Big Slider

Top Picks

Featured

Coming Soon

Westland and Hyde tasting events.

Tasmanian Whisky Academy Intro to Distilling Course - Part Three

The Full Spectrum of Whiskies for Under $50 A Bottle

Distillery tour of Scotland (May 2018)

Invention

Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Whisky Impressions

0

Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Whisky Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Johnnie Walker
Name: Black Label
Make: Blended Scotch Whisky
Extra Info: Rumoured to contain over 40 different Scotch whiskies (the actual blend recipe is a closely guarded secret) all aged for at least 12 years, Johnnie Walker Black is the second lowest priced whisky in a long line of popular blends. What is known, is that a major component of Johnnie Walker Black Label comes from the Caol Ila distillery on the island of Islay, Scotland. The core 'Colours' range includes Johnnie Walker Red Label, Black Label, Double Black, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum Label 18 Year Old and Blue Label with many other special and limited editions on offer. Prices range from less than $40 to hundreds of dollars per bottle.

Why did I buy it?

I bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label because it is cheap, commonly available and immensely popular. Most whisky drinkers have tried at least one Johnnie Walker blend and many bars use Johnnie Walker Red Label as their standard mixing whisky. Everyone needs a good mixing whisky at home and I wanted to see if Johnnie Walker Black Label would do for me.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Iconic narrow square-sided bottle with as the name suggests, a black label. Gold writing and iconography contrast well against the black label on the clear glass bottle.

Appearance: Bright gold in colour, with consistency and crystal clear clarity achieved through the use of caramel colouring and chill-filtration. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Aroma: Although most commonly drunk with a mixer, neat, it smells of sea spray, definite maritime elements with the faintest hint of smoke with some cedar, like stepping into a traditional sauna.

Flavour: I try blended whiskies a variety of ways, neat, on the rocks, with Coke, etc. Johnnie Walker Black Label with a sweet mixer reminded me of a misspent youth and mornings waking up to bad whisky breath and regret. With soda water and ice it was more palatable, but the regret remained.
Smooth, like most blends. Heavy on the vanilla, sweet and a little more smoke than on the nose. Some indistinguishable fruitiness. 

Finish: Some spicy tingle that fades quickly, leaving just that bad whisky breath and regret behind.

Would I buy it again?

No, there is nothing wrong with Johnnie Walker Black Label, it's just not my mixer whisky of choice. I don't like the aftertaste it leaves in my mouth and there isn't enough going on across the nose and palate for me to want to drink it. I certainly would not judge someone for liking it, many people do the world over. If you like it great, if you don't and are looking for another blended Scotch, there are plenty of others to choose from including other expressions from Johnnie Walker. 

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Monkey Shoulder Blended Whisky Impressions

0

Monkey Shoulder Blended Whisky Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: William Grant & Sons Ltd., Scotland
Name: Monkey Shoulder, Batch 27 Smooth and Rich
Make: Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
Extra Info: The name 'Monkey Shoulder' comes from an old distillery term for a strain injury often suffered by workers tasked to turn the malt by hand. Floor malting, where the barley is spread out over a malting floor and seeped in water, is a traditional method for making the barley germinate or sprout. The trick is to frequently toss or turn the barley with large malt shovels in order to prevent the sprouts from intertwining and clumping together. When the barley has germinated just the right amount to maximise sugar yield, it is dried in a kiln to stop the process and the finished product is called Malt.

Why did I buy it?

I bought a bottle of Monkey Shoulder for two reasons. It is cheap, coming in at around the mid-range for your most popular blended whiskies but still half the price of an entry-level single malt. I don't want to just write about expensive whisky. Not everyone feels the same way as I do about spending $100+ on a single bottle. You can pick up a bottle of Monkey Shoulder for under 50 bucks in Australia which for us, is cheap. Secondly, despite its relatively low price tag, Monkey Shoulder is a blend of only malt Scotch whisky, like the Compass Box Peat Monster. No cheaper grain whisky is utilised, like in most other blended Scotch whiskies including big names like Johnnie Walker.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: One of the best-looking bottles out there. A simple clear glass bottle with a pirate map-esk label, is set off by a distinctive and unique metal motif of three monkeys (one for each malt scotch used in the blend) pressed into the glass.

Appearance: Orange-gold in colour, almost certainly with some additional caramel colouring and chill-filtered. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Aroma: Fruity, honey and orange.

Flavour: I try blended whiskies a variety of ways, neat, on the rocks, with Coke, etc. Monkey Shoulder didn't really appeal to my palate taken neat or on the rocks. I preferred it with soda water and ice.
Smooth, with a hint of woody spice. Very easy to drink, no alcohol burn to speak of, at least to my abused taste buds. Fruity flavours like sweet banana, but overall unremarkable. 

Finish: Very little going on, not unusual for a blend. Slightly bitter aftertaste.

Would I buy it again?

