Four, count them, four single cask whiskies bottled by Master of Malt

There is no shortage of Independent bottlers of whisky and to me, that’s a good thing.  The more the merrier.

The independent bottler offers to the whisky consumer (both newbies and veterans) a bit more of an adventure into the wide world of whisk(e)y.  Please understand, I’m not down on distillers’ own bottlings (E.G. Highland Park 18yo, Arran 14yo, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, etc…).   What I am trying to point out is that Independent bottlers allow the consumer more variety and flavors and other ways to love the distilleries they’re already familiar with.  Their bottlings also allow for newbies to whisky a different way to “get into” whisky.

LONG LIVE INDEPENDENT BOTTLERS!

Master of Malt is not only a whisky/spirits shop but they also independently bottle single casks of whisky from time to time (and seemingly more and more often).

Here is a link for a comprehensive guide to Independent Bottlers (as found on Serge’s whiskyfun.com).

Today I am reviewing four single cask bottlings from Master of Malt:

  • A 20yo Single Cask of Cragganmore,
  • A 13yo Single Cask of Highland Park,
  • A 14yo Single Cask of Dalmore,
  • and, finally, a 27yo Single Cask Dailuaine whisky

Cragganmore 1991 20yo

Speyside Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 54.2%ABV – £49.95

On the nose Light, perfumed and a bit salty smelling.  Very floral (if you have a significant other who digs whisky, get some of this for her or him.  You can’t drink a bouquet of flowers but you can drink this!).  Some latex glove notes which seem to be oddly mixed up with pine nuts.  Ashes from burnt notebook paper with a side of white pepper.  A bit of a biting nose – smells of 54.2% ABV…

Coming back to this and the peppery quality really stands out.

On the mouth Slightly vicious mouth feel, good attack.  Fruit salad, half dried-out orange wedges and, if I’m not mistaken, an owl barn.  Water cress, sugared lemon slices and a touch of butterscotch.

Cedar wood shavings which is now leading up to the finish…

Finish Drying, long and filled with those sugared lemon slices I got on the palate.

In sum  This is a solid, solid, Craggy.  One that’s geared more toward the late spring or early summer; a mid-day dram to pick you up a bit.

Highland Park 1997 13yo

Islands Region – refill ex-bourbon hogshead – 57%ABV – £44.95

On the nose Vitamin E gel caps (those gelatin, vitamin E fluid filled pills) and medicated Band-Aids™.  Some notes of unripened stone fruits (apricot, peach, etc..).  Orangey baby aspirins with a side of cherry tarts; or vice versa…

A smokey undertone, with medicinal overtones, hospital beds & sharps disposal cans.

On the mouth Sweet & smokey attack right upfront with a creaminess that hits the spot.  Back to the citrus but more toward tart lemons or perhaps kumquat (teehee).  Polypropylene pellets quickly becoming plastic containers via plastic injection molding machines.

Magnifying glass + sun + brush and branches = a flavor I’m tasting here.

Finish Drying, smoky and medicinal.  A touch of oak and vanilla and after about 30 seconds, marzipan

In sum As a Highland Park, I’m not a fan.  This is nothing like any HP you’ll ever taste.  Take away the name and it’s a pretty good whisky!  It’s not mind-blowing but it’s fun and interesting.  I’d suggest using this as one to fool your friends with.  They’ll never guess this was a Highland Park.

Dalmore 1996 14yo

Highlands Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 57%ABV – £44.95

On the nose  An oaky influence and all things Bourbon: pencil shavings, toasted almonds and model glue.  Fresh and bright as well as a touch of toastiness and even a touch of brine.  This is a Dalmore??  Dried apricots and vanilla cream.  Walnuts, almonds and get this, egg whites.

An enjoyable nose; a vibrant nose.

On the mouth What, what, what?  Where did the 14 years of aging go?  On the outset, this whisky tastes A) YOUNG & spirity and B) and a bit like a grain whisky or a young blend.  After getting used to how different the flavor is as compared to the smells, I’m presented with hints of maple syrup, orange rind and orange juice and very puckering fresh white wine grapes (stolen off the vine during a vineyard tour).

Hi-octane ice wine.

Finish Peppery finish, long and offering up some apricot

In sum The nose, wonderful.  To taste, however… from the get-go I was very disappointed.  I warmed up to it a bit once I began to understand it but in the end, it’s not one that I would reach for.  For the price, it might be fun to explore however there are some better single cask whiskies offered up by Master of Malt (and other indy bottlers) that you can spend your money on.

