Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish – “Wry Oak”

Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Red Rye Finnish

40% ABV

Another whisky sampled in store, this session was Johnnie Walker focused, I know it’s a brand that gets much love/hate. I personally like Black Label, It’s one of the whiskys responsible for getting me to give Scotch another chance some years ago.

This one is supposedly Cardhu focused (I believe Gold Label is also Cardhu-centric) with grain components from Port Dundas…but then it’s a mass market blend so probably has a bunch of other components.

Aged in first-fill bourbon and finished for 6 months in Rye casks…not sure where the red part comes in.

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Nose: Rye spices, oak, caramel, it smells a lot like a bourbon, a little barrel char, not much else…

Palate : Oily at first and then vanilla, a little dusty spice, cardboard, some custard , it loses steam and never fulfill the initial burst of flavor.

The finish is fast due to abv and most likely chill filtration, doesn’t stick around long after robbing your dignity. It’s not terrible, just mediocre

I am not against experimentation, I think it’s quite healthy for any industry but I am left scratching my head with this release, why does this exists? Just buy an everyday good bourbon, for example, like Wild Turkey 101, which is killer and only costs 35$ and is served at a decent ABV, especially since this seemed aimed for cocktails…maybe i’m just surly

 

Franck

Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch Wine Cask Finish – “A Pour Decision at the Whine Bar”

Johnnie Walker Blender’s Batch Wine Cask Finish 

40% ABV

This set of reviews are from the last in-store tasting I attended in early April. I arrived a bit later which meant it was less crowded and I could take my sweet ass time taking notes and somewhat antisocial.

First whisky of the night was this Blenders’ Batch edition. I believe there are 3 or 4 of these featuring different finishes or highlighting the grains used.

The Diageo blab says it supposed to be 10± years old, despite being NAS, relying on malt from Clynelish and grain from Cameronbridge.

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I hate looking like a paparazzo at these events, so I end up taking these awkward photos.

Nose: a fair amount of sulfur, loads of vanilla, sour fruit and oak. A touch of damp earthy peat, wet cardboard, cooked fruits.

Palate: red fruits, currants, cherry, creamy vanilla. Then malty, bread, it’s fairly hot on the arrival. Marzipan, cardboard, sour fruits, like summer pudding left out in sun and fermenting. Lots of oak present throughout.

Finish: it’s limp watery, keeps on with the burn and sour oak/jam

Many people raved about this at the tasting, surprised by how much they liked it and “for the price” they kept saying. There are some aspects that I liked but it felt messy overall, maybe in cocktails but I still don’t see what makes this specifically a JW product. Maybe I’m taking this too seriously or perhaps I’m just not the intended consumer for this product.

76/100

Franck

Teeling Small Batch – “Rhum baba underneath the clothesline”

Teeling Small Batch Rum Finish

46%/ABV

The final review of the budget trifecta from my club’s blind tasting in March.

I chose this for a myriad of reasons, I knew I wanted to throw a blend into the mix and an Irish blended whisky was the curve ball I needed. Besides the Teeling Single Malt was extremely well received in a past session and was curious to see if the blend would be of similar quality.

Yes I’m getting on with it.

Nose: It’s rather sweet on opening, coton candy, caramel corn, then shows its youth and grain with varnish and copper smell.

Rising dough, vanilla, banana chips, trail mix. There’s a feeling of celery and lanolin.

Palate: much like the nose to begin with, sweet things, cotton candy, creamy vanilla, caramel, underripe banana. A slight feeling of violets like a popular brand of fabric softener, brioche and a hint of mozzarella cheese, all of this is sitting on a fairly grain forward blanket.

Finish: barrel char, heavy cream and Rhum Baba. The texture is oily but it doesn’t end too sweet despite the sweet aromas.

During my blind tastings, I thought this was the Deanston Virgin oak. How wrong was I?

All things told, it has some interesting nuances but it’s fairly rough and at times strange. The abv which is an asset in the Teeling Single malt, is definitely highlighting the rawness. It’s decent if a bit high priced for what it is.

81/100

Franck

Deaston Virgin Oak “Milk chocolate porridge”

Deanston Virgin Oak

46.3% ABV

As discussed in my previous review, the next two reviews are whiskys that were tasted blind as part of the same session.

