Monday, January 25, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #378

Connemara 12yo
Irish Single Malt Whiskey
40% abv
$95 (USD)

Another Irish drop, and an unusual one at that as it's only distilled twice (most Irish is triple-distilled). And in pot stills, no less, the way God intended...

"The saviour of Irish whisky", the artist formerly known as John Teeling, purchased this County Louth-based distillery and Christened it Cooley, the artist formerly known as Ceimici Teo. Launched in 1996, Connemara was the name they gave the pot-still produced spirit and in 2003 this limited-availability 12 year old was launched.

While many spirits producers saw tough times in 2008-9, Teeling and company reaped the rewards of their continued investment (buying new stills, firing up the long silent Kilbeggan, building a new bottling plant, repackaging Connemara...) reporting a 50% jump in sales and doubling of profit*

For more distillery info or to see all Connemara had on the mission, click HERE.

*- MWY2010


If my nose had teeth and a jaw it would be chewing these aromas. Heavy, musky, oily, damp, swampy. And all the while pleasant and appetising.

Softer than expected, fire blackened marshmallow, honey, burnt wood, sweet tobacco smoke. Szechuan peppercorn (take that Malt Impostor!), buttery croissants, jam, and a nice fruit and oak balance.


mmmYeah. Deeply diggable. And I dug it, dig?

Malt Mission #376
Malt Mission #377
Malt Mission #379
Malt Mission #380

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #377

Connemara Cask Strength tasting notes
Connemara Cask Strength
Irish Single Malt Whiskey
57.9% abv


$65 (USD)

$95 (CAD)

Don't yet know if this will be a string of all Irish whiskies (couldn't have waited til mid-March, Doc?), but we will just take it one dram at a time.

We tasted the 40% abv version of the peated Connemara back at Malt Mission #102 (feels like forever ago). This version comes in at 57.9% abv and has nothing added, nothing taken away (ie no water to reduce strength and it is not chill-filtered). Although such practices seem to be criticised today by malt enthusiasts who spend time in online fora and commenting on What Does John Know?, Connemara proudly blends old and young whiskies and place no age statement on this bottling. And the results are award-winning (IWSC Best in Class 2009, Gold Medal "Exceptional" from BTI)

For more Cooley distillery info and to see all Connemara had on the mission, click HERE.


Coal, sweet vanilla, orange rind, marmalade, and a fresh floral element. Honey Nut Cheerios. Maybe some hay, too.

Toasty, nutty, smoky and spicy. Vanilla custard. Rich, but light and fresh. Dry neat and increasingly creamy with a drop of water.


Delicious, if probably a bit hot for many. Adding water or ice accentuates the custardy creaminess and mellows some of the POW factor. Really a dram of two worlds, but in wonderful harmony. Subtle yet bold, sweet and smoky, light and dark.

As the barely relevant Rush Limbaugh recently indicated, President Obama is showing support in aid and resources for Haiti not because a natural disaster has struck one of the world's most impoverished places only miles off America's shores resulting in 200,000 deaths (so far), but to improve his favour with both LIGHT and DARK peated whiskies. Well, sweetness, this stuff is both light and dark. Definitely good enough to be your house jigger, Rush.

Malt Mission #376
Malt Mission #378
Malt Mission #379
Malt Mission #380

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #376

Jameson Whiskey Tasting Notes
Jameson Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$25 (USD)

$30 (CAD)

Married to a member of the Haig Scotch whisky dynasty, founder John Jameson moved from Scotland to Ireland and began making the water of life in 1780. Originally produced at one of the six Dublin distilleries, Jameson is now distilled way south at the Midleton distillery in Cork, an impressively large complex built adjacent to the old Midleton distillery.

The "new" Midleton distillery makes Jameson (a mixture of pot still and grain-distilled spirit of malted barley, green barley, and other grains), along with RedBreast (100% pot still, but not 100% malted barley), Paddy (blended), Tullamore Dew (blended), and of course Midleton Rare (available since 1984). As Kate Hopkins observes in 99 Drams of Whiskey, although owned by different companies (since 2005), some Jameson is still bottled at Bushmills and Midleton's continuous stills produce the grain going into Black Bush and Bushmills Original.

Jenna Masoli took her stage name from that of her favourite drink.

Jameson has grown volume sales 3x since 1995. Today, 30 million bottles are sold worldwide annually so the flavour certainly agrees with the masses. Let's see how it goes down on the malt mission.

For all Irish had on the mission, click HERE.


Vanilla, lemondade, oak, Sprite, gentle clove spice, too.

Nice oily texture, waxy. Some heat. More spice than the nose indicated, balanced against a strong bready sweetness, barley sugar, and maple. Honey. Vanilla.


In the USA it is really noticeable just how huge a brand Jameson is. It is everywhere and very often a suggested shot by bartenders or by friends when out at the bar. A pretty serious shot, in my mind, and I love whisk(e)y. So, I am surprised that it is such a widely done thing here.

Contrary to common practice, I would not recommend this as a shot. That being said, its honey and vanilla finish after a slippery texture down the hatch is a good combination, but aren't all good whiskies then good enough to be shot? My point is this whiskey is worth sipping, rocks or whatever. What's the rush? Tasty, clean, straightforward stuff.

