Bowmore Tempest V and Tempest VI Showdown.

Bowmore Tempest V

55.9% abv.

84/100

VS.

Bowmore Tempest VI

54.9% abv.

88/100

 

Bowmore-vault14.jpg

 

This blog has been running for a little over a year now. It’s a log of tasting notes and also to assemble them in a way that makes sense. It’s also a good practice for my writing, not that I fancy myself anything more than middling in that field.

Looking back at the moderate amount I have posted so far I would have never guessed the most viewed entry would be the one for Bowmore Tempest VI. It seems to attract a lot of queries and if I had a dollar for every view I could keep the blog afloat in premium land for a couple of years (not tooting my horn, this blog attracts very little views in general which I’m fine with). That was one of my first reviews and it still causes me to cringe at times when I read it, yet I meant every word in my love for that whisky. It’s still consistently a joy to have a dram of it and I am happy to have squirreled away a couple of bottles (not as many as Nozinan I am certain).

I had the opportunity last year to trade a bottle of batch VI for V with Connosr member Nozinan through the kindest of whisky mules (fellow Connosr member Robert99). It was smartly suggested we trade a sample of each whisky along with it in order to taste the batch variances without opening our bottles. I am much overdue on my review of this but not like anyone was holding their breath for my opinion on this hot topic.

IMG_0451Bowmore Tempest V:

Nose: Bags of tropical fruits, sea spray, waxed meyer lemons, there’s a bit of malty side, the smoke is in the distance and it feels a bit closed at first. After some time the vanilla and oak become more prominent, along with a mineral and earthy peat, the sweetness is like flower nectar.

Palate: Earthy, sweet, creamy and yet there’s a good amount of  lingering bitterness to keep it in check. Lemons and a kind of dirty spices (camphor, black cardamom, grains of paradise, long peppercorn) yet there is also an underlying soapy, floral, lavender tang that is slight but persistent even with water.

The strength is magnificent, it’s easy to drink undiluted and powerfully conveys the flavours, the finish is long and all on sweet oak and gripping bitterness.

IMG_0450Bowmore Tempest VI:

Nose: Starts off on ripe pineapple, mango, sweet and musky melon, distant smoke and vinyl upholstery. It morphs into vanilla and damp oak and flint, the peaty side is more like a campfire the morning after.

Palate: Earthy, malted barley syrup, bergamot, a bit of ashyness and coconut. Lemon pith, malty, orange flower water or petit-grain. Paraffin and with time a little antiseptic and oysters show up.

The finish is long and lingering, with water you get more oak, the bitter ashy side is reduced but still plenty of mineral and sea spray and lemon.

Impressions: While Stylistically both batches are very close, there are some slight differences, the nose on batch V really pushes the fruits forward but sadly I’m really sensitive to that soapy, bitter violet note on the palate. Batch VI feels well rounded if a bit oak forward. It’s must try for those who haven’t been moved much by the standard OB line-up of Bowmore.

 

 

bowmore-vaultfront

The rant: Ah we can’t get away from me complaining but I mean c’mon Suntory! The small batch experiments disappeared and all we are left with is this new NAS vault series shite. The first one landed on these shores recently at a whopping 199$ (Canadian), I know that never ending price argument but this release has no pretension to having any special or rare parcels of whisky, not that this would necessarily change much. When one could buy a 10 yr old cask strength, first fill bourbon cask whisky at 75$ less than a year prior, it’s hard not to feel like they are taking the piss. We thought Devil’s cask III at 100$+ was pushing it…we didn’t know what was coming.

Franck

 

 

 

Kings County Distillery wine cask finished bourbon.

Taste 1

I visited Kings County Distillery in early March of this year, when I arrived at the gates of the site I stopped into the tasting room and was told I’d just missed the beginning of a tour. With 30 minutes or so to kill I was offered the chance to warm up, have a drink and bask in the cozy atmosphere.

The bar is well decorated and honestly stands up on it’s own as a nice place to hangout and have a few drinks. The menu has many original drinks all made with products from the distillery, while studying it my eyes fell upon a wine cask finished bourbon. I was definitely curious and since it’s not something I’m likely to see much of back home I jumped at the chance to sample it.

The color is coppery with a rosy hue.

Wien finish bourbon

Nose: The alcohol hits first with some varnish, freshly dumped whisky cask that wet oak smell, corn porridge, ginger and baking spices, rye bread, bubblegum.

Palate: Sweet arrival, fizzy, jammy fruits. Fresh baked Bundt cake, a touch of toffee or milk jam. There is some rawness from the alcohol.

The finish is long on caraway and cloves, creamy vanilla and dark berries.

It was an interesting experiment, I think bourbon’s sweetness and proclivity towards cherry and caramel is at times a better pairing for a wine barrique than Scotch, if you can stand the sweetness. I would love to see a nice aged rye get this treatment I suppose High West Yippie ki yay or Midwinter nights dram are what I might be looking for. That said it is a bit immature, the nose felt closed up and the palate too narrow, lots of solvent notes at the beginning as well. 

I’ve since come across an article where the new head blender of KCD is interviewed and he gives the specs on this whisky. They used a mix of 13 month old bourbons from quarter casks that were vatted into a 63 gallon barrel that previously held fortified Cabarnet franc. This was finished for 8 weeks of the summer in order to obtain maximum extraction of the flavour, it is sold exclusively at the distillery.

Franck

Hakushu 12

Suntory Hakushu 12

43% ABV

84/100

 

telegraph

Yes the craze is still on folks!

