May 22, 2015

Talisker 25yo (2004 release)...

Talisker 25yo 2004 release (57.8%): Well, just decided that I really don't have to wait for a good reason to sample this guy. It was sitting on my desk since our peaty whiskies tastings. Today is Friday and the weather is beautiful outside. What else do I need? Although I still have an unopened (and not reviewed) bottle of of Talisker 25yo 2005 edition in my cabinet I am pretty excited about this 2004 edition since they are pretty hard to find and to be honest more favored among other 25yo releases. It's bottled from refill casks and the sample is filled from the bottle number 20160. Color: Yellow gold, heavily oaked Chardonnay. Nice thin legs. Nose: Canned ocean spray..! And a giant chilled fruit bowl: Pineapples, oranges, white grapes and strawberries. Fresh apricots and guava. Candle wax... In a blind tasting I could put serious money on, it's being a very old Brora. More sea salt, wet beach sand and cold seawater. Sweet and subtle peat with scraped vanilla beans. Water pulls peat a little more forward. It's less coastal more grassy now. Green hay, lime juice and tonic water. Palate: Hot but packed with flavors without adding water. Black pepper, roasted chestnuts and bike tires. Water helps a lot. Sherry cask notes surface for the first time: raisins, wool, nutmeg, medical rubber tubing and nice dry oak. Odd, still tastes like a Brora to me. Well, after a while peat starts to grow and black pepper corns start to sizzle on the palate. Talisker is taking over now. Old thick leather jacket and wet cigar butts. Finish: Long with black pepper, orange zest, lime slices and sweet soot. Overall: Nice one... Definitely way more muscular and punchier than the newer Talisker 25yo. releases. I like how still vibrant and not tired it is. Thanks to the refill casks... Should I save some to compare with the 2005 release or just drink it all..? You know what? It's a no-brainer. I will drink it all. It's a nice whisky and like I said before it's Friday and the weather is absolutely gorgeous... Thanks to Dave Russo for the sample.

May 19, 2015

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist...

Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (2007 release) (46.0%): Believe or not, not so long ago, there was a time when people didn't have to rob a bank or put their home on a second mortgage to afford a 17yo Ardbeg. I know it sounds like hogwash, but it's completely true..! Airigh Nam Beast is right from that magical era. Almost a Gaelic fairy tale... Before I begin with the review let's learn the first rule: Do not even try to pronounce the name... There is a line on the bottle trying to help but it's simply unpronounceable. You will make a joke of yourself. We used to call it simply "The Beast" back then... It was making it even more mystical... The whisky in the bottle is distilled in 1990 and got bottled in three different batches between 2006 and 2008 as basically 16, 17 and 18yo expressions. The sample I got is from a 2007 release. Color: Bright yellow gold, like oak aged Chardonnay. Thin but nice legs. Nose: Thick and oily peat. More like diesel fuel. Quince jam, soot and car tire. Salted feta cheese brine, Kalamata olive oil and sea spray. Cooked mushrooms and beef stew. I can smell the oiliness and viscosity of the liquid in my glass. A few drops of water brought the nose to perfection: Bosc pears, milk chocolate and thyme. So balanced and harmonious now. Palate: Warm, sweet and salty. Beautiful mouth covering velvety texture. Prunes, rosemary and perfect amount of oak. Corn flakes in milk, roasted salted almonds and cream soda. Water adds sweeter notes: Milk chocolate with hazelnuts, sea weed and mint leaves. Finish: Medium long with almonds, chocolate and oak. Creamy and sweet. Overall: Well, that was pretty much awesome... Great whisky. Amazingly well balanced with a great texture on the tongue. What can I say? Those were the days folks... Only if I knew what was about to happen to whisky industry, especially to Ardbeg products, I could save a case of this beauty somewhere safe. You still might end up seeing the bottle covered with dust in some bars or liquor stores. If you see it don't even think twice. It may be your chance there...

Ardbeg Distillery // November 2009

May 17, 2015

Ardbeg Supernova (2010 release)...

Ardbeg Supernova (2010 release) (60.1%): Yeah, I know... I am awfully late with these Supernova releases. I reviewed the 2009 release only a year ago and I will try to deal with the 2010 release tonight. Although I still have a decent amount of whisky left in my 2009 bottle this one is only a sample I managed to save from our peaty whiskies tasting earlier this year. I still enjoy my 2009 Supernova very much, I like how young, grassy and restless it is and cannot wait to see how it compares to the 2010 edition. Ok, now it's time to take a deep breath and dive right in. Let's see how hard this monster can punch in my face. Color: Pale straw. Nose: Dry red clay, decaying grass and kumquat. Engine oil, hot paprika and a little bit of tequila reposado. Lime, tonic water and olive brine. Where are the peat punches I was getting ready for? With water it gets perfumy and floral: rose petals, hyacinths and gin. Speaking of devil; peat is driving the bus now. Intense bonfire, charcoal and hot cigar ash... Oh, boy... Palate: It's peaty indeed... Grassy, young and sweet but damn peaty. It's mute without water first. Chipotle, tar, soot and new make. It definitely taste like new spirit running through the spirits safe. My tongue is kinda numb... With water it gets green and grassy: green asparagus, rocket leaves, anise crackers and pine nuts. Herbal bitters, lavender and more gin. Finish:  Long fade out with dried sour cherries, unsweetened cranberries, dried malt and more ash. Overall: Well, it was the Tasmanian Devil itself... It came with a dust devil and left with a dust devil. It's still young (might be even younger in average than the 2009 release in spite of older malts in the vat), punchy, intense and quite yummy. I have to admit here that I like the 2009 release slightly better but maybe only because I am more forgiving of very young malts for a first release. I expected that this one would be a little more mature and more layered but instead I believe Dr. Bill Lumsden had to use even younger whiskies to create a second batch that soon and large enough to satisfy the hunger of Ardbeg's marketing department. No wonder why they took a break till 2014 to release the third batch. If you are peat freak and/or want to experience a unique and intense peat ride here is your once in a lifetime chance: Take a seat and fasten your seat belts. But only if you can find a sample from a friend... Otherwise I wouldn't recommend to pay those crazy price tags collectors are asking nowadays for a bottle of Supernova. Thanks to Dave Russo for allowing me to fill a wee sample from his bottle...

Ardbeg Distillery // November 2009

May 15, 2015

Kilkerran Bourbon Wood 9yo WIP 5...

Kilkerran Bourbon Wood (9yo), Work in Progress Batch #5 (46.0%): Campbeltown Malt Festival is approaching and sadly I am not going to be able to do it... It's unbelievable how much I missed everybody in the distillery. I am sure it will be a blast and I cannot wait to see the photos and videos later online. But because of the occasion I wanted to choose an appropriate dram to taste tonight. And on top of everything it's World Whisky Day..! Let me introduce you Kilkerran Bourbon Wood from Glengyle distillery. Glenygyle distillery is purchased in year 2000 by Springbank Distillers basically as a decaying shell. The restoration of the site and the buildings started immediately after. It took almost two years for the distillery to take shape and the equipment start to be installed. Frank McHardy designed the entire distillery in every detail and sourced the equipment from all over Scotland. Pair of stills arrived from old Ben Wyvis Distillery and the mill from Craigellachie Distillery. Custom built stainless steel mash tun and four 30,000 liter larch washbacks delivered to the site later in 2003. March 7th, 2004 after years of planning, designing and hard work first drops of spirit ran into the spirits safe. In 2009 the distillery released their first work in progress bottling under Kilkerran brand and since then they continued to release new batches every year. The whisky I will taste tonight is the 5th work in progress release. It is bottled in 2013 and only 9000 bottles have been made available worldwide. Color: Yellow gold, Chardonnay. Nose: Candle wax and uncured leather. Almost like a vintage buckskin jacket you scored from your local Salvation Army Store. Cream soda, green moss and Granny Smith apples. A hint of musk and peat. Camembert cheese. Smells like a walk at seven in the morning in Wee Toon. So characteristic Campbeltown... Unbelievable. A few drops of water brings even more ocean notes. Now it smells like the return from a fishing trip. Salty, briny, covered with diesel fuel and oil. Palate: Orange zest jam, sea breeze, fresh pineapple slices. Cripps pink apple and lime juice. With water: East coast IPA, cigarillos, sweet soot and eucalyptus drops. Tangerines, wet germinating barley and salted butter on brioche buns. Finish: Medium - long with sea salt, black pepper and grilled green peppers. Fading charcoal fire. Overall: Oh, boy... My kinda dram for sure... Young, sizzling, salty, a little smoky and full of potential. Kilkerran releases make me so excited every year, Whole city of Campbeltown distilled and funneled in a glass. If I had a distillery anywhere in the world I would be praying for a spirit exactly like this aging in my barrels. It's full of potential and waiting for various wood finishing experiments coming in future. One of my favorite young whiskies all over Scotland.

Glengyle Distillery // June 2014
Glengyle Distillery // June 2014

May 4, 2015

Craigellachie 13yo...

