Rapid Fire Session October 2016, Benriness, Glendullan & Kilchoman

 

I forgot to post my notes from a couple of in-store tastings so I’m catching up.

This night was an interesting one with 2 bottle of independent bottlers Hart Brothers and the most recent turnouts from Kilchoman’s standard offerings.

I don’t have much information about Hart Brothers, it seems to be a family owned grocer/licensed retailer who turned to bottling at some time in the 60’s, they don’t seem to have the same presence as some of the bigger players in the game and I’m not sure how consistent their products are.

bretowen
Hart brothers??

The SAQ received a batch of their outturn in the fall, there wasn’t much to get excited about a couple of unnamed region specific blended malts, the most interesting are a 14 yr old Mortlach and a 17 yr old cask strength Glenrothes (a whopping 272$) both of which received lukewarm reviews from the refined noses at Quebec Whisky.

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1st up Hart Brothers Benrinnes 14 yrs old, 46% abv: It looks to have been from a refill bourbon cask, it ‘s very pale.

Benrinnes or “the Ben” to his friends is another blend-fodder distillery from Diageo’s stable, there are only sporadic OB’s, the last ones from the famed “Flaura & Fauna” series. From 1974 until 2007 they used a type of bastardized triple distillation, similar to how Mortlach (another Diageo ugly stepchild distillery which recently had it’s Cinderella moment) distills and they also still use worm tubs, these features are to provide an old school beefy, heavy malt style.

Nose: Honey, grassy, rich and full malt, there is a slight acetone edge from the alcohol, cellulose, developing film and a bit of vanilla.

Palate: Sour fruit arrival, honeyed apples, cooked barley and then some sweetness from the oak, the whole thing takes a sharp turn into of “dark” flavors earthy, sulphur, a feeling of burnt wood and sharp astringency…like burned spices or burned pine cones. It became thoroughly unpleasant by the end.

 

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Hart Brothers Glendullan 13 yrs old 55.5% abv: One of the bigger volume Diageo distilleries (before their new abomination Roseisle), yet more blend fodder. It’s available in that Singleton range that oddly is composed of three different whiskys bearing the same name? Anyhow

Nose: Hot, malted banana, varnish, I can’t get much on this nose, sweet and green.

Palate: Rich and round, honeyed, the alcohol is present and the oak too, like a vanilla flavored oak plank., spicy and a feeling of nutmeg lingers on the finish.

I wasn’t bowled over, the finish was nice but I feel like if this was released at 46% it would have lost most of it’s flavor to the wood.  I would be interesting to try another IB of this as this one is also flawed.

Next is Islay’s little distillery that could, the consistency of their releases keeps getting better so I’m excited to try the current version of their standard line-up.

Sanaig & Machir Bay 200ml Label AW (2017)

Kilchoman Machir Bay 46% abv:  The skinny is that this is a vatting of young bourbon casks (4-5 years old) finished briefly (8 weeks?) in Oloroso casks.

Nose: Sour milk, ashy, rubbery inner tube and then some powdered sugar. Then hay, a feeling of hot tarmac and eucalyptus cough drops.

Palate: Burned corn husks, ashy, salted lemons, soft smoked caramel (that should so be a thing), pea-meal bacon, bongwater (don’t ask), barley and pretzels.

It finishes kind of sweet and at times it reminded me of a cross between Laphroaig and Port Charlotte.

 

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Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2016 46% abv: Shake that Sherry butt!

Nose: I am finding it surprisingly closed, earthy, medicinal, smoked raisins (should become a pantry staple), there are some similar ashy and lactic touches to the Machir bay.

Palate: Oh it’s big!, burned wheat, ashes, barley porridge, orange zest with lots of pith on it, pipe tobacco, Tonka beans, sweet sherry influence.

I wish I could have spent more time with this, to let it open up as it seemed to get better with time. Cracking stuff but  you pay the peated Islay premium (147$can).

An interesting session, it’s interesting to taste those lesser known distilleries. Those Kilchoman’s are cracking stuff, they punch well above their weight, I’m going to have to take the plunge on a single cask soon.

