sweetness

Auchentoshan Classic

Reviewed by: Nick

Auchentoshan Classic

If you’re fortunate enough to visit Glasgow (like me) and are somewhat interested in the odd dram (like me) then you simply must pay a visit to Auchentoshan Distillery (like me). The triple distilling Lowlands champions have been producing some lovely drops for a while now and a tour of the establishment that creates them is well worth it. The tour concludes, as all the best do, with a tasting – sampling Auchentoshan’s core range. The 12 Year Old is among those offered, as is the fantastic Three Wood. Up first, however, is the Auchentoshan Classic – a Non Age Statement whisky.

Upon my visit I got the impression that the staff were keen to skip past this one and get stuck into the 12 Year Old – as if they were saying, “but enough of this folly, time for some real whisky”. I mean, admittedly our trusty guide was right – the 12 blows the Classic out of the water. But there’s still something to say for the lowly old (young?) NAS bottle.

The Auchentoshan Classic is lighter in colour than other releases from the distillery and demonstrates very clearly its bourbon maturation. On the nose it is sweet, grassy and with a touch of honey. It is pleasant and summery. The palate is similarly sweet with notes of fruit-based confectionery. I also got the faintest hints of peanut butter, cloves and marmalade. The finish is short but strangely rather fitting for this gentle dram.

This is a feather-light whisky.  A Pinot Noir rather than a Shiraz. But every now and again, that’s alright. Especially if you’re on the distillery tour and the 12 Year Old is up next!

★★

Classic Nick

How it compares:

The 12 Year old is so much more vibrant than the Classic. They are both light and sweet, but the 12 Year old has depths to explore – whereas with the Classic what you see is what you get. The finish is similarly short with both drams – and while this is a disappointment in the 12, the abrupt finish seems to suit the Classic. Still, though, I think I’d rather have the Three Wood.

The Arran Malt Amarone Cask Finish

Reviewed by: Nick

Arran Amarone Cask

Traditionally, the world of Scottish whisky is very – well – traditional. When popping champagne for Ardbeg’s two hundredth year, we somewhat neglected the rather less impressive twentieth birthday of the Arran Distillery. But distilleries are only as good as the products they are currently creating, and there is a lot to like about the bottles presently leaving the Isle of Arran.

As well as a range of age statement whiskies they have a variety of cask finish expressions, and the one I happened to get my grubby little mitts on was finished in Amarone barrels. For the uneducated, which I will freely admit to being one of before buying the bottle, Amarone is a dry Italian red wine made from grapes such as Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Yup, me neither.

I’ve had an up and down relationship with wine-matured whiskies, though one aspect I universally love is their amazing colours. The Arran is no exception – this whisky is the coppery orange of traditional creaming soda. The nose is alluring, giving the impression of alcohol soaked fruits eaten at Christmas time. There are cherries and strawberries as well as honey and syrupy cola.

The palate is rich and spicy, aided immensely by the higher bottling strength of 50%. It is delightfully creamy with large dollops of toffee, oranges and Turkish delight. The finish is dry with notes of oak and dark chocolate, and is pleasingly long and warming.

While the Arran Malt does not boast the long history of many distilleries, this should not in any way be held against it. A glorious Scottish past does not always equal quality in the present. Just ask Rangers Football Club.

★★★★

Glen Moray 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: Nick

Glen Moray 12 Year Old

It is quite often the case in the whisky world that what you pay for is what you get. It is usually a safe assumption that a $40 bottle will be inferior to one costing three figures. However, there are so many exceptions to this rule that I begin to wonder why us whisky fanatics spend the money we do.

Case in point is the Glen Moray 12 Year Old, a bottle that first caught my eye when I was a uni student and therefore always on the lookout for an alcoholic bargain. The Glen Moray was, quite simply, the cheapest single malt I could find in Australian bottle shops. However I was quick to discover it held a certain charm that saw it rise above many of the blends I could also afford.

