Drop of Whisky

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Tag: whisky

Buchanan’s whisky

The Buchanan’s whisky brand is one of the famous old names of the Scotch whisky industry. It is part of Diageo’s extensive blended whisky range, which totals around 80 different brands, and has a particular stronghold in the South America. Within this, the main markets are Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico and Venezuela. It is also the fastest growing Scotch whisky brand in the USA, as the Hispanic population are introducing it from the established markets.

The brand was established by a man named James Buchanan. He was actually born in Canada but had Scottish parents, who returned to the UK shortly after he was born. Buchanan spent his early working life in the grain business before moving to London as a whisky salesman. He soon noticed that there was room in the market for a new, affordable whisky and set about creating it himself. The Buchanan Blend appeared shortly after and in 1884 he set up James Buchanan & Co.

The blend was a huge success and made him a very rich man, who he also gained a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria to supply his whisky to the Royal Household. The company joined the Distillers Company Limited in 1925, which through time has evolved in to Diageo. Of particular interest is the question of how Buchanan’s whisky became so popular in South America. Apparently, James Buchanan traveled to the region often in order to buy race horses and much as he had done in London, he spotted an untapped market for his product. The rest is history, as they say …

The Buchanan’s whisky range consists of three whiskies, two of which are reviewed below. These are the 12 years old De Luxe, the 18 years old Special Reserve and the 21 years old Red Seal. In total the brand sells around 1.5 million cases per year, which puts it in fourth place on Diageo’s best sellers list behind Johnnie Walker, J&B and Bell’s. The De Luxe is bottled at 43% ABV and costs around £35 in the UK (we are not sure of the relative costs in South America). The Special Reserve and Red Seal are both bottled at 40% ABV and cost around the £70 and £150 mark respectively.

Our tasting notes – 12 years old De Luxe
The colour is a warm golden amber and the nose is mellow, but with plenty of sugary caramel aromas. These are joined by a distinct hit of citrus peel which has elements of lemon, orange and tangerine. There is also a hint of chocolate and peat smoke.

On the palate, there is again plenty of immediate sweetness – think of honey, chocolate and toffee – plus some creamy, soft vanilla and fresh green apple. The orange-like tang is not as prominent but is in the background, along with faint hint of peat smoke. The finish is much drier than expected, although some sweetness lingers with some lovely tobacco-like smoke. This smoke is accentuated with the addition of a few drops of water.

Our tasting notes – 18 years old Special Reserve
This whisky is dark amber in colour and the nose is packed with contrasting aromas. There is plenty of wood spice (especially cinnamon and nutmeg), along with vanilla, honey, dried fruits (think of prunes and raisins) and a hint of blackcurrant and orange zest.

On the palate, the orange zest is much more prominent and is joined by notes of sweet caramel, vanilla, honey and toasted almonds. Further depth and complexity are added by hints of tobacco-like smoke, chocolate and coffee grounds. The finish is soft, sweet and of decent length, with some burnt sugar and wood spice notes coming through later. There is also a hint of orange again, although this is more reminiscent of marmalade now.

What’s the verdict?
Both of these Buchanan’s are lovely, with the 12 years old being the lighter of the two and the 18 years old showing richer and darker notes. Both have good depth and complexity. As with many of Diageo’s blends we had never had the opportunity to try these due to the distribution pattern. Thankfully, we finally got to sample them at a recent event and both were enjoyable. We recommend trying Buchanan’s when you are in any of the countries listed above …

Whisky For Everyone: Have Just Tried … The Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse is the UK’s biggest selling whisky. It is a blend that is made up of single malts from the Glenrothes, Glenturret, Highland Park and Macallan distilleries and some grain whisky. The four distilleries are all owned by the Edrington Group and the success of the blend can be traced back to the 1960s, when whisky sales boomed. In 1980, The Famous Grouse finally overtook Bell’s, its long term rival, to gain first place for UK sales and has never looked back. It has maintained first place ever since although the rivalry means that figures are always close. The Famous Grouse accounts for 15% of all blended whisky sales in the UK, which is its primary market.

The Famous Grouse was created by a company called Matthew Gloag & Son. The company was set up in 1800 by Matthew Gloag in the town of Perth and was originally a wine merchant and importer. They supplied wine to Queen Victoria whenever she stayed at Balmoral Castle, as well as other wealthy clients. In 1860, Matthew’s son William took over and started buying whiskies from various distilleries around Scotland and blending them, as was the trend at the time. The popularity of his blends grew and in 1896, his son (also called Matthew) launched The Grouse, which later became The Famous Grouse. The name was given so as to attract the sporting type of gentleman who frequented the Highlands in the late Victorian era to go shooting, hunting and fishing. The iconic grouse logo was a pencil drawing by Matthew’s daughter and a version of this original drawing is still used on the label today.

The colour is a light amber and the nose is youthful with some caramel, dried fruits (think of raisins or sultanas), woody oaky vanilla and some yeast. There is also plenty of raw spirit, especially at the very beginning, although this fades the longer the whisky is in the glass. Despite the initial spirity quality, the nose is quite light and delicate. On the palate this is slightly richer than the nose suggests with lots of sugary caramel and toffee up front. This is followed by some creamy vanilla, dried fruits (especially raisins), some cereal grains and just a whiff of earthy smoke. Unfortunately, the raw youthful spirit is never far away and it is exposed in a short, crisp finish that offers little else and is therefore slightly disappointing.

