Monday, March 4, 2019

Son Of Winston Churchill is closing its doors


Son of Winston Churchill is closings its doors for an unknown period of time.
The blog will remain active, but no new material will be added - at least not in the nearest future.

The reason behind this decision is because I have decided to take a leap of faith - and persuade a personal dream of mine, to create the first Danish whiskey blog devoted to American whiskey.

I would like to take the opportunity to thanks all of our readers, the amazing people who have contributed to our blog throughout the years, and our whiskey loving team. Without all of you, Son of Winston Churchill wouldn't have been the same.

You can follow my future endeavours over at www.straightwhiskey.dk

Cheers, Hasse Berg




Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Smooth Ambler. Very Old Scout - 14 Years


Today's review comes with a pretty neat story attached to it. A story about generosity in a world where the prevailing moral and ethics seems to be all about what you can gain for yourself, instead of what you can share with others.

As I probably mentioned before, it’s no secret that I hold Smooth Ambler – that this review will focus on -  in high regard, but a lot of their products, like their Very Old Scout releases (a variety of different age stated bourbons), aren't available outside the US, and the few Old Scout Single Barrel releases that actually made it to Europe are all long gone, so we Europeans have had to settle with their Contradiction, their Old Scout 7 and 10 years old bourbons and their 7 years old Rye, but as many of you probably know, sadly their rye was discontinued back in 2015 and their age stated bourbons followed suit in 2016, but at least the good news for all of us Europeans is, that Smooth Ambler’s NAS American Whiskey finally made its way to some of the major European whisky retailer’s stores.

Being a fanboy of Smooth Ambler, it kind of goes without saying that I have been looking to find a way to purchase a bottle or at least a sample of any given Smooth Amblers Very Old Scout and/or their Single Barrel expressions, but for years all my endeavors was in vain, and as time went by, I slowly started to write the opportune to taste any of the expressions off, as yet another whiskey I would never be able to taste, but by coincidence and the kindness of strangers, I finally got the opportunity.

My Swedish whiskey partner in crime; Linus, who’s partly responsible for that I’m a part of the close-knit Nordic Bourbon Blind-Sample Society, takes a yearly whiskey pilgrimage overseas to the States. The last time Linus was there, his go-to liquor store owner informs one of his best customers that this bourbon crazy Swede is coming to town, and the customer, a stranger to Linus at the time, invites him over for a cup of bourbon. The strangers’ whiskey collection is impressive, but there's especially one bottle that captures Linus's eyes; A 14 Year's old Smooth Ambler Very Old Scout. So, there's Linus, literally thousands of miles away from home, freely to choose among a number of amazing whiskeys, but he chooses to ask the stranger if he is willing to spare a sample of his Very Old Scout. Not for himself, but for his buddy in Denmark. Without hesitating, the stranger fills a sample bottle large enough to contain a sample for both Linus and… “Yeah!”… “You already guessed it, didn’t you?”… “Me!”

It brings me great comfort and joy knowing that there are people out there, who believe that whiskey was meant to be opened, enjoyed and shared with other like-minded fellows, not asking the slightest thing in return, not even from a total stranger, that doesn't even share the same nationality as you do, and I'm happy to say, that I know my fair share of people who live by the same mindset in this world where whisk(e)y in so many ways has been transformed from liquid sunshine to liquid gold, that are being purchased and resold to the highest bidder by whisky investors and collectors - who apparently got tired of playing Crypto day traders with their best buddies and collecting Vintage Bordeaux’ - or simply being flipped for insane amounts of money by your everyday whisk(e)y consumer, who grabbed the chance when he had it, and stocked up on that Highland Park with the dim Viking name.
       

Smooth Ambler. Very Old Scout – 14 Years
Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery: Smooth Ambler
Origin: MGP (Indiana)
Age: 14 Year
Average US Price: $85USD/514dkk
ABV/Proof: 100 Proof/50%
Bottled: 2017
Release: Limited release

92/100 points




Smooth Ambler’s Very Old Scout is sourced from MGP in Indiana, and they don’t reveal its mash-bill. 