There is no denying that it is a simple dram, bearing all the hallmarks of Speyside. On the nose there are notes of sweet biscuits and honey. Predictably from a whisky matured entirely in bourbon casks, there are also elements of vanilla. The palate is sweet, almost syrupy, with toffee, banana and heathery floral notes. The finish contains more vanilla, spice and Werthers-esque caramel.

The Glen Moray 12 Year Old is never likely to rack up a high score at any whisky awards shows. But in my opinion there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is simply a straightforward and inoffensive whisky that punches above its weight against the larger players.

★★

Starward Single Malt

Reviewed by: Nick

Starward

Regular readers of this blog would be forgiven for thinking that all of Australia’s world class whisky is produced in my home state of Tasmania. While I’ll still claim that most of it is, I will readily admit that some stellar drams are being produced on that tiny island up north, which some refer to as the Australian mainland.

One of the most exciting up-and-coming distilleries in the New World of whisky making is the appropriately named ‘New World Whisky Distillery’, which has been releasing whisky since 2013 under the name Starward. And there is a lot to like about it.

For a start, there’s the location. New World is based in Melbourne, the cultural hub of the country (sorry Sydney), and with a bar onsite at the distillery the city has gained a wonderful venue to sample spirits straight from the metaphorical horse’s mouth.

Secondly, there is the label. Starward is an alluring name for a whisky and the gold constellations streaking across a black background capture this image perfectly.

Thirdly there is the price. Australian whisky has the reputation for a remarkably full-bodied flavour, although at an equally remarkable full-bodied price. Starward bucks this trend, providing a local drop that will not break the bank (although perhaps dent the wallet a bit).

Finally, and unquestionably most importantly, there is the flavour. On the nose it is lively: this is a young whisky, but it is far from immature. There are notes of oranges, chardonnay and toffee. No doubting the country of this whisky’s origin.

On the palate there are certainly notes of the raisiny flavours emparted by sherry barrel maturation, although technically speaking, the barrels contained Apera: sherry made in Australia not Spain. Sweetness spreads across the tongue and the orange returns, this time with chocolate, giving a jaffa-like taste. I also picked up elements of glacé cherries and raspberry shortcake. As you do.

The finish is short, but not disappointingly so. There are hints of oak to be found as well as spicy, peppery elements. It is certainly pleasing enough to encourage a second sip!

While the Starward is not the most subtle or nuanced whisky you are ever likely to come across, it is undoubtedly really pleasant to drink. The distillery itself sums it up best with its claim: “Just like the country in which it is made, Starward is youthful, rich and bright”.

It is also just across the water. Whisky Waffle may have to pay it a visit sometime…

★★★

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Jim Beam

When Jacob Beam first distilled some corn along the banks of Dicks River in Kentucky circa 1795, he probably cranked out some pretty rough and ready stuff. Well, it seems that over the years not much has changed. Jim Beam has its origins as a small family business plying their trade in the newly formed state of Kentucky, but since then the family has grown just a tad. In 2014 Jim Beam was involved in a shotgun wedding which resulted in it picking up the double-barrel name (geddit?) Beam-Suntory. And all this multi-national success only came at the low, low price of its soul. Well, it seemed like a good deal at the time.

Not that the brand was particularly struggling it must be said, as Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of the most recognisable and consumed spirits on the face of the planet. Most often you can observe it in its natural environment being mixed with coke, or being shotted by teens trying to be tough (and then regretting it later).

The boys from Whisky Waffle are even tougher than that. They sipped it. Neat.

Ted and Beam

On the nose the Beam is surprisingly smooth. And sweet… you could be forgiven for the thinking that it’s a liqueur. Honey, pear and confectionery notes of red frog and fairy floss (“cotton candy” in Beam’s motherland) slide across the ol’ olfactory bulbs. Overall it’s not too bad actually.

