Nov 30, 2014

fifth year anniversary of tire-bouchon...

It is hard to believe that today is the fifth year anniversary of tire-bouchon... I remember pretty clearly the day I finally dared to post my very first write-up just before I left Islay five years ago and it's been a tremendous ride ever since... In those five years I met the most beautiful people all around the world, traveled a lot, tasted amazing whiskies, became a part of a very unique community and learned more than I could ever imagine. I hope I managed to give back at least a small portion in exchange. There are still so many more things to see, to learn and to experience in the world of whisky and to be honest so many more drams to taste and share with friends. Hope to be around for many more years... Thank you all for your support to make it happen..!

Springbank Distillery, Campbeltown June'14
Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, Beersel August'13
Anverness, Antwerp June'12
Oslo Whisky Festival, Oslo November'11
Scapa Distillery, Orkney Islands August'10 

Ardbeg Distillery, Islay November'09

Nov 28, 2014

Single Cask Nation LDI 13yo...

Single Cask Nation LDI 13 yo (56.4%): And another Thanksgiving has been survived without a serious food coma. We came pretty close but the situation got handled very professionally. Today, the day after, is the day we get lazy and recover as much as we can. Single Cask Nation's light whisky is the choice to accompany this beautiful brisk sunny day at home. It is one of the new(ish) expressions from SCN released in 2014. It is actually the first light whiskey I have ever seen bottled by any bottler whatsoever. The whiskey is distilled in Indiana by Lawrence Distillers Indiana (LDI) in November 2000 and bottled at cask strength in August 2014 after spending thirteen years in a refill American oak barrel. Today the distillery is known as MGP, Midwest Grain Products after the last ownership change in October 2011. Before I start with the tasting notes let's get this light whiskey thing straight: TTB defines light whiskey on their website as a whiskey distilled in the US at more than 80.0% abv / 160 proof (but less than 95.0% abv / 190 proof) and matured in used or un-charred new oak casks. This particular cask yielded 86 bottles only. Color: Medium amber, polished copper cookware. Nose: Maple shortbread cookies, toffee and light dusting of cinnamon and cloves. Wood shellac and turpentine. Fried doughy Middle Eastern desserts buried under a thick coat of confectioners sugar. Palate: Orange zest, allspice and fruit cake. It's kind of incredible that I almost forgot to add water at this abv. A few drops of water dissolves the thick oily texture a little but also make it way more approachable. Orange blossom honey, linseed oil and polished hardwood furniture. More pronounced cinnamon, candied pecan and concentrated orange extract. Finish: Sweet(er) with orange-ginger marmalade, clementine and garam masala. Spices got sweeter and more Indian than Middle Eastern towards the end. Overall: I like how the boys of Single Cask Nation never cease to amaze us... Right when you think that they must be out of tricks they find something else to knock our socks off. Who else would think to bottle a single cask expression of a light whiskey at cask strength? I will admit that I didn't even wait to taste it and ordered the full bottle when they first released this oddball. And I am so glad that I did - It's sold out in a couple months. It is rich, incredibly oily and smooth. I have to say that I don't have necessarily the required sweet tooth to go bananas about it but I dig it. This bottle won't last long in this household for sure... It makes great pairings with rich chocolate cakes, bold strong coffee and light mellow cigars. Tested and approved... Happy belated Thanksgiving everybody..!

Nov 26, 2014

Cask Islay...

Cask Islay Vatting No. 1 (46.0%): Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, streets are already empty and Cambridge is cold and wet with the first snow flakes of winter falling slowly on the streets. I just came home and am very exciting about my long holiday weekend after a long and tiring month. I think I will go ahead and start the festivities with my sample of Cask Islay Vatting No.1 from A. D. Rattray portfolio. Although the new Cask Islay edition is now branded as a single malt whisky this early expression is a blended malt. The whiskies are sourced from Islay distilleries only but early press releases I could find online say that the majority of the whisky comes from one distillery. It is not caramel colored and also un-chill filtered. Color: Very pale straw, pinot grigio. Nose: Young Islay whiskies: Bunsen burner, camp fire, burnt charcoal and wet beach sand. Lemon cookie dough, unripe anjou pears and vanilla. Adding a few drops of water works nicely: It separates all the layers and adds York patties and lemon honey Halls drops into the mix. Palate: Peat kick... Barbecue ash, wet hemp rope and very salty sea water. Barley cookies, pine honey and soot. Smoky quince jam sweetness. Imagine yourself scraping burnt and caramelized apple slices after a failed attempt of a skillet apple pie. I have to say adding water is trickier here on the palate than on the nose. A few more drops than necessary can make it flat and to be honest a touch boring. Finish: Medium long with sweet dusty soot and grilled banana peppers. Overall: That's again my kinda of a whisky. Young, ex-bourbon matured Laphr... ...Islay malt. Nothing complicated and/or fancy... Very young, honest and damn tasty... It would pair sooo good with a malty and sour flat Scottish ale. Even that thought was enough to make my night tonight... Thanks to my good friend Kent Barrett for the generous sample.

