The Whisky Show, Melbourne

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The owners of World of Whisky have been running The Whisky Show for some years now, but this year they decided to give us Melbournians a bit of whisky loving and in 2014 The Whisky Show ($70 per ticket) came to Melbourne. Until now Whisky Live has had what I would describe as a monopoly on the whisky fair market in Melbourne. Now it has some much needed competition from The Whisky Show for the whisky fair dollar. The gloves are off. *ding* *ding*

On 30 August 2014 The Whisky Show Melbourne was held at the Stamford Plaza at 111 Little Collins Street Melbourne. On entering the venue we were ushered up the stairs to the reception area of The Whisky Show where we each received a “show bag” with a crystal Glencairn glass and a food pack containing a sandwich, red rock deli chips (or crisps, for my friends in the northern hemisphere), a bottle of water and some other nibbles. We then we made our way to taste some whisky!

There was a great selection of whiskies on offer that I felt pushed the boundaries, because on tasting were some highly sought-after expressions that are not easily found on the corner bottle shop – the Springbank and Kavalan range, and, Glenfarclas 30 year old, Sullivan’s Cove French Oak and a Benromach 1968 vintage come to mind. The number of brands on offer was not huge (a full list is produced below), but when tasting those on offer I had the opportunity to taste some elusive and delicious drams while chatting with extremely knowledgeable brand ambassadors and staff. That made for a very enjoyable night.

While the whisky on offer and staff knowledge about those whiskies was impressive, there a few issues I think The Whisky Show needs to address for future events. The venue became a little claustrophobic and hot after an hour or two, possibly because of its low ceilings and the fact it was split into two rooms, which made it a little uncomfortable and impacted negatively the aesthetics of the event. It also “seemed” crowded, but I tasted the whiskies I wanted to taste without much hassles. The “show bags” provided were a nice touch, but they had to be carried by hand and did not have loops long enough to be carried over the shoulder – this meant that our hands were occupied carrying bags rather than tasting whisky. On reflection, I think the food packs were good in the sense that everyone got an equal amount of food but they were bad in the sense that finger foods and catering seems like a much more enjoyable and convenient way to eat at a whisky fair (besides, I really felt like a hot pie to go with that free flow of booze!).

Talking about things to go with booze, there was the opportunity to buy cigars and taste liqueur ice cream topped with Hellyer’s Road Cream Liqueur, and, Arran Gold Liqueur cheesecake. The ice cream and cheesecake were absolutely delicious, but the cigar stand left me a shaking my head at what I felt was a shameless display of profiteering at the expense of many people who were none the wiser – the person selling cigars was alleging that her cigars were a bargain at their price and much cheaper than the “shops” (she even quoted the prices these “shops” sold her cigars at). No they weren’t. They were a rip off, and a simple search on the website of a trusted Melbourne cigar supplier confirmed it. I could get the same cigars for cheaper down the road. It all just makes me want to passionately swear in Spanish and smoke a Cuban, dammit.

Anyway, back to The Whisky Show.  Overall, The Whisky Show’s first foray into Melbourne seemed to be a success – the whisky was flowing, there were expressions on tasting that are not easily found on a trip to the bottle shop, the people pouring the whisky were very knowledgeable about the whisky they were pouring, and, most importantly, it was great fun. In future I would love to see The Whisky Show occupy a more spacious venue with higher ceilings, and, I hope it considers complimenting the food packs with some hot finger food. Some more whiskies wouldn’t go astray, and some cigars that actually are good value!

Adios, amigos.

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Label 5 12 year old

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Score: 93/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Scotland

Price: $44.90 (Aus)

Make no mistake, the whisky market is hot. Over the last few years demand for whisky seems to have skyrocketed. Only a few years ago spending more than $100 on a bottle of booze may have raised some eyebrows, but nowadays copious amounts of money are being spent on bottles of whisky. In response to this boom in whisky demand the market has been flooded with a tsunami of whisky and single malts from different parts of the world, many of which seem ridiculously overpriced. The French company La Martiniquaise is contributing to that big boozy tsunami with its Label 5 blended Scotch whisky range, but unlike most other whisky on the market Label 5 is darn good whisky at a darn good price! That is a rare thing, at least these days.

Malt Mileage has been very fortunate to secure four bottles from the Label 5 range – “Classic Black”, “12 year old”, “18 year old” and “Gold Heritage”. In this review Malt Mileage tastes the Label 5 12 year old which is a blend of malt and grain whiskies that have matured in oak casks for at least 12 years.

