Jan 012017
 

G4.  The new world order.  Forget the G7.  For those truly interested in understanding the new shining path to global harmony in governance, concentration of intellectual and financial wealth and suppression of Irish attempts at gaining traction in the distillation race, look no further.  Illuminati-like in their spheres of silence (but also, probably, in their spheres of influence), this clandestine collective holds meetings in an underground lair, impervious to outsiders (and direct sunlight), but well-stocked in survivalist essentials (ahem…mature single malt, that is).

The Gang of Four, or G4, has maybe slightly different aspirations than the G7.  Well…most members, anyway.  One dodgy representative of a Celtic island nation may be more inclined to lead the next global revolution than others, but for the most part all intentions are not only benevolent, but altruistic.  All I’ll add to that is ‘never trust a Leprechaun’, especially one with a long memory and the means to an end.

Though the role of the G4 – much like the G7 – remains somewhat controversial and shrouded in secrecy, unsubstantiated rumours persist that member nations may be involved in directly or indirectly funding the IMF (International Malt Federation), subsidizing small revolutionary, tobacco-growing islands, and contributing to the preservation of cultural relevance in the land of the unicorn.  Further, and perhaps more conspiratorial in nature, it is said they are looking to initiate a global cultural renaissance centered around ritual consumption of the blood of Scotland.

The G4, in recent years, has become a slightly amorphous entity.  One ‘member nation’ transitioned its governing office to warmer western climes, so unfortunately now is rarely able to attend G4 meetings.  The remaining three entities have subsequently enacted a policy of inclusion, which allows for smaller developing nations to attend summits and share their voices, if not, in point of fact, paying in proper G4 dues.

The agenda for December’s meeting – as much as can be shared in the public sector anyway – was management of natural resources in the Hebrides.  Namely, decaying vegetative matter, barley crops and fresh water lochs.  Representation for this meeting was expanded to include subject matter experts from Scotland, the Ukraine and France, whose relevant experience in the field was deemed pertinent to the discussion at hand.  Perhaps it would be apropos to mention here that asset management in the Hebrides is of paramount importance to the continued existence of the G4.  In fact, several attendees happen to be lairds of parcels of fertile land in the vicinity of the Kildalton region.

The following ‘minutes’ were recorded during said December council meeting.  Portions have been excised, censored, redacted and sanitized for public consumption.  Notes are largely my own, with input, collusion and validation from G4 delegates.  Fault me for any notable shortcomings; credit them for honesty (to a fault) and artistic flair.  A note to attending delegates: feel free to share further thoughts below if you see fit, as I didn’t collect notes for all.

Thanks to host nations, Ireland and England (with a bit of Scotland) for procurement and dissemination of sample materials.

Laphroaig 10 y.o. (2008) 40% abv – Fruitier than the newer 10s.  Medicinal.  Iodine.  Citrus.  Orange.  Vanilla.  Salty.  Caramel.  Licorice.  Peat.  Oaky.  Salty.  Salt and pepper.  Industrial.

Laphroaig 15 y.o. 200th Anniversary (2015) 43% abv – Fruity.  Orange.  Doughy.  Peat.  Salty pastry.  Damp earth.  Green ju-jubes.  Chilis.  Peppers.  Licorice.  Tarry.  Oakier.  Sen sens.  Slightly bitter.  Medicinal.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 200th Anniversary (2015) 51.5% abv – More old school.  Farmy.  Cereal.  Peat and smoke.  Vanilla.  Dry smoke.  Black licorice.  Leather.  Orange.  Licorice on the palate.  Chilis.  Mint.  Black ju-jubes.  Grains.  Grassy.  Herbal.  Long finish.

Laphroaig 18 y.o. (2009) 48% abv – Fruity.  Orange.  Citrus.  Farmy and earthy.  Chocolate.  Anise.  Iodine.  Peat.  Oak.  Pepper.  Lime zest.

Laphroaig 25 y.o. (2008) 50.9% abv – Roman nougat.  Soft peat.  Lime.  Pepper.  Melon.  Chewy candies.  Orange.  Chocolate.  Rubber.  Licorice.  Juicy.  Mouthwatering.  Creamy.  Sour fruits.  Spice.  Anise.  Lots of licorice.

