A little Bit­­ Dram-atic

Traditional: Deep River (Arr. Coleridge-Taylor, Kanneh-Mason)

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11th February 2021

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Chichibu Japanese Whisky

This whisky is from a special bottling from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, formed in 1983, their mission is to seek out whisky in its purest form prizing flavour above all and giving each bottling a curious name. Hence this whisky actually being named 'New Flavours from a Distant Land'. This is a distant whisky, from a country where I think they make whisky which is on a par with the quality of some of the best Scottish single malts. If you have never tried Japanese whisky it really is worth checking out. I again got to try this a few weeks ago at my specialist private whisky club the Pacific Whisky Society but I saved most of the dram I received in the post to celebrate today, which is my birthday in UK Lockdown!
Vital statistics: This whisky is from the Japanese distillery Chichibu and is 7 years old (2012). As mentioned before it was specially bottled for the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, 1 of just 184 bottles from a 1st fill Ex-Bourbon barrel. The ABV is high at 61%. Chichibu distillery in Saitama, Japan was opened in 2008, and was the country’s first new distillery since Suntory opened Hakushu back in 1973. Chichibu was the brainchild of Ichiro Akuto, grandson of the founder of the legendary Hanyu distillery. The Ichiro’s Malt brand appeared in 2005 and rose to fame through the bottling of the last casks from Hanyu, particularly the sought after ‘Card’ series. Interestingly this whisky sold for more than £800 on whisky auction recently!
Appearance: Is a light amber hue almost reminding me of apple juice. The legs which I am always going on about, are very defined on the side of the glass. This hints towards the strength of the dram and that it could be oily in nature.
Nose: On closer inspection noting the aroma of the dram it has an amazing sense of tropical fruits. It also makes me think of freshly baked banana bread or even a Christmas pudding doused in rum instead of brandy. There is no overpowering flavour of strong alcoholic spirit. There is a touch of almond flavour as well. Overall a very enticing aroma to lead you to the tasting itself.
Flavour: This is such a grand majestic whisky it is hard to try and unpick everything in the flavour, but the tropical notes come out nicely in the flavour. This is followed by a huge smack of heat across the tongue and to the back of the throat, though this heat is not harsh, it is truly warm, comforting and inviting.
Summary: This was a fabulous whisky to rival any great Scottish single malt, I only wish I had more to drink. I unfortunately finished my last dram in writing this. It is a whisky of great decadence that is strong yet very drinkable without water even at 61% ABV! And it is so complex and interesting in flavour you would not think it was only 7 years old. Infact in our blind tasting, many of us thought it might actually be a Scottish whisky! For pairing with music this week, I feel it would have been too easy just to pick a piece of music linking to the far east. Instead, I have picked a traditional track arranged by a 19th-century composer and living classical cellist where the melodies and playing is extremely rich and inviting and very soulful. I thought this was very fitting for such a splendid whisky. Thus I have chosen Traditional: Deep River (Arr. Coleridge-Taylor, Kanneh-Mason). Until next time....

Benjamin Britten - Four Sea Interludes from "Peter Grimes"

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18th August 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Cadenhead’s Robust Smoky Embers Blend Batch #3

This whisky is from the independent whisky bottler Cadenhead's , founded in Aberdeen in 1842. Yes this is a blended whisky, but not all blends are bad! I had the honour of trying it for the first time yesterday evening at specialist private whisky club called the Pacific Whisky Society (I can tell you no more about them as it is a secret society!)
Vital statistics: This batch is a vatting of some of the heavyweight Islay whisky's Ardbeg, Bowmore and Caol Ila, which have been vatted (blended together) for 21 years and then received a 2nd maturation in a sherry hogshead for 4 years. This is the 3rd release in this series. The whisky is 25 years in age, bottled in 2017, with a 46% ABV.
Appearance: Is a deep amber liquid, for some reason reminding me of resin which might trap a mosquito, like in Jurassic Park. The character of the spirit on the glass is a well-defined leg, leaving a clean line along the glass where it has touched; suggesting this might have some weight behind this whisky.
Nose: The aroma of this dram gives me notes of butterscotch, apples and perhaps even banana bread. In another moment I get a hint of brine and maybe distant seaweed but it is very light
Flavour: When sampling this whisky, I can't help but be surprised about the depth and roundness of the flavour and yet at the same time how subtle it is. As it builds to the finish you are hit by a light smokey edge that is in no way harsh but warming and comforting. Like a cashmere blanket on am autumn evening. This is an incredibly smooth whisky with a huge array of flavour. From smooth almost quality street chocolates in a mix to the distant taste of brine.
Summary: This was a fascinating whisky to try especially on first tasting it was a blind tasting so I had no idea what was in the dram and that it wasn't even a single malt whisky! I think the most shocking discovery was that there were three Islay whiskies involved and yet the lightness of the peat never really suggested the likes of Caol Ila or Ardbeg would be part of the makeup. For pairing with music this week, I feel I need to mirror the feeling of great strength and weight in charachter that is only subtly present and on surface listen the piece would seem light and innocent to begin with but in the depths of the music lies a hidden steel which makes a great piece that has huge depth. I have therefore chosen today Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes from "Peter Grimes". Until next time....

