Manchester Whiskey Adventures

It wasn’t planned.

I was supposed to be revising for an exam – but the Teeling Small Batch on the Aer Lingus flight only reacquainted myself with this lovely little blend & provided a taster for what was unknowingly to come.

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In flight entertainment! c/othewhiskeynut

After checking into the city centre hotel – a quick read over the course book – it was out for a wander to visit the Whiskey Jar pub.

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Whiskey a plenty! c/othewhiskeynut

The promise of 400+ whiskies to whet my appetite accompanied by a tasty pie for the late Sunday afternoon lunch sounded too good to miss.

On entering I was taken aback!

Gathered in the pub were a clutch of whiskey companies displaying their wares.

Woo Hoo!


A small cover charge – along with a tasting glass – had me at the first stall.

Heaven Hill.

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Fighting Cock Fighting Whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

Now any company that puts out a bottle called Fighting Cock emblazoned with a fiery red rooster just calls out for a tasting!

At 51.5% this high rye bourbon packs a lively spicy punch on the nose.

It followed through with rich warming vanilla & caramel in a mouth filling flavour explosion.

My kinda bourbon.

The rep guided me onto the Rittenhouse Rye.

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Straight Rye c/othewhiskeynut

A much more cultured well balanced offering than the beast that is Fighting Cock.

In the interests of exploration Mellow Corn also hit my palate.

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Mellow in name but not on taste. c/othewhiskeynut

Normally corn wouldn’t be a favourite of mine – but the high ABV – 50% – along with a minimum 2 years in virgin oak casks had imbued this whiskey with some very attractive notes & flavours.

I could be a corn convert with this one!

Old Pulteney were up next.

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Where has the boat gone? c/othewhiskeynut

They’ve had a little brand update – new labels & new expressions – I do miss the old fishing boat motif however.

The Huddart NAS – with the peat influence coming from the barrels rather than the barley – was a pleasant little easy peaty sipper.

The 15 year old was well balanced – just lacked a little character – whereas the top of the range 18yo had gained some gorgeous drying woody tannins from the extra years in the cask & pulled me in.

Jameson were on show too.

I had a quick chat with the rep who informed me Whiskey Jar have a monthly whisky showcase which is usually well attended & seems to be growing. Check out the Whiskey Jar link for further events.

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A Glenlivet trio. c/othewhiskeynut

Being familiar with the Jameson on show – I was guided to fellow Pernod Ricard brand Glenlivet for a vertical tasting of their core range.

All very grand – but nothing exciting.

Only the Captain’s Reserve had a bit more going on to entice me.

Cotswolds showcased their very enticingly fresh single malt.

Having already polished off a bottle I was just congratulating the rep when this was produced.

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Cotswolds Cask Strength c/othewhiskeynut

A cask strength single malt matured in American Oak which previously contained red wine & has been shaved, toasted and charred too!

It works!

At 60.9% there is no burn on the nose.

It does fill the palate – but the rich flavours shine through in a fabulous frenzy of taste more like a 50% offering!

Dangerous stuff – yet oh so gorgeous.

Without doubt my prize pick of the evening!

For a last pour it was back to Heaven Hill and a shot of Elijah Craig Small Batch.

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A cultured bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Despite being a low rye bourbon this had an attractive spice from the years in virgin charred oak. The rounded complexity of the drinking experience surprised me.

Show over – most of the whisky fans departed.

I settled down to a hot pie washed down with my original intended choice for the evening – English Whisky.

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Peated English Whisky? c/othewhiskeynut

Chapter 15’s a heavy peat hitter. I like it for that – but it’s rather one dimensional otherwise.

I got chatting to some other late departees so another pie – and another whiskey – were ordered.

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye.

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Like Chapter 15’s peat – the rye dominated here – but with additional fruity notes too.

Very fresh & enjoyable.

Time to head home – or I should say the hotel bar?

I pondered over a glass of Hibiki Harmony – which sang to me a lot sweeter than on my first encounter – while shooting the breeze with a fellow late night imbiber.

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Hibiki Harmony sang sweeter c/othewhiskeynut

A hot mug of tea eventually rounded off my supposedly Sunday afternoon few.

I did make the exam the next morning.

A hearty breakfast works wonders.

WSET Level 2 Spirits – with distinction if you were wondering.

I think the liquid training added to the pleasure!

Sláinte

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Hvenus Rye, 45.6%

It would be remiss of me not to visit a Systembolaget shop whilst in Sweden.

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All booze is bought here. c/othewhiskeynut

Systembolaget are the chain of state owned off licences set up in 1955 to control the sale & consumption of alcohol.

