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Showing posts with label the whisky exchange. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the whisky exchange. Show all posts

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Yes Or No? Glenlivet Single Cask Scotch Whisky 1974

It is hard in a job writing about spirits, to not write regularly about Scotch. And, living in England and visiting Scotland on a regular basis, it is difficult to ignore the bagpipe-like noise of nationalism currently floating through the air, this time not coming from a kilt-wearing man standing on the corner of Princess Street in Edinburgh, but from the trunk of the rather large ‘elephant in the room’ that is the upcoming Scottish independence vote.

As I live in England, I don’t get an official say as to the outcome of the situation, as I don’t have a vote. But I have been watching with interest (as someone who holds a Norwegian passport, born in Oxford to an English father and Norwegian mother, I often feel Scotland is geographically my natural home) as the debate has unfolded. And something odd has happened...

For as far as I can make out, the ‘Yes’ vote is arguing that Scotland is a rich country, full of great natural resources and untapped potential. It is a ‘sleeping Norway’, if you will which can stand on its own two feet and create a utopia of a country with a huge oil fund. The ‘No’ vote seems to have taken the stance that Scotland is a country leaning financially and politically on Westminster; that it takes more money from the Union coffers for free university education and other luxuries, not to mention the skew of an ageing population who draw their state pension from a joint pension pot, that leaving the Union would be a bad idea, as ‘we’ (Westminster), fund ‘you’ (Scotland).

So what is it that is odd about these arguments for those of us living south of the border? Well, if you live in the other areas of the Union, you might be swayed by these headline ‘facts’ into the very strange political stance of supporting one side’s argument in the hope that the vote goes the opposite way.

For example, if you live in England and you believe the line of the ‘No’ party that Scotland costs Westminster money, then you might think “OK then, if we fund your lifestyle, then off you go” and want a Yes vote to win. On the other hand, if you live in England and think “Salmond is right, Scotland is rich in so many ways and makes a huge positive contribution to the UK finances, not to mention the political power having oil in any form brings” then you would want the opposite of what Salmond wants: a 'No' vote to keep the Union together.  

As a result, it is all very odd living outside of Scotland and watching the debate happen, with the divided idea that you may end up supporting the ideals of one side, in the hope the vote goes the opposite way. I’ve never known politics like it, in this regard.

Now, I haven’t done the research into the facts on offer by both sides. I don’t need to, I don’t have the vote. But if I did have the vote I would make the time (I’m too busy working hard to pay off my University fees, but if you got your Uni education for free, you’ve got more time on your hands for this sort of thing...) to really dig into the ideals of each option, as this vote is simply too important to ignore.

So if you do have the vote, whichever way you think you might choose, just make sure you turn up on the day and use it.

Now, on to the reason we write this blog: whisky. And something which reflects the handshakes which happen regularly across the border: a single malt Scotch bottled by a non-Scottish company. In this case, Berry Brothers and Rudd (BBR), in London. Famed for their fantastic selection of whiskies, BBR consistently choose fantastic liquid to mature and bottle, mostly all single cask single malts.

Glenlivet – 1974 Single Cask 8211 – bottled 2013 – Berry Brothers & Rudd x The Whisky Exchange – 55.1% abv

Nose: Hot blueberry pie, plum chutney, blackcurrants and other summer fruits. There is just so much delicious fruit on the initial nose, which is underpinned with old leather, hazelnut and dark chocolate. Some wood spices of cinnamon and nutmeg appear, but not so as to overpower the fruits.

Palate: The mix of oak, fruit and spice is almost perfect. The three dance around the palate with the fruit becoming more vibrant the longer this sits, with blood orange developing as the dominant flavour. Of course there are the key touchstones of great old whisky in there too (some fruit cake, chamois leather, cardamom) but this shows that old whisky does not have to be tired.

Finish: More blood orange, strawberry licorice laces and a hint of vanilla, too.

Overall: At last year’s whisky show, a little beauty was on the BBR tasting stand. Bottled in conjunction with The Whisky Exchange, the combination of expert palates from BBR’s Doug McIvor and TWE’s Sukhinder Singh means that you simply can’t go wrong and indeed this turned out to be one of my top drams of 2013.

Having bought myself a bottle, which didn’t last very long at all, I returned to The Whisky Exchange shop in London Bridge earlier this year to restock my cabinet and came away with more than one bottle of this... something to eke out over the next few years.

Unlike the current level of political noise, this whisky is simple: a harmony of flavours from Scottish new make, foreign oak casks, bottled by two London-based establishments, which leaves me clear on my Yes/No decision: Yes, you can have a dram. No, you can’t keep the rest of the bottle.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Indie Indie Indie Part 1: The Whisky Exchange Exclusive Cask Selection

We love a good indie whisky release here at In fact, so keen are we on one-off interesting little gems, that they actually make up a rather large portion of our own cabinets. The issue with independent bottles is that unless you try it, you can’t quite be sure of what it is you’re gonna get. That’s the gamble.

The whole point of a proprietary bottling is consistency. When you buy a Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, you know you should be getting something very similar to the last bottle you bought. And the next bottle you buy.

Indie bottles are different, however. As the mavericks of the business, they can be totally leftfield from the norm. The Syd Barrett of bottlings: sometimes genius. Sometimes, erm, questionable.

But amid all the inconsistency that indie bottles can deliver, more often than not they uncover some real gems, as we saw recently with the liquid coming out from Cadenheads.

And it is retailers who seem to be taking a lead in either bottling their own expressions or working with other likeminded souls to release exclusive bottles of indie offerings.

A few weeks ago, The WhiskyExchange released eight new bottles; all independent bottlings, all exclusive to them. Of the eight, four are smoky, four are not. Let’s have a quick look at the latter four first:

Balmenach 1988 (25 years old), Hogshead #1132, Signatory Vintage, 55.6% abv: I think this is the first Balmenach we’ve ever reviewed on A rich and creamy nose gives great flavours of watermelon and mint. The palate is oily and thick and gives oak spices, vanilla and tea tree oil. Takes water well to give a finish of strawberry coulis and cream.

Clynelish 1995 (17 years old), Refill Sherry Cask #12794, Signatory Vintage, 56.2% abv: The classic Clynelish nose of wax candles burning in the middle of a table where a steak dinner has just been served. This gives way to light summer fruits. On the palate, more meaty and waxy notes which are really quite delicious and provide a bold but rewarding flavour experience of plums and blackcurrants. The finish carries on in the fruity nature of the palate. Very tasty indeed.

Edradour 2006. Bottled 2013. Oloroso Cask #240. Bottled for The Whisky Exchange. 59.2% abv: A very oaky and woody nose, this is giving little more than ‘oak’ until the addition of water brings out the Oloroso notes, raspberry jam and cigar casing. The palate delivers more oak, dunnage warehouse flooring and some sulphur tones which linger into the finish, too.

Glentauchers 1997. Sherry Cask #5580, Gordon & Macphail for The Whisky Exchange. 54.3% abv: BBQ brisket, Mars Bar, chopped hazelnuts on the nose. The palate his a HUGE hit of sherry; so powerful yet with some grace and balance. But pretty much just sherry, backed with a hint of the BBQ brisket again. On the finish, coffee, coffee and more coffee. A big dram!

Of these four whiskies, the latter two were forward on the sherry front with the best of the bunch being the Clynelish which carried a great balance of flavours. A really quite fantastic dram.

On to the smoky offerings:

Ledaig 1997, Sherry Cask #465, Bottled by Gordon & Macpahil for The Whisky Exchange. 56.8% abv: Ahhh, we love a Ledaig here at and this is a great example of why. A rich nose of mince pie and smoke, sweet yet earthy. The palate gives smoked cream soda rapped with parma ham and figs and the finish... smoked brown sugar. A little dry, but aside from that a winning dram. Really very good indeed.

Kilchoman 2008. Bottled 2013. Bourbon Cask. Bottled for The Whisky Exchange. 61% abv: a whopping ABV here, I was expecting more smoke on the nose, but again this is classic Kilchoman, with smoked cheese, fresh vanilla pods and lilies on the nose, a hint of coal dust but more vanilla on the palate and more smoke an vanilla on the finish. 61%? You’d never guess it. Another brilliant, but disturbingly easy-to-drink, dram.

Caol Ila 1984 (29 Years Old), Refill Sherry Cask #2758. Signatory Vintage. 54.7% abv: Oooh, on the nose this is another corker. Rich balsamic notes mingle with air dried speck ham, cigar smoke and real ale. The palate gives real aged spirit, delicate oak balanced with smoke and cherry jam. The finish is a perfect mix of smoke and red berries. Delicious.

Laphroaig 1998 (15 Years Old), Refill Sherry Cask #700393. Signatory Vintage. 60.8% abv: Hummm... a very sweet nose, which works well with the smoke to give a Lapsang-Souchong-with-a-spoonful-of-sugar effect. The palate once again hides this massive abv with oak, varnish, antique shop, cinnamon spices and smoke. A finish of red fruits and more spice finish of this wonder.

So, that’s four fantastic peaty offerings from the good people at The Whisky Exchange. If I had to pick one... well, I’d go for the Kilchoman I think. No, the Laphroaig. No, wait... the Caol Ila! It is a very hard choice.

A nice step-change from your usual distillery bottlings, these showcase a different side of the distilleries on offer, in only a way that indie bottlers can do. Great stuff.

** A quick Amendment: The guys at TWE have informed us that the Edradour and Kilchoman bottlings are partnership releases with the distilleries, not indie releases. **

Friday, 13 April 2012

The Dram That Got Away

As I write this, i'm trying to vaguely remember a phrase that goes something along the lines of 'when all around you is falling apart, try to keep your head intact' or something like that. The reason for this is that Caskstrength Towers is crumbling and in need of some serious repairs.

I'm squeezed into a tiny corner of the house, stuff piled up around me, as builders and decorators renovate the spare bedrooms. Dust, sweat and the aroma of rolling tobacco has permeated everything. My faithful companion, Bobby is constantly on edge, his usual viewing platform of the top stair, covered in filthy dust sheets. Every day, for the last 10 days, the strains of Adele's Someone Like You blast down to me - only it's not Adele, it's a trio of gentlemen with south London accents- (the similarities are truly striking.)

Having builders in your house is like a war of attrition. Your routine is altered - just a little bit at a time, but after 10 days, you realise that you can no longer function in the same way. The house seems to be choking me.

One of my main concerns is that all of my whiskies, (a considerable number of bottles) stored neatly in a spare room are now precariously placed downstairs, in easy kicking distance of a steel toe capped boot or worse. A new walk-in cabinet is being built to house them and i'm waiting for the builder to give me the good news that I can return them upstairs to safety. Only there's a problem with the shelves not being high enough to house the Lagavulin bottles, so they've had to be extended.

Still there is a positive note to this story. On moving a big box of samples I unexpectedly came across something of beauty, that might just go down as one of my favourite whiskies of all time.

Behind the box lay a tiny bottle of Glen Garioch from 1971, bottled by The Whisky Exchange. It must have somehow escaped and rested untouched, unnoticed until now. So as the sound of a Black & Decker power drill and the trio of Adeles soundtrack the morning- it is now (7.30am) I am sat in a dressing gown, nosing glass in hand pouring a little bit of calm. Is this bad? Probably, but after 10 days, my sense of timing might have gone a little bit astray...

Glen Garioch - 1971 - Bottled for The Whisky Exchange - 43.9%

Nose: I've found a corner where the dust hasn't yet settled so can properly do this justice. First up are some wonderful creamy oak notes, diving straight into fresh strawberries and cream, key lime pie, a dash of white pepper, perhaps the merest hint of peat and some desiccated coconut. The balance is staggering - it is light, yet complex, yet slightly smoky.

Palate: Creamy and mouth coating, then into an array of wonderful flavours: More of the strawberries and cream, mango, a wash of 70's peat (not young and abrasive, just smooth and silky) a dusting of icing sugar, vanilla custard, broken gingersnap biscuits - this whisky has it all - and then some. Magnificent.

Finish: Long lingering notes of oak, some lemon zest and a little sweet tobacco and Earl Grey tea round out a superb experience in the mouth.

Overall: As much as I'm probably a little unhinged today, due to my building predicament, this whisky has fixed everything. It is calming, complex, smooth, charming and unbelievably drinkable. If only it could wield a set of tools, I would have fired the builders by now. Here's hoping The Whisky Exchange have some left...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Last Minute Whisky Pressies

With less than a week to go, only a crazy person would leave buying their christmas presents till the 11th hour. And yet, as every Christmas that goes by, I always find myself in exactly the same position, thinking that everything will be ok, once I venture onto the streets of Central London for a few hours of 'gifting'. I sort of pulled it off this year, but then the weather turned and I had to beat a hasty retreat before I was marooned with all the all the other crazy people, their faces covered with that familiar, mildly panicked look that only number of last minute rash purchases can cure.

Fortunately, for the whisky fan in your life, we've got a few suggestions whilst there's still time to get the visa card out.

We featured a number of books recently on the blog, 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die, The World Atlas Of Whisky, and now, on a similar tip comes The World's Best Whiskies, by Dominic Roskrow. With 750 whiskies around the globe to fill up its 300 pages, as well as useful sections on food matching, classic cocktails and tips on nosing and tasting whisky, Dominic has excelled in bringing whisky to life and this is an excellent read, post Christmas day, with dram of something firmly in hand. Whereas, it might be too late to order them online with all this snow, Messrs. Waterstone's should be able to help!!

On the dram front- both Master Of Malt and The Whisky Exchange have some decent, and interesting gift ideas, that you can probably still lay your hands on if you get your skates on!

This Islay tasting kit features a few cracking drams that the discerning peat lover will undoubtedly be delighted to open on Christmas morning, lunchtime, or for that special evening dram, to make the nauseating Dr Who special fly past.

Similarly, TWE have a great offer on The Glenrothes 1985 at the moment. Perfect for shutting up Uncle Monty's inane jokes during the Bond double bill you've been waiting for.

On a non-whisky related tip- for the gentleman in your life with a penchant for fine grooming, A trip to Ted's Grooming Room will brighten up their lives and leave them looking super sharp and ready for 2011.