May 082021
 

A nifty little Laphroaig that never quite made it to our shores. Well…that’s not entirely true, of course, or I’d not be sharing notes here. But…where there’s a will (and crafty friends), there’s a way. In this case, via a mate who somehow maneuvered his way into possessing a couple of bottles. Fortunately, he’s also a generous soul.

This one strikes a chord with me for one important reason, and it isn’t a sentimental one. It has to do with the craft of bottling a good spirit at a good state of development. In other words, picking the fruit when it’s ripe. This 16 year is the epitome of beautiful cask/spirit interaction. The oak is lean and firm; the spirit is at a perfect age, rich and fruity. You can tell that the big estery notes are being checked by the creaminess and soft spices of the barrel. Brilliant balance.

All I can say is, bless the man or woman who discovered just what a barrel could do to Scottish spirit. And bless the exciseman who made the illicit distillers run from hill to hill with their spirit hastily bunged up in wee casks. Assuming all those romantic Scottish tales we’ve heard are true, of course.

48% abv. 11,500 bottles. 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels.

Thanks to my mate, Ben, for the drams of this guy, and the photo below.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Instantly, blindly, recognizable as Laphroaig. Very clean and elegant. Orange and lime. Honeydew and tangerine. Sea spray. Almond and just-scraped vanilla bean. Minerally, coastal notes. A little bit boggy and earthy. Some grassy notes. Tongue depressors and chest rub. Phenols have mellowed beautiful.

Palate: Big and oily. Blood orange with anise or maybe just fennel. Starfruit, candied orange peel, gooseberry. Getting non-too-subtle hints of the bourbon influence here, and it is entirely complimentary. Salt licorice. More of that oomphy Laphroaig smoke than the nose hints at. A bit of a sour fruit tang, which I like a lot.

Finish: Long and full of tannins, oak and that neat marriage of ju-jubes and wine gums I get in a lot of Laphroaig. Still a fair bit of citrus too.

Thoughts: Frustratingly, right in my wheelhouse. Frustrating, of course, due to lack of (local) availability. But we can’t have ’em all, aye? Hopefully, the age statement gap that Laphroaig is currently managing (mismanaging?) can be closed. The leap from 10 to 25 in the range is a bit challenging for those of us who were rather keen on the mid-rangers. (And please let’s not discuss the NAS’ers)

88/100

 Posted by at 9:06 am
Jan 262021
 

Wow. I’m impressed. Batch 2 arrives with all the character and bombast of Batch 1, but much less misogynistic endorsement and rabid demand. Color this kid happy.

The fever pitch that arose following Jim Murray’s award left legions of folks hunting for bottles that seemed to disappear almost overnight. If rumors are to be believed, a parcel of what remained was bundled up and sent to the eastern reaches of this far-flung land, while an additional boatload was shipped overseas to sate one of the Asian markets. It makes sense to spread the wealth a bit. And as a Canuck, it makes me happy to see good Canadian whisky finding some well-deserved appreciation abroad.

And I think we’ve gotta hand it to Alberta Distillers: their ability to maintain consistency is second to none. While I’m certain this batch will again be much too small to meet demand, I’m optimistic that ADL has finally seen the light and realized they have the golden goose here in their Calgary distillery. I’m confident we’ll see this expression becomes a permanent addition to the Alberta Premium range. Goes to show it’s never too late to make a push for the front of the pack.

By the way…this one was all Black Current Halls Cough Drops to me, and sure enough, the packaging references black currents. One of the few times I’ve enthusiastically agreed with a brand’s published notes.

66.0% abv. Number of bottles? No clue. But certainly too few.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Blueberry n’ brambleberry. Black Current Halls Cough Drops. Raisin cookies, and all the requisite spices you’d expect (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc). Clean, sinus-clearing notes of fresh-cut pine or spruce; kinda like a stroll through the lumberyard. Chocolate covered cherries. A bit of caramel. A squeeze of lemon. French vanilla ice cream.