Nose:
There's a healthy dose of barrel char on the nose, followed by the bourbon trinity; Vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar, with crème brûlée and orange peel strapped in, at the back seat. Truth be told, at first I find the nose to be a tad too sweet and a bit plain (read boring) for my liking, but after giving it a damn good swirl and about 10 minutes time in the glass, it opens up big time and becomes way more balanced, and a light wheat note reveals itself, and I really start to enjoy the whole show.

Palate:
Very dusty dry mouth feels, almost like being fed a shovelful of pleasant oak sawdust, if you get my drunken drift? It's extremely mellow and oh so pleasant. We are dealing with orange and apricot at first, followed by milk toffee, peanut butter and cinnamon stick in perfect harmony.

Finish:
The finish is long with toasted oak and a faint taste of black pepper.


Did you miss my previous description of Smooth Ambler? Hit this link, and we will take you right to it!

(This review was written as part of a blind tasting)

Review By: Hasse Berg
Photo By: Linus Jonsson


The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #116


Bookers Rye and 25th... Oh man!
When they're gone, they're gone.
Stellar juice!
 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Thornæs Selected. Strathearn Distillery. Cask 035 & Cask 037


Today's review is one that I have been looking forward to writing for some time now. Firstly because the whiskies that I’m about to review, comes from a distillery, that I have yet to be acquaintance with. Secondly, because the independent bottler responsible for these bottlings is a newly founded bottler from my home country Denmark, and we could definitely do with more Independent Bottlers around here, granted of course, that they offer quality over quantity.

The mentioned Independent Bottler (thought the company doesn’t fancy calling themselves so by name) is Thornæs Distillery. Thornæs Distillery was founded last year by independent Journalist Torben Thornæs Andersen, who’s – according to his webpage - “objective is to discover, purchase and re-sell high-end Scotch whisky products to dedicated whisky enthusiasts under the Thornæs – Selected brand”.

Thornæs Distilleries webpage furthermore states that the company plans to establish its own distillery in North Zealand, Denmark, where its main focus will be on Danish produced single malts, but also other distilled spirits. The Distillery is expected to produce its first batches within the first six months of 2019.
Well, I have been following Thornæs more or less from the beginning, and not once have the owner showed any signs of an actual distillery being built. I'm not saying it isn't, actually I truly hope it is, I'm just saying it's peculiar that a company who are looking for investors and are planning to produce its first batches of ”whatever” within the next six months, isn’t more keen on showing an actual sign of life. But I guess we will know more, a bit further down the road.

But let's focus on what we actually do know for certain. The Thornæs Distillery was officially registered as a Limited Liability Company on the 21 of May 2018 and is currently located at a home address in Fredensborg, Denmark. The company started popping up on social media’s in September 2018, around the same time where the first bottles under the Thornæs Selected brand were released.
So far, Thornæs has released two bottlings, both from the Scottish micro-distillery; Strathearn Distillery, which I truly must say, is a pretty bold move from a newly established company like Thornæs, to select casks for its first-ever bottlings, from a distillery that I’m fairly certain is unknown territory for most people, instead of selecting a cask from one of the safe bet distilleries on Islay, but nothing ventured nothing gained and all that jazz.
But apparently, Strathearn Distillery fits Thornæs Selected profile of high-end Scotch whiskies, whatever that means? Because in my old moldy book, high-end Scotch whisky is a pretty fluffy term like so many other buzzwords that are being used in regard to whisky these days, and one that I'm not, in particular, found of. The same thing goes with the premium whiskey, or even in some cases, super-premium whiskey term, that some American whiskey brands like to throw around for kicks and to tell the truth of it, I'm not even exactly sure how one would define a high-end whisky. By cost price? Quality? Age statement? Distillery? Your guess is as good as mine.

But let’s have a look at the two bottles and the Strathearn distillery, shall we?

I always appreciate it when independent bottlers offers as much information in regard to their bottlings as they possibly can, and Thornæs offers plenty via their webpage. That being said, I would have liked to know whether or not Strathearn uses E150a caramel coloring in their products and if they chill filter their whisky or not, but besides that, I’m pretty much a happy camper at this point.

