Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda

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Score: 94/100

Type: Single malt

Origin: Sweden

ABV: 45%

Reaction:  :D

Price: Approx. £90

Oak: Matured in American white chinkapin oak from Missouri and French Oak from Alliers

Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda is the third release in a series of whiskies produced by the Swedish distillery Spirit of Hven. As with the releases that came before it, the Phecda takes its name from the stars above; the Phecda being a star in the asterism (pattern of stars) Ursa Major. Phecda is described as being somewhat hotter and larger than the sun around which our planet circles.

An image of Supernova SN 1993J which occurred in galaxy M81, which is located in Ursa Major 10,000 light years away. Image: NASA

The whisky itself is a medium peated malt which is crafted, from barley to bottle, by the family owned Spirit of Hven on the island of Hven in Sweden.  After the wash (similar to beer without hops) is distilled, the spirit is placed in barrels made from Quercus Muehlenbergii (American white oak known as chinkapin oak) from Missouri and Quercus Petraea (French oak) from Allier. Over the course of whisky’s maturation, during which the spirit soaks up flavours from the oak, the oak seems to have infused the whisky with some very distinct aromas and flavours; the most interesting of which are a fiery spice and a winy base note of fortified wine and brandy over which floats a thin smokiness.

Nose:

Soft waves of vanilla are immediately noticeable, and the bouquet quickly develops into Panettone soaked in brandy and a dash of Sambuca, ground coffee, tobacco, new leather, stewed dark berries, banana, fragrant woodsmoke, scorching charcoals and peppermint Fisherman’s Friend.

Taste:

The taste of fortified wine is followed by a fiery spice, which is peppery with a mildly burning jalapeño bite, dark chocolate,  tobacco and pencil shavings. The peat is there, but it tastes more of tobacco. As the burning spice recedes, the fortified wine morphs into young style “hot” brandy, similar to Spanish brandy matured in sherry casks. There is the constant taste of rock salt underlying the winy sweetness, and an oily film coats the tongue and emits flavours of butter and caramel.

Finish:

The finish is somewhat smoky, with the aftertaste of prunes, sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry interwoven with more drier fortified wine, brandy filled chocolates and the faint kiss of lapsang souchong. Oily and buttery undertones linger on the base of the tongue, with salted caramel and coffee lollies.

Match with:

This whisky pairs impeccably with a fine mild-medium cigar, such as a Macanudo Estate Reserve or a Romeo y Julieta No 1; cigars that seem to appeal to the mass market for their smoothness, which ensures they will not dominate over the malt. This whisky was also delicious with chocolate, especially coffee or hazelnut truffles, and spicy cured meats.

Bottom line:

Buy it, if you enjoy a spicy whisky with a fortified wine/brandy base note and mild undertones of peat that resemble tobacco. Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda is a creative and balanced malt, with a mouthwatering kick of flavour. It is also smooth and quaffable, and coincidentally the perfect accompaniment for a night of star gazing. Bra gjort Spirit of Hven! Bra gjort.

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Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

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Score: 95/100

Type: Single malt 

Origin: Tasmania, Australia 

ABV: 46.2%

Reaction: :D 

Price: Aus$86.90

Oak: Matured in American white oak, finished in Pinot Noir barrels  

This whisky inspired a poetic mood, and as cheesy as that sounds, the mood rubbed off while writing this review. Here’s to words, and, trying to make them rhyme – a dying Australian tradition. 

A long time ago, in 1825 to be exact, a man named Henry Hellyer set food on very alien looking tract. A far cry from Hampshire in England, his place of birth, this new land was rugged and had waters that did not much look like an English firth. As Chief Surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company he was there to make the wild land more tame, but took his own life in 1832 some think because people tried to blacken his name.  On lives his legacy though, with a Tasmanian malt named Hellyer’s Road. The Betta Milk Company, with some nervous cows probably on the brink, decided that Australian’s were thirsty for a different kind of drink. So they decided to make whisky, Tasmanian whisky to be precise, but they don’t seem to be milking consumers and blaming the big Australian tax excise. Hellyer’s Road whisky sells for a good price, and aren’t we all lucky; their whisky usually tastes so nice. Here’s to an Australian distillery that makes me very proud, for making malt whisky that is good value and stands out from the crowd. One whisky they’ve produced is my favourite Australian booze, having drawn most of its flavour from being placed in American white oak and then French oak pinot noir barrels and taking a six month snooze.  It tastes of berries, orange and spice and when I reach for another Australian whisky, I always seem to think twice. 

Nose:

On the nose – which is sweet, dusty and granular – find caramel, lemon and floral scented soap, orange zest, dry oats, vinegar, pear salad, vanillas, pine wood, wood working glue and saw dust. 

Taste:

On the palate the whisky is winy, with a drying yet sweet flavour profile. Find orange peel and blood orange, mixed fresh berries and a gentle flurry of spice. There is also the taste of crushed wedges of lime soaked in cola and dark chocolate towards the finish. A bitter floral hue, somewhat being a trademark of Hellyer’s Road it seems to me,  glows softly. 

