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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Bellevoye Bleu

If you had not of heard of this French blended malt you are not alone, because it was new to me as well when I saw it in the Air France Lounge in Paris.  A little online research suggests this is a blend of 3 single malts of different regions of France and finished in new French oak casks.  It is bottled at 40% ABV but nosed like it was much stronger.  Very feisty and malty with barnyard, floral and even perfurmed notes in the nose.  Hot and sweet on the palate with some flashes of toffee which were quickly masked by pepper and even a slightly acrid smokey note.  The finish has some chilli heat with a hint of lemon peel marmalade.  A splash of water improves it greatly, smooths out the grainy mouth feel and brings out some more fruity and sweet flavours.  It is not bad but posseses little elegance or sophistication so in that respect it is not a very French French whisky.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    This version of the Feis Ill annual release was bottled at 51.4% ABV.  The nose has light smoke, bacon and some sweet and sour spice notes.  The taste is subtle, the higher alcohol is evident as is some sherry and more spice but quite well balanced.  The finish is dry, clean and oaky.  Not your every day Laphroaig but that is the point (at least I think it is) of these releases.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 06:45

    Glenmorangie Taghta

    This expression's claim to fame is that it was crowd sourced and designed by consumers.  They did a nice job but I think Bill Lumsden is safe for a little while yet.  The nose is salty with a tangy citrus note.  Marmalade perhaps.  The taste is creamy with more citrus, oak, coffee and quite bold for Glenmorangie.  The finish has oak and spice notes and sherry lends some tannin.  With a little water it gets sweeter and smoother.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 06:33

    Jura 30 year old

    I have always tended to put Jura in the "just another single malt" category.   I have not been there so I admit I lack the "connection" I find I get with whiskies when I have been to the distillery and while many of the Jura expressions I have tried have been good, they have not been great.  Until now.  This is great.  The nose is sweet with oak and vanilla. The sweetness from the nose is also in the taste but balanced with a rich earthiness, peat, licorrice, banana bread and coffee.  Somehow this whisky manages to combine a Womans Institute coffee morning and a Scottish peat bog.  The finish is spicy and dry and because this is so good, just a little poignant.  With water it gets a touch sweeter and smoother with more citrus and less peat.

    Friday, 01 May 2015 06:28

    Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

    I was a bit confused by the name as "spirit" is often used by craft distilleries when they can't legally call it whiskey.  This is definately whiskey.  In fact it is "put hairs on your chest, fist pounding the table, that's what I am talking about" whiskey.  Nose is rich and woody, furniture polish and toasted caramel.  The taste is fruity but not too sweet with some brown sugar, fresh baked banana bread, spices, dried fruits and a little cola.  Rye notes come through in the finish along with mint. Overall finish is long and warm. 

    Monday, 27 April 2015 17:08

    As one door closes....

    As I mentioned in my last blog entry, (The End of the Road?) I had reached a point where I was not sure what my next whisky related move would be. When I started the website in 2011 I had set some goals and by late 2014 I had basically met them and my website was less active than JaDaveon Clowney. Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor after that brilliant joke and remind you all that JD Clowney was the Houston Texans first pick, and first pick overall in 2015 NFL draft, but that he contributed literally nothing during his first season and has so far spent his entire professional career injured and inactive.   I told you it was a brilliant joke.  Back to the whisky and so my solution was simply to back off a little, try not to worry about it, rework the website over a little and await inspiration. In hindsight this is clearly a strategy I have learned from observing the whisky industry and the fail safe marketing tactic for all tired brands; rework the packaging. If you are reading this blog entry then the website update has now happened (unless you are reading this over my shoulder while I type it on a flight back to Houston which makes you a little scary so please stop).

