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Singlemalting # 192 – Big Brand Jazz

G’day everyone and welcome back to a brand New Year. After spending Christmas in Ontario I was back at another wonderful whisky festival week in Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria. You can read about how amazing these festivals are in one of my previous blogs. As promised today I am sharing a rareish bottle of whisky from the largest producing brand of Single Malt in the world.

Shadow oversees the blog writing

Glenfiddich is mopst likely extremely well known to everyone reading this blog. As an imbiber of all things independent bottling it is a scarcity for me to reach out and grab a big brand bottle. I literally stared at this particular packaging for almost the entire month of December while promoting our Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar at Costco in San Francisco. As a branding and packaging piece, the team at Glenfiddich did an amazing job. Everything from the box to the bottle is full of little details that make it exceptionally well thought out.

Seems like I might have had a wee dram or two

This is the Glenfiddich 21 year old Reserva Rum Cask Finish. The rich orange colouring of the box with the double opening doors allows for light to play on the whisky bottle and to say that it beckoned me to open the bottle is an understatement. Like most everyone I am also swayed by beautiful packaging and well thought out design. After tucking it under my arm and transporting it back to Canada I could hardly wait to see if what was inside the bottle would live up to the eye candy.

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish – Bottled at 40%. With the Rum cask no doubt giving it a rouch of extra colour I would hope that it does not have any caramel added but I expect with the worldwide distribution and number of bottles that it is. Also sadly chill filtered.

Nose:   Tropical fruit influence taking me to ripe banana split with vanilla bean ice cream and hot caramel fudge drizzled all over it.

Palate:   Light delivery that leaves me needing another sip as it was all gone rather quickly. There are some light sweet spices… a touch of ginger, vanilla, and a hint of the tropics like the smell of the fruit bowl when its across the other side of your resort hotel room.

Finish:  Drying and trying to hang on but fading quickly. There is some citrus poking through at the death but little else.

Was really hoping for a lot more and if it had been 46% and non-chill filtered I know that I would have been rewarded handsomly. However the bottle yield would have been much less and alas that is not the way Glenfiddich plays.

I went in search of some reviews to compare and found a few lucky souls that had received barrel samples of this whisky and lets just say that their experience was much improved over the final version.

So this bottle was selling for around $ 180 US. For a packaging analysis and big brand experience blog experience I would do it again. If I were a consumer I might be a touch dissapointed that the whisky could have delivered so much more. Why dress the whisky up in the finest of formal evening wear only to strip it of all the nuance and complexity that would have made it shine.

Great experiment and fun to do. Would be nice to really see the big boys let it be all about the whisky sometimes even allowing for spectacular packaging. My suggestion would be to save your $$$’s for something a little more epic but by all means grab it off the shelf and check out the packaging.

Next blog as promised quite a while ago I am going to be tasting a small batch bottle of something crazy from the boys at Two Brewers in the Yukon. Stay tuned.



Singlemalting – # 165 Busy as a Beaver

A second Great White North adventure to the Yukon was a must after the amazing time I had last year (read the blog here). This time around the focus was Whitehorse but I’m sure we will be back up in Dawson again at some point.
Pristine Echo lake
In a Yukon first some high ends Rums were the order of the day with a Rums Revenge tasting at the outstanding Woodcutters Blanket Cocktail and Whisky bar. Two sittings were needed to fit everyone in and provided an intimate atmosphere to really get our collective Rum geek on. James the owner who’s folks live in Calgary had already had a chance to try some of the rum with me a few weeks prior and so with his exceptional bar tender had come up with a couple of delicious cocktails. The first called Port of Saints included Walnut Bitters, Angostura bitters, Six Saints Rum and Warre’s Late Bottled Port along with a drunken cherry and lemon zest curl and spritz. This was paired with a Cuban pulled port slider with pineapple and spice that was gone within seconds of landing on the table in front of me. The second cocktail was a Saints Flip that tasted just like rum and nog with cinnamon dusting.

