celebration

Lagavulin: 200 years of peated perfection

Posted by: Ted

lagavulin

Here at Whisky Waffle we understand the gravitas of celebrating a bicentennial birthday. When we sprang into existence in 1988, we arrived just in time to witness Australia’s 200th year as a nation (although one of us saw a few months more of it than the other). Now we are all grown up and are excited to be able to witness another bicentennial milestone, the anniversary of a distillery that is rather close to our hearts:

Happy 200th Birthday Lagavulin!

Founded in 1816 by John Jonston and Archibald Campbell, Lagavulin has now entered the prestigious Islay old-boys club, joining the company of fellow veterans Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain and Laphroaig.

lagavulin-ted

Nestled on the shoreline just a couple of miles East of Port Ellen, the Diageo-owned distillery is classic Islay, with whitewashed walls bearing the name of the distillery in giant black letters on the seaward side and elegant pagodas peeking above the roof line. Inside, guests are greeted by age polished timber and leather chairs, painting a romantic view of yesteryear. Not forgetting of course the glossy copper stills and the ever-present scent of peat and spirit rising to meet the angels…

lagavulin-chairs
To celebrate the big milestone Lagavulin has released a special edition 8 year old bottling, which aims to recreate a bottling sampled by historical Waffler Alfred Barnard in 1886. Now, bear in mind an 8 year old whisky was considered nigh-on ancient back in the day and Barnard described that one as as “exceptionally fine”.

With such high praise from the 19th century, Nick immediately decided to add it to his collection. However, seeing that 2016 marked a 200 year celebration he thought ‘why stop there’ and promptly bought the 2014 edition of the Lagavulin 12 Year Old Cask Strength. When Ted added his Whisky Waffle favourite the 16 Year Old into the mix, we had quite the ingredients for a special Lagavulin birthday bash! Or as we didn’t refer to it at the time but should have: a peat party!

lagavulin-all

On the nose the 16yo was straight up coastal, with a salty, iodiny, seaweedy hit. But then we found… bananas? Perhaps banana chips, as well as dry-aged meat, terracotta, copper and crushed grass. The flavour was all about the tangy peat, but there were earthy notes such as mossy paving stones and singed oak branches.

After the subtle, balanced nature of the 16yo, the 8yo stopped us dead in our tracks and then made us jump up and down with excitement. The colour for one thing was crazy, like the palest white wine, certainly no Diageo caramel in sight there. The nose was decidedly new-makey. Raw. Ashy. A good deep breath delivered a big hit of green fruit. The flavour was fresh, crisp and bright, with the fire still burning across the palate. Summer peat. The finish was rather excellent, being sharp like a tailored charcoal suit. Everything about the 8yo served to highlight the smoothness of the 16yo.

Finally it was the turn of the cask strength 12yo, probably the dark horse of the bunch. Phwoar, what a whisky. It was young, exciting and complex, like a teenage poet. It was Bond, Die Hard and Crank… on Speed. The finish provided a peaty punch that really scratched that itch. There’s something about young peated whisky that just works.

lagavulin-nick
We’ve always had a connection with Lagavulin, even before we started the whole Whisky Waffle malarkey. To be fair, the 16yo was the first whisky that ever blew our minds and made us think that whisky was something more than an additive to Coke. Hopefully this gem of Islay continues another 200 years and beyond, but who knows what the future may bring. Maybe one day in the far flung future a descendant of Howard Carter will be leading an expedition to explore the ruins on a lonely island off the old Scottish coast. Perhaps they will discover a door sealed with a dusty cartouche bearing the legend ‘Lagavulin Distillery Est. 1816 Isla’ and upon gaining entry to the chamber within, will stumble across a hoard of barrels containing the fabled peated gold of Islay…
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Whisky Waffle celebrate Tasmanian whisky

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.

Wafflers with waffles

Whisky Waffle are thrilled to help kick off the inaugural Tasmanian Whisky Week, an event we are sure will capture the hearts and minds of the whisky loving public. Throughout the week we will be showcasing a different Tasmanian drop each day and exploring the huge variety of flavours on offer in our small state.

From Hobart to Burnie, the week will be a celebration of the history, the people and of course, the amazing whisky itself. But what is it exactly that makes Tasmanian whisky worth celebrating? To answer that, we asked the people who know best, the folk working in and contributing to the whisky industry in our home state.

