Thursday, September 26, 2013

Forty Creek's 2013 Limited Release - Heart of Gold...

Still at Forty Creek

Earlier this year I attended the Spirit of Toronto Whisky Gala. We were there for a few extra days so we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Forty Creek Distillery.  I am more than happy we did. Not because I was able to see John again or meet some of the fantastic people on his team but because I was able to see with my own eyes how John works and creates the way he does.

I spent the better part of an entire day there and not only got the grand tour with John but we finished it with a special tasting. Yes, many distilleries do this as well BUT...  this tasting was very special because a) Ralfy was there and b) we were very privileged to try Heart of Gold. We didn't know that beforehand so I was vibrating on this inside when I found out.

There is something magical about trying whisky right out of the barrel. That feeling was heightened by the fact that I was getting a glimpse of John's next release. We were asked not to broadcast what we thought, which I respected. I did however, enjoy discussing what I thought with John, Ralfy and the others as well as made many notes in my whisky book, which I share below.
Heart of Gold is truly another labour of love for John. This whisky's inception started 10 years ago. In the event you didn't know, John was a wine maker for the majority of his career. Ok, so what? you think... That makes him a first generation whisky maker which means he isn't trapped by tradition, old recipes, or by the "norms" of Canadian Whisky making.  John doesn't do on purpose to be different, he is just being himself. Having met John several times and spending time with him, it comes as no surprise to me that he consistently creates whiskies that are only non-conformist but innovative (alot like his personality I think...) Dave Broom recently wrote an editorial in Whisky Magazine (issue 113) that described the fact that most Scottish Distilleries were so entrenched in their beliefs that they are not exploring the possibilities of flavors by using different yeasts. Here's the innovative part:  That whisky, that John started working on 10 years ago, is made with a wine yeast strain. Now... is John the only whisky maker doing this -> No. There are a few. But he's currently the only Canadian Whisky Maker that has. So why use a wine yeast for the fermentation? Sounds a bit odd for whisky if you think about it. Well, from my perspective (chemistry background), it only makes sense that if you use a different yeast strain, you will end up with a different mash. Wine yeasts are traditionally used for grapes which have a high sugar content. They are more tolerant to acidic PH as well as temperature fluctuations. John states that he wanted to bring out more flavors in the rye component of his whisky.

Rye is a denser grain with less maltose (a type of glucose) but higher nitrogen content. It can withstand higher mash temperatures (2-5 degrees). Rye wort is more acidic then barley or corn. John postulated that using a wine yeast would bring out the more floral aromas and flavors that rye has. This may surprise some people. Rye whisky is traditionally recognized for its spicy, rye bread with caraway seeds sort of profile. He also came to the conclusion that the subtle floral part of the grain often gets masked by the spicy components. So, by using a yeast that would bring out the delicate part of the grain AND by ensuring that the distillate "heart" cut was much narrower he achieved exactly what he wanted:  Heart of Gold.

Forty Creek Heart of Gold Reserve, 2013 release, 43% ABV.

Color:  May & September 2013 - Dark yellow with hints of amber. Reminds me of tarnished gold painting frames.

Nose:  May 2013 - Fresh sawn wood, a bit of ginger spice and something else I recognized but wasn't sure at first. Then it hit me:  Geraniums.  I find the smell of geraniums very "spicy" compared to other flowers like hyacinths or roses. It's a pungent but very distinct and pleasant smell. September 2013 - Geraniums are still there! Picking up a bit more on the spices this time however they are not overwhelming. I went and got a bottle of Lot 40 to do a nose comparison. The rye spice is there, but much more subtle and delicate then on the Lot 40. I quite like it.  It's not "in your face". After my glass sat for a little while, I noticed the more recognized aromas of butterscotch and fresh sawdust.

Palate:  May 2013 (from my notes...) - Wow! Not at all what I expected from the descriptors John is using. I don't get "rye forward". I taste creamy marmalade with a hint of zest in the corners.  It is spicier on the palate then the nose. Surprising! September 2013 - Lovely flavors of dried fruit: Like figs or apricots maybe, followed by a bit sour (like rye bread) and peppery! Once it sat, the sweetness seems to be disappearing and spices are at the forefront:  Ginger, earl gray tea (tannic, cardamom, mouthwatering).

Finish:  May 2013 - I wrote LONG! That's it... hehe September 2013 - Sweet & spicy! White pepper meets crystallized ginger! What a delicious combination. Lingers, beautifully...  

