Sunday, 31 July 2011
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
Saturday, 23 July 2011
This weekend it is the turn of cricket and there is no greater soothing sound than Test Match Special's dulcet tones emanating from my radio. The sound of leather on willow backed with gentle applause, makes for a relaxing Saturday morning, curled up on the sofa with a weekend newspaper and scrambled eggs on toast. Who couldn't love stuff like this, on the radio:
Aberfeldy - 14yo - 185 bottles - cask no. 3618 - 58.1% - £99
Nose: Heavy butterscotch, sherry resonance, musty, mossy forest floor,raisins in rum, superb fudge notes
Palate: slight rubber note, backed with treacle tart dried apricots and muscavado sugar.
Finish: drying, some dark sugar and oaky sherry notes. Sweetened Coffee with dark chocolates comes through.
Overall: Very nice indeed and at a good price, sub-£100. We tasted with a few friends and some liked it with water, others less so. Personally, I though it cut well but would rather sip it neat.
This is the first Aberfeldy we've reviewed, but if this single cask is evidence of the quality of spirit being made at the distillery, it certainly makes me want to explore the rest of their output and stop off next time we're passing so close.
Monday, 18 July 2011
A little while ago, I was lucky enough to purchase a bottle of 2007 Dow's Vintage port. Recently declared as the best vintage in Dow's history, it seemed like an opportunity to grab something at a reasonable price (under £45) to lay down until the time is right. Hopefully, the time will be right in 15 or so years and my £45 investment will have paid dividends, in terms of flavour.
Friday, 15 July 2011
It’s Frrrrriday! And as always on a Friday we like to try and add to the anticipated wonderfulness of the weekend which awaits... try saying that after a dram or two!
Last week we launch a competition to win a bottle of our now sold-out Caskstrength & Carry On Arran, signed by Distillery Manager James MacTaggart, with the simple task of clicking “like” on our facebook page to enter. The winner was announced on facebook earlier today.
If you didn’t win but you did buy a bottle of the whisky, then don’t forget that there is still one bottle out there somewhere with a GOLD STAR in the bottom of the box. If you have this, drop us a line with a picture of it and you win an additional, limited edition, single cask Arran. That should make your Friday even brighter.
But it doesn't stop there!
As it’s festival season, we thought it would be good to give you the chance to come and see some live music and have a wee whisky at the same time, so we’ve paired up with London based band Athlete to offer you the chance to come to one of their show from their July tour, preceded by a whisky tasting with us and the band.
Signed to Fiction Records (home to The Cure, Elbow, Ian Brown, Kaiser Chiefs, White Lies, Snow Patrol), Athlete have previously scored a UK number 1 album, sold over a million records, won an Ivor Novello award as well as received a Mercury Music nomination... but most importantly, they love their whisky! Moreover, I'm sure you'll all appreciate the irony of us on tour with a band called 'Athlete', taking in to consideration the picture of us in the "about" section on the blog...
To enter the competition and for terms and conditions, click here.
For more tour dates from Athlete, click here.
In the meantime, enjoy this live video of the band:
Thursday, 14 July 2011
The BBC is reporting a HMRC spokesman as saying
“Yesterday's tragic events in Boston have underlined the risks that go with the illegal distillation of alcohol.
"In just over the last 12 months HMRC, working with other law enforcement agencies, has closed down three illegal stills and six men have been prosecuted for producing counterfeit vodka, resulting in prison sentences totalling over 56 years.
"Illegal alcohol undermines all honest alcohol traders whilst putting at risk the lives of those who consume and produce it."
A much better option seems to be blending; a privileged granted to us and others by the chaps at Master Of Malt recently. Servicing ten blogs with a blending kit and letting us get on with it, the final result was chosen by the general public.
Having sat down and tasted all the blends, one thing is certain: they are all different. Some more so than others, but certainly each holds their own unique flavour profile. The winner has been announced here and you can purchase a bottle (or indeed a kit of all ten) to see if you agree with the result.
One thing that threads these blends together is the unanimous and resounding agreement that this process was a lot harder than we all initially thought. Many of us have been party to blending classes hosted by professionals or have even had a go at throwing together some bin-ends at home to see what we can produce... but having limited whiskies and being mindful of a price-point, this task was indeed challenging. Along with the distillation, I think I’ll leave the blending to the experts, at least for the time being!
A master at this craft is Compass Box’s John Glaser. Having started his boutique whisky company over ten years ago, the output from Compass Box seems to go from strength-to-strength. Recent additions to the range have focused on top end, premium releases under the banner of the Compass Box Signature Range with limited releases coming annually.
It is only now that Glaser and Compass Box have expanded their range with the launch of a new category, Great King Street focusing solely on blended whisky.
The first release under the Great King Street banner is their Artist’s Blend; available exclusively in 50cl bottles and, as always with Compass Box, with packaging that is sublime for something at this price point (sub-£24). Let’s see how this tries out:
Nose: A surprisingly bright nose with hints of banana milkshake, vanilla, honeysuckle and cream soda. Some milk chocolate coco powder.
