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Laphroaig Live Coming to Sydney

As any Whisky lover worth his (or her) salt would know, Laphroaig Live is coming to Sydney on Thursday 6th October.

For the uninitiated, Laphroaig Live is an event that has been put on by the Lophroaig Distillery each year since 2007 in various locations around the globe. Streamed live across the internet, it is an opportunity for Whisky lovers to watch (and possibly taste in simulcast with) Distillery Manager John Campbell and a panel of guests work their way through some great Laphroaig drams.

Laphroaig Live 2011 will be held on the foreshore of Sydney harbour in the Rocks district.  This is sure to set an amazing backdrop of the Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and the beautiful harbour in all it’s glory.

This years panel will include:

John Campbell – Distillery Manager

Robert Hicks – Master Blender

Rebecca Varidel, Author, insidecusine.com

Lin Johnston, descendent of Alexander Johnston

Just announced is that television personality Simon Reeve will be hosting the evening as the tasting line-up is unveiled.

I imagine what most would like to know is what Whiskys will be rolled out for the event.  As I understand the list this year will be:

Laphroaig Quarter Cask


Laphroaig Triple Wood


Laphroaig Cáirdeas 30 Year Old


The star of the show will undoubtedly be the final bottle which John announced on twitter earlier in the month.

Laphroaig 10 year old – distilled in the 1950s- the last production by the Johnston family

I have setup a page to stream all the action live from smokeandbooze.com so I am planning on linking to the live stream from smokeandbooze.com so you will be able to come back to this site on Thursday 6th October at 8pm EST (GMT+11) to view all the action.

To add to the evening I am starting to hear that many of Sydney’s food and booze community will be at the event so it will be a great opportunity to see many of you all again in the flesh.

More information including voting on the BBQ for the evening can be found at the Laphroaig website.

 

 

Posted by on 29th September 2011 in General, Scotch Whisky

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Kozel Premium

Date: 25th September 2011

Alcohol: 4.8%

Volume: 500mL

Price: $3.99 / bottle (Dan Murphys)

Manufactured: Velké Popovice, Czech Republic

I was doing a little ‘research’ for this review this afternoon which involved (amongst other things) watching beer commercials on youtube.  I highly recommend it as a way to kill an hour or so.  The outcome from this exhaustive journey was; that no matter where in the world you are beer is still sold the same way.  It either involves sexy girls on the beach, some funny incident in a bar or, as in the case of the Kozel commercials ‘honest men doing a hard day’s work’.  In this ad’ I don’t understand a word they are saying but clearly a couple of guys are mowing their lawn and at the end of the job deserve an ice cold Kozel.  This could have been set to the Australian VB commercial jingle and end with the tag line “ ……. matter of fact I got it now”.  I love it, and that’s what makes beer a globally approachable drink.

Velkopopovický Kozel is a major brewery in the Czech Republic that has (similar to where Fosters is heading) been taken over by SABMiller.  They commonly produce four beers all of which are exported (to Australia) and today I am tasting the Premium. Oh, I nearly forgot, Kozel means ‘goat’ hence the kid with a huge beer on the label.

Appearance (3.5/5)

Before I start on the beer I need to comment on the packaging.  I love the caricature goat on the label drinking a huge beer.  The bottle is clearly a bit of fun but they manage to hold the premium/ export appeal.

This is a classic golden amber beer that screams pilsner.  A perfectly clear (no sediment) beer with a nice white foamy head.

Nose (3/5)

You will probably not be surprised to hear that this pilsner does not have a lot to offer on the nose.  There is a rather soft hop nose and some graininess but you have to go looking. Ho hum.

Flavour (3.5/5)

This beer is definitely at the dry bitter end of the spectrum but it does still have room for some (I hesitate to say) fruit.  There is a very brief showing of soft fruit in the centre of the tongue but most of the time it is about grains, hops and those classic dry pilsner flavours.

