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Burns Night Source Guide: Whisky, Haggis, Kilts and More!

By Susannah Skiver Barton

good-one-no-ipadLongtime lovers of Scotch whisky are usually familiar with Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. The 18th-century bard’s use of the Scots dialect in his compositions made him one of the country’s most beloved figures, and every January 25th, millions of people in Scotland and throughout the world celebrate his birthday with feasting, poetry, and whisky.

As Scotch whisky has grown in popularity in recent years, more people in the U.S. are hosting a Burns Night supper. Presuming you can choose your own Scotch (and if you can’t, consult our Buying Guide), here’s how to celebrate the night in style.

M2HG

Haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA

What to Eat

No Burns supper is complete without haggis, that humble and unnerving native dish traditionally made from offal and oatmeal cooked in the animal’s stomach. At many Burns Night events, the haggis is led in with live bagpipe music and placed before the host, who then recites Burns’ “Address to a Haggis,” dramatically plunging in a large knife at the lines, “An cut you up wi ready slight/Trenching your gushing entrails bright.”

It’s impossible to track down authentic Scottish haggis in the U.S., since the law prohibits the sale and consumption of certain, ahem, ingredients. But Scottish Gourmet USA makes a version that passes credibly for the real thing, available in 1- and 5-pound versions, as well as a “presentation haggis” that’s sure to wow your dinner guests. As a former resident of Scotland who enjoys the dish quite a bit, I can personally vouch for this domestic version. I serve it the traditional way, with mashed tatties (potatoes) and bashed neeps (turnips—the large yellow ones), and a very satisfying whisky cream sauce, made by heating a about a quarter cup of scotch until it’s reduced by half, then whisking in a cup of heavy cream, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

The Entertainment

Since the evening celebrates Scotland’s national poet, the entertainment revolves around his oeuvre, delivered in the form of toasts. First, there’s a toast to Burns’ immortal memory, which typically includes the recitation of one of his poems. Next, one man offers an Address to the Lassies—a light-hearted and often amusing speech that was traditionally used to thank the women who prepared the meal. One woman then gives a Reply to the Laddies, often responding cheekily to specific points raised in the previous speech. Anyone who wishes can recite a Burns poem or lead the party in a song—you can find Burns’ complete works here. At the end of each toast, guests quaff deeply—so be sure to have plenty of extra whisky on hand.

What to Wear

There’s no uniform required at these events, but if you have the chance to wear a kilt, take it. Kilts are comfortable; they draw the attention of others in the room; and they lend a certain gravitas to the occasion. A kilt-wearer often seems more interesting and enigmatic to other people.

For the month of January, you can rent a kilt with all the requisite accessories starting around $130, plus shipping, from Kilt Rental USA. There are also any number of other online shops ready to kit you out. Like a tuxedo, a kilt is tailored to measure—no need to worry about it falling off!

Burdick_RobertBurnsBoxAsmt_Al Karevy

Robert Burns Collection from L.A. Burdick Chocolates

The Dessert

As the evening winds down, you’ll probably want one more whisky and something sweet to pair with it. Or you could combine the two with whisky-filled chocolates, like these made by L.A.Burdick specifically for Burns Night and filled with Macallan, Talisker, Springbank, Highland Park, and Lagavulin, or these from Compartés, filled with ganache that’s infused with Macallan 18.

And if you do nothing else on January 25th, be sure to raise a dram to the man who gave us these immortal lines,

“‘Life’s cares they are comforts’—a maxim laid down

By the Bard, what d’ye call him, that wore the black gown;

And faith I agree with th’ old prig to a hair,

For a big-belly’d bottle’s a heav’n of a care.”

The post Burns Night Source Guide: Whisky, Haggis, Kilts and More! appeared first on Whisky Advocate.

