Malt Messenger No. 45 – The Rum Issue
Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,
I hope you are enjoying this authentically Canadian winter. I’ve done my best to take it in stride as I’m sure most of you have too. I’ve had a couple of great days of skiing and the heater in my truck is finally fixed, so I no longer need to bundle up for even short drives. I bundled up for the Winter Classic too, a couple of weekends back. That’s an experience I won’t soon forget, the game and its related excitement were great, but if it weren’t for the small flask of single malt I had on me I’m not sure how I would have survived the cold.
I was in Victoria for the Whisky Festival last month, which is without doubt the most impressive in Canada. And don’t just take my word for it, most of the Brand Ambassadors will tell you the same, many of them calling it one of the top 5 in the world. It’s an excellent show, drawing representatives from all over the world of whisky, who put on a slew of first rate Master Classes. One of the people I met up with in Victoria is Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast. Mark produces a weekly podcast featuring news and interviews from the world of whisky. The podcast and his whisky reviews can be found on his website www.whiskycast.com or on his free app for the iPod and iPhone. Mark interviewed me in a segment that he included in podcast 302 a couple of weeks ago; you can hear that podcast by following this link: http://www.whiskycast.com/files/WhiskyCast_20110206.mp3..
While on the subject of interview I also made an appearance of CBC Radio back in January as part of the Calgary Eyeopener’s annual Robbie Burns Day celebrations. The interview can be heard at: http://www.cbc.ca/eyeopener/episode/2011/01/25/scotch-tasting-in-honour-of-robbie-burns/.. The 2011 Robbie Burns Dinner was a huge success, and the featured whiskies from the Isle of Arran Distillery very well received. The whiskies sampled included two casks which have been selected by and bottled for the Kensington Wine Market. Unable to choose between two exceptional casks, one bourbon and one sherry, we bottled both! I’ve provided a write-up on our Arran’s below, including tasting notes and how you can go about pre-ordering one of the bottlings, or both!
Finally, there are some great rums available in Alberta right now, and I thought it was about time to give them a little love on the Malt Messenger. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Malt Messenger “the Rum Issue”, the bulk of my news still relates to single malts, but it’s the most attention that’s ever been paid to a topic other than single malts.
All this and much more in the 45th Malt Messenger, I hope you enjoy it.
PS-You can follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/scotch_guy , and yes I am trying to make more regular contributions!
In This Issue
1. KWM Arran Casks Coming Soon – Pre-order and Save 5-7%
2. Makers Mark 46
3. Spring Whisky Tours Update
4. Victoria Whisky Festival In Perspective
5. Special Rates for the Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas
6. This Just In: 5 Limited Release BenRiachs
7. Four New Glendronach Vintages Due Any Day
8. Rum Roundup!
9. Collector’s Pick for February – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve
10. Tasting Notes On Two New Old Malt Cask Exclusives: Rosebank 20 and Port Ellen 27
11. Whisky 101 Part II – What is a Single Malt Whisky?
12. New Whiskies
13. Coming Soon
KWM ARRAN SINGLE CASKS COMING SOON – Pre-order and Save 5-7%
Kensington Wine Market approached the Isle of Arran distillery to purchase a cask this fall, with the intention of launching it at our annual Burns Supper. KWM bottles a couple of casks of whisky every year, usually choosing the barrel from a selection of 6 samples with the assistance of some handpicked customers. The tasting usually ferrets out a clear favourite, but this time we found ourselves torn between an exceptional bourbon barrel and a superb sherry cask.
I wasn’t sure what to do, I had set out with the intention of bottling a Bourbon cask Arran which I feel generally best compliments the distillery’s raw spirit, but as good as the Bourbon Cask bottling was, and it was great, the sherry cask was excellent too! So we did what any rational person would do, we decided to bottle both, and I am ever glad we did. Our Kensington Arran bottlings will be coming in at around $85 a bottle; by far our most reasonably priced bottling yet!
The whiskies were officially launched at our Robbie Burns Supper on January 26th with special guest, Isle of Arran Brand Ambassador Andrew Hogan. In addition to sampling a range of whiskies from the Isle of Arran distillery, participants were the first to sample our bottled casks. Both casks were extremely well received and we had strong pre-orders for both whiskies. In that light I wanted to extend the offer to readership of the Malt Messenger. If you pre-order one of our Arran’s I will extend to you a 5% discount. If you order one or more of both I’ll give you a 7% discount!
Both whiskies are from single casks, bottled at their natural cask strengths without any artificial colouring. Each of the bottles will be individually numbered. My tasting notes for the two casks are as follows:
- Arran KWM Bourbon Barrel – Distilled July 9th, 1999 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 11 Years – 57.4% – 199 individually numbered bottles – $84.99
- Arran KWM Sherry Hogshead – Distilled April 2nd 1998 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 12 Years – 55.3% – 282 individually numbered bottles – $84.99
MAKER’S MARK 46 – $61.99
Maker’s Mark Bourbon has been made the same way since its introduction in 1958. Its creator, Bill Samuels, Sr., took a typical Bourbon mash, and used red winter wheat in place of rye. Pure clean iron free water comes from a natural spring located on the distilleries grounds. A mashbill composed of yellow corn, red winter wheat and a small amount of naturally malted barley combine to give Markers Mark a soft mellow character.
The Makers Mark 46 takes the regular recipe, which is typically aged 6-7 years and then takes it up a notch. Borrowing an idea from John Glasser of Compass Box, they have inserted new French oak staves into the casks to give the whisky an added kick of vanilla and spices. Here is how the company describes the process:
1) Fully matured Maker’s Mark is removed from its barrel. Top hoops are removed from the barrel, and the barrel head is pulled.
2) Ten wooden seared staves are then affixed to the inside of that barrel.
