Reviews, musings and whisky adventures.
Keep on waffling!
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Welcome one and all to the most anticipated award ceremony ever to take place on social media! Nope, it’s not 2017’s Most Carelessly Dressed Celebrities (that’s the second most anticipated) but instead the 2017 Waffle Awards – the prizes given by Australia’s most tongue-in-cheek whisky blog, Whisky Waffle, to the drams that excited them most in the last 12 months.
The rules are simple, all winners must be whiskies consumed by the lads for the first time in 2017 – and they must be able to vaguely remember the experience the following day.
So strap yourselves in for a wild, controversial and extremely subjective ride through our picks of 2017!
The Isle of the Drammed Award for the best Tasmanian whisky
As proud Tassie boys, our first award is for the best dram made in our state in 2017. This year, the Isle of the Drammed goes to:
‘Oh @#$%^&* that is good whisky,’ – You after trying this whisky.
Hailing from Tasmanian independent bottler Heartwood, the curiously named @#$%^&* bears the usual madcap cask-strength touch of its creator Tim Duckett, starting in 2nd fill port casks, then finished in 1st fill sherry casks before being bottled at a juicy 62.5% (which, believe it or not, is on the lighter end for a Heartwood).
Tim claims the name comes from the fact that it caused him a great deal of grief during its creation. The @#$%^&* has proved to be something of a sleeper agent for us actually; we’ve tried it alongside other Heartwoods that seem to have the ol’ razzle-dazzle in spades, but somehow the @#$%^&* keeps calmly stepping out as the favourite. Maybe it’s the special edition dinosaur-themed label artwork drawn by Jon Kudelka.
The Tartan Slipper Award for the best Scottish whisky
The Scottish stuff is what got us hooked on whisky in the first place and we are continually discovering new exciting drams from the motherland. This year, the Tartan Slipper goes to:
Glendronach 21 Year Old
Glendronach do sherried whiskies as well as anyone in the world and after trying the 18 Year Old I thought it could not get any better. I was wrong. Hidden away at a corner table at Whisky Live Hobart was this absolute gem of a whisky. It redefined my relationship with sherried whisky. I went back for seconds.
The Pocket Pleaser Award the perfect pick for the parched penny pincher
Buying whisky is an expensive business – so value for money always makes us very happy. This award is for the whisky we considered to be the best value in 2017. This year the Pocket Pleaser goes to:
Glen Moray produces great bottles at more-than-acceptable price ranges, but this is possibly the best value of the lot. The 16 Year Old is far smoother and nuanced than the 12 and for seventy dollars (Australian) it is a must have for all whisky fans with bills to pay. Plus it comes in a shortbread tin! Nuff said.
The Weirdsky Award for the most WTF whisky
This award is dedicated to the strange and the bizarre. Whisky that we may not consider… good… per say, but a dram that has certainly intrigued us. This year, the Weirdsky Award goes to:
Ok, we realise this technically isn’t whisky as it’s still under 3 years old, but it is so bat(sheep?)-shit crazy that it deserves a mention here. Iceland is a place – you may have heard of it. It has lots of spectacular scenery. It also has lots of sheep. And a whisky distillery. For some reason the distillery, Eimverk, thought it would be a good and reasonable thing to smoke some of their barley using poo from the aforementioned sheep rather than peat, which there is also lots of on Iceland. Smoking things with poo is traditional over there apparently.
I am of the opinion that the Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve is the drinkable version of a traditional Icelandic delicacy: fermented shark, or Kæstur hákarl, a dish that is surely only used to make unwary tourists cry. The locals are obviously made from tougher stuff than the rest of us. Stick with the standard Flóki release (which is rather good) until, like the best Kæstur hákarl, the Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve has aged for a few more years.
The Bill Lark Award for service to Tasmanian whisky
The Tasmanian whisky industry works because it is driven by so many wonderful people. We like to recognise one of these people each year with an award named after the founding father himself. This year, the Bill Lark Award goes to:
Patrick Maguire is a founding member of the Tasmanian distilling scene. A contemporary and a colleague of the man whom this award is named after, he took the bold step in taking over Tasmania Distillery and cleaning up the slightly tainted name of Sullivans Cove Whisky. Not only did he get it back on track, but he took Tasmanian whisky to a whole new level when his release from French Oak barrel HH525 won best whisky at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. Tasmanian whisky was changed forever and has gone from strength to strength ever since thanks in no small part to the perseverance of one Patrick Maguire.
