Monday, 16 January 2017

Review: Compass Box Great King Street Artist's Blend - 43%

I can't believe I haven't reviewed this previously as I'm a huge fan of Compass Box and everything whisky magician John Glaser turns his hand to. 

This bottle sadly crashed into the bottle bank last year, but after stumbling across my tasting notes in a battered, dogeared notepad, I thought it was about time to transfer my messy scribbles to the blog.

The Great King Street Artist's Blend is a combination of 46% Lowland grain whisky, 28% Northern Highland single malt, 17% of a Northern Highland single malt, with the remaining 9% made up from a Speyside single malt. Of course, if you want to dig down into a bit more detail, visit the excellent Compass Box website and you'll be able to request the info.

It's part of the whiskymakers' ongoing and commendable transparency campaign, which strives to lift the lid on current EU and UK regulations which stops companies like Compass Box from publicly stating the ages and details of the whiskies used in their blends. More power to them.

Nose: Cereal and banana toffee chews. Some spicy oak is present, along with a hint of white wine, golden syrup and lemon curd spread on toasted granary bread. There's also Wrigley's spearmint chewing gum, rich tea biscuits, custard powder, sugary apple turnover and sticky toffee pudding.

Palate: The Artist's Blend is rich and full-flavoured. Baked apple, red liquorice laces, floral honey, lemon drizzle cake, raisins and golden sultanas. There's also a twist of pepper and fizzy, rice paper flying saucers.

Finish: Spicy with rich lemon, a little menthol note, ground cinnamon, orange oil and vanilla. I even get Christmas mince pies when left in the glass for a while.

A delicious dram which I'd like to see in larger bottles. 50cl just doesn't last long enough!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Review: Laphroaig Quarter Cask - 48%

The Laphroaig Quarter Cask has become a whisky which regularly makes it on to my whisky shelves - thanks in part to supermarkets, who insist on regularly reducing the price of this peaty Islay beauty. When I see a bottle, I find it difficult not to reach out and plonk it into the shopping trolley.

While the standard Laphroaig 10-year-old is always cheaper, this is - in my opinion - a much more full-flavoured dram and packs more of a wallop. The fact its ABV is 8% higher than their flagship brand probably has something to do with it - unless you're living in North America, where the 10 is poured into that famous green bottle at a much more respectable 43%.

But enough with the grumping. Time for some Laphroaig Quarter Cask tasting notes.

Nose: Unsurprisingly, this carries the unmistakable Laphroaig peaty, TCP character, complete with sticking plasters and the sharp smell of disinfected hospital wards. But underneath the smoking peat there's a lovely dry tobacco leaf, which intensifies with a couple of drops of water. It really is quite lovely. There's also dark treacle toffee mixed with Thornton's special toffee, honey-glazed charcoal bricks, coal smoke, mixed dried fruit, menthol and some zingy citrus notes tucked away in the back. I also occasionally get a wee bit of steamed broccoli - but perhaps that's coming from the pub next door!

Palate: A huge, smokey peat blast arrival which settles down into dark fruit: baked plums and thick blackcurrant jam. I always get black pepper in Laphroaigs, and this one is no different. There's also malty cereals, more TCP, dark cherry syrup - I'm thinking cough medicine - and a wee dab of sourness.

Finish: The first thing I get is menthol cigarettes. I used to have the occasional smoke many years ago, and that memory comes right back on the finish. There's sweet peat, some deep citrus notes, flat cola, coal smoke, cherry, parma violets - and that amazing dried tobacco note returns if you leave the dram to settle for a while. Another beauty from Laphroaig.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Ardbeg 10 - 46%

Looking through almost three years of blog posts, I was astounded to discover that the only Ardbeg I've ever taken tasting notes for was the Uigeadail back in September 2013!

Not even a whiff of the 10 - one of the all-time classic drams! So, I have to apologise - especially as I've had several bottles of this rather special, non-chill filtered Islay malt over the last few years.

Nose: Unmistakably Ardbeg. Huge mineral peat slaps you about the chops but it's also balanced with a citrus burst of lemon and tangerines. There's loads of salted white fish and salty sea breeze. There's some vanilla here, too and those pink and blue squishy discs you find in bags of liquorice allsorts - and dusty old Oddfellows. Water brings out a white sugar sweetness, some tobacco leaf and some sawdust.

Palate: Sweet arrival that quickly gives way to a citrus peat blast. That then fades, and adds lots of lemons, limes, green twigs and campfire smoke. Chalky vanilla and liquorice. Water ramps up the sweetness and subdues the citrus notes.

