Feb 272013
 

Octomore 2008 Cask Sample

?% abv

Score:  88/100

 

Here’s one just for fun.  Not bottled…not available…not really meaningful to many others.  However, this is my vanity project and I simply want to do it, so…

Twice now in the autumn month of September I’ve sipped Octomore from the cask in the warehouses of Bruichladdich.  The first time it was a clean, fiery and pristine dram.  Not to mention being an absolute thrill, as a fan of Octomore, to be able to taste straight from the cask.

The second was like a coal-burning train careening wildly down my throat, throwing off black billows of smoke and hellfire.

Yep.  In other words…both glorious.

This latter dram is the one I’m writing about now.  I believe this was an over-charred hoggy, but as to what may or may not have been inside the cask before its innards were lambasted by the might of Octomore…who knows?  What I can tell you is that this is a nearly unparalleled whisky.  I can’t think of anything even remotely similar.

Many thanks to Allan Logan at Bruichladdich for the opportunity to taste this (and many other casks), as well as his generosity in providing a healthy sample to bring home and write-up in relative peace.  Cheers, Allan.  Here’s to ya!

Nose:  Peat gets almost buried with other such broad stroke scents.  Char and campfire.  Borderline absurd notes of burnt rubber.  And normal rubber, for that matter.  Bitter dark chocolate (think high 90s, in terms of cacao content).  Caramel and burning grain.  Dark European breads and caramelized brown sugar.  Vinegar.  Farmy notes (like cowshit).

Palate:  Again…burnt rubber.  Someone said like ‘biting a pine tree’.  Personally I think it’s more like licking a bicycle tire.  Smoke.  Grilled lemon.

This one needs to open for a loooooooong, looooooooooooooooooooong time.

I will have to follow up the folk at Bruichladdich to see what happens to this cask.  (Pictured above).

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:07 pm
Feb 242013
 

Port Charlotte PC8

60.5% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

Ar Duthchas.  Land Of Our Heritage.  The 4th release in Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte ‘PC’ series.  Not the best of the bunch, but certainly a more than worthwhile addition to the range.

With this expression we’re back to the mix of bourbon and madeira casking we saw with PC6.  The result is similar, but there seems to be a little less of the playful nip of the earlier release, and a little more confident movement to the place where the fruits begin to fight back against the peat.

Nose:  What else? Peat and smoke.  Amplified clean cucumber and hints of dill.  Toffee.  Cola.  Citrus zest.  Hint of chocolate.  Vanilla ice cream.  Green and weedy.  Iodine and seaweed.  Wet rock.  Licorice.

Palate:  Fruitier delivery here than in early incarnations.  Slightly (and I mean ‘slightly’) easier smoke.  Sweeter and more caramel.  Lemon drops.  Oily and tarry.  The finish is smoky and woody and moves on into green apple skins.

Most balanced of the PCs up to this point, but I miss the jagged tors of the earlier releases.  A little more complex to be sure, but I personally lean to the more youthful bite.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:25 pm
Feb 242013
 

Port Charlotte PC7

61% abv

Score:  90.5/100

 

Port Charlotte PC7.  Subtitled ‘Sin An Doigh Ileach’, Gaelic for “It’s the Islay way”.

The tins used to house the bottles on this release, much like those of PC6, pay tribute to some of the Ileach who helped take Bruichladdich through its early years.  Good, good stuff.  We like the downhome pride this distillery exudes in spades.

Being primarily bourbon and sherry cask matured makes this one a bit more seemingly aggressive than a couple of the others in the range which saw some Madeira influence.  The more ‘organic’ nature of this one works for me on some primeval level.  The very elemental nature of these peat monsters resonates.  This is a bottle of firewater though, make no mistake.  Expect it to take no prisoners.

Nose:  Sharp smoldering peat and smoke and ash.  Pungent woodiness.  Enormous caramel sweetness.  Freshly picked garden herbs.  Cola and citrus.  A bit of pepper.  Some coastal notes.

