Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Toronto Distillery Company - Organic Ontario Wheat Spirit

Today was a big day of firsts for me. I tried my first "un-aged" whisky and took part in my first "Twitter Tasting".
The music for this post is a live jazz album by "The Quintet". The Quintet was a super group comprising of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach. If you don’t know who they are you likely aren’t a big fan of jazz. The performance took place on May 15, 1953 at Massey Hall in Toronto. It was apparently the only time this group recorded together. The recording is well known among jazz fans.
Through twitter I was invited to take part in a cross Canada whisky tasting by Johanne McInnis better known in the whisky blogger world as Whisky Lassie (whiskylassie.blogspot.com). It is a big honour when a whisky blogger of this caliber invites you to take part in something, and so without hesitation I said yes. An event like this is an opportunity to exponentially increase my growth and education in the whisky world.
The tasting works like this: A distillery provides samples to the participants and as the name implies people tweet their tasting notes. This is done together in real time. The distillery also takes part and is available to answer questions. For this tasting the distillery was the Toronto Distillery Company. The whisky is an un-aged whisky. The distiller took organic wheat from a farm north of Toronto and created this distillate. For more information view their web site. (http://torontodistillery.ca/).
I had originally become anxious that I wouldn’t be able to participate in this posting as I had not received my sample going into the day of the tasting. Blessings were smiling upon me and the sample arrived just in time for the event.  The tasting began a little chaotically. With close to 40 participants and only the second tasting in this group there was a lot of excitement and eagerness to share notes, which many of us began to do before the host could introduce the distillery. It probably didn’t help that I am so new to Twitter. I must admit that I became a little overwhelmed trying to conduct a tasting and keep on top of all of the tweets.  Once it settled down and everyone got on the same page I could see that with a little practice this would become much easier and even fun. I did note that my notes were not totally out of line with the masses, and I found that comforting. Honestly if I had gotten smoke and licorice and someone else had gotten banana cream pie and passion fruit I wouldn’t have been bothered. It’s just that in this situation this became evidence that we were all tasting the same whisky, sharing the same experience. The kilometers between us shrank.
Having said that let us get to the tasting notes.
Nose: I got fresh baked bread right off the hop with lemon zest. I also detected a “yeasty” character.
Palate: There was grapefruit and a soapy or floral tone here. The fresh baked bread lingered. As I continued to taste a buttery creaminess became apparent joined by a fruity sweetness. There was also some salt in the mix.
Finish: Short and clean. There was a slight spicy tingle.  

Overall I found this product to be a pleasant surprise. When I first saw it I thought it would be similar to vodka or gin. It is unlike anything I have tried before.  It is not what I would think of when I think whisky, nor what I would reach for when I’m in the mood for one. However, it is still a quality product and the craftsmanship is noticeable. I would love to see what a few years in a bourbon cask would do to this. I also think that this spirit would make a fine martini. I look forward to seeing what other grains would taste like. Being un-aged this spirit really above all gives a voice to the grain. Peat drying, wood aging and cask finishes add lovely characteristics, but this gives a real understanding of the whisky. This is whisky in the raw. Tasting and comparing wheat, barley, corn and other grains in this format will allow me to really understand appreciate whisky in a more complete way.    
Before signing off I would like to extend a sincere thank you to the Toronto Distillery Company and Johanne McInnis for their generosity and hard work. I know the distillery was hoping for honest feedback about their product and I hope that they received that.     

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mackinlays Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky

I am very excited for this weeks post. Last year my wife gave me a bottle of MacKinlay's Rare Old Highland Whisky (AKA Shackleton's Whisky) for our fourth anniversary. I have been waiting for a special occasion to try it.  This week I finally received my degree in the mail and I can't help but feel special about that. So special in fact that I am also playing the Grateful Dead for this tasting.

In 2007 the curators of Ernest Shackleton's Cabin in the Antarctic found several bottles of whisky stashed under the floor boards. These bottles would have been left there in 1907. Some of the bottles were returned to Whyte and McKay the owners of Mackinlay's. They then painstakingly recreated the whisky in those bottles. In essence this whisky should taste as whisky would have 100 years ago. In order to replicate the whisky single malt whiskies of various ages were used. This allowed Whyte and McKay to release the product quicker, and it also makes this my first vatted or blended Malt Whisky. The presentation (shown below) is quite nice. It comes in a wooden case with straw. A spare cork in a burlap sack is also included, as is a booklet detailing the story of the whisky. I would highly recommend that you look up Ernest Shackleton. The story of the whisky is fascinating, but not nearly as incredible as the harrowing details of the expedition.     

For music I threw on The Barton Hall show from 1977.05.08. This show is really the one that got me  hooked on The Grateful Dead. The band is on fire, the set lists are full of hits and the jams (especially the Scarlet>Fire) showcase the bands groovier side... This was '77 after all.

and now for the sipping...

Nose: prickly. honeyed perfume and a wisp of smoke.

Palate: leather smoke and creosote. It tastes as I would have imagined the cabin would have smelled while in use over a hundred years ago. I also get notes of pepper and other spices. 

Finish: The finish is long. The smoke is ever present. There is a spicy tingle that gives way to what I can only describe as a crude oil flavour. A whisper of mint arrives right at the end.

Since this is a celebration I'm going to make this a double. This time I am going to use the "Vinturi" aerator. This was part of this years anniversary gift. It is a flute glass looking contraption. You pour your whisky into the top and then place it over a glass and push the button. This tool supposedly enhances the tasting experience. We'll see if that is the case....

Nose: honey sweetness the smoke is also present. The nose is less perfumed, and does not prickle like it did before.

Palate: a sweetness embraces the spices. like sweetened cinnamon. The smoke although certainly present is milder and cleaner than the first drink.

Finish: The finish remains long. It maintains that smoke and oil while introducing a bit of perfume. The mint returns as well.

It appears that the aerator did enhance the scents and tastes of the whisky. It did not add or remove anything but did alter their intensity a bit. it also seemed to change the order in which the sensations arrived.

This tasting could not have happened without the help of my wife, Liza. She provided not only the whisky and aerator but most importantly the motivation and support necessary for me to complete my degree. For that I will always be grateful.

Thank you    

Monday, 4 November 2013

Glenfiddich - Cask of Dreams - Canadian Edition

Good evening. Tonight is the night to try out the limited edition Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams - Canadian Edition. Glenfiddich took 20 virgin American Oak casks and "rolled" them across Canada. While doing this tour they had people sign the casks and write their hopes and dreams. Whisky that was at least 14 years old was then aged in the signed barrels for three months. Going to the website I was able to read many of the inscriptions on the barrels. Unsurprisingly many people put some variation of "I want to win the lottery."

For Music tonight I'm listening to Zubot and Dawson - Tractor Parts. This Canadian group plays a unique blend of bluegrass, funk and jazz. The album would make a great soundtrack.

Now on to the whisky...

Nose: Initially perfume, then a sweetness develops into vanilla with just a hint of spice to complement.

Palate: The spice kicks in hard at the front releasing to allow the honey and vanilla to shine through. I also get a little mint and the faintest notes of leather.

Finish: Short. The spice tingles. As it settles down a woodiness can be detected.

I enjoyed the nose. I found the spice on the palate to be a bit much. Once it settled down the experience became quite pleasant. The finish was a bit short and one dimensional for me. Still this is an interesting whisky with a cool story.

Have a wonderful night and may all of your dreams come true.