Most Scotch whiskies are being bottled in 70cl bottles, but as of recently Independent bottlers like That Boutique-Y Whisky, The Elements Of Islay series from Elixir Distillers and the newly established Swedish indie bottler Selected Malts, to name a few, all use 50cl bottles, and it seems that Thornæs Select is going to follow this trend. The two whiskies are simply called Cask 035 and Cask 037 and are both drawn from a single cask, with an outtake of respectively 77 and 76 bottles. Both whiskies are bottled at 58% ABV and are aged for around four years. The cost price for cask 035 is 1095dkk/$167usd and cask 037 can be bought for 995dkk/$152usd.

Well, I don’t know about you? But the hefty price-tags on these 50cl bottles alone would be enough for me to look elsewhere. For example toward buying that 24 years old Tormore from Signatory’s Cask Strength Collection that I have been eyeballing for quite a while now, which cost price sits just between Thornæs Selected bottles. But then again, who knows? Actually tasting these malts might change my mind.

But maybe I’m the odd one out here, because it seems that some people are more than happy to pay hundreds of dollars for Strathearn’s malts, because according to the 2019 edition of The Malt Whisky Yearbook, Strathearn’s first single malt was put up for action, where the hundred 50cl bottlers sold for a median price of $420usd, which I believe to be a symptom of the highly collective La La Land that some whisky collectors live in, and says a lot about the things that have gone sour in the world of whisky. Because truth be told, whisky was meant to be enjoyed not stored in some whisky collectors basement, in hope of someday down the road, that a first edition bottle like that from Strathearn, will be worth a small fortune.

Strathearn Distillery, founded by Tony Reeman-Clark in 2013, is located in the Southern Highlands near Perth in Scotland. Though the term micro-distillery is being used and abused quite often, I believe it’s fair for a distillery like Strathearn with a yearly production capacity of only 30.000 liters to crown itself as one. Besides their Gin production, a peated (35ppm) an un-peated whisky is being produced. A variety of 50 – 100 liters virgin American oak, Virgin French oak and ex-sherry casks are being used to mature their whisky in. The first single malt Scotch whisky from the distillery was released in December 2016. Tony Reeman-Clark did play around with some very interesting experiments, where he matured Strathearn’s whiskey in, among others, mulberry and chestnut casks, labeling the whisky Uisge Beatha instead of Scotch to avoid offending the almighty SWA. But it didn’t work out as he had hoped for, and the "Uisge Beatha" was discontinued in 2017, due to a controversy with the authorities’ whether or not the name was in accordance with the EU regulations.
     

Thornæs Selected. Strathearn Distillery. Cask 035
Single Malt Scotch Whisky, from a Single Cask

Distillery: Strathearn
Bottler: Thornæs Selected
Region: Highlands
Age: 4 Years
Proof/ABV: 58% ABV
Distilled: June 2014
Bottled: July 2018
Dk price: 1095dkk/$167USD
Release: Limited 77 50cl. bottles release
Cask: Virgin French Oak

Points: 91/100


Cask 035 has been matured in a 50 liters virgin French oak cask, with a medium char level. Strathearn uses three different barley types to produce this whisky: The Marris Otter Barley (which was abandoned by many other distiller’s years ago due to the low yield) Bere Barley (commonly grown on Orkney Island. I believe most whisky enthusiasts recognize the barley from Bruichladdich Bere Barley bottlings) and medium peated barley.

Nose:
Oak right off the bat, followed by a burst of alcohol and gentle peat smoke. When the alcohol calms down, a very pleasant apricot note appears.
  
Palate:
Judge entirely on the nose, I didn’t expect this dram to be as balanced as it turned out to be. Very pleasant dry mouth-feels that turn incredibly smooth towards the finish. There are notes of vanilla, sweet oak and honeydew melon with a touch of dry cigar smoke in the backseat.

Finish:
Long, warm, milk chocolate finish with just a couch of mouth-pickling spices.

Conclusion:
I’m quite blown away by this dram. Apart from the alcohol steam on the nose, this four years old whisky is way more elegant, sophisticated and complex, than most of the Scottish produced whiskies that I have tasted in the past.
       

