Wednesday, 28 May 2014

New Single Malts of Scotland and Elements of Islay

Last night I attended the whisky exchange’s launch of 15 new whiskies as part of their Single Malts of Scotland (SMOS) and Elements of Islay ranges.  Apparently TWE used to release to SMOS once a year, in December, and have a single, large tasting then, but this has recently been taken over by masterclasses and verticals.  Last night was a festival style tasting, with eight tokens to redeem and some heavy hands with the portion control.  As usual the peated whiskies suffer from being last.  I’ve been having peated whiskies first at home recently to give them their due!  

Anyway, here’s the new range:

Range Distillery Age ABV Price
SMOS Clynelish 18 57.5% £74.95
  Glen Grant 22 57.8% £74.95
  Glenrothes 23 49.4% £89.95
  Longmorn 21 49.7% £79.95
  Tobermory 19 55.8% £69.95
  Aultmore 15 51.3% £55.95
  Aberlour 22 54.1% £86.95
  Speyside 18 52.3% £64.95
  Tamnavulin 21 48.2% £72.95
Elements Ar4   58.1% £89.95
  Bn6   49.95% £49.95
  Cl6   61.2% £59.95
  Lp5   52.4% £69.96
  Bw3   51.6% £59.95
  Br5   53.8% £55.95


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Port Charlotte

Following on from 4/6 (OBs) and 5/6 (IBs), here’s 6/6 – Port Charlotte.  There will be a lot more of these appearing on the blog in due course!  Fabulous stuff.

Port Charlotte, The Peat Project, 46% A⊕

A NAS Port Charlotte, multivintage and intended to show how Bruichladdich might have tasted a hundred years ago.  Thanks to Johnnie Stumbler for the sample!

port-charlotte-peat-projectNose - Floral peat, urinal cake (not in a bad way, not the urine) and pine.  Unripe pear and cherries.  A rich, cereal backing, great wood.  That toffee malt is lurking.

Body - Ashen chocolate, chocolate first.  The ash is quite bitter though.

Finish - which translates into the finish, with quite a robust development, but rightly so for a whisky of this style.  I’m impressed.

What's not good about it: Quite bold, a little bitter, I think it works though.

What’s good about it: The nose is bright and structured but it hangs together. The palate doesn’t disappoint either, with loads of sweet toffee chocolate and that ashen bitterness coming together very nicely.  At this price, Big Peat should be scared.

Port Charlotte An Turas Mor, 46% A

A reasonably priced NAS release from Port Charlotte.

download (5)Nose - sweet, gentle and smooth.  Lovely, bright boiled sweets (barley sugar), toffee against a classical, delicate, mature and well integrated peat backdrop.  Some apricot, light furniture polish and toasted wholemeal bread.  The balance is just so, very impressive.

Body - Surprising sour cereal arrival, Japanese plum wine and umeboshi, wet paper and quite bright and light.

Finish - Short, toasted, a little more of that sour edge, with sweetness returning at the end.  Quite clean and refreshing.  A peated palate cleanser.

What’s not good about it:  Sour plums isn’t my favourite but it’s pulled off nicely here.

What’s good about it:  Fabulous nose, great balance, and fantastic value

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, Heavily Peated, 50%, A+

port-charlotte-scottish-barley-heavily-peated-whiskyNose - Light, perfumed, cereally peated, sweet toffee and wagon wheels (i.e. biscuit, marshmallow and bad chocolate).  There’s a meaty, musky back note, and quite a lot of youth, although it hangs together ok.

Body - Initially sweet chocolate and toffee, then fiery and ashen, but with a lovely, mellow, sweet and oily centre to it.  Bruichladdich’s spirit is good eh?

Finish - Quite long, good balance of fire, ash and toffee.  Seriously moreish.

What’s not good about it:  Nose is initially thin but once you have the toffeed ash in the back of your throat it makes sense.

What’s good about it:  Wonderful balance during the delivery, and that brings the nose along with it.  Extremely drinkable.

SMWS 127.17, Port Charlotte, 18th Century anaesthetic, 9 years old, 66.3% A⊕+

127.17_300Nose - Bright, intense, herbal (fennel), meaty, wet burnt wood, fire, peanuts and sawdust.  There’s a new road/tarmac thing going on behind this, and the medical edge is modern hospital/industrial rather than 18th century for me.  Enormous, of course, with intense sweetness balancing it’s core values, loads of complexity and interest and lots of burning, medicinal components but brought together by rounded, sweet elements.  It’s at it’s fighting weight.

