We were again fortunate enough to be invited along to the latest event in the Whisky Wire’s series of Tweet Tastings. Up for tasting this time was a blend that we’d heard a lot about but had never tasted – Cutty Sark. This was about to change as we were sent four generous samples of whisky including; Cutty Sark Blend, Cutty Sark 12, Cutty Sark 18 and the recently released Tam O’Shanter 25. The tasting was again expertly led by Steve, and we were joined by Kirsteen Campbell, Master Blender at Cutty Sark who entertained us brilliantly with her insight into the whisky we were tasting as well as answering a lot of questions about the nuances of the whisky, its maturation and origins.
We’ve got a great free event lined up for you to celebrate World Whisky Day. We’ve teamed up with The Whisky Shop in Birmingham and are hosting a ‘Blind Tasting‘. Simply bring a bottle of whisky from your collection to share with the other guests and we’ll wrap them up to hide the labels and so on. You’ll then have the opportunity to talk others through your offering, as well as dramming with all of the other whiskies available. It’s a great chance to try some new and unusual whisky without having the preconceptions of what you like and what you don’t! The identity of all whiskies will then be revealed!
The tasting will start at 18:00 on Tuesday 27th March at the Whisky Shop in Birmingham; places are free but extremely limited and will be offered on a first come first served basis. To secure your place simply DM us on Twitter @LRWhisky and we will respond to let you know if you have been successful! So come along, support World Whisky Day, get to know the authors of this blog (!) and drink some cracking whisky! We can’t wait to see you!
This Thursday last, we took ourselves along to ‘The Whisky Shop‘ in Birmingham run by Craig Mills. We were there for a preview event featuring a selection of some very fine Japanese whisky before the main tasting event run by Craig and the Birmingham Whisky Club at the ‘Old Joint Stock’ that same evening.
We were greeted by the European Brand Ambassador for Suntory Whisky, Tatsuya Minagawa. It was great to hear about the history of Japanese whisky production and about how whisky is produced there today.
We had four whiskies to try, all from Suntory; Hibiki 12, Yamazaki 12, Hakushu 12 and the Hibiki 17. I [Mike] having never tried Japanese whisky before was really keen to explore these new tastes. Jon has several of these bottlings in his collection, but hasn’t shared them with me!
We started with the Hibiki 12…
On the nose we got some pineapple, vanilla and orange. This whisky was matured in plum wine casks and we certainly picked up the sweet fruitiness on the tongue. The finish for us was short but sweet.
Next up was the Yamazaki 12…
Again it was sweetness on the nose with candied orange peel and marmalade. On tasting we picked up honey, barley and oranges. It was satisfyingly luxuriant on the tongue, oily enough to let the tastes linger. The finish brought more orange and a slight reminiscence of dark chocolate.
Ah.. the Hakushu 12…
If we had favourite out of the four, this would be it. We both loved the smokiness and peat on the nose and also picked up a hint of white fruit and grass. On the tongue the subtlety of the flavours made this whisky satisfying and complex, there was more peat, smoke, apples and the smell of grass on a dry summer’s day. Lovely. The finish gave the feel of an unhurried sit by a dying bonfire in the late evening. Jim Murray gave it 95.5 and who are we to argue! We went back for seconds!
Last up was the Hibiki 17…
It had a rich deep amber hue and on the nose the richness came through, Christmas cake, almonds, marzipan, chocolate. On the tongue, we got cherries and more rich fruitiness. It was complex, a step up from the 12 in our opinion.
All in all a great couple of hours and we look forward to tasting many more Japanese whiskies and making it to the next Birmingham Whisky Club tasting. If you’re in Birmingham city centre why not pop into the Whisky Shop and have a chat with Craig!
What a day we had in West London – 7 hours spent in the company of Gregg Glass (Assistant Whisky Maker for Compass Box), 7 hours tasting and blending using only the best of ingredients.
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll share our thoughts on the Compass Box core range and also our notes on the rarer stuff including the Last Vatted Malt and Grain – both of which were stunning! Today though we’re focussing on the blending element of the day – our very own blending masterclass.
Five cask strength whiskies were poured out and covered on the table and Gregg was not letting on as to what they were until we’d gone through and nosed them all. We then had the opportunity to taste prior to blending. So, in order our base ingredients were:
A 15 year old single cask grain whisky from Cameronbridge; stunningly sweet on the nose with bags of vanilla and candy floss coming through strongly. Salty and sweet on the tongue too. This was the only grain out of the five and really illustrates the quality of casks that Compass Box have.