Palate:  Fires of hell.  Dense smoke.  Touch of dill.  Mouthcoating.  Everlasting, but what would you expect? At this ABV and this heavily peated, these flavors ain’t going anywhere.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:22 pm
Feb 212013
 

Auchroisk 20 y.o.022 (2)

58.1% abv

Score:  90.5/100

 

I quite like this one.  Auchroisk is a neat little malt from a ‘seldom seen’ distillery.  A relatively young distillery at that.  Auchroisk was founded in 1974, and has served primarily as blend fodder ever since, with the J&B Blended Scotch brand receiving the lion’s share, if what I’ve read is correct.

Here’s a malt that at first glance would appear to have a relatively easily pronouncable name.  The reality is, however, that sometimes ‘hooked on phonics’ just ain’t the way to go.  Though I’ve seen various conflicting ways to pronounce ‘Auchroisk’, it would seem ‘ah-thrusk’ or ‘arth-rusk’ would be closest.  Ummm…ok.  Damn Gaelic.  My favorite tongue (mind) twister of a language.

Call it what ye like though.  Either way…delicious.

Nose:  Malty.  Caramel cookies and butterscotch puddin’.  Biscuity.  Nutty notes.  Muted orange and tangerine.  Maybe peach.  Toasted marshmallow.  Vicks Vapo-rub.  Freshly painted walls.  Oh, man…the depth of balanced spice.  Thick, creamy and syrupy.  A pleasure to nose.

Palate:  Concentrated orange notes and cinnamon.  Like chewing on raw bread dough.  Baked pastry and maybe some raisin scones.  Mint.  Finish is long.  Keeps on keepin’ on.

This is a whisky of depth and complexity.  A hell of a dram that should have been packaged for the masses and have made its way into general release ages ago.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:41 pm
Feb 182013
 

Know Your Enemy – A Whisky Guy’s Take On A Rum Tasting

flordecana

It seems that many in the spirit spheres seem to think that an appreciation of whisky means at least a rudimentary appreciation for the brown spirit sector as a whole.  While a few out there do indeed see the parallels, this humble taster does not correlate color of libation with inherent appreciation.

Put simply…rum and I…we don’t get along.  Though I have tried many and many and many…well…the only rums I’ve ever really appreciated were those that most closely resembled a whisky (pure and aged).  Or those that were so unbelievably franken-engineered as to be nearly unrecognizable as such (ahem…The Kraken, in all its spiced and modified syrupy vanilla glory).

So why then would a non-fan, and relative spirit purist (excepting the afore-mentioned Kraken), opt to sit in on a rum night?  Simple.  I was a seat-filler.  Though not as pretty as the gals who cover the washroom breaks at the Academy Awards, the purpose was still met.  Guest speaker comes to town…tickets don’t sell…rep needs seats full for said speaker…voila!  Free tickets.  Further…said rep is a buddy of mine and all ‘round decent chap.

Generally speaking I’m a half-full kinda guy, so there was certainly some positives to be taken away from the eve.

  1. The rums weren’t that bad.
  2. It was a great experience and teaching tool for the nose and palate.
  3. The company kept was top notch.
  4. It afforded my whisky-swillin’ mates something to mock me for.
  5. One should always know one’s enemy…and this was an insider’s view if ever there was.

Friend, colleague, partner-in-crime and author emeritus, sage Lance Surujbally (who handles the rum reviews on my other site www.liquorature.com) and I have a longstanding good-natured feud about the merits of our respective choice of drink.  I’m right, of course, but I commend the man, he makes a valiant effort.

As Lance was also in attendance this night, I would expect nothing less than his unadulterated feedback (and snappy, biting backlash) on this piece.  After all…no one I know personally has more knowledge of the sappy cane-juice than he.

All joking aside, this was a fun night.  Informative to boot.  This was the first time I had spent time properly nosing and dissecting rum.

