Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Introduction

Kilchoman Inaugural Release

Kilchoman Inaugural Release

Well, it’s official. Kilchoman is the 8th distillery currently producing whisky on Islay, and the first new distillery to do so since the 19th century. On September 9th, they had a release party for the Kilchoman Inaugural Release 3 year expression, and it hit the stores on the 10th. The UK online retail portion of the approximately 8500 bottles released was sold out within a day. Fortunately, I managed to get an order placed first thing. The 3 year is bottled at 46% after spending 2.5 to 3 years in bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace, followed by 5 months in oloroso sherry butts. The barley is peated to 50 ppm using the same spec as Ardbeg.

Tasting notes

A pour of Kilchoman 3 yr

A pour of Kilchoman 3 yr

Upon first opening the bottle, I held the cork up to my nose and got a wonderful pure peat blast that quickly faded as the spirit evaporated away. Mmm…peat.

On the nose, there’s no doubt about the use of heavily peated barley. There is a combination of peat and smoke that stands out above anything else. It’s a pure, earthy peat and ashy smoke. No tar or iodine to speak of like Ardbeg or Lagavulin respectively. There is a fair amount of vanilla on the nose as well. When I opened the bottle two days ago, I thought there was an eggy or rubber component. That has calmed down, with maybe some cereal notes remaining.

With a few drops of water, fresh pine and a little citrus come out, reminding me a little of Bruichladdich.

The palate seems pretty simple, with sweet peat and a little pepper after I chew on it for a few seconds. It’s a little hot, but I wouldn’t call it rough.

On the finish, the pepper remains and builds on the tongue. The ashy smoke and peat come back in full force, with the smoke hanging in the back of the nostrils for a long time. Again, no tar or iodine, just peat smoked barley in liquid form. BIG peat finish for the peat lovers.

Comparisons

The notes on the back of the bottle talk about rich dark fruits and citrus. After comparing this to Longrow CV, Caol Ila, and Benriach Arumaticus Fumosus, I just can’t call the Kilchoman “fruity.” It also took water and time to bring out a little citrus, whereas I felt there was much more noticeable lemon on the Kilchoman 2 year New Spirit. I wonder if the 5 months in sherry butts actually killed off a little of that fresh citrus scent.

As for the peat and smoke, I would liken that part of the profile more to Bruichladdich 3d3 or Bunnahabhain ‘Moine’ than Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig.

Conclusion

It’s officially “whisky” now, but the 3 yr. is not a huge leap from the Kilchoman New Spirit that I had previously tried. It’s clear right from the start of the nose that this is a “big peat” whisky, and it doesn’t really offer anything surprising from that point on. However, the peat smoke is very “clean”, with no real sour notes to detract from the experience. The big, peaty, smoky finish is very enjoyable and lasts for a long while.

Heading into the finish, this seems like a “nice” 81 point whisky, but then the pepper hits, the peat builds, and the smoke lasts and lasts. By the time it’s all over, and the bonus points are tallied, I’ve got a big smile and an 84/100 point rating to hand out. This finish really speaks to me, but I can’t rate the whisky up with the likes if Caol Ila 12 or Ardbeg 10. With more maturity and complexity, I can imagine some pretty high scoring Kilchoman releases in the future.

Other opinions

  • [Update] I see Whisky Intelligence just did a post on this release as well. 86 points there, and I like the notes because they don’t appear to be at odds with mine. :-)
  • Ralfy has already posted a video review of this expression. He really liked it and gave an 89/100 point rating.

Hmm…two ratings a bit higher than mine. I wonder if I’m being a little stingy just based on the theory of this being a 3 year. Oh well…doesn’t matter. I think we’re all sending similar messages. Plus, Ralfy is right that this is a one-trick pony. If that trick doesn’t float your boat, you’re going to really wonder what all of the fuss is about.

