Jun 062013
 

Glen Keith 1968 (Connoisseur’s Choice)030

46% abv

Score:  92.5/100

 

Quite a charming old gaffer here. 

Glen Keith is not a distillery we see much of on the shelves, due to its 1999 mothballing, but I’ve tried a couple of nifty little gems from this Speyside secret.  Unfortunately, most of the distillery’s output was destined for the blending halls before the doors were locked and the distillery was quietly put on ice.

From what I’ve read, as of late 2012, extensive renovations are under way at Glen Keith, leading to some excitement (on my part, anyway) over another Lazarus distillery.  Tales of this sort warm the cockles and put a big sh*t-eating grin on my face.  It’s cool to be around while a bit of whisky history is unfolding.  Now here’s hoping that there is long-term sustainability in the cards and that, while i know its primary purpose is to be a blend conponent again, we get to see some more of the whisky hit the market as single malt.

This 1968 Connoisseurs Choice independent bottling is from a remade hogshead.  Seeing as it was bottled in 2010, we’re looking at about a 42 year old whisky…give or take a few months.  In human years…that’s young and spry.  In malt years…that’s older than sands of the Sahara.  When you start counting a whisky’s age in decades, you have to begin to fear the worst: overoaking.  In this case, all doubts are quickly assuaged.  Originating from a remade hoggy, I can only assume there was nothing too active about the wood itself.  Nice smooth and even, in terms of profile.  This is really a lovely whisky.

…And sadly, I believe, long gone. 

Nose:  Paint on wood.  Dunnage warehouse.  Mint.  Hot cross buns and almond chips.  Vanilla.  Orange zest.  Very mellow notes of fruit cocktail in syrupy.  A little bit waxy.  All sorts of neat little nuances to investigate with this one.  The faintest hint of struck match after 30 or so minutes in the glass (but not in that overwhelming suphuric brimstone nastiness kinda way).

Palate:  Juicy…fruity delivery.  Mild and very pleasing.  Fresh home-made mixed fruit pie.  Vanilla cream.  Marzipan and something a little more in the way of a mildly spiced, leathery note.  Soft biscuit.  Beautiful palate. and a very clean dram.

* Thanks to Andrew Ferguson at Kensington Wine Market for this wee taster of Gen Keith.  Andrew gets most of the best whiskies in the city.  Go see him.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:23 am
Jun 052013
 

Bruichladdich Organic110

46% abv

Score:  83/100

 

Even back in my more granola-oriented hippie heyday out on the west coast of Canada, I never truly bought into the whole organic pitch.  What it tended to boil down to was simple:  overpriced, aesthetically-challenged and in terms of quality…negligibly different from the arguably franken-engineered product that otherwise overflowed the shelves at our local grocery.

Let’s be clear…the argument here isn’t against organic, it’s simply questioning the merits, aside from marketability and socio-political motivations.  Everything else is purely speculative.  I assume the powers that be (Reynier, at the time, I’d guess) were embracing this is primarily as 1) a way to show a loyalty to the home turf and 2) because it’s easy as apple pie to sell organic these days.  Yes.  I’m a cynic.

In short…my thoughts are:  organic ≠ better taste.

Hey…no sleight intended.  Remember…this is coming from a relatively liberal thinker and former hippie (granted I’m now much more of a cold-blooded capitalist, but…)

Moving on to the whisky now.  This is actually decent stuff.  No better than most other ‘Laddie releases.  Certainly inferior to others.  But that’s no different than any other distillery’s output.  And if we’re stacking them up that way Bruichladdich gets extra points for creativity, execution and pure balls.

Nose:  Young and grainy.  Maybe even processed cereal would be closer to what I’m trying to get at here.  Lemon.  Oak.  Vanilla.  Cream.  Custard.  Some pepper.  Orange…and a bit more fruit.  Chocolate.  Slightly scone dough-ish.  Entirely pleasant, if unremarkable.

Palate:  Bitey and a touch spirity.  Here are some oaky notes.  Chili heat and more of that pepper.  Licorice.  Barley as it develops.  Gets a little grassy at the back end and more on the woods again.

Not awesome, but it’s alright, I s’pose.  Not my favorite malt profile, but commendable nevertheless.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:50 pm
Jun 052013
 

Glenmorangie Ealanta016

46% abv

Score:  80.5/100

 

Straight off…this is one of the most contrived of malts I’ve ever tasted.  And while that in and of itself is absolutely forgiveable, I’m not finding myself in a very charitable spirit with this one (no pun intended). 

Let’s face it…there are a lot of rather ‘manufactured’ whiskies out there (cask finished, re-racked, aesthically enhanced, added to, etc).  No issues.  Really, these are nothing more than variations on a theme that play within the rules of their jurisdictions.  It all hinges on how well the integration of these factors works and how natural the finished product ends up to be.  I can’t stress how important that is. 

