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Malt of the Month | November 2018

Well after one of the best summers I can remember, the glorious weather even reached beyond the border into Scotland. It seemed rather strange visiting Whisky distilleries in shorts and a tee shirt!

This trip I managed to venture over to the Orkneys for a few days, and first stop had to be Highland Park on the southern edge of the main town of Kirkwall. Much larger than some straddling both sides of the road. I think they hold significant numbers of casks maturing on site.

I think that for such a reasonable outlay (£37.50) this is the Malt Whisky everybody should try. The 12 yr. old is such a polished whisky for their entry level malt. starting with the recent-ish new bottle design, you get a glimce of everything here from fruitcake, light vanilla and citrus notes awash with heather and a hint of honey. All finished off with the lightest brushing of peat, hardly noticeable for the non-peat lovers amongst you.

Also, in our Pulborough branch we have a few bottles left from our allocation of Kilchoman Sauternes finish still available on a first come first served basis of one per person. Odd bottles of the Port cask and the current Loch Gorm are still looking for a home!

Enjoy.

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Kilchoman Port Cask 2018 release | Malt of the month

Kilchoman Distillery

It’s been a while since I’ve scribbled notes for our Malt drinkers, but this month we have a real gem. Kilchoman have released two limited edition Malts this year both of which we have secured a tiny allocation. The Loch Gorm 2018 which is an annual release and the second ever release of a Port Cask Malt following the first effort in 2014; it’s the latter little beauty which features this month.

I’ve been fortunate to visit this distillery twice in the last three years while on Islay, and if anybody else has ventured that far you will know it seems like the end of the earth getting there. Keeping everything crossed down a single-track road as you make your way to the most western distillery in the UK. But once there a warm welcome awaits, and the nearby beach on a sunny day rivals that of the Caribbean. Well it does until you dip your toe in the water!

Common practice is to ‘finish’ a Malt in a different cask but this one has spent its whole life in a Port cask and thus is adorned with big layers of rich plummy fruit. Earthy peat entwined with candied peel, blimey what a glass that just grabs your attention. A truly brilliant Malt and a limited edition from the lovely folk at Kilchoman on Islay’s wild west coast. We have a very small allocation of what is sure to become one of the all-time greats from this ever-improving distillery.

£85.00 and worth every penny! Buy here

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Bruichladdich ‘The Classic Laddie’ | Malt of the month

Bruichladdich

demand for whisky has never been stronger and it must be a nightmare making predictions on demand a decade or so in advance.

Well, what a busy festive period that was for all of us at Hennings with whisky flying off the shelves to keep the winter blues at bay. Now the quieter months are here I can ramble on again about the beloved spirit! I managed a few trips to Scotland last year and made it to several distilleries to taste and soak up the atmosphere at as many visits as my wife would allow me. It has surprised me in that rather than competing against each other, they all seem to be pushing in the same direction together and yes, although some distillers do things differently, there seems to be a real camaraderie in the trade as a whole.

Global demand for whisky has never been stronger and it must be a nightmare making predictions on demand a decade or so in advance. I’ve noticed in the past 12 months, more than any other, a shift away from core expressions with age statements to ever increasing non-age statement malts. If you look at this from the distilleries point of view it’s easier to dip into slightly younger stocks moving forward if demand outstrips current production levels, but will this affect the quality of the product? The industry seems divided on this point. The non-aged whiskies are certainly marketed very well with bold names and clever packaging, and the majority of the buying public in my opinion have been taken in by this more than realising that the age statement (the legal age the youngest whisky in the bottle must be) has disappeared, without knowing the implication of this.

The world seems a smaller place regarding exports and I totally understand the strategy behind them doing this but ultimately for me the new non-aged expressions I have tried so far fall short compared to the previous aged offerings. Yes, most distilleries still have age statements on other, usually more expensive, malts in their ranges but core or entry level sales are their bread and butter. Ultimately we are going to see more of this as the demand on stocks increases.

But on the plus side we, as a buying public, have never had so much choice with new expressions appearing on a regular basis. I managed to visit London in October to taste the entire Diageo range along with all the rare releases from closed distilleries and I have to say I had forgotten how good some old favourites tasted, none more so than the Linkwood 12yr old Flora and Fauna, my personal top malt of the year and still just under £50!