Body - Smooth and faultless, sweeps from smooth and sweet pear and toffee, up to cauterising peat and coal.

Finish - Long ashes and toffee, burnt chocolate and lots of lingering, almost cloying sweetness.  I can’t see how Octomore is more intense than this.

What’s not good about it:  Struggling to fault this.

What’s good about it:  Intensity, integration, balance and consistency.  Extremely good.

Thanks to Nick for the sample!

SMWS 127.39, Port Charlotte, Intensely tasty, 11 years old, 66.7% A⊕

Refill ex-sherry butt, June 21 2002, 579 bottles

photo 5Nose - Intense, waxed, sweet peat.  Charred ham, bandages, and bright, ashen, toasted wood.  Overripe mango, floor polish and TCP. Quite a feat to be so dark and bright at the same time, and just the most lovely integration of very serious, big flavours.  This is why we love Bruichladdich and love SMWS; intensity, balance, a broad spectrum, expertise.

Body - Intense caraway and chilli.  Flat palated, numbing but exciting, with a dark undercurrent of sweetness and anaesthesia.  Intensely tasty but cauterising.

Finish - Long, sweet, more caraway, toasted cereal and in the end, long, intense, bitter peat.  Very good.

What's not good about it: Long, intense bitterness is a bit of an acquired taste and something you’ll want to be stepping up to if you own a bottle of this.

What’s good about it:  But it’s balanced throughout, with meaty, tropical, sweet notes and loads of interest and intensity.  I think it’s ace.

SMWS 127.33, Port Charlotte, Mouth-numbing moutaineering dram, 64.5% A⊕+

mouthnumbingNose - More sweet wax, less peat, much more fruit.  Redcurrants, red skinned peanuts, fried batter, toasted oak, well worn leather and old, wet, previously burned apple wood.  Cigarette tobacco and a touch of petrol.  Sweet, subtle but distinctive.  Fascinating.

Body - Incredibly spicy, in waves with dusty bookcase and BBQ charcoal.  Fireball jawbreakers (industrial cinnamon).  Delightfully sweet, rolling into ashen bitterness.  Fabulous poise - very bold.  The nose suddenly moves from a jumble of spice, leathery, toasty artefacts to making perfect sense.  Wow.

Finish - Long, Octomore-like and numbing, balanced bitterness and serious wood.  Overall the peat is both hidden behind other aspects (bitterness, wood, sweetness, leather, tobacco) and simultaneously absolutely massive.  What a feat!  And yes, my mouth is completely numb.

What's not good about it: Intensely challenging, in the same way that Octomore can be. That’s not a problem in isolation but may make you reconsider pouring a dram or sharing it with a friend.

What’s good about it:  Incredible intensity and balance.  Expertly handled juxtaposition of sweet, peat, tannin, bitterness and fruit.  Plays with the full church organ, all stops out.  

Thanks Matt Veira for the sample!

SMWS 127.37, Port Charlotte, 9 years old, Dinosaurs Dancing to Stravinsky, 66.5% A⊕+

649 bottles

127_37Nose - Beautiful sweet, sherry peat nose.  Lots of wax, red cherry, dirty musk, apple, miso paste, wet, well seasoned oak, and beautiful coastal, salty airs.  Incredibly balanced and fresh.  The nose of a very expensive whisky, but most of all, the nose of an SMWS whisky.

Body - Dark, endless peat, red chilli and spicy wood, bitter pear and honey coated popcorn.

Finish - Burning wood, ash.  Long, numbing driftwood and seaweed. Again, great poise and control.  Complex and intense.

What's not good about it: Again, a challenge.  

What’s good about it:  More of the same but different.  Fabulous, intense, balanced, complex and bold.  

Thanks to Tom for the sample!

Port Charlotte 2002, 10 years old, Nickolls and Perks, Private Hogshead, 62.5%, A⊕+

pc2002Nose - Sweet, light, bright and sherried, with a background of peat, and a dark, Oloroso and caramel undertone.  Unusually (and in a departure from the sherried Ledaig feel of it otherwise), there are bright deodorant tones in here, caramac and pear.  It’s beautiful.

Body - Candied and sweet, fiery and wooded, with toasted oak, ash and ripe phenols.  Deep toffee apple and pear and intensely sweet against the peat, and totally balanced.  Wow.

Finish - Belts of sherry interlinked with drying tannins, and numbing peat.  More ash - long, long ashen finish, intense and exciting.  Again!

What's not good about it: Sherry belts seem somewhat out of kilter at first but on closer investigation it’s right and proper.  Same with the perfume.  

