Thursday, 22 December 2011

LCBO Vintages Release for December 2011

Well 'tis that time of year, and the Vintages releases are short (just like the days).  The last release for this year was done on December 10th, and the rest of this year is dedicated to their Christmas cheer book and sparkling wines for New Years.  What came out during this release?

Blanton's Single Barrel Special Reserve Bourbon:   This is a fantastic single barrel bourbon from the deep south!  Blanton's specializes in single barrel bourbon production.  This is a premium bourbon that comes from only a single warehouse in the Buffalo Trace distillery.  In fact they only come from the 'centre cut' of Warehouse H (very centre), when the aging seems to take place perfectly for the spirit.  Since 1984 Blanton's has been producing single barrel bourbon and was one of the first to offer such a product.  Their website has some of the best laid out information I've ever seen and can be found by clicking the distillery name at the start of the article of HERE for the Special Reserve.  I'm not crazy over the chill filtration in Scotch (but I've never seen a non-chillfiltered bourbon), but I really appreciate the forward information.  If I get my hands on any samples I'll be more than happy to provide the review.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #558320, bottles are $76 each.  There is also a Blanton's single barrel standard available for $65 under LCBO Sku #255349 (it's also 45% ABV).

Second in this short release is Glenfarclas 12.  Glenfarclas is one of my absolute favorite distilleries as they provide an appealing spirit geared towards Whisky lovers.  All malts are presented without colour added and served at 43%! Though special bottlings like the 15 & 40 are 46%, and the 105 is a whopping 60%.  Sadly though they still chill filter the whisky (confirmed via Ralfy), but that can easily be changed to create a full craft presentation.  Run by an independent distiller (J & G Grant), they produce some of the best sherry casked Scotches available in my personal opinion.  The 12 year old is no exception to this rule! Fresh and light, the sherry influence is still young but I found lots of oak notes (worked, toasted, and some fresh or green wood), cereals, a twist of a sour note, an interesting brine/salty note, heather and almond.  A little hot on the palette, this will benefit from an addition touch of water to open the nose.  I'd call this a good deal at $64, so check out your local LCBO for Sku #142182.

Sadly, this is actually the last post of the year, and I will resume sometime after the Holidays.  I'm off to the Dominican for a much needed vacation, but I promise to come back and work up some more spirits for review.  Most importantly, I do want to thank you (on the other side of the screen), for reading my blog as this actually means quite a lot to me!  Enjoy your holidays, and your whisky responsibly.

Keep your stick on the ice, and the ice out of your glass!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Tasting Notes - Alberta Premium 30 Year Old

From the Canadian mid-West comes a fantastic spirit.  One of the few 100% rye grain distilleries left in Canada, Alberta Premium still distills and ages it's own distillate in the dry climate of the province from which it takes it's name.  'Why Alberta?', I hear you ask.  Why not use the best grains produced from your own province, available to you right at your door step.  And to this day, Alberta Distillers is one of the largest purchasers of rye grains, and the largest unmalted rye distiller in the world.

What does this mean to you as a Canadian?  Well simply put, you'll have access to the best rye whisky money can buy.  Although, this is limited to 700 cases, you'll need to be quick to get a bottle.  Especially at only $50!

The story behind the bottling is that in the 80's a new distiller came on site and some special casks were put down.  Left alone for 25-26 years, the casks quietly imparted the charred Canadian oak flavors onto the spirit.  In 2007, they were sampled and found to be a little short in the ABV department, and were moved to a second set of smaller casks.  As it turns out the angels are quite thirsty out west, and as such the Angel's share is quite high.  This means that aging a single cask for 30 years is almost impossible as the final spirit may actually end up below 80 proof, no longer making it legal whisky.  So after 30 long years, the spirit was tasted and approved and 700 cases of 12 bottles each were produced and shipped out.

So was the wait worth the cost?  Seriously?  Are you questioning this?  The spirit itself is incredible. Rich and deep on the tongue, an illustrious whisky that deserves your recognition.  Lets delve into the tasting notes.

Colour:  Rich golden/honey colour, highlights of walnut/mahogany, doesn't appear to have colour added

Body:  Big, fat, enormous drops.  Looks like those fat rain drops at the beginning of a June rainstorm.  Legs are extraordinarily thick, run very, very slowly back to the liquid.  Yeah, this is looking like its going to be a wallop of flavor!

Nose:  Incredible depth!  Deep oak, butter cream icing, heavy cream, hints of motor oil (that sour and heavy, almost grease note), ground flax, aged rye

grains (like the smell of aging grains in a silo), dried apricots, and fresh plums.  As this is an older lady, she will take a lot of time to open up and the nose will benefit from settling in the glass over some time.

Palette: Thin and subtle to start, almost seemingly reserved.  The flavours and scents are soft and interwoven through the spirit.  Gentle violets and flowery notes begin to appear as the whisky opens up.  Then it almost hits a tipping

point, and pours out of the gates!  The motor oil scent comes back as a base note with wafts of dill and green herbs, oily nuts (think Brazil nuts), worked oak (like a wood shop), and buckwheat honey.  Vanilla now takes the supporting note of the background while HP sauce (yeah, seriously), ripe plums and sawdust, hints of clove and dried ginger, white cedar wood, and baked oats (like crumble topping).  Oddly enough I also seem to find  that the HP sauce element compliments the violet notes and buckwheat honey flavours in the body.  The

complexity and depth seems to go on forever!  I believe that this is one of those whiskies that would keep developing for an hour or two, but I can never seem to keep enough in my glass to last that long.

Finish:  Wow!  This is long and drawn out; much like a Stanley Kubrick film - it's drawn out to force the watcher to pay attention to the subtle details.  Subtle oak and caramel are woven through the finish.  Notes of burnt toast and

charred cherry wood.  Hints of cracked pepper, burnt sugar and roasted rye are peppered across the palette.  There is an enduring warmth and oiliness that coats the mouth and throat, making the finish go on forever and ever.

Empty Glass:  This is where the oak shows through!  Oiled oak (like in an old library filled with wood shelves), burnt toffee and baked applesauce.  There is a  charred cherry wood note present that offers a slight hint of sweet and sour to the glass. Again notes of aged grains (think farm silos), and at the very end there are notes of butter (like fresh butter), and oak sawdust.

Should you happen to run across a bottle, grab it!  Or better yet, grab a couple (claim the second one is a present for someone).  This is an incredible expression of a classic Canadian rye whisky.  The depth and nose alone are reason alone to purchase this.  Check your local LCBO and order a bottle into your local location if need be.  Or should you have a connection out west, have them grab a bottle for you!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

LCBO Vintages Release for November 2011

Well I was called out on my lack of updates.  Good to hear that people are really reading something that I produce, it really brings me a warm fuzzy feeling.  Like that first dram on a cold winter day, warmed to the cockles.

So what came out in November that looks delicious and is worth your hard-earned pennies?  Let's take a look!  Due to the mass releases in October, there are only 2 for November.  The first being November 12th:

The first item we see is Auchentoshan Three Wood [LCBO Sku #70532 / $76.95] -  The last time I tasted it, it was woody, sherry, and spicy hot (as in my mouth and lower extremities of my brain are on fire).  I don't know how old this is (there isn't an age statement), but it definitely needs some water to loosen it up.  There is a lot of wood at play in this bottle, and I'm honestly not a big fan.  It seems a little too busy, with a reliance on over sherry-ing to cover up a rough young spirit.  I do love sherry finishes however, but my money goes to the Auchentoshan 12-year-old [LCBO Sku #107359] at $54.  It has a much better balance with a much more subtle sherry finish that I find doesn't overwhelm the palette.  There is a ton of caramel in the bottles, giving that weird electric marmalade colour, but they do redeem themselves by serving the spirit at 43%.  Being heavily chill-filtered the bottle is immaculately clear though, and I believe that this takes some serious body away from the spirit.  I am a huge lowland fan, and really believe that if Diageo took the time and created something without all the gubbins, they would have a real prize.  On a side note, there are some excellent bottles from independent distillers out there for Auchentoshan; but they are few and far between.  Lowlands have a rich, refined, soft and smooth palette that suits drinking at any time, I only wish there were more of them left!

