Posts Tagged With: tasting notes

William Grants day in the sun…

Last night I traveled down to Taranaki on lodge business, I am one of the few men out there with the Ba-abilitiy to stand in front of a room of distinguished men and blow my horn. I am a herald, and I carry the beast below and embellish the ritual where it is needed. My reward for my efforts (other than recognition and praise) is a healthy measure of whisky from the bottle reserved for the officers of Grand Lodge. This bottle is usually provided by the incoming master of the lodge, and for the last few installations it has been a bottle of Grants.

Shiny…

Some of my earliest memories of drinking whisky were of when I was allowed a sip from my mother’s glass, this was often a rare occurrence, and many a time left me baffled as to how she could drink such a foul unsavoury beast. Later in life I gained my first experience of single malt whisky, and it dawned on me then that something was amiss… It turns out that I had been provided with a sip, or on the odd occasion a wee thimble of either Wilsons, or more often than not Grants in an attempt to keep me from drinking the good stuff!

My general tasting notes were simple, The stuff smelt of old yeast spread (Marmite, Vegemite…) and the taste was reminiscent of an odd medicinal drink often dished out by my grandmother with was essentially that same spread, but in a bug of hot water. More importantly, of all the unfortunate nights binge drinking  on the stuff (it is one of the cheapest after all, and as a student you must live within your means), one is often left with what can best be described as a cup full of fresh manure on the breath.

But Last night I was pleasantly surprised. As I braced myself for the first measure of poison to pass my lips it was greeted with soft oaty notes and a heathery sweetness… the notes lingered slightly presenting a wiff of smoke… perhaps these were the first signs of madness… I took another, checked the bottle for marks of tampering, rechecked that this was not some kind of extra special bottling… the second bottle was the same, and it too was equally punching well above expectation.

Shamelessly nicked from an Indian retail site, I don’t actually own a bottle of the stuff.

I little bit of knowledge explains much I’ve found. Grants you see, is a product of the glenfiddich plant in spaeyside. It takes 12 years to mature their first single malt for retail sale, and up to 50 years for some of the more prestigious bottlings. Not all casks are destined to reach these lofty heights and some casks mature faster than others. As such regular testing of the contents of each cask is checked and rechecked every 6 or so months and when they start to mature they are hauled off to be blended into the their age bracket. Those that don’t make the 12th year (and there are many) are cut with grain whisky and other casks for near and far to gain some semblance of consistency, but It would seem that this year’s round of casks were a stellar bunch and with so much cream at the top, some of the still good casks were diverted into the Grants Blend.

In short, this year’s run is a bargain!

But I hasten to add this is most likely a one off event. Not long back I was put off the Glenfiddich when the 12 year tasted worse than cheap bourbon, a few years later the 15 year got some rotten reviews… its back on form again now, however, it is worth remembering that whisky is affected by the seasons, air quality, and any other factors. Distilleries have good years… and bad ones. So enjoy the Good Grants while you can, it won’t be round forever.

Categories: Basics of whisky, whiskey, and barrelwash, Blended, Tastings, Whisk(e)y | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

(not)Russian(not)Earl Grey tea

Semester is over… Time to get back at the blog!

First up is Lipton’s rendition of a Russian Earl Grey, and it is about as plastic as tea gets.

My flatmates mother works and lives in Egypt, and on her recent visit back to New Zealand she picked up a couple of teas from the local markets. Lipton is big in the United States and is marketed and owned by Unilever. This particular blend is manufactured in The United Arab Emirates. So first off, its not Russian in origin, but blended to a ‘Russian flavor’. I strongly suspect the tea is picked in Pakistan for this blend being a unilever brand. Being a grey tea, it is also flavoured with Bergamot… well imitation Bergamot. So… it’s a London owned Pakistani tea manufactured in the UAE as a Russian blend containing fake bergamot… without even opening the box, I’m already concerned…

Each tea bag is individually wrapped and comes with a drawstring. The leaves are of a similar cut to other Unilever brands with an ample amount of stalkage within the leaves, there was also a heap of what looked like concrete or moldy leaf matter that on closer inspection, and going against my instincts, taste… turned out to be the Artificial Bergamot mentioned on the box.

