Sunday, 25 March 2012

LCBO Vintages Release for March 2012

Well it seems that every year around St. Patty's Day, the LCBO likes to delve into its Irish holdings and release a few special selections for the occasion.  Let's check out what they've released.

March 02/2012 release:

This is the big St. Pat's release, so there are quite a few re-releases and a couple of new bottles this time around.  First up, Inishowen.  Irish for Island of Eoghan, this whiskey is named for a small peninsula of land on the northernmost end of Ireland.  A blend of both standard and peated malts, and some grain whiskies for balance.  This creates a great balance of bright fruits, sweet grains and subtle peat, pepper the nose.  In the mouth; that fruitiness blooms with notes of red fruits (berries and such), floral vanilla, hints of pears, and the peat scatters through the mix.  The finish is strong but short lived; the grain builds the finish very quickly into a dry and short pop.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #656017], for a $35 bottle.

Next up is Kilbeggan's Finest blend.  This is one of my favorite Irish blends. Vanilla and caramel one the nose, with hints of wood in the background.  In the mouth notes of caramel and golden raisin mix with hints of pepper and spice.  The finish is medium and creamy with the wood notes coming through.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #657247], for a bottle.  Priced at only $35/bottle; it's hard to go wrong.
Locke's 8 Year Old is a pure pot still single malt.  There is a fantastic fruity sweetness on the nose, with hints of barley and malt syrup.  In the mouth big malty sweetness blooms and dominates, there is a slight hint of a metallic note that seems to precede the dry fruity notes.  The finish is excellent with vanilla, peat and more malty goodness.  An excellent bottle for $59, and a great introduction to Irish pot still sweetness. Check your local LCBO [Sku #913475], for your bottle.

The Irishman Single Malt is a 100% pot still Irish malt.  This 10 year old is made up from a bourbon sherry mix and features citrus, creamy notes and floral hints in the background.  The mouth reveals red fruits (passion fruit and berries), cereal grains, honey and almonds.  The finish is medium and very well balanced.  There are both drying notes and warming notes that blend with the sweetness which creates the balance.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #250159 for your $60 bottle.  I also see the Irishman 70 (70% pot still blend) under Sku #135186, but no stock; A future release?

Last but certainly not least is Writer's Tears Pot Still Blend.  This is a bit of an anomaly; rich honeyed notes seem to over shadow the traditional pot still fruitiness.  There are peppered throughout; bright notes of sharp fruit like starfruit or fresh passion fruit (very sharp and sour but sweet at the same time). In the mouth, this is a belter!  It mingles so well, soft sweet notes, hard brash malt, bright fruit.  I strongly suggest you check your local LCBO [Sku #271106], for you own bottle.  At only $48/bottle  this is the one I'm on the look out for.  There were none left where I tried it, but I think it will be an order in for sure.

March 17/2012 re-release:

Here is my single most favorite expression from The Balvenie distillery; 21 year old Portwood.  This is a fantastic expression, revealing notes of honeycomb, worked leather, almond brittle (salty sweetness), poached pears, canned peaches, and hints of spice cake or potpourri.  In the mouth, an explosion of red and black fruit notes.  Plums,cherries, currants, honey and spice notes permeate.  the finish is long, drawn out and fantastically smooth and silky.  This is my personal favorite Balvenie release (followed by the Carribean cask, and the 15 year old single cask),  but I have a real beef with the cost associated by the LCBO.  $216/bottle for a standard release served at 40%!  That's crazy, and I personally can't justify spending that much on it.  If we had the 47.6% ABV that the travel retail stores get; that's a little different.  I don't think the value is there at that price; but should you feel flush, check your local LCBO [Sku #500090], for your bottle.  All the pricing nonsense aside, should you see this on a menu somewhere, indulge yourself and enjoy some of the best that Balvenie has to offer.

March 31/2012 release:

Well here is an interesting one indeed!  Auchentoshan Valinch.  This is a limited expression of their Classic bottling, albeit unchillfiltered and served at 57.5% ABV.  All this for $64/bottle; I think you've got a heck of a good deal on your hands.  Auchentoshan is one of the last 3 remaining lowland distilleries, and one of the few to claim triple distillation (I hear they their triple is really 2.5 times but that's beside the point).  Nose is quite lively with notes of citrus, vanilla, candied ginger, crème brûlée and hints of rose water.  This is a pretty hot whisky in need of a drink to settle itself down.  In the mouth, there are lovely notes of sweets, creamy richness, bitter orange zest that blends so well with the creamy notes.  With water, it settles quite nicely and opens up with the more typical Auchentoshan floral honey notes.  Check you local LCBO for this bottle [Sku #266577] and grab one!

Wow!  That was a big one!  There are a lot of great items that came out this round, and quite a few that I never see listed in the flyers.  I'll have to soon start compiling a list of bottles that I find interesting, but then I'll let my secrets out of the bag.  If you follow my twitter feed <HERE>, maybe I'll let you in on some odd finds and interesting bottles that I see.  Until the next time, keep your stick on the ice, and the ice out of your glass.