    Rather remarkably fate did choose to intervene and while performing my website surgery I have been offered a new job this summer based in Singapore. As my constant typos, errors, inaccuracies and lack of palate consistency clearly demonstrate I am no writer (despite my brilliant Clowney joke above!) and have to find other ways to sustain my family and my expensive drinking habit. From September 2015 I will do that based in South East Asia. This move presents me with an astonishing opportunity and exposure to a whole new whisky scene that will include, but not be limited to, the brands and expressions only available in Asia, new bars and whisky events in a new city, other bloggers to meet and lots of travel retail opportunities. I also hope to work in trips to Japan and Taiwan (and perhaps India) so I can annoy distillery tour guides with my note taking and ridiculous questions on the other side of the world! In short not only does my website get refreshed but in a few months but my whole exposure to the world whisky will be refreshed and a whole new series of opportunities present themselves.

    Between now I then I promise to use the coming months to iron out the remaining kinks in the website, work through the long list of typos (or as I frequently joke “tpyos”) and other corrections I have noted but never got around to fixing and of course will post some new tasting notes. If you read this and are based in Singapore please feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to buy you a dram and explain the NFL, Houston Texans, the 2015 draft and the joke above. I promise you it will be worth it.

    Monday, 29 December 2014 21:23

    The End of the Road?

    Some diligent readers may have noticed that I have posted less material online in recent months than Julian Assange. There are a number of reasons for this (fortunately being holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy is not one) but I don’t think it is a coincidence that my lack of output followed soon after completing my goal to find, taste and post my notes for all of the whiskies in Ian Buxton’s book “101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die”.

    When I look back at 2011, when I started this website and blog I wrote about using the Ian Buxton’s first book “101 Whiskies to Try before You Die” as a guide.  As I wrote then I felt I needed some structure to my journey, a goal or destination, or I would risk wandering aimlessly

    I have to say I do feel now like a goal has been met and a destination reached. Perhaps by setting a clear goal in some ways I doomed my website and blog as it had a defined “end point” from day one. It had a purpose and that purpose has been achieved. My work has also intervened and this blog will always come third after my family and my career. I also look back and reflect that the blog started at a time I was very unhappy with my career and  it is clear my interest in whisky grew as my interest in my job at that time declined.

    However this cannot be the end. Whisky has permeated my life in no small way and will be harder to remove than the last in-law at Christmas. I have invested (rather more than I intended) in a craft distillery in London that looks like it might return my investment about the same time that my nine year old daughter graduates college and I have made some real friendships that will go beyond a shared love of distilled grains aged in oak barrels.

    So to paraphrase Winston Churchill perhaps this is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning. Therefore I intend to continue post tasting notes as I find whiskies of interest (increasingly hard to do by the way) and will restructure website to be more focused on those tasting notes and less as blog, but from time to time you can still expect me to post an ill-informed opinion.

    And what would be a good new goal for this revamped website? As I write today I have reviewed 566 whiskies, so 1000 seems like a nice round number to aim for…. perhaps as a nod to Ian Buxton I should say 1001 Whiskies (yes I know that is another book by another whisky writer but you get my point) and then see what happens.

    Monday, 08 December 2014 18:52

    Haig Club

    I found it quite interesting that the whisky world largely ignored the introduction of a David Beckham endorsed whisky.  Maybe it is because it is a "celebrity" whisky?  Maybe it is too cheap or too ubiquitous to garner any real online buzz because no-one feels special drinking or reviewing a whisky that costs under $50 and is available on large scale?  After reading many times over in the whisky media that "grain whisky is the next big thing" and considering the fact this is a single grain  scotch whisky (Note: it is made made from a 90% wheat and 10% malted barley mash and the "single" refers to the distillery not grain) it would suggest that we should consider the possiblity that the "next big thing" just arrived?  However it seems everyone with a whisky fetish and a broadband connection remained unwaiveringly focussed on the proper, hard to find, bloody expensive whisky.  However I am also pretty certain that is fine with Messers Beckham and Diageo who give not one flying-you-know-what about whatever the "blogosphere" has to say about this one.  (Sorry if that comes as a shock to any of my whisky blogger brethren).  Bottled at 40% ABV (as you might expect for an entry level scotch) the nose on Haig Club is quite light and sweet, perhaps even floral.  The taste, at first, is a rather brash clash of pepper and spices and sweet caramel and toffee.  With time some biscuit and grain notes come through as well and it sort of balances out into something quite drinkable, however it clearly blended for the addition of ice (as depicted in all the asscoiated  media).  The finish is spice led with cayenne and some more floral, even perfumed notes.  Like Mr Beckham himself, smooth and more complex than you might expect but if this is the next big thing then I am going to just wait for the next "next big thing".

