We’ve had some absolutely resplendent and sweltering weather here in the UK of late. Outside is a stunning day that promises to be a cracker, it’s a pity then that I should be so ill-suited to hot weather. Incidentally I’m equally ill-suited to cold weather, alas many people mistake this condition of double ill-suitedness for a personal disposition to moan. Getting back to the matter in hand, it is hot today in London! This problem is compounded by the fact that where I live, is fitted with some serious insulation that has turned my room into a tinderbox that is slowly baking me alive. I don’t want to crack my head open to find out but I believe that with this incredible heat my brain has turned to maple syrup. It is most amusing then, that today of all day’s I should be reviewing a whisky called Bacalta which is Gaelic for baked. It’s always a bad idea to drink whisky on days like this, but in the interests of my readership I shall persevere, quit my jibber jabber, and get on with the review.
Bacalta is the latest offering from Glenmorangie’s limited edition range. Aged in Madeira and Bourbon casks this is a wonderfully sweet and occasionally lively drink of considerable quality. Unfortunately it’s a tad pricey for a non-age statement whisky (£80), despite this I do think it is well worth seeking out for a tipple. On to the tasting notes! The nose is powerful but not forceful, opting to arrive in a gentle fashion. I get vanilla, honey, plum wine, and a delicious hint of mango. To be honest it’s quite intoxicating all by itself. On hitting the taste buds one suddenly gets all the fruits, there are simply so many different fruit notes here!!! If I were to list them all you’d think me quite mad for believing so much could dwell within one glass. Predominantly I get peeled orange, dried apricots and a little plum. There’s also a delightful crisp menthol mint that lingers through it all. The finish makes for a most excellent juxtaposition from all these sweet flavours. Out of nowhere dazzling pepper emerges, a dash of cinnamon, some clove, and a moreish tang of bitter oak. A sweet invigorating and varied dram, this is something rather spectacular.
Verdict: I think I’ll have another
The common reaction of most people on seeing a bottle of this stuff for the first time is a look of bewildered bemusement, as they try to work out how the hell you’re meant to pronounce Poit Dhubh. I have it on good authority (the back of the bottle) that it’s pronounced Potch Ghoo and that it’s Gaelic for illicit still. Though I must confess that I’m still a little baffled as to how one gets from reading Poit Dhubh to saying Potch Ghoo, but I digress. Four years ago I received my first bottle of Potch Ghoo for Christmas, I had never heard of this blended whisky from the Isle of Skye before, and hence was a little dubious as to the quality of the contents of the bottle. As so often in life, I need not have worried, as the contents proved positively mind blowing. A fantastic whisky most people had never heard of, it soon became a frequent topic of conversation. More recently I was in a newsagent and to my considerable surprise I discovered perched on their top shelf a single bottle of this uncommon whisky. I wasted no time at all and immediately bought the bottle, eager to discover whether my younger self had a bloody clue in what he was talking about!!!
Anyhoo enough with the backstory, let’s get on to the tasting notes of this magnificent dram! The nose has some honey, a hint of sea salt, plenty of sherry, and a pleasant smokiness that has an uncanny resemblance to the smell of the vanilla tobacco that a friend uses. The drink itself is full of twists and turns. Initially one is presented with incredibly sweet honey, next a toffee note, followed by salted caramel, some sherry, a zingy bitter lemon then emerges, before a delightful peat draws proceedings to a close. The finish is fairly long; it’s peppery, with plenty of peat, some oak, and a faint reminder of sherry. In this manner, Poit Dhubh delivers a wondrous drinking experience. A fantastic quality whisky, of considerable complexity, at a decent price, I strongly recommend you give it a try.
Verdict: A nimble acrobatic display of varied flavours!
A good friend from Edinburgh recently had a mild heart seizure when I informed him that the fine single malt he was enjoying was not of the Scottish persuasion. This paled in comparison to the confounded flabbergasted look that followed the news that it was in fact Welsh in origin. Having already suggested that this was a damn fine dram, there was no escaping the fact that he had just betrayed his Scottish ancestry. Thankfully a few more sips of this fine amber jewelled nectar soon put pay to any patriotic pretence as to what makes a good whisky. In no time at all he was sampling as many whiskies of the world as he could cram into one night. My personal bar was lucky to survive the encounter, mostly intact. My friend assured me that this was a small price to pay for expanding his horizons.
