Tag Archives: Caramel

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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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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Ben Bracken Islay Single Malt, 40%

It’s been well over a year since I first went out to purchase this whisky.

The idea of a budget supermarket branded single malt appealed to me. I had to find out for myself what it tasted like.

Inadvertently I walked into the wrong German supermarket store and came out with Aldi’s Glen Marnoch instead.

Now in this segment of the market you have to accept chill filtering & added caramel. There is no provenance – nor terroir. There isn’t even a Glen Marnoch or Ben Bracken distillery – let alone an actual physical Ben or Glen of the same name to visit. You get what you pay for – entry level single malt.

The Glen Marnoch Islay was fine – a decent hit of peat over a rather hefty dose of  caramel.

I’d actually stopped looking for Ben Bracken.

It’s reach didn’t seem to make it across the Irish Sea – and there were far more entertaining bottles to bring back from the UK.

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Ben Bracken Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

But when it appeared in my local Lidl store in Athlone – I couldn’t really give it a miss. If only to show no favouritism towards either store.

To kick off with there’s that dark ruby mahogany shade of added caramel – but on nosing – a refreshingly clean & clear smack of peat smoke greeted me.

I found it very inviting.

The initial taste was rather soft, watery & almost insipid – but then a big waft of peat just blows in and makes it sort of alright!

My peat baby is coming back to me!

The experience left a softly drying ashiness. Like a warm & cosy seaside fire rolling around on my palate.

I’d rate this higher than Glen Marnoch.

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I get peat! c/othewhiskeynut

The caramel quota isn’t as pronounced – which allows a more powerful & peaty punch to shine through.

There isn’t much else.

It’s rather one dimensional.

But if like me you enjoy a smack of smoke in your glass.

At 25 euro.

I doubt you’d find a more enjoyable peatiness.

Sláinte

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White Oak, Tokinoka, Blend, 40%

If I’d tried Akashi before this sister blend – I may not have bothered – but in reality – Tokinoka was my first exploration into the White Oak Distillery.

Oddly – I also found this whisky in France.

There must be a distributor doing a great job in getting it stocked around the country.

Again – this is an entry level caramelised blend.

But it’s more characterful & robust than it’s stablemate.

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Tokinoka Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

A sharp spirity nose is smoothed by the caramel influence.

There is a soft underlying malt to begin with – before a lovely warming heat kicks in.

I found it a pleasant little number.

A fair few were enjoyed at a Parisien get together with friends.

Sláinte

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White Oak, Akashi, Blend, 40%

Out at a party – en France.

The 1st bottle of whisky had already been enjoyed.

Our host said there was a bottle of Japanese Whisky inside.

The collective clapped their hands and said yeah!

White Oak Akashi was procured & poured.

Oh dear.

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White Oak Akashi c/othewhiskeynut

Entry level caramel infused blend this one – not much in the way of individuality, style or flavour here.

I moved onto some locally made Eaux-de-Vie.

It was far more entertaining!

Sláinte

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The Charles House, Blend, 40%

The joy of whisky can come from unexpected and surprising places.

Like France.

When on holiday there I had a clear set of purchasing procedures.

Number 1 on the list were some French made whiskies which I quickly ticked off at the lovely V&B chain of stores on my way out of Toulouse.

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Rye Francais c/othewhiskeynut

Roof Rye certainly raised my spirits here!

2nd on the list was any locally based Irish whiskey brands – but there weren’t any – as I found out in my recent blog here.

3rd on the list and last pickings were locally based Scotch brands – there were LOADS of them!

Have you ever wondered why only half of the 130 or so Scottish Whisky Distilleries have visitors centres?

The others are so busy pumping out liquid to 3rd party blenders, bottlers & spirits wholesalers throughout the world to bother with tourists.

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The Charles House Whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Liquid like what I found in The Charles House Blended Scotch Whisky.

Now I must admit most of this market is entry level stuff. It usually means they are blends augmented with added caramel – which I can detect & dislike – as well as being chill filtered. There is no pretence to provenance or terroir – in fact there is very little to go on even on the label.

But I don’t drink whisky based on what the label does or doesn’t say.

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Nothing to see here. c/othewhiskeynut

I drink whisky because I enjoy it.

And I certainly enjoyed Charles House.

Why?

When poured into the glass the colour was relatively light – there was caramel on the nose – but not overpowering – and a lovely burnt note which drew me in.

Soft, smooth & slightly sweet grain on the palate – mellow enough as befits an entry level blend – but what’s this coming through?

