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

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. 

Octomore 7.1 “Fernet Branca, benzene & charred Lemons”

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Octomore 7.1

59.5% abv

81/100

What can one say about Octomore that hasn’t been said before? Is this whisky all about muscular posturing (my peat’s bigger than yours)? Is it for peat nerds who must own every single edition (like Pokemon), overrated, one-dimensional, as close to a religious experience as possible, utter shite, delicious, overpriced swill?

As much as I love this whisky it’s retail price, especially in Quebec is hard to stomach, the standard .1 iterations sell for 230$ and the special editions (if we ever get any) go for upwards of 300$. It’s still only a 5 yr old whisky, chalk it up in part to the peat premium we see nowadays (anything with peat commands a higher price, add another premium if it’s Islay), we often get the argument of limited production but I mean really!

By now the standard bourbon barrel aged Octomore is in high demand, enough to have become something they can produce in sufficient numbers. It’s released at 5 years, it’s almost been that long since the Remy Cointreau buyout, they would have had enough time to adjust production volume for this. How much extra does it cost to overpeat the barley? I know it’s a long 3+day process but still, enough to warrant a 4 fold increase over the Classic Laddie edition, it hurts mommy!

Despite all this, it’s a very singular whisky, one I believe any whisky drinker must try at least once. The use of peat from the mainland (Bruichladdich doesn’t get it’s peated barley from Port Ellen malting unlike many of it’s Islay siblings) also helps inform some of the character of this whisky, lending to it perhaps less of that maritime, band-aidy funk…yes that’s an adjective. There’s also the tall Bruichladdich stills that probably come into effect.

I first tasted this whisky back to back with Octomore 6.1 so I will compare to it at times.

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Nose: Smoked buttermilk, acetone, tons of fermentation/baby-sick notes, more than the 6.1, dirty smoke with a slight rubbery edge. Fennel, oregano, peameal bacon, freshly stained pinewood, vanilla, charred lemons and burned corn husks.

Palate: Cola and Fernet Branca, sappy branches, really sweet marzipan and milk chocolate. Then it turns ashy and out comes the umami squad, cooked celery, lovage, black cardamom and aniseed, like danish licorice candies.

Finish is salty and sweet, ashy petrol smoke and tarred wet oak, hot cornbread, it lingers and sticks to your palate long after it is done.

If this is your first Octomore then, it gives you a good idea of the general profile of this series. In contrast to 6.1 or 5.1 I found it to be a bit too acrid and the butyric/lactic thing is too forward.

As discussed by chairman MAO in one of his reviews, it’s hard to see what each new .1 iteration brings to the table, other than a batch number and a slight tweak of ABV and/or PPM, I would love to see a priced controlled stable vatting or recipe released (yes wishful thinking I know). That being said, I think in the last few years we have a seen an effort to increase the offerings in the series. The 6.3 and 7.3 Islay barley variants are superb whiskys with depth and sharp definition.

On the experimental side of things there was Adam Hannet’s virgin oak obsession which played out in the 7.4  which despite the convoluted vatting, also bumped the age up to 7+years. Lastly there was the Laddie MP 6 session that was all Octomore single casks and the OBA web release which broke the laddie site temporarily, which is a black arts type vatting of different aged Octomore casks.

OBA

Franck

 

Port Charlotte Islay Barley Review

Port Charlotte Islay Barley

50% ABV

Score:78/100

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You know you have friends who are as hooked as you when you get a frantic text message like this “my girlfriend is at the airport, quick! Name me a few whiskys she could bring back from the duty-free?”

It’s nice to know you’re not the only one with the sickness, especially since this whole thing can seem kind of silly as a hobby.

I sampled the Scottish barley analog to this release a few times and enjoyed it, the taste profile was reminiscent of Octomore (not as wild, reduce the oily, meaty and cola/innertube thang) it has that unmistakable DNA . I was stoked to try the terroir driven Islay version.

Upon reflection this Islay Barley version of PC is more like that younger brother that’s left to his own devices and who disappears all day to go fishing or play in the swamp.

The color is very pale definitely all bourbon and probably young

Nose: Moldy lemon, creosote, barnyard, sour milk and kippers. The mineral side hits in following waves with oyster shells, sea spray, damp hay and corn husks a bit of vanilla.

Palate: It start off sweet and salty, a slight gumboot/innertube feeling, then anise/licorice.  Oaky and a light varnish, smoky bbq and lemon.

 

The finish is long and lingering, it’s definitely a little hot but the extra ABV helps pull out max mouth coating flavor. It’s got a bitter punch in the ending that keeps that “sucking on a fisherman’s friends in a herring smokehouse” feeling going.

the oak is present although it’s not dominant, I found it quite wild in comparison to the PC Scottish barley version. Those susceptible to the Bruichladdich baby vomit/butyric thing should probably abstain. Water tames it somewhat narrowing the palate and reducing some of the bitterness, making the lemon and vanilla pop but also makes the smoke more ashy.

