drinking

White Oak Akashi + 12yo

Reviwed by: Ted

White Oak Akashi vs White Oak 12 Year Old

Akashi White Oak

Just a quick review hastily scribbled down at the bar about two whiskies out of Japan. Founded in 1888, White Oak Distillery is one of the lesser known distilleries outside of its home country, only selling to the local market until 1984. Apparently though, White Oak was the first distillery in Japan to gain an official license, pre-dating Suntory and Nikka, the two major players in the Japanese whisky scene.

White Oak releases are less common in Australia, particularly aged releases. Luckily the bar that I am currently at had the presence of mind to have not one, but two of them hiding on the top shelf, prompting this on-the-spot review. The two White Oak examples perched on the bar before me are the Akashi Non Age Statement (NAS) and the 12 Year Old.

I cannot provide much more background to the two bottles as all the information is (unsurprisingly) written in Japanese, but I can reveal that the Akashi is much lighter in colour than the 12yo, which has a nice amber tone. On the nose the Akashi is fairly insubstantial, with only a light sweetness coming through. In comparison the 12yo has a strange sulphuric tang. It’s almost smoky at first, but quickly turns chemical.

The chemical vibe continues on the palate, with a smoky sulphuric quality that tastes like the water could have been drawn from a mineral-rich hot volcanic pool on the side of a Japanese mountain. Against this the Akashi tastes lightly bitter/sweet, not venturing too far in either direction.

In conclusion, the Akashi, while pleasant, is a bit of a non-event, showing a rather bland personality. In complete contrast the 12yo is full of character, but unfortunately the sort of unpleasant character that you might meet down a dodgy alley on a dark night. While curious to try, the 12yo definitely won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and the Akashi certainly won’t turn any heads down the street. It seems that White Oak is more miss than hit, but whether it’s older releases can redeem it will have to wait for another day.

Akashi: ★

12 Year Old: ★★

 

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Whisky Appreciation and Nosing Collective – Night 2

Posted by: Nick

Good whisky. Good company. Nowhere better to be. All the hallmarks of a brilliant night. We had already organised one excellent evening for the Whisky Appreciation and Nosing Collective (the acronym formed is indeed apt) so another was bound to happen. And although it was held up by the final participant being slightly behind schedule (three hours behind schedule, no less) the night was a rousing success.

All members contributed a bottle (or several) to be sampled throughout the night, and we managed an interesting balance of single malts and blends, from Scotland, Tasmania, and even our first foray into Irish whiskey. All were enjoyed by the group, but some more so than others.

whisky waffle WANC night 2

Coming from Tasmania, we of course loved the Lark standard release (we had long since polished off the Distillers Edition, sadly), but the revelation was our first sample of another rapidly-rising Tassie distillery: Nant. This one was smuggled along by the rather late member in a small pocket sized flask, so his wife was not alerted to the bottle’s attendance. It proved to be big, well rounded, fruity and all together delicious, another feather in the cap of Tasmanian whisky.

The pinnacle of excitement of the night was the opening of one of the more peculiar bottles in our collections – a blend of Islay malts, featuring a large-nosed pirate on the label. It was of course, Big Peat, and the bottle we finished the night with, expecting an intense smokiness unlike anything we’d tried. And in some ways it did deliver. But the bottle was such a one trick pony (peat and… not much else) that we were a little disappointed.

The real winner of the night was the dram we preceded the Big Peat with. This was the Talisker 10 Year Old and we all agreed it to be a fantastic drop. It certainly is one of the more impressive 10 Year Old malts going around, and perhaps only rivals a certain two Islay 10 Year Olds for supremacy in this category. But that is a debate for another night. This one was simply concluded with a nod of appreciation to all we had tried. And then a sneaky dram of Lagavulin 16 to keep us warm as we walked home.

Johnnie Walker: the verdict

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Hi Wafflers! Johnnie Walker Week is officially over and we have emerged unscathed and wiser from the other side. Throughout the week we’ve gained an appreciation for blended Scotch whisky – and even more of an appreciation for single malts.