Next up is Bruichladdich 7-year-old Port Cask finish.  If you know me, then you'll know I'm a sucker for a good glass of port and this is no exception!  Rich marmalade and copper tones throughout the scotch (no colour added), this gives way to rich dark fruits, oats, and gentle smoke and brine.  This is an excellent foray into the Islay subculture and a great showcase of quality finished scotch.  At only 7 years this tastes like a much older whisky, and the port notes back up the smoke and peat with a rich and vibrant fruitiness all their own.  Served at a healthy 46%, this is produced by an indie distiller for real drinkers like us.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #220905], bottles are $95 (a bit steep, but worth the investment come the first heavy snowfall; you know the one where you'll be sitting indoors watching those fat flakes fall to the ground).

Last, but certainly not least is one of my favorite distilleries, Isle of Arran.  Their entry into the peat saturated world began in 2004 and continues today with Machrie Moor (said Mach-ree More).  This is absolutely one of my favorite peated scotches currently.  I'm not a huge smoke and peat fan as yet, and am still developing a nose for what lays beyond the smoke and brine, but the sweet, punchy and tropical fruitiness of Arran malt characteristics blends so well with the gentle peat and smoke.  If you're not sure about testing the waters of Islay, go for Machrie Moor!  Named after a the peat bog, the Machrie area of the Firth of Clyde area is one of few areas to have Megaliths (standing stones like Stonehenge).  Once said to even been home to Robert the Bruce, and legendary characters such as Fingal.  Fingal's hound, Bran, is represented on the tin/bottle anchored to one of the stones.  As usual with all Arran malts, no colour, no chill-filtration, and served at 46% gets the grades.  Apples and iodine, pears and smoke, vanilla and smokey bergamot on the nose.  This became a favorite at the WhiskeyLive show in Toronto with our tasting group.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #254920], bottles are $72.

I'm going to mention two other spirits that caught my eye on this release:

Moniack Mead - a traditional mead from Scotland.  It has a wonderful rich amber colour.  Nose shows clover and spices.  It's marked as a sweet, so I'd expect it to be around the same sweetness as a port, and at only $16 it would make a great cellar companion.  Check you local LCBO for Sku #987263.

Quinta do Noval Black Port - A dark and serious entry into the competitive world of ports.  Stewed prunes and black fruits on the nose with an intensity that lasts into the finish.  This sounds like something tasty, and something that you could sip with friends after dinner.  At $25 it would be worth a try, or drop it into the cellar for a year or two.  LCBO Sku #235689.

The second November release for the 26th was a little bit lacking. Featuring only 2 malts and a couple of honorable mentions.

First up is Bowmore with the 15-year-old Darkest.  This is a heavy sherry finished Bowmore, produced by a big box distiller.  It's a good one, but it's not my sort of Bowmore.  Dark auburn colour (yeah that's pretty real AKA a big gob of caramel e150a),  and so clear you can see the third or fourth bottle behind it (that's some seriously heavy filtration).  This is the most popular Islay in the world, and this is reflected as they colour and filter out all the best parts to make it super attractive to shoppers in the ever competitive world of Scotch.  It is a heavily sherried Islay, with notes of dark chocolate, raisin and nutmeg on the nose.  I found it a bit lively on the palette; and with a bit of water citrus and worked oak come out, with peat and smoke to follow.  There is a dark rum note in the background that seems sort of alienated, but not out of place.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #503649] for a bottle, be forewarned though at $90/bottle there are many better choices for a peaty sherry treatIn fact, I'd highly recommend looking for the beefier Laimrig instead, no filtration, no colour and served at cask strength... That's a real sherried Bowmore.

Second is the Balvenie Port Wood 21-year-old.  Great, a second port wood finish... I'm gonna go broke!  Especially on this one!  This is a monster and possibly my favorite Balvenie (in fact until the Caribbean Cask, the only Balvenie I really enjoyed).  This is a monster and exhibits all the right notes in all the right places.  Rich warm mahogany colour gives way to a butter cream richness.  Honey, red fruits, over ripened pears, salty caramels and a wonderful drying finish round out one of the best Balvenie expressions I've ever had.  Now the real problem is the price; $225!  For a bottle of great whisky - yeah I can cough that up.  The problem comes from the lack of distiller's information, there is no mention of colouring, or filtration, and it has been diluted to 40% ABV.  If you've got the cash for a seriously good bottle, check your LCBO fro Sku #500090, or take my advice and skip it for it's cousin The Balvenie Caribbean Cask.

The second release of the Balvenie Caribbean cask has arrived!  This is an excellent 14-year-old Balvenie!  The nose seems a little muted at first, but then as it opens it really seems to take off.  Sweet notes abound, lots of rum sweetness mingle witht he typically sweet Balvenie spirit.  Rich notes of  banana bread, roasted pecans, soft oats and grains in the mouth .  Demerara sugar and spice cake on the finish makes this a real keeper.  Sure, it might not be the ultimate Balvenie expression, but at only $100/bottle this is a lot more affordable than the $800/bottle 30 year old.   The flavors are just as pronounced as the finish is as long as the coveted older range, which is to be expected in a well crafted Balvenie.  Check your local LCBO for SKU #221200.

There are a couple of honorable mentions that I believe are far better than some of the released vintages.  A little bird on my should from the distillery mentioned that there would be a shipment of Old Rip Van Winkle lot 12 'B' to hit our shelves.  Sure enough it did (LCBO Sku #976852).    This is the 'Lot B' Special reserve of the Old Rip Van Winkle, and wow is it good.  At 45.2% ABV (standard range for a bourbon ~90 Proof), and no colour added by law in the US (way to go USA for that choice), this is a rich and deep bourbon that can rival any fine Cognac.  Excellent and smooth, this is a definite purchase.  I did get to try this at the tasting bar, and went back a couple of days later only to find it gone!  Grab yourself a bottle of this before it's gone from the shelves, as there seems to be a lot of eager people waiting for a Van Winkle to grace our shelves, and the moment is nigh!  Well worth the $72 they're asking.

Also released was an Armagnac that caught my eye.  Castadère 20 ans d'âge X.O. Bas Armagnac was quietly placed onto the shelves.  I had to search this one out, and I won't lie, it was the price that grabbed my attention.  $100 for a 20 year old Armagnac is sort of like stumbling across a Ferrari in the auto trader for under $10,000.  It's not uncommon, but when you do see it, you need to seize that moment and check it out.  I still have no Ferrari to my name, but I do have a fantastilicious (yeah that's my own word), Armagnac sitting on my shelf.  Incredibly rich; with the wine flavors of Brandy, the fruity notes of port, and the oak of a well aged spirit, this is a great buy.  There is a wonderful smokey/earthiness in the background of an Armagnac that isn't present in the buttery finish of Cognacs.  Check your local LCBO for SKU #260190 for a bottle.

So that sums up November in a nutshell.  I am also simultaneously working on a recent mega update for what's been happening over the last month, and will post that in good time.  Until the next update, Keep your Stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass. Happy Dramming!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Vintages Release for October 2011

Well here we go again!  Another belated but good round of releases for October!