Loch Lomond Single Grain

Loch Lomond Single Grain Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $30 Website What the Distillery Says: Single Grain is an elegant and full bodied single grain with a smoothness making this exceptionally easy to drink. A single grain scotch whisky with a distinctive background character of soft fruits and creamy vanilla with a hint of smoke and … Continue reading Loch Lomond Single Grain →

The Nikka Miyagikyo Single Malt Japanese Whisky

Tasting notes:
The Nikka Miyagikyo (NAS) Single Malt Japanese Whisky opens with goat haunches stewed in sherry with mushrooms, burgundy, and sage. We got also smudge sticks wielded by teenagers living on the Pacific Rim, the inside of an old atlas stored in the attic, and a janitor’s mop that dried out in the basement. Arabesques of lemon-inflected ammonia repel swamp gas effluences. There’s charcoal, too, but of the sort used in an aquarium filter for a school of pacifist Betta fish, aka the pla-kad (Thai) or trey krem (Khmer). Calm, but with the prospect of violence. Off-putting, but intriguing.

In scornful contrast, the mouth is super-smooth, almost frictionless, an ivory Chashaku tea scoop expertly sanded by a National Living Treasure using fluid, graceful motions. It’s balanced, too, like Zen jenga masters achieving Kenshō via building 37-floor towers. It’s drinking quartz crystals and chrysanthemums, green tea and icicles, turtles and impish mischievousness.

The finish brings holiday fireworks, dolorous notes written—but never sent—to a lover who jilted you, memories of days of wine and white roses, and licking the inside of a sun-warmed, still salted and silty, clam shell (sans clam). It’s as wistful as writing a haiku in the sand at sunset and watching the tide wash it away as the moon rises. Cherry blossom petals stirred by the breeze.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of haikus Bashō never wrote–
The Nikka Miyagikyo (NAS) Single Malt Japanese Whisky is

Cold shallow water
Snow crane stands on one leg
Mister Miyagi

 

 

 
                                                                              –Bill

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Nikka and Anchor Distilling for the sample!


 

 

WhiskyCast Episode 624: January 15, 2017

This week, we'll tell you about two upcoming opportunities to taste rare whiskies in Scotland and Kentucky. David Faughn and Brian Shemwell will have the story behind a collaboration of several Bourbon clubs in Kentucky and Tennessee to organize the "Rare Bourbon for Rare Disease" charity tasting event on February 25 at Louisville's Haymarket Whiskey Bar. David's young daughter suffers from a rare genetic disorder, and his NUBPL Foundation received a bottle of Buffalo Trace's new O.F.C. Vintage Series Bourbon to use for fundraising. Brian heads up the Paducah Bourbon Society, and brought the Bourbon clubs together for the event. We'll also get details from Angus MacRaild on The Whisky Show: Old & Rare February 18 and 19 in Glasgow, which is being billed as the "whisky bar of a lifetime" with a chance to taste rare and vintage whiskies. In the news, we'll honor the legacy of Heaven Hill's Parker Beam, who lost his four-year-long battle with ALS this week. We'll also have news of new whiskies, update our story on Ben and Jerry's plans for a new Bourbon-flavored ice cream that's being welcomed along Louisville's Urban Bourbon Trail, and look at a uniquely Scottish whisky cocktail to be served in Edinburgh on Burns Night January 25. 

Review - Ballantine's Hard Fired

Ballantine's Hard Fired is a blended expression created using a double-charred cask product process which produces an expression with enhanced flavours of sweet smooth vanilla and spicey smokiness.

The signature 'Hard Fired' process takes a specific selection of American oak casks which are then charred a second time to a specific level that is judged by sight by the highly experienced coopers. These best of these casks are then filled with a unique Ballantine's blend to rest.

Ballantine's is the biggest selling Scotch whisky in Europe and second biggest worldwide with over 70 million bottles a year worldwide. The extensive Ballantine's range of blended Scotch stretches from affordable expressions such as Ballantine's Finest to the exclusive 40 years old and includes a flavoured spirit drink, Ballantine's Brasil which is infused with Brasilian lime peel.

Ballantine's whisky was first produced by a Edinburgh grocer named George Ballantine. He started his grocery business as a tea blended before using he keen understanding of blended flavours to start blending his own whiskies. Blending is now expertly maintained by Sandy Hyslop; only the 5th Master Blender in Ballantine's history since George himself. The brand is currently owned by Chivas Brothers, part of the larger Pernod Ricard group.


