Friday, 31 October 2014

Balblair #millennium Tweet Tasting

Balblair is working its way into my favourite list – Tomatin, Arran, Springbank, Caol Ila, Bowmore, Bruichladdich… Balblair?

This was a tweet tasting organised by the distillery of 3 different casks – none of which are currently slated for release.  The final, sherry cask is the sister cask of the TWE cask I reviewed here.   Before that we have a straight bourbon cask, and a cask that previously held peated whisky.

Balblair 2000, Cask 1350, 53% A+

2nd fill ex-bourbon

20141029_204045Nose - Immediately enticing.  Fresh, clean fruit, some bright but rich wax, sour cream, hard icing.  Lots of cereal.  Coconut icecream.  Some tiramisu.  Then some nuts - almonds in cream, toasted cumin and dried flowers- very floral behind it.  Rather lovely!  What water somewhat creamier and more floral.  

Body - Very sweet, floral and then very hot.  Hot wax and hot wood, spicy black pepper and a balanced hint of sulphur.  Some acrylic paint, some ginger.

Finish - Long, very sweet, almost cloying.  Then spicy, hot and bitter wood.

Beautiful nose on this one, quite challenging and hot but rather drinkable.  Lots of cereal though, quite a young impression.

Balblair 2000, Cask 0191, 52.4% A⊕

Second fill ex-bourbon, previously used for peated whisky.

20141029_204103Nose - Sweet and meaty, like roast game and cranberry jelly.  Just the merest wisp of peat here, juniper and pork fat like a good paté.  Great cask influence.  Elegant and fascinating on the nose, but almost vinegar sour. With water, more soft liquorice and balanced by bitter wood.  

Body - Spicy, toasted crispbread, quite bitter and sour but with a lingering fruity back drop.  With water, more warm wax comes through, more crayon and toasted barley.  Then more herbal notes - fried parsley and ripe mango.

Finish - Long, burnt, balanced.  Burnt toffee.  Burnt cinnamon stick.  Eventually very bitter.

This is a fascinating and seriously delicious dram, again quite challenging and a bit angular.  Great fun and seriously drinkable.

Balblair 2000, Cask 1345, 53.1% A⊕+

First fill oloroso sherry butt.

20141029_204137Nose - Beautifully rich and ripe.  Soft prunes, polished dark oak, new car tires, a little plastic book covering. Balanced and fruit - loads of fresh cut red cherry and ripe pear.

Body - Intensely fruity, then dusty sherry.  Balanced and becoming more fruity with wax and chocolate.  Just beautiful.  With water, more sherry but still balanced

Finish - Long, dusty and fruity, deodorant and wood, ending in waxy wood and a little peppermint crisp.  Just beautiful.

This is another storming, massively sherried Balblair, like the TWE one.  

Talking of which, compared to the TWE one (cask 1343) this is softer, more juicy.  The 1343 is more strident, a little more winey.  They’re both good in slightly different ways - can’t call a winner.  On the body, this is very sherried, massive finish and significant bitterness, and the 1343 is even more sherried, slightly more sulphured which is more evident in the finish - drying and tannic compared to deeply sweet and softer.  Again they’re both good but the 1345 ends better.  Close call though.

Cheers all!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Lady of the Glen– A Speyside and Ben Nevis

Lady of the Glen, an independent bottler I’m very pleased to have my eye on!  Two new whiskies this time.

Lady of the Glen, Speyside whisky, 20 year old, 52.3% A⊕

This is from a mystery distillery in Speyside.  October 17 1994, refill bourbon cask 1171, 262 bottles.

20141027_201423Nose - At first, waxy wood and sweetly structured, then immediately some sour pear and grassy, herbal notes.  A little spirit sulphur, then more old wood and later (and in the empty glass) some citrus toffee.  Quite restrained but elegant and intriguing with quite a young spirit character backed by older, sexier fruit.

