David's Drink Diaries - Issue 6

David's Drink Diaries - Issue 6

Wed, 01/24/2024 - 18:53
Martingale Cognac

The Whisky Exchange 

Irish whiskey, alongside rum, are two categories I want to delve deeper into during 2024. They both excite me in different ways. Irish whiskey is gaining momentum and there is a real keenness to explore flavours and different finishes. This may not be for the purist, but I actively seek out the different. Single Irish Post Still Whiskey is made from both malted and unmalted barley, making it quite different from Scotch in its flavour profile. 

Rum is a category I have not explored particularly deeply, but having tasted a reasonable number, I can see the attraction and feel myself being drawn into it. Disregard any thoughts of “spiced rum”, there is a whole world of non-sickly sweet rums, that just ooze sophistication with layers upon layers of flavours. Friends have even commented on how complex it can be compared to whisky. 

Here in the UK, we should be grateful for companies like The Whisky Exchange, who have a remarkable ability to find and buy delicious whisky and rum for us. Free from overly complicated and regional alcohol laws (looking at you USA) they have such an incredible selection, sourced globally. I almost feel compelled to buy from them regularly!

I was kindly sent two mini samples recently, that are exclusive to them, which, with their quality, cements just what exciting spirits they are finding:-

Yellow Spot 23-year-old Malaga Cask Finish 57.5% - £525

This has a gorgeous depth, with the unmalted barley notes first and foremost on the nose. Underneath this is a plethora of aromas ranging from stewed damsons served with vanilla custard to marzipan. Left in the glass, as I like to do for mature whisky, I got notes of cigar and lemon balm. The taste is exceptional, with the complex flavours dancing around my palate. Should this be someone in a disco, it would still be on the dance floor long after the lights had come on, having shaped all manner of moves the entire night. It is full, rich and meaty like a fine Cumberland sausage glazed in a vintage marmalade. Jamaica gingerbread, with all its warm spices, makes an appearance and then takes on a starring role as time progresses. Sensational whiskey. 

Foursquare Mystique 14-year-old Barbados Rum 62% - £110

The nose is intoxicating with flavour. Molasses, Victoria sponge, chocolate brownies with a morello cherry glaze. It is one of those spirits you could smell for hours and just be absorbed into it. This is a proper grown-up rum, complex, intriguing and bursting with flavour. Muscovado sugar, sticky toffee pudding, walnuts, papaya and black treacle all intermingle together perfectly, creating a rum with superb depth. 

www.thewhiskyexchange.com

Adnams Explorer Series 9-Year-Old English Whisky 55% - £70

You will probably be familiar with Adnams as one of the UK’s finest beer breweries, but did you know they also make whisky? This is a distinctive single malt, made exclusively for Whiskyside, that has been finished in Sauternes casks and is the inaugural release in the Explorer Series. Going forward the collection will feature whisky from distilleries across England. 

Exploring English Whisky, the company behind the English Whisky Festival, founded the Explorer Series in 2020. It started as an online tasting platform before evolving into a membership club that promotes awareness of English whisky. The annual English Whisky Festival, held every November, is a key event for showcasing the diversity and quality of English whiskies.

The maturation of this expression began in Suffolk with seven years at Adnams in second-fill French oak casks, followed by a two-year finishing period in French Sauternes casks. This has imparted a complex flavour from locally sourced barley and a long fermentation.

From memory, this is the oldest English whisky I have sampled, so I was intrigued to find out what it tasted like. The nose showed a mixture of caramel, apricot jam and American waffles. It was a lot drier than expected (which I love) having come from a Sauternes cask and was packed with savoury flavours including beef broth, tobacco, leather and umami. Overall very tasty. 

This whisky is bottled at 55% ABV and is limited to only 700 bottles. The bottle design features a black 'x', symbolising the Explorer Series' spirit of exploration. The whisky is available for purchase at £70 (US$88) from online retailers such as Whiskyside.

Whiskside

Fine Drop English Whiksy finished in AN ex-Margaux Cask 46% - £79

"The Fine Drop" is an English single malt from Samuel Gulliver & Co. It has been distilled at The English Whisky Company in Norfolk and aged for six years in ex-Margaux red wine casks from Bordeaux. Regular readers will know that I have a particular love for whisky aged in ex-wine barrels, so this was of great interest. 

"The Fine Drop" is particularly significant as it is an official whisky of England Rugby, released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of England's Rugby World Cup victory in 2003. The whisky's name is a tribute to the winning drop goal scored by Jonny Wilkinson in the final minute of the match against Australia (was it really over 20 years ago?). The use of Margaux casks is also a nod to France, who was the host nation of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

This whisky has a beautiful rose colour to it, indicative of the red wine finish. The nose has a delicacy and refinement to it. There is no shouting here, but an invitation to explore the perfumed red berry flavours, intersected by honeysuckle and vanilla. The palate has a slight sweetness to it with a welcome acidity. It was reminiscent of strawberries and cream with some cracked black pepper on top. It feels stronger than it’s 46% and has a lovely length. As I let it stand in the glass, further flavours started to emerge such as cherry, chocolate and ginger. 

