Sunday, 24 November 2013

Abbey's Twitter Tweet Tasting!

Whisky: Abbey Whisky's Ben Nevis 16 Year Old Rare Casks 3rd Release

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis 16 Year Old The Rare Casks Abbey Whisky



Old Gold

A Quick Note:  This Post will actually be two whisky reviews.  From the latest releases from Independent bottler Abbey Whisky.

A little over a month ago I was contacted by the owner of Abbey Whisky who asked me if I'd like to try a couple new whiskies that he'd just bottled and better yet would I like to try them in a tweet tasting.

I'd heard of tweet tastings before, tastings where whisky geeks from all over the world get together at one agreed upon time and try whiskies live on twitter, comparing notes on the spot with what do you think, what distillery, what age, everything.

To say that I was surprised and honored would be a massive understatement.  I would be thrilled to take part in such a tasting.  However when I was informed of what time the tasting would be my heart sank just a little.  Around 3am local Aussie time.  In the middle of the week.

Oh well who the hell needs sleep!?

About a week before the twitter tasting the whisky samples arrived, which partially surprised me considering the Aussie Postal Service.  Inside the box were 4 different whisky samples.  Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 1: Caperdonich 17 yr old (a favorite!)Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 2: Bunnahabhain 23 yr old, Abbey Whisky's Rare Casks 3: Ben Nevis 16 yr old (a new one!) and a mystery dram!

Excellent!  A whisky that I love, a whisky that I enjoy and 2 new whiskies!  I've got to be honest I am a huge fan of Abbey Whisky's bottlings, having owned quite a few and sampled even more, I knew I was in for a treat.

Eventually the night of the tasting came along, wound up being a perfect day as everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, but I had Abbey's tasting to look forward in the wee hours of the morning.

I crashed at 9pm, having set an alarm for 2:30am, time enough for me to shower and wake up in time for the tasting....and ding! It's 145am and I'm awake.  Oh well as with so many things, it's easy come, easy go with sleep.  I hop into the shower to wake up and am at my desk in time for the tasting.  I log into Twitter, excited even though I'm tired.

Wow, there are some very well known people in this tasting, brand ambassadors, famous whisky writers, I've heard of everyone of them.  And I;m involved in this?!  Holy cow I'm going to learn heaps! 

We start with the Caperdonich 17 yr old which is a personal favorite, however while enjoyed by all of the other tasters, you can tell it's not a favorite for many of them.  We then move onto the Bunnahabhain 23 yr old which is an instant favorite for most of the other tasters, but is just enjoyable for me.

It's awesome to say the least being in this tasting, watching and typing in tasting notes live, sometimes seeing someone throw out an observation and other people pick it up.  Even cooler is that I seem to be keeping up ok.  I normally will take an hour or 90 minutes to review a whisky from start to finish.  Here our time schedule is about 30 minutes per whisky.  You can take longer if you want, but generally speaking everyone has moved on to the next whisky after 35 or so minutes.

We then move onto the Ben Nevis 16 yr old.  it's obviously a sherry cask aged whisky by the deep dark color.  It's a distillery that I've never tried before, but drove near it while my wife and I were in Scotland.  It's named after the biggest mountain in Scotland, and I'm so excited to experience a brand new distillery.

I pour half of my sample bottle into a fresh glencairn as how been my routine for this tasting, fighting the yawns and the grins.  I refresh my palate and start nosing the glass.

Definitely big sherry notes here, there's a faint burnt match/rubbery aroma from some sulfur, but it isn't unpleasant at all, in fact it's growing on me.  Spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, some chocolate, subtle smoke, tobacco, in fact cigar tobacco.  It's a bold nose and at one point I request that a bottle be set aside for me off the nose alone.  I'm loving it!

After about 10 to 15 minutes nosing the whisky it's time to taste,  some of the tasters are adding a drop or two of water after having tried the whisky neat, but I'm not, as is usual for me and my cask strength whiskies!

The Ben Nevis is clinging to the glass, quite oily, and when I take a sip it blows me away.  This is a whisky that drinks above it's weight.  It's big and bold!  Huge spices, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, nutty and chocolate, dark fruits, sultanas and raisins, leathery, delicious!

The finish is massive, long, huge in fact, again punching above it's weight with the sherry and chocolate just lingering.

This is an awesome whisky, huge and breathtaking, and bloody affordable at around $100ish AUS.  However if you're picking up a bottle you'll need to move quick as there's only 96 bottles in this outturn and at least one is coming home with me!

