Glen Moray single malt … “the greatest journey of flavours”

Glen Moray whisky review

The other night I dashed home from work and hit the bottle. Well, to be precise, I hit three bottles which confounded the dog, as normally my 6pm priority is her tea-time walk.

It wasn’t because I’d had a tough day, but because I had a dial-in tasting chat specially lined up for me with whisky expert Iain Allan, 38, the International Brand Manager for Glen Moray Distillery. The dog had to wait for her walk; and when it finally came, let’s say it was slightly wobbly.

glen moray whisky tasting
At the ready for my Glen Moray whisky tasting

I’m a beginner when it comes to whisky, no word of a lie. So I’d enlisted Iain’s help. Whisky is a spirit, made from malted barley, yeast and water. The colour comes from maturation in casks; the three styles I tasted with Iain had such variations in flavour, colour and aromas, owed principally to the length of ageing, and the types of cask used.

We began with Glen Moray Single Malt Classic (Sainsbury, and, price from £20).

The master distiller picks the blend of the whisky based on specific characters of the casks available to him. Age isn’t important in this entry point whisky, but maintaining the same characters, taste and style is paramount.

Glen Moray whisky tasting
Glen Moray whisky tasting

The whisky is really light and simple, “stripped down” as Iain describes it, with a sweet malty vanilla nose. I found hints of pineapple and Iain agreed there is a definite tropical, citrus edge and some butterscotch too.

It is aged in bourbon casks and Iain explains: “We have flavour from two places; the spirit, and the character within it, then we put it in the cask and let the cask add to character.”

The classic whisky is taken and aged for a further eight months in tawny port casks which have been brought from Portugal to produce Glen Moray Single Malt Classic Port Cask Finish ( or Spirited Wines, price from £25). Some casks, says Iain, are still “wonderfully fresh” with even a little bit of port still sloshing in them.

This is the colour of a dessert wine, a rosey blush colour and side by side with its sister the Classic, you can see just how much difference the short ageing has made. It has a summer fruit aroma, a strawberry note that shines through with a juicy sweetness.

I gave the glass a swizzle and more aromas came out, cinnamon, Seville orange rind, a little bit of spice. “The beauty of whisky is the aroma,” says Iain.

Glen Moray whisky tasting
Glen Moray whisky tasting

Burgundy casks, originally used for chardonnay, have brought their signature notes to Glen Moray 10 Year Old Chardonnay Cask Matured (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, around £25).

Explains Iain: “The casks are French oak and when you hit the finish the flavour is more nutty. In character it is very subtle, it is an elegant gentle whisky.”

It has a caramelised fruit character and a floral note, with a bit of candied peel. Add a drop of water and the flavours open up, the tiniest hint of palma violet and a little bit of lime.

Iain studied law but when he got a student job in a wine shop he fell in love with the whisky side, followed his heart and has been working at Glen Moray for ten years.

Does he have any advice for people like me, a little bit nervous of exploring whisky? He says: “If you’re not used to drinking whisky at first it can seem to be quite numbing on the palate. But dive in because it’s the greatest journey of flavours you’ll find.”

Glen Moray whisky tasting
Glen Moray Peated Classic Single Malt

Glen Moray launched Glen Moray Classic Peated Single Malt in Morrisons on May 4, (from £22) and it will be in Sainsbury’s from the end of June.

Published in the saturday extra magazine May 2, 2015

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

A review of fruit flavoured ciders. This really divides opinions

Fruit flavoured ciders review

FRUIT flavoured ciders. Well. I haven’t known such divided public opinion since Deirdre decided to stay with Ken and abandon her lover Mike Baldwin.

For weeks my eyes have been drawn towards fruit flavoured ciders in shops. “No!” said the good fairy on my right shoulder. “Yes!” said the cheeky little devil sitting on my left. The devil won.

The other night I queued up with lots of red berries in my shopping basket, most of them emblazoned on cider bottles, and some in a well-known brand of cereal. Breakfast. (The cereal, that is. Perhaps.)

Fruit cider shopping basket
You thought I made it up

I like a glass of cider now and again. Usually on a Saturday afternoon as I watch the footie results. Fruity ones, no, not really. So roll on a Scientific Experiment.

I contacted Bulmers and they told me: “The cider category has experienced meteoric growth in recent years, as consumers increasingly look to widen their drinking repertoires and experiment with new flavours. Flavoured ciders are forecast to deliver 80% of total cider growth this year.”

I told workpals. Now that stirred up a debate. “A cider is a cider. … These aren’t ciders … they’re pandering to our nation’s sweet tooth.”

I trawled a couple of stores – Tesco and the Co-op – and picked up a handful of fruity ciders. All 500ml, about 4% abv and early to mid £2 mark.

stella raspberry cider review
Stella raspberry cider

Stella Cidre Raspberry: My favourite. Lots of raspberry aromas popping out of the glass. It was a raspberry pink colour, tasted sweet but natural.

kopparberg strawberry lime cider review
Kopparberg strawberry lime cider

Kopparberg with Strawberry & Lime: An unmistakable strawberry aroma; couldn’t chase down the lime though, either tasting or sniffing. The colour of a deep rose wine; and reminded me of ice cream syrup.

magners cider orchard berries review
Magners cider orchard berries

Magners Orchard Berries: To look at, I wondered if someone had been let loose with a paint palette of pinks. So bright. Unnaturally bright pink. It put me off. Sorry.

Strongbow cider dark fruit review
Strongbow cider dark fruit

Strongbow Dark Fruit: The colour of Ribena and smells much the same. But watery on the finish. If this had been served with ice – I didn’t – as many of the brands recommend, then it would have been more watery. Not convinced.

Bulmers Red Crushed Berries and Lime: After a long hot car journey this was refreshing. There. I’ve said it. No trace of lime.

In the interests of balance, I took to social media for my pals’ thoughts. Here’s some.

“You can’t beat Rekorderlig strawberry and lime – so refreshingly lush on a hot summer’s day! The Stella Artois Cidre Pear is surprisingly nice too!”

Kopparberg pear or mixed fruit are gorgeous. Very light and not too fizzy. Lovely over ice.”

“I love the Bulmer Bold Black Cherry. It’s proper lush.”

“Fruity cider is the drink to drink when you want to pretend you’re not really drinking. Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime and black cherry Bulmers.“

“Having extensively tested the range Strongbow have on offer we think they should stick to what they know best.”

“I had a toffee apple flavour one that was very drinkable.”

{After research I think this was Brothers Toffee Apple Cider.}

I leave the final word to my best chum: “I don’t like cider, me.”

People eh.  We’re all so different.

Also in my glass … A good bottle of chardonnay from Argentina. Trivento Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (RRP £8.99, Tesco online and selected stockists).

trivento chardonnay argentina
Trivento Chardonnay

This is one of those wines which has flirted with oak just enough to bring an interesting layer of flavours and aromas, with green apples, stone fruit and honeysuckle. Three months in oak has added a brush of silky, subtle vanilla. Watch out for the 14% abv. It sneaks up.

Published in the saturday extra magazine August 2, 2014