whisky bible

Thus Spake Jim Murray – 2018: A Whisky Bible

Posted by: Ted

Zarathustra2

Daaah…. daaah…. daaah………. DA DAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! bom bom bom bom bom bom…

Sunlight oozed slowly across the darkling plain and up the face of the towering monolith. It’s surface was like the purest of amber and there was a strange feeling of energy surrounding it. A group of primitive whisky writers, bloggers and critics lounged and tousled nearby, random, semi-intelligible cries like ‘bold coastal flavours’, ‘herbal undertones’ and ‘it has notes of sour plums’ punctuating the air.

One of the bloggers suddenly whipped his head up and stared intently at the monolith, before hesitantly creeping towards it. His companions quietened, the fibres of their tweed vests glinting in the sunlight as they watched their brother’s progress. The blogger halted nervously at the base of the monolith and carefully stretched up his hand toward the surface.

As soon as the blogger’s fingers brushed the unnaturally smooth amber surface, images poured into his mind, burning like distilled fire. Strange bulbous glassware… odd metal cylinders plunging into barrels to feed off their liquid hearts… infinitely high stacks of experimental casks with cryptic names like ‘gaja barolo’, ‘tokay’ and ‘sauternes’… fractal distillers endlessly chanting ‘Phenol quercus lacotone alba aldehyde robur’… towering columns of smoke that reeked of the sea… a tumultuous barrage other images too hard to describe, let alone understand.

Finally the terrible visage of a golden-eyed god appeared, his corona of white hair crowned by a panama hat. The god spoke, terrible, thunderous tones lancing into the mind of the blogger:

“Behold, these three releases shall be the best whiskies on earth in 2018:

1.Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon

Winner2. Redbreast 21 Year Old

Second winner3. Glen Grant 18 Year Old

Third winner

This is the decree of Jim Murray, heed it and remember.”

Suddenly the raging tempest of images assaulting the blogger stopped, like the fabric of the universe had been sundered by a knife. As he withdrew his hand he felt a sudden feeling of purpose, a clarity of mind that pierced to the very centre of his spirit. He swung around and stalked with intent towards the biggest critic in the group, who was pontificating forcefully that ‘while other styles have certain merits, it is the sheer complexity derived from its long and rich history that elevates Scotch above all other forms.’

Daaah…. daaah…. daaahhh…. Ba BAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!! bom bom bom bom bom bom…

With a wild cry of ‘Bourbon is the new king!’, the blogger struck the critic a terrible blow and smote him to the ground, while the other wordsmiths hammered on their keyboards, hooting and gibbering in excitement. The blogger stood panting for a moment, then turned and strode away from the great amber monolith, his companions trailing behind their new leader, a sudden sweet, rich, punchy sensation pervading their minds.

Finally, the only thing left in the dying light was the monolith, the mysterious energy surrounding it holding a sensation of waiting, of expectation and anticipation, like somehow it knew that one day this would all happen again…

Fin

(To find out Jim Murray’s other decrees for his 2018 Whisky Bible, head over to The Whisky Exchange blog)

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Rye Reaps Rewards: Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2017

Posted by: Ted

jim-murray

It’s that time of year again folks. Everybody’s favourite golden eyed whisky critic (though to be honest, it’s probably just jaundice from cirrhosis after a lifetime of chugging drams) has sottedly rolled out of his all-expenses-paid cabin in the Kentucky backwoods like a panama-wearing bear and declaimed to the expectant masses his predilections for 2017. It’s like Groundhog Day if Punxsutawney Phil was a bottle of whisky and Bill Murray’s disaffected, grouchy journalist was instead played by another disaffected, grouchy journalistict Murray (oooo… I went there)!

