Sunday 27 November 2022

Westward Dominio IV Pinot Noir, Tempranillo [Tasted #611 - #612]

Shape tasting? What is shape tasting? It's the term coined by Dominio IV's founder, Patric Reuter, to describe the pictorial representation of the aromas and flavours that unfold in time with his wines. 

Dominio IV wines, based in Mosier, Oregon is known for its syrah, tempranillo and pinot noir. Dominio IV winery is also where the method of "shape testing" was developed by Patrick Reuter. Visual presentation of tasting notes of the flavours and aromas can be seen on the labels of the Dominio IV Imagination Wine Series.

Inspired by both, the wines of Dominio IV and the visual representation of the profile of those wines - Miles Munroe, the Lead Distiller of Westward Distillery developed the Cascadia Creative Series. Dominio IV's innovative shape-tasting method was essential to the development of this new release with Patrick also painting the sensory experience from the whiskey to which his drawings are now featured on the Cascadia Creative Series boxes.

So what forms part of Westward's Cascadia Creative Series? The series will include Westward Whiskey Dominio IV Single Barrel Tempranillo Whiskey as well as a re-release of the Westward Whiskey Dominio IV Single Barrel Pinot Noir Whiskey. Both whiskies will have an ABV of 62.5% and the series has been developed exclusively for the Whisky Club.

We joined Miles Munroe for the launch of the Cascadia Creative Series here in Sydney where Miles talked through the long partnership that he's had with Dominio IV winery that culminated in the development of these expressions.

The last time Miles was down under was back in March 2019 and I got to sit down with him and spent some time getting to know him and his back story prior to joining Westward and what inspired him at Westward. Fast forward to 2022 and Miles has undoubtedly taken Westward to the next level, inspired by all the elements that make Westward what it is.

The Westward Whiskey Dominio IV Tempranillo Single Barrel at cask strength is made from scratch with Westward's original single malt. The distillation begins with a brew of an American Ale, using locally sourced two-row barley, ale yeast and a slow, low-temperature fermentation process. The whiskey is then distilled twice in custom low-reflux post stills before being matured in lightly charred American Oak barrels and finally, transferred at cask strength into an emptied Dominio IV Tempranillo French Oak Wine Casks. The whiskey is finished for an additional year before being bottled.

Head Distiller Miles Munroe noted, “The Dominio IV Tempranillo vineyard on the east of the Cascade Range produces incredibly robust grapes that match the fruit-forward flavours of Westward Whiskey. Because of this, we knew that finishing our Westward Whiskey at cask strength in their Tempranillo barrels would be the ideal flavour pairing and make for an extraordinary first expression to launch the Cascadia Creative Series in Australia."

So what's the Cascadia Creative Series like?

Westward Dominio IV Pinot Noir (62.5% ABV, NAS, Portland, Oregon, United States, A$195


The re-release of the Westward Whiskey Dominio IV Pinot Noir Single Barrel at cask strength comes after an incredible response to the initial release in Australia, which previously sold out through The Whisky Club in January 2021. Another exclusive release at cask-strength, this re-release expression sees the maturation of Westward's original single malt for 19 months in French Oak Pinot Noir Barrels from Dominio IV Wines.

Nose: Fruity, loads of strawberries, orange peels with some coconut shaving, mixed with raisins, some vanillin beans, green apples and a small remnant of nutmeg.

Palate: The palate is reminiscent of a Christmas panettone cake, with raisins and some candied orange. This sweetness is then followed by lots of spices, particularly cinnamon, nutmeg and some light chilli. 

Finish: The finish is long and elegant and transitions from the spice bomb to remnants of tannin, and nougat.

Rating: 92/100 (Hendy) 

Westward Dominio IV Tempranillo (62.5% ABV, NAS, Portland, Oregon, United States, A$195


The Westward Whiskey Dominio IV Tempranillo Single Barrel at cask strength sees the original Westward single malt being finished for 12 months in an emptied French Oak Dominio IV Tempranillo cask.