Body - Spicy, toffee, more sulphur - but balanced. A little hot immediately.  With water, the fruit and sulphur develop in intensity but still in lockstep.  

Finish - Good sweet/wood balance with lingering sulphur and wood.  

What’s not good about it - Lacks a little integration, the sourness is a quiet duff note.

What’s good about it - Love the nose, lots to discover.  Quietly challenging and quite elegant.  I could go for a bottle of this.

I would have called this for a Bruichladdich tasted blind, it’s got that lovely copper sulphur coming through and the same kind of wood and toffee thing in the nose.  Yes I know Bruichladdich isn’t in Speyside.  Quite a serious whisky with lots going on, quite challenging yet restrained.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this was from a recently opened bottle and I think it might benefit from a little time to open up.  I’ll report back...

Lady of the Glen, Ben Nevis 16 year old, 52.8% A⊕+

December 3 1998, sherry hogshead number 1407, 273 bottles.

20141027_201443Nose - I may (may) have just found the first Ben Nevis I love.  

Intensity.  Perfect, but intense sulphur, hot toffee and immense truffle.  Like truffle honey on roquefort.  Quite deranged but rather wonderful.  With water, the sulphur drops away and the truffle blends in and speaks of age way beyond 16.  Deep sugared wood and bubble gum.  Crikey - don’t let me down now...

Body - Hallelujah!  Balanced honey, truffle, wood spice and sweet sulphur.  Opens up further with water, loads of balance, structure integration and beautiful toffee.  

Finish - Long, bitter wood balancing intense toffee and spice.  Almost tropical with water.  This cannot be 16 years old.

What’s not good about it - uncompromising and intense.

What’s good about it - uncompromising, intense, exciting, balanced, complex and old beyond it’s years.  Instant buy.

Thanks to LotG for the samples!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

More Springbank Fun

Here’s a couple more from the Springbank obsession.

Campbeltown Loch 30 year old, 40% A+

Following on from a taste of the 21, here, this is a 30 year old blend by Springbank producers J&A Mitchell and Sons.  Thanks to Sjoerd de Haan of Maltfascination for a sample of this one!

blend_cam6Nose – Sweet, sour and winey.  Restrained wax and lots of tropical fruit, fruit gums and fruit scented felt tipped pens.  An interesting swimming pool brightness, something petrol based or solvent based.  Backed by very well balanced, mature wood structure.  Very fruity and seriously delicious but could do with more ABV.  The intensity is there when you first smell it but fades once you taste it.

Body – Light, fresh, pale wooded and slightly chipboardy.  Spicy and sour.  Mildly structured and pleasing.

Finish – Medium, bitter wood starts to poke through.  You’re left holding something a little watery by the end.

What’s not good about it – disappointing finish after a slightly weak delivery. 

What’s good about it – real beautiful sweet shop nose with good balance.  Certainly smells like a 30 year old. 

Springbank 17 year old, “from the cage”, First Fill Port, 53.6% A⊕

At the distillery they have a cage full of full bottles of “samples from casks”.  This amazing cage is full of single bottle bottlings!  And they let you buy them!  Mind, blown.  Thanks to Jon Webb for letting me have some of his bottle of magnificent port matured Springbank.

port_springerNose – Dark toffee, glace cherries, something vaguely musky, farmyardy.  Meaty.  Light peat makes up some of the structure.  Earthy – tobacco, potatoes, soil, bolted parsley, and balanced by vinegar levels of brightness from the Springbank spirit.  Very grown-up and enticing.  Perfumed like the toilets in an expensive restaurant – wood polish, leather, posh soap and clean mirrors.  With water, loses some of that intensity but gains a little leather and tobacco.

Body – Sweet fruit, raisins, tobacco, spicy Springbank goodness, and the port, immediately retronasally dominant, fighting for attention with the Springbank spirit.  With water, more immediate fruit, then slightly more earthy and cardboardy.  Complex and investigable.

