Brexit, that all news consuming pending catastrophe / taking back control or whatever we’re calling it this week. While we’ve no real qualms about being stuck with only Scottish, English and at a pinch Welsh whisky there are a few drams from our neighbours on the continent that we’d rather not have to say farewell to.
Bushmills 10 year old is the iconic Irish Single Malt Whiskey, the distillery having survived the closure of all but one other. Its bouquet is slightly sweet, very lively with hints of fresh honey, ripe fruit, banana peel and chocolate pudding. The 10 year old is incredibly well rounded, very elegant, long, fresh and with a smoky, dry style that leaves you wanting more. Despite the low ABV it actually handles water pretty well opening up wonderfully.
The Goldlys Distillers Range continues with an Oloroso cask-finished Belgian double still whisky. After being distilled using both column and pot stills, this expression was matured for 12 years and, during that time, it enjoyed a finishing period in a cask which previously held Oloroso Sherry. Excellent as ever from the Belgian distillers, Filliers.
For those not in the know Michel Couvreur is an independent whisky bottler whose maturation cellars are located in Bouze-lès-Beaune in Burgundy. They specialise in unusual whiskies produced by traditional methods, such as Bere Barley, and a borderline rediculous attention to cask management and maturation conditions.
This Special Vatting is a blend of three single malts over 12 years old. Its backbone is made of a very ripe and potent whisky (Oloroso cask), a younger whisky with iodine and peat to provides freshness and a whiskey to bring the balance and consistency and balance to the blend. The result is a depth and spicy richness fresh iodineand sea salt, leather, fine tobacco, dried fruit and oak. A silky palate with a long and powerful finish. Extremely long and complex, and for you smokers robhust enough to make a wonderful companion to a cigar
Redbreast 12 has been around for years and only recently seems to be getting a shove in terms of marketing and wider awareness among whisky fans. Another output of the massive Middleton distillery complex Redbreast 12 is a Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey. The single pot still style emerged back in 1682 when the government introduced a tax on malted barley, in a clever cost cutting measure distilleries started using a mix of malted and unmalted barley in their whiskies, the result was a spicier, creamier grain taste that's sometimes compared to an older Rye. Redbreast 12 is a fantastic, and more importantly affordable example of this. The 15 and 21 are both exceptional whiskies but neither can match the 12 year old for it's unique grainy notes
Tycho's Star is distilled at Spirit of Hven distillery using a combination of both unpeated and heavily peated barley. The result is a big bold and fruity spirit with chocolate notes. The smoke is sweet and mineralic in the Islay style rather than the more herbaceous smoke of Mackmyra. The palate is nowhere near as fruity or sweet as the nose would suggest but packs fantastic spiced notes into the usual unripened banana and apple, there's a lingering red liquorice and berb finish. It's not superbly complex but it's a solid everyday whisky
Mackmyra Brukswhisky was first introduced to the market in 2010 and is now, several awards later, part of the Swedish distillery's core range. Although primarily matured in first fill bourbon barrels some of the vatting includes whisky Sherry and Swedish oak casks. With just a touch of smoky malt whisky and the signature Mackmyra funk this is a fantastic bottle. On the nose, lime and lemon and an oddly tropical note reminiscent of strayberries and cream, distinctive and unusual. The palate is oily yielding flavors of pears, blueberry and wild fruits. The finish continues is a slow and steady descent from the palate. A simple and very pleasant summer whisky.
Langatun is the Celtic version of 'Langenthal' which means 'the fortified place on the Langa' (water). It's also the name of a Swiss whisky distillery opened in 2007 (though in true marketing speak they describe it as being re-opened as distillation happened previously on the site).
Old Deer is the distillery’s core expression, made using 100% unpeated barley, fermented with an English stout yeast and triple distilled for maximum smoothness. The whisky is matured for six years in a combination of Sherry and Chardonnay casks and bottled at 62.8% ABV though you'd never guess the ABV from the surprisingly mellow spirit. It's notably young but also a damn fine whisky, reflected in the accolade of 95.5/100 points awarded in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Look for cereal notes, malt and vanilla bean with plums and red apples, there's a hint of orange peel as well. The long, oily and peppery finish sticks around for a long time. A few drops of water opens up the whisky unveiling an liquorice note. Very accessible so it makes a great, and highly unusual gift.
Launched by Allison Parc, in collaboration with a French distiller in Cognac, Brenne is a truly unique French whisky. It is made from malted barley of Cognac, distilled twice, then aged in Limousin oak barrels and then in Cognac barrels. Brenne is full of sweet and complex notes; crème brûlée, caramel, bananas, tropical fruits and spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
There is a disntinct Armangac quality to this whisky which does take a little getting used to, but should be familiar to any drinkers of Amorik. It's clearly designed for the french market but this is an elegant, sophisticated whisky that I'm sure they would tell us embodies the terroir and style of the region in which it is produced. Or if you're speaking to a Scotsman; if you like a brandy from time to time, or lean towards the wine maturation this is a stellar dram.
The redbreast range is spectacular generally, the 12 showcasing the Irish Pot Still style, the 15 is rounder and more mellow. The 21 is easily the best of the buntch though having picked up countless awards, hence the price tag. Consider it though, it scored a near perfect 97/100 in Jim Murray's 2017 Whisky Bible, and second best in the world in 2018. The Redbreast 21 is drawn from similar casks types to the 12 and 15 year old bottlings but also uses some first-fill oloroso casks which really make the difference. This 21 year old is one of our favourite whiskies of all time.
The 21 is packed with rich, spiced fruit flavours along with some surprisingly fresh barley and tropical fruit flavours. Either let it sit or add a little water to really open it up.
The Zuidam Distillery, founded in 1974 by Fred and Helene van Zuidam and currently run by their sons Patrick and Gilbert is located in Baarle-Nassau on the Dutch-Belgian border. Notably it's the only Distillery in The Netherlands that ferments, distills, ages and bottles all on its own premises. In addition to Single Malt Whiskies, Zuidam also produces Rye Whisky, Gin, Rum, Genever and Liqueurs. The name Millstone derives from the Windmills that are used by Zuidam to mill their Malted Barley.
On the nose it's a fairly classic sweet vanilla you would expect from ex-bourbon casks, then bam, Madeira cake, marzipanand a touch of sea spray perhaps. It's a fairly thin dram, with low viscosity but oodles of chewy wood notes. A gentle sweetness, with nutmeg, stewed apples, and an incredibly faint waft of what might be a waft of peat. The finish is a fraction bitter, this might not be the best Millstone on the market, that honour goes to their rye, but it's a stunning dram from a distillery that's fairly new to the whisky game.