Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Nikka - From The Barrel

Well yesterday I tried something old and today I'm going to try something new...  Nikka is a Japanese distillery that produces some very high quality whiskies. I haven't heard anything negative about the "From The Barrel" expression. At 51.4%, this cask strength whisky will likely pack quite a punch. For this reason I have it already poured and am allowing it to breath. I also have a bit of water to try with it as I have heard that that can have a positive effect.

I have paired this whisky with Jethro Tull's "Songs From The Wood". Aside from the fact that I find this to be one of the Tull's most under-rated albums, I figured it made sense to pair a whisky that is "from the barrel" with songs that are "from the wood". I don't think that I need to go into any sort of introduction for who Jethro Tull are. If you aren't sure have a listen to "Stand Up" or "Aqualung" and be spoiled by the rock and roll brilliance. I have heard the bands sound referred to as "Art Rock". Ian Anderson is known for his flute playing. The flute definitely adds a classical feel to the music. Songs from the wood also incorporates Celtic and renaissance sounds.

And now for the whisky:

Nose: Thick smell of dried fruits and clove, this softens to sweet oranges, I also picked up on some floral notes and something like syrup or maybe molasses.              

Palate: A spiciness is first to speak and then this is followed by notes of toasted almonds, I also detect a fruitiness, something dry maybe raisins or even pear.

Finish: This goes on for ever. Huge and wonderful. Wood, melon and vanilla come to my mind here. This whisky is absolutely flawless.

Now to add some water:

Nose: The fruit freshens up here. Some mint comes out.  Everything seems brighter, newer and fresher. I now get notes of chocolate and cherries.

Palate: Bloody brilliant. Cocoa and coffee dance around with stewed peaches. This is surrounded by a buttery quality that is in the taste and feel.

Finish: The finish is just as long but seems thicker. The wood kicks in to give the butter some company.

Well how nice is that. This is really a welcome addition to my collection and I can't wait to try other expressions from Nikka.

I also enjoyed the album. Really gotta love the eclectic sound and the way the songs have so many parts. A nice compliment to any dram I would say.      

Monday, 6 June 2016

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

It is a sad day when we have to say good by to our friends. Today is one of those days. I have come to the end of my bottle of Dalwhinnie. I couldn't let the occasion pass without at least blogging about it. 

The Dalwhinnie 15 year old is considered one of the classic malts of Scotland, representing the Highland region. It is also called "The Gentle Spirit" and this is written on the bottle. The first time I tried this whisky I was still a teenager. I can remember even then marveling at the complexity and smoothness. The price of this whisky has gone up quite a bit since then and so I am sad to know that it may be some time before I can replace this bottle. 

For musical accompaniment I have chosen The Flaming Lips album "At War With The Mystics". I believe the music is of equal complexity to match the whisky. Also I haven't listened to this album in a long time. 

Getting right into it here:

Nose: Huge peat blast right away with sweet smelling smoke wafting over it. There is also an ozone and mineral like quality that I can only describe as the smell of summer rain in the city. 

Palate: Notes of toasted fresh bread and a floral note seem to take hold first. This then seems to remind me of creamed orange blossom honey spread across the toast. On the fade a slight salinity kicks in.

Finish: Very smooth. I think this may be why it's called "the gentle spirit". The salinity above fades quickly and I am treated to a gentle air of peat and smoke that whispers on my tongue for a long time. 

Absolutely fantastic, I'm not sure if I remember Dalwhinnie normally tasting like this. I think the air in the bottle as given the whisky a chance to oxidize. This was a bitter sweet surprise as I know it will be a while before I taste it again, while at the same time it was quite possibly like being treated to a new whisky. 

The music works surprisingly well. I can't say enough about the Flaming Lips. They can be spacey and trippy while at the same time very complex and beautiful. The sounds are somehow organic and technological.  Generally I have to be in the right mood to listen to them and I am happy to say that this is one of those times.          

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Two Brewers - Yukon Single Malt Whisky - Release #2 - Special Finishes

This March has quite possible been the busiest month of my life. Not that it has necessarily all been bad, just busy... And that's okay. Two things that came up this month that I will talk about are: Yukon Spirits release #2 and my trip to Disneyland.

Yukon Spirits put out it's second release on March 5th. The line up was not as big but for the die hard fans that were there the excitement seemed just as big. This release is their first "Special Finishes" expression. The whiskies were selected from bourbon and virgin oak barrels and then "married" in PX (Pedro Ximenez) Sherry casks. My understanding is that the peated release will be released some time this summer, and I am very excited for that.

For my sons 4th birthday we went to Disneyland. One of the major attractions or themes at this time is Star Wars. We even had my son enrolled in Jedi training. I was so proud of my young Padawan that I swear I got teary eyed. Especially when he got up and took down the Seventh Sister,

In celebration of these two March events I decided to pair this new release with the ageless music of Star Wars.

