Balvenie Peat Week (2003 Vintage)

Balvenie Peat Week 02Distillery: The Balvenie
Region: Speyside
Age: 14 years old
abv: 48.3%

We all know the Balvenie as the quintessential Speyside malt. The typical flavours of honey, toffee and ripe fruit are as welcoming as a cherished friend. But now this gentle friend has developed an unexpected mean streak, with the introduction of Balvenie Peat Week.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

Glenfiddich Fire CaneDistillery: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Fire & Cane is the fourth instalment in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series. Uncharacteristically for Glenfiddich, this bottling features some peated spirit, married together with unpeated stocks from ex-bourbon barrels. To top it off, this whisky then spent three months in rum casks, sourced from a variety of Latin American countries. So the name is apt, but why is Fire & Cane experimental? After all, there’s plenty of rum finished whiskies, and there are peated whiskies beyond count. That’s true, but the combination of the two is quite unique (only Kura and the upcoming Ardbeg Drum that I can think of).

Glenfiddich does have a rum finished 21 year old, and has in the past dabbled with peat in its Caoran Reserve. But Fire & Cane is a different proposition altogether. For one, the distillery actually uses peated barley to achieve its smoky notes, rather than casks that previously held peated whisky. The result is a much sharper, spicier version of Glenfiddich, which then mingles with the toffee notes offered by the rum casks. I think Fire & Cane is best described as a dessert whisky, sweet and indulgent, perhaps even a bit too much so. It’s nice to pair this dram with dark chocolate, to allow the bitterness of the cocoa to balance out the sweetness of the whisky, but I can imagine other pairings could work equally well.

Continue reading

Kavalan Distillery 01

Touring Taiwan’s Whisky Titan: A Visit to Kavalan Distillery

I remember my first taste of Kavalan. It was at a master class during a whisky festival, and Taiwanese whisky was very much a novelty at the time. Since then, Kavalan has gone from strength to strength. Its brand has grown massively, in no small part thanks to the multitude of awards snatched up. So when I marked Taiwan as my next holiday destination, I immediately checked Google Maps to see where the famous Kavalan distillery was located. After a not-so-accidental detour, we found ourselves at the King Car Yuan Shan distillery, as the place is more properly called. The home of such products as Mr. Brown coffee, Buckskin beer, YoGo Fresh yoghurt drinks, and more importantly… Kavalan Single Malt!

Continue reading

Ledaig 18 year old

Ledaig 18 year old reviewDistillery: ­­Tobermory
Region: Islands
Age: 18 years old
abv: 46.3%

Describing a whole range of whiskies as wonderfully peated is sure to raise some expectations. Yet Tobermory distillery from the Isle of Mull told no word of a lie when they slapped this label on their range of Ledaigs. While the lively 10 year old is a great bargain, Ledaig has also released some excellent older bottlings lately. These include the sumptuous 19 year old Oloroso Cask and the alluring Dùsgadh. But today’s headline act is Ledaig 18 year old. Bottled at the customary 46.3% and matured in casks that previously held sherry, this Ledaig is produced in small batches. This particular batch is No. 02, but fortunately a new batch has been released since, pointing at Ledaig 18’s commercial success. This bottling comes in an elegantly designed wooden box, making it a great gift. Trust me though, give Ledaig 18 a taste and you’ll agree you’d rather not part with this whisky…

Continue reading

Glenfiddich IPA Experiment

Glenfiddich IPA Experiment 01Distillery: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Glenfiddich IPA Experiment was the first entry in Glenfiddich’s Experimental Series, a range of whiskies that is breaking new ground and is rightfully generating some buzz. Glenfiddich describes these whiskies as Single Malts that Rewrite the Rulebook. Of course, Glenfiddich has a history of writing its own rules, being the first company to successfully market single malts. Now drams such as Winter Storm and Fire & Cane are among the more unusual bottlings on the market, a tasteful reminder that distilling whisky doesn’t always have to be all about tradition. And surely, no distiller had dared to mature whisky in an ex-IPA casks before either. The oak in question comes from the Speyside Craft Brewery, which uses ex-Glenfiddich casks to mature their IPA beer, before returning them to the distillery. It’s this symbiotic relationship that has allowed Glenfiddich to jump on the global popularity of IPA, extending those bitter, hoppy flavours to its normally fruity whisky. I’m a big fan of IPA beers, and when I first tried Glenfiddich IPA Experiment, I was so intrigued that I decided to create my very own Arran IPA Cask Finish. But I digress, let’s return to the matter at hand…

