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Destination Cellars Whisky Tasting Events - Sep 2016

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Last month I had the pleasure of attending two very different whisky tasting events organised by Todd Morrison of Destination Cellars in Hobart, Tasmania.

Scandinavian Whisky Event

The first event was hosted by Fred Siggins at Destination Cellars and included a selection of five Scandinavian whiskies from Sweden, Iceland and Finland. The Scandinavian whisky scene is still in its infancy when it comes to producing whisky, but the region (especially Sweden) is amongst the highest consumers of whisky in the world. Scotch whisky is very popular and in particular, peated whisky such as those produced by Islay distilleries.

I won’t provide full tasting impressions here because I only had one glass of each and we moved between whiskies fairly quickly. The notes that follow are my first impressions and things that either stood out or were noticeably absent on that first taste.

The first whisky on offer was Flóki Young Malt from Iceland. I had tried this once before, but technically it is not a ‘whisky’ since it has only been aged for 12-18 months; hence the branding as a ‘Young Malt’. The most obvious aroma was of strong fruitcake and when tasted it was spicy, leaving a lingering spicy sting on my tongue, rather than an alcohol burn. The finish was very short with just a faint spicy tingle but it disappeared abruptly at the back of my mouth.

Next was Mackmyra Iskristall from Sweden which is aged 5-7 years and finished in Pedro Ximénez (PX) casks. This whisky had a quite obvious sweet banana aroma and that sweetness continued when tasted. I noticed a slight aniseed flavour in what I would call a very light whisky. The finish was short.

Next was Teerenpeli Karhi Madeira from Finland which is aged for a similar period to the Makmyra but finished in Medeira casks. I am not familiar with the specific flavour of Medeira fortified wine and perhaps that contributed to me being unable to put a finger on any specific aromas or flavours with my first and only tasting. The finish however, was very short; it was forgotten almost immediately after swallowing.

Next was another Mackmyra, this time the Mackmyra Vinterrök bottling. Rök means ‘smoke’ in Swedish so it is no surprise that this whisky uses peated malt. I could detect an aroma of glace cherry with the slightest whiff of smoke on the nose. On tasting, the smoke was more obvious and it had a medicinal quality similar to Laphroaig peat. I believe Mackmyra introduce some Juniper smoke when drying their malt in an attempt to instil a unique local characteristic to the whisky’s smokiness. The finish was again short leaving behind a slight spicy tingle.

The last whisky tasted for the Scandinavian whisky event was the Box 2nd Step Edition. Box is the northern most whisky distillery in the world and as the name suggests, the 2nd Step Edition is the second early ‘work in progress’ release on the way to releasing a signature single malt. I have tried ‘The Messenger’ from Box before which is an excellent whisky, so I had high hopes for this one. The 2nd Step had an aroma of roasted nuts but on tasting it was difficult to nail down a dominate flavour. The finish was short like the rest of the whiskies on offer but there was a lingering smoky taste. Overall, I was a little disappointed with this offering but should try ‘The Messenger’ again for comparison.

Although none of these whiskies blew me away, I can see the Scandinavian whisky industry booming in the next decade or so. I would not be surprised if Scandinavian whisky reaches levels of praise and popularity not unlike that enjoyed by Indian and Taiwanese whiskies over the past few years.

American Oak versus Sherry Oak Event

The second event that I attended was hosted by the very knowledgeable Brendon Rogers, the Premium Spirits Brand Ambassador for Suntory, based in Melbourne. Brendon has over a decade industry experience, including holding a Sommelier position at The Witchery by the Caste in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Photo courtesy of Kawa Kurdistan
This time the event was held at Pop Café, 178 Collins Street, Hobart, a locally owned and operated business belonging to the Kurdistan family.

Overall, the event was excellent. I would go so far as saying it was the best whisky tasting event I have ever attended and was great value for money with nine whiskies on offer (although, I tasted ten). The intent of the evening was to sample a range of American Oak matured whiskies and compare them to whiskies with a sherry influence, with three great Laphroaig single malts thrown in for good measure.

