Judging and Tasting

Judging & Tasting

 It’s been a fun month since I last hit the keyboards for Whisky Ambassador. I’ve been out and about as an independent judge for some bar and food awards. I’ve seen some really interesting places, some new and some known faces too. In the whisky ones particularly, it’s fascinating to see the different styles of establishments and talk to the folks that own/run/work in them.

One person I did meet on my travels was Robert Beaton bar manager of the Glenmoriston Town House Hotel in Inverness. They hadn’t entered for the awards but surely sometime in future. What impressed me there was some of the whisky treasures they have in the bar but, more particularly, Robert’s cocktails list including many using whisky or whiskey. It’s inventive and adventurous and he’s created a list showing real initiative. Worth a look in if you’re up that way and try some of his creations or just enjoy some of the whisky stocks.

On the tasting front, I’ve recently been sent 4 samples of grain whiskies as new additions to a range from Douglas Laing & Co. Now, you might think a grain is a grain is a grain but you’d be wrong. We have different ones because each is distinctive and offers something different to the blender.

Douglas Laing have gathered together and bottled four single grain whiskies, each one more than 20 years old, to showcase the differences and let us see how flavoursome grain whisky can be. I can appreciate grain whiskies but they’re not my drink of choice. However, again, there’s good learning potential for bar personnel and sommeliers here and to think about using them for cocktails.

The four now in the new Old Particular range are North British – 21 years old, 50.9% abv; Girvan – 25 years old, 51.5% abv; Cameronbridge 25 years old, 60.6% abv and Strathclyde – 27 years old, 51.5% abv. I started with the youngest and worked my way up, having nosed them first to see which might potentially be the strongest flavour in case I needed to change the order.

I won’t go in to full tasting notes here and would urge you to try them for yourself (they won’t be cheap). If your own bar or restaurant doesn’t have them for staff to try in a training session, The Good Spirits Co. on Bath Street in Glasgow has only the Strathclyde expression but other good whisky specialists across the country will likely have one or more of the others. It’s all down to personal taste of the shop buyers and what they think their customers will want.

From my point of view the Cameronbridge was the disappointment. There were some sweet, fruity notes of lychee and quince and a bit of sultana but also some damp woody notes which weren’t so enjoyable for me. The Strathclyde nosed really well – rich, fruity and warm, waxed oak – but was more astringent on the palate. That and the Girvan were the sturdier and deeper on the nose. I quite enjoyed the Girvan which has some salt through it as you might expect from its location and the North British opened out nicely on both nose and palate with some apples and pears and spice.

There have been some other bits and pieces, including news from Kilchoman Distillery on Islay of plans to expand but most of those will keep for next time. Shame about the miserable summer and I’m not even getting any holidays because of works on our house. Back to you in the autumn!



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