Saturday, 27 December 2014

Tomatin 18 - 46%

Following my adventures with the 12, Cu Bocan and their four Cuatro releases, I decided that rather than mess around with a collection of samples, I would buy a full bottle of Tomatin. 
    And, seeing as their 18-year-old is a great price for a whisky of that age, I had no hesitation in parting with my cash. I found this challenging - something I didn't expect. Why? Read on, malt heads.
    On the nose there were bright citrus notes accompanied by what can only be described as old oak slathered in salted caramel. Fresh spearmint comes through after a while in the glass, followed by honey, vanilla and a dribble of honey. The whisky also has a floral character which intensified with a drop or two of water. But that heavy wood note really does dominate and it's this that I struggled to get my head around.
    Taking a sip, that heavy oak note continued. But rather than being sweet on the tongue, I found it to be quite savoury in character, although citrus notes push through with a little water. It was as if orange, lemon and grapefruit had been dipped in floral honey. It also carried a zinging spicy note, with lots of cinnamon, grated nutmeg and black peppercorns.
    The finish was extremely woody and warming, with more vanilla hints joined by lemon mousse, more cinnamon and green peppercorns. There was also a distinctive sour note which played right the way through but it actually worked quite well with the winter spices.
    I'm still really on the fence with the Tomatin 18. The wood character was just too much for me and I wonder if that's the 18's defining characteristic - or whether my bottle was part of a not-so-sparkling cask. I plan on trying a dram in the pub to see how it compares, though. With that said, I found it an interesting experience and it did have its moments with those lovely citrus and floral notes.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Caol Ila: Young & Feisty: The McGibbon's Provenance - 46%

Distilled 2009, bottled winter 2014
A bottling from two refill hogsheads
DMG REF: 10178 & 10179

I've become something of a fan of Caol Ila over the last 12 months since receiving a bottle of the Cask Strength as a present last Christmas. And although my tasting notes on the distillery's produce are scarce, much more is to come, including a couple of SMWS beauties.
    This particular Caol Ila caught my eye at this year's Edinburgh Stramash. I was intrigued by its 'Young and Feisty' tag and having consumed my fair share of young - and quite fabulous - Kilchomans recently, I asked the folks at the Douglas Laing stand for a drop. I loved it immediately and upon my return to Glasgow, I purchased a bottle as soon as I had the cash. Young it might be, but it's full-flavoured, is unchill filtered and has no added colouring.
As always with a full bottle, I don't review it until I'm at least half-way down the bottle to see how it fares as time passes. In we go!
    On the nose I'm immediately stuck by how creamy this whisky is. It's also packed with black liquorice, treacle, damp leaves and earthy peat. There are some zinging citrus notes dancing around, too which cuts through the earthy notes and actually sweetens it slightly. Vanilla arrives after 10 minutes along with smashed gooseberries, a square of white chocolate, fresh mint leaves, white pepper and banana. There's even a hint of grassy manure lurking around - and reminded me of walking past the elephant enclosure at the zoo when I was a lad. But hang on! Rather than being unpleasant, it actually tied in with the other scents and is quite lovely. What is happening to me?
    On the palate, complex citrus notes coat the tongue before a blanket of sweet peat shoves them aside and makes itself comfortable. There's also damp embers, ash, more white chocolate, bonfire smoke, bananas and cough sweets. It also has that lovely Caol Ila light freshness going on.
    The finish was medium to short and carried a slight off the still note. However, there was also tar, wet hay, smoke, slight vanilla, a sliver of wood, instant coffee granules, menthol cough sweets and a shake of smoked paprika.
    An interesting and strangely refreshing dram. Definitely glad I bought a bottle.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Amrut Fusion - 50% Batch no.24, bottled June 2013

I tried a dram of this Indian whisky at the Newcastle Whisky festival back in March and loved it. On slightly wobbly legs, I approached the festival shop at the end of the day and bought a bottle. I even remembered to leave the pub with it later that night - a fact I'm rather proud of considering the state I was in.
    Word of advice: don't go to the pub after a whisky festival. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but it's not. Trust me.
    Now, I took my time with this one as it's a beefy dram, packed full of flavour and certainly not an every day sipper - at least, not for my palate.
    The 'fusion' in the name comes from the fact that the malted barley used to create the whisky is from both India and Scotland. Nice!
    On the nose, huge, heavy fruity notes dominate, with juicy peaches and nectarine aromas making the mouth water right off the bat. Let it settle - add a few drops of water - and the Amrut Fusion starts to evolve and show its true character. Underneath those rich golden fruit notes, there's also chewy chocolate fudge, peppermint, fruity flapjacks, dry roasted peanuts, golden syrup, dried banana chips, hard-boiled travel sweets and barley sugars. This is a pungent malt you could sit and sniff happily for hours.
    Swirl it around your tongue and those big, beefy flavours match the nose perfectly. There's a huge oak influence here but it’s peppered with cinnamon, stewed fruit, thick jam, black tea, treacle, dates and strawberry bonbons. It also has some herbal notes dancing around, with hints of cardamom and coriander clearly having a good time. It also has a good viscosity to it and it coats the mouth beautifully.
    The finish is robust - imagine licking a plank of dried oak a few times and you'll get the same drying effect here (without the splinters). There's also prickly spices, deep caramel, rich coffee cake and it also carries a slight bitter note.
    As I said previously, this isn't an every day dram - the  dry oaky note tends to dull the senses after a few glasses but it’s a whisky that would go splendidly with Christmas pudding. After dinner, don't go for a glass of port, pour this instead. For a non-age statement whisky, this is a belter. The spirit matures faster in the cask in the stifling Indian climate so don't worry about it being young - just dive in!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus 12 - 46%