Finish:

The finish is offers flavours of chocolate, dried cranberries, cold drip coffee, wood,  and a lingering sweetness in the form of reduced berries. 

Match with:

In typical Hellyer’s Road style, in my view, this whisky pairs nicely with a mild-medium strength cigar, cheese (whether goats cheese or brie), cured meats (such as prosciutto) or some seafood.

Bottom line:

Buy it.  Rarely do you see an Australian whisky of this quality finished in Pinot Noir barrels, and even more rarely do you see such whisky below $100! The Hellyer’s Road Pinot Noir Finish is a vibrant, smooth and drinkable dram that sells for a very reasonable price for an Australian whisky. It offers a very distinct style though, so  be on alert. Do not expect big oak driven notes, or a malt hijacked by sherry or port. Expect subtle shades of flavour from that American white oak, re-shaped by the extra time the whisky spent in Pinot Noir barrels. The result? Berries, citrus and spice with some tones of chocolate and cold drip coffee. 

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Malt Mileage set to tour Scottish whisky distilleries in May 2015

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Strathisla Distillery

After a long two year run of weekly reviews Maltmileage.com has not been updated for the last two weeks, and for that I am sorry. I have been busy writing my PhD. There is however something exciting on the horizon planned for Malt Mileage: a two week tour of Scottish whisky distilleries set for May 2015!

Malt Mileage will have private tours of a number of Scotch whisky distilleries and then capture in words, imagery, video and sound the whisky, people, culture and architecture of each distillery we visit. We hope to bring you a VIP experience of each distillery.

Please stay tuned for posts and features on each distillery. While admittedly the distillery tour plans are still in the early stages, Malt Mileage has confirmed private tours and/or exclusive access to sample rooms with the following brands (in no particular order):


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Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured

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Score: 93/100

Type: Single malt

Origin: Speyside, Scotland 

ABV: 60.7%

Reaction:  :D

Batch: OL0614

The Glenlivet has, for a number of years now, produced cask strength expressions as part of its Nàdurra range (Nàdurra is Gaelic for “natural”).  The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured single malt whisky is one of the more recent additions to the Nàdurra range, being whisky that is matured in first fill Oloroso sherry casks from Jerez in Spain, non-chill filtered and bottled at a potent cask strength of 60.7% alcohol by volume. The fact this expression is made up of whisky matured in first fill Oloroso sherry casks is important for two main reasons. First, sherry casks are increasingly expensive for whisky distilleries to buy because they are in high demand as sherry matured whisky is all the rage, but as sherry consumption is lower than in the past they are in low supply. This is why the vast majority of Scotch whisky these days is matured in ex-bourbon wood. Sherry matured whisky is therefore something that is pretty special. Second, the fact the Oloroso sherry casks are “first fill” is likely to mean that  you can expect an avalanche of medium-dry Oloroso sherry flavour from this whisky because – being filled with whisky for the first time – the sherry casks have been untouched and have a lot of sherry flavour to give the whisky, very quickly. 

Nose:

From arms length the whisky releases a vinegary and winy aroma and initial nosing reveals notes of sweet balsamic reduction, woody saffron, glazed cherry fruit cake, baklava and nuts, especially honey roasted cashews.  The bouquet is steamy and vibrant, rekindling memories of sizzling sweet and sour bubbling away  with pineapple, herbal anise, shaved green apple and sticky sugars. The Oloroso beams with all its glory, amid the wood and associated dusty wood spice.   

With a dash of water licorice, raisins and dried apple emerge in the bouquet. 

Taste:

On the palate the whisky is initially sweet, glowing with all those lovely sugars suggested by the bouquet, and then it dries. Find chocolate, cherries, nuts, toasted coconut, red wine vinegar and the medium-dry woody kick of Oloroso – basically the hallmarks of a very Mediterranean fruit cake with a spicy snap about it! This is, without question, a fiery whisky that has soaked up quite a lot of Oloroso and oak notes from the casks; as expected of a whisky matured in “first fill” casks.  

With a dash of water dark chocolate and citrus emerge, with Terry’s chocolate orange.  

Finish:

The finish presents with the lingering taste of red wine vinegar, not as sweet or tangy as balsamic but rather quite acidic and drying. The sweet sugars grapple with the drying effect of the wood and Oloroso, leaving spice and honey smoked leg ham with orange peel and chinotto. 

Bottom line:

Buy it. The Glenlivet Nàdurra Oloroso Matured single malt is a flavour packed malt with a ferocious Oloroso drenched medium-dry bite. For the lovers of medium-dry sherry matured whisky out there, and I know there are plenty of you, this is a whisky that should hit the spot. It certainly made me a happy chap, and it passed the main test of a good whisky in my book: I keep going back for more!  

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Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey

Score: 87/100

Type: Whiskey

Origin: Ireland

ABV: 46%

Reaction: :)

Teeling single grain Irish whiskey is made predominately from maize/corn and then distilled using column distillation. Once distilled it is fully matured in Californian Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels, now that is something novel and interesting! I tip my hat to you, Teeling. 

