Inaugural Advanced Course from TWA; Islay Dinner; Tasting Notes – Jura, The Glendronach; Raasay Revisited; Gelston Cocktail; New Managers


With spring well under way here, West of Scotland weather has turned from warm but breezy to rain. Good for the ground and river water supplies though rather disappointing otherwise now that it‘s the weekend...

However, the weather held for the first delegates on The Whisky Ambassador‘s new Advanced Course. Some were there to learn how to deliver the course themselves and some to follow it as students. I‘m told the vast majority passed the exam at the end. Delegates came from several different countries including The Netherlands, UK, US and Canada.

As I contributed to the course notes, I was invited to sit in on sessions in case I could help out with answers to questions so went along to the distillation and maturation sections this week and met this bunch of great people keen for more knowledge and able to share their own current information and experiences (and here they all are). Jo of TWA was kind enough to include me in the Glengoyne visit that afternoon.

I‘ve been there many times but it‘s always a pleasure. We had the tour which encompasses a chocolate pairing tasting afterwards in the company of excellent ambassador/guide, John. The chocolates come from Iain Burnett in Perthshire. I‘ve had his sweets before and can vouch for their superb quality. They were also a delightful match for the 10, 18 and 21 Year Old Glengoynes we tasted.

In the shop I was able to make delegates aware of the new Spirit of Time range from Glengoyne exclusive to travel retail (not at the distillery). As it‘s in Glasgow and Edinburgh airports as well as Heathrow, I‘m hoping some sales will be made to delegates this weekend! The collection comprises Glengoyne 10-year-old First Fill Edition, solely from first fill casks, both bourbon and sherry. It‘s at 46% with an RRP of £52.50. The second expression has just 3,000 bottles – Glengoyne 15-year-old Pedro Ximènez Cask Edition, finished in Pedro Ximènez sherry casks, 48% ABV and price around £99. The third in this collection is the oldest and most limited with just 1,400 bottles. It‘s Glengoyne 26-year-old limited edition 46.8% abv and priced at around £450. Pick your price level and enjoy.

Let‘s move on to some tasting notes now. Last time I promised a look at the sample of The Glendronach 31 Year Old 1990 I‘d been sent. It‘s from the Cask Bottling 19 collection and rejoices in a strength of 56.9% vol. so use water for tasting.

Appearance: Rich, deep amber/ varnished cedar wood/saffron strand with tawny highlights. Tears are very slow, clingy and widely spaced.

Nose: A very opulent nose. Rich fruits and strong tea – like fruits you soak in tea before making a Christmas cake or pudding. Dark honey and demerara sugar. With water there‘s a little struck match note from the sherry cask. This one does take its time to open up more fully but is well worth the wait. There are dry, savoury spices as well as some sweet ones e.g. mace, saffron, ginger. A rum and raisin note as well as chocolate. As it sits more of the raisin comes through.

Palate: Spices with prunes and dried vine fruits. Dark chocolate and coffee grounds. Licorice and some sherry notes at the back. It‘s also quite dry on the palate.

Finish: Long, very dry with toasted barley and a rich wisp of sherry.

Loved it.

Another recent sample I couldn‘t include last time was Jura 14 YO American Rye Cask (40% vol). There‘s apparently a little bit of peated spirit in this one as I learned from the live online session to intoduce this one. I took time before the session to do my own tasting notes. What did I find?

Appearance: Autumnal old gold with old brass highlights. Tears quite fat but not too sticky and not too widely spaced at first, opening out later.

Nose: Spicy and peppery; well-integrated oak; some sea air and vegetal notes; warm honey and florals like stocks or jasmine; baked apples; citrus oil/zest (more like bitter orange); some vanilla and spices are sweet on the nose. With water, it‘s creamier; a bit of wax at first and more oak and vanilla come out. The peppery notes fade and there‘s toffee apple and a light floral puff of camomile tea.