Last Christmas I was given a bottle of this Speyside beauty by my parents. Only now, almost a year later, am I getting round to reviewing it.
    The bottle is long gone but recently I realised I hadn't updated the blog with my tasting notes. I had kept a 5cl sample and compared this last week with my original tasting scribbles. I found a few new things in the glass and this dark rum-finished dram was a corker. Unfortunately, with only 1240 bottles produced, I doubt it'll still be around. Oh, it's also non-chill filtered and has no added colouring - just the way I like it!
    On the nose there was an abundance of rum and raisin milk chocolate along with sweet peat, figs, sticky medjool dates, prunes, malty Cheerios breakfast cereal, hard boiled barley sugars, plump blackcurrants, Tunes cough sweets and Vimto chew bars.
    On the palate, the delivery was initially sweet with a twist of pepper before a flood of mouthwatering dark fruit notes arrived, carried along on a puff of dark peaty smoke.
    The finish continued with the rich, dark fruit theme while smoke, vanilla and white pepper joined in the fun. Right at the end, there was the unmistakable flavour of thick cough medicine. Lovely.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tomatin Cuatro series

A few months ago, there was a Twitter tasting involving Tomatin's new range of sherry finished whiskies. I didn't take part, however, my Twitter friend Simon Smith kindly offered me some leftover samples from the event. I sent him a couple of drams to say thanks and got stuck in.
    All four expression are 12 years old and spent the first nine in American oak barrels. They were then transferred to four different sherry butts (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez) for a further three years before being bottled.
    What's really interesting about these is seeing how the various sherries affected the spirit and although the bottles will be long gone by now, all four offered something worthwhile and different. If you see any of the four on your travels, go for it! Also, all four are bottled at 46% and are non-chill filtered.

Cuatro Fino
The nose was sweet with vanilla, Maltesers chocolates, butter icing, walnuts and alight strawberry jam. After a while in the glass, a lovely apple turnover scent emerged. There was also a hint of salt and a white flower note. A really beautiful smell.
    On the palate there was a delicious jam note along with figs, toffee, mocha coffee and wood-infused golden syrup. There was also a slight acetone note kicking around, too,
    The finish was spicy with a touch of pepper, vanilla and cranberry, while creamy white chocolate notes came through along with a touch of grapefruit and a well-fired pecan pie.

Cuatro Manzanilla
Straight off the bat, I smelled hard toffee, toasted granary bread and dark fruit notes such as blackcurrant, damson and mushed up strawberries. There was a pasty note there which reminded me of a sugar-topped donut and I also picked up undiluted Ribena, fresh mint, cumin seeds and a hint of slow gin.
    In the mouth it was sweet and incredibly mouthwatering thanks to the abundance of juicy blackcurrants, apples and plums. There was also a hint of spicy cinnamon. The finish continued the sweet tastes along with toffee, dark chocolate, prunes and lots of dry wood tastes.

Cuatro Oloroso
On the nose I immediately got orange, juicy pears, apples, blackberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. There was also treacle toffee, vanilla fudge, some granary toast notes again, pine needles, juicy fruit chewing gum, gooseberries, brown sugar and golden syrup.
    The dark fruit notes returned on the palate along with caramel, fruit and nut chocolate bars, a touch of coffee and a slight bitter note ran all the way through.
    The finish had a lovely deep sherry character along with bitter dark chocolate, treacle, damson jam, mint, a hint of creme brulee and sticky toffee pudding.

Cuatro Pedro Ximinez
Hard boiled sherbet lemons hit me straight away on the nose, followed by cola cubes, Edinburgh rock, apple juice, white sugar and a hint of marzipan. The granary toast note from the last two was nowhere to be found and the whole dram was incredibly sweet.
    On the palate, there was hard boiled fruit-flavoured sweets, treacle, woody cinnamon sticks and lots of honey-slathered dry oak. The finish was spicier than the other three, along with baked apples, prunes, red grape skins, raisins and a hint of milk chocolate.

Four cracking whiskies and my favourites in order were: Manzanilla, Oloroso, Fino and Pedro Ximinez. Hopefully this will become a regular release from Tomatin as all four were quite special.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Out and about - The Glasgow Whisky Festival

With the nights getting darker and the temperature starting to plummet, what better way to raise the spirits than to go along to a whisky festival?

Friendly faces and top drams were on show at the recent Glasgow Whisky Festival - and I was one of the fortunate souls who eagerly lined up to sample some rather excellent whiskies.

After stuffing my face with a lamb burger and more fries than I've ever seen on a plate before, my brother and I headed down to The Arches in Glasgow city centre and dived into a swirling cauldron of blends, single malts and other spirits at 1pm sharp.

Now, it should be noted here that while I enjoyed many excellent drams, jotting tasting notes down was an impossible task - and I refuse to wear one of those ridiculous lanyards. I'd rather be in full control of my glass at all times - not dangling round my neck like some oversized new age crystal.