This is from a recent batch with the new livery and bottle shape. Deanston has been receiving a lot more attention of late. I believe that much like Bunnahabhain a few years ago owners Burns Stewart injected a good amount of capital in their operations. In order to implement a better cask management policy as well as diverting better quality casks to their OB’s rather than selling off a big proportion to brokers.

This release is aged in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in virgin oak. Sadly little info exists about age and length of maturation.

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Nose: Starts of with a bit of pineapple, creamy yogurt & pears. There’s a sweet transition to Starburst candy & vanilla, rising pastries or bread dough. It’s pleasant and almost bourbon like until it moves towards a slightly green profile, almost like angelica or rhubarb.

Palate: Sweet and slightly fizzy/nippy bite of alcohol, brown sugar, sultanas and loads of milk chocolate/cafe latte. There’s a smidge of tropical fruits, in the vein of rhum or Pina colada sitting in a base of sweetened porridge.

Finish: malty, sweet and oaky a bit of a burn and that lingering milk chocolate.

I took a shine to this whisky, it’s easygoing but has enough little twists to make it interesting, delivered at a proper abv too. In our little group this performed on par with a Benriach 15 which was the one “non-budget” whisky inserted in the group.

83/100

Franck

Glen Moray Elgin Classic Port Cask Finish “Gumdrops Taste Metallic”

Glen Moray Elgin Classic Port Cask Finish

40% ABV

64/100

I wanted to demonstrate how much of an impact blind tasting could have with our whisky club. The idea being to try 4 whiskys blind, 3 of them would be bottles purchased for 50$ or less and the 4th a Benriach 15 yrs old, which would be the outlier. No one knew what I was buying in advance.

I thought the process might be of interest for readers here as well. We bagged the bottles and I had someone else number them so I would have some element of neutrality in my tasting as well. I will present them in order tasted

*Just a note concerning the color of this particular Scotch, it was like a washed out red that really immediately drew a lot of attention to itself. Perhaps the best blind tasting would also find a way to obscure the glass as well.

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Nose: Metallic, gumdrops, jam still hot from the stove, bay leaf. A herbal edge almost like vermouth,a bit sharp, rose jelly, powdered sugar.

Palate: A bit hot,sweet and tannic at first, it veers sharply into malty territory, cooked barley and potatoes. The roller coaster continues into, boiled sweets, apple skins and then all sharp, green branches, grassy a little bit of blackcurrant.

Finish: This persistent bitter note, like conifer or juniper, earthy, malty and a touch of jam. The finish is mercifully short and the texture very watery.

Despite this being the worse scored of the night, it was actually not as terrible as I anticipated (I have had budget Glen Moray before) but that’s faint praise. It had some interesting things happening but was hampered by the thin texture and messy and unbalanced palate, like a bad cover-up.

Even at 39$ CAN there are still better options for your whisky budget than this.

 

Franck

Lagavulin 8, 200th Anniversary Edition “A Mezcaleria in Port Ellen” 

Lagavulin 8 “200th anniversary Editon”

48%/ABV

86/100

 

This whisky was released to much fanfare in the whiskysphere, with reason. There is so little lagavulin variety on the market, the masses are starved.

It provides things fans of the 12yr old love, little to no cask play (the color is like Sauvignon), it’s served at a decent proof (48%ABV) and lastly that resounding 8 yrs age statement all bold and brash youth instead of an NAS with a fairytale name.

We know from many other contemporaries that young Islays can be superb and explosive (if a bit narrow in profile at times).

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Nose: Mineral, green, diesel fumes, burnt hay, almond oil. Its very mezcal like, génépi, bakelite, ashy smoke. With time freshly shucked oysters, a smidge of powdered sugar and pears

Palate: Dark, sharp,oily, acrid smoke. Bitter plants and artichokes, toasted and salted marcona almonds and lovage.

Finish: Bitter, inky, wet wool and grapefruit pith, it’s medium in length very drying. The quality of the distillate is without reproach.

Somedays this is really superb, firing on all cylinders. Other days it’s kind of hangs on to one note and goes with it. I wasn’t crazy about this bottle at first. I didn’t gas it and I find the final half much better although I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. A good young uncompromising whisky. I’m not convinced this was only a cash grab.

