history

Irish Whiskey: a series of unfortunate events

Posted by: Nick

Learning about the history of Irish whiskey would be so much easier if we Waffle boys were able to actually be there to witness the highs and lows (and do a few tastings)! Luckily, through the medium of cartoon, we are able to travel back in time and discover the secrets of this triple distilled tipple for ourselves.

Introducing our heroes:

01 Nick

02 Ted

03 intro

We begin our journey in the middle ages where Irish monks are distilling alcohol to create Uisce Beatha: the water of life!

04 monks

There is even a suggestion that it was the Irish who introduced whisky to Scotland, though this is, of course, disputed. What is not disputed is that in the early 19th century, Irish whiskey was the most popular whiskey in the world! Led by establishments such as John Jameson & Son Distillery, the style known as ‘Irish pot still whiskey’ was sought after worldwide!

05 John pot still whiskey

In fact, Irish whiskey consisted of 60% of worldwide sales. It was all going swimmingly until someone decided what Ireland really needed was a temperance movement.

06 CTAS is cactus

Fortunately Irish whiskey held on through wars and famines, although they did kind of shoot themselves in the foot a little when a man called Aeneas Coffey came knocking…

07 Coffey for closers

Irish whiskey had survived a lot. But the worst was yet to come. What could possibly be worse than the Irish deciding to ban alcohol?

08 Woody

Losing America’s market share was a blow, but at least the Irish could count on sales in the British Empire, right?

09 Independence day

By the 1960s, the Irish whiskey industry was nearly kaput. The remaining distillers got together to discuss a radical plan to help them survive.

10 united

Irish whiskey clung on, though there were still very few distilleries operating. By the early 21st century only three were alive: Bushmills, Cooley and Midleton (Irish Distillers). Between them they made every single Irish brand on the market.

11 sharing is caring

The hard work paid off. The recent explosion of interest in whiskies from around the world has seen the number of Irish whiskey making establishments quadruple in the last ten years. Kilbeggan, Tullamore, Teeling, Dingle, West Cork , Glendalough, Walsh, Blackwater and more have recently opened their doors.

12 happy endings

We now enter what is being billed as a new ‘golden age’ of whiskey production in Ireland. There are many willing customers around the world, eager to discover what these new distilleries are all about. Things are certainly looking up. Irish whiskey is back from the brink.

13 coda

Images created with pixton.com

#IrishWhiskeyWeek

Advertisements

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Reviewed by: Nick

buffalo-trace

Tastes like bourbon.

Ok, I freely admit, that statement alone does not do this dram justice. After all, this is whisky made at one of the oldest distilleries in the world! And yes, I do include Scotland in this claim.

Buffalo trace was founded in 1787 at a small settlement called Lee’s Town, a town presumably established by someone called Lee. The title ‘Buffalo Trace’ was given to it much later, but refers to the 18th century name for the distillery’s location: a trail forged by American bison as they crossed the Kentucky River. Buffalo Trace continued sending whiskey up the river across the ensuing centuries – even during prohibition when it was given a permit to produce medicinal whiskey. Unsurprisingly it was a very popular remedy.

But how does it taste?

Like bourbon.

No!

Well, yes.

But it’s good bourbon!

On the nose is, as you’d expect, sweet corn and vanilla, but also present are subtle notes of cinnamon and brown sugar. The palate is lightly spicy with grassy oak notes. The finish is medium in length with flavours of toffee and honey.

All in all, Buffalo Trace is a great example of a bourbon. It’s accessible and, all things considered, pretty darn smooth. Best of all, it’s a bourbon with a story. It allows you to cast your mind back to the late 1700s when settlers battled to survive – and make whiskey on the side!

And it tastes like bourbon.

★★★

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…

Eriskay

Reviewed by: Ted

Eriskay

Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart. While you may think that I am just reeling off random names in some whisky fuelled musing, they in fact all belong to one particular person. A rather famous one in Scottish history at that. Loyalists to the throne scathingly called him the ‘Young Pretender’, but his followers, and indeed most people today, knew him thus: Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Although born in Italy, 1720, Charlie was actually descended from British royalty, grandson of the deposed Stuart King James II and VII. From a young age Charlie knew it was his mission and divine right to reclaim the throne. In 1745 he made his move, sailing from France and landing with his companions, known as the ‘Seven Men of Moidart’, on the small Outer Hebridean island of Eriskay to begin the ‘Jacobite Uprising’ and sweep through his ancestral home of Scotland to raise support.