Before I even had a dram in my hand, my good Twitter chum Neil MacKinnon came over to say hello and swiftly dropped the words "Springbank" and "new release" into the conversation. No further persuasion was needed and I happily skipped over to their table. Plenty of bottles were on display, tinkling invitingly in the subterranean gloom. But the only one I was after was the new Springbank Green. I found it quite delicate, without that powerful hit other Springbanks have - but it's very drinkable and think it would make for top summer drammage. Colour me impressed - but it is pricey.

Now, I've been a big fan of Compass Box for a while. I've always found their whiskies interesting, complex and delicious. But I had my eye on one in particular - their new Glasgow Blend. After all, being at the Glasgow Whisky Festival, it would have been rude to pass up the opportunity to have a snifter! Incredibly enjoyable stuff it was too. Lots of banana and cereal notes on the nose and a touch of spice on the palate. Great stuff and available at a good price. I marked it as "one to buy" but then I realised I have more whisky than sense (not hard I'll grant you) and decided to wait until another day to pick up a bottle.

Next it was over to the always reliable Douglas Laing table. Again, a range of bottles tempted me but not wanting to block the table I quickly plumped for their Timorous Beastie blend. I'd heard some mixed reports of this excellently packaged whisky but I found it rather good. There was a robust sherry character and it was rich and tasty. Not sure I'd buy it over their Big Peat, but enjoy it I did.

I recently picked up a bottle of Weymess Malt's Peat Chimney and I'm enjoying its rich, chocolatey notes. So I was delighted to see the company back in Glasgow. I went straight for their dramspanking new release Velvet Fig - and I'm glad to say the blend tastes as good as its name implies. Sweet, mouth-coating and luscious - this was an absolute belter. Again, it sells for a good price and I'll be picking up a bottle as soon as I can get away with it. Lovely.

It was then time to leave Scotland behind and head to the rarefied air of Colorado, USA for a splash of Tin Cup whiskey. I do like some of the stuff currently coming out of the States - but I really prefer the spiciness of rye over the sweetness of bourbon. To my delight, Tin Cup carries a wonderful rye character and I thought it was quite something. The mash bill is made up from 4% malted barley, 64% corn and a healthy 32% rye. The presentation is also rather smart, with the bottle coming with its own tin cup measure. Could see this making cracking cocktails, but it also makes for a great sipper.

The great thing about whisky festivals is getting the chance to try before you buy and I'm glad I tried the Glen Moray Port Cask finish rather than splash the cash on a full bottle. I've tried a couple of SMWS bottles of Glen Moray and they were amazing. But this was not for me. No punch, very thin and really lacking character. One of the day's rare disappointments.

And speaking of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, it was time to visit there glowing red room full of quality drams. The lad on the door was controlling the numbers in the closed-off space - a great idea as last time the SMWS were there, it was in the middle of the venue and it was almost impossible to get near the tables.


They were heavily promoting their latest huge outturn and although I had previously ordered three bottles from the new range, none of these were present. It would have been nice to get a wee preview but never mind. The bottles are now safely tucked away for the moment and will be popped some time in the new year.

Here's what I sampled. Ready? Here we go!: 53.214: Seafood Cocktail - a 17-year-old Caol Ila, 26.105: Bumblebees by the Sea - a 29-year-old Clynelish, 46.26: Killer Bee Surf Wax - a 21-year-old Glenlossie, 66.58: There is Only One...! - a nine-year-old Ardmore, G8.4 Summer Meadow Hoedown - a 25-year-old Cambus, 9.91: A Whispering Dram - a 23-year-old Glen Grant, 36.80: Dorothy Dances the Yellow Brick Road - an 11-year-old Benrinnes, 41.60: Fun to Chase - a 25-year-old Dailuaine and finally a 37.97: A Symphony of Sophistication - a 23-year-old Cragganmore. Phew!

All were nothing short of splendid, but the 29-year-old Clynelish blew me away. An absolute corker of a dram and my whisky of the day. Just lovely. In second place was the 25-year-old Dailuaine, which my brother and I agreed was top drawer.

Following the cask strength madness, we stumbled out of the room and back into the bustling throng of noisy whisky aficionados. Time for a break and plenty of water before we tightened our belts, rinsed our Glencairns and headed bravely back into the heaving mass of inebriated souls - all in the name of science.

A trip to the Balblair table was in order and within a few minutes, I had a cheeky wee glass of the Balblair 83 in my hands. Cracking stuff it was too - although it has to be said if there's a bad Balblair, I've yet to find it. Everything they produce is solid gold. Magic!

I then spotted a Cooper's Choice 1996 Ben Nevis and, seeing as I'd never previously tried a drop, I took the plunge. I'm glad I did as I found it to be pleasant stuff. However, it should be noted that by this point in proceedings, my senses weren't exactly in sparkling form. Onwards!

I then stopped by the Haig Club stand, where large blue perfume bottles glinted under the lights. This is the stuff David Beckham's trying to flog and I was wary. I'm not a whisky snob - far from it, but I'm always dubious when a celebrity puts their face to a product. All I see in my mind is wads of cash changing hands and I don't like it. This is a grain whisky. And it's young. Prejudice aside, I found it painfully average. And for about £45 a bottle, I won't be going near it again. If you want my advice and you’re looking for a really interesting young grain whisky, go for Teeling Single Grain. It's lovely and knocks Beckham's effort clear over the crossbar and into the stadium's car park.