Finish – The port starts to come through at the end – dusty, musky wine cask.  Strawberry laces and front-of-tongue jelly sweets.  Long, very sweet and balanced wood.  Cracking.

What’s not good about it – well, you can’t buy it.  Only Jon has a bottle. 

What’s good about it - Otherwise very lovely and a port matured 17 year old Springbank turns out to be a rather good thing.  Great complexity, good restrained port influence, like the tobacco notes.and the intense, balancing brightness.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Big Peat Xmas 2014

That time again already?  Thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample of this year’s xmas edition.  The 2013 taste is from my bottle from last year – I did decant a 3cl sample in anticipation of this tasting many months ago, so no oxidised sampling worries for me.  My original notes from the 2013 are here, in amongst a flight of other Big Peat editions.

Big Peat Blended Malt, Xmas Edition 2014, 55.7% A+

big-peat-at-christmas-2014-whiskyNose – Ripe, raw, a little sour, some oil, some metal - like the smell of a heavily used wood file.  Juicy Islay sweet fruit lurk underneath, some yoghurt covered raisins, cigarette tobacco and salt and vinegar. I’ve got a good feeling about this…

Body – Spicy, arresting peat, quite a lot of black pepper and urgent sweetness backing it up.  Sichuan peppercorn fizz and musky Islay wood.

Finish – Long, toffeed, drying, hugely tannic.  Balanced and satisfying.  It’s a christmas cracker!

What’s not good about it – Lacks delicacy (!) and is a little sour.

What’s good about it – Exactly what I want from Big Peat – an intense blast of Islay fun, loads of balancing sweet toffee underneath and a highly returnable-to development.   Yummy.

Compared to the Xmas 2013 edition: On the nose, 2013 has more modelling clay, lots of bright deodorant and is more floral, but slightly muskier.  The 2014 is richer, with more pronounced wood richness and a more Ardbeggy note (I’d guess the 2013 has more peated Bunnahabhain in it).  They both rock on the nose – I love Big Peat.

On the delivery, 2013 is more perfumed again, brighter and more citrus/astringent with freshly cut wood.  2014 is also floral, more sweetly fruited and even more peaty than the 2013.  Long, numbing and intense.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

SMWS 99.12, Glenugie, Medieval Banquet

Before my time with the SMWS, so a million thanks to Sjoerd de Haan of Maltfascination for the opportunity to try a sample of this wonderful whisky.

SMWS 99.12, Glenugie, Medieval Banquet, 30 years old, 46.7% A⊕+

May 1980 to April 2011, refill sherry butt, 228 bottles.

Nose – Ripe fruit – red cherries and melon, but elegant and slightly restrained.  Bookcase.  Deep toffee glaze, lightly charred oak.  A little buttered granary toast.  Beautiful, old, and delicate.

Body – A little sour, a little spicy, some bitterness, some cigar tobacco – lit and put out.  A metallic note – all very fleeting, but fascinating and intriguing. 

Finish – Medium to short, toasted and tobacco.  Lingering spirit sulphur, leather and tannins. 

What’s not good about it – Short finish.  Sour and bitter notes jar slightly.

What’s good about it – This is one of the most serious whiskies I’ve ever tried – balanced, structured, elegant, delicate, bold, beautiful wood and ripe, juicy fruit. I love it.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Glen Garioch The Renaissance Chapter 1

Bottled to showcase Glen Garioch’s more modern style, this is chapter 1 in a four part release that will (yearly) show how the spirit matures.  Pushing my buttons, Morrison-Bowmore!

Glen Garioch The Renaissance Chapter 1, 15 years old, 51.9% A⊕

Glen_Garioch_15_Years_Renaissance_1st_Chapter_51_9_13861Nose – Just wonderful.  Structure, balance, fruit, wax, wood, all in perfect alignment.  Intense but elegant, sexy, sweet and candied citrus.

