October 2010 Archives

Glenfiddich Master Class with Ian Millar

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glenfiddichtasting2010-01.jpgScotchblog was thrilled to be invited to Glenfiddich's most recent stop in Toronto, where we were again fortunate enough to chat with Ian Millar, the Global Ambassador for Glenfiddich. Arriving early to The Spoke Club on King Street, press were admitted in advance to enjoy a taste of the Glenfiddich 40 year old.

Released in January 2010, the Glenfiddich 40 Year Old is a combination of whiskies distilled between 1925 and the 1950s. As Ian pointed out, the 40 year has some remarkable differences from whiskys produced today. Typical of of whiskys distilled in the first half of the 20th century, the 40 year has been matured almost completely in European oak casks. These days the majority of whiskys are matured primarily in ex-bourbon, American oak casks. The Glenfiddich 12 for example, has a 15% European oak to 85% American oak maturation distribution.

Glenfiddich 40 is a delight we were glad to have the opportunity to experience. It's nose is alive with black cherries, dried fruits, and cloves. Upon taking the first sip, one cannot help but think back to the first half of the past century, when the actual distillation of this gorgeous liquid was taking place. The palate reveals its wonderful age with a beautifully oaky base which is accented by bitter citrus notes and a complex, constantly changing finish.

As unfortunate at is was, although Ian had brought with him two bottles of the Glenfiddich 50 year old, he was unable to share it with us. With one bottle reserved for a tasting in Banff, and another slated for the SAQ shelves in Quebec (with a mere $26,000 price tag), we can completely understand the inability for us to taste the 50 year old expression.

glenfiddichtasting2010-02.jpgAs the tasting proper got underway, members of the Spoke Club joined us. With Ian Miller at the helm, he guided us through a tasting of the Glenfiddich 12, 15, 18, and 21 year olds.

The Glenfiddich 18 and 21 year olds were especially notable, with the 18 year old containing significantly more European oak than their younger expressions, it highlighted its maturity with spicy cinnamon opening up to a smooth finish. After tasting, It's no surprise to learn that this single malt won the Best in Class award at the IWSC last year.

The Glenfiddich 21 on the other hand, has been finished for four months in ex-Caribbean rum casks, which comes through on the finish.

The highlight of the entire evening was from Ian MacDonald, Glenfiddich's master cooper. Glenfiddich is one of the few distillers that still operates their own cooperage. With a 60 to 65 year lifespan of a cask that Glenfiddich assembles, Ian has a good point when he states that "we don't feel that one of the most important components that goes into your final product should be outsourced to another company ".

glenfiddichtasting2010-03.jpgIan MacDonald is indeed truly a master at his trade; in front of our eyes, he assembles a casks from a pile of staves to an air-tight 135 litre vessel in under six minutes. In addition to being the master cooper at Glenfiddich, Ian is also the leading fireman for his watch at the Dufftown volunteer fire brigade. Glenfiddich maintains six to seven coopers on staff year round to keep up with the work of assembly, disassembly, charring, skiving, and toasting the casks.

We must take this opportunity to again thank Meghan from Jesson + Company for the invitation to this delightful evening. We are always thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with one of the foremost authorities in the world of single malts.

Whisky Live Toronto 2010

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Last Friday, Oct. 22nd ScotchBlog was fortunate to attend Whisky Live at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The team hit the floor eagerly as soon as press was admitted and began making ourselves familiar with the many brand representatives and ambassadors present. By the close of the show, after hosting many a dram, we came away with full notebooks and a distinct stagger.

This years show had a number of noticeable changes in format from last years. Removal of the divider between the food dining area and the whisky booths gave better flow to the showroom and encouraged easier mingling. They also did away with the pipe band and the Highland Dancers in favour of a live band and a "Best Bartender" competition ; two bartenders squared off in a series of five and ten minute rounds of expert cocktail composition. Salt, bitters, orange zest, and of course good single malt scotch, abounded in the elaborate concoctions they produced.

