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5th Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Day 13 – Singlemalting # 210– Malt Whisky Company Auchinderom (Peated Glenglassaugh) Sauterne Cask

Very excited about todays whisky. Mythical unicorns don’t appear very often and this is indeed a very rare treat. Certainly knowing the gentleman behind this dram was the key to having this offered up to make your adventure extra special. Stuart Nickerson who I am very thankful to say was the amazingly generous chap that nominated me for induction into the Keepers of the Quaich. Whisky has flowed in his family for a long time and just this past week his daughter Jennifer received the Icons of Whisky Irish Whiskey Brand Ambassador of the year award. A big congratulations to Jennifer and to Stuart for such an amazing whisky legacy.

Glenglaussaugh Distillery

So onto the dram itself. Glenglassaugh has had a very long and challenging history founded in 1875 by James Moir and his two nephews. Located right near Glenglassaugh Springs the distillery had an exceptional water source that had previously allowed illicit distilling to be conducted to great acclaim. After James death in 1892 the distillery was sold to Highland Distillers a subsidiary of the Edrington group. It was rebuilt in 1960 but unfortunately closed in 1986 with a downturn in the Scotch industry.

In 2008 Glenglassaugh was sold to the Sceant group by Edrington and Stuart Nickerson who was their whisky consultant elect was instrumental in not only finding Glenglassaugh as an option but also brokering the deal. With a considerable amount of money needed to refurbish the distillery and one of the warehouses Stuart was able to utilize a small parcel of older Glenglassaugh that had been distilled before the closure. I was lucky enough to be the representative for Glenglassaugh in Canada and can vouch for the incredible 20, 30 and 40+ year old whiskies that were part of the rebuilding of the brand. Stuart did so well that the distillery was sold in 2013 well ahead of schedule to the Walker family, owners of Benriach and Glendronach. Within a few years Benriach, Glendronach and Glenglassaugh were subsequently sold to industry powerhouse Brown Foreman.

Once production started Stuart was canny enough to lay down some casks for himself and so we have today in front of us a whisky that was distilled, casked, aged and bottled by the same man.

Glenglassaugh barrels

I tried some of the early peated new make that Stuart had distilled many years ago. While chatting in his lounge earlier this year he mentioned this cask and jumped at the chance (actually may have jumped off my seat). Several editions ago we had the Portsoy Sauterne Cask. One of the most delicious Sauterne casked whiskies that I have tried to date and only around 7 years of age.

Auchinderom Peated (Glenglassaugh) Sauterne Cask 7 Year Old – Cask Number 007 – Highland – Alcohol 58.6%

Colour:                     Lovely deep gold. No doubt the Sauterne Cask is at work here. Smaller barrel size than a Bourbon Cask so more wood to whisky ratio imparting a lot more.

Nose:                        No mistaking that this whisky lives with peat. Large and in charge is a big hit of glorious seaside. Like stepping out onto the beach and taking a big deep breath of sweet fresh salty air. Glenglassaugh is right on the coast so this is not unexpected. I find myself taking a long time over this nose to try and get some of the Sauterne cask influence. That sweet freshness could be it and does hold the promise of luscious things to come on the palate.

Palate:                     Wow ok the dense vegetal peat character is right at the door asking me to shake the sand off my shoes and come in. That medicinal note that a lot of people relate to coastal Islay is lining the walls of this old school drawing room. As I sink down into my deep backed leather chair I can almost picture the old tobacco swirling in the air, an old leather bound book in my hand and a century old persian rug beneath my feet. Through it all though there is a lovely little sweetness that is completely unopposing but may be the most beautiful part of the whole experience.

Finish:                   I just had to try this with a dash of water. The sweetness on the nose headed towards dark marmalade balsamic reduction. The dainty little petit four that I loved at cask strength has blossomed into a full blown over cooked ginger cookie. In the best way possible. The finish just carries on and the lingering effect is the Briny Highland Peat holding steady as it sails to the horizon. With all of this going on it feels like a much, much older whisky than 7 years. Sauterne casks seem to equal much more rapid aging characteristics in Scotland.

