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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Most Recent Whisky

Most Recent Whisky Review

Forty Creek Heritage Limited Edition 2017

Since I moved from Texas in 2015 the one whisky I miss the most and find the hardest to source from other side of the world is Forty Creek.  It is very special and unique and honestly I miss it more than my family. If they are reading, then that is a joke.  But I do miss it a lot.  I picked up this while passing though Texas on business and my bottle was number 9132 from Lot 11 (... you are welcome whiskey pedants).   The nose has lots of familiar notes of vanilla and freshly sawn wood.  Quite mild and sweet like those cheap cigars that are sold in US Drugstores. The taste is also sweet, with caramel, chocolate, butterscotch balanced with some grass and pepper notes.  The finish does manage to muster a little spice and oaky resistance but still overall a typical Forty Creek "candy disguised as whiskey" (that I love).  Perhaps not their finest work... but to honest even their "OK stuff" is better than most.

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  • Simon Seaton

    Simon Seaton

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:27

    Penderyn, Wales

    Interestingly this welsh whisky, or wysgi in welsh, would barely scrape under the bar as a "whisky" in Scotland.  It certainly wouldn't be considered single malt for several reasons I will discuss later.  I should also disclose some bias for Wales at this point, as I graduated from the University of Wales and lived in Cardiff for four years.

    The  Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) rules and regulations rightly protect the process and traditions of the industry, but it doesn't means that other methods and technology can't product a whisky (and this is whisky) of exceptional taste and quality.  In fact find it slightly ironic that the industry that was in many ways born from developing the new ideas for manufacturing whisky (the Coffey still, grain whisky and blended whisky) is so entrenched in its thinking today about what defines Scotch whisky, and inversely the sticking to old ways and traditions was one contributing factors of several that nearly completely killed the Irish industry.  Remember that those that don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

    That said Welsh whisky is not about to take over the world, but this is very good stuff.  The distillery in the village of Penderyn, near Brecon is modern and compact.  One reason for this compactness is that the wash is made in Cardiff at the Brain's Brewery and brought to the distillery in tanker trucks.  That in itself would exclude Penderyn from the ranks of "single malt" if it were located in Scotland.  The tour is also compact, in fact it consists of two rooms.  One room houses a history of welsh distilling and the more recent history of the distillery.  The second room is basically the tasting room and has a glass wall.  Behind the wall is the unique still Penderyn use to distill the Brain's wash into an 86 - 92% ABV spirit and a small bottling line.  

    The Penderyn still is a combination of a pot still and a column still and this would again probably prevent this being considered single malt whisky, were it in Scotland, as it is not a traditional pot still.  The spirit is diluted with water drawn from a well below the distillery and put into bourbon casks, matured offsite, and then finished in Madeira casks before being bottled on site.  They also do a peated version of Penderyn which is matured in scotch casks that have previously held peated scotch and a sherry cask finished version.

    After the tour they pour samples from their range of whiskies and also they offer a cream blend called Merlyn.  We also got to smell and taste the new make spirit.  There is the ubiquitous whisky shop as well.  This is an interesting distillery that makes a great product, and is well worth a visit.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:24

    Macallan, Speyside, Scotland

    The Macallan is the distillery in Craigellachie where many of the myths espoused by other distilleries come to die.   It is a place of contrast and contradiction and I loved it. 

    The distillery visitor's center is small and it is a place for whisky lovers to pay homage, not for the tourists.  No café or other family facilities, people come here to see the whisky being made and to buy from a very wide range of products available including many that cannot be found anywhere else in the UK.  The tour is very informative and goes into great depth into some of the areas of whisky production that others skirt over, particularly barley varietals (Macallan favours the less popular Golden Promise) and wood.  In fact they have an entire wood exhibit.  I don't mean the exhibit was made of wood, but a detailed exhibit on the types of wood used in their range and even goes in the detailed biochemistry of oak to explain the impact on the taste and aromas of their whisky. 

    But what strikes you walking around the site is the industrial nature of the site.  This is not your quaint, Victorian, artisan, highland distillery, this is first and foremost a whisky factory with huge modern warehouses looming over you on the hill behind the distillery like the dark satanic mills of the famous hymn Jerusalem.  They use different mash tuns, different styles of wash backs (some steel, some wooden) and they even have two different still houses on the site with some still direct heated while others are steam heated.  All the sorts of variations in process that many other distilleries claim to reject and say would greatly affect the nature of final spirit seem less important to Macallan who produce a single malt, The Macallan 18 year old, sometimes called the Rolls Royce of Whisky (admittedly usually by them), and many consider one of the best single malts in the world.

