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A Stampede Rendezvous | Blog #17

It’s the second day of Summer and my first opportunity to sit out on the deck and relax over a nice pipe and whiskey. What a great setting to put pen to paper for this weeks Blog.

With Stampede, Canada’s Premier Outdoor event starting in just over a week everyone starts donning those old cowboy boots and getting into the swing of all things Western.

Indeed my attention has been very Stampede focused of late with the launch of a new range of wines for PVI. Silver Buckle from Rutherford Wines in California has great upscale Cowboy appeal and is going to be featured by the glass at all the Stampede on-site restaurants. So grab a glass when you are down getting your Stampede on.

As a lover of whisky, I am also very partial to good wine and beer – call me an equal opportunity drinker. Perhaps in the future I might deviate from non-stop whisky to throw in the odd wine or fabulous pint. Especially over the Summer where my daily dram often makes way for a mixed drink, frothy pint or chilled Rose.

Today my attention is drawn to a very Stampedesque Whisky that hails from the good old US of A.

Rendezvous Rye made by High West Distillery in Park City Utah has an absolute litany of awards including:

*94 points Wine Advocate
*95 points Malt Advocate Magazine
*Double Gold Medal San Francisco International Spirits Competition

“Rendezvous” was an annual Summer gathering for exchanging goods of all kinds including whiskey for Utah’s mountain men from 1825 to 1840.

Made from a combination of Malted and unmalted Rye and by combining two Straight Rye Whiskies one 6 years old with an extremely high Rye Mashbill of 95% Rye and 5% Barley. The second a 16 year old Rye with 80% Rye, 10% corn and 10% barley.

Tasted in a Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler.

46% non chill filtered – Lovely deep amber colour with reddish hues.

Nose:
Competing with the fresh air of the backyard and blossoming Lilac tree Rendezvous was still offering up layers of spice and sweet vanilla. Rye is such a distinctive whiskey. I love the spice and am even more pleased to find an expression such as this that throws in such a hefty percentage. I can get undertones of almost smokey sweetness like a pan of sweet BBQ ribs just thrown onto the grill.

Palate:
Rich spice and a lovely tingle that dances over the palate and gets the buds well into Stampede party mode. For such a high rye content the whisky is still adept at reigning in the runnaway spice and drinks much like the image on the label with the Cowboy balanced in the saddle making his way across the range in no particular hurry.

The finish: Long and continues to insert tiny explosions of lingering spice with loads of complexity.

This is a delicious drink and would be equally at home in an outstanding Manhattan or splashed with something like Fentiman’s Ginger Beer for a slightly different Dark and Stormy.

Ever since skiing down to the High West Distillery, removing my ski’s and parking myself in their award winning restaurant for the remainder of the day, I have been somewhat smitten with how well they do things in Park City.

David Perkins makes some really fun drink and I highly recommend that if you are ever close to Park City that you owe it to yourself to check out the full High West experience.

For those interested my pipe is a Lorenzetti with some lovely Brigham Ripley Avenue Anniversary Blend. Brown and Black Cavendish with a touch of bright Virginias. Smells like Christmas cake and the sweet spice complements the whiskey extremely well. Picked up from my good friend Alex at Golden Leaf Cigars in Crowfoot, Calgary.

Write in and let me know what you will be doing this Stampede if you are in Calgary. If not let me know what your Summer dram of choice is. I look forward to hearing from you.

Next week, we have a special guest blogger that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He’s both insightful and full of whisky knowledge through many many years of tasting and reviewing whisky.

Until then get your cowboy on and join in on the Stampede fun.

Yippee ki-yay!

Jonathan

Oh Canada, my home and native land… | Blog #16

Well an epic week for me after living in the Great White North for over 12 years, I finally sealed the deal and became Canadian.

Swearing the Oath to the Queen and becoming official on the 12th of June 2014 at  9:30am. So now I have a split personality part Australian and part Canadian, or Aus-adian!

Really the perfect segue into a blog on Canadian Single Malt whisky. There has been, for the past two decades, only one choice for patriotic Canadian’s wanting a home grown Single malt. Glen Breton from the Glenora Distillery in Nova Scotia has been the benchmark Canadian Single Malt Whisky producer. Their “Canada’s Only Single Malt” label I noticed just changed recently with their new releases to “Canada’s First Single Malt”. No doubt they have been keeping tabs on developments in the industry and knew it was just a matter of time before someone else joined the party.