Palate: Initial hit of the foam banana penny sweets, then toasted marshmellow, some rich and creamy butter notes. A little bit of meringue with whipped cream.
Finish: Just a hint of spice which adds a good complexity but a delicate yet unctuous finish with more of the cream and banana but also some toasted crumpets and just a hint of cinnamon.
Overall: This is a great entry level blend but most pleasing of all is the versatility of it. At this price, the consumer shouldn’t be put off experimenting with this blend in different drinks, as well as trying it neat. My recommendation would be to try this as a Mizuwari with a little spring of mint thrown in. This should see you through the summer months in style!
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
For some time now I’ve contemplated putting up a shed, but not for storage of gardening equipment. Oh, no. I would want to create a small area where I can smoke a cigar.
You see, smoking isn't something I do very often and I certainly won’t do it in the house. For starters, I share my place with a housemate and he’s not in to cigars at all. For him to come home to house smelling of tobacco just isn’t on (frying bacon on a Sunday morning? Yes! Stale cigar smoke on a Tuesday evening? No.) so a small shed in the garden would work wonders for this.
However, you can’t stop there, can you? Throw in a Chesterfield chair, a rug, an ash tray, a copy of Monocle Magazine and an old Roberts Radio tuned to Just A Minute on Radio 4 and after a few months you’d be wanting to move the drinks cabinet in. It’s a terribly difficult thing having a cigar without a malt of some repute being within arm’s reach. They are wonderfully comfortable bed fellows, the cigar and the malt.
After a few months relaxing in what, in my own mind has become labelled The Cigar Shed, one might find themselves with itchy feet: you could only sit there for so long without wondering what it might be like if you installed your own mini-still... I could knock out a whisky from the back of my council flat in South London. Cut it with some Peckham Spring Water and you’ve got the perfect dram!
I’m sure it’s the dream of every whisky drinker to at some stage in their life, to produce their own whisky. An utterly bonkers pipe dream, of course..
Well... no. Not at Kilchoman Distillery. Along with a few other ventures across Scotland (most notably Daftmill, but also in the pipeline are Kingsbarn and Falkirk), the guys at Kilchoman Distillery have turned a pipe dream in to reality, opening the first new distillery on the Isle Of Islay for more than 120 Years in 2005. And visiting their tiny distillery is about as close to seeing something which you could have in your shed, as is possible in Scotland.
With a 3 Year Old whisky finally launched in 2009 (read about caskstrength’s visit to the launch here), it seemed that the future wasn't just bright for the new distillery, it was positively blinding. After a stack of honours for the new release, including our first ever Best In Glass award in 2009, we have been eagerly awaiting each release from the Western Islay Distillery and last month came their big new offering: a whisky made 100% on Islay. In fact, 100% at the distillery. My dream of making whisky in my back garden has just been blown out of the water.
Using barley grown on the farm site where the distillery is located, malted in their own floor malting, distilled and matured on site and then bottled at the distillery too, this is a true feat of whisky making. It even transpires that bottling of small batches, such as the Cask Strength Edition of this release (see here on the left), is done using a tea pot by the distillery staff. Never mind a Coffey still, here’s the Tea Pot.
Named "100% Islay" and launched on the 16th June 2011, this 3 year old single malt whisky is matured in first fill bourbon barrels and is available in two limited editions: 11,300 bottles of a 50% ABV edition priced at £69.00 a special distillery only edition, limited to 1,060 bottles, housed in an American white oak presentation box, bottled at cask strength (61.3%) and priced at £149.00.
Using ingredients sourced 100% from the local area is a big mission. But the main question, over-and-above the inclusion of local components, is whether the whisky maintain the high standards set by Kilchoman so far?
Nose: A big hit of smoke rises from the glass and buried beneath is lemon meringue pie; delicate, sugary citrus notes with a fluffy vanilla topping. You might at once mistake this for a young Ardbeg, but there is something more rounded and delicate about the nose, but it certainly owes a debt of gratitude to the Kildalton distilleries.
Palate: 50% abv sits very well with this release. I was a little worried that it might prove too strong, even with a cask strength edition above it in the rage. The smoke takes its rightful place in the driver’s seat here, but the rest of the palate is taken up with malted milk biscuit, more citrus fruit (this time zestier) and now some green apple and cream soda notes.
Finish: This finishes with the lingering nature of a well smoked islay whisky, but some length of pear drops, vanilla scented candles and whipped cream.
Overall: Another cracking release from this distillery. Like the Manchester United youth team, it just shouldn’t be this good at such a young age... but it is.
Watching the development of this distillery is something that will provide an education for us all. With so many long established distilleries making a marketing point out of their age, or the age of their stock, it is a joy to see a young pup such as Kilchoman shout loud and proud about its youth, its verve, its vim and its vigour.