Dailuaine 1983 27yo

Speyside Region – Refill Sherry Hogshead – 53.6%ABV – £64.95

On the nose  This is an interesting mix of scents and jammed into a tight little package.  We’re talking soy sauce (with a side of ginger slices) meets wood char meets dandelion jam.  On top of this, there’s a nice ooey honey center and something a bit like spiced gum drops yet not like spiced gum drops… spicy nutmeg cakes maybe.  I can’t pinpoint it but the scent is near intoxicating.  Reminds me of cold nights with lots of family and LOTS of holiday heavy cakes.

Rum raisins (and the sugared raisins you find in a bowl of Raisin Bran™).

On the mouth Loads of raisiny spice notes.  Cinnamon swirl bread, Cinnamon Toast Crunch™.  Flavors aside, let’s look at the mouthfeel – Slightly viscous with a tinge of effervescence.  Hints of orange spice.

Do you see a theme here?  SPICE! (desert planet, Arakis.  Mother!!  The sleeper has awoken!)

Finish A sweet finish with some warm butteriness to it.

In sum In all honesty, I bought a bottle of this stuff halfway into reviewing it.  No shit.

This is a kick-ass bottle of single cask Dailuaine and oh-so-perfect for colder/cool weather.  It’s warming, comforting, soothing, delicious.

Special thanks goes out to the fine chaps and chappesses from Master of Malt for the samples!

The Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch #3 – US exclusive

Speyside region – 50.3%ABV – $250 (picture shown is from Batch #2)

Last year (or so; maybe a bit earlier) I heard about a new distillery only bottling from The Balvenie: Tun 1401.

Tun 1401 was an experiment by Master Blender David Stewart to mix multiple casks or in a large, 2000 liter tun (or, mega-cask), marry the whiskies over the period of a few months in the Tun and see what happens.  David Stewart being who he is knew exactly what would happen (being 50 years in the business (all of those years with The Balvenie & Glenfiddich) there’s no doubt he knew what he was doing).

My guess is mixing these casks allowed him to use older stocks that might have been too woody to bottle by themselves; tempering with younger whiskies and getting a good mix of sherry & bourbon matured whiskies for a nice, balanced yet complex, cask strength whisky.

Well, the “experiment” worked and all of the Tun 1401 bottles sold out right quick!  Now what do to? Capitalize on the sucess of the whisky and make it more widely available, that’s what!

David got to work quickly on batches #2 & #3.  The second batch is for the UK/EU market while batch #3 is for the US.

I asked what whiskies were in the batch (batch #3) and here’s what was returned:

  • Tun 1401, batch 3 is a vatting of 10 casks (7 Bourbon Cask, 3 Sherry butts), which were laid down during David Stewart’s time at the distillery. Each was hand picked by David for this special vatting.
  • The oldest cask is from 1967, the youngest from 1989
  • The whiskies were married together in a traditional marrying tun, which has a capacity of roughly 2000 liters. The marrying process took place in Warehouse 24 and lasted roughly 3 months
  • Total of 1800 bottles available.

So, how did they do it?  How is it really married?  See the video below.

How is the stuff?  Well…

On the nose  Hey now!  Those classic honied notes you get from The Balvenie are very pronounced in this whisky.

On top of it, you can smell the age in this whisky – dank oaky notes, fresh rain on a woodsy walk in the springtime and crushed sassafras leaves.

Wonderful autumnal notes in here too – warm cinnamon apple sauce, fresh cardamom, and the smell from a warm Maine cottage (like the one from On Golden Pond, just drying the summer humid air out of the wood).

I’m also getting some blueberry sauce and wood framed model airplanes (model glue and all).  Ah, memories of building model airplanes with my dad in north western Connecticut in the late 70’s.  Love it.

On the mouth Thick, vicious, oily mouth feel with a warming sensation that starts from the tip of the tongue down to the belly.

This is what to drink in cold weather for sure!!

Flavorwise, I’m getting much of the same on the palate as I got on the nose.  There’s no evolution here from smell to taste but in this case, I’m happy about that.

Finish Long drying finish that’s got both a nice oaky quality to it but now there’s a strong introduction of date bars.