No, but I would recommend it to others. Monkey Shoulder is a cheap blended whisky that doesn't taste cheap and nasty. No cheaper grain whisky is used in the blend and it is perfectly fine to drink neat, on ice or with the mixer of your choice if it appeals to your tastes. Personally, I would rather spend a little more money on my 'mixing whisky' and get something that appeals more to my own palate and drinking habits, but that is just me. If you like Monkey Shoulder then there is no reason to look any further for a quality go-to whisky.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Interview with Heather Swart

0

Interview with Heather Swart

Photo © Anne Gigney

Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Heather; would you kindly begin by introducing yourself and your current position and duties at Sullivan’s Cove Distillery?
Hi Shane, thank you for having me along. I am a distiller at Sullivans Cove. The average week for me would include running the still through wash and spirit runs, ensuring new make spirit is diluted accurately prior to maturation, preparing and filling a bunch of barrels, sniffing and/or tasting the various liquids throughout the wash-to-bottle process, rolling many barrels, determining spirit cuts, a whole lot of liquid transferring, sharing a cuppa and a yarn with the bloke who delivers our wash, diluting matured spirits to their determined bottling strengths, monitoring the flocc settling process of our whiskies just prior to bottling, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, being the whisky fairy who makes sure the bottling line always have something to do, speak lovingly to Myrtle our still, patting the barrels, and of course a whole heap of tests and data entry to document the lot (sans the sweet nothings to Myrtle and the barrel patting). I’m also responsible for quality control in the distillery, which is a new role and one that I am really enjoying at the moment.

Where does your interest in whisky come from and when did you know you wanted a career in distilling? 
Hubby and I moved to Tasmania, and wondering what all the fuss about whisky here was, figured ‘when in Rome.’ Sullivans was the first stop, and after one sniff I quickly realised that my presuppositions about whisky needed drastically re-thinking. An existential crisis swiftly ensued and the only resolution was one that included stills, barrels, and fine spirits.

Tasmania is blessed with many distilleries, but most are small family-owned and run operations with few staff. Did you find it difficult finding work in a distillery?
Funnily enough, no! I was chatting with Rex at Nonesuch Distillery one morning about wanting to explore the industry, over his sloe gin naturally, and in a classic Tassie move, he posted on Facebook that I had good wine industry experience and desired to go into distilling. A scurry of phone calls followed, and the next day Pat Meguire at Sullivans phoned and offered me work. Still pinching myself over that one.

What’s your favourite thing about working at Sullivan’s Cove?
Aside from loving the product (especially our American Oak expression), everyone is valued for what they give the company. We are a small team but are from really diverse backgrounds and so we all bring a quirk and flare to the table. If you had to picture a quintessential distillery crew, we’re certainly not that! If what we sing while at work is any indication of the mix, if you spend a little time at the distillery you could hear fantastically terrible renditions of Sadie the Cleaning Lady, Besame Mucho, freestyle rap and everything in-between. It’s good fun!


What kinds of jobs are available in a typical distillery and how do the education requirements vary? Would you recommend any kinds of courses, formal education or industry experience for anyone hoping to secure work in a distillery?
The textbook roles include back of house operations (distiller, bond store management, production management, malting and brewing in distilleries that do these processes themselves, etc.), blending, front of house and hospitality roles, administrative and finance roles, marketing and sales. 

Australia has become an off-centre poster child for the world whisky scene in the space of a few years and a couple of breaths, voila! We have a knack, we do indeed! This is where we need to work through our identity crisis, find who we are, embody who we are, protect our essence, and strive to just be better all the time. Education is so part of that. The balance will be maintaining the romance and quirk with developing technical knowledge and industry growth. 

Obviously many of the administrative roles have formal education foundations, however, there isn’t a huge scope of education options for distilling roles. In fact, the vast majority of distillers have no related education; it’s all on-the-job based and handed down learning. I totally love this, it’s romantic! But as any industry grows, there comes a point where education must come to the forefront to ensure it is both preserved and held to the right standards of quality and practice through its growth. Right now, we are at that point. Australia has become an off-centre poster child for the world whisky scene in the space of a few years and a couple of breaths, voila! We have a knack, we do indeed! This is where we need to work through our identity crisis, find who we are, embody who we are, protect our essence, and strive to just be better all the time. Education is so part of that. The balance will be maintaining the romance and quirk with developing technical knowledge and industry growth. 

And there are education options that strive keep that balance - the Tasmanian Whisky Academy offers courses that introduce interested people to the business and technical aspects of starting up and running a distillery. The Academy is a great place to start for industry insight and guidance. 

The Institute of Brewing and Distilling (based in the UK, but with an ever-growing presence in Australia) offer accessible distance courses for those after technical grit. They are partnering with the Tas Whisky Academy to provide intensive face-to-face courses around Australia, so keep both eyes peeled on the Academy social media for these. A number of distilleries are also offering courses and on the ground experiences for those who want to dip their toes in, i.e. Redlands and Nonesuch here in Tasmania, who show the nitty-gritty “how do you do that?”, getting the hands dirty kind of stuff. 

What did you know about whisky before you began working at a distillery and how steep has the on-the-job learning curve been?
Only that I liked the good stuff, the rest I have learned since. I guess the steepness of the learning curve depends on one’s approach to learning. I have no end of passion and geek-driven fascination for the field, so continually reading, asking questions and going deeper is a joy; being a curious cat helps.