  • [Update 2] Finally, a dissenting vote. Ruben just posted his notes on WhiskyNotes.be, and awarded a mere 79/100 points. Actually, I don’t find his notes all that different. I just happen to personally get a lot of pleasure out of the one-note finish and awarded points for that. I suspect there will be a lot of people out there who agree with Ruben (if they can get their hands on a bottle).

Quick Take

Kilch 3 Quick Take

More pictures

Back of Kilchoman box

Back of Kilchoman box

Kilchoman Label

Kilchoman Label

_DSC6402

Read Full Post »

Introduction

Gift pack box

Gift pack box

I love sample-sized whisky bottles. As a whisky enthusiast, there are a LOT of distilleries to become familiar with, and only so much money in the ‘ol bank account (and room in the cupboard). Glenmorangie offers “The Glenmorangie Collection” gift pack, which contains four 100 ml bottles:

  • The Original – Glenmorangie’s signature expression, aged 10 years and bottled at 43% for the U.S. market (and apparently 40% in the UK). It’s aged in ex-bourbon casks.
  • The Lasanta – After 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, The Lasanta is aged an additional 2 years in Oloroso Sherry casks.
  • The Quinta Ruban – Like The Lasanta, this 12 year old spends the first 10 years in ex-bourbon casks, but it’s then transferred to Ruby Port pipes for the final two years.
  • The Nectar D’or – The final “extra matured” expression. This one is finished in Sauternes wine barriques.

The 100 ml bottle size is nice, as it allows several tasting sessions in order to get a really good feel for what each expression is all about. This gift pack sells locally for $47. Obviously, this is a higher per-ml price for the whisky, but I was happy to pay the equivalent of a medium-priced whisky bottle in order to try all four of these expressions.

Packaging

The Glenmorangie Collection

The Glenmorangie Collection

The presentation for this gift pack is very impressive. They’ve recently repackaged this set with design cues taken from the ultra premium Signet packaging. In addition to the beautiful box and nice looking bottles, a fancy booklet is included that explains the maturation process for each expression, and provides tasting notes. Well done!

Tasting Notes

Four poured Glenmorangies

Four poured Glenmorangies

The Original 10 years (43%)

Light, fresh nose with citrus and floral notes standing out (like orange blossoms). Also a fair amount of vanilla, and maybe a hint of wood. The mouth stays light and fruity, and adds maltiness. The malt remains on the medium finish, along with a reminder of the orange blossoms.

The Lasanta (46%)

A definite sherry influence in the form of dried fruits. The sherry seems to do battle on the nose with the light citrus/floral notes from the original. It brought to mind musty carpet for some reason. The mouth is pretty nice, actually, with a little more body than the The Original. Then the sherry and bourbon are back to doing battle on the finish. I find it a bit disconcerting.

The Quinta Ruban (46%)

This is different. The citrus and floral notes are toned way down, and out comes a strong chocolate scent. Actually, the orange is still there, but balanced nicely with the chocolate. The mouth is pleasant and malty like The Original. On the finish…chocolate malt. What a great dessert drink.

The Nectar D’or (46%)

The least finished feeling of the three extra matured expressions. D’or is a natural extension of The Original, with the orange blossoms toned down (maturity?), and the vanilla coming through stronger and richer, with added cinnamon and nutmeg. Very seductive! The palate seems spicier than any of the others, with the finish remaining spicy and bringing out a hint of the chocolate from The Quinta Ruban. An even better dessert malt?

Conclusion

If you’re not already familiar with all four of these Glenmorangie expressions, I can highly recommend this gift pack. It looks good, has a nice booklet on the malts, and gives you a chance to try the whole line without committing big money and cupboard space.

As for my impression of the whiskies themselves, I really like the The Original. I would put it on fairly equal footing with Bunnahabhain 12 year in terms of overall enjoyment. The Glenmo Original is probably a bit more complex than the Bunna. When in the mood for a light, malty whisky, I would turn to the Bunna for cinnamon apples, and the Glenmo when in the mood for orange blossoms. Getting into the finished expressions (sorry, “extra matured“), I would put Nectar D’or at the top, Quinta Ruban right below that, and Lasanta several notches down.

