Trick or Tweet with Rachel Barrie

Yesterday Morrison Bowmore and Rachel Barrie hosted a Twitter Tasting a bit of a Halloween theme. There hadn’t been much information available so it wasn’t until a sizable box arrived earlier this week and I had a peak that I knew what was going on.

And what a box it was! There were three samples, and three candies in there, with a Trick or Tweet message stuck to it. That’s when things started to fall into place.

Anneke stuck surprisingly close when she saw the candy coming out.

Anneke stuck surprisingly close when she saw the candy coming out.

I was lucky to be in because the initial plan was to go out for a burger and some beers with colleagues to celebrate finishing a project and say goodbye to one of the guys (who betrayed us like the little b*tch he is!). Anyway, one of the guys had to go to a partner night at pregnancy gym and there was no way he could talk is 7 months pregnant girlfriend out of it. There’s no reasoning with them, I have recently experienced.

Now, the tasting!

Auchentoshan Virgin Oak

Auchentoshan Virgin Oak

It started at 8pm sharp, 7pm UK time. Rachel welcomed us and then we were off with the Auchentoshan Virgin Oak (batch 2). The nose has big hints of sweet vanilla and gentle white oak. No surprise there of course. There’s some allspice too, and then there’s some fruit and pastry. Coconut macaroons, some cinnamon, apple pie and dried apples. The palate has two distinct parts. At first, on the arrival it’s surprisingly thick which is a testament to the Non-chill filtration. Some chewy meringue on the palate, vanilla and oak. Then I get some lemon curd, apple pie and cinnamon. After a couple of seconds of swimming the thick oak and vanilla dissipate a little bit, and show a more spicy character. It goes right into the finish with much more peppery and spicy notes than I expected. The oak shines through in a less sweet way and the bite from the distillate is present too.

With the Auchentoshan Virgin Oak II we had some candy floss, which is not something you can easily get hold of here in Holland, so it was a first for me. My wife had a bit too and called it ‘compressed cotton candy’, which seems apt. It was lovely and with the whisky is instantly fell apart to show more sweet, sugar and fruity flavors. A good combination without an inch of conflict.

Glen Garioch Virgin Oak

Glen Garioch Virgin Oak

The second whisky of the evening was the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak that was released some months ago. Glen Garioch is a whisky that I am actually quite fond of but always forget to buy. Every year I plan to buy the new small batch release, which is incredible value for money. Every year I forget. Even worse, the only bottle I have of Glen Garioch, the Founder’s Reserve, I got for free. It’s a good one and very affordable clocking in at some € 30 or so. This is slightly weird since I prefer Glen Garioch to Auchentoshan, generally, but I do have a couple of bottles of the latter in my collection.

On the nose the Glen Garioch Virgin Oak has lots of pastry notes, but while there is a certain sweetness, I get more a file pastry, savory kind of dough. Some dried thyme and

I made it. Without getting my hands all sticky

I made it. Without getting my hands all sticky

rosemary I think, with a note of honey in the background. Then orange pith and nutmeg. The palate continues this trend with notes of beef with herbs and spices. The oak is much dryer than the Auchentoshan (which I like) and far less sweet than I expected of a virgin oak cask. On the finish there’s quite some pepper, baked sugar and apple.

With the Glen Garioch we had the staple Halloween candy: Candy apple. This was a ridiculously sticky endeavour and me liking a challenge, I did it without cutlery. My teeth were sticky, my glass too. But the combination was great. The hints of sweetness were accentuated by the apple and it got from filo pastry to a more ‘appelflap’ flavor with raisins and cinnamon, baked sugar and honey.

Third up was the awesome Bowmore Devil’s Casks II. I reviewed that a short while ago and back then I regretted not getting myself a bottle. Now I regret that even more. That is one awesome whisky. Read the full review here.

With the Bowmore came a small chunk of chili chocolate, which was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. At first I wasn’t too thrilled by it since the chili had a hard time conquering the intensity of the Bowmore, but the sting was in the tail. After a while and a couple of nibbles there was a certain burn developing on your tongue that was getting harder and harder to deny. In the end it, again, worked really well with the Bowmore and the chocolate was rather epic in quality. The chili was barely noticeable at first, but after a short while was very, very intense.

Rachel Barrie and the epic Bowmore.

