Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Balcones Distiller’s Selection Private Barrel Tour

This is a tweet tasting I was really over the moon to be invited onto - a tour of the fifth anniversary cask specials.  Apart from the bourbon (an oddity for Balcones, only the second ever released) these are all special casks, ACEd in some way or just older versions.  I’m a massive fan of Balcones, partly because Texas is amazing (my previous exploits here), partly because Chip Tate is so cool (making stills, making crazy liquor that’s really good, having a proper Austin beard), but mainly because of the whisky (the regular single malt, baby blue and brimstone I reviewed here).

Saturday, 19 April 2014

SMWS 9.80, Glen Grant, A Rocking Chair Dram

This was January’s whisky for a year from SMWS.  A lump sum at the start of the year gets you a bottle a month - quite often these are otherwise unavailable but there’s been a few show up on the site since being on this particular list, including this oneTom’s been divvying up every month to 14 happy punters.  I think we had plans of running a tweet tasting on these, but I’ve given up waiting!  It’s April and things are about to get pretty hectic at SMWS.

SMWS 9.80, Glen Grant, A Rocking chair dram, 49.7% A⊕+

20 years old, 16th November 2002, re-fill bourbon, 86 bottles.

glengrantNose – Ripe, soft pears and boiled sweets.  Deeply sweet but with a nicely integrated herbal note of rosemary and pine.  There’s a deeply waxed element here, not brightly so, not like something freshly waxed, but something long since lacquered and now cut through.  Oak, presumably.  Barley sugar and polished pine.  Really elegant and intense.

Body – Sweet and oily, like warmed, soft toffee.  More ripe pears, mostly confectionary.  A little wooded spice, fabulous retronasal action which reassures about the quality of the wood.

Finish – Very long, balanced with the sweet toffee winning through throughout, some chocolate hobnobs at the end.  Buttery and deeply sweet.  Lovely, and a massive bargain too.

What's not good about it: Very sweet, if that doesn’t float your boat, this won’t. 

What’s good about it:  Certainly floats mine though – loads of intensity, chocolaty toffee, balance, loads of integration too – a little spice to even it all out.  Beautiful.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Caol Ila Vertical

Needs little introduction.  I did enjoy the Stitchell Reserve at the Diageo 2013 releases tasting enough to buy a bottle, and I’ve got a random bottle of Duncan Taylor Caol Ila from an auction, but Caol Ila’s always been something I’ve tasted out and about, so far, especially at SMWS where it tends to end an evening (in a good way).  Time to get properly acquainted.

caoliladistillery

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Ardbeg Blasda

Ardbeg Blasda, 40% A

129-1Nose - Boiled sweets, some pear drops in there, some blond oak, and some cracked black pepper.  A light, sweet, malty fruit backs the whole thing, with a light toast and a whisper of smoke, and it’s very pleasant indeed.  

Body - Toasty, woody, biscuity, very light.  Lots of clean sweetness with that smoke whisper coming through.

Finish - Light, well balanced, quite short.  Hints of bitterness in there but no problem.
What's not good about it: Relatively uneventful, short finish, lack of complexity.

What’s good about it: Very well judged nose: refreshing, clean, sweet, fruity and light.  The peat provides structure and interest.  Very drinkable indeed.

Thanks to Tom Thomson for the dram!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Ardbeg Auriverdes

2014’s Ardbeg day whisky, to be released on May 31st.  Matured in American oak casks with specially toasted cask lids.  I didn’t get Ardbog until recently, I’m pleased to be on the front foot this time.

Ardbeg Auriverdes, 49.9% A⊕

ardbeg_auriverdesNose - Classically sweet, peat Ardbeg, certainly not too tarry or ashen, with a rather lovely balance.  A little bit of medicine, a little bit of meat, a lot of sweet peat and a beautifully earthen edge to it that I find instinctively addictive.  The whisky, like most Ardbegs (except Corryvreckan in my humble opinion), ably demonstrates why people get so hooked on Ardbeg.

Body - Unexpected chocolate with the smoke.  The rich, creamy oak blends very well with the milk chocolate and vanilla.  Why didn’t they think of this before?

Finish - Here’s the ash, but its not tarry - it’s toasted and a belt of espresso in the (medium, but reasonably uneventful) finish.

What's not good about it: I hesitate to call out a lack of intensity, given the intensity of the single cask IBs I’ve been considering recently, but it’s a little bit like that.  However, I don’t always want the insanity of single cask, and this is fab.