The smell is quite pungent and chemically, with a very sweet citrus odor… I could not smell the tannins of the tea at all. And the flovour… ever had a swig of warm L&P the morning after a long binge drink orr picked up that bottle from the back seat of the car on a warm day? It tastes close to this… actually, it tastes worse than this, it’s a warm lemonade tea. No awesome Russian styling the Russian caravan by Twinnings, and nowhere near any grey tea I’ve ever had. I’ve had lemon teas that are less lemony, Heck, lemongrass and lemon is less lemony.

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dilmah Revitalised (and not just the box).

Dilmah has, for many years now offered a range of specialty teas that in my youth I found great for exploring the different ways tea could be prepared. My first real branching out from the Standard was purely by little other than choice as in the motel, hotel, or conference venue where I was seeking a bag had only the Dilmah single serves of English Breakfast, or the Earl Grey tea. Now I did know other types of tea existed, at some point My lovely mother, or one of her friends had purchased the Twining’s selection box, which included five of each of their specialty range. I recall being fond of the Twining’s prince of wales… yet at the time, and even to this day it is only really accessible by buying the full sampler box. But I digress, The English Breakfast by Dilmah made its mark and I stuck with this peculiarity of specialty tea in either the Dilmah or the Twining’s range for some time.

Just recently I noticed that Dilmah had released new packaging while working down in Rotorua for the Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, I had forgotten a packed lunch and made my way to the local supermarket. As is custom I checked out the tea range and discovered the Earl Grey had been re-released in a new box and wrote a review of it a few days later. A few weeks later I had managed to round up what I believe to be the full range.

I sure do hope the Irish tea Will be re-released too…

It took a bit of time to find them all, some places had not put out the new stock yet, others only had one or two from the range, but I found them all and spent up till today figuring them all out.

Earl Grey [Mild]

I covered this little gem a few weeks back, so rather than repeat myself you can find it here.

The Earl Grey Strong is well traveled; I have grey tea drinkers on stand by for tasting checks…

 

Earl Grey Strong

At first I thought that the Earl grey that had previously been completely undrinkable had been replaced, then I discovered the Strong Blend and just figured that it had been moved along. Not quite, the strong is bolder in its flavours, but the bergamot has been changed too. Gone is the heavy pungent punch of bitter citrus that previously gave a slight chemically aftertaste, and the slight butteryness from the mild is notable in the blend. Maybe I’ve just habituated to it… I suspect not and that a better source of the bitter fruit had been discovered and is now in use. There is also a slightly different blend of leaves than that of the Milder Earl Grey, It is reminisant of the Dilmah Strong blend found in a purple box (really need to get round to that one) and fitting for the bigger brother in the range. Definitely designed for the grown up earl grey drinker who can handle the stuff and if you are new to earl grey, stick to the mild at first.

Ceylon Supreme

This is a more robust form of the standard Dilmah tea, with more complexity, and more flavour. The previous version of this tea never seemed to brew well. I recall thinking at the time that it was that I just didn’t appreciate the subtleness of the delicate flavours. With this re-release I think I might have been right in that the previous blend was less than on par.

Both bags were added simultaneously. You can already see the colour difference…

It is also worth noting that this blend is far less forgiving than your standard blend of Dilmah, or the original release; many a time I have left the bag in just a little bit too long in the cup and returned to a tea that was bordering on undrinkable. It’s not a bad tea by any stretch of the imagination; it may even give the Dilmah Strong blend a run for its money… But if you distract anywhere as easily as I do HOVER OVER THE CUP UNTIL IT IS DONE, that way you won’t waste this brilliant example of what a Ceylon tea can be.

English Breakfast

A Gentleman I have known for the longest of time has been a regular drinker of tea for quite some time. I personally blame him for the establishment of my minimum standard and benchmark when it comes to a good cup of tea. He is a strong advocate of the monarchy over the meddlesome parliament in the colonies, Is the embodiment of Jiles from the Buffy television series, and owns a Union Jack Teapot.

The resemblance is somewhat uncanny, right down to the occult book filled library.

However the original English Breakfast tea disagreed with him, and although I could drink it, I too noticed the slight Ill sensation that came with the blend. This new version, however, lacks this sensation of Sea sickness after consumption.

