Spirit

Ledaig. Aged 10 years.

ledaig

 

More than 200 years before whisky was first distilled on the Isle of Mull, San Juan De Sicilia exploded off the coast of the hebridean island.

The ship was rumoured to be the treasure laden flagship of the Spanish Armada’s Levant  Squadron. Under the terms of this legend, gold spilled from the ship and spread across the bay.

Countless expeditions have found nothing more than the wreckage of a press-ganged merchantman and not a skerrick of shining gold. The colours seem to have run across the bay and settled in the stills of the Tobermory Distillery over time.

The whisky is a non-chill filtered expression not a million miles away from what most people will consider Islay’s style. Further investigations will show that this is peat of a different ilk. The smoke is sweet, and beautifully balanced. In the mouth you’ll find it oily, salty, spicy and sweet. There’s fruit but not like the Tobermory 15.

Over ice or with a drop you’ll get a much longer and smoother experience.

$80 will get you a bottle of the true golden treasure of Mull. I highly recommend you do.

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Spirit

Mezcal Amores

ma_joven

 

First things first.

This is a bright and smooth 100% Espadin Agave Mezcal. It’s currently the number 3 selling brand domestic brand there.

Bottled at 37%, the fire many associate with agave is restrained, but the earthy creaminess follows through in abundance. Pure, smooth, smoky goodness.

I defy anyone to drink it and not fall in love.

That alone should be enough for you to want to seek out this nectar and devour it, but the story, in Australia gets even better.

The guy that is importing Mezcal Amores (and Los Azulejos Tequila) is quite simply, one of the good guys. A young Mexican, Jorge Cervantes is passionate about his country and the products to be found there. He’s also committed to working with companies that remain locally owned, to the benefit of the economy. Forget your fair trade coffee and chocolate, this is social justice you can really feel good about.

He is Mextrade, and you should invite him to your bar, try his great products, implore him to break out the gusano and enjoy the company of a guy who is doing it for love and money.

Sydney bartenders should get on board the contest Jorge has put up on Facebook. A trip to Oaxaca with all the trimmings is up for grabs for someone who falls in love with Amores and creates a new cocktail.

Jorge, salud.

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Spirit

Old Pulteney 21yr Old

Old Pulteney 21yr Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Today was marked by a rare pleasure, the chance to taste a range of whisky from a place called Wick in the far north of Scotland. Called the Maritime Malt, the marque is a big supporter of seaborne adventure and Sydneysiders will see their 70 foot clipper clear the heads and turn right for Hobart this Boxing Day. I’ll admit I hadn’t heard it mentioned much before today.

Jim Murray scored the Old Pulteney 97.5, a score that has never been exceed and only a handful of other crafted whisk(e)y has made the grade. Now, I’m not entirely sure you can fully trust the palate of a single individual, even one as experienced and indeed descriptive as Mr. Murray, but here he makes a fine point.

Anyway, the liquid.

In your glass you get an oddly darker whisky than the 30yr old from the same distillery. It is an excellent whisky to smell; complexity and fineness of flavour that will have even the most ebullient of whisky describers searching for a thesaurus and flavour map. All the Old Pulteney drams have a enchanting seaside flavour to them, a salty backbone that spice, sugar and malt cling to on a seemingly everlasting slide to a delightfully distant finish in this expression over all the others.

The 21 is rested in a Fino cask, and the dry nuttiness it lends takes this from a fine drop to a truly memorable one for me.

Often described as the most Northerly Distillery in the UK, Old Pulteney actually has lost this distinction with the restoration of distilling at the Wolfburn still in Thurso at the start of 2013. Thurso is only another 20km towards Father Christmas from the stills in Wick, but there’s not much of Scotland left for a leapfrog attempt.

Freed from their unique geographical burden, their still is a unicorn. It has both no head nor swan neck, a legacy from their initial delivery to the site many moons ago. The stills that were delivered to the site were too tall for the stillhouse, and obviously keen to get on with the making of some truly excellent whisky, the executive decision was taken to cut them down to size. The result is called by many a smugglers still, a throwback to the delightful history of whisky, freedom and sticking it to the ruling classes. They also use a 90 meter long set of pipes to cool the spirit, a practice left in the past by most, but you cannot argue with the result of a worm tub finish.

This is the perfect whisky to buy your dad or know-it-all best friends who insists their brand is the pinnacle.

Not cheap at $200 from Nicks, but worth every penny and you’ll get free delivery at that price. For those of you unwilling top trust this special liquid to the hands of Australia Post, you can also find a bottle at the Oak Barrel, World of Whisky, Camperdown Cellers on Parramatta Rd and Liquor on Oxford here in Sydney.

