April 20, 2012 § 19 Comments
A couple of weeks ago I had the ultimate whisky-geek experience of being temporarily uprooted from my busy life in NYC to partake in the more relaxed lifestyle of the Scots in Speyside, Scotland. One of the highlights being a very personal and memorable visit with David Steward at the Balvenie distillery (see my post on that visit HERE).
While there, I tasted some very rare and exceptional drams which I’ll continue to write about in upcoming posts. The first of which, however, was their new make (also known as “white whisky”) which is the distillate prior to any aging. It’s clear, fresh and bright and is the important base of all of their beautiful variations. This is not something that is ever bottled and sold by Balvenie, despite a trend across the pond by the American craft distillers who have been releasing their white whiskies & moonshines over the last few years. Sometimes these new makes can be a bit hard to drink, but I assure you, Balvenie never does anything rough.
NOSE: Sweet grass, malty, pungent sweet, celery salt, salted honey
PALATE: Eucalyptus, rich, complex, sweet after taste, bright, yummy esters (yup, I did just write that!)
WITH H2O: Eucalyptus is still present with white pepper introducing itself, still sweet, beautiful and something I wish I could buy to have on hand always!
I love a good un-aged whisky and this one is particularly delicious (in fact, I wish I was sipping on this right now as I write this post!). But if you can get your hands on one, and I’m talking about a good one, try it chilled in the summer or, my favorite way, paired with some kind of citrus dessert (think lemon bar or a crème brûlée seasoned with orange zest).
What about you? Do you have a favorite un-aged whisky or a preferred way to enjoy this kind of spirit?
April 13, 2012 § 6 Comments
Anyone who knows me or who follows me on twitter probably knows that I attended the WhiskyLive NYC show this past Wednesday as I was practically jumping out of my skin with excitement! And this year surely did not disappoint.
It’s one of my favorite nights of the year – a time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and drink some seriously stand-out drams. And may I just give my sincerest apologies to everyone who I either didn’t mention here or didn’t have a chance to visit. I could have easily used another 4 hours!
My first stop was quite intriguing … Notch Single Malt Whisky from Nantucket. Notch partners with Cisco Brewers who makes a special beer for them from Maris Otter malt (which has an interesting history for a grain & according to Wikipedia, is “acknowledged right across the brewing world as the finest-quality malt available”). This beer, or wort, is then moved to the Triple Eight Distillery to distill in a small copper pot still where just the heart cut of the distillate is used and aged for 8 years in ex-bourbon and finished in French oak Merlot wine casks from local Nantucket wineries.
Now, this was a really enjoyable dram but what I can’t understand is the price. $888 for a 750ml bottle. I am sure they didn’t have the price match the name of the distillery to be cute … but I just can’t get my head around this! Remember, this was my first stop so I know my brain was still quite sharp – but I didn’t hear them mention the addition of 24k gold or a unicorn horn as a “gift with purchase” so not wanting to further interrupt the interview they were doing with Gregg from DistilleryAge.com, I snapped the above photo promised them I would be following up … and you bet I will be! Asap.
Next stop, Balvenie!
Now you know you’re a #WhiskyBadAss when you show up to an event with your own malting floor! David Stewart and team, you guys are my heroes. (If you missed it, check out my earlier post of my visit to this distillery HERE)
I always enjoy my time with the happy and wonderfully talented Balvenie crew. David and I caught up over a beautiful glass of their 14yr Caribbean Cask Single Malt which was divine. They actually bring rum over from the Caribbean in tanks – not in casks – and fill their casks with the rum for 6 months. Once they have their barrels perfectly seasoned with the rum, they remove it and replace the rum with their 14yr single malt to finish for 6 months prior to bottling. Pretty cool, huh?
Hey – are we taking each others photo!? Silly social media whisky geeks (myself included)! Smile!
The Whisky Peddler. Only available online HERE out of the World Of Liquor store in New Jersey. Unbelievably yummy. Patrick is smart. He purchased two very interesting casks from notable distilleries in Scotland; one from Glen Grant and one from Highland Park. You may ask (as I did) why buy his whiskies over buying a 14 year directly from the producer? Because for both of these malts, he purchased the casks and kept them aging only in their ex-bourbon casks – no sherry finish on these beauts – and let me tell you simply – wow. I was really happy standing here. And at $52 or $60 / bottle, it keeps me baffled by the $888 price tag on the Notch …
Off to the Cocktail’s Live area!
