Nikka Yoichi 5 year old Single Cask #400862

Japan – 64%ABV –  $|£|€ ???

There are many great truths in the world.  Some are quite simple:  2+2=4, “I” comes before “E” except after “C” (with a few exceptions), kittens are really quite adorable.  Some truths are not so simple, but are truths nonetheless:  Chaos theory, String theory (yes, I know these are theories but there’s a certain amount of truthiness to them), your pee after a side of asparagus is going to smell really funky!

My whisky simple truth?  I love Japanese whiskies.  Arigato Japan.

My not so simple truth?  The fact that I have to tell you how much this whisky made me want to throw up in my mouth.  Just a little.

On the nose I am instantly hit with notes of sour milk and peat.  I think the word “notes” is a bit too soft a word for what I am experiencing here.

I am not digging the sour milk note, I’m going to let this breath for 7 or 8 minutes…

Man, the acridity to the nose on this whisky is almost overwhelming.

Quite gamey and almost like rotting meat (am I going to drink this?  It’s quite the stink!).

Soft peat and molasses.

The milk is back but it from sour to sweeter than previously detected.

Out of the blue some very nice coffee notes, almost like a latte.  A touch of mocha.

With water it’s all on spirit and oak but, mostly, spirit.  Strange that water would increase the spirit quality and not cut it…

On the mouth Amazingly hot and big toasted oak notes.  Toffee as well.

Must. Add. Water.

With water, it gets very sugary (sugar water).  Skim milk and biscuits.  Thin mouth feel.

This whisky needs a ton of time to open up.  After about 25 minutes (yes, I waited this long) the peat smoke evolves and almost seems to transform this whisky into a coffee-toffee treat (albeit a high octane moonshine infused coffee-toffee treat).

Finish Long and warming.

In sumThere is *a lot* going on with this whisky but most of it I just didn’t like.  Those acrid and rotting notes I got just turned me off.  When would I enjoy this?  Maybe after it matured for another 10 – 15 years…

Special thanks goes out to Christopher of Whisky Wall for the sample.  To read Christopher’s review of this whisky, click here.

Compass Box Hedonism

Blended Scotch grain whisky – 43%ABV – $70 – $80 | £47 | €53

Compass Box is currently celebrating 10 years in business — 10 years of creating fantastically innovative Scotch whisky blends.

This particular blend is a mixture of grain whiskies – no malt.  Most blended Scotch whiskies are a mixture of malt whisky (whisky from a barley) and grain whisky (other grains, corn, etc…).  This, as mentioned, is a blend of 100% grain whiskies.  An interesting animal indeed.

Many people, for a variety of reasons, have a bias against whisky blends.  Yes, some are pure shite — some are good for mixed drinks only — some are decent — some are good and Compass Box blends, in my opinion, are just top notch (and put many single malts to shame).  Here’s a link to all of the Compass Box whiskies I’ve reviewed so far.

So, how does this blend rate?  Right good if you ask me:

On the nose The color tells me it’s Scotch whisky (very light in color, perhaps a light gold like the water in a pot after boiling corn).

The initial whiff gives it away – it’s a grain whisky.

She noses like a bourbon – sweet gingerbread notes. Nutmeg is here to.

I’m getting, now, some interesting notes of pineapple.

Oak was there from the get go but it just hit me now.

Coconut cream and vanilla bean.

On the mouth Buttery smooth mouth feel with hints of creamy milk chocolate and flaky pastries.

More gingerbread, less nutmeg.

Light nuttiness to this (almond perhaps?).

Finish Very pleasing burn on the back of the tongue and back to some of those bourbon type notes I got on the nose.

However, there are some great melted caramel & toffee notes that appear as well. Yum!

In sum One for the bourbon drinkers out there for sure (perhaps it’ll help turn them on to Scotch whisky).  I’ve had some single grain Scotch whiskies, this is my first blended Scotch grain whisky and I have to say, this is quite the nice whisky!  I’d reach for this in the dead of summer and, hold onto your seats, may even enjoy this over some ice!  I imagine this would help make an amazing julep!

