Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The "Spirit" of Jameson - 3 Days in Midleton & Dublin

Jameson Welcome Pack
Back in 1780, when the original Old Jameson Distillery was founded by John Jameson on Bow Street, Dublin, men and women, working in the distillery, enjoyed the best wages, and working conditions, within Dublin, and on top of this they also enjoyed company with John Jameson himself.

John Jameson believed that sharing his profits, time and spirit with each worker made them loyal and, in turn, made a better whiskey.   

Further to this, if you look closely at a bottle of Jameson you will notice that each bottle has two-barrel men balancing the label as a tribute to the men and women who produce the whiskey. 

A family spirit continued in a truer fashion throughout the 1800's as John Jameson II and, his son, John Jameson III transformed the Jameson Irish Whiskey brand into one of the largest in the world. 

It is this sense of family / community spirit that I want to touch upon throughout this piece. 

I was somewhat taken aback when I received an email back in January inviting me to be part of a Jameson media trip over the St Patrick's Day weekend but without second thought I naturally jumped at the chance and on 14th March I made my way to Belfast City airport for the slightly unnatural journey to Cork via London. 

Upon arrival into Cork we were greeted by the welcome party and promptly transferred to our accommodation for the next two nights - The Castlemartyr Resort.

Consisting of a 17th century manor house, sitting adjacent to the ruins of a 800 year old castle, and surrounded by immaculate gardens and walkways, Castlemartyr is truly decadent.  Walking around the original buildings gives you a sense that you are an extra on the set of Downton Abbey and the whole style of the resort felt far more in keeping with the era in which Jameson was born way back in 1780. 

The mood was tranquil and idyllic and allowed myself, and no doubt the 50 or so others who had been assembled for this trip, time to contemplate what this trip was all about and what Jameson were trying to capture by bringing us all together.  Maybe they were trying to re-create another type of family to spread the word of the "spirit" of Jameson.

As we moved into the first evening whiskey flowed and discussion was everywhere.  The mix of accents, that accompanied the almost never-ending sound of new introductions, created a wonderful soundtrack to what was quickly becoming a enjoyably relaxing atmosphere.

The night wore on into the small hours and as it did I found myself in great conversation with fellow whiskey writers Jake Mountain, of Master of Malt and Tiger and Turbo, from the Edinburgh whisky blog.  We were also accompanied by Midleton's master blender Billy Leighton.

We discussed all things Irish, in terms of whiskey, and sipped some fine examples that are coming out of the Midleton distillery at the moment.  I ended on the Paddy Centenary 7yo Single Pot Still, which I wasn't fussed on when I first sampled it last year but found it to be a lot more agreeable this time around.

We talked about the future of Irish whiskey and the importance for all new distilleries to ensure a quality is maintained to back up the fine reputation Irish whiskey has been gaining in recent times. 

There was also discussion on how Jameson / Midleton are more than happy to lend a helping hand, where they can, to get new distilleries up and running.  Not in a sense of "we're the big boys in this game and you'll listen to us" but more of a "we're all in this together, for the long haul, so let's make sure we do things right".

As I retired for the evening I was on a definite buzz and seriously looking forward to the morning where we'd be whisked away to Midleton for a full day around the distillery.

The trip to Midleton was a whirlwind of a tour.  Unfortunately hampered by the clock the Jameson team did their upmost to get us all round in time.

We began with a quick background to the Irish whiskey making process and a quick look around some of the original buildings that are now nothing more than a museum and a snapshot into a world long gone.  This was then followed with a quick introduction to the Irish Whiskey academy which was ably delivered by David McCabe.

First opened in 2013 the Irish Whiskey Academy is a state of the art training facility that hosts courses that focus on the production and heritage of Irish whiskey produced at Midleton.

From what little I observed it is clear that the delivery is professional and informative with fantastic use of the learning space to maximise interaction.  To take part in the academy properly you may have to fork out a pretty penny but if you have the money, and the interest, then I would sincerely recommend considering this package to further your whiskey knowledge.

