Monday, April 29, 2013

Tomatin Legacy - BIG shoes to fill for a NAS whisky...


NO TOMATIN IN CANADA???!!
About three years ago when I was knee deep researching as much as I could about the lesser known distilleries of Scotland I stumbled across one that was called Tomatin.  I read up on it and realized that on my last trip to this lovely country I literally drove right by the distillery and didn't know it.  "No worries", I thought, I'll buy some here in Canada and try it out.  So I went online and looked at every liquor establishment website across Canada to discover: "we" didn't have Tomatin here!?  First world problems, I know.  How sad for me, right?! So began the quest to get my hands on the whisky from this distillery.  Graham asked me why I seemed to be so fixated on trying these whiskies and all I could really answer was that I had a gut instinct that I would really enjoy them. After a few failed attempts by friends to find it for me while they were away I was excited to hear that in November of 2011 a local whisky show was bringing it it.  It was going to be the table I would head to first!  About a week before the show our friend and organizer of the show, Frank Scott, sent me an email to tell me he was unable to get it in.  Talk about being convinced the Whisky Gods were out to torture me.  All of a sudden the TOMATINS were turning into my obsession.  I HAD to try them.  So, my quest continued and try as I may, I could not get my hands on any of their whiskies.  

Then like all things, if you simply let it go and stop chasing after it; it will come.  AND COME it did.  On a trip for my birthday to New Hampshire, in a little liquor store at the back of a very small strip mall, I heard Graham say: "Jo, come over here for a minute", so I casually strolled over to where he was standing and beaming.  I looked at the shelf, literally squealed and jumped up and down.  The lady shot us a quick and nervous glance.  I grabbed the bottle of Tomatin 12 and literally hugged it as though it was priceless cargo.  Then Graham said:  "Did you see the price?" I hadn't bothered to look because frankly I was so determined/elated to try this whisky I didn't care.  So I was truly expecting something completely outrageous that might deter me from buying it.  I sighed and looked over at the shelving unit holding the bottle just a little bit closer.  $24.99.   My eyes just about popped out of my head and I let out another loud delightful squeal.  Thought for sure we were going to get thrown out of the store, but apparently squealing must happen often in New Hampshire liquor stores?!?  Bottle bought immediately and I literally made Graham rush back to our condo so that we could open it, PDQ. We poured a fairly generous dram at 3:00pm on a Saturday afternoon and savored it.  It was everything I had hoped for and more. I can't explain why/how I knew this whisky was for me but my gut instinct was right.  There wasn't anything I didn't enjoy about that lovely dram.  Happier than a Catholic at St. Peter's Square I brought "MY" new bottle home to Canada.  I shared it with a few friends and it didn't take long before 1/2 the bottle was gone.  

Omne trium perfectum!
Then another wonderful thing happened. A few weeks later, I was advised by a friend who works in Fort McMurray, Alberta that he had seen Tomatin at a liquor store in Calgary.  Are you sure, I said pounding on the computer keys frantically.  "Yeah, pretty sure I saw the 12, 15, 18 and maybe even a 25".  "When are you coming home next?" I asked in CAPITAL LETTERS with plenty of exclamation marks. I held my breathe.  "Next week", came the reply.  So, of course, I was a very thankful and happy woman who received a bottle of the 15 and 18 year old Tomatin right before Christmas. So thankful for friends who are willing to put whisky bottles in their personal luggage for me.  Whisky fabric rocks, all the time!!!
Stephen B - Tomatin

I kid you not when I say the next day I found out that Stephen Bremner would be hosting the Master Class for Tomatin at the Victoria Whisky Festival which I was slated to attend in the new year!  I was over the moon.  "Mystery whisky, 12, 15, 18 and 30 year old.  Now most people will tell you that you should never wish your life away, but I was more excited about going to the Whisky Festival then I was about Christmas so my countdown was not to December 25th like most normal level headed people, no mine was to Victoria Whisky Festival - January 17th 2013 because my quest was going to be fulfilled.  Laugh at me if you will but when I latch on to something I don't let go until I have satisfied that "itch". I was not disappointed.  Stephen's class was one of the highlights of the whisky festival, as mentioned in my review:  

