For the last four months I’ve had a serious case of writer’s block, which goes some way towards explaining the sporadic output of this blog of late. Try as I might the words have only been coming out a few at a time. The mad ACME firework factory of my mind has for reasons unknown ground to a halt. It is a most bothersome and weary set of circumstances, which has been exacerbated by a procrastinating frenzy, precipitated by the online availability of a bazillion self-help guides that offer simple steps for beating writer’s block. I’ve gone for long walks, brainstormed like a boss, and listened to the awesome jazz of Mulatu Astatke. All to no avail! Finally when one article suggested I talk to an imaginary friend I decided to stop reading the articles. It was with a wry smile then that I greeted the bottle of Writers Tears that sat alone upon the top of the drink shelf at my local newsagent. On noticing the extra gimmick that this was the Red Head, I knew it had to be mine. I’d love at this stage dear reader to impart the knowledge that this proved the cure to my ailment, but sadly that would be complete balderdash. What isn’t complete balderdash is that this is an utterly delightful wee dram!!! On to the tasting notes…
Writers Tears Red Head is an Irish whiskey and a fantastically sweet and spicy sherry cask dream. The nose makes for a congenial welcome; there is a considerable oak spiciness present, a glorious nuttiness, some orange marmalade, not to mention the fruity plum. The drink itself, arrives with a creamy hazelnut taste, a great deal of ginger spiciness then builds, with dates, and with a little water some coffee notes following. The finish is a fiery affair combining an orange peel after taste with ginger some cinnamon and clove. This is a whiskey that wonderfully combines bombastic spiciness with fruity intermissions. My imaginary friend particularly enjoyed it.
Verdict: A Fiery Lass
I’ve been blogging for just over a year now and yet in that time I’ve never got round to reviewing a single bourbon, an unconscionable dereliction of my drinking duties, for which I can only fall upon my knees and beg forgiveness dear reader. It is my hope that this review will make amends for this. So what makes a whiskey bourbon? There are quite a few stipulations but the two main ones in terms of flavour are as follows. Firstly, it must be made from a grain mash containing no less than 51% corn. Secondly, it must be aged in new charred oak barrels. The result generally speaking is a whiskey that is far sweeter than its Scottish cousins, which has only a hint of smoke, and often some delicious spicy notes due to the further addition of some rye in the grain mix. Or to put it another way, absolutely splendid stuff!!!
For me Four Roses Small Batch is the quintessential bourbon, it is highly affordable and guaranteed to go down real smooth, a whiskey staple if ever one existed. So, let’s get down to some tasting. Small batch has a vibrant floral nose along with subtle hints of rye spiciness, oak, and orange peel. It is a captivating whiskey siren that entices you into taking a sip. The drink itself arrives with possibly the best vanilla note I’ve ever tasted, then a bitter sweet cherry develops only to quickly fade, next we find a warm ginger emerge with butterscotch and cinnamon soon following. The finish is fairly long; it sees more wondrous vanilla with a dash of black pepper and a most unexpected but highly welcome lapsang souchong tea. In my opinion, at just under £30 a bottle this is the best introduction to Bourbon available in the UK. If you haven’t got a bottle sitting on your shelf right this instant then I would urge you to procure one at your earliest convenience.
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
Astute eagle eyed detective that you are, you may well have noticed that I haven’t bloody well posted a new article in five weeks! I do sincerely apologize for this dear reader, but my arch nemesis Darth Real Life has once again been snapping at my heels with the essential and oh so boring side of existence. Not to be melodramatic or anything. Still the waters have calmed and I declare that once more I shall prove an outstanding citizen and upholder of all that is light hearted and whimsical. This glittering citadel of foolishness is once again open, hurrah! To this end, please find below a most splendiferous St Patricks whiskey special, which has arrived but a month late. One can only assume it took the scenic route.
The Irish make some of the finest, most incredibly unique, and wonderfully complex whiskeys in the world. It thus astounds me that people celebrating St Patricks day around the world, usually honour the Irish by dumping green dye in their beer. God forbid that they might try some culturally significant, knock your socks off whiskey, which will get them drunk twice as fast. Thus let me bang the drum for one of Ireland’s greatest achievements, honestly it’s up there with Joyce and Beckett. Irish whiskey has two unique defining features. Firstly it is triple distilled which makes it incredibly smooth and easy to drink. Secondly it is made in pot stills that mix malted and un-malted barley, this practice came about as a means to keep costs down when the English introduced a tax on malted barley in 1785. The result is a whiskey which can have a great deal of complexity at a young age. Generally speaking Irish whiskeys are lighter and less bombastic than their Scottish cousins, but at their best they offer an incredible array of delicate flavours which are positively mind blowing. As introductions to this style go, you can’t go wrong with Green Spot and Redbreast 12. However in this instance I’ve opted to review Jameson’s Gold Reserve as it’s more widely available and a personal favourite of mine. Enough with the history lesson, let’s get on with the tasting notes!!!
