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Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Help The Aged

Yesterday, Chivas Brothers launched a “global campaign to advocate the importance and value of age statements to consumers”.

Chivas have done some research which basically comes to the conclusion that people buying whisky, be it single malt or blended, think that the greater the age on the label, the better the whisky inside*. As you will know if you read this blog, that’s a load of old bollocks. Last year, the winner of our Best In Glass Award was a 3 Year Old, in the Kilchoman. The previous year however, it was a whisky from the early 1970’s. The issue with whisky is not HOW LONG something is aged for, but HOW WELL it is aged. And neither should an increased age statement be used as an excuse to demand a higher price.

The most obvious example of these two factors combining that springs to mind is Lagavulin where you have a 12 Year Old whisky at a higher price than a 16 Year Old. And which is better? Well, in our opinion the 12 Year Old is better. A younger whisky which is better than its older counterpart, but also MORE EXPENSIVE. This is one example of a younger whisky being both “better” and more highly priced than its older counterpart.

If we were to expand this argument to a no-age statement bottling, then we should look to Aberlour: the No Age Statement A’bunadh comes out more expensive than their age statement 10 Year Old. And of course it’s more expensive because it is “better” (note: the word “better” is in adverted commas. This is because it is both our expressed opinion and that of the wider drinking community. You may feel the Aberlour 10 Year Old is blessed with flavours which could come only from God himself and if so, you’re totally entitled to these opinions).

So having said all that, let’s try and dig into the Chivas argument for the promotion of age statements on whisky. Let’s start with a little video on the matter:


video


Now, if you didn’t watch that (or you’re reading this via our mailout), then let me pick up on a major point made less than 20 seconds in to the video, where it states:

“Look for the number... A guarantee of Age... A guarantee of quality.”

Hummmm... no. There is no direct link between the age of a whisky and the quality of a whisky, as Chivas testify themselves with the Aberlour A’bunadh. Old whisky can be very good. But it can also be very poor. And the same is true with young whisky; it can be very good, or very poor.

From here on in, however the video gets much better. There is a genuine attempt to educate the consumer as to what an age statement means. It means that there is a guarantee of a minimum maturation length of the whisky in the bottle. And it is clear from the aforementioned research that a lot of consumers are not aware of this and thus it is important to educate and inform about the true meaning of an age statement.

It does sit awkwardly with me though that the initial frame of reference in this video is saying “Look for the age of the whisky as that makes it good.” This is a question I was able to put to Neil Macdonald, Brand Director for Chivas Brothers.

It’s all about educating the consumer”, Neil told me. “We’re in a global business and there are certain markets where drinking whisky is a new trend and not everyone understands the impact and importance of an age statement on a bottle. It’s time we went out and proclaimed the benefits of age”.

And I agree. The more the consumer is educated about the contents of the bottle, the more it will help them to see through the marketing and make an informed decision about the quality of the whisky behind the label. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. The quality of the whisky.

One of my top whiskies at present is Nikka From The Barrel, a no age statement whisky where I don’t even know what the label says as it’s all in Japanese. You see, I don’t give a toss about what’s written on the back or the front, because the stuff inside is so bloody good. Maybe we’ll start a campaign to ban age statements altogether... then you really would have to judge the whisky on the quality of the whisky...

*In their research, 94% of consumers believe the age statement serves as an indicator of quality and 93% believe that older whiskies are better quality.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Challenge Alfred!!



No, not Challenge Anneka, although i'm sure some of you out there would love to see a picture of Ms Rice again, in her well fitting catsuit.... oh go on then... here you go:




Anyway, last weekend, saw the launch of a wonderful adventure, with a superb cause at its heart and naturally, we wanted to be the first to bring it to your attention. It is 125 years since the fabled whisky writer Alfred Barnard set out to visit every distillery  - 162 - in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. It took him three years to do it and the result was the most important book ever published about whisky- the monumental Whisky Distilleries of Great Britain and Ireland.


   

Now an actor, a comedian, a journalist and a broadcaster will attempt to equal his feat - starting this June with visits to 50 of the distilleries currently operating (out of 106) including an epic motorcycle trip taking in the most northerly and southerly Scottish distilleries, along with one each in England, Ireland and Wales. The 2010 leg will conclude at the Tartan Heart Festival, Belladrum, near Beauly (6 and 7 August), followed by a charity auction of special whiskies, signed by all the participants, from each distillery visited.

It is the beginning of The Barnard Challenge, and the main beneficiary will be a charity set up and run by the Scottish actor David Hayman, Spirit Aid.