Alcohol is strictly governed in Sweden.

There is no advertising.

There is no sponsorship.

There is no ‘Buy 1 Get 1 Free!’.

What there is are high taxes and I must say – a very pleasing & clean shopping experience.

The stores are bright & airy.

There is a cheerful atmosphere.

All brands get equal exposure. There are no promotional ads from the big brands dominating the aisles.

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See what you’re looking for? c/othewhiskeynut

 

Each category is clearly labelled – equally – so it’s not difficult to find what you’re looking for.

I already knew what I was after.

Systembolaget do an online guide here detailing all that is available – by how many bottles – in each shop. So I already knew before entering the store my choice was on the shelves.

Very impressive.

Well what did I go for?

Hven had already impressed me on first encountering their distinctively shaped & super tasty whiskies at the Whisky Birmingham show a few years ago.

Learning they had produced a rye – my other love – there was no contest.

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Spirit of Hven Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Now Hven don’t do chill filtering nor added caramel.

They give extensive detail regarding the grains, process & method of the products they release – and this rye is no exception.

But open information doesn’t gaurantee great taste – so how was it?

A gorgeously wholesome white peppery signature rye spiciness greeted me with a spirity kick.

The delivery was smooth on the palate. The spices gently grew along with some herbaceous floral notes giving a savoury balance to the sweet.

The drying spices rolled around on the finish leaving a warm cosiness to counter the snow outside.

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Even the river was frozen! c/othewhiskeynut

A lovely well balanced rye from the Spirit Of Hven Distillery.

A gorgeously warm whisky to welcome me to Göteborg.

Tack tack

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8 Degrees Blowhard, 12% vs O’Hara’s Irish Wit, 4%

It’s an unfair comparison – but if your gonna try a few Irish Beer/Whiskey collaborations – these 2 occupy the extremes of the growing genre.

8° Brewing Blowhard Imperial Stout at an eye watering 12% just wipes the 4% O’Hara’s Irish Wit off the counter.

Neither are bad beers – it’s just down to preference – but if I’m going to do a whiskey influenced beer –  I tend to go for something I can get my teeth into – and Blowhard certainly provides that.

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Blowhard Imperial Stout, 12% c/othewhiskeynut

Aged in Jameson barrels, Blowhard is rich, dark & heavy.

Solid notes of malt, caramel & burnt molasses assault the palate & demand attention. The whiskey element adds to the complex mix of flavours with a decadent flair that makes you sit back, sip & enjoy.

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Irish Wit 4% c/othewhiskeynut

Using Tullamore DEW yeast, Irish Wit is subtle, easy & light.

Appreciable malt on the nose merely hints at the whiskey connection. The body is thin – but would make an enjoyable session beer. It’s one to enjoy with friends.

The contrasting approaches to the style are entertaining to explore.

Which one would you go for?

Sláinte

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AK Bar Whisky, 40%

It’s Chinese New Year starting on the 5th of February.

As part of celebrating the Lunar New Year I cracked open the wonderfully labelled AK Bar Whisky from China itself.

AK Bar produce an impressive array of spirits.

AK Bar brands
AK Bar brands c/oAlibaba

Quite what is in them is hard to define.

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All you need to know? c/othewhiskeynut

The Alibaba site for AK Bar Whisky makes for interesting, confusing & entertaining reading to say the least. Form your own conclusions by having a look here.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained – I poured a generous túath glass for tasting.

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Feel the roar! c/othewhiskeynut

Now the colour – for a stated 3 year old – is a little on the dark side & suggests added caramel.

The nose is very muted.

It’s like sniffing a chocolate biscuit liquid toffee filing.

No hint of 40% alcohol strength here.

It starts off almost watery & smooth to begin with. The sweet toffee, caramel & honey all blend together before a softly growing heat makes a pleasant entrance towards the end.

The heat slowly fades leaving a gentle sweet kiss of burnt toffee at the end.

It’s verging on liqueur territory – which is probably a more accurate appraisal.

It’s not offensive – just way too sweet for my liking – but the one thing I agree with in the Alibaba description;

large power after drinking

holds true.

乾杯, gán béi, cheers, sláinte

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Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, Port Finish, 47%

When in Manchester recently I did a quick internet search to find a suitable watering hole.

The Whiskey Jar won the day.

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Whiskey a plenty! c/othewhiskeynut

One of the many whiskeys on offer that took my eye  – Dad’s Hat Rye – ended up in the glass.

A satisfyingly welcoming peppery rye spice greeted my nose – although it seemed to be muted somewhat by sweet dark fruits.

Oh!