So here is where things take a bit of a serendipitous turn for me.  As part of the Master Class, we were given a sample of whisky that was not yet on the market.  I don't recall if Stephen told us we were "guinea pigs" or not, but I recall him stating they were interested in what we thought.  I nosed/tasted the sample and made my notes accordingly.  Some discussion took place in the class of about 25 and all in all, those that spoke up really seemed to enjoy the flavor profile.  I, included.  Legacy was my second favorite dram, after the 18.  After the class I told Graham what I had sampled and how much I really enjoyed the NAS (no age statement) very much.  Flash forward coming back east, surviving the rest of winter, writing blogs, doing tastings, etc..  and I'm sitting at my computer at work when I notice some discussion on twitter about the newest Tomatin Release.  It seemed there was quite a bit of excitement around it and many were getting the opportunity in the UK and Europe to try it.  
YES, IT'S PINK!
I stopped and thought about it for a moment and went digging into my bag pack for my trusty "note book".  I was elated, actually BEYOND elated!  I, Whiskylassie,  had a chance to try a whisky BEFORE the people of UK and Europe.  This had never happened, ever!  I could partake in the conversation,share what I thought and for once I felt like I had scooped a new release!  That might not mean much to some, but for me it was another great moment on my whisky adventure.  I thought for sure the lucky streak was over.  I was wrong.  About two weeks after they launched Legacy I was on Facebook checking a few things like I often do and came across a photo on the Tomatin page asking for a clever descriptor to be added and that a small token would be sent out to the most popular one.  Well, mine won and not long after I received a lovely package from Tomatin.  I was excited when I saw the SWAG and even more excited to find tucked away lovingly a small bottle containing a sample of Legacy.   Another happy dance and more squealing ensued.  (Women can get away with that, thank Goodness :)

So, in light of receiving a sample I revisited the lovely whisky.  The following notes are from both times I tasted it.  Jan/13 and Apr/13:

TOMATIN LEGACY, NAS, bottled at 43% ABV.  Matured in Virgin oak then Maker's Mark ex-bourbon casks.  Chill-filtered and colored.

Color:   Wheat, very light.  Not a very viscous whisky, legs are plentiful and run quite freely.

Nose:  Jan/13:  Elegant, light and quite aromatic in nature.  Tinned fruit salad (like Del Monte fruit cups), vanilla is faint in the background and detect a bit of woodiness.  A bit of water opens up and it reminds me of a very refreshing lemon sherbet.  Apr/13:  This is really pleasant on the nose.  So light and has a "green" quality on it this time around.  I'm getting the distinct smell of pine trees after it rains?  Vanilla lingers in background and has a richer quality then I remember.  I'm also getting golden sultanas this time around which I didn't note in January.

Palate:  Jan/13: Does not quite equal the strength of nose.  It's a bit weak in flavor comparably.  Nice custard or sweet lemon cake quality.  After adding a few drops of water:  granny smith apples in the background, tartness.   Apr/13:  Seems more balanced this time around,  still not as flavorful as the nose might hint to but vanilla pudding and more fruit (pears, or maybe pineapple - something crisp). Water added revealed barley type flavors.  Very pleasant. The longer it sat in my glass, the more flavorful it seem to become.

Finish:  Jan/13: White pepper, doesn't linger. Quite surprised at how short it is?  Apr/13:  Different recollection again, seems a bit spicy, but more like ginger.  Getting some of the oak this time, that I didn't notice the first time.  A bit "drying" in nature.  Very light and moderate finish this time around.


After having this for a second time around, I went into my whisky collection and pulled out a few more NAS type whiskies I have recently been drinking.  Dalmore, Jura, Auchentoshan, just to name a few...   and as I went back to look at some of my notes I noticed one thing that seemed to be a common thread:  I found the majority of the NAS's I was trying to be unbalanced.  The nose didn't even come close to equaling the palate and/or finish.  It wasn't a smooth transition and something ended up being "off" to the point where I wouldn't necessarily reach for that dram again anytime soon.  On both occasions that I imbibed the Tomatin that wasn't the case.  The nose is quite enjoyable, the palate albeit slightly weaker stands up nicely.  Possible because they chose to bottle it at 43%.  The finish surprised me the second time around.  I really enjoyed the discovery of a bit of "wood" on the finish.  Overall the whisky did a great job at pleasing my senses.  I did enjoy it better without water. 

