Merry Christmas! Silence lifted

Merry Christmas to all my readers!

First thing’s first, I need to apologise for a 2 week silence. I’ve not been well and one of the first things to stop when I’m ill is nosing and tasting whisky.

A two week absence has left quite a backlog too! Over the next few weeks there will be posts on a Twitter tasting of Milroy’s whiskies, a multi-blogger event dubbed the “12 drams of xmas” and, of course, 13 more days of the whisky advent calendar.

I’ll also have some reviews of this year’s whisky christmas presents (pictured below). Some damn fine drams to review there!

xmasbottles

Top tip for giving/getting good whisky presents

Whisky lovers everywhere, how often have you heard this: “You’re so hard to buy for! I never know what to get you for christmas!”

*facepalm*

Us whisky lovers are the easiest people to buy for around. We always want whisky, we’ll always be very happy to open whisky, and, if you bought us whisky last year guess what? We still want whisky!

I think part of the problem is that buying whisky for a whisky nut can be daunting. “What if he/she doesn’t like it?” “I don’t know anything about whisky, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

This whole problem is not helped by seasonal staff in certain larger whisky retailers who are not that clued up themselves. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been browsing in some whisky shop and someone comes in looking for a whisky for their husband, dad or Grandad and the conversation goes something like this:

  • “I’m looking to buy whisky for my dad”
  • Does he like smokey whisky?
  • Yes I think so.
  • This Laphroaig quarter cask is very popular

Here is the thing. The whisky lover you know has tried Laphroaig quarter cask. They probably already have a bottle. They won’t be disappointed when they open it, sure. But you could really have surprised and blown them away here. Why do I never hear something like: This elements of Islay Caol Ila is a little different and he’ll really enjoy it, or Here is something a little different, it’s called “Peat Monster” by Compass box. 

Anyway, I think I’ve solved this problem, and it only took 10 minutes. The solution is to arm your spouse/partner with the following knowledge.

Learn to browse the independent bottlers. If you are not a whisky lover and you are reading this without having heard of indie bottlers, a quick aside is in order. Independent bottlers are whisky companies that don’t distill whisky, but they buy it from distillers. Often they’ll bottle it straight from the cask, sometimes they blend together whiskies from different distilleries to create interesting expressions. In general whisky from indie bottlers is much cheaper than own bottlings from the distilleries of equivalent ages.

Indie bottlers include: Cadenheads, Compass box, Elements of Islay, Douglas Laing, Signatory, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Blackadder, Malts of Scotland, Gordon and McPhail, Duncan Taylor and many more.

The great thing about them is that you always get something different, so the gift you buy is always likely to be a surprise that the whisky nut in your life hasn’t tried (and we love getting whisky we’ve never tried).

So, here is what you do (or what you teach your partner how to do):

  • Choose one of the indie bottlers above.
  • Browse their current range on the internet using one of the online whisky retailers (master of malt, the whisky exchange, Single Malts Direct, others are available).
  • Pick something in your price range.
  • Try to read 2-3 internet reviews of the chosen whisky including one from the malt maniacs:
  • If the reviews are good and the notes specify flavours you think he/she might like, get that.

I have tested this method out with Mrs dramstats. She isn’t interested in whisky and doesn’t particularly like it. It took 10 minutes to explain about indie bottlers and to show her a couple of websites. One month ago today was my birthday and the first test run of this method. She’d chosen a 21 year old Glenrothes by Old Malt Cask because she thought the flavours sounded good. She’d checked Jim Murray’s whisky bible, it got 94.5, so she decided to get it.

I’ve tasted it, I will be reviewing it at some point. It is the best whisky I have ever been bought. By far. Not even close. The best thing about it, apart from the nose taste etc, is that it seems so personal. I didn’t tell her: “I want this whisky”. I didn’t drop hints. I didn’t have a whisky list. It was a total surprise. I’d never even heard of this bottling!

Now it’s christmas shopping time and Mrs dramstats is not moaning at me for being hard to buy for. She’s researching on the internet in secret! It only took 10 minutes and now I’m easy to buy for! The best thing is now I’ll always be easy to buy for!

Today is “Mega Monday” where it is predicted that £222,222 will be spent online every minute as people buy christmas presents. Teach your better half this method and ensure a small percentage of that is invested in a whisky surprise for you this christmas.

Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat

Having reviewed Glenfiddich 18 here I thought I’d best put up my review of what I judge to be the best malt in the core Glenfiddich range: their 15 year old solera.

So what does “Solera” mean? Basically a solera vat is a big container in which spirit is married for a kind of extra maturation. What you do is bottle a certain amount of the vat’s contents and then top it up fresh. Over the years the complexity of the spirit develops as new batches are married with old. It is common for sherry and, I believe, brandy, and here Glenfiddich have done it with their 15 year old spirit.

The result? Here are the dramstats:

  • Price paid £30
  • ABV 40%
  • Age 15 years

Nose: Rich christmas cake, sherry soaked raisins and dark grape. Rich and malty but with dates, a touch of blood orange and a very pleasant note of fig rolls.

Palate: Grape hits first then cherry, blood orange, malted milk biscuits, fig rolls.

Finish: Slight oak then malted milk biscuits dipped in tea with lingering faint fruit and barley sugars.

Verdict: Tasty, a real session dram and excellent for only £30. Even though it’s 40% and chill filtered (and probably with caramel but it doesn’t say) it is very complex and entertaining. Something that shines on the supermarket shelves and should be flying off! One to enjoy whilst making your christmas cake this year!