer that night, which I was very grateful for, I’m not in the habit of turning down extra whisky and I certainly don’t plan on starting! The 12yo is a lovely introduction to the style of whisky you get from Tomatin. There is lots of fruitiness, mainly green fruits with apples and pear, and also a good amount of nuttiness, followed by a lovely buttery, cereal character. It feels like a very traditional and old fashioned style of whisky which I personally really enjoy.

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Dram number two for the evening was a real highlight for me, it was the Tomatin 14yo. This whisky has been finished for between 1.5 to 2 years in Tawny Port casks, which had previous held Port for around 30 years! This is an incredibly rich and spicy whisky, with a lot going on. On the nose there are prunes, liquorice, red berries and earthy Manuka honey followed by heaps of spice, toffee and winey goodness on the palate.

After having tried these two core range expressions we then moved on to something a little more unique. The third and fourth whiskies of the night were two single cask bottlings of Tomatin, both of which are actually exclusive to the Royal Mile Whisky shop. The first single cask bottling was an 11yo Tomatin aged in a 1st fill Barrel. This one was right up my street with a heady mix of banana, coconut and vanilla, it was like a very boozy banana sundae, very boozy at a respectable 56.2%ABV.

The second of the Royal Mile Whisky exclusives was a 19yo 1997 vintage Tomatin which had been matured in a Refill Sherry Hogshead, a very unusual cask type in the industry today. Limited to just 178 bottles and presented at 58.2%ABV this whisky is amazing! There is a huge tannic grapyness upfront on the nose accompanied by cloves, black pepper, dark chocolate and just the slightest whiff of smoke. With a few drops of water much of the fruit pushes past the spice and the alcohol, bringing more of those dried fruit notes that you would associate with sherry cask maturation.

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After having sampled two very good single cask whiskies we went back to the core range for what would be our fifth dram of the night. Dram number five took us to the peated side of Tomatin with their Cù Bòcan, and this was actually my first time trying this expression. I can’t for the life of me understand why it has taken me this long to find this bottling, I’ve heard really good thing about the Cù Bòcan and I can see why. The smoke is very light on the nose joined by aromas of citrus peel, vanilla and good drizzle of honey. On the palate the peat smoke is far more intense and is accompanied by pepper, caramel and again citrus.

With that the ‘official’ part of the tasting was over but Graham, being the fine gent that he is, had an ace up his sleeve. He produced an unbranded bottle with just a sticker on it and began going round pouring measures of it. This was a very different style of whisky indeed; it wasn’t like anything I had ever nosed before. It was like a very intense and fresh fruit salad with strawberries, kiwis, gooseberries and nectarines, carried by a dousing of runny honey and white chocolate. Graham said that this whisky was at around 45-46%ABV which I found hard to believe. He then let us know that what we were in fact tasting was a 1976 vintage Tomatin matured in a refill Hogshead, drawn straight from the cask the day previous! A 40yo single cask Tomatin! Just wow, and unfortunately this one was not for sale, though that is probably a good thing after having tried it I would be far too tempted.

I was very torn on my favourite dram of the night, the last one obviously a highlight, I really loved the 14yo with that strong Port cask influence but the 11yo single barrel was very good indeed. In the end I decided to get myself a bottle of the single cask as they were the same price, with my tasting discount it came to only £40, an absolute steal for an 11yo single cask whisky! I plan on cracking it open very soon and I will be sure to do a review of it when I do.

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I’d like to thank Richard and Hugh for the ticket, Richard especially for being the designated driver – I hope he enjoys his samples when he gets round to it – and Royal Mile Whiskies for hosting yet another great tasting. A massive thank you also to Graham from Tomatin for his excellent presentation and for providing such good whisky for the night, especially that 76’ vintage, wow!

Sláinte

Gary