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Showing posts with label Longmorn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Longmorn. Show all posts

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Spirit Of Speyside Festival 2011

In two weeks time, Neil and I shall be making our fifth (fourth for the blog) visit to the Feis Ile, Islay’s Festival of music And whisky. As usual we shall be driving up, kipping somewhere en route and making our way across on the CalMac ferry, provided that Neil has booked us on the correct crossing this year! It is always a festival we look forward to, despite the increasingly competitive nature of the distillery shops when the bottlings are released and we shall be doing our utmost to blog every day from each distillery, hopefully bringing an irreverently packaged slice of Islay to those who can't make it over.

One event that seems to have been left behind in the wake of the Islay revival, is the Spirit Of Speyside Festival. Last week, Caskstrength and a few other whisky blogs were invited up to the event by Chivas Brothers. No long car rides, no motorway service stations and certainly no Ginsters pasties were required to bring you news from this gathering; just a quick train to Gatwick and before you could say 'Spirit of Speyside', we were in Aberdeen awaiting the start of a busy schedule.

For those of you who have never been, Speyside covers a large area of the Scottish Highlands and has around 40 single malt distilleries open or mothballed and many others, which live on through rare and unusual bottlings. This makes the idea of bringing them all together for one week of festival fun a rather daunting task, but kudos to the people running the organising committee, as well as to the array of distillery owners and managers who have come together to make this work. Speyside is undeniably the home of whisky and as such, the festival should be lauded as much as any event in the whisky calendar.

The itinerary for our three-and-a-bit day visit was rather daunting: One mountain, two 12km walks, five distilleries and numerous drams all to be fitted in around the Royal Wedding celebrations...

Day One:

The main event on the day of arrival was the Spirit Of Speyside opening dinner. Apparently the opening ceremony rotates annually between distilleries on Speyside and this year this honour fell to Knockando. A beautiful old distillery with plenty of character, it played host to not only an opening dinner but also the Spirit Of Speyside 2011 Whisky Awards Final Round judging, which we were asked to help out with. Six different drams, split into three categories;

12 - 15 years old

18 - 20 years old

21 years & older

with two whiskies in each category, it made the task of judging the 2011 World Whisky Awards earlier in the years seem mammoth in comparison. The judging forms were the sort of thing we might expect if the referendum on the Alternative Vote swings in favour of the “yes” camp and if we can pair each General Election candidate with a different whisky, it might encourage the sort of turn out that this event drew; a new way of casting your vote, via the AV system...the Aqua Vita way, that is!

Just to highlight how jam-packed the festival schedule was this year, here are some other events that you could have chosen to do on the opening day:

Speyside Cooperage tour, Gourmet Heaven whisky & Chocolate pairing with Gordon & MacPhail, or bottling your own 2011 festival spirit at the Glenglassaugh distillery. So much to do and so little time!!

Day Two:

The morning kicked off with a tour of Longmorn Distillery. A real treat as we were being shown around by Distillery Manager Neal Corbett who is, shock-horror- an Englishman in charge of a Scotch Distillery! Hailing from the Midlands, Neal has an amazing knowledge concerning the art of distillation and as a result had to put up with a barrage of questions from us about cut points, temperatures and fermentation levels.

The real masterclass came when we were asked to nose a sample of New Make against a test sample, something that a team of highly train managers and blenders have to do once a week to make sure that each and every distillery from the Chivas portfolio is up to scratch. These guys have highly trained, bloodhound like noses which could sniff out a Rosebank in a field of flowers at twenty paces. Amazing stuff and utterly educational.

At the end of the tour, we got to try a 15 year old cask sample and the 16 year old, which replaced the 15 Year Old in 2007 (we have notes for the 15 here)

Longmorn 16 Year Old - 48%

Nose: Hints of dried fruits, leather notes, and toasted almonds all surprise at first, then with water, some of the classic Longmorn fruitiness develops, pears, ripe plums and a bourbon sweet vanilla.

Palate: Hints of woodiness, hugely mouth coating with fruit sherbets and well reduced caramel sauce notes.

Finish: Very lengthy, with lingering notes of cherry brandy.

Overall: As fans of the 15yo, we were pleased that this expression hasn't deviated too far from the brilliance of the original.

Longmorn - cask sample - 1989- cask 8583 - 57%

Nose: Big hit of vanilla, followed by royal jelly, classic Longmorn sweet soft fruits, sherbet and powerful floral notes.

Palate: Light, fresh and initially grassy, the fruit influence begins to take hold, with plums, bourbon cask sweetness, vanilla, lemon zest and a hint of dustiness.

