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

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

Smokehead “Kippers & Bits”

This is an NAS single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery. This brand comes from Ian Macleod’s company, who’s portfolio includes, Isle of Skye, Glengoyne & Thamdu among others.

Like most of these type of releases there’s much speculation on the origin of the casks for this whisky. Many speculate that this is a vatting of young casks of Ardbeg that don’t quite meet the company’s standards. Let’s see.

Nose: Smoked herring, damp cellar, creosote, it leans towards Ardbeg or Laphroaig heavy smoke. Salt, a smidge of vanilla, a little mercurochrome nothing else…maybe salt ham.

Palate: Acrid, earthy, sharp, kelp, oysters, beach bonfire, latex, milky, peat reek.

Finish is all on ashes, saltpetre, brine.

Good uncompromising stuff, all oily fish, milky/latex and ashy smoke. It ticks off all the peat freak boxes, don’t look for subtleties. I like this it’s very honest.

Smokehead Islay Single Malt

43% ABV

83/100

Lagavulin 8, 200th Anniversary Edition “A Mezcaleria in Port Ellen” 

Lagavulin 8 “200th anniversary Editon”

48%/ABV

86/100

 

This whisky was released to much fanfare in the whiskysphere, with reason. There is so little lagavulin variety on the market, the masses are starved.

It provides things fans of the 12yr old love, little to no cask play (the color is like Sauvignon), it’s served at a decent proof (48%ABV) and lastly that resounding 8 yrs age statement all bold and brash youth instead of an NAS with a fairytale name.

We know from many other contemporaries that young Islays can be superb and explosive (if a bit narrow in profile at times).

LAg8

Nose: Mineral, green, diesel fumes, burnt hay, almond oil. Its very mezcal like, génépi, bakelite, ashy smoke. With time freshly shucked oysters, a smidge of powdered sugar and pears

Palate: Dark, sharp,oily, acrid smoke. Bitter plants and artichokes, toasted and salted marcona almonds and lovage.

Finish: Bitter, inky, wet wool and grapefruit pith, it’s medium in length very drying. The quality of the distillate is without reproach.

Somedays this is really superb, firing on all cylinders. Other days it’s kind of hangs on to one note and goes with it. I wasn’t crazy about this bottle at first. I didn’t gas it and I find the final half much better although I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. A good young uncompromising whisky. I’m not convinced this was only a cash grab.

That said, as many feared (or wanted) this has become part of the regular line-up. At prices like I’ve seen in some states (45-65$) I would buy this again. Locally it’s a 100$ at that price point it competes with many other whiskys and the 16yr old is 129$, I am unlikely to buy a replacement soon.

 

Franck

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.

capture-rockside-1

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. 

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Project XX

Glenfiddich Project XX

47% abv.

88/100

I have been looking forward to this whisky since the press release last year, I almost asked a friend to bring some back from USA but then found out the KGBO would get some in September.

The concept behind this  second edition of the experimental series really piqued my curiosity. The twenty Glenfiddich brand ambassadors were locked in a Glenfiddich warehouse and were left to fight it out “Battle Royale” style with nothing but oatcakes and whisky as sustenance…

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All out of oatcakes…

 

Err, actually each ambassador chose their favorite cask from said warehouse and then head blender Brian Kinsman and team went about wrestling them (the casks not the ambassadors) into a cohesive whole.

 

xx-map
How it’s actually blended 17 bourbon barrels+2 sherry butts+1 port pipe, non-chill flitered@47%abv = Yes please!

I’m stoked that Canadian brand Ambassador Beth Havers is the one who chose the port pipe. She knew that the combination of ‘Fiddich and port pipe was rare and bound to be interesting. I wish I could taste that straight from the cask, even one of those rich bourbon cask other reviewers have been swooning over. C’mon William Grant and sons! A single barrel, cask strength…doesn’t have to be that old, let’s say 12-14yrs…I’m  daydreaming again.

I’ll save my NAS rants for later, proceed with your own set of rules. I wanted to taste what a junior TUN 1509 treatment would do for Glenfiddich.

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Nose: Grape candies, the smell of brioche dough left to rise, a bushel of apples and pears, vanilla & oak. After some time the rich malt scents are met with a light cinnamon, allspice, then milk chocolate covered raisins and sugar pie.

Palate: Rhum baba, fresh pressed apple cider, vanilla extract and marshmallows. It’s got a pleasant sharpness, oak tannin are present with tons of good dried fruits, abricotine (apricot croissant). The mouth feel is full and pleasant.

Finish: Long, precise and the spices are still there. Baked apples, cake batter, plump raisins, a little leafy side and almond cream.

I could drink this endlessly, perfect dram for autumn, rich and dense, the sherry and port cask make their presence known against the round sustained sweetness of the ex-bourbon barrel. I am looking forward to seeing what other experiments are brewing at Glenfiddich, I know the third edition was released a version of their Gran Reserva 21 yr old whisky but finished in Canadian icewine casks, seems interesting thus far, I hope the series won’t be cask finished focused only.

That said it seems this release was a success as in a recent episode of “the whisky topic” Beth Havers mentioned that project XX would become a permanent addition to the line-up. It’s good news as this is really beautiful whisky. I think this kind of vatting would absolutely shine at full strength, especially since we’re gonna lose the distillery edition, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Franck

Amrut Fusion

Amrut Fusion

50% ABV.

72/100

amrut distillery

I believe at this point we are long past the era where the belief that good single malt whisky is the exclusive domain of the Scottish, the passion and craft of distilling this type of whisky has spread worldwide.

That said, there are still only a small number of distilleries who are producing malt of the caliber experienced consumers are expecting, thankfully those numbers are also growing.

