Glenlivet

Scotland 2018: The Ultimate Whisky Adventure – Part One

Posted by: Nick

In July 2018 I realised the ultimate Waffler’s dream and spent nine days travelling whisky’s motherland. I did not waste a moment.

9 days: 20 distilleries.

PART ONE: Speyside

Signs of Speyside

The world is a big and exciting place full of incredible natural wilderness, mind blowing ancient structures and miraculous modern marvels. However, for a Waffler, there is no greater sight than a smoking pagoda, rising up over a craggy moor. For this view I needed to cross the entire planet, enduring four long flights (and a train ride with no wifi) to finally set foot in the motherland of whisky: Scotland.

So many distilleries, so little time. How could I possibly cover all I wanted to in nine days? The short answer is: I couldn’t – but I could give it my best shot. The first important decision to make was which direction to travel? I finally decided upon: anticlockwise. This catapulted me headfirst into the heart of whisky production in Scotland: Speyside.

While Speyside is known for light, smooth and elegant drams, it is also home to the world’s biggest sherry bombs. And it is with the latter in mind that I begun my journey with a tour booked for a favourite of mine: Glendronach.

Glendronach

I can thoroughly recommend being the only one on a distillery tour – even more so if your guide is the ex-general manager of the distillery. And I was lucky enough to experience exactly that at Glendronach; hearing a range of the best stories from Frank Massie – a wonderful ambassador for the distillery and a top bloke. It summed up my experience perfectly: there’s a lovely touch of the old school about Glendronach. From the big old kiln to the creaky old washbacks to the fact the tasting started with the 18 Year Old… and got better from there! It was a dream come true and did not disappoint.

Nick n Frank

I settled into my accommodation at Speydie’s whisky capital Dufftown, thrilled at the start to my travels and recalling the 25 Year Old cask strength I’d just consumed. It was a quiet night – as the next day was shaping up to be a big one.

Balvenie

It began with the tour of tours: Balvenie Distillery. This experience is widely recognised as a must for Wafflers everywhere and three hours in I could see why. It was the most detailed – and hands on – tour I’ve ever experienced. I risked a dose of monkey shoulder by turning the malting barley and visited the cooperage where a team were working hard to create barrels exactly to Balvenie’s specifications and finish in time for an early Friday knock off. And then I did the the tasting. Wow. How many tours conclude by pouring you a full nip of 30 year old whisky?

Monkey SHoulder

I had no time to dwell on it, however. I was out the door to visit Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenfarclas and GlenCraggonmore. There was no time for a tour at these classic establishments but all came with tasty distillery exclusive drams. The highlight was Glenfarclas – not in the least because their stunning tasting room is the converted interior of an old Australian ship. The drams were superb as well – a 2004 distilled bottling which was like a refined version of the 105 and a port finish which was sweet and juicy and almost certainly all gone by the time you read this, sadly.

Glenfiddich

I finished my day by joining a tour at Aberlour Distillery. The tour itself was fairly standard and I was part of a large group of non-whisky drinkers talking over the top of our guide and asking questions about Johnnie Walker (possibly the most whisky-snobbish thing I’ve ever written – but come on… you know how annoying that would be!). The tasting, though, made it all worth it. After first trying a firey new make spirit, we sampled a straight bourbon cask and straight sherry cask Aberlour whisky – both unavailable as regular bottlings. I loved precisely neither of them; they tasted like ingredients – which is exactly what they were. It was when they combined together that the magic occurred. The 16 Year Old and the (brand new) Casg Annamh were both balanced, full bodied, complex and oh so drinkable. The tasting concluded with the A’bunadh – as classic a cask strength sherry bomb as you’ll find anywhere.

Aberlour

The A’bunadh kept me warm as I made it back to Dufftown for my second and final night in Speyside. The seemingly eternal summer sun cast an orange glow over the harvested barley fields and I could truly see: this place is the warm beating heart of Scottish whisky.

Advertisements

The Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Glenlivet master distillers reserve

The Glenlivet is one of the grand old boys of Scottish whisky. A distillery whom Whisky Waffle considered reliable, safe and go-to. Of course, all this changed when they replaced their 12 Year Old with the Founders Reserve. Sigh. What were they thinking?