Palate: More dark berries here again. Reminds me of the berries I always pick while walking the footpaths on Islay (yes, I know, we’re getting a bit esoteric here). Tight, tight spicy rye. Eucalyptus. Clove and cinnamon. Pine sap. Chocolate. More currents. Grass (a mate of mine says maybe a black tea).

Finish: Long and oaky. Herbal and grassy. Quite oily.

Thoughts: Finish may drag it down a tick, but still a stellar sip. This is what rye should be. Makes me question even further the misstep that was the 20 year old from last year.

89/100

 Posted by at 12:10 pm
Jan 202021
 

I came into this one with low expectations, I’ll admit it right up front. That had less to do with Ardbeg’s ability to create a decent young malt, and more to do with the fact that I kinda think most sub ten year old whisky tends to be a tad underripe and undeveloped. I expected brashness, a bit of a new make-y character, and not a lot more.

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

Long months before Wee Beastie landed on our shores, it had already sparked a frenzy among the slavering peat fiends ’round here. The shop was so inundated with requests that we had to set aside a separate binder to manage all of the pre-orders and special requests (yes, yes, we still do some things in the ol’ analog way at KWM). And no matter how many times we shouted that this one was now a permanent fixture in the core range, it didn’t seem to quell the hunger (or thirst?). Perhaps part of that early pursuit was a weary and schooled intellectual approach, suggesting that many consumers are now aware that a new brand always puts its best foot forward (and often declines thereafter), but I think the reality has more to do with FOMO: fear of missing out. Ardbeg has cultivated legions of fans around the globe, and even with perpetual production (and an exciting new expansion!), the distillery is likely always going to be producing shy of demand.

As for the Beastie, I know I’m late to the party. Sorry ’bout that. Crazy times. But here we are. And fortunately, we have a dram of hella good young Islay malt in hand. Impressive beyond its years, and so much better than I’d hoped.

A vatting of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso casks, served up at 5 years young and 47.4% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Yes, it’s peaty and quite feisty, as we’d expect in such a rambunctious youngster. Almond. Creamy lemon meringue. Warm welly boots and chlorine. Fresh pepper. Cold coffee. Something kinda like drinking mezcal in a barn. Pee in a pool. A very coastal tarriness. Bundt cake. Oat cakes. Oyster liquor and other fine briny things.

Palate: Very clean smoked peated grist. As mouthcoatingly smoky as you’d expect. Licorice. Key lime pie. Lemon cakes. Ladyfingers. Mint leaves. A bit of very-expected Granny Smith apple. And cough drops of some sort.

Finish: Long finish, primarily on chlorine, smoke and salt licorice.

Thoughts: It’s young, yeah, but it’s not spirity. An impressive – and ballsy – outing from our beautiful Ardbeggian family. Very much the distilled essence of Islay.

85.5/100

 Posted by at 10:54 am
Dec 232020
 

In 2013, a good bunch of folks, led by our revered pied piper, Andrew Ferguson of Kensington Wine Market infamy, stole away to the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains for a weekend of absolutely next level whisky tastings. The apex event of the weekend was a tasting of some of the most legendary 1964 Bowmores known to man- (and woman-) kind.

In a completely unexpected (though gratefully accepted) bit of generosity, a wee set of samples was brought back for yours truly. Obviously, whiskies like this require pristine conditions in order to really be able to properly assess ’em, so…seven years after these priceless vials landed in my lap, on an afternoon when the palate was clean, my personal desire was sky high, and the interruptions were kept to a bare minimum, I finally sat down with these precious drops of Islay’s greatest distillate and took a bit of a journey. My couch sipping session may have lacked the elegance and atmosphere of the initial event, but the malts are transportive, to say the least.

Listen. I wanted this post to be a poem of such epic proportion Yeats himself would have wept, but there’s simply no way I can throw commonplace nouns and verbs at these malts and have them ring true to just how special they are. Man’s limitations are pretty glaring most times. Fortunately, the whisky gods are verbose and have said all that needs to be said via the glass. I know that doesn’t really help here, but if you’ve ever had the chance to taste these drams, you’ll understand what I mean. And I happen to know that a rather substantial portion of you have actually tasted at least one of these drams. For those that haven’t, bear with me as I do my best to articulate just what these Bowmores are all about.

