During the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival this year we ran a cafe & bar at the venue for our tastings. Not only did this serve much needed sustenance to festival guests but also helped us continue our experiments with food and whisky pairings. We looked at bacon rolls with 4 whiskies and Haggis with a different 4 whiskies. Guests were treated to the way the whisky and food combinations change the flavours of both, emphasising some flavours in the food and the whisky and also creating new ones!
We were delighted by the number of people who chose to take part and the fabulously positive response to our whisky and food tastings. Some guests had not done this kind of thing before and where blown away by the whisky and food experience.
Brave breakfast festival guests were asked to sample a bacon roll with 4 different whiskies and faced with the challenge of choosing their favourite. The whiskies chosen by Mike Lord were all distillery bottlings: Cragganmore 12, Glen Elgin 12, Singleton of Dufftown 12 and Benromach 10. The bacon was unsmoked and guests were asked not add sauce Ã¢â‚¬â€œ this is serious stuff. The clear winner was Cragganmore 12. This was a treat for those that tried the tasting and a great way to start the festival day.
Bacon Roll and a Dram
Cragganmore 12 Years Old
During the lunch time period we switched our attention to Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. (For those of you wondering neeps are swedes and tatties are potatoes.) The focus was on pairing the Haggis with Clynelish 14 (as suggested by the Classic Malts website), An Cnoc 12, Aberlour 16 and Benriach 10. Whisky and Haggis is a particularly good combination with the spices in the Haggis working well with the whiskies. Again there was a clear favourite Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Aberlour 16.
Aberlour 16 Years Old
Haggis, neeps and tatties
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Down to You
With each whisky and food combination there was not one pairing that some people did not vote for as their favourite. This shows again that there are no hard and fast rules with whisky and the only way to find your favourite is to try it for yourself.
We would like to thank the Dufftown Lodge and their wives and friends for running the cafe and serving spectacular food during the festival. Particular thanks go to Yvonne Smart whose help, cooking and good humour were the backbone of the cafe operation.
Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2012
The Autumn Speyside Festival
For anyone coming to the Autumn Speyside Festival and wishing to attend our events at The WSD Autumn Festival 2012 then it is more than likely than tickets for our events will only be available from our website. There will be no change for the Spirit of Speyside Festival 2013.
This Old Malt Cask Littlemill 1991 19 Yeas Old is full of citrus fruit and barley sugar and has some spices which develop on the pallet. 340 bottles were obtained from a refill hogshead. It's getting rarer and rarer to see a Littlemill and this is a great example.
This Old Malt Cask Blair Athol 1995 15 Years Old is from a sherry butt but don't think the Flora & Fauna distillery bottling. The colour and flavours suggest a refill giving that orange characteristics you would get from a double maturation.
Sometimes age makes an Islay whisky more refinded but that is not the case with the nose of this Old Malt Cask Laphroaig 1993 17 Years Old. It is only when you taste it does the complexity of age show through. Just 150 bottles came from this refill hogshead.
A complex elderly whisky from a refill Hogshead which gave up only 202 bottles. This Old Malt Cask Glenlivet 1977 33 Years Old is a great example of the rich spices that develop from a refill ex-bourbon barrel.
45 years in a sherry hogshead - what more do you need to know? This is a big whisky but it's not over done. Old & Rare Probably Speyside's Finest 1965 45 Years Old - so fine if it has stayed at the distillery it would probably have been a Family Cask.
During the Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival I ran a tasting looking at some of the perceived wisdom about whisky drinking. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what happened.
Does the glass matter?
For this test we matched a wide mouthed tumbler against a copita (a sherry tasting glass). From both glasses a sample of MackillopÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Choice Imperial 1990 was nosed and tasted.
The results were outstanding. The Imperial is from a single bourbon cask and is all bananas and tropical fruits interlaced with vanilla. This nose was only too evident from the copita but it was almost impossible to get anything from the tumbler. This is the perceived wisdom but the extreme difference was a surprise.
