Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lighting the Beacons

On the 7th November we were excited to have Welsh distiller Penderyn at the club for an incredible tasting session.

Previous experiences including all previous tasting notes can be found here: http://manchesterwhiskyclub.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/rhyfeddod-cymru.html

Over the course of the evening we samples the Penderyn 41 madeira, Penderyn Madeira, Penderyn portwood, Penderyn Peated and a very special last dram..

Rather than type up a load of notes about what went on. Why not have a look at some of the videos below and see for yourself!

... MD Stephen and Chairman Neil also brought along with them a special bottling for us to try too. An Olorosso mature single cask Penderyn weighing in at 50% vol.

Penderyn Sherry Single Cask

 Nose - Wonderfully balanced sherry sweetness without overpowering the other notes of herbs, orange rind, medjool dates, raisins and home made chocolate brownie.

Palate - Surprisingly fresh and crisp, sherry very playful across the tongue. Notes of dark chocolate, butter fried boxing day christmas pudding, tinned fruits with cream and vanilla.

The colour of this dram is something in itself, it is not as dark as an older sherry whisky but it looks very fresh, ambient and sprightly in the glass.

A real treat and huge thanks to Stephen and Neil for coming up and taking the time to take us all through the history and styles of Penderyn. Later on I found out a fair few clubbers had gone out and bought bottles of Portwood and Peated after the tasting!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Smoke in the Water

Yet more fantastic work from Jack

On all hallows eve 2013, the Manchester Whisky Club met to take on an array of peaty whisky head

This was our first fully peated lineup featuring 5 drams not only from peat's spiritual home of Islay but included a few surprises from elsewhere too. Where? Let's have a look...

Tomatin Cú Bócan- (Highlands) 46%

First up we started off with one of the new releases of 2013. Highland distiller Tomatin (whose core range we tasted back in February), have just released their first official peated release.

Named after a mysterious specter in the form of a large black dog that is described as being seen 'once in a generation', that was supposedly sighted one night by a distillery worker many years ago. He was relentlessly pursued by the beast when, in an inexplicable moment of madness he turned around and

faced the creature. He extended his hand and upon touching the large black tooth bearing hound, it vanished in a puff of smoke that then crept back along the peat moor... So, all that nonsense aside on to the whisky.

Nose - We had notes of vanilla, slight almond, and some mentioned citrus content.

Palate - Quite thin, a few honey and star anise notes alongside apple peel and golden syrup, finally opening to reveal a relatively thin smoke.

Finish - The finish is quite long and lingers. Some sugary and vanilla notes associated with the bourbon aspect of its maturation are present.

Peated at 15ppm this is light and delicate. In all honesty a few people commented more emphasis had been placed on the packaging and marketing than the spirit inside.

Millstone Peated - (Netherlands) 40%

After being revealed to the club after tasting. This one caused a bit of a stir as not only was this not an Islay whisky, but wasn't even from Scotland or the UK!

Zuidam's Millstone Peated is a 5 year old small batch pot still whisky bottled at 40%.

Nose - Quite spicy and close, a bit clunky if anything. Notes of blood orange, blackberry, pepper and a bit of cream. There is a constant burnt log background to it. A burnt oak log covered in blackberries and cream if you will...joking.

Palate - A rich peated note makes itself known immediately with honey and Tunnock's wafers and a spicy punch.

Finish - The peat lingers alongside cloves and plenty of wood influence thanks the the american oak barrels used for the malt's maturation.

Overall a pleasant surprise for everyone! From memory no-one in the room had tried any dutch malts previously and provided our first hint of peaty things to come!

Bunnahabhain Toiteach (Islay) 46%

Next up a very interesting bottle of whisky. Bunnahabhain is well known as being one of if not THE lightest peated spirit from Islay. However, here they have taken a different approach to their 'Gentle alt' approach and have released a heavily peated Bunnahabhain!

Nose - The nose was a tough one, everyone noted how musky and closed it was. Some notes of polished oak, a bit of dark chocolate and burning tyres..hmm

Palate - A completely different story here and this is where the Toiteach (Gaelic for smoky) came into
its own. Notes of burnt raisin, treacle toffee, cloves, and the punchy peat. Now when we say 'heavily peated Bunnahabhain' we're not talking Laphroaigian or Ardbegian levels here but for a Bunna it's got teeth. The peat worked wonderfully alongside notes of milk chocolate and roast chestnuts.

Finish - Long and rich, the peat starts to soften now with plumb crumble and black cherry.