Rachel Barrie and the epic Bowmore.

So, in short. The evening was cool. The crows was cool. Rachel Barrie being present, and dressed up was cool. It put the human face back on a brand, if it ever lost it. Listen and learn, Diageo.

It also told me that I really love Bowmore. I already knew that, of course, but it became more apparent again. Apart from that I also should get my hands on some Glen Gariochs. I like their quite typical Highland style. It’s lovely, and while still quite different from many other distilleries, it does fit right in. I’m planning to go to Speyside next year, but a side step to the Highlands for Glen Garioch, GlenDronach and maybe Glenglassaugh should be a goal of our trip too, methinks.

Thanks to Morrison Bowmore and Rachel Barrie for hosting this great night!

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Port Charlotte 10yo, 2002-2013, 62.5% – Private Cask for Nickolls & Perks

Last year, when I was participating in quite a lot of bottle-shares I had just told myself to stop doing that. Then this popped up. I had to have it. Why? It’s Port Charlotte, it’s a peated, sherried dram and it’s properly aged. Sounds like reason enough to me. Also, because I could have it was as good an answer as any.

Anyway, a while later my 10cl arrived and I didn’t get around to it for some reason. Summer makes me less inclined to drink ridiculously strong and peated whisky. There’s a style for every season and the style that goes best with roaring fires and snow on roofs didn’t fit 25+ degrees in the back yard.

While the weather hasn’t turned completely yet, it is getting somewhat colder and I decided to crack open the wee bottle that had patiently waited to be tried and tested.

Port Charlotte for Nickolls & Perks

Port Charlotte for Nickolls & Perks

The nose is heavy with thick smoke and sweet peaches. The sherry is quite noticeable and of a very fruity, peach and apricot kind. The smoke is deep, heavy and leathery. Maybe even beefy. There’s ash from wood and vegetables. Grass and hay.

The palate is sharp but not overpoweringly so. What also helps is that the flavors are big enough to overcome 62.5% abv. The sherry is here too, still very fruity in a very similar way. Peaches, black pepper and the smoke gets a tad oily. The grass and hay are in the background, which makes for a nice bit of depth.

The finish is surprisingly gentle. It really sticks to the inside of your mouth with syrupy sweet flavors of peach and sherry. There’s smoke, pepper as and oak.

While a whisky like this will never be expected to be the most complex dram ever, this one shows quite some depth and layeredness. There’s quite some flavors to be discovered and the sweetness nicely balances the stellar abv.

It’s been a while since I thoroughly enjoyed a heavily peated whisky and this one reminds me that I really, really like Port Charlotte. Especially when sherried. The weird thing is that this is still available at Nickolls and Perks. For an acceptable £ 78.

Port Charlotte 10yo, 2002-2013, 62.5%, Private Cask #1155 for Nickolls & Perks. Available at Nickolls & Perks for £ 78, or little over € 100

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Whisky paraphernalia

I like stuff that is related to whisky. I’m not sure why, but when I see adzes on the flea market in town at King’s Day I want them, since it’s a cooper’s tool. I am never going to use them and I don’t want to put them on display, but I just love to buy that kind of crap.

Back in the day when I still had a whisky room I had a display with this kind of stuff. A couple blocks of peat, some malted barley peated to different ppm levels, my certificate of the Friends of Laphroaig, a cask end from Lagavulin. Just loads of stuff which I have absolutely no use for.

By now there is a full fledged industry supplying us whisky geeks with this kind of stuff. Up to and including a subscription service that sends out t-shirts with American craft whiskey distillery’s logos on it (I love these, by the way!). There are a dozen different companies supplying us with whisky rocks so you can chill but not dilute your booze (a refrigerator, anyone?) and even a company that wants to pull one over on unsuspecting whiskey drinkers by supplying them with sticks to put in whisky so it colors quickly. Fair warning: darker booze is not the same as older booze. Wood influence is also not the same as maturation.

Glenlivet 'Dram' Chair

Glenlivet ‘Dram’ Chair

Of course, every once in a while a distillery jumps on this band wagon with something that just baffles me to no end. Macallan had their ‘miniatures cupboard‘ thingy. Bowmore had tailored suits (I think it was Bowmore) and now Glenlivet has a chair. A chair in which to drink whisky. Because we were doing that standing up, I guess.

