Tag Archives: Caramel

Best Classic Whisky, Blend, 43%, Nigeria

A good friend brought me back a selection of whiskies from a trip to Lagos recently. I wonder if he flew Afrikan Airlines?

Contained within the group was the delightfully named Best Classic Whisky.

Best is actually a bit of a misnomer. Even among the wider selection of brands in this style of whisky I’ve tasted before – Best is a bit rough & ready.

There is a very big range of locally produced & marketed brands of whisky around the world that generally use imported Scotch – shipped out in bulk – augmented by ‘spirits’ of an undefined source to make these blended expressions.

It’s a big market for Scottish whisky. The volumes these brands sell would be enough to swallow up the entire output of at least a few of the 120 or so Scottish whisky distilleries – even allowing for the possibly small percentage of Scotch in the blend.

IMG_0088 email
Scotland and South Africa c/othewhiskeynut

Being a self confessed whiskey nut – I get just as excited cracking open a bottle of Best Classic as cracking open a bottle of the latest Irish release or Scottish malt.

It’s the thrill of finding out what’s inside. The taste, the flavour, the mouthfeel and possibly the story behind the brand too.

The  Best Classic – to differentiate it from other releases in the Best range – would be their entry level offering.

The nose has that familiar hit of cloying caramel. I don’t believe the dark colour has come about by a long maturation alone.

Heavy caramel on the taste – with a slightly oily mouthfeel – soon morphs into a straight forward high alcohol heat which isn’t entirely unpleasant – just a bit devoid of any real flavours ageing in wood could have added.

The heat slowly fades on the finish with a rather unnatural chemically note.

Not exactly ‘Premium Product’ in my book – but I’ve tasted worse.

It’s an ordinary no nonsense added caramel laden blend that’s only real character is the warming alcohol heat.

So what’s the story?

DSCF4268 email
Bottled under license c/othewhiskeynut

A bit of digging seems to show BenRiach provide the ‘Finest Scotch Whisky’ element as mentioned in a Kenyan website here as well as Westside Distillers website here.

The ‘Premium Grain Spirit’ is from South Africa. At least that’s what it says on the label.

Now I thought the award winning Sedgwick Distillery – Bain’s Single Grain anyone? – was the only distillery in South Africa. Interestingly they also started out making blends mixing local spirit with imported Scotch. A truly acorns to oaks tale there I think.

But a quick internet search reveals a few other contenders; Durbanville Distillery, Silver Creek Distillery & Qualito Craft Distillery being some I found. There could be more.

Any one of these producers – even the company behind Best Classic Whisky – could go on to win in the international sphere too.

But as it stands at the moment – Best will have to get better.

Sláinte.

Good Logo

Advertisements

Cotswolds Single Malt, 46%, England

My recent Scottish trip allowed me to indulge in a spot of whisky auctioneering – which is a new method for me to acquire some tasty whisky.

Just Whisky hold monthly online auctions. Any successful bids can be collected from their Fife based warehouse in Dunfermline – only a short drive across the River Forth from Edinburgh where I picked up my airport car.

Now I’m not looking for a Macallan at 30 grand – I’m looking for some bargains I can crack open & enjoy.

I did spot some candidates.

Who would be bidding for a bottle of English whisky in a Scottish auction?

Me.

And I bagged it! Along with a few other choice spirits – of which more later.

It stayed unopened until tea time where over a meal of fish ‘n’ chips – well, it was Friday – glasses were poured & tastings began.

IMG_0688 email
English whisky c/othewhiskeynut

Initially the colour appeared rather dark. But it is aged in ex bourbon casks as well as re-charred red wine barrels.

The label also states non chill filtered & natural colour – music to my ears.

A suitably rich & warm charred cask influence of vanilla & caramel greeted me along with a hint of fruit.

The taste was a little punchy – but mellowed as the clean crisp fruit flavours shone through leaving a lovely dry prickly heat on the finish.

My my!

At barely over 3 years old this is lovely.

IMG_0678 Lr
Cotswolds mission statement c/othewhiskeynut

The barley is grown locally to the distillery & traditional floor malting is done nearby too.

Provenance & terroir in your first bottle.

Whoever thinks good whiskey is the domain of only a few chosen countries really needs to wake up and smell the roses – or double cask maturation in this instance.

Slàinte.

Good Logo

 

 

Jameson Deconstructed Series x 3, 40%, Blends.

Flying.

We all do it.

Short haul, long haul, weekend breaks, trips of a lifetime.

There are disadvantages.

Security queues, liquid bans, baggage allowances.

And advantages.

Travel retail exclusives.

For the whiskey fans at least.

And usually tasters. Which I’m ever so happy to sample.

The Jameson Deconstructed Series had eluded me for a long time. Now I can’t say I was entirely bowled over by the landside Makers Series. The flavours were a little too mild & subtle for my liking. Perhaps soft & approachable – which can almost be a Jameson tag line – and one they’re highly successful with. Generally I prefer something bold – which happens to be the name of one expression in the airside Deconstructed Series.

2 (1 of 1)
Jameson Deconstructed Series c/othewhiskeynut

Contrary to perceived wisdom – which is to start with the mildest then move on to the more robust not to overpower the subtleties – I asked the rep at the Loop Dublin Airport for the strongest flavoured expression first.

Round was chosen. An expression ‘giving the barrel the final say‘ according to Jameson.

Well yes! This was nice. Big bold tannins, leather and a little bite at the end.

Suitably impressed I moved onto Bold.

It too was rather pleasing. If only slightly more ’rounder’ on my palate. This one highlighted the pot still character.

Lively meanwhile only delivered what I expect from Jameson. Soft & approachable – yet perfectly drinkable all at the same time.

All in all I came away very happy with the Deconstructed Series.

There are notes & flavours here you can get your teeth into.

Pity they hadn’t moved up from the 40% chill filtered & added caramel presentation. The flavours would have been even more enhanced.

But maybe that’s too ‘bold‘ a step for Jameson – even though Round came out tops for me.

Slàinte.

Good Logo

 

 

Puni Alba, Italian Single Malt, 43%

One of the joys about entering the An Pucan bar – just off Galway’s Eyre Square in the West of Ireland – is the wide array of whiskey available. Not only do they stock a marvelous selection of Irish – there is a healthy amount of other countries output too.

Italy is one of those countries. They also happen to be one of the Six Nations rugby teams that do battle every year – and as An Pucan is a sports bar – they show the game – as well as having the whiskey!

Puni is the first whisky distillery in Italy – and I was keen to sample one of their expressions.

IMG_0423 email
Puni Alba c/othewhiskeynut

This Puni Alba release is one of their earlier incarnations. An Pucan’s bottle is the original design – a very attractive & distinctive rectangular bottle at that. Later editions come in a more traditional – yet still very stylish – round shape which is used across the whole range. For me however – it’s the contents that count – so a glass was duly poured.

The nose came over with a rather unique profile. Soft & sweet with a lovely floral touch – yet slightly citric all at the same time. Very intriguing.

The taste started off suitably mellow, followed by a lovely growing heat with a little spicy kick. The floral sweetness developed into a cornucopia of flavour sensations that rolled around in the palate.

Very nice!

The finish was rather short – but left me wanting more!

Why had it taken me so long to try this gorgeous whisky?

On the side of the bottle some interesting information – which became clearer when enlarged – explained why I loved this expression so much.

IMG_0419 email
Fantastico! c/othewhiskeynut

Turns out it’s triple distilled using a mash of barley, wheat and – my pet love – rye! So that’s where the delightful spice comes from. The combination of these grains works extremely well in producing  a phalanx of beautiful flavours which just exploded in my mouth.

Heaven in a bottle!

Much like Linea 77 singing about La nuova musica Italiana – I want more nuova whisky Italiana!

It should go without saying this original bottling came non chill filtered with no added caramel – which raises the freshness, clarity & strength of the engaging flavours within.

Puni Whisky – a force to be reckoned with.

Sláinte.

Good Logo

 

Dundalgan 10 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Mindful I’ve been bigging up the excellent Aldi 26yo Irish Reserve. In the interests of fairness & partiality I couldn’t leave out seeing what the other German retailer Lidl had to offer on the whiskey front.

The pre-christmas special on the shelves seemed to be their own label Dundalgan 10yo Single Malt – which I eventually got round to sampling.

20161210_195127 email
Lidl 10yo SM & Charred Cask blend c/othewhiskeynut

Being a supermarket release – I’m not expecting ‘non chill-filtered’ anywhere on the label. Nor am I expecting any sense of provenance – let alone the name of the field or even the variety of barley used for the terroir.

What I am expecting to find is exactly what it says on the rather plain & simple label.

