Reviews, musings and whisky adventures.
Keep on waffling!
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
Reviewed by: Ted
Japanese whisky is meant to be the best thing since sliced sushi right? A freshly caught blue fin tuna at the fish market would blush at the prices commanded by even a basic Japanese dram (if it still had any blood left that is). So why the bloody hell isn’t this one any good?
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, as I have a history of being disappointed by releases from White Oak Distillery. On my previous tasting attempt I found the Akashi NAS to be a forgettable cup of blah, while the 12yo had this weird sulphuric, mineral hot-pool vibe going on.
Needless to say, I set my bar very low when it came to trying the Tokinoka and it met my expectations with aplomb… by which I mean it would be a definite contender for winning a limbo competition, if you get my drift.
The nose is distant and it takes a really good deep sniff to actually capture anything. The eventual effect is like a walk past an orchard in summer… if the orchard was on the side of a volcano. That weird sulphury thing from the 12yo makes an unwelcome return as well as a whiff of hot metal. The palate is actually quite spicy… for about two seconds, after which you are left with a vague oiliness. It’s not terribly satisfying and the finish hints of glycerol (which I’m sure is not in there, but that’s what it feels like).
Hard-core Japanese whisky otaku may as well give the Tokinoka a try for the lolz. Everyone else, just grab yourself a good cup of green tea, you’ll feel a lot better afterwards.
Posted by: Nick
Loyal Wafflers, we are very excited to share with you our brand new adventure. We’ve been waffling constantly in text form for a couple of years now, but m’colleague and I decided it was time to take our waffle to the next level.
May we introduce our shiny new Podcast, appropriately titled ‘Whisky Waffle’ (original, right?). Each episode will contain segments where we ramble about a whisky topic, drink and compare a couple of drams, play random games and complete whisky challenges. Today we launch episode 1, the first of many episodes which will be released every month (and perhaps more regularly in the next few weeks!)
If you’re a Podcast enthusiast, please subscribe and spread the word about our whisky themed rambling. If not, keep an eye out for the blog and our Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/user-787560478 for new episodes.
Either way, pour yourselves a dram, settle in, and enjoy episode 1:
More information can be found at our Podcasts Page.
Posted by: Ted
I am sitting on a comfy leather chair in a cosy private tasting room. I have just tasted some whisky. Actually, it’s the second glass I have tried and I am feeling a mixture of surprise, curiosity and intrigue – not in a bad way mind you, I’ve just been caught a bit off guard. I put down my glass on the table which is crafted from half a 100L barrel and glance to my left at Nick. He raises his eyebrows, his expression reflecting my own inner turmoil. I turn to face our host, Fred, who flashes a broad smile and comments “We’ve never claimed they’re going to taste the same.”
To provide some more context, we were visiting Sullivans Cove Distillery in southern Tasmania. We had been invited down as part of Tasmanian Whisky Week 2017 to meet with Fred Siggins, Strategy Manager for Sullivans Cove, and tour their facility. After exploring the distillery Fred had invited us to sit down try some of their releases, where this particular story picks up.
The reason for our intrigue was that we had just tried two glasses of the Sullivans Cove American Oak Cask (that’s the one with the black label for those who are interested). “And? What’s so weird about that?” I hear you ask. The funny thing was, despite being the same expression, the first glass had tasted very different to the second. The secret to the trick was that the drams had been poured from two different bottles, which in turn had been filled from two different barrels.
When we think about whisky (ie Scotch), we tend to think about consistency. For instance, I might buy a bottle of, say, Balvenie 12 Year Old and really like it. The next time I buy a bottle, I expect it to taste exactly the same as the first one. I am buying it based on a particular flavour profile that represents that expression. The problem for distilleries is that natural variation occurs between whisky barrels for all sorts of reasons, meaning that even if you start with exactly the same spirit and barrel variety, the end product will be slightly different. To get around this, the master distiller will mix (or ‘marry’) different barrels together in a tank (‘vatting’) until they achieve the particular flavour profile they are after. It must be pretty stressful trying to hit that same mark every time.
