Posts Tagged With: Blend

Tasting Notes: Tullamore DEW

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The Legendary Tullamore DEW

Tullamore DEW is one of the most recognisable Irish whiskey brands, seen the world over. In fact, it is the second largest Irish whiskey brand, only pipped to the post by that “James” guy, or whatever he’s called… The distinctive squat bottle and clover-green label contains their “original” expression, which is a blend of triple distilled pot still, malt and grain whiskies made to their own recipe since the early 19th Century. The blend has been matured in a combination of ex-Bourbon barrels and sherry casks. Story has it that the DEW is not the water that goes into the whiskey, but the initials of one of the distillery’s previous owners.

40% ABV

 

Nose

M: Honey and toffee in abundance. Has it had a swirl of the old caramel stick? Maybe. There’s also a light, floral nose behind the sugary sweetness and a just a smidge of a malty grist too.

 

Taste

M: Delicious sweetness and toffee comes in again. Just like a boozy toffee penny. There’s not too much else going on than that sweetness, but it gets to the point, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

 

Finish

M: So quick and smooth. Super silky, in fact. Like a vanilla ice cream kind of finish. Hardly leaves a tingle of booze at all.

 

Verdict

M: Overall, this is very easy drinking. Inoffensive really. As the world’s second largest Irish whiskey blend and having been triple distilled, it obviously carries with the “Smooth” and “Creamy mouthfeel” characteristics – not that I like saying those words at all. Personally, this is what I’ve always been led to be believe that “Irish Whiskey” should taste like. I’d be very interested to do a blind taste test side by side with a Jameson Original to see if I could distinguish the two. Like I say, it’s a very easy drinker. Definitely too easy. Dangerous when you could too easily drink a lot of it – which I guess is the point and fits the stereotype. It certainly warms the soul, even if not the tastebuds.

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Categories: Tasting Notes, Tullamore DEW | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Distillery Visit: The Lakes Distillery

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to have had the chance to visit The Lakes Distillery situated up in, you guessed it, the Lake District. Tucked away in the scenic hills in the north west of the Lakes near Cockermouth (yes, much amusement had), this is a relatively new distillery and it made for an eye-opening insight into “whisky business” rather than the usual “whisky production” stuff that most tours usually consist of (“…and the by-product that we call ‘draff’ goes to feed the local cattle” etc. etc.) The tour itself was run really well by a guy called Rowan, who turned out to be from my neck of the woods, which helped with the post-tour chatter, and he certainly knew the process inside out.

What was immediately striking about the tour was the main building itself. For something that was opened in December 2014, I thought that this was a smart building, very much in keeping with the area, i.e. an old-looking, new building. The Lake District is known for its strong conservation laws – noting the solid work that legendary children’s author Beatrix Potter has had on the national park – and this building was no exception. Whilst very clean and modern on the inside, the buildings themselves had had to go through very stringent building procedures to ensure that they remained in that distinctive Lakes style. As the tour commenced, we were informed that the site was in fact originally an 1850s farmhouse and a series of out-buildings, and the company had bought the properties in a rather dilapidated state due to them having been abandoned and untouched since the 1970s. (Countering my initial impression,  and proving that they are in fact new-looking, old buildings!) The tour detailed the length and scale of the process to get the site into the glistening yet characterful state that it is in today. One fact that particularly blew me away was that each and every stone had had to be numbered, dismantled and then reconstructed in the same order! That’s no mean feat at all, and the results are rather fantastic – as you would hope after a £7M investment. The entry gates themselves were a sight to behold, with the silhouettes of all the key ingredients to making whisky having been forged into the elegant frame, with the Lakes Distillery’s distinctive wave-style logo on top of the structure. What’s more, the gates had been “crafted by our local blacksmith” – a sentence that you’re probably only really going to hear in Cumbria these days!

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Lakes Distillery Gates

Now, despite having started off in their gift shop and having seen bottles of whisky for sale, the penny only dropped for me once the tour had started and I’d heard “December 2014” again that this place was actually less than 2 years old. Not only did that explain why the place was looking so well appointed, but it struck me that these guys haven’t actually made any “whisky” yet. Rowan then went on to explain to the group that the distillate needs to have been in a barrel for 3 years before it can officially be called “whisky”.

So what were they selling in the gift shop?

