Nick White, Managing Director of A.Dewar Rattray Ltd, Independent Bottler, is today’s guest blogger on “What Do You Know?”. Nick questions “ What would visitors to a new whisky centre like to see and do?”
We are opening a new head office, shop and whisky centre in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire. This is a development that the company owner, Stanley Walker Morrison (former part owner of Morrison Bowmore Distillers), has always wanted to do. Now in association with A.Dewar Rattray Ltd we are developing a unique whisky centre with :
• a small warehouse room where you can fill your own bottle straight from an actual maturing cask
• an extensive sample room where you can nose and taste a plethora of samples from single casks
• a formal tasting room with whisky artifacts, collectibles on display, cooperage tools and other whisky related memorabilia
My problem is there is nothing like this currently in existence. Apart for the Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh the only whisky centres are part of distilleries. In addition, there is nothing like this at all on the mainland West of Scotland. Arran is the nearest distillery that you can visit. Grants/Ailsa Bay is very near us but they are not open to the public.
I would be fascinated to know what would attract enthusiasts to visit us. Any new ideas on what is missing from distillery tours?
Please note that the Whisky Centre does not open until April 2011. Renovation work has just started.
Maker's is now announcing on its official Facebook page whenever shipments of 46 leave the distillery. They also suggest you ask your whiskey monger to start a priority waiting list. Maker's has had a few people inquire about where to get Maker's 46, about 50,000 people, actually.
[Visit Alcademics.com for the full post.]
I’m back. I hope you’ve been enjoying the guest posts.
I’ve been tasting a bunch of new whiskies over the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to let you know my thoughts on them. There are two more guest blog posts to go out this week. But starting Monday, I’ll be posting up whisky reviews for ten straight weekdays.
What’s on the agenda? Well, how about these?: Highland Park St. Magnus, Highland Park 1970 vintage, Laphroaig Triple Wood, Balvenie Caribbean Rum Cask, Balvenie Peated Cask, Springbank CV, the two new Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection whiskeys, the new Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Canadian Mist Black Diamond, Glenmorangie Finealta, and maybe even Redbreast 15 yr. old that’s coming to the U.S. and some more oak-aged beers.
Stephen Rich, Founder and Director of Definition Ale (www.DefinitionAle.com), guest blogs with his post entitled “Oak Aged Beers, More Than Meets the Malt”.
A whisky’s or spirit’s flavor is a manifestation of a great many variables. Everything from the grains, the malting process, the water, and the streams that the water flows though, to the climate and geology can greatly affect the final product’s flavor and ultimate character. Although this is not uncommon of other distilled, fermented, or brewed beverages, one aspect of a whisky’s production that is seemingly ingrained into whisky culture more than any other is barrel ageing.
For hundreds of years, barrel aging has enchanted the hearts and palates of sherry, wine, whisky and rum lovers all across the world. But our fascination and infatuation with wood aged beverages has lead to a most dubious usage; barrel aged beer.
Before the invention of steel kegs or casks, large quantities of beer was traditionally housed in wooden barrels, and often served straight from them. This was primarily due to necessity at the time, but now brewers all over the world, most prominently in America, are maturing their beers in oak barrels for the purpose of flavor!
There are more barrel aged beers available to the public now then there have ever been in the industrialized world, and brewers are utilizing the massive variety of barrels available to them to impart unique and exciting flavors and aromas in their beers.
A great example of what fresh oak can do it the Innis & Gunn Original Oak Aged Beer. It is brewed in Scotland, then is aged for 30 days in fresh American White Oak barrels from Bourbon County Kentucky. From there the beer rests in a marrying tun for a further 47 days to allow the flavors imparted by the oak to smooth and mellow. The result is a velvety Scottish Pale Ale with creamy caramel, toffee, and vanilla flavors that glide gently over your palate and bring a touch of sweet oak and spice.
Brewers aren’t only using fresh oak though; Ithaca Beer Co’s Excelsior Old Habit is a strong rye ale aged in just that, used rye barrels. This beer is brewed with a variety of rye malts, and is partially fermented in Kentucky Rye Barrels then carefully blended. What emerges is a richly woody rye beer with the distinct flavors of sweet rye malts, and crisp rye whisky.
Taking it one step further are the mad geniuses at BrewDog in Scotland. They have created a series of whisky barrel aged Imperial Stouts called Paradox. They begin with their big 10% abv stout, and then age it for 6 months in Oak Barrels that once matured The Arran Malt, Smokehead, Springbank, Longrow, Bowmore, Macallan, and other fine whiskies. Each Paradox beer is sold individually and carries the distinct and unique flavors inherent of that specific whisky barrel in which it was aged. This is magical stuff.
