Glenlivet Founders Reserve

Glenlivet Founders Reserve 4

Recommendation: Consider it

Type: Single malt Scotch whisky

Origin: Speyside, Scotland

ABV: 40%

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The Glenlivet Founders Reserve was first launched in March 2014 and in Australia on 1 July 2015, and it is poised to become the new permanent benchmark expression in The Glenlivet’s core range as rumors abound that it will replace the much loved Glenlivet 12 year old. This is a bold move indeed reflecting on comments of Pernod Ricard’s Marketing Director, Anne Martin, that The Glenlivet has a whopping 26% of the Australian single malt market. Clearly ignoring the odd adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, The Glenlivet seems to be rolling the proverbial dice by tampering with its incredibly successful core range. Only time will tell if the gamble will pay off. 

Glenlivet Founders Reserve 1

The Glenlivet Founders Reserve joins the range

The Glenlivet Founders Reserve will be available in approximately 60 of Pernod Ricard’s key markets around the world, but notable exceptions include South Africa, India, Russia, Taiwan, China, and, Global Travel Retail/Duty Free. Some markets, it seems, will stock both the Glenlivet 12 year old and the Founders Reserve but unfortunately Australia will not be one of those markets. The Glenlivet 12 year old will only be available in Australia until December 2015, so for Australian readers be sure to stock up on the product if it is your poison of choice. 

Glenlivet Founders Reserve 3

A bartender pours the liquid sunshine into a glass

In terms of the product itself, the Glenlivet Founders Reserve comprises of malts that have been matured in traditional and first fill American oak casks. It is a “no age statement” expression, which means that all we can be certain about is that the whisky in the bottle is at least 4 years old. Of course, in mature whisky markets consumers should be aware that in relation to whisky age does not always correlate with quality; a good whisky usually has a good balance between the whisky’s distillery character (from the distilled spirit) and the oak (from the flavours and aromas the spirit soaks up from the oak casks in which the spirit ages). Too long in the casks, and the distillery character may fade away and be dominated by wood. Too little time in the casks, and the distillery character may be too prominent and the whisky may smell and taste “immature”. It is about taking the whisky out of the oak casks when it is “ready”; just like knowing when to take a cake out of an oven or a steak off the barbecue. Steak is probably a better analogy because just as different people like their steak rare or well done (a travesty, I know), some people may like whisky young, old or base a preference on their mood or the occasion.  It is not correct to dismiss “no age statement” whisky, without trying the whisky first and assessing where it might fit in the Scotch flavour spectrum; because if my cravings are anything to go by, sometimes I want a young bitey or simple malt and other times I want an old complex malt. Other times I might want sweet navy style rum or a drier English style pot still rum, an old elegant Cognac or a fiery young grappa. You get the point.  

Fortunately,  a bottle of The Glenlivet Founders Reserve has been warming my cold winter nights over the past couple of weeks and I am now in a good position to share my thoughts about this whisky in the below tasting notes. 

Eyes:

The whisky is a pale gold with a tinge of amber and a mild reddish hue. When swirled around in the glass the liquid forms a thin film around the inside of the glass which recedes into thin, but short lived, legs.

Nose: 

Creamy vanilla dominates this whisky’s bouquet; not very surprising really, as vanilla is one of the main notes derived from maturing whisky in American oak. We know that The Glenlivet matures this malt in first fill American oak casks. “First fill”, as the name suggests, indicates a cask that has been filled with whisky for the first time. As you can probably guess, these casks have a lot of flavour to give whisky because they have not been used very much before, except perhaps for maturing bourbon or sherry in most cases.

Beneath the sumptuous layer of vanilla there is green apple, hay, spearmint gum, shavings of dark chocolate and sweet alcohol, scratching the nostrils with glued cardboard.

Taste:

Somewhat dull at first, but it gets tasty. Dried apple, juicy pear and raisins meet spiced loaf, with hard red candy.  Layers of honey begin to form on the palate as the initial bite of alcohol fades, and the mid-palate is warming and spicy; quite gingery and jaggered with licorice. After the smooth entry the whisky seems to become a little rough, with lashes of alcohol and spice. As the notes whiz around the palate, I cannot help but feel a bit confused about what The Glenlivet hopes to achieve with this malt. Some flavours clash, but for the most part it works… just.

