Thursday 27 March 2014

Tasted #71 through #75: Kilchoman (#101drams)

At the aforementioned Kilchoman masterclass with founder and master distiller Anthony Wills, we were given the opportunity to try 5 Kilchoman releases - some no longer available in Australia, and some not yet available in Australia. Here are my thoughts...

Kilchoman Summer 2010 (46% ABV, 3yrs old, Islay, Scotland, no longer available)
Made using "Ardbeg spec" malt from Port Ellen Maltings, peated to 50ppm.
Colour: Light, pale straw.
Nose: Big peaty hit up front, but light, sweet with some citrus notes. Some medicinal notes, but not overpowering. After a while - ash, lots of ash.
Palate: Tangy citrus, peat continues, with a really sharp citrus zest. Very much like a "young Ardbeg" as described by Anthony.
Finish: Very short (not surprising given the limited time in oak), peat, some ash. Not a lot going on.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100

Kilchoman 100% Islay (50% ABV, 3-4yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $155AUD) #101drams
A vatting of 3-4 year old malts, made from barley grown on-site. Makes up 15-20% of Kilchoman's production, peated to 20ppm. A #101drams whisky.
Colour: Dull honey.
Nose: Very, very youthful - bananas, bubblegum, asparagus. A drop of water gives it some subtle grass notes with more peat smoke.
Palate: Better than the nose. Peat, grass, oatmeal.
Finish: Long, smoky, but not a "one tricky pony", with oaty notes and a final hint of grass.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV, 3-5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $120AUD)
The core expression, finished in Olorosso sherry casks. A vatting of 3-4 year old whiskies + some 5 year old whisky.
Colour: Golden honey.
Nose: Breakfast cereal, minimal peat, chalk.
Palate: Spice, smoke, big mouthfeel. Slight berry flavours and hints of peppercorns.
Finish: Medium to long, with an ashy smoke similar to Ardbeg.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 89/100

....but wait, SMWS Australia's cellarmaster Andrew Derbidge notes something isn't right (if there's someone in Australia who knows more about whisk(e)y, I'd like to meet them), and quietly whispers something to Dave from The Oak Barrel. Turns out this bottle was corked! A few picked it as being "not quite what they remembered", and I picked it as being "OK, not brilliant" (having not tried it before), but only Andrew picked up the traces of TCA, or cork taint. Dave was kind enough to open another bottle so we could experience what the whisky should have been..

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV, 3-5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $120AUD) - no cork taint
The core expression, finished in Olorosso Sherry casks. A vatting of 3-4 year old whiskies + some 5 year old whisky. Uncorked this time.
Colour: Golden honey.
Nose: Still breakfast cereal, oat cakes, and smoke, but no chalk!
Palate: Smooth and pleasant. Less peppery notes.
Finish: Long, wafts of smoke, with less ashy notes.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (much better!)

Kilchoman Loch Gorm (46% ABV, 5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, $160AUD)
Full Sherry maturation, IWSC Gold medal winner (2012).
Colour: The darkest of the lot, deep, rich honey.
Nose: Spice, berries, the youth dominates though - banana notes are evident. As with the Summer 2010, time brings more notes of ash.
Palate: Ashy with lots of spice, cinnamon, pepper. Cherries
Finish: Lighter, medium length, smokey to the end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 90/100.

Kilchoman Small Batch (58.2% ABV, 5yrs old, Islay, Scotland, price TBC)
Colour: Pale honey.
Nose: Wouldn't have picked this one as 58.2% ABV! Sweet, honey, some spice. Not dissimilar to the notes found in Lochan Ora or a whisky liqueur. A drop of water adds some tropical fruit notes.
Palate: Big smoke, big spice, candied nuts and dried fruits.
Finish: Long, with just the right amount of peat smoke without being overbearing. A good mix of fruit, nuts, spice. Complex for such a young whisky. Slight burn towards the end - but not unpleasant. This is a high ABV whisky after all.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100.