A toast with Kat Valentina – the fab mixologist from LA who was brought in to serve up a very tasty creamy-whiskey cocktail:
2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey, .5 oz Sambuca, .75 oz Rum Chata & 2 oz of chilled coffee
… can we say mid-show pick me up?
Whisky & chocolate – a great pairing. Lucky for us, the hyper-talented chocolatier, Roni-Sue, was there serving up her unique bonbons and pairing them with such lovelies as Laphroaig and Basil Hayden! I loved their Dark & Stormy truffle: dark chocolate ganache that features Goslings dark rum, fresh ginger and lime zest – all I tasted was pure deliciousness.
Glen Garioch paired up with Murray’s Cheese, an excellent cheese shop in NYC (and luckily right down the street from me!) to create a cheddar that pairs specifically with the Glen Garioch whiskies. HOW COOL IS THAT!? I’ll be there tomorrow picking up a good wedge for this weekend! The whiskies are great – balanced, smooth and perfectly complimented by the tangy-creaminess of the cheese. At this point, though, it was too crowded and my glass was too coated with other whiskies to get accurate tasting notes but I’ll definitely be picking up a bottle on my next Scotch-run.
Finish off with hug, dram and special (secret) Bourbon-Ball (a dark chocolate & Smooth Ambler bourbon bon-bon) from John Little, head-distiller at Smooth Ambler, and it was time for the after party!
Now I don’t know how you travel to an after party … but I’m the kind of gal who likes to arrive in style so if that means negotiating a limo ride for some whisky for myself and my beloved whisky-family, like Balcones’ Chip Tate, Compass Box’s Robin Robinson and Kat Valentina … then so be it! 🙂
Off to Ward III we went! It was another amazing night! Congrats Dave Sweet for organizing yet another stellar event! Slainte!
April 6, 2012 § 14 Comments
Between the rain and the recent snow, there were a few beautiful, dry, warm & sunny days in Scotland … and I was lucky enough to have been a visitor during just those days!
After an incredible tour of Forsyths, the Scottish still makers (see my post on that visit HERE), next on the itinerary was a visit to another place in Speyside which has a deep place in my whisky-heart; Balvenie.
Not only was I lucky enough just being there – but my travel buddy (head distiller of Balcones, Chip Tate) and I were given a private tour by Balvenie’s Malt Master (aka, head distiller), David Stewart and their distillery ambassador, David Mair. And if that wasn’t enough – David Stewart was also in the midst of celebrating his 50th year at Balvenie! Congratulations, David!!!
We truly had a lovely afternoon walking the grounds, geeking out about all things “whisky” and of course – drinking some seriously special drams – a few of which David poured straight from the barrels into our open palms. Luckily, slurping was acceptable because I wasn’t letting a single drop hit the floor!
Below is a collection of photos that I took during the visit. Hope you enjoy!
The Balvenie Castle … not exactly where we were trying to go (it’s not that close to the distillery) but it is quite cool to see. Thanks to Google Maps for accidentally taking us here first!
Oh the Scottish weather!
The sign says, “Welcome To Dufftown” …. phew! Back on the right road and almost there!
We made it!!!
This is the view with our backs to the distillery. Isn’t Scotland just so pretty?
The Malting Floor. One of only about 3-5 distilleries left in Speyside who still have an active malting floor. It’s a lot of hard work, manual labor and expense for these distilleries to maintain so it’s a real treat when you get to see one with your own eyes. Highland Park is another one who malts some of their own barley. I don’t know if there is a single distillery left who currently malts 100% of their own barley… if you know of one – please share in the comments below!
Love their old, red grist grinder!
Inside a giant mash ton
This is what they’re talking about when they say, “wooden wash backs.” Not many places ferment their grains in wood anymore. Stainless steel is far more common.
Check out their shiny gold (ok, brass) spirit safes! This is where the distillate cuts are made. Meaning that during the distillation process, the distiller uses the switches and the hydrometer (the device that reads the % of alcohol content) to move the new make through the stills, the low wines receiver and the spirits receiver. Fancy, huh?
Sorry – no photos allowed of the aging rooms (though they were really cool!) – we need to let that liquid gold get it’s beauty sleep! Off to the tasting room we go!
This was the “planned” tasting round … but as luck would have it, the cabinet doors were opened up and we were treated to a few bonus rounds! David & David gave us to some really special pours which I’ll certainly share my tasting notes to later … so stay tuned!
Needless to say, it was a really special afternoon. Thank you David, David and Chip for the laughs, whisky and lasting memories. This day will stay with me for a very long time.