Monday, May 13, 2013

Wine finished wonder

The chaps at Springbank have another winner - this Longrow 14yr old was matured in bourbon casks for 11yrs and then dropped in Burgundy hogsheads for 3 years.

Nose: Nutty and quite chocolate-rich, with notes of buttertoffee, cranberries, jam on toast, a hint of gunpowder, and some maple spice. Palate: Sweet oak on the palage, with hints of toffee popcorn, salted butter, star anise, sweet cereals and a little Christmas pudding. Finish: Oaky and spicy, hints of nutmeg, ginger and toffee apples.

Bruichladdich surprise

I have never complained about Bruichladdich, but never sung its praises either. Thanks to H.E. for introducing me to the lovely 21. This is a sherry lovers dram and very much like the Black Bull 30. Indeed, the only difference i think i would notice is that this Bruichladdich is smoother and has no grain aftertaste. 

Official tasting notes make it sound as good as it is: Character is full and mellow, rounded and rich - clearly from the Oloroso Sherry Butt. The Nose is dark butterscotch, cocoa-sprinkled haze nuts, soft banana, prune syrup, plump dark raisins and amoretti biscuits all jostle to take centre stage. The nose will also detect a zephyr of salty sea breezes. After the initial fiesta has calmed, beautiful soft green fruits emerge bringing lychee, passion fruit, melon and mango along with the sweetness of maltose and barley sugar. The Palate is full of power and passion is best experienced without the addition of water. However, we leave that to you. It is a grande reserva or in gaelic bival arfad - absolutely beautiful. The Finish is a cultural melody, the wildness of Islay and the warmth of Spain combined in a unification of flavours that is heart-warming and haunting. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Top shelf here

Springbank never ceases to impress. While I am biased towards less sherry/more bourbon, i really find this new version of the Springbank 18yr to be a great dram. Not the most complex, or interesting of whiskies, but really really satisfying. It is a dram i can count on. Moved it to the top shelf next to the few 21's i have left.

Nose: Berry fruits, toasted bananas, caramel, cocoa, peppery, fruity, coastal. Quite oily.
Palate: Big, spicy and gutsy, with notes of pepper, chilli, pine, aniseed, rich fruits, oily.
Finish: Long, salty and chocolatey with hints of fruit.

Orkney or bust

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has put out another winner. This one - # 4.160 is known as "in a gentleman's club." The fun of the SMWS is that they do not tell you explicitly where the whisky is from. They give strong hints, but leave a little for the expert guesswork. (SECRET - this one is from Highland Park)

The official notes are great (over the top, but fun): The nose had polished wood, cigars and leather chairs ‘like a gentleman’s’ club’, lots of cinder toffee, chocolate fingers, pastrami and various fruits (orange jelly, cherries in syrup, plums, figs). The initial palate was somewhat fierce but surprisingly enjoyable – moist ginger cake, Caramac, orange, smoked ham and burnt sticks in birch syrup. The reduced nose had incense, struck match, Trail Mix (dates, raisins, etc.) Horlicks, cinnamon and slightly over-done Christmas cake. The palate now found flambéed bananas, sweet dark toffee and abundant spice (musk, myrrh, cinnamon) at the end. The distillery is supposedly haunted by the ghost of Magnus Eunson.
Drinking tip: Perfect dram for the ferry to Orkney – otherwise after dinner.
Date Distilled: 17 April 1997 Colour: Dark rum Age: 14 years Cask Type: Refill gorda Whisky Region: Highland Island

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Glen Keith?

Not a great dram. Blackadder 19yr old Glen Keith via D&M club is one step above dull. It has little nose and tons of hard alcohol on the palate. Clearly a bourbon cask - but all cask. That is partly due to the Blackadder way - right from the cask with charred shavings and all, but also very monochromatic. Glen Keith is interesting as it was built in the late 50s and mothballed by 2000. This is one of the first bottles i have tasted from there, and too bad that i am not overly impressed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

This is how to do scotch

While i have been in awe of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society for quite some time, i am more recently (like right now) blown away by the quality of the scotch that they share. OK not really shared - the stuff aint cheap - but the experience is really worth the extra $$$$. Check out the SMWS site -  for a little fun in guiding you to a whisky based on the most elaborate tasting wheel/vocabulary i have seen. Great fun!

I am currently enjoying two very nice drams:

Leather sofa seduction - Cask No. 63.26. Official notes are almost poetry - but really had me enjoying this whisky: The interesting, dynamic nose suggested fruit (schnapps, Armagnac, Victoria sponge); also caramel, spicy sweets and cough syrup; then descriptions began to emerge involving cigarette packets, perfume and leather (for one panellist it conjured up ‘a leather sofa, a hot guy and some cologne’). The palate, quite hot in its own right, contained dried papaya, orange, star-fruit and grappa, with big, manly wood and leather astringency. With water the nose found fruit pastilles and ‘masculine’ perfumes (spicy, woody, musky). The palate now balanced its leather and tobacco depth, with elegant, exotic, perfumed mango fruitiness.

Cant make this up - right?

The second dram (or three) was a tough purchase given the name (Kerosene Delight) but really delivers. I should mention that both are clearly bourbon casks with little or no smoke. Yes - there are small ice cubes in this dram - really seemed to need something to 'cool it off' on the second dram.

The Scotch Imposter offers this perfect tasting note: Tasting notes:
Nosing the SMWS 4.153 is like plunging my face into a cast-iron cauldron filled with pumpkin pie laced with cardamom, heather sprigs, oak shavings, jester velvet, and titanium hemostats put to questionable uses by non-medical personnel. Also: tandoori lambchops, don't ask me to explain it! On the mouth, it's a gritty noir reimagining of The Sound of Music. Sherry, edelweiss, singing nuns, adorkable children (has 'adorkable' jumped the shark yet?), Nazis, and true-life heroes. This is a historical romance to get lost in, because the signposts (written in German, duh) are mounted on cedar poles oozing pine resin, don't ask me to explain that, either. The 117.2 proof finish has my soft palate first moaning for mercy, and then whispering for more. Shades of 50 Shades.
Adding water allows a wood-burning stove with a few burnt-out cinders duking it out with aloe vera and other succulents. The mouth is transformed into Memento rebooted as light-hearted Broadway musical—with music by Leonard Cohen?—starring Jim Carrey as a relentlessly forgetful husband. "Today's our anniversary??? Doh!" But like all great comics, Jim Carrey has a dark side, and the mouth doesn't let me forget the pain of childbirth, even though it's complemented by the wonderful smell of newborn children. The finish transports my spirit to an astral plane, so it's hard to find words used by mere mortals to describe the experience. Since I'm forced: it goes on and on, filled with odd beauty like a film by Terence Malick.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Another GlenDronach winner

If you love sherry...

The 18yr old in the GlenDronach range is very nice. Hard to keep up with the 21 (Parliament) but it does a good job. A bit lighter in terms of palate but still rich and thick. I am torn about whether i like this or the 21 better. will do a side by side taste test soon and post results.

Appearance: Bright deep gold with a tawny centre.
Nose:  Sweet aromatics of fudge and muscovado sugar. Fruit compote and glacier morello cherries provide added complexity.
Palate: Rich dark and seductive. Remarkable flavours of stewed fruits and all-spice marry together with classical aged Oloroso and toasted walnut bread and chocolate orange.

A very complex and long dram that is a great value if you can find it.

Peter Arkle Design

Design outdoes the whiskey - this anCnoc release is very nice, and / but VERY unique. The design (see below) is fabulous. The scotch itself is wonderful in the right context. It is only 46% but tastes much stronger. Indeed, the sherry and the char of the cask almost crowd out the mature fruit in the tasting. This is a UK only release that sadly is not available in the US. Worth a try if visiting the UK.