My first taste reminded me strongly of Laphroaig but that disappeared after it aired out some. While it’s not a bad  whisky and while it holds it’s own favorably against other young Islanders I don’t think this is on of the strongest Port Charlotte release,  it lacks roundness and depth.

 

Franck 


Port Charlotte Islay Barley

50% Alc/Vol

Évaluation:78/100

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Vous savez que vous êtes bien entouré quand un de vos potes vous envoi un texto rempli de panique “ma blonde est à l’aéroport, vite! Nomme moi des whiskys qu’elle pourrait rapporter de la boutique hors-taxe!”

C’est réconfortant de savoir que tu n’es pas le seul qui est affligé par cette maladie qu’on appelle whisky, surtout quand on considère que c’est un hobby qui peut être ridicule et qui se prends souvent trop au sérieux.

J’ai déjà eu le plaisirs de déguster la version analogue « Scottish barley » du Port Charlotte à quelques reprises et  j’ai trouvé sa palette de goût me rappelait un peu celle de sa sœur Octomore (pas aussi intense et moins de note de basse-cours), on y retrouve tout de même cet ADN immanquable de Bruichladdich.  J’étais donc excité par l’opportunité d’essayer la version « terroir » de ce whisky.

Après réflexion je dirais que cette version c’est un peu comme le petit frère sauvage qui disparaît toute la journée à la pêche et revient, sale, puant le feux de camps et la vase.

Sa robe est d’un jaune très pale, je crois qu’il s’agit que de fût de bourbon dans cet assemblage et c’est surement du whisky très jeune.

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Nez: Citron moisi, créosote, basse-cour, lait caillé et hareng fumé. Il y a un coté minéral, tel des coquilles d’huîtres traînant entre les cailloux sur la plage, de la paille humide, les feuilles séché autour d’un épi de maïs et une touche de vanille.

Bouche: Un combat entre le sucré et sale en entrée, ensuite un léger côté botte de caoutchouc ensuite c’est avalanche d’anis et réglisse noir. Une légère touche de chêne fraîchement vernis, fumée de BBQ et citron.

La finale est longue et persistante, on ressent l’intensité des 50% mais ce dernier aide vraiment en offrant une texture qui tapisse le palais permettant vraiment de délivrer le plein effet des saveurs.  Il y une amertume assez présente qui donne la touche de pastille « fisherman’s friend »

Le chêne est présent mais pas trop dominant, je trouve qu’il est plus crasseux que la version “Scottish barley” et on ressent la jeunesse de l’assemblage. Ceux qui sont susceptible aux accents butyrique/vomit de bébé dans le Bruichladdich devrait s’abstenir. L’ajout d’eau réduit un peu l’amertume et fait ressortir le citron et la vanille, par contre intensifie le coté cendrée de la fumée.

Dès ma première dégustation j’ai immédiatement eu un sentiment de goûter du Laphroaig, mais ce côté s’est vite dissipé après quelques jours.Ce n’est pas un mauvais whisky mais il manque de rondeur et de précision, je place peut-être la barre trop haute pour Bruichladdich puisque c’est une de mes distillerie préférée.

Franck 

Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley Review

Critique en Français plus bas

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Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley

57% ABV

Score: 87/100

 

Warning long LSD-like descriptors ahead….

Say what you will about this whisky (and there is a lot of chatter out there) this is a whisky that cannot leave you indifferent. Much ink has been spilled and the ‘Laddie marketing crew has spun their magic as usual. Hate the player or hate the game it doesn’t matter, this is whisky that makes people react in one way or another and it begins with the product itself, in this day an age that’s something. Let’s not forget it doesn’t forego the basic info the consumer needs in that goal, it has an age statement, it’s unchillfiltered, uncolored and has proper ABV that allows the spirit to express itself fully. After that they can add-on all the marketing hype they want.

I am a fan of most of what comes out of the North West coast of Loch Indaal, not all of it is spectacular but there is definitely some magic happening there at times. If you strip away all the hype, the phenol counts, the marketing, the race for whose peat is bigger than the other what’s really interesting about this whisky is two things.

1- The nuances you get from the beast  that is Octomore…it’s not all straight up burning car seat peat smoke, there’s all these interesting big thick notes, barnyard and then really herbal, eucalyptus tentacles wringing their way around your palate.

2- The character of this whisky for its young age…don’t get me wrong, it is young and often brash and peat definitely takes well to this kind of style by hiding the youth but I cannot thing of many other whiskys that are this characterful at such a young age. I know there is a 10 year old floating out there and I can only imagine what this could be with 15+under its belt…who knows perhaps we could lose some of that dirty goodness but I wonder what those buttery ham cooked in hay and crazy bbq sauce and inner tube aromas will become given some good casks and time. (it is like a really eloquent young teenager whose way with words makes you forget how young the interlocutor is )

Octo

Nose: sweaty vinyl seats, bicycle inner tube fights with ash and Eucalyptus, aniseed, prosciutto chips, cornbread cooked in bacon fat, asparagus in butter. Smoked cola syrup, barnyard notes.