The Golden Dram for the best dram whisky in the world
Here it is. The big one. The best whisky of 2017. Previous winners have included Highland Park and Octomore but this year… drum roll please… the winner of the Golden Dram, the BEST whisky in the world is…
Belgrove North East Peat Smoked Single Malt
Thinking back across the year to select a worthy drop for The Golden Dram, the Belgrove North East Peat Smoked Single Malt stands out in memory as the one that made me the most effusively loquacious in my attempts to promulgate its meritoriousness. Translation: I was damn excited and wanted everyone to know it. Belgrove is more usually known for its excellent ryes, but the Single Malt is a credit to the versatility of its creator Peter Bignell, a previous winner of the Bill Lark Award. What makes this particular whisky so excellent is the peating; hitherto Tasmanian peat has been sourced from sphagnum bogs in the highlands, which are almost exclusively controlled by Lark.
The peat in this whisky comes from a new source in the North East of the state, dug from a farm owned by Peter’s brother. The first time I took a sip I was sure that I had been accidentally teleported to the West Coast of Scotland! Compared to the softer peat of the Tasmanian highlands, the North East stuff is richer, earthier and more elemental, drawing links with the Scottish coastal and island drams. Sit that over a superbly crafted spirit and I am happy to lay my cards down on the table and declare that I think Peter has a world-beater on his hands. Bloody good stuff.
An honourable mention goes to anything made by Glenfarclas. What a great distillery and still family owned too! In particular the excellent ever reliable 15 Year Old, but also the 40 Year Old, tasted by Nick at the Old and Rare bar at Whisky Live Hobart. It was the best possible conclusion to a fantastic session.
The Founders Reserve Award (AKA the dishonourable mention) goes to White Oak Distillery for proving that just because a whisky is made in Japan, doesn’t mean it’s worth taking on a sumo wrestler to sample.
So that brings us to a close of our 2017 awards. It sounds like the makings of a good tasting! Though maybe give the White Oak a miss.
Let us know your own nominations in the comments! As always, thanks for your support. 2017 has been the biggest year so far for Whisky Waffle! Let’s make 2018 even better!
Keep on waffling.
Nick and Ted
Reviewed by: Ted
Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson, or Flóki as fans of the History Channel’s hit show Vikings would recognise him as, was a pretty interesting guy. Born around 830AD in Norway, he would later become an explorer, with his main claim to fame being that he was one of the first people to visit Iceland.
Acting on rumours of a land North-West of the Faroe Islands, Flóki set sail with his family and crew, taking with him three ravens. According to legend, Flóki released the ravens during the voyage; the first flew South-East back to the Faroes, the second landed back on the ship, but the third flew North-West and did not return, leading Flóki to the island and bestowing him with the nickname Hrafna, meaning raven.
The crew apparently spent an excellent, easy summer on the West coast, leaving them ill-prepared for the harsh winter that followed. When spring finally returned, Flóki climbed the highest mountain in the area and sighting ice flows still sitting heavy in the fjords even as the weather warmed, named the island ‘Ísland’, or Iceland as we now know it. On his return to Norway he gave a poor report of the place, although that did not stop him from returning and living there until his death in the early 9th Century.
It is therefore fitting that a modern day pioneer of Iceland takes its name from the spirit of this early explorer of the Northern seas. Flóki, made by Eimverk Distillery, is the first single malt whisky to come out of Iceland.
Based in Garðabaer (perhaps taking its name from another early explorer of Iceland, Garðar Svavarsson?), the whisky is billed as ‘Grain to Glass in Iceland’ (aka Paddock to Plate), using local barley and water distilled in Eimverk’s handcrafted pot still and, according to the blurb, “aged for three years… under the roots of Mount Hekla”.
The particular bottle in my possession is part of a limited edition single-barrel bottling released in November 2017; according to the label I possess Barrel #1 Bottle #307. I will admit that I experienced a brief moment of doubt about opening it, but in the spirit (geddit?) of science I have taken the plunge for you dear reader.
As mentioned before, the Single Malt is aged for three years in what the label curiously describes as ‘ex-Flóki Young Malt barrels’. I have previously reviewed the Young Malt, a special edition duty-free 1-2yo spirit released as a preview to the main event. I am assuming that after the first release of Young Malt in late 2014, which used virgin American oak, they refilled the now-seasoned barrels and left them for just a hair over three years for the Single Malt.
