Monday, 6 February 2012

Napier University Whiskey Society find their original constitution.

Napier University Whiskey (yes I use an 'e'. Sue me) Society's hand written constitution has been found in a loft in The National Library of Scotland.

This, whilst technically accurate, may be a bit of a convoluted description for me finding the document dubbed "The Kilchomanifesto" after the newest (at the time) distillery which sprang up on Islay. whilst recycling some of my old files from university. This prestigious document was written in biro, in the drunken scrawl of one who'd had one too many drams of Ardbeg. I know, because it was me and my friends that wrote it.

There are a few wee creases, but I'm quite proud that spelling mistakes are minimal for someone who would have had to have 2 goes at finding his own face.

You can find out more about the noble adventures of Napier University Whisk(e)y society at


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

To Peat or not to Peat?

The title may look like a setup to a tired, tired, “Irish vs Scotch, which is better?” rant, but in this case it’s not, especially given the recent release of Cooley’s new Connemara bottling named “Turf Mor” which comes in at a smouldering 57ppm. This whiskey will be reviewed before the end of the week (hopefully).

The peating of whiskey / whisky has always been a bit of a weird thing for me. At worst it’s a way of covering up a bad bit of new make spirit, but at best it can be a splendiferous (yes, it is actually a word) triumph like Ardbeg Uigeadail or any of the brilliant Highland Park releases.

Whiskey in Ireland has been about barley and wood, rather than peat, for hundreds of years due to the closed kilns for barley. Since Ireland is basically a blob of granite, covered with peat, I find it hard to believe that Irish whiskey in the main has never been peated before the advent of Connemara.

In Scotland the half smiling folksy theory runs that whisky spread eastwards from the malt Mecca that is Islay, again a piece of granite covered with peat. Islay is the by word for peated whisky and uses it the great effect. I feckin LOVE Islay whiskies (with the oft noted exception of the tramps piss, cheap vodka and fag butts that present themselves as the Laphroaig standard releases), but when I think of a whiskey, the flavours that spring to mind don’t involve smoke.

I drink more Scotch whisky than I do Irish whiskey, that’s a side effect of living in Edinburgh and having the occasional privilege of sitting in on tasting panels for Scotch bottling companies. I have found that the vast majority of Scotch’s peating levels (at least the ones I have tried) don’t impart any discernable smoke to the actual finished product.

Is the default for Scotch drinkers that they expect smoke in a whisky? Or is it considered, as I consider it, an occasionally pleasant additive?

Bushmills 12 Years Old Distillery Reserve

10 years in Bourbon, 2 in sherry. 40% ABV, 70cl. £37.50.

I’m going back to writing about the whiskey in a less structured way. I can write my pretentious opinions without having to put it in headings…. Anyhoo… on with the pretentious opinions.

The 12YO Bushmills distillery reserve has always struck me as a little bit of a gimmick, as the whiskey is only available at the distillery. In all fairness, most distilleries now do a distillery reserve, but in the interests of capitalism, alcoholism and other ‘ism’s I think they should all be available on the open market (admittedly this would completely defeat the point of a distillery reserve).

The unreasonable paradoxical opinions aside, the distillery reserve is an extremely well balanced whiskey. The nose starts off with a massive hit of marzipan and honey. This stuff noses like diabetes in a glass. Once the immediate but suddenly forgivable cloying sweetness is gone, the more complex rum and raisin ice cream whiffs are in tow. Last nosing before tasting smells slightly of suede. First tasting is akin to digestive biscuits. This soon gives away to a nicely balanced sherry taste and a quite nice oakey finish.

This is mildly more buttery and slightly higher quality finish than the 10 Year old. The fact that you can have your name printed on the bottle and that it’s a distillery reserve means that it’s a cynical marketing exercise, but for now we’ll judge it as a whiskey. 7.5 / 10

Bushmills 10 Year Old Malt

This is the youngest of the Bushmills single malt range and the most widely available of the malt range. It has won a few accolades down the years, including ‘Best Irish Single Malt Whiskey’ at the world whiskey awards in 2007. It has the usual Bushmills Modus Operandi (bottled at 40%, triple distilled, etc).