An interesting Bunnahabhain for certain and whilst not throwing as many peat punches compared some of it's Islay counterparts, this 11yr old malt certainly stands up well. An interesting contrast between nose and palate as the nose certainly wasn't the best start.

BenRiach 17 Septendecim - (Speyside) 46%

Now. What's this? A peated Speyside whisky? Are you mad? Nope... well.. a bit. But peated whiskies have been leaving Speyside's green lands for many generations. In fact, it is aid that back in the late 1800's and early 1900's Speyside's staple style revolved around peated malts. Not the rich sherry monsters we know and love today.

BenRiach are one of the few independent distilleries still in operation and have in fact been so successful they have since bought GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries. The majority of Benriach's expressions are non peated with many sherry finishes, rum finishes and wine finishes. However, our of 2.3 million litres of spirit that the distillery produces, around 150,000 is peated and the distillery only runs peated spirit for 6 weeks of the year.

Nose - Playful and sprightly for a whisky of its age. Rich vanilla, orchard fruit and lots of heather honey with a lovely rounded peat note throughout. There are Speyside notes here that give hints to its location.

Palate - A thick oily mouthfeel (always a good sign) carries a fantastic spicy warm peat through onto the palate. The peatiest so far in fact and with it came cinnamon, lots of malt and cereal with yet more honey and salted caramel.

Finish -  The gift that keeps on giving. Pink peppercorns, and golden syrup with the peat slowly fading. Delicious.

A fantastic BenRiach which really shows off the distillery's diversity. The 17 offers a lot of bang for your buck and BenRiach can hold their heads up high with this release. Impressive.

Kilchoman 100% Islay 3rd Edition (Islay) - 50%

Kilchoman (pronounced Kill-ho-man) is Islay's smallest and most recently established distillery. The 100% Islay is named as such as the whisky is made from barley grown on the distillery's farm location, then malted, distilled, matured and bottled there too. So this whisky has been made form start to finish on site. Very impressive.

Bottled at a healthy 50% this is a 4 year old bottling matured in bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace and is actually a vatting of 4 & 5 year old whisky. Kilchoman's capacity currently stands at around 150,000 litres a year and was established in 2005.

Nose - Haylage, spiced pear tart, kelp, lemon syrup and slight vanilla alongside a savoury grilled meat note, with the peat only fleeting at this point. Merely a hint as to what is to come?

Palate - A very oily consistency and the peat makes itself known here with a smoky ensemble. Quite a dry smoke it is too with one note describing a cigar rolled on a ladies thigh by one person in the room (a lady herself). Besides the ladies thigh we also had mention of grain and cereals and crunchy green apple.

Finish - This all leads to a not insubstantial finish with the peat continuing through but giving way to light syrup notes, orange and habanero  pepper creating a lasting and warming impression.

The Kilchoman was received with mixed review with some feeling it was lacking in variety and overpriced for the contents inside.

Another night down for the club and as usual, and quite rightly, opinion was split. These varying bottlings went to show what different production methods, cask finishes, strength and even location can do to differentiate peated spirit. Great fun all round!

We're in for a treat in November with 2 brilliant tastings lined up. With our next post covering our recent tasting hosted by the lovely chaps at Penderyn, coming later this week, with our Campbeltown tasting coming at the end of the month!

We'd like to point out all opinions expressed through this blog are exactly that, our opinions!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Highland Fling

Our 9th club meeting was dedicated to Scotland's Highland region.

Some of the world's most popular brands stem from this large and picturesque area and quite rightly so. Highland malts often have a reputation for big chunky flavours but can also offer very delicate and rounded treats in some cases.

This time though we did things a bit differently. We were going to taste the malts blind so nobody knew what was being tasted until each had been finished and revealed. This is a great way to really get to grips with a whisky. Sometimes opinions and even the tastes themselves can be affected by previous experience or even prejudice with a brand.

So when everyone was assembled we cracked on.


The first dram we looked at was light in colour, whisky boffins might refer to it as 'golden straw'

Nose - Strong malt, orange peel, bitter chocolate, lots of seasonal spices, Tom got apple and Adam picked up on some nutty notes.

Palate - Initially the malt from the nose dominates the palate, however as Matthew pointed out, some green fruits begin to make an appearance with toffee.

Finish - Quite long, more toffee with lingering notes of digestive biscuits and cream.

Suggestions for what distillery this might be from included Edradour (Adam), Old Pulteney (Katharine) and Glen Garioch (Anna), so, what was it?...

