Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Whiskybrother Glenlivet

Whiskybrother is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. According to their website it's Johannesburg's first speciality whiskystore.

Whiskybrother was started by Marc Pendlebury, whose adventure from a whiskyentusiast into running a whiskyshop I have been following on twitter the last several years. He kindly supplied me with sample, which will be my first review in more than 6 months! 

Here we go:


In my glass the whisky actually appears darker than in this promotional photo.

There is no doubt this is heavy on the sherry. Slight hint of rubber on the nose, With my sensitivity to sulphur I doubt many others could detect this. Maybe a gnome could, but I bet most humans wouldn't.

The nose rather quickly turns into a cold soup of raisins. That's dried fruits. Basically this is essential sherry whisky. Below this sherryfruit, there is a faint nice spicyness, vanilla, licorise, almond, marcipan and cardemom

The palate is not that sweet, it's dry and nutty. A solution of dried grapes. This is semi-heavy on the sherry side but I also find a really creamy nice butterscotchy compliment when the finish is approaching. 

The finish itself is long, spicy and the dried fruits keep lingering in my mount

I tried adding a bit of water, just a drop or two, and the whisky benefits from this, the alcoholic burn is lessened and the flavours enhanced.

A very delicious whisky, and this is gonna be hit with sherry fans, and a nice little treat for the South African whiskyentusiast

Score 88/100

It's the finish I like best with this whisky. By now I am used to a lot of sherried whisky having a sulphur approach on me, but the creamy finish followed by dried fruits makes this something I enjoyed drinking. If it makes sense saying a finish can be followed by something else :-)

This whisky has also been reviewed by Dramming and Malt Fascination , I'll add more when I get aware of them!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The biggest problem with bourbon

is diversity.

One thing is the flavour gap. Compared to single malt most people think that bourbon are more similar. This is true, but with some experience you can distuinguish flavours in bourbons better. So the more you drink, the more you get back. If you include ryes you get a bigger flavour gap. Not as big as single malt, but this is due to single malt using a lot of different types of cask and also peat.

No, when I say lack of diversity it's the diversity of different bottlings. I suffer from this personally. I am in charge of a few bourbon tastings in Denmark. Just coming up with a different setup once a year for an annual tasting is tough. Mind you, most of the things I want to present has to be a little more interesting than common stuff like Jim Beam White and Bulleit. It has to be something new and exciting. But the lack of diversity makes me struggle just finding bottles to present.

I could organise a top single malt whisky tasting every week from now on and 20 years in to the future, All different bottlings and all interesting special bottlings. Every week. Probably twice a week if I wanted to.

With bourbon I struggle to do one tasting a year. I know the selection in Denmark is not as big as other places, especially like the US. But the selection in the US is also quite mediocre. Not the quality of the bottles but the amount of different bottlings. I have been visiting many shops selling whisky in the US, and it's not like the bootles are jumping into my basket

The main reason for this is fewer distilleries and fewer independent bottlers and the added fact that both destilleries and bottlers do not bottle that many different interesting things. The only distillery that has a bigger setup is Buffalo Trace.

When a distillery do bottle single barrels they tend to bottle very similar stuff (Like the Evan Williams SB, or the Four Roses SB)

I reckon SMWS, an independent bottler of mainly scottish single malts, bottles more diffrent new stuff than there is bottled new bourbons

One thing I omit from this discussion so far, and which must be included is the explosion of new small distilleries all over America. Hundreds of distilleries, most very small, make bourbon today.

But most of this is too young to be considered. It can also be hard to find except locally. But maybe there is hop for the future. Some of this stuff will grow up and be very interesting in the future. Some of it allready is. If you can find it.

But end of the day, festivals, private gatherings and tastings will be centered around single malt. There just isn't enough interesting bourbons out there to match it. 

It's a shame. I love bourbon. Most of of my bourbon collection is multiple bottles. If you want the good stuff you need to stock up. Single malt wise, I tend to have only one of each. There is just so many different bottlings and it's impossible to keep track. How many different new bottlings of single malt is released every year. I reckon more than 3000

As a bourbon drinker this is probably not a very big problem. There is always good bourbon to be drunk. But as an entusiast, it's hard to gather people for bourbon, when there is 3000 bottles of single malt to be tasted.

I wish there were more bourbons for us entusiasts. It could be fun.

It doesn't help either that bourbon is so popular these days that the most interesting bottlings is getting vacuumed of the shelves. Who wouldn't want to organise a van Winkle vertical?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Cadenhead will release a bourbon

This May I went to the Campbeltown whisky festival with the whiskylassie. A festival I can recommend highly, it was an excellent couple of days, and the organisers did things that makes it worth to travel for this event from all corners of the world. Music, ales, whiskypeople and the most important, a lot of whisky to taste

One of the tasting consisted of a some high end releases from Cadenhead, accompanied by some cask samples. A cask of 25yo Rosebank was opened, gauged and tasted, and anyone who wanted a bottle could purchase this for 150£. This was an excellent malt and offcourse I bought this.

A cask of Rosebank

Another cask sample was a bourbon. This was served blind and caused some puzzled faces amongst the attending whiskyentusiast, I guess most wasn't that experienced with bourbon

Here is my review of the cask sample drawn a few months before bottling.

The bourbon was distilled at the old Heaven Hill just before it burned down in 1996. In 2005 the barrel was transferred to Scotland. This bourbon has been maturing half it's time in Kentucky and the other half in Campbeltown. This makes quite a difference as the temperature differences is much less in Scotland than in Kentucky. This bourbon is a lot less woody than you average bourbon. 

Nose: Sweet, corn, solvent. Does this sound good ?. Maybe not, but it is. Deliciously good. This noses like a sweet grain, but with a lot more body

Palate: Strong, this do for sure have a high ABV. Loads of butterscotchy vanillaed flavours. Remarkable lack of wood compared to what you expect from a bourbon. This reminds me of ryed version of Jefferson's Stitzel Wellers, which I found less woody as well.

This benefits a lot with a bit of water. The alcohol burn, both on the nose and palate dissapears and makes the whisky come to it's true right. Quite surprisingly, a little water makes this whisky more oily, actually remarkable more oily, and the wooden flavours hidden inside comes out

Due to the "double maturation" of this bourbon. 8 years here and 8 years there, I wonder why Cadenhead hasn't claimed they have invented a new whisky catagory. They have done this before. This isn't the first bottling of Heaven Hill to be released from Cadenhead! My suggestion would be to call this kind of bourbon for outland whiskEy, but I think that name has allready been taken by a World of Warcraft realm 

Rating 88/100

There won't be many bottles of this, less than 150 I would say

The festival had many other nice events, like the one shown blow here:

The Springbank Warehouse tasting
With Distillery Manager Gavin McLachlan

Thursday, June 19, 2014

La Alazana

A distillery in Argentina

I have never heard of it, until just recently when I received an email from La Alazana distillery, asking if they could be added to my distillery maps. Off course they could :-)

After asking for the location I have now added it the the "Americas" map, take a look at the location, it's on the east side of the Andes Mountains in the western parts of Argentina.

There is a link to the rest of my maps in the column just right of here------------------------>

It didn't end there. I got a little curious about how it was to run a distillery in Argentina. I asked Nestor Serenelli of La Alazana if he would do a little email interview for this blog which he agreed. Thanks for that, here is my impression from the interview, I went for some hard facts most of all

First, there is a few photos in this post, all from La Alazana's facebook page

La Alazana Distillery

La Alazana, the name of the distillery is actually the name of the farm where it is located. In Spanish, the word "alazan" us used to refer to the copper colour of a chestnut coated horse. The farm is named after a favourite horse, a chestnut mare they used to have. Personally, with the copper reference, I think it's a great name for a whisky distillery

The Stills of La Alazana

Every single step in the proces, from milling to bottling, is done by La Alazana thenselves. The production is very limited, to around 30 casks a year. That's about a third of the actual capacity. 