And what better way to replenish your stocks for 2016 than with ‘The Classic Laddie’? Yep that unmistakable pale blue bottle that sticks out a mile on our shelves, the unpeated version of the now infamous Bruichladdich from Islay. ‘The Classic Laddie’ is the signature bottling from the “progressive hebridean distillers” (their words not mine). It uses 100% Scottish barley, and for those who were not aware, Scotland cannot produce enough barley required so source from outside the Scottish borders in large quantities. For example, Norfolk produces vast amounts of barley for many distilleries north of the border.

Originally the brainchild of Jim McEwan who has now retired and passed on his wisdom to the current head distiller Adam Hannett. The first thing that you pick up on is that it is ultra clean, very floral, delicate and involving. Every time I put my nose to the glass subtle flowers, herbs and a real freshness appear. For me the nose tells me so much of what to expect whether it be wine or whisky. The palate does not disappoint either with a clean nose that the barley shines through. Hints of nuts vanilla and summer flowers, all very clean. On the palate lovely bruised apples and a hint of apricot and citrus fruits. A barley sugar finish cap off what is a really lip-smacking dram.

Slàinte.

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Old Pultenay 12 Year Old | Malt of the month

The core of Kilchoman Machir Bay

Known as the ‘Maritime Malt’, Old Pulteney is distilled in Wick at the most northern mainland distillery in the UK. Being a coastal distillery you really do get a hint of ‘saltiness’ in the malts produced here. I’ve only visited Wick once, while on the last leg of cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats which is only 15 to 20 miles further on; I remember wandering around in my cycling gear attracting strange looks…

Old Pulteney is yet another one of those distilleries that has upped their game recently and has been producing award winning malts over the past few years. Matured in air dried Bourbon casks the 12 year old is the core of the range and is a bright amber colour in the glass. The nose leads with a nutty (hazelnut and almonds), vanilla and cream aroma. Everything is balanced and that faint hint of salt sits nicely in the back ground.

On the palate immediately you notice it is smooth and not overly powerful. Nutty but with hints of dried fruit also. The vanilla from the nose turns into toffee on the palate. Try it with a few pieces of very good quality milk chocolate. Blimey this is easy to drink, cracking price too! Available in our shops and on our website here. Handily, there’s also a half bottle available too

Just a note to say our Kilchoman Malt Whisky tutored tasting in Pulborough shop sold out very quickly, so please keep an eye on upcoming tastings on our events page.

Slàinte.

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Caol Ila 12 | Malt of the month

Caol Ila 12 Malt of the month

After a whirlwind week walking and distillery visiting on Islay, well you have to have somewhere to go when it rains, I left with a much clearer understanding of peated whisky. I have to say this style of malt used to be a bit of a struggle for me and I had to very much be in the mood for it. After extensive tasting I now find myself really enjoying the smoky malts from these parts. Some Islay whiskies are peated more than others. Kilchoman, a new(ish) distillery established in 2005, is peated to 20-25ppm; considerably less than Coal Ila, at 30-35ppm, and less still than Ardbeg (a whopping 55ppm). The important thing is how this affects the flavour so let me explain ppm and how peat influences the style of a whisky.

To make alcohol for Scottish whisky you first need to convert the starch within barley into sugar because without sugar you cannot ferment and then distill to produce alcohol. Heating the barley and adding water tricks the barley into germinating and the by-product of this is a conversion of starch into fermentable sugars. Dry this out and at this point you can call it “Malted Barley”.

On a hard to get to place like Islay, where electricity or coal need to be imported to create heat, you need to use something cheap that you already have. Enter peat, a layer of compacted organic matter formed over thousands of years that is in abundance on most of the west Scotland. Once cut from the ground and dried it is a superb and slow burning heat source. The smoke from this slow burning heat imparts a smoky flavour to the barley which over the course of production stays with the spirit all the way through to the final bottled product.