Looking back through my notes from the weekend I have noted at this point that everyone at the distillery appears to know each other on first name terms.  For a distillery of such size to retain this community feeling is fantastic and, in my opinion, echoes the original style of John Jameson to make everyone feel a part of the process and, in turn, produce a better quality product. 

Onwards and into the brand new "Garden Stillhouse" where we were greeted by master distiller Brian Nation.  As with all the major figures, Brian Nation spoke with a great sense of pride and honesty about his feelings towards Midleton and the whiskey it produces.  At no time did you ever feel that those involved were simply "going through the motions" to talk to us. 

I've no doubt that they speak to hundreds upon hundreds of people every year, probably about the exact same topics, but each and every one of them speaks with a passion that clearly burns deep inside.

We moved quickly onto one of the 45 warehouses, that are based on site at Midleton, and wound up at warehouse 39B to be precise.  Here we were introduced to master of maturation Kevin O'Gorman and this is where we began to get a few more facts and figures.

During 2015 Midleton expect to receive around 150,000 casks from America alone.  On top of this Kevin put to bed the rumour of oak shortage by saying that this was simply not true.  He acknowledged that there were issues with loggers and poor weather but that these have been resolved.

Further insight was given into the type of casks used at Midleton: Madeira, Marsala, Irish oak, Port, Bourbon and Sherry and, with regards barrel management, we were also informed that Midleton do not rotate casks in their warehouses and would use a bourbon barrel 3 times before forwarding it on to the rum industry.

Then, from a whiskey drinking point of view, came the highlight of the trip...tasting straight from the cask(s).

First up was a 24yo pot still which was distilled in 1991 and had been resting in a second fill bourbon cask until 2005 before being moved into a first fill cask.  While we didn't have time to sit down and truly get into the whiskey I can say that this was extravagant in ways I've rarely tasted before.  Naturally huge on pot still spice but smooth, thick and oily.  Delicious stuff.

Second was a 17yo pot still, distilled in 1998 and matured wholly in a first fill Oloroso cask.  This was, quite simply, like nothing I've ever tried before.  To call this a "sherry bomb" would be an understatement as we went clean past dark fruit and straight into dark deep meaty notes.  Unbelievable!!!  Can I have a bottle please??

Jameson Family Tasting
Floating on the crest of a whiskey dream we stopped for a quick bite of lunch before moving onto our second tasting of whiskey for the day.  This time it was a Jameson Family Tasting with Billy Leighton.  On show we had the Original, Black Barrel and Gold Reserve.  All excellent in their own right when you take into consideration the area of the whiskey market they're aimed at.

As BIlly Leighton spoke he echoed terms I've heard before in the importance of forecasting and managing stock to ensure quality is maintained for years to come.  We also got a little insider knowledge with conformation that Jameson original contains, amongst other styles, some 8yo sherry matured pot still whiskey.

Last stop on the tour was the cooperage and a display from someone who I consider to be a living legend in the whiskey world.

Ger Buckley is a 5th generation master cooper and still uses instruments and tools that were passed down to him through the ages.  When you watch his brief display you can't help but marvel at the true skill he possesses.  His work is an art form and one which is not learned quickly.  Even though the work is tough and contained within, arguably, the coldest building at the distillery, you can tell that Ger is completely at one with the work he carries out. 

Cooperage Display with Ger Buckley

Again, you get snippets of information that Ger is only too happy to pass on what knowledge he can to any other distilleries wishing to train a cooper to keep an eye on their precious casks and again it come across as an Irish Whiskey community looking out for each other rather than an unwanted task bestowed upon him from above.  

With people such as Brian, Billy, Ger and Kevin at the helm of Ireland's largest distillery surely nothing can go wrong.  I certainly do not think so and if the Irish whiskey community can come together, and fight towards a common purpose to get Irish whiskey back to where it belongs, then Irish whiskey has a long and very bright future ahead of it. 

On that positive note we moved back to our hotel to prepare for our final night in Midleton and for our last Midleton meal we were taken to a local restaurant Sage.

Sage restaurant is unique in their 12mile ethos.  As obvious as it sounds they pride themselves in sourcing the vast majority of their produce within 12 miles of the restaurant.  It is this sort of provenance and terroir that resonates hugely within the whiskey industry and maybe the very reason this restaurant was selected by Jameson??