On this day in the 4th edition we had another fine dram put together by Stuart Nickerson. The Shetland Reel Batch No. 3 Blended Malt was a cracker.

Please remember to head over to the Whiskey Vault and Scotch Test Dummies. I am literally chafing at the bit to see what they thought of todays dram. I would think today’s dram will be a big winner but as I say all the time everyone has their own palate and there are no right and wrong preferences.

We are now just over half way through the calendar and it is worth mentioning what we have had so far. 5 Speyside Distilleries, 4 Highland Distilleries one of which was heavily peated, 1 Islay and 3 blended malts. Barrels have included Refill Sherry, 1st fill Sherry and both Refill and 1st fill Bourbon and a Sauterne cask. We have had 9 different distillery single casks 2 of which were teaspooned. We have done a distillery comparison and both casks while having some similarities were very different animals. As we head into the back end of the calendar we will go to even more new places and see some much older drams. Stay tuned whisky fans and always try to keep a childlike eagerness and delight in learning more about this amazing drink.

Tomorrow we have another distillery making a first appearance in our calendars. Coming from that amazing independent bottler A.D. Rattray.

Looking forward to seeing you all then.

Cheers

Jonathan

Day 2 Malt Whisky Company, Craigmills a Portsoy Distillery (Glenglassaugh) Sauterne | Blog # 91

That’s the longest title for one of my blogs ever. Welcome to day two. I hope everyone had a great time at the Launch party last night. For those of you that missed out please RSVP as fast as possible next year as there is limited space. Toasting in the Advent season with the Tomintoul 1999 was great fun.

So here we are on day two trying something extremely unique. Coming from the fledgling independent bottler Malt Whisky Company owned by the legendary Stuart Nickerson. Stuart for those unaware brought the Glenglassaugh distilley back to life from over 20 years in the wilderness. He did such a great job in fact that Benriach purchased the distillery ahead of schedule so he pretty much put himself out of a job. While working at Glenglassaugh Stuart was canny enough to start squirreling away casks for the launch of the Malt Whisky Company.

While the focus of the Malt Whisky Company is to bottle whiskies over 20 years old Stuart agreed to do a few special bottlings just for the 2nd edition calendar. There were a few left over bottles that did find their way to Germany.

The other very cool piece of info on this whisky is that Stuart personally distilled it himself and then threw it straight into the French Oak Sauterne Cask with his name on it. What most of us whisky geeks wouldn’t do to be able to distill our own amazing whisky including picking out the cask.

Glenglassaugh founded in 1875 is right on the coast and was closed for over 2 decades after being mothballed in 1986 and not reopened until 2008 when with Stuart Nickerson at the helm the Scaent group revived it. in 2013 the Distillery was sold to its current owners Benriach.

Glenglassaugh Distillery Glenglassaugh Distillery

One of the unique problems that independent bottlers have sometimes is the inability to actually put the name of the distillery on the label. Cask Islay from A.D. Rattray was one such whisky in the 1st edition (Laphroaig). This particular offering from Stuart was even a bit more tricky. Glenglassaugh was built on the site of the Craigmills farm and so it seemed a great name to let people know where it came from without actually having the distillery name front and center. A wee bit of revision had to be applied and so the local town of Portsoy was used so as not to be too specific. On our calendar labels we have Craigmills however if you are looking for it on the shelf to grab a 700ml you need to keep a weather eye out for Portsoy.

Now that everyone is properly confused lets get into the whisky.

Malt Whisky Company Craigmills Sauterne – 59.3% ABV – Sauterne Wine Cask – Highland

Colour:     Tailing from pale gold at the edges of the glass to tarnished gold.

Nose:     Went in slowly to the Samaroli glass because even with the ample opening the almost 60% is certainly there. Sweet flora and a distinct winey note, bees wax, honey nut cheerios & soap on a rope. Caramel Apple (my wife Cindy threw that one in).

