Mar 182016
 

Port Charlotte PC10IMG_1085

59.8% abv

Score:  90/100

 

Tro Na Linntean.  Through the generations.  I like it.  Not because it’s yet another clever riff on Gaelic naming conventions (those seemingly being used on every second expression from the Scottish isles lately), but because it is actually meaningful in this case.

Just weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to have Bruichladdich’s Allan Logan come through town and host an evening for the Dram Initiative whisky club.  Allan is the distillery’s Production Director, aka ‘the guy in charge’.  He made whisky waves years back by becoming Scotland’s youngest distillery manager at the ripe ol’ age of 28.  With Jim McEwan’s retirement last year, Allan stepped up to lead the Laddie team into the next era.  This PC10 was one of the malts we poured for the club that night, and it allowed for a great opportunity for Allan to share the story of the ‘passing of the torch’, so to speak.  Indeed, his visage is even emblazoned on the tin packaging.  This whisky has his DNA all over it (figuratively speaking).  Y’see now how it makes sense that a malt would be named ‘through the generations’ when it commemorates a changing of the guard?  Neato.

More important than capturing a moment in time, however, is capturing a great whisky in the bottle.  And holy hell, did they ever.  All the ferocious might of the cask strength PC line is on bombastic full display here, but ten years slumber in the barrel has imparted a seriously impressive cohesiveness and softening influence.  Now, now, peatheads, rest assured this is no gentle giant.  It is just as huge as its forebears, but now bears the hallmarks of maturity and those sublime clean vanilla-infused cask notes we relish.  I can only imagine what Port Charlotte will be like at 15 or 18 years of age.  Hopefully Team Turquoise are sitting on some maturing barrels that have been earmarked for just this purpose.

Score:  90.  But you do know I’m an unapologetic peat-o-phile, aye?

Nose:  Earthy, downhome farmy peat and smoke, of course, but those are no-brainers in a PC.  Those familiar with the line will likely pick up that cola syrup sweetness meets butyric butteriness meets fairly assertive citrus (more lime than lemon?).  Now toss in some soft fruity notes (something reminds of grilled, caramelized pineapple).  Lovely, in other words.  A faint welly rubber note.  Ash and char.  It’s briny and seaside-ish and all that, but I’m a little surprised at the softer, creamier edge here.  Granted this is older than other PCs I’ve tried.  A touch of caramel and eucalyptus too.

Palate:  Bam!  Smoke and damp ash.  Sea water.  Lemon on smoked oysters.  Salt and pepper.  Oak notes are somewhat drying.  Some nice heavily toasted (read: almost burnt) pastry flavours.  You can taste the smoky malted barley (all sweet rich cereal, organic, smoky notes).  Salt licorice and green apple.

Thoughts:  Gorgeous.  A loooooong, slooooow sipping malt.  Take your time with this one.  Turn on a little ‘Soul Station’ by Hank Mobley, lean back and close your eyes.  Just…like…that.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Mar 152016
 

Bowmore The Devil’s Casks Small Batch Release II 10 y.o.IMG_1205

56.3% abv

Score: 89/100

 

We probably all know the story of Islay’s ’round church’ by now, aye?  Also known as the Kilarrow Parish Church, this place of worship was designed to a circular footprint, theoretically leaving no corner in which the devil could hide.  Hmmm.  Ok then.

The marketing people behind Bowmore couldn’t possibly leave a tale this rich unexploited (and let’s face it…nor would I).  They expounded upon this fragmentary bit of lore, insisting that the devil had indeed been discovered in the church, from whence he was driven by the native Ileachs, running directly down the hill and through the gates of the Bowmore distillery, before sealing himself in a cask of single malt whisky bound for the mainland.

Clever gimmickry aside – and this is certainly that – I have to admit that the story isn’t the only great thing about this whisky.  The malt is actually quite spectacular.  If I’d have gotten ’round to tackling this review sooner, I’d also have lauded the brand for pairing their pitch with an age statement.  The first and second releases of the Devil’s Casks were 10 year olds.  Unfortunately – knuckling under to exactly what NAS opponents fear-  after establishing a brand with a rabid following Suntory yanked the numbers off the bottle, jacked the prices sky high and hope we’ll simply accept this expression as yet another entry in the parade of NAS deceivers that continue marching past in this age of immediate financial gratification over long term reputation tarnishing.

Needless to say, I’m now on record as saying grab the first or second if you can find them, skip the third.  On principle, if nothing else.

But let’s get back on topic.  This particular 10 year old heavily-sherried beast is a monster.  A beautiful monster.  Sweet jammy fruit notes smash headlong into the oceanic peatiness we crave from Islay’s shores.  The result is intoxicating (beyond the physical effects).  This and the Laimrig (great bedfellows for side-by-side sipping sessions, I might add) should be the distillery’s focal point going forward.  Hey, if Ardbeg can pitch Uigeadail and Corryvreckan as core range stalwarts, why can’t Bowmore do likewise with hefty cask-strength offerings?