What’s good about it:  Intensity, excellently played sherry casking, extraordinarily moreish.

Port Charlotte 12 year old - Bruichladdich Valinch 03 (Tina Mackinnon), Sauternes finish, A+

Only available in the distillery shop, fill your own.  It says “Premium French Oak” finished but I believe this is Bruichladdich speak for Chateau d’Yquem cask finished.

pcv3Nose - Darkly musky and heavily sherried, with a sexy, truffled backing and plenty of moss, forest floor and sun baked groyne.  The Sauternes sweetness and lushness comes through if you’re looking for it.  There’s a hint of vegetal cabbage too unfortunately but it’s actually quite appealing in this context, weirdly.  It’s a sweet, challenging, dirty, fecund nose.  With water, the toffee Sauternes and peat comes to the fore, there’s some custard creams in there, and that sulphur becomes more drying maturity and it retains intensity, but becomes more obviously “just sherried”.

Body - Sauternes blast, sweet peat and fiery boiled sweets.  With water more toffee and more cabbage, with some struck match into the mix.  Definitely better without water on the palate, although the nose is smoother (if a little less spectacular) with water.

Finish - Long, very sweet, numbing and vegetal.  Dying notes are sulphurous, with the cabbage haunting the end.  However, it hangs together, with sandalwood maturity and toffee pulling everything back together.  With water, the sulphur begins to dominate unfortunately.

What’s not good about it:  Clearly, a sulphurous sherry cask is evident here.  I absolutely love sulphur notes when they integrate properly with the whisky and balance out other areas of intensity, but cabbage and match is a fault, and it’s a fault here.  

What’s good about it: But the nose is very good, and I am quite sensitive to sulphur.  Actually the nose is spectacular - darkly sherried PC, Sauternes and 12 years old?  Another thing that’s good about this is that it means there are some interestingly ACEd PCs coming down the line.  Sadly the fault in this whisky is preventing it being a total blockbuster, but peer behind the sulphur to find the deep, sweet, peated sherry.  It’s worth it.

Port Charlotte PC11, Eòrna Na h-Alba, 59.8% A⊕

Travel Retail only.

port-charlotte-pc11Nose - Ripe raisins, muscovado sugar and butter, cardboard and deep, dark peat.  Deep sherry but only the merest of hints of sulphur in here.  Elegant, restrained and quietly intense.  With water the peat sherry steps back to reveal some forest floor and mushrooms

Body - A smooth arrival of intense peated sherry, retronasal bandages and TCP, medicinal PX tones, and perfumed, waxy components.  Mind bendingly sweet, more so even with water, with Kia ora fruit squash coming through and cigar tobacco and burnt cedar planks becoming prominent.

Finish - Long, numbing peat and sherry weaved throughout, with supporting wood elements.  Doesn’t put a step wrong the whole way, good balance and integration.

What’s not good about it:  While the intensity of the balancing elements holds up while it’s in your mouth and at your nose, the lasting impression is more cloyingly sweet.  

What’s good about it:  Excellent manipulation of intense flavours in harmony throughout.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Bruichladdich, some IBs

Following on from my previous post 4/6, some OBs, here’s a tiny fraction of the many and varied independent bottlings of Bruichladdich.  While the distillery is unusual in that it appears to create it’s own IBs as well as a core range, there’s still a thriving market in independently bottled single casks (or otherwise) out there to be explored.

The John Milroy, 19 year old Islay (Bruichladdich), Berry Bros and Rudd, 54.6% A

the-john-milroy-19-year-old-islay-berry-brothers-and-rudd-whiskyNose – Very similar to the Scottish Barley, but then less wood, more cereal sourness.  The citrus is still there,the toffee malt is still there.  The nose is less overtly challenging, but less interesting for it.  There’s some deodorant, and more orange juice than blood orange.  With water, brings out some more tropical notes of toffee banana and a hint of peat.

Body – Sour, spicy, very hot indeed.  Toffee and pretzel, an initial hit of mango and banana.  The longer you leave it the more tropical notes come through.

Finish – Lingering, fizzing finish, very long and numbing.  Tropical burps.

What's not good about it: A little unbalanced, not enough Bruichladdich character compared to the Scottish Barley, and too spicy.

What’s good about it: But water brings out its sweeter, fruitier side – the tropical notes and structured cereal is very good.

Elements of Islay, Br4, 54.7% A⊕

The fourth Bruichladdich release from the well regarded Elements of Islay range of IBs.

elem_br4 (1)Nose – Warm furniture polish, some (men’s) perfume – a real Saturday night special.  The sweet toffee malt is ever present, fronted by the scent of a good night out.

