Archive for November, 2010

Guest Review: World Whisky – Taiwan

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Kavalan single malt, 40%, $65
When the news arrived that a distillery was being built in Taiwan, the whisky world pretty much dismissed it. When Kavalan appeared at a precocious 42 months, it sat up and took notice. Owned by food and beverage conglomerate King Car, Kavalan started producing in 2006 with blender Ian Chang at the helm — and a hotline to consultant Dr. Jim Swan. Taiwan’s tropical climate pushes the maturation cycle along at a ferocious rate, but the key here is its complexity. Maybe it’s auto-suggestion, but I could swear there’s ginseng in here, as well as honeycomb and black cherry pie filling. Fresh and clean, the spirit is rich and accompanied with great wood.  Mature whisky in three years? It’s an accountant’s dream! (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Kavalan Port Cask finish, 40%, $65 (approx)
Here Jim Swan has taken the bold step of double maturing an already quick maturing spirit, but it works. Blueberries and rich oak are to the fore, while Kavalan’s cherry accents act as the link between spirit and Port. Think rosehips and crème de mures. Thick and liquorous. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Guest Review: World Whisky – England

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

St. George’s Chapter 6, 3 year old, £38
England’s sole whisky distillery (currently, at any rate; anything could and probably will happen) is located in Norfolk, where farmer Andrew Nelstrop started distilling in November 2006. Small batches have been released in ‘Chapters,’ giving whisky lovers teasing glimpses of how the spirit is maturing. Light and delicate — there’s also a peated variant — Nelstrop reckons it will hit its peak in its early teens. I see no reason to dispute him. This chapter is picking up a straw color and has a nose that’s reminiscent of fresh barley, while a little citrus hangs around at the back. Young — think green apple and green grass with milled flour on the tongue — it’s a whistle-clean whisky. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Guest Review: World Whisky – South Africa

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Bain’s Cape Mountain (Grain whisky), 46%, $22
South Africa may be home to an increasingly impressive wine industry — and a noted brandy producer — but the country is also home to two whisky distilleries. Drayman’s in Pretoria is run by brewer Moritz Kallmeyer, while the James Sedgwick distillery in Wellington is home to Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain Grain. Bain’s was created by distiller Andy Watts as a way to attract the new, female drinker. Sweet and succulent, this is like an alcohol ice cream sundae — fudge chunks, toffee, and butterscotch syrup, not to mention the ice cream, You pile on the pounds just smelling it. A lush beauty. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85

Guest Review: World Whisky – France

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Glann ar Mor NAS, 46%, £55
French whisky encompasses a wide range of approaches and flavors, from the hugely aromatic P&M from Corsica to the understated Alsace whiskies of Elsass, Meyer’s, and Uberbach. There is a trio of whiskies from Brittany. Guy le Lat’s Eddu uses buckwheat to create a whisky that out-ryes rye. Distilerie Warengheim makes the most widely-seen whisky, Amorik. But for this writer the one to watch is Glann ar Mor (‘by the sea’), established in 2005 by Jean Donnay. A traditionalist approach: direct fire, wooden washbacks, wild yeast, and worm tubs yield a single malt whisky that, though barely over the 3 year legal limit, is already complex: think barley sugar and apricot. The fire and the worms give the mid-palate some real weight (boding well for longer-term maturation), but the slow distillation has added floral notes that dance on top. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 90

Kornog, 57.1%, £60
Donnay also makes a peated variant. Again, the distillery’s ability to mix the heavy (in this case smoke) with the lifted is demonstrated. Think sage and rosemary, mixed with nuts and a really salty tingle that brings to mind eating samphire while the smoke wreathes the palate. Make no mistake, this is one important new whisky. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 91

Hedgehog, 40%, €37
It’s not compulsory to follow a Scottish way of whisky making. M. Olivier Perrier in the village of Herisson the middle of the Auvergne has taken a bourbon base (65% corn with malted barley and rye) and distilled it in a Cognac-style alembic before aging it for three years in Troncais oak. Any thoughts that M.Perrier is digging deep into his terroir can be quickly dismissed: the recipe is one for moonshine extracted from a South Carolina musician! His whisky (or should that be whiskey?) is fat and oily, with lots of corn and the scented note that these French whiskies all seem to share. It has a palate where the deep and the savory dance around each other that, while not exactly controlled, would be perfect to accompany an evening of blues in the middle of France.  (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Guest Review: World Whisky – The Netherlands

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Whisky making is no longer restricted to the old countries of Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, and Japan. These days, it seems as if every country in the world has a whisky distillery or two hidden away. Dave Broom’s new book, The World Atlas of Whisky, takes a look at this phenomenon examining the question of how the new distillers create a flavor which is authentically their own. Here are some of his top picks from the ‘New World’ of whisky.

(I’ll be traveling all week on business. While I am away, I thought we could focus on various countries each day for the rest of the week. Dave’s reviews will also appear in the next issue of Malt Advocate.)

To quote Dave: “The scores reflect all these whiskies in their own context — as young spirits from different countries with their own individual personalities.”

