There is a lot happening in the Whisky Industry in the last little while. One thing I have been noticing is that independent bottlers have been purchasing distilleries. Now isn’t that an oxymoron? You can’t be independant and own a distillery! Well the thing is this: Many producers are not selling casks anymore since demand for their own Whisky is high. So independent bottlers are having a hard time finding a good selection of Whisky to bottle and, more importantly, sell to customers. By having their own distillery they can now also sell their own distillate to the consumer and keep bottling other Whiskies as well. Economists call that diversification. This is all nice and well, but how will this effect the whisky market? One thing I (and many other malt lovers) have noticed is that the protectors of the traditional distillery character seem to be the independent bottlers. And that is also the artisan approach they take while producing their own spirit. They try to recreate the “destillate of old” that used to flow through the spirit-receiver decades ago. Most of them do this quite successfully. So far I have been positively surprised by Benromach (Gordon & McPhail) and Edradour (Signatory). Ian Macleod owns Glengoyne and Tamdhu which seems to have inprooved lately. Adelphi has started up Ardnamurchan and Wemyss is well on the way with their Kingsbarns Distillery. I am looking forward to tasting their Single Malts once they have “come of age”. Lets hope that in turn, the big players will give the traditional approach to destilling some more thought again…
Get yourself a glass and pour a heavily sherried Glenrothes (Adelphi’s 6 year old is highly recommended). I must say, it was hard to fit this with a song! A lot of powerful songs just didn’t have suitable lyrics. So I ended up choosing an Instrumental track. No relaxing this time. Swash-buckle your seatbelt and get ready for take off…
Not the pace to enjoy a whisky at but it reflects the character of the Whisky really well, I think.
This should be interesting. We have two independent bottlings at over 66% vol., one is 6 and the other 8 years old. I am not sure what is more frightening, the fact that they are so young or that they are both extremely high in strengh? Or maybe both…;)
There is quite some interresting stuff happening here: The newmake seems to be filled in the cask at unusually high volume, this in turn can suggest the following:
1. The cuts are made extra early to achieve a clean, round destillate.
2. It is planned to age the Whisky for a long time, thus needing more margin for the Angels-Share.
3. They are planning to dilute the Whisky before bottling and will therefore have greater outturn.
I would like to commend Adelphi and A.D.Rattray for the boldness to state the age of these bottles. As we will see later, there is no reason to hide behind an NAS. If the Whisky is ready, for peat sake, bottle it at F***ing 3 years. I would just like to know!
Well lets have a wee tasting…shall we?
Glenrothes, 6 years, 2013, Sherry Butt, 66.7% vol., Adelphi Selection
S: 7 G: 4 P: 1 / Color: mahogany / Score: 92
On the nose I get big Sherry, lots of dried fruit, raisins, prunes and some cherries (ever had dried cherries? delicious). Sherry-Monster in da House! Quite sweet with a nice touch of marzipan also some roasted nuts, perhaps even caramelized almonds. Some hay followed the appropriate farmy notes. Lovely! Taste: WoW, stunning arrival, huge volume (66.7%?), cherries and a nice round touch of oak. Very mellow considering the strengh, drinking this one neat is no problem at all! With water I get more Sherry on the nose but the punch in the arrival is gone. Noses quite flat now. On the palatte it turns more oaky and the youth becomes more obvious. There is also a sourness appearing in the arrival. Please do not water this baby, if you are scared of the strengh, let someone else try this amazing dram!
Glenrothes, 8 years, 2015, Sherry Butt, 66.1% vol., Cask Nr. 10238, A.D. Rattray, S: 4 G: 2 P: 1 / Color: Pale Gold / Score: 50 (max.)
Oh no, this is far from similar. Spirity with a off-putting note of acetone (?) Where could that come from? …I can’t put my finger on it. Ha, possibly some foreshots! This one is extremely hard to nose at full strengh…boah… I can’ find anything pleasent in this nose. Unfortunately. The taste is sweet but with a sharp arrival, a tiny bit of sherry (5th fill?) and some barley coming through. There is an oaky dryness as well. Very light body. All to simple. Medium finish just do to the strengh. This cask was a waste of destillate 🙁 Lets hope it swimms at least. With water I get some lemon, some hay but the rest is so far off, I don’ even want to nose this any longer. On the palatte it is a little less sharp with a tad more Sherry and some oak. Its a lot more settled now but far from anything I would recommend. I can only hope it will improve with oxydization (low hopes;) Sorry A.D.Rattray. Try again…
Wow! That was quite the experience. Adelphi wins this one hands down. Maybe it’s my own age (or lack therove) that makes me like this style of malt. And now, as we do it here at The Whisky Agents: Music please! What powerful song will we match this baby up with?