But, never fear fellow Wafflers! If, like us, you have lamented the lack of 12 Year Old in bottle shops near you, then we have your solution: The Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve, named for Alan Winchester, Glenlivet’s own master distiller since 2008. Now, this bottle was once upon a time only available to frequent flyers buried in duty free, however many online liqueur stores <cough> perhaps one that shares a name with this reviewer <cough> have procured stock and let me tell you, it’s well worth it.

It’s not a complex dram: it’s only 40% and has been triple matured in American oak, ex-sherry casks and ‘traditional oak casks’ (whatever that means). On the nose are apples and pears, but also creamy notes, like particularly milky tea. The palate isn’t smooth per se, but it’s easy to drink. There are flavours of vanilla, oranges and choc chip biscuits. The finish is nutty and pleasantly long and, again, particularly creamy.

I’m not claiming the Master Distiller’s Reserve is a masterpiece – simply that it is interesting, reliable and nice to drink – everything the Founders Reserve is not. This is NAS whisky done well.

★★★

 

The Macallan Fine Oak 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

macallan-fine-oak-12-year-old

I just can’t get my head around (The) Macallan. While I can very clearly visualise and appreciate the ranges of, say, Glenfiddich, Glen Moray or Glendronach, trying to form a coherent picture of what Macallan is about is as likely to give me a headache as drinking way too much of the stuff. And not just because it doesn’t start with the word Glen…

The contradictions are plentiful: many an old-time whisky drinker will cite Macallan as their go-to drop. Yet the distillery spent a fortune to get a bottle of 50 Year Old in a Bond film. And for some reason they recently ditched age statements in favour of… colours? And yet not too long ago there was also Macallan’s ‘Fine Oak’ range, one such bottle being the subject of today’s review.

I don’t get the point of the ‘Fine Oak’ series. As far as I can tell, it takes its name from the many “exceptional quality” oak casks the whisky was matured in. But… does that mean their older range was dumped into low quality barrels? Somehow I doubt it. It seems to be another rebranding dead-end left by the wayside by an impatient marketing team.

Despite all this, the whisky itself is great to drink. The nose is light, vibrant and contains finely balanced notes of vanilla and lime. The palate is sweet without being sickly and flavours of honey and malt take centre stage. The finish is short without being unsatisfying, with a creamy nuttiness that gently lingers: it’s Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut in whisky form! All up, it’s a brilliantly balanced dram, and one that you could confidently pour to a hesitant whisky drinker.

The biggest disappointment is that this bottle is no longer available – if I were to seek something similar I would have to try a different bottle in the Macallan range. As much as I enjoyed this particular drop, I’m wary to spend up on something else from the distillery. Macallan seems to be undergoing somewhat of an identity crisis and I’m probably unlikely to go and buy a bottle until they sort it out – that is unless I get some pretty convincing recommendations in the comments!

★★★

Whisky Live comes to Hobart

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Whisky and Tasmania have become synonymous, like MONA and controversial works of art. Surprisingly however, Australia’s premier whisky tasting event has never reached our spirited shores.

Well folks, the wait is over. Whisky Live 2016 will be setting up camp in Hobart on July 30th, bringing along with it a carnival of whiskies from all over the world.

Whisky Live Brisbane 1
According to event organiser Ken Bromfield, the purpose of Whisky Live is to “… invite those new and old to the golden spirit to taste the range of whiskies and hopefully discover something they love.”

Whisky Live Hobart 2016 will be held at the Grand Chancellor Hotel, with two sessions available: 1pm and 6pm. Tickets are $99: an especially reasonable price considering that they include a large range of tastings from Tasmania and around the world, such as:

⁃       Lark, Sullivan’s Cove, Overeem and Hellyer’s Road from Tasmania
⁃       Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Laphroaig and Talisker from Scotland
⁃       Paul John from India

Whisky Live Mark Littler

…and come with a chance to meet distillers! Hi Mark!