Funny sometimes where the brain ends up.  Tomatin decided to call this whisky:  LEGACY.  I thought that was pretty bold, almost "ballsy" in nature.  For something to be called a Legacy, you would think it's been around.  It's got to have history behind it.  Ok, so just about every distillery in Scotland has history but why choose the name Legacy for something that is brand new, has no age statement attached to it and let's face it, Tomatin is not exactly one of the "BIG 5"...   I pondered this for weeks because I couldn't quite wrap my head around it.  Don't get me wrong, I read the release and why they say they chose to call it Legacy and it makes perfect sense.  The distillery built itself by creating a community where nothing existed. These people have been its backbone for over 100 years.  Think about that...   Established farmers and shepherds turned into whisky makers in less then two generations.  Five generations later, the descendants are still there in the community.  The whisky itself may not necessarily be "the legacy", but everything that went into in for the last century is.  People long gone = old photos on walls of the past.  The stories, the friendships and time moving on.  Did they ever think they were creating a Legacy?   Do you?  Or is it something most of us start to consider once we reach the golden times of our lives? 

I firmly believe in all the things that come to me, seem to do so just when they are suppose to.  I may not be patient enough sometimes to realize that.  When I look back to how Tomatin came in the most serendipitous way possible, it was like the opening of the flood gates.  I'm glad I tried the age statements first.  I have a wonderful appreciation for Tomatin's regular line up and I think I see now that I had to "wait" for it to come.  I have a sneaking suspicion had I tried it back in Scotland or in 2011 I may have chosen a different Master Class at Victoria and I would have never had the chance to try Legacy.  Thank you "Whisky Gods" and thank you Tomatin. 

Tomatin 12, 15, 18 and 25 are now readily available in Canada (Edgemont Fine Wines - Vancouver, Kensington Wine Market - Calgary as examples) from about $55 - $350 dollars.  I have heard that the Legacy will be released here in North America soon.  Retailing for about 26 British pounds right now in UK, I'll guess it will be about $40-45 Canadian.   (Fingers crossed)...   I for one, will be buying it.  It is truly one of the better No Age Statement whiskies I have tried in the last 6 months and I highly recommend you try it if you have the chance. 


Lassie continues her journey, I hope you will have fun following along.

I leave you to discover what your "Legacy" will be...


Lassie

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review of whisky show #2 - CELEBRATE WHISKY HALIFAX...

Welcome to the East Coast.  NO NOT TORONTO!!!  The real Canadian East Coast.  Where you can walk up to your knees in the Atlantic Ocean, eat lobster for $4.95/lbs until you have to unbuckle your belt and meet some of the nicest people in the world!  Yes, this is where I'm from and I am super proud of it.  There are four provinces that make up the "Atlantic" coast:  New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.  All four with long traditional ties to the ocean, music and down home "kindness".  It's not uncommon for us to not only give directions but help people get there.  You need a place to stay, there's my couch.  We give without expecting anything in return.  Ask anyone who comes to visit, we are warm, fun loving people.  Our combined populations:  2,328,000 which is only 7% of Canada's total population.  We may be small, but we are big on life and living it well.  Nova Scotia is the largest of the four provinces.  It's capital city is Halifax.  Picturesque is not even close enough of a word to describe the beauty of this province.  Old world charm of Lunenburg, the raw beauty of the Atlantic Ocean at Peggy's Cove, the highlands of Cape Breton Island (where more people speak Gaelic per capita than Scotland) and rich Acadian roots of the North Shore. Seafood so FRESH you buy it off the boat seconds after it comes in the harbour. I love visiting this part of the world.   

In case you don't always read my blogs part of my journey planned for this year is going to different whisky shows across Canada and "rating" them.  My first one was in January at the Victoria Whisky Festival in beautiful British Columbia.  It only seemed right that I travel all the way to the other end of my country to visit the next one?  For those of you who don't realize the immensity of Canada, that's 6100 km considering the distance from Halifax to Dublin is 4200 km.  HUGE!  

Ok so back to why I'm writing this blog today:  CELEBRATE WHISKY 2013 in Halifax NS - March 22nd. I'll remind everyone what parameters I have chosen:  Cost (accommodations, events, classes, etc.), Venue (locale, food, geographic location), Classes (quality, type, time) Main Event (availability of whiskies, venue, services, knowledge of the exhibitors), Overall personal experience (people, place, whisky). Scoring explanation:  A (90-100, exceptional value), B (80-90, great value), C (70-80 Good value), D (60-70) Some value, F (FAIL - little to no value).

Let's begin.  Celebrate Whisky has only been in existence since 2012 so the show is truly still in its infancy.  Unlike many of the other shows I have attended this one is put on by a government entity: the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission and is not a non-profit endeavour.  It took place on Friday March 22nd and was one night only.  Pro #1 - Collect Air Miles points when you purchase tickets and/or whiskies.  


