Glenglassaugh Port Wood Finish – “Drinker’s Discretion Is Advised”

Glenglassaugh is a Highland distillery with a spotty history of closures. The last time was in 1986 back when it was owned by Eddington group who was using it as blend fodder.

It was re-opened by a private group in 2008 and then acquired by Benriach under Billy walker’s tenure in 2011.

So basically what this means is you’ll either find really old 30+ yrs old limited, deluxe releases or NAS releases that are bound to be < 10yrs of age.

Now that it’s owned by Brown Foreman, I am unsure they know how to market it exactly as it doesn’t have the cachet of Glendronach let’s say but in turn it does have the advantage of being malleable as no one yet knows what to expect from them, plus it is said to churn out about 1,000,000L /yr, so they’re bound to do something with it.

OK so this one is NAS and finished in Port Casks.

Nose: Funky, improbable, olives brined in strawberry juice. Then an intense wave of dunnage warehouse & damp basement funk. Lanolin, weird herbs, a bit of ointment, then plums and blackberries.

I like dunnage notes but the weird medicinal fruits clawing their way to top are not very pleasant.

Palate: Berry cough syrup, sweet malty porridge, a good dose of sulfured cask funk, it almost feels like a sherrried malt in the middle of the development. It goes on into dried fruits, astringent mouthfeel, celery leaves,marzipan covered in milk chocolate. A slight melted plastic note also.

Finish: Dry, mouth puckering, overripe Camembert & lingering dried fruit note

Blab: Wow they released this? It’s all over the place unbalanced AF, I thought perhaps I was being harsh but there was a dude there at the tasting who refused a pour saying “Le pink color one, I’ve had it already, non merci”

It feels like a young malt full of asperities, that would become characterful if left alone to do it’s thing for 12+yrs but instead was dumped too early into very wet port casks.

Glenglassaugh Port Cask Finish

46% ABV

66/100

Deveron 12 – Light on the Palate, Soft on the Hands.

The Deveron line of whisky were created as part of a re-vamped single malts portfolio of Bacardi (Dewar’s) as part of a larger umbrella, including Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy, Craigellachie & Aultmore they dubbed “The last great malts of Scotland”…I am working hard not to make light of this ostentatious title. If you don’t know these whiskys well it is because most of them we’re locked in Cinderella like servitude to their master’s blends.

Either way I quite like the packaging the green frosted glass bottles inject just enough of a retro dosage and the simple yet colorful label keep it vibrant and modern. It is designed by firm Stranger & Stranger who also handle all Compass box products.

The crowd at the tasting.

As to the contents…

Nose: Juicy fruit gum, fresh cut apples, peaches and cream oatmeal, and almost sulfurous, phenolic side. Fresh buttercups, light green tea and something I can’t put my finger on, aloe?? Then the scent finally hits me, skin lotion! It’s not bad, almost waxy in a way.

What a pleasant fresh and fun nose, I wasn’t expecting this at all.

Palate: It has a bit of bite when it first hits your tongue but then it’s quickly gone. Dry oak, old papers, definitely a kind mineral edge, it’s a bit like the Craigellachie 13 I tried the week prior. It shifts to vanilla pudding, still a bit if fruits but much less than present than on the nose, a bit of candied lemon peel as well.

Finish: There’s not much to talk about, it quickly loses steam, leaving a whisp of oak, lemon and barley.

The Blab: I think this whisky has great character, the nose in particular was fresh and yet wasn’t trying to play it easy, there was a pleasant tension there.

Sadly the palate is where things go poorly, it begins with things of interest but then loses momentum. Sure not everything should be served cask strength but this whisky really loses out by being cut to 40% ABV, maybe it’s teeth are too sharp when this is dialed up but I think it’s more of a cost/ target audience choice since the whole line-up is dished out at the same strength.

I had a hard time scoring this because I didn’t hate it but it wasn’t great

The Deveron 12

40% ABV

Let’s say a B-/C 79/100 if you must

Bruichladdich Black Art 4.1 / 1990 / 23yrs “Crimson Tide Part III”

The final dram in my “whine” cask exploration series, Bruichladdich’s Black Arts series is the one that has the most marketing malarkey, no one but the Master Blender knows it’s composition (except perhaps the guys dumping the damn barrels), incantations, magic, solstice,druids…wait I started going all Highland Park there for a moment.

