Peat, the fuel that adds smoke to scotch, is a non-renewable resource. But what are the odds of its running out? Slate takes a look.
A weblog detailing cocktails, spirits, liqueurs, barware, bars, and bitters. Maintained by Michael Dietsch, a writer and hobbyist mixer in Brooklyn.
Hey, it’s the creepy old guy again.
First up, an ad from December 7, 1936.
Next, January 18, 1937:
Finally, March 15, 1937:
Teacher’s, by the way, still exists. Owned today by Beam Inc., the brand dates to 1830, making it one of the oldest blended scotches still around. Reportedly, the main malt in the blend is Ardmore. A liter will run you about 20 bucks.
Unless you’ve been asleep this week, you’ve probably noticed that AMC’s Mad Men is returning to TV after a nearly 2-year hiatus. What you might not know is that Newsweek magazine this week has turned retro, reverting to its 1960s-era design and featuring advertisements in a 1960s style. You can browse those ads here, and in general, I think the advertisers mostly did a good job. I especially like the ads for Dunkin’ Donuts, Hush Puppies, John Hancock, Allstate, Lincoln Continental, and BOAC.
But I love the Johnnie Walker ad, and that shouldn’t surprise anyone, since I’ve featured ol’ John’s ads here before. Here it is, in the largest resolution I could get:
How accurate is it? Well, let’s find out. Here’s a real JWR ad from Ebony magazine, circa 1965 (click through to see it full size):
I’d say that’s pretty impressive, right? The layout’s the same, much of the copy is the same (or similar), and even the mildly suggestive nature of the photography is the same. I’d perhaps wager the Newsweek version is a reproduction of an actual Walker ad, updated slightly to reflect minor detail changes, except that I can’t find it on Google Books. (At least one change merits mention: JW in 1965 was 86.8 proof; today, it’s 80. Apparently, the proof level changed around 2000.)
UPDATE: I was right. Ad Age confirms that this is an actual JW ad that originally ran in the 1960s.
As a bonus, here’s another 1960s JW ad, this one from Life (again, click through for larger image):
Hm. Seems a little sexist, but I love the simple, clean design.
Man, it’s like I forgot there was a blog around here. I guess there’s something about a newborn baby that distracts a man from writing.
Some time ago, I received a package from Johnnie Walker, sent to me for review purposes. Inside was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black, two rocks glasses, coasters, and a bottle of the walking man’s newest offering, Johnnie Walker Double Black. Released last year into the duty-free market, Double Black makes its U.S. debut in time for holiday entertaining and gift giving.
I’ve grown very fond of ol’ John over the last few years, so I was eager to try this. At first, I wasn’t impressed. You see, the idea behind Double Black is to bring more of the smoky smoothness of an Islay malt to the Walker mix, while still retaining the sweet but complex maltiness that makes Johnnie Johnnie. I have to admit, on my first sip, I thought the idea was better in theory than in execution. I love a smoky scotch and would go miles out of my way for Laphroaig or Compass Box’s Peat Monster.
And maybe that’s where I set up myself, and Double Black, to fail. At first I felt that John’s new dram was schizophrenic, smoothly sweet and smoky but in a way that failed to highlight the best aspects of both. But as I tried it again (and again), I came to a different conclusion. As I taste the new blend now, it reminds me on first sip of vanilla and toffee with light heather notes. The smoke now seems more integrated and–forgive me for using this word, but it’s accurate–holistic. Some whiskies just need some attention before you can appreciate them.
For reasons that may become clear soon, it’s been a busy time around here and this site has suffered. But sometimes life just gets in the way of blogging.
Onward to Dalmore.
Back in, oh, December, I received a package with various samples of Jura and Dalmore for review purposes. Dalmore’s a Highland malt, and the house style seems to be a well-balanced whisky, with very little smoke. This style allows other flavors to come to the fore. I think the Dalmore range in general would be a great choice as an introductory scotch, especially for people who really enjoy bourbon. I had several bottlings of Dalmore to review, and although I didn’t find them to range in flavor as widely as the Jura bottlings I tasted earlier, they did show a subtle variance in flavor and aroma from bottling to bottling. Here are the styles I tasted:
- Dalmore 12
- Dalmore 15
- Dalmore 18
- Dalmore Gran Reserva
- Dalmore 1263 King Alexander III
Nose: Malt, toffee, honey, caramel, mild smoke, vanilla, coffee.