Thornæs Selected. Strathearn Distillery. Cask 037
Single Malt Scotch Whisky, from a Single Cask

Distillery: Strathearn
Bottler: Thornæs Selected
Region: Highlands
Age: 4 Years
Proof/ABV: 58% ABV
Distilled: February 2014
Bottled: July 2018
Dk price: 995DKK/$152USD
Release: Limited 76 50cl. bottles release
Cask: Ex-Merlot Cask

Points: 88/100


Cask 037 has been matured in 50 liters French Ex-Merlot wine barrel and is made of 100% Marris Otter Barley.
   
Nose:
More rounded and mellow in comparison to Cask 35. The red wine note isn’t as dominating as I had expected. It is quite on the contrary, and to my pleasant surprise, very well integrated among the pleasant notes of roasted coffee beans, dark chocolate, vanilla, raisins and orange peels. This cask makes me think of a mellowed version of Aberlour’s A’Bunadh batches.       

Palate:
This bad boy carries a punch at first, but it quickly settles down and opens up for a dominating toffee treat, followed by dark maple syrup and light oak.

Finish:
A fistful of black pepper, marzipan and figs mingle in the medium-long finish.

Conclusion:
If used wisely, ex-fortified wine casks can add an extra dimension and a very pleasant note to a whisky, but it can just as easily overpower and ruin its true nature and profile. The same thing goes, when it comes down to whisky there has been matured in ex-red wine barrels, but luckily it seems that Strathearn masters the art, and their Cask 035 is a prime example of a balanced and well-made whisky. Simply put, just a great dram.

When tasting whisky from new and upcoming distilleries, minor - or in some cases - major flaws are expected, and I for one got a habit of cutting the distillers some slag in their establishing “work in progress” years. But every now and again, you come across a young distillery who are playing in a league of their own, making whisky that I count my lucky stars for having been around to taste and Strathearn most defiantly belongs in that category. That being said, Strathearn most def needs to check their head, so I don’t have to mortgage our house, to follow them in the future endurance.

Samples purchased from Thornæs distillery from the purpose of this review.

Photos and Review By: Hasse Berg


The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #115


Pleased at presenting, the peatiest peat lover, Pete, whose predominant peated pleasure pour precariously piqued Pete's peaty passion. POWERLESS, Pete partakes pleasingly of peated malts on the pristine, yet palatial Port Ellen of Islay.
See what I did there? Cheers

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Douglas Laing's Big Peat Christmas Edition 2018



Douglas Laing’s Big Peat Christmas Edition. 8th release - 2018
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky.
Natural Cask Strength
Non-Chill-Filtered/No added colouring

Distillery: Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Port Ellen and other undisclosed Islay distilleries.
Bottler: Douglas Laing
Region: Islay
Age: NAS
Proof/ABV: 53,9%
Dk price: $79USD/500dkk

Points: 87/100


‘Tis this season, Douglas Laing’s Christmas Edition of their highly popular Islay representative; Big Peat has once again started to appear at your local whisky pusher.
This year’s Christmas edition is - as it’s seven predecessors - a blended/vatted small batch bottling, without colouring or chill-filtration, containing Whiskies, from among others; Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the now-closed Port Ellen distillery, bottled at 53,9% ABV cask strength.

Last year’s edition received a 84/100 point score here on our whisk(e)y blog. If you want to read the review and gain more information’s regarding the Big Peat brand, then follow the link provided here.

Nose:
Wet bonfire smoke and sweet peat, followed by lemon zest, medium grapefruit and old tar that have been added ages ago to a railroad-tie, if you follow my drift?

Palate:
An explosion of flavors! Right off the bat, I get gunpowder. Yeah, I know that people tend to pick that scent up on the nose, but here it’s present on the palate. Sweet malt, dark chocolate, black pepper, more lemon and a very pleasant underlying note of soft cigar smoke.     

Finish:
Smoked salmon, earthly peat and coal, all wrapped up in that cozy warm blanket feeling that some cask strength whiskies deliver.

Conclusion:
I can’t reconnect that I enjoyed last year’s Big Peat Christmas Edition this much. So I fetch the bottle from my cabinet - and notice that it’s half empty, so apparently, someone fancied it doing last year’s festivities – and pours myself a healthy glass to compare the two. Apparently my memories aren’t all shot to hell, which I must admit, is quite the relief at my age. Last year’s edition isn’t nearly as complex as this year edition and goes down way smoother without leaving the same satisfying mark on me.

Photos & Review By: Hasse Berg