‘What has this got to do with anything?’ you may be wondering. Well, it just so happens that the subject of this review takes its name from the island where Charlie and his men landed: Eriskay. Eriskay, or ‘Eric’s Isle’ in old Norse, is a blended Scotch whisky made from ‘quality Highland and Lowland Whiskies’. While the whisky is certainly Scottish, a closer inspection reveals that it is in fact bottled in Australia for the Ron Rico Distilling Company for sale on the local market.

Some cheap blends make no bones about the fact, often sporting rather woeful labelling. The Eriskay is indeed a cheap blend, purchased in this case for only AUD$37, however it’s certainly a cut above its companions in its dress sense. Superficially it looks rather like the label of the Talisker, with serifed lettering and a rather nice map in the background. However, bonnie looks alone do not make the man, there must be substance also.

History records that the Jacobite rebellion was doomed to failure, lost through poor battle strategy and politics. Unfortunately the Eriskay is rather similar in this regard. The nose is light and flat, consisting of mostly shortbread, malt and a bit of caramel slice, sweet but fairly unfulfilling.

Surprisingly, on the mouth there is an instant hit of smokiness, but it crawls low like the fug after a battle. Unfortunately this is followed up by the dull tang of metal, filling the back of the mouth like a round of musket shot. The finish is sharp, bitter and lingering, much like the remainder of Charlie’s life after his cause was crushed.

The Eriskay is definitely a whisky that sits squarely within its price range. While it may attract you with the promise of its Bonnie face, it seems that the Loyalists were right, and the Eriskay is indeed a ‘Young Pretender’.

★★

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

Ardbeg: a journey through time – the coming of age

Welcome back fellow Wafflers to the odyssey that is Ardbeg through the ages. We left our tale at a perilous standpoint, with our hero of a distillery surely doomed to closure and eternal obscurity. We resume the story in 1986 and Ardbeg has been shut for five long years. But the whisky community did not forget…

Ardbeg Day 2

Ardbeg: A journey through time – the coming of age…

Posted by: Nick

1987

Some hope emerges for our protagonist in the form of new owners, Allied Lyons. Could this be the salvation for the distillery and the wider community? Sadly, no. It is a false dawn, and Ardbeg is run merely to become one hundredth of a bottle in AL’s blends. No one has the foresight to recognise this was 99 parts too few…

1996

The distillery is neglected and once again it is unjustly left to dwindle to nothing. Surely this time, it really is the end for our hero.

1997

Finally, just when all seemed lost, someone sees the light! The folks at Glenmorangie realise that one day this quaint little establishment in Port Ellen could actually become one of the greatest distilleries in the world. It could even have a go at producing one of these new-fangled single malts! Or at least this is what Glenmorangie’s Dr Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation believes. And when you have a title as impressive sounding as his, anything is possible.

The new owners open the creaky doors to the old bond store to reveal… barrels – housed there since the 1970s! We can only imagine the size of the grins on faces that day. This vintage product marks the beginning of many special one-off releases.

1998

The new owners begin work as if they want to make up for lost time. Progress is made remarkably quickly. Renovations to the visitor centre are duly carried out and the now famous Old Kiln Café is installed. More 1970s bottlings are released. And our hero is starting to get noticed. It doesn’t take long before there is a shiny award on the wall of the renewed visitor centre with the words ‘Distillery of the Year’ emblazoned on the plaque.

2000

One-off releases are doing their job. But what Ardbeg really needs was an identity; a main character. This arrives in the form of the 10 Year Old, young and fiery, peaty and heavy, and yet balancing seaside elements with oak and vanilla. It is quite unlike anything else on the market. And the world approves.

