It’s nice when the tables are turned. While it’s often my job to send samples out to bloggers on the rare occasions we do so at work, I don’t usually expect to receive any myself, especially not from another blogger. However, my mate Sjoerd of Malt Fascination also moonlights as one of the folks behind the Usquebaugh Society. They, like many of the whisky-mad Dutch clubs, occasionally bottle whiskies, and samples of their latest pair dropped through my letter box the other day. To start with, a single cask Millstone Rye, distilled in 2007.
Dominic Roskrow is a busy man. He’s been writing about whisky professionally for the last couple of decades, but in the last few years he’s been involved in a scary number of projects. From editing magazines to starting the Craft Distillers Alliance, and promoting whiskies to starting a whisky and music festival, he’s had a large number of irons in the fire.
I met him back in 2010 at a rather posh tasting thrown in honour of his (at the time) latest book – The World’s Best Whiskies. Since then, he and I have crossed paths a bunch of times, from press jollies to whisky tastings (including a couple of Whisky Squad sessions – 1 & 2) and even working together. Well, I wrote a few entries for another book of his, 1001 Whiskies to Try Before You Die.
The last twelve months have been quite eventful for Dom, but he’s capped it with an adventure: he’s gone from writing about whiskies to putting out some of his own. Introducing Discovery Road – Four Lions and Smile.
Despite my best intentions I do seem to let a lot of the things that I grab to write about stack up. While that may not seem like the worst thing in the world (Oh noes! I seem to have a pile of boozes on a shelf and I HAVE to taste them all…) it does make me feel like a naughty schoolboy who hasn’t done his homework. So, when a mail arrives from the Whisky Tasting Club to let me know that my next box of whiskies are on their way, reminding me that I haven’t even opened my last tasting box yet, I feel the urging boot of ‘get on with it’.
Rather than a gentle sampling over the space of a couple of weeks, like I did last time, I decided to sit down and make a ‘proper’ tasting. I will admit that it was in part to get use of the five watchglasses that I slightly drunkenly purchased at Whisky Live a couple of weeks back. I like glassware too much. Anyways, tasting set #2’s theme is Whiskies of the World and included drams from the USA, Japan, India, England and The Netherlands.
Taking them in the order in the accompanying leaflet I started with the Zuidam 5 year old Dutch Rye. I’ve written about this one before, as I have with most of the whiskies in this box, but found it a bit less sweet than last time. On the nose my notes describe it as ‘mentholated bourbon’, with sharp rich fruit, vanilla, coconut and foam bananas – overall sweet but with an underlying tannic dryness. To taste I got sour cream, sweet vanilla caramel, hints of cinnamon, sour white grapes and a creamy woody finish. Water brought out more sourness with grapes and wood and added vanilla to the finish.
Next was Nikka from the Barrel. I’m a big fan of Nikka and this blend was my choice for my own aborted Whiskies of the World tasting. It also has a really pretty bottle. On the nose there were raisins, sweet wood and flowers – very reminiscent of good aged grain whisky (one of my favourite things). To taste there was big dry wood, turning quickly bitter through plump sultanas to a dry cardboard finish with quite a lot of alcoholic prickle on the tongue. Water tamed everything and amalgamated the flavours – tannic vine fruits leading to a sour woody finish with a good chunk of booze hanging around.
Third was Amrut Fusion, which I tried at Albannach a few weeks back. On the nose I got much more this time, with butter, bread and a hint of vanilla standing out over a hefty alcoholic hit – ‘boozy brioche’ my notes say. To taste it was quite closed but I got a light creaminess followed by a spike of fruit and grain. It can take a good chunk of water and the flavour opened up to reveal cream, sweet crunchy apple and hints of grain leading to a woody finish of old furniture and fruit trees.
Next was the English Whisky Company Chapter 9, which I tried at the first Albannach Whisky Hub. At three years old this is as young as whisky gets and it definitely shows. On the nose there was cream backed by fruity peat, sweet lemons and a hint of green wood smoke. To taste it was quite light and oily, with a peat smoke burst surrounded by apples and lightly muddy vegetal notes. There was the taste of young whisky (the caraway/aquavit flavour of young barley spirit) and the finish was short and tasted of digestive biscuits. Water killed most of the smoke leaving sweet citrus and young spirit – a lemon aquavit? My bottle of this is staying in the cupboard unopened for now.
Last was Elijah Craig 12 year old, the only one I don’t remember trying before and one I’ve been meaning to for a while. I’ve been a fan of Elijah Craig for a while ever since my last stop at my first Whisky Live was their stand – I stood there quite wobbily, talking about barrel aging of spirits in different climates with a group of similarly wobbling punters and the stand owners, having very little clue about what I was saying and occasionally having my glass topped up by people who seemed to find that amusing. I may have tried the 12 then, but that was pre-notebook and the only thing I remember from that part of the evening was my misplaced certainty that I knew everything about barrels. On the nose the 12 year old had big sour caramel, rich PX-like raisins, golden rum, coconut, glace cherries, a hint of pepper and some underlying sour grain. To taste it was thick and waxy but lighter than the nose suggested. It started with sweet grain and moved through cherry, crunchy mango and violets to a throat-warming finish of sweet fruit wood. Water smoothed out the slight throat burn and brought out some sweetness from the wood – green apples in the middle, dusty raisins at the side and the cherries become more glacé-like.
