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Vangroovy gets it’s own festival | Blog # 116

The inaugural Vancouver Whisky Festival rounded out the week for me as the 5th event in 7 days. Held at the Terminal City Club in Downtown Vancouver this event is designed for a maximum of 150 participants to enable an intimate experience.

With sponsors like Aston Martin showing off some very sexy cars and an outstanding array of classes, tours and tables the added bonus of an on-site store allowing that impulse buy makes this one of the best events of the week.

Rather than make you read through an accounting of what you could expect to taste I will jump to one of the most amazing experiences for me at the vendors after party.

One of the perks of being in this industry is the benefit of being able to drink the odd whisky well above our pay grade.

Thanks to the very generous team at Fountana the array of whiskies on offer was nothing short of stunning.

Here are just a few of the gems that I tried with just a short impression:

George T Stagg Bourbon 71.4% – Ba-Boom!! what a whisky!

Gordon & Macphail 22 year old Port Ellen – More aggressive on the nose then super soft finish.

Colonel Taylor Bourbon – Yummy!

Nikki Yoichi – Seriously good whisky!

Kavalan Moscatel – Shut the front door!!

Kavalan PX – Shut the back door!

It was at this point that something very special happened. I was handed a bottle of Samaroli 45th Anniversary Bunnahabhain by Thomas Chen from Fountana. With grateful and almost shaking hands I cracked open the delicate whisky protecting screw cap and proceeded to pour a long line of lucky people a dram. This was the best whisky I had all week and more than that it was the best 45 year old whisky I have ever had. (I will be writing up a full tasting blog on this bottle as I was incredibly given the heel to take home at the end of the night.)

Just when we thought that the night couldn’t get better Tony arrived from his room fresh with another selection of amazing bottles.

Bruichladdie Blacker Still – 20 Year old Laddie Sherry cask come on…..

Duncan Taylor Clynelish 15 Sherry cask I felt like I was grazing at the dessert buffet

What an absolutely mind blowing end to a really fun week. I know that I have mentioned in the past that I love my job but I just have to say that I actually don’t work for a living. I am so lucky to be able to live my passion every day. If you live in Vancouver head on over to www.vancouverwhiskyfestival.com to see some pictures of the fun.

Thanks for coming along with me on this ride.

Cheers!

It’s Just Not Cricket! | Blog #18

This week finds me basking in sunny Victoria on the annual Glenmore Cricket Club tour to Vancouver and the island.

Not normally a whisky focused time for me, with beer flowing profusely, darts and billiards the order of the day at the Sticky Wicket after a hard fought game of cricket. This year I decided to pack something a little special to tempt those whisky lovers in the group.

1997 Cragganmore Octave from Duncan Taylor bottled at Cask Strength 53.6% and only 48 bottles for the lucky few all exclusively available at J. Webb Wine Merchants (author’s note: this whisky is now sold out). Cask number 426431 – 16 years old from this well known Speyside distillery.

The concept of Octave’s is not new and many bottlers and distilleries have been playing with smaller barrels for decades. Smaller barrels create a far bigger impact on the whisky with a much bigger barrel surface area to whisky ratio. For their Octave range Duncan Taylor cooper up only sherry casks and this has a big impact on the whisky in a relatively short period of time.

Sherry casks have become much rarer with Sherry sales dwindling over the past 100+ years and the popularity of Single Malts aged in those barrels soaring. By breaking larger barrels up and coopering them into octaves Duncan Taylor is able to create lovely sherry cask affected expressions of many different distilleries and styles. Each Octave is a completely unique whisky and with only such a small haul for whisky lovers to purchase they don’t last long on store shelves.

Tasted after a Thornbridge Wild Swan cleanser in my hotel room in Victoria.

Instead of one of my many whisky glasses this dram was tasted in an individually wrapped plastic cup (the best kind).

I didn’t bother doing a water comparison. This is a no fuss quick take on this yummy whisky without any bells and whistles.

Nose: Even in the tall plastic cup the sherry absolutely bursts forth promising rich fruitcake and spice with not a hint of sulphur anywhere.

Taste: at 53.6% it hits the palate softly with lovely dried fruits and a touch of glace cherry.

Finish: Lingering with dry balanced tannins, I’m sure that a little water would do something good to this whisky but I have to head off shortly for a round of golf 🙂

Lovely rich ruby colour which shows how much the octave impacts the whisky with only 6 extra months of aging.

Next week I’ll be back in civilization talking about one of my favorite Summer drams over the past 5 years.

Write in and let me know about your best down to earth whisky experience. Maybe it was on a camping trip or out fishing. Sometimes whisky drunk rough and ready can be an awesome experience.

Have a great week!

Cheers,

Jonathan

4 Glasses – 1 Whisky Part 2 | Blog #9

Before reading any further make sure you start with Blog #8 which is part one of this series.

Having poured a healthy dram into each glass lets look at how each one effects the nose and palate.

Nose:

Nosing whisky is a big part of what makes this spirit so interesting. If you have been drinking whisky for any length of time then you have no doubt experienced one of those amazing drams that you could just sit and nose for an age.

*All nosing done at full cask strength of 54.1% alcohol.

