Happy New Year!
January is a time of new beginnings, a brief moment to recollect at days past but also dream of what the future holds. The new year means seven new cask strength bottles to discuss and share with friends.
If you are a Scot, a Scotch Whisky Drinker, or both; it also means the spectre of Rabbie Burns looms in the air. He hovers above us, anxiously waiting for his moment to pounce, which as always will happen on January 25th: the day of his birth. Then we will all be forced to don a fake Scottish accent, wear kilts and belt out Gaelic Rhymes in a Seussian manner and gulp down some haggis before we get to the dramming.
Enough of that for now. We have at least a few days more before we do all of that. For now, let’s talk about Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles and the spirits that THEY contain. Here is a quick rundown of the first Outturn of 2020:
- There were a few surprises in the lineup, including number one. Starting with an Armagnac? Preposterous! Typically an Armagnac would be too rich and earthy to start a tasting and when they have been included in past Outturns, they usually ended up fourth or fifth in the lineup. Not so for this CUP O’ KINDNESS, which is lighter than most other Armagnac I have tasted. Light, but not lacking flavour.
- SOUL O’ PLAYS AND PRANKS arrived next, and takes its name from one of the Scottish Bard’s many poems. The SMWS of course selected a bottle to honour Robbie Burns this month, and 58.29 does so nicely. Rich and elegant with beautiful fruit notes, and hailing from one of the most picturesque distilleries in Scotland.
- Third in the lineup was NUTS, SPICE AND INTRIGUE. This is a wonderful unadulterated Dalmore, showing plenty of complexity for a cask that was just ten years of age when it was bottled.
- Number four was the oldest bottle of the tasting by a full decade. WALKING INTO A FRUIT PUNCH is not just a pun your dad would make, it is also a wonderfully fruity dram from distillery 35.
- We landed on the shores of Islay for the fifth bottle in the lineup. SEA, SAND AND SOOT is an unpeated whisky from distillery 10 that vacillates between being fresh and vibrant to tight and mineral-driven, yet without as much salt as many other SMWS Bunna’s have shown recently.
- DISTOPIAN CYBERMAN LUBRICANT. That has to either be the title of a 1970s Arthouse/Sci-Fi/Porno film or an SMWS bottle distilled in Campbeltown. Perhaps it is both. Either way, the whisky version is wonderful and exhibits a soft and complex palate with the bright barley and mechanical/metallic character that only The Wee Toon’s three distilleries can pull off with any consistency.
- Our final green bottle of the Outturn gave us peat in a different manner than we might expect from a typical number seven in a lineup. ACME GHOST REPELLENT gives us mainland peat with little to no coastal notes and hails from an unlikely and difficult to guess distillery source: Glenturret. It was fun to taste an indie bottle in the peated style from the distillery. It was the first chance to do so for me personally. If you could guess the distillery blind on this on, you are a better person than I!
For the full rundown of the lineup in the words of the more trusted SMWS, read on below.
Curious about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society? More information can be found on our website here. Past releases and other available bottles can found on our website as well.
A big thanks as always goes to our neighbor’s Peasant Cheese for supplying the food compliment for the tastings.
Cheers and until next time,
Instagram: one part of @kwmwhisky // @sagelikefool
We made it! Twenty-four days straight of whisky in small bottles to make that difficult trudge to Christmas Day all the more pleasant and fulfilling. Did it work? Did you find some new favourites? I know I did.
It is fun to take this time to reflect on the Whisky Calendar as a whole. Did some bottles stand out for you? For myself, I had tasted many of these bottles before, though some I had never paid as much attention to. The most exciting part for me was tasting some that I had never tried before. Now that I have written about and tasted them all, here is a list of my personal top five:
- 5 – Buffalo Trace Bourbon – I was saddened when we found out that this was in a plastic bottle, but regardless of that, this shows Bourbon in a nutshell. It has plenty of flavour and even a bit of nuance, and it is very inexpensive for a full-sized bottle. Especially if you are used to Scotch whisky prices.
- 4 – Glenfarclas 21 Year Old – Despite my protestations in having to find something new to say about Glenfarclas for the blog post, I think I managed it. On top of that, this is a wonderful bottle to revisit, so I will do so whenever I possibly can.
