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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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!





KWM Whisky Advent Calendar 2017: Day 4

4 12 2017

Man, this 2017 calendar just continues its emphatic strides towards difference and individuality and I just keep loving its uniqueness.  We get two new Whisky Advent firsts today (at least in my four years of following along):  (1) first ever CANADIAN whisky, and (2) first ever plastic bottle embedded in the calendar.  I almost dropped it pulling it out of slot #4 it was so light.  This is the very first ever spirit offering from Niagara’s Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery, the Red Cask Premium Crafted Whisky, which is distilled from locally grown grains and then, in a nod to its roots, matured in the winery’s own red wine barrels.  Very cool.  It has to be one of the least expensive whiskies ever to grace the KWM Whisky Advent Calendar as well, tipping the scales at a svelte $44 for a full bottle.

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This inaugural Advent offering from our home and native land is great to look at, a pleasantly burnished amber colour impressively obtained given what I wouldn’t expect to have been an extraordinarily long maturation period.  It smells equal parts spicy and toasty, cinnamon and charcoal, layered with elastic bands, Old Fashioned-style citrus and melon fruit.  The double-take portion of the whisky comes in the form of its ultra-satiny, almost gelatinous texture, like a Jello shot or an alcoholic Jujube.  It billows out on the tongue like a roasting marshmallow and then sits there, inflated and cooked on the edges, hanging out.  I wrote “is this rye-based?” when pepper and sandpaper started biting my tastebuds, and I was at least partially right:  it’s part aged rye, part malted rye and part corn-based whisky, each distilled separately.  The corn comes through in the Bourbon-esque caramel, burnt orange and Creamsicle flavours, lending easy approachability to the whole affair.  On the whole, while the mouthfeel seems slightly exaggerated, this stands up quite well as a solid weeknight sipper.  O Canada.





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.

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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.








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