Palate:    Belies its alcohol but feels like it could use a splash, we’ll get there.  Some youthful spice at play with a backbone of sweetness. Sauterne is a French botrytis affected wine. The botrytis fungus attacks the grapes causing them to internalize sugars in defence. This lovely concentration of sugar is what makes Sauterne so luscious. There is no doubt that the effect of the cask on this whisky is why it is so soft and sweet at a relatively young age. Perfume notes hit mid palate with chewy sweet beeswax coming in. The mouth feel is really full.

Finish:     Warming and long, candied white grape cluster. This whisky is crying out to me for a little water.

Water:     Nose after a couple of drops adds violin bow resin and on the palate much brighter sparks of creamed honey.

This Glenglassaugh shows how good a younger whisky can be in a high quality cask and a good master distiller. I’m not 100% sure on the age but would guess given when Glenglassaugh was cranked back up and because Stuart distilled it himself at around 7 years.

So first two days we have had Single Malts that have spent their entire lives in wine casks. This was also the first whisky ever in our calendar to come from a cask that previously held wine other than Sherry. Tomorrow we are going to get away from that and into something from the third independent bottler represented in this years calendar.

**My friend and fellow blogger Joshua Hatton is blogging side by side with me this year as our special guest. Be sure to check out his take on the Craigmills (Glenglassaugh) Portsoy Sauterne.

The First Edition Calendar Whisky on this day last year was the A.D. Rattray Autmore Sherry Cask 2007 – 7yo Blog #34

For those that loved this sticky infused Highland only 60 bottles are available from the following retailers in Alberta and Saskatchewan:

Calgary

Co-Op Wine and Spirits

Zyn the Wine Market

Edmonton

Chateau Louis Liquor Store

Wine and Beyond

Everything Wine and More

Lethbridge

Andrew Hilton Wines and Spirits

Saskatoon

Co-op Wine and Spirits

Time to clean up that Samaroli glass and get it ready for tomorrow.

For those of you in Edmonton I look forward to seeing you tonight at the special extra launch party we organized this year. We will be doing whisky number one because after all it is still the launch of the 2nd edition and we all had so much fun drinking it last night that I just have to do it again.

 

Cheers!

Unobtanium…..fun to read or a big tease | Whisky Blog #72

Let’s face it most bloggers that spend enough time and energy on their hobby to garner some read solid readership numbers will begin to open up opportunities to drink more and more expensive whiskies.

As a consumer on the other side of your electronic medium of choice do you get excited about reading insights into especially rare or expensive drams? Or do you find it irrelevant when you can neither afford it or find it on shelves.

As someone who has been in and around the industry for over a decade I have of course had access to some pretty amazing whisky. Most of the expensive bottles that have found their way into my home have been sourced via channels that would normally be well above my current pay grade. For me one important question I ask myself when reviewing a whisky is if I could see myself shelling out hard earned dollars to add said bottle to my collection.

I can see that writing about super rare and expensive whiskies actually does a lot to help those agonizing over a purchase to consider whether or not to take the plunge. Rare and older whiskies are always expensive but are not necessarily amazing. From this perspective it is probably even more important if you are buying the whisky strictly for consumption rather than investment that you read up on as many opinions as possible so as to make a somewhat informed decision.

Everyone has a different pallet and therefore opinions will vary greatly. 

It’s like reading reviews on Trip Advisor. It doesn’t matter how amazing a resort is or how awesome their customer service, there will always be a number of people that are either habitual complainers or did in fact have a horrible experience. Never base your decision on just one review. Make sure you either weight more highly sources that you have come to trust or go by the vast majority or reviews either good or bad.

Finally having taken all this into account you should just go with your own choice. I have for example thoroughly enjoyed many movies that critics were scathing with their detrimental comments. The difference is that when I go to the movies I can just enjoy it as a relaxing form of escapism and entertainment and am not analyzing the deficiencies for a newspaper column.

