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

Edradour 10 “No Sleep ‘Till Pitlochry”

Edradour is a small highland distillery, in the 30’s it was apparently owned by a New York mobster. In 2002 it was bought from Pernod Ricard by Andrew Symington, who also runs independent bottler Signatory, in some ways its not unlike the Springbank/Cadenhead connection, the distillery output is very low less than a 100,000$ liters a year, yet despite that they manage to make both peated and unpeated variants and use a staggering amount of cask types.

Stangely the 10 year old is the only one of their whiskys which they “chill filter” and it’s bottled at 40%. It’s weird since Signatory is know for its unchillfiltered line. It’s a vatting of bourbon & sherry casks, no specific mentions.

 

Nose: Musty, damp basement, funky, a bit of sweetness, vanilla, milk jam, a feeling of oxydized sherry, the tiniest hint of peat, like smelling burnt leaves in the distance.

Palate: At first I got chinchona bark like in tonic water, it was very weird. Allspice, black earth, puer eh tea. It veers into full on malted barley notes but with a good dose of oak spices, there is also a feeling of sharp cider.

Finish: Oak, caramel, coconut oil, juniper, a touch of chlorine & damp concrete.

What a ride! This thing has lots of character, despite the low ABV, it’s not an easy one but none of it was unpleasant. Some bits reminded me of the grimy side of Springbank.

That said I wouldn’t buy a bottle of this, it lacks some of the depth to push it into the high score territory. I am definitely curious to try more from this distillery.

Edradour 10

40% ABV

83/100

Achentoshan 21

Thirsty Thursdays are back at the SAQ (ok they’re not officially called that) and I had a good enough window of time to be able to attend. 4 whiskys for 15$ even if you fall in a dud line-up it’s still a great way to expand your palate.

By now even the casual whisky drinker will know of Auchentoshan’s triple distillation. Usually they will go on about how it’s more it an Irish thing to do, although I’ve come to learn that isn’t necessarily the case.

It’s core expressions are usually affordable, making them a maintain of those top 10 lists, you know the ones, top 10 whiskys for beginners, top 10 gifts for fathers day under 75$.

What is certain is that in its OB format ‘Toshan tends to be very polarizing, it’s a supple spirit that is often presented at anemic proofs and can be botoxed to excess by oak manipulation. This will be the first time I have an older version.

It’s a mix of bourbon & sherry casks no specific vatting info.

Nose: Pastry dough, or let’s make that cinnamon buns, apple, some guava. I get a good bit of the grain coming through, powdered sugar, a little latex. It’s pretty delicate, with time develops some fruitiness, jujubes. A smidge of pineapple.

Palate: Milk chocolate, cashews, candlewax, raisins, I get a bit of sulfur, powdered ginger, lemon rind, there is a surprising amount if grip for 43%.

Finish: light, grassy barley, a little bit if fruits but it suffers the most here, it loosens it’s hold fast, leaving little impression after you’ve swallowed.

There are some nice aspects to this whisky, I like the attack on the palate, where the grain notes are holding their own against the sherry. Sadly the texture is so limp that the finish fails on the promise. One of the better versions I’ve had but still good, not great.

82/100

Four Roses – Single Barrel “A Budding Romance”

Ok it’s been a while faithful readers…wait mom don’t leave! I am trying to get a backlog of reviews cleared, this one I have to admit I’ve struggled with, not the whisky but just finding which way to broach the uniqueness of it.

Ok so for whisky cognoscenti and most informed consumers, you know all about Four Roses and it’s 5 yeast strains and 2 mashbills, allowing for up to 10 different variations to be made in one facility. It’s a geeks delight, one that I know annoys some as they probably have a friend who won’t shut up about the whole thing.

What’s interesting to me is that this mostly came about under the Seagram’s ownership of the facility. This is a pattern we would see repeated with many of the company’s other distilleries, it really was a brilliant move, remember at the time Seagrams was pumping out all kinds of blends and moving facilities to this type of arrangement would not only allow for greater consistency but would make them less reliant on sourced components for their blends.

This scheme is repeated famously at Crown Royal but also what made Benriach such a stellar purchase for Billie Walker & co, since they had all kinds of style of single malt whisky in inventory.

As it is this yeast driven scheme is one that is sadly still underused in distilling today, it’s the one area along with terroir (that is barley types & provenance) that I believe could help usher positive change in the industry.

Ok enough blab, The Four Roses Single Barrel is one of the 3 products in their standard line-up, it is always composed of the same recipe (OBSV) so it’s from the higher rye mashbill with their fruity yeast strain and it is bottled at 50% abv. mine is from warehouse US barrel#76-3A.

Four Roses SB

Nose: Minty, rye spices, cloves, slight vegetal notes. There’s sweetness but it’s not big bombastic corn but more like Turkish delight, corn porridge, clean oak. Honey that you licked off a Popsicle stick, a little apple and apricots… Its not a big thick chewy toffee vanilla bomb.

There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if you’re sensitive to this.

Palate: Caramel, honey candy, loads of oak, cinnamon and cloves, the carpentry is in check not too forward, There is a feeling of beeswax or coconut oil? Floral, candied angelica and celery leaves, a bit of black licorice. There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if sensitive.

Finish: Creamed honey, a bit of cucumber, vanilla, apricots, plum frangipane tart.

I feel like this is really in a category of it’s own, it’s still clearly bourbon and has those familiar touchstones. Yet the nose with it’s almost sharp acetic edge and the palate with those vegetal, creamy touches make it an outlier, it’s a fun whisky to dissect.

I can see the Four Roses style as being very polarizing, those who dig it will be amply rewarding, it’s next level bourbon in the best sense. It’s also fantastic value about 50$ at the LCBO.

Four Roses Single Barrel

50% ABV

86/100

Franck