David’s Drink Diaries – Issue 7
This edition marks an evolution in my drink diaries, as I introduce wine alongside my whisky musings. As a former Sommelier in a Michelin-starred restaurant, it feels both natural and exciting to start sharing this passion with you. Just as I have written about whisky and all of its pleasures, I will write in a similar way about wine. Expect insights and stories behind some of the world’s most esteemed vineyards and hidden gems, with of course lots of tasting notes. Truth & ConsequenceBased in Australia and set up by David M. Koutsoukos and Ross Havezov (who own The Old Barrelhouse retail store), Truth and Consequence’s mission is to put out big and bold whisky at cask strength. They focus on buying select casks from Scotland and Australia that meet their strict criteria for the label. It is exactly what I would love to do if I was in a position too. The Old Barrelhouse has the largest selection of Australian whiskies available, so it is a place I really need to visit (I wonder if I could get a work visa for a couple of months to really understand the Australian whisky scene). The more I taste Australian whisky the more I fall in love with it and want to get deeper under the skin. I love the boldness of it, as it appeals to my tastes, with the first whisky tasted, the Otter Craft, being simply delicious. Otter Craft Distillery Wheated Bourbon 68.25%I couldn’t help smiling at this whisky, having researched its back story. Otter Craft Distillery is based near Sydney, Australia and the Truth & Consequences team worked hard to get Eduard and Julie Otter, the founders to part with this 47 litre cask. It yielded just 33 bottles, so as rare as it is possible to get, and also as big as whisky gets in terms of alcohol and flavour. They have chosen to bottle at just the right time before the wood took over and masked all the wonderful flavours this has. The grain shows through on the nose with rich, old marmalade notes complete with clove spices. On the palette, I got dark cherry compote served with a chocolate brownie and stem ginger.. I love this style of whisky. Ardmore Distillery 12-Year-Old 62.8%I was looking forward to tasting this as soon as I saw the sample. Most people’s experience of Ardmore is in the form of their 40% expression “Legacy”, as most goes into Teachers. Look beyond this, and you will discover a raft of independent bottlers demonstrating just how good it can be when bottled at a high abv and from the right barrels.This 12-year-old has been aged in ex-bourbon barrels and offers smoky aromas alongside peach and green apple skins. The taste is flavourful with the smoke working with the underlying fruit and not against it. The apples continue to show with the introduction of some damsons. Like the Otter Craft previously, the length is long and powerful making this a great dram for this time of year. Truth and ConsequenceDistillerie Warenghem – AmorikIn the lush, rolling countryside of Brittany, France, a region better known for its cider and crepes than for spirits, is one of France’s finest whisky makers – Distillerie Warenghem. While the country has long been associated with wine and cognac, an increasing number of distilleries are turning their attention to whisky. This shift signifies the evolving tastes and openness to experimentation among French producers and consumers alike.With its Celtic connections, Brittany shares more than just folklore with Scotland. These shared Celtic roots extend into distillation, with Amorik, established by the Warenghem distillery in Lannion, making a real impact on the world stage. The distillery is family-run and has been in operation since July 1st 1900, initially producing Eaux-de-vie and liqueurs, it wasn’t until 1983, that Gilles Leizour, a trained pharmacist, took over from his father at the distillery, had the vision to create the first French whisky. This 75% grain and 25% malt blended whisky was launched in 1987.This was a success as in 1993 Gilles commissioned a distillery dedicated to the making of whisky. The result of this Amorik, was launched in 1998. Amorik, meaning “the spirit of the sea” in the Breton language, captures the essence of its coastal origins. Barley is sourced from Brittany and across France, with it being 100% organic since 2020. The water is sourced from a natural spring 100 metres below the distillery, which is very pure and has a low limestone content, much like the water found in Kentucky to make bourbon. The whisky is produced in small batches and the maritime climate, characterised by mild winters and cool summers, plays a crucial role in the maturation process with the sea air imparting a unique character to the spirit, maybe in much the same way as with Talisker and Highland Park. They use ex-bourbon, ex-oloroso and more interestingly oak casks from Brittany. This has been possible due to a 15-year partnership with the last cooper in Brittany. Jean