There were also a few disappointments, for instance the absence of Yamazaki, which was much looked-forward to after our recent foray into Japanese whisky. Luckily, Nikka was in attendance with the Yoichi 10, and a 12yr Pure Malt for tasting. Also, we expected to see more from Whyte & Mackay. Given the exciting news of their recent find in Antarctica one would think there would be some remarkable marketing opportunities to be had here. We are sad to report that there's nothing but the Glasgow Special available at the LCBO for the foreseeable future.

Between samplings from Macallan, Glenmorangie, Highland Park and others, we stopped had a chat with Joseph Cassidy of Via Allegro at his much trafficked lounge area. Still one of the formost authorities in Toronto's whisky scene, Joseph was offering drams of Singleton's Glendullan 12 and Talisker 10 year old paired with slices from a huge wheel of smoked Gouda. In case you haven't tried this Singleton bottling, it is tremendous value and garnered a lot of buzz at the show . Thanks to J.C. for turning us on to this gem!

The next stop was the The Feathers Pub booth which showcased their 3 house malts sourced from Signatory independent Bottlers. The relatively young single malts were expressive of the 3 major areas of Scotch whisky production: a 7yr old Highland, 6 yr old Lowland, and a 5yr old Islay malt. Each variety was true to the traditional styles of the areas they represented, and would serve as a great introduction to the drink. Owner Reid Pickering is determined to carry on the legacy of The Feathers as a destination for Single Malt enthusiasts. His pub regularly offers tastings based on "Whisky Tours" of Scotland, various flights and hosts whisky events. ScotchBlog will soon be making a visit to see the collection of over 400 Single Malts!

Given the sparse attendance, due in equal measure to the high price tag for attendees and the paucity of event advertising, one wonders about the longevity of the Toronto show in comparison to the other locations on the Whisky Live tour. There were no exclusive bottles offered, as at other shows, and sadly few of the booths were staffed with representatives who worked in the actual distilleries. Many of the presenters lacked significant product knowledge, and a few seemed truly disinterested in the proceedings. The limited expertise of the presenters, however, was mitigated by the many enthusiastic and knowledgeable attendees we met. We look forward to seeing many of you at future events!

Other Notent Potables:

Jura Prophecy is described as a rustic, peaty maritime malt with fresh cinnamon notes and it will be in the LCBO within the next month. Head over to Jura's website to enter to win free scotch every week!

Arran, makers of the Robert Burns Single Malt, are releasing a Pomerol Cask Finish in December. Last year the St. Emilion finish was a hit, and we predict this one to be equally enjoyable. Reddish copper with a pleasant aroma of vanilla and jam, the Pomerol expression tasted of raisins, red berries with a rich mouthfeel and a long chewy finish. Also, look for their Amarone finish next summer.

In the long term, Arran looking to establish flagship products in the 10, 14 and 18 (not yet available) and move away from the cask finishes as its focus.

A highlight of the show was Arran Sherry Cask, 14 yr old, matured in a single sherry cask, yielding about 550 bottles and never to be seen again. This was the star of the show in terms of a truly complete Scotch whisky.

Dun Bhaegan's Rosebank 18 was one of the most unique drams of the night, but pales in comparison to the Douglas Laing 19 yo. bottling.

Maker's Mark will be releasing a new line of their bourbon, Makers 46. Distiller Bill Samuels Jr. worked to develop a new aging process which involves introducing 10 new charred French oak staves into the casks. Unfortunately, they didn't bring any to try so we'll have to take their word that it's higher proof and has hints of cinnamon. No confirmed date for release in the LCBO but we were told "soon."

Penderyn Single Malt Whisky is out in the LCBO with a limited release of 250 cases. At 46% alcohol, the nose is strong and gradually opens to reveal vanilla, apple and smoke. The palate was somewhat oily and tasted bready with phenolic notes turning to a fresh grape finish. An interesting whisky geared toward collectors.

Whisky Live 2010 Toronto Photos

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ScotchBlog.ca's coverage of Whisky Live 2010 Toronto begins with a flickr photo album. Our full event article will follow shortly along with some extras.


Aberfeldy 12 Year Old

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Having recently passed through Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam, I felt compelled to search the duty free for a unique and interesting dram that is not available in Ontario. The culmination of this search was the Aberfeldy 12 year old. This expression produced by John Dewar & Sons was launched in 1999 to much acclaim in the whisky community. Matured in ex-bourbon white oak casks, it is otherwise made using all Scottish ingredients.

