Author: Ken Bracke/Wednesday, January 29, 2020/Categories: Events, Tasting Notes, Spirits
Exploring The World Of Whisky
January 23, 2020
One of the most decorated Irish whiskeys, Redbreast is the largest selling Single Pot Still Irish whiskey in the world and is regarded as the definitive expression of traditional Pot Still whiskey. Only a century or so ago, Single Pot Still Whiskey encompassed over eighty percent of the world's whiskey supplies. But then came a series of historical events that almost wiped out this style of whiskey, all before its more recent and inevitable return to the world stage. Made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley and then triple distilled in copper pot stills, Redbreast 12 boasts the flavor complexity and distinctive qualities of Pot Still whiskey. Matured in a combination of Bourbon seasoned American Oak barrels and Oloroso Sherry seasoned Spanish oak butts, the distinctive Redbreast sherry style is a joy to behold in each and every bottle. Distiller’s Notes: Nose: A complex spicy and fruity aroma with toasted wood notes evident. Taste: Full flavored and complex; silky smooth with a harmonious balance of spicy, fruity, sherry and toasted notes. Finish: Satisfyingly long, the complex flavors linger on the palate.
With 450,000 barrels aging across 10 warehouse buildings at its location, Alberta Distillers is on an entirely different level from the local micro-distilleries that have popped up in recent years. And it is an important player in the story of local spirits. Founded in 1946 by oilman Frank M. McMahon and B.C. distiller George H. Reifel, it is the first and oldest distiller in the province. Though Alberta Distillers is known locally for value-priced whiskies like Alberta Premium, it is an important player on the global market, one of the few producers in the world distilling 100-per cent-rye whisky, considered a Canadian specialty. Former head distiller Rick Murphy, who retired in 2018 after 35 years with the company, says in spite of its long history most people in Calgary don’t even know there’s a major distillery in the city. Alberta Premium 20 Year, released in 2019, marks the brand's first limited edition Canadian whisky since its 30-year-old expression was released in 2011. 100% unmalted rye. Tasting Notes (courtesy Blair Phillips, distiller.com): The layers of oak are brilliant on the nose with bright orange zest, juicy cherry, vanilla and dusty rye spices intertwined into a refined package. There is intricacy on the textural palate with sweet caramel, baking spices, old oak with mild char. Zesty citrus comes back to the front late palate with some citrus gin-like botanical notes on the finish. This rye works toward a developed flavor balance instead of an in your face rye.
In the spring of 2017, passionate wine enthusiasts, whisky aficionados and hockey fans gathered to celebrate the opening of the all-new Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake wine country. The 23,000-square foot facility nestled amongst the grapevines is the first combined winery and distillery in Ontario and another example of the things that happen when The Great One is leading the team. For this release, Master Distiller Joshua Beach has amped up the amount of sourced rye whisky that is blended with the corn whisky base. The blend is then finished for approximately four months in Gretzky’s own Vidal icewine casks. It took a hundred trial blends before Joshua found this winning recipe – one that he and Gretzky loved the most. Distiller’s Notes: This golden bronze whisky inherits top notes of toffee, clove, raisin, caramelized sugar and a hint of oak from its signature soak in Icewine barrels. The addition of a small splash of water develops added notes of chocolate, mocha and sweet spice. Its mouth-feel is smooth, round and robust, with just a touch of sweetness from deep notes of baked apple, berries and nutmeg. That slight sweetness lingers on the finish with flavours of toffee, caramelized apple, smoke and allspice.
