Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bowmore White Sands - 43%

A TRIP across the white sands of The Big Strand on Islay leads me straight to another Bowmore - this time a travel retail exclusive. How did I get my grubby hands on a bottle of this peaty whisky? Well, I entered a competition back in April on Twitter and won. I've never really won anything before, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the email came through. I've been happily sharing the bottle with friends and before those white sands bury this tasty 17-year-old, I thought I had better take a few notes.
    First things first: this whisky is an awful colour, looking more like Irn-Bru than a fine single malt. Some whisky producers add colouring to make it more appealing for the mass market (although I don't see the point) but in this case, too much has turned it a rusty orange colour - it really does look unappealing. I have no doubt this has been chill-filtered, too, but there you go.
    Talking of Irn-Bru,I can definitely smell it once a glass is poured - a scent I find in most Bowmores. Not fizzy, freshly poured stuff, but flat Irn-Bru. There's also a whole tablespoon of sweet caramel, while lemon and orange rind lie just under the gentle peat. I also pick up chocolate here - specifically chunks of mint Aero.
    Take a sip and the peat becomes much more pronounced, but that Bowmore sweetness is still very much to the fore. Orange characteristics are all over this malt along with light marzipan and a little lemon and black pepper
    The finish is smoky with wood and orange notes. Banana also plays across the back of the tongue and it's a decent length.
  I enjoyed this offering from Bowmore, even if it doesn't have the most complex of characters and as it's travel retail only, not everyone is going to have the pleasure of trying it. It's also far too expensive, weighing in at £79.99 and, in my opinion, there are far better whiskies out there for half the price.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Back with four SMWS bottles!

Hello malt mates - I'm back.

It's been a while since my last post but real life has been getting in the way - as it tends to do from time-to-time. A lot has happened since my last post in mid-June and that's why I've not been around. I've recently changed jobs, finally breaking free from the toils of newspaper life to pursue a career in music journalism. This is my fourth week in the job, and I'm delighted to report it is everything I hoped it would be. It's also a far cry from the misery of newspaper life, which I had been trying to escape from for some three years.
    Anyway, onwards and upwards and what better way to kickstart the blog, than with four Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottlings. So, pour a dram, sit back and relax. Ready? Good, then we'll continue...

SMWS 46.24: Dumplings In A Honey Sauce
20-year-old Glenlossie, bottled at 53.7%
260 bottles - refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

On the nose, there's huge chunky orange notes, which eventually ease off to reveal apricots, baked lemon, grapefruit, gooseberries, lime juice, mashed bananas, white grapes, raspberries and sharp green apples. It really is a huge fruit cocktail and a bit like sticking your nose into a bowl of freshly made fruit salad. The delights don't end there either, with Brazil nuts fused with almonds, toasted coconut and hard-boiled barley sugars coming through.
    The whisky has a lovely mouth coating quality, which is infused with honey, sweet citrus, marzipan, apple, grapefruit, mint, custard, jam and a little pepper grinded in for good measure.
    The finish was slightly sour, with more marzipan and grapefruit, while a little cinnamon spice tied it all up. Sharp gooseberry then came through and a lovely red fruit jam not hung around for ages.

SMWS 48.44: Rose Petal Cupcakes
12-year-old Benrinnes, bottled at 52.5%
88 bottles - first-fill ex-bourbon cask

Taking a gentle sniff of this pungent beauty brought a whole paper bag crammed full of sticky sherbet lemons, while soft liquorice wafted from the glass. On top of that, there was a generous dollop of strawberry jam, vanilla cheesecake and Key lime pie, which made my stomach gurgle in delight. Tart fruits were also present, with passion fruit, kiwi and grapefruit wafting forth, along with toasted pine nuts, barley and mint rock.
    Several sips brought fruity sherbet sweetness, strawberry jam, Tunes cough sweets and red liquorice to the party, and the whisky had a lovely creaminess which brought to mind thick fruits of the forest yoghurt.
    The finish wasn't quite as spectacular as the nose and taste, but it was still lovely, with a delicious sweet, fruity vanilla coming through along with pepper and a tin of icing sugar-covered hard boiled sweets.

