Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dublin On The Rise - Teeling Single Grain

Feeling Single Grain
I have been working the Teeling magic for sometime so it is about time I actually documented it officially. At our previous club(s) tasting I showed up the virtues of the Teeling Small Batch with its delicious rum cask finishing. Here I present the Teeling Single Grain. Quite simply liquid raspberry ice-cream. What a profile!

To begin though a wee bit about Teeling itself. Teeling is an old name in the Irish whiskey community with ties to whiskey production dating back to the 1780’s. Until recently all Teeling whiskey was being produced under the Cooley distilleries celling. Now, with the new Teeling distillery constructed and it’s doors about to open to the public, Dublin sees its first new distilled active in 125 years. Teeling's goal is “to revive the independent spirit of Dublin” through small batch releases of interesting and flavoursome bottlings.

This whisky, the Single Grain, has been an award winner since it saw release nabbing the title of World’s Best Grain at the World Whiskies Awards, 2014. With full maturation in Californian red wine barrels, the whiskey takes on a lush red berry nature. I have presented the Single Grain now in several public whisky tastings and can confirm it is a true crowd pleaser every single time.

As the name suggest it is single grain being primarily made of corn. There is a small amount of malted barely that goes into the mash in order to create a natural catalyst to start the sugar break down process. Under EU law a single grain can have up to 10% malted barley if required. You may start to associate corn with bourbon but let me tell you there is no resemblance except they are both whiskies. Corn is in fact one of the most widely used grains in the world for distillation and not just relegated to the bourbon industry as urban myth tells.

Teeling Single Grain
Distiller: Teeling Whiskey Company
Alcohol/ABV: 46%
Type: Single Grain
Region: Dublin, Ireland
Barrels: Californian Cabernet Sauvignon
Bottled: 10/2014

Nose: Light coffee, raspberries, creamy vanillas & spice mingling to make fresh liqueur white chocolate.

Taste: Soft rounded mouth feel that gets spicy with exciting mixed berry and vanilla ice cream.

Finish: High cardboard dryness with a medium heat that causes palate chew with lingering sweetness.

Overall this is an amazing whiskey and oh so well priced at $64.00AU a bottle. Considering it is coming in at 46% ABV, displaying excellent packaging, and outstanding spirit quality, makes it a sure winner. If I was to give a dram an easy 6 out of 7. It may have taken some time since the end of Prohibition in the US which caused the decay of the Irish whiskey market but, I think we can surely say Irish is on the rise again with crackers like this.

At this time Teeling it is only available by the bottle through Dan Murphy’s but will now also be seen over bar tops too. Keep an eye out for the Teeling Small Batch (review to come), Single Malt, and 21 Year Old.

The Baron.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Whisky Round Up - Whisky Show Sydney 2015

The Whisky Show Sydney 2015 has now passed and some of us D.T.W.C. members made an appearance once more.

We have been attending The Whisky Show for many years now and have seen some significant changes as the format builds. For a whisky event it is well priced and the first of the major showcases to be appearing on Sydney's whisky calendar each year.

Held at the Stamford Plaza, Sydney Airport, Mascot, this show saw 3 main event times running from: Friday 4pm to 8pm; Saturday 12pm to 4pm; Saturday 5pm to 9pm. Friday evening was certainly the time to go with approx 250 attendees, while Saturday saw max capacity crowds of 500 attendees at both sessions.

In the time I spent at the show I found the selections of whiskies underwhelming, but when I have tasted as many whiskies as I have through the years this can be expected. There was some crackers to be had and some new releases raising their heads including tasting of the limited re-release Laphroaig 15yo. This is not the 15yo you may remember. It had a very high dryness and flatness to the palate.

For the Brown-Forman appreciators the new Woodford Reserve Double Oaked was a big winner as was the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Finish (hows that for a title), followed by a very popular Jack Daniels Sinatra Select.

Pernod Ricard unveiled the plans of scrapping the classic Glenlivet 12yo from our Aussie shelves and replacing with the less than impressive Founder’s Reserve which left a heavy heart for myself. Find out more about my thoughts on this here: RIP to a classic. My sorrows were cradled by tasting the Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso packing a punch at 60.7% ABV with a fabulous array of cinnamon, dark chocolate, honey and apricots.

I was mightily impressed with the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon at 55% ABV from Wild Turkey. I will be looking forward to seeing this on our shelves later this year.

