Ruth Ball. If you’ve been to any trade shows, farmers markets or festivals recently, you will no doubt recognise the name. Ruth is the creator and founder of Alchemist Dreams, an idea that transforms the liqueur category into a new age. If you’re not familiar with the name, to put it simply, she creates hand-crafted liqueurs, any flavour, for any occasion. When was the last time you heard something like that?!
The process is easy too. Pick your base flavour, choose your accent(s), decide what bottle you would like your liqueur in and even create your label and voilà! With a great range of base flavours to choose from including blackberry, fig, lime and orange, and combined with cinnamon, juniper, ginger, elderberry, coffee or even red cinchona bark, you can create something unique and personal to yourself or to your backbar.
If your stuck for ideas though, Ruth has some house blends that you could try including (1) –
Black(berry) Magic – A mysterious blend of blackberry, ginger and Szechuan pepper
Everything’s Rosy – An optimistic blend of raspberry, juniper and rose
Blue Monday – A mellow blend of blueberry, elderberry and vanilla
Winter Warmer – A delicious blend of orange, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove
I was lucky enough to win one of the Alchemist Dreams competitions, and the prize was the chance to create my own liqueur. So after racking my brains over which flavours would be the best to blend and what would work well, Ruth created me a base ingredient of orange, with a mix of vanilla, cacao and cinnamon.
On the nose, the orange flavour is soft, with small hints of the vanilla and cacao slowly coming through near the end. The palate enjoys a sensation of the vanilla and orange, with a bold hit of cacao and cinnamon following. A sweet mix on the tongue with a slightly thick layer being left for you to savour long after. Wow!
Alchemist Dreams gives you the chance to create that something different, and with many small, niche bars being opened lately, it’s the perfect chance to have a signature range that you can tell your customers it really is a once in a lifetime experience. But it doesn’t have to be for the bar’s though. Alchemist Dreams caters for weddings where you design the flavour, select the bottles and then they can be decorated with a variety of different trimmings to match colour schemes, decor or themes. You can even include special extras such as gold leaf! The labels are hand-printed with a message or can even be professionally printed to include a picture of the happy couple for a truly memorable gift. Alchemist Dreams can also be used for corporate gifts and events as gifts for something a bit more memorable.
I know I’ll be hoping to see a good range of Alchemist Dreams bottles on the backbar when I open my own place, it’s a fantastic idea!
It’s been that time of month again at Kro 2 with their monthly whisky tasting and this time incorporating the whiskies of Maxxium.
Again for those of you who don’t know what Kro Bar is, they’re a Danish family business who specialise in Danish food and beer. A popular idea in the Manchester area, they’ve expanded from 1 outlet to 5 in the space of 10 years.
Our host for the evening was Mike Green, the Brand Development Manager of Maxxium, and he took us through a thorough history of Maxxium itself as well as the whiskies they have under their portfolio. These included –
– Ardmore Traditional Cask
– Highland Park 12yr
– Macallan 10yr Fine Oak
– Glenrothes Select Reserve
– Laphroaig 10yr
– Snow Grouse
– Highland Park 18yr
Now I’ve personally never tried any of these whiskies before apart from Laphroaig 10yr, and i encountered Maxxium at the London Cocktail Week a few weeks back (click here for my review on Stolichnaya). Maxxium themselves are responsible for the sales, local marketing and distribution of many of the world’s leading premium spirits and wine brands including Jim Beam, Courvoisier, Bols and Makers Mark. The company is owned by two equal shareholders: BEAM Inc and The Edrington Group.
Back to the night, below are my tasting notes on each whisky offered to us:-
Snow Grouse – 40%
Served chilled. Smooth on the nose with a fragrant aroma of vanilla coming through near the end. On the palate, a sharp, slightly harsh flavour of vanilla with an almost tequila like taste lingering around giving a warm after-taste.