Nose:

On the nose there is lots of twisted orange peel, dusty corn flour, date scone, dried fig, spice and brown vinegar.

Taste:

On the palate the whiskey is very smooth and sweet, with the snap of sweet ethanol and a vodka-like pinch. The ethanols are a little more pronounced than what I like, but orange peel seems to be the central theme and it almost tastes like a whisky based cocktail with an orange citrus twist. Also find spice, pepper, wood, nutmeg and caramel.

Finish:

On the finish the wood lingers with hints of spice, yogurt coated cranberry, dried dates, anise seed, icy cold schnapps, and caramel.

Bottom line:

Buy it, if you want to try a single grain Irish whiskey that is smooth, sweet and quaffable. Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey seems to be dominated by the ethanol in the spirit, which gives the whiskey a vodka-like character that underpins much of the other flavours, but it went down a treat. 

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Powers Gold Label

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Score: 86/100

Type: Whiskey

Origin: Ireland

ABV: 43%

Reaction: :)

Price: AU$58, US$20-30

With St Patrick’s Day approaching Malt Mileage continues its Irish whiskey tasting journey with Powers Gold Label Irish whiskey. As noted last time in the review of Green Spot, there are three things that make most Irish whiskey distinctly Irish; three things that some might say constitute the Holy Trinity of Irish whiskey (to keep with the St Patrick’s Day theme). First, it tends to be distilled three times (as opposed to twice, as most Scotch whisky). Second, it tends to be made from malted and unmalted barley (as opposed to being made purely from malted barley, as most Scotch whisky). Third, the Irish spell whiskey with an “e” whereas the Scots spell whisky without the e. 

Powers Gold Label is a an Irish whiskey that has been distilled three times and made from a blend of pot still and grain whiskies. It is not quite the pinnacle of Irish whiskey on paper, but it is probably not meant to be given its very reasonable price. 

Nose:

Rough, raw and rugged, honey and mild vanillas underlie ground pepper, cardamom and lashes of ethanol. The ethanol pierces through the thin layer of American oak, stringing the nose but at the same time caressing it with sappy sweetness not dissimilar to alcohol based aloe hand sanitizer.  

Taste:

A kick of spice awakens the palate and as the spices begin to fade shades of honey emerge and bursts of ethanol crackle on the palate like popping candy, releasing a sharp vodka-like flavour alongside some sweetness. The pot still character is in the distance, and it intensifies towards the finish with beaming cereals.

Finish:

The finish offers the fading spice and the flavour of Irish pot still, which grapples with nagging notes of ethanol. It is cereal rich, with hints of honeyed sweetness and hard green tea candy.

Bottom line:       

Consider it. This is a good quality whisky for the price, and though it seemed to have flickers of immaturity there was enough flavour from the pot still whiskey and the American oak to keep a smile on my face. While I am not particularly tempted to go back for more of this whiskey, it is quite hard to find a whiskey of this quality at its price point – sans of course Jameson, Glenlivet 12 year old and Glen Grant 10 year old.

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Romeo y Julieta No 2 (Cuba)

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Name: Romeo y Julieta No 2 (Cuba)
Score:  79/100
Origin: Cuba
Cigar info: The Romeo y Julieta No 2 are machine made petit coronas with a ring gauge of 42.  Romeo y Julieta are perhaps one of the world’s most well-known Cuban cigar brands, with a “house” flavour commonly associated with wood and cedar. 
Draw: Good
Burn: Below average. The cigar had an uneven burn and it needed frequent puffing to stay alight. 
Construction: Average
Strength: Medium
Flavours: The Romeo y Julieta No 2 offers a lovely spectrum of flavours that are only let down by the below average burn of the cigar, which gives it harsh burning bonfire undertones that grind against the palate. Find wood, cloves, spice, campfire notes, burnt orange peel, lime, cracked pepper, curry powder  and a subtle toasted wood sappiness with wood vanillas. Towards the nub the cigar becomes harsher and more full flavoured with the spritz of lemon fresh dishwashing liquid and soap, entangled with denser tobacco and more flavours from the wrapper. 
Format: Petit Corona
Match with: Try this cigar with some dry wors or other peppery cured meats, or a spicy pot still Irish whiskey. 
Bottom line: Don’t bother. The No 2 in the range seems to be a hit and miss with consistency. The stick I last smoked had very impressive flavours,  but its construction and burn really let it down – the burn was uneven and the cigar needed a lot of frequent puffing to keep it alight. This resulted in a smoke that was marred by harshness and pronounced tar and bonfire flavours, though between those moments there was some really lovely spicy Cuban kick and complex flavours. That said, you could get that spicy Cuban kick of tobacco flavour in many other Cuban – or fuller flavoured Nicaraguan or Dominican – cigars, and not have to fret over the burn issues and inconsistent I have experienced with this cigar.  
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