Fine Whiskies from Bruichladdich

June 15, 2009 2:45 pm | Posted by James M

There are a huge range of malt whiskies on the market these days, and one of the notable aspects of this, is the diverse range of styles of whisky, dependent upon location and production. Within this, many distilleries develop, along with their traditional styles many experimental casks and bottlings, thus consistently challenging our taste buds, and perceptions of whisky as a whole. One of the distilleries at the forefront of such experimentation is Bruichladdich, who produce an excellent standard range alongside many limited bottlings of very differing whiskies.

The Bruichladdich distillery began in 1881 and produced traditional Islay style whiskies until 1994 when, due to various buy outs, the distillery was closed. This remained the case until 2000, when a group of investors purchased the distillery, renovated and updated the place and reopened in 2001. The new owners pride themselves on Bruichladdich being Scotland’s ‘purest malt,’ free from chill filtration, colouring and homogenisation. Due to the nature of Bruichladdich’s production and experimentation some of the whiskies in this blog are very limited, but were all available at the time of writing.

For an excellent introduction to this distillery’s offerings, the Bruichladdich Waves 7 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, is bursting with cranberry, vanilla, raisin and peat smoke and is an exquisite round Islay style but with a soft mouthfeel.

 Bruichladdich Second Edition 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky is matured in bourbon casks which give this malt a strong creamy vanilla tang. This is a light style of Islay though and as such works well as an aperitif.

A couple of further aged bottlings which are excellent include the Bruichladdich Second Edition 15 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which has a delicate coastal nose, with hints of apricots, followed up on the palate by marmalade and pepper. This is a restrained Islay, and an elegant offering from the range. The Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky 20 Years Old, likewise has an elegance and youthfulness which defies its age, but has a more buttery palate and a concentrated yet distant hint of smoke, a most luxurious and succulent malt.

For those who prefer a richer, rounder style of malt, try the Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky 18 Years Old.  This fantastic dram is aged in bourbon casks for 18 years before further ageing in auslese and pinot noir casks, resulting in a remarkably fruity and complex whisky with a hint of sweetness balancing the gentle smoke.

Bruichladdich Infinity Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a crisp yet fruity style with smooth pear notes intermingled with smoke and vanilla. This is a blended malt from the distillery and perhaps has a more typical Islay style due to the pronounced peat.

Of very limited quantities, the Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky 16 Years Old Cuvee  Margaux  is a bourbon aged malt which is then introduced to further ageing in Chateau Margaux casks. Part of the ‘Bordeaux first growth’ series this is lightly peated with vanilla tones and a wine fruit character.

The highest echelon in the Bruichladdich range is the ‘legacy series,’ highly limited  malts which date from the pre 2000 purchase of the distillery. These are of course no longer in production and most of them are now sold out. The whiskies are presented in beautiful tins depicting paintings by the artist Frances Mcdonald. Two special examples of these are the Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky 32 Years Old Legacy Series Four, which is sublimely soft sweet and fruity with an integration of honey and almonds, and a pleasing oak backbone. There were just 900 bottles of this made.

 Bruichladdich Single Malt Scotch Whisky , Legacy Series Six 34 Years Old is a marriage of casks dating from 1965, 1970 and 1970, and is an incredibly mellow dram with hints of cinnamon spice, vanilla and mint, and is a collectors dream. This is the last of the legacy series and there were 1700 bottles made.

Other limited Bruichladdich bottlings include the impressive Bruichladdich Redder Still Single Malt Scotch Whisky. This is a 22 year old malt aged in bourbon casks before enhancement in Chateau Lafleur Pomerol casks. Smooth and silky with hints of red fruit and vanilla, with a lovely malted barley finish, this malt is recommended with a drop of spring water (it is cask strength at 50.5%), to really expose the layers of nuanced character.

For those who would like to sample a real pile driver from the distillery, try to get your hands on the powerful Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC6 Single Malt Scotch Whisky, which is packed with smouldering peat, bonfire smoke and sweet citrus.  This is simply an awesome expression of what Islay malt is all about, but retains the innovative character that this brilliant distillery prides itself on.

