Dec 202014
 

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 19 – December 19th034

“Spice King” 12 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Blended Malt

40% abv

Score:  85/100

 

A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

So, I know they’ve marketed this whisky as the king of spice (“as I conceive it”), but in this humble guy’s eyes it seems a little more of just an old school charmer than a spice beast.  Yes, there are some of those woody, faded Christmas spice notes (think old, dry cinnamon sticks, faded and expired nutmeg, etc), but these are far from the primary drivers in the overall profile.  To be honest with you, I think that’s a good thing.  The profile that does shine through, though, is quite a good one.

“Spice King” is an age-stated blended malt from Wemyss.  That means all of the component single malts are at least a dozen years old.  good start, I’d say.  Not that age equates with whether or not the whisky is actually good or not, but it does at least give some assurance that we’re not getting any really biting, young, feinty or spirity notes.  To be frank…I’m just happy to see a blend of any sort with numbers on the bottle.

Another good whisky, this.  Wemyss has some of the better young blends / blended malts I’ve encountered.

Nose:  Peaty and malty.  Some smoke.  Leather and horse blanket.  Salty dough and lots of cereal notes.  Dull lemon and orange.  A little dry and flinty.  Even mossy.  Some slightly feinty notes.   Almost like a young, watered down Springbank.

Palate:  Peaty and old school.  Barnyard.  Malty and reminiscent of very not-sweet pie crust.  Oster on the shell, including briny juices.  Wet woods.  Finishes with apple skins.

Thoughts:  I like this.  But I like whiskies of this more ‘traditional’ style.  A bit of everything here, but maybe a little shy on the fruits.  Like Islay meets Campbeltown lite.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at SingleMalting.com.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:44 am
Dec 102014
 

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 10 – December 10th

089Lord Elcho 15 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Blended Whisky

40% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Contrary to the way I’ve approached most of the whiskies in the advent calendar, when it came to this one I simply had to do a bit of checking into who the heck Lord Elcho was and why he merited a whisky named after him.  The Lord Elcho site was easy enough to find, and contained this little blurb:

“David, Lord Elcho, eldest son of the 5th Earl of Wemyss, was one of the most celebrated supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Born in Scotland and heir to the vast Wemyss Estate on the rocky shore of the Firth of Forth, Lord Elcho was educated at Winchester College, England and then military school at Angers, France before travelling to Italy where he met the young Charles Edward Stewart in 1740.

For the significant role that he played in the uprising, and in recognition of his loyalty and uncompromising bravery at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, Elcho was appointed colonel of the Prince’s lifeguards. He remained with the Young Pretender until his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 when, as punishment for his part in the uprising, Elcho was stripped of his lands and title and forced into exile in France. He pursued a military career on the continent, but sadly was never able to return to his native Scotland.”

It never ceases to astound, the depths of Scottish history, lore and fancy that are plumbed in christening new whiskies.  The romance behind it all is a good part of the reason that Scotch whisky holds as much appeal for me as it does.  But at the end of the day what really matters is whether or not the whisky is good enough to live up to – or surpass – the hyperbole and hyper-marketing.

Happy to report that Lord Elcho 15 y.o. blended whisky is a rock solid offering.  Owing largely, I’d suspect, to a ratio of malt to grain that is well in excess of industry standards.  Lord Elcho boasts a respectable 40% malt content.  As we all know by now, grains are relatively neutral, while the malts bring the character.  What this immediately suggests is a blended whisky with a bit more personality than the mixing-fare you find on the bottom shelves at most spirit sellers.

I like this one.  Much better than 90% of the blend canon out there.

Nose:  Beautifully soft, underspiced cinnamon buns.  Celery salt.  Creamy caramel.  Glossette raisins.  Jam-filled thumbprint cookies.  A great balance struck here between sherry sweet and bourbon spice.  I can only assume that is the casking, but if I’m wrong…well…that’s what it SEEMS like.

Palate:  Great spices; mild and restrained.  Molasses cookies.  Chocolate and creamy vanilla.  Caramel Apple.  Again…a very well-built dram.  Leaves some grassy dry notes at the end.

Thoughts:  Another rather surprising constructed whisky from Wemyss.  These guys obviously know what they’re doing.  Not sure whether I prefer the slightly advanced maturity here or the younger and smokier ‘The Hive’.  Good thing I don’t have to choose.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at SingleMalting.com.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:59 am
Dec 072014
 

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 7 – December 7th107

“The Hive” 12 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Blended Malt

40% abv

Score:  87.5/100

 

A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Nestled in behind door number 7 of the calendar is another wee bottle from Wemyss.  And another blended malt, at that.  (Remember:  ‘Blended Malt’ means no grain whisky has been added in order to dilute the flavour components).  Starting to feel that there’s some serious blending chops in the labs of the good folks of Wemyss Malts.  Someone knows what they’re doing.