Abbey Whisky Rare Cask 3 Release: Ben Nevis 16 Year Old
Nose:        23/25
Taste:        23/25 
Finish:       22/25
Balance:     22/25

Overall:      90/100

Whisky: GlenDronach 1993 20 year old Abbey Whisky bottling


GlenDronach 1993 20 Year Old AW




After enjoying the lovely Ben Nevis 16 year old, Rare Casks 3rd Release, we were moving onto the mystery dram for the night.  It was a deep dark, almost black color. 

At this point in the tasting it's now about 415am or so for me, I've had about 4 hours of sleep and have just tasted half drams of 3 cask strength whiskies.

I'm having a massive amount of fun, really wishing that my wife was up and joining us, but she works even longer hours then I do and there's no way in the world she'll be able to get by on 4 hours sleep. 

But this tasting is brilliant, possibly one of the best tastings I've ever taken part in.  Roughly 3 dozen different whisky geeks, from all walks of life, enjoying the exact same whisky at the exact same time, all over the world.

And the night was going to end with a bang.  Up comes the mystery dram and the first thing everyone is commenting about is the color.  This deep, dark sexy color. 

People all over the world are nosing this whisky and there are exclamations of joy and surprise with wild guesses abounding!

It's a Glenfarclas, no it's a Macallan, no it's Aberlour, no it's an ancient grain whisky, it's young, it's ancient!

I'm right in there with them, guessing first a Glenfarclas and then I hesitate.

The nose is familiar, very familiar.  It's not a distillery that I've had much of, but there is a tingling in the back of my head.

Throughout this Abbey Whisky just calmly says "no" to all the guesses.  Heck we don't even know the ABV on the whisky, the only thing we know is that it's a sherry cask by the color.

Let's start with the nose shall we?

Typical sherry nose, but it's darn near perfect, none of the sulfur notes that you oftentimes will pick up from sherry buttes, no burnt matches or rubber or anything along those lines.

Just lots and lots of dark fruits, cherries, sultanas, plums, spices, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, it is just lovely plain and simple.

The nose is reminding me of something, something important. 

Everyone's tasting notes are flying across the screen, along with minor discussions on age and distillery of this mystery dram.

Tasting time, maybe that will give me the final clue.

Dark chocolate, coffee, leather, sultanas, figs, cherries, cinnamon, lots of nuts, almonds.  Reminds me of an older Glenfarclas, but that's not it.

The finish is long, intense, perfectly balanced with the sherry notes hanging on forever.

Where have I tasted something like this!?


It's got to be a GlenDronach!  The very last time I had a GlenDronach was while in Scotland while overlooking the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye, Roy our guide had given me an as unyet released cask strength GlenDronach, bottled by Cadenheads.

Just as I announce this happily and with heaps of pleasure, in my twitter feed appears the information that it is indeed a GlenDronach!

I was right!  Not that I could prove it as pretty much those tweets appeared at the same time, but I feel an enormous sense of pride.  I can tell most of the Aussie distilleries apart by nose, but I hate to say it, with the Scottish distilleries I sometimes struggle and feel a little bit like an idiot.

Huzzah for not being an idiot!

Let's jump back to the whisky details really quick as it's now been revealed what distillery this mystery dram is from.

It's a 20 year old GlenDronach, from 1993, cask 33, bottled at a cask strength of 59.1% with 592 bottles coming out of an Oloroso sherry butte, it was bottled exclusively for Abbey Whisky.

The bottles are currently selling for 90 pounds, including VAT which translates roughly into $140 AUS which is bloody good value in my mind.  I will be picking up a couple bottles of this one for drinking pleasure along with the Ben Nevis 16 year old.  However unlike my Caperdonich 17 year old (Rare Casks 1) these are all for semi immediate consumption.

Back to the tweet tasting!  As mentioned in the Ben Nevis review to say that it was an honor to be invited along, to sit with so many very experienced whisky bloggers and reviewers and even more to have my thoughts carry weight.  So many of these bloggers have THOUSANDS of twitter followers, I have 35 followers, and I picked up 9 through the twitter tasting.  To be allowed to express my thoughts about this whisky, these whiskies, in a serious medium, was just amazing.  Out tasting wound up trending #3 in the entire UK by the time we finished.  Literally thousands upon thousands of people, in fact possibly tens of thousands, wound up reading our words.  How cool is that?!

First off thank you Abbey Whisky and The Whisky Wire in including me in this tasting, secondly if you enjoy a really good sherry cask whisky I do believe you'll love Abbey Whisky's GlenDronach!

Nose:        24/25
Taste:        24/25
Finish:       22/25
Balance:     22/25
Overall:      92/100

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