Special thanks goes out to Robin Robinson for the sample!

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2011 – another year in, another must-not-miss yearbook

Whisky Geeks Unite!™ – The latest Malt Whisky Yearbook is out and I’m happy to say Ingvar Ronde, Editor of the yearbook, did not let us down!

It’s chock-filled with all of the latest and greatest information on all of the Scottish distilleries, as well as an expanded chapter of Japanese Distilleries penned by none other than Chris Bunting of Nonjatta.  Chris Bunting, as you may know, is also a proud member of our Whisky Round Table.

Peppered throughout the yearbook are mini-interviews with distillery managers from Auchentoshen, Clynelish, Edradour, Glendronach, etc…  These interviews give you a nice view into their lives, what they’re seeing going on in the industry, and much more.

If you’re a whisky geek like me, you’ll eat this stuff right up!

What I like best about this, however, are the opening pages which feature some fantastic and very accessible (read: even for the non-whisky geeks) pieces by some of the best whisky writers out there:  an article on product relaunching by Dominic Roskrow; a piece on the importance of mashing (sounds boring, trust me, it’s not!) by Ian Wisniewski; “Age and Other Matters” which details the importance — or perhaps the unimportance — of the age of whiskies, by Ian Buxton; a wonderful read by Charles MacLean on the importance of India in the whisky market; “The Task of the Cask” is a great article by Gavin D Smith which details just how important a good cask for maturing actually is; and lastly, the genesis and evolution of The Scotch Whisky Label and how it affects…everything that is whisky.

One of the things that struck me is Ingvar’s list of “websites to watch.”  Many kudos goes out to all those recently inducted into the yearbook: Ruben from Whisky Notes (a Knight of the Whisky Round Table, by the way), Oliver Klimek of, Whisky Intelligence, Tim Puett who is the mastermind behind The Ardbeg Project, Mark Connelly and, and last but certainly not least, my good friend Jason Johnstone-Yellin of Guid Scotch Drink (the master mind behind the Whisky Round Table).

The Malt Whisky Yearbook is one of those books that I find myself jamming into my laptop case for every trip I go on.  A big thanks goes out to Ingvar for sending me an advanced copy!  Ingvar expressed to me that, with the new MWY release every year, he’s concerned that it will not meet the expectations that the previous year’s book left with his readers.  Such a humble guy!

I’m not sure how Ingvar does it, but the Malt Whisky Yearbook gets better and better with every year.  Much like many whiskies…

You can check out the Malt Whisky Yearbook website here which has lots more info including a way to buy this years’ and previous editions.  Then, there’s always Amazon.

The 17th Annual Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza – in review

I was recently given the opportunity to attend a truly gala event – The 17th Annual Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza (say that 3 times real fast.  Actually, that’s too easy.  Try saying it 17 times, real fast).

So, what is this Extravaganza?  It’s a big whisky tasting event hosted by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America.  Like other whisky events, you have the chance to taste hundreds of different whiskies.  Unlike other whisky events, this is the only large event (or series of large events as this does travel from city to city; see below) in the US where one has an opportunity to taste SMWS whiskies even if you’re not a member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society.

Additionally, this event features a great forum (or panel) prior to the event.  Here is how the Extravanzites describe the forum: “The Whisky Panel is a one hour symposium prior to each Extravaganza event that is composed of brand ambassadors, distillery representatives and on special occasion, the master distiller from participating brands.

The purpose of The Whisky Panel is to allow attendees to interact and ask panel members questions to gain knowledge about individual brands, whisky production and other topics relating to the “whisky world”.”

The panel for the night (as shown on the right) consisted of Andrew Weir from The Balvenie, David Blackmore from Glenmorangie/Ardbeg, Simon Brooking (Laphroaig) as well as, and to stop name-dropping, fantastic Brand Ambassadors from Diageo, Dalmore/Jura, The Glenrothes and The Glenlivet.