With our 200L of wort that had fermented nicely, we made our way to a local farm distillery. He had never distilled whisky before but seemed quite exited to try. Obviously he had no clue to where to make the cuts and at what temperature the still had to be set at. Also, he had never heard of the concept of double distilling. I had jotted down all the information I got at the destilleries we visited and some info I collected from the web. The first run went exactly as planned with the spirit having an acohol content of ~25 % vol. It wasn’t until the second run when things got a little odd. Usually the forshots come in at the highest strengh (~80% vol.) and then there is a gradual drop until you cut off the faints at around 50% vol. The first bit coming out of the still was just a little over 58% vol. and the final output was around 51% vol. Even the destiller had never seen that happen before and could not make any sense of it. So in the end we filled the barrel with newmake of 53% vol. We had purchased a 10L barrel rebuilt from an ex-bourbon cask. The cooper did an amazing job, the only problem is that we can not age it any longer than a year in the baby-barrel. There is just to much contact with the wood and the whisky would taste gross. So after all, we will not hold our own Whisky in hands but merely a Spirit, since it will not have aged the necessary three years in an oak cask. Not really a big deal, since the goal was to go through the process of making Whisky and that we did. Our cask is now resting in my cellar and we have sampled it twice now. The color has darkened significantly but the destillate is very young (obviously;) As soon as we decide to bottle the spirit I will publish some tasting notes. If I’m lucky I will find something to compare it to (possibly it would be better not to find something too similar…if you know what I mean).
I highly recommend trying this at home! You will be rewarded with insight that very few people have been able to experience. Make sure to check legal recuirements in your country of residence. Have fun!
Yeah, yeah I know, sounds like one of those “add any random wood chips to your Whisky” posts. I sometimes wonder, how terrible does Whisky taste for someone to do such a thing! And do they seriously expect the flavour to get more favourable? Now, I can understand the concept of exploring the effect of wood on the destillate but then just compare a younger and an older Whisky from the same distillery. Bang, now you’ve got some useful information!
Anyway! I got a little off track here. After returning from Scotland, loaded with lots of usefull destillery insight, I asked myself: How hard can it be to make our own Whisky, since the process is really quite basic. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of variables in creating a good dram (yeast, water, cask, cuts etc.) But it was never the idea to distill and age a superb Whisky. It was simply the challenge of going through the process. After reading some books on distilling and finding suppliers for brewing eqquippment and such, I proposed the endevour to The Whisky Agents.
They where all-in!
We set a date and orderd all the things we needed. On an April weekend we where ready to go. The first step is to create a basic beer without hops. We used two 40L pots fueld by a woodfire to brew roughly 200L of wort (the correct term in regards to whisky). It took us litteraly all day to fill our fermantation barrels. After cooling the wort we added the yeast and waited for five days until we reached the desired alcohol content of ~7% vol. Next up: Distilling!
From the beginning it was my intention to bring something “extra” to the table. Here’s the plan:
The winner of each tasting session will be paired with a “Soundtrack”. One of my other passions is music from various decades and I will attempt to find a song which enhances an/or underlines the expression of the Whisky. Maybe I am shoveling my own grave here…;) but I just love the thought of opening up the experience to the audible senses. Quite certainly I will be walking on thin ice, since everyone has personal memories attached to certain songs but I encourage you to give it a go. You may click on the image to play the song online if it is not in your collection.
Poor yourself a Ben Nevis (22 year Silverseal if available) sit back in your favorite chair and play the track. Just enjoy the moment and relax with your dram.
Feel free to comment. Also, if you have a Musical-Dram you would like to share, just send an email to andyATthewhiskyagents.com
In Zurich we have an annual event called “Whisky-Schiff”. This is an entertaining happening where six boats dock im Zurich and many Whisky brands have their range available for tasting. Obviously The Whisky Agents had to be part of this. Where else can you try such a variety of rare bottlings at a reasonable price. Mind you, the place was totally overrun by all kinds of folk, but we couldn’t care less. After sipping some rather average drams we came across a bottle of 22 year old Ben Nevis by the Italian bottler Silverseal (I had heard good things about them). My fellow Whisky Agent Tobi and I decided to give it a try since we quite liked the promise of the standard 10 year old. To not give away everything just yet let’s just say it was a different story all together. There was three Frenchmen next to us who bought the last two bottles as we where getting mentally prepared to do the same. Bummer…Well, Whisky Agents don’t just give up and we found the desired “juice” a couple of days later, much to our satisfaction.
So the first ever tasting on this blog will cover three different bottlings of Ben Nevis.
