Tag Archives: Scotland

Rye For 4th of July

Rye is seen as a quintessentially American style of whiskey often associated with pre-prohibition days. But like a lot of things in America – I’d argue it’s an immigrant from the old country.

There is a long tradition of growing rye in Northern European countries. This grain has found it’s way into many breads, beers, cereals and of course – whiskey.

The current growing demand for rye in whiskey terms has precipitated countries not normally associated with rye whiskey to begin to explore the market.

My small selection of 4 ryes – well a loose interpretation of that style – reflects this.

I’ll let The Presidents of the United States of America have their say first.

Peaches. A colloquial term used to describe a close & good friend.

Rye whiskey is definitely a close friend of mine!

That rich, warm dry spiciness with a long finish is  what I’m looking for & elevates rye to being a peach among whiskey styles in my book.

Real peaches come in a can – as the song goes – but rye comes in a bottle. Let me introduce you to my 4 bottles.

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PrizeFight c/othewhiskeynut

Ireland; PrizeFight Whiskey, 43% NAS, blend

Produced by West Cork Distillers for a 3rd party – this whiskey is a blend of Irish single malts & grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-rye casks from Tamworth Distilling, NH.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Ireland/America; Brothership Whiskey, 45%, 10yo, blend.

A blend of 10 year old Irish single malt & 10 year old American rye this is truly a trans-atlantic whiskey. A collaboration of Connacht Whiskey Co & New Liberty Distillery PA.

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Sunken Still Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Belgium; Sunken Still Rye, 45% 4yo.

Yes that’s right – a Belgian Rye Whiskey produced with predominately Belgian rye grain in ex-bourbon barrels for 4 years by the Filliers Distillery.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

USA; FEW Rye, 46.5%, NAS.

An American rye whiskey made with predominately american rye grain in charred virgin oak barrels by the FEW Distillery, Evanstown, Chicago.

Colour

I like to see a variation in the colour of the whiskeys I drink. It foretells of the different smells, flavours & overall drinking experiences to be enjoyed.

FEW came out the darkest – reflecting the use of charred virgin oak casks. There was a jump down then to the paler duo of PrizeFight  & Brothership with Sunken Still  coming in with an almost pale yellowy hue.

 

Nose

Brothership kicks off with a soft barley sweetness before developing muted rye spice. PrizeFight comes across with a more fresher, clearer nose & an equally enjoyable spice. Sunken Still has a wonderfully aromatic floral bouquet whilst FEW delivers a classic peppery rye punch.

Taste

The soft smooth delivery of Brothership quickly develops into a lovely rich dry spice. PrizeFight has a cleaner palate with a slightly less intense rye spice.

Meanwhile the Sunken Still’s fragrant bouquet flows through into a wonderful cornucopia of taste on the tongue with a rich dry spice that is simply divine. Beautiful.

The FEW doesn’t disappoint either. To start there is that caramel/vanilla bourbon like feel followed by an almost classic rich peppery spice that tingles & teases as it drys the palate.

Finish

PrizeFight’s lovely spice fades slowly, only marginally beaten by the warmer, drier spice of  Brothership. FEW lasts the longest whilst Sunken Still manages that dry floral spice right to the end.

Overall

What stands out to me is that whilst having no rye grain in the original mix – the rich dry spicy notes of a decent rye whiskey still come through in the PrizeFight whiskey simply by it’s time in the ex-rye casks. It may lack the overall dry mouthfeel of a true rye – but it certainly makes a worthy addition to the rye cannon.

Brothership benefits by the addition of a real rye whiskey in the mix which heightens the rich dry rye spiciness on both the taste & finish which is not initially apparent on the sweet barely nose.

The FEW could almost set the benchmark of what a good rye whiskey should be. A straight forward crisp peppery spice with a marvelously long dry finish. Superb.

Sunken Still adds something extra to that dry spice by giving it a floral display of flavours.

Scores

For taking rye whiskey the extra mile – Sunken Still from Belgium comes out tops in this taste-off.

FEW from America comes in a close second

The Irish-American hybrid that is Brothership follows closely behind – leaving Ireland’s PrizeFight bringing up the rear.

I would commend PrizeFight for being able to hold it’s own among such worthy competition in that they all contain rye in their original mix.

It just goes to prove the powerful influence the maturation in wood has to the overall taste.