All joking aside (and there were a few of them this week) Johnnie Walker has produced a formidable range of whiskies and we can understand why they are the most popular in the world, even if we respectfully disagree.

Happy Wafflers johnny walker week whisky waffle

So what have we learned throughout Johnnie Walker Week? Let’s pick through the shrapnel:

  • The Red Label is consumed throughout the world as a mixer. And after trying it neat – we understand why;
  • The Black Label likes to think of itself as a step up – and it is – but not nearly enough to consume neat;
  • The Double Black fixes the problems of the previous two with solid flavours and a generous dose of smoke, and in our opinion is the best value in the range;
  • The Gold Label Reserve balances its flavours well, although sadly there are not many of them to balance;
  • The Platinum Label 18 Year Old is beautifully smooth but lacking in soul;
  • The Blue Label is excellent – but very expensive. And when you could buy a Balvenie 21 Year Old for the same price – why would you go for the blend?

So there you have it. Whisky Waffle’s first ‘event week’ has concluded. Thanks for checking it out and we hope you appreciated our ramblings and perhaps you have also broadened your whisky drinking horizons. If anyone has their own opinions or rankings of the Johnnie Walker range, let us know in the comments!

Until next time, keep on waffling,

Nick and Ted

#johnniewalkerweek

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Posted by: Mooresy

Green label whisky waffle

Johnnie Walker Green Label is – or I should say was – a bit of an anomaly in the family. Unlike the others which are all blends including grain and non-malt whiskies, Green was a blended malt made up of only four whiskies, all single malts. This gave it the quality of arriving like a blend then developing on the palate more like a single malt. It’s nose complexity was also more akin to a single malt, and the better noses out there could probably pick the distilleries involved from the smell.

I happen to know what they were, but so as not to spoiler, you’ll have to ask me.

 

An elegy for Johnnie Green

Though caramel brown, your label was Green

With flavoured malt so crisp and clean

A complex coffee fruity smell

Vanilla and nuttiness went down well

The taste had cereals, chocolate and nuts

Not sharp or heavy but you sure had guts

A finish strong with walnuts and honey

Of Johnnie’s varieties you were worth the money

One day the factory shut you down

Scotch lovers everywhere gave a frown

No more would we have our favourite blend

A standout nip, a lifelong friend

Now we’re confined to Black and Red

That burns our nose and hurts our head

There’s lots of fine drams out there today

And where there’s a Walker there’s a will and a way

But for now we must simply say farewell

You were a classic, a legend and we think that you’re swell

 

Now a rare and hard to find malt, Green is consigned to the archive of Johnnie Walker’s bond store along with the Gold Label 18 (they’ve removed the age statement for the current variant) and the elusive Johnnie Walker White Label which I have never tasted. If you find a sealed bottle of Green, you may want to hold onto it for its value but I would strongly encourage you to pop the cork and taste a true exception to the rule. If you spot a half open bottle on a friend’s shelf or in a dark musty pub, encourage the friend to crack it at a party or buy it shot by shot from the wizened landlord.

If you are a single-malt snob who sees the word blended and runs a mile from the likes of Green and the very delicious Blue Hanger, thank you. More for the rest of us.

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Blue Label Whisky Waffle

One of the reasons we like single malts is the variability in character; all the little quirks and oddities that come together to create something exciting and different every time. The experiences they leave with you create a lasting impression, such as the first time Ted tried a 72% ABV Heartwood, all crazy and wild and exhilarating, or the time Nick tried an English single malt in a Scottish bar and nearly poured it down the sink, much to the amusement of the patrons.

In comparison, blends tend to be a lot less individual, which is hardly surprising given that the elements are painstakingly selected for their ability to meld seamlessly together. Very rarely does a blend give you something to talk about and really get your teeth into. Not so the Johnnie Walker Blue Label, the proclaimed pinnacle of the standard Johnnie Walker range. Discovering this came as somewhat of a surprise to we Johnnie Walker sceptics.

