Category Archives: Whisky

Whisky Notes – Glenfarclas

One of the things I enjoy very much is whisky, check the name of this blog after all! And as part of my doing things more deliberately, I set a timer at 8:55 am this morning and I didn’t waver from work until it went off 50 minutes later. At that point, I got up and walked around the floor of our building twice and came back to spend 5 minutes checking personal e-mails.

One of them was from Glenfarclas telling me that they had updated their website. I marked it as unread and labelled it “want to follow up” and returned to it at lunch. First note, I don’t really remember the old website, so it’s sort of as a new viewer that I’m reviewing this one.

from the Glenfarclas website

So, the new website – first of all, thank you for not making me have to enter in my whole birth date. A simple Yes or No to the question “are you of legal age wherever you are in the world right now” was nice.

The first image is of a couple of rows of barrels. And the byline “Made to age” is nice. The font choice is very deliberate I am sure, ‘Made’ is block letters that look a little worn around the edges, ‘age’ in a great flowery flowy script.

The stories told on the site are lovely and the pictures are very nice. I loved learning that when John Grant’s son George died, the licence for the distillery went to George’s widow Elise. And nice to find out that there’s yet another George Grant carrying on the Glenfarcas tradition.

Glenfarclas is a speyside whisky. Speyside is an area in Scotland around the River Spey. For a Canadian connection, wikipedia tells me that Robert Simpson, who founded Simpson’s, was born there. And “Speyside” is a protected locality for whisky in the UK, much like a DOP rating for Italian cheeses – in English it’s “protected designation of origin.” Basically, the UK law sets out that a whisky cannot be labelled, or advertised, in a way that includes a protected locality or region unless the whisky is Scotch Whisky that has been distilled in that locality or region. (source: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2009/2890/regulation/10/made)

The definition of “scotch whisky” in the regulation is a little over half a page!

By Drawn by User:Briangotts as Image:Scotch regions.png and converted to SVG by w:User:Interiot. – Erskine, Kevin. The Instant Expert’s Guide to Single Malt Scotch. Doceon Press, 2005.Jackson, Michael. Complete Guide to Single Malt Scotch. Running Press, 2004.Wilson, Neil. The Island Whiskey Trail. Glasgow: Angel’s Share, 2003., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2498675

Anyway, it’s a speyside I spent all of the afternoon thinking about: how I would pour a drink, post a picture and some tasting notes. Only I have none! None! I must have finished it a while ago. But I already had this much of the post so there you go. You get a bit about Glenfarclas, and I add it to my list of bottles to watch out for at the LCBO.

My parents are enablers….and spoil me rotten

So my mother calls me a month or so ago:

Mom: I want you to look this up: master of malt
Me: I know exactly what that is.
Mom: you would. Anyway, go buy the advent calendar for me. I want to give it to your father.
Me: Okay (typing in the background)
Me: They don’t ship to Canada
Mom: Then why are they advertising here?

hmmmm I dunno about that one. BUT conveniently enough my father was going to be in Malta shortly. Master of Malt ships to Malta. So the rest is history:

it's the most wonderful time of year....

it’s the most wonderful time of year….

My mom actually bought us both one. And how I knew about it? No less than four friends shared a link on facebook with me. Clearly, my friends know what I like!

Day 1 = Glenfarclas 25 year old. Man, talk about starting on a high note. One of my new favourite whiskies ever. Tangy but clean. Nutty with a bit of ginger. Consumed neat 😉 And in a price comparison the Master of Malt wins (£90 vs. £108 at the Whisky Exchange. And a whopping $237 at the LCBO 🙁 – which is about £114 so I suppose not so bad if you factor in shipping etc.) Of course finding one here might be a whole other story.

I seem to be returning to the year of my birth a lot lately. From the Glenfarclas website: “Glenfarclas was one of the first distilleries in Scotland to open a dedicated visitor centre in 1973.” It’s a Speyside whisky – both mine and my dad’s favourite whiskies are Speysides (Glenlivet and Glenfiddich respectively) Of course, those are also – according to Wikipedia at least – the two best selling single malts in the world!

I’m sure I won’t post every day for every dram but the origin story needed to be told. Day 2 is a Japanese whisky: Miyagikyo

day 2

No age statement on this one but I’m not overly concerned with that. On opening – definitely strong sandalwood. Left open for a bit – far more fruity. Definitely raisins. And my sense of smell sucks. Lots of spice on the tongue right away.  A bit of a warming punch as it goes down. A clean finish with some lingering spicey notes.

