October 2012 Archives
The Sleeping Warrior is a limited release bottling from the Isle of Arran Distillery in a run of only 6000 bottles worldwide. The malt is vatted from a combination of American, sherry and red wine casks from 2000, selected by Master Distiller James MacTaggart and bottled in 2011 at a cask strength of 54.9%.
The Sleeping Warrior is named for the rolling hills which dominate the north of the Isle of Arran, and resemble a prone human figure when viewed in profile. A portion of sales from the bottling go to the National Trust of Scotland, to support conservation efforts along the path up Goat Fell, Arran's highest peak.
Colour: Dark reddish gold.
Nose: The nose immediately presents a rich sherry profile backed up by strong malty aromas, laced with notes of oatmeal, coconut and dark cherry. Sweet but complex fruitiness abounds and sets up all the elements that will play out in the palate.
It is rare that whiskey is bottled as a single grain rather than be whisked away to be blended with malt whiskies, and it is this rarity that sets Greenore apart from the crowd. Distilled at the Cooley distillery in Ireland, Greenore is produced from 93% corn and aged for 8 years in first-fill bourbon barrels. This gives it a very distinctive taste, somewhere between a Scotch whisky and an American bourbon. It is however curious that the product is marketed as a "single grain" whiskey, when the remaining 7% of the mash bill is malted barley.
Cooley justifies their single grain statement by pointing out that the malted barley is only present to assist with the fermentation process, and that it does not affect the flavour in any way. While I find this a bit doubtful, Ireland doesn't have a regulatory body that defines specific whiskey labelling statements, so while perhaps a touch deceiving, they are within their rights to label this product as such.
Every so often people have the chance to live out a rare occurrence. A surreal moment that, though you already know it is fleeting, takes on a dream like quality in the sense that you fight to extend every last second of it. I experienced one of these instances when I was handed a glass containing this ultra-rare Glenfiddich while attending the unveiling of the 55 year old Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve.
Born of a 6-month marriage of two 50 year old casks in legendary Warehouse 8 (home of the Solera vat used to create the 15 year old expression), this whisky is built with malt from a bygone era. One in which Glenfiddich was still operating its own floor maltings and firing the kilns using Speyside peat as a fuel source. The light, inland character of the region's peat is devoid of the iodine and salt notes that are so prevalent in Islay whiskies, thus adding a smoke characteristic in a manner most peated whiskies struggle to manifest today.
It is from this malt that this dream dram was made and more than 50 years later found its way into my grateful, excited hands.
This past Thursday we were privy to the arrival and unveiling of the Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, a 55 year old single cask bottling of the rarest whisky this vaunted distillery has ever released. Named for the recently departed granddaughter of William Grant, founder of the distillery, it is fitting that the oldest whisky the good people of William Grant and Sons have ever released bares her name as she was the oldest woman in Scotland at the time of her passing.
Glenfiddich pulled out all the stops in ensuring the safe passage of this precious cargo to Toronto, as it is 1 of only 11 bottles released from the total of 15 that were filled from the cask. Arriving at the LCBO's flagship store at Summerhill in a Brinks truck with pomp and ceremony typically reserved for dignitaries and celebrities, the bottle was piped into the tasting hall. There it was set upon a pillar to stand guard over a special tasting of the 21, 30, and 50 year old expressions while we learned about the craftsmanship that when into it and its precious contents.
On October 3rd, ScotchBlog was invited to celebrate Alberta Premium's launch of their new Dark Horse whisky. The location for the event was the appropriately selected off-track wagering restaurant Turf Lounge in downtown Toronto. Mingling with the crowd after arriving, we were treated to cocktails of Alberta Premium with fruit juice and orange bitters. A seemingly unending parade of hors d'oeuvres followed, and a waiter was even so kind as to make an extra cocktail for one of our members who felt that one just wasn't enough. We also had a few minutes prior to the tasting to have a brief chat with our tasting guide for the evening as well as author, Davin de Kergommeaux. Davin has recently released a book titled Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert which provides a detailed, authoritative, and well-written resource on all things Canadian Whisky.
Once seated, we had the opportunity to sample the standard Alberta Premium expression quickly followed by the star of the evening: Dark Horse. Visually, the Dark Horse is extremely interesting: A dark brown with a reddish hue. This sparked a discussion as to whether colouring had been added. While we didn't find out the answer to that specific question, we did find out that an extremely small percentage of the make-up of this whisky is actual sherry, allowed due to a little-known regulation that permits Canadian whisky to have up to 9.09% of its content composed of non-whisky additives. There is also a small amount of bourbon-style corn whisky added, but the bulk of this heavy hitting drink is rye - a staggering 91% rye in fact. While it's rare to see a Canadian Whisky with a rye content that high, it also gives the taster a unique insight into the rich, bold flavours that the grain can impart.
This past week was Dufftown's annual Autumn Speyside Whisky Festival. The town "of the seven stills" plays host to two major whisky-related festivals per year, one in the fall and the other in spring. The Autumn events are primarily based in Dufftown and its immediate neighbours, such as Keith and Aberlour, whereas the Spring festival includes distilleries from the greater Speyside area as well.
Perusing the event schedule for the fall festival, I thought back to my recent trip to the Speyside region this past spring: the highly variable weather, the river Fiddich, the warm and hospitable locals and, of course, the whisky.
Speyside boasts the greatest concentration of distilleries in Scotland with over 50 actively producing spirit in the region. While there is variance in the style among the region's malts, most can be broken down into one of two categories: heavy, rich, and sherried malts and lighter, more floral and honey tinted malts. Both share a tendency to be fruity and sweet although some may have a light peaty character with a puff of smoke. Among the 6 whisky producing regions, Speyside whiskies are arguably among the best selling in the world.
Eventually, any keen Scotch whisky lover will feel the tug to visit Scotland. So, if you missed out on the opportunity to attend the Autumn Festival, now is the time to start thinking about visiting the Spring Festival that runs from May 2-6, 2013.