After a fine traditional Irish music session in a local pub we returned to the hotel bar and again spoke at length with Billy Leighton and also Ger Buckley.

It was while speaking with Ger that he talked briefly about the original IDL alliance with Bushmills and the friendships that were built over time and even agreed to the notion of being part of a Irish whiskey family.

As this second evening came to a close I wondered how the Dublin side of the trip would contrast with what we had experienced over the past two days.  One thing was for sure...I was ready to find out.

As we travelled the somewhat tedious, but necessary, journey from Midleton to Dublin I further contemplated the aforementioned contrast.  Undoubtedly we were heading back to "where it all began" for Jameson but a modern day Dublin is a far cry from a 1780 Dublin.

As we moved closer to the traditional, spiritual home, of Jameson there was an obvious upward change in pace.  The tranquil surroundings of Midleton were long gone and we were now deep into the heart of one of the most vibrant cities in Europe.

How times have changed, if you had no knowledge of Irish whiskey, and no knowledge of the Old Jameson Distillery tourist centre, you'd be certain that Midleton was the traditional, spiritual, home of Jameson and we had been moved up to Dublin for the sole purpose of the St Patrick's Day party.

We were further thrust into modern day Dublin with a fantastic walking tour hosted by Le Cool Dublin.  Le Cool Dublin's focus is on the modern day, lesser known, workings of this wonderful city and just before the tour, where they took us around the back streets to take in street art, pop up shops and even a secret supper club, we were treated to a short acoustic session from local musician Richie Egan and a short talk from artist Steve Simpson, the award winning illustrator behind the St Patrick's Day limited edition Jameson bottle design.

Now into it's 5th year the 2015 Jameson St Patrick's Day bottle set out to capture the soul and warmth of the city that first welcomed John Jameson in 1780. 

Encapsulating a heart, the label artwork is a mix of landmarks, local slang and a map of roads to represent the lifeblood of the city: the people and their passion for Dublin.  
The bottle pays tribute to the special relationship between Jameson and Dublin with Jameson stating that "Ireland’s capital is our spiritual home; something Steve has captured perfectly by including the phrase: "Wherever I roam, it's Dublin my heart calls home""

To end the tour we arrived at a seemingly closed butcher's shop.  Set on a busy Dublin street the butcher's shop appeared desolate and uninviting.  Completely missing the reference to John Jameson & Sons, on the frosted front door, we entered the empty store and wondered what exactly was going on.  All was then revealed by one of the "butchers". 

The building we were in was, in fact, one of Jameson's private venues for hosting clients and as the "butcher" opened the freezer door we were invited inside to discover a rickety wooden staircase leading down to a perfect recreation of a speakeasy.

This was marketing done to the nth degree and no stone was left unturned with regards to detail.

In the cosy confines of the speakeasy we were introduced to Jameson's consultant mixologist Oisin Davis.  He was here to take us through some classic Irish cocktails and the two we were served up were completely delicious.

Oisin Davis taking us through a classic cocktail

One was a complete Irish cocktail made up of Jameson whiskey, wild elderflower cordial, rhubarb sherbet and dry Irish cider.  The second was named "The Tipperary" and consisted of equal measures of Jameson, Chartreuse and Vermouth which were served with a garnish of rosemary and a green olive.  Who knew Irish cocktails could be so good?

As the tour came to an end all that was left was the live concert being held that evening.  This was a chance to slightly let the hair down, and have a good time, but it was still clear that there was a focus on the local with the line up being the very finest of up and coming Irish bands.

St Patrick's Day Live Event

The experience of Dublin was a far cry from Midleton but what was clear is that while Jameson are aware of who they are, where they come from and the traditions and values they hold dear, they are also fully aware of the need to embrace the future.

By endorsing great local music, new exciting art, modern day mixology and the living culture of modern day Dublin they are reaching out to a consumer that used to think of whiskey as old men, sitting by a fire, smoking on a pipe and expecting their wives to have their dinner ready for them.