For the first time Gentleman’s Cabinet set up shop with a range of Cuban cigars that quite literally flew off the table. I was enviously watching as punters wandered the crowd nosing a cigar while sipping a whisky. No question I will be doing that next year!

Also on display was the new Denver & Liely Whisky Glass. I had been hearing a lot of talk over the last few months on its release and know a few people who have invested the dollars in buying one or tow glasses. Designed to allow multiple nosing levels of appreciation by matching the size of a tumbler to the nose of a sniffer. The concept is certainly interesting to contemplate. On picking up a glass though the weight alone made me shift uncomfortably as it felt awkward and unbalanced. As it was during the break I had a full 30ml of Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso so I transferred my sample into the D&L glass for an experiment . The nose was clearly lessened and no matter how much I was being told this was an enhancement I failed to find it. Wrong environment to really be testing the idea so I will shelf opinions until I can borrow one at some stage. At $50 for a glass it is too pricy to discover I don't like it. Looks fantastic though, especially on a black table cloth and very impressive from a distance. Well done to the Aussie lads for taking on the world with this one.

Lastly we sampled the Starward Shiraz Wine Cask which was delicious and confusing at the same time. Big flavours typical of a heavy sherry cask whisky exploded in the mouth while the stewed bananas, typical of starward single malt, settled in the background. Considering the standard Starward Single Malt is actually the true sherry cask leaves you wondering how long before wine cask truly overtakes sherry in the global market. Go Australia!

Moët Hennessy had a Ardbeg vaporiser on hand to effectively allow you to inhale Ardbeg 10yo. What is not to love about that?

Our biggest gripe is the location. It just takes too long and it is too far to make your way out to Mascot. Trains through to the airport are expensive each way and busses easily can take over an hour too and from the city with no direct routes outside the city centre.

Access to food in the area is limited to just the inflated prices in the hotels restaurant or a 10min walk to the McDonalds. The Whisky Show have solved some of the food problems in the past with a food bag which guarantees everyone gets their share. Well done on this part.

I would allspice to point out the much more amped up security and restrictions on drunken behaviour this year by the staff at The Whisky Show. Really obviously and tight. I only experienced one or 2 rather intoxicated individuals while serving at the event and as a punter. Well done on this part no doubt.

Overall a great event was had and a fair few whiskies were on show. Things were let down though by what felt like a poor vendor turn out as their presence was clearly down. On the positive side the vendors that were there were swamped beyond belief. I should know as I was helping serve on the  Brown-Forman table during both Saturday sessions.

The Baron

Monday, May 18, 2015

RIP to a classic – The Glenlivet 12yo on the way out fast

Move over The Glenlivet 12 Year Old. In time your memory will fade.

For those not aware the classic Glenlivet 12yo has been confirmed to be leaving Australian shores and being replaced with a less than interesting Founder’s Reserve expression. Though we knew some markets would be losing it, I personally did not think Australia would be one of them. Hell we are a small country, could we impact that greatly on stocks? Well it seems this is not an aged stock issue at all. I had heard rumour of Australia taking the hit but, hearing it from the Pernod Ricard reps confirms without doubt.

In my tasting experience, at the recent Whisky Show Sydney, I found the Founder's Reserve to be a poor substitute for such a classic whisky. Pernod Ricard sight that an educated market does not need to have age statement whiskies anymore but, can appreciate a whisky without knowing how old it is!! No wait should that not be the other way around?

Let as not mistake the fact I like many NAS (No Age Statement) whiskies and in fact there is probably more I can appreciate than not. This issue though is not about low stocks nor about a replacement with a better product. The point is it is an iconic whisky of exceptional quality at a great price point now being replaced with a more expensive, lower grade product in taste and texture.

I can see this as a bit of a reaction by Pernod Ricard wanting to maintain market shares as they lose ground in an expanding global market. Reports have continued to circulate that there is not an aged stock issue driving this move. An interesting article written by Oliver Kilmek over at Dramming.com, written back in Feb 2015 when the news first hit, covered off many of these issues. I suggest you have a read.

I can imagine that these big players will in fact return to age statement whiskies soon enough once our markets are flooded with NAS whiskies by the micro distillers popping up. Unfortunately the damage may have already been done. Remember what has happened to the general feeling now on The Macallan 1824 Series core NAS range in Australia. Big price, flat profile.