The bouquet bursts with integrated aromas that immediately whet the appetite – smoke and wisps of peat with herbs cut through peach, apricot and creamy vanilla with dusty powdered chocolate. On the palate the whisky is bigger and bolder than the nose suggests, as it whips the taste buds with orchard fruits, honey and heavy oak driven flavours of dark chocolate and rich black espresso.  The finish presents with a thin smoke and a film of creaminess that sits on the middle palate, lingering with fresh apricots and milk chocolate.

Overall, Label 5 12 year old is a very easy drinking and smooth blend that, despite its gentle and aromatic nose, offers a surprising whack of complex flavours on the palate. At its price, $44.90 in Australia, it is a whisky that I think is superb value. Finally, Johnnie Walker Black Label has some serious competition and in my opinion Label 5 12 year old wins.

 

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DEAU Louis Memory

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Score: 95/100 (with cigar, 97/100)

ABV: 40%

Origin: Cognac, France

Try it with: Romeo y Julieta No 1 cigar (Cuba)

Romeo y Julieta No 1

DEAU is a cognac producer with a rich history spanning several generations of the Bru Legaret family. Despite such a rich history its eaux-de-vie was mostly used by other cognac houses in France until quite recently, but nowadays the Bru Legaret family produce cognac under their own brand: DEAU, in honour of Louis Deau who settled in the Cognac region of France during the reign of Louis XIV.

Malt Mileage has been extremely lucky to secure cognacs comprising the DEAU Cognac range, including the DEAU VS, VSOP, Napoléon, XO, Black and Louis Memory. In this post Malt Mileage reviews the DEAU Louis Memory.

Cognac Louis Memory is made from grapes grown in the much revered Grande Champagne region of Cognac in France, the oldest of which were harvested at the beginning of the 20th century and the youngest were harvested in the 1970’s according to DEAU. That makes the youngest cognacs in the bottle at least 35 years old and the oldest around 100 years old or a little more.

Perhaps the most striking quality of the DEAU Louis Memory in my tasting of it was how well its flavours matched a good quality cigar. On hitting the tongue, the cognac was fruity with waves of soothing vanilla creaminess and this washed away the aftertaste of the cigar, and with the palate refreshed the cognac began to emit bright shades of eucalyptus and mint amidst the fruity undertones as a nuttiness began to emerge towards the finish with hints of umami. It was that flicker of umami on my taste buds that signaled I was ready for another puff of the cigar, and with that puff the remaining nutty and umami notes from the cognac accentuated beautifully the smooth tobacco smoke of the Romeo y Julieta No 1 Cuban cigar. The DEAU Louis Memory struck me as a cognac that is – whether I am right or wrong – designed for cigars in mind because the shades of rancio evident in its flavour profile cleared the palate up to mid-palate but towards the finish the emerging nuttiness and umami notes accentuated the proceeding puffs of the cigar.

The bouquet is quite fragrant, fruity and floral with notes of lavender, menthol, licorice, cigar tobacco, coconut, red candy, ripe peach, perfumed soap and hints of ground coffee with undertones of peanut satay. On the palate shades of rancio shine brightly – fruit, waves of soothing vanilla creaminess and hints of earthy mushroom and soy sauce emerge on the entry, then brightening eucalyptus and menthol notes emerge at mid-palate only to fade into the finish, gradually replaced by a nuttiness and umami character.

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Veuve Moisans Brut

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Score: 93/100 (average, three tasters)

ABV: 11%

Origin: France

Try it with: Spicy Chinese seafood (prawns, oysters or scallops with XO sauce/schezwan sauce), picante salami

Veuve Moisans is a sparkling wine from France. Wine with bubbles is often called “champagne”, but while all champagne is bubbly wine not all bubbly wine is champagne. Only the bubbly wine produced in the Champagne region of France can be called “champagne”, while bubbly wine produced outside the Champagne region is known as “sparkling wine”. Veuve Moisans is a sparkling wine.

Malt Mileage has been fortunate to taste and review the Veuve Moisans Brut. “Brut” is a term used in wine speak to give consumers an idea of how dry a wine might be, because under European Union guidelines a “Brut” wine must have a sugar content of no more than 12 grams per litre (though there may be differences between “Brut” wine produced by different companies because the sugar content of the wine may vary). A “Brut” wine sits towards the drier end of the wine spectrum because from most dry to sweet, the classification of wine sweetness/dryness is as follows: Brut Nature (0-3 grams sugar per litre), Extra Brut (0-6 grams per litre), Brut (0-12 grams sugar per litre), Exra Dry/Extra Sec/Extra seco (12-17 grams sugar per litre), Dry/Sec/Seco (17-32 grams sugar per litre), Demi-Sec/Semi-seco (32-50 grams sugar per litre) and Doux/Sweet/Dulce (50+ grams sugar per litre).