3) Searing the staves caramelizes the sugars in the wood, adding a unique flavor that finishes on the front of the tongue.
4) The fully matured Maker’s Mark is then put back in the barrel and aged several more months. When it tastes exactly right, Maker’s 46 is removed from the barrel, bottled, corked and dipped.
The result is a pretty interesting Bourbon. I had a chance to try it at the Victoria Whisky Festival, but then I sampled a number of things that weekend so I’ll leave it to John Hansel of Malt Advocate to fill you in on the details:
“This is original “red wax” Maker’s Mark that received additional aging in barrels containing internal “seared” French oak staves. The original Maker’s Mark, being a wheated bourbon (instead of rye, which is typically used), is rather mellow and easy-to-drink. The French oak staves in “46” add firm, complex dry spices (led by warming cinnamon, followed by nutmeg and clove), herb (a suggestion of Green Chartreuse, perhaps?), and some polished leather “grip”, which dovetails well with Maker’s trademark layered sweetness (caramel, vanilla, a hint of honey). I’m also picking up some dried fruit in the background. The seared oak stave influence is somewhat aggressive, but never to the point of being excessive.” – 90pts John Hansell, Malt Advocate
My Tasting Note: Nose: sweet corn and soft wheat oils, cognac-like notes, vanilla extract, citric fruit juices and notes of brown sugar and agave nectar which develop later; Palate: soft and smooth, loads of sweet-gentle-toasted oak; there is an initial prickle from the alcohol (which is 47%), but this disappears quickly in the first sip; Maker’s Mark’s signature soft winter wheat adds elegance to the palate, the spices are very delicate, coming from the French oak rather than the rye as in most bourbons, without the more common bitter and clove notes; there is a base of vanilla from the American oak, but is always second fiddle to the French oak influenced sweet-spice notes; Finish: smooth and fresh with creamy bourbon, grassy wheat and faded spices; Comments: the step up from the good standard Maker’s Mark is definitely worth the extra 15 bucks!
SPRING WHISKY TOURS UPDATE
My May whisky tours are going ahead as planned. The second, Speyside and the Southern Highlands, is full. The first Islay and the Southwest Coast still has some room, but time is running out if you want to join in on the trip. The absolute latest I need to know if you would like to take part in the tour is the end of March. You can contact me by e-mail if you have any questions, email@example.com , or you can visit my website: www.fergusonswhiskytours.com.. The trip cost will be about $2500.00, not including airfare. Here is an idea of what you might expect on the Islay tour:
Sunday May 8th – The group assembles and departs from Glasgow in the morning.
- We visit the home of Robert Burns in Alloway.
- We make our way to the Isle of Arran to tour the distillery and spend the night on the island.
Monday May 9th – We make our way to Campbeltown
- VIP Tour and Tasting of Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries
- Tour of Glen Scotia Distillery
- Night is spent in Campbeltown.
Tuesday May 10th – We make our way to the island of Islay.
- VIP Tour and Tastings at Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig
- We spend the next three nights in Bowmore.
Wednesday May 11th
- VIP Tour Bruichladdich
- Optional Golf Game
Thursday May 12th
- Tour Isle of Jura Distillery
- VIP Tour Bowmore Distillery
Friday May 13th
- Tour Kilchoman
- Tour Caol Ila
- Return by Ferry to the Mainland
Saturday May 14th
- Tour Auchentoshan Distillery
- Scotch Malt Whisky Society Dinner in Edinburgh
*Exact details to be confirmed.
VICTORIA WHISKY FESTIVAL IN PERSPECTIVE
I had a wonderful time out in Victoria the weekend of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January at the 6th Annual Victoria Whisky Festival. The Festival is put on by a group of whisky enthusiast in Victoria BC, with all the proceeds going to local charities. The festival’s full time volunteer organiser is Lawrence Graham who is a key person in Victoria’s whisky circles. Lawrence presides over a couple of whisky clubs, produces a whisky blog www.whiskyintelligence.com (which publishes each and every Malt Messenger on its site) and is one of but a couple “Malt Maniacs” in Canada. The show is easily the best put on in Canada, not for its large festival tasting which lacks some of the selection of Alberta whisky festivals, but for the Master Classes put on by distilleries and personalities from the world of whisky. This year I attended both as a participant and a presenter.
On the Friday night I attended an excellent Master Class with John Glasser of Compass Box. Rather than just put on a tasting John gave all of those attending the opportunity to blend their own whisky. After tasting the Asyla, Spice Tree and Peat Monster to give us reference points we moved on to sample 5 blending components: 20 year old 1991 Cameronbridge grain whisky, Clynelish from a rejuvenated first fill bourbon barrel, a cask strength version of Compass Box’s Spice Tree, Ardmore (a heavily peated Speysider) and Caol Ila. After a bit of experimentation I set off to produce and bottle (100ml) my own blend consisting of 50% Caol Ila and 20% Ardmore to give it a peaty backbone. I was looking for something like the Compass Box Flaming Heart, but wanted to put my own twist on it. Adding 10% of the Spice Tree for character and 20% of the Cameronbridge for its silky sweet Bourbon notes did the trick! I haven’t had this much fun at a whisky tasting before, and hope to be able to bring an experience like this to Calgary.
Saturday was a busy day, I gave two Master Classes, the first of which was on the effects of aging, called “Better With Age?” I demonstrated how whiskies as young as three years can be very pleasant and that more time in oak didn’t always make for a better whisky. The tasting also showcased to whiskies aged more than 40 years, one of which had a depth and complexity not possible in younger whiskies and another which I felt was over the hill. The second Master Class was for Springbank distillery who were not able to attend the event. I poured whiskies in all three of Springbank’s styles: Hazelburn, Springbank and Longrow, as well as Kilkerran Work in Progress #1 from Glengyle distillery.
