Mar 142017
 

Longrow 18 y.o. (2015?)

46% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Consistently one of my favorite whiskies going – and certainly one of the best 18s out there (especially in light of the tragic fall of Highland Park 18) – it’s always a treat to revisit Longrow 18.  I think I’ve shared notes on two previous versions of this classic from Cambeltown.

The heel of this austere and elegant single malt from the Springbank family was shared my way by a good mate of mine, Danny (last name withheld for legal reasons…he’s wanted in most states and provinces).  He and I went back and forth a couple of times trying to figure out whether this 18 is the 2014 or 2015 version and haven’t really reached a conclusion.  It was bought in 2016 in a place that flips inventory fairly regularly, so let’s assume it’s a 2015.  Either way…newish.

Ultimately, as if often the case with good whisky, there’s less to talk about here than with bad whisky.  Suffice it to say that this batch has been held to the same uniformly high standards as all previous editions I’ve tried so far.  It’s refreshing to see a distillery keeping their standards high and endears me even more to one of the best in the biz.

I wish prices were lower, but hey…Springbank has always had a fairly high price point (the nature of doing it all yourself and in a craft style with lots of employees).  At least they’re delivering the goods, but it’s hard to talk about value for money here, when discussing sub-twenty year old single malts at nearly $200.  Such is.  This would seem to be the new norm.  Anyway…the quality is high enough here that I don’t cringe nearly as bad at the price tag as I should.  (Having said that, no…I didn’t buy this.)

Thanks again for the chance to try this one, Danny.  You’re the man, cool guy.

Nose:  Soft white fruits.  Chewy candy notes.  A faint hint of latex (older barrels in here somewhere?).  Red jujubes.  Apple pie with light cinnamon notes.  Pear.  Melon.  Suede.  Gentle peat.  Noses older than 18.  Love it.

Palate:  Very tangy.  Some orange and leather.  The peat has a great ebb and longer to it.  Soft spices.  White baked dessert notes.  White fudge.  Beautiful mix of fruit and peat.

Thoughts:  Lovely old school style.  Expensive (at about $200 a bottle), but rather exceptional.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:35 am
Mar 092017
 

Laphroaig Select

40% abv

Score:  78/100

 

Well, this is awkward.  Kinda feels like having to fire your wife.  Being hard on something you love is never fun.  Unfortunately there is a bit of an axe to grind here, so let’s do it and do it quick.  Like ripping off a Band-aid.  Maybe it will hurt less.

I’ve always held Port Ellen on a pedestal.  Right beneath my beloved PE is the stylized ‘A’ in the Celtic ring (yes, Ardbeg, of course).  Ardbeg likely ties with Bruichladdich, though not necessarily because their whiskies are on par.  I love both for different reasons.  So, let’s call the number two position a tie.  And number three with a bullet…Laphroaig.  This one has been creeping on Ardbeg lately.  It’s arguable Ardbeg produces great malts more consistently, but it’s also arguable that Laphroaig produced greater malts from time to time.  I’m sure mature stock and expressions with some older constituent casks contributes to that.

I tell you this so you understand how biased I am toward Laphroaig of late.  Imagine, then, my bewilderment at a malt like this: Laphroaig Select.  At its essence it really boils down to ‘why?’.  The brand has a flagship 10 year old (one of the best out there, I might add, in spite of its low abv) and a young fiery NAS expression that is beloved by most and, aside from the lack of age statement, ticks most other boxes for whisky lovers (non-chill-filtered, natural colored – I think?, and high strength).  So why…why then would they release a watered down, inferior, just-clearing-the-hurdles 40% NAS monstrosity like this?  It’s incomprehensible to me and most I’ve spoken to).

Over the last couple of months we’ve witnessed Quarter Cask jump from about $50 (as low as $40 in some places) up to $85.  The 10 y.o. is still creeping, but is still lower than the new QC pricing.  The ‘high end’ Laphroaig Lore crashed our shores at an even $200.  And now there are a handful of new Laphroaig NAS releases hitting the market (Four Oak, 1815 and I think there may be one or two more, though I could be mistaken).  At this point I’m left head-scratching.  Maybe I’m falling out of love here.

I’d love to see others weigh in on this one, though I’m pretty certain I have an idea what the comments section below will look like.