This malt was aged for 10 years in bourbon barrels and was essentially a ‘naked Oak Cross’ so no additional maturation or finishing had been employed. The nose was a ‘love it or hate it’ amongst the group with a really strong biscuity smell (primarilly hobnobs) coming through strongly upon nosing.
This whisky was special; 14 years spent in French oak casks gave such a rich hue that we all mistakenly thought was heavily sherried. Described as ‘Spice Tree on steriods’ by one of our group, it had lots of prunes, plums and stewed fruits on initial nosing. The taste backed this up, it was heavy, rich and sweet.
This malt whisky from a first fill sherry cask yet despite the obvious sweetness was also very grassy and meadowy. It had great colour as you’d expect and was a fantastic example of a great sherry cask; no trace of sulphur just a rich, thick whisky
Stunning. The nose was smoke, smoke and more smoke. The whisky was a 12 year old from Port Askaig on Islay and it had been in American oak cask for all of its life. The taste was what you would expect, sooty, more smoke, big and domineering. The challenge was going to be how to integrate it into the blend we were going to create.
I had a clear idea of what I wants to make. I wanted to be selective and only use two or three of the whiskies to really try to keep their character and allow each of them to shine. I like big sherried and smoky whisky so I really wanted to use whisky’s four and five. Compass Box first introduced me to the wonders of grain whisky so I wanted to use one in homage to that. After much tasting, tweaking and more tasting I’d decided that it was actually quite tricky to use the Islay malt in the blend as even a couple of drops impacted the blend too much -for me the whisky dominated the blend in a way I didn’t like. I decided to use the French Oak aged whisky instead and played some more.
My first sample bottle was ready and contained 20% Whisky One, 40% Whisky Three and 40% Whisky Four. If I can say so, it wasn’t bad, however there was too much of the French Oak coming through for my liking so I changed the quantities for the 10cl bottle that I would hand wax before taking home.
My final blend was made up of 25% Whisky One, 25% Whisky Three and 50% Whisky Four. Cheekily named the ‘Vatted Blend’ it is dark and heavy, but with a hint of vanilla from the Cameronbridge. Full notes will follow as it needs at least a few weeks to marry in the bottle before being at its best.
Entering the offices of Compass Box was like entering an Aladdin’s cave for a fan of whisky. Part regular office, part experimentation lab, the surroundings got us all in the mood for having some fun!
When it came to the blending class, after the initial nose and taste that Jon has described, I was keen to blend a whisky which would evoke the feel of a weekend forest walk. Something woody, a little floral perhaps. But how…
For me too, Whisky Two had some cereal notes and I decided to use this whisky as the major component on my blend. In the end, it made up 62.5% of my final blended malt. I also decided to use a significant amount of Whisky Three. I enjoyed the oak and caramel hints when nosed but also apple and leather tones on the tongue. This whisky made up 25%. My final component was Whisky Five. I did want a smoky peated edge, and the Caol Ila had it in spades! I used this Islay Classic malt sparingly (or so I thought!), making up 12.5% of my final blend.
In the spirit of Compass Box and their penchant for naming a whisky ‘exactly as it says on the tin’ al la Peat Monster, I named my woody, peaty, smoky, (subtle) blended malt, The PineAsh. My whisky needs a little water to open it up on the nose, but I was very pleased and proud of my final product!
The Blending School was a great experience and it was a real luxury to have the expertise of Gregg with such great base ingredients to work with. It really opend our eyes to what a skill it is to craft such excellent whisky and we have a new found respect for the guys at Compass Box – keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing more excellent releases in 2012.
Check back soon for our notes on the rest of our whisky day out in London.
Well the day has finally arrived: we’re up, actually on the train and off for our first whisky tasting. In a few hours we’ll be at Compass Box HQ in Chiswick for a day of sampling and blending.
First up is a tasting of the core rage of bottles which will include Hedonism and the recent award winner Great King Street. We’ll then move onto the blending school with Gregg and create our very first blend. Finally we’re finishing off with a tasting of some rare whiskies from the Compass Box collection!
Watch the blog for a full review and keep up to date with all of our whisky fun today by keeping an eye on our Twitter account – @LRWhisky
We are leaving the Midlands and heading off to Compass Box HQ on Saturday so we thought we would make our first review on of their fabulous whiskies. Check out the Reviews page to read what we thought of it.
Thanks to the wonderful Gregg at Compass Box Whisky we off to London on Saturday to enjoy a day of tasting and blending whisky. It has the added bonus of raising some money to help schools in Malawi.
The plan for the day is to taste through Compass Box’s excellent core range of whisky, to taste the base malts and grains that make up their whiskies and then to have a crack at blending ourselves!
Watch this space for updates on what should be a great day and see of we can make anything that meets the approval of Gregg!