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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!

Advent Day 6 – Samaroli Tormore 18 Year Old | Blog #38

Day 6 and the first weekend of the month.

Today we discover Tormore 1995, 18 Year Old through the taste and expertise of Samaroli.

Tormore is styled as the “Pearl of Speyside” and begins the Speyside Whisky Trail experience. Built by renowned architect Sir Albert Richardson in 1958 Tormore is a stunning distillery. Note if you want to visit you will need an appointment.

The bulk of Tormore production goes into blends like Ballantine’s and Teacher’s and apart from a 12 year old Single Malt expression is rarely seen under it’s own label.

Whisky: Samaroli Tormore 18 yo single malt

*This expression of Tormore is a combination of two barrels Cask number’s 20260 and 20262. American Oak. 45% Non-Chill Filtered*

Upon finding out from Samaroli the actual bottling date we realized that we actually robbed this Tormore of a year of Age. It should read 19 years.

– so only those following along with this blog will know this little secret.

Samaroli Tormore 18yo Samaroli Tormore 18yo

Colour: Light for a 19 year old whisky – pale gold with just a hint of darker hue that adds a faint blush.

Nose: at 45% there is prominent rich spice and lush floral note, Hibiscus and cocoa.

Taste: Immediately palate filling and complex, sweet balsamic reduction and dried papaya infused honey on a date and fig West Coast Crisp.

Finish: Long and balanced. the alcohol volume seems to really complement the flavours and finishes with just a touch of dark chocolate.

Water: I love that Samaroli has their own convictions about the perfect way to bottle a particular whisky. You may or may not agree with it but I can see where they are coming from and so I did not add any water. Please try a splash if you prefer as I mentioned at the start there is no right or wrong amount of water, just what is right for you.

**Curt from All Things Whisky has also been “Tasting” along with the calendar. Check out his notes HERE.

So far we have definitely had a bit of a Speyside heavy trip. This is to be expected as it is the heaviest concentration of distilleries in Scotland. The fun part of having a lot of Speyside whiskies to choose from is that there are a lot that we rarely see that truly produce amazing Whisky.

Only 30 bottles of this excellent Tormore are available from the following retailers:

Calgary

Vine Styles

Willow Park Wines and Spirits

Saskatoon

Ingredients Artisan Market

What can we conjure up for a relaxing Sunday afternoon dram tomorrow …

I look forward to seeing you then

So after 6 whiskies what are your favorites so far? Lets get some more comments going.

Do you agree with my assessment or think that I’m just a crazy Aussie in a kilt and what would I know?

The great thing about whisky is that it affects everyone differently as we are all unique creatures and have our own distinctive palates.

Slainte!

Samaroli Website

The Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 1st Edition Part 5 | Blog #32

What do gypsy moths,  lost glassware, alcohol volumes and shipping deadlines have in common. They all almost stopped the 1st Edition Scotch Whisky Calendar from ever getting to market.

I could literally create a very long list of key moments over the past year where we had to overcome a project killing challenge. At a later date I will no doubt be able to tell even more of the story but for now I will just list four major obstacles that all threatened to derail the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar train. One which was in our control and 3 that were not.

Firstly after exhaustive proof reading by not only us but 5 other seasoned pro’s 3 of the 25 whisky labels ended up with the wrong alcohol volume upon their arrival in Scotland. Our Scottish Bottler’s Craigton Packaging did a great job in finding a local source to re-do the labels however this definitely held up the production time by almost 2 weeks. One other label was also left intentionally blank as the cask had not been tested when the labels were initially printed.

Those who have a calendar will be able to spot this as it is the only whisky that has the alcohol volume hand written by the awesome staff at Craigton.