It’s still not a favourite of mine, but it is a marked improvement over the original one (on the left). The newer blend (on the right) is not nearly as strong as the original, and this is evident in the Clarity of the tea, as well as in the taste. There was also a slight chlorine(?) notes in the original blend, these are no longer evident. The Ill sensation is almost completely gone (It took a bit of focus to notice it, and could in this case be psychosomatic), and overall I am left feeling that the newer version of this tea is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

English afternoon

Normally I had to raid tea caddies from hotels and motels to find this blend; It was never an easy one to find in the tagless 50 pack either(I believe now that it was not released). Yet it has gone mainstream in the re-release alongside the rest of the range and can be found in the brave few shops that stock the full Dilmah range.

My Victorian friend and I decided to give this one a run for its money and he noticed the Ill feeling creeping back on him… It was also reminisant in strength to that of the Old Ceylon Supreme in the range too, with a straw like flavour quality and a watery finish. Normally we drink tea with milk, and sometimes add sugar should we feel in the mood, but I am a bit more adventurous and gave this tea a second run with a slice of lemon.

The lemon works with this tea… Actually it compliments it quite well with the watery finish being covered nicely by the zesty lemon. I had big concerns for this one, it had combined two of the weaker traits of the old series into a single tea. But in the traditional afternoon tea sense, taken with lemon rather than with whitener and sugar we have a tea that is quite delightful. The lesson for today being not all teas can be taken with just milk, and/or sugar, and with a bit of experimentation even a lemon can come out on top.

Categories: Breakfast tea, Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dilmah strikes back!

Some people hate it, other people love it. Peppermint has been used of what some suggest as well over 10,000 years for medicinal purposes, even to this day, but I’m not so interested in that. I’m more interested in the infused leaves floating in the water making tea.

I’m currently working on a much larger blog post covering a single range of motel teas well worth nicking. One of which is a peppermint tea, so for the sake of comparison and it being newly placed on supermarket shelves, I decided to give the Dilmah Exceptionals New flavour: Peppermint Leaves with Ceylon Cinnamon a run for its money. I was concerned due to the absolute trainwreck of flavours in the Pomegranate, Acai and Vanilla that proceeded it. The Peppermint and Cinnamon too is in a stunningly beautiful box reflective of the dark green peppermint leaves. It also smelt divine on opening, the silken pyramidal bags released a angelic sign of delightful scented wonder as they hit the water…

IT DELIVERED!!!

This is a smashingly well blended tea. I’ve had the box not more than 24 hours and I’ve basically been drinking nothing but… I’ve taken it to friends places… I’ve invited people over to try it and they have come away wanting to buy their own… I may even take up loitering in the tea Isle dropping the odd box into the trolleys of unsuspecting shoppers. Dilmah have produced a winner. After the bold, yet not overwhelming peppermint flavour begins to leave the palate the sweet woody cinnamon notes come to the fore lingering on until you take the next sip from your cup. I cannot fault it.

As such I recommend that even for those who are not big on peppermint tea to try this at least once, and for those who do buy two boxes as I really can’t see this staying in stock once the masses discover it.

Categories: Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ceylon: Dilmahs hammer of tea shattered.

The hedonistic marketing principles are all the rage in this day and age. You can get everything customised, individualised or at the very least get whatever you wish in a variety of colours. Tea has gone the same way. Dilmah, has embraced the market trends and has released teas in an ever expanding range from your classic varieties to the super premium T2 Brand. However, there comes a point where somebody has to step in and stop the marketing wiz kids before they go too far. In the case of the Dilmah exceptional, Acai Berry and Pomegranate real leaf tea… it may be too late.

The flavours on the palate are confused; the Acai mixes with Pomegranate to produce what can only be described as tutti frutti bubblegum flavour. The Ceylon leaf is not complimented by the addition of the flavours, and if anything it spoils the experience completely. The tannins take the expected berry experience with all its flair and turn it sour in the mouth leaving an unpleasant unripe grape skin notes (I shudder to think how bad this would have been without the addition of Vanilla to soften it). As such, under no circumstances use overheated water, or leave it to stand for too long with the bag in. The tea is also sweet on its own, I do not recommend the use of sugar at all as it will most likely lead to an undrinkable if not downright evil concoction.