Heart of Gold... Now, this is my personal opinion:

Although John and some of my Canadian counterparts state and describe this as a rye forward or rye spicy whisky, I'm going to disagree somewhat. Don't expect to pour this in your glass and be enveloped in the heavy spicy aromas of a dark rye bread coming out of the oven.  NOPE! This whisky is delicate on the nose and leads you in an area of the unknown if you are not used to finding the more tender & light aromas in a whisky. Gibson's 18 is the same way for me = Very delicate but so beautiful.

So do me and the whisky a favor when you nose it. TAKE YOUR TIME. Appreciate and try to localize the aromas that are there. They are truly magical and missing more often than not in 95% of the whiskies I've nosed. The flavor combination that this whisky offers is quite unique. Well balanced, slightly spicy and sweet enough to tease the palate and make your mouth water. Can you taste the "house profile" of Forty Creek, barely...  but it's there.

Heart of Gold being released September 28 at Forty Creek Whisky Weekend (which I'm attending... ). Only 9000 bottles available. If you don't believe I put my money where my whisky is, I've purchased 3 bottles for myself and 2 more as gifts.  First wave of release:  Ontario and then will spread across Canada (if it lasts that long...).

John...  I have no idea how and what you are working on now, but it's hard to believe you will be able to top this one.  My hat off to you, once more for creating something that is different, beautiful from start to finish and special.

Kissing the sleeping "Gold"

As I leave on the plane for Toronto, I bid you all farewell and very much look forward to being back at the Forty Creek Distillery Saturday & Sunday September 28 & 29th for Whisky Weekend.  Many Heart of Gold bottles will fly off the shelf and I'll raise a toast to all my whisky fabric friends in Canada as well as the rest of the world....

Searching for a Heart of Gold (I had to include the Neil Young title, come on....)


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Whisky Writer's Circle - Profile: Muses...

The muses (the mousai) of ancient Greek mythology were the goddesses of music, song and dance. They were the source of inspiration for poets and writers but also the keepers of knowledge who remembered ALL things that had come to pass. I've been called a muse a few times although I rather see myself as a sounding board for ideas or the builder of a "better mouse trap".  I love hearing what others think or what they are working on because if I believe in them I support them 110% even if some think I might be crazy but then again it could be why I inspire to begin with? 

When I realized that whisky was quickly becoming more than a hobby I threw myself in head over heels. I've learned from some fantastic teachers along the way.  It's changed me as an imbiber and whisky'ofile.  But isn't that the beauty of the muses? The people who inspire us to be better informed and help us understand whisky in depth. That lead us page by page and with each chapter into a world of discovery that baffles and pleases us so we can't wait for the next book.  Yes...  I feel that way. It is one of the main reasons I think it's important I do these profiles.  

Part 2 of my series is about a writer I have yet to meet (oh I will, it's my mandate for this year!).  He's a Glaswegian and freelance writer for many whisky & spirits publications. He is highly regarded as one of the best whisky tasters in the world which is probably why he was privileged & invited to taste the original Shackleton whisky to compare it to the replica created by Richard Paterson. Wow, right there!?  What I enjoy the most about his writing style is that he isn't afraid to explore the entire world of whisky (not just Scotland) and share with all of us his fascination of the science behind every drop.  I feel like he and I relate and understand that whisky is directly proportional to the people, the places and the history involved.  Isn't that the definition of a muse? His writing "speaks" to me and makes me want to be a better writer in return. 

I tend to seek out his articles in Whisky Magazine when I need a fix of what I call intelligent writing. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty out there to pick from but when I need inspiration, I can always rely on finding it within the printed words of: Dave Broom. 
World Atlas of WHISKY

This is not edited:  Hi Dave and thank you so much for considering this.  Here are the 5 questions I'm asking everyone that will take part in the series:

Q1:  So how did you get “here”?  When you were a little boy, I’m sure you didn’t say:  “When I grow up I want to be a whisky writer”?

"Very true. When I leaving school my headmaster said I'd amount to nothing and should consider a career in the police, so after graduating I worked in a whisky bottling line and got a job in a wine shop. That created an interest in all forms of drink, passing some exams, a spell running a pub, a jazz column and then 7 years as features editor on a drinks trade weekly, writing about everything from bottled water to whisky. 

