New Jura, Kilchoman & Compass Box, Yet Another Islay & What Whisky Matches Pringles?
Well, here we are on the last day of April and just getting in under the wire with the April column. Reason being I was waiting for the new Jura samples before I finished this one. There was a delay on a further batch of samples but were they worth the wait? Absolutely – more on those below.
It looks like the new Ardnahoe Distillery is not going to be ready in time for Feis Ile, the Islay Whisky Festival. Better to take time to get it right than rush it for one event. The Feis will be back next year and it will give them time to give a proper bedding in to the new equipment and start creating exactly the spirit they want.
In the meantime, a bit more detail for yet another Islay distillery has been announced. Renowned whisky retailer and expert, Sukinder Singh of London’s Whisky Exchange is behind this one and we’ve been hearing about it for some time. The location is near Port Ellen (where the maltings are) and will put in a planning application subject to a public consultation. If plans are approved, it’s possible building works could start in 2019. However, I do find myself wondering, since this is the tenth Islay distillery, when/if the island will run out of both space and water supplies for distilleries. As far as the Feis Ile is concerned in the future, it’s already a massively busy week and the island has finite accommodation, though there is room for more of that. I’m wondering if it’s time to stop jumping on the Islay bandwagon and look at other places instead.
A while back I had a media release about a new expression from Compass Box. It was Hedonism The Muse – a successor to Hedonism. There was a delay in the sample of this one too and they kindly sent me a sample of original Hedonism to compare with since I had none of that left. I also suspect my notes on the original are in my under stair cupboard which is ready to spill out over the floor.
What an interesting brace of whiskies. Both blended grain whiskies, the original is at 43%; the new one, The Muse, at 53.3% and it comes from grain whiskies from several different cask types. There is no age statement, no chill-filtering or any added colouring in either of them. I won’t do notes for both here but found a little more in The Muse. It was very much like trying a really good Chablis (original Hedonism) then nosing and tasting a slightly oaky, richer white burgundy in the Muse. Comparing new to old, there was more oak and toast and cologne on the nose; a touch of darker honey. Baked apple and brown sugar plus dried stone fruits. A wisp of clementine peel , vanilla, oak, walnuts and sweet spices. Warm butter and sweet notes. With water, it was still buttery with honey, slight oak toast, caramel sweetness and fresh walnuts or pecan nuts. On the palate it’s slightly unctuous and, despite the nose, a few more bitter notes than Hedonism’. Richer and drier at first but also nuts and some sweetness. Dabs of spiciness, rich cereal notes; butter and cream from the oak and also some astringency. I felt there was a little more to the nose than to the palate but still delicious. A good long finish. Only 3,060 bottles available worldwide.
A number of celebs seem to be getting in on the act of creating – or giving their names to – their own bottlings of wines or spirits. Latest up is Bob Dylan who is a behind new Tennessee whiskeys called Heaven’s Door. Dylan fans will get that one. There will be a bourbon, a double barrel whiskey and a straight rye whiskey in the range which will be available from May but only in selected US states for now. If you’re on holiday over there you might try some and let us all know what it’s like.
Back to the whiskies and two new offerings from Kilchoman. We have Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2018 (46% abv) ,matured in sherry wood and Kilchoman Port Cask Release (50% abv). The Loch Gorm 2018 has an arresting initial aroma of sweaty sock but it’s Islay so you know what to expect. We also have tar, peat smoke, iodine, medicinal notes but still a note of freshness and smoked meats and cereal. With water it’s a little creamier, bitter orange zest, some oak softness and then varnish notes’ warm waxy floor polish or candles left in a warm room. A more delicate smoke than without water but still tar and coffee bean. Slightly briny with eventually some sweet vanilla and honey. The palate is quite rich and unctuous; less harshly smoky on palate than on nose; smoked meats then a tiny ray of sweetness and charred wood; honey-cured smoky bacon. A long, smoky and tarry finish with some sweetness and toasted wood.
The Port Cask Release is well…pink! It’s like the rich onion skin colour of a rosé from the Rhone region of France. Lovely pink and orange tinges to it. It has a slightly flat nose at first which I’ve seen in other whiskies from port casks. This fades to a touch of that same sweaty sock, smoky and peated but softened a little by the port pipe. There’s a hint of red fruit and juiciness and some warm spices. With water there’s slightly more redcurrant, still that smoke and a slightly salty note too. On the palate there’s leafy red fruits. smoke, tar, spice and pepper; pear drops then dryness followed by embers and sweetness – smoked bacon and a touch of honey. It’s a bit lighter in character than the Loch Gorm, with a less unctuous mouth feel. A long, smoky and tarry finish but some liquorice sweetness too. Of the two, I preferred the Loch Gorm to drink but both would suit different drinking occasions or food matches.