Palate: beeswax, dried figs, burnt sugar caramel, ham cooked in hay, mountain mint/wild oregano/sage (those Greek wild herbs that are like druidic, medicinal versions of the cultivated ones), somehow sweet but there’s a pleasant bitterness darting in and out.  Salty and volatile, fisherman’s friends and cola.

The finish is long lasting, persistent, a little salty and bitter.  My first tasting was a back to back Octomore 6.1 & 7.1. I couldn’t detect the bourbon in the 6.1 as much.  It’s got more darkness to it.

This is a contemplative malt, around a fire reading, watching nature from a cabin window or quiet pensive conversation is ideal, it leaves your head full of ideas and sets your imagination racing.

 

Franck

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Octomore 6.1 Scottish Barley

57% Alc/Vol.

Évaluation: 87/100

Attention, description quasi-hallucinatoire à suivre…

Peu importe ce que l’on dit sur ce whisky (et il cause quand même pas mal de brouhaha) il ne peut vous laisser indifférent. Beaucoup d’encre à couler à propos de ce whisky et l’équipe de marketing de ‘Laddie y à mis sa magie habituelle. Que vous détester le joueur ou les règles du jeu ça importe peu, il s’agit ici d’un whisky qui fait réagir les gens et c’est surtout à cause du produit lui-même. N’oublions pas que contrairement à beaucoup d’embouteillages qui cause du « hype »  celui-ci nous fourni au moins les détails les plus importants.  Il y a un âge, il est non-filtré à froid, ne contient aucun colorant et est offert à un volume d’alcool qui permet libre expressions aux saveurs. Après ça ils peuvent en beurrer épais s’ils le veulent.

J’avoue que je suis un « fan » de la plupart de ce qui est produit sur la côte Nord-Ouest du Loch Indaal, non leur whisky ne sont pas tous spectaculaire, mais il y a parfois une dose d’alchimie/Voodoo qui sort de chez Bruichladdich. Si l’on enlève les couches de publicités excessives, le niveau de phénol grimpant (qui ne veut plus rien dire rendu là) et le jeu de « mon whisky est plus tourbé que le tiens », il reste deux faits intéressants mais importants.

  1. Les nuances offertes de la bête Octomore ne sont pas juste de la variété crasseuse et sièges de vinyle en feu. Il y a des notes musclées et fumée, mais à travers ça un côté basse cours, sucré, herbes & mentholé qui s’insinue dans le discours.
  2. Le caractère de ce distillat pour sa jeunesse est impressionnant, non je ne parle pas du raffinement d’un whisky de 20+années mais je ne peux pas penser à beaucoup d’autres whisky qui en offre autant après seulement 5ans en fût. Je sais qu’il y a eu une édition de 10 ans un moment donnée, mais je ne peut qu’imaginer ce qu’il pourrait offrir après 15 ans et plus. Qui sait, il perdrait surement un peu de sa fougue mais qu’adviendraient de ses aromes de jambon cuit au foin, de sauce BBQ et de chambre à air de vélo avec du temps et des bonnes barriques. (ce whisky est vraiment comme un ado qui s’exprime bien on fini par en oublier l’âge de son interlocuteur)

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Nez: jambes en sueur sur sièges en vinyle, combat entre la chambre à air de vélo, les cendres et l’eucalyptus. Graines d’anise, chips de prosciutto, pain de mais cuit dans le gras de bacon, asperges sautées au beurre.  Sirop de cola fumé,  basse-cour.

Bouche: Cire d’abeilles, figues séchées, caramel brulée, jambon cuit au foin, menthe des montagnes/origan sauvage (les herbes sauvages grecs qui sont comme des versions amplifiées et druidique de leur homonymes cultivées). Une perception assez importante de sucre en bouche avec une amertume  qui vient reprendre le cap. Salée, volatile, pastilles (celle avec le pêcheur sympatique) et cola.

La finale est longue et persistante, un peu sale et avec une amertume plaisante. La première fois que j’ai essayé ce whisky c’était dans back à back avec le Octomore 7.1 et je ne trouvais pas la présence du fût de bourbon aussi présente dans le 6.1, je dirais qu’il y a un petit côté obscur (ok c’t’assez les jokes de Star Wars)

C’est un whisky qui se prête  la contemplation, autour d’un feu, avec un livre, en regardant la nature se déchainer de la fenêtre d’un chalet, ou lors d’une discussion tranquille. Il stimule les idées et  fait courir l’imaginaire.

Franck

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