After the Springbank tasting I was invited to a Private Canadian Whisky tasting with Davin de Kergomeaux, a sommelier, a certified “Malt Maniac” and producer of the blog: www.canadianwhisky.org.. Davin brought along 3 rare Canadian whiskies from his own collection, including a bottling of Crown Royal from the 1960’s, a rare Rye called Lot 40 and a straight Canadian Rye bottled in the US in small batches called Whistle Pig. For me it was the corn which stood out in the Crown Royal bottling, with floral notes and buttered corn on the cob. The Crown Royal of today is nothing like that of the 1960’s distilled at the Waterloo distillery. The Lot 40 was a revelation, and something I would love to have in my own collection. Made from both malted and un-malted rye it was very peppery and spicy with floral and honey notes. The Whistle Pig is a real interesting story, distilled in Canada it is bottled on a small farm in the US. Produced from 100% un-malted rye it was very sweet with juicy fruits and big spice notes. The tasting was a revelation about how good Canadian whisky is and how underappreciated and misunderstood it can be. There was a fourth very impressive whisky in the tasting, the Wiser’s Legacy which I will discuss in greater detail below. The festival tasting followed the Master Class on the Saturday night, and there were some memorable whiskies, but the weekends highlights and the biggest reasons to attend the Victoria Whisky Festival, are the Master Classes.
The weekend concluded with a small, by invite only whisky dinner at The Mark, a very small intimate dining room in the Hotel Grand Pacific. The evening’s guest of honour was Andrew Gray of Bruichladdich, and he lead us through a tasting of seven whiskies: Links Vancouver, 16 Year Old Cuvee A, 18 Year Old 1st Edition, Golder Still, 18 Year Old Kosher Wine Finish and DNA 2nd Edition 32 Year, and Black Arts II. The highlights were without doubt the DNA II and the Golder Still. The Black Arts II was far better than I had expected, and worth a try, but still nothing close to the Legendary Blacker Still. Speaking of the Blacker Still, we had a chance to enjoy that one too! A fellow Calgarian, and favourite customer of the Kensington Wine Market, Dr. Jane Cameron saw fit to donate a bottle of Blacker Still from her own collection to the night’s tasting. Revisiting this whisky was the perfect way to cap the dinner and the Victoria Whisky Festival weekend.
The Victoria Whisky Festival is truly is the finest whisky festival in Canada, and in the words of many of the presenters, among the best in the world. This is a testament to the work done by Lawrence Graham and all the other volunteers. I hope to be invited out again next year.
Tickets go on sale early in November, and sell out in a matter of hours. Nothing is up yet for 2012, but I’m sure it will be soon. Visit www.victoriawhiskyfestival.com for more details.
UNIVERSAL WHISKY EXPERIENCE Presents THE Nth 2011 SHOW
I am heading down to a really interesting looking whisky festival in Las Vegas this March. On the 18th and 19th of March the Wynn Encore resort will be playing host to the world’s first Super Premium whisky festival. The show’s aim is to bring together producers, brand ambassadors, specialists, collectors and whisky aficionados to sample some of the rarest and most exclusive whiskies in the world. The show consists of a festival tasting on the Friday night, as well as some “events” included in the entry fee. These “special events” include everything from a Gordon & MacPhail tasting which promises the launch of “very old and very rare Single Malt Scotch Whisky”, a Whisky and Cigar pairing, Whisky and Chocolate and a Women and Whisky seminar. Saturday there are a slew of Master Classes from the likes of Dalmore, Bowmore, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenmorangie, Glendronach-BenRiach, Highland Park, Ardbeg and more, each with the opportunity to sample some very rare and precious whiskies. I am very excited about what looks like a very exclusive whisky tasting event.
As with most things in life, the Nth Whisky Show isn’t free, in fact it’s quite pricey, but there is also a lot on offer! A ticket for the event will set you back $525, though this does include one Super-pour of a whisky valued at more than $300 a glass (see the web link below for more details). It also includes free cigar samples, a gourmet dinner and pre-reception, as well as free entry, subject to space, to Friday’s special events. The Saturday Master Classes run $55 a piece but look really appealing, with the opportunity to sample whisky like the Bowmore 40, Dalmore 40 and some unbelievable Glenfarclas bottlings. The shows organiser and visionary Mahesh Patel is offering a special %15 discount to readers of the Malt Messenger and customers of the Kensington Wine Market on the entry fee, as well as one free Master Class with each ticket. To take advantage of this special offer please contact me by e-mail for the access codes: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also the Encore resort is offering special rates on its rooms to event registrants, but these rates won’t last long! For more info on the Nth Whisky Show 2011 visit: www.universalwhiskyexperience.com..