The Famous Grouse can get bad press from some whisky afficiandos but it is easy to see why it is so popular and outsells everything else in the UK. It has enough interesting characteristics yet remains uncomplicated and easy drinking. Having never tried it and having only read various contrasting reports, it gave me a pleasant surprise and was certainly better than expected. The Famous Grouse is widely available in nearly all pubs, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets throughout the UK and should cost £13-17 a bottle, which is a decent price for a solid, if unspectacular, whisky.

Whisky For Everyone: Have Just Tried … Lagavulin 30 Years Old

Lagavulin (pronounced lagga-voolin) is a distillery on the western Scottish island of Islay. The majority of distilleries on Islay produce rich, smoky and complex single malt whiskies and Lagavulin is renowned as giving some of the best examples of these. The distillery is located on the south eastern coast of the island. Lagavulin was founded in 1816 by John Johnston and currently has a production capacity of just under three million litres per year. They have unusual pear shaped stills and they believe that a combination of these stills, a slightly lower peating level in their malted barley and one of the longest spirit distillation times in Scotland, give Lagavulin its own unique character and quality.

A ‘classic’ malt
Lagavulin release a very limited core range of three whiskies – a 12 years old cask strength which is released once a year, the regular 16 years old and a ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (a special release that is finished in specially selected Pedro Ximenez sherry casks). The 16 years old forms part of the ‘Classic Malts’ series. Diageo, the current owners, have chosen one distillery from within their portfolio to represent each Scottish production region and highlight whiskies that typify the style of each of these six regions. Lagavulin is the ‘Classic Malt’ representative for Islay. This 30 years old is a very limited edition that is released sporadically, when they have casks that are deemed to be of the suitable quality and age. As a result, bottles are very hard to come by (only 2340 in this release) and are very expensive at £750-850 each. This was last released a couple of years ago, at 52.6% ABV, and is the oldest official release from Lagavulin – we thank Colin Dunn from Diageo for supplying this sample for us to try.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this Lagavulin 30 years old is golden and the nose is expressive and unusual. It feels fresh and vibrant, especially when for its age. There is an initial aroma of ripe tropical fruit (predominantly banana and a hint of pineapple) and this is followed by a soft smokiness (think of tobacco smoke). These two main notes combine with a number of other aromas to give a wonderfully complex nose – these include tar, wood varnish, nuts (imagine toasted almonds), caramel, toffee, vanilla and some floral heather. The palate is rich but again surprisingly fresh and hot with a pepper/chilli-like heat. The smokiness is more evident here and increases with time, changing from the soft tobacco smoke to become more and more peaty. Again, there is an interesting combination of characteristics present – tar, coal, sweet caramel, vanilla, bittersweet wood spice (think of cinnamon and nutmeg), honey, a hint of antiseptic clove and an overly floral perfumed sweetness (imagine parma violet sweets). The finish is long, dry and complex, with the soft peat and tobacco smoke smouldering on and on. There is more tropical fruit sweetness coming through and plenty of spicy alcoholic heat.

What’s the verdict?
This is a multi dimensional whisky. The sweet, ripe tropical fruit notes seem to clash with the more bitter tobacco smoke characteristics through out – it certainly creates an unusual and slightly odd flavour profile that jarred with us a little and they don’t seem to sit together correctly. It also has a good vibrancy for something of its age and the high alcohol level helps with this. The addition of water makes the whisky sweeter, with more of the floral and tropical fruit notes coming out. It also softens the smokiness and makes it very tobacco-like (think of sweet chewing tobacco or snuff). A very interesting dram.

Whisky For Everyone: Have Just Tried … Pittyvaich 12 Years Old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Pittyvaich (pronounced pitty-vek) is a little known and closed distillery that used to be located in the town of Dufftown – the heart of Scotland’s Speyside whisky region. It has one of the most short lived histories of any distillery. Pittyvaich was founded by Arthur Bell & Sons in 1974 to produce whisky for their popular Bell’s range of blends. It later became part of United Distillers (which in turn later became Diageo) and they had numerous other distilleries that did a similar job to Pittyvaich. They decided to close it down and the last whisky flowed from the stills in 1993. Since then, it has been used to distil Gordon’s gin for a short period in the late 1990s and also as a training facility for Diageo employees. The equipment was sold off to Clynelish distillery in 2002 and Pittyvaich was demolished and consigned to history.

Pittyvaich whisky is hard to find, even in specialist whisky retailers, and is becoming harder as time goes by and stocks diminish. Diageo still own most of the remaining casks and release this 12 years old single malt as part of their ‘Flora & Fauna’ range. This range showcases whisky from some of the lesser known distilleries in their portfolio. Pittyvaich is even harder to get from independent bottlers but some are available especially from Douglas Laing & Co and Gordon & MacPhail.