First up: Longrow CV makes a return to the LCBO shelves (although I don't really recall it ever leaving at any of my stores).  With a lightly peated, peppery and iodine notes on the nose.  This Campbelton malt features a fantastic finish with a depth that is hard to match.  Check your local LCBO for SKU#180158 and grab yourself a bottle for $85.  My personal suggestion though is to hold out and shoot for the Longrow 10 year old single malt (LCBO Sku #735688 for $125/bottle).  I find it a bit less structured and a little more enduring as it's not quite as intense as the CV blend.  The CV blend features a mix of the 7, 10, and 14 year old singles with the finishes varying from Port casks to rum finishes.  Either choice is an excellent foray into a small, family run distillery that showcases the hallmark of an independent distiller - unchillfiltered and higher proof allowing the end user more flavour and better value.

Second to the purchases list is not actually a Scotch at all, but rather a Cognac.  Léopold Gourmel is a well known Cognac house that is renowned for its embrace of the natural process.  No additives, no colour, no caramel... nothing.  this is pure unadulterated Cognac from non-toasted barrels.  This allows the user a chance to peek into the realm of the spirit itself and experience the spirit for what it is, not the aging process or the special French wood used, or the super rare colonized bee with gold feet that taste like angle tears which pollinates the grapes.  With no chill-filteration and no colour added, this became my next step into the world of spirits and I'll let you know what I think of it soon enough.  The 6 Carat (for 6 years), VSOP is a prize to behold in a quite pretty decanter with a gift box.  Tasting notes show a rich and varied spirit with vanilla bean, coffee and smoke wrapped in dried fruits and chocolate.  Check your LCBO for availability at your local shop ($66 SKU #258848).

The second release features a mix of old and new whiskies.  We have the return and price increase of the Glenfiddich 21 Rum Finish (albeit never leaving the shelves, just increasing again by $10).  Check this LCBO SKU#981381 for available locations.  At $174.95, I don't feel like this is such a good value anymore, you might be more inclined to try the limited edition Snow Phoenix release for $89.50 (Check this SKU #236752).  Don't get me wrong, it is excellent whisky, but at that price there are many other bottles I would choose over that first.

LCBO pricing aside, the other returning bottle is the legendary Eagle Rare 10 Year old Single Barrel.  It has returned to us at only $47.95/bottle this time ($2 dollars cheaper), and what a bargain for such a monster bourbon.  This was my second bottle of single barrel bourbon, and what an introduction it was!  Sweet cherry, butterscotch, oranges and vanilla permeate the nose with spice cake, apricot/orange marmalade, rich heavy American oak and dark corn syrup building the body.  The finish is long and incredible, soft and slow with pepper and ripe fruits permeating the finish.  This is a definite purchase for the bourbon lover in your life, and if you aren't one, this whisky may change your mind.  Check your local stock using LCBO SKU#604785.  At less than 50 dollars, this is a must have for any whisky enthusiast.  Just writing about it makes me want a glass, and I really want to get my hands on the 17 year old version!

What's new in this round (although I admit I've seen this before on the shelves), is Royal Canadian Small Batch.  This is from the masterminds at Sazerac Distillers.  They brought us the Buffalo Trace lineup, Old Rip Van Winkle's Bourbon, and many other incredible American bourbons.  The Royal Canadian is an offshoot of the greater project in which Sazerac purchased a lot of Canadian whisky barrels.  They have since been releasing small batch and single barrel releases.  The first one I saw was Caribou Crossing Single Barrel hit the LCBO shelves late last year.  On a whim at an LCBO tasting bar, I got my chance to taste the spirit.  It was really something!  When time and patience meet Drew Mayville's nose, magic happens.  It was a real eye-opener for Canadian whisky.  This second bottling is a blend of some more of the selected barrels to create an iconic Canadian whisky flavour.  With rich oak and fruits hitting your nose right away, it really is a heck of a whisky.  Sweetness carries through the spirit bringing hints of oak, hot pepper, spice cake, rich fruits and so much more.  This is a rich and robust example of what Canadian whisky really can be  (now if only the other manufacturers would allow the spirit to age longer into something like this instead of bottling it young and harsh).  Check your local listings using LCBO SKU #224071. A bottle at $37.95 with this kind of flavour is a rare find indeed.

Also in the mid October release is Springbank  CV Single Malt.  A single malt from the Campbelton region, the CV is a no age statement bottling.  This allows drinking without the prejudice of the number staring you in the face ('Was that 10 year old really as good as a 10 should be?'  'That 25 year old was excellent, but the 18 was better.').  These are the things I hear all the time, and this bottling allows the user to attest to the spirit without judging the book by it's cover.  That being said, Springbank is a vibrant spirit.  The CV shows a subdued sherry nose interspersed with peat, menthol and eucalyptus.  Leather and sherry on the tongue with notes of hard oak, spice and pear in the mouth.  The finish is medium, but reveals many layers of sherry, fruits  and leather.  This is a heck of a dram for $74.95/bottle.  Check your local LCBO using SKU#250142.

Also included in this release is the Johnnie Walker Blue mini bottle.  Now I'm not a huge advocate of mega-produced over priced malts, but for a 200 mL sample of the good life, I think it might be worth the $69.95 asking tag.  It really showcases the art of the blender with incredible depth, smoothness and balance - something to be tried and savored.  Check the LCBO using SKU #255778 for locations near you; it's worth a snap up, if for nothing more than a rewarding dram.

In the final release (yes, 3 releases for October!), there are a few more malt mentions.

First up is a Canadian single malt of a special pedigree.  Glen Breton Ice 17 Cask Strength.  This is a real malt monster, and something I've been looking forward to trying all year.  The 17 Year old Canadian malt is finished in Jost Wineries award-winning Icewine casks,and served at cask strength.  This gives incredible rich and bright fruits to the nose, but expect a heck of a bite when served at 57.5%.  This will be added to the collection for sure, and will definitely be sampled and reviewed at a later date!  Check SKU #250183 for the product information.

Also released in this issue is a newcomer to the Canadian scene, Deanston 'Virgin Oak' from Burn Stewart in Scotland.  Finished in virgin American oak barrels, I'd expect the oak to play a front-runner to the Scotch.  It sounds like it would be worth a try, and at only $39.95/bottle, it would be a pretty safe bet for a good fall dram.  Unchillfiltered and served at 46.3%, this looks to be a good independent style bottling.  All that heavy oak mingling with the honey sweetness of the barley is sure to please.  Check SKU #254235 at your local LCBO.

Last and most certainly not least, is another release from Edradour.  The 10 Year old distillery edition.  If their other lineups are anything to go upon, this is a real cracker.  This is the smallest distillery in Scotland (check out their website for the quick virtual tour HERE), is still family owned and run.  Producing some excellent scotch in the way it should be produced.  By hand, with no chillfiltration and no colour added.  The distillery edition at only 10 years is a fresh and rich dram, that should be hunted down for a taste.  Almonds and sweet barley sugars take centre stage, with hints of sherry in the background.  An excellent dram, and well worth the investment.  Check your local LCBO for stock #904995 for a bottle  ($79.95).

Well that sums up the massive release for October!  In fact, this post has taken me a week to create off-and-on, due to the size of the release.  I will be off too Whisky Live and hope to see some of you there, and will post about that again soon.  Until the next post, keep your stick on the ice, and ice out of your Whisky.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Vintages Releases for Sept 2011

Alright, as promised a second update with the featured releases for September up to the  coming release date of September 17th/2011.

