Balvenie 16 Year Old French Oak

The headline of this latest

The Balvenie 16 Year Old French Oak joins “The Flavours of The Balvenie” range which also includes two Travel Retail exclusives: 15-year-old Madeira cask-finished and an 18-year-old PX Sherry cask.

The French Oak iteration was matured for 16 years (or maybe slightly less) in American oak whisky barrels and then finished for an unspecified period in French oak casks previously used for fortified wine Pineau des Charentes.

Now I bet you’re probably wonder what kind of fortified wine is Pineau des Charenes. I know I wondered as I have never heard of it before this new Balvenie release. So this is an aperitif that is made from fresh/unfermented grape juice, mixed (or fortified if you’d like) with Cognac eau-de-vie and then matured in barrels (French Oak barrels of course).

According to the official press release and official notes, this finish is supposed to impart the Balvenie spirit with candied fruits and spices with some apples notes. Let’s check it out then.

Balvenie 16 Year Old French Oak (47.6%, £119.95)

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Glenallachie 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 5

Billy Walker purchased The Glenallachie back in 2017, and in 2018 the new line up was released to the market and I reviewed it back then with the 12 Year Old coming on top but just barely ahead of the 1st edition of the 10 Year Old Cask Strength.

My complaint back then was that the minerality is a tad too dominant, and it seems like there was more feedback like that as the formula was tweaked with more sherry casks and more active casks to further balance the minerality. In addition, the color of the next editions got darker and darker, maybe not only to balance the taste but to also appeal to dark-color whisky buyers – you know, the darker the more sherried it is and more people buying it.

Anyway, along the road, Glenallachie 10 Cask Strength went from strength to strength (and from color to darker color), leading to this Batch 5 which started a new casks formula for the whisky: PX, Oloroso, Virgin Oak, and Rioja Casks. This formula seems to be a real winner as it was repeated for Batch 6 & 7 (which is the latest released to the market). Shall we check it out?

Glenallachie 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 5 (55.9%)

Nose: A fruity bomb, layer of stone fruits with ripe peaches and apricots and on top of that another sherry/wine fruitiness with dried berries, fresh raspberries and strawberries and cranberries juice. Here comes the minerality but it’s less pronounced than the 1st edition, cinnamon, oak spices, caramel, milk chocolate and dark chocolate, medium roasted beans espresso, sweet oak, cinnamon paste, very fresh and lively. Continue reading

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte SC:01 2012

Springtime is here and so is the 2022 release of Port Charlotte Cask Exploration series.

Last year we had PAC:01 2011 that was finished in French wine barrels from the Pauillac region and the year before we had OLC:01 in Oloroso casks – and I think both were fantastic. This year we have something special: not only we’re having Sauternes finish, we also have a release that contains 100% Islay grown barley. The barley was harvested in 2011  from farms surrounding the distillery and then distilled in 2012 and filled into Sherry butts, first fill and refill American oak casks (A.K.A ex-bourbon) and then re-casked (or finished if you prefer this term) into Sauternes casks.

There’s quite a complex route and formula, but what we care about what Adam Hannett created for us and is how is final result.

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte SC:01 2012 (55.2%, £95)

Nose: Sweetness, sweet peat, sweet grapes and stone fruits, nuttiness,, honey, honeydew melon, red fruits peels bubble up from the bottom, fragrant vanilla filled muffins, bakery, pears and more peaches, soft peat smoke, almonds. a relaxed and settled nose. Continue reading

The Macallan A Night on Earth in Scotland

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Macallan whisky here but eventually I do have one today – “A Night on Earth in Scotland”. This whisky is a seasonal release to celebrate Hogmanay (pronounced “hog·muh·nei”) which is Scotland’s New Year’s Eve festivities.

We have here Bourbon & Sherry casks, each bringing different flavours into the whisky profile: rich dried fruit and spiciness from American and European oak sherry casks and a rich  and sweet shortbread-like note from the ex-bourbon casks.

Macallan are even suggesting a food pairing for this whisky: Sip it neat with shortbread on the side. Probably to enrich the shortbread ‘experience’.