DSCF4035 email
All you need to know. c/othewhiskeynut

At 30 euro – what else would you be looking for other than the basic legal requirements?

Oh! It does add ‘aged in bourbon casks’ – but there is no mention of added caramel – (which is probably in there) – nor the distillery that made it – (Cooley would be my guess) – because it doesn’t have to. If you want that kind of information – buy something else.

On the nose it’s very inviting. Soft, smooth, the usual vanilla & caramel notes, whilst Mrs Whiskey found pleasant floral aromas with hints of orange & spice.

It didn’t disappoint on tasting either. A very easy mellow vanilla to begin with, hints of maltiness, followed by a lovely growing heat with just a dash of peppery spice to give it a lift.

A rather gentle medium finish rounded off this extremely pleasant & easy drinking single malt.

It doesn’t have the depth of the Aldi 26yo – but then it’s under half it’s age and 60% the price – and I certainly found the Dundalgan 10yo surprisingly enjoyable.

If only all supermarket whiskeys were this good!

A cheeky little number from Lidl.

Sláinte.

Good Logo

Wall Street, Blended Whisky, Brazil, 38%

And now for something completely different.

Brazil.

Rio, Copacabana, Carnival, The Girl From Ipanema,

And whisky!

Yes, that’s right, whisky.

Brazil is a big whisky drinking country. Not only was it once the 5th biggest export nation for Scottish whisky – it also produces it’s own versions.

After a recent economic crash in Brazil, Scottish Whiskey profits worldwide experienced a dip. You can read all about it in a Scottish Whisky Exports Review here.

Now a significant amount of that export order takes the shape of ‘bulk exports’. Simply put, this is tank loads of Scotch sent abroad where it is decanted, blended, bottled & labelled for the domestic market.

Brazilian Whisky Rules
Extract from Chemical composition of Brazilian whiskies.

Often this process takes the form of added caramel, added spirits locally produced – referred to as ‘ethyl alcohol’ in a wonderfully informative report with the snappy title ‘Chemical Composition Of Whiskies Produced In Brazil Compared To International Products’ available here – and watered down to the legal minimum of 38%.

As my better half recently visited Brazil, my natural curiosity and intrigue to taste some of this ‘nacionais’ whisky was an opportunity too good to miss – so some bottles made it back to Ireland.

DSCF3777 email
Wall Street c/othewhiskeynut

Now calling your whisky ‘Wall Street’  – and coupled with a bourbon looking bottle – sends out messages that run counter to the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ on the label. But this is no fake or phony whisky – this is an official Pernod Ricard Brazil bottle. So could there be some Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour in this blend?

The back label is also interesting. It lists a lot of information you don’t normally see on Scottish or Irish labels – ‘corante INS150A’  for example – and if you don’t trust the label – why should you trust the one on Glenlivet, Scapa or Aberlour? It’s the same company after all.

DSCF3795 email
Back of Wall Street c/othewhiskeynut

So what does it taste like?

Well my first problem was getting round the tamper proof bottle top. I’ve not encountered this device before and found it infuriating. Unusual methods were resorted to to get a decent pour!

DSCF3803 email
Tamper proof top removal c/othewhiskeynut

Finally getting the whisky in a glass allowed me to inhale a cloying sweetness combined with a gentle grainy element.

The taste was surprisingly soft – I had been given dire warnings from an amusing vlog below – smooth & yes, sweet. No real strong flavours or character. Reminds me of a more gentle single grain. No sign of malt in this.

The finish was about the only ‘joy’ in this whisky as a pleasant softly warming burn on the palate hinted to the origins of this drink.

Overall it is an inoffensive, approachable easy drinking tipple that lacks any real bite, spirit or flavour that would grab my attention. The added caramel & ethyl alcohol have stripped the ‘Maltes Escoceses’ of any inherent character. It would make an excellent base for cocktails, adding coke, lemonade or ginger & lime to give it a bit more zing.

Having said that – as the average weekly income in Brazil is only about 135 euros – paying 10 euro for Wall Street as opposed to 23 for Jameson & Johnnie Walker Red – or even 91 for Glemnorangie Original – would soon concentrate your mind.

Ye takes yer money & ye makes yer choices.

I’m glad I chose Wall Street – if only to taste what other blogs shy away from.

Sláinte.

Good Logo

My thanks to Iris for sourcing this whisky.

