Posts Tagged With: whisky

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.


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

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.


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

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