Peter Arkle Project Background: Peter Arkle is a reknowned Scottish illustrator based in New York who has worked with some of the worlds biggest brands (Guinness, Nike, and Starbucks are just a few!) He has developed an exclusive range of limited edition designs for anCnoc, of which this is the first, which will be launched throughout 2012 and will be available in the UK, USA, Sweden and selected European markets. Royal Mile Whiskies are proud to be the exclusive UK retailer. While sipping his anCnoc, Peter found himself considering the ingredients: Yes, it’s made from malted barley, spring water (from the nearby Knock Hill), yeast, heat and the passing of a lot of time (ageing in a cask). However there’s another ingredient... something that can’t really be seen: something MAGIC! If you look carefully, you will see that Peter has captured all these ingredients in his design for this pack. The liquid inside is also very special. Selected by the Distillery Manager, Gordon Bruce, this Limited Edition is matured in Spanish oak sherry butts. Traditionally anCnoc is matured in American wood. This gives the whisky a darker colour and notes of dark spices and dried fruits.
Official Tasting Notes
Nose: Rich and spicy fruit cake aromas are complemented by creamy vanilla and pronounced sticky toffee. The middle note of freshly picked green apples is accentuated by just a touch of blood orange zest. Complex and satisfying.
Colour: Rich copper with amber highlights
Taste: Sun-dried raisins and honey explode on the palate, followed quickly by vanilla ice-cream with hot caramel sauce. The finish is round and long, on the dark side of the fruit.

I would only add that the nose gives away the sherry cask right away and has a ripe fruit aroma that is very powerful. The palate has distinct charred oak in it. It is a rich whisky that is best paired with hard cheeses and the like.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Great smoke, ugly look

BenRiach's 21 year old 'Authenticus' is a smokey room where you cannot not see. The scotch is lovely. Really gorgeous. Smoky aroma that leads into a nicely matched taste. Not Islay. Just peat. But that label... wow. what were they smoking?

Official tasting notes:
NOSE: An explosion of smoke and peat, in combination with teasing hints of honey, apples and spices.
COLOUR: Rich golden.
TASTE: Rich peat, in perfect harmony with honey, chocolate, raisins and oak wood, followed by a cascade of spices rolling over the palate.

But this tasting note from Whisky Party does it right:

Color: A gorgeous deep golden.
Legs: Kind of big; slow and viscous, but more like cankles.
Nose: It’s a fruity peat smoke that hits you right away, gently though, and with it comes a truly remarkable fresh scent of rosewater, cucumbers (much like the Curiositas), fresh lemons, and a touch of peach.
Palate: Warm, soft, and estery at first, the burning-ember peat smoke (with some alcoholic punch) jumps right out at you within moments, with some earthiness, but transitions smoothly into cinnamon-baked apples with some oranges.
Body: Full and textured, a bit firm.
Finish: Medium-to-long, with a grass-fire fade.
Overall: One of the best damn drams I’ve tasted in a while, and that’s saying a lot.  From the moment I cracked the bottle, the aromas captivated me.  I couldn’t imagine how good the taste could be after that amazing mixture of peat and fruit and smoke, but the palate delivered a truly unique, textured, and delicious flavour.  It seems, for me, to continue along the lines of the Curiositas, though having undergone an excellent development of those flavours over the course of 11 extra years in the cask.  Winner!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BenRiach Blast

The 25yr old distillery bottling of BenRiach is really fun. This was released a few years ago - dont know how i missed it (says released in 2006). It was aged in a mix of three casks: Bourbon barrels, Spanish Oloroso sherry casks, and fresh, 'virgin' oak. This malt comes bottled at high proof for additional complexity and fun. Add water and you get two whiskies for the price of well, two. At just over $200 a bottle, it is not cheap, but i really find it worth it. Especially as its complexity comes from subtle peat and wild wood notes. The sherry bit of this whiskies is just a note.