Continue reading

Super Nikka – Rare Old

Super Nikka ReviewProducer: Nikka
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 43%

Super Nikka was launched as far back as 1962, during a decade of great optimism in the Japanese whisky industry. Nevertheless, these were sad times for Nikka founder Masataka Taketsuru, whose Scottish wife Rita had passed away the previous year. As a way of dealing with his grief, he poured all his energy into creating a new blend, which he would title Super Nikka. To honour his late wife, he meant for it to be something special. Super Nikka was the company’s most expensive product to date, retailing at ¥3000 per bottle, at a time when a college graduate could expect to earn around ¥18000 a month. The glass bottles were hand blown, each fitted with a glass stopper to add an extra touch of class. The bottle alone reportedly cost ¥500 to make, an extravagance given that many whiskies were retailing for less. As mentioned though, this was a time when whisky was booming in Japan and consumers sure were interested. Around 1000 bottles of Super Nikka were produced each year. All of them sold.

Continue reading

Arran Marsala Cask Finish

Arran Marsala Cask ReviewDistillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

While 2017 saw the introduction of the Arran Trebbiano Cask, in 2018 it was time for another Italian wine to take its place. After plenty of shuffling around, Arran seems to have now settled on the Port, Amarone and Sauternes Cask being a core part of their range, complemented by a different Limited Edition each year. That honour now falls to the Arran Marsala Cask Finish.

Marsala is a fortified wine produced on Sicily, and is essentially Italy’s take on port or sherry. While Marsala’s intense flavour means it’s often used for cooking, it can also be drunk on its own, particularly if you have a bit of a sweet tooth. Not surprisingly then, Arran Marsala Cask will come as a treat for those who like their whiskies sweet and sumptuous. Bottled at the usual 50% abv, this is another easy-drinking sip of whisky from Arran distillery.

Continue reading

Kura The Whisky

Kura The Whisky ReviewDistillery: Helios
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

First things first: Kura The Whisky wasn’t actually distilled in Japan. So why does this bottle bear the label Japanese Whisky I hear you ask? Well, while many countries have strict regulations that govern the distilling and labelling of whisky, Japan is notoriously lax when it comes to such matters. To take just one example, Japanese whisky makers can get away with including up to 70% generic blending alcohol in their “whiskies”. But back to Kura The Whisky. Suffice it to say, the raw spirit in this dram was produced in Scotland. Okinawa-based rum distillery Helios then shipped it to Japan, stored it in their rum casks for a while, and proudly proclaimed it “Japanese whisky”. If this feels like Helios is jumping on the bandwagon of Japanese whisky’s success story, well… that’s because it is. Not that Helios hasn’t been in business for some time, having produced quality rum and awamori (a rice-based liquor) since 1961. While Helios did distil some of their own whisky in the past, they seem to have stopped production since 2001, half a decade before Japanese whisky started becoming liquid gold. Anyway, let’s not judge a bottle by its cover, it’s time to give Kura The Whisky a try!

Continue reading

Bar Kage in Tokyo's Ginza district

Bar Kage

I’m sure we’ve all experienced these little twists of fate that inexorably draw us towards a place we hadn’t intended on. So it was when I found myself in Tokyo’s Ginza district, ready to immerse myself in the local bar scene. Before coming to Japan, I had read Stefan van Eycken’s excellent Whisky Rising, which features a chapter on the best whisky bars in town. Clearly Bar High Five was the place to go, or so I thought. Alas, I’ll never know (or at least not until my next trip to Tokyo), for High Five was jam-packed, with a line stretching all the way to the elevator. Fortunately, another of the book’s recommendations was just around the corner. We almost missed the entrance (a sliding door in a dim alley), but once inside we were able to descend the stairs into the bar.

Continue reading

Arran Amarone Cask Finish

Arran Amarone CaskDistillery: Isle of Arran
Region: Islands
Age: No age statement
abv: 50%

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I really enjoy Arran’s Cask Finishes range. There’s something about Arran’s fresh, fruity profile that just lends itself very well to an additional few months in ex-wine or port casks. For this bottling, Arran used oak that previously held Amarone, a rich Italian red wine. And oh my, has it left its mark on this whisky. Dark of colour with sweet, nutty flavours, a silky mouthfeel and a long, lingering finish, Arran Amarone Cask is a dram to savour. For the past few years this bottling has been in a bit of a limbo, being discontinued and reintroduced several times over. Let’s see if the Amarone Cask sticks around, but surely a dram this good has earned its place in Arran’s core range..?

Continue reading