Glenrothes Select Reserve – 43%
Slightly peaty on the nose with hints of citrus lemons and limes blending their way through. A smooth, slighlty velvety taste on the palate, with vanilla and barley subtly making an appearance near the end. A slight malt burn on the after-taste but an easy drinker non-the-less.
Macallan Fine Oak 10yr – 40%
On then nose, smooth vanilla produces a slight sweetness aroma that becomes enthasised on the palate, although the flavour is rather short. A blend of walnut and butter mix well but result in very little after-taste. Short offering, but a great choice!
Highland Park 12yr – 40%
Slight peatyness on the nose with subtle aromas of honey and citrus fruits to give a well-balanced flavour. On the palate, it’s clean, almost breathless with a light texture. A low spice on the after-taste with a slight sweetness if you add a dash of water.
Ardmore Traditional Cask – 46%
Lots of caramel on the nose, with a slight peat aroma making its way through near the end. Sweet palate offering with a slightly peaty burn on the tongue. Some caramal and vanilla flavours mixing well too.
Laphroaig 10yr – 40%
Smoky peat instantly hits your nose, with sea salt following soon after. Iodine aromas flowing slowly near the end. The palate enjoys a smoky smooth vanilla with oak flavours resulting in a long after-taste with a hint of spice near the end.
Highland Park 18yr – 43%
Lots of toffee sweetness on the nose with some fresh fruit aromas subtly overtaking near the end. The palate encounters a very smooth blend of cinnamon and toffee with a citrus end resulting in a very mild offering with a slight sweetness.
Mid-way through the tastings, Kro supplied us with a delicious dish named Cullen Skink. A mix of smoked Scottish Haddock, potato and onion served with fresh oven baked seeded bread rolls. Delicious!
Another thoroughly enjoyable event in which we were able to sample a good range of whatMaxxium have to offer. Personal highlights were the Highland Park 18yr and Macallan 10yr, hopefully two items I’ll be picking up to add to my collection soon! Special thanks to Mike Green who displayed a great amount of knowledge of the whiskies on offer, and hopefully I’ll get to see both himself and Maxxium in the near future with their wide range in their portfolio.
Next month’s Kro 2 whisky tasting will be hosted by Moet & Hennessy Distillery. On offer will be –
During the Manchester Food and Drink Festival last month, a Manchester based company named The Liquorists held 3 different trails around the many bars and restaurants Manchester has to offer. The Liquorists themselves are Jody Monteith and Tom Sneesby, 2 guys who know everything and anything about drinking in Manchester, so ideally the perfect hosts for 2 nights of exploring!
Due to commitments for the London Cocktail Week, I missed out on their ‘Trail of the Flowing Bowl’ which involved some of the city’s best rum bars. Never one to become distraught over missed opportunities, I signed myself up for their ‘Nominees Trail’ on the Saturday. This trail involved visiting a selection of bars and restaurants who were nominated in the festivals awards including best bar, best restaurant and best newcomer.
After gathering in the festival’s hub in Albert Square, Tom lead us to our first stop of the night, Vertigo. The site of the ex. Japanese restaurant Ithaca, it nows houses a modern European menu created by Head Chef Ian Armstrong. Making our way up the stairs to the top floor (the restaurants split over 5 levels), we all gathered round the rooms center bar, where Tom gave us an introduction to what the night had to offer, a little about the company he works for and the drink he was creating in front of us, a Jameson’s whiskey sour. Now I have to admit, I didn’t finish mine. I’m not a fan of whiskey sours but there were plenty of offers in the group to finish it off! We also enjoyed a small beetroot risotto with a herb sour cream to accompany.
After making our way down the flight of stairs, we walked over to Australasia in Spinningfields. Located underground, the entrance looks almost like a shard of glass sticking out of the paving stones. Walking down the flight of stairs, a long, sand coloured room is ahead of you where the seating of the restaurant is, with the bar behind. Here we enjoyed a Grey Goose mix in an Australasian Iced Tea or Fonzerelli’s Punch. Whilst sipping a two rather delightful cocktails, platters of Sushi were brought out (my heart sinking as I’m not the best when it comes to chopsticks!). Rather cunningly, I used the safe bet and re-named the platter ‘finger-food’!