The colour of this 12 years old is a dark amber with a reddish brown tint, indicating a heavy sherry cask influence. The nose confirms this and is rich and sweet with heaps of dried fruit (think of raisins and sultanas), exaggerated malty cereal grains and caramel. It is highly aromatic with an interesting citrus note (imagine candied orange peel or marmalade) and is a touch reminiscent of a Cognac or Armagnac. On the palate there is again an obviously high influence of sherry cask. The rich sweet maltiness from the nose is battling with powerful dried fruit (those raisins, sultanas and candied orange peel again), a sugary sweetness (more like treacle than caramel this time) and woody spices (think of cinnamon bark or nutmeg). Underneath there are some darker, more bitter notes (imagine dark chocolate and espresso coffee). The finish is surprisingly short but intensely spicy (think of cinnamon again) and quite dry and woody. There is also a hit of raw alcohol, which is a bit unpleasant, but this is soothed a little by the other sherry cask characteristics.

Pittyvaich 12 years old is a strange one. It has all the lovely characteristics that you associate and enjoy from a sherry cask but they are too concentrated and exaggerated, which throws the whole whisky out of balance. The whisky is pleasant enough and it is worth trying if you get the chance, so that you can tick off a rare distillery and taste an example of too much sherry cask influence (for my taste anyway). If you can find a bottle, this should cost £55-60.

Whisky For Everyone: February 2019

Family Cask 1979 – The 1979 bottling is one of only three in the entire series that is not matured in a sherry cask (the 1952 and 1984 being the others). This is unusual for Glenfarclas as they are famous for their sherry cask matured whisky. This was matured in a bourbon cask and the colour is golden. The nose is lovely and delicate with toffee and vanilla prominent, with a fruity element coming through (think of oranges). On the palate, the whisky is surprisingly light with some gorgeous vanilla, something nutty (imagine coconuts), a hint of a warm spice (think of ginger and nutmeg) and that citrus fruit (reminding me of orange peel or marmalade). Even more vanilla came with a drop of water. The finish is long and creamy with the toffee in particular coming through. A very good and balanced whisky that offers a chance to try a lighter, bourbon matured Glenfarclas. This will cost approx. £200 for one of the 225 bottles.

Family Cask 1959 – One of the oldest bottlings in the collection, this will cost you around £650 for one of the 194 bottles. This has the more traditional Glenfarclas sherry cask maturation and after almost 50 years in the cask the colour is a very dark brown. On the nose, this blows you away with its richness. There is lots of the dried fruits (imagine raisins and cranberries) that you associate with sherry cask maturation, but there is also something spicy (a bit like cloves, I think). The overall feeling is that of an intense, rich Christmas cake! The palate is even richer with all of the elements from the nose being joined by something darker and slightly bitter (think of an espresso coffee and dark chocolate), some creamy vanilla and burnt sugar. This is very complex and feels thick in your mouth. With water, it demonstrates the creaminess more and takes the edge off the bitter qualities. The finish goes on for ever as everything combines for one last hit. An exceptional (but pricy!) dram that is not for the faint hearted or those who don’t like too much sherry cask influence.

Whisky For Everyone: Have Just Tried … Bladnoch 8 Years Old

Bladnoch (pronounced blad-nock) is the most southerly distillery that is currently operating in Scotland. It is located in a remote spot, close to the village of Wigtown, between the towns of Dumfries and Stranraer and is actually further south than parts of northern England, including the city of Newcastle. Bladnoch takes its name from the nearby River Bladnoch, which supplies the water for the whisky production, and was founded in 1817 by two brothers – Thomas and John McClelland. The distillery has had a chequered history and has been closed and re-opened on a number of occasions. There have been various financial reasons for this but most closures have ultimately been attributed to Bladnoch’s location.

A new range of whisky
The most recent closure was in the mid 1990s. The previous owners (United Distillers, who later became part of Diageo) closed Bladnoch in 1993 and the distillery was later purchased by Northern Irishman Raymond Armstrong in 1994. His aim was to help the flagging Lowland whisky industry that at the time only had two distilleries left – Auchentoshan and Glenkinchie – having previous had over 30. However, following various legal battles with Diageo, Armstrong was not allowed to begin production until 2000 and even then the production capacity was capped at 100,000 litres per year (full capacity is around 250,000 litres per year). Initially, old stock from the previous owners was bottled and released, before in 2008 the first single malt produced during Armstrong’s tenure was released. The current range is expanding and includes this eight years old, a lightly peated version and some special editions.

Our tasting notes
This eight years old is bottled at 46% ABV and should cost around £30-35 a bottle. It is available from specialist alcohol retailers or www.bladnoch.co.uk. The colour is a pale yellow, almost straw-like, and the nose is very pleasant, clean and light. There is immediate cereal grain notes and these lead the nose, before allowing other aromas to come through – included in this is plenty of oak, vanilla, a distinct grassy note (think of straw or hay), a hint of citrus zestiness (imagine lemons) and a whiff of alcoholic spirit. With time, the nose sweetens and introduces some honey and increased vanilla notes. The palate has a similar feel, with a good balance and intensity that really gets your saliva going. It is again led by a heavy cereal grain influence with a plenty of vanilla and oak. The distinct grassiness of the nose is slightly more understated and the sweet honey and juicy, acidic citrus zest again coming through with time. Also, some almonds and hazelnut notes are present and these give the palate a creamier and slightly heavier, oilier feel than expected from the lighter, fresher nose. The finish has a decent length, beginning sweetly with honey and vanilla before becoming drier with plenty of woody oak, acidic citrus zest and dried grasses. It feels bittersweet by the time it fades.