Whisky is the same way. The more bloggers write, the more we can potentially become jaded and opinionated. Read my blog #67 on Mellow Corn to see that even believing that I am completely open minded and always try to judge every whisky on it’s merits does not always hold true.

It is so easy for all of us to be swayed by age statement, distillery, colour and definitely packaging and expense. You can read my Blog #69 written about blind tastings and how beneficial it is not knowing everything about a whisky before trying it.

So lot’s to think about every time I reach for a higher end bottling.

With all that in mind however it is time that I visit the most expensive bottle of whisky that I currently own as it has fallen below the marble limit (see blog #60) and needs to be finished off this year.

Glenglassaugh 41 Year Old Decanter edition (Pre Benriach sale)

I came upon this bottle due to an unfortunate series of events that caused some leakage en-route which made it non-saleable. Terrible when these things happen 🙂

Tasted in the Glenglassaugh crystal cut glass that came with the whisky.

Distilled in 1967 this whisky is older than me and I’m getting to that age where this is going to become much more expensive to say. This was the first release of Glenglassaugh 40+ whisky after the revival of the distillery in 2008. Presented in a beautiful cherry wood box it comes in a crystal decanter and 2 Glenglassaugh crystal glasses in case you have a really good friend or family member that would be deserving of sharing this with.

Colour: Rich amber and mahogany and looks every bit the 41 year old sherried whisky it is.

Nose: Takes me back home to when my awesome mum prepared rich Christmas puddings during the holidays between Christmas and New Year that would hang wrapped in cheese cloth until the following year. The smell of rich Christmas spices, sherry, brandy and candied orange would waft from the pantry every time it was opened. I looked forward to Christmas day as much for mum’s puddings as for the pressies under the tree.  This Glenglassaugh expression contains all of the above but also kicks in another of my childhood favorites – dried apricot. My Grandpa had several huge apricot trees in his back yard and my brother and I ate them till we were almost ill. So many buckets that the only way to handle the harvest was to dry them. A staple item in the daily lunchbox they were a juicier and more flavorful version than found at your local supermarket.

Palate: Roll on the lovely dark slab of rich Christmas pudding drowned in home made vanilla bean custard…..(mum time to make another one I’m coming home for Christmas). Even slightly diminished due to sitting in the decanter for 5 years (thank goodness for the marbles) it is a really great example of why 40+ whiskies that retain the youthful sparkle with the seasoned experience of age are truly amazing. Sherry influence is there but not overpowering and the dried fruits complement the spice. No overtly powerful cask influence to ruin the delicate balance.

Finish: Soft fruits linger on and a tapestry of delicate flavors develop, definite apricot that gets its look in amongst the fruit basket that also has some hints of cassis and blackberry. Finally kicking in some candied bitter orange peel like hand made marmalade.

So this little beauty sold for $ 3600 in BC $ 3500 in the UK and was an absolute steal here in Alberta for a mere $ 2600. There are still bottles out there so feel free to contact me if you are on the hunt and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Would I pay the money? There are certainly drams that I have had that are less expensive and provide similar amazing qualities. However it is going to be a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to find these lovely fruit driven 40+ year old whiskies in the future so if my level of income allowed it I would ante up. This is one bottle that I shall be very sad to finish.

Share your most amazing whisky experience to date, I would love to hear your stories.

Cheers!

40 Year Old ‘Spring Water’ Lands on my Doorstep | Blog #26

One of the absolutely fabulous things about being in this line of work is getting little parcels on the front doorstep and occasionally finding a very rare package in the mail that ran the Canada Post gauntlet and survived.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive one such parcel with a wee bottle of something extremely special inside.

Before we get onto the whisky a little background is in order.

What do you do when you have successfully taken a distillery that was closed for over two decades and rebuilt it, made it profitable then sold it off all within the space of 5 years? The answer is take a well deserved break and plan your next whisky empire. Stuart Nickerson was the man at the helm of the Glenglassaugh revival and is now starting several new ventures that whisky lovers should well pay attention to.

