torsdag 19 oktober 2017

Whisky-honeymoon PART 3 – tasting Highland Park Valkyrie and Rebus30 10 year old

Dear friends and followers alike! Today I bring you PART 3 of my "Whisky-honeymoon" (sharing the whisky-related adventures that took place during the honeymoon me and my wife had in the beginning of this summer). For part one please click here. And yes, you are correct in noticing that part two, our visit to Bowmore Distillery has so far not yet been published, simmer down, it will come later (strangely enough, not very chronological ;) ).

Anyways, as you might remember from part one, before going to Islay my wife and I spent one night in Glasgow, and it was there that we more or less randomly bumped in to Martin Markvardsen (Senior Brand Ambassador at Highland Park) who turned out to accidentally be in Glasgow due to some travel-trouble. We joined Martin (and Vicky) at the Pot Still bar for some beers and whisky during which we told them that after Islay we were heading to Edinburgh, and guess what, so was Martin! While we were going there to do some touristing, he was going there to do four tastings (at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian) for RebusFest30; a weekend of literature, art, film and music that celebrated 30 years of Ian Rankins iconic fictional detective John Rebus (read more about it here). Being very friendly and generous Martin told us that we were more than welcome to stop by and join him during one of the tastings! Jippie! 

When in Edinburgh it turned out that my wonderful and beautiful wife was more keen on doing some shopping, while myself of course was more keen on tasting some Highland Park! :) When entering the Waldorf this was the set-up that met my eyes



The Line-up for the tasting was Rebus30 HP 10yo, HP12, Valkyrie, HP18



Since I had already tasted HP 12yo and HP 18yo a number of times and on a number of occasions, I decided to focus solely on Rebus30 and Valkyrie during the tasting and therefor did tasting notes only of them. 



Highland Park Rebus30 10 year old 40% ABV
The liquid in Rebus30 is the same as in the regular HP 10yo meaning, what separates the two is the presentation/the bottle itself.

Nose:
Increadibly creamy, lots of vanilla, in fact a very peaty-sugary/sweet/fruity/fudge-y kind of vanilla. Just a wee touch of yeast (wash) in here. The fruits are candy-peach, banana-something, medium ripe pear, and sugar syrup with lime juice. The peatyness is so smooth and absolutely soaked with soft but kind of fat vanilla. Concluding from the nose, a majority of the liquid in this one must have been matured in american oak sherry casks rather than european oak sherry casks. 

Taste:
Definitely starts off creamy! In fact, increadibly creamy, together with peach candy and overripe banana and/or banana jelly candy. Then some saltyness takes over, quickly moving on into a peaty spicyness. Medium dry or even very dry in the aftertaste. The creamyness in the beginning is very rich on vanilla and some banana jelly candy, but the main focus in the taste is definitely the peaty spice-yness. Great dram, and not as "simple" in style as I had thought it would be.



Highland Park Valkyrie 45,9% ABV 
Valkyrie is the first release in a series of three whiskies, each one of them telling a Viking Legend. The story of Valkyrie goes: "Plunging down from the dark heavens, the Valkyries would descend like avenging angels on horseback to comb the battlefields for the bravest of the fallen warriors, heroes fit to enter the great Norse god Odin’s hall, Valhalla" (please feel free to read more about it here). Here in Sweden Valkyrie will be released at the state-monopoly tomorrow (view the product by clicking here).

Now, from a whisky point of view, what sets Valkyrie apart from the "regular" HP-range? Well, it's the fact that it's peatier! In what way? Half of the whisky in the mix consists of whisky made from their heavily peated recipe, meaning made only from their own produced 45 ppm malt. The rest of the content consists of their "usual" recipe; made through mixing their 45 ppm malt (1 part) with the 0ppm malt (4 parts) they order from Simpsons Malting. For recipe in terms of the composition of casks for Valkyrie please do take a look at this video (from 5:50 minutes and onward) with Gordon Motion (Master Whisky Maker at Highland Park). Now what Gordon does not tell us in the video is the ages that went into Valkyrie. However, do not despair, during the tasting Martin told us the following: the 45ppm part is between 8-10yo, and the rest of the whisky is 17yo at it's oldest.  