The Macallan A Night on Earth in Scotland (40%)

Photo: thewhiskyexchange.com

Nose: Honey candies, honeyed porridge, vanilla pods, gentle oak spice, white pepper. lemon, citrus peels, nutmeg, fruity with juicy peaches and pears, cranberries, almonds croissant, slightly perfumed. Good mellow and balanced nose but it could benefit from a slightly higher ABV and you can actually imagine the shortbread here! Continue reading

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 014

Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength series is a Laphroaig series dearly loved by me, Laphroaig fans and peat lovers generally. I had the honor to taste and review all the batches out there with a review of batch 013 published just a few months ago.

In that review I mentioned my surprise on the release of batch 014 since up to this batch we were getting them once a year like a clock and suddenly there’s 014 a mere few months after the release of batch 013. It may be related to John Campbell leaving the distillery after serving as the distillery manager for 16 years but we don’t know for sure the reasons behind this release. Maybe there was higher than expected demand for CS Laphroaig?

In addition there was a US label for batch 015, but I strongly suspect it’s the same as batch 014 with the same ABV and bottling month but it can be a different beast so we’ll have to taste and verify it if and when it’s out 😉

So back to batch 014 which sticks to the same ol’ successful formula of previous versions: matured in ex-Bourbon barrels for 10 years and then bottled at cask strength of 58.6%.

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 014 (58.6%, £71.95)

Photo: thewhiskyexchange.com

Nose: Sweet, getting sweeter and in fact it’s the sweetest peat smoke I ever had in this series. No dry ashes (and that’s a big advantage for those like me who love the older profile of Laphroaig), medicinal, bandages and plasters, sweet oak wood extracts (just like in rums), so  there’s active casks influence here, smoked meat, pears and apricots, wet ashes and eventually, finally, after a while some dry stringent ashes. Continue reading

Highland Park 15 Viking Heart

In my last post where I reviewed the Lindores Abbey first release I remarked that new distilleries have long road ahead of them to establish themselves, using stories, anecdotes and unique bottle and packaging designs.

However, even well established distilleries resort to gimmicks and special or unusual designs from time to time. It definitely looks like an easy (even if not so cheap) way to grab attention, headlines and generally draw eyes to specific products.

Highland Park distillery went this way with the latest core range release, the Highland Park 15 Year Old Viking Heart. Instead of using their regular and well-known bottle design they went for a ceramic bottle. And the reason?

Why a ceramic decanter? Rewind a century or two and our whisky would have been stored in earthenware vessels.

Now, this is all cool and nice but we should remember this is a release intended to refill a niche between the 12 Year Old and the 18 Year old that was missing since they stopped producing the 15 Year Old 5 or 6 years ago.

So what do we have here? A whisky that contains a high percentage of first-fill European sherry casks, then some first-fill American oak (all sherry seasoned) and a few refill casks. This sounds like a good formula for a good whisky, even without going the extra mile with this special bottle design but that extra step shows you just how crowded is the market, even for A-level distilleries.

Highland Park 15 Viking Heart (44%, £79.95/€84.95)

Nose: Chocolaty and creamy, dried berries, Creme Brulee, mocha and cinnamon, earthiness, subtle smokiness and leather. Then I was surprised to nose fresh raspberries and cranberries, nice touch. After a while in the glass, more peat smoke and heather. Continue reading

Lindores Abbey Distillery MCDXCIV Lowland Single Malt

Lindores Abbey is one of the new distilleries that popped up in the last decade like mushrooms after the rain and like many new distilleries it’s based in the Lowlands whisky region, near Perth and the Tay river.

With so many new distilleries, each new distillery has a story, design and marketing points to set them apart and above the other distilleries as competition is tough, in the whisky buyers minds, on shelves and search engine results. After all, they all have young single malt spirit or whisky to sell and it’s way too early to forecast and imagine what shape and route will their new whisky take in a decade or two.

In the case of Lindores Abbey they went for a unique (and nice) bottle shape that really differentiate them from most of the new new distilleries. But more important, they have a trumping marketing card – in Lindores there’s the earliest proof of first whisky distillation in Scotland which happened back in 1494, hence the usage of MCDXCIV in the name.

Their first wide spread commercial release is this three years old whisky and they too went the route of mixing wine casks in the formula to speed up the aging and diminish the newmake/spiritiness notes. Here, they used Bourbon, Sherry and Wine Barriqué casks and bottled at 46% sold for a very decent price. Let’s check it out.

