Oct 212014
 

Bowmore Laimrig (Batch 3)036

53.7% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Each time I sit down with a glass ( or two) of this malt I feel like I’m making a big mistake.  Like I should maybe be putting away a few extra bottles for that proverbial rainy day.  I think we’re all familiar with the old parable about the grasshopper and the ant, right?

With the current state of the whisky world being what it is (soaring costs, dipping ages and a steady veering towards no age statement malts) I fear it really is only a matter of time until the ’15’ disappears from the label of this expression.  Or further, that the Laimrig disappears altogether.  Let’s hope I’m wrong on that one, but I think either way it’s time to shelve a few bottles for future days.

Laimrig is a revelation.  A sub $100 release that simply outperforms anything comparable on the market.  Its appeal (at least for me) lies in the intricacies of the marriage of sweet and smoke, and how beautifully it manages to integrate these pieces into such a harmonious whole.  The three main factors at play here are peat + sherry + age.  The smokiness though, for any who may be concerned they may not be peat-conditioned enough for this one, is restrained enough to sit behind the syrupy fruit notes, creating a very broadly appealing dram.  I’ve yet to pour one for someone and have them not like it.  And finally… probably the single greatest asset working in favour of Laimrig is a return to a fruitier style of Bowmore.  This profile is far preferable to the more floral Bowmore we’ve been privy to for the past several years.  Absolutely a move in the right direction for this distillery.

Undoubtedly my favorite  under-20 y.o. whisky out there.

Nose:  Grape juice.  Smoke.  Deep jammy notes and berry coulis.  Well-oiled leather.  Sea spray.  A touch of grapefruit.  Ash and iodine.  Devil’s food cake and cherry pie filling.  Apples and apple skins.  A little bit of rubber.  A savoury, slightly meaty note.

Palate:  Deep, deep threads of smoked dark tree fruits.  Lush and juicy.  Smoky and hinting at a Fisherman’s Friend kind of medicinal edge.  Plum sauce and some dark gooey Asian sauces (hoisin?).  Apple skins and soggy wood.  Oil.  Viscous and rich.

Thoughts:  I adore this whisky.  Slightly different than previous ones I’ve tried, but equally awesome.  A little more on woods and less on fruits, I think, if I had to put my finger on it.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Oct 152014
 

“The Spirits Have Done It All In One Night.” – Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol)

 

…and now, shamelessly, a quick advert…

Granted it is only mid October, but some things need be done sooner than later.

Whisky advent calendars have become all the rage of late, and it’s not hard to see why.  One…the Christmas season is a merry one, and what better method of merry-making than a dram a day?  Two…they inject a little bit of childhood excitement and anticipation into a sadly far-too-adult life.  And three…they make for a bloody brilliant gift for the discerning individual (or snooty Scotch snob alike!).

Calendar 2

Having said all that, I’m happy to be able to help a good mate of mine, Jonathan Bray, spread the word about a project he and his wife, Cindy, have launched.  The first edition of the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar is a seriously impressive undertaking.  From humble beginnings through to the eve of launch, this has been a fun endeavour to follow to fruition.  I’ve gone back and forth with Jonathan through much of the journey, and still can’t help but be wowed by the end result. 

The calendar is a 25 day outturn of drams from three of the whisky world’s leading independent bottlers: A.D. Rattray, Samaroli and Wemyss Malts.  This means, of course, that the whiskies herein could be from any number of different Scottish distilleries.  For those of us in Alberta, where nearly all (if not actually all) of these calendars will end up, this is a very special treat indeed, as bottlings by Samaroli and Wemyss are rare sightings around here and in a way we can almost consider this their formal entrance onto our local whisky stage. 

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Directly related to this grand arrival on the scene is what I personally see as the most exciting aspect of the calendar.  Many of the whiskies you’ll try from within its compartments will be made available in a limited number of 700ml bottles (maximum of 60 bottles) from select retailers.  Now this is smart marketing.  I can imagine there will be more than a few gems in here where a sample simply won’t be enough.  The theory is that each day through the month of December, when the whisky of the day is revealed on the website, the retailers with that day’s whisky will be featured.

