Posts Tagged With: Single Malt

Tasting Notes: Glen Moray Classic Sherry Cask Finish

Glen Moray – Classic Sherry Cask Finish

Glen Moray is based in Elgin, Scotland, within the legendary Speyside region and the distillery   has seen some rapid expansion within the last 5 years or so. Their distinctive brand and bottling shows a focus on traditional distilling and with so much competition within the area, the content of their bottles really has something to prove to be able to stand out from the crowd. This particuar expression is readily available within shops and supermarkets within the U.K. at a really cheap price for a non-home-brand single malt (usually found for roughly £22) and as its name suggests, focuses on a classic sherry cask finish, so without further ado…

ABV: 40%


Nose

M: Parma violet style sweetness upfront. A deeper sniff brings out a nice earthy, oak smell (like smelling the inside of a cask, which makes sense). A bit like smelling a booze-soaked crumble.

Taste

M: It is fruity sweetness all the way with a toffee apple tang at the back and a little citrus too. 

Finish

M: Pretty damn smooth, very light and a really quick finish – it is not hanging around and leaves you wanting more.

Verdict

M: This whisky has all of the hallmarks of a good, traditional whisky done well, whisky still flying in the face of traditional whisky drinkers by not having an age statement – the emphasis being on taste and this dram is testament to the fact that good whiskies don’t have to come with an age statement (though I do really want to know how old it is on average!). It seems pretty fresh, straight forward and it is good at what it does. It doesn’t feel richly sherried, as it’s name would suggest, but it’s definitely there and makes for a very easy drinking dram. Definitely a cheap and cheerful whisky, and I’ve tasted many whiskies at a higher price which are nowhere near as good by comparison. As one of the cheapest single malts available in the U.K. Supermarkets, this therefore goes to prove that neither age nor cost actually dictate quality, and makes this a good affordable whisky for amateurs and aficionados alike. But hey, that’s like, just my opinion, man.

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Distillery Visit: Glenfarclas

When the WU guys were putting together a trip to visit Speyside, needless to say that we were spoilt for choice. With over half of Scotland’s distilleries being based in the area surrounding the meandering River Spey, and none of our 4-strong troop having been to the region before, we were living and breathing the grown-up equivalent of being kids in a sweet shop.

Between us, we had found a great looking cottage in the village of Archiestown for a long weekend in March (yes, that’s how long it’s taken to write this up) which we then used to triangulate a Speyside visitor centre hit list. With the cottage being roughly equidistant from Cardhu, Aberlour and the region’s giant, Glenfiddich, that had pretty much settled it without having to look much further, but as the title suggests, we couldn’t visit the region without also going to Glenfarclas.

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Double Thumbs Up for Glenfarclas

What had particularly attracted us to the distillery – other than having enjoyed their whiskies on numerous occasions throughout the years – was the fact that it was still a family run distillery and hadn’t succumb to the big money ownership that many distilleries have (and that many have had to). What that meant to us was that we were expecting a smaller distillery with more humble staff than your standard big-budget-backed whisky-maker, and it certainly delivered.

Located just off the A95, the roadsign to the distillery was almost too easy to miss, but luckily enough the classic red font of the Glenfarclas logo stood out from the snow-covered roads and fields, directing us up a narrow farm lane to the car park. As we shimmied and skidded our way along the icy track we noticed a giant tour coach parked just outside the visitor centre (which we narrowly missed) and as we drove around an old and ornamental still, we managed to find one of a few dug-out parking spaces.

Glenfarclas Visitor Centre

Having taken some 9 hours of travelling from our southern England starting point, we bundled out of our car and looked on in awe at the picture perfect distillery. Covered in snow and with the warmly-lit interior beckoning us inside, we entered the visitor centre to welcoming smiles and hellos from the staff – and this was with just 45 minutes left on the clock of their working day.

The visitor centre is of course, first and foremost, a gift shop and upon walking in you are instantly drawn to the remains of another still and the multitude of glass cabinets adorning the room’s walls. Each cabinet was themed with past releases and current offerings all nestled amongst the rare and ancient drams from the distillery’s past. These were also accompanied by price tags that ranged from reasonable to eye-watering. Our attention was particularly drawn to the distillery’s “Family Cask” section, filled with bottles in chronological order from the date that they were first distilled from 1952 onwards. We each sought out the bottle from our respective years of birth, and were content with just looking through the cabinet doors, rather than shelling out the £3,500 each!

Family Cask Display

Given the timeframe, we were not in time to undertake any tour, but we had plenty of time to enter the tasting room, and join up with the coach trippers (who were probably all 40-50 years our senior) now at the fun end of their tour: the tasting. The room itself was like a Victorian dining hall, with a set of long tables down the middle, with a few smaller tables dotted around and more wooden cladding than Ron Burgundy could ever have wished for. The whole room was covered with old advertising posters and newspaper clippings from yesteryear. There was a real sense of history and nostalgia here, with a clear emphasis on family.

Tasting Room

To the matter at hand, our troop found ourselves a seat and were presented with a sample of their opening gambit, the Glenfarclas 10 year old. Our new host then reeled out a well-rehearsed but still well-delivered spiel about the history of the distillery and we were all ears. As we listened, we savoured our first dram of the day, picking out the flavours that stem from the family’s longstanding use of sherry casks. The 10yo proved to be a fairly light dram, enjoyed in no time at all with its Pear drop sweetness and pretty quick finish getting our tastebuds going.

‘Farc-ing Bliss

Our temporary curator then plied us with a serving of the Glenfarclas 15yo and that’s when the sherry influence really hit home. This whisky had a much fuller, fruitier nose, and the 46% alcohol gave for a fuller taste and body too. It wasn’t all sherry flavourings though as a little bit of time and water released sweet vanilla and a little citrus into the mix. An excellent whisky that seemed to knock its younger sibling out of the park.

Please!!!

As the history lesson turned into more of a flowing Q&A session, we were presented with the third of the distillery’s post-tour offerings, the mighty Glenfarclas 105 (Unfortunately not 105 years old – can you imagine?) Whilst I had experienced and loved this whisky before, my senses still took a battering, as did the other guys’, as it’s 60% ABV natural strength delivers a real punch. It has a BIG nose leaving you fighting the alcohol but some fruitiness (raisins?) and sweetness still manage to poke their way through. Without the aid of water, the 105 pretty much attacks the palate but not the throat strangely enough. After some taming though that fruitiness really comes through with faint sherry this time.

It was at this point that the coach group were being hustled up by their weary-looking driver, and a little bit of minesweeping was afoot. As the congregation filtered out though, we keen-beans had pretty much settled on acquiring a bottle of the 15yo but our host didn’t seem to want to rush us out and after a little cajoling he went to the backrooms to bring us samples of their 21yo! Despite its years, this dram was still surprisingly light and whilst it had a good nose and those sherry-like fruity and sweet flavours were still present, it didn’t quite meet the standard that the 15yo had set. With our conversation starting to wind down and the 25yo or older expressions remaining firmly locked away for the evening (we tried) we were fully sated and couldn’t leave without making a purchase or four…

Whatcha Doin’?

By the time it came for us to leave, we realised that the staff had actually kept us indoors well after their closing time and were still happy to talk (mostly). Their head honcho however was starting to purposefully look at his watch and with our purchases having already been made before they had to close the till, we were also ready to head off and set ourselves up for the long weekend at the cottage. With some parting pleasantries and a few snaps, so ended a brief but memorable trip to Glenfarclas. If you get the chance to go, then you should definitely do it! We certainly will. Again. And again.

Categories: Glenfarclas, Tasting Notes, Venues | 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

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