N: An initial sharpness quickly gives way to a sweet buttery creaminess. There are also notes of prunes, mince meat and honey. Beautiful.

P: At first I got a good wave of wood which was surmounted by the sweetness of stone fruit. There is also a fairly substantial spicy peppery attack.
F: The generous finish is led by the spice note this then almost gives way to lingering notes of  a slightly bitter wood.

Right off the bat I'll say that I prefer the first release.There is just something about the finish that doesn't quite work for me. That being said I found the nose on this whisky to be a thing of beauty and for seven years of age it is more complex and intense than many whiskies over twelve years old. I found that the music worked well here as it was able to sit in the background and every now and then would fill me with the nostalgia.      

Monday, 29 February 2016

Glen Breton Ice 17 Year Old

Today is a great day to taste another Canadian Single Malt whisky. This one is from the Glenora distillery, Canada's first single malt distillery. This whisky also claims another notable first:

"The world's first single malt whisky aged in ice wine barrels."

The distillery is located on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island and the ice wine barrels are from the Jost winery which is also in Nova Scotia. My understanding is that this whisky is rather rare as it was only available in 250 ml. bottles. Which makes it all the sweeter of a gift from my parents. Thanks mum and dad.

In the spirit of trying to pair the whisky with local music I opted for Sloan's second album "Twice Removed". My initial instinct was to play some maritime Celtic music but I was sad to see that my collection is lacking in that area. It's okay though "Twice Removed" is a great album and Sloan is one of the greatest bands to come out of Canada.

Nose: initially I get grape (influenced from the barrels?) there is a sharpness and a lot of malty tones. I also detect a soapy character.

Palate: Really hot, this is a cask strength whisky after all (54.6%). I also get lots of malt, cinnamon and some grape. There is then a bitterness that takes over that is hard to ignore.

Finish: The bitterness wrestles with the malt tones and then becomes soapy.

As this is a cask strength I am going to add a splash of water to see if that improves things.

Nose: now I get butter right away. There is also caramel and some floral tones.

Palate: Much mellower, I am finding a lot of complexity to the whisky now. The malt and cinnamon has now become a sweet fresh baked buttery cinnamon roll, grape notes surface timidly and never take center stage. The bitter soapy notes are still present (unfortunately) but much more subdued. The positives almost succeed at hiding them in the background.

Finish: As should be expected the finish is much smoother and cleaner. The bitterness that was present briefly on the palate did not show up here.

What an incredible difference adding a splash of water can make. I am usually against it as I think the whisky should be able to speak for itself in a pure, unadulterated form and also because it is hard to recreate the measurements.

I am not sure if I would recommend this whisky. I can see a certain amount of positives but i found that bitter soapy note to be really disappointing. Once I added the water it was a much more enjoyable product, so much so that I poured another dram, but still...

As for the pairing I actually enjoyed it. I haven't listened to Sloan in years. The music is rocking without being distracting. It allowed me to really use all of my senses without ever feeling overwhelmed by any aspect.          

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Whisky

Sometimes even things we enjoy doing can feel like a chore. At that point you can force yourself to keep doing it or you can back off and see if the spark comes back. That seems to have been my situation. Blogging started to create internal pressure and I backed off. Recently though something new came out that I had been impatiently awaiting for over 7 years. Perhaps it will be but a spark or a full re-ignition. Only time will tell. All the same I am extremely excited for this tasting.

Yukon Brewing has been producing finely crafted beers since 1997 and in 2009 they added a still to their operations. They released several unique spirits but I don't think I am alone among Yukoner's who had their hearts set in eager anticipation for the day when a whisky would be released. Well the day finally came. On this past Saturday (February 13, 2016) the Yukon Brewing Company released their first batch of Single Malt Whisky.

The company made the release very special. I felt like I was a part of something big. I waited in line for almost an hour to get one of the 850 listed bottles and I am certain others waited even longer. I then returned later to the celebration event. At the event bag pipes played, there was cake and of course there were samples. These came from a cask that they tapped into in front of everyone. Even our Premier got up to issue a congratulations and to pull the ticket for a draw. The prize was bottle number 500, which I didn't win.  

Now this being a Yukon whisky it only makes sense that I would pair it with Yukon music. So I have opted to listen to The Undertaking Daddies' - Post Atomic Hillbilly. It is one of my all time favourite bluegrass albums and I think a must have for any fan of the genre. The story telling is captivating with tight and virtuous instrumentation.

I feel like I should be saying so much more but really eager to get this tasting on:

Nose: Tart juicy citrus at first. I then imagine a cantaloupe served with vanilla bean ice cream and clover honey.  

Palate: The mouth feel  is creamy. My impression is creamed clover honey spread over dark well done toast.  I detect a sherry influence and the faintest note of mint on the fade.

