Jul 282017
 

Good evening, friends.  Or morning, for those of you in disparate time zones.

I was going to reply to a couple comments on the blog, but as longtime readers are most likely aware by now, I tend to let my posts do most of the talking and leave the comment section for all the good folks who generously give of their time to enrich the whisky world.  Having said that, a couple things needed addressing.  I figured we’d do it here and not hijack other threads.

First off…whisky is in a shit place.  I know it.  You know it.  But it has been for a while, so let’s not belabor the point here.  We’ll get our barbs as and when needed.  Suffice it to say, things aren’t getting a lot better.  High prices, a scary lack of age statements and still more swords drawn by a few ambassadors whose Trump-like insistence on petty insults and condescension have become so laughable as to be easily dismissed out of hand (looking at you, NM).  But, lest we digress…there are some signs that maybe we can hope for sunshine sooner than later.  A few malts are cropping up with numbers on the bottle again, as was recently mentioned by Serge over at Whiskyfun in a post commemorating his 15th year (Congrats, Serge!  We owe you more than can be tallied.  Sincerely.), albeit, also as noted, at rather irrational prices.  The market should self-govern there over time though.  In the meantime, let’s hope that the last few years of pedal-to-the-metal production is helping to offset the declining stocks that led to the unprecedented rise of NAS whisky in the first place (note: I said ‘rise’, not ‘advent’.  I know NAS is not a new concept).  Fingers crossed.

A comment was made here recently that the site has been limping along and in decline (my words, not the author’s).  And though it sounds like rather harsh criticism, it’s not.  Nothing more than observation and absolutely warranted.  I’ve been both busy and lacking in motivation.  On the one hand, how many times can we say the same thing with varying degrees of inflection before it becomes a drone?  On the other, I do recognize that I write up malts a little different than some others out there.  There’s usually more of a brief anecdotal tale with each jotting than simply a reliance on tasting notes which, let’s face it, probably only help if you’ve found your palate to be somewhat in sync with mine.  BUT…that’s my own personal shortcoming to address.  If I’m half the writer I like to think I am (and I do have an ego, it’s true) I need to get over my own limitations for creative expression and find new ways of making it exciting.

In short (too late, I know)…y’ain’t getting rid of me that easily.  There’s more of this guy, and ATW, coming down the pipes.  Too many of us (bloggers and jotters and dissenters, oh my!) have already thrown in the towel.  But y’know what?  Fuck that.  I’ve decided I’m not going down.  There’s a purpose to be served.  I’ve paid our dues and don’t feel like being backed out of my own game (I’ve been doing this for nearly 10 years now…holy hell!).  I’m as entrenched in this passion of ours as inbreeding is in the current White House administration.  So…on we march.  Hopefully together.  If you’re willing to stick around for a while longer, that is.

I’ll be heading back to the motherland in a few weeks.  Twelve days to recharge in Scotland.  The quest for grail malts continues.  I and a few mates will be in Speyside for a few days (and seven distilleries) and Islay for nearly a week.  Expect some writings and reviews as a lead-up to trip time and a follow-up afterwards.

And in keeping with full transparency…I can’t lie: I’ve been investing a lot of effort elsewhere.  Finished my first novel a couple months back and am working on getting it into publication.  The whole nasty blood-soaked manuscript is in the hands of a couple of interested agents as we speak.  Who knows if they’ll ultimately bite, but let’s be optimistic.  And as the clock ticks on those, I am nearing 16,000 words on a second manuscript.  This one teeth have teeth like the last did (wink wink), but it does have its figurative fangs in me pretty deep at the moment and I’m cranking out pages in all my free time.  Fiction is a great escape in these troubled days.  For this guy anyway.  So…to those who have asked…yes, still writing.  Hopefully I can get it to a platform that reaches the masses at some point.

For now though, I sincerely hope you’re all well.  You’ll be hearing more from me soon.  Feel free to send in ideas for opinion pieces, reviews, whatever.

Oh…and a bit of a surprise coming your way soon.  😉

 

– C

 Posted by at 7:42 pm
Jul 192017
 

Littlemill 21 y.o. Second Edition

47% abv

Score:  88/100

 

Wow.  First time we’ve reviewed a Littlemill.  Weird.  I think I have a couple more samples in the archives.  Guess I should check and write up a few more.

