Month: December 2016

Whisky Waffle launch Islay Week

Posted by: Nick

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Whether you live in Scotland or Australia, December is a good month to be drinking peated whisky. In the Northern Hemisphere the locals are battening down the hatches and preparing to ride out another winter with a smoky dram warming the cockles in the evening. Here in the southern reaches of the world summer is upon us and with it the scent of BBQ smoke drifting across the country.

With this in mind, Whisky Waffle are excited to announce our biggest event week yet, reviewing drams produced on that iconic whisky island: Islay. Throughout the week we shall fill in a few shameful gaps in our reviews catalogue, reflect on our respective trips there and celebrate the 200th birthday of a favourite distillery of ours.

It’s going to be a huge week and one that every whisky fan will need to check out. Log on each day leading up to Christmas for a new article – think of it as a peated advent calendar. So let’s raise a smoky dram and kick off Whisky Waffle’s Islay Week!

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Queries from a first time Waffler

Posted by: Chris C aka The Geriatric Newbie, with a foreword by Nick

We waffle boys like to consider ourselves experts in the field of whisky simply because we drink a fair bit of the stuff. In truth we are merely charlatans in matching shirts. However, across several years and countless drams we do seem to have picked up a fact or two about the water of life, which is brilliant when like minded whisky fans write to us with a question or two. We recently received a piece of such correspondence from a Western Australian by the name of Chris that we found so brilliantly entertaining and so… waffle-like – that we had to share it with the wider whisky community. After all, a fair few fellow-bloggers check out our little site so the more answers we can compile the better. So without further ado, may I introduce our latest guest writer: Chris, the first time Waffler.

Wafflers with waffles

Not that sort of waffles. Though the shirt thing is spot on…

I hope you’ll forgive me for firing a few newbie questions at you. I am in need of guidance, as a whisky drinking veteran of some 6 days standing. Well, mostly standing.  Having been a virtual teetotaller for quite some years (sadly, most drinks give me a headache after just one glass) I recently decided to give whisky a chance as, miraculously,  it doesn’t seem to upset the remaining brain cells.

A little over a week ago I passed one of those age milestones that makes you realise that your use-by date is fast approaching.  Even if I haven’t completely lost my marbles, I have to admit that I do seem to misplace them fairly regularly now.  A new, fresh and invigorating hobby and interest was called for. Something that didn’t require me to lie under machinery getting hot, cross and oily or involve painting, repairing, cleaning, or fixing things up.  Anything involving rules, teams or vigorous physical exertion was also out.  So putting aside my historical aversion to whisky and giving it another chance seemed a reasonable punt. And there was a modest pile of ‘birthday money’ that I clearly had a moral duty to use to help stimulate the flagging local retail sector.

So six days ago I ventured into Mundaring (a small town in the hills outside Perth in West Australia) and bought a bottle of Chivas Regal Extra (which a friend who claims to know about these things assured me was at the better end of blended whisky) and a bottle of Glenfiddich 12yr old (on the basis that everybody has heard of it and my younger brother used to drink it many years ago).  So far so good.  I also bought a bottle of dry ginger to use in an emergency (i.e. if I couldn’t hack the whisky on its own).

That night my wife (who fortuitously already owned three Glencairn glasses, which she uses for drinking  white wine. Don’t ask.) and I cracked open the bottles. Hey, not bad!  No headache, no embarrassing collapses. No major cries of pain. We successfully worked out what a 30mil nip looked like but had no idea how to drink it – other  than the basic understanding that you stick it in your mouth and swallow. My ‘palate’ must be fairly robust because I could instantly detect the taste of firewater with notes of rocket fuel and hints of paint stripper. The Chivas was particularly bold in that department.

Some swift Googling soon provided the handy tip to give a glass from a brand new bottle a minute or two to breathe, then to add a wee splash of water and to start with small sips, hold on the tongue for a while, etc.  This gave much better results. The resident expert in alcohol related matters declared herself a more or less instant fan of the Glenfiddich.

The plan was to spend the next few weeks or months slowly developing our whisky drinking skills using the contents of those two bottles. But a curious thing happened.

The next day I awoke not only feeling particularly cheerful, but also feeling an entirely unexpected urge to add to “The Collection”.  After owning a mere two bottles for less than 24hrs, they had mysteriously, and without warning, morphed into the basis for a “Collection”. Odd.  Is that normal?

Later that day I added a bottle of Dalwhinnie 15yr and one of Auchentoshan 3 wood – neither of which I had previously heard of – purely on the basis that some guy on the internet had recommended them as fairly smooth and easy for a novice to tackle without getting too put off.  He was right.

Two days later it somehow seemed essential to broaden “The Collection” by adding a Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban and a Lagavulin 16yr (friends had started offering ‘helpful’ suggestions by this point). These have, temporarily, been left unopened.  And yesterday the compulsion to add “just two more, and then that’s it…” led to the addition of an Aberlour A’bunadh and an intriguing sounding Welsh malt called Penderyn Myth. Birthday money now all gone… starting to eye off the savings account…   Will this strange compulsion ease off any time soon?

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Sir Henry Wood conducting the orchestra in a spirited rendition of ‘Symphony for Throat and Nostrils’ by Pete Hintz (with apologies to Ted’s resident wooden figure)

So far we’ve only opened the first 4 bottles and have been trying to stick to the Dalwhinnie and the Chivas – for now. But last night I decided it was time for the Auchentoshan. I waited until after 4.00pm (new self imposed rule – although I’ve never needed to time alcohol intake before…) and then poured a generous nip, added a small dash of water and stuck my nose in the glass.

