KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 20

20 12 2017

Tyler and I have repeatedly lauded the 2017 version of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar for its diversity and novelty, for giving new whiskies and new brands who have never before graced the inside of a decorative Christmas countdown box an opportunity to shine.  Tonight’s whisky is – not an example of that.  If there is one label that is a common denominator of every Whisky Advent Calendar I’ve drank my way through, it is most definitely the Connoisseurs Choice line from massive independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail, as seen on Day 5 this year and in at least a half dozen other incarnations in calendars past.  Day 10 of 2015 featured an 18 Year malt from a G&M CC bottling of a relatively obscure distillery called Auchroisk, and tonight we get its younger brother, an 11 Year distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2016 under a highly questionable scrubs-green label colour scheme.  Auchroisk is not often seen bottled under its own name but is generally known to produce fruitier whiskies due to its use of taller, slender-necked stills, which tend to result in a lighter spirit during distillation.


Totally not sold on the hospital green colour scheme for this CC label.

The 2005 bottling doesn’t appear at all on the comprehensive Gordon & MacPhail website (which shows over 150 different Connoisseurs Choice whiskies), but it appears to have been matured in American hogsheads and retails for around $100 (it’s also not on KWM’s website, making it doubly difficult to research).  It is a friendly Labrador Retriever of a scotch from the get-go, immediately presenting with easy and appealing aromas of bananas foster, cinnamon, rum raisin cake, honey and celery root/lemongrass.  Fresh, rich and floral on the palate, it melds peach and cantaloupe fruit with honeycomb and vanilla bean creaminess, not overly expansive or complex but pleasantly direct and unabashedly charming.  A worthy CC dram, though hopefully the last we’ll see of G&M until 2018.

KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 17

17 12 2016

Balblair!  Immediately recognizable thanks to its awesome squat flask-shaped bottle (complete with etching, even in the mini version) and standout modern labels, these guys have their branding right on point.  This is the third Balblair whisky to grace the pages of the Advent Calendar (and the third one I’ve had an obscenely hard time getting out of the calendar), after 2015’s lead-off Day 1 and denouement Day 22.  The distillery’s path to the present was a windy and interesting one, reflective of how difficult it must have been to be a whisky producing facility in the 20th Century:  founded 1790, sold 1894, moved 1895, mothballed 1911, run totally dry 1934, OCCUPIED BY THE ARMY 1939, sold 1948 (to a lawyer from Banff, no less, though presumably the one in Scotland), sold 1970, sold 1996.  Thankfully it’s stayed steady for the last 20 years, and in 2007 it made the decision that has become its rallying cry in the marketplace:  to produce and release only vintage-dated whiskies.  I don’t mean “10 Year”, “12 Year”, “18 Year”, etc.; I mean 1990, 2003, and tonight’s 2005.  The difference is that the former age designation only indicates the youngest whisky in what can be a blend of multiple different production years (what in wine would be called “non-vintage”), whereas Balblair’s choice commits them to only using whisky distilled in a single specific year in every bottling, which is proudly displayed on the front label.  Is that better?  Not necessarily, but it’s different, and the whisky world needs some different.


This bottle was distilled in 2005 and just bottled this year, making it an 11 year-old dram.  It was happily matured in ex-bourbon casks (w00t – sherry break), which explained its ludicrously friendly nose, overflowing with maple and brown sugar, crushed pecans, cinnamon sticks, nectarines and smoke.  I’ve noted that many whiskies in this year’s calendar start quieter aromatically but then are more exuberant to taste; well, this one is the opposite, not shutting down but taking on more sour lemon and bitters flavours, leathery tinges and chemical/petroleum notes (almost like Vaseline) on the tongue to go with the still-present vanilla and butterscotch sweetness.  Like a nice guy made more complex by a darker side – I like it.

KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 5

5 12 2016

It was an immediate case of double whisky deja vu tonight, as another Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice whisky emerged from the calendar, the second in five days following Day 1’s ultra-exuberant dram.  But the recall did not stop there:  rewind 10 Whisky Days to Day 20 of 2015, where the Connoisseurs Choice in question was a single malt from the little-known Inchgower distillery.  Now jump back to the present, where the Connoisseurs Choice in question is…a single malt from the little-known Inchgower distillery.  Um.  The cool thing about the 2016 version of Inchgower is that it was bottled this year and isn’t even available for purchase yet in Calgary; you can pre-order it at KWM now for $100.  While last calendar’s Inchgower was a 14-year malt, this one may be the first ever 11-year single malt I have ever seen, distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2016; whisky in prime numbers, I guess.


