Whisky Review & Tasting Notes: Balvenie 17 Year Old Peated Cask

Yesterday I reported on the Balvenie tasting held in TLV earlier this week and I suddenly noticed that I didn’t publish tasting notes for the 17 Year Old Peated Cask on the blog although I did taste it numerous times in the past, so let’s fix this, OK?

The 17yo peated cask is a standard Balvenie unpeated spirit that was finished in casks that held peated spirit. Yes, Balvenie do distill peated spirit, but they do so for only one week every year.

Fun fact: when I visited Balvenie I noticed they are using peat for couple of hours when drying the barley to stop germinating but it’s done for a short period and it’s not imparting the barley with enough PPM to be called peated malt :)

The Peated cask is a discontinued expression so prices are high considering its age, but it may be worth it. let’s check.

Balvenie 17 Peated Cask (43%, €117.5 / $138)

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Balvenie tasting in Tel-Aviv and a Whisky Review: Balvenie 40 Year Old

Yesterday our off-the-beaten-whisky-track country got to host a real Balvenie tasting where the Balvenie range (at least the part is imported to Israel) was showcased.

balvenie new make

Balvenie new make at 69.7%

This tasting, organized by our local Balvenie importer HaCarem, was led by Jonny Cornthwaite, a Balvenie ambassador who did a great work leading the audience through the tasting.

We started with a sip of Balvenie new make bottled at 69.7%. It was oily and malty with coconut, fruity touch with herbal/floral edge and overall very clean and fresh, clearly showing the Balvenie profile we know from their whiskies.

We then moved to the real lineup which included Balvenie 12yo double wood (of course), the 17yo double wood, 21yo portwood and the 17yo peated cask which isn’t produced anymore but seems like we still get some from the dwindling stocks left in the warehouses.

The Balvenie tasting lineup

The Balvenie tasting lineup. From right to left (!): 12yo DW, 17yo DW, 17yo Peated cask & 21yo Portwood

balvenie tasting led by Jonny CornthwaiteIn between tastings, Jonny explained the process of producing whisky and how Balvenie keeps up the old whisky production tradition. The tradition keeping was a very prominent part in the presentation and is an integral part of how Balvenie define themselves.

But the for me, the highlight of the tasting was sitting down with Jonny along with my fellow Israeli whisky bloggers (Gal & Michael), discussing and dissecting whisky and whisky industry and getting to taste the Balvenie forty year old which immediately made it the best whisky day in a long time!

Details are a bit sparse on the Balvenie forty year old whisky but we do know it comes from a vatting of three sherry butts and three or four (depends on the batch) American oak casks. There’s no need for suspense here and I assume it won’t shock you to know it’s a good dram. the question is only: “just how good is it?”

Balvenie 40 Year Old (48.5%, 150 bottles, £2,945 / $3,800)

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Whisky Review & Tasting Notes – Weinturm Hidden Gem Bowmore 13yo Markowitsch-Rosenberg Finish

It’s a cold (at least by our standards) and rainy day here so I threw out of the window the planned review for today and elected instead to go for something peaty but with a twist: Peated (doh!) Bowmore done in wine finish!

It’s a bottling done by Single Cask Collection (www.singlecaskcollection.at)  for Weinturm (www.weinturm.at) in Austria. It’s part of their Hidden Gem range which contains Scotch finished in Austrian wine makers barrels that were shipped to Scotland for the finish period. Along with this Bowmore, there are other interesting bottlings such as Mortlach 10yo finished in a Dockner Sacra Cask and Linkwood 14yo finished in a Weninger merlot Cask – I must say they all piqued my curiosity and they are available in a set (4 Hidden Gem bottles) here for only €239.

Anyway, this Hidden Gem Bowmore was distilled 25.09.1998 and bottled 30.03.2013 after it was finished in Markowitsch (Austrian winemaker) wine cask from 2008 for a couple of months. Lets see if it’s indeed a hidden gem or not.