You may have seen David in Trial and Retribution, as well as many big screen epics such as The Jackal with Bruce Willis, and The Tailor of Panama, starring Pierce Brosnan. He is also the operations director for Spirit Aid,  which is dedicated to children whose lives have been devastated by war, genocide, poverty, abuse or lack of opportunity at home and abroad.

Our good friend and motorcyclist extraordinaire Rob Allanson, Editor of Whisky Magazine will be joined by writer and broadcaster Tom Morton on the epic journey, which will see the team collecting a number of special bottlings for auction specifically for the charity Spirit Aid.

There will also be a special whisky tasting masterclass at the Belladrum Festival, held in honour of The Barnard Challenge by none other than the maestro himself- Mr Richard Paterson.  

For more information on the Barnard Challenge, Spirit Aid or the tasting, please visit the following site: www.spiritaid.org.uk



Sunday, 20 June 2010

A Taste Of London 2010



Something a little bit different for you hungry folks out there- on Friday, Caskstrength visited the 'Taste Of London' food event held at London's Regent's Park. Now in its seventh year and billed as the world's greatest restaurant festival, Taste of London brings together 40 of the capital's restaurants (many with Michelin Stars) as well as great chefs like Heston Blumenthal, Michel Roux Jr & Silvena Rowe for masterclasses and demonstrations. Arriving on site and you are immediately presented by an extraordinary range of quality food and drink from all around the world, so it was very lucky that we didn't fill up on snacks beforehand!



we'd decided to bring with us a bag of whiskies, including Talisker 10yo and a couple of decent Speysides to conduct our own food matching experiments, however, it turned out that we didn't need to worry about tipples, as there was a favourable showing from Auchentoshan, as well as our friends at Sipsmith London gin and Young's Ales.



When presented with such an array of gourmet cuisine it is hard to know where to start, as each restaurant had presented a sampler 3 course menu, but our first port of call was Tom's Kitchen (run by the superb Tom Aitken) for a sumptuous starter of Foie Gras parfait with grape chutney on a piece of toasted brioche.
The brilliant thing about A Taste Of London is that you can slip seemlessly between styles of cooking, which we took full advantage of, heading to the Argentinian themed Gaucho for something meaty- strips of perfectly cooked Argentine Black Angus Sirloin, which paired very nicely with the peppery notes of the Talisker.


With the sun beating down on us, a little 'between courses' gin and tonic was in order and we slipped over for a chat with Sam Goldsworthy from London's newest distillery, Sipsmith, who make small batches of a wonderfully oily and aromatic gin using a fantastic micro-still called 'Prudence'- check out their website for more details.



Palates refreshed, we went in search of some quality meat again, finding the Launceston Place stand and probably the highlight of the day- a spit-roasted Old Spot suckling pig sandwich, garnished with black summer truffles (which we suspect must be in season at the moment, as everyone was using them!) The musty aroma of the truffle paired very nicely with a little sample of Glenfarclas 40yo which I had slipped into my bag at the last minute, the heavily woody/ sherried notes also bringing out a wonderful sweetness from the suckling pig. Delicious!



Our plan was to finish up with something spicy and fortunately, 2 of the most prestigious Indian restaurants (Benares and the Colony Bar & Grill) happened to have stalls next to each other- no coincidences here though, as they are both the work of the maestro of Indian cuisine, Mr Atul Kochhar. After enjoying his truly amazing seared scallop cooked with chilli, garlic and yuzu butter we plumped for a fine finish- lamb chop with a refreshing mint chutney. I grabbed a couple of tots of Auchentoshan's wonderfully spicy Three-Wood, which worked perfectly against the heat of the lamb and the sweetness of the scallop - an absolute gem of a bottling at under £40.



Speaking of hot and spicy flavours, before we left we popped in to watch a brilliant masterclass on cooking shellfish by none other than the irrepressible 'Saturday Kitchen' regular Silvena Rowe, who has a new eastern european- influenced recipe book out. Flicking through it made us hungry all over again!!



For more info on the Taste Of London festival, click here:

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Schmokin'




Last couple of nights i've been passing by the Nicholas chain of off-licenses - they have a surprisingly good selection of whiskies. Perusing the Islay shelf, I noticed a vatted malt, which i've not come across before - Smokey Joe.

As it happens, the very friendly manager in the Mayfair branch happened to have a bottle open, so I thought i'd dive in for a little tasting. The bottling is done especially by Angus Dundee, at 46% abv and is non chill-filtered. You should be able to find this at under £30 in a few retailers, (including Nicholas) which is why it is our Reasonably Priced Dram Of The Week.



