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

powwers

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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Green Spot Pot Still Irish Whiskey

Green-Spot

Score: 91/100

Type: Whiskey

Origin: Ireland

ABV: 40%

Reaction: :)

With St Patrick’s Day fast approaching it seems fitting to embark on an Irish whiskey tasting journey until the big day. In 2015 St Patrick’s Day falls on 17 March 2015, and that day is dedicated to a Catholic saint who famously explained the confusing concept of the Holy Trinity using a three leaf clover (the shamrock) in Ireland. The Holy Trinity, in Catholic teaching, is the idea that God is in three persons or beings – the Father, the holy spirit and the son (Jesus). As over a decade of Catholic education has made clear, this concept is far from simple so to ease the cognitive pressure let us skip the dogma and move onto another divine creation – Irish whiskey!

There are three things that make most Irish whiskey distinctly Irish. 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. Now that, my whisk(e)y brethren, is the Holy Trinity of Irish whiskey.  

On this lead up to St Patrick’s Day 2015 the first Irish whiskey to be tasted by Malt Mileage is Green Spot. Green spot is a pot still whiskey that has been distilled three times,  is made from malted and unmalted barley and the word whiskey on the bottle is spelt with an “e”! It even has the word “green” in the name, which, though probably a reference to the use of unmalted barley, is nonetheless a tribute to the Emerald Isle. You cannot get any more Irish than that, unless of course the bottle comes with a beard redder than mine.

Green spot is matured in American bourbon and sherry barrels. 

Nose:

The aroma of bubblegum, green apple soft candy, peach, apricot and whipped cream is first noticeable, followed by honey, cereal and barley, crushed nuts, pecan, vanillas, dew, green strawberries, burnt chocolate brownie, caramel, treated wood and nutty Flaxseed.

Taste

On the palate this whiskey is full bodied and spicy, the wood takes hold and is counterbalanced by the sweetness of green pear, nectarine and mango. The fruit is sharp yet sugary and sticky. Honey and caramels then emerge, as the spices tingle on the palate.

Finish:

The spice remains on the palate with the wood, accompanied by pear and apple core.

Bottom line:       

Buy it. Green Spot is a superbly crafted Irish whiskey that I would have no hesitation buying at its price. It is a full flavoured spicy whiskey with lots of Irish charm.  

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Punch Petit Coronations (Cuba)

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Name: Punch Petit Coronations
Score:  85/100
Origin: Cuba
Cigar details: Punch Petit Coronations are handmade Cuban cigars that are 5 inches in length and rolled to have a ring gauge of 42. This may feel quite thin between the lips if a normal size cigar is your normal smoke of choice, but make no mistake this little package – as its name suggests – packs quite the Cuban punch.
Draw: Excellent
Burn: Excellent
Construction: Excellent
Strength: Mild-medium
Flavours: Wood, wood, glorious wood! From the first puff the taste of wood and cedar dominates this cigar, accompanied by pepper, hints of bonfire, cocoa, bark, earth, dried muddy twigs, olive pips, and wood vanilla. The wrapper underpins the sprightly bite of spice infused tobacco smoke, to make for a stick that certainly punches above its weight. Do not underestimate this little fella, but do not expect much complexity either. 
Format: Petit Coronations
Match with: There are few things in this world as delightful as a good Cuban cigar paired alongside the right peaty whisky. Talisker Port Ruighe complimented the Punch Petit Coronations with impeccable form – the wood and spice from the cigar was amplified by the peat and port cask finish in the whisky. 
Bottom line:

Buy it, if you want a smooth and easy smoking cigar with heavy wood notes and some earthiness.  Though very enjoyable, there did not seem to be much depth or complexity to this cigar. It was simply – and I mean simply – a pleasure to smoke. Simple, smooth and flavoursome. 

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The Life of Malt Whisky, Part 2.1 – The Maturation: Growing up in American Oak

This post is part 2.1 in a three part series about the life of malt whisky. In Part 1 it was explained how baby whisky is made (which is more accurately known as “new make”). People figured out a long time ago that even the best “new make” is pretty boring, but luckily in days of old oak barrels were used to store almost everything – including this “new make” – and people found that after spending time in oak the “new make” began to not only change colour but also smell and taste better. People noticed that the kind of colour, aroma and flavours that developed relied very heavily on what type of oak the “new make” was stored in. Distillers now use oak casks to add flavour to their “new make” over the course of many years, and rightly so because it is estimated that a whisky gets upwards of 60% of its flavour from spending time in oak. This the the story of what happens to baby whisky, “new make”, when it grows up in what is perhaps the most popular oak type in which to mature whisky: American oak.