Love him or loath him, Jim Murray’s yearly decreement of the world’s best drams in his ‘Whisky Bible’ never fails to set the whisky world aquiver with fawning adulation or frothing indignation. Last year’s selection of the Crown Royal Harvest Rye as top dog fell well into the latter camp, unleashing a raging wave of aggrieved whisky wankery around the globe. You still couldn’t find a bottle for love nor money five seconds later though…

So, what brilliant, laudable/despicable, corrupt choice has Mr Murray made this time then? Well, let’s just say that the Yanks will be (more?) insufferable (at least those in Kentucky. Tennesseeans will probably be unimpressed).

This year the big tinfoil crown goes to the Booker’s Rye 13yo 68.1% with a score of 97.5/100. Hmm, a rye again… maybe this really is Groundhog Day? Jim apparently described his new favourite as having a ‘brain-draining, mind blowing’ nose with a finish of ‘amazing depth’. Descriptions of trauma to the cranial region are probably not entirely unjustified; we previously reviewed the Booker’s Barrel Aged Bourbon 64.55% and found it delivered a solid punch to the face. To be honest, the extra age on the Rye probably does wonders for the balance, although that will be hard to verify seeing as it will be next to impossible to find by now.

bookers-rye

The Americans also took out third place with the William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot. 2015), however the Scots are probably celebrating the hardest after finally cracking the top three after several years’ drought, with the Glen Grant 18yo taking second place. Glen Grant recently overhauled their range with a new line-up and fresh, colour-coded look (maybe they’ve been getting tips off The Macallan?). It would seem that the ploy has paid off, also earning the 18yo both the Scotch Whisky and Single Malt of the year.

Poor commoners rolling around in their muddy hovels with the pigs will be delighted to know that the 41 Year-and-Over (Single Cask) section was taken out by Gordon & MacPhail’s independently aged Glen Grant 1950 65yo. Maybe time to sell a few of those grubby little brats, peasants.

We can all give a great big disinterested ‘meh’ to the winners of the Blended Scotch NAS (Ballantines Finest), 5-12yo (Johnnie Walker Black 12yo) and 19-25yo (Chivas Royal Salute 21yo) sections. It’s hard to care much really.

Far more exciting is the winner of the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year (most prestigious award of the lot, ammirite!?), Tasmania’s very own Heartwood ‘Any Port in a Storm’ 69.9%. Hooray for Mr Duckett and his obsession with bonkers cask strength releases! Sucks be to you though if you want a bottle, cos they’re already gone. Actually, I saw a picture today of someone who’d taken a bottle with them to Macchu Picchu and cracked it open for a cheeky dram. Probably for the best really…

Want to weep adoringly or fume indignantly at the best of the rest? Find the full list of Jim’s picks here https://blog.thewhiskyexchange.com/2016/10/jim-murrays-whisky-bible-2017-the-winners/

Canada takes the Crown Royal of Whisky: Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2016

Posted by: Ted

After a year of watching the earth from his secret moon base, built from the old Port Ellen spirit stills (and featuring a mash tun jacuzzi), the golden-eyed whisky-reviewing alien that is Jim Murray has returned to earth, and it seems that he comes bearing a message for Scotland. He must think that they’re a pretty rough, uncouth bunch, as not only has he snubbed them in his top five for a second year running, but he has decreed that the best whisky in the world comes from a country universally famed for its politeness… eh?

Golden eyed whisky alien

That’s right, Canadians rejoice, because according to His Murrayship you are now owners of the best whiskey on the face of the planet. The Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye scored a cool 97.5/100 on the Murrayometer, the man himself noting that “Rye, that most eloquent of grains… reaches new heights of beauty and complexity.” The win marks the first time that Canada has taken out the top Whisky Bible gong, and already the internet is aflutter about the merits of the winning horse from Crown Royal, owned by global spirits giant Diageo. Even Jim thinks that the choice will raise eyebrows, but hopes that people will be ‘blown away’ by its ‘uncompromising and unique beauty’ when they taste it. Seeing that a nod from Jim tends to cause any available bottles to evaporate immediately afterwards, sampling the Northern Harvest may be no easy feat.

