DoubleWood

The Ultimate Top Three Introductory Whiskies

Posted by: Nick

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One of the most commonly asked questions I see around the whisky-scented part of the internet is “I’m new to whisky – which Scotch should I buy?” (It’s always Scotch – never which ‘Lark limited-release’ should I buy. But I digress).

We Wafflers rarely get asked this question – I assume because our frivolity and general tongue-in-cheek nature voids us from such serious inquiries – but regardless, I wanted to share my own two cents worth. Why? Because I am unequivocally and without a doubt correct.

It is a big call I know, but I challenge any other objective-minded whisky fan out there to name a better collection of widely available single malts for a newbie. To be clear, one whisky alone is insufficient to demonstrate the depth and breadth of flavours available so I have naturally selected the smallest possible number of bottles: three.

So here they are, in a particular order (that is, the order in which they should be drunk): my top three introductory whiskies:

Number one: Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old Whisky Waffle

This is the gateway drug. Balvenie produce a smooth and yet interesting drop which is one of the tastiest going around. It is fruity and vanillary, and packed full of the sweet caramel that we associate with Speyside. It introduces the elegance that typifies Scotland’s largest whisky region while also touching upon cask types and maturation. Is there a more perfect first drop? No, I can safely say there is not.

Number two: Highland Park 12 Year Old

Highland Park 12

Speyside is not entirely what Scottish whisky is all about. There is a vast array of flavours to be discovered from south to north and the Highland Park 12 Year Old showcases pretty much all of them! It is a proper all-rounder of a whisky, with a little bit of sweetness, a little bit of salty sea air and a little bit of smoke lingering in the background. Even though it is technically from the Islands region, it represents the Scottish Highlands better than most mainland distilleries and it an obvious choice for this list simply for its wide reaching flavour profile.

Number three: Lagavulin 16 Year Old

Lagavulin 16

Some people may claim it is unwise to include a heavily peated Islay malt among the top three introductory drams. Those people are of course wrong. Because upon taking one sip of the Lagavulin, the individual partaking in the tasting will either fall instantly in love – or decide very quickly that peated whisky is not for them and the Balvenie wasn’t so bad after all.

For m’colleague and I it was option number one – there is something truly special about peated whisky – and the Lagavulin 16 is the ideal selection. It is more than just a peated whisky – there are hidden flavours to be discovered due to a small amount of sherry maturation – and there are Nick Offerman videos to quote endlessly.

It may be divisive – but it may also be the key to truly ‘getting’ single malts. Plus this will give the opportunity for someone new to whisky to learn to pronounce ‘Islay’ correctly from the outset.

So there you have it: the ultimate top three introductory whiskies. Obviously it cannot be topped, but if you’d like to try, leave a reply in the comments and tell me your own top three. Or we could start a pointless twitter debate about it if that’s more your style.

If you are a whisky-newbie: you’re welcome. Check back in a couple of weeks when you’re a full convert and enjoy our other reviews!

Commence/keep on waffling!

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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.

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!