Littlemill is one of those silent stills we like to romanticize a little bit.  It’s a distillery that was lost more than twenty years ago – long after the rash of distillery closures that rocked the whisky world in the early ’80s – but one that has never carried the same sort of emotional (or financial) resonance that other lost gems such as Port Ellen, Rosebank or Brora do.  Littlemill was shuttered for good in 1994 and, after being gutted for equipment and suffering a rather nasty blaze, the distillery was subsequently demolished.  No chance of a rebirth for this Lowland malt of fair, but not inflated, repute.

This particular expression was the second release of an official 21 y.o. that hit shelves before the owners decided they wanted a piece of the big pie.  The next Littlemill OB would be a 25 y.o. with a fat four figure price tag.  As you can imagine that one swiftly proceeded to…yep…sit unsold on shelves the world over.  Tsk tsk.  Greed.

Neat malt though when all is said and done.  Enjoyable, unique and not too badly priced.  Limited run of only 4,550 bottles, so probably long gone in most markets.

Nose:  Lovely, naked, mature nose.  Probably a bit too naked for those looking for big personality.  Soft and creamy/custardy.  Fresh made flan.  Wind over grain fields (I know, I know…cheesy as hell).  A hint of black current cough drops.  Vanilla, but not in that over-vanilla’d sort of way.  Very, very soft spice palette.

Palate:  Quite an attack.  Dry and gingery.  More of that black current note.  Or maybe the seeds of black grapes.  Lacks the softer fruits I’d expect in a malt of this age.  Oak is firm, as is the cereal backbone.  Maybe a touch of citrus pith.  Quite drying.

Thoughts:  A very singular dram.  And interesting all the way through.  Yet…nowhere spectacular.

*Thanks to my mate Mike for passing this one over.  Cheers!

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:26 pm
Jul 182017
 

Bruichladdich Black Art 5.1

48.4% abv

Score:  87/100

 

One of the buzziest malts available at the moment, I’d argue.  Black Art 5 hit our shores just a week or two back.  The buzz was immediate and intense, with plenty of questions flying as to whether or not the whisky justified the $300 price tag (up about $50 from the previous edition).  So, let’s see if we can’t find out for ourselves.

I think most folks know by now that Black Art was Jim McEwan’s masterwork.  A recipe he held close to his chest, and with which he loved to play the angle of ‘secretive alchemist’.  It made for fun stories at his live events and plenty of talking points on blogs and reviews.  Without knowing the details of how it’s been put together, I can tell you is that it’s unquestionably a lot of sweet and sour wine cask interplay.  The final product is built of pre-renaissance Bruichladdich that has been re-racked into some sort of wine barrels procured under the Reynier-MacGillivray-McEwan era.  We know this, of course, because the age statement of 24 years stretches much further back than the distillery’s reopening and because the palate don’t lie:  there’s wine all over this one.

A couple bits of disclosure right off:  1) I adore Bruichladdich, and 2) I do not like the Black Art expressions.

But – and I’ve said this before – take that with a grain of salt if you’re one of those folks who likes the wine finished/matured malts that are so prevalent on the shelves nowadays.  I personally shy away from these expressions (though there are a few winners), but that doesn’t mean you won’t like ’em.  If this sounds like apologism, forget it.  I’ve said the same thing about Black Art before.  Different tastes make the world go ’round.

So, before we even dive in let me tell you what I expect.  A nose that is mature, sweet and appealing – rich in a big, bold fruity/floral melange – but a palate that arrives with a split second of magic before attacking the back and sides of the tongue with a tangy, wine-heavy tenacity.  Oh yeah…and a finish that disagrees with me entirely.

I guess the big story this time around though is that this one is Adam Hannett’s baby, not Jim McEwan’s.  He likes to say that he got the recipe from Jim, then promptly through it away.  I paraphrase, of course, but the message is the same.  So, who’s better at?

Nose:  Sweet and fruity.  Showing some age right off.  Sour candy.  Some orange and cherry notes.  A light smoke behind the jamminess.  Hint of dunnage.  Slightly floral mid-note.  Then more fruit compote.  A tick savoury too.  Toasted caramel.

Palate:  Decent arrival.  And…yep…into the weird wine-iness.  Maybe not as heavy as some of the past Black Art releases though.  Macerated dark fruits.  Slightly grapey, with some chocolates and brandy.  Peppers and spice.  Just a flirting with sulphur, but not heavy.  Back end is wet oak and tannins.

Thoughts:  Definitely different than Jim’s vattings, but some shared DNA, to be sure.  As expected, too wine topheavy for me, but an enjoyable slow sipper nevertheless.  Think I prefer this one to Jim’s creations.  Shhhh…don’t tell.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:05 am