- 3 – Kilchoman KWM Cask – Of course this would make the top three. I am a sucker for Kilchoman, especially at high proof from ex-Bourbon casks. Our cask checks those boxes nicely and delivers sweet and smokey whisky that is complex beyond its seven years of age.
- 2 – SMOS Ben Nevis KWM Cask – Yeah, I helped pick it, but I will take any chance I get to revisit this one while we still have some of it around. This is a deliciously old-school sherried malt.
- 1 – Loch Lomond 18 Year Old – It is no secret that I have been enjoying bottlings from this distillery recently, be it from the distillery labels or from independent bottlers like the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. I was excited to taste this one, but it still blew away my expectations. It has a cereal driven, fruity smoke and peat that reminds me of Ardmore, but the Amaro-like bittersweet notes make it entirely its own beast. I loved this dram.
How was the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar for you? Which bottles would be in your top five or top three? Feel free to tweet me @sagelikefool and give me your thoughts!
We have made it to the penultimate door of the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar! Looking back at the recent few years’ calendars, tradition seems to dictate that this will be something bold and peaty, and possibly from Kilchoman… The 2019 Calendar marks three years in a row with a Kilchoman Single Cask as the bottle behind the twenty-fourth door. This time, however, it is not a Kensington Wine Market Single Cask. We already had that bottle back on day three. Today’s bottle is a single cask Kilchoman selected by the gentleman that imports all those great bottles from the Islay distillery into Alberta. His name is Andy Dunn, his company is Gold Medal Marketing, and his single cask is the Kilchoman Alberta Single Cask Madeira Finish.
Andy Dunn, Pouring at One of Our Whisky Festivals
Andy Dunn has been passionate about whisky for a long time, and his company has been responsible for spreading that passion in Alberta for nearly two decades. He introduced many of us to the likes of Kilchoman, and Springbank, and Cadenhead, and Benromach, and Tullibardine, and the list goes on, and on, and on.
Here were are, it is finally Christmas Eve… Eve! The end is nigh! Only two more doors to open before we get to that special 100ml bottle! Oh, and Christmas Day. I guess. My kids seem to believe that the day itself is more important than that SMWS bottle, so I suppose I should humour them. They aren’t old enough to know any better, not by decades.
I am rambling here already, looking to fill this void with words and witticisms without getting to the heart of the matter: day twenty-three’s whisky. Why, you ask? Because what more can be said about Glenfarclas Distillery? I am at a loss, so let’s leave it at a quick run-down, or Cliff Notes version, for this part:
- Officially founded in 1836, though there were certainly illicit stills in operation around the property prior to this.
- John and George Grant bought the distillery in 1865, for a sum of £511.19s.0d.
- The Grant line continues to own the distillery to this day, with a now six-generation succession of John’s and George’s at the head of the company, aptly named J & G Grant.
- Both the family and the distillery seem to have a thing, and a knack for, ageing their Single Malt Scotch Whisky in ex-Sherry casks. It is what Glenfarclas is known for.
- But that is just part of a greater whole for what makes Glenfarclas a distillery deserving of our love and devotion is that they are a buoy in a turbulent ocean of whisky. Other distilleries change their labels, change their house style, and muck around with going from age statement to colour coding in a fickle manner, seemingly blown about by every change in wind direction and economic current. Yet Glenfarclas stays in place, maintaining its level even in the rising tide of new distilleries and new gimmicks, acting as a beacon to those of us that tire of all the change, and at the end of the day don’t want to weather every single storm in a teacup. We just want a good Single Malt, dammit. Glenfarclas is a relative bulwark of consistency in a vast ocean Single Malt Entropy. Continue reading
Day twenty-two has arrived, and we are looking at very few doors left to open on the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar. December has been a blur, and doing all of this whisky tasting (in the name of SCIENCE!) may not have helped, but I do believe this is our first foray into Campbeltown. It is time to crack open that door and reveal the Glen Scotia Victoriana Single Malt Scotch.
Campbeltown is home to three distilleries: Springbank, Glengyle (bottled as Kilkerran), and Glen Scotia. Like its ‘Wee Toon’ cohort Springbank, the Glen Scotia Distillery itself is chock-full of grimy, victorian, and industrial character in all of the right ways. Also like both Springbank and Kilkerran, Glen Scotia Distillery lies within the town itself. Continue reading
Holy moley! These Douglas Laing bottles are coming in fast and furious! Break down door number twenty one on your 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar and you will reveal the Timorous Beastie Blended Malt Scotch.