As well as the whiskies, the tickets also include an assortment of food to graze on while tasting and a Glencairn glass to keep. In addition, event attendees can visit the Old & Rare Bar, where tastings of hard-to-find drams are available for purchase.

The Whisky Waffle boys will be there on the day to cover all the action and ramble on about all the fantastic whisky on offer. We’d love to see as many locals come out and support Whisky Live Hobart 2016 as possible; if you happen to spot us come over and have a waffle about whisky.

Tickets are available online at: www.whiskylive.com.au/hobart/buytickets.html

To get a feel for event if you have never been, have a read of our experiences at Whisky Live Melbourne last year. It was a fun day…
https://whiskywaffle.com/2015/07/31/waffling-at-whisky-live/

NAS Week: A bad wrap

Non-age statement whisky rightly or wrongly gets a bad rap in the whisky community. So, naturally, we thought we would conclude our week of NAS whisky reviews in the form of a bad rap. Best read with some kind of beat in the background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9-doKcLwl8&nohtml5=False

Waffle Boys

Wafflers with swag

The lights go crazy as a “sick beat” echoes out across the arena. An announcer with a Glencairn shaped microphone cries out across the crowd:

“You said it couldn’t be done. An entire week of non-age statement whisky! And yet here they are: two rappers who will never use coke. Please give it up for the Wafflerz!!!!”

 

Yo whisky drinkers they got this infatuation

About sticking stuff in barrels for its maturation

But how long for? There’s a bit of debatement

So we thought we might try us some non-age statement

 

Glenlivet’s older spirit, they’ll try to preserve

So they’ve brought out a new drop called the Founders Reserve

I’m sure many bottles will keep getting sold

But it’ll never compare to the 12 year old

 

So I look for something else to fill my cup

Will the real Auchentoshan please stand up

Although the producers claim that its Classic

The 12 and the 3-wood are far more fantastic

 

When you pour some Old Pulteney down your throat

Try not to forget it’s been on a boat

The younger spirit gives it plenty of spice

This is a dram both nautical and nice

 

The Talisker NAS with the tastiest form

Is the one with the Dark before the Storm

But you know the saddest thing about this tale

You can only buy it in travel retail

 

Leaving behind the Isle of Skye

We found a dram of Oban well worth a try

Coming from a Little Bay on the west coast

Was this curious drop we found we liked the most

 

The moral of the story is while some taste rotten

Unworthy replacements that will soon be forgotten

Other NASes are without a doubt far less bleak

And thus concludes non-age statement week

 

#NASweek

 

Single available on itunes soon… =P

The Glenlivet Founders Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Founders Reserve n waffle

In 2015 we farewelled a Whisky Waffle favourite son, the Glenlivet 12. It was there to share the laughs when we held cards nights, to comfort us when we’d had a rough day at work and raised high when we rung in the New Year. Sadly Glenlivet, in their ultimate wisdom, have retired the 12 for the foreseeable future. But fear not – they have introduced a direct(ish) replacement! It comes in shiny blue packaging so it must be good, mustn’t it? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Glenlivet Founders Reserve.

It would be so easy to do a straight comparison of the two whiskies, but I decided to sample the new kid on the block on its own to see how it stood up. It turns out ‘stood up’ was possibly the wrong analogy. Sat down maybe? Perhaps slouched…

On the nose, I found the Founders Reserve has plenty of caramel and some dry malty notes. An acceptable, if not auspicious start. So I took a sip. This turned out to be an error. There’s an unpleasant sweetness in there – a sugary, treacly flavour lacking in any complexity. It’s not bad per se, but there is a distinct manufactured, home-brand quality about it which is hard to enjoy. The finish is warm and spicy, almost tangy on the back of the tongue. Finally there is the merest hint of raisins, a cameo appearance that leaves you wishing there was more to be found.

I cannot say that the Founders Reserve is particularly offensive in its flavour. But I can (and do) claim that it is all a bit bland and inconsequential, bordering on boring, which disappoints me greatly. Glenlivet are truly great makers of Scottish whisky and it saddens me to think that a generation of whisky drinkers will discover the distillery via this disappointing bottle.

