‘Tis the season to be FREEZING YOUR A$$ OFF!
Good G-d, y’all, it’s cold here in Connecticut. We’re talking 15°F (-9°C for the rest of the world).
You may remember that we have, here on the blog, a place for you to go and find the perfect whisky to suit your mood or the season we happen to be in (you can click the image below to get a larger view of it).
We hope that that link will help you to pair whisky with your life. Like pairing a nice heavy bodied Cabernet Sauvignon with a dish of Pasta Fra Diavolo, we feel it’s important to pair whisky with what’s going on in your life.
Failing the Ardbeg and Glenfarclas, I might suggest the following two chilly weather, super sherried, warmers:
1992 GlenDronach – 19yo, Cask #161 – 59.2% ABV – £??
On the nose – Wow, this is a HUGE nose (we’re talking about the whisky not my big Jew nose)! Massive notes of apricot jam, a bit of wood smoke, pool water, clean church pews, a toasty baguette and salted and tinned nutty notes.
Really massive. Can not impress that upon you enough.
Deep, sweet berries (raspberry and lingonberry) boiled with sugar and pectin – making berry preserves/jam!
Some dried fruit in here but not as much as expected (not a bad thing – this is a great nose).
Molasses and buckwheat honey (if you mixed the two). You’d never know that this is almost 60% Alcohol (120 proof).
Tons of nutmeg and ginger and spice (ginger snap cookies?).
Finish – Very, very long – spicy, chocolatey and with some more apricots – like warmed apricot and walnuts really.
In sum – Can I just say… ummm… wow. One of the best sherried single cask whiskies I’ve had this year (if not *the* best). It’s like drinking a wood paneled study and an over stuffed leather chair (I imagine Oxford or Yale professors marveling over this one while discussing quantum mechanics). A contemplative dram and winter-warmer-upper for sure.
You may want to scour the whisky auction houses or eBay for this one as it seems to be all sold out – the beauty and difficulty of single cask whiskies.
1991 GlenDronach – 19yo, Cask #2406 – 55.4% ABV – £88 (£73 ex-VAT tax)
On the nose – A bit of an alcoholic nose (you can sense that the ABV is pretty high on this one).
Balsamic vinegar doused shoe leather – if you’re able to imagine such a combination… Sweet and a tad herbal but the sweetness overtakes with notes of spiced dates and fig jam and a few dashes of white pepper.
Some citrus in here as well with hints of key lime but mostly a marmalade note (again, spiced).
With water the nose warms up quite a bit. That vinegar I got is gone and the peppery quality is boosted and there is an addition of milk chocolate here now.
On the mouth – This is a hot one that’s got a good deal of sweetness on the front but the heat is a bit much to get past to dissect. Let’s add a squirt or two of water…
Worlds of difference! A multitude of steeped hot teas and some licorice notes (licorice tea?). Nice chewiness to the fluid.
Finish – Long and spicy on the sides of the tongue with the tobacco as a nice lasting note.
In sum – I’m not sure if this is a 1st fill or 2nd fill sherry butt. Based on the color, I’d say it as 2nd fill or just not an overly active cask. However, the quality of the spirit shines through here and I enjoyed the spiciness to this whisky. It’s not my favorite GlenDronach but one that I could find myself reaching for when I’m looking for a bit of an invigorating malt. Perfect as a morning pick me up or one to warm up before you head out to shovel the winter’s snow fall.
If you’re not a member of the SMWS(A) then the Extravaganza would be the only place you’d get to try their Single Cask, Cask Strength whiskies (they always 5 of their bottlings to sample from at these shows). And while that’s all fine and dandy, not being a member means you are excluded from access to their 60 or so whiskies they release on a yearly basis (about 5 per month).
Being upfront, I am not an employee of the SMWS and do not receive any compensation to tout their goodness. I’m just a proud, card carrying member of the society and have been wowwed enough times by the whiskies they release (and I buy) that I feel comfortable in saying that you should consider becoming a member.