Laphroaig 30 y.o. (2007) 43% abv – A real fruit bomb.  Tropical.  Pineapple.  Latex.  Caramel.  Peat is very faint.  Red and orange ju-jubes.  Very sweet.  All fruits.  Faintest anise.  Chewy.  Mouthwatering.  Vanilla.  Sweet chewy fruits.   Chocolate (white and milk).

Laphroaig 40 y.o. (2001) 42.4% abv – Another fruit bomb.  Referred to as ‘Hiroshima of fruit bombs’.  Orange and tangerine.  Grilled pineapple.  Cherry.  Spice.  Everything is faint and very stunning.  Very dessert-like.  Fruit salad delivery.  Creamy.  More spice on the palate.  Custard.  Slightly oaky.  Peat.  Smoke.  Eucalyptus.  All are echoes.

Laphroaig 32 y.o. (2015) 46.6% abv – Massively fruity.  Jammy.  Cinnamon.  Tobacco.  Peat is lively for 32 years.  Earthy.  Licorice.  Oily.  Leathery.  Peat.  Grapefruit pith.  Spice-heavy.  Licorice on the palate too.  And cinnamon again.  Rubber and tar.

Laphroaig 27 y.o. (2007) 57.4% abv – A sherry bomb.  Orange and orange zest.  Jam.  Cherry.  Raspberry.  Chocolate.  Dark stone fruit.  Mint.  Heavily-oiled leather.  Very faint peat.  Licorice.  Hoisin.  Very savoury.  More chocolate on the palate.  Spice.  Dried fruit.  Christmas cake.  Coffee.  Dark chocolate.  Figgy.  Oily.  More licorice on the palate.

 

 – Images & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:20 am
Dec 272016
 

Laphroaig 32 y.o.img_4046

46.6% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

A sherry-matured Leapfrog that landed in Calgary sometime in 2016 (though elsewhere in 2015, the year of the distillery’s bicentennial).  Before going any further…yes, this was hellishly expensive, and no…I did not buy a bottle for myself.  This one was tasted with the G4 (an infamous little conclave even more exclusive and secretive than the Illuminati, I hear) a few weeks back at an exceptional tasting which I am now only hours from sharing details about.

As to this one, well…you can’t honestly expect me to say bad things about a 32 year malt from one of my top three distilleries, can you?  Ain’t gonna happen.  This is an exceptional dram.  It’s the other kind of sweet this time.  Not the vanilla-rich, bourbon-delivered soft fruits we usually find in old Laphroaig, and that come from American oak, but the spicy, jammy, dark fruit sweetness from European sherry wood.  This is a different sort of look on Laphroaig, especially for this age.  (Though it doesn’t hold a candle to the viscous, syrupy 27 year old we’ll discuss in coming days)

While I’m sure opportunities to sample this one are few and far between, if the occasion does arise, don’t be too stingy to pay for the event or dram.  The whole bottle…well, that’s a different story.

Nose:  Massively fruity and jammy.  Rich in cinnamon and other baking spices.  Notes of tobacco.  The peat is vibrant and at the core of this one, somewhat surprising at 32 years.  Very earthy, by nature.  Some black licorice or anise.  Like oiled leather.

Palate:  More peat now.  And smoke.  Grapefruit pith (a favorite note).  Seems quite spice-heavy, without being top heavy.  Again some licorice.  Cinnamon.  Rubber notes and tar.  Long finish.  Gorgeous all the way through.

Thoughts:  Well…what can we say?  Amazing.  The only disappointments are the price tag, limited number of bottles and scarce opportunities to enjoy it.  But let’s be grateful we did.  (Should note:  I do generally prefer the more naked Laphroaigs)

*Thanks to a G4 member for letting this one happen.  Appreciate it.

 

 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:01 am
Dec 242016
 

Hi, friends.

First off, I want to wish all of you, and all of your friends and family, a happy holiday season.  Here’s hoping the next few days are full of magic and memories.  And here’s to a better 2017 than 2016 was for many of us.  Sincerely…thank you for hanging ’round with me (and us) here on the site, via email and in person when situations allow.  Good company is not only appreciated, it is the lifeblood that sustains.

Just so you know that it’s not all idling and procrastination around here, I am finally working on some jottings from the Islay experience a couple months back.  I won’t be doing it in a day by day fashion this time, but in a more event-inspired manner.  Many more reviews are near complete and some more random bits of writing and opinions coming your way.  Perhaps I’ll even get back to sharing the word on some past Dram Initiative club events that I’ve been remiss in writing up.  We’ll get there.  Aiming for much better consistency going forward.

