Monday, May 30, 2011

I wish these were bottled at cask strength

There's a couple of areas in the whiskybusiness I sometimes think I could easily live without :-)

One is the huge array of local whisky distributors and agents, which for a small country like Denmark is quite an expensive link in the trade from distillery to me as consumer. Nothing to do about thou, but logically this link will be cheaper in places where larger areas and/or population groups can be covered.

Another creature is the master blender. Personally I prefer cask strength whisky, preferably single casks. I don't really like others than me adding water to my whisky and I don't like caramel coloring. Somehow somewhere someone has decided that producing whisky for the masses requires blending, water and e150 and they are probably right!. I don't think the ability to make great blends and vattings means you are also great in choosing single casks!

But sometimes they do give me whisky the way I like it. last post I mentioned Chivas Cast Strength bottlings. Another range of bottlings worth looking for are Diageo's annual releases. They tend to be expensive, but sometimes there's affordable gems amongst, like the 16yo Glen Elgin.

Some distilleries are kind to offer bottlings both at watered down ABV and cask strength, like Laphroaig 10yo, and I reckon most reading this will agree with me that the cask strength versions are far superior!

Amrut has one of the best standard ranges in industry. Peated and unpeated. Both at cask strength and 46%, and the Fusion on top of this

Amrut at Limburg

Ardbeg has a similar nice mix of 46% and cask strength whiskies in their standard range

Glenlivet doesnt have much, but they do have Nadurra

Quite often, when I taste  wateres down whisky I can't help thinking, that I REALLY would like to taste this as cask strength.

Glenfiddich doesnt do much in the higher ABV ranges. It could be really nice if their 18yo was available at full strength. I also wouldnt mind to have Highland Park available at full strength. Lagavulin 16yo at full strength, we all know how good the 12yo is. I also wouldnt mind some sherried Macallans available at fulls strength. The 10yo cask strength was fantastic, but also hard to find. It is about to be discontinued unfortunately, if it isn't allready

An abundance of water at Glenfiddich

Any whiskies you would like to see at full strength ?

PS the last couple of years, quite a few whiskies has gone slightly up-strength, thank you for that, I talked a bit about it here :

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Some thoughts and reflections after 3 weeks of whisky

Recently I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in the company of a lot of good whisky and a lot of whiskyfriends. The holiday consisted of Spirit of Speyside Whiskyfestival, a short week on Islay/Jura, a couple of days in Campbelltown and the Limburg Whiskyfair, with short stops in Tarbert, Edinburgh and Glasgow

Here's a few random thoughts I made from this trip

I participated at a whiskyquiz at Strathisla, and had the pleasure of tasting the Chivas Cask Strength Edition range, and I think that's really how whisky should be bottled. Cask Strength. Smaller bottles. Good price. Excellent whisky. Shame it's hard to get outside distilleries, but I've seen bottles of these for sale at TWE

I think it's a shame more and more distilleries won't sell whisky to independent bottlers and brokers. One of the main attractions of being a fan of single malt whisky is the DIVERSITY of bottlings, loose that and you will loose the fans, not overnight, but slowly. It might seem a clever idea now, but I really don't think this policy will benefit scotch whisky in the long run.

I can't help think of this:

Branch Cutting Accident - Watch more Funny Videos

I wish Laphroaig sold more to IB's. I have a slight problem with their current distillery style which I think have changed to a slightly more floral/perfumic style (Bowmore wanna-bees?). There's nothing wrong with Laphroaig, as I really love it from independent bottlers, but something seem to go wrong for me when they blend casks together


Ardbeg restarted with full production in the late nineties, and everything affordable they have been bottling the last few years has been from their "own" production (Glenmorangie/LVMH). Most of this has been young, younger or very young. As a fan of older Ardbegs you can't help wondering if the new stuff will reach the same level as before when it reaches ages of 20-30 years. Time will tell, but having tasted a few samples of approx 10-12yo single casks, I reckon they will get there. The leathery taste note I associate with old Ardbegs (and also in a few Lagavulins) was present for me. Just a hint we can only wait and see

On Islay, Caol Ila will be shut the next many months for an upgrade. The mashtun will be replaced and a couple of  new washbacks will be installed, as well as up to date computerisation. To fullfill their needs for peated make, Diageo has hired Bunnahabhain to produce 35ppm malt for the rest of 2011. You can always wonder if a lot of peated 2011 Bunnahabhain will be availbale in the future or not. It probably depends a lot on Johnnie Walker sales :-)

Limburg was as usual an abundance of whiskies from a range of small german independent bottlers. A distillery thast doesn't normally raise my eyebrows, Littlemill had a few nice casks out. Other distilleries worth looking after were Bunnahabhain, Glen Grant, Inchgower, Tomatin, Coleburn and Longmorn

I always thought Glen Scotia had a slight metallic taste to it, after seeing their washbacks I know why :-)

Glen Scotia

Just kidding, reliable sources has told me the taste of GS is due to other causes..but a photo like the above always makes you wonder :-)

Distilleries do have very different politics regarding cameras and mobile phones. The general rule is that the bigger the company is the less is allowed. I am pretty sure that one reason that Diageo these days have VERY harsh, silly and unreasonable safety rules regarding visitors, cameras and mobile phones is that some guest simply couldn't respect rules when they weren't as hard. If you're told not to take photos in the stillroom, and still do it, the consequence will be that the next group wont be allowed to bring cameras at all into the distilleries. It's probably the same reason why we aren't allowed to bring mobile phones, as telling people to turn them off wasn't respected

I've been on several tours where the guides had a hard struggle with a visitor or two who just doesn't seem to care with the guidelines. Guest should remember a few things. You are GUESTS, and other people would like to see these places as well! No matter how little you agree with the rules or not

I think the general quality of the experience of visiting a distillery has raised a lot over the last decades. The quality of the guides and the possibility of adding small vertical tastings to your tour is a nice thing. When guest travels from all over the world to see a distillery it's nice to bring back a memory of having tried something special

It can be a bit of jigsaw puzzle to plan a whiskytour with a larger group, especially when Spirit of Speyside is involved with a lot of events to choose between

Sometimes distilleries, don't answer their emails. This is annoying. The solution is easy. Grab the phone. But I really suggest not to put email adresses up on webpages if you don't have the resources to answer them

On Islay its a shame that some distilleries have set times for connaisseurs tour, cask visits, special verticals etc. that coincide. I wish it were less stressfull to plan events and make choices :-)