This was revealed as being an 11yr Dalmore! Bottled at 46% by by Douglas Laing & Co for their Provenance range with no added colour and being non chill filtered this is one Dalmore that shows what this distillery is capable of without adding bucket fulls of E150a colouring and keeping the spirit above 40%!


Onto the second dram. This was a very rich and playful golden colour in the glass.

Nose - We had lots of people mentioning various types of fruit, pears, orange, citrus, but quite a few claiming some tropical fruit notes including mango and pineapple. Interesting. Again, lots of spice content here alongside perhaps a slight wisp of smoke and honey? A very complex and satisfying nose.

Palate - More spice here, Stina noted the salty/brine notes and then came the fruit again, some still maintaining it's tropical edge. Again is that a slight hint of smoke in there? Not peat but smoke itself.

Finish - Again, long and spicy with notes of nutmeg.

Suggestions for this distillery included - Balblair (Stina) Old Pulteney (Katharine), Clynelish (Matthew) among others..

The prize goes to Matthew! This was revealed as being a 15 yr old Clynelish single cask (#6470) from London Wine & Spirit Merchants Berry Bros & Rudd! Again bottled at 46% without added colour and no chill filtration.

Matthew (left) Partying like its 1899 after nailing the Clynelish


After the delicious Clynelish everyone was looking forward to what appeared to be one of the darkest drams of the night. This appeared in the glass as a lovely deep copper.

Nose - Wow, Speyside alert! We had cries of raisins! (Tom), Brandy butter (Stina)! Nuts (Richard), Soreen, and lots of milk chocolate. 

Palate - Spicy, vanilla cream, again some comments of tropical fruit also oak and cinnamon.

Finish - Medium length, leading with a nutty undertone, Almonds (Richard)

Suggestions for this one.. Glen Garioch (Anna.. seeing a pattern here), Ben Nevis and Oban

This was revealed as the Glencadam 21 yr old. The distillery bottling and bottled at 46%, this displayed impressive depth and was very well rounded.

Chemist Corner after the ban on words ending in 'eyne' 'ite' 'thol' etc
Stina getting expressive about grain barns


The next dram appeared a lot lighter in the glass so straight away raised a few eyebrows.. surely lighter means not as deep and flavoursome yes?..

Nose - Lots of pepper (various), spearmint/menthol,
milk chocolate, a grain barn aroma (Stina), cistrus peel and ginger.

Palate - Return of the pepper (various), also pepper similar to rocket leafs (Simeon) toffee (Clive), honey, peach syrup and became creamy over time

Finish - Quite long again with that slight cream note carrying a lot of lovely spice and a wave of fruit.

Nobody really had any ideas as to what this dram might be.. so this was revealed as being a 19 yr old Deanston from Master of Malt's single cask range. Bottled at 53.4% with no chill filtration or added colour. Yum


Now came our final dram of the night. With a colour akin to the Glencadam this was still relatively light compared to most whiskies.

Nose - For a start there were lots of muffled noises of appreciation and 'hhmm' 'oof' and 'aah'. Honey, biscuits (Martin), a very savoury edge to it, some sort of gamey meat? An unusual quality ina  whisky. Herbal again, heather all the while a playful apple strudel note phasing in and out.

Palate - What's this, a partner in pepper crime? Pepper seemed to be the order of the day again here with rainbow peppercorns noted (Peter), a delightful deep rich fruityness akin to a black forest gateau and brandy soaked raisins.

Finish - Looooong, I can still almost taste it as I type this. Oak influence creeping in here but retains a lot of its fruity character pulling through with vanilla cream with apple & blackberry crumble.

Now again this one was a bit of a mystery.

Its a Glen Garioch (pronounced 'Glen-Geery') Another single cask offering from Master of Malt, this time a 20 yr old bottled at a whopping 58.8%. Nobody could believe its strength and all agreed that it can easily be sipped at its bottled strength.

Overall a fantastic and varied line up that really showed why Highland whisky is so popular. On another note it was great to see household names (such as the Dalmore) in a much more natural way without any chill filtration or added colouring! That's how things should be.

We'll be back with another blog post soon covering our Paul John whisky tasting back in September!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tweet Tasting 2 - #TBWCwhisky That Boutique-y Whisky Co.

On Thursday the 6th September, 20 members of the Manchester Whisky Club flocked to Twitter to take part in it's second Tweet Tasting. We had been kindly supplied with a fantastic array of whisky from Master of Malt. However, this was no ordinary whisky, for here we had 5 drams from their fantastic 'That Boutique-y Whisky Company' range.