2001

With its standard bearer firmly realised in the form of the 10 Year Old, Ardbeg decides to push the boundaries further. The one-off bottlings have been very successful, so why not release one every year? This trend begins in 2001 and continues to this very day. First is the Lord of the Isles, followed by bottles such as the Airigh Nam Beist, Serendipity, Rollercoaster, Gallileo, and the much sought after (at least by us Wafflers) the Alligator.

2003

Another regular release joins the Ardbeg stable, this time an even more fascinating drop, the cask-strength Uigeadail (or Oogie as we Wafflers affectionately call it). Spending part of its maturation in sherry barrels adds another layer of complexity to this already multifaceted drop.

2007

The baton changes hands once again. From Duncan McDougall via fifteen others, Michael (Mickey) Heads becomes the latest distillery manager for Ardbeg.

2008

Worldwide recognition is only a matter of time for our hero. The famous Ardbeg 10 year old wins Jim Murray’s world whisky of the year award, and brings greater renown to the growing brand.

2009

Ardbeg makes it back-to-back when the Uigeadail follows in the footsteps of the 10 Year Old and reclaims the world whisky of the year award for the distillery!

Buoyed by this success, Ardbeg expand on their main range with the heavy and blazing Corryvreckan and the light and restrained Blasda.

The 2009 special release, even by Ardbeg standards, packs a peaty punch. It is appropriately titled the ‘Supernova’, and it goes on develop cult status among the ever-expanding legion of Ardbeg fans.

2014

Finally after years of yearning, this particular Waffler’s dreams come true, and Nick stumbles into Port Ellen, first stop: Ardbeg Distillery. He has a magnificent time, checking out the stills and the bond store before settling down in a comfortable chair to sample the wares and chat about the history of the great distillery. He could not be more pleased for the establishment that they near their 200th year as distillery and continue to make one remarkable drop after the other. He decides that Ardbeg truly is a hero and vows to one day chronicle the saga of its tumultuous, but ultimately highly successful life.

0182

2015

Ardbeg officially turns 200. The party begins.

Sláinte!

Click for part one

Ardbeg day 1

Ardbeg: a journey through time – the beginning

Ardbeg distillery, one of the true greats of Scottish whisky, is turning 200 – and may we add looking mighty good for its age! Whisky Waffle take this moment to celebrate by looking back at the history of this wonderful distillery in a new two-part adventure…

Ardbeg Day 2

Ardbeg: A journey through time – the beginning…

Posted by: Ted

1798
Fàilte traveller. You have been summoned here to witness the birth of a distillery, one that will become powerful and then dwindle to smoking peat embers, only to be stoked once again by the howling Ileach winds and rise even stronger than before. Look ye now to the peat bogs, for cometh the man, but perhaps not yet the moment. Duncan McDougall is his name, and he travels to rent the farmlands on the South East coast of Islay known as Ardbeg, Airigh nam Beist and Ardenistiel. Come; let us step forward in time to see what will be. I am sure one such as you knows the way of it.

1815

Now friend, the true moment. Here is Duncan, and with him his son John, and grandson Alexander. They have fashioned themselves as McDougall & Co. and raised a distillery on the land known as Ardbeg. Watch closely, ye silent observer, as they flicker across the years, crafting a dram with a heart of smoke.

1835

The fire that was Duncan burns no more, and John works the land in his place, while Alexander is tasked with tending the waters of life. Woe to the makers, insolvency falls, and Ardbeg changes hands. Let your gaze pierce across the sea to Glasgow, where the coffers of Thomas Buchanan Jr. now stoke the Ardbeg fires. But the McDougalls work on, leasing their creation from the new masters and tending to their amber child.

1853

Alexander is lost to time and the Ileach wind. Turn your gaze watcher, for new players walk the stage. Here is Flora and Margaret McDougall, sisters to the old wolf and distillers in their own right; Colin Hay, proprietor newly made; his son Collin Elliot Hay, distiller at the helm; and John Ramsay, great owner of not only Ardbeg, but Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardenistiel too. This small god of the Ileach tends his emerging villages and their vaunted distilleries well, ensuring that their leases endure long and the water flows unimpeded.

1887

Can ye feel the power in the air? The reek of the mash and the thrum of the industrious as they transform barley, water and yeast into more than a million litres of smokey whisky. These craftsmen are the kings of the island and their work a champion of the blend, although the true believers know to take strength from the untransmuted Ardbeg spirit. I see you watching me traveller, and seeking the nature of the fall. Step once again and we shall see.