La Alazana use domestic barley and peated belgian barley for their different levels of peating, so far three levels of peating is used, light, medium and heavy

The fermentation time is 120 hours

They work with high cut points, from 78% down to a minimum of 70%

The different casks are a mix of three types. Ex-kentucky barrels, ex-sherry from Hagmann, an argentinian sherry producer in the San Juan province and finally ex-cognac butts, made from Limousine oak. The casks is filled at 63.5%

La Alazana belongs to the rural area of the small patagonian mountain range town of Lago Puelo, which specializes in growing berries. The distillery started as a fruit brandy distillery, with a small homemade still, then they made corn whisky and then decided to go malt whisky on a larger commercial scale, with a special set of stills as seen above. Not very large compared to most other distilleries I have visited

Blended whisky has always been popular in Argentina and there is a growing market for single malt whisky. Nestor has been a whisky lover since his youth, so it was a natural evolution for him as a distiller to turn toward this product. With his partner Pablo Tognetti, they started the first licensed malt whisky distillery in Argentina

 La Alazana casks to be filled

Expect the first bottling of La Alazana whisky to be bottled at the end of this year. I hope for the argentinian whisky entusiasts and La Alazana that it's going to be tasty

More info on the website of La Alazana

The nice photos and just looking at the map, makes me consider doing a whisky trip to Argentina :-)

Monday, June 9, 2014

Just one of them lucky months - part 1: Sherry

May was a very lucky month for me, whiskywise.

I was lucky to experience a range of new places and meet a range of very nice people

Here is part 1

Through facebook I had the luck of meeting Alberto Corales of Toneleria del Sur

This is a cooperage located in Montilla in Andulusia, Spain, about 1 hours drive north of Malaga. I had the pleasure of visiting Toneleria del Sur and the nearby Bodegas Pérez Barquero where they make, what us ignorants just call sherry. But this isn't Jerez, and here it's called Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso and PX. Not Sherry. Fino. It was repeated to me a few times when I said the S-word

Now, my knowledge of these products were next to nothing, and my interest in these wines comes from the fact that the casks used to mature it, can later be used for maturing whisky. It was time for learning

Traditionally Pérez Barquero Fino is made on a solera system, with three layers of casks. The new wine is filled on the top level. Every now and again, 40% is drawn from the bottom level casks, which is filled from middle level, which is then filled from the top level, which is filled with new wine

Fino Solera

Some of the casks were very old, and you could arguably ask how much wood influence would be left for the Fino and Amontillado versions prepared. Not much I would expect, but I was proven wrong. Both the Fino and Amontillado had a destinctive wooden flavour, which I really liked (I drink whisky for a reason). Some of the casks were said to be near 100 years old so this is remarkable.

Our guide was spanish speaking, she spoke to Alberto in spanish, who translated to me in english, which is neither of us first language and then I translated to my parents to danish. I wonder how much got lost in translation there..

I managed to pick up a few things. All products were made from the same grape called PX, Pedro Ximenez

It's a white wine. The dark colour of oloroso and PX is a result from oxidations. The oxidation in Fino is biological, but limited since the wine is protected by a layer of natural yeast laying on the top of wine in the barrel. If the yeast is allowed to die, the wine will undergo oxidation and becomes quite darker. This is known as Amontillado. Both Fino and Amontillado are dry and woody, and quite delicious if you ask me. Especially the version made by Pérez Barquero, which were well aged for longer than 10 years (I still wonder how this is defined in a Solera system)

Oloroso is fortified and has the yeast removed in an earlier stage, giving a much bigger oxidation and a darker brown wine, with a nuttier taste.

Pedro Ximenez, named after the grape, is made with a wine from dried PX grapes and is also fortified. This is a very dark, very sweet thick fluid, and actually far too sweet for my likings. Tastes like raisins more than anything, and no surprise, as it's made from dried grapes. I don't like PX sherry, but I really like the whisky that can be produced from casks that held PX sherry, so I think you all should do me a favour of go out and buy a bottle and drink it. Most others has this as their favourite amongst the different varities coming out of Andulusia, so please do :-)

The spirit used for fortification is wine spirits

Sherry Casks

After the Bodega, we went for a short tour at the Toneleria del Sur cooperage, which is a small cooperage in Montilla that specialises in repairing and preparing sherry casks for the scotch whisky industry.