What’s good about it:  Sweet peat, and extra cream and vanilla from the toasted lids - Compass Box must be pretty flattered by this homage.  I love the cream, depth, and balance.  It’s a strong buy.

Thanks to Ardbeg distillery for the official sample.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

A pair of Adelphis

I’ve always heard big things – turns out they were right.

Adelphi Mortlach 1987, 26 year old, 57% A⊕+

171 bottles, cask no. 3102.  American oak, ex-sherry hogshead.

mtladl1987v1Nose - Dark and bright. Intense, deep sherry, beautifully integrated fresh, clean wood.  Raisins soaked in grappa, some pear drops, a hint of carpenter’s workshop (freshly cut hardwoods, wood glue, varnish).  A totally wonderful nose.  With water, smoother, more elegant, juicy cherries come through, but it’s a little bit more ordinary.

Body - Rich, loads of midrange, and very elegant with a toffee sweetness and delicious malt.  Lots of pepper.  But then a bitterness develops, backed by a very faint sulphurous note, which rides in on a tropical wave of ripe fruits and a little smoke.  It’s a fault, but backed by something seriously fun, and hence quite challenging.  With water, the line between the fault and the payback is more blurred.

Finish - Very spicy, more biscuity richness develops, the challenges continue with significant wood tones combatting toffee malt.  It’s pretty fabulous stuff and once you’ve given the whisky a little time in the glass, with a little water, that sulphur and the toffee come together and become something darkly wonderful.

What's not good about it: At first, the drying bitterness is out of kilter.

What’s good about it:  But with patience it becomes a defining feature and works with the blockbuster nose to provide an authoritative, elegant and deeply intense whisky.  Very good.

Adelphi Clynelish 1996, 17 year old, 57.1% A⊕+

264 bottles, cask no. 6417.  Spanish oak, ex-sherry hogshead.

clyadl1996Nose - Abyssal depths, dusty old oak, raisins on the vine, but with a stewed apple and raisin sweetness, with some cream.  Fantastic intensity, lots of wood and some pencil shavings too, and grapes served many ways.  Finally, some Asian brightness - szechuan peppercorns (untoasted and tough), spring onions and a hint of Asian fruit.  With water, it gets a little more tropical, and a little more meaty - with BBQ pork and slowly rendered fat coming to the fore.

Body - Deep, dark, rich biscuity malt.  Very spicy, very oily and quite herbal with a little rosemary, oregano and loads of lavender.  Fascinating and surefooted.

Finish - The spice continues, long and continuous and quite meaty too.  No duff notes and no unbalanced wood.  Very, very good.

What's not good about it: Only that it’s so complicated that it’s not pure pleasure - so a little challenging but definitely worth it.

What’s good about it:  The full church organ, all the stops out and balanced too.  What a fabulous whisky.

Arran 17 year old

Arran are still one of my favourite distilleries.  It’s a modern, excellent distillery growing up in a time where whisky is flourishing.  And they’re hitting it just right.

Arran 17 year old, 46% A⊕

arran-17-year-oldNose - Lush, wooded, sweet and fruity - juicy pears, pear drops, dense, high quality oak.  Ripe, bright, elegant and waxed.  It’s very rich, smooth, chocolaty, fruity and a little spicy and waxy.  It’s very Arran and very good.  With water the chocolate box fruit comes to the fore and the feel is more sweeties than spice and oak, but there’s still balance.

Body - Rich milk chocolate, spicy wood and deep malty sweetness, with smarties, more pear drops and a biscuity, toasted backing.  The slight astringency on the side of the palate makes it oddly refreshing.

Finish - Medium to long, ripe, smooth.  Final notes are of structure and wood bitterness but this balances some of that sweetness.  It’s very good.  With water, the astringency becomes unbalanced.  I wouldn’t recommend diluting this.

What's not good about it: The bitter end of the finish is a small fault, but remember this is only a 17 year old.

What’s good about it: It’s deep, lush, ripe, chocolaty and very smooth.  There’s loads of malt, loads of structure, but it’s decadent and delicious.  I love the pure Arran character in here, and what’s most important is that it’s evident that Arran really is maturing into the classic malt we all know it will be.  

Compared to the 14 year old (which I love) the nose on the 14 is more obviously waxily fruited (and on first blush, it’s a more expensive nose), and it’s more floral and perfumed.  But the 14 has less depth, and the delivery isn’t in the same league as the 17 (and there’s no chocolate).  

We’re living through Arran’s teenage years and journey into adulthood, and it’s going really well.  Big hopes for the 21 year old.  See you next year for the 18!

Thanks to Arran Distillery for the official sample.