5 Limited Release BenRiachs
Five single cask BenRiach bottlings have just landed in Canada this year, all of them restricted to a single case of six bottles. All five cases have come to the Kensington Wine Market, and most of these bottles have in already sold out in but 2 days. Unfortunately it takes time to write the Malt Messenger…
I have had the pleasure of trying four of the five bottlings courtesy of a couple customers. I was able to write a tasting note on the 1977 and 1978 vintages thanks to Peter (last name withheld to protect the innocent). Bryan, the bar tender at Divino on 8th Avenue gave me a taste of the 1976 and 1984 before he took them to work. (Incidentally Divino’s whisky bar, while small, is one of the best in the city, with a range of really interesting whiskies.) I hope we will continue to see more of these limited releases moving forward, here’s hoping. These whiskies are all limited to 1 bottle per customer. Here are the details on the five different vintages and their availability at the time of writing:
- BenRiach 1991 19 Year – Virgin Oak Finish – $135.99 – 54.9% – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Vanilla beans and butterscotch with oven baked toasted oat biscuits. Palate: Hot buttered toast with hazelnut butter, Incredible dried nut characteristics with a spicy kick. – 2 Bottles Left – $135.99
- BenRiach 1984 25 Year – Tawny Port Finish – $182.99 – 54.1% – My Tasting Note: oak cakes, soft-thick-earthy-peat, dark chocolate, toasted almonds and Oreo cookies; Palate: surprisingly malty after such a long time in the cask, juicy-peaty-malt so thick it feels like you have to chew it, the peaty-oils are gentle, and complimented by the chocolate and grape notes lent to the whisky by the port pipe; sweet vanilla notes shine through the avalanche of peated malt; Finish: bone dry with semi-sweet chocolate; Comments: this one took a full hour to open up in the glass, but boy was it worth the wait! – 2 Bottles Left – $182.99
- BenRiach 1978 32 Year – Tokaji Finish – $271.99 – 50.4% – MY Tasting Note: loads of juicy ripe fruit and nut, very orangey with butter and marmalade on toast; burnt brown sugar and spicy toasted oak; Palate: round and fruity, big notes of white fruits from ripe to poached, candied orange peel, thick spice and dark chocolate, it is incredibly sweet and rich with brown sugar and Christmas spice; Finish: long, toasty and sweet with crisp oak and prickling spice. – SOLD OUT – $271.99
- BenRiach 1977 33 Year – Pedro Ximenez Finish – $290.99 – 52.2% – My Tasting Note: Nose: coffee bean, liquorice extract and anise, nutty sherry, the thickest caramel, ripe strawberries and chocolate; Palate: it hints at rich sweet notes, but the darker ones take over with notes of something smoky, with leather and tobacco notes developing late; Finish long and dark with espresso, brown sugar and burnt fruit. Comment: needs time to open! – SOLD OUT – $290.99
- BenRiach 1976 33 Year – Hogshead Cask – $290.99 – 53.2% – My Tasting Note: Nose: huge honey notes, honeycomb, peanut butter brittle, floral tones and vanilla ice cream; Palate: more honey notes, tropical fruit punch, graham wafers, marzipan, coconut shrimp and silky soft vanilla oils; Finish: long drying and very toasty with more sweet honey notes, and traces of floral notes and tropical fruits; Comments: I can see why they didn’t finish this one, thank God! – 1 Bottle Left – $290.99
FOUR NEW GLENDRONACH VINTAGES DUE ANY DAY
Four different vintages of Glendronach are due over the next week or two and they are exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada. We are receiving just 6 to 12 bottles of each vintage: two different bottlings from 1990 and one each from 1991 and 1996. Out of fairness to our customers they will be strictly limited to 1 bottle of each vintage per person. The vintage releases of Glendronach are described below:
- Glendronach 1990 Cask 3068 – 20 Years – 52.6% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Ripe raisins and dates envolope the mouth and this integrates wonderfully with allspice and dense Pedro Ximinez notes. Palate: Creamy and smooth but with huge intense sherry characteristics. Dark chocolate sauce and sweet cinnamon and clove attributes. – $179.99 – ONLY 12 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
- Glendronach 1990 Cask 3059 – 20 Years – 54.9% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Intense Pedro Ximinez aroma at the beginning followed up by ripe berry fruits with brambles and ripe plums. Palate: Fantastic ripe berry fruits and rich cocoa elements. The chocolate element intensifies with pronounced fresh sugar syrup on the mid palate. – $179.99 – ONLY 6 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
- Glendronach 1991 Cask 2512 – 18 Years – 51.9% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds create depth with a rich sweet Oloroso backbone. Palate: Bold sherry notes react in perfect harmony with chocolate fruit and nut torte. Toffee-apple elements impart a fresh fruity element to the mix. Delightful. – $149.99 – ONLY 12 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
- Glendronach 1996 Cask 202 – 14 Years – 58.3% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Super-ripe morrelo cherries and stewed plums combine with spiced raisins and allspice. Palate: Chewy and rich. Sweet plum pudding and chocolate coated raisins with an elegant sherry finish. – $134.99 – ONLY 6 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
KENSINGTON WINE MARKET RUM ROUNDUP
We’ve seen a distinct growth in the interest paid to premium rums over the last couple of years, and have done our best to satisfy the needs of Calgary rum connoisseurs. We can’t lay claim to having the largest selection of rum in town, currently we stock about 40 different varieties, but we can proudly lay claim to one of the best premium rum collections in the country. You won’t find the latest coconut, passion fruit or bargain (read cheaply produced) rums here, but you will find exceptional sipping rums from the Amrut Old Port to the Gordon & MacPhail Longpond 1941 58 year old.