If a wine does not last very long on the table and it is quickly consumed, then it is a safe bet that the wine is very good. Between three separate tasters (including myself), the Veuve Moisans Brut vanished very quickly and within half an hour of the cork being popped the last few drops of this sparkling wine was happily consumed. The Veuve Moisans Brut, despite being labeled “Brut”, had a subtle dryness that was nicely balanced by the fruit in the wine which meant that it was very drinkable with or without food. It is, however, a sparkling wine that I would recommend be enjoyed with he right foods. The Veuve Moisans Brut was beautifully matched with spicy Chinese seafood dishes such as prawns, scallops and oysters with XO sauce or schezwan sauce, and, to my delight, my grandmother’s picante salami. The subtle but crisp dryness and fruity sweetness of the Veuve Moisans Brut complimented and accentuated the seafood while at the same time taming and cutting through the salt, pepper, chilli and oil in the food to refresh and clear the palate.

Comparatively speaking, the Veuve Moisans Brut was very impressive and three of us unanimously agreed that it was among the most pleasant dry sparkling wines we have tasted. Having become quite familiar with Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow, Dom Pérignon Brut and Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial over the years (devouring a bottle of these champagnes on special occasions such as on birthdays, new years eve, Christmas, graduations etc), the Veuve Moisans left us wondering why we ever bothered to spend more money than we had to for a good “Brut” sparkling wine.  

Veuve Moisans Brut is a beautifully balanced sparkling wine that is fresh, crisp, summery and vibrant with flavours of tart yellow peach that morph into sliced green apples, strawberry and sultana toward the finish, as floral undertones and a mild underripe stone fruit acidity shimmer in the distance.  

 

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DEAU Napoléon

DEAU NapoleonScore: 91/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Cognac, France

DEAU is a cognac producer with a rich history spanning several generations of the Bru Legaret family. Despite such a rich history its eaux-de-vie was mostly used by other cognac houses in France until quite recently, but nowadays the Bru Legaret family produce cognac under their own brand: DEAU, in honour of Louis Deau who settled in the Cognac region of France during the reign of Louis XIV.

Malt Mileage has been extremely lucky to secure cognacs comprising the DEAU Cognac range, including the DEAU VS, VSOP, Napoléon, XO, Black and Louis Memory. In this post Malt Mileage reviews the DEAU Napoléon Cognac.

A Napoléon cognac is one that is aged in oak barrels for least six years, which means that it is aged for the same minimum time as an XO cognac. They are usually marketed however as the middle ground between a VSOP and XO Cognac. The DEAU Napoléon Cognac is taken from eaux-de-vie grown in the first crus of the Cognac region, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois and Bons Bois. This means that it is a blend of cognacs produced from grapes that are grown in these different parts of the Cognac region, so the distiller appears to be aiming for its own unique product that does not too heavily rely on the traits associated with eau-de-vie from a particular region.

The bouquet is quite rich and presents with the aromas of dried fruit, raspberry candy, spice, licorice and the vegetal burn of wasabi peas. On the palate the cognac has a smooth entry and bursts with rich dried fruit, licorice, blackberries and the brightening glow of mint with undercurrents of something lush and vegetal. On the finish the underlying fruitiness of the eaux-de-vie recedes, giving way to cherry liquor dark chocolate and transparent oak tannins that gently dry the palate.

Overall, DEAU Napoléon Cognac is a dangerously drinkable cognac that is vibrant, fruity, sweet and sensationally smooth with a balance that seems to err towards the eaux-de-vie over the oak. It is a cognac that I particularly enjoy sipping while being fixated on my favourite show, because it is extremely “more-ish”, flavoursome and yet simple.

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Balls of Steel

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Balls of Steel are stainless steel drink coolers which can be used to add some much desired chill to whisk(e)y, rum or a mixed drink of your choosing. They are described as “drink coolers with a cause” because with every sale of a pair of Balls of Steel, 15% of the proceeds are donated to testicular cancer cure research.  Powered with “Arctic Core” technology which is designed to keep your drink cooler for longer, these aren’t your average pair of balls. So sit back, adjust your family jewels for maximum comfort if need be, and let me explain what I liked and did not like about using Balls of Steel.

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To test the alleged power of the “Arctic Core” I armed myself with a temperature measuring gun and began poured two carefully measured drams of Mackmyra bruskswhisky Swedish whisky into two tumblers. The temperature of the whisky was recorded at 20.4°C. I then dipped by pair of Balls of Steel (no pun intended) into one tumbler and two ice cubes in the other tumbler. After a couple of minutes the surface temperature of the whisky cooled by the ice was 16°C while the surface temperature of the whisky cooled by the Balls of Steel was 11°C. For the next 10 to 15 minutes the surface temperature of the whisky cooled by the ice averaged approximately 11°C while the surface temperature of the whisky cooled by the Balls of Steel averaged 8°C. Then something happened. The surface temperature of the whisky with the Balls of Steel began to rise very quickly recording 16°C after 15-20 minutes while the surface temperature of the whisky with the ice began to fall recording 6°C also after 15-20 minutes. After 20 minutes I could roll the balls in my hand and not feel the any sub-zero icy cold temperature. By that time, however, the whisky containing the ice was very diluted and not very enjoyable.