ST KILDA by Mhairi Hall

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26th June 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Dalwhinnie 15 year old

A traditional Single Malt Scotch Whisky from the highest distillery in Scotland. This is a whisky I have known for many years and return to again and again. It was wonderfully gifted to me by composer Mhairi Hall this week after we worked together on her 'Airs' album earlier this year.

Vital statistics: 15-year-old highland single malt scotch whisky, from a distillery that was founded in 1898. bottled at 43% alc./vol
Appearance: Is an amber-orange liquid, reminding me of a mead or honey nectar. The character of the spirit on the glass is a delicate leg, leaving a discernable imprint coating. this leads me to think (as I actually already know) this is a more delicate dram, than the heady peaty whiskies of Islay.
Nose: The aroma of this dram gives me notes of oranges and lemons. In another moment it reminds me of a heather honey and rum bananas.
Flavour: When sampling a taste of this whisky, it builds on the palate so delightfully slowly. It reminds me of heather honey that I like to spread on my past for breakfast on some days. Yet this whisky in never thankfully oversweet it is balanced with vanilla tones, citrus notes and a nice rounded body to the dram with a light pepper sensation on the tongue. The finish is long and lingering, comfortingly warm.
Summary: This is a whisky I remember way back when I was studying Prehistoric archaeology in Scotland. I took a trip with my PhD supervisor to go stay on the Isle of Skye to look at limpets and prehistoric remains. On the way ere we passed the Dalwhinnie distillery. I distinctly remember it as the first distillery I saw but didn't get a chance to visit as we were in a hurry get the Island. I remember my disappointment followed by seeing a stag high on the hills ahead of us like in a dream. Quite a memorable moment. I still haven't been to the distillery and must rectify that one day, but for now this is a dram I love to revisit and is available in so many pubs across the UK. So if you don't know whisky well and are looking for something more adventurous than a Glenfiddich you can't go wrong here. For pairing with music this week, I would like to give a nod to Mhairi and her latest album which was a joy to work on together and I have chosen a beautiful nostalgic track called St Kilda that lilts and ebbs just like the whisky itself. Please do sit back and enjoy and I'll get thinking on what I want to drink next.

Candide Overture: Leonard Bernstein conducting

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14th May 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Pike Creek, Canadian Whisky

A Canadian whisky I came across at a whisky tasting at the excellent Soho Whisky Club, 3 years ago. My my, is that an establishment I am missing right now with all the people who frequent it!

Vital statistics: 10-year-old select oak-aged Canadian Whisky that has been finished in rum barrels, bottled at 42% alc./vol
Appearance: Is an amber-brown, reminding me of fondant caramel. The character on the side of the glass is not quite a leg but a stocking. As I try to infer something of the strength of the whisky, suggesting this is a lighter whisky than some of my last samplings.
Nose: The aroma of this dram reminds me of sugar cane, Christmas cake and touches of vanilla. In another scent also slightly orangy.
Flavour: When you taste this dram it begins withs slight pepperiness on the tongue then it really opens up with caramel with a tiny touch of salt, warming your mouth and throat and then stomach as it goes down. A very pleasant sensation this whisky is full-bodied and smooth, perhaps lacking finesse or complexity in developing flavour, but the punch of the whisky as a whole is to my liking as is the price.
Summary: I think people sometimes underestimate how much great whisky there is outside Scotland, have you tried Indian, Taiwanese or Japanese whisky or even English whisky? This is a great everyday whisky for me; an incomplex but I but enjoyable dram if I was to pair it with any music I would choose something Joyful and perhaps over before you know it; Bernstein and the overture from Candide comes to mind right now. Enjoy and see you here again soon!

