Dec 232020
 

In 2013, a good bunch of folks, led by our revered pied piper, Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market infamy, stole away to the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains for a weekend of absolutely next level whisky tastings. The apex event of the weekend was a tasting of some of the most legendary 1964 Bowmores known to man- (and woman-) kind.

In a completely unexpected (though gratefully accepted) bit of generosity, a wee set of samples was brought back for yours truly. Obviously, whiskies like this require pristine conditions in order to really be able to properly assess ’em, so…seven years after these priceless vials landed in my lap, on an afternoon when the palate was clean, my personal desire was sky high, and the interruptions were kept to a bare minimum, I finally sat down with these precious drops of Islay’s greatest distillate and took a bit of a journey. My couch sipping session may have lacked the elegance and atmosphere of the initial event, but the malts are transportive, to say the least.

Listen. I wanted this post to be a poem of such epic proportion Yeats himself would have wept, but there’s simply no way I can throw commonplace nouns and verbs at these malts and have them ring true to just how special they are. Man’s limitations are pretty glaring most times. Fortunately, the whisky gods are verbose and have said all that needs to be said via the glass. I know that doesn’t really help here, but if you’ve ever had the chance to taste these drams, you’ll understand what I mean. And I happen to know that a rather substantial portion of you have actually tasted at least one of these drams. For those that haven’t, bear with me as I do my best to articulate just what these Bowmores are all about.

Before we dive into tasting notes, however, let me just say: tropical, tropical, tropical. Get used to hearing it. I’ll be throwing that word around a lot over the next few paragraphs. When we speak of those legendary vintages – the ones that make whisky folk weak-kneed and starry-eyed – 1964 Bowmore has to be right up at the top of the pyramid. There is something utterly magical about them. And I have to say, they are also some of the very best drams I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste.

Y’already know how I feel about the Black Bowmore (42 y.o.), aye? I think at the time I reviewed it, I scored it at 97 points, the highest mark I’ve ever assigned. I opted not to simply repost those notes and scores, but instead to revisit and reassess even that old favorite. So, without saying any more…let’s just dive in, shall we?

Black Bowmore 1964 42 y.o.

Five oloroso sherry casks. 827 bottles. 40.5% abv. Released 2007.

Nose: Beautiful clean chariness. Five Alive fruit juice infused with the cleanest and most elegant of smoke. Now we’re into a stunning mix of fresh and dried tropical fruits. A bit of peach with all those other to-be-expected notes of guava, mango, passionfruit, pineapple and more. A beautifully dark and rich cherry tang. Black currents. Pink grapefruit. A hint of cold coffee. Vintage sherry. Faint echoes of peat. Old oiled machinery. Ancient polished wood. This just reeks of majesty and age.

Palate: Slightly medicinal. More smoke than either the White or Gold Bowmore, and more earthy peat to boot. Hugely tropical. Sticky, oily dried mango, apricot, pineapple, peach. More orange. More pineapple. Brine and a much more profound Islay-ness than the nose suggests. Seared seafood. Charred grapefruit. Baked ham. Griotines. Cherry cough syrup. Figgy pudding.

Finish: Some decent tannins, but it’s that deep, dark oily, and rather bittering finish that steal the show. Just wow.

Thoughts: Does it get better? Honestly?

96/100

White Bowmore 1964 43 y.o.

Six bourbon barrels. 732 bottles. 42.8% abv. Released 2008.

Nose: Tropical heaven. Sweet pineapple. Mango, orange, papaya, grapefruit, passion fruit. Man…the parade of fruits is endless. Dunnage. A touch of marzipan and sugar cookies. Tropical fruit pie. Honey. Marmalade. Fruit flan. White chocolate. Truly stunning cask notes; almost hard to believe wood can do this.

Palate: Oh, dear God. Grapefruit, mango, passionfruit, papaya. Grilled pineapple rings. What a stunning sweet/sour tang. Can’t stop the flood of saliva. Oily. Only faintly smoky, but there’s a definite coastal element to it. This is all fruits, spritzed with citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit). Such clean, but rather indistinguishable, spice tones.

Finish: Those tropical tangy notes linger forever. Maybe longer.

Thoughts: Utterly incomparable.