Smokey Joe - Vatted Islay malt - 46% abv

Nose: Initially very spirity, but easing into some very youthful blasts of iodiney peat reek, smoldering sawdust and a slightly sweet notes of white sugar and banana candies. Not bad, if a tad on the young side. To hazard a guess, i'd say there's a proportion of young Ardbeg, some Bunnahabhain and maybe even a little Laphroaig- but we could be way off (thinking back to the blind nosing competition we did on Islay recently.)

Palate: Sharp, biting and a little raw, but give it time and the obvious youth starts to calm down - sweet into citrus and more wood smoke, with a merest hint of medicinal peat start to arrive on the palate. With water- and this really starts to come alive. The peat seeps through in a much more gentle fashion and is really quite elegant and precise. A surprise.

Finish: The smoke leads into a clean, malty finish.

Overall: Not the most developed of vattings we've ever tried, but very drinkable and dare I say, quite appealing to those trying a peated whisky for the first time. It sits in a similar price category to the excellent Smokehead, so will have some stiff competition, but definitely worth seeking out if you can't get enough of the brown stuff.


Saturday, 12 June 2010

Japanese Odyssey - Part One


The Iceman 'Carveth...'

Ever felt that little itch when you’ve travelled somewhere special? That feeling of excitement that never leaves you? Last June, Caskstrength had that exact feeling when I made my first ever trip to Japan. It is undoubtedly the most mindblowing place we’ve ever seen, from the bright lights and (organised) chaos of Tokyo to the serene and highly spiritual Kyoto. You can drink in as much as you can in one huge gulp, but you’ll need to take a second, more refined sip, just to appreciate all the rich cultural flavours. Luckily for us, we recently had another opportunity to travel back and dig a little deeper.

Our second Japanese odyssey was a brief 6 days but a trip, which would cover 2 very important places- visits to both the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries. The outbreak of Swine Flu had prevented us from visiting these previously, so this time we were rearing to get in and have a nose around.

Fighting back jet lag, our first appointment was to meet the unflappably ‘cool’ Takayuki Suzuki, Bar Director at Bar à Vins, based on the 25th floor of the imposing Shiodome Park Hotel in Tokyo. Mr Suzuki or ‘Mr Ice’ as he is affectionately known in the bartrade has achieved an almost legendary status in Japan for popularising the ice ball, a perfectly spherical piece of ice, hand carved at lightning speed from a large irregular block, using only an razor sharp knife and ice pick. The Iceman takes but seconds to carve these incredible works of art, yet they chill your drink for nearly an hour without melting! It’s highly impressive stuff, as you’ll see below. We tried to video the man in action, but all we got was a blur of hands and a lense full of ice shavings.

Recently a Scottish distillery (who shall remain nameless) decided to bring out a totally absurd machine that spits out ice balls at the pull of a lever. Guys… where’s the fun in that?? Live dangerously! Mr Suzuki does every day and he still has all his fingers! Anyway, the drinks he prepared included a wonderfully refreshing Yamazaki Breeze, (a cocktail with a double measure of Yamazaki 12yo, muddled mint leaves, mint liqueur, sparkling mineral water and tonic) which worked perfectly with his icy sculptures. This summer, we’d urge you to have a go – at both the cocktail and the sculpting, just watch those pinkies! (For those of you who do fancy a slightly easier option, Muji have ice ball moulds, which work pretty well.)


“Jetlag begone!” screams my empty glass, with a firm Japanese tongue. And it works, one Yamazaki Breeze and we’re feeling refreshed. A little while later we ‘re travelling to our next destination – the Shinkansen Bullet Train to Kyoto in the Kansai Plain, home of the Yamazaki distillery. One of our travelling companions is the irrepressible Dr Koichi Inatomi, the man who, back in the early 1980’s set about a technical revolution at Yamazaki, redesigning the distillation process and in turn, producing the first whiskies which would go on to set the benchmark for Japanese whisky around the world. Dr Tomi (as he prefers) modestly explains that one of his greatest personal achievements was helping to create the Yamazaki 18yo expression, one of Caskstrength’s current favourite tipples. As we pull up to the gates of Yamazaki Dr Tomi suddenly chimes out – “See... Japan is just like Scotland!” pointing to the clouds above our heads. Yes, it’s raining profusely.