Craigellachie 13yo (46.0%): Well, do you remember me poor-mouthing the whole campaign of the new Craigellachie releases just a couple of months ago? If you don't, here is the link to remind you. And now guess what's the bottle on my desk. Yep, it's the new Craigellachie 13yo... What did we learn from this? You might disagree with the marketing strategies sometime but if the product is right it will find its way into your cabinet. I still have the very same opinion about their campaign though, especially about that impossible website. I spent another twenty minutes today to figure out what they were possibly trying to do but I'm absolutely clueless. I simply gave up. It's a rabbit hole, don't even try... Anyway, I think I first tasted Craigellachie 13yo at SMWS Extravaganza Boston last Fall and I remember liking it a lot but I didn't have decent notes from that night to refer to. Now since I have a full bottle in front of me that I can spend more time with, I can enjoy sipping it and write down some tasting notes... Color: Light - medium amber, yellow gold. Nose: Thick beef stew with shallots, carrots and celery. Dole pineapple juice: both the juice and the metal can. Slightly sulphury. Struck matches, banana cream pie, candied pecans and honeysuckle. Rice pudding with cinnamon dusting and nutmeg. Drops of water add floral notes: Jonquils and Christian Dior Jadore (?!). Palate: Creamy and chewy mouthfeel. Spearmint drops, apple skillet pie and baklava syrup. Burnt crust of Catalan flan and polished hardwood. Sulphur is still there. Not pronounced like some Tobermory releases but pretty consistent throughout the whole tasting. Water helps to make everything work together. More balanced now. Finish: Short to medium. Sweet with allspice, poached quinces and cloves. Overall: When we first tasted it together Robin Robinson called it as "poor man's Mortlach" and I couldn't agree more... If you like that meatiness and don't mind a little sulphur in it, this dram is a great alternative to your beloved Mortlach with a lower price tag. Other than that I wouldn't expect an adventurous ride though. It is a good and solid dram but lacks a little edge to its personality. Great everyday dram with some young and vibrant notes you wouldn't expect necessarily from a 13yo dram. I would like to taste the older expressions in the line-up as well in coming months and compare.

May 2, 2015

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley...

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley (50.0%): This week with all other whisky lovers in the world we are celebrating a life dedicated to Scotch whisky. Jim McEwan announced a few weeks ago that he will be retiring after this year's Feis Ile following 52 glorious years in the industry. I met him first in person briefly on a gorgeous November day in Bruichladdich distillery back in 2009. Then I was fortunate enough to attend quite a few of his tastings both in New York and Massachusetts where every single time he proved that he was the true rock star of whisky making. Just a couple months ago I watched him absolutely shining at Julio's Go! Whisk(e)y Weekend dinner where he hypnotized a roomful of people for four hours straight. I would love to taste one of his creations tonight to honor this grand master. Port Charlotte Scottish Barley it is... I wish I could step on the table now and do the Highland toast with you screaming my lungs out Jim..! Color: Yellow gold with nice visible legs. Nose: Haystack, freshly squeezed lime juice - actually more like a key lime pie. Dry soot and graphite. More medicinal than peaty: Hydrogen peroxide soaked gauze pads and band aids. Dry hay smell amplifies in time: Now it feels like walking into a stable or barn. Wet and damp barley, just before they got shoveled down to the kiln. I can spend easily another hour nosing this dram... Water adds latex gloves and rubber bands. Palate: Hot and peppery first. Salted butter, crunchy peated dry malt and white peppercorns. Dry grass, butter scotch and toffee. Water brings a creamy and doughy mouthfeel. Oatmeal cookies, green banana peppers, charcoal and Meyer lemons. Finish: Forever long and tongue tingling. Barbecue ash, black pepper and grilled bananas. Overall: This is a great Port Charlotte... Young, punchy but creamy and smooth. Absolutely loved the pronounced malt notes. If you visited any distillery with floor maltings you will immediately recall the smell of malting floors and the taste of dried barley right after it gets out of the kiln. Just imagine those qualities, amplify and concentrate them and then forced into a bottle. Gorgeous release... Have a great long life with your grand children Jim..! Slainte..!

Jim McEwan // February, 2015

May 1, 2015

Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona...

Bunnahabhain Cruach-Mhona (Batch no. 8) (50.0%): This must be an ongoing joke at Bunnahabhain distillery: "Hey guys we need another Gaelic name nobody outside of this island can pronounce... Quick, quick bottles are coming out already..." Whenever I get a bottle of these travel retail only expressions at the airport the stress starts right there: "God, please don't make me say its name out loud, please..." I simply point it casually to the guy at the counter: "That one... No, not that one, the one next to it." Then your friends ask at home: "What did you bring this time?" "The new Bunnahabhain... The one with the greyish tube... It's quite nice." Well, after a quick research at least I found out that Cruach-Mona means "stack of drying peat bricks" (duh...) but still have no idea how to pronounce it. It has to be peaty though, that I get it... Color: Clover honey, medium amber. Nose: Granny Smith apples and yellow grass. Almost like a hay stack left on the field to dry. Bonfire on the beach smoking still the day after, candied pecan and cinnamon dust. It gets less grassy and more fruity in time: Dried strawberries, dried papaya and black currant marmalade. Water pulls the aromas back to the grassy side: chamomile tea and  sage. Palate: Char, fresh mint and golden raisins. I saw it in its color first but now I can confirm that there is a good amount of sherry casks in the vat. Warming and soothing. Manchego cheese, pine resin and rosemary. Cigar ash and dulce de leche cake. Water? It thinned it out the whole thing a little. Finish: Long with charred oak staves, cinnamon and honey. Overall: Well if you buy a bottle without knowing anything about it in a crazy rush to catch your connecting flight the expectations are usually pretty low. But I think I scored quite good with this bottle... It is a little off balance like any other NAS Bunnahabhain expressions I tried before but I kinda like this style. It tastes like a not well-behaved  Bunnahabhain 12yo which is one of my favorite go to Scotches all time. Loved the sherry cask influence, overall grassiness and the dry peat. Highly recommended for the peat lovers.