The Alchemist was next on the trail, located just round the corner from Australasia (check out my review on The Alchemist here). The new Bacardi Oakheart was on the agenda, with Oakheart Mojito’s being crafted for us while we enjoyed crispy King Prawns on skewers. After taking in the wonderous setting, we hopped into a taxi and travelled to The Lowry. Their first floor bar was host to Galliano Ristretto Coffee shots that were handed out to be sipped and savoured, followed by a new creation named the Black Forest Gateaux cocktail. We enjoyed the ‘dessert’ part of the night on the balcony overlooking the River Irwell, while waiting for us inside were chocolate fondant’s with salted caramel, and I can safely say they were being made short work of!
The last bar of the night was a short taxi trip to Blackdog Ballroom in the Northern Quarter. Brugal Golden Mojito’s were created for our arrival as we made our way past the bar to the pool tables. A very sweet Mojito cheesecake finished the offerings off well, with a few games of pool to round off a great evening.
The next night, The Spirited Ventures trail took place (the theme of the night was that all the restaurants we will be visiting are owned by Living Ventures). Once again, we met in Albert Square and Tom hailed a taxi for us to travel to our first port of call – Grill on New York. A smaller group than the previous night, we were able to sit round one of the restaurants circular tables, and enjoyed the cocktail White Lady. The drink called for the use of Oxley gin, Cointreau and lemon juice to create a great appetizer! Duck spring rolls were brought out for us to compliment while we introduced ourselves to each other and Tom talked a little about The Liquorists and Living Ventures.
Grill on the Alley was next up, just a short taxi ride away off Deansgate. Sitting next to the bar on high tables and boothed-like seating, we were served a PPP Caiproska (pepper, Pernod and passion fruit) and Thai fish cakes, both being given thumbs up by the group! Live music entertained us from a far, with the restaurant bustling both upstairs and down. A short walk to Australasia (see above for last nights visit) culminated in an Australasia Pornstar with the use of Grey Goose vodka and a range of Sushi to tickle the taste buds.
PPP Caiproska – Grill on the Alley
Unfortunately, Living Ventures new restaurant, The OastHouse was not completed by the time the Manchester Food and Drink Festival rolled around, so we made our way round the corner to The Alchemist for two different offerings in the same bar. Hot Cognac laced mulled wine was a great winter warmer on a chilly night, with chicken skewers being brought out as we sat on the Union Jack leather couches at the end of the bar. Now me being me, i talked about one of The Alchemist most popular drinks, the Smokey Old Fashioned, pretty much all night. Low and behold, a tray of Makers Mark Smokey Old Fashioned’s were place on our table! Fantastic! A round of applause was given to our host as he had to scoot off to help de-construct their tent at the festival hub, while we finished the night sipping and enjoying our Old Fashioned’s, Cognac muld wine and some tasty looking mini burgers.
Two very good nights were enjoyed by all, with Tom showcasing the best that Manchester has to offer in a relaxed, yet almost without knowing it, busy night. Hard to believe by the end of one night, you’ve enjoyed 5 bars, 5 fantastic cocktails and 5 different light-bites.
The Liquorists are hosting a Vodka Trail next, and you can bet you’ll see me on that one!
There’s been a lot of talk lately in the Manchester area, and one place that keeps getting a mention is a bar that ‘is proud to stay true to the principles of bartending’. They name themselves The Alchemist, and their situated in the busy Spinningfields area of Manchester.
