KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 11

11 12 2017

I’m not sure what shocks me more:  that there are not one but TWO Canadian whiskies in this calendar; that they have shown up in the first 11 days of Advent nestled in with offerings from England and The Netherlands; or that this one is from Vancouver Island!! Andrew Ferguson is a madman, the 2017 calendar is officially unhinged and this is by far the most fun Whisky Advent ever.  I used to live on Vancouver Island while in law school, and I never would have expected there would be a renowned distillery there, but as of 2011, there is:  Shelter Point, established across 380 acres running up the eastern coast of the island on land that was previously a UBC research farm.  Why do you need 380 acres to run a distillery, you ask?  You need it if you ALSO want to farm and grow your own environmentally sustainable barley with which to MAKE your whisky.  This sounds like an obvious concept when viewed through the lens of the wine world (the barley is basically Shelter Point’s estate fruit), but it is almost never done in the whisky world; the only other farm distillery that comes to mind off the top of my head is Scotland’s Kilchoman, whose ethos I admire greatly but whose products I can’t seem to get myself to enjoy.  No such problem here.

IMG_7176-1

Shelter Point is heavily committed to the health of its farmlands and the surrounding area, even donating a large chunk of its “estate” to Ducks Unlimited for use as a nature park.  They make vodka and liqueur in addition to multiple different releases of whisky, but tonight’s focus is their Artisanal Single Malt Whisky, all distilled from homegrown barley and then matured for years in a warehouse right alongside the ocean in what is rumoured to be all ex-Jack Daniels casks.  Badass.  At $85, it is roughly double the price of the previous Canadian whisky in this calendar, and it proves itself easily worthy of this price tag.

IMG_7177-1

My first Vancouver Island whisky has a zesty, spicy nose, lemon peels and cinnamon hearts rounded out with almonds, apple pie crust and warm leather.  I can’t remember ever writing this about a whisky before, but it is absolutely linear on the palate, driven and focused, powered ever-forward by an engine of grainy, peppery, malty verve.  There is no meandering here, no stopping for breath, at least not until the sip is long swallowed and a Coffee Crisp sort of finish makes itself apparent.  This is far more cohesive and structured than the Gretzky whisky from Niagara and easily cruises to the Top Canadian Dram crown of both this Advent and my lifetime.  It may in fact be my favourite whisky of the whole calendar so far.  Shelter Point, I’m coming over.

Advertisements




KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 10

10 12 2017

By Tyler Derksen

Day 10 brings us a 15-year Glenfiddich.  Glenfiddich was founded near Dufftown, in the heart of Speyside, by William Grant in 1886 when he began building the distillery with the help of his nine children (no wonder he needed a drink).  The name “Glenfiddich” is Gaelic for “Valley of the Deer”, which explains the deer on all of the distillery’s labeling.  Glenfiddich remains in the family and the descendants of William Grant still run it 130 years later.  The distillery has a significant production and accounts for a significant percentage of the single malt whisky sold worldwide.  The whisky is stored and matured on site in one of 43 warehouses, which have a capacity of 800,000 casks!

IMG_4117

Ok, so here’s the thing.  I’m not a huge fan of Glenfiddich. I’ll get that out of the way now.  That’s fine, as not everyone likes peated whisky the way I do.  That does mean, however, that I don’t typically seek out whisky from Glenfiddich when trying something new.  As a result, I was interested to see how this 15 Year Old Solera would compare to the more commonly served 12 Year Old.  The process for producing the 15 Year Old Solera seems quite involved.  The spirit is initially matured in European, American and New American Oak before being put into Glenfiddich’s custom-made Solera vat (built in 1998 by the distillery’s fifth Malt Master, David Stewart).  After aging in the Solera vat, it is then finished in Portuguese oak tuns.

The website for Glenfiddich indicates that the Solera vat is never emptied more than half way before new casks are added, which they tout as a means of achieving consistency in flavour.  When I hear consistency or uniformity of flavour, I become hesitant, as I find that whisky produced with that as a goal tends to have far less character.  That doesn’t make them bad, just uninteresting (at least to me).  C’mon, half the fun is barrel variation.