I didn’t notice the bottom line – Finished In Port Wine Barrels.

Now that’s a novel approach which does seem to add additional flavours to the standard rye offering.

The fruity notes held sway on the front before that spicy pepper hit I love kicked in towards the latter half.

A gorgeous little combination of elements to tease the palate.

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Aged for how long? c/othewhiskeynut

I was taken aback when I read the maturation times on the side label.

For only 9 months old – the virgin charred american oak quarter casks & ex-port barrels have worked their magic to create a wonderfully fresh rye with a fruity twist.

A very enjoyable baby rye!

Sláinte

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Aussie Whisky For Australia Day

Australia Day is on January 26th.

What better occasion to celebrate by tasting a few Australian whiskies?

Now I must admit to downing these whiskies a wee while ago – but the memories of them and the great times I enjoyed on my visit down under still linger.

The Aussie whisky scene is built mainly around small batch runs of single cask single malt offerings which change on a regular basis. What I tasted may no longer be available – but the quality I found will undoubtedly continue.

Bad Frankie’s bar in Melbourne specializes in Aussie whisky. I was taken aback by the variety of styles, tastes & flavours of whisky on offer.  I had to return for a 2nd visit the day before my flight home. The experience was Out The Window – cue for a song.

For my 1st visit to Bad Frankie press here.

Again I availed of the 5 samples for $40 – it was 2016 – and chose the following.

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Bakery Hill c/othewhiskeynut

Bakery Hill Classic Malt, 46%

A fine sweet bourbon cask influenced single malt with a good smooth well balanced delivery.

Bakery Hill are one of the larger whisky distilleries operating out of Melbourne. They produce a core range of malts and have gained much appreciation. This whisky stands up very well with any comparisons worldwide.

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Belgrove Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Belgrove Rye Pinot Noir Cask, 63.4%

Just wow! Spicy rye softened by dark fruits in a powerful full strength mouthfeel. A wonderful experience.

Belgrove are a micro distillery in Tasmania using all home grown rye & barley distilled in home made kit by Peter Bignell. Out of this world.

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Southern Coast PX c/othewhiskeynut

Southern Coast PX Cask, 65.5%

A rich dark fruits tasting single malt of character & strength.

Southern Coast is a private bottling for the Odd Whisky Coy in Adelaide. There’s a bit of a story here. A story of money – or lack of it – whisky, fame, fortune & law courts. You can read more here.  All I can say is the whisky tastes fab.

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Iniquity c/othewhiskeynut

Iniquity Batch 004, 46%

A calmer smoother more balanced fruity & fresh whisky.

Iniquity are what came out of the court case above. Nice whisky – but lacked the power of the former cask strength expression.

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Redlands Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Redlands The Old Stable, 46%

A rich inviting nose had an odd taste in the middle but left a lovely spicy finish.

Redlands are another Tasmanian whisky distillery offering limited batch releases of fine quality. This one just didn’t sit right with me.

Having enjoyed the above selection – a full portion of Southern Coast Port Cask at 50% was ordered as the PX cask was such a winner.

This came with an unbelievably dark colour – all natural I was told – and an equally lovely dark & rich tasting experience. Just wonderful.

We also indulged in a Bad Frankie speciality – Lamington jaffles – but these proved a little too dry – unlike the juicy whisky!

Sláinte

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An A.D. Rattray Appreciation

A.D. Rattray are an independent bottler of fine standing in Scotland.

They happen to have a lovely Whisky Shop on the main access route – A77 – to & from the Irish ferry terminals at Stranraer & Cairnryan that I often use to cross the water.

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The AD Rattray Whisky Shop c/othewhiskeynut

Oddly enough on my last trip – January 2018 – it was the first time in well over a decade using this route I encountered armed police, a passport check, a personal check as well as a vehicle check – all for an internal crossing?

Brexit changes indeed.

The Whisky Shop itself is a treasure trove of whisky, some gins & local beers too. Predominately Scotch it has to be said – although there is a sprinkling of world whisky. There are also tasting classes, rare single casks to be had, a small museum and more to attract you in and delay your journey.

But as I was driving – I made do with an elegantly packaged & well presented 5 pack A.D. Rattray miniature selection.

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Miniature selection c/othewhiskeynut

Nearly a year later I eventually managed to sample them if only to mark Rabbie Burns Night – who happened to live nearby.

The standard Bank Note 5 Year Old Blend at 43% struck me as just being that – standard. Pleasant enough with it – but no stand out qualities to pull me in. I do like the label however.

Next up was the Stronachie Highland Single Malt 10 Year Old – also at 43%. With this A.D. Rattray branded malt you actually get the distillery of origin – Benrinnes in this case – unlike the blended offering.

