Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sullivans Cove Single Cask (Bourbon Maturation)

 So for this next post, I've finally got our Whisky Society (The Westside Whisky Society), into this and have been gifted a post from Tom.  He can be found <HERE> on twitter.  Hopefully there will be further posts from all our members.  I will be collaborating further to include local places, and far off spaces, more bottle reviews and who knows what else.  We'll see as the blog comes together further.  Keep an eye on our page and we'll keep you updated.

Sullivans Cove Bourbon Maturation
Single Malt (Single Cask) - Barrel No. HH0602, Bottle No. 152 of 222. Barrelled Feb 21 2001; Bottled Sept 10 2009 (8 years old)
60% ABV

On a recent trip to Calgary, I paid a visit to Kensington Wine Market and found this Australian whisky, which I had heard so much about and have always wanted to try. Sullivans Cove is the brand of whiskies produced by the Tasmania Distillery, which was founded at Sullivans Cove in 1994. Their whiskies (which also include a port maturation single cask and a bourbon & port maturation double cask) have been winning a lot of awards - this particular expression won the 12 Years & Under sub-category in the Best Rest Of The World Single Malt category at the 2011 World Whiskies Awards. Unfortunately, I don’t believe any Tasmania Distillery whiskies are available at the LCBO. The bottle comes with a page of literature describing the history of the distillery and the awards and characteristics of their whiskies. It is non-coloured and non-chill-filtered.

I poured it for our whisky society and I think, of all of us, I was the one who liked it the least. Its colour is pale gold with yellow highlights; the legs are very small and still, as befits a 60%er.
The nose hits you with paint thinner, strong robust malt, tropical fruits such as papaya and under-ripe banana, some mint and oregano, dry hay, a very light caramel and a hint of smoke (although the malt is unpeated). Very complex nose but also a little bit all over the place. One would expect a little water to tame the alcohol - but clearly, I didn’t pour enough.

We are brought back to that chemical taste when we drink, hinted at by the paint thinner on the nose, coming off of that wave of alcohol. Lots of malt in the mouth here, and has a decidedly fermented flavour to it, which I find a little off-putting (but others may not). There is some caramel but it’s overpowered by that feinty alcohol note. Water gives it a little creamier mouthfeel and brings out some of those tropical fruit elements. Much like the nose, the palate is also very complex but all the elements seems to fight with each other. A few drops of water certainly help balance things out

The finish is not overpowering, and sits for quite some time, sweet and sharp. This is a fascinating whisky, with a lot going on, but the entire things seems rather off-balance. It feels rough, young, fresh, exciting and wild (aren’t those typical Australian characteristics, generally speaking?), and as I continue nosing and tasting, I find it never ceases to be interesting - yet also almost tiring as there is so much clashing together. It’s like a frenemy who, though entertaining and interesting, also gets a little annoying after awhile. Jim Murray echoes this sentiment in the 2012 Whisky Bible; he reviews the same cask, rating it an 81. He suggests placing the glass in hot water for five minutes to burn off the higher alcohols, and rates that five or six points higher...interesting. Maybe I’ll try that. Or maybe I won’t bother. I’m lazy. But anyway, love it or hate it, it’s a Tasmanian devil.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

LCBO Vintages Release for Sept 29/2012

    So the final posting of September… in October (yeah I procrastinated a bit…or a lot; so shoot me!).  It’s been a hell of a month, and I’ve been kept busy with work (ugh!), and some other whisky related things like WhiskyLive.  As a side note I promise I will work extra hard to finish out October shortly after as there are quite  a few interesting bottles coming.  This update has been a hard one as there are three bottles, one of which is a complete mystery to me… and the internet as it would seem.  Without further heel-dragging, lets take a look at the offerings.  So this round not a pair; but a trio of bottles arrives for our savouring pleasure.  What did the LCBO provide us with round?  Big heavy malts this time around, and a newcomer to the shelves.

First up, Isle of Arran Sleeping Warrior.  This 11 year old single malt comes at us full strength (54.9% ABV).  As part of a limited production (6000 bottles worldwide), a portion of the sales went to support the National Trust for Scotland to assist withe the preservation of foot paths on Goatfell (the largest mountain on Arran).  This is a big bottle from Arran, with big notes to follow.  Rich marmalade and milk chocolate on the nose, lots of fruit preserves, very sweet like a fruit salad sort of thing happening here (oh yeah, imagine that image of melted milk chocolate over fruit salad…. splash a little cream liqueur in there… I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was hungry).  Hints of oak and spices in the background round out a real whopper of a nose.  In the mouth there are more dried/macerated fruits, but now the malty sweetness comes out.  Lots of things happening here including cherries (overripe), leather, sweet grains and subtle oaky spices.  There is a subtle waft of wood smoke and caramel in background along with hints of candied ginger and vanilla cremes.  The finish is quite long and spicy.  Lots of malty notes with dried fruits and spiced caramel interspersed.  Water helps smooth things out, but drops the nose’s intensity a bit from the raging torrent that I like.  This is one heck of a dram at a reasonable price.  I strongly suggest trying this out as it gives an idea of why I’m so crazy for the Arran whiskies.  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for your bottle.  Priced at only $99.95 for a bottle of this calibre at this strength, is a darn good deal that just won’t last.

