The new Gin Craze is in full swing, only this time consumers have a wide choice of premium gins. The first craze a few hundred years ago in London saw consumption of gin sky rocket, being drunk more often than water or tea by all age groups. It was so easy to make and sell back then with ingredients such as Turpentine and juniper oils or some fake flavoring.
Today, gin is in my opinion the most fascinating, complex and premium alcoholic beverage in the market and with Fever Tree Tonic, probably the healthiest drink, in moderation of course.
On Friday of last week, I promoted The Botanist Gin at the New Minas store in the valley. This store is a gem for all people living in the valley region with an excellent range of all spirits including gin and single malt scotch.
I had along side the Botanist a Port Charlotte heavily peated whisky from Bruichladdich. Its not often you find a famous distillery that also produces a gin. This was one of the many goals distillery manager Jim McEwan had when moving to Bruichladdich some 20 years ago.
Islay folk are very proud of where they come from and it’s no surprise to find that out of 31 botanicals in this fine gin, 22 are from Islay. When you think PEI is ten times larger, to find so many on this tiny island is incredible. It truly is locally made gin.
The Botanist is a wonderful sipping gin with the hallmark thick texture on the pallet which is also found on Bruichladdich whisky.
So much floral notes on the nose with citrus and mint on the pallet. A long finish will have you wanting more.
Of course, we all prefer to drink our gin with a G & T. I chose the Elderberry Flower Fever Tree tonic for the Botanist which really brought out the floral and Elderberry flower botanical that is part of the gin’s make up.
Its $ 49.98 at the NSLC and currently only available in a few stores. It sold so well this year, a shipment is on the water at time of writing and should be back in Nova Scotia sometime in May.
My Gin Experience is back for a second season and all the information for my June classes can be found on the NSLC web site under in-store events. All four classes are already filling up fast.
Almost all gins available in the province will be showcased in the classes, either for sipping, a G & T or cocktails and I will start a Gin Rating Page, which will appear in this blog commencing in July.
I had the privilege to host a rare single malt nose and tasting last week. This was in part due to the support and commitment from AHRSE whisky club, Tomatin Distillery and their local distributor.
We had an amazing line up of six single malts with the star attraction being the Tomatin 36 year old and Tomatin 1982 bottled in 2010 and therefore aged for 28 years in a single cask.
We began with Tomatin 12 and Aultmore 12 for reception malts, which gave me time to present Tomatin distillery, highlighting their change in focus from a large distillery to a distillery today that focuses almost entirely on producing single malts. Their recent awards show they have come along way since the seventies and should be considered a top 10 single malt producer in Scotland.
We poured the 36 next, which was a star and all 20 whisky enthusiasts in the audience had a smile on their faces. This is not a single cask expression, rather they stay with their core method of using casks with ex bourbon, ex first fill sherry and second fill sherry. This was personally one of the best aged whiskies I have tasted in my long whisky career.
So much fruit and spice on the palette and so well balanced. Such a long and creamy malt finish, with a nutty almond presence.
The 1982 was initially received with mixed reaction. One said, an outstanding spirit but almost tastes like a rum. This expression is slightly different for the distillery, since it spent its entire life in one single sherry puncheon cask. However, the audience changed their opinion once it had time to open up. Often, a single cask at cask strength will need time and a touch of water is also okay to help speed up the process of opening the malt.
We finished the night with Royal Brackla 21 and a 1989 Cu Bocan. Cu Bocan peated malt was the shock of the night. Tomatin does now produce peaty whisky under the Cu Bocan brand name, which is from a spectral dog that haunts the highland region. However, back in the eighties and nineties they did not produce any peated whiskies except this cask! It was an odd mistake and left to mature many years, spending time in three different ex bourbon casks.
Wow, this was amazing and while heavily peated it had perfect balance, much like Ardbeg.
Lots of fruit and ginger on the palette with a sweet smoke and very long finish.
This was my last whisky nose and taste for the season. Up Next, The Gin Experience Summer Season 2.
March 15th was my last regular whisky class for the winter season. Here’s hoping spring arrives with lots of warm sunshine and we can all get on to our decks to barbeque and of course sip on a long Gin & Tonic.
My Gin Experience events will commence in June.
We had six single malts from the show to nose & taste and I am featuring the three most popular from my guests on the 15th.
This wonderful single malt is made at the MacDuff distillery. The distillery produces a huge amount of whisky for the Lawson’s blend, which is the # 6 best selling blend in world. The Deveron range is the small amount they keep back and mature to be an aged single malt.
Nose: Creamy malt with hints of hazelnut cream, fresh summer berries and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Palate: Peaches, dark chocolates, orange zest and malt aplenty.
Finish: Whispers of raisin and crushed nuts.
This is a gem owned by Diageo and used in their gold blend. Brora and this distillery were side by side and switched closing and re-opening. Finally, the new Clynelish was built in 1967 and Brora finally closed in 1983.
Nose: Zesty, mandarin, tangerine. Smoky.
Palate: Quite light, great clarity. Orange, soft acidity. Dry oak. Mixed fruits, vanilla, leather.