Millstone 8 year old, 43%, £59
Based in the village of Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands, the Zuidam distillery was built by genever distiller Fred Van Zuidam in 2002 and is now run by his son Patrick, who started distilling at the age of 14. His single malt is made from windmill-ground barley, given temperature-controlled fermentation, distilled in Holstein stills, and aged in new oak for a period before being racked into older casks. A rich amber color, this expression is ripe and fruity with plenty of red cherry, a little hint of fig, and a little sweet spice. Balanced and rich with a fresh citric farewell this is a classy arrival on the world scene. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 87

Zuidam Dutch Rye 5 year old, 40%, £46
Patrick van Zuidam uses rye as part of his genever, but when a farmer phoned up saying he had a surplus, he figured he might as well try a 100% rye whisky. Of similarly deep hue to the 8 year old, but a little more ruddy, this has a more waxy aroma, but with fresh rye sourdough penetrating. The spiciness which typifies rye here has a North African edge: cumin, cinnamon, coriander seed. The palate is less explosive and dusty than American examples; this is more of a slow-burning fuse that passes through orange and smooth, sweet oak before the spices return. (Dave Broom)

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 86

Lunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden TODAY! Have any questions for him?

Monday, November 8th, 2010

At 1:30 PM today (Eastern Time, US), I’m having lunch with Dr. Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation for The Glenmorangie Company. That includes Ardbeg and Glenmorangie. That’s about five hours from now.

I realize that this is last minute, but…do you have any questions you would like me to ask him?  I’ll do my best to get the answers.

Whisky and cigars: your opinion?

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

I have a feeling that this will be a very polarizing discussion.

I’m heading to New York gearing up for our sold-out WhiskyFest on Tuesday. On Wednesday I travel back home, only to unpack and then pack again, because on Thursday I’ll be flying to Vegas to attend Cigar Aficionado’s Big Smoke weekend.

I have been enjoying an occasional cigar for nearly 30 years. My new boss wants me to attend his Big Smoke weekend to see how the event is run. (Let’s see…cigars, booze, food…okay, twist my arm. 🙂 )

Anyway, many times, when I drink whisky, I don’t smoke a cigar. When I am enjoying a cigar, I always drink something with it, but often it’s something else (vintage port, a richly flavored beer, coffee). Why? Smoking a cigar, with its dry, spicy, smoky notes, often makes me thirsty. For this reason, I usually drink something that’s a little more thirst quenching (for lack of a better term) than whisky.

But sometimes I really do enjoy a nice sherried (or malty) Scotch or Irish whiskey or full-flavored bourbon to drink while I smoke my cigar. I think they go great together.

Just because I am drinking a whisky, it doesn’t always mean that it has to be the main focus of my attention. Sometimes, what’s most important is the conversation I am having with friends at the time. Or perhaps it’s the scenery I am watching, a book I am reading, or a movie I am watching.

Whisky, as much as I love it (and it’s my job), isn’t always my priority. Sometimes I am quite content with it playing second fiddle, with or without a cigar, where it’s just a small part of a pleasant experience. And if I don’t capture all the subtle nuances or flavors of the whisky (or even pay that much attention to it), then so be it. I might pick a whisky that is less complex or one demands less of my attention. Indeed, sometimes the highest rated whiskies aren’t always the best choice for a given situation.

How about you? Do you enjoy an occasional cigar? Do you smoke cigars when you drink whisky? If so, on what occasion do you do this? What whisky are you drinking, and what cigar are you smoking?

Do you agree with my opinion here, or do you disagree? And why do you feel this way?

What are you drinking besides whisky?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

It’s fair to assume you are all whisky drinkers. But what else are you drinking? Do you drink more whisky than anything else, or does something else come first? And do you think that drinking other alcoholic beverages has made you a better whisky drinker?

I admit that I am what I call an “equal opportunity drinker.” I like nearly all beverages, as long as they taste good. I drink more beer than anything else, but it’s always the good stuff. (Malt Advocate was originally a beer publication many years ago.) I also love wine and maintain a wine cellar of a couple hundred carefully chosen wines. Rum, tequila, Cognac, Armagnac also get thrown into the mix, and my preference is for those that are nicely aged. I’ll even have some white spirits (gin, vodka) on occasion, when I’m in the mood for a martini.

And yes, drinking other beverages has made me a better whisky enthusiasts–especially being a wine drinker, with all the exotic wine-finished whiskies on the market these days.

How about you?

Review: Chieftain’s Springbank 40 year old

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

It looks like those old Springers from the 1960s (and 1970s) continue to escalate in price.

Chieftain’s (distilled at Springbank), 40 year old, 54%, $1,400
Aged in a first-fill sherry butt. Soft sherry notes, gentle toffee, golden raisin, green tea with honey, a peppering of spice (cinnamon, red and black licorice, candied ginger, hint of coconut macaroon and brine) and undertones of juicy oak (especially on the finish). Tame, somewhat seductive, and well-rounded. Not overly oaked, and I’m not finding any off notes. A lovely whisky, but not quite as dynamic as the “classic” Springbanks I’ve tasted from the 60s.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 92

Join me for a drink the night before WhiskyFest New York

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

WhiskyFest New York is this Tuesday, November 9th. Of course I’ll be there but, I’ll be busy. So I was thinking that, if you want to, why not meet for a drink in a more relaxed setting?

If you’re going to be in the City the night before, please join me for a drink. I’ll be at St. Andrews Restaurant from 6-7 pm before going out to dinner with the Malt Advocate staff. (I’ll actually try to make it to St. Andrews earlier if I can.)

St. Andrews is walking distance from the Marriott, and they have a nice selection of beer and whisky. Look for me at the bar.