Body – Toffee, toasted oak, crystallised ginger.  Very warming and spicy – cinnamon and mixed spice. 

Finish -   Medium, retronasal oak spice, wax and ginger.  A bit thin.

What’s not good about it – It’s missing something.  The same thing that the Virgin Oak is missing.  Finish?  Oil?  Is this chill filtered?

What’s good about it – But the nose and delivery are just wonderful – lots of warming xmas spice and wax, loads of structure and balance.  Very GG.

I love the idea of the 4 part story – I question whether a year in-between each is enough – 3-5 years in-between would have been perfect.  I must have missed the email consulting me unfortunately.

Thanks to Matt Veira for the sample!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A few October outturn notes

I missed my usual slot on first Thursday due to the whisky show! I was at Greville street the other night to make up for it and tasted a few.  Just mini-notes here as a personal record more than anything else – I was too busy having a good time to take proper notes!

SMWS 48.51, Grapefruit, monkfish, manzanilla!, Balmenach, 13yo , 55.9% A⊕’

n – sweet, citrus, fence panel, sharp grapefruit.  Lovely, dusty wood, old beyond it’s years.  Lovely nose. b – fresh, waxy, oily boiled sweets. f – long, sharp citrus, beautiful

SMWS 7.106 Time for a tea break!, Longmorn, 10yo, 61.2% A⊕

n – very similar to 48.51, more boiled sweets, and a little riper.  A little wax and some petrol.  b – much more SMWS, spicier, not quite as good but still lovely.  f – long, oily, citrus – spicy, very 7.

SMWS 117.5 Smouldering, brooding and alluring, Cooley, 22yo, 55.5% A⊕

Another big hitting Irish whisky – big price tag too.  Apparently this was from an experimental run where they used crystal malt instead of standard pale malt to make the wort to ferment.  They hoped the extra non-fermentables would carry over into the whisky.  Only 12 casks were produced, this is one and SMWS has one more.  I think this is a great 22 year old whisky, but doesn’t do much to justify the cost.

n – dark, brightly waxed, cakey (vanilla, raisin), lovely ripe plum.  More fruity with water and just beautiful.  b – juicy red fruit, lots of wood, great balance, and lots of intensity with water.  f – oily, very long, balanced.  Not fascinating but very good.

SMWS 66.60 Caribbean wedding on the beach, Ardmore, 12yo, 56.5% A

n – light, fresh apple.  Toasted, warm peat.  b – ripe, spicy, intense wood, astringent, spicier with water. f – very long, wood oil, some joss stick.  This has the thin, sour pear peat thing going on that I’m not a massive fan of but can appreciate objectively.

SMWS 30.81 A baker’s delight, Glenrothes, 23yo, 56% A⊕

n – dusty.  Lightly peated, rich pastries.  b – floral, sweet, lightly tropical.  Elegant and beautifully balanced. f – quite long, quite oily, boiled sweets, numbing.

SMWS 123.10 Sweet treats on deck, Glengoyne, 9yo, 57.6% A⊕

n – rich, dark, lovely balance.  b – sharp and deep toffee.  f – long, lovely, ripe, lots of wood.

SMWS 3.216 Classic, smoky, perfumed dram, Bowmore, 18yo, 55.9% A⊕+

This briefly popped onto the UK website and was in the bar.  From the google results I think it was released in Australia and Japan, and we got a few spare bottles.  I can’t resist bottles from other geographies!  And I can’t resist this tide of amazing Bowmores being released at the moment.

n – beautiful balance, perfect Bowmore. b – darkly sweet Islay, light parma violets, very sweet shop.  f – spicy, beautiful.