One of the brands that was a catalyst for this movement is Amrut, while the company has a rich history of distilling spirits for their home market in India since 1948. Their jump to releasing their single malt whisky as a separate category was only done in 2004.

While the provenance of their whisky might once have been a barrier, imagine trying to convince hardcore Scotch drinkers to try Indian single malt, eventually it became their biggest asset. Since they have no SWA or equivalent governing body to deal with, they have been unrelenting in their experimentation.

The special releases came flooding in, Intermediate sherry, the Frankenstein cask experiment that is Spectrum, vatting malts from two different climates, adding oranges to sherry casks before refilling them with whisky, the list goes on.

Ashok
C’mon you can’t say these folks aren’t having fun. Here’s the brand ambassador Ashok announcing a new batch of Spectrum

This is without mentioning the effect of aging spirits in such a punishing climate. I dislike repeating the overused mantra of making the whisky age faster, as time is a factor unaffected by weather. It does indeed create an environnement with very active cask interaction and evaporation, which leads to young spirits with a profile and seeming maturity unlike that of their equivalent aged Scottish counterparts. You can compare the similar effect with island aged rum versus those matured on the mainland.

Most of whiskys I have tried from Amrut have left an imprint on me (I have vivid memories of a particular peated cask strength that balanced overripe tropical fruits and heavy smoke) it is why this particular bottle of Fusion has left me perplexed.

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Is that the only photo of our bottle? You betcha

Fusion is the one Amrut whisky that seems easily available in most markets, it is a mix of whisky from unpeated Himalayan malted barley and peated Scottish barley, no info is available on the actual proportion or age.

Nose: Dried ginger, spices (all spice, cardamom), dark fruits and the ethyl notes are very sharp. I’m not getting much on the nose, even with water and time it remains very closed.

Palate: Shellac, sandalwood, blood orange, a kind of dark bass note, tinned fruits and the oak is rather prominent. Water does it no favours, that dark peat thing becomes acrid and the sweet oak takes over.

I get the sensation that this weird dark note is perhaps the peat, like a feeling of burnt jam, also the alcohol is rather strong on the tail end.

Even after months being opened, the nose remains very shy, the palate hot and fussy, especially with water. If I had no experience with the excellent whiskys of Amrut I might have wondered what the fuss was all about. Batch variation is most likely to blame but without another reference sample I can’t say how much it accounts for. I recently shared a bottle of the standard issue Amrut Single malt at 46% abv with a friend and preferred it’s singular nose to this bottle of Fusion.

Franck

*Distillery  building photo and Ashok as 007 are credited to Amrut Distillery

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kavalan Whisky review part two: Solist Bourbon & Sherry

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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

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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

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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

Kavalan Whisky reviews, SAQ tastings return Part 1: Podium & bourbon oak

20170907_183443

SAQ Tasting session are back! I missed these Thursday rendez-vous. They were on summer hiatus and I’m not sure when they resumed. Our monopoly received a lot of interesting whiskys lately among them some good single cask shit, Kilchoman, Benromach, Edradour and then it appeared Kavalan…the first mention of it (that I’m aware of) in our stores. The line-up is somewhat limited considering the range of cask types the distillery offers. The options are Podium, Ex-Bourbon oak and two Solist CS releases, a bourbon and sherry cask respectively.

I have no experience trying any kavalan and I was mentally preparing to cajole a store clerk in order to get a small taste of whatever bottle they must have open in the back when low and behold this week’s in store tasting was all of them!

I’ll break up the reviews over two posts to avoid dragging it out. We’ll cover the standard line-up fist.

podium coffin
He was a good friend, may he rest in peace.

 

Kavalan Podium: NAS 46% abv.  virgin American oak and in-house refill casks

Nose: Sweet, bubble-gummy, definitely wine cask influences, you feel the dark berries, tree buds and the oak. The alcohol is a bit sharp at first, it opens up after time, floral, slight sulfur, a bit of ripe creamy tropical fruits, apple skins, milk chocolate and nuts, plum wine.

Palate: It is indeed sweet, ginger, the oak is present and there is a touch of worn leather, the texture is nice & viscous. Vanilla, cocoa powder a kind of sweet oak and green fruits, none of the jujube/tropical fruits from the nose.

The finish is mid length very drying with a fair amount of pepper, ginger and bitterness

Grade: B

It’s good but not earth shattering, the nose is beautiful just not very malt whisky like. In hindsight the cask play is an interesting way to provide some of what makes the Solist series so intriguing. At a fair price I would be tempted to have some of this around the house at 200$ no way.

love the glare, very pro

Kavalan Ex-Bourbon Oak: NAS 46% abv. The name says it all.

Nose: It is kind of mute at first, coconut, a fair amount of varnish. jujubes, carnuba wax. I have to stick my nose in it to get something, creamy, rising pastries…not much else.

Palate: Bitter sweet, all on oaky vanilla, coconut & toffee. Sharp on the attack, it has a bit of charred wood, it’s that pleasant bourbon barrel thing, sweet and woody, liquid toffee.

The finish is light, more jujubes, wine gums a bit of creamy butter and coconut oils.

Grade B-

The nose was practically non existant and rather uninspiring, the palate had a sharpness that was off-putting and then it was all like T&A with not much content.

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The boring opinions bit

In a quick browse of reviews of the lower strength offerings of Kavalan, they generally get pretty lukewarm reviews, the bourbon vatting is extremely disappointing. I would be tempted to say it shows the limitations of the hot climate/young whisky scheme but I am really smitten with the basic Amrut single malt which functions on similar principals but is in every way superior to this.

Franck