Tag Archives: Terroir

Ben Bracken Islay Single Malt, 40%

It’s been well over a year since I first went out to purchase this whisky.

The idea of a budget supermarket branded single malt appealed to me. I had to find out for myself what it tasted like.

Inadvertently I walked into the wrong German supermarket store and came out with Aldi’s Glen Marnoch instead.

Now in this segment of the market you have to accept chill filtering & added caramel. There is no provenance – nor terroir. There isn’t even a Glen Marnoch or Ben Bracken distillery – let alone an actual physical Ben or Glen of the same name to visit. You get what you pay for – entry level single malt.

The Glen Marnoch Islay was fine – a decent hit of peat over a rather hefty dose of  caramel.

I’d actually stopped looking for Ben Bracken.

It’s reach didn’t seem to make it across the Irish Sea – and there were far more entertaining bottles to bring back from the UK.

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Ben Bracken Single Malt c/othewhiskeynut

But when it appeared in my local Lidl store in Athlone – I couldn’t really give it a miss. If only to show no favouritism towards either store.

To kick off with there’s that dark ruby mahogany shade of added caramel – but on nosing – a refreshingly clean & clear smack of peat smoke greeted me.

I found it very inviting.

The initial taste was rather soft, watery & almost insipid – but then a big waft of peat just blows in and makes it sort of alright!

My peat baby is coming back to me!

The experience left a softly drying ashiness. Like a warm & cosy seaside fire rolling around on my palate.

I’d rate this higher than Glen Marnoch.

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I get peat! c/othewhiskeynut

The caramel quota isn’t as pronounced – which allows a more powerful & peaty punch to shine through.

There isn’t much else.

It’s rather one dimensional.

But if like me you enjoy a smack of smoke in your glass.

At 25 euro.

I doubt you’d find a more enjoyable peatiness.

Sláinte

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Daftmill Distillery, Fife, Scotland.

I visited Daftmill Distillery back in August 2017 along with some family members who happen to live nearby.

The visit left me somewhat confused and perplexed, as well as being very impressed all at the same time!

Daftmill is a fully functioning whisky distillery specialising in producing Scottish single malt matured in either ex-bourbon or sherry casks. There is no visitors centre – arrangements have to be made with the owner to gain access to the farm on which the distillery sits.

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Step up to whisky! c/othewhiskeynut

The farm itself is off the main A91 Cupar to Auchtermuchty road, but there are no signposts pointing the way. When you do find the right farm track to enter, an impressive array of attractive stone built buildings – along with an almost obligatory glass fronted still house – greet you – as well as a welcoming Francis Cuthbert himself.

Our party of 4 were treated to a thoroughly full & informative tour of the premises. From the fields where the barley is grown to the bins used to introduce the malt to the mashtuns. Through the workings of the Forsyth stills and finally into the dunnage warehouse to sample the gorgeous whisky.

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Mash it up! c/othewhiskeynut

Francis was very open & honest about the whole operation and his passion for whisky shone through. Especially in the still house where I noted the squat bulbous stills and suggested the spirit would be heavy & rich because of that shape.

‘On the contrary’ I was rebuffed. Francis countered with a marvelous explanation of the distillers art that rather than still shape dictating the spirit style & flavour, it was down to the distiller by careful use of charge times, temperature control as well as the crucial spirit cuts that influenced the final distillate.

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Copper, steel & wood. c/othewhiskeynut

My praise of ‘farm to bottle’ distilling also took a bit of a knocking.

Originally Francis sent his farm grown grain to a local maltings in Kirkaldy. Sadly due to ‘rationalisation’ that plant closed & the grain had to go further afield. The new plant only accepted bigger batch amounts – which put more pressure on the farm – rather than batches from individual fields – it became batches from all the fields.

I mentioned Mark Reynier‘s plans for different malts from different farms providing a degree of terroir as well as differing taste. This was somewhat dismissed as a marketing ploy.

I don’t wholly agree.

Yes – it is a marketing ploy – but one that should be aspired to.

I haven’t tasted whisky from different barley – but I have tasted bourbon from different corn.

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Corn variety at Widow Jane c/othewhiskeynut

Widow Jane Distillery in New York used a variety of colourful corns to produce 4 bourbons with the same mash-bill, distilling process & maturation regime as possible. The only difference being the corn variety.  I must say I was extremely skeptical I would notice a taste difference. But I was proved wrong – it did make a difference – and a very enjoyable one at that too!

We moved into the still room. A magnificent shrine to copper, wood, glass & the mysteries (or not as the case may be) of distillation. Francis was in his element here. I was just a little perplexed that he clearly focused so much passion & attention to detail in this area of production as opposed to other areas.

Maturation in oak barrels is the final piece of the whisky jigsaw – or at least it was when I visited.

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One man & his whisky. c/othewhiskeynut

Now the wood policy at Daftmill was taken care off by a cooperage who supplied Grade A casks of ex-bourbon barrels from America & ex-sherry casks from Spain. What this means in practice is that the bourbon barrels are sourced from a number of different distilleries in America. There didn’t seem to be attention taken as to the source distillery for each individual barrel which would again result in slight taste differences.

This isn’t necessarily a problem. In fact by the time we got round to entering the bonded warehouse for that all important tasting, the 11 year old ex-bourbon single cask simply blew me away with it’s winning combination of rich vanilla & caramel notes combined with a lovely oakiness – as well as that gorgeous dry mouthfeel associated with cask strength whisky.

A similarly aged ex-sherry cask impressed even more with a soft sweetness contrasting with the oaky tannins of over a decade in wood. Francis suggested there was a musty note on the sherry cask –  which I found appealing – which should disappear with further ageing.

But here was the conundrum.

Daftmill is a wonderfully attractive distillery. It sits in the middle of a farm that grows the barley used for distillation of it’s stunning single malt whiskies, there is at least 12 years worth of stock AND it is run by the farmer that grows the barley who has a passion for that whisky. Yet there was no idea of a release date planned for the gorgeous spirit!

Or at least that’s what we were told at the time.

Because as of December 2017 an announcement was made to the effect that Berry Bros & Rudd – wine & spirits merchants, blenders & bottlers of good repute & reputation – had entered an agreement to release Daftmill whisky beginning in 2018!

Fantastic news!

I have every faith in the winning combination of Daftmill’s skills in distillation – together with Berry Bros & Rudd’s attention to detail in both ‘grain to glass’ ingredient control as well as a stricter wood policy – will not only release some stunning single malts in the months to come – but go on to produce award winning malts of distinction.

I eagerly await the first bottling.

Slàinte.

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I’d like to thank Francis at Daftmill for the hospitality shown during our visit. Congratulations to all at Daftmill Distillery & Berry Bros & Rudd for the partnership agreement. I doubt the negotiations were easy. Best wishes for the future success of all concerned.

 

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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Micil Poitin, 44%

Micil. A proper noun. (mick-ill)  A person’s name. Specifically one who hails from the gaeltacht area of Galway and was employed in illicit alcohol production.

Poitin. A noun. (po-cheen)  A formerly illegal distilled spirit. Usually clear in appearance. In this instance made by the above person – but now turned into a legal enterprise by his great, great, great grandson.

I encountered Micil Poitin whilst waiting for the start of my Dublin Whiskey Tour in the welcoming Dingle Whiskey Bar.

Surprisingly smooth on the palate with the familiar oiliness & hints of rotten fruit associated with what is essentially unaged raw whiskey.

The added locally foraged bogbean gave a few other soft notes contributing to a degree of terroir.

Micil Poitin is the taste of tradition.

A worthy addition to the growing Irish Poitin market.

Slàinte.

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