Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old

With Christmas coming up I figure I will present a whisky that was gifted to me. A friend and colleague of mine presented me with a small bottle of Gibson's Finest 12 Year Old last summer. This kind gift was something to keep me company while on a road trip. Very kind indeed and many thanks.

Seeing that this is a Canadian whisky I thought that it would be a great opportunity to also test out my Glencairn - Canadian whisky edition - glass.The Gibson's distillery is located in Windsor, Ontario and so I also couldn't resist pairing this whisky with the music of the psychedelic rock band The Tea Party.

I remember really enjoying the music of The Tea Party in my younger years. "Splendor Solis" was the album I recall the most. The mixture of rock with middle eastern influences was quite captivating for me. What is also exciting is that while I was looking into the band I found out that they recorded their ninth album at a studio (Metalworks Studios) about two blocks from where I lived for a few years in Mississauga, Ontario.

Well lets see if two Windsors can make a match...

Nose: Very light I get notes of peaches, oak, vanilla, pepper and oddly olives.

Palate: Initial notes are sweet and then a spiciness takes over. The spices that come to mind are black pepper, nutmeg and vanilla. Their is also a fair amount of wood.

finish: The wood and spice linger on for a long time leaving behind the fading tingle of the spices.

This whisky is decent enough. It`s not very complex but makes up for this in its approachable nature. The music hits the spot. It brought in a bit of complexity while the eclectic tones worked well with the spices on the palate.        


Thursday, 18 December 2014

How Whisky Brings People Together

This past Sunday was a big day for me in terms of whisky activities. I took part in a twitter tasting and then joined my whisky club for our annual whisky Christmas party, dubbed "The Twelve Drams of Christmas.

Back in the end of November I received an invite to take part in a cross Canada twitter tasting of the Ardbeg Supernova 2014. In all 15 people from across the country were chosen to give their opinions on this whisky which Ardbeg has called it's peatiest. The tasting was hosted by Ardbeg and none other than the wonderful whisky fabric spreading Whisky Lassie.

Ardbeg Supernova 2014

When it came time to begin the tasting I felt much of the familiar feelings of excitement that come with trying a new whisky. This time though the feelings of apprehension, timidity and anxiousness that I experienced on my first couple of twitter tastings were not present. I knew what to expect and now I felt like I was in my element. I was eager to share my thoughts and to learn from some of the knowledgeable participants. One thing I learned was that the peatiest whiskies are often younger and so lighter in colour.  Overall I enjoyed the whisky very much and this was the fourth expression I have tried from the Islay Distillery . As I had tweeted "I have never met an Ardbeg I didn't like." I will say that I still prefer the Corryvrekan but that's a hard whisky to top. Tasting notes for the Supernova are as follows:

Nose: Honey sweetness is followed by pine, coal and wood smoke. Given time notes of spices, particularly cinnamon become pronounced. 

Palate: Mouth feel is smooth and offers good creaminess. My initial impression is like a wave of crystal sugary honey, this leads into a smoky bonfire of pine and spruce. Reminds me of the Yukon.

Finish:  Sweetness lingers beyond the smoke. in the background is a slightly bitter medicinal note.

This whisky really reminded me of making out with the sweetheart by a roaring bonfire. Their is beauty and warmth that can only come from sharing an intimate moment by a fire in the great outdoors.

Now as if that wasn't a great enough highlight of the weekend I was then off to the Whitehorse Fine Malt Society annual Christmas party. This is a low key get together where I feel privileged to hang out with some very warm, interesting and fun individuals. There is also always a fantastic spread at this pot luck style event. At this party we get an opportunity to try the December whisky, and all of the other whiskies that were tasted throughout the year. On top of that we always have a special guest whisky.  Decembers tasting was the Macallan Cask Strength and the special whisky presentation was the Balvenie 30 year old. 

The Twelve Drams of Christmas

The Macallan packed a punch with its 60.1 percent ABV; however, it remained classy and refined as well. I didn't keep a copy of my tasting notes but will say that I recall Christmas cake was a big tasting note and that it was delicious.

The Balvenie 30 year old broke my heart. I had picked this bottle up at a duty free shop in St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands. I was so proud to be presenting it and when I popped the cork off I was devastated to see it break. I had not only been denied that lovely pop sound that happens as the cork slides out but was now faced with the prospect that the whole bottle would be ruined. It was suggested that a corkscrew be used to get the remaining piece of cork out. This only seemed to push the cork in further. I attempted to remove some debris from the rotting cork before another attempt at its removal and then "plop" it fell in. I was so upset. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. Like I had let my whole group down, like I had failed them. In my state I became focused on trying to remove the cork from the bottle. Another attendee then suggested a technique for pushing the cork piece to the side so that we could pour ourselves a drink of this exciting dram. That's when the light went on. In my panic and frustration I had forgotten that we could still drink this whisky and that the world was far from over. Life could still be pretty good. I was surrounded by good people, delicious food and a line up of whisky that would make most connoisseurs green with envy. So sit down and drink the 30 year old Balvenie we did.... And you know what? It was freakin' good.

Nose: Lemon zest, peaches and cherries. Fruity and delicious.

Palate: Cherries, wood, barley, and salted dark chocolate. so smooth in the mouth.

Finish: The wood and barley notes hang on and in the back I detected a slight hint of mint.

This was definitely a quality whisky and I was very happy to have had the opportunity to try it.

The Horror
There were several other whiskies available for tasting and they were good too. I won't go into specifics here as I feel I've already gone on long enough. What I will leave off with is this: For me the attraction to whisky goes beyond the artistry, craftsmanship and science that is involved. I do love the way it triggers my senses with colours, tastes and smells but I find that the the most important quality is how it can bring people together. That is the true beauty of whisky.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Jura Superstition

The island of Jura is located north east of neighbouring Islay. The whiskies produced there although peated tend to be less so than their neighbour. The Superstition expression is described on some of the packaging as being lightly peated. I have had this attractive bottle for some time and I recall when I first tasted it appeared to me to be sweet and malty. Later tastings produced notes with an aspirin like medicine taste that I was not particularly fond of. I have recently been revisiting this bottle and have been enjoying again. I suppose this is evidence that the passage of time really does affect the whisky in the bottle once it is opened.

I have recently been plagued by certain superstitious thoughts and this gave me the inspiration to introduce this whisky. It sometimes seems to me that all of the sports teams I follow tend to lose when I watch them. This is of course nonsense. The Toronto Maple Leafs have always suffered from terrible slumps and Hull City has lost more games when I haven't watched than when I have. All the same every once in a while I find this pervasive superstitious train of thought creep into my mind that the poor results of the teams I cheer for is directly linked in some way to my energy, karma or luck. I know I'm not the only one who thinks this way from time to time, and always find it interesting to hear how people seem to share that level of connection with their teams.      

As for musical accompaniment I instantly found myself considering Stevie Wonder. That seemed a bit too obvious though and so I decided to play some Gospel music. Religions from around the globe describe miraculous events that defy the laws of science, at least as we know or understand it. The music that is based in these tales and cultures is often so beautiful and powerful that it can move even the biggest doubters. The album is BB Kings Swing Low Sweet Chariot. It is a collection of 9 gospel songs performed by BB along with various others. The sound quality of this album is quite poor. This is really unfortunate but it does not entirely destroy the passion in the music. Perhaps a little superstition will fill in the rest?

Nose: The slightest whiff of smoke is hidden behind a layer of sweetened grains. The sweetness seems to remind me of black cherries coated in dark honey. I also detect a note of white pepper.

Palate: The whisky has a nice full mouth feel. A spicy kick like white pepper hits first this is joined by a honey sweetness.

Finish: Rather long the spice hangs on for some time as it fades in a cereal grain direction. Slight notes of smoke can also be detected.