Finish: Lingering notes of fresh fruit and bourbon influence dominate the lengthy finish.

Overall: Very similar to the commercially available Cask Strength edition Longmorn, more of which comes later...

After enjoying these two drams with Neal, it was time to take a break and head to the Highlander Inn, one of the most famous whisky bars in Scotland, to ironically catch up on the events happening in London. Ridley had managed to forget about the small sample of The Macallan Royal Marriage bottling he had put in his bag and finding it whilst watching the proceedings on TV made this especially historic occasion, even more memorable.

A wonderful occasion, a magical whisky bar and a fantastic setting to boot. We even spotted the perfect bottling for Tim TWE’s 40th: a natural born Playboy!

The day was finished off with festival dinner at the Aberlour Distillery. Not just any old dinner, but one especially put together by Martine Nouet, one of the world's leading experts in food and whisky matching. Each course had been carefully constructed to match a whisky from the Aberlour range - including our favourite- the 18 year old (rich chocolate notes, blood orange and deft hints of marzipan sweetness) A packed room experienced how whisky can be the perfect accompaniment to a variety of foods and Martine did a fantastic job in linking each dram to it’s respected course. A fantastic addition to the festival, this dinner is certainly one to be early to sell out for next years festival.

Day Three:

This was a day to test us, as it kicked off with a 12km walk from The Glenlivet Distillery with Master Distiller Alan Winchester. Alan is an absolute encyclopaedia of knowledge about the local area and walking and talking with him is like spending time with the great man Barnard himself. Facts, figures and folklore about the Speyside region are Winchester’s speciality, delivered with a rye smile as standard. The walk was challenging, but once at the summit of Carn Daimh Alan popped a bottle of Glenlivet 18 year old and all seemed well with the world. Ridley even made it up in a pair of plimsolls, a fact that had us putting Mountain Rescue into the speed dial of our ‘phones, just in case...

As we made our descent from the hills, where illegal distilling took place in the 16th & 17th Centuries, we arrived back at The Glenlivet to find that as part of their open day celebrations they had fired up their (legal) smugglers still. An amazing piece of kit, which replicates how whisky would have originally been made when many of the local distillers where hidden away in the Glens, trying to evade capture. The spirit straight from the still is sweet and strong, needing water to make it fully palatable. Once cut, it is easy to drink with lovely sugary notes and vanilla essence. You can really see why this Uisge Beatha was so sought after. A real treat for everyone who made the 12km trek, as well as all those visiting the distillery that day. The video here shows the still in action and the effects of the white spirit...

The afternoon was filled with a trip to Strathisla Distillery which, with the sun beating down, must be one of the most beautiful distilleries in Speyside. After a brief tour, we were introduced to the Chivas Brothers range of Cask Strength Editions, bottlings that are only available at each distillery, or online via their respective webshops. Released in very small batches, these are worth a real look with some very well priced (£35-ish) gems in the line up:

Glenburgie – 15 Years Old – 1994 / 2011 - Cask Strength Editions – 54.6% - 50cl

Nose: Huge pear notes, boiled sweets (white), white flowers. Very fresh and juicy indeed.

Palate: Weak lemon drink (freshly made, not cordial) pear juice again.

Finish: Lemons and pears again. Almost like barley water at times too. Very juicy and drinkable.

Overall: A real cracker of a bottling, we loved the previous batch and this is just as good with loads of pear juice and fresh lemonade cutting through. A great summer dram.

Scapa – 16 years Old – 1993 / 2010 – Cask Strength Editions – 60.9% - 50cl

Nose: Vanilla Sherbet, orange crèmes, biscotti, currants.

Palate: Orange zest, sweet mandarins, butternut squash and a hint of coriander.

Finish: Good body, sweet sugars and orange squash.

Overall: A really solid offering from a distillery that produces a unique whisky. Robust and complex.

Miltonduff – 18 Years Old – 1991 / 2009 – Cask Strength Editions – 51.3% - 50cl

Nose: Dried fruits, pear juices but not as much as the Glenburgie, pickles.

Palate: Vanilla and soft ice cream, but that’s about it.

Finish: Spicy vanilla.

Overall: Not a great deal of character or personality in this dram sadly. More Milton Keynes than John Milton...

The Glenlivet – 16 Years Old – 1992 / 2009 - Cask Strength Editions – 57.8% - 50cl

Nose: Baked banana, vanilla fondant, boiled sweets dusted with sugar.

Palate: Big hit of sugary tea, a fantastic texture and notes of sauternes wine.

Finish: Crème Brule topping, dark honey and Lilt soft drink (pineapple and orange fizz).