Nose:  Peat, of course.  Faint smoke (but everything is faint at this anemic abv).  Leather.  Wet dog.  Brown paper bags or slightly damp cardboard.  Vaguely farmy.  A touch of salt or brine.  Lime.  A little bit of dill.  Earthy notes, as we’d expect.  Everything muted.

Palate:  Thin and watery.  Dry smoke.  Lacking a lot of flavour.  Slightly weedy.  Earthy.  Olive brine.  Not a lot more.  Hello…finish…are you there?

Thoughts:  This…this is not the Laphroaig I love.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:48 pm
Feb 282017
 

Amrut Naarangi111

50% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Naarangi – Hindi for ‘orange’.  This one just as easily have been called ‘Amrut cheekily skates up to the edge of the rules, flashes a bare ass at the powers that be, then skates away laughing’.  But then again…what rules does Amrut have to follow?  Short answer: None but those they make for themselves, which essentially means satisfying their own moral compass and innate sense of curiosity.  Ok, ok…and that would have been a hell of a stupid name for a whisky.  But you get the point, yeah?

As you know, under the regulations laid out by the SWA (Starchy Withered Assholes, if I’ve heard the acronym spelled out correctly), Scotch malt whisky can contain nothing more than water, yeast and barley (oh, yeah…and seemingly as much of that nasty over-bitter artificial coloring you may wish to add).  No infusions, no creative barrel play, no true innovation.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  We whisky codgers are nothing if not suckers for the purity of tradition.  Having said that, how does the category ever advance if the forward-thinkers are forced to work in hobbles and shackles?  Quite a balancing act, I’d say.  And one which I’ve not really attained my own philosophically enlightened vantage for yet.

Anyway…though not bound to the sacred tenets like the great producers in Celtic-land, Amrut has chosen to play it square.  They did not infuse the whisky with orange (like another Maverick whisky maker did in the not too distant past), instead they infused the sherry that previously lived in the cask with orange.  Ergo, when the barrel was dumped the residual oils and flavors from the peels would be left clinging as tightly to the staves as Trump supporters to a gun law.  When Amrut new make spirit was splashed inside these wooden beds for the long sleep (well…not too long in the case of Bangalore’s unforgiving climate) the effect was obviously immediate and massive.  This is a heck of a unique dram, and really is only a hop, skip and a jump from a liqueur.

Nose:  Huge orange and spice notes.  Citrus oils.  The fruits are very lively on this one, both juicy, over-the-top ripe ones and dry oily figgy ones.  Some chocolate.  Immediately recognizable as Amrut, in spite of the tomfoolery.  A slight pastry or dough note.  Vanilla.

Palate:   The palate is a little disappointing compared to the vibrancy of the nose.  Lots of candies and fruit notes, and actually maybe a little too sweet.  And also a little sharp and woody.  Lots of spice again.  Caramelized sugars.  Orange oil.  Syrupy.  Almost liqueur-like in both flavour and texture.

Thoughts:  Liked it a lot.  Not quite love, but sometimes it’s nice just to be ‘in like’.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:51 pm
Feb 172017
 

Lagavulin 1966 50 y.o. Cask #55207-lag-09-img_3386

?% abv

Score:  91/100

 

I got back from Islay about four and a half months ago now.  Initial plans for the website were to offer up a full travel blog sort of thing like I’d done a couple times before.  After all, things change and every experience is different, especially as traveling companions go (and boy, was it interesting this time!).  Since settling back home, however, I’ve rethought my game plan.

I think I’m just gonna publish a handful (or more) of the more unique experiences, reviews and stories.  Like I said in a previous post, I’m gonna start using this site more as a blog, and not just a review factory.  I think it may be a bit more conducive to chat too.

Anyway, here’s the scoop:  A friend of mine, who I now consider one of my best mates, put everything on hold to fly over from Dubai to join our wee misfit crew of drammers and dreamers.  He moved meetings, dealt with a hell of a travel schedule and came out to become an absolutely integral part of our little collective.  I’m sure you all know the lad I’m talking about.  His name is Tabarak Razvi, the Malt Activist.

But we’ll come back to that in a future post.  Right now I want to share some notes on a whisky and an experience that  was beyond bucket list.  On one of our later days on this trip (after the damaged wrist, the broken phone, the incessant cold, the rain days, and all) we visited Lagavulin for an hour or two in the warehouse with the inimitable Iain MacArthur.  We sipped through 12, 14, 23, and 34 year old cask samples in the dunnage next to the distillery.  We also tried the 2016 Jazz fest release, then snuck out back to navigate the ruins of Dunyvaig castle with a 200 ml of Lag 16 and drams of the 2006 12 y.o.  Sounds rad, yeah?  Wait, it gets better.

