Tag Archives: Blind Tasting

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 Review and Notes: How and why you taste whisky makes a BIG difference

This post has been in the works for a while as this whisky was a bit of a roller-coaster experience.

Back in May 2014, a full Feis Ile bottles share was organized by me and a few buddies led by Chris who did all the hard work of going to Islay and collecting them all (Thanks again Chris!). As whisky geeks, we were curious to taste them all but without going bankrupt (as the average bottle price was about £100). By the time I got my share it was almost unanimously agreed upon, by the other shares members and the general whisky community, that the Lagavulin bottling is the best of them all and it even surpassed the 2013 bottling. As I’ve tasted the 2013 one and it was utterly divine, I was eager to try the 2014 one. I tried a full flight on my Feis Ile 2014 bottlings, keeping the Lagavulin and Octomore to the end, but my palate was tired, so by the time I got to the Lagavulin I only wrote general impression:

Nose: Matured and balanced with peat and sherry.

Palate: Peat and sweet sherry.

Basically it felt balanced and lovely. Good combo of peat and sweet sherry. I then decided to keep the rest of my share for another tasting (where I could take proper tasting notes) later that week. Alas, life and other samples intervened and it didn’t happen and that bottle was gathering dust in my cupboard.

Then the Usquebaugh Society Blind Tasting competition happened.

The Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 was #17 and these are the tasting notes I wrote down:

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2014 (54.7%)

(Blind tasting notes)

lagavulin-feis-ile-2014Nose: Bites and punchy, honey, fruits, quite heavy. After a minute or two there is peat and then smoke. With even more time it recedes and we get sweet fruity notes, stone fruits, almonds. Continue reading

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Whisky Review: Imperial 1995 Signatory Cask Strength Collection for Astra Morris (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #18)

The Usquebaugh Society BTC2014 is almost done. one last blind tasting tonight and it’s over. I really hope to get some points tonight to finish on a positive note!

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

I went for Clynelish, 20 yo 56.5%. The wax and salt pointed me at this distillery and the ABV felt mid fifties.  Age is the big issue for me – it can be a 17-18 Year old from a very good cask or some mid twenties bottling. I had my eyes on one specific bottling but instead of going all in on this one, I’ve decided to spread out a bit and prepare for the unexpected and get some points if I’m a bit wrong (despite losing points if I am right).

Update: It’s Imperial 1995. Oh well.  Anyway I’m finishing the competition with 457 points points, place #21 out of 73 – almost top 20! (and also won the side bet with a few friends 🙂 )

Imperial 1995 Signatory Cask Strength Collection for Astra Morris (52.4% / )

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Whisky Review: Ledaig 2005 Whisky-Fässle (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #4)

Fourth day of the competition and finally we get a peated whisky. But before we jump into the instant obvious conclusion, are we sure it’s an Islay peated one or not? You just can’t trust the organizers… 🙂

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

I went for Caol Ila 18yo 463% . It’s peated but there’s no harsh peat and ashes so I believe it’s not a southern Islay distillery (single casks aside). Also no a Kilchoman or bowmore (didn’t feel any tropical fruits). The profile reminded me my old Caol Ila 12 that got tired over time and losing some of the peat punch so I decided to go with the older version of 18yo as the age helps mellowing the peat and strengthen the sweet notes from the casks. It also didn’t feel too strong and I felt it’s a 43-46% one, and CI 18yo fits the bill. I debated with myself it may be some Ledaig, but decided to stick with Caol Ila. I have probably made a fool of myself with this guess 🙂

Update: Ouch! It’s Ledaig, young one and high ABV so again zero points and going down the score ledge 😦

Ledaig 2005 Whisky-Fässle 8 yo (53.3%)

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Whisky Review: Balvenie Single Cask Traditional Oak Cask 15yo (Cask #214) (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #3)

After two polarizing days in the blind tasting competition it’s time to see where the pendulum takes me today: zero points or lots of points.

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

I went for Cragannmore 14yo 46%  (while thinking of a signatory bottling). It was clear it’s ex-bourbon cask with vanilla & honey, but it had a growing-over-time sweet floral note and with something mineral underneath it. Immediately I felt it’s a speyside distillery as it wasn’t grassy/lighter enough for lowland and highlands was out of question by the rules. But which one? that was the real question and it was hard. I looked at the notes and eventually went for Cragganmore because of the floral and mineral notes. I felt it wasn’t as mature nor strong as the previous whiskies in the competition so went for 14yo and 46%.

Update: It’s Balvenie single cask 15yo. (cask #214, Distilled: 11.01.1999, Bottled: 13.02.2014)

Well, surprisingly I did quite and got 52 points for region, age and ABV. But Balvenie? The cask profile is very un-Balvenie which I assume was the reason it was included in the game. Nasty curve here 🙂

Balvenie Single Cask Traditional Oak Cask 15yo (Cask #214) (47.8%, 350 bottles)

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Whisky Review: Kintra Glen Garioch 22yo 1990 (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #2)

I can’t really bask in the glory following my success yesterday. Day 2 of the blind tasting competition is here so there’s no rest for the wicked winner 🙂

Below you’ll find my notes (Nose/Palate/Finish) as written before the bottle revelation but here’s what I guessed it to be and why:

The initial whiff really confused me. maybe it’s a Port Ellen or Rosebank with bad cask? But all it needed was a bit of time to show the sweet on front. but where is it from? it can be sherry but the sherry spiciness isn’t distinct and it didn’t boast the Oloroso or PX profile and was too sweet for Fino/Amontillado/Manzanilla sherry, so I lean toward wine impact. Hmm, maybe Amarona wine? If so, could it be Arran as they do have OB Amarona finish and there are some single casks around… It could be some highlands malt as well, but unlike yesterday I’ll stick to the first impression and will guess it to be Arran. Age & ABV? Arran doesn’t have over 18yo which are pretty new so will go for 16yo and 48% as it felt weaker than yesterday’s dram.

So to sum up my guess: Arran, 16yo, 48%

Update: Oh well, 0 points as it’s Glen Garioch 22yo from Kintra in a sherry butt.

Kintra Glen Garioch 22yo (51.5%, 83 )

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Whisky Review: van Wees Longmorn 1996 17yo Cask #72323 (Usquebaugh Society BTC 2014 #1)

Oh boy, why did I agree to enter the 2014 blind tasting competition of the Usquebaugh Society?

Well, most probably because my buddy Sjoerd (of Malt Fascination) “Enjoyed” it very much last year (not last place but not far away from it) and since I’m of Polish Jew heritage, suffering seems to be our call 🙂

I admit: blind tastings are a torture and always a very humbling experience. I rarely manage to guess correctly and more often find myself wondering how did I miss so badly.

So, here I am, taking part in the competition hoping not to finish in last place. The notes for the whiskies (Nose/Palate/Finish), for all 18 days are written before the bottle identity is revealed and this is how my mind went trying to guess the first one:

It’s sherried, started mellow yet with time got more punchy. very balanced and with a bit of oak. At first I thought of Aberlour ~16yo with about 46-48%, then switched to Macallan but as there aren’t too many of Macallans with that high ABV and age I switched back and forth between them and eventually settled for another distillery: Longmorn (with a help from a friend who say my notes). As I write this I still don’t know what’s the bottle is and I hope to actually a few points (most likely for region).

Update: Holy cow! I was almost on the spot. I was definitely thinking of the van Wees bottlings so not sure why I stayed with 17yo and lower ABV. Oh well, at least I get to savour being in the first place for one day!

van Wees Longmorn 1996 cask 72323 (57.5%, 608 bottles)

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