Now to tasting. The perceived wisdom is that that the copita shoots the liquid in to the centre of the tongue and makes it difficult to taste whisky where as the tumbler spreads the liquid across your tongue making it more accessible. This one was a difficult one to test as almost everyone in the room naturally worked the whisky from the copita round their mouths. But the whisky tasted from the tumbler was again a lot less flavoursome. We found that the copita was much better for tasting the whisky. Had the large mouth of the tumbler caused the whisky to collapse releasing so many of both its aromas and flavours? This is the only answer we could come up with.
So the answer is yes. To enjoy both the full aroma and flavours of a whisky then use a glass with a narrow opening (and preferably only at one end).
Does the water matter?
For years now I have stood at the front of tastings saying that whisky is better diluted with a low mineral content water. But is this true? For this experiment we sampled Glenmorangie Original neat, with low mineral content water (Glenlivet) and with a high mineral content water (Strathmore). The choice of Glenmorangie was deliberate as this is made with process water that is relatively high in mineral content and some say you should dilute whisky with water of the same mineral content as was used to make the whisky.
Nosing and tasting the Glenmorangie neat proved to be a good decision. This fixed in peopleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mind the origin of the aromas and taste of the whisky. By adding a small amount of water more could be got from both the nose and the taste when adding the low mineral content water. You could see the genesis from the undiluted to the diluted Ã¢â‚¬â€œ you got more out of it.
The Strathmore and the Glenmorangie had an unsettling impact. It changed the taste of the whisky adding bitter notes and taking away a good deal of what could be found in the undiluted whisky. This was not a good combination.
As a further test we went back and tried the same experiment with the MackillopÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Choice Imperial. If anything this was an even bigger disaster for the Strathmore and Imperial completely stripping away many of the notes from the Imperial leaving something a bit bitter and salty.
So water does matter? If you are going to dilute your whisky try to use low mineral content water even with whisky made with high mineral content (hard) water.
This experiment looked at what actually is the effect of adding spirit caramel to whisky other than making it darker. For this I chose Benromach 10 Years Old. This is a fabulous all round whisky being a combination of sherry cask and bourbon cask whisky married together and then re-racked into sherry cask for an extra period of maturation. It has a distinct and significant smokiness coming through from the Speyside peat that was used to dry the barley.
Again we all nosed and tasted the Benromach 10 as Gordon & MacPhail intended. Each of us then added a touch of spirit caramel Ã¢â‚¬â€œ just enough to coat the tip of the end of the handle of a tea spoon. The colour change was as dramatic as the change to the nose and palate. It killed it. There was a vast reduction in the range of aromas and flavours after the caramel was added. Some peaty smokiness was there but nowhere near as much as before. While there was some difference in opinion about whether people preferred the original or the coloured version everyone had agreed that it had significantly changed the whisky. For the record most preferred the un-coloured version.
I have tried this with a number of whiskies now and the results have always been dramatic. It definitely splits people as to which they prefer, coloured or uncoloured Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the colouring does tend to have a rounding effect knocking out any of the flavour / aroma spikes. In our experiment, even knowing what had been done, most people admitted that the darker coloured whisky looked more appealing.
So colouring does have an impact but it depends on you and the particular whisky whether this is a good or bad thing. My theory is that the caramel adds oil to the whisky which makes it difficult for you to nose and taste the whisky. The oil traps the flavour molecules and interferes with you tasting them Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the opposite of molecular discombobulation possibly. And Gordon & MacPhail, well done for not colouring Benromach 10 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ good job!
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s next to impossible to get a sample of exactly the same whisky chill filtered and non-chill filtered. So this experiment required some home improvisation.
Method: Take one sample of whisky. If cask strength then cut to 40% ABV. Split the sample in to two. Chill one portion overnight in a very cold fridge. Next morning pour it through a funnel lined with a coffee filter paper and collect. You now have one chill filtered sample and one that is not.