The first venture and the company behind the wee bottle of whisky that will be reviewed shortly is the Malt Whisky Company. A new independent bottler, The Malt Whisky Company will be releasing a very limited number of single casks each year.

Launching this Christmas their first cask is naturally Glenglassaugh which is near and dear to Stuart’s heart. At 40 years of age and hanging on at the cask strength volume of 41.5% this cask was specifically chosen by Stuart to showcase his new company.

Glenglassaugh 40 year old Highland Single Malt – Cask Number 37606 – 298 Bottles. Distilled in December 1973 and bottled last month. This whisky was originally aged in a refill sherry hogshead until 3 years ago when it was re-racked into a first fill sherry.

Tasted in a Willow Park Reidel Whisky Glass.

Nose:     Ttttttttttttropical Fruit basket…. hmm let me see what’s in there, guava, passionfruit, papaya and just a hint of coconut. This is a very inviting nose and I have to say that given this is a 40 year old Glenglassaugh personally chosen by Stuart my expectations are pretty high.

Taste:     Soft enveloping palate with floral notes like a Hawaiian Lei with a rich vein of candied papaya, this evolves into a sweet and spicy vanilla cinnamon creaminess. The finish lingers on and continues some delicate twists and turns leaving a lovely afterglow. This is one nice whisky and the 41.5% does not need even the tiniest drop of water. So balanced, this is an awesome dram.

I have in the past talked about older whiskies and the fact that they are invariably always expensive but not always worth it.

What I look for in an older whisky is some of that youthful fruit balanced with the complexity that only age and great barrels can bring.

This definitely has it all in spades. A ton of fruit for such an old whisky and the softness and balance is exquisite.

Good work Stuart this is a great start to The Malt Whisky Company library.

So leading on from this is another interesting twist in the History of whisky in Scotland. Stuart is heading up the opening of a new distillery. The Shetland Distillery Company is the Northernmost Distillery in Scotland in the remote town of Haroldswick on the northern tip of Unst. Initially releasing Shetland Reel Gin Stuart estimates Whisky production to begin sometime within the next 12 months when the Whisky still arrives.

Given the cold and storm lashed coast in this part of the world, the whisky be will tortured by the elements before finding its way to Canadian retail shelves.

I look forward to visiting the Shetland Islands at some point and hanging out at the one available bar on Unst for a celebratory pint with Stuart.

Well done mate!

Cheers!

Jonathan

 

Tasting Non-Age Statement Whiskies “NAS” | Blog #22

G’day again and apologies for the slight tardiness of this blog. A lot has been going on over at Secret Spirits.com as we work to bring the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar to the Alberta and Saskatchewan markets this year.

As promised it’s time to taste a few NAS whiskies and after rummaging around in my whisky collection I managed to find 3 NAS Scotch Whiskies. 2 Single Malts and 1 Blended Malt.

The two Single Malts in question both come from the same distillery – Glenglassaugh. Glenglassaugh was closed for over two decades and the new owners after firing up the refurbished stills still had to wait over 3 years at least before they could release “New” Glenglassaugh. 500 odd casks of “Old” Glenglassaugh were part of the deal and those lovely whiskies can be found in limited quantities. Glenglassaugh is now owned by Benriach and the Walker Family, however these expressions were the first releases when the distillery was still in the hands of those that brought it back to life.

As a side note, I used to represent Glenglassaugh and was proud to do so. I worked with the new make right through to their first Single Malt release. I look forward to trying some “New” Glenglassaugh a decade from now.

So onto whisky number one …

Glenglassaugh Evolution

Bottled as a one-off release this Glenglassaugh single malt was aged in first fill George Dickel Tennessee casks.

Tasted in a Glencairn tasting glass. The whisky is light in colour with no caramel and at the cask strength of 57.2% with no chill filtration.

As promised this whisky has absolutely nothing on the label to give you an indication of it’s age. Doing some homework however you can work out when Glenglassaugh was reopened and get a ballpark on about 5 years max.

