Monday, August 25, 2014

Commonwealth Nations

24th July saw us tackle a line up of whiskies from across the commonwealth in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games.

Australia - Sullivan's Cover Double Cask - 40%

First up we tried the Sullivan's Cove Double Cask, a Tasmanian whisky matured in both American and French Oak.

Australians are well known for their competitive nature when it comes to sport whether it be Cricket, Rugby or Tiddlywinks. Likewise the Australian whisky industry has flourished and has recently been making real in roads into the world market like a momentous scrum pushing into Scotland's half.

The Double cask is a vatting of 3 different single casks from the distillery.

The nose is velvety with the unmistakable notes of rich Cognac and milk chocolate. The French oak lends well to Sullivan's base spirit.

Onto the palate and this dram is a completely different beast! Now the American ex bourbon casks come into their own, vanilla, spice and a warm toffee note.

A short but warm finish ends proceedings.

This was certainly a dram of 2 halves, coming in at an RRP of £65, like all 'New world' Whiskies part of what you pay is the air miles getting it to the UK. If it was touching the 46% mark and cost a bit less the consensus was that it would be a good bottle to have on the shelf.

New Zealand - Milford 15 - 43%

Next up just a hop skip and a jump away from Australia and we're onto New Zealand, home of the Mighty All Blacks, Lucy Lawless and the Lord of the Ring's The Shire.

There is no distillery called Milford, in fact his bottling is that of the Willowbank Distillery in Dunedin on New Zealand's South Island that closed it's doors back in 2004. It's always interesting to feature a whisky from a closed distillery.

The whisky was matured in ex bourbon casks for 15 years before being bottled in 2004 prior to the distilleries closure.

Whisky gospel scribe and Panama Hat advocate Jim Murray is a past supporter of certain NZ whiskies. Let's see how this one fairs.

The nose is, frankly, harsh. Spirity and callously dry. There are some notes of banana and brown sugar in there but alongside are ever present notes of nose stinging Birdseye chili... Odd considering this whiskies 15 year maturation.

The palate retains it's form to the letter with altogether shallow and throat stinging onslaught. Not much else to say really..

The finish, well I'll leave that to your imagination.

We picked this up from the Whisky Exchange for £57 and appeared to be one of the last available in the UK from what we've seen afterwards. I think with this dram we saw why this distillery ended up closing it's doors for good.

Can't win them all!

Canada - Pike Creek - 40%

Oh Canada, never one's to blow their own trumpet Canadian whisky has somewhat fallen to the back of people's minds. However this was not always the case with Canadian whisky representing a huge market share in the US and beyond. Think Canadian Club in the hands of Don Draper in the 1960's HBO Series Mad Men.

However, Canada is back on the attack with several new distilleries and releases representing a huge increase in Canadian whisky output.

Pike Creek is a No Age statement blended whisky from Corby Distillers distilled at the more than amply sized Hiram Walker distillery in Ontario. The whisky is then sent off to Hiram's warehouses in ontario, interestingly these warehouses are unheated, temperatures can vary from 28C in Summer to around -10C in winter. This results in the casks expanding, retracting etc in the varying temperatures as well as having an effect on the actual speed of maturation.

The whisky is initially matured in American white oak casks before being transferred into ex Port Pipes.

The nose is fruity, very fruity. Think pears, cranberries and blackberries with a slight cinnamon backdrop.

Moving onto the palate, this displays a lot of grain characteristics, vanilla, honey and a touch of strawberry from the nose possibly.

The finish is short but again quite fruity with a touch of oak.

At £48 from The Whisky Exchange this provides an interesting alternative to Canadian Club and Crown Royal, with the added bonus of avoiding that somewhat garish purple faux velvet pouch.

Scotland - Glengoyne 15 yr old - 43%

Onto the host nation! You could almost hear Flower of Scotland bellow from the tin as this bottle was
poured out.

Glengoyne is an interesting distillery in many ways, it is one of the very few Highland Whiskies to use purely un peated barley, it also has the slowest distillation times in Scotland. Your 3rd Glengoyne fact of the day is that despite Glengoyne's Highland status, it's own warehouses right over the road are in the Lowlands showing Glengoyne is only a Highland whisky by the skin of it's teeth/tarmac.

The 15yr is matured in a mixture of first fill ex- sherry casks, bourbon casks and refill hogsheads.

The nose? Altogether more Scottish, heather, quite creamy with toffee and black forest gateaux alongside.

