Aug 082013

Laphroaig 10 y.o. Cask Strength (Batch 002)138

56.3% abv

Score:  89.5/100


About time we had another run at Laphroaig, aye?  Any opportunity to butt heads with this bludgeoning, lumbering beast is a welcome respite from the mundanity of day-to-day.

While some may fret at the lack of consistency in single cask or small batch bottlings, I love ’em.  There’s an element of excitement and anticipation since, to crib everyone’s favorite Gump-ism, y’never know what you’re gonna get.  There’s no room for stagnation.  And yes…I get that it’s nice to have a few go-to dependable drams, but at the end of the day…life is short.  I like change.

Enough drivel.  Here’s Batch 002 of Laphroaig 10 y.o. Cask Strength.  And, as expected, it’s an elemental monster.   Laphroaig releases are never really a surprise (until you discover the depth of fruits in some of the older expressions, that is), but they’re also never really the same from release to release.  There’s a framework, or skeleton of course, but the dressing is always a little different, much like Ardbeg.  These minor tweaks and quirks are what keeps me coming back to what is arguably Islay’s most unrestrained peat monster.   

Further…it’s hard not to give Laphroaig a bit of extra credit when most of their releases are bottled at 48% abv or higher, but taking that additional step in bottling at barrel strength elevates my appreciation a notch further.  It’s a dram made for those who appreciate bold flavours and intense experiences.  This natural, naked state is what whisky should be.

Pretty sure Batch 001 was just slightly better, and I also recall several drams of Batch 004 really warming our rainsoaked selves at the distillery a few months back, but that doesn’t diminish the impact here.  This is a damn fine whisky.  If you can find it…buy it.

BTW…not really certain how exactly the batch numbering works with these Laphroaigs.  As you can see by photo above, this is a Batch 002 at 56.3% abv.  I have also seen Batch 002 releases at 58.3%.  Ummmmm…ok.  Wouldn’t that inherently make it a different batch?  Any clarification that anyone out there can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Nose:  Peat n’ pepper.  Briny and fishy notes.  Smoke, o’ course.  Iodine, and yes…medicinal notes.  Lemon and lime.  Rubber bands.  Green ju-jubes.  Slightly flinty.  Surprisingly sweet.  Salt licorice.

Palate:  Smoky and sweet and lots of peat.  Tar and rubber…like bicycle tire.  Some sweet sherry notes, methinks.  A little bitter.  Licorice again with a LOT of lemon.  Fennel and green apple skins.  Turns slightly white wine-ish on the palate.  Very, VERY lingering.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:15 am
Aug 072013

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7002

40% abv

Score:  75.5/100


I expected to lambaste this one.  I mean like gloves off…’mama said knock you out’ kinda shit.  It only seemed right, seeing as how many times Jack Daniel’s laid me out when I was younger.  Kinda like a Rocky Balboa comeback.  Call this a sort of rematch, if you will.

Years removed, however, I still approach this one with a sort of trepidation.  The reputation of JD does not rest on its laurels as an evening armchair dram, if you know what I’m saying.  It’s more like snake venom, nitroglycerin and biker sweat distilled over the fires of hell and matured in the skulls of massive rabid timberwolves.  I think.

To be fair though…I was never exactly ‘sipping’ this drink in previous ‘tete-a-tetes’.  It was more like an Indiana Jones temple run trying to get the liquid into my stomach (and bloodstream) without it actually making contact with either my taste buds or gag reflex.  Now…this many years later…I’m quite surprised by Jack Daniel’s.  I started on this stuff when I was about 13 or so and trying to be tough (sorry mom).  It was always about getting sloshed on mickeys of this stuff in secrecy.  Sorry, JD…you deserved a bit more respect, I realize in hindsight.  Though I gotta be honest…we had some good times back then, you and I.

This firewater, produced in the wee locale of Lynchburg Tennessee, has become what it has – the world’s best selling American whiskey – largely due to the badass reputation cultivated by debaucherous rawk stars and bingeing celebs, but to be honest, in a parallel world (any of you into quantum physics?), this could be marketed differently and absolutely succeed on its own merit.  Albeit with much decreased sales stats, I imagine.  Aging rawk stars…carry on.