Just two days ago, back on day 19, we tasted the Rock Island and previous to that back on day nine we had frolicked with the The Epicurean. Timorous Beastie marks our third Blended Malt from Douglas Laing’s the Remarkable Regional Malts of Scotland lineup. The Epicurean represented the Lowlands, the Rock Island the Islands, and now with Timorous Beastie we are in the Highlands of Scotland both in style and source.
On the label for this bottle, we are not given the portrait of the very picture of a gentleman accosted by his own mustache or a giant oyster laden with pearl, but the picture of an inquisitive rodent. The name Timorous Beastie is a reference to a poem by the Scottish Bard himself, Robert Burns, titled “To a Mouse” which he wrote in 1785. It was possibly written whilst Burns was looking around a room for ideas and there was no haggis to be found to which he could write an Ode to. Just kidding. “To a Mouse” is a often referenced Burns poem. John Steinbeck also used part of the verse for the the title of one of his more popular novels “Of Mice and Men”.
Day twenty is here! If you are keeping up in real-time with our 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar, that means Christmas is only five
doors days away now. Perhaps you are now slowly becoming more content, as work is done (or nearly done) and your holiday has possibly started. Or conversely, a state of panic might now be activated, as you realize how much shopping for gifts and holiday get-togethers still needs to be done. Maybe you are capable of emotionally multi-tasking and feel both The Dread and The Calm at the same time? That seems to be my personal base level, which I run on 24/7 regardless of the season. Does that make it the norm or am I just a walking and talking contradiction? I don’t really have time to find out, so I will roll with it.
Back to Edradour Distillery for Day 20!
Where was I? Right – what lies in wait for us behind door twenty, just waiting to pounce? Open it up and take a look! We going to Edradour Distillery for the second time this Calendar, but this time we are going peaty with Ballechin 10 Year Old. Continue reading
We did it, everybody! We made it back to Scotland. Does it feel like it has been a while since we have been here for a mini bottle? We have just spent four days travelling through other parts of the world for whisky. Hopefully, you aren’t feeling jet-lagged by our whisky travels or burnt out by the pre-holiday rush. Even if you are, lets, sit back, relax, and delve into the Rock Island Blended Malt for day nineteen of our 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar.
Rock Island is a Blended Malt Scotch produced by Douglas Laing, who you may remember from day six’s The Epicurean. Like the Epicurean, Rock Island is also part of the company’s Remarkable Regional Malts line. There are two older siblings to Rock Island currently available as well: the limited Rock Island 10 Year Old, and the even more limited Rock Island 21 Year Old of which only 4200 bottles were produced for the world. Continue reading
In the past two days, we have visited the United States and Canada for our whisky adventures. Today, for door number eighteen, out continuing excursion brings us to the Netherlands. Pull that bottle from its hidey-hole and you will find it to be the Millstone Peated PX Sherry Cask.
The Zuidam Distillery was founded in 1975 in Baarle Nassau , which lies in the southern Netherlands near the border it shares with Belgium The Founder, Fred van Zuidam, had accumulated two decades of previous experience in spirits production before deciding to make a go of it on his own. Under his care, the distillery started by making a line of premium liqueurs using natural ingredients, from grain to fruit to herbs and spices used. This methodology continues to this day, as Zuidam spirits are made with no artificial colouring or flavouring. This goes for all of their products, be it their Cassis Liqueur (which is delicious by the way), Apple Flavoured Gin, Dutch Courage Old Tom Gin, Premium Genever, or Single Malt Whiskies.
We are travelling north for Day Seventeen of the 2019 KWM Whisky Calendar, leaving yesterday’s Bourbon and the United States behind and heading to Canada. Specifically, today’s whisky takes us to Shelter Point Distillery.
Located on a farm halfway between Comox and Campbell River on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Shelter point has been laying down spirit in casks to eventually become whisky since June of 2011. They source much of the barley used from their own farm…
Shelter Point is first and foremost a farm. At the moment the berry sales to jam makers like Smuckers are really what’s paying the bills. The farm also grows barley and has a small menagerie of farm animals. Most of the animals aren’t really there for the farm as much as they are to delight owner Patrick Evan’s Grandchildren. And to perhaps one day populate an ark. Continue reading