    Thursday, 30 October 2014 19:37

    Stillwaters Distillery, Ontario, Canada

    When I planned my recent business trip to Canada I had my heart set on visiting my first Canadian whiskey distillery. I had expected / thought / hoped it would be Forty Creek as that is the whiskey that completely and forever changed my opinion about the possibilities of Canadian whisky. Sadly, with my schedule and limited visiting times at the distillery during the fall and winter I had to rethink. Thanks to Johanne McGinnes (aka the Whiskylassie) I was introduced to Barry (and Barry) of Stillwaters and found my way to their industrial unit in the suburbs of Toronto.

    While not a formal distillery visit / tour, Barry (but not Barry, he was busy) was kind enough to spend some time with me and show me around the place. Like most craft distilleries this part did not take long. We discussed (distilled perhaps?) their journey via vodka, independent Scotch bottlings, gin, single malt, brandy and finally (and perhaps saving the best until last) the bottling of their 100% rye expression which was ongoing when I arrived.

    I had tried the Stalk and Barrel Cask Strength single malt on a Twitter Tasting (also organized by Johanne) and while I liked it there was nothing about it that stood out for me, other than its youth. However I had heard “good things” about their rye and as a “rye guy” I was happy try it. Glad I did. I did not take notes but recall vividly that the nose was rich and fruity and the taste had all the spice, fruit and chocolate notes I have come to love in ryes.   Well balanced with a herbal, minty finish I was impressed. Will definitely pick up a bottle if it ever makes to Texas. I also re-tried their single malt and at 46% ABV and found it better balanced than the cask strength (for my palate) and would happily have drunk more but for the plane home I had to catch.

    So with a Canadian notch freshly carved into my distillery bedpost I now have to find a way to get to Japan so I can say I have been to the “Big 5” of whisky producing countries; Scotland, USA, Ireland, Canada and Japan.

    Monday, 27 October 2014 20:27

    Maker's Mark Cask Strength

    This new expression is supposedly only available at the distillery, but at time of writing in October 2014 it is also available at #houstonsbestbar Reserve 101 and Spec's liquor in downtown Houston.  Unexpected ubiquity aside, as a confirmed “Markersmarkophile” I was very excited to try this. The nose has lots of sweet bubblegum and sawdust, and surprisingly none of the alcohol burn you might expect to find a cask strength expression. Simply put the nose is all that is good and holy about bourbon. The taste is deep, rich and dry, oaky and sweet with coffee, cinnamon and banana bread. Makers Mark on steroids.   The finish is very dry and spicy.   With water it gets sweeter and creamier, a vanilla cake with some spice.   Worth the trip to Kentucky (or apparently downtown Houston) to get some.

    Monday, 27 October 2014 20:26

    Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select

    The nose has vanilla, peach jam and sawdust.   The taste is smooth with vanilla, caramel, cocoa powder and some floral, perfumed notes. The finish has sweet cola and dry oak. Certainly one of the better JD expressions but a little pricey.

    Whiskies Tried...

    Total to Date: 658

    Distilleries

    Visited to Date: 58

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    Random Whisky

    Balvenie Triple Cask 12 year old

    To be honest this name slightly annoys me and I was expecting that to influence how I liked / disliked the liquid but the truth is that this 40% abv travel expression was good enough to overcome this obstacle.  The name refers to first fill bourbon casks, sherry casks and what the label describes as "tradiotional whsksy casks" which means I assume re-used bourbon or sherry casks.  So to call this a "triple cask' is sort of like saying Brexit is "the will of the people" when less than 50% of the country actually voted to Leave.  The nose is fruity with green apples and polished wood.  The taste has toffee sweetness, vanilla, barley sugar, marmalade and hints of oak that build into a bitter sweet but balanced finish.  Drink neat as water does nothing for this, it just gets thin in mouth feel.  Dont like the name but still a great product.