Each bottling release is a single cask release, making each bottling, even if from the same distillery, completely unique. The range is quickly becoming famous for its quirky cartoon based labels using whisky 'in jokes' and themes based on the distillery being featured. These provide a breath of fresh air compared to the usual boring beige or white we're used to seeing adorn our favourite spirit.

All bottlings are NAS (No Age Statement), NCF (Non Chill Filtered) and Cask Strength.

At 7.30pm the tasting began using the tag #TBWCwhisky.

Tomintoul Batch 1 - 47.8%

Only available here for £44.95

The first batch from Speyside distillery Tomintoul is very light in colour, possibly 2nd or 3rd fill bourbon cask and collectively everyone thought this was probably a young spirit.

The label shows the chaps from the Bramble bar in Edinburgh knocking up a signature Bramble cocktail. This bottling has a token on the back that can actually be redeemed for one of these cocktails at the bar! Genius!

@MCRWhiskyClub Tomintoul nose - Elderflower,slight hint of peach and malt, bakewell tart?

@WhiskyTube Tomintoul Batch 1 - N - More floral notes coming through now with delicate honey suckle and fresh summer daisies

@OfMustandMash Tomintoul - the malty grain come through mainly. A lovely roundness to it too

@MCRWhiskyClub After water the nose for me transforms to green apple crumble and custard! and for some strange reason, the xmas decorations box

Palate - 
@Elunslakedhyena Tomintoul tastes like candy with a floral, blossomy nose.

@the_lady_sybil Palate spiky, peppery. Almonds are still there, but in towards the finish. Lingers centrally warm and sweet

@WhiskyTube Creamy summer fudge with a slight biscuity barley note

@Tomm3h Taste is light, without being overly citrusy. Definitely needs water

Finish - 
@Grahamyus To conclude. A small gingerbread man crossing a cauldron of apple cinnamon punch whilst eating peppery toffees

@Tomm3h Aftertaste, root vegetables... Parsnips or swede. Quite different, in fact

Arran Batch 2 - 49.4%

Available exclusively here for £39.95

Deeper in colour than the Tomintoul, probably 1st fill bourbon cask or a longer period spent in 2nd fill. The label shows the famous Eagles of Arran, palm trees (which do actually thrive on Arran due to its relatively temperate climate!) and the arran ferry.

Nose - 
@WhiskyTube This nose is almost erotic! Apple danish with lashings of maple syrup

@GregHarding # - concur with saltiness. Hints of Pork Scratchings, drizzled in sherbet lit with a swan vesta match

@MCRWhiskyClub Again citrus on the nose, cinnamon, possibly a hint of fresh linen and subtle fruits. Not sure which ones yet..

@OfMustandMash oak well integrated, creamy cooked fruits...lovely complexity

@msykesjones  Getting the fruits in the mouth, plums, pears maybe

@Elunslakedhyena It's like John Travolta doing Saturday night fever in tangerine boots.

@RikGarner a touch of brandy on the palette, matches the crisp apple nose

@MCRWhiskyClub AHA! I have you now.. fig rolls!
Heather honey and pink peppercorn on arrival, juicy satsuma, pineapple!? & a melody of malt alongside. Lovely

Finish - 
@MCRWhiskyClub Lovely and rounded, very malty in true Arran style. No water with this for me :) Cracker

@Rlwjones This Arran is pretty sensational. Good job the place never sank into the sea, like David Icke predicted.

@WhiskyTube Finish on the Arran is fantastic! Spiced coconut with all that honey/orange/wood smoke filling the mouth!

Aultmore Batch 2 - 56.0%

Available exclusively here for £41.95

Diageo's Aultmore is normally blend fodder, so it's nice to see it as an indie release. Since there are, in all honesty, no interesting backstories or whisky folktales about Aultmore, Master of Malt went for the masterpiece below, yes, that's a whisky label. Possibly the best we've ever seen.

Nose - 
@Tomm3h Hmm.. A scent of fresh Barley straw coming through.

@Elunslakedhyena Cocoa, plums, currents, bit of peach. Varnished wooden floors.

@ChrisKnighting Aultmore has a magic nose, menthol, big cherries

@msykesjones with water, really opens up, spice, cloves quite complex

@OfMustandMash starting to get something now: stewed apple and a bit of apricot too and a layer of mint

@MCRWhiskyClub Rhubarb, garden after a rain shower, oak, slight vanilla, treacle toffee, marmite glazed Cumberland sausage!
Nose w/ water - Full of vanilla and butterscotch alongside juicy dark hedgerow fruits this is a lovely dram, so much change!

@Himselfbyname salted caramel!