It amazes me that they had it all to themselves for so long.

There are now a number of distilleries working up to Single Malt releases. Keep a look out for Shelter Point on Vancouver Island, Okanagan Spirits in Kelowna and Urban Distillery in Kelowna.

Still Waters Distillery in Ontario released their Single Malt last year and have already received great acclaim. Recently picking up the Best Single Cask award in Whisky Magazine, Still Waters have made a definite market impact already on the Canadian micro distillery scene.

To be up front with everyone I have been working with the Barry’s now from their early days as Independent bottlers. Their early entry into the market was frustrated by crazy outdated laws that forced them to have 2% Canadian content in their single casks of Single Malt Scotch. This meant that they had to create a whole new whisky category that consumers could not understand. It was certainly a tough way to start a business. However their passion for whisky never faltered and soon after their still was installed and running.

Most new distilleries on their path to releasing whisky invariably distill something faster to take to market and bring in much needed capital. Still Waters was no exception releasing their Single Malt Vodka under two different labels.

The vodka, while smooth and delicious with a hint of sweet barley on the nose, entered into a tough category that is driven by big marketing budgets and fancy packaging. Vodka is a very lucrative market and is the volume piece of the spirits puzzle. Gaining market share in a crowded sector with a product that is basically shades of grey when comparing quality and flavor is certainly a challenge. I encourage any whisky drinker that wants a vodka for any mixed beverages to check out the Still Waters Single Malt Vodka. Remember that you are directly helping the micro whisky industry drinking small batch spirits. You should, if you are in BC, be buying anything from Shelter point right now to help them get over the line with their Whisky.

Sorry for that slight deviation from topic. I do tend to have a passion for small hand crafted product over the mass produced brands and try to get anyone who will listen to think about supporting the small guys.

So, onto the whisky.

I am going to look at two Single Malts today from Still Waters and do a comparison between single casks and also at cask strength vs 46%.

First up is Cask number 2 bottle number 156 bottled at 61.3%

Tasted in a Reidel whisky glass – my favored glass for Cask Strength and I have a gentle dishwasher.

Nose: Sweet vanilla bean with hints of Seville orange marmalade – just that nice hint of bitter rind. Really inviting nose and very soft in the Reidel. Would no doubt be potentially overpowering in a Glencairn.

Palate: Instantly palate filling with plenty of tingle as it spreads over the tongue with creamy sweet spice laden cinnamon and nutmeg. The 61.3 certainly gives it a dryer edge but is remarkably balanced for such a young malt. With just a drop of water the alcohol really fades away with more of a hay bail and fresh grass tinge underlining the spices. For this whisky I think my preference is at cask strength as it drinks with lovely balance and the alcohol does not inhibit the bulk of the flavor from coming to the foreground.

Finish: long and lasting the sweetness fades away leaving strong barley notes and more of that earthy straw and grass component.

This is a great whisky and has some unique character that barley (Canadian 2 row) and climate (Ontario – Summer heavy humidity courtesy of Lake Ontario and cold persistent winter snow) provide. I can only imagine how good these whiskies will be as time works its magic over the next decade.

Second up is the only 46% cask bottled so far thanks to the Liquor Depot group that purchased the majority of the barrel and requested the lower strength to make it a little more consumer friendly. Cask number 4 bottle number 37.

Tasted in a Glencairn glass which is the best for nosing and is great for understrength whiskies.

Nose: Much more barley up front than its cask strength sister and even at 46% the Glencairn fires the alcohol to the nose enough for some nostril burn if you get too close. As with the cask strength when watered, there is a lot more of that hay bail grassy note. Still perceptible is the vanilla cream but none of the marmalade that I can detect.

Palate: Softer as expected on the palate with very subtle spices and persistence of sweet hay and malt with background vanilla. Almost reminiscent of a scratch and sniff vanilla malted milkshake (throw back to the 80’s).

Finish:  Shorter than the cask strength but still lingering and delicious with continuing sweet barley and vanilla.

