Wednesday, 30 January 2013

January 05/2013 Vintages release

  Well here we are in a new year.  Someone once toasted 'I hope the best of 2012 is the worst of your 2013'.  The LCBO has seen fit to start the year of with only a single bottle of whisky, but boy what a dram it is!

  The first, last, and only dram this round is another bottling from isle of Arran distillers.  The Cask Strength 12 year old is a fantastic offering and a great bottle to finally hit our shelves!  I've been pretty excited to see this coming, and I'm really looking forward to getting my teeth into this one.  If your new to the blog, or haven't heard my ranting on about the big players in the whisky trade; I apologize in advance and I'll try to keep it short.  I've got nothing but praise to sing for Isle of Arran, they abide by some very simple wishes of the whisky community: No chillfilteration, no e150a colouring, and providing you (the connossieur) with higher proof than the standard 40% ABV.  These hallmarks in a bottle make the investment worth while because it shows respect for the whisky drinker (IMO).

  First up a little history lesson (everyone needs a little lesson from time to time).  Arran distillers is a relative newcomer to the whisky industry (distillation started in 1995), and is one of the few independently owned distilleries on the market.  Situated on the Isle of Arran, between Ayrshire and Kintyre, the distillery was built there for a couple of reasons.  The primary reason being that the micro-climate supplied by the Gulf Stream allows Arran malts to be matured slightly faster, providing greater reward for their work.  The purest water in Scotland was also found at Loch na Davie just north of Lochranza (where the distillery was built), supplying them with a fantastic quality source of water to begin the spirit construction from.  Their distillery manager, James MacTaggart, worked with Bowmore for 30 years. In his capacity as Arran's manager, he has been given a chance to run free with the spirit.  Their bottles proudly proclaim that within lies nothing but a pure spirit, with no chill filteration and no colour added to cloud your judgment.  Without any monkeying around; what's in your glass is a reasonable facsimile of what's in the barrel.

That aside, what we have here is a full on, high proof (54.1% ABV), limited edition bottling of their 12 year old spirit (12,000 is sort of limited).  This is a combination of first and second fill sherry hogsheads, giving a wonderful rich fruity overtone to the spicy Arran spirit.  Let's delve into the glass and see what we have.

The nose is wonderfully expressive, with huge amounts of sherry taking the forefront.  This is a great sherry nose, loads of red fruits and yellow fruits here.  As it settles, more peaches and apricots start to poke through along with macerated raisins, loads of baking spice (cloves, mace, nutmeg, and the like), sweet malt, and vanilla.  In the mouth, it's an explosion!  It's quite hot for the first sip, but settles quickly on the tongue.  It becomes very creamy and starts to stack up the spices.  There is quite a bit of peppery heat at the full 54%, but it's not unpleasant.  The baking spices seem stronger and sweeter now, with more cinnamon, mace and nutmeg driving the palate.  There is a subtle trickle of briny salinity throughout the palate and sweet barley sugar shines through underneath, bringing with it green pears and toasted oats.  The finish pushes the green fruits and spices back a bit, becoming more mulled in character.  Orange zest and worked oak provide a bitter note to counter act the sweet burnt sugar and spice cake notes.  The finish is quite long and very rewarding on this. Okay, I'll admit I'm a little taken with this one.  It's a hell of a dram but I feel it's a little overshadowed by my love of the distillery.  I thinks that's with good cause too; especially as they seem to be consistently be putting out said quality of product.

So that's all for the start of January, more to come soon.  Some interesting reviews coming up of a pair of Japanese blends. So as usual; stay tuned to this channel... err blog. Keep your stick on the ice, and the ice out of your glass.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

December 8th/2012 Vintages Releases

So I missed my December deadline (Yeah, yeah so shoot me... I'm a busy guy sometimes), but then again there wasn't a whole lot that you would have missed with it.  This was the last release before the new year arrives for the LCBO, and in it is only a single new bottle.  Let's check into what was released and what's returning to the shelves.

First up is the re-stocking of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Kentucky Bourbon.  This was reviewed in February of last year (Link Here).  It's an 8 year old beauty, with an equally great mouth filling rye rush of fruits, pepper and punch.  I still think it's a great deal even at the $50 asking price.  Lots of flavour to be found in this bottle and the nose alone is almost worth the price of admission.  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for a location near you.

Next up is a new pricing on The Balvenie 21 Portwood (Reviewed March 2012).  Somehow, even without ordering more stock, the LCBO has found it in the infinite wisdom to increase the price to $244.95 on this bottle.  That's clearly out of the range of most buyers, and should be off your radar to buy... trust me that's too much for too little whisky.  In stead I strongly suggest that you check around for a dram at your local bar or mooch one form a friend.  It's a worth dram, just not worth what they are asking IMO.  Now if it were non-chillfiltered and cask strength.... that's a different story.  Sigh, the wishes of a small time blogger against a global drinks giant.  A man can dream.

Last up is the only new bottle for this release.  The Benriach 12 Sherry Wood finish.  This is from an artisan run distillery, which means that there is no chillfiltration and a slightly higher ABV (46%).  This means that for you, the connoisseur, you'll get slightly more from your bottle.  More flavour and more value are two things close to my heart being an Ontarian; I need to get the most for the least from our liquor stores.

The colour is deep and rich amber with mahogany highlights.  The nose is thick with rich sherry red fruits, caramel and baking spices, rum soaked raisins and hints of dutch cocoa powder.  The mouth feel is good, a little overly sweet for my tastes lately, but still very good.  Loads of sherry sweetness comes across right away, followed by more sweet malt and then countered with nutmeg, roasted figs and more cocoa powder (not dutch this time, meaning no acidity).  The finish is medium and still adeptly sweet, but much better balanced with the spicy oak notes and vanilla residue.  This is a great introductory dram to how good a whisky can but it's going to lack challenge for experienced drinkers.  This to me sits perfectly as an after dinner dram, something about the sweetness is a little over powering for my regular drinking palate.  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for your bottle, priced a little on the high side at $67/bottle.

So that sums up 2012; lots of good news for everyone including a new blog spot, new Whisky group, and tonnes of new friends of twitter.  It's a great feeling to look back at what I started off hand and realize that what was a single point of interest has become so much more with so much to offer our Whisky community.  I feel privileged to be included in (to quote a fellow blogger @WhiskyLassie), the #Whiskyfabric.  Keep your eyes peeled to our blog as there is so much more coming down the pipe including destinations, bar reviews, bottle reviews, rare whisky and so much more.  So in conclusion (and you should know this by know); keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.