Palate: Some oiliness but generally a medium mouth feel. Spice and some peppery zing but, on palate, the spices are more savoury in nature. It‘s creamy yet with a little ginger spritz and some oak. Honey/toffee too.

Finish: Medium length with some grain bitterness. Savoury and dry; a touch of herb/grassiness wih a dab of salt.

This one starts off in bourbon wood before being finished for 12 – 24 months in rye whisky casks. They were first fill. One of the W&M team also got mint or mint julep from this. I didn‘t but each to their own impressions. They also recommend trying it in a Sazerac but using a little less bitters and more sugar. It‘s a tasty dram and one I‘d like to try again.

Now, last time I wrote about the Isle of Raasay bottling for Berry Bros. and was told it had sold out. I checked with the nice PR ladies at BBR who said although it has sold out on they also supply to independent specialists in the UK such as Royal Mile Whiskies, Inverurie Whisky and Aberdeen whisky shop which all have a small allocation in stock. Or certainly did this week. As previously mentioned, it was distilled in 2017, matured in oloroso cask and finished in PX cask then bottled in 2021 at 56.19% vol. I‘ve since had time to do my own notes with the sample and found it to have – a medium peat and smoke level then dried vine fruits and baked pears with honey There‘s a touch of medicine – cough sweet – at the back. Some rounded oak notes and spices. As it sits, a bit more smoke comes forward. Also a slightly youthful spirit note as you might expect but it does have a mature nose for its years. With water some vanilla emerges alongside pear juice and barley sugar.

One the palate it‘s smoky, peaty and earthy and zesty over the tongue. It‘s very mouth drying and slightly oily with richly roasted barley and some struck match notes catching the throat. Caramelised brown sugar and toffee apple. It‘s quite a long and smoky; dry and herbal with richly toasted barley persisting.

Samuel Gelston‘s Cream Liqueur (17% abv) also merited a mention last time but without my tasting notes due to time pressuresand space! My notes: With a base of Gelston‘s Irish Whiskey, it looks like milky coffee and has notes of vanilla, coconut and toffee on the nose. Quite viscous, as you‘d expect from a cream liqueur and not cloying like some of these are. On the palate are the same vanilla and coconut notes detected on the nose as well as custard and white chocolate. It really spoke to my sweet tooth. Some cocktail suggestions were supplied and the one most appealing one to me (without so far being able to try them) is:

Coffee & Cream

30ml Samuel Gelston’s Cream Liqueur

30ml vanilla vodka

40ml expresso

10ml caramel syrup

Garnish: coffee beans on foam

Glass: Coupe

  • Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker
  • Shake without ice, add ice then shake again and strain into a coupe glass
  • The cocktail should have a layer of foam on top, garnish this with a few coffee beans.

There are other recipes if anyone wants to get in touch via this website. The Gelston brand has a history going back to Belfast in 1830. It was bought by Harry Neill in 1869 but various factors including WW1 and US Prohibition led to its dormancy from 1949 till about 7 years ago. It is owned today by his descendent, Johnny Neill, of Whitley Neill, who fronted the online session about the company and the brand. His cousin is the actor, Sam Neill, also a producer of some rather fine wine. Sam Neill sends over casks once his matured wine (pinot noir grape) is disgorged so they can be re-used for whiskey maturation. The company also sources casks from Jack Daniels for its whiskeys so they can‘t really say bourbon cask matured there. Their blend is just under 4 years old and the Pot Still Single malt of similar age. The brand has won awards quite recently. They source their whiskeys from Dundalk at present but are looking for sites for their own operations.

I think I mentioned previously I‘m delighted to be going back to Islay for Feis Ile again and doing my annual whisky dinner there at the Port Charlotte Hotel. The menu arrived in my inbox this week and it‘s a beauty. Now down to me to decide the whiskies I will match with each dish. There are also some new distillery managers on Islay whom I hope at least to meet, even if briefly, when I get there with a view to setting up interviews a little further down the line. Feis week is not a time to be bothering people for interviews!

That about wraps it up for this time. See you again in middle of May.

Happy dramming.





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