KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 6

6 12 2017

No. 6 for Day #6 — I will give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and assume that was cleverly intentional.  I was ultra-pumped to pull the extended-name Hyde 1938 No. 6 Sherry Cask Finish Black Label Special Reserve Irish Whiskey (phew) out of the calendar tonight, for two reasons:  (1) after I have (politely) campaigned for years to get more global representation in the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar, 2017 has seen FOUR different countries come out of cardboard box doors in six days; and (2) I absolutely adored the Hyde whiskey from the 2016 calendar, which almost made my top 3 overall from that year.

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Like that bottle (and all of Hyde’s lineup), this one sees time in two different kinds of barrels, starting out in bourbon casks before finishing in my nemesis, Oloroso sherry barrels, which lend salty kernel-y complexity to whiskies but also drive me to the point of near-insanity in their ubiquity.  Hyde’s mantra is “It’s all about the wood!” (actual promoted hashtag:  #itsallaboutthewood), which I would readily make fun of were it not for the fact that their website contains the best discussion of the details and effects of wooden barrel maturation I’ve ever seen.  When you walk the talk, I will grant you your double entendre slogan.

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Photo credit:  http://hydewhiskey.ie/the-wood/.  They take wood seriously.

Hyde Irish Whiskey is named after Ireland’s first president, Douglas Hyde, and this “1938” bottling is a tribute to his inauguration year, despite having nothing else at all to do with that calendar year.  It’s a special small release (only 5,000 bottles made, as well as at least 384 mini-Advent bottles) that intriguingly combines an 8 year-old grain whiskey with an 18 YEAR single malt whiskey to make a punching-above-its-weight power blend.  The result smells equally sweet and herbal, part honey and vanilla, part lemongrass and fresh leaves, part nutmeg and eucalyptus and creme caramel.  Fruit shows up in spades as soon as the whiskey hits your tongue, buoyant cantaloupe, kiwi and honeydew, backed by seaweed, Dixie Cup spoons and that same lingering trace of minty greenness.  This is really, really impressive, much more layered than your standard expectation of Irish whiskey and a steal at an $80ish retail price.  Keep the Irish coming!!

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KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 9

9 12 2016

Woooo!!  Bring on the internationals!  One of my favourite Whisky Advent Calendar days is the first day a non-Scottish whisky (or in this case, whiskey) shows up; not that I have anything against scotch, of course, but I do enjoy the variety and fresh perspective that some of the interloper whisky nations bring to the table.  This particular nation didn’t have to interlope far — it’s an hour’s flight from Scotland to Ireland — but Irish whiskey still has its own distinct personality above and beyond its divergent spelling of what’s in the bottle.  There are fewer regulations surrounding whiskey in Ireland, but one thing that is generally required is triple distillation of the spirit, which results in a purer, cleaner, smoother whiskey, albeit perhaps at the expense of the character or flavour of the underlying grain that remains in the impurities.  Tonight’s Irish whiskey standard-bearer is a KWM calendar newcomer, Hyde distillery, whose website features the most fantastic graphic of the overall distillation process:

Wow.  It may be a traditional process, but it’s far from a simple one.  This 10 Year Presidents Cask Single Malt is not fooling around in the price department for a product of Ireland ($110) but sees its contents subject to two separate maturations after its triple-distillation, first a decade in small (200L), flame-charred, first-fill Bourbon casks from Kentucky selected for maximum flavour extraction, and then an additional 10 months of finishing in Oloroso sherry casks…which it turns out cost TEN TIMES MORE than Bourbon casks do!  An Oloroso cask is around 800 Euros, while a Bourbon cask is only around 80 Euros.  I know which way I would go if I was a distillery, particularly given my general antipathy towards sherried flavours, but whisky isn’t always an economically savvy pursuit.

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The Hyde 10 Year obviously made the most of its dual maturation, as it was one of the most eye-catching of all calendar whiskies to date, a gorgeous amber gold.  It is confectionary and delectable on the nose, warm vanilla and maple aromas mixed with black licorice and Coffee Crisp, Bourbon casks doing their thing.  Simultaneously lush yet sleek, the Hyde has an attractive roundness to its angel food cake, toasted pecan, bananas foster and burnt orange flavours without any corresponding heaviness, finishing feathery and bright and never weighing the palate down.  It is deft and almost delicate but without losing any power because of it.  A great effort from an unheralded whisky country.








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