The answer is that they are selling “The One”, which the Lakes Distillery boasts to be the “first Great British blended whisky”, i.e. featuring whiskies from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Proving that their marketing again relied on simplicity and honesty.) Whilst they wouldn’t reveal which distilleries the constituent parts come from (though the Welsh and English contingents are probably easier to deduce) it seems a fairly novel idea, and I was pretty surprised that this is the first time it has been done. That said, something didn’t feel right. The English component of The One could still not be their own (probably hailing from the Norfolk direction), and I guess that they would look to replace the English proportion with their own product in due course. What I was wrestling with here was the concept of them selling a whisky from the Lake District, without having produced any actual ‘whisky’ yet themselves. As I’ve mentioned, this is where my interest turned from finding about the whisky itself and, instead, turned towards just how much investment was needed to get this distillery up and running and how far ahead the directors must be planning to actually make this a valid business venture. The tour did help to answer some of these questions though…

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Tucked away in the Lake District

Firstly, there was quite the marketing onus on joining the “Founders Club”. For a mere £695 on the day (let me think about it for a minute…) each new member is entitled to a single 70cl bottle of the distillery’s annual output for the first ten years, plus two 5cl miniatures for tasting – the emphasis therefore being “collect the whole set”, with each bottle being packaged in a progressive year-on-year addition, up to their real goal: a 10 year single malt. What I will say though, is that their founder, Mr Paul Currie, has started this venture after being part of the The Arran distillery’s development, so there is certainly good precedent here!

Secondly, there were two, more readily-made Lakes Distillery products on offer within the gift shop: The Lakes Gin and The Lakes Vodka. Our guide informed us that the distillery buys in a base grain distillate and then carries out their own further distillation to make their vodka or, when adding the ‘botanicals’, their own gin. Even from the layout of the still-room it was obvious that the key product being made here was whisky, but tucked into the corner was a still dedicated to the clearer libations. To be perfectly honest, I was a bit disappointed that they were buying in the base product, but this was appeased when I was informed that the all of the botanicals were sourced locally, including the all-important, gin-essential juniper. To be fair, the final gin itself is one of the finest that I’ve ever tasted. Full of rich, complementary flavours and really palatable even before adding the quintessential tonic.

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The One & The Lakes Gin

As we walked through the current barrel warehouse, we were purposely guided past the first casks of the Lakes’ new whisky-to-be, which included a barrel branded by Princess Anne(?), and a barrel bearing a familiar 007 and pistol logo, which will invariably become a marketing scheme in the future. At the end of the warehouse was an engraved list of all of the founding members to date, which made for another opportunity to promote our congregation to sign-up to the club.

At the end of tour, we were taken into the tasting room (not surprisingly held within the gift shop annex) and each of the distillery’s entry level spirits were available (albeit not the currently moonshine-like single malt spirit itself). For me, their standard gin was actually the highlight of the drinks available, and we also got to sample their “Explorer” expression of the gin, which was significantly stronger tasting, and packing a few more ABV to boot. The One itself was a pretty good blended whisky and I personally found it more reminiscent of a whisky liqueur with an overriding sweetness and “whisky flavour”. I’ll have to try more to really discover it (happy to do it) but on first taste it seemed like a box-checking exercise of wood, malt, and gentle smoke. The gift shop was also offering a variant of The One, which had an additional 12 month maturation in oloroso sherry casks, encased in a rather patriotic union flag – unfortunately we were beyond the sampling stage when I discovered this additional offering.

Overall, I left the distillery in a conflicted state of both contentment and ambivalence. I was excited for the new product and impressed by the care, dedication and craft going into making a new whisky, but I was also left a little bruised by the constant marketing and cash generation schemes going on. To me, behind the nicely appointed warehouses, their stainless steel vats and fixation on your wallet/investment made the distillery seem like a cash-focussed factory. For me, the alchemy and love of whisky-making seemed to be overlooked in favour of the profit-and-loss table, but then again, without any actual whisky made yet, could it be any other way at this point? There is a business to be run here after all! A great little tour though in a stunning location and definitely one to keep an eye on!

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View from The Lakes Distillery (including Alpacas!)

