Apr 122017
 

Tormore 14 y.o. (Batch No. A1409)

43% abv

Score:  81/100

 

Man, this one is long overdue.  It was a gift from a really good friend of mine.  And not just any gift, but a ‘just because’ gift.  One of those singularly heartwarming occurrences that should have at least merited my having reviewed it in a timely manner.  Not that that was expected or anything, but the public acknowledgment kinda ups the ante on the sincerity of thanks in a way.  Or so I believe, anyway.

Moving on.  Tormore.  A distillery from which we see very little breadth.  In fact, to date, this is the only official bottling I’ve ever seen.  But 14 is a neat little gateway into the heart of this Speyside malt.  A little more mature than most entry level expressions.  We appreciate that.  We’d probably appreciate it a bit more if it was offered at 46%.  Alas, beggars can’t be choosers.  And ultimately – especially for the price point – this is a fairly rewarding dram.  Spectacular?  Not even close.  An evening session dram?  Unquestionably.  Pop the cork with a couple mates and toss it.  Call it a night when the bottle’s dry.

One last note…I love this packaging.  Crisp, clean and elegant looking.  I know that means very little in the grand scheme, but it pleases the hell out of the eye nonetheless.

Nose:  Quite pleasant on the nose.  Almost ‘Fiddich-ish, if I had to compare it to something.  A liberal dousing of citrus.  Hints of apple, orange and cranberry.  Toasted marshmallow, nuts and vanilla.  Sour hard candies.  A drop of rum and a jigger of orange liqueur over sponge cake.

Palate:  Fairly substantial arrival for a 43%er.  Tart and zippy.  Almost wine-y, but not overly so.  Apple, black currant.  A quick note of oily dried fruit right out of the bag.  Fairly malty.  A little too much oak in the mid to back half.

Thoughts:  More a noser than a sipper, but decent all told.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:36 pm
Apr 062017
 

Alright, Drammers and Dreamers.  something to talk about.

Let’s beat this dead horse like Negan on a noggin'(*).  It’s a subject that seems to be getting a lot of play in almost every whisky conversation I’m a part of lately.  Let’s talk about the price of whisky.  yes.  That again.  I kinda think everyone needs a public forum to air it out.  The comments section below, I imagine, is about to become just that.

There seem to be two schools of thought (of course there are more nuanced approaches, but for the sake of simplicity, bear with me).  The first suggests that whisky is a luxury item and that any price is fair on a luxury item.  Especially in light of the fact that many of the same individuals who are now complaining about the stratospheric (and still soaring) price of the precious fluid are the ones that have helped push it there via the laws of supply and demand (and disposable income).  The second suggests that no matter what your personal druthers are, there is no fucking way that the current climb is justifiable in light of the very small change in conditions that supported prices which probably came in about 40% lower (more in some cases) just a year or two back.

Are these two arguments balanced?  Do they offset?  Well…I think you know where I’m about to weigh in, aye?

Here’s the thing.  Shit gets more expensive over time.  We know this.  Just ask your parents who trudged uphill both ways in the snow to see a ‘picture’ at the cinema with no more n’ a few bits in their pocket.  Of course, that covered popcorn and a wee dip into the sweet shoppe on the way home too.  The reality is…the times they are a changin’.  BUT…typically this happens incrementally.  Small hops and skips that mostly go unnoticed by a population that progressively earns more and more and a dollar that continues to morph into an entirely different beast than back in the day when a home could be bought for tens of thousands.

As regards whisky though (before we start to ramble too much)…in the last couple of years where we’ve seen spikes that look like towering t-rex teeth or stalagmites in some Journey To The Center Of The Earth spinoff can we reasonably explain away such drastic increases?  Uh…nope.

Barley is about on par with 2010 prices (source); barrel shortages we heard so much about have been claimed to have been BS by many industry sources (forgive my refusal to name names of the good people who share insider secrets, but even so, let’s face it…much of the industry’s move to ‘sherry-seasoned’ barrels must be a cheaper option than the old ‘ex-sherry’ butts); fuel costs are on the decline (source) so transport should be cheaper; it would seem median salaries in the UK (home of all this glorious malted gold) have held pretty steady in recent years, right around £26k (source); and…let’s name the pet elephant in the room: “hello, Brexit!”

So…why the hell has the price of whisky shot through the roof?  It’s simple really.  Because it can.