The main courtyard at Yamazaki is impressive, where employees dressed in well-fitted khaki jackets and caps are ferried around on small golf carts, giving the place a similar feel to the secret headquarters of a Bond villain. Being sartorially conscious, we enquire as to whether the employee outfits are for sale- alas not, but the jackets are the sort of thing you could see Brad Pitt rocking up to a film premiere in.

To business and we are fondly greeted by our host, Mike Miyamoto, general manager of the distillery. Miyamoto-San begins our tour with a brief history of Yamazaki and then takes us through to the mash room. Surprisingly, all the malt is imported in from Scotland, as the prices of domestic barley are extortionate and much in demand for the brewing industry, which eclipses the whisky business. The distillery manufactures around 3 million litres of spirit per year with about 1 tonne producing just 400L, so you can imagine the scale of importation involved.

The stillroom is where we really start to feel a sense of excitement- with virtually no trade between rival Japanese companies, distilleries need to be able to manufacture a broad range of spirit style, from the light, estery and fruity styles which go into Yamazaki 12yo, to much heavier more textured spirit, which helps make up some of the interesting blends under the Suntory empire, such as Hibiki. The stills are all completely different sizes and shapes with viewing portholes all the way up the necks. We’ve seen this on many other stills, but not to the same extent.

Mike explains that our next port of call is important, as it will demonstrate the importance of the use of Japanese oak in the whisky made at Yamazaki.

We wend our way down to the vast on-site warehousing, full of immaculately arranged casks. Quercus Mongolica or Mizunara oak is very expensive to produce, only growing in the northern part of Japan and as a result, casks are in short supply. But one thing you can immediately notice is the undoubted spicy, fragrant notes that Mizunara oak gives to a whisky. We try a direct cask sample and it is cedary, perfumed and utterly irresistible.

Most of the casks here are stencilled with ‘Pure Malt’. Mike explains that back in 1984 the phrase single malt meant very little in Japan and as a result, Pure Malt was adopted. “Our coopers are only just getting round to updating the stencils- things are slow to change here!” laughs Mike. But there is a poignancy to his last sentence. A proud level of tradition is observed from the top of the company, right down to the cleaners, who still use old fashioned brooms to keep the distillery spick and span. Mike neatly sums up that to make world class Japanese whisky, they must keep applying continuous refinement to the process. Long may that continue.

We are now treated to some excellent Yamazaki drams, including the 12yo, 18yo, the newly released 1984 bottling (an exquisite mix of wax, fragrant honey, dry sherry and dried fruits) the very hard to find 25yo (woody, dark and very dry indeed) plus a little dram of Hibiki 17yo, but our eyes turn to the wall of exclusive bottlings. With pens at the ready, we dive in.

Yamazaki – Secret Malt – No Age Statement – 43%

Nose: Super soft peated notes, with lots of summer fruits, sherbet lemons, fragrant pipe tobacco and some brown envelopes. Brilliantly balanced.

Palate: An immediate hit of fresh green apple, cream liqueur and then masses of summer fruit compote. How they make this whisky so fruity is beyond me.

Finish: Light, but lingering, the mouth is left with a superb silky feel.

Overall: I bought a bottle of this whisky to return home with, as sadly there are no plans to import it yet. I sincerely hope they change their minds- it opens up another dimension to the world of Yamazaki. Another cracker.

Yamazaki – Sherry cask bottling – 48%

Nose: Gravy browning!! Very meaty, with a huge sherrywood influence, giving a musty, slightly foisty note. Then comes that hint of rich fruit, spice and burnt oranges. Similar to the 18yo, but clearly much more intense.

Palate: Exceedingly dry on the palate, but opens up with water, giving mincemeat notes, Oloroso sherry sweet/dryness and minty notes.

Finish: The dryness lingers with a little spiciness prickling the palate for a few minutes.

Overall: In general terms of whisky making, this would be classed as an excellent dram, but we can’t help feeling that the wonderful 18yo manages to get the rich sherry/fruit balance perfect and this would come a definite second.

Next post- We visit the Hakushu distillery, have a crack at blending some whisky and nearly boil our hand in an interesting dining experience called Shaba-Shaba!!

Friday, 11 June 2010

A Berry Good Friday Threesome



Sometimes the puns slip off the tongue far too easily, but as Friday's sunshine descends into a lovely warm evening, here's a trio of new releases from Berry Bros & Rudd to get your lips around.