I don’t like to do full ratings until I’ve had a chance to try a whisky a number of times. However, I’ll throw out some preliminary ratings of 80-ish/100 for Lasanta, 84 for The Original, 85/86 for Quinta Ruban, and 87/88 for Nectar D’or.

Other opinions

  • WHISKYFUN by Serge – Separate reviews of The Original and the Extra Matured expressions. Nectar D’or comes out on top here with a similar rating of 86. However, the other expressions are rated much lower than I felt they deserved. Serge especially differs from me when it comes to The Quinta Ruban.
  • Malt Advocate (review archives) – Wow, John Hansell really likes The Original, giving it 93 points! Nectar D’or gets a respectable 89. Lasanta doesn’t do as well, with 79 points.
  • whisky-pages – Gavin and Tom seem to like all four expressions, with The Original and The Quinta Ruban rated a little better than the other two.
  • caskstrength.net - [Added 10/6/09] I missed this review the first time around. Thanks for the heads up, Joel. A great overview of these Glenmorangies, plus the 25 year. They enjoy the original and seem equally puzzled by the Lasanta, but are a little less enthusiastic about the D’or than I am.

Read Full Post »

Introduction

There is a liquor store between home and work that sells a lot more beer kegs than whisky, but they do have a pretty good selection of the good stuff, including some bottles that have been sitting around for several years. I stopped in to look for something I can’t find at my usual haunts, and saw a few bottles of White Horse Extra Fine blended scotch sitting on the bottom shelf. I haven’t seen this anyplace else, and I thought I had heard good things about White Horse on the whisky forums. It’s aged 12 years, bottled at 40% ABV, and priced at $33.

White Horse Extra Fine 12 years blend

White Horse Extra Fine 12 years blend

I picked up the box, and read that “the powerful, smoky flavors of the aged Lagavulin combine in perfect harmony with the mellow, rounded character of Glen Elgin and the sweet aromatic flavors of Craigellachie to produce an outstanding quality Scotch Whisky for the truly discerning drinker.” A blend based on Lagavulin? Sold! I had to try a bottle.

Tasting notes

On the nose, I immediately pick up signs of sherry cask aging. There are dark fruits (prunes) and figs. It’s not a sherry bomb, reminding me more of single malts that are 40-50% aged in first-fill sherry casks, like some Highland Parks and Dalmores. Also hinting at some sherry aging is a light sulfur presence. Not enough to turn me off, though. Finally, there is a pretty strong toffee sweetness. Sometimes I thought I picked up hints of smoke, but then it would disappear. I also thought there was some orange, until I tried it next to Dalmore 12, then I wasn’t so sure. Orange came out in the Dalmore and disappeared from the White Horse in the comparison.

On the palate, it’s very sweet, and quite mild. It does, however, have just a bit of pepper that builds after a couple of seconds, and some hints of spices like ginger and cinnamon. That’s a nice touch, but it doesn’t compare to higher proofed, stronger tasting single malts.

The finish is short to medium on the tongue, but there’s still a little pepper and some pleasant drying, along with a slight malty presence. There’s also just a little bit of “grain aftertaste” on the back sides of the tongue that I seem to get with most blends (and vodka). Meanwhile, some smoke finally makes an appearance, enveloping the fruits from the nose and hanging in the back of the nostrils for a medium period of time.

Conclusion

You’ll note that I didn’t say anything about Lagavulin similarities in the tasting notes. That’s because there is nothing even remotely resembling the iodine and smoke that makes Lagavulin so recognizable. So, I must have been terribly disappointed by this blend, right? Quite the opposite. White Horse 12 year just shot to the top tier of my blended whisky list.