We turned first to the (designated) drivers and organisers of Tas Whisky Week, the beautiful Jane Overeem and the beautifully bearded Brett Steel:

Jane Overeem

Jane Overeem

Jane Overeem, Overeem brand ambassador and coordinator of Tas Whisky Week:
The authenticity, love and passion behind every brand – which results in amazing quality products!

Brett Steel, Drink Tas founder and coordinator of Tas Whisky Week:
The stories and the people! Whisky is being made all over the country now, but Tasmania is and always will be the homeland of Australian whisky. When Bill Lark got the laws changed in 1992 it ignited something in many of the island folk. Whisky production with the old-world techniques is a passionate affair and a patience game. I think Tasmanians value both of these elements; we are in no rush. Great whisky can’t be hurried, and where others may be focusing on scale and technology, I think the execution of Tasmanian whisky-craft is down to the pioneers in Tasmania who were hungry enough to make it happen in the first instance, and generous enough to teach others their technique. And because of that drive, that’s why Tasmania produces exceptional whisky, time and time again. I hope Tasmanian Whisky Week becomes a celebration of their story.

Next we spoke to the head distillers from two of Tasmania’s most influential distilleries, Lark and Hellyers Road, about their aspirations to be the next James Bond… and about whisky:

Chris from Lark

Chris Thomson

Chris Thomson, Lark head distiller:
Ask anyone who works in the industry and you will always come back to the people. Tasmanian whisky is built on an incredible brother and sisterhood where we are all just celebrating whisky, enjoying it with friends and family and trying to make each dram better.  As an industry we help each other out and share in each other’s success, usually with a whisky in hand! The thing I love about Tasmania’s distilleries is we are all just small enough that you might see this relationship in action. So what is it that makes Tasmanian whisky worth celebrating? It’s the same thing that makes whisky worth celebrating; the great people you meet over a dram.

Mark Littler

Mark Littler

Mark Littler, Hellyers Road head distiller:
Tasmanian whisky has come so far in such a short period of time and to be having our single malts recognised and distributed globally is certainly something to celebrate!

Tasmania’s down-to-earth whisky alchemist, champion sand sculptor and 2015 Bill Lark Award recipient provided some sage advice about our local industry’s lo-fi nature:

Pete Bignell

Peter Bignell

Peter Bignell, Belgrove head distiller and whisky alchemist:
It is all hand made in small batches. We don’t rely on computers to tell us when to make the ‘cuts’; it is all done by nose and taste. If it doesn’t smell or taste right then it does not go into a barrel – or come out of the barrel. We all use alembic pot stills that are inefficient at separating alcohol from the vapours in the still, but we exploit that inefficiency to bring exciting flavours along with the alcohol. It is all about flavour, not volume.

Two of Tassie’s newest members to the family got straight to the point about what goes into making a good Tasmanian whisky… literally:

Chris Condon, Launceston Distillery head distiller:
It’s a little bit of Tassie in a glass. Local grain and water, crafted into full flavoured whiskies by passionate people.

Damien Mackey by Paul County

Damien Mackey (photo by Paul County)

Damien Mackey, Shene Estate head distiller:
Tasmanian Whisky is a perfect storm: world-class barley and water, an ideal climate, time-tested methodology, passionate people and the steady hand of an intrepid leader, Bill Lark.’

Fifth Beatle and third Waffler, Alex ‘Moorsey’ Moores gave us a Braveheart-esque speech on the merits of the Tassie drop:

Alex Moores, founder of Dramatic Drams and Whisky Waffle guest reviewer:

Tasmanian whisky is all about the craft. Nowhere else did any anyone have the bravery and foresight to do something so momentous on such a small scale. You don’t do that because you want to take people’s money. You do it because you think those people are missing out on something truly great. Every detail matters to Tasmanian whisky distillers. Other distilleries in the world are built to even out the crinkles in their product; make a lot and hide its imperfections. Tasmanian whisky finds beauty in the chaos of variation; it makes something delicious, then breaks the mould and does it all over again.

Finally, the co-presidents of the Tasmanian Whisky Appreciation Society gave us vastly different (but equally accurate) responses about why Tasmanian whisky is worth celebrating:

Richard

Richard Stewart

Richard Stewart, TWAS co-president and Whisky Waffle guest reviewer:
In my opinion – the people! I mean everyone knows Tassie is the best place on earth, and everyone knows we’re blessed with the perfect climate, soil, water, animals, peat, foliage, moss, sunlight, ecosystem, etc etc  for growing grain, distilling, and aging whisky.

