Category Archives: World Whisky

Is The Blog You’re Reading Scotch Centric?

It’s a question I often ask myself after coming across various examples of this particular malaise.

But what is Scotch Centrism?

Tartan specs courtesy zazzle.com

Viewing the whisky world via the optics of tartan spectacles leading to undue bias – intentional or not – towards Scotch, positioning it on a pedestal beyond reproach, usually coupled with scant regard – veering to disdain – for whisky producing countries that aren’t Scotland.

My first encounter with this affliction was a few years ago.

A Scottish internet publication invited non Scottish cities citizens to give a flavour of whisky spots within their environs.

One resident had proclaimed there were no whisky distilleries in this particular location – despite myself having visited one!

The sufferer had such a bad dose of Scotch Centrism they were blinded & unable to see the distilleries operating in their own backyard!

The Scottish publication in turn failed to do any checks & subsequently released this false information.

A more severe example pertains to rules.

Sufferers believe any whisky produced outside of Scotland that doesn’t comply with SWA – Scotch Whisky Association – rules is basically ‘not doing it right’.

Effectively this shows a complete lack of respect for the different ways each country make their own whisky – and verges into cultural imperialism.

Such a position belittles the ‘other’, limits diversity & stifles innovation in the global whisky category.

A final – often milder – example is where the Scotch Centric drinker eventually does get round to sampling a non Scotch whisky & invariably expresses surprise at how enjoyable & well presented it is – often with a hint of patronisation thrown in.

Luckily Scotch Centrism isn’t a permanent condition.

Sufferers merely need to ditch the tartan glasses & open themselves up to a whole new world of enjoyable tastes & flavours.

Treating countries with different rules to those of Scotland with the same respect & having an open mind – and palate – to exploring their produce helps too.

Perhaps then we can learn a bit of ‘kinship, belonging & inclusiveness’ – to borrow an Irish Distillers marketing missive – & ‘Widen The Circle’ along the way when we’re at it.

Sláinte

Tartan glasses courtesy zazzle.com All other images authors own.

A Nikka Whisky Trilogy – All Malt, Blended & Super Old Rare, 40% to 43%

I’m always excited tasting a trio of whisky from the same source to compare & contrast their range.

These Nikka Whisky were purchased from Drams Delivered in Killarney.

Nikka Blended, 40%

No longer listed on the Nikka Whisky website, this blend offered up soft caramel notes with hints of malty depth. A sweet fruity palate with an attractive drying bite on the finish – suggestive of some peat influence.

An attractive easy style of whisky with a touch of character.

Nikka All Malt, 40%

I’ve encountered this unusually packaged & delightful blended malt before – so how will it fare on a 2nd outing?

Hints of old leather on the nose. Soft & smooth palate dries out with a prickly kick on the rear.

Not as fresh as I remembered. Could it be my memory? – Or a fading bottle?

Nikka Super Old Rare, 43%

The bottle design enticed me, but the price – when available – deterred, so this sample is a compromise.

More leathery notes on the nose. Rich & warm palate. Definitely a more pronounced peat hit on the finish with this one!

My favourite!

Thoughts

Without a doubt Super Old Rare won out in this trio.

The freshness of the Blended also impressed – but I was a little deflated by All Malt.

All 3 are well put together & showcase the Japanese blending prowess – even if none of them comply with the latest Japanese Whisky Rules.

But then that’s never been an issue with me – it’s the taste that counts.

I’m happy to keep on drinking Nikka Whisky with this enjoyable trio!

Sláinte

Bottle images courtesy Celtic Whiskey Shop – Blended & Super.

All other images authors own.

With the spirits industry embracing premium – I’m enjoying budget!

I used to have a bottle ceiling price of 100 – euro or sterling – but with escalating costs & criticism of rising bottle prices I’m revising that down to 50.

Rather than simply moan about the situation – I’ll take action.

At first you might think my choices would be limited – but when you begin to look – there’s a surprising amount of highly entertaining & enjoyable spirits to be had.

In the sub €20 white rum category I found surprising variety. Liberté from Lidl won out here. Press on the highlighted links to be diverted to my reviews.

Dunnes do a highly engaging sub €20 whisky by the name of JG Kinsey.

