Mar 292017
 

So…how many ways can we tackle the issue of feeling like the industry is taking the piss out of us?

It is, I must admit, getting tiresome being the squeaky wheel.  I’m sure it’s equally irksome to hear it all the time.  Some, like Saint Serge over at Whiskyfun.com, seem to have struck a nice balance between saying what needs to be said and still having fun at the same time.  Serge is an anomaly, though, and his access to whisky is unprecedented.  That certainly changes the game.  Ergo, his issues are not necessarily ours.  Having said that…even Serge buries a lot of his criticisms under humour and plenty o’ words.  It’s easy to gloss over the underlying message if one sees fit.

But I digress.

I’ve shared these thoughts a few times over the past year or two, but the situation seems to have become even worse of late.  We keep looking for the bubble to burst, and it continues to defy both logic and past trends.  I say this from a point of being days away from closing up shop.  Disillusion is rampant lately.  And running a site like this only perpetuates the machinations of an industry mad with power.  I’ve reached a point where I no longer want to publicly promote products that only continue to increase in price and, in turn, price me out of the game.  At some point we have to recognize lunacy.  Twice this week alone I nearly put up a post saying ‘I’m out.’  It remains to be determined if that will happen.

I took a bit of a smackdown last week in which it was suggested that if I was one of the ones who had helped the industry reach this point, I needed to either swallow it all (marketing/packaging/etc) or walk away completely.  Fuck that. I love this drink.  I’ve given a lot to it.  Financially and otherwise.  In other words…I’ve paid for the right to have a voice.

Anyway…before I get heated and nasty…let’s move on.

I’m wondering if anyone else if eyeing grain whiskies lately with as much cynicism as I am.  I keep seeing more and more of them on the shelves.  Independents, mostly, but all sorts, really.  Let’s be clear about what we’re discussing in grain whiskies: spirit made in continuous stills, in vast stringently controlled conditions (i.e. no room for personality-development), generally poorer cask policies (multi-uses, dead barrel syndrome, etc), cheaper component grains (i.e. corn), etc etc.  It is as much a blank check as non-age-stated whiskies, when you think about it.  If these drinks don’t sell for grossly less than malts, there is something seriously wrong.  Just you wait, friends…this is the new NAS.

Appreciate the ongoing dialogues here, as always.  Forgive my lack of enthusiasm of late.  Perhaps we’ll find it again.

 

C

 Posted by at 2:26 pm
Mar 142017
 

Longrow 18 y.o. (2015?)

46% abv

Score:  91/100

 

Consistently one of my favorite whiskies going – and certainly one of the best 18s out there (especially in light of the tragic fall of Highland Park 18) – it’s always a treat to revisit Longrow 18.  I think I’ve shared notes on two previous versions of this classic from Cambeltown.

The heel of this austere and elegant single malt from the Springbank family was shared my way by a good mate of mine, Danny (last name withheld for legal reasons…he’s wanted in most states and provinces).  He and I went back and forth a couple of times trying to figure out whether this 18 is the 2014 or 2015 version and haven’t really reached a conclusion.  It was bought in 2016 in a place that flips inventory fairly regularly, so let’s assume it’s a 2015.  Either way…newish.

Ultimately, as if often the case with good whisky, there’s less to talk about here than with bad whisky.  Suffice it to say that this batch has been held to the same uniformly high standards as all previous editions I’ve tried so far.  It’s refreshing to see a distillery keeping their standards high and endears me even more to one of the best in the biz.

I wish prices were lower, but hey…Springbank has always had a fairly high price point (the nature of doing it all yourself and in a craft style with lots of employees).  At least they’re delivering the goods, but it’s hard to talk about value for money here, when discussing sub-twenty year old single malts at nearly $200.  Such is.  This would seem to be the new norm.  Anyway…the quality is high enough here that I don’t cringe nearly as bad at the price tag as I should.  (Having said that, no…I didn’t buy this.)

Thanks again for the chance to try this one, Danny.  You’re the man, cool guy.

Nose:  Soft white fruits.  Chewy candy notes.  A faint hint of latex (older barrels in here somewhere?).  Red jujubes.  Apple pie with light cinnamon notes.  Pear.  Melon.  Suede.  Gentle peat.  Noses older than 18.  Love it.

Palate:  Very tangy.  Some orange and leather.  The peat has a great ebb and longer to it.  Soft spices.  White baked dessert notes.  White fudge.  Beautiful mix of fruit and peat.

Thoughts:  Lovely old school style.  Expensive (at about $200 a bottle), but rather exceptional.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:35 am
Mar 092017
 

Laphroaig Select

40% abv

Score:  78/100

 

Well, this is awkward.  Kinda feels like having to fire your wife.  Being hard on something you love is never fun.  Unfortunately there is a bit of an axe to grind here, so let’s do it and do it quick.  Like ripping off a Band-aid.  Maybe it will hurt less.

I’ve always held Port Ellen on a pedestal.  Right beneath my beloved PE is the stylized ‘A’ in the Celtic ring (yes, Ardbeg, of course).  Ardbeg likely ties with Bruichladdich, though not necessarily because their whiskies are on par.  I love both for different reasons.  So, let’s call the number two position a tie.  And number three with a bullet…Laphroaig.  This one has been creeping on Ardbeg lately.  It’s arguable Ardbeg produces great malts more consistently, but it’s also arguable that Laphroaig produced greater malts from time to time.  I’m sure mature stock and expressions with some older constituent casks contributes to that.

I tell you this so you understand how biased I am toward Laphroaig of late.  Imagine, then, my bewilderment at a malt like this: Laphroaig Select.  At its essence it really boils down to ‘why?’.  The brand has a flagship 10 year old (one of the best out there, I might add, in spite of its low abv) and a young fiery NAS expression that is beloved by most and, aside from the lack of age statement, ticks most other boxes for whisky lovers (non-chill-filtered, natural colored – I think?, and high strength).  So why…why then would they release a watered down, inferior, just-clearing-the-hurdles 40% NAS monstrosity like this?  It’s incomprehensible to me and most I’ve spoken to).

Over the last couple of months we’ve witnessed Quarter Cask jump from about $50 (as low as $40 in some places) up to $85.  The 10 y.o. is still creeping, but is still lower than the new QC pricing.  The ‘high end’ Laphroaig Lore crashed our shores at an even $200.  And now there are a handful of new Laphroaig NAS releases hitting the market (Four Oak, 1815 and I think there may be one or two more, though I could be mistaken).  At this point I’m left head-scratching.  Maybe I’m falling out of love here.

I’d love to see others weigh in on this one, though I’m pretty certain I have an idea what the comments section below will look like.

Nose:  Peat, of course.  Faint smoke (but everything is faint at this anemic abv).  Leather.  Wet dog.  Brown paper bags or slightly damp cardboard.  Vaguely farmy.  A touch of salt or brine.  Lime.  A little bit of dill.  Earthy notes, as we’d expect.  Everything muted.

Palate:  Thin and watery.  Dry smoke.  Lacking a lot of flavour.  Slightly weedy.  Earthy.  Olive brine.  Not a lot more.  Hello…finish…are you there?

Thoughts:  This…this is not the Laphroaig I love.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 3:48 pm