Our tasting notes
The nose has loads of caramel and vanilla sweetness balanced with burnt candied orange and fresh red apple. There is also underlying earthiness akin to dried autumnal leaves and baking spice such as nutmeg and cinnamon. On the palate the whisky is quite light and sweet with the sweetness of a toffeed apple; caramel along with fresh orchard fruit. Complexity comes through with the same warmth of earthy woody spices that appeared on the nose and this earthiness continues through to the woody and almost dry finish which also includes the candied orange.

What's the verdict?
This expression offers something unique for the Ballantine's brand and takes it in a different direction. The whisky stands up well drunk neat but also mixes superbly in cocktails as the sweetness and spiciness shines through. We tried it mixed simply with apple juice, in an Old Fashioned with a twist and as the warming component of a hot toddy and all worked well.

Ballantine's Hard Fired is 40% ABV and is available through travel retail for €24 (around £20). 

The Trojan is Here!

The wait is almost over folks... 
Tomorrow (Thursday 31st March) sees the release of The Trojan- our first whisky from the Exile Casks project that we've been working on.

The Trojan was distilled on 19th June 1990, and filled into cask 3110.  It's been maturing for 25 years now and its finally ready for the world to taste!

To get your hands on The Trojan, which is bottled at 57.1% and available in 306 limited edition 50cl bottles, priced at £65, visit www.exilecasks.com The whisky is only available from there and we envisage it to go on sale around 1pm UK time tomorrow.

Until then- here's a nice picture of the bottle!!

Discover. Liberate. Enjoy.
Joel & Neil x


Jim Murray, 2015 Whisky Bible and Why Scotch Whisky Sucks



There is always a good deal of chatter when Jim Murray releases his awards list ahead of the release of a new edition of his bible, surely the sometimes controversial choices he makes are no promotional accident...
Some of the best whiskies I was fortunate enough to taste in 2014 were from Japan, and I would agree that the Yamazaki Sherry Cask is a stunning whisky from one of the world’s greatest malt whisky-producing countries, but the Daily Mail’s (expected) sensational headline and Mr. Murray’s statements strike me as remarkably unfounded. That Scotch whisky has something to be “humiliated” about, that a perceived lack of innovation has hindered Scotch producers is near nonsense.
Scotch whisky is celebrated and esteemed as much for its diversity of flavour as for its adherence to traditional craftsmanship over its lengthy history but recent years have seen these traditions used in new ways, with innovation from barley to barrel to bottle across the industry, albeit within parameters. Interestingly, many of these innovations have been in turn praised and criticised by Mr. Murray over the past two decades, from 1994s praise of finishing to his 2008 critique of the practice.
Japanese whisky was founded on the traditions of Scotch whisky making over 90 years ago, and it could possibly be argued that Japan adheres even more to the traditional methods (wooden washbacks, direct firing stills, etc) than the average malt distillery in Scotland so I do question Murray’s implied praise of generalised Japanese “innovation” over just making really good whisky that he liked.
Since the mid-1980s, when the world saw its first Single Malt from Japan, Japanese whiskies have attracted acclaim. Since 2008, Japanese blends and malts have won major titles, most notably from the World Whisky Awards. This is not to say that Scotch has stoppedwinning these awards or top acclaim from writers, including Murray. Although Scotch has, until now, won his highest accolade in all but one edition of his bible, Murray has awarded more American whiskies in recent years than Japanese. It is no news that America and Japan make excellent whiskies. Not a great headline, though, and tough to sell newspapers or magazines with a headline like that, "Whiskies Being Made to High Standard Outside Scotland"
The assumption from Murray’s statements is that Japanese whisky has an edge on Scotch because of a stronger vision or wilder innovation; innovations like the highball campaign? No Age Statements? Local barley or local oak? There are precedents in Scotch in every case. So in what way is Japanese whisky’s success due to innovations that Scotch lacks? Zero. It is due to releasing top quality malt whiskies. To infer that this precludes the ongoing (and much longer-running) success of Scotch whisky is balderdash, but a great reminder that Jim Murray’s latest book is about to be released!
Finally, in case it has not been mentioned, Jim has a new book coming out next week. 


