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2018 Gin & Whisky Journal


Aultmore 12 Single Malt Whisky

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

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 | 0 comments

A Journey in Scotch Single Malt Whisky Part 2

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.

Posted by on Dec 29, 2017 | 0 comments

Peaty Single Malts

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!

Happy Holidays

 

Posted by on Dec 21, 2017 | 0 comments

A Journey in Scotch Single Malts – Part One

I was really looking forward to this particular whisky class in my November series. Both classes had been sold out weeks ago. However, I had a slight dilemma. I would be presenting many current industry trends and with my PowerPoint presentation I was sure this would take at least twenty minutes. I had been taught many years ago by the best in Scotland never to leave your guests without a whisky in hand for more than 10 minutes.

The answer was a whisky and soda with Johnny Walker Red! Some of the audience were seasoned whisky enthusiasts and gave me a strange look. “All will be revealed” I said. “Please enjoy” and they did to my surprise. Some said it reminded them of their younger days.

Here is summary of the first part of my presentation and the six single malts we had the pleasure to nose & taste.

A decade ago Cardhu became the most popular single malt in Canada. Consequently, it was discontinued and now its back occasionally in limited supply.

To know why means paying attention to blends whether you enjoy them or not. Blends still make up the bulk of global sales although single malts have grown in sales for quite a few years.

Premium blends also enjoyed the shift in consumers trends to drinking premium. Quality not quantity. Therefore, premium blends became more popular like Johnny Walker Black

Now JW Red already had a small component of Cardhu, while far more was required in their Black label. Same would be true with Mortlach and some of the whiskies we are tasting tonight.

JW red continues to rise in sales from 10 million cases per year to 18 and black label double its sales globally.

Suddenly those single malls being used in the blends are going to be in short supply as a single malt expression. Even the Independent bottlers will find it hard to buy a cask.

You are tasting a smidgen of Cardhu right now with your whisky and soda. No matter how little, multiply that by 18 million cases would be over 200 million bottles!!

Also in the case of Cardhu the Spanish decided it made a great whisky & coke. No comment except to say – Sacrilegious!!

My guests appreciated the Cardhu link to their whisky & soda.

The other big news is Johnny Walker Green is back to stay. This to me is exciting since is a marriage of four single malts. The master blender chose four Diageo owned distilleries and of course two are Speysiders. Linkwood we are having tonight along with Cragganmore. Talisker from Skye and Caolla from Islay give this malt blend some smoke, peat tones on the pallet. However, the backbone of this expression is the Speysiders and that is what we are focusing on this evening. I will say my prediction is Linkwood and Cragganmore single malts will become rarer to find in the future.

So why Speysiders in particular? Its the water from the River Spey and its tributaries. In my opinion water still is a key element in making a fine whisky. The new whisky scientists are saying otherwise and watch for my posts next year when I will cover this topic in more detail. Yes, there are also a lot of distilleries in this region, but it’s the soft characteristics of these whiskies that blender needs to make his or her masterpiece. Highlands for a touch of robust spicy character.

The lineup for this evening:

Benromach 10: This is a wonderful example of how Speyside single malts were made back in the sixties with slow distillation. With so much cereal notes on the nose and palate I provided digestive biscuits to remind them of a cereal note that one finds on many single malts.

Linkwood 15 (Gordon & McPhail): A true example of why the blenders love this malt. Big mouthfeel well balanced and lots of backbone. Really long finish.

Glentauchers 1997 (Gordon & McPhail) Rarely found and used almost exclusively in famous blends. Soft fruits and a hint of spice. More delicate than Linkwood.

Tomatin Cu Bocan Bourbon Cask. This was my oddball of the group. I wanted guests to appreciate a single malt spending all of its time in an ex- Bourbon cask without any sherry influence. Big notes of Cream Soda Pop & Marshmallows. A delight to pair with many desserts – Crème Brule?

