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Archive for October, 2010

Introduction

Here we go with my first review of a free Master of Malt sample. It’s a 20 year old Glenfarclas from the Family Cask series, bottled at 56.5%. There were 521 bottles produced from a single refill sherry puncheon. I’m going to compare it with the standard Glenfarclas 17 year old release.

MoM 3cl Samples and packaging

I already discussed what’s going on with these samples from MoM. I’d like to additionally editorialize that their sample program is pretty sweet. As long as you’re comfortable with the prices they charge for the samples you’re interested in, everything else is top notch. Excellent packaging with really nice looking wax-dipped bottles, and very fast shipping. The only down side is I’d rather see 40 or 50 ml samples, depending on how much extra they would charge.

Tasting notes and comparisons

Glenfarclas Family Cask 1986 (cask #3434; 56.5%; 70cl $260, 3cl $15)

Glenfarclas 1986 Family Cask

Nose: There is light sherry influence of the dried fruits variety, but it is somewhat muted. Rising above the sherry are distinct oak and vanilla notes. There is also an underlying sweetness. Adding some water brings the sherry notes out more, and makes it more balanced.
Palate: This one has a very rich feel on the palate, initially juicy on the tongue, followed by some nice spices and drying.
Finish: On the finish, it’s still kind of spicy, with the oak returning, and finally turning a little malty. It’s not a particularly long finish, but it’s nice while it lasts.

My rating: 87 points

Glenfarclas 17 Year (43%; 75cl $85)

Nose: The same kind of sherry (dried fruits) as the 1986, as well as vanilla and oak, but the fruit stands out more, and the oak stands down to create a more balanced presentation.
Palate: Malty and sweet, and lightly spiced, with noticeable drying on the tongue.
Finish: Balanced on the finish, just as on the nose. Less oaky again than the Family Cask, which I think is a good thing in this case. It’s probably just the oak/malt combination, but in the nostrils, I could swear there’s a hint of Highland Park style smoke that lingers for a while.

My rating: 88 points

Comparison

Neither one of these is a “sherry bomb.” Look to first-fill sherry cask expressions for that. The 1986 brings increased oak on the nose and finish relative to the 17 year, to the point that it might be a little much for some people. Add a little water to balance it out. And of course, there’s the higher ABV, which provides more impact. The 17 year offers increased maltiness on the nose and finish, and perhaps a hint of smoke. For me, the 17 year wins out on the nose, the 1986 has an edge on the palate, and the finish goes once again to the 17 year.

Bottom line

If you’re a fan of medium-sherried whiskies that allow the oak flavors to come through, you’ll probably like the 1986 Family Cask. However, price is certainly a consideration. I would not pay $260 for a bottle unless I really wanted something tied to the year 1986. That being said, this Family Cask bottling is a very enjoyable whisky, and thanks to Master of Malt, if you’re considering buying one to celebrate the year 1986 in some way, you can try a sample for $15 [hey, that was a pretty good plug, huh?].

The Glenfarclas 17 year isn’t as big on the palate, but otherwise offers a very similar, and in some ways more balanced profile for much less money. I’m very impressed with this expression, and purchased a backup bottle when it was on sale locally.

This is a pair of extremely enjoyable medium-sherry whiskies and both are highly recommended based on taste. For value, the 17 year obviously wins out.

Master of Malt info

Many thanks to Natalie and the gang at Master of Malt for picking out a set of samples and supplying them to me. This special, rare bottling sample was a nice surprise. Check out MoM on the web here:

Once again, here’s the link to the Glenfarclas Family Cask 1986 page, where you can purchase a full bottle or sample. For the record, this is not an affiliate link. I’m not currently participating in any such programs.

Cheers,
Jeff

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Introduction

Hey, this is pretty cool. Anthony Wills from Kilchoman [kill-HOE-man] will be visiting the U.S. in November, and doing bottle signings. The Kilchoman Summer 2010 release will be the first Kilchoman bottling officially imported to the U.S. (by ImpEx beverages). ImpEx just sent out information about Mr. Wills’ visit and I’ve included his schedule below. You can see my thoughts (and links to other reviews) on previous Kilchoman releases here.