As I’ve said before, Bowmore is killing it with their current run of releases.  Perhaps the talents of Ms. Rachel Barrie at work?  Who knows.  Lovin’ it either way.

Nose: Lots and lots of sherry.  Wow.  Raspberry, strawberry, mint, pepper and smoke.  Immediately enamouring.  Damp hay and ocean breeze.  Milk chocolate.   A fair bit of iodine.  Both meaty and spicy.  Dark and oily.  Wet soil.

Palate:  Big, big arrival.  And very sweet.  Smoky and ashy.  Mixed berry jam on burnt toast.  Salty and coastal.  Dries a little, letting the barley step forward a bit from behind the peat and sherry.  Black Forest cake.  Tea.  Some licorice and plum. Leaves behind big smoky, tarry ropes of apple and barley sweetness.

Thoughts:  This is one of the best contemporary 10 year old malts I’ve ever encountered.  Vibrant and full of life.

Thanks to my mate, Mike M, for sharing this one.  Enjoyed the hell out of it.  Cheers, Mike!

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:01 am
Mar 072016
 

Bowmore Laimrig 15 y.o. (2014)135

54.1% abv

Score: 90/100

 

Oops.  Just discovered that I’d somehow missed publishing this one.  Thankfully I had saved a hefty sample from one of the bottles that got drained ’round here.  Yes, bottles.  This is a great malt for sharing and showing off the incredible strides Bowmore has made in recent years.

Longtime readers will know that in earlier years I had a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ (read: mostly miss) relationship with Bowmore.  Too many floral notes.  Happy to report, as I have before, that Bowmore seems to have sorted all that out and moved more into fruits than flowers.  Their recent sherried expressions are absolutely top notch.

I should note before diving into tasting notes that Laimrig seems to be a little drier and richer in spice and chocolate now than earlier batches, which were all jams and macerated fruits.  Don’t get me wrong, this is still a sweetie of a malt, but if you had a chance to try the earliest edition or two…wow.  I wouldn’t call this slippage; just a slightly different cask composition.  And the age statement remains, which we love.

I’ll be buying this indefinitely.  Great malt from Islay’s oldest distillery.

Nose: Chocolate and deep dark caramel.  Jammy, rich fruit notes.  Smoke.  Deep on the spice, nicely integrated though.  Smoky grape juice.  There’s something a little softer and creamier here than expected too.  Some sort of candy.  Chocolate cake.

Palate: Good.  Really good.  Not as great as earlier editions, but unquestionably top 5 for me in terms of 15 year olds.  Arrives rather dry, but turns mouthwatering.  Lots of smoke.  Fisherman’s Friend cough drops.  Rubber and earthy notes.  Finishes on smoked apple skins.

Thoughts:  Brilliant smoky and sweet collision.  Bottled at a great age.  One of my favorite affordable standard releases going.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:14 am
Mar 042016
 

Port Ellen 12th Release049

52.5% abv

Score:  94/100

 

Nearing the end of this run of Port Ellen OB reviews.  One more after this (the 5th release), but I may hold off on that one in favour of sharing notes on a few others.  We’ll see.

Anyway…there’s a reason I saved this one for the back end.  I was sort of edging toward it as nearing the apex of the line (those I’ve tried anyway).  Notice I said ‘nearing’.  Basically, we saved the best for last.  This and the 5th are bloody mind blowing.

We’ve spoken much of Port Ellen in the past couple weeks, so let’s keep it short here.  This is another 1979, but bottled in 2012 this time.  32 years young, and still vibrant and radiant.  The gorgeous soft fruit notes that collide with the aromas of ‘all things Islay’ makes for not so much a rollercoaster ride, but a gently rolling, ebbing and flowing of subtle changes.  It’s the tart grapefruit notes on the palate, though, that had me salivating.  Mixing melon and grapefruit with ‘old whisky aroma’ (OWA) is a rare treat and absolutely harmonious.  In short…love this whisky.  Immensely.  Port Ellen has an incredible hype behind it.  This is why.

Limited to a mere 2,964 bottles, and generally sold with a price tag that is in and around those same numbers now.

Nose:  Melon.  And more melon.  Watermelon, to be exact.  Fishy, seaside notes and damp grass (if any of you have been to Islay, imagine sitting up on the Battery behind Bowmore distillery).  Soft milk chocolate.  Oily, even on the nose.  Warm leather.  Lemongrass.  Soft and creamy.  Pepper and peat.  Smoke, of course, but far off and ‘home-y’.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Beautiful, rich grapefruit and grapefruit pith notes bring tartness to the balance the sweet.  Oak is strong and sharp, in a good way.  Lots of lemon and citric notes.  The smoke grows with diffusion.  Drying at first, but then juicy and mouthwatering.

Thoughts:  Beautiful balance of sweet and sour.  Tart and tangy.  One of the top three Port Ellen I’ve ever tried.  Utterly magic.

*Sincere thanks to the anonymous gent who kindly poured this, and several other, Port Ellen for me at a recent gathering.  Unforgettable.  Slainte.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:38 am