The Glenlivet Alpha Review

Introduction

GlenlivetAlphaBig thanks to the folks at Deep Focus, a social media agency working with The Glenlivet, for sending me a free sample of the new Glenlivet Alpha expression that has only 3350 bottles shipping worldwide (not sure how many are coming to the U.S.). Especially since I’ve been flying under the whisky radar this past year (I’ll post more on that later). I haven’t checked out all of the marketing details, but apparently there is going to be a big “reveal” for Alpha in a few days, so I thought I’d go ahead and post some thoughts on the whisky while it is still something of a mystery (the box only states that it is a Single Malt bottled at 50% abv). The U.S. retail price is $120.

Tasting Notes

On the nose, my first impression is of cinnamon apples. Then vanilla custard, and finally some fresh wood shavings. Then back to the fruit, of the apples and pears variety. Looking online now at other reviews, I see people talking about lots of tropical fruits. Personally, that’s not the way I respond to this. It doesn’t strike me as tropical in the same way as something like Glenmorangie 18 year. But of course, this is all subjective.

On the palette, it starts out mouth-watering and juicy, sweet, then very slightly prickly on the tongue. There is a point where it becomes slightly nutty, and just as I start to expect a slight walnut bitterness, it pulls back. Very nice. It’s smooth as silk…almost buttery going down. It then becomes drying on the finish, before my mouth waters up again. A very enjoyable, if not particularly long, experience.

Impression

The Glenlivet Alpha is an extremely drinkable expression that would be great for sharing with all levels of whisky drinkers. It strikes me as a Special Edition release of their Nadurra expression. The overall flavor profile (especially on the nose) is quite similar. However, the Alpha has an extra silky smoothness to it relative to Nadurra, in the same way the 17 year finished Balvenie expressions relate to the 15 year single barrel. Though, I don’t detect anything resembling the typical “finishing” casks of sherry or wine in Alpha.

So what is it?

If this is a game, and we’re supposed to guess what the heck is in this black Alpha bottle, I’d have to guess a combination of first-fill and second-fill American White Oak bourbon barrels were used to mature the spirit. There is no sign of coloring or chill filtration (like Nadurra). Age? That’s a hard one. Is the extra buttery smoothness in the mouth over the Nadurra due to age, or is it related to the type of casks used? Not sure. I could believe a number of scenarios: 1) It’s a year or two older than the 16 year Nadurra. 2) They use a combination of refill casks and smaller quarter casks to give the impression of extra maturity, while keeping the oak in check, or 3) this is just the result of very carefully selected casks by the master distiller.

Value

Did I really enjoy this whisky? Yes. Am I going to seek out a bottle? No. Do I think you’re an idiot if you do? No.

I really like this whisky, but for me, the 16 year Nadurra (at $50/bottle locally) is close enough in profile to keep me satisfied. On the other hand, I have no immediate issues with the price of Alpha. They are saying that it was “carefully crafted” by the master distiller, and it is a limited release of 3,350 bottles. It’s not going to be for everybody, but then, the limited run kind of takes care of that. :-)

I’ve seen much higher prices asked for “carefully selected” expressions…how about the Diageo Manager’s Choice a few years ago? Talk about crazy pricing. These things work themselves out, though. A bunch of those Manager’s Choice bottles can still be had at 40% discounts online. So far, The Glenlivet Alpha is selling out quickly. The UK allocation disappeared immediately. If, upon commencing with their “reveal” on Facebook later this week, people are outraged by what they hear, then I’d expect that feedback to influence future releases.

If they keep their main line whiskies priced reasonably, and of high quality, what’s the harm in experimenting with various boutique releases aimed at smaller segments of the market? I look forward to learning more about the story behind The Glenlivet Alpha.

Cheers,
Jeff

Ch-Ch-Changes – Update Your RSS Feed!

