Tag Archives: NAS

Kurayoshi Whisky Tasting

Japanese Whisky gets a bad rap for it’s perceived lack of rules – yet that doesn’t seem to deter growing sales & increasing appeal.

My personal problem with Japanese Whisky tends to be lack of availability – and when it is – the price tag.

So when the Celtic Whiskey Shop in association with European Distributors BBC Spirits offered a Zoom whisky tasting – I was in like Flynn!

During the course of the event I gathered Kurayoshi is a range of blended malts from a variety of unnamed Japanese distilleries bottled by the Kurayoshi/Matsui Distillery. They are presented non chill filtered & natural colour.

Sherry Cask c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Kurayoshi Sherry Cask 43%

An NAS – non age statement – offered at just over 3 years, matured in ex-bourbon casks & finished in sherry casks. There was no new make feel of this richly flavoured whisky. It was noted maturation times in Japan can be shorter than Scotland or Ireland due to the extremes of temperature experienced. Many tasters enjoyed fruity notes with this easy going malt, a discernible sherry influence, long lasting finish & enjoyable prickly bite.

8yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Kurayoshi 8 Year Old, 43%

A clean & fresh ex-bourbon cask matured malt. The use of toasted barrels brought out warm vanilla & caramel notes, along with a certain depth & pleasant peppery spice on the finish – which some compared to that of Powers. Nice!

12yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Kurayoshi 12 Year Old, 43%

More subtle, balanced & rounded with similar maturation to the 8. The peppery spice on the finish was more pronounced. A favourite of many on the tasting.

18yo c/oCelticWhiskeyShop

Kurayoshi 18 Year Old, 50%

A much more intriguing nose, touches of leathery wood, a slight smokiness from the barrels, greater depth & complexity. The higher ABV left a powerful impression & was a delight to enjoy.

The panel was split between the 12 & the 18 as to most well received so far. I must admit to being an 18 fan – although I did enjoy the 8 too!

The final offering was a little different!

Matsui Mizunara c/oDekanta

Matsui Single Malt, Mizunara Cask, 48%

One of the first releases from the Matsui Distillery itself & aged in Japanese Mizunara Casks – this malt displays some rather unusual & attractive flavours showcasing it’s Japanese manufacture – which is what I’m after! Earthy woody notes combine with a slight sweetness. A clean & fresh palate offering orchard fruits & a lovely balanced peppery spice on the finish. The complexity of flavour belies it’s youthfulness. The Matsui quickly became the pick of the best!

The Celtic Whiskey Shop are currently running weekly whiskey tastings. The opportunity to explore bottles possibly ‘out of reach’ & to virtually chat with fellow whiskey fans in a relaxed manner makes for an enjoyable evening.

I’d highly recommend joining in.

Sláinte

Jim Beam Black, 8 Year Old, 43%

There’s an attractive quality to miniatures.

The opportunity to try out unknown treasures – or non runners – before buying a full bottle.

The ease of transport – particularly when flying!

2 (1 of 1)
Jim Beam 8 c/othewhiskeynut

And the chance to taste a wide variety of styles without breaking the bank.

This Jim Beam was part of a job lot auction acquisition.

A simple yet bold label design pleased me.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Packs a punch! c/othewhiskeynut

Signature sweet bourbony notes with a touch of oakiness on the nose.

The charred casks coupled with added ageing had boosted the depth of the palate with more warmth & richness.

At 43% it packed a spirity punch – which I found attractive.

Miniatures are fleeting memories.

Especially when you find out the 8 Year Old was dropped in favour of an NAS – non age statement – I encountered here.

Sláinte

Good Logo

Jim Beam, Black XA, 43% v’s Signature Craft 12, 43%.

I used to fly.

Probably won’t be doing it for a while now.

One enjoyable pastime at the airport was sampling whiskey.

JFK had a pair of Beams not previously encountered.

2 (1 of 1)
2 Beams c/othewhiskeynut

The Black Extra Aged sported an attractive enough bottle.

‘Black’ is often used in whiskey circles to denote a more refined, aged or even mysterious elixir.

I was happy to explore.

It came across quite soft & sweet – but with an appreciatively appealing bite too.

Not bad!

The Signature Craft 12 Year Old displayed a more rounded & smoother feel – lacking the youthful exuberance of it’s stablemate.

Black won out.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

 

 

Loch Lomond, Triple Pack, Single Malts, 46% x 3

Oh dear!

Are you ever disappointed reading positive reviews & kind comments regarding a whisky or distillery?

Well Loch Lomond was my moment.

2 (1 of 1)
Loch Lomond miniature pack c/othewhiskeynut

Presented in an attractive triple pack for last years Open Golf Tournament – these 3 whiskies promised ‘innovation & character’.

