Tag Archives: Speyside

Ben Bracken, Triple Pack, Single Malts, 40%

I’m a big fan of miniatures.

The opportunity to try out a range of styles – or in this case regions – before committing to a full bottle is always a treat.

Having said that. I’d already ruled out buying more supermarket own brand labels. They tend to be chill filtered with added caramel & whilst perfectly fine – they lack finesse.

But spotting these miniatures in my local Lidl.

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A tasty trio! c/othewhiskeynut

I couldn’t pass them by.

Nosing the Speyside first – I choose to do Speyside – Highland – Islay starting from mildest to strongest flavours as recommended by many tasting journals – revealed a pleasant easy honeyed malt.

On a blind tasting this would sit well with any big label brand.

The palate was a bit watery & insignificant to begin with – common to all three malts – before a typical Speyside softly sweet & gentle flavour profile presented itself.

There was even a slight dry spice on the short finish.

Not bad at all.

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Which region is your preference? c/othewhiskeynut

The Highland gave a bit more malt biscuity depth to the proceedings.

The Islay – which was my favourite – offered a straight forward satisfying smoky hit.

Each gave a perfectly decent snapshot of the regional styles – perhaps lacking in depth & complexity – but nonetheless an extremely enjoyable way of discerning your palates preferences.

Nice one Lidl!

Slàinte

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Irish Reserve 12 Year Old, Single Malt, 40%

Aldi continue their well received own label Irish Reserve series with a 12 year old single malt.

Tastefully packaged in a light green bottle with a thick neck & cork stopper – Irish Reserve 12 uses the same attractive label design as previous 26yo and similar 4yo offerings.

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Irish Reserve 12yo c/thewhiskeynut

At only €25 – I couldn’t resist.

A golden brown hue in the glass.

Sweet honeyed nose – delicate & restrained.

The palate was soft & warm. No real flavour explosion – just pleasant easy drinking with a gentle drying prickliness at the end.

After the richness & depth of the 26yo – or the fresh graininess of the 4yo – this 12yo left me a tad disappointed.

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Basic info, basic single malt. c/othewhiskeynut

Like a decent Speyside – it was smooth & easy.  Just lacking a certain sparkle or character to engage me.

Having said that – it’s obviously a popular style.  My bottle was the last on the shelf.

Get it while you can!

Slàinte

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

I picked up these a while ago.

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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.

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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.

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Glenfiddich Select Cask c/othewhiskeynut

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

Sláinte

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Glen Grant, Highland Malt Scotch Whisky, 43%

The label on this miniature bottle had me confused.

I always associated Grant’s with being a big selling Speyside blend with a distinctive triangular shaped bottle which hadn’t exactly set my palate alight.

Yet here was a round Glen Grant bottle proclaiming to be from the Highlands.

Turns out there were 2 or 3 Mr Grants who set up whisky distilleries in the 1800’s.

In the 1840’s brothers John & James Grant founded the Glen Grant Distillery. It has gone through many changes of ownership and is now in the hands of the Campari Group – which immediately takes me back to an old advert!

Later on a certain William Grant laid the stones for the Glenfiddich Distillery back in 1886. The company is still with the same family today and has gone on to great success. It is responsible for the Grant’s range of blended whiskies – as well as notable single malts and built the new Tullamore Distillery in Ireland.

So that’s one issue sorted.

Highland Malt when quite clearly it’s a Speyside distillery?

Well not so fast bucko.

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Glen Grant Highland Malt c/othewhiskeynut

Scottish Whisky Regions are actually a fairly recent construct and in my opinion more tied in with clever marketing & branding rather than anything intrinsically connecting whiskies made in these regions. An internet search found an enjoyable explanation here.

Since my miniature seems to be an old bottling – the closest I could identify is offered on Whisky Exchange here – which pre-dates current Scotch Whiskey Region rules.

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Courtesy Whisky Exchange

But I only found all this out after tasting  Glen Grant Highland Malt – as I fairly enjoyed it.

There was a slight funkiness on the nose – not overpowering & actually quite characterful – which I’d possibly allow as deterioration from the old bottling – yet otherwise fresh & light.

The palate was signature Speyside – soft, subtle fruits & easy sweet biscuity malt with a hint of spice towards the finish.

If anything the 43% presentation had boosted the flavours within & given an enhanced appeal to my palate.

Not bad at all.

It enticed me to unearth the information above – all from a mixed bag auction lot purchase.

A happy half hour drinking & internet searching.

Sláinte

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SMWS 35.194, A Composition In Wood, 16 Year Old Single Malt

There’s an old saying,

‘You don’t want to start from here.’

