Abelour A’Bunadh – A Review

So with all the talk of Quarter Cask and A’bunadh convincing so many staunch anti-NAS fanatics I felt like I ought to give this at least a try! Had this dram in the lovely Albanch bar on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

Abelour A’bunadh – Batch 47. 60.7% Abv

Nose: ripe fruits, strong alcohol presence, raisins, candyshop sweetness, light honey comb.

Palate: Bright open with wood spice, warm, sweet sherry, demerara sugar, hints of marshmallow (Maeve’s input).

Finish: Sharp lingering spice, wood spice, sweetness, marshmallow again. Medium length.

Score: 82/100.

For a oloroso sherry casking I was pleasantly surprised that the taste wasn’t overpowering. Maybe in my mind the story behind A’bunadh was hyped up quite a bit but my opinions are I’d have it again, probably wouldn’t buy a bottle of it though myself.

TL:DR: A’bunadh was good. Nothing amazing. Over hyped.Abelour

Cadenhead’s Small Batch Little Mill – Review

Colour: Amber gold.

Nose (without water) : Toasted nuts, nugat, honey comb, hint of raisins.

Palate (w/o water): Delicate open, toasted wood, walnut, bourbon sweetness, light sherry influence,

Finish (w/o water): beautiful lingering of toasted wood, burnt sugar, slight lingering spice and finally some light sherry notes.

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Nose (with water): Sweet honeycomb, nut, toasted wood, raisin/sherry completely gone.

Palate (water): Spice and sherry influences gone, Candyshop sweetness remained.

Finish (water): light and short, toasted wood, burnt sugar.

Score: 92/100. 

Double distilled, toasted bourbon barrels with a quick finish in sherry casks. Delicious combination.

I tried this at a local bar that was suggested by the staff at Cadenhead’s. After trying it I went straight back to shop to try buy a bottle it was that good. I was extremely impressed with their Little Mill bottling and I was very disheartened to find out that they had no bottles of it left. They had one distillery bottle left in the shop, although the staff advised me the flavour profile was entirely different and it was quite frankly over price. Unfortunately since Little mill itself has been demolished they’re not going to have any more again.

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Non-age statements

Non-age statement whiskies are very much a hot topic right now. This is a trend of releasing bottles of whisk(e)y with a fancy name instead of a year statements that has been becoming more and more prevalent with the global boom in whisk(e)y sales.

This new/not so new trend, is causing lots of controversy and discussions amongst the fans of the water of life. There are claims that distilleries are just dolling up fancy boxes with very young stock, coloured and chill filtered to the hilt to cash in on the boom in the whisk(e)y market. The distilleries are claiming that they are simply running out of older stock that would allow them to continue to make premium age stated bottlings.

I’m inclined to believe a little of both. Remember that for a distillery to release a 12 year old whisk(e)y there much be a cask maturing in their warehouses for at least 12 years. Seems simple. But whisk(e)y production takes some serious foresight on the behalf of the distillers. They need to gauge how much of the spirit they are going to need in 5, 10, 15 maybe even 20 years time. Not many people would have been able to predict this global boom in the whisk(e)y industry 15 years ago. So my opinions on this leads me to lean slightly on the side of the distillery not having old enough stock to bottle a premium age consistently. A lot of these distilleries have been using the finite amount of space in their warehouses to produce age statements for a much smaller market for years. Now that push has come to shove nearly everybody is in operations to build and expand to meet the market demands that this new whiskey industry holds.

Personally I think that it matters much more what your whisk(e)y tastes like than what its aesthetics on the box are. But that said, I have come across a lot of people who use the age statement on whisk(e)y to gauge a rough subjective quality, in their own heads. Their theory goes 18yr/o > 16 yr/o. Which I suppose empirically makes sense. Although in no way do I really believe that the larger the number equals the better the taste. I have had some really great 3 year old samples of Scotch that have rivaled other 12 yr/o. But like most things related to whiskey, it’s all down to personal taste.

I personally think that we are going to see a lot of NAS bottles replace bread and butter whisk(e)y like the Glenlivet 12, that was recently pulled. I think that distilleries will be able to sustain their growth more and for longer rationing what stock of older whisk(e)y they actually have left.

What I hope I don’t see is a surge of fancy packaged NAS whisk(e)y that have lots of fancy marketing jargon but taste worse than the age statements they replace. As many people have pointed out to me, these fancy NAS bottlings can essentially bring bigger bucks for younger whisk(e)ys for distilleries. So I’m sure the temptation is there with all directors to push younger more coloured spirits onto markets for huge mark ups. This would be a sad state of affairs. I will hold out hope that their pride in their brand name will at least keep some of the big names producing quality spirits and not skimping out to make a few extra bucks while de-grading a great taste.

I think this will be an interesting period of progression in the industry as a whole. I think the entry level of the market will buy in very easily to the fancy labels claiming “limited supply” or “rare” to show off to their friends in lieu of a big age statement. For the rest of the market, the people who do their homework, I think they’ll be divided. I think those who are already converted by the likes of Laphroaig Quarter Cask or Abelour A’bunadh will be more accepting to the changes and I hope they won’t be disappointed. The rest of us will remain skeptical. Do our homework and hope that we won’t be disappointed with whatever rounds the bend.

TL;DR: NAS bottles are here to stay. I hope they aren’t going to be sh1t.

Whisk(e)y and its dance with the Irish bar scene

After spending a weekend in the city of Edinburgh I was pleasantly surprised to see that in a city that boasts no distilleries of its own, every bar has a reasonably priced and varied selection of Scotch whiskies, ranging from small to huge. I had a stark realisation that the bar industry in Scotland was far more aware of having a drinks selection outside of the draft beer and wine, that appealed to tourists and locals alike who wished to sample what Scotland had to offer.

Irish bars and restaurants have perfectly manicured wine selections, with bottles hailing from the likes of France, California and Chile. While the singular lonely bottle of the Irish home grown spirit is only reserved for hot whiskeys.

The Irish whiskey industry is going through a monumental renaissance at the moment. Distilleries are popping up all across the country and this expansion is only being mirrored by the fact that Irish whiskey is currently the fastest growing spirit in the world. Tens of thousands of tourists come to the Emerald Isle every year to witness the birth-place of Irish Whiskey and the bar trade seems none the wiser that there is a market of locals and tourists who have a taste for the grain.
We have seen that there is a market for it. The Irish Whiskey Museum opened recently in the heart of Dublin city and they have shot straight to the top of Trip Advisors attractions in Dublin city. Thankfully we are also seeing the beginnings of Whiskey bars start to poke their head’s above the parapets in some of the major cities too. This is a great start but it should be better. The thirst is there and the publicans of Ireland are not quenching it.
Now I’m not suggesting that every bar owner in the country rushes out and drops €7,000 on a bottle of Middleton Pearl. But for a couple of hundred euro a bar would be able to stock its shelves with a snippet of the variety that Ireland has to offer.

A decent selection served in a decent glass (I’m not saying we should all stock up on glencairns straight away but not a high ball either) would enable publicans to widen their portfolio of clients as well as their profit margins.

Tourist spots could better cater to the visitors who have come to our country having heard so much about the national spirit. It could become a very enticing selling point for Irish businesses, introducing both foreigners and locals to what Ireland has to offer, both in the glass and on the plates with clever food pairings.

The Irish whiskey market is booming and with the global reach of the spirit getting wider its time for the Irish bar trade to catch up before they get left behind.

 

TL:DR: Irish bars need to stock better varieties of Whisk(e)y.