Finish: Lots of spicy mineral peat and bitter wood shavings. Light liquorice and salty vanilla. Water adds sawdust, intensifies the peat and leaves tobacco leaf.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Amrut Peated - 46% Batch 47 - bottled August 2015

It's been a couple of years since I bought a bottle of Amrut Indian whisky - I picked up a carton of the Amrut Fusion at the Newcastle Whisky Festival in 2014. So I thought it was high time I took another journey back to the Bangalore distillery.

There are a few expressions kicking about but with my love of peated malt, I plumped for the Amrut Peated. It carries no age statement, but with the higher temperatures in India, whisky matures at a much faster rate than here in Scotland.

It's bottled at 46%, is non-chill filtered and has had no colouring added.

Nose: Certainly peaty (natch!) but it's a soft, gentle peat which helps focus the abundance of sweet fruity aromas wafting from the glass. Straight off the bat I get thick apricot jam and gooseberry fool. It's incredibly sweet - perhaps a touch too sweet for me, but I'll press on in the name of science. Love Hearts sweets and half a packet of fizzy Refreshers. There's also a hint of tobacco leaf and Kendal mint cake - it really does have that hard, sugary character. Crystalised brown sugar sticks for swirling in coffee, and thick-cut orange marmalade. To my nose, the peat has all but disappeared by this point - just a dark, earthy note tucked away in the background.

Palate: A mouth-puckeringly sweet arrival. Wooof! But there's also something herbal going on. It packs a huge punch - even bottled at 46%. Soft white fruit, cinnamon - actually quite spicy, and a deep earthy note is also present. Orange oil and rind.

Finish: Orange marmalade, lemons, white pepper and lots more cinnamon. That earthy note is still there - and it's not hugely appealing but not entirely off-putting. The sweetness from the smell and taste doesn't really carry through here.

I found this quite interesting but the sweetness and the earthy finish were a bit too much for me. Glad I bought it but don't think I would again.

Monday, 7 March 2016

GlenDronach Cask Strength - Batch 4 - 54.7%

Back in December, I bought a couple of sherried whiskies to toast the festive season. Along with the robust and tasty Glenfarclas 105, I also picked up this GlenDronach Cask Strength.

I originally tried this expression at the Edinburgh Whisky Stramash back in 2014 - I started the session with the Batch 3 - and it left a very positive impression. But it took quite a while to get my paws on a bottle as my cash usually goes on bourbon cask whisky rather than the sherried variety.

But there's something about Christmas that makes me yearn for those big, fruit cake flavours - so I spoiled myself. A quarter of the bottle remains, so time for some notes.

Nose: Those massive Christmas cake aromas are here in abundance. Loads of raisins, sultanas, dates, figs and prunes. There's also lots of cinnamon and nutmeg with a touch of marzipan. White pepper, mint and a hint of lemon rind. Walnuts, brazil nuts and golden syrup. With water: The spicy cinnamon is ramped up - as is the vanilla. The sherry notes are lighter. The PX cask is much more evident now, with those Oloroso notes taking a back seat. Green apple is also here.

Palate: Big and bold with lemon-tinged treacle. Dark honey, dry roasted peanuts. With water: Much lighter in character but still carries a bold character. Honey and orange oil and fruity malt loaf.

Finish: Spicy with vanilla and huge cinnamon notes. Lemon rind and orange oil. With water: more orange and vanilla, sticky toffee pudding and ginger snap biscuits.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Blair Athol 11 years old - 46% McGibbon's Provenance

While out Christmas shopping in December last year, I got sidetracked and rather than splashing my cash on my nearest and dearest, I ended up buying several bottle of whisky for myself. Surprised? Me neither.

I spotted a 200ml sample of this 11 year old Blair Athol distilled in 2002 and whisked it into the shopping basket immediately. After all, it's part of the McGibbon's Provenance range, is from a single cask, is bottled at 46%, is non-chill filtered and bottled without additional colouring. top notch.

The screw cap is a bit wonky so I decided I'd have to drink it quickly in case the angels decided they'd take their share early.

Nose: Sweet, fruity toffee, vanilla and barley sugars. Chocolate covered foam banana sweets, some gentle spices, traditional cloudy lemonade and fresh spinach. There's a gentle smoky note in the background along with a splash of rose water. With water: Lighter with marzipan and the cask starts to come through. More lemon.

Palate: A slightly sour arrival which gives way to sherbet lemons, light, milky toffee - perhaps a Caramac bar? Toffee bonbons and tangerine rind. With water: Much fruiter, with added vanilla and less of the sourness.

Finish: That fruity toffee note returns and the smoke is definitely here. Again, slightly sour but not unpleasant. Quite malty with some tingly cinnamon spice. Dry. With water: Spicier with a touch of red liquorice laces.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Rock Oyster - 46.8%

More fine whisky from the gang at Douglas Laing - this time the splendid Rock Oyster. 