They were in the running for the title of ‘Best Bar’ in last month’s Manchester Food & Drink Festival awards, it utilises a corner section of one of the buildings, where you enter to be greeted by a range of friendly staff (a touch which I feel needs to be standard in all restaurants and bars). I made my way to the bar and was handed both a food and drinks menu to scour through, although my attention was diverted to their rather impressive back-bar of spirits and wines! I like my passion fruit in drinks so I plumped for a Passion Fruit Meringue Martini (£5.95), which boasted a mix of Russian Standard vodka, passion fruit liqueur, passion fruit syrup, lemon mix and culminating in flambéed meringue foam. The finish product looked very impressive, with their policy of ‘staying true to the principles of professional bartending’ shining through in their creating of the meringue. The drink itself was rather light and well balanced, with a hint of sweetness on the palate lingering on the after-taste (great for my sweet-tooth!).
While I was enjoying the Martini in the comfort of their old fashioned Union Jack leather sofas, my Chicken Tandoori Wrap (£6.75) arrived with a good portion of crispy fries to go with. The dish looked ample to someone who was after a bite to eat instead of a full lunch, and with a pot of sour cream sauce to compliment, I can safely say it went down a storm! The chicken wasn’t too overpowering in its flavour, and there was a good wrapping of salad to boost your 5-a-day. Too often I’ve eaten wraps where the chicken has cooked the salad that comes with it, but this seemed to be spot on. It’s as if the chefs have the same policy as the bartenders – attention to detail.
Whilst enjoying a Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva over ice, I took in the surroundings that The Alchemist has to offer. There’s no shortage of places to sit, with a long perch table along the window as well as comfy leather bar stools and scattered tall tables close by. The restaurant itself is situated at the end of the bar (although you are more than welcome to eat at any of the bar tables) with simple traditional dark wooden square tables leading around the side. Their use of lighting is a noticeable feature too, with snow lights falling from each large windowpane, which at night must look the part from both inside and out. The bar has small lanterns hanging from the ceiling in a range of different lengths and theirs a sign of The Alchemist on the wall that surprisingly doesn’t look out of place.
The bar itself is also a sight for any professional bartender to get a little bit giddy over! A spirit collection that includes Chase vodka, Elements 8 rum, Martin Millers gin, a range of Patron tequila and my personal favourite of Diplomatico Rum Reserva Exclusiva are all below small alcoves of the wine selection that stretches the length of the bar. Highlights of the list include Johnson Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (£25.95 or £6.20 / £8.85 for a 175ml / 250ml) for the whites, a Castillo de Clavijo Rioja Reserva (£21.95 or £7.35 / £5.25 for a 175ml / 250ml) in the red section and for the rosé drinkers a ‘classy and seductive’ Dinastia Vivanco Rioja Rosardo (£23.95 or £8.15 / £5.70 for a 175ml / 250ml). Their range of wines start at the £13 bracket and rising to £42 for those special night outs. Champagne and Prosecco are also available with brands such as Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label (£65), Prosecco Doc Bel Star (£23.95) and Dom Perignon 2002 (£135) chilled for you to enjoy. Cocktails are also a main attraction here, with the menu divided into 6 main categories. Depending on the style of drink your after, there’s no shortage of options and ideas. The list includes ‘Artisan’ (hand-crafted) cocktails from The Alchemist’s very own bartenders, molecular techniques involving smoke, foam and fruit dust and a rather interesting concept that includes the use of flavoured caviar. One that caught my eye was the Maple Manhattan. Woodford Reserve is stirred into Antica Formula (red vermouth), aromatic bitters and grapefruit zest. It’s then topped with lemon and maple syrup foam! Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available with a good selection of teas and coffees to finish your visit off.
This is a superb place to visit, whether its for a drink and catch-up with friends, meeting with clients or enjoying a 3 course meal from their menu (the fillet steak fajita sounds like a winner!)
It’s been a busy month with lots of events, tastings and experiences to write-up about!