Special bottlings

The Whisky Shop in San Francisco, and Binny’s in Chicago have each selected a single cask from the Summer 2010 release, and will have these available bottled at cask strength! If you live in San Francisco or Chicago…get your butts over to these stores and get your signed single-barrel bottling. The Whisky Shop signing event will be on November 6th. Binny’s, November 8th.

Anthony Wills U.S. visit schedule

Nov 6: The Whisky Shop 360 Sutter Street, San Francisco, CA  415-989-1030
Bottle Signing
Nov 7: Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel, 170 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, CA
Sponsored by:  Traverso’s  707-542-2530
5:00 to 7:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 8: Binny’s  1720 N. Marcey Street, Chicago, IL 60614  312-664-4394
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: Gary’s Beer & Liquor 9555 S. Howell Ave, Oak Creek, WI  414-762-3010
10:45 to 11:00 Bottle Signing
Nov 10: County Clare Irish Inn & Pub  1234 N. Astor, Milwaukee, WI  414-272-5220
12:30 to 2:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Waterford Wine C0mpany  1327 E. Brady Street, Milwaukee, WI  414-289-9463
3:00 to 5:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting
Nov 10: Union House S42 W31320 Hwy 83, Genesse Depot, WI  262-968-4281
6:30 to 8:00 Bottle Signing and Tasting

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Introduction

I’m going to be doing a few scotch reviews soon based on samples from Master of Malt. Four of them are free samples that I got as part of a promotion they seem to be doing with bloggers. Before I start posting these, I thought I’d write up a quick disclaimer to link to from my reviews. I know this is an area (free samples) that can be controversial with some people.

About Master of Malt

Master of Malt (MoM) is a pretty cool online whisky retailer. You can get some insight into the company by reading this blog post/interview from The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society or this one from Whisky Emporium. They also offer a series of whiskies under their own label. What’s especially unique about them is their offering of 3cl samples (packaged themselves from full sized bottles) of many of the whiskies they sell.

I’ve been a big fan of the ability to buy whisk(e)y samples for some time. I was able to blog about the full range of Highland Park (up through 30 year) by purchasing samples from Loch Fyne Whiskies and The Whisky Exchange. These were samples bottled by the distillery. I was also able to try most of Diageo’s special releases last year via WhiskySamples.eu, who specialize in samples of rare expressions. Now we have Master of Malt with their “Drinks by the Dram” try before you buy service, with prices ranging from about $3 to over $100 for a Glenfarclas 1952 family cask.

Here’s the deal

Ok, so Master of Malt is focusing on their internet business, and trying to get the word out about their online store and services such as Drinks by the Dram. One way of doing that is via whisky enthusiasts such as myself who have blogs. I’ve received a few free samples from other sources in the past (and always disclosed that fact), but those were from the distilleries, or their marketing representatives. There was never any kind of stipulation tied to the samples. In this case, the four free samples I received from MoM did arrive with a few strings attached, which is what I wanted to clarify in this blog post.

MoM has requested the following from any reviews tied to the samples they sent me for free:

  • A link to the Master of Malt home page
  • A link to the product page for each dram
  • Links to their social media pages (Twitter, Facebook)
  • Mention in the post of who supplied the sample

That’s it. They also stated clearly that they have no expectations for any particular types of reviews – no minimum word length; no time limit; no specific link blocks or anchor terms. They stressed that the reviews should be totally independent and unbiased. Overall, it sounds pretty reasonable to me. I don’t feel any pressure to behave differently when posting about these whiskies than I do with bottles I bought myself, or samples I traded for with other enthusiasts.

As far as I know, this was a one time offer. I’ll plan on buying samples myself in the future (as long as the price point works for me).

Conclusion

If you have any issues with the idea of some of my blog posts being based on free whisk(e)y samples, that’s fine. I get it. I’m not going to turn them down, though. I enjoy having the opportunity to try new whiskies. Most of them will come from my own purchases, or trades with other enthusiasts. Now and then, a unique opportunity like this one will come up, and I have no intention of passing on these opportunities, as long as I’m not asked to do anything “sneaky.” If it makes you feel any better, I have no means of receiving any kind of income from this blog. It’s 100% amateur hour here…no affiliate links, etc. (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So, with that out of the way, I’m going to proceed with a clear conscience, enjoying as many types of whisk(e)y as I can, and sharing my thoughts, for as long as I continue to have fun doing it.