Franck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nikka Taketsuru

Nikka Taketsuru “Pure Malt NAS”

43% Alc/vol

83/100

The craze for Japanese whisky is still in full swing, some blame Jim Murray’s 2014 proclamation that Japanese Whisky was the best in the world as one of the catalysts for this state of affairs, as much as he at times deserves the bashing, we can’t blame Sauron for everything.

sauron

The reasons are myriad, a burgeoning interest in world whiskys, the rise of whisky as an investment or flippers. I doubt many of these overpriced bottles of Yamazaki Sherry cask  or Karuizawa are actually being opened and enjoyed.

Whatever the reason the result is pretty much what one is seeing in Scotland but at an accelerated rate. Expressions losing their age statements but prices remaining the same, ABV’s being lowered, Increase of new NAS releases and special releases, an increase in the marketing of grain whiskys. With the added factor that anything Japanese that can vaguely be passed under the whisky category is instantly pushed onto the market, rice whisky & aged sochu and such,  I’m not against these but they are often shamelessly marketed with little regards to their quality. There are other effects and this post on Nonjatta gives you the news from the perspective of someone on the ground.

I know it sounds like a lot of nagging or nit-picking but sadly it’s just the facts.

On to today’s whisky I’ve had occasion to try this a few times and it scored very well with club members the first time around. It is a house blend of the different types of malt whiskies that are produced at both Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries…maybe.

y this dark photo of a bookshelf containing said whisky
I have no close-up picture of this whisky

Nose: Tinned fruits in syrup, there is a rounded malty side, coffee cake soaked in a sherry syrup. There is a dark note like charcoal and umeboshi, buckwheat honey, it’s got a oxidized/sulfury side a hint of a sherry influence.

Palate: Pickled ginger on arrival, sweet and creamy malt and in the background earthy peat (not at all Islay like). A bit of heat despite the low strength, complex sweetness like honey then mineral and slightly waxy, there is some tannic oak and again that feeling of tinned fruits from the nose.

The main tastes fade quickly from the tongue but there is a creamy sweetness that remains on the finish.

While the combination of flavors is somewhat singular it doesn’t dive deeply enough into those slightly exotic notes (rare woods and that weird pickled plum dark note) to make a lasting impression. I enjoy having a glass of this but could not see myself buying a full bottle, plus it’s a dreaded NASty release, transparency apostles may wish to abstain.

Franck

Aberlour 12

Aberlour 12

40% abv.

83/100

Other than the cask strength heavy hitter that is A’bunadh, the regular stable of releases from Aberlour tend to get shortchanged. It’s not a heavily marketed whisky but I know that it is a very lucrative operation for owners Pernod-Ricard

What is interesting about Aberlour is that along with Glenfarclas it is one of the distilleries that defines itself by it’s Sherry driven profile, some say this was done to appeal to the French Market. Nonetheless you would be hard pressed to find a fully bourbon matured Aberlour, they do exist, mostly from independent bottlers or as distillery exclusives. The house style if you will always includes a focus on sherry, whether that be in the form of a finish, fully matured whisky or as a flavour component in the vatting.

Aberlour 12 label 40

Despite the lack of sex-appeal and glamour the standard range of Aberlour is one of the remaining good values in Scotch, their prices and quality have remained stable over the years. The 10 year old offers great value and has been steadily about 50-55$ I have consumed many bottles of that over the years. Yes they sadly chill-filter and keep the ABV lower than I would like but there is a nice old school charm to their profile that can be appreciated if one takes the time to.

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Nose: Apples fresh and cooked in a copper jam basin, slight sulfur but it is restrained. Brown sugar, dusty oak, soaked dried fruits, white flower blossoms. There is a spirit kick to the nose despite being only 40%.

Palate: Over steeped tea, sweet, rich, creamy sherry depth, sticky toffee pudding, malt biscuits and vanilla. There are also bitter oak tannins, cooked apples, baking spices, dried fruits and bay leaves.

The finish is medium in length and is mostly on the sweet and tannic notes. A bit of water or ice loosens it up but it gets very sweet and muted if you add too much.

It’s well put together, a good malt to remember that there is still quality affordable spirit around and that the grass isn’t always greener on the next, new, rare release. A good choice to ease someone into Scotch, it’s very much in the line of Armagnac/Cognac.

Franck