How has your whisky education changed the way you enjoy whisky?
Drinking whisky isn’t boring anymore, it’s a little intense now, in fact! When I drink I want to see the overall personality of the whisky, to pick apart the components that make it up, and then put them back together in the palate’s mind to see how they hold in balance. Pre-spirits industry I enjoyed thinking about what I could taste and smell, but now ask why can I taste and smell these things? What did the narrative of this whisky’s life look like to give this result? When you find a whisky that has been crafted lovingly and with artistic intention at every point of the process, you can taste it. It’s as if every flavour and aroma introduces itself to you… and gives you a glimpse into their journey. 

I want to taste the ferment style, the worm tub, the hard-and-fast or the low-and-slow distillation techniques, all those sexy bends and curves of the still, how the spirit was cut, the provenance of the oak, the maturation environment and the way all of these work together. 

I love oak characteristics, but more so chase whiskies that possess a harmony between the oak and the distillery character. I want to taste the ferment style, the worm tub, the hard-and-fast or the low-and-slow distillation techniques, all those sexy bends and curves of the still, how the spirit was cut, the provenance of the oak, the maturation environment and the way all of these work together. Unashamedly get kicks from this!

Do you have a favourite whisky and if so, what is it and why is it your dram of choice?
Generally, variety reigns supreme. But that being said… Redbreast 15, Yellow Spot, a Duncan Taylor bottling of Mortlach 1993 18 year old, Yoichi (umami-mia!) and Glencadam 14 year old Oloroso cask will always slow a spinning world.

On an objective level, they’re all multi-faceted with a balanced depth. On a subjective (and admittedly oddball) level, in my mind, every smell and sound have a funny aurora-like colour pattern and the colour patterns of these whiskies strike a chord in me.

Are there any figures in the whisky industry that you take inspiration from or would like to emulate one day and if so, who are they and why do you see them as inspirational?
Many, and not just from the whisky industry! None I want to emulate – we all must express our individuality in our arts – but I find endless wisdom, influence and inspiration from Barry Crockett of Midleton Distillery, Christoph Keller at Stählemühle, Julien Frémont in Calvados, and Hubert Germain-Robin in California. They are colourful personalities, all obsessively passionate about their distilling niches, and all have forged unique styles from their own character. With them it never ends - they see the world through their palate, and their spirits come from the soul. It’s personal. To me, they embody my dream: an eclectic and eccentric blend of art and science, with noses deep in glasses.

Where do you see yourself in ten years and what are your future career goals?
Hopefully, a little wiser and certainly with a lot more still experience. We hope kids will be in the picture. I get that most women don’t see themselves raising kids amongst barrels, copper pots and high proof spirits… But the idea of sharing the passion and appreciation for fine spirits and their creation with a child gives me a buzz. #mumgoals 

Aroma science gives me mega highs, as does the organic chemistry behind the lives of barrel aged spirits from the ground to the bottle. So as far as career goals go, I find myself focussing on these areas with the intention of specialising in them, and also with a growing interest in teaching others the same.


Have you received any odd reactions from family, friends or strangers when you tell them your occupation?
Nothing hilarious to report sadly. Haven’t been burnt at the stake or dubbed a witch (that literally happened to thousands of women distillers in the 1500-1600’s) or anything dramatic yet, just the odd marriage proposal. Really it just takes people back a little- it’s not a garden variety occupation. A great conversation starter! 

Do you think being a woman will be irrelevant, an opportunity or an obstacle to your future in the industry?
Irrelevant in the sense that I’m just a person doing their thing, gender aside. A wonderful opportunity to be able to contribute to the breaking down of perceived societal barriers to career due to gender that is happening currently. This really excites me. 

There have certainly been times in the wider drinks industry where I have felt like a bit of a sideshow, or that it was assumed that after a bit of hard work I’d bail, but when a person - any sex - shows that they are suited to a role and industry and can hoof it like anybody else, then they are accepted as one of the crew. 

An obstacle? Nah. There have certainly been times in the wider drinks industry where I have felt like a bit of a sideshow, or that it was assumed that after a bit of hard work I’d bail, but when a person - any sex - shows that they are suited to a role and industry and can hoof it like anybody else, then they are accepted as one of the crew. I have certainly found this to be true and have experienced very little prejudice within the production side of the industry, and trust that will continue. The distillery folks in Tasmania are a neat bunch, and Sullivans is a cool family.

There have been certain adjustments, though, like learning not to put on eye makeup until after cleaning the still (picture a Gene Simmons’ doppelganger).

Would you like to see more women follow in your footsteps and do you have any advice for women either interested in or unaware of the opportunities in the whisky industry?
You’re darn tootin’ I would! For the vast majority of distillation history, women have been the souls behind spirits; in fact, the invention of the alembic still is generally attributed to a lassie by the name of Mary the Jewess, circa 200CE. Since the Industrial Revolution, distillation (and by default whisky) has become more synonymous with the man’s realm and is no longer on the to-do list of housewives everywhere. Yes, making whisky is often dirty, sweaty, hard work that at many times is not for the faint-hearted (ever spent days on end manoeuvring 250kg barrels?), but hold the phone - why on earth does that mean a woman wouldn’t want to do it or be great at it? 