 - Martin.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

The Oak Barrel - Kilchoman masterclass with Anthony Wills

It hadn't even been a month since The Oak Barrel Sydney hosted Douglas Cook from Glendronach, when us keen members found ourselves back in The Oak Barrel's tasting room, ready to hear from another Scotman (adopted this time*) about another Scottish distillery. 

(Side note: It was good to see that whilst the whiskies and regions differed, the tartan pants remained a consistent theme!)

This time, that distillery was Scotland's youngest whisky producing distillery, and the (adopted) Scotsman was the Founder, Managing Director and Master Distiller of said distillery.

I'm talking of course about Kilchoman - founded in 2005, and the first distillery to be built on Islay for 125 years. Anthony was in Australia to present his range of whiskies (past, present and future) and tell us a little bit more about the distillery, which has been selling "whisky" (as opposed to spirit) since 2009. On tasting was the impressive lineup of:
  • Kilchoman Summer 2010 (46% ABV)
Kilchoman 100% Islay (50% ABV)
  • Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV)
Kilchoman Loch Gorm (46% ABV)
  • Kilchoman Small Batch (58.2% ABV)
Having only tasted the odd Kilchoman (both OBs and SMWS releases), I was keen to taste the majority of their regular OB lineup.

Anthony, an Englishman who previously worked as an independent bottler, saw a growing interest in Scotch Whisky in the early 2000s, and (seeing the impact this could have on the independent bottling business) decided to mitigate any future supply issues by starting his own distillery (makes sense, right? Nice if we could all do it.) As a fan of the classic, peated Islay taste, Islay seemed a natural home for the new distillery.

Despite difficulties, Anthony managed to secure the necessary investment and commenced production, engaging Dr Jim Swan (who we met during last year's The Whisky Show) to craft a whisky with a profile that would be conducive to reasonably quick maturation, despite Islay's cold climate. Anthony explained that while Jim originally estimated a 5-6 year maturation timeframe before the product would be of sufficient quality, upon tasting the first new make spirit to run off the stills, he revised this to 3 years (the minimum timeframe for such a spirit to be called "whisky" in Scotland).

Kilchoman have  a strong focus on wood, with first fill barrels used heavily and a steady supply of ex-Bourbon barrels from Kentucky's Buffalo Trace. Starting with a cask filling rate of 12 casks per week in 2005, the distillery now fills 28 per week, and is on target to produce 150,000L of spirit this year. A small amount in comparison to many of the established players, no doubt, but consider that number against the global penetration Kilchoman have managed to achieve in a relatively short space of time, and you have an impressive feat.

I'll leave the tasting notes for another post to follow soon after this one, but suffice to say that despite my initial hesitation given the youth (and given what I'd heard from some other whisky writers I respect), I enjoyed every single expression.

  - Martin.

* He's English

Thursday 20 March 2014

Tasted #70: Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.1 Dubhe Single Malt Whisky (Sweden)

In the interests of expanding my world whisky horizons, when putting in an order with Master of Malt last year I added a sample of this strangely named whisky from Sweden, because, well, why not?

Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.1 Dubhe Single Malt Whisky (45% ABV, NAS, Hven, Sweden,  $170AUD)
Colour: Pale honey.

Nose: Unusual. Young, but pleasant. Nutty, rich and honied all at the same time. Actually, the nose reminds me a LOT of whisky liqueurs, like Lochan Ora or Glenfiddich's discontinued whisky liqueur.

Palate: Lighter than the nose suggests. The honey remains, with notes of sweet cloves, spices, and some very light smoke at the end, which compliments the palate perfectly.

Finish: Medium length. Slightly smokey and with a mild burn, with lots of spice. The honey notes evaporate quickly.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but this was actually a very enjoyable whisky. A mix of sweet, almost liqueur notes with a smokey end. Wonderful.