Colour: Light amber

Nose: Cloves and incense with a slight chemical sharpness reminiscent of burnt toast. Fruit with heather rounds out for quite a filling bouquet

Palate: Supple, full texture giving a syrupy mouthfeel. This full-bodied maple surup-like taste gives way to a fruitcake and creamsicle sweetness. As one ScotchBlog member put it, "this whisky reminds me of Christmas morning".

Finish: Delightfully long sweet finish which while fantastically mellow has enough complexity to make the drinker want to fill their mouth with another splash to experience it over again.

Overall: It's a shame that this remarkably sweet Scotch is unavailable in Ontario, although it's syrupy, thick consistency is decidedly better suited as a dessert whisky.

Bunnahabhain Darach Ùr Islay Scotch

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I had the opportunity to sample this bottle purchased at travel retail in Europe by a good friend. The bottle is unavailable in regular retail stores. It is a single malt blend of Bunnahabhain whiskies up to 20 years old.

Nose: Musty cedar, honey and nutmeg are abundantly obvious in the bottle's fragrant bouquet.

Palate: Sharp heat with creamy candy and toffee sweetness, light cedar and oak, vanilla, citrus and mild cinnamon. This expression is anything but subtle.

Finish: The mild cinnamon from the palate comes alive after swallowing leaving the tongue hot with the unmistakable feeling of just having eaten a cinnamon heart.

Overall: Entirely lacking any tact or humility, this bottle will appeal to those looking for a fully bodied hot whisky with a certain complexity. Not well suited to the novice Scotch drinker.


I was lucky enough to sample a bottle of Kirin 18 year old whisky brought over by a good friend from Japan. It's a shame we don't have greater access to Japanese whisky with its unique character and charm. Unfortunately I didn't have the forethought to snap a shot of the bottle and box. Image courtesy of Kirin Brewery Co., Ltd.

Nose: A gentle bouquet of pear, deep apple, honey and cherry is immediately intriguing. Whispers of peat with very low alcohol and mild chocolate create a complex yet subtle nose.

Palete: Oaky, slightly acidic, full mouthfeel, yet smooth with hints of unsweetened cocoa. Much less sweet than the nose suggests.

Finish: Warm at the sides of the tongue and lingering, but without burn leaves the drinker with a tart mouthfeel.

Overal: Virtually impossible to get in North America, but certainly worth a glass or two when visiting Japan. A fantastic example of the refined subtlety of Japanese whisky.

The Balvenie 21 Year Old Port Wood

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Found and purchased by a dear friend of ScotchBlog.ca, this Balvenie expression came all the way from Los Angeles International Airport for sampling here in Toronto. With high hopes given the Distiller and the bottle's age, we dug into the bottle recently.

Nose: Honey, vanilla, dried fruit, caramel sweetness, spice and orange marmalade are exactly what one would expect from any Balvenie expression. With the addition of water a deep old wood mustiness is released.

Palate: Quite warm with a buttery mouthfeel. Orange zest and dark synthetic cherry make for an acidic note. Adding water enhances the dark cherry, and releases black liquorish making for a dessert whisky.

Finish: Lots of warm vapors, heavy acidic. Orange zest continues to be prominent with a woody twang giving much depth.

Overall: Certainly a dessert whisky, it would pair well with fruits, chocolate and sharp sweets. There is some question as to why the bottle was so hot and acidic given its mature age. Perhaps the port finish was incorporated to ease a harsh cask. Nonetheless, Balvenie fans shouldn't miss this bottle.

Discounted Tickets to Whisky Live Toronto

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whisky_live.gifAre you interested in going to Whisky Live Toronto and haven't bought tickets yet? Have we got good news for you!

The organizers of the event have provide dus with a code you can use online when ordering tickets that will give you 10% off. The code can be reeemed for VIP or Evening tickets; just click on the Redeem Voucher icon in your basket after choosing your tickets and enter the code to693.

Haven't heard for the event? Whisky Live Toronto is the ultimate whisky experience with a stunning range of whiskies, delicious food, Master Classes, live music and regular nose-off competitions.

Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Halls F and G
When: Friday October 22nd, 2010. 4pm-10pm
Price: $60 7pm-10pm with five vouchers - or - $95 VIP 4pm - 10pm with ten vouchers

Visit the Whisky Live Toronto site here. You can also read ScotchBlog's thoughts from last year's event here.

After some brief research it was immediately apparent that no trip to New York City was complete without a tip to the Park Avenue Liquor Shop (on Madison between 40th and 41st). With an astonishing collection numbering in the hundreds or thousands of expressions, making time to browse was a necessity. I finally settled on a Glen Garioch 17 year old Park Avenue Liquor Shop Cask, given its obvious obscurity and high credentials. Unfortuantely in our haste we are without a photo of the bottle.

Nose: Apple cider and baking spices make for an uncomplicated yet robust bouquet.

Palete: Deep sweetness, cooked fruit, pineapple.

Finish: Soft and long, oily caramel with lemon curd and sea salt are apparent. The bottle nearly feels as though it was finished in a white wine cask.

Overall: Certainly not a regular expression of Glen Garioch, the Park Avenue Cask is unique with a polished simplicity.

BotB Round 1 Part 2

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Match 3



Vote 7-0: Winner Te Bhaeg 

With great hesitation and distain, ScotchBlog.ca once again endured the Glasgow Special, perhaps one of the least costly blended scotches available at the LCBO.  A bump on the noggin and a chipped tooth later, Te Bheag stomped Whyte and McKay in a landslide victory with a unanimous vote of seven nil. 

Whyte and McKay's nose was sharp, hot and smelled of sweet, yet sour, solvents. Initial impressions after tasting ranged from: "Just awful!" "Pure blackout juice" and that it smelled "like a combination of Windex and Mr.Clean." 

The Glasgow Special was all around offensive, grainy, slightly musty with sour sherry sweetness and a hot, cloying, finish.
Te Bheag was also kind of a rough scotch but we all decided that it had an overall better structure. The nose of peat, pencil eraser, smoke and oak was replayed on the palate and mediated by its toffee sweetness. Hot and slightly grainy, Te Bheag still tasted much smoother than its rival and had a better finish. 
Match 4
Vote 6-0: Winner Grant's Sherry Cask Reserve 

Grant's Sherry Cask won the battle handily. It's a bit hot on the nose but can be drunk easily with or without water. Sherry sweetness predominates on the palate accompanied by candied fruit, the unmistakeable Grant's sweetness, and a touch of leather and smoke. While the finish is bit hot and dry compared to the Grant's Family Reserve, it's by no means offensive and is generally improved with a splash of water. 

Bell's was both sweet and hot and desperately needs a splash of water or better yet, an ice cube. Although Bell's was generally seen as similar to Grant's Family Reserve in terms of flavour profile, it tastes grainier, has a thinner mouthfeel and is much rougher and hotter on the finish, somewhat like the mouthfeel of stale beer and smoke.

Update on Shakleton's whisky

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After much anticipation, the contents of a whisky crate from Ernest Shackleton's 1908 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition were revealed on Friday.

A team of Antarctic Heritage Trust and Canterbury Museum Conservators have been examining and working on the crate for the last two weeks in a purpose-built cool room. As the ice inside gradually thawed, the team was able to examine the contents, and eventually lift out several intact bottles labelled 'Mackinlay's Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky'...

[Read the full story here


Recent Comments

  • Isabelle Gurble commented on The Famous Jubilee, Special Edition Reserve:

    This looks amazing, something my husband would love. His birth is coming up soon as well.

  • Ryan commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    Hi Sherry, I think you might be outta luck on this one. Only 9000 bottles of this delicious whisky were produced and I'd wager most - if not all - purveyors have been sold out for quite some time now. If you're looking to sample it, I'd recommend visiting your local whisky bar and checking their list of Canadian whisky offerings. Your only other option would be to try and track down someone willing to give up their bottle? I've got one 2oz sample tucked away and, sorry, I'm keeping it all to myself! :) Good luck! Let us know if you find a bottle!

  • Sherry commented on Forty Creek Heart of Gold:

    Do you know where I can purchase this item?

    Sherry Boutilier

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