Before we dive into tasting notes, however, let me just say: tropical, tropical, tropical. Get used to hearing it. I’ll be throwing that word around a lot over the next few paragraphs. When we speak of those legendary vintages – the ones that make whisky folk weak-kneed and starry-eyed – 1964 Bowmore has to be right up at the top of the pyramid. There is something utterly magical about them. And I have to say, they are also some of the very best drams I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste.

Y’already know how I feel about the Black Bowmore (42 y.o.), aye? I think at the time I reviewed it, I scored it at 97 points, the highest mark I’ve ever assigned. I opted not to simply repost those notes and scores, but instead to revisit and reassess even that old favorite. So, without saying any more…let’s just dive in, shall we?

Black Bowmore 1964 42 y.o.

Five oloroso sherry casks. 827 bottles. 40.5% abv. Released 2007.

Nose: Beautiful clean chariness. Five Alive fruit juice infused with the cleanest and most elegant of smoke. Now we’re into a stunning mix of fresh and dried tropical fruits. A bit of peach with all those other to-be-expected notes of guava, mango, passionfruit, pineapple and more. A beautifully dark and rich cherry tang. Black currents. Pink grapefruit. A hint of cold coffee. Vintage sherry. Faint echoes of peat. Old oiled machinery. Ancient polished wood. This just reeks of majesty and age.

Palate: Slightly medicinal. More smoke than either the White or Gold Bowmore, and more earthy peat to boot. Hugely tropical. Sticky, oily dried mango, apricot, pineapple, peach. More orange. More pineapple. Brine and a much more profound Islay-ness than the nose suggests. Seared seafood. Charred grapefruit. Baked ham. Griotines. Cherry cough syrup. Figgy pudding.

Finish: Some decent tannins, but it’s that deep, dark oily, and rather bittering finish that steal the show. Just wow.

Thoughts: Does it get better? Honestly?

96/100

White Bowmore 1964 43 y.o.

Six bourbon barrels. 732 bottles. 42.8% abv. Released 2008.

Nose: Tropical heaven. Sweet pineapple. Mango, orange, papaya, grapefruit, passion fruit. Man…the parade of fruits is endless. Dunnage. A touch of marzipan and sugar cookies. Tropical fruit pie. Honey. Marmalade. Fruit flan. White chocolate. Truly stunning cask notes; almost hard to believe wood can do this.

Palate: Oh, dear God. Grapefruit, mango, passionfruit, papaya. Grilled pineapple rings. What a stunning sweet/sour tang. Can’t stop the flood of saliva. Oily. Only faintly smoky, but there’s a definite coastal element to it. This is all fruits, spritzed with citrus juice (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit). Such clean, but rather indistinguishable, spice tones.

Finish: Those tropical tangy notes linger forever. Maybe longer.

Thoughts: Utterly incomparable.

95/100

Gold Bowmore 1964 44 y.o.

Three bourbon barrels and one oloroso sherry cask. 701 bottles. 42.4% abv. Released 2009.

Nose: Toastier than the White. I can only assume that’s the toasty, nutty influence of the sherry butt. Crème caramel. Still unbelievably tropical, of course. Tame those pineapple and orange notes just a wee notch (though they’re still huge!), and add some kiwi. Vanilla. Warm honey. A hint of fruitcake (made with ancient cognac). And yeah…maybe a hint of old Armagnac. Faint peat.

Palate: Slow to develop, then wham! Cold espresso. Twiglets. Grapefruit. Guava and passion fruit. Mango. Mandarin. A beautiful subtle smokiness. Glazed ham and pineapple. Prosciutto. Raspberry.

Finish: Deeper than the White, but maybe a tick less endearing. Still bittering and tropically tart.

Thoughts: Nose is more muted than expected, but the palate more than makes up for the whispered beginnings.

93.5/100

Black Bowmore 1964 31y.o.

Sherry butts. 1812 bottles. 49% abv. Released 1995.

