Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1 “Arcane Rambler”

Black Arts has become the oldest regular expression of the Bruichladdich portfolio. It is basically composed of 20± year old pre-closure stock that had been matured or finished in various types of casks with a heavy emphasis on wine/sherry/fortified wines. It is then vatted into a secret recipe know only to the head distiller.

This is the second edition that has been crafted by Adam Hannet since he’s taken over the role of master distiller.

Nose: Old books, slight sulfur and dried berries, as it opens up you get grape syrup, fresh oak a bit of pickled ginger & waxed orange rind. There’s an interesting note like a cross between sour cherry and marzipan also present is this background freshness and something akin to peated rosewater?

This edition seems to start off not quite as tight and funky than past ones I’ve tried, there is some sulfur but it’s balanced with a touch of sea spray, it almost feels like that’s the element bringing the freshness.

Palate : Oily, bitter herbs, sweet cured ham & cold coffee. musky fruits like melon, grape skins, fresh pastry, a slight sherry vinegar sharpness and then that aged sherry barrel funk. A Musty Concrete Basement collides with broken jars of mustard fruits and grape jam.

Finish: Sweet, Water biscuits, marinated stone fruits and blackberries with saltwater and a trace of smoke. Cooked jam, a tinge of paraffin and cologne. Loads of yeast and tobacco in finish a good amount of oak and a trace of incense.

Blab: This is big whisky and yet it feels fun, unlike the 4.1 which I reviewed recently which was kind of heavy sulfury and messy. 6.1 has those heavy low end notes but all that is pulled up by this freshness on the nose that other versions don’t exhibit. There is an interplay between the sharp acidic wine elements and the fruit, It’s rather pleasant and prevents the whole affair from becoming too stodgy.

Expensive but I feel like this one is actually worth paying for, great blending a fairly unique profile as well that sticks with you.

Bruichladdich Black Arts 6.1

46.9% ABV
88/100

Glenrothes 18 – “Bazooka Joe Needs a Personality Test”

Part of the re-vamp of the Glenrothes line, it was recently sold back to Edrington group by Berry Brothers & Rudd. They have decided to move from using vintages to age statements.

Although if we follow Edrington’s Modus Operandi, a flood of NAS releases will follow they just need to find the right angle or hook. Pretentious fuckboys and overuse of the word luxury are already taken by Macallan. Viking porn and the raping of mythology is the domain of Highland Park.

I shouldn’t be so sarcastic, age statements are a good thing in this current era of whisky marketing and this current range could provide Glenrothes with a bit of needed sex appeal.

Nose: Grape gum, paraffin, faint spices, cloves and nutmeg, creamy vanilla and a bit of mint. Grapes on the stems, marshmallows, bazooka Joe gum including the waxed joke attached to it.

Palate: Spicy oak, sharp, full & sweet arrival. Canned peaches, dried figs, raisins, sticky toffee pudding, oranges, a bit of pepper and cocoa.

Finish: Quick, the texture is very light, very grapey, ginger, jasmine tea and creamy vanilla.

The Blab: It’s a pretty good whisky, it doesn’t have any major missteps, the flavors tend towards bright sherry, lots of almost grape juice concentrate. You will find none of that dark, savory, leathery sherry here, it felt like it was a bit sherry by the numbers, very muted, it doesn’t have much in the way of personality. Despite it being 18 yrs old you would be just as well served by any number of 12-15 year old expressions from Glengoyne, Tomatin or Glendronach for example. which have more dynamics and vigor.

The Glenrothes 18

43% ABV

83/100

Laphroaig – Triple Wood “Fewer calories, thrice the oak”

This is basically the quarter cask with an additional rest time in refill sherry casks. I know many reviews panned this for being less brash and in your face than other Laphroaigs, now that it’s discontinued, it might get more love?

Nose: Cough lozenges, black licorice, antiseptic, that note of germinating grain, vanilla, loads of sweet oak, salty, the nose feels a bit closed.

Palate: Oily, astringent grain, smoked fish, and carbolic give way to sweetness, currants, dried fruit & spices. The palate is soft, all in vanilla, menthol and earth.

Finish: Rich, oily, grassy, licorice & strawberry candy with sweet smoke.

The Blab: The medicinal elements seem to sit tight amidst the successive oak treatments, the ashy smoke is what is replaced by the sweeter elements. Not the one for those looking for that Laphroaig slap in the face but if you like the the distillers editions of Lagavulin and Talisker this is a winner.