So…on the eve of one of the most celebrated and jolly of days, I wish you all the best, and hope to see you soon.

 

– Curt

 Posted by at 9:49 am
Dec 142016
 

Alright.  Time to get on this one.  This wee sip session went down a few weeks back and I’m only now digging deep to find the motivation (and inspiration) to share a few words for those who be interested.

My mates locally know I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunity and occasion to pull together an extensive range of malts, a good group of friends and a kickass playlist on my iPod.  This time ’round it wasn’t the malts that dictated event time, it was the calendar.  It had simply been too long since I hosted the gang.  I hunted through samples, open bottles and sealed bottled and in the end found myself with thirteen different Amrut expressions at my disposal.

So…back to India we went.  In a manner of speaking.

20161111_193850

It’s no secret that I’m very much behind this brand.  The malts are great, the local representation is by a group of good people I’m proud to call friends and the global brand ambassador, Ashok Chokalingam, is another of my brothers from abroad, whom I drop everything to see when those rare occasions permit.  Further, the distillery makes incredibly innovative whiskies and serves them up as I like ’em: strong, non chill filtered, uncolored and with an eye to pushing boundaries.  They have also been very honest with us in terms of cask types, batch releases, evaporation rates and age (though not always stated).  But none of this matters an iota if the drams aren’t spectacular.  Fortunately…they are.

I did want to mention something.  I had a bit of a revelation not long ago, as relates to young whisky such as Amrut that benefits from the idea of ‘accelerated maturation’.  Many like to say that these subtropical malts taste like very mature malts from Scotland (or elsewhere).  I’ve said this myself on occasion.  While not far off on the sentiments, I think I need to offer a better observation.  It’s not so much that they exactly mirror older malts on a time ratio basis, as it is that they hit a state of full maturity so much younger.  The characteristics are sometimes similar (i.e. Greedy Angels 8), though not always, but what does matter is that there is a point where the spirit and wood have been together long enough.  And recognizing and working with that crux is exactly what Amrut has perfected.

Anyway…a few of us gathered and drank.  And laughed.  And drank some more.  We went through all thirteen, took some sketchy ‘shout along’ tasting notes and just simply reveled in company and intoxication.

…and while it would have been brilliant to finish off with a dram of Greedy Angels…well…beggars can’t be choosers.

20161111_193947

As an aside…it must be an absolute blast to be part of either the blending team or the marketing department at Amrut.  These guys and gals seem like they’re having way too much fun.  Creativity is at an unparalleled height here, as many of these releases can attest.

Just to be clear, these notes below are from five guys shouting out their thoughts.  In many cases there were disagreements.  And they’re also not broken into nose, palate, etc.  It was just sort of a running stream of bullshit.  Articulate bullshit, bullshit nevertheless.  Enjoy!

 

Single Malt (46% abv) – Orange zest.  Doughy and bready.  Fresh scones.  Slight farmy-ness.  Nice spices.  Somewhat salty.  Homemade Play Dough.  Somewhat bitter on finish.

Cask Strength 2012 Batch 17 (61.8% abv) – More fruits now.  Eucalytpus.  Pine.  Perfume-y.  Salty.  Chocolate-y on the palate.  Orange, as expected.  A bit of mince.  Cinnamon and other spices.  Powdered ginger.  Oaky notes on the palate.  Slightly bitter finish again.

20161111_194503

Cask Strength 2007 (61.9% abv) – Softer still.  Spicy.  Substantial bourbon cask notes.  Fennel/anise.  Jujubes.  Orange and chocolate.  Oaky and more spices.  Short finish, said one.

Fusion Batch 40 (50% abv) – Leather.  Fruity and zesty.  Orange candies.  Vanilla.  Fairly light mouthfeel.  Tart citrus zest (orange rind, actually).  Baking spices.  Light peat.

Two Continents (50% abv) – Almost tropical.  Mandarin.  Pineapple.  Tangerine.  Sugar cookies.  A lot of fruit on the palate too.  Coconut oil.  Vanilla cookies or cakes.  Creamsicles.  Pepper or chili.  Sweet, juicy finish.