First off, what we missed at the start of this month:

Dougie MacLean's Caledonia (Edradour 12 Year old Select Bottling).  Dougie MacLean is the most successful singer/song-writers in Scotland.  His list of talents don't stop at composing, he is a multi-talented instrumentalist playing more instruments than a high school band.  This single malt scotch came about with passion to bring a part of the Highlands to the rest of the world.  Unchillfiltered, colour free and served at 46% ABV this is a fine-looking specimen from the smallest distillery in Scotland.  Run by 3 passionate men, and distilling in the methods of old, Edradour uses equipment you would find in a museum with a process that includes no automation.  This results in a time-honored flavor that is faithful to the way Scotch was distilled by our forefathers.  Simply stated: Edradour is a heck of a dram, and the Caledonia release is a special selection of those heck-of-a-dram casks.  Grab a bottle for that special something you have coming up.  At $90 for a limited bottling, I think you have a safe investment in good taste on your hands.  LCBO SKU#242578.

The second bottle is another independent bottler with the right notions in play.  Unchillfiltered, and no colour added are right up the enthusiasts list of wants.  Montgomerie's is a division of the Dundee distiller's PLC group.  They cater to the enthusiast with single cask malt whisky from all regions of Scotland.   This bottling comes from a Glen Grant 1990 cask, and aged 17 years.  The single cask bottling limits the amount of production to a very rare 3700 or so bottles, making it a collector's item.  At $135, this is definitely a collector's item!  I think the colour looks a little pale, making me believe that this is not a prized first fill cask (more of a second/third filling).  I'm on the fence about it, the tasting notes say things like brilliant gold colour, and notes of saltwater taffy with leather, tobacco and marmalade.  It doesn't inspire confidence in me, and a quick internet search pulls up very little information about Montgomerie's.  If you happen to have $135 burning a hole in your pocket, go for and let me know what you think!  LCBO SKU #247643; but sorry folk's I've got the last bottle in Ontario.

Last but not least is a prized bottling that is high on my list of purchases!  I can't stop singing the praises of Isle of Arran, and this month marks the release of The Amarone Cask Finish Single malt.  At a whopping 50% ABV with no chill-filtration and no colour added; yes please! Amarone is a desiccated Italian Red wine (made from partially dried grapes), that boasts a rich incredible flavor.  Granted a DOCG certification in 2009 (Controlled designation of origin), it is an Italian treat for those rich full-bodied reds.  What does this impose to the Scotch?  In a word flavorization-ness..... is that a word?  It may not be a word, but that's what I've got to say.  Rich copper/mahogany red hues lead the nose on a trip.  Turkish Delight, toasted almond, cranberry hints and rich malted chocolate give way to cherry, toffee, apricot and rich almond nuttiness.  This is a keeper!  In fact at $72, grab a second bottle for that rainy day a few years down the road when you need a burst of flavor to get yourself back into the game.  Jim Murray scored it a 96 and said "I'm astonished at its total brilliance..."  LBCO SKU #50070.

So that takes care of what's on the shelves now.  This weekend marks another release without any whisky.  For you Cognac fans there are a few new bottles arriving that have peaked my interest.  Check the Vintages booklet HERE, or better yet take a trip to your local LCBO and see what looks good to you.  SO I've told you what I think looks good, and in the words of Levar Burton '...but you don't have to take my word for it!'.  Take a trip to your local bar or an LCBO tasting room, or a good friends place with a good selection and get out there and try something new.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Long Overdue Return

My apologies to all my readers (what's left of the lot of you).  I have been neglecting the blog and am slowly getting back into the swing of things.  I have acquired many moire bottles, many more stories and a few more items of interest.
So a quick recap of  what you missed in the LCBO vintages catalogue..... nothing really!  Summer is not the time for Whisky (or so the LCBO thinks), so they don't seem to be displaying their wares.  They are importing a ton for release over the fall/winter months when people can use a 'warm-up'.  The only thing that did catch my eye are listed below:

Rittenhouse Straight Rye :  That is American straight rye (Over 6 Years in oak and 51% Rye in the mashbill).  Well let's delve into this, super rich on the nose with loads of vanilla, peppery fruits and rich punchy rye.  There is also an earthy note that might be a little off-putting.  In the mouth; it's hot and sharp to start but fades into rich vanilla covered fudge and more fruit covered with pepper.  Then it's back!  That earthy note actually becomes dirty in the mouth, like eating a handful of dirt.  You know thouhg, it really grows on you (at least for me), and then it becomes a foundation to the finish.  That earthiness drops into the peppered fruit and melted vanilla ice ream come out of the finish.  If this is RYE; SIGN ME UP!!  It's also a hell of a lot better than the paint stripper they call Crown Royal nowadays.  LCBO SKU #230813.  The guys at Heaven Hill distillers really have a winner on their hands., this is a heck of a buy for $35.

   Ledaig 10 Year old (Isle of Mull) - This is the only distiller on the isle of Mull.  Tobermory (formerly Ledaig), is an island scotch, and a rarity to see in our market.  Tobermory is a standard single malt with some characteristic isle flair, Ledaig (pronounced Luh-chaig), is the slightly grumpier peated sister.  With a full peaty punch and a brisk stride (seems a bit sharp and youthful), there is a wonderful earthy nose featuring vanilla and bourbon florals with barley grains, and a soft, subtle, sweetness.  At $67, the LCBO is asking a bit much, but for the a bottle, but it's a chance for you to seek out a dram somewhere and try something different. LCBO SKU#315721.
Check your local LCBO stock, as I don't expect to see this one around long.  Toronto seems to be a peat-head's playground.  There are a lot of peat-smoke lovers in Ontario, and the LCBO preys upon that for the imports.

The Highland Park St. Magnus Edition (That's him on the right of the Ttrio), was released to celebrate the six canonized Norsemen born in the 11th & 12th century on Orkney Island.  Bottled at 55% ABV (natural cask strength), it has an intensity that can't be beat.  I found a rich and sour nose with notes of toasted oats, spice, moss and damp wood.  Incredible depth with a hot finish giving heat, toasted walnuts and ripe green fruits.  With only 11,994 bottles for the world to share, it's a sort of rare breed.; but at $180 it's not everyone's cup of tea.

Also tasted was the Adelphi Fascadale Batch number 2.  Adeplhi (another excellent indie bottler), tends to pander to the Whisky lover with cask strength bottling, no colour added and non-chillfiltration.  The Fascadale  is an unknown distillery(as in we're not telling no matter how many emails you send them), from the isles.  Limited to 3746 bottles world-wide, this is a definite collector's item, but a fantastic dram.  I found rich and vibrant peat heavy hitting, with a fascinating olive note on the nose (Seems very Talisker-ish).  The bite was definitely not what I had bargained for!  All that peat upfront the nose gives way to gentle smoke woven through the whisky.  Wildflowers and cracked pepper with a lime/chili note in the finish (Also very Talisker-y... hmmm).  Excellent dram!  At $120/bottle it might not be up everyone's creek but I can assure you that you won't be disappointed should you crack this bottle.  LCBO SKU #238154.

 There were a few other.  If you follow my twitter feed @ScotchCuyTO, then you'll surely have read some rare vintages that were sampled recently.

That being said; I guess that should be enough to fill you baskets with good tidings and golden whisky.  I will update again soon with the missed Sept 3/2011 Vintages release, and the coming Sept 17/2011 releases.

Until Then,

Happy Dramming!

Mr. Allen

Friday, 8 July 2011

LCBO Vintages – Release for July 09/2011

Well the new release is in stores this weekend, and features a classic malt from Blackadder as well as a surprising Isaly Gin.

