Jon and I are really looking forward to the third Birmingham Whisky Festival. We have been invited again to host a ‘Blogger’s Choice’ stand and can’t wait to share some fantastic drams with Birmingham whisky lovers!…
All posts by supermike
The Midlands Whisky Festival [September 2013]
Well, we are so excited about the upcoming Midlands Whisky Festival taking place on our doorstep this weekend! Nickolls and Perks, purveyors of fine wines and stupendous spirits will again be hosting one of THE whisky events in the Midlands this year! In fact, it’s this year’s second Whisky Fest held by N&P’s in Stourbridge after the hugely successful April show.
The reason we can’t wait? Well just check out Nickolls and Perks website to see the array of whisky on offer at the show this year. I’m particularly keen to check out some of the Japanese drams such as the acclaimed Yamazaki 18 and meet Melanie Stranger of Springbank, to get to try the latest batches of the Longrow Red and 12 year old cask strength on their first trip to England!
Yet another reason to get down to the Fest is to catch up with Diageo’s Colin Dunn, a regular on the whisky festival scene and frankly, for me, it ain’t a whisky festival if Colins not there! You see, I’ve come to regard Colin as whisky dad, he’ll tell you what’s what and put you right. He’s Doc Brown to my Marty McFly, Gandalf to my Frodo, my spirit sage. His energetic, entertaining and enlightening masterclasses have been highlights in my journey of whisky discovery. AND HE’S BACK!
Colin will be hosting a masterclass into the delights of Lagavulin this weekend and it looks like it will be epically good! Yum! Including a special release of the Lagavulin 12 and the 2008 Feis Ile edition to tingle the tastebuds!
Colin spins a great yarn and it was for a more intimate masterclass with him that we last ventured from the LivingRoom and out to Stourbridge.
It was June, a few weeks after the Islay Feis Ile… dreamy shimmers…
An evening with Colin Dunn and a romp through 7 magificent Taliskers. The cellars of the Nickolls and Perks shop provided an atospheric and cosy atmosphere in which to taste whisky with some familiar faces and knowledgeable enthusiasts.
Highlights for me included my Talisker of choice, the classic 10 year old, one of the first whiskies I bought and still an old friend. The nose is full of salty and sweet notes, chocolate and fudge. It’s chilli heat on the tongue, zingy and oily. The finish sweetens with vanilla, licorice and lavender. One of my favourites. The 18 year old was fruitier, cherries and plums coated in that distinctive chilli peppery heat.
As well as tasting the sweetly jammy Port Ruighe, we were also treated to the 35 year old. It was something else altogether, so fresh and zesty despite it’s age. Meadow flowers, limes on the nose and gentile pepperiness and vanilla fudge on the palate. A delicious finish of burnt embers and pepper bite.
So friends, if you haven’t got your tickets yet, get one or at least check out some of the upcoming Nickolls and Perks Tasting events!
Fettercairn Fior Limited Release [Fettercairn]
At the Midlands Whisky Festival I had they pleasure of spending some time with Scott Curruthers, Whyte and Mackay ambassador for the northeast of England.
I was keen to try the Fettercairn Fior. Released in 2010, the Fior is part of an exciting revolution of the Fettercairn range. It is the distillery’s first non-age statemented offering.
The colour of sweeping auburn hair; the Fior plays alluringly with the light in this handsome bottling. Labeling is kept to a minimum. Very classy.
The nose is classy too, rich and luxurious with initial hits of sticky chocolate fudge and a delicious marzipan sweetness. Then there’s a fresh and clean element too; apples, crunchy pear and orange peel. This whisky asks not to be rushed, time spent to nose is amply rewarded. I caught wisps of smoke before waves of richness were back again, Christmas cake, cherries and raisin complemented by an earthy oak thread. Absolutely Delicious. Beautifully Balanced.
The palate is creamy and smooth, melting rich chocolate, hazelnut praline. A decadent start. Then puffs of smoke gently creep in before a citric freshness makes itself known. The finish is surprisingly light with a lovely bitter sweet of black coffee and dark chocolate.
This is a classy dram, and one that inspires me to seek out some more from the Fettercairn range! Many thanks to Scott for introducing me to a lovely whisky!
