About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

WHISKY AND CHOCOLATE PAIRING

Thursday April 24th I hosted at whisky and chocolate pairing at the local whisky club. I tried this first around 3½ years ago at Aberlour Distillery in Speyside and had often thought that it actually works quite well with whisky and chocolates.

My experience prior to the Aberlour event ammounted to having Port with chocolates - but that was 'only' with high cocoa content chocolate...
This time though, I thought I'd go all in and try the pairing with chocolates from Danish luxury chocolate producer Summerbird - the website's in Danish or use Google translate on the website... anyway, I'm sure you can get an idea of what their products are like :-)

Now what am I going to highlight in this post? Well, I thought I'd focus a bit on why I made the specific paring and, of course, on what worked and more importantly what didn't work - that, and of course a few tasting notes on the whiskies...

The bottles in tasting, April 24th 2014 © The Malt Desk

First pairing:

Springbank 15yo 46% (bottled mid 00's)
Praline Petit Four with organic raspberry cover

Why this pairing?

The Springbank 15yo normally has medium light sherry influence along with salty sweet notes and a mild smoky trail.. or at least this was what I counted on with this one as I've had versions of it on numerous occasions before.

Instead I found this Springbank very peaty with thought going towards the Longrow expression from Springbank Distillery, being oily with dried fruits, honey, malt and very peaty as mentioned above. This goes to show the small batch production they do at Springbank and underlines their status as one of -if not- the last craft distillery in Scotland.

This comes in at a score of 86/100!


Did this pairing work?

Yes, it did! Besides from the whisky being far more peaty than expected, it showed great form and spririt quality - no doubt about that. The praline had the right texture and mouthfeel to compliment the light sherry and also actually the very noticeable peat and the raspberry rounded the experience off with a light red fruit influence working very well in neutralizing the peat from the whisky.

If I have say 'but' here, I could have wished for a slightly more noticeable influence from the raspberry. This was not a miss at all, just a slight bump with the Springbank being more peaty than expected.


Second pairing:


Macduff
2000 11yo 60%, 1st fill sherry cask#5774, Berry Bros. for The Whisky Barrel

Chocolate truffle w/ licorice

Why this pairing?
Macduff is usually a bit of an odd whisky. It's also sometimes marketed as Glen Deveron and as that its far from a malt that will rock your world. Old Macduff however can be great and the particular bottling used in this tasting has gotten some good and even great reviews, so this was what my pairing was pretty much built upon.

The nose on this one extremely sweet, almost in a Pedro Ximinez style. It doesn't state what kind of sherry cask is used, so its possible its a PX cask. Also loads of dark fruit mint and orange here. The palate is very overpowering and mouth coating with its massive sweetness, bit of anise, milk chocolate and a little dirty (spent fireworks) on the finish.

This scores a very nice 87/100!

Did this pairing work?
The majority of people at the tasting seemed to think so as it was voted best pairing.
It wasn't my personal favourite pairing, but I agree that the sweet creme licorice and very powerful sweet sherry matched up very well as the licorice prevented the sherry from overpower the experience.

Third pairing:

Arran 121.61 2002 10yo 61,1% 'Pulled pork with Chocolate mousse', The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Chocolate truffle w/ raspberry (heavy)


Why this pairing?

I tried this Arran when it first came out in the Autumn of 2013 and just knew right away I had to get one - actually I was lucky to even get one as it sold out at the 1 year birthday bash of Danish branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This has a dry nutty, oloroso sherry profile with dried fruit, mainly raisin and prunes, Vienna roast coffee, and still - quite amazingly due to its heavy sherry style - a little Arran character of apple, oils and barley richness left in this... especially if you leave it to breathe for a while.

A cracking sherried Arran that scores a great 89/100!

Did this pairing work?

Oh yes! For me it turns out to be the 2nd best of the evening.The raspberry gives off a big burst of raspberry to compliment nutty dry sherry profile and with this its like the raspberry chocate carries over into the whisky and vice versa. The outer chocolate coating of the truffle makes sure the experience never gets too dry and  the whisky and its abv of 61,1% never makes it too sweet. Lovely!


Chocolate truffels, left to right - mint, lemon and licorice. Picture with permission from Summerbird website
Fourth pairing:

Glen Grant 1974 37yo 49% Sherry cask#7643, Berry Bros
Chocolate truffle w/ mint

Why this pairing?

Older whiskies and especially sherry matured ones, can carry delicate mint/cooling notes both mid palate and on the finish. I've tried quite a few old Glen Grants through the years and based on that, it was pretty clear to me that the creme mint truffle should be paired with the Glen Grant. Lighter in its sherry style than expected makes this bottling quite a delicate whisky, IMO with Mocha latte and old tawny port and fresh leather notes. The palate deliveres a good combination of spotless oloroso sherry profile and anis and a little mint on the finish.

