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The Blog

Wine Tour Of New Zealand

Jun 16th, 11:02 AM

Over the past two weeks I was fortunate to tour around the North Island of New Zealand and visit some of their great vineyards. The reason I picked New Zealand was that my friend who lives there has a car and he made the biggest of sacrifices of carting me around both literally and figuratively…

HWM ltd Hobbiton

Although New Zealand is famous for their Sauvignon blanc nearly every vineyard we visited had Chardonnay (always worth trying to judge a vineyards overall quality in my opinion), Syrah (from The Gravels), Viognier and a Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Malbec or Merlot. There were a couple that also produced Ports, Sparkling wines and Sweet wines (without the use of ‘noble root’). New Zealand has an ideal climate for wine, stretched well within the ideal 30 – 50 degree temperature bracket and surrounded by large bodies of water which regulate temperature. They also have acute hillsides and different soil types to allow for different varieties of grape to flourish.

A random piece of knowledge thrown at me from a couple vineyards was that 2013 was a great year for New Zealand, so look out for those.

We visited,

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Obsidian on Waiheke island, a short ferry from Auckland. Provided an amazing Reserve 2016 Chardonnay which I gladly bought after the tasting (very similar to a Chablis). Included in the tasting is a nuzzle from their vineyard dog as well as biscuits and cheese.

Ransom Wines, near Matakana. We visited this classy vineyard en route to the Lions game in Whangarei. The winemaker spoke to us frankly while he served an exceptional selection of wines. Here I purchased their Rose (stay with me), it literally tasted of strawberries and cream – pure Wimbledon in a glass! They also have a sweet wine which is well worth a try and a dog!

HWM ltd Ransom Wines

Ascension wines in Matakana, another stop on the way to the Lions game. Ascension is a converted Mission (inherently common) which produces Port, sweet wines, sparking wines among other more humble varieties. Rather than selling by grape variety the vine yard names their wines such as The Druid, The Rogue etc. Well worth a visit to get a good quality selection of different wines and styles! We purchased the Rogue, a wine that was thought to be Pinot Gris but actually turned out be a rogue variety derived from Gewurztraminer and Semillon.

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Millsreef in Bethlehem. This was the most generous and nicest tasting in New Zealand, if not the world! We were treated to so many samples and different wines here that it was a celestial experience that lived up to the town’s name. Go! Try their 2013 Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels – it’s literally the perfect example of a New Zealand Syrah from the world renowned Gravels region.

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Needless to say we didn’t visit any vineyards in Rotorua. Should you have visited Rotorua you’ll be aware that the town hosts an unique aura…Do visit the Agrodome!

Mission, near Napier. Napier is well worth a visit, if not for Opossum world, but at least to step back in time to a 1930s art Deco small town! Napier was raised to the ground in 1931 by an earthquake but it was rebuilt in the then contemporary style of Art Deco. It sits amid the world-famous Hawke’s bay wine producing region. Mission, as you’d expect, is a converted mission which was established in 1851. It has wonderful vistas and a tremendous association with quality.

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Church Road, near Napier. There is no hiding that Church Road are huge producers of bulk wine – the airport in Auckland has a huge selection of their stock. However, a visit to Church Road is well worth it as you can sample some exclusive wines only available at the vineyard and the bottles are generally a lot cheaper too.untitled_design_(8)

Crossroads, within Hawkes bay. We saved the best until last and only stumbled across this vineyard on the way home. They have a very intimate tasting room which includes illustrations of the different soil varieties vines can grow on. Our host was very generous again, providing the opportunity to sample 6 wines and a port for $5 NZD. Their fine Tawny port was delicious; tasting of marmalade and toffee dates. However, the Syrah from the Gravels was an absolute delight so I bought one.

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New Zealand is much more than just a good place for ‘Sauvi’. I feel the Whisky industry has a lot to learn about how to host guests in comparison with the wine trade; a selection of tasting wines will cost on average $5.00 NZD (equal to approximately £3.00 GBP) and although you don’t get a tour of a winery thrown in you do get a good chat about the wine and hosts are very open. If you utter even the slightest knowledge of wine you’ll usually get more of the special stuff too and all the vineyards we visited would discount any bottle you bought with the cost of the taster. 