Bunnahabhain 23 [Abbey Whisky]
This Bunnahabhain is 23 years old, aged in a refill bourbon barrel and bottled at a natural cask strength of 44% ABV. It is the second release in the ‘Rare Casks’ series by Abbey Whisky, following a lovely 17 year old Caperdonich released late last year.
The colour is a light blonde, like sun bleached hay. It has a delicate nose, fruity and slightly briney. Initially there are green apples and unripe pears, then a sweetness comes through, some parma violets and citrusy lemon bon bons. Then, with a little time to savour, an earthy aroma emerges, flower stems and canvas tents. There is also a gentle dark chocolate bitterness and a dusting of peat and smoke.
This is creamy and gentle on the palate. There is a briney foundation on which the other sensations build. First a sweet honey emerges and then an essence of vanilla lingers between wisps of smoke.
The finish continues in a light and unaggressive tone, vanilla fudge, meringue, smoky toasted marshmallow.
For me, this is a grower, the more time spent with it, the more I enjoyed it. For a ‘peated’ Bunnahabhain, it’s not ‘big peat’, it’s a gentle dram, light and unaggressive. It’s the kind of whisky that you could spend a quiet day with, relax and enjoy.
There’s only a limited number of bottles available, so if you want one, be quick!
Available from Abbey Whisky for £79.95
Many thanks to Mike at Abbey Whisky for the sample of this lovely whisky!
Isle of Arran 16 [Master of Malt]
A dram of the Arran 16 from Master of Malt was a welcome reward after a hard day of DIY – wallpapering my daughter’s bedroom!
Trying a new whisky before purchasing has been made affordable by online retailers such as Master of Malt through their ‘Drinks by the Dram’ range. Jon recently tried a stonking Tormore, which you can read about here!
Well the Arran stands at 55.4% ABV and is a light sunshine colour, reminiscent of golden hay swaying gently on a summer’s day. It has spent 16 years maturing in a refill sherry hogshead; being distilled on the 13th June 1996 and bottled on the 21st November 2012.
The geek in me loves the fact that they tell us the all important dates, we can find out about the world events that are capsuled in the life of this whisky. We can read about the movers and shakers that took their turn to influence mankind while this liquid bounty matured from new make spirit into a delightful dram. The myriad of lives and tales that intertwine as patiently, quietly it lies asleep waiting for the master distillers to decide upon its liquid destiny…
Well, after a quick search on that Google, I found that on this day in history, the 13th June, not a lot happened. Although it did snow in Wyoming in the 1880s and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) was born, although I preferred him in Home Improvement… Nothing at all happened on this day in 1996, that’s why I put the snow in Wyoming thing in, add some interest, seemingly I’m clutching at straws.
Master of Malt aren’t though! This is another great dram!
The initial scent on the nose for me is seaside brininess. I can imagine myself on the beach wistfully looking out to sea, some time to think. Then there’s some baked apples and raisins, perhaps in strudel form. As it opens up I get Candy Sticks (now that’s 1996!), and some toffee sweetness, then a pleasant damp vegetal smell – like fresh lawnmowings and cut grass. It has a freshness and a lightness but it’s not without bite too.
On the first sip, there’s a delicious hit of spice and nutmeg. Smoked ham dances merrily with tangy plum jam on the tongue. The finish reminds me of a really well made sausage and mushroom sandwich, on cut white bread, with brown sauce… so moreish, its a pity I’ve only got the 3cl version of this bottling!
This Arran is a limited bottling of 218 and will set you back around £54 for 70cl, although in Drinks by the Dram it’s less than a fiver for a walk on the beach, baked apple strudel and a fine sausage sandwich for afters. This is a another slice of fried gold from Master of Malt!
Balcones [Single Malt 2011 – Batch 2]
A lovely surprise whiskypost from Texan Whisky evangelist Sean Foushee arrived late last year and I’ve finally got around to tasting it!
Sean kindly sent a selection of ‘Liquid Americana’ including the Balcones Single Malt. This particular malt is the second batch, bottled on 4th November 2011 at 51% ABV and finished in ‘Yard Aged’ American Oak casks.
