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The 2017 Waffle Awards

Posted by: Nick and Ted

2017 Waffle Awards

Welcome one and all to the most anticipated award ceremony ever to take place on social media! Nope, it’s not 2017’s Most Carelessly Dressed Celebrities (that’s the second most anticipated) but instead the 2017 Waffle Awards – the prizes given by Australia’s most tongue-in-cheek whisky blog, Whisky Waffle, to the drams that excited them most in the last 12 months.

The rules are simple, all winners must be whiskies consumed by the lads for the first time in 2017 – and they must be able to vaguely remember the experience the following day.

So strap yourselves in for a wild, controversial and extremely subjective ride through our picks of 2017!

1 The Isle of the Drammed Award Whisky Waffle

The Isle of the Drammed Award for the best Tasmanian whisky

As proud Tassie boys, our first award is for the best dram made in our state in 2017. This year, the Isle of the Drammed goes to:

Heartwood @#$%^&*

2017 Waffle Award Heartwood @#$%^&

‘Oh @#$%^&* that is good whisky,’ – You after trying this whisky.

Hailing from Tasmanian independent bottler Heartwood, the curiously named @#$%^&* bears the usual madcap cask-strength touch of its creator Tim Duckett, starting in 2nd fill port casks, then finished in 1st fill sherry casks before being bottled at a juicy 62.5% (which, believe it or not, is on the lighter end for a Heartwood).

Tim claims the name comes from the fact that it caused him a great deal of grief during its creation. The @#$%^&* has proved to be something of a sleeper agent for us actually; we’ve tried it alongside other Heartwoods that seem to have the ol’ razzle-dazzle in spades, but somehow the @#$%^&* keeps calmly stepping out as the favourite. Maybe it’s the special edition dinosaur-themed label artwork drawn by Jon Kudelka.

2 The Tartan Slipper Award Whisky Waffle

The Tartan Slipper Award for the best Scottish whisky

The Scottish stuff is what got us hooked on whisky in the first place and we are continually discovering new exciting drams from the motherland. This year, the Tartan Slipper goes to:

Glendronach 21 Year Old

2017 Waffle Award Glendron 21

Glendronach do sherried whiskies as well as anyone in the world and after trying the 18 Year Old I thought it could not get any better. I was wrong. Hidden away at a corner table at Whisky Live Hobart was this absolute gem of a whisky. It redefined my relationship with sherried whisky. I went back for seconds.

3 The Pocket Pleaser Award Whisky Waffle

The Pocket Pleaser Award the perfect pick for the parched penny pincher

Buying whisky is an expensive business – so value for money always makes us very happy. This award is for the whisky we considered to be the best value in 2017. This year the Pocket Pleaser goes to:

Glen Moray 16 Year Old

2017 Waffle Award Glen Moray

Glen Moray produces great bottles at more-than-acceptable price ranges, but this is possibly the best value of the lot. The 16 Year Old is far smoother and nuanced than the 12 and for seventy dollars (Australian) it is a must have for all whisky fans with bills to pay. Plus it comes in a shortbread tin! Nuff said.

4 The Weirdsky Award Whisky Waffle

The Weirdsky Award for the most WTF whisky

This award is dedicated to the strange and the bizarre. Whisky that we may not consider… good… per say, but a dram that has certainly intrigued us. This year, the Weirdsky Award goes to:

Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve

2017 Waffle Award Floki Sheet Sht

Ok, we realise this technically isn’t whisky as it’s still under 3 years old, but it is so bat(sheep?)-shit crazy that it deserves a mention here. Iceland is a place – you may have heard of it. It has lots of spectacular scenery. It also has lots of sheep. And a whisky distillery. For some reason the distillery, Eimverk, thought it would be a good and reasonable thing to smoke some of their barley using poo from the aforementioned sheep rather than peat, which there is also lots of on Iceland. Smoking things with poo is traditional over there apparently.

I am of the opinion that the Flóki Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve is the drinkable version of a traditional Icelandic delicacy: fermented shark, or Kæstur hákarl, a dish that is surely only used to make unwary tourists cry. The locals are obviously made from tougher stuff than the rest of us. Stick with the standard Flóki release (which is rather good) until, like the best Kæstur hákarl, the Sheep Dung Smoked Reserve has aged for a few more years.