The wee bottles snugged into each cushioned seat of this hefty Dickensian / Victorian gothic chest are all generous 50ml pours, and run the range through all of the major whisky producing regions of Scotland.  A perfect introduction to the world of Scotch whisky for the aspiring single malter, or just an opportunity for the seasoned pro to take a ‘virtual jaunt’ through the rolling hills of Scotland.  In short, if you’re keen on Scotch, this should be right up your alley.

Calendar

As to the spirits themselves…well…

I’ve shared the word on A.D. Rattray releases (and the company itself) a few times here on the site.  To put it simply, Mr. Morrison has some spectacular casks at his disposal, and duds are few and far between.  Any chance to try a new expression launched under this banner is welcomed.

I only recently tasted a Samaroli release for the first time.  A few weeks back, Jonathan came by for a visit and a few drams and brought along a bottle of Samaroli that has to be one of the most unique releases I’ve ever tried.  I’ll save the specific details for a very near future review, but suffice it to say that the casks at the disposal of Samaroli seem to be of an astromonical quality.

And when it comes to Wemyss, I must admit that I’m as ignorant as can be, so will happily just join the rest of you on the ride and see what sort of stocks they possess.

(And no…I do not know exactly what whiskies are in the calendar.  Pease don’t ask.) 

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The calendar was unquestionably a labour of love.  The aesthetes out there will easily be won over by the top notch craftsmanship, as the attention to detail is astounding.  But much like any other whisky, it’s what’s inside that counts.  On that note…I ask anyone who does manage to score themselves one of these units to share their thoughts and nosing / tasting notes on the malts each day through December as they’re unveiled.  

And finally…speaking of scoring one of these… 

Do note that they probably won’t last long in stores.  This first edition is limited to a mere 400 units.  I’m pretty sure if you don’t get in early, you won’t get in at all. 

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So…for those of you for whom single malts are old hat, but who just want to mix it up with a surprise a night…this is a hell of a way to do so.  And for those out there looking to begin their journey down the road to Scotch knowledge, there is simply no better way to work your way through the Highlands, Lowlands, Islands, Speyside and Islay than what amounts to a crash course in Scotch whisky.

Secret Spirits have set the bar high with this first edition calendar.  I can’t imagine a better launch for this new brand.  We’ll be looking forward to watching the company grow in the coming years.

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The Secret Spirits Advent Calendars are confirmed to be hitting store shelves before the end of October. 

Check out the Secret Spirits site for further details and a list of retailers who should have this available for purchase in the coming days.

…and for anyone who cares to sponsor me a calendar, I’m not too proud to accept early Christmas presents.

An early seasons greetings to you all and a wish for sweet dr(e)ams.

 

- Words & Photos:  Curt

 

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Oct 142014
 

Bruichladdich X4+3 091

63.5% abv

Score:  82.5/100

 

This is gonna be a hit or miss malt for many, I can imagine.  It simply does not boast a profile that falls in line with most preconceptions of Scotch whisky.  Actually, I’ll go a step or two further and say that this is one of the oddest whiskies I’ve ever tasted.

Imagine mixing young Scotch, old Canadian whisky and citrus-scented cleaning products or polish.  That’s about as close to the profile as I can articulate before we get to actual tasting notes.  For those of you out there with one eyebrow cocked in cynical questioning…relax.  Irrespective of where your mind initially takes you with the above descriptors, rest assured that this is actually a pretty decent whisky.  Albeit very young and aggressive.

X4+3 is Bruichladdich’s infamous X4 spirit (read: quadruple distilled Bruichladdich) that has napped for a brief three years (hence the ‘+3′ in its appellation) in very active barrels.  And I mean VERY active.  The flavour notes imparted by the cask are kinda like a high note held on a very tightly strung instrument.  Struck and left to resonate at an incredible pitch for a very long time.  The abv here, and Bruichladdich’s wonderful adherence to the practice of foregoing chill filtration, ensures this one will be clinging to your teeth and tastebuds for hours after sipping.