Herald (60.8% abv) – Less fruits than on the Two Continents.  Less doughy too.  Orange fruits.  Red jujubes.  Cinnamon.  More chocolate on the palate than on the nose.  Bitter chocolate, that is.  Pops on the palate.

20161111_194644

Single Cask #2701 “Bengal Tiger” (56.5% abv) – Sharper now.  Tangy, zesty notes.  A bit of a farmy-ness to it.  Butter.  Creamy and leathery.  A little wine-heavy on the palate.  Touch of peat.  Toffee/caramel.  Black jujube on the palate.  A bit of a savoury note.

Intermediate Sherry Batch 05 (57.1% abv) – A lot of fruit.  Very jammy.  Candied fruits and sugar-coated fruit notes.  Chocolate.  Raspberry and cherry.  Dough.  Orange zest.  Slight savouriness again.  Cola.  This one was universally adored this eve.

Portonova Batch 1 (62.1% abv) – Almond and spice.  Dr. Pepper.  Raspberry.  Spiced mince and jam.  Berries.  Does NOT smell like port.  Ginger.  Sooooo fruity on the palate.  Milk chocolate and orange peels.  Very dessert-like.  Rich and almost surreal.

20161111_194205

Naarangi (50% abv) – Huge orange and spice notes.  Citrus oils.  The fruits are very lively on this one.  The palate is a little disappointing compared to the vibrancy of the nose.  Vanilla.  Lots of candies and fruit notes.  A little too sweet.  Almost liqueur-like.

Kadhambam (50% abv) – Coffee.  Orange marmalade and citrus zest.  Berry jam.  Thick, juicy arrival.  Chewy and juicy.  Syrupy.  A lot of spiced chocolate.  Cinnamon.  Slightly bitter on the palate.  Bittersweet chocolate.  Spicy.  Mouthwatering.

Spectrum (50% abv) – Savoury.  Sulphur? (said one or two…though I say not).  Rubber bands.  Overcooked fruits.  Coffee.  Toffee.  Burnt caramel.  Thick jammy-ness.  Cola syrup.  Dark chocolate caramels.  Smoke.  Nougat.

Peated Cask Strength 2009 Batch 03 (62.8% abv) – Peat.  Earth.  Leather.  A touch of smoke.  Still a lot of fruit.  And definitely still notes of orange, of course.  Universally loved again, but let’s face it…everyone was a little ‘drunk-ish by now.

 

Thanks to Jay, Dave, Tone and Danny for helping make these disappear and more importantly…helping cobble together the rather scrambly tasting notes above.  Appreciate the memories, boys.

 

 – Images & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:43 pm
Dec 072016
 

Laphroaig 40 y.o.img_4047

42.4% abv

Score:  94.5/100

 

I owe a proper write-up on a recent experience I was fortunate enough to take part in.  A full-on top notch, knock your socks off kinda tasting, that is, held by and for a wee somewhat secretive conclave known as the Gang Of Four.  That piece will be done in coming days (as soon as I figure out the right angle to attack it from), but a couple of the malts warrant individual reviews.  And this is most definitely one of them.

Oh, man.  Laphroaig 40 year old.  One of the gents involved in the l’il collective for this once in a lifetime tasting referred to it as a bucket list malt.  Couldn’t agree more.  I recall a couple reviews over the years (Jim Murray and Serge Valentin, I believe) that mentioned the toss up between the 30 and 40 for the crown of ultimate Laphroaig.  Let me add my name to that list (albeit miles below, in terms of standing, fame and respectability).  It really is hard to choose, even when tasted head to head, as we did this night.  The 30 holds a special place in my heart for a few reasons, but this 40…well…words are sometimes elusive with these things.

It’s very possible there are a couple factors at play here that contribute to the stunning majesty and depth of sweet, fruity notes in this one.  First…it was made in 1960, a time when consistency was less a benchmark than quality.  Many moving pieces would have likely added to the complexity here, not the least of which would have included more old barrels to choose from, direct-fired stills, worm tub condensing, in situ malted barley and maturation in famed Warehouse #1.  Second…we’re likely dealing with a bit of Old Bottle Effect here (or OBE, in shorthand).  This was bottled more than 15 years ago.  No matter what anyone says, I firmly believe that time in the bottle does soften whisky.

Let me just say that in no uncertain terms this is one of life’s greatest whisky experiences.  The malt is beyond fantastic and acknowledgement of the moment one gets to drink it and all of the history that led to that is the stuff memories are made of.  Breathtaking dram, to say the least.