I enjoyed using Balls of Steel to cool my Mackmyra brukswhisky because:

  • The whisky was cooled to a consistent temperature of about 8°C for the first 10 to 15 minutes, down from the “room” temperature of 20.4°C;
  • Unlike the whisky cooled with ice, the Balls of Steel did not release that much dreaded “freezer smell” and taste often associated with ice;
  • The whisky retained its aromas and flavours without being diluted by melting ice, and yet was refreshingly cool; and
  • The Balls of Steel did not release any metallic smell or taste.

It was not all smooth sailing however, and I felt that the Balls of Steel did not chill my whisky for as long as I would have liked. They performed their duty very well for about 20 minutes and then seemed to just stop working. The chill was far from powerful and quite subtle, which is something I enjoyed but it may underwhelm some people who enjoy their vodka out of the freezer or drinks filled with ice (I rarely use ice for anything, even mixed drinks).

Overall, Balls of Steel are a great way to support testicular cancer research and subtly chill whisky without the whisky getting too cold, diluted by melting ice and tainted with the dreaded “freezer smell” and taste. I will definitely be throwing out my smelly old ice tray! I think Balls of Steel will be particularly handy during the hot summer months, when an outside dram or two can get a tad too warm after a few minutes without a drink cooler. Problem solved!

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Glenrothes 2001 Vintage

 

Glenrothes 2001 vintage

Score: 95/100

ABV: 43%

Origin: Speyside, Scotland

Price: £42.00 (UK)

Glenrothes (pronounced Glen-roth-EZ) is a distillery located in Speyside in Scotland, and at the idyllic part of the world in which they busily ply their trade ten large stills churn out an estimated 5 million litres of new make spirit annually. The new make spirit is then put in oak barrels to mature in one of Glenrothes’ 16 onsite warehouses. Years go by, and when the new make spirit becomes a whisky with a flavour profile Glenorthes wants to release into the market the distillery then bottles the whisky and marks the bottles with the particular vintage year of the whisky, rather than its age.

Glenrothes have released numerous different vintages over the last few years – the complex and mature 1988 vintage, rich and spicy 1995 vintage, and, the vibrant and zesty 1998 vintage are some delicious ones! Precisely why Glenrothes use vintage years is beyond me because unlike grapes for example which ripen in response to weather patterns in a particular year and therefore transfer resulting flavours into wine or brandy, the year of barley is harvested or a wash distilled to make whisky really has no bearing on the eventual flavour of the whisky all things being equal. In this review, Malt Mileage has the opportunity to review the Glenrothes 2001 vintage.

What matters most to the flavour of the Glenrothes 2001 vintage is not the year 2001, but the oak casks Glenrothes decided to fill with that new make spirit and how long they decided to leave it in those casks. The oak Glenrothes used seems to be a mystery and closely guarded secret, possibly because the 2001 vintage is made according to a recipe rather than taken from individual casks. The flavour profile suggests a variety of cask types were used. With a vintage year of 2001 and a bottling date of 2013 this Glenrothes is about 12 years old, which in my view is a great age for a Glenrothes because I particularly enjoy the distinctly spicy and zesty distillery character of Glenrothes. In this bottling, that distillery character continues to shine unabated in any significant way by the wood despite having spent about 12 years in oak.

The bouquet is rich, dense, oily and radiates the zesty and spicy magic that is the Glenrothes distillery character but encased within softening aromas of vanilla, prune, preserved cherries, honey, orange, glazed apricot, custard, pecan pie and some saw durst with digestive biscuits and walnut oil in the foreground. On the palate there is a burst of citrus (orange first and then increasingly lemony) accompanying dark chocolate, spice, raisin and glazed cherry based fruit cake, vanilla and some intriguing wood vanillins. The finish offers the spritz of lemon with the lingering aftertaste of a Vienna coffee topped with nuts and nutmeg, then the sweetness recedes and is slowly overtaken by soft oak and the most curious nip of pinot noir and the bite of a cigar.

Overall, the Glenrothes 2001 vintage is an easy drinking dram that beats with a Glenrothes heart of zest and spice, but at the same time showcases interesting layers of oak driven complexity. This bottle won’t last long! It is my favourite of the Glenrothes range for its beautifully integrated complex flavours – a must buy!

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