Category Archives: A World of Discovery

Getting out of my comfort zone and into something so insanely magnificent, I had to write about it – Bodegas Valdespino’s Cardenal VORS Palo Cortado Sherry

 

Region – Spain – ABV – 22%

Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS (Valdespino)Guys. Gals. I’m headed in a fast and downward spiral into the world of sherry.

I’m in the rabbit hole.

I really hope others will join me. It’s an amazing world of flavors for us all to explore.

I’ve enjoyed my fair share of sherries (say that 3 times real fast) over the past 10 years or so but, as of late, I now find myself craving the Spanish fortified wine.

Cardenal Palo Cortado VORS (Valdespino)Normally, when one starts writing reviews for this or that product, they’ll start at the Chevy or Ford of that respective product.

I decided to begin with the Volvo P1800 of sherry.

This sherry I’m about to review is bad ass and one can spend forever and a day enveloped in its loveliness.

I could go into the details of various sherry types, how it’s made, etc… but I am no expert. If you want to know more, please be sure to visit sherrynotes.com

Bodegas Valdespino’s Cardenal VORS Palo Cortado Sherry:

On the nose — Absolutely amazing smelling. It noses a bit like a heavily sherried whisky.

Bodegas Valdespino’s Cardenal VORS Palo Cortado SherryGood oaky backbone with hints of menthol floating above notes of buckwheat syrup, crushed black peppercorns, toasted almond and coconut, damp autumn leaves, burnt pie crusts, toasted raw grain sprouted bread.

Magnificent. A perfect nose.

Bodegas Valdespino’s Cardenal VORS Palo Cortado SherryIn the mouth — Dry on the palate and intensely rich front to mid palate with lightening fast tones of fresh black grapes, oak chests you’ve inherited from your great-great grand father, coconut milk, treacle, licorice nibs and a mere hint of coal dust.

Bodegas Valdespino’s Cardenal VORS Palo Cortado SherryThe mouthfeel is lightly oiled. Kaffir (lime) leaves are noted on the 2nd sip and now I’m discovering just how salty this sherry is.

Building umami, chocolate covered raisins.

Finish — Rich and salty with lasting notes of menthol and mixed, roasted nuts.

In sum — As mentioned above, I’ve been dabbling in sherries for the past 10 years or more and this is easily the best sherry of it’s style I’ve ever had. Worth seeking out and shelling out a few shekels.

 

Things that’ve impressed the hell out of me this year.

 

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Things that’ve impressed the hell out of me this year?

Almost nothing.

2016 has be a crap year with too many good people dying and various tragedies that there just doesn’t seem to be an end to (take your pick).

Thankfully, there is whisky.

This single cask of Fukano Japanese whisky (distilled from rice), however, impressed the hell out of me.

Region – Japan – ABV – 41.8% (natural cask strength)

On the nose — Say what?! Nose this blindly and I would have guessed/assumed this was a 20+ year old Willett Rye.

Wonderful oak framing with a spiciness that is so rye-like.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Chocolate, Vanilla (with hints of raspberry) tarts and seasoned oak. Top note of acetone that plays well with warmed dill sauce.

Crisp starfruit that leads into notes of Mexican chocolate, deep vanilla and fresh coconut.

A better nose than most American rye whiskies I’ve had. Wonderful to find this profile in Japanese hooch. I could just smell this for 20min straight.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300In the mouth — Easy and oily entry with a growing waxy mouthfeel.  The palate is very similar to the nose but somehow, warmer.

Nutmeg and chocolate come to the fore but so does a great deal of vanilla bean.

Mild pickling spices, gentle yet rich red fruits, boozy butterscotch verging on Werther’s Original candies.

Fukano Japanese Whisky Cask 300Finish — Long and lovely (that’s what she said?) with lasting notes of a spiced vanilla latte.

In sum — I am massively impressed with this whisky. There have been some stand-offish nay-sayers when it comes to whisky distilled from rice.

I say – take the Pepsi challenge. Taste this blind and you will be more than pleasantly surprised.

At only $69/bottle, I suggest you grab one and drink the shit out of it.

Crazy good Balblair from 1993, matured in a first fill sherry puncheon, bottled by Gordon MacPhail

 

Region – Speyside – ABV – 53.4% ABV – Cask 1962 – First Fill Sherry Puncheon – This was around $150

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962It wasn’t long ago that I had a chance to sit down with my good friend Jonathan Bray to review this Balblair.