In sum A big thanks goes to The Balvenie for giving the US the entire batch of this stuff.  I love The Balvenie (that’s no secret) but The Balvenie at cask strength and of this quality is something to be very thankful for.  I hope to buy a bottle of this stuff (and/or hope that I find it next to the family Chanukiah (Chanukah menorah) this winter.  Fingers crossed!!

Thanks to Andy Weir for the sample!

The 18th Annual Scotch and Single Malt Extravaganza fall schedule is here & I have a discount code for your tickets!

What is the Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza? In short, it is a top notch, gala, whisky tasting event (mostly single malt Scotch and Japanese whiskies) that travels to 14 major markets including Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

I was at the 2011 NYC event and it was fantastic.

As you may or may not know, I am a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (of America). And in case you’re not aware, the SMWSA does a series of tasting events called “The Single Malt & Scotch Whisky Extravaganza“. The “Extravaganza” is now in it’s 18th year. If you’ve never been to one of their events, you may want to change that, and soon!

Perhaps I can help. I’ve been working with the good folks at the society and they were kind enough to extend to me a discount code for my readers; specifically for people who are not members of the SMWSA. Tickets to one of their Extravaganzas, for members, are $120.00ea, non-members are $135.00ea. If you use the discount code JMSWS2011, those of you that are currently not members can purchase your first two tickets at the member price of $120.00. Not bad!

For more information on the SMWS events and on how to purchase your tickets, click here.

See below for a full listing of their Fall events schedule. I always jump at a chance to meet my readers so, for those wanting to come out and meet yours truly, I will be at the Boston event and will be doing my damnedest to get to the Chicago event.

L’chayim/Slainte/Cheers/Kampai!

An interview with Dr. Bill “Billy” Lumsden of Ardbeg and Glenmorangie

A short while back I had the good opportunity to interview one Mr./Dr. Bill Lumsden.  Billy, as his friends call him.  Actually, this interview was about a year and a half in the making.  When I had heard that Glenmorangie & Ardbeg went for OU Kosher certification for the US market, I had it in my head that I should interview Dr. Bill.

Even though this is a blog for ALL whisky lovers (be they people just getting into whisky or whisky veterans), it is called the “Jewish” Single Malt Whisky Society so I imagined that the kosher-keeping Jews who followed our blog would want to know more.

So I reached out to David Blackmore, Global Brand Ambassador for Ardbeg and Glenmorangie, and he vowed to set it up.  Sadly, and for many different reasons, the stars never aligned – until now!

Bill shared some good information with me including some details on the Glenmorangie Private Edition release, the next Ardbeg and what might very well be another few Ardbeg releases in the near future.

A big thanks goes out to David Blackmore for setting this up and another to Dr. Bill (Billy) for being such a great interviewee.  We had a lot of fun!

Enjoy! (a bit of patience, please.  You may have a wait a short bit for the Soundcloud player to load below)

So you’re aware, I missed my train to NYC to meet with David and Bill so we moved the interview from the offices of Moet Hennessey to wonderful restaurant downstairs, Colicchio & Sons (yes, Colicchio as in Tom Colicchio of Top Chef).  That being said, there’s a bit of background noise/music/chatter.

Lastly, the last word in the interview got cut off.  In case you couldn’t tell from the context, Bill’s last word was “Interesting”…

Stories from the good ‘ol days of whisky – Volume 1: “Clumper, the Clydesdale Horse and the Clearac”

Today begins a new series here on The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society’s whisky blog; one that will be featured on the first Thursday of every month.

A couple of months ago, whilst in Scotland, I had the good opportunity to meet up with a certain Mr. Bill Morgan.  In fact, as part of our tour, Bill & his wife Carol were kind enough to treat me and the rest in the JSMWS whisky tour to a wonder dinner: Tapas.  One one my favorite things.  Bill, carol, thank you again!

You might not know who Bill Morgan is but you should.  Having worked professionally in whisky between 1965 & 1996, chances are if you’re a whisky drinker he’s helped to make the whisky you’ve enjoyed for the past, let’s say, 50 years or so.

I asked Bill if he could give me a quick overview of his history in whisky and he said:

Briefly speaking, I worked for my father in the floor maltings at Cardhu hand turning malt till they closed in the mid sixties and was transferred to Cragganmore where I soon became head warehouseman. 

