Rum

Old Kempton First Release Solera Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Old Kempton Solera WW

There are many positive, glowing and indeed, highly complimentary words you can use to describe the Tasmanian whisky industry: flavourful, innovative, even simply: delicious. However, the word ‘consistent’ is not one that leaps to the top of that list. Due to the single cask nature of most of Tasmania’s small distilleries, it is highly likely that a bottle released by a producer this year is going to be vastly different to one released in two years’ time… or even one the next month. This is ok; most distilleries embrace the variety, although the approach can sometimes confuse return customers.

Old Kempton Distillery in Tasmania’s Southern Midlands is one such keen subscriber to the single barrel release method. Recently however, they have started trialling a Solera system in a huge 500L port puncheon. The contents of 24 smaller barrels have been emptied into this 100-year-old behemoth and left to mix and mingle until the tasting team at Old Kempton determine it to be ready. Crucially though, not all of the barrel’s contents will be emptied: half will remain to marry with the next batch of premium Old Kempton whisky added, before the process is repeated time and time again, creating a reliable flavour profile (and the intriguing premise that the finished product will include an amount of whisky, however infinitesimally small, which is very old indeed).

Old Kempton Solera cask WW

The first bottles out of the tun are about to be released exclusively to Old Kempton whisky club members and with it they have created something unique to not only their own distillery, but to the whole of the Tasmanian whisky industry.

Upon first inspection, you can tell there’s something different about it. It’s so obvious: the colour! It’s far darker and redder than any Old Kempton release I have ever seen, no mean feat considering its (relatively) modest bottling strength of 49%. The colour is surely due to the maturation time in the giant ex-port reciprocal being used to facilitate the Solera process. One sniff indicates the cask has affected the flavour, too.

Old Kempton Solera WW dram

The nose is full of juicy fig notes with large dollops of ripe plums, glace cherries and stewed fruit. It’s rich and dark and features subtle flavours of nutmeg, pears and vanilla custard. The palate continues this theme: rich and broad across the mouth with sweet gooey notes halfway between sticky date pudding and thick gingerbread. The finish is long but without a single note of spicy astringency or over-oaking.  Instead it is sweet and fat, like a ganache where the chef has gone rather easy on the cream.

This is a fascinating whisky. Comparing it to other releases from the same distillery is an experience that is confusing in the best possible way. You find yourself speculating on important questions such as ‘how do they do it?’, ‘what will the solera be like in few years?’ and ‘with a colour like this, why are they not called Redlands anymore?’. While we might not be able to provide satisfactory answers to these ponderances, at least we have a delicious dram to mull them over with.

★★★★

Join the Old Kempton Whisky Club before November 5 and you will go into the draw to win a free bottle of Old Kempton First Release Solera Cask!

Glenfiddich Experimental Series #04: Fire & Cane 43%

Reviewed by: Ted

While it may hold the title of best selling single malt in the world, Glenfiddich can also be pretty divisive. I think that people tend to fall into one of five broad camps:

  1. People who don’t know any better and for whom single malt = Glenfiddich (this is what they get if they want to be posh and step up from the Johnnie Walker). Products of William Grant & Sons’ decades of advertising or ‘Mad Men’ fans, they will definitely ask for it served on the rocks.
  2. Fence sitters who don’t really care one way or the other. Would probably drink with coke if you let them (Philistines).
  3. Mad haters who loathe Glenfid because it’s ‘big whisky’ and ‘such a cliche’. Probably wears a moustache and likes single origin American ryes that you’ve never heard of or underground independent release.
  4. Tourists, because when in Scotland, the UK… (“Waidammit, hey honey, is Scotland in the Ewe-naa’ded Kingdom?” “Ah honestly don’t know Earl, is that the same as Enga-land?” Scots: “Not for long if we can help it!” #brexit #bullshit #freedom!)
  5. People who genuinely like Glenfiddich and recognise that while they might be a cliche, they actually make some pretty decent drams. Are probably fans of the 18yo, have eyed off an Age of Discovery in duty free and will half-heartedly defend the 12yo against the haters.

I definitely fall into the latter category and in addition to the above, I also like to keep an eye on what’s going on outside of the core range. In recent years Glenfid have been releasing what they have dubbed their ‘Experimental Series’, which they claim to be ‘game changing’ and ‘ground breaking’ (as mentioned previously, they’re also quite good with the marketing guff).

Once you get past the superlatives, the Experimental Series is all about interesting finishes, barrel combinations and playfulness. Brain child of Master Malter Brian Kinsman, past alumni include the IPA Experiment (of which I own a bottle and really must get around to reviewing), Project XX v1&2 and Winter Storm. The most recent release, #4, is called Fire & Cane and it’s a dram that is blatantly provocative.