What’s the verdict?
This is a decent dram that has a lot of character for a whisky in the lighter style. It would be a great Summer drink or as an aperitif whisky on a warm day. This Bladnoch eight years old may be a little light for some or a bit too grainy and grassy for a beginner but is clearly well balanced, well made and well matured. If you haven’t tried Bladnoch whisky before then this one is a good introduction to the distillery and well worth a try.

Gifts For Whisky Drinkers

Speaking as a whisky drinker myself, I know that it’s not exactly difficult to choose a gift for one. A nice bottle of single malt will always be gratefully received. However, if you’re not sure just what type of whisky your gift recipient might enjoy, or if you just want something that’s a little different – and a little more permanent – you still have plenty of options. Here are just a few suggestions:

A Whisky Flask

Any whisky lover will be delighted to receive a whisky flask – also known as a “hip flask” – as a gift. These are very handy if someone wishes to enjoy a wee nip of whisky whilst they’re out and about. They can also be very decorative.

Don’t worry too much that your gift recipient might already have one. There are so many different styles and materials to choose from that a small collection of hip flasks is a very desirable thing to have.

You also have the option of personalizing your gift by having it engraved should you wish. A quality whisky flask will last for years – and your whisky lover will toast you every time they have a little drink to keep the cold out.

A Whisky Decanter

Whisky decanters make really classy gifts and, just like the hip flasks discussed earlier, they will last for years. You can opt for a decanter on its own, which is a very acceptable gift, or you could choose a decanter and glass set.

Once again, if you wanted to, you could have your gift personalized by having a message engraved on it.

Whisky Glasses

A good whisky glass can really enhance the whisky tasting experience. A nice, cut crystal tumbler, one which is a nice size and weight, always feels good in your hand when you’re sipping a good highland malt.

Special “nosing” glasses – also known as “copitas” and “dock glasses” – are becoming very popular as well. They have a very distinctive tulip shape which channels the aroma of the whisky to the taster’s nose. Some of them come with glass discs which are placed over the mouth of the glass for a few minutes after swirling the whisky about. That traps the fumes and makes it easier for the taster to savour the bouquet.

These glasses were first used by merchants and vintners at the docks to sample wines and spirits before agreeing a price – hence the alternative name of dock glass. They make an unusual gift which is sure to please any whisky lover.

Books About Whisky

Even the most dedicated whisky lover will struggle to sample all of the whiskies available worldwide. There are thousands of different varieties. A nice, well illustrated, book on whisky would be a good choice as a gift. It will let your whisky fan plan his next tipple well in advance.

If All Else Fails

Those are just a few suggestions for you. There are plenty of other options available. And, if all else fails, a bottle of eighteen year old single malt will always go down well.

Whisky For Everyone: Have Just Tried … DYC Spanish Whisky

Have just tried … DYC Spanish whisky

We found this blended whisky on our recent trip to Spain and having never heard of it, thought that we would give it a try. DYC is the abbreviated company name of Destilerias y Crianza del whisky, which opened Spain’s first whisky distillery in 1959. The distillery is located in the town of Palazuelos de Eresma in the Castilla y Leon region to the north west of Madrid and has the capacity to produce a massive 20 million litres of spirit per year. The whisky is marketed to be low budget and is popular in Spain as it is much cheaper than Scottish, Irish or American whiskies. It is designed to be mixed with non alcoholic beverages and be easy drinking in the hot weather. A one litre bottle will cost you between 10-12 euros (about £8-10). This regular DYC release is a blend of malt and grain whiskies that have been matured in crianza red wine casks. So we had to try it!

I got a strange look from the bar woman when we ordered it straight and she almost insisted that we had some cola with it. She then proceeded to pour me the rest of the bottle which must have been the equivalent to a quadruple shot (or a quintuple, if that’s a real word) and this left me wondering what we had let ourselves in for and how popular this stuff really was? How long had she had that bottle sitting there? Had she won a prize from her boss for finishing the bottle off? This cost me only 7 euros! The colour is a very pale gold and the nose is very light with almost nothing there. There is a bit of vanilla and caramel with a whiff of alcohol and petrol (never a good sign, but then we were sitting outside next to a main road!). On the palate, it is again very light with the vanilla notes prominent and also something herbal (think of fresh cut grass) coming through. The finish is short, very sharp and almost acidic. We were both pleasantly surprised that it was actually quite nice! It doesn’t have the complexity of other whiskies that we have tried but was thirst quenching and we could see how it was popular in a hot climate, maybe with ice or a mixer. This is a simple blended whisky with minimal character (we thought there would be more influence from the crianza wine casks, as this is a full bodied red wine that should add more fruitiness) but one that is easy drinking, refreshing and dirt cheap. If you are ever in Spain, it is worth a try.

Once The Mashing Process Is Complete, The Drying Starts

Scotch has undoubtedly been elevated to the top spot of most popular spirit however it is said that if that spirit was not made in Scotland then it has no right baring the name. The land itself lends to this spirit and what is taken s naturally replenished.

