About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

PORT ELLEN 1982 - WHISKY DORIS

I'll be finishing off 2012 and my first 7 months of reviews and reports by wishing all a
HAPPY NEW YEAR! 
Small German bottler and not least shop owner (Whisky) Doris Debbeler and her husband Herbert releases some very good bottlings from time to time. Rumours says their team as rejected several casks lately because the quality simple wasn't up to their standards... and that is certainly setting the bar high - but also a sign that they won't endorse just anything from a cask.

This is the first Whisky Doris bottling I'll be reviewing for the blog, although in the past I've tried a couple from the WD-team without taking any notes... I remember those as really good too...

Anyway, so why not kick this off with a review of a Port Ellen...

Port Ellen 1982 29yo (xx.03.1982/08.09.2011) 58,5%, refill bourbon hogshead#18, 212 bottles, Whisky Doris

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Sea breeze, sweet oak, tropical fruits - pineapple and melon, gentle peat and salt. Gets a mineral and oily note along with lemons and vanilla custard.

Taste:
Very coastal, balanced oak and smoke, the tropical fruitiness is very clear here, salty, very citrussy, getting some medicinal hints mid-palate, also smoked sweet cured salmon and herbs. Nothing ever goes overboard here - everything from the peat, oak and fruits are just beautifully measured here.

A nice addition to any Port Ellen shelf...

90/100!

Friday, 28 December 2012

CAOL ILA 1999 - GORDON & MACPHAIL FOR ASTA MORRIS

Elgin based bottler Gordon & MacPhail has put this one to market through small time Belgian bottler Asta Morris owned by Bert Bruyneel, who in spite of its size has bottled some impressive whiskies already, incl. some 70's official bottlings of Benriach.

This time though, lets have a go at another Caol Ila - lots of them out there, though not so many in sherry casks like this one is...

Caol Ila 1999 (17.08.1999./xx.08.2012) 50%, refill sherry hogshead#305341, 350 bottles, G&M for Asta Morris, Belgium

Colour is gold

Nose:
Slightly carbolic, vague sherry and fruit notes, subdued peat and cardboard. Getting very 'harboury' (that even a word?) with dried seaweed and tarry bulwark (Google translate - you had better got that word right!!)

Taste:
Bitter chocolate and smoke, creamy almost oily malt and a distinct fruitiness, spicy oak and hint of coffee. Gets salty and sometimes produces 'greenish' notes I think I would associate with bourbon cask matured whiskies. Finish is on peat and some (too) bitter and drying oak.

A Caol Ila in its prime age for sure, although, it looses a bit on the finish, I think...
Still good whisky, though

85/100!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

BRUICHLADDICH 'LOCHINDAAL' - DK IMPORTER CASK

After a short Xmas break, its time for another review of something quite special.

Around 5 years ago, Bruichladdich offered cask sales of a spirit they chose to call 'Lochindaal' named after the distillery of the same name located in the village of Port Charlotte, but closed back in 1929.

The 'Lochindaal' spirit is peated to 50ppm, which is more than the Port Charlotte spirit from Bruichladdich, the PC being 'only' 40ppm...

I'm not sure how many casks of 'Lochindaal' spirit were sold, but to my knowledge the one, I'm about to review is the first one I've seen bottled.

This, by the way, is a split cask with the guys that runs the danish whisky fair - them getting 120 bottle from the cask. Being just over 4 years old, it should have some rough edges still, but is certainly a fun one to try... :-)

Bruichladdich 'Lochindaal' 4yo 29.11.2007/12.12.2011 67,2%, cask#3332, 134 bottles, bottled for whiskylovers in Denmark by FC Whisky

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Vanilla, manure, tickling alcohol, very little new make spirit. A malty and fruity hint carries through. Also some fresh coastal/salty notes there and surprising little peat, though detectable. Water brings out the peat though, but still not as much as expected.

Taste:
No new make spirit - only hints, creamy, buttery vanilla and malt and fruit, sweet peat also now in good measure, salt water, oysters/shellfish, a bit oily, like a bit of natural sulphur - adding to this whisky. It then finishes straight forward on peat, malt (mash) and fruity notes.