Prior to it’s cask slumber, the whiskey itself is filtered through sugar maple charcoal.  Perhaps this is key in differentiating JD from the others.  Who knows?  Either way…there’s no mistaking this for anything else out there.

Old No. 7 isn’t my preferred flavour profile, but I can’t fault the whiskey for that.  While I won’t be rushing out for another bottle anytime soon, I have to admit this poison ain’t bad.

Nose:  Spice, particularly cinnamon.  Dark vanilla.  Orange zest.  Pepper.  Sweet, smoky barbeque notes.  Toasted and charred.  Hint of florals.  Cherry.  Slightly smoky caramel.  Touch of citrus.  And yes…as you may have read elsewhere…there are indeed hints of coconut.

Palate:  A touch of peach and apple at first, then some waxy notes with caramel.  Big smoky wood notes.  Vanilla again.  Begins to dry out and fades into corn husk and apple skin.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Aug 072013

Glen Scotia 16 y.o.020

46% abv

Score:  75.5/100


Is the Glen Scotia distillery producing gin in between whisky runs?  Seriously.  I ask this not to be facetious, but because I am truly at a loss with this whisky.  I have never encountered a profile as obtuse and irreconcilable as this 16 year old single malt from Campbeltown.

Before saying any more, let’s get it out front:  this whisky noses and tastes like it was distilled right after a batch of gin, with no cleansing of the spirit still in between runs.  All of those bold juniper notes so prevalent in gin are weighing this one down like a fat kid on a seesaw.  There is no counterbalance here.  It’s sharp…it’s certainly unique…and it’s absolutely not my cup of tea.  (Or whisky)

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying this is bad.  I’m simply saying it is bad for me.  Splitting hairs maybe, but you never know what others will like.  This is just not all that ‘malt whisky’-ish to me.  More like some kinda funky hybrid.  Perhaps I’m being a little obtuse myself now, but this one veers a little too far from what I know and imagine Scotch to be.

Anyway…some credit where credit is due.  This release is part of the revamped Glen Scotia range, weighing in at a healthier 46% abv and bearing a bold ‘non-chill-filtered’ tag front and center on the packaging.  Right direction, guys.  We thank you for it. 

And finally…speaking of packaging…wow…a mention for some of the most gawdawful packaging I’ve ever see.  This nasty opaque high-gloss tin and bottle, featuring the glowering mug of a shaggy-ass long haired Highland Cow, should be cause to reevaluate the output of your marketing department.  I can’t stress enough how tacky this looks on a shelf next to the rather elegant and austere packaging of most single malt whiskies.  Good thing I’m not one of those that feel packaging plays any part in the actual scoring of a malt. 

Anyway…the bottles in this range, stretching from 10-21 years, each feature this same image, but with a different color scheme for each expression, supposedly showing the beast under variations of the Northern Lights.  Ok, then.  Clever…I guess.

Nose:  Heavy, heavy botanical notes, primarily juniper (but citrus, anise and maybe cardamom too).  Very gin-like.  Vanilla oakiness.  Some fresh pepper tingle.  Lemon zest.  Freshly squeezed orange juice.  Dusty grain.  Cheap chocolate.  Salty greens.

Palate:  Lemon and barley.  Again…very gin-like.  Threads of chocolate.  There’s something slightly bitter and over-toasted here too.  Fades on oak, grain and a dry banana pith note.

I’d like to say that it’s better than the notes above make it out to be, but…it’s not.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:36 am
Aug 012013

Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan celebrates 50 years in the industry of making whisky today.  Unbelievable.  From very youthful and humble beginnings to being the figurehead of one of the world’s most exciting distilleries…quite a journey, Jim.

From the whisky loving faithful to you…Many thanks and a heartfelt congratulations.

Here’s hoping you keep doing what you love for some time to come.

All the best from ATW.


– Words:  Curt

– Image:

 Posted by at 8:54 am