So first off, I'll apologize for my tyrannical rant last round about the LCBO prices.  I'm still very unhappy, but I understand that many people don't want or wish to hear this.  Instead I'll talk about what I'm good at - that golden elixir known as Whisky.  I took a break, during my lunch hour, and a short jaunt over to an LCBO this afternoon to see what was out on early display for this release.  I didn't see the two bottles I've mentioned above, but I did come across this:

Its a terrible picture, but it's not mine.  Glendower 15 year old Port Wood finished "pure malt".  Now as far as I knew, you were not able to use the terminology " pure malt" any more according the the SWA.  The Scotch Whisky association oversees all that is Scotch.  This means from the harvest to the bottle, they (The Distiller) is to abide by their rules should they wish to call their product Scotch.  That aside, a pure malt is a vatted malt.  This means there are no additional grain whiskies  added to even out the flavor of the final product.  I quite prefer this to a blend which has the added grain whiskies as I find that the malt sometimes gets lost in the mix.  A good friend of mine brought the Glendower 8 to my attention noting it was a bit green (ha-ha the bottle is green too), but it was excellent for the price ($35 from the LCBO).  It shows excellent body, with fresh fruity notes and a slight hint of smoke.  Too my surprise I found a 15 year old Port finished version for $55 and snapped this up.  Even more to my surprise (after stashing this in the staff fridge), the bottle ended up cloudy.  I'm pretty sure this might actually be non-chill filtered whisky (albeit doesn't specify that on the label)!  The big hitch is that there is no distillery called Glendower.  It's just a name from the Campbell Meyer & Co group that created it.  Its a little sparse in the Google search too as it seems that not many people are really interested in trying a ground level whisky.  For the price, an ACE finished vatted-malt like this, is n excellent buy. I'm sure you will not be disappointed!  Check [SKU #182154] for the 8 year old and [SKU #210310] for the 15 port finish.

Onto the release notes!  Blackadder makes an appearance this month with the infamous Peat Reek.  So named for the smell of burning peat, this is an artisan bottling of an unnamed Islay monster.  Kept secret by the distillers, selected casks are pulled at their peak of smokiness and bottled without chill filtration or colour additions.  I haven't tried the latest release, but I have tried previous versions.  Boy oh boy!  This is a knock your socks off blast of phenols and creosols that you won't soon forget.  You will also definitely notice the lack of colouring agents in this.  It is a bit you and tends to be on the honey wine/straw yellow colour, but this is the spirit's actual colour.  Grab a bottle and take it over to a bottle of Johnnie Walker to see the difference (you'll notice the electric marmalade colour rite away).  This offers the buyer a small glimpse into the colour of e150a caramel that so many big distilleries use to pull the wool over your eyes.  At 46% ABV, it's right in the range that I enjoy drinking, and a steal for you peat freaks at the offered price.  It may be a bit out of season (I like this sort of thing in the Winter as a warm up), but for $70 I'd suggest you grab a bottle now.  Check [SKU #38455] for the LCBO item number and get some ordered to a location near you!

Last but certainly not least is a Gin this time.  Yes, another spirit makes it's debut on the MaltBlog (Guess I should have really re-thought that name).  But why gin I hear you ask?  Well hold on tight as this is right up a Scotch lovers alley!  From Bruichladdich distillery come The Botanist (A plant scientist).  It's new make spirit (sort of like single-malt vodka which is delicious in it's own rite),  with the addition of the characteristic Juniper berries and other assorted herbs, spices and such.  This is a limited edition bottling (15,000 Bottles), that features 31 different botanical ingredients (22 of which are native only to Islay) in a base of the infamous Islay spirit (un-peated of course).

I have yet to develop the palate for many Gins (Victoria Gin being my current favorite), so this will be a new foray into another spirit for myself.  Tasting notes paint a picture of a clean aroma with hints of pepper on the nose, briny seas, fresh juniper and wildflowers.  Lots of bitter elements on the palate, smoke and spice present throughout, hints of lemon zest, pear and pine needles in the finish.  If this sounds like a treat for you, find it at your local LCBO [SKU #242610], or get them to order a bottle to your local store. $45

That's all for the time being.  Having been so stressed at work lately, I haven't been able to unwind with a dram.  Not that I haven't  had a few drams, its more that I haven't been able to relax and loose myself in one.  I'll try my hardest as I'd really like to produce some more tasting notes so that I'm actually contributing something to the online community.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

LCBO Vintages – Release for June 25/2011

Nothing too interesting to report this round; no spirits to be released.

There is an Inniskillin Oak Aged Riesling Icewine from 2006 that is highly interesting.  I love oak-aged items (like Whisky, good beer, heck even Root Bear [the real stuff]), so this appears to be right up my alley.  With a drink before date of 2022, this will make a fantastic cellar addition for all you cellar rats.

Here's a quick blurb:

Excellent balance with refined delicacy. Featuring such notes as apple, apricot, and pear with hints of nutmeg and cloves.  The notes go on to say that even though it is a concentrated wine; it remains light on the palate.  An excellent balance of acid and sugar makes this one of Inniskillin's best.  You can be that give the chance, I'll try that!  [LCBO SKU #230359]

I'm planning the usual LCBO tasting trip for the weekend, but who knows what might happen.  I purchased a pair of Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling for the  summer or cellar [LCBO SKU #89029].  I haven't posted, much as my free time seems to have been eaten up with family commitments and working overtime.  I'll try my best to post a pair of tasting notes this weekend for you all.

LCBO Vintages – Release for June 11/2011

Welly well well my faithful drogues.... (Yeah, that's a Clockwork Orange reference), have I got news for you.  A little email arrived on my shoulder a week or so back from Okanagan Spirits, notifying me that Taboo Absinthe (LCBO SKU #162099) is back in stock.  I am a huge fan of absinthe since first taste.  It's a fantastic spirit that hold a dear place in the heart of many of the great writers and painters of the modern age.  Want to try something from distilled in the traditional French method?  Lucid Absinthe is also recently available from the LCBO (SKU #225938)

Onto bigger and better things!  I missed my deadline (thank procrastination!), and am now posting this after the fact, but am pleased to present the newest spirit release from the LCBO.  Actually, I take that back. Pleased is too good, appalled at the highway robbery that the LCBO get away with for premium spirits.  Without further adieu, the lineup.

Get Dad something special this year with 2 fine showings in the world of premium Scotch.  Glenfiddich 21 Year old and The Macallan 25 Year old Sherry Cask.

The Glenfiddich 21 was my first major indulgence at the LCBO.  It's a rich and sweet single malt.  Featuring wonderful creaminess and rich malt, vanilla and caramels, with a distinct rum and banana leaf notes in the finish.  Very very good stuff!  I'm a little sad to only see a 40% label on this bottle, but I'll excuse it, and there is not statement of colour on the label. I'm willing to allow this to go as Glenfiddich is the most commonly drank single malt and one of the most awarded single malts on the face of the planet.   Someday I'd like to see no colour and 46%, but these seem to be pipe dreams in the world of big Whisky.  The LCBO has this priced at $164.95 (LCBO SKU #981381), which is a bit steep, but comparatively its a fantastic dram for that special occasion.  I'd defiantly suggest that you grab a bottle of this as it really is a special malt and a relatively well priced for a bottle of this age.  Take that overtime shift or spoil your dad and thank him for putting up with you.