SMWS 73.65: Tarts In A Tea House
24-year-old Aultmore, bottled at 55.9%
377 bottles - refill butt, ex-sherry

Orange is the defining character of this whisky. Never before have I tasted a whisky so full of orange flavours. The addition of water seemed to intensify these flavours and it took me a while to get familiar with its orangy character. Below the orange notes, there was still plenty going on, including tangerines (OK, still orangy, but still) stewed plums, lemon, juicy sultanas, apricot jam and caramelised banana. But just when you think this might be a little too sweet, along comes a few crazy scents which put me in mind of a damp woollen jumper, a well-polished antique sideboard, toasted granary bread and there merest whiff of smoke. Not peat, just smoke.
    The palate didn't quite live up to the nose, but with all that going on, it's hardly surprising. Still, there was thick chunky marmalade, a tablespoon of lemon curd, red berries, spearmint and a generous dusting of icing sugar.
    The finish was better, bringing with it tastes of winter, including Christmas cake, white icing, marzipan, candied peel and black cherries. The orange note here was represented by dark chocolate orange, while a little touch of black coffee rounded things off.


SMWS 9.86: Sangria On The Terrace
16-year-old Glen Grant, bottled at 55.5%
291 bottles - refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

Take a whiff, and the unmistakable scent of fruit salad chews fills the nostrils. Give it a bit of time to settle and Macintosh apples and sweet vanilla begin to shine through. But leave it even longer, and miraculous things start to happen - even more so with a drop or two of water. Scents of pencil shavings, Juicy Fruit chewing gum, pipe tobacco, plasticine, Murray Mints and red and black jelly babies assault the senses. There also some sweet and nutty Italian torrone in here, too.
    The palate is packed with apples, vanilla icing, lime juice and blackberries, along with a slight nuttiness, while the finish packs in dry wood, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, dark caramel and the wondrous taste of blackcurrant fruit pastilles.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Naked Grouse - 40%

I took a punt on this blend ages ago after hearing some positive Twitter chatter. I cornered the feathery blighter in a local supermarket and swiftly managed to grab it before it scarpered - and nabbed it for a decent price to boot. It's the first Famous Grouse I've tried and it turned out to be a thoroughly respectable dram, based around whisky from Macallan and Highland Park.
    On the nose there's a definite sherry character, but it's actually quite subtle. I also got scents of eucalyptus, mint, strawberry jam, toasted granary bread, prunes and cocoa. I also got a whiff of smoked ham.
    The palate wasn't exactly complex, but some of those sherry notes returned, along with a lovely thick jam note, making this an incredibly easy-drinking whisky.
    The finish was almost cake-like, thanks to that recurring sweet jam note which was accompanied by a slight yeasty taste. It was a bit short, though, but that didn't really put a dampener on this perfectly decent dram.
    So there you have it, a perfectly good blend for a nice price. Don't let that whisky snob in you prevent you from tasting this. It's fruity, easy drinking and makes a great session dram.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Glengoyne Teapot Dram: Batch 2, bottle 228/3200 - 58.5%

If you've been following this blog for a while, you might remember I had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to Glengoyne last August, where I sampled several top quality drams and had a nose about the picturesque distillery. I left that Sunday clutching a bottle of the Teapot Dram (a distillery only bottling), which I've actually just finished - see, I'm really not necking whisky by the gallon. It definitely took a long time to hit the spot, this one, and while it's not the best whisky in the world, I enjoyed my time with the bottle.
    On the nose the sherry influence is immediately apparent, with pungent dried fruits assaulting the senses. After the initial punch, there's loads of dark caramel, chocolate, toasted oak, black cherries, a whiff of creme brulee, cranberry juice and a savoury note which reminded me of fresh coriander.
    On the palate, there was cinnamon, orange peel, bitter dark chocolate, honey, cloves, peppery mustard seeds and heavy tannins.
    The finish was full of chocolate, vanilla, stewed tea, more dried fruit, brown sugar and caramelised banana.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