My next box is sitting on my desk along with a copy of Dom Roskrow’s World’s Best Whiskies, a bonus for having for subscribed for 3 boxes, and this set’s theme is Wood. Hopefully I’ll get round to cracking these open a bit sooner.
Zuidam 5 Year Old Rye
Dutch rye whiskey, 40%.~£50.
Nikka from the Barrel
Japanese blended whisky, 51.8%. ~£25.
Indian single malt whisky, 50%. ~£35.
English Whisky Chapter 9
English single malt whisky, 46%. ~£40.
Elijah Craig 12 Year Old
USA bourbon whiskey, 47%. ~£25.
As I have a surprisingly small amount of whisky on the horizon and used the phrase ‘Whisky Deluge’ at the beginning of last week I thought I’d better fulfill the unspoken promise therein and stick up some more about whisky. It’s also Burns Night this evening, which means that by Whisky Blogger Law I have to post something and use the phrase “Sláinte Mhath!” I’ve had some Master of Malt drams come through in the last few months, as it seems a waste of postage costs not to stick a few onto the end of an order from them, and I’ve had a few bottles appear in my cupboard by other means, so here are the ones I grabbed notes about:
Jura 10 year old – I won this as part of the Jura website’s weekly pub quiz. I’ve knocked back a fair bit of Jura in my time, but don’t think I’d ever tried the regular 10 year old. On the nose it had caramel, a hint of wet peat smoke, vanilla, apples, floor polish and an underlying meatiness (chicken?). To taste there was toast, sweet wood, pine, vanilla cream, pepper, rhubarb and lime skin, wrapped up with a dry wood finish. Water added more vanilla, more sour wood, more woody spice and white pepper on the finish.
Zuidam 5 Year Old Dutch Rye – I grabbed this in my first batch of drams and it sat around for a while before I got round to trying it. Zuidam are a Dutch distiller who started in 1975 and they make genever, gin and liqueurs along with their whisky. This is a whisky made predominantly with rye, unlike Scotch’s barley and bourbon’s corn, and from my experience of US rye I was expecting something spicier than a bourbon.On the nose it was very bourbony, with some sweet spicy pear underneath and a floral note on top. To taste it started very sweet, with more pears, squishy sultanas and oats. Water expanded the vanilla sweetness, bringing out milk chocolate, sweet wood and more sultanas – maybe a touch of rum and raisin fudge? It can take a good slug of water and calms to a very sweet dram.
Campbeltown Loch 30 Year Old – regular Campbeltown Loch is an inexpensive blended whisky put together by J&A, the owners of Springbank. This one is a rather more special bottling, with all the whiskies coming in at at least 30 years old – something that appealed to my Springbank and Longrow loving tastebuds. On the nose it was florally sweet with a sour edge – rose water, turkish delight, linseed oil, sour grapes and the air around a brewery on malting day (beefy maltiness) all made an appearance as well. To taste it had a syrupy sweetness to start (strawberries and apples), quickly disappearing behind a layer of wood caramel and fading to a warm dry woody finish. Water brought out some vanilla sweetness in the beginning, with underlying spicy wood. The finish was bolstered with a chunk of custardy vanilla and raisins.
Edradour 2003 Port Cask Matured – I’ve not tried much from Edradour but I quite like their ‘we have the smallest stills in Scotland’ claim, so have been meaning to for a while. I chose this one due to a hole in my whisky tasting knowledge when it comes to port cask finished whisky. The cask had definitely had some of an effect on this, with the whisky sitting rather pink in the glass. On the nose it had candy floss, refreshers, bubblegum and hint of spicy wood. To taste there was linseed oil, sweet wood, sherbet lemons, and a bitter wood finish with sherbet ‘sparkles’. It tasted stronger than its 46%. Water revealed a hint of creamy vanilla on the nose and much more on the taste – pine, light custard, perfumed raisins, foam strawberries, milk chocolate, smoky struck matches and a hint of citrus leading into the still woody finish.
Chichibu Double Matured New Born Cask No.446 – Chichibu is one of the newer additions to the rapidly ramping up Japanese whisky industry, opening in 2008. As such none of the spirit produced is quite whisky yet, and this sample was matured for about 2 years, first in a bourbon cask before being moved to a new american oak barrel to finish (hence the Double Matured moniker). On the nose it had pine floor cleaner, lemons, cola bottles, foam shrimps, bananas, creamy vanilla and damp wood. To taste it was very hot, with spicy wood and creme patissier. Water calmed it down (it was bottled at 61.3%) and the woodiness became very perfumed, with lots of sweet fruit down the sides of the tongue (red rope liquorice?), liquorice root and a fragrant but astringent woody end. Creamy but with a sour edge from the wood. This was very interesting and has added Chichibu to my ‘try whenever possible’ list.
Jura 10 Year Old
Single malt Jura Scotch whisky, 40%. ~£25 from Master of Malt.
Zuidam 5 Year Old Dutch Rye
Dutch rye whiskey, 40%. ~£60 from Master of Malt.
Edradour Port Cask Matured
Single malt Highland Scotch whisky, 46%. ~£40 from Master of Malt.
Campbeltown Loch 30 Year Old
Blended Scotch whisky, 40%. Out of stock, but was about £45 from Master of Malt.
Chichibu Double Matured New Born Cask No.446
Japanese grain spirit, 61.3%. Out of stock, but was about £60 from Master of Malt.