Laphroaig Triple Wood

48%ABV

84/100

Kavalan Whisky review part two: Solist Bourbon & Sherry

20170907_212840

Let’s return to part two of last Thursday’s SAQ tasting session. We move on to the big guns, the muscle if you will.

I will spare you a regurgitation of the Kavalan history or their press kit materials, I would rather give you food for thought.

Two points are of particular interest to me, the fact that Kavalan has been bombarding spirit competitions with their single cask releases and the massive expansion they’ve underdone. The former while not a concern for most malt geeks (maniacs, anoraks…no term is great) since they tend to put little weight in those type of awards is mostly about the kind of misleading marketing it can cause with the average consumer.

I’ll explain, all whisky is subject to variances, even with the best quality control lab and intentions. The Solist series are all single cask releases, therefore it allows Kavalan to cherry pick their best casks when sending them to competitions. Again, no one would be against the producer choosing their best product in order to enter a competition. The problem is unless the consumer is able to get the exact same barrel as the prize winning malt or the one you read that awesome review about, what you will end up buying is a veritable Russian roulette, a small matter but nonetheless a concern.

The latter is interesting because King Car Group (makers of Kavalan) is a family owned business, generally a good thing in this era of conglomerates, ostensibly it means a company with the right spirit (no pun intended) can focus on quality and not only the bottom line. They have just undergone a massive expansion bringing their output to somewhere in the vicinity of 9 million liters. That’s massive, Diageo huge, putting them in the big leagues, I don’t mean to say big is bad. What I’m concerned about is how are they going to get their hands on the volume of first fill ex-whatever casks required to cope with that without resorting to some sort of tomfoolery (see MAO’s Glendronach single casks issues for example). I wonder with that gigantic volume how much longer will they be able to resort to their scarcity/luxury pricing scheme, I know, they will do whatever the market will support and the whisky sphere certainly has a hard-on for Kavalan right now.

Nuff’ talk

20170907_175418

Kavalan Solist Bourbon: 58.6% abv. Cask#B111209009A

Nose: the nose is hot and pointy right from the gate. Apples, I get that weird copper note like on Glenfiddich. Pears, honey, sponge cake, creamy vanilla, a touch of bubblegum and gummy candies.

With water the sharpness of the nose becomes rounder, more honey and pastries.

Palate: Hot, creamy and sweet at once, the attack is pleasant. Coconut, beeswax, there are herbal touches floating in the middle, like fresh cut grass or plants then it extends into jujubes & grape gummies.

With water, sweet, kind of flat, honey, vanilla and more caramel, loads of waxyness

Grade: B+ This is pretty solid, I liked the Palate more than the nose

20170907_175421

Kavalan Solist Sherry cask: 59.4% abv. Cask# S081224022

Nose: Coffee, dates, burnt chicory, Alpine bitters. Grape reduction, slight balsamic edge, all things umami and it’s sharp. This isn’t a Christmas spice type sherry, it’s a dirty big bodied sherry. After a while there is dry cured ham and pepper.

Water brings sulfur forward on the nose, more coffee, wet wool. Lots of meatyness, the nose is big and really pleasant.

Palate: Oh! Sweetened coffee left out on counter overnight, date purée, ginger, gunpowder, an almost metallic, plastic note. It’s very much on tannic, oversteeped tea, stewed prunes. There is more traditional spices in the mouth, nutmeg and allspice. Very dark and extractive.

Palate with water is very thin, dates, plasticine, light roast coffees. Really all on chewy dates, spices and cake batter, you get more or that oxydized sherry nuttyness

The sherry lingers a long time. It’s big stuff, maybe even a little tiring in a way.

Grade: A The cask strength along with the extractive nature of high temperature maturing certainly creates a potent delivery

The Blab: Clearly the Solist editions are the ones to look out for. While that sherry cask haunted me for a couple of days, I’m not sure what I think about these whiskies, it seems that the casks (or the previous contents) are perhaps doing most of the heavy lifting. Oh and yes the price…just saying.

Franck

Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch 4

20170218_150007

Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch # 4

58.8% ABV.