D. Tabakova: II. Longing - Kristina Blaumane, FIMM FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, Federico S. Morresi

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23rd April 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Penderyn Celt, Single Malt Welsh Whisky

A welsh whisky I have had in my collection since 2017 and came across by accident at the very excellent Classical Music Festival Presteigne one night in a lock-in at a local pub!

Vital statistics: A single malt whisky from the only distillery in Wales, Penderyn. Non-chill filtered and bottled at 41% alc./vol
Appearance: a very light colouring that looks like grape juice hue, perhaps even lighter than the Kilhoman from last time. The viscosity is higher with quite a lot clinging to the edge of the glass as you move it around, suggesting an oily whisky.
Nose: The aroma of this dram is reminiscent of marzipan, almonds and beeswax, not suggesting any hint of peat, lovely and fragrant.
Flavour: When you taste the whisky it comes alive slowly, at first it seems light and sweet on the palate then as you swallow it is clear there is a much stronger whisky sitting behind the initial tasting. The back of the throat is truly warmed and the flavour is earthy. For me, the whisky seems delightfully rounded with a light flavour of molasses followed by a slight salty brine and the hit of smoke at the back of the mouth like smoked cheese or light cigar.
Summary: I was a fan of the original Penderyn when it first came out in my local supermarket and if the rumours are true about the inclusion of Laphroaig in this whisky conversely that is a whisky I would not normally buy. But in combination, they make a wonderful dram that I would drink on a regular basis. If I was to pair it with any music I might choose Dobrinka Tabakova: Concerto for Violincello and Strings, mvmt. II which has depth in the writing to match the depth of the whisky.

Shostakovich Symphony No 10 Mvt 2 // Gianandrea Noseda & London Symphony Orchestra

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10th April 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Kilchoman Machir Bay, UK Land Rover UK Tour 2015 bottling

A whisky I have had in my collection since 2016 and I only drink sparingly because I know how good it is!
Also in honour of this new German research which suggests whisky is good for you in the corona pandemic - Read here

Vital statistics: An Islay single malt scotch whisky, from Kilchoman, the self-confessed mad hatter tea party distiller of this famous island for whisky. It is non Chill-filtered and natural colour, bottled at cask strength at 49% alc./vol
Appearance: a Light golden hue, almost looking similar to a white wine. How viscous and oily is the whisky, it has defined legs but it looks very light.
Nose: The hit you get when you smell the aroma is so different from the appearance. I smell hints of grass, brine and salt. If you dip in too intensely you can get a hint that this is cask strength and can smell the alcohol a bit like a chemistry set.
Flavour: For me where this whisky comes to life is in the tasting, it is complex on the palate. This is not a whisky for the faint-hearted, as soon as you taste it the first thing that hits you is a heavy smoke that builds in your mouth, you almost feel you are thrown into a fire but then you get subtleties of sweetness and savoury combined perfectly. I also love the lingering finish which is so spicy and warm as it goes down.
Summary: I always love whiskies which leave me with a warm hug almost like I am sitting by a winter fireside and I love the way it is so peaty it almost feels like popping candy in the mouth. some people might like to add a few drops of water to taste to open up the whisky, but I like this neat. This is a main course of a whisky and if I was to pair it with any music I might choose maybe something weighty like Shostakovich's 10th symphony 2nd movement.

Sibelius : The Swan of Tuonela - Karajan*

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2nd April 2020

This week I am mostly drinking.....

Signatory Vintage, Glenlivet, Vintage 2007

A special whisky bought for me as my 2020 birthday present from WildKat PR!

Vital statistics: The Un-Chillfiltered Collection, Signatory Vintage, distilled at Glenlivet Distillery, Vintage 2007, 12 yrs, bottled 2019, 46% vol. Matured in a first Fill Sherry Butt
Appearance: Dark golden honey colour, with only light legs, not such a viscous oily whisky
Nose: A hint of almonds, sweet chocolate like Quality Street, faint sandalwood and butterscotch
Flavour: A sweet overtone at the first taste that then grows and develops on your palate to a fully rounded whisky with a lovely spicy finish. Reminds me of caramel which has been finished with a hint of chilli, leaving a warm feeling in the mouth as you drink
Summary: Essentially a yummy whisky which is totally up my street, almost leaning towards salted caramel with a long flavour as you drink; perfect as a nightcap that if I was thinking of music I might pair with the Swan of Tuonela, op. 22 no. 3 by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.