Next was a delicious Hazelburn 12 before I sauntered over to see the hard-working Benromach team. I asked for a splash of the Benromach Organic - and I thought it was a marvellous drop. One of the highlights of the day. I do like their 10-year-old, but this has more depth and richness. Lovely.

An Arran Machrie Moor was the next drop in the glass and while enjoyable, I still prefer the standard 14-Year-old. Which reminds me - I need to buy another bottle to welcome the 2015 spring.

Now, there comes a time at a whisky festival when I decide to hit the peated drams. Usually with around 90 minutes to go, I start to get stuck in. On this day, I had obviously tried a few throughout the session but from here on out, only peated spirit would pass my lips. And when it comes to peated single malts, no one does it better than Kilchoman in my opinion.

So that's where I headed next. They had several of their 2014 releases including the excellent Machir Bay (tasting notes soon). Also here was their khaki green-labelled Cask Strength bruiser. I bought a full bottle a few weeks ago - although it remains unopened for the moment. This was a great chance to try it and discover what awaits me in the future. I'm glad to say it was impressive. Full of Kilchoman character and a bottle I'm going to enjoy spending time with. Either this or my cask strength Christmas edition of Big Peat will see in the new year with me.

Next, it was over to India for the Paul John Heavily Peated. Maybe it was the fact I had bounded over straight from Kilchoman, but I just didn't get a heavy peat note at all and found it rather disappointing. I then dabbled in a drop of the English Whisky Co and their peated Chapter 15 release. I really enjoyed it, too and I'm looking forward to delving a bit deeper into their releases in the future.

The final dram of the festival wasn't whisky. Instead, I dived into Bruichladdich's Botanist gin. I'm no expert, but I enjoyed what was in the glass and it certainly refreshed the palate with its sharp, aromatic qualities.


It was then time for fond farewells to friends old and new and off I tramped with a slightly fuzzy head to the bus stop with thoughts of a greasy fish supper taking form in my pickled brain. But before I could fill my cake hole with battered fish, undercooked chips and a couple of pickled eggs, I spied The Pot Still - one of Glasgow's finest whisky bars. Standing in the cool Glasgow twilight, I convinced myself that I clearly hadn't had enough whisky for one day, so in I barged with a fistful of crumpled notes clutched tightly to my chest.

If I was a little weather-worn and bedraggled, the guy behind the bar didn't seem to notice. I ordered a Kilchoman Port Cask finish - a bottle that disappeared as soon as it hit the shelves a few months back. I was delighted to see it out in the wild and even happier that I got the chance to sample a full dram of this ruby-coloured gem. It was rather good, although I admit by this point my sense of taste, smell and direction weren't exactly pin-sharp.

And as I gently swirled that last drop round my mouth, it marked the end of my 2014 four festival run. But the fun continues on various fronts. For the last year, myself and three friends and former colleagues have been squirrelling cash away each month in a whisky club. This weekend, the four of us will pull the cash together and head out and spent around £500 on whisky. The details about exactly what we'll spend the cash on are still slightly up in the air, but for that kind of cash, we'll get something special, I'm sure.

They're a good bunch but led me astray at the Edinburgh Stramash back in May and coerced me into throwing money at a cask at the new Isle of Harris Distillery - but more about that in the future. And as if all this wasn't enough, my good mate Yan has already secured tickets for the Newcastle Whisky Festival in March - the 11am start from what I can gather so that'll be fun. Breakfast drams, anyone?

But despite all the good things to look forward to over the coming months, I'm going to end this ludicrously long post on a downer - a bit of a rant, if you will. It's something that has plagued all the festivals I've attended this year and I need to get it off my chest because it's been twisting my melon. The subject? Blocking tables.

Please note: Tasting tables are not bars - they're not there to stand at and chat with your mates. They're there for people to sample a whisky and find out information. Once the info has been imparted, a dram poured and thanks given, move away from the table. It's not difficult. I had to ask time and time again for people to shift. Most people just glared at me - as if I was gatecrashing their own private party. It's ignorant and there's really no excuse.

So stop it or you might just find some sharp elbows in your ribs in the future. You have been warned!

Friday, 24 October 2014

Glentauchers 12 (Provenance) - 46%

Distilled Autumn 1999
Bottled Winter 2012
From one refill hogshead: DMG ref: 8014