The full write-up will have more tasting notes (some from the others swedged in with mine), but these are mostly mine below.

Sincere thanks to the kindhearted soul who allowed us to taste this grail malt.  Unforgettable.  Beyond appreciated.

Nose:  An absolutely enormous fruitbomb.  Like fruit cocktail.  Specifically orange and tangerine.  Grilled pineapple, rich in caramelized sugars and syrup.  Sweet cherry notes.  Very, very dessert-like.  Soft and perfectly balanced spices.  Old books.  The peat is nothing more than a fleeting memory.  Smoke…barely.  Everything is faint, subtle…and stunning.

Palate:  Fruit salad immediately on arrival.  Soft and creamy.  Almost custard-like.  Beautiful spices.  Slightly oaky, but hey…this is a forty year old dram.  A little more peat and smoke on the palate than the nose would have us believe.  Eucalyptus.  Just a wee bit of fennel.  Again…all are more like echoes of the original resonance.

Thoughts:  Up until shaking hands with this stunning old gem I could unequivocally state that the 30 year old was the greatest Laphroaig I’d tried.  I think this pips it.  Barely, but yeah.

 

– Images & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:31 am
Nov 242016
 

Lagavulin 8 y.o. 200th Annniversary Editionimg_4024

48% abv

Score:  87/100

 

So…you may or may not know, but Lagavulin 8 comes with a big fat ‘what the fuck?’ written all over it.  On the one hand, that question is easy to answer.  On the other, well…not so easy.  This limited edition expression from arguably Diageo’s classiest of brands was released as part of the distillery’s bicentennial celebration.  Two hundred years is a doozy of a milestone, and one can only assume the occasion would be met with fanfare equal to the magnitude of the occasion.  Well then…why an eight year old?

In the late 1880s, when historian Alfred Barnard visited the distillery, he was poured a dram of eight year old Lagavulin which he referred to as ‘exceptionally fine’.  This current 200th year commemorative release was crafted as a way to pay homage to Mr. Barnard’s acknowledgement of the historical quality of Lagavulin.  So you see?  The choice of an eight year old is somewhat apropos.  Well…sort of, anyway.  Isn’t this then a commemoration of a milestone decades later than the one you’re actually trying to focus on?  Hmmm.

The flip side too is that an eight year old is hardly an occasion-making knockout of a malt, is it?  Slightly anti-climactic, if you ask me.  If I was the one who had control over teeming warehouses of slumbering Lag I think I would have taken it upon myself to build something a little more…spectacular.  Perhaps an 18 year old.  Or something to rival the Feis Ile or Jazz Fest releases.  But still at a reasonable price point.

To be fair, Lagavulin did release a 25 year old this year as well, also done up in 200 year markings, but it’s price was beyond ridiculous.  Of course it was going to be, though, seeing as the 21 from a couple years back retailed at almost $900 Canadian.  Ouch.  Maybe we’ll just take our affordable eight year old and shut up.

Is it good though?  Yeah.  Quite.  I liked it anyway.  And most others I know that have tasted it found it quite decent too.  We’ll take comfort in the fact that there is finally another option from a distillery that historically has held to a very limited range.

Nose:  I’d guess Caol Ila, if given blind.  Burnt rubber.  Noses very young, but unflawed.  Quite herbal.  And smells fresh off the mill.  Ocean water and fresh mussels or oysters.  Brand new wellies.  Citrus.  Minerally.  Quite sharp.  That very typical Lagavulin Band-aid-iness (can that be an adjective now?).

Palate:  Sharp and immediately on the attack.  Young.  Nutty.  Smoky.  There’s a substantial industrial, dry smokiness here.  Burnt seafood.  Dry and ashy.  Tarry even.  Lots of citrus.  While the nose hints at the delicate nature of underripe Caol Ila, the palate is much more of an uppercut.  Even so…not sure I’d guess this was Lagavulin if I didn’t know better.  Well…maybe.  Granny Smith apple skins on the finish.