Founded in 2008, Balcones is an exciting craft distillery in Waco, Texas headed up by chief distiller, Chip Tate. Renowned for their creativity, Balcones has taken the whisky world by storm in the last few years winning many awards for their stunning Texan Whiskies!
We had a wee snifter of the Balcones Brimstone at the Chester Whisky Festival last year and loved the intense BBQ smokiness so I was excited to taste this offering too! That review is in the LivingRoom archives – go and read it after this!
The initial hit on the nose for me is warm summer sand and the sweet tarriness of burnt sugar. It has an earthy woodiness to it too which mingles delightfully with sweet barbecue smoke and spice. My mouth waters as spicy chicken wings sizzling and charring beautifully on the BBQ come to the fore! Then the sweetness arrives, creamy fudge and Irish cream liqueur. Heavenly! There is a deep richness of dark chocolate and the subtle smoke of dying embers invite the first taste.
All the rich sweetness and earthy density suggested on the nose are on the palate in bucket loads! Smoked wood chips and burnt sugar coat the tongue. Its chewy and mouth watering. The cloying taste of cola cubes and vanilla fudge gives way to juicy Seville oranges and then spicy chicken wings delight the taste buds. This is a delicious dram, sweet, spicy, earthy and so moreish!
In the finish there is toasted granary bread smothered in butter and lavished with orange marmalade and a fudgy sweetness that lingers for a while and beckons you to go back for more! Loving it!
A beautiful dram and highly recommended. A must for your summer barbecues!
As the Single Malt is produced in small batches you might be hard pressed to get this exact bottling but The Whisky Exchange have several incarnations of the Single Malt for your perusal and this is the latest version.
Huge thanks to Sean Foushee for your kindness!
You can find Sean Foushee on twitter as @WhiskyMarks and on Instagram as ‘smfoushee’. He’s also been working on the new Balcones website which is definitely worth a look!
Available from The Whisky Exchange here.
Robert Burns Single Malt [Isle of Arran]
We we happy to receive a wee dram of the newly released Robert Burns Single Malt from Arran Distillery which adds to their range of Robert Burns inspired products. Robert Burns; national icon of Scotland, poet and whisky fan.
This dram is a blend of single malts produced in the Isle of Arran Lochranza Distillery, coming mainly from American Oak ex-Bourbon casks, which bring a sweet and fruity nature. Malt matured in ex-Sherry hogsheads is also used and brings added richness and depth. It has been bottled at 43% abv with no added colouring.
On nosing I am initially taken by the sweet fragrance to the olde worlde sweet shop surrounded by sweetie jars. I can imagine popping into the preverbial paper bag of this dram some strawberry laces and soft foamy banana sweets, the sweet and sticky aromas mouthwatering as they mix together!
The colour is golden sunlight and in another whiff, I’m transported into the countryside on a sunny Autumn afternoon. The air is crisp and still, and a family are picking blackberries amongst the hedgerows. There are grassy notes and then some other lovely fruity aromas join in, apricots and sweet crisp apples.
The nose is youthful and zingy, fresh and fruity with a generous helping of vanilla too!
The palate stays light and fresh with an initial hit of briny saltiness. There are some earthy cereal and nutty notes, wafts of fresh and fruity blackberry and apple. It is beautifully smooth, the palate reminiscent of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut Chocolate. There’s just a touch of vanilla, although not as much as the nose might suggest. Now some citric hits, sweet lemon cheesecake, and then a final bitter lemon bite.
This dram dissolves into a gentle briny finish. The delicate bitter lemon notes hang on to the end. In the throes there is spice and a last lingering nuttiness.
This is a lovely dram, a delight to drink on a day like today. As I write the Autumn sun is casting long shadows across the garden, illuminating the last of the summer blooms in radiant light. The air is crisp and a gentle breeze is swaying the uncut grass. I don’t dwell on the garden jobs quietly judging me, Robert Burns and I are chilling.
The Robert Burns Single Malt is available from the Arran Distillery online shop for £28.99 and elsewhere on the web.
Penderyn Red Flag 2012 – Icons of Wales [Penderyn]
Following Jon’s recent trip to Penderyn Whisky Distillery in the Brecon Beacons in Wales, which you can read about here, we were extremely grateful to receive a generous sample of the first of their new releases in the ‘Icons of Wales’ series. The series is to include 50 special bottlings celebrating the people, events and milestones in the history of Wales.