Nose: Toasted marshmallow. Saville orange. Molasses. More smoke here. Oily and syrupy. The tropical notes are here, but not as monolithic as they appear in the trilogy releases. Polish. Old wet oak. Cherry, raspberry and strawberry with passion fruit, peach, pineapple, guava, etc. Tobacco pouch or snuff bag. Oiled leather.

Palate: Whoa. Syrupy, syrupy, syrupy. More of those reduced dark fruits – like a smoked cherry and raspberry reduction. That sweet/sour balance is incredible. Pink grapefruit. Passion fruit. Mango. Cold espresso. Tobacco. Seared duck. Seaspray. A stronger flinty minerality.

Finish: More tannic than the others, by far. But that bittering finish is, once again, to die for.

Thoughts: Denser, darker, somehow more syrupy than the 42 y.o. Stronger tannins, and less tropical notes. Though I’m sure it goes without saying…utterly stunning.

94/100

Bowmore 1964 Fino 46 y.o.

One fino sherry butt. 72 bottles 42.9% abv. Released 2012.

Nose: Candied sweetness. All those tropical notes smash head on in to a confectioner’s shop. Bubble gum. Salt water. More tropical juices (yes, yes…you’re getting sick of the word ‘tropical’). Scones. Heavy cream. Mandarins. Kiwi. Sour cherries. Key lime and blood orange. A hint of fill.

Palate: Oh, wow. Kiwi and guava. Lemon pie. A squeeze of lime. Grapefruit pith. Green curry. Dill. What the hell?! The tropical notes keep expanding as it develops. Love that gorgeous medicinal note that toes up against the tangy fruits. Oily and salty. Mango. Tiramisu. Honey.

Finish: Long and slightly drying. Cherry cordials. Tropical fruit skins.

Thoughts: This one shattered any expectations I had. Simply mindboggling.

95/100

 Posted by at 8:25 am
Dec 102020
 

This one came as a bit of a surprise in my circles. Normally we don’t get so hung up on color that it becomes the primary speaking point, but let’s face it…this stuff is about four shades darker than previous releases. It looks like medium roast coffee mixed with cherry cola. The usual light-to-dark color spectrum of the big three Kilchoman expressions – Machir Bay, then Sanaig, then Loch Gorm – was turned on its head with the arrival of this 2020 edition of Sanaig. It scrambled the wee rainbow and threw the darkest of ’em all smack dab in the middle of the trio. Quite frankly, the hue shames the fully-sherried Loch Gorm. And while Sanaig may be a marriage of ex-bourbon (30%) and ex-oloroso casks (70%), it’s unquestionably the sherry that stands center stage here. You’ll get some of the spice from those bourbon barrels, but the more subtle notes – coconut, vanilla, etc – are lost beneath the deeper wash of Oloroso.

Expect big spice, big dried fruit tunes and bucketloads of savory, charry, goodness. Oh, and quality. You’ll find it here in spades.

Sanaig is named for a rocky little cove off the northern coast of Islay where the cold, harsh waves of the Atlantic dash themselves time and time again against ancient metamorphic rock. Are we running out of geographical/geological features on Islay to name our beloved malts after? Asking for a friend.

46% abv

Tasting Notes

Nose: A hella big peaty dram. Beachside bonfire. Islay malt married to grape juice. Raspberry and orange. Fig spread. Ju-jubes. Seared scallops and bacon. Some sort of red wine-reduced savory meat sauce. A bit of unlit pipe tobacco.

Palate: A lot smoke, a fair bit of hickory. Fruit leather. Arrives juicy, develops some slight tannins around the mid palate. Purple grapes and plums. Figgy pudding. Sen-sens. Cough drops.

Finish: Long and smoky. A hint of smoked shellfish and some flinty notes as it fades.

Thoughts: A little top-heavy – or maybe just overly rambunctious – but well-built, nonetheless.

88/100

 Posted by at 12:43 pm
Dec 082020
 

I kinda get the impression that Hedley Wright wasn’t born with enough middle fingers. If you don’t know the gent I’m speaking of, rest assured that I mean this with the utmost respect for this nonagenarian. Confession: I absolutely adore the Hedley ethos.