Why? Because it says it right there on the bottle: “Fire & Cane – the whisky that will divide you”. Glenfid claims the reason for this is the two warring flavour profiles in the spirit, which splits people into two distinct camps, much like the great blue/gold dress debate of 2015 (just so you know, it was definitely blue, so there).

Team Fire: unusually for a Glenfid, the Fire & Cane is smoky (a fact you probably guessed from the name), a vatting of peated whisky and malts aged in ex-bourbon casks. Glenfid uses Highland peat in this, giving it a softer, friendlier profile than the medicinal/elemental Island peats.

Team Cane: What do you make out of cane? Wicker chairs of course! Oh, and rum. To give the release a big, sweet and spicy kick, Mr Kinsman used a variety of rum casks sourced from across South America to finish off the spirit for three months, thus creating the coal-ramel slice that is the Fire & Cane.

Glenfiddich are so conviced that people either taste the smoke or the sweet that they actually provide two sets of tasting notes with the bottle, offering you a choice depending on which side you fall. So where do I fall?

The nose is a suprisingly complex melange of tropical fruits like pineapple, guava, feijoa, papaya and banana, as well as caramel, straw and hot metal. That Highland peat is not really present as smokiness (“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not on Islay anymore”), but more of a savoury note that sits underneath the fruit. It’s kind of like a fresh fruit salsa on some smoky BBQ Caribbean jerk meat.

The peat is much more obvious on the palate, starting off as a tingly, ashy layer with pepper and cured meats before giving way to sharp and sour notes of mead, lemon, and underripe plums. The finish is bright and fairly dry, with a burnt-herb linger and a tickle of orange at the end.

Rather than falling squarely into one camp or the other and staying there like the Glenfid marketing team wants me to, I kind of feel like Harvey Dent/Two-Face flipping his coin. Sometimes I go one way and sometimes I go the other, getting smoky or sweet notes on different tries (whereas if I was Rozencrantz or Guildenstern, I’d be wondering why I kept getting the same flavour every time #obscuremoviereferences).

The Fire & Cane is a really good demonstration of how you can mess around with one of the best known whisky flavour profiles in the world to create something interesting and new. Traditionalists will probably turn their noses up, but for me, I like it. It’s zesty and fresh with a smoky twist and puts me in mind of camping at the beach in the tropics. If you can find a bottle, take a crack and see which side of the fence you fall on.

***

Let us know if you’re #TeamFire or #TeamCane

Moseying on over to Mt Uncle: a visit to North Queensland’s only distillery

Posted by: Nick, photos by Paul Moran

1 Nick at Mt uncle

Any excuse to wear the shirt.

I’m not sure what I expected from an outback distillery. Certainly not a wood and stone hut surrounded by a banana plantation with native animals roaming freely over the site. But it turns out that the outback distillery Mt Uncle is exactly that: a distillery in Australia’s outback.

Mt Uncle can be found half an hour from Cairns and is North Queensland’s only distillery. This means that it is the only whisky producer for a nearly 2000 kilometre radius – but I wasn’t going to let a small detail like that deter me!

2 BBC

I am prepared to travel for my whisky

The business was founded fifteen years ago by farmer Mark Watkins, and originally produced banana liqueur – a more conventional business in this part of the world. But in 2006, he bravely made the switch to distilling barley and is now reaping the rewards. Mark, however, is not big on tradition, preferring to do things his own way. This is in evidence with the name of his yellow-wax-dipped five year old single malt: The Big Black Cock. The large dark-feathered rooster on the front of the bottle clarifies the source of the controversial name.

3 BBC

Three big black cocks

And it’s a proper outback whisky. Buttery vanilla on the nose with dashes of various native vegetation. The palate is fruity and bitter, perhaps due to the ex-wine barrels it was matured in: American oak with French oak tops. The finish is long, and a little rough. Overall, an intriguing mix.

5 Still

Pot still, or column still? Or both?

The whisky was not the only product made at the distillery – Mt Uncle also produces a vast range of other spirits. This included an interesting vodka made from honey, and a light and a dark rum, both easy to drink. There was also a proper bush gin, made with botanicals such as wattle seed, peppermint gum, lemon myrtle and Lilly Pilly. Finally, a bright pink concoction claiming to be marshmallow liqueur, provocatively titled SexyCat. And it was delicious. Dangerously so. Perhaps also embarrassingly so. But certainly a memorable addition to the Mount Uncle range.