Any of these malts will give whisky connoisseurs great pleasure, and due to the continual developments of the distillery, and the diversity of the products on offer, I would strongly recommend regular visits to the Alexander Hadleigh website, to ensure one does not miss out on new and limited bottlings when they are released.

 

HAPPY BRUICHLADDICH DAYS

JAMES  M
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Genever Gin – the original gin

May 30, 2009 8:36 am | Posted by James M

We all love a nice G’n’T, and have become accustomed to the London style gin which has been immensely popular in this country for a hundred and fifty years or so now. Dry, clean and slightly aromatic, this wonderful spirit is vastly different to the drink it historically evolved from, the Dutch drink Genever, which was named after one of the constituents of the drink, the juniper berry. It was originally perceived to be a medicine (I wish my doctor would prescribe a bottle or two) when it was first created, however in the 17th century it soon became popular with British soldiers fighting in the ‘thirty years war’, who then introduced their ‘Dutch Courage’ to these shores. It soon took off in popularity in Britain, resulting in the encouragement of home production of ‘gin’ (as the name was shortened to) during the reign of William and Mary. The style was still sweet and rich, similar to the Genever of Holland.

This, however caused something of a ‘gin epidemic’ as the drink was cheap to manufacture and therefore to sell, and it is argued was safer to drink than London water! Therefore the drink became rampant, particularly amongst the poor resulting in a constantly drunken London, day and night (what’s changed). When the government tried to tackle the problem, creating new laws to make the cost of gin much more expensive, riots broke out. Eventually in the 1870’s the drink had been modified into the dry style which we know today, and gin became respectable again.

As a consequence of this, the original Dutch Genever became an unusual and rare drink on the British market, and that remains the case today, although there are some exceptional offerings out there, made in traditional styles, with historical packaging that are great examples of the original gin style.

The A van Weiss distillery has been operating since 1872 and is said to be the last remaining authentic distillery in Amsterdam. They pride themselves on generating their Genever from traditional recipes with an attention to detail in terms of the botanicals used to create balanced spirits.

A van Weiss still create two styles of genever, old and young. These are not a reference to the age of the gin, but rather refer to the method used in the creation of the spirit. Old Genever is made using traditional methods based on recipes from before 1900. This method involves fermenting the wheat and then distilling it three times to create a ‘korenwijn’ (malt wine). Herbs (botanicals) and juniper berries are then added to this malt wine, and it is then distilled a fourth time. This product can then be released young, or can be aged in oak barrels sometimes for up to twenty years. Old Genever tends to be quite sweet and aromatic and has a straw like colour.

The Amsterdamsche Old Genever Gin , is a great example of this style, distilled twice and using a combination of 100 malt wine and herbs, it has a pale yellow hue due to being aged in oak for six months. Soft and elegant but with a voluptuous palate, this is perfect drunk chilled straight from the fridge.

For a more serious Genever, Roggenaer Special Reserve Gin 15 Years , this gin is full of herby presence with a generous rye character balanced off with soft citrus notes. Gentle and refined this is a rare, yet great example of the A van Weiss distillery’s work.

Young Genever is made using methods that are post 1900, and involve directly fermenting and distilling the wheats until they are 96% alcohol, before adding the botanicals. This style is what is commonly known as gin and is much drier and cleaner, with a lighter body. This style is more associated with the ‘London’ style gins, but a good example from Holland would be the, Jonge Wees Geneva Gin , which is a light, smooth and slightly sweet spirit with an obvious juniper berry flavour.

For a contemporary style of Genever, in both production and packaging, try from another distillery, the stylish Dutch Zuidam Genever Gin , which is sweet, full bodied and aromatic, and delicious chilled from the freezer. Produced from two generations of master distillers, this Genever oozes modernity, but maintains a nod to the historical context of the drink. This excellent producer have also developed Zuidam Dry Gin ,  which is a small batch similar to a London style gin, creating a zippy balance of citrus and herbs, with a delightful slightly aromatic harmony.