When we initially went to market with nothing but a picture and a concept we were able to secure 1600 calendars worth of pre-sales. As time went on and production and other events pushed everything back we realized that in order to make sure we could get everything to market in time we would have to settle with 400. It’s a good thing we did……

So with newly minted labels and a looming deadline things became very stressful as we realized that the drop dead shipping date was quickly approaching. The final hurdle to having the whiskies released and ready for shipping was the signing off on the paperwork so that the in-bond alcohol could leave the bottling plant. It was at this stage with multiple emails and phone calls and seemingly very slow progress we received word that all the 50ml mini’s had to be ready for pickup the next day or we would miss the boat and our chance to sell into the market before Advent began.

As it was, our shippers Containerworld would have to do something extraordinary by picking up the shipment and load it into the container then onto the ship the same day (pretty much unheard of). I sent a last email to all concerned stressing that it had all come down to making this deadline and went to bed not knowing if it was all going to be done when I woke up the next day. To say I had a fitful sleep would be putting it mildly.

At 3:30am I sat bolt upright in bed and reached for the iPad only to see no emails from the UK as yet even though their day had already begun.

Falling back to sleep I managed to get through till 6:30 and with fear and trepidation I opened my email to find………..CONFIRMATION that everything shipped. My wife and I shared high fives, hugs and tears of joy. I don’t ever think I have gone from being asleep to being so completely wide awake in my life.

So with the whisky now safely on it’s way to Canada we turned our attention to the calendar boxes themselves that were on the water and due to arrive in Vancouver from China within a few weeks. The timing of everything coming together was crucial, in the background we had the Spiegelau whisky tumblers shipped from Ontario to Edmonton to have the 1st edition logo added before then shipping them to Connect Logistics to await the arrival of all the other components.

Imagine my surprise when in the middle of a freak Fall snowstorm in Calgary I get a phone call that the completed glasses are about to be delivered to my home rather than to Connect in Edmonton.

Well after diverting the truck to its rightful destination it was delivered to the wrong receiving area and so they were swallowed up for over a week before finally being found.

Know that when you take your first sip of the Day 1 whisky that your 1st Edition glass is extremely well traveled.

So onto the calendars themselves. having allowed an extra month of time in making sure that they would be at Connect in plenty of time we were set to become so very very thankful that we had that time available to us. Upon reaching the Vancouver port it was discovered by the Canadian Customs Port Authority that the ship in question had a Gypsy Moth infestation.

It was immediately quarantined and sent back out to international waters for the crew to rid the vessel of said infestation before they could return for unloading.

These things don’t happen quickly and it was almost 3 weeks later that the calendars were unloaded and on their way to Connect in Edmonton.

So now Connect had the job of putting together the various pieces for each calendar as well as inserting the correct whisky into the correct alcove. Just so you get the full picture below is a list of everything that had to be added to the calendar before it could be placed in its box ready for sale.

Attach hand written numbered sticker
Insert Brochure
Insert Launch Party Invitation
Insert Postcard
Insert Christmas Card
Insert Whisky Tumbler
Add 25 whiskies in their correct positions (note that the numbered alcoves are scrambled just to make it more fun) 🙂
Attach bar-code and alcohol volume sticker

Connect Logistics did a great job in putting this all together but in order to maintain quality control only one person was allowed into the “calendar quarantine area”. The entire process from receiving to hitting the warehouse and being available for sale took another agonizing 2 weeks+. Our initial aim was to have the calendars available at the end of September at the latest with our emergency only backup plan being the end of October. The first calendar allocation was available for retailers on the 28th October and 76 cases went out to stores that week. Talk about using every single day to hit a deadline.

I can sit back now and report that every single case has been accounted for and ordered and already most retailers have sold out. By the time you are reading this there will be very few available on shelves so I hope you have yours safely tucked away waiting for December 1.

I could and might possibly write a book about this whole fun ride at some time in the future when I can divulge more about some of the additional challenges we faced. This has been an all consuming passion to bring this 1st Edition to you and what makes me most happy and fulfilled is to see the glimmer of childlike expectation and excitement when I see someone look at a calendar for the first time and scurry to the till with one of 400 safely tucked under their arm.

This one is for you my whisky loving friends!

See you on the 1st December for whisky No. 1

Your taster of secrets

Jonathan