This whisky is rather simple. This simplicity makes it approachable and able to match the music in theory but it lacks the complexity to compliment the passion of the music.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

Quite some time ago I stated that I would post a Chivas tasting. The time has come.The famous Chivas Regal is well known for its smooth and approachable nature. This is a whisky that I have been acquainted with and enjoyed since my later teen years. It has appeared under many a Christmas tree wrapped in shiny paper, never failing to elicit a big grin. For me this is a great go-to or everyday whisky. What it lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in comfort.

In order to match the smoothness I have paired this tasting with the smooth grooves of Portisheads' first album "Dummy". This group from Bristol, England is well known for their Trip Hop sound. The beats and grooves mixed with the beautiful, emotive voice of Beth Gibbons rarely find themselves in situations where they are out of place.

Nose: The honey sweetness of the grains is accompanied by notes of vanilla and a slight minty quality. I also detected an ever so subtle touch of smoke.

Palate: Very smooth. The nose does not lie or hide any surprises.

Finish: Very smooth, not too long and not too short.

It is no wonder that this whisky is so popular. It is incredibly smooth and easy going. As I had said earlier it is not overly complex but it certainly provides comfort and warmth.

The pairing with the music works too. The music provides a fantastic backdrop for the whisky. The brooding emotion of the voice blended with the steady beats never overwhelm yet never completely disappearing.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Master of Malt 50 Year Old Speyside (3rd. Edition)

After eight months and trying numerous new whiskies I have reached the highlight and end of the Advent Sessions. Today I will try the oldest whisky I have ever had the pleasure of trying. This 50 year old whisky is a Master of malt "mystery" distillery release. I have no idea who made this whisky, although I have heard someone suggest that it was Mortlach. It doesn't really matter as I will likely never know the truth and it is exciting all the same. This whisky is much older than I am and so it deserves a lot of respect. I haven't taken to calling it sir, but I will take my time to get to know it.

I also struggled with finding suitable music to pair. I didn't want the music to detract from the whisky, and I at one point was contemplating not having music at all. I wound up deciding on classical music as I felt it would be appropriate. The piece I went with was Beethovens' 9th symphony. I'm not sure which orchestra is playing here. I chose this piece because of the memories it brings to mind. I recall a gentleman speaking about the Glenfiddich 50 year and likening the taste of it to being kissed by an angel. This leads me to think of those moments when you are so taken with a scene you swear you can hear angels singing, for instance walking into a room with a large collection of fine malts. The fourth movement of the 9th symphony always makes me think of angels singing. I recall a time were my wife and I were in a hotel in Chiang Mai watching a movie called "Copying Beethoven". During the movie there is a scene where the 9th is played. When the Choir began singing we both had tears in our eyes. The piece never fails to move me.

Now lets taste this potentially heavenly dram.

Nose: Wood, Creamy vanilla, plum cobbler, some pepper and citrus, and all around is a floral perfume reminiscent of an old church lady. Delightful. Fills the nose with thoughts of a church bake sale. Am I getting close to the angels singing? After letting it sit a while the whisky develops a buttery note adding to the bake sale theme.

Palate: The first thing I am struck by is the mouth feel. WOW. It is silky, velvety and creamy. Sugary sweet wood and vanilla are the first notes I can identify, The wood notes develop a burnt edge after time. This in turn yields notes of raisins and other dried fruits.

Finish: The liquid goes down the throat like water. It is very smooth and leaves behind notes of wood and a slight metallic bit that lasts a long time. Sugary notes are also present and let themselves be known intermittently.

A beautiful whisky for sure. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to try it. I can't really say that I heard angels sing. I am not certain that the age has made a profound difference but I am so happy to have been able to try a whisky that has until this day been something of folklore to me.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition

Today I will be tasting the second last whisky from my advent calendar. That means that the next tasting will be the 50 year old... Very exciting.

Back to today... the guest of honour is the Clynelish 1997 Oloroso Sherry Distillers Edition. This whisky was distilled in 1997 and bottled in 2012, which makes it a 15 year old (or possibly 14 depending on the months). I have only had the pleasure of trying a Clynelish once before and I was very happy with it.

For music I am listening to Pink Floyds' Atom Heart Mother. This is Pink Floyds' fifth studio album. The cover features a simple (albeit beautiful) photo of a cow in pasture. There is no writing on the cover. Sound wise it sounds like a movie soundtrack. It also makes great driving music. Now to see how it pairs with whisky.

Nose: Orchard fruit that is lightly spiced. I also got notes of raisins, charred wood and a hint of an almost candy like aroma. Delicious.

Palate: A mouth watering blast of delicious fruit that is tapered by baking spices and honey. It is like the flavour profile of a home baked strawberry rhubarb pie with cherries and boysenberries. There is also a leathery quality hidden within layers of vanilla and wood.

Finish: The finish is very smooth and long. It is also quite dry. It leaves me with notes of burnt raisins and perhaps some milk chocolate.

I am really happy with this whisky. I found it to be very complex. It also reminded me of fresh baked pie and that has to be worth a bunch of extra points. The music is enjoyable. It seemed to take a back seat to the whisky, content to just linger in the background supportive but not really involved. I think this album is best suited for times were I am able to just focus on it.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bowmore 15 Year Old "Darkest"

Bowmore is one of the more famous of Scotlands’ famous Islay distilleries. According to their website they are the first of the Islay distilleries having been distilling there since 1779, which I suppose kinda makes them the “Godfathers” of Islay whisky. This 15 year old expression was aged in Oloroso sherry casks. This is where it got its colour that I was so excited about. As I’ve said before I have a fondness for the darker liquids and so obviously the name alone was enough to make me swoon. Even though I have seen much darker it is because of the word  "Darkest” in the name of this whisky that I have decided on some dark music.

Black Sabbath is an all-star band which in their hay-day featured four of the most influential musicians in heavy metal history. These include: Ozzy Osbourne who has also been called the "Godfather of Heavy Metal as well as the “Prince of Darkness”, the incredible guitar playing of Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler who is in my opinion the most creative, fulfilling heavy metal bass player of all time, as well as one of my heroes and main influences while growing up and Bill Ward who is probably one of the most under-rated drummers in Rock and Roll history. Their self-titled first album is at once one of the darkest and most interesting I have ever heard. Its sounds inspired generations of rockers and continues to do so to this day. The first track by the same name as the album and band is a dark tale of horror that when I first heard it at the age of 13 sent shivers up my spine and for a long time I was scared to hear it alone. The entire album is dark story telling at its best that seems to segue between almost every track with incredible jamming that is quite unusual for the metal genre. This is dark heavy music for a dark heavy whisky.

Nose: Wine and toffee strike first, a second pass reveals the expected notes of smoke. This smoke has a leathery quality to it that reminds me of smoked moose hide. There is a lot going on here yet it is very smooth on the nose and not overcrowded.

Palate:  the smoothness continues on the palate. There is a creaminess to the mouth feel reminiscent of chocolate melting in the mouth. No surprise the smoke is also distinctive with a dried fruit note like raisins or prunes.

Finish: The smoke lingers on for a long time. There are also notes of burnt sugar and pine or cedar wood.

I must admit that I have tried this whisky before. Looking back on my notes for that try I am happy to say that my experience was quite similar. As for the pairing I am impressed. I was afraid that heavier music would make it harder to focus on the scents and flavours before me, no matter how potent the whisky. In this situation the whisky and the music work well together.  

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Arran 10 Year Old Single Malt

If I had been asked a year ago about The Arran distillery and its whiskies I would have replied that I knew little about them. Over the last year I have been hearing more and more about this distillery. From the long list of unique expressions they offer it would seem that working at this distillery would be a load of fun as they are willing to experiment with a variety of different cask finishes. I am still relatively unfamiliar with this distillery but am becoming better acquainted with them. Arran seems to be every where.

Tonight I will be tasting their basic single malt. It is a 10 year old expression, and it seems to have received from fairly positive reviews. As a musical accompaniment I will be going with the almighty rock gods Led Zeppelin and their release The Song Remains The Same.