Now while the sexism is hopefully no longer present I've no doubt that there is still a strong amount of consumers that will see their whiskey as having to be traditional and unwavering in the face of modern day demands.

The skill that Jameson, and other companies, have to find is how to blend the modern with the traditional. 

Some companies have struggled recently and this has been noted in failed advertising campaigns, and failed marketing strategies, but having spent 3 days with Jameson I'm openly confident in that Jameson can make the transition and bring a new whiskey drinker to the party without alienating the fans they've already amassed.

Who knows exactly what the future may hold for Irish whiskey but with Jameson leading the way I'm happy with where it's going.

A huge thanks must be given to the following:

Everyone at Jameson / Midleton including the PR teams and staff for organising everything to perfection, including food, accommodation, tours and transfers
Chris, Jason, Jake, Lucy and Louise for the awesome craic and lastly to James for looking after us all so well throughout the weekend.

I would also like to highlight that the trip was paid for in full by Jameson.

Until next time,



Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Compass Box - Great King Street - The Artist's Blend - Review

Back in the year 2000 John Glaser, an American ex-pat with previous experience in the wine industry and an excellent knowledge of the whisky industry, decided to create "Compass Box Whisky Company", with an emphasis on evolving practices in the industry to make Scotch whisky more approachable, and relevant, to more people.

Right from the start his ambition was to create an exciting whisky company that re-established the standards for quality and style within the industry and, with this vision, Compass Box soon gathered serious momentum which, in turn, was backed up by releases of new, imaginative whiskies that pushed the boundaries and grabbed attention. 

Some of these releases included:

"Spice Tree" which, in it's initial form, ruffled a few feathers at the Scotch Whisky Association.  This was subsequently adjusted and is now presented as a blend of Highland malts that have been aged in special casks that have been fitted with new French Oak heads.

"The Peat Monster" which is a blend comprising of an Islay malt and other medium peated Highland whiskies.

"Hedonism" which is a unique blend of grain whiskies that have been mostly aged in first fill American oak casks.

All releases appear a little different from "the norm" and all seem to point towards the company heading in an exciting direction.

The innovation does not simply stop with the contents of their bottles as Compass Box have added a top notch website into the mix.  Visitors to this well maintained site are treated to nothing less than an intoxication of knowledge, and insight, that is rarely seen elsewhere in the whisky industry.

Compass Box don't hold back when discussing their whiskies and will go as far as they legally can to inform their fans, and customers, as to what is in their bottles.  Such transparency is hardly commonplace and, while I understand the absolute need for certain secrecy, I am drawn to the refreshing nature of Compass Box's openness.

Now that I've given a quick overview of Compass Box I shall move onto the whisky at hand - Great King Street (The Artist's Blend).

Compass Box believed they had identified an issue with "blended" whiskies in that people had grown accustomed to taking the term "blended" to mean that the whisky was somehow inferior and, with this in mind, they set about creating the Great King Street range.

In order to change these perceptions the premise behind the Great King Street range was to show these persons, that would otherwise shun "blended" whisky, that this style can be excellent and, to achieve this, they adopted a course of action to marry "the very best whiskies that have been aged in the finest quality oak".

The two styles that have been created, so far, are the Artist's Blend and the Glasgow Blend.

For these styles they have brought together a high proportion of malt whisky, over 50% in the Artist's  Blend, with grain whisky that has been completely matured in first fill American barrels.

With regards the Artist's Blend, specifically, the "no holds barred" attitude towards information sharing is displayed brilliantly on their website with the following details.

The Artist's Blend is made up of the following:

46% Lowland grain whisky
28% Northern Highland single malt whisky
17% Another Northern Highland single malt whisky
9% Speyside single malt whisky

And with regards maturation they continue:

66% First fill American oak
26% New French oak finish (New-headed barrel)
8% First fill sherry butt

All of these components have been brought together with no chill-filtration, no colouring and have been bottled at 43% ABV.

Amen to all that!!

Onto my notes:

Nose - Fresh and clean.  All butter lemon biscuits, soft light grains and gentle orange.  I have to say that I picked up a slight sense of a light fresh coastal feel with a touch of sea air and a little mineral chalkiness.  No smoke here whatsoever.   Milk chocolate, soft raisin and a light malt sweetness which is smooth and creamy.