When I left in 1995 to work in Australia, I realized I didn't have enough money to plant a vineyard in Margaret River so I returned home to write. Within about six months I was getting more commissions for whisky than wine. I suppose I was in the right place at the right time - malt whisky was just building up momentum, what was to become the London bar scene was just starting, editors were interested in pieces on whisky, I'd had experience and there were very few others specializing in the area, basically my mentor Michael Jackson and old friend Charlie MacLean. Luck."

Q2:  What motivates you to be in this part of the industry? Sometimes it can be quite unkind and very few can make a living doing this?

"The fact that there is always something new to learn. Every dram teaches you something new, there are a myriad of new angles to explore. There are distilleries opening up every second it seems, there are always people interested in learning more or who want to take their first steps into the whisky world. The work has only just started.

Sure, it's tough making a living from writing, it always has been and is one reason I travel so much, and it's undoubtedly tougher now than when I started. The advent of 'all information is free' hasn't helped any full-time writer's bank balance. But, that's the nature of the world these days and we all have to find ways to live in it. 

As for unkindness? I'm from Glasgow. I've got a thick skin. There again, I never tweet, mail, or text after my second drink. That helps to keep me out of trouble."

Q3:  What sacrifices or tough decisions have you made to get to where you are now?  

"Not having holidays for a number of years. Having to spend over a third of the year away from my family."

Q4:  You are on the cusp of starting something new, care to share what some of your upcoming plans are?

"There's a new book - Whisky: A User's Guide out next year (March in the UK, May in North America). It'll possibly be seen as a heretical text as I look at how whisky has been drunk for close on 600 years and guess what? At any time in that period when whisky has been popular it has been drunk mixed, long or has been flavoured. This creed of 'thou shalt not add water' is a modern invention and has done more to put people off whisky than attract them to it. I also look at how best to maximize your enjoyment of 102 different brands which I've tasted with five different mixers. It was fun! 

Next? I'm becoming increasingly interested in the idea of place within whisky, in whisky culture in its widest form. It's far more rewarding, and challenging, than just writing lists of aromas or giving things scores. I suppose I'm interested more in the why than the what. Then there's rum.. and gin .. and tequila.. and mezcal … and Cognac …   anyone for absinthe?"  

Q5:  If you could go back in time and talk to Dave Broom in 1984, what would you want to tell him?

"Stay longer in New York. Keep practising your sax."  

"This is about writing, so here's some things I keep in the back of my mind which might be of use to anyone thinking of starting. 

Keep asking 'why?' Find distillers and blenders and ask them questions. Listen to them long before you start sharing your opinions. Never think you know it all because you don't. 

Understand that for all the amazing liquids within whisky, it is a business. Discover how it works. 
Don't think big is bad or that blends are inferior. 
Treat every glass as the first time you have ever encountered that dram - because it is. 

Be confident, but don't be driven by ego - you are there to pass information along and there will always be people there (the folk who make it) who know more than you. Keep things simple, accurate, entertaining. 

Remember the two F words: flavour and fun."

End of interview...

Thank you to Dave Broom for graciously taking time out of his busy schedule to grant me this interview. 

The writers I have met so far see themselves as mere mortals so humble and quiet in their greatness yet thousands of us flock to the whisky shows, buy their books and follow them on social media because we see them as our history keepers, our experts, our muses.  I'm 100% positive that my "mousai" are not even aware of how they profoundly impacted my whisky journey. Simply put, I wouldn't be here without them.  

May you find a whisky muse in your future but until then don't stop questioning, learning reading or listening.  It is an ever expanding subject..


Friday, September 20, 2013

Whisky Writer's Circle - Profile: Discovery Road....

I've been a writer most of my life. My grade two teacher gave me a D on an essay I wrote because she didn't believe I had the knowledge or ability to write it but after a visit from my mother the grade was changed to an A.  I won several awards in high school for poetry and short stories and have been published several times.  All of it, non-whisky related and during what I lovingly call my BC period: Before Children.  It only seemed natural to me to start writing again after the girls left the nest a few years ago.  I became... a whisky blogger. Sometimes, I still think:  "What am I doing here?  There are 1000's of whisky blogs on the web! What could I possibly add?"  But I guess it ultimately comes down to being inspired to write about my whisky journey.