Situated in Nantou Hsien, Taiwan, Nantou Distillery was founded by the Taiwan Tobacco & Liquor Corporation, a Taiwan State-owned manufacturer of tobacco and alcohol, in 1978. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that it produced its first whisky. Before 2010, the mash, wort and wash were made in a nearby brewery which Nantou stopped using when it installed its own German mash tun and washbacks in the distillery. The fermentation run typically lasts around 60 to 72 hours, before the spirit is transferred into the pot stills, of which Nantou currently has four, manufactured by Forsyths of Rothes in Speyside. Yushan Signature is a tribute to the highest and most symbolic mountain on the island of Taiwan, also known as Jade mountain. The climate in Taiwan is hot and humid, which means the angels are able to steal around five percent of spirit each year. Tasting Notes (courtesy the folks at flaviar.com): Appearance / Color: Deep copper. Nose / Aroma / Smell: Honey-forward nose with fruity notes of peaches and apple, followed by hints of cream and vanilla. Flavor / Taste / Palate: Spicy palate with notes of caramel, lime and vanilla. Finish: potent citrusy finish with an echo of nutmeg.
In 1918, a young Japanese man with an ambition to make genuine whisky went alone to Scotland to unveil the secret of whisky making. He was Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka Whisky. He enrolled at the University of Glasgow, took chemistry courses and then apprenticed at three Scotch distilleries. He returned to Japan in 1920, and after working for other distillers, went north in 1934 and built his first distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido, a place - though inconveniently located - he had always considered to be the ideal site for him to make whisky. The environmental conditions of Yoichi were in many ways similar to those of Scotland with a cool climate, crisp air and appropriate humidity. The company first started producing apple products under the name of “Dai Nippon Kaju”, meaning the “Great Japanese Juice Company” while he was preparing to produce whisky. In 1940 the first whisky from Nikka was launched. The brand name of this whisky was “NIKKA WHISKY”, short for "Nippon Kaju", which later became the name of the company itself. “From the Barrel” suggests barrel proof, but that’s not the case. The blenders made a conscious decision to bottle at 51.4% (derived from 90 British Proof) to deliver maximum flavor impact. Tasting Notes (courtesy the folks at whiskyadvocate.com): Notably balanced and elegant, the colorful palette of whiskies combines for tremendous depth of flavor. Soft, sweet butterscotch and orange peel meet poached pears and stone fruits. Earthiness appears as dried autumn leaves, coffee, old oak, and tobacco. Among the tangle of spices, tasters identified chili pepper, allspice, cloves, and universally adored its ginger note. Finally, wisps of smoke and sea salt.
Amrut Distilleries was founded in 1948 by JN Radhakrishna. Its initial products were brandy and rum, but in 1982 it became the first company to make single malt whisky in India, discovering along the way that the warm Bangalore climate matures whiskies at three times the rate of that in Scotland. Amrut, which means 'nectar of the gods' in Sanskrit, was introduced to the overseas market in 2004, where it has since gained a loyal following. Amrut Fusion is created from a mix of 75% unpeated Indian barley and 25% peated Scottish barley. These are separately distilled and aged for four years, then 'fused' together for a further three months. Tasting Notes (courtesy the chaps at Master of Malt): Nose: Rich, barley, fruity. Big on citrus, spices, creamy sweetness. A hint of peat. Palate: Oaky, rich, gentle peat, coffee, dark chocolate. Fruity. Finish: Long, spiced, marmalade, sweetness.
Presently, this distillery is the only one on Arran. Back in the early 1800s there were many small stills to be found across the island. Not all of them were legal, but all made superlative spirit. Arran has always been a fine place to make good whisky, but when quantity was prized over quality, the island couldn’t compete economically, and one by one the distilleries fell into disuse. Arran revived the tradition when they built a new distillery in Lochranza, at the north end of the island. When a three-year old cask was opened on 25th July 1998, guests enjoyed the first legal dram of Arran whisky in over 160 years. This Arran was aged for approximately 8 years in standard ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to a selection of Sauternes casks for an undisclosed (but likely short, probably under 2 years) amount of time before bottling. Distiller’s Notes: Appearance: Gold Bullion. Aroma: Richly honeyed and backed with a lifting zestiness which slides into spice and zingy salt. Once the dram opens out, vanilla and sultana stand out followed by notes of toasted oak. Taste: sweetness, honey, apricots, melon, honeysuckle.