As one might expect, an incredibly pure spirit maturing in new vibrant wood means an end product that is razor sharp.  Don’t come into this one expecting a mellow, wizened old dram.  This is meant to be approached as an anomaly in the whisky world.  This is Jim McEwan being Jim McEwan and having a bit of fun in the halls of his Wonka-esque laboratory.  Having said that…it is still infinitely sippable, and very, very sweet.

From the ledger of the good people at Bruichladdich:  “In 1695 Martin Martin, a Hebridean traveller wrote of an ancient powerful spirit, which translates from the Gaelic as “perilous whisky”. he was told by the natives: “one sip and you live forever; two sips and you go blind; three sips and you expire on the spot”. Humbly, and in the typical Bruichladdich spirit of adventure, we have re-created this legendary, quadruple-distilled blockbuster dram.”

Nose:  Incredibly clean, with lots of lemon and lots of vanilla.  Some orange, and definitely grapefruit.  Even pineapple.  Big woody notes (not dissimilar to a Canadian whisky…the old Alberta Premium releases, in particular).  Vanilla ice cream and orange creamsicle.  Chocolate, both milk and white.  Lemon coconut macaroons.  Pine Sol and an almost cut-spruce freshness.  Maybe even a vague hint of mint.  Softer than imagined, though, somehow.

Palate:  Oh wow.  What an arrival.  Enormous, and almost overwhelming.  Citrus fruit, rind and pith.  There’s a tartness and tang here I adore.  Grilled pineapple.  Again…25-30 year old rye (Alberta Premium!).  A lot of wood here.  Spice and sour ju-jubes.  Candied ginger.  Distilled fire.  A lot of syrupy texture.

Thoughts:  Certainly not everyone’s cup of tea (malt), but I kinda dig this profile.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Oct 092014
 

Cairdeas.  A Gaelic word that means ‘friendship’.  The word itself, for those phonetically curious, is pronounced somewhere between ‘car-chess’ and ‘car-chase’ (depending on how thick the accent of the speaker is).  These annual releases from our good friends at Laphroaig were originally launched as an exclusive for that ever burgeoning group of peat geeks known as the ‘Friends Of Laphroaig’.  In recent years, Laphroaig has upped the outturn on these Cairdeas expressions, and they’re now quite readily available in most markets.

Through all of its various incarnations over the years, there’s one thing that has been fairly consistent with Cairdeas: the presentation of a strong natural whisky of high quality and character.  I honestly haven’t regretted buying a single one of  them.  These releases have been a mixed bag of ages and styles, but the Laphroaig profile (earthy, smoky, peaty, medicinal) has been omnipresent throughout.  The subtleties change, of course, but that familiar and homey style we all love remains intact. 

Highly recommended from this guy.

Now…before we get to the whisky…a quick toast…

This one is for all of the whisky folk out there (bloggers and writers and schillers, oh my!) who seem to have gotten just a little too friendly with the industry of late.  Perhaps it’s a testament to the wisdom of Sun-Tzu.  Hmmmm…wish I could believe that. 

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas Master Edition 2010025

57.3% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

Nose:  This one has the softest nose among these four.  Reminds a little of Laphroaig 18, but jacked up a notch or two.  Smoke, of course.  And peat.  White pepper.  Ginger.  Soft green melon.  Key lime pie.  Green ju-jubes.  A fleeting glimpse of bubble gum.  Slightly minty.  A touch of clean oak.  Wee hint of rubber.

Palate:  Again…soft and beautiful.  Love the candy notes and gentle fruits.  Dry smoke leads into peat, then explodes in sweet notes.  Crisp green pear and MacIntosh apple skins.  Light (very light) orange juice and lemon notes.  The toasted crust of good creme brulee.

Thoughts:  Good balance of old and young.  Aging peat is a thing of beauty.   So much harmony between the nose and palate.  Apparently this is a mix of 11-19 year casks, and you can definitely see the influence of the older whiskies within.

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas Ileach Edition 2011019

50.5% abv

Score:  89/100

 

Nose:  Mint Leaves jelly candies.  Peat and earth.  Smoke, but it’s not quite as big as I’d normally expect.  Iodine.  Brine.  Dark soil.  Lemon rind.  Salt and pepper.  Creamy, soft mild cigar tobacco notes.  A touch of vanilla.  Soft white / green fruit.  Bread dough.

