Aug 282016

Apologies, all.  Something crashed here.  Not sure if it was WordPress, Suffusion (the theme you’re used to seeing here) or a server issue.  Pretty sure it was the second.  If you’ve visited in the last day or so you’ll know the site looked as archaic as Pong or Asteroids for a bit.  No idea what happened, but I think we’re on the up and up now.

Thanks for standing by.

Now…back to our regularly scheduled programming.


– C

 Posted by at 9:57 am
Aug 252016

Kavalan Solist Sherry S100209017AIMG_2374

57.8% abv

Score:  90/100


I am a huge fan of the Solist brand from Kavalan.  In fact, one of the single greatest malts I’ve ever tried in my life was an earlier edition of this very same expression.  That bottle is inextricably tied to some very special memories now, but I can’t help but mourn it nevertheless.  More than that, though, I wish I could step back in time and kick myself for not buying more than one bottle of it when I had the opportunity.

If you’ve not tried these cask strength sherry bombs you’ll likely have no idea as to just how over-the-top rich and expressive they can be.  Thick and gargantuan, in fact.  Unquestionably some of the biggest drams I’ve drunk.  I compare my contemporary Solist Sherry experiences with first meeting Aberour a’bunadh all those years ago.

If you’re looking for some sort of metrics or comparables in the Scotch whisky world the closest approximation I can give you to a dram like this would be a 40 year old sherry-matured Longmorn or GlenDronach or something akin.  And even then, the flavours won’t align with expectations.  Kavalan matures very rapidly in the subtropical climes of Taiwan, making time less a factor in the spirit’s evolution than ambient temperature and cask breathability.  It makes for an instantly identifiable profile, but sometimes forgoes nuance and complexity in favour of bombast, uniqueness of character and a juicy, spicy profile.  Either way…I love it.  But then again, I wasn’t looking for ‘Scotch redux’.  I’d much rather a drink that carves its own path.

This particular bottling is actually a less than spectacular batch, but even so it scores this high.  Neat stuff, and utterly singular.

*One final note: I did try one batch (read: single cask) of this whisky that was a right mess.  Sulphuric offnotes and a lot of bitter unpleasantness.  Such is the nature of single cask releases.  However…it also serves to illustrate that it’s always worth going back and double checking a brand from time to time.  Fortunately that one bad experience was an anomaly.

Nose:  Rich syrupy dark fruits.  Oily dried fruit.  Coffee and dark chocolate.  Orange zest.  A touch of licorice.  Black cherry.  Fudge.  Molasses.  Strong exotic spices.  A hint of hoisin.  Moist fruitcake.  Dark soil.  Prunes.  Very ‘jammy’, as we like to say.

Palate:  Chocolate.  Jammy, stewed fruits.  More of that licorice note.  Big, wet woody notes.  Cold espresso.  A hint of Sen-sens and maybe Fisherman’s Friend cough sweets.  Coffee grounds.  Again…thick jam notes and more on that fruitcake, or Christmas cake, or whatever you want to call it.  Long, long, finish with some neat fruits at the back end.

Thoughts:  Give it time to breathe.  Oxygenation – both in the bottle and the glass – brings this one new dimensions.  Worth giving it some time.


 – Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 5:51 pm
Aug 102016

Isle Of Jura 1977 Juar064

46% abv

Score:  89/100


…and on the heels of that spectacular ’76 Jura we looked at a few days back, here’s the follow-up release: a very different and singular ’77.

Juar: Gaelic for “the yew tree” this time ’round (recall the ’76 referenced the Rowan tree).  This one is nowhere near as spectacularly nuanced as its older sibling, but is perhaps a little more bombastic for all that.  Again, some linguistic pagan origins here to tie this back to a land rich in lore, this time possibly hinting at regeneration, immortality and portals to the “otherword”, if you buy into the marketing fun, that is.  Not to mention that Yggdrasil itself has occasionally been rumoured to possibly have been a yew, and not an ash as most would believe.  Meandering fun, and provides some interesting conversation fodder for the timeless moments spent sipping this wizened old malt.

While quite lovely in its own right, I only wish I could say it lives up to its predecessor.  It’s certainly lively and a deft exercise for the tastebuds though.  And doubtless one of the best Jura I’ve yet tried.

34 years old, but noses younger.

*Took blind tasting notes and subsequently discovered this was port-finished.  Explains the winey-ness about it, doesn’t it?

Nose:  Fruity.  Rich in berries.  Scone dough.  Old books.  Some orange.  And then more orange.  Very slight winey-ness to it.  Rich spicyness.  Warm hot cross buns.  A slight nuttiness (as we find in most Jura).  Salt water taffy.  Hint of smoke.  Old cask.  Great harmony.

Palate:  Those are some tangy fruits.  Black current cough sweets.  Damp woods and grape juice.  Yeah…seems some wine influence.  Or just very tannic wood.  Ginger.  A very pleasant earthy, mineralness about it.  Leaves flavours
reminiscent of unlit cigar tobacco.

Thoughts:  Smells like a mid-aged Speysider.


– Images & Words:  Curt

 Posted by at 9:42 pm
Aug 102016

Well…in spite of a tumultuous ride of late (or perhaps because of it?), a small contingent of us are indeed bound for Islay in a few weeks.  Long time readers will likely recall both 2010 and 2012 excursions to this land of bog and brine, as those were documented day by day, but perhaps less glamorously documented were the rainchecked trips scheduled for 2014 and 2015.  Suffice it to say, this four year break between visits to my ‘home away from home’ has been far too long.

I’m pretty clear about my biases here on ATW.  My love for Islay, its malts and all its trappings are well and truly acknowledged here.  It should come as no surprise that this little island feels like home to me.  I’ll go one step further: in a way it’s really the only place on earth where I feel completely relaxed and at home.  I was a kid who moved a lot, and have either maintained that nomadic tendency throughout adulthood, or settled for spells in places that held little appeal.  This comment greatly offended my wife at one point, so let me clarify: emotionally, home is wherever my family is, of course, but geographically (and sentimentally, I suppose) home feels more like Islay.

The people are great.  The land is beautiful.  The pace is slow.  The air bracing.  Life…just seems to make more sense there.

Anyway…time to start documenting things here.  Feel free to read along as we go, or wait for the reviews and such in between.

39 days ’til wheels up.

 Posted by at 2:47 pm