There is neither the time nor the space to write a history of rum for this Malt Messenger, and similarly I do not have the ability to do justice to the topic of “how rum is made”. I hope you will settle for a description and tasting notes on 22 of the most interesting rums we stock:
1) Amrut Old Port Rum – This little Indian rum is probably the best bargain in the store. It is produced by the same distillery that makes Amrut single malt. The price is so reasonable you wouldn’t hesitate to mix it, but the palate is so smooth and complex you don’t need to. – $26.46
2) Appleton Estate Legacy – The Appleton Estate Legacy is crafted for rums of up to 30 years of age. Nose: toasted oak, spice and sugar cane with hints of citrus; Palate: very smooth with lots of oak, slightly sweet and oily; Finish: a slight spiciness and lots more oak. – $96.49
3) Cadenhead Classic Green Label – This is an independently bottled rum from Scotland, but distilled in Guyana?, Jamaica? or Cuba? There seems to be a lot of disagreement on this issue. The bottle only indicates it is from the Caribbean, matured in oak and bottled at 50% without colouring or chill filtering. This rum always reminds me of Christmas with its strong notes of molasses, orange and spice so thick you could cut it with a knife. – $69.99
4) Cadenhead 12 Year Demerara Laphroaig Cask – Surely the only peated rum in the world! This one came about by accident, with Demerara rum having been filled into barrels which had previously been used to mature Laphroaig single malt. Laphroaig has a very unique taste profile, even among Islay single malt whiskies, with a very salty-medicinal-smoky character. Caramelized and sweet on the one hand this rum is also peaty and medicinal. Islay whisky drinker’s rejoice, this smoky, peaty rum is right up your alley… – $83.99
5) Cadenhead 8 Yr Panama Rum – I tried this little non-chill filtered rum well over a year ago, and remember it being quite chewy. The only tasting note I can now find is in German, so for all of you who sprechen sie duetche: Farbe: Leuchtendes Bernstein. Duft: Geben Sie diesem Rum etwas Zeit im Glas. Duft nach Karamell, Kokosnussmilch, etwas Lakritze. Geschmack: Komplexe cremige Süsse, sehr sanft, trocken. Nachklang: Unglaublich lange – sehr delikat.
6) Clement VSOP – Martinique is a former French colony, officially designated an “overseas department”, meaning that it is still a part of France, but with roughly the same autonomy as the city of Paris. French colonial rums were typically made from cane juice or sugar cane extract, and are often more subtle and cognac like than the molasses driven rums of the English and Spanish Caribbean. This rum has been matured 3 years in recharged Bourbon barrels, and one in ex-cognac casks. Rhum Clement is produced and bottled on the estate. Peppery, sweet and silky with cocoa & honey. – $51.99
7) Clement XO – Is also referred to as the Top Vintage Cuvee. Rhum Clement is one of the few rums in the world to claim a terroir for its sugar cane, which is grown in a unique microclimate of volcanic soil on a single estate. Like the great wine producers of Bordeaux, Cognac or Champagne, Rhum Clement’s rums show the influence of weather, soil and geography. Rhum Clement is produced and bottled on the estate. The XO is superb I first tried it months ago, but lost my notes. Never the less its shows charcoal with maple and Demerara sugar and dried fruit on the palate. It is incredibly smooth, and very complex. – $124.49
8) Cruzan Single Barrel 12 Year – We’ve carried a few of the Cruzan rums over the years, but this one caught our eye, being from a single barrel. The single barrel is made from a blend of rums aged up to 12 years of age. After blending the rum is re-casked and filled into new oak barrels to further matureand marry for at least six months, but up to a year. From this point on each barrel is bottled individually, meaning that there should be considerable variation from batch to batch. This rum typically shows notes of toffee, spice and dried fruit. – $40.49
9) El Dorado 12 Year – El Dorado is the name given to a family of rums produced by Demerara Distillers of British Guyana. It was formed from merger of the last remaining rum producers in the country. Guyana has been producing rum for more than 350 years. By the 1800’s there were over 300 sugar estates, each with its own still(s). Port Mourant (Est. 1732) was the choice of the British Royal Navy in its early years, and when on to produce one of the most recognizable rum brands of the 1800’s OVD or Old Vatter Demerara. The El Dorado range is produced by blending rums produced at three unique stills: the unique wooden coffey still from the old Enmore sugar factory; the world’s last remaining wooden pot still for Port Mourant Estate; and the French savalle still from Uitvlught (pronounced “eye-flute”) Estate. All three stills are housed under one roof today on the Diamond Estate. The 12 Year is full of dark sugar and spice, lush toffee and citrus notes over powered towards the end by a big surge of caramel. The 12 year age refered to on the bottle is the age of the youngest rum in the blend. – $47.99
10) El Dorado 15 Year – Tasting Note Adapted From www.liquorature.com : “You can taste the oak imparted by the barrels the components of the blend were aged in, but amazingly, they never overtake the whole blend…” “… You can separate out well balanced hints of caramel, molasses, burnt sugar, wound around with the faintest hint of cinnamon and vanilla, and the barest trace of orange peel. There is just enough sweet for me to appreciate depth and body, and just little enough to pronounce its age. In fairness, it’s a phenomenally well-balanced drink over all – it can go well neat, on ice or even as a mixer.” – Lance Surujbally – $57.49
11) El Dorado 21 Year – Is a bit of an enigma when compare to the 15 and 25 year olds, both of which are considerably sweeter. The 21 year old is a considerable jump in price from the 15, but worth every penny, it is smooth, rich and complex. I once poured it blind for my whisky club, and not one of them could tell it was a rum, most of them thought it was a sherried Speyside whisky. To me this is a testament to the maturation, and the character derived from the unusual stills. Once again I will borrow from Lance Surujbally of www.liquorature.com: “Good stuff this. At 40% it is like caramel velvet going down…” “…Very very smooth, hardly any bite on the way down. And a long finish, where those sweet highlights come out and almost, but not quite, overpower all the other spices.” – $92.99