First up was the Auchentoshan American Oak. Auchentoshan is the kind of whisky my dad would dismiss out of hand purely because it comes from the Scottish Lowlands region. He grew up being told by his Scottish relatives that the water used in Lowlands whisky was no good, therefore neither was their whisky. I’m a little more open-minded than that and thankfully so is my dad nowadays. In my brief tasting of the No Age Statement (NAS) American Oak, I picked up an aroma of sweetened cream. It was light on the pallet, very easy to drink and had a medium length finish.

Continuing with Auchentoshan, the second whisky of the night was the Auchentoshan Three Wood. I preferred this whisky over the previous American Oak. The Three Wood as the name suggests, is matured in three different casks, ex-bourbon filled American oak and both PX Sherry casks and Oloroso Sherry Casks. It had an aroma of dried fruit and a sweetness to match like sultanas. It too felt quite light and went down easily with a similar medium length finish.


It smelt like buttered toast cooked on a wood fire. 

Next we moved from the Scottish Lowlands to Islay with the Bowmore Small Batch. I’m a fan of Bowmore and the NAS Small Batch is matured in a mix of first-fill and second-fill ex-bourbon casks. It smelt like buttered toast cooked on a wood fire. It’s a delicate whisky with hints of vanilla from the oak showing through. The smoke lasts on the finish; a very pleasant drink.

The Bowmore 12 Year Old followed which is the youngest current age-statement single malt from Bowmore, a range that goes right up to a 25 Year Old bottling. The 12 Year Old is delicate and slightly fruity with a light peat smoke that builds towards a long finish.

The biggest surprise of the evening for me was The Macallan Sienna. The Sienna is part of The Macallan 1824 series of NAS bottlings. This was my first taste of a Macallan and I would have to say it was my favourite whisky on the night. It had an obvious sherry influenced aroma of Christmas pudding which comes from being matured exclusively in ex-sherry casks. The palate matches with flavours of sweet dried fruits before a spicy, somewhat peppery finish.

An offering from the Orkney Isles was next with the Highland Park Leif Eriksson. Named after an Icelandic explorer thought to have discovered what is now Canada, the Leif Eriksson follows a Highland Park tradition of naming whisky after famous Nordic figures. What struck me as unusual about this particular bottling was the lack of the Highland Park signature honey notes. I certainly did not notice them during this limited tasting but there was a pleasant smoky finish.

Photo courtesy of Kawa Kurdistan
Then we came to the three Laphroaig single malts, beginning with the flagship Laphroaig 10 Year Old which I have written about separately here.

Next was the Laphroaig Triple Wood, which I have had before but interestingly, it reminded me of my first experience with the Laphroaig 10 Year Old about 15 years ago. The nose was smoky with hints of coffee beans and Werther’s Original Caramels. The Triple Wood had an oily mouth feel to it and finished with a sensation of smoke being blown into your mouth, just like what had originally sparked my interest in whisky over a decade ago.

And finally the new Laphroaig Lore, the replacement for the outgoing 18 Year Old single malt whisky. It took me a while to put a finger on it but the Lore had a distinctive aroma of citronella candles amongst a heavier wood fire smokiness. It had a lot going on when tasted, probably too much for me to dissect in one drink and a far less dramatic finish than the Triple Wood.

I was also lucky enough to try the Marker’s Mark 46 bourbon, which was a silky smooth, sweet, but not overly so bourbon and with a kick of spiciness. Laphroaig uses ex-Marker’s Mark bourbon casks exclusively to mature its whisky.

This is quite a long write up, so congratulations if you got to the end. I would like to thank Todd Morrison from Destination Cellars, Fred Siggins and Brendon Rogers, and Kawa, Siyar and Roni Kurdistan from Pop Café.

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