Again, with being upfront, I will tell you that not all of their whiskies are winners. I’ve have had a few bottlings, here and there, that were just not up my alley. We all have different palates so it makes sense that I’m going to find one that the society loved and I just did not.
Last disclaimer – the whiskies being reviewed below were samples given to me by the SMWS – special thanks goes out to Gabby for the samples!
“Pass the Flapjacks” – 50.42 – 18yo – Refill ex-bourbon Hogshead – 56.9% – Bladnoch – $130/bottle
On the nose – A sweet, yet light nose. Fresh honey crisp apples, cotton candy and cola barrels (those brown hard candies). Unbaked sweet buns; heavy on the sweet unbaked doughy notes. Not a super complex nose but very warming/inviting. With water, those buns start to bake a bit but that apple sweetness goes away. Milk chocolate fudge.
On the mouth – Very hot, alcoholic and sweet. More apples and honey. I think it needs water. Celery and salt (but not celery salt – I’ve gotten this mix before from other whiskies). Cinnamon and cinnamon red hot hearts (with that added sugar from the candy). Water calms it down a bit and brings out more of the honeyed quality.
Finish – Medium in length, some slight drying and an apple sweetness comes through.
“Chutney on hot wood” – 71.33 – 20yo – Refill sherry butt – 57.4% – Glenburgie – $140/bottle
On the nose – I think the SMWS notes provided on the bottle (which I read afterwards) hit it on the head with the French onion soup note – beef stock, onions and sharp cheese all wrapped into one. Cooked ginger and heavy sweet rum cakes. Spiced & cooked nuts and dirty socks – reminds me (a bit) of the SMWS Macallan 24.111. I think it’s the type of sherry cask (Amontillado perhaps?).
On the mouth – Very sweet and savory with combined notes of liver and onions and hoisin sauce. This is an odd duck that shouldn’t work but does; and in a very cool way. No water needed here. The attack is welcome and the flavors are aggressive. Nice drying effect toward the end.
Finish – Warming, savory and woody yet not overly so. Long.
“Old Fashioned Tea Chests and Maple Candy” – 125.48 – 12yo – Dechar/rechar ex-bourbon hogshead – 52.1% – Glenmorangie – As of Dec 14, 2011, this is yet to be released.
On the nose – Very very sweet. Scents of ice wine and Halls cough drops – menthol and all. Under ripe stone fruits. Danish butter cookies (I love butter cookies!) and an old shalalee. White berries (gooseberry mostly). With time, the Glenmorangie character really comes through. Like and intense and spicy Glenmorangie Original.
On the mouth – Woody (as expected with a dechar/rechar cask). I’m getting notes that I’d usually associate with a sherried whisky like dried fruit and leather yet there’s also flavors I’d normally find in an ex-bourbon barrel like vanilla, pencil shavings and cinnamon.
Finish – Short finish. Tannic and leathery.
“Alice in Wonderland whisky” – 27.90 – 10yo – Refill ex-bourbon Hogshead – 50.6% – Springbank – $90/bottle
On the nose – Smoldering beach fire with wet drift wood (think of thick salty smoke here). Not unlike and ashtray. Peppery as well. Excuse me while I sneeze. Hidden, way in the background is something sweet… Pixie stix?
On the mouth – Sweet and smokey and sooty and burnt and doused fires and burnt sugar on creme brule and motor oily with a side of brazil nuts.
Finish – Insanely long – imagine enjoying this at a construction site while a parking lot is being laid while you are eating bit-o-honeys.
“Desperate Dan whisky” – 127.9 – 9yo – Refill ex-bourbon Barrel – 56.9% – Port Charlotte – $90/bottle
On the nose – A bit of a shy nose but unmistakably peaty – not smokey, peaty. Also, extremely medicinal and… sterile and things that should remain sterile like old folks homes and hospital beds. Also some dried cardboard in here (perhaps more of the tails cut in the original spirit run?). Dried pineapples.
On the mouth – Tropical fruits all around – pineapples, star fruits and ever a floral quality to it. Spicy too. Burnt microwave popcorn. Did I mention that the mouthfeel was big, oily and lush? Very nice.