The packaging game has always been strong with the Flóki and this one ups the anti by including a box! The box artwork has a black gloss background with irregularly shaped matte black highlights, the effect of which I suspect is meant to look like the rock walls of a fjord. The cool viking crest makes a return and oh my Odin I have literally just realised it has three bird figures around it representing Hrafna-Floki’s ravens! Totally did not pick that up before.
Bottled at 47%, the Single Malt is a natural copper colour. It’s actually lighter than the Young Malt, which has a redder hue that is probably an effect of the virgin oak compared to the second-fill used for the Single Malt.
On the nose the Single Malt is light and grassy, perhaps straw, with undertones of caramel, honey, pineapple, green plum, apple, orange, pine sap, juniper, rose, sandalwood, cereal and metal. In comparison the Young Malt is heavier and sweeter, with notes of banana, oatmeal and meat.
The palate is dry and textural, eschewing the heavy, sharp, sweet, alcoholy, bourbony feel of the Young Malt for a much lighter, zingier sensation. The undertone is of oaky wood dust, almonds, walnuts and burnt orange, while the finish is sharp, hot and bitter, coating right across the back of the tongue and lingering for some time.
The differences between the Young Malt and the Single Malt are intriguing as the latter is a definite evolution of the former. Compared to the heavy, ham-fisted virgin oak-driven flavours of the Young Malt, the Single Malt is a much lighter, zestier affair. It’s interesting how a second filling of the same barrel with the same spirit can produce such different results.
Still, the balance of the Single Malt is perhaps a little off, with the nose needing some extra depth and the mouth, particularly the finish, needing some rounding out. It’s definitely better than the Young Malt (and both are miles above the undrinkable Young Malt Sheep Dung Smoked edition), but as I have commented before and will reiterate now, I am curious to see what effect some extra aging time would have on the Flóki.
Nitpicking aside though, this is a worthy first attempt from Eimverk and I think Hrafna-Flóki himself would have had a much more favourable opinion of the place if he had had a few bottles of his namesake whisky to keep him company through that first winter.
Posted by: Nick
Welcome to the Whisky Waffle Podcast: Christmas Special! Where we don our Christmas hats and Waffle about our favourite Christmas time drams! In this exciting episode we include:
– The Waffle, where we ramble about our Christmas whisky traditions
– The Whisky, where we taste a peated Bunnahabhain: the Toiteach and a proper Christmas dram: the Glenfarclas 105
– Shoutouts: where we wish a merry Christmas to a few of our supporters; and
– Whisky Would You Rather, where Ted delivers a low blow of a Christmas question to Nick
Reviewed by: Nick
Talisker does a lot of things consistently well. Being located on the Isle of Skye certainly helps – there is surely not a more spectacular cross section of scenery to be found anywhere in Scotland. Offering exclusively peated drams also comes in handy. There is nothing that guarantees dependable yumminess like a distinctive smoky swirl through all available products.
And then there are the little things. Talisker’s packaging is always beautiful, their individual bottling names are always evocative and their non-cask strength releases almost exclusively sit at a beautifully balanced 45.8%.
All of the above is true about the Talisker Port Ruighe. And yet… and yet… This one is more than a little different. The clue is in the name, Port Ruighe being somewhat of a non-sexual double entendre. Not only is it the Gaelic spelling of Skye’s largest (and candidate for Scotland’s prettiest) town, Portree, but it has also spent the last part of its barrelled life in ex-port casks. And it is this point of difference that makes the Port Ruighie stand out from the Talisker pack.
The nose is typical Talisker. Sweet. Peat. Chocolate. Salt. A bit of orange. Basically what you’d expect from the 10 Year Old. It’s on the palate that this diverges. It’s a little rough and pleasantly ashy but alongside the smoke is burnt fruit, sticky raspberry jam and hints of Turkish delight. The port influence is clear for all to see and really rounds out the peat hit. The finish is surprisingly long with a bitter, perhaps tanninic, dark chocolate linger.
While Talisker do many things consistently well, one gripe I do have with the distillery is the up and down nature of their copious NAS releases. I can take or leave the Storm and the Skye but this one really provides enough contrast to justify the release of a 7 or 8 year old whisky. It really is the sweetest peat on offer on the Isle of Skye.
Posted by: Nick
Welcome to the Whisky Waffle Podcast: Tasmania Special! Where we waffle about Tassie whisky while drinking Tassie whisky! In this exciting episode we include:
– The Waffle, where we ramble about the merits and history of the Tasmanian distilling scene
– The Whisky, where we sample some high strength Tassie drams: Overeem bourbon cask and Heartwood Convict Resurrection
– Smash, Session or Savour, where Ted makes a difficult coastal decision; and
– Whisky Would You Rather, where Tasmania goes head to head against Scotland
Reviewed by: Ted
You know when you take one thing that is really good (like heavily sherried whisky) and combine it with another really good thing (like peated whisky) and the result is a winner? Well, strap yourselves in then, because you’re going to love The GlenDronach Peated Single Malt Whisky.
The GlenDronach distillery, nestled in the NE highlands of Scotland, is famous for its heavily sherried style of whisky, utilising Pedro Ximenez and Olorosso casks in all of its core range. These whiskies are rich, fruity and sumptuous, but one element they do not usually feature is smokiness.
This lack of smoke was not always the case though. Like many other old highland distilleries, The GlenDronach (founded 1826) originally used peat to dry its malt, however over the years the practise fell out of favour through a succession of owners and the rise of cheap coal. Indeed, the distillery was one of the last in Scotland to use coal power for its stills, right up until 2005 when it converted to steam.
Bucking the current The GlenDronach flavour profile and harking back to its roots is the Peated expression. Unusually for The GlenDronach, the Peated actually starts its life in ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred into the usual ex-PX and ex-Olorosso casks for finishing.
As such, while still being full of the warm, rounded, fruity characteristics usually associated with The GlenDronach, the Peated is perhaps a touch lighter in feel than usual. The nose evokes burnt marmalade, stone fruit, leather, almond and walnut. The smoke is soft, toasty and earthy, with none of the strong coastal elements that drive Ileach and Island peated whiskies.
The mouth presents a mixture of juicy sweet yellow and white stone fruits, honey, Turkish delight and toffee. The lighter flavours likely derive from the bourbon casking while the heavier ones draw from the sherry casking. The smoke lingers gently at the back of the throat on the finish.
The GlenDronach is an excellent example of how well peating can complement the rich flavours of sherried whiskies, particularly because the smokiness is well balanced in the dram. Peat-heads and sherry-bombers alike will find something to entertain and interest them and will likely keep being drawn back to sup from this particular fruit’n’smoke chalice time and time again.
Reviewed by: Nick
Different people look for different things in a whisky. Some people desire a smooth and easy drinking drop. Others want something to excite and challenge them. Others still want something to mix with their coke. There are many, many reasons, so naturally, there are people whose sole criterion when selecting a bottle is the desire for it to come in a shortbread tin. If that applies to you, look no further than the Glen Moray 16 Year Old!
I know, I can hear you all now – I’ve made some ridiculous claims on Whisky Waffle but this one takes the biscuit! The biscuit! No? Well, I admit, I may be selling this drop a bit short(bread). There are, in fact, a number of reasons to pick this one up. Glen Moray is a reliable distillery if you’re after a decent bourbon-matured quaffing scotch. Their bottles are always good value: this one can be found for around $65 in Australia, which, believe me, is a great price for a 16 Year Old Whisky. And on top of all that – the tin features an endearing array of the uniforms worn by the Scottish Highland Regiments, including a man sporting ‘The Black Watch’, who, rather controversially, is not wearing a skirt!
Ok, so while I can crap on about the tin all day, you guys really want to know if it tastes any good… in my opinion. And in my opinion, it does. It’s a considerable step up from the 12 Year Old and while it is still light and easy drinking, it contains a silky layer not found in younger Glen Moray releases.
On the nose are standard notes of honey and vanilla alongside sweet biscuits and pineapple. The palate is gentle with toffee and banana prominent. The finish is short but pleasant with a faint herbal linger.
Different people look for different things in a whisky. But everyone looks for one which they’ll enjoy. The Glen Moray 16 Year Old is as close as any out there to a dram that can be enjoyed by everyone – whether for the flavours on the inside – or the shortbread tin on the outside.
Posted by: Nick and Ted
Tis the season to be ‘jolly’!