Palate - The soft light grain dominates the arrival and is ably backed up by the malt component.  Fresh citrus, lemon, orange and now some nice peppery notes that give a good lip smacking warmth to the experience.  A little wood sap, from the casks, gives a green feel and again the whole style is smooth and sweet.

Finish - Light pepper, apple and citrus which is again clean, fresh and delicately delicious.

Overall this is a fantastic blend that, in my opinion, is ideal for the summer but would stand up at any time of the year.  Undoubtedly well made and displaying a strong complexity.  I'm not one to say that the term "blended" means inferiority but this certainly has raised the profile of the category.

I personally felt this had a slight Irish feel to it, with a gentle nod towards some of the good grain coming from Cooley, and, after reading the openness of the ingredients online, I was hooked into seeing how well the components would work together.  In this case, there's no doubt at all, they work exceptionally well.

I'm all for whisky companies pushing the boundaries in the right way, with a true understanding of how to make good whisky, and having sampled what Compass Box are creating I, for one, will be back for more.

I've included a link for the website below and strongly urge you all to have a good look yourselves and see what they're up to.

Lastly I'd just like to thank Kirsty and Stewart of whiskycorner.co.uk for the sample, cheers guys.

Until next time,



Compass Box Website - http://www.compassboxwhisky.com/index.php

Thursday, 12 March 2015

"Bottle Your Own" Jameson Whiskey

Today, Thursday 12th March 2015, Brian Nation, master distiller at Midleton Distillery, launched a new initiative which invites visitors to the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin, and the Jameson Experience, Midleton, Cork, to hand fill their very own bottle of Jameson whiskey.

Fans of the Irish whiskey can personally fill a bottle of Jameson Select Reserve Cask Strength Black Barrel from a live bourbon cask.  Visitors can then personalise the label by hand with their name, the date and the whiskey’s cask number and ABV, before logging their personal details in a "Bottle Your Own" ledger, becoming a part of the Jameson legend.

The newest member of the Jameson family, Select Reserve Black Barrel is a blend of rich, Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey and a rare small batch grain whiskey, which is triple distilled in small quantities just once per year.  The expression is available at its natural cask strength for the first time and exclusively through the Bottle Your Own facilities at the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin, and the Jameson Experience Midleton in Cork at the cost of €100 per 70cl.
The original release of Black Barrel came with a RRP of €45 and this is obviously a mark up of €55 but for me I think this is fine idea and one that will surely prosper year on year.  I've no doubt that demand will be high and this offers fans of Irish whiskey, who happen to be in Ireland for a quick visit, the chance to take home something truly special and personal to themselves.
I might just get a bottle myself very soon.
Until next time,



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Abrachan (Lidl) - Blended Malt - Review

Just before Christmas I was doing my usual rounds of the supermarkets, checking out what delights were on offer, and upon passing a local branch of Lidl I thought I'd take a quick peek in case there was something different on the shelves.

How right I was as I immediately spotted a bottle not previously seen by myself.

This "own brand" bottling was named Abrachan.  Now normally I'd not be too interested in such a product but after checking out the packaging I was a little more intrigued. 

The information I was getting was that this was a blended malt, seldom seen these days, and was a triple matured whisky having drawn upon malt whiskies that had spent time in bourbon barrels, Oloroso sherry butts and Tawny port pipes. 

A further check revealed a bottling strength of 42% ABV and that this whisky had come to us courtesy of Clydesdale Scotch Whisky Co., Glasgow, G2 5RG.

Now, the reason I included the postcode is that after a little searching on the internet I discovered that this postcode is the very same used by Whyte & Mackay and relates to their headquarters on St. Vincent Street, Glasgow.

As highlighted within a recent Facebook group, Whyte & Mackay have a large range of whiskies to choose from, above and beyond those from their own distilleries, and therefore your guess is as good as mine as to which whiskies have been used to make this blend.

Pleasantly surprised at the fact this was blended malt, triple matured and bottled at a higher than usual 42% ABV I decided to take a punt whilst quietly telling myself to expect very little, after all it was a supermarket own brand released specifically at Christmas.