On my shopping trip to pick up a bottle of the thoroughly delicious Glenglassaugh Evolution, I also bought this Provenance bottling of Glentauchers. I had never tried a dram from the distillery, but seeing as the bottle was a good price, the whisky was non-chill filtered with no added colouring, and the fact I've had several other whiskies from the Douglas Laing/McGibbon's Provenance range, I thought, 'Why not?'
    On the nose there's loads of tropical fruit notes, primarily pineapple, mango and peach. There's also a dark malty note and it's incredibly aromatic and floral aromas rose from the glass. There was a dab of liquorice, red jelly babies, sherbet, slight banana and clean barley. I also got something which reminded me of watermelon Life Saver sweets. I also found a sour wood note running through, which got worse with the addition of water.
    Take a sip and it coats the mouth well with a lovely syrupy taste. There's also a huge smack of floral notes, honey, spicy cinnamon heat, white pepper, a touch of toffee and some wood underpinning the malt.
    The finish had vanilla, pepper, liquorice chews, malty cereals, caramel and little salt. The sour note which came through on the nose was also present here after the addition of water. Not unpleasant, but certainly noticeable. Much better neat in my opinion.
    I did enjoy the bottle, but it lacked sparkle and was missing that special something. It has me intrigued, though, and I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more Glentauchers in the future. Glad I bought it as it's furthered my ongoing whisky education.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Johnnie Walker Black - 40%

I picked up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black a few weeks ago. It was on offer and as my experience with the blend was limited, I decided to take the plunge. The Black is the most popular blend in the world, made up of 40 different whiskies, so if it's good enough for thousands of others, it's good enough for me.
    On the nose there's pear, toffee, cinnamon, green apples, orange marzipan, tart plums, a touch of golden syrup and slight smoke.
    The taste is full of dark toffee notes, along with vanilla, malty cereals, a touch of runny treacle and dried fruits. However, I found it a wee bit sour, with a flavour of orange pith coming out after intense swirling.
    The finish was heavy on the liquorice, orange peel, more toffee, black peppercorns, earthy with a hint of peat, spicy cinnamon and that pithy, sour note came through again right at the end.
    This is not too bad at all and thanks to its easy going nature, I can see why it's so popular. Very easy to drink and available for a decent price.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A gaggle of Glenfiddich

A few months ago I was in the local supermarket when I saw a mini-pack containing three miniatures of Glenfiddich for less than a tenner. I snapped them up as my only previous experience of Glenfiddich has been the 12, which I've had in bars several times, and the 15-year-old distillery edition which I scooped in last year's whisky advent calendar.
    When I took them to the checkout, the young woman at the counter asked me for ID. I stared blankly at her for a few seconds, before she broke the silence by laughing and said: "I'm only kidding. There's no way you're that young!" I laughed along with her - then cursed her all the way home. The cheek of it!
    Anyway, 15cl of Glenfiddichs have made their way down my throat and here's what I thought:

Glenfiddich 12 - 40%
On the nose, the 12 is light, floral and delicate. There's also hard boiled pear drops, hints of toffee and caramel, juicy red apples and a slight woody note. It also carries a hard, mineral, flinty smell. Not unpleasant, though.
    There really isn't much going on in the mouth. Those apple notes come rolling back - as do the light floral character. I also got a little cinnamon and a papery taste.
    The finish isn't complex, but I did get some gooseberries, sharp apples, caramel, some dry wood, toasted cereals and white pepper.

Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak - 40%
Immediately, there's much more going on here. Underneath the buttery wood, there's a sweet jam taste, baked lemon, dried fruit, gentle cinnamon, citrus vanilla, a wee bit of smoke and blackcurrant Chewits. It's still quite delicate, though.
    Taking a sip, it was initially sweet and jammy - but wood - sawdust - cuts right through the pallet. There's also a little baked apple, burned brown sugar and nuts. I also found it a little too spirity for my liking.
    The finish was really, really dry, while those apples dropped in again, along with plums, toffee, liquorice and cinnamon. I also found a wee sour note at the back.

Glenfiddich 15 The Solera Vat
Right off the bat there's fizzy orange and blackcurrant sherbet. Wood then start to assert itself, with a hint of butter icing, sweet lemon and apricot jam. There's also a hint of light marmalade spread on granary toast.
    In the mouth, it was sweet with orange notes. Quite a nice syrupy mouth feel, along with spicy cinnamon-dusted baked plums.
    The finish was perhaps the best part of this dram, with lots of red fruit jam, creamy vanilla, white pepper, nutmeg and red liquorice laces. But the best part was right at the end, with a strong malty chocolate note which reminded me of a Tunnock's caramel wafer.

These three drams might not be the most complex malts on the planet, but they were all enjoyable and very easy going. The Solera Vat stood out from the other two for me and I could easily work my way through a bottle. Good value, too, if you're after a session dram.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ardmore Traditional - 46%

