A Taste of Texas, Balcones Distilling.

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The 5 Balcones spirits tasted in this review are available to buy in a limited edition tasting set available HERE from Master of Malt.Balcones-Limited-Edition-Set

Balcones Staff Selection single cask bottled at 62.5%ABV. This is a single cask of Texas single malt whisky, aged in bespoke Hungarian oak casks, chosen by the entire Balcones team and is the first release of a planned yearly limited edition relesase.                                                                                      Nose, muscavado sugar, wood shavings, good quality dark chocolate, cloves and cinnamon there is something dark and brooding about this. Palate, lots of oak, spices, grapefruit sprinkled with demerera, slightly tannic, strong espresso coffee, dark chocolate with lime and a lingering fruit note I can’t quite pin down.                                                                     Finish, lingering oak, pink grapefruit and lime.

Balcones True Blue 100 bottled at 50%ABV. 100 proof roasted blue corn whisky.                                                                                                                        Nose, undercooked pastry, buttery and linseed oil putty up front, creamy with some soft spices in the background.                                                     Palate, oak, spicy and quite hot, salted caramel, the taste you get in your mouth about 5 minutes after you’ve drank coffee, treacle and cocoa, there is some slightly sour fruits as well, unripe cherries possibly.                 Drying finish with lots of oak and spice.

Balcones Blue Corn Bourbon bottled at 64.5%. Made with the same spirit as Baby Blue, True Blue and Brimstone but aged in charred, new 225 litre American oak casks.                                                                                                         Nose, menthol, slightly burnt fruit cake, chambord liquer or Creme de Cassis, vanilla sugar, charred casks, toffee.                                                 Palate, so much going on, Creme de cassis, intense fruit from a bourbon? aniseed, the pipe tobacco my wifes grandad used to smoke, the fresh oak barrels are evident and there is vanilla and a certain sweetness.          Finish slightly astringent, tangy almost, leaves you wanting another fruity sip.

Balcones Texas Rum bottled at 63.9%ABV. This rum is made from molasses and is double distilled and matured in a variety of casks of varying oak species and toast profiles.                                                             Nose, almond danish pastries, play doh, chilli spice, fig jam, red fruits, menthol, black cardamon with wood smoke/barrel char.                         Palate, less explosive than the ABV would suggest, own brand cola with a bit of root beer mixed in, dark brown sugar, herbal, slightly bitter, cloves. The finish delivers cherry cola.

Balcones Brimstone bottled at 53% ABV. A texan take on smoky whisky, rather than peat smoke they smoke this whisky with sun baked Texas scrub oak using a secret process.                                                                        Nose, shorting electrical wires, smokey bacon thats well done, then its sweeter, burnt sweet waffles, it evokes the idea of a wax polished floor thats been in a fire, like a fire at a stately home.                                         Palate, initially sweet, almost sugar water, then it’s like chewing a charred bit of bacon thats fallen onto the bbq coals, the smokiness is big and powerful but there is some citrus that freshens the palate, maybe even some green apples and something slightly floral.                                       Finish has ash and smoke but mixed with a fruitiness.

Many thanks to Steve Rush of The Whisky Wire, Emily Harris and Drinks by the Dram.

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Big Peat Christmas 2015

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Big Peat from Douglas Laing is a popular Blended Islay malt that is bottled at 46% ABV, without colouring or chill filtration.                                At Christmas they like to roll out the barrel a little and treat us to a cask strength edition of Big Peat Christmas, the 2015 version is the 5th release in the series and contains whisky from Ardbeg, Coal Ila, Bowmore and Port Ellen and bottled at 53.8% ABV and is limited to 3,000 cases and is available globally from specialist whisky stores and the Douglas Laing website here.big peat xmas

So now for the all important taste test, on the nose, first things first obviously there is peat, plenty of seaweed and sea spray, it’s almost coastal. There is also a freshness under the peat, limes, maybe some green herbs. With a little water there is more of an ashy note and ground white pepper.