Finish: A long finish that hints at mint and citrus zest.

I am really impressed by this release and can't wait for further releases. The music of course paired well. Country and bluegrass tends to lend itself really well to the tastes of whisky and I think this one was particularly well matched because of their shared geography. If only I always had an option to find music that was from the same town as the beverage.  

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bourbon and BBQ

This Saturday was what I can only describe as a beautiful day. The sun was shining, Hull City got a much needed win and I attended my first whisky event. As the sun presents itself more the last traces of snow disappear from the ground and it becomes easier to enjoy the great outdoors. Hull City facing a difficult relegation battle beat Crystal Palace and if they can maintain that form they may avoid the drop. As I announced last post I would be attending my first whisky event, a bourbon and BBQ.

The event presented 17 whiskies (16 bourbons and 1 Tennessee whisky). It also showcased the barbecue sauce of several local eateries. David Michiels of Willow Park in Calgary was on hand to answer any questions that participants had. Of the 17 bottles on offer I tried 9 of the bourbons, as I was already well acquainted with the other selections. Here are the tasting notes for my favourites:

Michter's Small Batch:

This was the first sample I tried and overwhelmingly my favourite. I bought a bottle before I had even finished the sample. It was that good.

Nose: Floral, citrus, menthol, honey, pine and cotton candy.
Palate: Cherry, tobacco, maple and pepper.
Finish: Smooth and long.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old:

Nose: Pine, wintergreen, ozone, wood and blood orange
Palate: cinnamon (not hot), nuts, molasses,
Finish: a slightly bitter edge smooths out and this becomes quite pleasant and very long.

Buck 8 Year Old:

I found this one to be unique and so the tasting notes are equally so.

Nose: How I would imagine the Gingerbread mans saddle would smell after a mad dash through a cedar forest.
Palate: A marshmallow that has been skewered on a cedar stick roasted over a cedar fire, then served on a tortilla with a touch of hot tamale sauce.
Finish: smooth, long and tasty.

Blanton's Special Green Label:

Nose: Honey comb, wood, vanilla, baking spices, orange rind
Palate: Full mouth feel delivers notes of peaches, charred wood, coal, chillies and red licorice.
Finish: Smooth long and wonderful.

Although the tasting in itself was a wonderful opportunity to try some new products, one of the most exciting things for me was the announcement that this was the first in a series of tastings. I have long looked at tasting events that are occurring in other parts of the country and dreamt of being able to travel to them. Now I realize I don't have to go far at all, and I like that.  


Monday, 13 April 2015

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky

In my last post I had stated that April is Bourbon month and alluded to some sort of reveal. So it was not some sort of ruse (clever or otherwise) nor empty words that I forgot. I just didn't want to state something without confirmation of its existence. I had heard rumour that a whisky festival of sorts was set to take place here in Whitehorse. The festival was announced later last week, although not in any massive way. What I know is that the event is to take place on April 25 and is to be specific to bourbon whisky. Actually the event is a bourbon and barbecue tasting event. It is likely not going to be as big as: Spirit of Toronto, Whisky live, the Victoria whisky festival or any of the other big ones that take place all over the world. After all, we are only a town of about 23,000. It is however going to be very exciting for me and several other locals. Besides the fact that there will be several new products available at the local store, this is set to be my first whisky show. I have been to several wine and beer festivals, but never a whisky event. Hence April is bourbon month.

To celebrate this news I will taste the Buffalo Trace - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, and pair it with Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gold and Platinum.

Buffalo Trace is well known for their experimental whiskies, and have won many awards. They produce several whiskies under various brands, including the Blanton's that I tasted in my last post. According to the label Buffalo Trace is one of the oldest distilleries in North America.

I have been a big fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd since my early teens. They are a great combination of country, blues and good old rock and roll. Southern Rock at it's finest. They were also a fairly large band. In their peak they had at least seven members, including three guitarists. This gave them a very full sound. I am hoping this full sound will compliment the whisky well.

Nose: bright, sweet and tart honeyed orange on first pass. Then there is red licorice and an oily nuttiness aroma as well as some creamy vanilla. Every whiff brings new characteristics. I start to get chocolate and cherries.

Palate:  There is a smoky quality to this whisky. Notes of vanilla and clove grow while that oily nut character reveals itself as well.I even get the slightest hint of mint.

Finish: Although fairly long and quite smooth going down it leaves a brief fire on the tongue after the fist sip. This cools off on subsequent tastes. Flavours that remain are the licorice and that nuttiness.  

Overall a really decent bourbon. I look forward to trying more of this distillery's products. With this particular bourbon I find that it can pack a punch if the sip is too big, and this works well with the music. When the softer, slower songs play the sips are smaller. The harder rocking songs allowed for bigger sips. This was added fun for "Free bird" as the song starts out slower and then gets rocking.