My advice for women is that it is a wonderful path that offers fulfilling and varied opportunities for the creatives, scientists and those who fall in the middle. It’s endlessly fascinating, a sensory hallucination that becomes your existence. 

Is life class getting predictable? The board room getting you down? Feel like the only sure thing in life right now is the enrapturing aroma of the Tariquet 12 in your glass? Listen to your nose. Go and say hello to your local friendly distiller, hang out with them, and ask about opportunities in the industry. Don’t live near a distiller? Find one online! Asking is daunting sometimes, but questions make the world go round, right?

Calling you out ladies, dive in!


Thank you so much for your time Heather, it has been a pleasure sharing your passion for whisky.

If you have any questions for Heather (with the exception of marriage proposals) please send them to whiskydadblog@gmail.com and I will be sure to pass then on - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Kilkerran 12 Year Old Impressions

0

Kilkerran 12 Year Old Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Glengyle, Campbeltown, Scotland
Name: Kilkerran 12 Year Old
Make: Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Extra Info: Glengyle is the fourth whisky label to be owned and operated by J&A Mitchell and Co. along with Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn. The distillery is named after the original Glengyle distillery, founded in Campbeltown by William Mitchell in 1875 and operated until 1925. The name Kilkerran is used to distinguish the brand from the similarly named 'Glen Gyle' which is an established blended Highland malt scotch whisky and in reference to the Gaelic name of the original settlement where Campbeltown now stands.

Why did I buy it?

Every whisky I have tried from the Campbeltown region to date I have loved, so it was only natural for me to try the new kid on the block. It has taken a few months for the Kilkerran 12 Year Old to make it to the Australia market and a slew of positive reviews have caused it to be already sold out in many regions...So I bought two bottles. Needless to say, I was very excited to taste.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Strikingly simple. Black text and graphics on a textured white background adorn both the packaging and clear glass bottle label. 

Appearance: Bright gold, non-chill filtered with no added colouring and bottled at 46%.

I'm going to break from tradition here and discuss my tasting experience with the Kilkerran 12 Year Old. There are two main ways to drink whisky, critically where you attempt to systematically critique each aspect of the whisky and draw out as much information as you can; and non-critically, where you just sit back and enjoy the bloody thing. I am sitting here right now with barely a finger left in my first bottle of Kilkerran 12 Year Old and my tasting notes are still blank! I really want to explore the depths of this whisky but I keep giving up, putting my pen down and enjoying it instead. The following notes are taken against my will, I would have much preferred to just drink it.

Aroma: A generous fruit bowl with a banana just past its prime. Wet driftwood.

Flavour: A subtle smoky woodiness surprises since it does not smell smoky at all. 

Finish: Long, spicy tingle with a mild warming deep in the chest and a pinch of salt on the aftertaste.

Would I buy it again?

Yes and I thought I might, hence why I bought two bottles to avoid being disappointed in the future. The Kilkerran 12 Year Old is a great whisky and another winner from Campbeltown. I know I will have to come back and revisit my notes when I open the second bottle but for this first taste of a brand new Campbeltown whisky, I was more than happy to just sit back and enjoy the bloody thing.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Starward Wine Cask Edition 1 Impressions

0

Starward Wine Cask Edition 1 Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Starward New World Whisky
Name: Wine Cask Edition 1
Make: Australian Single Malt
Extra Info: Starward Wine Cask Edition was only this week awarded the coveted World Whiskies Awards - Best Australian Single Malt Whisky, for the second year in a row.



Why did I buy it?

I originally sampled this whisky as part of a whisky tasting event in Hobart last year and it was my favourite whisky tasted on the night and had this to say about it:
...matured exclusively in ex-Australian red wine barrels sourced from an undisclosed South Australian winery. The nose was sweet and fruity, delicate, with notes of strawberry. The sweetness continued on the palate with flavours of sweet summer berries followed by a medium-length finish that ended in a slightly bitter aftertaste.  
I had been meaning to buy a bottle since then and found one quite easily at a large local bottle shop chain and iIt will be interesting to if my impressions differ with a full bottle. It just so happened the bottle I picked up was one of the original run Wine Cask Edition 1, probably worth something to an investor (especially after two Best Australian Single Malt awards) but I was content to open it rather than just look at it because it really is a lovely whisky to drink.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: I love the label on the bottle, it is simple, clean and modern and so is the nicely shaped bottle that tapers slightly inwards towards a chunky base.

Appearance: Dark gold approaching amber in colour. No age statement, bottled at 41% ABV.

Aroma: Confectionery sweet, strawberries and cream, marshmallow and raspberry coulis. A pleasant nose without any harsh alcohol burn.

Flavour: Light mouthfeel, sweet summer berries.

Finish: Medium length, a fruity aftertaste with the slightest spicy tingle and a mild warming fade.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, absolutely. The Starward Wine Cask Edition is a uniquely Australian whisky, it's like a Christmas Pavlova smothered in berries and cream, enjoyed on the veranda on a balmy summer afternoon. Not only that but it is very forgiving for whisky newcomers. It's sweet, without a harsh alcohol burn and quite easy to drink. It has subtleties for the seasoned connoisseur, but I believe this to be a great introductory whisky for someone looking to try whisky neat for the first time. Uniquely Australian, sweet and easy to drink, I can see why it was judged Australia's best.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Green Spot Irish Whiskey Impressions

0

Green Spot Irish Whiskey Impressions

What is it? 

