rating

The Fault in our Stars: an explanation of the whisky waffle rating system

Posted by: Nick and Ted

Waffle Selfie

Nick: Roll the dice, Ted! We need to come up with a score for the Glenfiddich 12!

Depending on what you’re after, whisky rankings can be a help or a hindrance. Some reviewers have highly thought out and complex ratings systems, whereas others tend towards simplistic and arbitrary methods, preferring to spend more time drinking the stuff than doing the maths.

Whisky Waffle fall squarely into the latter category, struggling to count any further than five after a couple of drams. Thus we award any whisky we review a rating of one to five stars. We don’t even bother with half stars, because, after all, that’s just a sneaky way of scoring out of ten isn’t it?

So keeping it simple is all well and good, but what does each score actually mean?

★ One star sounds bad… and that’s because it is. There are very few whiskies with zero redeeming qualities, but every now and then one rears its ugly head. Try it once and then never again.

★★ Two stars is in no way bad. But nor is it good, either. These are perfectly drinkable whiskies that for some reason have disappointed us, or left us underwhelmed. Try it once, and then try it again to be sure.

★★★ Three stars is our most complex category. Everything within this zone is good, however some just creep over the line whereas others are bordering on greatness. To work out which – well, you’ll just have to read the review! We would happily have a dram of one of these any day of the week (twice on Fridays!).

★★★★ Four stars are whiskies both literally and figuratively top shelf. These are the drops that have an x-factor, something that makes them stand out from the pack. They’d be a fine addition to anyone’s collection.

★★★★★ Five stars is probably the most subjective category for us. Obviously they’re all superlative whiskies in their own right, but often they might hold extra significance for us. These are whiskies that make all five stars align in the heavens.

For those who are interested, we created a page listing all our reviews by their score. You can check it out here.

 

Springbank 10 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Springbank 10 Year Old

Welcome to Campbeltown. I shall begin by clarifying to my fellow Tasmanians that I am referring to the town in Scotland, not the eternal toilet stop halfway between Hobart and Burnie.

Campbeltown is located at the tip of the suspiciously shaped Kintyre peninsula in the south of Scotland and was once known as the ‘whisky capital of the world’, being home to as many as twenty-eight distilleries. Sadly (at least for the sailors who make port there) this is comprehensively no longer the case. Several distilleries, however, are still going as strong as ever.

Springbank, Longrow and Hazelburn are all based in Campbeltown. In fact, they are all based at the same distillery. And despite being located at the same premises, all three make many varied and fascinating drams. Longrow whiskies are heavily peated, and often aged in unusual and quirky barrels. Hazelburn whiskies are triple distilled, and as smooth and creamy as their similarly produced Irish counterparts. Springbank, the biggest and most well known of the three, makes whisky with a maritime influence, harking back to drams made in the nineteenth century when the town was in its pomp.

Their entry level is the 10 Year Old and it is a perfect dram to demonstrate what they are about. The nose is oily and buttery with a sweet seaside edge. This is whisky doing salted caramel. There is also the faintest hint of smoke, of course nothing like the Islay peat monsters which linger only a small stretch of water away.

It is bottled at, in my opinion, the optimum level for whisky: 46%, and the slightly higher alcohol percentage gives this whisky a pleasantly light spice across the tongue. The flavour is slightly fishy, and I mean this literally, instead of labelling it ‘suspicious’ (although some people would take this claim to be very suspicious indeed).

The Springbank 10 Year Old has been matured in both ex-bourbon and sherry barrels, and the sherry in particular is notable on the finish where raspberry jam flavours mingle with the slightly smoky notes creating something memorable and completely unique to Campbelltown.

While the flavours in this dram are all fairly gentle and subtle they combine nicely to create a pleasant and easy drinking whisky. It therefore serves as a perfect introduction to the lost whisky region of Campbeltown and to the wonderful drops made there by Springbank and its two sister distilleries. Of course, if the 10 Year Old is a little light and inconsequential for your liking, you could always jump straight to the 15 Year Old – now there is a dram that means proper business…

★★★

Whisky Business: a perfect pair…ing night

Posted by: Nick

It must be the time of year. My usual whisky-dominated musings are competing for attention with another glorious consumable: chocolate.

Whisky Easter

Imagine my delight when I discovered that the upcoming Whisky Business night was going to pair these very ingredients: a quest to find the finest whisky and chocolate combination on the planet! I quickly decided that I was up to this challenge.

Of course, if you find yourself in Hobart on Tuesday the 7th of April then you too can take on this most scientific of missions! Just get yourself along to the Lark cellar door at 7pm with $30 to cover (at least) five different drams throughout the evening. Also, if you are prepared to bring along some of your Easter stash to share around as part of the pairing-quest, please do. It’s all in the name of science, you understand.

Until then, have a great Easter and keep on waffling, even with mouthfuls of chocolate!

Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask

Posted by: Nick

Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask

Finished in ex-Château Rayas casks: sounds impressive. Six years in French Oak Bordeaux wine barrels: sounds fancy. Maturation spent in Margaret River Shiraz casks: ooh I’d like to try me some of that! Ten years in Chardonnay barrels: wow, that sounds… wait did he just say Chardonnay?

When you consider all the premium ex-wine casks left behind by wineries across the world, maturing whisky in humble Chardonnay barrels seems like an incongruous thought. But that’s exactly what Glen Moray have done, producing a dram with flavours which live up to the curious nature of its creation.

The Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask (or as we Australians at Whisky Waffle chose to label it: ‘Cardy Cask’) spends its entire 10 years of maturation in white wine barrels. And the flavours imparted certainly sets it aside from other Glen Moray expressions.

The first and perhaps biggest clue is on the nose. It is creamy and sweet – more fudge than caramel – and contains a hint of vanilla, giving it the impression of creaming soda. There is also a strong hit of acidity, reminiscent of not so much pineapple, but pineapple cream desserts.

With many drams, it is easy to predict the whisky’s taste after smelling it, but this is not the case with the Chardonnay Cask. The palate is vastly different to the nose; it is darker, with nutty elements immediately present: hazelnuts, pecans, even marzipan. More can be detected when the spirit is swirled in the mouth including notes of honey and a certain degree of woodiness.

The finish packs a surprising punch: sour citrus notes linger well after the liquid is gone, leaving a tangy, spiciness to contemplate.

Glen Moray has long held a reputation for providing reasonable whisky at a more than reasonable price. The Chardonnay Cask is no exception, and while it is easy to drink, it comes with the added bonus of containing many intriguing flavours to muse over. And all of this from a humble ‘Cardy Cask’!

★★★

Nikka from the Barrel

Reviewed by: Ted

Nikka from the Barrel

I’ve been at it again! For those who remember my Akashi review, I seem to have picked up a habit of reviewing Japanese whiskies at a particular bar that I occasionally habituate. Not a bad vice I must admit.

This visit’s subject is Nikka from the Barrel, which comes in an intriguingly plain, stubby little 500ml bottle. The labelling is sparse to say the least, and not particularly useful if, like me, you cannot read Japanese.

It’s not only the bottle that has limited information. The little that I could find out about this drop is that it is a blend (or as Nikka claims, a marriage) of matured malt and grain whiskies from re-casked barrels.

Bottled at 51.4%, the Nikka has a robust, gutsy nose. Dark honey, peach, apricot and orange jump on to the old scent receptors, although m’colleague swears blind that he could smell corned beef (odd man).

On the palate the Nikka is rich and syrupy, with notes of burnt sugar, oak, sultanas and honey, followed up by a pleasant herbal bitterness that reminds me of Speyside. I would take an educated guess that sherry barrels have played a part in the blend, as something of that quality seems to shine through.

The Nikka from the Barrel is a fantastic Japanese blend. It’s bold, gutsy, fun and will put a grin on your dial. Definitely give it some attention if you come across a bottle.

★★★

Jim Murray rates Tasmanian whiskies as liquid gold

Posted by: Nick

Not the whisky bible whisky waffle

An early dust-cover for the 2015 Whisky Bible which did not make the final printing

Here at Whisky Waffle we don’t take our rating system too seriously. We’re certainly a far cry from individual nose-ratings, and can barely count to 100, let alone score out of it! We are far more, in a word: wishy-washy (yes, ok, that was two words, but like I said, we have problems counting).

For some people however, wishy-washy doesn’t cut it, and a nice tangible score out of 100 is the way to go. One such man is Jim Murray, who did not quite squeeze into the quartet of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and decided to write his own bible. About whisky. Appropriately titled: The Whisky Bible.

This man has tasted and rated over four thousand whiskies for his latest edition, and apart from having the best day job in the world, he also has a half decent palate. This, apparently, is enough justification for distilleries to go gaga when he attributes high scores to their products.

Whiskies to which he deigns an award of 94 points or higher are granted the impressive-sounding moniker: ‘liquid gold’, not to be confused with Macallan Gold, which is another matter entirely (and one not nearly as impressive-sounding, despite what the PR guys at Macallan try and tell you).

There are two points, however, that Jim Murray and I see eye to eye on. The first one is our love for trade-mark headwear which, while a fascinating discussion, is not relevant to the current article. Our second is our love for whisky made in Tasmania. While I may have proved time and time again that I am slightly biased on the subject, Jim’s love is purely objective (with the possible exception of Nant).

Trademark headwear whisky waffle

I am rarely seen without my trademark top-hat. DISCLAIMER: this statement may or may not be true

The Tasmanian distilleries who have produced liquid gold bottles for the 12th edition of the Whisky Bible are Lark and Sullivans Cove, and I offer them both my sincerest congratulations. Sullivans Cove received a score of 95.5 points for its American Oak bourbon cask release, until now the neglected younger brother of the coveted French Oak port cask. Lark received 94 points for its cask strength release, which makes me exceptionally happy, partly because it is a wonderfully deserving distillery and partly because I happen to own a bottle.

My precious whisky waffle

My precious…

Elsewhere in Australia the wonderfully obscure Limeburners distillery from Albany, Western Australia has also been awarded liquid gold status, due to both being a fantastic drop and to being from a region of the world where it can get hot enough to melt actual gold.

These bottles join a number of Australian products to receive this honour. In Tasmanian alone Overeem, Heartwood and Nant, as well as other Sullivans Cove and Lark releases have been given the tip of the panama hat. And if this isn’t enough justification to my Scottish friend that this country makes a damn good dram then I don’t know what is.

In the end, however, it’s just one man’s opinion. And this whisky blog is simply another. The most important critic of a whisky’s quality is you. If you try a drop at the right time in the right place with the right people, then that is all the justification you need. Like I said, wishy-washy. But they do call it liquid gold after all…

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

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.