Blue Nick and Ted Whisky Waffle

Unlike any of the other previously reviewed releases, there is a great deal more complexity on the nose. There are delightfully interacting elements of oak, chocolate, and fruit such as oranges, pears and peaches, complimented by a light hint of smoke. The overall character is very warm and welcoming.

The mouth is actually relatively sweet, but so completely different to the overbearing, manufactured sickliness of the Red Label that it’s hard to believe that the two are made by the same company. It’s more like the pure sweetness of a really good light honey. The flavour develops through caramel, to sweet orange, and on to slightly bitter cocoa, all the while accompanied by a pleasing gentle smokiness which lingers on the tongue.

The Johnnie Walker Blue Label has certainly not committed the cardinal whisky sin of being boring. It is rare that a blend has this much complexity, and gives us so much pleasure debating its merits. After all, the best whiskies are the most memorable ones. We’re still not entirely convinced it’s worth the $200 price tag, but after a couple of drams we’re much closer to believing it.

★★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Johnnie Walker Gold Label whisky waffle

It is said that many years ago, three wise whisky tasters came from the east (probably Speyside) to bequeath fantastic gifts upon the saviour of blended whisky. The first wise man brought a very special present: gold. Specifically, Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve (the other two of course brought Johnnie Walker Frankincense Label and Johnnie Walker Myrrh Label). Somehow, as if by divine intervention, I found myself in possession of one of these relics: the Gold Label Reserve. Upon reverently pouring myself a dram, I heard a choir of angels singing joyous melodies. I then brought the vessel to my lips and drank.

Confusion then hit me. Is this… it? Surely a bottle titled: ‘Gold Label Reserve’ should be a drop unlike any other! But no. This whisky is not the messiah. It is a very naughty boy.

Gold extra Nick Whisky Waffle

In 2013, Johnnie Walker re-marketed a range of its products. The fan favourite Green Label was removed, a shiny new Platinum Label 18 Year Old was introduced, and the Gold Label was re-branded as Gold Label Reserve, in the process losing its age statement. In theory, the addition of the word ‘Reserve’ indicated a more esteemed and better tasting product. But in practice – they created a drop that was disappointingly unremarkable.

There are traces of citrus on the nose, as well as cocoa and some herbal notes. The sweetness is there, but it is far more subtle than in lower tier Johnnie Walker releases. All of these elements are no more than the merest hint. However it’s well balanced as there is not a great deal of flavour to weigh up. The mouth feel is similarly unexciting. Candied chestnuts, orange peel and a small amount of spice come through, while the finish is short with only a faint dash of caramel lingering. The supposedly ‘trademark’ Johnnie Walker smoke disappears like the vivid details of a dream after you have awoken: vanishing rapidly, as if it had never been there in the first place.

The Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve is a good blend, there is no doubt about that. No one flavour dominates the palate and it is unquestionably smoother than the lower tiered releases. It is simply unmemorable. In fact, it is borderline bland. If this was a less esteemed release I would, in all likelihood, applaud it. But for a whisky that calls itself ‘Gold Label’? Such a sin is simply unforgivable.

★★

#johnniewalkerweek

Find out about the rest of our multi-coloured adventures:

Johnnie Walker Red Label

Johnnie Walker Black Label

Johnnie Walker Double Black

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label 18 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Johnnie Walker: which is best?

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve whisky waffle

Even the most diehard Scotch whisky traditionalists can no longer argue that countries other than Scotland cannot produce top quality single malts. Japan has become one of the leaders in New-World whisky-making and recent awards, such as the number one spot in Jim Murray’s 2015 whisky bible, suggest that the status quo is changing – slightly – but noticeably.

The establishment responsible for the latest-greatest single malt is Yamazaki, Japan’s oldest distillery. Some of their products are undoubtedly spectacular and produce flavours that will stand out in any collection. Others, however, are more content to blend into the background.