Nose – Just the slightest hint of youth with sweet barley coming through. The Glencairn focuses the higher alcohol a bit too much resulting in a little nose prickle. Definite vanilla almost like vanilla ice cream over cold poached pears with some nuts sprinkled on top. Not sure which nuts perhaps something subtle like cashews or macadamia.

Taste – Remarkably well rounded on the pallet for 57.2% delivers more of that creamy vanilla, the barley note diminishes as the earlier poached pear really comes to the fore. This is one of those whiskies where nose and palate combine to deliver similar servings of a yummy dessert.

Would be interesting with water but with two more whiskies to go I have to get on with it. If I were to purchase a bottle for around $70 on the shelf I would not be disappointed with this whisky.

Yes there is a touch of youth there but this is obviously a really nicely balanced dram. Well done Stuart Nickerson on this release. I am definitely in the camp that young whisky can be interesting, complex and balanced.

Whisky number two …

Glenglassaugh Revival

Bottled after some time in both bourbon and sherry casks at 46%. This was the first mass release whisky off the revamped Glenglassaugh stills. Also tasted in Glencairn.

Nose – Sweet toffee with a barley backbone and hints of premium sake (Japanese rice wine … I will have to try a Sashimi pairing with this sometime).

Taste – This whisky does come across younger than the Evolution and could well be a full year or more younger. The sherry has had an impact albeit subtle. The 46% actually plays a little heavier on the tongue than the Evolution cask strength. The fruit is subdued and only hints at what is to come 20 years later with the big Glenglassaugh tropical fruit that is a hallmark of their older drams. This is a pleasant whisky without delivering a lot of complexity.

As a first release from a reborn Distillery this is a great effort. For me a very easy going dram that would be best suited for the Summer months.

Again no age statement of course and no chill filtration or colouring.

Whisky number three

A.D. Rattray independent bottlers – Cask Islay Blended Malt – vatting No. 1 Small batch.

Such is the popularity of Islay whiskies these days that there are more “brands” by a long way than there are distilleries. These extra casks are sold, brokered, perhaps nabbed off the back of distillery trucks in the dead of night… anyway there is no shortage of good younger Islay Malts available on the market.

The industry term for a lot of these casks is “tea spooned”.

Any given distillery wishing to sell casks but hide the name of the distillery and thus the true production levels whacks a teaspoon from another distillery into the top of the cask thereby wiping out the Single Malt moniker and turning it into a Blended Malt (combination of multiple Single Malts). The bottler may then add additional malts to come up with a flavor profile most fitting to their brand.

Smokehead, Big Smoke, Big Peat, Peat Monster and this version of Cask Islay all fall into that category.

Bottled at 46% and very light in colour almost more like a nice Sauvignon Blanc (drinking it would soon tell the real story though). No caramel and no chill filtration.

Given the light colour one would suspect a younger whisky aged in American oak.

Nose – Instant smoke and iodine abound backed again by sweet barley with very little peat if at all.

Taste – A little tongue prickle but pleasant round palate coating delivery. Drinks extremely soft with subtle creamy baked apple pie fruit with still whiffs of iodine and smoke making themselves known.

No hints on the age here except the light colour. Big hint however on which particular distillery this may have come from before the humble teaspoon rendered the cask unnamed. Looking at the back of the tin I can see from the 2011 Malt Whisky Handbook the differing product capacities of all the Islay distilleries. One name stands head and shoulders above the rest producing more than double the whisky of its nearest rival. Go look for yourself and the 99% probable culprit will be found.

Well I can say that for a starter this was a fun experience and my impression of well made NAS whisky is a good one.

I will continue to work outside my sphere and taste as many as I can in the coming months. If I find anything interesting good or bad I’ll race home and get the blog waves going.

Next week I am taking a look at Independent bottling and why it should be a part of your whisky collection.

Until then stay …

NAS (Nice and Safe)

Jonathan