Established in 2004 Penderyn is a fiery young upstart in the world of whisky, which has taken a hefty haul of awards and accolades since coming on the scene. Despite this, it was only recently that I tried this fine dram when some friends gave me a bottle for Christmas, a most excellent present indeed. Penderyn is a very young whisky, I would imagine no more than six year old. Nevertheless it is fairly complex in flavour. It comes in a variety of bottlings, and from what I hear all are very good. The one I tried, the Celt, is lightly peated. The nose gives just a hint of smoke, some zesty orange, pear drops, cranberry, vanilla, and a medicinal smell reminiscent of TCP. The drink itself, is incredibly smooth, with a lot of honey, orange citrus, some vanilla, and a superb mild smoke note that majestically reveals itself mid-sip. The finish is a long one, it’s peppery with some fennel and orange peel, plus a good amount of smoke. I think this whisky really is quite special. It’s uniquely sweet, in that it’s heavy on the honey but has little to no brown sugar. I would thus urge you to support this daring scheme whose origins lie in a half-baked idea around a pub table. I really love this stuff, a perfect after dinner enlivener.
Verdict: It’s Sweet Whisky Mead
After several days filled with pure undiluted skippity hoppity joy, last week the empire struck back and my arch nemesis ‘Darth Real Life’ returned to the fore. Suddenly I was in a world of necessary, dull as ditch water, irksomeness. Life’s little tasks called, dentist appointments, internet providers, family occasions. Good lord I forgot the mountain of dirty dishes! I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point it appears that society revoked my child status and stuck a grown up badge on me. I won’t lie, it’s been downhill ever since. Returning to the particularity of my troubles, suddenly, within this maelstrom of the mundane, I sensed a brief opening in the force, a teeny tiny patch of that rare commodity, free time! Thus at lunchtime today, I decided to take it easy with a brilliant meal at one of my favourite restaurants and so restore balance to the force.
Yum Yum is a Thai restaurant located on Stoke Newington High Street and its simply goodness I tell ya. Located in a gorgeous Georgian house the environment is low lit and delightfully mellow. It serves nutritious and delicious food that always proves uplifting. They also do magnificent cocktails, but I swear I didn’t indulge on a weekday, even if they are purely medicinal. The staff are the most remarkable feature of this restaurant, wonderfully unobtrusive and yet simultaneously such, cheerful, charming, caring, people. I spent a little over thirty minutes here today and without fail Yum Yum worked its magic. I left feeling most calm and relaxed. I have no doubt that if this restaurant was located in Shoreditch it would be better known and queued out the door. If you ever get the chance to go, don’t hesitate, I cannot recommend this place highly enough. It is an absolute delight.
Upon purchasing this fine beverage one could be forgiven for harbouring fears that one may have been accidentally inducted into the illuminati. After all a mysterious ‘All Seeing Eye’ does adorn the label. Thus let me assure you then dear reader that there is nothing occult about this bottle other than its rather splendid contents! One of the latest offerings from compass box, a terrific purveyor of blended scotch, this limited edition bottle is a whisky with a tale behind it. In 2015 the company got in trouble when it brazenly flouted the law with the release of a bottle called ‘This is not a luxury whisky’. The problem, the blackguards dared to print the precise contents of their blend, thus giving the consumer more than an inkling of whether it was worth the money or not. Alas, it turns out that in this instance UK and EU law strictly prohibit such actions, that heaven forefend might lead to an informed consumer. Enlightenment then is the company’s cheeky retort given liquid form. Thankfully it also happens to be stonkingly good stuff.
In Enlightenment we have what I would call a delightful dandy dram. There is a great deal going on and plenty of different exciting flavours happening yet there is somehow a delicate genteel quality to the whole experience. This whisky has an incredible nose. It is predominantly citrus, with lots of apple, some lemon peel, plenty of vanilla, and the subtlest hint of liquorice. There is a further beguiling quality here, as the citrus qualities simultaneously have a floral tone and at times the aroma reminds me of bergamot. The body is delightfully young and exuberant. The flavour gently bursts forth onto ones tongue both with an air of confidence and grace. I get a fabulous crisp Bramley apple flavour, zesty lemon sherbet that dances across the taste buds, loads of vanilla oak, and a dried apricot flavour to die for. To top it off there is also the faintest dash of smoke. Lastly we have a superb dry finish that brings the magical journey to an end, though a little too abruptly for my tastes. I absolutely adore Enlightenment it is a truly sublime genteel concoction and comes very close to perfection in my book. If you can still get a bottle at around the sixty pound mark, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you treat yourself this Christmas.