95/100

Gold Bowmore 1964 44 y.o.

Three bourbon barrels and one oloroso sherry cask. 701 bottles. 42.4% abv. Released 2009.

Nose: Toastier than the White. I can only assume that’s the toasty, nutty influence of the sherry butt. Crème caramel. Still unbelievably tropical, of course. Tame those pineapple and orange notes just a wee notch (though they’re still huge!), and add some kiwi. Vanilla. Warm honey. A hint of fruitcake (made with ancient cognac). And yeah…maybe a hint of old Armagnac. Faint peat.

Palate: Slow to develop, then wham! Cold espresso. Twiglets. Grapefruit. Guava and passion fruit. Mango. Mandarin. A beautiful subtle smokiness. Glazed ham and pineapple. Prosciutto. Raspberry.

Finish: Deeper than the White, but maybe a tick less endearing. Still bittering and tropically tart.

Thoughts: Nose is more muted than expected, but the palate more than makes up for the whispered beginnings.

93.5/100

Black Bowmore 1964 31y.o.

Sherry butts. 1812 bottles. 49% abv. Released 1995.

Nose: Toasted marshmallow. Saville orange. Molasses. More smoke here. Oily and syrupy. The tropical notes are here, but not as monolithic as they appear in the trilogy releases. Polish. Old wet oak. Cherry, raspberry and strawberry with passion fruit, peach, pineapple, guava, etc. Tobacco pouch or snuff bag. Oiled leather.

Palate: Whoa. Syrupy, syrupy, syrupy. More of those reduced dark fruits – like a smoked cherry and raspberry reduction. That sweet/sour balance is incredible. Pink grapefruit. Passion fruit. Mango. Cold espresso. Tobacco. Seared duck. Seaspray. A stronger flinty minerality.

Finish: More tannic than the others, by far. But that bittering finish is, once again, to die for.

Thoughts: Denser, darker, somehow more syrupy than the 42 y.o. Stronger tannins, and less tropical notes. Though I’m sure it goes without saying…utterly stunning.

94/100

Bowmore 1964 Fino 46 y.o.

One fino sherry butt. 72 bottles 42.9% abv. Released 2012.

Nose: Candied sweetness. All those tropical notes smash head on in to a confectioner’s shop. Bubble gum. Salt water. More tropical juices (yes, yes…you’re getting sick of the word ‘tropical’). Scones. Heavy cream. Mandarins. Kiwi. Sour cherries. Key lime and blood orange. A hint of fill.

Palate: Oh, wow. Kiwi and guava. Lemon pie. A squeeze of lime. Grapefruit pith. Green curry. Dill. What the hell?! The tropical notes keep expanding as it develops. Love that gorgeous medicinal note that toes up against the tangy fruits. Oily and salty. Mango. Tiramisu. Honey.

Finish: Long and slightly drying. Cherry cordials. Tropical fruit skins.

Thoughts: This one shattered any expectations I had. Simply mindboggling.

95/100

 Posted by at 8:25 am
Dec 102020
 

This one came as a bit of a surprise in my circles. Normally we don’t get so hung up on color that it becomes the primary speaking point, but let’s face it…this stuff is about four shades darker than previous releases. It looks like medium roast coffee mixed with cherry cola. The usual light-to-dark color spectrum of the big three Kilchoman expressions – Machir Bay, then Sanaig, then Loch Gorm – was turned on its head with the arrival of this 2020 edition of Sanaig. It scrambled the wee rainbow and threw the darkest of ’em all smack dab in the middle of the trio. Quite frankly, the hue shames the fully-sherried Loch Gorm. And while Sanaig may be a marriage of ex-bourbon (30%) and ex-oloroso casks (70%), it’s unquestionably the sherry that stands center stage here. You’ll get some of the spice from those bourbon barrels, but the more subtle notes – coconut, vanilla, etc – are lost beneath the deeper wash of Oloroso.

Expect big spice, big dried fruit tunes and bucketloads of savory, charry, goodness. Oh, and quality. You’ll find it here in spades.

Sanaig is named for a rocky little cove off the northern coast of Islay where the cold, harsh waves of the Atlantic dash themselves time and time again against ancient metamorphic rock. Are we running out of geographical/geological features on Islay to name our beloved malts after? Asking for a friend.

46% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: A hella big peaty dram. Beachside bonfire. Islay malt married to grape juice. Raspberry and orange. Fig spread. Ju-jubes. Seared scallops and bacon. Some sort of red wine-reduced savory meat sauce. A bit of unlit pipe tobacco.

Palate: A lot smoke, a fair bit of hickory. Fruit leather. Arrives juicy, develops some slight tannins around the mid palate. Purple grapes and plums. Figgy pudding. Sen-sens. Cough drops.

Finish: Long and smoky. A hint of smoked shellfish and some flinty notes as it fades.

Thoughts: A little top-heavy – or maybe just overly rambunctious – but well-built, nonetheless.

88/100

 Posted by at 12:43 pm
Dec 082020
 

I kinda get the impression that Hedley Wright wasn’t born with enough middle fingers. If you don’t know the gent I’m speaking of, rest assured that I mean this with the utmost respect for this nonagenarian. Confession: I absolutely adore the Hedley ethos.

Some of you are probably aware that I have an almost unconditional love for Campbeltown and Campbeltown whiskies. I love the place, the people, the history and the distilleries. I love the bars and the late-night strolls. Most importantly, I love all the memories I’ve made there. The clock seems to move at a different pace on this wee peninsula.

But I suppose we should be talking about the whisky we’re reviewing, aye?

Kilkerran, as many of you will know, is not a distillery; it is the brand name for the single malt produced at the Glengyle distillery.

So, here’s the tale as I’ve heard it told, for those that may not have listened to me sentimentalize this one in person: Back in the early 2000s, Campbeltown was in danger of losing its regional status in the eyes of the Scotch Whisky Association. The ‘wee toon’ ’round the harbour – once the world’s most famous and in-demand whisky-producing sector – had reached a point where only two distilleries remained in production. A mighty fall for a town (and region) that once boasted more than thirty producers.

Enter one Hedley G. Wright, a generational descendent of the Mitchell family (whose name you’ll still see adorning Springbank bottlings to this day), and his mad machinations to protect the regional status of Campbeltown. Hedley made the argument that the Lowlands only had three operational distilleries and were still a recognized region, ergo, if Campbeltown had the same number then they should reap the same benefits. The SWA agreed. So, Hedley bought the neighbouring corpse-distillery of Glengyle, cleaned out tons of birdshit (and who knows what all else), and tricked out the building with equipment purchased from the now-defunct Ben Wyvis distillery. All equipment, piping and possibly even the kitchen sink was procured for a rather paltry £300,000. And in 2004, the spirit began to flow.

Twelve years later we’ve reached the culmination of a lot of ‘work in progress’ releases, and if I’m being honest…this is one of the most impressive age-stated renaissance expressions I’ve ever encountered (Laddie 10 being another). It’s everything I wanted, and a whole lot more.

Batches vary, I understand, but this one was apparently 70% ex-bourbon, 30% ex-sherry. Bottled at 46% abv. Bottle code: 18/337. Bottled: 03/08/2018.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Awww, yeah. A heapin’ helpin’ of the Campbeltown funk. Love it. Smells of the farmyard. Oat cakes. A touch of pool water (chlorine?). A balanced salinity. I keep catching a fleeting whiff of blueberry. Lemon. Burlap, or hessian. Peanuts in the shell. A bit minerally, maybe slate or clay.

Palate: Love this distinctive peatiness. A nice clean citrus, both lemon and orange. Licorice Babies. Like chewing on a stalk of straw. Those oat cakes are back again. Overbaked – not quite burnt – pastry.

Finish: A nice lingering farmy funk. Salty crackers. A nice peaty fade.

Thoughts: Almost indistinguishable from Springbank. And that, of course, makes perfect sense.

89/100

 Posted by at 3:36 pm
Dec 042020
 

It never sucks to drink Brora. You could waterboard me with this stuff and I’d probably be okay with it. Ok…that may have crossed a line. Sorry.