Baptiste Le Floc’h from Douarnenez, makes casks for them from oak sourced from the forests of Cranou and Brocéliande. These casks provide their natural sweetness and delicate woody notes.I recently tasted 6 expressions Classic 46%On the nose there is a light maltiness with fruit, herbaceous and grassy notes, complemented with honey in the background and a subtle hint of cinnamon. There is a slight sweetness on the palate which complements the delicate fruit flavours. Mid-palate, there’s a warm, slightly oaky character with spice notes coming through.Sherry Cask 46%The Armorik Sherry Cask opens with a rich aroma, with the influence of the sherry cask immediately apparent. Dark fruits such as plums and cherries come to the forefront, mingling with a sweet, nutty character of almonds and hazelnuts. There’s also a hint of madeleines soaked with apricot syrup. Raisins and figs take centre stage on the palate with a spicy warmth, coming from cinnamon, clove, and a hint of ginger. The finish leaves spiced fruitcake, oak, and dark chocolate but also a pleasant dryness. Double Maturation 46%Initially, on the nose there are green apples, pears, and a hint of citrus zest, with sweet, honeyed notes and a subtle floral undertone. The initial sweetness of honey and vanilla is quickly complemented by a burst of fruitiness, echoing the nose with flavours of orchard fruits and a pleasing note of caramel sweetness. 10 year old 46%The whisky is starting to come out of its shell. The nose has developed lovely caramel and butterscotch notes, whilst retaining the barley aromas. It almost smells creamy. The palate has developed baking spices coming through behind the vanilla cream, toffee and honey. The alcohol is a little evident but a drop of water cured this and opened the whisky up to show pears, cereal and even a hint of mint. 15 year old 46%This steps up another gear, with more pronounced flavours of toffee apple, freshly made butterscotch, wood and even some citrus. There is also some aged leather and a hint of tobacco. The palate has more depth and complexity, and I feel this is a sweet spot for the distillery. The length has increased and flavours of leather, vanilla and sandalwood remain for quite some time but marmalade and stewed damsons also appear. Very nice. Maitre de Chai 50%The Armorik Maître de Chai, shows stone fruits such as apricots, cereal, honey, vanilla and sugar coated almonds The influence of oak is evident but not overpowering, offering vanilla and toasted almonds. I found a sweetness on the palate reminiscent of baked apples and caramelised pears with a good finish. I appreciated the extra alcohol which provided a little more depth to the whisky. AmorikWines Domaine Lafage, Authentique 2020 – £17.90 Noble Green WinesNestled in the sun-drenched, windswept valleys of Southern France, the Côtes du Roussillon appellation is part of the larger Languedoc-Roussillon area. Located in the Pyrénées-Orientales department, Its proximity to the Pyrenees mountains to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the east creates a wonderful microclimate. The area benefits from abundant sunshine, low rainfall, and the drying Tramontane wind, which together create ideal conditions for growing vines. This particular example is made from Carignan (70 year old vines), Syrah (30 year old vines) and Grenache Noir (70 year old vines) grapes, giving a soft and perfumed nose. I found notes of plum, dark cherry and vanilla, followed by juicy raspberries, blackberries and chocolate on the palate. There was also traces of herbs and oak. It has soft tannins and drank very easily. Along Came Jones Lledoner Pelut Hairy Grenache 2022 – £14.95 The Wine SocietyA couple of years ago, winemaker Katie Jones (from Leicestershire) bought a vineyard planted with Lledoner Pelut – aka Hairy Grenache – so called because of the soft down on its leaves. In 2015 she tried making wine but was disappointed with the results. The following year she thought she would have another attempt but differently, by only leaving the skins in the must for 4 days before pressing. This has kept all the fruit but without the drying tannins that had been present previously. It was a success so she has been doing it ever since. Katies vineyard is about 1 km outside of Tuchan in Languedoc-Roussillon, and planted with vines that are at least 50 years old and grown organically. The villagers aren’t too keen on the variety, but I am pleased Katie is showcasing it. I am all for diversity of flavour derived from more unusual grape varieties. The nose is full of cherries, raspberries, elderberry and damsons, with subtle hints of wild herbs. The palate is silky and perfumed with black cherries and forest fruits that make it drink very well. This is a lovely wine that offers a point of difference and would be perfect to enjoy with a hearty stew over these winter months as it would balance its richness and provide freshness.