We used 2 whiskies for this experiment: my own cask strength Exclusive Mortlach from a re-fill sherry cask; and a cask strength Imperial from Duncan Taylor (ex-Bourbon). Part of the reason for using my Mortlach was to try and see if the thick haze that is created with the addition of water could be filtered out (only partially at best as it turned out) and the Duncan Taylor sample as their overseas sales director, Mark Watt, is fond of saying that chill filtering rips the heart out of whisky.
I cannot in any way claim this is an accurate representation of chill filtering as done by distilleries but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the best I could come up with. The lack of reduction in the haze of the WSD Mortlach suggests to me that the process I undertook is quite possible filtering the whisky less than in is done in the industry. You will be surprised how long it takes to filter whisky.
Again the results were stark. The WSD Mortlach became in both nose and taste lighter, less oily but also with less depth and there was a distinct cardboard flavour. Not good. The Imperial, well it had had its heart ripped out (but no cardboard flavour so this had not come from the filtering).
We used 2 very different whiskies and all preferred the un-chill filtered version. So the conclusion is buy a non chill filtered whisky if you can. Of course chill filtering could remove a nasty heart from some whiskies!
Adding Ice to Whisky
The real heathen crime or so the perceived whisky wisdom is to add ice to whisky. The idea to test this came about when I was drinking whisky in a very hot flat in London. Frankly the Arran 10 I was sampling had the temperature of bath water. I decided to add ice and from this I decided to go public with my findings.
At the tasting we had samples of Arran 10 and Lagavulin 16 in Glencairn glasses. Starting with the Arran we nosed and tasted the whisky before adding ice and then we did the same with the Lagavulin. I encouraged everyone to nose and taste as soon as the ice had gone in so we could see the effect of cooling the whisky as opposed to diluting it. I used ice cubes made from Glenlivet Spring water.
Both whiskies became thicker and oilier with the ice. With the Arran a much stronger aniseed note appeared and it was less malty than without the ice. The ice had changed the flavour but definitely not destroyed it. Different flavours were coming through. You could tell it was Arran 10 but it was different on the nose and palate. If anything the adding ice had generally reduced the nose of the whisky. Ice made the Lagavulin bolder. It becomes more strident. The peatiness took on a heavier, drier, much ashier characteristic. The change here was quite remarkable.
The conclusion is adding ice to whisky is not such a bad thing. In certainly changes it and it may for some whiskies even improve them. And to avoid drinking whisky which is like bath water, those people living in warmer climes than the North East of Scotland, please keep adding ice to your whisky!
There's nothing better than a good dram. Unless it's one with a great story and celebrating the stars of whisky. Distillery bottling Glenglassaugh The Manager's Legacy Release No 1 - Jim Cryle 1974. The first in a series of four bottlings to celebrate the achievements and influences of Glenglassaugh distillery managers during the period 1964 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 1986. A single cask bottling at natural strength, without colouring or chill-filtration. The Jim Cryle release is limited to 200 individually numbered bottles from a refill sherry hogshead filled in 1974 during JimÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time in charge.
With the help of our inside man at Duncan Taylor we were able to liberate a small amount of Caperdonich from a single ex-Bourbon cask saving it from being Octaved. It certainly didn't need it! This is one of the best Caperdonich's I've had showing all the complexity of a well aged whisky from a Bourbon cask.
During the last few weeks a liberation tunnel was dug into the warehouses of Duncan Taylor while our inside man tunnelled out. He could occasionally be seen walking around the Duncan Taylor warehouse scattering the soil from the tunnel onto the warehouse fall. When challenged by the Duncan Taylor guards he cleverly claimed to be creating a traditional dunnage style warehouse. Genius!
When we finally got the whisky out it was a fast motorbike ride (well trip in the van) and a stunning leap over the Deveron to avoid the boarder patrols and get the whisky to Dufftown.
Nose: Tropical fruits - mango, pineapple, banana and peaches with pencils, wood shavings, tablet and toffee wrappers. A tropical fruit salad in a wooden bowl.
Taste: Citrus, candied lemon and then the more tropical notes re-emerge with more mango and banana. Also a little salt and pepper.