More shows should do this!!!
Pro #2 - You receive a booklet with layout of event, table/product placement and a list of all the whiskies that will be available (detailed info & price).  

Pro #3 - Celebrate Whisky has a silent auction that runs throughout the evening with many chances to win some rare whiskies. 

Pro #4 - An onsite ordering desk to purchase the whiskies available at the show.  

Con #1 - Whiskies are only available two weeks later at the local liquor store of your choice for pickup)

COST: 
 Accommodations:   Hotel did not have a special rate for the whisky event and regular price for a room $140/night.  I did a bit of research and got the room for $109.  So, a small savings of $31 dollars.

Events:  There were only two:  The whisky panel discussion, 80 tickets available ($45) and the main showcase ($95). Both were sold out by the evening of the event.


I didn't attend the panel, so my only purchase was a main showcase ticket.  

Total cost for lodgings & whisky festival for me = $204.  


TOTAL COST SCORE: B+

  VENUE:  The Lord Nelson Hotel is situated in the shopping district of Halifax.  It's rated 4 1/2 stars on Trip Advisor.  Easily accessible from airport or driving into the city.  Range of services available:  Onsite restaurant, pets allowed, free wireless, business, center, and fitness center.

Pro #1:  THEY TAKE PETS.  I love that.
Pro #2: Recently renovated rooms are awesome.
Pro #3:  Within walking distance to just about everything.

Locale:  The hotel is very Victorian.  Doormen in full uniform, staff exemplary and very important to me:  Comfy beds!  And as silly as this many sound:  A large bowl of fresh fruit at the front desk.  It's the little things that add up that make this hotel a truly relaxing and pleasant experience.

Food:  There is a restaurant/bar on site:  The Victory Arms.  Reasonably priced and great pub food.  Fast service and lovely staff!


Location:  It was great.  Seconds from the shopping district.  Spring Garden Road has everything at your fingertips:  Restaurants, malls, beautiful gardens, minutes from the harbor.  You can take a virtual tour (the lobby is amazing):  www.lordnelsonhotel.ca



TOTAL VENUE SCORE:  A


CLASSES: 

Well here is where the struggle begins.  They are only in their second year.  For 2013 they added the Whisky Panel event which ran before the Main Showcase from 4:30 - 6:30pm.  The session featured a Q&A with Joanna Zannin-Scandella (Master Blender at Crown Royal), John Hall (Owner/whisky maker at Forty Creek), Kate Flanagan (Brand Ambassador Jameson), Simon Brooking (Master Ambassador Laphroaig) and Marc Laverdi√®re (Brand Ambassador Highland Park/Macallan/Famous Grouse) and of course some whisky sampling.  Tickets were $45 and it did sell out quickly.  I did not attend so cannot review it personally.  I spoke to several people who did attend and they thought it was a great added value to the experience of the main showcase.

As far as how I feel about what was available.  I understand it's a one evening only event and all I can do is compare what was available to other whisky shows I've attended.  If you go back to my Victoria show revue here:  you will note that dinners were about $65-$125, Grand Tastings were $45 and Master Classes were $28.  So although I think doing something different this year at Celebrate Whisky was a great idea, I find the choice of the Whisky Panel and cost do not equal good value for a whisky show.


TOTAL CLASSES SCORE:  D


MAIN EVENT:
I purchased my ticket online the day they became available.  There were two rooms to wander about in, plenty of space and tables to stand at to make your notes.  The main area had a carving station set up at one end and smorgasbord at the other end.  Also happening at the same time was an endless loop of waiters with large trays of food walking around:  Bacon wrapped scallops, duck rolls with blueberry sauce, curried meatballs, veggies, etc.  WE DID NOT GO HUNGRY.  A bit of a difficulty finding water at times and you had to wait to get to the front of a table to get rid of whisky/water, etc..   

There were 150 whiskies to try, some of them quite different and new to the show.  Not much from independent bottlers but lots of the usuals from the big guns.  Major improvement over last year's show:  People pouring mostly had knowledge of what they were putting in my glass.  All were very friendly and quite courteous.  Even more lovely, from my perspective (and please don't take this the wrong way) no "barbies" behind the counters there for being pretty and not much else.  I found women pouring who were intelligent, well dressed and quite interesting to talk to.  The best whisky surprise for me that evening was hands down called Bastille 1789 which is a blended whisky from France.  What a delightful whisky and only $50.00  I was also impressed with the amount of Canadian whiskies the NSLC brought in for the show, which ended up being the majority of my purchases.  Another lovely whisky and coup de gr√Ęce for this show:  First in Canada to get their hands on a small amount of the Bowmore Tempest Small Batch Release IV.   It's not even available in the UK yet?  