 - Martin.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Tasted #69: George T Stagg Bourbon (#101drams)

It's been a few months since the last #101drams tasting, so it's high time we rectified that. What better way to do that with the highest ABV whiskey tasted on this site to date? At a ridiculous 70.7% (it's not the 71.4% of the 2012 release, but she'll do..) George T Stagg Bourbon isn't what you'd call a breakfast whiskey...

For those unfamiliar with this beast, it's part of Buffalo Trace's "Antique Collection". an annual collection of limited releases typically aged longer than the standard Buffalo Trace releases. Highly sought-after, the "BTAC" releases often sell out in a matter of days upon release in the US. If you can find a bottle of Stagg in Australia it'll likely be between $300-$400AUD.

..which is why, when I saw it on the menu at Neutral Bay's The White Hart (one of our favourite LoNoSho bars) for something like $18/nip, I jumped at it. The pricing disparity on various bar menus around Sydney always amuses me. It's not uncommon to see a $150 to $200/bottle whisk(e)y for say $20/nip, whereas on the same menu something like Ron Zacapa 23 (which usually sells for $90/bottle) will sell for $23-$24/nip. Crazy. I get that different bars have different suppliers, allegiances to Diageo, Pernod, Brown Forman etc, but it's still always amusing.

Still, I wasn't complaining. Here was a chance to tick off a #101drams whisky for relatively little outlay!

George T Stagg Bourbon 2009 (70.7% ABV, NAS, Kentucky, USA, $399AUD)
Colour: Deep, rich, dark copper. They say the average age is 15 years and it's clearly taken on a lot of wood in that time.

Nose: Rich, full, with a strong oak influence. Bananas.

Palate: So smooth, yet so hot. Instant heat, but not a bad, harsh alcohol burn. Some very sweet maple notes, with hints of vanilla. A few drops of water (which you pretty much have to try with a whiskey of this ABV) didn't change the nose a lot, but exploded all the same notes on the palate, especially the vanilla.

Finish: LONG. Vanilla, with hints of tropical fruit (pineapple predominantly) towards the end. Didn't expect that.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A beast of a whisky, but certainly not unapproachable. A whiskey I'd happily drink again, and would consider buying if I found for a reasonable price (likely only in the US).

 - Martin.

Thursday 13 March 2014

#101drams Charitable Challenge - second $100 donation (drams 21-40)

Whoops, for the last few months I thought I was on 39 drams, but it turns out I'd missed one and had already reached 40...

As I promised in my #101drams challenge, for every 20 whiskies I tick off the list, I'll donate $100 to Cancer Council Australia. Having made my way through 40 drams now, here's the second $100 donation:

Having seen first hand since the last donation the devastation that cancer can take on a person (not to mention their loved ones), I'd really encourage everyone to consider donating to a charity like Cancer Council Australia.

 - Martin.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Tasted #65, #66, #67 and #68 (phew) - Glendronach 12, 15, 18 and 31yo "Grandeur"

The other week I attended The Wild Rover's "Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative" (CCWC) launch, which saw us taste the Glendronach 12, 15 and 18yo with Douglas Cook of the distillery. Two days later, I was again sitting before Mr Cook (this time at the Oak Barrel) tasting the same line-up, but with one noteable addition - the 31yo Grandeur (Batch 1).

As the scores below probably indicate - these were all fantastic whiskies.

Glendronach 12yo "Original" (43% ABV, 12yo, Higlands, Scotland, $78AUD)
Colour: Burnt, coppery orange.
Nose: Sherried, but not in a "smack you in the face" sherrybomb manner. Sweet, youthful, strawberries, candied fruits and the oft-mentioned "Christmas cake".
Palate: Nutty, dry (PX?), big sherry influence.
Finish: Dry, long, with a hint of citrus tang on the sides of the toungue.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Definitely value for money as a quality, everyday drinking sherried dram.

