That was the year that was…..

Well it’s that time of the year again , the time to look back at the past 12 months .

The Scotch Whisky hype has reached new levels this year and i seemed to have taken a step back from it . Surprisingly from the 3 Ardbeg releases this year i only bought one , the Feis Ile one (Auriverdes) , this years Committee release is the 1st one i’ve passed on since joining in 1999 , i thought £125 was way too much for a NAS release regardless of how peated it was , at least it gave another bottle for someone to throw into an auction…..

After trying the 3rd one , The “New” Kildalton , again i thought the price was too much for the whisky . The only other Islay bottles from this year i bought were mainly Feis ile releases (The Lagavulin , the Caol Ila and the Cairdeas from Laphroaig ) , i did stock up on the recent Laphroaig 10yo CS batch (excellent as ever) and their 18yo . We’ve only been to islay once this year (so far….) which is surprising for us but there is a damn good reason……

It’s been a bit of different year this year , our good friend Ashok asked us if we’d be interested in doing some stuff for him as he was returning to India to work from the distillery . We ended up doing 4 of the Whisky Lounges festivals around the country starting in our home City back in March , we had great fun at everyone , discussing a whisky we totally believe in with people who were genuinely interested in it , it actually bucked my interest up in whisky going after it was starting to wane with the previously mentioned over-hyping of Scotch .

nwf2014_2Our public debut “Behind the table”

For the first 3 months of 2014 we kept a secret from the Whisky World , in March we revealed that in May we would be heading over to Toronto to be Special Guests at the 10th Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala ! It was a very big deal for me on several fronts , I’d never been out of the UK before , i’ve never had a Passport before , i’d never flown before and i’d never presented a Masterclass to strangers before !

You can read  all about our adventures at these two postings……

Islay Visits….. Goes West to Toronto Pt.1

Islay Visits….. Goes West to Toronto Pt.2

Friends of Amrut !

To say this was the highlight of the year for us is a bit of an understatement ! We had a great time in Toronto , The City and people were amazing , it was great to finally meet Wendy in person  , we discovered Canadas fine Whisky and Wine and we got to fly over Niagara Falls in a Helicopter ! We cannot thank Johanna and Charles enough for inviting us over and broadening my horizons (Yes Johanna you’ve created a monster ! LOL !!!) and we’ve already booked up to return Next May to have a great time in the City and see the Festival properly from the other side of the table (starting to get confusing over which side of the table i should  be on……) , Mmmmm……. Canadian Whisky!

Ready for Boarding

 

In the Summer we manage to squeeze in a fortnight on Islay , staying in a new place for us on The Rhinns at Lyrabus Croft Cottage . An excellent place to base yourself for a long stay on Islay .

cottage_stitch_2 

In September We stretched our wings once again and flew over to Paris for the weekend (Johannas fault….. ;-)  ) taking in the Whisky Live that was going on at the time . It was great to have a look around the beautiful City but i have to say i was well disappointed in the Whisky Live , too big and too much security for my liking .

NZ_whisky_at_Paris

Discovering New Zealand with Erik (Burgess) at Paris 

We couldn’t believe how hot it was over that weekend and spent a great Sunday wandering and enjoying the city .

Gordon_and_Melanie_Paris

We haven’t done much since , a few more whisky festivals and i’ve been broadening my knowledge of Canadian Whisky…….

Recommendations

So what would we recommend this year ? Here’s a sort of Mini awards for 2014…..