Cheers,
Jeff

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Doh! I got this press release that Richard Paterson is going to be hanging out and signing books near Newport beach this coming Tuesday, a mere 6 hour drive from Phoenix, AZ. Unfortunately, I’ve got prior commitments and won’t be able to go. If you’re in Southern California, you should stop by and meet the famous Master Blender:

MASTER BLENDER RICHARD PATERSON IN
COSTA MESA ON OCTOBER 12

COSTA MESA, CA – Award-winning master blender, Richard Paterson, will visit Hi-Time Wine Cellars at 250 Ogle Street in Costa Mesa from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 12th for a Grand Single Malt Scotch Bottle and Book Signing.

Richard is one of the most respected blenders in the Scotch world who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary with Whyte and Mackay. He constantly challenges palates the world over with his unique blending style, award-winning whiskys, and of course, stories of his travel. Richard’s passion for Scotch stretches back three generations to his grandfather William Paterson, who changed his career from being a coal merchant to a Glasgow whisky broker. His father continued as a broker and Richard followed – and chose the path that he was most curious about – creating whisky.
Richard is the author of Goodness Nose and can be found online at:

http://www.twitter.com/the_nose

http://www.youtube.com/user/masterblenderrichard


EVENT: Grand Single Malt Scotch Bottle and Book

Signing with Master Blender, Richard Paterson
DATE: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

TIME: 5:00 – 7:00 pm

LOCATION: Hi-Time Wine Cellars

250 Ogle Street

Costa Mesa, CA 92627

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Introduction

I got an email a couple of weeks ago from Stephanie Jerzy of NOVA Marketing asking if I’d like to participate in a Chivas Regal tasting event taking place in NYC on October 5th. Leading the tasting would be Chivas Brothers Ambassador Alex Robertson. The 2,500 miles between myself and the event were not to be a problem, as they would send me a set of samples and hook me up to the event live via chat room. The price was right, too ($0.00). Sold!

The samples they sent included four 50ml bottles of non-commercial whiskies: “Islay 18”, “Grain 18”, Longmorn 18, and Strathisla 18. These are described as being some of the “key components” that make up the Chivas Regal 18 blend, which I previously reviewed here. They also included 200ml bottles of Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue. I don’t find the Chivas/JW comparison particularly meaningful, as they’re very different taste profiles, but I’m not going to turn down a free 200ml bottle of JW BLue. I do love having the ability to break down a blend into its components. This is what Johnnie Walker did last year with their Art of Blending webcast. I think this is by far the most intriguing and satisfying way to hold a blended whisk(e)y tasting.

 

The components of Chivas Regal 18

 

The Event

There were about 20 bloggers participating in the event remotely. We were able to chat with each other, and Stephanie tuned us into the live action via webcam right there in the chat room. It was nice to be able to compare notes with the other bloggers and ask each other questions. As we went through the tasting, Stephanie served as our proxy, reading some of our questions out loud at the event, and making sure we heard the answer. Prior to starting the actual tasting, the participants in NYC were given a cocktail named “The Crooner Fizz”. I haven’t tried making it yet, but here is the recipe:

“Crooner Fizz” ingredients

  • 2 oz Chivas Regal 12
  • .5 oz Chairman’s Reserve Rum
  • .5 oz lemon juice
  • .5 oz raisin syrup
    • [Raisin syrup recipe: 1 cup muddled raisins boiled in 2 cups water]
  • Topped with Perrier Jouet Champagne

The Whiskies

A couple of interesting facts came out from the Q&A.

  • The Islay and Grain 18 samples are blends from different distilleries.
  • Chivas Brothers sources the spirit, but then takes control of the maturation process themselves.

