Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Roskrow’

Whisky Advocate Award: Blended/Blended Malt Scotch Whisky of the Year

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The Big Peat Christmas Edition 2013, 54.9%, £46

I’ve never hidden my love for big peaty whiskies. But this year releases that I thought would set my world on fire failed to deliver, and I found that most of the star performers were from the other end of the whisky spectrum. I was falling in love with gorgeous whiskies from bourbon barrels, laced with tropical fruits and vanilla, and reaching for quirky Aberfeldys and Glen Gariochs. Never was the case made more strongly tXmasBigPeat_Carton BlackCap2013 v2han in the case of blended whisky, where a procession of peated but bland blends failed to turn the lights on.

Then at Whiskyfest New York we were presented with a 1973 Ardbeg and normal service was resumed. On reflection, I’ve decided that my nonchalance towards smoky whiskies this year has been because most of them were ordinary to poor, presented in over-priced and under-aged Travel Retail bottlings where the peat is used to hide rootsy, sappy, immature malt.

You’d need a mortgage to buy the 1973 Ardbeg were it ever to be released, but a few days later I was asked to try the Big Peat Christmas Edition 2013. I not only rediscovered my passion for peat, but realized that getting it doesn’t need to burn holes in my wallet.

The cask strength release of Big Peat for this Christmas is a battering ram of a blended malt whisky, but with plenty of subtlety in the mix, too. Think of a rap star strutting and snapping menacingly for most of his show, but still including a tender and sophisticated ballad in the set. This has honey and billowing smoke, some spice among the peat. Then at the end it reaches a crescendo of oily tar and smoke, a metaphorical finale with all the greatest hits wrapped up in one impressive crescendo. Ace. Big Peat’s well and truly back. —Dominic Roskrow

The next award presented will be the Speyside Single Malt of the Year.

Whisky Advocate Award: World Whisky of the Year

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Kavalan Solist ex Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, $110

2013 was a strange year for nontraditional whisky making countries. For many distilleries it was a year of consolidation for existing expressions and expansion in to new markets.   A new wave of distillers—Paul John (India) , Overeem, Limeburners, and Hellyers Road (all Australia), Copper Still  (England)—took steps toward the international stage, while only St. George’s in England, Zuidam in Holland, and Mackmyra in Sweden punctuated the year with more than one special and original release.Kavalan-Solist-ex-Bourbon

But the year belongs to Taiwan’s Kavalan, which totally put to rest the notion that it is a whisky karaoke act doing as good impression of premium class whisky. Kavalan, some argue, has little substance or staying power.

My take on that? What nonsense! I have been a fan of this distillery for some time now, scoring eight of its whiskies at 90 or more. But this, for me, is the pick of a very strong bunch.

The distillery makes much of the casks it uses, and rightly so: they are sensational. But this expression puts to bed the suggestion that that while the cask may be willing, the spirit is weak. Here licorice, honey, and tangy spice fizz around a malt core that gloriously combines pineapple, tropical fruit, and vanilla ice cream. It’s clean, fresh, rich, balanced, and blemish free, and it stands up gloriously against comparable malts from Scotland.

The distillery now needs the confidence to go its own way and give us something distinctly Taiwanese. When it does, Kavalan will be a world force riding its own momentum. —Dominic Roskrow

Tomorrow’s Award will be the first of our Scotch whisky awards: Blended/Blended Malt Whisky of the Year.

Whisky Advocate Award: Irish Whiskey of the Year

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Redbreast 21 year old, 46%, $180

I was going to say that the performance of Irish Distillers over the last couple of years marks the greatest comeback in modern times, but that honor has to go to the astonishing antics of the U.S. America’s Cup sailing team. Nevertheless, the owners of Jameson have well and truly Redbreast 21 Year Oldsnatched the initiative back from its competitors, and this year it pulled off a highly surprising double.

Shortly after our Irish whiskey edition, Irish Distillers held a “housewarming” and unveiled a new training center, new stills, and plans for twenty new pot still whiskeys in the next ten years. Then just a couple of weeks later, they unleashed this.

In a few short years Irish whiskey has been turned on its head. The Teeling family started the revolution at Cooley, but now Irish Distillers has carved out a separate path and firmly re-established the unique, distinctive, and wonderful pot still whiskey style.