Try Genever Gin with friends and seek their opinion on the differences.

 

HAPPY GENEVER GIN DAYS

JAMES  M

 

 

 

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Tequila Patron

May 23, 2009 1:07 pm | Posted by James M

Fine tequila still remains one of the great underrated spirits, and this despite the introduction of a number of ‘ultra premium’ brands. It is also still commonly perceived as a beverage to be drunk in shots, and to be a rough spirit that is guaranteed to give one a severe hangover. This is due essentially to the fact that many of the big branded tequilas are blended and use only up to 49% of the agave spirit from which tequila evolves. The rest is made up from various other sugar canes, and as such the quality of these tequilas tends to be low, along with the price, and as such the drink has somewhat of a mixed reputation.

However, if one is prepared to spend a little more, the wonderful world of real tequila and the variety of flavours and characters becomes apparent. When looking for decent tequila, the first and most crucial thing to look for is that it is made from 100% agave (It will state this on the label). This means that the spirit is not blended with sugar cane, and as such one will find an altogether smoother, purer and more complex drink, containing a multitude of extraordinary flavours. These are further developed through the oak ageing process- Silver is unoaked, resposado slightly oaked, and anejo where the tequila can rest in oak barrels for a number of years.

Tequilas that are 100% agave tend to be more expensive as the agave cactus is at a premium, essentially due to the huge amount of low quality tequila produced to serve the world market. The agave plant takes around eight years to grow until the cabeza is ready for fermentation, and so they tend to be in short supply, hence the increased price for the higher quality product.

There are many premium brand tequilas on the market, all of which are worth a try due to the variety of flavours. A great starting point would be to try the Patron range of tequilas, which are all simply stunning, and are perfect examples of exactly what this spirit can offer. Beautifully packaged in hand crafted bottles and with an exquisite attention to detail, I really cannot recommend these tequilas highly enough.

There is one thing that I need to make clear though- to really enjoy these tequilas, do not shoot them. Sip them either neat or with ice, as one would a fine brandy or whisky, and then you will get the most out of them. After that don’t forget to get the shaker out and make some fine margaritas!

The Patron Tequilas: 

Patron Silver Tequila is a simply stunning clean and pure tequila, and many experts mark this as their favourite due to its soft and light character, as opposed to the richer oakier versions. This is the perfect tequila to create a really refreshing Margarita as it has an excellent balance of citrus, acidity, and smoothness. The refinement of this tequila means it is also highly recommended sipped on the rocks.

Patron Reposado Tequila contains the same qualities as the silver, but is oak aged for six months. This imparts a slight oaky tang to the finish on the palate and therefore has a less clean yet more complex palate. This can be used for those who prefer a slightly richer Margarita, and is also excellent neat.

Patron Anejo Tequila is blended from a selection of tequilas which have all been aged in small white oak barrels for a minimum of twelve months. It is a very subtle and complex tequila and is distinctive in that each batch has a blend variation to produce perfectly balanced tequila. This is soft and refreshing, yet highly complex due to the wood ageing, and along with the subtle citrus notes, it has nuances of gingerbread. Patron Anejo Tequila should be sipped neat or on the rocks.

Gran Patron Platinum Tequila is billed as the “world’s finest platinum tequila”- big words, but this may just be true. Triple distilled, this is incredibly smooth and elegant, with soft notes of citrus and pepper. For those extravagant cocktail drinkers out there, Gran Patron Platinum Tequila will make you a simply sublime margarita that will be a once in a lifetime experience. This wonderful tequila comes in a handmade crystal bottle, which is hand signed and individually numbered, and is further packaged in a deluxe maple wood box.