Now here’s the rub…while it irritates the f*ck outta me how plastic and synthetic the Ealanta is…at the same time I can’t really say it’s a bad whisky.  Damning with faint praise, I know, but it happens to be the reality of the situation.  It’s fresh…certainly vibrant…absolutely unique…and not really poorly crafted, I’d say.  Maybe it’s a case of too much of a good thing.  Like a malt that is over-cooked from a very active sherry cask, here we have far too much of the American virgin oak influence.  We’re now blurring lines between something we’d expect out of Kentucky and something we see labeled as from Scotland.

For the record, this is a 19 year old single malt from Glenmorangie, the fourth release in their ‘Private Edition’ range, and was matured in…as mentioned…American virgin oak casks.  Man…19 years is a looooooong time for that sort of massive active oak influence.

The reality is that this malt is not principally far off from GlenDronach’s 14 year old Virgin Oak.  But to be fair to the ‘Dronach, which I rather liked, this one is way more perfumed and olfactorily cloying.  That simply reinforces the idiom that concept is not all, and the proof is in the execution.

Apparently ‘Ealanta’ is Gaelic for ‘skilled and ingenious’.  Hmmmm.  Ok.  If you say so.  Very modest, I might add.

One last note:  We – my mates and I – for the most part really like Glenmorangie.  I’m not sure if that is an ‘in spite of’ or ‘because of’ all of their tomfoolery type of situation.   The Ealanta, however, is a ‘miss’ in my books.  Not quite on par with the ‘Pride’ debacle, but still a miscalculation (in my ‘umble opinion, anyway).

Nose:  Very redolent of perfume and floral-y alcohol.  Massive notes of bourbon.  In fact…if tasted blindly…I might actually think this was a bourbon.  Spice.  Lots of spice.  Wine-y fruit notes.  Cinnamon hearts candies.  Cherry.  Citrus pith.  Pumpkin scones.  Pastry.  Sugary white chocolate.  Not sure how I can better put it than to say it is a very synthetic nose.

Palate:  Again…this is almost bourbon territory.  Cinnamon and cherry.  Like chewing on wood shavings.  More on the white chocolate.  Some slightly tangy notes as it develops.  Some more fruity ones as it fades.

Incredibly smooth, but too much so.  Like Bambi on ice.  The smoothness is causing the fall.  In short…perfume meets bourbon.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 

 Posted by at 12:50 pm
Jun 022013
 

Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection023

54.6% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

I love personality in my whisky.  I’ll even forgive a wee flaw or two in a dram, so long as the whisky has enough ‘quirk’ to it to make me sit back in relection and contemplate its uniqueness.  Not that I’m suggesting this Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a flawed malt in any way.  Quite the contrary actually.  It is, however, completely unrecognizable as a Bowmore.  Or any Bowmore I’ve ever tried anyway.

I find that consistency of profile in Bowmore through the years is as elusive as a full set of teeth in a hillbilly hoedown.  Not saying this is a bad thing; just noting that I personally would be hard-pressed to tell you what the distillery’s main profile really is.  We’ve seen deep tropical notes, heavy florals, smoky bacon n’ chocolate chips, briny meaty ones and much more.  All interesting in their own right, and all from different eras.  Fun stuff, but what really is Bowmore then?

Well…we certainly won’t answer that question here.  Bowmore Maltmen’s Selection is a humdinger and a headscratcher of a dram.

I first tried this one in late 2012 at the Bowmore distillery on Islay.  I recall not being overly wowed by it.  It was tasted alongside the Springtide, 25 year old and one or two others though.  And, to be fair, this little tasting session followed hard on the heels of a great tour which had culminated in sipping drams pulled straight from the casks in Bowmore’s Number 1 vaults with a few mates and Heather, a wonderful lady who works at the distillery and was our guide for the Craftsman’s Tour.  Perhaps I was an unfairly harsh critic that day.

Anyway…revisiting this one a few months on, and I like it just fine.  It’s a little closer to the heavy industrial oils and tarry notes I’ve met in some of the monstrous output from the folks at Bruichladdich (in particular, an odd Octomore cask sample I tried), but brought down a notch or two in terms of overall might.  Kinda like ‘Hulk Lite’.

The title, if you’re wondering, derives from the fact that the Bowmore maltmen did indeed select five sherry butts which were originally filled on July 13th of 1995.  These butts, numbered 1551, 1552, 1553, 1559 & 1560, are what you’re drinking in this 13 year old Bowmore.  This release was limited to 3000 bottles, and I believe is now, sadly, one of the dearly departed.

Nose:  Rubber.  Smoke and tar.  New bicycle tires.  Figs and mincemeat.  Salty smoked meatiness.  Heavy BBQ sauce (but not more on the salt…less on the sweet).  Char and burning woods.  Old coffee.  Would not peg this as a Bowmore.

Palate:  Wow.  Meaty again.  Cough drops.  Fisherman’s Friend.  Chocolate, deep and dark.  Orange and grapefruit pith.  Smoky and peaty, but also juicy and saucy.  Greasy and oily.  Sharp and biting…but in a good way.  A never-ending finish.  What an odd Bowmore.

 

– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:53 am