Samuel Gulliver

That Boutique-Y-Whisky Company

That Boutique-Y Whisky Company is a much-loved independent bottler known for its innovative approach and distinctive graphic novel-style labels. Established with the vision of bringing unique and interesting whiskies to the market, they have developed a strong following of flavour seekers who are not afraid to step outside the norm. 

They are known for their eclectic and carefully curated selection, with a diverse range of styles and flavours, from classic, well-loved profiles to unusual and experimental ones. These include rare single malts, blended malts, single grains, and blends from a variety of distilleries around the world.  

A feature I mentioned above is their distinctive and contemporary label design. Each bottle features a label that looks like it has been pulled from a graphic novel, complete with colourful illustrations and humorous elements. The labels are often whimsical and filled with inside jokes and references that customers love to find. It also tells a story about the whisky, the distillery from where it came, or a tale related to whisky lore. I love how this brings whisky into the 21st century, moving away from the sea of boring labels, and adorning so many bottles. I was recently sent some samples of their core range which I have detailed below:-

Speyside 12-year-old 45.8% - £46

A classical Speyside nose of ripe plums, vanilla and butterscotch. On the palate rich tea biscuits, vanilla, honey and heather with a lovely creaminess to it. If you are looking for a good honest Speyside then this is it. 

Blended Grain 30-year-old 45.8% - £75

I am a huge fan of mature grain whisky as it can take on the flavours of malt and become almost indistinguishable, and it is this change I love to taste. This has grain on the nose with its Sugar Puff (a popular breakfast cereal in the 1980s”s) aromas and hints of maple syrup. The palate is delicate and refined with a lovely meaty depth to it. I found, as expected, vanilla, but also hints of pineapple, apple and walnuts. The length was impressive. 

Islay 8-year-old 45.8% - £42

The distillery isn’t disclosed but if I were to hazard a guess..The nose is full on with youthful orchard fruit notes, layered with beef stock and smoke. Wonderful! The palate reminded me of smoking a cigar with its smoke character but then tropical fruits manifest themselves. I love how this asks you to go back for more. It is like an outgoing teenager badgering you to go outside and play sports with them, knowing you will love it as much as last time. Delightful. 

Peated Highland 18-year-old 45.8% - £85

Is this from the same distillery as the 8-year-old I wonder? I don’t think they are, although I do have a 50/50 chance! This is 10 years older and I am not getting the same tropical aromas. Instead, the nose reminds me of smoked German sausages and has me hankering for a hotdog. Saying this, my mind is now picking up yellow mustard on the nose as well (which I like). The palate has a hazelnut spice playing in the smoke, and I still get Bratwurst flavours, and a deep, flavourful toast. Another whisky that I keep going back to and discovering more.  

Canadian Corn Whisky 45.8% - £37

This is one of the always-available releases and I expected it to be sweet, with extra layers of sweetness thrown in by the Oloroso sherry cask. I was wrong - although there is a definite sweetness to it, it certainly wasn’t overbearing. I know it is Canadian, and maybe that influences me, but I get wafts of maple syrup from the nose. The palate brings you back to Europe with classical flavours of dried fruit, rich marmalade on toast and butterscotch. This truly is an incredible whisky for the price and very moreish. 

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Martingale Cognac 40% 

Cognac, much like whisky, can be stuck in tradition when it comes to presentation. This is understandable given it takes decades to build a global reputation and bottle recognition. It also lets smaller producers into the fray who can attract a younger generation to spirits. One such company is Martingale Cognac. Although a new brand, the owners are 4th generation cognac makers from Maison Thomas, who have been suppliers of eaux-de-vie to a major house for over 100 years and own a substantial acreage of vineyards. They have set out to create a modern drink, from a 17th century Chateau, that has been the family home for generations. 

The bottle is contemporary, looks elegant and with its texture, depicts the Chateau's ancient stone walls. It will stand out on a shelf, particularly in a bar or restaurant and was inspired by the architectural style of the Chateau. It features a tall body and a compact neck. The Martingale "M" symbol and the green hue are influenced by the stained-glass window above the Chateau's entrance.

They have eschewed the tradition of using distilling wine created in the Grande Champagne area, in favour of using a high proportion of the more floral flavours found in the Borderies. This freshness makes it a more contemporary Cognac that will appeal to a younger generation. 

The nose is still obviously Cognac, but the fruit character shines through, in particular, peach melba, honeysuckle and vanilla. The palate is nuanced and soft, reminding me of the scent of wild summer flowers. It is fruity, in particular baked apples with sultanas and a vanilla custard. It genuinely tastes modern and delicious. 

Martingale Cognac

Elijah Craig Small Batch 47% - £46

Elijah Craig Small Batch is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey known for its distinctive warm spice and subtle smoke flavour, attributed to the use of Level 3 charred oak barrels. The process of charring the barrels was pioneered by Elijah Craig, who is often referred to as "The Father of Bourbon" for this innovation. 

The Elijah Craig Small Batch displays notes of vanilla bean, sweet fruit, and even some fresh mint. On the palate, it is smooth and warm, with woody accents and hints of spice, smoke, and nutmeg. The finish is slightly toasty.

A good everyday drinker that balances quality, price, and availability. I love to use it in Old Fashioned Cocktails as it just seems to work so well in them. Also, it is great to serve guests as an alternative to Jack Daniels, to demonstrate that paying a little bit more, gives you a lot more depth of flavour. 

Elijah Craig