As you might expect, this time of year is pretty busy for all drink writers, and I for one have a desk of samples to taste through. This seems to pale into insignicance though compared to the sheer amount of Whisky Cask investment firms adverts I am being fed on social media. I urge you to avoid these and the promises of great returns unless you have specialist expertise. It is not regulated, casks are often vastly overpriced and you may not even own the cask you think you have bought. Buyer beware.
On to this editions tastings:-
Da Mhile 20-Year-Old Grain Whisky with a special 10% discount for you.
Da Mhile is an organic distillery based on a family farm in Ceredigion, Wales, that also operates as an Independent Bottler. In fact, in 1992 Da Mhile was responsible for the world’s first organic single malt whisky, when their founder John Savage-Onstwedder, had the idea of collaborating with Springbank. This was bottled in November 1999 and I for one would love to have a taste of this!
Fast forward 20 years to 2012 and they opened their distillery at the family farm. The initial bottling inspired the name to celebrate the Millennium, (Dà Mhìle translates to ‘two thousand’ in Scots-Galic/Dwy Fil yn Gymraeg). The Millennium Cask Reserve, distilled in 2000, is a limited edition of Single Grain Scotch Whisky that has been aged for 20 years in Bourbon casks. The outrun comprises 1200 bottles that have been individually numbered.
On the nose, I got lovely orange and ripe peach notes intermingled with grain and sweet ginger in the background. It carries its 57% abv well with spice (nutmeg) running across the palate. It may be the time of year but it reminds me of roasted chestnuts with honey. It is delicate but powerful, with flavours of vanilla cheesecake and a reduced orange and clove sauce. The flavours lingered on the finish for quite some time.
I am a big fan of grain as it is underrated, especially when aged for 20-plus years, allowing it to take on a beautiful array of flavours that offer complexity and something a little unique. I enjoyed this, and feel it is the perfect time of year to enjoy it.
You can purchase from Da Mhile directly, and if you use the code CWM10 you will receive a 10% discount from the usual price of £177.95.
From Yukon, Canada, Two Brewers Distillery is the living vision of what a distillery would be like should I ever own one. Driven by its commitment to never replicate a whisky they have made before, the distillery excites me, as central to my dream is the pursuit of flavour exploration. Adopting a personalised approach to each release, the team evaluates individual barrels, looking for interesting flavours.
Operating on a small scale allows them to embrace bold choices; which resonates with those like me who seek out the bold. By doing so they are steadily building a dedicated customer base, instilling anticipation for the release of their next whisky.
They have 4 broad categories that each release falls into:-
Classic - a homage to Scotland.
Peated - a homage to Islay.
Special Finishes - the barrels are the stars here.
Innovative - flavours that are unfamiliar.
Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Whisky - Release 38 - Peated 43%
A blend of peated and unpeated spirit matured for at least ten years in former bourbon casks. A limited edition of only 90 bottles in 700ml size. This has oodles of rich and dark honey on the nose with toasted hazelnuts and coated almonds. The smoke is delicate and integrated. It feels more than the 43% it is. The flavour is deep with blackcurrant shuffles and toasted hazelnut ice cream.
Two Brewers Yukon Single Malt Whisky - Release 41 - Special Finishes 43%
Initially matured in former bourbon casks, then finished for two years in former Pedro Ximenéx sherry casks. A limited edition of only 90 bottles in 700ml size. A lovely rich citrus nose with hints of prune juice and apricots. Very tasty with a creamy palate that reminds me of cooked peaches and vanilla ice cream. The length is generous with stem ginger and caramelised orange making an appearance.
My thanks go to the oldest wine merchants in the world, Berry Bros & Rudd, who introduced me to the Agitator distillery at a wonderful dinner to launch their Pioneers Collection. The collection is comprised of 9 whiskies and 1 cognac from producers who are committed to and champion sustainability, whilst making world-class spirits. I was fortunate to be seated next to Christian from Agitator and learn a little more about this Swedish distillery.
One of their main differentiators is adopting Vacuum Distillation, which I feel gives a softer whisky, but also reduces the boiling point in the stills, due to the lower pressure, so less heat is needed to operate them. The warm air in the distillery (they are always warm places) is redistributed to the colder areas of the building. Furthering their green credentials, Agitator have adopted District Heating, a new concept to me. Essentially hot water is pumped into their building for them to use, but when finished and still hot, it is distributed to local homes and offices to heat them.
As whisky lovers, we should be embracing distilleries like Agitator, and help them further their research and adoption of different ways of thinking throughout the whole process.
Agitator Single Malt Whisky 43%
It is always good practice to start with the base expression to understand where a distillery is coming from. This starts off in quite a delicate fashion with a vanilla sweetness and a waft of smoke to add an extra layer of flavour. The palate has a lovely creaminess to it, making it exceptionally smooth. It is more flavourful than the nose suggests with summer meadows springing to mind, so wildflowers and stewed apples.
Agitator Argument Kastanj 46%
I was excited to taste this given that it has been aged in chestnut barrels. It is deep and rich on the nose with stewed apricots, honey and vanilla. The palate is spicy, dry and meaty. It has a lovely mouthfeel being oily and robust.