Tomatin 18 & The Dalmore 18: Both were an absolute pleasure to present at the end of my class. Also, I would want a constant supply of both in my house with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange Ball! Both single malts are an absolute delight with dark chocolate and oranges on the palate.

Slainte everybody and look forward to seeing you on the 22end.

Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 | 0 comments

Whisky November

This past month was by far my most hectic period in quite some time. Whisky November was truly special, and I will be writing about each event between now and the New Year.

I hosted two whisky classes at our Flagship liquor store in Downtown Halifax, a whisky dinner in Tantallon, a special presentation of six Tomatin malts to the whisky club and numerous sampling events at many NSLC stores.

Thanks to all involved for your amazing support.

While I arrange all my notes from these events to appear in my posts, I would like to recommend a single malt whisky for the holidays. I do spend time analysing world prices on single malts and there are some great deals. However, there are also many that are simply well overpriced!

Tomatin 12 year old is great value for such an outstanding single malt. I suggest you buy two bottles for over the holidays. One to keep for yourself while enjoying all those old movies and nibbling on a bounty bar. You can’t beat a coconut and chocolate pairing with this malt! One bottle for guests that like a wee dram and will be impressed you have a malt that tastes expensive.

You should taste coconut, vanilla and toffee initially, with notes of Christmas cake, dried fruits coming into play and more fruits and a touch of spice on the finish.

I will be writing much more on this fine distillery in my upcoming posts.

Slainte

Posted by on Dec 6, 2017 | 0 comments

2018 Whisky Tours

I am pleased to announce we are planning a whisky tour of Scotland in 2018. Over the years, I have been asked by so many guests at my whisky classes and friends to take them on a whisky tour. I have an amazing six day itinerary all worked out with the help of an excellent tour company in Scotland and just working on the final touches before announcing in early 2018.

This will include time in Speyside, home to over 70% of all Scottish distilleries and famous for the water used from the River Spey & two full days on the spectacular island of Islay. So many distilleries on one small island, you will think you have landed in whisky paradise!

Posted by on Nov 22, 2017 | 0 comments

Gin – The Recipe

There are numerous botanicals used in making a great gin. You will find four in almost all of them with Juniper Berries being mandatory.
The big gin companies source juniper berries from all over the world and take special care in making sure they have enough supply. Often, they will keep enough inventory for two years just in case they encounter a poor harvest. They do rely on perfect weather conditions much like grapes for making an excellent wine.

Coriander Seeds are the second most important and add a spice or citrus note depending on where they are sourced.

Angelica Root provides a woody note and Orris root will hold all the botanicals together in perfect harmony.

Citrus peel, and an array of spices are also to be found. Most gins have at least 10 botanicals in their recipes.

I had the privilege over the summer months to promote both The House of Bombay gins and Citadelle from France.
Both Bombay Sapphire and Citadelle are perfect for the Ultimate G & T.

The Ultimate G & T Recipe:
1 ½ to 2 ounces of quality gin
Fresh Ice Cubes
3 to 4 ounces of Fever Tree Tonic
Orange garnish

Posted by on Aug 29, 2017 | 0 comments

Gin Distillation

 

Distillation –We have raw spirit made from, wheat or maize placed into a copper still. The botanicals are added and left to steep overnight. Once brought to boiling point the vapours will rise up the still before making their way to a condenser. The condenser is full of pipes containing very cold water. There the vapours will turn into liquid.

With the art of slow distillation, the distillery will takes its time allowing the vapours to rise slowly with certain botanicals in the vapours being heavier than others. Citrus will head to the condenser first followed by wood notes and Juniper is heavy and will be last.

You will find most gin distilleries just like a single malt whisky distillery will have different swan necks & Lynne arms. It all depends on if they are creating a light gin to work amazingly with cocktails & mixers or a more complex gin. If the arm is turned down to the condenser its going to be a heavier gin. At the Bombay distillery, the arm goes up with a hanging basket full of botanicals to be vapour infused which gives a lighter style on their Sapphire gin.