Distillery: Middleton Distillery, Co.
Name: Green Spot
Make: Single Pot Still Irish whiskey
Extra Info: Green Spot whiskey was originally sold as an independent bottling of Dublin-based family merchants, Mitchell & Son, who began purchasing distilled spirit from nearby Jameson’s Distillery to age in their own casks in the late 1800s. The site of the original Mitchell & Son store in Grafton Street, Dublin, is now home to a McDonalds. The name ‘Green Spot’ comes from the practice of marking casks of different ages with spots of coloured paint; green paint was used to mark 10 year old whiskey, which proved to be the most popular of the four varieties, Blue, Green, Yellow and Red Spot. Now, only Green Spot and the 12 year old Yellow Spot are sold, which are among the few Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys currently available.

Why did I buy it?

In my opinion, Single Pot Still is the quintessential Irish whiskey so I am keen to try what little of it is available. Having tried Redbreast, Green Spot was a natural followup and I will no doubt track down a bottle of Yellow Spot in the not too distant future.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Bottled in a simple clear bottle, Green Spot has a great looking label with a blot of paint that mimics the green spot that historically marked the whiskey casks. It is clean, iconic, meaningful and immediately recognisable. Bottled at 40% ABV.

Appearance: Bright gold in colour and considering the low ABV, more than likely contains some caramel colouring and has been chill filtered to standardise the final product. This practice is not uncommon and there is nothing on the label to indicate otherwise.

Aroma: Fruity notes up front, malty cereal sweetness, stewed apple with a hint of banana and a citrus zing.

Flavour: Full bodied, oily mouthfeel. Very spicy with some menthol freshness, similar to a rye whisky.

Finish: Fading spice that tingles inside the mouth with a slightly bitter yet fresh aftertaste that lingers.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, Green Spot is one of the more affordable Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys and is a great place to start if you have never tried this variety of whiskey before. It is not as moreish as Redbreast but it is still a great whiskey and worthy of your time and money. I would definitely shell out a little more for Green Spot rather than settle for one of the cheaper, unremarkable and perhaps more well known Irish whiskeys on the market.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Single Pot Still, The Most Irish of Irish Whiskeys

0

Single Pot Still, The Most Irish of Irish Whiskeys


With today being St Patrick's Day, I thought it only appropriate to write a piece on Irish whiskey. Irish whiskey (spelt with the 'e') comes in many forms but the only thing that makes a whiskey Irish, legally speaking, is that it comes from Ireland. Sure, it has the same base rules as any whiskey regarding ingredients and minimum age etc. but it doesn't need to be produced in any special way to be considered Irish whisky. It does not need to be triple distilled, plenty of Scotch is triple distilled and plenty of Irish whiskey is double distilled. So if the only difference between Irish whiskey and Scotch is the country of origin, is there really any difference?

Amongst all the Irish whiskey there is one variety produced under very few labels that in my opinion, is quintessentially Irish and is so, for an equally Irish reason - sticking it to the English. Let's start with a quick history lesson. The Irish are commonly recognised to have invented whiskey some time in the 15th century, but it soon crossed the North Channel to Scotland. By the turn of the 20th century, the Irish whiskey industry dominated Scotch sales until the Irish War of Independence cut off exports to Commonwealth countries and the rise of the temperance movement in the US, one of the biggest export markets for Irish whiskey, led to the introduction of prohibition. These events and further unrest in Ireland, crippled the once great Irish whisky industry in a matter of decades. The Scotts, on the other hand, lacked the affinity to the temperance movement that many Irish had and pounced on the opportunity to break into the now illicit North American market and never looked back. Ironically, the Scotts ramped up production through the use of an Irish invention, the Coffey Still, allowing them to produce large quantities of 'blended' whisky that better suited US tastes.

Now while the Irish may be credited with the invention of whiskey and the Scotts with its commercialisation, the English, are credited with the taxation of whiskey. In the 18th century, Scotland was home to hundreds, perhaps thousands of unregulated 'backyard' stills as farmers used whisky to convert bulky barley supplies into far more profitable, less likely to spoil and transportable whisky. The exact number of stills was unknown and that was precisely the problem as far as the tax man in London was concerned. You see, in 1785 it was ordered that whisky was to be taxed as it was a far too lucrative commodity for the Crown not to get a cut. The Scotts did not take well to this news and kept producing from illicit stills hidden away in the highlands for decades but the Irish took tax evasion to a whole new level.

Malted and Unmalted Barley

When producing whisky, barley needs to be malted (made to sprout or germinate) in order to release essential plant enzymes. These enzymes are what convert hard starches within the barley into soft starches that are able to be converted to sugars when mixed with hot water inside the Mash Tun. The sugars provide a source of food for the yeast during fermentation. The English knew that malted barely was essential to whisky production but not for traditional farming, so naturally, they taxed it. Now, this is what makes Single Pot Still whiskey so wonderfully Irish. The Irish were not stupid, they also knew a thing or two about whiskey (they did invent it after all) specifically, they knew that only around 30% of the total barely used had to be malted in order to produce enough of the essential plant emzymes. Since only malted barely was taxed, they tried making whiskey with just 30% malted barley, slashing their tax bills by seventy percent! Well played Irish whiskey makers, well played.

