We’ve added some incredibly exciting spirits to our Drinks by the Dram sample service.
These include a brace of classic Speyside distilleries, some beautiful Bajan rums and a trio of cognacs.
Here’s a rundown of the new selection of samples, kicking off with William Grant’s legendary Balvenie and Glenfiddich distilleries.
Having their entire range in dram form is quite a coup, we’re sure you’ll agree…
The Balvenie distillery is known for its thick, creamy and honeyed whisky, and it’s one of the archetypal Speysiders.
Highlights include the phenomenal 21 year old PortWood, given a rare second maturation in 30 year old port pipes. We love the nectarine/honey, and faint wafts of smoke on the nose, followed by a palate which gives way to an awesomely supple array of grapes, prunes, plums, redcurrants, manuka honey and apple blossom, with an elegant, chocolate-led finish.
Another modern classic, the 17 year old Rum Cask, was recently released, following in the footsteps of the 14 year old Rum Wood and the Golden Cask. A rum finish sounds thoroughly modern, but the Scotch whisky industry has been using rum casks for centuries. The casks used in this instance were sourced from Jamaica, and they’ve added a little tropical sweetness to Balvenie’s house style. The nose is floral and creamy, with a thick coconut milk note, some white pepper, papaya and guava. The palate bears clean, refined Balvenie honey, sweet oats, stone fruits and a faint hint of molasses, leading into a sweet, woody finish.
It’s certainly worth mentioning the 15 year old single barrel. We’re forever singing its praises because it’s such great value for money and, at above average strength, it has a real kick. A honey and mixed peel nose with lovely sweet malt vanilla, tart citrus and cedar precedes a ripe, juicy palate with honeycomb – beeswax and beautiful Black Forest honey, juicy barley, a touch of espresso coffee and cedar wood. The cedar draws into the finish, and it develops with a touch of spice.
The full list of Balvenie drams is thus:
- Balvenie 12 Year Old Signature
- Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood
- Balvenie 21 Year Old PortWood
- Balvenie 17 Year Old Rum Cask
- Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel
- Balvenie 17 Year Old Madeira Cask
Part of the trio of William Grant Speyside distilleries, Glenfiddich was founded in 1886, and it has grown to become one of the very largest distilleries in Scotland (second only to the colossal Tomatin). Glenfiddich is still bottled onsite, which is rare these days, and some of the malt used in distillation is brought in from the neighbouring Balvenie.
Glenfiddich’s flavour profile is malty and quite rich, with floral notes and a good whack of orchard fruits. Best of all, despite the fact it’s a huge distillery – and a household name at that, its whisky is excellent – stereotypical, and none too adventurous, but consistent and top notch.
One of their classics is the 21 year old Caribbean rum finish, which was originally named “Havana Reserva” (though it was found that the moniker was unsuitable for the US market). It is a fantastic whisky; the rum cask adds a beautiful caramelised fruit character and more than a hint of mochaccino – it’s not overtly sweet either, which is always a plus.
The 14 year old Rich Oak was launched in the Spring of this year. It was aged in bourbon casks, before a 3 month finish in new European oak, followed by a month-and-half in new American oak. The use of virgin oak is an unusual practice, and this is actually the first time virgin European oak has been used in whisky maturation.
The oak brings about a sweet, spiced quality to the nose. The natural vanilla scents are stunning and mouthwatering. There is also butter scotch, apple blossom, dried apricot, fresh plum and apple strudel. A spicy, fruity palate follows, with a tangy, orange zest quality. This is a very juicy whisky; really estery, almost like boiled sweets. The medium length finish is spiced, warming and ripe.
We now offer these Glenfiddich drams:
- Glenfiddich 12 Year Old
- Glenfiddich 14 Year Old Rich Oak
- Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition
- Glenfiddich 18 Year Old
- Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Caribbean Rum
- Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Caoran
- Glenfiddich 30 Year Old 2010 Edition
- Glenfiddich Centenary
- Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera Reserve
William Grant owns another Speyside distillery, but you may not have even heard of it…
Kinvinie was built alongside Balvenie and Glenfiddich, as a workhorse producing whisky for blending. Its product is only sold “spooned” (with a small amount of whisky from another distillery), and they do this to prevent it being sold as a single malt. Some bottlings do crop up, but they are very rare (the celebratory Hazelwood is one such example, but good luck finding it on sale for less than a grand!).