Jameson Gold Reserve has a pleasant gentle nose, with honey, vanilla, green apple, and a majestic menthol mint. It’s an odd thing to say but it smells smooth. Upon hitting the taste buds, this whiskey springs to life, first with vanilla and sweet honey, then a brief toffee banana that somehow seamlessly blends into green apple and bitter gooseberry. The finish has some more gooseberry, incredible virgin oak tannins, and a subtle black pepper. It’s crisp and dry, which makes the whole experience feel refreshing. Ultimately I think this blended whiskey is a master class in perfectly combining bitter and sweet notes. If you’ve never had an Irish whiskey before you’re in for a treat and personally I think the Gold Reserve once acquainted with is sure to become a lifelong friend, Sláinte.
Verdict: The Wild Rover
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
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.
Autumn is my favourite season. It is simultaneously a bombastic explosion of colours and a delightful mellowing of tone. It is a call to cosiness, quiet contemplation, and above all else whisky. After another hectic week, this weekend I decided to take things easy with some long walks which had no destination in particular in mind but without fail always led me to that glittering bastion of civilization, the pub. It was whilst on these premises, that a friend approached, which is what I call anyone who spontaneously emerges from a crowd to pass me a Scotch. In no time at all we were blethering away and putting the world to rights. Things were a tad more subdued than usual however given that we were both really enjoying the whisky. I asked him what it was and was surprised to learn that it was Singleton. I’d previously always thought of Singleton as a fantastic mixer but not quite a favourite on its own. In some Scotch drinking circles that would amount to slander but I can assure you that I mean it quite sincerely. This smooth dram is such a mild mannered fellow, that it can be mixed with an incredible array of exotic flavours and it always brings out the best in the ingredients by providing a delicious note of Scotch which never dominates. However as I sat in the pub I began to consider it anew as a wonderful delicate and mellow dram that was most agreeable on a fine autumn day.
On returning home I donned my dressing gown and raked out a bottle in my collection to sample some more. The nose of this fine dram is predominantly citrusy, with a nice amount of oak, and the slightest dash of sherry. The taste is more citrus with some added citrus thrown in for good measure. In this respect this whisky is incredibly singular in nature, no pun intended. However it would be a mistake to label it uncomplicated. It offers a limited palate of flavour perhaps, but there is much nuance here for a twelve year old. There are many subtle citrus flavours here, from apple and orange to nectarine. I also like the fine balance between bitter and sweet notes that the Singleton offers. Unfortunately in terms of texture this whisky feels thin, most whiskies have a mouth coating feel of some sort, but the Singleton by comparison feels positively incorporeal. I dislike this quality but I realize it does have a payoff in making this drink incredibly smooth. Finally the finish is one of the gentlest I’ve ever come across and yet it is also quite long. Again we find the Singleton a cheerleader for all things citrus but there also emerges some spiciness and a good deal of vanilla. At the end of the day I think it makes for a charming genteel dram.
Verdict: Incredibly Smooth
I do occasionally fear that I may well be bat shit crazy. For you see dear reader, not being content with one chance at catching pneumonia, this week I returned to Hampstead Heath for another ice cold swim. Only this time I was wise enough to bring a reviver along, in the form of a cask strength whisky sure to put pay to any germs with delusions of grandeur. I was slightly worried to bring a dram along the first time, as drinking whisky first thing in the morning is a sure sign that you’ve found your calling in life, in most cases it’s an AA meeting. However there is always an exception that makes the rule, how else could one get away with being a hypocrite! Having concluded that this instance was just such a circumstance, I soon rediscovered just why whisky and adventure pair together so nicely. Having enjoyed an invigorating swim, I quickly took a brisk walk before sitting down for a wee tipple. Unfortunately I’m a forgetful oaf and while I remembered to bring a table for this expedition, I forgot the glass. Thus I found myself sporting the hobo look on this fine morning. It didn’t matter though as the amber jewel nectar once imbibed brought about a serene state of mind. My body warmed, my mind emptied, and I beheld the majesty of existence. In my book it wasn’t a bad start to the day.
Having finally got back home and secured a glass allow me to present my tasting notes for Glenlivet Nadurra. At 63.1% this is strong stuff, and should be mixed with a little water to bring out all the flavours. The nose is initially just pure alcohol but with a little acclimatisation one soon begins to detect a host of citrusy smells with a distinct pear smell coming to the fore. An initial sweet toffee note gives way to a tremendous pineapple/pear drop taste which is incredibly unique and a hallmark of Glenlivet. I must say that this particular cask strength edition really allows you to appreciate this inimitable flavour. The after taste is a gentle sweet cappuccino that never intrudes but remains present for a good deal of time after you’ve finished. An absolutely remarkable way to start a morning but one that I daren’t repeat for quite some time, a refined and interesting dram that I certainly recommend giving a go.
Verdict: A Classic at Cask Strength