Monthly Archives: July 2017

Tasting Notes: The Pogues Irish Whiskey

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The Pogues Irish Whiskey

Released by West Cork Distillers, The Pogues Irish Whiskey is a blended whiskey that has been matured in oak barrels for just three years and one day (i.e. exactly as long as needed to technically call it “whiskey”). The packaging notes that the whiskey is “bottled by West Cork Distillers”, but being a blend and without a statement to the effect, there is no apparent information as to whether or not it is crafted and distilled there too – but you’d hope so! The blend is reportedly a 50:50 split of grain and malt Irish whiskies and was crafted by two entrants in the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame: Irish master blender Barry Walsh and longtime Springbank maestro Frank McHardy. The packaging and bottle is branded with The Pogues lyric “I am going where streams of whiskey are flowing”, so with that, let’s pour some and get it flowing…

ABV: 40%

 

Nose
M: So many woody smells in there and a sweet lingering something. It’s kinda oaky, kinda piney, kinda something else. Whatever it is, it stands out.

Taste
M: A bit harsh upfront with the booze but the woody flavours fade away to some vanilla sweetness. Slightly orangey towards the end.

Finish
M: A decent coating of the throat but the flavours do not really hang around. It’s a chest warming boozy delivery but thankfully, without burning a hole though it.

Verdict
A totally woody nose (which is surprising given its young, young age), which makes way for sweet vanilla, chewy malts and gentle fruit. The classic Irish whiskey ‘mouthfeel’ is there (just) with a little fruit and spice along the way. A touch of water helped to tame the harsher delivery, and whilst it didn’t reveal any other flavours, it did bring out the vanilla sweetness a bit more. It’s an enjoyable sipping whiskey. I’ve grown up with The Pogues’ music accompanying many a boozy evening and was hoping that they wouldn’t put their name to something terrible… and they haven’t. It didn’t blow my mind or anything like that but it wasn’t unpleasant in any way either, but that’s just personal opinion. The fact that it has some slick branding behind it and the backing of an Irish musical and cultural institution will undoubtedly shift the units and I’d be surprised if there were not further releases or variants of this made in the future, following its initial decent sales and positive reviews. At the price point for a good Irish whiskey, it would certainly make for a good gift too… particularly for when the bells are ringing out…

Categories: Tasting Notes, The Pogues, West Cork Distillers | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Highland Park 12: New Outside, Same Inside?

Riddle me this: I have a Viking soul and Victorian history. I am old, new and 12 years old all at once. What am I?

 

You could forgive Highland Park for resting on its laurels. They are one of the most successful whisky brands around–their bottles have always stood out on bar and store shelves alike. With a long history dating to 1798 (the Victorian history) and tapping into the heritage of Orkney Island (the Viking soul) has been the equivalent of marketing gold. Who doesn’t like a Celtic swirl, a nod to the Vikings? The distillery’s stylised “h” is iconic. Not to mention their whiskies are pretty good, especially the 12 year old, which combines fine flavours with a wee peaty punch, all at a very decent price.

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Highland Park 12 – Out With The Old

But if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards–isn’t that what they say? Highland Park must be listening because they have undergone a bit of a transformation of late. It started with a new Travel Retail Exclusive range, of which you can see our thoughts on here.

 

The distillery’s widely successful 12 year old has not escaped a reboot. From box to bottle it is reborn. Gone is the curved, flask shape packaging, along with matching bottle shape. A more traditional, squared box replaces it. But the real change is in the styling. Where there was empty black space, the box is adorned with a raised silver Celtic design–a deer amidst all the swirls and knots you could ever want. Like a “magic eye” picture, look long enough and the famous “h” appears. Splashed all over is text pertaining to “viking honour” and “reflections of ancestors”. The usual distillery marketing blurb on the back is accompanied by more design and the now ubiquitous social media icons.

 

The bottle itself is now tapered, with a wider bottom than top. If Celtic imagery is your thing, then this bottle is a sensual awakening: raised on its front is more knots and the famous ‘h’ once again. Very pleasing to the touch.

 

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Highland Park 12 – New Bottle

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a bit of “Viking soul” (who isn’t?). However, we have clearly ventured into some kind of Game-of-Thrones-meets-Viking-marketing-whisky mash-up. This rebranding is meant to grab your attention and pick it up, especially for the gift buyer. Well, it got my attention. Not so much for the Viking font and squiggles but because I had to know: is it the same on the inside? Let’s find out:

 

The nose is candied fruit and vanilla pods. A hint of peat is discernible of things to come…

 

Fruit cake bounces on the tongue with all its marzipan and raisins, wrapped up in honey. So far so good…

 

And then there it is, the Highland Park 12 coup de grâce: a deep (for a 12 year old) and smoky finish, with embers rising to keep you warm any day of the year.

 

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Highland Park 12 – New Packaging

Highland Park 12 was one of the whiskies that hooked me into this world. It’s accessible, with simple, discernible flavours that belie a deeper finish. It’s in my pantheon of whisky; one of my desert island drams. I love it for its versatility, its adaptability to any whisky drinking session. Who knows, maybe deep down I’m a sucker for Viking soul.

 

So, I’m happy to report that Highland Park 12, with its Viking soul, Victorian history and updated marketing may be new on the outside, but it’s business as usual on the inside.

 

SF

Categories: Whisky Waffling, Tasting Notes, Highland Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tasting Notes: Glen Scotia 16

Glen Scotia 16yo

Glen Scotia distillery is based in the “Victorian Whisky Capital of the World” Campbeltown. It is one of the three remaining functioning distilleries in the town and claims to still focus on creating the same characteristics of the single malts that made the region so famous in the 1800s. The distillery was recently bought by the Loch Lomond group, which is just down the road – albeit that round is the A83 and is some snaking 100 miles long! The 16 year old whisky is labelled as a special edition and was recently launched as a ‘travel retail only’ expression, thus making it a little more difficult to get hold of and a little more expensive than it’s 15 year old sibling from their core range. The whisky has been “gently matured” in a mix of Bourbon and American Oak casks. 

ABV 46%


Nose

M: Very delicate. Very light. There’s a combination of super sweet smells plus a really floral scent that reminds me of parma violets. A little bit of saltiness too.

S: Some kinda mint choc chip ice creaminess and moscavado sugar.

Taste

M: That sweet floral tang becomes a zingy sherbet and spice which eases up to a more buttery flavour – like the end bit of a Werther’s Original?!

S: Really sweet and fruity, like candied oranges.

Finish

M: So fresh and so clean. Sugary sweets melt and leave some salted milk chocolate on the way out.

S: Those sweet flavours tail off and leaves that kinda piney woody finish.

Verdict

M: This whisky is like a sweet sweet dessert, but without being filling or heavy. The flavours really remind me of a whole bunch of different childhood favourite sweets, but with a touch of saltiness and plenty of booze to boot! It’s quite an unusual single malt experience to come across when you’re used to big, deep, and dark flavours from whisky that’s been in a barrel for 16 years. I could get through a lot of this stuff. It has left me wanting more, and the supporting Campbeltown story has got me even more intrigued in the history of the region and what those classic malts must have tasted like from times gone by.
 

S: It’s kinda hard to believe that it’s been maturing for 16 years. I mean, really? It’s still so fresh and tastes ‘young’. I’m glad I’ve tried it and I did enjoy it but not enough to make me go out and buy a whole bottle.

Glen Scotia Flight Pack

Categories: Tasting Notes, Glen Scotia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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