Tag Archives: Terroir

Waterford, Ballykilcavan 1.2, 50%, Single Malt

The thing about terroir is you have to try at least 2 bottles made the same way with the only variable being where the barley was grown.

This posed a little problem.

Feeling like an eegit for forking out 70 yo-yos for a bottle of young malt – gotta admire the marketing capabilities of Waterford Distillery – I’d no intentions of buying another.

Ballykilcavan 1.2 c/othewhiskeynut

Step forward a fellow whiskey fan who had the alternative offering!

An exchange was duly arranged – as an aside, if you want to swap samples from my 60+ list of opened bottles, drop me a message.

Then I learned of another problem.

Bannow Island & Ballykilcavan are aged in different cask!

I checked the codes!

Up Laois! c/othewhiskeynut

Both had ex-bourbon & French casks – but only Bannow had virgin oak – which may account for the extreme dryness I experienced.

Kind of negates the whole terroir experiment – which is a big part of the sell!

Ah well – I got my chance to sample Ballykilcavan.

Is it any different?

In a word – yes!

The absence of virgin oak allows more of those rich & juicy notes from the French oak & ex-bourbon casks to come through.

It’s a more balanced & accessible malt with some of that aggressive youth tempered.

I’d still say it’s a work in progress however.

At the moment, Ballykilcavan would be my favourite, but how they develop in the next few years could all change with those cask influences working off that youthful exuberance & raw edges.

As for the terroir?

That will have to wait for another day.

Sláinte

Waterford, Bannow Island 1.2, 50%, Single Malt

Well I’ve finally given in to the hype.

Much has been written about Waterford Distillery.

Early on I decided not to bother with the auctions, inflated prices & general Hoorah! around this brand – until it arrived in my local O’Brien’s – which it did – tonite.

Waterford Bannow 1.2 c/othewhiskeynut

There were 2 bottles, Ballykilcavan & Bannow Island, 1.2 editions.

I chose Bannow.

Tales of Norman invaders, soil content & provenance don’t particularly excite me – taste does. So I didn’t bother looking up the minutiae & poured myself a glass.

Norman tales c/othewhiskeynut

Golden brown colour with thick legs.

Quite a soft, subtle sweet malt biscuity nose.

Smooth & dry on the palate.

The dryness develops a bit of a fresh young malt bite – then fades rather quickly.

This is quite a young & aggressive malt.

Style over substance? c/othewhiskeynut

For me Bannow 1.2 is more about the hype than content.

It needs a few more years in the barrel.

Sláinte

Wild Fields Original, Polish Whisky, 44%

Aaahhhhhhhhhh!

2 (1 of 1)
Damn! c/othewhiskeynut

That’s never happened to me before!

Nor have I had Polish Whisky either – but then this is no ordinary whisky.

2 (1 of 1)-5
Polish Whisky in a Tuath Glass c/othewhiskeynut

It’s a rye whisky – which I love.

So I was ever so happy a work colleague brought it back after a trip to see the folks.

It’s also non chill filtered, presented at natural colour, is distilled using Polish rye & is matured in Polish oak.

2 (1 of 1)-3
Back label info c/othewhiskeynut

Touch of unique terroir going on there!

But what of the taste?

Well the nose was a bit earthy – like a mossy wood – with that signature rye spice hiding in the bushes.

The palate started off smoothly.

There’s a hint of gentle fire, sweet vanilla & that green mossiness slowly dries out as the sun shines in with a gloriously rich dry peppery spice building to the finish. Leaving a lovely prickly tingling fading away on a floral bed.

Quite a straightforward rye – with an unusual & unique flavour profile.

2 (1 of 1)-4
The producer. c/othewhiskeynut

There’s no mention of what was previously in the polish oak barrels – but they’re toasted – & if virgin oak – it would certainly accentuate the warm spiciness I enjoyed.

Very intriguing!

Na zdrowie.

Good Logo

A Pair of WhistlePigs For 4th July, 50% & 43%, Rye

I received this lovely looking duo of ryes courtesy of Axiom Brands – many thanks.

Being a self confessed rye head WhistlePig loomed large yet had always eluded me.

Now was my chance to try them out.

First the controversy.

To begin with WhistlePig didn’t distill their own rye. They bought a load of Canadian Rye destined to be used in blending, shipped it across the border & finished it to WhistlePig’s own requirements at their Vermont Farm.

Having built up a bit of a following & brand recognition they latterly distill their own rye made from grain grown on the farm, aged in oak trees from Vermont & cut with water from the farm well.

Some folks have a problem with this.

I don’t.

To me it makes sound business sense being able to sell sourced product before your own matures. It also allows experimentation & a growing knowledge in handling the spirit in advance of committing even more money into building a distillery.

But what really interests me is how it tastes.

So let’s go!

2 (1 of 1)-2
WhistlePig Straight Rye 10yo c/othewhiskeynut

WhistlePig 10 Year Old, Straight Rye, 50%

Very marginally paler than the 12yo.

Classic peppery rye spice on the nose yet balanced & nuanced with the decade in oak.

A powerful rye hit on tasting. The balance has gone as rye spices shine through with added tannins in the mix leading to a long lasting dry finish.

A no nonsense take no prisoners brute of a rye.

2 (1 of 1)-3
WhistlePig Old World Rye 12yo c/othewhiskeynut

WhistlePig 12 Year Old, Old World Rye, 43%

Can I detect a slightly darker hue to this one?

The rye spices have taken on a more rounded, almost perfumed nose. Makes me want to jump in!

Softer on the palate, even creamy to begin with, before it reminds you this is a rye with that classic dry peppery spice slowly growing in intensity.

A more balanced & complex rye that benefits from it’s ageing in Madeira, Sauternes & Port Casks.

Preferred Rye?

The ‘in yer face’ honesty of the 10 or the complexity of the 12?

Both have their good points – but on balance – the Old World 12 piques my interest the most.

The novel triple cask approach adds depth & variety to the classic rye canon.

I look forward to tasting more from WhistlePig.

Sláinte

Good Logo

 

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.

2 (1 of 1)-3 (3)
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.

2 (1 of 1)-2 (3)
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

Good Logo

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.

2 (1 of 1) (2) email
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.

DSCF2921 email
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.

DSCF2924 email
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.

DSCF0367 email
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.

DSCF2935 email
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.

Good Logo

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.

20161210_195127 email
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.

DSCF4035 email
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.

Good Logo

Update June 2020. I’m informed West Cork Distillers are the source of Dundalgan.

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.

Good Logo