Nose:
Definitely more peaty than the "normal" Highland Parks I've had so far, and definitely more peaty than the other three whiskies in the line-up. The peatyness seems almost toasted or medium charred. We have beautiful scents of dark oloroso sherry sweetness in here, but the interesting thing is that the sherry sweetness has an overtone of something citric (maybe something like lemon juice) and also very interesting some touches of watermelon (!) and salt liquorice. Covering/surrounding everything but the heavy peatyness is a beautiful heather-honey sweetness.
















Taste:
Starts off very salty and quite vanilla-ish, but then "BAM!", the peatyness hits, and oh boy the peatyness is spicy indeed. After the spice and peat mellows down we have a beautiful creamyness mixed with sun dried grass in a field, and also mixed with bitter salad/greens (maybe something like ruccola). The fruityness in this one is smoked and/or ovendried slices of pear, together with dark and sort of "smoked raisins". Very interesting tastes and flavours in this one due to the high peatyness, a very "different" HP because of this. Ends with a soft and rich touch of vanilla and citrus (mellow and not to citric lemon curd).

Always great to meet Martin! And always time for a photo shoot :)
Martin holding Rebus30 10yo and myself holding Rebus30 30yo, one of very few bottles
produced for the Rebusfest and put away for charity auction.
Big thanks to Martin for inviting me to the tasting and for making my Whisky-honeymoon even more special, Sláinte! 

Please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro[at]gmail.com and by stating the source

torsdag 12 oktober 2017

The launch of Highland Park Single Cask no.3429 for Viking Line Cinderella!!!

Dear friends and followers alike! Three weeks ago (Friday the 22nd of September) I attended the launch event of the second Highland Park single cask for Viking Line (that is, the second single cask for Viking Line since the new SC-series started in 2016), also referred to as Viking Line Batch 2. But before we get into all the details of this particular whisky, and my tasting notes and thoughts about it, let’s start from the beginning ☺

On the 17th of July, Dave Francis (Global Brand Ambassador for Edrington Travel Retail), announced on the FB-page ’Highland Park Appreciation Society’ (HPAS) that he, on the 22nd  of September, would be launching the second Viking Line Single Cask on board the cruise ship/ferry Cinderella. Of course I booked the tickets for my wife and I as soon as I had read this great news!  

After what felt like a really long summer the day had finally come and we boarded the ferry early in the evening the day of the event. We threw our bags in the cabin and immediately went to put ourselves in line outside the venue for the event (Etage).  

Dave holding the hammer and the driver for the competition. Behind him a table full of SC!
The event
Around 30 people, mostly members of the HPAS slowly started gathering outside the venue. When the doors finally opened a sight for sore eyes met us; one table was fully set with a fairly newly released HP called Voyage of the Raven (travel retail exclusive), and another table was fully set with the SC that was the main character for the event!

As an initial welcome, Dave presented Voyage of the Raven

This is what I know about it from the presentation: 80 to 90 per cent of the liquid has been matured in first-fill sherry casks, a mix of both European oak and American oak (we were given no information about the ratio between them, and as far as I remember no info about the casks used for the other 10-20 per cent). The sherry casks used for this bottling have, just as for all other sherry casks used by HP, been seasoned with Oloroso sherry for 2 years before being filled with HP new make. Dave also mentioned that one part of the liquid consists of their heavily peated recipe, meaning made only from their 45 ppm malt that has not been mixed with their “usual” 12-15 ppm malt, i.e. the recipe they end up with after mixing their 45 ppm malt with the 0ppm malt they order from Simpsons Malting. (We were given no information about the ratio between 45 ppm and 12-15 ppm malt in this particular whisky, and no information about the age and/or different ages used for this whisky).     


My tasting notes of Voyage of the Raven 41,3% ABV 
Nose:
Sweet liquorice in combination with a mix of red dried apple slices and jelly pear candy, all in all with a touch of light honey (”hard” honey, not liquid). The peat, which is definitely stronger than in any core range HP I’ve tried, is slightly burnt in style. There’s a medium presence of vanilla, which is also slightly burnt. 