Malts like this give me grief.  I can’t decide if the power of suggestion gets me picking notes out of it, or if the name it has been given is just well chosen because the flavour nuances are so prevalent that nearly anyone would pick them out.  Either way…yes…”The Hive” is an appropriate name.  The first thought you’re liable to have is ‘honey’.

There’s much more to this whisky than honey though.  At first approach it seems like a slightly softer (and more watered down) version of a whisky that could be from one of a couple of my favorite distilleries: Highland Park or Springbank.  Poor man’s version?  Not quite.  More like an homage.  This is the sort of composition that makes me question why so many ‘constructed’ whiskies on the market are hang-your-head-in-shame piss poor messes.  In short, almost the entirety of the blended whisky market.  Granted there are exceptions, but most are an exercise in homogeneity and taste bud tolerance.  Every now and again though, a blend(ed malt) like this comes along and proves that the blenders’ art is not lost.

Good whisky, this.  I’ll be buying.

Nose:  As mentioned…immediately hearkens to a slightly less malty and smoky Highland Park, or maybe even Springbank.  Raw tobacco, like being in a humidor.  Horse blanket. Leather.  Cinnamon.  Vaguely fudge-like or maybe caramel.  Some floral notes in the back.  Allspice and dry pepper.  Raw honey (or is that just the power of suggestion with a name like ‘The Hive’?)

Palate:  A very chewy malt.  Dulce de lecce over soft fruits and cream.  Simple and very tightly woven.  Some chunky fruitcake notes, but GOOD fruitcake, not that regifted brick of bitterness.  Cinnamon.  Great palate here.

Thoughts:  One of the best age-stated 12 year olds I’ve tried.  I need a full bottle of this.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at SingleMalting.com.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 5:30 pm
Dec 042014
 

097Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 4 – December 4th

“Peat Chimney” 12 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Blended Malt

40% abv

Score:  85/100

 

A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Alright.  Now we’re wading into familiar waters.

Peatheads, rejoice!  This Wemyss blended malt is an Islay-phile’s wet dream.  Any of the chosen few out there that have made the pilgrimage to Scotland’s Hebridean peat mecca will immediately be swept back to the island’s quaint and rustic charm.  Especially those chilly early mornings with the smell of chimney smoke and seabreeze in the air.  This is bottled Islay.  For those that may never make the journey…sit back with a couple of youtube clips and a glass of this “Peat Chimney” in hand and you’ll at least have something of the virtual experience.

Being a blended malt means that this whisky is a vatting of single malts (with no grains thrown into the mix!) from more than one distillery.  Since I’m going on nothing more than the rather austere and sparse (and classy, I might add!) label, I honestly couldn’t even tell you if all of the component malts are in fact Islay whiskies.  I’ll work on the assumption that this is indeed the case – simply based on the flavours I’m getting from this one.

It’s anyone’s guess, however, as to which distilleries are represented in this concoction.  We do know that getting Ardbeg and Lagavulin stocks for blending or independent bottling purposes is next to impossible these days in our superheated global whisky market.  This is likely also the case with Kilchoman and Bruichladdich.  The most likely candidates therefore would be Caol Ila, Laphroaig, Bowmore and Bunnahabhain.  The profile here doesn’t even remotely hint at this latter distillery either.  So…a little bit of guesswork is as far as I’m willing to go with this one.  Either way…it’s a treat of a dram.

It’s also nice to see the calendar bringing some peat and heat into the mix.  An absolute necessity for these cold winter climes.

Nose:  Immediately reminiscent of a Port Charlotte, sans that butyric note Bruichladdich is famous for.  Iodine.  Oysters on the shell…with a squeeze.  Smoke, of course.  Tar and ash.  Salt licorice.  Gets more ashy and a bit meaty with some time.  Yes…that’s a good thing.  Tangy.  A bit of a BBQ note.  There may be some fruit here, but it’s buried at least six feet under the peat.

Palate:  Woah!  Very dry and ashy.  Flinty too.  Salt water (and maybe some of the little critters that might live in said water).  Dry smoke.  Peaty, earthiness.  Some powdered cacao.  Nuts, of some sort.  Finally, a little bit of sweetness to work as a foil to the phenols.

Thoughts:  Definite personal appeal here.  Not quite a rawk star, but definitely a rather kickass indie band in your favorite bar.  Can’t get over how DRY this is!

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at SingleMalting.com.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:21 am