And when it came to this Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) bottling – it was probably true.

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The words were better than the content. c/othewhiskeynut

Even at 59.8% the nose was rather soft & sweet. It didn’t give much away.

The palate was more forthcoming.

Vanilla & caramel from the bourbon cask maturation with darker sweeter notes which dried out pleasingly from the Oloroso influence.

Standard Speyside stuff.

The promise of oaky tannins from the wood never developed to the extent I expected given the name – and ultimately I was left rather disappointed.

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SMWS back label c/othewhiskeynut

Given Speyside Malts aren’t my favourite flavour profile – the best excitement I gained from this bottle was my own eager anticipation prior to the tasting.

The eloquent writing on the label proved far more attractive than the actual contents.

I shouldn’t have started my exploration of SMWS from here.

Sláinte

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Tormore 12, Single Malt, 40% at The View

Wormit sits on the Fife side of the River Tay overlooking Dundee City.

Back in 1879 the recently built Tay Rail Bridge collapsed into the river taking a train and all the people inside with it.

A new memorial to the disaster sits on the peaceful foreshore with fine views of the current bridge beyond.

Wormit also has a fine restaurant in The View – the purpose of my visit – and a few choice whiskies to sample.

I chose Tormore 12 Year Old.

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Tormore 12 c/othewhiskyexchange

My knowledge of this whisky was scant – but on tasting – it told me all I needed to know.

The nose is soft & subtle.

The palate started off weak & watery – bland & inoffensive – devoid of any strong flavours or character.

There was a suggestion of mild heat on the pleasant easy finish.

It’s how I experience many a malt from Speyside.

Soft, subtle, easy & approachable.

Ultimately dull to my tastes.

Unlike the rich flavoursome food served up by The View.

I’d particularly recommend the Haggis Fritters myself.

Sláinte

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Glen Marnoch Speyside Single Malt, 40%.

As part of their Father’s Day promotions Aldi have brought to the Irish market the award winning Glen Marnoch range of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

I’ve tried the Islay expression before here. The peat just managed to break through the caramelly sludge to make it a worthwhile bargain purchase – and the Highland bottle interested me next – but all that was on the shelves of my local Athlone store happened to be the Speyside Single Malt.

Now Speyside whiskies are among the biggest selling single malts in the world. They have universal appeal. They are approachable easy drinking & relatively mild. That equates to a lack of any bold flavours in my book and I wouldn’t be a fan.

With that caveat in mind – what did I find?

Caramel. Lots of it. The dominant note I got reminded me of a corn based blend – yet this is a 100% barley malt. Added caramel – or e150 if you like – is often made with dehydrated corn – so maybe that’s what I’m picking up.

It certainly is soft & approachable – no rough edges here – with a smidgen of fruity notes appearing towards the end.  A pleasing warm burn gently caresses the palate on the finish.

For the price – added caramel & chill filtration are the norm – the name of the distillery is also not stated either – you get what you pay for.

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Supermarket whiskeys c/othewhiskeynut

Having said that – over in rivals Lidl – the Dundalgan Charred Cask Irish Whiskey sells for the same price.

It’s also soft & approachable. It has a far more warming – even inviting – bourbon vanilla & caramel nose  – and packs more flavour too. All this from a blend.

For a fiver more you get the Dundalgan 10 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey.

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All you need to know. c/othewhiskeynut

Compared to the Speyside this is in a different league.

It’s cleaner, crisper, packs more flavour, more fruit & has a far more balanced appeal about it altogether.

Even in the bargain basement range there are enjoyable drinking experiences.

Not something I can say about the Glen Marnoch Speyside.

Slàinte.

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Kilkenny Whiskey Trip

An invitation to a 25th Wedding Anniversary helped to extend the New Year celebrations for herself and me.

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Swollen R Brosna at Kilbeggan c/o thewhiskeynut

The first port of call was our local distillery in Kilbeggan for a personalised bottle to the happy couple. Despite the swollen River Brosna and extensive flooding throughout the Midlands, the distillery had escaped any damage and was opening for the 2016 season when we visited. There were already plenty of visitors in the bar area when we arrived but being the driver I made do with tea and scone from the lovely Pantry Restaurant.

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Personalised Kilbeggan c/o thewhiskeynut

Gift in the bag – it was down the N52 to Tullamore then onto the N80 to Carlow. Interestingly both these towns have whiskey distilleries either open – Tullamore DEW – or being built – Walsh Distillery.

Our destination was Ballykealy Manor Hotel just south of Carlow to meet up with old friends – new acquaintances – a celebratory meal and a few new whiskeys!

