Caribbean

William Grant & Sons come to Burnie

Posted by: Nick

William Grant & Sons logoI could be forgiven for thinking I’d come along to the ‘Burnie’s Best Beards’ convention, as upon arrival I was met with some of the most impressive facial hair this side of Ulverstone. This could only be a whisky tasting!

But it was no ordinary tasting. We were sampling drams created by the third largest producer of whisky in the world: William Grant & Sons; guided through the evening by Rich Blanchard whose job title literally was ‘Whisky Specialist’. Unfortunately this qualification does not teach him which way round the 1 and the 2 go on the tasting notes, and we discovered that we would be beginning with a 12 year old whisky, not a 21 year old!

Grants in Burnie editied whisky waffle

Rich: “And then you pour it down your throat. I told you this tasting business was easy!”

The tasting consisted of many drops I had sampled before, although never in quite so meticulous an order. Being a Grant’s night we began with the self-proclaimed saviour of single malts: the Glenfiddich. We tasted a range of ages: the famous 12 Year Old (where the pear cliché was immediately rolled out), the 14 Year Old Rich Oak (which, true to its name was distinctly oaky: akin to tasting old furniture), the 15 Year Old Solera Vat (still a favourite) and the 18 Year Old (undoubtedly the smoothest).

We then paused to refill our glasses, and Rich delivered his two minute spiel about how whisky is made – in five minutes. He also told us a little of the history of William Grant, detailing his purchase of stills from Cardhu for his own distillery, which was family built – literally. School holiday projects for the Grant family were a little more serious than building a cubby-house.

Rich then mentioned the mastery of recently retired Grant’s head distiller David Stewart, highly regarded still-man, double-maturation pioneer and generous whisky pourer. I made a metal note to try and meet this man one day.

This brought us nicely to Grant’s other crown jewel: The Balvenie. Again beginning with the 12 Year Old (not the 21) before moving onto the 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask (with no reveal as to the source of the barrels – though we ruled out Cuba!).

The final two drops were undoubtedly the highlights. The 17 Year Old DoubleWood I regard highly, so much so to award it the prestigious ‘Tartan Slipper’ in the 2014 Waffle Awards. Finally was the 15 Year Old Single Barrel: sherry cask. I’d had the bourbon equivalent of this drop before but it had not prepared me for what I found in this one. Could it be… peat?

Rich revealed that, yes, the Balvenie did peat their barley, albeit slightly. It was an intriguing drop and a perfect way to finish the night.

As I left to commence my walk up the hill (always easier after eight drams) I could not help but feel a little bit pleased. A proper whisky tasting in my little home town! A massive thanks must go out to Steve Kons for organising the night and to the people at William Grant & Sons for making the journey to the North West.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

The Caribbean. What does it make you think of? Beaches? Palm trees? Sunshine? Johnny Depp movies?

The flavour of the Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask certainly shows the power of suggestion because I can’t help but noticing this whisky tastes rather… tropical!

Balvenie are one of the leaders in Scotland for maturing their spirit in multiple barrels, often, as is the case with the Caribbean cask, for only the final few months of the aging process. This imparts another layer of flavour on the whisky without removing characteristics that are already present. Often this ‘finishing’ process is conducted in sherry or even port casks. In the case of this Balvenie however, it spends its final few months of aging in ex-West Indian rum barrels, hence the moniker: Caribbean Cask.

The rum influence certainly adds a new dimension to the whisky. The overriding flavour in the nose is, would you believe it, bananas; and I’m not just saying this because of the Caribbean image in my head. Honestly! There are also the vanilla and honey notes expected of a Speyside whisky, however these couple with fresh floral scents. It’s sweet and light, but pleasingly complex.

On the palate the mouth feel is thick and syrupy with malty, biscuity notes present. However, these rapidly give way to fruits such as pineapple, passionfruit, mango and yet more banana. Tropical fruits! The finish is gentle and sweet, with more traditional honeycomb and toffee.