Redbreast 21 year old completes a hat trick for Irish Distillers, but this is by far and away the best Irish release of the year. It’s an immense whiskey: oily, spicy, rich, gloopy, and with red berries, menthol, and citrus abundant. It’s complex, too, but you don’t have to live with it long to realize what a gem it is. And very well judged: the oak and spice suggest that these first fill bourbon and sherry casks had reached the edge of a cliff.

Sensibly the strength is bang on the money, too, and almost certainly a cask strength version would not have worked. Heaven only knows if Irish Distillers can continue to raise the bar like this. It’s going to be fun watching them try though. Stunning. Again. —Dominic Roskrow

We hope you’re enjoying these: the Japanese Whisky of the Year is next up, tomorrow.

Islay to get ninth distillery

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Dominic RoskrowExclusive by Dominic Roskrow

Islay is to get a brand new distillery, the ninth for the island.

Plans have been drawn up and work will begin soon on the new distillery site, which is on the shores of Loch Indaal, close to Bowmore and across the water from Bruichladdich. It is set to open in the spring of 2015.

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Not the view from the distillery, but not far away.

The distillery will be called Gartbreck and will be Islay’s smallest. It is presumed that it is named after Gartbreck Farm, which lies on the road from Bowmore to the airport and is within sight of the Bowmore distillery. Its lands stretch down to the sea loch.

No official announcement will be made for some weeks—probably towards the end of the year—but the independent initiator of the project, who will also be its future manager, says that work on the new distillery will definitely go ahead. The source of this story has considerable distilling experience.

“I am providing this information very much unofficially, but it is 100 percent correct,” he said. “The project has now reached the stage where it will inevitably start to leak, so I would prefer to allow some limited and controlled leaks to make sure that the information is not distorted.”

To prove the substance of the story, the source outlined in confidence further details of the new distillery, including output, water source and style of the buildings, and he sent through pictures of the site.

The new distillery is further evidence (were it needed) of the continuing boom for whisky, and for Scotch whisky in particular. Islay went 125 years without getting a new distillery. Now it is set to have two in a decade, following Kilchoman’s opening in 2005.

The Housewarming at Midleton

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Dominic RoskrowDominic Roskrow was at Midleton’s coming out party for their new pot still room, and a lot more.

Over the years Irish Distillers has built quite a reputation for making its major announcements with some style, and this week’s event in Cork was no different. But while the scale of the event itself was no surprise, the ambition from the flurry of news announcements certainly was. Irish Distillers is aiming for the stars…and then some.

The event, held at the Midleton Distillery, was called “The Housewarming,” and DC 040913 DISTILLERY 70was ostensibly to unveil the new (and not completely finished) still room for the production of pot still whiskey. It was staged in the heart of the old distillery itself, and about 900 people from across the world were invited to take part.

The party consisted of a generous number of stalls serving a diverse selection of quality food, live music, a limitless supply of Irish whiskey and cocktails, and the odd stylish flourish, such as the announcement that the old still room was to be named after retiring Irish whiskey master distiller and legend Barry Crockett.

But while all of this and a gorgeous late summer day gave the proceedings a carnival feel, it was the business end of the offering that made the day so special.

First there was the stillroom itself, capable of eventually producing an amazing 20 million liters of pot still whiskey: that’s equal toDC 040913 DISTILLERY 119 two Glenfiddich distilleries. Much of it will go into blends, but Irish Distillers showed its full commitment to the resurrection of the Irish category with the announcement that it will release two new pot still whiskeys a year for the next ten years. It hinted at Blue Spot and Red Spot products to join the existing Yellow and Green Spot ones, and suggested that very soon we might see an older Redbreast product, possibly 21 years old.

The big surprise, though, was the unveiling of an educational facility to teach about Irish whiskey, complete with a working mini-still made of glass, and stylish display and information material. It marks a clear commitment by the company to play a leading role in protecting and developing  Irish whiskey in the future. All the up and coming Irish craft distillers were invited to the event.

Impressive stuff, and proof positive that the Irish rebirth is not only safe from stalling, but is moving forward at pace.

An Irish Explosion

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Dominic Roskrow, Whisky Advocate magazine contributor, shares details of an Irish whiskey boom.

When I announced Yellow Spot as Irish Whiskey of the Year, I predicted that The Teeling Company would be bringing some of the Cooley sparkle back to theYellow Spot Whiskey Irish category. And I was right.