Now, I have a fairly decent sized hooter, one that makes quite a comfortable stopper for a Gencairn glass and once plugged in there seemed absolutely no hurry to remove it. Beautiful aromas rose up, reminiscent of the wonderfully rich fruit cakes that my wife has been making this week. Marvellous. Marvellous turning into Magnificent with each fresh inhalation.

Now, nobody had said anything about how long this ‘nosing’ business should take, so surely a few minutes was called for in this case. Keep inhaling – it must surely be good practice? As I breathed slowly and rhythmically, the small amount of air that was able to squeeze past the nose began making a sound very much like Darth Vader. Clearly, The Force was with me now….

Was there a hint of smoke amongst the fruitcake or was it just that the sound reminded me very much of times spent wearing Breathing Apparatus in our local Volunteer Bushfire Brigade? Ah, the nostalgia…drifting gently along on a swirl of memories… the steady pulse of breath going in and out was mesmerising. Hypnotic even.  I may have started purring.

I finally dragged the glass away, intending to fire a finely worded and informative eulogy in my wife’s direction, but quickly realised that that there was now a serious risk that I would just giggle. Or perhaps start watering the whisky down with a few emotional tears.   Is this sort of behaviour common among whisky drinkers???  I can hardly claim to have discovered the Elixir of Youth but, at age 70, it certainly feels like I may have stumbled upon the Elixir of old Age….

How do you pace your enthusiasm?  It feels like I’ve gone from being a virtual teetotaller to a budding dipsomaniac in less than a week!  How many helpings per week seem reasonably sustainable?

And will this new-found desire to waffle on at some length about my new interest to anybody who’ll listen start to fade in a while?

Happy tasting.

Chris.

 

Sheltering at Shene Estate

Posted by: Nick and Ted

shene-estate-whisky-waffle

Seeing that Christmas is nearly upon us, we thought we’d begin this review with a Christmas cracker joke: 

Q. What do you get if you cross a keen back-shed distiller with a passionate architectural restorationist?

A. Shene Estate Distillery. (Come on, it’s at least as funny as any other Christmas cracker joke!)

Whisky maker Damian Mackey met heritage building conservationist David Kernke nearly ten years ago – Damian was looking for a location to make his eponymous whisky, while David was looking for something to diversify his new acquisition, the 19th century property Shene Estate. It must have been fate which brought these two together because, along with their respective families, they have created one of the most stunning distilleries in the Southern Hemisphere, if not the world.

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Boys with their toys: L-R David Kernke and Damian Mackey

While the main building at Shene Estate looks like a grand mansion, it turns out that it was actually only built to keep horses in, making it one of the more expensive stables ever erected. It was constructed by English lawyer Gamaliel Butler who, as well as having an excellent name, also had a shrewd business sense. He used his wealth and social standing to begin work on a lavish country estate, but died before the main house was constructed, leaving only some outbuildings, including a Georgian Regency era homestead that David and Anne reside in, and the stables – and even that lacked the top of its central turret. Going by the grandiosity of the stables, one can only speculate as to what the main mansion would have looked like if it were ever finished.

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Proof that that magnificent building is, indeed, a stables

Whisky Waffle was lucky enough to be invited to visit Shene Estate earlier this year and meet the friendly team, consisting of head-distiller Damian Mackey, his wife Madeleine and the Kernke family – David, his wife Anne and daughter Myfanwy. While the reception we received was warm, the weather certainly wasn’t and we were nearly blown off the face of the earth while walking between the stables, the beautiful old barn and the distillery.

Speaking of the distillery, it is housed in a new purpose-built timber-clad shed that was designed to perfectly blend in with the existing 19th century architecture. Despite a third of the room being taken up by a truly epic stack of ex-sherry barrels, we still managed to clap our eyes on some beautiful distilling gear. A run was on the go while we were there, with David manning the still, and it seemed as good a place as any to ride out the storm.

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The still is eager to fill up all those barrels in the background

What the wind couldn’t achieve, the whisky certainly could – upon trying a dram we were totally blown away. Technically, we can’t officially call it whisky yet; what we were lucky enough to sample came from the first ever barrel produced at Shene Estate and was only 18 months old. We are apparently among the first in the world to try the matured spirit, a great honour for two whisky nerds. While the whisky is not yet the finished product, it shows a lot of potential to become one of the greats within the Tassie scene.

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Barrel number 1. The first of many.

The whisky is to be released under the name Mackey and its point of difference stems from Damian’s Irish heritage in that it is triple distilled. This produces a lighter and more refined spirit, although one certainly not lacking in depth; the style may be Irish, but the character is all Tasmanian. The new make is then transferred into ex-port barrels and stored in the loft of the stables. The solitary barrel currently looks rather lonely up there, but rest assured there are many more on the way.

In fact, the Shene Estate team revealed to us that there are big plans afoot for the future of the distillery. Things have been moving at an unexpectedly rapid pace and Damian told us with a mixture of pride and horror that they have skipped straight from year one to year five on their five year plan. The most exciting consequence of the expansion is the addition of two new stills to create a set of three – one for each distillation.

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And this still will be the smallest of the three!

While the architecture was stunning and the whisky exciting, the real highlight of our visit was meeting the wonderful people who have dedicated countless hours to making a pipedream into a reality. From Damian’s distilling, to Anne’s delicious Poltergeist gin, to Myf’s community engagement, to David straightening each and every piece of gravel in the courtyard, the team has created a unique and fascinating distillery. And even after a long afternoon showing Wafflers around the estate, they still had the energy to deliver us back to our lodgings and deliver David his chicken sandwich to see him through to the end of the distillation run. It’s that level of hospitality that ensures Shene Estate will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Selfies at Shene

Shene Estate Distillery has a road-side stall set up at the estate every Sunday between 10 and 4 which is staffed by friendly family members. Like to see more? You can also book a tour here.