I apologise if posts of the events are not being displayed as quickly as they have done in the past, time has escaped me all too often lately! But I’m catching up and hopefully within the next week I should have the following articles up and ready for you all to enjoy –
The Liquorists Nominees and Spirited Ventures Trails from the Manchester Food & Drink Festival reviews
Elbow Beer tasting notes
Alchemist Dreams review
Glengoyne 10, 17 and 21yr tasting notes
Photos from the London Cocktail Week
Maxxium whisky tasting at Kro2 review
So with all this to look forward to, make sure you sign up to my e-mail subscription located on the home page.
On my last visit to Majestic Wine’s in Sale (https://drinksenthusiast.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/majestic-wines-tasting-notes/), I purchased a bottle of South African Porcupine Ridge and their Viognier Grenache Blanc (14.5%). Recommended to me, I was looking forward to cracking this open, and to be honest, trying one of my first South African wines. I’m more a South American lover if I were to choose a region, but as a common theme in my job role, I never say no to trying new things!
I digged out a bit of research into Porcupine Ridge and they are a brand underneath the brand Boekenhoutskloof. Located in the Franschhoek valley just North-East of Cape Town, French settlers occupied the land in 1776 and made use of the ideal soils and Mediterranean climate. In 1993, they started using Viognier grapes and combined with the idea of the local Porcupine population, Porcupine Ridge was born. They use fruit from dryland vineyards from Malmesbury and Citrusdal to give flavour and structure. Extended ripening of the Viognier develop the spicy floral aromas while the early harvesting of Grenache Blanc delivers natural acidity and minerality to the blend. Its matured in French oak to give silkiness to the product.
So with all this in mind, here’s my tasting notes on the 2010 version –
Aromas of wild flowers and ripe apricots mix well on the nose with spicy aromas powering closely behind. The palate is more crisp with a sharp edge to begin with. A soft finish that lingers nicely.
A great wine to enjoy, with Majestic Wine’s suggesting vegetable stir-fry or chicken kebabs being a perfect accompaniment.
Another event I took part in at the recent London Cocktail Week was hosted by Maxxium Brands at the Soho based Zenna Bar. Patsy Christie was our host as she talked about the Russian vodka Stolichnaya and 4 of their flavoured offerings – vanilla, citrus, raspberry and the new apple flavour.
Before I come onto the tasting profiles of the 5 spirits, a little history of Stolichnaya first.
Stolichnaya begins with its origins in the Moscow Distillery Crystal (or Moscow State Wine Warehouse No. 1). The distillery opened in 1901 by the Russian authorities to ensure higher quality vodka production. The birth of Stolichnaya itself though is surrounded in confusion. 1948 is the earliest confirmed production date of the vodka, yet the label design clearly predates this to 1946. There are also rumours that it was created by V.G. Svirida who was the extra-class distiller at the time of 1944. There is also a trademark patent dated 1938 of Stolichnaya.
In 1953 however, Stolichnaya was introduced on the international trade show in Bern and received a gold medal, the first of many. In 1972, the PepsiCo company struck an agreement with the then government of the Soviet Union. The deal involved PepsiCo being granted exportation and Western marketing rights to Stolichnaya vodka in exchange for importation and Soviet marketing of Pepsi-Cola (This exchange led to Pepsi-Cola being the first foreign product sanctioned for sale in the U.S.S.R.).
After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Stolichnaya vodka continued to be produced for export in several of the ex-Soviet republics. Because of this, the bottles retained their Soviet-era labels.
One of the most famous and long-winded legal battles began in August 1991. The Soviet patent office revoked the Soviet agency’s right to use the Stolichnaya name in Russia. This led to numerous lawsuits, including what companies could market vodka under this name in the United States. On November 20, 1992, a federal judge ruled that PepsiCo would maintain the exclusive right to the name in the United States, as allowing others to market under the name would bring a “risk of irreparable harm” to the trademark. Since 2001, Stolichnaya trademark has been an object of a dispute between the SPI Group and the government of Russia. In 2002, a Moscow court ruled that Russia would get back the rights to the Stolichnaya brand name from Soyuzplodimport (SPI). In 2009, William Grant & Sons USA signed an agreement to distribute Stolichnaya in the USA, taking over the deal made by PepsiCo.