A Blanket of Rum
So we ran through 7 rums starting with the Six Saints and then moving onto the limited edition Santeria, West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants Central America, British West Indies, Belize XO and French Overseas before finishing with the Samaroli Fiji 2001.  With such a diverse range of flavors and some truly incredible Agricole expressions there was no doubt that we had many new Rum converts by the end of it all. Getting all Piratey and helping folk to get jazzed about Rum is just such a pleasure. Big Bear Donair the only place for late night fare in Whitehorse came to the rescue for the after party munchies and my Greek Donair was just the ticket.
Loved staying in Riverdale at the Vangorda Bed and Breakfast as it afforded me a decent walk along the river into Whitehorse. This is where I came across the evidence of a very busy colony of Beavers and one of the largest dams I have ever seen. Every morning there were a few more trees felled overnight and the size of the trunk was no deterrent to getting those teeth stuck in. I wish I could have sat on the bank at dusk and watched them swim back and forth but had to be content checking out the new work each morning instead.

Busy little Beavers
An invitation out to his home by a small lake by Peter Turner the president of the Yukon Chamber was very special as the Cedar plank Salmon and Rum by the fire pit completed a great Yukon evening. Apparently the Northern lights were supposed to be especially vivid but alas all we had was cloud cover.

Salmon with a view
The heel auction at the end of the night included the rums from the previous events and was a load of fun. We were able to raise a good amount of extra $$$ for the Chamber and make some people very happy to be taking away a special treat.
A visit to Yukon Brewing and Two Brewers Distillery was a real bonus. Sometime in the future watch for a review on the Single Cask Barrel Aged Schnapps that if it were bottled in the US could easily be classified as a whisky. I have tried Two Brewers whiskies on a few occasions and must get one for a review sometime soon as they are all delicious.

Beer and Whisky what could go wrong
Thanks Rachel for ferrying me around Whitehorse all week. I am really looking forward to getting back there again as it’s one of the highlight trips of the year for me.

Singlemalting Blog # 163 – San Fran Tiki

With all sorts of fun done and dusted in Texas and LA it was San Fran time which is a great city to visit. No rest for the wicked after getting to the hotel at around 11pm I was up and ready to rock at the JVS offices at 9:00am. Little did I know as I was handed off to Robert that I was about to spend the two most fun days of my trip.
I could talk about visiting accounts and eating delicious food but what really made this portion of the trip so amazing was getting into some serious Tiki culture. My first Tiki drink was at OLK and was dangerously delicious. Not long after we had some amazing Cuishe Mezcal. Cuishe is a rare wild agave and this one was distilled in a traditional clay pot still.
Cuishe Mezcal
It was also an opportunity to get to know Robert and also Mark who is an especially geeky Tiki and rum personality in San Francisco. After kicking the night off right at OLK we headed up the winding trail to Mark’s insanely cool home that has been decked out more impressively in Tiki decor than any bar I have visited ever. Everything from the lighted rows of collected Tiki mugs (714 apparently and counting) to the Bamboo bar and seafaring accessories like the cool shark head and Pirate Ship. Tiki goodness was everywhere and it would take several days of careful study to truly see everything.
I almost had to be torn away from checking out the Tiki stuff to head out on Mark’s patio where we worked our way through some epic rums followed by a schooling in the nuance of small batch family owned Mezcal from Robert. Wow what a night. The cigar from Mark was just perfect with the rums and the Mezcal was more than impressive. I will definitely be blogging more about this amazing spirit in future. As the fire sent sparks up into the clear dark California sky and I nosed and sipped at my glass of Mezcal I thought again about how amazingly lucky I am to be doing something that I love so much.
Day 2 dawned way too early and with nowhere near enough sleep and a possible slight dehydration problem I headed out again into the San Francisco market. i was excited about what was to come after being told that we would be ending our day at Smuggler’s Cove and some other amazing cocktail bars. Smuggler’s Cove is one of the world’s best Tiki bars and after your eyes adjust to the dark you begin to see all the cool nautical themed decor unfold. Mark held sway at the bar where he owns the legendary status of being one of the first to complete the Rum selection challenge. Seeing his face on a Rum bottle behind the bar speaks volumes about just how many rums Mark might have consumed over the years at Smuggler’s Cove.

