After having a run of underrated bargain basement beauties with Lidl’s Liberté Rum & Dunnes’ JG Kinsey Whisky – I suppose a disappointment was inevitable.
Aldi’s Old Hopking White Rum is presented with a rather plain white label that gives little away.
‘Bottled In Germany’ it says. A common practice using ‘Imported Rum’ from undisclosed sources. Where the sugarcane or molasses came from is not stated – nor method of distillation. At this price point – that information is a bonus.
So onto a taster.
A perfumed floral aroma greeted me.
More reminiscent of my wife’s gin rather than a rum!
This followed through in the palate – which was smooth & mellow – with a mild heat to keep it real – but otherwise no defining character.
Old Hopking is a simple easy sipper – but I wasn’t expecting a rose garden in my rum!
On my last visit to Eden Mill – which is a combined Brewery & Distillery operation on the banks of the Eden River in Guardbridge, Scotland – the opener for the distillery tour was a bottle of their fine Whisky Barrel Aged Beer.
It certainly loosened up the tongues of the mixed bag of visitors on the day – and was a novel way to introduce the rich variety of drinks including beers, gins & whiskies made at the facility.
Bottled at 6.7% the dark beer delivered a gentle aroma of malt. The carbonation wasn’t too strong – more in the style of a traditional Scottish Heavy Ale – with a great outpouring of flavour comprising of caramel, burnt molasses, a hint of dark chocolate & coffee too.
There is also a limited edition Bourbon Barrel offering – slightly sweeter & heavier if possible – with a younger 68 day age statement as opposed to the 93 of the Whisky Barrel Beer.
Whatever your poison – Eden Mill have a drink to satisfy.
At least that’s the situation when it comes to the race for rye.
Despite Kilbeggan sitting on a wonderful 6 year old pot still rye – as tasted at Whiskey Live Dublin here – Arbikie have released a 2 year old Highland Rye.
Being relative newcomers – Arbikie are not bound by ‘tradition’, ‘custom’ or ‘expectation’. This Highland Rye exists outside of the box that is Scottish Whisky Regulations – time for a musical interlude!
As such there is no mention of ‘whisky’ on the label.
Yet rye has always been an integral part of the whisky scene both in Scotland – as well as Ireland – and what Arbikie have done is simply to re-interpret a ‘tradition’ that has been neglected for over a century.
As a self confessed ‘rye head’ I couldn’t pass this up. A bottle was duly ordered.
It’s a bit pricey for 500ml – but the proceeds of the first 100 bottles go to a Motor Neurone charity here.
I like the simplistic clarity of the no nonsense label – including the large Arbikie logo common throughout their Gin & Vodka range.
I like that Arbikie are a ‘single estate distillery’ using ingredients grown on the estate farm & fields.
And I like the additional information shown on the attractive label; grain variety, field grown in, cask type. Shades of Mark Reynier at Waterford’s terroir here.
But most of all – I simply love the whole drinking experience of this rye.
4 of us sampled this first Scottish rye for over 100 years – so the following is an amalgamation of our findings.
A wonderful floral bouquet on the nose, hints of varnish, a soft to medium classic white peppery rye spice, warming vanilla & caramel notes from the charred American oak casks.
The taste was suitably smooth, the youthful rye punch delightfully muted by the barley content which added a gentle malt & slight oily influence to the drying rye spices in the well balanced mix.
The finish coated my mouth in that invigorating warm yet dry prickly feel I so enjoy after a great dram.
If you only drink one rye this year – make it Arbikie Highland Rye.
Not only does it encapsulate all the classic rye attributes I love – it also adds a unique Scottish mix with the homegrown rye & barley.
Coming on the back of St Patrick’s Day it’s often amusing to point out that the man himself wasn’t actually Irish!
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!
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.
All journeys start from home and Westmeath is home to both this humble scribe and The Kilbeggan Distilling Company. 1757 is when this distillery first (legally) made and sold whiskey. From that date on, it has witnessed the ups and downs of Irish Whiskey, weathered the tough years and played it’s part in the current rise of whiskey. Kilbeggan Distillery encapsulates the history of Irish Whiskey within it’s four walls. Her story mirrors that of other distilleries that are now silent, as well as burgeoning the new ones that are beginning to find their voice.
Why the World?
It’s the only place we humans currently live – as yet – and it’s where Irish Whiskey is made, exported and enjoyed. Ireland used to be the Number 1 whiskey producer in the world. That position is now firmly in Scottish hands. However whisky is currently produced in over 25 countries around the world from Belguim to Bhutan,Taiwan and a lovely distillery in Wales.
As a relatively new convert to the world of whiskey, I’m inviting you to join me on a shared journey in taste, style and aroma by sampling the wide range of whiskey products that are out there.
I’m no expert, but hopefully I will enliven your taste buds and excite your palate with tempting tipples