Simple premise, Old regime Bruicladdich spirit (20+yrs) + put through the lens of potentially all kind of wine/fortified wine they have a their disposal , so expect some funny business, if you don’t like wine casks in whisky stay far away.

Nose: Sweet, slightly acetic, red wine vinegar, apricots, cocoa powder, red currant jelly, dried prunes. Lots of sherry influence, a bit of leather, Turkish delight and marzipan. Loads of oak, melons, candle wax and fresh cut green branches. Loads of oak, melons, candle wax and fresh cut green branches.

The interplay of both sherry and wine casks is present, good French oak in use but this kind of waxy, green and sharp acidic side is permanently in effect.

Palate: Thin mouth-feel at first , then raspberry jam, thyme, fennel seeds, fresh coriander, a touch of salt and a good drizzle of molasses. In time it steers towards rye bread, roasted almond marzipan, red wine sauce, prunes in Armagnac, some dried mushrooms as well.

Finish: It lingers on the dark sherry elements, molasses, sulfur, prunes, wet oak, cloves and camphor. A bit of Campari in the finish. That quinine and bitter herb feeling. A touch of peat perhaps? There is defintely an earthy side.

Blab: You have to like this style, I personally don’t think the ones I have tasted thus far live up to the hype, I find the nosing it to be the most rewarding along with the tail end of the finish, where it reminds me a bit of Macallan cask strength (the little I have had of that) at that moment.

Side note, I think this is the style of packaging they should have given to Octomore, it’s something out of Black Metal album and totally unsuited to the style of whisky that it contains.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 4.1

49.2% ABV

83/100

Bruichladdich 1990 Micro Provenance Cask Exploration, Château Latour – “Crimson Tide Part II”

Alright the next whisky in my exploration of Wine afflicted Bruichladdich whiskys, this samples was graciously sent by a lovely chap from Calgary.

The vital statistics, this was part of Bruichladdich’s Micro-Provenance series, I think this was the name they gave to their single cask program, they were even once available for sale on the Bruichladdich site which had an amazing odd’s and end’s section where they would liquidate stuff they dug up from their inventory, you could catch gems there…how times have changed.

This is from a series of casks that we’re exclusive to Alberta, all followed the same scheme, ex-bourbon maturation (20+yrs) with finish of a couple of years in wine casks, I think there was, Gaja Barolo, Gaja Bolgheri, Rivesaltes, Brunello, Chateau Lafite & Chateau Latour. They are still plenty available on shelves last I was there.

Nose: Sweet, bramble fruits, red apples skins, spicy oak a touch of cloves and that smell of boiled syrup candies. After much air there is, melon, rose geranium, a touch of cough syrup and a bit of play-doh.

The wine cask has taken over much of the nose, it’s a touch sharp too.

Palate: Oily, sweet & salty fighting for balance, plums, apricots and a feeling of coconut oil. Further sipping brings menthol, a bit of coriander & juniper seeds and something akin stone fruits in cooked lamb fat?

Finish: Sharp, astringent oak, first strawberries & dried ginger, it then morphs into lemon pith and apricot. The finish doesn’t have much staying power.

The Blab: Interesting, the wine is clearly in charge of most of this, The nose while sweet at first it doesn’t like long air exposure, those funky plasticine and off notes show up if you take too long. The palate was great a kind of wild ride between the fruits, the oak and those weird oily/meaty elements, don’t nose too long and spend more time drinking it I guess.

Bruichladdich 1990 Micro-Provenance, Cask Evolution: Chateau Latour

52.4% ABV

83/100

*Photo credit Chris Dawson

Classic Laddie Batch 16/004 “Crimson Tide Part I”

I’m back constant reader, all 3 of you. Many whisky adventures since I last posted but we’ll begin with the following exploration. A couple of months back I won a contest that was put on by fellow whiskygrammer holdmyscotch.

I was well pleased when I received two interesting samples from one of my favorite distilleries, both whiskys had the heavy touch of wine casks about them and it turns out I had the right partner for just such an occasion.