@WhiskyTube Aultmore Palate! An tour de force of Cask strength rum like vanilla essence and muscavado sugars! Lots of banana there too!

@MSykesJones with water, really opens up, spice, cloves quite complex

@MCRWhiskyClub Palate no h20 - Intense spice and pepper notes incredible, like a depth-charge of spice. What an entrance! Palate w/ Water oily mouthfeel & still packs a punch, malt and charred oak this time, a subtle handover to raisin and honeycomb

@ChrisKnighting Neat taste is nice, astringent but not abrasive, decent heat, long finish. Just lovely

@the_lady_sybil Ohh fiery, but not unpleasant, juniper and mixed spices, juniper lingers on the palate with a touch of sweet spearmint.

@MCRWhiskyClub Long, fruity and warming with delicious winter spice and dark bitter chocolate

@WhiskyTube This finish just goes on forever and ever! RUMTASTIC!!

Benrinnes Batch 2 - 49.4%

Available exclusively here for £36.95

Depicting a seemingly one sided whisky lecture featuring the MaltManiac's PeatMcPeat and Johnny Washback. Another Speysider here with an interesting Benrinnes offering

Nose - 
@The_lady_sybil Hmmm kind of an earthiness on the nose to this one...?

@AndyD1701 The more I go back the more pickled notes I seem to be getting, raspberry vinegar, stewed apple and lemon tart

@OfMustandMash Benriness - nose - Getting in love by the second with that one: there's some lovely fruity sweetness there too as it develops

@StinaWillett Anyone getting Brussel sprouts on the nose?

@MSykesJones yep sherry is there, fudge sweetness, reminds me of xmas

@Tomm3h yeah, like the smell of a cove on a sea pier... Salty and stagnant, almost #TBWCwhisky

Palate - 
@WhiskyTube Benrinnes palate: Lots of redcurrants, cranberries and all those tart red fruits! Oh and did I mention sherry?

@Elunslakedhyena Brian Blessed tumbling down a mountain of cinder toffee, bellowing all the way down.

@Grahamyus I'm now getting chocolate orange

@The_Lady_Sybil Touch of smoky honey lingering on this I think... odd, but lovely

Finish - 

@Tomm3h So Benrinnes: rubbery flavour, but a lovely, lingering finish of strawberry syrup.

@OfMustandMash this is really nice, salty and sweet at the same time

Secret Distillery Batch 1 - 55.4% 

Available exclusively here for £41.95

This whisky hails from an undisclosed secret Speyside distillery, we're not going to give it away but needless to say to expect a wheelbarrow full of sherry character...

@AndyD1701 Nose w/o H2O Sherry intermingling with parkin cake, crunchie bars and christmas pudding mix - very subtle for 55.4%!

@WhiskyTube Like a mulled wine spice bag! German markets at Christmas!!

@MsykesJones sweet, roasted nuts in spices

@OfMustandMash Secret W - nose - but also caramel and toffe and spice like cinammon and nutmeg, vanilla...sherry

Palate - 
One of the most unique notes of the night..
@Shabby_road The taste of being struck, quickly by an expensive leather glove, in southern France. That afternote is shame.

@AndyD1701 Palate no water - Butter in an iron pan, heavy oak and there's the sherry alongside nuts and chocolate truffle

And another..
@Grahamyus An oversized walnut rollsdown Glastonbury Tor on a winters eve,smashes over bottles ofbordeaux and gathers up chocsand n vanilla

@WhiskyTube Much more tannic now, loads more of those mulled wine spices! Lots of dry merlot and maybe some cabernet franc notes!

Finish - 
@WhiskyTube Getting lots of parma violets on the finish, like an Argentinian Cabernet Franc

@Tomm3h Feel like I've just drank a big bar of dark, tasty Bourneville chocolate.

A fantastic tasting overall. In terms of popularity the Aultmore stole the show with the Arran coming in a close second.

A huge thanks must go to the chaps at Master of Malt for generously providing the club with such a fantastic range of samples for us to try.

We have also tried the Bowmore Batch 1 at our very first meeting back in January, read our write up for that here!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Going Global

Summer is on the decline, but still millions flock to the UK's airports to jet off to countries to sample delights such as miles of golden sandy beaches and turquoise seas. Or, in some cases; €0.50 shots of cheap sambuca in a nightclub where the music is too loud and the frivolity seemingly extensive.

One subject we are yet to touch on is world whisky. 'World whisky?' We hear you cry? Yes. Besides Scotland, Ireland, The US and Japan. There are a wealth of distilleries spanning across continents that you might never have thought would distill whisky in your wildest dreams. So we thought, instead of going to these far and distant lands like explorers of a past age, why not bring these countries to us? So on the 26th August 2013, we plotted a course for the unknown and set off on our journey.