It it a real pity to be seeing this happen so if you a keen Glenlivet 12yo enthusiast, start buying a few cases now. Yes a few cases and pop them in the cellar. Though it will still be available in some markets you can imagine the price increase locally will increase significantly once the removal occurs in much the same way as when the JW Green label also left our shores.

How long before we see the 15yo and 18yo also disappear? The Glenlivet are going to have to start working pretty hard to win me over on this issue. In the meantime I have started stocking up.

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the Glenlivet website. We have not been supplied any official press information on the release of the Founder's Reserve. All views and opinions are our own unless otherwise stated. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

For Charity – Glenfiddich Original Masterclass

Official image taken from the Glenfiddich website.
Have you tasted the new release of Glenfiddich The Original? William Grant & Son's Australia are putting on a  series of masterclasses here in Sydney to get you to grips with this throwback release. To be held over a series of days, all proceeds from the classes go to the Soldier On Charity. Following is the official extract on the promotion:

To celebrate the launch of Glenfiddich The Original we are hosting a series of masterclasses. Sampling the Glenfiddich range from the 12 year old to the 21 year old, including of course a tasting of The Original. This will be one of the first opportunities to taste this unique limited edition whisky. All proceeds will be going to www.soldieron.org.au a charity caring for physically and psychologically wounded members of our defence force.
If you have been following our tastings with William Grant & Son's over the few years you will note their level of hospitality and generosity in public engagement is next to none.

Cost is $25 and the location is the Lord Dudley Hotel, 236 Jersey Road , Woollahra, NSW 2025 Australia. Dates are from 4th June until 7th June. Complete times can be found on the event bookings page here.

We will be there. Will you?

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the Glenfiddich facebook page.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Register Now - Ardbeg Day 2015 Sydney

Official image from Ardbegwhisky.com.au website
Ardbeg Day is upon us and registrations have now been released to public. Over the last couple of months we have been keeping you up to date on various piece son info that is slowly being released about Ardbeg Day 2015. In the official words on Ardbeg Day 2015 form the rego site:
This year celebrates 200 years of Ardbeg. TIMES CHANGE. ARDBEG REMAINS. We would love you to join us at our major event in Sydney or at one of our seven Ardbeg Embassies, to raise a glass to the next 200 years!
If your in Sydney Australia on the 30th May be sure to register here at the Ardbeg site. If your in one of the other capital cities you can find out more about what the Ardbeg Embassies are doing also at the registration page. But for a short overview below is the official listing at this moment:

  • Melbourne – Whisky and Alement, 270 Russell Street Melbourne. 3pm-late
  • Melbourne – The Killburn, 348 Burwood Road Hawthorn. 6pm-late
  • Melbourne – 1806, 169 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. 7pm-10pm
  • Sydney – World of Whisky, g12/2 Knox Street, Double Bay. 12pm-4pm
  • Sydney – Stitch Bar , 61 York Street, Sydney. 4pm - late
  • Brisbane – The Gresham, 308 Queen Street, Brisbane. 3pm-late
  • Perth – Helvetica, 101 St Georges Tce, Perth. 3pm - late

We have seen consecutive years of fun and frolics at Ardbeg Day with anyone who is anyone loving whisky setting aside this day each year regardless of commitments. At these events you will discover the event release bottling on tasting, just about all the standard release Ardbeg's on tasting, specially created Ardbeg Cocktails, great food (there always seems to be a roasted pig on a spit), fun games, and each and everyone person attending a genuine lover of Ardbeg.

If you want to discover what goes on at an Ardbeg Day read up on our previous posts: A Day Gone & A Day To Come - Ardbeg Day 2014; What A Day - Ardbog Day Sydney 2013.

Your best bet to stay informed about when the registrations will be next year, then be sure to sign up as a Ardbeg Committee Member. It is free and the reward is truly worth it.

Hope to see you there!

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the Ardbegwhisky.com.au website.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Big, Bold & Thick – Wild Turkey Forgiven

Wild Turkey Forgiven
Released back in 2013, we have not seen this on the shelves in the local area for a while. I thought it time I had finally gotten around to opening and reviewing the Wild Turkey Forgiven. Now that I have, I wish I had grabbed another bottle.

This whiskies story is all in the name. As it goes a batch of Wild Turkey Bourbon and a batch Rye was accidentally vatted together by distillery workers through the misfortune of linking the wrong pump. Luckily this accidental marriage did not have devastating results so they, the workers, were “forgiven” for the mistake by the master distiller. I am sure there where a few tweaks and twists to level out the blend but the end result is this limited edition Small Batch Bourbon & Rye Straight Whiskey. Displayed in a lovely bottle very similar to that of the Wild Turkey Rare Breed, this small batch bourbon is not hard to miss (if you can still find one).