5 The Bill Lark Award Whisky Waffle

The Bill Lark Award for service to Tasmanian whisky

The Tasmanian whisky industry works because it is driven by so many wonderful people. We like to recognise one of these people each year with an award named after the founding father himself. This year, the Bill Lark Award goes to:

Patrick Maguire

2017 Waffle Award Pat Mag

Patrick Maguire is a founding member of the Tasmanian distilling scene. A contemporary and a colleague of the man whom this award is named after, he took the bold step in taking over Tasmania Distillery and cleaning up the slightly tainted name of Sullivans Cove Whisky. Not only did he get it back on track, but he took Tasmanian whisky to a whole new level when his release from French Oak barrel HH525 won best whisky at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. Tasmanian whisky was changed forever and has gone from strength to strength ever since thanks in no small part to the perseverance of one Patrick Maguire.

6 The Golden Dram Whisky Waffle

The Golden Dram for the best dram whisky in the world

Here it is. The big one. The best whisky of 2017. Previous winners have included Highland Park and Octomore but this year… drum roll please… the winner of the Golden Dram, the BEST whisky in the world is…

Belgrove North East Peat Smoked Single Malt

2017 Waffle Awards Belgrove peat

Thinking back across the year to select a worthy drop for The Golden Dram, the Belgrove North East Peat Smoked Single Malt stands out in memory as the one that made me the most effusively loquacious in my attempts to promulgate its meritoriousness. Translation: I was damn excited and wanted everyone to know it. Belgrove is more usually known for its excellent ryes, but the Single Malt is a credit to the versatility of its creator Peter Bignell, a previous winner of the Bill Lark Award. What makes this particular whisky so excellent is the peating; hitherto Tasmanian peat has been sourced from sphagnum bogs in the highlands, which are almost exclusively controlled by Lark.

The peat in this whisky comes from a new source in the North East of the state, dug from a farm owned by Peter’s brother. The first time I took a sip I was sure that I had been accidentally teleported to the West Coast of Scotland! Compared to the softer peat of the Tasmanian highlands, the North East stuff is richer, earthier and more elemental, drawing links with the Scottish coastal and island drams. Sit that over a superbly crafted spirit and I am happy to lay my cards down on the table and declare that I think Peter has a world-beater on his hands. Bloody good stuff.

An honourable mention goes to anything made by Glenfarclas. What a great distillery and still family owned too! In particular the excellent ever reliable 15 Year Old, but also the 40 Year Old, tasted by Nick at the Old and Rare bar at Whisky Live Hobart. It was the best possible conclusion to a fantastic session.

The Founders Reserve Award (AKA the dishonourable mention) goes to White Oak Distillery for proving that just because a whisky is made in Japan, doesn’t mean it’s worth taking on a sumo wrestler to sample.

So that brings us to a close of our 2017 awards. It sounds like the makings of a good tasting! Though maybe give the White Oak a miss.

Let us know your own nominations in the comments! As always, thanks for your support. 2017 has been the biggest year so far for Whisky Waffle! Let’s make 2018 even better!

Whisky Waffle Boys

Keep on waffling.

Nick and Ted

#2017WaffleAwards

Wafflers 4

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Flóki Icelandic Young Malt

Reviewed by: Ted

Floki

By all accounts Iceland is one of the most beautiful and beguiling places on earth, an ethereal land of glacial blue lakes, tumbling grasslands, rocky moonscapes, bubbling hot springs and ridiculously hard to pronounce volcanoes. Basically anywhere you look will create a feeling of awe and wonder at the raw majesty of it all. I myself once met an Inga from Iceland, which certainly left me with feelings of awe and wonder at the landscape…

Ahem… anyway, my Mum was in Iceland recently (lucky sod) so I convinced her to go on a mission for me. You see, apart from making you stumble over yet another lump of stunning wilderness with each step, Iceland also has another point of interest. Two of them in fact, as the island is home to two new whisky distilleries. The Scandiwegians are increasingly becoming known as avid makers (and drinkers) of whisky, with stills operating in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and now, with the opening of Thoran and Flóki, Iceland.

Fortunately, my Mum was able to locate a bottle of Flóki for me in the Iceland duty free. Eimverk Distillery, opened in just 2009, is currently the only Icelandic distillery with whisky available for purchase (Thoran has not yet entered full production at this point). It turns out that the team at Flóki are a crafty little bunch, hand making their own pot still. They also produce their whisky using 100% organic Icelandic-grown barley which, keeping with the craft approach, they malt by hand. Apparently, thanks to the Arctic climate, Icelandic barley is slow growing and low in sugars, meaning that the distillers have to use 50% more barley per bottle (compared more temperate climes I suppose), which they claim gives their product a unique taste.

Fortunately, thanks to my maternal benefactor, I have a bottle on hand to be able to verify said uniquity. The Flóki Young Malt, as its name hints at, is not their flagship release. The reason for this is a question of time rather than choice, as their spirit has not actually been under oak long enough for all systems go, with their Icelandic Single Malt to be unleashed later in 2016. Thankfully to get the ball rolling they released the Young Malt as a limited single barrel Iceland duty free exclusive.