I  really enjoyed the sweet, fruity nose. It was perhaps the closest to a pure malt that I can recall in a blend. I’m also a big fan of mixed sherry/bourbon cask whiskies, so my impression of this being similar to HP or Dalmore in this regard fit right into my preferences. Finally, the palate and finish were just interesting enough to keep me coming back for more, and there wasn’t much in the way of detractions. One thing lacking was much of a wood influence, which I look for (not too much, though) in a fully balanced whisky.

Overall, this is a very good whisky, and not just for a blend. I highly recommend trying this if you can find a bottle. I’d rate this 85/100 points for having lots of good points and very few bad ones. To rate it higher, the palate/finish would need to be a little more interesting, and I would want at least some level of noticeable wood influence.

Availability and other opinions

I can’t find White Horse Extra Fine in any of the larger liquor stores locally, or the online stores that I frequent. I’m not sure if this isn’t made anymore, or if it’s just primarily sold in other markets. I also can’t find any reviews in the whisky publication online sites, or the better known blogs. If you’re familiar with this particular blend, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I’d also be interested in hearing about any “official” reviews out there. This seems too good to go completely unnoticed. Or maybe I’m just too easy to please.

I did manage to find a couple of online references to White Horse 12:

  • LA Whisky Society: Type “White Horse” into the search box at the top of their main page. A couple of the LA Whisky Society members rated Extra Fine 12 year. Their minimal notes are a bit different from mine, but they do give it a B+ rating.
  • Whisky.com: A page dedicated to the White Horse blends. The text from the box of 12 year Extra Fine is included, and check out the links to the distilleries that are used in the White Horse blends. While I didn’t find much to remind me of Lagavulin, I can certainly believe that Glen Elgin and Craigellachie play a significant role in the flavor of this blend, based on the distillery profiles.

Quick Take

You can read about my attempt at a rating system here.

White Horse 12 Extra Fine

Read Full Post »

Introduction

bunnah_moineI’ve been sitting on a 30 ml sample of Bunnahabhain ‘Moine’ (from Feis Ile 2009) for a while now, and decided to finally give it a try. It’s bottled at 58.4% ABV, and only 642 bottles were produced and made available at the distillery during the Feis Ile festival in May 2009. The price is approximately $130. I ordered my sample from whiskysamples.eu, along with samples of the Laphroaig Feis Ile bottling and Laphroaig 10 CS Batch 001.

Tasting notes

On the nose, this definitely comes across as a young whisky, with noticeable alcohol edge in the form of nail polish. I’m getting an eggy/rubbery component that reminds me of Ledaig 10. There is definite peat here as well, and a little bit of citrus and honey.

On the palate, it’s hot. This one begs to have some water added. Much more so than even my 71.8% George T Stagg. In addition to the prickly heat, there’s a sweet peat flavor that’s reasonably enjoyable.

The finish is where the smoke finally comes through. It reminds me of Kilchoman new make spirit, but it’s not quite as “clean” of  a peat smoke. A little bit of egg comes back through the nostrils as well. There’s also some sweetness on the finish.

Conclusion

This is a very average whisky. Its youth comes through, but not in an exciting way. I found the nose to be slightly off-putting, but the mouth and finish were reasonably enjoyable once I added a little water. If you’re a big Ledaig 10 fan, I think you would like this, but there’s no way to justify the price of the ‘Moine’, even if it is an “exclusive” release. With only a 30 ml sample on hand, I won’t do a full score card, but I would tentatively rate this at 79/100. With a little water, it’s enjoyable enough, but the nose subtracts from the experience.

Making your own ‘Moine’

I mentioned that the nose reminds me of Ledaig 10, and the finish of Kilchoman 2 Year New Spirit. Well, I have both of those and decided to do a little experimental vatting with 70% Ledaig and 30% Kilchoman. The result? It’s not an exact match, but the overall experience was pretty darn close to the Bunnahabhain. I like the way the Kilchoman tones down the eggy/rubbery component on the Ledaig nose, and adds a cleaner peat smoke finish. This combo can also be had for a lower price than the ‘Moine’, even taking into account the fact that you’re buying two bottles.