My girlfriend has an oft neglected bottle of The Classic Laddie in the back of her cupboard, it’s not so much that it was a bad bottle but it’s just kind of particular depending on what you’ve been having before. The interesting thing about this particular bottle is that it contains a pretty good percentage of wine casks 42% exactly…we know this because of the oft forgotten but amazing vatting tool that Bruichladdich puts at our disposal.

Bottled in 2016, it is a vatting of 82 casks between ranging in vintages between 2005-2008 42% of them being 1st, 2nd or 3rd fill wine casks.  I had spotted this difference when trying it up against other batches in the past but didn’t know how to frame it as part of a review. The distillery is rather (in) famous for its heavy use of wine and fortified wine casks, I figured this is a good exercise to see if there is any common DNA among 3 wine casked variants.


Nose: Apricots, a bit of struck match, melon, wet oak, red currants, a touch of lanolin. Pickled ginger & menthol. There’s definitely some tension between the fruits and then the cask play. A bit of lamp oil, salty caramel definitely a fusel type note. 

Palate: Oily, sharp, butterscotch candy, sulfur, canned apricots, a grassy and vegetal side. Sunflower oil, dried mango, Celery salt. The sulphur is a back and its like veg cooking water but it’s just hanging in the back.

Finish: Sharp, astringent, sweet and sour, there’s definitely the signs of youth as it’s prickly on the middle of the tongue. The finish lingers. It’s quite long and persistent with lemon pith. 

Notes: It’s got some Bruichladdich hallmarks, melons, super oily and rich. The oak contributes some richness but also this kind of menthol note

This isn’t the most cohesive although I feel the bottle has suffered with time. The nose remains the most pleasant aspect of it.

Classic Laddie batch 16/004

50%abv

81/100

Laphroaig – Triple Wood “Fewer calories, thrice the oak”

This is basically the quarter cask with an additional rest time in refill sherry casks. I know many reviews panned this for being less brash and in your face than other Laphroaigs, now that it’s discontinued, it might get more love?

Nose: Cough lozenges, black licorice, antiseptic, that note of germinating grain, vanilla, loads of sweet oak, salty, the nose feels a bit closed.

Palate: Oily, astringent grain, smoked fish, and carbolic give way to sweetness, currants, dried fruit & spices. The palate is soft, all in vanilla, menthol and earth.

Finish: Rich, oily, grassy, licorice & strawberry candy with sweet smoke.

The Blab: The medicinal elements seem to sit tight amidst the successive oak treatments, the ashy smoke is what is replaced by the sweeter elements. Not the one for those looking for that Laphroaig slap in the face but if you like the the distillers editions of Lagavulin and Talisker this is a winner.

Laphroaig Triple Wood

48%ABV

84/100

Ardbeg – An Oa “The baker’s eating Kippers”

This expression is the first to be added to Ardbeg’s regular line-up in many years. A vatting of different cask types (ex-bourbon, virgin oak, px), all finished in Ardbeg’s new European oak marrying tun.

It’s received a fair bit of flack, let’s see what the fuss is all about.

Nose: A hint of Ardbeg’s coal and diesel smoke, then sweeter, cookie dough?Jordan almonds, vanilla, candied fennel seeds, menthol a bit of ginger. It’s nice if a bit subdued.

Palate: Ashy right out of the gate,vanilla. prune sauce some cinnamon. It has some bite, soot, sweet dough, a tin of smoked herring being opened in a bakery. It’s got many of the hallmarks of what makes Ardbeg good but pushed down by the oak.

Finish: Green branches, the astringent lemons show up late to the party. lots of oak, char, vanilla, loads of ginger, a tiny bit or earth.

It’s not neutered like Laphroaig select but it is a more rounded version of the kildalton crusher. They’ve tamed the feisty young Ardbeg spirit, making it sweeter and smoothing over the mineral and maritime edge.

I don’t hate this, it’s well made and enjoyable but at a time when so much Scotch is being homogenized. I would prefer they embrace the challenging nature of their whisky rather than blunt it.

Ardbeg An Oa

46.6% ABV

84/100