Glendronach 15yo "Revival" (46% ABV, 15yo, Higlands, Scotland, $110AUD)
Colour: Burnt orange but with more of a red hue than the 12yo.
Nose: Spice, caramel, cinnamon and orange peel.
Palate: Even more spice (this wasn't present on the 12yo at all), ginger, berries. Big tannins, big mouthfeel.
Finish: Sweet, medium to long, berries right to the end, with a hint of orange rind at the very end.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. Fantastic.

Glendronach 18yo "Allardice" (46% ABV, 18yo, Higlands, Scotland, $145AUD)
Colour: Deep, deep copper. Almost burgundy.
Nose: Massive sherry hit. No surprise as to what type of cask this was aged in. Definitely has some older hints (leather, oak) but also sweet honey notes, which were unexpected. Maple syrup? Blueberries too. Complex. Could definitely nose this all night - preferably by a fireplace in the middle of winter.
Palate: Huge mouthfeel. Silky, soft and delicate but bursting with notes of blueberries, spice (though not as pronounced as the 15yo) and oak.
Finish: Sweet, big tannins, drying, extremely long, and still with those berries.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. A truly great whisky.

Glendronach 31yo "Grandeur" Batch 1 (45.8% ABV, 31yo, Higlands, Scotland, $890AUD)
Colour: Dark copper / burnt dark orange.
Nose: Rich, with notes of port, sherbet, and berries (though this is no sherry monster). Age has definitely softened it.
Palate: Soft and subtle - no dominant characteristics here. Fruity, almost floral. Again, the age seems to have softened it.
Finish: Very, very long, berries, stonefruits.
Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. A great opportunity to try a very, very rare dram, but I'd choose the 18yo (especially if I was paying!)

 - Martin.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

This Week in Whisk(e)y #6

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week. So on with it then...

It's single malt, but not as you know it - Woodford Reserve release "Classic Malt" and "Straight Malt"
We've featured Woodford Reserve's "Master's Collection" on the site before, but for those unfamiliar with the series, it's basically Woodford's annual opportunity to go a little crazy. Different finishes, different casks, four wood aging, and a few interesting ryes are a few examples of recent releases, but for this year (late 2013 in the States - we're a little behind) they've gone one step further with the release of two single malt whiskeys, and I hear through the grapevine we'll see them in Australia later in the year (and maybe earlier than that at the odd tasting).

The two releases are "Classic Malt" and "Straight Malt", both made from 100% barley, but differing by the types of cask used for aging - the Straight Malt in virgin oak (in the same way Bourbon is aged), the Classic Malt in used Bourbon barrels (in the same way a lot of Scotch whisky is aged). With both sitting at 45.2% ABV (continuing Woodford's trend of having all their whiskies end in 0.2% ABV), these should be interesting to compare. We can't wait.

The Wild Rover's "Campbell Cove Whiskey Collective"
Launched last week, we mentioned that The Wild Rover's "Campbell Corner Whiskey Co-Operative" (CCWC) included a list of 50 whiskies for members to work their way through before "unlocking" a selection of special drams. James from The Wild Rover has been kind enough to send through the full listing, and to be honest, it's a pretty fantastic list. With a good split between Irish and Scotch whiskies, and a few North American, Japanese and Aussies thrown in, it has something for everyone. Prices are reasonable too, considering the quality of the drams, with only 8 of the 50 above $20, and plenty for around $11-$14. We've linked the full listing below, but to call out a few of the more interesting ones:
  • Ardbeg Supernova ($24)
  • Connemara Cask Strength ($12)
  • Longrow 1997 14yo Burgundy Wood ($14); and
  • Van Winke 10yo ($22)
The current full listing can be found at:

NZ Whisky receives 95 points from Jim Murray
I've voiced my thoughts on Jim Murray on this site before (in summary, I respect what he does but think people place too much emphasis on his ratings, considering he's only one man), but regardless, the man has tasted more whisky than the majority of us, and people keep buying his annual book release, so I guess his opinions are still highly regarded.

