Reviews, musings and whisky adventures.
Keep on waffling!
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!
Reviewed by: Nick
Choosing one whisky for a group of people is no easy task. Especially when you take six whisky fans overseas for a week with only a single bottle of duty free to see the group through the jetlag and toast the new surroundings.
However, that’s exactly what has recently gone down for m’colleague and I, alongside four other intrepid travelling companions on an adventure to Vietnam. Accompanying we Waffle boys was ‘Studley’, a relative whisky novice, ‘Susej’, who loves whisky so long as it’s cask strength or peated, ‘Marx’ (later renamed ‘Trotsky’ – see if you can guess why), a Scotsman who would happily drink anything whisky-themed, and ‘Money Penny’, another Scotsman who doesn’t recognise Tasmanian stuff as proper whisky. And to be perfectly honest, Ted and I were just happy with anything that wasn’t red label.
Ultimately, as trip organiser, the decision fell to me. So what did I do? I ignored all of their preferences and picked something that interested me.
I plumped for a duty-free exclusive Glenfiddich called the Select Cask: an entry level in the same vein as the 12 Year Old – but with an x-factor. It is part of a series called the ‘Cask Collection’ where each bottling is solera matured with different barrel types – in the case of this bottle: ex-red wine casks.
While I have an up and down relationship with wine barrelling in whisky, I also claim that the regular Glenfiddich 12 is rather… well… boring. I was eager to find out if this variation in maturation would fix this. Turns out… it did.
The nose is an intriguing mixture of pear and custard mixed with burnt toffee aromas. It’s gentle but encouraging. The palate displays vanilla fudge notes and dark fruits although it also reveals a rougher, spicier edge. I can assume – as there is no age statement on the bottle – some of the spirit is considerably younger than can be found in the 12 Year Old. However if this is the compromise for an entertaining dram, I’m not going to argue. The finish is short with hints of blackberries and the faintest trace of oak.
This, however, is just my own version of the tasting notes – I was only one of six on the trip. So what did the others think? Well, Studley was tipsy after one dram, Susej drank it like it was water (which was also his tasting note of choice), Marx downed it happily (while he still could) and even Money Penny raised a glass to the trip with it. And Ted? He didn’t mind it either. Maybe the hint of rawness put him off slightly, but the good times we had with it persuaded him to see it in a positive light.
After all, it is those memories which form the most significant opinions. We can talk about barrel types, limited releases and young spirit all we like. But in the end, the six of us boys had a memorable holiday and this bottle was there for every moment of the crazy ride. It could really have been any bottle. But I picked this one and am happy I did. Turns out choosing one whisky for a group of people is easy after all.
Posted by: Ted
Daaah…. daaah…. daaah………. DA DAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! bom bom bom bom bom bom…
Sunlight oozed slowly across the darkling plain and up the face of the towering monolith. It’s surface was like the purest of amber and there was a strange feeling of energy surrounding it. A group of primitive whisky writers, bloggers and critics lounged and tousled nearby, random, semi-intelligible cries like ‘bold coastal flavours’, ‘herbal undertones’ and ‘it has notes of sour plums’ punctuating the air.
One of the bloggers suddenly whipped his head up and stared intently at the monolith, before hesitantly creeping towards it. His companions quietened, the fibres of their tweed vests glinting in the sunlight as they watched their brother’s progress. The blogger halted nervously at the base of the monolith and carefully stretched up his hand toward the surface.
As soon as the blogger’s fingers brushed the unnaturally smooth amber surface, images poured into his mind, burning like distilled fire. Strange bulbous glassware… odd metal cylinders plunging into barrels to feed off their liquid hearts… infinitely high stacks of experimental casks with cryptic names like ‘gaja barolo’, ‘tokay’ and ‘sauternes’… fractal distillers endlessly chanting ‘Phenol quercus lacotone alba aldehyde robur’… towering columns of smoke that reeked of the sea… a tumultuous barrage other images too hard to describe, let alone understand.
Finally the terrible visage of a golden-eyed god appeared, his corona of white hair crowned by a panama hat. The god spoke, terrible, thunderous tones lancing into the mind of the blogger:
“Behold, these three releases shall be the best whiskies on earth in 2018:
1.Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon
2. Redbreast 21 Year Old
3. Glen Grant 18 Year Old
This is the decree of Jim Murray, heed it and remember.”
Suddenly the raging tempest of images assaulting the blogger stopped, like the fabric of the universe had been sundered by a knife. As he withdrew his hand he felt a sudden feeling of purpose, a clarity of mind that pierced to the very centre of his spirit. He swung around and stalked with intent towards the biggest critic in the group, who was pontificating forcefully that ‘while other styles have certain merits, it is the sheer complexity derived from its long and rich history that elevates Scotch above all other forms.’
Daaah…. daaah…. daaahhh…. Ba BAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!! bom bom bom bom bom bom…
With a wild cry of ‘Bourbon is the new king!’, the blogger struck the critic a terrible blow and smote him to the ground, while the other wordsmiths hammered on their keyboards, hooting and gibbering in excitement. The blogger stood panting for a moment, then turned and strode away from the great amber monolith, his companions trailing behind their new leader, a sudden sweet, rich, punchy sensation pervading their minds.
Finally, the only thing left in the dying light was the monolith, the mysterious energy surrounding it holding a sensation of waiting, of expectation and anticipation, like somehow it knew that one day this would all happen again…
(To find out Jim Murray’s other decrees for his 2018 Whisky Bible, head over to The Whisky Exchange blog)
Posted by: Nick
We are excited to present episode 2 of the Whisky Waffle Podcast!
This episode features:
– The Waffle, where we discuss how simple/complicated drinking whisky actually is
– The Whisky, where we drink some Hellyers Road 12 and some Scapa 16
– Whisky Would You Rather, where Nick poses Ted a problematic peat puzzle; and:
– The Spirit Sack, where we (just about) avoid slurring our words to discuss what we’d put in a hypothetical whisky bar