Nose: Mature and balanced on the nose. This is refined stuff with notes of salty butter, crème caramel, custard and black pepper.
Palate: Fruity and lush with peaches and apricots. Marzipan, white chocolate and exotic spices develop in the glass.
Finish: A drying, refined finish, tapering out on sweet spices and fruit.
Overall: Wonderfully complex and fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another sad day

I just finished this 35 year old Banff (11/1975 @ 45.4%) from Duncan Taylor and sadly understand that there is little more to be found.  Banff distillery was established in 1824 and rebuilt on a different site after fire damage in 1863. The distillery was rebuilt following another fire in 1877 and came under the ownership of Scotch Malt Distillery in 1933. The distillery was one of many casualties in 1983 and has since been demolished. Indeed this is all that is left -

Banff whiskies have always impressed me. Most have been in bourbon casks and all have an wonderful blend of sweetness from the bourbon and smoke from the char. This one is really good but does no blow me away. Still worth searching it out (as are other rare Banff releases)
A tasting note that resonates:

Nose: Green apples, grassy, clean, intense oak (no doubt from the oak cask involvement of 35 years!)
Taste: Let it sit for a good while before tasting. Otherwise you will get nothing from this gem. The taste is exactly like the nose, which is impressive- and it's more. Initially, rich green apples, floral, soft- typical Speyside. However, within ten seconds of sipping, a very sharp, cask involved taste hits you intensely- lots of oak and stinging from the alcohol, white pepper. This one is very intriguing, and is undoubtedly cask strength. After awhile, rich, vegetal notes linger and keep the finish clean.
Finish: Clean. Need I say more? Very complex- lots of intrinsic quality and complexity to this relatively simple, yet old, Speysider.
Balance: Impressive- after 35 years this whisky has proven to be one of the best, and affordable, older whiskies on the market. The elegance of Speyside whisky and Banff, is present in this bottle. 23/25

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cab finish!

Wow. I really love this Longrow. This is the new Red - the whisky has been aged for 7 years in refill bourbon barrels and then finished for 4 years in Cabernet Sauvignon hogsheads. I am a fan of peat, but not crazy about it. I love it when the peat comes with sweetness and other mellowing notes. And nothing beats a bourbon cask to start with for me...

Color: Red
Nose: A real treat. Sweet in the beginning; raspberry ham and hints of rose petal. As the nose develops it reveals a light peatiness, with cherries, red grapefruit and blood oranges.
Palate: Oh there's the peat! Initially oaky and leathery with a little bit of tobacco and salt, the Cabernet Sauvignon influence appears later with some blackberries and cinnamon. A very chewy dram.
Finish: Long and peaty. Definitely coastal in style, there is a touch of mellow fruitiness here too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Just in from Macallan

This Duncan Taylor Dimensions bottling of a 16yr old Macallan is unique. Take a look at the color - this is NOT the typical sherry cask from Mac. I admit that I tend to prefer the bourbon casks. Better is when they are blended with sherry the way that Springbank does it. That is why i tend to prefer the FIne Oak line from Macallan over the the regular line. This is a great example of my preference. I have a few of these in stock if anyone wants.

Nose: Stewing sultanas and apples with cinnamon and nutmeg providing a spicy afterthought.
Palate: The palate displays honeyed sweetness and a silky texture with notes of dried fruits and chocolate in the background.
Finish: The finish is long and wholesome with notes of cocoa powder and vanilla extract leading to candied orange peel
Overall: This is a full-bodied Macallan righteously cask-strength and proud.

Longing for Longrow

Longrow 18 is a so wonderful. It has smoke (as it is Springbank's peaty style) but  smoothness that is really rare.

Colour: Golden Hay. Nose: This whisky has an incredibly sweet nose with some savory notes peeking through. Marshmallows in abundance - the vanilla variety, with icing sugar and foam bananas adding to the sweetness. Upon further nosing the fruit makes an appearance, brambles, mandarines and over ripe damson fruits. Some savory notes pushing through such as linseed oil - do we smell cricket bats? Palate: This dram coats your palate in a waxy fashion with its continuing sweet flavours as described on the nose. But there is also the familiar, well balanced trace of smoke which makes this a brilliantly complex wee dram that will make you feel right at home no matter where you are.
Finish: The creaminess of this whisky means it doesn't go away - you feel the warmth of this Longrow all the way down to your boots, creamy, sweet with a gentle smoke finish.