Sunday, December 26, 2010

Løitens Aquavit til Jul!

Loitens Single Cask Aquavit
barrel/fat #1627
Sept 2005-Oktober 2010
41.5% abv

Who says Dr. Whisky doesn't bring you exclusives any more? I imagine I am the only English language blogger posting about Loitens new single barrel aquavit, matured for five years in ex-sherry casks.

This is just one of 950 bottles and a total of 5 casks were released in 2010: numbers 1950, 5315, 6125, 8330, and this one, 1627.

Very whisky-esque labelling style and language, even looks like a Bruichladdich or even Mackmyra bottle, although probably also similar to many of the cognacs the Norwegians drink so much of. Nonetheless, a unique and new proposition for the aquavit story where once the spicebill differentiated aquavit from aquavit, this one celebrates the maturation.

Thank you, Espen!
To see all aquavit prescribed by yours truly, click HERE.


Rye and caraway seeds with the sweetness of corn or freshly baked bread in the background.

Oily and sweet, with a more mildly spiced mid palate than most aquavit and an increasing wave of butter, cloves, and caraway.


All the standard signs scream "hello I am aquavit" from the glass, all the quality cues on the label scream "respect me like scotch whisky" (it even says it is not chill-filtered!), and the liquid is rich and classy, deserving more than the typical SKOL and down. We all sipped slowly and shared ooos and aaaahs. Although that could have been a reaction to the heavenly ribbe (pork belly).

Best served at room temperature.

Friday, December 24, 2010

All I want for Christmas...

It's that time of year where everyone creates a list and checks it twice, even people we are too old to still believe in.

In past years I have posted on the best Christmas whiskies and whisky-related gifts (Dr. Whisky's Christmas Picks 2007, 2008, and 2009) and it seems my whisky brothers and sisters have provided plenty of such recommendations and "best-of" lists already this year (Danish Whisky Blog, Whisky Wire (12 drams), Whisky Israel, Whisky 2.0, Scotch Hobbyist,, Jason, and the advert-riddled Whisky Boys).

It is Christmas and New Years is around the corner but before I can really get ready for 2011, there are I few things I need to leave in 2010.

Back in September John Hansell announced that he would dedicate a week of posts to "Things That Piss Me Off". The list was unfortunately cut short by a tragedy in the family, but John picked up where he left off earlier this week by listing his disappointments in the whisky world over the past year. As usual on Wha
t Does John Know?, Hansell's well-intended encouragement brought on a barrage of more than 120 consutructive comments, par-for-the-course cynicism, and asinine accusations, with comments ranging from the valid to the needlessly vitriolic.

It is not as if there is any shortage of opinion on WDJK, but this time all the negativity really upset me. With more than 15,000 comments over 1,000+ posts, WDJK is the most vibrant home of whisky opinion online, but I see it increasingly becoming an archive of anger, animosity and accusation on the whiskyweb. I am not saying there are not things that need to be critiqued or that there are not things that piss me off in the world of whisky as well, but I just feel that in this leading community things are weighted on the negative far more than the positive. Not in a single post that I could trawl were comments free from mention of some perceived evil imputed against some element within the whisky industry: marketing, Jim Murray, pricing, Diageo, the SWA, travel retail/duty free, and many, MANY more. Is the world of whisky really that bad?

I love the way Serge Valentin and the brains behind Whisky Fun register many of the same sentiments we see pop up on WDJK with humour and a light-heartedness that keeps it all in perspective. Their recent hilarious stab at whisydom HERE made me laugh and addressed similar criticisms in a much more endearing way without attacking any brands, any individuals, or getting anyone fired. Funny. And FUN. I suppose that's why it's not called What Does Serge Know?

So when making a list this season, rather than creating one about the THINGS THAT PISS ME OFF, here are a few THINGS I LOVE ABOUT WHISKY that no marketer, critic, or consumer can spoil for me.

The Taste and the Taste experience
With well over a hundred different distilleries' liquid available to drink, Scotch whisky is the most complex and diverse spirit in the world. Who could get tired of that?

Think of an amazing tasting experience this year. My guess it will be hard for you to pick only one.

Probably a hundred examples for me in 2010 alone, but I will share one recent experience. I was out in London with a small group of whisky friends/geeks and after hours of evaluatory tasting and then many hours of recreational drinking we thought it would be wise to indulge in some competitive tasting. We hopped a cab and headed to a bar we could be certain could recreate our own version of the Feis Ile blind nosing. We put together an ad hoc flight of 10 whiskies (including Port Charlotte and Jura), blacked out the glasses so colour was imperceptible, and began trying to discern which was which.