The Song Remains the same is a Led Zeppelin movie that follows the band on their tour. The soundtrack features some really long jammed out versions of their most loved music. For any fan of Zeppelin it is a must have in your collection.

Nose: Sweet creamy and fruity. Banana, honeyed vanilla and melon comes to mind. Really nice.

Palate: Green apple and lemon come to mind right away and they are at odds with one another. There is also a bitter edge which further unbalances the dram.

Finish: That bitter taste hangs on for a long time while lemon pipes in every little bit. I guess it could be called bitter lemon?

There are some nice notes to this whisky in there somewhere but that bitter note ruins it. Its too bad because on the nose it was quite pleasant. It is also too bad because I was hoping this whisky would be a great accompaniment to this album. I am going pull this album out again for sure. It deserves a good dram.  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Loch Lomond Single Malt

It is sometimes difficult to choose what music to pair with a particular whisky, or vice-versa. For me it has been based a lot on personal preference, in other words the music that is in my collection. Sometimes a random coincidence that I am able to find that ties the two together such as a historical event will also help. The difficulty comes when I am unfamiliar with the whisky before me. This issue has come up several times over the course of the "Advent Calender Sessions" and may come up again ( I have four samples left). Todays' tasting is one of those days where I know nothing of the whisky or its distillery; however, I am in the mood for a particular album. So rather than try to find some random way to match music with  this whisky I'm going to embark on a new approach, I'm going to listen to what I want while I drink the whisky before me.

What I do know (according to Wikipedia) of the Loch Lomond distillery is that it is in the Highland region and that the whisky is portrayed in Tintin comic books. I also read (in the Herald Scotland) that it was sold in early march for millions. Based on this information I think it is safe to say the mystery remains.

For musical accompaniment I am listening to "Them Crooked Vultures". This is what is often referred to as a "Super Group". This is because the members of the band are from other huge bands. The band consists of: John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin), Dave Grohl ( Nirvana & The Foo Fighters) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age). These legends of rock came together in 2009. I have had their self titled album for several years but have never really found the time to listen to it in it's entirety. I am half way through the album now and I can say that it is fantastic. The music seems to be a blend of alternative rock and blues with some psychedelic tones. The influence of all the members can be heard and appreciated.

So with all of that said it is time to see how this unknown (by me) dram holds up to this music.

Nose: light, smooth a bit creamy with buttery notes and a something like wet wood in a forest.

Palate: Butter and spices come to mind. On the tail end there is something minty.

Finish: long and woody. The wood in this case is more like carpentry wood rather than the damp forest floor wood that I found on the nose. I also find a bit of fresh grass and some black pepper to be present.

Over all a not bad dram. It is nothing fantastic and I wouldn't go out of my way to find a bottle, but nor would I go out of my way to avoid it. I would actually say that there is something unique and interesting about this whisky. If you have the chance give it a try. At its' reported price, you have nothing to lose. As for the musical pairing I think it works The mouth feel really seems to blend well with the music, particularly during track 10.      

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Speyburn Bradan Orach

Tonights' pairing features a whisky I have never heard of and a band I haven't heard (at least not live) in a long time. They do however have the simplest of connection. They are named after sea life. - I was going to say seafood but then realised that not everyone likes to eat fish.

The whisky is from the Speyburn distillery. It is the Bradan Orach expression. Bradan Orach is the Gaelic word for the Golden Salmon. The golden salmon is apparently a delicious species of salmon. I find it hard to believe that it would be better than Chinook, if it is then I am missing out.  This is a No Age Statement (NAS) single malt whisky aged in bourbon casks. I did a little research on this and found out that Speyburn is apparently the most photographed distillery in Scotland. It is apparently a very picturesque distillery in a beautiful location. I also read many reviews that ran the gamut from awesome to use it to clean your sinks. I did note a consistently large number of reviewers that said that this whisky is good value.

The music tonight (if you haven't guessed yet) is Phish. A friend of mine recently sent me a set list from the current tour. It was an impressive set list and I was reminded that I have not listened to any of Phishs' new stuff yet. I was not able to find a recording of that show so I decided to play yesterdays (14.07.25) show from the PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, North Carolina. Not only is it the latest I could have hoped to hear it also started off with a Mike's Song> Back on the Train> Weekapaug Groove. Believe me, if you know what I am talking about then you are impressed.

Now that we are well into the Weekapaug jam lets begin the tasting.

Nose: The typical bread and sweet citrus notes of a younger whisky speak first. This youthfulness is almost contradicted by a dustiness. I am also able to smell notes of grape and a bit of bourbon.

Taste: Wood and vanilla are loudest on the palate. I also detected hints of cocoa and coffee. On the fade their is a taste that reminds me of a gin and tonic with a twist of lime. This last part is subtle and is probably an indication of the youth of this whisky.

Finish. The finish is very smooth. All that seems to be left is a dry woody edge and this sticks around for a long time.

Overall I must say I'm not sure what some of the nay sayers are talking about. Is this a great whisky? absolutely not. but for the reported price it isn't bad either. If you're dropping 30 dollars on a bottle of single malt and expecting to taste a master piece like an HP 18 or something then you need to give your head a shake. This whisky is great value for that price range and if more complexity is desired than the purse strings will need to be loosened a bit more.

As for the pairing this show is quite enjoyable. In my opinion it hit a rough patch at Wing Suit but has been solid other wise. It has worked well with the dram as well because the complexity of the music and the ease of drinking of the whisky don't overshadow each other. One thing I am starting to understand is more complex whiskies seem to benefit from slower softer music such as some jazz, blues and classical; whereas louder or more complex music seems to work better with the simpler whisky.

Progress being made on this experiment? I think so.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Deanston 19 Year Old Single Cask - Master of Malt

Todays dram features an exclusive Master of Malt (MoM) offering from the Deanston distillery. According to MoM there were only 260 bottles from the cask. In my mind that makes this a fairly rare and very exciting whisky.

As an accompaniment I have opted to listen to the haunting sounds of Johnny Cashs' American IV. This is Mr Cashs' 87th and final album, and it is a masterpiece. I say this even though the bulk of the songs are covers. The emotion in his deep voice runs shivers down my spine, particularly during the opening two songs: "When The Man Comes Around" and Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt".

As I am eager to introduce this dram to my senses I am going to get right to it.

Nose: There is a freshness to this whisky. The notes that come to mind are grapes and milk chocolate which then hints at brandied cherries and fades to a minty tone. very pleasant.

Palate: This one surprised me with the heat. It was so sweet and tender on the nose that I forgot the 53.4% alcohol. I will try again... now I get cayenne, creamy milk chocolate and some salt. There is also a brief note of a berry sweetness.

Finish: I get crème caramel with leather and a baked dessert that reminds me of bread pudding.

This dram was a pleasure. It is strong and complex. These characteristics work well with the strength of Johnny Cash. The complexity of the whisky compliments the depth of emotion and narrative that Cash expresses so well        

Monday, 23 June 2014

Green Spot - Single Pot Still

Tonights' pairing is the Green Spot - Single Pot Still with the music of local music sensations Fishead Stew. I am hoping that the upbeat bluegrass, old time feel of the 'Stew hits the Spot. (Groan)

The Green Spot is an Irish whisky and so from now on I shall refer to it as "whiskey". It is (as the title suggests) a Single Pot Still, which is a term used to describe an Irish distillation process of mixing malted and unmalted barley mash then distilling using a pot still. My whisky clubs March tasting featured this whisky and if I recall I did enjoy it. This will represent my official tasting.

Fishead Stew is a well loved Yukon band. I would say the simplest way to describe their style is bluegrass meets klezmer. The tempo and rhythm of this band makes for some great dancing. They recently recorded a live album and I am looking forward to its release.

Nose: soft and warm, notes of peppermint patties, lavender and raisins tease the senses. I also detect banana and orange rind.

Palate: The first thing that comes to mind here is honey, chocolate milk and a hint of ginger. I also get a biscuit taste like shortbread.