On the palate this whisky retains a thick oily texture that whisky lovers well... love. More toffee here before turning to nutmeg, shreddies cereal and honey.

The finish lends itself more to the oak from the casks with spice.

For £45 at Master of Malt, this provides a very smooth and fulfilling single malt from the modern home of whisky.

India - Kadhambam - 50%

To finish we go back east to the sweltering climes of Bangalore in India. We've tried a few Indian whiskies now, this one however has to be one of the most unique.

This was matured in 3 different cask types with one being that of a local liquor delicacy, Bangalore Blue Brandy, but don't let that put you off, the whisky is also transferred into Rum casks (from Amrut's own rum) and Oloroso sherry casks.

Luckily it seems that Amrut ran out of cask types to mature the spirit in otherwise we could have been here for a a while. A very modern approach to whisky production though which is always good to see.

As mentioned in a previous post the hot climates of countries such as India lends itself very well to the maturation of whisky with spirit maturing at a faster rate than that of one kept in the somewhat cooler and moister Scotland.

The nose is spicy, think cinnamon and star anise alongside brandy butter over a christmas pudding.

The palate is where the 50% comes in to it's own. Raisins, orange oil, cinnamon again and dark chocolate. Oddly a slight twang of a rich, thick Port in there too at times, ironic considering this to be one of the few cask types not used in this whiskies maturation!

The finish is long as you'd expect with notes of leather and oak.

Overall a very unique and tasty dram indeed. Kudos to Amrut for pushing the boat out with some top notch cask experimentation here.

Available at Master of Malt and The Whisky Exchange although be warned this is a limited release and comes in at £68 - £73

Dram of the night along with the Gold Medal went to the Glengoyne.. but only just! With a well deserved Silver and for the Amrut Kadhambam and the last podium finish and Bronze to Pike Creek.

Overall a fantastic showcase of what whiskies are out there from countries you might not always expect!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Adventures in Loch Lomond - The Great Dramboree 2014

Take one stunning 19th century Lochside hostel in the shadow of Ben Lomond. Add a sprinkling of Whisky bloggerati, a smattering of spirit-industry leaders, a handful of society and event organisers and a generous number of all-round whisky lovers. Leave for one weekend to merrily bubble away. Add whisky to taste.

The Dramboree, a social event for whisky lovers, started last year - a bright idea from Jason B Standing of the Whisky Squad and Jonny McMillan of the Great Whisky company. The idea, loosely, is to assemble a group of whisky geeks together in Scotland and indulge in a weekend of whisky-tastings, a distillery visit, and general fun and shenanigans inbetween.

Hurtling up the M6, SeƱor Duckworth and myself excitedly speculated on what the weekend would have in store for us...

Andy dazzles with his pointing skills.

After a quick drop in to Bruichladdich HQ at Glasgow to say hello, we boarded our coach and headed towards Lomond amidst a flurry of sample swapping and tasty across the aisle and back and forth between seats. Andy's dram selection box went down an absolute treat.

Under a grey sky and in a fine drizzle we left the coach to board the ferry that would take us to the jetty of the Rowardennan lodge where we'd be staying on the north-east bank of the loch.

Gorgeous view across Loch Lomond.

The Dramboree guys had a great line up for us for the weekend. We enjoyed:

  • An exclusive tasting of work-in-progress whiskies from Dewars
  • Select antique bottlings from bygone eras in a tasting of 9 drams dating back to the 1940s
  • An exploration of the language of the senses from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society
  • Highland Park's latest NAS whisky, Dark Origins, plus some choice bottles from the rest of their line up.
  • Some of Dufftown Whisky Shop's more interesting offerings
  • A grand day out to the Glengoyne distillery
  • Epic meat barbecue from the lovely folks at Master of Malt
  • A shared drams table with around 130 different bottles of whisky to try at our leisure
  • A special commemorative bottling of Ledaig to remember the weekend.

There were far too many amazing drams to recount, but highlights for me were the 1970s ceramic decanter Bruichladdich 15, the 1980s Bowmore 12, 1950s Teachers (unbelievably tasty!) and an absolutely corking 30 year old Linkwood from Diageo's Rare Malts series.

The Drams Table - West Side

Such whisky. Much antique. Wow.

The Drams Table - East Side

The famously fickle Scottish sunshine even put in an appearance. Feeling warm and merry, we made it out for dips in the loch, leisurely cigars, and a pan-European kick-about out on the lawn.

And a glorious weekend it was. Thanks everyone - we'll see you in 2015!

You can find more out about Dramboree over at
- Sean