Overall: Good use of the key distillery characters to produce something that is clearly The Glenlivet, but differs from their usual range and has more in common with the Nadurra than any other bottling.

Strathisla – 16 Years Old – 1994 / 2011 – Cask Strength Editions - 55.3% - 50cl

Nose: Creamy banana ice cream, vanilla pods, ‘taste the difference’ custard, blackcurrant tart.

Palate: Toasted sesame seeds mixed with fruit sorbet, creamy raspberry yoghurt and pink wafer biscuits.

Finish: Biscuits with toasted almonds.

Overall: A close run thing between this and the Glenburgie, but this won out as our dram of the series. Well worth picking up a bottle online.

The evening saw a whisky quiz with various teams of locals and visitors competing for a prize of a bottle of Inverleven 1973 / 36 Year Old / Deoch an Doras. Thankfully, it was someone from our group whose team won the prize and we returned to our lodgings with the promise of a dram. We were not let down and as the cork was popped, we settled in to our arm chairs to digest the days entertainment and rest our weary feet from the long walk earlier in the day. It was a much needed rest as the following day some folk were departing before the dawn chorus, whilst others of us were in for more fitness with yet another 12km walk only this time up a mountain...

Day Four:

Gulp... what were we thinking. Clearly the spirit of Speyside must have been inside us when we agreed to our next challenge. Caskstrength and TWEB had agreed to traverse the highest point in the region, the whisky mountain, Ben Rinnes. Much like Ronnie Cox’s red socks, you can see the mountain from everywhere in Speyside. The view from the top, we were promised, was going to be spectacular. And they were right. From the near-1,700ft you can see 8 different counties, backdropped by an incredible deep blue sky and a whole host of distilleries, nestled in amongst the landscape.

Our guides were to be the ever-knowledgeable Alan Winchester and the indefatigable Mr Dave Broom, who along with Ann Millar from Chivas Brothers, had installed a geoscope at the summit to all the distilleries you can see. The walk was packed with whisky enthusiasts from across the globe, including some members of London’s Whisky Squad, as well as other writers such as Hans Offringa, Oliver Klimek and anyone else who fancied signing up for the event. We’ve complied a small video to show you some of the journey, as well as Dave Broom’s assessment of the view from the top, which can be viewed here.

Once the summit was conquered the only real rearward was a dram and what better whisky to have than Benrinnes:

Benrinnes – 15 Years Old – Flora & Fauna – 43%- 70cl

Nose: Nuttella, cherry jam and digestive biscuits. A big nose with lots of bold character.

Palate: A big mouthfeel with warming elements of copper, coffee and some dark furniture polish, although not in a heavy sherry influenced way. Plus huge Walnuts. ;-)

Finish: Some wood spices, with the cherry jam returning. Well stewed tea without milk.

Overall: Very enjoyable, even with the wind lashing us and the massive plastic cup. Would like to try this at home in the warmth, but it was a hugely enjoyable dram to enjoy on its namesake peak!

What you want? a F***ing medal or something??

After making a hasty decent from the top, it was time to make our way back to Aberdeen airport for the (rather bumpy) flight home. With ultra-clear skies for take off, we could gaze out of the window at the mountain we had just conquered and as the plane lifted in to the sky, it was easy to pick out some of the distilleries we had seen just a few hours earlier from the top of the mount.

An amazing trip, with plenty of activities on offer for everyone. For more information on the Spirit Of Speyside Festival, visit

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Glen London Part Three: Whisky Show Day 2.

What a difference a week makes. Whilst Joel was clearly toiling this week, grappling with some stupendous whisky beasts, I was trying to make sense of just what its like to have a holiday. A Curates Egg shall we say- one moment lying on the beach, falling asleep and burning one's legs to a crisp... the next, thinking about all the great whiskies I was missing out on back home, whilst necking high strength white rum. Let's just say that i'm not particularly one for sunning myself- in fact, whilst on the beach, I realised that I had only brogues to wear- with hindsight, a totally absurd choice of footwear.

Still I'm home now and back at the second day of The Whisky Show, which I was really looking forward to.

Joel had already primed me as to what to look out for, so for the first dram of the day, the quite frankly stunning Adelphi Bunnahabhain 41 year old bottling (think a wonderful mix of fresh and dried fruits, classic sherry dryness, but not a hint of bitterness) This is certainly on my purchase list and a whisky which will surely disappear quickly after the buzz it created around the show.