Bill Morgan during his days at Tamdu as a malting barley buyer

I moved to Highland Distillery’s Tamdhu site where I did almost everything possible during my 26 years employment.  These included Saladin box worker, maltings shift work, barley intake and analysis, Group Laboratory worker/senior lab assistant, microbiologist, conducting laboratory hygiene surveys at all sites and micromalting.  My career in management with Highland distilleries included Assistant manager /Malting manager at Tamdhu, relief manager for all sites, malting barley buyer and finally 2 years as acting manager at Highland Park.

A lot has changed since my time with Highland distilleries (now Edrington) but the sites back then (pre-1996) which I worked in on surveys and as relief manager were Tamdhu, Glenrothes, Glenglassaugh, Bunnahabhain, Glenturret Highland Park and Glengoyne.

On top of this, Bill has a degree in Biology; Membership in the Institute of Biology and Food Scientists/Technologists and had a paper on distillery bacteria published in Institute of Brewing journal (and developed a new agar medium to grow and count these bugs).  So let’s just say, Bill is quite an accomplished guy! (oh, and he was born at Dailuaine!)

As you might imagine, having been literally born into whisky and being in the business professionally for 50 years… Bill’s got some great stories.  For the first installment, Bill has decided to share the following one with us:

Clumper, the Clydesdale Horse and the Clearac

The cast: Robin Scott the horseman, Mr. Harpic the gauger (he was clean round the bend) and the horse.

When a business man founded a malt whisky distillery in the latter part of the 19th century he soon concluded that a means of transport between his distillery and the nearby railway station was critical to its success.

Enter our intrepid heroes, Clumper and his Master Robin!

Robin was a huge, ugly creature with a nose like a red pin cushion and a large black beard that some say provided a safe refuge for a large crow family.  He was frugal with his diet, which consisted of  porridge, egg, wild game, fruit and vegetables.  None of these cost anything for as well as being a born thief he was a canny Scot.  Robin would steal the pennies from the eyes of a corpse and the sugar from your tea.  Mr. Harpic, the customs and excise officer, was a dapper little Sassenach resplendent in sports jacket and flannels and homburg hat.

Clumper The Horse!

Clumper loved his oats and had a nasty habit of biting the bums of passers by who got too close to his front end. It was also somewhat foolish to venture to within firing distance of the other end when his tail was up.

The cunning plan……………………

Our intrepid thief concocted a cunning, fool-proof plan to steal Whisky galore from under Harpic’s nose.  Robin had been watching Harpic closely and had deduced that the officer was a creature of habit who shared his fellow countrymen’s addiction to tea, at 10 a.m. precisely Harpic would adjourn to the gauger’s office for refreshments. Drinking his tea at his office window he could keep a beady eye on the filling store exit.

During one such filling the bold horseman entered the filling store at 5 to 10 and filled a bucket with water from the tap and carried it out to give to Clumper, this pattern remained unchanged for several weeks before Robin began to delay his exit to coincide with Harpic’s appearance at his office window viewpoint with his tea.  His suspicions were arisen but he decided to watch and wait till the horse was offered the contents to drink.

After a further 3 weeks of Clumper obliging to consume the water Harpic became lulled into a false sense of security regarding the horseman’s motive and reduced his scrutiny of man and horse.

A Switch in time…
Robin was ready to act.

Before entering the store he concealed a bucket of water behind the cart and out of view of Harpic’s gaze.  When the gauger departed for morning tea he got his friend, Bald Rick, to fill his empty bucket with clearac and waltzed towards the horse and cart.

Glancing towards Harpic’s empty window he realized that the gauger had taken his eye of the ball and slipped behind the cart and made the switch. By the time Harpic appeared again Clumper had his head in the bucket. After his tea the gauger went back to the filling store and the intrepid duo escaped.

This ploy carried on successfully for a few weeks until one day DISASTER STRUCK.

Harpic forgot the key to his office and was forced to return to the store. Fortunately for Robin, Jock Strapp was having a smoke at the door and managed to issue a timely warning.  With a burst of speed, remarkable in one so porculent Robin switched the bucket for an empty one and proceeded to fill it with water.  The gauger collected his key and set forth to brew his cuppa.

Robin saw his chance…he switched the buckets again and strolled out of the door, clutching the Water of life.

Which only goes to show that you can take a horse to water and make it drink.

Glossary….

Clearac is New Make Spirit – unaged spirit right off the still

Gauger is an excise man,

Harpic is a brand of toilet cleaner and a Sassenach is one emanating from Englandshire.

Porculent is not a real word but it sounded right…

Bill, thanks so much for sharing your story with us!  I look forward to the next installment.