Tag Archives: Single Malt

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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Irish Whiskey – Which Way Forward?

Writing a blog about the future of Irish Whiskey with a headline photo of a trio of Scottish Single Malts released by the supermarket chain Lidl may seem a little askew – but it highlights an issue pertinent to the current Irish Whiskey industry.

Imagine I’m a supermarket chain of similar standing.

I want some Irish Whiskey.

Perhaps a single pot still, a single malt & a single grain to show off what Ireland has to offer.

I have the branding ready to go.

I have the bottling plant primed.

I have the customers.

Can Irish Whiskey deliver – like yesterday – to capitalise on the Scottish release?

Thoughts welcome.

Sláinte

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Hven, Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda, Single Malt, 45%

My stand out whisky at the recent Whisky Birmingham show – held annually in March – was none other than this gorgeously rich, dark & heavy malt.

Hailing from a picturesque Swedish island nestled in the Oresund Straits just north of Malmo & Copenhagen.

The island is called Hven.

The distillery is called Hven.

And the way to pronounce Hven is demonstrated by this piece of Eurotrash pop with it’s instantly sing-along-can’t-get-the-words-out-of-my-head-catchy-tune-vibe going on as in The Macarena or Agadoo – complete with obligatory kitsch dance moves.

I give you Karen Paolo – Ven Ven Ven.

Ven in Spanish – which is the official language in Chile where the singer is based – happens to mean ‘come’.

Well I first came across The Spirit Of Hven on the Amathus stall at the very enjoyable Birmingham show. Amathus being the importer & distributor of Hven – and other fine malts – in the UK.

There were 2 expressions to sample from the Hven Distillery range of organic barley made single malts produced with no carbon filtration, no chill filtration and no added colouring.

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Tycho’s Star c/othewhiskeynut

Tycho’s Star – named after the famous astrologer Tycho Brahe whose scientific work was conducted on Hven in the late 1500’s – was an instantly attractive softly peated single malt. Soft & smooth with subtle flavours and a well balanced feel.

It’s star mate – as the No. 3 Phecda release also follows in the astral theme being named after one of the seven stars that make up The Plough constellation which is prominent in the Northern sky at night – is much more my style of whisky.

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Phecda No 3 c/othewhiskeynut

Big, bad & bold.

There was a noticeable waft of smoke on the nose – the official tasting notes suggest BBQ.

The taste exploded on the tongue – young, strong , fresh & meaty.

A bit like a bold teenager full of vigour & vitality. Bursting with self confidence & self belief. Unashamed by their youthful exuberance and unabashed by their posturing & strutting.

Awsome!

To use a term that’s crept over the Atlantic and is now in common use by my grandkids.

‘Come to Hven’ is what this whisky is saying.

Sound good to me!

Sláinte.

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Beinn Dubh Flying Scotsman Single Malt, 43%

I’m not normally a fan of added caramel.

But if you are going to use it – do it with style.

This Beinn Dubh Flying Scotsman release makes no bones about the added caramel.

To get a whisky this dark by wood alone – even if heavily charred port casks are used – is pretty difficult without E150 – yet the Flying Scotsman is a very pleasing dram.

Yes it’s sweet – but not beyond the usual parameters – and there’s a lovely rich flavoured malt coming through on the taste & finish.

A novelty whisky befitting the panache of the famous steam engine it’s named after.

Sláinte.

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The Cask Magazine & Hammerhead Single Malt 40.7%

Tasting a whiskey is all about the story.

The journey you make to find it.

The occasion of the first encounter.

And the totality of the whole experience.

What better way to engage with a new whisky than at the launch of a new whiskey magazine called The Cask.

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The Cask launch c/othewhiskeynut

The Cask Magazine is proudly based in Ireland – but has a global outlook when it comes to a passion for whiskey.

An eclectic mix of whiskey fans, bloggers, celebrities, imbibers and industry giants gathered in the wonderful surroundings of the Irish Whiskey Museum to raise a toast to the success of this brave new venture.

In the midst of all the media rush to tweet, post, photo & record the event I spotted a bottle that screamed out to me to

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STOP Hammer time! c/othewhiskeynut

Distilled in the former Czechoslovakia before the fall of The Berlin Wall  and the subsequent collapse of communism. Who remembers the joyous occasion of the tearing down of walls rather than building of them?

Left to mature under the distillery in Pradlo for 23 years before it’s ‘re-discovery’ and release into the marketplace to a changed world. This whisky certainly has a story to tell.

So what is it like?

Soft, smooth & very refreshing with a lovely malty note that pleased me no end. Hammerhead delivered a delightful blow to my tastebuds.

Almost as silky & smooth as the beautiful glossy pages of The Cask Magazine!

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Silk & smooth c/othewhiskeynut

Whiskey for me is a journey of discovery and enjoyment.

Cask Magazine certainly added to that enjoyment with their fabulous launch night.

They also added to my journey by unexpectedly increasing my world whisky count to 19 countries with a wonderful single malt from Czechoslovakia. Still a few more to go to match their Around The World In 24 Drams article!

I’d like to wish all the team at The Cask Magazine a long & productive publishing future.

Sláinte.

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Eschenbrenner Whisky Distillery – Berlin

Whisky – An alcoholic spirit made by distilling grain.

Berlin – The German capital city.

Distillery – A factory that makes distilled alcoholic spirit.

Eschenbrenner Whisky Distillery – A whisky distillery in Berlin.

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Eschenbrenner Amber Whisky and glass c/o Whiskey Nut

I visited this distillery back in 2015.

Situated in the Wedding district to the North of the city this micro distillery & brewery is nestled in the central gardens of apartment blocks.

We found it difficult to get seated as there were many happy punters from far & wide who had come to sample the wonderful whisky , beer & tasty flammkuchen that are only available at the premises.