Best Islay Malt –  I have to say of the limited selection i’ve tried this year it’s one from last year that most impressed me , The 25yo Laphroaig 2013 Edition .
Best Non Islay Scottish Malt – Only one winner here , The 50yo Glenlivet that Ian Logan kindly let up sample , absolutely stunning for it’s age ! Cheers Ian !! 
Best other Whisky – Well there are so many Canadians that i’ve tried during and since our visit that could have taken this title , Gibson’s 18 , Forty Creek Barrel Select , Century Reserve 15/25, Pike Creek to name a few but there is one rye that has taken my heart , Pendleton 1910 12yo ! I would add that Eriks New Zealand Whisky and Zuidam Dutch Rye are highly Commended .
Best Meal on Islay – It was between two places The Old Kiln and The Bridgend Hotel , eventually decided on The Bridgend as we had two absolutely stunning meals there , one was our 20th Wedding Anniversary one . 
Best Coffee on Islay – Has to be Roys ! A cracking cup of Coffee and stunning home baking ! oh them cakes….. 
Best Festival –  Yes it’s the Spirit of Toronto ! Although we didn’t get a good chance to sample the wares this year (we will next year!), it is a fantastic event , very classy , a great venue and superbly organised ! Looking forward to our return . 

I hope all our visitors have had as good as year as Melanie and Myself have had ! All that’s left is to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Very Happy New Year .

We’re already looking forward to 2015 !

Tangle Ridge 10yo Canadian Whisky

This is a bit of strange one , Sold by Beam Suntory , it says on the back of the bottle Produced and Imported (into America i guess) by Alberta Distillers it is a 10yo 100% Rye (Alberta produce some of the finest Canadian Ryes IMHO) . It is Double Casked , to quote their website (//www.beamsuntory.com/brands/tangle-ridge) “The rye whisky is first aged for ten years in oak barrels. Then, the barrels are dumped and the whisky is blended with a hint of sherry. The whisky is then recasked for additional aging to allow the flavors to marry.” 

tangle-ridge

Coming in at the standard 40% ABV and priced at £32 on TWE , it is a Golden Syrup going on Orange Marmalade sort of colour , The nose is of Butterscotch toffee with a lovely Rye backdrop , loads of vanilla and Cask spices . There is a slight hint of sherry but not a lot . It is a very pleasant nose  i could sit and sniff it for ages . On the palate it is pretty much a continuation of the nose , smooth as silk it actually tastes stronger than 40% . The finish is long and of butterscotch and cask spices .

Given the Limited availability and high price of Prime Canadian Whisky in the UK and the fact that this is 10yo Rye from Alberta Distillers , £32 for this bottle is an absolute bargain ! Some people would probably turn their nose up at the fact it is ‘Mixed’ with a hint of sherry , but then what is a Sherry casked Whisky? It’s about time Canadian was given the Recognition it is due ! 

Cadenhead’s Potter 11yo Indian Corn Whisky

Another Canadian Whisky , This is a bottling from 14 years ago (as i write) , after researching it on Google , the only reference i could find was tasting notes by my old mate Willie JJ on a Whisky Forum and he seemed to enjoy it ! Made from Indian Corn (see previous 24yo note for what it is) , this one again is from an ex-bourbon barrel bottled at 55.1% .

Cadpot11

Light Gold in colour , loaded with vanilla on the nose , quite sweet – Confectioners Sugar , very fruity almost candied peel but more close to a condensed fruit syrup and a hint of spice and pepper . The palate is damn pleasurable ! Again very sweet and vanilla , very clean , a stunning corn whisky ! The finish is long and sweet .

I can’t understand how i managed to get a bottle of this 14 years down the road after trying it , i’m amazed that i managed to get a second one ! The only thing i can put it down to is people looking at it and going “Meh  Canadian…..”  . Well Willie definitely liked it and so did I !!!!       

Cadenhead’s Potter 24yo Indian Corn Whisky

Indian Corn Whisky i hear you say ? Yes Indian Corn (or Slate Corn as it is known in some quarters , see viagra ersatz sildenafil ) , Distilled by Potter Distilling Company in Kelowna , British Columbia , Canada but since 2005 Potter has been owned by Highwood Distillers . Cadenheads have done a few Potters bottlings over the years (i recently acquired an 11yo bottled in 2000) , i’m interested to see how this lines up against recently tasted Canadian Whisky…….

