KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2016: Day 11

11 12 2016

Kensington Wine Market obviously wants us to have a very Irish weekend this weekend.  After 8 straight days of scotch, Friday night’s Day 9 dram was the highly impressive Hyde 10 Year from southwest Ireland’s Cork, and now Sunday night we’re back to Ireland for what has become the KWM calendar’s Irish whiskey mascot:  Dublin’s Teeling distillery.  A mini-bottle of Teeling amidst an ocean of single malt scotch is now an official annual Advent tradition, after 2014’s Small Batch Whiskey on Day 10 and 2015’s Single Malt Whiskey on Day 14.  2016 rounds out Teeling’s entry-level trio of whiskies with its highly interesting Single Grain bottling, complete with instant-classic phoenix-rising-out-of-a-whiskey-still label art that gets me every time.  This is the first purely grain whiskey of the 2016 calendar, and its terminology requires a bit of explaining.  “Single Grain” does not mean that the spirit was made out of a single type of grain, even though that would make intuitive sense; instead, the “single” refers to the fact that the whiskey was a product of a single distillery (like with single malts), while the “grain” refers to the fact that it was not made from single malt whiskey’s ingredient of choice, malted barley, but instead came from other grains, most often wheat or corn or a mix of both.  Grain whiskey is often seen as the ugly stepsister of single malt whisky, but while it may not always match the complexity of single malt whisky, good examples can be exceptionally tasty.


This is one such example.  One way to add some jazz and personality to an otherwise potentially straightforward spirit is to mature it in something fun, and Teeling has done just that here, foregoing the monstrously overdone sherry casks and aging its Single Grain whiskey in 100% California Cabernet Sauvignon barrels.  I am emphatically in favour of this.  People all over the world put enough different booze in barrels that there’s a whole world of new whiskey flavour just waiting for the adventurous to find it.  The move pays off here in the shimmering deep golden colour of the whiskey and intriguing aromas of Amaretto, tangerine, copper pennies and crushed flowers, a fun and alluring start that carries forward on a big, smooth and emphatically tropical palate.  Coconut, banana and suntan lotion lead into less island-y notes of Werther’s Original, burnt almond, tapioca and toasted rice, a slightly strange yet utterly enjoyable array of flavours, easily worth the bottle’s $65 price tag.  Up with Ireland, grain whiskey and new aging vessels, and up with underdogs that represent all three!

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.


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.

Whisky Advent Calendar 2015: Day 14

14 12 2015

Ireland!!  The Whisky Advent Calendar visits its 4th country in 14 days today, and the first to spell “whiskey” with an “E” (standard rule of thumb: if the country has an E in its name, it usually spells whiskey with one too, like IrEland and the UnitEd StatEs).  Irish whiskey is represented by another familiar face from last year’s calendar, but this time we’ve been upgraded, from the Teeling Whiskey Small Batch blend from 2014 to tonight’s Teeling Whiskey Single Malt.  Irish whiskey is generally similar to Scottish whisky except that it is almost always triple-distilled (as was last night’s scotch, the Hazelburn 12 Year, which is anomalous in that regard for Scottish whisky, usually only double-distilled) and unpeated.  The same rules apply in both countries to the single malt designation, so this Teeling is made from 100% malted barley that was distilled by Teeling itself.  The component Teeling whiskies that make up this bottle date back to 1991 and have been matured in a borderline crazy FIVE different types of barrel:  sherry, Port, madeira, white Burgundy (??) and Cabernet Sauvignon casks.  Contrast that to the base Teeling blended whiskey, which was aged only in rum casks and tasted like it.  At $70, this is on the cheaper end of the single malt world.


The nose on this whiskey is the epitome of “pleasant”:  vanilla, banana cream, white flowers, black jellybean and Fig Newtons, all sweet-tinged and ready to enjoy.  This core of sweetness is paired with a luscious textural softness on the tongue, which makes the whiskey feel like it’s just floating in your mouth, weightless.  Wine Gums, chamomile, anise, hot chocolate and marshmallows use the pleasantly simmering 46% abv to warm you up on a cold winter’s night like tonight.  This is like the golden retriever of whiskies, friendly and unthreatening and dependable.  It isn’t as complex or challenging as some of the Scottish malts, but it is immediately gratifying, without any flavours that take some getting used to, making it a great intro whiskey for newbies to the spirit world.  And what a rock star bottle and label to boot!

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 23

23 12 2014

Three posts in less than 24 hours?  I’m officially on Christmas holidays, so why not?  Kensington Wine Market’s Whisky Advent Calendar advertises on the box that one of the included whiskies is more than 40 years old; I haven’t seen it yet and it wasn’t behind door #23 tonight, so I know what awaits on Christmas Eve!  Unfortunately, the penultimate whisky in the calendar is nowhere near as exciting, and it kills any buzz that might have been built up by the incredible GlenDronach Parliament yesterday.  Not that it’s horrible or anything; it just…is.  It’s a Day 6 whisky instead of a Day 23 whisky.

Not necessarily the way to bring it home.

Not necessarily the way to bring it home.

“It” is the Auchentoshan 18 Year Single Malt, matured entirely in American oak bourbon casks.  This is Auchentoshan’s second appearance on the calendar, having previously underwhelmed with the triple-distilled, triple-matured 3 Wood on three-saturated Day 3.  The 18 Year isn’t going to make me run out and buy Auchentoshan anytime soon, but I will say that they have the absolute best website of any scotch producer I’ve come across this month.  Check out their stellar graphic (scroll down) explaining the ins and outs behind their unique triple distillation process (they are the only scotch producer to triple distill full-time) – that’s more info on distillation than my WSET textbook had.  Good stuff. Read the rest of this entry »

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 3

3 12 2014

This may be the first time I’ve posted three days in a row since this blog’s inauguration.  I promise you that there will be a wine review coming up soon — I’m actually going to be working on it once I finish this — but first the monolith that is Advent rolls on and there are whisky duties to attend to.  The Speyside streak in the KWM Whisky Advent calendar ends at two:  tonight’s bottle is a single malt scotch from the Lowlands in southeast Scotland.  I’m going to give KWM the benefit of the doubt and assume that they loaded up the Auchentoshan 3 Wood on Day 3 of Advent because it would karmically fit nowhere else.

Day 3:  triple distilled, triple wood.  Fore!

Day 3: triple distilled, triple wood. Fore!

The 3 Wood is so named because it was aged in three different types of wooden barrels before bottling:  first old Bourbon casks, then Oloroso Sherry casks and then finally Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks.  It was also triple distilled, a rarity nowadays for whisky and a sort of superfluous additional 3 to add to the pile.  The price point is near-identical to the first two bottles in this series at $76.  The wood triumverate shows up on both the colour (way darker and more orange-hued than the past two scotches) and the flavour profile of the whisky, all coffee grounds and popcorn kernels and hickory on the nose, blooming into chocolate orange and saltwater taffy on the palate, with a slightly bitter-tinged sweet yet medicinal finish, sort of like Neo Citran.  It’s a little rougher around the edges than the breezier, smoother Speysides of Days 1 and 2, and would probably rank the lowest of the three so far, but it would still be ideal for sitting in a big leather armchair and watching golf.

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