Christmas is coming up faster than Jim Murray to a Rye tasting… and there could be no better time to open a few bottles to keep our Christmas spirits up!
Whisky Waffle is holding a Christmas themed tasting session on Sunday the 17th of December at the Chapel in Burnie starting at 3.30. Guests will be treated to six Christmas-y Single Malt whiskies plus some delicious home-made boozy Christmas pud.
Our guests have seemed to love our previous waffle sessions and this one promises to be particularly ‘merry’! See you on the 17th!
What: Whisky Waffle’s Christmas Drinks at the Chapel
When: Sunday the 17th of December at 3.30
Where: The Chapel, Burnie
Why: because Christmas is as good an excuse as any for an afternoon tasting session!
Who: our very merry fellow Wafflers (you guys!)
How much: $35 for 6 drams and Christmas treats!
Reviewed by: Ted
Can whisky be Art? To be clear, I am not talking about the art of whisky making here, that semi-magical process where the unique personality and knowledge and skills of the distiller combine during the creation of the spirit to imbue it with the essence of that particular distillery. Nope, I mean the regular, picturey type.
Bottles and tubes usually have some sort of artwork on them, but that’s not Art right? That’s just advertising. Special edition releases containing very old and rare whisky often have striking, elegant and beautiful bottles and cases… but really, that’s just advertising for the sophisticated (and rich) buyer.
What then if you commission a renowned illustrator to produce the artwork for a special edition series of bottlings (even here, there seems to be conjecture as to whether illustration counts as Art. Anyone care to put forward a position?). anCnoc (pronounced ah-nock), produced by Knockdhu Distillery, did just that, recruiting Scottish born, currently New York based illustrator Peter Arkle to create artwork for a special set of limited edition releases. The name and artwork of each bottling in the series reflects a different aspect of the distillery, such as ‘Ingredients’, ‘Casks’, ‘Warehouse’ and ‘Luggage’ (a travel retail exclusive).
The bottle I possess is called ‘Bricks’… which rather does what it says on the tin to be honest. The artwork on the tube features a wall of bricks adorned by a bright yellow warning sign announcing ‘Remarkable Liquid’. anCnoc says that the release pays homage to their dunnage warehouses, wherein the walls are adorned by signs such as ‘Danger, Explosive Atmosphere’ and ‘Flammable Liquid’ (and probably more importantly, ‘No Smoking or Naked Lights’), reminding the occupants of the powerful forces at play.
The whisky in each edition has it’s own special twist; in the case of ‘Bricks’ that means a mixture of Spanish oak ex-sherry butts and American oak ex-bourbon barrels bottled at 46% abv. Straight up on the nose you can smell the sherry; this isn’t the heavy leather and dark wood drawing room vibe you get from some sherried drops though, but more like eating a packet of chocolate coated raisins on a sun lounge on the patio. At the back there’s also a delicate splash of grapefruit, pear and cinnamon.
I have come to the conclusion that my official tasting note for anCnoc is ‘dusty’, because I’ve found the same thing in every one that I’ve tried so far. It’s kind of like walking into a wood-work shop and breathing in that light dusting of wood powder that’s everywhere. Or perhaps walking down a forest track in summer with a light breeze stirring up dust from the earth and the vegetation. The spirit coasts lightly across the tongue, not like a brick at all, and ends with a delicious, crisp burst of citrus and raisins that lingers on for some time.
I can’t really speak for whether the ‘Bricks’ constitutes Art or not, but I rather suspect it lies in eye of the beholder and the value you place on such things. There is certainly one aspect of the work that I can give a definitive answer on though: it is indeed Remarkable Liquid. The Bricks possess the bright, summery lightness of other anCnoc’s that I have tried, but the addition of sherry introduces a complexity that takes it to a whole other level and I think perhaps that is where the real artistry lies. It does look rather spiffy on the shelf though. Perhaps I shall have to collect the whole set and contemplate the matter more deeply.
Posted by: Nick
In this exciting episode/drunken romp we include the following segments:
– The Waffle, where we discuss what a single malt whisky actually is
– The Whisky, where we drink the Starward single malt and the Laphroaig Quarter Cask
– Sour Plums, where Ted makes Nick look like a complete pretender. Well, even more of a complete pretender; and:
– Drinking buddies, where a third voice joins us for a chat – and this one speaks in a Scottish accent!