I got smooth, soft, caramel laden blandness.

It started with Inchmurrin Madeira Cask.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Mit Farbstoff c/othewhiskeynut

A fudgy caramel nose immediately repulsed me. The palate was far more forthcoming though. Soft fruits danced merrily with a lovely little flourish of gentle prickly spice on the finish.

The Lock Lomond 12yo was a sweet, honeyed, biscuity Single Malt that just lacked character.

I was hoping the peated Inchmoan would save the day.

Alas not!

Any welcome oomph the peat would deliver just got drowned out by soft, smooth blandness on the palate. Only on the finish did a gentle smokiness make it’s presence known.

2 (1 of 1)-3
Nice design! c/othewhiskeynut

If I’m looking for caramelly single malts, Ben Bracken offers the same experience at half the price. Their Islay version knocks the socks off Inchmoan.

It’s not often I leave unfinished miniatures behind……………

If throwing caramel at your single malts is ‘innovative’ – forget it.

Good Logo

 

 

Pirate’s Grog Rum, Aged Honduran v’s No 13, 37.5% & 40%.

There’s going to be a lot of ‘Sitting Round At Home’ in the next few weeks – a cue for the classic Buzzcocks tune.

It also gives me the opportunity to work through a selection of miniatures.

A pair of Pirate’s Grog Rum in attractively labelled dumpy bottles took my fancy.

2 (1 of 1)-3
Arrgh! A mighty fine pair ‘o’ rubies! c/othewhiskeynut

The Aged Honduran Rum gave no age statement.

The No 13 states ‘Fine 13 Year Aged Rum’ – plus ‘All Natural and Organic’  &  ‘Handmade in a Single Batch’.  Very promising.

No 13 was a slightly darker shade of golden brown – while the Aged looked cloudier. Both gave good legs.

On the nose Aged had a sweet molassey note combined with an attractive funkiness. Very alluring.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Aged Honduran Rum c/othewhiskeynut

No 13 by comparison gave more vanilla with a touch of woodiness.

Both were soft & easy on the palate with a silky mouthfeel – but took different directions thereafter.

The Aged funkiness opened up & grew into a delightfully prickly spice which teased my senses. Very enjoyable.

No 13 didn’t particularly take me on a journey. The long time in ex-bourbon barrels imbued it with attributes more akin to a single malt whiskey rather than a rum – & I was a tad deflated by the experience.

2 (1 of 1)
Pirate’s Grog No 13 c/othewhiskeynut

Both were fine, easy & approachable rums – but for me the funkiness of Aged Honduran was a more characterful example of the genre.

Despite the extra fancy labelling, more refined product & reassuring marketing of No 13 – the plain old NAS pleased my palate better.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

 

Glenfiddich Reserve Cask & Select Cask, Travel Retail, Single Malt, 40%

I picked up these a while ago.

2 (1 of 1)-2
Travel retail miniatures c/othewhiskeynut

Travel retail NAS – non aged statement – offerings seem to be the ‘thing’ right now.

Being a category leader – I thought I’d give them a go.

Bad decision.

This is soft, sweet easy going malt for the masses.

Any sparkle of life & vitality has been sucked out by added caramel & chill filtration.

2 (1 of 1)-4
Glenfiddich Reserve Cask c/othewhiskeynut

The Reserve Cask did have a prickly spice on the finish to give it a lift – but the Select Cask was just sweet, honeyed, biscuity malt.

2 (1 of 1)-3
Glenfiddich Select Cask c/othewhiskeynut

Fine if you like that sort of thing – but no – they did nothing for me.

Sláinte

Good Logo

Irish American Whiskey Trio Taste-Off

I couldn’t say goodbye to my latest selection of Irish Whiskey brands only available in America without a taste challenge.

Emptying what was left of the miniatures – and a pour from the 750 ml US size bottle – the first thing I noticed was the almost identical golden colour from all 3 whiskeys.

All 3 are NAS – non age statement – offerings at 40% ABV.

All 3 are sourced brands from unspecified Irish Distilleries and

All 3 taste remarkably different from each other.

I’ll kick off with Kilbrin.

2 (1 of 1)-2
The attractive front of Kilbrin c/othewhiskeynut

This one immediately appealed to my palate. Fresh, lively & inviting. A gorgeous spicy kick towards the end endeared this blend to me.

Kavanagh was up next.

2 (1 of 1)-5
Kavanagh Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

More malty – biscuity even. Hardly surprising as it’s a single malt. A smoother delivery – cultured perhaps – with a gentler spiciness adding some character.

Wolfhound rounded up the trio.

2 (1 of 1)-2
The Gentle Giant c/othewhiskeynut

Compared to the others, I found the ‘roar’ of the hound a rather dull & muted affair. The honeyed sweetness just didn’t set my palate alight.