Malt Mission #375

Malt Mission #377

Malt Mission #378
Malt Mission #379
Malt Mission #380

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #375

Old Pulteney 30 review tasting notes
Old Pulteney 30yo
Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky
44% abv

Ending my string of "new" releases here on the malt mission with a drop from Old Pulteney. It would be more accurate to call these "recent releases" as by the time I have gotten around to publishing them every other enthusiastic whisy nerd with a qwerty machine and dial-up has shared their views on them (Lucas and Chris drank of the goblet back in April 09, Johan reported on it on Canada Day, and I got my sample July 8th). But nonetheless here they are, 5 recent releases (out of many) that I thought the world would be better knowing more about (cuz I certainly tried some new drops that were blah).

When we lived in the UK, Old Pulteney was a bottle on our shelf that saw the most action, going through several bottles a year. In fact, if I think about it, we might be largely responsible for the huge increases in sales of recent years. The Malt Whisky Yearbook tells us that Pulteney has increased sales volumes by 16% globally, (24% in the UK alone). And they're making all this spirit with just one pair of stills... huge stills at that (21,700 litre wash still, 17,300 spirit still). All impressive when you remember that it wasn't until 1997 that the world saw a 12yo propietary bottling from the distillery. And a 17yo in 2004, a 21 in 2005, and now this.

Worth noting that this is one of Scotland's few distilleries that use worm tubs to condense their spirit (other examples are Mortlach, Glen Elgin, Cragganmore, Knockdhu (An Cnoc)...a prize if you can name all of them?)

For more distillery info and to see all Pulteney had on the mission, click HERE.


Provocatively fruity with tons else going on. Mango, melon, grain, and woody depth that comes with age. Barley, coconut, honey, and earthiness, even peatiness.

Complex array of flavours from sweet to floral to medicinal. Tar balanced with vanilla, salt with spice, and bitter oak with sweet barley sugar. Tinned peaches. Butter, shortbread, and heather honey through the finish. Lasting flavours. And lasting.


An immense profile spanning nearly every corner of the flavour wheel... all without the use of sherry caks. Believe it! Clean, balanced, and confidently mature whisky that is a confirmation of what a fine distillery operates in Wick.

Malt Mission #371
Malt Mission #372
Malt Mission #373
Malt Mission #374

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #374

Balvenie 17 Madeira 17yo review tasting notes
The Balvenie 17yo Madeira Cask
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
43% abv

$130 (USD)

Dr. Whisky's most recent post attracted a good share of attention. This attention took various forms and lead to variable responses from varied corners of this world wide wondernet. I won't be linking them or summarizing them from here, but thank you, go f yourself, and everything in between.

Not one to shy away from controversy, I thought I would come right back at it with a post featuring a whisky from the distillery I represent as an ambassador here in the USA. Bam! Yes, I have said it before, and I will say it again, I currently work for William Grant and Sons. No secrets. This Scottish, independent, family-owned whisky company (not many can say that!) allows this little blog to continue and have NEVER asked that I say anything about other brands or our own that would be contrary to my right, true, and honest opinion... Yet. God bless 'em.

So if you are new to Dr. Whisky (or think he is a douchebag sellout) please feel free to gloss over this post. You are entitled to "
reserve the right to dismiss the opinions of anyone on the payroll of a distiller as being potentially swayed by the facts of their employ"- JC Skinner. Potentially. You might as well add editors and some journalists and authors as well then, Skinner, as paid advertisements, receiving free samples and gifts, being invited to plush dinners and incentive trips could equally lead to swayed opinions... in the spineless.

If you have been around since this whisky blog began, through Dr. Whisky working for others (retailers, indie bottlers, and whisky companies) and noted that he remains as objective and transparent as one can be all things considered, then read on. If you smell BS please call me out on it. I beg you. And I thank you.

Other opinions on The Balvenie 17yo Madeira Cask HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and elswhere, no doubt.
This is the latest in the 17yo series that began back in 2001 with David Stewart's creation of The Balvenie 17yo Islay Cask... a name that incidentally would be illegal today under SWA regulations. Like calling this release "Island Cask" (yup, Madeira is an island). The whole range is now relatively collectible, especially now that David Stewart has gone into semi-retirement, no one knows for how long this series will continue. We've seen the Islay Cask, New Wood, New Oak, Sherry Oak, Rum Cask, and now Madeira Cask, a 17yo Balvenie that has matured in refill American oak casks before being transferred to casks that used to hold Madeira for an additional +/- 4 months*.

Madeira wine is essentially a fortified wine, like port, but from the island of Madeira. For Madeira wine, they actually heat up the wine to replicate the exposure to heat on sea travel that would have traditionally occurred. This exposes the wine to some oxidation and adds nutty, raisiny, and sweet butterscotch-like flavours to the wine.

For all Balvenies had on the malt mission or for more distillery info, click HERE.

Smells distinctly oaky. Sweet. Touch of nail polish, barley sweetness, and then a recipe for arrowroot cookies: vanilla, flour, honey, butter, and a touch of coconut.

Fruity and sweet on the palate with a strong oakiness. Explodes upon swallowing with dried fruits, toasty notes like aged tobacco or beer nuts, butterscotch, and toffee. Long carmelized finish.


When I first tasted this in the summer of 2009, I was initially struck by a youthful, new make-y element on the nose. Those impressions remain. This drop is deceptively fresh and youthful for a 17 year old with barley sugar sweetness and pear drop/estery notes. But on the palate is where this whisky truly delivers. Plums, raisins, tobacco, and all sorts of varieties of burnt sugar and butter (toffee, butterscotch, prailine...) swell in the mouth long after swallowing. The overall impression is of a whisky that is light, but full flavoured, and destined to be an after-dinner treat or a cigar lover's new best friend. One of the best in the 17yo series.

Malt Mission #371
Malt Mission #372
Malt Mission #373
Malt Mission #375

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

When They Said REPENT REPENT...

...I wonder what they meant.
whisky blog whisky blog
Welcome to 2010, whisky lovers. It has been over 3 years since this blog began and the frontier of the whisky web has changed greatly in that relatively short period of time. I remain grateful for your support, links, and refererals online in in person. With literally dozens of new whisky-tasting-note websites and blogs that have appeared in the time since this whisky blog began the internet has become saturated with professional and amateur opinions on the water of life: Tim's
Whisky Exchange Blog,
Ruben's amazing, Chris' unparallelled Nonjatta, Red Hare's Adventures in Whisky, Joel and Neil's, Edinburgh Whisky Blog (Happy Birthday, lads!), Scotch Chix, Whisky Host, Ralfy's empire, Whisky For Everyone, Whisky Apocalypse, Nose Palate Finish, Jason's Scotch Whisky Reviews, Richard & Matt's Whisk(ey) Apostle, Mike, Mike and Dan @ Whisky Party, Jeff's Scotch Hobbyist... heck, there are so many of us now we even have the Malt Impostor.

Although Serge Valentin's Whisky Fun remains the IMDB of whisky, it seems we could use a Rotten Tomatoes as well... albeit one not littered with ads (again, kudos to Serge for remaining so bullshit-free for so long... all you 'instant experts' in the wake of the Scotch Blog era should take a cue).

And although there is currently no single site that aggregates notes, we are close! We have a community here, people. We have great sites like:

-For Peat Sake, a user review-based site covering a great range of malts where anyone can share an opinion, but who can I trust? And there is no space for the STORIES of the malts, just tasting notes. Not sure how I feel about the new look, either (note: link to Dr Whisky is a dud). Whisky Rating attempts to provide a similar service with more spelling mistakes and fewer participants, as does WhiskyConnosr (among other useful whiskygeek things).

-True whisky scholar/archivists/geeks non plus ultra, the
Malt Maniacs have their Matrix, and although I am not sure how many newbies dare press the yellow button this really is the closest thing we've got to what I'm talking about (whatever that is). And Jeff (Scotch Hobbyist) has his google doc of ratings (HERE) but again, can Jeff's opinion alone that, say, Chivas 12 is a C+ whisky, be trusted?

-The Balvenie's new Whisky Shelf where members of Warehouse 24 create virtual shelves of their home bars (real or imagined), contributing reviews on all single malts, showing average ratings and sample comments, is great. But currently interaction between users is minimal and there is no function to look at comparative reviews for any one malt. Improvements are being made constantly but this ambitious site is still finding its legs.

-Whisky Portal, and Scotch are true classics in www terms and are both still of use and incredibly up to date. Still, the searchable catalogue leads only to images, no notes or ratings or anything to guide a consumer.

-The Whisky Mag Forum remains an invaluable archive of whisky geekdom but can be a bit intimidating to the newcomer and athough the search funtion helps, it can be a bitch to navigate. WhiskyWhiskyWhisky provides a similar forum but is actually WAY easier to navigate and find the info the newbie or maniac may seek. Great section of user generated tasting notes, too.

-John Hansell's What Does John Know? provides a real global community of opinions with Hansell acting as Linda Richman (Coffee Talk, SNL circa 1990s) stirring conversation, posing questions, stoking fires, and occasionally putting them out. The comments on this site provide some of the richest dialogues on Scotch that can be found anywhere. That being said, they can really be a buzz kill for those new to the world of whisky and while it no doubt is therapeutic for malt maniacs, I worry that it does a disservice to fostering new relationships to Scotch whisky.

So after all that, I am not quite sure what this post is about, but suffice it to say that I feel frustrated with Dr. Whisky's contributions over the past year+. Over this time some have noted in comments, emails, and in statements on other sites that, for example, Dr. Whisky's week of 'new whiskies' aren't all new. Well with over 200 whiskies tasted this year alone I simply haven't had the time to post as I once did so I am being selective in which malts I create Malt Missions for. The existing 370+ Malt Missions still attract 600-1000 unique visitors per day, but they feel like dormant pieces of the past rather than active members of the rich whisky communities of now.

I guess my point is that I am looking to create a Rotten Tomatoes of whisky and I hope you'll join me when the time comes.

With love and best wishes for 2010,
Dr. Whisky