78/100

My colleague Charles had the pleasure of visiting Scotland last summer. The nature of his trip did not allow him the leisure to do much whisky related tourism but while in Glasgow the opportunity arose and he headed to Glengoyne to soak in as much as he could (pun sadly intended). From his pictures it seemed to be quite the experience as he booked a warehouse tasting.

I imbibed as vicariously as I could from his re-telling of this visit. He also generously offered a taste of some samples he brought back and his newly opened bottle of the cask strength release.

Glengoyne is a distillery that doesn’t get much love although it seems the older expressions are well reviewed. I know at one time they exclusively used golden promise barley (much like Macallan) but there seems to be little emphasis on that lately and leads me to believe they might have abandoned that practice. They do natter on endlessly about being peanut free…wait oh they meant peat free… Ok well they also run their stills super slow I’m guessing it looks something like this maybe?

The cask strength is unchillfiltered and uncoloured, it is purported to be a combination of 30% first fill and 70% refill sherry casks (a mix of American and Spanish oak).

I have tried a few Glengoyne expressions before and it sometimes reminds me a little bit of Arran malt but with less of those nice funky and coastal notes.  Nothing has bowled me over so far but I did enjoy the 15yr old which seemed to take really well to the proportion of sherried malt contained within.

20170218_150030

Nose: milk chocolate, dusty cumin, cooked barley and oats, quite a nip of alcohol, damp oak and a caramel made of Demerara sugar. It’s not very expressive at first.

Palate: Glossettes, pepper, lots of oak and a slight touch of banana. Dried fruits and sherry sweetness give way to sulfur and a slight astringency and bite.

The finish  is long and drying, more raisins, the sweetness and black pepper lingers, there is less burn on the mouth than the nose but that bitterness starts to build up after a while.

There isn’t a lot of variety to this dram it finds it’s s  groove and sticks to it. It’s not a contender for the usual big muscled sherry bombs, it doesn’t have the fruits and oaky punch of A’bunadh for example.

Franck

Redbreast 12

20170317_212815

Redbreast 12 yrs old

40% ABV

79/100

The Irish whisky market is drastically different than that of Scotland, beyond the differences in production style (triple distillation, grains, pure pot, single pot) The situation was born out of consolidation that created a monopoly of just a few large distillers to remain in action.

With all the consolidation the emphasis is on brands rather than on the distilleries themselves, especially considering at one point in the 80’s and early 90’s there we’re only two actual functioning distilleries.

Some of the brands we’re born out of partnerships with wine merchants, who at the time (late 1800’s) had access to better casks in their trade, would sometimes keep bonded warehouses of maturing whisky for both the distillers and for their store trade. I believe Redbreast and Green spot to be the more prominent blends to be created of such a system.

Redbreast was an emblematic choice to represent Irish whisky for our March club meeting. There are few representative of the Single pot-still (formerly pure pot still) style of Irish whisky, it consistently receives praise across most of its expressions. With it’s proportion of Sherry matured whisky I thought it would be a style that would be familiar to our members, a good starting point. I didn’t count on the 12 year old being austere to the point that it would go unnoticed, it didn’t help that it was preceded by the stunning Teeling single malt (review to come).

Redbreast 12 is a vatting of both bourbon and sherry matured spirit, it’s a single pot still whisky meaning it is a blend of malted and unmalted barley, double or triple distilled in those huge Irish style pot stills.

20170317_212710

Nose: Freshly poured concrete, sherried oak, soaked fruitcake, plasticine, a hint of pears. Marzipan, tobacco, buttered toast, wet cardboard, it’s not very fruity.

Palate: Despite it being 40% it’s got a nip, almost like a cognac, soaked raisins, honey nut cheerios, ginger, a carpenters shop floor, wood shavings, mineral oil. It then turns dry, a smidgen herbal, dried lemon zest, a bit of toffee with nutmeg and cloves.

Finish: astringent, green peppercorns and oak shavings a bit of the plum pudding and almonds but it’s gone so quickly and that’s perhaps where the low ABV hurts it.

There are elements of this whisky I love, the interplay of the robust grain and plasticine notes with that of the sherried oak. Airing out the bottle helped bring some definition to the palate but ultimately I’m still unsure how I feel about this whisky. It’s certainly well crafted and while I’m curious about the cask strength version, I’m not certain the higher proof would fix my qualms with it. Perhaps that short finish?

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.

Aberlour Warehouse Willkommeninschottlan.com.jpg

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