Aug 232018
 

Elements of Islay Lp8

53.5% abv

Score:  89.5/100

 

I know there’s a fair bit of interest in these Elements of Islay releases, so let’s dig in to a rather juicy little specimen from Laphroaig.

If you’re feeling a little out of the loop as to what these austerely packaged little oddballs actually are let’s see if we can’t first catch you up a bit before we discuss the dram at hand.

Elements of Islay is the brainchild of Sukhinder Singh, he of The Whisky Exchange fame.  The man behind Elixir Distillers.  The evil genius who tempts us with the Port Askaig expressions.  Yeah…that guy.  Elements are small batch releases from the distilleries of the land of peat and smoke.  Each distillery is given a two digit alpha code appended with a numeric.  The alphas hint at the distillery (i.e. Lp = Laphroaig) while the numerics reveal the batch number.  As you can see, then, this would be the eighth release of Laphroaig.  Easy as pie, right?

Up until recently the only place I had been able to sample these malts was on forays across to the motherland.  Thankfully the good folks at Pacific Wine & Spirits have been bringing ’em into Alberta for the past few months.  We’ve seen some super cool Octomore, Bunnahabhain, Bowmore and a couple versions of the much-lauded ‘Peat’ land on our shores.  Cool stuff, and I am definitely a big fan of this range.  It does seem odd, however, that one of the whisky world’s greatest and most experienced personalities would opt for NAS releases.  I assume it has to do with these vattings being a mix of largely mature stocks, for a decent degree of complexity, and a younger barrel or two thrown in for vibrancy and heftier smoke profile.  That’s just speculation, though.  Otherwise, the only rationale I could come up with would be that the age statements associated simply don’t support the price point.  I hate to think that’s reason.  But at $280 for a 500 mL bottle?  Who knows?

Discounting that sad little truth, however…great dram, this.  Gooey, chewy and utterly delicious.  Jammy Laphroaig in this style is a treat.

Nose: Hmmm.  Smells like sherried Laphroaig.  Vinegary BBQ note.  Charred rib ends.  Sweet, tangy berry coulis.  Mint jelly smashed headlong into raspberry jam and smeared on slightly burnt toast.  Cherry cordials.  Nice and lively.  And uber smoky.  No sulphur to be found!

Palate: Sharp and punchy.  Love it!  Sweet, gooey and mouthwatering.  Berry jams again, on almost-burnt toast.  And again, saucy meaty tones.  Almost Ardbeggian.  Like smushing a red, black and green ju-jube in your mouth at the same time.

Thoughts: Right in my wheelhouse.  Great style.  Not a great price, unfortunately.  Nearly $300 for a 50cl bottle.  Ouch.  If you have some restraint (in terms of speed of consumption) and deep enough pockets…a really good score, however.

 

– Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 11:08 am
Aug 212018
 

Aberlour a’bunadh Batch 54

60.7% abv

Score:  87/100

 

As much as a’bunadh has changed over the years (and not necessarily for the better), I can’t find it in myself to walk away from it.  The whisky is still bold and singular.  It’s still ticking all the boxes of proper whisky presentation (excepting our beloved age statement).  And it’s still priced fairly.

Wait…nope.  Forget that last.  Canucks have been complaining about being taken to the cleaners for a bottle of this stuff for a couple of years now (an increase from $70 to $130?! C’mon!), but it seems we’re about to have some compatriots in our struggles.  This feisty young NAS malt has jumped from the sub £50 mark to £80 in the overseas markets as well now! What.The.Actual.Fuck.

Not only are we subjected to a sherry “seasoned” casks nowadays in lieu of proper sherry butts, but we’re expected to pay almost double for this inferior degree of barrel influence?  The industry has long told us about how expensive butts are (about ten times the price of bourbon barrels is the going narrative) as a justification for the price of sherried malts.  So, what’s the rationale now, big biz?  Hmmmm.

Anyway.  Decent malt, this, if now more on the savoury side of the sherry spectrum than the jammy, fruit-driven side.  I’ll drink it, but I won’t buy it anymore.

N:  This malt seems to get more spicy and savoury, and less fruity every time I try it.  Huge notes of mince pie and rum-sodden Christmas cake replete with marzipan topping.  A little bit of cask char.  Some in-the-shell peanuts.  Just a hint of stewed tomato.  Some dry grain.

P:  Oh yes.  Great arrival.  Deep spice and very jammy here (in spite of the lack of similar characteristics on the nose).  Viscous and almost syrup-thick.  Mixed berry filling in chocolate cake.  Orange jam.  Almost hints of rye spice.  A lingering flavour of balloons (odd, I know).  Heavy sherry all the way through.  Quite decent, if not the best batch.

T: Better palate than nose.

 

Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:25 am
Aug 202018
 

Bunnahabhain 18 y.o. (2017)

46.3% abv

Score:  79/100

 

Why?  Just why?  Who is vatting this stuff?  It pains me to write this, but it’s pretty simple really: It’s easier to omit than to subtract later or to try to overlook.  I would think that should be fairly readily understood.  To be completely transparent: Bunna 18 is typically my favorite 18 on the market, but I can’t recall the last time I tried it without finding huge dollops of sulphur.  It’s unbelievably frustrating to find such deep honeyed, nougaty fruit notes and have them chained to mediocrity (at best) by brimstone.  Please, please, please…leave those flawed and detested butts out of the vatting.  And if you’re sulphur-blind…well, maybe don’t be involved in the selection process for casks.

I probably sound like the Fedora-sporting sulphur police here, but I stick by what I’ve said in the past: if a malt is sulphured, it is flawed.  Sulphur via barrel management is probably the most egregious.  Don’t fill young spirit into bad barrels.  But there is also the issue of not letting your stills do the dirty work they were meant to do.  There is a reason they are made out of copper after all.  Run your stills slow enough to let the metal do its work in stripping out all of those off notes.

Okay.  To be fair, there’s not bucketloads of it here, but there is certainly enough to warrant discussion.  And…for me to debate the standing I hold this expression in going forward.

N: Big and almost cartoony at first nosing.  Sulphur by way of struck match(sigh).  Almost as if someone lit up at a windswept, seaside distance.  Nougat and honey.  Great dried fruits and whisky-soaked nuts.  Dunnage and polish.  Just a slight wine tang.  If you can get past the sulphur…nice nose.

P:  There’s a sharpness of burnt match again here.  And the sherry tastes young and sharp.  Kinda fights the age statement in a way.  Seems anachronistic.  Chewy toffee, dried fruits and scones.  Then some maple and clean oak notes.  Fruit tea and herbal notes.

T: With time the sulphur fades.  Thank God.  Still not up where it should be, but head and shoulders above the previous batch.  Though it pains me to score this one so low.

 

  – Image & words:  Curt

 Posted by at 1:59 pm