Other opinions

  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – The Lindores Boys did a guest report from Feis Ile and ripped apart the ‘Moine’ release.
  • WhiskyNotes.be – Ruben didn’t love it, but he had a greater appreciation than the Lindores Boys, giving it a reasonably good rating.

Read Full Post »

Introduction

I recently purchased miniature (50ml) bottles of Chivas Regal 12, The Glenlivet 12, and Glenfiddich 12 so that I could compare the three and see if any one of them stands out as an entry level value for a “light” whisky. When I call them “entry level” whiskies, I mean that in two ways. First is price. I can get Chivas for $20 and the ‘livet for $26. The ‘fiddich 12 has gone up recently in Phoenix, and now goes for $35, but it used to be closer to the Glenlivet. The other way you might consider these to be entry level whiskies is in the approachability of the flavor. All three are very light drinks, and are significantly less imposing on scotch newbies than, say, something from Islay. For this comparison, I was especially curious about the Chivas Regal 12 given the lower price (at least locally), and wondered if it could stand up to the single malts.

Three miniatures

Three miniatures

Tasting notes

On the nose, all three start out at with a common base of apples and pairs, with the Chivas perhaps offering up some peaches as well. All three are also sweet, but they diverge here, with Glenfiddich reminding me of brown sugar, Chivas Regal being more caramel/butterscotch, and the Glenlivet having a lighter honey sweetness. The Glenlivet also stands out as being more floral (and a bit more lively) than the other two. The Glenfiddich seems to have a maltiness, and perhaps a little bit of mixed nuts that I didn’t notice in the others.

The palate is pretty tame for all three. The Glens retained their fruit flavor, and the malty flavor from the Glenfiddich nose is evident in the mouth for both. The Chivas Regal seems to be more on the sweet side in the mouth, with the caramel/butterscotch continuing. I’m also getting what I perceive to be a walnut-like bitterness with both the Glenfiddich and the Chivas. Once again, I feel like The Glenlivet is just a touch more lively, with the Chivas being the weakest.

On the finish, there’s nothing to write home about for any of these. The finish just isn’t where it’s at for these whiskies. Once again, the Chivas is the weakest. It just goes away as soon as you swallow it. The malt flavor on the two Glens comes up through the nostrils a bit, as does the floral element on the Glenlivet.

Conclusion

As you might have guessed from my notes, I didn’t find any of these to be “remarkable.” However, that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I thought all three were very pleasant on the nose, and they were extremely easy to drink. All three have a very light profile that makes them suitable for any time of day. Being into whisky as a hobby, I’ve got a pretty good stock at home, and I don’t plan to rush out and buy any of these. However, if I find myself killing time in an airport lounge some afternoon, I won’t hesitate to order any of these three easy drinkers.

I don’t intend to fill out full “Quick Take” report cards for these three. Especially since I only have miniatures, so I can’t do extensive, multi-day analysis. However, these fit perfectly into the C+/B- range in my rating system. They’re enjoyable drinks, but somewhat forgettable. Based on palate/finish, the Chivas is the most quickly forgotten. For my tastes, the Glenlivet stood out slightly above the others just because it seemed a little more lively and interesting. I’ll go ahead and throw out some rating numbers and notes on value:

  • Chivas Regal 12 – 79/100 (Value: Seems like a good deal at $20, but I’d shell out the extra $7 for the Glenlivet)
  • Glenfiddich 12 – 80/100 (Value: Not sure what the deal is with the current local price. For $5 more, I’d definitely purchase the 15 year over this)
  • The Glenlivet 12 – 81/100 (Value: Hard to go wrong with this at $27)

Other opinions

Rather than posting a bunch of links for all three whiskies, I’ll just point you to a YouTube video review for each one. You won’t have any problem finding other opinions with a Google search.

