Jan 022014

Amrut Kadhambam018

50% abv

Score:  90/100


In one of the more innovative bits of cask play I’ve seen so far, Amrut has crafted yet another quirky single malt for general release.  Kadhambam means ‘mixture’ in the Tamil dialect, and that mixture they’re referring to is the casks themselves.  By that I mean that this malt got around more than Taylor Swift through Hollywood’s bachelor scene, with flings in alternately rum, sherry and brandy barrels.  As you can imagine, this leads to a very singular whisky.

I imagine some may be led to believe this would be much like a Frankenmalt with a very ‘manufactured’ profile.  Surprisingly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  While definitely a bit of glorious tomfoolery, this is not a contrived whisky by any means.  Instead it is a case of the whole being more than the sum of its parts.  I like that.  A whisky with good integration where the cohesive whole is treat.

To be fair, this isn’t my favorite of Amrut releases, but it is good.  More than good actually.  Enough so that I squirreled away a couple of bottles for some future rainy day.  Or more likely just for inclusion in a couple of planned Amrut range tastings in future days.  

As you can see by the image above, this particular bottle I’m writing of is from Batch 1, in the days of Amrut’s big coffin box presentation.  Nowadays these releases come in a much more modest and compact presentation.  I’ve yet to try the newer batches, but if you can find one of these originals (limited to just a couple hundred bottles) do grab one.  If not…no worries…this is a distillery which is very dependable in terms of consistency.  I’m sure the newer editions are also likely spot on.

Nose:  Rich and spicy.  Cinnamon, nutmeg and butter.  Marzipan.  Melon.  Cantaloupe.  Cocoa.  Clove.  Orange oil.  Grape.  Spicy bread.  A sort of savoury note.  Putty.  A little bit of a wine note here, I think.

Palate:  Apple in caramel and cinnamon.  Bread.  Anise.  Big syrupy delivery and smooth development.  Creamy toffee and a molasses bitterness.  Over ripe fruits.  More chocolate.  Fruit leather.  Quite drying.  Apples on the finish.

Thoughts & Impressions:  Very well-composed.  The way this one unfolds is quite magic.  If you sit back and think about it, knowing what sort of casks are at play here, you can actually see the influence of all in the finished product.  Quite neat.  Speaks volumes to the skill of Amrut’s blender(s).  


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 10:51 am
Jan 022014

Pig’s Nose180

40% abv

Score:  71/100


There’ve been an awful lot of ‘highs’ in my recent tasting days.  How ’bout we tackle another ‘low’ just to add a little perspective.

You’ve all heard the expression ‘putting lipstick on a pig’, right?  It means simply that no matter how you dress it up, ultimately it’s still a pig.  Hate to say it, but it’s incredibly apt just how well this little analogy applies to Pig’s Nose Scotch Whisky.  The marketing tied to this one says the name comes from the idea that their whisky is as smooth as a pig’s nose.  I’ve touched a pig or two in my time (cue bad jokes) but this is nothing like that.  This is more like the bristles on a warthog.

To be fair, this is a blend, and a cheap one at that.  I wasn’t expecting anything magic here, but I was hoping for something a little smoother.  After all…Sheep Dip (from the same makers) has been really good in the past.  With Pig’s Nose, however, I can only assume a mashbill that contains a hefty grain to malt ratio.  I read a while back something about this having been built on 40% malt, but I don’t buy it.  This whisky seems to be heftily propped up by neutral grain spirit.  There’s a very prevalent alcohol bite that’s not even a bit pleasant.  This needs much more cask time to smooth out some wrinkles.  At a mere five years old this never should have hit the shelves.  Also…it really is boring as fuck.

I should note…I found out after tasting this one that it was put together by the ‘legendary’ Richard Paterson.  I’ll say no more.

Nose:  Waaaaaaaaay too young.  The composition isn’t all that bad, you can tell already, but this is so underdeveloped as to be almost unpleasant.  Tack on a bunch more years of maturation and you might have something here.  Caramel and perfume-like floral notes.  A touch of sugar cookies met with putty and a light dusting spice.  Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in milk.  A touch of cheap chocolate and malt.  Barest hint of smoke…almost weedy smoke.  I’ll assume some Islay content (most likely Caol Ila, of course) because of it.

Palate:  Vodka.  Seriously.  Harsh and alcoholic.  With burnt caramel (and far too much of it) and sharp, dry, tannic oak.  Again kinda malty and rich in faux chocolate.  Bit of a shudder.  Faint, faint green apple on fade.