 

Cap’n Jimbo, Complete Idjit…sharpen your spears and prepare for counterattack…the whisky guy takes on your beloved syrup!  Ahoy!

 

Flor de Cana 4 y.o. Limon

Notes & Nuances:  7-Up or Sprite.  Lemon Zest.  Slightly creamy.  Mint and aloe.  Green melon.  Little bit grassy.  Lemon pledge.  Young and green.

Thoughts & Opinions:  Refreshing and syrupy sweet.  More like a fortified soda than a sipper.  Add mix, drop in a cube or three…guzzle.

 

Flor de Cana 5 y.o. Black Label

Notes & Nuances:  Coffee.  Sweet and bitter.  Vanilla.  Deep, dark caramel.  Nutmeg.  Molasses (sharp and pungent).  Hint of anise.  Molasses is really, really big on palate.

Thoughts & Opinions:  This is rum.  Yep.  Sure is.  Pretty much exactly what I’m not into.  Not bad, but just something to mix with Coke as far as I’m concerned.

 

Flor de Cana 4 y.o. Extra Dry

Notes & Nuances:  Sweet and vanilla-rich.  Chocolate and toffee.  Almost sherry-like.  Creamy and has some smooth whisky notes.  Makes me think a little of Glenfarclas.  Mild spices.  Tropical and citric.  Alcoholic Play-Dough bite on delivery. Almond/marzipan/Amaretto on the palate.

Thoughts & Opinions:  Though young, a little more character and feist here.  Some interesting notes, but a very synthetic arrival spoils this one for me.

 

Flor de Cana 7 y.o. Grand Reserve

Notes & Nuances:  Crème brulee.  Caramel and vanilla.  Mocha.  Dried fruit and nutmeg.  Cadbury Fruit & Nut bar.  Burnt, or heavily toasted, marshmallow.  Molasses on delivery.  Bitter on palate.

Thoughts & Opinions:  Aha!  Now we’re getting somewhere.  A little more character. A few notes that actually make me reach for a second sip.  Particularly appreciate the smooth creamy choco-crème notes.

 

Flor de Cana 12 y.o. Centenario

Notes & Nuances:  Mild tobacco.  Molasses and creamy caramel.  Butter.  Christmas cake.  Wood is becoming a little more prevalent by this age.  Vanilla.  Light bourbon notes.  Sweet and slightly whisky-like (kinda like an old sherried malt with burnt sugar notes).  Sweetened coffee.  Almond paste.  A few jagged bitter notes.

Thoughts & Opinions:  Hit and miss.  Dodge, dodge, jab!  Age does not equal greatness.  This ain’t bad, but it also ain’t greatness.

 

Flor de Cana 18 y.o. Centenario Gold

Notes & Nuances:  Mellow maturity.  Just a hint of pepper.  Marshmallow cream.  Thick threads of vanilla and mild molasses.  Hint of citrus and wax.  Nutty…mild though.  Melted chocolate and honey Nougat.  Salty.  Burnt sugar and tannic sharpness.

Thoughts & Opinions:  Some very good notes here.  Some rather biting nippy bits too.  ‘Burnt’ and ‘tannic’ as descriptors should give you some notion of the less than favorable bits.  Aside from these little buggery nitpickety barbs…the experience is cohesive.

 

Now…I’ve done my chores.  Can I go out and play?

*Apologies…I have photos from this eve, but they are locked on another computer that has died on me.  One day I’ll rip the drive out and get ’em posted here.

 

– ATW

 Posted by at 9:45 am
Feb 182013
 

Octomore 2.2 Orpheus099

61% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

What happens when you put the world’s peatiest whisky into casks formerly used to mature one of the world’s most lauded wines from the Bourdeaux region of France?  Well…the best of both worlds really.  Betty and Veronica.

Think I still prefer my Octomore less adulterated (i.e. not wine-finished), but that is nothing more than the rambling confessions from the diary of a peathead.  Fact of the matter is…the wine influence works phenomenally well here.

