Maker’s 46 was released sometime around 2010, it has the distinction of being the second products to be released by the distillery since it’s inception. It uses the same mash bill as standard Maker’s 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley but the whisky is put back into barrels that contain seared french oak staves and re-racked for an additional period (the exact amount of time is unclear). This is a fairly unique process not unlike what Compass Box initially did with it’s Spice Tree blend. I am surprised more distilleries are not doing this, unless they are and aren’t mentioning it. I know MGP offer’s something similar to it’s contract distilling clients.
Nose: Chestnut purée, ginger, green oak, a bit of tobacco and menthol, it’s all very discreet. It’s as if these notes are a kind of film on top of the usual sweet caramel and oak of a bourbon nose. It then gets Peppery, freshly stained wood, sugar glazed cereal and cherry ice cream. It needs lots of air, but it’s very rich
Palate: Sweet soft oak at first, fresh bread. A feeling of glycerin, wine gums, caramel corn, Turkish delight & lime. It’s got a peppery astringency and a ginger zing, it’s fairly oily and smooth for the ABV.
Finish: Medium length you’re left with with over brewed black tea and milk, lemon pith and a bit of cherry cola and ginger.
The Blab: The nose took forever to come out, initially it felt like two layers but became more homogeneous with air. The finishing does add richness especially on the palate, it’s a neat formula and one I believe that is quite successful for the company.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Much like Ardbeg and Laphroaig, Lagavulin is one of those distilleries that has the ability to turn grown men into fanboys. Unlike the latter examples, it does so by releasing very few whiskys and with little fanfare.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think Diageo has any trouble with their marketing budget, yet I have to admit that the austere range of Lagavulin resonates with my personal aesthetic. Yes there are the Jazz fest releases & Feis Ile editions, as well as the occasional 20+yr old OB that are beyond most people’s reaches.
Otherwise the distillery output is channeled into three main expressions. The 16’s reputation renders it almost ubiquitous, it’s the one you are likely to find behind the bar in most reputable restaurant and bars, which doesn’t distract from the fact that it is a solid product.
On the other end you have this 12 years cask strength offering, it has been released yearly since 2000, produced in fairly large numbers. It is a vatting of all ex-bourbon barrels and judging from the pale colorprobably a fair amount of refill barrels (thankfully free of the DiageoGold™…thanks for that one Micheal k.)
I first tasted this as the second to last whisky in a line-up of heavy hitters (Bunnahabhain Toiteach, Ardbeg Corry, Bowmore Tempest, Amrut peated CS) so singular was it’s delivery, I instantly knew I needed some of this in my life. Thank you again to fellow Connosr member Robert99 for sharing this with me.
Nose: Smoked fudge (this should totally be a thing), burnt chaff, butter, hot tarmac, a slight touch of vanilla. A feeling of Vicks vaporub and alpine liqueurs/bitters, earthy and mineral.
Palate: Sooty, a coal fire, bitter herbs and plants (cardoons?) there is also little sweetness, It reminds me of mezcal in some ways, fresh almonds and grapefruit pith, salty and a slight creaminess.
Finish is long, all on puer eh tea (that earthy, vegetal side), blond tobacco smoke, fading sweetness and lingering oiliness. It’s so balanced and most quaffable undiluted.
A good reference when one wants to talk about distillery character or quality of distillate, there are similarities with other Islay whisky but there is this elemental qualities in this whisky that are hard to find elsewhere and there doesn’t seem to be so much wood doing the heavy lifting.
Ok yes the price, the Diagopremium™ is in effect, there has been a steady increase of the price of this over the years attaining some new heights with the 2016 edition. In our neck of the woods the 2013 retailed for 116$ and the 2016 is now 160$…pretty steep price of entry.
I forgot to post my notes from a couple of in-store tastings so I’m catching up.
This night was an interesting one with 2 bottle of independent bottlers Hart Brothers and the most recent turnouts from Kilchoman’s standard offerings.
I don’t have much information about Hart Brothers, it seems to be a family owned grocer/licensed retailer who turned to bottling at some time in the 60’s, they don’t seem to have the same presence as some of the bigger players in the game and I’m not sure how consistent their products are.
