Tag Archives: Caramel

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wall Street, Blended Whisky, 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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Glen Marnoch, Islay Single Malt, 40%

I went looking for the much publicised Ben Bracken trio of single malts recently released by Lidl – but inadvertently walked into Aldi instead!

What confronted me were not only 3 single malts – Islay, Highland & Speyside – but also a 12 Year Old Speyside as well as 2 double casks –  one sherry finish & the other bourbon – all below £20.

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Aldi own brand whisky c/othewhiskynut

As I’m a fan of bolder flavours I went straight for the Islay Single Malt  to sample.

For the price – I wasn’t disappointed.

The nose was a pleasing mixture of Islay peat & muted caramelised vanilla notes.

For this category & price point, my assumed position is that caramel is added. You only need to look at some of the promotional photos of the different malts showing identical shades of golden brown for confirmation.

The taste was a bit of a non event. Soft, sweet, slightly watery & muted no doubt by that caramel – but after swirling it around in the mouth for a while, a rich peaty smoke surfaced into a pleasingly warming burn on swallowing which proceeded to develop a lovely long afterglow.

A very inoffensive easy sipping entry level malt whisky at an affordable price with just enough character to make it interesting.

I’m not sure which markets it will surface in the pan-european Aldi store area – but it will certainly fly off the shelves. It makes a decent everyday single malt for the drinks cabinet.

For good measure I compared it to another store brand offering. This time from the Co-operative Group.

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Co-op Pure Malt c/othewhiskeynut

The 8 Year Old Pure Malt is a blend of,

‘carefully selected choice malt whiskies from the Highlands Islands and Lowlands of Scotland.’

so says the label.

The same label doesn’t say caramel is added – but it has that same cloying mouthfeel which dulls any freshness or sharpness in the flavours on tasting. There was a little smoke – but not enough to rise above the morass of caramel & vanilla smoothness.

A rather muted dram in comparison to the smoky punch of Islay peat.

Sláinte.

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Shackleton, Blended Malt, 40%

If this whisky was branded with an own label supermarket store logo at an attractive price I’d have been happy.

The nose was suitably soft – a slight hint of smoke being the only noticeable element.

The taste had that cloying caramel feel – common among entry level expressions – but was relatively inoffensive & pleasant.

Whilst the finish gave a soft warming kick that lasted a decent amount of time.

Overall – no real surprises here – a perfectly ordinary everyday whisky.

But this is no own label.

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Shacklton Whisky backstory c/othewhiskeynut

It’s attractively packaged & presented with the wonderfully adventurous back story of Shackleton & his Antarctic exploits. The tale of how his bunch of hardy men brought Mackinlay’s Old Highland Malt with them to fortify their spirits against the freezing temperatures & biting gales. About how some of the bottles were left behind in the abandoned hut for over 100 years in the permafrost only to be rediscovered, re-engineered & recreated by the brand owners Whyte & Mackay today in this current bottling.

All fabulous stuff.

It’s just a pity the actual whisky inside the bottle doesn’t quite match up to the heroic struggles those early explorers faced on the ice-fields.

An earlier recreation of those bottles certainly had character & robustness that made you feel by drinking it you were somehow part of Shackleton’s crew. Bottled at 47.5% the 2nd edition was presented in an elaborate package including maps & photographs of the 1907 expedition and even a retro designed bottle to match the original. Now that was a whisky to sink your teeth into.

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Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt c/othewhiskeynut

This current 40% rendition is sadly lacking.

It’s no better – or worse – than an own label brand & I was expecting something – well – more.

My only consolation is that a donation from every bottle sold goes towards the Antarctic Heritage Trust to preserve Shackleton’s Hut & encourage further exploration and adventure.

For those that would like to know more about Irish born Ernest Shackleton & his adventures, I’d recommend the Athy Heritage Centre – Museum. Located only a few miles from Shackleton’s birthplace in Kilkea House, Kildare, the museum houses the only permanent exhibition to Shackleton & shows many original artefacts, photos, cine & even an empty bottle of the recreated whisky found at the 1907 hut in the Antarctic.

Sláinte.

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Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Year Old, 2016 2nd Ltd Release, Single Malt, 57.3%

Octomore is my kind of whisky.

Big, bad, peaty & powerful.

And like the Steve Aoki song – I felt The Power Of Now.

At 57.3% it fills the mouth with an explosion of smoke sparked off by some surprisingly sweet notes & tasty flavours.

At first I suspected added caramel but no! Bruichladdich are emphatically against such practices. All the flavour results from the maturation in wooden barrels – in this instance ex-bourbon & French wine casks – hence the sweet notes to start with contrasting beautifully with the powerful – 167ppm – peat hit later into the fabulous tasting experience.

A stupendous dram!

Not all my fellow Whisky Birmingham attendees agreed.

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Port Charlotte 10, 2nd Edition c/othewhiskeynut

One preferred the Port Charlotte 10 Year Old 2nd Ltd Edition at only 50% & 40ppm. which I must admit I found harsher than the Octomore.

We agreed to differ on our findings,

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Sláinte! c/othewhiskeynut

But united on our love of whisky!

Sláinte.

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