Whether or not I would have picked out these tasting notes if this whisky had been given a less suggestive name is an interesting point. However, as far as this dram is concerned, the marketing and the flavour go hand in hand. The image that ‘Caribbean Cask’ conjures in my head is now inseparable from the whisky itself and I can only describe it in one way: this is the tropical punch of whisky!

★★★

Five Golden Drams: 5 whiskies to drink at Christmas time

Posted by: Nick

If all the tinsel strewn about the place and the cheesy background music in supermarkets hasn’t been enough of a giveaway, I’m here to tell you it is very nearly Christmas! This means a number of things: countless family dinners, last minute gift-shopping, pine needles all over the house, and of course, holidays!

I’m extremely keen to have a bit of free time this Christmas to spend relaxing: feet up, Glencairn in hand. But what, I hear you ask, is contained within this glass? The short answer is: whisky. But they don’t call us Whisky Waffle for nothing. So here is the long answer. Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you: Five Golden Rings – I mean drams.

5. Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

As you may or may not be aware, m’colleague Ted and I are from the rather little state of Tasmania in the rather large country of Australia, both of which can be found in the southern hemisphere, meaning that Christmas falls squarely in the middle of our summer. Now, to you from The North the concept of a sunny Christmas must be a completely bizarre one, but to us here, BBQs, beers, bicycle riding and baking hot weather are natural Christmas day occurrences. So my number five whisky reflects this.

5 Balvenie whisky waffle

The Caribbean Cask (either through its flavour profile or by the power of suggestion) has a very tropical taste reminiscent of a banana smoothie. It is the perfect summer’s day drop and is easy to knock back while basking in the sun in the early afternoon after a big Christmas lunch.

4. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera

This drop is a little more traditional in its connection to Christmas. It finds its place on this list, as its flavours suggest sultanas, raisins, plums and other dark fruits. It is the perfect dram to savour in the late afternoon with a slice of dessert – because, quite simply, this dram is Christmas pudding in whisky form.

4 Glenfiddich whisky waffle

3. Hellyers Road 12 Year Old

This one is more of a personal connection. Having only been recently released, Australia’s first 12 Year Old age statement bottling is a superb drop and one I am coming to appreciate more and more with every taste. It is smoother than anything so far created by the Burnie distillery but still contains a unique buttery shortbread flavour that is so specific to Hellyers Road. It is also very reasonably priced compared to most other Tasmanian products and for that reason alone is a very good option as a stocking filler for the discerning whisky drinker.

3 Helllyers Road whisky waffle

2. Auchentoshan Three Wood

I’ll be honest, if any drop were to make me think of Christmas, it’s this one. It’s not just the Christmas pudding, but the brandy butter, too. It is smooth and extremely drinkable, but complex and long lasting. It’s accessible to non-whisky drinkers but also interesting enough for seasoned veterans. In this way, it brings unity to your grandparents’ crowded living room at the end of the day. If you needed just one bottle to share with the people you love the most at Christmas, this would have to be it.

2 Auchentoshan whisky waffle

1. Ardbeg Uigeadail

Although I will have spent my Christmas day bathed in glorious sunshine, people back in the traditional home of whisky are unlikely to be so lucky. In fact, the early pioneers of the water of life probably spent many Christmases shut away in small uninsulated huts in the snowy highlands with nothing but a peated dram to keep them warm. This selection is for them.

1 Ardbeg whisky waffle

There are very few better examples of a warming peated whisky to be found anywhere in the world. And who else but Ardbeg could provide us with a complex, sherried, spicy and warming dram such as this. The Uigeadail (or Oogie, and m’collegue and I refer to it as) is simply one of the world’s best readily available whiskies. A portion of my final paycheque before the 25th of December was dedicated to this bottle, and when sitting back in a comfortable armchair after a long but pleasant day of food, presents and family of all ages, I’ll claim that nothing goes down better than a generous nip of Ardbeg Uigeadail.