Whisky Wednesday

So I started playing in net in a rec soccer league last Tuesday. It became painfully clear to me that I don’t know as much as I thought I did. I made a bunch of nice saves – and made the other team swear a bunch of time. BUT I also made a bunch of bad misplays basically ’cause I forgot all the stuff I thought I knew.

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Hoping this helps. I need to find one more for keepers but this will do as a start.

All of this to say I was reminded that I really wanted to go back to basics with the whisky too and learn more about it rather than just, well, just enjoying it. Thought I’d share what I learned here too.

So I picked up this book:

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And opened this bottle:

IMG_7647And got to reading.

Whisky – part 1

Hey it’s been more than a week since I’ve had this blog and there hasn’t been a whisky post yet. (A picture yes, here, but no post). So here we go.

Whisky, at its root, is fermented grain mash. Doesn’t that sound appealing? Depending on the grains used, and about 50 bazillion other factors, the final product ranges from the smoky, peaty, warm the inner-most parts of your every last organ Islays to the caramel and honey of some of the Kentucky bourbons, to the comforting nostalgia, well to me anyway, of “Canadian” whisky.

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NOTE: While I’ll try and keep my digressions to a minimum there’s bound to be some and well, this is the first of them. In Canada there is no legal requirement for “rye whisky” to contain anything more than the most miniscule bits of rye or rye mash. Actually, there’s no legal requirement to contain ANY rye. Seriously. That’s the way the Food and Drug Regulations are written.

B.02.020. [S]. (1) Canadian Whisky, Canadian Rye Whisky or Rye Whisky

(a) shall
(i) be a potable alcoholic distillate, or a mixture of potable alcoholic distillates, obtained from a mash of cereal grain or cereal grain products saccharified by the diastase of malt or by other enzymes and fermented by the action of yeast or a mixture of yeast and other micro-organisms,
(ii) be aged in small wood for not less than three years,
(iii) possess the aroma, taste and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky,
(iv) be manufactured in accordance with the requirements of the Excise Act and the regulations made thereunder,
(v) be mashed, distilled and aged in Canada, and
(vi) contain not less than 40 per cent alcohol by volume; and

(b) may contain caramel and flavouring.

(2) Subject to subsection (3), no person shall make any claim with respect to the age of Canadian whisky, other than for the period during which the whisky has been held in small wood.

(3) Where Canadian whisky has been aged in small wood for a period of at least three years, any period not exceeding six months during which that whisky was held in other containers may be claimed as age.

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This makes me sad. I don’t know if it’s always been this way but I’m not so fond of the Canadian Whiskies that are mostly corn based. Canadian Club for example, although I am told it’s Don Draper’s drink of choice on Mad Men. I can’t tell you what the percentages are for CC, I can’t find it anywhere on the website. Forty Creek is at least partially rye based and I far prefer it to CC. Highwood Distillers in Alberta also make a couple of products with actual rye in them – white owl and centennial. Both are yummy. One of my usual go-to bottles is actually Alberta Premium. What I didn’t know until quite recently was that Beam Inc, owns both CC and Alberta Premium now!

But this post isn’t meant to be about all of that legal stuff. Well, maybe a little. It’s also meant to be an intro as to why, when I say I like whisky, I mean everything from “scotch” to “bourbon” to “rye.” Oh and to show off a bottle I own…

For example, I got this bottle of rye from Toby for Christmas:

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It’s American (okay another digression – it’s sourced from Canada but bottled in the US; apparently that means it’s “American.” I don’t know how I feel about that one…), so calling itself rye means that it’s at least 51% rye based. Turns out Masterson’s is 100% rye. And man is it yummy. Earthy – you can taste the grain. And both peppery and vanilla-y. It finishes with a citrus, floral feel on the tongue.

It is lovely both on the rocks and in a rye and ginger.

yea, it's a better picture of my awesome glass

yea, it’s a better picture of my awesome glass

I love my rye and gingers. I recently told my mother-in-law that a rye and ginger is essentially a poor Canadian’s version of a Manhattan. And I also love my Manhattans. So much so that when we went out for a pre-birthday dinner at the globe bistro earlier this year, and I had the most wonderful Manhattan in recent memory, I told the waitress this. My enthusiasm for the drink must have been pretty evident because she went and told the bartender; who then came over to chat. I asked about the bitters used, and his preferred ryes and so on and while he was a little quiet and shy to start he soon spoke at length about what was available etc. And to cap it all off, at the end of dinner he brought over a “flight” of Manhattans – each with their own unique taste.

flight of manhattans_0001

This is all that remains. At least I was nice and shared with Toby and his parents!