We worked through the samples in the following order:

  • Strathisla 18 – I was really excited about being able to try this, as the only standard Strathisla distillery bottling is a 12 year (which I haven’t tried either). It seemed like more of a treat than the Longmorn 18 vs. the standard 16 year. 🙂 The Strathisla is very nice, with an apparent sherry cask influence providing pleasing red grape and dried fruit notes. There’s also a clean maltiness that carries through to the finish. In fact, everything about it is very clean. It’s not very spicy, but has a nice full body. Maybe a hint of smoke at the end? If they bottled this, preferably at 43% to 48%, and sold it for a reasonable price (closer to The Glenlivet 18 than Glenmorangie 18), I’d keep a bottle on the shelf. Many of the participants seemed to feel the same way.
  • “Grain 18” – Pretty much all I got out of this one was toffee sweetness and fresh oak. It’s ridiculously easy to drink, but doesn’t offer any real satisfaction unless your goal is just to get drunk. However, what really impressed me was the lack of aftertaste. This is a very clean base for the blend, allowing the single malts to shine through.
  • “Islay 18” – On the nose, I was hit immediately with a combination of sherry and iodine. Then I noticed a toffee sweetness and some smoke. It’s actually kind of easy going and fruity on the early palate, then headed into the finish I get big sweet smoke in the nostrils and another medicinal kick. The finish lasts a while and is quite drying on the tongue. I’d put money on there being a fair amount of Lagavulin in this based on the particular smoke/iodine combination presented. At first, I thought this would make a great “beginner” Islay whisky, but now I’m thinking the medicinal properties are a little over the top. Still, I enjoyed it very much.
  • Longmorn 18 – Hmm…not excited about this one. I much prefer my 2009 bottle of Longmorn 16. The 18 year provides similar fruity notes (more on the apple side than dried/red fruits) to the 16 year, but the 18 year has kind of a stale maltiness that i don’t care for. It seems a little “dirty” compared to the lovely Strathisla 18.
  • Chivas Regal 18 – I commented on Twitter that I thought another name for this could be “Strathisla 18 and friends.” The nose especially really brings out the same kind of fruits and clean malt that the Strathisla provides. The oak/vanilla/spices and sweetness from the Grain 18 is there, and a little extra apple kick from the Longmorn. Islay 18? I tried to find it in here somewhere, but at best, I’m getting a hint of peat smoke on the finish. I don’t think there’s much Islay 18 at all in the mix. The finish is medium in length and overall good, with maybe a hint of that “stale” malt from the Longmorn 18. In the end, it’s a very nice whisky that manages to keep most of the best traits of the Strathisla and Longmorn, adding some additional spices. It’s not going to blow your mind, but I found it quite enjoyable. The $55-$60 price tag seems very reasonable. Well done!
  • Johnnie Walker Blue – I won’t really get into the JW Blue here. I posted my thoughts on it recently. It’s a very good blend and fits right into some of my malt profile preferences. Especially with the increased Island/Islay influence relative to the Chivas 18. Granted, it costs upwards of $200.

Conclusion

We closed out with a return to Chivas Regal 18 and a toast. As for the “challenge” part of The Chivas Challenge Live…a few people voiced opinions favoring Chivas or Johnnie Walker, but I think the overriding opinion was that they’re both good in different ways. The Chivas folks didn’t really need anybody to come out and say Chivas 18 was better. Just presenting them as “equals” and getting people to debate the merits of each is a victory for Chivas Brothers, given the 3x price premium for JW Blue.

For me, this event was all about gaining insight into the components involved in creating the Chivas Regal 18 blend. It was interesting to see how smooth the individual components were. This probably has something to do with the manner in which they matured the whiskies. I had figured the smoothness of the blend was purely based on the recipe, but clearly their control over the maturation of the malts and grains plays into the final outcome. I was most impressed with the Strathisla 18 single malt and the Islay 18 blended malt. You can’t buy either, but if you try Chivas Regal 18, you’ll get a pretty good insight into the profile of the Strathisla 18.

Many thanks to Stephanie, Alex Robertson and the rest of the Chivas/NOVA teams for putting together this enlightening and entertaining event.

Cheers,
Jeff

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