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Thursday, October 16, 2014

week 2 Tomatin 14 Portwood - Do you dare follow me down the rabbit hole?

DRINK ME!!!!! 

I CAN'T! I replied as I threw it back in my luggage. "But you want to don't you?", it beckoned slyly. 

"I can't. I have to wait until I get back to Canada!" I said with much more authority in my voice. I put the small bottle in a sock, tucked it away under a pair of pants and zipped the bag closed. I tried to read, I talked to people on twitter until finally I was exhausted and simply went to sleep. What followed was a strange dream of miniature Tomatin whisky bottles chasing me down the streets of London. Dave Worthington was the Cheshire cat and his daughter Kat was the Queen of Hearts. I was being put on trial for breaking the rules and drinking the king's favorite whiskies. Needless to say when I woke up my first thought was: "I'm never eating plantain fritters with honey yogurt before bed ever again!?" 

As I've stated several times, Tomatin whiskies were my favorite discovery of 2013 and so I specifically seek them out now either at home or my travels abroad. I have yet to find one that I don't enjoy immensely. My collection of Tomatins bottles has caught up to my Forty Creek as well as Compass Box collection. That... says something about the quality of the whiskies I enjoy.

Last week I posted about my encounters of the third kind with the Cù Bòcan 1989, this week I'm going to review the Tomatin 14 year old Port Wood finish. This whisky was added to the core range of the distillery bottlings in April 2014. It's bottled at 46% (always a bonus in my books) and it spent the first 13 years in an ex-bourbon barrel but finished in a port pipe for that last year of maturation.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a huge fan of Forty Creek whisky. It's Canadian and their entire line is quite lovely. John Hall released a Port Wood Reserve limited release twice, once in 2009 and the last one in 2012. For me, it's been the benchmark of what a Port Wood Finished whisky should taste like. The really difficult part is knowing Forty Creek will never release another Port Wood finish so what I have in my collection right now (2 bottles left) is it. I've tried several other whiskies that were port finished and frankly, I always came away very disappointed until now... 

What qualities are you looking for in a Port Wood Finish Lassie I hear you asking?  Simple:

1. I should still be able to taste the house style of the whisky - The port should be in the background and not mask or overpower the whisky.

2. The port should provide sweet and soft undertones - Not candy, syrupy sweet but rather rounded, soft fruit like flavors.

3. Price tag - It must be affordable and have value for money since it's something I'll dip into often.
Whenever I've tried other port matured or finished whiskies these 3 criteria were somehow not being met. Case in point, I loved the Balvenie Portwood 21, but I don't think $350.00 is something I part with on a regular basis to enjoy this whisky. Forty Creek met those three criteria for me and I certainly didn't mind paying $70 for the bottle on a regular basis. 

So back to the Tomatin 14 Port Wood Finish. It may not completely match how I feel about the Forty Creek nor would I expect it to as no two whiskies are ever alike, but I do believe that I have found a replacement that is fairly close.

Nose: Bumbleberry pie (for those of you who don't know what that is: A combination of strawberry, blueberry, blackberries and/or raspberries -> Basically summer fruits) It's Tomatin, but so much more fruity on the nose (I compared it to my 12, 15 and 18). As it sits in the glass, I got a bit of sweet pipe tobacco or more like new leather perhaps. It was a lovely smell. I nosed the whisky for about 30 minutes before I would even consider tasting it. It's truly a lovely and well balanced nose. But would the palate hold true?

Palate: Nice full bodied mouthfeel, almost a bit oily and nutty in nature. I love the feeling of the fruit exploding on my tongue. It was a bit of a surprise I must admit. The taste of a honeycomb came to mind followed by a mango cheesecake I once made. Again, balanced, sweetness at the back and quite satisfying.

Finish: I could really taste blackberries which confused me at first. It's a rich, long finish that stays with you for quite some time. About half way through my dram I started to notice a bit more of an almond and oaky flavor being left behind. 

From start to finish, this whisky was simply delicious. Is it my Forty Creek port finished whisky - No...  Is it close enough that I'm extremely happy I found one that I can start buying as a replacement, YES... ! Now the next small problem...  I need to find more room for all these whiskies?! Oh wait... I'm in the process of working on that....

Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Wood Finish is available world wide and ranges from £50 in the UK. Only available in the province of Alberta in Canada, at this time, retails for about $85. If you love Tomatin or port wood finishes I would certainly recommend you trying some.

More to come next week as I'll be reviewing the Tomatin 1988.  Care to come over for my tea party? I have some realllly nice cups I'd love to use... 

Cheeky Lassie....

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

There's a chill in the air, time for autumn warmers!

It's really nice having "go to" whiskies. We just celebrated a lovely Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and after the guests went home, the kitchen was cleaned and I was able to put my feet up for a few seconds I wanted a nice whisky I could sip on quietly while I read. I instinctively reached for Copper Pot from Forty Creek. It was so good, I had two drams. Reminded me how much certain whiskies are really appealing when it comes to the different seasons we experience here in Canada.

Thought I'd repost from my days of blogging as "Perfect Whisky Match"...

For those who read my blog regularly you must know by now how much I love Canadian whiskies. Of course I do have my favorites and Forty Creek is one of them. Prior to tasting John Hall's whiskies, there were very few Canadian whiskies that I owned more than one bottle of. I like Wisers and Gibsons, I have 2 bottles of each. However I have almost all of the Forty Creek releases because John Hall opened my eyes to a new avenue of whisky that many still refuse to believe exists in Canada. 

Like most other master distillers in the world, John works very hard at maintaining the quality of his award winning whiskies while constantly developing new products for future markets. Copper Pot was his release for 2012. I and many other fans have gone through several bottles of this particular release and I am never without a bottle in my collection.

Autumn here in Canada is one of the most beautiful times of the year. People from around the world flock to our country to experience the brisk morning air, warm sunny afternoons and the long shadows cast by the sun by day's end. The red maple leafs, yellow birches and copper oak leaves are abundant and breathtakingly beautiful. I am in awe every year as the transition from summer to fall takes place. Out come the warm wool socks and gloves and the fall/winter whiskies too! Copper Pot Reserve is an autumn whisky for me. The bottle even has an orange hue and golden highlights while the elixir within a rich deep golden amber to match.

One of the great things about John that sets him apart from the other distillers in North America is that he's a trailblazer and a perfectionist in his craft. 

Pot still distillation is not the most efficient or easiest to use but John swears by it for some of his whiskies. The pot stills transfer characters to the whiskies that is not readily created over and over again. This likely means each batch is somewhat unique. I like that. It's truly what I think being Canadian is all about. We don't aim to look like everyone else and to be "Canadian" means we are all individuals with our own distinct personalities. You will find no melting pot mentality here. 

No wonder I like Forty Creek so much, it represents what I feel being Canadian is all about. This dram has such a wonderful warmth that I always have a very content feeling after finishing it. It has a hugely satisfying, full bodied and spicy profile. 

I think releasing this at 43% ABV was a great idea. Some people describe this particular release as Forty Creek Barrel Select on steroids. Although I can still taste the Forty Creek profile, I tend to think it's more like the NEON version. It's Barrel select but MAGNIFIED in amplitude when it comes to the aromas and flavors. It's a much bolder version and yet another great example of how John thinks outside the typical Canadian whisky box to create something that is exciting, different and surprising.
A Danish blogger friend of mine was in Canada the summer this was released and I helped arrange a tour for him to visit to the distillery. Copper Pot wasn't quire ready yet so when I got my first bottle I asked him if he wanted to try it: YES ->Was the resounding answer heard across the Atlantic. So a sample was sent and he nosed, tasted and reviewed it. He rates his whiskies and gave it an 86 out of a 100. Not bad at all, if I do say so myself. Here is his website in case you would like to read:

And there's also this guy "Ralfy" that you may have heard of :)

And if you are still reading my blog, here is what I thought the first time I tasted it.


COLOR: Golden sunshine in a glass. Hues of deep amber with flickers of orange. When my glass was coated it was somewhat viscous and the legs although plentiful slow to travel down the glass.  

NOSE: Peppery!, Very nice level of spice. A sweet butterscotch creaminess, and then it hit me. Kraft Caramels I used to get in my Halloween bag! WHOA! I let that memory sit for a moment. At the back I could detect some very bitter grapefruit pith. Once I added water, it tamed a bit of the spice and black cherries or rich black berries (very sweet) appeared. The water opened another familiar fall item of my childhood: Date squares. 

PALATE: The spice grabs your whole mouth so hold on! Nice mouth watering feel and explosion of flavors immediately. Cloves and a handful of cinnamon candies or maybe closer to the hot tamales candy I also use to get at Halloween, fiery! Once I added the water it toned down the spicy and a beautiful flavor of dark cocoa and bitter oranges came to the forefront. If Terry's Chocolate Orange made one with dark 85% cocoa and Seville oranges - This is what it would taste like I'm sure of it.
FINISH: So sweet. I had anticipated a long lingering burn because of all the spiciness on the nose and palate, but got just the opposite. The burn was there: instantaneous on the swallow BUT then this glorious silky sweet finish took over and lasts.   

EMPTY GLASS:  So sweet, almost bourbon like. Next morning reminded me of maple sap with a hint of vanilla.

John Hall successfully creates interesting and complex whiskies year after year. Copper Pot, not expensive - Less then $30. Available across Canada (except Québec - sorry)  Value for money - YES. Nice sipping whisky - YESS. Forty Creek brilliance in a glass - YESSS! (Sorry, I'll stop screaming from the soap box now.) 

The point is if you want to sip a whisky that warms you to the core on a cold autumn evening, I would strongly recommend you consider getting a bottle of this.

Now if you'll excuse me it's time to rotate spring/summer to the back of the closets and take out the fall/winter clothing to the front. Same goes for my whiskies too!   

Later, this could take awhile...