In saying that I can see how it could have slipped by unnoticed; Acai berries have been all the rage having recently been touted as the next great ‘super food’; You find them in breakfast cereals, nut mixes, meal bars… from a marketing point of view the time is right. The stuff reads well off the box too, “tart, lightly sweet and occasionally chocolatey notes” It sounds like a winner. The smell is divine; deep rich and pungent berry notes hint at the tartness and the sweet berry flavours. Add to that the use of the luxury triangular tea bags, use of actual leaf tea, the stellar colouring… you can understand my shock when I tasted this.

The Acai and Pomegranate does however have good potential, and if it were up to me, I would not have used Ceylon tea as the base, but rather Hibiscus, or Apple.

Categories: Flavored black tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Passport Scotch whisky blended

The first time I attempted to try the Passport Scotch whisky was just after my parents had moved to Australia. As there were few who have not fled the nation for the land of milk and honey (or as I like to know it blocked nasals and stupidly high humidity) I inherited what was left undrunk, which included a collection of miniatures. There is an interesting family story that goes along with miniatures and one must be most careful to check the seal is still intact before placing it to ones lips for a swig. The mouthful of ancient ice cold tea was not what I was expecting, but came as little shock to me.

I honestly thought this was a dead brand and had decided to shrug off this famous drop as one that I would never get to experience… Until recently, when I discovered it had been re-released! After saving up for a couple of weeks I made my purchase and it has become my current quaffing scotch.

It is a Speyside blend, with liberal amounts of lowland whisky added to it, most likely cut with some form of grain whisky to bring the price down to a moderate level. Expectedly it is like honey on the nose, with a hint of peat following later in the breath. The bottle I’m drinking from is half full at this stage and has been for some time, therefore the spirit has softened slightly as happens when there is more air than fluid in the bottle. This can be a good thing in some cases, and in this case it detracts little from the first experience on the tongue. The peaty flavour comes forth first followed by malty tones that are reminiscent of marmite (oh how I lament for our unobtainable spread!), the finish lingers on in for a rather short period of time with the flavours on the palate leaving not long after.

This is a very pleasant drop on a budget, it does have a higher viscosity and thus has an almost oily mouth feel, this is not a bad thing as it helps it coat the mouth giving a fuller flavour. The colour is light amber, almost straw so I do not suspect any caramel has been added to the mix. This is (according to some sites) an up and coming blend and I for one can completely understand why; this blend is good bang for your buck.

Categories: Blended, Tastings, Whisk(e)y | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Choysa: Round vs Square, and then compared.

Since time immemorial there has raged the great debate across the nation, a debate that to this day divides the Choysa drinking community. Which is better, the Square bag, or the Round bag? I set out in my quest to answer this question once and for all…

Firstly, I must express that I have always held a rather dim view of the generic tea market, particularly when it comes to [Insert Mega Corporation] and its ability to buy up [Insert wholesome well known patriotic brand] and slowly suck the life out of them. Choysa is, sadly, one of these poor lost souls.

I noticed that the Choysa range of teas were on special while out grabbing some supplies for an evening in front of the fire, so I decided rather than to go over what teas I already had at home, I would grab a small box of both the Square and the Round. The first test, determine the redeeming features of the Square bags and compare them to my gold standard of generic teas, the Dilmah.

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The bags themselves are an unbleached, and from a distance both appear the same… However, on closer inspection the two bags can be easily identified; Choysa has chosen a bag material with large perforations in it, which according to both the Round, and Square box inscriptions, aids in the faster infusion of the tea. Ripping into the bags some more it becomes even more evident that differences exist. Not only is there a higher amount of stalk present in both Round and Square varieties, a coarser cut of the leaf is also evident between the Dilmah, and the two Choysa teas. Interestingly even before brewing differences exist in the quality of the leaves of the two Choysa teas (which from now on will be referred to was Square and Round), the Round leaves appear to have been either graded, or rolled whereas the Square appears to have been just chopped.

As to be expected with the differences in the leaves, both performed differently when brewed. Now I am a big scotch fanatic, and I despise the evils their poorer grain or corn brothers from across the Atlantic. One defining feature of bourbon whiskeys is the heavy woody flavour that can be best described as the flavours expected if you were to suck on a log. Square has this same woody characteristic, Round, not so much. Round as I have discovered is better balanced in its flavours and nowhere near as unsophisticated as its rough and ready brother. As I have a potential bias towards Dilmah over the Choysa well before starting this blog, I thought it necessary to ask the opinions of my fellow flatmates, and some other unwilling victims that have visited over the last week or so in a blind tasting between Dilmah and the Square. All immediately proclaimed after the first sip the Square as undrinkable, just plain wrong, or s%#t; I therefore decided most apt description of the Square to be ‘Beaver poop’ based on this new information and in proving itself inferior in both leaf quality and flavour quality, was as such eliminated from the running.

