Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Ardbeg 10 - 46%

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Amrut Peated - 46% Batch 47 - bottled August 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 March 2016

GlenDronach Cask Strength - Batch 4 - 54.7%

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 3 March 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 29 February 2016

Rock Oyster - 46.8%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Big Peat Christmas 2015 edition - 53.8%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

GlenDronach Peated - 46%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 1 February 2016

A Taste of Teeling - Part 2

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

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

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

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

Teeling Single Malt - 46%

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

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

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

Teeling Silver Reserve 21 Year Old Single Malt - 46%

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

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

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

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Johnnie Walker Double Black - 40%

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Paul John Edited - 46%

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Lost Distilleries Blend - Batch 7 - 49.5%

Another one of the samples from last year’s whisky advent calendar is The Lost Distilleries Blend - Batch 7 from the Blended Whisky Company.
     It’s a combination of malt whiskies from Port Ellen, Caperdonich, Mosstowie, Glenisla, Glenlochy and Imperial, with an added splash of grain from Port Dundas. A 70cl bottle of the stuff sells for around £350 - and only 526 were produced.
     I thought it was stunning - and my wee sample wasn’t nearly enough. I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I had the cash, but I don’t. Will need to keep my fingers crossed for a lottery win instead.

Nose: A combination of raspberry and strawberry jam, mint Aero chocolate bar and red jelly babies. There’s a slight coal smokiness with added eucalyptus and hard-boiled watermelon sweets. There’s also some buttery Danish pastry going on - or perhaps iced buns. Sweet with baked apple, brown sugar and lemon sponge cake.

Palate: An incredibly syrupy sweet arrival - I’m thinking of tinned peaches and stewed red fruits. There’s a hint of cinnamon spice, loads of jam, apricots, delicate orange, sugar, pineapple cubes, honey roasted cashews and red liquorice laces.

Finish: It’s actually quit delicate. Herbal notes, sweet liquorice, fresh strawberries and black pepper. There’s a kick of smoke and I also get coffee - specifically Vietnamese coffee which uses sweetened condensed milk rather than the standard stuff. Utterly delicious.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Glenfarclas 105 - 60%

We're well into January but last month I decided to buy a couple of sherried whiskies for the festive season and to see in the new year.
     I much prefer bourbon cask whisky but with the Christmas tree lights sparkling, I took a fancy for a couple of "Christmas cake" drams. So I jumped in the sleigh, gave Rudolph an extra mince pie, and set off to Valhalla... well, Valhalla's Goat in the west end of Glasgow to be precise. This is a splendid shop crammed with fine spirits and outrageously good beer and wine - and plenty of it!
     I picked up this stonking Glenfarclas along with a hearty bottle of GlenDronach Cask-Strength. More of the latter in a future post.
    As far as I'm aware, the 105 used to be marked as a 10 year old, although this version carries no age statement. But don't let that put you off. At 60% and available for a good price, this is a Christmas present that just keeps on giving.

Nose: Toffee, walnuts, red apples, sticky dates, raisins, figs, caramel and golden syrup. Phew! There's also some lemon rind in here - but it's a dram which really does need a good splash of water to bring out its best. Water and 10 minutes in the glass, and this really comes into its own. Chocolate-covered raspberries, green apple slices drizzled with lemon juice and white grapes. Slight menthol, wood chips and herbs.

Palate: A syrupy sweet arrival with beautiful fruity toffee. Cinnamon and nutmeg and a huge mouthful of dates. Water makes this even more mouthwatering and brings dark fruits to the front along with milk chocolate.

Finish: The sweetness remains and there's loads of spicy dark fruits and pepper. Dark caramel, grapefruit and nuts - I'm thinking walnuts and Brazil. With water this is superb and I get smooth chocolate icing and lemon rind.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Octomore 07.1 - 59.5%

I first tried Bruichladdich's Octomore a couple of years ago in a whisky bar. I have no idea what batch it was, but I can clearly recall my drinking companions taking a collective step away from me as soon as I started waving the glass around. It is, after all, the most heavily peated whisky in the world. 
     But as I've come to get to know this particular bottle of the 5-year-old single malt from Islay, I realise it's not actually that peaty after all.
     While this elegant bottle contains single malt with a 208 PPM, it has, to my palate, more chocolate characteristics than pure peat.
     It took many months to properly open up, with the taste initially dominated by a sharp grappa note. Now at the halfway mark, the grappa smell has mellowed considerably, and it tastes really good. Try it with chocolate pudding. Seriously, it's fantastic!

Nose: Sweet with lots of butterscotch. Apricots, foam banana sweets, chocolate-covered pretzels and Toffee Crisp bars. Salt and vanilla. The peat is definitely there but it's lurking in the background - more campfire smoke than peat blast. Ash, twigs, slight citrus and mellow oak-aged grappa. Water brings out more fruit, cranks up the smoke and adds some caramel.

Palate: Thick and syrupy with huge slabs of chocolate. Cinnamon, citrus, peppercorns and granary bread. Water tames the dram but still keeps the intensity intact. Adds fruit and sherbet lemons.

Finish: Malted hot chocolate, ash, peat, smoke and earth. Really spicy. Water adds liquorice, toasted bread and a healthy spoonful of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Jura 21 year old - 44%

Right then! Jura. My experiences with malts from the distillery have been few and far between. The last drop I had was the Superstition, which I thought was a fairly decent and easy-going peated dram.
     But when I got the chance to try something a little older, I jumped straight in. Happy to say that the 21 year old was a good 'un. Expensive stuff, though.

Nose: Caramel, rum and raisin toffee, port, treacle, molasses, espresso, dates, prunes and dark fruit cake. Blackcurrant cough sweets, flat traditional lemonade, honey-roasted cashews and macadamia nuts.

Palate: Christmas cake and royal white icing, marzipan and rum. Dried orange slices, baked lemon, sherry, blackcurrants, white pepper and cloves.

Finish: Vanilla and more Christmas cake. Sweet orange, lemon rind, coffee beans, cinnamon, treacle toffee.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Bunnahabhain 24 year old - Old Particular (Douglas Laing) - 40.6%

Another dram from last year’s whisky advent calendar - this time a splendid drop of Bunnahabhain from Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range. 
     It was distilled in November 1990, left in a single refill hogshead for 24 years, and eventually bottled in July 2015. It’s deep, complex and packed with delicious, sweet flavours. 
    Even at close to £130, I’ve given serious thought to buying a bottle. At the time of writing, Master Of Malt are still selling 3cl samples for £10.67.

Nose: Marzipan, icing sugar, sherbet lemons - and the paper bag they came in! Barley sugars, fizzy Haribo, earthy putty, pineapple cubes, pear drops and zinging flying saucers. Sweet, sweet, sweet!

Palate: Lots more marzipan on the tongue, strawberry laces, deep lemon. Herbal honey with a silky mouthfeel. Full of flavour. Delicious.

Finish: Wood shavings, aniseed balls, honey, white pepper, pomegranate, nutmeg, lemon rind and chalky Edinburgh rock.

A belter!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Mortlach Rare Old - 43.4%

My first review of 2016 is the Mortlach Rare Old - a whisky which caused a bit of a stir when it launched in 2014. 
     Why? Well, it carries no age statement and was splashed into stingy - but visually impressive - 50cl bottles. I also doubt whether it's rare or old.
     It was, I assume, rebranded to appeal to the luxury end of the whisky market. Now I'm not one to turn my nose up at any whisky, but at around £45, it wasn't a dram that particularly appealed to me. 
     However, in my 2015 whisky advent calendar, a 3cl sample popped out and I was quite impressed with what I experienced - but not blown away enough to splash the cash - although, if I see it on offer...

Nose: Nuts dipped in honey and golden syrup. Victoria sponge, complete with strawberry jam filling, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dusting of fine icing sugar. Sawdust notes begin to come through after several minutes, along with sultanas and red apples. Baked lemons and fudge. Kinda reminds me of some of the Longmorns I've tried - which is a very good thing.

Palate: Sweet arrival with a dab of light liquorice and cinnamon. More golden syrup and honey. Hint of citrus.

Finish: Loads and loads of vanilla, sugar-coated shortbread, white pepper and it's very creamy. Little bit of cinnamon.