We just reviewed a Clynelish, so how ’bout Brora? Sort of a VW/Audi thing. Or something. Unfortunately, I have less than a dozen bottles of Brora left in the bunker, so unless something drastically changes in the coming years, reviews of this Sutherland beauty are bound to be as scarce as oases in the Sahara. Recently, however, I had occasion to pop the cork on a special bottle to mark a celebration: I promised some mates that if Trump was booted from office I would open a Brora. I also promised myself a mental health break from the political divisiveness that seems be tearing civilization apart and a return to whisky jotting in my spare time. So…here we are.

Brora has a reputation, of course, but Brora also has a complicated personality. Not only are there some nearly impossible ties to unknot between Brora and Clynelish (especially in the earliest years of tandem distillation at the neighboring sites, but also between the more heavily-peated outings and those that are more fruit/wax/caramel-driven. I’ve had both. And both can be utterly dazzling. And, though it won’t put this conversation to bed, it will at least allow us to hit ‘snooze’ for a bit and return to this rather big subject later on. Let’s just say, I have my theories.

This 34 year old is one of the more restrained Broras I’ve yet tried. The nose, especially, is a wee bit shy, but the palate is much more expressive. If you’re chasing big phenols, you’re looking in the wrong place. But at 34 years, you’d be looking in the wrong place no matter which expression you were tasting. There’s a nod to the peatier years here, but it arrives like the fashionably late party goer. Albeit…maybe a bit more well-behaved, when all is said and done.

This release was a part of Diageo’s Annual Releases back in 2017, before they nixed the inclusion of Brora and Port Ellen in those outturns. It was limited to 3,000 bottles. 51.9% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Little peat to speak of. But of course, there’s some wax. A touch of milk chocolate. Orange juice. Warm chamois leather. Incredibly soft fruit mélange. Apple pie (easy on the cinnamon and such). Putty. Even a faint hint of capers. Clay. An unlit Cuban, where the aromas are subtle and pretty.

Palate: Oh, wow. Juicy and mouthwatering. Orange and tangerine right up front. There’s a bit of smokiness come the mid palate, but it arrives with vanilla, melon and much more wax. Some more citrus, mostly lemon. Now we have some peat, by way of a slight earthy funk. A touch of blanched almond.

Finish: Clean and long. Some honeydew melon and deeply herbal notes.

Thoughts: Not sure why this one isn’t held in higher esteem than it is. May take a wee bit more concentration, but peeling back the layers shows just how elegant and layered it is.

Score: 92/100

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Dec 022020
 

I sell whisky for a living. And yes, for the most part it is everything it’s cracked up to be and more – largely because of where I sell whisky, but that’s a story for another day.

I get asked all the time for recommendations that come in around that $100CA a bottle marker, and asked what I would drink in that price range. The Classic Laddie, Pulteney 12, Benromach 10, Johnnie Black (honestly), and Clynelish 14 are some of my immediate thoughts. There has to be both character and quality there to hold my interest. In my line of work, there is no shortage of great whisky at hand, so for a so-called ‘entry level expression’ to remain in constant rotation at the forefront of my grey matter, it has to be really damn good. And Clynelish 14 is consistently really…damn…good.

Part of it might be personal bias – I love the tangled and messy story of Brora/Clynelish – but there is more to it than simple infatuation with a distillery’s history. The fact of the matter is that Clynelish produces one of the best makes in the Diageo stable. It may not always turn out the way we’d hope in indie bottlings, but the brand’s flagship 14 is a winner. A bit waxy, a bit coastal; laden with citrus and a wee bit of a flinty edge. It’s hard to ignore inherent quality and singularity in a field that can sometimes (especially in younger OBs) feel a bit stagnant and one-dimensional.

46% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Slightly boozy, without being spirity. Apples and barley fields. Linseed oil. Shale and salt water. A nice minerally underbelly. Dried ginger. Beeswax. Lemon Pledge furniture polish. Maybe a faint whiff of smoke back there somewhere.

Palate: Immediately waxy. Some apples and a squeeze of orange (and a decent dribble of lemon concentrate). Sauvignon blanc. A nice tannicity keeps things firm. Briny and coastal. Salted pasty dough. A puff of dirty smoke at the back end.

Finish: Love the tang and pucker as it ebbs. Leaves a bit of orange zest, salt water, and vanilla. Reminds a bit of dental gauze. Still rather drying.