Single Pot Still c/oTTB/Colasonline

All of Royal Oak Distillery’s output – blend, single grain, single malt & single pot still – is below €50 & thoroughly decent they are too.

However – most of the above attract little attention & appear to be looked down on by the blogging community.

Budget doesn’t mean a lack of taste, flair or character. It might mean a lack of bragging rights & exclusivity and it certainly involves a degree of exploration to find the one that suits your palate – which is part of the fun.

But looking down on such offerings & the folks that drink them is nothing but snobbery – which is never attractive.

To me this is evident in the almost total rejection of Conor McGregor’s Proper Twelve brand within Ireland – despite it becoming the 4th biggest selling Irish Whiskey in the world after only a few years.

It’s also behind the lack of reviews for the correctly labelled Kyasuku World Whisky.

For €30 you get an attractively presented Mizunara casked whisky blended & matured in Japan.

Only fools would turn their noses up at such an opportunity given the clamour over inflated prices for similar product.

The companies – as far as my basic economics goes – are after all doing what they’re meant to – boosting profits for the shareholders.

And no – I won’t be missing out on high end stuff.

There’s been a positive explosion of on-line tastings, bottle swaps & exchanges, clubs & societies as well as good old fashioned pubs & whiskey shows where opportunities arise to taste the delights – or disappointments – beyond reach.

My nearly 120 bottle selection is always open for exchange – Irish based only – so get in touch to try out something new.

For me, tasting & exploring is far more important than owning.

Sláinte

All images authors own unless stated.

Kyasuku Cask Reserve, 40%, World Whisky

Japanese Whisky is in the news.

Primarily for the massive growth & increasing popularity experienced internationally.

Secondly for labelling.

Every dog on the street knows Japanese Whisky can contain whisky distilled in some other country.

This has never put me off.

I enjoy whisky – wherever it’s from – and look forward to tasting the results of Japanese blending & maturation.

Kyasuku Cask Reserve – available in yer local Aldi – is clearly labelled as ‘ World Whisky Matured & Blended In Japan’.

No issues there then!

It also says it’s finished in Mizunara Casks – which makes it very exciting!

I couldn’t wait to try it!

Reassuringly pale in colour.

Getting a sweet, intense floral bouquet with a touch of woody depth on the nose.

Very soft & smooth on the palate – much like many malts.

A gentle oaky spice – Mizunara is Japanese Oak – slowly grows along with a lip smacking juiciness on a luscious long lasting finish.

Kyasuku is a very engaging & highly entertaining blend packed full of fascinating & enticing flavours.

Top marks to Aldi for sourcing this easily affordable & eminently approachable slice of Japanese blending & maturation prowess.

Sláinte

All images authors own.

Black & Blue Premium Whisky, 43%, India via Nigeria.

Whiskey is a global business.

It reaches far and wide.

I love exploring the outer edges of the industry.

One emerging market everyone is keen to get in on is Africa – Nigeria in particular.

With a population estimated at 200 million – making it the 7th most populous nation in the world – and an alcohol sales figure of 2.84 billion dollars in 2014 – who wouldn’t want to have a slice of that cake?

Indian whisky is to the forefront here – at least until Nigeria develops it’s own distilling industry.

India produces mass market blends usually consisting of imported bulk malt from Scotland – augmented with Indian grain – plus a dash of added caramel.

All the big players – Diageo, Pernod-Ricard, United Spirits & others all have their own particular brands in this category. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a few here, here & here.

They retail – in Lagos at least – for about €5 per 750ml bottle of Nigerian strength – 43% – whisky.

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Black & Blue Premium Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

My latest acquisition – via my Nigerian correspondent – is Black & Blue Premium Whisky.

The name is entertaining.

A play on the successful Black & White Scotch mixed in with the premiumisation associated with Blue (a la Johnnie Walker Blue)  – and the unfortunate association attached to ‘battered black & blue.

It’s not clear as to the origins of this brand.

The label has a London address – a rather drab office in Kingsbury NW9 – and oddly a phone number – which rang out when I called.

Oh – I think ROI in this instance means Republic Of India.

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All the information you need? c/othewhiskeynut

I’ve not yet encountered any Irish whiskey in this segment of the market.

So what does ‘the finest oak aged matured malt blended with Indian grain spirit’ taste like?

