KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 15

15 12 2017

By my count this is “Glen” whisky #5 (well, 4 1/2) in 15 days of 2017 Advent, after Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Glentauchers and Dailuaine-Glenlivet all the day back on Day 1.  But the more important number for this particular Glen, Highlands’ Glenglassaugh, is three.  The distillery was founded in 1875, but like so many others it was mothballed in the 1980s (1986 to be exact), only to be near-miraculously purchased and re-opened 22 years later in 2008 (then purchased again by BenRiach in 2013, but that’s not part of this story).  I had never heard of Glenglassaugh back in 2014, when on December 7th I opened the KWM Advent Calendar door and discovered the very first whisky it had released after opening its doors again, aptly named the Revival.  The next year, on December 8th, 2015, we were treated to the SECOND ever whisky from the new Glenglassaugh, the Evolution.  And now we arrive to today, December 7+8 = 15th, and back to the number three:  today’s Glenglassaugh Torfa is the third new whisky to come out of the distillery’s doors.  The difference with this one is that it’s peated — according to the label, RICHLY Peated, although at 20 ppm (less than half of The English Smokey’s 45, which itself wasn’t over the top) it might be exaggerating things a bit.


The rather odd name of the whisky, Torfa, is a nod to its burnt-moss-imbued nature, as it is an old Norse word for peat (turf).  It is an orangey golden colour and certainly exhibits some of its namesake on the nose, beaming out the shoe leather, moss and marsh bog aromas associated with peat, but measuring those with a honeyed sweetness and a lingering grassiness…despite its “Richly Peated” boast, it doesn’t come close to overwhelming.  Coming closer is the flamethrower of a palate that takes no prisoners at 50% abv, even with added water, but behind the alcoholic rage lies more careful peat balance, the smokiness never bullying the other notes of apple crisp, sandpaper, tangerine, black pepper and fallen leaves.  But the telltale slithery griminess shows up on both the attack and the finish, bookending a fun and fascinating dram.  Here’s to a fourth and fifth and many more, Glenglassaugh.

KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 3

3 12 2017

English whisky!!!  One of the very few improvement suggestions that I’ve had for Whisky Advent Calendars of years past was a slightly heavier global focus, now that world powers like Japan and Taiwan and India are starting to flex their muscles in the whisky arena with impressive results.  I did not previously include England in this category of nations knocking on Scotland’s door, nor did I even know that English whisky was a thing, but The English Whisky Company is here to make it one.  Just established in the latter part of 2006, featuring the new and sparkly St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk, England (which has as many bells and whistles and bistros and gift shops as any Napa winery), the English Whisky Co. produced England’s first single malt whisky in over a century a few years later and remains one of only a handful of active distilleries in the whole country.  Part of the impetus behind the founding of the venture was that Norfolk is a world premier region for barley (who knew those existed) whose crops were often shipped over to Scotland for use in scotch production; since whisky is basically malted barley, yeast and water and Norfolk had all of these things, they ultimately just decided to keep their barley and distill it at home.


The most troublesome part of English whisky’s entry onto the global scene is that it wrecks the heretofore super-handy how-to-spell-“whisk(e)y” heuristic that I’ve repeated many times on this site:  if the country making the spirit has an E in it (e.g. Ireland), spell its product “whiskey” with an E, but if it doesn’t have an E in it (e.g. Scotland, Japan), spell it “whisky” without the E.  Well, thanks England:  this English Single Malt Whisky puts a big kibosh on that mnemonic.  The funniest thing about this is that they spell the name of this particular peated bottling “Smokey”, with an E, likely just to rub it in.

The Smokey is infiltrated with 45 ppm of peat phenols, which is tangible but not insane on the scale of peated whiskies.  It is pale and watery-looking and has all of the grimy industrial aromas that often attend when burned peat moss embeds itself into liquid:  old rags, mechanic’s shop, turpentine, baseball gloves, floating over wild grasses and canned pear.  The surprisingly viscous texture, round and warm, envelops you in smoothness, making the whisky come across much larger than its 43% abv.  It tastes sweet, to the point where I’m seriously mulling over the use of Splenda as a tasting note, attacking in confection with vanilla bean and icing sugar and cinnamon before the billows of smoke and diesel and moss roll in.  Welcome (back) to the single malt whiskey world, England — it’s good to have you.

KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 23

23 12 2016

GlenDronach!  Peated!  I’m always fascinated by peated expressions of traditionally non-peated whiskies (which encompass almost all whiskies distilled anywhere other than the Islay region of Scotland), particularly when the whisky in question is one with which I am otherwise very familiar.  My old calendar friend GlenDronach, as recently covered in Day 18, is an Advent stalwart, having shown up (quite successfully) four previous times in the last three years; those prior releases unveiled the bulk of GlenDronach’s core range, but all of them are entirely unpeated, making tonight’s further core entry a category of its own for the distillery.  GlenDronach decided to release a Peated expression fairly recently as a nod to how the distillery used to make whisky back in the 19th century, although since its founding in 1826 it’s been a sort of rocky road until recently.  Stop me if you’ve seen this kind of Scottish distillery timeline before:  sold 1830, sold 1920 (to the son of the founder of Glenfidditch), sold 1962, mothballed 1996-2002 (not that long ago!!), taken over 2005 (by Chivas), taken over 2008 (by BenRiach, who makes some pretty awesome whisky in its own right and has presided over a highly impressive GlenDronach resurgence in the past 8 years), taken over (along with BenRiach) earlier this year (although so far the same folks have been left in charge).  No job security in whisky-making.


The peating in GlenDronach’s first ever (modern-day) peated offering is done…pleasantly?  Is that a thing?  The peat effect is definitely noticeable, but far from in-your-face, adding aromatic traces of lantern oil, sweet compost, old leather and moss to GlenDronach’s stone fruit and florals, which are otherwise not lost or mellowed in maturation in this younger non-age-designated malt.  The palate is similar, part oily and part sweet, either adding perfumed refinement to the peat’s underlying funk or adding some necessary grime to an otherwise potentially too-pristine Highland whisky, depending on how you look at it.  The result is a little bit of everything:  pistachio pudding, suede jackets, distress flares, car exhaust, marmalade, apple crisp…I could keep going.  What a value at $83.  Can’t wait to see what Christmas Eve has in store!

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 21

21 12 2014

Last night I delicately expressed some annoyance at the third appearance of a distillery (Springbank) in a 24-day Advent calendar.  Consider that foreshadowing for tonight, when it happened again.  At least the Springbank whiskies were split between three different sub-labels, but tonight’s whisky completed a one-label BenRiach trilogy:  first there was BenRiach 16 back on Day 2, then there was BenRiach 20 on Day 11, and now there’s the hilariously named BenRiach Septendecim, a 17 Year Single Malt from Speyside.  “Septendecim” is Latin for “17” and continues a calendar tradition of whiskies being given extraordinarily wordy and complex names for no particular reason.  It certainly got my attention.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

Everything looks more impressive in Latin.

The coolest thing about the Septendecim (which feels like it should be written in capital letters at all times – SEPTENDECIM!!) is that its a (heavily) peated whisky from Scotland’s Speyside region, an area that is almost never known for peat.  The other two BenRiachs in the calendar are much more typical Speyside, light and sweet and clean as a whistle.  This one is flat out dirty:  you can smell the peat even as you’re pouring the first glass.  It also has my eternal gratitude for not letting a single drop of whisky touch a sherry cask — this is all ex-Bourbon barrels all the way.  Finally. Read the rest of this entry »

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 20

20 12 2014

Well, whisky friends (and long-suffering wine readers who are just dying for Advent to be over – hang in there), we’ve reached Day 20 of the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar.  Only 4 more whiskies left until Christmas, which means we’re on the home stretch, gaining momentum to go out with a bang…right?  Maybe not so fast.  When I opened tonight’s calendar window and saw a familiar black cardboard box staring back at me, my thoughts could entirely be summed up with:  “Again?”

Not the little black box again.  (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Not the little black box again. (Sorry Campbeltown.)

Yep, it’s scotch #3 from the Springbank distillery in Campbeltown, completing the collector’s set of whiskies from the producer’s 3 sub-labels:  first came the Hazelburn 12 on Day 13, then came the Springbank 10 two freaking days ago, and now we get the Longrow N.V. Peated Single Malt, a whisky with no age designation at all (meaning that at least a chunk of it was made from quite young malts).  If you’re wondering how many whiskies from one producer is too many in a 24-day calendar, the answer is 3.  The Longrow retails for $64 and is a solid value for that price, but I can’t see myself coming back to it. Read the rest of this entry »

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