Tag Archives: WSET

Luigi Francoli, Grappa Di Muscato E Brachetto, Barrique, 41.5%

It’s great to see the independent drinks specialist Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) launch a course in Ireland courtesy of Spirits Training.

When I completed my Spirits Level 2 module a while ago I visited the UK to sit the exam.

It shows a growing appreciation of and increasing demand for the spirits sector in Ireland.

My extra curricular training in Manchester proved to be very entertaining nonetheless! Visit my blog here.

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WSET Spirits L2 c/othewhiskeynut

The Spirits Level 2 course doesn’t just cover whiskey – all distilled spirit categories including Gin, Vodka, Brandy, Mezcal & more are explored.

Many I’d little knowledge of – let alone tasted – which is an integral part of training.

I grew to understand each sector has it’s own rules & regulations, history & customs,  as well as creative interpretations & representations of those traditions across the world.

At the end of the day however – it all came down to which spirits excited my palate.

One I’d never encountered before was Grappa.

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Long tall Luigi c/othewhiskeynut

Grappa – by definition – is an Italian based spirit distilled from grapes – the leftovers that is from wine production – or pomace as it’s known – and tends to be made by small producers.

The only grappa I could easily find in Ireland was by Luigi Francoli in my local O’Brien’s store.

Presented in an attractive bottle at 41.5%,  it stated the grape varietals used – Muscato e Brachetto – as well as ‘Barrique’ aged – in contrast to the usual unaged Grappa’s.

Oh – the distillery was founded in 1875.

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Italian Grappa c/othewhiskeynut

The grape influence was evident – but not in a sweet way – which usually puts me off – more of a nutty, earthy kind of experience.

A lovely soft mouthfeel grew in depth adding fruitiness & more of that nuttiness too – before finishing with a gentle spiciness to add character.

I’d happily enjoy one or two of these after a meal – which is the custom – and possibly explore other offerings as well.

If anything the WSET Spirits course has expanded both my knowledge of the spirits world & introduced my palate to a greater repertoire of tasting experiences.

Isn’t it about time you did the course?

Sláinte

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Wray & Nephew, Overproof Rum, 63%

My journey into Rum was signposted by a particular flavour – Jamaican funk.

Several rums had given me a burnt rubber note – not particularly enjoyable.

One rum kept being mentioned – Wray & Nephew Overproof – and here it was before me.

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Time to get funky? c/othewhiskeynut

Said to be the epitome of Jamaican funk.

Would it deliver?

Or was my palate just not amenable?

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Enjoy! c/othewhiskeynut

The clean, clear & fresh non aged rum possessed a vegetal earthiness combined with a richness – like a Jamaica Cake – that pulled me in.

Surprisingly easy on the palate. A sweet, smooth & ripe fruitiness together with that funkiness – reminiscent of the gorgeous Brett Saison from Wide St Brewing – but without the bubbles!

Brett Saison
Brett Saison c/oWideStreetBrewing

The 63% alcohol made it’s presence felt on the finish – and those fruity flavours danced merrily away for a long time.

Overproof isn’t over cooked,

It’s a fantastically balanced rum displaying complex flavours , richness & depth.

I think I just got funky!

Slàinte

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Mezcal Amores, Cupreata & Espadín Joven, 41%

The generous folks at Axiom Brands kindly sent out some tasty samples from their eclectic spirits portfolio for me to enjoy.

Having already sampled the delights of Australia’s Starward Whisky here,

And visited the maturing casks of Chapel Gate Whiskey here,

I thought it opportune to explore some of Axiom’s other stars.

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An assembly of Axiom Brands spirits. c/othewhiskeynut

Like Mezcal Amores.

I first became acquainted with Mezcal doing a Level 2 Spirits Award at the WSET – Wine & Spirit Education Trust.

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Spirited reading c/othewhiskeynut

There is long and proud tradition of spirit production in Mexico that parallels that of whiskey manufacture in Ireland or Scotland. There are rules & regulations to get any spirit geek excited – and it certainly helps I was hooked immediately by the rich & complex flavours contained within the Mezcals I tasted.

Terroir is key to Mezcal.

Geographically protected to certain regions within Mexico & made with varietals of the long lived agave plant, Mezcal is the artisanal based small scale product to the mass produced sister spirit Tequila.

The 2 Mezcal Amores sent showcased the results of 2 different varietals of agave with the same production methods.

Joven in both these expressions means unaged.

With a spirit as pure and unadulterated as Mexcal – no ageing is required.

Espadín Amores – as suggested in the name – is made from the Espadín agave which must be used to make Tequila – but Mezcal can use any variety of agave.

There is no harsh abrasiveness to this spirit.

It gently warms & caresses both the nose & palate with a richness of flavours.

A gentle soft sweetness combined with hints of leather or even tobacco from the roasting used to prepare the agave swirl around in the mouth in a comforting snug.

Lip smackingly enjoyable.

Cupreata Amores was even better!

Made from the Cupreata agave which matures for 8 to 13 years before being harvested. This mezcal possessed  a deeper – even darker – cornucopia of complexity to hook me in even further to the charms of this Mexican spirit.

There was a contrast to the almost muscovado dark sweetness at the start to a warming stewed note at the end.

Wild yeasts are used in fermenting – much like the popular Brett yeasts of craft beer fame – but without the sour tart results – funky perhaps – but not overpowering – just well balanced & enticing.

I had to have more!

No wonder there is a fan club as fanatical as whiskey has for this fabulous spirit.

It’s definitely amore for Mezcal Amores from me!

Cue Dean Martin.

Sláinte

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Manchester Whiskey Adventures

It wasn’t planned.

I was supposed to be revising for an exam – but the Teeling Small Batch on the Aer Lingus flight only reacquainted myself with this lovely little blend & provided a taster for what was unknowingly to come.

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In flight entertainment! c/othewhiskeynut

After checking into the city centre hotel – a quick read over the course book – it was out for a wander to visit the Whiskey Jar pub.

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Whiskey a plenty! c/othewhiskeynut

The promise of 400+ whiskies to whet my appetite accompanied by a tasty pie for the late Sunday afternoon lunch sounded too good to miss.

On entering I was taken aback!

Gathered in the pub were a clutch of whiskey companies displaying their wares.

Woo Hoo!


A small cover charge – along with a tasting glass – had me at the first stall.

Heaven Hill.

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Fighting Cock Fighting Whiskey! c/othewhiskeynut

Now any company that puts out a bottle called Fighting Cock emblazoned with a fiery red rooster just calls out for a tasting!

At 51.5% this high rye bourbon packs a lively spicy punch on the nose.

It followed through with rich warming vanilla & caramel in a mouth filling flavour explosion.

My kinda bourbon.

The rep guided me onto the Rittenhouse Rye.

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Straight Rye c/othewhiskeynut

A much more cultured well balanced offering than the beast that is Fighting Cock.

In the interests of exploration Mellow Corn also hit my palate.

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Mellow in name but not on taste. c/othewhiskeynut

Normally corn wouldn’t be a favourite of mine – but the high ABV – 50% – along with a minimum 2 years in virgin oak casks had imbued this whiskey with some very attractive notes & flavours.

I could be a corn convert with this one!

Old Pulteney were up next.

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Where has the boat gone? c/othewhiskeynut

They’ve had a little brand update – new labels & new expressions – I do miss the old fishing boat motif however.

The Huddart NAS – with the peat influence coming from the barrels rather than the barley – was a pleasant little easy peaty sipper.

The 15 year old was well balanced – just lacked a little character – whereas the top of the range 18yo had gained some gorgeous drying woody tannins from the extra years in the cask & pulled me in.

Jameson were on show too.

I had a quick chat with the rep who informed me Whiskey Jar have a monthly whisky showcase which is usually well attended & seems to be growing. Check out the Whiskey Jar link for further events.

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A Glenlivet trio. c/othewhiskeynut

Being familiar with the Jameson on show – I was guided to fellow Pernod Ricard brand Glenlivet for a vertical tasting of their core range.

All very grand – but nothing exciting.

Only the Captain’s Reserve had a bit more going on to entice me.

Cotswolds showcased their very enticingly fresh single malt.

Having already polished off a bottle I was just congratulating the rep when this was produced.

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Cotswolds Cask Strength c/othewhiskeynut

A cask strength single malt matured in American Oak which previously contained red wine & has been shaved, toasted and charred too!

It works!

At 60.9% there is no burn on the nose.

It does fill the palate – but the rich flavours shine through in a fabulous frenzy of taste more like a 50% offering!

Dangerous stuff – yet oh so gorgeous.

Without doubt my prize pick of the evening!

For a last pour it was back to Heaven Hill and a shot of Elijah Craig Small Batch.

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A cultured bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Despite being a low rye bourbon this had an attractive spice from the years in virgin charred oak. The rounded complexity of the drinking experience surprised me.

Show over – most of the whisky fans departed.

I settled down to a hot pie washed down with my original intended choice for the evening – English Whisky.

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Peated English Whisky? c/othewhiskeynut

Chapter 15’s a heavy peat hitter. I like it for that – but it’s rather one dimensional otherwise.

I got chatting to some other late departees so another pie – and another whiskey – were ordered.

Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye.

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Like Chapter 15’s peat – the rye dominated here – but with additional fruity notes too.

Very fresh & enjoyable.

Time to head home – or I should say the hotel bar?

I pondered over a glass of Hibiki Harmony – which sang to me a lot sweeter than on my first encounter – while shooting the breeze with a fellow late night imbiber.

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Hibiki Harmony sang sweeter c/othewhiskeynut

A hot mug of tea eventually rounded off my supposedly Sunday afternoon few.

I did make the exam the next morning.

A hearty breakfast works wonders.

WSET Level 2 Spirits – with distinction if you were wondering.

I think the liquid training added to the pleasure!

Sláinte

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