Thoughts:  Points for having the nuts to state right up front this is a five year old.  More whisky maker’s should be so forthright to not hide behind the ‘NAS’ option.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:28 am
Jan 012014

Arran Machrie Moor142

46% abv

Score:  72/100


Arran, in my humble opinion, is a distillery just coming of age.  Generally speaking, the usual coming of age for any malt would be about 10-12 years, but that doesn’t really seem like a proper state of maturity, if you ask me.  Kind of like handing out driver’s permits to preteens.  The true test of a whisky is what it does when it is old enough to vote, hit the bar and f*ck.  Crude, I know, but no less true for it.  In my tastes anyway.

Just this past year Arran released its first 16 year old whisky.  I’ve heard good things about it, but have yet to try it myself.  The only reason I bring this up is to raise the point that perhaps this particular whisky we’re about to chat about would actually succeed at a similar age.  As it is…well…not so much.

Machrie Moor is kinda like the proverbial ‘fat guy in a little coat’.  The peat just doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the spirit itself.  Here we have Arran peated to about 14ppm.  Should be enough to provide a bit of a whomp (and it does), but not enough to overpower the underlying structure (hmmm…not so sure about that).  What I can be sure of though, is that this whisky is just not working.

Arran malts seem to be a bit of a fan favorite of late, but the distillery still hasn’t released a whisky that has ticked all the boxes for me as yet.  I’ve tried a bunch of their more novel finished releases, as well as the Peacock and Devil’s Punchbowl et al, but perhaps it’s the purist in me that longs to taste this malt in a pure and mature iteration.  Time to hunt that 16 year old, I think.  Until then…I think this is a bottle that will be finished by friends.  Not really my thing.

Nose:  Young, feisty and citric.  Almost juniper-like.  Grassy.  Quite new make-ish (read: far too young).  Vanilla.  Cleaning product of some sort.  Smoked apple and fresh wood.  Sweet earthy peat.  Coconut lotion.  Very ‘green’…almost pine-like.  Far too sharp and aggressive.

Palate:  Peat and nutty notes.  Ash and smoke.  Quite tart.  Dry pastry dough.  Some fishy notes.  o be honest…not a good drink.  Still seesawing, and definitely not balanced as yet.

Thoughts:  Served up far too young.  The nose borders on ‘ok’, but the palate is failing grades.  Splitting hairs maybe but, while I won’t say this is a bad whisky, I will say it’s not a very good one.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:18 pm
Jan 012014

Port Ellen 1983 (OMC) Cask #2116Closed Distilleries Photos 045

50% abv

Score:  86.5/100


Last review of 2013 was a Port Ellen.  Only fitting that the first of 2014 is…a Port Ellen.

Far less valleys and mountain tops with this PE than many of the others out there.  This is a rather unremarkable specimen from Islay’s infamously closed distillery.  Having said that…being an unremarkable Port Ellen is still sorta like being the least popular Beatle.  Everyone still wants a piece of you and you ARE still legendary and timeless.

I’m often a sucker for malts in their very late teens or early twenties.  It seems to be a bit a personal sweet spot for me.  But I think most of the very best Port Ellen releases I’ve tried so far have all been a little bit older than that.  The Diageo releases, of course, but also the OMC ones that fall in the 26 or 27 year range.  Awesome stuff, that.  But hey…beggars can’t be choosers, right?  So let’s dig in to a 22 year old from the teeming warehouses of Douglas Laing.

The Laing brothers (prior to their recent split) and family, in a measure of incredible foresight and prudence, or simply fortuitous purchasing of what was possibly considered an inferior malt at the time, managed to lay aside vast stocks of Port Ellen casks after the distillery’s closure in ’83.  This particular expression is from the last days of distillation in 1983.  It was a rather generous refill butt that yielded a healthy 660 bottles at 50% abv.  Shame it wasn’t at natural cask strength, but we’ll happily take 50%.

Nose:  Faint peat up front with a bit of almost elusive smoke.  Salted toffee and brine.  Lemon polish and orange.  Seaside-ish, but also quite farmyard-ish.  Rye bread.  Malty and carrying a little bit of feintiness.  Dried fruit and dusty old chocolate.  To be honest…not quite up to snuff.

Palate:  Salty and somewhat pickle-ish (without being really dill-y.  More malty, rye notes.  Raisin and lemon juice.  Dried fruits seem more vibrant here…maybe even jammy.  Smoke and earth.  Tannic and drying.  Better palate than nose.

Thoughts:  Maybe not the best of cask quality here.  Still more than decent, but this is the kind of Port Ellen that makes people question whether or not they’re really worth the (ever growing) price tag.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

 Posted by at 7:22 pm