We had a selection of 6 whiskies in total across the night spanning 3 continents. With spirit originating from countries bathed in sunlight to others where the anorak is a bestseller all year round.

First up was an entry from Sweden!

Mackmyra First Edition 46.1% (Sweden)

Mackmyra was Sweden's first whisky distillery. Set up by friends from the University of Stockholm in 1999, Mackmyra is starting to make a name for itself with it's unique small batch releases. Set among tall Swedish forests Mackmyra makes for a pretty picture. Matured in Virgin Swedish oak casks.

Nose - Light and sweet, elderflower cordial, lemongrass, warm custard pastry's, crunchy green apples and honey.
Palate - Very gentle and smooth with good thick mouth feel, light and syrupy flavours including more honey, vanilla and slight spicy hints.
Finish - Quite short with a flourish of more fruit, slight tartness ending with a not unpleasant bitterness.

Three Ships 10yr Old - Limited Edition 43% (Africa) 

Next we had something very different in store. When someone says Africa you might think of the rolling savannas of the Serengeti or the rain forests of Congo or Gabon. But, would you ever imagine a quaint looking distillery in a picturesque setting? With a wild bird habitat to its side and the sun beating down, sits the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington, South Africa.

A 10 year old single malt from South Africa, matured in unknown cask types.

Nose - Remarkably punchy for a 43% spirit, dried fruits, nutmeg, a dying wood fire, toffee.
Palate - Oaky and very full, a slight tightness in some notes released well with one or two drops of water to bring out more toffee and spiced plums.
Finish - Again the oak reigns supreme here, a very full and intense dram.

Kavalan King Car Conductor - 46% (Taiwan) 

Next we move onto another country not associated with whisky in any sense of the word. Taiwan, and to the Kavalan Whisky Distillery.

Now, this is an interesting dram in many senses of the word. Kavalan themselves have been releasing some top quality whisky recently and in this instance the distillery's holding company - King Car have stuck their oar in. They have created this, the King Car Conductor as a 'well rounded whisky to represent their well rounded company'. That's because King Car aren't just distillers, they have involvement in shedloads of fingers in even more pies. Such as.. the Pharmaceutical industry, chemical manufacture & distribution, soft drink manufacturing, instant coffee manufacturing, biotechnology, molecular biological research, the list goes on.. and on..

Nose - Ripe rich fruits, a musky wood undertone and then from nowhere a clear cut malt spike
Palate - A nice thick mouthfeel, initial deep sweetness akin to heather honey and molasses, the wood from the nose rears its head alongside tangy fruit and fresh buttery caramel in the hot pan.
Finish - Quite long, a quenching dryness that pulls along with a dabble of mango and biscuit base.

Amrut Fusion - 50% (India)

Next we headed over to India and to what is possibly India's most famous distillery - Amrut. Based in the close and fiery temperatures of Bangalore, Amrut has been making real in-roads in the whisky market in recent years. Due to the hot climate of India, Amrut and other Indian distillers experience a higher loss of spirit during maturation - also known as The Angels Share -than it's European counterparts. This normally equates to around 10-15% compared to around 3% in Scotland.

A plus side to the temperature is that this allows the whisky to mature much faster than it would in a cooler climate, meaning a much younger whisky will display character more akin to that of an older bottling.

Named as such as the Fusion uses 25% peated Scottish barley and 75% non peated barley from India, creating in essence a fusion of styles and countries themselves.

Nose - A big profile here thanks to the 50% strength. A lovely interplay between soft peat and sugary barley notes, the slight hint of exotic spices and all the while citrus layers play a soft ambient tune in the background.
Palate - Oak at the fore, dark chocolate and nuts, sherried dates and that delectable peat makes a welcomed return.
Finish - Looooong, very much the citrus notes playing again here, the peat now just a whisper playing across the tongue.

English Whisky Co Chapter 9 (England)

Yes you heard, English Whisky! 2 words that might strike fear into the hearts of Scotch whisky lovers everywhere. However don't be fooled, the chaps at the St George's distillery in Norfolk are doing a lot of things right. From using locally sourced Norfolk barley, their own floor maltings and the water coming from a source underneath the distillery itself. It was also great to see such an informative label stating the date of distillation, cask number and even the person who distilled it! In this case, head distiller David Fitt.

Chapter 9 is the distillery's first peated offering, most of the EWC spirit is still in it's early stages and from memory all releases so far have been 3 yrs old.