Thoughts:  I think this would be great poured over Islay oysters with a squeeze of lemon.  Oh, wait…it is.  Possibly my new favorite meal.  Good malt, not quite great.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:31 am
Nov 222016
 

Bet you expected another rant on rising prices, NAS follies and shady practices, yeah?  Not this time.  I tackled much of this recently for a rather bigger audience.  An article Ian Buxton published in the Malt Whisky Yearbook 2017 is liberally peppered with my thoughts and quotes (thanks, Ian!).  That’s good for me for now.  I can’t lie…I’ve been enjoying the smooth sailing of late.  Nice not to always be the one rocking the boat.  The waves made may only be wee ripples by the time they spread to the wider world, but locally they can be quite choppy.

Anyway…I’m jotting away here for a reason.  Thought I would provide a bit of context and a ‘heads up’.  2016 has been a very rough year.  I won’t get into all of the personal stuff we’ve dealt with, but the one thing that most affects this site is likely the monolithic shadow of unemployment under which we’ve been living since April.  Obviously whisky buying (and cigars, and…) had to be one of the first casualties.  It sucks, but that is life.  I still have things to say, and whiskies to share the word on, but we may not be able to be too contemporary or relevant.  Not that I’ve ever minded being the guy late to the party.

I think what will suffer the most is reviews of lower quality malts and more budget brands.  I simply have trouble getting my hands on mediocre whisky.  I don’t buy it often (occasionally for reviewing), and now certainly won’t be buying it.  I actually have fun writing about some of those lesser quality drams (it gives me an entirely new vocabulary to work with), but this has always been a shortcoming of the site in my opinion.

Things will pick up again, but do be aware that we may try a few new things in the coming year.  I’ll see what I can do about sourcing whisky samples to keep things topical, and we’ll tackle some new ideas, I think.  Perhaps even a guest writer or two to bring a freshness to the scene.  Oh, yeah…and I’ll try to be a little more regular with posts.

Finally…in the interest in full disclosure I want to share the truth.  I have little interest in returning to the industry I was previously employed in.  And even if I did want it, it will be a loooooooong time recovering.  Chances are slim.  I have been actively investigating work in an industry I know a fair bit about.  Yes…the whisky world.  Not sure what that could ultimately mean here, but we’re all adults, right?  It should be understood that feeding my kids and keeping the bills paid supercedes all other thoughts and priorities.  Hope we don’t find too many conflicts, but only time will tell.

As always, appreciate your engagement.  Onwards to 2017.

 

– C

 Posted by at 10:13 am
Nov 222016
 

Amrut Spectrum20161111_205014

50% abv

Score:  92/100

 

I know more than a few out there have been waiting for me to get around to sharing some thoughts on Amrut Spectrum.  I think, in fact, even one or two of the good folks behind the brand have been waiting.  If you expected a bit of a hook or a slice on this one (i.e. veering away from known territory) you may as well move on.  I’ll lay it on the line early here and you can read on or move on as you see fit.  The simple fact of the matter is that this is another ruddy brilliant dram from our mates in India.

The story on this one has already made the rounds.  Spectrum is a malt matured for three years in ex-bourbon barrels before being shunted for a further three and a half years into casks specially commissioned from alternating staves of five different barrel types: American, French and Spanish oak, as well as ex-PX and ex-Oloroso.  Neat, and beyond innovative, really, in an industry heavily governed by tradition and a lack of forward thinking.  The resulting profile is one rich in jammy fruit, almost molasses-thick sherried notes and rich, rich, rich helpings of dried fruits and coffee.  A couple mates of mine thought sulphur, but I beg to differ.  This is just heavily cooked whisky.  It’s beyond big and borders on over-cooked.  I like that though.  I’m a sucker for big sherry, and this fits the bill.

I can’t prepare you for this one.  Big, sub-tropical notes, dark fruits, cold coffee, bittersweet chocolate.  All in harmony.  Lovely and rich.  This is a small sipper though.  Meant to be enjoyed in wee sips over long hours of contemplation.  Not a malt for overindulgence, as the malt itself is an indulgence.

Nose:  Dark chocolate and jammy dark fruit.  Orange zest.  Slight smokiness.  Gooey toffee.  Furniture polish.  Almost a cola note.  Coffee.  Nougat.  Cherry, raspberry and even a hint of reduced blueberry.  Or more simply… a mixed berry jam.  Cinnamon, cardamom and burnt sugar.  Coffee liquor. Candied orange peel.  Can’t get over the depth of chewy chocolates, toffees and fruits.  Great melange.