Berrys' Own Selection - Glenlossie - 1975 - 49.8%

Nose: Menthol, earthiness (freshly turned soil) some mossy/leafy notes and a little burnt orange, combine with some much lighter, sweeter vanilla/white chocolate aromas. Really superbly balanced. With the addition of water, a hint of candle wax and some floral soap and a fabulous sweet berry note.

Palate: Malt, coupled with some of those minty/menthol notes, with a drying backbeat of rich blood oranges, a hint of sweetness of the marzipan variety and a little prickle from some peppery spices, including cinnamon. A very impressive and well balanced drop indeed.

Finish:
The orange notes morph into some lingering florals and the palate dries off over a very long time indeed.

Overall:
What a superbly pleasant surprise. Glenlossie isn't a distillery we've had the pleasure to cover much but this sets the benchmark right up there. It's a bottling from my birth year, so will now be on the 'list' of purchases for my 40th birthday celebrations (to be fair, a few years off yet!)
Next up... a rather interesting grain...

Berrys' Own Selection - Girvan Grain - 1989 - 45.1%

Nose: A very light and fruity entry, followed by some damp sugar paper, a hint of engine oil, wool sweaters, marzipan and candy floss. Sounds crazy, but this reminded me of the aromas you'd get at an old fashioned steam fair!! And I mean that in the best possible way.

Palate: Wow, super sweet with a big creamy fudge note dominating the mouth. I just returned from St Ives and bought back some Cornish fudge- the similarities are stunning. As the sweetness dies away, some crystal clean grain comes through, into a hint of lemon peel, and Glace cherries.

Finish: Short, but not short on the lingering sweetness.

Overall: Less developed than the 1971 Invergordon Single Grain, which showed really well in our BiG awards a few months ago, but this is definitely a bottle to consider if you have a sweet tooth.

Our final dram in this Friday Threesome is a feisty Cragganmore from 1997. We were driving past the distillery only yesterday- sadly no time to stop, but there's certainly another Speyside trip planned soon and Cragganmore is at the top of our lists...


Berrys' Own Selection - Cragganmore - 1997 - 58.6%

Nose: Creamy, with a soft cheese note, followed by a hint of drying sherry cask aromas, peanut brittle, olives in chilli oil and a few savoury notes. (sundried peppers) Give it a little time in the glass and the savoury elements start to balance out and a distinct note of sharp cooking apple pokes its head through for a chat.

Palate: Big mouthfeel indeed. Hot and very savoury, with a mighty maltiness, some pepper, spiced beef and mashed potato. Almost a Cottage pie in fact. Needs some water to really come alive, with a nice sweet side to the malt coupling with cream toffee as the savoury notes subside.

Finish: Lingering spices and cream make for a lengthy finish.

Overall:
I wasn't sure about this one initially and it certainly needed some water to start shining through. If you're a Cragganmore fan, i'd recommend you see if Ed or Doug have this bottling open in the shop for a wee taster- it is certainly worth it.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A Major Delight


Yesterday, Caskstrength was given yet another great opportunity to visit Speyside - that's twice in a week now. We're starting to think it would be better if we could get a little bolthole somewhere up here and save on travel. Then it came to us.... As we were visiting Glen Grant for the launch of their brand new 170th Anniversary bottling perhaps we could get permission to pitch a field tent at the bottom of the distillery's wonderfully manicured gardens? Better still- maybe we would be allowed to bed down in the cave, which Major Grant had purposefully cut into the rocks which now houses a very special cask indeed? Don't mind topping and tailing!!



Having a little bit of free time before the official launch, we got to wander through the gardens with Master Distiller Dennis Malcolm. Not only is Dennis a legendary whisky maker, but it seems he's also a dab hand at garden design- it was his idea to rebuild the walkway over the burn up to where the cave is situated and it makes for a spectacular tasting platform.



First up, a rare treat - a healthy measure of 1961 Glen Grant was drawn from the slumbering cask for us to get our palates around. Brace yourself Ridley...


The Major's Glen Grant- 1961 - 'The Cave Finish' - ABV Unknown

Nose: Deep, dark and murky. Bloody hell. You can tell this has been maturing outside in the Scottish elements. Some huge polished wood, mixed with a fruity then vanilla perfume, quite reminiscent of George T. Stagg bourbon. Dig deeper and the woody notes turn to a more cedar'y variety. To finish off this wonderful aroma we get molasses and some dark fruits steeped in aged rum. Really quite an experience.

Palate: Perhaps not as beguiling as the nose, with some drying wood taking a firm lead, but this soon dies away into burnt toffee, big malt notes and toasted nuts- no...make that charred nuts! Not sure what strength this is at, but with water, some of the drier notes subside and the fruits in rum from the nose make a welcome return.