They also make new sherry cask to be seasoned. Seasoning sherry casks is done a lot these years as the demand for sherry casks is high and the natural production isn't sufficient for the big distilleries in Scotland

American Oak is the main oak used

This is an old cask

A cask is getting a new stave

The workshop

When in Spain, I decided to try a few local brandies. I was very positively surprised, as I am not usually a fan of say Cognac

The brandies I tasted had a clear impact from the sherry cask they have been matured on (also Solera style typically). My favourite was this one

Now where do I get a cask strength version of this ?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Distillery Pagoda's in Kentucky. Diageo reveals plans to get back into Kentucky Bourbon

New distillery in Kentucky

Diageo announced yesterday that they plan to build a $115 million in Shelby County, Kentucky

Pagodas in Kentucky..

It's not long since they talked about reopening Stitzel-Weller, but these plans have been cancelled. Instead a brand new distillery in a better suited location has been planned. Stitzel-Weller, once rural is now located in suburbia Louisville. There is problems with watersupplies, locals complaining about black mold etc

Diageo's last operating distillery in Kentucky was Bernheim, which they sold to Heaven Hill in 1998. Since then they have been on the bourbon market with the Bulleit brand, which has been contract distilled, mainly at Four Roses

Bourbon is booming. Scotch is booming. It was quite predictable that Diageo would come back into Kentucky for a couple of reasons

1. With bourbon being so popular, it is not reliable to rely on external producers for supply. Everybody is having trouble to make enough whiskey for themselves these days, and want to keep the whiskey they do produce for themselves

2. Diageo needs ex-bourbon barrels for their scottish and canadian distilleries. With Suntory's recent acquirement of Beam, I guess Diageo got a little bit worried about supplies. At the moment Diageo is expanding several of their scottish distilleries and also building a brand new distillery next to Teaninich (as well as expanding Teaninich itself), so the demand for barrels and casks able to mature whisky will be high

Speeddramming the new SMWS outturn

Yesterday, Lars P, Dennis K, Steffen B and Peter L of the Danish Drinking Team went through the new SMWSDK outcome, in a less than 2 hour speed BLIND dramming session

Highlanders Bar in Aarhus and SMWS Brand Ambassador Thomas with the team

Here are our verdict - with our average scores and a few short words that were thrown about

1.182 - 85.5 (11yo Glenfarclas) Bourbon
17.38 -  84.5 (18yo Scapa) Light
39.89 - 85.4 (12yo Linkwood) Toothpaste
50.54 - 78.8 (23yo Bladnoch) White Wine
26.103 - 85.5 (10yo Clynelish) Vanilla
123.8 - 78.5 (12yo Glengoyne - Refill Port Pipe) Sulphur
13.46 - 84.5 (8yo Dalmore) Sour
3.223 - 87 (24yo Bowmore)
35.113 - 88 (10yo Glen Moray - 1st. Fill Chenin Blanc Hogshead) Marcipan
53.209 - 86.3 (18yo Caol Ila)
1.181 - 88 (11yo Glenfarclas)
10.78 - 82 (6yo Bunnahabhain) Too young
39.101 - 87 (23yo Linkwood) Woody, Grape Fruit
4.193 - 86 (13yo Highland Park) Toasted Oak
27.106 - 88 (13yo Springbank) Christmas, cloves, cinnamon
29.155 - 85.3 (18yo Laphroaig) Asparagus
53.208 - 87.3 (17yo Caol Ila)
3.221 - 88.3  (19yo Bowmore)
26.102 - 90.4 (29yo Clynelish) Very delicious

My personal favourites were the 26.103 (91), 27.106 (89) and 26.102 (90) while I had a terrible problem with 123.8 (74) which I found terible sulphured

The Bladnoch 50.54 really split the votes, the average of 78.8 was scores of 65-78-83 and 89. Dennis had bought this bottling, and he blind scored it 89 - seems like he will have to drink it himself alone though