Smuggler’s Cove San Francisco
Quickly upon arrival a fantastic Tiki cocktail was thrust into my hand and it was really delicious. These drinks are so yummy that it’s easy to forget that there is a serious amount of rum splashed in the mix. Mark has spread his love of Tiki to a lot of people and of course it was mandatory for me to purchase the Tiki cup that my drink came in to start my own Tiki journey. I plan on surprising my gorgeous wife with what I hope will be a worthy offering. I will need some supplies and a fresh orchid flower though if my drink is to even remotely rival the Smuggler’s Cove presentation.
I just had to try another and so completed the set with a Smuggler’s Cove Barrel that will be seeing a lot of use on the deck for the rest of this Summer. I finished off the night with their version of a Zombie which was just as delicious as the other two.
We put stops in at another couple of great Tiki and cocktail bars the names of which escape me as I write this (I’m sure you are not surprised). Doing a bit of research I see that we went to Pagan Idol among others.
This trip for me was one of the most fun I have had in a while. What a privilege to be introduced to real Tiki culture and to experience some of the best Mezcal on the planet. I certainly hope that all of my future trips to the US are this much fun. Thanks so much to Sam, Val, Robert and Mark for such great hospitality. Secret Spirits is in great hands so keep a look out for the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and Rums Revenge coming to a store near you.

Singlemalting Whisky Blog # 159 – Cuba “aaah”

After spending my first week in Cuba I thought a getting back into the swing of it blog might be in order. Safely tucked away in my luggage were some cigars and of course a couple of bottles of Cuban rum.
Today we are going to do a pairing with the Ron Santiago de Cuba 12 Year Old and the Hoya de Monterrey Elicure No. 1
The Rum – Ron Santiago de Cuba Extra Anejo 12 Year Old at 40% ABV
Ron Santiago de Cuba is seen as the best Cuba has to offer for rum and was said to be Castro’s favorite. Distilled in the old Bacardi plant that was abandoned during the revolution the Cuban distillers have deliberately designed this to pair with the best Cuban cigars.
Tasted in my San Francisco World of Whisky Hornblower glass that I thought might be more open for the light and yet rich style of the Santiago de Cuba.
Colour: Wow really deep rich colour with a real redddish hue. Apart from my week in Cuba I had not had the pleasure of trying Ron Santiago de Cuba rum before so I know very little about it apart from the fact that it was highly recommended to me by every local I spoke to about rum.
Nose:  Cherry Cobbler, Vanilla beans and pineapple syrup. A hint of Cuba Libre (rum and cola) here.
Palate:  Much lighter fruits than the colour would imply. Fragrant tropicana abounds with caramel squares, candied orange peel and a dusting of white chocolate flakes all without being overtly sweet.
Finish:  The soft caramel covered tropical notes continue with banana, papaya, coconut and pineapple all making appearances. Warming and long, this is a great finish.
Worthy of adding to any great spirit collection this is a super delicious rum. So with the initial notes out of the way it is time to light up my Epicure No. 1 and see how it all comes together.
Robusto size (my favorite) and coming in it’s own cedar lined tube which helped it survive the transit back home perfectly. Could probably use a touch of time in the humidor but I can’t wait. Touted to be a lovely mild cigar it should pair magnificently with the Ron Santiago de Cuba 12 year old.
Colour:  Lighter leaf on this cigar and lovely uniform colour from top to toe. Double banded with a night tight feel to it with just a touch of give on the pinch test.
Nose:  Has that Cuban earthy note to it like a stroll through the barn.
First draws:  Used a V cutter which is my preferance. I do also like a punch but has to be a perfect draw for that so I tend to use a V with new cigars that I have not tried before. No pepper notes here as right out of the gate I get soft fruit and creamy milk chocolate.
First sip:  Oh yeah yummy combo here the Ron Santiago tropics are accented by the mild and consistent flavor of the Epicure No. 1.
If the Ron Santiago 12 were a heavy molasses style rum this would not be the right cigar but as it is a balanced lighter rum this is perfect.
Ongoing this is a very consistent and lovely smoke. Draw is perfect and burn is even and holds tightly to the ash. I am torn between my next draw or my next sip as both are delicious.
Wish I had a box of each as this would be a fabulous Summer time staple out on the deck. At least Calgary Spring has been good enough for me to be outside writing this (was snowing last night). It has warmed up a treat and the sun is shining brightly as I sit on my back deck enjoying these amazing Cuban passions.
Thanks Cuba for introducing me to some of your finest. I will be back.