Some of you are probably aware that I have an almost unconditional love for Campbeltown and Campbeltown whiskies. I love the place, the people, the history and the distilleries. I love the bars and the late-night strolls. Most importantly, I love all the memories I’ve made there. The clock seems to move at a different pace on this wee peninsula.

But I suppose we should be talking about the whisky we’re reviewing, aye?

Kilkerran, as many of you will know, is not a distillery; it is the brand name for the single malt produced at the Glengyle distillery.

So, here’s the tale as I’ve heard it told, for those that may not have listened to me sentimentalize this one in person: Back in the early 2000s, Campbeltown was in danger of losing its regional status in the eyes of the Scotch Whisky Association. The ‘wee toon’ ’round the harbour – once the world’s most famous and in-demand whisky-producing sector – had reached a point where only two distilleries remained in production. A mighty fall for a town (and region) that once boasted more than thirty producers.

Enter one Hedley G. Wright, a generational descendent of the Mitchell family (whose name you’ll still see adorning Springbank bottlings to this day), and his mad machinations to protect the regional status of Campbeltown. Hedley made the argument that the Lowlands only had three operational distilleries and were still a recognized region, ergo, if Campbeltown had the same number then they should reap the same benefits. The SWA agreed. So, Hedley bought the neighbouring corpse-distillery of Glengyle, cleaned out tons of birdshit (and who knows what all else), and tricked out the building with equipment purchased from the now-defunct Ben Wyvis distillery. All equipment, piping and possibly even the kitchen sink was procured for a rather paltry £300,000. And in 2004, the spirit began to flow.

Twelve years later we’ve reached the culmination of a lot of ‘work in progress’ releases, and if I’m being honest…this is one of the most impressive age-stated renaissance expressions I’ve ever encountered (Laddie 10 being another). It’s everything I wanted, and a whole lot more.

Batches vary, I understand, but this one was apparently 70% ex-bourbon, 30% ex-sherry. Bottled at 46% abv. Bottle code: 18/337. Bottled: 03/08/2018.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Awww, yeah. A heapin’ helpin’ of the Campbeltown funk. Love it. Smells of the farmyard. Oat cakes. A touch of pool water (chlorine?). A balanced salinity. I keep catching a fleeting whiff of blueberry. Lemon. Burlap, or hessian. Peanuts in the shell. A bit minerally, maybe slate or clay.

Palate: Love this distinctive peatiness. A nice clean citrus, both lemon and orange. Licorice Babies. Like chewing on a stalk of straw. Those oat cakes are back again. Overbaked – not quite burnt – pastry.

Finish: A nice lingering farmy funk. Salty crackers. A nice peaty fade.

Thoughts: Almost indistinguishable from Springbank. And that, of course, makes perfect sense.

89/100

 Posted by at 3:36 pm
Dec 042020
 

It never sucks to drink Brora. You could waterboard me with this stuff and I’d probably be okay with it. Ok…that may have crossed a line. Sorry.

We just reviewed a Clynelish, so how ’bout Brora? Sort of a VW/Audi thing. Or something. Unfortunately, I have less than a dozen bottles of Brora left in the bunker, so unless something drastically changes in the coming years, reviews of this Sutherland beauty are bound to be as scarce as oases in the Sahara. Recently, however, I had occasion to pop the cork on a special bottle to mark a celebration: I promised some mates that if Trump was booted from office I would open a Brora. I also promised myself a mental health break from the political divisiveness that seems be tearing civilization apart and a return to whisky jotting in my spare time. So…here we are.

Brora has a reputation, of course, but Brora also has a complicated personality. Not only are there some nearly impossible ties to unknot between Brora and Clynelish (especially in the earliest years of tandem distillation at the neighboring sites, but also between the more heavily-peated outings and those that are more fruit/wax/caramel-driven. I’ve had both. And both can be utterly dazzling. And, though it won’t put this conversation to bed, it will at least allow us to hit ‘snooze’ for a bit and return to this rather big subject later on. Let’s just say, I have my theories.