So a high benchmark had been set and I drifted off to The Whisky Exchange stand in search of further perfection. Fortunately the five bottlings on offer were at the top of their game. Just how the WE find casks like this is beyond us, but keep it up chaps! I settled on a 1981 Lochside as my highlight, as modelled here by Brian Fallon of the Gaslight Anthem band.

Lochside - 1981 - Whisky Exchange bottling - Oloroso Sherry Reserve - 57.5%

Nose: Notes of waxed mahogany, overripe bananas, tropical fruits (guava and passion fruit) and rich treacle toffee.

Palate: The fruit continues into an explosion of tropical notes. It's like i'm back in the Seychelles, trying to pick fresh mango and Jack fruit from the heavily laden trees, which line every road. Add to that a touch of brittle honey comb, humbugs and cinnamon spiced notes. Superb in every way, with no holes at all.

Finish: The fruit lingers and the flavours develop beautifully, with all the resonance of a terrific old sherry cask.

Overall: Sukhinder and his team have yet again struck gold with this one. Another highlight from what's shaping up to be a premier whisky event.

After a spot of lunch (well, I was already gorged on a fine Penge Cafe Mixed Grill, so went straight for the Panacotta and toffee/Longmorn sauce) it felt right to try something a little lighter and younger. 2 whiskies sprang to mind- Glenlivet's Nadurra Triumph 1991 and the soon-to-be-released Kilchoman Winter Release. Once again, we were enticed into Connosr's Whisky Pod to review the Kilchoman (which was a pre-release caskstrength sample) and again they struck gold with full ripe fruity fresh bourbon notes, mixed with a fresh warming smokiness. With a refreshed palate (and a big slug of water) it was onto the Nadurra, which we have reviewed previously. The Triumph exclusively uses the the strain of barley taking the same name and gives another dimension of fresh fruitiness, with an additional couple of years of maturation in bourbon oak.

Glenlivet Nadurra - Triumph - 1991 distillation- Batch 0310B - bottled 3/10 - 48%

Nose: Hot buttered crumpet, Hubba Bubba bubble gum, fresh bourbon'esque fruits, lemon zest and vanilla notes. Vibrant, exciting and totally irresistible.

Palate: Rich Tea biscuit maltiness, clear apple juice, home made apple pie, with cinnamon spice and a distinct white sugar sweetness.

Finish: Further notes of red apple and sweet vanilla creme brulee linger and resonate as the palate dries.

Overall: Well worth seeking out if you are already a fan of the original Nadurra. A big feather in Glenlivet's cap for bottling this.

Our good friend Andy was also at the show, seemingly working hard on becoming the new face of Johnnie Walker Blue Label as well as Angus, now writing an entertaining blog, as ever on hand with a bag of goodies, including this very old Signatory Longmorn (waxy, simple and hugely fruity, showing no signs of old age, just the hallmarks of how great the distillery was back in the mid 60's) Also, major props to Sam 'Dr Whisky' Simmons for fighting back the jetlag and diving headlong into the lions den of great whisky. We salute you sir and welcome back to the UK.

Final stop was at the Berry Bros stand, with Doug and Rocky propping up their burgeoning bar with a number of treats. Fresh from being awarded Whisky Magazine's Independent Bottler of the Year award, they had the family silver out on display, including this highly polished gem:

Berrys' Own Selection - Invergordon Single Grain Bottling - 1971 - bottled 2010 - 47%

Nose: Bourbon notes to the max, with candied fruit, bubble gum, soft toffee and a hint of licorice spice.

Palate: Sweet Honeycomb, very floral light fruit notes (like a freshly prepared fruit salad with kiwi fruit, strawberries, mango and banana) more bourbon sweet/spice and fresh cream.

Finish: The cream dies away into a lengthy and very juicy finish.

Overall: Berry Bros have produced some sterling grain bottlings over the past couple of years and this one is right up there again. A distinct highlight in their current portfolio, which will no doubt disappear soon.

With a final dram of the specially released Whisky Show Port Ellen on the way out (think classic sherried PE, with that hint of soft smoke winding around some fruity dryness and Devon Creamery fudge) our palates were truly dazzled by what was on offer. So far, 2 out of 2 for The Whisky Show. Last year proved that despite a high ticket price, whisky enthusiasts out there are prepared to pay for quality and this year has built on those foundations.

Expect this show to be back next year, bigger than ever with another huge tranche of the finest whiskies for you to feast yourselves on. Who needs holidays eh.....