Always with a wine tour there are fun things to share, so here is a picture of our favourite Aberdeen fan, who placed an Aberdeen hat on his favourite sheep at the Agrodome..

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No sheep or Kiwi were hurt in the making of this wine tour.

 

Kia Ora!!

Annandale Distillery Visit

Apr 25th, 11:50 AM

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Situated in Dumfries and Galloway sits one of Scotland’s newest Whisky distillery’s and I had the pleasure of vising them a few weeks ago!

Located near Annan, the site of my rugby playing retirement among many other historical landmarks, Annandale distillery is perfectly located for visiting when flying between Scotland and England (not literally flying). It benefits from a great wee café and they are open to the public for tours. The distillery has managed to tie in many local histories such as the association with Robert the Bruce, Robert Burns and Annan’s sea traditions so you can expect a beautifully constructed distillery with little nods to history dotted around…

The result of £10 million investment the distillery has been wonderfully restored from old farmhouses and the ruins of the previous distillery which was opened in 1830 and closed around 1924 –the distillery is celebrating the reawakening 90 years later.  Don’t expect to taste anything that tastes too like the original spirit as all the distillery equipment is refurbished or new. In fact, excluding the stills and washbacks a lot of the equipment comes from Caperdonich distillery which has been silent since 2002 (we actually released a 19 year old Caperdonich, check out our collection page to find out more) – so for all you silent distillery enthusiasts it’s well worth seeing!

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Annandale is unique in many respects but what makes them very special is that they are producing peated and non-peated malt spirit. They also have an opportunity for you to buy their casks, their number 1 cask is still available for £1 million.

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I was fortunate enough to meet David Thomson, the founder of the distillery and be given a wee tour by him; displaying great enthusiasm, it was lovely to learn about the vision in place and the investment in high quality wood which will ensure the spirit is given the best possible opportunity to flourish. I was also able to nose some of the different aged spirits from both the peated and non peated casks and within that from the Bourbon casks and Sherry Butts, so I’m more than inclined to get a Butt myself…

As mentioned previously, Annandale is part of relatively new generation of Whisky distilleries emerging. Although they can’t release Single Malt Whisky, because the Whisky needs to mature in the cask for a minimum of 3 years before it can be called Single Malt Whisky, you can sample their new make spirit which has lovely light fruity notes.

New Release 14 Year Old Secret Islay Sherry Butt

Mar 9th, 03:33 PM

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The end of March 2017 will be the release date of our new enjoyably complex Secret Islay release. 

Oloroso Sherry butt., number 2905, was distilled in October 17th 2002 and bottled in March 2017

The 14 year old Butt produced a natural cask strength of 56.2% alcohol and we elected to bottled without chill filtering and colourings.

A limited Edition 267 bottle release - each uniquely glass etched bottle has been numbered.

 

About the distillery

Islay is renowned for producing Scotland's most distinct and recognizable Whiskies. The small island which enjoys 130 miles of coastline and it’s own micro climate has distilled Whisky with a limited number of exceptional distilleries for centuries. We were very fortunate to obtain this beautiful single butt from a private collector but due to the gravity of the butt the name had to remain secret. All that can be revealed is that the spirit was distilled on the East Shore of Islay.

The first fill Oloroso butt was used to mature the spirit for a splendid 14 year period and the light quality of the spirit produced from this distillery’s large stills have allowed for a delightfully balanced sherry influence, revealing sweet, dark and nutty qualities with ginger and cherries. We were so impressed by the wood’s condition after the Secret Islay maturation that we have opted to use the Butt again, as it has so much left to give, for the further maturation of a Royal Brackla.

We at Lady of the Glen have genuinely never been more proud to a release butt and it's been purposefully bottled at a time in it's maturation where it is ideal for sipping.

Tasting notes

Colour: antique bronze

Nose: Salty and earthy yet sweet and floral at first. Think sea breeze on a warm spring day. Biscuits and caramel sauce with hints of old and damp fire wood.
 

Palate: Woody with a toffee/candy apple note initially. Hints of sea spray and fresh cut flowers come next. More caramel and biscuits notes towards the end.