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The Lakes Distillery’s water source – The River Derwent

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A Chance Evening With Douglas Laing

On 10th December, whilst rushing through the city of Chester to get some last minute inspiration for Christmas presents, I stumbled into a fine establishment on Watergate Street called Corks Out. It was not the first time that I’d been to this place, but it was the first time that I’d been able to explore the shop thoroughly (for present ideas for someone else of course…), and it turned out to be a great chance encounter. Whilst closely examining their whisky stock, I overheard some chatter from the bar area about an upcoming tasting. Having quizzed the shop assistant, I discovered that it was in fact preparations for a free whisky tasting that evening! Flash forward several hours and I found myself back in the shop with a tactical bellyful of grub.

 

The rep, Ellie from Cellar Trends, was acting on behalf of Douglas Laing for the evening and she had brought the four whiskies that comprise the Douglas Laing Remarkable Regional Malts range, along with an Asbach brandy and the Canadian ice wine, Neige. Ellie certainly knew her stuff and happily told me all about the Douglas Laing family business as independent bottlers, and whilst I was aware of Big Peat and the business’ limited single cask bottlings, I was not aware of these other blended offerings, so I was all ears.

 

Before even cracking into the drams available, it was clear to see that the marketing and packaging of these whiskies were strong. Again, I was aware of Big Peat and the marketing behind it, but the other 3 in the range had a distinctive look about them, and almost looked as if they’d fit on a Victorian medicine cabinet. I was told that the design work is put together by Cara Laing, daughter of current owner Fred Laing Jr, and, personally, I think she has done a fantastic job (see also their Old Particular whisky’s branding).

Remarkable Regional Malts

Remarkable Regional Malts

First up for tasting was the Rock Oyster. This is a blend of Scottish Island malts with components from Jura, Arran, Orkney and a bit of Islay. This was the lightest dram of the evening, and obviously the best place to start. It had a distinctive salty and fresh nose, which carried on through the taste with honey-like sweetness and a late, faint peaty warmth. The finish was fresh and fairly quick but that lovely peat lingered. Shame the sample didn’t last that long…

 

Next was their highland blend, Timorous Beastie. This was another light dram but with a fair few more tastes fighting for prevalence with a full, fruity nose and a bit of sweet spice on the taste. This was a very well balanced dram with the original malt tastes coming through. Like the Rock Oyster, the Timorous Beastie, is bottled in small batches and released at 46.8% without colouring or chill-filtration. The key parts here hail from Dalmore, Blair Athol, Glen Garioch and Glengoyne – which are all pretty damn fine distilleries. The name incidentally is a Rabbie Burns reference and might just influence me to get some in for January 25th!

Douglas Laing's Remarkable Regional Malts

Douglas Laing’s Remarkable Regional Malts

Next up was their Speyside blend, Scallywag and this dram seemed to have even more flavours and smells fighting for pole position. I was told that the main component here is from Macallan and it was helped on the way by being casked in sherry butts, and that was clearly the forerunner on the nose. This thing smelt like Christmas. It was a little more syrupy than the 2 before it and it had a rich fruity sweetness from start to finish. The power of suggestion won me over when my evening’s guide suggested dark chocolate too. This was an enjoyable dram, and I think one that should be savoured and enjoyed slowly. This was 46% ABV and was again a purer dram for being non-chill-filtered and without any colouring. The fact that it contains Mortlach and Glenrothes would also mean that it would catch the eye of fond Speysiders.

 

The last dram was old friend Big Peat. I’ve enjoyed this dram before but amidst other peaty monsters, and on its own it certainly delivered, and was, with no disrespect to the others, easily my favourite of the evening. To be fair, anything that contains Ardbeg would probably win me over, but this blend of Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and a dash of the liquid gold from Port Ellen was the bees’ knees on the night. As a dram, it simply delivers peat throughout, but still remains quite fresh and light enough to leave you wanting more, rather than the full peaty blockbusters that can leave you shaking and savouring just the one as a night cap.

 

The pleasant company, relaxed atmosphere and cool surroundings of the Corks Out store made this a very enjoyable encounter, and being able to taste and talk through the decent and different drams one-on-one made me appreciate it even more (along with the brandy and ice wine, which were also pleasant to boot). At an average of £46 per bottle, these are definitely more premium blends than your standard supermarket fodder, but, having tasted them, I can safely say that you are getting your money’s worth.

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