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Long Way From Home (again)

I love TK Maxx. You’ve got to have time, but every so often you unearth a bargain. I remember still fondly my biggest score: a Belstaff jacket. Retail price, somewhere around £300. TK Maxx price: £75.00. That’s gotta be good. I think it comes from a family heritage of digging around charity shops in the home counties. If you ever get an invite to my flat (seriously, come on over!) then you’ll find that it’s full of bits-and-bobs acquired from Oxfam / Red Cross / Scope / Marie Curie. Be it an Ercol sideboard or a vintage La Crucet, it’s usually a bargain unearthed by someone from Family Harrison in a charity shop in Headington.

I think this trait in my family has been refined in me, not only in respect of looking for value in places like TK Maxx and Oxfam, but also at any bar I might find myself in, anywhere in the world at any time.

The harsh reality is that not everyone loves whisky in the same vociferous way that we (or indeed you, our dear readers) do. This means that every now-and-again you can visit a bar that has been previously well stocked by the owner but has since fallen into disrepair. The whisky that they lovingly selected for their back bar has not been upsold, left to gather dust for eagled eyed reporters such as us! This evening proved one such find.

In a wee bar hidden away in Speyside (yes, we’re back up in the heart of Scotland’s whiskymaking land- more about that tomorrow if we’re not stuck boozing somewhere...) we spotted a whisky that was no longer available but one of which we had heard great reports: the Longmorn 15 Year Old. Replaced by the Longmorn 16 Year Old in 2007, a year older and 3% higher in ABV upped from 45% to 48%, this is an excellent bottling with an even better bottle design (it’s not often we comment on bottle design, but this has its own built in leather coaster. How cool is that?!) it’s now rare to come across its predecessor. A quick text to some friends reveals that it is certainly one to try. So, let’s give it a go:

Longmorn 15 Year Old – OB – Black and gold label – 45% ABV

Nose: Hot buttered cinnamon toast, tiffin cake and rich black tea .

Palate: A sweetness hits first of brown sugar which is immediately broken with fine spices (hints of cardamom). An overall roundness of fresh wholemeal bread. Wonderfully spicy, sweet yet rich palate.

Finish: Medium / Long spice with lots of oak and deep meaty notes. Really interesting.

Overall: This whisky is a real cracker. Sadly it looks like it'll now set you back £75+. Looking back at the bottle, it certainly needed re-vamping (it was in the same era as Danny DeVito and Arnie movie) but has the whisky moved up with the packaging? You’ll have to wait and find out when we get back to The Big Smoke and locate some Longmorn 16 to try....!!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Long, (good) Morn(ing).

Mornings. In my book, the perfect time to try whisky (Watch it, Amy Winehouse! - Ed). Surely someone, somewhere will create a breakfast malt soon enough!! In these times where major drinks companies are looking to mine each and every emerging market (look out Mars, here comes a manned NASA landing sponsored by Diageo, with their new blend "Johnnie Moon Walker"...), the last bastion of the British market must be breakfast. The only thing to really rival the mix of scotch bottles in my house, is the variety of tea bags my good lady keeps in the kitchen. The Twinings tea selection box resembles the Bruichladdich Distillery Shop for diversity and sheer creativity. So if a selection of different teas is as good for breakfast as it is before bed, then a selection of different drams must also fill that gap, surely...?!?

My current breakfast of choice is somewhat continental. Sure, at weekends I revert to type; some sort of nylon-football-shirt-wearing builder demanding the most dirty of fry-ups as I sit around watching Sky Sports News. But not during the week. Oh, no! My little living room in South London becomes some kind of Parisian outpost; coffee pots boiling away atop the stove, copies of broadsheet newspapers lie limp across the dining table, like solders wounded on the battle field. A crossword half finished, is mocking me with words I don't even know. But that aroma. Ahhhh... that wonderful aroma. Coffee, grapefruit, news print, fresh fruit, sugar, cinnamon from the top of a chelsea bun... if only this wonderful scent could be bottled....

Longmorn Glenlivet - 1971 / 2004 - G&M Bottling - 70cl - 40% Vol.

Nose: Wow. Chelsea buns or pain au raisin for you lot from outside of the UK! Think currants, sugar and cinnamon. Then come the classic polished wood you get with sherried whisky. A touch of grapefruit and a delicate waft of coffee. Wow.

Palate: Very easy going in the mouth. A slight tingle of white pepper balanced beautifully with gentle toffee.

Finish: Green, clear apple juice. A hint of jam... Raspberry jam. And then a hint of that bitterness you get with freshly squeezed blackcurrant juice. Just delicious.

Overall. The nose on this is perfect. Just perfect. The palate, although lacking slightly in the middle (more punch would have been nice) is just delicate and wonderful. And the finish... delicious. One of the best drams I have ever had the pleasure of tasting.