Author: Whisky Waffle

Two lads from North West Tasmania who drink way too much whisky and then use way too many words talking about it.

Glenfiddich Select Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Glenfiddich Select Reserve

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.

Pagoda power

LR: Ted, Marx, Nick, Studley, Susej and Money Penny

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.

★★★

Boys on bikes

The boys on the bikes… in fruit shirts

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Thus Spake Jim Murray – 2018: A Whisky Bible

Posted by: Ted

Zarathustra2

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

Winner2. Redbreast 21 Year Old

Second winner3. Glen Grant 18 Year Old

Third winner

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…

Fin

(To find out Jim Murray’s other decrees for his 2018 Whisky Bible, head over to The Whisky Exchange blog)

Whisky Waffle Podcast Episode 2

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

White Oak Tokinoka

Reviewed by: Ted

Tokinoka

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.

Tokinoka 2

 

Whisky Waffle Launch Podcast

Posted by: Nick

Airwave Waffle

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.

“We’ve never claimed they’re going to taste the same”: A musing on single barrel releases

Posted by: Ted

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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.

Sullivans Cove Whisky Waffle 7

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.

Sullivans Cove Whisky Waffle 6

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.

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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.”

 

Catto’s Blended Scotch Whisky

Reviewed by: Nick

Catto's Blended Scotch

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.

Deviant Distillery: this is not whisky

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Launch poster

Deviant (diːvɪənt): departing from usual or accepted standards

John Hyslop would like it to be known that he has not set out to destroy the Tasmanian whisky industry. In fact he is a big fan of Tasmanian whisky, having worked for a year at a well known Tasmanian distillery, and he respects the craftsmanship and skill that goes into its creation. However, he felt that he couldn’t look past the environmental impacts of the traditional method of producing whisky and so he set out to find a solution.

Drawing on his background as an industrial chemist, John has developed a truly envelope pushing method to create his product. In fact, a fully mature bottle of spirit from Deviant can be made in just 10 weeks… wait, what? 10 weeks you say? But surely that means it’s not legally whisky?

That’s right, it’s not whisky, which in Australia must be aged under oak for a minimum of two years. John makes no bones about this fact, with even the Deviant labels announcing ‘This is not whisky’ in bright lettering. It is not his aim or intention to pass off his product as a corner-cutting Tasmanian whisky, instead he is looking to create an entirely new product. Based on its strictly legal definition, he has elected to call it a ‘Single Malt Spirit’.

That’s not to say that it tastes completely different to an aged whisky. The spirit actually starts life in much the same way as a traditional whisky does, however John then uses the technology that he has developed to rapidly mature the product to a point where it shares many of the characteristics of an aged dram.

The benefit of this process is the efficiency and the lack of waste produced. John is very ethically driven and claims that his method can make 150-200% of the product in 2% of the time with less than 10% of the waste compared to many distilleries. It is his hope in the future to make Deviant carbon neutral, utilising technologies such as solar and bio-energy, converting waste into fertiliser and purchasing carbon credits to offset any shortfalls.

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One of the other advantages of his process is that he can release product at a much lower price point and rapidly expand into new markets. He acknowledges that there will always be a place for premium barrel aged whisky and he is not looking to displace that. Instead he is aiming to capture those who are potentially put off by the relatively high price point of whisky and produce a bottle of Tasmanian spirit that the average consumer does not have to save up for, a point which he feels will particularly appeal to the 24-36 year old demographic.

Naturally Deviant has ruffled a few feathers in the Tasmanian whisky industry and even we Wafflers have our reservations about how the process will affect our beloved whisky scene. When it comes down to it, what will really make or break ‘Single Malt Spirit’ is the taste. Regardless of how ethically the spirit is produced compared to traditional whisky making, if it fails to capture the interest of the market then it will go down in history as just another failed experiment. Having said that, the technology could also succeed and go on to provide an interesting new option for consumers.

The only real way to find out what Single Malt Spirit is like is to try some. Fortunately Deviant Distillery is launching its product next Saturday night at The Chapel in Burnie. The evening will include four tastings of various Deviant products, behind-the-scene knowledge from John and witty banter from the Whisky Waffle boys (that’s us!)

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Tickets are $20 and are available at: www.trybooking.com/RWJC, but hurry, spaces are limited.

Spending Time at Sullivans Cove

Posted by: Nick

Sullivans Cove Whisky Waffle 1

If you’ve only heard of one Tasmanian distillery, chances are that distillery is Sullivans Cove. Based in Hobart and formerly known as Tasmania Distillery, this founding father of Tassie whisky has a chequered and yet ultimately inspiring past and, as we Waffle boys discovered when we visited their site recently, an extremely promising future.

