It’s that time of year again the start of whisky season, a few weeks to London whisky weekender, and whisky live is upon us. Having enjoyed the event over two days it’s now time to pull out the highlights. Top of my list have got to be the whisky magazine awards master-class. There were some truly superb bottles in the mix each of which I’ll review shortly in more detail, I picked up a copy of Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley’s fantastic new book Distilled details below and finally found out the impact e150a has on whisky.
The Whisky Magazine Awards Master-class
Hosted by the fantastic Neil Ridley we sampled the a few of the worlds best including Best Single malt, Best Single Cask, Best Scotch and best Canadian, each and everyone is worth looking out for!
Old Pulteney Vintage 1989 – Best Single Malt 2016
Scotland has finally retaken #1 in the guise of the absolutely superb Old Pulteney Vintage 1989 and it is truly spectacular, unfortunately it’s already impossible to nab a bottle of this however you can find it in the Master of Malts Whisky Awards tasting sets and it alone is worth the price. On the nose it offers honey, vanilla and floral musky overtones with a delicate hint of cereal, The palate is herbaceous with hints of citrus and licorice, pleasantly sweet with a very waxy finish.
Green Spot Château Léoville Barton – Best Single Pot Still
If you’re not familiar with Green Spot the spirit is actually made by Irish Distillers for Mitchell & Son of Dublin, this special edition was aged in bourbon and oloroso sherry casks before being finished for two years in Bordeaux wine casks. The nose offers dried fruit, fresh apples and nutmeg, the palate is sweet and lightly spiced with honey, almonds, brown sugar and cream. The finish is long and lingering with a licorice spice
You’re going to want to and quickly as this wont be on the shelves long, it’s currently still available via Whisky Exchange* at the time of writing.
Kavalan Amontillado Sherry – Best Single Cask Malt
Kavalan have created another of their award winning solist range, this was the stand out of the group for me. Rich fruit and spiced oak on the nose, The initial palate of tropical fruit quickly recedes giving way to an incredible combination of caramel, cinnamon and oak, the long lingering finish of brown sugar and melon fading far too quickly.
Unfortunately I can’t find any information on this particular bottle at the moment but I’ll provide more detail as soon as I can.
Fuji-Gotemba Distillery Single Grain 25 Years Old Small Batch
I’m generally a grain whisky enthusiast and this is one of the best examples of what a good grain whisky looks like. The nose is delivers cinnamon, vanilla and honey, the palate is a beautifully balanced blend of floral notes, citrus, beeswax and oats. The finish is incredibly brief leaving only a hint of cereal.
Sadly being a small batch your chances of finding this are pretty slim but the Fuji-Gotema distillery (sometimes known as the Kirin distillery) does have a number of more easily available spirits on offer.
Gooderham and Worts Four Grain – Best Canadian Blended
Blended from whiskies distilled from corn, wheat, rye and barley the Four Grain is an extremely unusual and yet harmonious no age statement. The nose is peppery with hints of apple, cinnamon and oat, all of which come together in the palate, there’s a spice from the rye, a sweetness from the corn and the nutty, oatmeal of the malted barley all brought to balance by the wheat. The finish is chalky with lingering grapefruit.
As the four grain is the output of a sadly now closed Canadian distillery there’s not a lot of these lying around but well worth trying if you can!
Distilled by Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley
I really can’t compliment this book too much, and having now met the authors I’m even more impressed. Joel & Neil have put together a superb overview of the spirits world starting with an overview of distillation, before turning to gin, vodka, rum, brandy, absinthe and of course whisky. They’ve put together a concise overview of the major spirits, bitters and cocktail making in an encyclopaedia of spirits.
If you want to learn about the ancient art of distillation and the methods and motivations behind maturation in a fun, fact filled encyclopaedia you will struggle to find any better. As a whisky drinker it’s often far too easy to overlook the complexities of other spirits, and while there are countless blogs and magazines dedicated to each they’re seldom as accessible, and far from standardised.
Definitely one to add to the collection you can find it on Amazon.
E150a and the references series
As I’ve covered elsewhere on the site the use of E150a or caramel colouring is a pretty controversial topic with valid arguments on both sides, personally I’ve never been convinced of the merit and although in theory I’d prefer whiskies my without I’m not prepared to miss out on otherwise fantastic whiskies just because of a little colouring. While various players have weighed in on the impact of caramel on whisky or the tests which don’t entirely agree however it’s not been possible for the average consumer to find out for themselves.
Enter the reference series from That Boutique-y Whisky Company who have put together a series of whiskies showing the impact of caramel colouring versus by providing two bottles, one with and one without. You can find these over at Master of Malt if you fancy experimenting.