For the price, the 46% version is well worth it and will also help new whisky drinkers appreciate a fantastic Canadian made Single Malt. For a deeper and more complex experience, paying the extra for a cask strength version will have its rewards.

There are no cask strength bottles available in the Western Canadian market as yet, but will be coming this fall for the Christmas season.

Both these whiskies are an exceptional expression of fantastic hand crafted Canadian micro distilling. Both the Barry’s should be applauded for taking the financial risks associated with a start up distillery and keeping true to their mantra of not cutting corners and being patient to release a truly great whisky.

As a new Canadian I am proud to be drinking and representing such a great distillery.

I would love to hear your experiences with Canadian whiskies and Single Malts in particular (not a lot to choose from but there are a number of expressions out there).

Next week I’m going to get my Stampede on and look at some Cowboy inspired whiskies from the US and Scotland.

Yahoo!!!!

Jonathan

4 Glasses – 1 Whisky Part 4 | Blog #11

Now that we are finally on the last part make sure you start with Blog #8 followed by Blog #9  and Blog #10 which are part one, two and three of this series.

This little trip has been extremely fun and I have found out a lot about my palate and it has changed the way I will drink whisky in the future. I will certainly pay a lot more attention to what glassware I will use depending on mood and surroundings.

Duncan Taylor Dimensions Mortlach 1993 54.1%

So after trying the whisky in 4 different glasses at both cask strength and at 46% here are the tasting notes.

Nose: Vanilla wafer, hint of marzipan with a touch of lemon meringue pie or lemon drops. Some fresh hay and a whiff of an old barn door underlying everything.

Palate: Oat biscuits, citrus cream – key lime pie with vanilla bean Hagendaaz back dropped with a tang of lemon zest and salted cashews.

Finish: Citrus comes through even more over time with the vanilla fading away to be replaced by a much more savory note.

Below is my final take on all four glasses with each having its merits and potential deficiencies. Ranking 1 to 4 with 1 being the best.

# 1 – The Glencairn Scotch Whisky glass

Glencairn has pretty much been my go to glass in the past and I still think it delivers possibly the best experience you can get for nosing any whisky. On the palate however it seemed much to focused and did not allow me to pick out as many flavors as the other glasses without numerous tastes and extensive watering. Given that taste is at least equal to nose for a full whisky experience I will probably not use Glencairn as much in the future although with 20+ assorted Glencairn glasses in my whisky cabinet it will still be the convenient choice. Robust and strong, difficult to break and easily racks in the dishwasher it ranks high on the every day usage scale. Everyone should have a Glencairn in their arsenal. Chunky enough for ice and stones so a good all round glass that is not too expensive and will last a long time. Dishwasher is no problem.

Nose rank # 2
Palate rank # 4
Everyday use rank # 2
Whisky warming friendly # 4
Price rank # 2

# 2 – The Reidel Whisky Glass

The Reidel has always been a favorite of mine and gets a lot of use especially for any whisky that I want to really get into. The careful design really allows for a full experience of both nose and taste. It is however delicate and a little harder to warm so this affects the palate score a little. To be honest I thought this glass would fair better than it did in the competition and it was extremely close in both nose and palate to the Spiegelau. The expense of the Reidel and its fragile nature are points against it. You do definitely want one in your collection and I would if given a choice use it over a Glencairn on most occasions. Does not do well with whisky stones. Dishwasher is normally okay but be careful.

Nose rank # 3
Palate rank # 3
Everyday use rank # 3
Whisky warming friendly # 3
Price rank # 3

# 3 – The Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler

Due to being able to warm the whisky by really cupping both hands completely around the base of this glass I think that the nose and palate were a little better than the Reidel. The Spiegelau places the whisky in the same area of the palate as the Reidel but is much heftier and can easily handle larger ice cubes if desired and whisky stones are no problem. Dishwasher safe, patio safe and geek whisky tasting safe the Spiegelau I feel is the best all round glass for the price.

Nose rank # 2
Palate rank # 2
Everyday use rank # 1
Whisky warming friendly rank # 2
Price rank # 1

# 4 – Traditional Balloon (snifter)

The Brandy Snifter was the big eye opener as I had used it in the past very seldom and then mostly for Cognac. This glass scores highly in some aspects and poorly in others and should almost come with a safely label something like this …

Warning extreme whisky experience ahead, please proceed with caution!