Palate:  Peppery, right off the bat.  Slightly drying too.  Fruit candy sweetness.  Smoke and wet rock.  Nutty, earthy notes.  Dry ginger.  Quite a sweet development throughout.  Wet ash.  Fresh lemon squeezed over oysters on the shell.

Thoughts:  Young-ish, but who cares?  Peat is a hell of a ride when offered up in its youth.  And there are definitely no flaws in the actual whisky here.  A great version from a much-loved distillery.

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin 2012002

51.2% abv

Score:  88.5/100

 

Nose:  Smoke and a very coastal iodine tang.  Salty dough.  Organic, peaty notes.  Damp ash (a fire put out with saltwater!).  Dusty, old wood (maybe dunnage?).  A faint note of peppered greens.  Fresh dill.  Dirt.  Soft caramel notes.   Seems slightly older than the 2011 edition.

Palate:  Pepper leads (with some salty / briny notes as well).  Apple.  Smoked shellfish.  A fair bit of rubber.  Smoked grains.  Licorice or fennel.  More of that peppery bite again.  Ginger.  Dirt and wet rocks.  A mouthful of ocean water.

Thoughts:  I initially fell in love with this one while at the distillery in late 2012.  Happy to report we’re still in love.  It was a treat when this release landed on Canadian shores last year.  I immediately snapped some up.

 

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014003

51.4% abv

Score:  89/100

 

Nose:  Slightly farmy.  Warm saddle.  Hay and horse blanket.  Zesty…almost savoury (tomato sauce-ish).  Big, clouds of smoke, but very much dampened by the sweetness of the sherry influence.  Peat.  Cinnamon, pepper and ginger.  Notes of good marmalade.

Palate:  Rubber.  Yep.  A fairly hefty amount of smoke and warm rubber.  An odd oregano-like note.  Kinda flinty.  Very dirty Laphroaig (in other words: awesome).  Medicinal notes.  Play dough.  Granny Smith apple.  Quite earthy.  Deep spice, almost chili-esque.  Surprisingly savoury overall.

Thoughts:  Peat and sweet.  Love the marriage of mighty Laphroaig and soft sherry.  This is a heck of a dram.  Wish I knew the age on it. 

 

- Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:57 am
Oct 072014
 

Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 47)010

60.7% abv

Score:  88.5/100

 

A’bunadh is my ‘slipper’ malt.  When I’m cold…this is what I curl up with.  When I have a cold…this is what soothes.  When I’ve had a shitty day and am just hoping for comfort and familiarity…this is where I turn.  When I’m simply craving a damn good ‘suits any occasion’ kind of whisky…this is nearly always the one I turn to.  It’s as comfortable and welcome as the best pair of soft worn-in slippers.  Honestly. 

I recall an incident that happened in the dead of winter a  few years back while I was on my way home from work.  My bus had been slipping and sliding all over the roads in an absolutely horrendous blizzard.  It finally gave up the ghost on a hill about eight or ten blocks from my house, slipping back in the slush and muck to rest horizonally across both lanes, effectively blocking the entire street.  It was dinner time, almost dead-of-night dark and the snow was flying in thick sheets; creating a virtual wall of snow.  The driver opened the doors and offered to let us walk if we preferred, so as not to wait for a tow (nice fella, that one).  Indeterminate wait for the possibility of rescue vs the frigid December hoolie.  What would you choose? 

Well…that 15 minute walk in -25C weather…in snow up to my knees…in dress shoes and good clothes…was one of the most miserable experiences of my entire life.  Interestingly enough though, what lingers more than the memory of numb extremities, frozen eyelashes and aching ears, is the thought of finally trudging up my drive, shaking off the snow on the front steps and heading straight for the front of the fire place with a Glencairn glass half full of a’bunadh.  Canadian winters.  Beautiful misery.

