Showing posts with label Scotch Review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotch Review. Show all posts

Visit to the Glenkinchie and Glen Ord Distilleries (04/2010)

We welcome two guest writers to the site, Mirela and Paulo. In April last year they visited two Scottish whisky distilleries, Glenkinchie and Glen Ord and took some pictures as well. Let's quickly introduce the two distilleries:

Glen Ord
This active Highland distillery is located in Muir of Ord (Ross-Shire), not far from Inverness. It was established in 1838 and is currently owned by the Diageo Group. The distillery operates three wash stills and three spirit stills and has a 4 million liters per year capacity. It is part of the Johnny Walker Blend. The House Single Malt is the 12 Year old but Glen Ord also produces a.o. the 15, 18 and 32 year expressions. The Single Malts are usually smooth and silky with a sweet nose and are matured mainly on European Oak.

Glenkinchie Distillery
Glenkinchie is one of the very few remaining Lowland distilleries and is located in Pentcaitland (East Lothian), close to Edinburgh. Like Glen Ord, it currently belongs to the Diageo Group but was founded by John & George Rate in 1837. The active distillery has 1 wash still and 1 spirit still and has an annual production capacity of close to 2,4 million liters. Glenkinchie contributes to the Haigs blend. Its House Single Malt is the 12 Year Old but you will also find the 20 Year Expression and the Distillers Edition. The whiskies from Glenkinchie are usually light, simple and fruity with sweet Malt and herbal tones.

So here's the story of Mirela and Paulo:

In April 2010, Paulo and I went to the United Kingdom. We travelled for 10 days. Each day we were in a different city and sometimes in a different country! We only planned one day ahead, which meant we didn’t know where we were going until the last moment. Every day was a surprise! We only planned the two visits to the two distilleries, one in he Highlands and one in the Lowlands. We went to Glenkinchie (Edinburgh) and Glen Ord (Inverness). After the visits we now know a lot more about whiskies, the process of distilling, the flavors, the casks and everything. It was amazing!
At Inverness we found a whisky menu in almost every pub and of course Paulo drank almost all whiskies from the Flavor Map….In many days of course….ha ha ha ha!

Thanks a lot Mirela and Paulo for your story and your pictures! If you readers out there have some whisky story to tell or whisky pictures to share, please send me an e-mail with the details and we will post your story as soon as possible. ( 

(Pictures used with kind permission of Mirela Cristina Gradim)

Why Is Whisky So Expensive.

Why Is Whisky So Expensive.
I do believe that whisky is currently (too) expensive. Like in all markets the price, in the end, is either driven by simple Supply and Demand and/or by the more subjective perceived value of the product.
Let’s have a look at the Production Side first. It is most likely that the actual production costs of whisky have not increased a lot, if any. At the beginning of the century there were hundreds of privately owned distilleries that most likely weren’t very cost effective. Today, large Multi National companies control most distilleries. Because of their size they usually are more cost effective both in operational and financial terms. To put it simple, they produce cheaper and pay less interest when they borrow money to finance the storage of the whisky during the maturation. And they merge distilleries to gain economies of scale thereby reducing labor costs.
Production technology improved a lot as well. New mash technologies optimize the extraction of sugar from the barley. A lot of energy saving measures was introduced and a lot of distilleries today re-use the energy during the production process. Wash Backs today are almost always made of stainless steel rather than wood. Much easier and cheaper to clean and less chance of bacteria.  All this greatly reduced the costs even considering the fact that whisky loses around 2% of “ Angel’s Share” per year during maturation.
So from a cost of production point of view I believe that the price of whisky should be relatively lower rather than higher than say 25 years ago. There are of course some variables in the ultimate consumer price such as local taxes that differ a lot from country to country. In Holland or Germany you pay around Euro 60 for a liter of Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or. Here in Brazil they want Euro 130 for that same bottle. While it costs around Euro 60 in the Free Shop at the Sao Paulo International Airport.
From the above I deduct that there are other reasons for the current high prices. For a long time the family owned distilleries had no – or little cash to spend on marketing. Today the multinational owners spend lots of money in this area. They really create the image of a Brand name or Single Malt or region around the globe. And to a growing number of consumers, as buying power is on the rise principally in the Asian and East-European markets.
And these new consumers who have lots of money to spend not only are willing to pay high prices for the older whiskies. They also found a new hobby in collecting whisky, especially older whiskies, special editions and whiskies from closed distilleries. And the industry is quick in offering special editions, limited casks, exotic finishing etc. This way, a lot of whiskies are becoming rare and therefore more expensive. Extremely high prices have been paid. I think the record was Euro 140.000 for a Bottle of Dalmore 1962. No whisky is really worth such an amount but it still could be a good investment with all these jealous collectors around!
We can ask ourselves if really expensive whisky is worth the money. Does the whisky really get better with age? I would say that older whiskies are different. They usually become more complex and therefore acquire unique flavors that made them stand out. But better? In the end that’s a matter of individual taste. Most whiskies above 30 years become too woody for my taste because of the extensive cask contact.
As older whiskies get rare and more expensive the basic distillery expressions like the 10-15 years range also begin to profit from the increased demand. And the industry increases its marketing efforts as soon as they perceive that a specific product or region is hot. I will give you a couple of examples. In the Highlands and Speyside you can still find good Single Malts with dusty and boring labels. Not something to attract new consumers. In contrast you see how much marketing effort is being put in the Single Malt whiskies from Islay. No boring labels here but nice bottles with new labels and names that refer to Mist and Waves and Beasts and what have you. And people go for that stuff. Hell, I do!
For the average consumer like you and me it means that whisky will stay expensive, at least for a while. On the other hand there is no need to pay large amounts of money for older whiskies. There are lots of good whiskies to be found in the range between Euro 50 and Euro 80.
I am a little worried though about quality. Because in every market it works more or less like this: If there is no demand, even with low prices, you have to beef up quality to attract consumers. In the world of today it’s the other way around. There’s a huge demand and the industry is going long ways to guarantee supply. Smaller casks are used to speed up the maturation process. Distilleries are working 24/7. And maturation takes place outside the production region simply because of lack of space. Will quality be maintained?  It’s up to consumers like you and me to closely follow quality versus price. And make our choice based on that!