Canada takes the Crown

Once again North America was well represented in the top five, with Maryland distillery Pikesville taking second place with its Straight Rye, while Kentuckian distillery Buffalo Trace returned for a second year running, moseying into fourth place with the 2014 bourbon from its premium William Larue Weller line. Potentially causing yet more angst in Scotland was the bottle standing in third place on the podium, with Irish distillery Midleton claiming success with its cask strength Dair Ghaelach expression. Like Canada, this is the first time an Irish whiskey has found itself swinging from the top of the Whisky Bible tree and shows that modern palates (or at the very least, Jim’s) continue to extend beyond the traditional stronghold of Scotch.

Last year the Big M gave the top spot to Japan’s Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013, creating ripples in Scotland’s zen, and rocketing the distillery into the limelight. Well, the sun has risen on Japan once again, with Yamazaki’s Mizunara Cask sliding into fifth place. If you want a bottle though, you’ll need to travel to Japan as it is only available on the local market. Whether Whisky Bible hype changes this situation is yet to be seen. Mizunara, the native Japanese oak, has been rising in popularity the last few years, and the Murray effect should help cement its place as a legitimate casking choice.

While absent from the top five, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Scotland, with the (most definitely expensive) Glenfarclas Family Casks 1957 #2110 not only awarded Scotch Whisky of the Year, but also claiming the overall Single Cask Whisky of the Year. Other notables in the Scotch category include Single Malt of the Year Glen Grant 10yo and Scotch Blend of the Year The Last Drop 50yo (seriously, again, who has that kind of money!?). European Whisky of the Year (Multiple) returned to the English Whisky Co. for their Chapter 16 Peated Sherry Cask, while the (Single) category was awarded to the delightfully named Kornog Taouarc’h Chweec’hved 14BC from the ancient Celtic French region of Breton.

Closer to home (at least for me that is) Australia took the Southern Hemisphere Whisky of the Year crown back from the Kiwis, with Tasmania’s very own Heartwood distillery coming through strong with its Good Convict bottling. Strong is certainly the right word when it comes to Heartwood, with mad genius Tim Duckett mixing up an astounding array of cask strength creations in his laboratory. As Heartwood is an independent bottler, all of its releases are limited; once an expression has sold out it is consigned to the pages of history and fond memory. So if you happen to own a bottle of the 71.3% Good Convict, you are one of a lucky few.

The Convict was definitely Good

Of course, you are always welcome to take any Murrayitic pronouncements with a pinch of salt, but for a roundup of the who’s who of whisk(e)y in a given year the Whisky Bible is hard to beat.

A full run down of the winners can be found here.

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!

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…

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

Reviewed by: Nick

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve whisky waffle

Even the most diehard Scotch whisky traditionalists can no longer argue that countries other than Scotland cannot produce top quality single malts. Japan has become one of the leaders in New-World whisky-making and recent awards, such as the number one spot in Jim Murray’s 2015 whisky bible, suggest that the status quo is changing – slightly – but noticeably.

The establishment responsible for the latest-greatest single malt is Yamazaki, Japan’s oldest distillery. Some of their products are undoubtedly spectacular and produce flavours that will stand out in any collection. Others, however, are more content to blend into the background.

The Yamazaki Distillers Reserve features younger spirits matured in ex-red wine casks married with older sherry and Japanese oak (mizunara) casks. The results are pleasant, although certainly not world-beating.

Dark fruits are immediately noticeable on the nose along with some sappier floral notes. There is also a slight dollop of vanilla with subtle hints of wood shavings. It is lively across the palate – spicy and challenging and certainly not smooth. Although far from sweet, it contains notes of stewed apricots and raspberry jam, but these compete for attention with oaky tannins and form an intriguing but overall unbalanced flavour. There is a bitterness to the finish which partially hides the more pleasant fruitier notes and the overall impression is one of ‘so close, but yet so far’.

The Yamazaki Distillers Reserve is far from a bad whisky. It is interesting, challenging and uniquely Japanese. It is, however, far from Yamazaki’s best drop and certainly lacks the balance of flavours found among the distillery’s more accomplished products.

★★