Wild Turkey Forgiven
Distiller: Wild Turkey
Alcohol/ABV: 45.5%
Type: Bourbon and Rye Blend
Batch: 302

Nose: Powerful and rich with lots of fresh sawn toasted oak goodness combined with honey, brown sugar and a spicy tickle. This is a whisky you can nose for a long time.

Taste: Big, bold & thick. Rich oak sugars with subtle plays of woody earthy tannins and burnt toffee. Very quickly a big cinnamon spice prickle begins throughout the palate lasting indefinitely it would seem.

Finish: Long and drawing well balanced between the sweetness on the mouth and the dry heat in the chest. It leaves a really spice assault on lips and tip pf the tongue minutes after sipping.

Overall: A really enjoyable small batch bourbon with a good depth of complexity to keep you on your toes. The intensity is right up there so I can see why it has been left to a small batch release. If I was to give a dram 6 out of 7.

I found this whisky excellent for cooking with and matching to BBQ ribs when not dreaming on the back deck. You will not find this whisky displayed on the Wild Turkey website anymore so it may be we won’t be seeing it again anytime soon. If you do find a bottle on the shelf, certainly pick one up to try. I is worth the adventure.

The Baron

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Forward Thinking – Starward Whisky

Starward Single malt Whisky
These days the term New World Whisky isn’t just a phrase to be used anymore for whiskies outside of the generic Scottish, Irish and US whisky definitions. For sometime now here in Australia it is also a term we have learnt to associate with a distillery. That distillery is New World Whisky Distillery. Great idea for a name at the time as they appeared just before the massive boom in world whisky, but in hind sight also now confusing as the name falls into common phrase. How do we work around it? Well you could just use the letters NW as appears on the distilleries bottles, or more often than not I hear the name Starward Distillery in association but which is in fact inaccurate. Starward, the name of the whisky this post will be reviewing, is actually an expression of whisky produced by NW and clearly not the name of the distillery.

To ramble on a bit more about NW for those not yet delved into this distillery, New World Whisky Distillery is Melbourne based, born out the mind of founder David Vitale with an idea to develop a modern whisky, or as the distilleries byline suggests “Combining the best of old & new”. Active since 2004, NW have hit the scene running and released its first expression, Starward Whisky, 4 years or so later. I have never met David (not even at a tasting as I always miss the visits to Sydney), and though we chatted on rare occasion over Twitter, I would hope to meet the man himself and ,pre of the team hopefully someday soon. I would use the pun “our stars have not yet aligned” (boom tish) but that would really be cheesy and I am sure the cringe. not having met is a good excuse to get to the distillery at some stage for sure because there is a hell of lot going on down there at that. To digress a wee bit further NW have a reputation for big ideas and experimentation. This post is focusing on the standard release Starward but there is some wonderful ideas coming out of this distillery that can only be left for another time. Look into them if you have not already and watch the progress.

Up-start or start-ups it seems any new distillery (at this time) do not have to try and muscle in on the big boys anymore to get noticed. Why try to make a Scotch style whisky when you can just make your style whisky. Back in the early 2000’s the earlier Australian distilleries often talked about establishing a whisky based on a Scotch they liked. Not a line towed much anymore though I can see some of the reasoning for it. It was pretty hard to convince anyone back then Australia made whisky at all. Now we as consumers want and look for difference. It almost seems like simply doing something alternate will get the attention need right? Not really as you still have to do it well. I am not a distiller, I wish I was, but I am not and I can barely brew beer well in my back room. What I do know about making whisky here in Aus is our climate is a pain in the bum to work with. Too dry, too humid, too fluctuate, and just too bloody Australian. Our current whisky laws force all Australian whisky to be aged for at least 2 years. 2 years is a long time and not just from an economical point of view. Our environment really puts stress on the spirt and wood in that period but the dictation means it is just not going to be called whisky unless you can stretch the maturation point out that far. Our laws need to change to fix this issue. Until that time distilleries like NW need to go with it and that is what NW is really achieving with Starward.