Now 10 year old malts these days are often considered entry level – and I’m afraid my tasting experience only concurred with this hypothesis.

Smooth, easy drinking, well balanced butterscotch, honey & vanilla – just not enough character or oomph for my tastes.

Meanwhile the Stronachie 18 – also Benrinnes sourced but with a slightly higher 46% ABV – gained some lovely dry woody tannins from the extra years in maturation. I was pulled in with it’s suitably more complex , characterful & to my palate anyway – a much more appealing dram.

The next bottle – at least from the label – promised something special.

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Cambus 26yo Single Grain c/othewhiskeynut

A single grain whisky from a closed distillery – Cambus – matured for no less than 26 years  & presented at 59.9% with no chill filtering nor added colouring. – kind of suggests the other bottlings perhaps had added e150 or chill filtering as it wasn’t stated on their labels?

Part of the A.D. Rattray Cask Collection – which changes regularly – I was very happy to try this single grain.

It’s a category of whisky many people dismiss – which is fine – all the more for me to enjoy!

It’s fresh, it’s lively, it’s full of flavour, it’s got character, it’s got strength, it’s got lucious drying tannins & velvety vanilla which just explode in the mouth.

A wonderful whisky.

The final miniature was Cask Islay – an non aged statement (NAS) non disclosed distillery single malt presented at 46%.

Now normally an Islay influenced dram floats my boat – but not this sweet peat. I think I prefer dry ashiness myself.

Perhaps the cask strength offering of earlier had influenced my findings. But I had cleansed my palate after each sample, left a gap in-between & then re-sampled later. All to no avail.

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An outstanding single grain! c/othewhiskeynut

The Single Grain Cambus 26 Year Old is clearly my top of the pile – a stunning drop.

Stronachie 18 Single Malt is a close runner.

The others didn’t make the cut.

Sláinte

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Cutty Sark, Blend, 43%

It’s nearing Burns Night – 25th January – so I thought a bit of Scotch would be in order.

You could say Rabbie Burns is one of the first ‘celebrity’ endorsements of whisky – and he’s still going strong today.

My choice of whisky is one I rarely encounter – but the vivid yellow label & green bottle always stands out from the crowd & draws me in.

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Come sail with me! c/othewhiskeynut

Cutty Sark has dual meaning.

Rabbie Burns poem Tam o’ Shanter – a tale about drinking & chasing cutty sark or ‘short skirts’ in modern terms – still resonates today.

There was also a famous tea clipper – Cutty Sark – which just happened to be docked in London back in 1923. Berry Bros & Rudd decided to name & launch their new Cutty Sark Blended Scots Whisky on the back of this.

Marketing – when you get it right – it works.

And it’s still working today.

I picked up this miniature in a local off-licence when I spotted it.

The colour is reassuringly pale. There is added caramel – common practice for entry level blends – but not too much.

The nose is rather soft & light – with just a hint of sooty smoke & sweet grainy vanilla.

A very easy entry on tasting.

Nothing very much in the middle – before that gorgeous smoke influence wafts in and just makes this blend sail!

It’s simple yet well balanced.

None of the up to 40 different – and ever changing – single malt & grain ingredients dominate.

The particular bottle I sampled is from Berry Bros & Rudd and presented at 43%.

The brand has since passed through the Edrington Group & subsequently been acquired by  French group La Martiniquaise-Bardinet.

It’s a lovely easy drinking yet suitably smoky blend that certainly floats my boat!

Sláinte

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Bunratty Irish Poteen, 40%

I was going to do a one word blog;

Corny

But that wouldn’t do this poitin justice.

It’s corny in 2 ways.

Firstly from the rather ‘bigging up the blarney’ touristy offering,

And then the softly sweet new make smell of it’s main ingredient – I’d suggest anyway – corn.

It’s not a flavour profile I’m particularly fond of.

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Bunratty miniature c/othewhiskeynut

But Bunratty Poteen was one of the 1st commercial poitins – the more usual spelling – out on the market post the 1997 legalisation.

And for that it’s worthy of praise. For opening up the category to other entrants – which suit my palate better.

So I doff my cap to Bunratty Poteen for being a trend setter.

Even if I find it corny!

Sláinte

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Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur, 17%

The closest way I can describe my experience of drinking Five Farms Irish Cream Liqueur is by playing the following video;

If only the tag line had been miraculously transformed to.

Only the luxuriest indulgiest Irish Cream Liqueur

Tastes like Irish Cream Liqueur never tasted before.

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Lush liqueur c/othewhiskeynut

Sláinte

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