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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ok another Thursday, another tasting session at the SAQ, this time around the focus would be on world whisky.
The line-up would consist of 1 whisky from Glenora in Canada, 2 Breton single malts from Distillerie Warenghem and lastly some good old sourced American rye from MGP by way of High West…let’s go!
Glen Breton Ice: This is a 10 year old single malt from Canada’s Glenora distillery, it’s finished (or aged sources differ) in icewine casks from Jost Vineyards…there seems to be different versions of this, 10,14 & 17 years old and some at cask strength, this is the 40%.
Nose: soapy, sour, wet wood, sharp, violets?? it’s not very expressive.
Palate: Bitter, oaky astringence, the texture is so watery it washes away from your tongue so fast. The finish has a slight, lychee and plum feel but it’s so faded and it’s too late to rescue this malt.
Next Armorik is produced by Distillerie Warenghem in Britanny. They are some of the few French whisky producers who actually use Scottish style pot stills (made in Italy actually) rather than the Cognac style stills that many other houses use. They have been around for a while and in the last few years have really improved the quality and types of casks used. They have also gone against the current trends and gone completely unpeated, which I think they we’re using the first few years..my hopes are high.
Armorik Sherry Finish: 46%ABV NAS, Initial unknown ageing in ex-bourbon casks and then finished in Oloroso Sherry casks no mention of how long.
Nose: Sharp, lactic/acetone tang, cumin, wormwood, brown raisins, a bit of melting brown sugar. With water the nose opens up , you get more dark dried fruits and leather a bit, the alchohol vapour recedes.
Palate: Bitter, oak overload, the alcohol dominates, ginger, barley, grain alcohol. With water the palate is…worse! Grainy, bitter herbs, burnt spices, splenda or artificial sweetener…agh! I’ve never had the palate of a whisky get so violent with water…I’m speechless.
Armorik Double Maturation: 46% ABV, non chill filtered and NAS, first aged for an unspecified period of time in new Breton oak casks and then secondary maturation in Sherry casks.
Nose: Acetone again, coconut, caramel but everything is too sharp
Palate: at first there is hope a bit fudgy, milk chocolate, bitter herbs, cumin and then it turns bitter, Indian spices and turmeric, sharp and unpleasant but the texture is also a letdown…sad
Ok last one
High West Rendez-Vous Rye: A young distillery waiting on aging of it’s own stock, so it’s a sourced whisky at 46% ABV a mix of two rye whisky apparently a young (4+ yrs) 95%Rye mashbill from MGP and older (10+yrs) 80% rye mashbill from Barton…
Nose: Dill, rising croissants and buns in a bake shop, roasted cabbage, sweet fruit, hard candies, cloves, pepper, red fruits and a tinge of vicks/menthol
Palate: Rye, caraway,dill then red licorice, lacto-fermented vegetables, toffee, red pepper, Thrills chewing gum…the one that tastes like soap, coriander seeds. Sweet, oaky and a bit waxy but not cloying. Oh I really like this.
Verdict, this sessions was bust also in a way really fun, some would say i’m a masochist…yes but I also feel that it’s good to have these train wreck of a session, it really helps you re-set your gauge. There is a lot of average whisky out there but when you get something truly mediocre, it helps you re-align yourself. It allows you to become more in tune to how whisky is constructed and appreciate a truly outstanding malt. For what it’s worth that High west rye would have stood out among a strong roster of whiskies as well.
For the 3 readers of my blog if you are in Montreal (I just cut that down to 1 reader…hi mom!) the SAQ Signature branch is sadly closing it’s doors on April 15th 2017, inventory and services will be split among the Atwater market and Maisonneuve (city concillors) locations. I believe the new Signature downtown location is being build but won’t be ready until next year…or the following this is Québec after all.
Have I expressed my love of the SAQ’s weekly tasting yet? Despite all the flack and flaming aimed at our state control institution (plenty from yours truly), the walk-in sessions can be fun and are an invaluable tool in developing your palate. They’ve allowed me to familiarize myself with many different styles of spirits at a reasonable price.
I was happy that they resumed these sessions quickly after the holiday hiatus and so on the 12th of January when I saw that the line-up would include few sherried heavy hitters in the 15r+ category and all that for a tenner I couldn’t resist
These notes aren’t obtained from a slow tasting sessions or from multiple tastes which is what I prefer when reviewing but it’s still fun to get an idea of what to expect so you get my rapid-fire one handed tasting notes.
We started with a 14 year old independent bottling of Benrinnes from Hart Brothers, this whisky was bad and it was the second time they we’re flogging it at a dégustation, I’ll talk about it another time.
Nose: It’s pretty closed up at first, Werthers originals, dusty cumin, earthy, milk chocolate, baked apple skins.
Palate: Dry and oaky, I feel like this is a blending of bourbon and sherry cask or perhaps they used mainly sherried american oak. It’s not quite cohesive, you can feel the battle between the sweetness and the dryness/astringent of sherry. Dark fruits, fudgy vanilla and a slight bitterness in the finish.
I would want to try this again with more time in front of me, I enjoyed this profile despite the unevenness.
Nose: Oranges, damp cellar, cigar tobacco, malty,
Palate: Marmalade, tannic, slight earthiness, sulfur, juicy at first but short cardboard and dry finish.
The nose left the anemic palate in its dust. It’s juicy but has no middle to sustain the flashy opening.
Nose : Deep, really deep complex, slight sulfur, hints of bovril or Maggi sauce, Swedish fish, forest floor, sherry soaked fruits.
Palate: plum sauce, Christmas cake, orchard fruits, deep meaty muscled sherry, rich and full. I thought my love of the 15 couldn’t be outmatched.. I was wrong.
I just can’t bring myself to take full on photos at these things, I don’t want to be the paparazzo or obvious blogger, photographing everything, so please make do with my shitty ones.