To be honest it was amazing and by being a little patient and easing into it like lowering into a relaxing hot tub that has the temperature set a bit high the rewards are generous. The nose was amazing but had to be approached carefully. The palate was richer and more complex than any of the other glasses. It was made to cup in the hands and because the glass is thinner than the Spiegelau you can get a more immediate warming effect. Plenty of room for ice and robust enough for stones. It only ranked last on the every day use scale due to its size, expense and difficulty in cleaning. It takes up a quarter of the dishwasher if you want to try but is safer being hand washed. In a previous Blog I talked about whisky toys including a Death Star Ice Cube. This is the glass that could pull that off. It also lends itself really well to balancing over a cup of hot water to be steamed. There are many variations on this style of glass and you can spend as much as you want or pick up a bargain. It got the worst price ranking as I think in general you will want to make this a special purchase and buy a quality piece for your whisky cupboard.

Nose rank # 1
Palate rank # 1
Everyday use rank # 4
Whisky warming friendly rank # 1
Price rank # 4

So the final overall rankings are:

First place – Spiegelau Whisky Tumbler – 8 points
Second Place – Brandy Snifter – 11 points
Third Place – Glencairn – 14 points
Fourth Place – Reidel – 15 points

I would think, that if you don’t already, you should have all of these glasses in your cabinet. In much the same way as we have many different styles of whisky because we don’t want to drink the same thing all the time its good to have multiple glass options.

Send in your comments about your glassware experiences – let me know if you have found a particularly good whisky glass that was not part of this tasting.

Next week I am blogging about my recent trip to a big retailer in the US Total Wine and my “secret shopper” whisky aisle experience with the staff.

Cheers, cheers, cheers, cheers

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

Accessorize Your Whisky | Blog #7

Whisky toys – More fun than you can poke a dram at…

Let’s take a step back from the more serious venture of whisky analysis and talk about some really fun toys you can acquire to have in your whisky sandbox.

1.     Ice – the topic of blog #5 comes in all shapes and sizes and you too can have some really funky “cubes” ready for that Summer Dram party.

I myself am a self confessed nerd and love a good Sci-Fi flick. Check out these top fun designer ice cube trays. Nothing would get conversation going like some of these. Hmmm which dram would best suit being poured over the Death Star…

Coolest Ice Trays

2.     Whisky Stones – So you want something in your glass but you don’t want it melting and watering down your whisky. Whisky stones have been around for a while and can provide the Summertime refreshing chill without the melt. There are some issues however that a lot of people seem to find. You need multiple stones to have a noticeable effect on the whisky which makes the glass pretty heavy. They tend to slide into your teeth if you have more than 2 stones in your glass. They can pick up freezer burn type tastes if you don’t wash them regularly enough and this can definitely add unwanted flavor to a whisky. However if you are willing to wash them diligently they can really work well for some whiskies and you will have to play around to see for yourself. If you are the patient kind then give them a go. If you have been a “known” whisky geek for a while then you probably already have received them as gifts.

3.    Fun Fake Ice – LED glowing ice cubes can be a really fun way to be the Uber nerd in the whisky crowd at your next tasting event 🙂 – If you don’t have a novelty store close by you can use this link to E-bay.

4.   Cool glassware – When not tasting out of your beloved Glencairn, Reidel or Speigelau whisky glass how about one of these fun options.

Blade Runner (Sci-Fi geek coming out again) whisky tumbler would be on my Christmas list.

The Spin & Swirl Glass: It looks cool and gives you something to play with in between sips.

There is no doubt that the more you get into whisky the more it can become a pretty decent passion taking up a good amount of time and money. Why not make it fun as well to counterbalance all those serious contemplative tastings.

The next time you have a whisky gathering or club meet how about cranking it up a notch by seeing who can bring the coolest whisky accessory.

Post your links to other fun whisky gadgets or if you have the ultimate Whisky man-cave send in a photo.

Next week we will be looking at specific glassware and doing a comparative tasting with the same whisky to see the differences.

Until then – have tons of fun!

“somebody stop me”

Jonathan Bray