But to do any of this you have to have the right people – smart people, friendly people and a welcoming and supportive community behind them. People not afraid to step outside the box, take big risks, do unimaginable, amazing and sometimes weird things with water, yeast, grain and wood. And these people have placed their trust and faith in us, the locals, and given their all, asked us what we think – what they can do to improve and change what works and what doesn’t.

I think Tasmanian whisky is worth celebrating because it’s a nexus of harmony – perfect ingredients, perfect location, perfect people and a perfect community supporting all of this. Everyone in Tassie should be proud of the distillers, distilleries and the whisky produced, but the fact that the Tassie community is helping as well means we’re all a part of one big whisky family…  now that’s worth celebrating!

Tim

Tim Duckett

Tim Duckett, Heartwood founder, TWAS co-president and whisky palaeontologist :
You answered your own question. The whisky is ‘Tasmanian’.

We would like to thank everyone in our extended Tasmanian whisky family for embracing us (and putting up with us) and sharing their passion and wisdom with us. We are privileged to be a part of this celebration and wish it all the success in the world. Tasmania, keep on waffling.

Lads

Nick and Ted. Wafflers at large.

Tasmanian whisky: One state. Three ingredients. Unlimited flavour.

#TasWhiskyWeek

A Very Waffly Christmas

A very waffly Christmas

And so we reach the end of another year. There have been many drams downed, drunken selfies taken, and outrageous tasting notes invented. But stick around, there is so much more in store for Whisky Waffle! Soon we’ll be revealing the winners of the coveted Waffle Awards for 2015. We are debuting a new guest reviewer: the Cynical Scotsman himself! And we have a new ‘event week’ lined up for 2016. Until then, have a merry as well as a “merry” Christmas. Stay safe and keep on waffling.

Nick and Ted

The 2014 Waffle Awards

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Whisky Waffle Logo 1As the year draws to a close, it becomes a time for reflection and philosophising. It also becomes a time to drink lots of whisky in celebration of the fantastic drops consumed over the past 365 days! We here at Whisky Waffle have been doing just that – and have singled out some of the highlights. So ladies and gentlemen, don your black tie and formal gowns, don’t die wondering with the complimentary champagne, and present your golden invitation at the door; you are formally welcomed along to: the first ever Waffle Awards Ceremony!

1 The Isle of the Drammed Award Whisky Waffle

The Isle of the Drammed Award for the best Tasmanian Whisky

There can’t be too many whisky awards that have an entire category for whiskies from only Tasmania – but as it is one of the key focuses of our blog we thought we could justify it (plus we’re just outrageously proud of the whisky we produce down here). So it gives me great pleasure to announce that the inaugural winner of the Isle of the Drammed Award goes to:

Hellyers Road Port Cask Matured

2014 Hellyers Rd Port whisky waffle

This bottle is a truly deserving winner. Its contents possess the unique buttery Hellyers Road flavours, but mix them with sweet, bold fruit and toffee notes. It’s a stellar dram. We’re also hoping that after this award, its value goes up immensely, as there are very few bottles left, and both us Wafflers own one.

 

2 The Tartan Slipper Award Whisky Waffle

The Tartan Slipper for the best Scottish Whisky

Scotland is indeed the spiritual home of the water of life. So our awards night naturally must contain a category for the best dram made in the motherland of whisky. Plus, we wanted to ensure there was a category that Yamazaki could not usurp from the Scottish. So without further ado, the Tartan Slipper goes to:

The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old

2014 Balvenie 17 whisky waffle

The first Balvenie we ever tried was the Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old – and we loved it. It was our favourite expression from the distillery for a long time – until we tried this one. It still contains the unique fruit and vanilla flavours found in the 12, but the smoothness and complexity has been dialled up to ten. No: seventeen! This is a tricky drop to get your hands on, but if you find it, boy is it worth it.

 

3 The Pocket Pleaser Award Whisky Waffle

The Pocket Pleaser Award The perfect pick for the parched penny pincher

We’re not going to lie to you – buying bottles of whisky can be an expensive business. It took full time jobs for us to realise the step up in quality from a Ballantines to a Balvenie. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t appreciate a bargain when we see one. So without further ado, may I present the Pocket Pleaser Award to:

The Glenlivet 12 Year Old

2014 Glenlivet 12 whisky waffle

This whisky has everything you want from a single malt. Character, complexity, sweetness and flavour galore. And better still, it will not break the bank. If you find a bottle for under $50 in an Australian bottle shop – don’t think – just buy it!