Finish: Subtly sweet with woody overtones. Long and rich.

 

Advance orders, including complimentary UK delivery, available for £100.00

 

High Score For Lady Of The Glen Aultmore 1992

Feb 24th, 02:51 PM

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We are pleased to reveal that the Lady of the Glen Aultmore 1992 has been Recommended by Whisky Magazine!

Receiving 92/100 and 89/100 from the panelists. The reviews are below,

The Aultmore sold out last year but you might be able to pick up a bottle in a few stores in the UK or from our distributors in Germany and Switzerland.

 

For the full article visit Whisky Magazine

Laura Foster

90/100

Nose
Peach, apricot and vanilla form the heart here, with a lilac top note, hot cross bun base note and a touch of furniture polish.

Palate
That floral character opens up proceedings, before an attractive salty prosciutto flavour takes over. There's still plenty of freshness there; almost like breathing in a huge gulp of sea air, laced with vanilla and Parma Violets.

Finish
Still gulping in lung-fulls of sweet, sweet oxygen.

Comment
Fabulously fresh yet pleasingly complex. Wears its high ABV relatively lightly

 

Mark Newton

89/100

Nose

Fantastic orchard fruits and vanilla, with such depth. Orange marmalade. Apricots. Hazelnut praline and milk chocolate. Crème caramel

Palate

Velvety, rounded and a mouthwatering continuation of the nose. Baked apples (cider-like), nutmeg with golden syrup, toffee and vanilla, with oak rounding off the sweetness.

Finish

Warming, fruity, sweet and cloying. Just too short to reach perfection.

Comment

A dashing gent. Classy, full of flavour and with a lovely mouthfeel.

 

Glenrothes Tasting At Usquabae

Feb 7th, 11:09 AM

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picture courtesy of Usquabae bar

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Glenrothes tasting at Usquabae hosted by Ronnie Cox, the Brands and Heritage director at Berry Bros. & Rudd. Usquabae, if you’ve not been, is a fantastic Whisky bar under Ryan’s bar in Edinburgh, they have a tremendous range of Whisky including a smoky Glenrothes. Set up a like a cellar with alcoves for sitting and a large table in the middle of the bar area, it creates a perfect ambiance for enjoying good Whisky.

The evening was lovely and as good as the Whisky was, Ronnie was the highlight with a tremendous wealth of entertaining stories ranging from the history of Berry Bros. as coffee importers to his own development through the world of wine and Whisky, at one point working under a man who was Hitler’s god son. Ronnie came across as very passionate and his family’s association with distillery gave a fabulous personal insight into the distillery’s history. It was also of personal interest to learn about the wood policy adopted by the distillery; as the sourcing of casks becomes ever more challenging due to increased  demand how does Glenrothes and the likes ensure top quality wood?

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Located in Rothes in Speyside, not to be confused with the new Glenrothes distillery arising from actual Glenrothes, was founded in 1879 during the Whisky boom (boom being slightly ironic as the distillery has suffered its fair share of disasters). The distillery’s neighbours are the likes of Glen Grant and Macallan and equally Glenrothes commands a strong if not well publicized reputation in the whisky world. Glenrothes usually produces a spirit which is fruity, with a spicy noise and a honey palate – they are high quality Speyside whisky.

Started in 1698 and originally coffee merchants before becoming exceptional wine merchants, then spirit merchants, Berry Bros & Rudd obtained the licence to sell Glenrothes and this is perhaps why Glenrothes release vintages.  Personally, I was not that familiar with Glenrothes prior to the tasting so I was excited to know what they were all about, I was not disappointed.

Over the evening we enjoyed the following releases the Bourbon cask, the sherry, the Vintage Reserve, 2001, 1995, 2006 cask sample. I would have to say that taking into account a number of factors I enjoyed the bourbon cask the most, I felt it was enjoyable, moreish and delightfully sweet with vanilla and coconut. It was a perfect example of high quality Speyside matured in a good Bourbon cask – it doesn’t get much better for bourbon lovers!

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National Whisky Festival 2017

Jan 31st, 10:32 AM

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On Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend the National Whisky festival in Glasgow with Sean Murphy. Taking place in Glasgow’s SWG3 over two floors, it was extremely busy with some great stalls.

