Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 8

8 12 2015

Time for a twist to start Week 2 of whisky Advent.  I was recently asked if I did whisky reviews, responded something to the effect of “um, sort of” and was given a spirit aerator from Vinturi for use with this year’s calendar.  You may know the Vinturi from the wine side:  it’s that intricate hard plastic funnel that insta-aerates any liquid that passes through it and into your glass, a sort of hyper-decant to open up tight wines in seconds rather than hours.  It’s one of the few wine gadgets that I actually use semi-regularly, not for the special occasion good stuff (which I like to see unfurl gradually), but for weeknight bottles that seem closed off when I first crack them.  I get why it works for wine, a drink that is highly susceptible to, and highly influenced by, oxygen from the second it is first exposed to it, at first in a good way (some air time softens and opens wine and releases packed-in flavours) and then in a very not-good way (too much air flattens and oxidizes wine and ultimately ruins it).  But spirits?  Once something is distilled and cranked up to 50% alcohol like tonight’s scotch, wouldn’t oxygen exposure cease to matter to it?  Once its maturation is done and it is freed from barrel and bottled, isn’t its flavour development over?  You never protect your whisky bottles from oxygen once you open them, and they never seem change even after months or years in an unstoppered bottle, so I was unsure how the wine-based premise of the Vinturi would carry over.

The guinea pig whisky for this aeration experiment was the Glenglassaugh Evolution, a Highland Single Malt from a distillery that was shut down and mothballed in 1986, only to be surprisingly salvaged and re-opened in 2008.  For the second day in a row we have a repeat producer from last year’s calendar; Day 7 of 2014 featured the Glenglassaugh Revival, the first scotch released after the distillery’s (literal) renaissance.  Weirdly, the 2015 offering from yesterday’s first repeat calendar producer, GlenDronach (Day 7 of 2015!), was also called Revival.  I’m hoping that was intentional.  Tonight’s Glenglassaugh is the SECOND scotch released after the distillery re-opened its doors, called Evolution, which holds the distinction of being the first whisky I’ve tried that was matured in ex-Tennessee Whisky barrels.  Seeing “Tennessee” displayed on a bottle of scotch takes some getting used to.

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Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 7

7 12 2015

Fresh off a tasting of 13 Austrian and other Gruner Veltliners in 2 hours, I am doing an alcoholic 180 and re-centering on scotch, at least far enough to get 400 words out.  Ah, the trials and tribulations of a booze geek.  I believe tonight’s Advent scotch marks the first time that the 2015 Kensington Wine Market Advent Calendar has repeated distillers from the 2014 Advent Calendar.  Last year featured two different whiskies from the GlenDronach distillery:  the 18 Year Allardice, which I didn’t like too much, and the 21 Year Parliament, which was my favourite whisky of the whole calendar and which I promptly went out and bought after Christmas.  (You should too – it’s obscenely good.)  This is the younger brother of those two, the 15 Year Revival, and its relative youth is reflected in its sticker price, an impressively affordable $102.  GlenDronach is a Highland distillery that has been owned by BenRiach since 2008 and is known, at least according to itself on its website, for richly sherried malts.  You may or may not remember this from last year, but the 2014 calendar was so overloaded with Oloroso sherry cask-aged whiskies that it almost drove me to violence and left me with a massive case of Oloroso fatigue (until the Parliament came along and all was forgiven).  I think this is the first Oloroso-aged whisky of 2015; one a week is fine, so consider the allotment filled for Week 1.


This might be the most singularly delicious whisky I have ever tasted.  It’s not necessarily the most complex (although it does still have layers to it), but it is just so, so fantastically tasty, like every treat you love in the holidays packed together.  It is an incredible deep burnt amber colour — an Oloroso trait — and just radiates sweet treacle, gingerbread, cabane a sucre, brown sugar and clove, all Christmas baking all the time.  Weighty and soft on the palate, with alcohol that gently warms instead of obliterates, it rounds out the alluring flavour parade with orange zest, nectarine, toffee and coffee beans added to the warm embrace of sweet caramel glory.  There is just no reason not to buy this scotch; I want more right now.  KWM, save me some!

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 7

7 12 2014

I’m not sure what’s more impressive, one straight week of blog posts or one straight week of whiskies.  More impressive than either might be the story behind tonight’s scotch, the Revival from Glenglassaugh distillery in the Scottish Highlands.  If you’ve never heard of that distillery (I hadn’t), don’t feel bad:  it was mothballed in 1986, much like my favourite distillery Port Ellen was in 1983.  However, unlike Port Ellen, Glenglassaugh wasn’t destroyed, but just sat unused…until 2008, when it amazingly reopened and started producing whisky again.  This bottle (whose name now takes on extra significance) was the first release of Glenglassaugh, version 2.0.

Revival - what's old is new again.

Revival – what’s old is new again.

This is the least expensive of the whiskies in the calendar to date, clocking in at $58 retail, and we’re back into the stratosphere on alcohol levels at 46%.  The Revival was legitimately weird on the nose, featuring an assertive layer of fermented, briny, barnacle-y, almost cheesy sherried notes on top of apple and citrus fruit — unsurprisingly, after aging first in old red wine and bourbon casks, it was finished in first-fill oloroso sherry butts.  Thankfully, the palate was both more generous and less funky than the nose, as maple and honey mingled with saltwater, hot coals and sweet soap, finishing in a potpourri-tinged flourish.  Not sure if it’s quite my whisky of choice, but I do love a good tale of redemption, and I wish more of the shuttered distilleries of the 1980s got the same chance at redemption.

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