Scotch whisky is said to be a nobleman among spirits brought about primarily by what mother earth has to offer. This makes it a popular drink for the naturalist among us. Scotland is so abundant in natural recourses from the moors of peat to the endless flowing fields of barley and wheat which is why it is the perfect place for brewing this tasty drink.

The fine art of distilling has traveled generations; each step of the way gaining knowledge and refinement as distilling and maturing the fine malt gives way to what it is now. There are two kinds of whiskies in production in Scotland today thanks in part to the creation of the still in 1831. One of those is the single grain variety and the other is the blended malt variety.

In the past there was only single malt whisky. Now there is malt whisky made from several grains which are blended to create the final product. This malt is bottled in select quantities which are referred to as single malt. Some of the more famous blends are now blended with whats known as a grain whisky.

Distilleries are in the heart of the country side and use the ingredients of the land. Some grow their own wheat and barley to control what they use in production. Some use reputable farmers to which give great service for a good cause creating some of the finest spirit in the world.

The use of natural springs and rivers is very common practice as well. As a matter of fact the Skye River runs right through the region that holds the title of malt capital of Scotland. Once the mashing process is complete, the drying starts.

There have been bottles of fine scotch coming from Islay in the very south of Scotlands shoreline going for as much as $7,000.00. A very select liquor store in Rhode Island placed this product on the shelves and within 24 hours 20 bottles where snatched up. This is a definite indication of the sheer quality that the company stands buy and promotes with pride.

Mars Iwai Tradition Blended Whisky

Mars Iwai Tradition Blended Whisky 720ml 40% is a Japanese blended Whiskey. The blend comes from both malt and grain, and it is distilled at Japan’s highest distillery, located in a mountain range of Nagano, at 798 meters.The Mars distillery was originally founded in Kagoshima before it moved to Nagano.

This blend is named after Kiichiro Iwai. He is a mentor of Masataka Taketsuru. As a 14 year senior graduated from the same technical school, Iwai brought Taketsuru into the same brewery, then became his mentor in the company. Along with others in management, Iwai sent Taketsuru to Scotland to learn the art of whisky-making. As the first Japanese to learn the art, Taketsuru returned to Japan and presented a whisky-making report- the Taketsuru Notes- to Iwai. Taketsuru later went on to found Nikka Whisky, and then created Suntory Whisky. Years after that Iwai founded Mars Shinshu distillery with Taketsuru’s notes. As the mentor of The Father of Japanese Whisky, Iwai is referred to by some as The Silent Pioneer of Japanese Whisky.

Colour: Dark caramel

Nose: Very strong scent of grape. Very similar to Brandy or Tawny port.

Taste: Very high in viscosity. You can tell its richness that comes from its oily characteristic when you chew it in your mouth. It is very sweet indeed. Again, initially one can find strong similarities in it with grape-based spirits. However, things can become quite different upon second tasting.

Finish: Upon finish, the aroma that comes back to the nostrils resoundingly similar to Bourbon whiskey. Then on that second tasting, the taste of Bourbon overtakes the initial fruity characteristic of Iwai.

Verdict: The blend is very easy to go down. It is very fruity, and has many layers to its taste. While it is very pleasant I am just not sure if I can say I enjoy a whisky that turns into grape-based spirit like Brandy or Port when it enters my mouth. It is just too unwhisky for me.

A Beginner’s Guide To Whisky – Part 3 – Canadian And Japanese Whisky

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A Beginner’s Guide to Whisky – Part 3 – Canadian and Japanese Whisky
Updated on July 31, 2016 Nesbyte moreContact Author Canada
A light, sweet style of whisky, Canadian Whisky (no “e”) is easy to drink even in the warmer months. As a result, Canadian whisky blends well with mixers. One notable aspect of this whisky is its remarkable consistency. In Canada, whisky bottled a decade ago should taste the same as the whisky bottled today.

Canadian law tend to be somewhat lax in terms of labelling, at least when compared to its American neighbour to the south. Apart from having to be distilled in Canada with cereal grains (though it’s typically rye) and aged for a minimum of 3 years.

Canadian law also permits a number of names; Canadian whisky may be called Canadian Whisky (funnily enough), Canadian Rye Whisky, or Rye Whisky.

Although Canadian whisky has lost popularity with American drinkers over the years, it still sells volumes at home and across the globe.

Grain: Malted Rye, Corn

Age: Min. 3 Years

Styles: Single Malt, Blend

Japan
Who can forget Bob Harris (Bill Murray) struggling through his photo shoot in Lost in Translation? “For relaxing times…make it Suntory time”.

The Japanese whisky industry couldn’t have asked for better advertising. The Japanese have been producing their own style of whisky since the late 19th century, and it’s only recently that their whisky has achieved global recognition. It’s about time too; the Japanese love whisky.

Japanese whiskies are largely comparable to the Scottish style – possibly as this is the nation’s favourite whisky. They are produced throughout the country as both single malts and as blended varieties. Flavours range from salty and peaty to oily and fruity depending on the particular distiller.

Grain: Barley, Wheat

Age: N/A

Styles: Single Malt, Blended

What next?
I hope you enjoyed those less well known whisky producers. If you did, you may be interested in the other articles that make up this guide:

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SpiritsA Guide to Tasting and Drinking Scotch Whisky
by dommcg5

Whisky For Everyone: De-Ciphering The Glenlivet Code

The Glenlivet, the famous Speyside distillery, have announced a new limited edition single malt for this Summer but it is one with more than the usual hint of intrigue. The Glenlivet Cipher has been released with virtually no information attached, except the legally required alcohol strength of 48% ABV.

No tasting notes, no details of cask types or maturation (other than it is a unique combination never used for The Glenlivet before), no age statement and no indication of colour or style due to the striking black opaque bottle. The bottle and packaging give clues of flavour and aroma but little else.

The Glenlivet distillery has always been innovative since it was founded in 1824 by George Smith. It was the first distillery in the Speyside region to be granted a distilling license under the new Parliamentary Excise Act of 1823 and this approach has led to The Glenlivet becoming the world’s best selling single malt brand when it overtook long-standing leader Glenfiddich in mid-2015.

Now The Glenlivet Cipher continues the brand’s innovation. Like Alpha, Cipher’s predecessor from a couple of years ago, the whisky challenges common perceptions by removing obvious stimuli. This time the mystery and challenge is increased by a user-friendly and interactive digital element.

By visiting cipher.theglenlivet.com you can create your own aroma and flavour profiles for Cipher and also pit your wits against Alan Winchester, the Master Distiller of The Glenlivet. It is plenty of fun and really gets you to analyse the whisky both on the nose and palate. Do not worry as Alan is on hand to assist you with some useful tips.

Once you have chosen your six aroma and flavour characteristics, the results are collated into a graphic cipher and your selections compared to those of Alan to reveal how close you are. You can then share across various social media platforms using #TheGlenlivetCipher and @TheGlenlivet. As you can see above, my score was terrible (48%) so I think Alan’s job as Master Distiller is safe for a while longer …

“I am laying down the ultimate test and am pleased to invite people to join us on a journey of flavour discovery. I will be checking social media throughout the campaign to see who manages to crack the code and unlock the tasting notes of this new enigmatic single malt. So get tasting, share your comments online and stayed tuned.”
Alan Winchester – Master Distiller at The Glenlivet.

The Glenlivet Cipher is available now from selected specialist retailers across 25 world markets including Canada, Taiwan and the UK. The recommended retail price is £85 or $US120. The full details of Cipher will be revealed to The Glenlivet Guardians by Alan Winchester later in the year. In the meantime, why not join in and create your own aroma and flavour profile at cipher.theglenlivet.com?

Mars Iwai Tradition Blended Whisky

Mars Iwai Tradition Blended Whisky 720ml 40% is a Japanese blended Whiskey. The blend comes from both malt and grain, and it is distilled at Japan’s highest distillery, located in a mountain range of Nagano, at 798 meters.The Mars distillery was originally founded in Kagoshima before it moved to Nagano.

This blend is named after Kiichiro Iwai. He is a mentor of Masataka Taketsuru. As a 14 year senior graduated from the same technical school, Iwai brought Taketsuru into the same brewery, then became his mentor in the company. Along with others in management, Iwai sent Taketsuru to Scotland to learn the art of whisky-making. As the first Japanese to learn the art, Taketsuru returned to Japan and presented a whisky-making report- the Taketsuru Notes- to Iwai. Taketsuru later went on to found Nikka Whisky, and then created Suntory Whisky. Years after that Iwai founded Mars Shinshu distillery with Taketsuru’s notes. As the mentor of The Father of Japanese Whisky, Iwai is referred to by some as The Silent Pioneer of Japanese Whisky.

Colour: Dark caramel

Nose: Very strong scent of grape. Very similar to Brandy or Tawny port.

Taste: Very high in viscosity. You can tell its richness that comes from its oily characteristic when you chew it in your mouth. It is very sweet indeed. Again, initially one can find strong similarities in it with grape-based spirits. However, things can become quite different upon second tasting.

Finish: Upon finish, the aroma that comes back to the nostrils resoundingly similar to Bourbon whiskey. Then on that second tasting, the taste of Bourbon overtakes the initial fruity characteristic of Iwai.

Verdict: The blend is very easy to go down. It is very fruity, and has many layers to its taste. While it is very pleasant I am just not sure if I can say I enjoy a whisky that turns into grape-based spirit like Brandy or Port when it enters my mouth. It is just too unwhisky for me.

Single Malt Whisky Specialties

New-comers in malt whisky retail are usually from re-opened distilleries, or working distilleries which never before bottled their whisky as Single Malt. Many famous whisky brands play marketing on high-level and put limited editions on sale. However, new ideas also emerge. Such new ideas in the past decades were the introduction of Cask Strength Malts, Vintage Editions and Wood Finish variants, all of them show the creativity and innovation in the Scotch whisky industry. Cask Strength Malts are whiskies bottled straight from the ageing barrels, so their abv is usually between 43 vol% and 60vol%. These are sometimes not even chill-filtered carefully, so can include much more aroma ingredients. Vintage Editions are bottled mainly by independent bottles (eg. Gordon & MacPhail) and identified by the year of bottling, instead of the period of ageing. The Wood Finish range is an invention by the Glenmorangie distillery, which came out with Port Wood Finish, Sherry Wood Finish and Madeira Wood Finish couple of years ago, followed by Cote D’or Burgundy Wood Finish recently. These are Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch whiskies matured in American oak wood casks for 10 years, then transferred into Port, Sherry, etc. casks for a further period of maturation. The nature and history of the casks greatly influence the flavour and character of the whisky. The Glenmorangie Wood Finish range is an exceptional range of malt whiskies which can be served confidently at any time, but is best served after dinner.

A kereskedelemben ujonnan megjeleno single malt whiskyk vagy nemregiben ujranyitott leparlo uzemek parlatai, vagy olyan leparlok termekei, amelyek eddig meg sosem ertekesitettek whiskyjuket palackozva. A hires whisky markak kihasznaljak a marketing trukkoket es idoszakonkent “limited edition” sorozatokat dobnak piacra. Mindemellett uj, eredeti otletek is napvilagot latnak. Ilyen, a skot whisky iparag kreativitasat es innovativ hozzaallasat jelzo otletek voltak az elmult nehany evtizedben a ‘Cask Strength Malts’, a ‘Vintage Editions’ es a ‘Wood Finish’ variaciok elkeszitese. A ‘Cask Strength Malts’ olyan skot single malt whiskyt takar, amelyet az erleles befejeztevel, vizzel valo higitas nelkul, egyenesen a hordokbol palackoznak, igy ezek alkoholfoka rendszerint 43% es 60% koze esik. Ezen whiskyknel a hutve-szures gyakran nem tokeletes, igy sokkal tobb aroma-anyagot tartalmaznak. Tobbsegeben fuggetlen skot whisky palackozo es forgalmazo cegek (mint pl. a Gordon & MacPhail) keszitik a ‘Vintage Editions’ kategoriaba tartozo evjarat szerint palackozott whiskyket, amelyeknel a leglenyegesebb azonosito nem az erleles idotartama, hanem a palackozas “evjarata”. A ‘Wood Finish’ variaciok a Glenmorangie distillery ujdonsaga, amely tobb evvel ezelott keszitette el a portoi, sherrys, illetve madeira boros hordoban erlelt kulonleges sorozatat, amelyet nemregiben kiegeszitett a Cote D’Or Burgundy boros hordoban erlelt malata whiskyjevel. Ezek valojaban az amerikai bourbon whiskys hordoban 10 evig erlelt Glenmorangie single malt whisky nehany evig kulonleges hordoban (portoi boros, sherrys, stb.) tovabberlelt valtozatai. Am a kulonbozo hordok eltero multja es tulajdonsagai nagyban meghatarozzak a benne erlelt whisky izvilagat es karakteret. A Glenmorangie ‘Wood Finish’ variaciok egy kulonleges sorozata a skot single malt whiskyknek, amelyek batran fogyaszthatok barmikor, am legjobb este egy finom vacsora utan.

Most expensive whisky is fake

A dram from the unopened bottle of “Macallan 1878” sold for the four-figure sum at a Swiss hotel in July – making it the priciest glass of single malt ever flogged. But whisky experts smelled a rat after news of the sale broke and Sandro Bernasconi, of The Waldhaus Hotel in St Moritz, called in investigators to examine the £230,000 bottle. The high-end grog was sent off to be tested by boffins at Oxford University – with shocking results. Carbon dating showed the booze to be a near-worthless blended Scotch dated no earlier than 1970 – a hundred years younger than it was claimed. The label was also riddled with mistakes, while the cork looked too new and the bottle was made of modern glass. The unsuspecting victim of the scam was Chinese tourist Zhang Wei, 36, who has now had his cash refunded. Bernasconi flew to China to apologise and personally pay back the dosh. The hotelier said: “When it comes to selling our customers some of the world’s rarest and oldest whiskies, we felt it was our duty to ensure that our stock is 100 per cent authentic and the real deal. “That’s why we called in the investigators RW101. “The result has been a big shock to the system and we are delighted to have repaid our customer in full as a gesture of goodwill.” The bottle was bought around 25 years ago by Bernasconi’s father when he was manager of the hotel. It is not yet known where the hotel got the bottle from or who was responsible for the fraud. The eye-watering price paid for the seemingly rare vintage caused a stir among experts who questioned its authenticity. The label on the dark-coloured glass bottle said the whisky was distilled in 1878 and matured for 27 years. It claimed to be “guaranteed absolutely pure by Roderick Kemp, proprietor, Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltd”. But experts said the glass used for the bottle was similar to ones made in 2002 and “Kemp” apparently didn’t own Macallan and Talisker at the same time. And there was no trace of a company called “Macallan and Talisker Distilleries Ltd” in the whisky industry records. Bernasconi called in Fife-based Rare Whisky 101 (RW101), one of the world’s leading authorities on rare whisky. Results from Oxford Uni’s Research Laboratory for Archaeology and The History of Art suggested a 95 per cent probability the liquid was made between 1970 and 1972. Other lab tests by Tatlock and Thomson showed the spirit was most likely a blended Scotch made of 60 per cent malt and 40 per cent grain. Ken Grier from Macallan brand owner, Edrington, said: “We take this very seriously. “We praise the work that our partners, RW101, are doing to bring awareness of any fraud to light. “We would urge consumers to buy from reputable sources at all times.”

Balblair Whisky

Balblair is a great distillery which is keeping very busy. It is one of the oldest distilleries still in existence in Scotland, dating back to 1790, though there are records of distilleries on the site as far back as 1749. lt was rebuilt in the 1870s by the owners, the Ross family (four out of the nine Balblair distillery workers still have the surname Ross), and appears to have changed relatively little since then, although it was shut from 1915 to 1947. Inver House aren’t easily persuaded of the merits of change and tend to adhere to traditional methods where they can. Since 1996, the distillery has been owned by Inver House Distillers, who began with a core range called Elements. This was succeeded by a range of vintage malts in a similar style to The Glenrothes bottlings, right down to the bulbous bottle shape.

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In 2008, the company took the dramatic step of not only repackaging its Balblair range, but also changing the whisky branding the malt by distillation year rather than age and boldly repositioning the distillery’s bottles in a more premium category none of the company’s distilleries is a household name, but they are all respected and are building a growing reputation under their newish owners. The typically spicy and fresh dryness of the Northern Highlands is now complemented by a richer fruit sweetness in the new Balblairs and the relatively older expressions are a real and welcome surprise. They are made using water that has flowed from the piney hillsides of Ben Dearg and over dry crumbly peat towards the river Carron and the Dornoch firth. A burn near the distillery feeds Balblair, which is amid fields at Edderton, close to the firth and the sea. The current core range consists of three vintages – 1975 (which replaced the 1978 in 2012), 1989 and 2002 (replacing the 2001 in August 2012). Most of the Balblair releases are from bourbon barrels but the 1975 vintage has been drawn from sherry butts although made of American oak. For the duty free market a new 1996 was released in 2012 and there was also a limited release of 1997 for select markets in autumn 2012. Last, but not least, if you go to the distillery you can bottle your own exclusive Balblair 1992 in the distillery shop – the only place where this will be available. The Balblair 1989 vintage was a Gold Medal winner in the 2007 international Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC) and judged “best in class” and was a big favourite of the crowd at the 2008 Edinburgh Whisky Fringe.

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More info at http://www.balblair.com

What is Peat?

What is Peat? When it comes to whisky, peat is the “terroir”, pretty much like it works for wines. Not only is aroma the bigger part of taste – the drinks and foods that arouse the appetite and the imagination are often fragrant – but these same foods are in fact frequently grilled, barbecued, roasted, toasted, or smoked: the breakfast kippers, bacon, toast, and coffee; the steak sizzling on a Charcoal grill; the chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Continue reading

Bladnoch whisky

Bladnoch started in 1817 and remains today one of Scotland’s last lowland distilleries. It is actually the most southerly distillery in Scotland. The distillery was bought and sold several times over the 20th century, spending long periods lying idle in between. Finally, Guinness UDV (now Diageo) sold it to Raymond Armstrong from Northern Ireland in 1994. The deal brokered was that Bladnoch would never produce whisky again but Diageo relented in 2000 and the distillery is now allowed to produce 250,000 bottles a year. Unlikely as it now seems, Armstrong planned to redevelop the buildings for housing. But the whisky gods were not to be so easily distracted and, after some time, Armstrong began to understand the cultural importance of his new baby and what the distillery meant to the local community. So he determined to start distilling again. Armstrong commenced the resurrection and in December 2000 the first distillation was made. The distillery is equipped with a stainless steel semi-lauter mash tun, six washbacks made of 0regon pine (of which only three are in use) and one pair of stills. Due to the increase in production costs (barley, casks and fuel), the owners took a decision in 2009 to cease production for the time being. According to Armstrong, the intention is to start distilling again during 2012. Of the 11 warehouses on site, Bladnoch uses only one for its own purposes while the others are rented to other distilleries. The latter is also an important contribution to finances of the business. Nearly 50,000 casks from other companies are stored at Bladnoch. The distillery is coming of age, producing its own malts to put alongside older stock bought in by proprietor Raymond Armstrong. In the process, it is also restoring pride in a remote region of the Lowlands, in the deep south-western corner of Scotland. All the signs are encouraging, and there has been a nice mix of malts, some peated, some not, but all distinctive and impressive. Bladnoch is the southernmost working distillery in Scotland. It takes its water from the river Bladnoch, which flows into the Solway Firth, which forms the border with England.

bladnoch whisky

Until four years ago, all official bottling came from the previous owner’s production. These included 13 to 19 year olds but, in spring of 2010, a couple of 20 year olds were also released. In 2008 the first release from stock distilled under the current ownership appeared. Three 6 year old cask strengths were released – a bourbon matured, a sherry matured and one lightly peated from a bourbon barrel. All these have since appeared in older versions with a 70 year old lightly peated and sherry matured, as well as a 17 year old sherry matured being released in spring/summer 2012. The range has mostly been about single casks bottled but the first step to a core range was made in 2011, when Distiller’s Choice with no age statement, bottled at 46%, was launched. This was followed up in 2012 with a Peated Distiller’s Choice. The whisky is recognizable with its pale straw colour. It smells of sweet barley and cereal, fruits and a bit of smoke. The whisky is light in taste but mouth-coating. Loads of vanilla and delicate peat smoke.

More info at http://www.bladnoch.co.uk

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