The Japanese make some of the best damn Whisky in the world. Unfortunately the price of drams such as Hibiki and Yamazaki have sky rocketed. At the time of writing this a bottle of Yamazaki 18 which once could be purchased for £65 is selling for £450. In such instances one finds that the connection between quality and price has been severed. Investors have elevated the whisky to the realm of status symbol. As such it is decreed that it may only be quaffed by ego maniacs and the taste bud free dull witted victims of inbreeding. Of course I won’t be the one complaining if I wake up tomorrow to find that all the bottles of whisky I have are now worth a fortune. However until that day I hope the reader will forgive me if I quickly curse the law of supply and demand, and congratulate human stupidity for once again exceeding my expectations.
I do apologise I appear to be ranting, getting back to the topic of Japanese whisky allow me to present salvation! ‘Nikka from the Barrel’ is a most excellent Japanese dram that against all odds has remained thoroughly affordable. It is a truly superb blended whisky with all the elements involved combining seamlessly to make something rather spectacular. It costs around £35 and comes in a simple inconspicuous 50cl bottle that looks more like a bottle of aftershave than a whisky. In fact when I first received a bottle as a birthday present I was rather worried. It has a rather hefty 51.4% abv but you’d never guess that from its’ gentle understated taste. As such I find it an ideal whisky to enliven an evening and promote merry conversation about nonsense. In my experience even those who profess to hating whisky love this stuff. The nose makes for a fantastic first introduction; it is citrusy with a delightful hint of Japanese oak. The taste has a zesty orange, a wonderful hint of vanilla and a spicy quality reminiscent of Christmas pudding. I also detect a plum wine note which I think makes it rather special. Finally it has a short dry oak finish that will have you quickly raising your glass for a second sip. All in all I find Nikka from the Barrel a majestic gentle sipping whisky that pairs perfectly with talking bollocks.
Verdict: Get it while you can.
In my experience adventure involves two stages. First you decide to do something new and exciting in life only to instantly regret it. Next the adventure is over and despite your early misgivings you’ve somehow decided that it was the greatest thing ever. Whisky pairs perfectly with these stages. In total fear it suddenly dawns on you that you want a whisky. Afterwards you get pretentious about it as you start wondering what whisky could possibly be apt to end such an extraordinary day. For the past week I have been contemplating what should be the first whisky I review on this blog. I wanted something, bold, nuanced, and which you might not appreciate the first time you try it; in short a mini adventure in itself. In the end the decision was simple and that rather bothered me. So I racked my brain a great deal more and still came to the same conclusion. The answer was to be found in the Islay region of Scotland where the whisky is famed for its intense smoky flavours, more specifically at the Lagavulin distillery.
Lagavulin 16 is absolute magic. It brings together a wide array of distinct and intense flavours and orchestrates their delivery with such panache so as to leave the drinker, awestruck, dumbfounded, and slightly worried that this fine beverage may well have been stolen from the gods. The nose is devilishly smoky with a hint of sweetness. The drink itself begins with a dry toffee note which quickly builds into an incredibly sweet sherry flavour. It then develops a salty hint before an incredibly powerful peat finish!
The only problem with Lagavulin 16 is that one has an intense desire to savour a bottle but simultaneously knows that with exposure to oxygen over time its powerful peat finish will diminish. This has led some fools (myself included) to stick tapers (fire) into the bottle to kill off the oxygen. More sensible individuals simply place the liquid into smaller containers. Such people know nothing of the endless amusement that comes from being drunk with a bottle perched between your legs, a taper down its neck and the macabre thought that at any moment an incident involving spontaneous combustion could destroy any hopes of future progeny. It was no doubt the memory of such foolhardy escapades that prompted me to review this particular whisky first and a fine choice it has proven. After a truly most excellent day of adventuring it always brings a mellow and contemplative close to proceedings.