Let’s return to the other argument for a moment.  The one that says whisky will cost what whisky costs because it is whisky, not bread.  The point: it’s non-essential.  It’s a luxury item that we don’t need, so if we’re gonna be that indignant about it, we can always just walk away.  At the end of the day, this argument really is sound as a pound when you think about it (a pre-Brexit pound, that is ).  Vote with your wallet.  Simple message.  We don’t need this stuff, so shouldn’t we be saving our breath to fight the good fight elsewhere?  Yeah, probably.  But life is rife with shit in so many ways.  That’s a simple reality.  In our few short rotations ’round the sun we hunt out the things we love (and that make our lives better) then we cling to them like life preservers.  The more we learn to love them, the more we become covetous and protective.  It’s only right that we should fight to hold onto what we hold dear, don’tcha think?

Anytime there is an illogical leap in expense, should we not as consumers question it?  Caveat emptor, aye?  If not are not implicitly responsible for the act of gouging?  Look what happens when fuel costs spike.  Or automobiles.  Or when Cauliflower doubled in price last year.  Or bacon.  The internet went batshit.  People wanted answers.  And for the most part, they got ’em (excepting fuel, that is…we’ll never get answers there).  Why, therefore, can we as consumers not question the rising tide of malt prices without being villainized?  It’s a bullshit old world mentality that is telling us to suck it up and not question the status quo.  And I, for one, will never buy into that (pun intended).

And here’s the real rub for someone like your faithful author:  I love this stuff.  I mean…I fucking love it.  I have dedicated vast tracts of my life over the last decade or so to pushing it to the fore.  To publicizing the greatness in it.  To sharing the word and helping elevate brands (even in my own small way).  I have started massive whisky clubs, written hundreds of reviews, shared countless experiences and bottles, led more tastings than I like to admit and supported businesses near and far.  And yet, I’m one of the ones struggling to stay in the game.  That is…well…lemme be honest here…it sucks.  A lot.  It’s caused me a bit of an existential crisis of late.  (I know, I know…sounds melodramatic, but do realize how much of my life I’ve dedicated to this.)

So where do we go from here?  Hard to say.  If you’re like me – and you maybe squirrelled away a bit of a store for rainy days – you hunker down and wait.  And you plug your ears when the bubble bursts.  You also scour for deals, share the word when you find them, and sew enough good karma that others share their hoards throughout these lean times.  Oh yeah…and you learn to fall in love again with the younger, cheaper malts you started with.  If you’re not like me…well…you pay grossly inflated prices and live large now, but recognize your dollar is working harder for you than it ever has before, and that you…are…being…fleeced.  If you’re okay with that (and to a degree, we all must be right now, or else we wouldn’t be drinking some of the drinks we do), let’s simply smile and move on.

In short…consider me on record as saying that the current state of whisky valuation is bullshit and it simply comes down to what the market will bear.  Supply and demand, and all that.  The question now becomes, are you ready to walk away or are you going to continue playing, knowing that the metrics have changed in favor of the other team and you’re playing on their turf?  Who knows…maybe it’s gonna be a true David versus Goliath story.

Either way…the next few years are gonna be hella interesting, I’d say.

(*shameless Walking Dead reference)

 

– C

 Posted by at 5:38 pm
Apr 032017
 

Old Pulteney 8 y.o.

40% abv

Score:  79/100

 

The most important thing I’ll ever say on ATW: whisky is about the stories.

Think about that for a moment.

It’s a drink that is built on stories that are years and decades and centuries old.  It’s a drink that is shared along the way to making memories and future stories with friends.  It’s a drink wherein the very fabric of its being is rooted in time.  And the passage of time – especially for an aged spirit like this – is where stories are born, live and grow.

This indie Pulteney from the good people at Gordon & MacPhail is a malt that has now become a piece of my story.  I love that.  The whisky itself?  Meh.  Not so great.  But that’s beside the point.  What matters is it that it takes me places.

That may seem counter to conventional thought, aye?  When you spend money you want good return on your outlay.  Completely logical.  But sometimes you take a leap of faith on something because the price is right (and it was for this one) and because circumstances dictate (which they did).

When a few of the good guys were over on Islay this past September one of the lads saw this bottle sitting bottom shelf in the Co-op in Bowmore.  It was intriguing enough that he cleared a little furrow in his bag just big enough to mule this guy home with him.  The packaging was retro and charming…the distillery one we typically like…the bottler one whose reputation is beyond repute…and quite frankly…it was a bottle we wouldn’t see back home.  It didn’t end up getting cracked open until a couple months later, but it’s since been passed around and shared with many more folks than just the initial contingent who were there when it was purchased.  And that becomes part of the story too.

Am I getting a little too cheesy here?  Probably for some.  Such is.