Finish: 

Honey remains on the palate, with apple and pear. There is some vanilla, with lightly buttered sultana pastry. Soy sauce emerges on the finish, more umami than salty, with shades of Vegemite and sake – in short, the malt tastes estery and yeasty.

Bottom line: 

Consider it. The Glenlivet’s Founder’s Reserve is a tasty single malt malt that has a reasonable price tag, but the nagging bite of what seems to be young whisky disrupts my enjoyment of this malt. It tastes a little rough to bear The Glenlivet name, but at its price you could do worse.

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Ardbeg Perpetuum

ardbeg_spirits_perpetuum_1068003

Recommendation: Consider it

Type: Single malt Scotch whisky

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 47.4%

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Ardbeg Perpetuum is a single malt that was released to celebrate Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary. It is comprised of whiskies of different ages, that have been matured in both bourbon and sherry barrels, and then combined to create Ardbeg Perpetuum.

Eyes:

The whisky has a very pale white wine colour, similar to the pale yellow of a Pinot Gris. When swirled in the glass, this whisky forms a thin oily film that clings to the inside of the glass and as the film begins to recede evenly dispersed legs take form around most of the circumference of the glass. The legs stick to the glass long after the whisky is swirled around.

Nose:

Sweet toffee apple, sticky caramel, milk chocolate and luscious waves of vanilla soften the bite of peat and the sting of a ground peppercorn medley, which tease the nostrils with salty cubes of lean prosciutto. Ripe and browning peach, pear and nectarine develop with orange and lemon peel, with chocolate brownies and honey glazed pecans. This dram reminds me of a fresh cake of coal tar soap and a pecan pie… no, wait… make that also smoky myrrh and cured meats. This is an exotic and interesting bouquet.

Taste:

The flavours on the entry are somewhat subdued, though by no means boring. Peat, dark chocolate and mandarin peel are suddenly interrupted with a salty spray, and the flavours merge with spices and lead into sweet picked ginger. The whisky then becomes peppery, as a soft bed of creamy vanilla supports the peat. The saltiness progressively develops, first as salted caramel and then into cured meats – first lean and then quite fatty, with a luscious creamy film starting to form on the base of the palate. All the while there is a wooded smokiness, which remains a constant theme.

Finish:

The spices linger, with bit of butter and dark chocolate coated ginger bread. The palate seems to sweeten into the finish, first with pear and then with caramels. There is a fatty film that remains on the palate, with peppercorns and salty pancetta.

Bottom line:

Consider it, if you are a fan of Islay whisky and you enjoy a drinkable peaty malt. To say that this whisky is moreish or drinkable is an understatement, as evidenced by the fact that as soon as my whisky glass is filled with this malt it is not long before the glass needs refilling. At Ardbeg Day, similarly, five drams of this malt vanished amidst talk and laughter without much thought – now that is the best test of a great whisky. The only drawback to this malt – apart from its price – is that, despite being very enjoyable, it seems to underwhelm at first. That aside, each sip of this malt makes me want to go back for more – probably why this whisky has become my Friday night malt.

It is perfect on a cold night paired with comfy pyjamas and a good movie.

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La Paglierina grappa

La Paglierina

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Grappa

Origin: Italy

ABV: 45%

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La Paglierina is grappa from Italy. In my opinion there is good grappa and there is bad grappa. Bad grappa, at least in my opinion, has a character that resembles distilled store bought wine. Many moonshiners and distillers are known to buy chardonnay, distill it to extract the alcohol from the wine, and then they call the product of the distillation “grappa”. This is not grappa. This is wine brandy. Grappa is made from distilling the leftovers of the wine making process, not the wine itself. That is, when making grappa, a distiller should distill fermented grape skins, pulp, seeds and stems (called “pomace”) rather than wine. Grappa is now a protected name in the European Union, and it must be: (1) produced in Italy; (2) made of pomace; and (3) water must not be added to the pomace. 

Below are my tasting notes of La Paglierina grappa. 

Eyes:

The colour is a pale chardonnay. The grappa clings to the sides of the glass when swirled, and forms thin legs that are unevenly dispersed – looking pretty good. Bravo.

Nose:

Grape bunchstems and seeds, being the aroma of the “pomace”, dominates the bouquet. This is accompanied by the smell of grapes, dried dates, sultana and crystalline sugars.   