Also a first for Atlantic Canada:  Masterson's Straight Rye Whisky.  A Canadian whisky not available in Canada, until now.  NSLC now carries it, $85.  I bought it.  DELISH!   Had a chance to have a great conversation about it with Adam behind the table and if you have a chance to try this, or better yet buy it, DO!  I (blindly) scored it quite high when I judged the CWA last year.  Very well balanced 100% rye whisky.  


TOTAL MAIN SHOWCASE SCORE:  B


Overall Personal Experience: This festival is so young which makes it difficult to compare it to some of the other whisky events I am used to going to, however it is a fun little show with lots of potential to turn into something bigger in a few years (fingers crossed).  The hotel is a great venue.  The main showcase is well thought out and quite organized.  Food - DELISH.  The after party happened in the bar at the hotel, plenty of drinks were poured, lots of great discussions with Brand Ambassadors and other bloggers.  A little later on, some of us (NB group) headed up to one of the suites were we were entertained by John Hall from Forty Creek (he's an excellent fly fisherman in the event you wondered?!  hehe).    

Me & @firepuncher being "serious" 
Something I've noticed more and more as I attend these events is how much I am enjoying meeting the people behind the scenes may it be the bloggers, twitterers or whisky personalities.  They seem to really enhance the experience of being at a show.  It was awesome to walk around, recognize so many people and have some of the best discussions with the new as well as old friends I have made.  It was a blast to meet Phlis McGregor from CBC Halifax.  Her and I hung out for the first couple of hours of the show and really worked our noses/palates on those first few drams together.  Some of the "Halifax boys" were out in full swing:  Bruce Fraser, Steve Keeling, Robert Snell, Jeff Pinhey just to name a few.  It was great falling in and out of conversations, discussing what whiskies we were trying and pointing out the "surprises" or "you gotta go try this one".  Funny enough I knew more people at the Halifax show then I do at our local whisky show in NB.  It was really cool and somewhat humbling to be introduced as "this is Whisky Lassie" and through the handshakes and hugs hearing "I love reading your blog".  

OVERALL PERSONAL EXPERIENCE SCORE:  B+

So that was Whisky Festival #2 for 2013.  It's a good festival but it could use "more" so I look forward to seeing what they will do to make it bigger and better as the years go by.  

Recommendations:  Maybe one or two classes available before the showcase or make it a two day event.

Unanswered questions:  I realize this is run by the liquor corporation and that the show is for profit.  They are there to make money, understood.   However, my personal feeling on this is that they are charging "BIG FESTIVAL" prices for a little festival.  Had I purchased just a main event ticket in Victoria (one of the largest festivals in Canada) I would have paid $110.00 and they showcased over 300 whiskies.  Halifax:  Ticket $95 for 150 whiskies.  Not that anyone could ever sample every single whisky, that's not my point.  

My point is or better yet my question becomes is the NSLC taking advantage of the public by charging BIG ticket prices but offering SMALL event whiskies?   Hard to say, as stated this is to make money and it all goes back in the liquor commission's coffers.  Honestly from 95% of the conversations I had with local whisky imbibers, they didn't seem to mind.  They were simply happy to be there and have a whisky show in their city of Halifax.


FINAL SCORE FOR CELEBRATE WHISKY NOVA SCOTIA
  

If you live in Nova Scotia and are willing to spend $100 for an evening out involving whisky, this is a show that offers good value.  If you are from out of town and want a little more bang for your buck, you may want to wait a few years to see if this will improve.  I for one don't mind the 4 hour trek or the vacation time off from work needed to get there on a Friday but I certainly hope they will consider expanding the show or at least making it worth $100/ticket.  

In the meantime, I look forward to my next trip:  Spirit of Toronto in May 2013. 

PEGGY'S COVE LIGHTHOUSE
If you've attended the NS show this year, by all means I'd love to hear from you, please feel free to leave your comments.  

Walking along the Atlantic Ocean

Lassie...  out!

  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Time for a whisky review - Skype style...