6 Sexy Cat trier

Perfectly acceptable for male drinkers everywhere… I’m telling myself…

Myself and my drinking-buddy-of-the-day Paul had a great time sampling the products, chatting with staff and wandering around the grounds. We kept remarking how nice the place was, though we had to keep reminding ourselves that it was a distillery. It was certainly not what we expected. But we were in tropical North Queensland surround by banana palms. How could we expect anything else?

4 the range

The range: and yes, the SexyCat is sitting in a high heel shoe!

Whisky and Chocolate: why has it taken me so long?

Posted by: Nick. Photos courtesy of Craig Johnstone

Whisky. Chocolate. Two undoubtedly magnificent creations. Why, then, has it taken me so long to realise that combining the two is the best idea hit upon since a particular Bill Lark fishing trip?

Enter Ian Reed, organiser of tenuous themes for Whisky Business, who decided the night’s proximity to Easter was as good an excuse as any to bring along chocolate bunnies to the next gathering.

While the selection of whiskies was sure to be excitingly varied, the selection of chocolate turned out to be less so, although this was through no fault of mine or Craig’s, who both brought some excellent blocks (disclaimer: mine was slightly more excellent). Ian gathered everyone together. It was time to begin.

Whisky n Chocolate dram 1

Whisky number one, it transpired was the Scapa 16 Year Old, a lovely and easy drinking Orcadian drop. However tonight I couldn’t help but notice an intriguingly pleasant bitterness about it, so selected an equally bitter 70% dark chocolate to accompany it. My results were as follows:

Bitter + bitter = not bitter!

Strangely enough, together the two bitter flavours cancelled each other out and left smooth and sweet strawberry and melon notes I hadn’t noticed before. A win for the paring!

Whisky n Chocolate dram 2

Whisky number two was immediately picked by Craig as a rum barrel finish, which was either a lucky guess or proof that he knows his stuff. The whisky was a 15 Year Old BenRiach, which had indeed been finished in rum barrels. I selected a Lindt Salted Caramel to accompany it.

Rum barrel + salted caramel = tropical punch!

Apparently the secret to unlocking the fruit flavours in the rum finish was a block of salted caramel chocolate! Two out of two for the chocolate paring!

Whisky n Chocolate dram 3

Whisky number three had been matured in sherry casks, this much I could tell. I quickly ruled out Glenfarclas and took a stab at another famously sherried whisky: Glendronach. Imagine my pleasure (read: smugness) when it turned out to be the Glendronach 18 Year Old (Big Sam) Allardice. One sip gave away the Olorosso maturation. It was dry. As in really dry. And I loved it. I went for the strong stuff. 90% dark chocolate. No messing around here.

Dry whisky + dry chocolate = the Sahara desert.

I suspected that one ingredient may make the other sweeter in comparison. I was wrong. This combination could not even be crossed upon a camel. And I loved it. Three out of three.

Whisky n Chocolate dram 4

After a short break filled with science jokes from Bish, and vaguely Easter-themed jokes from Rosie, we moved onto whisky number four: the clue from Ian being that its name was Gaelic for ‘natural’. Because I speak fluent Gaelic (or because I’ve read it on the internet) I immediately realised we were trying the cask strength Glenlivet: the Nadurra. I needed a feisty chocolate to compete with this, so selected my own contribution: a fancy and fully-flavoured Anvers salted caramel chocolate.

Strong whisky + strong chocolate = Pirates of the Caribbean!

Ok, yes, by this stage of the night my pairing notes were starting to get, shall we say, ‘creative’, but hear me out. I mean this in a way that these two flavours did not go together. At all. In fact they clashed. In fact, they clashed entertainingly, one might even say ‘swashbucklingly’ (if one could pronounce such a word at this end of the evening). Hence: Pirates of the Caribbean.

Whisky n Chocolate dram 5

Whisky number five, the final dram of the evening, was wonderful. There was subtle peat on the nose, mild sweet spices on the palate, and a warm lingering finish. It had to be Laphroaig, and as it turned out, it was the 18 Year Old. It was a wonderful dram and I paired it with the 70% dark chocolate. At this point of the night, the equation was simple:

Whisky + Chocolate = awesome.

I don’t think I really need to explain this one.

Five out of five.

 

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’!

★★★

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Reviewed by: Nick

Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

The Caribbean. What does it make you think of? Beaches? Palm trees? Sunshine? Johnny Depp movies?

The flavour of the Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask certainly shows the power of suggestion because I can’t help but noticing this whisky tastes rather… tropical!

Balvenie are one of the leaders in Scotland for maturing their spirit in multiple barrels, often, as is the case with the Caribbean cask, for only the final few months of the aging process. This imparts another layer of flavour on the whisky without removing characteristics that are already present. Often this ‘finishing’ process is conducted in sherry or even port casks. In the case of this Balvenie however, it spends its final few months of aging in ex-West Indian rum barrels, hence the moniker: Caribbean Cask.