By now a’bunadh should be no mystery to most of you.   If it is, however, please browse some of the previous reviews here on the site.  Suffice it to say, this is a big and bruising cask strength Oloroso sherry bomb.  Small-batch released.  Almost always incredible.  And…a personal favorite.  After a less than stellar Batch 46, it’s nice to see Aberlour back on top with this Batch 47.

Nose:  Moist cigar, or maybe a walk-in humidor. Cherry liqueur.  Mincemeat tarts.  Some shortbread behind all of the spices and savoury notes.  Cinnamon bun dough.  A very pleasant toasted (almost burnt) marshmallow note.  The wood is a little louder than expected.  Brings a little more complexity, and ‘seriousness’ than I expect in the rowdy a’bunadh (if that makes sense).  No shoddy casks buried in here.

Palate:  Beautiful sweet, caramel fruity delivery.  Deep, dark dried fruits.  Orange zest.   Dark caramel.  Roman nougat.  Maraschino.  Toasted pie crust.  Baked apples with cinnamon and nutmeg.  Brown sugar.  Fruit cake.  Figs.  Charred woods.  Apple skins.  Leather.  And FRUIT leather.

Thoughts:  Great balance here.  Nice sweet ride all the way through.  There is plenty of this batch still available on the shelves locally (Calgary) for those who are interested.  I’ll be nabbing another, as mine is now down to the bottom half a bottle.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 2:35 pm
Oct 062014
 

038Glenlivet Nàdurra (Batch 0712U)

55.5% abv

Score:  89/100

 

I cracked open this batch of Nadurra with a bunch of good friends just shy of two weeks ago.  Between us, we managed to put a healthy dent in the bottle that night (along with a few others), and I’m not gonna lie…the bottom half of this one has been calling to me in the evenings ever since.  I figured we should maybe get ’round to sharing some notes before there was nothing left to share notes on.

Nadurra is, quite simply, one of the most consistent and seemingly underrated malts on the market. Maybe ‘underrated’ is the wrong word.  ‘Under-mentioned’, is more in line with what I’m trying to get across.  While quite universally respected, it never seems to garner as many mentions as several of its contemporaries do (105, a’bunadh, etc).  I’m not sure if this is due to the preconceptions associated with the rather simple and prototypical Speyside profile we generally ascribe to the name Glenlivet, or if there are other factors at play.  Or maybe its simply a matter of where I’m looking and who I’m speaking to.  Either way, Nadurra deserves to be held up as a shining example of well-crafted single malt whisky.

‘Nadurra’ is the Gaelic word for ‘natural’.  It is a batch-released whisky served up big and bold, and is sort of a poster child for the model that, in my opinion, all distilleries should be following (age-stated, cask strength, non chill-filtered, etc).  I think we’ve gone through most of this before spiel before, so let’s just get on with it.  What say?

I should note, before we get into tasting notes, that I specifically remember the day I bought this bottle.  I was wandering the shop with a handful of dollars burning a hole in my pocket and a view to doing a future write-up.  I couldn’t really find anything that was lighting my fire, and ended up settling for this one.  I recall leaving the store slightly disappointed that I hadn’t found something more exciting and unique to bring home, but there is absolutely no regret now.  This is a great bottle, and one I may try to track down a second of if any are still dust-gathering around here.

Nose:  Peach tarts.  Freshly peeled apples.  Perfume / floral notes.  Toasted wood.  Cinnamon.  Pepper.  Ginger.  Slightly creamy.  Utterly brilliant nose.  Nothing too complex, but rings out like a beautiful harmonic.

Palate:  Great delivery.  Kinda peppery.  Woods and apple right up front.  Just a hint of peach again, but that may be olfactory carryover.  Now ginger and mixed spice.  A kind of ‘champagne-like’ nutty, herbal note.  Tart apple skins on the finish.  Somewhat drying.

Thoughts:  Great right off the cork, but even better once it settles down in the glass for a few minutes.  There’s a wonderful creaminess that develops over time. Great stuff. I love it when a malt I remember as being a favorite from way back still manages to knocks my socks off by now being even better than I recall.  This is still a top notch malt, years on from when I first tried it. Absolutely no quality slippage here, and this particular batch is one of the best versions of Nadurra I’ve come across. 