So with a brief, and sometimes colourful history, how is Stolichnaya produced? Created in a town named Tambov, located in the Black Earth Region of Russia, the fermentation of Stolichnaya starts with wheat and rye grains as well as artesial water from the Russian city of Samara located in the Kaliningrad region. The fermentation process takes around 60 hours to be completed. Once fermentation is complete the resulting liquid is distilled four times to a strength of 96.4% ABV. The spirit is then diluted to bottling strength with more artesial well water. It is then filtered through quartz, sand, activated charcoal, and finally through woven cloth.
So with all this in mind, below are my tasting notes on Stolichnaya itself, as well as 4 of their flavoured vodkas.
Stolichnaya Red – 40%
On the nose, a potent strong alcohol smell is instantly recognisable with a sharp citrus kick following. The aromas mellow out fairly quickly into scents of almond and aniseed. A smooth taste of aniseed on the palate, with a slight harshness on the tongue. Floral extracts are noticeable with a tingle after-taste to wet the appetite for more.
Stolichnaya Vanil – 37.5%
An intense vanilla flavour on the nose dominates the senses, yet smooths out once it hits the palate. A lengthy finish follows a delicate and soft offering of Madagascan and Indonesian vanilla beans.
Stolichnaya Gala Applik – 37.5%
The nose experiences fresh red apple flavours with a slight juicy, alcohol aroma mixed in. A slight rawness on the beginning with a slight hint of pear. It leads to a short end with a little dryness on the tongue.
Stolichnaya Citros – 37.5%
A softer hit of citrus flavours than Absolut, a sweetness comes through with hints of Limonchello aromas following. A mellow beginning on the tongue turns into a heavy dose of lemon, but not enough to ruin the palate.
Stolichnaya Razberi – 37.5%
A great raspberry aroma on the nose that gives off fresh extracts. Wild menthol flavours on the palate, with hints of cherry mixed in to give a slightly stronger taste to the rest of the range.
Moving on from the Stolichnaya tasting, Patsy created for us all 3 different cocktails involving the Stolichnaya products.
Moscow Mule using Stolichnaya Red
Secret Orchard using Stolichnaya Apple
Raspberri Caiproska using Stolichnaya Raspberry
My favourite out of the three made was the aptly named Secret Orchard. A blend of Stolichnaya Apple (50ml), Elderflower (15ml) and Creme de Fraise (15ml) shaken and strained into a Martini glass. Perfection!
A twist that Patsy also put on the Raspberri Caiproska was the use of Balsamic Vinegar drizzled on top of the finished product. Looked great, tasted even greater!
Finishing the night off with cocktails from a brand that, I have to admit, I’ve never really given much time for, was a fantastic end. A bottle of Stolichnaya Apple sits proudly on my shelf with Secret Orchards being sipped away on these long Winter nights!
With 37 available flavours on the market, it might take you a while to taste them all, but I can guarantee you, the apple and vanilla flavours are personal highlights. You will not be disappointed.
OTHER STOLICHNAYA EXPRESSIONS
Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi – 37.5%
Stong chocolate aromas hit the nose first followed by a bold raspberri scent. Lively on the palate with dark chocolate dominating but mellows quickly. A long tingle is created with a smooth, warm ending.
Stolichnaya Ohranj – 37.5%
Subtle orange on the nose with a slight kick nearing the end. Smooth on the palate with a little boost of orange that develops over the long length. A little sweet with a orange spice warmth growing nicely.
At the bottom of this article, a have posted photos that I took of Patsy creating the 3 cocktails. Enjoy!
Now i’m going to start with a confession – i’ve never tried Drambuie. I was not one for malt whisky or honey back in the day, but ever since i’ve started doing this career, my palate has grown and experienced lots of new flavours. So always up to giving things a second chance, i jumped at the chance to try the newly released Drambuie 15.