The term Single Pot Still (it used to be called 'Pure Pot Still') is confusing because it means one thing literally and another in the context of Irish whiskey. A pot still is a copper vessel that is heated and used for distilling whisky wash into a clear spirit. Many whiskies are made with just one or a 'single' pot still but they are not Single Pot Still whiskey. Single Pot Still whiskey, in the Irish whiskey context, is whiskey made with a combination of malted and unmalted barely and in my opinion, is the only true Irish whiskey.

Single Pot Still Irish Whiskeys

Sadly, there are very few Single Pot Still Irish whiskeys on the market today, in fact, you can count them on one hand; Redbreast, Green Spot and Yellow Spot, Powers and Middleton are about the only labels readily available. They are characterised by their unique flavour profile and this uniqueness is why I consider Single Pot Still whiskey to be the quintessential Irish whiskey. The mixture of malted and unmalted barley (and sometimes other grains) produces a full body (think red wine mouth feel) and a spicy character. Single Pot Still whiskeys are fruity on the nose and fresh smelling. I find them very easy to drink neat and quite moreish, it is always difficult to settle for only a single dram. So if you feel like an Irish whiskey this St Patrick's Day (or any day for that matter) try a Single Pot Still Irish whiskey, the most Irish of Irish whiskeys.
0 comments

What Is Independently Bottled Whisky?

0

What Is Independently Bottled Whisky?


The Internet is a wonderful tool for the whisky enthusiast. Discovering and acquiring whisky has never been easier, with a dizzying choice of both old and new whiskies just a few mouse clicks away. I often browse my favourite websites checking prices and availability, reading tasting notes and writing wish lists of my next whisky purchases. For example, I am currently holding out for the latest Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength and Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength expressions. Historically, both tend to arrive in Australia in very limited quantities and sell out quickly.

During these online browsing sessions, especially when I was first getting serious about whisky, I kept stumbling across odd whisky labels. These whiskies were not produced by a particular distillery, but rather were sourced from a variety of distilleries and bottled under a different branding such as Gordon & MacPhail, Signatory, Rest & Be Thankful and Heartwood. This process, I would eventually learn, was called independent bottling and it was a practice that had been going on for almost as long as whisky had been produced.

So what is independent bottling exactly?

To understand independent bottling, you must first understand the fundamentals of whisky production. Whisky is an alcoholic spirit made from distilling a fermented cereal and aging it in wooden barrels or casks (the terms ‘barrel’ and ‘cask’ are interchangeable). When the fermented cereal (usually malt, in the case of Scotch whisky) is first distilled, it is a clear liquid distillate referred to as new make. This new make is not whisky in a legal sense, although it will become whisky once it has been aged in wooden barrels for a minimum legal period or longer. During this aging process, the new make and wood undergo a variety of marvellous chemical reactions and tannins from the wood leach into the liquid imparting a more familiar whisky colour. Many factors affect the interaction between distillate and wood; such as how long it remains in the barrel, the type of wood used in the barrel, what the barrel held if anything prior to being filled, the thickness of the barrel staves, the amount of char inside the barrel, the size of the barrel and the average temperature, temperature variations and barometric pressure within the storehouse etc. That is a lot of very influential factors that occur after distillation.

The decisions about how to use these factors are the tools of the independent bottler. An independent bottler will source and provide their own barrel or barrels to a distillery, to be filled with a new make (or very young) spirit. This spirit may be the same used to make the distillery’s signature expressions, but that is where the similarities end. Whatever whisky is produced from that independent bottler’s cask will be unlike anything else the distillery makes and will quite often be unique to that particular cask or casks.

So now that you know independent bottling is more than just filling a barrel with someone else’s whisky, here’s an interview with ‘Caskologist’ George Koutsakis of Whisky Foundation, a new e-commerce venture specialising in independently bottled whiskies.

WD: Welcome George, what is a ‘Caskologist’ and what is your involvement with Whisky Foundation?

GK: We are a small, yet passionate, team here at Whisky Foundation and we all take on a variety of different roles. The term ‘Caskologist’ is an invented term which best describes the part I play in the organisation.

My job is basically to manage and stay on top of anything to do with the Whisky Foundation website. Working closely with our sales team, I add, research, and sample new products and observe the statistics to find which bottles are of greatest interest to our customers.

With my past expertise in whisky tasting and events, and my experience writing, I also manage the Whisky Foundation blog, and try to create the most educational and captivating content to keep our readers entertained. In order to do so I closely follow industry news and new releases.

WD: What do you look for when selecting a cask and do you already have a potential new make spirit fill in mind?