My problem with this chair is twofold. Well, problem. I just don’t understand it. It’s not exactly a problem and if some Russian oligarch wants to spend shitloads of money on a thing that combines the chairs we sat on in school with a fishing/camping chair with beer holder, that’s fine with me. I just don’t get it.









I mean, I just don’t get it. Am I being daft, or is someone try to pull one over on us? Of course I am not against people trying to make a living but at some point shouldn’t someone just say “WTF guys, should we not just focus on making whisky and do that as best as we can? Let’s just leave the furniture for what it is…”.

Also, ‘for collectibility’, the chairs are numbered. I don’t know what that means, but if the number makes it unique, I guess that also warrants us wanting to have ALL bottles from a single cask bottling, since they’re all a unique number…

Also, the chair will set you back some £ 6200. Six thousand two hundred quid. For a chair. The entire furnishing of our house didn’t cost that. And that’s combining the living room, three bed rooms, the attic, the hallway, and the lawn chairs.

Anyway, this all just reminds me that we should be sane with our money. This coming from a guy who just decided to buy shit loads of bottles and just ‘go for all of them for choosing is too hard’.

It’s a strange hobby we’re having.

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Black Bull 30 years old, 50% – Duncan Taylor

Black Bull is a blended whisky from Duncan Taylor that exists in a sort of premium space. By this I mean that even the ‘regular’ 12 year old is being held in pretty high esteem is not a whisky scoffed at. They also produce a range of special releases that can get pretty pricy, which puts me off a little bit.

A couple of years ago, when this single release came out I picked it up right away at The Old Pipe. By single release I mean that, contrary to their ‘Special Reserve’ and their 40 year old, this hasn’t come back in new iterations.

Also not like the 40 year old is that they don’t give you much information on which whiskies are included in the blend. What they do state, and this is pretty cool, is that they blended this before maturation, instead of afterwards. I also believe I read somewhere that it consists of 50% malt and 50% grain whisky. It’s bottled at 50% which is a nice percentage for any whisky.

Black Bull 30

Black Bull 30

Big on heavy and fruity sherry. There’s the dried fruits in the form of raisins, plums and dates. The lighter peaches and apricots are all but missing from the mix. It’s sweet with allspice and oak. Lovely deep and rich, and after the initial alcohol has wafted off (there is some of that) a gentle fruity dram with big sherry notes is left.

It feels slightly lower in alcohol than it actually is, but there is a certain build up with some alcohol heat and a tinge of peppercorns. Furthermore there’s allspice and then fruit. The fruit and spice seem to have switched position. There’s a bit of ginger, with raisins, oak, dates and a slightly bitter edge. Thicker than I expected, but quite lovely! I don’t smell it but there might be a tiny hint of smoke in here.

The finish is very warming and leaves the fruitiness behind on the palate quite long. A bit of a burn, but in a very nice way, if left too. A very Christmassy dram, that would go well with a roaring fireplace and an armchair (fireplace must be the least inspired word in the English language, by the way). Very long, very good.

Back in the day this would have set you back some € 80 to € 90. Currently I expect it to be some € 200 is last Saturday’s auction is any guide, but I’d still consider buying a bottle at € 150 or so. This is a very, very tasty dram that would easily pass off as a malt. The depth and intensity are stunning and there is quite a lot going on without the flavors being blended into oblivion (my main issue with blends).

I gladly recommend this to anyone who’s up for a sherried whisky and can handle a bit of oak. Bloody good whisky!

Black Bull 30 years old, 50%, blended at birth by Duncan Taylor. Hard to find, check auctions.

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More Dutch Courage, by Zuidam

A little while I finished my bottle of Dutch Courage. Dutch Courage is the dry gin created by Zuidam Distillers, here in The Netherlands. They aptly named it that since genever (which is technically the same as gin) is the origin of the proverb, from ages ago.

Dutch Courage

Dutch Courage

Anyway, I also have a small ‘free’ booze project at home. This is a thing with which I trick myself into believing I’m richer than I actually am. I don’t want coins in my wallet, so anytime I have them in my pocket I put them in an empty whisky tin (Signatory Laphroaig 1992-2005) and that way I clean out my pants, and I save a bit of money that I don’t otherwise use.

