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Month: April 2014

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.


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!”


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.


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

Whisky Review – Amrut Fusion Single Malt | Blog#6

The subject Whisky in today’s Blog, Amrut Fusion, has received a tremendous amount of attention in the past few years. It has been written about, talked about, debated, argued, dismissed, lauded, praised, and ultimately consumed.

I was fortunate enough to receive a sample of Amrut Fusion almost a year before it’s release, from the International Brand Ambassador for Amrut, Ashok Chokalingham. The initial sample sent to me was at 46%, non chill filtered (topic for a later blog) and with no caramel coloring

A single malt with both peated and non-peated barley, Fusion was crafted to be a balance of both.

Having loved the Amrut Cask Strength I was hoping that Fusion might be bottled a little higher than 46% and was excited to see it at 50% upon release. Sometimes the stars align when crafting a new expression of Single Malt and in this case it would be a defining moment for the Amrut distillery and help to put them firmly on the whisky map for any enthusiast.

Amrut Distillery has been around since 1948, just after India achieved independence from the British.

Owned ever since by the Jagdale family. The distillery is located on the southern outskirts of Bangalore and boasts a height of 3000 feet above sea level and a year round average temperature of 25 to 30 degrees Celsius, without the humidity of the coastal cities.

This unique climate offers a much higher degree of whisky to barrel interaction through increased evaporation (The Angel’s Share).

The result is complex balanced whisky at a much younger age than can be achieved at sea level and a much lower average temperature. The Angel’s Share in Scotland runs roughly at 2 to 3% a year compared with Bangalore at 10 to 18% depending on where the barrel is located in the warehouse.

Amrut sources most of their barley from the Punjab region in Northern India along with a percentage from Rajasthan. Known as the breadbasket of India, nestled at the base of the Himalayan mountain range, agriculture in the Punjab boasts some of the most fertile land in the world fed by nutrient rich snow melt.

There is often a lot of debate over how much different barley strains effect the flavor of Single Malt. Given the diversity achieved in beer it would be hard to convince that different barley does not imbue unique flavors.

75% of Fusion is Single Malt made with this lush Indian barley, malted and distilled in India into Single Malt then aged in mostly ex-bourbon barrels with a small amount of New American oak thrown into the mix. 25% of Fusion is Single Malt distilled at Amrut using imported Scottish barley that is peated and malted in Scotland then shipped half way around the world to Amrut. The majority of Scottish distilleries also order their barley in this way as very few distilleries malt their own anymore.

Once both these components have reached about 3 and a half years old they are combined into the same barrel for a further 6 to 8 months to create the Fusion effect.

Tasting notes:

As mentioned in my Blog #2 “Stop and smell the Mangos” everyone has their own unique palate and for me the bottom line is “if you taste it……it’s in there”. What comes below is my own take on the flavor of Fusion. You will have to find out for yourself what your “buds” make of it.

How I tasted it: Glass was a Spiegelau Whisky glass which is a tulip lipped tumbler that is great for warming whisky and especially good for higher strength whiskies. I warmed the whisky in the glass over a mug of hot water letting the steam gently warm it slightly above room temperature.

Nose: Complex – requiring some time to distinguish individual notes. Sweet wispy smoke enveloping gentle citrus and clove. Present but not overpowering alcohol. Inviting and intriguing, gets the “buds” buzzing in anticipation.

Taste: Initially soft and pallet enveloping, undertones of fruit mince pie with its dried fruits, sweet spices and biscuit crust. Remarkable balance between fruit, smoke and alcohol especially considering the 50% strength.

Finish: The flavors mix and dance like pairs ice skating champions, slowly making their way across the entire arena. Harmony and balance personified. Tiny explosions of spice add flair to the routine and culminate in a lingering smoky sultry embrace that reveals to all that this Fusion is a match made in Heaven.

Long after the lights and the music subside the memory of the dance lingers on, stirring even more respect for the skill of the choreographer. Well done Amrut.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Share your Amrut Fusion experience.

“A la sature”

Jonathan Bray

Amrut Website