Nose:  A light nose.  Approachable and actually quite charming, straight off.  Faint hint of bubblegum.  Playdough.  Red berries.  Slightly perfumed.  Vaguely malty.  Uber light.  Not much more.  Higher strength may have helped.

Palate:  Ok, not sure what happened here.  Clayish.  Very flat.  Almost bittering.  Like under-ripe cranberries.  A bit cardboardy. In spite of the notes here…it’s not bad.  Just…not great.

Thoughts:  Very little in the way of balance.  Would score higher if on the nose alone.  But…holds a bit of a sweet spot in my heart nonetheless.

 

– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:20 pm
Apr 022017
 

I’d like to clarify something that sort of defies clarifying.  In other words…this will likely be a useless post that accomplishes none of what it sets out to do.  We refer to ‘the industry’ a lot.  Here on ATW, in discussion in and in other forums and venues.  It’s an easy catch-all term that speaks to the us and them mentality that so many of us feel, if not actually outwardly project.  It’s easy to think of the industry as one big evil empire, a machine deriving its fuel from the soul of whisky-man (much like the Matrix), but the reality is different, of course.  We like the ease of language the term affords, but it’s painting with a broad brush, and something I’d like to draw a bit of attention to.

Let’s talk first of local shopkeepers and sales folks.  Those individuals who are the purveyors of the malts we love.  They drive the local flavors by boosting or stalling certain sales, choosing the products that hit our shelves, arranging events and festivals, educating us when we visit and sharing their knowledge, secrets and tips.  Of course in some monopoly-driven markets these roles may be somewhat curtailed, but much remains the same.  These folks are the last stop.  Do they fall under the blanket appellation of ‘industry’.  Well, yes, but it’s a gray area.  I don’t want to get too deep into the nuance, lest I cast shade, but typically there is a set margin to be applied to what rolls in from the local agents and voila! Robert’s your father’s brother.  They hit the sales floor…you hit the sales floor.  Ultimately hard to fault these good people (more often than not friends of ours after a few visits), unless of course, they are the ones responsible for setting margins and are playing loose with the numbers and being dodgy.  Rarely the case, I would suggest.

Next up we have the local ambassadors and agents.  Ultimately responsible for bringing in the goods from the big distributors behind the brands or distilleries.  Here’s where things get a little harder to get a feel for.  But let’s look at this in two pieces.

First off, we have the ambassadors.  Charming (and usually good-looking) people on the frontlines, learning their stuff inside and out (we would hope), smiling and pouring you drinks at fests and shows (no matter how tedious…and trust me, it is, I’ve done it) and making the products known and approachable to as wide an audience as possible.  Do they have an agenda?  Of course.  They work for a company that has a portfolio.  It’s their job to sell that portfolio.  But here’s the rub, guys and gals…these people are human shields.  Really.  Whisky geeks, by and large, are good people.  But we’re all fiercely protective of the drink we love.  When things go wrong we question the closest representative we can target.  Do they set prices, determine allocations and such?  Of course not.  But guess who takes both barrels.  Our only real gripe here is how much stock you can put in the words of the guy or gal selling you something.  Caveat emptor.  But, hey…I’ve done it.  I’ve worked for brands that weren’t my heart and soul.  There are a lot of creative words to verbally sex something up even when you don’t believe it the new Ardbeg ’77.  Ultimately though…they are good and great people working in sales.  The enemy?  Hardly.

The other half of the this piece is the agencies.  Hmmm…very little visibility or accountability here.  I’m as in the dark as anybody.  What sort of slice of the pie they are taking is anyone’s guess.  And good luck finding out.  Lemme give you an example.  I recently found out that Aberlour a’bunadh is still retailing for just over £40 in many places.  That’s $66.80 Canadian at the time of writing.  So riddle me this:  Why is it $136.99 on shelves locally?  No matter how you spin it, it doesn’t make sense.  The dollar is low.  But so is the pound.  Production costs haven’t changed drastically.  Barrel prices are not much different than they were a few years ago.  Shipping…not a big change.  Anyway…time to start getting a little concerned we may be edging into that ‘enemy’ industry territory?  Maybe.  Tough to say.  A lot of people I know are in these positions and making a living from it.  They are good people.  Truly good people.  But I can’t speak to the finances.

Next up…the big companies.  The brands behind the local importers and agencies.  Entities like Diageo, Pernod, Edrington, etc.  Now THIS, THIS, I believe is where most of the vitriol is pointed.  Answerable to no one but owners, shareholders and the SWA and SWR (where applicable).  Is this where our prices are set?  Largely, I would imagine?  And where decisions are made to launch more and more products that shrug the ‘shackles’ of age statements in favor of names and stories.  Probably.  This level also has a lot of hired guns doing face time.  Love ’em or hate ’em, I won’t mention names here.  I would argue that this is where your animosity should largely be directed.  Not that I’m suggesting animosity is the recourse.  Just saying, let’s send our barb to the people that can ultimately answer back to them.

And finally, we have the makers themselves.  I don’t generally mean the Patersons and Dalgarnos and such.  (I think those folks sit in the tier above).  I mean the folks working at the homes of production.  The ones running stills and mashes, visitor centers and tours.  The ones working the maltings and warehouses and bottling floors and cafes.  The ones pouring samples on site, building and repairing casks, doing grounds maintenance and polishing stills.  The ones fixing boilers and spelling out washbacks and all the other heavy lifting that comes with it all.  These folks are darlings of us all.  Rightfully so, I’d say.  They’re not setting prices or creating marketing blurbs.  They’re making whisky and creating experiences.

Ultimately, no matter the level we look at, we’re talking about people.  I’d bet anything that I’d get along with any one of them if we met along the wood at some small tavern and shared pints.  Our agendas diverge, for obvious reasons, but none of us would be here if not for love of the game.  Logic tells us to separate business and pleasure, but this is one case where that is entirely impossible.  Having said that, we can still respect the man, if not the method, aye?

Yes, yes, this is a gross simplification, but the point wasn’t to draft pages of essay-like rigidity and dryness.  It was an attempt at humanizing something that gets distorted to the point of dystopianism sometimes.  I struggle with it myself from time to time.  As you’ve seen.

Cheers, friends.

(Note:  This little musing was triggered by a recent conversation with a friend of mine who works in the ‘industry’ and by a recent post the Sponge put up).

 

– C

 Posted by at 9:32 am
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
Feb 282017
 

Amrut Naarangi111

50% abv

Score:  87/100

 

Naarangi – Hindi for ‘orange’.  This one just as easily have been called ‘Amrut cheekily skates up to the edge of the rules, flashes a bare ass at the powers that be, then skates away laughing’.  But then again…what rules does Amrut have to follow?  Short answer: None but those they make for themselves, which essentially means satisfying their own moral compass and innate sense of curiosity.  Ok, ok…and that would have been a hell of a stupid name for a whisky.  But you get the point, yeah?

As you know, under the regulations laid out by the SWA (Starchy Withered Assholes, if I’ve heard the acronym spelled out correctly), Scotch malt whisky can contain nothing more than water, yeast and barley (oh, yeah…and seemingly as much of that nasty over-bitter artificial coloring you may wish to add).  No infusions, no creative barrel play, no true innovation.  Sometimes this is a good thing.  We whisky codgers are nothing if not suckers for the purity of tradition.  Having said that, how does the category ever advance if the forward-thinkers are forced to work in hobbles and shackles?  Quite a balancing act, I’d say.  And one which I’ve not really attained my own philosophically enlightened vantage for yet.

Anyway…though not bound to the sacred tenets like the great producers in Celtic-land, Amrut has chosen to play it square.  They did not infuse the whisky with orange (like another Maverick whisky maker did in the not too distant past), instead they infused the sherry that previously lived in the cask with orange.  Ergo, when the barrel was dumped the residual oils and flavors from the peels would be left clinging as tightly to the staves as Trump supporters to a gun law.  When Amrut new make spirit was splashed inside these wooden beds for the long sleep (well…not too long in the case of Bangalore’s unforgiving climate) the effect was obviously immediate and massive.  This is a heck of a unique dram, and really is only a hop, skip and a jump from a liqueur.

Nose:  Huge orange and spice notes.  Citrus oils.  The fruits are very lively on this one, both juicy, over-the-top ripe ones and dry oily figgy ones.  Some chocolate.  Immediately recognizable as Amrut, in spite of the tomfoolery.  A slight pastry or dough note.  Vanilla.

Palate:   The palate is a little disappointing compared to the vibrancy of the nose.  Lots of candies and fruit notes, and actually maybe a little too sweet.  And also a little sharp and woody.  Lots of spice again.  Caramelized sugars.  Orange oil.  Syrupy.  Almost liqueur-like in both flavour and texture.

Thoughts:  Liked it a lot.  Not quite love, but sometimes it’s nice just to be ‘in like’.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 8:51 pm
Feb 172017
 

Lagavulin 1966 50 y.o. Cask #55207-lag-09-img_3386

?% abv

Score:  91/100

 

I got back from Islay about four and a half months ago now.  Initial plans for the website were to offer up a full travel blog sort of thing like I’d done a couple times before.  After all, things change and every experience is different, especially as traveling companions go (and boy, was it interesting this time!).  Since settling back home, however, I’ve rethought my game plan.

I think I’m just gonna publish a handful (or more) of the more unique experiences, reviews and stories.  Like I said in a previous post, I’m gonna start using this site more as a blog, and not just a review factory.  I think it may be a bit more conducive to chat too.

Anyway, here’s the scoop:  A friend of mine, who I now consider one of my best mates, put everything on hold to fly over from Dubai to join our wee misfit crew of drammers and dreamers.  He moved meetings, dealt with a hell of a travel schedule and came out to become an absolutely integral part of our little collective.  I’m sure you all know the lad I’m talking about.  His name is Tabarak Razvi, the Malt Activist.

But we’ll come back to that in a future post.  Right now I want to share some notes on a whisky and an experience that  was beyond bucket list.  On one of our later days on this trip (after the damaged wrist, the broken phone, the incessant cold, the rain days, and all) we visited Lagavulin for an hour or two in the warehouse with the inimitable Iain MacArthur.  We sipped through 12, 14, 23, and 34 year old cask samples in the dunnage next to the distillery.  We also tried the 2016 Jazz fest release, then snuck out back to navigate the ruins of Dunyvaig castle with a 200 ml of Lag 16 and drams of the 2006 12 y.o.  Sounds rad, yeah?  Wait, it gets better.

After the masses had disappeared, and we had slipped and slid our way down the crumbling battlements of the old castle and returned to the distillery grounds, we bumped into Iain again.  A little gentle persuasion, and he led us back to the warehouse with glasses in hand.  He poured generously (a little too generously) from a tiny quarter cask marked #552 and the year 1966 stamped on the barrel head.  Fifty years.  Let that sink in for a moment.  After the most sincere thanks we could offer to one of the most amazing men on the island, we ran back up the hill, glasses sloshing to hop the bus back to Bowmore.  Five guys…a public bus…the bouncy and bumpy high road to Bowmore…and fifty year old Lagavulin in our glasses.  Yep.

Tab recounted the tale here for your reading pleasure.  He and I both had small samples to bring home with us, so you can compare and contrast tasting notes.  While he chose not to score this esoteric experience, I’m throwing a number at it.  Is it high?  Maybe just a touch.  But it’s my party and I’ll sigh if I want to.

Nose:  Noses soooooo young.  This must have been a fourth fill barrel.  Faint smoke.  Citrus.  Just the weakest hints of honeydew melon and pineapple.  Firm white cheese (cave-aged Gruyere?).  Very minerally…or something like clay.  In ways smells almost like new make.  In other ways…smells very, very old.  Irreconcilable, really.  Notes of dunnage and old books.  Briny and oceanic, to be sure.  Iodine and medicinal notes.  A slight farminess.  Faint tea notes.

Palate:  Much more smoke than expected.  Huge sweetness.  Almost minty.  Green candy notes.  Lime.  Some tangy fruit (maybe pineapple again, though not very ‘tropical’).  Peat (there it is!) and dry old tea.  More oak here than on the nose (though still less oaky than expected).  Faint fennel.  Smoked seafood and shells.  This is an enormously oily dram.  Some licorice at the back end.

Thoughts:  Unmistakably Lagavulin.  So, yeah…it’s overcooked.  So what?  Too oaky and not the best of barrels, but this is still exceptional whisky.  The experience behind it definitely adds to the score for me, but it’s nigh impossible to disassociate the two.  Just the fact that it’s still here?  Yeah…’nough said, I think.

 

 – Images & Words:  Curt

 

 

 Posted by at 9:17 am
Feb 172017
 

Morning, friends.

Just wanted to offer up a sincere thanks to those who still check in regularly waiting for updates.  I’m still here.  All is well.  For an unemployed guy, I’m anything but sedentary.  Time is not really on my side lately, though.  It’s not so much the time to write (I’ll get to that in a moment), as it is the time to sit down and do a proper tasting session.

As many of you are likely aware, I published a short story last month.  There was a bigger project in the works even then.  I’ve finally given myself over to it completely, and within the next week or two should finish the first draft of my first novel.  A much darker bit of writing than the last.

In the short term, I’ll have a review going up here within the hour.  Hang tight.

For those that have asked, the first is available here (US) and here (Canada).  And to those that have read, commented, offered their thoughts…thank you.

Cheers.

 Posted by at 8:54 am