At this stage I can proclaim that Round is by far superior to the Square, and that bag shape has little effect other than to be able to tell the two different Choysa teas apart. But how does the Round compare to the Dilmah? Well, firstly the colour and strength of the two teas is indiscriminate by the size of the holes in the bag. I suspect that with the higher surface area in the Dilmah tea due to the finer cut of the leaves makes up for the finer weave of the bag fabric. That woody flavour that appeared to be balanced out also returns on comparison, and a new variable emerges, a slight sour taste in the mouth that lingers. As a black tea the Dilmah has proven its superiority with its distinctive floral notes expressing defiantly above the woody Round of the Choysa, but can i make the Choysa more palatable with the addition of milk or sugar? Yes I can.

The milk almost hides the sour after taste of the Choysa; you could almost mistake it for the milk having sat in the car a bit too long on the ride home from the supermarket. With the addition of sugar, much like the dryness in the Dilmah tea, the sourness is masked allowing the other subtleties to emerge, and in this case it is the woody flavours that come to the fore. As I am not much of a bourbon fan I make preference for the Dilmah, however I strongly suspect a fan of the barrel wash will most likely be able to enjoy a cup of Choysa Round, or even Square with the addition of one sugar to the Round or two for the Square. Maybe this also explains the origins of the milk and two standard; it is a good way to hide the sour and the dry in an unbalanced tea and allows for some virtuous flavours to be experienced.

Categories: Generic Teas | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dilmah Single Origin Ceylon (Bags)

When it comes to sampling tea, the Dilmah teabag is my yardstick for comparison, I therefore felt it best to gain a deep insight into this tea first. However, I was a bit too overenthusiastic and I had produced well over 3000 words on the topic, three documents, two blogs (possibly a third) and a spreadsheet! I have now painfully reduced this down to a little under 500 words…

I started drinking Dilmah after a long contemplative period standing in the supermarket looking deeply into what seemed to be a barrage of generic tea options. What caught my eye about Dilmah were the vacuum sealed leaves, and the statement of ethical practice. At the time I was going through a strong anti big-name-brand anything, and Dilmah came across to me as the little man standing up above the rest.

It is a pure black tea and thus contains no traces of bergamot; a citrus fruit used to flavour many blended teas. One to two minutes is all that is needed to make a typical mug strength brew, for larger cups, I would recommend the use of two bags, or the use of the extra strength variety (which I will look into at a later date). It takes a long time for the bitterness to seep out of the bag making this a very safe tea for the forgetful. The colour is deep amber with a hint of rust red, with the addition of milk this becomes a yellow-orange hue depending on the length of brew. Dilmah drinks well with milk, sugar, and honey, but can also be nice with a slice of lemon, or a twist of lime. The finish is polite and moves on after lingering just long enough to let you know it has done a good job, but before you realise there is a very slight hint of bitterness.

The bags can be reused at most up to three times if drunk as a black tea. A longer brew time is necessary with the second brew producing a sweeter flavour with less of the bold maltiness expressed the finish the first time round; I liked this second brew best with a little sugar as it made the tea taste of honeysuckle. If you are on a tight budget the third brew if left long enough brought in a very subtle floral notes, but the tea had started to cool considerably before it got to this stage.

There has been many a time where I have left a mug on the bench in the kitchen for upwards of 30 minutes with it still being drinkable, with i might add a notable involuntary twitch at the end; there is small amount of fine dust does get left in the bottom of the cup, If drunk too slowly this can cause the last mouthful to be quite bitter. I recommend not drinking this last bit if you have left the tea a bit too long; rather, leave this unsavoury deposit for the sink.

I intend to revisit this tea in future when I feel I have grown a better appreciation of it in comparison to the rest of the tea out there.

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Dilmah 100% Ceylon tea from a teabag.

Categories: Generic Teas | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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