Thoughts: Consistently one of the stalwarts of the <15 year olds. Some batches are better than others, but I’ve yet to find one I wouldn’t spend money on.

Score: 87/100

 Posted by at 9:19 am
Nov 092020
 

I don’t suppose there’s any reason to wade in slowly, is there? I mean…we’ve known each other for quite some time here on ATW, most of us. And I think we all know that most of the time things are more akin to back alley bare knuckle boxing than to full-on gloved-up pugilism, right? So let’s step into the fray a little bit here. I want to say a few things, but I imagine there are a few of you out there that wouldn’t mind chirping in a word or two, as well. Feel free to weigh in with comments, if you so see fit.

A couple of months back, Jim Murray created quite the stir when he crowned Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye his 2021 Whisky of the Year. That, in and of itself, isn’t the biggest deal. Maybe a little bit of a stretch, but to be fair, the whisky was really, really good. The review here on ATW attests to my firm belief of that. And Murray has long been considered a bit of a leading contrarian. His picks always seem to fall far outside the norm of what most would consider believable winners. Unfortunately, accusations of payoffs and under-the-table dealings have followed him for years. Personally, I’ve never bought into that idea. Some of Murray’s more controversial picks have included Ballantine’s 17 year old blended whisky, Crown Royal Northern Harvest, and an elusive, apparently non-existent batch of Ardbeg Uigeadail. The general consensus seems to be that someone like Murray, being the leading whisky critic in the world, probably has access to some of the most insanely brilliant drams from the 50s, 60s, 70s and every other age imaginable. Ergo, it seems almost inconceivable that Murray’s selections would be so…pedestrian. Inconceivable, that is, until one considers that the man is essentially trying to sell the same book year upon year, with minimal changes to the bulk the text. So how does one keep such a tome relevant, and make sure consumers keep coming back with fistfuls of dollars (or pounds/euros/what-have-you)? It’s simple. Keep it controversial; keep ’em talking. And, let’s face it, picking a 1970s single cask outing from, say, GlenDronach, with an outturn of less than 600 bottles, doesn’t really speak to the masses. But some mainstream release that no one could see coming…and available at an affordable price point, to boot? Rather brilliant, actually.

But that’s not the real controversy this time. The issue at hand, as it relates to the Jim Murray brand, is not a new one. It’s a tale that has become part of the oral lore of the man in the white fedora, rarely turning up in the written word (for fear of legal reprisal, I’d imagine?), but almost always surfacing in face-to-face discussion. The real controversy that has bubbled and roiled beneath the surface for years now has been Murray’s reliance on sex, innuendo, and what is being called out as overt misogyny. And unfortunately, the language in The Whisky Bible does little to assuage the accusations.

It took Becky Paskin, spirits journalist and editor of the incomparable (and now sadly defunct) Scotchwhisky.com, to bring this issue bubbling to the surface of our public whisky discourse. Paskin put herself out there and, risking the ire of a largely male-dominated whisky world, said the things that should have been said long, long ago: that this sort of marginalizing, incredibly inappropriate speech is not even close to acceptable. Period. Sexism is something the whisky industry has struggled with for far too long now, but this sort of egregious example is on another level entirely. And while many were quick to agree that things needed to change, it goes without saying that it should never have been allowed to reach this point in the first place. Brands, retailers, and ambassadors have been using Murray’s scores to sell product for years. Why did it take the fortitude of Becky Paskin to make so many of us do an about face?

I think the thing I struggle with most is that it took this long. I mean, rumors of Murray’s impropriety have stretched back many a long year now. I know of venues and organizers who, after hosting him, utterly refuse to have him back. I’ve heard tell of walkouts and interactions with female audience members that made me cringe, simply in the telling of the tale. Forgive me for not rehashing details or providing examples here, but my knowledge of the law is meager, to say the least, and a libel case is not something my bank account can afford right now. Suffice to say, much is word of mouth, but makes me think of the old adage: if it walks like a duck…

But even forgoing the accusations of impropriety, there is simply no question that Murray’s language (bordering on blue, in many cases) is out of touch and anachronistic not just in the age of Me Too and progressive equality, but in the year 2020. We, as a race, should be better than this. Again, I’m going to choose not to repeat any of the dozens of examples of overtly sexual text from The Whisky Bible that have made their way around the media over the past couple of months, lest my doing so amplifies the voice, but let me simply state that if the language one chooses to use marginalizes and makes a segment of the population uncomfortable, then maybe it’s time to change. And by maybe, I don’t actually mean maybe.