Mouth:

Bellissimo! The flavor of grape seeds and grape bunchstems immediately hits the palate, with drying woody undertones and some astringency. The palate dries and then sweetens. The taste of whole dried figs then develops and lingers into a long finish.

Bottom Line:

La Paglierina is a simple and elegant grappa that offers a series of cascading flavours – from woody grape seeds and bunchtems, to a dryness, and then to a delicious dried fig. This is a lovely grappa. It is perfect as a digestive after a big heavy carb rich Italian meal.

Try it with it a platter of softer cheeses, such as brie, buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini, quince paste, dehydrated grapes, dried figs and dates. Be sure to talk unnecessarily loudly and with your hands, to enrich the Italian experience. 

Salute.

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“Past, Present and Future”: Artbeg Exhibition celebrates 200 years of Ardbeg’s “untamed” single malt [exclusive images]

artbeg

To celebrate 200 years of Ardbeg whisky, the distillery will exhibit images which are intended to capture the “untamed” spirit of Ardbeg. This exhibition is creatively called ARTBEG.  

The Artbeg Exhibition, which will be revealed today, marks Ardbeg Day (to be celebrated on 30 May 2015). The exhibition is comprised of 20 layered digital collages which can be viewed on the external wall of the Ardbeg distillery’s West Maltings building and on www.ardbeg.com. The exhibition will be removed at the end of this year.   

The collages are created by photographer Peter Heaton, who is proclaimed to be an “ardent” Ardbeg single malt fan. After visiting the distillery in 2014, Mr Heaton created the collages by layering his photographs of Ardbeg and Islay with material from the Ardbeg archives. This includes correspondence to and from Ardbeg, bills and other records.

Mr Heaton, speaking of the exhibition, said:

“I have always had a fascination with Islay and its single malts, particularly Ardbeg. The exhibition interprets the Distillery over time and I wanted to create layered, complex imagery which would encourage people to give the work some time and think about the theme of past, present and future.”

Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads, also had a few words to say about the exhibition, and said:

“This exhibition provides an intriguing twist on the story of Ardbeg – and contains more than a few surprises. The complexity of these remarkable images makes you stop and think about the whisky’s heritage and its future”.

Malt Mileage is very fortunate to have – with thanks to EVH – received two exclusive images from the Artbeg exhibition to share with readers. 

 The committee meets (1)

The first image, “the committee meets”, is a collection of images that contain the 9th Century Kildalton Cross, which stands near the Ardbeg distillery, a vintage map of Islay and a document which makes reference to the “Sound of Islay”; the narrow straight between the isles of Islay and Jura off the west coast of Scotland.

The picture itself is dark, with what seems to be a storm brewing in the distance. The ashy and sooty look of the collage captures the mood of Ardbeg’s signature smoky peat, while the sun softly shining though the darkness seems to reflect Ardbeg’s sweetness – what some call the “peaty paradox”.

Ardbeg Distillery from the pier

The second image, “Ardbeg distillery from the pier”, captures a shot of the Ardbeg distillery rising out of old archived handwritten letters which were sent to the distillery.

The waves bashing against the rocks signals a turbulence shared in the first image, though it predominately seems calm and picturesque. Having been raised by the coast most of my life, the smell of seaweed and the sea comes to my nose just looking at this image; triggered by the yellowish roughage. This seems to capture the maritime nature of island whisky, such as that from Islay.

Art tends to be a subjective experience, and the above notes reflect what my eyes perceive. What do you perceive?

Ardbeg fans are encouraged to sign up to the Ardbeg committee at: http://www.ardbeg.com/ardbeg/members/public/index/register.

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Bruichladdich Islay Barley

2007 islay barley

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 50%

Price: US$50-$70 (USA), AU$106.99 (Aus), £35-£45 (UK)

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Barley is one of the core ingredients of malt whisky. Barley grains are malted, dried and then steeped in very hot water. That water (which is called “wort”) becomes infused with the sugars and flavours from the barley. It is then allowed to cool. Once cooled to an appropriate temperature, yeast is added to that water. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cold, the yeast will remain dormant. If, however, the water temperature is just right the yeast will ferment the wort, and convert the sugars in the wash into alcohol. Once fermented, the wort becomes something similar to a beer without hops. That beer is called a “wash”. To make whisky, the wash is distilled to extract the alcohol from it. That distilled liquid is often called “new make”, and it is as clear as water. Along with alcohol the new make will consist of water and flavour compounds from the fermentation, which include flaours from the barley (for a fuller explanation of distilling, see: The Life of Malt Whisky Part 1).