It has come to my attention there is a Wall Street Whisky in Vietnam of similar style to the Brazilian one. Diageo seem to own the Vietnam one according to a blog here.

 

 

Aldi Irish Reserve 26 Year Old Single Malt, 40%

Back in May I wrote a blog entitled ‘Irish Whiskey – Which Way Forward?

I posed the question could Irish Whiskey deliver a suitable supermarket brand own label to compete in that category which hitherto was largely absent of Irish product.

I’m pleased to say Aldi 26 Year Old Irish Reserve has answered that question.

Irish Whiskey can deliver!

DSCF3765 email
26yo Irish Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

Irish whiskey is on the same shelves – in the same supermarkets – competing on the same level playing field with Scotch – and by all accounts – it’s winning!

Whiskey fans in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales are currently driving round to Aldi stores attempting to hunt down this elusive whiskey.

Ay Ay Ay Yeah! As this up coming Irish band sings.

My own local store in Athlone still didn’t have it 3 days after the advertised release date ! So to avoid disappointment I drove up to the next store in Roscommon to secure a bottle.

But then a few days of anxious nail biting that I wouldn’t get a bottle has to be put into perspective of the 26 long years this whiskey has spent maturing quietly in oak barrels before I finally managed to actually drink it.

Now I’d normally like my aged whiskeys to be non chill filtered with no added caramel & preferably at cask strength – but this attracts a three figure price tag. In the meantime Aldi release a 26yo at only 50 euro – so it’s 40%, probably chill filtered & probably with added caramel.

So is it worth it?

DSCF3768 email
A golden dram! c/othewhiskeynut

Sure!

Now the nose is rather soft & delicate for such an aged expression. Just a hint of the depth of character with vanilla & soft fruits coming through.

Initially the taste is rather soft too, but slowly develops into a lovely rich and dry mouth feel which delivers a wonderfully warm tingling burn.

It’s in the long lingering finish that the whiskey begins to shine for me. Gently releasing the oak tannins, soft fruits with hints of vanilla & caramel from the decades in oak barrels – which I take to be ex-bourbon.

Sit back, sip, savour & enjoy.

Irish Whiskey is definitely back in town!

Sláinte.

Good Logo

 

Smokehead, Islay Single Malt, 43%

I always try to pick up some new whiskey – for me at least – when I’m out & about. I popped into the local Oddbins whilst in London recently & came out with this Smokehead miniature – well – it’s air travel friendly.

Contrary to a lot of what has been said regarding transparency in the Irish whiskey world – this bottle of Islay Single Malt doesn’t say which distillery made it. It does say who bottled it – Ian Macleod Distillers – who do own distilleries – but not on Islay.

DSCF3566 email
Smokin’ c/othewhiskeynut

Islay is renowned the world over for it’s peaty whisky and Smokehead is a brand which exudes that quality. It’s also proudly a mystery malt – along with others like Finlaggan & Aldi’s Glen Marnoch – in that the actual distillery isn’t disclosed – leading to much speculation & guessing – which is part of the fun.

I also crave a bit of peat influence in my whiskey. It adds a bit of punch & vitality to the glass. Much like these French rockers who also go by the name Smokehead.

The nose has that lovely rich peaty smoke which enwraps me with it’s charms. A hint of caramel jars with me however and I immediately get suspicious of added e150. This was later confirmed by an internet search here.

There’s quite a nice oily mouthfeel on the taste. It reminds me of a dark heavy Bunnahabhain – although most pundits reckon the malt is Ardbeg – with a lovely spiciness too.

The smoke lingers on the finish & just makes me want to dive in for more.

Overall it’s a decent smoky peat dram. The caramel gives it a dark & heavy feel rather than the crisp & clear taste of Peat Monster by Compass Box. It’s also way more balanced than Glen Marnoch where the smoke only  just rises above the morass of caramel in the mix.

Sláinte.

Good Logo

Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve, Blend, 40%

From an own label,

To a branded product.

William Grant & Sons have a long history & tradition of whiskey making.

They also own Tullamore DEW.

DSCF2774 email
Grant’s Sherry Cask Reserve c/othewhiskeynut

The distinctive triangular bottle shape of their blended range is probably more appealing than the contents.

It’s soft, sweet from the sherry cask plus added caramel & lacks any clarity or distinctive flavour.

It’s a big seller.

Just not in my happy house.

Sláinte.

Good Logo