You can expect all the feist and scrappiness of a five year old cask strength peat monster (140ppm!), but with a sheer subtle cloak of elegance draped over the lot.  Don’t epect the sharper edges to be dulled by the sweetening influence however.  This one still has all the beautiful clefts and peaks of its brethren.  Enormous…deep…and srprisingly sophisticated.

Nose:  Sweet, heat, peat.  Smoke.  Wine gums and grape-like wine notes.  Popcorn (kettle corn).  Caramel and creamy butterscotch.  Farmy notes.  Brine, tar and iodine.  Grows enormously with a little bit of diffusion time in the glass.

Palate:  Sharp and lean.  Fire and clouds of smoke.  Nearly a hickory note.  Licorice.  A scent somewhat akin to a hair salon in there somewhere.  The zing of lemon.  Plum and apple on the finish.

88.5 right out of the bottle.  89.5 after it opens for a while.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:42 am
Feb 122013
 

Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition (2011) 006

43% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

It’s hard not to walk into a Lagavulin tasting without having preconceptions and high expectations.  The spirit itself is just that good and that well-defined.

So, what happens when you take that lovely base spirit and flash-fry finish it in some sort of wine cask?  Well…you end up with a damn good dram that struts and swaggers with a curious sort of crossdresser confidence.  They call this ‘Double Matured’.  A fancy term for ‘finishing’.  Whatever.  Call it what you like, in this case it works just fine.

This Lag is part of Diageo’s Distiller’s Edition range of their Classic Malts.  Having said all that I just said…I admit to still preferring the standard Lagavulin 16 (or older!!) to this charming eccentricity.

Nose:  Rubber.  Barn-ish (iodine-rich urine and cowshit).  Ash and asphalt.  Sea spray and wet rock.  Faint banana.  Quite sweet on the nose.  Peat and smoke?  Yes, of course.

Palate:  Smoke meets peat meets winegums.  A little grape-y.  Bandaid dryness.  Camphor/menthol rub.

Thoughts:  Neat and definitely Lag-ish, but ultimately a little too sweetened by the wine finish for my liking.  Still enjoyable.  (And yes…I realize your first question will be ‘how can it smell like urine and cowshit and be a good dram?’  You’re right to ask, o ye of little faith, but trust in me and I shall lead ye straight.)

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:05 pm
Feb 102013
 

OLD & ROUND vs. YOUNG & FLAT 18, 21, 25 and 30

If you change the looks of the packaging does the product in the packaging change?  Being on the wrong side of midlife, I firmly believe that all things older are better, but hey, that’s just me and I can’t remember the last time I was wrong…except for the time I thought Jim Murray was qualified to pick the whisky of the year.  We, the gang of four, all have our opinions on this smoldering whisky question of which version of the Highland Park is better.  So rather than debate this uncertainty we decided that we should just have a tasting to define the answer.

For the benefit of the Great Unwashed, the Highland Park distillery and its brother from a different mother, the Scapa distillery, are located on Mainland, the largest Island in the remote northern Islands of Orkney.  Highland Park is considered by regional experts to be a Highland Malt, which would make it a Highland-Mainland-Island-Highland whisky but not on the Mainland, not a Park and not part of Highlands.  Highland Park first started producing single malt with a license in 1826 but it is said that the smarter locals were cooking whisky there long before that date.  The distillery is currently owned by the upscale Edrington group which also owns the Macallan and the Glenturret distilleries.

On August 18, 2012, we, the gang of four, gathered to celebrate Denis Leary’s (Sarcastic Irish genius) Birthday and to bring to light the truth behind the bottle change.  We collectively pulled from our vast storehouse of liquid salvation to come up with a selection to accomplish this momentous task.  After much discussion we ended up going with two 18, two 25 and two 30 year old, round & newer flat standard bottle range expressions, the original 21 year old from duty free in a flat bottle and the new standard release 21 year old again in a flat bottle.  We didn’t include the 21 year old at 40 % ABV which was released between these two. We voted for best malt between the same aged contenders and also for our two favorite overall malts of the night.

