Showing posts with label Mitchell & Sons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mitchell & Sons. Show all posts

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Riedel at the Grainstore. The Glass that Surprises

Riedel at the Grainstore
The Glass that Surprises
A rather special decanter.
Maximilian Riedel, representing the 11th generation of the Austrian glass-making firm, says Riedel are always up for a challenge. He was speaking during last Thursday’s comparative wine tasting event in the Grainstore at Ballymaloe House.

And Maximilian found a new challenge during his brief visit to East Cork. He enjoyed a tour of the local Irish Distillers facility. He was very impressed with the whiskey and told us in Ballymaloe that his new goal is to develop “the perfect glass for Irish whiskey”.

And taking up challenges is not new to the famous glass-makers (founded 1756) who lost almost everything during the war. But not their glass-making skills and not their love of it. They also loved their wine, still do, and eventually they became known as the makers of the varietal wine glass. So far, they have covered the main varietals but only ten per cent of the total!

But did you know they also make a glass for Coca Cola? Max told us how his father took up the challenge when a man from Atlanta came calling. “Why Coca Cola? We like to be challenged!” Working with a company who employ over “one million people worldwide” was just such a challenge. And they came up with a  glass that satisfied both them and Coca Cola and it was included in the Grainstore tasting.
Calm before the Riedel
He also indicated that the glass is very suitable indeed for your Cuba Libre cocktail! Actually, while the wine glasses are varietal specific, they are versatile enough to suit related varieties. For instance, glass #1 in the tasting was New World Pinot Noir (6449/67). But Max said it was “..the best champagne glass, full stop! Try it, you’ll be surprised”. Maybe not so surprising when you think that Pinot Noir is one of the champagne grapes. It is also suitable for Nebbiolo.

And it was with #1 that we started. Like #3, it holds a full bottle. But we weren't that greedy! The Pinot Noir glass has a “flare” at the top and this has helped reduce the acidity and so improve the whole experience. Beautiful aromas from the dedicated glass, reduced in #2 (for Old World Syrah) and further reduced in #3 (Cabernet).

“It is below room temperature, because I like it that way! Very well balanced, fresh, fruit, long, sweet and smooth… in #2 we are losing the fruit…. if we drink it from #3, people won't like Pinot Noir, it is heavier, drier, bitter…. the wrong glass could turn people off..” A further demo, using Lindt white chocolate, again showed a big contrast between #1 (good) and #3 (bad).

The Pinot Noir by the way was from Oregon. Wine #2 for glass #2 was a French Syrah (St Joseph 2013). In the proper glass, the Syrah showed a beautiful nose and then fruit, minerality, acidity, pepper, a beautiful structure and great aftertaste”. In #3, the message was diluted “aromas not bad, but not as intense….extreme spice and tannins on the palate..and where did the fruit go?” With Number 1 glass, he remarked: “a perfectly made wine in the wrong glass”.

 Max, and Riedel generally, do have a sense of humour and it showed again with his next demo, again with the Syrah but now in a plastic cup. “The nose is gone, lost….but not as bad as the wrong Riedel glass!”

“Bourdeau, toujour Bordeaux,” he remarked as he poured the third wine, a special treat: St Estephe 2009, into #3 glass. “... depth, structure, enough acidity, very elegant, dark berries, all in the right glass. In Number 1, it was no way close, fruit down...bitter and dry..green! Number 2 was worse again, “less fruit, more alcohol and bone dry”. And he showed the engineered pattern of the flow from the various glasses and it is this pattern that causes some of the variations.

Riedel didn't have any at Thursday’s demo but they also have a range of stemless glasses, the range invented by none other than Max himself. “The stem has no influence on the wine.” And then we were into the Coca Cola demo. That glass was developed with the help of the American company's Twenty Noses, their travelling tasters.

And again, the Riedel glass came up trumps: “You can almost see the secret Coca Cola formula here, the various fruits, a little cinnamon.... In the plastic cup, it goes flat faster, gets warmer faster, no aromas, more acidity.” The glass itself is very thin. “The thinner the glass, the longer it stays cool,” said Max.

The wines
By the way, he got no arguments all evening, all around me seemed to be agreeing, both during and after. And I have been a Riedel convert for a while now.

The wines, from Mitchell & Son:
1 - Dundee Hills Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012
2 - Yves Cuilleron Les Pierres Séches Saint Joseph 2013
3- Chateau Ormes de Pez Saint Estèphe 2009

The wine glasses, all from the Riedel Veritas range:
1 - New World Pinot Noir, 6449/67
2- Old World Syrah, 6449/41
3 - Cabernet, 6449/0
The reference for the Coca Cola glass is 0414/21. Check them all out here. Mitchell’s are also the Irish agents for Riedel and you may see their glass selection here.

The next wine event in Ballymaloe is also a gem and features a dinner this Wednesday (18th) with Manuel Lozano of the famous Sherry producer, Bodegas Lustau. Full details here.
Max with plastic!
Strictly for demonstration purposes!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey. Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.


World Rediscovers Irish Whiskey
Dave Broom’s Breakfast-style Whiskey.
Whiskey ageing silently in Midleton.

It was a tax dodge that led to one of the great whiskeys!

Leading whiskey (sometimes whisky) authority Dave Broom was talking about Green Spot, the first drop up for tasting during the Roaring Silence - Silent Stills Awaken, the title of a session on the irish whiskey renaissance at Ballymaloe’s LitFest at the weekend.