As soon as “new make” flows out of the still it begins to oxydize because it comes into contact with oxygen. In other words, it begins to change its aroma and flavour over time as it slowly gets older. When the “new make” is placed in an oak barrel for years on end, because oak is porous and breathes, it oxydizes the whole time! Not only this, but when the oak barrel “breathes” the ambient aromas and flavours whizzing around it, those aromas and flavours can be absorbed by the whisky. Because the casks are often charred (toasted or burnt on the inside) the “new make” also gets filtered by the oak, similar to carbon filtration, which removes some of the more undesirable compounds in the “new make”. The alcohols that boil at at low temperature are even sometimes burnt away as the new make rests in the casks, especially in hot summer months, escaping through the pores in the oak or the bunghole as it is opened. By far, however, the “new make” gets most of its flavour from the oak itself – more than oxydisation, absorbing ambient aromas and flavours or carbon filtration.

Growing up in American Oak

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The most popular cask in which to mature whisky, at least in Scotland, is American oak. When the new make sits in these barrels, the pores in the oak expand when it is warmer, soaking up the new make, and close when it is colder, spitting the new make back out into the cask. Over time, from being soaked up and spat out over and over from the oak, the “new make” slowly begins to take on the colour, aroma and flavours from the oak casks in which it matures.

American oak (or Quercus alba) is an oak tree that grows in – you guessed it – America! As “new make” rests in American oak, the “new make” tends to draw out oils from the wood called “vanillins” and in American oak these typically resemble the aroma and taste of vanillacaramels, coconut, butterscotch, fudge, and, particularly with older whisky, ginger.  When a whisky is matured in American oak that has never been used for anything else before, it is called “virgin wood” or “virgin oak”.

This typically gives a whisky a “bounbony” character, because bourbon is matured in new oak barrels that have been charred (although bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn so it is different from malt whisky, which is made from barley). Using “virgin wood” to mature malt whisky is not very common, though it does increasingly now occur, and this practice is seeing what many call the “bourbonisation” of malt whisky. In actual fact, what has given malt whisky its distinct flavour in living memory is that distilleries choose to mature “new make” in casks that have already matured something else – bourbon, sherry and wine are the most common examples. This means that not only does the new make draw out flavour from the American oak, but it also becomes infused with the flavour of the previous content of the American oak whether than was bourbon, sherry or wine.

Growing up in American oak ex-bourbon 

It is estimated that about 90% of Scotch malt whisky is matured in American oak casks that have previously held bourbon. By spending time in American oak that has previously held bourbon, a malt whisky tends to draw out some distinct “bourbony” notes alongside the American oak influence – common notes include raisins, sultana, cereal notes (such as rye, depending on the type of bourbon barrel used) and raw sugar. As bourbon barrels tend to be heavily charred, the charcoal not only helps infuse whisky with vanillas but it also serves to filter the whisky of some nasty impurities. Bourbon matured whiskies also tend to have a golden colour, noting of course caramel may be added to enhance colour. 

Growing up in American oak ex-sherry 

Contrary to what you might think, not all sherry is stored in Spanish oak. Some sherry makers store their sherry in American oak, and then pass on the used sherry casks to whisky makers who put their whisky in those used sherry casks. Apart from flavours from the American oak ex-sherry American oak casks can give a whisky a more fruit cake and chocolaty flavour profile, though the flavours do seem to vary depending on the type of sherry that was used, whether that is Oloroso, Pedro Ximiniez, Fino etc, and the interaction between the sherry used and the distillery’s malt character. It might offer nuts, prune, cherries, Christmas cake. It might be dry (Fino), medium-dry (Oloroso) or sweet (PX).  Sherry matured whiskies also tend to have a reddish or brown hued colour, noting of course caramel may be added to enhance colour. This is not always the case however.

Whisky can also be matured in ex-wine, ex-port, ex-brandy, ex-rum barrels, basically any oak barrel that has previously held something delicious. The two most popular ones are however ex-bourbon and ex-sherry. 

Up next, we will take a close look at the typical flavours that come from maturing whisky in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. 

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