20th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Buried treasure in IKEA

20th December: Glenmorangie, Finealta. 46% ABV
From: Highlands, Scotland. Type: Single malt Scotch whisky. Source: World of Whiskies, Heathrow

I taunt my Swedish friends that you can buy alcohol in IKEA in the UK. "No,no," they say, "You can buy it in Swedish stores, too". Which is true, but you buy beer or wine in the restaurant, not the shop, which you can in the UK. You can't buy Glenmorangie Finealta, there, though. But why spoil a headline…

No, the treasure to which I'm referring is a limited edition lightly-peated Glenmorangie I rediscovered in my IKEA cabinet. I didn't buy it this year, but one of the joys of keep a small collection of whiskies, is finding a forgotten bottle.

It has a tell-tale amount left: just less than a quarter full. This tale told is one of really liking it and not wanting it to finish. Was it as good as I (now) remember? Oh yes!

Finealta is Gaelic for "elegant" according to the label, by which they mean not very smokey for a peated, and lots of delicious spices, vinous flavours, and rich, creamy vanilla, all from the mix of sherry and bourbon casks. The peat is subtle; but is there on the breath at the finish, almost as if leftover from last night's dram.

I fear for a trip to IKEA at this time of year, but if the prospect of a dram like this could be found there, I would give it serious thought.

World of Whiskies Heathrow has Glenmorangie Artein, if you're passing through…

13th Dec. Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: Transported to a Swedish Summer forest.

13th December: Mackmyra, Special 09: Wild Raspberry. 46.1% ABV
From: Sweden. Type: Swedish malt whisky. Source: Distillery sample

It’s not wild and there are no raspberries in it. Apart from that, the name is spot on. It is special, though, and it is the 9th in the Special series. And be sure: Mackmyra Swedish whisky is on the map. And one person, who happens to be a friend of mine, has been instrumental in this. Angela d’Orazio.

It’s not just me saying this, Jim Murray, he of the Whisky Bible, one man’s annual assessment of all the whiskies anyone can humanly lay there hands on, says so in the dedication to the Whisky Bible 2013. So if you haven’t already tried Swedish malt whisky, get with the programme!

Mackmyra_special09_frilagd

Why wild raspberry, if this is a “straight” malt whisky? Well, forest berries are dear to the hearts of most Swedes, to whom foraging comes as second nature. In Sweden, in the late Summer, when going out to the woods to find and pick your own fruit, you will find blueberries, lingonberries, and if you’re lucky, wild strawberries, and if you’re very lucky: wild raspberries.

And there is a forest berry character to this elegant whisky. Raspberries? yes, but I couldn’t say wild or tame. The 09 is also delicately sweet with aromatic spices from the cask. Perhaps with Winter revealing its claws, your hand reaches for a muscular, peaty Islay, but your thoughts turn to Summer. And this is the whisky to transport you there without fear of being fogbound at Gatwick.

All the whiskies in the Special seriess are worth trying, which is my roundabout way of saying, the Wild Raspberry seems particularly hard to find in the UK. But if you find one, I’m sure you’ll thank Angela.

Mackmyra’s own page for Wild Raspberry (in English)

Master of Malt’s selection of Mackmyra whiskies

Jim Murray’s Whisky Biblel 2013 on Amazon

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 10th Dec.

10th December: Suntory, Hibiki 12-year old. 43% ABV.
From: Japan. Type: Blended whisky. Source: The Whisky Shop

Wandering through Guildford one Saturday afternoon, whiling away the time, trying to get maximum value from my parking ticket, I spotted The Whisky Shop. I didn’t even know of its existence – the whisky retailer that is. I’ve been aware of Guildford for some years. What could I do but walk in.

It’s a very nice place, the Whisky Shop. Perfect for striking up conversations with the knowledgeable staff, sampling a dram, and well, buying whisky. I’d known about Hibiki for some while, having tasted the 17-year old and the 12-year old at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival. These are great blends.

Hibiki-12-big

In fact, the 17 had recently been voted in Whisky Magazine as best blend since Jim Murray made it OK to like blends. But I was after the 12. It’s not a blend for drowning in mixers, even if you could afford to. You’d lose the subtle Umeshu cask (plum liqueur) finish – and all the other fruity loveliness too. This is not a wacky tasting note; Umeshu casks are used!

The Hibiki 12-year old is sooo, smooth, not a word I like using while describing whiskies, conjuring up images of bland, dinner jazz. This, however, is like listening to Miles through speakers made entirely of satin.

My parking time approaching its maximum value, I make my purchase, join the Whisky Shop club, get my discount, and I’m off. No doubt I’ll be back.

The Whisky Shop

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 8th Dec.

8th December: Highland Park, Thor/18-year old. 52.1% ABV.
From: Orkney, Scotland. Type: Scotch malt whisky. Source: Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival

I’ve picked a pair of Highland Park whiskies for today’s entry to celebrate and honour Jonas – I sometimes refer to him as “Malt-Brother-In-Law”. Just about the time these words are posted, he will receive a bottle of the 18-year old, as a small measure of my thanks. This year’s bottle. I buy him a different whisky every year on this date because in 2004, Jonas donated a kidney to his sister “MaltCim”. Today is eight years.

I was going to buy him the Thor – it’s an impressive whisky in an extravagant package. A symbol of Norse heroics – could it be more appropriate? But hey! he and I drink whisky for the liquid contents, not the box it comes in, so while we were at the Stockholm Beer and Whisky Festival together in September, we got a chance to taste them both together. A chance for me to sneakily work out which he would like. He preferred the 18.

Highland_park_18Highland_park_thor

HP 18 is a great whisky. Richer, fuller, softer, slightly spicier, slightly peatier than its 12-year old brother. Perhaps the Thor is more complex, but it is also wilder, with more spices, a touch fiery – as befits the god for whom it is named (apart from the “more spices” bit).

Jonas:
I’m doing this thing on my blog. It’s a sort of Advent calendar of 25 beers or whiskies that I’ve enjoyed during 2012. Hope you don’t mind. Thanks for these eight, health-filled years. Enjoy your dram. Skål!

You can get the 18-year old from the Highland Park online shop.
Thor is under Special Bottlings.

 

Maltjerry’s Advent Calendar: 25 choices from 2012. 2nd Dec.

2nd December: Compass Box, Hedonism. 43% ABV.
From: Scotland. Type: 100% Blended Scotch grain whiskies. Source: Compass Box, London

I tasted this during a Twitter tasting hosted by Compass Box, blenders supreme of whisky. This is the latest edition of one of the first blends John Glaser, Compass Box blender supremo, did. Yes, it’s OK to like blends, Jim Murray of Whisky Bible fame says so.

Compass_box_hedonism_25pc

Very much though, not your usual, in that it contains no malt whiskies at all. The secret is just great, and old grain whiskies from very, very good casks. And of course, the knowledge of how to choose the whiskies and put them together. Rich and luscious, full of almost syrupy, honied fruit. The taste of hedonism.

Whisky making of such a high order doesn’t come cheap, but at around 50-something quid for a bottle from Master of Malt, it is approachable. Even more so if you go for the 3cl dram.

Read the whole Compass Box Twitter tasting post