GK: This is a question better answered by the independent bottlers themselves. The wonderful Italian independent bottler Wilson & Morgan, who select the finest Scottish casks to join their collections, have produced a few exclusive bottles for Whisky Foundation. Their brand ambassador Luca Chichizola, who is co-responsible for selecting casks alongside chairman Fabio Rossi, had this to say:
It must be exciting to us. We have tasted more than 3000 malts in our lives so far. So it must be ‘different’, it must shine. It must not induce a yawn or an ‘OK, more of the same’ thought. Even if it's still immature and rough, it must have personality. About new make... not very interesting to us, if I may say so. We always buy whisky that is already 3 years old, so that it has lost its most undesirable traits of immaturity and it's easier to see where it will go. With rum on the other hand (Wilson & Morgan has a sister company called Rum Nation) we definitely buy new make either for bottling white rum or for maturation.
WD: Mass produced whisky is commonly chill-filtered and even non-chill filtered, non-cask strength whisky is usually allowed to rest to separate the less soluble particulate matter or ‘floc’ before bottling. What are your thoughts on whisky filtration and how does this affect Whisky Foundation bottlings?

GK: When it comes to whisky filtration, I am a firm believer in sampling the whisky in its most natural form. I find non-chill filtered whiskies provide a ‘fuller’ and ‘richer’ mouthfeel, due to the presence of fatty acids and proteins, which are removed throughout the process of chill-filtration.

Non-chill filtration gives drinkers a more natural and organic experience. That cloudiness should be welcomed. Most of the independent bottlings we have at Whisky Foundation come just like that, at cask-strength and non-chill filtered, giving the raw, intense, unique flavour I love most in my whisky.

WD: What are some of the things that independent bottlers could do that would not be possible or perhaps financially viable in a large distillery?

GK: A large distillery needs to focus on consistency. Several flagship releases take up most of the distillery’s production capabilities, which, sadly, can restrict distillers and make it hard for them to create unique, one-off releases.

Independent bottlers, however, only create unique, one-off releases, which means their sole purpose is to experiment, observe, and release whiskies that have matured for the right amount of time, providing balance above all else.

The fact that these organizations hold so many different casks from different distilleries means that they can choose exactly how they treat the whisky. They can create unique blends, and use unique methods to age and bottle a whisky. Two casks of the same Scotch can be aged in different kinds of oak, for a different duration, and at different temperatures. Experimentation takes the front seat when it comes to independent bottling.

WD: A lot of whisky drinkers enjoy the familiarity and availability of a large distillery’s flagship whisky. How do you convince these people to buy an independently bottled whisky that is often much more expensive and likely to never be repeated?

GK: Firstly, people’s preconceptions need to be challenged. I look at large distilleries and independent bottlers as two completely different entities, in the same way I might look at a hotel and a villa. We need both, and both provide us with an amazing, yet very different service.

A large distillery will give you your favourite dram over and over again, whenever you need it for years, even decades. An independent bottler will give you something different every single time, challenging you to explore, learn, and delve deeper into the world of whisky.

It all comes down to education. Whisky tastings, promotions, and a whole lot of information can make all the difference. Step by step, we simply need to introduce people to independent bottling and show them what makes the experience so special and satisfying.

With a little knowledge about independent bottling and a willingness to explore, it’s possible to find a wealth of under-recognised whisky gems.

WD: Thanks for your time, George, and for sharing your thoughts on independently bottled whisky.

GK: Thank you for having me, it’s been a pleasure.



If you consider yourself a whisky enthusiast, you shouldn’t ignore independently bottled whisky. Independently bottled whisky present an opportunity to try unique expressions sourced from your favourite distilleries. A lot of thought goes into the cask selection process yet even with years of experience the results can be anything but predictable. This dramatic and often unpredictable effect that ageing whisky in wood has, is one of the things I love about whisky. It is comforting to know that no matter where the whisky was distilled, I can always be surprised.
0 comments

Compass Box Peat Monster Impressions

0

Compass Box Peat Monster Impressions

What is it?

Distillery: Compass Box
Name: The Peat Monster
Make: Blended Scotch whisky
Extra Info: Compass Box is a bit of a rebel in the Scotch whisky world, having the first edition of their Spice Tree blend ordered off the shelves by the Scotch Whisky Association in 2006 and for being an active campaigner for total transparency in whisky labelling, contrary to current UK and EU laws which state only the age of the youngest whisky component in a bottle can be declared on a label or packaging.

Why did I buy it?

I am all for Compass Box's campaign for transparency, which was what first put the company on my radar. You can read about Compass Box's position and show your support hereSome of their bottlings are easier to find than others and The Peat Monster is one of the easier ones to locate in Australia. It may be more expensive than your average blend, but that is partly because The Peat Monster is made up exclusively of single malt scotch whiskies. There is no cheaper grain whisky used in this blend, which is common with most blended whiskies on the market.

What did I think of it?

Presentation: Some of the Compass Box labels (especially the limited editions) are works of art. The Peat Monster's label is unlike any other whisky bottle label you are likely to see. Gold text and imagery on a dark brown background, it conjures images of a cross between a Lovecraftian Cthulhu and Audrey II of the Little Shop of Horrors. I love it and it proudly displays whiskymaker, John Glaser's name, which should be done more often.

Appearance: Non-chill filtered and of natural colour, The Peat Monster is quite pale, being what I would call light gold coloured. A swirl results in thick legs clinging to the inside of the glass.