What I didn’t predict, though, was that Irish Distillers would seek to take ownership of the unique style of Irish whiskey known as Single Pot Still, and it would do so in such dramatic fashion. After a quiet 2012, it’s all kicked off in Ireland. Not even two months into the new year, there have been an amazing fourteen new release announcements—that’s four times as many as the whole of last year from Ireland. Incredibly, eleven of them are from Irish Distillers, and all of those eleven are pot still whiskeys at cask strength.

The bad news for fans of the style is that the releases are all in limited quantities and have been offered to specific outlets or retailers on an exclusive basis. The first went to The Irish Whiskey Society and is already all but sold out, and the other ten have been sold exclusively under the Midleton brand name to retailers in Ireland, the UK, France, and Germany.  If you manage to get anywhere near them, expect to pay upwards of $350 a bottle.

Irishman WhiskeyWhile we might only dream of tasting these sorts of whiskeys, we should be encouraged by the willingness of Irish distillers to release pot still whiskey in this form. It surely adds weight to the growing view that the company is set for more mainstream single pot still whiskey releases, and that it has reasonable levels of stocks of them.

Meanwhile, Jack Teeling and former Cooley whiskey maker Alex Chasko responded to my calling them ‘mavericks’ when announcing the Irish Whiskey of the Year by giving us a sneak preview of six whiskeys from the Teeling Whiskey Company.

Three samples were works in progress, and may never see the light of day, but the other three are set for release. They are aTeeling Hybrid Premium Blend, which has a high malt content, and has been married in rum casks and bottled at 46% with no chill filtration; a beautiful and classic cask strength Irish single malt whiskey; and the oddest of the lot, a very unusual and groundbreaking cask strength 21 year old single malt finished in Sauternes wine casks, which will be the first release of a new series to be known as Vintage Reserve Single Malt.

With Bernard Walsh, the man behind The Irishman and Writer’s Tears whiskey ranges, set to re-launch some brands and keen to drive an Irish style that mixes single malt and pot still whiskey, and The Teeling Whiskey Company already promoting a Scotch and Irish whiskey Hybrid, Irish whiskey looks set for a roller-coaster year.

“There needs to be innovation,” says Jack Teeling. “Otherwise we, as a category, will not be interesting enough for consumers who are spoiled for choice from other categories which have a much more developed range of expressions to choose from. We have a very exciting few months coming up with the launch of some of our first Irish whiskeys and new taste profiles to both the Irish blended and single malt categories. Expect great things.”

Whisky Advocate’s #2 whisky of the summer issue’s top ten

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Kavalan Solist Bourbon Cask, 57.1%, $100

This is the pick of the (Kavalan) bunch, the whisky equivalent of Fountains of Wayne; an effervescent dessert whisky, which from the first aroma to the final finish is a consistent mix of vanilla, coconut, and overripe banana, sprinkled with icing sugar and cinnamon. — Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 94

Whisky Advocate’s #5 whisky of the summer issue

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Kavalan Solist Vinho Barrique, 60%, $90

The Kavalan flag is unfurling fast. The whiskies are making it Stateside, and they’re improving from a very high base. A couple of degrees stronger than previously, this is far richer than any wine cask-matured whisky has a right to be. This is huge, with a tropical nose of mango, melon, and papaya, and a hint of dustiness. The palate is astounding. Rich, sweet, and rounded, it coats the mouth with an intense mixture tempered by burnt toffee and cocoa. Stunning. — Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

Whisky Advocate’s #8 whisky of the summer issue

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Writers Tears Cask Strength Pot Still, 53%, €135 

Well, the name’s spot on because at that price it definitely brought tears to this writer’s eyes. What a shame, because the liquid is eye-watering, too, a stunning big bruiser of a whiskey that coats the mouth as berry and green fruits battle it out with oak, spice, and grain oils — the whiskey equivalent to one of singer Sinead O’Connor’s rants — powerful, impressive, a little bitter and twisted, utterly unforgettable, and unmistakably Irish. — Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 92

Whisky Advocate’s #9 whisky of the summer issue

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Kavalan Solist Fino, 57.6%, $117

Each cask of this nicely packaged malt is selected by the distiller, and so there is considerable variation between batches. This one is a step up from last year’s releases. It’s slightly weaker, but the nose has firmed up into a delightful mix of fresh juicy grape and a spicy dustiness. Tastewise this takes an amazing journey from plummy, sweet fruit up front to a slow dominance of dry sherry at the end. The finish is longer than before.  Excellent. — Dominic Roskrow

Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 91