With heritage in mind, one of the world’s most infamous Distilleries has formed a thrilling bond with one of the greatest Scottish Breweries, Harviestoun. Highland Park’s barrels are used to create the highly sought after Harviestoun Ola Dubh (which is Gaelic for engine oil). Harviestoun ages its engine oil-like stout in a variety of Highland Park barrels and thus releases the Ola Dubh as Vintages 12, 16, 18, 25, 30 and 40. Each imparts the distinct flavors of that vintage of Highland Park Whisky – remarkable beer.
Probably my favorite example of oak aged beers is the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. It may have richer and creamier bourbon barrel flavors than that of any beer on this entire planet. The 13% Imperial Stout rests in Heaven Hill Bourbon Barrels for 100 days creating a densely black beer with a lush and creamy dark mocha colored head. Flavors of charred oak, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, dried fruit and smoke radiate massively from this beer with silky and masterful poise. There is no end to what brewers can really create when oak finds its way into the equation.
To prove that point, I will introduce probably the most famous barrel aged beer, and also one of the world’s most expensive. The Samuel Adams Utopias commands prices upwards of $300 USD, is 27% abv, and is unlike any beer you have ever had. Its production process involves ageing the beer in various barrels such as bourbon, Madeira, and brandy, then blending them with older vintages dating back to 1994. Sound familiar? This is truly a world class beer and shows what brewers are capable of when let loose on some fine oak barrels.
Look beyond the stereotypical brands and flavors of beer, and you can discover something truly remarkable. Now is the most innovative, ingenious, and exhilarating time to enjoy real beer. Brewers all across the works are coloring outside the lines by brewing with unique ingredients, utilizing new and creative processes, and incorporating previously unthought-of techniques to create beer. The world of barrel aged beers is really a fabulous one to venture, and I highly recommend it. Cheers!
Guest blogger, Jason Young takes you along on his journey toward knowing whisky. He blogs along the way at www.discoveringdionysus.com and asks for your guidance here.
When John posted the question ‘What do you know,’ I thought it was perfect because it is a question I have been asking myself for awhile now. Or, more specifically, I have asked how people like John have come to know what they know, and how I might gain some of that knowledge and experience. You see, I am a mere 24 years old and am just beginning to explore the wonderful world of malted beverages. As I continue this exploration, I have become more interested in appreciating their many nuances and this, in turn, has led me to scour the many great writings and reviews out there by people like John. While these writers have taught me a great deal, I often wonder how they managed to achieve the level of expertise that they now possess. In this blog post I wanted to share my own strategy for gaining tasting ‘expertise,’ in the hopes that I might spark a conversation about how others have learned to better appreciate and understand their drams. Hopefully some of the comments will help me and other young whisky lovers as we fine tune our palates.
Obviously, the most effective (and enjoyable!) way for me to better appreciate a good whisky is to try as many different whiskies as I can… nothing beats experience. Since college my whisky collection has steadily grown from a young bottle of Glenfiddichto now include aged malts from around Scotland and the rest of the world. However, this can get quite expensive, particularly when you want to taste some of the older or rarer varieties (and who doesn’t?!?). So, lately I have been looking for ways to expose myself to a larger variety of whiskies for a lower cost. One strategy is to go out to a good whisky bar, but, unfortunately I haven’t found a great one around me. Instead, I recently came across Master of Malt’s sample collection, which allows me to buy a handful of miniatures for a fraction of the cost of a full bottle. I purchased about half a dozen samples from them a few weeks ago, and I have to say that it was a great experience. Lately I have also been thinking about joining For Scotch Lovers’s Whisky Explorers Club, which sends out 24 50mL samples a year to members. I’m curious what other strategies people use to get their whiskies? Obviously, receiving free official samples from distilleries would be nice, but I don’t see myself becoming lucky like that anytime soon…
In my mind, though, it isn’t enough to simply taste a dram… drinking, and its appreciation, is a social phenomenon and I find that sharing the tasting enhances the experience and leaves everyone with new perspectives. Nothing is better than getting a couple of friends to bring over their own bottles, put them all up on the table with a couple of glasses, and make a night of it. However, even when friends aren’t around, I have found another way to socialize my drinking experience—writing. Very recently I started my own blog (www.discoveringdionysus.com), where I am attempting to explore the process of growing a better appreciation of various wines and spirits. I find it has been extremely helpful, if only on a personal level, to write down my thoughts on whatever I am drinking. I often then go out and find other reviews of the dram, so that I can directly compare my experience with other people’s thoughts. At times my own notes correlate closely with others, and at other times I swear that some flowery reviews must simply be invented as part of a poetry project… But, at any rate, not only have those comparisons been very rewarding in themselves, but throughout the process I have encountered many new blogs and magazines that have helped me hone my tastes and expand my knowledge. So, perhaps another question for discussion is, what are your favorite sources of whisky knowledge (aside from What Does John Know?, of course)?
