The Dram Team Worldwide Whiskies II

There I was at home enjoying a blissful moment of smashing full bottles of Jura against the garage wall when a message appeared on the old Whisky Rover hotline. What I am doing this Thursday? How would you like to travel the world in six whiskies for World Whisky Day? Now, here I am with the flight destinations to hand and an evening to correspond with other enthusiasts. The remaining Jura bottles will have to wait for another day of smashing fun.

I’ve partaken in a previous Dram Team event that I summarised in this exhaustive piece about the evening’s tasting. I still enjoy the presentation, with the individual whisky cards being useful for reference. The Team are now one of a handful in this market offering subscribers the chance to try several whiskies for the monthly box price. In these times of excessively priced whisky with hollow promises, it’s a useful tool to try before you buy. 

Truth be told people; I had forgotten it was even World Whisky Day. As I touched upon briefly during my review of the Pocket Guide to Whisky by Blair Bowman, I really have no inkling to celebrate these event days in general. Whisky is a common feature, whether it’s daily or a couple of times per week. It’s all about finding that suitable moment either with friends, or isolated at home, to enjoy whatever whisky you select.

Whilst I’m offering confessions in the whisky booth. I may also take a moment to divulge that I haven’t been paying much attention to whiskies from outside of Scotland. Like many, I’ve not been impressed with offerings from south of the border, Japanese whisky is just so overrated and ridiculously expensive these days. I’ve had my fill of bourbon for a while and these other European and Far Eastern countries are multiplying like an onslaught of midges. Sometimes you have to run to the hills, or to your nearest bothy and slam that door shut behind you.

Yes, I’ve been impressed by the Dutch with their Zuidam releases and Mark the future Jim Murray Newton went literally overboard about that Swiss wine cask whisky from Langatun. In reality it was an acceptable standard but I’ve still to be won over by stuff from beyond Scotland. Plus, I feel compelled to support Scotch whilst everyone else seems intent on bashing it to smithereens. Hence why I’m so excited about the future with distilleries such as Dornoch trying to put the whisky first rather than marketing or turbo charged wood spirit drippings at an excessive price.

You’ll be asking why then did I interrupt a thoroughly pleasing and relaxing session of Jura smashing? As any CEO or manager will tell you regardless of the industry; it’s good to check out the competition. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer as they say. So, to celebrate World Whisky Day I sat down in my whisky den, selected a couple of Carpenters albums and began this tasting with the Dram Team.

Starward New World Malt whisky

Bottled at 43% strength, this is an Australian whisky made from local barley and matured mostly in re-sized and re-toasted Apera wine casks. No, I haven’t heard of it either but apparently it’s a fortified wine, so a posher Buckfast perhaps? Expect to pay around £46 for a bottle.

Colour: Hovis biscuits
Nose: it certainly has a red grape and cranberry arrival with a slice of red apple thrown in. Actually you could douse these tasting notes in a shade of red. That’s the predominant characteristic here. Dried raspberries and a little vanilla with some varnish towards the end.
Taste: a really inoffensive presence across the palate almost Irish in its smoothness. Red apple skin, liquorice and some orange peel. There’s marzipan on the finish that almost becomes banana fritter-like. More of the vanilla and some milk chocolate as well.

Overall: a pleasant enough sipper as an opening evening dram. It would benefit from being a higher strength and maybe longer in the cask as there’s not a huge amount of detail and its focus is pretty direct and limited.

Teeling Smatch Batch

Bottled at 46% strength, it’s apparently a blended whiskey that features a high level of malt content with an added boost coming from the use of rum casks. This will set you back around £34.

Colour: Pinot Grigio
Nose: a very citrus and lemon fresh arrival. Memories of apples orchards and poached pears, with a vanilla cream that punch into the consciousness. 
Taste: very benign with a glimmer of apple and pears once again and the main thrust being that vanilla. Unfortunately, there’s little rum influence here with a hint of raisins and some shortbread with a sugary finish.