Palate:  Whoa.  Big, dark and bordering on bitter.  In all the right ways, that is, being a beautiful balanced tannicity.  Smalls savouring sips are the way to go with a malt this deep and immersive.  Like an infused Kahlua of some sort.  Oily dried fruits and gooey jams.  More candied orange, but wrapped in chocolate (anyone tried the Bernard Callebaut chocolates like this?).  Cough syrup.  Nutty notes and hints of strong, rich rum.  Gooey, sticky dessert.

Thoughts:  Reminds a tick of some heavily sherries Kavalan, but has definite Amrut DNA.  50% abv is generous, but I want this even bigger…at least high 50s.  What Amrut can do in a few short years is simply incredible.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:37 am
Nov 202016
 

Laphroaig 2004 Cask #45 Bottle Your Own20160925_110724

51% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

Laphroaig runs some pretty damn cool visitor experiences for those that make the pilgrimage across the water to Islay.  As if you needed more motivation.  Even without upgrading to said tour experiences, the good people at the distillery will treat you like family.

In fact, I’ll go step further.  It’s arguable that one Islay distillery produces malts I like more, while another does things in a manner I respect more than any other distillery in the world.  Having said that…Laphroaig combines those two aspects into one big, beautiful, peaty coherent whole.  It’s hard not to love the green and white.

Two of the higher end experiences the distillery offers include the opportunity to sample from three pre-selected casks and bottle your own 250 ml bottle directly from the barrel, replete with cask char residue and all.  Now…if you’re a whisky geek and purist as I am (and many of us are), this is the ultimate in both dramming experiences and souvenir hoarding.  Couple that with a healthy dosing of peat juice along the three hour journey and man…I don’t know how else to sell it to you.

This malt was one of the three I tried at the distillery.  It was a 12 year old malt from a bourbon barrel.

I don’t review whiskies like this in order to aid in buying decisions (obviously), but in order to tell a story.  In this case, to tell you that a few of us went to peaty Neverland and had an incomparable experience.  You can do the same.  And if you do…it will be absolutely unforgettable.

Obviously I drank this on site, but sincere thanks to ‘the bearded one’, aka Danny, for the chance to enjoy this in more meditative environs.  Was nice to revisit and take some notes.

Nose:  Earthy dram, this.  Notes of tea.  Sweet but strong vanilla.  Mint Leaf candies.  Smoked seafood on the shell.  Very fresh eucalyptus.  A truly organic whisky.  Lime…and more lime.  Freshly baked scones.

Palate:  More lime here.  Smoke and peat, as we’d expect.  Medicinal (agin…as we’d expect).  Minty.  Very vibrant.  Ashy.  Smoky.  Salt licorice.  Rubber.

Thoughts:  A beautiful old school style Laphroaig.  We tried three, and all were interesting, but this one had the most harmonious nature about it.  Lovely stuff.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:13 pm
Nov 122016
 

Redbreast 12 y.o. Cask Strength Batch No. B1/15img_1058

57.4% abv

Score:  92/100

 

I literally could not think of a critical word to throw at this dram if I tried.  It’s whiskies like this that make me question what the hell most of the rest of Ireland has been doing for years.  And further…makes me very, very excited for what is to come from Waterford in future years.

Let’s face it, Irish whiskey has needed a kick in the ass for years.  It has lagged behind Scotch in all senses.  But now, having run headlong into a bottle like this, it’s heartening to see just how pristine the drink can be when treated with the care it deserves.  This is more than just cask strength Irish whiskey.  It’s an absolute fruitbomb marriage of spectacular barrels bottled at the perfect age.  I could go on, but it’s really unnecessary.  Just buy this whiskey.

Nose:  Fruity and floral and doused in rich milk chocolate.  Creamy orange and tangerine.  Custard and ginger.
A sprinkle of white pepper.  Grilled pineapple.  Oily jujubes.  Soft, clean wood notes.  White cake and very mild but balanced spices.

Palate:  Huge bourbon-like arrival.  Orange fruits.  Grilled, caramelized pineapple.  Pepper, cinnamon and ginger.
Toasted oak.  Threads of vanilla.  Still quite creamy.  Warm pastry.  Very rich, very deep and beautifully mouthcoating.  Nice direct tie between nose and palate here.

Thoughts:  This is a truly beautiful whisky.  Incredible composition and brilliantly vibrant.  The fruits are
exceptional.  Probably the second best Irish dram I’ve ever tried.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:10 am