That said, as many feared (or wanted) this has become part of the regular line-up. At prices like I’ve seen in some states (45-65$) I would buy this again. Locally it’s a 100$ at that price point it competes with many other whiskys and the 16yr old is 129$, I am unlikely to buy a replacement soon.

 

Franck

Kings County Distillery Peated Bourbon

KCD Peated Bourbon

45% ABV

74/100

I’ve been meaning to post my review of this whisky but never got around to it. The genesis of this recipe is that having run out of malted barley one day, they decided to use a batch of peated malt that was on hand for experiments.

The result was to their liking and original enough as few American distillers use peat, especially in a bourbon mashbill.

Nose: sweet caramel corn, the youth is reflected in the varnish notes, they do relent after some time. Fresh oak, faint smoke like the embers and ash of a campfire, then dusty spices and herbs.

Palate: Chewy and astringent, wood sugars, lemon pith, herbal cough drops (Ricola?), slight violets and soapyness. The smoke is faint and seems to integrate with the charred oak flavour.

Finish: short, mild astringence from the oak and there is a faint feeling of sandalwood or incense.

The intel I gathered from my distillery visit, is that their bourbon recipe is basically 75% corn, 25% malted barley (peated in this case) so there is no flavouring grain like wheat or rye.

Also the peated malt used doesn’t seem to be very heavy therefore don’t expect a smoke bomb. It’s more like a slight accent. It’s less prononced as the bottle airs out. I liked this but it’s more for passing around a campfire or the flask than for easy sipping.

*Side note, I had about 10% of this bottle left and it got lost in the shuffle, I finally got around to it and it does not take well to oxidation. The nose is all cardboard, and the palate fell apart and got violent. A case for drink em’ if you got em’

Franck

Bruichladdich Octomore 6.3 Islay barley

Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley

64% AB

88/100

Yet another Octomore review and I have been searching for the best way to introduce this review. This was the first .3 iteration of the series, the culmination of much of the terroir driven work at Bruichladdich, 100% Islay barley grown on the farm that gave this whisky it’s namesake, by a guy named James Brown no less and peated to the eye watering level of 258ppm, a process that apparently requires several days of careful monitoring.


I believe the work that the Laddie team has been doing is really unique and admirable. One could view it as just being their marketing “shtick” but somehow it resonates with me this idea of making a spirit that reflects the surroundings and climate. Their trials using less popular barley strains and growing grains in proximity to the distillery is in some ways a return to tradition.

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Let’s see if any of this is reflected in the final product.

Nose: Farmy and greasy at first, then a bit of melon, lime oil (like the aftershave), a feeling of dirty juicy fruit gum, dried cereal, hot cornbread. Then comes the Laddie split-milk notes, lamp oil, cold campfire. With time a growing minty/herbal side, salted licorice, a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. The smoke is always present wrapping everything together.

Palate: Sharp, sooty, sweet, almost fizzy, diesel fumes and cantaloupe. A handful of black earth and lemon lozenge and citrus peels. It turns more mineral and bitter in the center before returning to a fun mix of  sweet, creamy and herbal, vanilla, corn pudding and gentian.

Finish: acrid smoke, earth and grains and a bit of sweetness, the lactic note is present but not overpowering. I found it much less sweet than other versions, the body is huge, just really oily and viscous.


It is fairly close to the standard versions of Octomore but somehow more earth and grain shine through, the herbal\mineral integrated with the sweetness, very well balanced

Lastly, you know you’ve made a good friend when after an evening out eating and indulging in a couple of drams, they end slip you two quite generous samples of Octomore for no other reason than the pure pleasure of getting your impressions of the stuff. I want to thank fellow Connosr member Robert99 for providing me the opportunity to dig myself deeper into Octo-obsession.

Franck

*photo credits:Octomore farm l’oeil sur le vin blog, Rockside farm Bruichladdich website. 

Friends of Laphroaig MTL 2017.

I’m always impressed when I see photos of the tasting events put on by spirit companies. They run the gamut from low-key to lavish. I promise I don’t turn green with envy when I see Tobi in one of his photo spreads balling out with the Ardbeg reps (I kid Mr. Barleymania).
Well I can’t complain any longer, two weeks ago I noticed an email from Friends of Laphroaig inviting the Montreal members to a event. 

The chosen location turned out to be a cute little basement bar called “Le Royal”, the bars decor goes in for the speakeasy type vibe but it’s was nonetheless very nice. It had been decorated in Laphroaig’s current marketing swag for the event.