Many questions were asked.  Lots of great information was imparted and laughs were had.  It was a fun hour long chance to learn more about whisky and get to know the Brand Ambassadors a bit.

Oh, there were many-many other highlights from the evening.  Let’s list them out, shall we?

The size – not too big, not too small.  Though busy, it was completely manageable and you have enough time to taste as much as you want.  I think, however, that they may have gotten more people than they expected at this event because they started running out of food quicker than they had expected.

Then there was all of the whisky expressions that stood out for me (in no particular order):

Usquaebach blended whiskies, Glenlivet 21yr, Bushmills Black, Yamazaki 18yr, Highland Park 30yr, Glenfiddich 102, Scapa 16yr, Ardbeg Uigeadail (newest version), ALL of the SMWS whiskies which included an Ardbeg, Glen Scotia, Linkwood, Rosebank and Glengoyne, a 30+ year Classic Cask blended whisky that was nothing short of brilliant and Big Peat.

One main reason for me to join the event, other than for the whiskies, was to talk with some people I’ve been wanting to meet with for some time as well as catch up with old friends and new ones.

I had an opportunity to sit, eat and talk with David Blackmore (Glenmorangie & Ardbeg).  All around good guy funny as all hell, and quite the ham (see left).  For you kosher keeping Jews out there in whisky land, David is the man who pushed for the OU kosher certification of the Glenmorangie Original, Astar and the Ardbeg 10yr.  A good man indeed.

I also had the opportunity to talk with Aron Silverman of the SMWSA.  Aron and I chat quite a bit and it was nice to finally meet him in person (pictured left, he’s on the right and for some reason this apron makes me, situated on the left, look about 150 pounds heavier.  Oy.).

I had a brief chat with Simon Brooking of Laphroaig (see right).  I wish I could have talked with him more but his table was, to put it lightly, mobbed.

I also got to meet Alan Shayne (President of the SMWSA who I interviewed here), his daughter Gabby and his business partner, Jerry Zimmerman.  All three were as charming as could be and Jerry was one funny guy!

The list of people I met with and spoke to could go on and on but putting them all down here would make for a very longwinded post (wait, can’t forget to mention Mike Walsh – good to meet you!).

Rather, let me skip to the final group of people I had a chance to meet – none other than everybody’s favorite whisky slugging Groucho Marx impersonators, The Malt Impostors (pictured left, I’m the one with the blazing bug eyes).  What a group of guys!

I LOVE geeking out about whisky and geeking out with them was a joy.  Also, they’re just funny as all shit.  I could have talked with them for the entire evening if it weren’t for those meddling kids (and my 2.5 hour ride long home)!

I am really looking forward to the Extravaganza next year and wish I had the opportunity to make it to some of the other events this fall and winter around the US.

While I did get a comp ticket (special thanks to the SMWS) to cover the event, the price tag ($120 – $135 per person) for the Extravaganza is such a steal!  If I went to a bar to taste all I tasted here, my bill would have been more like $500 (not including food).  Also, there were whiskies here you’d rarely have the chance to taste anywhere else.  On top of this, that forum (or Whisky Panel) prior to the event was just fantastic.

So, below is a list of other Extravaganzas.  I hope there is one in your area so you have a chance to enjoy this shin-dig as well.

For more information on the SMWS events and on how to purchase your tickets, click here.

It’s been a hard days night…

I had a great time at the Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza last night.  The entire evening was a highlight but, I’ll go into detail next week.

Being that I’m working on about 3 hours of sleep, I need to take the day off from blogging (and as I type this I realize that I am now, in fact, blogging).  I hope you don’t mind.

Shabbat Shalom to my He’bros and She’Bros out there!

Have a fantastic weekend with your family and/or your friends – see you next week!

And, until then, enjoy a little Sparks video circa 1975 – Get in the Swing!