Credit where credit is due: Murray is a hell of a writer. It’s not easy to sell over a million copies by being a hack writer (James Paterson, Dan Brown, etc not withstanding). If you want to read prose that teeters on the knife edge of poetry, read Jim Murray’s Complete Book of Whisky. As an author, he truly is gifted with a knack for beautiful turns of phrase most of us can only envy and admire. It’s in other matters, though, that he leaves us wanting. Or in some cases, wanting a little less. In Murray’s contemporary jottings, it would seem that a bit more socially conscious diction and a sense of judiciary selectivity are the pieces that are lacking. In short, as gifted as he is, there is simply no need to resort to this sort of lazy eroticizing to romanticize a great drink. There are plenty of non-innuendo driven superlatives that would not only suffice, but more adequately serve the purpose.

But they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and maybe there’s some truth to that. In four days Murray turns 63. Hardly an old dog, excepting in the matter of old habits. Instead of a scenario where most would have issued their mea culpa, Murray instead doubled down, referring to “faux outrage” and the criticism being an exercise in “cancel culture” meant to take down “the world’s most successful author on the subject.” So much for tact.

Whether Murray recovers from this, or The Whisky Bible ever regains its place of prominence remains to be seen. A legit apology or entreaty to make amends does not appear to be forthcoming. I think many are now curious to see what sort of rebranding, if any, will be undertaken to strip the tarnish from this once towering reputation.

So the question now becomes one of who or what fills the void left in the wake of Murray’s exit. Well…it’s simple really. And I don’t understand why it didn’t happen sooner. In 2012 I did an interview with Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun, wherein I asked him whether or not he had plans to publish any sort of alternative to The Whisky Bible. It need be noted that Whiskyfun is now home to almost 20,000 tasting notes. In Serge’s genuine and endearing humility, he assured me that he was not the cat to chase down the chubby little mouse (Murray, I mean, and yes…I am paraphrasing, as Serge is much too polite to use such an analogy), and had no plans to publish (in paper form, at least) his whisky reviews. Now here is where I’m left a little perplexed. In an age where paper is starting to take on the stigma of plastic or fossil fuels, why are so many married to the idea of a hard copy book that brazenly refers to itself as the bible, staking claim to a title that suggests near impunity from criticism? All of us, seemingly, carry our phones with us everywhere we go now. Does it not make more sense to simply bookmark Whiskyfun on our mobile browser? The reviews are fair and humble. They are articulate, relatable and succinct. And more importantly, they are legion. It’s hard to imagine a source more complete than what Serge has curated for us on his site. I dare say, in 2020 The Whisky Bible is well nigh obsolete. It has been in my circles for many years now anyway. And no one I know mourns its place on their shelves.

So let’s take this opportunity to reflect a bit on where else we may be overlooking long overdue change. When is reflection ever a bad thing?

Finally, I just want to say thank you to Becky for saying what should have been said long ago. Your courage is an inspiration.

And for those that want a few more details, here’s an article from The New York Times that provides a bit more context.

Yours,

C

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Jul 112020
 

Hey, whisky friends.

First things first…I appreciate the check-ins and continued interest. I really do. And I owe you. There is more to come. The continued evolution of whisky is simply too interesting to me to step away from.

However…

Many of you said it would be helpful for me to use social media to announce new posts. And you’re right of course. But another me – the one that still believes in this ‘thing’ we call humanity – has sort of hijacked my accounts for purposes that are much more important to me right now than simple malt musings.

If you are a Twitter follower, please consider this my apology. My account there has been co-opted as a platform for speaking out against anything this heinous excuse for a ‘president’ and his criminal cronies in Congress have been up to over the last four years. If this offends you…well…don’t follow me. I’d actually prefer you didn’t, as I really wouldn’t like you as a person.

I’m hoping that – come November – we can slip back into whisky chat. I want nothing more.