Things are changing here at Whisky Party! We’re about to roll out a new design and switch to a new blog platform.

This is all happening on Monday February 20th!

If you’d like to continue reading Whisky Party in your RSS reader, you’ll have to update to the feed URL in your feed reader:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/whiskyparty/ETPs

For a sneak peak at the new sight, you can check out our staging version here.

Studio A

The Ca Scotch Couple firmly believe in living below their means. They shop at consignment stores, sock away the max for retirement, and adhere to a strict 25% debt to equity ratio. Consequently, the CA Scotch Couple's move to paradise in 2004 couldn't have come at a worse time. It was at the height of the real estate boom; the only houses even remotely within the CA Scotch Couple's price range were shacks, and even those shacks had multiple bidders.
So, it is no surprise that the beloved Little Beach House was one such shack: a circa 1913, 700 square foot single wall construction edifice with outdated wiring, inadequate plumbing, precipitously sloping floors, and a hole in its roof. The CA Scotch Couple spent many (many many many) years making the Little Beach House habitable. Unfortunately, no matter what they did, there was no escaping the reality that even with its new wiring, plumbing, and roof, the Little Beach House was a shack.
So, when the real estate bust hit San Diego hard, the CA Scotch Couple decided to see if they could trade their shack for something a little more spacious. They took a financial bath on the Little Beach House, and set out on their house hunting adventures with three goals for the new home: it needed to have lost at least as much value as the Little Beach House had, it needed to be more spacious than the Little Beach House; and it couldn't be a project.
One of the first properties the CA Scotch Couple viewed was a lovely old mixed use loft conversion in a slightly dodgy area. This 1933 grand dame had started its life as an old fashioned car dealership/garage and had then become an artist's studio and residence. It had magnificent arching barrel ceilings, open architecture, exposed terra cotta masonry, and concrete floors. It also wasn't up to earthquake code, had a leaking roof, had been stripped of plumbing, appliances and countertops, and, worst of all, had birds nesting in it. It was a whopping 2700 square feet, but man, oh man, it was project. CA Scotch Chick dubbed it "the Bird Sanctuary," and the CA Scotch Couple swiftly walked the other way.
But the CA Scotch Couple kept their miserly eyes on the Bird Sanctuary, and within a few months, market forces had driven it down to the price that the CA Scotch Couple had paid for the Little Beach House in 2004. Project or not, the CA Scotch Couple simply couldn't resist. It was a remarkable space, and it was worth the pain to make it beautiful again. They made an offer.
For seven months, long before the accident and throughout the CA Scotch Couple's recovery, they fought their way through the tortuous short sale and then foreclosure process. They managed to buy the Bird Sanctuary from the bank on the final day of 2009, immediately moved in, and endured endless months of living under plastic sheets with construction chaos ringing around them.
On the day they finally closed on the Bird Sanctuary, CA Scotch Gent sat CA Scotch Chick down and asked for two favors. First, could they please, please, please, set a goal of having the renovations done by the end of summer? No more projects stretching for years. Secondly, could they please, please, please, stop calling it the Bird Sanctuary?
They set a goal of August 31st as the drop dead date for finishing the renovation, and they scheduled a party to make sure they met that goal. Then they cast around for a more suitable name — finally deciding on "Studio A" in honor of the sign over its door.
It was a long hard nine months, complicated by the CA Scotch Couple's recovery from their injuries and those all encompassing work schedules. However, on August 31st, a mere three hours before their party, the CA Scotch Couple finally removed the last of the plastic, pushed the furniture into place, and claimed Studio A as their own.
It was well worth the effort. Studio A is now up to code; the birds have been evicted; it has been scrubbed from top to bottom; and it is now equipped with new bathrooms, appliances, countertops, skylights, and roof. Gentle light filters into its spacious and gracious interior giving the CA Scotch Couple the impression that they are stepping into a magnificent cavern whenever they return at the end of the day — the perfect refuge for a pair of recluses. It has been an extremely long tough year, but the CA Scotch Couple are finally home.