The bottle is awesome (if too small. Curse you limited release!), with a wicked Viking-inspired crest and angular lettering on a textured black label. The liquid contained within is a rich amber-brown that catches your attention straight away. So no worries on the eye, but what does Iceland’s first whisky taste like?

Pretty good for such a young whisky it must be said. The nose is really curious; it’s really, really floral and fruity (pineapple, mandarin, pear) with a slightly salted caramel edge that keeps you sniffing. You know what, if you’ve ever had the chance to try some new-make spirit, then you’ll know what this smells like.

On the mouth the Flóki is sharp, slightly bitter and prickly. It pretty much jumps off its longship and starts jabbing away with its spear, although part of the reason for that is probably the 47% strength. The finish coats the tongue with that raw, grassy, hay-like quality that seems common amongst very young whiskies, followed by a lick of spicy fruitiness.

It’s certainly an interesting experience to try, but you can tell that the Young Malt is only the first step down the road for Flóki. It’s kind of like a teenager whisky, full of all sorts of raw, bubbling emotions and ideas, unsure about its place in life. Given time though it will gain maturity and understand what it really wants to be. Then again, we can’t judge it too harshly as it was never meant to be the be-all and end-all. This is but a glimpse of a whisky that I think will one day stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all the majesty of the Icelandic landscape.

★★

Highland Park Svein

Reviewed by: Nick

Highland Park Svein

Highland Park have one clear advantage when it comes to marketing their whisky: Vikings. Nothing can drum up some interest liked a horned hat on the front of your bottle! Of course, Highland Park can quite rightly look to the Norse raiders when branding their products, as the Orkney Islands where the distillery is located have a proud Viking heritage.

The details of their arrival in the ninth century are told in the Orkneyinga Saga, a historical narrative with more twists and family betrayals than the best soap opera. Among the characters were a series of ‘warriors’ immortalised forever in travel retail by Highland Park.

Svein Asleifsson is the legend behind the entry level of the range – which is perhaps unfair to a man dubbed the ‘Ultimate Viking’. Svein was a charismatic chieftain known for his generous and hospitable nature, and the folk at Highland Park have attempted to create a whisky that mirrors these traits. While I cannot claim this to be exactly the case (it doesn’t pour generous nips of itself into your glass!) it is certainly a very drinkable drop.

While there’s definitely some smoke in there, there’s less on the nose than you’d expect from a Highland Park dram. Instead there are ripe oranges, red apples and plenty of malt. The palate is lightly spicy, with oak, strawberries and… burnt toast? The finish is creamy, malty and slightly bitter. All up, it is a light whisky, threatening to be inconsequential but with just enough to enjoy.

Highland Park have created an interesting series here. While Svein doesn’t stand up when compared to the wonderful 12 Year Old expression, it certainly gives you a greater picture of the flavours captured by the Orcadian Distillery. Sadly I have not got to sample any of the other warriors to broaden my mind!

★★

Highland Park 12 Year Old

Reviewed by: NickHighland Park 12

Single malts. They’re a varied lot. Some people like peat monsters. Some like sherry bombs. Others enjoy their whisky light and floral. Others still prefer their drams sweet with hints of vanilla. Pleasing everyone with one drop, however, is a much harder task. Unless, of course, you happen to have a bottle of the Highland Park 12 Year Old on your shelf. This bottle truly is the great all rounder of Scottish whisky.

Highland Park also has the distinction of being Scotland’s northernmost distillery, located on the largest of the Orkney Islands, pipping its neighbour Scapa by under a mile. As the island group was settled long ago by Vikings, it should come as no surprise that the flavours on offer are a veritable smorgasbord.

Up first comes a nose with many varied elements: a whiff of grapes and malty biscuits. There is chocolate, so dark it is mostly cocoa, mingling with notes of pear and bubblegum. Finally is the smoke: far subtler than anything from Islay. It brings to mind smouldering vegetation, an attempt to create a fire from damp leaves on a drizzly day.

The palate is equally varied. It initially suggests a roast meal: beef, parsnips, even gravy, before giving way to mandarin, brown sugar and chocolate milk. The smoke lingers gently, now mostly burnt out and close to charcoal. Finally this all gives way to a long spicy finish with salt, tobacco and mint combining with flashes of caramel.

The Highland Park 12 Year Old is unlikely to be anyone’s number one whisky. It is not weighted in a particular direction to please one group of whisky fans over another. Instead, it sits squarely in the middle, a dram to be enjoyed by everyone no matter their preferences. This is a whisky that brings people together, and if that is not a glowing endorsement, I don’t know what is!

★★★