The SAQ received a batch of their outturn in the fall, there wasn’t much to get excited about a couple of unnamed region specific blended malts, the most interesting are a 14 yr old Mortlach and a 17 yr old cask strength Glenrothes (a whopping 272$) 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.
The craze for Japanese whisky is still in full swing, some blame Jim Murray’s 2014 proclamation that Japanese Whisky was the best in the world as one of the catalysts for this state of affairs, as much as he at times deserves the bashing, we can’t blame Sauron for everything.
The reasons are myriad, a burgeoning interest in world whiskys, the rise of whisky as an investment or flippers. I doubt many of these overpriced bottles of Yamazaki Sherry cask or Karuizawa are actually being opened and enjoyed.
Whatever the reason the result is pretty much what one is seeing in Scotland but at an accelerated rate. Expressions losing their age statements but prices remaining the same, ABV’s being lowered, Increase of new NAS releases and special releases, an increase in the marketing of grain whiskys. With the added factor that anything Japanese that can vaguely be passed under the whisky category is instantly pushed onto the market, rice whisky & aged sochu and such, I’m not against these but they are often shamelessly marketed with little regards to their quality. There are other effects and this post on Nonjatta gives you the news from the perspective of someone on the ground.
I know it sounds like a lot of nagging or nit-picking but sadly it’s just the facts.
On to today’s whisky I’ve had occasion to try this a few times and it scored very well with club members the first time around. It is a house blend of the different types of malt whiskies that are produced at both Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries…maybe.
Nose: Tinned fruits in syrup, there is a rounded malty side, coffee cake soaked in a sherry syrup. There is a dark note like charcoal and umeboshi, buckwheat honey, it’s got a oxidized/sulfury side a hint of a sherry influence.
Palate: Pickled ginger on arrival, sweet and creamy malt and in the background earthy peat (not at all Islay like). A bit of heat despite the low strength, complex sweetness like honey then mineral and slightly waxy, there is some tannic oak and again that feeling of tinned fruits from the nose.
The main tastes fade quickly from the tongue but there is a creamy sweetness that remains on the finish.
While the combination of flavors is somewhat singular it doesn’t dive deeply enough into those slightly exotic notes (rare woods and that weird pickled plum dark note) to make a lasting impression. I enjoy having a glass of this but could not see myself buying a full bottle, plus it’s a dreaded NASty release, transparency apostles may wish to abstain.
This blog has been running for a little over a year now. It’s a log of tasting notes and also to assemble them in a way that makes sense. It’s also a good practice for my writing, not that I fancy myself anything more than middling in that field.
Looking back at the moderate amount I have posted so far I would have never guessed the most viewed entry would be the one for Bowmore Tempest VI. It seems to attract a lot of queries and if I had a dollar for every view I could keep the blog afloat in premium land for a couple of years (not tooting my horn, this blog attracts very little views in general which I’m fine with). That was one of my first reviews and it still causes me to cringe at times when I read it, yet I meant every word in my love for that whisky. It’s still consistently a joy to have a dram of it and I am happy to have squirreled away a couple of bottles (not as many as Nozinan I am certain).
I had the opportunity last year to trade a bottle of batch VI for V with Connosr member Nozinan through the kindest of whisky mules (fellow Connosr member Robert99). It was smartly suggested we trade a sample of each whisky along with it in order to taste the batch variances without opening our bottles. I am much overdue on my review of this but not like anyone was holding their breath for my opinion on this hot topic.
Bowmore Tempest V:
Nose: Bags of tropical fruits, sea spray, waxed meyer lemons, there’s a bit of malty side, the smoke is in the distance and it feels a bit closed at first. After some time the vanilla and oak become more prominent, along with a mineral and earthy peat, the sweetness is like flower nectar.
Palate: Earthy, sweet, creamy and yet there’s a good amount of lingering bitterness to keep it in check. Lemons and a kind of dirty spices (camphor, black cardamom, grains of paradise, long peppercorn) yet there is also an underlying soapy, floral, lavender tang that is slight but persistent even with water.
The strength is magnificent, it’s easy to drink undiluted and powerfully conveys the flavours, the finish is long and all on sweet oak and gripping bitterness.
Bowmore Tempest VI:
Nose: Starts off on ripe pineapple, mango, sweet and musky melon, distant smoke and vinyl upholstery. It morphs into vanilla and damp oak and flint, the peaty side is more like a campfire the morning after.