Whisky and Women

Whisky and Women.

Is it my perception or are there a lot more men than women who buy and drink whisky? Which does not mean of course that there aren’t a lot of women around who enjoy the occasional dram. But lots of women seem to prefer wine or sherry. Maybe that’s because of the fact that the lower alcohol grade better combines with the female soul!

Could be! But isn’t it also a fact that there are far more men than women who smoke cigars after a fine dinner.

Let’s try to find out why that is and what can be done about it. As I said, the preference of men for Malt and cigars will surely influence their choice of whiskies. Many times their preferred Single Malt whisky will be full of smoke, tar, peat and seaweed.  Isn’t the peaty Johnnie Walker Black one of the best selling blended Scotch! During my tasting sessions of the Bowmore whiskies for instance, I got complaints from my family that my room didn’t smell very agreeable. While I on the other hand really love to nose both the Enigma 12 Y and the 18Y. We might therefore conclude that maybe a lot of women have been over-exposed to whiskies that do not combine with their nosing and tasting profile.

It would be interesting to see how they would react to the sweet whiskies from say the Scottish Speyside. Whiskies that are characterized by their bouquet of blossom and sherry and fruits. For sure women who like sweet wine and sherry would feel attracted to those whiskies. So if women would read more tasting notes and would subsequently buy the whiskies that would suite their tasting profile, they would probably review their thoughts on our noble spirit! 
So guys, next time you get your Ardbeg or Bowmore or Laphroaig and the lot, consider buying a Glenmorangie Nectar d´Or or something similar as well, thus introducing your wives and girlfriends to the Whisky Paradise!


The International Whisky Festival 2011.

Whisky “mates” visit International Whisky Festival at The Hague

Peter van der Pol and Jan Bronkhorst, both followers of Jan’s Whisky Paradise, visited yesterday (Saturday, November 19) the afternoon session of this famous festival at The Grote Kerk at The Hague in the Netherlands.
On this 3-day festival, with about 500 visitors, most of the leading Dutch whisky importers presented more than a hundred whisky brands.
This festival is therefore a unique opportunity to get acquainted with a lot of Scottish and Irish single malts and many whiskies from other countries.
The admission fee included unlimited tastings, a Glencairn whisky tumbler and a catalogue of the festival with tasting notes.
Only for the more exclusive whiskies you had to pay additional “drams”, the local payment coin of the festival. 
Peter and I had a free admission as a member of the International Whisky Society. For further information see
We were practicing “tasting and nosing” during several hours and also visited  “Bourbon Street” where several American and Canadian whiskies could be tasted.
One of the highlights for us was a visit to “The Glenlivet Guardian Room”, only accessible to Glenlivet Guardians
The complete assortment of The Glenlivet Single Malts could be tasted for free. We tried the 18, 21 years and especially The Glenlivet XXV.
For me one of the finest of this festival. Amber colored, aromatic, creamy and very intense. Price in the shop about € 260! 
To give you an idea of this great festival and the wonderful afternoon we had, have a look at the pictures below.