The most magical of whisky writers for me was always Michael Jackson.  I loved reading every single article, story or book that he worked on and when he died in 2007 I felt like we all lost something quite special.  For me, he was the ultimate whisky story weaver. I've been thinking alot about him lately and what I feel my potential is, not only as a blogger but someday as a respected whisky writer.  I am no Mr. Jackson!  I also know it's not the way I am going to become rich and famous but what pushes me forward with that dream is that I have a passion for writing as much as I have for whisky.  Luckily for me the two somehow combined and here I am...

So then the idea came to me to blog about some of my favorite whisky writers.  At first I thought I'd make it a tribute.  I would simply talk about each one in a blog and say why I felt inspired or why I loved reading what they write.  Then in a moment of utter madness I decided to do something crazy.  I contacted them all and asked if I could interview them.  One by one they said yes and I was over the moon.  Well, all but one...  Someone I highly respect.  He kindly contacted me & advised he doesn't grant interviews and his upcoming schedule is super busy so, I thanked him none the less and I look forward to the opportunity of meeting him someday soon.

My first installment will probably be the most controversial in nature because of who it's about. This writer is "larger" than life on all accounts.  He thinks big, he lives large and he is loud especially when it is something he's passionate about. If you follow him on twitter you will see what I mean. Brilliance is sometimes part of the madness and it takes a very strong person to come to terms with that.  He has had a long career in journalism & done it all... Or has he?   

Recently having found himself at a crossroads, everything he knew seemed turned upside down.  He has made no bones about it and has shared some of the bitter details publicly for all to see.  It takes an immense amount of courage and determination to keep moving in the face of negativity and what can seem like defeat, but I for one have no doubt he is rising yet again through the ashes of adversity like the golden phoenix he is.

Ladies & Gentlemen:  Dominic Roskrow - the first Whisky Writer Circle Profile.  (None of the following is edited...)

" Hi Johanne, firstly, I am happy to say on record a big thank you to you and the other people I don't really know but have been so important to me in recent months. For me the Twitter: good or bad?  debate ends right here. I could not have got through this year alone and without an outlet. I wear my heart on my sleeve - always have, and I divide people. I'm told I say too much in public, but I'm a trained journalist and I have always expected other people to go public often with stuff they would rather not share, so I take the view that I should apply the same rules to myself. I'm honest, a maverick, controversial and in the last three years through illness I got arrogant, aggressive and rude and hurtful. I regret that."

Q1:  So how did you get “here”?  When you were a little boy, I’m sure you did not say:  “When I grow up I want to be a whisky writer”?

"No I wanted to be a vet. And from a young age I wanted to be a journalist. I started reading books about all the great journalists and I was drawn to the excitement, unpredictability and worthiness of unearthing stories. I know journalism is a very sullied profession these days but for me it has always been about telling the daily stories of normal people. I hated history because it was all about royalty and the rich, and normal people only made it into history if they did something wrong. Journalism is all about championing normal people, reflecting normal every day lives, and exposing the badness and evil of those with power, to stop them exploiting people. I never waived from that view and I still firmly believe that a few bad journalists do not reflect the 99 per cent of the profession who report births, deaths and marriages in communities across the world, and the 0.01 per cent who risk their lives and often give their lives to report back on major events such as chemical warfare in Syria.  I am mentioning all this now because I am reeling from the fact that my days as a print magazine Editor are almost certainly over and that's all I've ever known or done. 

This month has been very close to a knock out punch for me. But I have been so fortunate. I got to be a newspaper journalist and combined it with my love of music, writing for British music magazines and running the music pages on papers in England and New Zealand. The last time I lost a job for more than a day was in 1988 when the Auckland Sun shut. And three years later, when my dad's health started to decline and at 30 I thought I was too old to be a music journalist (!), I returned to Britain during a recession, eventually found a job. I did my last rock interview on my 30th birthday (Mick Hucknall of Simply Red) and started work on a trade paper serving the drinks industry. I've worked on various drinks titles since.  Whisky Magazine is published in Norwich, England, and that's where I live. So when the publisher needed a group Editor with drinks experience, I was well suited. And the rest, as they say, is history.

There 's a lot of fortune in that story."

Q2:  What motivates you to be in this part of the industry?   Sometimes it can be quite unkind and very few can make a living doing this?