Soooooo sorry ---
First and foremost my sincerest apologies go out to Richard for my extreme tardiness on this.  It's been quite a while since I actually have done a whisky review and there's a really good reason for that.  I promised myself I wouldn't review one single whisky until I finished this particular blog.  I've been writing about experiences, trips, people but not one whisky review.  


Back in November I received a message from a fellow twitterer that he really enjoyed our blog and banters on the "interweb", so much so that he was quite intrigued by a blog idea I was toying with.  I am always looking for the why's in just about all aspects of my life and whisky is no different.  I wanted to see if there was much of a difference between a distillery bottling and an independent bottling of the same whisky and this is where Mr Culver fits into the equation.  After a few discussions, we narrowed it down to Ledaig 10 year old and a Duthies Ledaig 13 for a head to head comparison and tasting challenge.  I invited Richard to join us and I was very happy he obliged.  
We had a great 2 hours talking over Skype, sharing stories and of course drinking whisky! When we hung up both Graham and I agreed it was a fantastic way to enjoy whisky with friends who didn't live in the same city.  So, soon thereafter I started writing my blog, then Christmas season came along and I put it on the back burner.  Survived that and quickly realized I caught the worse cold in the world (I kid you not as I think back to me sitting on the couch at 11:00am on a Saturday begging Graham to help me because I was so sick even my hair hurt).  That awful pestilence lasted almost 3 full weeks.  Then we were off to Victoria for 10 days.  It simply felt like there was one thing after the other that seemed to keep me from writing this particular blog.  I had what I call my "had to writes" because I had committed to review or write something for someone and this one sat in draft form... waiting.  Finally, a break in the madness and the first draft of the blog was finished the long weekend in Easter.   So, again my sincerest apologies for dragging this one along.  I've cleaned off the dust and here it is. I introduce Richard Culver (@rmculver),  fellow Canadian twitterer, imbiber, traveler and member of the "whisky community" of Toronto who has a great nose for whisky.
Richard enjoying Canadian winter & whisky
"Thanks for letting my own whisky journey be a part of your experience.  Glad to provide you with a dram of Ledaig from Duthies.  Duthies, a division of Candenheads, is one of three independent bottlers.  There are independent bottlers like Cadenheads who bottle their own products; and lots of companies whose products are bottled under contract.  The information can be almost overwhelming.  Thankfully the Malt Maniacs do a pretty good job of sorting it out for me.  I like Ledaig.  This lightly peated malt hits a sweet spot for me.  I usually bring back a bottle from my trips to Scotland since it's not readily available in Ontario.  Loch Fyne Whiskies puts this malt in the same single malt flavour map quadrant as Lagavulin 12.  I can tell why they do.  Do a taste comparison keeping in mind the Ledaig 10 is half the cost of the Lag 12 cask strength.  Nose both glasses the next morning and see if you can tell the difference then.

On my last trip I traveled to the distillery on the Isle of Mull.  Definitely excited about going, and really hoped to pick up a distillery edition or something more aged than their 10 year old.  I know that older bottlings exists because I've seen them on Whiskymarketplace.com. I tended to shy away from independent bottlings because I've been burnt before.  I bought a different but well known distillery product that I can best describe as vapid.  It was a lifeless spirit from a tired old cask.  I had always wondered if a distillery contacts the bottler and says:  "You can have these tired old casks for cheap" OR, if the bottlers come into the distillery with their accomplished noses and say "How much do you want for these casks with the bright shiny spirit that seems so promising".  In truth it's neither of these extremes.  Many bottlers buy the new make spirit freshly distilled to put in their own casks.  I am still cautious about buying independent bottlings.  The Duthies Ledaig was a bottle I picked up at a Companions of the Quaich meeting.  It's nice to sample whiskies before deciding what to buy.  Ralfy says you always should.  I trust Ralphy and Ed Patrick.  Both are respectable individuals. First time I imbibed these two whiskies I sat down with Tom Alexander.  Here are our comments on the head to head we did with the Ledaig 10 vs the Duthies Ledaig 13:


  
LEDAIG 10 YEAR OLD, 46.3% ABV:

Colour:  Bright shimmering sunshine.  

Nose & Tasting:  Reminiscent of Springbank and Talisker with its peppery caramel seaweed background.  I found a lemony citrus afternote like that which persists after you have licked the salt off of your hand and washed it down with tequilla.  Water muted it, but brought out more peat.
DUTHIES LEDAIG 13 YEAR OLD, 46% ABV: 

Colour:  Slightly muted.  Lighter & more pale than the Distillery Ledaig 10.