Monday, 5 March 2012 Tasting Event @ Quinn's - January 28th/2012

This past January, I was invited as a reader and good friend to the group to join a tasting party held at Quinn's steakhouse.  Not willing to miss the chance at having 6 tastings for under $24, I jumped at the occasion.

2 flights were offered - First up was the aptly named "Smoke Ladder". We moved from lightly smokey up to full on roaring bonfires of peat with Longrow CV, Jura Superstition, and finally Ardbeg 10.  All drams were accompanied by a chef approved item to accent the natural flavours within the Scotch.  I chose to jot notes about the 2 that I don't have in my collection, Longrow CV and Ardbeg 10.

Longrow CV:

  • Colour:  Very light straw, slight hints of orange/gold in the highlights.

  • Body:  Thin and light, medium drops form; legs run at a medium rate.

  • Nose:   Soft notes of heather, peat and vanilla cream.  Accents of spice cake and sweet barley.

  • Palate: Spicy wood smoke, Hints of peat and candied lemon peel.  Vanilla highlights.

  • Finish:  Short.  Hints of wood smoke and grainy sweets permeate. Herbal vanilla notes, and rubbed/worked oak.

  • Empty Glass:  Here the barley grain and peat show up!  Roasted oats with honey, salty brine (just a hint like movie theatre popcorn).

  • Paired with an chocolate bon-bon (orange creme centre), making this an excellent after dinner treat.

Ardbeg 10 Year Old:

  • Colour:  Very light, in fact surprisingly so!  Certainly doesn't look like any colour added.  I'll call it sun bleached straw.

  • Body: Medium, and slightly oily.  Medium sized drops; legs run slowly.  Hints at lots of flavour here, but you should know that already (you can smell the peaty fires from 3 feet away!).

  • Nose:  Peat (duh!), lots of peaty fires.  Coffee grounds, fruity notes. Licorice, and dark chocolate. Real mint (like in a muddled drink)

  • Palate:  Spice and smoke dominate.  Ashes mix with strong quality coffee fruitiness (not that Starbucks crap; real barista pulled stuff in a place where they care what coffee tastes like!).  Chocolate notes and hints of toffee in the background.

  • Finish:  Sharp and biting.  Dry smoke and espresso.  Hints of sour peat permeate the finish.

  • Empty Glass:  Smoke galore! Wood smoke, campfires, ashes and peat!  No actual notes of the oak here, the smokiness sort of takes over.

  • This was served with smoked salmon on Irish soda bread.  Excellent pairing with all that smoke, almost overwhelmed the fish.

So the reasoning behind the smoke ladder was to be able to allow ourselves to genuinely enjoy monster peats without being overwhelmed by the smoke.  Moving from low to medium to high allows your senses to adjust to the amounts of peat in the Whisky and thus allows your nose to mare easily drift through the peat and smoke to find the other scents and tastes within the dram.  Excellent stuff, and a great way for anyone to get into peated whiskies!

The second flight was sweet and smoky.  This gave us a chance to calm our taste buds and enjoy some different types of smoky notes within the whisky.  This flight featured Springbank 10, Oban 14, and Connemara Peated Irish (a personal favourite of mine).  I chose to jot notes for the Springbank and the Connemara, I'm still not a great Oban fan (but I'll work on it I promise).

Springbank 10 Year Old:

  • Colour:  Golden Hay

  • Body:  Medium.  Large drops form with legs running slowly.

  • Nose:  Worked teak (interesting of all things wooden), dried grasses, bread, dried herbs, and olives.

  • Palate:  Hot and sweet on the initial rush. Sour notes like old coffee mixed with a mossy-ness and toffee candies.

  • Finish:  Medium length with smoke and sharp notes.  Gentle oak and roasted almonds.

  • Empty Glass:  Slight sulphur notes and roasted nuts. Worked oak and wood shop floors (like sawdust form a wood shop).

  • This was served with an incredible hand made Irish blue cheese. Cashel Blue is a semi-soft mild blue cheese made from Cow's milk.  It emphasizes the salty/briny notes in the whisky and amplifies the smoky notes while providing a wonderful creamy palate for the whisky to bloom in.  Find this cheese, and have it with something smoky/briny like an Islay and see what I mean!

Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey:

  • Colour:  (Try not to laugh at this one, but I have written) Honey Nut Cheerios gold.  That roasted golden colour with some brown highlights.

  • Body:  Thick. Tiny drops seem to form, legs run very very slowly.

  • Nose:  Pink rubber school erasers, and soft peat bogs. Sweet grains (like mashed corns, or fresh harvested wheat).  Rubber tires in the hot sun (seriously! not bad, just something astringent to bring contrast to the sweet notes). Sweet honey notes, with floral hints in the background.

  • Palate:  Wood smoke and gently smouldering peat fires.  Roasted nuts and

  • Finish:  Short but great!  Smoke and vanilla notes intertwine with rubber in a drawn out way through the finish.