The rum influence certainly adds a new dimension to the whisky. The overriding flavour in the nose is, would you believe it, bananas; and I’m not just saying this because of the Caribbean image in my head. Honestly! There are also the vanilla and honey notes expected of a Speyside whisky, however these couple with fresh floral scents. It’s sweet and light, but pleasingly complex.

On the palate the mouth feel is thick and syrupy with malty, biscuity notes present. However, these rapidly give way to fruits such as pineapple, passionfruit, mango and yet more banana. Tropical fruits! The finish is gentle and sweet, with more traditional honeycomb and toffee.

Whether or not I would have picked out these tasting notes if this whisky had been given a less suggestive name is an interesting point. However, as far as this dram is concerned, the marketing and the flavour go hand in hand. The image that ‘Caribbean Cask’ conjures in my head is now inseparable from the whisky itself and I can only describe it in one way: this is the tropical punch of whisky!

★★★

Five Golden Drams: 5 whiskies to drink at Christmas time

Posted by: Nick

If all the tinsel strewn about the place and the cheesy background music in supermarkets hasn’t been enough of a giveaway, I’m here to tell you it is very nearly Christmas! This means a number of things: countless family dinners, last minute gift-shopping, pine needles all over the house, and of course, holidays!

I’m extremely keen to have a bit of free time this Christmas to spend relaxing: feet up, Glencairn in hand. But what, I hear you ask, is contained within this glass? The short answer is: whisky. But they don’t call us Whisky Waffle for nothing. So here is the long answer. Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you: Five Golden Rings – I mean drams.

5. Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Year Old

As you may or may not be aware, m’colleague Ted and I are from the rather little state of Tasmania in the rather large country of Australia, both of which can be found in the southern hemisphere, meaning that Christmas falls squarely in the middle of our summer. Now, to you from The North the concept of a sunny Christmas must be a completely bizarre one, but to us here, BBQs, beers, bicycle riding and baking hot weather are natural Christmas day occurrences. So my number five whisky reflects this.

5 Balvenie whisky waffle

The Caribbean Cask (either through its flavour profile or by the power of suggestion) has a very tropical taste reminiscent of a banana smoothie. It is the perfect summer’s day drop and is easy to knock back while basking in the sun in the early afternoon after a big Christmas lunch.

4. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera

This drop is a little more traditional in its connection to Christmas. It finds its place on this list, as its flavours suggest sultanas, raisins, plums and other dark fruits. It is the perfect dram to savour in the late afternoon with a slice of dessert – because, quite simply, this dram is Christmas pudding in whisky form.

4 Glenfiddich whisky waffle

3. Hellyers Road 12 Year Old

This one is more of a personal connection. Having only been recently released, Australia’s first 12 Year Old age statement bottling is a superb drop and one I am coming to appreciate more and more with every taste. It is smoother than anything so far created by the Burnie distillery but still contains a unique buttery shortbread flavour that is so specific to Hellyers Road. It is also very reasonably priced compared to most other Tasmanian products and for that reason alone is a very good option as a stocking filler for the discerning whisky drinker.

3 Helllyers Road whisky waffle

2. Auchentoshan Three Wood

I’ll be honest, if any drop were to make me think of Christmas, it’s this one. It’s not just the Christmas pudding, but the brandy butter, too. It is smooth and extremely drinkable, but complex and long lasting. It’s accessible to non-whisky drinkers but also interesting enough for seasoned veterans. In this way, it brings unity to your grandparents’ crowded living room at the end of the day. If you needed just one bottle to share with the people you love the most at Christmas, this would have to be it.

2 Auchentoshan whisky waffle

1. Ardbeg Uigeadail

Although I will have spent my Christmas day bathed in glorious sunshine, people back in the traditional home of whisky are unlikely to be so lucky. In fact, the early pioneers of the water of life probably spent many Christmases shut away in small uninsulated huts in the snowy highlands with nothing but a peated dram to keep them warm. This selection is for them.

1 Ardbeg whisky waffle

There are very few better examples of a warming peated whisky to be found anywhere in the world. And who else but Ardbeg could provide us with a complex, sherried, spicy and warming dram such as this. The Uigeadail (or Oogie, and m’collegue and I refer to it as) is simply one of the world’s best readily available whiskies. A portion of my final paycheque before the 25th of December was dedicated to this bottle, and when sitting back in a comfortable armchair after a long but pleasant day of food, presents and family of all ages, I’ll claim that nothing goes down better than a generous nip of Ardbeg Uigeadail.