Taste:
Starts of quite salty indeed! (This is probably due to the extra peaty-ness). The salt transitions very fast into a medium and quite compact peat intermingling with some ”exotic” fruit (subdued pineapple, peach, and oven dried apple slices comes to mind). Roasted almonds and burnt vanilla-infused cream is the flavour that sets the aftertaste in motion. Almond paste and a slight touch of dryness sets and end to the aftertaste together with a mix of honey sweetness and some burnt ashy peat. 


My concluding thoughts:
Given the high proportion of first fill sherry casks I am surprised to find no obvious signs of sherry on the nose or on the taste. I am definitely convinced that there are more american oak sherry casks in then mix than there are european oak sherry casks. Also, the 10-20 per cent in the mix that is not sherry casks is most likely bourbon casks. Voyage of the Raven is, in my world, a "simple" (not so complex) dram. Of course there is nothing wrong with a "simple" dram, but given the high proportion of first fill sherry casks I had anticipated lot more signs of sherry and a wee bit more complexity, both on the nose and on the taste. The overall style of this HP is from my point of view best described as a ”simple and more than normal peated HP” and this is also what I will remember when thinking back on it. It is interesting that the peatyness is burnt and even ashy, and this is also what makes it special to other more “easy going” core range HP. If I were to compare this HP to other HPs’ of similar cost, I’d rank both Dark Origins and Valkyrie higher. If I want to enjoy a heavily sherried HP of similar cost I’ll go for Dark Origins, and If I want to enjoy a more than normal peated HP of similar cost I’ll go for the Valkyrie.


After having tasted Voyage of the Raven, Dave introduced a fun, interesting, and for me very hard ‘Guess the weight Competition’! Read all about it in this picture (click to enlarge):



Info on Single Cask no.3429 and my tasting notes
When everyone had handed in their guesses for the competition, Dave introduced the new single cask bottled exclusively for Viking Line Cinderella.


The cask number is 3429, and this time around the whisky has been matured in a refill sherry hogshead (please note that according to Martin Markvardsen, “refill” for HP means 2nd fill). I asked Dave if this particular hogshead was made from American oak or European oak and he told us that he sadly didn’t know. The reason for this is twofold: 1). Once the casks go from first fill to refill they no longer keep any notes or any record of the kind of oak. 2). "...sometimes when repairing the casks some of the staves are replaced and they may not be from the same species of oak. Therefore we just state refill..." (additional info from Dave as a comment to my post in the HPAS FB-group).

This particular cask was filled on the 22nd of August 2002. In an email conversation with Dave he told me that the bottling was done in September, but that the cask was “tipped a few days or a week before bottling” making the whisky “very nearly a 15yo”. Hence, it is at least safe to say that the whisky was emptied from the cask before the 22nd of August ☺ The strength is 54,7% ABV and the cask gave only 258 bottles.


Nose:
The first layer is absolutely drenched with extremely dry and dark sherry! Every dried fruit you associate with dark fat sherry maturation is here to be found; dark moist raisins, dried figs, dried moist dates, and whatever else kinds of dried fruits you may associate with sherry bombs such as this one. There is also a very earthy and soil-y note going on, of course paired with a fat heather-honey peatyness. Actually, the peat is extraordinarily dark and earthy in this HP and has hints of salt liquorice, wow! The second layer is very rich on peel from orange but mostly drawing on grape peel, and the white inside of the peel is there too. This definitely contributes to the dryness of the nose. In the third and last layer, the very top of the register, there is an extreme acidulous scent, in fact it’s almost like vinegar and freshly squeezed lemon jucie, in some way being hold up by the dark moist raisins, wow!


Taste:
Mmm, this is such a great dram! Starts of on medium salty-ness combined with the vinegar (!) from the third layer, and in two seconds or so it moves on into a beautiful raisin sweetness, even overripe red grapes-sweetness. This in turn moves on into a beautiful fat or ”broad”, confident peaty-ness, wow! Then, after five seconds or so, there is a very interesting flavour of earthy vanilla fudge, even coffee flavoured vanilla fudge flies by in a whiff. The first aftertaste has slight touches of black pepper and the late aftertaste is dry, dry, and dry. The things that stay in my mouth at the very end is a dry earthy peaty-ness, dry vanilla and and a somewhat sour sweetness at the roof of the mouth.