This money is usually spent on gin, vodka, rum or other non-whisky booze. Last year I bought Zuidam’s Dutch Courage. I emptied it and I bought a new one yesteday, also ‘for free’.

I had the added excuse that Anneke suddenly likes Gin Tonic, and all such statements are abused to buy booze I don’t really ‘need’.

The regular Dutch Courage has been out for a while and is a delicious gin. A bit of a clunky bottle like all Zuidam’s Genevers and Korenwijns. The flavours are there, there luckily is no aloe vera or something in there. It’s crisp, lemony and slightly dry.

When it was gone I had half a bottle of tonic left a couple of weeks ago and I remembered having a bottle of Gordon’s Dry Gin in my cupboard, hidden from sight. I tried that. It’s god-awful. If that has been the posterchild for gin for decades, I can understand the decline of it before the last couple of years. Even with a lot of tonic to water it down, it’s hideous.

I needed another bottle of gin. Our local shop has some (not too many, I guess ten to fifteen different ones) and I decided to upturn the whisky tin. There was some 35 bucks in there, so that was enough, I decided.

It only limited my selection by two. Master of Malt’s Bathtub gin was 40, and there was another cool looking bottle slightly over that which I automatically discarded as an option. Also, there was Gordon’s, some Mediterranean gin and a couple of others. Only the couple of others remained as an option. Gin has to come from a country that borders the north sea, or the USA (a nice and snobby remark if there ever was one).

Then I remembered that Zuidam released two new Dutch Courage gins a while ago. There’s an ‘Old Tom’ and an Aged gin at 44%. The Old Tom is aged too, so I’m not entirely sure what the difference is. The Old Tom was recommended, so I picked up that one.

Aged 88 and Old Tom

Aged 88 and Old Tom

It’s a bit sweeter than the regular Dutch Courage, with some vanilla flavors from the oak. Slightly sugary which makes for a sweeter G&T, but nonetheless bloody nice. The depth is similar and because of the cask aging I can’t really say (yet) whether or not any of the other recipe is different.

But in short, buy Zuidam’s gins. They’re good.

The regular Dutch Courage is some € 20. The Old Tom is slightly more expensive at € 27.50, while the ‘Aged 88′ (the aged one) is € 28.50.

They’re all available in Krommenie, at Drinks & Gifts, and I guess most specialty shops stock them in The Netherlands.

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Brewdog’s Russian Dolls.

I’ve long been a sucker for Brewdog’s beers. Lately it’s been on the back burner a little bit since I find that they’ve gone a bit awry with their pricing. Most ‘one off’ beers that I would like to try were so prohibitively expensive that I just couldn’t bring myself to order them.

Also, I think they’ve done enough experimenting. Well, that’s not entirely true. I like experiments, I like variations of a familiar theme. However, when you start doing Imperial Weizenbock lagered on whisky casks, or hopping the hell out of Belgian style triple your either brilliant (I didn’t like the beers, so not entirely sure on this) or grasping for anything that you haven’t done before (and sometimes with good reason).

Now, not all is negative. Some of my favorite beers are still from Brewdog. I haven’t had an IPA that topped Punk IPA. Also, when I’m indulging on a beer, I more or less end up buying a Tokyo* every time. And then IF there is a brewery I’m willing to spend more than a couple of euros on a bottle on, it’s Brewdog (or Westvleteren, but that’s another story all together).

Now, Russian Doll. They did IPA is Dead before (different hops to the same beer) and they did a batch of Unleash the Yeast (same beer, different yeast strains). Now there’s Russian Doll. The same beer brewed to different strengths. They increase in strength, which more or less is the same as ‘they increased the malt used to brew the beer’. This results in a Pale Ale, and IPA, a Double IPA and a Barleywine.

This is where I had some alarm bells ringing, since Barleywine and IPA are generally not in the same flavor group. Brewdog informs us that they also adjusted the hops contents to suit the different styles.

Pale Ale
More hoppy than I expected, with a noticeable quantity of barley used. Not overly complex but the flavors do come off as ‘green’. Very herbal with barley and hops in this way.

The IPA is the more hoppy and slightly stronger variety. The strength isn’t overly revealing but the hops are on overdrive. It’s gentle but very crisp. The green theme is here too. The hops push back the barley flavors a little bit.

