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.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The London Whisky Weekender Twitter Tasting

Last week, Steve Rush (@TheWhiskyWire) very kindly offered me a place in the latest series of Twitter tastings - this time in conjunction with the excellent folks at The Whisky Lounge. It was a blind tasting and was set up to coincide with the build-up to The London Whisky Weekender, which takes place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Since I live in Scotland, I won't be attending, but I've been to a Whisky Lounge event before - the Newcastle Whisky Festival - and had a thoroughly dramspanking time, so I'm more than happy to recommend their events. If you fancy popping along for a dram or two this weekend, you can buy tickets HERE. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Steve and The Whisky Lounge for their generosity and for a cracking evening of surprising sips. Without further ado, let's get to what we tasted last Thursday night.

Sample 1: Berrys' Longmorn, 19-year-old - 46%

This was the first dram to settle in the glass and it made a wonderful starter to the evening. On the nose I got a paper bag full of pear drops, along with banana skins, oranges, a shovelful of damp earth, candied peel and a hefty dollop of butter icing.
    Swirling it around my parched gob was a delight, as this Longmorn had a lovely viscosity to it. There was also fruit honey, a sliver of caramel, a shake of salt and a couple of pineapple cubes thrown in for good measure. The finish was a decent length and left the taste of sticky black liquorice. Lovely stuff.

Sample 2: Tiffon Chateau de Triac cognac- roughly 50 years old - 40%

Steve and the Whisky Lounge crew must have been sniggering away as myself and the other tasters tried to get to grips with this cognac. That's right, a cognac, not a whisky. I thought something was slightly amiss, but I was thinking it was a rum. This smelled utterly delicious, with thick cut orange marmalade, Jelly Tots, cola bottles, pine nuts, scented soap, dried fruit, fennel seeds and whacking great rum notes happily slapped me across the chops.
    A swig, and I initially got a galleon-full of dark rum notes, which were quickly followed by sweet baked oranges and spiced apples. There were also treacle and calvados notes seducing my tastebuds.
    An utterly magnificent dram and I'm seriously tempted to lay down the £100 needed to secure a bottle of this amazing spirit from Berry Bros & Rudd. Stunning.

Sample 3: AnCnoc Rutter - 46%

I have previously enjoyed a bottle of the AnCnoc 12 year old - tasting notes soon - but tasting this blind, I was way off the mark. Rather than that easy going fruity goodness we've come to expect from this splendid Aberdeenshire distillery, this was something totally different. On the nose I immediately got peat-smoked vanilla yoghurt (just go with the flow, folks), mashed bananas and a scoop of tart passion fruit. It smelled lovely and the range and intensity of aromas constantly changed. On the palate, I was greeted with light, creamy vanilla but it was beautifully balanced with charred wet embers, even more bananas and a slight cinnamon spice. Quite lovely and another bottle on the shopping list.

Sample 4: SMWS 53.197: A Stoker in Drag - 57.4%

This final dram of the night confused me greatly. Maybe it was the shock of tasting a peated AnCnoc previously, but I convinced myself this was a peated Speysider, and proudly nailed my colours to the BenRiach mast. I was, of course, completely wrong - this SMWS bottling is actually a single cask beauty from Caol Ila. 
    On the nose, this was very floral with torn spearmint, freshly cut grass, peat smoke, salt and a hint of marzipan.
    Taking a sip of this waxy brew and I got lots of billowing smoke, but it was offset with apples and golden syrup. One of my fellow tasters said malt loaf and that instantly clicked with me. It was like opening a loaf of Soreen for the first time... wax wrapper and all!

It was yet another fabulous night of drams and surprises and while I enjoyed all four, the cognac and the AnCnoc Rutter were my gold and silver medallists. All I need to do now is start saving so I get full bottles of each!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Highland Park 12 - 40%

I've been asked a lot over the last few weeks to recommend a whisky for beginners. Along with the Dalwhinnie 15, Old Pulteney 12 and the Balvenie Doublewood, I've also been giving the nod to the Highland Park 12. This single malt from Orkney is a superb, easy drinking whisky with plenty of character and is widely available - and usually for a very good price. It's frequently on sale in UK supermarkets (I picked up this bottle back in December for £23 in Tesco) and when I see it for that ridiculously low price, I usually snap up a bottle and tuck it away for a rainy day. While it's only bottled at 40%, it packs plenty of flavours and - in my opinion - knocks something like the Dalmore 15 into a cocked hat.

Nose: Leave it to settle for 10 minutes and lots of confectionery notes leap from the glass. It's a mixture of fruity hard boiled sweets, red liquorice laces and banana-flavoured toffee - I'm thinking specifically of  Toffos, a sadly defunct sweet treat from when I was growing up. There's also a little salt and a well-measured spoonful of cough medicine thrown in for good measure.

Palate: The toffee note returns - minus the banana - while plum jam, fresh ginger and a little pepper tickles the tongue.

Finish: That confectionery note returns on the finish along with some light fruit, a slight smokiness and a dab of liquorice root. It's really quite sweet and there's a hint of vanilla there, too.