Finish: The finish is clean and not overly long. The ginger and shortbread hang on a bit and there is the most fleeting note of melon.

I would rate a decent whisky. I think overall I don't prefer most Irish whiskey. They tend to be  a bit soft for me. This one is a bit more complex than many I have tried, yet it maintains that ultra soft characteristic.

As for the pairing it actually does work in a way. The music is often a bit fast which I have found to sometimes be a detriment to being able to fully take in all of what the dram is trying to say. The fun factor of the music along with its pace give the feel of drinking music. This leads to a great pairing as the Irish are very fond of drinking music and that's what I am doing here (in a non-session way).

I like many are caught up in World Cup fever, so I raise this glass to the Irish National team that didn't qualify. I also hope that my Piratiko (Greece) are able to win tomorrows match against the Ivory Coast and make it to the next round (at least).

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Isle of Skye 8 Year Old (Ian Macleod)

     This is the 47th anniversary of the Monterey International Pop Festival. I would imagine that when people think of this festival the first acts that generally come to mind are: The Grateful Dead, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. For me the first act that comes to mind is Ravi Shankar.

     Mr. Shankar was introduced to America at this festival, and no music in my mind really characterises the Hippie movement more accurately than Indian classical. Not only does this music make a great accompaniment to the psychedelic experience, it also exemplifies the ideas of change, global growth and multiculturalism that was growing rapidly in the late 60s. From my stand point it is also extremely complex music.... and it needs to be as it makes a fantastic pairing for some of the most delicious and complex cuisine in the world. I wonder if it would make a great pairing for a whisky. In order to find out I will pair a whisky with Ravi Shankars Monterey performance.

     The whisky that is being paired is the Isle of Skye 8 Year Old from Ian Macleod. This awarded blended whisky has also won praise from Mr. Jim Murray. He called it a "superstar whisky". Probably the coolest thing about it is that a portion of the revenues from this whisky are donated to the Scottish Mountain Rescue. This volunteer organisation safeguards the many outdoor enthusiasts that enjoy the rugged mountainous regions of Scotland. Talk about a social responsibility campaign that looks outside the box. I haven't even tasted it and already I can agree with the superstar title.

As I pour this dram I am eager to see/hear how whisky pairs with Ravis' fine ragas.  

Nose: a sharp fruit greets me first with a smokiness about it. I also detected marshmallow, white pepper and just the faintest hint of peach.

Palate: the first wave is a smoke of the smoothest kind. Second wave brings notes of chocolate and nuts that remind me of a crispy crunch (candy bar). I also detected notes of vanilla and pear.

Finish: Very long, smooth and warming. I receive hints of vanilla, flowers and a bit of the smoke.

     I would have to say that overall this is a decent blend. It has a lot going on for it. I am a big fan of the pairing as well. I find the smokiness of the whisky with its sweet floral notes allows my mind to drift away on the sitar to an incense filled temple in India. Specifically I am reminded of the Mata temple in Amritsar.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bruichladdich Laddie Classic Edition 1

Today marks the 46th anniversary of the release of the Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street. This album appears on many "all time greatest" lists. I would certainly place it somewhere in my top 100. For some reason this album really works as a whole and it is a pleasure to listen to. The tracks are blues, gospel and country influenced rock. There is a certain groove about it that makes me want to move. Not surprisingly the band members did not mark it as one of there finest works; sometimes it is our greatest achievements that we criticise the most. The album was number one on the UK charts upon its release and again upon its re-release in 2010. This is apparently the only time an album has hit #1 in both its original release and its re-release.

As I enjoy this classic of the rock and roll world I will pair it with another classic (at least by name). The Bruichladdich Laddie Classic Edition #1. This whisky has no age statement and was aged in american oak and bourbon barrels. The distillery website compares the characteristics of this expression to Kate Moss and Audrey Hepburn. I must admit that sounds pretty appealing. Lets see if my senses can make the same comparison.

The colour is stunning like golden honey.

Nose: Orange, vanilla and bourbon greet at first then I am reminded of the sweetness of bubblegum or club soda. Very sweet smelling stuff.  

Palate: molasses, orange and cotton candy splash across the palate followed by a slight peppery (jalepeno) prickling.

Finish: The finish is long and dry, a nod to the bourbon barrels used reveals itself towards the end.

A wonderful dram; though I don't know about comparing it to the likes of Kate Moss, Audrey Hepburn or any woman for that matter. I also didn't chose a great music pairing. I found the whisky to be fairly complex, with many subtle scents and flavours that I was unable to pick out and define due to the fullness of the music. This complexity may have benefited from a more subtle music, perhaps some classical music to accompany the "classic laddie".

Monday, 2 June 2014

Johnnie Walker Black Label (12 Year Old)

Opening todays' offering from the usual supply my first reaction was "Really?". Johnny Walker Black isn't exactly the rare or interesting selection I was expecting from this calendar. My second reaction was far more reasonable and open minded. Johnnie Walker Black has a reputation as a great blended whisky. I myself have tried it on numerous occasions and to be honest it is one of my favourite blends. It is incredibly well balanced stuff. I would definitely say that it is hands down my favourite in the JW line.

A couple of weeks ago I received a tweet with suggestions to help me find that perfect marriage of whisky and music. I am flattered to have received the idea and excited to be able to take the advice. The suggestion came from @ankitsethi. He suggested JW Black with "EDM". I had to look up what "EDM" meant... It means Electronic Dance Music. This was a bit of a challenge for me as I don't listen to a lot of electronica. This meant I had to improvise. I chose Medeski, Martin and Woods - Combustication Remix EP. This album is a mix of trance, jazz and funk. Pretty out there stuff.

On that note I will get to the tasting and send a thank you and cheers out to Mr. Sethi.

Nose: Maple, apple and smoke come to mind initially, I then detected an almost minty tone. upon further inhalations I discovered hints of toffee and just a slight bit of coffee.

Palate: In the mouth it is so smooth and warming. Flavours of malteasers are apparent. To break that down it would be like chocolate, toffee and bread. In this case the bread is dark.

Finish: Long and so smooth. The flavours almost cling to your tongue. Apples and grasses are tastes that are brought to mind.

 A wonderful blend. It is no wonder this is so popular. As for the musical pairing I think it worked quite well. I believe a better match would have been some classic Jazz like Dizzy Gillespie; however, I really appreciate the suggestion and hope you don't mind my "slight" tweaking of it.  

Monday, 26 May 2014

The Glen Parker Single Malt

     Let us a raise a glass in Birthday cheer to Miles Davis. He was born on this day in 1926, and in his 65 years on this earth he influenced generations of musicians leaving us with some of the worlds greatest music ever created. There is no better way to salute an artist I would say than to toast them with the a dram I have never heard of while listening to their least successful (in terms of sales) album.

     "On The Corner" was released in 1972. It was apparently raked over the coals by critics and commercially a flop. In recent years it has gained greater acceptance. According to Wikipedia It is now touted as a precursor  "of post punk, hip hop, drum and bass, and electronic music". The article goes on further to say that Davis claims to have created the album to reconnect with his young black audience who were now more interested in rock and funk music than jazz. I find the album to be very rock and funk tinged, which is what makes it so interesting. Fusion at its best.

     The dram today is the Glen Parker Single Malt. The critics from what I have read were not kind to this one either. Perhaps in time it will be recognized for its style, proven to be ahead of its time like Mr. Davis. Being the open minded person that I am as well as committed to my advent calendar I will reserve all criticism giving it every bit of respect one would have for any stranger.

Nose:   Right away I am struck by how new this smells. Like bread dough. There is also a honey sweetness and some floral notes. The feel on the nose is soft and creamy with no hint of burn or sharpness. So far so good.

Palate: Very muted and understated. At first I was unsure what was going on. After several seconds the whisky revealed notes of oak followed by huge honey. This whisky may be like the wall flower that just takes a bit to open up.

Finish: The finish is very clean and the honey lingers on.

It just goes to show that you can't believe everything you read, and that critics are not always right. Is this dram of the year? NO; however, for the price (under $50.00) you can't go wrong.      

Monday, 19 May 2014

Dalmore 15 Year Old

Todays' tasting falls on Victoria Day. This holiday is synonymous with cottages and summer fun for us Canadians. The tradition started in the nineteenth century to celebrate Queen Victorias' birthday. I have many fond memories of this long weekend. When I lived in Ontario as a young man it was called May 2-4(two four). This was due to the date generally falling over that weekend and most importantly because a case of beer in Ontario is called a 2-4. Interestingly when I think of this holiday I remember fireworks, cottages, fishing and beer; yet, when I think about Queen Victoria I can't help but think of creepy hospital equipment and baby strollers from that era. The stuff of nightmares I tell you... Right up there with clowns.

To toast the birthday of our long departed sovereign I shall be raising a dram of the Dalmore 15 year old. This 15 year old expression from the popular Speysider seems as though it needs no introduction even though I have never had a Dalmore.

As musical accompaniment I have opted for the Bands Greatest hits. One of the greatest bands of all time not just in Canada but in the world, they were a big cottage country favourite for me and my friends. Just listening brings waves of memories to mind. Memories of young love, young wonder and of course stupidity. Ahh memories.  

Without further ado let the fireworks begin. Of note is the beautiful colour.

Nose: Dates and toffee with a hint of ginger. Then a wave of juicy orange.

Palate: Coffee and chocolate orange there is also a hint of fortified wine like port. Highly drinkable.

Finish: Long and smooth. there is a slight ginger tingle and some tropical fruit, perhaps mango, papaya or guava. There is a slight bitterness at the end but it is not enough to detract from the overall enjoyability of the dram.

A nice easy going whisky. It is not overly complex yet it is pleasant. I may have to give Dalmore another look.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Blended Malt Batch 1

          I recently saw a t-shirt that read "Spooning leads to Forking". Yes, that is sometimes (usually) the plan. So, when I think of spooning I am usually thinking of something pleasant (not the prison version); and I would like to think that most other people do too. So I was quite surprised to learn a new whisky term today: Spooning. This is a practice that some distillers engage in to protect their brand. If a barrel doesn't meet their standards then they may add a spoon of some other whisky to ensure that that barrel is no longer a single malt. The reason for this is that they can still earn revenue from that cask by selling it to some Independent Bottler (IB) for blending. The distillery makes some money on the whisky they didn't like and their name will never be attached to it. This sample is an example of a spooned whisky. I have heard rumour that it is from Balvenie. I can't vouch for that, but an interesting rumour all the same. 

     That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC) is the IB in this case. It is called a Blended malt, so if the rumour is true that this is from the Balvenie then they must have spooned it with another single malt. I have not heard anything on what that might be. 

     TBWC is known for their colourful cartoon labels. This particular label depicts a crowd of people praying to a large spoon . This image reminded me of many summer Phish shows and so I decided to play a summer show that I attended: Deer Creek 7.11.2000. This is the "Moby Dick" show. It is so called because during the second set they played Led Zeppelins "Moby Dick" multiple times. I don't remember much except that it was very hot in Indiana, and that I had a great time. 

As Phish busts out a nostalgia inducing Runaway Jim I will get down with this sample.

Nose: Initially I detected a pine scent. On a second sniff I received notes of orange, caramel and ginger candies.

Palate: After an initial maltiness, notes of BBQ duck, coffee and tootsie roll came to mind. An interesting contrast between the savoury and the sweet. 

Finish: I detected notes of grain that faded to mint and a slight saltiness.

     Overall I enjoyed this whisky. There was a bit of a bite to it but then I realised that this must have been a spooned cask strength whisky as it is 54%. I love the interesting notes on the palate. After this tasting I am fairly confident that the rumour is true.  

Monday, 5 May 2014

AnCnoc 12 Year Old

Todays' tasting is the AnCnoc 12 Year old. This is another Speysider from the Knocdhu distillery. The reason the whisky is called Ancnoc instead of Knockdhu is to alleviate confusion with another nearby distillery called Knockando. AnCnoc means "the Hill" in Gaelic. This distillery is located in the village of Knock in Aberdeenshire. This is of interest to me because my mum is from the town of Banchory which is also in Aberdeenshire. Having looked on a map (Google Earth) Banchory does not appear to be too close to the village of Knock; all the same there is a sense of my own history in this post. Interesting choice since a desire to return to Scotland and my mums town has been on my mind of late.

As a musical accompaniment I decided to go with a Jazz. It seems that Jazz cannot go wrong with these pairings. Tonights' album is John Coltranes' - Blue Train. This album represents some of the finest Jazz of its time and possibly ever. Whether you are just wanting to rest up and unwind or really absorb the work this is an album that fits just about any occasion. It is so beautiful an album that it is conceivable that it will not only accompany the dram nicely but give it an unfair enhancement. We will see what (if any) effect Mr. Coltranes' magic can have on this sample.

Nose: Woody comes to mind at first. It reminds me of a woven basket. There is a delightful sweetness that seems to envelop a herbaciousness. Like honey coating fresh cut grass. There are also notes of apple and a distant hint of vanilla.

Palate: Grain and grassy notes are noticed first this soon leads to vanilla and spice as well as honey. Delightful.

Finish: The finish is long and smooth. I was left with those grassy herbal notes, mint came to mind at this point.    

Overall a great dram. By all accounts and reviews that I have looked at I am not alone so it is safe to believe that although awesome Coltrane did not "make" this dram. The pairing was however a good one. I am fairly convinced that Jazz and blues work well with whisky. Bluegrass and folk also work well.

Until next time... Goodnight

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Arran 16 Year Old Single Cask (Master of Malt)

Todays dram is the Arran 16 year old Single Cask bottled by the Master of Malt. At 55.4% this is likely to be a potent sipper…. At least I hope so. As a musical accompaniment I have chosen to throw on Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – Flight of the Cosmic Hippo.

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones is a unique band of incredible talents. They play a mix of bluegrass, jazz, funk and rock. Essentially they are a jazz-funk-bluegrass fusion band; if a name must be given. Master banjo artist Bela Fleck formed this band in the late 80s. Also in the band is one of the worlds’ greatest bass players Victor Wooten and his brother Future Man (Roy Wooten). Future Man is not only a phenomenal drummer he is a musical inventor of genius proportions. One of his inventions that he plays is an instrument called the “Synthaxedrumitar”. This instrument is held like a guitar and sounds like one of the most impressive drum kits around. Recently he also invented an instrument that looks like a piano yet plays notes based on the Periodic Table of Elements and the Golden Ratio. The Golden Ratio is an algebraic term. This Future Man is truly the funkiest nerd I have ever heard of. I mean that as a complement.

According to the Master of Malt Website the single cask that this Arran whisky sat in for 16 years was a refill sherry cask. It was distilled in 1996 and bottled in 2012.         

The Isle of Arran is the seventh largest Scottish island. It is located off the east coast of Scotland. Due to its bisection by the Highland and lowland lines it apparently has incredible rock formations. It is therefore considered a geologists paradise. Geologists come from all over the world to bask in this rocky glory. It is also rumoured that Robert the Bruce while in exile hid in a cave on the island. While hiding he watched a spider repeatedly climb the cavern wall to build its web falling many times. I wonder if this is the origin of the Itsy Bitsy Spider song.    

Musical genius with mathematical and scientific influence, geology heaven, and a bit of history. With this dram I am going to make a toast to nerds everywhere.

Nose: Initially I get notes of the sea; salt and seaweed. There is also a syrupy (not maple) sweetness.

Palate: A warming sensation envelopes the notes of pepper butter and ginger and a gentle sweetness.

Finish: The finish is clean leaving traces of wood, clove, cinnamon and iodine.

An interesting dram but not one I was entirely fond of. I found that it was a bit dry and I didn`t get any of the sherry.

“JlQoS” (I`m Sorry - in Klingon) Nerds. Endeavour to honour you in the future with a more pleasing toast, I will.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Auchentoshan - Three Wood

Today I get to try the Auchentoshan Three wood. This will be my first post for a Lowland whisky. Lowland whiskies tend to be light and subtle. I have heard that they can be a good choice for whisky newbies. I tend to use Speyside whiskies for those introductions; yet this is likely to be only because I don’t have many Lowland style whiskies to choose from locally.  There aren’t very many distilleries in the Lowland region either. In fact Auchentoshan is only one of two major distilleries in the region; the other being Glenkinchie. Auchentoshan is located close to Glasgow while its’ main regional competitor is closer to Edinburgh. Of the two Glenkinchie is commonly considered to be the classic malts Lowland representative.    

After just having enjoyed a lovely steak dinner I am in the mood to relax. So for todays’ entry I have opted to listen to Leo Kottkes’ – One Guitar, No Vocals. This instrumental album is loaded with incredible acoustic guitar work. Leos’ playing is awe inspiring in its complexity and relaxing and dream like in its subtlety. I thought based on my mood and the potential for this whisky to be subtle that this would be a good pairing. Only a taste will tell.

Nose: Right away I am for some reason reminded of some Canadian whiskies. It is light and sweet on the nose. I detect a sharp sherry note. This is joined by orange and a strong scent of vanilla custard. A dusty hint of wood also presents itself. Other than that lingering sharpness there is a pleasant creaminess to this nose.

Palate: Charred wood comes out initially, followed by creamy notes of raisin, date and other dark dried fruit.

Finish. The finish is long. Strong notes of coffee and some smoky wood linger.

I was a little apprehensive going into this tasting. I have heard a lot of reviews on this whisky that range from awful to glorious. I have also heard a lot of negative reviews based on the consistency of this dram. I can’t speak to the consistency but I can say that I really enjoyed this whisky; so much so that I am going to add it to my wish list. Another reminder that if a whisky sounds interesting but the reviews are negative it may still be worth a try. As for the pairing it is one of the best yet. The smooth complex guitar arrangements complement the character of the whisky nicely.

Well until next time enjoy the music.                

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Benriach "Heart of Speyside"

As the snow continues to melt and the temperatures rise I feel my mood escalating and that old elation at the thought of summer kicking in. Right now is affectionately known as mud season here in the Yukon. This is likely to be the reality for at least another few weeks. Still sitting here at almost 9:00 PM with sunset not even begun has a pretty positive effect on the spirits. Speaking of which today's post is going to feature the Benriach - "Heart Of Speyside" accompanied by The Who: Who's Next.

I am not familiar with Benriachs' whiskies. I do know that they like to experiment a lot with their expressions and often use funky sounding latin names for their releases. This particular whisky apparently took its name from the fact that the distillery is located in the heart of the Speyside region. I have heard good things about the Curiositas and the Importanticus Fumosus. I will continue to look for those bottlings. At this time I have this expression available to me and this is their flagship bottle. 

The Who are known for their brilliant live performances where they trash the stage. They are also known for their hard rocking unforgettable songs. They are less known for their softer melodic music... at least by me. This album really showcases Roger Daltreys' great voice and singing talent. One of my favourite works by this group is Tommy. This album was later released as a  film staring Roger Daltry as Tommy. The rest of the cast features many other notable performers such as Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton and Jack Nicholson. I just mention this other work because I think it showcases eclectic nature of this band. Eclectic like the range of whiskies released by Benriach. 

Now on to the dram.

Nose:  On the nose this whisky almost reminds me of an "un-aged" whisky. It is like unbaked bread with slight floral notes. There is also a bit of green apple and just the faintest whiff of smoke.

Palate: The palate is loaded with wood and grape. I detect a note of perfume at the end.

Finish: A long finish with a slight citrus tang. The grape becomes honeyed. At the back of the finish is a bitter medicinal taste, like when you are trying to swallow an aspirin and you can't quite get it down fast enough.

That is certainly a different whisky than I have ever tried. The youth of it comes through in the bread like nose, and grape taste. Right up to the last fading of the finish I was impressed... until that bitter note struck.  

What I will leave this at is that this quiet, soft spoken whisky didn't seem to have much to say; however, paired with the rock of The Who this whisky in all its youth found its voice. I don't know if that is a testament to the power of The Who or if I'm actually on to something here with this whisky and music pairing concept. Can certain music make certain whisky better? Can certain whisky make certain music better? The truth is out there.     

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Talisker 57⁰ North

Now that March is gone and we are into April, it is time to step away from Ireland and return to the advent calendar. Todays’ offering is the Talisker 57⁰ North. This is a higher strength version than the standard 10 year old, at 57%. The name is a reference to the latitude of the Isle of Skye where the distillery is located. It is a sometimes harsh area that like the Yukon can also be beautiful. As you can see from the photo I also happen to have a bottle of this expression that I have been saving for the right occasion.    

As a musical companion I figured I would listen to Jimi Hendrix: Band of Gypsys. A smoky high strength whisky and a guy who sets his guitar on fire; I figure I can’t go wrong.    

Jimi Hendrix formed the Band of Gypsys in 1969 after leaving the Experience. This band is more blues rock than the psychedelic rock of the Experience.  There is a lot of jamming and grooving. Billy Cox and Buddy Miles create incredible rhythm to accompany Hendrixs’ blazing solos. It is hard to imagine that Band of Gypsys signifies the beginning of the end for Jimi, because to me it sounds like he is at the top of his game. Sadly Jimi walked off stage a couple of times and after that it was over. It is said that the constant playing and pressure to produce new music led to this behaviour and eventually Jimis’ demise. It is a real tragedy that the world will never know the real potential of this incredible artist.

It is now time to raise a glass to Jimi.

Nose: This may be the most savoury whisky I have encountered. The ocean scents of salt and seaweed mix with pepper and kipper. This is a little weird, but not unpleasant.

Palate: In the mouth it starts off like dessert. The sugar sweetness then turns into a smoky, spicy pepper fest.

Finish: salt, pepper and lemon hang on for a long time.

After tasting this whisky I really can’t help but think of fresh caught Alaskan salmon baked on a camp fire. Even though it may not be exactly the right season for that I can still look forward to this type of activity. The days are growing longer and warmer, and the snow is melting.

A fitting thing to be reminded of since the Alaska government just overturned a certain bill. Over the last few years we Canadians living in the Yukon have been able to buy an Alaska fishing licence for the same fee and with the same allowances as our neighbours.  The bill that got rejected sought to repeal that practice. This privilege that the Alaskans' extend to us is a two way street. It is a testament to the relationship that exists between us. Dismissing this courtesy would lessen the special bond that exists.

Well until next time happy fishing            

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Connemara Cask Strength

Today I am presenting The Connemara Cask Strength. This is my fourth Irish Whisky of the month and I must say that I have had a nice time getting to know the Irish. I figured I would save this one for last for a couple of reasons. First, this bottle was a birthday gift. My birthday falls towards the end of the month and I have a thing about not opening gifts before the day of celebration, even though I have known since Christmas that this bottle was coming. That's how I was able to factor it into my March madness. The second reason that saving this particular dram to last made sense is that it is the strongest. At 57.9% this whiskey has potential to pack a punch.  At least I kind of hope so, as I do enjoy a good slap now and again.

To soothe this high octane liquid down my throat I will enjoy a listen to some Freddie King. The album is called Déjà vu and I am fairly certain that its a live greatest hits album. I don’t usually like listening or purchasing greatest hits albums and I try not to present them for my blog, I just felt that given the potency of this bad ass whisky it would be well served by a man nicknamed "The Texas Cannonball". Freddie King was also known as one of "The Three Kings” of electric blues guitar. The others being Albert and B.B.. He is well known for his blend of Chicago and Texas blues styles. He was also one of the first blues men of his era to feature a multiracial backing band. I find Freddie’s playing to be really powerful. His guitar seems to have crunch and his voice is gritty. The band sets him up with a solid funky blues rhythm.