This is only 4 years old??? Wow! Great stuff! I'd love a bottle but price wise it has taken off a bit as with all whisky these days... :-/

85/100!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Friday, 21 December 2012

KILCHOMAN 100% ISLAY 2ND RELEASE - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

More Islay whisky coming up as promised... :-) This time from Kilchoman who has released another 100% Islay - which means everything from barley to bottling has been done on the island.

Again, its a young release - a 3yo - but time one seems more mature than the first release of their 100% Islay...

Let's try this one:

Kilchoman 100% 3yo 2012 Islay 2nd Release, 50%, Distillery bottling

Colour is very pale straw

Nose:
Citrus and pear, young peat, new make and clear and present farmyard note.
Also a greenish notes and burning fresh leaves

Taste:
Perfumy style peat - not Bowmore style, but definitely a very aromatic style. Ash, citrus and fresh spirit...

Not overly expressive but it still performs nicely for a 3yo whisky.

78/100!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

BOWMORE 1997 'DUCKS' - WHISKY-FÄSSLE

It was founded 1779, the distillery's water source is the river Laggan and carries the name of the main town on Islay... we're of course talking about Bowmore...

The distillery carries and distinct medium peated style with a flowery/perfumy hint to it.
This has become this distillery's trademark almost - carrying this style in abundance through the 80's with words like 'lavender' or the less flattering 'FWP or French Whore's Perfume' to it.

Today, the distillery is back on track producing a lightly peated and easy drinkable malt for those not wanting to wrestle an Islay south shore heavyweight.

Bowmore 1997 14yo (xx.06.1997/xx.01.2012), 51,8%, ex-bourbon hogshead, Whisky-Fässle


Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Delicate, slightly flowery and lemony. Thin layer of smoke and a perfumy note. Vanillas and wet ink/paper, green soda and buttermilk

Taste:
Vanilla'ed smoke, salt, smoky redcurrant, citrus, spices and fruits with a flowery finish.

A great straight forward and non-offensive lightly peated malt!

87/100!

Monday, 17 December 2012

BUNNAHABHAIN 1990 - BERRY BROS & RUDD

I don't know why, but the darker and colder months always brings out the smoke gene in me, and its in these months I drink most of my peated whiskies and I often wonder if others have the same way?

If you do, please comment below the review - thank you!

Now, I've reviewed 8 Bunnahabhains already on here - and I think I've mentioned this before - but Bunnahabhain is really a (still hidden?) gem. Especially the older stuff!

This time I'll be trying a bottling from London based wine & spirits merchant, Berry Bros. & Rudd. I've had mixed experiences with them, though mostly good...

Bunnahabhain 1990 21yo 53,1%, refill sherry butt#18, 616 bottles, Berry Bros & Rudd

Colour is deep mahogany

Nose:
Heavy, oranges, mint, (diesel?) oil, pine, tea and pipe tobacco

Taste:
Some rubbery notes and hints of sulphur, dry oloroso sherry, a small hint of smoke and a little spicy oak. Prunes and raisins and earthen floors. Goes herbal with water and gets very spicy, finishing on pepper and oak.

A good Bunnahabhain that I think will benefit from oxidation... still its not all the way up there..

84/100!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

LAGAVULIN 1997 ISLAY JAZZ FESTIVAL 2012 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This was a bottling I really was looking forward to trying, since there's not many different expressions of Lagavulin out there... especially not from indie bottlers.

Well, this is not an indie expression anyway, but a bottling done by Lagavulin for the Islay Jazz Festival 2012. A bottling had been done previously for the Islay Jazz Festival for 2011 and both the 2011 & 2012 bottlings have gotten great reviews.

Now its time to try the 2012 expression here on The Malt Desk

Lagavulin 1997 15yo (07.05.1997) Islay Jazz Festival 2012, 54,5%, refill sherry butt#1824, 624 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is light gold

Nose:
Spiced peat, coal smoke and peat, hint of sherry and turning medicinal like its origins were from down the road at Laphroaig. Something citric in there too.

Taste:
Malt and peat, peat and malt, seaweedy and medicinal again. Hint of smoked salmon and beach bonfires on a bed of lemons. It then turns sweet and peppery on the finish.

A good Lagavulin this one, no doubt about that, but I'll not join the large 90p praise-choir on this one...

87/100!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

GLENLIVET 1975 2.64 'YOUNG AT HEART' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Just realised this is my first Glenlivet for this blog... but far from my first Glenlivet ever.
Actually Glenlivet was one of my first malts too, besides my starter malt, Glenmorangie 10.