Peter van der Pol and Jan Bronkhorst 

(Photos used by kind permission of Jan Bronkhorst and Peter van der Pol)

Whisky and Food

Whisky and Food
I think whisky is more a drink to savor than a party drink. On social occasions I prefer to drink beer or wine. Of course there's nothing wrong with drinking a nice blended whisky or straight bourbon on the rocks on a reception or party but in case you overdo it you will be sorry in the morning.
I will give you my favorite whisky moments besides the actual tasting sessions:
1- Whisky as an appetizer before lunch or dinner. A light blended whisky like Cutty Sark or a Single Malt like the Glen Grant (see the review elsewhere on the blog) with an ice cube or two are strong candidates. Light and not too sweet whiskeys from the Scottish Speyside or Irish whiskies will also do well as appetizers.
2- Whisky as after dinner drink, maybe in combination with some chocolate or fruit cake. Here you would look for sweeter Speysides or Highlands like the Glenmorangie Nectar d' Or  (see the review elsewhere on the blog).
3- In case you prefer coffee and maybe a cigar after dinner instead of the sweet stuff, I can highly recommend the Islay Single Malts like Ardbeg or Bowmore or Laphroaig (see the reviews elsewhere on the blog). Their smoky and peaty characteristics will combine perfectly here. I also had Bowmore in combination with shellfish by the way and it worked well.
4- Finally, there's that moment usually at the end of a long working day that you just sit down and relax with one of your favorite whiskies. Could be one of your comfort whiskies like Johnny Walker Black Label but I think the moment deserves a Single Malt. This is the perfect moment for reflecting on whatever is passing through your mind at that moment. Great!!
As usually all the above is nothing more than my personal opinion but maybe it gives you some guidelines for appreciating whisky.


Whisky, Water and Ice

Whisky Water and Ice.
First of all let me say that you should drink your whisky the way you like it best! It's like with wine. What law says you should drink red wine with red meat? If you prefer white wine or beer or milk to accompany your steak that's fine. The only thing that you could say is that a lot of people like to drink red wine with red meat. And dry white wine with fish. And sweet wine with your desert.  But in the end you decide!
In the case of drinking whisky however, it is always advisable to drink sufficient amounts of water as well to avoid dehydration, headache and hangovers! 
Another question all together is whether you should put water or ice in your whisky. Let's start with the ice. If you drink whisky because your girlfriend or boyfriend left you or any other reasons that might give you the blues it's better to drink your whisky with lots of ice! First of all that's less damaging to your health and secondly the ice helps to hide eventual deficiencies in the cheaper whisky. Because you don't open up an expensive Single Malt if you just want to forget!

On the other hand, when the weather is nice, you're outside and you take a little whisky as an appetizer you might consider to add a cube or two. Certainly refreshing! Lots of people from France and Italy drink their whiskies like that.
A little bit of ice or a small amount of still water will also help open up whiskies, particularly those that have a high volume of alcohol. Say Above 45% or 90 proof (USA). 
But be careful because a little too much can drown the whisky completely. It's a matter of experimenting I guess. Try a few drops first, taste and add some more if needed. 
When you really taste the whisky (for the sake of tasting and not for the sake of drinking) it's usually a good idea to add a couple of drops to be able to determine the effect. Does it bring more flavors to the nose? Does it take away a bit of the harsh alcohol or spices on the palate? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I usually prefer to drink the Single Malts and very good blends straight and the day to day blended whiskies or bourbons with a bit of ice. In the individual tasting notes you can always find what a bit of water does to the whisky. In the end however you decide what you like best. But don't be afraid to experiment. I'm sure there will be lots of people around the world that will drink their Johnny Walker Red Label or Jack Daniels on the rocks for all their lives and are perfectly happy. That might be the case but they do miss a lot!!


