The Nikka Taketsuru range is a good example of the problem Japanese whisky is facing. And I mean the true Japanese whisky, the one distilled in Japan, not the “bottle whatever and slap some Japanese kanji” fake Japanese whisky crap. As you’ve read a thousand times, there is a shortage of old Japanese whisky stocks, that is here for a long time (you can’t accelerate years, even though, and especially with 2020, you’d sometimes want to). And the demand for Japanese whisky is so high that the current production is not even enough to cover the needs. Thus, Nikka announced last year expansions for its Miyagikyo and Yoichi distilleries to fight shortage. But since whisky takes time to mature, the shortage will probably stay at least until 2030… And earlier this year, they sadly announced the total discontinuation of the 17, 21 and 25-year-old Nikka Taketsuru, their pure malt blend of Yoichi and Miyagikyo juices, named after the founder of the Nikka group. I won’t go into the history of Nikka and Masataka Taketsuru as I’ve briefly covered that previously on the Yoichi blind tasting I organized with friends. They also announced they would renew their NAS edition of Taketsuru, and thus today we’re going to review the old and new Nikka Taketsuru NAS, as well as the discontinued Taketsuru 21-year-old.Read more
It’s that time of the year already: the new seasonal release from Mackmyra. This “autumn” (yes, we’re still in summer right now but not for long), the famous Swedish single malt celebrates, and I quote: ‘autumn, berry foraging and the treasures to be found in the ancient Swedish woods’. So, what is really behind the pretty story? Something original again as we can always expect from Mackmyra. This time, part of the casks they used for the maturation held Swedish berry wine from the craft producer Grythyttan. To be more precise, Mackmyra used a berry wine called Jakt, a dry red wine made from wild blueberries and lingonberries. I have to admit I have absolutely no idea what taste it may have. As a French bloke, I’m quite more used to wine made from grapes, especially since we Frenchies are the best in the world at it (and if you disagree, it’s okay, you have the right to be wrong 😂). But enough with that, let’s go review this Mackmyra Jaktlycka.Read more
In 2011, William Grant & Sons released a first expression under the Hazelwood brand called Janet Sheet Roberts 110th Birthday Edition in 2011 (that’s a mouthful!), after William Grant’s granddaughter name. Mrs Roberts died in 2012 as the oldest woman in Scotland, aged 110 as the name of the first release suggested. Four years later in 2015, William Grant & Sons announced a new trio of whiskies under the House of Hazelwood brand, three blends aged 18, 21 and 25 years old, to be released first in the travel market early 2016 before general availability.Read more
Wow, the blog is almost one year old, and later in this post we’ll have our 100th review. Time flies. We started this blog with Julien ‘Ainulindalë’ in early August 2019 and had started discussing about it shortly after our trip together in Scotland to the Spirit of Speyside Festival earlier that year, as we went with two other people to celebrate my 40th birthday.What was still a recent passion for me became almost the only thing I think about (not sure if it’s before or after my wife and children. Though the children can be really good at making me thinking immediately about needing a dram as soon as possible.), and I guess it was a revelation for Julien, who was mostly into beer, both as a brewer and a drinker (note from Julien: yes it was!). After thinking about a good name (‘veni vidi whisky’, its variant ‘veni bibi whisky’ and ‘whisky or not to be’ were other name candidates, the former being dropped as a silent twitter account but that name already existed unfortunately), I bought the domain name, the hosting and started creating the blog and the design probably in July 2019. Read more
Glen Spey is an important producer of whisky used in the world-famous J&B blended Scotch whisky. J&B is the 3rd biggest (not best, biggest) blend in the world, with a mind-blowing 6 million cases sold worldwide each year, though in decline from 64 million bottles in 2008. Glen Spey, located in Speyside in Rothes, is also one of the most anonymous distilleries in Scotland, as there are almost no single malt offerings. In 1878, James Stuart & Co founded the distillery and it became under English ownership in 1887 as it was bought by W&A Gilbey. Then in 1962, W&A Gilbey combined with United Wine Traders to create International Distillers & Vintners (IDV). Finally, a few changes of ownership later, Grand Metropolitan bought IDV and in 1997, Guinness and Grand Metropolitan merged to form Diageo. With a 1.4 million lpa capacity, Glen Spey is the third-smallest distillery from Diageo, only followed by Royal Lochnagar and Oban.Read more
Earlier this year, the famous Islay distillery Ardbeg announced a new addition to its core range with the Ardbeg Wee Beastie. Unfortunately, the pandemic happened around the launch. That and a surprising launch calendar. Some European countries (Germany and Netherlands) got it first back in March, while it only arrived a week ago in the UK. And for my great sadness, it is still unavailable in France except for a few eligible cocktail bars. Not even my usual whisky bar is eligible (they’ve confirmed me that earlier this week). Why this surprising way (to stay polite) of getting a new release out to the hordes of peated whisky fans? Beats me. But since it’s the first official Ardbeg releases we’re reviewing here (we’ve reviewed a couple SMWS), as usual, let’s introduce the distillery first. After that, we’ll do an Ardbeg Wee Beastie vs Ten review.Read more
The Spice Tree is a famous blend made by Compass Box. John Glaser, Compass Box Whisky Company‘s founder, is a man who spent many years in the wine trade. Younger, he wanted to become a wine merchant or a winemaker. After joining Diageo to work in the marketing department of Johnnie Walker, he learnt blending next to JW’s master blender Jim Beveridge. While at first he intended to slide over to Diageo’s wine department, things worked out differently and he fell in love with Scotch Whisky. Later, he decided to go back to his ambition: create. But this time, to create whisky, as he saw the idea of blending whisky as a creative art. So he decided to become not a winemaker, but a “whiskymaker”. And in 2000, he founded Compass Box Whisky.Read more
One of the multiple steps before distilling a malt whisky is malting the barley and one of the steps is drying the malt. For that, you need heat in kilning to dry the malts. Peat has been traditionally used as a cheap fuel for kilning (and heating homes) in Scotland in the past, especially in the regions where coal was hard to come by and expensive, like the islands, Campbeltown and the Northern Highlands. Now, the question is: what is peat?Read more
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.Read more
On the 20th of May I was one of the lucky people who were selected to participate to another Tweet Tasting. Hinch Distillery was the centre of the attention for that evening. Hinch is a very young distillery (so young that their own liquid doesn’t flow off the stills yet) from Northern Ireland, south of Belfast, in the town of Ballynahinch. The distillery obviously takes its name from the city’s name, which translates in Irish as “town of the island”. The distillery is in fact still on construction (a project of a mere £15 million!) and they plan to start distilling in 3 months’ time.
So, in order to have cash flow while waiting for their spirit to 1, flow, and 2, be old and mature enough to be called whisky, they do what many new Irish (and Scottish) distilleries do: they bought casks elsewhere. They sourced malt and grain whiskies from another distilleries : Great Northern Distillery, aka GND, or Cooley for the older stock (before it was sold to Beam Suntory) and blended and finished them, playing around with different casks for the finish.Read more