Nose:  The nose has layers of sticky date and sticky pudding. I can sense some crème de la crème and caramel. The sweetness is then followed with some earthy spices, clove, cinnamon, and perhaps a cinnamon donut. The nose is very dessert-like.

Palate: Those layers of sweetness ripple through the palate with notes of sticky date, burnt caramel, crème brûlée and maple-covered pancake. The spices that follow cut through the sweetness, with loads of clove and notes of cedar oak, 

Finish: The finish is dry, earthy and with some remnants of tobacco.

Rating: 92/100 (Hendy) 

I am quite impressed with both the expressions that make up the Cascadia Creative Series. Personally, I've been a fan of Westward's core single malt and seeing the culmination of the core single malt with the casks of various wine varietals has elevated the profile of their core single malt.

Thanks to Westward Whiskies and Agent 99 for having us as part of the Whisky Club preview event.


Monday 21 November 2022

Tasting the BlockBar x BenRiach 40 Year Old NFT Whisky [Tasted #610]

Hot on the heels of Hendy's recent "Brown Forman Whisky Showcase" post comes another Brown Forman single malt, although released in a very different manner...

I ran a poll on Instagram Stories back in January about NFT spirit sales, and unsurprisingly, there was a lot of distrust / disinterest. I'd write out my 2c on the matter here, but I think I covered it pretty well back then:

In summary, whilst there's a heap of BS NFT projects out there with little to no utility (and in my view, value, as the Crypto world is now realising), this isn't one of them...and the fact that so many well-established brands have partnered with BlockBar in such a short space of time (they just had their first birthday) says a lot.

One of those more recent brands is Benriach, who recently released their first NFT recently in the form of the Benriach 40yo Twin Set NFT, available in a limited "drop" of 10 sets only, exclusively via BlockBar.

A 1 of 10 release of a 40yo whisky is a pretty impressive thing to begin with, but not content to stop there, Benriach and BlockBar actually made this a set of two different 40yos. Both 40yo Benriach, but very different whiskies:
  •  "The Forty" - a peated Benriach matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Port casks, bottled at 43.5%; and
  • "The Forty Octave Cask Matured" - a "classic Speyside" Benriach, matured in Octave casks and bottled at 51.5%
Benriach & BlockBar were kind enough to send me a sample of the former recently, so we could actually taste the liquid behind the NFT...

Benriach "The Forty" 40yo BlockBar NFT release (43.5% ABV, 40yo, One of 10 bottles, Speyside, ~6.78ETH / $8,000USD in a twinset)
Colour: Deep coffee copper

Nose: Old dunnage warehouse, dusty old school (desirable) old sherry casks, but with a vibrant fruitiness too - some blackcurrant, red apple and even some marzipan.

Palate: Follows the nose, with marzipan, then red apple. Theres oak, but it's balanced. I don't get any noticeable peat, but after 40 years (and presumably not an extreme level of PPM to begin with) that's to be expected. There's some humidor notes and coffee beans, a little walnut tannin towards the end, with some oolong tea and rich red berries.

Finish: Long, strong earl grey tea notes with residual oak tannins.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin). A lovely dram.

Thanks to BlockBar, BenRiach / Brown Forman & GustoLuxe for the sample of "The Forty" Benriach, available via BlockBar now.


Monday 14 November 2022

Brown-Forman Whisky Showcase ft. GlenDronach 28yo (Batch 19) and Glenglassaugh 47yo [Tasted #608 - 609]

With an extensive portfolio of whiskies, how does one select a handful to showcase and highlight the different characters that may represent the portfolio.

That was the challenge taken on by Andy Tsai (Brown-Forman NSW/ACT Brand Ambassador), Grant Shearon (Brown-Forman Advocacy and Development Manager) and Stuart Reeves (Brown Forman Brand Manager) at the recent Brown Forman showcase event. 

The brief was simple, select 3 Benriach whiskies and 3 GlenDronach whiskies out of the extensive Benriach and GlenDronach portfolio to highlight the best of the rest. If that wasn't enough, the team also brought out a Glenglassaugh 47yo to accompany the set of Benriach and GlenDronach whiskies.

