Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Tobermory 10 year old

BACK in the mid-Nineties, my friends and I decided to go on a camping trip to the Isle of Mull. Long walks across the rugged island - most of the time in the rain - certainly worked up a thirst and although the Tobermory distillery was never far away, I liked beer more than whisky back then. Shocking, I know. However, we did take a trip to the distillery and I was later given a bottle of the Tobermory 10 as a gift. But that was a long time ago, so I decided to revisit this 10 year old single malt recently, which is now bottled at the higher strength of 46.3% to discover what I had been missing. Here's what I found.
    On the nose, there's lemon, salted butter, light oak, slight smoke and a vegetable note, which is underpinned by the merest whiff of marzipan. On the palate, I found the 10 to be very floral, with honey and a heap of peppery spices. The long finish gave me tangerine rind, a little dab of cinnamon, oak and a slight bitterness. All in all, a very enjoyable dram - I'm just sorry it took me so long to unearth the Tobermory's delights.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Tweeddale Twitter Tasting

LAST week I was lucky enough to be selected to take part in a Twitter tasting - an event I had witnessed several times but never had the chance to take part in. It was organised by Steve Rush from The Whisky Wire and Alasdair Day of Tweeddale and it was a corker of a night. We had four batches to try and everyone involved agreed that all four drams were something special. What made the event so much fun was hearing everyone's opinions. This helped me identify certain tastes and smells I couldn't quite put my finger on and I found it to be an enjoyable and educational evening. Here are my notes from the night and a wee bit about the whiskies themselves.

Tweeddale Batch 1: 10 years old, bottled at 46%
This was created from one single grain whisky and eight single malts between 10 and 21 years old from the four regions of Scotland: Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside and Islay.

Nose: Initially there's lemons, vanilla, grapefruit, slight smoky peat and a dusting of cocoa powder. But as it settles down, the aromas evolve to reveal raspberry, cinnamon, apples, grass and a biscuity note which brought to mind fig rolls.

Palate: Sweet arrival, with raisins, toffee, dark autumn fruit, cloves, a wee bit of grass and a slight smoky peatiness.

Finish: Fresh ginger, pepper and a hint of spice, while a lovely fruity note runs all the way through.

Tweeddale Batch 2: 12 years old, bottled at 46%
This has the same grain whisky as Batch 1 but this is 15 years old from a sherry butt. The seven single malts used in this blend are also from the same casks as Batch 1 but are between 12 and 21 years old.

Nose: Much richer than Batch 1. Polished wood, raisins, leather and Lockets cough sweets. Blackberry, red and black jelly babies, salt, damp leaves, kiwi and passion fruit, pomegranate, plum jam, slightly earthy, icing sugar, orange, root beer and pencil shavings.

Palate: Sweet, almost jam-like. Toffee, vanilla, rich honey, toffee apples, dry wood, caramel.

Finish: Vanilla and strawberry jam with a wee dab of liquorice.

Tweeddale Batch 3: 13 years old, bottled at 46%
This features the same single grain as before but it's 18 years old from sherry butts. Seven of the single malts used are from the same casks as Batch 1 and 2 but are a year older. The core malt is 14 years old from a different cask.

Nose: Porridge with a swirl of strawberry jam, lots of cinnamon, herbal, butter icing, apples, dried fruits - specifically yogurt-covered banana slices.

Palate: Almost cake-like, with lots of sweet jam, brown sugar, honey, orange and there's a fizzy confectionery note - I'm thinking of a packet of Refreshers.

Finish: Sweet and warming with a biscuity note similar to Ginger Snap biscuits.

Tweeddale Batch 4: 14 years old, bottled at 46%
The single grain here is slightly younger - 16 years old. Seven of the single malts are from the same distilleries and same casks as before. The Lowland malt was matured in an Islay cask.

Nose: Rich and full-bodied with the same lovely fruity jam note as batches 1, 2 and 3. White wine, very floral, malt loaf, ginger ale, raspberry panacotta, pepper, gooseberry, sherbet lemons, sherbet Dib-Dabs and fruit salad chewy sweets.

Palate: Lots of fruity jam again, but it's slightly softer here. Black pepper, blackberry, wine gums and strawberry Chewits.

Finish: Liquorice, lots of autumnal fruits and a hint of spice.

As you can see, all four have a lot going on and they all have a wonderful fruit jam note which is utterly delicious. If I had to pick one, it would have to be Batch 2, but it's a very close call. I was so impressed with the Tweeddale range that I bought a bottle of Batch 3 yesterday which I'll save for a wee while, especially as there are only 300 clanking around the UK - most were sent to the US and Canada.

I would also just like to thank everyone who took part in the Twitter tasting and to Steve and Alasdair for organising the event. If you see a bottle of Tweeddale out in the wild, don't hesitate and buy it straight away.

Let's hear it for the blends! 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival

FOLLOWING my rum-soaked adventures of the last few weeks, my thoughts swiftly returned to whisky and this rich Speyside single malt from GlenDronach.
    This is a sherry monster - it's matured exclusively in Oloroso casks for a minimum of 15 years - and it's the darkest whisky I've ever seen. It's also non-chill filtered with no added coloring and is bottled at a robust 46%.
    On the nose, there's prunes, walnuts, caramel coffee, sugary tablet, rich dark fudge and I even get a whiff of soy sauce. Strange though that is, it's certainly not unpleasant.
    On the palate, there's bitter dark chocolate, black coffee and orange rind, while the lengthy finish is dry, with walnuts, stewed tea, dark chocolate truffles and Muscovado sugar.
    It's a heavy whisky and certainly not a light, every day dram - but if you're after a sherried single malt which packs a punch, then the GlenDronach 15 Year Old Revival should be right up your street.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Kraken Black Spiced Rum