OMG!

My concluding thoughts:
This must be european oak! Anyways, such an interesting nose, you can nose it forever. The taste shows perfect balance, and such great transitions between the different tastes, this is insanely good. This is absolutely one of the best Highland Park Single Cask bottlings I’ve had so far, it’s up there with the first one for Sweden (6403)! Wow, just wow!

SamuelWhisky to the left and Dave to the right!

After having tasted the single cask Dave mentioned that we were all very welcome to stay in the venue during the evening to enjoy 3 special HP-themed cocktails!

I enjoyed a "Harald Sour". A great experience to taste a whisky sour with HP in it! Yummie!
For those of you who did not make it to the event but want to get a feeling of the vibe, here are the cocktails and their recipes:

Einar in the woods
2cl HP Einar
2cl Chambord (blackberry liqueur)
3 cl lime juice
1cl caramel syrup
4 cl blueberry (juice)
Eggwhite

Harald sour
A whisky sour with HP Harald
1cl of caramel syrup instead of usual sugar syrup

Sveins mistress
4 cl HP Svein
4 cl raspberry-purée
4 cl cinnamon syrup
2,5 cl lemon juice
5 cl Sprite
Shake and serve in a hurricaneglass with crushed ice

Yay! HP-cocktails!!!

The private shopping session the day after
In the morning the day after the event we all waited outside the tax free shop and were let in at 9.30. All of us held on tight to our one voucher that entitled us to purchase one bottle each of the single cask. When we made it to the stand...

Finally!
...Dave told us to go on a treasure hunt; scattered around the shop he had hid a number of single cask bottles and if you found one you were entitled to purchase an extra! Very generous indeed! Also, for every bottle you picked up (I bought one) a piece of the actual cask used for maturing the SC was included in the purchase!

So cool to see how deep the toasting level goes, and how deep the whisky penetrates into the wood! 
Such a cool treat and such a great scent to that piece of cask! Mmm… ☺


Ending the private shopping session Dave also revealed the winners of the Guess the weight Competition; one lucky attender won a private tasting, and the runners up won a bottle of Svein ☺

Big thanks and Sláinte to Highland Park and to Dave for a great event!

Very happy indeed! 

Please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro[at]gmail.com and by stating the source

onsdag 9 augusti 2017

Whisky-honeymoon PART 1 – visiting Laphroaig Distillery!

Dear friends and followers alike! I’m back from my summer vacation and a little time off from blogging. As some of you might remember me and my wife got married last fall. But why am I telling you this? Because we started our summer vacation with a little honeymoon, a ten days trip to UK and Scotland that of course entailed some really nice whisky-related adventures which I’ll share with you in a three part picture-driven blog-post! Today I bring you PART 1 in which I’ll tell you about our visit to Laphroaig Distillery. In PART 2 I’ll tell you about our visit to Bowmore Distillery and PART 3 will be about my attendance at a Highland Park tasting during Rebusfest.  

As you all know by now, on the side of my regular job, I work the Swedish whisky festivals for Edrington, taking care of whiskies such as Laphroaig, Bowmore and Highland Park. (As you might remember I was very fortunate to visit Highland Park last summer, please read all about it here). So for our honeymoon I really wanted to get more in-depth knowledge and learn more about some of the distilleries that are in the Edrington portfolio and at the same time make a dream come true: to first and foremost visit Laphroaig and secondly to visit Bowmore. 

Laphroaig Cask Strength “Green Stripe” was the whisky that around 15 years ago opened my eyes (and nose, and taste buds) to the wonderful world of whisky and ever since then Laphroaig has been on my dream-distillery-to-visit-bucketlist for a looong time. And hey, while on Islay, why not visit Bowmore as well?!. So, since I for a number of times during the festivals here in Sweden have been very fortunate to work alongside my good friends and colleagues Vicky Stevens (the Visitor Centre Manager at Laphroaig) and Joakim Liljeqvist (the Swedish brand ambassador for Beam Suntory Single Malts) I contacted the both of them to hear if they could set up visits to Laphroaig and Bowmore. And they were both very, very helpful indeed.