The second offering is a real cracker!  The Macallan 25 Year old Sherry Oak Single malt.  Take that sentence in a moment, and let that image roll around in your head.  This is a richer than life malt with a heavy sherry influence and wonderful honey, almond and creme caramel overtones.  This is real connoisseur's territory now, especially with the criminal pricing of the LCBO.  This is where I'm freely allowed to rant about a government controlled monopoly on alcohol.  The LCBO has graciously allowed you to procure this bottle at the measly sum of $769.95 (LCBO SKU #179150).  Nope, that's no typo!  That's just shy of $800 bucks!  Now I'm not a rich billionaire or a lucky recipient of a trust fund, and I'd like to think I have good money sense; but even if I was, that's a hard pill to swallow.  I know that this bottle is a worth indulgence for the real collector or serious drinker, but pricing out of the hands of every one but the Bay St. fat-cats is unacceptable!  I know full well that this bottle routinely goes for about $200 less in the Calgary, and south of the border it goes for even less!  It boggle my mind how the bottle has now traveled 2700 Km further and is magically $200 lighter in the price tag!  Ranting aside, this is a fantastic representation of the Macallan!  This is a rich reddy-caramel colour with a heavy and heady nose of citrus, caramel, sherry and oak. The palate is divine with rich body full of dried fruits, honey and gentle smoke.  If you happen to have $800 dollars to spare, spend it on something else!  My suggestion is the Glenfarclas 21 year old $119.95 (LCBO SKU #315614)

All ranting aside, the LCBO is the only place to get  any kind of spirit in Ontario, and I'm sure that my ranting is a little hard on them.  I'd just like to see a fair pricing scheme for buyers/collectors.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

LCBO Vintages – Preview for May 28/2011

Unfortunately there isn't much to report this round.

No spirits coming in this month.  On the other hand there is a nice tawny 20 year old port from Warre's.  Warre's is one of the oldest Portuguese exportation houses still running.   Established in 1670 to export goods such as wines, fruits and olive oil and import dried cod and wool from England.  Over time the name changed, but the goods did not.  Still a large exporter of fine port to the world now, they are renowned for their superb quality and style.

The Otima lineup was a revelation to the port community; and is still widely acknowledged as the most successful new development in Port for over 25 years.  Otima shows Port's versatility as an all year round liqueur (20% constitutes a liqueur here), bringing a modern touch to a classic drink.  Its often described as being a lush soft Port.  Featuring nutty aromas and hints of coffee, caramel and orange peel.  A pretty reasonable deal for $40.  Can be cellared up to 3 or 4 years for that special occasion, or consumed today.  Check you local LCBO for ordering [SKU #682716].  Take note that the 10 year old is also available from the LCBO [SKU #566174].

In other news; I have survived my trip to the Spirit of Toronto show.  It was an excellent time with many a new spirit showcased.  There are a few that still stand out to this day in my mind, but this is for another post.  I am still compiling my pictures and notes, but will get to this some day soon I hope.  You can check my twitter history HERE for a preview.

Friday, 13 May 2011

NOTL Wines Tour

So what's new this release?  Spring has sprung and summer is supposedly just around the corner (I have yet to witness this), and the rosés are in full bloom as it were.  Prepping for the summer heat, rosé makes a wonderful chilled wine for a hot patio evening.  I recently took a trip with some good friends (and fellow bloggers @WineGuyTO and @AnUptownGal), to Niagara on the Lake for the Wine and Herb passport.  I took my better half @munchkinkaty, and we set out on a wonderful spring Sunday.

Beautiful weather abounded and tastings were plentiful!  Special thanks to some of the twitter contacts that have been made Michelle Bosc, Alexander Harber, and Kyrstina Roman.  With a little twitter assistance from our friends, we were whisked away to secret rooms, VIP bars, and allowed to try things that "don't exist yet".

Our first stop was to Chateau des Charmes (a Niagara on the Lake favorite of mine), and directed to the VIP tasting bar.  We headed the winding staircase to a room overlooking the rear vineyards.  A bottle of Brut was cracked in our favor to cleanse our palates from the long hard drive.  Many things were sampled, but the Old Vines Riesling stuck out to myself as well as a patented 2008 Varietal called Gamay 'Droit'.   Check out their website HERE.

Through our whirlwind tour of Niagara on the Lake, we stopped into Ravine Vineyards.  I was urged to try the Reisling by our cohorts (Myself a being a white drinker mainly), as it was touted as one of the best she'd ever had.  We settled down and tried the wine and herb pairing (an excellent pork terrine with sweet woodruff paired with a 2009 Chardonnay Musqué), and then wandered over to the tasting bar.  I was introduced to Alex Harber, owner and self-confessed cellar-rat.  Alex, in turn, introduced us to a 2009 Chardonnay that was yet to be listed (fantastic fresh fruits flavours and a delicious butterscotch finish no less), and manly Rosé that had been barrel matured.  Both were fantastic expressions of why the Niagara region is one of Canada's best wine regions, but back to that Rosé for a moment. A rosé is usually light and fruity, never defined as manly, but this one had lost some of that character.  What it had been replaced with was delicious oak and wonderful warm butter notes.  This is one to keep an eye out for (Ravine 2009 Barrel Aged Rosé).  After the initial taste, we then proceeded to be introduced to a selection of their finest wines.  Let me tell you, that Riesling is no slouch!  There is also a fantastic white called York road (a white meritage of  Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc), and a red to match called the Redcoat (Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon).  This has become a new favorite winery for myself.  To steer away from the blends they also have an excellent Gewürztraminer, fantastic Merlot and an awesome Reserve Cabernet Franc. Excellent flavours are to be found in all bottles, but definitely order some of that Riesling (she a real cracker!).  Check out Ravine's website HERE!

Then off and whisked away to many other wineries, throughout the Niagara on the Lake region.  Many new places, lots of smiling faces and fantastic wines were had.  We made special stops to Reif Estates, Stratus Wines, and Lailey Vineyards.  Then as our tour ended, we headed back up the 401 to the Beamsville/40 Bench region.  We made another special stop to Rosewood Estates

Rosewood has a few things going for them.  They have their own honey bees.  This means they know who fertilizes the vineyard, and they get a rewards for this.  Rosewood has their own wildflower honey, beeswax candles and such and most importantly Mead!  Yes, I've come full circle here on the blog.  Beer whisky, wine and mead!  Featuring a selection of three offerings, there is a fantastic cherry infused mead called Mon Cherie.  This is a fantastic meeting of Niagara cherry juice and Rosewood mead blended and aged in neutral French oak barrels.  Notes of both wildflowers, honey, cherries, brandy, oak and faint chocolate create a real award winner.  You can bet that my bottle will be kept in reserve for a while.  Among the other tastings were the Riesling reserve and a fantastic Pinot Noir.  With the sun setting,  we returned home and settled down for a glass of wine and a relaxed evening.  Excellent trip with all, and it must be done again (although next time I'd love to hit up Megalomaniac).  Should you ever have a chance to hang out in the Niagara region, see if you can head out to one of the many vineyards out there.  There is a lot to explore and so much more to taste.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

LCBO Vintages – Preview for April 02/2011

Well another Vintages email leads to another Vintages Release date:  April 02/2011.  Not a whole lot to report this month, the offerings are a bit sparse.

Just in time for Easter, a new Isle of Arran Single Malt.  A new comer to the single malt world (well relatively new as its only been around since '95-ish).  Isle of Arran distillery is the first legal distillery on the island in over 150 years.  The LCBO does have a few bottles of Arran already on their shelves including the Robbie Burns single malt [Sku #981084] (only a few bottles left of this from Mr. Burns' January birthday), Isle of Arran Sherry single cask [Sku #191783] (A single sherry cask, distillery bottled at cask strength of 54.5% - Absolutely fantastic whisky.  Incredible depth and flavor.), and the Distiller's Pomerol Bordeaux [Sku #202069] cask finished @ 50% (cask finished Scotch, this one showing great selection with heavy red fruit notes and excellent balance of flavors).