SMWS 3.232 An Outdoor Life for Me, Bowmore, 18yo, 57.2% A⊕

The official Bowmore from October’s outturn.

n – young, dark Islay.  Great smoke and sweets.  b – long FWP, very sweet, good balance.  f – long and numbing, very oily.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Old St. Andrews Tweet Tasting

A TT of the Old St. Andrews range of blended malt, organised by the Whisky Wire! 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Timorous Beastie–Douglas Laing

First Big Peat (Islay), then last year Scallywag (Speyside), now Timorous Beastie – a vatting of Highland malts, including Blair Athol, Glen Garioch, Dalmore and Glengoyne.

Timorous Beastie (Douglas Laing), Highland vatted malt, 46.8% B+

Timorous BeastieNose – Sour plums, wax polish, lots of orchard fruit – apple and unripe pear.  Wood chips.  Hazelnut toffee.  Some raw cereal.  Quite stern and young, but with reasonable balance.

Body – Sweet, then wooded.  Young and fresh but the cereal detracts.  Water brings out the sweetness a little more and rounds out the edges.

Finish – Chinese notes of water chestnut and lotus root.  Good structure and malt notes right through delivery.  Lingering, quite cloying sweetness at the end.

What’s not good about it – Young, stern and cereal driven.  Not very timorous!  Big Peat is much better.

What’s good about it – Good balance, a good young blend (of malts), and an interesting delivery. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Tomatin Old Particular 20 year old Batch 2

My notes for the batch 1 (very little left of this precious bottle and all sold now) are here.  I was surprised to stumble across this on the Master of Malt site.  There was no fanfare from DLaing, not stocked at The Whisky Exchange and not on pour at the Whisky Show (nor was batch 1 last year).  Why so little love for the Tomatin OP?  Another 20% on the price this year unfortunately too.  I still love you, Tomatin OP.

Tomatin Old Particular, 20 years old Batch 2 (Douglas Laing), 46.8% A⊕

Cask strength, refill hogshead, February 1994 to August 2014.  Cask 10442.

tomopNose – Initially this put me so in mind of its predecessor I thought I’d had a mixed up sample, but side by side they are certainly different whiskies (different colours for one thing, although I’d be unsurprised to find out they were the same cask bottled a year apart).  Very malt forward, like batch 1, musky oak and a very adult sweetness.  Fruity in a deeply Asian way with extra dried bananas and dried cranberries. 

Body – Very Old Particular.  Structured and toffeed, lots of malt extract, spice and waxed wood. 

Finish – Long, malty, a little spicy, well balanced and shares the Old Particular and Tomatin DNA.  Deeply addictive, like the previous cask.  Why are both Tomatin OPs so similar? 

What’s not good about it – It isn’t what you’d expect from a Tomatin – so malty and austere.  But digging reveals the Tomatin.

What’s good about it – The tasting notes on the original bottle sum it up – “attractively malted”.  I have to agree.  Beautiful malt, fruit, enormous character and structure.  Complex, delicious and balanced.

Compared to batch 1 – 1 is more sourly and spicily fruited on the nose, whereas 2 is a touch waxier with more musk and a little more malt.  In the delivery, 2 is more lacquered, more bitter and has a longer, spicier finish.  Whereas 1 is more gentle, but still with a bitter structure to it.  Side by siding them, I think I prefer the 1, however 2 is a little more accomplished and better rounded.  Remember thought that my bottle of 1 has been open almost a year.  Honestly there’s not a lot in it though.  Wonderful stuff.  Thanks to Cara Laing for the sample of batch 2!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Whisky Broker Arran 18 year old

A (in absolute terms) very old Arran in refill sherry – loads of colour – from the wonderful Whisky Broker.  Yes, you should buy this.

Whisky Broker, Arran, 18 years old, 51.1%

Refill sherry hogshead 551, distilled 17th June 1996, bottled 28th August 2014.

20141011_193955Nose – Balanced.  If Arran released this officially it’d sell out in hours.  Flawless sherry – dusty raisins, very sweet, rich and dark, and balanced by great wood and mature cereal.  Cocoa nibs, a little engine block and very stern oak.  Quite an SMWS nose actually – intensely single cask.  With water, less stern and more cherry and strawberry sweetness.  Almost like a port finish.  Just lovely.