Nose - A lovely medley of lemon peel and vanilla, lemon curd tart and also savoury elements like Polish Kabanos and smokey bacon crisps all in tune with a delicious peat note.
Palate - Thick and luscious for a 3 year old! Again sweet and well balanced, cola cube's, vanilla, almost a Cornish vanilla ice cream, with the peat a constant but not invasive feature. A very well balanced dram.
Finish - Long and warming with more fruits, both citrus and green. The top of an egg custard with its ground nutmeg, the peat bidding its final farewell edging into a powerful spicy finish.

Penderyn Madeira - 46% (Wales)

As we've already covered this one in our previous blog post here; we will use our notes from that
previous tasting with slight adjustments that were picked up on

Nose- Vanilla, brandy soaked raisins, thick cut marmalade and a touch of light honey.
Palate- Lovely oily mouthfeel, fresh green fruit, ginger nut biscuits and malt coming through. Also pine sap and after eight mints.
Finish- The Madeira now truly shows itself with a dry and appetising whit wine-esque finish laced with pear and a touch of pepper.

A fantastic range all around and really went to show the differing styles of each country and the edge that the distilleries all brought to the table. This certainly must be giving some Scottish and Irish producers food for thought as it has become clear that as Whisky continues it's massive world wide surge in popularity, distilleries across the globe have taken note and have started to produce some fantastic spirits. Long may it continue.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Rhyfeddod Cymru

On the 26th July Charlie, Dave and Andy (and Kirsten), set off on an exciting journey to the Brecon beacons. Armed only with 2 cameras, 4 coffees, 2 packets of Oreo's and a Vauxhall Astra. Charlie had arranged a special visit for us to the only active Welsh whisky distillery in existence. Penderyn.

After a 2 1/2 hour journey thanks to Dave's ability to time travel, we arrived at the distillery in glorious weather.

Laura taking us through the tour

We were met by Laura, Penderyn's up and coming distiller who started her career at the distillery after finishing university and applied for the job on a whim. However after impressing with her abilities to discern flavours and layers in the Penderyn spirit, Laura became the company's first and one of the country's few female distillers. 

We started the tour and Laura took us through the distillery's history and the background behind Welsh Whisky over the last 100 years. Penderyn was established on the cusp of the millennium in 1998 by a group of friends. Their acquisition of the unique Pot still, designed by Dr David Faraday, descendant of the famous Victorian scientist Michael Faraday, this particular still operates on a very small scale producing only 1 barrel of spirit a day. The malt for the spirit is provided by Cardiff brewery S A Brain and the water used comes from the distilleries very own spring located underneath the premises.

Penderyn was in the middle of a re-fit with a new still being installed effectively doubling capacity over the next few years so no spirit was being distilled on that day. However it was interesting to see it in this way and was brilliant to see the distillery's expansion in process. The still had been commissioned by Forsyth's of Scotland who also made stills for other famous distilleries such as Bowmore on Islay.

Dave sniffing one of the used bourbon barrels
The new still ready to be installed
Laura was a fantastic host and took us through Penderyn's history and their ever-growing range of products. We got to stick our heads in examples of their Bourbon, Port and Peated barrels which was an interesting experience to say the least! We were then told a story about a company who claimed to be a Welsh whisky distillery.. but who were actually buying in Scotch whisky and adding welsh herbs and botanicals! On the tour you really get a good idea of how Penderyn forgo the big guys approach and concentrate on quality, not quantity. Each batch of spirit initially comes out at 92% vol, this is the highest % of any UK malt whisky prior to being reduced.

The next part of our tour was the things that dreams are made of. Charlie had been speaking with Stephen, Penderyn's MD who, with Laura, took us through a tasting of pretty much the entire Penderyn range. Now first off, from our name you might be able to tell that we're generally a whisky club. We drink whisky, and lots of it. However  today was different not only did we get to sample 5 delicious drams, but 2 gins a vodka and a great little liqueur. So without further ado. Let's get tasting!

Stephen and Laura taking us through the range

Penderyn Madeira - 46%

The distillery's flagship bottling. After being matured in ex bourbon casks from Buffalo Trace the whiky is then finished in Madeira wine casks.

Nose- Vanilla, brandy soaked raisins, thick cut marmalade and a touch of light honey.
Palate- Lovely oily mouthfeel, fresh green fruit, ginger nut biscuits and malt coming through
Finish- The Madeira now truly shows itself with a dry and appetising whit wine-esque finish laced with pear and a touch of pepper.