Finally, there are more institutional ways to expand one’s palate. I will admit that this is an area that I haven’t explored much, but I would love to learn about any good opportunities. For example, in college I took a semester-long wine tasting course, and I strongly believe that those classes did more to evolve my relationship with wine than anything else I’ve ever done. In all likelihood the techniques I learned in that class probably highly influence the way in which I taste other beverages. I would love to take a similar class created specifically for whiskies. I am even interested in the whisky nosing kits I sometimes see advertised, which supposedly help me identify the scents in my whiskies. I would also love to visit more distilleries, or perhaps participate in some of the society events that I sometimes read about. In the past I have only ever been to the Jameson distillery, but it was a blast, so I’m hoping to save my pennies for future international outings.
So, these are a few of the ways that I’ve thought of to increase ‘what I know.’ Hopefully I have gotten you to think a little bit about how you have come to know what you know, and hopefully you will share your journey with me. I would love to know about great places to buy or drink odd drams, obscure magazines I might subscribe to or books I might find, or classes and events I might look forward to attending. I will say with utter certainty that the one thing I do know is that I am very excited to be a new member of this great community!
[Visit Alcademics.com for the full post.]
The guest blog, “What Do YouKnow?” rolls on with Steffen Bräuner of http://danishwhiskyblog.blogspot.com/. Steffen explores the changes in whisky over time in “Whisky Improved”.
I have a range of favorite distilleries.
Everybody does I guess. For me this has clearly been affected by what’s available out there on the open market for us whisky consumers. When I started with malt whisky I was purchasing the major brands, but as I got in the know about where to find bottlings and located strange bottlings in speciality stores my preferences became more nuanced. Unless you live in a place where the available selection is very limited, I guess this goes for most of us.
I also have a range of distilleries I don’t like and have been avoiding. I tried their whiskies and found them not to my likings (Bad whisky?) or maybe the whisky I tried was just very very forgettable.
Well, avoiding distilleries as a principle might not be the best idea. The last couple of years I did decide to be more open-minded and retry whiskies I had a very set opinion on as being BAD! or BORING!
And I didn’t regret that!
Quite a lot of distilleries has improved their products a lot. Bowmore lost what seemed to me like perfume characteristic and has become “normal” a few years ago. I did look upon Isle of Jura, Ledaig/Tobermory and Fettercairn as producing a whisky more similar to sour socks than anything drinkable, but my recent retries of these malts has proved me wrong. I’d like to single out Tobermory/Ledaig which by going to 46.3%, 10yo age statement, unchillfiltered and probably also a change in production methods lifted their whiskies up to a much higher level. Burn Stewart did a similar thing with Deanston that improved a lot as well.
I didn’t have that high thoughts about Tomatin, but that changed dramatically when they revatted their bottlings last year (with higher ABV as well). Arran wasn’t really my favourite either, but this is an ugly duckling amongst the distilleries and as it has been coming of age, I have started to really enjoy their whiskies. It’s no secret I regard the Arran Peacock as one of the best malts of 2009.
Balblair, BenRiach and also Imperial has impressed me a lot the last years. Balblair due to their vintage series, BenRiach with a change of ownership and Imperial due to Duncan Taylor’s extra attention. (Duncan Taylor thought they were gonna buy Imperial so I stocked up, and what fine malts, quite young even, they released recently).
And who wasn’t surprised by the things BenRiach has been releasing since Billy Walker took over?
Moral: Be open-minded. Whisky changes, distillery changes, the people bottling the whisky changes. Things do improve.
Any distilleries surprised you lately ?
While the title of this month’s Scotchcast may have you thinking of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, we actually found things a little more like butter, pipes, old leather, and grass.
See what the heck we mean as you join us for a tasting of the Auchentoshan 10 year and the Glenfarclas 10 year. We’ll also take a look back at last month’s show with a short dicusion on why we decided to consider it an “Independents” show, and we’ll cover some listener feedback as well.
Join us next time when we’ll be tasting the Balvenie Founder’s Reserve 10 year and the Glen Goyne 10 yr.
Auchentoshan – http://www.auchentoshan.co.uk/
Glenfarclas – http://www.glenfarclas.co.uk/
Master of Malt A huge range of Fine Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Personalized Labels, Corporate and Individual Gift Service, Next Day UK and Fast Global Delivery.
That story is fiction but I used to know a guy who did something similar. He was an artist of some renown who would walk from his studio to a nearby small grocery store every afternoon to pick up a sandwich and maybe some potato chips for his lunch, along with a pint bottle of Old Grand-Dad Bourbon. He nursed the bottle throughout the afternoon and shared it freely with me or any other guest who happened to be on hand.
We talked about it once and he said it was his way of keeping his drinking under control. He told me that his daily ritual was generally the only time he drank and he didn't keep any liquor in the home where he lived with his wife and children.
He was a very wise man who taught me much about art and life.
There is no more to it than that. That was 30 years ago and we haven't stayed in touch, although I've followed his artistic career from afar and he continues to be successful.
The moral? Whatever works, I guess.