Isle of Arran 14 Year Old Single Malt is presented just in time for the egg lay-ing rabbit's arrival. Tasting notes show a well developed 14 year old (to replace the 12 year old), coming from a combined sherry and bourbon casking.  The sherry provides a rich depth, and the bourbon provides the smoothness and the floral notes.  Smooth and creamy on the palate, the nose provides a very perfumed experience.  Floral notes, peaches, brandy and ginger snaps, with vanilla and mild oak.  LCBO tasting notes are provided by Sounds like an excellent Easter present for the Whisky connoisseur in your family.

LCBO product ID: 210229


Color: Sunset Copper

Nose: Dried fruits, vanilla and toffee up front.  With a little water a salty tang appears, with caramelized fruits indicating a depth of flavor.

Palate: An initial burst of brine leads onto warming toffee apples and hazelnuts.  This is followed by dates, chocolate orange and spiced tea cake.  The mouth feel is overwhelmingly rich and weighty.

Finish: A trademark Arran finish with cinnamon spices leading back to where the experience began, with a classic island-style salty wave balancing the sweet-fruit of the palate.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

LCBO Vintages - Preview for March 19/2011

As usual for all LCBO Vintages members we get the sneak preview of the upcoming release.  My main interest lays in the Spirits section (obvious isn't it).

Saturday March 19/2011 brings back Eagle Rare 10-year-old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (Say that 5x fast).  A single barrel bottling from Old Prentice Distillery (now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery), aged 10 years served at 45%.  This is an excellent foray into quality American craft bourbon.  Excellent rich mahogany color and fantastic lush vanilla, caramel, oak and root beer flavors dominate this Kentucky straight bourbon.  A good buy at $50 [LCBO Sku #604785].  American bourbon has an excellent reputation amongst quality spirit drinkers.  It is stipulated to made from a minimum of 51% corn, aged at least 2 years (4 years to earn the 'Straight' moniker), only in new American Oak charred barrels.  When withdrawn from its woody cache, it cannot be colored or added to in any way shape or form.  This means no e150a caramel to give it that marmalade perma-glow orange (much the same as Snooki has a seemingly impossible Oompah-Loompah orange glow about herself).

Also featured in the mid-March release is a newcomer to the LCBO:  Smokey Joe Islay Malt.  I've heard many good things about this particular blend, particularly noting that at 46% and non-chill filtered provided a complete flavor palate for the taster.  Produced by Angus Dundee Distillery, this a new and welcome import to the LCBO.  This is a vatted malt (malt-blend or blended malt [meaning no grain whisky added]), providing a much richer and narrower flavor profile.  I personally find that grain whisky (corn, wheat, rye or otherwise), tend to broaden, flavor, and sweeten the spirit.  This isn't necessarily bad, but it's nice to see the depth that a bunch of malts can create when they play nicely together.  If you're a fan of Islay Scotch or would like to try something smokey and fantastic, or know of a 'peat-head'.  Give this a try. $65 for a bottle, served @ 46% ABV with no chill-filtering.  You can't really go wrong.  LCBO item number #223719 should be sought after, but I think it's almost all gone.  Recently; Ralfy did a quick review on this vatted malt; and can be viewed here.

That's all that we got, but not all is lost; more is to come soon enough whisky mates.  Until next time enjoy a dram for me.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tasting Rosebank (Singatory Vintage 1991)

    On a shitty (pardon the language), cold and dreary spring/winter day; we (both myself and my better half), were invited a friends place for the evening.  We watched the Leafs loose (big surprise there), and shared a bottle of fine vintage wine.  Trius Red from 1999, absolutely fantastic, set our palates for a treat after.

    The wine, bottled in 1998, and quietly aged in the secret cellar of @WineGuyTO was fantastic.  The first nose reveals a closed wine (it's been bottled for a decade), but strong deep fruits.  As the wine opened, amazing red fruits, and rich flavors abound.  A highly recommended wine for purchasing.  Grab a couple of bottles and store them away for a later date!

    Onto the good stuff.....  1991 Rosebank (Signatory Bottling).  Served at 43%, with no colour added and no.  The distillery closed in 1993 and has since become something of a collector's item.  All bottles fetch price's far in advance of the liquid within; which is quite sad seeing as how the spirit is quite good.  There are still some individuals that are determined to show through, collecting is not what Whisky is about.  Open a bottle and taste the spirit within, enjoy something that has taken years to evolve.  Pandering for bottles aside... here is a review on the run.

Rosebank 1991 11 Year Old Single Malt (Lowland Single Malt) (375 ML @ 43% ABV Signatory Bottling)

  • Colour – Pale white wine, much like fresh straw.  No trace of gold or amber.

  • Body – Legs form slowly, tears appear a small (indicative of slightly higher proof)

  • Nose  – Oh Baby!  Young but not underdeveloped.  Faint hints of grain and aftershave, fresh grasses and citrus.  Sharp notes dominate the nose, with undertones of vanilla, flowers and oak smoke.  The grassy youth of this Rosie plays wonderfully into the soft malty notes.

  • Palate – Citrus notes dominate the palate.  Sweet and sour lemon permeates. Very gentle smoke in the background, subtle but balanced with the citrus notes creating a greater effect.  Bourbon cask becomes present with gentle vanilla notes balancing the citrus.  Grassy notes coming through with both subtle florals and gentle wood smoke to round out the palate.

  • Finish – Mouth feel is sharp, and fast. Palate blooms quickly, develops fast and fades. Finish is short, balanced with sweet, sour and smoke. Sweet grass (like wheat grass) and gentle wildfower honey in finish.

  • Empty Glass – Empty glass shows poignant notes of citrus rind (sweet lemons like Meyer) and gentle wood notes. The bourbon cask is apparent; balanced with a gentle subtle caramel note.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

The Old English Pub of Gananoque

Apologies for the late update, there seems to be more work than hours in a day lately.

During our trip back home we, of course, stopped into the Old English Pub.  It was the big game day, and Green Bay was up over the Steelers, when we decided to head into town for a drink and some dinner.  The most obvious stop in town was the pub.  I was gearing my tastebuds up for a pint of Hobgoblin, and a dram of Scotch.  We arrived to find a quiet evening at the pub, no rowdy NFL watchers in town that night.  Warmed by the fireplace, there is a pleasant glow about the pub in the evening light.  The entrance gives you the impression that you've somehow stepped into Georgian England and are awaiting a pint at a porterhouse along the canal.

We weren't that hungry, but decided to split some appetizers (the Baby Yorkies [Mini Yorkshire Puddings with shaved roast beef and gravy], some Pub Skins and a burger to split amongst us), and a few pints.  I was gutted to find the Hobgoblin had run dry, and that they wouldn't have more until Monday.  I quickly changed my mind and ordered a Flying Monkeys Netherworld Cascadian Ale (Cascade Hops like crazy, with fantastic coffee under tones from the roast), while my better half ordered a Bass.  Dad followed suit and ordered a Netherworld too.  Excellent conversation starters and an introduction to Theo the bartender soon followed.  I inspected the Scotch selection, and made some early choices.  While being slightly more nosy than normal at the bar I was questioned by Theo about Scotch.  I bored him half to death with a smattering of knowledge and promised him that I would write an article on how to select a Scotch for the layman and what all those bottles mean.  I had decided on the Glen Garioch I saw on the top shelf and maybe a second dram depending on the evening.  I've got quite the selection (see The Collection for further details), and have sampled or own many of the bottles that appear in most bars/restaurants.  Not too boast, but I do enjoy perusing the bar (much to the dismay of my better half).  So after dinner and a couple of pints, I ordered a couple of drams for dessert.