Very little is what I got.

Onto my notes:

Nose - Not too bad but very young and unbalanced.  All the usual red fruits were here with the slightest hint of buttered creaminess but all in all they were not integrated well.  The main problem was a distinct off note that smelt rather like rotten eggs.  Could this be my first experience of a sulphur laden cask??

Palate - Thin, watery, young, raw spirit that's had what feels like just a slight influence of possibly 3rd fill casks.  Again very unbalanced and a little nasty.  Only real positive was a slight red fruit note that dried on the mouth but this really isn't too far off being flavoured vodka.

Finish - What finish?

Overall one to definitely be avoided.  Whilst I commend supermarkets for going a little bit further in getting a decent, supposed, presentation out there, with the 42% and all, they really need to start taking a little interest in what's going into the bottle.  It's hard to believe that everything in here is malt whisky as it's so flat and raw but I suppose the distilleries do have to get rid of their crap somehow.  I don't know whether I'll stop buying these supermarket brands or not, in the hope of unearthing a gem, but please at least try to keep us coming back for more.

Until next time,



Royal Salute - Tweet Tasting - Review

Back in December last year I took part in fantastic Tweet Tasting, hosted of course by Steve Rush of "TheWhiskyWire.com", in which all involved were presented with 4 samples from the ultra exclusive "Royal Salute" brand.

The samples on show were the 21 year old, Diamond Tribute, 38 year old Stone of Destiny and 62 Gun Salute.

First released in 1953, as a tribute to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the Royal Salute brand epitomises luxury with the entry point for the range being 21 years old.  In their own words they begin where others end.

For a full run down of the whiskies I'm about to cover feel free to check them out on the Royal Salute website by clicking right here.

Royal Salute - 21 year old blend - 40% ABV

Nose - Tropical pine sap, fresh cut wood, mashed banana with intense orange oil combined with lemon and honey.  Fruit salad sweets and a light buttery note that coats everything nicely.  Oak vanilla is highly evident.  Slight menthol and with time darker notes appear in the form of fruit cake and dried fruit.  Freshness holds up very well.

Palate - Intense fruit and spice arrival which is extremely juicy and quite warming.  Citrus bitter lemon, sweet orange, red apple and clove.  Smooth woodiness keeps everything soft and mellow.  Creamy buttered gingerbread.  Aged wood starts to dry into the finish.

Finish - Slightly short but drying with light spice and red apples.

Overall this is a fine blend with a great marriage of flavours.  As with all these whiskies time is required to fully appreciate the quality that lies within.  Not sure I'd pay the RRP for any of these whiskies but if you have the money then by all means splash out.  Whilst you will be buying something that looks good and tastes good I can't help thinking that there are other bottles out there that would offer better value for money.

Royal Salute - Diamond Tribute blend (21 year old) - 40% ABV

Nose - Not dissimilar to the 21 year old, which is no surprise due to the same age, but this has a much more fresh green feel via some fresh cut grass and a touch of a mineral note.  Orange oil and lemon are still here and now with a distinct brown sugar sweetness.  As with the 21yo, this becomes more "sherried" and rich with mixed spice, Christmas pudding, vanilla cream and indulgent banoffee pie.

Palate - The mineral note on the nose is still apparent on the arrival and this is not as spicy as the 21yo with everything being a bit sweeter and softer.  Sweet and sour lemon drops, light apple and some more oak feel but, as with the spiciness, this is not as drying as the 21yo.  This is more of a fruit juice dram.  Just as it develops, there is a faint hint of dry smoke lingering in the background which is not so much peat but possibly from the cask.

Finish - Longer than the 21yo but just the same with spice and apple.

Overall this just edges the 21yo due to an extra level of flavour and complexity. 

Royal Salute - 38 year old Stone of Destiny blend - 40% ABV

Nose - Intense and tangy with a fine sense of age, wood sap and old dusty leather bound books.  This is a serious step up and you just don't get whisky made like this anymore.  Menthol, milk chocolate and orange oil combine to give a Terry's chocolate orange feel.  Some redness in here too with strawberries and redcurrants coming to the fore.  Light clove spice with a delicate wood spice that's extremely well balanced in the make up of all the flavours.  Some more light wood smoke. Rum and raisin ice cream.  Loads going on here.