A delicate number, this Glen Grant with a score of 89/100!

Did this pairing work?

Yes, this also worked :-) Though the mint and chocolate took the lead in this pairing, the Glen Grant still managed to shine through with its combination of 49% abv and coffe, tawny port notes and old age. The mint from the chocolate also provided at sort of palate cleansing for the next pairing

Fifth pairing:

Inchgower 1982 28yo 56,2% cask#6968, Berry Bros
Cream puff of white chocolate w/ passion fruit/rosehip fill

Why this pairing?

Since I've not tried that many Inchgowers through my whisky drinking years, I thought based on its tasting notes, it could be fun to put this one in the tasting. This was a pairing done on the basis of other peoples tasting notes of the whisky and a pre-tasting of the cream puff used. so I was very excited to see if this would work. The whisky itself turned out to be a cracker! Thick creamy malt, ginger, hint of peanut, a little mixed herbs and oak spice.

A delicious malt, this one - one I'd take a bottle of any time - scores a solid 90/100!

Did this pairing work?

Definately yes - this was hands down the best pairing of the evening, according to my taste. The malty herbal Inchgower matched the passion fruit/rosehip beautifully. You had the think malt, slight sharp gingery, spicy and herbal notes matching the sweeter passion fruit/rosehip in a way where you'd want to take a nip of the whisky, then the cream puff ad the whisky again until both were gone. A sure sign of a excellent pairing :-)

White chocolate cream puffs w/ passion fruit/rosehip. Picture with permission from Summerbird website


Sixth pairing:

Ardbeg 'Galileo' 1999 49% ex-bourbon & marsala cask, Distillery bottling
Chocolate truffle w/ lemon

Why this pairing?


Some lemony/winey peat smoke and chocolate with lemon - whats not to like?
I've previously reviewed the 'Galileo' on the blog - you can read them by following this link

Did this pairing work?

Ehh no - it did not! The lemony creme filling and the marsala wine and sweet peat just made it go over the top and borderline queasy. This pairing just didn't work and the 'Galileo' is a dessert dram to be had on its own. Not much more to say about this, really... maybe other than 5 out 6 isn't so bad :-)


Was this fun?

This was a very nice evening out, indeed and hosting this was a lot of fun and I know that most people left the tasting with the desire to explore whisky and chocolate pairing further, which was really the point. If asked again, I'll be more than happy to host another tasting like this.

Finally, I hope this blog post will inspire some of you out there to try whisky and chocolate pairing yourself...

And most importantly... have fun :-)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

GLENLIVET NÀDURRA BATCH 1110L - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Time flies, again 1 week has gone by without a post here on The Malt Desk :-O

It has not been an unfruitful one, though, with regards to whisky, but more on that in a later post which will feature whisky and chocolate pairing as those of you who follow my Facebook page and/or @TheMaltDesk on twitter might have noticed from posts from this past Thursday.

Anyway, it's straight on to the review of a good one from the huge Pernod Ricard/Chivas Bros. distillery Glenlivet. Like Aberlour Distiller has the A'Bunadh mentioned in the previous review, Glenlivet also manages to have an interesting bottling in their standard range called Nàdurra. It's a 16yo bottling doing what the whisky anoraks love, which is providing you with an unchill filtered cask strength bottling at a reasonable price - thumbs up for that! It's also bottled in batches like the A'bunadh, so same setup there by the owner Pernod Ricard/Chivas Bros.

This is also a good bottle to review leading up to the Spirit of Speyside Festival that kicks off next Thursday May 1st and runs through to May 5th with alot of events/tastings and distillery tours. If you're there and see me, do come and say hi! :-)

The impressive bottle spiral at the Glenlivet Distillery Visitor's Centre, May 4th 2013 © The Malt Desk
Glenlivet Nàdurra 16yo 55,1% Batch 1110L, Distillery Bottling

Colour is straw

Nose:
Vanilla, pear, grass, pleasant floral notes, bit of honey, grilled banana, loads of sweetness carried through on mainly fruits and vanilla and a dash of oak spice.

Taste:
The palate brings other pleasantries like marzipan and white chocolate, but vanilla again fruit are the driving forces in this whisky. Sometimes  notes of fresh cut grass, lime and lemon peel shows it self. Give this some water and a more malty edge appears along with more oak spice as well.

This is a very nice dram for a readily available malt! I'll give it another thumbs up!

86/100!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

ABERLOUR A'BUNADH BATCH 42 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

In my previous review of the 23yo Aberlour, bottled by Cadenhead, I mentioned the Aberlour A'bunadh - the original NAS heavily sherried matured bottling from the distillers themselves.

So why not review a version of A'bunadh as a follow-up to the not so often seen ex-bourbon cask bottling... a bottle from batch#42


The washbacks at Aberlour Distillery, September 26th 2010 © The Malt Desk

Aberlour A'bunadh Batch#42, 60,3%, Distillery bottling (2012)

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
burnt toffee/caramel, dried fruits, nutmeg, cinnamon, some mint and warm chocolate

Taste:
Almost clean sherry, just a tiny hint of sulphur here, but it adds to the experience here. Also quite some dark fruits, prunes and fresh raisins here along with chocolate/vanilla ice cream.
Gets very drying with the cinnamon notes coming back along with a bit of orange peel.

Now, I've bashed No Age Statement whiskies here a few times, but let this be a beacon for other distillers to follow- this is how you put together a No Age Statement whisky!
Its full bodied and robust, full of flavour and has the alcohol to deliver it!

This shall get no bashing from me, instead I'll applaud it! *clap, clap*

87/100!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

ABERLOUR 1989 - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Its time for another another malt whos original bottlings are only seen as sherry cask matured versions... Aberlour. Think most of us love the uncompromising A'Bunadh - a brute force young-ish NAS cask strength sherry monster, released in batches - so far up to batch#47...

Like I mentioned with Glendronach in my previous review, there have been duds among the A'bunadh batches too (sulphur), but guess that just can't be avoided. The other standard bottlings of Aberlour are bottled at 40-43% abv, so not so much fun in those, IMO... though they are all decent drams.

If you get a chance to visit this charming little distillery, don't miss out your chance to 'Bottle your own' Aberlour. They usually have 2 options available, a sherry and a more bourbon matured version. These are usually aged between 14-16 years and are still good value for money. Last time I bottled a couple was in August 2012 and they were £65/bottle then.

Also the staff there (in 2012) were very forthcoming and enthusiastic about their whole setup, so again a thumbs up for that. I've passed the distillery a couple of times since, but not stopped by for a tour since, so please make up your own mind about the place when/if you visit... :-)

The small stills at Aberlour Distillery, September 26th 2010 © The Malt Desk
Aberlour 1989 23yo 54,9%, 2 ex-bourbon hogheads, 522 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Vanilla, mellow feel to the nose, eucalyptus (tooth paste), fresh mown grass, some mineral notes and anis peeping through along with a handful of fruit.

Taste:
Creamy, lovely easy malty edge, bit of oak spice, honey, white garden fruits, mainly apple, but also tangerines and raspberry in there. Experiencing just a slight tongue burn on the finish, but nothing to upset the very nice experience this one delivering.

A nice 2 cask vatting for sure, this one

87/100!

Friday, 11 April 2014

GLENDRONACH 1990 - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Glendronach has, in whisky circles, been called the new Macallan... and rightly so. It carries the heavily sherried style that is now gone from Macallan except for a few very high priced bottlings, ripe only for the collectors market.

Glendronach, on the other hand, is still with reach of the many, though we are beginning to see the distillery realising their potential - bottlings have seen a rise, especially the past year or so as the distillery have grown ever more popular.

Like Macallan, Glendronach produces a heavier style spirit, as in more oily and mouth filling and enhanced by (mostly, there have been some duds) good and even great sherry casks, its obvious to see why Glendronach have quickly gathered a huge fan crowd.

Also like Macallan, we sometimes see the occasional Glendronach ex-bourbon cask escape the blenders grasp and its one such I'll review below...

Dronach Burn and warehouses, April 30th 2011 © The Malt Desk 
Glendronach 1990 23yo, 53,9%, ex-bourbon cask, 162 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is straw

Nose:
Vanilla, licorice, ginger, spicy, fresh cut bell peppers, apple and gooseberries

Taste:
Spicy and lighter than expected. lemon and black pepper, vanilla and ginger again, bitter almonds and black olives - very mouth filling and oily

A good dram - no doubt and I will take a second pour if offered, but there's quite an oaky nip to this one and its not quite in full balance.

85/100!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 1985 - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

To finish off this streak of Highland Park bottlings, I have saved an indie treat for you. Like the 'Freya' I just reviewed, its matured in ex-bourbon but a single cask this time and not a 1st fill either like the 'Freya'.

It is, however, really something of a treat and if you love your whisky fruity with a dash of peat this is certainly one to go for - although the price may be a bit of a hinder, its €200 here in Denmark.

Never then less, for a bottling this quality and age, in times like these, it seems a pretty fair price. (Is this a new opinion from me? I dunno, maybe, but its what springs to mind when thinking of this bottling). Here's my short review...

Highland Park 1985 28yo 48,3%, ex-bourbon cask, 252 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Loads of tropical fruit and vanilla, fresh baking, sugars, peach, banana and aromatic smoke, bit of citrus (lemon) and a fresh garden smell (grassy?).

Taste:
Tropical fruits galore, some spice and a smoke trail, also quite some mineral notes, barley juice and green notes, carries a very creamy mouth feel and very much in balance, I'd say....

Great stuff! its certainly delivers everything the nose lines up for you. It's good to see older Highland Park from the indies, especially Cadenhead, that's put out some good stuff over the years... just last year the 25yo small batch - you remember that one??

89/100!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

OFFICIAL DANISH LAUNCH OF HIGHLAND PARK 'FREYA' IN COPENHAGEN

Just like last year, for the DK lauch of the Highland Park 'Loki', the weather was great when I headed to Copenhagen to attend the launch of this years release in the Valhalla series, the long awaited 'Freya'.
The short 40min domestic flight to get to Copenhagen from here was smooth as 25yo Highland Park and after a delicious lunch, I had had a walk through some iconic parts of our nations capitol, snapping some pictures on the way.

Whisky and Viking jewelry - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
I then headed across the city bridge to 'Christianhavn' and had a coffee to go and enjoyed the sun a bit by one of the canals there before heading to the Michelin rated Restaurant 'Kadeau' for the event hosted by Highland Park Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen and guest speaker Jim Lyngvild who was there to give his view on who Freya was and what she would be would be like in the modern world.
 
Jim is know for his impressive traditional viking long house inspired home and his general fascination with all things viking, while at the same time possessing an ability to give great twist to already existing stories - this days twist was that the focus person 'Freya' -according to historical records- may not have Norse in her origins at all, but rather from a region in further down in Europe.
 
Jim Lyngvild gives his take on who 'Freya' really was - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
To accompany the food a couple of Highland Parks from the travel retail series were served as appetisers before 'Freya' was presented - those were;
 
Highland Park 'Svein' NAS 40%, Distillery Bottling (travel retail)
 
Only a few general notes were taken on this, but very pleasant, especially since its the entry level bottling for Highland Park's travel retail range...

Very fresh, citrus (orange),vanilla and fruits, malt and aromatic smoke.

Tastes very fresh - again with vanilla, burst of citrus fruits, spices and a good smoky arrival mid palate. I'd call this a playful and very aperitif style and very lively whisky and certainly much better than expected and reputed, IMO.

Not scored as it was served with food

Highland Park 'Einar' NAS 40%, Distillery Bottling (travel retail)


Very similar to the 'Svein' but slightly heavier in style. I review the expression in full last summer in end of June.

Again, not scored on the day as it was served with food.

The 'Einar' review can be found by following this link.
 
Camilla and Martin from Edrington DK presenting the 'Freya' - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
Now lets try the latest release in the Highland Park Valhalla-collection...

Highland Park 'Freya' 15yo 51,2%, 19000 bottles, Distillery bottling

This is a bottling a bit out of the usual style for Highland Park as it comes from 100% 1st fill ex-bourbon casks.

Tasted at home from a 5cl sample

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Vanilla, ginger, tropical and citrus fruit (pineapple, orange and lemon) , bit of smoke and floral hints (rose and lavender?) and danish honey on toast. The nose gets a lot more malty with extra time in the glass.

Taste:
Orange and raspberry, ginger again but also a spicy oak nip - a clear influence from the 1st fill ex-bourbon casks. More tropical fruit and Galia and honey dew melon comes along and bring juicy barley and a whiff of smoke before turning into spicy again. The 'Freya' carries a lingering alcohol and, surpisingly, another burst of peat on your lips and tongue before disappearing with a medium length finish.

I'm guessing this is not a dram for everyone. You have to like the nipping oak and spices from the 1st fill ex-bourbon casks to really appreciate this one (and I do). On the other hand, I don't find this one quite as good as either the 'Thor' or the 'Loki', but its still close to its brethren and still very good whisky - so good I had to secure a bottle.

As with the Highland Park 'Loki', the malt used to produce this was peated with Orkney peat, but matured mainly at the Edrington warehouses in Glasgow, rather than on Orkney.
Originally destined for the blending vats, the casks making up this bottling was considered by Edrington to be too good to let that happen and 'Freya' is a result of this...

87/100!

The featured bottles of March 13th 2014 @ Kadeau in Copenhagen - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
Finally, thanks to Martin Markvardsen for this additional info and to Edrington DK & Holm & Bertung for the invitation to the event. Also thanks to the team at Restaurant 'Kadeau' for providing us with delicious norse inspired courses.