Nose & tasting:  More of a vegetable note, also wet rubber boots.  With water it definitely opened up more than the distillery bottling and the extra age did offer more to savour.   

VERDICT:  Both were well liked.  My favorite was the distillery Ledaig 10 whereas Tom's favorite was the Duthies.  Either way, both bottles offer a good dram at a very attractive price. We ended our evening with the Lagavulin 12 and it was interesting to note the similarities.

Part of my own whisky journey is about discovering and identifying the base spirit and notes with a brand.  This light bulb went on after attending a Glenfiddich deconstruction with Jamie Milne and tasting the range with Ian Millar, both Masters of their craft.  While tasting the Glenfiddich range with Ian, he brought out a bottle of Peated Glenfiddich and the epiphany happened.  This dram that I was enjoying was at its core the Glenfiddich that we all love, just so wonderfully peated.  I recommend you look for the 125th anniversary edition."

Richard

Back to Lassie writing:

From my perspective what I truly loved about this experience was meeting yet another person from the whisky fabric, having the most wonderful evening sitting at the computer, laughing, sharing stories, enjoying a whisky and simply living in the moment of today's technology.  As Richard sat in his home in Ontario and Graham & I sat at the kitchen table in Saint John, we connected.  We met someone who shared the same passion as us, we enjoyed the stories (some of which were truly hilarious and PG rated somehow, totally by accident of course) and in the end our horizons were broadened just a little more by the curiosity and love of all things whisky.  It was Graham's first experience doing a Skype tasting and he truly enjoyed it.  He and Richard now follow each other on Twitter and often have great discussions about all aspects of whisky.  

So here is what I thought of the whiskies:

LEDAIG 10 year old, 46.3% ABV

Color: Golden wheat.  Whisky legs are plentiful and almost sticky.

NoseQuite light I thought with a very soft salty peat.  There's some cereal on the nose, but with a hint of seaweed and Atlantic ocean "air". 

Palate: Not much spice at the forefront, seems a bit muted now with the peat but there's a nice smokiness to it.  I find this quite rich and a full bodied dram.  Some earthiness to it, like a bit of "wet forest".

FinishNot overly long but still smoky with a bit of "hotness" to it like cinnamon or cloves.


DUTHIES LEDAIG 13 YEAR OLD, 46% ABV

Color: Simply not as golden as the distillery bottling.  It's more like a winter sunny yellow.  Seems slightly muted compared to Ledaig 10.  The legs are also plentiful and very viscous.

Nose: This whisky seems to have more personality and is slightly more aromatic on the nose then the 10. It's much more citrus and cereal on the nose.  Don't get me wrong the peat and coastal salt is there, but they are at the background.  It seems a bit creamier or more full on the nose.

Palate As we sat and chatted, I noticed the palate changed slightly from start to finish.  It started off a bit more herbal for me, very smooth. Grassy meadows.  Then after a few minutes the smoke comes back, more like a burnt out fireplace.  Quite a nice palate, not as aggressive as the nose.

Finish:  Medium finish, a bit longer than the 10.  Also a bit more "piquante" in nature (assuming because of the ABV difference).  

Overall I think I liked the 13 just a bit more than the 10 from the distillery as it was a more balanced dram from start to finish.  But I would easily own either bottle in my personal collection or recommend them to others if you like whiskies like this:  Salty, slightly peated, full bodied and quite tasty in nature.  The "meat and potatoes" sort of dram that does not disappoint when you are in the mood for something that will linger and makes you take note from the time you lift the glass to your nose.  

So, I will thank Richard yet once again for indulging in my curiosities and I plan on doing this type of little tasting again soon with a few other distillery vs independent releases.  And of course, I plan on asking Richard to "assist" me on this part of my journey.  It was truly a pleasure doing this, my only regret is that I didn't get to put it in "print" a long time ago like I should have.  Sometimes the Lassie is not remotely close to being on top of things.  Doesn't happen often but when it does...  oh boys does it ever happen.

I strongly encourage you try a whisky tasting via Skype if ever you can.  Hell, just ask....  I'd be happy to take part!   

From yet another wonderful aspect of the whisky trail, I remain the silly and slightly embarrassed Whisky Lassie...




  PS - Very much looking forward to meeting Mr. Culver in person at Spirit of Toronto in a few weeks!