A familiar face, a familiar result.

Inchgower is the type of distillery that the Connoisseurs Choice lineup was created to showcase, a hardworking but under-the-radar producer that almost never sees its whisky bottled under its own name.  To paraphrase myself from 10 whisky blog entries ago in order to avoid unnecessary work, less than 1% of Inchgower’s production is labelled and sold as an Inchgower malt:  most of the fruits of its labour anonymously form part of the backbone of big-time Diageo blends like Bell’s, Johnny Walker and White Horse.  It’s located in Speyside, which the label of this bottle optimistically refers to as “the Premier Cru of single malt scotch” (inadvertently leaving open the question of who the Grand Cru is…I’ll let the Highlands and Islay fight it out).


They’re known as the WHAT??

This 11 year-old bottling is somehow darker than its 14 year-old older brother, despite both being matured in refill sherry casks.  A slightly grungy nose blends shoe polish, leather, salt lick, pinecones and almonds, and isn’t helped much by the addition of water.  Things thankfully get somewhat more pleasing once the Inchgower hits your lips, where you try to decipher a strange but interesting mix of peanut shells, apricot, pennies and celery salt, all of which hang around cautiously after you swallow like high school kids in a new social situation.  It’s fun to meet a new distillery once, no matter how the whisky is; with Inchgower, I think twice is enough.  Onward.

Wine Review: 2007 Amavi Cellars Syrah

17 06 2011

Yes, I drank the whole bottle before remembering to take a picture. Shoot me.

This is a Pop & Pour first:  a review of a wine that has been previously featured on this site, just in a different vintage.  I have very fond memories of the 2005 Amavi Syrah from Walla Walla Valley in Washington State, which bears the eternal distinction of being PnP’s first 90+ point wine (92 points) and which delivered layer after layer of complex, savoury, intriguing goodness when I had it back in March.  Skip forward two harvests and you get to tonight’s wine, Amavi’s 2007 rendition of the same Syrah from the same region, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting to compare to its predecessor ever since I bought the bottle.  The ’07 had big shoes to fill (I still vividly remember the ’05 three months later), but it definitely delivered, albeit in a very different way than I expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2005 Wegeler Winkeler Hasensprung Riesling Spatlese Trocken

26 04 2011

Everyone needs a little Riesling in their life.

What better way to inaugurate than with my favourite kind of wine?  This German Riesling was previously featured in this post from the PnP archives about how to decipher German wine labels; if you’ve read it, you now know that this Riesling from producer Weingut (“wine estate”) Wegeler is from the Hasensprung (“hare’s leap”) vineyard near the town of Winkel in the Rheingau wine region of south-central Germany.  It’s been classified with the Spätlese (“late harvest”) ripeness designation, meaning the grapes were picked at a slightly riper level than the baseline Kabinett level for top-quality German wines, but it’s also a Trocken (dry) wine, which means that there will be very little if any residual sugar left in it.  The word “Trocken” is a key hint on this bottle, because most Spätlese wines are at least somewhat sweet, but those stated to be Trocken definitely won’t be.  So before you deride all German Rieslings for being too sweet for your palate, take a closer look at the label! Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2005 Woodward Canyon Merlot

7 04 2011

Ever watched a movie where only the first half hour was good?

I’ve been trying to drink a little more Merlot.  It’s one of the best known and most classic grape varietals in the world, and it’s responsible for some of the most famous, memorable and expensive wines out there, but compared to Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah I drink relatively little of it, especially in unblended form.  When I found out that my new wine region man-crush, Washington State, was well known for its high-quality Merlots, I decided to dive in, and I scooped this 2005 Columbia Valley Merlot from an iconic Washington producer, Woodward Canyon.  It was on the pricier end of the wines I usually buy ($30-$40), but being from a pioneer of red wine in this area, I figured it was worth a shot. Read the rest of this entry »

Wine Review: 2005 Amavi Cellars Syrah

17 03 2011

You had me at "Syrah".

This.  Wine.  Is.  AWESOME.

I promised a winner from Washington in my next review, and I have delivered and then some.  There are lots of good wines out there, but to me a great wine is one that keeps you coming back to the glass for each new sip or sniff wondering what you’re going to find next.  Great wines have depth, complexity and an interest factor, something compelling that latches onto you and won’t let go.  This wine is great. Read the rest of this entry »

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