Whisky Al Fresco
There’s nothing better on a warm summers evening than sitting outside and enjoying a Wee Dram of whisky. Well, actually sitting outside in some lovely countryside enjoying a Wee Dram with friends, so that’s why around mid-summer each year we host an Al Fresco tasting evening. We go up to The Temple Hotel at Matlock Bath and enjoy the great views across the Derwent Valley – very tranquil and picturesque.
Now every year for the week before the tasting we spend every waking hour checking the weather reports on TV, Radio, Internet, iPhone, Gypsy Fortune Teller, and any old guy looking knowingly into the sky. We spend the day of the tasting bumping into things as we have to constantly look upwards with our hands out feeling for spots of rain. But this year none of that, for the first time we were certain of a wonderful hot sunny evening, if we had ordered in the weather especially for the evening we could not have done a better job.
We had chosen in honour of the weather a range of whiskies which we call Summer Sizzlers as they are all have to a greater or lesser extent more subtle and sophisticated flavours.
Tomintoul 10 years old – 40%, situated on Speyside actually in the Livet valley. Speyside is the area where most Malt whisky is made in Scotland. Between the Grampian Mountains and the Moray Firth, great area for making whisky – plenty of good quality water and in the old days the customs men could be seen coming from a long way off. Relatively young distillery opened in 1964, it’s owned by Angus Dundee Distillers and has a capacity of 3.3 million litres a year, so quite big. Tomintoul is the archetypal Summer whisky – it’s light and gentle with citrus fruits with a little bit of richer raisins or toffee, the body is creamy and a little oaky and a sweet finish.
Tullibardine 228 Burgundy Finish – 43%,again relatively young dating from 1949. Situated at Blackford, Perthshire, where in 1488 King James IV stopped on his way to his coronation to buy a beer. This was the first record of anyone buying beer. Since November 2011 the distillery has been owned by Picard Vins & Spiritueux a French wine and spirit business based in Burgundy.
They have just released a new range and seeing as they are from Burgundy I thought we should try the 228 Burgundy Finish, the last part of the Maturation has taken place in a cask that previously held Burgundy wine. The rich red wine flavours get into the wood and then find their way into the whisky. The difference between good and bad finishes is often down to the quality of the casks. I assume that Picard – who have been wine merchants since 1951 – should be able to source good quality Burgundy casks. The number 228 is the number of litres a Burgundy cask holds. The whisky has lovely subtly wine flavours and aromas, I find berries, strawberries and blackberries – summer fruits so very apt.
Glengoyne 18 years old – 43%. One of my favourite Distilleries and probably my favourite summer dram. This was the first distillery I ever visited. Situated not far north of Glasgow you can get there on the number 10 bus from Buchannan Bus station. It sits on the Highland line – the distillery is in the Highlands, the warehouse in the Lowlands just across the road. It is quite a small distillery making 1.1m litres of spirit a year so very cute. Owned by Ian Macleod Distillers who purchased it from Edrington in 2003 along with the Lang blend – Lang brothers brought the distillery in 1876 to ensure they got the malt for their blend. Since 2003 Macleods have increased sales from 190,000 bottles a year to 900,000 a year. Glengoyne is a light bodied spirit, they air dry the barley when malting so no smoke gets into the grain or spirit making a gentle sophisticated dram for the gentle sophisticated palates of nearby Glasgow.
This 18 is a relatively new bottling, aged in 1st fill bourbon and sherry casks which has given this a bigger body, or a rich luxurious mouth feel as it says on the bottle. More rich fruit cake, fruity with more vanilla and oak – still very easy drinking.
Tamdhu 10 years old – 40%. This is Ian Macleod distillers second distillery which they brought in 2011. This 10 year old, their first bottling since the takeover, has just been brought out in the past few weeks and so we were keen to try it. As soon as we had, we decided to include it in a tasting. Originally founded in 1896, it is a big distillery and can produce 4 million litres a year, although Macleod’s have only being running at about half that so far. They fill into first fill Sherry casks for single malt production – so going for premium malt. They also fill into Bourbon casks for whisky destined for blends.
This bottling has plenty of sherry influence, Spanish oak and dark chocolate and a much bigger warming finish. Now at this time on most Al Fresco tastings you do need a bit of warming, not so tonight – the Tamdhu was still exactly what we needed.
Ledaig – Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection – St Joseph Wood Finish – 45%. This whisky is made at Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull. They make two types of spirit – Tobermory, a light Highland style whisky, and this one – Ledaig a peaty version (30-40 Phenols PPM.) The Distillery was first opened in 1798 and was called Ledaig after the burn next to the distillery. At that time the whisky would have been a smoky, peaty dram. The distillery closed in 1930 a victim of depression, it briefly opened between 1972 & 1975, and then reopened under the name Tobermory in 1979. This is when they started making the more popular – at that time – lighter bodied style whisky which is today’s Tobermory. In 1996 the Master Blender for the owners Burn Stewart Ian Macmillan decided to recreate the original peaty whisky which we call Ledaig.
This bottling from independent bottlers Gordon & Macphail was distilled in 1993 – 18 years old and has been finished in St Joseph wine casks. St Josephs is in the northern Rhone region of France – quite light bodied Red. I think it gives a red berry, blackcurrant flavour and compliments the smoky flavours very well. Again more of a bigger finish.
Talisker Port Ruighe – 45.8%. As we are coming to the end of the evening we need a bigger bolder whisky to sip as the sun sinks slowly in the west, but still with some summery flavour. What better than a Talisker finished in a ruby port cask.
Talisker is the famous distillery situated on the Isle of Skye. Founded in 1830 by Hugh & Kenneth MacAskill. Today it’s owned by Diageo, the biggest drinks company in the world. This big bold whisky is made with peaty barley (18-20 phenols PPM, 5-7ppm in spirit).
This new bottling has a lovely red colour from the Port casks, which gives a more intense summer fruits flavour with much more weight to it – the mouth feel is much heavier, more blackberries and caramel. I think this is a great summer evening dram just big and bold enough for this time in the evening but still very summery, which just about sums up the evenings experience.