Reflecting on the importance of barley to whisky making, it comes as no surprise that Bruichladdich – those self-proclaimed progressive Hebridean distillers – push the boundaries of the whisky world by creating a whisky that is made from barley that has been grown on the isle of Islay in Scotland. They aptly call this creation Bruichladdich Islay Barley. The barley used for this whisky was grown for Bruichladdich by Mark and Rohaise French, in the Minister’s field at Rockside Farm.  

Emblazoned on the whisky’s bottle are the words “we believe terroir matters”. The world terroir comes from French, and is commonly used to describe the land and soil of a wine producing region. It is believed that the soil in which grapes grow can influence the flavour of wine which is made from those grapes, after the juice of those grapes is fermented. Cognac makers, who distil wine into brandy, have known the importance of terroir for centuries. The most coveted Cognac is from the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, because that region has chalky soil and this soil is believed to produce grapes that are perfect for making Cognac that has finesse. Bruichladdich, standing on the shoulders of wine and brandy making giants in France, have decided to employ this theory of terroir to whisky making. This means that  the barley grown in Islay is likely, once it is used to make a wash that is distilled, to give whisky a different flavour to barley that is grown in the mainland of Scotland (or elsewhere for that matter).

Malt Mileage has been very fortunate to be able to taste Bruichladdich “new make”, with tasting notes available in The Life of Malt Whisky Part 1. This includes Bruichladdich “new make” made from Islay barley, bere barley and organic barley. The Islay barley was quite earthy and full flavoured with oils and heavy congeners weighing down the ethanol. It had earthy, herbal and peppery flavours with a foundation of vanilla, caramel, honey, chocolate, saltiness and nuttiness.  

Bruichladdich put this “new make” into oak barrels which over time give the “new make” a golden straw colour, infuse it with oak flavours and alter some of the compounds in it (for a fuller discussion of the way oak matures whisky, see: The Life of Malt Whisky Part 2.1). Bruichladdich Islay barley is unpeated, presumably to ensure that the flavour of the barley is not lost to the peat, and bottled at a generous 50% alcohol by volume.  

Eyes:

Often in Cognac circles the way a brandy looks is part of its aesthetic pleasure – its colour, the way it catches the light and clings to the glass. The colour of Bruichladdich Islay Barley is a light golden wheat colour, but the way it hugs the glass – leaving thin legs that slope down as the oily film fades – is particularly impressive.

Nose:

The bouquet is immediately quite sweet and sumptuous, with nutty Argan oil, banana, raisin, porridge, honey, whipped cream, pineapple, banana and raisin bread with crushed nuts and soft vanillas. A mild earthiness sits beneath that lovely aroma, with soft hints of pepper, mixed olives, anchovies and the backbone of the “new make” untouched by the oak- chocolate, oily nuts, nut oils and shades of golden and dark honey.  

Taste:

On the palate find vanillas and a soft creaminess, through which shines pepper, spice, mild anchovy and earthiness. There is something salty and earthy about this whisky, like a lick of rock salt and a sip of a platinum tequila. 

Finish:

The finish offers lingering flavours of honey, chocolate, nuts and a mild salt/saline. That saline is interlaced with rock and minerality, like tasting a sodium rich natural sparkling water.

Bottom line:

Buy it. Bruichladdich Islay Barley is a fascinating malt that offers a very earthy, mineral and salty character, which can only be explained by the Islay barley. This malt showcases the Islay barley without letting the wood get in the way, and it is a delicious incarnation of Islay’s saltiness, earthiness and minerality in a bottle. The French have known for centuries that the soil which feeds grapes gives brandy made from those grapes important flavours and character. Glad to see the Scots have finally caught on, with a conscious attempt at bottling a piece of Scotland… literally.

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Port Charlotte PC 12

PC12

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 58.7%

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Port Charlotte PC 12 is Bruichladdich’s eighth release of the PC series, which is a series of heavily peated cask strength malts. It has been aged in oak casks for 12 years. 