Having sex and playing pond hockey aside, this is one the most fun activities I can think of. But I am a fucking geek. The liquid spoke to our senses, played with our minds, created physiological reactions around the table while we sniffed and hemmed and hawed. The experience was so exhilarating, the aromas so diverse, the physical effects of the aromas and tastes so different from one another. I was reminded how piney Jura is, how distinct Bowmore is, how splendid a core expression Lagavulin 16yo is, how amazing whisky is.

The Industry-
I have always figured that because whisky grew out of an agricultural tradition rather than a commercial industrial one, it operates differently than any other industry in the world. And it does. And I love that.

Thirty Four - My age, yes, but more importantly this is the number of companies that own the distilleries of Scotland. Beyond that there are dozens of independent bottlers and blended scotch whisky brand owners. Last weekend around a few beverages, Mark Watt, Stuart Robertson, Mike Lord and I counted 101 operating distilleries. Find me another spirit or any single commercial export produced in a single country with that much diversity of ownership.

With this kind of shared market, the challenge for distillers is to show their difference. And we love this diversity, tasting different makes, different casks, different ages. Why then are we so critical of innovation? Sure, in one instance we criticise the SWA for upholding regulations based on precendent and tradition and in another we criticise distillers for trying new cask sizes, new cask finishes, new barley strains, etc., and dismiss these innovations as gimmicks. Isn't it exhausting being cynical on both sides of every coin? Spend 5 minutes with Jim McEwan, David Stewart, Bill Lumsden or anyone else with a track record of innovation in Scotch whisky and tell me you still believe they are more concerned with gimmicks than genuinely trying to make great whisky. I am open to being convinced otherwise.

Tours - I remember being quite surprised that distilleries, alcohol factories, allowed or even welcomed tours. Today more than 30 distilleries make a point of welcoming visitors to come see the ins and outs of their production line. Can you imagine this transparency from other billion dollar industries? The food industry? the automotive industry? the pharamceutical industry? the shoe industry? Sure, there are exceptions and some of these examples do welcome visitors but think of the adjustments they had to make before being able to welcome visitors. When Glenfiddich opened its doors to tours 40 years ago they didn't line the outside of their washbacks with oregon pine (I guess because they are already pine, but you get my point), build a fake "mini" distillery to give a false impression, or try to become a museum/science center rather than just be a production site. Now, the cynical among us only see tour guides reciting their scripts of marketing bullocks, but I see a conscious effort to ground the romantic in the real from Glengoyne to Glenmorangie, and feel fortunate to see inside any of these distilleries.

The Whisky Family
Scotch whisky is one of the most commercially competitive industries in the world but the further you get from the shop shelves/the closer you get to the folks making the stuff, the more imperceptible is that competition.

As a William Grant employee, I have colleagues who have been working here since they were teenagers, started as few as 5 to as many as 50 years ago. It's funny how some up at Glenfiddich say "I love the DoubleWood" and some down at Balvenie say "I love the Solera". But it doesn't stop there. I mentioned to a few of them that I was over at Glenrothes last week. Their unanimous response? "Aye, good dram." I was over at Macallan a couple of weeks ago and in chatting to a few of the employees mentioned I worked with Balvenie. Their response? "Love the DoubleWood." In my experience, I have never heard a wine maker speak of any wine but their own, in fact, I have been told funny tales from one international wine competition organizer of the hostility between them.

Richard Paterson- The Nose (or Dicky P as we affectionately call him, behind his back of course) gets a lot of flack but I wish this industry had more of him. Yes, he is a showman but if that is a criticism for you, then you probably also dismiss John Lennon as a protest songwriter and Hitler as a great public speaker. Richard is an absolute gentleman, generous, kind, supportive, and amazingly non-partisan. Employed by Whyte & Mackay and blending Jura, Fettercairn and Dalmore, Richard talks without hesitation about Johnnie Walker, Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Glenmorangie and others in presentations, includes them in his 40 whiskies celebrating 40 years, and in his book Goodness Nose spends chapters on distilleries he doesn't work for and includes a forward by Diageo's Paul Walsh. Richard is just one of several examples of this kind of character in the whisky world and he is my favourite uncle in this whisky family.

Sport - There is the Malt Distillers' Football Cup, there are friendly inter-distillery golf competitions, but taking place over the summer months there is a rowing league on Islay with races held in the distillery bays and in Port Ellen with over 20 teams from around the island taking part. The "dream team," as they call themselves, is made up of distillery managers Mickey Heads (Ardbeg), Duncan McGilvary (Bruichladdich), Peter Campbell (Lagavulin), Graham Logie (Port Ellen maltings) and John Campbell (Laphroaig). With those clowns in a boat together I'd be suprised anyone could pull a stroke what with all the laughter, but even if they never crossed a single finish line I just love that these things exist.

Rant over, I think. I have no point. I just felt the therapeutic need to remember what is great about whisky.

And I think I feel better. But please do not read this as an attack on WDJK or its readers, in the same week as the disappointments post was a post about what impressed most this year where readers sang praises of the greatest achievements in whiskydom over the past year. We all bitch about how things could be better. I guess I just needed to remind myself what is so amazing about the world of whisky before I can say goodbye to 2010, or more accurately, so that I can start 2011 on a positive note. And I suspect that whisky makers, brand ambassadors, marketers, and whisky makers criticized could probably use such a reminder as well.

There are more amazing things in and around whisky, but I think this is all I can be bothered to get down here. Do you have any to add?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Now to the aquavit!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #395

Bushmills 16 Three 3 wood
Bushmills 16yo
Irish Single Malt Whiskey
40% abv
$80 (USD)

Still in the snow-covered highlands. We had a short thaw, but otherwise my month in Dufftown has been a winter wonderland. Hope I get out of Aberdeen on Wednesday. Hope you get where you need to be for Christmas, too. Have a happy one, drambassadors.

The last of a string of Irish tasted here on the mission, this one comes from Ireland's oldest distillery. In this case, not only is it triple distilled but matured in three different casks: ex-bourbon, ex-sherry, and ex-port. The crazy bit is that it is matured in each of these casks in succession.


Sweet and candied, raw corn on the cob, extrememly fruity, blackberry squash, blueberry buns, orange syrup.

If the nose was sweet the palate is beyond. Gummy bears, grape candy, blueberry jam. Juicy, soft, really easy to drink.


I might give this a go as my new conversion whisky, one for the folks who say "I hate whisk(e)y" or for the American whiskey drinker who has sworn off anything else. This is likely as close to flavoured whisky as is legal. In fact, blind, I would have been puzzled, for sure, probably thought it was Canadian (they can add 9.09% "other").

Worlds better than I remember the 10yo (Malt Mission #82) but I am not sure I would ever reach for this were it on my shelf. Sure, I like my sweet whiskies, but this is like kids grape juice boxes or something. If the craving struck, I would probably just enjoy a glass of grape juice and have a Talisker DE before bed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #394

whisky blog
Connemara Turf Mór
58.2% abv
$80 (USD)

Following up last week's Connemara Sherry Finish post, this is the second of their Small Batch Collection series. Launched in December, poured at The Whisky Show 2010, and featured on many-a-blog already, this Connemara is apparently the peatiest Cooley spirit ever bottled clocking in at 50ppm.

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


Clay, lemon sponge cake and sawdust at first. Diesel, wellies, cut raw sweet potatoes, and more cake and vanilla.
Mineralic, certainly smoky, but sweet and salty with marzipan and soil. Appetising and tongue-tickling effect.


Not sure if this is noticeably smokier than standard Connemara as I have nothing on hand to compare it with, but it is definitely one for the mud-lovers. Like a civilized protester, this dram is angry about the University fees but not about to break a charity shop window, piss on Churchill, or burn a bus shelter.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #393

Connermara Sherry Finish
Single Malt Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$80 (USD)

Thirty years ago, the world of Irish whiskey was essentially a monopoly with the only two distilleries, Jameson (Midleton) and Bushmills, in the hands of just one company. Today, those distilleries straddle two companies, PernodRicard and Diageo and the undeniable catalyst for this, along with the general revitalization of the category, was John Teeling, the businessman behind Irelands third distillery, Cooley.

In 1987 Teeling got in to the whiskey game, converting an old potato spirit distillery into two distilleries for pot still and colum still distillation. This inspired the big boys to get creative (for the first time in 50 years), and rode the wave of Irish whiskey's growing popularity to a success story all his own. With Locke's, Greenore, Tyrconnel, and Connemara, whisk(e)y drinkers who used to turn up their noses at Irish have firmly plopped their beaks deep in the glass (and tails between their legs).

This is the first of the Small Batch Collection from Connemara and all the bottles that they will ever make are out in the market. Once they're gone, they're gone. New release in the series launched last month and the sample just arrived (thank you, Rachel). To be tasted soon...


Baked fruits, burnt brown sugar, soft sweet impressions overall. Mossy, grassy and moist. Toffee and leather.

Toffeed, orange, spice and smoke, sherry toastiness, turning herbal or grassy again. Long, gentle finish of sherry and smoke and spirit in lovely balance.


An IWSC 2009 Gold Best in Class winner, this whiskey is an absolute treat. And drinkable in hearty sips. Dangerous.
Second opinions at
Whisky for Everyone

Malt Mission #391
Malt Mission #392
Malt Mission #394

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Malt Mission 2010 #392

Bushmill's Black Bush
Blended Irish Whiskey
40% abv
$35 (USD)

First thing I want to mention is THIS blog creating a whisky advent calendar, something I swore I would do "next year" every year since since 2006. It is in Swedish, and seeing as you already drink like a viking, it is about time you learned how to speak like one.

Now, back to Black Bush. No, not THIS Black Bush, the Northern Irish, award-winning blend from Ireland's oldest working distillery which has been owned by the two global spirit giants: Jameson owners Pernod Ricard (1987-2005) and Diageo 2005- present. Still practicing triple distillation of their malt whiskey, Black Bush is 20% matured grain whiskey blended with 80% malt matured in sherry-seasoned casks.

I was supposed to in Dublin today to meet with my global colleagues but the weather has scared those of us on this snow-covered island into staying put.

For all Bushmills had on the mission, click HERE.


Grass, grapes, apple cider, raisin and soft anise on the surface with brown sugar, nuts, and Christmas cake at deeper levels.

Nuts again, wood, honey, and more raisins. Simultaneously fresh, light, and rich.


Really nice balance in this whiskey, certainly quaffable but also sippable with enough going on to keep you entertained.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Canadian Whisky Awards

Back to back awards posts, both Malt Maniac related.

Today, the worlds best (only?) dedicated Canadian Whisky Website has announced the winners in The Canadian Whisky Awards 2010.

Canadian whisky is without doubt the least respected of the world's whiskies. Crown Royal is the 4th biggest selling spirit in the world but you rarely hear anyone bragging about their recent Canadian whisky purchase. To be fair, there hasn't been much variety over the years with the big boys establishing prohibitive laws back in their heyday so there aren't as many distilleries as there could be. But recent years have shown us that the likes of Gibsons, Forty Creek, and Caribou Crossing have been attracting a modest amount of critical acclaim.

And so Malt Maniac Davin de Kergommeaux has really tapped into something that has been long overdue, a conscious appreciation of Canadian whisky. When I moved to the US back in 2008 I was admittedly surprised by the availability and consumption of Canadian whisky. Most interesting was that those ordering it had no idea it was Canadian and, obviously affected by their beverage of choice, almost apologised for liking it. Weird.

Hopefully awards like these will bring due attention back to Canadian whisky and even help innovation and motivate development within the industry. The press release says, "Virtually every Canadian whisky introduced in Canada or the U.S. in 2010 was tasted. The best was chosen in one of three categories: the Canadian market, the
export market, and multiple markets. Awards of Excellence were also conferred for accomplishments in innovation, brand extension, and notable success in raising the profile of Canadian whisky in general."

The Connoisseur Whiskies:
Best Canadian Whisky – Domestic Market: Wiser’s Legacy

Best Canadian Whisky – Export Market: Caribou Crossing

Best Canadian Whisky – Multiple Markets: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve

The Awards of Excellence:

Innovation of the Year: Highwood Distillery, White Owl Whisky

Award of Excellence - Brand Extension: Crown Royal Black

Award of Excellence - Canadian Whisky Profile: Canadian Club

For more info, head over to Canadian Whisky.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Malt Maniacs Awards 2010

Pioneers of whisky geekery, especially of the online community-building sort, the Malt Maniacs are a global disease with 33 "certified" members in 16 countries and once again they have earned their self-appointed titles after meticulously tasting, rating and filing data on 260+ malts for the Malt Maniacs Awards 2010. And that was probably only a fraction of what they got their noses into over the year.

Goodness knows the Maniacs spent even more time tasting hundreds of other whiskies, adding inert gas or using a vacuum cylinder to suction the air out of their open bottles, attending fairs, festivals and dramming sessions with mates, and travelling to Scotland or around the world to see, smell, and taste the places that will be the centres of future manias.

So have a read, raise a glass, and geek on.
And we'll see you in the asylum.