Ben Nevis 10 year old, OB, 46% vol., 2015
S: 4 G: 3 P: 1 / Color: gold / Score: 82
On the nose I get a little Sherry first, something floral(maybe camomille) followed by a martime breeze with a hint of seaweed. There is also a slight citrus note that reminds me of Bitter Lemon. Some apricots appear after 10 minutes and the nose seems to be more balanced. With water; more citrus possibly bergamotte, fresher and fruitier. Taste: Sherry again, a little oak, well composed but far from complex, a little light which would improve with higher ABV I’m sure. There is a hint of musty warehouse, which I enjoy a lot, medium finnish getting dryer.
Ben Nevis 23 year old, Signatory Vintage, 46% vol., 1991
S: 3 G: 2 P:1 / Color: gold / Score: 73
First nose: A raspberry patch by the sea ?!? Some grapefruit and tinned pears, sounds like a fruit basket to me. It’s quite light, must be some 3rd or 4th fill here. Too bad really. Can’t get much more out of this. The taste is a tad more talkative than the nose, some sweetness with a hint of oak. Really flat and not much to catch my interest. With some water we now have a fruit candy with a whiff of something sour, maybe lime. Tastes similar, less oak less expression. I prefer the 10.
Ben Nevis 22 year old, Silver Seal, 60.4% vol., 1990
S:7 G: 4 P:2 / Color: amber / Score: 90
A big rubber nose for starters, a little sulphur (all good), fresh honeydew melons and a ripe banana, a touch of leather and some barley emerging. Also a whiff of salty ocean things like seaweed, crabs and driftwood 😉 I find a bite of chocolate too. There is a slight off note in there somewhere (cleaning solvent possibly). Complex allright! On the pallate: Grand Sherry opening followed by a good attack of the oak, some briney seawater and again some melons. Quite a long finish. Musty Warehouse deluxe! Just love that in the aftertaste. Whith water we still get a lot of rubber (tires) on the nose, the off note has dissapeared but so have the fruits. The mouthfeel is more oily now, less oak, less brine and the melon is overripe now. Same stellar aftertaste on musty cellar. A great Whisky in my book and well worth something special! Watch out for the next post…
At this point I would like to thank Serge @ whiskyfun.com for his dedication to Whisky and the relentless compiling of tasting notes and information. His website is both extremely informative and entertaining. I have adapted the tasting procedure and scoring system from his website, since it is highly effective and simplifies comparing notes. Big-up to Serge Valentin!
Here some information about the tasting procedure:
1. It makes sense to compare Whiskies from the same Distillery or at least similar characteristics (you know Apples to Apples) in order to have points of reference.
2. We DO add small amounts of water whenever possible, since it does change and often significantly improves the flavor experience.
3. We judge with scores from 0-100, and use the SGP-System with a score from 0-9 for each letter. S: sweet/fruity, G: grainy/grassy, P: phenolic/smoky, it’s quite basic but it shows a general flavor profile. So a Whisky could be rated like so: SGP=651 (quite sweet, some grassy notes and a hint of smoke)
4. Everyone has their own preferences in taste. So I will not attempt to create universally true tasting notes. They will be based on my personal experience at that particular moment in time. After all this should be fun! Right Serge?
So without further ado, i present the very first tasting at thewhiskyagents.com
As you know, I haven’t been enjoying Whisky that long yet. Most of the ones I have tasted are considerably young and recent bottlings. Now, reading reviews and tasting notes from around the web, I have found many experienced “Malt-heads” writing about the drop in quality and NAS (No Age Statement) versions. Personally I would love to have started tasting Whiskies earlier, but such is life. No reason to cry over spilled Whisky (…It depends;). Many amazing drams are for ever gone and I am sure some people will not find anything quite comparable these days. I believe we are experiencing the “Electric-Guitar-Effect”, as I like to call it. When guitars became electric and rock bands started using their potential there was an outcry by the previous generation. A tradition was broken for the sake of progress. Many rock bands are now considered “Classic” and music history would not be complete without them. But as time progresses things change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. Fact of the matter is, my reference point is different. Given my age, I am more likely to enjoy a “New Style” Whisky than “Old School” afficinados because I am not aware of the difference! I think the taste for Whisky is very much an acquired one, and therefore will change with experience. I encourage you to take a plunge and taste it for yourself. Nothing is more valuable than your own measure.
Well my name is Andy and I love all things Whisky. I have been educating myself intensely on the subject and have encountered many interesting things. At this point in time I have tried more than 350 Single Malts and intend to further my experience. I host Whisky Tastings once a month at a Restaurant close by and we tend to have a lot of fun. If you have any Questions or would like to organise a private Tasting feel free to contact me. I would love to help others uncover the wonderful mysteries of Whisky.
What this wee website offers you is my view of the world of Whisky (or occasional other topics) in a form that is easy to digest, personal and fun. Just like Whisky itself.
There is so many Whiskies out there to discover and this blog will serve as my personal diary…
Pour yourself a dram and have a good time.