AnCnoc 12 - 40%

Last year, I was walking home from work, when I spotted a bottle of AnCnoc 12 on display in the window of my local Oddbins. In need of something light and fruity to counterbalance the peat monsters I had been quaffing, I nipped in and purchased a bottle for a thoroughly respectable £30.
    Bottles of whisky usually last ages in my house, but I enjoyed this so much, that it was polished off within a couple of weeks. Before you start to worry about my alcohol consumption, I'll take this opportunity to point out that I had some help and my friends actually enjoyed far more of the bottle than I did!
    I took down some tasting notes at the time and recently compared them to a dram I had in the pub, so I thought it was high time I updated the blog with my findings.
    On the nose, the AnCnoc 12 is light and fresh with beautiful floral notes dancing around the rim of the glass. There's honey, too, along with barley, orange, grapefruit and fresh ginger. Leave it to settle for a while, and the scent of fizzy sherbet lemons are unmistakable.
    The palate wasn't too complex, but it's a cracking summer light and clean dram, full of vanilla and honey notes. The finish served up more complexity than the palate would have you believe and I got tastes of herbal tea, liquorice, honey and fruit, while a lovely grassy/hay note tied everything together.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

A Brace of Bruichladdich - Part 4

Time to wrap-up this mini-series on Bruichladdich with two peaty belters: the Port Charlotte Scottish Barley and the Octomore 5-year-old: Edition 0.61. As you can tell from the previous entries, I've been quite impressed with the range, with only the Black Art not quite suiting my palate, but it's the peated versions which I've really been looking forward to, so here we go.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley - 50%
On the nose there's obviously peat smoke, but dig down and there are some wonderful smells to be found. There's bourbon biscuits, sweet baked lemon, smokey bacon crisps, burnt brown toast, orange-flavoured icing, a hint of vanilla, damp leaves, warm sand, tequila, caramel, a freshly struck match and a faint rubber note.
    On the palate, initially there's a delicious honey sweetness, which slowly transforms into burning twigs and leaves and there's an interesting sweet and sour note wrapped up in the glass, too. It's also quite spicy and that rubber note from the nose returns, although it should be noted it's nowhere near as intense as that found in the Balcones Brimstone or the Ardbeg Ardbog. After a while I also picked up some rye notes, burnt toffee and liquorice.
    The finish was full of smoke, sour wood, cinnamon, vanilla rock, honey and aniseed, while a deep caramel note rounded things off perfectly.

Octomore 5-year-old: Edition 0.61 - 57%
The Octomore might be peated to within an inch of its life, but this was surprisingly restrained in the glass - definitely no intense peat blast here. Instead, the peat gives a wonderful complexity to the spirit and I got some amazing aromas, with plums, strawberry jam, banana, bitter dark chocolate, caramel, tobacco, tequila, thick honey and a wee bit of ash wafting from the glass.
    The taste of this stuff was quite something and swishing it around my salivating gob was an experience. It's oily, and tastes of thick treacle and sweet honey and after a few minutes, the most beautiful chocolate notes materialised, in the shape of rich chocolate cake and coffee creams. The fun didn't stop there and before long burned dry wood, ash and mint came through. It was incredibly smooth, despite the high alcohol content and could easily be drunk neat.
    The finish kept the chocolate character going, with rich ganache coating the back of the tongue along with honey, bonfire smoke and vanilla. I even noticed a wee bit of Bowmore-style flat Irn-Bru.
    A truly wonderful dram and, despite the sunny weather in this part of the world, my mind immediately jumped ahead to winter, where this would be amazing on a cold, snowy night. I need a full bottle of this now!

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Brace of Bruichladdich - Part 3

Amazingly, this is my 100th post on The Whisky Moose and throughout the past 99 entries, I've sampled some incredible drams. Can this latest duo of Bruichladdichs make their mark? Pour a glass, settle back and then we'll begin...

Bruichladdich 22 - 46%
This took a wee bit of time to open up, but my patience was rewarded with some amazing aromas rising from the glass. There was thick, oaky honey, blackberries, strawberries, blackcurrant jam, salted peanuts, sugar-glazed donuts, dried banana chips and something like the smell from the inside of a well used pencil case.
    The palate was packed with salty syrup, jammy fruit, mint leaves, black coffee, orange oil, lemon curd and white grapes.
    The finish was dry and packed with marzipan, lemon, rich dark fruit, walnuts, oaky caramel and black tea. Wonderful stuff all round.

Bruichladdich 23-year-old 1990 Black Art 04.1 - 49.2%
Now, it has to be said that I have tried this once before and didn't really get on with it. That said, that was at a whisky festival after several other drams, so I was prepared to dive in again to see if a second dip would change my mind.
    The Black Art smelled amazing and I had my nose in the glass for a good 20 minutes before I took a sip. It's jam-packed with dark stewed fruit notes such as ripe, juicy plums, blackcurrants, baked apples and dates. As if that wasn't enough, there was also damson jam, sweet vanilla, fruit cake, malt loaf, a sprinkling of salt, a spoonful of cough medicine and sweet pipe tobacco. Wow.
    Taking a sip and swirling it around was a taste sensation, with loads of treacle toffee, intense stewed fruit, thick orange oil, tobacco, espresso and creme brulee.
    So far so good, but the finish let the whole thing down for me. While it was dry and spicy with chocolate cake and cigars, the wine cask influence just left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
    This wasn't exactly headline news, as I just can't get to grips with whisky which has spent time in wine or port casks - despite liking wine and port. Every one I've tried, I have disliked and sadly, the Black Art was no different.
    I said a while back after the Newcastle whisky festival that I would be avoiding them in the future, but I had heard such good things about this whisky that I just had to give it another shot. It just doesn't suit my palate and, for my own good, my days of dabbling in the black arts is now at an end.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A Brace of Bruichladdich - Part 2

There's no messing about here at The Whisky Moose - even on a school night! And, as it's almost the weekend, what better way to celebrate than two more drams from Bruichladdich. Tonight's chosen two are the Islay Barley 2007 and the Organic Multi Vintage. Both went down a treat this evening and here's what I thought. Lights, camera... action!

Islay Barley 2007 - 50%
On the nose there were some wonderful aromas wafting from the glass. I got malty, salty aniseed, seaweed, pickled ginger, honey, lemon, pears, vanilla rock, barley sugars, butterscotch and hints of rose water.
    The palate was deliciously sweet and oily with plum jam, golden syrup, treacle toffee, burnt brown sugar and a shake of pepper.
    The finish was lovely, with sweet vanilla, woody lemon, runny custard, malty rusks and a slight vegetal note.

The Organic Multi Vintage - 46%
As soon as this was poured, I got crystal clear barley, a little bit of wet wood, hay, butter icing, lemon muffins - I'm thinking specifically of the one from Starbucks - and gooseberry jam. There's a slight sweetness here, but nothing like the Islay Barley.
    A swish around the mouth brought hints of lemon, liquorice, a little yeast, a dab of honey and I even picked out some rye notes after a few minutes of serious swilling.
    The finish was initially quite restrained, but adding a few drops of water brought out honey, a little oak, soft toffee, vanilla and some spicy mint.

So there we have it, another two Bruichladdichs and neither let me down. It's safe to say I preferred the Islay Barley but I would be happy having either one of these bottles in my ever-growing collection.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Brace of Bruichladdich- Part 1

AFTER polishing off a 20cl bottle of The Laddie Ten and sinking a cheeky wee Octomore down the pub, I thought it was time to get to know Bruichladdich a little bit better. So, earlier this month I picked out eight whiskies from the distillery's extensive range, logged on to Master of Malt, and ordered a tinkling batch of 3cl samples.
    Over the next four entries, I'll be telling you what I thought about this band of bottles and we kick start this four-parter with two crackers: The Bruichladdich 10 year old - The Laddie Ten and the Bruichladdich Scottish Barley - The Classic Laddie. Ready? Then off we go!