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 1:25 pm
Oct 062014
 

No, I haven’t given up.

Bear with me a little bit longer as I struggle to get this engine turning over.  A busy few weeks and a lack of poetic inspiration have kept me from the keyboard for far too much of the last month and a half.  Worse still, finding time to sit down in a controlled environment and properly taste some whiskies has been next to impossible.  Things should be coming together in the next day or two.

Coming soon…

Glenlivet Nadurra
Bruichladdich X4+3
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Ardbeg Kildalton
Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 47)
Bowmore Springtide
Bruichladdich Legacy 35 y.o. (Series Three)
Dalmore 18 y.o.
Four different Laphroaig Cairdeas releases
A few 25 y.o.’s
A couple SMWS releases
etc…

Do let me know if there’s something you want to see.  I’ll do my best.

Cheers,

Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 8:35 am
Sep 232014
 

Dram Initiative #013 – Year End Wrap-Up Moxie’s Downtown

July 2nd, 2014

 

A little late on this one, but better late than never…

For the club’s year-end wrap-up we wanted to do something a little bit different.  Of course this was not a calendar year end, but simply a logical break point.  We opted to take the summer off in order to accommodate everyone’s vacation plans and such.  If, however, an opportunity had arisen in the meantime to put on a killer event I’m sure we would have happily been flexible enough to make it happen, but it seemed like a solid idea to take a couple months off for beer and sun, before diving back into the action with September’s Bruichladdich tasting with Jim McEwan.

For this ‘wrap-up’, we got in touch with the good folks at the Moxie’s Downtown location.  Manager Deryck Phimister is in the process of building the company’s whisky program.  I’d heard his name mentioned a few times and had a couple of Moxie’s event notices forwarded my way, so decided to reach out to Deryck and see if we couldn’t make something work.  With Deryck being as keen, knowledgable and…quite frankly…likeable as he is, this event came together quickly and easily.

The initial line of thinking that led to this less formal event was that we wanted to do something a little less labour-intensive for the committee, and have a gathering that would get the members interacting in a slightly looser environment.  Y’know…pints, food, whisky, mockery.  That kinda stuff.

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We are still a whisky club however.  So first things first, we had to pull together a few interesting malts for the occasion.  And, of course, put someone in front of the room to share a some insight on each of the drams we’d be trying.  The initial idea was to get someone other than me (or a formal speaker) up in front of the group for a change.  These poor sods have to listen to me preach at each of our gatherings, so it seemed an ideal time to see if we couldn’t drag a few members up and out of their comfort zones in order to enlighten the unwashed.

And surprisingly enough, there was no real arm twisting required to make it happen.

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First up we had the dirty Irish contingent (name withheld pending results of fingerprinting and legal investigation into his rather sordid character) get up and share a few words on a rather special 1973 Tullibardine; a distillery he has visited in his never-ending quest to ensure that it is indeed true that the Scots do in fact make better whisky than the Irish.  Was there ever a question?  The speech…great.  The whisky…almost as good.  ;)

Next up, our resident caber-tossing Scottish expat Stuart shared all sorts of flowery tasting notes and sentimental poetic tripe about a lovely old Royal Lochnagar from Duncan Taylor.  In his earlier days, before moving to Canuckville, Stu used to work at the distillery.  While he confessed to some jitter before hand, the guy knocked it out of the park.  An absolutely natural speaker, and one we’re still trying to coerce into presenting a full range of Lochnagar for the club at some point. 

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Our third malt, a 17 year old single cask from GlenDronach, was presented by our mate, Joe.  Joe’s been involved in the whisky world for ages, and comfortably straddles both sides of the fence, as both an industry guy and just a goodhearted guy with a love of the good juice.  If you get a chance to visit him at Liquor Depot in Mount Royal, you’ll find not only a great selection of malts on offer, but a good conversation as well.

Moving into dram number four, a sexy 30 year old Carn Mor independent Caol Ila, the club’s ginger buddha, Scott, took the reins and led us through a bit about both the whisky and the distillery.  He was one of the handful of chaps who joined me on my last trip over to Islay in late 2012, where a visit to Caol Ila was part of the itinerary.  Much like me, I think he has a bit of a soft spot for the distillery. 