So let’s see now if this (on paper) powerful whisky can play nicely with the heavy hitting groove of the big bad King.

Nose: acidic notes meet a certain malty sweetness giving to thoughts of honey and lemon in a cup of black tea.... But no smoke.

Palate: Saltiness comes to the fore front followed by a quick hit of peat that washes it away and then a wave of wood and brown sugar slide over the tongue. While this is happening a thin cloud of smoke drifts over top almost out of reach. A spicy edge then warms things up.

Finish: This finish is long, drying and slightly bitter. On the sides of the tongue (almost underneath) there is a sweetness that clings for a very long time.

Other than the bitter note in the finish this is a great whisky with a lot of interesting characteristics. When I heard that it was a peated Irish whisky I expected something in line with an Islay Scotch. That was not the case, the smokiness in this dram is subtle. In my opinion this is an Irish whisky that exhibits a huge boost of character compared to its lighter comrades. A great addition to my collection, I look forward to more expressions from Connemara... and more Freddie King. This guy is awesome.  

Good night and may the good times roll!!!!        

Monday, 17 March 2014

Teeling - Small Batch

Good day and Happy St. Patrick's Day. This is a day to celebrate all things Irish. I have actually been celebrating the Irish gifts to the whisky world for this entire month. St Patrick`s day is celebrated on what is believed to be the anniversary of the saints death. He is the Patron saint of Ireland, but really not a lot of his life is really known. He was a bishop of Ireland and it is believed he lived in about the 5th Century AD.What I found to be interesting today was that the saint used the three leaf clover to illustrate the concept of the holy trinity to the people of Ireland. I had never heard that before. As much as I love this day for its placement near the beginning of Spring and all its merry making I find that it has gone to a level of cheapness that doesn't really mean anything. Most people know little if anything about St. Patrick or Ireland. It seems to just be yet another day to buy cheap crap and get drunk. Just my two cents. 

For the actual day I figured I would raise a glass of something a little different: A rum cask whisky. According to the official website “This small batch bottling consists of hand selected casks which are given further maturation in ex-Flor de Cana Rum barrels”. I am a huge fan of the Flor de Cana rums and am eager to try my first rum cask whisky. 

For musical inspiration I have chosen the Grateful Dead live at the Winterland Arena 03.18.1977. Yep the St. Patricks day hangover show from one of my favourite years of dead music. I also like the two sevens. Seven is considered to be a lucky number and the Irish are known for their luck. 

and now to the tasting. Slainte!

Nose: Thick wave of wood and vanilla, with notes of rum.

Palate: A great mouth feel that is equally thick and sparkling. Wood develops into a vanilla sweetness and then the rum notes kick in. 

Finish: long and smooth. I am left with a bit of the wood and nice degree of rum notes. I then detect a slight cigar tobacco edge. 

Irish whisky is a growing segment of the whisky world. With whiskies like this that is no surprise.The Irish are becoming creative in the ageing process and are delivering unique tasty expressions. These creations are a delight to enjoy and for just one moment I feel I can share in the luck that so famously belongs to the Irish.

Thank you and as the Irish saying goes:  ``May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night.``


Monday, 10 March 2014

Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt

On this tenth day of March I am going to have a taste of the Bushmills' 10 Year Old Single Malt. I have been looking forward to this tasting for some time now and am eager to get going. This whiskey spent most of its ten years in bourbon casks and was finished in Oloroso sherry casks. The only other Bushmills' single malt I have tried before this was the 16 year old, and I can only describe that as almost like candy. A little younger the 10 year old may be but I am no less excited.

For musical accompaniment I have chosen to go with Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon. This album was released 41 years ago today. It is not only Pink Floyd's most commercially successful album (over 1500 weeks in the charts and 45 million copies sold) it is also one of the most successful albums of all time. A true masterpiece, this album takes you on a journey of intense space rock with unparallelled sound engineering. When I was about eighteen years old I had heard that this album could be matched with The wizard of Oz movie. I decided to give it a try. Some of the film lined up with the music while other parts lead me to believe that this was just some stoner's experiment. All the same it was fun. How can you go wrong with one of the greatest movies of all time mixed with one of the worlds greatest albums.

Let's see if the music can fit with this dram.

Nose: mouth watering honey sweetness with a touch of spice. I also detect what I can only describe as old paperbacks.

Palate: starts off as wood and then quickly opens up into chocolate notes that develop into the sweetness of lychee. The mouth feel is exquisite.

Finish: a long finish of the lychee hangs on and then the wood comes back before the finish quickly fades.

True to its Irish nature this whisky is very smooth and light. It is delicious, approachable and all around attractive. As for whether the music worked with this dram... I think that there aren't a lot of situations that this album couldn't work with.

Next weeks tasting will be on St Patrick's day. I think that one should call for a double.

Until then have a great week.          

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Tyrconnell

     The first day of March never fails to lift my spirits. It is not only the month of my birthday it is also the  month of many other festivities. Many of these celebrations are related to the passing of the winter and the ushering in of the spring and summer seasons. Then of course we have St. Patricks Day, a day to celebrate all things Irish. In keeping with this theme I will present an Irish whisky for each week of March. I have been looking forward to this for a long time.

     I was at a loss for a musical selection today. I pondered playing U2 but wasn't up to it for this weeks tasting. I found out that Van Morrison is Irish and so considered that as well. Again I wasn't able to work that out in my mind. I then tried to picture Ireland and realised that when I think of Ireland castles and Celts come to mind far more than U2 and other modern successes. I opted for music that lent itself to medieval imagery and chose a British band over an Irish one. The band is Pentangle and the album is Basket of Light. This album released in 1969 is the bands greatest commercial success. It is rife with medieval tales of kings and queens, huntsmen and knights. Also it doesn't hurt that track 3 is called "Springtime Promises".  

     To accompany this poetic folk rock masterpiece I opted for the Tyrconnell. It is a single malt whisky named after a horse. Apparently the horse won a race back in 1876 even with the odds stacked heavily against it (100 to 1). An image of the horse has graced the label since.

Nose: Light, sweet honey and citrus with a slight floral nod.

Palate: berries and buttery creaminess with a touch of spice at the end.

Finish: very smooth and soft. Notes of pepper, butter and honey.

     This is quite possibly the softest whisky I have ever tried. It is very approachable and easy drinking. It is so soft sweet and creamy in fact that I wondered when listening to the song "The Cuckoo" if this whisky was comparable to the nectar that the bird sucks from the white flowers to keep her voice clear.

With that question in mind I will say good night.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Pig's Nose

     Today was a beautiful sunny day here in the Yukon. Days like this in February are always a sure sign that the long dark winter is coming to an end and that spring is coming. This is a time of year marked not only by longer sunnier days but also an increase in local events and festivities. February welcomes the Yukon Quest which is coined as "The Worlds Toughest Dog Race" This 1600 km (1000 mile) race sees dog teams racing between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska with the start and finish alternating between these two cities. Also this month is the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival. This year marked the 50th anniversary of the event. It is a festival designed to build and share the excitement of the fading winter months and also to celebrate some of the Yukon's history. People dress up in the period costumes of 1898. If not there are the Keystone Cops lurking about to lock you up in their trailer cage to publicly shame you... in a fun way of course. During the day people partake in events such as flour packing and ice sculpture. In the evening Can Can dancers perform at the bars. Some establishments even feature "exotic" dancers (a once or twice a year occurrence in this town). All of this and Canada performing better than I can ever recall in the Olympics led to an upbeat and friendly feeling around town.

     Because of the old time feel that encompasses much of this festival I have chosen to listen to Old and In the Way. This 1973 album features the bluegrass super group of the same name. The band is comprised of: Jerry Garcia on banjo and vocals, David Grisman on mandolin and vocals, John Kahn on acoustic bass, Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals and Vassar Clements on fiddle.