Finish: Quite long, bitter sweetness developing, spicy oak.
The main star of the evening. Ardbeg generally peat their whiskies to 55 PPM. This expression is no exception, however the rich chocolate on the palate, marrying in perfect harmony with rich fruit and peaty smoke. An amazing experience!
Look out for my 2018 Gin Blog coming soon
Last Saturday was the annual NSLC Whisky Show in Halifax. Both the afternoon & evening secessions were packed with whisky enthusiasts. I was fortunate to be poring Royal Brackla and Aultmore from the Dewar’s – Last of the Great Malts series.
Both of these excellent distilleries produce whisky so good, the master blenders take almost all of their production for their top selling global blends.
The few casks that continue to be aged and offered in a single malt expression are quite rare. This is the same with most of the wonderful Speyside malts that are not available in our part of the world.
There seemed to be much interest in Irish single malts this year along with the release to Nova Scotia of Glen Grant. Glen Grant single malt has been the # 1 seller in Italy for many years taking most of the distillery’s production. They have expanded the bottling line which is all done on site and can now offer their whiskies to more of us around the globe.
It was wonderful to see lots of old friends in the industry and some of the regular guests from my whisky classes over the past 12 months. Until next year – Slainte
Prepared for my 20 guests to arrive.
I hosted this event last Thursday and while it was the same night as Savour Food & Wine I almost sold out. Nice to see so many whisky enthusiasts in Nova Scotia. Actually, we sampled food and a hint of wine from some of the six single malt cask expressions.
We started the tasting with Auchentoshan American Oak. A whisky maturated in just ex bourbon is hard to find these days. It will be a tad too sweet for many drinkers. I paired it with a custard tart backed fresh from Delish, a British Shop in our area.
We then moved to the more traditional 12 year old, which is usually matured in ex bourbon and sherry casks. The Balvenie is a wonderful expression of a Double Wood single malt. Also, we sampled the Macallan 12 Double wood which is two ex sherry casks.
These two were paired with home made Bread and Butter Pudding with sultanas that had been soaked in single malt whisky overnight. My goal was for my guests to experience the sherry influence slowly coming into focus with The Balvenie and then taking over with the Macallan. Raisins, cereal notes, dried fruits and spices now come into play. It was a delicious pairing.
We sampled Glenmorangie Quinta Ruben Port wood finish on its own. I did not have a dessert for this single malt however, a dessert with black berry fruits and chocolate would go great.
Tullibardine 225 Sauternes finish was next, which I paired with Lemon Meringue pie. Lots of zesty fruits and a sweet richness can be found from the famous dessert wine from France.
Finally, Arran Amarone, which is so unusual in colour and taste. Its very difficult to find an Amarone cask these days. The wineries keep them all and I do believe Arran have a close relationship with an Amarone producer to offer this great malt in limited supply. I always match this with Turkish delight. Its a great combo.
All of these unusual cask expressions are wonderful to compliment the traditional single malts we find on a regular basis. Most will only be finished (matured for one year or less) in a wine cask. The goal is always to have perfect harmony with the whisky from the various cask influences. Ex-bourbon and sherry casks work from 10 to 30 years and beyond perfectly lying in casks.
Dessert wines casks EG: are often overpowering in their taste profile and so the distilleries will “Finish” maturation in said casks for just a small amount of time.
Desserts or a tray of cheeses are excellent whisky partners. Try it at home.
So, here is a first from the Scotch guy in Nova Scotia. A Canadian whisky I will always keep in the house. High River is so smooth,delicious and so affordable at $ 34.95. This product and part of the Sazerac group does have quite an unusual story.
Its made at the Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky! Our friends down south have always bought all the rye we grow in Canada and offer 100% Rye whisky, which in turn Canadians buy. Always thought that was quite confusing.
However, a true style Canadian Whisky will be made from mainly corn with a smaller amount of rye.
The Master Blender of Buffalo Trace distillery a pioneer in making premium bourbon does have quite a passion for Canadian Whisky. Drew Mayville joined Buffalo Trace in 2004 and holds a bachelor of science degree from the University of Waterloo, Canada.
He was the final master blender to serve under the Seagram dynasty. What better a master blender to make a delicious Canadian whisky with oodles of rye grain, which certainly gives the whisky such a smooth taste with toffee, caramel and hint of spiciness.
Slainte or should I say – Right On
It was our third annual Supper at Lefty’s to honor the great man. We asked Jodi our British Chef if we could have more Scottish fare this year and while Haggis was out of the question, the dessert was a perfect traditional Scottish dish.
The appetizer was a creamy fish soup paired with Laphroiag Triple Wood. The peat smoke and sweetness from the whisky was a nice pairing to start the evening.
The main course was pan seared duck breast with a mixed berry sauce with neeps and tatties on the side. You can’t have more Scottish than that! I tried this dish (see below) with the help of the BBC recipe. Rather than a meat, I made Yorkshire pudding and gravy with a large serving of neeps and tatties on top. Well, I am a Yorkshire lad.
The star single malt paired with the main course was Craigellachie 13 and again one of the those rare Speyside single malts.