  • Empty Glass:  Sour peat and coffee grounds,  Oak and a musty note like grape mash after fermentation/extraction (or like the smell of a wine maker's cellar).

  • This was served with shortbread and chocolate covered raisins, but was switched up at the last minute to what little was left of my Cashel blue.  That rich creamy and salty cheese melts and compliments peat and smoke so well.  In the case of the Connemara, the sweet pot still Irish malt lends itself even better to the cheese providing a sweet nutty note to compliment the cheese.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

LCBO Vintages Release for February 2012

Well, that month seemed to blow by quickly!  Then again at only 28 days + 1 for a leap year, is a quick month.  That being said, the releases are short on numbers, but big on flavor!

February 04/2012 Release:

First up is a Kentucky bourbon! 1792 Ridgemont Reserve is a barrel select Kentucky straight bourbon.  Straight bourbon is legally defined as being over 2 years old, this one hits 8 years before it's released to the masses.  With a high rye content in the mashbill, it brings up the spice notes in the nose.  Very spicy up front (causes salivation.... even while I'm writing this now thinking about it).  Nose features spice cake, sharp rye, cracked pepper and loads of fruits and pickles (that's the rye again).  Mouth feel is very different, rich and creamy, with hints of apples and licorice in the background.  I think it's a pretty good buy, and for only $50/bottle,  it's really hard to go wrong.  Check your local LCBO [Sku#208918], for a location near you.

Second is another bottling from Welsh distillery Penderyn.  Wales is a small country located between the Irish sea and England, also holds the records for the wettest place in Europe.  That being said, there is a golden ray of light under the gray skies: Penderyn distillery.  Penderyn Sherrywood  is an excellent representation of a cask finish gone according to plan.  Buffalo Trace bourbon casks are used in conjunction with an Oloroso Sherry wood cask to create a sum greater than both parts.  Penderyn tends to be a light and floral sort of wysgi (Welsh for whisky), and marrying it with rich sherry casks brings out rich fruity notes with a wonderful smooth finish.  The combination of casks give wonderful sweet raisins, dates, caramel and custard notes on the nose.  This develops well in the glass, but the palate speaks for itself.  Creme caramel and almonds dominate, raisins and sherry soaked red fruits with a hint of bitter ginger at the end to balance it all out.  The finish is mid-length and very smooth (hence it is a favorite of mine).  Check your local LCBO [Sku #270611] for a bottle, priced at $85 and served at 46% ABV I think it's an excellent treat.

Next up is a island monster! Isle of Jura 200th Anniversary (21 Years old).  This monster comes to us courtesy of the 1963 Gonzalez Byass sherry casks that were specially selected to represent the year that Jura was reborn.  In '63, the distillery was rebuilt, and new life was breathed into both the island and the spirit.  The 21 year old spirit holds its own as an excellent example of Island whisky at it's best.  It's got a rich (assisted), golden colour that already gives me that warm fuzzy feeling inside.  The nose reveals macerated orange peel, slight hints of peat, and buried depths of dark chocolate mixed into a briny ocean spray (characteristic Isle of Jura).  The sherry influence comes in with notes of marzipan and golden raisins, rich worked leather notes.  It coats the mouth like velvet but remains dry.  The palate fills out with walnuts, dark chocolate covered almonds, roasted seaweed (think of the nori that covers your sushi), and cracked black pepper on the finish.  Excellent stuff, and served at the Jura's usual 43% ABV makes this an excellent bottle to grab and stash away for that special date.  Check you local LCBO [Sku #266700] for a bottle, priced a bit on the high side at $147, but as it's a rarity, well worth the price.

February 18/2012 release:

Only a single bottle in this round!  Many of my friends know that I'm not a big fan of The Balvenie; only going for the 21 Port wood cask (LCBO seriously over priced at $216), and the 14 Caribbean cask (much better choice at only $99).  Making a reappearance at the LCBO is the 15 year old Single Cask.  This is an excellent representation of the Balvenie signature spirit.  Offered at 50.5% ABV, this is an excellent cost/value ratio ($135/bottle).  Honey and floral notes gently waft through the nose, vanilla and gentle polished oak weave a fantastic nose that melds into the palate.  Rich honeycomb and gentle wildflowers mingle with the dry worked oak notes and toasted malt on the palate.  The finish is subtle and complex with notes of heather and more worked oak with a subtle hint of anise/licorice.  Normally I'm not a Balvenie fan, but at the price/value you'll get from this bottle at only $135, you're not going to find a better chance to get into a Bavlenie with such an excellent palate.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #366963], for your bottle.

Well that sums up the February releases.  Seems like we got spoiled this round, which leaves me wondering why? (naturally pessimistic I guess).  I have a feeling that March will be showing us the usual Irish malts in a toss out to St. Patrick's day (some of which I am a big fan).  Until next time, keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.  I'll be posting some tasting notes from my tasting experience with the guys from, take a trip by and check out what they have to offer.