The palate is vibrant, there are lemon sherbert’s, ash, vanilla sugar and brine with water there is almost a sweet chilli effect, the sweetness is more prominent but with a wave of spicy heat coming after.

On the finish it is slightly drying, it almost feels as if I’ve got some ash in my mouth and there is a lingering taste of salted lemons.

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Teeling Whiskey The Revival

The Revival from Teeling Whiskey is the first new release in the upgraded Vintage Reserve Collection & will be followed by new 24 & 33 year old releases. The Revival is a 15 year old Single Irish Malt Whiskey bottled at 46% and NCF and with an RRP of £85, distilled in 1999 and matured exclusively in ex-rum casks. The Revival has been produced to mark the opening of their new distillery, the first in Dublin for over 125 years.

Teeling Whiskey Revival

Teeling Whiskey Revival

On the nose I found apple crumble, with brown sugar and oats in the crumble, as it opens up there are more cereal notes, some delicate spices and pineapple cubes. Leaving the glass covered for a couple of minutes really intensifies the demerera sugar sweet notes from the rum casks.

The whisky seems quite thin in the mouth but delivers sweet tropical fruits, papaya and rambutan’s but also a touch of lime balancing the sweetness, honey then spices followed by a wave of pink grapefruit.

The finish for me is all about pink grapefruit, fresh and fruity but slightly astringent.

Overall this is a whisky which has a nose that continues to give with an almost gentle palate, I could easily enjoy a dram of this late on a sunny summers evening.

Tasted during the #TeelingWhiskey TweetTasting in collaboration with The Whisky Wire and Teeling Whiskey

The Spirit of Christmas.

So it’s coming up to that time of year when children get excited by the annual Christmas countdown, generally starting in December with the opening of their advent calendars to reveal a piece of chocolate. This year my wife has treated me to this advent calendar.IMG_3640Now there is nothing wrong with this as an advent calendar, as it happens I’m rather partial to some Niederegger marzipan but what I really wanted was one of these spirit filled  advent calendars from Drinks by the Dram. The whisky calendar was originally released in 2012 and this year features amongst it’s 24 dram’s, a rare 50-year-old Scotch and an award-winning Japanese whisky. Each handmade, wax-sealed dram allows whisky fans to sample a new whisky, tasting everything from single grain whisky to rare Scotch worth up to £350 a bottle.

Whisky-Standart-CraftThe Drinks by the Dram calendars are designed to take you on a journey of discovery through the fascinating world of your favourite spirit, introducing you to rare and unusual expressions you may never have tried. This year they have unveiled a line up of calendars ranging through whisky, gin, cognac, absinthe, mezcal and vodka to the rather insane sounding naga chilli vodka calendar (this is not on my christmas list).NagaThe full range of calendars can be found here and range in price from £99.95 up to £999.95 for the old and rare whisky calendar, containing whiskies worth up to £2,000 a bottle, including a 60-year-old Single Malt – one of the oldest whiskies in the world.

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Port Askaig 100° Proof

Port Askaig are a range of single malt whiskies released by Speciality Drinks and named after the Port Askaig village on Islay. Since it’s launch in 2009 it has had several different age statements some of which are still available and has included whisky from 3 different Islay distilleries, so good luck pinning down exactly which Islay malt is in your bottle. They have recently launched a 45yo, 30yo, 15yo and the whisky in this review the Port Askaig 100° Proof at 57.1% available from the Whisky Exchange for £44.95.

PA100On the nose it’s very fresh and vibrant, sea spray and brine, charred meat, peat, sliced white bread, barley, damp ash, slight citrus, there is some green apples and gooseberries.

The palate is initially sweet, there is peat and a fruity note followed by salted lemons and lemon sherbert’s, finally there is some cinnamon spice and wood char.

portaskaig_150The finish delivers citrus notes and ash/sooty notes and is slightly drying.