The nose on this whisky was, unfortunately, difficult to discern, with the intensity muted (potentially as a result of being bottled at 40%).  Hints of apple and spice slowly find their way through a nose that is certainly richer than the Glenfiddich I have had previously.  The palate is similarly muted (again, perhaps because of the 40%) and does not have a burn of any kind.  It is smooth and inoffensive, with flavours of dried fruit, baking spices and honey.  The finish is almost non-existent with the lingering flavour remaining only describable as “generic Speyside”.  One of the great things about whisky is that there is a dram for every palate and a palate for every dram.  This one doesn’t do it for me, but hey, that’s why there are 25 different ones in the calendar.  See you all in a few days!





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 9

9 12 2017

After a hectic first week and a bit of whisky, where every other day introduced a bottle from a new country (I’m still processing The Netherlands two days later, and I didn’t even write it up!) and every scotch was seemingly snatched from the jaws of obscurity, maybe it’s nice to sort of resettle and catch our collective breath with a Glen- that everyone recognizes (sorry, Glentauchers).  Glenmorangie is the first single malt experience of many fledgling whisky drinkers, and is very widely sold, but that doesn’t mean they don’t try to push the envelope every so often.  I got a firsthand experience of that phenomenon a while back with their floor-malted Tusail, a dynamite dram, and they try to take a step out of the ordinary here as well with their extra-maturation expression Quinta Ruban.  As far as I can tell, “extra-maturation” is just a fancy way of saying “aging something in one thing, then moving it to another thing”, but Glenmorangie has built a whole range out of this relocation, starting off whiskies in ex-Bourbon cask and then transferring them for the final stage of aging to a variety of other types of vessels.  The 12 Year Quinta Ruban gets to spend the last two years of its pre-bottle life in Ruby Port casks, and according to the Glenmorangie site it was the first malt whisky ever to do so.  It almost surely gets its name from this practice:  Quinta = a wine estate in Portugal, and Ruban is close enough to ruby that I’m not even firing up Google Translate to look into it further.

IMG_7149

First things first:  this is one sweet-looking mini-bottle of scotch.  I like the mini-bottles that retain the same sense of proportion as the full-sized bottles, and this one nails those little details.  The Quinta Ruban may be the orangest scotch I have ever seen, thanks to the staining impact of the used Ruby Port barrels.  The nose is spicy and fiery, all pepper, smoke, clove, all-spice and briquettes, forcing you to dig for the orchard fruit beneath.  It is big, rich and brawny, with an accompanying alcoholic burn (even with water added) amping up burly flavours of maple, mandarin orange, cast iron, sandpaper and chestnuts.  Its price is also extra-matured at $92, but I won’t be the one who discourages the big houses in the world of scotch from diversifying their approaches.





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 8

8 12 2017

The unofficial theme of the scotches (that is, Scotland-derived whiskies) from the 2017 calendar so far is giving unsung heroes their moments in the spotlight.  Like at least two other scotches in the 7 days before it — the two that led off Advent this year — this bottle comes from a little-known obscure distillery (in this case, Glentauchers in Speyside) whose substantial production forms the workhorse component of much-better-known blended whiskies (in this case, Ballantine’s) but who almost never gets to release a single malt under its own banner.  Glentauchers was founded in 1897, managed to produce until 1985 before being mothballed for 7 years, was then acquired by Chivas Brothers and has been churning out blend backbones ever since.  Its fleeting solo appearance comes courtesy of independent bottler extraordinaire Gordon & MacPhail, which has a whole range of Distillery Labels that sees them release a hidden-treasure distillery’s whisky under the distillery’s own logo and branding – very cool.  It is not my first Advent encounter with this range:  in fact, my very first KWM Whisky Advent Calendar bottle EVER was a Distillery Label bottling from the Linkwood distillery, followed shortly in the 2014 calendar by another DL bottling from Mortlach.  Neither of those, however, were 20-year malts.  This one is.

IMG_7145

Distilled in 1996 and then aged in sherry casks before being bottled last year in 2016, the Glentauchers has had plenty of time to mature and develop flavours, and it shows in a sweeping nose of carrot cake, wheat fields, tangerine, lemongrass and marzipan, as holidays-ready a set of smells as I can recall.  Luxurious and pure, it spreads out slowly, taking its time to unfurl before hitting on a distinctly prominent Amaretto note about halfway through the midpalate, a double-take hallmark flavour that just continues to emphasize itself even (especially?) after you swallow.  It’s so remarkably vivid.  Wild.  If I had to try to pull out other flavours:  Sap?  Cinnamon toast?  Banana bread?  Nope, forget it, it’s Amaretto all the way.  One of the most fun offerings in the calendar thus far without question.