 Cadpot24

Bottled in February 2014 from a Bourbon Barrel , this cask yielded 126 bottles at 56.5% ABV . Getting onto Orange Marmalade in Colour , the nose is incredibly fresh , bags of vanilla to start with then wood spices , very buttery and digestive biscuits . The palate is really sweet , loads of grain , butter , again wood spices and vanilla . The finish is long , sweet and spicy .

What can you say about this ? It is very similar to a Scottish Grain Whisky but tastes so much fresher and sweeter , I’m still not up to speed on the Canadian processes but is this what they class as the base for their whiskies (blends) , the neutral spirit ?  if so it’s a pretty good dram on it’s own ! 

Zuidam 5yo Dutch Rye

As of late i’ve taken a shine to Rye Whisky , Particularly 100% Canadian Rye , so at The Tynemouth Whisky Show when i was given the chance to try a Dutch Rye  i jumped at it . I really enjoyed it so when i spotted a bottle for sale i went for it…….

Z5DR

Distilled in January 2005 and bottled in September 2010 this is bottle 232 from Casks 684 and 685 , it was bottled at 40% ABV . Almost Burnished Copper in colour , the nose on this is wonderful , straight away you get the dusty rye , followed by toasted brown bread , vanilla and oak spices . Quite an amazing nose ! On the palate again the dusty rye is the first thing you notice , then the spices and the butterscotch sweetness , i love this taste ! The Finish is long , sweet and spicy .

This is an Amazing Rye , i’d put it alongside anything from North America , long may they continue to produce it and i have a Millstone 100 Rye Whisky to open when i’ve finished this !    

More info can be found at //www.zuidam.eu

The Wine Society 21yo Glen Grant

With the Popularity of Single Malts these days it’s very rare you find a decent aged bottle for under £50 , luckily The Wine Society seems pretty good at doing this , earlier in the year i purchased their 25yo Islay at a gobsmacking price of £33 a bottle . For Christmas this year they have released a 21yo Glen Grant for £49.50 . One thing i have learned over the 30 years of drinking Single Malts is that Glen Grant tends to age very well….. 
WSGG21

 

From 2 casks (130807 and 130808) distilled on the 22nd October 1992 they yielded 431 bottles at 53% ABV when bottled on 7th August 2014 ( it actually says 2013 on the label , i hope it’s a misprint or is the age expression wrong?  ). The colour of ripe barley , the nose is full of vanilla , green fruits , Malt and toffee , it actually reminds me more of a Bruichladdich , it is a very pleasant nose , one you could sniff for ages . The green fruits and toffee go through on to the palate along with lemon citrus . The finish is long with green fruits and lemon .

This is an excellent dram for the price , could be a very good session dram , another aged Glen Grant that doesn’t disappoint ! 

 

Details about The Wine Society can be found at  //www.thewinesociety.com/ 

Glen Marnoch 24yo

It has become something of a Christmas Tradition now for Supermarket chain Aldi to produce a Special Christmas Whisky bottling and this year is no different ! This year it is an unspecified Highland Single Malt under their Glen Marnoch Label .

GlenMarnoch24

Bottled at 40% ABV and costing the princely sum of £49 , Golden Syrup in colour , the first thing that strikes you on the nose is Butterscotch toffee , it’s very strong , there’s also a hint of vanilla pods , almost vanilla custard . The palate is very smooth , again toffee and vanilla , very sweet , for only 40% it is quite chewy . The finish is medium with the toffee and a long hint of lemon citrus right at the end .

This isn’t going to win any prizes in whisky competitions but for the way prices are going in the crazy world of Single Malts this is a bargain at under £50 , the Whisky Snobs will avoid it but if you want a pleasant enough dram at a reasonable outlay this could be for you . I’m thoroughly enjoying it (as i did last years 30yo Blend ) but i haven’t got a clue which distillery it is from !