Kudos to NW for the pricing structure. It is a rare thing to be able to get your fingers on an Australian whisky under $100. Starward is hitting the mark at $79.99. It would love to see it in the $50 ranks but Australian taxes suck at best and a crippling agent for achievable pricing. Also here is whisky in completely aged in Australian Apera wood (we cannot call it sherry in Austrian anymore) that is not a ridiculous sherry bomb or displaying that hard core rain sweetness. Yes! The label on the other hand I can see as a downside to face time on a shelf. I like it but I also know how consumers think. As a designer by trade I am all over these kinds of creatives as it delivers freshness to a shelf but, I also know how much of hard slog it is to go against expectations. Don't be put off by the label as it is just being different without being stupid. In time I think it will be appreciated much more.

Starward is, as far as I am told by some with relations to the distillery, a 2yo to 2 1/2 year old whisky at most. This youth is clear in the adolescent puppy fat aromas while the palate puffs out its chest and explodes with boyish pride. Our mainland environment seems to make young whiskies thick headed and in many ways this is a good thing. It defines the region. Bananas are a common theme in all NW whiskies I have tried (and it is only a few) and this can be off putting to a seasoned whisky drinker looking for oak refinement. I can say I often do not find the green banana effect great either but I sense a change in Starward. I do not use that term green bananas lightly either when speaking about Starward historically. Over the past few years through various tastings, reviewing my old notes and drawing on memories, I have always sensed an extremely green banana nose. Even through this I have persisted with Starward and try it again at every opportunity. They are young, things change and recently something has appeared to round out more. As I had discovered at a tasting recently the thought stuck saying “that’s different”. Soon after I went to my local Dan Murphy’s, as I knew they had a much older opened bottle, and tasted again. My exploration of this old bottle displayed a much greener banana nose. "yes" I thought "this is what I remember it as... so what did I have the other day". At this point I had to by a new bottle and put it to the test.

Starward
Distiller: NW / New World Whisky Distillery
Alcohol/ABV: 43%
Type: Single Malt
Barrels: re-coopered Apera (formerly known as simply sherry)

Colour: Maple syrup

Nose: At first fruity alcohol is vaporous and even a bit tenacious as it seems to just cling to the cereal caramel cliffs while the mildest traces of aniseed whip past and into the throat. Give it some time or have a wee sip and warm butter grilled banana bread with a dusting of icing sugar chews at the senses. No really… that is exactly what it tastes like for me. I challenge you to go make some banana bread then grill it with butter and you will know what I mean.

Taste: Very much toasted cereals tending towards warm overripe bananas, caramelised brown sugar and bacon fat and an effect of condensed milk sweetness. A wine chew that is mouth filling with a mild prickle developing on the lips.

Finish: Remarkably long with a fist fight between dry alcohols and maples syrup textures while a medium heat draws in the lower chest to cheer them on.

Overall this whisky (or at least this bottle) is well filling. Big bold textures with quiff of slicked flavours. Much like a greaser of the 1950’s it is certainly a young lad deliberately going against urban grounding and looking to make his place known. An iconic 30yo Marlon Brando would be much impressed by the harley this chap is riding into town. At this point I will give it a 5 out of 7 on the D.T.W.C. scale. In fact it would be higher because pricing is great but the shear fact I don’t know if this flavour shift is a pattern for the future or simply my appreciation changing that gives me reservation. I know if I was reading this as an interested party and I was to omit the intro and score I would be thinking “hell yes”.

Really looking forward to the new Starward Wine Cask ongoing expression recently announced and of course some of the insane experiments that get such cult favour.

The Baron.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Return to sender - Buntin Is Back (for wee bit)

Daniel and James at The Whisky Room
It is good to see old friends, especially those that are on an extended hiatus from our local whisky community to follow bigger dreams.

The past week has seen the legend James Buntin, now Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie UK, return to our shores for a dramming holiday. The evening of the 26th May 2015 saw James hustle up a small group or mates to hang out at The Clock Hotel’s Whisky Room to dram on with some tales and adventures, while tasting some extra special whiskies he dog dropped straight from 2 selected Balvenie barrels only a week or so before.