"Today, and in the circumstances, I honestly don't know. It's definitely vocational, and it certainly isn't about money. I guess I'm still driven by my old journalistic instincts. I love finding out things first and passing them on, I love doing something which has integrity - that is, writing about small distilleries across the world because they're good stories to tell. I'm trusted because I'm fair and honest, and that means masses to me. Normally I'd say I like the unpredictability of my life, but it's more of a love-hate relationship at the moment. Breaking the Gartbreck story at the weekend gave me 12 hours of utter contentment - I wasn't the only person with that information, but I lined up the perfect outlet to use the story, got all the pieces in place, and made sure that the parties in place were happy, and I reported the story first. But working like that is like taking drugs and the effects soon wear off and you're on to the next thing.  There's something very special about being part of the world whisky community, too. Whisky attracts special and sound people most of the time."

Q3:  What sacrifices or tough decisions have you made to get to where you are now?  

"The hardest thing I ever had to do was leave New Zealand, although that wasn't done as part of a major plan to get to here. That was done for personal reasons. I could have taken a different route at various times in my career and made a lot more money but I'm not sure if the decisions not to were really that tough. Recent events probably mean I won't ever edit a print magazine again and I'm very sad about that. But if that's the case I can honestly say I never compromised my principles, never lost my integrity and never sold out. I may have sacrificed an easier life and financial security and right now I'm wondering whether I was driven by selfishness and I've put my family through a lot of unnecessary hell. But did I really have any choice? I have to believe that I did not, and there was no tough decision to realistically make."

Q4:  If you could go back in time and talk to Dominic Roskrow in 1984, what would you want to tell him?

"Oh golly. I'm presuming you don't mean the names of all the Grand National winners between then and now, do you? This is hard to answer without it sounding conceited but it's me talking to me, so it's never going to sound great. But I'd tell me to take the same path as I took and do the same things. I'd tell him that now he's passed his NCTJ Proficiency test in journalism he's set for a lifetime career as a writer; that the new college band he discovered last year called REM would still be his favourite band in 2013, that the Rainbow concert he'll go to next year and the reformed Deep Purple one with Blackmore in 1987 would both be released on DVD in 2013 and he'd still want to watch them, that not only would he still be watching Leicester City but would be a season ticket holder, and he'd still be following The Dallas Cowboys. In other words, all the things he is and loves in 1984 he will be in 2013; at 23 he has shaped the life he is going to lead for the next 30 years. 

But I'd tell him that he can't and won't change the world and shouldn't try so hard to do so. He should lighten up a bit, stop feeling guilty for a privileged life, and instead just accept how fortunate he is and use it to good effect. I'd tell him that it's not a weakness to seek help when faced with problems, it's okay to be scared of The Blackness and not healthy to lock fears in dark rooms. And I'd tell him to resolve issues from the past that are not his fault - because otherwise those issues will slowly but very surely become a cancerous time bomb and will explode violently and without warning, destroying everyone and everything close to him.

I'd tell him all this in the hope he'd tell others who might benefit, those that can't afford expensive treatment and think they are alone slipping in to The Darkness. Maybe he can help them shine a light in to the dark rooms before alcohol and drugs cast them out of society. 

And I'd tell him who shot JR just so he didn't have to sit through all that nonsense for six months!"

Q5:  You are on the cusp of starting in a new direction, care to share what some of your upcoming plans are?

"I think it's pretty well known now that I have parted company with Whiskeria, the magazine of The Whisky Shop chain here in the United Kingdom. Suffice to say that it hit me very hard and it follows on from what has been a dreadful year where I've had to reduce my workload massively, have given up a lot of freelance work and had to organize my life so that there's a lot less whisky in it. In other words, my world has been turned upside down. But I'm continuing to write for The W Club online, and am still working with Whisky Advocate, which goes from strength to strength and is as good as it gets when it comes to whisky writing. My Wizards of Whisky World Whisky Awards are going well, and look like they're going to be much bigger than last year, and the Craft Distillers Alliance now has about 40 very classy members from across the world including virtually all of the best 'New World' distillers, so there's plenty going on there.

There are three other exciting developments which I'm really excited about. The first is the website, which I'm about to start doing properly. It's at and it's going to become a platform, as you know, for music and whisky reviews, contributions from selected contributors, and a general hub of fun and irreverence. 

As part of that I've launched a rolling event called TRIBE, which is a whisky and music festival to be held initially four times a year in different locations. The first one is in Leicester on November 9 and features five bands and a two hour whisky tasting festival. And I have just confirmed Norwich for the first week of March. Birmingham in May is also nearly confirmed." 