I tried 3 of the whiskies on offer.

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Eschenbrenner Whisky c/o Whiskey Nut

Pete – aged in American oak,

Charly – aged in chardonnay casks &

Amber – aged in German spessart oak

And enjoyed them all very much.

At only 3 years old they were delightfully youthful, fruity & light – but with a nice woody influence.

The distillery continues to release various expressions and now has 5 year old bottlings to enjoy.

Do yourself a favour & pay them a visit when in Berlin.

You have to go there to sample the produce.

I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Slàinte.

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Nancy Hands & Peated Whiskey

Man walks in to a bar.

He’s missed his train & is looking for a spot to while away the hour – preferably with a whiskey.

Nancy Hands on Dublin’s Parkgate St is only a short walk from Hueston Railway Station and his train home. The pub has a large & welcoming facade. He walks in.

The front bar has the usual array of whiskeys on display – nothing that attracts his eyes – but there seems to be a back bar. He hasn’t been here before & only chose it at random. He investigates.

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Nancy Hands & some Scotch c/othewhiskeynut

Whoa!

Whiskey!

He’s hit the jackpot!

Loads of Scotch. Many old looking bottles with gently faded fawn labels – no fancy colours here – and loads of Irish too with a slightly more colourful collection.

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An Irish selection c/othewhiskeynut

Bingo!

But what to sample?

As I was that man I decided to continue my exploration of peat.

A Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old caught my eye. Having previously enjoyed the Darach Ur NAS (Non Age Statement) Travel Retail release I thought it would be a good comparison.

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Bunnahabhain 12 old bottling c/othewhiskeynut

The satisfying rich peat on the nose from this Islay distillery single malt reassured me of what was to follow. I found the taste a tad harsh & rather monosyllabic however. Just the one note of pure peat – and a bit too burnt at that. The NAS release wins out on this challenge.

Only when I Googled the bottle did it become apparent that this was an old release prior to a redesign of the label. Maybe some of the subtleties of the whisky had been lost due to the length of time the bottle had been opened? It’s recommended 2 to 3 years is the maximum before the spirit begins to degrade due to oxidation & other chemical reactions that occur & can then spoil the taste. Perhaps this was happening here?

I moved on to the Irish section.

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Slieve na cGloc c/othewhiskeynut

Slieve na cGloc stood out for me.

It’s a peated single malt made at Cooley Distillery from when John Teeling was still at the helm. I’ve read it was an own-label-bottling for the Oddbins off-licence chain in the UK –  but I cannot confirm this.

Again that lovely pungent peat on the nose warmly greeted me. The taste this time was smoother – yet the peat punch was still reassuringly intense. A more balanced feel to the malt sang a delightful harmony & had me wondering why there wasn’t more lovely peated Irish expressions.

Slieve na cGloc – named after the mountain below which the Cooley Distillery sits – is an excellent whiskey & much more appropriately named than it’s equally appealing peated stablemate Connemara whiskey that is also made at Cooley.

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Slieve na cGloc top with Slieve Foy behind c/othewhiskeynut

There is a lovely walk up the hill here – which I did on a crisp winter’s day when last on the wonderful Carlingford Peninsula.

But that was then and this was now.

I could have stayed for more – but the night train was calling.

And being the last one home I didn’t want to miss it.

Nancy Hands is a treasure trove of whiskey.

I know where I’ll be enjoying a bite to eat & a whiskey or two before catching my next train home from Dublin!

Slainte.

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Credit to Nancy Hands for the top image.

West Cork Distillers

A  welcome addition to the exhibitors at this years Whiskey Live Dublin were West Cork Distillers.

Established in 2003 – originally at Union Hall in the stunning scenery of west Cork but now based in nearby Skibbereen since 2013 – West Cork Distillers have been quietly working away refining the art of whiskey making and releasing a very tasty portfolio of product often under the radar of the mainstream whiskey community.

West Cork Distillers have recently won Irish Whiskey Distillery Of The Year at the New York International Spirits Competition 2016 along with a Gold for their Pogues release and a Silver for the 12 year old rum cask single malt.

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a 3rd party release by West Cork Distillers – also won a Gold Award at the Irish Whiskey Awards held in Tullamore so their star is certainly beginning to shine.

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Galway Bay Irish Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The bold design of The Pogues Irish Whiskey immediately attracted me and I was rewarded by a pretty tasty blended whiskey when I got it home.

The Galway Bay Irish Whiskey – a rum finished 10 year old single malt – was produced for the Galway Whiskey Trail collective of 10 bars and 1 off-licence and launched to much fanfare at a fabulous event held on the stunning surroundings of Galway Bay itself.

On the stall at Whiskey Live Dublin meanwhile were several new releases under West Cork Distillers own label which I was ably guided through by their informative ambassador Liz.

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West Cork Distillers stall c/othewhiskeynut

I went straight for the cask finished trio of 12 year old single malts which encompassed a sherry, port and rum expressions.

All 3 expressions for me were far superior to the rather sweet tasting 10 year old offering. All gave a well balanced finish with extra flavour from the relevant finish which didn’t overpower the soft single malt base spirit. The port cask would be my best pick giving a slightly more heavy and rich feel than the other 2, but that’s just my preference as all were very palatable.

Bottled at 43%, they are a welcome addition to the growing West Cork range. They clearly demonstrate the effect different wood finishes have on the original single malt which makes a tasting of all 3 an interesting experience.

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Black Cask c/othecelticwhiskeyshop

In my haste to move on and sample as much whiskey as I could I failed to sample the Black Cask release! A blend finished in heavily charred oak barrels. I’ve heard through the grapevine that it’s pretty good – so I’m looking forward to sampling yet more tasty whiskey from West Cork Distillers in the near future!

Slàinte

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