Actually, yes, it was quite some time ago…. back in May/June based on my tasting notes and the published date of Jonathan’s review. Ugh.

♬ Ti-i-i-ime is not on my side, no it isn’t! ♬ Where does the time go?!

My apologies to you, dear reader, and my apologies to Jonathan, for not getting this review up sooner.

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962On the nose — A host of notes you’d come to expect from a heavily sherried whisky: pickled walnuts, cherry pits, German brown bread, cola syrup, and dark bitter chocolate.

What you’d not expect (or maybe you would) is a quite present phenolic component giving off notes of a fireworks finale, burning cardboard, and what I can only assume is the scent of the Heaven’s Gate cult compound living quarters. They kept quite clean, as I understand.  You know, before the end…

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962A-a-a-a-a-nyway, I’m also detecting sulphured figs and dried papaya, too.

In the mouth — Chewy, unctuous, moreish, dare I say massive.

Tasting notes aside, my initial reaction is “damn, this is good tasting juice!”

Gordon MacPhail 1993 Balblair first fill sherry puncheon cask 1962Deep and dark fruits (insert Landry list here) which is countered by Balblair’s natural tropical fruit notes but they’re dried (more papaya, candied medjool dates, black currant, and interestingly some raw coconut flesh).

This is near flawless on the palate.

Finish — Perfectly timed tannins, sweet Thai chili sauce, decent length

In sum — While the nose presented some slightly off/sulphuric notes, the palate delivered in a way that few heavily sherried whiskies do. Stunning delivery of flavors and a finish that makes you want to sip more. Without getting into too much detail, the addition of water turns this into a vorpal +4 whisky of drinking. You basically roll a natural 20 on a d20 when adding water and the fruits just multiply.

Oy, Oi, Oy, this is a cracking good dram and if you can still find a bottle, you could consider yourself *very* lucky.  Not convinced?  Be sure to check out Jonathan’s review of this gem.

Westland Garryana – a new and true innovation in the world of single malt

 

Region – Seattle, Washington – 56.2% ABV

Not to be confused with Gary, Indiana…

Westland GarryanaWestland’s new Garryana single malt is a deep dive into the exploration of a new type of oak that few have used before. That oak is conveniently named after the whisky at hand (or is that vice versa? I think it’s vice versa. I’m sure of it. Yup, vice versa).

All single malt producing countries have access to  oak casks for maturing their whisk(e)y. The good bulk of those oak casks comes from right here in the US of A. The oak used to make said casks is called American White Oak.

(There’s a fancy schmancy Latin name for it, too, but I’m not that fancy schmancy so I’ll just stick with “American White Oak.” Plus, I failed Latin in my senior year of high school – Mrs. Whatsherface had it out for me. I didn’t want to fish for Carpe in that Diem pond, I told her!)

European Oak casks are quite common, too. You’ll find those are more widely used in whiskies that were matured using sherry casks (though there’s a lot of sherry matured in American White Oak, too).

Now, Japan is lucky. They have their very own Mizunara Oak which is quite loverly but who the heck can afford Japanese whiskies these days, not to mention Japanese whiskies matured in Mizunara Oak which is VERY leaky.

The French have their oak, too. That’s called French Oak. How convenient. That oak offers up nice, spicy flavors to whiskies.

Because we’re America, and apparently the winningest (or so we like to say over and over and over again) we’ve got another type of oak that grows specifically in the Pacific Northwest that is suitable for maturing whisk(e)y.

This oak is called Garry Oak, or, Garryana.

Having visited the Westland distillery a few times, and having once been in their warehouse, I had the luxury of tasting some single cask Garry Oak matured Westland. It was intense, for sure, but damn unique and quite delicious.  Westland has now been maturing single malt in a good number of Garryana casks and this release is the result.

