Chivas

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?

chriss-collection

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.

 

Rye Reaps Rewards: Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017

Posted by: Ted

jim-murray

It’s that time of year again folks. Everybody’s favourite golden eyed whisky critic (though to be honest, it’s probably just jaundice from cirrhosis after a lifetime of chugging drams) has sottedly rolled out of his all-expenses-paid cabin in the Kentucky backwoods like a panama-wearing bear and declaimed to the expectant masses his predilections for 2017. It’s like Groundhog Day if Punxsutawney Phil was a bottle of whisky and Bill Murray’s disaffected, grouchy journalist was instead played by another disaffected, grouchy journalistict Murray (oooo… I went there)!

Love him or loath him, Jim Murray’s yearly decreement of the world’s best drams in his ‘Whisky Bible’ never fails to set the whisky world aquiver with fawning adulation or frothing indignation. Last year’s selection of the Crown Royal Harvest Rye as top dog fell well into the latter camp, unleashing a raging wave of aggrieved whisky wankery around the globe. You still couldn’t find a bottle for love nor money five seconds later though…

So, what brilliant, laudable/despicable, corrupt choice has Mr Murray made this time then? Well, let’s just say that the Yanks will be (more?) insufferable (at least those in Kentucky. Tennesseeans will probably be unimpressed).

This year the big tinfoil crown goes to the Booker’s Rye 13yo 68.1% with a score of 97.5/100. Hmm, a rye again… maybe this really is Groundhog Day? Jim apparently described his new favourite as having a ‘brain-draining, mind blowing’ nose with a finish of ‘amazing depth’. Descriptions of trauma to the cranial region are probably not entirely unjustified; we previously reviewed the Booker’s Barrel Aged Bourbon 64.55% and found it delivered a solid punch to the face. To be honest, the extra age on the Rye probably does wonders for the balance, although that will be hard to verify seeing as it will be next to impossible to find by now.

bookers-rye

The Americans also took out third place with the William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot. 2015), however the Scots are probably celebrating the hardest after finally cracking the top three after several years’ drought, with the Glen Grant 18yo taking second place. Glen Grant recently overhauled their range with a new line-up and fresh, colour-coded look (maybe they’ve been getting tips off The Macallan?). It would seem that the ploy has paid off, also earning the 18yo both the Scotch Whisky and Single Malt of the year.

Poor commoners rolling around in their muddy hovels with the pigs will be delighted to know that the 41 Year-and-Over (Single Cask) section was taken out by Gordon & MacPhail’s independently aged Glen Grant 1950 65yo. Maybe time to sell a few of those grubby little brats, peasants.

We can all give a great big disinterested ‘meh’ to the winners of the Blended Scotch NAS (Ballantines Finest), 5-12yo (Johnnie Walker Black 12yo) and 19-25yo (Chivas Royal Salute 21yo) sections. It’s hard to care much really.

Far more exciting is the winner of the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year (most prestigious award of the lot, ammirite!?), Tasmania’s very own Heartwood ‘Any Port in a Storm’ 69.9%. Hooray for Mr Duckett and his obsession with bonkers cask strength releases! Sucks be to you though if you want a bottle, cos they’re already gone. Actually, I saw a picture today of someone who’d taken a bottle with them to Macchu Picchu and cracked it open for a cheeky dram. Probably for the best really…

Want to weep adoringly or fume indignantly at the best of the rest? Find the full list of Jim’s picks here https://blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2016/10/jim-murrays-whisky-bible-2017-the-winners/

Blue Hanger 9th Release

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Blue Hanger 9th ReleaseAs a general rule we Whisky Waffle boys tend to be single malt snobs rather than blend bogans. As easy drinking as a blended Chivas 21yo is, we’d just as soon get to grips with a lively Balvenie 12yo single malt. However, one drop that we were lucky enough to try recently suggests that we just may not be drinking the right blends.

Berry Bros and Rudd, better known for their vintaged Glenrothes range, put out a yearly blended malt release called the Blue Hanger. The bottling is named after Lord William Hanger, who was famous for his habitual striking blue attire (just like the blue Power Ranger. Here’s to you Billy!). The original release was a blend of specially selected casks from the Glenlivet and Glengrant distilleries. Eventually stocks ran out (hence the emergence of the Founders Reserve…) and now in this, the 9th edition, Berry Bros and Rudd have combined (like Megazord) 17yo Clynelish and 18yo Glen Elgin with both 23yo and peated 7yo Bunnahabhain.

With such a pedigree it is no wonder the Blue Hanger claims to be the ‘collectors blended malt’. But is it worth adding to your own collection? Short answer: yes!

But of course, this is Whisky Waffle, and so we will also supply you with a long answer too. The nose is light and fruity, and we were able to find strawberry jam, dried apples, quince paste, cured meats and Chardonnay wine. It’s essentially happy hour in a bottle.

The taste is light but flavoursome. Under-ripe cherries, sherry and cola (NB: just a tasting note. No actual cola was brought anywhere near this baby. We’re not monsters you know) combine to sweetly dance across the tongue, followed by a gentle waft of cigar smoke. The finish is long, with the peat smoke slightly more prominent, and hints of pepper, burnt wood and gooey toffee apple.

If you served this to us blind (as in blindfolded, not blind drunk), we would be unlikely to pick it as a blend. The high quality aged single malt elements that make up the Blue Hanger work together with delicacy and harmony to make a very enjoyable dram; the smoky, salty Bunnahabhain giving depth to the high notes of the Clynelish and Glen Elgin. If you tend to think that blends are beneath you, then like us, you’ve probably just been drinking the wrong ones.