After the masses had disappeared, and we had slipped and slid our way down the crumbling battlements of the old castle and returned to the distillery grounds, we bumped into Iain again.  A little gentle persuasion, and he led us back to the warehouse with glasses in hand.  He poured generously (a little too generously) from a tiny quarter cask marked #552 and the year 1966 stamped on the barrel head.  Fifty years.  Let that sink in for a moment.  After the most sincere thanks we could offer to one of the most amazing men on the island, we ran back up the hill, glasses sloshing to hop the bus back to Bowmore.  Five guys…a public bus…the bouncy and bumpy high road to Bowmore…and fifty year old Lagavulin in our glasses.  Yep.

Tab recounted the tale here for your reading pleasure.  He and I both had small samples to bring home with us, so you can compare and contrast tasting notes.  While he chose not to score this esoteric experience, I’m throwing a number at it.  Is it high?  Maybe just a touch.  But it’s my party and I’ll sigh if I want to.

Nose:  Noses soooooo young.  This must have been a fourth fill barrel.  Faint smoke.  Citrus.  Just the weakest hints of honeydew melon and pineapple.  Firm white cheese (cave-aged Gruyere?).  Very minerally…or something like clay.  In ways smells almost like new make.  In other ways…smells very, very old.  Irreconcilable, really.  Notes of dunnage and old books.  Briny and oceanic, to be sure.  Iodine and medicinal notes.  A slight farminess.  Faint tea notes.

Palate:  Much more smoke than expected.  Huge sweetness.  Almost minty.  Green candy notes.  Lime.  Some tangy fruit (maybe pineapple again, though not very ‘tropical’).  Peat (there it is!) and dry old tea.  More oak here than on the nose (though still less oaky than expected).  Faint fennel.  Smoked seafood and shells.  This is an enormously oily dram.  Some licorice at the back end.

Thoughts:  Unmistakably Lagavulin.  So, yeah…it’s overcooked.  So what?  Too oaky and not the best of barrels, but this is still exceptional whisky.  The experience behind it definitely adds to the score for me, but it’s nigh impossible to disassociate the two.  Just the fact that it’s still here?  Yeah…’nough said, I think.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 9:17 am
Jan 222017
 

Laphroaig 25 y.o. Cask Strength (2008)img_4049

50.9% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

No two ways about it.  I’ve been a pretty lucky soul.  This is another one of those spectacular drams I’ve been fortunate enough to try year upon year.  I think to date I’ve tried the ’08, ’09, ’11, ’13 and ’14 versions of this quarter century cask strengther, as well as the more restrained (though still lovely) 43%er that came years back.  All were great (even that latter lightweight).  Some were exceptional.

This was tasted as part of that recent G4 event I wrote up a couple weeks back.  In almost any other range this would have been the showstopper malt tp close it all down with.  In this case, however, it sat middle of the pack.  What I’m trying to say is maybe take that 91.5 with a grain of salt.  Tasted in a different range it may have notched an extra point or so.

Pretty obvious what you’re getting with a dram like this.  Old, faint peat and only hints of the smoke and iodine that so characterize younger Laphroaigs.  The fruits are emergent and the sweetness has been ratcheted up.  Oak is an outlier.  Kinda like an unpresuming frame around a gorgeous work of art.

Alright.  So, that’s a gem of an old Leapfrog.  Easy to share kind words, as one would likely suspect.  Up next on the radar: Select and Lore.  Sharpen your knives, guys and dolls.  Things are about to get ugly.

Nose:  Roman nougat candy.  Very soft peat and just whiffs of smoke.  Lime (both sweet and tart).  White pepper.  Notes of ripe melon.  Chewy candies.  Plenty of orange.  Soft chocolate.  Faint hints of rubber.  Anise.

Palate:  Juicy and mouthwatering arrival.  Very creamy and lush.  Licorice right off the bat.  Yeah, there a peaty smoky edge here, but not overly large.  Sour fruit.  Fresh cracked pepper.  Soft spice notes.  Anise or fennel.  And…yeah…more licorice.

Thoughts:  Top tier malt

*Thanks to the kind anonymous benefactor for this one.

 

 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:06 am
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 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