But then like a Disneyland water-slide, things go down the tubes. On the palate the analogy is rather appropriate as the Beam is about as watery as the pool at the bottom of the aforementioned slide. It also tastes like quite a few people have been swimming in it before you. The quality is thin, with a hint of sour white grapes coated in a film of dish liquid. Once you’ve emerged from the murky waters, your mouth is left with the not altogether pleasant taste of ethanol, cheap Sav Blanc and tourists in Mickey Mouse swimmers.

In fact, drinking bog standard Beam is a lot like a trip to Disneyland in general. It’s exciting at the start, but at the end of the day you are left feeling hot, weary, annoyed, and like your personal space has been violated by hordes of Japanese tourists (Suntory joke). Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is not a whiskey we would turn to regularly, but then again we’re not really doing it right. Coke anyone?

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.

 

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!

Hellyers Road Blind Tasting Challenge

Posted by: Nick and Ted

The Whisky Waffle boys are known to enjoy a glass of their local drop from time to time, although usually they know precisely what they are drinking! Hellyers Road create a range of different expressions that all have their own unique personalities that emerge from the overall Hellyers Road character. Nick and Ted are fairly confident at telling the drops apart when the bottles are sitting in front of them, but how well would they fare if this pretty big hint was removed?

Welcome to the Whisky Waffle Hellyers Road Blind Tasting Challenge (WWHRBTC)!

In the red corner: Nick ‘The Nose’ Turner and Ted ‘The Tongue’ Matthews, whisky critics of questionable renown.

In the blue corner:

– Hellyers Road Original

– Hellyers Road 10yo

– Hellyers Road 12yo

– Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

– Hellyers Road Lightly Peated

– Hellyers Road Peated

The six drams were presented to us in a random order by the lovely Brea, numbered 1-6.

Hellyers Rd BTC Nick whisky waffle

Lets get ready to RUMBLE!!!

Round 1 – Colour

A quick eyeball revealed that while all were the expected amber colour (no greens or blues here), #1 and #5 were clearly darker than the others, while #4 was exceptionally light. Could #4 have the chardonnay tinted hue of the Original? Could the darkness of #1 or #5 suggest months spent in a Tamar Valley Pinot Noir barrel?

Round 2 – Smell

A prolonged nose indicated that while all smelled like whisky (no sneaky tea here), #3 packed a peaty punch. #1 and #2 both had classier bouquets, possibly hinting at more time spent in oak, whereas #4 had a rawer edge to it. Our suspicions narrowed. Hold on… was that a faint whiff of peat from #6?

Round 3 – Taste

Mmmmmm… whisky. A good start. Our peat detectors were turned up to ‘high’ for #6, and we were confident that we had a match, but they overloaded when we tasted the roar of smoke in #3. We decided that we had comfortably narrowed down the Lightly Peated and the Peated. #4 matched our previous assessment, with light herbal notes and something of a rough edge. We agreed that we had found the Original.

Here’s where the debate started. #1 and #2 were both exceptionally good, but each had their individual strengths and points of interest, causing much to-ing and fro-ing and scribbling outs. Eventually we made the decision that the full bodied character of #1 indicated the 10yo, whereas the the noticeable smoothness of #2 suggested the 12yo. The odd one out in flavour was #5, which seemed fitting for the drop that had the most unusual ageing process.

The verdict:

  1. 10yo
  2. 12yo
  3. Peated
  4. Original
  5. Pinot Noir Finish
  6. Lightly Peated

We invited Brea back to announce the results, and waited with bated breath as she revealed the true order. We were told straight away that we were correct with the Lightly Peated and the Peated, as with the Original and the Pinot Noir Finish. That just left the 10yo and the 12yo. Could we make it a clean sweep, validating hours spent waffling?

Nope.

Ahhhhh… so close, thwarted by a mere two years! We had stumbled at the last hurdle by mixing up the 10yo and the 12yo. In fairness to us, they were the hardest two to distinguish between. Our valiant attempt ended honourable defeat. So near, yet so far. Just wait though, in another three years they’ll bring out the 15yo!

If anyone finds themselves in Burnie and fancies a crack at beating our score, you can purchase the range of drams for an exceptional price. Just make sure you’re not driving. Let us know how you fare!