Penderyn Portwood 41%
Penderyn Portwood - 41%

The Portwood was a result of cask experimentation. originally designated for sale on the continent, its popularity soon ensured the UK being granted access to this fantastic and unique dram.

Nose- A sharp, prickly but pleasant dry sweetness, raspberry vinegar, black cherry and polished wood.
Palate-  More fruit now, ranging from blackberry and more cherry to a slight citrus edge. The Port comes to the fore with a dry and refreshing character.
Finish- The finish is long and lingering with that dry sweetness continuing with a slight tang.

Penderyn Sherrywood - 46%

The Sherrywood is again, matured in Bourbon barrels but this time finished in Olorosso sherry casks.

Nose- Rich yet light, with Manuka honey, cinnamon, raisins and a delicious herbal note.
Palate- Ginger makes an appearance here too, fruit cake, marzipan, and a perfect amount of sherry balance keeping the dram rich yet with a light profile.
FinishEnveloping with long oak and sugar notes

Penderyn Peated (Photo courtesy of Penderyn)
Penderyn Peated - 46%

Penderyn's peated offering originally came about in a mix up over casks. People from the distillery were sent up to Scotland to buy some casks and inadvertently purchased Islay whisky casks! The result? Well let's see..

Nose- Initial light vanilla and a mouthwatering citrus note, then a subtle luscious peat makes a gradual appearance.
Palate- The smoke continues on the tongue as well as the vanilla, and a malty transition to the finish
Finish- Medium length with the smoke gently tailing off and a spicy note develops.

Penderyn Single Bourbon Cask (227B) - 63.2%

Penderyn's single cask offerings are generally made up of the older spirits in the warehouse. This bourbon matured cask was matured for 12+ years (from memory) and displays the fantastic individualism of the distillery and its spirit. This batch is limited to just 241 bottles.

Nose- Beautifully balanced with shedloads of vanilla, demerara sugar, cinnamon, spiced pear and digestive biscuits.
Palate-  Refined and rounded, grilled banana and brown sugar, raisins, again with a slight touch of pepper corn. With water - opens up in a flourish of vanilla and orchard fruits, possibly a touch of elderflower?
Finish- Very long and satisfying, the bourbon cask influence continues and is kept in line with a wonderful wood edge. An incredible whisky that Stephen, Laura  and the team can be proud of!

After tasting the range and a brief stint in the gift shop where a bottle of the Portwood went on the credit card, Stephen and Laura had a proposition for us. And we soon found them pulled up outside the distillery in a car. Adventure beckons.

After a brief drive we turned off onto what looked like an average ageing industrial estate when all of a sudden..


We had arrived at Penderyn's main warehousing and bottling site!

This is the type of thing that makes a whisky geek's hair stand on end. Driving through avenues of stacked old casks ready to be refurbished before use by the company's cooperage. Those stacks were the sort of maze you could quite happily get lost in and reinforces the scale of whisky production even for a relatively small distillery such as Penderyn. The oddly quiet surroundings all added to the atmosphere. This isn't part of the normal tour, this is normally off-limits to visitors so we felt very privileged.

Stephen took us through a door and we were wondering what awaited us. After donning a very Health and Safety friendly fluorescent vest each, Stephen and Laura showed us the newly housed bottling equipment. 

Then on from there, the main event. The warehouse. After walking through a wall of plastic sheeting akin to what you might see in a science fiction movie from the 70's, we were greeted by the smell of damp, whisky infused oak.. and this..

Now it's not often I find myself caught short or discover I've left something on the kitchen work top.. but what I was really lacking today was a small hand operated drill, some plastic tubing and a few bottles. The majority of the casks in the warehouse are ex-Buffalo Trace bourbon casks, we met a members of staff who were going about their day to day tasks and were clearly passionate about the distillery and Penderyn itself which was fantastic to see.

Stephen taking us round the warehouse
 There is a mixture here of spirit distilled within the last 6 months and 13 years since the distillery's inception which was great to see as it was as though we were seeing Penderyn's past and future in the flesh. 

Penderyn doesn't just seem to be about the whisky, there's a real community spirit here on all levels. Stephen and the team are doing some fantastic work and with the recent expansion plans we all foresee Penderyn going on from strength to strength. The new still has since been installed and a new spirit safe delivered. 

We can safely say that we're very much looking forward to seeing what comes through Penderyn's doors over the next few years and wish the team the best of luck!

On another note Charlie, Andy, Dave and Kirsten would like to say a huge thanks to Stephen and Laura for making us so welcome and treating us to every delight that Penderyn had to offer. Sláinte guys!