12) El Dorado 25 Year – This is perhaps the rarest rum currently available in Alberta, next to the 58 year old Jamaican one (see G&M Longpond 1941 below). The rum was distilled in a single vintage, 1980, and has been bottled after maturing 25 years. Kensington Wine Market’s initial allocation was of only 6 bottles, of which we have 2 left. I have no word on whether we’ll get any more. My Tasting Note: Nose: initially it is very dusty/musty, like entering a earthen floor warehouse; it become more chocolatey with candied fruits and notes of Christmas cake, warmed brown sugar, vanilla extract and firm oak round out the nose; Palate: incredibly sweet, massively so… not since the Ron Zacapa 23 Year have I sampled such a sweet rum, and even then I’d have to try them side by side to say which is sweeter; aged Christmas cake, port wine, assorted chocolates and the softest caramelized fruits you can imagine; there is incredible depth to this rum, with notes of Pedro Ximenez, maple syrup and Beaver Tails; this is decadent, and a dessert in itself, it is as though concentrated Coca-Cola syrup has already been added to the rum; Finish: drying and toasty with hints of the sweet complex layers that just surged over my palate like a storm surge! Comments: at close to $300 this rum isn’t for everyone, but it is infinitely better value and quality than the Santa Teresa Bicentenario which will set you back even more. $297.99
13) El Dorado Single Barrel EHP (Enmore) – The label EHP was applied to rums distilled at the distillery attached to the Enmore Sugar factory which was founded by Edward Henry Porter nearly 200 years ago. This rum is produced by the only wooden Coffee still in the world. Of the three single barrels this one is sweetest and shows the most molasses. – $94.99
14) El Dorado Single Barrel PM (Port Mourant) – PM is the marquee given to identify rums that originated from the Port Mourant Sugar Factory which, founded in 1732, was one of the oldest Estates in the world. Rums from Port Mourant were for a long time part of the British Royal Navy’s traditions. Demerara Distillers has preserved the last of Port Mourant wooden copper pot stills, which continues to be used to this day. This is the spiciest of the three single barrel El Dorados. – $94.99
15) El Dorado Single Barrel ICBU (Uitvlught) – ICBU is the mark used to identify whisky which originated from the distillery attached to the Uitvlugt Sugar Factory which was founded on the West Bank of the Demerara River. Traditionally fermented and distilled in a French Savalle Still which has been relocated to the Diamond Estate where Demerara Distillers produces all its rums today. This is the most complex of the rums and if sales speak to anything it shows, the first case sold day 1! – $94.99
16) English Harbour 1981 25 Year – Like the El Dorado this rum can stake a claim to being from a single vintage. This rum is from a batch of but 5712 bottles produced by the Antigua distillery, on the island of the same name. My Tasting Note: Nose: waves of ripe, stewed and candied fruits, treacle sauce abounds, as do notes of damp tobacco and moist cedar; Palate: I am struck immediately by how subtle and balanced the rum is, first being struck by orange peel, soft caramel and molasses which lead into some clean smoke; spices emerge more prominently on my second sip, as do traces of vanilla, crème brule and stewed fruits; Finish: long but soft, with more molasses, deft vanilla and fading stewed fruits. Comments: very well balanced and well structured; the lover of fine spirits will find much to admire here! $195.99
17) G&M Longpond 1941 58 Year – This is surely the oldest bottled rum in the world, I am certainly not aware of any older! It was produced at the now closed Longpond distillery in Jamaica. The whisky is a curiosity because it was produced during the Second World War. Sometime afterwards it was transported to the UK where it came into the possession of Gordon & MacPhail (whisky merchants). This probably explains the advanced age of this rum, in the heat of the Caribbean it would have evaporated from the cask much more quickly than it did Scotland. My Tasting Note: Nose: I’m not sure there is a better word than unusual to sum up the nose; a bold combination of spearmint, linseed oil, marmalade and Nutella; the nose is thick, sweet and concentrated! After it begins to settle down it becomes more jammy and fruity with raspberries, and even some leafy smoke; Palate: first impressions is sweet, then oily, then floral, a touch bitter, then even sweeter with thick spearmint notes and soft thick vanilla, there are some leafy notes, hints of tobacco and even a hint of smoke; Finish: enormously drying, more spearmint and finally some trace of molasses with soar milk; Comments: after 58 years in oak it’s not surprising that this rum is unusual. What’s remarkable is that they have a rum of this age at all. I’ve never heard of a rum this age before, and as such my recommendation is that it is a must have for any serious rum connoisseur. If this was a Macallan it would be more $20,000.00 a bottle!
18) Legendario Elixir – Legendario is a bit of an enigma, probably because it is produced in Havana, Cuba. There is very little information about it on the internet, and most of what is available is in Spanish. The elixir is a 7 year old Cuban rum, fortified by the addition of a small amount of grape extract. It is very sweet, and if you get on the bottle and thus your hands very sticky. This should probably be classified as a liqueur, but regulations are not that strict with rums. – $37.49
19) Legendario 9 Year – This is rather new to the market, a 9 year old rum produced by Legendario in Cuba. My Tasting Note: Nose: rum raisin and fruit cake with orange marmalade; Palate: is soft and smooth with more orangey fruit, and a soft bed of not-too-sweet molasses; Finish: drying and salty with tangy molasses notes; Comments: this is a versatile rum which could go either way with respect to sipping or mixing!