★★★★

The coming of age of a non-whisky drinker

Posted by: our newest guest reviewer Stretch

Stretch whisky waffle

Growing up watching spy movies and idolising heroes like James Bond, I have always thought there was something quintessentially cool about asking for something from the ‘top shelf’. Suavely asking the bartender for just that satisfied the wide-eyed nine year old in me, even if I didn’t know what I was talking about! Such is the reverence that whisky has earned ever since we managed to distil that liquid nectar, and with a little help from popular culture, propel it into the pure essence of class.

As a lesser mortal who does not drink whisky, I have never quite grasped how much was involved with drinking it. Having tried it on a number of occasions over the years, I can say that drinking whisky has never been the most pleasurable of experiences for me. Being first introduced to it as a young lad on a fishing trip with my father, he told me that this was what kept him warm at night. “It’s like a fire in your belly,” he would say, and standing next to him freezing my toes off, it sounded like a pretty good thing he had going on. After burning my throat and recovering from the subsequent coughing fit, I quickly determined that I did not like whisky and would stick to my hot chocolates for keeping warm.

Years later, and after numerous attempts to drink whisky, I still couldn’t acquire the taste. Maturing my taste buds to the refined flavours of (good) coffee, beer, wine and accompanying foods, I had come to appreciate the finer side of life and all it had to offer. Except for whisky. As with everyone, there will always be a flavour to your palate that you will not enjoy. However, as is the case with many things in life, you need to grow accustomed to them and this is how I approached whisky. If I could come to like wine and beer, drinks I detested in the past, then I could like whisky too. With a push from the Whisky Waffle boys, my plan slowly became a reality.

The first step was to work out where I had gone wrong in the past. Drinking cheap run-of-the-mill blends was a likely culprit. Johnny Walker Red, Ballantine’s so-called ‘Finest’ Scotch Whisky or Chivas Regal 12 Year Old didn’t necessarily provide the best starting point for my whisky tastes. Nick and Ted soon solved this. With the two boys being proud Tasmanians, and myself an interstate import, we started with the island’s up-and-coming industry. If you’re going to do something, do it properly and start with the good stuff, something which Lark, Nant and Sullivans Cove offer in droves. The Tasmanian distilleries provided me with a taste I had not experienced before. It still burnt my throat, but it also had a nice after-taste to it. Whisky, which had for so long been terrible, became a little less than terrible. And it was at this point that I decided I no longer hated whisky, I just did not appreciate it enough. With some help from my whisky friends, who knows, in time I too may begin to waffle.

Star rating for whisky in general (★★ 1/2 stars)

Stretch the model

Find out more about Stretch at his bio.

The Glenlivet 12yo faces a new kid on the block: the Founders Reserve

Posted by: Ted

Glenlivet-bottles whisky-waffleHere at Whisky Waffle we consider The Glenlivet 12yo to be a stalwart of our whisky cabinets, a solid, reliable drop that hits all the right spots when you want to wind down after a long day at work. So it was with surprise and a certain amount of dismay that we discovered that Chivas Brothers, owners of The Glenlivet distillery, intends to retire the 12yo.

The new kid on the block was in fact 200 years in the making, or so The Glenlivet claims. The Glenlivet Founders Reserve is a Non-Age Statement (NAS) drop that attempts to replicate the original smooth, fruity drams produced by The Glenlivet founder George Smith in the early 19th century. According to The Glenlivet, master distiller Alan Winchester selects the best traditional aged oak casks and first-fill American oak casks to marry together to create the Founders Reserve.

Chivas Brothers have revealed that the reason for the switch is continued growth in the age-stated whisky market coupled with limitations on the availability of aged stock. However, all is not lost, as Chivas Brothers have indicated that while they intend to use the Founders Reserve as a core product in certain markets, including the UK, it will not replace the 12yo on a global scale. What plans they have for the Australian whisky market we do not know at this stage, but to be honest we haven’t actually tried the Founders Reserve yet, so who knows, maybe the winds of change could turn out for the best? All I do know is that here at Whisky Waffle we will be waiting with bated breath.

Sources:

http://www.theglenlivet.com/blog/the-glenlivet-founders-reserve-a-taste-of-the-original-vision

http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2015/03/nas-scotch-to-replace-the-glenlivet-12yo/

Strathisla 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Strathisla 12

Some people say that nothing that comes out of a medicine bottle ever tastes good. Well, I would argue that is not always the case, especially when the bottle contains Strathisla 12 Year Old.

Now, I’m not saying that whisky is medicinal (although my dad always had a glass if he felt a cold coming on), but the Strathisla 12 captures the look of a Victorian medicine bottle, with beautiful dark green glass, embossed lettering, several fonts, and a lovely etching of the distillery.

Strathisla is owned by Chivas Brothers, makers of the well known range of Chivas Regal blends. According to the box the distillery itself is ‘The oldest distillery in the Highlands’, although we would debate this fact slightly. Not the age mind, but the location, because when you look on a map you would be forgiven for thinking that Strathisla is smack bang in Speyside.

A sly Speyside imp certainly dances into the character of the Strathisla 12. The nose is light and sharp, with notes of hard fruit, grain, and crushed grass. The taste is crisp and green, with strong bitter herbal flavours that cut across the tongue, leaving a lasting dryness. There’s a raw, untamed edge to this Strathisla that suggests a younger whisky than its 12 years. Perhaps a few more years in the barrel would coax it into bloom.

If you are one of those people that are of the opinion ‘It’s herbal, so it must be good for you’, then you will probably find a better bet in the Strathisla 12 than downing some concoction of random weeds pulled from the garden. The bitterness will definitely be a turnoff for some people, but sometimes that’s just what you want. In fact, come to think of it, the herbal qualities may even make it an excellent component for a cocktail. Take a walk into the leafy green garden of Strathisla and see if it’s just the tonic you’re looking for.

★★