My first visit to TWE
But before reaching the island of Islay we started our honeymoon in London. There I got the chance to visit The Whisky Exchange. The selection in the shop was great, and they had a number of core range Laphroaigs available 

Yummie!


































After a couple of days of touristing, among many other things including a visit to the amazing Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studio Tour, we went from London to Glasgow by train, a four and a half hour trip which definitely was a great way to experience the scenery



The great scenery starts to appear when entering Scotland



After having a nice evening dinner in Glasgow I did some emailing with Vicky to settle some of the final details of the visit to Islay. Later that evening, out of the blue, I suddenly got a message from Martin Markvardsen (Senior Brand Ambassador at Highland Park)!


It turned out that Martin accidentally was in Glasgow due to some travel-trouble. A couple of minutes later I noticed that I also had received an email from Vicky saying: “I’m in the Pot Still Bar with Martin Markvardsen if you want to join“. So, it turned out she was incidentally also in Glasgow, what an unexpected but extremely pleasant coincidence! Of course me and my wife headed to the bar to meet them, it was also very nice to introduce my wife to my colleagues and vice versa, and we were happy to join them for a couple of beers and some whisky. 

From the left: SamuelWhisky, Martin, Vicky, my wife Sophie :)
The next day we rented a car and drove the two and a half hour drive from Glasgow to Kennacraig. From there we took the ferry to Port Askaig 


and from there we had a ten minute drive to Kilmeny and the BnB. The BnB was absolutely beautiful 





The view from the window in our room! So beautiful
There was even a small dram of Laphroaig waiting for us

A great welcoming gesture
In the early evening we drove in to Bowmore to have dinner. We stopped by at Bowmore Distillery just to have a quick look at the surroundings


Then we had dinner at Bowmore Hotel, the food was simply great and the bar was amazing


The dram I choose to accompany the dessert was a hand-filled Single PX Cask Bowmore 



OMG!




































Visiting Laphroaig Distillery
The next day was set for a visit to Laphroaig! Before leaving we enjoyed a great breakfast 


We arrived at the distillery around 9.30 and met up with Vicky. After a quick chat it turned out that she had arranged for us to take the very thorough “Distillers Wares Tour” together with a small group of other visitors. We were guided by Craig, a great and knowledgeable guide who answered all of my questions and was very generous with time for photos. The tour started in one of the two malting floors

Floor no.1

Floor no.2
Craig told us that, on site, they malt and peat/smoke 20% of the barley used (the rest comes from Port Ellen Maltings/PEM). Their own barley used on site comes from the eastern parts of Scotland and is of the type Concerto 

Craig explained to us that the barley is first soaked with water, on three separate occasions (together lasting for 51 hours). After soaking it is spread out on the malting floors where it, depending on time of year and temperature, germinates for around six days. The malted barley is turned every fourth hour 24/7. 

Before moving on to the Peat kilns, Craig opened the door to the floor (or maybe “roof”) above the kilns, what a beautiful sight!

Now that is some serious peat smoke!
We then moved on to one of the two Peat kilns. According to Craig the peat they use is handcut. He also mentions that Laphroaig is the only distillery on Islay to handcut their peat. Between April and September they cut around 200-250 tons of peat. 

#opinionswelcome
Peat waiting to be used in Kiln no.1
The peat is then left to air-dry for three months before being used in the kilns. The two kilns are not used simultaneously but rather one kiln at the time (every other day).  

Kiln no.2 resting before going in to use the next day
According to Craig the barley is peated/smoked for 15 hours. (In the book 200 years of Laphroaig by van Gils & Offringa it is however stated on one occasion that the peating goes on for 17 hours and on another occasion that it goes on for 14-16 hours, so lets stay safe and say that it goes on for between 14-17 hours). 

A very easy speaking fire where the ideal is to develop smoke rather than heat  
While visiting the Kiln I was very lucky to be allowed to throw some peat in the Kiln, yay!




Craig tells us that when the peating/smoking is done the peated barley is air-dried for 10 hours. (17-20 hours according to van Gils & Offringa). 