My mouth began to dry out leaving a prickly tingling on the tongue with a lovely soft ashiness.

Aha! I detect a bit of peat influence in this.

The peat adds a bit of bite – some lovely smoky flavours – and just raises the tasting experience up a notch or two.

It brought a smile to my face.

Sorry Run – I’d much rather go back to Charles House.

Sláinte.

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Teeling Single Pot Still, Batch1, 46%

It’s been a long time coming.

Whiskey distillation has returned to Dublin!

I remember visiting the building site that became the Teeling Whiskey Distillery here.

I remember my first visit to the working distillery here.

And I remember drinking their new make Poitin – distilled in Dublin – here.

So it’s a great treat to eventually getting round to tasting their first official whiskey.

All previous Teeling releases are sourced. I’ve enjoyed a fair few of them over the years so this young Single Pot Still has a very high bar to follow – some might say an impossible task – so does it make the grade?

Well – it Smells Like Teen Spirit!

The idea that a just-over-3yr-old Single Pot Still can match the complexity & depth of flavour of malts matured in a variety of barrels for at least 5 years or more – much more in many cases – is frankly ridiculous.

This Single Pot Still is fresh, lively & exuberant.

There’s plenty of sweet fresh fruit on the nose with just a hint of sour new make in the background.

Initially a smooth fruity mouthfeel develops into a dry peppery spice with a good deal of prickly heat.

The dry spices fade leaving a clean tropical fruit finish.

I actually really enjoy it – but it’s hardly an easy smooth tannic laden whiskey of hidden depth & character. It’s a little rough around the edges – nothing a few more years wouldn’t sort out.

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Teeling Single Pot Still & Tuath Whiskey Glass c/othewhwiskeynut

But then this whiskey was never meant to be the finished item.

It’s a work in progress to highlight the maturing process – to keep the adoring fans happy – to keep Teeling in the limelight and to earn a bit of return too.

It’s a historical bottling with a release of 6,000 at an affordable price.

It’s presented at 46% – and like all Teeling releases – there is no chill filtering nor added caramel.

A nice touch is the light blue label which mirrors the Dublin GAA colours.

Let The Spirit Of Dublin roll on!

Sláinte

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An Fear Grinn, 16 Year Old Single Malt, Single Cask, 57%.

Irish Whiskey is in resurgence.

There are a plethora of new players attracted to the market buoyed by the confidence of future growth.

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Proper Truck c/oinstagram

From Conor McGregor’s Proper No Twelve at one end of the scale – to An Fear Grinn – a single malt, single cask offering from private bottler Whiskey Factor at the other end.

I welcome them all.

An fear grinn
An Fear Grinn c/oinstagram

It would be a far more worrying state of affairs if there weren’t any newcomers investing in Irish Whiskey.

What unites both of the above releases is they are both representations of spirit distilled at existing distilleries. Until the new crop of distilleries have matured stocks of whiskey at hand – most new entrants have no alternatives.

Whilst Proper No Twelve is a decent enough standard blend banking on it’s celebrity owner’s popularity – or infamy as the case may be – An Fear Grinn is a single cask bottling from an unnamed Irish Distillery. It showcases a liquid not usually available to the public. A liquid that is normally vatted & watered down as a core range single malt – or even potentially used – in small quantities – to give added flavour to a standard blend – like the one above.

I very fortuitously obtained a generous sample from the Whiskey Factor for evaluation & enjoyment.

Now the first thing you notice is the colour.

It’s very pale.

This is a 16 year old single malt matured exclusively in a single ex-bourbon cask.

It represents it’s natural colour.

Without the use of added caramel – it’s what most of our whiskey should look like.

The simple act of pouring a measure into the Túath glass revealed a pleasing waft of warm vanilla.

Clearly no chill filtering either.

At 57% you’d expect a bit of a punch – yet the nose is very fresh & fruity with a hint of tannic woodiness in the background.

Surprisingly smooth on the palate. The rich tannins make their presence felt before the warm vanilla & citrusy fruits shine through.

It’s only on the finish the cask strength of this bottling makes itself known. An explosion of alcohol mixed in with fabulous flavours dances around in a prickly heat before slowly subduing into an oaky spiciness & fruit finale.

Fabulous stuff!

Sláinte.

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An Fear Grinn is only available via Whiskey Factor here.

Many thanks to Whiskey Factor for the sample.

Kilbeggan Small Batch Rye, 43%

I got fierce excited at last years Whiskey Live Dublin over the opportunity to sample an Irish rye whiskey that was still maturing in Kilbeggan Distillery.

