Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Surpirse... It's a Whiskey Review!

     Okay, so it's not the article I had promised; that's still in the barrel awaiting some finishing remarks and pictures.  That's not quite ready to happen yet, but instead what I've got for you is a pair of tasting notes from a recent trip to the LCBO tasting bar.  I finally got to try my fair share of John Jacob Rye, and also a single malt from my favourite distillery Mortlach.

     First up, a small batch rye from Washington state.  Fremont Mischief Distillery is a new upstart distilleries in the Seattle area, producing a limited number of products, and successfully creating a name for itself.  Their backbone seems to be an 8 year old whiskey (coming from Canada; for the time being as they begin their own distillation with local grains), but they also produce a 2-3 year old rye named in honour of the master distiller's grandfather.  John Jacob Rye is listed as 'perfect for sipping with ice or as the base to your favourite whisky cocktail'.  Upon reading this I wasn't so enthused to get my hands on a glass.  At a recent trip to the tasting bar, I noticed the bottle and decided to tempt fate.  What ended up in my glass was far more than I expected.  Let me throw the notes below for you to peruse:

  • Colour:  Rich amber bordering on a yellow/goldish highlight
  • Body:  Thick and oily, not unlike good Canadian rye.  The drops seem to take forever to form and run slowly back into the glass
  • Nose: The first note I got was super sweet butter cream frosting and vanilla ice cream.  Lots of rye pepper and fruits, making the nose densely thick.  The pepper seems very hot like white ground pepper, but has a bright black fruit note like really good Tellicherry peppercorns.  There begins a subtle waft of fruits and an interesting counterbalance of fresh motor oil.  A little water brings out dried mandarin peel. and a caraway rye bread-y note.  In the background there seems to be a grapefruit candy note.  With time it turns more into a wheat sugary note, or a something like a sweet-grass note.
  • Palate:  The mouth feel is very smooth; luxuriously so!  The body does seem a bit thin here (showing its youth), but fruits abound!  Dried apricot shows up here, along with a peach brandy note too.  The pepper doesn't subside here, but instead turns into warmth through the dram.  Some baking spices are present here, but nothing really standing above one another.
  • Finish:  This part is sadly short.  Lots of rye bite and oak heat come through.  Vanilla pudding drifts away into oak warmth and the ever present wood spices.
  • Empty Glass:  This shows the age again, furniture polish and fresh oak (not so great), but behind all of it is dried pickling spices and dill (I think putting a few more years of age on this will bring out these notes more in the dram).
      All in all; I was very impressed with such a young whisky.  It's a really creamy and soft whisky with a reserved bite to it.  I did note an odd label on my bottle at the noting that the contents were actually 42%ABV, not the 40% listed on the bottle.  This leads me to believe the batches are pretty small and that this might be a bottle for the rye lovers to look for out there.  Check your local LCBO <HERE> for your bottle, priced at $57.95 is a little on the steep side, but worth checking out a dram at your local favourite whisky bar, should you run across it.

    Next up is my absolute favourite distillery... that is never bottled by it's owners (with a couple of exceptions).  Mortlach, the monster of Speyside with such notes as: aftershave, pork fat, double smoked bacon, and burnt car tires.  This is a backbone to Johnnie Walker blends in the blue and black range, typically heavily sherried, it provides that lip smacking and unctuous note in the black blend.  Sadly though, it will only usually be seen as an independent bottler' single malt as Diageo seems to not be willing to show off a tour-de-force type malt.  That being said, why would I review this now during the Summer?  Well the Dun Bheagan 12 year old bottling I ran across is anything but typically heavy sherry winter whisky.  This 12 year old hailing from cask #93392 and producing 907 bottles at 46% ABV, called to me on the shelf.  I'm a softy for this monster but, when I got it in my glass, the notes will speak for themselves.

  • Colour:  Light gold with pink highlights (looks like a good sherry cask; and there is no colour or chill-filtration being done here)
  • Body:  Medium-light with fast forming drips that run at a medium pace back to the pool below (wait a minute, this isn't seeming very heavy and brooding?)
  • Nose:  Holy cow!  Hold onto your socks for this one.  There is a wave of sweet floral (like the little flowers in my mum's garden), and red berries all over the place.  Wait a minute, this isn't Mortlach like I know it at all... this is like summer vacation Mortlach! Red fruits and sweet malt abound with notes of overripe strawberry all over the place.  A little water gets added and the beast begins to emerge.  Strawberry pork roast (can you do that? if not I' going to be the first), that thick pork fat note comes with a sly hint of salt (like play-dough).  The nose remains berry sweet, but with a salty (not briny) tang, herbal notes begin to emerge.  The herbs seem very strong like pine needles or spruce tips, but also very shy and drawn back at the same time.
  • Palate:  Sherry-berry sundaes.  The malt almost ends up a background player here, with wood spice rounding up the end.  The meatiness of Mortlach can be felt throughout the dram, but never over bearing.  There are hints of juniper and plum, with an almost mango undertone present.  With water it becomes richer, more earthiness and meatiness come forward now.  The wood spice sharpens and becomes a sort of all-spice note with a dried pine needles hanging about in the background.  Off in the distance amongst the pork roast and berries is a slight nod towards earwax.  This was one hell of a cask IMO!
  • Finish:  This is medium and very satisfying.  Still floral and sweet but with a firm backbone of wood spice and a slightly creamy thickness (think homemade ice cream)
  • Empty Glass: Strawberry jam and play-dough.  There is a surprising pop of spice tea and a hint of mint in the background.
    Well there you have it! I never though I'd see a Mortlach as a summer sipper; but the proof is in the notes.  The berry rich and sherry driven nose of this is intense and whimsical, something I could gladly enjoy over a Summer evening with good company.  This is a pretty expensive bottle for only a 12 year (coming in at a hefty $93), but the quality of the spirit shows itself an might be worth the investment.  You can find your own bottle at your local LCBO <HERE>.

     So there you have a pair of very interesting bottles.  The first being a very small batch produced rye with some very interesting rich notes.  The second being a fantastic summer whisky for anyone looking something sweet and easily approachable (which I find very difficult to say about Mortlach).  Much more to come for the blog.  I'm coming out of summer holiday mode, and getting back to writing; slowly.  Still to come, a meeting of bloggers, a spirits show, the remainder of the Vintages releases from the LCBO for the summer, and a few more articles too.  As always: Keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass.