You know the annual ritual of Ardbeg fans: late March, rushing, hammering and encountering an overload Ardbeg site, then curse, gets angry when site goes down, makes F5 key stuck forever and all just to grab a bottle (or case) of the latest Committee Release which precedes the Ardbeg Day general release. But the truth is that nowadays the site is usually more responsive and manage to handle the load, but the other part stays true and the bottles are quickly gone usually within the hour (site downtime notwithstanding).
I have to admit that up to Ardbog, the 2013 Ardbeg Day release, I was very happy with the special releases but I admit there had been a lapse of faith after the last few releases with Perpetuum being rock bottom, so when I heard on Kelpie, the 2017 bottling I was again very skeptic and thought to myself: Oh come on, what’s that wood voodoo of using casks from oak that grows in a remote region in Russia? It’s not like we really know (at least now) how exactly those casks were used: full maturation? finish? a mix?
But those questions won’t stop me from tasting it because a true whisky geek will be curious and will want to try it – hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release (51.7%)
Nose: Hmm, not your usual Arbeg or at least isn’t similar to anything Ardbeg released in the last few years. Lots of salt, Kabanos and salami (really! I was utterly shocked!), wet peat smoke, coals, pickled herring. Peat is very restrained, rounded and not sharp like recent releases, honey sweetness. With water, more malt, gets fresher, smoke and peat becomes more like recent releases. Continue reading
I’ve finally lay my hands on a bottle of the hyped and highly sought-after Springbank Local Barley 11. It’s a refreshing change after striking out with last year’s 16 year old.
It’s the second Local Barley release (out of planned five) and this time it’s Bere Barley (Last year it was Prisma) grown in Aros Farm in Kintyre (near Campbeltown). It was malted in Springbank malting floor, distilled February 2006 and bottled in 2017. Let’s check it out!
Springbank Local Barley 11 Year Old (2006-2017) (53.1%)
Nose: What a weird nose at first after opening it. Big time funk with heavy glue note. Some greenery (like those green tomatoes), weak peat smoke and strong maltiness, then a hint of white pepper, green and fresh eucalyptus leaves (almost mint). The industrial glue turns to makeshift glue from flour and water (like kids do in kindergarten), green tomatoes again with diesel oil – more like a traditional Springbank. After a few minutes in the glass, the fruitiness appears and takes over, pears and apricots with perfume edge but the funk stays to balance it. Phew, not a friendly one! Continue reading
Most malt heads are familiar with Aberlour Distillery due to it’s heavily popular A’bunadh series (58 batches and counting) as they (and I) love a good sherrybomb. But we shouldn’t forget there are other whiskies in the line-up ranging from 12 Year Old to 18 Year Old and bottled at 40% or 43%.
But there’s an interesting variant to the 12 Year Old, one non chill-filtered and bottled at 48%, priced very similarly to the standard 40% and chill-filtered.
Aberlour 12 Year Old Non Chill-Filtered (48%, £35.99/€43.50)
Nose: Rich and full, malt and strong dried fruit, figs, cinnamon, nutmeg, cookie dough, fresh sweet berries juice. Then getting soaked raisins, a lot of dark chocolate, coffee grounds, still keeping the honey and light fruitiness in the background for balance. Continue reading
Wolfburn Aurora is the second release from Wolfburn Distillery at Thurso. I had the pleasure of visiting there, tasting some spirit and very much liked their first release the Wolfburn Northland.
So naturally I was eager to try Aurora which was released last September. It’s a no-age-statement whisky, aged for three years in 3 different cask types: A minority (about 20-30%) in first fill Oloroso Sherry hogsheads and the rest in refill quarter casks and first fill ex-Bourbon barrels.
Wolfburn Aurora (46%, Bottled 30/8/16, £48.43/€44.95)
Nose: Malty, creamy, with gentle red fruit (strawberries and raspberries) in the background. They do get stronger over time but it never dominates and leaving the stage to the malt. Honey and a few drops of lemon juice, limestone dust just like in their first release (Northland) and a touch of peat, brine and some random whiffs of youth (young spirit). Continue reading
When a whisky is matured in 1st Fill Sherry Butts, you’d think it will sport dark color and big sherry notes in the whisky, but that’s not always the case because there are different kinds of sherry and different kind of casks.
Take for example this Caol Ila 2005 11 Year old from Gordon & Macphail. A vatting of 4 casks (Casks 301521, 301523, 301524 & 301527) that were all distilled on February 2005, lay asleep for a long time and then married together and bottled Last July. You wouldn’t think it’s a whisky matured in first fill sherry casks.
Caol Ila 2005 11 Year Old (Gordon & Macphail Cask Strength) (57.3%, £47.40/€69.95)
Nose: Classic Caol Ila peat smoke, red apples, lemon, smoke and saltiness, malt cereals, cream, cured meat and after a while some fruity fragrance. It’s a mellow nose and not a very complex one but it has structure and backbone. With a few drops of water it’s fruitier with more honey, a touch of pineapple, extra vanilla and pears, richer and stronger. Continue reading
After the pretty good Laphroaig Brodir Batch 001, let’s go for a review of another whisky in port casks – Highland Park Fire Edition.
It’s the first Highland Park in Port casks that I have ever encountered so I went ahead and purchased myself a sample because I’m a whisky geek and it interests me to see what Highland Park in Port will smell and taste like because I wouldn’t shell out such a big sum of money on a whisky with one big glaring question: What are those Refill Port-Seasoned Casks that the whisky matured in them (and quite a lot of those to produce 28000 bottles)?
So what impact those casks had on the whisky?
Highland Park Fire Edition (45.2%, £190/€224.95)
Nose: Hmm, the initial sniff isn’t promising, huge notes of youth, almost new make-y. Is it 15 yo? Really? Must be the cask impact and the strong vanilla note that distorts it. After a while it recedes enough to reveal red fruit leaning to the sour side, redcurrants and a bit of strawberries, also a bit of citrus , heather honey and vanilla and some microscopic peat smoke traces. Very light and very un-Highland Park like and I didn’t like it at all. Continue reading
Over a year ago I reviewed a Laphroaig I really didn’t like – The Port Wood Finished Brodir. It was the batch generally available on the market, batch 002. A friend of mine couldn’t believe I found it so bad because he liked it a lot. After a short discussion we found out where the difference in opinions came from: while I was tasting and disliking the second batch, he has a bottle of the first batch, so he generously sent me a sample to check for myself that Brodir can be good (Thanks T!).
A quick refresher: Laphroaig Brodir is Travel Retail NAS bottling, matured in Ex-bourbon casks and then is finished for unspecified time in European Oak Ex-Ruby Port casks before being bottled at 48%.
So, let’s see if the second batch I so disliked is indeed so different from the first batch or maybe it’s only a matter of personal taste.
Laphroaig Brodir Batch 001 Port Wood Finish (48%, €89,95)
Nose: First sniff and it already way better. There’s body and presence that just doesn’t exists in the 2nd batch. Soft peat smoke, sweet berries: raspberries and blueberries, kinda jammy, very well integrated. After a few minutes, stronger iodine and medicinal notes show up along with honey and salt. Continue reading