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Spirit

No. 3 London Dry Gin

No 3 London Dry Gin 750ml HR

Packing wise, this gin is a winner from the start. Packaged in a fine white box, beautifully printed, I’ve got a feeling of anticipation usually reserved for the premium end of the whisky and cognac spectrum. The bottle slides out, hand wrapped in a custom printed tissue map of the home of Berry Bros. & Rudd wine merchants. The bottle itself is adorned with the key to the premises at No. 3 St. James Street and closed with a great piece of lead foiling stamped the the merchants Royal Warrant.

Uncorking the bottle you get a massive hit of juniper. The theme of threes is more than just packaging. Three fruits; juniper, grapefruit and orange lie down perfectly with three spices; angelica, coriander and cardamom. Designed as the last word in Gin for a Dry Martini by a man with a doctorate in distillation, the liquid certainly doesn’t disappoint.

46% abv makes it a pleasure in a G&T, particularly when you pair things up with a quality Quina Fina tonic and a decent squeeze of lemon. The juniper is a standout in a super Dry Martini, and I liked a 5:1 ratio with Dolin that I’ve just sucked down too.

This is the perfect gin to supercharge your Gin classics for the holidays. The spirit of cricket might have taken a beating these last few days in Australia but you shouldn’t think that everything English has gone past date. London Dry Gin defines a style as old as modern drinking for a reason, as a category it is great and this is its epitome.

Brandwise, this is a beautifully conceived and executed example. The story is inextricably welded to an authentic history. The paper hand wrapping of each bottle, like the proprietors have been turning out of St. James St more than 300 years. The spirit is distilled in the copper pots in Schiedam, Holland, where the original gin the British stole improved upon came from.

$80 a bottle from Nicks. Not the cheapest of juniper liquids in this country but a delightful change up to the citrus driven English and more floral craft gins on the market.

An excellent gift or treat to any lover of Mother’s Ruin.

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Books

The Eau de Vie cocktail book is here

Eau de Vie cocktail bookLast April I wrote about a cocktail book that was an idea looking to be realised. Well now it’s here as the latest addition to the crowd funded cocktail library.

It looks fantastic. You’ll have to visit the bar in Melbourne or Sydney to pick yourself up a copy.

$45 will get you the book. Best take along $100 so you can have a few drinks while you’re in.

Well played lads.

 

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Spirit

Bunnahabhain 12yr old.

Bunnahabhain 12yr oldThere’s one thing better than the completely awesome way this whisky spells its name, and that’s the way it tastes.

Nestled at the end of a long road in Islay, the Bunnahabhain Distillery has roots going back to 1881. Putting it in perspective, the Northern Territory was part of South Australia in 1881 and there were just 2.25 million people living in the lucky country.

An Islay providence makes some sippers turn up their nose. The heavily peated expressions from the southern shore: Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig tend to define the style. The whisky that comes from the mouth of the Margadale river is different. Delightfully brassy amber in colour, the peat is sweet in this one, with the restrained seaside smells Islay has made so famous. Nutty caramels and sultanas with vanilla. Sherry, cocoa and salt on the finish.

The 46.3% abv gives a bright mouth feel that will bring me back to it again. Tastes a lot like it has spent some time in a Sherry cask. Probably won’t charm the Islay purists, but I think it’s a fine way to finish the day (or start a new one)

$89.99 from Nicks. Delivered to your door anywhere in Australia, free if you’ve spent $200.

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Bar

The Backstairs Inn.

The BackStairs EntranceNot by any means the newest bar on the Sydney drinking scene but one that pour hospitality in good measure across their bar.

They will serve you fancy drinks, but for me at least this bar is about whisky. If you get bored, have a beer, then move back onto whisky. They have many whiskies here, different people have different stories. The only place you’ll find more of the aged liquid in one place is at a distillery.

My favourite seat is at the end of the bar near the door, the bar kinks and allows these two special seats a view down a bar. Keep watch as the drams are poured and you’ll see what a professional at work really looks like. They lean into a conversation, share an education or a friendly remark and pour.

Peruse the lists for a favourite, or feel free to drop your brand or your favourite style and let them be the firm hand on your tiller as you navigate their whisky sea. I’ve found that often the whisky I’m after isn’t available, but they do have a age above it, or some rare expression to gulp down. It’s enjoyable upselling, and the bar is a truly great place to go and drink with a good friend.

Head down the alley towards what looks like certain doom for the first time visitor. To your right at the end you will see the door in the picture above, if you’ve come drinking at the times that everyone else does, you’ll probably spend a time in the queue.

Head down the Backstairs and find a non-descript door that opens in onto drinking heaven.

An early mark from work will be rewarded with a swift entry. Stay until they carry you out.

The Baxter Inn. Basement/152-156 Clarence St. 4pm-1am.

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