Finish (3.5+/5)

I quite like the finish on this beer as it has two very distinct stages.  At first you get some classic bitterness from the hops on the tongue and after about 10 seconds you receive a surprise at the back of the throat consisting of some warm maltiness leaving a straw finish in the mouth.

Rating: (13.5+/20)

The world needs beers like this.  I have recently reviewed quite a few Belgian beers which are really lovely.  The problem with this type of beer is that after one (or two) you are either on your ear or your palate is clagged.  That’s where the humble pilsner comes in; you can have quite a few in a session while still keeping it together and don’t feel like you’ve just had a four course meal.  This beer is not a superstar but it has no obvious faults and most importantly has a cool goat on the label. Grab some and let me know what you think.

 

Posted by on 25th September 2011 in Beer

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Leffe Radieuse

Date: 10th September 2011

Alcohol: 8.2%

Volume: 330mL

Price: $4.95 (bottleshop), $12.50 (pub)

Manufactured: Belgium

Leffe Blonde must have been one of the first Belgian beers that I ever experienced.  To me it’s a bit of a ‘standard’ that you know if there is nothing else interesting behind the bar, that the Leffe Blonde will keep you interested.  I am pretty sure that I have also tried the Brune from time to time but I have never really noticed the Radieuse (Radiant).

Appearance (4.5/5)

At a passing glance you would describe this beer as cherry red in colour.  Well not quite, but it does have some bright redness to it.  It is pretty clear to see where the radiant title came from.  The clarity os clear as a bell.  The head is thick and creamy giving great ‘whipped egg white’ foam with a colour reminiscent of one of Richie Benaud’s famous sports coats (off white). An all-round great looking beer.

Nose (3.5/5)

The nose is very light.  Nothing offensive just not much notable till you really get your nose in the glass.  There is light yeastiness and some sweet fruit that I can’t really place.

Flavour (5/5)

I immediately like the flavour of this beer.  It is fruity, in a Belgian kind of way; dark fruits and sweet caramel with classic Belgian spiciness.  There is hoppy bitterness up front but this is lightened by some great effervescence.

Finish (5/5)

There is a very big finish on this beer similar (in length) to a substantial red wine.  You get a lovely warmth from the alcohol (8.2%) but most notably is the sugary bitterness that lingers on.  On the pallet I am left with sour cherries and bananas and I am not talking about ‘hints of’, I mean I’ve just finished mashing bananas and cherries into my face.  It is slightly unusual and I understand that it might not agree with all but I love it.

Rating: (18/20)

I can’t figure my scoring system.  Drinks that I think are good rate poorly (overall) and others do surprisingly well.  What do I mean in this case?  Well the flavour and finish are really fantastic but do I really think this is one of the best beers I have tasted (18/20)? No, but it is particularly enjoyable.  I would definitely recommend picking one up and taking it for a ride.  The bold flavours would work well with a powerful meal.  I am thinking a starter plate with Stilton cheese and walnuts.  For the cigar guys out there, this would go well with a big Cuban no problems at all.  Either way, give it a go.

 

Posted by on 10th September 2011 in Beer

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Sydney Cigar Event (6th Sept 2011)

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the first of the Spitbucket Sydney cigar events.  The evening was organised by Elie (from Spitbucket.com) and his mate Kent who did a superb job of giving us the best of hospitality.  I wasn’t taking numbers but guess there was about 15 in attendance which was an awesome effort.

The event was held at Fix St James who were incredibly generous with their venue and provided two (plus) courses of great food that suited the evening beautifully.  The antipasti course was a cracker and highly recommend you drop in for a meal next time you’re in the city. Thanks Stuart.

The evening was composed of two cigars on offer while working your way through a tasting of six single malts supplied by Max from Al-dente wines.

I must say that I had all good intentions of taking a few notes on the tastings (cigars and whiskys) but this was a social situation so just the bare minimum is all I have.  Below are my raw notes purely for completeness.  You may notice that things thin out to the end.  No explanation required I am sure.