Finish: We're often asked what a 'long' finish is. Put it this way, we took a leisurely walk back through down the wooden path, zig-zagged across the lawns, examined the flowerbeds and had time to take plenty of pictures. This whisky lingered, developed and coated the mouth like engine oil. That's a long finish.

Overall: More often than not, trying a whisky in the open air at the distillery gives it a fairy dust which you just can't obtain anywhere else. To try this, with the burn flowing underneath us makes it one of those heart fluttering moments. Thanks to Dennis for a great opportunity to try something a little bit out of the ordinary.



As the early evening started to draw in, we were ushered in to the filling warehouse for the official tasting of the Anniversary bottling. Dennis gave a short introduction to the concept behind the whisky, which is a vatting of casks from between 1976 and 1990, but with as much as 45% of the whiskies included coming from between 1976 and 1982. So there's some seriously old bits and bobs in here, folks.

It was then left to Mr Jim Murray to take the assembled group through tasting notes. Here's what we thought:



Glen Grant - 170th Anniversary Release - 1840-2010 - 46%

Nose: An initial fruitiness, coupled with some marzipan, wet cardboard and a spicy raisin sweetness. Very clean, with a crisp barley freshness. The balance between old whisky and the younger casks from 1990 works very well. It's unmistakably Glen Grant.

Palate: Spirity at first, with a hint of some red fruits developing, then a sharp wave of gooseberries and green apple peel. Jim recommended not adding water, but we decided to explore a little further and the result was very pleasing indeed, with some big fresh bread-like maltiness emerging and a return of the raisins. There's also a subtle hint of peat smoke, which is perhaps due to the peating of the 1970's malt. Jim mentioned he found a little sulphur on the palate, but it isn't something we detected at all, just lots of clean, fruity goodness.

Finish: Some lingering licorice, with a little hint of soapiness, but most of all, that big barley.

Overall: A very well put together bottling, which sings Glen Grant on every level. Most certainly recommended and not a hint of sulphur in sight. (Sorry Jim!)

Our evening was then topped off with some generous drams of a modern Glen Grant classic- the Cellar Reserve bottling from 1992. We reviewed this last year, notes of which you can read here. If you haven't got round to grabbing a bottle of this, get on it now! it has recently been discontinued and on tonight's performance, perhaps the real star of the Glen Grant bottlings.

As the Celler Reserve flowed, someone thought it a good idea for your caskstrength ambassador to have a quick blast on a set of bagpipes. Oh dear. There exists a picture of this horrific experience, which shall hopefully remain hidden in a vault somewhere, but sounds akin to that of the bowels of Beelzebub emanated from both the pipes and your red faced, wheezing scribe. Below is an artists impression- not a pretty sight, i'm sure you'll agree....

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Crying Game


What happens when something isn't as it appears? Many times we've joked in bars about trying Glen Hoddle Whisky or Glen Miller Blended, but what if these were to actually exist...?

Then today I came across this site:


When you're making a film, if you haven't been sponsored by some major drinks giant to place their bottles in full view of the audience, then which brands should you choose? Well, you give the chaps at The Early Hays Press a call, of course! Based in Sun Valley, California, they supply props to the film, TV and theatre business, meaning you can finally order that illusive bottle of Jim Daniels, Black Rush, Cutters Ark or Malt Mill* which you've been seeking out for an age.

Here are our guesstimate tasting notes for the Cutters Ark:


Cutters Ark - Blended Scots Whisky - ABV unknown

Nose: very little going on except for hints of weak tea

Palate: again, not a great deal to tell, this must be a least a third or fourth refill bournbon cask. Hints of tea / PG Tips.

Finish: Gone in an instant, this blend is probably very young but the wood maturation seems to have subdued the spirit right down. Hints of tea.

Overall: A good malt to start the day with, as the overall blend of tea and, er, tea make this one to look out for the in the future... the addition of a drop or two of milk (in Europe they like to use lemon slices apparently, but each to their own. Someone once told me that they added ICE in States. Amazing!) really brings the flavours out, especially when heated through in a microwave. Serving suggestion: this is best consumed from a small china cup served with a biscuit chaser. May we suggest shortbread.

If you really want some fun, check out the other items including Playpen Magazine and The New York World newspaper... enjoy!

*Malt Mill is totally fictitious and made up, apologise for that. Unless anyone wants to prove us wrong and send us a sample.... ;-)