Posts Tagged With: Whiskey

Tasting Notes: Crown Royal – Northern Harvest Rye

Crown Royal – Northern Harvest Rye

On 1st July 2017, Canadians worldwide celebrated 150 years of independence from British rule. Having a Canadian amongst our midst within the WU troop, there was no better opportunity to celebrate all things Canadian than with a barbecue, a 17 hour playlist of Canadian tunes, an air hockey tournament and some sweet, sweet Canadian whisky. Not only was the day full of celebration, but with whisky geeks in tow, it was time for our Canuck to bring out the big guns and here we have it: Jim Murray’s Whiskey of the Year for 2016 – Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye, brought to Blighty from the land whenst it came. The bottle boasts that this expression is a blend crafted from a mash of 90% rye to create an “extraordinarily smooth” dram with tastes of “fruit, cloves and spice”. Well, that’s put that to the test…

ABV: 45%


M: Strong booze on the nose. Really sticky sweet with a bit of liquorice.


M: Totally sweet with corn syrup-like flavours upfront with that thick rye kind of spice cutting right through.


M: A boozy brash finish that I was not expecting from the world’s best whisky. Strong Demerara sugar sweetness and depth followed by that liquorice/aniseed flavour lingering for a long, long time.


M: I’m still not that versed in rye whiskies, but this seems to have taken the rye flavours that I do recognise and has amped them up to 11, with some popcorn sweetness added in to try and balance it out. It’s sweet, it’s dry, it’s got a herby kinda spice to it. It’s lingering. It’s intriguing. It’s not my cup of tea, if I’m being honest! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike BUT I’m willing to explore further – is it the best rye out there? According to Jim Murray it is. But I’m not him and I’m going to have to explore more rye whiskies to prove a point (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it) Only then, if our glorious Canadian doesn’t finish it off first, might I come back again to see what I’ve learned.

Northern Harvest In Summertime

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Travel Retail – What Is It All About?

Like most whisky enthusiasts, my inbox gets hammered by the numerous mailing lists and newsletters that I’ve signed up to on my quest for my new favourite dram, but one thing that I keep asking myself about some of these ‘hot new releases’ is: what is the deal with “travel retail” bottlings? I mean, really?

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in a few airports and the ‘duty-free’ stores are always a personal highlight for whiling away a lot of the waiting time. What I seem to find though is that whilst you are always greeted with some familiar faces, there are then some unusual yet somehow recognisable ones – like a friend of a friend that you keep running into from time to time. Usually dwarfed at the side of the wall full of Johnnie Walkers.

Dealing with the familiar faces first – yes, they are always there, but not always in a familiar guise – they may be in slightly different packaging or different sizes, and are usually that welcome bit cheaper.

[As a side note, I’ve never quite understood why the UK deals with 70cl bottles, but finding a favourite dram at a similar price but larger bottle is something of a win – on the return leg of my last holiday abroad, I managed to pick up a litre bottle of Balvenie Doublewood 12 for £24 – like I said, win!]


Glenmorangie – The Duthac

Those unfamiliar faces though… I’ve never quite understood what it’s all about. Highland Park Svein. Laphroaig PX Cask. Glenmorangie Duthac. Old Pulteney Noss Head. Smokehead Extra Rare. Why limit these to the ‘travel retail’ bracket? Do they actually earn that exclusivity? Do they taste nice? Do they warrant the extra 20% difference in price to their standard stuff? The 200% difference? The 2000% difference? Some of these things have wild prices, and often what they lack in age statement – not that I have a problem with that kind of thing – they make up for in cask types and maturation processes. So are they simply experiments in whisky development? If so, are they failed experiments? If not, and there was a particular dram flying off the duty-free shelves, would it make its way into the regular in-land stores?

I doubt it.

What the retailers have is a captive and (usually) more affluent audience. Whether it is someone looking for something different or simply buying a bottle that they are just not aware of, you will usually see the word “exclusive” branded across the packaging of your old favourites, alongside its associated larger price tag. This all combines into a considerably successful ploy to ultimately part the travelling party from their cash – whether in their own currency or otherwise.

What particularly frustrates me is that you have to be on that tax haven soil to actually acquire one of these. Whilst they are usually generous with their samples in the airport, there is no greater sense of corporate pressure to get you to shell out the big bucks. With free booze starting to course through your veins too, you’re more likely to do so too. With mixed results too. The Highland Park Svein, for instance, would have been a mistaken purchase. Not that it is a bad dram, but it was just not as good as the Highland Park 12yo, which is readily available at a fraction of the price. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed some of those drams before now too – ‘The Duthac’ by Glenmorangie particularly so – but at £100 a bottle for something not much better than their 10yo, it is just too much of a stretch. Which is a shame, because if it was readily available at a more affordable price, then it would definitely become a regular WU tipple.

Like it or loathe it, the travel retail market is not going anywhere though, and, with a multi-billion dollar catchment, who can blame the distilleries? It was recently reported that travel retail whiskies are expected to gross $80billion worldwide by 2020 and with the footfall in airports worldwide hitting a billion a year, there’s only one way the whiskies and prices are gonna go… skyward!

Categories: Whisky Waffling | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tasting Notes: Redbreast – 12 Years Old


Redbreast 12 Years Old

Crafted at the Midleton Distillery in County Cork, Redbreast is recognised worldwide as the flag bearer of Irish pot still whiskey. The 12 years old expression is the brand’s staple release and the distinctive squat green bottle with its red and gold packaging can be seen adorning the shelves of any well stocked pub, bar or hotel if someone has looked beyond just Jameson’s or Bushmills for their Irish whiskey source. The spirit is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, before being triple distilled in copper pot stills before then being primarily matured in sherry casks.

ABV: 40%


M: A soft but rich nose with lots of fruity flavours, like currants and oranges and a little spiciness.

M: Really quite sweet flavours. The dried fruits from the smell are complemented with fresh, sweet caramel and vanilla flavours.

M: Sooooo smooth. The fruit flavours leave for a melted vanilla ice cream coating on the threat – like a boozy cola float.

M: When people say, “I like such-and-such a whisky, because it is nice and smooth” then this will blow their minds and reset the bar for what “smooth” really means. That’s what it did for me, anyway. I knew that Irish whiskey was more renowned for its triple distillation and “creamy mouthfeel” but this is just something else. And that’s not taking into account the nice sherried fruit flavours and velvety sweetness. Definitely one to be savoured at the end of the evening regardless of the season.


Whiskey and Celebrations

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