Body – Fruit and nut, loads of chocolate, a little spice, lots of drying oak and a touch of sulphur.  More cocoa nibs.  With water, really creamy and even richer.

Finish – Long, intense, spicy, perfectly pitched.  Lovely spirit sulphur, quite tacky in the end.  Intensely sweet but balanced.

What’s not good about it – A little stern on the nose, when neat?  I’ve no problem with that.

What’s good about it – So much balance and intensity.  Perfectly pitched as an 18 year old sherry bomb, loads of fruit, character and structure, and the usual great value for money too.  Buy now!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

TWE Whisky Show 2014!

Is this the world’s biggest whisky festival?  500+ drams, multiple masterclasses, a working distillery, all sorts of fun.  This year I got to do the Saturday and the trade day (Monday) and may have just about recovered from the enormity.  7 hours of tasting whisky goes by so quickly when there’s so much to discover.  10 new Adelphi whiskies?  A whole Weymss horizontal, including the absolutely sublime Bowmore 31yo “Loch Indaal Catch”?  The new batch of Laphroaig 25? Three new Karuizawas and the Hanyu Joker? Loads of new Old Particulars?  A whole new set of single malt of Scotland, Elements of Islay and other show bottlings?  A whole new set of Signatory cask strength bottlings?  The new Octomore?!  A heavily sherried Arran 17 private cask?  You can see why I had trouble sleeping the night before - and trouble getting up the morning after!


Here’s some highlights.


Douglas Laing Highland Park 21 Directors Cut


Hazelburn 11 yo, the next Springbank Society bottling, out in 4-6 weeks. 

Also coming from Springbank a couple of organic whiskies.  The Springbank Green (bourbon casks) – out in 4-6 weeks, 12 years old.  And the Springbank 17 year old sherry casks – 9000 bottles in January.  This last one was particularly wonderful.


Springbank 25 year old (dream dram).  Apparently the edict has always been “bottle it at 21” and hence, nothing older.  A few years ago the 21s were a smaller batch and a few casks were kept back. This batch is from 4 casks, 1,200 bottles and will be out in January – only 180 bottles for the UK!  The next batch is only 900 bottles in total.  Eek.


The lineup at Adelphi – lots of cool new stuff out released today.  Look at the colour on that Glen Garioch!


Glenlivet 25 – just because I could.


The certificate of authenticity on the Tomatin 1981 (dream dram).


A new Bruichladdich 1990 23 year old from Signatory – this was lovely.  Cask 175.


Linkwood 1985, 28yo Signatory picked by TWE – also amazing.


Glenlivet 1981, 32yo Signatory picked by TWE.


SMOS Bowmore 15yo – really lovely


25yo Bowmore for the show – retro label.  Pricey!


18yo Craigellachie Old Particular by Douglas Laing.  Lovely – the new Bunnahabhain OP is even better – forgot to take a photo of that though.  New for August and weirdly not available from TWE site (just like the new Tomatin OP, it’s been omitted from TWE, although it’s out elsewhere).


Ardbeg 21 Old Particular.  Lovely, elegant.


Laphroaig 25 2014 batch.  Ripe, clean, light and lovely.  The 18 was also beautiful.


Bruichladdich masterclass on the trade day.  Blogger table! 


Launch of the Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley! Uber provenance – it’s even let down a little with spring water from the Octomore farm!  £150 a bottle, out soon.


Beautiful comus like packaging on the 6.3.


The new Port Charlotte Islay Barley.  £55 a bottle, out soon.


Finally, one of the most amazing drams – the Balblair 69. 

Oh yeah, nearly forgot this – a 1972 single cask sample from the 8th batch of Balvenie tun 1401.  BOOM!


What a rollercoaster!  I’m barely recovered now.  An amazing event, thanks everyone at TWE!