Sullivans Cove, like other Tasmanian distilleries, goes in completely the opposite direction. Consistent flavour profile be damned, let’s keep everyone on their toes by doing single barrel releases (excluding their Double Cask expression, which is a marriage of American and French oak)! Instead of vatting together a whole range of barrels, once a particular cask is determined to have reached optimal maturity it is decanted and bottled.
As we’ve already discussed though, the result of this approach is that any variations between barrels are laid wide open. Its not just down to the barrels either – thanks to the design of the Sullivans Cove still, which has a stainless steel bowl and a negative lyne arm, the relatively low copper contact means that the resulting spirit is big and meaty and full of character, which carries through into the final product. The ‘ready-when-it’s-done’ philosophy also means that each successive release will vary in age.
Hence why when it came to the tasting, Fred had provided two bottles each of the American Oak and French Oak expressions, each representing a different barrel. Very handily, Sullivans Cove actually include the origin barrel on the side of the bottle, so you can tell exactly what you’re drinking.
Stepping up to the mark for team American Oak were barrels HH603 (16yo) and TD0056 (12yo), both bottled at 47.5%. On the nose HH603 had notes of aged apples, leatherwood honey, timber, beeswax and a rich bourbon characteristic running underneath. The palate was oaky and nutty, with a finish of oranges. In contrast TD0056 was slightly marine in nature, with a certain fresh, salty, fishy characteristic, mingled with notes of lavender and wood dust. The palate was grainy and bright, with flavours of pear, strawberries and coriander.
Vying for supremacy on team French Oak were barrels TD117 (11yo) and HH400 (15yo), also at 47.5%. TD117 was smooth and refined, with hints of chocolate, raisins and a whisper of sandalwood. The palate had a good chewy mouthfeel and left a dryness on the finish. In comparison HH400 was rich and luxurious, oozing white chocolate, peach, vanilla cake, ginger and leather. The mouth was fat and filling initially, then tapering off to a gentle finish with a nice linger.
Of course, we weren’t naive to the potential for this difference in flavour. We hear things, man, we’re down with the whisky geeks. We’ve had Sullivans Cove plenty of times before… but only in isolation. We’d never sampled different bottlings next to each other like that. It’s not like the bottles were from entirely different planets, there was still a certain Sullivans Cove-ness running through them all, but it really opens your eyes to how much variation can exist between barrels.
Some people may be a bit put off by this approach or feel a bit cheated. “This isn’t what I had last time!?” “But I wanted barrel HH525!” they’ll huff. I on the other hand tend to think it keeps things fresh and interesting. Heck, there’s hundreds of whiskies in the world that will keep doing the same old thing every time, so it’s good to have something a bit challenging once in a while. Fred agrees: “I couldn’t imagine working at a distillery where I had to taste and talk about the same thing day in, day out. I’d get bored! The awesome thing with Sullivans Cove is that every time we do a bottling it’s going to be a new experience.”
Reviewed by: Nick
I’m not going to lie to you, fellow Wafflers. I bought this bottle of distinctly bottom-shelf blended scotch for numerous reasons – none of which concerned actually drinking the whisky. Firstly, it was the most Aussie sounding bottle I’ve ever seen (try saying it in an Australian accent – it’s very satisfying); secondly, you can’t look past a $30 price tag; and lastly because there was a sick masochistic part of me hoping I could label it the ‘worst whisky in the world’!
I was left rather disappointed. For the first time in my life I was disappointed that a whisky was better than I had thought. Instead of being completely putrid, it was merely rather awful.
Sweet honeyed notes accompany the alcohol burn on the nose while vanilla toffee struggles to break through. The palate is rough; spicy and leafy with flavours of barley sugar amid the burn. The finish is unpleasant and too long for my liking with a lingering sweetness that I found myself longing for it to dissipate.
There you have it folks. Who would have thought, a blend called Catto’s is simply dreadful rather than being soul-destroyingly disgusting. And despite all my criticism and complaining, if you have a look at the photo, you’ll see the bottle is nearly empty. Sometimes a bit of rubbish bottom shelf is exactly what you need.