Tasting notes: Floral, mildly heathery. Hint of seaweed. Orange and a bit of chocolate. Walnut and pecan on finish.
Nose: Very similar to that of the 12.
Tasting notes: Less hot at the front of the palate than the 12. Notes of chocolate, hazelnut biscotti, and white pepper. Orange zest and winter spice. A little winy, probably attributable to the sherry casks it’s aged in.
Nose: Again, similar to the 12 and 15, but a little woodier.
Tasting notes: Almond, iodine, oak, chocolate, and orange zest. Wine is more pronounced than in 15.
Dalmore Gran Reserva
No age statement, but said to be bottled from whiskies aged 10 – 15 years.
Nose: Honey, flint, pecan, peach, chocolate, coffee. As it opens, it becomes perhaps the most chocolaty of these, at least on the nose.
Tasting notes: Stone fruit, pecans, orange zest, chocolate, subtle peat (very subtle). Creamy.
1263 King Alexander III
No age statement.
Nose: Malt, orange, honey, chocolate.
Color: Bronze. (I’m not sure color adds anything to these reviews.)
Tasting notes: Only mildly winy, which surprises me. This whisky is aged in a bajillion (okay, only six) different types of casks: wine, Madeira, Sherry, Marsala, bourbon, and port. The effect is notable but subtle in ways the 18 isn’t. Winter spice, orange zest, berry, hint of oak.
Starting off 2011 on a scotch roll, it seems. I received a package just before Christmas containing review samples of Jura and Dalmore scotches. I’ll be reviewing the Jura samples this week, and the Dalmore next.
Jura scotch comes of course from the island of Jura located to the northeast of the island of Islay. Jura’s most famous resident was probably George Orwell, who lived there near the end of his life while writing 1984. The scotch named Jura is the only whisky distilled on the island.
Tasting notes: Very mildly smoky, very mildly honeyed. Salty. Bit of resin, like pine. Hints of dark chocolate. Salty finish.
Final word: I’m a little biased here. When I want a scotch that’s well-balanced — neither smoky nor floral but a bit of both — Jura 10 is usually one of my choices. It’s one of my favorite sipping malts, and one I like to recommend to people new to scotch.
Color: Golden bronze
Nose: Pine, earth.
Tasting notes: A little peatier than the 10, but still not heavy peat. Less resin than the 10. Honey gives way to dark chocolate and vanilla. Same salty finish.
Final word: Definite step up from the 10, still very tasty and balanced, but smoother. I like the subtle upping of the peat flavor.
45% abv. Blend of two or more Jura whiskies–one peaty, one not.
Nose: Light peaty smoke, some sherry nuttiness.
Tasting notes: Again, light peaty smoke, heather, hazelnut, nutty cookie, like a Pecan Sandie. Long, mildly salty finish with a bit more smoke.
Final word: Lovely dram, and definitely something I’d seek out for my home bar. Since the smoke is there but mild, this might be a good whisky to introduce to someone who’s never had a peaty example. At roughly US$50, not a bad bargain for the price.
Color: Honey, light bronze.
Nose: Big peat. Subtle fruitiness, but I can’t pin it down exactly. Nutty spices.
Tasting notes: Most complex and nuanced of the lot. Peaty smoke dominates. Something medicinal in there, but pleasantly so. Iodine? Hints of cinnamon and clove, subtle fruit (again, can’t quite pin it down). Medium finish.
Final word: Oh my darling, where the hell have you been all my life? Let’s listen to Tom Waits and get dirty together.
There’s a liquor retailer in the UK called Master of Malt, and despite its name, it sells more than just whisk(e)y. In the summer of 2010, they started a program called Drinks by the Dram, wherein they’ll sell you little sample bottles of many of their products–from low-end to high. The samples are 3cl/30ml, or a little over an ounce.