I first bought a bottle when this blend of island malts from distilleries including Orkney, Arran, Jura and Islay first came out in January 2015. That bottle was a birthday gift to myself and I thoroughly enjoyed its smoky, costal character.

So recently, I purchased bottle no.2 - not something I do very often - and I'm pleased to say it's just as good as the first. As you'd expect, the Rock Oyster is non-chill filtered and has no colouring added. Just what we like.

There's a cask-strength bruiser out now, too, although I'm having difficulty tracking it down. Early reports have been very favourable and I'll be snaffling a bottle as soon as I can.

Nose: Chalky Edinburgh rock, salty vanilla, seaweed, fennel and white pepper. There's an ever-present peat presence - try saying that quickly after a few drams - but it's never overpowering. It kinda reminds me of Ardbeg due to its lemony character but who knows? Ash and green apple slices drizzled with lime juice. With water: More vanilla and less peat with some lovely soft lemon.

Palate: A sweet and sour arrival which also includes a whack of vanilla and lots of lemon and apple. The sourness never gets too in your face and that salty peat tang coats the tongue. Barley sugars and icing sugar. Black pepper. With water: Not quite as sour, with more vanilla. Very elegant.

Finish: This is where the peat kicks in - but there's also a delicate sweetness to it and a hint of toffee. Salty stuff. This would be the perfect companion on an Ayrshire beach in early January. Campfire smoke and a green herbal note carries through the long finish. With water: Slightly less peat and a touch more spice.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Big Peat Christmas 2015 edition - 53.8%

Season's greetings, malt heads! Oh, wait. Right, so I'm approximately two months late with this festive dram - but as you know, I like spending a bit of time with a whisky before taking down notes.

I have less than half a bottle of this stuff remaining, so now seems like as good time a time as any. And there's no way the remainder of this Big Peat will last until December 2016!

Now I did have a bottle of the 2014 edition, but that departed to the bottle bank a long time ago - and was sunk while I was taking an extended writing break - thanks to a broken elbow - through a good chunk of 2015. I have, however, taken a look at several Big Peat expressions in the past: The 2013 Christmas edition and the Small Batch, along with the standard bottle.

One thing I will say about the 2015, is that while Douglas Laing have once again blended malts from Bowmore, Ardbeg, Caol Ila and Port Ellen, this tastes a lot younger to me. Not a bad thing, just pointing it out. Oh, and as you would expect, this is natural colour and non chill filtered.

Nose: Sweet and salty peat, pebbles on a windswept Scottish beach, slight lemon and vanilla. Wet, green twigs, slightly high-toned. This might be lighter than the two other Christmas editions I've tried, but it still works beautifully. Wet ash, grass, hay, faint liquorice and fennel seeds. Also a splash of black coffee. With water: More lemon and, strangely, asparagus! The peat takes a back seat to more vegetal aromas.

Palate: Sweet arrival with loads of herbal character, very dry with billowing mineral peat smoke and liquorice. Slight vanilla, and extremely full-flavoured. With water: Much lighter with loads of lemony vanilla. It's not quite as dry, but again, a hefty belt of vegetal peat.

Finish: Sweet, dry, mineral peat - like licking a chunk of granite - or so I imagine! Quite a lot of vanilla, and those fennel seeds cling to the back of the tongue. Very spicy. With water: The vanilla and peat combine beautifully and leave a dry, dusty, aromatic taste. Lovely.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

GlenDronach Peated - 46%

Something a bit unusual tonight - a peated GlenDronach. Noted for their excellent sherry bombs, this came as a bit of a shock when I found out about it.

I became aware of this when my old newspaper colleagues Colin and Sean were filling their boots down at Glasgow's Good Spirits Co. Colin very kindly picked me up a bottle at the tail end of last year and promptly dropped it off at the flat shortly after.

It's a good 'un, too, and although it carries no age statement, it's at least bottled at 46%, non-chill filtered with no added colouring. Result!

Nose: The dram carries a whiff of chalky, flinty peat. There's also plenty of fruit in the shape of apples, gooseberries, white grape skins and strawberry syrup. It's also has a bit of weight to it, with Soreen malt loaf and a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Palate: Plenty of sweet peat and liquorice. Pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. That dense malt loaf note is also present but it's fruitier here. Lemon and grapefruit rind.

Finish: The chalky peat note returns, along with vanilla and coffee cake. It's very dry with raisins, milky coffee, dried chilli flakes and cocoa nibs.

Enjoyable stuff - although I'd love to try this at cask-strength.