It may surprise you to learn that you can find Kininvie whisky on sale in most bars, but not as a single malt… Instead, you’ll find it vatted with Balvenie and Glenfiddich under the guise of Monkey Shoulder. This is a popular blended malt whisky which has enjoyed a recent facelift (the producers have begun marketing it to the bartending fraternity). “Monkey shoulder” is actually a nickname for the hunch that develops on the backs of malting workers, turning barley in the traditional way.
The whisky is made in batches of 27 bourbon barrels and we’ve found it varies greatly between batches, with some being delicious. Here are tasting notes from one of the better batches…
Nose: All kinds of fruit: apples, pears, bananas and raspberries. More than a hint of brilliant vanilla from the bourbon casks, also a touch of peppermint, and confectioners’ sugar.
Palate: Spicy and very fruity. Boiled sweets, pears, berry smoothies etc. Custard, peppermint, pepper, cinnamon and currants.
Finish: Short to medium, with a puff of spices.
Now we’re off into the world of rum, to Mount Gay (cue schoolboy giggles) in Barbados. There is a company deed which dates back to 1703, so Mount Gay may well be the oldest rum brand in the world. We love Mount Gay for its supple, rich flavour, and also because it’s the first drink James Bond orders in Casino Royale (actually, he orders a Mount Gay and Soda – and oddly is delivered a rum and coke!)
For all you Bond aficionada out there we now offer samples of:
The Extra Old has been lauded by critics; its awards include 5 Grand Golds at the Monde Selection in Brussels, as well as the superlative Trophy at the 2001 International Spirits Challenge. Dave Broom, author of the very comprehensive Rum book (despite the name, it’s actually very good – not rum at all), awarded the Extra Old a perfect 5 stars!
Nose: Sweet and toffeyed, sweet oak, plumwood, caramelised bananas, coffee and pepper, quite chocolatey as well.
Palate: Not overly heavy, but quite oily, and certainly rich in flavour. It’s very well balanced, and has a complex array of coffee, under ripe bananas, Nutella, latte and black pepper.
Finish: The peppery flavour lingers on the tongue, with mixed fruits and spices.
A very new addition to the range, the 1703 celebrates the founding date of the Mount Gay distillery. This is a very special rum aged for between 10 and 30 years, created by Allen Smith, the master distiller and blender at the distillery.
Nose: Floral, soft, very fruity and tropical. This is an elegant nose, with a grape-like character. It develops with blossom, banana and honey.
Palate: Very supple and smooth palate entry, with notes of oak spice, dried fruits like apricot, mango, prunes and cinnamon.
Finish: Spiced, long finish, quite sweet.
Finally, three Cognacs from Rémy Martin.
This renowned Cognac house makes Fine Champagne (spirit from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions – the two top appellations). One of the characteristics of Fine Champagne Cognacs is the potential for extended ageing and this results in them being highly coveted by producers.
Rémy Martin VSOP is the world’s best-selling VSOP, and the spirit is aged for 7 years in Limousin oak barrels. The high surface area to volume ration in Limousin barrels results in even speedier maturation.
Nose: Acacia honey, custard and dark oaky notes. Peach, nutmeg and fresh flowers.
Palate: Plummy, supple, rich and slightly tannic. Warming oak, with a good delivery of nectarine, apricot and strawberry jam.
Finish: Creamy, medium to long, fruity.
This is distilled very slowly, in a bid to bring out the more fruity elements in the spirit. Coeur de Cognac is designed to attract drinkers who don’t usually drink Cognac, and it’s definitely atypical – almost like a liqueur; incredibly sweet and rich with an intense flavour of juicy peaches. The Cognac in the blend comes from the firm’s private estates and, whilst it’s rather unusual, it is a delicious spirit and well worth trying – we’ve never before experienced a juicier, more stone fruit-rich flavour in a Cognac before.
We also offer samples of Rémy Martin XO Excellence – a world class spirit, part made of a 37 year old Cognac!
– The Chaps at Master of Malt –