Kilnaughton Beach, Islay

Nov 25, 2014

The Maltman Springbank 18yo...

The Maltman Springbank 18yo (51.6%): Nothing to hide here: Springbank is one of my three favorite distilleries in Scotland... I always liked the distillery and what comes out of it regardless of being Hazelburn, Longrow or Springbank (Well, I have to admit that Tokaji Wood finish was a little stretch...) but especially after spending a week this June in Campbeltown at the distillery I think I have a total different appreciation right now. It was an absolutely tremendous time where I learned so much from the whole team and from the one and only Frank McHardy. I worked at every stage of whisky making as hard as I can every day and at the end proudly stacked the barrels one after another filled with the spirit we distilled that week. It was a very special feeling I have to say. Above all I totally felt in love with Wee Toon* and I made amazing friends I hope to stay in touch for long long years. Any whisky coming out of Springbank distillery won't taste the same to me anymore. I simply cannot wait to go back there very soon... Anyway, when Brad Jarvis a.k.a. The Whisky Professor told me that he personally chose this cask to be bottled for US market I got very excited needless to say. I really like what Maltman does lately with their single casks series and having a cask from Springbank is definitely a bonus for me. It is an eighteen years old whisky finished in a rum barrel. Color: Light amber, yellow gold. Nose: Incredibly green and vegetal: Fresh fennel, green asparagus and celery sticks. Old leather bound books, damp craft paper rolls and star anise. A few drops of water add some sweet meatiness, almost like honey glazed ham. Palate: Malty Belgian Saison beer, bone dry aged rum and thick old woolen sweaters left for a long time in the attic. Water works like magic here: Coarse salt, dry peat, charcoal sticks and barbecue smoke. Actually the more water I add the more peat I pull out from the glass. Finish: Medium long, dry and salty but with subtle honey notes at the very end. Overall: Whenever I taste a Springbank there is no possible way to know if I am being totally objective or not but this is a killer dram. The best among the Maltman Single Cask releases I received the samples of. Exactly what a Springbank finish should taste like: 100% pure Springbank in the core but elevated with subtle flavors added during the final maturation... Salty, dry, peaty and amazingly (almost at the border line of being a little odd) vegetal. Brad, I don't know when this bottle is crossing the border but I want to buy a bottle. I have to make it happen, just saying...


Nov 23, 2014

Double Barrel Caol Ila / Ben Nevis...

Double Barrel Caol Ila / Ben Nevis (46.0%): A new expression from Douglas Laing & Co. Ltd.'s Double Barrel series. After being introduced with a Macallan / Laphroaig bottling Double Barrel series got quite popular among whisky lovers. Each expression is blended using casks from two distilleries only and it looks like Douglas Laing folks have a tendency to bring distilleries together you wouldn't necessarily think as the perfect couple. This one is a marriage of casks sourced from Caol Ila and Ben NevisColor: Almost clear. If you hold it to the light you barely catch a glimpse of saffron yellowness. Nose: Beautiful young Caol Ila: rubber bands, fresh cut grass, old school iodine tincture (the ones that used to hurt like hell) and diesel fuel. A few drops of water opens it up with flowers: Hyacinths, lavender and thyme flowers. Actually I get quite a lot new make aromas as well. In a best possible way though, like walking in a still room of a distillery on a cold winter day. Palate: Salty and grassy. The numbing spray dentists spray all over your mouth just before they use the anesthetic syringe. Band aids, warm sourdough bread and olive brine. Fresh rosemary leaves, rose jam and salted butter. Finish: Long with young alcohol burn on the tongue and extra fine grind black pepper. Overall: I loved it! But I can easily admit that I cannot possibly imagine a second person who would like this dram as much as I did. I have a known weird soft spot for young peaty whiskies matured in ex-bourbon barrels and here we go... It is a very young, aggressive and hot dram which wouldn't suit everybody's palate but it's damn tasty. Perfect snowy day dram, the one to fill in your flask before you start your winter hike. I don't know by the way where Ben Nevis casks disappeared in the bottle. Maybe, maybe in those rose petal notes I dug out of nowhere but mainly it was Caol Ila all over. Like always many many thanks to Brad Jarvis a.k.a. The Whisky Professor for the official sample.