Sullivans Cove is one of Tasmania’s most visitor-friendly distilleries. The viewing platform looking out across the bond store is a proper money-shot (see above!) and in keeping with the establishment’s status as Tassie’s poster-child distillery. This honour was thrust upon Sullivans Cove in 2014 when a bottle of their French Oak Cask won the prestigious World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards and changed the face of Tasmanian whisky forever. But as our generous host, Strategy Manager Fred Siggins, was keen to point out, there is so much more to Sullivans Cove than barrel HH525.

Sullivans Cove Whisky Waffle 6

Consistency in flavour is a difficult task for the fledgling Australian whisky scene. Due to the size of the industry (or rather the lack thereof) most releases are the product of one barrel and therefore the flavours vary from bottle to bottle. While some distilleries choose to conveniently sweep this issue under the carpet, Sullivans Cove embrace it, hand labelling each bottle with a sticker informing the purchaser exactly which cask or casks are contained within. The result is that a dram of one French or American Oak bottling will be unlikely to taste identical to a previous one.

While this approach ensures Fred is continually explaining to customers why their new bottle tastes slightly different to their old one, it also forms one of the most exciting aspects of the distillery. During our visit we were lucky enough to sample not one, but two of the French and American Oak expressions. Had they not featured the distinctive blue and black labels we may not have picked them as the same bottling.

Sullivans Cove Whisky Waffle 7

In each case one dram was smooth and easy drinking and the other vibrant, fresh and zingy. Excitingly, we could not work out which of each we considered to be the better drop – instead deciding that we would prefer one over the other depending on the mood we were in. Fred agreed and recommended that Sullivans Cove customers leave a small amount in one bottle before opening the next, to really appreciate the difference.

The other exciting aspect of the distillery is the age of the whisky in the bond store – and in their bottles. Sullivans Cove head distiller Patrick Maguire has been creating whisky since taking over the company in 1999 and giving it a much-needed new lease on life in the process. This means that some of the barrels are now pushing 18 years old, an incredible age for an Australian spirit.

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Both the French and American Oak releases are usually aged for anywhere between 10 and 17 years while the entry level Double Cask release, a marriage of 2 to 4 American Oak barrels and one French Oak barrel, contains a cross section of particularly mature whisky, unheard of in any other Tasmanian release.

The only drawback of this premium method of whisky creation is the premium price. Sullivans Cove make no bones though about the fact that they make a premium product and are not looking to change that any time soon. Fred did point out, however, that there is a lot of new Australian whisky coming into the market currently demanding a similar (or greater) price to the Sullivans Cove Double Cask. While this new stock is exciting, the whisky is likely to only be 2 to 3 years old. When compared with the potentially 17 year old whisky found in the Double Cask, it really paints the Sullivans Cove price point in a positive light.

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Sullivans Cove is now one of the most recognisable brands in the New World spirits scene, an achievement which is a true testament to the work put in by Patrick Maguire all those years ago. For a very long time, his whisky creation was a labour of love, an unprofitable venture fuelled by passion rather than profit. The rules have now changed, however, and currently there are over twenty distilleries in operation in Tasmania – with more on the way. It is certainly no overstatement to say that this reality may not have come to be if not for Sullivans Cove Distillery.

Sullivans Cove will be open for tours seven days a week, starting in September! Tours depart hourly and can be booked at the Sullivans Cove site.

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Ardbeg add An Oa to the Family

Posted by: Nick

Ardbeg An Oa Whisky Waffle

We’re big Ardbeg fans here at Whisky Waffle so you can image the look on our excited little faces upon hearing the announcement that our equal favourite Ileach distillery is adding a brand spanking new release to its core range. Joining the ever reliable 10 Year Old, the bonfire-in-your-mouth Corryvreckan and the serious contender for world’s best dram Uigeadail will be the An Oa.

Similarly to the other two impossible to spell bottlings, the An Oa is named after a local landmark, in this case the Mull of Oa, a peninsula in the island’s south famous for the iconic (and possibly a little bit phallic) American Monument. The biggest mystery, apart from the pronunciation, is what will this new release taste like?

Early indications suggest it may be lighter on the peat that other Ardbeg bottlings. The distillery describes it as being “singularly rounded whose smoky intensity is softened by a delectable smooth sweetness”. Rounded is probably a good call when you consider the An Oa is a vatting of a vast array of barrel and char types (basically whatever Dr Bill Lumsden has floating around in his back room) married together in Ardbeg’s intriguing sounding Gathering Room.

The other mystery, of course, is why? Ardbeg are famous for putting out more bottlings than any blogger can keep up with while remaining relatively sober. And yet here comes another one. We can only hope that it doesn’t spell the end of the Corry or the Oogie or push their price to unobtainable extremes. Although perhaps these fears are unfounded and the An Oa will prove to be a worthy addition to the range. After all, we can never have too much Ardbeg, can we?*

Find out more about the An Oa at the Ardbeg website.

*This question is rhetorical. Of course we can’t.