Lark Double Sherry Cask Limited Release

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Lark Double Sherry Cask Limited release

We make no bones about the fact that we are ardent lovers of Lark. We will go to our graves swearing blind that our superlative wafflings are not just a bunch of old guff (in fact, many top whisky critics agree with our views). For those willing to make the journey, proof of Lark’s greatness can be found at their cellar door.

If you are one of the lucky acolytes to enter Larks lair, you will be met with a sherry monster of epic proportions. The Lark Sherry Double Cask Limited Release is matured for most of its life in a first-fill barrel, and then transferred for the last six months into another first-fill barrel. Apparently the transfer process causes high amounts of evaporation, helping to intensify the flavours.

Our first impressions of this whisky were huge. This is, without a doubt, one of the biggest, boldest noses we have ever come across; something that makes the entire cast of Asterix look like Tintin. This is Pinocchio if he embarked on a career as a lawyer. As soon as the glass enters the vicinity of your nostrils you are enveloped by a huge, warm blanket woven from raisins, figs, chocolate, golden syrup, honey and oak.

The first sip instantly hits you with a warm lively glow. Thanks to the 59.2% alcohol the mouth rapidly dries, leaving a satisfying bitterness across the back of the palate. This is a complex and challenging dram to be sure. Each sip reveals more layers of flavours, both subtle and bold.

Sadly for those with no immediate plans or means to travel to Tasmania, the Sherry Double Cask Limited Relase is only available at the Lark cellar door. For those who are within reach (hooray!), make sure you have a taste before the very finite number of bottles evaporate like the angels share (or before the Whisky Waffle boys drink it all!) Sitting at Lark’s bar, sipping double sherry matured whisky can only be described as pure ‘Larksherry’!

(Cheers to Dave at Lark for coining that one after mishearing a comment)

★★★★

Overeem Sherry Cask Matured

Barrel Number: OHD-067

Reviewed by: Ted

Overeem Sherry Cask whisky waffle

Norway. Not the first place you might guess for providing the spiritual origins of a whisky hand-crafted in southern Tasmania. Yet it was in the home of the Vikings that inspiration first struck the hero of this tale. Casey Overeem was introduced to the art of distilling in the early 1980’s while visiting relatives in Norway who happened to have a still in their cellar. Impressed by what he saw, Casey was driven to experiment back in Tasmania over the following years, culminating in the founding of Old Hobart Distillery in 2005.

Casey’s main partner in crime at Old Hobart Distillery is his daughter Jane, who has become a well-known face in the Tasmanian whisky scene and an inspirational figure for women in a largely male dominated industry. Together with their crew they fuse fine Tasmanian ingredients together with their passion for the art to create the eponymous Overeem whisky.

Old Hobart Distillery cuts down its barrels (in this case French oak sherry barrels) to create quarter casks, which allows their spirit to develop far more character over a short timeframe. Once the distillers are satisfied with the level of maturation (min. four years) single barrels are selected for bottling, meaning that each release is unique.

The Overeem Sherry Cask sampled for this review comes from barrel OHD-067. The view in the beautifully shaped bottle is pleasing, with the 43% spirit glowing a bright syrupy ginger in colour. The nose is rich and relatively intense, oozing with delicious sun dried raisins, vanilla, mixed peel and candied ginger. The tastebuds are engaged by a sensation of mulled wine, like hot oranges and shiraz, followed by a faint tang of bitterness and burnt sugar. The spirit is dry and very smooth, and the flavours are level and constant throughout the experience.

The Overeem Sherry Cask is a triumph of the exciting new whiskies making their way out of Tasmania, one that is well worth jumping into your longship and questing across the windswept oceans to find. Come to think of it, Casey Overeem’s own journeys in Norway seem to have added a certain something to his dram, as it is no great stretch to imagine mighty Viking warriors feasting in their long halls and supping on rich, warming Overeem to keep away the chill of a cold northern winter. Skål!

★★★