 

4 The Weirdsky Award Whisky Waffle

The Weirdsky Award for the most WTF Whisky

Let me clarify right now that this award is by no means a bad thing. We’re a fan of whiskies of all shapes and sizes – and when a whisky completely bamboozles us, we cannot help but go back for more. So with that in mind, the The Weirdsky Award for the most WTF Whisky goes to:

The Glen Moray Chardonnay Cask 10 Year Old

2014 Glen Moray cardy whisky waffle

Yes, you read correctly. This whisky has not been matured in Château Cissac barrels, or Château d’Yquem casks. Nor has it spent six months in Tamar Valley Pinot Noir barrels. No, Glen Moray has chosen to age this whisky purely in plain and simple chardonnay casks. And it’s not bad! It has an intriguing nose and some really curious flavours, but slides down nicely all the same. It really is a perfect sunny day dram, and one that may be consumed in some quantity this summer.

 

5 The Bill Lark Award Whisky Waffle

The Bill Lark Award for outstanding service to Tasmanian Whisky

If there is one man alone with whom you can credit kick-starting the Australian whisky industry, then it could only be Bill Lark. Labelled the Godfather of Tasmanian whisky, his vision is the reason that we are here today (in the case of some of us: literally!). This award goes out to recognise an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the Tasmanian Whisky industry. So now, it gives me great pleasure to announce the inaugural winner of the Bill Lark Award is:

Bill Lark

2014 Bill Lark Winner

Well, who else could it be? For all the reasons previously mentioned, this man thoroughly deserves to be this award’s first winner. Everyone raise a Glencairn and toast to this man’s incredible achievements!

 

6 The Golden Dram Whisky Waffle

The Golden Dram for the best dram whisky in the world!

The final award of the night is the big one! Just a quick disclaimer: for this category we’re using ‘golden’ in its traditional sense, meaning ‘of great value’; none of this ‘Macallan Gold’ entry level nonsense. And it goes to, quite simply, the best whisky we’ve tasted this year. There are no other requirements, such as country, age – or even single malt. It is simply our favourite whisky of 2014. Drum roll please. The winner of the 2014 Whisky Waffle Golden Dram is:

Octomore 06.2

2014 octomore 6.2 whisky waffle

How can a couple of peat lovers go past the most heavily peated whisky in the world (at the time). But this whisky is more than a gimmick. Jim McEwan at Bruichladdie has created a whisky that is complex and intriguing and flavoursome – and has the longest lasting finish of any that we have ever tasted. The 06.2 version is a tricky one to find – anywhere – but it has the edge over its 06.1 brother. This is the whisky to get – if you can find it. Maybe it will be the whisky of 2014 and no more. But out of all the drams in the world – 2014 has got a special one.

 

What do you think of our awards? What would be your own picks for the same categories? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Young Enthusiasts Meet Over Peat

Posted by: Mooresy

The first young whisky enthusiasts’ event held at the Lark Cellar Door was a huge success. The sell-out tasting session featured a whirlwind tour of some very special drops, as well as the bar staff choosing some extra whisky for people based on what they liked, and what they didn’t like.

Some people liked it so much, they bought a whole bottle of their favourite.

Whisky Business 1 whisky waffle

Whisky: the ultimate conversation starter. Especially after five drams…

In a blind tasting, attendees first had to guess the Cragganmore Double Matured Distillers Edition, with most people agreeing it was a definite step up from the entry level 12 Year Old. Second was a Jefferson’s 100% Rye Whisky which threw a few people. The spicy rye flavour was new to a lot of people, and a lot came back for seconds to help us finish off the bottle.

Back to malt whisky but not in a rush to return to Scotland, the group moved to the Yamazaki 12 Year Old (previously reviewed by Ted) which went down a treat. The night was full of gossip about Yamazaki because we had just heard about Jim Murray heaping praise on their Sherry Cask variant and that moved the conversations to sherry. This was a cunning hint by the guides because the next taste was a true sherry bomb. The group were blessed with an as yet unreleased double sherry wood from Lark, and it exploded sherry goodness all over the room.

Finally, the finisher. A Distillers Edition Lagavulin finished in Pedro Ximenez casks and probably the people’s choice for the night. The marriage of sherry and peat was a treat to witness with one member saying “it’s like you took all the things I like most about whisky and chose one based exactly on my personal taste”.

That’s the point of it all, right there.

Following the success of the event, the group – now called Whisky Business – will be having another tasting event at 7:30PM on Wed 17 December at the Lark Cellar Door in Hobart. If you are a novice and keen to come along, learn more and pick up some tips and tricks, please contact Alex Moores on 0417 382 542 or at alexandermoores@gmail.com.