Nov 21, 2014

Angel's Envy Finished Rye...

Angel's Envy Finished Rye (50.0%): After watching Lincoln Henderson turning the bourbon world upside down with his wildly successful port finished bourbon a few years ago you didn't have to be a fortune teller to guess that he was already experimenting with different whiskeys and different casks. And like expected Angel's Envy Rye hit the market a little more than a year ago almost around the same time when Lincoln sadly passed away. The 95% rye and %5 malted barley mash whiskey is sourced from MGP, Indiana and aged in new American oak barrels for six years. It is transferred then for up to eighteen months in casks which started their life as small batch French Cognac barrels and then used to age Franco Caribbean Plantation XO Rum. The label of the bottle I filled my sample from carries the label of batch No: 3F and bottle No: 2268. Color: Medium amber, orange blossom honey. Nose: Maple syrup, ruby red grapefruit and roasted hazelnuts. Allspice, cloves and cinnamon. Dark muscovado sugar, burnt caramel and sugar molasses. Adding a few drops of water brings up some nice sour notes: Pomegranate molasses, hard apple cider and sour cherry - rhubarb pie. Palate: Sweet rum all over the palate: Soft baked ginger molasses cookies, warm apple cider spiced with cinnamon, cloves and blackpepper corns. Root beer float and ginger-coconut ice cream. A few drops of water ease it down a little bit. Much calmer and enjoyable now. Baked pineapples and roasted coconut flakes. Finish: Long with sweet baklava syrup and cinnamon dusting. Overall: This whiskey is a big spice bomb and one of the sweetest whiskeys I ever tasted without a doubt. It tastes more like a rye whiskey with generous amount of rum in it rather than a rum cask finish. Way too sweet for my palate... It almost has a feeling like somebody didn't get the memo to take the whiskey out of these casks in time and left them there for another six months just by pure mistake. I know that I have a pretty low threshold for whiskeys on the sweeter side but this is seriously sweet; rum sweet. Wouldn't argue if it was served with an intensely dark chocolate cake though. That would make a good pairing... Next time I will try it with a couple of ice cubes. That might be the way to go.

Nov 17, 2014

Benriach 16yo Sauternes Finish...

Benriach 16yo Sauternes Finish (46.0%): This time I have an unofficial sample on my desk left over from a tasting we did long time ago among friends. It is a 16 year old Benriach aged in ex-bourbon barrels for almost 13 years and then transferred to Chateau d'Yquem Premier Cru Superior Sauternes wine casks for approximately 30 months. Only 1650 bottles of this expression have been released. Color: Beautiful: Shining! Polished copper, clear amber. Nose: Orange marmalade, struck matches and golden raisins. Honeysuckle, baby bananas, zante currants and Niederegger marzipan bars. Quite sulphury and adding water does not help with that problem at all... It's a little rubbery now. Latex gloves, new bicycle tires and custard just about to get bad. Palate: A little less sweet and spicier than the nose suggested. Almonds, orange blossom honey, ripe Turkish figs. Hint of smoke, barley cookies, nutmeg, ground cloves and vanilla... Oops, adding water made it very thin and watery. Also very sweet now... Too late, damage is done... Finish: Got even sweeter at the finish with slight burn at the back of the throat: Fried bananas with cinnamon syrup (Thai style), white chocolate and toffee. Also strong sulphury notes resurfaced. Overall: I hate to say but this particular expression didn't quite work for me. Not my cup of tea... I love Benriach spirit and I am a big fan of their standard expressions like 16yo, Curiositas and Sherry Wood. I also love Sauternes wine very much but somehow something went wrong along the path. It is mostly one dimensional, kind of flat and way too sweet for my palate. Actually now when I think I really don't remember any Sauternes finish I really liked. That wine is too demanding from the whisky I think. Maybe second fill Sauternes casks would work better... Thank you very much to Soner Tunay again for the sample..!

Nov 16, 2014

Big Peat Christmas Edition 2014...