A little history of Drambuie first though.
The legend holds that the recipe of Drambuie was concocted by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (commonly known as Bonnie Prince Charlie) in Italy or France where he was brought up. In 1745, he lost the infamous Battle of Culloden where he was sheltered by the clan MacKinnon on Skye. The chief took him off Skye and to the mainland from where he made his eventual escape. It’s then reported that the recipe was then given in the late 19th century to a gentleman named James Ross. Ross ran the Broadford Hotel on Skye, where he developed and improved the recipe in the 1870s. The name Drambuie was then registered by him as a trademark in 1893. After Ross died, his widow sold the recipe to a different MacKinnon family in the early 20th century. The MacKinnon family have been producing it ever since.
The first commercial distribution of Drambuie happened in 1909 in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. Only twelve cases were originally sold. In 1916, Drambuie became the first liqueur to be allowed stocked in the cellars of the House of Lords and Drambuie began to ship world-wide to stationed British soldiers. In the 1980s, the producers of Drambuie began to advertise the liqueur on tv, although advertising began way back in the first decade of the 20th Century.
The Drambuie 15 is a twist on the original Drambuie, using rare Speyside malts aged 15 years. It complements and balances the herbs and spicy aromas of the famed Drambuie. So with this in mind, here is my tasting notes –
The nose enjoys a soft honey and citrus notes that has a slight butterscotch end. The palate however welcomes a rather sweet blend of lemon and heather that creates an almost velvety texture on the tongue. The sweetness lingers on the after-taste and in my mind, begs you to have another sip.
Im surprised. I have to admit i really enjoyed this. It has a RRP of £35 but i would have no hesitation in recommending this famed spirit. And its award winning too! 2 golds at the Drinks International and a silver for ‘Best Liqueur’ at the Spirits Business Spirits Masters. Not bad for a product that’s only been out since September.
I’ll be hunting for the original now. I’m hooked!
Very sweet hit on the nose with instant honey aromas and a light scent of herbs. A kick on the palate of spice but soon mellows. Rather short but warming with a slow medicinal flavour coming through near the end.
Wemyss Malts were on of the first ranges on whisky I covered when I started Drinks Enthusiast back in 2011. Since then, Wemyss Malts range of expressions have grown, culminating in some hand-crafted beauties! Before I re-visit though, lets take a look at Wemyss;
Wemyss Malts, pronounced ‘Weems’, are a boutique whisky company with connections to the Wemyss family who hailed from Fife, Scotland. Wemyss itself comes from the Gaelic word for caves which stems from the rocky outcrop on the Firth of Forth on which the family home of Wemyss Castle sits.
The Wemyss Land was used at the turn of the 19th century where a gentleman named John Haig built his first distillery on the island. It is said that John’s passion for the industry made him realise the confusion that consumers had with the ever-increasing terminology of the whisky industry. With this, he aimed to create his whiskies and not only make them more accessible, but also understandable.
Wemyss Malts use a combination of the taste and aromas of each individual whisky to identify each bottling, rather than the traditional distillery way, resulting in the consumer understanding the style being purchased more easily.
But what about the whisky?
Wemyss Malts have two sub-categories – Blended Malts and Single Casks. With the blended, the Wemyss family hand select each individual cask, under the expert eye of Charlie Maclean, chair of the Wemyss Nosing Panel for both the Single Casks and Blended Malts.
Up to sixteen different single malt whiskies are blended together before introducing the “signature” malts to create the three distinct taste profiles.
Question is, does this really de-mystify the whisky labelling? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
The Hive 8yr – 40%
The Hive range uses a signature malt is from Speyside.
A sweet nose with a mix of wood and leather aromas, becoming more vibrant upon the palate. Smooth, plenty of light honey flavours to create a lingering finish.
