I am a proud member of a private Twitter group of whisky fans called The Whisky Circus, created at the beginning of the lockdown my Sorren “@ocdwhisky” Krebs, a well-known whisky blogger and now a brand ambassador for The English Whisky Company. The Whisky Circus is about 50 members big from several countries (UK obviously, but there are also people from Ireland, France – this humble writer included, Belgium, Sweden, Norway…). We meet every Sunday afternoon on Zoom and thanks to Sorren’s relations in the whisky industry, we now have one or more guests from the industry who come to discuss with us every week. Though you cannot participate in those Zoom sessions if you’re not a member of the group, you can watch the replays on Sorren’s Youtube channel, as our sessions are recorded for their most serious part. All the secrets from the trade, however, are not, sorry-not-sorry!
A few weeks ago, Sorren, with both his Whisky Circus ringmaster and The English Whisky brand ambassador hats, contacted the most regular members of the Whisky Circus to offer an English Whisky tasting with a then yet unannounced new release: the new English 11-year-old single malt. So I guess it was an English Whisky Circus Tasting. After all, the English language loves contractions. Julien tasted an English whisky bottling by SMWS before and liked it a lot, but we didn’t introduce the distillery then. So let’s talk about The English Whisky for a moment before diving into the samples.
On Friday the 10th of April, I organized a small blind tasting with friends I had sent samples to almost a year ago. Lockdown due to the Covid-19 crisis is keeping us to meet and go to festivals, but it does not prevent us for sharing whisky with friends. Back in November 2019 we did our first kind-of-blind tasting with 4 Yoichi, and last Friday we went to another country, my (and Julien’s) country: France. On the lineup: an Armorik and Eddu, from Brittany, and an Elsass from Alsace. So like last time, we knew what drams we were going to taste, but had no idea of the order. Myself included. But let’s start by introducing the distilleries.
Nowadays, distilleries love to play around, more than ever, with casks used to mature their whisky. In some countries, for example Scotland, if distilleries go “too far”, the regulatory bodies give a big frown. And “too far” is more “it’s not on the allowed types of casks list hence it’s forbidden” than “what you did gave a crappy whisky because your cask was spent or was virgin oak ruining a good but fragile spirit”. In some other countries, let’s say Sweden, distilleries can experiment and do as they want. Moreover, Mackmyra is a Swedish distillery that loves to experiment. Their latest experiment is a whisky called Grönt Te, but before reviewing it, let’s give a quick presentation of Mackmyra.
On Saint David’s day (the 1st of March for those who don’t know all the saints by heart, myself included), I participated to a Penderyn Tweet Tasting organized by the unmissable Steve Rush. Saint David was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St Davids) during the 6th century. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales. Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. A group of friends while having a dram, decided to start a distillery, and in 1998, The Welsh Whisky Company was born. Two years later, it started distilling, and this was the first time a Welsh distillery did this in more than a hundred years. Finally, in 2004 on Saint David’s day, Penderyn Whisky was launched in the presence of HRH Prince Charles. Penderyn distillery is located in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons National Park in South Wales.
Behind the seventeenth window of That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s 2019 Advent Calendar we will be reviewing each day until the 24th of December was hidden a Cotswolds 3yo batch 1, bottled at 50.4% abv by that Boutique-y Whisky Company. Cotswolds is a very young English distillery as it has been founded in 2014 and produces whisky, gin and other spirits. They have three small stills: a wash still (2400 litres) and a spirit still (1600 litres) for the whisky and a Holstein still (500 litres) to distil gin and other spirits. This Boutique-y release had an outturn of 1783 bottles and can still be found on Master of Malt for £58.95.
Early september, I discovered there was events where you could taste SMWS whiskies as well as cigars – and boy what that an excellent discovery. This time around, the French ambassadors reached out to me and asked me whether I would be interested in an “exclusive” session where we would taste a whisky selected just for France – SMWS 7.217 – Joie de vivre. This session would again be at Gentleman 1919, which I’m starting to love more and more.
Obviously, I accepted – and I can only thank them for that as I missed the Whisky Live due to friends having the bad idea of having their wedding that week-end. This was then the occasion for me to forget about the sheer pain it caused and soothe my broken heart by downing some drams.
The third SMWS release from Saint George’s Distillery (The English Whisky), a 9 years old first fill ex-bourbon barrel. This one measured against the Laphroaig I had before – which was hard, but I was told it was founded by an ex from Laphroaig based on English peat. Why not?
A very surprising juniper start, followed by sea salt, chocolate and apricot, and at the very end a low key custard.
Attacking on an alcoholic burn. Milk chocolate, very smooth smoke with a slight sea salty after taste.
Finish a bit short yet on sea salt crystals, with this smooth smoke bringing them forward.
I discovered a new distillery with this one. I have absolutely no regret but this one: I waited for the Joie de vivre release on October 10th to make my order and there was none of this release left. My world is misery.
Bimber Distillery is a quite recent distillery operating from London, England. Founded in 2015, they buy their two-row malted barley (Concerto and Laureate) from a single farm near Hampshire and have it malted by Warminster Maltings. Then, they distill their spirit with two direct-fire small copper pot-stills made by a Spanish company, Hoga: a 1000 litre wash still, called Doris, and a 600 litre spirit still called Astraeus. Distillation of whisky began in May 2016, and the first casks filled on the 26th of May, 2015 have now reached 3 years of age. Quite a journey since the distilling of moonshine in Poland by the grandfather of the master-distiller of Bimber Distillery, Darius Plazewski. And by the way, the translation for “moonshine” in Polish is… “Bimber”.