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Our final malt of the night (well…final official malt of the night) was one near and dear to my own shriveled l’il black heart.  Seeing as how we’d just dedicated an entire previous event to this particular distillery (and wouldn’t have a chance to taste it as a group anytime soon), and also because it was right in the midst of World Cup fever: Ardbeg Auriverdes. 

This malt arrived on our shores a couple months too late to be included in our Ardbeg tasting with Ruaraidh, but it’s certainly a top notch dram.  We figured ‘why the hell not?’ and yours truly ended up in front of the room after all.  I’ve spent enough time at the distillery to be able to lead one of their tours myself by this point, so it was simply a no-brainer that it would be me to talk about this one.

We closed out the formalities with a bit of an open forum for members to share some opinions, did a quick round of thanks and such, then dove headlong into pints and additional drams for the remainder of the eve.

Not gonna lie…a couple of those aforementioned bottles got revisited before the night was out.  And then were a couple drams of a damn decent 25 y.o. Brora to follow.  For whatever reason, we simply couldn’t convince Deryck to crack that Lagavulin 37 y.o. and pour a round, but there’s still time to twist that rubber arm. 

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Thanks to good people at Moxie’s, especially Deryck and Jeannine.  Your time and efforts were greatly appreciated.  I’m already looking back at this event with fondness and rose-colored glasses.  Hopefully we can do just as we hinted at, and work towards arranging something similar around the holiday season this year.  More discussion to come…

For those of you in Calgary looking for a great night out with good food and some very special drams, Deryck is hosting high end whisky tastings in the lounge once a month, on the first Thursday, I believe.  The venue is great, the cost is wicked low and the whiskies will be top shelf.  Feel free to get in touch with Deryck at cdt@moxies.ca if you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about. 

Until next…slainte!

 

- Words:  Curt

- Photos:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:11 am
Sep 182014
 

SMWS 1.172 “Sophisticated, Delicate And Feminine”117

55.7% abv

Score:  89/100

 

This feels wrong.  So wrong.  Naked Glenfarclas from a refill hogshead.  Unlike pretty much all of the distillery’s output, there is no sherry influence here (unless they built this hoggy from cut down staves of a disassembled butt, but I doubt that.  Or…maybe this hoggy held sherry at one time?  Also doubt it).  Either way, seeing Glenfarclas this exposed feels sorta like walking in on someone in the shower.  Perhaps I should also add that for an anorak such as I, it gives the same perverse sort of thrill.

Whisky geeks will most likely be all over a malt like this.  It ticks all the right boxes for the purist.  Big natural cask strength, no added coloring, no chill-filtration, bottled at a suitably mature age and well labeled for clarity.  But most importantly, it’s a unique malt in that it offers up something different for all of us to natter about in our infinite geekery by breaking the distillery’s stereotype and showing us a very different iteration of a much loved theme.

To me, this is exactly the kind of release that makes whisky exciting and keeps it fresh.  It is a 19 year old bottling from an outturn that yielded just 230 bottles.  But pushing aside the inherent awesomeness of all of the meta associated with this one, let’s discuss the actual ins and outs of this particular expression.  Its 55.7% abv delivers flavour by the spadeful, and instead of those exceptional leathery, dried fruit and Christmas cake notes so typical of Glenfarclas, here we’re treated to more ripe fruits and deeper spice notes.  

I wish more folks out there, especially the really devout Glenfarclas fans, could have an opportunity to try this one, but unfortunately that’s the nature of not only the SMWS, but single cask bottlings in general.  This one just happens to be even more exclusive than most single cask releases out there, as it is only available to SMWS members (or was, as I assume it is now long gone). 

If you get an opportunity to try this one, do so.  Highly recommended.

Nose:  Earth.  Candy and floral notes.  Let’s call it Turkish Delight-ish.  Orange jelly.  Grape jelly.  Stewed peaches and apples in baking spices.  Canned pears.  Pie crust.  Very firm oak notes.  Dry cinnamon sticks.  Moist tobacco.