  • The Glenlivet 12 [IslayScotchWhisky]
  • Glenfiddich 12 [ralfystuff] – Ralfy also reviewed The Glenlivet 12 here.
  • Chivas Regal 12 [peatluvr]

Read Full Post »

Bruichladdich 3D3

Bruichladdich 3D3

Introduction

In my attempt to remain a Stage 3 single malt fanatic, and not progress to Stage 4, I’m turning my focus more to whisky samples as a means of discovery. My local Bevmo recently stocked a 3-pack Bruichladdich sampler, containing 50 ml bottles of Rocks, Links and 3D3. I’ve tried Bruichladdich 15 year and thought it was “nice”, but I was really interested in trying these other expressions to see if they’re more interesting. Rocks and 3D3 are part of the “Multi Vintage” line of Bruichladdich malts, while the Links series is part of their “Special” line.

Bruichladdich [brook-laddie] 3D3 (third edition of 3D), released in 2006, is a single malt bottled at 46% and vatted from three different aged malts. The very first Octomore (peated at 80.5 ppm) is one of the three, making this the highest peated version of the 3D series at about 40 ppm. Port Charlotte is the other peated malt in this mix.

Note: 3D3 has been replaced by the “Peat” expression in the Bruichladdich lineup. Apparently they’ve toned down the peating level to 35 parts per million.

Tasting notes

On first nosing, I got a pretty strong “pure peat” presence, along with apples and vanilla. There’s also a cereal grain element that reminds me of some other young peated expressions I’ve tried. On second try, there’s more fruit than just apples, and it’s sweeter. It’s kind of like a mixed fruit cup.

The palate starts soft, then builds to big peat and pepper. I really like this! Take a good sized drink and it really coats the mouth nicely.

On the finish, lots of smoke and peat come up through the nostrils. Like you’re standing over a camp fire. The pepper fades fairly quickly, but the smoke lingers for a while, as long as you take a good mouthful (my first small sip disappeared quickly). I do get a little bit of an aftertaste (hay, maybe?) that I think is coming from the younger malt in this mix, and that kind of sours the great peat/smoke experience.

Conclusion:

After my first dram, I described it as tasting like a young Ardbeg. After the second dram, with the additional sweetness and fruits coming out, it reminds me more of the BenRiach peated and finished 12 year releases. What’s special about 3D3 is the way it hits the palate fairly softly, then builds. It’s huge peat, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. The guys at whisky-pages.com note that Jim McEwen, the Bruichladdich master distiller, calls the 3D3 “potent, but not aggressive.” I think that’s a great way of describing it.

At $50, I’d buy a full size bottle of this. At the $70 it’s going for locally, I think my bottle of BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus will satisfy the same craving, but without the minor “off” notes that I’m attributing to some of the youth in the 3D3. I’m putting Bruichladdich peated expressions on my watch list, though. I think they’re really on to something here with the way the peat hits the palate. I hope to buy a sample of Port Charlotte PC8 this year and compare that to my 3D3 experience. I’d say 83/100 points for this one, with the potential for other Bruichladdich peated expressions to go much higher.

Other opinions

  • WhiskyNotes.be – Great notes as always from Ruben. He also notes some youthful roughness, but gives it a good overall rating. He has a great description of the 3D3 “recipe” at the top of his post. Also read his Port Charlotte PC6 review for a comparison to 3D3.
  • whisky-pages – Good notes, good review, and that quote from Jim McEwen. A good read.
  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – A great rating of 88 points. He’s obviously not bothered by the youthful aspects of this dram.

Quick Take

Laddie 3D3 Quick Take

Read Full Post »

Introduction

A pour of Ben Nevis 13

A pour of Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13

Wild Scotsman single cask: 1992 Ben Nevis 13 year, 46%, Cask #693

I discovered Wild Scotsman whisky via Twitter, where the Wild Scotsman himself, Jeffrey Topping, is an active member. Following the Twitter profile link to his site, I discovered that this is an American who travelled to Scotland to learn about whisky making, somehow got in tight with Master Distiller John McDougall, and then started his own whisky company. How’s THAT for an exciting way to live the American dream? He offers a couple of his own vatted malt expressions, a number of single casks from different distilleries, and U.S. distribution of some John McDougall single cask selections.