The Whisky Room, run by the ever suave Daniel Molnar, is one of those locations you look forward to visiting even if it is just for pint of craft brew. Located in the upper floor of The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills, The Whisky Room is an open bar with high ceilings, masses of natural light, green space, floor to ceiling windows and plenty of room to breath the clean air. One of the things I especially love about the bar is the rib high tables and comfortable stools. The height of the tables and stools deliver a well measured amount of social interaction and movement keeping noise levels to a minimum. Something missing from many of the dungeoned whisky bars around Sydney. If you have not been to The Whisky Room then I suggest getting over there at least once. Selections of whisky is ample and reasonably priced. Cold beers on tap, fantastic service matched to quality bar grub really makes it worth the trip each time. The hot tip for when visiting is order your food at The Whisky Room bar top and it will be delivered to your table.

The Balvenie 41yo Bourbon Cask and The Balvenie 33yo Sherry Cask
As we kicked backed to shoot the breeze James pulled a few tasty Balvenie samples from his bag for us to indulge in. Both drawn straight from the cask was a very exciting 33yo Sherry Cask and a 41yo Bourbon Cask. Always good be drinking something older than myself (only just) the Bourbon Cask had an ABV of was still a whopping 53.7% and offered malty creamy woody and coffee notes while still holding its own as a Balvenie expression. I was very impressed with this whisky especially for its age. The 33yo sherry cask was an exceptionally interesting whisky with some real balance still holding up against the intense sherry influence. With an ABV of 48.6% the colour was like syrup and though marginal getting over the hill (in my view) as the older woody mothballs start peaking in over those leather chairs, the raisins and rich dark cherries were sublime against the still retained grape sugars. A bit of chew meant this delivered a long mouth finish.

Always good to see El Buntin in our midst, it was also great to see so many of the Sydney whisky community turn out and I am certain it was not for the whisky.

I am sure one day the UK will be posting James back to us but until then a big thanks for the invite and hats off to Daniel for opening up The Whisky Room (again) to the Sydney rabble.

The Baron

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Future Comes - Ardbeg Day 2015

Ardbeg Perpetuum - Image sourced Ardbeg.com
Ardbeg Day 2015 is coming and it looks like robots could be on the cards? Ok maybe not robots but prosthetic limbs judging by the promotions to date.

For those not an Ardbeg Committee Member, and I am guessing this is very few, you will know that the the coming Ardbeg Day sees a special expression release each and every year. This year it is the Ardbeg Perpetuum.

What does this release mean? Well at this point very little has been made available on what profile this whisky is to have. Previous years have seen a pretty blurred line in genuine stand out uniqueness to the general releases of Ardbeg. I have always seen it as a celebration of Ardbeg rather than a some rarity in bottling sort after for years to come. A whisky to enjoy on the day.

This Ardbeg Day event, scheduled for the 30th May 2015, is always something to attend and never to be missed (if you can help it). This day (traditionally free to attend) is for Ardbeg lovers the world over with events held in various cities the world over. There is always festivities. There is always fun. There is always Ardbeg whisky.  To find out when this event registrations are to happen and what cities, be sure to sign up as a Committee Member so you don't miss out. It costs you nothing to register and the emails are few and far between so no spam in your inbox.

If you want to discover what goes on at an Ardbeg Day read up on our previous posts: A Day Gone & A Day To Come - Ardbeg Day 2014; What A Day - Ardbog Day Sydney 2013.

Very much looking forward to this years event and what the future is to bring.

The Baron

This is a non-sponsord announcement. For any further details please defer to the Ardbeg website.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What do you use? - A Quick View Of Whisky Glassware

Displaying a wide range of glassware all with a 30ml dram fill. Image courtesy of Dramnation.
So there is no do’s & don’ts when it comes to a whisky glass. Not really anyway but there are some rules to apply to help guide you through. In time as your appreciation balloons, so too you will discover what is right for you.

For myself over time I have collected a fair range of glasses for personal use and or collected as gifts from distillers. What I have always found is that I narrow back towards one particular glass. My personal favourite is the fluted stem glass otherwise know as a Copita. We shall get to why that is my personal favourite later on.

There are many glasses on the market that will reign confusion, but what you really need to consider is how you hold a glass, nose the contents, and take your whisky ie. neat, iced, watered or stoned. Following are primary considerations for glass choice:

1. Do you like to hold your whisky to the light to look at the colour and viscosity (the legs that form around the sides of the glass)? Eyeballing the glass contents is a beautiful experience and one most whisky appreciators do naturally.

2. You may also be refilling your glass many times in a sitting so keeping the glass clear of finger prints can be important also (return to item 1. eyeballing). Who likes a grubby glass filled with a 21yo you Glenfiddich?