     The first song on the album is Pig in a Pen. A classic bluegrass tune, its name also helps to tie in today's whisky, Pig's Nose. Pigs nose is a five year old blended whisky from master blender Richard Paterson. He is the man behind the Shackleton whisky replica. The whisky got it's name because it is said to be as smooth as a pig's nose. According to the Website: "The seriously satisfying smoothness is achieved through combining oak-aged Speyside, Islay and Lowland malts with superior Invergordon gentle grain whiskies."

Smooth as a pig's nose *snort* I'll be the judge of that.

Nose: lemon, conveniently sourdough and slight floral notes.

Palate: It is smooth but it really seems to lack any real character, almost watered down. The only notes I could use to describe it are sweet, grassy and then a bit woody.

Finish: Short and doesn't leave a trace of very much. If I was to describe anything it would be a slight hint of cinnamon as if mixed in to a bowl of unsweetened oatmeal.

This whisky achieves it's goal of being smooth, but at what cost. I think that if it wasn't watered down there might be something positive to say, something to speak about. I fancy myself a person who strives to find the silver lining in things and I can't really find one here. For what it's worth it's not anywhere close to the worst I have ever had... but that doesn't say much.      

Thank you and cheers to longer, warmer days.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lagavulin 16 Year Old


     Today's tasting features one of my all time favourite whiskies. The Lagavulin 16 Year Old. This whisky has long been considered the Islay malt example. In fact it is a member of the Classic Malts, chosen to represent that regions style. The other Classic Malts are Dalwhinnie from the Highlands, Talisker from the Isle of Skye, Glenkinchie from the Lowlands, Cragganmore from Speyside and Oban from the West Highlands.

     Lagavulin has gained its status of personal favourite not only because of its fantastic and consistent notes but in the way it transports me to a by gone era. It elicits images of a cabin on a rough sea shore in the dead of winter the smell of smoke and tastes of sweetness conjure memories of Christmas. Now there is no way that I am doing this tasting to Christmas music. NO WAY. Since this is a 16 year old whisky I thought I would throw on what I was listening to when I was 16. Although not always the clearest the memories I do recall from this time were enjoyable. Specifically I recall being at my friends cottage when I was introduced to Nirvana's "Nevermind".

     Nirvana was a game changer band for me. Aside from there infectious songs, I loved that they were a three piece. This gave every member a voice. It also showed me that a bass player could do more than play the same sixteenth notes over and over again. At the time I was listening to a lot of metal and if you could even hear the bass player it was rarely anything for me to get excited about. What Krist Novoselic was playing was rhythm in the shape of the main riff. This for me was a much more fun way to play. I have since found many fantastic bands from long before Nirvana who feature strong exciting performers on every instrument. Nirvana was just an eye/ear opener.    

    Since I'm already two thirds of the way through this album I better get sipping on this classic dram.

Nose: smoke, cedar and red wine come to mind right away. There is also salt and the smell of ocean air.

Taste: smoke and salt are potent with this one. I also found there to be notes of Christmas cake and just a hint of black licorice.

Finish: the smokiness follows into the long chewy finish. I also detect notes of something nutty and a reminder of the wine from the nose.

A stunning whisky that never fails to excite. It is like a reunion with an old dear friend. Fond memories are recalled and yet there are new things to talk about.

Cheers and have a good night        

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Yamazaki 12 Year Old

Well I am back at it again after a brief vacation. An interesting vacation to say the least. I was on a cruise with the family, and wouldn't you know it the ship suffered a Norovirus outbreak. We missed two of four ports and the ship returned two days early. At first this sounds like bad luck but my family and I are able to see the silver lining in things. The illness made the trip more of an adventure. I found myself thinking of Zombie and other disaster movies. I was always keeping stock of my surroundings and calculating escape routes and safe hiding spots. The non stop gourmet food didn't hurt either and trying different whiskies at the bar every night was a definite highlight for me. We are already looking forward to our next cruise.

I am also excited to be getting back to my blog. Day number three of the advent calendar presented me with a Yamazaki 12 year old. This will be only the second Japanese single malt I have ever sampled. My first was a Yamazaki 18 year old, which if I recall correctly I found to be a bit flat. It was good but not spectacular. For musical accompaniment I have decided on Phish live in Japan.

This show from June 14, 2000 was recorded live at the Drum Logos club in Fukuoka, Japan and released as Live Phish Vol. 4. Since they are playing a small club instead of a large arena there are differences in the feel of the show. For example a person can be heard calling out for the band to play "Gumbo". The band acknowledges the request and then busts out a stellar version. In any of the shows I have attended (in large venues) I have not seen any such granting of requests. I think that is the beauty of the small venue. The interaction between audience and performer is heightened by the more intimate surroundings. Even the bands jamming seems a bit more intimate. It's almost as though they are just playing for some friends at home, unconcerned and willing to take additional risks. 

It is now time to say Kampai and enjoy this sample. 

Nose: Vanilla strikes first this is further sweetened by clove honey. There is also a tropical fruit and citrus character, perhaps banana or papaya with a squeeze of lime. There may also be something floral about the nose.

Palate: The initial mouth feel is soft and then a spicy tingle develops. The initial notes are of soft wood. The spice profile I would have to describe as gingery. There is a berry flavour that jumps in quickly and neatly segues into the finish.

Finish: This is a long finish. The berry taste at the end of the palate neatly brings about peppery ginger notes. The berry sweetness hangs on as a shadow. The feel is a bit off. 

Over all a pleasant dram. Though there is something about the finish that doesn't quite work for me. The flavours work well, I just detect something in the mouth feel near the very end that is almost gritty. As with the cruise it may seem like I have had bad luck with Japanese whiskies. I however strongly agree with the quote of American Author William Faulkner "There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others." 

and on that note Arigato and a good night to all.


Sunday, 12 January 2014

Deanston Batch #1 - That Boutique-y Whisky Company


    Dram number 2 in the advent calendar comes from the Deanston distillery. Deanston Batch #1 was bottled by independent bottlers - That Boutique-y Whisky Company. According to the Master of Malt website (where the whisky can be purchased) the Deanston distillery used to be a cotton mill. It was converted into a distillery in the 60's. The pop art looking label on the full size bottle depicts two hippies to capture the spirit of the 60's. Upon further research (Thank You Google) I was able to see that the conversion took place in 1965.

     The Grateful Dead also got their start in 1965, playing and recording under various band names within and around the San Francisco area. They also played as the house band during the acid tests. The acid tests were a series of parties hosted by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. During these parties people would drop acid as a group in order to see what would happen. Would they find a new level of consciousness, a new understanding of life or just dance about barefoot while giant flowers exhaled visible musical notes all around them. For the answer read the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. The Grateful Dead recordings from this era were traded for years (as almost all of the bands shows are) and became an official release in 2003.

    Deanston and early Dead. This should be a perfect match.

Nose: After an initial sharpness I found lots of vanilla and peppermint. I not only smelled the mint but also felt it, almost like when you breathe in vaporub. There was also a lot of honey which almost seemed to have been steeped with a touch of ginger. beautiful in its ability to warm and cool at the same time.

Palate: WOW. That is the most honey sweet whisky I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. This honey encases all other notes. Vanilla, carob (?), smoke, dates, kumquat and at the end traces of mint and a touch of ginger. The mouth feel is full and velvety.

Finish: The finish is long. The honey coats the mouth. Intermittently that mint comes back, more felt than tasted.

     I don't know much about Deanston but after this I am going to be on the lookout for other expressions. A delicious whisky that melts your heart with its honey sweetness while cooling your mind with that weird (in a good way) minty vapour.

     This tasting is a good reminder for me that it's important to keep trying different whiskies. There is really no end to what can be done or to what flavour profiles can be achieved. Let the experiment continue so that I may further my palate.