When I'm whizzing the shopping trolley around the supermarket, I always reward myself with a visit to the whisky aisle. Great bargains can be had, with Old Pulteney 12 and Highland Park 12 regular purchases when they're going for around £23. However a few weeks ago, I visited Morrison's on the way home from work. Lurking around the usual suspects, I spotted the Ardmore Traditional perched on a self, clearly looking for a good home. It had a few quid lopped off the asking price, so for £22, I thought I would take a punt on it. No age statement, but it's bottled at a hearty 46% and is non-chill filtered. I threw the chicken, pizza, crisps and veg out of the trolley and grabbed the bottle. I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by this easy going, session dram with a hint of peat.
    On the nose there was loads of toffee and caramel. There's also a lovely sweetness which brought to mind slabs of buttery tablet. Dark brown sugar is everywhere in the glass, along with a generous pour of condensed milk. The peat plays around the edges of the dram, but it never masks the lovely sweet confectionery aromas. I added a little water, left it for 10 and came back. This brought a hint of lime juice and milk bottle sweets to the party.
    Taste wise, those buttery, dark sugar notes are still there, while I also got Lee's macaroon bars, complete with toasted coconut topping. This is a good whisky to pair with dark chocolate - not too bitter, though. It's a real treat.
    The finish was toffee heavy with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, while a slight green note cuts through right at the end.
    If I had to compare the Ardmore Traditional to another dram, it would be the Benromach 10. That's much sweeter and carries loads of fruit notes but to me, there's something similar in the taste and smell. The Ardmore Traditional has none of those fruity notes - its sweetness is more of a brown sugar, fudge type of deal.
    For the price, this is a great whisky but unfortunately, changes are already taking place. The Traditional is to be replaced - indeed, it already has in Morrison's. Ardmore have launched the Legacy which has muscled in already and knocked the Traditional out of the way.
    It's chill-filtered and bottled at a disappointing 40%. It's also on sale at the moment for around the same price, so I might pick up a bottle just to try it. Initial reports suggest the Legacy is a decent enough dram, but doesn't quite match the Traditional. We shall see. But if you see a bottle of the old stuff in your local supermarket, I suggest you pick it up before it's gone forever.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Glenglassaugh Evolution - 50%

After doing a wee bit of reading about Glenglassaugh's fairly recent revival, I decided to explore something from their range. After all, they've gone for the full craft presentation, adding no colouring and not chill-filtering their whisky. I'm always eager to support distilleries who treat their product with a bit of respect, so I took a wander into town on an overcast Saturday morning a few months ago and left the liquor store with a bottle of the Evolution.
    The other two on the shelves are the Revival, which is aged in a mixture of first-fill and refill bourbon casks for a handful of years and then finished for six months in first-fill Oloroso sherry butts, and the Torfa, a peated malt aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
The Evolution is young like the other two expressions, but it's been aged George Dickel Tennessee bourbon barrels. I thought this would add something a little extra to the flavours - along with the fact it's been bottled at a thoroughly respectable 50%.
    In we go!
    On the nose, there's a confectionery mountain of banana-flavoured toffee. If any of you remember Toffos, this has that smell in abundance. Once it settles down, I get apricot jam sweetness, barley sugars, Mackintosh apples and a hint of fresh mint. A wee dribble of water brought out chocolate-covered raisins, lychee, glace cherries, white grape skins, caramel, red liquorice laces, pear juice, green wood sap, crumbly custard cream biscuits and an amazing aroma which reminded me of red and black jelly babies. For a very young whisky, this is a complex and delightful beast.
    Taking a sip, it has a wonderful mouth feel, covering the tongue with a rich, syrupy flavour sensation. There's loads of fruit jam, rich vanilla custard, a good dollop of honey, liquorice, sweet lemon and the merest hint of tangerine juice.
    The finish carries on the jammy note and there's a little creaminess which creeps in and a rounded bitter lemon. However, it's here where the whisky's youth comes through, with a slight metallic taste lingering a little too long.
    That said, I really enjoyed the Glenglassaugh Evolution. For a young malt - and I'm guessing 4-5 years - this has stacks of character and it is bursting with flavour. I'll definitely be exploring the rest of their range. If they're half as good as this, I'm in for a treat.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Balvenie Signature 12, batch 4 - 40%

My previous experiences with Balvenie have been extremely positive. My first blog post in July last year featured their Doublewood 12 and I really enjoyed the 14-year-old Caribbean Cask. But recently, I bought another bottle of the Caribbean Cask and it just didn't click with me at all. It's been over a year since I tried it and a lot more whisky has passed my lips since then. Maybe my tastes are changing, but the CC had a bitterness all the way through, which I found really unappealing. I don't think it was there before otherwise I would have jotted it down. Perhaps it was a bad cask - who knows.
    However, despite my disappointment, I saw a bottle of the Signature 12 on special offer and I thought, 'why not?' Unfortunately, I again found a spirity, bitter note in the glass - exactly the same as my recent CC purchase. It wasn't all bad, though, so here's what I thought.
    On the nose I got a lot of mashed banana, peach, kiwi fruit and baked apple. Adding to the fruity aromas was toffee caramel, vanilla, a creamy sherry trifle, melted candle wax and a hint of mustard seeds. There was also that sharp, bitter green note lurking at the back, which wasn't exactly pleasant.
    Taking a sip, I immediately noticed a tight, astringency. After a few minutes it receded and apples, caramel, spicy cinnamon, hard boiled pineapple cubes and foam banana confectionery came through. I also got a hint of flat sugary Pepsi. The finish was bitter with green peppercorns, sour wood, custard cream biscuits and that touch of kiwi fruit returned.
    The Signature's been aged in a mixture of Oloroso sherry butts, first-fill bourbon barrels and refill bourbon casks - and in my opinion, at least one of these was sub-standard. I went back to the bottle time and time again over the course of several months, but that sharp, bitter note just wouldn't go away. A higher alcohol percentage might have helped, but I was left a bit disappointed and it's left me unsure about whether I'll return to Balvenie's range any time soon.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tomatin Cu Bocan - 46%