    Interestingly, despite being now reported as the second largest global brand of single malt whisky in sales, behind the Glenfiddich and ahead of Glenlivet, the success and globalization of brand Macallan does not seem to generate the angst and backlash Glenfiddich occasionally does within certain parts of the whisky community.  Discuss.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:15

    Yamazaki 12 year old

    I found the nose a little bit evasive and hard to define.  Perhaps some dark dried fruits like raisins and prunes and sweet.  The taste was much more accessible.  Sweet at first with honey and then drying oak and pepper notes in the finish, perhaps some sherry too.   Nice mouth feel, silky and smooth.  This isn't the most complex whisky I have ever tried.  Is it good?  Yes, but didn't quite float my boat
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:14

    Ballechin #4 The Oloroso Sherry Casks

    Unusual highland whisky from the Edradour distillery, heavily peated at 50 ppm phenol. The color is rich due to the maturation in sherry casks.  The nose is peaty.  That's about all I could get from the nose.   The taste is peaty as well, very powerful and at 46% ABV its mouth coating and full bodied.  Did I mention the peat?  Interestingly it doesn't have quite the same the medicinal qualities found in the many of the heavily peated Islay or maritime whiskies.  With a little water is possible to get past the peat and a few sweet notes can be detected like marshmallow, brown sugar and the sherry from the cask is also there.  But to paraphrase the Fast Show "mostly I have been drinking peat". The good news is if you like peat, you will love this.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:12

    Buffalo Trace

    The nose has peppermint and fresh baked bread along with oranges, raisins and some dark fruit notes.  The taste is soft, even muted, with toffee, vanilla, butter and warm bread (possibly rye) and some peppermint (or is that pepper and mint?).  Hints of oak and old books in the finish.

    Everything that's great about bourbon whiskey but with the volume turned down slightly too much for me.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:11

    Compass Box Aslya

    A very pale color and a light nose with green apple, vanilla and toasted cereal, reminiscent of breakfast.  Also a little bourbon in the nose.  The taste is smooth as glass, and sweet with butter and vanilla.  The toasted notes from the nose and some oak builds in the finish and leaves just a hint of ashes or smoke.    One of the best (and definitely smoothest) blends I have ever tried.   A fantastic "first whisky of the day".

    As Eric Clapton might say "Asyla, you got me on my knees...." 

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:11

    Chivas Regal 18 year old

    Easy, enjoyable nose with fruit, maybe banana, vanilla and malt.  There's malt in the taste too, along with pepper and spices, toffee, vanilla and sweet fruit, like over ripe banana.  Oak comes into the finish along with a little sherry and some smoke.  Good, but not great.    A blend in every way (fruity, malty, oaky, smoky) and perhaps for that reason nothing stands out or marks this whisky as special to me.  This one doesn't seem any better than the cheaper 12 year old and nowhere near as good as the 25 year old, so falls a bit flat in the middle, hence two stars.  If I gave half stars this one would be a 2 1/2 star whisky.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:09

    Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera

    The nose is honey sweet with sherry, raisins and citrus.  The taste is quite woody and spicy, but still rich and smooth.  Sherry and oak to the fore but with some sweet dark fruits like dates and prunes and even nuts all in the background.  Drying oaky finish as well.  Not my favorite 'fiddich.

    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:09

    Canadian Club

    The nose is nutty cereals with a slight acrid chemical note almost like cleaning fluid or fresh paint, but not unpleasant.  The taste has vanilla and caramel at first and then fades to reveal some spice, pepper and oak.  Slightly bitter in the surprisingly long finish.  This is quite rich and smooth and a little water sweetens it, but bitter oak notes still in the finish.  I suspect the strong flavors would stand up well to ice and the bitter notes would work with a sweet mixer like cola or lemonade.
    Monday, 07 November 2011 23:08

    The Macallan Select Oak

    A refreshing, vibrant nose, fruity, even zesty with alcohol coming through even at 40% ABV.   Toffee taste that fades as some spice and heat build.  Mouth feel is creamy and soft, and hints of vanilla and barley sugars.    With a little water the oak and leathery notes are more detectable but not overpowering.  Not Macallan's finest work but still a nice dram.

    Whiskies Tried...

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    Random Whisky

    Pocket Shot Whiskey

    Whoever had the idea of selling 4 year aged bourbon in a 50 ml plastic pouch may not be getting a place in Bourbon Hall of Fame anytime soon, but I like their ingenuity and a small part of me really wanted it to be good so I could pull it out as my “whisky party piece” and shock people. The nose; my original notes say “not much” but with time I got some sawdust and corn with perhaps a hint of rye. The taste is quite thin on the palate, sweet at first but oak bitterness quickly develops. Never quite “hot” at just 40% ABV but a long way from smooth as well. Needs ice or water or A N Other to reduce harsh oak.   With time (and I did take my time drinking this) it opens up a little and softens. The finish has more of the rye from the nose and even a little mint. Like a hard workout at the gym, the pleasure is all in the finishing with this one. Not the worst thing I ever tasted (I seem to remember some knock-off Highland Park in Nigeria being particularly terrible) but not one for the collection either.