I don’t know what happens if by some horribly corrupt methods the current administration holds on to power. Either I wash my hands of America entirely, or double down on my efforts. Who knows?

I guess I just wanted to say that I miss doing this, and at some point I’ll be back at it.

Thanks for your support.

C

 Posted by at 11:50 am
Apr 182020
 

Can you believe it’s taken a decade for me to get ’round to putting up tasting notes for Oban 14? I carried this one like an albatross for a long time, but I suppose it’s about time for this mariner to shed the dead bird and get on with things, aye?

Oban 14 was one of the earliest malts I remember really sinking my teeth into. And there’s a reason it resonates strongly with me. I moved out of my folks’ place when I was quite young. My dad took yet another work transfer and, at 17, I was stubbornly unwilling to leave my girlfriend and uproot for the umpteenth time in my life. So…I got a job and stayed behind when the fam moved on to…browner pastures. As was probably the case for many of you out there, job number one for me was in a kitchen. I was good at multitasking and good at cooking, but I was also good with people. Fortunately, management saw this and allowed me to start slinging drinks and serving tables instead. I think it was partly in recognition of an untapped resource, but also an empathetic response to them knowing how hard I was struggling to finish high school while working enough hours to cover rent. Either way…they broke the rules and let me bartend underage. This concession, of course, drastically altered my income. There were also…errr…romantic perks. (Enough, boy, enough.)

At the end of the night, when the place had emptied out and the doors were locked, management would take off into the back to finish cashing out, and we front-of-the-house folks would slam a quick pint and sample the whisky behind the bar. Oban 14 was one of the first to really jump out at me.

I’ve revisited a few times since those early days, but not nearly often enough. And now, with a glass in hand, I really do feel like I’ve sold myself short. This is a much more elegant and rounded malt than I recall. I’m digging it now more than I ever have in the past.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Somewhat delicate, but with a big personality, if that makes sense. Quite beautifully fruity, with some nice orange and grapefruit notes topping out first. Kiwi and kumquat. A faint peaty prickle and loads of saline sea breeze. A bit of pepper. Leather. Stewing fruits.

Palate: More peat now. In fact, it arrives first. Milk chocolate and cinnamon/nutmeg-esque spices. A bit of wet, smoky grist. A really cool orange-y tang on the mid-palate. Honey in green tea. Nice thin notes of smoke throughout. A bit drying, with a brilliant grapefruit candy note that teases an appearance in all-too-brief moments.

Finish: Surprisingly long. Leaves some neat fruit skin notes and very clean oak. I love that the barley still shines through.

Thoughts: A real shame about the anemic bottling strength, but I recognize this may not be targeted for the purist. Truly a pleasant revisit. I can’t lie: I’m kinda crushing on this malt right now.

87/100 (Though at 46% or higher, I think we’d be nudging closer to 90%)

025

 Posted by at 1:17 pm
Apr 162020
 

Hey, all.

Hope you’re keeping well, strong, safe, and healthy. These are interesting times, to say the least. After a couple weeks in quarantine (not just isolation), I was cleared to return to work. I spent about two weeks back at it before starting to deal with some more respiratory issues. So…back in lockdown, and awaiting the call to go for another test. Sigh. To be clear…the only real issue I am having is a pretty nasty shortness of breath that waxes and wanes a bit. Otherwise…I feel okay for now.

Staring down another couple weeks of this doc/boss-mandated isolation has obviously burdened me with a lot of free time. My sights turned to writing fiction or writing here for you. I can’t lie; I have the attention span of a gnat lately, so wee blog blurbs have a lot more appeal. However…

Readership is low these days. Not just here, where the updates are served up in fits and starts, but on other blogs as well. People nowadays, I think, are looking for soundbites and immediate gratification (social media); or they’re looking for video content which allows them to listen while doing other things. I fear for future generations and their ability to process the written word. 😉

So, the question is? Do we continue with whisky reviews and chat here? The comments have largely died; most of the usual suspects have moved on; and the per-day visits are like the foot traffic in most brick and mortar retailers these days. Is it worth continuing this little malt log?

Drop a line. Share an opinion.

Hope you’re all well.

 Posted by at 10:36 am