You pays yer money – and you takes yer choices!

Sláinte.

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Kingsbarns Distillery, Fife, Scotland.

I happened to be in Scotland over the Bank Holiday weekend & used the opportunity to visit a whisky distillery.

Kingsbarns Distillery is the dream of local lad Douglas Clement who was frequently asked during his golfing caddie days if there was a local whisky distillery to visit.

At the time Fife – despite being the spiritual home of golf as represented by the St Andrew’s Links Course – as well as the spiritual home of Scotch whisky – well, at least the earliest written record as represented by the ‘8 bolls of malt‘ ordered in 1494 from nearby Lindores Abbey – had no whisky distilleries.

Well at least no sexy & sleek single malt distilleries.

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Cameronbridge Distillery c/othewhiskeynut

Because in Cameronbridge Distillery – which happens to be the largest in Europe – I would argue Fife has the spiritual home of blended whisky.

Originally founded in 1824 as the Haig Distillery, it used the newfangled invention called the continuous still – as designed by Stein & later improved upon by Irishman Coffey – to produce gazillions of gallons of grain whisky. This heralded in the rise of blended whisky which underpins & fuels the wealth of the whisky industry today.

Cameronbridge still produces gazillions of gallons of grain whisky to this day, but like most giant grain distilleries with their industrial style of production, it is out of bounds for whisky tourists.

Kingsbarns Distillery is definitely not out of bounds.

It’s whole premise in fact could be interpreted as a visitors attraction that happens to produce whisky.

It’s early days for that whisky yet however.

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The 1st cask c/othewhiskeynut

Only opened in November 2014 with the first barrel of new make being filled & registered in March 2015 – it can only legally be called whisky in March 2018.

In the meantime there is a lovely delightful Spirit Drink to sample as part of the very informative & enjoyable tour.

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B-raw spirit indeed! c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 63.5% this fresh, bright & clear raw whisky certainly exploded in my mouth with the high alcohol content. Yet it retained some subtle soft sweet barley notes which hinted at good things to come. Adding a drop of water only diluted the overall experience and I preferred the raw energy of the full strength offering.

All the barley used is grown locally with the water being sourced in an aquifer deep underground below the sandstone rock underneath the distillery itself.

Wemyss Malts – a long established & respected family of independent whisky bottlers & blenders also hailing from Fife – or should that be fae Fife? – are also behind the distillery. An eclectic array of their blended malts and single cask expressions are on display in the visitors entrance area.

Talking about Fay Fife – here she is singing her classic hit Top Of The Pops!

As part of the tour I sampled the Kiln Embers blended malt at 46%. A pretty little sweet smoke of a whisky.

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Kiln Embers c/othewhiskeynut

I also bought a couple of age statement Peat Chimney miniatures – airport restriction friendly – for later enjoyment back in Ireland.

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A pair of peat c/othewhiskeynut

The Kingsbarns Single Malt however – when it is fully matured – will be a softer, fruity & floral bourbon cask aged single malt. Fife after all has no peat banks but is awash with lush fields of barley & fecund banks of wild flowers & shrubs which attract a rich bio-diversity of wildlife.

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Used Bourbon Cask waiting filling c/othewhiskeynut

Even while sitting outside the well presented cafe – enjoying some locally sourced & produced fare – I was gently serenaded by Skylarks singing high in the sky above me accompanied by Pheasants rooting around in the hedgerows below.

As a visitors attraction Kingsbarns excels.

The long drive into the historic & carefully restored building from the main A917 road well serviced by the St Andrews to Leven 95 bus route. Views of the verdant countryside with the blue sea glimmering closeby. Friendly attentive uniformed staff both in the well appointed cafe & distillery. A highly informative tour that encompassed the history, geology, sights, sounds & smells of both Fife – as well as the process of whisky making itself.

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Aromatic display c/othewhiskeynut

I even surprised myself by correctly identifying a few of the interactive ‘aromatic world’ samples!

Along with some beautiful whisky.

What’s not to like?

Fife is also fast becoming a whisky tourist destination in it’s own right with up to 6 whisky distilleries either currently up and running as in Cameronbridge, Kingsbarns, Daftmill & Eden Mill – or yet to be completed as in Lindores Distillery & Inchdairnie.

A world of whisky awaits!