Monday, 1 February 2016

A Taste of Teeling - Part 2

Back in September 2014, I wrote about Teeling’s rum cask finish and their single grain Irish whiskies. I really enjoyed both bottles, so when the 2015 whisky advent calendar revealed two more from Teeling, I was delighted.

First up is their single malt. It’s made from 100% malt whiskies and five wine-cask-finishes were used to blend this bad boy together - specifically sherry, port, madeira, white Burgundy and cabernet sauvignon. No age statement is given, but according to the Teeling website, the bottle contains “aged malt whiskey up to 23 years old.”

Next is a special release which, unlike the single malt, is now pretty hard to get hold of - the Teeling Silver Reserve 21 year old single malt. It was matured in ex bourbon barrels and then finished in Sauterne wine casks. That addition has given this dram a huge, fruity character - and it’s lovely whiskey. A total of 5000 bottles were produced.

It should also be noted that Teeling bottle all their juice at 46% and don’t chill filter them. Great stuff. Not sure about added colouring though.

Teeling Single Malt - 46%

Nose: Golden syrup and honey straight off the bat. There’s also fresh vanilla , cinnamon, Murray Mints and creamy barley sugars. There’s a green herbal note floating around along with a whiff of grappa and chalky Edinburgh rock. With a dollop of water, white grapes, oaky sawdust, cardamon, sweet toffee and sharp kiwi fruit join the party.

Palate: A savoury sweet arrival which gives way to thick honey. The taste is actually quite like the nose, with buttery mint and a little floral kick. Water ramps up the oak and vanilla and adds runny caramel. This has a lovely viscous mouth feel.

Finish: Sweet and spicy with cinnamon sticks dipped in honey. Water turns up the volume on the vanilla and adds white pepper and bitter dark chocolate. Lovely.

Teeling Silver Reserve 21 Year Old Single Malt - 46%

Nose: Right, who dropped the fruit bomb? Wow! Honeydew melon, lemon sherbet, tangerine, pineapple and mango. There’s also dusty vanilla oak. Water sends the fruit through the roof and brings a touch of passion fruit to the show. I also get gummy lemon Haribo and white sugar.

Palate: Big, bold and mouthwateringly fruity! Ooof! Orange segments and tangerine skin - and that orange continues in waves. There’s also white grapes and slight foam banana. After a few minutes, the oak starts to asset itself, but never becomes over the top. It seems impossible, but the addition of water adds even more fruit and ramps up the wood, while adding a dab of liquorice. This has to be classed as one of your five a day!

Finish: Vanilla oak, more tangerine and lemon. There’s some pleasant spice with water adding dusty oak, citrus and some vanilla.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Johnnie Walker Double Black - 40%

We're back on the blends - and this time it's the Johnnie Walker Double Black. I picked up a bottle of the regular Black label back in October 2014 and thought it was a decent drop. So when I saw the Double Black on special offer at Oddbins last year, I snapped up what turned out to be the last bottle on the shelf.

It's not overly complex, but then I didn't really expect it to be. It's very easy to drink but lacks sparkle at just 40%. That said, I'd be tempted to pick up another bottle if I saw it for a good price.

Nose: Grain and lots of honied cereal aromas backed by sweet, restrained peat. There's some liquorice, Wrigley's Spearmint chewing gum, lemons and hard-boiled barley sugars.

Palate: A sweet arrival with more honey, buttery vanilla and malty Cheerios breakfast cereal. That peat is ever-present but it's gentle.

Finish: It's here where the peat really comes through. Lots of spicy grains with treacle, pepper and liquorice. It fades sharpish but waves goodbye with a very pleasant mild smoke.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Paul John Edited - 46%

Another dram from last year's whisky advent calendar - and another whisky from India. I previously had a look at the Amrut Fusion, buying a full bottle after first sampling it at the Newcastle Whisky Festival back in March 2014.

The Paul John Edited is just one of the malts available from the mind of master distiller Michael John - but it's the first one I've tried. It has a percentage of peated Scottish barley in the mashbill, with the final vatting containing around 15% of peated spirit. It's then matured in ex bourbon casks.

Nose: Huge, weighty and fruity - packs a real punch of aromas. There's also some floral characteristics coming through, along with blackcurrant Chewits and a lovely tobacco leaf note. Plums, figs, apples and honey. The peat lurks in the background and it's definitely not in you face. I also get butter icing, Juicy Fruit chewing gum and wood shavings.

Palate: A slow entry gives way to blackcurrant, baked lemon, icing sugar, apples, vanilla. There's also a slight wet paper note.

Finish: Very similar to the taste, with blackcurrants, lemon and apples. There's also some menthol and, right at the end, a cracking dusty wood note. It's also here where the shy peat comes through, but it's still a fruity dram.