The Laddie Ten - 46%
On the nose, the very first aroma that wafted my way was a freshly unwrapped Tunnock's Caramel Log (I kid you not). Once I got over this rather surprising - and delicious - scent, I noticed a lot more going on under the surface.
    There was green twigs, drying hay, honey, celery salt, liquorice, butter icing, waxy paper, rum & raisin ice-cream, spearmint and the damp, earthy smell of mushrooms (!).
    After leaving it to settle down in the glass for another 15 minutes, that celery note became even stronger - as if master distiller Jim McEwan had stirred the brew with a stick of the stuff before it was bottled. An incredibly interesting nose.
    On the palate, The Laddie Ten was salty and sweet, with seaweed-infused liquorice, a drizzle of honey and a slight dribble of golden syrup, while the finish brought forward white pepper, sea spray, baked lemon and creamy milk chocolate. That celery note still lingers around, though, and the intriguing seaweed note returns to round off a thoroughly unusual but lovely dram.

The Classic Laddie - 50%
The nose of The Classic Laddie was quite restrained at first, but after giving it a little time, malty custard cream biscuits appeared, along with baked red apple slices, salted caramel, Edinburgh rock and the merest whiff of brown bread.
    A splash of water brought some smoke to the party and helped coax out some fruit notes, including dried cranberries.
The palate had a wonderful oily mouth feel and it's packed with honey and golden syrup sweetness.
    Waves of caramel washed over my tongue, accompanied by hints of golden caster sugar. Water brought out wood notes and some liquorice, but I have to say that I preferred this dram neat - even at 50%.
    The finish was really quite lovely, with delicious fruit notes dancing across the back of my tongue, along with freshly brewed espresso, white pepper, a little sea salt and some chewy black liquorice.

Not a bad start, then, and if push came to shove, I would plump for a bottle of The Classic Laddie over the increasingly hard to find 10 year old.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

A tale of two Springbanks

Around a year ago, I bought a bottle of Springbank 10 on the back of a whisky-fuelled pub crawl to celebrate my friend's birthday. During the shenanigans that Saturday night, I was bought a dram of this Campbeltown whisky and, after careful consideration, I announced to the assembled crowd that, come pay day, a bottle would be mine.
    I kept my promise, brought the bottle home, uncorked it, poured a dram, settled down... and didn't like it. I say I didn't like it, but that's not really accurate. The truth is, I couldn't quite get to grips with it. I lacked much-needed whisky knowledge and so after wrestling valiantly with a quarter of the bottle, I decided to put it away until such times when I could appreciate the liquid properly.
    Well, I'm glad to say that between then and now, my whisky knowledge has expanded considerably - the amount of empty bottles and sample bottles is testament to that - and going back to it a few months ago was a much more enjoyable experience. I loved it and after polishing off the bottle with a few friends, I decided to explore this fabulous distillery a little more and promptly bought a bottle of the cask strength 12 year old back in April.
    So, without further ado, here's what I thought about both bottles.

Springbank 10 - 46%
The nose is sweet and smoky with a sliver of peat, cut grass, barley sugars, boiled fruit sweets, sharp green apples, lime juice, hard Thornton's toffee, orange zest and tangerine. A slight saltiness also makes itself known and gives this a wonderful character.
    On the palate, it’s oily, with flashes of lemon, peat, prickly spices, golden syrup, honey and crushed black peppercorns.
    The finish was just as intriguing as the nose and the palate, with a slight sourness combined with raisins, oak, vanilla, sea salt and dried hay.

