SMWS Cask 39.95 9yo (61.2%): Today is the first snow day of 2015 in New England... It's white, cold, quiet and absolutely gorgeous on the streets. Perfect day to sip a dram and stay at home. This will be my first review of an SMWS bottling. Since finally I became a member now it definitely won't be the last one. It is a 9 year old single cask Linkwood distilled in May 2004. Known as blenders' favorite Linkwood is one of the major components in Diageo's blends including my personal favorite White Horse. As one of the company's work horses the distillery is famous for their long fermentation process and produces a whopping 5.6 million liters of alcohol annually. Despite of its massive capacity we rarely see official distillery bottlings though. The only one I remember was the 12 year old Flora & Fauna release some years ago. I like the distillery character and trying not to miss independent releases if I can find any. The whisky is aged in a refill ex-bourbon barrel and the cask yielded 221 bottles. Color: Pale, white wine: Aligote. Nose: White jonquils, blood orange, grapefruit and lemon. Wet barley just out of the steeping tank, uncured buckskin and Granny Smith apples. Adding a generous amount of water gives beautiful earthy aromas: Clay, polished hard wood and dried sour cherries. Palate: Hot due to its high abv but strangely and pleasantly warming with vanilla, oak staves and kumquat. Adding water opens it up layer by layer: Irish breakfast tea, brioche, gummi bears and tart herbed lemonade. Poached peaches, apricot tea and more dry oak. Finish: Medium long with sweetened lemon juice, subtle white pepper dusting and brown sugar syrup. Overall: That's why I like Linkwood a lot... This distillery never lets you down. It is a bold, warming and meaty dram. A perfect winter treat. The bottling delivers all the beautiful notes of an ex-bourbon aging and more. Great start with my SMWS adventure I have to say. Highly recommended for ex-bourbon fans like me.
Jan 27, 2015
Jan 6, 2015
Benromach 10yo Cask Strength (58.2%): I like Benromach. Here upfront I said it... Their ten year old expression is about to become a Speyside classic and they released very impressive wood finishes and single casks in last years. I think it's fair to say that after being resurrected from its ashes in 1998 by Gordon & McPhail, Benromach became one of the rising stars of the region. On top of everything their recently revamped packaging and website with the new line-up show that they are ready to be remembered as a brand and not as the distillery of Gordon & McPhail anymore. It is still possible to find some of their old releases around though and this bottle is one of them. It is a ten year old whisky vatted from three different first fill ex-bourbon casks (#515, 516 and 517) filled July 4th, 2003 and bottled October 9th, 2013 at cask strength. Color: Golden yellow, oaked Chardonnay. Nose: Buckskin jacket, old newspapers and subtle, dry and dusty peat. Dried cranberries and green Anjou pears. Water opens it up immensely: Lavender, lemongrass and spearmint Altoids (green tins). Buckwheat honey, sliced ham, maple syrup, fried bananas and vanilla extract. Palate: More smoke than the peat, black pepper and milk chocolate. It gets gentler with water: Soot, peppermint and dried apricots. Lemon loaf cake frosting and banana cream pie. Finish: Long with peppermint, dry malt and black pepper. Overall: This is a real treat for me... Probably one of the last Benromach bottles from the old line-up I can put my hands on matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels. I still didn't have a chance to taste quite a few expressions from the new line-up like 100 (British) proof (57.0%) 10 year old, Peat Smoke or wine finishes but I definitely will as soon as we start to see them on the shelves in US. But that means this bottle will be treated very carefully for a while and enjoyed slowly sip by sip. Not a drop to be wasted...
Jan 4, 2015
Lagavulin 12yo (2014 special release) (54.4%): Yeah, I treated myself with a few new bottles this week... First one on the table is one of the (only) two affordable bottles of this year's Diageo Special Releases line-up the other one being the 15yo unpeated Caol Ila. It is the 13th edition of the twelve year old Lagavulin and vatted from re-fill American oak casks filled in 2001 and 2002. 31,428 bottles have been made available worldwide and bottled at cask strength. As you can tell from my reviews from last two years I am getting more and more obsessed with whiskies matured exclusively in ex-bourbon barrels; I always like Islay whisky in their early teens (sometime even younger) and on top of everything I absolutely love Lagavulin... Cannot wait to start, what can possibly go wrong? Color: Very pale yellow, pinot grigio. Nose: Oh, yeah... The smell you get when you open a new spool of high gauge cable. Sweet moist peat, dried lime zest and sour Granny Smith apples. A windy early morning walk on the beach: Cold ocean spray, wet sand and wet seaweed. Adding water brings sweet oyster brine, well water, anesthetic spray (the kind dentists use) and ripe blackberries. Salted olive oil, metal cutting oil and pipe tobacco. Palate: Hot ashes, chalky soot and smoked herring. With water it gets fruity: cold pear compote, strawberry jam and tart quince slices. Fresh thyme, beef stew and rosemary. Finish: Medium long with grilled banana peppers, ashtray in the morning, chipotle and burnt lemon zest. Overall: Well, everything I was hoping for... A truly old fashioned, straight forward and honest whisky making. It is raw, dusty and vibrant. I simply cannot imagine how anybody wouldn't like this dram. For my two cents it is how an Islay beast should taste like in the beginning anyway. I have to say that I am so glad that it is not a sample bottle but a full one. Winters last pretty long around here.
Jan 2, 2015
Shelter Point Still Master Single Malt Vodka (40.0%): It's kind of odd to start 2015 with a clear spirit review but this sample bottle is pretty much related to what I am interested in. It is the last sample bottle from #DavinTT2 Canadian Whisky prize basket I won last April and it is distilled by Shelter Point Distillery. Like any other distillery waiting for their soon to be called whisky aging in casks Shelter Point had to find a way to solve their cash flow problem as well and they ended up distilling a single malt vodka. The barley is sourced entirely from British Columbia and the spirit is triple distilled using the same pot stills they use to distill their whisky. The final cut point is obviously higher than their whisky cut, all the way up to 90% abv. Color: Well, as clear as it can be... Nose: Sweet and floral: Sugar cookies, Irish Spring soap bar and furze flowers. Palate: Dandelion and arugula leaves, cucumber peel and thick bread crust. Finish: Short with some black pepper corns and French baguette. Overall: This is probably as flavorful as a vodka can get... I also remember some nice rye vodkas I tasted before like Chopin red label or Xellent Swiss and I think if a vodka is memorable for me it means something good. I almost never drink vodka. The bottles I have at home are for my guests, or... ok, I admit that I am spiking the apple cider once in a while... But I do appreciate a vodka that has a palate and for my two cents Shelter Point did a pretty good job with this one. I don't think that I will finish this sample bottle though...