Sláinte

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Whiskey And Popular Music

It’s no surprise that the joys of whiskey is a popular theme for many a singer – band – movie around the world.

A cursory scroll through the pages of YouTube throws up many interesting videos – tunes and snippets.

Kicking off in Ireland there is the world famous “Whiskey In The Jar” by Thin Lizzy. It’s a pity that lead singer Phil Lynott’s struggles with drink and drug issues ultimately led to his early demise.

A more traditional tone is set by Shane MacGowan – another person who has a long history of excessive alcohol consumption – and teeth to make a donkey proud. Talking of pride – “nancy” is a derogatory term for a gay man – but I’d like to state I’m proud to have played my part in making Ireland the 1st country to allow gay marriage – by a popular vote! Nancy Whiskey seems to be a song about the darker side of drink.

Drinking and it’s darker side is a universal theme as shown in this tune from Nigeria by Ice Prince.

Moving on to something a little heavier – rock music – where excess is the order of the day – a group of young Germans do a whole album of whisky.

Possibly not to everyone’s taste!

More mainstream rock is represented by this Southern group – Copperhead.

Which leads to Copperhead Road.

Which leads to Whiskey Friends – a lovely little video I enjoyed immensely!

If that’s all a bit too heavy – let Seasick Steve calm you down.

Moving on to a different genre of music – more contemporary and modern – Verse And Bishop.

And on to a different continent. I knew India was a big market for whiskey – as well as being a big producer too. Amrut Fusion being an award winning expression. But I was taken aback by the amount of popular cultural imagery around whiskey. Bollywood certainly does whiskey big style!

I must admit – the gratuitous use and objectification of the female body in this video was something I thought we had moved on from – but when my granddaughters pointed out recent tracks by Miley Cyrus – Britney and others – not to mention Madonna tracks from my youth – maybe it’s just me growing old. Rachana is walking a well trodden path.

Big dance routines seem to be the order of the day in this clip.

But I’ll wind up my Indian trip with this slightly comic track.

And move to Scotland – where Andy Stewart did cheeky songs for his career.

Not forgetting the film Whiskey Galore..The Daddy of a whiskey films. Loosely based on a true event.

Which is an apt spot at which to leave my brief look at whiskey in music – dance and movie.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Please send me your own favourites and suggestions – I had fun searching for the above!

Slainte

Whiskey Nut

Was St Patrick Welsh? This Whisky Is!

Coming on the back of St Patrick’s Day it’s often amusing to point out that the man himself wasn’t actually Irish!

St Patrick c/o irishhistorypodcast.ie
St Patrick c/o irishhistorypodcast.ie

Controversy still reigns as to his actual birthplace. Some say Scotland, some say France and some say Wales. What is clear is that he certainly visited these countries during his lifetime. What is also interesting for the sake of this blog is that all these countries are whisky producers!

Scotch Whisky is firmly Numero Uno in the whisky world. French Whisky is a relative newcomer but has many exciting brands and expressions. This humble blogger has tried a few which were grand. The Champagne finished single malt from Guillon Distillery being one of them. Welsh Whisky is also a relative newcomer to the scene – despite a rich distilling history in Wales, there is only one distillery in operation today. A fine distillery it is too!

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My first entry into the Welsh Whisky world came via it’s wonderfully named Red Flag expression. Now, many Irish whiskeys are named after places as in; Kilbeggan, Greenore, Slane Castle, Glendalough and Nephin for starters. In Scotland, many whiskies take the names of royalty, or at least the well heeled, to bask in the exclusivity or prestige associated as in; Imperial, Royal Lochnagar, Chivas Regal, Chequers and King Of Scots. Penderyn Distillery has bucked all that to name it’s first Icon Of Wales bottling after a workers uprising in 1831 where the red flag was raised as a symbol of protest. Very refreshing indeed!

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The whisky itself lives up to the heroic struggles of it’s namesake. A single malt finished in madeira casks bottled non chill-filtered at 41%, it gives a very rich aroma backed up by a satisfying taste a with long finish. Definitely an A class whiskey, if not A+ in my book! As this whisky is a limited expression, it may sell out, but Penderyn release a single malt madeira finish in their standard range bottled at 46% which may also be very good. I can’t wait to taste the other bottles which include sherrywood finish, peated and single cask expressions. Penderyn have already won awards since launching in 2004 so this is a distillery to watch out for.

Whiskey Nut

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