Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #384

Glenfiddich 1958 Private Vintage
Cask 8642, bottle 135, bottled 5th July 2006
Speyside Single Malt Whisky
46.3% abv

I have been reading a lot about water lately, in particular (obviously), how it relates to the making of Scotch whisky. The importance on a very practical level is clear: distillery founders in days gone by needed a good, clean source that was steady and inexhaustible, or at least seemingly so. Water is key to the whole whisky making process (malting, mashing, ferementing, heating, cooling, etc) and without it we'd have little more than a pretty yeasty breakfast cereal and some superior race would have found a way to serve us porterhouse style. Good thing we scared them off by such a glorious display of intelligence as usquebaugh.

In the 70s, and still in some promo materials today, distilleries really made a big marketing stink about their water sources. It made sense as single malts were just emerging in global markets and the consumer needed simple, memorable, and romatntic points of difference to know, say, Glenlivet from Glenfiddich. Add to this the business reality of consolidation that was running rampant at the time and larger companies were centralizing their bottling plants and using treated water to bring their malts and blends down to desired strength. Obviously, a major point of difference at that time would have been adding unique value to unique NATURAL water sources.

Glenfiddich is the only Scotch Single Malt Whisky to use a single spring source in all processes from mashing to bottling, and most folks who have a bottle or tube at home can read about the Robbie Dhu spring, a spring so important to the family that William Grant himself bought the surrounding hills to protect it. Romantic? Check. A great show of integrity? Certainly. But does it actually effect the TASTE of the whisky? Science says "meh."

The Scotch Whisky Research Institute is an amazing scientific body that is funded by whisky makers large and small to perform research of value to distillers, the wider industry, the environment, trade organizations (the SWA, for example), and the government. Today, the SWRI is involved in a wide variety of research projects, but most of the research into raw materials, a category under which water would no doubt be included, looks primarily at barley and other cereals, yeast, wood, and starch/gumlike polymers contained in cereals. So, does that mean the water verdict is already in? Does the water used in production of scotch whisky have any effect on the final flavour of a given whisky?

Big thanks to Ian Millar to bringing this treat to an event I attended in Miami. And extra thanks for letting me take this old dame back to my room...

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


A warm, rounded nose of soft spice notes, caramel, green grapes, fudge, and walnuts. Beautifully rich and elegant.

Surprisingly bright, sweet sherry notes that dry into raisins and figs, eventually sandalwood, licorice root, freshly ground coffee and dark chocolate. Long oak driven finish with sweet/bitter balance of coffee/cocoa bean and winey flavours.


Stellar sherried oldie. Perfectly sippable at strength with bright, bold flavours that walk rather than run, whisper rather than scream. A gentle giant of which I wish I could have had more than a thimble-full.

Malt Mission #381
Malt Mission #382
Malt Mission #383
Malt Mission #385

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spirit of Toronto 2010

Best whisky tasting notes
April 24, 2010
Roy Thompson Hall
Now in it's 6th year, The Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala is around the corner and is not an event to be missed. I have mentioned it on Dr. Whisky over the past few years, have been involved in the past two, and will promote it again this year cuz it is a truly excellent event in one of the greatest cities in the world.

This is a celebration of the water of life (whisky, whiskey, scotch whisky, and congnac) with over 100 drops to try, dozens of exhibitors, live jazz, a killer cocktail bar, a cigar lounge (outside), and truly excellent Masterclasses.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wee Whisky Week 1

whisky whiskey blog tasting notes scotchI have decided to begin a new series on Dr. Whisky.

I am doing this for a few reasons, least of all because I have a new baby girl and a new wee whisky cask BOTH maturing on site. But mostly because the Malt Mission is losing steam.

First of all, my full time job in whisky fully satiates my physical desire to drink the stuff and my intellectual desire to talk about the stuff, so this project no longer performs at least two of its inital purposes. Beyond that, I have very little time to nose and taste all the fine whiskies that come my way, let alone write original and interesting posts about them. Finally, we all know that this format has grown tired and terribly cliche. It seems every week I get an email from some instant expert asking me to share a link to his new whisky blog or scotch website where he tastes a new whisky each day, gives it a score based on some highly convoluted system, tells the story of the distillery, does away with the elitist mumbo jumbo so often associated with scotch whisky tasting notes providing the world with simple, clear tasting notes.

Friends, Please think of something new.

Now back to the topic at hand: new life! My amazing wife had a baby and my amazing friends ensured I could get new make and a cask to fill to commemorate the occasion. Huzzah!

Baby was 9 days overdue and doctors and parents-to-be decided to begin induction process to see if we could meet her while her grandparents-to-be were in town. Mommy worked so very hard to get baby out but baby was too big headed, literally, and eventually came into the world as an empress, April 6, 2010 6:23am, after 16 hours at the hospital and 12 solid hours of ouch (mainly for mommy, tho daddy did stub his toe on the end of a gurney at one point) at 8lb 13oz/4.015kg

Baby and mommy came home Friday April 9 in the afternoon and we could not have been happier. As if it wasn't a miracle enough that mommy and daddy could just do the same thing they regularly do but one time make a little clump of cells that miraculously turns into a seahorse, then into a shrimp, then into a baby baby and then an actual baby that comes OUT OF MOMMY, by just putting baby to mommy's chest, mommy's boobs began making milk. MILK! Yes, I tried, too. No luck. No milk. No whisky. No nothing.

It was so fabulous to be in our own home with our new wonder and the little angel blessed us bygiving us a first night that is a new parents fantasy: baby slept SIX HOURS!

We have all spent time crying, nursing, cuddling, comforting, and sleeping. Baby already had had two sets of visitors, 3 sets of family naps, and 6 sets of burp rags.

One gets asked a lot of questions around this time, and most of them have straightforward answers even if I have to google them before answering, however, "How does it feel to be a father?" has proven most complicated to answer accurately.

Do you remember when you were 10 years old and you got hit with the realisation that a woman (well, girl, actually) other than your mother fancied you, played kissing tag with you, or asked if you wanted to "go around"? Well mix that with the feeling of being given the keys to a part of the world that had been there forever but that you had not yet noticed nor had anyone else ever seen and you'd be close, yet not quite there.

Wee Whisky was used to make rye at the amazing Tuthilltown distillery (thanks for the vessel, Gable!) and then half filled with a mixture of Old Grandad and Old Weller 107 to maintain the benefits of three influences on the spirit I would eventually be putting in the cask. Tuesday night, the cask was disgorged and new make from two different Scottish single malt distilleries were filled into wee whisky.

Baby's first walk took place Sunday April 11, Baby's first doctor's appointment took place Monday April 12, Wee Whisky's first taste will come May 6, 2010. Until then, go start a blog about your bowel movements. Shit, even THAT is not original...