Mar 17, 2015

Longrow 14yo...

Longrow 14yo (46.0%): I have another sample saved from our peaty whiskies tasting two weeks ago. It is a 14 year old Longrow..! So, maybe it's finally the right time to dig out all the notes from Springbank Whisky School to show off folks..! (Believe or not some of these came up in the final exam...) All of the distillery's expressions use the same kind of barley (except the special release of Springbank Local Barley) which is a mix of Optic and Concerto varieties. The difference between them starts in the kilning process. Longrow malt is dried using peat smoke only, unlike the others, and requires a period of kilning up to 48 hours to reach a phenol level of 48ppm - 50ppm. Another major difference in production of Longrow shows up at the distilling process. Longrow is distilled only twice where Hazelburn is distilled three times and Springbank two and a half times. The initial strength of the distillate collected in Longrow distillation is around 69% - 72% and it is collected until the strength drops down to 58% at 20°C which brings the average strength in the spirit receiver to 68% abv. At the end of the distillation 1,020 liters of spirit is collected for a charge of 21,500 liters. This particular expression of Longrow is a vat of whiskies matured both in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon barrels. Color: Medium amber, honey. Nose: Sherry is upfront on the nose: Orange zest jam, prunes, dates and passion fruit. Peat is subtle and at the background: sweet soot, effervescent tablets, smoked kippers and latex gloves. Hardwood furniture, salted butter and feta cheese brine. Maybe some old fashioned yoghurt, clementine soda and tart apple cider. Very faint summer breeze at the beach. What a calm and soothing nose... Palate: Don't know where to start with... Candied citrus fruits, wet garden soil and cigar butt. Sweet white wine vinegar, dry sherry and passion fruit. Peppermint leaves, sweet paprika and pine needles. This palate don't want me to stop listing notes: Tweed flat cap hat soaked in rain, wind sweeping the meadows and fresh cut grass. Finish: Warming with bonfire barbecue and dry-cured fish. Seaweed, samphire and thick Irish beef stew. Overall: Another great dram with amazingly well balanced sherry and peat notes from Springbank. I know that I was a little carried away with the tasting notes but this dram totally brought me back to a gloomy, rainy and cold Campbeltown afternoon. I couldn't help myself... I don't know any other distillery that mirrors its geography so good. Hey, I am fan anyhow... What did you expect? I tried to be objective but I don't know how successful I was. I simply like what they do and how they do. This is a hard to find expression, especially here in the States but it's definitely worth to keep your eyes open and look for a bottle. Who knows, you might get lucky.

Springbank Distillery // Warehouses, June 2014
Springbank Distillery // Spirit Safe, June 2014

Mar 14, 2015

Peat Monster...

Peat Monster (46.0%): I never quite understood people watching a magic show and constantly trying to figure out how the illusion works on stage and to reveal the secrets: "I bet there are strings attached to the girl!", "Did you see the mirror behind the box?" or "If I watch it again I will definitely catch what he is doing between those two scenes." What is the point? Just chill... Relax and enjoy the show, enjoy the illusion, that's the whole point. I think John Glaser is one of the greatest performers of the contemporary whisky world, a magician so to speak and he creates non-stop magic potions for us. But sometimes I feel like people are more interested in how and what he blends instead of the whisky he puts in the bottle at the end. What difference does it make? Are you planning to decipher the secret recipe and blend it at home? Could you paint like Gerhard Richter if he gave you all his paints and additives he used? Or could you write another 7th Symphony? We know all the notes Beethoven used to write it... I personally don't care too much whether the recipe has Laphroaig or Ledaig, Ardmore or Clynelish... I am more interested in what Glaser comes up with them. And today I have a wee sample of the latest Peat Monster release I cannot wait to pour some in my glass. All the malts in the blend are aged in refill American oak casks and not chill-filtered. Color: Lemon chiffon, straw. Actually as pale as a whisky gets I think. Nose: Rubber garden hose, freshly laid warm asphalt and nylon shopping bags. Sea salt, wet black soil after a heavy summer rain and eucalyptus drops. Sweet, damp and green peat mixed with sea breeze. A few drops of water added tons of strawberries (I didn't see that one coming) with spearmint, green tobacco leaves and also samphire. Palate: Sea salt covering the mouth... Capers, dry-salt cured green olives and cigarette ash. Copper pennies and guava. Water takes out some from the texture. But it is definitely less salty but incredibly easy going and actually sweeter and creamier right now. Finish: Gets very vegetal at the finish: Bitter greens, dandelion greens and Belgian endives. It fades out with white pepper and mint leaves. Overall: I always enjoyed how Peat Monster changes slightly with every edition and this one is not an exception. I like the way Glaser is trying to give the best balance with the available casks instead of trying to keep the expression consistent. I personally preferred this one without adding water. By the way this sample was saved from one of the bottles we tasted a little more than a week ago as a part of our peaty whiskies tasting put together by me and Dave Russo and hosted by Onur Sergici. You can check out the line-up below... It was a tasty evening needless to say and I will be posting occasionally tasting notes from that night when I have time. Slainte..!

Mar 13, 2015

Old Malt Cask Aultmore 21yo...

late night blurry bottle picture: classic..!
Old Malt Cask Aultmore 21yo (50.0%): Today I have another sample from International Spirits & Wines line-up we tasted last week together with Brad Jarvis and Charles Tower at The Last Hurrah. It is a single cask from Aultmore bottled by Old Malt Cask. Do you recall the hexagonal green boxes occasionally catching your eye on the spirits shelves? Yep, they are all Old Malt Cask bottlings... This particular barrel is actually selected by Brad Jarvis himself (how cool is that?) and bottled exclusively for the US market. Only 150 bottles have been made available. Like Craigellachie, The Deveron and Royal Brackla, Aultmore is one of the distilleries John Dewar & Sons is having big plans about. It looks like soon enough we will start to see the official releases of 12yo, 21yo and 25yo expressions from the distillery with fancy packaging and pretty labels on the shelves more often. And yes, exactly: God knows how expensive they would go for. That means this bottle with a price tag a little above $150 looked like a pretty good steal to me even before I tasted it. It is distilled in September 1991, aged in a refill hogshead and bottled in July 2013. Color: Very light for a 21yo whisky. Straw like, Pinot Grigio. Nose: Fresh lemon zest and vanilla lemon cookie dough. Watching your dying lawn under the sun and not doing anything about it but it smells in a certain way and breaks your heart. Table saw shavings not vacuumed for a week and unripened Bartlett pears. A few drops of water shifted the whole nose to a way greener place: Bitter greens, green malt and fresh mint leaves. Palate: Old school... Warming and dry mouthfeel. Pencil shavings, first time you take your old wool sweaters out of your closet when it starts to get cold and coarse rock salt. Shepherd's pie, green asparagus and black pepper corns. Water smoothens the salty edges a little. Green and yellow gummi bears and yellow grapefruit. Finish: Long and still warming its way down... Black pepper, more pears and (hard to believe but) more salt. Overall: Well this guy definitely doesn't behave like a 21 year old adult... It is matured and settled on one side but very uneasy and fidgety on the other. It reminded me some old Glentauchers bottlings I tasted a few years ago. I really like and appreciate these old style, not overcomplicated whiskies, but I also know that some people are more adventurous when in it comes to older drams. I understand it but I don't think you can beat a solid, simple ex-bourbon barrel finish with that citrusy warming mouthfeel. If I had to complain about anything I would do it for the abv. This whisky would be a great treat if bottled at cask strength instead of traditional Old Malt Cask strength at 50%. Thanks again to Brad Jarvis a.k.a The Whisky Professor for the sample.