In my last review, I mentioned that my good mate Yan dropped off a wee selection of samples to whet my appetite. I thought the Talisker Dark Storm was a tasty and easily enjoyable dram. But the next sample he threw my way, I'd heard mixed things about.
    Tomatin's Cu Bocan is a lightly peated single malt. It carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and has spent its short life in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and virgin oak casks. Some reviews I've read say it's not quite there and Tomatin should stick to their rather fabulous standard range. Well, I'm all for malts mixing it up and I'm always eager to try different flavours. So I poured a healthy amount of the golden liquid into a polished Glencairn, eager to see what those crazy cats at Tomatin have been up to.
    Now I love my peated malts - I have three heavy peat monsters currently open - but I'm also partial to a drop or two of peated Highland malts. They obviously have a completely different character to the Islay bruisers and I like the interplay between light fruit and dark peat. The best one to get, if you're asking, is the amazing AnCnoc Rutter. It's an incredible dram and well worth the asking price. But I digress, this is about Tomatin's Cu Bocan, so here we go.
    There's a load of complex citrus notes when this dram has been left to settle for 10 minutes. I get a lot of grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. The peat is definitely there, but rather than dominate, it adds a dark character to the Cu Bochan. There's definitely a hint of sherry, along with white pepper, caramel, coffee, mint and pickled ginger. I also get smoked paprika, a slight nuttiness and dark barley. A dribble of water brings out vanilla Edinburgh rock, a little Sugar Puff sweetness, paper and something akin to a bag of liquorice all-sorts.
    The taste is fresh - young - with more citrus. This time it's the rind rather than the juice and it's followed by cinnamon, hard boiled barley sugars, spicy peppercorns - but the peat seems to have completely disappeared. With a wee dollop of water, the whole dram becomes sweeter.
    The finish is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Cu Bocan. I find it is here where the whisky's youthfulness makes itself apparent. That said, I also get fresh fruit, liquorice, espresso and chocolate caramel. To get there, though, I really had to dig down and spend a lot of time with it. The water is the key here, as with it, the finish produces a lovely malted chocolate milkshake note, although the young spirit note never quite goes away.
    Would definitely like to investigate the Cu Bocan further, but I think a little longer in the cask would have worked wonders.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Talisker Dark Storm - 45.8%

Early last month, my old mate and whisky buddy Yan came to visit. He's the one that led me astray by dragging me to the Newcastle Whisky Festival back in March and made me drink a ridiculous amount of single malts. When I think back to the train journey home the next day, I still feel ill.
    However, being a generous sort of chap, he dropped off a few samples from his collection while he was here. I'm only now getting round to sampling them, so on with the show.
    I like Talisker's standard 10-year-old offering but it's the only expression I've tried from the Skye distillery. So I was looking forward to trying this travel retail exclusive. And while I think it would make for an easy going session dram and also appeal to those who don't like their peat too overpowering, I couldn't really find any Talisker characteristics in the glass.
    When I first poured a dram, I could have sworn it was a Bowmore 12. It seems to share that flat Irn-Bru smell which seems to infiltrate most Bowmores I've tried in the past.
    Along with that soft-drink note, there's also Terry's Chocolate Orange on the nose, along with raisins, golden sultanas, undiluted Ribena, pine, salted cashews, creamy vanilla and a Starbucks caramel macchiato. There's also a smokiness present - not billowing peat, but more of a campfire note. I would say like a burning campfire in a pine forest, but that would be a wee bit too much, eh?
    A drop of water increased the sweetness and brought in candied peel, baked apples, sweet mint and chilli and lime chocolate - one of my favourites.
    On the palate, there's quite a lot of salted caramel, red chilli flakes, black coffee, dark chocolate and a dab of orange marmalade. The smoky character seems to round off the edges of this non-age statement dram and gives it a bit of depth.
    The finish is spicy, with black peppercorns, orange rind, more coffee and chocolate, while that mellow smoke round things off.
    I really quite enjoyed this one and like I said, it would make for a decent wee session dram with friends on a windy autumn night. I think it retails for around 48 notes, but add in the cost of a flight, and it will set you back quite a bit more.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Glen Garioch - 1994 Vintage - 53.9%

Distilled 1994, bottled 2011 - batch 32

When I left my last job back in July, my co-workers kindly gave me gift vouchers for Glasgow's Buchanan Galleries. I could have bought a few shirts from Gap, a jacket from John Lewis, or a year's worth of vitamin tablets from Boots. But, with The Whisky Shop in the mall, there was really only ever going to be one winner. So, with vouchers folded safely in my wallet, off I went and brought home two bottles. This Glen Garioch is the first.
    I've always really enjoyed Glen Garioch's products - the 12-year-old, Founder's Reserve and the Virgin Oak have all been excellent. So when I saw this bottle from the 94 range, I dived in immediately. 17 years old, bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and - although it doesn't state in on the label - there is no added colouring. Its golden straw-like colour is a world away from the Founder's Reserve, which looks more like Irn-Bru - although it tastes much better than Barr's soft drink.
    First impressions were that it was quite tight and astringent - but it really starts to reveal its character once a few drams have been poured and oxygen begins to circulate in the bottle.
With 3/4 of the bottle gone, time to get the notes up to date.
    It's an incredibly perfumed single malt, with flowers and pears coming to the fore straight away. Dig down and leave it to settle for 15 minutes, and a lovely warm citrus note comes through, along with honey, hard-boiled sherbet lemons, caramelised apples, spearmint, sharp gooseberries and a hint of cranberry.
    Take a sip, and there's a jam note which hits immediately. It gives way to liquorice, lemons, white pepper and vanilla. However, it doesn't take long for the oak to really kick in and I found it a little too dominating. The finish is packed with more citrus notes, warming vanilla, a little sour wood and a slight, sappy green note.
    While I'm glad I bought this, I still prefer the 12-year-old. Once I noticed the dry oakiness, I couldn't get past it and it took the shine off the experience.
    For the price, you could but a bottle of the 12 AND  bottle of the Founder's Reserve. Job done.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Kilchoman 100% Islay - 4th Edition - 50%