Double IPA
I don’t like Double IPAs. They fall outside the IPA category and are not ballsy enough for Barleywine or Quadruple style beers. I always feel like they want to be two things at once and I’ve never tried one that I really wanted to go back for. Some are okay, but most are just not interesting. This one falls in that category. Okay but not interesting. It’s holding the middle ground between the IPA and the Barleywine.

Lots of barley, and quite some hops too. The barley is gaining ground though. Fairly strong but not a belter at that either. The crispness is gone and it’s slightly cloying.

Now this is a rather big beer. The weight of it is considerably bigger than it was in the previous brews. The flavors too, with the hops being turned down and the malts up this is a totally different beer than all others.

The barleywine has flavors of a mountain of malt. It’s sugary and rich with even bay leaf and beef stew.

While I like the intention of the project, I think they should’ve excluded the Barleywine, or choisen a different kind of beer. The way it’s hopped is so vastly different than the other three brews it just doesn’t make sense anymore.

The first three are rather consistent with increasing levels of richness and alcohol. The style of the beer changes significantly if you double the malt, apparently. I wasn’t overly convinced with the Pale Ale and the India Pale Ale, but the Double corrects the experiment.

The beers are nice, but none are exactly ‘new’. Also, I don’t think I’ll remember them that long either. The best of the bunch is the Barleywine I think. That one displayed the most interesting flavors with the stew thingy going on. Rather herbal, and rich. Lovely stuff, that!

You can get this pack at the better beer shops, like Drinks & Gifts in Krommenie. It’ll set you back some € 14.50.

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Wasmund’s Copper Fox Rye Whiskey, 45%

This is a weird one, from an American craft distillery. I’ve come to learn after some years of skepticism that there are quite some kick-ass little distilleries in the USA, whether or not they’re releasing their own spirits or buying and blending for a while before going back to releasing their own stuff.

High West is one of them (Park City Utah), being both a bottler and a distiller. St. George is another (Alameda, California), and during the American Whiskey bottle share from last year I developed a soft spot for FEW Distillery (Evanston, Illinois). Their bourbon at least.

Ever since the Whiskey Tees program I have gotten more curious to other craft distilleries, but with two little screamers at home I’m not expecting to do a road trip of the United States anytime soon. There are drawbacks to having kids. Sleep is another of those.

Anyway, Wasmund’s is a distillery in Sperryville, Virginia and is mostly known for releasing a Single Malt whiskey and a Rye whiskey. The rye is the one  being reviewed here, is only one year old but let’s not get too hung up on age this time!

This whiskey consists of 2/3 Rye and 1/3 malted barley, which is a curious mixture for rye whisky on its own. Also, it’s lightly smoked with apple and cherry wood, and matured in refill casks. Not typically American, that!

Wasmund's Copper Fox Rye Whiskey

Wasmund’s Copper Fox Rye Whiskey

Well, it’s different, that’s for sure! It’s young but not too fierce and raw. There’s rye with its typical spiciness. I get some lemon too, and oak. The oak is gently smoky which is a different smoke than I’m used to.

The palate is gentle with cereal (the barley) and whole grain rye bread. There’s the spices again with pink peppercorns. The citrus is present too, with a spice mixture that reminds me of mostly seeds and hard spices instead of powders (not very clear, but I’m not that good at spices). The palate is rather rich and apple-y.

Gentle and young again, but still rather rich and long. I get some balsamic vinegar now with dark cherries and bay leaf. Lots and lots of bay leaf. Slightly charcoal-like, which probably is the wood smoke.

As said I can be a bit careful approaching craft whiskies, especially when very young. This one doesn’t need that carefulness. It’s a lovely dram that certainly is different to anything I’ve tried. The wood smoke effect is nice and definitely different from Balcones’ Texas Shrub oak smoke.

Going back to the palate, the bay leaf becomes more prominent and reminds me a bit of licorice with bay leaf which you can get here. Thanks to Anneke for that note.

While I got this sample recently in a trade, I also bought a bottle of this whiskey some years ago but I haven’t opened it, being slightly afraid it might not be all that. Now I know different. This is interesting, it’s lovely and I really enjoyed it. Cool!

Wasmund’s Copper Fox Rye Whiskey, 45%, bottled on March 15th, 2012. Available from The Whisky Exchange for £ 46 / € 57.50

Posted in - American Whiskey, Copper Fox Distillery | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments