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 242016
 

Hi, friends.

First off, I want to wish all of you, and all of your friends and family, a happy holiday season.  Here’s hoping the next few days are full of magic and memories.  And here’s to a better 2017 than 2016 was for many of us.  Sincerely…thank you for hanging ’round with me (and us) here on the site, via email and in person when situations allow.  Good company is not only appreciated, it is the lifeblood that sustains.

Just so you know that it’s not all idling and procrastination around here, I am finally working on some jottings from the Islay experience a couple months back.  I won’t be doing it in a day by day fashion this time, but in a more event-inspired manner.  Many more reviews are near complete and some more random bits of writing and opinions coming your way.  Perhaps I’ll even get back to sharing the word on some past Dram Initiative club events that I’ve been remiss in writing up.  We’ll get there.  Aiming for much better consistency going forward.

So…on the eve of one of the most celebrated and jolly of days, I wish you all the best, and hope to see you soon.

 

– Curt

 Posted by at 9:49 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.

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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.

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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.

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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