Palate: Earthy, malted barley syrup, bergamot, a bit of ashyness and coconut. Lemon pith, malty, orange flower water or petit-grain. Paraffin and with time a little antiseptic and oysters show up.
The finish is long and lingering, with water you get more oak, the bitter ashy side is reduced but still plenty of mineral and sea spray and lemon.
Impressions: While Stylistically both batches are very close, there are some slight differences, the nose on batch V really pushes the fruits forward but sadly I’m really sensitive to that soapy, bitter violet note on the palate. Batch VI feels well rounded if a bit oak forward. It’s must try for those who haven’t been moved much by the standard OB line-up of Bowmore.
The rant: Ah we can’t get away from me complaining but I mean c’mon Suntory! The small batch experiments disappeared and all we are left with is this new NAS vault series shite. The first one landed on these shores recently at a whopping 199$ (Canadian), I know that never ending price argument but this release has no pretension to having any special or rare parcels of whisky, not that this would necessarily change much. When one could buy a 10 yr old cask strength, first fill bourbon cask whisky at 75$ less than a year prior, it’s hard not to feel like they are taking the piss. We thought Devil’s cask III at 100$+ was pushing it…we didn’t know what was coming.
Johnnie Walker is ubiquitous to the point of being infamous, It’s probably the one Scotch whisky everyone knows by name. The walking man logo no matter how gussied up for the times is another instantly recognizable icon for the uninitiated. It is also the whisky brand most likely to get shit on by hardcore whisky lovers and don’t get me wrong sometimes it deserves it.
They are owned by the brand whisky connoisseurs love to hate. To make an analogy if whisky was Star Wars, Diageo could be an exact stand in for the empire. Yet we cannot ignore that Johnny Walker is the gateway for many people. Black label is one of the main reasons I fell back in love with Scotch whisky again after a long love affair with it’s Canadian brethren, I love that shit to pieces.
Of all the many whiskers under the JW moniker, green label was/is the anomaly in the range. It was first released at the tail end of the nineties, a blended malt (formerly called vatted malt) a blend of single malts it contains no grain whisky to pad it out. The price was reasonable 50$ to 70$, it had an age statement of 15 years. This should have given it sex appeal but I think it caused the opposite.
The very things that made it an asset also hampered it. The reasonable price should have made it a perfect stepping stone for red and black label drinkers but didn’t. It also didn’t have enough of a bling factor and panache to draw consumers of the gold and blue label. Vatted malts/pure malts did not have the hip factor they do now and many single malt drinkers didn’t see why you’d waste your time on this blend, this was also a time where a 15-18 yr single malt weren’t quite the bank busters they are now.
Despite all this it still green label gained a cult status of sorts, so when Diageo announced in 2012 that it would be pulling the green out of most of its markets while doing a little re-branding of the JW line-up it obviously upset quite a few people.
They claimed poor sales and other malarkey, the reality is probably an amalgam of different reasons. They we’re probably taxing their stocks of Caol Ila and Talisker pretty thin at one point, those two provide the smoky/peaty backbone for most JW blends. They could also sell the individual component malts for much more money to the growing “luxury” segment of the market. Lastly like many spirit producers they we’re looking towards the promise land that was supposed to be the growing Asian market…Shangri-La as you would. This market failed to boom and as a result in early 2015 we saw a limited amount of green label showing up on shelves, with a confirmed return at the beginning of 2016.
Enough blabbing lets dive in.
Nose: the smoke is pretty prominent at first nosing , fresh cut apples and pears, barley sugar, nectar and blossoms. A slight feeling of cider, orange peels and a big malty backbone.
Palate: Rich and sweet, then the smoke hits, peppery at first but also that feeling of beach bonfire, not dirty peat but a slight iodine and ozone like feeling. Then orange oils and tobacco accents. There is fruits, the peated components are kept in check by the other flavors honey, a roundess from the oak, then marmalade and a slight touch of milk chocolate.
The finish is long, sustaining the rich malty side, this pleasant sweetness and peppery smoke.
This is a different beast than the original but I prefer this new incarnation, it’s such s rich dram, the smoke is present but somehow is so well integrated into the other elements.