One of his views that I agree with, it seems, is that the NZ Whisky Company 21yo "South Island Single Malt" is a damn good whisky. I considered it the equal best when tasting 10 of their releases back in 2013, and Jim has given it 95 points in his 2014 Whisky Bible.

To quote the NZ Whisky Company press release:
"In a great start to 2014 for the New Zealand Whisky Company, Jim Murray’s latest edition hot off the press in London, sees the South Island Single Malt 21 y.o. scored at 95 points, placing it in the highly coveted category. This is the first time ever that a New Zealand whisky has scored so high and been anointed ‘Liquid Gold’. 
“This is a salute to the craftsmanship of the Dunedin distillers,” says company CEO Greg Ramsay. “Being recognised as one of the world’s great whiskies by Jim Murray, that’s the ultimate endorsement of your dram and all the Dunedin distillers like Cyril Yates can be proud that what they were doing in the 80s and 90s in New Zealand, was every bit as good as what the Scots were doing over in Speyside and on Islay.” 
The South Island Single Malt is the company’s flagship single malt, aged for 21 years in American Oak, ex-bourbon barrels. According to Murray’s latest bible, “you would be forgiven for thinking this was a 30 or even 35-year-old Speysider; almost a grassy maltiness melding into the light, exotic fruit and freshly chopped celery. Clean, delicate and elegant beyond words. 
If someone asked me how I would like my 21-year-old non-peated malt to come to me, it would probably be something like this: a top of the range 40-year-old. Proof that the country in which a whisky is made is totally irrelevant. Great whisky is great whisky.”
The whisky is now exported from Oamaru and available across Canada, the UK, Australia and Europe."

Until next time...sláinte.

 - Martin.

Monday 3 March 2014

Wild Turkey Spiced launch event (by Steph)

Gruppo Campari, in association with Men at Work Comms launched the new and innovative Wild Turkey Spiced on a steamy Wednesday afternoon last week at Campari HQ in Sydney's St Leonards. The young crowd were introduced to the first "spiced Bourbon" in Australia, and the first-ever spiced Bourbon from what Wild Turkey are calling the “island of Kentucky”, in the office's relaxed Campari bar (complete with blow-up palm trees, sand and an exceptional harbour view).


“I wanted to develop a product that brought to life the best of our robust Bourbon, while delivering the smoother taste. Wild Turkey Spiced is a Real Kentucky Bourbon with flavours of Vanilla & Caramel and hints of Clove and Cinnamon” said Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey Master Distiller and Bourbon Hall of Famer (not present at the event).

Did it mix well? Absolutely! Oliver Stuart (“Ollie” - below), National Brand Ambassador at Campari Australia was the maestro behind the bar, mixing the sweet and spicy spirit with Coca Cola (i.e. the “hero” drink), dry, or freshly squeezed apple juice. Alternatively, it was perfect on its own with ice - still clearly a Bourbon, but with a spicier, fuller, sweeter taste.

Jordan Berger, NSW Brand Ambassador at Campari Australia was entertaining as “Jay”, the stranded-on-a-deserted-island surfer who found an indistinguishable bottle of locally-made spirit deep in a cave half buried under a mound of sand. Legend has it it was delicious on its own, amazing when mixed, and much-sought after by the Wild Turkey distillers when introduced to them.

This was the first event hosted by Gruppo Campari and Men at Work Comms that TimeforWhisky had attended, and it was clear that both were out to impress their guests. Delicious (and addictive) mini pies and sausage rolls were served, which went brilliantly with the spiciness of the Bourbon.  Plentiful platters of fruit, cheese and dips kept all guests thoroughly satisfied, not to mention the drinks (unfortunately I left before the Old Fashioneds came out, but I'm told they were very good!)
Wild Turkey Spiced is available nationwide with a recommended retail price of $49.99AUD per 700ml bottle (though on a visit to Dan's today Martin and I saw it for around $40AUD). has additional information.

- Steph.