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
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
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
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
F.E.W. Rye Whiskey
Bottled at 46.5 % strength
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
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
Mackmyra Svensk Rok
Bottled at 46.1% strength, the name means Swedish smoke and
expect to pay around £48.
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.
Labels: dram team, F.E.W., featured, mackmyra, paul john, st george's, Starward, tasting, Teeling, That Boutique-Y Whisky Company