Because of  a punitive tax on malted barley, the Irish distillers decided to use a portion of unmalted barley in their mix and that style became known as Single Pot Still and is now part of the astonishing revival of the Irish spirit. Dave did take the opportunity to point out that John Jameson was a Scot.

Tomas Clancy (left), Dave Broom and Brian Nation (right)

Quite a bit to go yet though according to Tomas Clancy, another of the speakers on the panel. he would like to see the industry here mirror that of Scotland with a mix of both small and large operators. He pointed out that the Scottish industry is worth three billion while, at present, the Irish weighs in at three hundred million. “Investment here, he said, “is heavy.”

Dave may not always be sure of which time zone he is in but he knows his whiskey and obviously likes the Green Spot: “..stimulating nose (a signature of Irish whiskey and it dangerous drinkability!)...oily, coating the tongue..sweet...fresh acidity….
Brian Nation the enthusiastic Master Distiller at Jameson Ireland explained how the malted/unmalted mix and the triple distilling “imparts a creamy mouthfeel. The style has orchard fruits and sweet spices (from the distillate) and is toasty from the wood.”

He pointed out that maturing in wood casks had been started a long time ago by Mitchell & Sons Wine Merchants in Dublin, still associated with Green Spot. And he also paid tribute to his predecessor in Midleton, Barry Crockett, whose foresight “in laying down stocks” was crucial to the current revival.

Late in the 19th century and in the early part of the 20th, Irish whiskey was the world leader but over the decades lost out in the UK and US markets because of various factors, including prohibition, World War 1, War of Independence, and the Irish Civil War. And the decline continued right through the Second World War with all the American soldiers in Britain being wowed by Scotch.

Boosted by a Royal Commission 1909 finding in its favour, the Scots were benefitting hugely from improved versions of Aeneas Coffey’s 1830 Column Still invention. French born Coffey was an Irish tax inspector but the industry here dismissed his breakthrough invention, to their cost. “We were the masters of the Pot Still,” said Tomas Clancy. “But Irish Whiskey was too good, too early.”

Feeling's Single Malt
Broome, who described Coffey’s invention as “a good piece of kit”, now introduced Teeling Whiskey Single Grain, made from maize. It is matured initially in American oak and is “a great whiskey, creamier and sweet, with banana notes, and a short finish. It is gentle and light, a breakfast style whiskey. Good for cocktails too, very versatile.” 

This weighs in at 46% abv and Dave suggested adding some water. I did and got a good result!
Brian told us that this Single Grain, made with maize and malt, is produced in the column still. “It is a fruity, floral style. Jameson, by the way, is a blend of single grain and Single Pot Still.”

In the 1940’s, people, especially Americans, began to look for lighter whiskeys and Tullamore Distillery deliberately blended for the palate. Now there is, since 2013, a brand new distillery there. It has impressed Dave Broome. “It is an astonishing piece of work - go see it.”

The piece of work we had in front of us at that point was the Tullamore Dew Phoenix. Brian Nation said you have to be innovative to meet demand for styles and brands. “Don't sit on your laurels. Look to innovate and stay ahead of the game.”

On the whiskey itself, Dave remarked that the Single Pot Still comes through. “It has a rich dark character and you also note the effects of the sherry barrels. At 55%, it need water. It is lovely, well balanced, with good characters.”

Tomas Clancy said our ancestors didn't want to waste anything. So the empty barrells from Jerez and Porto and other places were put to use to mature whisky. “Colour was one of the main impacts as the barrels changed a dirty looking spirit into an inviting looking liquid.”

Lots of praise for the “innovative, cheeky Teelings” from Broom as we sampled  their Single Malt. “Keep an eye on them,” he continued. “They are raising the bar”. Clancy agreed:”They are fantaiusci, will get even more so. They are not in it by accident, they have seen where the opportunities are and should have a fascinating future.”

The introduction of our Glendalough 7 year old Single Malt provoked a discussion about the future. The past first though as Tomas said the current 9 to 10 per cent annual growth is down to Midleton. The stills at  Midleton are artisan, don't lose sight of it. Micros are okay but won't be the industry in 20 years time. He remarked too that distilleries need to be encouraged and instanced the fact that one of the bigger new ones had received a half million euro water bill even before they had started operating!

Whiskey making, old and new
Dave encouraged us consumers to celebrate the diversity and encouraged producers to differentiate.. “can't all be Jameson copies.There is craftsmanship at every step, at every level.” Big is not necessarily bad.

Brian Nation said at present Ireland has four per cent of the world market and the plan is to grow that to 12 per cent by 2030. “There is plenty of room for other distillers but we need to see the quality kept up. One bad apple….”

We had earlier met Dave Broom’s breakfast whiskey. Now he introduced us to his desert island tipple, the one he'd grab if the ship was going down, none other than the local Redbreast 12, “a style of whiskey the world has fallen in love with, really well priced.”

Brian explained that the key difference here is the cuts during the distillation. “It is full bodied, robust, lots of flavours. On the nose you have the fruitcake aromas, a contribution from the Oloroso casks. The feel is creamy and there are spices there too and also that dried fruit. For me, this is an exquisite whiskey.”

Dave, who had been totally encouraging all along about Irish Whiskey, rounded it all off by saying the category was “on fire”. “Everyone wants Irish Whiskey!” Sláinte to the panel and to Colm McCan and his volunteers at LifeFest who, year after year, come up with the goods.