Whisky and (Artificial) Colorants

                                      Colorants in Whisky.         
One of my colleagues made the remark to me today that all whiskies seem to have the same color. In fact most blended whiskies and, unfortunately, a large number of single malts indeed contain (artificial) colorant, usually caramel. The idea behind it is twofold:
1- First of all, blended whisky producers will certainly aim to offer a consistent product (taste, presentation and color) at all times. This consistency makes that people come back again and again for the same product. And as different casks of spirit present a different natural color after maturation, a coloring agent is used at the moment of bottling. I don't see anything wrong with that as such for blended whiskies. Although there is a growing tendency to overdo it;
2- The second reason is that lots of people think that darker whisky (gold color) is better or older than lighter colored spirit. This is absolutely not true. In fact that's why Single Malts that do not contain any colorant are usually sold in green bottles to " hide" the lighter color from the potential buyers.

As I can understand and appreciate the reasons of presenting blended whiskies as a consistent product, I do not agree with adding colorant to Single Malts. I think the true value of Single Malts is the unique combination of distillery characteristics, region of production, water and barley used, craftsmanship, wood and what have you more that in the end determines the individual end product that is called Single Malt. Therefore I believe that different colors for different Single Malts should  be allowed to exist.


How To Store Whisky

Storage of Whisky.

Most single malts and all excellent blends have matured for at least 10 years. So the product is ready and matured when it's bottled. Different from wine it will not get any better in the bottle. So does it get worse? I think that with modern technology most bottles will be sufficiently closed so no air can come in.
If then the bottles are stored in a cool place (not too warm and not too cold) and are not exposed to direct sunlight, it is fair to believe that the whisky will stay okay for decades and decades. Provided they are always kept in the upright position to avoid any leakage. Personally I can't and won't wait decades to open my bottles. First of all I'm to old for that and secondly I want to taste my whiskies!

It's something else completely if you ask me if you can store whisky for a long time after having opened the bottle. Once exposed to oxygen the whisky might lose some of its original characteristics. In July I bought a bottle of Bowmore Enigma, a very fine Single Malt from the island of Islay. You will find it high on my list of favorites so far. One of the distillery characteristics is the skillful combination of not too heavy peat smoke and not too heavy sherry finish. However, we are now in November and the bottle  contains less than half of the original 1 liter. This means of course more oxygen in the bottle. As a result, a large part of the original smoke is gone. It's still a fine dram but it's not the same whisky I opened in July. So I suppose it's best to finish the bottle in say three months. That's too fast? Then you could consider decanting the whisky into smaller bottles so it will have less contact with oxygen. 
At all times however, keep the bottles (opened or unopened) out of the sun. Not so easy here in Brazil!! 


The Nosing of Whisky

Today I would like to share my experiences with you on the subject of nosing whisky. I didn't start by poking my nose in my Tasting Glass trying to detect Wet Violets on a Sunday Morning in a little village south east of Vienna. Instead I started to read about the basic flavors that can be detected on the nose and on the palate when tasting whisky. So I started sniffing and tasting fresh and dried fruits, marmalade, honey, sherry, beer, spices like pepper, cinnamon and crave , lemon and orange zests, coffee, tea , corn syrup, toffee, cake, fresh bread and chocolate. After that I learnt about the different regions of productions and I started to nose flowers, heather, ashes, leather and salt. When I had to go to the port of Santos for my work I even went for a walk around the quays sniffing cables, fish, brine, the sea etc.
Of course It was impossible to remember all these impressions during my first tasting sessions but after some 10 different whiskies including Single Malts, Blends and Bourbons I felt I started making progress. In the meantime I've done over 60 whiskies and I now feel much more comfortable when I start nosing. To get you under way, here are some tips that might help:
The Nosing of whisky takes time. On average I nose the whisky on at least two different days, each time for at least 20 to 30 minutes. This gives the whisky enough time to open up in the glass. In case you only give it a couple of sniffs, the chance is very high that you will only get one or maybe two of the 4 main odours that usually pop up in whisky:

1-  Malt. In the end whiskey is made from malted grains;
2-  Wood and spices from the contact of the spirit with the American Oak Bourbon casks;
3-  Sweet Sherry from the Spanish Sherry Casks;
4-  Smoke and Peat in all whisky from Islay and some other islands as well as some (coastal ) distilleries on the Scottish mainland. But in other whisky producing countries like Ireland and Japan you will also find peated whiskies.

One last important tip: If you stick the whole of your nose in the nosing glass, you will probably just get the wafts of alcohol. Try to nose the rims of the glass and use all angles. You will see or rather smell different flavours in different places.