Finish – Long and hot and drying.
In sum – This was a wild ride. Five completely different whiskies from the same bottler. While I’d not reach out for every bottle here, as one who loves to explore whisky, I could do this again and again. In the end, was there a winner (other than me or you, should you try something like this)? It’s got to be the 71.33 – Glenburgie. I loved the mix of flavors, balance and complexity.
Nearly two years ago, Jason Johnstone-Yellin of guidscotchdrink.com had a great idea: bring together 12 prominent whisky bloggers and hold a monthly conversation regarding whisky; the ins, the outs… everything and anything whisky-related.
In case you’ve missed the previous year’s Whisky Round Table Discussions: click here to catch up.
This month, rather than ask a question of us, Whisky Round Table Knightess and Knight from Whisky For Everyone (Karen and Matt) challenged us to a task. Being the type of person that always picked “DARE” in the game of Truth or Dare, I said GAME ON! Cha-longe!!
Here is what we knights were asked to do:
Pick two or three members of your family and select a whisky drink (this can be straight dram, with a mixer or elaborate cocktail) or whisky & food pairing that you think they will like. Try to mix it up – pick an auntie who ‘hates whisky following a bad experience’, your brother who always asks “what’s the best thing you’ve tried this week?” or your dad who you are just trying to impress. You get the idea … hopefully! Make them begin to understand about the fantastic spirit that is whisky and why we all love it so much.
You can read all of our answers here. Thanks to Karen and Matt for coming up with this great challenge!
Not all of the members were able to partake in this month’s WRT question/challenge. Notably, Keith Wood of Whisky Emporium could not partake due to a death in the family – Keith my sincere condolences go out to you and your family. May the memory of your loved one always be for a blessing.
As a reminder, the valiant Knights (and links to their blogs) of this round table are:
Chris – Nonjatta
Keith – Whisky Emporium
Karen & Matt – Whisky For Everyone
Ruben – Whisky Notes
Mark – Glasgow’s Whisky (And Ale)
Neil & Joel – Caskstrength.net
Lucas & Chris – Edinburgh Whisky Blog
Jason – Guid Scotch Drink
Gal – Whisky Israel
Mike – Whisky Party
Peter – The Casks
Joshua (hey, that’s me!)– The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society
Again, for all of the Whisky Round Table discussions, click here.
This story from Islay concerns an overly ambitious distillery manager and a few members of the islay farming fraternity and serves as an example of greed and its consequences.
Now this particular manager considered himself worthy of promotion to the board of directors and was using every opportunity to impress the powers that be of his worth to the company.
He had hatched a master plan to increase the profitability of his distillery almost immediately and with little actual effort on his part…..increasing the cost of one of his waste products, in this case draff (what is left of the grain after fermentation). It is used for animal food, and thus squeezing more money out of the farmers who depended on the draff to supplement their animal feedstuff.
The farmers were less than pleased with this move and decided to resist such overpayment by boycotting the distillery.
The manager was certain that, given time, they would return begging him to resume supply.
After some time of stalemate between them, the draff began to accumulate until it completely filled the distillery courtyard to the height of a man and channels had to be dug between departments. The manager refused to budge.
Then disastrous news was received at the distillery office: the directors were arriving by plane in 2 days time with VIP’s to tour the site.
Action stations were sounded and all hands were employed to remove the draff to a safe haven up the hill. The mess was cleared with the use of hoses and with brushes and the anticipated visit was declared a success by one and all.
Soon afterwards the farmers were forced into submission and agreed to the manager’s harsh terms. He told them the secret location where they could collect their animal feed and they set off to do so. When they arrived at the spot the draff had vanished like snow off a dyke.
The island’s deer popuation had scoffed the lot.
Which just goes to show that THE FURTHER YOU TRY TO CLIMB THE TREE THE MORE YOU SHOW YOUR BACKSIDE!
A big thanks goes out to Bill Morgan for submitting this funny story. All of his entries/stories can be found here.
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.
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.