Finish: Intense tropical notes with a spicy kick. Reminiscent of a Pineapple Daiquiri.
Working with Gordon & MacPhail The WSD has produced it's first bottling and it's a real stunner. Being based in Dufftown our first bottling had to be a Mortlach. This cask strength non coloured non chill-filtered Mortlach is from a Refill Sherry Hogshead. It was selected by The Whisky Shop Dufftown owner Mike Lord. We've nicknamed it 'The PM' , the peated Mortlach (well it is election time in the UK), as it has a defined smokiness which was described by one expert as like cigar smoke. Until the end of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival it will be on offer at £40.00 per bottle (price after that £45.00).
We hope to work with other companies in the future to make available exclusive single cask malt whisky which is a bit different!
Nose: A complex noise of fruit cake and freshly baked chocolate cookies with further layers of plums, raisins, spearmint, menthol and hint of smoke from a heather bonfire.
Taste: Very rich and creamy in the mouth with flavours of chocolate fruit and nut, rum and raisin ice cream, honey and in the background definite phenol notes.
Finish: Long with a dark chocolate and raisins with a smoked chipotle chilli edge.
Ã¯»¿Ã¯»¿The latest release from Kilchoman. This one has been matured in a combination of fresh and refill bourbon barrels for 3 years then finished in 'very active' oloroso butts for 3 and a half months.
What's a good Christmas whisky? We've asked a few industry experts to select their best single malt for Christmas:
Mark Watt of Duncan Taylor & Co
Anyone who has met me for more than three and a half seconds would be expecting me to pick Caperdonich for the best Christmas single malt, but I thought I would go with something a little different. The dearly departed Black Bull 30yo would be a great choice or its younger brother the 12yo [more] however this year my Christmas pick would be our (DTCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s) Glen Grant 1970 [more]. A dram to savour something to sit back relax after a healthy Christmas dinner and put the world to rights. A nice creamy dram with a touch of spiced oak, some delicate stewed fruits and a hint of spice! Cracking stuff!
Alex Bruce of Adelphi Distillers
The best Christmas dram is Ã¢â‚¬Å“the free oneÃ¢â‚¬ or Ã¢â‚¬Å“the one in the biggest glassÃ¢â‚¬, but if I was to select one from the Adelphi stable then BREATH OF SPEYSIDE 1991, 18 year old Speyside 54.3% vol, 1 of only 612 bottles from cask no. 5142 [more] is my best Christmas single malt. Hot on the heels of its sister cask (no. 5145), this is the 4th sherry butt in the Breath of Speyside range from Adelphi. A rich amber hue, we were immediately struck by how clean this whisky was. A lovely nose of well-aged balsamic vinegar with marmalade, plums and Maraschino cherries in the background. The whisky keeps opening, now revealing prunes, marinated in Armagnac; then hints of Calvados and plenty of brown sugar. To taste, the sugar is now more burnt and caramelized, with a thread of dark chocolate and Christmas cake wrapper. A rich, viscous texture to finish with Old English marmalade, and no tannins. Christmas in a glass. Reasons: kind of puts its own case forwardÃ¢â‚¬¦
Steven McConnachie of Whyte & Mackay
I recommend My Winter Warmer - Jura Prophecy [more] as the best Christmas whisky. If you like the darker/smokier side of whisky but not necessarily some typically heavy islay malts, then try this. Uncharacteristic of what is expected of Jura, its peatier than the sumptous Superstition with slightly more of a raw edge to it. Sit in front of a log fire and enjoy! Slainte.
Mike Lord of The Whisky Shop Dufftown
The above are all good suggestions for the best Christmas single malt. If you want to go with the sherry theme then ADR Benrinnes 13 [more] and Wemyss Barbeque Sauce [more] are both outstanding drams. If you want something old then I still have a couple of bottle of Duncan Taylor Caperdonnich 36 years [more] old which is phenominal. And if you want to go with the peat there are peated Bunnahabhain's in the NC2 [more] range and from Adelphi [more].