Nose:

Imagine going to a coast side farmer’s festival with a bunch of cigar smokers. This bouquet is packed with barnyard aromas, wood and dry hay, with beaming heart notes of a butter, toffee, nut nougat, bubble gum, sweet rose, cinnamon, cotton candy, citrus, sweet sappy wood, and sea salt. All the while, the aroma of burning matches and the chocolaty and woodsy scent of a fresh maduro cigar gently whispers… “drink me”. The smell of Neapolitan salami and taralli, packed with anise seed, is carried by citrusy notes of lemon cake and Cointreau.

Taste:

Immediately, the sweet nip of sherry strikes the palate. It succumbs to waves of peat smoke, woodsmoke, dates, and marshmallows over a campfire of twigs and hay. There is something spectacularly complex and woodsy about this malt. Then the palate dries, buoyed by cinnamon, lime, green toffee apple, and honey.  

Finish:

The finish is smoky, peaty, peppery, woodsy, drying, spicy, and, citrusy; particularly of lime, orange peel and mouth puckering lemon meringue. Fading notes of anise seed, raisin, sarsaparilla and licorice also intermingle with warming overtones of cinnamon and pickled ginger.

Overall

Buy it. Jack Nicholson’s face has never randomly come to my mind. For some reason, I can see his raised eyebrows, trade mark smile and dark sunglasses. It might be my subconscious calling. Maybe this whisky is “As Good As It Gets”. Whatever the reason, there is very little I would change about this malt. If potent and fiery peaty malts are your thing, with a bit of sherry oak and a guaranteed 12 years of age on the clock, this is your whisky!

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Bearded Lady Charred Moonshine

Score: 72/100

Type: Moonshine

Origin: United States

ABV: 40%

Batch: 

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Price: AU$40

According to my trusty Oxford Dictionary, “moonshine” is not only defined as illegal or smuggled alcohol but also as foolish talk – “Bah!”, cried Tom. “Whatever Harry said was moonshine!”. The same thing goes for “hogwash”, which can be used to refer to crappy (yes, this is in the Oxford Dictionary too) booze or when someone is talking nonsense. So, it seems “moonshine” is synonymous with foolish talk and nonsense. Surely, you can guess why – just imagine all the nonsensical rambling that must have filled illicit speakeasies during the Prohibition era, fueled by – you guessed it – moonshine. Moonshine was the main poison of choice at the time because, frankly, the good stuff was illegal and limited supply of it meant it was extremely expensive. Shipments of the good stuff did make it through to the United States, whether from Canada (Canadian Club) or Scotland (Cutty Sark) but for the most part people had to quench their thirst for alcohol with home made and usually… well… crappy, moonshine. 

Bearded Lady have creatively, around 82 years after Prohibition in the United States ended in 1933, re-introduced something it calls “moonshine” into the market.Of course, it isn’t moonshine because it is neither home made nor illegal. However, it does come in a jar instead of  a bottle so you can feel as though you are roughing it… when really you’re not. The mystery as to why Bearded Lady call this product “moonshine” seems to be solved, at least in my opinion, by the fact that this “corn whiskey” is “rested” in used Bearded Lady bourbon barrels before it is bottled at a paltry 40% alcohol by volume; something the real moonshiners around town probably use to pour over their morning corn flakes. Because this spirit is rested in used barrels, this alcohol cannot be legally called a bourbon (because a bourbon must be matured in new barrels). So, even though it is not moonshine, Bearded Lady have gone ahead and called it moonshine. Fair enough, and what great marketing it is too. Why call something boring old “spirit” when you can call it “moonshine”… even though it is not. 

The spirit offers lot of vanilla with spice, brown sugar and the bite of bourbon. There is a pleasant note of charred oak on the entry, but then the ethanol annoyingly scratches away at the palate like an angry cat. Toward the finish, however, the harsh alcohol begins to soften but what emerges, apart from undertones of caramel, is far from enjoyable – fly spray, a wet tree log doused with bourbon and a bitter finale. This sure does taste like moonshine. Pity it isn’t moonshine, technically speaking.  Overall this spirit struck me as a harsh alcohol that was overly simple and not enjoyable to sip. Save your money, as well priced as this is, and buy yourself a bourbon – Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Makers Mark, Buffalo Trace or even just Bearded Lady with do just fine. As for this moonshine, I just do not get it.  

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