3. When holding a glass heat will also transfer into the liquid from your warm fingers. Typically fine crystal and brandy balloons are specifically designed to do just that but not everyone likes warm whisky.

4. Neat, on the rocks, ice balls, icebergs, and whisky stones to name but a few, will also determine the durability, weight and mouth opening of a glass. It is embarrassing to pour a glass of whisky only to fined you can’t fit a whisky ball into the opening or the ice swarms up the edges and blocks the mouth at every sip. Wide mouths open the aromas and dissipate intense alcohol burn while a narrow mouth intensifies flavours and alcohol.

These factors, regardless if you care for them or not, will pull you choices one way or the other. When you start attending whisky tastings (if your not already), watch how often others offer extensive experience manage the glassware as it can make for interesting viewing and education.

The Ardbeg tulip copita, Glenmorangie stemmed copita, Riedel Whisky tumblerImage courtesy of Dramnation.
Nosing whisky is pretty obvious in what that means. Bringing the glass to the nose, take in the vaporous aromas lifting off the whisky, and indulge the senses. Alcohol is a big factor in delivering the level of these aromas. By concentrating these aromas you will bring all the scents and notes typically recognised by that whisky into your system. A glass with a tapered mouth will deliver a concentration of these notes, while an open wide mouth allows the those notes to dissipate if they are too intense. Typically you will see Scotch whisky in served in a tapered mouth while a Bourbon whiskey is delivered in an open mouthed glass (don't take that as gospel though as it is just an observation). To get even more geeky, and even if you do not realise it yet, most people will have one nostril more sensitive than the other. Using a tapered mouthed glass can make it much easier to shift the scents to the favoured nostril. Many distillers release their own style of glasses so take note of this as it is clear indication what the master distiller is intending your experience to be.

The Glencairn Whisky Glass, Riedel Cognac XO,  Riedel Single Malt Whisky ThistleImage courtesy of Dramnation.
How you take your whisky can relate to the volume pored, is there ice or whisky stones, will water be added, or is the whisky taken neat. Consider volume first and what your pour naturally is. A 30ml dram/pour is typical and is easily recognisable as it generally fills to the centre bulb of a 120ml copita glass. 30ml in a tumbler barely breaks the bottom of the glass so you naturally fill the glass more, especially when adding ice. Ice or whisky stones will lean whisky to be served in a tumbler as noted in item 4. A large piece of ice is preferable to many smaller pieces as it does not melt off as quick. This in turn means a wider mouth to the glass to fit the ice cube. Whisky stones, as great an idea as they seem, do weigh a lot. Adding them to a stemmed copita will create the top heavy effect and the floor will be wearing your precious liquid at the slightest knock.

Look towards the images displayed through out this article. Each glass holds exactly the same measure of 30ml liquid. This displays a visual consideration as some are full while others look almost empty. When you have a guest over and wish to pour them a precious dram of your much loved whisky, you certainly don’t want them feeling stiffed after being handed a near empty tumbler. Considering what you should use at these times also can have consequences.

Glass vs crystal? Honestly that is your preference. Glass is durable while crystal can either be thick and heavy or fine and very breakable. This really comes down to a personal choice. Chances of lead leaching is not a factor though urban myths fable that you will slowly poison yourself.

The Glenmorangie Tumbler, Classic 120ml Stemmed Copita, SMWS Society GlassImage courtesy of Dramnation.
Without getting into lectures about what glass is better I’ll describe just what my natural selection is for a whisky glass. My personal choice is a 120ml stemmed copita glass with a tapered mouth. This style delivers a full looking glass with a 30ml measure, concentrates the aromas, stops heat transfer and grubby marks, and displays the whisky in the best light. If the situation requires more stability or I am walking around at a garden party then a more stubby based copita such as a Glencairn Whisky Glass will work fine. As much as crystal feels nice I avoid its use because I just break them too often. Crystal gets expensive. Spot the branded Glenfiddich glass amongst the images as this is my ideal all rounder whisky glass. Overall I have a glass for almost every situation but the reality is 95% of the time I reach for just one. On a special occasion I go for the Riedel Cognac XO stemmed copita.

In time you will find what is right for you and I am sure you will also build up a nice collection of glassware to share around. Fill your shelf with six of your favourite style as this will often be enough combined with a few special occasion glasses to see you through a few drams with mates.

Matt Wooler - Dramnation

Note: This article was originally written by Matt Wooler for Dramnation and has appeared on Watch & Whisky.