Body – Lovely, smooth sweetness with a lot of chocolate and wood.  It’s the most classically sweet arrival so far, with a little red chilli backing it up.

Finish – Long, very bold and powerful, spicy but more wooded than chillies.  Balanced and a good changer throughout.  Lovely.

What's not good about it: Not much.  A bit obvious with the perfume perhaps but that’s still fun to nose and drink.

What’s good about it: A good, solid Bruichladdich nose.  Beautiful arrival, love the interplay between perfumed sweetness and spice.  Bought a bottle.

Bruichladdich 19 year old, 1992 The Cooper’s Choice (The Vintage Malt Whisky Co.), 46% B+

bruichladdich-19-year-old-1992-the-coopers-choice-whiskyNose - Ripe, but a bit thin.  A sweet malt, some ripe pears, quite a lot of cereal, pine shelving.  A little raw but if you persist, a floral, perfumed sweetness develops.

Body - Quite delicious, malty and balanced, biscuity arrival, with a little banana ice cream and then more cereal.

Finish - Medium, toffee, werthers originals, a briefly disconcerting hit of sourness and bitterness, then oily toffee again.  In the end the toffee oil dominates.

What's not good about it: Cereal and raw notes are way too high for a 19 year old.  A little one dimensional too I’m afraid.  It’s not really flawed, just not that good.

What’s good about it: Some toffee develops, and some good malt.  It is actually quite tasty and chocolatey if you dig and persist and I could drink quite a lot of this if required to, but I’m not playing in this league right now.

Bruichladdich 20 year old, 1992 (cask 3672) Dimensions (Duncan Taylor), 49.3% A

bruichladdich-20-year-old-1992-cask-3672-dimensions-duncan-taylor-whiskyNose - Deep, clear chocolate.  Then sweet candy toffee apple, a little orange zest, and sherbet dib dabs.  A lovely citrus nose, with a hint of barley.

Body - Chocolate, toffee, some spice.  Quite sharp for it’s age but oddly compelling.

Finish - Fresh, quite hot, quite a lot of wood, medium length and lots of chocolate near the end.

What's not good about it: Quite zesty for a 20 year old although I am drawn to it like a good Thai curry.  It does present like a much younger whisky.

What’s good about it: Like the chocolate notes, like the zesty moreish nature of it overall; it has a lovely, clean but deep sweet toffee nose.  It’d have good balance if it were a younger whisky.  Even at this age, it’s still interesting and quite compelling.  I wouldn’t mind a bottle of this.

Bruichladdich 1990 Whiskybroker 22 year old, 49.2% A-

The Christmas Edition.  5/12/1990 to 5/12/2012.  Hogshead then 6 months in a sherry butt, cask 5391.  Thanks to Steve Prentice for the sample.

bruichladdich22.210x52Nose - Bright, ripe pear.  A little sour malt and some wax, some fruit and nut bar.  Perhaps too bright and light, almost metallic.

Body - Intense, malty toffee sweetness initially, then the biscuity dark toast and a hint of sulphur.  

Finish - Medium, quite well balanced but not so well integrated - the dark toasty sulphur and malt is tasty and does offset that sweetness but there’s a lack of midrange and it doesn’t quite hang together.

What's not good about it: Too bright and light, something not right in the integration, feels like the sherry ACEing has been successfully used to make up for a dry, lackluster 22 year old but hasn’t been left long enough to properly benefit.

What’s good about it: Good intensity on the nose initially but doesn’t reward further investigation.  The sherry and sulphur is very good here.

Bruichladdich Whisky Broker 9 years old, 50% A⊕

Bourbon barrel 638, 30/6/2004-21/8/2013, 273 bottles.  I’ve reviewed this before but that was just when it was opened, and it has opened up enormously since. Having personally dealt with most of this bottle over the last few months, I can honestly say it’s a really lovely whisky.

Bruichladdich9yo600x161Nose - Pear juice and pear drops, much more boiled sweets than toffee this time, lots of good integration with the toast and malt, and really beautifully sweet.  Additionally, there’s a really grassy, cut flower stems, earthy overtone here.  It’s very satisfying.

Body - Toffee sweet again and lightly peated, toasty and malty.  Bang of sulphur at the back of the throat (not sure where that comes from as there’s supposedly no sherry here) works very well.

Finish - Comes undone a little at the finish, with some wood bitterness encroaching, but eventually the deep Bruichladdich sweetness wins through.  At the end, hints of pineapple.

What's not good about it:  Perhaps a little sour and the bitterness in the end is a shame, but it all hangs together so well.