    Next up is another brilliant bottling from the indie company Weymss.  Not only a bottling from an excellent indie, but of my favourite distillery; Mortlach.  This is a Diageo owned distillery (and you know how I feel about Diageo), that produces nothing for public offering, but instead goes to make up the backbone of the Johnnie Walker blends.  It does from time to time, however, show up in the hands of indie bottlers.  This gives you the chance to delve into a little known distillery outside of the blends it is used within.  This bottle is a 21 year old, nicknamed Sugar & Spice, which lives up to all the reasons I rave about Mortlach.  Served at 46% ABV and presented without chill filtration or colouring, this is one of the best Mortlach’s to come through the LCBO in years (IMO).  The nose is heady with exactly what the name says; sugar (like brown sugar or Demerara), and spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom, grains of paradise and the like), permeate the nose.  But buried deep behind this lovely warm and spicy nose is a brooding beast.  Rich, chewy and meaty/malty notes that are the cornerstones of Mortlach’s spirit lurk in the shadows.  In the mouth a full on Christmas cake assault!  Beautiful spice blends with subtle molasses and brown cane sugar sweetness bloom, followed with baked almonds and subtle sherry-ish fruit notes (kind of red-y purple sherry soaked fruits), and hints of malted barley hang about.  Then underneath it all; driving the palate is the chewy fresh and sweet malt of Mortlach.  There is a cooked tomato puree note mingling about, and also a bit of a wine-y note that becomes almost meaty like bison or venison (but not gamy venison).  Oh god, this is good.  The finish is long and drawn out, carried by the meaty malt, the spices and oak interplay here with caramel, vanilla and Demerara notes.  The empty glass still shows that big sweet malt now subdued with oak and vanilla cake.  I am head over heels for this bottle, the only unfortunate part is the LCBO price, at $155/bottle I would have liked to see a bit more ABV scale.  Considering this is one of the best bottles in recent my recent memory from the LCBO, I’ll let it slide and I might even come away with a bottle.  I don’t think its a purchase for everyone at that price, but trust me if you do indulge…. well you’ll know why I’m so crazy (over the whisky, not losing my marbles crazy… although).  Check your local LCBO <HERE>, or have them order you a bottle in as there aren’t many in the province.

Last but not least is the one I’ve had so much trouble with.  This bottle has been the hold out for this article.  The last bottle is from Leinburn (also referred to as Glen Leinburn), 12 year old.  The reason I’ve had so much trouble with this is the lack of information available on it.  Quite a few months back I noted a Glen Leinburn 18 year old bottle on the shelf for $85 (Item <HERE>), served at only 40% ABV.  Hey at $85 for an 18 year old (stop snickering while reading that), ‘how bad can it be?’ was my general sentiment.  Looking at the bottle there is no information on it and no real annotations; other than a pretty plain navy blue label with some awful brownish-gold writing.  It peaked my interest as I’ve never seen it before, so when the chance to try it came up, I leaped and immediately went looking for more information.  This is where the trail goes cold, even in the vast sea of electronic information the only thing I find is a repeated phase from the website.  A paltry website featuring a single page; notes that this is a Speyside distillery that was started by Whiskynet in 1998.  It has evolved into a supplier of whisky to a number of customers worldwide for use under their labels as well as their own.  That’s it, that’s all.  I’ve called about and scoured the interweb for more information, but I see nothing and have gotten nothing back from my sources other than more questions.  So I’ll let you in on what I did try; a rich and manly Speyside with a real sharp fruit character.  The nose shows caramel, rhubarb compote and some sharp pear candy notes.  I also get some wood spice, rough leather and very distant peat.  In the mouth, there is some heft with a blast of heat in the palate, but I’m not getting what the nose showed me here.  It seems much fruitier than before, and the heft seems to have dissipated into heat.  Lots of notes of cream liqueur and some floral fruity notes, but nothing that is easy to distinguish.  This seems like a young whisky to me, the notes are unrefined and hard to pinpoint in the glass.  The finish shows it the most tough.  I found it medium to short, lots of hot oak, dry vanilla and spice in the finish.  With water, the fruits balance the heat out and it becomes far more palatable.  I’m not too sure what to make of this bottle, and it doesn’t seem to fit with what’s on the shelves.  I have tried the 18 too, and am almost in the same quandary over that.  I have some notes on the 18 that I’ll dig up and post.. but the 12 year old has me confounded.  There just isn’t enough for me to suggest anything other than to try it if you get the chance.  Served at 43% ABV, and to my eye there is caramel and chill filtration happening (you’ll have to be the judge as most of my insiders haven’t even heard of this company, let alone bottling information).  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for your bottle, but be forewarned.  The 18 year old is still widely available and is $5 cheaper, but 3% lighter.  I recall it being rather floral on the nose, but like I said earlier I’ll have to dig up my notes and be sure before I recommend that instead.