Major Announcement Coming Tomorrow…

DOM's BIG NEWS:  "The launch of his own New World independent whisky company

"Johanne, you are the first to be officially told that I am launching a range of whiskies under the name Discovery Road. The idea is to source casks from across the world, the weirder and wackier the better, and to bottle them in small batches of up to 300 bottles. I want to work with world distillers to help establish New World Whisky as a whisky category in its own right - as removed from Scotch as bourbon or Irish whiskey is. The more removed the better. 

I want to market them to a new and potentially younger whisky drinker through events such as my TRIBE Music and Whisky Festival. I believe that there are scores of people who think they don't like whisky because they don't like Scotch. Some of the whiskies I'm looking at taste nothing like Scotch and this is a good thing. For each release I'm finding three mixologists from the country of origin and asking them to create a new cocktail with the whisky. The whiskies won't be cheap but they will have a very classy label and no box, so that price is kept down bartenders can have them on the bar.

I am starting with two bottlings, Dutch and the other English. Both will be launched in London in early November.

The English one is called: Discovery Road Four Lions English Single Malt Whisky - Four mini casks perfectly married in to a unique limited edition whisky.

The Dutch whiskies will be called: Discovery Road Courage and the second Discovery Road Smile.  One is a single malt whereas the other may be a rye.

 Future bottlings include French, Welsh, New Zealander, Australian and South African whiskies. 

As you know I've specialized in this area for years and have great links with many world distillers. The time is right to do this now because there is a huge interest in craft and bespoke products and a big thirst for something new and different. I'm hoping that I'll be at the vanguard of a new wave of whisky that will present editorial and retail opportunities in the future. It's very exciting.

I'm hoping to have some samples of my whisky at the Craft Distillers' Village we're running at the Boutique Bar Show in London next week."


Wow?!  All of us go through periods of hardship, the difference is for most of us it's not lived out publicly.

As I stated, Dominic thinks BIG and lives LARGE. He never ceases to amaze me.  He fully admits that sometimes he's as controversial as they come and he pisses people off. It's why I admire him not only as a writer but as a person.  There is never any doubt what side of the bread he butters. What you see is ALWAYS what you get.  For me, that's the epitome of a good writer.  Thank you Dominic for sharing everything with me... us.  

The next chapter should be amazing as he embarks on Discovery Road and shares with the world his passion for whisky, yet once more.   I for one am quite excited to be along for the journey.
File:Winding road.gif

So here's to new beginnings!  We may not understand the winding roads we walk, but in the end we have to trust the journey is meant to me...  



Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A whisky tour of Scotland, Douglas Laing style!

Lovely to say I'm happy this is one of my first solo whisky blogs.  I believe in supporting all aspects of the #whiskyfabric and saying yes to as many open doors and opportunities because, honestly, do we ever really know how one simple gesture can change the entire way you look at something or how it can propel you in a direction you simply wouldn't have even considered? 
Earlier this year, two brothers made the choice to split a very well established whisky company in half.  One brother, Douglas would retain the name of the company as well as some of the whiskies in question.  The other retained some of the line and started a new company and at this time both seem to be doing quite well with the new changes and directions.  And that's where I come in...  hehe.  Another fabulous part of being a contributor to the #whiskyfabric is talking, meeting and making contacts when it comes to whiskies.  The day Douglas Laing Co. announced the split was official, I was fortunate enough to be in touch with Cara Laing and was honored and privileged to be one of the first to interview her after she joined her father in the family business.

Again, you never really know where things will lead in life, but as a result of being introduced to Cara I made it a point to try and get a few whiskies from Douglas Laing.  Alas, as always in Canada when something is good it doesn't stick around for long and I was SOL.  After a few tweets about how I was going to make it a goal to try and get some this year, a nice little package arrived and I was overjoyed.  As I do with every sample I receive from all around the world, I immediately nosed to my heart's content.  The lovely aromas did not disappoint and in some instances completely surprised me and I'd be happy to tell you why...  keep reading.

First and foremost let's talk about what the "Provenance" line is all about.  It's a series of specialist Single Cask and/or Small Batch bottlings where many of the legendary Scottish Distillieries are featured.  It's bottled in a traditional style - no color or chill-filtration and typically at 46% ABV.  I looked at the lovely handwritten notes and descriptions and couldn't wait to sit down to try them all. 
The three I received were from the summer range.  So, come with me now and let's take a walk on the outer edges of Scotland.  Better grab your hiking boots and a good flask, there's quite a bit of road to cover.  Shall we!?