So what got selected and presented? These were the six whiskies that were featured:

  • Benriach Malting Season Batch 2
  • Benriach The Twelve
  • Benriach The Twenty One
  • GlenDronach 15yo "The Revival"
  • GlenDronach 18yo "The Allardice"
  • GlenDronach 28yo Batch 19 - Cask #6871

The Benriach Malting Season Batch 2 was the first one we first tasted. The Malting Season expression is the first expression to be produced entirely using barley malted from Benriach's Speyside distillery's historic floor maltings. The first edition of Benriach Malting Season is two-cask matured in bourbon and virgin oak barrels to bring out the wholesome, creamy flavour. There are notes of barley sugar, almond fudge and poached apple with smooth flavours of vanilla and honeyed pear, with nuttiness on the finish.

My favourite Benriach from the core series, the Benriach The Twelve was our second malt. The Twelve is a rich and smooth expression of Benriach Single Malt. Matured in a sherry-rich profile and combined with the addition of bourbon and port casks. Everything from rich honey, chocolate, baked black forest and some lingering oak spice. There is some citrus, sultana and spices on the finish. Very delicious.

The Benriach The Twenty One was the third expression we tasted. The unique aspect of the Twenty One is that this expression is known for its long maturation and the use of the four-cask maturation process. According to Dr Rachel Barrie, it is somewhat of a delicate process that requires patience and also combines unpeated and peated styles. The characters of aged bourbon, sherry, virgin oak and red wine casks are combined into this expression. It is very elegant. There is subtle inland peat, and some smoked bacon, together with honey, glazed cherry, baked orange, hazelnut and elegant spices.

The GlenDronach 15yo Revival Whisky has been refreshed recently and it is matured in PX and Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía. The GlenDronach Revival has been a core feature of the GlenDronach series and there are notes of dark fruits, raisins, rich chocolate and manuka honey. It's almost like drinking Christmas in a glass. Delicious and by far remains my favourite GlenDronach go-to expression.

The 18yo brethren of the Revival is The GlenDronach 18yo Allardice. Matured in fine Oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía, Spain, the 18yo is similarly rich sherried Highland malt whisky with notes of dark treacle, allspice and walnut carrying and with a long, lingering finish. Many consider this expression as the ultimate sherry bomb.

The GlenDronach Cask Bottling Batch 19 - Cask #6871 (53% ABV, 28yo, Highlands, Scotland, A$1,100


If the Revival is considered Christmas in a glass, this GlenDronach cask series would be the main event. 

Nose: A whiff of raisins followed by some Christmas pudding alongside caramel tarts with some milk chocolate shavings. There are also notes of creme brulee and treacle syrup

Palate: Salted caramel with particular saltiness that comes through. The palate is viscous, layered with milk chocolate, and raisins before transitioning to spices; nutmeg, cinnamon and ground coffee

Finish: medium lingering with spices, in particular cinnamon

Rating: 93/100 (Hendy) 

Glenglassaugh 1972 vintage 47yo, cask #3802 (44.4% ABV, 47yo, Speyside, Scotland, A$7,750


The Glenglassaugh cask #3802 is a PX cask. Filled to cask in 1972 and bottled at 47yo, this Glenglassaugh 47yo is non-chill filtered and matured in coastal warehouses on the shores of Sandend Bay, it has notes of passionfruit and buttercream, kissed by the sea.

Nose: The passionfruit is prominent, with lots of passionfruit lollies, tropical fruits, some raisins, blackberries,  and vanilla. It's like a fruit salad mixed with berries. 

Palate: The passionfruit continues to dominate the palate followed by citrus notes before settling into sweet berries. The tannin is quite prominent before a spiced finish, white pepper. 

Finish: The finish is dry and there is a lingering oak note. 

Rating: 92/100 (Hendy)

The Brown Forman showcase event was a remarkable walkthrough of what Brown Forman has to offer. Everything from your classic Benriach Twelve to those bottlings from GlenDronach that would appease those around the Christmas table with its prominent rich, Christmas notes.

Thanks to Adrian of 'different' and Stuart Reeves from Brown Forman for extending the Brown Forman showcase event to us.