Cigar 1 (pre dinner) – Hoyo de Monterrey Le Hoyo du Dauphin

Size: 38RG 152mm

Box Code: ??? 2001

  • very light aroma at cold
  • good draw (to the end)
  • Floral smoke given off. Beautiful.
  • 1st third – light body, some leather, very fine boned
  • 2nd third – a little cream, leather and wood, some sweetness a patch of pepper/ spice.
  • 3rd third – picked up to medium, more leather + cedar box
  • Very delicate all round.
  • Burn was even to the end.
  • Great pre dinner cigar

 

Whisky 1: anCnoc 12 year old

  • Very light dram
  • Nice legs.
  • Pale colour, light straw
  • Subtle vanilla nose
  • Sweet palate. no great length.
  • Enjoyable.

 

Whisky 2:GlenDronach 15 year old

  • light caramel colour
  • citrus/ orange nose with alcohol
  • Full of sherry on the pallet that fills the mouth
  • some warmth down the throat
  • coats the mouth well
  • no peat to be found.

 

Whisky 3: Tobermory 15 year old

  • light caramel colour
  • long legs
  • a little sherry and raisins
  • good length and warmth

 

Cigar 2 (post dinner) – Vegas Robaina Don Alejandro

Size: 49RG 192mm

Box Code: ??? 2008

OK, I don’t have any notes on this one as I was having a great chat with a couple of guys and notes seemed of second importance.  It was a big stick, even wrapper and a great burn to the end with barely a touch up required.  Flavours ……. ahhh I’ll get back to you.

 

Whisky 4: Old Pulteney 17 year old

  • light colour – similar to chardonnay
  • floral nose with some caramel
  • liqueur velvety mouth feel
  • honey and oaky sweetness

 

Whisky 5: Kilchoman Summer 2010 Release (3yo)

  • Light colour
  • Amazing whisky for 3 yo
  • Definitely an Islay, peat on the nose
  • ‘sprightly’ smell (I don’t even know what I meant by this comment, it was getting late)
  • salt and seaweed profile
  • some controlled peat

 

Whisky 6: Bunnahabhaim 18 year old

Again it does appear that by this stage the notes were a bit thin on the ground.  This was definitely one of the great dram’s of the evening.  The colour was dark amber like an aged rum and it had huge length. Most enjoyable.

That’s about it for the details of the evening.  Thanks to all the guys for being so welcoming and I look forward to the next event.

Mitch.

 

 

Posted by on 7th September 2011 in General

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Balvenie Double Wood 12 yo

Date: 21st August 2011

Alcohol: 43%

Volume: 1000mL

Price: $???

Manufactured: Speyside, Scotland (Highlands)

I know it’s childish but every time I see the name of this whisky I giggle like a school boy.  I mean, what sort of moron would name their whisky after some B grade porn movie.  In fact it may well be the sequel to a B grade porn movie. OK enough said ….

Balvenie is somewhat unique (as the bottle bumf informs me) it is one of the only remaining distilleries that grows and malts its own barley.  I am not sure if this makes a difference to the quality of the product but I like the idea that they have control of the whole process from seed to bottle.
So why double wood (hehehe), well the spirit spends time in both classic bourbon casks before being transferred to sherry casks for finish. The only other point to note is the bottle I purchased a few months back ‘duty free’ in Sydney is bottled at 43% alcohol.  Why this is unusual is that all the other reviews I have seen note that they are bottled at 40%.  I am nearly sure there will be a tax/ duty reason for this but does it make a flavour difference?  Don’t know, nor will I likely ever get an opportunity to compare.  Anyway, on with the notes.

Appearance (4/5)

The Whisky displays a bright burnished amber colour that makes you feel warm just looking at it.

Nose (4/5)

The nose on this dram is not intense but worth investigating.  The most notable aroma is the deep caramel with a subtle vanilla oak backbone.  Cutting through the warm caramel is a light citrus highlight. This Whisky is subtle in nose but still quite layered.