Back in May, I jotted down a handful of tasting notes for Kilchoman's Loch Gorm 2014 edition. I stated back then that, to my shame, I had yet to buy a full bottle of Kilchoman and vowed to put that right. Happily, I did just that, buying a bottle of Loch Gorm together with this bottle of their 100% Islay, 4th edition.
    The Loch Gorm is long gone, with only a 5cl miniature in my whisky drawer proof that it ever existed. And, as I type this, I have just poured the last dram from the 100% Islay. So, before I carefully lower the bottle into the recycling bin, it's time for another live tasting session.
    It's a sad day, but I will definitely be buying more Kilchomans in the near future because I don't want to be without one of their products ever again. Everything I've tried has been quite brilliant and I'll continue to support Islay's newest distillery by throwing money at them every few months. So let's get this show started.
    There's a lot going on with the 100% Islay. It's non-chill filtered, has no added colouring, and is bottled at a robust 50% and as soon as you smell it, wonderful, complex aromas leap from the glass.
    On the nose I initially get a distinctive grappa note, which gives way to vanilla thins, lightly smoked ham, dry sugar puffs, sugar-encrusted barley, hints of a well used wooden pencil case, dusty grapefruit, banana leaf, pulped paper, salt and vinegar Pringles, an empty cigarette packet, pickled ginger and a sliver of lemon rind.
    Taking a sip, there's a lovely salty note, combined with thick apricot jam, old-fashioned liquorice wheels, white pepper, tobacco, burnt planks and there's a green vegetal note knocking about too - perhaps a butter-smothered Brussel sprout? Go with me here.
    The finish is long with sweet peat, campfire smoke, pipe tobacco, spicy pepper and a little vanilla, and it's all wrapped up in golden syrup.
    This is an absolute belter of a whisky and I'm truly sad to see the empty bottle staring back at me. I took my time with this one and think it's one of the best whiskies I've ever had. Stunning.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Taste of Teeling

Many months ago, I picked up a bottle of Teeling's rum cask finish Irish whiskey. The bottle didn't last long as I was eager to share it with friends. It disappeared quickly, but not before I bottled a 5cl dram, which I tucked away for a rainy day. Well, it's dry in Scotland today, but it's time I got a few notes down, after all, other bottles need to be opened, tasted and blogged about, right.
    I'm also taking the opportnity to review Teeling's Single Grain Irish whiskey alongside the rum cask finish. I bought a bottle for a great price in my local Oddbins and it's running low so in front of me, I have two drams, so I'm about to do a 'live' tasting.
    Usually, I get into a bottle, taking notes as I go and then transfer them to the blog when I get a chance. Not tonight. I'll sniff and taste the whiskies and type up my findings as I get 'em, which is actually a good and immediate way to get things done.
    Both whiskies are 46% and non-chill filtered and neither have an age statement. As Teeling are going for the full craft presentations - which I heartily approve of - I'll say right now that they're worth looking out for on your travels.

So, on with the show 

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whisky - Rum Cask Finish
The rum influence jumps straight out for me as soon as I put my nose to the glass - not a heavily sweet dark rum, more of a lighter, fresher spirit. There's also juicy blackcurrants, blackberries, a musty vanilla, dark chocolate ganache, toffee, orange oil, sharp apples and a smudge of butter icing.
    Take a swig and the light characteristics of the nose are instantly kicked into touch by a full bodied, rich sweet sensation. Again, blackcurrants are there, as are strawberries, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. It's sweet, but not cloying and would make a very decent after dinner dessert whiskey.
    The finish is dry and spicy, with loads of vanilla, oak, baked apples and burnt sugar. There's also a little caramel tucked away for good measure.

Time for a glass of water to cleanse the old palate.


Teeling Single Grain
Everything I've been led to believe in the past is that single grain whiskies take longer to age than single malts. This has no age statement - and I think it's quite young - but it packs a huge amounts of flavour. It should also be noted thatTeeling Single Grain is finished in wine casks, which I think has taken some of the rough edges away. Anyway...
    On the nose it's floral, with Juicy Fruit chewing gum, vanilla, soft golden fruit, red jelly babies, white icing, tarte tatin - there's a definite buttery pastry note kicking about - light liquorice, a slight smokiness and red grapes.
    A sip and a swirl reveals a slight rubbery note - not as pronounced as when I first opened the bottle - apples, golden syrup, treacle tart, sweet red fruits galore, nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper.
    The finish is thick and rounded, with more treacle, wood, sweet spices, custard creams and a slight sour note right at the back.

So, two excellent light, easy going whiskies with a good deal of complexity. Definitely worth adding to your shopping list.

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.

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!