Springbank 12 cask strength - 50.3%
As soon as I poured a generous dram, I immediately got malty wafts which reminded me of buttered toast smothered in rich orange marmalade. The surprises didn't stop there either, with smoke, delicious salted caramel, dates and cranberry juice coming through. After around 20 minutes in the glass, I picked up fruits of the forest yoghurt which sounds bizarre but it's definitely in there - well, at least to my nose!
    This 12 year old has a lovely sweet character which comes through on the arrival, which is swiftly followed by toffee, caramel, hints of woody coconut and the unmistakable flavours of a Terry's dark chocolate orange.
    The finish is long and rich, with sweet and salty notes battling it out on the back of the tongue. Cinnamon makes itself known, while a green herbal note rounds it all off beautifully.

This distillery has earned a special place in my heart and I really enjoyed both bottles - even though it took me a year to get my head around the quirky and complex tastes and aromas. Since my experiences with the 10 and 12, I recently sampled the 18 year old - which was spellbinding - and I'll be taking a closer look at some others in the range later this year.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kilchoman Loch Gorm: 2014 - 46%

I'm ashamed to say it, but I have yet to buy a full bottle of Kilchoman. I've had several drams of the Machir Bay both at whisky festivals and bars and these tasting notes come on the back of a sample my good mate Yan sent up last week. But while a full bottle of Kilchoman's peated elixir has so far evaded my grasp, I can safely say that will be changing soon. Every dram I've tried, I've thoroughly enjoyed and this Loch Gorm sample has given me a much-needed kick up the backside so I'll be buying a bottle when payday rolls around.
    So, with my trunks safely secured and modesty intact, it’s time to dive into this Islay loch and see what I can find below the surface.
    On the nose there's slabs of moist peat, but underneath, there's a sweetness which fills the nostrils with lovely peach and apricot notes. Dive down deeper into Loch Gorm and there's green twigs, coconut, vanilla, coffee beans, bandages and waxy cough sweet wrappers.
    On the palate, it's initially all about a silky sweet peat arrival. Lots of billowing wood fire smoke then blows through, while a gentle honey note keeps everything in check.
    The finish has green wood, tobacco, a dab of sherry sweetness, a bite of liquorice and it's all beautifully mellow - like taking a draw on a well-made cigar.
    Lovely, lovely stuff from Kilchoman. Now, to find a bottle before it sells out!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Carn Mor: Mortlach 15 - 46%

I had the pleasure of attending the Glasgow Whisky Festival last weekend, where I met up with a whole bunch of lovely people and sampled a staggering number of malts in the process. It was quite an afternoon, but although I have a wee list of drams I sampled (hastily typed on my phone) I haven't knocked it into shape yet - or quite managed to figure out some of the gobbledygook which, at the time, seemed like the most intricate tasting notes anyone could ever write.
    So rather than faff about trying to decipher the hieroglyphics - I'm tired and in need of coffee - I thought I would get a bit down about this rather lovely Mortlach I've been enjoying instead.
    Bottled by the chaps at Carn Mor - a Perthshire-based independent bottler - this 15-year-old beauty has been matured in a hogshead, distilled in 1998, bottled in 2014 and is one of 517 bottles from two casks. It is, as you might expect, non-chill filtered, has no added colouring, and bottled at a thoroughly respectable 46%. On with the show!

Nose: Zingy hard-boiled sherbet lemons, marzipan, a tin of icing sugar-dusted Turkish Delight, grated nutmeg and a few drops of lime juice. The barley note that anchors everything is crystal clear, while I also get the merest whiff of rosemary coming through. Strangely, a few drops of water seem to bring out a hint of washing up liquid. At first I thought I hadn't rinsed my Glencairn properly, but this soapy note has remained throughout the bottle.

Palate: Thick and syrupy in the mouth and there's a delicious light fruity character which shines through. Add to that baked lemons covered in golden caster sugar, apricot jam, a small shake of white pepper and a twist of orange peel, and you have a rather interesting dram. The woody cask influence has also started to creep in, which is quite noticeable after 10-15 minutes in the glass.

Finish: There's quite a lot of vanilla here and it’s dry, oaky and sweet. There's also a vegetal note kicking about and as the bottle has gone down, I finally managed to put my finger on exactly what it was. Chicory. Yes, that bitter, peppery characteristic is definitely here, but it’s really not unpleasant.