Well – there is a burnt quality to the nose. I couldn’t describe it as smoky or peaty – yet it’s rather attractive. Mainly as it dampened down the sweet caramel influence.

This followed through into the taste – which didn’t offer much regards depth of flavour or complexity – but it was smooth & approachable.

The burnt note returned on the finish – which along with the 43% strength left a decent degree of heat & warm feeling on the palate.

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Sláinte! c/othewhiskeynut

It certainly didn’t leave my insides black & blue.

Just pleasantly intoxicated.

Sure at only a fiver – what can you complain about!

Sláinte

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Update July 2019

The phone number has been updated!

Black & Blue phone
c/ofacebook

I’ve yet to call.

 

Z For Zed

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is Z for Zed.

But Zed doesn’t need any whiskey – because in the famous lines uttered by Bruce Willis’s character in Pulp Fiction – Zed’s dead.

There are a few countries that begin with Z however.

They are very much alive and by all accounts they have a growing penchant for whiskey.

Zimbabwe is one of them.

I had the pleasure of sampling a bottle of Best Whisky from Westside Distillers in Harare.

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Best Classic Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Now the name is a bit of a misnomer – it’s clearly not the best.

Best Whisky appears to be a blend of ‘Premium Grain Spirit & Finest Scotch Whisky’ according to the label.

It also has a healthy dose of added caramel & comes over rather sweet, devoid of any real flavour yet packs a lovely glowing heat.

A robust little blend.

There is another company.

African Distillers also in Harare but with satellite offices throughout the country.

They too do a whisky.

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Gold Blend c/oAfricanDistillers

I didn’t manage to get my hands on this one so what exactly it is a blend of I don’t know.

Either way there is obviously a growing demand that is being satisfied by local producers, blenders and bottlers.

As their skills grow you can only assume the Best will get better.

I look forward to that day.

Sláinte.

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Y For Yemeni Coffee Liqueur

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is Y for Yemen.

Yemen doesn’t do whiskey.

It currently does war.

Which is destroying it’s rich history, culture and people.

One of those historical people who lived in the territory we now call Yemen was a character by the name of Jãbir Ibn Hayyãn. He was an early alchemist and is credited with inventing the alembic still – which to this day is the basis of modern distillation.

One thing Yemen does produce is coffee. It happens to be where the coffee craze originated from – at least according to an article here.

An enterprising American spirits maker has sourced some of those coffee beans and used them in a brandy based liqueur.

I give you Firelit Yemen Blue Bottle Coffee Liqueur.

Firelit
Firelit Coffee Liqueur c/ogoogle

It may not be whiskey.

But it does provide a link to one of the founding fathers of modern day whiskey making.

Without Jãbir Ibn Hayyãn and his experiments in Yemen – there would be no alembic still – and no whiskey.

I’ll raise a glass to him.

Sláinte.

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X For Xanadu Whiskey

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is X for Xanadu.

As there are no countries listed under X by the Irish Department Of Foreign Affairs And Trade I might as well join Olivia Newton John in the everlasting world of Xanadu!

I’m not sure what whiskeys would be served there.

The expression formerly known as Jameson Crested Ten – now simply reduced to Crested – has a bold X on the label.

Crested
Crested c/oocado

It has a more flavoursome appeal than the standard Jameson. Although it shares the same pot still & grain blended mix – a little bit more ageing combined with longer maturation in sherry casks adds to the drinking experience.

Perhaps the more robust character of James Eadie’s  recreated Trade Mark X would be better suited.

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X marks the spot! c/othewhiskeynut

I had the pleasure of sampling this fine blend at the inaugural Fife Whisky Festival and it certainly won me over with the boldness of the flavours combined with a healthy peat influence.

It’s part of a movement in Scotland to look to companies, distilleries & whiskies of the past and bring them to life in the present.

If they all taste as good as Trade Mark X – I’m all for it!

As for drinking whiskey whilst roller skating AND wearing some of those dodgy eighties fashion outfits EVEN if it’s with the delightful Olivia – I’m not sure.

Sláinte.

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W for Welsh Whisky

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is W for Wales.

For a lot of folks Wales would be better known for Tom Jones, Daffodils, coal and towns with long names like Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch!

It also happens to do some lovely whisky.

And there’s enough to ‘Burn Down The House’! Cue Tom Jones.