Single Malt

10 years old, almost all of it in bourbon. A tiny undisclosed time in ex sherry casks

40% ABV

70 cl

Approximately £30

Colour: Yellow. I can’t be fucked with that “Angels halo in winter sunshine” bollocks, mainly because I’m not very good at colour assessment.

Nose: Dry hay and at the same time, fresh cut grass. The usual Bushmills nuttiness and honey come through. This is very much a summer whiskey. The barley is the underlying note, as it should be.

Taste: Triple distillation does its fantastic work again. A satin smooth mouth feel with no solvent notes whatsoever. Vanilla and marzipan, light oakiness and summer barley. Cereally notes with a hint of cherry. Seriously, how poncey are these tasting notes? I sound like some kind of hideous lovechild of Gilly Goulding and Laurence Llwellyn Bowen.

Finish: The finish falls *just* on the right side of astringent, a wee bit of burnt flour and distant milk chocolate.

Where Black Bush seemed to inspire a vague sexism, Bushmills 10 year old seems to invoke my mildly embarrassing pretentiousness, so in order to surmise, without sounding like a complete Twunt, I think this is a nice whiskey. I’d buy it with a spare 30 quid. Try to drink it on a beach in August. 7.5 / 10

Bushmills Black Bush

The ever amusingly titled Black Bush is a particular favourite of mine, having erm... 'liberated' various amounts of it from my Dad's spirit cupboard in my teenage years. It was mainly for the alcohol at the time, but this deluxe blend started off my interest in whiskey.

This is the step up from white label Bushmills, it's got a high malt:grain ratio, and though it's got no age statement on the bottle, but I have it on good authority that it's an 8 year old minimum.
Heavily Sherried.
8 years old.
This should be fun!
Nose: Starts off with dark fruits, the sherry overtones reminding me a bit of Christmas cake or Madeira cake, and who doesn't like cake? Beneath that lovely, but uncomplex note you can smell walnuts and almonds. The nose is tempting but subtle, like a girl with just enough cleavage (apparently Black Bush invites mild sexism too, for which I apologise).

Taste: The first taste is again, quite nutty with a slight woody element to it. As with the vast majority of Irish whiskey, and Bushmills in particular, it is smoother than a satin covered billiard ball.

Finish: A mix of dark and milk chocolate abound on the finish, which is lingering, but again, uncomplex. A slightly ferny end to an otherwise pleasant well balanced nip.

Reduced: Basically, as above. There is no real development with water, except a slightly lavender part to the taste. I wouldn't recommend adding water to this whiskey.

In summary, I would have to say that Bushmills Black Bush is a wonderful wee 'every day' dram that is pleasant enough to have to unwind after work, but not something you would open for a birthday, but then it's a deluxe blend, it's not supposed to be the ultimate in whiskey. IT is a damned fine blend though and a great one it you're trying to introduce someone to Irish whiskey. 7 / 10

Sorry Folks!

I'm a busy busy man, and to be honest, completely forgot about my blog for a wee while. Hopefully normal service will resume soon.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Bushmills Range, and why it’s awesome

Its been a very very long time since the lovely people at Bushmills started whiskey. The current range contains some stunning malts and blends. Some of historic significance, some sublime, and some not so sublime. The history of Bushmills and distilling in the area is a complex story, not just due to the much vaunted, disputed and rebutted 1608 to say the least, and is best kept for another blog entry. This week's entries will deal with the whiskey.

Bushmills Original

This is the basic blend. There's often a propensity for referring to this as 'ordinary' Bushmills. This causes umbrage with fans of Bushmills. There is only extraordinary Bushmills and MORE extraordinary Bushmills. Although I am a HUGE fan of Bushmills, I disagree. This is very ordinary Bushmills, very ordinary indeed. It noses quite thin and solventy, there is a bit of leafmould and and reedy notes on the palate and finish respectively, on the up side of course there is a bit of light toffee and caramel and even a touch of digestive biscuit, but nothing much to report. It's a bargain basement blend. It's the Irish equivalent of Bells so there's not much surprise on the lack of fireworks. Respectable but nothing 'extraordinary' 5 / 10

Later this week....

Bushmills Black Bush

Bushmills 10 Year Old

Bushmills 12 Year Old

Bushmills 16 Year Old Triple Wood

Bushmills 21 Year Old

Bushmills Millenium Malt