This 34 year old is one of the more restrained Broras I’ve yet tried. The nose, especially, is a wee bit shy, but the palate is much more expressive. If you’re chasing big phenols, you’re looking in the wrong place. But at 34 years, you’d be looking in the wrong place no matter which expression you were tasting. There’s a nod to the peatier years here, but it arrives like the fashionably late party goer. Albeit…maybe a bit more well-behaved, when all is said and done.

This release was a part of Diageo’s Annual Releases back in 2017, before they nixed the inclusion of Brora and Port Ellen in those outturns. It was limited to 3,000 bottles. 51.9% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Little peat to speak of. But of course, there’s some wax. A touch of milk chocolate. Orange juice. Warm chamois leather. Incredibly soft fruit mélange. Apple pie (easy on the cinnamon and such). Putty. Even a faint hint of capers. Clay. An unlit Cuban, where the aromas are subtle and pretty.

Palate: Oh, wow. Juicy and mouthwatering. Orange and tangerine right up front. There’s a bit of smokiness come the mid palate, but it arrives with vanilla, melon and much more wax. Some more citrus, mostly lemon. Now we have some peat, by way of a slight earthy funk. A touch of blanched almond.

Finish: Clean and long. Some honeydew melon and deeply herbal notes.

Thoughts: Not sure why this one isn’t held in higher esteem than it is. May take a wee bit more concentration, but peeling back the layers shows just how elegant and layered it is.

Score: 92/100

 Posted by at 10:07 am
Dec 022020
 

I sell whisky for a living. And yes, for the most part it is everything it’s cracked up to be and more – largely because of where I sell whisky, but that’s a story for another day.

I get asked all the time for recommendations that come in around that $100CA a bottle marker, and asked what I would drink in that price range. The Classic Laddie, Pulteney 12, Benromach 10, Johnnie Black (honestly), and Clynelish 14 are some of my immediate thoughts. There has to be both character and quality there to hold my interest. In my line of work, there is no shortage of great whisky at hand, so for a so-called ‘entry level expression’ to remain in constant rotation at the forefront of my grey matter, it has to be really damn good. And Clynelish 14 is consistently really…damn…good.

Part of it might be personal bias – I love the tangled and messy story of Brora/Clynelish – but there is more to it than simple infatuation with a distillery’s history. The fact of the matter is that Clynelish produces one of the best makes in the Diageo stable. It may not always turn out the way we’d hope in indie bottlings, but the brand’s flagship 14 is a winner. A bit waxy, a bit coastal; laden with citrus and a wee bit of a flinty edge. It’s hard to ignore inherent quality and singularity in a field that can sometimes (especially in younger OBs) feel a bit stagnant and one-dimensional.

46% abv.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Slightly boozy, without being spirity. Apples and barley fields. Linseed oil. Shale and salt water. A nice minerally underbelly. Dried ginger. Beeswax. Lemon Pledge furniture polish. Maybe a faint whiff of smoke back there somewhere.

Palate: Immediately waxy. Some apples and a squeeze of orange (and a decent dribble of lemon concentrate). Sauvignon blanc. A nice tannicity keeps things firm. Briny and coastal. Salted pasty dough. A puff of dirty smoke at the back end.

Finish: Love the tang and pucker as it ebbs. Leaves a bit of orange zest, salt water, and vanilla. Reminds a bit of dental gauze. Still rather drying.

Thoughts: Consistently one of the stalwarts of the <15 year olds. Some batches are better than others, but I’ve yet to find one I wouldn’t spend money on.

Score: 87/100

 Posted by at 9:19 am
Apr 182020
 

Can you believe it’s taken a decade for me to get ’round to putting up tasting notes for Oban 14? I carried this one like an albatross for a long time, but I suppose it’s about time for this mariner to shed the dead bird and get on with things, aye?