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 7

7 12 2017

By Tyler Derksen

One of the true joys of opening a new day on the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar is that you never know what you’re going to get (insert Forrest Gump joke here).  In all seriousness, Andrew Ferguson of KWM does a phenomenal job of sourcing interesting whisky from Scotland and abroad (something Peter rightfully lauded yesterday).  Even with all this in mind, I was thoroughly surprised to pull out today’s bottle and see that it is from the Netherlands!  That’s right folks: Dutch whisky.

Zuidam Distillers is a family-owned and -run distillery which makes gin, Genever (a traditional Dutch juniper liquor from which gin evolved), liqueurs and even rum in addition to its Millstone Whisky, with recipes created by father and son duo Fred and Patrick van Zuidam.  The distillery was started by Fred in 1975 and began as a very small operation, with a space of only 300 square meters and one copper still.  The business grew slowly, but now boasts of a 3600 square meter distillery and four new copper stills.  Zuidam, however, remains true to its Dutch roots and uses windmills to mill its malted barley.

IMG_4103

I love the little rubber stopper instead of a screw-top.

Today’s bottle was less than forthcoming in terms of detail, so I had to do some digging (which would have been far easier if I could read Dutch).  From what I can tell, this whisky appears to have been aged for three years in Oloroso sherry casks (OK, that last part I got from the bottle) which I believe were constructed of American oak.

The colour of the whisky is a stunning deep gold, looking almost like honey in the glass.  The influence of the sherry is evident on the nose, with scents of dried fruit, hazelnut, vanilla, old paper (think opening a 15-20 year old paperback book) and honey dominating.  The palate is bold and the flavours teased by the nose are certainly realized, along with oatmeal cookie and nutmeg.  Although the whisky is a pretty standard 46%, it can seem stronger and slightly viscous if tasted without water.  That said, I found that adding water dulled the palate, with the trade-off not being quite worth it.  If adding water, use very little.  The finish is dry with a hint of something almost rubbery.

Before today, if you had asked me to name whisky-producing countries, I’m not sure I would have come up with the Netherlands, but I will now.  This offering appears to be one of a number in Zuidam’s Millstone line of whisky, many of which are available at Kensington Wine Market (this one is $83) and I’d certainly be interested in trying more Dutch whisky to see how it compares.





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.

IMG_7142

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.

05_Wood_MolecularDance_1-1024x410

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!!





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 5

5 12 2017

By Tyler Derksen

As a reader of Pop & Pour from its inception, and a lucky participant in many tastings written up here, it is a thrill to be a guest-writer this Advent season.  While I am a big fan of wine, scotch is my first love when it comes to alcoholic beverages and it was a with enthusiasm that I accepted the opportunity to assist in writing up the whisky offerings in this year’s Kensington Wine Market’s Whisky Advent Calendar. I will certainly do my best to try to keep my personal biases out of these reviews; however, today is an unfortunate day for such an attempt, as the whisky du jour is the Gordon & Macphail Connoisseurs Choice bottling of 2004 Caol Ila.  Caol Ila (pronounced “cull-eela”) comes from the island of Islay, my favourite scotch region – so much so that I may have named my daughter after the island due to my love of the scotches produced there.

The Caol Ila distillery is located on the northeast coast of Islay overlooking the Sound of Islay, for which the distillery was named.  From the distillery one can look across the sound and see the island of Jura close by.  The distillery was founded in 1846 and is now part of the global spirit powerhouse Diageo.  Although Caol Ila makes remarkable single malt scotch, much of its significant production is used for blending, including in Johnny Walker.

IMG_4100

Today’s whisky is the younger (but more aged) sibling of the Connoisseurs Choice 2003 Caol Ila from the 2015 KWM Whisky Advent Calendar.  Judging by those tasting notes, however, this bottle is quite different.  The whisky was aged in first and refill bourbon barrels and is a light golden colour in the glass, characteristic of Caol Ila which is typically lighter in colour than many of its Islay cousins.  On the nose, the 2004 Caol Ila has the characteristic Islay peat, pronounced but not overpowering.  Mixing with the peat are aromas of fresh baked bread, caramel, banana and a subtle citrus note.  On the palate, the smoky peat remains well-balanced and does not obscure flavours of orchard fruit, vanilla, banana and baking spice with a hint of citrus zest lightening things up.  The finish is long and surprisingly it is the baking spices, not the peat, that stick with you.  I have yet to try a Caol Ila that I did not enjoy, and this offering is no different.  An auspicious start to my blogging career!








%d bloggers like this: