barrel

Benromach Sassacaia Wood Finish

Reviewed by: Richard

Benromach Sassacaia Wood FinishThis one was recommended to me by a friend who knows my fondness for sweeter whiskies… So first up – a little bit about the distillery:

Benromach is a Speyside distillery founded by Duncan McCallum and F.W. Brickman in 1898 and currently owned and run by Gordon and Macphail of Elgin. It is situated near Forres in Morayshire and is fed with spring water from the Chapelton Springs in the Romach Hills beside Forres.

And now – on with the review:

This has been matured in a Sassacaia barrel, so an introduction to the wood is in order!
Sassicaia is one of the most sought-after Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world and made history recently, being the first single wine to be granted its own DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata – quality assurance label for Italian food products, especially Italian wine and cheese)
The Sassicaia estate is located at Bolgheri and lies in the Province of Livorno in Tuscany, Italy.

So, shut up, tell us about the whisky…

This is a 2006 distilled expression and bottled this year – there’s an older 2005 release, a 2004 release and a few older bottlings.
All I can find out is that it’s put in an ex bourbon barrel for around 7 years, and then put in a Sassacaia barrel for around 29 months – just over 2 years.
The colour is golden pink! Well lightly pink – if the sun hits it just right…

Nose: It’s got a real soft nose – dry toasted oak, vanilla, fruity, toffee, nutmeg, and that definitive wine note.
The nose is right up my alley – really sweet and bold, but not sickly…
Now to stick it in my mouth!

Palate: Cherries, raspberries & vanilla, spices, subtle smoke, malty toffee, and wine!
The palate is quite dry, which I find a lot with red wine finishes for some reason… tannic influence maybe? I find they make my mouth water a bit…

Finish: A medium-long finish with hints of fruit and another whiff of smoke.

This is a session whisky (if there’s such a thing) for sunny afternoon, sitting under a tree, in the shade, with some olives, sourdough, semidried tomatoes, cheese and some good friends…I’m amazed at the influence the wine has made, the light smoke and the fruit notes. I’ve tried the standard 10yo Benromach, which is one of my favourites – this is better, not by a lot, but still, better, and juicier…
A bloody fine whisky to add to any collection!

★★★

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Longrow Cabernet Sauvignon Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Longrow Cab Sav

As the abundance of sherry barrels diminishes, whisky makers are forced to look elsewhere for maturation options. The obvious solution, of course, is using the barrels of another grape flavoured product – no, not hubba bubba bubblegum – wine. Wine cask maturation is being used by distillers worldwide: some as a novelty but others as a serious addition to their main range.

The wonderful whisky makers of Longrow are no strangers to experimentation. One of their more intriguing bottles is the Cabernet Sauvignon Cask – aged for seven years in refill bourbon hogs heads and a further four years in Cab Sav barrels sourced from my very favourite wine region: South Australia’s McLaren Vale.

Warning: this is not a beginners whisky. Nor is it an easy drinking whisky. Nor, I believe, could I describe it as a ‘nice’ whisky. But it sure is a fascinating one. On the nose I detected, well, heaps. Initially a gentle smoke, reminding you that yes, Longrow do peat their barley. Once the smoke clears notes of grapes, banana and burnt orange rind flow through. Over all, it is complex and delicious.

The palate is a bit of a shock. Initially it is sweet with fizzy sherbet complimenting the peat. The red grapes make a return, along with other fruit such as melons and apricots. And then the spirit transforms. The finish is long, though not necessarily because of the slightly higher percentage of alcohol. It’s a little… soapy? This is a tasting note I (and seemingly I alone) seem to find in many wine-matured whiskies. There are other, nicer elements: smoked ham, salt, fish, bonfire ash, general seaside senses. This whisky is from Campbelltown, after all!

In no way do I regret buying this whisky. There’s a lot to like and a lot to discuss. But I didn’t love it. And that’s ok.

★★

Glen Moray 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Glen Moray 12 Year Old

It is quite often the case in the whisky world that what you pay for is what you get. It is usually a safe assumption that a $40 bottle will be inferior to one costing three figures. However, there are so many exceptions to this rule that I begin to wonder why us whisky fanatics spend the money we do.

Case in point is the Glen Moray 12 Year Old, a bottle that first caught my eye when I was a uni student and therefore always on the lookout for an alcoholic bargain. The Glen Moray was, quite simply, the cheapest single malt I could find in Australian bottle shops. However I was quick to discover it held a certain charm that saw it rise above many of the blends I could also afford.

There is no denying that it is a simple dram, bearing all the hallmarks of Speyside. On the nose there are notes of sweet biscuits and honey. Predictably from a whisky matured entirely in bourbon casks, there are also elements of vanilla. The palate is sweet, almost syrupy, with toffee, banana and heathery floral notes. The finish contains more vanilla, spice and Werthers-esque caramel.

The Glen Moray 12 Year Old is never likely to rack up a high score at any whisky awards shows. But in my opinion there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is simply a straightforward and inoffensive whisky that punches above its weight against the larger players.

★★

Ledaig 10 year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Tobermory Ledaig whisky waffle

My Whisky Waffle co-conspirator and bestie Nick was kind enough to give me a bottle of the water of life for my birthday (what else?). We cracked it open that night and had a few cheeky drams. I’ve been mulling it over ever since, a rather appropriate course of action seeing as the bottle in question was a Ledaig 10 year old, which is produced by Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull (Haha! Geddit? Isle of Mu… Why are you all groaning?… Ok, I’m just gonna sit quietly over here).

The Isle of Mull is part of the Scottish whisky zone known as the ‘Islands’, a bunch of distillery inhabited land masses surrounded by water and huddled off the Scottish coast, whose seemingly defining feature is that they aren’t Islay. Impressively, Tobermory Distillery is the chief abode for the islanders (or Mullets as they are known locally), a ramshackle stronghold built from driftwood, shipwrecked fishing boats, kelp and the occasional escaped haggis… Oh, wait, sorry, the distillery is actually named after the main town on the island, Tobermory, and is probably constructed of far more traditional materials (not sure about the Mullet thing either. I hope it’s true).

The Ledaig 10 year old takes its name from the original distillery built on the island in 1798. Contrary to popular belief (i.e. mine), it is not matured in the sporrans of the Mullets, but instead in the far more superior oak barrel. Typical of the drams from that part of the world, the Ledaig is peated, but it is a very different smoke to the Ileach drops (Remember, ‘Islands’ = ‘Not Islay’).

On the nose the Ledaig is dark and intense, with quite a distinctly meaty quality to it. It’s sort of like a combination of smoked ham and marinated meat sizzling over hot coals. That marinade has a great oozing sweetness combined with pepper, sea salt and perhaps… plum?

On the mouth you are hit straight up by a big swirl of smoke, followed by a robust spicyness from the 46.3% alcohol. After that a lovely butterscotchy sweetness slides over the back of the tongue, served up with caramelised pears and another dose of that woody smoke. Surprisingly the Ledaig is much smoother than you may expect from its 10 years, but the combination of the smoke and the higher alcohol means that there’s still heaps of craggy, earthy character to be had. It’s certainly not a beginners drink, and probably requires a bit more practise to enjoy the full effect.

Growing up in the only distillery on a windswept island off the Atlantic coast of Scotland has certainly given the Ledaig a character all of its own. Perhaps some of that black humour it displays comes from the dark waters of the mountain lochs on Mull used in its creation. If you’re looking to give someone a strong, rugged, sexy islander who’s been out fighting fires on mountains in only his kilt for their birthday, then the Ledaig’s your man (I’m sure that’s what Nick was aiming for). There’s no need to mull it over too long.

★★★