Without a doubt my clear winner – and rather surprisingly so – was Kilbrin Irish Whiskey.

It has character & attitude in abundance.

For me it captures the beauty of a good blend.

The balance of both malt & grain whiskeys compliment each other giving complexity to the palate.

Kudos to Kilbrin!

Sláinte

Good Logo

Kavanagh Irish Whiskey, Single Malt, 40%

My final bottle of Irish Whiskey – from my American market only trio – is Kavanagh Irish Whiskey.

2 (1 of 1)-5
Kavanagh Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

They release a range of attractively labelled whiskeys. Namely a Blend, a Single Malt, a Single Grain and a 16 Year Old Single Malt – all at 40% ABV – or 80 Proof in America.

This NAS (non age statement) Single Malt made it back to Ireland for me to sample.

The distillery of origin is not stated and Kavanagh seem to be a store brand for Total Wine & More – from where it was purchased.

2 (1 of 1)-4
Kavanagh’s back! c/othewhiskeynut

The nose was soft & fruity – almost orchard like – with hints of honey.

The palate started off suitably smooth – yet gradually built up with warming vanilla & caramel leaving a welcome soft tingling spice on the finish.

A very easy & approachable single malt. Relatively simple with no great complexity or depth – but for the price point it delivers an enjoyable experience.

I’d happily go on to sample the other Kavanagh Whiskeys based on my findings.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

 

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.

2 (1 of 1) (2)
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.

2 (1 of 1)-2
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.

2 (1 of 1)-3
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.

2 (1 of 1)-4
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

Good Logo

 

 

 

Gainsborough Bar, Derry & A Trio Of Peat

Despite doing a quick internet search before venturing up to Derry – I’d failed to uncover anything that got close to my definition of a Whiskey Bar as described in my blog here.

That’s not to say Derry doesn’t have some lovely bars that happen to sell whiskey.

dscf9712-email
Gainsborough Bar c/othewhiskeynut

An attractive looking corner bar with decorative windows caught our eyes off the Guidhall Square – so we went in.

A fairly simple open square space adorned with nick-nacks & packed with friendly customers greeted us. I happily spotted a selection of Scottish malts to try & started out with a Talisker Skye.

20161231_224005-email
Scottish Malts c/othewhiskeynut

Being an NAS – non age statement – brother of the 10 Year Old I wondered if it would hold up to the bold peat I’d experienced and enjoyed with the aged expression.

dscf8522-email
Talisker Skye c/othewhiskeynut

The peat certainly still satisfied – but a soft sweet note at the start tamed down the overall experience which left me preferring the 10 Year Old.

A collection of colourful characters inhabited the bar and we enjoyed the jovial comings & goings as well as the friendly banter that ensued.

20161231_224147-email
Inside Gainsborough c/othewhiskeynut

I spotted a Laphroaig Lore on the shelf & went for it.

This is another NAS release from a big peat hitter finished in Oloroso casks in this instance.

Again I found the peat hit had been softened by this finish to  a more soft & mellow smoke which gave it a more rounded & complex taste than the benchmark Laphroaig 10.

2 – nil to the age statements.

Mentioning there was a Wetherspoon pub near to our hotel we decided to have a last one there for the evening.

Now I frequented many a ‘Spoons’ bar when I lived in London and their dedication to craft beer & ales is certainly well received – but there were only a few whiskeys on offer.

dscf8524-email
Soft peat from Jura c/othewhiskeynut

A Jura 10 Origin neatly provided a peated trio for the evening.

Oh dear!

Yes there was still peat – but the dominant note of vanilla sweetness let me down.

Big, bad & bold is what I was looking for – but all I got was soft, smooth & sweet.

A bit too much added caramel I think.

A bit like Girls Aloud’s Nadine Coyle who hails from Derry

Interestingly both Talisker & Laphroaig add caramel too – which would explain the sweet notes I detected. I just don’t understand why they have to do this with single malts. The sweet notes turned me off all 3 expressions.

But when it comes to your age statements versus NAS – Jura came bottom of the list.

The Talisker Skye came out tops – even although I’d prefer the 10 Year Old.

I generally don’t look down on an NAS bottling – but I’m increasingly looking down on added caramel – the proof of the pudding is in the eating however. All 3 of these whiskies tasted overly sweet to me – the Jura decidedly so – which was more of a deciding factor rather than the NAS or age statement issue.

Meanwhile the more variety of styles, tastes, finishes and ages – or not – out there the better in my book.

By trying them all out you begin to appreciate the differences & start to hone down your own particular style.

If you find a whiskey you like – embrace it – regardless of what others say.

We are all individuals with our own taste preferences and idiosyncracies – much like the whiskeys we drink.

Sláinte.

Good Logo