Feb 26, 2015

Blend Project #19 Bell's...

Bell's (40.0%): Last week I had a chance to take a three days break from the New England Snowpocalype and managed to fly to London for some meetings. Last night I finally had some time to sneak out by myself for a wee pub crawl in Mayfair area (well, not the best neighborhood for a pub crawl, but...) where my hotel was located. It was so great to have a few pints of nice cask ales accompanied by a couple of drams of Bell's and chat with the locals. Next morning on my way back to home I grabbed a bottle of Bell's at Heathrow Airport for my ongoing Blend Project. Bell's is one of my go to blends in England. It is cheap, dependable, pairs great with British ales and almost every pub has a bottle waiting for you. The whisky was first blended by a gentleman called Arthur Bell in 1851 in Perth, Scotland. Soon his sons took over the business and formed the company Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd. They also added Blair Athol and Dufftown distilleries to their portfolio in 20th century. After becoming the best selling whisky in UK in 1970s by a large margin the company got sold to Guinness in 1985 and then eventually became a part of Diageo. It is still the highest selling whisky in UK. Blair Athol is the major component in Bell's but the recipe contains whiskies from Dufftown, Inchgower, Glenkinchie and Caol Ila distilleries as well. Color: Polished copper, medium amber. Nose: Soft, buttery and vegetal. Blondie cookie dough, fresh green asparagus and cornflakes. Subtle peat, honey syrup and fruit cake. Quite enjoyable nose for a low shelf blend. It is grainy indeed but in a good way. Challah bread, fresh mint and sea breeze. Palate: Allspice, furniture polish and charcoal. Sea salt, sweet banana peppers and butter cookies. It gets pretty malty but lacks a little bit in texture. Belgian beer yeast, green walnuts, banana cream pie and hint of anise. Finish: Short. Dried fruit and soot. I have to admit it makes you take another sip right away though. Overall: Yeah, I know I am a sucker for cheap blends but Bell's is definitely a good one. Every promise fulfilled for 25 bucks/1 liter. It's a great candidate for the top five of my blend project and I can pretty much guarantee that this bottle won't last too long in this household.

Feb 11, 2015

SMWS Cask 76.82 15yo...

SMWS Cask 76.82 15yo (56.7%): The last wee bottle from my SMWS welcome package is a fifteen year old Mortlach. Mortlach has been a well kept secret among malt lovers for many years and was treated almost as a cult whisky. It wasn't always an easy find among independent bottlers' line-ups and Diageo didn't have any interest to release a regular official expression except the 16yo Flora & Fauna bottling which became somewhat like a holy-grail among enthusiasts in its time. But last fall things took a sudden turn when a new Mortlach line-up targeting the luxury brand category got announced with fancy bottles and jacked up prices. Now it is even a tougher to find a Mortlach expression bottled by an independent company with a reasonable price tag. Mortlach is also known as one of the main components in Johnnie Walker Black Label. The distillery produces 3,8 million liters of alcohol each year and most of the matured whisky is used for Black Label and other Diageo blends. For me the most interesting fact about Mortlach is that it is the third distillery I am aware of using the distillation method so called "2.5" or "2.7" (or sometimes "2.8") times distillation along with Springbank and Benrinnes. They all differ in detail of practice but believe me Mortlach's process is by far the most confusing one. They run their six stills in a very unique combination. I don't want to take too much of your time here but it is quiet mind-blowing... Anyway, let's taste this fifteen year old single cask. Color: Yellow gold, lemon chiffon. Nose: Lemon bars, alfalfa sprouts and wet grass. Candle wax and salted butter. Damp black gardening soil, honeycrisp apple slices and chipboard dust. A few drops of water add cardboard boxes, bitter greens and sour cream aromas. Fresh strawberries and raspberry jam. Palate: Honeycomb wax and white pepper. Slightly salty, beautifully earthy, vegetal and grassy. Great ex-bourbon cask notes... With water it gets slightly sweeter, meatier, thicker and definitely much better: Shepherd's pie, rosemary, thyme and shallots in a stew. Green asparagus, fennel stalks and lemon grass. Finish: Long with white pepper, sea salt, damp earth and dandelion leaves. Overall: It's not that easy to find an exclusively ex-bourbon matured Mortlach but we have one here... It could easily fool me as a Clynelish in a blind tasting. I know it is not everybody's cup of tea: a little bitter, dry, salty, uneasy on the palate and very vegetal but I absolutely loved it..! I wish I had a full bottle of this whisky. I have to say again that I actually never tasted a Mortlach that I was disappointed with. I did have a few mediocre bottlings before but somehow not a very bad one.

Feb 9, 2015

SMWS Cask 7.86 27yo...

SMWS Cask 7.86 27yo (56.7%): The second 100ml bottle from my SMWS welcome package is from Longmorn Distillery. Longmorn is owned by Chivas Brothers - Pernod Ricard today but the particular cask this bottle is filled from actually was distilled when Seagram of Canada owned Chivas & Glenlivet Group back in September 24th, 1985. It is a 27 years old whisky matured in a refill hogshead bottled at 56.7% abv. In 2012 Longmorn Distillery went through a huge renewal process where they increased their capacity to a whopping 4,500,000 liters and revamped their bottle design and packaging. Longmorn is one of the key ingredients in Chivas Regal 18yo, Royal Salute and Queen Anne. The 16yo expression is the only wide release of the distillery for now but they also have a cask strength version sold in Chivas Brothers' visitor centers. It will be the first review of a Longmorn expression on tire-bouchonColor: Polished copper, medium amber. Nose: Fruit salad with fresh slices of cantaloupe, pineapple and papaya. Glossy old magazine pages, plum juice and cherry flavored Tootsie Pops. Cheap marzipan filled chocolate and fake leather furniture. Palate: A burst of ground pepper, dusty clay and cardboard. Hard to drink at this abv. It's spicy, not accessible and hot... Water needed right away... A generous amount of water took off the sharp edges of its unpleasantness but still bitter and hot. It's a very flat palate with almost no layers. More cardboard, black pepper and oak staves but not in a pleasant way I have to say. It's thin with overpowering tannins. Adding more water as a last attempt made it fall apart completely. Now it tastes like a very young blend. Finish: Long but mostly with alcohol burn, wet craft paper and black pepper. To be honest you want it end way shorter anyway. Overall: Yeah, I'll be straight forward: It's a let down... Especially if you are tasting a twenty-seven year old whisky you definitely expect much more. Actually the nose was kinda ok but the palate really didn't deliver anything worth to mention. It lacked dimension and depth. Well, this is the case with single cask expressions; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose... I am not a guy who would waste a whisky simply forgetting it in the back corner of my cabinet and I am pretty sure I will find an occasion to kill this wee bottle but probably not in near future...