Overall for me this is a whisky which sits in the company of whiskies like Aberlour A’Bunadh and Benromach 100 Proof, good value with plenty to offer.

Dream Drams & More

This weekend will see 7th year of The Whisky Show moving across the river Thames to Old Billinsgate after several succesful shows at Vinopolis. As with previous years there are a huge range of whiskies to try from all corners of the globe, this years count is 588 whiskies and liqueurs and 1 Poitin full list here (scroll down slightly).

As with previous years, all visitors to the show will receive a Dream Dram token to redeem against a range of outstanding drams from the exhibitors. With some expressions costing thousands of pounds to purchase, the Dream Drams offers visitors a once in a lifetime chance to sample some of the finest whiskies ever created including Glenmorangie Pride 1978 (RRP £3,900), Karuizawa Noh 31 Year Old 1981 Cask #4676 (RRP £2,000) as well as the new release of limited edition Karuizawa 1980. Additional tokens are available to purchase on the day at £10 each. You can find a complete list of the Dream Drams here.

TWSAnd finally if this has whetted your appetite to visit there are still some Sunday and weekend tickets available from The Whisky Show.

Douglas Laings Old Particular Single Grains.

Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range of single cask whiskies from all over Scotland was launched in 2013 and up to now has only included single malt’s, that is now all set to change with the release of the first 4 Old Particular single grains. Old Particular GrainThe Old Particular Single Grain series launches with 25 year old whiskies from Cameronbridge and Girvan, a 27 year old from Strathclyde and a North British 21 year old. These are all bottled without colouring or chill filtration and are available now from the normal whisky specialists.

North British 21 Years Old 50.9%

On the nose I get some citrus that’s fused with a slightly herbal note reminiscent of lemon thyme, vanilla, there is a dusty woody note, butter icing (sweet but slightly savoury), pine resin and clove spice.

The palate is oaky with a rich mouthfeel, spicy (star anise) with a black pepper warmth and there is an herbal note I can’t quite pinpoint, with a little water it becomes sweeter with a hint of black treacle.

There is a nice spicy finish with a lingering lemon note.

CAMERONBRIDGE 25 Years Old 60.6%

First impressions on the nose, honey, apples, pear drops, pink shrimps (the sweets), quite a lot of alcohol burn. A little water reveals, cream, white pepper and a hint of pineapple.

The palate at full strength is a combination of honey, lemon sherbert’s and is very warming. Adding water reveals sugar syrup, vanilla, oak and reveals a slightly tannic note.

The neat finish is all warm spiciness, with water it still has some peppery spice but with a sweetness complimenting it.

Old Particular Grain with tubesGirvan 25 Year Old 51.5%

The nose offers cereals, grass, a hint of honey, vanilla sugar, slightly floral, cinnamon and nutmeg. A little water added reveals candy floss and limes.

The palate is led by demerera sugar, there is almost a saccharin sweetness, pineapple, there is a touch of spice along with a touch of liquorice. With water it becomes less sweet and slightly astringent with black cardamom and coffee.

The neat finish is slightly drying with the liquorice being dominant, with water the finish is spicy and long with a green herbal edge.

Strathclyde 27 Year Old 51.5%

The Strathclyde’s nose has vanilla, lemons, pepper and a nice tingle of alcohol burn. A couple of drops of water leads to cellulose thinners, cereal notes and digestive biscuits.

On the palate it’s Bourbonesque, sweet, spicy and menthol notes. With water the spicy notes dissipate slightly, with the menthol notes coming to the fore.

On the finish there is plenty of spice and citrus and adding water adds a touch of sweetness to this.

Overall Opinions

For me the Strathclyde really stands out, the bourbon notes hit the spot for me. Tasting it neat it was a real sipping whisky and the addition of water does not detract from it in any way.

The Girvan is probably the whisky which tasted closest to what I expect from a single grain, cereal, vanilla and sweetness.