The Yamazaki Distillers Reserve features younger spirits matured in ex-red wine casks married with older sherry and Japanese oak (mizunara) casks. The results are pleasant, although certainly not world-beating.

Dark fruits are immediately noticeable on the nose along with some sappier floral notes. There is also a slight dollop of vanilla with subtle hints of wood shavings. It is lively across the palate – spicy and challenging and certainly not smooth. Although far from sweet, it contains notes of stewed apricots and raspberry jam, but these compete for attention with oaky tannins and form an intriguing but overall unbalanced flavour. There is a bitterness to the finish which partially hides the more pleasant fruitier notes and the overall impression is one of ‘so close, but yet so far’.

The Yamazaki Distillers Reserve is far from a bad whisky. It is interesting, challenging and uniquely Japanese. It is, however, far from Yamazaki’s best drop and certainly lacks the balance of flavours found among the distillery’s more accomplished products.

★★

Storm in a Glencairn glass: Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015

Posted by: Ted

The high priest of whisky tasting, Jim Murray, has just brought his newest amber gospel down from the mountain, Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2015. This year’s edition has created somewhat of a stir in the whisky world, as in a surprising turn of events there is nary a Scotch whisky to be found in Jim’s pick of the top five whiskies in the world!

Jim Murray: single handedly keeping Panama hat making companies in business since 2004

Jim Murray: single handedly keeping Panama hat companies in business since 2004

The number one spot in this edition goes to a Japanese whisky, The Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, a drop that has certainly proved popular since its release last year. Now that Jim has placed it on the top of the pile stocks will undoubtedly deplete faster than a packet of Tim Tams at a kids birthday party, so the discerning collector should act quickly to secure a bottle. Yamazaki is no stranger to high accolades, with the 18yo picking up a slew of gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco Spirits Competition in recent years and the 25yo placing first in the World Whisky Awards in 2012.

The winning whisky! Now being sold for extortionate prices everywhere!

The winning whisky! Now being sold for extortionate prices everywhere!

The number two and three rated whiskes come out of the Americas, with Jim selecting the William Larue Weller 2013 bourbon and the Sazerac Rye 18yo respectively. As with the Yamazaki, bottles of these are already quite hard to come by apparently, so you will be one of a lucky few if you do happen to locate them after this.

In the Scotch category the dram of the year goes to a blend, The Last Drop 1965, which as you can probably imagine based on the age is rather expensive. For the rest of us mere mortals the winners of the more reasonably priced sub-categories of blends, non-age statements, and ages up to 21 years included drops from well known distilleries such as Highland Park, Glen Grant, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg, anCnoc, Balvenie and Ballantines.

Something that is likely to bring a few pained tears to Scottish eyes is the fact that the winner of the Best European Whisky section was an English distiller! Yes, that’s right folks, The English Whisky Co.’s Chapter 14 Unpeated is rated by Jim as the current pinnacle of European whisky. This is a huge moment for English whisky and a turn of events that will likely have Scottish whisky boffins racing back to their drawing boards

In a category closer to home, the trans-Tasman war between the Aussies and the Kiwis will likely heat up, as a New Zealand drop has been named as the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year: The New Zealand Willowbank 1988 25yo.  Fortunately for the Aussies, the Willowbank distillery in Dunedin closed down in 1997, meaning stocks of this champion dram will dwindle ever lower while the new Australian boom will continue to take the world by storm. In fact, Jim is rather fond of the whisky coming out of Australia and generally rates it quite highly .

The Whisky Bible is always worth a look if you want a great overview of the hundreds of whiskies available around the world, and can be ordered online at the official Whisky Bible website: here.

A full run down of the winners of each category can be found here.