The event was part of Celtic Connections 2017 so there was wonderful Scottish music playing throughout and despite this being the first time of it being held, I felt it went well and I’d definitely go back!

I would say the National Whisky Festival was bringing some of the best aspects of new trends in Whisky and a general freshness. This was expressed through the number of relatively new distilleries that had stalls present like Annandale Distillery, Arbikie and Wolfburn; here you could taste their new spirit and get a feel as to what is happening. I was also very interested in the Whisky cocktails that were being offered by The Love Scotch Cocktail Bar; there is a great opportunity to use quality whisky rather than standard Whisky blends to create wonderful tasting experiences that far outshine gins. Love Scotch were doing a great job with their various cocktails, my favourite being Dufftown Girl was particularly lovely.

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In addition to the above stalls, there was something for everyone from Nikka to A.D Rattray.

The masterclass I attended was hosted by Blair Bowman and it was thoroughly enjoyable. The class attempted to recreate the environment of a blind tasting by sitting the audience in the dark to drink so they could use only their nose and palate to identify the Whisky. Blind tastings are a terrific way to remove prejudices and stereotypes regarding Whisky and they are also the best way to improve your own palate.

The Whisky I enjoyed was a 10 year old Tamdu, lovely honey notes. The Stronachie 10 year was also a lovely dram.

How Is Whisky Made And Where Does That Flavour Come From?

Jan 11th, 01:46 PM

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It has been suggested that Whisky takes 50% to 80% of its flavour from the cask it is matured in. As it gradually matures the alcohol strength reduces while the amount of liquid in the cask reduces too, this is described as the ‘Angel’s Share’. The longer the maturation then the greater the amount of spirit to wood exposure which allows the Whisky to take more of the Oaks cask’s flavours.

This is why the type of cask used to mature and nurture a spirit is vital because the spirit will take on those characteristics, below is a list explaining the type of Oak casks that can be used to mature Whisky and the type of flavours that they produce.

 Bourbon Casks – The most common cask out there used for the maturation of Whisky. Previously containing American Bourbon like Jack Daniels (even though it’s a Sour Mash), Jim Beam among others. The casks can no longer be used for the maturation of Bourbon due to legal restrictions so they have historically been used for the maturation of Whisky. You can expect Whisky aged in a Bourbon cask to have tastes associated with Vanilla, fudge, honey, different nuts like hazelnuts and almonds and even coconut.

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Sherry Butts – Becoming much rarer and harder to find. Previously used for varieties of Sherry like Fino, Oloroso and Amontillado among others from Europe. With Sherry you would expect to get a heavier and richer range of flavours, common flavours include – slightly sweeter than bourbon, toffee, winter berries, cherry, raisins and spices like ginger will be more prevalent.

 

Rum – fruity, vanilla and buttery with spices like pepper and paprika

Port – similar to Sherry with more red berry fruits and dark chocolate

Wine –sweet, dried fruits and raisins

Some other details that are a little harder to find related to casks are below, these too will impact the flavour

Refill Casks –  If your Whisky is from a cask that is a first fill, that means it’s the first time it has been used for Whisky since it last contained the Bourbon or Sherry etc. Naturally that means a first fill cask will have more to offer and influence the Whisky compared to when it is used the second or third time, each time the influence will be reduced and you’ll be left with less character in the Whisky.

Size of Cask – The larger the cask less exposure to wood and the less intense flavour. A quarter Cask for instance provides lots of spirit and wood contact and they are mainly used to give Whisky flavour quickly, however Whisky left too long in quarter cask can be overpowered by the wood. It is typical for Whisky to be matured in a Bourbon cask Hogs Heads, which can contain approximately 225 litres or a Sherry Butt which can contain around 500 litres.a_sherry_buttwill_contain_approximately_after_10_years600_70cl_bottles

Finishing in casks/double wood matured or wood finished –  a process of placing the Whisky from one cask into another so that the Whisky can take on some of the flavours associated with that second or third cask. It is common fairly common practice for whisky to be finished in a Quarter Cask, for the reasons expressed above, they provide greater wood contact and can express themselves on the Whisky quicker.

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