Let us start in the southern part and take a ferry ride over to Isle of Arran where we find one distillery that I really enjoy.  The island is 20 miles long and only 10 miles wide but is rumored to have had almost 30 illegal distilleries at one point in its early history.  Now there is only one and it's quite legal.  It's fairly new having opened in 1995.  The whiskies:  No complaints from me.  I love most of them with only one mild disappointment in the last 5 years so I couldn't help but wonder as I poured the sample into my Glencairn if I was going to be able to taste the "Arran" in this one.

Douglas Laing's Provenance Arran 16, 46%

Color:  Considering this line is not colored, it's quite beautiful.  It reminds me of golden straw.

Nose: Hints of cereal, and salted caramel.  A bit earthy, like the smell of a wooded path after a rain storm.  Very lovely aromas.

Palate:  Nice mouthwatering mouth feel with hints of chocolate covered ginger. Sweet like clover honey.  Much more on the palate then the nose seem to promise.

Finish:  Drying, quite peppery at the very end, almost a bit of surprise.  Nice, long and lingering.  Quite smooth.

I had the chance to try the Arran 16 with Ralfy in May of 2013.  I'd dare say this could easily stand up and in some palate preferences surpass that distillery bottling.  Quite a nice start to our little journey!

Where to next, let's see do I dare be bold and go Islay or shall I bypass and wait?   Nope, I'm going against the grain (pardon the pun) and Islay here I come!   The next lovely sample I opened was the Big Peat.  
Another bottling at 46% ABV and from the looks of the picture, the gentleman is getting quite a gust of something hitting him?  Ohhh, I was a bit worried but poured a good size dram in my glass anyway and put my hair in a pony tail.  Going in!


Color:  Almost the color of a light white wine.  Barely any color at all really.  

Nose:  Well, as it states BIG!  I put the glass on the kitchen table and from where I was sitting I could smell the peat enveloping me.  BIG PEAT IS RIGHT!  If I had closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was sitting on the beach tending the driftwood bonfire I built while the salt air breeze played havoc with my hair.  Once you are past all that, there's also a sweetness of deep red cherries or ripe summer fruit.  Quite nice actually.  Sweet peat!

Palate:  A bit harsher than I expected after reveling in the sweetness.  It was more industrial in nature, a bit like band-aids or a bit of burnt rubber.  It's a full bodied dram that doesn't disappoint if you are a peat head.

Finish:  Light, doesn't last long and then the surprise:  When I exhaled, I felt like I had smoked a cigar!?  Quite a cool feeling actually.

No disappointment there!  I finished up that lovely dram and went on to the next whisky distillery on the tour:  Laphroaig 10.  Another peaty mind blowing experience, or at least I thought...


Color:  Light sunlight gold.  Almost a sparkling yellow.

Nose:  Recognizable peat from the get go, but because of the preceding dram, I seemed to have the ability to nose out the remainder of the aromas more clearly?  I was getting huge citrus - lemon meringue pie almost.  I also found hints of seaweed tucked in there.  

Palate:  Recognized the Laphroaig instantly.  No doubt in my mind.  It's one of the few Islay's that I can detect black licorice in & it was plentiful in this dram.  Mouthwatering, smoky flavored licorice.  Delish really!

Finish:  Long, quite warming, more so that the Big Peat which surprised me.  Nice peppery, lingering heat.   

Again, a triumph.  Glad I did the Big Peat first as I feel it allowed me to zero in on a few lovely flavors in the Laphroaig.

And last but not least, we are headed north.  As north as you can go.  Highland Park.  Another very distinctive flavor profile whisky that has a huge following.  How would this one compare?


Color:  Deep gold, or old gold.  Quite lovely knowing it isn't colored.

Nose:  Can smell the sherry influence on this one.  Stewed dried fruits.  Quite sweet.  A bit oaky, hints of smoke.

Palate:  So spicy:  Ginger, cinnamon, cloves.  Everything that reminds me of Christmas?  I was a bit confused but went on...  I waited for a few minutes and came back to this one.  It wasn't as spicy as before, but it was still there.  Gingerbread cake?   Not at all what I had expected after nosing. I literally checked the label just to make sure it was a Highland Park...

Finish: Fairly long.  Stayed with me for quite some time.  Very satisfying dram, heat, a bit of smoke and still spicy.

Not at all what I was thinking?   