Lindores Abbey Distillery MCDXCIV Lowland Single Malt (46%, £42/€39.9)

Photo: thewhiskyexchange.com

Nose: Sweet, cereals more bakery, biscuits, fatness and chewiness, honey, tannins, young but pleasant, fresh oak spice and after a while also red fruits peels with honey and cinnamon. More and more bakery smells, dry red wine and cranberries. Continue reading

Balvenie 15 Year Old Madeira Cask (Travel Retail)

A few weeks ago I noticed a few new Balvenies that popped up in the local airport Duty Free shop: Balvenie 15 Year Old Madeira Cask Finish and Balvenie 18 Year Old PX Cask Finish.

Since I had a short trip to London last week, I had the opportunity to purchase the bottles when I passed through the airport. Sadly, due to miscalculations I ended with only the Balvenie 15 bottle at my hands but I hope this mistake it will be fixed in a few weeks time and I’ll get the 18 PX cask as well.

Anyway, not much is known on this bottle – there was no official press release and they don’t have dedicated pages/sections in Balvenie website (nor are they mentioned anywhere there). Perhaps someone jumped the gun before official release date?

The whisky probably started its life in refill ex-bourbon casks and then was finished in Madeira casks for unknown time period before being bottled at 43%. Let’s check it out…

Balvenie 15 Year Old Madeira Cask (43%, $130)

Nose: Nutty and soft in the Balvenie tradition, then there’s the Madeira casks influence with baked fruits, pears, peaches and apricots sprinkled with white pepper. More nuttiness with stronger cinnamon, fruitiness is getting a floral and with perfume-y vibe along with honey (probably from the original bourbon casks, white and milk chocolate. A very nice and pleasant nose even at 43%. Continue reading

Islay Feis Ile Festival 2022 Bottles

feis-logo-new

© The Islay Festival of Music and Malt

Welcome to the 2022 edition of the Feis Ile bottles guide!

This year it seems like the festival is returning to almost normal operation with daily negative COVID-19 results or with vaccination proof along with masks for indoor events.

What does it means for festival bottles? I think it’s safe to assume that some distilleries will retract the ability to buy them online, making them available for those who travels to the island. I do hope that it will be a hybrid model with an allocation available for festival visitors and an allocation to sell online but only time will tell.

Anyway, as usual bookmark this post as this post will detail all the available information on the festival bottles and will be update each time more details will be revealed.

 

Updates:

06/06/2022 – Added Jura, surprise Bunnahabhain 1989, Ardbeg single cask, Octomore Valinch and Finlaggan bottles and a few missing info bits of Feis Ile 2022 bottes.
27/05/2022 – Added Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2022 bottes
20/05/2022 – Added Hunter Laing Kinship 2022 bottes
12/05/2022 – Added Islay Mist Feis Ile 2022 botte details
09/05/2022 – Added Douglas Laing Feis Ile 2022 botte details
05/05/2022 – Added Caol Ila and Lagavulin Feis Ile 2022 bottes details
03/05/2022 – Added all Bowmore Feis Ile 2022 bottes details
28/04/2022 – Added all Bunnahabhain Feis Ile 2022 bottes details
20/04/2022 – Added Kilchoman Feis Ile 2022 botte details
17/04/2022Dramfool celebratory bottles for the Festivals season
07/03/2022SMWS celebratory bottles for the Festivals season
30/01/2022 – Initial update with Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain bottles.

Let’s get to the list of Feis Ile 2022 bottlings and the available information, all sorted by Festival dates:

Lagavulin – Open day on Saturday 28th May 2022

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Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 013

Since we’re on a Laphroaig reviews roll let’s review the (almost) latest Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength batch – Batch 013 which was bottled in January 2021 but was released in the summer, later than expected as previous editions were released during Spring.

Batch 013 was the latest batch available when I tasted it at the distillery a few weeks ago. This was used to be a yearly release that comes out around Spring each year but earlier this month, out of nowhere, we greeted a new batch (014).

Anyway, until I get a bottle of the 014 batch (one is already en route), let’s check out this 013 batch (shall we call it the Bar-Mitzva edition?) and see how it compares to the previous batches (see the 010/011/012 batches review for a quick refresher course).

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 013 (57.9%, £69.95)

Photo: thewhiskyexchange.com

Nose: Honeyed peat smoke, vanilla, a very creamy nose and no dry smoke bomb here. Hint of fruitiness, smoked Mulard. seaweed, bandages – very classic characteristics. After a few minutes we do get that dry peat smoke but thankfully it’s not overpowering along with tar and ashy smoke. Continue reading