Hidden Gem Bowmore 13yo Markowitsch-Rosenberg Finish (56.5%, 195 bottles, €99)

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Whisky Review and Tasting Notes – Glenmorangie Taghta

Not too long time ago, Glenmorangie ‘created’ a “crowd sourced” whisky. It means that everything important about it was selected and chosen (or at least heavily influenced) by the public who cared (and possible consumers). The whisky taste, name and label design – all of it went threw voting process and at the end, after a very long and somewhat tedious process (I admit I got tired of it in the middle of the process and I probably wasn’t alone in that feeling), we got this whisky: Glenmorangie Taghta.

taghta label design

Taghta (pronounced tuh-tah) is Scots Gaelic for ‘chosen’ and the whisky that was chosen was finished in ex-Manzanilla casks.

As generally I like Glenmorangie, I bought and shared a bottle with my friend Michael in the hope for another good addition to whisky shelf. Is it?

Glenmorangie Taghta (46%, £65)

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Whisky Review & Tasting Notes: Aberfeldy 12 year old

Weekend is here (or almost here, depends on your time zone) and for the weekend we have a review of a classic whisky, the Aberfeldy 12.

Bacardi took over Aberfeldy back in 1998 and a year later released the 12 yo we We came to know and love, and still, most of their production goes toward the Dewars blend malt line.

Aberfeldy is one of five distilleries taking part in Bacardis’ “The Last Great Malts” series, so the Aberfeldy 12 yo has been repackaged with new label and since I haven’t review Aberfeldy yet on the blog, so there you go!

Aberfeldy 12 year old (40%, £31.95)

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Whisky Review – Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach

Bunnahabhain is the Islay distillery mostly known for the fact it’s main production is unpeated whisky. However, they do release some peated whisky and Toitech comes to mind as prime example. And now, here comes new peated whisky from Bunnahabhain: Ceòbanach, limited edition with no age statement (according to the label) but it’s known to be a 10 yo expression.

Ceòbanach (pronounced ‘Kyaw-bin-och’) means “Smoky Mist” and the ”excuse” behind this release (besides generating more sales and eyeing the holidays shoppers wallets) was to give an impression of the original peated Bunnahabhain profile from long time ago (think of end of the 19th century/start of 20th century period)

Ceòbanach is a limited edition release, but unlike previous limited editions isn’t geared toward Travel Retail so it means we all can go and buy it if we want to. Do we? Thanks to a sample from a friend (Thanks Manny!), it’s time to answer this question.

Bunnahabhain Ceobanach (46.3%, €55 / £42.5)

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Whisky Review – Compass Box Great King Street: Glasgow Blend

Along with the Lost Blend which I reviewed yesterday, Compass Box also introduced the second permanent whisky in their Great King Street range – The Glasgow Blend.

Mind you, it’s the second permanent whisky in this line but we had two  experimental releases during the summer of 2013 which the public was supposed to vote on which one it preferred to guide Compass Box toward the winning formula.

In my review of those experimental releases (see it here), I declared it was hard to choose between them; One was a peaty whisky and the other was sherried whisky but eventually I voted for the sherried one. But neither one match the description of Glasgow Blend, so I chatted with Chris Maybin of Compass Box on this subject.

What were the poll results on the experimental releases last year?

There was 16 votes between the two after around 3000 votes. The smoky version won but really the result was pretty much 50/50.

How did the experimental releases from last year impact this blend?

The Experimental releases impacted the make up of this blend a great deal. Tasting them and the feedback we received helped us realise that both smokey and sherry Experimental styles had a delicious character – indeed both were very well received – but both possibly lacked a little something. That got us thinking that perhaps we could combine them to get the best of both worlds!

Did you used one of them as the basis to the final Glasgow blend?

No, in concept, Glasgow Blend is very much a combination of both of them. The challenge was to find the right balance of smoke, sherry, fruity malt and sweetness from the grain. Despite the work we had done on the two Experimentals, it took a year and over 100 prototype recipes before we reached something we were happy with.

So here we are with the chosen blend formula, a smoky sherried blend to serve as a sibling to the original Great King Street blend. It is made from approximately 67% malt whisky from the regions of Islay, the Highlands and Speyside and 33% Lowland grain whisky from a Fife distillery (i.e. Cameronbridge). It is aged in a combination of first-fill Sherry casks, first-fill and refill ex-Bourbon barrels with a small portion of new French oak finishing.

Compass Box Great King Street: Glasgow Blend (43%, 50cl, £27.45)

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