So without further adieu  my review on the go for both the Glen Garioch 15 and the Isle of Scapa 14.

Lets start with the Garioch (as did I):

Glen Garioch 15 Year Old (Highland Single Malt) (1 Litre @ 43% ABV Distillery Bottling)

  • Colour - Rich mahogany amber colour with slight highlights in the amber-red range.  Does not appear to have colour added.

  • Body - Small tears (proof of proof as it were), legs form slowly and run slowly down the glass (much flavor to be had here)

  • Nose  - Nose has rich sherry, pralines or butter almonds.  Figs and honey, dried fruit and old grains. Heather and rich grassy-ness. Very rich nose, faint sulphur in the very background from the sherry casking, not unpleasant as it serves to sweeten the nose.

  • Palate - Sweet, sweet caramel and soft sherry notes dominate the palate.  Sweet and sour notes permeate. Gentle smoke in the very background, so subtle it could be missed. Balance is key, incredibly soft in the mouth. Grassy herbal-ness comes through at the end to round out the palate.

  • Finish - Mouth feel is like velvet. Rich and heavy, but dissipates quickly. Plate blooms quickly, develops fast and fades slightly, finish continues for quite some time, balanced with the gentle background smokiness. Sweet sherry and wildflowers in finish.

  • Empty Glass - Empty glass shows notes of cinnamon and citrus (sweet lemons). Wood notes come forward, mild oakiness with gentle char is apparent.

Isle of Scapa 14 Year Old (Orkney Isles) (750 Ml @ 40%ABV Distillery Bottling)

  • Colour - Medium gold to light amber in colour

  • Body - Tears are average size for an 80 proof bottling, legs form slowly and run down the glass (not looking too bad as Scapa is one of the lightest tasting Island whiskeys I've had from Scotland)

  • Nose  - Nose has floral vanilla (inclined to believe this is bourbon casked), and coffee notes mixed with gentle smoke and peat. Very gentle smoke. Furniture polish (still a good thing), and sweet apple blossoms. Floral notes and perfume mix with a heavy undercurrent of malty sweetness.

  • Palate - Sweetness blooms quickly with barley sugar taking the lead, smoke and oak take a second seat to the bloom of flavors; there is a lot going on in the glass.  The sweetness dies down and the malt comes through being held up by subtle wood smoke/peat.

  • Finish - Finish is medium and sweet; sweet notes permeate with nuts and cereals notes present. Smoke (very gentle) carries the finish with a gentle end. Gentle wood smoke notes almost amplify the finish to a higher level.

  • Empty Glass - Empty glass shows the vanilla notes (most likely bourbon casked) and oak smoke. Almost a butter note (like sweet cream) and slight hint of caramel.

Click here for a the picture to the left for a peek behind the bar, and to the right for a view of the what was missed in the first picture.

So two fantastic malts in a fantastic location.  I chose these two simply because they are not readily available at the LCBO and I myself have never tried either.  I would love a bottle of Glen Garioch myself now, but the Scapa I can take or leave.  There is a Scapa 16 year old from the LCBO that is available if you're interested (but trust me; it's not nearly as good as the 14...).  I would also like to apologize for the semi-lousy pictures; seems this is pretty good for a BlackBerry.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Robbie Burns Day [Belated]

   Happy Robbie Burns day (belated) to all.  As a special treat I shall recount my special evening with a few good friends at The Hunt.  I was cordially invited by a gracious couple (anuptowngal and wineguyTO), and their father-in-law to a special night with a tutored nosing and meal in honour of the Scottish poet Robbie Burns.

    The evening began with an address by The Hunt's very own Marcel Bregstein (the emcee for the evening and the club Sommelier), to the crowd.  Highland dancers followed, with traditional dancing and colourful outfits all lead in by a piper.  The piper then read the Address to A Haggis, and promptly had it distributed amongst the guests (small tastes only; sadly).  This being my second time having Haggis, I noted that this one seemed a wee bit on the dry side, but still quite excellent.  I am willing to admit that this is an acquired taste (and not one that I figured I would have acquired),  but it is quite delicious when prepared and splashed with a bit of Scotch.  Think of it like Kishka, a meat and meal sausage, made with heartier meat and a dash of blood.  Haggis is sheep's pick (heart, liver and lungs) mixed with onions, oats and spices all baked in a sheep's stomach.  Doesn't sound delicious?  If you think of it as eating a sausage, (a very rich and hearty sausage), it's quite delicious and makes for a very satisfying meal.

    The main guest was introduced next by the Sommelier.  Todd McDonald from PMA Canada, a 20 year veteran of scotch sales, on behalf of William Grants & Sons.  With him he brought a selection of Balvenie (12 Year old Doublewood and The 12 Year old Signature) and a selection of Glenfiddich samples (the LCBO available flight of 12-21 Years).  Being the proud owner of the entire flight (save the 18), this was not a blind tasting to yours truly.  We were treated to a visual tour of the Balvenie operation and explained how Scotch moves from grain to glass, through the distillation process.

  The beginning of the tastings started with the Balvenie 12 year old pair (Both the Doublewood and the Select Cask), which was to show us the difference in flavor between the two 12 year olds.  This expanded to include the Glenfiddich 12 to show the flavour comparison to it's sister distillery.  The 12 Select was sherry heavy casks, while the unique half and half maturation of both bourbon and sherry casks in the Doublewood was quite mild on the palate.  This was compared with the fresh and crisp flavours of the Glenfiddich 12 (lots of green apples, and sweet crisp malt).  We were enlightened to their particular methods of nosing whisky, some of which were a bit hard to wrap your head around.  Our speaker suggested that we water down the whisky to about 25% (oft called drowning a whisky), so that the aromas could easily escape the glass.  I let mine fly what was left of it's full colours (40% ABV isn't really much to call FULL colours).  Our taster was also an avid swirler, slightly teetering onto the aggressive hot tub swirling side.  I tried their method and ended up with one glass of wonderful aromas of honey and spice, but the spirit had become undrinkable as it was mostly water with a dash of whisky flavour.

    That aside, we carried on in our nosing class moving to the Glenfiddich 15 (the step up the line for those who seek richer notes than the 12).  This is a favourite of mine (having a wonderful blend of sherry, bourbon and fresh oak casks married together in a Solera vat), featuring a much richer malt note with lush sherry and honeycomb.  The marketing spiel of the Solera vat never being emptied was also dispelled at this time; noting that they build the flavour profile from the selected casks and then fill a vat; settle the whisky and bottle it all.  We then moved into the connoisseurs single malt (the Glenfiddich 18), which is comprised of 98% bourbon and 2% sherry.  An sharp whisky, not my favourite as the heavy wood notes dominate the palette, but still quite nice nonetheless.  Concluding with the 21 Year old Havana Cask (no longer called such in order to import to the US), which was a smooth and delicious finish to the tasting.  The demerara and rum notes sparkle through on the nose, and there is a fantastic scent of banana in the background which almost turn herbal (into banana leaf).  The smooth mouth feel and the long and sumptuous finish have made it a favourite of mine; so much so that I grabbed a bottle earlier this year.

  The dinner was fantastic; featuring spinach salad with a fantastic Glenlivet vinaigrette, Salmon in a champagne sauce with braised leeks, and finished with a whisky chocolate mousse and butterscotch ice cream.  Incredible evening with incredible friends, and a fantastic way to celebrate Mr. Burn's birthday.  I think I'll have to draft up some notes on the 21 year old in the future.