Palate:  Very tangy arrival of fruits and jelly candies.  Quite lush.  Clean wood, but slightly bittering around the mid to back end.  Allspice and candied ginger.  Ever eaten flower petals in a salad?  This latter note may help contribute to that bittering influence.  Some orange zest and pith.  More apple sauce. A touch of honeycomb.  Very un-Glenfarclas.

Thoughts:  Arguably the most apt name I’ve ever seen on an SMWS label.  This one definitely exemplifies all three adjectives.  Also…decent tasting notes on the bottle.  I can’t say I disagree with much of it.

 

- Reviewed by:  Curt

- Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:01 am
Sep 122014
 

At the risk of wading into something I want no part of…

Man…there have been some seriously acrimonious words bandied about in public of late, and all over differing views relating to whisky and whiskey. I confess that I love a good discussion or debate as much as the next guy, but there are some lines that are being crossed right now, and I have finally reached a point where I feel I have to say something.  

This forum here on ATW has always remained open and willing to embrace views of polarity. I have NEVER censored a comment, and I like to think that’s because those of you who do choose to comment here are highbrow, respectful and intelligent individuals. I thank you for that, and for making what I do easier and infinitely more enjoyable. To be clear…nothing that has been posted here on ATW, or to me personally, has sparked this post. A little birdie told me you’d have to look elsewhere to find the proverbial straw that finally broke the camel’s back.

So…as you may have noticed, I’m a fairly passionate guy when it comes to protecting the things and people I love. I have my own views, and occasionally I get up on my soapbox too, but I also pride myself in knowing that I don’t intentionally aim to harm an individual. Unfortunately, in recent days I’ve read one too many exchanges of outright name-calling, mudslinging, personal insults, etc related to what others believe or have done in the name of their whisky point-of-view or actions (inactions even?).

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with any of the instances to which I’m referring, count yourself lucky, continue to behave and I’ll be happy that you didn’t finish reading this post. And apologies, but I simply refuse to repost, or even directly refer to any of these instances, lest I lead anyone else to read what I think is embarrassing public spectacle and shameful denigration of others. Apparently some folks out there need to do a little self-reflection and recall what their mothers likely tried to instill years back: ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.’

What happened to reasoned criticism? Intelligent debate? Common courtesy? At the end of the day there’s nearly always a way to make your opinion heard and your voice resonate in an articulate and respectful manner that would make people want to hear what is being said. The outright vitriol and brutish attacks I’ve read recently have literally made me absolutely disregard everything else these individuals have to say. How do you take seriously the words of a petulant infant? That’s how it comes across. You may have good points to make, but I won’t be listening.

Now I don’t for a minute believe we all need to be friends, or even to actually respect one another. Respect is something to be earned. I do, however, believe that everyone is entitled to a modicum of basic human decency. I may not like your opinion, but so long as it is an INFORMED opinion, and delivered in a respectful manner, I will listen to it.

So, listen up, keyboard warriors and internet mercenaries: It’s easy to hide behind anonymity and distance while lambasting someone for a tack that doesn’t jibe with yours, but ease does not make right. Bloggers, journalists, industry people, authors, distillers, all of us sharing the word on the drinks we love…we tend to become something of an entity, to a degree, and I think that strips the human element out of it for some of the readers (listeners). I think some individuals out there are losing sight of the fact that there are HUMAN BEINGS behind these whisky-related personas. These are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, parents and friends to others out there. Whether or not you disagree with their very existence should remain incidental to not being an outright boor to another person.

This is not a biblical ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘love thy neighbour’ thing. At the end of the day, we all look stupid when any of us takes the low road.

As I hinted at above, please don’t dig for the individual instances I’m referring to. Again…don’t reward bad behaviour. Instead, I’d only ask that you absorb the message I’m trying to get across. Differ, debate, get heated, what-have you. Just do it with a little class.

In summation: Before you hit ‘post’ or ‘send’ or ‘tweet’, maybe think twice. Leave the passion in your message, but skip the personal attacks. And for god’s sake…lighten the f*ck up. It’s a drink.

 

- Curt

 Posted by at 2:15 pm