We then move to the spirit safe and the middle cut which is just like a Single malt whisky process. No heads or tails will be used which will go back for next distillation.

Excellent water is super important at the end of the distillation for bringing down the spirit to bottle strength.

Bombay source from Snowdonia in Wales while Martin Miller brings water in from Iceland.

The onion style still is usually the choice and no fire today but rather heat jackets.

Citadelle Gin from France still uses open fire.

Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 | 0 comments

The History of Gin – Part 2

I have often heard people refer to the term “Mother’s Ruin” with the assumption that drinking gin will make you depressed or extremely emotional. Tests have proved this is not the case and in fact if anything most drinkers are surprisingly happy while drinking gin.

The term is up for debate according to Wikipedia. However, if you look at the history of gin around the time of the gin revolution in the early seventeen hundreds its quite easy to see how the term was originated.


The Hogarth print clearly shows the times in London with the relaxed laws on selling and drinking gin. It was literally all age groups and many mothers were divulging in the gin craze.

Mothers would lose their children to excessive drinking of gin, causing lethal accidents, violent acts and crime which would see many finish on the gallows! Mother’s Ruin!

Back around the time of the gin revolution, not only was it easy to make, cheap to drink, but another added incentive – it was promoted as being healthy for you, particularly with Malaria and Typhoid rampant. But also, easier to give birth, improve your eyesight, coughs and colds remedy and very good for the brain, which improved one’s memory.

All this from the properties found in Juniper berries, which were the only guaranteed botanical to be used in all gins!
Juniper berries were considered a magical potion for just about any ailment according to doctors.

So, there you have it. Gin makes you happy and is healthy for you. Of course, drunk in moderation.

Next Post – London Dry Gin

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017 | 0 comments

The History of Gin – Part 1

Gin is steeped in history probably more than any other alcoholic beverage.

The gin story starts when in 1688 a new king took over the throne of England.

King William the third, William of Orange a Dutchman. Why would a Dutchman become king of England, you may ask? No wonder the British historical TV dramas are so popular full of intrigue and corruption.

A short Summary:

William III was connected to the English throne by his mother, Mary, who was the daughter of Charles I. He married with Mary, his first cousin and daughter of his maternal uncle James.

James became king of England and was Catholic. Since the majority of England was protestant, James was unpopular and there was fear the ambition of the French (Catholic) king Louis XIV, with whom the Dutch were at war.

English nobles invited William to invade England and take over the throne. Meanwhile the Dutch Republic, of which William was the Prince of Orange and “Stadhouder”, could use a powerful protestant force against the French.
So, William beat James at the battle of the Boyne and became king of England, Ireland and Scotland.

Confused?

The King considered importing Genever the national drink of Holland
This was a malted spirit with barley that would go through a process like beer and then a distillation with the botanicals and often aged. Its sounds delicious and halfway towards a single malt whisky, but really not a popular drink outside of Holland.

However, the king found the English farmers had plenty of excess grain that was not fit for food and so what better turn to use in making spirit. He made the laws so relaxed, with far less tax than on beer, every man and his dog started distilling gin in London. The farmers were happy and so too was the nation.

With really no rules on who could produce gin and no license required unlike taverns etc. by 1751 there were 17,000 gin houses in London with a population of 600,000. Open 24/7 until 1839.

By 1720 90% of spirits were distilled in London and could be sold by anyone. That means 12 million gallons of raw spirit were being distilled in a city of 600K the equivalent of every man, woman and child drinking over half a litre of gin per week.

Here is a recipe from 1730.
120 gallons (550 litres) of raw spirit, a splash of turpentine, half ounce of sulphuric acid, lime, rosewater, almonds and alum which is dying compound, I guess for color. Sounds delicious!

Next post – the myth of Mother’s Ruin

Posted by on Jul 3, 2017 | 0 comments