Aroma: The following is a no-bullshit admission and although it could be just a lucky guess, it did happened and I am quite proud of myself.

When I first opened the bottle and poured a dram, my initial thoughts on nosing were of Laphroaig and then Ledaig. As you can see from the nifty info-graphic below, provided by Compass Box, I was bang on! Perhaps I am learning something by drinking all this whisky.

© Compass Box Whisky Company

It is obviously smoky, but with a maritime element; Seaweed or wet sand. There is also an acridity to the smokiness, but it’s not unpleasant. The 46% ABV was surprisingly noticeably, suggesting this whisky is quite volatile, but that may just be because my part of Australia is suffering through a heat wave at the moment. Adding water really subdued the smoky aromas but unfortunately didn't bring much of anything else forward. There was something faint underneath that I couldn’t quite make out — pear skin perhaps?

Flavour: Oily mouthfeel, cooling menthol, lots of pepper. Lives up to its name. Strong smokiness, catnip to peat freaks.

Finish: Long and mouth coating, slightly bitter smoke, lingering spice. Slight warming deep in the chest. The empty glass smells of aromatic woodchips, like those commonly used for smoking meat.

What did Scotchology think of it?

This is a special collaborative whisky review with Scotchology.com and as such, this is what the team at Scotchology thought of The Peat Monster from Compass Box. Be sure to check out their blog for more great whisky reviews and information.

Adam - I actually enjoy this scotch. It is not the most complex I've ever tasted, but it isn't necessarily simple either. There is smoke and peat, of course, but it isn't trying to be an Islay, which I appreciate. There is a sweetness right on the edge, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye. I like the complexity.

Michael - Two dimensional. It has this element of brine for me, then an element of peat. It just doesn't have a lot of layers. This one is fairly simple and consistent. It has a decent flavor and I don't mind it.

Peter - It's strong. It definitely. It lingers. It stays a while. It's peaty. it has a lot. It's aggressive (there's the monster). I think it is fun. I like it.

Jenny - The nose is pretty simple. Like I just get peat and smoke. Not much outside of that. Oddly enough, it's better after peated chips and humus. The palate is pretty straightforward. It's peaty. A little bit of smoke. Lingers for a bit. It's enjoyable, just not complex. Straightforward, enjoyable whisky.

Caitlin - My general feeling is "eh". It's underwhelming. Ben - I expected this to be much more aggressive with a name like "Peat Monster." I've seen this on the shelf at the store before and been curious about it. The whisky itself is very fine but I feel a little misled by the name.

Would I buy it again?

Yes, but I am in no rush. I would like to sample more of what Compass Box has to offer before returning to The Peat Monster. One for peat freaks and better than your average blend partly because it is made up entirely of quality single malt Scotch whisky without the addition of any grain whisky.

Disclaimer: I do not claim to have the nose and palate of a Master Sommelier, however, I am working to train my senses to better identify whisky aromas and flavours. Consider all my whisky 'Impressions' to be a work in progress and I hope to come back to each of them in the future to see if I notice anything different. Most importantly, I'm not just throwing around random aromas, flavours and adjectives for the hell of it; I am trying really hard to critically describe each whisky I taste - WhiskyDad.
0 comments

Got Punched in the Nuts, Moved House & Started a New Job

0

Got Punched in the Nuts, Moved House & Started a New Job


I write this entry from a hotel room in Australia’s capital city, Canberra. This will be my family’s home for the next ten days, as we wait for our belongings to be delivered from Tasmania to our new house and is my eleventh house move in thirteen years! This time last week, I was enjoying a final bounce on the trampoline with the kids prior to dismantling it, but our fun frolic ended abruptly when my four year old son lined me up and dragon punched me square in the plumbs.

It hurt, a lot; I swore, a lot, but the pain subsided after a few minutes. It wasn’t until 24 hours later that the real pain began. By the following day I was flat on my back, unable to stand since the force of gravity felt like a troop of angry gibbons swinging from my nads. This was the day before we were due to move house and needless to say I was of little use to anyone. I couldn’t pack my own boxers without it hurting, let alone pack any boxes.

I got the all-clear from an ultrasound and eventually made it through the uplift; arriving in Canberra yesterday, via a relatively pleasant day trip across Bass Straight on the Spirit of Tasmania. I started my new job today and my balls have pretty much stopped hurting now so I am officially back in business…And by that, I mean Blogging.

I closed off 2016 with 42 published blog posts and over 1,000 followers on Twitter. Not bad for three months work and I really do appreciate all the support and encouragement.


So what is in store for WhiskyDad in 2017?

Having moved interstate, I now have access to a whole new part of Australia and plan to explore some of the distilleries nearby. That said, I still have an article about three very different Tasmanian distilleries to share. I also have a few new whisky reviews on the way and a guest blogger review with the team at Scotchology. I will also start sharing my progress in planning a trip to Scotland with Dad-of-WhiskyDad in 2018 and hope you will have some suggestions to help make it a trip of a lifetime.

Keep an eye out for more original WhiskyDad content coming soon.
0 comments
Powered by Blogger.