The first, ‘Red Flag’, commemorates the first time a red flag was raised in social protest. The Merthyr Uprising in 1831, during which the flag was held aloft, was sparked by unemployment and poverty and led to the unjust execution of a local miner, ‘Dic Penderyn’ (Richard Lewis). This emotive moment is captured beautfully in the artwork by illustrator Andrew Davidson featured on the bottle.
So, we invited some friends over for our usual Friday night get together and amid the fun and laughter, we helped ourselves to our own generous measures of the Red Flag.
The first thing we noticed was the nose; sweet, vivacious and carrying lots of vanilla scents. This whisky has been finished in Madeira casks and draws a lovely sweetness from this influence. A well balanced nose with fresh green apple, fruity raisin and some tangy lemon bitterness. Given time in the glass, there is also some milk chocolate scents, and Starbucks’ Gingerbread latte too! Delicious!
The palate is fresh, light and creamy, with sweet vanilla like a sumptious baked cheesecake. There’s a tangy edge to the palate too, and a little brine. The finish is gentle and retains a subtle heat with lingering vanilla softness.
We love to get friends together in the LivingRoom and introduce them to something new. This sweet and fresh dram from Penderyn was enjoyed by all, and during our evening made a classy dessert whisky.
There’s no age statement on the Penderyn Red Flag, and it is bottled at 41% ABV. The Red Flag is available at around £39 direct from the Distillery, and from their online store here.
Diageo Special Releases (2011) Masterclass [Midlands Whisky Festival]
The Midlands Whisky Festival held at the historic Stourbridge Town Hall offered a gem of a masterclass! Diageo (20 years + Special Releases). Of course, we had to go……
The Glenlivet 18 [Glenlivet] – Whisky Walk
It was with a break in the weather that my brother in law, Andy and I were able to strike out for the distinctively proud crag, Roseberry Topping. It may be considered but a nipple amongst more ample mounts, but at just over 1000 feet, this challenging edifice gave superb views over the Tees Valley in the North East of England.
We were holidaying with friends and family and had decided that a Men only ‘Whisky Walk’ was well and truly needed! So with great anticipation and slight anxiety about the weather, we prepared our day sacks. Andy packed pasties and a cagoule; I packed whisky.
Roseberry Topping was once well known to a young Captain James Cook. It was on this hill that he played as a young boy, developing a thirst for exploration and adventure. It was in the same vain that we, the self proclaimed dynamic duo, headed for the top!
Our path to the summit took us first through shaded bluebell woods. Then a quick and spritely shimmy up a steep shingle bank and out onto a stoney trail up to the top. The views from the peak were breathtaking. Clouds were rolling over the Tees Valley and the sun was pouring over the landscape. Beautiful. England at it’s best!
We had indeed worked up a thirst and while we took leave to enjoy the views across the valley, we also settled down for a whisky or two…
As the clouds thickened, I poured out a generous measure of the luxuriously rich Glenlivet 18. It rested invitingly in our glasses giving wafts of honey, oak and a majestic deep richness.
The whisky, deep in colourand luscious like golden syrup, danced in the sunlight. As we gazed out over the beautiful English countryside, succulent scents of orange and dark chocolate rose up mixing with the natural vapours, giving over to a deep woody fragrance and delicate hints of smoke. This is a big whisky, and was in no way dwarfed by the epic surroundings in which we sat.
The palate was heavenly, luxurious and rich. A velvety mouth feel with dark chocolate, orange rind and satisfying treacle toffee. There were sensations of sweet desert wine too. The finish was long and dry, with a slightly bitter dark chocolate, oily orange peel and subtle fruity spices. In a word… delicious!
This superb dram was a wonderful way to toast the summit of Roseberry Topping. The English countryside and a Speyside single malt proving equally satisfying, and well worth the effort. We loved our ‘Whisky Walk’, and would highly recommend packing a dram or two the next time you head out into the ‘wilds’!
The Glenlivet 18 is bottled at 43% abv and is available from a host of online whisky shops, including The Whisky Exchange and Royal Mile Whiskies!
[The featured image is kindly provided by Royal Mile Whiskies]