The fruity notes, ginger and a whiff of smoke went perfect with this dish.
The dessert was a match made in heaven with so much dried fruitiness of raisins, sultanas, fruit cake and sweetness to be found in both the food and the whisky. Clootie Dumpling and Glenfiddich 15. Sheer Decadence!
We finished this amazing evening with a cheese tray, surrounded by fruit and a Lowland whisky that just goes so well with cheeses. Glengoyne 15 is a big mouthfeel whisky with lots of fruity and malty tones
What a great night once again.
Try this at home and please ask me for any suggestion on parings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aultmore 12 is a rare treat, which is available in limited supply in Nova Scotia.
At the tasting in Tacoma, Dartmouth last week, I was surprised how well this expression was received. Many customers commented that it reminded them of Cardhu, only better. Now that is a huge compliment, since Cardhu was so popular in Canada before it became quite rare. Cardhu is a main component of Johnny Walker Black and there is not enough to go around the world in a single malt expression.
Aultmore 12 does have the soft, fruity taste of Cardhu, with a unique finish of milky coffee, fudge and spice.
The distillery was founded in 1896 and became part of Bacardi (Dewar’s) in 1998.
Capacity 3 million litres which make it a medium size distillery.
I spoke at my whisky class on November 01. which was all about how most amazing Speyside malts are not available as a single malt expression. Aultmore falls into this category with most of its production going to blends.
Its non-chill filtered, at 46%
A treat and well priced at $ 79.99
My second class in this series was to focus on peaty single malts and the influence of peat.
In our nose & taste section we poured them in no particular order and I asked if each person would place the whiskies in order by phenols per million (PPM).
Most did quite well and had no problem with the last two, which were quite high. The first four were more subtle and quite close in PPM’s. Here are the six in PPM order.
Arran 14 PPM, Jura Prophecy 35 PPM and Ledaig 39PPM were the first three to be tasted.
Arran is quite lightly peated and stills keeps the signature orchard fruits on the palate. Both Arran and Jura usually offer only non peated whisky. Prophecy is the exception, with a good amount of peat and salt spray shining through on this expression. Ledaig is from the Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull with spice and smoky tones.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Scottish Barley comes in with 40 PPM however, this is such a well balanced single malt you can easily be fooled into thinking its much less PPM’s.
Ardbeg 10 is considered one of the highest peat levels in any popular whisky at 54 PPM. However, with a wonderful balance of sweetness the peat never dominates the whisky.
Finally, Octomore at a whopping 208 PPM is a world record for peat levels in a whisky and only available in limited supply.
Try this type of tasting at home and have fun. Bear in mind, the industry is looking at showing consumers the PPM measured in the whisky and not at the barley stage. I will post when any such list is available
Slainte and a prosperous 2018 to all.
My second November class was all about the influence of peat in a single malt whisky. Before, I post the nose and taste results of the six peaty malts from the Islands and Islay, this post is all about peat.
Large parts of Scotland are covered with peat bogs. These peat layers have been formed over a period of 1000 to 5000 years by decayed vegetation and can be up to several meters thick. Each bog grows by approximately 1mm per year. Therefore, a bog of 3 meters thickness is approximately 3000 years old.
Peat bogs form where rain and snow directly feed an already high-water table. As we know, there is no shortage of rain in Scotland. Peat can be found in many types of wetlands such as marshes, swamps, floodplains and coastal wetlands. These bogs become saturated with water, lack oxygen and nutrients and are high in acid.
Peat is a dark fibrous material created when ‘decomposition fails to keep pace with the production of organic matter’.
This is surely not environmentally friendly you may ask? The heavy use of peat for malt production did effect a few small areas of Scotland and peat cutting was suspended until further notice in those areas.
However, you don’t have to worry about the future. Estimates have shown that in Scotland more peat regrows than is harvested by the whisky industry. You will find peat abundant on Islay and many areas of Scotland.
Once the distillery takes delivery of the peat its time to build a fire. We are looking for smoke not flame, and my picture attached is too much flame. This would be the distillery manager having to open the fire for me to take a picture!
The moist barley is placed in the kiln which sits directly above the fire and the smoke will rise into the barley. Phenols are compounds, found in the smoke and this is the measurement the industry uses to show peat levels in a whisky.
However, this measurement is taken of the barley, not of the resulting whisky.
More whisky enthusiasts are demanding to see the peat measurement after distillation.
I still believe that a simple guide is required for anybody that wishes to try a peaty single malt and would be wise to work there way up to the heavily peated single malts.
We currently measure at phenols per million at barley. PPM.
Bowmore 12 would be a great start with a measurement of 20 PPM. Once you have appreciated the smoke, iodine, salt spray from this true Islay whisky, try the heavy malts like Laphroiag, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.
Bear in mind, single malt whisky is complex, fascinating and still mysterious. Nothing is quite set in stone. Once you taste Ardbeg at 50 PPM, which is considered one of the highest, you may think, but its sweeter than Laphroaig.
Keep visiting my Blog and all will be explained– Eventually!