1944

War. The venerable whisky makers of Scotland weep golden tears as their industry bleeds. On Islay, the once mighty Ardbeg is now only a shadow of itself. The distilling bans of this terrible world struggle are just another blow after the horrors of the Great War, and the harsh realities of economic depression. The old guard are no more, and a pall drifts from men who know how to be bankrupt or creative with bookkeeping.

1981
Here is the true nadir my friend. Ardbeg is closed and all but a few chosen gone. The village mournfully quiet and the air wrong, missing the tang of fermenting barley. The future uncertain. After the war life returned, but never recovered. The McDougalls passed their torch to the Ardbeg Distillery Ltd, and the distillery became a bauble for giants, a speck of smoked quartz tumbling in their collections. Your eyes betray you wanderer. What room is there in this bleak world for the distilleries of Islay they ask? Listen to the capricious Ileach wind my friend, for it blows from the east and whispers a name, Glenmorangie. I told you at the start of our journey that Ardbeg would rise once again, and here is its saviour. An amber crusader by the name of Bill Lumdsen will take Ardbeg and reforge it in smoke and fire into a legendary single malt famed across the world and even to the stars themselves.

But the how and why of that great transformation you must discover for yourself. Here our paths split and I must walk another road. I bid you farewell my friend, fellow watcher of the ages.

Sláinte

Click for part two

Ardbeg day 1

Tasmanian Whisky Tours: a story worth telling

Posted by: Nick

Before there were convicts there was whisky.

But before there was Tasmanian Whisky Tours, there was a distinct lack of access to Tasmanian whisky distilleries.

Enter Brett Steel, a man with a vision. He realised that Tasmania was entering a “golden age” of whisky creation and wanted to give the public a chance to travel to these distilleries, meet the people that make the whisky and hear their stories. Thus Tasmanian Whisky Tours was born.

I caught up with Brett to find out a bit more about the tours.

WW1 TWT Brett

“From my first visit to Tasmania in 2008 I fell in love with the place”

Brett grew up, not among whisky makers, but instead with a strong wine background. This is hardly surprising, as he lived near the great wine region of McLaren Vale. He moved from South Australia to Hobart in 2011 with intentions of starting up a bar selling Tasmanian whisky, assuming that once he was in the state there would be easy access to the distilleries making the product he intended to sell. However, he quickly found this was not the case.

As more distilleries opened up, Tasmania rapidly became a join the dots puzzle. The state suddenly had a whisky trail! And Brett? Well he had a car! He realised that no one in their right mind wanted to drive themselves to distilleries and now there was a real touring opportunity. So Brett took the plunge and decided to become… a professional designated driver!

There is, of course, more to it than that. Brett is a man after our own hearts. He is a waffler. As well as tasting the flavours of the drink, he was passionate about hearing the tales told by the people behind the whisky.

WW2 TWT at Redlands

“I wanted this to be about storytelling, as much as whisky”

Brett’s aim for the tours is not so much to give an educational and scientific description of how whisky is made. Instead he is more interested engaging with the people who make the product and hearing about the struggles and adventures they have had along the way. After all, the whisky-makers are just ordinary people doing something they love and they certainly have a tale or two to tell. Brett believes that whisky and story-telling are “perfect bed-fellows” and his guests, after meeting the story-tellers themselves, cannot help but agree.

WW3 TWT at home base 2 bnw

“The trick is to try to cater to all levels and not to have anyone feel excluded”

Brett’s first tours began running in early 2014 and the business has been growing in popularity ever since. The rise in profile of whiskies made in the state has given the business a boost, and Brett has found himself chaperoning journalists, whisky experts, and even cartoonists!

The tours run on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and visit a wide range of southern distilleries – and also get to taste some from further afield. Sessions begin at 9am at the Lark cellar door, and proceedings commence by reclining in comfortable chairs and chatting about the history of Tasmanian whisky. Guests are then loaded into the van and driven around the beautiful Derwent Valley or Tasman Peninsula.