So of the four whiskies I tried I would have to say the last surprised me the most.  I can't help help but wonder if it's because I went against convention and had peaty whiskies first?  Did this cause me to nose/taste in a different way.  I would have never thought the last one was a Highland Park?  Or maybe it was the sherry influence?   I'm not sure but of the four I'd pick that one to buy as it totally threw me for a loop and it's completely different than what I consider a traditional Highland Park whisky.

The Arran was very nice and I'd likely buy that as a nice sipping whisky or a "summer evening" whisky. 

The BIG PEAT and the Laphroaig 10, (Exhales smoke...) are phenominal if you are a huge peat lover.  If you are not, or are thinking of "trying" peat, I personally would not recommend these as your starting point.  You might want to wait until you have a few under your belt.

And like I stated the Highland Park 14 so perplexed me, I'm choosing it as my favorite of the four.  

Either way, the Douglas Laing Provenance Line is quite remarkable and in some cases I would dare say surpasses what the distilleries in question are putting out in the market.  If you have a chance to get any of the bottlings, I highly recommend them.  

A huge Whisky Lassie thank you to Cara for this opportunity.  Now I'm on the hunt for these whiskies, I hope you will be too!  

The exciting adventures continue...  


Monday, September 2, 2013

The end always leads to new beginnings...

Everything has as an end. 

Originally when I started blogging in March of 2012 it was with the intention that my partner Graham and I would do it together. It was supposed to be another wonderful, crazy adventure we were embarking on as a couple who shares many passions.  Our blog was simple, fun and most of all we did it together. But then like everything in life, things changed.  My passion for writing propelled me forward and I wrote almost weekly whereas Graham often started with a great blogging idea but in the end felt it was "flat" or didn't quite meet his expectations.  "Our" blog pretty much became mine.  Perfect whisky match didn't seem like a befitting name for a one woman show so the wind got quickly knocked out my sails too.   
I wanted to keep writing and sharing my stories but how do you tell the guy you live with, love and share everything with it was time to call it quits with regards to the whisky blog?  In theory I could recite the whole speech in my head but every time I tried to speak the words I would end up with a big ball of mozzarella in the pit of my stomach. I finally mustered the courage to talk to him about it.  It wasn't easy to say and it definitely wasn't easy to hear.  In the end, he agreed that writing about whisky was simply not a strength of his and that "keeping" up with me was very stressful.  At least, that's what I think I got out of the conversation?  

With the difficult conversation behind me, I began to work on branding myself:  Whiskylassie.  I found this quite difficult at times.  It was hard not to feel like I was somehow abandoning Graham and moving into a new direction alone.  There are hundreds if not thousands of bloggers out there so what would I, Whiskylassie, have to offer to an already saturated blogging community.  Me, sitting in Saint John, NB Canada or as my friend Josh says:  The end of the world, only reachable by car.
Trying to think of the positives or the "added values" that I would bring to the #whiskyfabric began to bog me down.  There are plenty of people out there doing this, so why should I add my two cents worth?  I often sat at the computer and repeatedly watched the cursor blink for at least 15 minutes... nothing would come to mind.  Total writer's block?!  F#@^!!  This went on for weeks.  I couldn't think of anything that was "worth" saying...  until today.

A very good friend reminded me that my writing style is quite unique (well aren't we all, I retorted).  "No, he replied... there are plenty of people out there writing tasting notes but you weave a story with every blog post.  You invite us into your life and I for one find myself sitting beside you when you are staring at a moose face to face (true story) or when you are walking around a whisky event.  Your posts have life intertwined within the words, the whiskies and your discoveries.  You are honest in a straight forward and no nonsense sort of way.  You lift others up to the limelight and you have so much fun.  I don't know any other writer who does all of those things right now, do you?"  I thought about what he said.  Yeah, I blog but it truly is about more than what I nose/taste in a whisky.  It's about the people I meet, the crazy places I end up in and about the experiences of a Whiskylassie finding her way around this thing we have called the "Fabric".  Whisky has changed my life and pushed me in directions I would have never thought possible (even 2 years ago...) and here I am now, ready again, to embark on the next chapter even if with a bit of sadness with regards to leaving Perfect Whisky Match behind.  

So, here I go.  Grab a coat tail and hang on.  Some, no... most of my adventures will be filled with laughter, some seriousness but mostly they will be about a woman learning to make her way on this thing she calls the whisky trail.  Join me if you will.  

It's a bit of a work in progress, and I'll get there.  In the meantime:  

To new beginnings!  Here comes the Whisky Lassie...