With two Whisky Squad sessions per month and my current reduced rate of bloggage the site does seem to be turning into a Squad record site, which ain’t no bad thing (I love double negatives). However, #28 is a session that is close to my heart, as it was my first foray into leading a tasting. The plan was simple – find a bunch of world whiskies that a) taste pretty good and b) people probably won’t have tasted before, and then c) present them to The Squad at Albannach. After finding that a few of my first choices are now sold out in the UK I did a bit of legwork and only missed out on one of my choices – Teerenpeli from Finland. It will be back and one day I’ll inflict its creamy goodness on the general populace, or at least a few select people who are nearby before the bottle is empty.
Anyways, this will be an abbreviated post as I was too busy waving my arms around to write tasting notes and my brain doesn’t store information anywhere near as well as my army of notebooks. So here are my speaking notes and some piccies.
Update: There are now also ‘tasting notes’ courtesy of Mr Matchett. Each whisky is also matched with a computer game…
First up Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask.
Australian whisky matured in a mix of American and French oak.
Distillery was founded in 1994 in Hobart, Tasmania.
Game: Santa vs Super Mega Worm
Nose: Foam bananas
Taste: Gone off after a bit. Creamed corn
Next Three Ships 10 Year Old.
Distilled at the James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, South Africa.
The whisky is named for the three ships in the exploratory fleet of Bartholemew Diaz, discoverer of the Cape of Good Hope.
The distillery is named for the founder of James Sedgwick & Co, a purveyor of fine boozes and cigars founded in 1850. It was purchased by the company in 1886, having formerly been a brandy distillery, and took its current name in 2003.
They also make some other Three Ships single malt expressions and Bain’s grain whisky, and Knight’s, Harrier and Three Ships Select Reserve which are Scotch/South African blends.
Game: Max & The Magic Marker
Nose: Brazil nuts covered in magic marker pen
Taste: Doing sherbet off an oak table through the liquorice straw
Comment: Very moreish
Dram 3 – Hammer Head.
Distilled at the Stock distillery in Pradlo, acquired by Stock Spirits in the last few years. It was distilled in 1989, shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet revolution (November/December 1989) which led to a democratic Czechoslovakia and the break up into the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The distillery was established in 1928 and was nationalised in the 1980s, seemingly making spirits for high ranking communist party members.
It’s made using Czech barley and matured in casks made of Czech wood.
The story is that it sat undisturbed until 2009 when someone from Stock spirits went to check on the contents of the warehouses they just bought and tried some, assuming it would be nasty. It wasn’t. It was released to travel retail in 2010 and is now on general sale, although not in large amounts.
It takes its name from the nickname of the mill bought in shortly before making the whisky – a large and noisy hammer mill.
Nose: Oily and muddy and fizzy
Taste: Herby and minty like absinthe
Comment: Like a thistle that grew underground
Number 4 – Kavalan Classic.
Very young Taiwanese whisky – aged for about 3 years in a mixture of 6 different cask types. The first whisky released by the distillery and hopefully typifying the style, with mango as the key fruity note.
The distillery was opened by the King Car group, run by Mr TT Lee (always referred to that way whenever I’ve spoken to people from Kavalan), in 2006 and is in the north east of Taiwan in an area that used to be called Kavalan, also the name of the native people of the area.
Dr Jim Swan, distilling consultant extraordinaire who helped set up Penderyn, took up the challenge of developing the spirit – made especially hard by the extreme temperatures which leads to 15-20% angel’s share per year. The spirit and short maturation work well in the environment, picking up a lot of ‘maturity’ in three or four years.
The distillery is open to visitors 365 days a year – they had 1 million visitors in 2010 and 2.6 million by October 2010. In comparison, Glenfiddich draw the most visitors of the Scottish distilleries and has about 100,000 per year.
Their whiskies are not currently available outside of south-east Asia, so we were rather lucky to get a sample bottle.
I’ve mentioned the Kavalan Classic previously.
Whisky 5 – Millstone Peated
Made in The Netherlands, and matured for over 5 years in a mixture of new American oak, ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The fermentation stage of production is much longer than for many whiskies, to which they attribute the fruity character of the spirit and finished whisky.
Made by Dutch distiller Zuidam in their facility on the Belgian border. More famous for their liqueurs and genever but increasingly known for their whiskies, especially their rye. A fairly young distillery, founded in 1975 by Fred van Zuidam, they aren’t doing bad for newbies.
Game: Dead Space or Heavy Rain (if you let Shaun Mars die [Despite Chris’s assumptions I did not let Shaun die. Grab me in person and I will talk for a while about Heavy Rain… – Billy]). Davey says Chuckie Egg
Nose: Baby sick
Taste: Cheesy and wrong
Finish: Cheese omelette well done
The final whisky – Kornog Taouarc’h Trived.
Peated French whisky from the Glann ar Mor distillery. Peated to 35ppm (similar levels to Caol Ila & Lagavulin) and matured in American oak. Kornog means west and Taouarch’h means peat. I have no clue what Trived means, but they also do Pevared, which is matured in Sauternes casks.
Glan ar Mor means ‘by the sea’ in Breton and the distillery is on an old farm. The weather is a bit nicer than in Scotland and the whisky matures a bit faster thanks to that. It’s an old school distillery, with flame fired small stills, worm tubs and wooden washbacks.
Game: Rise of the Robots
Nose: Smoked pear
Taste: Lux soap
The thing that most pleased me about the session was that while every whisky had at least one person who didn’t like it, they all also had at least one person who did. The Three Ships pretty much came out as top by the end of the night (with the empty bottle either being a sign of favour or a sign that we didn’t hide it as fast as the others) but all of the others were Good Whisky, dispelling at least some of the myths about the quality of whiskies from outside of the major producing regions.
And that’s that. There’ll be more sessions in March (along with the one tomorrow and the other two in February) and at least a few them should end up on here.
Many thanks to Cat and the folks at Albannach for looking after us and letting us have their shiny tasting room for the evening.
Sullivan’s Cove Double Cask
Australian Single Malt Whisky, 40%. ~£55.
Three Ships 10 Year Old
South African Single Malt Whisky, 43%. ~£45.
Czech Single Malt Whisky, 40.7%. ~£40.
Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky, 40%. Unavailable in Europe.
Dutch Single Malt Whisky, 40%. ~£55.
Kornog Taouarc’h Trived
French Single Malt Whisky, 46%. ~£65.