Glenlivet prides itself at being the malt that pretty much started it all, with George Smith taking out a legitimate distilling license back in 1824... Much water has passed under the famous packhorse bridge downhill from the distillery since then and today, the Glenlivet is owned by drinks giant Pernod Ricard.

The bottling reviewed below was bottled 7 years ago by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and is a shining example of how good Glenlivet can be even though the brand is mostly connected with standard bottlings. The Glenlivet is one of the best selling single malts in the US today.

Glenlivet 2.64 29yo 'Young at Heart' (xx.12.1975/xx.10.2005) 56%, refill sherry hogshead, 186 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Clean sherry, apples and pears, cinnamon, burnt sugar, mint and brandy filled chocolates, spices and a little earthiness.

Taste:
Light, ultra clean malt, delicate sherry, some anise and apple pie, gentle oak creates an incredible balance in this one that goes on forever, ending on creamy malt, chocolates and oranges.

Hugely complex and loads of other stuff in there and a dram you can spend hours on, I think... Sadly 1 dram is all I got in this short session, but I was certainly left with a wow-feeling!

92/100!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

BRUICHLADDICH VALINCH FORBIDDEN FRUIT - DISTILLERY BOTTLE YOUR OWN

We're back on the Isle of Islay for a Bruichladdich bottling finished in one of those controversial casks - an ex Calvados cask. Bruichladdich has done loads of cask finishes - some more successful than others - and whisky drinkers have always been split (far from evenly, I might add) between traditional maturation in either ex-bourbon or sherry wood and a variety of other (wine)casks, a venture much explored by the good folks at Bruichladdich.

Personally I haven't had that many whiskies from ex-calvados casks, so I didnt really know what to expect from this one other than I would like to see a Bruichladdich not swamped in whatever cask type it has been finished in... oh, by the way - at Bruichladdich its not called a finish, its called ACE'ing your whisky (Additional Cask Enhancement)

Just to be clear, Calvados is a french apple brandy (distilled cider). More here.

This bottling is also a 'valinch' bottling from Bruichladdich, which means its a 'bottle your own' at the distillery. Its also only comes in 50cl bottles.

Bruichladdich Valinch 'Forbiden Fruit' 1992/2012 (25.09.1992) 19yo 51,6%, ACE'ed in a Christian Drouin Calvados Cask, Distillery bottling

Colour is straw

Nose:
Mashy, salt and fresh malt, vanilla, white fruits , pears and an elusive apple or am I imagining things here? also natural caramel and a hint of cardboard.

Taste:
Light grains, apple here now for sure along with the sweet natural 'Laddie style. ligther in style than expected, but still very mouth filling. Some oaky notes gives away to a creamy vinous texture at the mid palate, along with a creamy honeyed malt and sweet fruit.

This is a cask finish (sorry, ACE'ing) well done, IMO - Extremely drinkable.

86/100!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

SPRINGBANK 1996 15YO - DISTILLERY DUTY PAID SAMPLE

Back in September I reviewed an exclusive Springbank bottling done for the Ardshiel Hotel in Campbeltown (review here).
It was a 1/1 bottling and they now have bottlings like this of both Hazelburn, Springbank, Longrow and as far as I remember also of Kilkerran.

I recently tried another of these bottlings, also a Springbank, though not one with a customised label or anything - this one was 'just' for sale :-)

Springbank 1996 (06.06.1996) 15yo 54,4%, Warehouse 15 cask sample from a first fill sherry cask

Full oloroso in colour

Nose:
Creamy oloroso sherry, chocolates and coffee, slight hint of coconut, oils, a hint of peat and damp warehouses.

Taste:
Hint of sulphur but then beautiful fresh oloroso, rums and molasses, dark dried fruits and again very oily. Also some high grade coffee, spices and traditional Danish Xmas baking.

Lovely stuff with the hint of sulphur adding to the experience here.
Picture displayed is another 15yo bottling from Warehouse 15, but otherwise very similar in appearance.

89/100!

Friday, 7 December 2012

ISLE OF ARRAN 1996 15YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Just recently I reviewed a 16yo Arran malt from Blackadder (reviewed here), which is really showing the great form of this distillery as its moving well into its teen years.

Cadenhead have for a long time been one of my favourite bottlers and I was of course looking forward to trying this one too - this just just slightly younger at 15yo.

Arran 1996/xx.04.2012 15yo, 56,9%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 264 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Sweet caramel/butterscotch nose, creamy hints of red berries and fruit. After a while nose calms down to reveal a lovely malt heart. Water brings out more sweetness from the malt

Taste:
Grassy, citrus fruits - very fresh and not as malt heavy as the nose suggested. Hint of salt and some 'green' notes and apples. Water brings out sweet spicy oak.

Good malt, this one - but not a good as the 16yo reviewed on 21st November...

86/100!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

GLENCADAM 1977 - CREATIVE WHISKY COMPANY

Located in the East Highlands in the town of Brechin, Glencadam is one of those malts that live its life in relative anonymity... and up until a few years ago only few connoisseurs enjoyed its malts.

Then in 2008 the distillery's range was relaunched by owners Angus Dundee Distillers, along with Tomintoul Distillery in Speyside. The Glencadam abv% was upped to 46% and the packaging got a facelift rather than an upgrade - no need for big extensive price raising packaging, right?

Below we have an older expression that has also spent some time in an old Gaja Barolo cask, which usually -along with Port casks- IMO works ok as wine finishes go...

Glencadam 1977 32yo 15.06.1977/2009, 48,7%, cask#3080, Gaja Barolo Finish, Creative Whisky Company

Colour is light amber with a red hue

Nose:
Earthy, vanilla and mild spice, a bit ethereal? Ginger and curry with just a hint of red fruit and some slightly metallic notes.

Taste:
Earthy spices, sweet oak, hint of honey and heather and wet newspaper. Water brings out a more herbal side along with a little cumin.

Strange creature this one, I think and not the best old Glencadam I've had (the others not reviewed on this blog), but not bad either - a malt in the middle...

84/100!

Monday, 3 December 2012

LAPHROAIG 1996 - CREATIVE WHISKY COMPANY

Before I tried this, I wondered how it would turn out as Port is my other drinks passion...
Port and heavy peat then?

This bottling is from Creative Whisky Company which is run by David Stirk.

Lets check it out below...

Laphroaig 1996 12yo 17.10.1996 50,1%, cask#7295, Creative Whisky Company

Colour is full straw with an red hue

Nose:
Perfumy smoke, sweet peat, damp earthen floors and malt sweetness and fruit.

Taste:
Sweet peat again and more on the peat than smoke now. Quiet clan malt and a slight vinous spicy/drying aftertaste - then peat and wine being medium lasting.

Off my head I'm thinking very Ardmore-like and not a medicinal Laphroaig and though from a port cask, I was expecting a bit more influence from the port... Not a bad dram - but not great either.

82/100!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

SPECIAL: VATTING AND BLENDING AT HOME

Over a period of time, I've accumulated some (more) open bottles and samples from which I'll be doing this fun little home experiment. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but have been busy with non-whisky stuff lately, but now its time to get busy... at the same time I'd like to excuse for a boring text-only post. ;-)

Some resources says that the optimal blending proportion of ex-bourbon and sherry cask is 70% bourbon/30% sherry - so I'll be using this as a starting point. Also the fact that older and heavier style + peated whiskies can be used to create more 'body' in the final result is significant knowledge... besides that, glasses and pipettes are also ready for this experiment...

I've poured 3 glasses of the 70/30 ratio mix for comparison. I will have a 4th glass on the side with a similar pours to use as a taste reference. The experiment will be done at full strength i.e. no water will be added.

Please also read the individual reviews and tasting notes of each whisky elsewhere on the blog to get the most out of my experiment.

Here's a list of the whiskies I'll be using:

Aberlour 1996 (04.03.1996) 16yo 54,4% 1st fill bourbon cask#6837, Distillery - Bottle your own (reviewed on its own here)

Aberlour 1996 (04.03.1996) 16yo 58,3% 1st fill sherry cask#2987, Distillery - Bottle your own (reviewed on its own here)

Dailuaine 1983 27yo 55,9% sherry hogshead#4318, 189 bottles, Adelphi
(reviewed on its own here)

Ardbeg 1993 14yo 46%, bottled 02.2008, ex-bourbon cask, 288 bottles, Cadenhead Original Collection (reviewed on its own here)

North British 1997 15yo 14.05.1997/06/10.2012 54,5%, Ex-bourbon barrel#246282, 175 bottles, Signatory Vintage Denmark Exclusive (reviewed on its own here)

Starting by mixing the 2 Aberlours (bourbon and sherry) at a 70/30 ratio...

20mls of bourbon Aberlour + 6mls of sherry Aberlour

Observation upon mixing - part 1:

Colour goes from straw to gold

The 30% of sherry matured Aberlour mixed with the 70% bourbon matured at first seems to overpower the bourbon at first... I'll leave it to settle for a few mins...

Much better now - the mainly bourbon backbone is still in front, but much more laid back now it has gotten proportion of sherry mixed in. Getting some sherry notes, agreed, but the 1st fill bourbon cask is still very loud and I think I need to up the sherry content.

Taste is more balanced than on the nose, though the wood from the bourbon cask still shows itself on the finish. Time to try and add some depth to this... since the bourbon cask is still dominant I'll add some older whisky - the Dailuaine mentioned above.

2mls of the Dailuaine is now added and left to settle for 5mins. The addition of the Dailuaine at the same time, turned this experiment into a blended (vatted) malt. I'm now also using one of the other initial pours as reference.

Observation upon mixing - part 2:

Colour is gold+
2mls of Dailuaine certainly help to quiet down the bourbon cask, but I feel its still not enough.
I'm adding 1ml more of the Dailuaine...

Observation upon mixing - part 3:

Colour is still gold+
The extra added 1ml of Dailuaine has brought down the backbone of the bourbon cask down to vanilla and oak on an acceptable level, where as before both were very loud, bordering on varnish - again see original tasting notes on the Aberlour Bourbon Cask here.

Here is also when it becomes interesting as I now compare with the original pour of just 70/30 Aberlour. Without taking exact tasting notes, I notice that the nose has clearly become much more heavy and deep and more xmas cake and dark fruits coming through, where as the starting point sample is still very loud and somewhat unbalanced to me.

After a good while more I now find the Ref#2 a tad bitter and drying on the finish...

At the same time I'm now taking initial Ref#3 and adding 3mls of Dailuaine to it for reference before the next step.

Next step - This mix into a blend!

Lets sum up what reference drams I have here:

Ref#1 - Initial pour 70/30 mix (20mls/6mls) of the 2 Aberlours
Ref#2 - 70/30 pour of Aberlour + 3mls of Dailuaine
Ref#3 - 70/30 pour of Aberlour + 3mls of Dailuaine

Now, I'm taking North British 15yo grain and adding 15mls it to the mix of Ref#2 and again, its time to let it settle for a short while... Now, I'm aiming to reach a ratio of about 50% malt and 50% grain, which I think succeeded - so now its time to nose from Ref#2

Now to take a reference here again I've decided to split the now app. 45mls in the mix into app. 2 x 22mls - one go experiment further with and one to taste...

Adding the North British grain is easily detectable on the nose - a much more vanilla, coconut and spicy sweetness shows up immediately, though you can still clearly detect the underlying malt as the ratio is still 50/50 malt/grain. The Ref#3 is still carrying the heavier malt notes and especially the sherry notes.

The taste confirms the nose here (a no. 5 glass). I'm getting the grain on first arrival, but the malt and especially the sherried malt has added an edge here - a decent blend - for a home made kind :-)

Islay in the mix?

I just have to try and add a few drops of peated whisky to this mix - just to see what happens and how much will make the dram go OTT rather than add to the experience...

For that purpose I have an Ardbeg from Cadenhead.
I'll start by adding just 5 drops-  which has no significant effect on the app. 20ml mix, same amount is added to the tasting glass.. on the nose it just show tiny, tiny whiffs of peat, if any... maybe its just a peat imprint in my mind? On the palate its like the mix now has a firmer body.

Now adding 1ml to about a 20ml mix gives it a clearer profile and detectable peat for sure, which goes to show how a little peated malt goes a long way - at least for me here... adding a few more drops bring it to maybe about the level of Johnny Walker Green label (best comparison - I think). The other 22ml mix is clearly unpeated when nosing/tasting.

This has been a fun experiment to do and I hope you've enjoyed reading it.
I'd like to encourage you all to get blending at home... though you should reserve much of an evening for it as its very time consuming and and potentially tiring as your senses are working overtime.