# 1 – The Glencairn Scotch Whisky glass

Remembering that this design was created for nosing it should get us off to a great start. Initially restrained with no noticeable alcohol prickle it takes a while to draw the subtleties out. You can really get your nose close to the glass and still have no alcohol effect which is impressive at 54.1%. With the chunky stem it is however hard to get a good warming clasp on the bowl.

# 2 – The Reidel Whisky Glass

Allowing for a much more open nosing experience as a trade off for the positioning of the whisky in a specific way on the palate, I was expecting a slightly harsher experience. It was in fact slightly more subtle with the barest hint of alcohol. I was able to get my nose really close and still not get any alcohol kick back. Easier to get the hands around to warm the whisky it is however still very delicate and feels like you have to be careful in how you handle it.

# 3 – The Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler

With the same diameter and flare of the Reidel I was expecting a very similar nose. It might have been due to being able to fully cup this glass with both hands and warm the whisky but the nose was much more pronounced with a little more discernible alcohol. Could not sink the big shnoz as close with this glass without a little too much overpowering prickle.

# 4 – Traditional Balloon (snifter)

Wow, “snifter” seems like a good description as even just one good sniff and the whisky closely followed by alcohol fairly leap out of the glass. Being careful not to get too close, the complexity of the whisky is immediately apparent. Subtleties may have been lost at this point but who cares. This glass has unleashed the inner Martlach Monster. Warming played its part as this glass was designed to be cradled lovingly between two hands. So far the biggest impression however I can see that if you were tasting a lot of whiskies this bad boy would wear out your senses fast. But for the sheer fun-park ride this was the nosing winner.

Next week we do the tasting at Full Strength and then I might have to extend to a part 4 for watering and conclusion

Until then…

“Balloons Aloft!”

Jonathan

4 Glasses – 1 Whisky Part 1 | Blog #8

Over the next 3 weeks we are going to look at how different glasses can effect your whisky experience.

May I present firstly the 4 glasses we will be comparing for your tasting pleasure.

# 1 – The Glencairn Scotch Whisky glass

The shape of this glass is mostly derived from traditional “copita” nosing glasses in use throughout most Whisky labs in Scotland. Introduced in 2001 after a coming together of Master Blenders from 5 of the largest whisky companies. The majority of Glencairn glasses found on shelves are lead free crystal however for this tasting I used the rarer 24% lead crystal version that I received as part of my tasting package for the 2011 Ultimate Whisky Experience in Las Vegas.

# 2 – The Reidel Whisky Glass

The Campbell Distillers company owning Arberlour and Edradour first went to Reidel to create a whisky glass to specifically highlight the nuances and characteristics of Single Malt Whisky. The glass was first designed and tested in 1992 and was released into the market the next year. The one I used for the tasting was given to me by my wife in 2003 which was the first year I started to sell Single Malt Whisky.

# 3 – The Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler

Dating back to the 16th Century, Spiegelau has been making glass longer than most. Purchased by Reidel in 2004 the Spiegelau line still retains its own individuality. Interesting note on this however is that the Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler was released after the Reidel Whisky Glass and although is still a true tumbler with heavier glass on the base has exactly the same tulip shaped top and exact diameter measurements for the lip as its Reidel cousin. I used a glass that I received for a tasting at Willow Park Wines and Spirits when I spent a rare event on the consumer side of the table.

# 4 – Traditional Balloon (snifter)

Larger than the other three glasses the “brandy balloon” as it has so often come to be known is used more predominantly with Cognac but is equally at home with Whisky. Widely believed to have been created in the 16th Century this is definitely the oldest style in our tasting. Snifter is British Colloquialism for a small amount of alcohol in a glass (aka dram). The glass I used is from a set of 4 (now 3 – one went to glassware heaven) that my wife and I received on our 10th Wedding Anniversary in Australia.

So now that the glasses have been introduced, let me bring in the main guest.

“The Whisky”

Duncan Taylor Independent Bottlers Single Cask Dimensions Series – Mortlach 1993

Cask No. 4463 – Distilled in May 1993 and bottled in March 2012. 18 years old at an ABV of 54.1% – 519 Bottles produced.

Mortlach is a Speyside distillery that is owned by Diageo. It was founded in 1823 and is located in Dufftown. It was the first distillery to be built in Dufftown with the second, Glenfiddich not entering the scene till over 40 years after.

After many changes of hands and for a while being used as a church, Mortlach is now working at full capacity with most of its whisky being used for Johnnie Walker blends. It is seldom seen as a proprietary bottling except in the Flora and Fauna series.

Most consumers who have tried Mortlach will have found it through various independent bottlers (topic for another blog).

Mortlach has 3 spirits stills and 3 wash stills and uses what is often referred to as “partial triple distillation” Their 6 still system is unique but is a variation on techniques used at Springbank and Benrinnes.

Now that I have given you plenty to read about just to set the stage I bid you farewell until next week where the whisky hits the glass.

If you would like to experiment along with me then you have a week to find yourself the above 4 glasses and to pick any whisky of your choosing – preferably cask strength.

I look forward to getting my nose in it.

Cheers

Jonathan Bray