Big Peat Christmas Edition 2014 (55.7%): Lately fall started to feel way colder around here... My winter hats and jackets are already out of the closet and our blankets are placed next to the couch in front of the TV. I am actually pretty excited for the whole thing. Cannot wait for seeing some snow on the streets, spending more time indoors and getting ready for the holidays... Ok, I know we still have a little time till holidays but I am already starting to get into the mood. Well, apparently I am not the only one: Big Peat's Christmas Edition is out..! Douglas Laing & Co. Ltd. released their seasonal release a few weeks ago. Like always it is a blended malt using whiskies sourced from Islay distilleries only and bottled at cask strength. Color: Pale, lemon peel, dry straw. Nose: Very fruity: First hit the citrusy aromas: Unsweetened fresh squeezed lemonade, yellow grapefruit and kumquat. Then I get ripe apples and cold pear compote. Sea spray, wet beach sand and cinnamon Altoids. All of these aromas remind me a good home made hot toddy on a cold winter evening. Unlit cigars, fireplace ash and uncured Genoa salami. Diesel fuel and engine oil soaked cotton wipes. Water brings up bitter greens, unstruck matches and green asparagus. Palate: Beef stew with prunes, cinnamon sticks and crispy bacon bits. Meaty, smoky and spicy. Powdered chipotle pepper, dried seaweed and spicy banana pepper pickles. Even a few drops of water round the spicy edges and make it incredibly drinkable. More bacon, barbecue and raw leather notes but less citrus. Finish: Gets quite sweet at the finish. Ginger, ground cinnamon and white pepper. Long and very enjoyable. Overall: I am sold... Definitely getting a bottle before Holidays. It is a very well thought Christmas edition with tons of spices, cured meat and BBQ. I could nose the empty glass for hours and I will. A truly holiday feast... Only if I had a fireplace to enjoy this dram in front of. Thanks to Brad Jarvis a.k.a. The Whisky Professor for the official sample.

Nov 2, 2014

Compass Box The Lost Blend...

The Lost Blend (46.0%): I have another new release from London based independent blending house Compass Box on my desk tonight. Some whisky enthusiasts will remember (most of them with a loud sigh of sadness and nostalgia...) the legendary Compass Box Eleuthera, the company's first ever single malt blend released almost 12 years ago. After running out of stocks of the component malts John Glaser had to discontinue the blend around 2004 and since then it has been one of the holy grails of whisky-sphere. All over the world whisky geeks are still having dreams of the day when they will find a forgotten bottle of Eleuthera on a dusty shelf in a small town liquor shop... I have to say that I was lucky enough to have the chance to taste a mini bottle long long time ago and believe me I still remember how good it was... People in the know know very well that no whisky from John Glaser's lab comes without a good story and The Lost Blend is not an exception: It is inspired by a short story with the exact same title written by William Sidney Porter a.k.a. O. Henry in 1907. O. Henry's story talks about two business partners from New York trying to create a unique blend of spirits with close to supernatural properties. Got it..?  The Lost Blend, Eleuthera, unique blend of spirits, John Glaser, supernatural powers..? Yep, that's it... Anyway, back to the facts: The result of the experiment is a blend of 10 to 19 year old single malt whiskies with 16 year old on average sourced mainly from Clynelish (almost 80%) and Caol Ila (just under 20%) distilleries with a wee contribution from a lesser known distillery from Speyside named Allt-A-Bhainne. The whisky is not chill-filtered, bottled at 46% abv. and only 12,018 bottles have been made available worldwide. Color: Unoaked Chardonnay, straw. Nose: A summer afternoon trip in a small fishing boat following the shore line: Sea spray, wet hemp ropes, seaweeds and outboard engine covered with gas and oil... Candle wax and paraffin. Green Anjou pears, orange blossom honey, crunchy rocket leaves and wet barley on malting floor. Palate: Salted butter, charcoal pieces and lemon juice. Bitter greens, grilled banana peppers, green asparagus and salted kipper. Water opens the whisky up with slightly sweeter notes: Roasted pine nuts, orange zest jam and olive brine. Finish: Long, salty and briny with white pepper dustings. Overall: Another great whisky from John Glaser... This time it is bolder and a little on the pricier side at around $110 but the liquid inside the bottle totally justifies the price tag. Actually this whisky reminded me The Peat Monster Reserve, 5th year Anniversary Edition a lot..! It is being distributed to a liquor store near you as we speak but you better act fast. I don't think these bottles will spend any time in the stores to collect dust on their shoulders. Thanks again to Robin Robinson for the sample.