Hellyers Road 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Hellyers Road 12 Year Old whisky waffle

Hobart vs Launceston. Cascade vs Boags. Mount Wellington vs Cradle Mountain. Gagebrook bogans vs Ravenswood bogans. Tasmania is often spoken about by locals as being a very parochial state. We have the North/South divide, with each half of the state engaged in a long running battle about who has the best stuff. In the new game of Tasmanian whisky, the cards are very much stacked on the side of the South, with eight of the nine distilleries in the state residing there.

However, the North cannot be swept off the board that easily, as it has a very impressive golden ace up its sleeve. Hellyers Road, located in the North-West city of Burnie, has officially launched its 12 Year Old whisky, making it the first distillery in Australia to release an expression of this age. In 2012 the company released a 10 Year Old single malt which showed promise of greatness, and now two years later that potential is being realised. Pleasingly the extra years spent sleeping in oak have helped smooth out the edges without compromising the creamy, buttery flavours unique to Hellyers Road.

Compared to the white wine colour palate of the Hellyers Road Original, the longer time in the barrels has imparted a rich golden hue to the 12. The nose opens with vanilla from the American bourbon oak, followed by the creamy nuttiness of macadamias, cashews and almonds. There are also elements of candied citrus peel and melted butter to be found. The overall effect is of vanilla cupcakes coated in orange and poppy seed icing.

On the palate the 12 is smoother and yet more complex than other Hellyers Road expressions, with delicate honeyed undertones that are reminiscent of the lightly burnt sugar on top of a crème brulee. Complementing the sweetness are subtle herbal notes and spice that bring to mind the leaves of the Tasmanian native pepper berry bush. The finish is light and imparts a soft warmth to the back of the throat.

When we asked Hellyers Road head distiller Mark Littler if the 12 was everything he intended it to be, his simple reply was that “it’s more”. Two years may not seem a long time to us, but to this whisky that short period is incredibly significant and adds a high class edge of silk into the mix. The 12 year old is the defining expression of Hellyers Road, and an exciting move forward for Tasmanian whisky. As Northern boys we’re proud to say that the golden ace has been played with style in our end of the state, and taken the game to a whole new level.

★★★★

 

Nant Port Wood 43%

Reviewed by: Nick

Nant Port Wood 43% whisky waffle

One day, Nant is going to take over the world.

It started out as a fairly innocuous venture. Queensland businessman buys small country estate in the tiny country town of Bothwell, Tasmania. But all is not what is seems.

Bothwell as a town is in fact a tribute to Scotland; it is built on the ‘Clyde’ River and, heart-warmingly, features tartan street signs. The Estate’s new owner is the business-savvy Keith Batt, and only ten years after purchasing the property, he has built a distillery, exponentially expanded its output, opened a successful chain of Whisky Bars around the world, and along the way, produced some truly wonderful whisky. This was never going to be a small-scale boutique distillery…

Fortunately for Nant, in this quest for success and recognition they have not compromised the quality of their product; instead producing batches of frequently excellent whisky. While they may not yet be a truly worldwide product, they can count among their fans one Jim Murray, author of the iconic (and egotistically titled) yearly publication: ‘The Whisky Bible’. Surely it is only a matter of time before Nant goes global.

Nant mature their whisky in various cask types, though there is something special about the ‘Port Wood 43%’ release. Lightly amber in colour, it is sweet on the nose with hints of raisins coated in white chocolate. It is gloriously rich on the palate, featuring cloves, nutmeg and other spices. It is still sweet, but also creamy, and has strong notes of citrus fruit; particularly oranges. The finish is warm, pleasant and creamy. The fruit cake characteristics remain, along with cherries and maple syrup. When you drink this whisky not only do you get flavours of Christmas pudding, but brandy butter, too.

While this whisky is complex and interesting, it is also smooth enough to be enjoyed by non-whisky drinkers. It is unique, memorable, and well worth seeking out.

Of course, it is also built upon the most successful business model seen within the Tasmanian Whisky industry. When trying a drop of Nant, you are not only drinking a whisky – you are drinking an empire.

★★★★