 

Barry HP RVF18

18 Year Old, Round Bottle 43% abv   (AGE WINNER 18 YEAR OLD)   (#2 FAVORITE DRAM OF THE NIGHT)

NOSE:  Uber fruit, oranges, pineapple, banana.  Floral and honey sweet.

TASTE:  Creamy caramel, milk chocolate, touch of peat and little tart at the end.

FINISH:  Long, very warm throughout and drying.

ASSESSMENT:  Wow what a great start, does drinking whisky get any more enjoyable, I think not?  The character of this whisky is very, very complex as well as being very well rounded (This whisky is so old that when it was made Captain Crunch was still a private).

 

18 Year Old, Flat Bottle 43% abv

NOSE:  Cotton candy, mint.  Dark ripe cherries and melon and apricots.

TASTE:  Liquorice, oily, some peat smoke.  Pears and tart green apples.

FINISH:  Short to medium.  Disappears so quickly.

ASSESSMENT:  The character of this whisky is not of the same makeup of the older 18 (This whisky is so young that it needs to be drunk from a sippy cup).

 

SCORING THE 18 YEAR OLD:  The old 18 round bottle was the clear winner between the two contenders.  It was also the clear winner of “2nd FAVORITE DRAM OF THE NIGHT” with the most number one votes of the evening.

 

Barry HP RVF21

21 Year Old, Flat Bottle First Release Duty Free 2008 47.5% abv

NOSE:  Big floral notes and vanilla.  Earthy, honey and citrus fruit.

TASTE:  Spicy with cloves, floral with a bit of lemon.  Oaky and lite peat notes

FINISH:  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  Always find this version of the 21 the most floral HP I’ve ever tried (This whisky is so old the candles on its birthday cake raised earth’s temperature by 3 degrees).

 

21 Year Old, Flat Bottle Standard Release 2012 47.5% abv   (AGE WINNER 21 YEAR OLD)

NOSE:  Oranges, grassy and waxy.  Some floral notes

TASTE:  Rich spices including pepper and cinnamon.  Fruity, oranges, nutty and a hint of peat

FINISH:  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  The fruit reappears nicely on this newer version of the 21.  (This whisky is so young that the casks in the warehouse sleep with a night light).

 

SCORING THE 21 YEAR OLD:  The winner between the 21 year olds was the newer standard release edging out the first release.  Also the new 21 got one 2nd place vote for the overall favorite dram of the night.

 

Barry HP RVF25

25 Year Old, Round Bottle 50.7% abv   (AGE WINNER 25 YEAR OLD)

NOSE:  Lots-o fruit.  Old sherry with oranges.

TASTE:  Dark roast coffee, rich jammy fruitiness.  Dry tannins, liquorice, and some peat.

FINISH:  Long and keeps going.

ASSESSMENT:  Interesting in a nice way, very balanced (This whisky is so old its birth certificate has expired).

 

25 Year Old, Flat Bottle 48.1% abv

NOSE:  Honey, bananas, melons and dates.

TASTE:  Mocha cappuccino, bananas both on the nose and taste, rich tannins and some lite smoke.

FINISH:  Long and dry.

ASSESSMENT:  Really, really different, falls outside most HP I’ve tried. (This whisky is so young that the bartender serves it with a coloring book and crayons).

 

SCORING THE 25 YEAR OLD:  The old 25 routed its challenger but failed to be the 1st or 2nd overall choice of the night with honorable mention of a single number one vote for the overall favorite dram of the night.

 

Barry HP RVF30

30 Year Old, Round Bottle 48.1% abv

NOSE:  Floral and honey.  Mint, caramel and oranges.

TASTE:  Creamy milk chocolate, spices like nutmeg and pepper.