Rum’s Revenge Polly want a cracker – Blog #149 – West Indies Rum & Cane Merchants Central American Guatemala Rum

What say ye? I’ve seen yer lurkin about all prissy like with yer fancy whisky calendar an all. Let it be known that The Rum’s Revenge hereby be hijackin this ere blog for the good of all Pirate kind. Thar be piratin to do, swillin of Rum and the like that no stuck up dress wearin Scot should be party to.

If ye did not heed me warnin about gettin yerself a Rum’s Revenge chest then be off with ye. Go an sniff out yer fancy whiskies and the like.

With only true pirate’s now attending grab yer map and let’s set sail for Central America climes to make port in Guatemala. To locate yer rum sail yer Rum’s Revenge South East till ye find the friend of many a pirate. With Polly the Parrot labelled rum bottle in hand go grab the ancient skull and lets get drinkin.

Destination Polly

Lookin:  Argh there be gold in this ere bottle I’m sure of it.

Sniffin:  Sweet pork on a fork that we only get when in a fancy port with some rootin veg.

Tastin:  Some tar n feathered enemy pushed off the plank. A bowl of fresh papaya scarfed in the glee of it all.

Thinkin:  This ere be savory an sweet all in the same bottle. I be lovin this so much that it be below deck faster than the crew in a storm.

Guatemala be a good place fer rum and this ere find, even being a treasure and all is just not enough fer a thirsty pirate. Yer can send off one of them newfangled e letters to jonathan@secretspirits.com an yer be finding out where ye can steal a bigger bottle ot two.

Central America XO

This ere be just way too much fun for a pirate an we have a lot of sailin to do on the horizon. Yer never know when I be takin over this poshy whisky blog with good Pirate, Rum swillin tales so keep a weather eye out.

Now tuck yer Pirate chest somewhere safe fer there be those lurkin about lookin for treasure such as you have in yer possession.

Before ye go be lookin at this ere to inspire yer deep Pirate Passions.

Until next time be vigilant and hearty, rest just fer a second an ye may miss the chance fer true pirate treasure.

Captain Flintlock Bray – Master of the Rum’s Revenge

Rum’s Revenge Anchors Away – Blog #143 – Six Saints Rum

Arrgh Matey’s ye be finding this ere Secret tale o the Rum’s Revenge. If ye be whisky drinkin sorts, then be off with ye and come back when ye get yer hands on a Rum’s Revenge Pirate Chest.

Professional product photography of specialty scotch whiskey and rum products for promotional use and social media marketing tools. ©2016, Sean Phillips http://www.RiverwoodPhotography.com
Rum’s Revenge 1st Edition

Through treacherous waters we be sailin over the seven seas to find all 12 o the lost rums. Yer first task is to search high and low for a Rum’s Revenge 1st Edition Pirate Chest. After finding yer chest and making it safely back to harbor, open the damn thing up ye scurvy wretch what are ye waitin for … fairer weather?


Inside ye be findin yer sealed treasure map. Guard it closely as it be yer true guide to finding all the lost rums. Thar be a wee Rum’s Revenge in a bottle or even if ye be the luckiest Pirate in these waters a Golden Ticket giving ye a full scale model of the fabled Rum’s Revenge Pirate Frigate. Use yer Rum’s Revenge to hold open the map as ye be sailing to distant lands in search of liquid gold.

It’s looks like it be Land Ho and Anchor’s Away as the Rum’s Revenge hits the first mark. If ye be pickin the right match then ye be findin the first rum alright. Before ye go crackin the bottle and skullin it, like the desperate pirate I know yer to be, look around the chest and punch the Rum’s Revenge Jolly Rodger. Yer skull glass be the proper tankard for rum swillin. Thar be somethin special and eerie about this skull an as we set sail, clues may be revealed to bring it to life.

Six Saints Anchors Away
Six Saints Anchors Away

Under the anchor a cache of rum from the land of Grenada. Six Saints. Righteous Rum if ever there was. From the famed Grenada Distillers company that been around since 1937. There be Six Saintly Parishes in Grenada and this ere rum be named after em all.

Six Saints Grenada Rum – Aged in American Oak casks and bottled at the piratey strength of 41.7%

Lookin:   Amber like the sweat on a wenches corset

Sniffin:  Tropical like givin off pineapple and banana and all manner of ripe fruits.