Penderyn Whisky was launched in 2004. It has grown to produce a wide variety of single malts which have gathered much acclaim.

My entry into Penderyn was via their initial Icons Of Wales offering – Red Flag.

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A good whisky doesn’t last for long! c/othewhiskeynut

Naming a bottle remembering the first time a red flag was raised in social protest – which happened to be in Wales – I found a rather brave move. Many whiskies celebrate royalty – so Penderyn Red Flag was a break from the normal and attracted my attention.

Bottled at 41%, non chill-filtered with no added caramel is a bonus to begin with.

Matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in madeira barrels this single malt was a very easy & pleasant drinker.  Some sweetness from the madeira mixed well with the slight spice & vanilla from the charred bourbon casks.

I was keen to try more from Penderyn.

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Penderyn Rich Oak c/othewhiskeynut

A chance encounter with Penderyn Rich Oak Limited Edition at a whisky show didn’t stand out for me at the event. Perhaps being swamped with great tasting whiskies means only the strongest flavours stand out & maybe a more muted beauty gets lost in the mix.

Who knows.

What I do know is I’ll be looking forward to trying out more expressions from this expanding Welsh distillery.

Sláinte.

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V For Vietnamese Whisky

World Whisky Day is fast approaching on Saturday the 19th May 2018.

As part of the build up I’m featuring a series of blogs – both old and new – over the next month focusing on a country from each letter of the alphabet – if possible – that makes whisky.

Today is V for Vietnam.

Originally posted December 2017.

 

WALL STREET, BLENDED SPIRIT, 39%, VIETNAM.

Good morning Vietnam!

It would be odd to experience snow in Vietnam, but snow has arrived in Ireland, and it certainly wouldn’t be a rare occurrence at Diageo’s Scottish whisky distilleries who provide the main base ingredient for this Vietnamese bottling.

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Vietnam Wall St in the snow. c/othewhiskeynut

My blog on a Brazilian Whisky of the same name & similar composition here uncovered this Vietnamese Wall Street offering. Fortunately by an opportunistic twist of fate my South East Asian correspondent obligingly brought back a half bottle for me to sample.

Much appreciated Mr G!

Just like the Brazilian Wall St, the Vietnamese Wall St uses imported Scotch whisky mixed with locally produced spirits to obtain an expression that has both the allure of premium quality whisky – yet at an affordable price.

This strategy means Diageo can get some of it’s product into the country but lessens the high import tax which would make the price prohibitive for the mass market. It also retains some degree of aspiration for a superior foreign product – regardless if  it’s actually superior or not – yet mixed with locally made distillate – probably of the rice variety.

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Premium? c/othewhiskeynut

There is still a culture of home made beer & spirits making in Vietnam as highlighted in a report here. This ‘traditional’ rice based distillate is facing the threat of growing globalisation as younger folks aspire to more recognisable brands – as in this Wall St blended spirit.

I couldn’t find anything on the internet as regards what constitutes a Vietnamese whisky or not – so my assumption is the situation is very much like how Ireland & Scotland would have been before the coming of definition rules & codes of practice laws.

Certainly makes it exciting!

And no – I had no fears in sampling this bottle – Diageo have given it their seal of approval after all.

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A local Diageo brand. c/othewhiskeynut

So what did I find?

Well to begin with I found the bottle design – a neat little WS logo with clear & simple information labels back & front – visually attractive. Those labels also announced caramel was added – something missing on many Irish & Scottish bottles. There was also no tamper-proof plastic cap to hamper me pouring the spirit into a suitable glass.

On the nose I found a soft warm muted caramel aroma which was inviting.

Initially a rather soft mouth feel morphed into a straight – but not unpleasant – alcoholic kick somewhat devoid of any real character or flavour before it faded away to a short ending.

Overall I found it a rather simple easy drinking clear & crisp strong alcoholic beverage with caramel being the only hint of taste.

In a back to back with the Brazilian Wall St I actually preferred the no nonsense honest approach of the Vietnamese Wall St.

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Wall Street Brazil c/othewhiskeynut

The irony for both is there is absolutely no bourbon influence in either expression.

Aspirations, expectations & associations over and above actual reality seem to be a marketing ploy in both countries.

Sláinte.

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