★★

Nick and the Glenlivet Founders Reserve

How it compares:

Without doubt there are similarities in flavour between the Founders Reserve and the 12 Year Old – they are both obvious Speysiders full of caramel and honey. But the 12 Year Old has so much more going on than the NAS bottle. There are subtle complexities to be found throughout the 12 which the Founders lacks. The Founders Reserve is the Coke Zero to the 12’s Coca-Cola.

The Glenlivet 18 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Glenlivet 18

The banks of the river Spey in Scotland’s north east are fertile ground indeed. Nearly half of the country’s distilleries are located in this region which has come to be known, rather appropriately, as ‘Speyside’. Upon my criminally short drive through the area my head continuously moved side to side reading road signs pointing towards yet another famous distillery. It must have looked like I was watching a grand-slam final between Nadal and Djokovic! This abundance of whisky excellence could be found nowhere else on earth.

Speyside whiskies are known for being the smoothest, the richest, and the most elegant drams that Scotland has to offer, a reputation well deserved. Perhaps the best example of a Speyside malt is the Glenlivet 18 Year Old. It is one of the classiest single malts going around – and at a price that practically every other 18 year old whisky cannot come close to.

The whisky’s colour alone is enticing: a golden amber which glints in the sunlight. The nose is better: full of caramel, vanilla and orchard fruits. It is a pleasantly balanced aroma, not favouring one flavour over another. The palate is rich – full of flavour without being heavy. There is honey, oranges and malty biscuits, along with the faintest hint of sherry. The finish is light and not as sweet as the initial flavours suggest, with plenty of oak imparted from its 18 years in barrels.

There are literally thousands of whiskies made within a few miles of the river Spey. But if you were only able to try just one – then you could make a pretty strong case for this one.

★★★★

 

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.

★★★★

Glenlivet Nàdurra 16 Year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Glenlivet Nadurra 2

We are quite fond of The Glenlivet. The 12yo is a dependable drop that hits straight down the middle, perfect for when you just want to sit back and have a dram (although the introduction of the Founders Reserve may change all that). So what happens if you knock things up a notch?

If you think that your glass of Glenlivet needs a bit more punch, then look no further than the Nàdurra. Gaelic for ‘natural’, the Nàdurra is a cask strength release from the Speyside distiller. Glenlivet claims that it is a traditional 19th century style dram, evoking the character of the whiskies originally created by founder George Smith.

Using first-fill American oak casks, the Nàdurra is aged for 16 years and then bottled between 54-55%. My particular example stands at 54.7% and was bottled 06/13 from batch 0613X. As you would expect from a bourbon-aged whisky, the colour is fairly light, although the strength keeps it at a weak amber rather than straw-like.

The nose is fat and rounded, with melted brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, peach, malt biscuits and apricot jam. It’s fairly direct on the nostrils too thanks to the strength, but the sweet, gooey nature means that it oozes seductively, like the smell of pudding wafting from the kitchen on a cold night.

On the mouth the Nàdurra is hot and slightly dry, with a nice spiciness. When you take a sip it zooms straight to the roof of the mouth before plonking down onto the back of the tongue. A bitter caramel finish lingers around the mouth, although I suspect it would be rather shorter at a lower strength.

The Glenlivet Nàdurra is no everyday dram to knock back after work. Instead it’s perfect for snuggling down on the couch at the end of the evening, or, and I speak from personal experience, keeping warm while gazing up at the stars on a perfectly clear night. If you’re looking for a friendly companion cask-strength dram, then the Nàdurra is a natural choice.

★★★

Whisky Tales: Stories to drink to

Posted by: Nick and Ted

We like drinking whisky. We also like writing about whisky. So when we heard that the Tasmanian Writers’ Centre was holding an event combining the two, we packed our bags and cruised off down the highway to hell Hobart to make an appearance.

‘Whisky Tales: Stories You Can Drink To’ featured cartoonist-at-large Jon Kudelka, co-author of ‘Kudelka and First Dog’s Spiritual Journey’, and Bernard Lloyd, true waffler and author of the upcoming book ‘Tasmanian Whisky: The Devils Share’. The evening was hosted by Tasmanian Whisky Tours founder and quality beard grower Brett Steel.