Flavour (4.5/5)

I could tell before the spirit hit my mouth that it was going to have the slightly oily mouth feel.  It was growing legs and trying to climb out of the tumbler while I was taking notes.  The first flavours to hit me were sultanas, caramel and sweet (burnt) toffee.  These warm flavours were highlighted by a spicy pepperiness that tingled the tongue.  At first I thought this was just the alcohol but I believe it is a real flavour note. Very enjoyable.

Finish (4/5)

If this was a wine (red) I would use the descriptor ‘ a little flabby’ to describe the finish.  It clearly spent time in sherry casks that gave it a porty/ sherry ending on the tongue.  The flabbiness comes from a slight out of balance nature of the sherry.  The positive of this is the real richness that comes from the fruity caramel flavours.  The length is also excellent and with a long lingering warmth from the alcohol.

Rating: (16.5/20)

Of late I have been all over the big peat monsters like Ardbeg and it has been a great change to try one of the Speyside whiskies like Balvenie.  Looking at this score I think it probably deserves another half point (at least).  Either way, don’t be put off.  If you like a smoother spirit with a little spice this one will be right up your alley.  Enjoy.

 

Posted by on 23rd August 2011 in Scotch Whisky

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How to make me angry ……..

If there is one thing that gets me angry that’s a stingy pour of booze in my drink. Looking at this jigger I though to myself, ‘there is no way that is a shot (30mL)’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go figure ………..

 

 

 

 

Posted by on 17th August 2011 in General

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Chimay Blue

Date: 16th August 2011

Alcohol: 9.0%

Volume: 330mL

Price: $4.95 (bottleshop), $12.50 (pub)

Manufactured: Baileux, Belgium

This is a beer that I have been trying to review for some time.  As you may have noticed I have reviewed the other two beers in the series (red and white) which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  I have enjoyed this beer in a social situation sometime back and had some great recollections of its flavour and power.

Appearance (3.5/5)

I must say that this is not the prettiest beer around in the glass.  Similar to the other two beers in the series it has a very high level of sedimentation. The colour is dark (muddy) brown with a slight amber hue.  The head pours large from the bottle but fairly quickly settles to a thin but persistent creamy yellow layer on the glass.  The bubbles are fine forming a nice foam for the length of the drink.

Nose (4/5)

The beer does not have a strong nose but still contains some detail.  I notice sweet Belgium yeast, vanilla and candied sugar scents. Very nice but not overwhelming.

Flavour (5/5)

If the nose is slightly restrained this is made up in full by the flavour which is powerful and complex.  It starts out with sweet dark brown sugar and candy flavour that is mellow and warming.  The word rich keeps coming to mind.  There are deep dark black fruits in there like blackberries and plums that build to a Christmas cake and booze hit.  The mouth feel is amazing; verging on liqueur but still has delicateness achieved by the light carbonation.

Finish (5/5)

Dark cherries that remind me of Christmas at the back of the pallet remain long after the beer has been consumed.  I have finished the beer and yet still now tasting cherries and plums.  There is warmth that is undoubtedly due to the large alcohol hit and a nice light hoppy bitter finish.

Rating: (17.5/20)

This is an awesome beer that I would strongly recommend to all.  Due to the rich flavours and big alcohol hit it is more of a drink to be had in small measure.  If you would like a change with your Christmas pudding this year, try a Chimay Blue.  I reckon the beer and pud’ would be a sensational match.  The only drawback with this beer is the appearance and I have a sneaking suspicion that the ‘Grande Reserve’ 750mL bottle would sort out some of those sediment issues nicely.

Go out, buy some, drink and if you are so inclined enjoy with a good cigar.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Posted by on 16th August 2011 in Beer

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The Ultimate Dry Martini

Date: 7th August 2011

I’ve got to say up front that I am not a cocktail kinda guy, never have been.  Growing up in rural NSW a cocktail was considered to be something like a bourbon and coke and came out of a UDL can (I see some of you nodding out there).  So I’ve moved on since these days? … well kinda.  Still the idea of putting fruit (lemon) in my beer makes me want to punch someone and start talking about motor racing but some things have changed.

