May 032018
 

Cadenhead Invergordon 43 y.o.

48.3% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Grains were starting to worry me there for a bit.  I can’t say the fear has been entirely alleviated, but I’m starting to relax my guard a bit.  I was beginning to think that grain whisky was the new NAS.  You know…a cheap, mass-produced product that required little investment on the part of the big brands and would help ease pressure on maturing malt stocks.  Haig Club was a prime example of how bad it could get if we allowed the narrative to continue unchecked.

Fortunately, most of the grain whisky we’re seeing (almost entirely via the indie bottlers) is being showcased with a substantial amount of age behind it.  Usually at least two or three decades.  It’s this sweet spot (actually, I’d argue that maybe it’s more like the fourth or fifth decades) in which grain whisky really shines.  Kinda like the awkward and gawky little sister who finally emerges – chrysalis-like – from her teen years to be the princess her parents always knew she was.

Yet even with age statements that supercede my years (not by much anymore, sadly), I find grains largely miss the mark for me.  There is a lack of complexity that brings them more in line with mature Canadian whisky than any other category.  It serves to showcase just how important the malting process is to Scotch whisky.  Those myriad layers of flavour and aroma simply don’t develop the same when the distillers are using maize, wheat, rye or unmalted barley as their mashbill.  Not to say those can’t all be great in their own right, but examples of spectacular expressions are much more few and far between than in the single malt sphere.

This Invergordon from 1972 is a bit of a gem.  Not a pristine diamond, but a precious stone nevertheless.  There is a sparkling purity here that is easy to fall for.  And even more easy to become enamoured with?  The price.  $400, give or take.  For a four decade old dram, that is a steal.

Nose:  Soft-smoked caramel notes.  Toasted oak.  Crème Brulee.  Steamed milk.  Nougat.  Pine and eucalyptus.  Brioche.  Old notebooks.  Furniture polish.  Soft chocolate.

Palate:  A surprisingly vibrant palate.  Super-creamy and easygoing.  Fresh woods.  Raw almond notes all over this one.  Faint marmalade.  Hot cross buns.  Toasted marshmallow.  More on those warm toasty caramel aromas.  But ultimately…a little too woody.  That kinda negates what would have been a lovely finish.

Thoughts:  I like it.  A lot.  But it’s short term relationship kinda stuff.  Not a full blown love affair.

 

 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:47 am
May 012018
 

Laphroaig 25 y.o. Cask Strength 2015

46.8% abv

Score:  91.5/100

 

It’s always a treat returning to this wizened old granddad of the Islay family.  I’ve tasted this expression going back to 2008 and every year is a balancing act between restraint and indulgence.  Part of me itches to pop the cork with a couple of mates and not stop until we reach the bottom.  Another part of me recognizes how special the malt is and keeps my indulgent side at bay.  A true Jeckyll and Hyde show.

Yes, of course there have been ups and downs in this run of 25s, but there is not one I haven’t loved and savoured along the way.  As you’d expect, soft and restrained smoky tones smash head-on into a melange of gentle fruits that run the gambit from juicy orange and lime to soft melon and pseudo-tropical trappings.  The resulting spirit is never short of delicious and more often than not hits the spectacular mark.  Campbell and co. at Laphroaig know what they’re doing when it comes to ensuring the more mature stocks are kept tiptop and the resultant vattings are consistently excellent.

As for the 2015?  Beauty.  The 2016 is better, but it’s nothing more than shades and nuances.  If you can afford the sticker price (high, I know), it’s well worth securing a bottle.  At the very least hit up your local whisky bar (if such exists wherever you may be) and sip a dram.  You’ll not be disappointed.

Nose:  Soft and beautiful.  Driven by soft fruits – almost tropical – and very clean white smoke (by that I mean not black, dirty, oily smoke).  Creamy and threaded through with oily vanilla bean.  Slightly minerally.  A little grilled pineapple (brilliant caramelized sugar notes) and charred orange peel.  Black Wine Gums.  Faint lime notes.  Rubber band and fabric bandages.  Give it time in the glass for the smoke to grow.

Palate:  Almost tropical again, and an incredibly bold and lively delivery.  Rich and gorgeous.  Some tannins do grow toward the back end though.  Surprisingly jammy and gooey.  Rubber and char notes.  Great soft confusion of flavors (hinting at good integration/complexity).  Slightly more vegetal here.  Some grapefruit too.  Gorgeous development.

Thoughts:  I think we’ve said it all, haven’t we?

 

 – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 12:16 am