What’s good about it:  More youthful vitality, fantastic integration for the age, extremely interesting to drink and very delicious.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Bruichladdich, some more OBs

I became rather interested in Bruichladdich after the trilogy of verticals I did before (the Laddies, the Black Arts and the Octomores), and have been hunting down everything else I can get my hands on.  This is the first in a second trilogy, this time documenting a bunch of OBs (from their fabulously complicated range of one offs and core expressions).  Next up will be a set of independently bottled Bruichladdichs.  Finally, I’ll do a bunch of Port Charlottes (mostly SMWSes as it’s too hard to get hold of the OB stuff).  Let’s go…

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tomatin–Core range overhaul

An embarrassment of new Tomatins, my cup runneth over, but it’s bittersweet because they knock out the 15 and the 30 (gasp!) from the core range.  You should have stocked up.  Thanks to Tomatin for all these samples, and thanks to Tom for allowing me to tax his single cask 2000 port at the end!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Arran– a deep dive

Tomatin, Bruichladdich and Arran.  SMWS and Whisky Broker.  Enduring favourites of mine, and so time to give Arran a bit more love.  As previously mentioned in my review of the new OB 17 (here) and 16 (here), younger Arrans have had some growing pains and heat and bitterness is a problem.  But this is starting to pay dividends as we get a bit older.  Arran was only founded in 1995 so we have to wait in realtime for the 18, 21 and 30 year old to be released.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Glenrothes–a brief tour

It’s long past time I turned my attentions to Glenrothes.  A big fan of the holy hand grenade bottle, but never had any of it, except for an SMWS cask I enjoyed enough to buy but haven’t opened yet (30.80 A wicker basket full of dark pleasures).  Here’s a couple of independents and an OB heavy hitter.

Whisky Broker Glenrothes 25 yo, 51.1% A-

Glenrothes25yo.210x54Nose - Oaken, bright, floral and woodily herby like eau de cologne.  With time, really lovely toffee and leather comes through, some pot pourri and dusty lavender.  It does feel like it’s holding back a little though.

Body - Spicy chocolate, more woody herbs, black pepper.

Finish -  Quite a lot of bitterness coming through and a real tannic drying action.

What's not good about it: The wood is too active, too much intensity and drying bitterness at the end.  Doesn’t quite hang together.

What’s good about it:  Lovely nose, good complexity

Douglas Laing Provenance - Glenrothes 9 year old 2004, 61.2% A⊕

glenrothes-9-year-old-2004-cask-10191-provenance-douglas-laing-whiskyNose - Lovely deep sherry bomb colour.  On the nose, lovely faultless sherry notes with an unmistakable and not unpleasant hit of pickled onion monster munch.  Behind this, overripe cooking apples, peppermint, cream and sweet crumble topping.  It sounds jumbled but it comes together very nicely - I like this and I’m a little confused and mesmerised.  With water the monster munch fades back a little with classic sherry flavours dominating.

Body - Wow - massive sherry belter with loads of dusty spicy raisins and pepper, black cherry and varnished wood.  Retronasally the tannins and wood is enormous.

Finish - Long, spicy, sechuan pepper.  Very long numbing action, almost clove like.  A very active cask.   With water this smooths out quite a lot and becomes a little more reasonable but still has plenty of muscle, structure and interest.  What a fabulous whisky!

What's not good about it: I’d say this could be an acquired taste.  Also I’m not sure when you’d reach for this.  Shortly after the whisky broker Invergordon PX probably.

What’s good about it:  Two drams in one.  A really interesting, massive whisky without water, like a Stagg or a Balcones, and with water a muscular and challenging sherried Scotch.  Love it.

Thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample.

Glenrothes 1978, 43% A+

grsob.1978v1Nose - A classic, old and dignified Scotch whisky.  Sweetly waxed fruit (ripe cut pear, red cherry and prunes), dusty chocolate and balancing herbal notes of parsley and sage.  A light petrol top note (this is not a defect in my book).  Gentle and complex, and significantly less boisterous than the Provenance before!

Body - Sweet toffee, light wood, an odd back note of school dinners and canteen gravy.

Finish - Medium, balanced, balancing sweet and bitterness to the end with lingering tropical top notes at the end.

What's not good about it: Disappointing lack of luxury in the palate, at this price I want to be in love with the whole experience.  Perhaps a little dry for my tastes although self consistent.

What’s good about it: Glorious nose, pretty much the definition of classic Scotch.  A well balanced delivery throughout, very accomplished.  

Thanks to Yoav Gelbfish for the sample!