THIS is the last in my mini series on rums, but don't worry, I'll be returning to this spirit again in the months to come.
    I've tasted a few quality rums over the last few weeks - most of which are fairly easy to track down either online or from specialist retailers. But for this entry, I thought I would go for The Kraken, which you should be able to find without looking too hard.
    The first thing you'll notice is the distinctive bottle, which features double rings on the neck which - I suppose - are there to hook your fingers around before you take a generous glug straight from the bottle. Don't do this as a) you're guaranteed to spill it down your favourite shirt and b) this is not the ideal way to enjoy your rum!
    The second thing you are bound to notice is The Kraken's label. It's a bit of a beauty, featuring the titular mythical beast wrapping its tentacles around a galleon before dragging it down to Davy Jones' Locker. Both the label and the bottle make this one jump right off the shelf, but is it any good? Let's pour a glass - remember, no swilling from the bottle - and find out.
    On the nose there's Cherry Coke, root beer, black cherries, molasses, vanilla, cough medicine, lemon and even a trace of mint chocolate - I'm thinking specifically of a mint Aero bar.
    On the palate, The Kraken has a slightly oily feel and has bags of creamy butterscotch, cloves, vanilla, espresso, black cherries and flat cola, while the finish has more cherries, black peppercorns, wood, coffee and that medicinal note returns.
    I rather like The Kraken for an occasional sip, but where it really comes into its own is in rum cocktails, where it slaps you about the face and imparts wonderful flavours.
    The Kraken is bottled at 40% and is fairly cheap - expect to pay between £20-£25 for a bottle and for that price, you really can't go wrong.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Ron de Jeremy

PRIOR to sampling this Panamanian 40% rum, the only thing I knew about Ron Jeremy was that he was the leading man in a selection of films featuring quite a lot of nudity. As a result, I'll try and resist the temptation to include double entendres and any quips about stiff drinks etc...oops!
    Back to the rum, then, and the first thing I noticed was how delicate the rum was in the glass. I had to leave it for 10 minutes and spend another 10 minutes or so with my nose in the glass searching for aromas. They are there, but this is a rum where it pays to be patient.
    On the nose, there's bananas, apples, white sugar, honey and caramel - but each of these scents I found to be very delicate. Take a sip, and this actually proves to be quite a robust rum with a good bit of flavour. There's golden syrup, raisins, honey, spice and vanilla, while the finish is dry, sweet and very smooth.
    I may have been spoiled by some of the other rum tastings on this blog, but while this is certainly a decent drop, it doesn't match some of the quality rums I've previously tried. That said, I did very much enjoy the Ron de Jeremy and I would definitely order it in a bar - although I might feel a wee bit bashful asking for it.
    My thanks once again go to Captain Steven James at the Rum Diaries Blog for sending the Ron de Jeremy this way. Cheers, fella.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Appleton Estate 12 year old Jamaican Rum

CONTINUING my mini series on rum, today I have the Appleton Estate 12 year old.
    Now, this isn't my first experience of Appleton's rums - I have previously tried their 8 year old, but the experience wasn't entirely positive. I ordered the rum from a bar and was given the dregs of a dust covered old bottle - not the best start - and the rum really didn't taste great. It had an overpowering spirit scent and the taste was equally nasty. I put this down to just an unfortunate experience, so I was really interested to try this 12-year-old from the comfort of my sofa. Happily, this particular drop left a much more favourable impression.
    On the nose, there's brown sugar, orange marmalade, raisins, cigar tobacco, caramel, dessicated coconut and walnuts, while the scent of lemon rind is ever present.
    The rum has a rich taste and coats the mouth beautifully. There's an unmistakable alcohol kick, which then gives way to fruity caramel and sweet wood. The finish is dry, sweet and spicy, with vanilla notes coming to the fore after a minute or so.
    The Appleton Estate is a robust and tasty rum. However, it can't hold a candle to either the mouthwatering El Dorado 12 or the elegant and refined Plantation XO in my opinion. It would, dare I say it, be rather good in a cocktail though.
    Thanks again to Steven James at Rum Diaries Blog for sending me a sample of the Appleton Estate 12 year old.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum

I'VE taken a look at a couple of rums before now - the El Dorado 12 and the R.L Seales - and thoroughly enjoyed them both. I now have a few more rums to sample thanks to Steven James at Rum Diaries Blog , so I thought I would do a mini-series focusing on rum, rum and more rum.
    The first of these is the Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Barbados Rum, and this will be followed by the Appleton Estate 12 from Jamaica, the Ron de Jeremy from Panama and I'll finish off with the widely available Kraken Black Spiced Rum. So without messing about, let's get straight into it.
    The Plantation XO is bottled at 40% and matured in both bourbon and cognac casks and boasts an incredible complexity which carries through from the nose to the finish. Pour a drop of this dark golden rum and have a sniff and you'll find this spirit is quite refined and not as pungent as some other rums.
    There's caramel, baked apples, dried banana slices, plump dark cherries, muscovado sugar, pipe tobacco, buttery toffee, dates, nutmeg, sweet coconut and a hint of milk chocolate - and if you can resist keeping it in the glass for another 10 minutes or so, these scents intensify.
    The palate is just as good, with heaps of sweet vanilla, warming caramel, dark orange marmalade, gentle spices and the whole spirit has a beautiful sweetness. On the finish, there's cherries, vanilla, soft golden fruit and that wonderful coconut and chocolate rounds everything off beautifully.
    The Plantation XO 20th Anniversary Rum is wonderful and my generous sample simply wasn't enough - this is now firmly on my shopping list.