This level of smokiness is measured in what we call ppm (phenol parts per million). Malted barley is usually purchased smoked to order and a distillery will use the same level for all its malts. However it’s then cask ageing, and indeed the type of wood used, that go on to make the biggest differences in flavour. Gas and electricity are now commonly used for heating the stills but Islay whiskies are known for their smoky flavours so distilleries still use peat to keep that distinctive traditional flavour. A couple of years ago the Scottish government ran a study on the ecological impact of peat extraction and the distilleries got very nervous. Fortunately they found that Islay alone has enough peat to last the next 800 years with no discernible change to the habitat. Although taking peat is not the free for all it was and is now licensed.

Finally to produce enough malt whisky you need a plentiful source of water, and believe me it rains an awful lot in west Scotland. About 10 litres of water are needed to produce 1 litre of new make spirit. Blimey, if anybody is still with me well done, lesson over and please read on!

Well after that it wouldn’t be right to have a malt of the month from anywhere else would it? Caol Ila is one of two Diageo owned distilleries on the island and the Caol Ila 12 Year Old is the distillery’s signature malt. As soon as you mention the word peat, people expect to taste big medicinal smoky drams, but this is just the opposite. It’s light and fresh. Yes you can smell the smoke, but it’s gentle and interwoven with lovely nuances of cream, apple and hints of raisin and is floral, almost Pinot Gris like. On the palate it’s more of the same, fresh and alive with an extremely smooth texture. Caol ila showed me this malt paired with some creamy blue cheese, sounds strange but blimey did it work. A big thank you to Justina who showed my wife and I around and paired the whiskies with different food.

Slàinte.

Stop Press!

We will be hosting Kilchoman for an evening of Islay malt whisky here in our Pulborough shop on Friday 4th November from 7.00 to 8.30pm. Places are limited to 24 so please call me on 01798 872671 to book your place.

Please view our events section for information on all tastings.

 

 

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Glenfarclas 15 | Malt of the month

Malt of the month

Most Whisky distilleries are owned by large conglomerates, but Glenfarclas bucks this trend by being proudly family owned. One of the friendliest and informative tours of any distilleries I have visited thus far.

Just looking at the dark golden hues in the glass gets me licking my lips and rubbing my hands together in anticipation! Nutmeg, demerara sugar and marzipan spiral out of the glass to play on my olfactory senses, oh yes this is a great dram.

Don’t bother with the water, you simply don’t need it! Just sip and savour the fruit cake and totally balanced mix of candid fruit, dates, spice and quince.

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Linkwood 12 Year Old | Malt of the month

Malt of the month

Well Spring has finally arrived, and what better way to spend it than treating yourself to a bottle of delicious malt whisky from our ever increasing range.

This month I’d like to sing the praises of the lesser known distilleries. Enter stage left the Linkwood 12. They don’t have a visitor centre or indeed accept the public for tours, they just toil away making some bloody good malt, but alas most of it is destined for blending into the like of Jonnie Walker Blue.

But fortunately a while back someone at Diageo decided that some of its lesser known distilleries deserve to have their spirit bottled and sold as a single malt. And so it came to pass 26 such distilleries initially bottled malt under the infamous “Flora and Fauna” range of malts. Today only about 5 are left as most have long since been sold, mothballed or no longer produce a single malt from their distillery.

If you can lay your hands on older bottles from this range do, as they are very collectible, I’ve had fun tracking down 20 of the 26 bottlings so far, and always on the lookout for the elusive ones to finish the set. I just don’t tell my wife how much the rarer ones cost!

A true Speyside whisky, the Linkwood exhibits an undeniably perfumed nose, exuding floral elegance, barley and rose notes. Take a sip and it is hard not to notice the viscosity of this malt, with a smooth and clean demerara-like sweetness which is balanced to perfection with an extraordinary long finish of subtle wood and toasted almonds.

All in all the Linkwood is an honest example of a lip-smackingly great whisky, it showcases the best of what this traditional malt-producing region can achieve. So next time you step out for some Jonnie Walker Blue, leave the gold bullion at home and give this one a go!

Slàinte.

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Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old | Malt of the month

Dalwhinnie distillery

A classic for you this month in the shape of Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old. It’s easy to overlook this gem of a malt as it has always been on our shelves, but I had forgotten until recently just how bloomin’ tasty this malt is. I still remember this being the one that started my love affair with Single Malt Whisky.

