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

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

Achentoshan 21

Thirsty Thursdays are back at the SAQ (ok they’re not officially called that) and I had a good enough window of time to be able to attend. 4 whiskys for 15$ even if you fall in a dud line-up it’s still a great way to expand your palate.

By now even the casual whisky drinker will know of Auchentoshan’s triple distillation. Usually they will go on about how it’s more it an Irish thing to do, although I’ve come to learn that isn’t necessarily the case.

It’s core expressions are usually affordable, making them a maintain of those top 10 lists, you know the ones, top 10 whiskys for beginners, top 10 gifts for fathers day under 75$.

What is certain is that in its OB format ‘Toshan tends to be very polarizing, it’s a supple spirit that is often presented at anemic proofs and can be botoxed to excess by oak manipulation. This will be the first time I have an older version.

It’s a mix of bourbon & sherry casks no specific vatting info.

Nose: Pastry dough, or let’s make that cinnamon buns, apple, some guava. I get a good bit of the grain coming through, powdered sugar, a little latex. It’s pretty delicate, with time develops some fruitiness, jujubes. A smidge of pineapple.

Palate: Milk chocolate, cashews, candlewax, raisins, I get a bit of sulfur, powdered ginger, lemon rind, there is a surprising amount if grip for 43%.

Finish: light, grassy barley, a little bit if fruits but it suffers the most here, it loosens it’s hold fast, leaving little impression after you’ve swallowed.

There are some nice aspects to this whisky, I like the attack on the palate, where the grain notes are holding their own against the sherry. Sadly the texture is so limp that the finish fails on the promise. One of the better versions I’ve had but still good, not great.

82/100