There are many highlights on each tour for Brett: the picturesque setting at McHenry’s Distillery in Port Arthur, the paddock to bottle experience at Redlands Estate, and the unforgettable yarns spun by “renaissance moonshiner” and “champion sand-sculptor” Pete Bignell at Belgrove.

Of course, much like everyone has a favourite whisky (or gin, or brandy, or apple schnapps – which are also sampled on various tours) everyone has a favourite stop, and you won’t know which is yours until you travel there.

WW4 TWT at Nant

“To me whisky is the perfect social lubricant”

I absolutely adore this quote and cannot agree more wholeheartedly. Brett believes, as we do, that whisky is a very social experience, and when presented with context, such as the people who create it and the processes they use, guests will get so much more out of every sip.

He says that sharing the narrative of Tasmanian whisky, past, present and future, is half the experience of the tour. The characters that are met along the way and the real passion they exhibit, gives true meaning to the boutique hand-crafted product that we at Whisky Waffle love.

WW5 TWT at Bothwell

Brett, like all of us, confesses to loving Tasmanian whiskies and their rich flavour. But he is also fascinated by the history and stories behind each of the distilleries.

“When you put the two together and add the dynamic of a mix of different people, it’s pretty hard to beat that experience – no matter where in the world you travel.”

Find out more about Tasmanian Whisky Tours at their website.

Photos by Andy Wilson at  Everything Everything.

Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Ted

Yamazaki 12 whisky waffle

If you stood at the top of Ben Nevis in the highlands of Scotland and turned your eyes eastwards, then you would probably just see quite a lot of Scotland to be honest. However, if you had truly exceptional eyesight, even better than the elf eyes of Legolas, then in the far East you may be able to see a mighty chain of islands under the rising sun (this is of course assuming that your amazing eyes can penetrate Scottish rain!).

The islands of course form the ancient nation of Japan, a place of legends and gods, samurais and ninjas, geisha girls, and very strict tea parties. A curious thing you may not have expected to find in Japan is a fully fledged whisky industry… and yet Japan is the third largest producer of the amber drop behind Scotland and America, and is home to some of the greatest whiskies in the world.

As a country, Japan has only a relatively short history of making whisky, and like Australia the modern scene has its origins in a conscious decision to start an industry. After the introduction of Scotch whisky to Japan in the late 1800’s, a primordial ooze of distillers formed, but it wasn’t until 1923 that the first serious attempt emerged with the founding of Yamazaki distillery by Shinjirro Torii.

Apparently the initial releases were not favourable and so Torii hired a fellow countryman by the name of Masataka Taketsuru. Taketsuru had studied in Scotland in the early 1910’s, and after marrying Kirkintilloch girl Jessie ‘Rita’ Cowan, worked at Hazelburn distillery for several years before returning to Japan. The in-depth knowledge of whisky making Taketsuru gained in Scotland provided the crucial spark that Torii needed to make a worthy dram.

Thanks to the work of Torii and Taketsuru, modern Japanese whisky shares much in common with Scotch whisky, helped by the fact that Japan has a similar climate and terrain to Scotland. Yamazaki distillery (owned by Suntory, one of the two major players in the Japanese whisky industry) is located in the outskirts of Kyoto on Japan’s main island of Honshu.

The Yamazaki 12yr old was the first Japanese whisky I ever tried, and it piqued my interest in the malts of those eastern isles. The colour is a burnished gold that would be at home in a Japanese shrine. The nose is sweet and intensely fruit driven, with a strong scent of red pears backed with a light hint of mandarins.

The flavour is bright, and bursts in a wave across the tongue and roof of the mouth. After an initial sweet hit, sharp tangy citrus flavours dominate the tastebuds and charge up to the back of the nose. The finish is lightly dry with a slight bittersweetness, and brings to mind the feeling left after eating a green chewy lolly.

Although the bright, sharp flavours may not be to everyone’s tastes, the Yamazaki 12 is a great starting point for anyone wanting to try Japanese whisky, and not only because it comes from the oldest commercial distillery in Japan. The Yamazaki 12 provides a glimpse into the mind of a new whisky culture, one forged out of the soul of an ancient civilisation. Kampai!

★★★