The Hive 12yr – 40%
On the nose, the sweet scent of honey is dominant which carries nicely onto the palate. A slight buttery scent is also present. The fresh flavour of the honey spread along the palate and gives a bit of a spice kick near the end. A snip of vanilla is their but the honey is the main characteristic.
Spice King 8yr – 40%
Spice King range uses a signature malt is from the Highlands.
A fresh nose of spice become a little dry as it develops, although retains its smoothness. A slight sweetness on the palate, with dry pepper and spice evident creating a lingering warm finish.
Spice King 12yr – 40%
A bold, rich nose of sherry mixing with lemon zest but a slight harsh entrance on the palate. Bitter lemon and ginger flavours linger with spice notes and leads into an oak finish which leaves the mouth a little dry.
Peat Chimney 8yr– 40%
Bottled October 2010. The Peat Chimney range uses a signature malt is from Islay.
Light peat aromas on the nose, with a balance of heather and honey developing. Light on the palate too, with honey evident, moving to a lingering peat finish with some bold whispers.
Peat Chimney 8yr– 40%
A tweaked version of the above, sampled on 18th May 2014.
Very light, honey peated notes on the nose, with a little whisp of heather and heat. Incredibly sharp peat flavours on the palate, creating a spice heat that sticks to the roof of your mouth. Hard peat flavours on the finish, with a little smokey wood and honey elements thrown in. Lingering.
Peat Chimney 12yr – 40%
Soft peat notes on the nose with an oily scent soon after with a hint of sea salt. Heavy flavours of peat do mellow out as it comes to a finish, with a ‘peat chimney’ smoke on the after-taste.
Wemyss Malts are also the producers of premium blended whisky Lord Elcho. David, Lord Elcho, eldest son of the 5th Earl of Wemyss, was one of the most celebrated supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Flirting between England and France originally, he settled in Italy and met Charles Edward Stewart, playing a significant role in the uprising, eventually being appointed colonel of the Prince’s lifeguards. After being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, he was punished with the stripping of his land and titles and forced into exile.
Lord Elcho whisky is a nod to his life, created to honour the “refined masculine spirit of its namesake”.
Lord Elcho 15yr – 40%
Bottled August 2012. Crafted from a selection of malt and grain whiskies. Light, with lingering honey notes finishing with a slight sweetness on the nose. A well-rounded palate of honey and toasted wood, with the sweetness and warmth resulting in a lingering finish.
Lord Elcho NAS – 40%
Light cereal notes on the nose, with hints of honey and syrup coming through. Plenty of honey on the palate, with a light enjoyment of cocoa, fudge and creamy dry spice with cinnamon, ginger and cardoman. Long and warming.
Some absolute crackers to enjoy in your favourite whisky glass. But Wemyss Malts are versatile, with leading bartender Jason Scott of Bramble, Edinburgh creating gems such as –
Hive and Seek
40 ml Wemyss Hive Whisky 12yr
20 ml fresh lemon juice
2 bar spoons (10ml) saffron honey or orange blossom honey
Dash pasteurised egg white
Pour all ingredients into shaker and dry shake (no ice). Fill with ice and shake rapidly. Double strain.
50 ml Peat Chimney Whisky 12yr
14 mint leaves
2 bar spoons Demerara sugar
Spritz of Fernet Branca
Firstly spray the inside of cup with Fernet Branca. Separately, with all ingredients and cubed ice in a mixing glass, stir till ice cold and the flavours and aromas of the mint have infused into the liquid. Single strain over cracked ice in cup.
Brilliant! A superb range across the board, with personal favourites being The Hive and Peat Chimney. Although I’m yet to experience their Single Casks, I can only imagine that I will be impressed. Wemyss are coming out with a fantastic portfolio, diving into their heritage and creating blended whiskies, premium offerings, single casks and even two expressions of gin. You may not see this everywhere when it comes to bars and restaurants, but I can guarantee, if you know a venue with a good whisky selection, expect to see some Wemyss. It would be VERY rude not too. If not, pick one up for your drinks cabinet.