Springbank distillery was established in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still by members of the Reid family, who were in-laws of the Mitchells. In 1837 the Reids were forced to sell Springbank due to financial pressures, and it was purchased from them by brothers John and William Mitchell. J&A Mitchell Co was duly founded in 1897. The 19th and early 20th centuries were a boom time for Campbeltown. Thanks to a fast sea crossing to Glasgow and a small coal seam at nearby Machrihanish it became Scotland’s whisky capital. At some point or other there were 35 distilleries operational.
Presently, there are but three, one of which was opened in 2004. Through all the vagaries of history, Springbank remains, deservedly, one of Scotland’s cult malt whiskies and a template for many new distillers. Distiller’s Notes: Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, almonds, toffee, oak. Palate: Creamy, raisins, dark chocolate, figs, marzipan, brazil nuts and vanilla. Finish: Oak and sherry notes sustain and mingle with hints of leather.
Founded in 1810, the distillery collapsed at the end of the 19th century and fell into ruin. Despite this and the two World Wars which followed, the Diurach's spirit remained. In 1963, the distillery was rebuilt to help revive the small island community. With it, true community spirit was born. Jura is a remote island off the West Coast of Scotland. It is only 60 miles from the mainland yet it feels like an entire world away; an ancient landscape of wild mountains, peaceful lochs and stormy seas. With just one road, one pub, one distillery and a very distinct meso-climate, it’s not an easy place to make whisky but islanders believe it’s the best. Distiller’s Notes: Color: Deep mahogany with glistening golden highlights. Nose: Light phenolic aromas with subtle nuances of honey and spice result in a sweet yet smoky delight. Taste: The warmth of the tongue releases spice, honey, pine and peat. Cask Finish: Superstition is aged in a selection of the finest ex-Bourbon casks to bring out spicy notes and subtle smokiness.
Bruichladdich Distillery is located on the southwestern tip of the remote Hebridean island of Islay. The MC:01 was a travel retail exclusive for a time; it is notable for the fact that it is the first time the chaps at Bruichladdich have used casks that have held Marsala wine for nine years as part of an interesting maturation process. The MC:01 spent most of its maturation life in 52 per cent ex-bourbon and 48 per cent French Oak casks, aged for six years. They are then vatted and aged in Marsala casks for another two years.
After many years of experience working in their loch side warehouses, the head distiller has identified a unique relationship between Port Charlotte smoke and sweet wine casks. Distiller’s Notes (in full!): Nose – Cloves and orange initially. rose petals, toasted oak and a slight yet biting peat smoke. Ripe peach and hints of apricot come through. Left to open, the glass will reveal more warmed peach with vanilla and salted caramel. The smoke is slightly hidden behind the fruit and the vanilla sweet oak notes. Once considerably aired the tar and charred wood from the smoke come through more.
Palate – On the palate, there is a velvet touch that releases a little heat before moving into a subtle dryness from the French oak. Fruit and smoke combine beautifully with tar and peach, poached pear and red apples. A note of dry earth, dried peat maybe along with vanilla, clove spice and toasted oak. A splash of water brings a nutty, Christmas cake edge and the classic marine, ozone notes.
Finish – The finish has a tender softness and is a lovely mix of soft peach and peat smoke. The Sicilian wine edge is sweet fruit and a delicious Christmas cake whisper, the smoke fades and the toasted oak leaves a nutty vanilla that is satisfyingly warm.
Character – Soft yet bursting with fruit and character. A feel good whisky, an autumn walk in the woods then a good book by the warm fire kind of whisky. Enjoy.
Robbie Burns: Exploring The World Of Whisky
List of Sources
Guilbert, Andrew, “The Stories Behind Alberta Distillers and Eau Claire Distillery”, Avenue Calgary Magazine, July 30, 2018
Nearonov, Alexey, “The Whisky Country: The Phenomenon of Taiwan”, Whisky Talk, March 20, 2019
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