News just in today that Tamdhu (owned by Ian Macleod Distillers) is releasing a Single Cask Distillery Team Edition to mark the distillery’s 120th anniversary. All fifteen people at the distillery had a hand in selecting the cask and the whisky is at cask strength and not chill-filtered. They use only oloroso sherry wood for Tamdhu so it should be nice and rich. Only 603 bottles are available as a distillery exclusive available at www.tamdhu.com for£250 a bottle. That’s actually not bad. Nine casks were sampled and the top three nosed and tasted blind again to see what came out best. This one is from a first-fill sherry butt. Also from Ian Macleod several weeks ago was a new expression of Smokehead called Smokehead High Voltage (58%abv) and it’s still an Islay single malt. Those of you who know Smokehead will know it’s the whisky equivalent of being a petrolhead but for smoky whiskies. There is also new packaging for the original Smokehead. Not had the chance to try this new one. It’s priced at around £54.99
Last tasting notes for this month are from the new Jura series. They’ve revamped the Jura offering under blender Gregg Glass and come up with 5 expressions from the entry level Journey to an 18 Year Old. I’m a big fan of Jura 16 so am sorry to see it go but there is plenty to appreciate here. The samples came in a delightful piece of packaging and I hope they’ll sell these to consumers for a little while to let them try before they buy any of the new offerings. I’m hoping to get an interview with blender and marketing team so will try to find out more on that soon. They’d be a great way of trying to taste your way up the range and see how a whisky develops with age and how different woods affect the spirit.
I tried a couple of these, including in two excellent cocktails at a bar launch in Glasgow about 3 weeks ago when top mixologists from several locations, including New York, were there to create great drinks. One of the things I’m working on right now is choosing the whiskies to match my annual dinner on Islay for the whisky festival at the end of May so I was keen to try these as soon as possible. I’ll cover only two of them this month – Journey and 10 Year Old. I did try Seven Wood at the launch but it was too crowded and noisy to sit and do a proper note. Enjoyable night, though.
So, Journey (40% abv), the entry level expression, though that phrase doesn’t indicate the great quality or “ripeness” here. It’s matured in American white oak, former bourbon barrels. There’s no age statement. On the nose you might expect vanilla from US bourbon oak but there’s not much at first. Left to sit a while, it becomes more evident. There are dried, light fruit notes of sultana and apricot and soft creamy touches. There’s a slight waxiness and a hint of mint (sometimes found in bourbons so the wood will have been responsible). They are all supposed to have subtle smoke but it wasn’t obvious to me in this. With water there’s a fruitier and sweeter nose and more by way of sweet spices. Candied orange peel; mildest honey. It sometimes helps to nose the glass again when it’s empty and here there was more vanilla and candied peel; rich fruit and ginger.
The palate held warm spices too; dried fruits, some vanilla, brown sugar, toasted oak and a wisp of smoke. Waxy and some fleeting notes of bitters too. Well rounded and subtle. A reasonably long finish with slight smoke, barley sugar, and final dryness.
Then on to 10 Year Old (40% abv). I didn’t compare this to the previous 10 Year Old and don’t yet know if it’s the same recipe. This one is matured in US white oak and then finished in oloroso sherry casks. It’s a richer and darker colour than Journey.
On the nose there’s some richer and more raisiny fruit which then opens out into fuller, richer fruit and darker honey than Journey. There’s the barest hint of sulphur then some citrus notes and subtle, enticing oak. With water, there’s a little more of a caramel scent; rich and mellow. Soft gentle peat smoke comes through here and still that hint of mint. Also some dark chocolate notes and honey. Richer fruit but also a pleasing freshness. On the palate it’s more obviously smoky than Journey but still subtle and well-integrated. There’s oak and char from the cask; burnt sugar hints and bitter chocolate. They say nectarine but I didn’t detect that. The finish is quite long with subtle smoke and a touch of coffee bean bitterness and oak char. So kudos to Whyte & Mackay for doing this and I hope to find out more later this month as well as doing a couple more tasting notes in next month’s column.
Last bit for today was inspired by something I saw about champagne. It’s known that certain types of popcorn match well with champagne and someone has “discovered” that chips (fries) also work well. Don’t know why it took them so long. However I have to say that in my (not) humble opinion, the match made in heaven for champagne is….Pringles. Now, what whisky would you choose to match Pringles? Would it be something dry and maybe a bit briny, something fresher and more floral or something sweeter to counteract the salt? I’d love to know your views.
Next month’s column will be up before I scoot over to Islay for Feis Ile on 30th May and I’d better get back to the menu I have to match. It’s a cracker again this year and I’m really looking forward to returning to Islay.