20) Santa Teresa Bicentenario – A very rare blend of rums up to 80 years of age which is married for 15 years before bottling. Only 1000 bottles of Bicentenario are released per year, and only 24 of them have come to Canada! My Tasting Note: Nose: elegant and restrained I find it a little eggy of the start, reminiscent of good home-made eggnog; honey, brown sugar and anise slowly develop for the patient enough to wait them out; Palate: the palate is light and sweet, with more egg-noggy notes, there are hints of the sweetness that would once have dominated this old rum, but it has mellowed over time into something which could easily be confused with a fine cognac; molasses and brown sugar lazily waltz around as if waiting for someone to pick them up; the oak doesn’t start to develop until 3-4 sips in; Finish: light drying and sweet. – $339.49
21) St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year – The owners of St. Nicholas are blending small batch rums until those produced by their distillery are of sufficient age to be bottled. This is a rum blended from a number of Barbadian rums. Only 150 bottles have come into Alberta! My Tasting Note: Nose: is honeyed and floral with molasses and nutty caramel notes; Palate: very soft and smooth, soft vanilla oils rain down on the palate, oak resin adds a layer of depth, to vanilla extract, old oak barrels, toffee apple and rum raisin; Finish: long, drying and oaky with sweet fading oils; Comment: a very soft, smooth rum with an elegant touch. – $145.99
22) Zaya Gran Reserva – This used to be produced in Guatemala, but now says product of Trinidad on it. But why not said made or distilled in Trinidad? I’ve heard rumour it is still distilled in Guatemala but bottled in Trinidad. No matter it is still a very interesting rum. Aged 12 years in Bourbon and ex-whisky(?) barrels it is a very sweet rum with notes of coffee and chocolate, similar to the legendary Ron Zacapa. – $70.99
TASTING NOTES ON TWO NEW OLD MALT CASK EXCLUSIVES: ROSEBANK 20 AND PORT ELLEN 27
- OMC Rosebank 20 Year – 50% – Single Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6396 – 232 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: fresh, floral and creamy with white fruits; gentle vanilla cream, dew moistened flower petals, pan seared pear and apple crumble; Palate: creamy and soft with big notes of toasted oak and surging vanilla; poached and seared white fruits are augmented by light floral oils; there are grassy herbal tones too; Finish: drying and light with wore grassy herbal notes, firm toasted oak and traces of sweet vanilla. – $189.99 – Only 12 Bottles – Exclusive to KWM
- OMC Port Ellen 27 Year – 50% – Single Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6588 – 225 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: dry biscuity peat, lush backdrop of soft vanilla, bread dough, green grass and savoury herbs; there is salt and smoke too, but it has faded with time; Palate: creamier than I expected with an Ardbegian quality to it; the palate also has elements of chewy malt, vanilla custard, the same savoury herbs found on the nose and soft thick oily peat that reminds me of the Ardbeg malt bunds served at Glenmorangie House; Finish: long and savoury with clean smoke, gentle herbs and delicate peaty oils that leave a pleasant film on your palate; late lingering notes of cigar smoke finish it off; Comments: I haven’t come across a lot of Port Ellen’s that I don’t like, just some that are a lot better than others. This one is very drinkable, it is not the best Port Ellen I’ve ever had, but it is a pleasant drink which will please the palate of any Islay drinker. It is a fine example of a Port Ellen matured in American oak Bourbon barrels. – $349.99 – Only 12 Bottles – Exclusive to KWM
COLLECTOR’S PICK FOR FEBRUARY – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve – $358.99
Royal Lochnagar distillery is special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is one of only three distilleries to ever be given the prefix or suffix “Royal” (the others being Royal Brackla and Glenury Royal, the latter of which is now closed). Lochnagar was given a Royal Warrant after Queen Victoria’s visit in 1848. She could see the Lochnagar distillery from her window, and it remained her favourite whisky for the rest of her life. Secondly, the distillery is the smallest in Diageo’s portfolio of close to 30 distilleries.
The predecessor of Lochnagar distillery, Glen Feardan is founded on the north bank of the River Dee in 1823 by James Robertson. Three years later the distillery is burnt down by competitors. Robertson establishes a new distillery near the mountain, Lochnagar. In 1841 the distillery is again burnt down. Four years later John Begg establishes a distillery on the south bank of the River Dee, it is called New Lochnagar. The distillery was built less than a mile from Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
The distillery only producesthree official bottlings, a 12 year old which is not sold in Canada, the Distillers Edition and the Selected Reserve. The Selected Reserve is usually a vatting of half European oak ex-sherry casks and half American oak ex-Bourbon casks. The bottling has no official age statement though it is believed to be composed of whiskies matured to between 18 and 20 years of age on average. The Selected Reserve is not bottled every year. This edition of the Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve was bottled and released in 2008. It is limited to 4,700 bottles filled at 43%. The whisky has been in Alberta for a couple of years, but I resisted bringing it into the Kensington Wine Market until we could get it to a more reasonable price. We have been able to do so, and are now selling for fully $100 less than we would have had we brought it in on arrival.
87pts Malt Advocate Magazine: “So nice to see this whisky available here in the U.S. again. A more mature, more sherried expression of the standard Royal Lochnagar. Rich, silky, and sweet, with molasses, nutty toffee, old demerara pot still rum, caramelized fig, marmalade, and juicy oak. More subtle notes of honeyed ginger, coffee grounds, and tobacco leaf add complexity. A soothing post-prandial dram. “
My Tasting Note: Nose: soft and candied, Christmas spices, elegant sherry notes, like walking into a French bakery with fresh croissants, pain au chocolate and other rich assorted confectionary having just been removed from the oven; Palate: soft, rich and sweet with crisp spice; the palate is thick with caramel and molasses, there are notes of burnt fruit along with some dark sherry; the palate is sherry driven with only the faintest traces of American oak and vanilla, but all the while it is very soft; Finish: sweet, drying and spicy with smooth gentle oak; Comments: Royal Lochnagar is a relatively obscure single malt on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve only seen one independent bottling here in the 8 years I’ve been at the Kensigton Wine Market. This aged premium version by that criteria is rare indeed. It is a pleasant, complex, easy drinking whisky. My only criticism is that Diageo has yet to see the light and start bottling its whiskies at 46% or higher!
WHISKY 101 PART II – What is Single Malt Whisky?
If you’ll recall in the last instalment I outlined what exactly whisky is. In review, whisk(e)y is a spirit distilled spirit made from fermented grains (corn, wheat, rye or barley) which has matured 2-3 years (depending on the Country) in oak barrels with a strength of no less than 40%. But what is a single malt whisky?