Technically a Highland malt but it has a lot of similarities with a Speyside, even taking its water from a tributary of the river Spey. This distillery is well worth a visit and being just off the A9, running through the highlands on the edge of the Cairngorms about an hour north of Perth, it’s easy to find. There are few malts where the overall package is so polished, from the soft enticing nose of honey and a slight whiff of peat to the palate that is soft and harmonious, medium bodied, sweet and fragrant.

This was the last distillery I visited in September and apart from being extremely friendly and informative they have a unique tasting experience pairing their malt with dark chocolate after your tour. Even if it’s too far for a visit try this pairing for yourselves at home it really is a revelation.

I tend to recommend Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old  to customers who are not sure of the style they want to buy when it’s a gift for someone else, as it ticks all the boxes from first timers to hardened whisky aficionados.

Slàinte.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay | Malt of the month

The core of Kilchoman Machir Bay

Kilchoman Machir Bay is the first new Islay distillery built for 150 years

Happy New Year whisky lovers! No doubt plenty a dram was consumed over the festive period? Let’s kick off 2016 with a tasty malt to keep what is turning into a dreary damp winter at bay. Kilchoman (pronounced Kilhoman) has just celebrated its 10th anniversary and was the first new Islay distillery built for 150 years. Machir Bay is the core malt in the range matured in ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Candied fruit on the nose with obvious peat, but not medicinal. The palate has ripe fruit and nuts and a gentle wash of sweet spice. The finish is smokey but barley and vanilla play a part – the future is very bright indeed for this distillery! Pop into Pulborough shop where a bottle of Kilchoman Machir Bay is open for you to try.

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Tamdhu 10 Year Old | Malt of the month

The stunning home of Tamdhu 10 Year Old

I look forward to 2019 when hopefully I can get my grubby mitts on a bottle of a ltd 200yr old anniversary edition (although the Tamdhu 10 Year Old is prety darn fine – Matt P!)

Season’s greetings Whisky fans!

I’ve been lucky enough to spend a week every year for the last five years visiting various distilleries around Scotland tasting some very good whisky.

It’s always a risk visiting Scotland even in high summer as the weather can be changeable, and what started with “it’s raining today, let’s go visit a distillery” has become very much a planned visit regardless of the weather.

This year I fulfilled an ambition by visiting Clynelish where I was treated to a very personal tour as no one else had bothered to drive roughly an hour north of Inverness to Brora in Sutherland to visit that particular day so I had the distillery to myself. Not only was the tasting everything I hoped it would be, the visit to the old Brora site next door was an unexpected bonus. (Unfortunately these rare Malts are fetching extraordinarily high prices).

I look forward to 2019 when hopefully I can get my grubby mitts on a bottle of a ltd 200yr old anniversary edition, as I noticed a couple of slumbering casks earmarked for such a bottling. Note to self!

Watch this space as next year I am spending a week tasting my way round the distilleries of Islay. The home of peated malt. Marmite to some people, you either love ’em or you don’t. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Now onto December’s Malt of the month, Tamdhu 10 Year Old

Just south west of Aberlour in the heart of Speyside lies the Tamdhu distillery. In 2012 the distillery was purchased by Ian Macleod distillers who have set about returning this once gem of a distillery back to former glories.

The reason for Tamdhu 10 Year Old being my Malt of the month for the festive season is simple. The whisky is exclusively matured in more expensive sherry casks some first fill. This imparts rich fruit cake like flavours and when I drink this malt I am transported to a large armchair in front of a roaring fire on a cold night, kick off the slippers, with Christmas carols playing in the background. Sheer bliss.

Tamdhu 10 Year Old is the signature malt of the range and I can tell you that this a Christmas cracker of a malt! Totally natural colour from the sherry casks. A hint of peat is used in the malted barley and pure water is sourced from the Tamhdu spring.

On the nose subtle it is not, Demerara sugar, Dundee cake, sweet spice, vanilla and forest floor. Blimey every time I nose something else enters the mix.

Initially the palate is candied orange and sweet spices, then chocolate, honeycomb, caramel, toffee fudge. Oh what a cacophony of flavours all crying out for attention.

The finish is polished, smooth, round and warming and only then do you finally get the faintest whiff of smoke from the peat. The perfect partner on a cold December evening. All this for £37.99!

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