Given the intense flavor profile of Garryana matured single malt, it makes sense that the use of this component makes up 21% of the over all mixture. The malt used in the Garryana casks, btw, is Washington Pale Malt. The rest is:

  • 26% Peated Malt (New Charred American White Oak)
  • 10% Washington Pale Malt (used American White Oak)
  • 43% Five Malt blend (New Charred American White Oak)

If you want to learn more about this wonderful single malt whiskey and the process of Garryana discovery, be sure to check out this Podcast:

Also, if you have a few minutes, be sure to watch this video (it’s beautifully shot, cool, informative, and fun):

Finally, without any further ado, my review of this new whisky from Westland Distillery. ***Spoiler Alert — it’s fantstic through and through***

On the nose — Chocolate, to be sure, but I expect that note given Westland’s use of Chocolate malt in their Five Malt mashbill.

Westland GarryanaDeep sweet notes of burnt sun dried tomatoes, crushed raisin with sugar and balsamic, sticky smoke, and herb rubs – like cleaning the BBQ sauce off your grill at the start of Grilling season.

Back to the more chocolatey notes, hints of mocha or cappuccino with a side of red velvet cake. Newly opened tin of oil paint tubes.

Also a swirl of melting and toasted, yet milky caramel.

Westland GarryanaIn the mouth — We’ll begin with the smoke but that’s immediately followed up with German brown bread and a side of carrot cake, cream cheese frosting and all.

Sweet meets ashy meets savory meets sweet again. The mouthfeel is oily verging on succulent – it’s big.

Westland GarryanaOn to the spices of ginger, nutmeg, and clove. I want to say smoked paprika but I wont. Forget I typed that, forget you read it. No, put it back in there. Smoked paprika.

White pepper, too.

Westland GarryanaAs we near the finish, that German brown bread makes it self be known again. This time with a raisiny fervor!

Finish — Long with a sweet yet smoky – like BBQ sauce with an umami-esque goodness.

In sum — This is one of the finest single malts I’ve had this year, hands down. Top 5 for sure. This is not only ticking all of the boxes as far as what I long for in a single malt, this has created new boxes I never even thought to look for.

**Special thanks to the good folks at Westland Distillery for the sample!!

Westland Garryana

Because it’s a Wednesday, I feel like having some 66yo Glen Grant in my glass. 1948 was a good year, no?

 

Region – Speyside – ABV – 46.6% ABV

Glen Grant 66 years old 1948 cask # 1369

**UPDATE** Shortly after I posted about this whisky, an announcement has been made that a 65yo Glen Grant will be bottled/released by the same Wealth Solutions/Gordon & MacPhail team. I *just* received this email. Kismet!

I’ve been sitting on this sample of the Wealth Solutions/Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 66yo single malt for a bit over a year now.

There was never one singular moment in time that seemed like the right time to taste this. I’m not sure there would ever be *THE* right time to taste it.

Because of this, I’ve decided not to wait for the right time and just live in the now.

What’s happening now is happening now-now.

Back in May of 2014, there was quite a to-do when this single cask was released:

It makes good sense that this would be released with such fanfare. How often does 66yo whisky get released?

Answer: not often. It’s kind of a big deal.

Without further ado, here is my review of the 1948 Glen Grant, 66yo, cask # 1369:

On the nose — Well, it smells as amazing as you might expect. How does one explain what a 66yo whisky smells like? It goes beyond tasting notes (though we will get to that). You can smell the age here, but it’s not age, it’s oaken maturity.

The initial note that hits me is cocoa butter.  After this I detect muddled mint.  Hay clippings and clean horse stables.

Hidden far beneath a veil of lace-like peat is a wonderful note of key lime sorbet. Grape seed oil.

The warm soft bellies of my kitties – comforting.

In the mouth — Very light, fairly bright. The oak comes through but this in no way is popsicle stick dry. Medium oily mouthfeel.

Fruity, like an astro-pop and spearmint chews. The farmyardiness is gone and is replaced with a floral presence. Wild flowers, not pretty “forgive me” flowers.

Wonderfully nutty and the cocoa butter is detected in flavor, too. Getting more floral now as we near the finish.

Finish — Chamomile and hibiscus and UK smarties. Long. Wonderful.

In sum — Sort of amazing. It’s nice to know that after 66 years the wonderful Glen Grant character is quite present.

The fact that I am lucky enough to have been given a sample of this fine whisky blows my mind. Many, MANY, thanks to the good people at Wealth Solutions for thinking of me.


There actually is a “why” to explain my reasons for tasting this one right now. I raise this glass and experience to a very sick friend. A toast to you in the hopes that you may heal soon.