FINISH:  Medium and little drying at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Not overly complex (This whisky is so old the distiller that made this babysat for Jesus).

 

30 Year Old, Flat Bottle 48.1% abv   (AGE WINNER 30 YEAR OLD)   (#1 FAVORITE DRAM OF THE NIGHT)

NOSE:  Beautiful nose, tropical fruits, pineapple and coconut.

TASTE:  Very fruity lots of oranges, spices with pepper and some liquorice & mint.  Blueberry tea.  Chocolate.

FINISH:  Long, rich and complex.

ASSESSMENT:  Tastes like 40%, it’s so easy to drink.  Dark sherry colour with lovely fruity sherry notes (This whisky is so young that the distiller that made this still had a bell, basket and training wheels on his bicycle).

 

SCORING THE 30 YEAR OLD:  Well…the newer 30 kicked ass in both dispatching its older competitor but also winning the number one position of the “FAVORITE DRAM OF THE NIGHT” with one number one vote and three number two votes.

 

Personally, I’ve always considered Highland Park 18 as one of top single malts in the world but also found it guilty of some big batch variation regardless of round or flat bottles design.  I also consider the standard release 18 as one of the best buys in the range and should be a must try/buy for all serious malt fans. But………………..should you happen upon an older round bottle 18 sitting on the shelve of your favorite retailer, make like a hockey player and get the puck out of there with it.

 

– Your humble Drudge, Maltmonster

 

PS – It’s ok to swirl your glass and not chew your whisky if you choose so, in fact after (well during) a GIT* tasting a few years back, I now make it a habit to swirl my glass just a little.

PPS – Dear HP please don’t kick me out of the Inner Circle for the GIT comment, after all I never mentioned anything about the overpriced Magnus series and the surprise that purchasers got as they ** reduced the amount of bottles for the final release making it almost impossible to find and purchase this last overpriced bottle of a very rare 18 year old.

 

* Gerry Intense Tosh

** ‘They’ refers to the marketing assholes at HP

 Posted by at 9:02 am
Feb 072013
 

Glenglassaugh Revivalbottles 016

46% abv

Score:  73/100

 

I really want to love this whisky.  The fact that Glenglassaugh is making a run at the comeback is brilliant and inspiring.  The revenue obstacles they face in closing a 21 year gap in production are enough to make most concede defeat, but this distillery is working the angles, and pumping out a few nice older releases from their depleting stores of older stock.  The good news? They generate revenue to keep the distillate flowing, and we, the consumer, get some fine old drams to tide us over.  The bad news?  Those old stocks are finite.  As they run lower, there will be less and less in the warehouse to constitute special releases further down the line.

For sheer balls and bravado, I am 110% in the corner of this contender.

Revival is the first release of spirit produced under the new ownership team at Glenglassaugh.  The whisky is now a solid three years on and, much like the afore-mentioned methods of driving revenue, this is another attempt at getting the cash flow rolling.  A three year old whisky is not generally going to be a truly memorable dram (not in a good way anyway), however in this age of single malt excitement, we whisky nerds want to snap up early releases from the distilleries and try the product at various stages along the road to maturity.

Nose:  Feinty and a little sharp.  Definitely notes of new make.  Quite sweet (both synthetic, from the feisty young spirity notes…and more natural, from the sherry).  Plum and raisin.  Liquor-soaked black cherry.  Lemon.  Chocolate and mint.  Oak.  A sort of ‘smoked’ note about it.

Palate:  New make-ish.  Nutmeg.  Kinda weedy.  Wax.  Briny.  Mouth-puckering orange rind.  Not altogether awesome, and certainly a drop-off from the nose.  I kinda think the sherry acts like a corset when it comes to the nose, holding all the undesirables in check.  Then, when the corset comes off…well..there’s no hiding the less than perfect form as you actually taste it.

Thoughts:  Feinty, but not tooooo far off.  Though I do have to wonder how much this is being propped up by the sweetening influence of the Oloroso.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:10 pm