Craig also tells us that the ppm they aim for in the part that they peat/smoke on site at the distillery is minimum 50ppm. (In this interview, Laphroaigs master distiller/distillery manager John Campbell, says that the part they peat/smoke at the distillery ends up at around 60ppm. In the book by van Gils & Offringa, Laphroaigs Maltman Arthur Holyoake states that the barely they peat/smoke at the distillery holds 35-65ppm). 


Craig also tells us that when their own part is mixed/put together with the part that comes from PEM (35-45ppm) it ends up at 50ppm. This seems reasonable considering that their own part occasionally is/can be as low as 35ppm but (let us assume) most of the time is at a minimum of 50ppm and at a maximum of 65ppm.

Anyways, we then moved on to the room with the Lauter/Mash tun and the six stainless steel wahsbacks/”fermenting vessels”. 

SamuelWhisky at the Lauter/Mash tun

SamuelWhisky at Washback no.6
Each washback contains 52800 litres. The yeast (Mauri) that is being used at Laphroaig is of a liquid kind. They end up with a wash-beer holding 8-8,5% ABV. 

We then moved on to the Stillhouse

The seven stills at Laphroaig
OMG what wonderful scents we smelled in there. The Stillhouse holds seven stills; four spirit-stills and three wash-stills. 

The big spirit-still/no.1 (behind me) holds 9400 litres, and the smaller spirit-stills (no.2-4) holds 4700 litres each

The wash-stills (no.5-7) holds 10400 litres each.
The Low-wine/wash comes out of the stills holding 22-25% ABV. We were very lucky to stick a finger into the flowing wash to taste it and it was sooo mellow but at the same time so incredibly peaty! The "foreshot" is 72% ABV. The "heart" comes out of the spirit-stills ranging from 60-70% ABV (although 70-60% ABV should be a more accurate way to put it).  The new make ends up at  68% ABV. 

We then moved on to the absolutely best part of the “Distillers Wares Tour”, the tasting in Warehouse no.1. Can you imagine that it's been standing there since 1937?! First we got to taste three different casks 

"Heaven, I'm in heaven..."
Then we were allowed to draw a sample straight from our very favourite bourbon cask and bottle it in a 25cl bottle. My wife chose to sample and bottle from cask no.3797 (14yo), and I chose to sample cask no.1626 (13yo) 

take...
it...


slow...

so...

that...

you...

do...

not...

spill...
Bottling my "sample"


Absolutely...

every...

drop...

counts! No filtration at all :)
We then entered our details in the big book and the tour came to an end 




But of course we were not done yet. We took some more pictures

Overlooking the distillery
SamuelWhisky at the great wall!
After that we popped into the Visitor Centre to put on... 

a pair of Wellingtons!

printed the map/certificate to find my plot and…
YAY, put my flag on my plot!
Just a little photo-shoot at the entrance

And then I finally got my certificate stamped and collected my rent

After that I bought one bottle of this years Cairdeas, a Laphroaig-jacket, the FOL-tartanscarf, the book by van Gils & Offringa (signed by John Campbell), some nice jacket-pins and finally had a sit down in the friends lounge


Finally, on the way out of the distillery grounds we did a quick stop at the filling store




This is where the new make, after being diluted with water, is filled into cask at a strength of 63,5% ABV.
As you all understand it was simply amazing to pay Laphroaig Distillery a visit, both since it’s one of my absolute favourite whiskies and since I know am “a bit” more knowledgeable about the production process. Something that will definitely come in handy when working the upcoming festivals for Edrington So, the biggest thanks of all to both Vicky and Joakim who made it all possible, Sláinte! 

Please do pay my blog a visit in a couple of days to read PART 2 in which I’ll tell you about our visit to Bowmore Distillery!

Please make sure to follow my FB-page by clicking here, my instagram by clicking here and my twitter-page by clicking here. Copyright © and All Rights Reserved on all tasting notes and text by SamuelWhisky and pictures likewise belong to SamuelWhisky, unless stated. If you would like to use any such material that belongs to SamuelWhisky or associated with SamuelWhisky, please ask by sending me an email to samuelkarlssonorebro[at]gmail.com