Before we go any further it is worth noting that single malt and Scotch are not synonymous terms. “Scotch” refers to any whisky made in Scotland, but not all Scotch whiskies are single malts and not all single malts are Scotch. Single malt whiskies have been made in Scotland and Ireland for centuries. Japan got on board in the 1920’s and in the last couple of decades in the 20th and early 21st centuries single malt distilleries have been popping up the world over. From Cape Breton to Sweden, Spain to Thailand, India to Wales and the USA to Pakistan (yes even Pakistan) single malt whiskies are now being distilled the world-over, but you can’t call them Scotch!
The term single malt has two segments, the word “single” and the word “malt”. Single, when used in reference to a malt whisky indicates that the whisky was made at a single distillery. Malt is a reference to the style of whisky, one which has been made from malted barley. Barley is a particularly hearty grain, storing the energy it will employ to grow a future plant in the form of starch. The seed first must convert the starch to sugar before it can use that energy to grow a plant. Similarly, with respect to the production of whisky, the yeast needs enzymes in the barley to convert the starch to sugar before it can start producing alcohol. This process is called malting, and will be discussed in the next instalment of Whisky 101.
1) OMC Port Ellen 27 Year – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. For more information on this whisky, see above. – $349.99
2) OMC Rosebank 20 Year – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. For more information on this whisky, see above. – $189.99
3) OMC Mortlach 12 Year – 50% – Single Sherry Butt – 330 Total Bottles – Smooth and oaky with sweet spicy fruits, cherry coke, cinnamon, cardamom and clove. – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. DL Reference # 6074. $109.99
4) Glenrothes 1988 – 43% – 20 Years – European and American Oak – “Rich candied orange peel and fruit compote.” – $99.99
5) Hazelburn 12 Year 2nd Edition – 46% – Sherry Casks – “Malty, fruity and elegant. A very well balanced and rounded dram with hints of oak, figs and nuts. – $97.99
6) Glenlivet Nadurra – 57.7% – American Oak – “Smooth and silky with the sweetness of soft fruits and honeyed flowers balanced by a dry, oak finish of considerable length with notes of ginger and hazelnuts.” – $77.99
7) Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve – 43% – European and American Oak – For more information and see above. – $358.99
8) Bruichladdich Black Arts II – 49.7% – 21 Year – As if Bruichladdich didn’t have enough of an identity problem to begin with, this just complicates things. Allegedly from a secret mix of casks known only to Jim Murray, with no doubt a high proportion of wine casks. I had chance to sample it in Victoria and will put my tasting note up on the website just as soon as I find it. – $140.99
9) Bruichladdich Sherry Classic – 46% – Matured in Bourbon and Finished in Sherry – 91pts Jim Murray: “a barley-grape-see-saw which moves effortlessly, into a dry winey middle; the malt when apparent appears youthful and lithe”. – $59.99
10) Bruichladdich 16Year Cuvee F Pomerol – $46% – Bourbon Matured, Chateau Lafleur Finished – “Taste: barley tries to make a brief statement before the microphone is snatched away by bristling fruit; the mouthfeel is a bit like a dissolving sugar candy; Finish: some oak gets a word in, but can barely make itself heard against the barley.” – 135.99$73.49
11) Ardmore Traditional – Peated Highland single malt whisky finished in Quarter casks. I will publish my own tasting note in the next issue. “Full, smooth.Peat smoke and earthy richness, tempered by subtle sweetness.” 88.5pts Jim Murray. – $43.99
12) BenRiach 1991 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $135.99
13) BenRiach 1984 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $182.99
14) BenRiach 1978 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $271.99
15) BenRiach 1977 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $290.99
16) BenRiach 1976 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $290.99
17) Penderyn Peated – 46% – 1st Batch created when they accidentally matured Penderyn in peated casks. They received good reviews so they have recreated the mistake… My Tasting Note: Nose: reminds me of tequila, lush vanilla, sea breeze and steamed mussels, very green and vegetal; Palate: big creamy vanilla, white chocolate, kale, soft of clean smoke, and more vegetal grassy notes; Finish: grassy with clean smoke. – $119.99
1) Arran 1999 KWM Bourbon Cask – Our own exclusive single cask of Bourbon matured Arran. Pre-order it and save 5%, pre-order both it and our Sherry cask and save 7%. For more info see above. – $84.99
2) Arran 1998 KWM Sherry Cask – Our own exclusive single cask of Sherry matured Arran. Pre-order it and save 5%, pre-order it and the Bourbon cask and save 7%. For more info see above. – $84.99
3) Arran Machrie Moor – The first release of peated Arran will soon be available. It is called Machrie Moor after the stone circles on the islands west coast. It has been getting good reviews and won’t last long. Only 90 bottles are coming into Alberta, and KWM is getting 60. – $77.99
4) Glendronach 1990 Cask 3068 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.
5) Glendronach 1990 Cask 3059 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.
6) Glendronach 1991 Cask 2512 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.
7) Glendronach 1996 Cask 202 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.
8) Highland Park St. Magnus – The second bottling in a new series from Orkney’s most iconic distillery. – $TBA
9) Glenmorangie Sonalta PX – 96.5pts Jim Murray – Pedro Ximenez finished Glenmorangie. This will be exclusive to KWM. – $TBA
10) G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith 1968 – Exclusive to KWM. 40 year old Glen Keith, bottled at 46%! Only 30 bottles coming in to Canada. – $TBA
If you have any whisky questions or comments concerning The Malt Messenger please contact me by e-mail, phone, or drop by the store. Feel free to forward me any whisky news you feel should be included in a future issue of The Malt Messenger; it might just get included.
All of the products mentioned in THE MALT MESSENGER can be purchased in store, over the phone or from our website at www.kensingtonwinemarket.com.. All prices quoted in the Malt Messenger are subject to change!
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Calgary, AB, Canada