Palate - Sharp arrival that instantly gives way to old dusty malt that still packs a serious punch when it comes to flavour.  Wood influence is instantly obvious as the dryness begins early and continues throughout.  Dark fruits, peppermint, stewed oranges and blackcurrant jam.  Extremely rich and indulgent.  The wood influences asserts itself further with tingly spice and some more dry smoke.

Finish - Medium with rich dark fruit and winter spice.

Overall this is a brilliant blend.  For a whisky of 38 years of age to retain so much freshness and flavour is a marvel.  The age is quite obviously there but balances so nicely with the spirit and cask flavours.  In honesty though I, again, wouldn't pay the RRP which appears to be the high side of £550.

Royal Salute - 62 Gun Salute blend (40 year old) - 43% ABV

Nose - To be fair this is not as obviously old as the 38 year old.  Sweet tobacco, coffee beans, cocoa, dark chocolate orange, banoffee pie and cinnamon snaps.  This is slightly perfumed and the wood smoke again flirts in the background.  Soft pine, wood polish and a sense of some really old sherry wood which is quite simply fantastic.

Palate - Damp, old dusty wood that's packed with spice and tannins.  Sweet intense orange, pine sap, ginger cake, lemon oil and dry spice.  The spice holds back just enough before moving onto thick brown sugar syrup and melted butter.  More Christmas pudding, butter biscuits and light dry smoke that moves towards a lip smacking finish.

Finish - Longish with an excellent feeling of luxurious red apple.

Overall this is a serious glass of whisky and something everyone should try at least once.  Again far too expensive to justify but the experience of sampling something so old, and so different to modern day whiskies, is one that should be sought out.

Throughout this range there is a clear style of flavours running alongside some serious cask influence and to that end the master blender has done a great job.

All I have to say is a seriously huge thank you to Steve Rush at TheWhiskyWire.com for the opportunity to sample something so unique and another thank you to Chivas Regal / Royal Salute for the samples.

Until next time,



Sunday, 8 March 2015

Jameson - Caskmates - Review

In anticipation of the up-and-coming St Patrick's Day holiday, and an impending trip to Midleton Distillery over the holiday weekend, I thought it only right to bring you all a quick review of a Jameson whiskey that is quickly gathering a cult following amongst the collectors out there.

I am, of course, talking about Jameson "Caskmates".

This limited edition whiskey is born out of a collaboration between Midleton Distillery and the Franciscan Well Brewery which is based in Cork City.  After managing to get their hands on a few Jameson casks, Franciscan Well aged some of their stout in the barrels as an experimentation.

Once finished with, the casks were returned to Jameson who decided to give the process of experimentation a rattle themselves.  Jameson took their blended spirit, at around 60%ABV, and filled the newly returned barrels for around 6 months. 

The results were deemed to be so successful that Jameson set about releasing 3,500 bottles of the "beer finished" whiskey for us all to enjoy and it was with this release that "Caskmates" was born.

Released with a RRP of €35 the majority of bottles were quickly snapped up all over Ireland and are now rather difficult to track down.  The rarity of these bottles has also allowed the "collectors" and "investors" to cash in with many now appearing on various auction sites and one screenshot, I viewed back in January, showed a bottle going for at least £200...CRAZY!!

Thankfully though I managed to nab a couple of bottles at a proper price.

Rumour also has it that a second release is in the planning so keep your eyes peeled for those hitting the shelves.

Onto my notes:

Nose - What's immediately obvious that this whiskey has taken on a very new identity indeed.  The Irish style is not the first thing that hits you but rather an almost metallic, hoppy beer note.  The stout has had a serious effect on this spirit.  Undeniably youthful but well balanced with light grain and fresh citrus lemon integrating well with the touches of dark beer.  Coffee is suggested in official tasting notes but is not a prominent as you'd think.  The richness eases off and allows the young spirit to come to the fore with more of a light, gentle sweetness that's bordering on perfumed.  Light pepper sits nicely in the background and just keeps the pot still identity present.