Okay, well that finally concludes this, or rather last, month’s reviews.  Now on to October and so much more.  I’ll try and dig around on that Leinburn as it now is really eating away at me to get to the bottom of it.  So as always I conclude; keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

LCBO Vintages Release for Sept 14/2012

A second post this month!  Well I've left it a bit late, but I am compiling the rest of the tasting notes for September as I write this.  Currently my desk is covered in scribbled papers and there are a couple of empty Glencarins (you know they seem sad to be empty...), so a blogging I will go.

This second release brings us another pair of bottles; both of which are great offerings.  First up will be the first distillery bottling of Glen Grant that I've seen at the LCBO.  Owned by the Italian drinks giant Campari, this light and floral Speysider is typically sherried - sometimes to the point of breaking.  Some expressions are so sublime, they're to die for while others are so sherried they seem to deter from the original spirit (like drinking 40% ABV  Sherry).  This is a bourbon cask distillery bottling aged 16 years, not something that we see often enough at the LCBO (they seem to favour the heavy sherries, some indies and a bunch of Islays).  With this bottle, we get a real sense of the whisky behind the numbers; a real taste of Glen Grant as it were.  Bourbon casks (especially second fill), tend to really bring out the strong and weak points in your base spirit; all the cards get laid out on the table.  Musings aside, this is a gorgeous bottling.  At 16 years of age, this Grant gives us a really rich and floral nose with loads of peaches and apricots (stone fruits), roasted grains, dried hay and hints of coconut, all bundled with an incredible creamy smoothness like marshmallow creme.  Silky creme brulĂ©e and more stone fruits dominate the palate (this is very smooth whisky; very more-ish), with more notes of roasted nuts, barley sweetness and some dry notes of oak and hay again in the background.  The finish is medium-long and very dry, with more caramel creaminess and oak presenting itself here.  Baking spices and worked wood intersperse with a subtle mineral-y mossy note on the finish.  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for for your bottle, I have a feeling that these will disappear quick even priced at $85/bottle.

Second up is an offering from the independently owned Glencadam distillery (Congrats on fighting the good fight against the big box distillers!).  Owned by Angus Dundee plc since 2003; the only public offering  was the 15 year old.  In late 2008, this all changed and the entire lineup of bottlings were reinvented by adding a 10 year old little brother.  By 2010 3 more bottles were added to fill out the line including the 12 year old Portwood finish and the 14 Oloroso Sherrywood finish.  The portwood has made the long journey overseas to our doorstep and beckons to be tasted with all its subtle ruby/amber goodness.  I'm not going to mince words or apologize, but those who know me know that I love good port and good wine finishes.  The following review might be biased... slightly.... but then again I might be biased... slightly (or warped depending on how much you know me).  I have yet to get my nose into the standard Glencadam bottlings, but if this is any indication, I can't wait.  Right away, there is a winey port waft, but hidden underneath and in between there are all sorts of good things like sweet roasted grains, dates, soft macerated red fruits (obviously), baking spices like nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon, and caramel.  There is a great balance on the nose, the port notes play hand in hand with what seems to be a sweet bodied whisky.  In the mouth I'm hit with ginger spiciness, followed with more dark fruits (red and purples like plums and dark berries).  There are chili and chocolate notes and caramel sweetness ever-present.  The finish is excellent, with warm notes of candied ginger, cocoa powder bitterness, more baking spices, more caramel sweetness and subtle notes of oak and chili powder (the good kind you find in a Mexican grocery store, the one they make on site that they don't tell gringos about).  This is a heck of a dram, but the LCBO has seen fit to command a heck of a price for it.  $94 for a 46% un-chillfiltered and colour-free bottle is a bit much, but coming from an indie bottler/distiller I think once you try it you'll be sold on it.  It will make a hell of a dessert dram.  Check you local LCBO <HERE> for your bottle.

Okay so that's the middle of the month pairing, next up is the last 2 bottles to finish out September.  There's a few more interesting things coming down the pipe and also some changes coming to the blog in the future.  I'm at the debate point of changing the blog over to another site, and also adding some founding members of our whisky club as writers.  Feel free to inspect the preliminary work at http://cataclysmofscotch.blogspot.ca/  So until the next update: Keep your stick on the ice, and the ice out of your glass.