I was once served up a dry martini and it was one of those aha moments.  I got it; strong on the booze, complex flavours and a thousand variants in a simple dry drink.  The Engineer in me decided that I needed to find the ‘Ultimate Dry Martini’.  A man of experimentation, I have tried dozens of combinations and this is the outcome of those years of sacrifice and tireless work. wink.

This is The Ultimate Dry Martini and I believe the Ultimate Mixed Drink. Enjoy.

Recipe:

2 parts Bombay Safire Gin (chilled)

1 part Grey Goose Vodka (chilled)

0.5 part Noilly Prat Vermouth

Generous fresh lemon twist

Secret Ingredient (see below)

All liquid ingredients poured shaken into an ice filled skaker.  Shake like there is no tomorrow for 10-20 seconds and pour into a chilled glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist or two.

Tasting Notes

With a drink like this (and most others in fact), the temperature of consumption has a dramatic effect on the flavours experienced.  I believe that you can always let a drink warm up if it is too cold but chilling it back down is always difficult.  I like to consume these just as the ice is starting to melt off the side of the glass and there certainly shouldn’t be any ice shards left in the drink itself.

Up front you get the unmistakable botanicals of the Bombay Safire Gin.  This gin has quality aromatics that you don’t find in all premium gins charging well beyond this price tag.  I have probably tried half a dozen different gins and this is a classic. A traditional dry martini is all gin but I found that by adding 1 part Grey Goose vodka added a different character that quite honestly I cannot explain.  Try both and you will get it.

Noilly Pratt is what makes the dry martini ‘dry’.  Don’t skimp and buy the Martini brand as the sweet nose (yes I know ironic) you get from Noilly is just down right better.  If the lemon you use for the twist is ‘off the tree fresh’ you will get a lot more fragrant citrus oils in the glass and the entire kitchen for that matter.

So the secret ingredient.  I once read that the secret ingredient to a great martini is water and it is absolutely true.  The real tip is how you get the water.  For me, I fill the shaker with ice, add the ingredients and shake the hell out of it for 10 to 20 seconds.  This will displace ice/ water into the drink slightly reducing the strength of the alcohol.  I see this a little like adding water to whisky to let the flavours and aromas out.  This is why a shaken martini IS better than one stirred.  The shaken martini has added water that improves the whole drink.

Acceptable Variants

The above is in my mind the ultimate but other variants you could consider at a pinch.

  1. 2 parts vodka to 1 part gin.  Although a completely different drink, worth a try when the BS stocks are running low.
  2. A lemon twist can be replaced with a couple of pimento stuffed olives.  Get some decent olives from the deli not that muck from a bottle.
 

Posted by on 7th August 2011 in Gin, Vodka

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Cohiba Robusto

I have enjoyed a few Cohiba Robustos over the years and the only complaint I have ever had is something like ‘this one is not as good as the last one’.  They are known to be one of the favourite vitolas of the most popular CC line around so you are usually in for an entertaining stick.

Today I tasted this CoRo with a double espresso of di Gabriel coffee and a big glass of San Peligrino.  This is a great combo’ which I highly recommend for a sunny afternoon smoke.

Review Date: 6th August 2011

Box code: ??? 2010 (a gift)

Ring Gauge: 50

Length: 12.4 cm

Vitolas: Robusto

Construction

This particular stick was average to firm down the length with no soft spots to be found.  The only notable imperfection on the wrapper was one small green blemish.  You may be able to see from some of the photos that the tan wrapper had a lovely fine leaf pattern. As you would expect it was adorned with a quality triple cap.

Aroma

This stick has been sitting in the humidor for some time now.  Being a single it sits on the top shelf of my humidor and within easy reach for the occasional ‘fiddle and sniff’.  I am therefore familiar with the aroma at cold; cedar and sweet tobacco with vanilla and most characteristically straw (or hay). Really beautiful.

Smoking

On firing up I get my first waft of smoke off the burn that is pure Cohiba.  It instantly reminds me of sitting in Café Paris in Havana.  Funny how aromas more than anything else can bring back memories in a moment.

The smoke starts out medium to light.  I get soft toasty flavours with dry peanuts and almonds.  I also get splashes of espresso but my beverage may be responsible to some part.  The first third is light on fruit but come the second third I start to get light dabs of dried apricots and peaches. The grassiness that you would expect with Cohiba was definitely there from start but much more notable in the second third onwards.

The burn is slightly uneven but nothing that requires a correction.  I roll the cigar over and things start to improve.

The further I got into this cigar the more I enjoyed it.  The body picked up to medium and I continued to get the toast, nuts and fruit.

Overall

This was definitely a finger burner of a smoke.  It didn’t get put to rest till things became awkward in the hand.  I highly recommend picking these up when budget allows.  I will definitely be putting a box into storage for a couple of years to see how things turn out.  The only question is how long they will last.

Rating: 92 points

Coffee Notes

For the Aussies out there that love a coffee I thought I would add a note about di Gabriel coffee.  I have recently started filling my grinder at home with di Gabriel espresso 101 blend.  It makes an awesome espresso with crema that stays complete for ages.  All bags come with a date stamp indicating when they were roasted.  We usually stop by the factory where you can pick up beans that will fit with the time period that you are likely to consume the coffee.

Do yourself a favour and either pick up a bag or drop by one of the cafes that use di Gabriel as a house blend. http://digabriel.com.au

 

Posted by on 6th August 2011 in Cigars, Cuban Cigars

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Ramon Allones Specially Selected

Review Date: 28th July 2011

Box code: Unknown (purchased as single)

Of all the Cuban Robustos this is one that is usually in the top couple of recommendations so I was looking forwarding to sparking this one up.  This particular stick was purchased as a single and has been sitting in my humidor for about 6 months and was ready for my consumption.

Construction

The first thing I notice is the near perfect triple cap that moulds beautifully into the main body of the stick.  The colour is light brown, unremarkable but even.  I assume this came from a cabinet as there is no sign of box press.  The construction is consistent throughout just giving slightly to the touch down the entire length.

Aroma

At cold there is a beautiful sweet tobacco smell with a small amount of grassiness.  This is a highlight; I recon I would have picked up a few more based on this aroma if I had bought them in a bricks and mortar. Very nice.

Smoking

When lit the draw is just how I like it.  I call this medium resistance, none of that wimpy Robusto T stuff I have experienced recently.  The smoke comes in good quantity and leaves a peppery spice on the back of the pallet.  This dies away quickly and is replaced by dry flavours and toasty tobacco.  These flavours are quite pleasant but certainly not for those looking for the fruity notes.  There is a small amount of powdery cocoa around the middle third but that is the only deviation I really experienced.  The smoke given off however was exceptional.  The scent was one of the more floral cigars I have had in recent times.  I really enjoyed the creamy clouds wafting past my nose leaving a delicate floral aroma.  A sexy mose.

Overall

I had high expectations with this cigar and although it had no particular faults it was just a bit ‘ho-hum’.  I have heard of RASS’s having dark fruit & fruitcake flavours but this one gave me none of that.  This would be a great BBQ cigar or something to smoke while otherwise occupied.  For the price point this makes a good value option.  If I was selecting a box to put down for a while I would be looking for something with an oilier or more interesting wrapper as this could be an indicator.  I have certainly seen tastier looking sticks.  I will definitely try again.

BTW: I enjoyed the cigar with a Little Creatures Pale Ale.  The light fruitiness (peach & apricot) of the beer was a surprisingly nice combo with the toasty cigar.  Give it a try.

Rating: 85 points

 

Posted by on 28th July 2011 in Cigars, Cuban Cigars

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