Tastin:   Pineapple upside down cake like them fancy ladies make before we pillage their haughty estates and scarf down their lunches.

Thinkin:  This ere be good rum make no mistake with lingerin sweet tropical fruit an extra grog to boot at 41.7%

Stash ye map and ye Rum’s Revenge away. Wash ye skull glass if ye must to ward off scurvy and tuck it away for the next leg o the journey. Thar be a piece of eight somewhere fer ye to find.

I’m done with ye fer now begone until the next sailin n enjoy some time in port wenchin, drinkin and pillagin like a true pirate should.

Captain Flintlock Bray Master of the Rum’s Revenge.

Singlemalting Whisky Blog # 130 – Scotland Forever Part 2

What could be more fun than sourcing 25 unique Scotches every year along with a new tasting glass, pin and booklet? The answer is of course to launch a new product so you can source 12 amazing rums, a skull glass, pin, map, chest and ship in a bottle.
The funny twist to this reality is that we were able to source most of the Rum’s from Scottish independent bottler’s. Scottish bottler’s have been working with single cask rums for a long time and there is a surprisingly large amount of rum casks aging away in Scottish warehouses. With aging profiles typically well advanced before the casks hits Scottish shores, many are bottled straight away or transported in drums to preserve the snapshot in time of when the rum was tasted and transported. More on this later when I get right into the mechanics of building a rum adventure in a chest.
Before I could roll up my sleeves at Craigton there was the small matter of connecting with long time Whisky mate James Cowan and sneaking in a round of golf and soaking up the excellent Cowan hospitality. Thanks James and Kerry for another fantastic visit. One special little moment was having a dram of the 1973 Auchentoshan Sherry cask that James and I had shared over a decade before on my first night in Scotland. Having since procured a bottle I was able to use my trusty Whisky Connoisseur Travel Kit to make sure that we could relive the moment.
Auchentoshan 1973 Sherry cask – delicious
My week at Craigton is becoming a yearly event as the team throws itself into full Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar mode. This year with some frustrating hold ups and delays from all facets of production I found myself a few weeks early to actually help out with the third edition run.
Getting back up in the warehouse though and going through left over 2nd edition parts was great fun. There were a bunch of slightly incomplete 2nd edition calendars that needed various bits and pieces and I was able to scrounge through the empties and find everything I needed. As with any production it is always wise to over produce which means we have a ton of leftovers. For those collector’s out there the good news is that we have been able to complete more 2nd editions which we will release in very limited amounts over the coming years.
Also coming to the UK and select European markets will be some Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar mini packs. Made up of 6 random whiskies from all editions these packs will be a lot of fun for a fraction of the cost. Sorry Canadian and US customers given the revolving nature of the whiskies and subsequent alcohol volumes it would be impossible to import these into North America. This will probably be released in 2017 or 2018.
Taking my daily commute through Glasgow to and from Craigton was really cool as I do not normally  drive to and from work operating mostly from home when I am not on the road. Upon my arrival it was not long before I had a fresh cup of tea in hand from the amazing and energetic Rachel. I was always feeling excited about what I could do to help get everything done and no doubt a big part of it was helping to create some magic for whisky lovers out there.
So long story short all 2nd editions that can possibly be created have been and the stage was set for the third edition to hit the production floor. Great week and a big round of thanks to the Craigton packaging team for their hard work and enthusiasm.
With all that warehouse work done and dusted I was able to finally find some sunshine for my third round of golf in Scotland in over 10 years. On a day trip to Ayr I got onto a lovely course with Single Cask Nation founder Jason’s brother Murray. Wow what a fantastic day and topped off no less by Lobster dinner at the local hangout. The sun shone for almost the first time since my arrival and hitting the green off the tee on the par 4 18th hole was certainly a highlight for this barely passable golfer.
photo-aug-13-1-07-55-pm photo-aug-13-7-46-03-am photo-aug-13-10-55-39-am
Scotland spoils me so much I can hardly wait for our first 2017 trip at the end of January.
Next blog we talk about another fabulous Whisky Jewbilee in Chicago and the first presentation of our brands in the US.
Until then
Scotland forever