Palate - Much deeper on the palate than on the nose.  Again the stout is ever present and gives a dark rich flavour to the whiskey that again has a slight metallic note to it.  As the deep flavours recede the light grain comes back in and holds up nicely with a slight dryness.  Dry spice comes through and there's a further feel of light lemon and some green apple.

Finish - In fairness short but sure just take another sip and enjoy it all over again.

Overall this is a whiskey that hits the mark.  It's not out there to blow you away with depth and complexity but it has plenty of it in it's own right.  It was brought together as an experiment and for me it has really worked. 

The balance of flavours are spot on and this is, quite simply, great fun to drink. 

At €35 this is a dram that's affordable and not lacking in care and presentation.  Some other companies should take note.  Whilst it may be hard to find there are still bottles knocking about and, for me, they are well worth seeking out. 

As I said it's not the most breath-taking whiskey you'll drink this year but I doubt you'll drink anything that's more "fun".

**Update - Since this was written, Jameson have now launched a newer version of Caskmates on a wider scale and into the U.S. market.**

Until next time,



Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Glenlivet - Nàdurra - Batch 0113V - Review

Glenlivet distillery is one that I have had little experience of and naturally I jumped at the chance when a good friend offered me a sample from his bottle of "Nàdurra"

Nàdurra being the Gaelic word for "natural", it comes as no surprise that this expression is a no holds barred, cask strength, beast of a dram.  It continues to impress, whilst in the bottle, with information stating it's age of 16 years, the fact that it is non chill-filtered and has been matured in first fill bourbon barrels.

This particular batch is 0113V which was bottled, in January 2013, at a whopping strength of 56.9% ABV.  This expression can usually be found in supermarkets for around £50 and is also often discounted during key holidays such as Christmas and Father's Day.

With all the boxes seemingly ticked it only leads me to wonder why more distilleries don't offer so much apparent quality for a relatively small cost.  These thoughts are also relevant when talking about the current "NAS vs Aged Whisky" argument but I'll save my views on that for another time.

Onto my notes:

My first observation is that the whisky sits in the glass whilst displaying a beautiful oily texture that coats the sides well.

Nose - Intense spirit with big spices that touch on chilli pepper.  Buttered citrus and lemon oil.  Distinct white wine notes that intensify to almost grappa.  Vanilla is light and gentle with hints of green apple.  The fire of spice continues but never overpowers the spirit nor does it ever become too harsh.  Slight touch of dustiness also evident in here.  As the heat lessens we move back to a candied sweetness which is clean, crisp and fragrant with a little perfume appearing too.

Palate - Sweet, sweet fresh fruits that move over to allow the intense heat to come through.  Prickly, peppery heat arrives and oh my is it a serious kick.  This is more of an eye opener than was evident on the nose but thankfully it stops short of being unenjoyable, but only just.  More green apple and a touch of clove are the main points before I add a good amount of water.  This whisky can take the water so don't be afraid.  This allows the spice to subside a fair amount and the sweetness to return.  Sweet malt, lemon sweets,  apples and oranges.  There's some more dusty notes in here which give a good sense of the oak.

Finish - Huge sour apple sweets with more warmth.   Even after 5 - 10 minutes the apple taste is still rattling around the mouth.

Overall this is an enjoyable dram that pushes the boundary of harshness.  Big on the sweet fruits and spices this whisky really does not hold back.  I love the fact that this is delivered in such a natural form and much prefer this to a bottle of 40% averageness that's been thrown together.  Whilst this may not be to everyone's taste I feel whiskies like this can be of huge benefit when starting out on your whisky journey.  These types of expressions should be treated with patience which should allow even the most novice a chance to get into a whisky over time and find those notes that come from spirit and cask.

I'll be honest and say that whilst this hasn't knocked my socks off it is certainly a bottle I wouldn't think twice about buying and keeping in my collection as spirit that's been presented in this light can last a long time and always offer something different each time you reach for it.

Huge thanks to Jamie for the sample.

Until next time,