Overall: it’s inoffensive but to the point where you may question its existence. At least Jura says something but on this basis I just don’t see what the fuss is about regarding Teeling.

English Whisky Company Norfolk Farmers Grain

Bottled at 45% strength, this is a combination of 8 different styles of grain from the local St George distillery. Expect to pay around £45 which sets a high level of anticipation for a grain.

Colour: golden syrup
Nose: oh yes this does smell like a grain and whilst we don’t know the age here it’s less spirit driven than I was expecting. Instead there a distinct caramelised apple presence and the desire to purchase some Angels Delight Butterscotch. A raw pastry with plenty of butter rubbed into the mix with a hint of strawberries and orange sorbet.
Taste: now here comes the downside. The promise of the nose has evaporated on the palate. There’s a noticeable roast coffee bean finish and I don’t like coffee. Prior to this it’s all a little lacklustre and uninspiring with faint glimmers of fruit and marshmallow.

Overall: I really enjoyed the nose on this one, but then I am an award winning blender according to Murray McDavid and their Art of Blending class. Enticing nose but the tasting and finish is bitterly disappointing.

F.E.W. Rye Whiskey

Bottled at 46.5 % strength

Colour: hazelnut
Nose: now we’re talking a rich chest of spicing! Cinnamon, pepper and all-spice plus I’m picking up a twist of lemon that cuts through the forcefulness of it all. Beeswax, dark chocolate and brass rubbings all trot past. Red apples again, a rich marzipan and maple syrup.
Taste: more lightweight than I was anticipating. It’s a refined and casual rye whisky. There’s an enjoyable assortment of wood spice, chocolate shavings and resin. A touch of bitterness and then the caramel takes over.

Overall: I’m always partial to a rye whiskey and my favourite is the handcrafted Wild Buck from Florida. When a rye is done well, it’s a marvellous thing and offers more than your staple vanilla avenue bourbons.

Mackmyra Svensk Rok

Bottled at 46.1% strength, the name means Swedish smoke and expect to pay around £48.

Colour: Caramac
Nose: it’s wine gums and candied fruits but what really interests me is the slight earthiness beneath this exterior. The more time you grant this whisky, the more it unravels. That hint of smoke does wonders amidst the apple and vanilla scorched earth. A touch of talc, lemon peel and melon.
Taste: the smoke carries through onto the palate but it’s somewhat a lighter and a timid affair than the nose suggested. Roasted coffee beans and a smoky bacon finish. In-between a floral note, plenty of honey, ginger and vanilla.  

Overall: this is actually ok, but one of the more expensive bottles from the tasting. Not shabby at all. This reminds me I have a stack of Mackmyra samples to engage with.

Boutique-y Whisky Paul John Single Malt

This is bottled at 52.9% strength and this is Batch 3. It’ll cost you £97.95 for 50cl which equates to £137.13 for a standard 70cl offering. This was a release of 822 bottles.

Colour: onion bhaji
Nose: very forceful initially, it needs a good slap. I’m somewhat reminded of a Christmas cake where granny has overdone the alcohol aspect. Freshly varnished pine decking. A pungent maple syrup and a flat Irn Bru. There’s a robust nuttiness and a mangled metallic aspect. Distinctive.
Taste: amazingly lightweight on the palate after the bravado above. It’s as if this underage gang has dispersed and you’re left with the runt of the clan. Rubbed brass, vanilla and molten caramel. There’s an elastic band quality on the finish as well, I’m somewhat dubious of this one.

Overall: not cheap and I’d argue very unbalanced and somewhat suspect. Thankfully that’s the advantage of these tastings. I’d be livid if I had shelled out for this one and was left with another addition to the Jura window cleaning detergent range.

Another Dram Team tasting done and dusted. I quite enjoyed this one as it was a real varied bunch featuring some obvious highs and lows, with plenty of food for thought. It expanded the horizons of those involved some of whom are almost as knowledgeable as myself; except Justine. Good fun and overall an interesting array of whiskies; what's not to like?

Now, where's that bottle of Jura Superstition.

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