Oban 14 was one of the earliest malts I remember really sinking my teeth into. And there’s a reason it resonates strongly with me. I moved out of my folks’ place when I was quite young. My dad took yet another work transfer and, at 17, I was stubbornly unwilling to leave my girlfriend and uproot for the umpteenth time in my life. So…I got a job and stayed behind when the fam moved on to…browner pastures. As was probably the case for many of you out there, job number one for me was in a kitchen. I was good at multitasking and good at cooking, but I was also good with people. Fortunately, management saw this and allowed me to start slinging drinks and serving tables instead. I think it was partly in recognition of an untapped resource, but also an empathetic response to them knowing how hard I was struggling to finish high school while working enough hours to cover rent. Either way…they broke the rules and let me bartend underage. This concession, of course, drastically altered my income. There were also…errr…romantic perks. (Enough, boy, enough.)

At the end of the night, when the place had emptied out and the doors were locked, management would take off into the back to finish cashing out, and we front-of-the-house folks would slam a quick pint and sample the whisky behind the bar. Oban 14 was one of the first to really jump out at me.

I’ve revisited a few times since those early days, but not nearly often enough. And now, with a glass in hand, I really do feel like I’ve sold myself short. This is a much more elegant and rounded malt than I recall. I’m digging it now more than I ever have in the past.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Somewhat delicate, but with a big personality, if that makes sense. Quite beautifully fruity, with some nice orange and grapefruit notes topping out first. Kiwi and kumquat. A faint peaty prickle and loads of saline sea breeze. A bit of pepper. Leather. Stewing fruits.

Palate: More peat now. In fact, it arrives first. Milk chocolate and cinnamon/nutmeg-esque spices. A bit of wet, smoky grist. A really cool orange-y tang on the mid-palate. Honey in green tea. Nice thin notes of smoke throughout. A bit drying, with a brilliant grapefruit candy note that teases an appearance in all-too-brief moments.

Finish: Surprisingly long. Leaves some neat fruit skin notes and very clean oak. I love that the barley still shines through.

Thoughts: A real shame about the anemic bottling strength, but I recognize this may not be targeted for the purist. Truly a pleasant revisit. I can’t lie: I’m kinda crushing on this malt right now.

87/100 (Though at 46% or higher, I think we’d be nudging closer to 90%)

025

 Posted by at 1:17 pm
Feb 282020
 

Only the second Coleburn review on ATW. Tsk tsk. For shame. It’s almost like some strange factor is limiting access to malts from this Speyside distillery. Hmmm. Oh…right.

For the record, Coleburn was yet another casualty of that devastating extinction event that claimed so many distilleries in the early 1980s. The distillery was a bit of a Frankenstein’s lab throughout a fair chunk of its existence, used mainly for production experimentation, and largely dedicated to providing malt for the Diageo family of blends. Seems a shame in retrospect, as we begin to realize the long term ageing potential the malt had. We say that far too frequently of late, I realize. I also concede we sentimentalize a bit too often as well. Such is.

This 21 was one of the iconic Rare Malts releases that sits in high stead and coveted pride of position for many malt drinkers. And rightfully so, I’d argue. We may see more nuance and subtlety through other ranges (and bottlers), but for pure bombast, it really is hard to pip the Rare Malts.

Coleburn was founded in 1897 and shuttered in 1985. RIP.

59.4% abv. Distilled in 1979, bottles in 2000.

Sincere thanks to my mate Brett Tanaka for the opportunity to taste this. The range of bottles he’s been opening for what we’ll call ‘The Brett Sessions’ are simply beyond comprehension. And I am beyond humbled to be able to partake. I’ll be reviewing dozens of them in the coming weeks/months.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Sour and just slightly cheesy. Sour Ju-jubes and quality eau de vie. Greengage. Orange, apple and cranberry. A wee bit of smoke. White chocolate. Honey. Riesling and green grape skins.

Palate: Oh, wow. Great arrival. Enormous, actually. Malt and rubber. Grapefruit zest (and a bit of pith too). Kinda makes it a bit weedy and bitter. Adds complexity. Rubber bands. Vegetal notes. Crunchie bar. Band-Aids. Reminds a bit of old Ledaig (a ’72 Cadenhead, in particular). Kinda dirty.

Finish: Drying, with firm tannins (though not overly aggressive). Let’s call it a ‘fair’ wood presence at the back end. Somewhat grassy. Some rubber. Vaguely industrial or chemical-y. In a great way.

88.5/100

 Posted by at 11:22 am