The goal is to provide a try-before-you-buy program, allowing consumers to buy small drams at reasonable prices, so that they may sample unique and hard-to-find bottlings without paying possibly hundreds of dollars for something they may not like.
Someone from MoM contacted me a couple of weeks ago, and offered to send me a package of them if I was interested in covering this program. Wanting to learn more about Irish and Scotch whiskies, I agreed. So just before Christmas, I got these:
Edradour 1998 Sassicaia
Highland malt. Bottled at cask strength, 56.9%. Distilled and matured in 1998, bottled in 2009.
[Edradour 1998 Sassicaia - Straight from the Cask sample; £4.45 for 30ml, or about $7.35 US]
Sassicaia is an Italian wine, so this means it’s aged in wine barrels to pick up some of that flavor. Fewer than 500 bottles of this were released.
Color: A pale amber with reddish undertones.
Nose: Floral, spicy, sweet but not cloying.
Tasting notes: Well-balanced scotch. Hot, in keeping with its barrel strength. Drying. Notes of chocolate and stone fruit, the latter probably from the wine barrel. The stone fruit reminds me a bit of cherry. At this strength, it definitely needs some water. Moderately creamy texture. Subtle smoke.
Final word: At the price point (£41.97, or about $70 US) for a 500-ml bottle, there are better scotches on the market.
Johnnie Walker Blue
Nuff said. Does this require a review? I think they’re including it mainly to show that their samplers cover a range of whisk(e)y styles, including high-end blends.
[Johnnie Walker Blue Label sample; £8.45 for 30ml, or about $13.95 US]
Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland
I know next to nothing about this. It’s from something called Master of Malt’s Secret Bottlings Series, which bottles scotches from undisclosed distilleries.
[Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland sample; £3.45 for 30ml, or about $5.75 US]
Lowland malt, 40% abv.
Nose: Walnut, pecan. Butterscotch, toffee, honey.
Tasting notes: Candied nuts, hint of smoke, honey, malt. Fresh and light, with hints of lemon and grass. Moderately bitter on finish.
Final word: Tasty example of Lowlands style. At £34.95 (or about $58 US) for 700ml, might make a nice present for a scotch lover who’s a completest, or at the opposite end of the scale, for someone fairly new to scotch, since the Lowlands style tends to appeal to beginners.
Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish
Single-malt Irish whiskey is a category that seems to be little-known among US consumers. Shame, if this one’s any indication.
[Tyrconnell 10 Year Old Sherry Cask Finish sample; £3.95 for 30ml; or about $6.50 US]
Single-malt Irish whiskey, 46% abv.
Color: Copper, dark amber.
Nose: Malt, hint of spice, caramel, chocolate, white pepper. Nose opens up over time.
Tasting notes: Not winey, despite the sherry finish, but there is a hint of stone fruit and sherry-nuttiness, possibly from the cask. Dried fruit–apricot, maybe. Rich, well-balanced.
Final word: Delicious. I’d drink this often, if I could find and afford it. I want to linger over the precious grams that remain in my glass.
Master of Malt offers this for £49.14 for 700ml, or about $81 US.
Greenore 15 Year Old
Single-grain Irish whiskey, 43% abv.
[Greenore 15 Year Old sample; £4.45 for 30ml; or about $7.35 US]
Color: Light amber, honey.
Tasting notes: Chocolate, vanilla, honey, bourbon.
Final word: Would recommend for bourbon drinkers branching out into single malts. Very smooth whiskey. Definitely lighter and sweeter than most single malts, so a good stepping stone to single-malt Irish and Scotch bottlings. The grain here is corn, with just a little bit of malted barley to start the fermentation process, according to the Cooley Distillery website. Aged in bourbon casks. The 15-year retails for £52.45 for 700ml, or about US$86, but Greenore also makes an 8-year that goes for about $50.
Drinks by the Dram: The Takeaway
I really enjoyed sampling through these whiskeys, so I think Masters of Malt has a good program going here. These wee bottles would make great individual stocking stuffers. A multi-bottle sampler box would be perfect for the aficionado who’s looking to try new bottlings.