Patron Gran Burdeos Tequila is an extraordinary tequila which is aged in a mixture of American oak and French oak for twelve months. It is then re-distilled, and then racked in Bordeaux barrels from some of the top Chateau. This gives this tequila a fruity aroma reminiscent of fine Bordeaux, and an unbelievable complexity and depth of character. This really does need to be sipped as one would a fine Cognac, to fully appreciate the quality. Patron Gran Burdeos comes beautifully packaged in a hand crafted wooden box made from black walnut, along with a custom corkscrew and a crystal stopper.

Tequila Patron XO Cafe Liqueur is a blend of ultra premium tequila and the natural essence of fine coffee. Unlike most coffee liqueurs, this is dry, but has a concentrated richness from the slightly higher alcohol volume. This is beautiful sipped over ice, smooth and velvety with an elegant tequila balance, and can even be used as a dessert topping. Mixologists are currently using this wonderful liqueur in a variety of cocktails at the moment, and highly recommended are the Café Royal, the Garter Belt, the XO Nightcap, and the Ladies Night.

 

HAPPY  TEQUILA  DAYS

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Glenfarclas – Whiskies of Distinction

April 28, 2009 12:07 pm | Posted by James M

Still a family owned, independent concern Glenfarclas produces, what I believe to be some of the most consistent and value for money malts currently on the market. The distillery (www.glenfarclas.co.uk) has been owned by the Grant family since 1865, and has always maintained a traditional Speyside style with a pronounced sherry influence. Glenfarclas twice distils its whisky in the largest copper-pot stills on Speyside, and each of the different malts in the range all express subtle variations in style and taste.

Two of my favourite whiskies from the Glenfarclas stable are:

Glenfarclas 10 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£26.16)

glenfarclas-10yrs3The ten year old Glenfarclas is a deceptively smooth malt, suggestive of a much older whisky. It has a lightly malty palate with hints of cloves and cinnamon, smoke and sugar rich barley. On the finish there is a big sweet sherry influence, balanced by an explosion of dry spices. For me this is one of the best value, well rounded malts on the market and is a great introduction to the distillery style.

 Glenfarclas 105 Single Malt Scotch Whisky (£37.50)

glenfarclas-105Robust with a substantial sherry influence, this has a palate of dried fruits and plenty of spice, with a sweet nutty finish. Throughout there are some lingering smoky textures, which give this an impeccable balance and subtlety. Although a bold cask strength at 60%, the sweetness of the sherry means that this is still an excellent dram with or without water.

HAPPY WHISKY DAYS

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Rums of Distinction…Zacapa Rum

April 24, 2009 3:57 pm | Posted by James M

ZACAPA RUM         Zacapa are a rum producer from the Pacific coast of Guatemala, and produce their rums from ‘sugar cane honey’ (the juice of the cane with most of the water removed), as opposed to molasses. The rums are then developed as blends from different ages of the spirit. Their rums have all won numerous awards, and received an outstanding rating award from Wine Enthusiast magazine, obtaining 98/100. (www.classic-literature.co.uk)
Their rums are known as the Centenario range and are all highly sought after and hard to come by, and are considered ‘the Cognacs of rum’. The relatively recently produced Zacapa Centenario Rum XO is one that we have managed to locate a limited parcel of, and is perhaps one of the finest rums currently on the market.

img_5961Zacapa Centenario Rum XO is a blend of old rums which are aged using the solera system process. The rum is then matured in selected bourbon and pedro ximenez barrels, and is then given a final ageing in French oak to acquire elegance and sophistication.
The result is a rum which is dark mahogany in colour, and has an astonishing nose of wood, spice, vanilla, almond and chocolate. These flavours are replicated on a beautifully sweet yet concentrated palate, along with a thick, viscous and very smooth finish.
Although there is no age statement to this rum, it is claimed that it is blended from rums aged for more than 25 years. It also comes in a stunningly packaged Cognac style bottle, and although not inexpensive, will stand up to any other spirit currently on the market in terms of quality, refinement and price. Zacapa Centenario Rum XO (£93.10) certainly comes highly recommended.

 

HAPPY RUM DAYS

 

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