Agitator Single Malt Whisky Rok
Totally different on the nose with a fine smoke, the kind you find at the end of a BBQ when the embers are almost done. Again I find citrus and summer flavours. They suggest straw in the tasting notes and I do not disagree. In the mouth, it is fresh and alive with lingering flavours. Present were honeysuckle, vanilla, ripe pear and Chantilly cream,
Agitator Argument Islay PX 46%
A delicate nose of malt and smoke with dried figs, lemon and honey. The palate is sweet with smoke but not overpowering so the fruit character of the PX comes through. This is quite a delicate whisky for early in the evening or summer enjoyment. The longer I explored the finish the more citrus elements I found. It has a nice acidity that makes it very moreish.
Agitator Svart Vete
This is highly interesting to me as it is made with roasted wheat alongside barley, and then matured in sherry casks. My initial thoughts upon nosing was how rich it was with stewed dark fruits and black treacle. The palate was drier than expected (pleasantly) and had a glorious spice to it. It kept me going back for more with its oily, deep flavours that were reminiscent of dark meat juices at the bottom of a roasting pan.
Agitator Blind Seal Rye 46%
The nose was typically Rye but in a cold climate way, in that it was more subtle. A wonderful palate that would be a perfect introduction to rye as it is elegant (as opposed to a full-on USA style) and refined. The spice wraps around your mouth and lingers, tempting you to take another sip.
Stork Club Ryezcal 45% - £38
I had to taste this when I saw the bottle - it was modern and colourful and the contents sounded delicious. It is not a straight whisky, but a smoky Agave blended with a spicy Rye to give a unique flavour profile. It is a limited edition of 800 bottles from Stork Club in Germany and is perfect to use in a blind tasting or in a cocktail.
Stork Club was formed in 2004 but was taken over in 2016 by Steffen Lohr, Sebastian Brack and Bastian Heuser who turned it into a specialist Rye distillery. They have achieved Organic status (with the first Organic Rye whisky coming in 2025) and will be carbon neutral by 2024.
This spirit really is unique and almost has a nose reminiscent of wine. Sweet floral tones, spice, ripe apricots and a light smoke prevail. The palate keeps you guessing and I was getting a lot of grappa flavours which is intriguing. This is made to be a fun drink, to have as a shot or in cocktails, but even though it is not complex, it is so different and tasty that I love it! This would be perfect to make an alternative old-fashioned or Manhattan with.
Busi-Jacobsohn Blanc de Blanc 2018
I am an enthusiastic supporter this boutique winery situated just outside Tunbridge Wells. Renowned for its wines' elegance and refined profile, the estate consistently outperforms Champagne in blind tastings. Founded by Susanna and Douglas Jacobsohn, the latter having retired from a senior position in the marine insurance industry, their venture into winemaking was initially envisioned for mainland Europe. However, captivated by the uniqueness of the land near Tunbridge Wells, they altered their plans.
Douglas, after planting the vineyard, took a formal qualification in viticulture at Plumton College. This commitment to hands-on involvement sets the Jacobsohns apart from many investors who establish vineyards and wine brands with minimal personal engagement. Douglas's daily presence in the vineyards during the growing season, actively attending to and monitoring the vines, underscores their dedication to creating one of the finest English wines. The reviews and responses they have received so far would certainly suggest they are doing just that.
The 2018 Blanc de Blanc, is 100% made from Chardonnay and undergoes an extensive 44 months of ageing on lees. This process allows the subtle notes of baked pastries to interplay with layers of ripe citrus fruits, resulting in a wine of exceptional quality. Its potential for ageing and the development of secondary flavours make it a compelling choice for those, like myself, who appreciate sparkling wines with extended maturation. In addition to laying some down, I shall be celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary with it later this month.
I was recently sent a tasting set of wines by Perfect Cellar and was intrigued to see that I could ask Alexa to Open Perfect Cellar, give my tasting box number and then have an on-demand tutored tasting by Master Sommelier Christopher Delalonde.
Delalonde begins by giving an introduction to each chateau before giving his tasting notes and the optimum way, including the temperature to drink it at. He then goes on to make food pairing suggestions which proves useful if planning a dinner for friends. I loved this innovative feature, as it is not only educational but gives context for each wine.
Each 100ml tasting sample comes in a pouch within an individual box, and 3 wines per tasting set (You simply cut the corner and pour your wine, so perfect to explore the Perfect Cellars range before committing to a full bottle which retails for between £20 and £35 each.
My set contained 3 wines from Bordeaux with vintages with vintages from 2013, 2018 and 2020. Each was very palatable with my favourite being the 2013 Chateau Moulin De La Rose in Saint Julien with its dark berries and secondary flavours starting to come through.
Savile Row Gin
Savile Row Gin has released 2 luxurious gift sets that come complete with handmade engraved presentation boxes. You can choose from an Oak or Elm box with a @hackettlondon handkerchief or @henrypooleco cufflinks, both iconic Savile Row Tailors. The gin is sophisticated and citrus forward with one of the main botanicals being Kumquat. It is perfect for a G&T served with a slice of grapefruit or goes wonderfully well in a Negroni - my personal favourite.