That aside there is a lot to love with Japanese whisky, while they follow a lot of the Scottish tradition in their production methods, it’s the little differences that the magic is created. The market is dominated by two big players, Nikka and Suntory, who follow a similar structure, both produce grain and malt whiskies and release them as single and blended malts under different labels.

old school hakushu
Love this old school photo of the distillery

Unlike Scotland where there is a network of exchange and brokerage of single malts between companies or distilleries for blending purposes, the Japanese do everything in house. They use various yeast strains, fermentation regimens and the still houses contain a variety of still shapes and sizes to create different profiles of whisky. In their warehouses they go beyond the bourbon and sherry barrels everyone uses, sources state that some producers also use, plum wine casks, mizunara oak and other wood types that might be verboten by the SWA. This process creates an unprecedented palate of flavor to work with when assembling their products.

Suntory_Yamazaki_Distillery-Japan-1024x678
A clear photo of the different pot still shapes and sizes

Suntory’s Hakushu is the less hyped, less in demand younger brother to Yamazaki, it just doesn’t seem to get the love and recognition of that whisky. The 12 year old is still relatively affordable in most markets. I think the boom causes some backlash towards Japanese whiskies because with these elevated prices/come elevated expectations that probably cannot be met.

20170429_205950

Nose:  Pears and ripe peaches, fresh cut flowers, it’s almost like good mead (I know some will say there’s no such thing), pine needles, grassy and lightly vegetal, but fresh like walking in the forest in spring. The peat on the nose is present, light and very well integrated it’s got this sweetness like marshmallows.

Palate: Porridge, malty, round and nectar, the bitterness kicks and then it’s all grassy. The peat is present but it’s like smoking conifers and juniper. The influence of the bourbon casks is present, oak and some vanilla, good honey and citronella.

Finish is medium length and drying, the sweetness and citrus is almost like old school barbershop aftershave and that discreet peat is lurking there. Sadly the texture is a bit thin and affects the length of the finish a bit.

Beyond the big flavors that hit first, there are lots of secondary notes and delicate touches. Some might find these too “crafted” or precise that is a complaint heard of Japanese whisky, it requires pause to appreciate these nuances and the work to achieve this result. I like this kind of profile, it’s perhaps not completely unique but worth seeking out.

Franck 

Johnnie Walker Green Label

 

 

Johnnie Walker Green Label 

43% Alc./Vol.

84/100

20170111_232920

Johnnie Walker is ubiquitous to the point of being infamous, It’s probably the one Scotch whisky everyone knows by name. The walking man logo no matter how gussied up for the times is another instantly recognizable icon for the uninitiated. It is also the whisky brand most likely to get shit on by hardcore whisky lovers and don’t get me wrong sometimes it deserves it.

They are owned by the brand whisky connoisseurs love to hate. To make an analogy if whisky was Star Wars, Diageo could be an exact stand in for the empire. Yet we cannot ignore that Johnny Walker is the gateway for many people. Black label is one of the main reasons I fell back in love with Scotch whisky again after a long love affair with it’s Canadian brethren, I love that shit to pieces.

Vader1-590x900
Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan?

Of all the many whiskers under the JW moniker, green label was/is the anomaly in the range. It was first released at the tail end of the nineties, a blended malt (formerly called vatted malt) a blend of single malts it contains no grain whisky to pad it out. The price was reasonable 50$ to 70$, it had an age statement of 15 years. This should have given it sex appeal but I think it caused the opposite.

 

The very things that made it an asset also hampered it. The reasonable price should have made it a perfect stepping stone for red and black label drinkers but didn’t. It also didn’t have enough of a bling factor and panache to draw consumers of the gold and blue label. Vatted malts/pure malts did not have the hip factor they do now and many single malt drinkers didn’t see why you’d waste your time on this blend, this was also a time where a 15-18 yr single malt weren’t quite the bank busters they are now.

Despite all this it still green label gained a cult status of sorts, so when Diageo announced in 2012 that it would be pulling the green out of most of its markets while doing a little re-branding of the JW line-up it obviously upset quite a few people.

They claimed poor sales and other malarkey, the reality is probably an amalgam of different reasons. They we’re probably taxing their stocks of Caol Ila and Talisker pretty thin at one point, those two provide the smoky/peaty backbone for most JW blends. They could also sell the individual component malts for much more money to the growing “luxury” segment of the market. Lastly like many spirit producers they we’re looking towards the promise land that was supposed to be the growing Asian market…Shangri-La as you would. This market failed to boom and as a result in early 2015 we saw a limited amount of green label showing up on shelves, with a confirmed return at the beginning of 2016.

20170111_232912

Enough blabbing lets dive in.

Nose: the smoke is pretty prominent at first nosing , fresh cut apples and pears, barley sugar, nectar and blossoms. A slight feeling of cider, orange peels and a big malty backbone.

Palate: Rich and sweet, then the smoke hits, peppery at first but also that feeling of beach bonfire, not dirty peat but a slight iodine and ozone like feeling. Then orange oils and tobacco accents. There is fruits, the peated components are kept in check by the other flavors honey,  a roundess from the oak, then marmalade and a slight touch of milk chocolate.

The finish is long, sustaining the rich malty side, this pleasant sweetness and peppery smoke.

This is a different beast than the original but I prefer this new incarnation, it’s such s rich dram, the smoke is present but somehow is so well integrated into the other elements.

Franck