At any new venue I generally scan the bar for expressions I’ve not tried before. In this department Ballykealy did not disappoint. Along with the usual entry blends – Jameson, Paddy and Powers – there were some mid-range offerings – Bushmills 10, 16, Jameson & Powers 12 – as well as a Midleton VR from 2006.

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Ballykealy whiskey selection c/o thewhiskeynut

What caught my eye however was the Craggenmore 12 year old Speyside single malt I’d not tasted. This I duly ordered as a pre-meal appetiser which proved to be a lovely smooth unpeated Scotch and  helped ease my way into the evenings craic that ensued.

After a sumptuous 3 course meal in the splendid dining room – the bar and it’s resident whiskeys beckoned and I must have worked my way through a fair amount of the expressions on offer including the very fine Midleton VR.

The next day dawned bright and sunny  – a welcome reprieve from the constant rain we’ve been having. A hearty breakfast – more chat and then long goodbyes rounded off the morning before we departed for Kilkenny – The Marble City.

My wife had chosen the destination – but I’d done a quick internet search and found a suitable watering hole in Dylan‘s Whiskey Bar which fortuitously happened to be across the road from our hotel!

Outside it’s an inviting red decor – inside it’s a lovely mix of wooden snugs – dim lighting – whiskey mirrors and memorabilia as well as an entire wall of whiskey to wonder at!

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Irish whiskey wall at Dylan’s c/o thewhiskeynut

The friendly and informative staff guided my non-whiskey drinking wife through some tasty gins – ending up with a lovely Hendricks with added cucumber, tonic and ice. This satisfied her no end. I opted for a Knappogue Castle 12 year old. A decent dram indeed. Meanwhile a taster of Jack Ryan’s 12 was sampled and matched my flavour bias much better. A blind taster was proffered as a sort of test which I must admit I failed miserably as I couldn’t identify the dram as the Amrut Fusion from India – and I even have a bottle of it back home!

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Amrut Fusion going down nicely! c/o thewhiskeynut

Ah well – this place is whiskey heaven. I could sit here all night going through the expressions on display – but a feed was in order so off to the Italian we went.

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Ristorante Rinuccini c/o Georgie M

Not any old Italian however – my wife has fine tastes – the award winning Ristorante Rinuccini just down from the castle was her chosen spot. The staff were very friendly and efficient. The food was delightful and flavoursome and to top it all there was an extensive whiskey list to choose from. Certainly the largest selection I’ve encountered in a restaurant before (maybe I just don’t get out enough).

The Singleton of Duffton rounded off the evening meal. A satisfyingly rich and complex Speyside single malt. Sadly I didn’t catch the actual expression tasted –  and there are a few judging from the website – but it was enjoyable.

Rinuccini also have an extensive range of Italian wines and grappa. An enquiry was made if they had the new Italian whisky Puni but as it’s only just been released they didn’t – as yet – but perhaps sometime?

Puni
Italian Whisky c/o Claudio Riva

Suitably stuffed a leisurely amble through the medieval town centre afforded us views of trendy shops and plenty of pubs – most of which displayed a varied range of whiskeys to taste. Kilkenny seems to have a lot to offer on the dark spirit front!

We repaired back to Dylan’s for another drink. Despite being a Sunday night there was live music playing with a good crowd of revellers enjoying themselves. Herself went for the Hendricks whilst myself went for the Tyrconnell Port Finish.

Dylan’s is the first pub I’ve come across to have the entire Tyrconnell range of finishes and a tasting tray of all 4 would be a real treat – as well as a display of the influences various cask finishes have on the resulting tipple. For my purposes this would be better appreciated at the start of the evening rather than at the end – so I made do and savoured the richer, bolder flavours of the port finish over the more light and clear single malt Tryrconnell.

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Tyrconnell c/o thewhiskeynut

We had a sing-a-long and a few laughs to the music before heading back to the hotel.

I fancied a nightcap and headed to the bar. There were the usual array of whiskeys on offer and I originally went for a Crested Ten – but an unknown name caught my eye – Mulligan Whiskey Liqueur.  An Irish Distillers Group offering – now discontinued I later found out – was duly ordered.

Mulligan
Mulligan Whiskey Liqueur c/o IrishWhiskeySociety

On tasting the Mulligan a reassuring whiskey hit was immediately drowned out by a thick sweet dose of honey. Not quite to my taste at all – but nonetheless yet another flavour experience encountered in the name of whiskey exploration!

Kilkenny has a lot to offer the whiskey drinker.

I’d certainly like to call back again in the near future – but in the meantime I’ll leave you with a song encountered  at The Dylan Whiskey Bar.

 

Sláinte

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