The bottle was filled straight from the cask at over 60% ABV & presented non chill filtered without added caramel.

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When will this stunner be released? c/othewhiskeynut

It was powerful – yet the mashbill of malted & unmalted barley together with a high rye content displayed that wonderful peppery rye spiciness with a smooth & creamy barley influence.

Almost a year on the production bottle has been released in time for Whiskey Live Dublin 2018 – as well as picking up a Gold Medal at the recently held Irish Whiskey Awards.

As a self confessed rye fan I picked up a bottle in the distillery on my return from the highly enjoyable awards evening at Slane Castle.

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Small Batch Rye calling card c/othewhiskeynut

Now the bottle design is rather muted & understated. There are some lovely tasting notes on the back label – an unexplained handshake logo on the neck – and a nod to the historical inclusion of rye in Irish whiskey making from times past.

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The back label c/othewhiskeynut

I fully welcome the return of rye to the modern Irish whiskey scene.

On the nose it’s very soft, slightly sweet with just a hint of peppery spice that signifies the rye content.

The palate is also very silky & smooth. The barley content dominates the initial experience before that black pepper spiciness – which I love – kicks in to leave a wonderfully drying mouthfeel at the end which slowly fades away.

At 43% & with added caramel – which is found throughout the Kilbeggan range of whiskeys – I couldn’t help feeling some of the spark & vitality of that original cask sample had been lost a little in this more tame offering.

I just had to compare it with the Arbikie Highland Rye released late 2017 in Scotland.

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Ireland v Scotland Rye test c/othewhiskeynut

Now this is also a barley/rye mix – but there’s no unmalted barley – and the rye content is higher at 52%. It’s also younger at only 2 years old & has no added caramel or chill filtering. It’s bottled at 46%.

There is more pronounced rye on the nose.

The smoothness & creaminess of the barley belies it’s young age before a joyfully massively drying peppery spice explodes on the palate leaving a fabulously prickly finish.

I’m afraid to say – when it comes to rye – Scotland do it better.

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Goalong Liquor Special Small Batch Whiskey, Blend, 40%, China

And now for something completely different.

Chinese Whiskey.

The Chinese know a thing or two about the art of distillation. The biggest selling spirit drink in the world is baijiu – sorghum is the usual ingredient – although other grains can be used – and has been made in China since the late 11th Century.

Young Chinese are also looking westwards for their inspiration – as shown by this Chinese Hip-Hop group Higher Brothers.

So when some enterprising Chinese company decides to make whiskey – it should come as no surprise.

I present to you Goalong Liquor Special Small Batch Whiskey.

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Made In China c/othewhiskeynut

The bottle is suitably attractive in a gothic almost heavy metal style. There is also a smidgen of flowery sales patter on the front – as well as more on the entertaining website here – quite how much you wish to believe is up to you – whilst it’s in Chinese on the back.

I’d be happy for someone to translate for me.

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Chinese whiskey legalese? c/othewhiskeynut

Despite a quick internet search – I couldn’t find anything resembling a Chinese Whiskey Association – there are plenty of baijiu rules however – so I did what I normally do when presented with a bottle of whiskey. Open it – drink it – and let my palate tell me whether I enjoy it or not.

To begin with – the dark colour suggests added caramel – which is a common feature for entry level blends worldwide – but on the nose I didn’t get that sickly sweet cloying sensation.

I got a very muted caramel sweetness with a slight burnt note and a soft woody aroma – and then nothing.

There was an almost total absence of anything else – no sweet grain or earthy barley to pull you in.

The taste was exceptionally – and rather surprisingly – very soft & smooth. No rough edges here.  Just an easy going delivery that again lacked any depth or flavour characteristics to give it body.

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Added or natural? c/othewhiskeynut

This rather ’empty’ experience finished off with a slight warming to the back of the throat as if to remind you about the 40% alcohol content – otherwise you could down a fair few of these without knowing.

It wasn’t an unpleasant experience. In fact I found teasing out what this whiskey does contain very enjoyable – but my conclusion is that it’s mainly a domestic product.

It reminded me of a New York made soju I had once. Soju is a Korean style of rice based distilled spirit similar to baijiu. I found it rather novel – if a little lacking in character.

There is a world of whiskey out there waiting to be drunk.

I certainly enjoyed my chance to taste some Chinese Whiskey.

Sláinte.

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My sample was kindly procured in China by my Asian Correspondent.

Many thanks Mr G.