There were canapés aplenty (beef tataki, ceviche, foie gras macarons, parmesan crisps and more), we were offered two drink coupons as well. I was hoping they would be introducing a new expression or offering us tastes of the 2017 Cairdeas, sadly this would not be the case. 

We were offered Laphroaig select or Quarter cask and also two cocktails created specifically from the event containing these same whiskys. 

I was joined by fellow EBWC member Brewsie and we opted to start with the “Symphony of numb” cocktail, the composition included ginger juice and Marsala and a healthy dose of Quarter cask seemed intriguing. Kudos to the bartender who told us he was the originator of the recipe and explained to us his creation.

The cocktail managed to soften the attack of the whisky, the fortified wine being the initial flavor leading the way into the iodine and smoky burst that paired well with the spiciness of the ginger.

We chatted with Sam one of the reps who was really friendly and offered us a sneaky taste of select (Laphroaig lite) and who was nice enough to introduce me to one of his fellows in marketing.

I inquired about the status of the Cairdeas on our shelves. He confirmed it arrived at the SAQ warehouses but they have no control on when it hits the shelves, the price should be about 100$. If so it means the expression hasn’t experienced an increase in over 3 years, a rarity in the current market. 

With our tickets gone I offered Brewsie a dram for the road, I spied a bottle of Ardbeg 10 and thought it would be an interesting contrast since he had never tried it.  Upon leaving we were presented with gift bags containing a Laphroaig Glencairn. It was a fun night it felt more like being invited to their office Christmas party than an actual event, since everyone was kind of left to their own devices. I can’t complain it was a much appreciated invitation.

Franck 

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Project XX

Glenfiddich Project XX

47% abv.

88/100

I have been looking forward to this whisky since the press release last year, I almost asked a friend to bring some back from USA but then found out the KGBO would get some in September.

The concept behind this  second edition of the experimental series really piqued my curiosity. The twenty Glenfiddich brand ambassadors were locked in a Glenfiddich warehouse and were left to fight it out “Battle Royale” style with nothing but oatcakes and whisky as sustenance…

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All out of oatcakes…

 

Err, actually each ambassador chose their favorite cask from said warehouse and then head blender Brian Kinsman and team went about wrestling them (the casks not the ambassadors) into a cohesive whole.

 

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How it’s actually blended 17 bourbon barrels+2 sherry butts+1 port pipe, non-chill flitered@47%abv = Yes please!

I’m stoked that Canadian brand Ambassador Beth Havers is the one who chose the port pipe. She knew that the combination of ‘Fiddich and port pipe was rare and bound to be interesting. I wish I could taste that straight from the cask, even one of those rich bourbon cask other reviewers have been swooning over. C’mon William Grant and sons! A single barrel, cask strength…doesn’t have to be that old, let’s say 12-14yrs…I’m  daydreaming again.

I’ll save my NAS rants for later, proceed with your own set of rules. I wanted to taste what a junior TUN 1509 treatment would do for Glenfiddich.

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Nose: Grape candies, the smell of brioche dough left to rise, a bushel of apples and pears, vanilla & oak. After some time the rich malt scents are met with a light cinnamon, allspice, then milk chocolate covered raisins and sugar pie.

Palate: Rhum baba, fresh pressed apple cider, vanilla extract and marshmallows. It’s got a pleasant sharpness, oak tannin are present with tons of good dried fruits, abricotine (apricot croissant). The mouth feel is full and pleasant.

Finish: Long, precise and the spices are still there. Baked apples, cake batter, plump raisins, a little leafy side and almond cream.

I could drink this endlessly, perfect dram for autumn, rich and dense, the sherry and port cask make their presence known against the round sustained sweetness of the ex-bourbon barrel. I am looking forward to seeing what other experiments are brewing at Glenfiddich, I know the third edition was released a version of their Gran Reserva 21 yr old whisky but finished in Canadian icewine casks, seems interesting thus far, I hope the series won’t be cask finished focused only.

That said it seems this release was a success as in a recent episode of “the whisky topic” Beth Havers mentioned that project XX would become a permanent addition to the line-up. It’s good news as this is really beautiful whisky. I think this kind of vatting would absolutely shine at full strength, especially since we’re gonna lose the distillery edition, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Franck