Winter Warmers Tasting February 2014

The Line Up In the depths of winter when the snow flies and the wind howls, when you come in from the cold there’s nothing warms both your body and spirit as much as a Wee Dram, or a large one come to that. That is why at this time of year we always do a tasting with some big bold warming whiskies with a finish to keep you warm until Easter.  We actually did this Tasting at The Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell, The British Legion in Hartington and The Three Cottages in Chesterfield so in all about 120 shared these warming Drams.

The Whiskies

Strathisla 12 – 40%.

Situated near Keith on the Eastern side of Speyside, this is one of Scotland’s prettiest distilleries, with lovely gardens and an old water wheel. Claims to be the oldest Licenced distillery in Scotland being licenced in 1786, actually it was built on the site of a Monastery Brewery dating back to the thirtieth century so there is 700 years history of alcohol production. It was originally called Milton Distillery changing its name to Strathisla in 1953. Situated near Keith on the Eastern side of Speyside. Today the distillery is owned by Chivas Brothers and forms the heart of the Chivas Regal blends. They have small stills with long necks to bring lots of different flavours and aromas.  This whisky is there new bottling of 12 y/o which came out last year – It’s quite rich fruity but still fairly light to medium bodied, at most tastings I would put it in about third in the The Colours running order, but it’s the lightest in this line up.

 

Glencadam 14 Oloroso Sherry Finish – 46%

This was the first time we had ever done a bottling from Glencadam.  A Highland Distillery founded in 1825, situated at Brechin in the Eastern side of Scotland.  Great part of Scotland, very fertile, good for growing barley. There used to be a lot of distilleries in this area North Port, Glenurgy, Lochside, Glenesk but all have gone except Glencadam. Most of these distilleries were small plants owned by big companies which closed them in the late 70’s and 80’s to cut cost. Although relatively small producing 1.3 million litres a year and owned by the large drinks firm Allied Domequ, Glencadam managed to survive and was brought by the small distilling group Angus Dundee Distillers in 2003. This bottling is finished – spends the last part of its maturation – in an ex-Oloroso sherry cask. They make a fragrant, floral style of whisky which picks up the flavours from an Oloroso sherry cask really well, sweet and succulent.

 

Amrut Fusion – 50%

Ok so in honour of the resent wet weather we thought we would like to try a whisky that’s had a lot of experience helping people get through the monsoon season. This is from Amrut Distillery founded in 1947 in Bangalore, India. The location is no accident the distillery is over 3000 feet above sea level, to escape some of the heat and humidity although they can still get temperatures of 36 degrees Centigrade. The angles share – the amount of spirit lost to evaporation each year - can be up to 16% per annum as opposed to Scotland’s 2% pa. However due to the heat the whisky does mature at a faster rate. Amrut use new and first fill American oak casks – a better class of wood than other Indian distillers. 2-5 years is a good age.  The barley comes from Rajasthan in the foot hills of the Himalayas better for growing. Unlike many Indian distilleries Amrut uses exclusively malted barley. Other distillers in India use Molasses, so they cannot be called whisky anywhere else in the world. This bottling is the award winning Fusion using some Scottish Barley and bottling at 50% alcohol. I think that Amrut is the best alcoholic beverage from the subcontinent.

 

Edradour Straight from the cask Port Finish – 55.7%

There is nothing like a whisky made in little stills to warm you up on a cold day. Because the stills are little there is less reflux, interaction with the copper still, so the spirit is heavy and full of complex flavours. No one has smaller stills than Edradour.

GuestsThis is a proper farm distillery situated near the town of Pitlochry and is very cute. Dates back to 1825, today it is owned by our friend Andrew Symington who also owns independent bottlers Signatory. Really old fashioned they only have 3 guys working the distillery and they all muck in together. Andrew is often found in overalls fixing the ancient machinery, regardless of whether the machinery need fixing or not. Just to make sure this is a big heavy whisky they use a worm tub rather than condensers gives more body.

This bottling is from The Straight from the Cask range – they literally sieve any bits of wood out and then measure it into a bottle leaving it at its natural cask strength. It has also benefited from being finished in Port Casks gives that rich berry flavours.

 

Ledaig 1996 Con. Choice – 46%

Made at Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull, they make both un peated and peated whisky here the Ledaig is the peated version which is the style of whisky that the distillery would have made when it was founded in 1798.It’s had quite a chequered history and has been closed and reopened about four times. The owners Burn Stewart distillers were having financial trouble but last year they were brought out by the South African Company Distell Group, they are now going great guns with turnover and profits up (30% & 50%).

This bottling is from Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice range and was distilled in 1996 which makes it 17 – 18  years old. Matured in re-fill American casks it has a sweet smokey flavour.

 

Ardbeg Uigeadail 54.2%

Ok so if your looking for winter warmers whiskies there is one that just screams at you “HERE I AM” that is of cause Ardbeg – and to my mind the warmingist (I may have made up that word) of the Ardbegs is Uigedail.

From the legendary Island of Islay, home to 8 of the world’s finest distilleries, and well known for earthy peaty whiskies. Ardbeg was founded in 1815 and produces 1.3million litres. It was closed in the 1980’s then from 1990 – 1996 the owners Allied Domec ran it for 3 months a year with their staff from nearby Laphroaig Distillery. In 1997 it was brought for £5.5m by the Glenmorangie company which spent another couple of million on it .Since then it has gone from strength to strength becoming an icon.

This bottling, named after Ardbeg’s water source Loch Uigeadail, may just be my favourite whisky, however the research is still incomplete. It has some older whisky which has been matured in ex -sherry casks, this tones down the peatyness and brings in rich fruit cake flavours.

Defiantly will keep you warm until Easter – well ok a couple of hour at least !

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