1

Bernard and Jon: Whisky Writings answer to Statler and Waldorf

Of course, we must not forget the 50 strong audience, who bore witness to a night of sensational banter between the three protagonists as they discussed the history of Tasmanian whisky, the state of the State’s distilleries and just why Pete Bignell is such a good bloke.

Upon arriving we were disappointed to discover that our talk clashed with the intriguing sounding ‘Tasmania: A land of dregs, bogans and third generation morons’. It seemed that a bogans first policy was in swing too, as while patrons for the other talk waltzed straight in, we were forced to loiter in the lobby with Bob Brown. We came up with a number of theories as to the nature of the delay:

  1. A brawl had sparked up between whisky snobs and bogans, and all the bottles had been smashed to use as weapons.
  2. Jon Kudelka’s bicycle had got a puncture on top of Mt Wellington.
  3. Bernard Lloyd had offered to tell a staff member a brief anecdote.
  4. Brett Steel had tucked into a bottle of cask strength Lark to steady his nerves, and was found ‘napping’ under a table.
  5. There had been a rather bizarre incident involving an explosive pineapple and a Peruvian folk band who had wandered in from the market.

Finally we were permitted entry and made a rockstar’s entrance past the lone paparazzi lurking in the hall. We selected the closest table to the front and sat down to a platter of fine food and distilled beverages. We later discovered that the platters themselves were in fact barrel ends that had been specially made for the event that week.

2

Whisky Waffle and the Queen… Oh, and the wonderful Jon Kudelka!

Brett kicked off proceedings by announcing that the night would be filled with yarns, anecdotes and tall tales about the dirtier, grungier characters that make up the Tasmanian whisky industry (two of them being seated beside him). We learned about the beginnings of Tasmanian distilling from Bernard, when in the 1820s the Governor adopted an ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ policy, allowing several land owners to start legally producing whisky.

Bear in mind that this was a similar sort of time to when famous Scottish distilleries such as Glenlivet, Laphroaig and Dalmore were being established, however the Tasmanians were shut down only several years later by decree of Governor Franklin. If they had been allowed to continue, who knows what they might have achieved.

3

Wafflers United

Jon discussed the Spiritual Journey, noting how Brett had bailed him out of what he described as a ‘massive cockup’ in the trips organisation. Turns out that Tasmanian distilleries like to have a well earned break on the weekends. Luckily, Brett was kind enough to provide an Audi and the offer to be designated driver on a week day.

Of course, the talk was only one highlight of the evening, the other being grain – of the distilled variety! There were three rare local drams on offer, and both of us were smugly able to identify each by smell alone. Each was paired with a delicious treat, although we debated whether the matchings might have worked better in a different order.

Stepping up to the crease as the opener was a cask strength Lark finished in the distillery’s own rum barrels, paired with a juicy oyster. Naturally there was plenty of vanilla, caramel and of course Lark’s signature orange, with a long warming finish.

Second drop was a Sullivans Cove bourbon wood single barrel paired with whisky soaked smoked salmon. In the Sullivans Cove we found lemon, toffee, salt and herbal notes, with a delicate zesty finish.

The last man standing was what Brett described as ‘fanboy whisky’. It was one of Belgrove’s mad creations, a 100% rye matured in Pinot Noir casks, paired with a hazelnut chocolate. It was a stark contrast to the other two, which pleasantly intrigued us. Lashings of plum jam, squashed strawberries, spice, wood and apparently a finish akin to sucking on a HB pencil (many thanks to our new friend Julian for that particular gem of a tasting note).

4 lads

Because all the cool people have slogans on the back of their t-shirts

As much as we like to think we know about Tasmanian whisky, nights like this prove there’s an awful lot we don’t. We left feeling enlightened, inspired and grateful to be a part of the whisky scene in our home state. After the talk came to an end we filtered out to grab a signature with Jon, a pint with Bernard and a dram with Brett… and later, many drunken selfies with our new friends.

Tasmanian whisky, bringing people together since 1820.

5

Exhibit A