Intrigued, I looked through the available Wild Scotsman bottlings online at Sam’s Wine and Spirits store, located in Chicago. I found this single bourbon cask Ben Nevis 13 year, a distillery from which I’ve been wanting to try an expression. There was no information about this bottling on the Wild Scotsman web site, so I dropped Mr. Topping a note asking for information on it, and he sent me the following:

The Ben Nevis was my first single Cask bottling after the release of my first signature Vatted malt. At the time I was in an apprenticeship with the only Master Distiller and Blender in the World, John McDougall of Scotland. On one of our tours we traveled up to the Ben Nevis Distillery to meet with his first apprentice, Collin Ross, who is the distillery manager at Ben Nevis even today. It was a bit surreal to have a behind the scenes tour of Ben Nevis with two men whose combined career in whisky spans over 70 years. They can forget more in a day than is written in most books about Scotch whisky.

After the tour we had a wonderful lunch in the reception. Lamb Broth Stew, sandwiches, and some good conversations about some of the history both of these men have lived and continue to live. We continued to the board room and we sampled some of the casks we owned. The samples were pre-arranged as there is an extensive amount of paperwork to withdraw samples and other matters which are all policies of both the government and Nikka which owns Ben Nevis. It was quite interesting to have cask samples of an Ex-Sherry, Ex-Port-Pipe, and Ex-Bourbon, which are all components of the single malt brand. One could almost pick out the role each component plays in making the brand. I was blown away about how subtle and sweet the Ex-bourbon cask of Ben Nevis I owned had matured and knew at 13 years this cask would be ready for bottling.

I reduced the proof down to 46%,with no added color, no chill filtration. It is a great dram for the heat.

Tasting notes

Straight out of the bottle, I notice a bit of a pungent smell, reminding me of furniture polish, and possibly something slightly sour. While it’s a bit sharp, I don’t find it particularly offensive. Others might have a different reaction. Of note, letting a glass of this Ben Nevis sit for 15-20 minutes (with a watch glass on it) seems to help this expression more than I’ve noticed with other whiskies I’ve tried. My notes are based on drinking it after it sat for 20 minutes in the glass.

On the nose, I get some alcohol, but not a lot. I don’t feel particularly inclined to water it down any further. The primary scents are lemon drops and yogurt, along with some hay or cut grass in the background. One of the three times I tried it, those traits combined to make me think of iced tea with lemons in it. Overall, it’s a “light” nose, even with that sharp initial attack.

On the palate, this Ben Nevis has a nice body to it. It’s reasonably think and oily. Most impressive, though, is the reaction on the tongue. I’ve got sweet and salty going, with a little sourness, and finally a slight dark chocolate bitterness. Lots of tingling going on all over the tongue! There’s a drying on the tongue that provides some additional tingling on the sides.

The finish doesn’t bring back much of the nose at all, which I found a little bit unexpected. However, there does seem to be a bit of a white pepper sensation, and a hint of malt. Perhaps a slightly stale malt. The pepper sticks around for a while, as does the drying sensation on the tongue.

Back Label

Back Label

Conclusion:

The bottom line is that I find this Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis quite enjoyable. Nothing earth-shattering, but a nice light summer dram, with a little extra bite on the tongue compared to something like Bunnahabhain 12. In fact, I’d say my overall enjoyment is similar to the Bunna 12, so I would rate this the same at 83/100 points. One point down for having to wait a bit for the initial furniture polish attack to ease up, but a point added back for the extra zip in the mouth. As for deciding between the Ben Nevis and the Bunna, it will come down to whether I’m in the mood for lemon drops or apples and cinnamon.

Reading through the notes about Ben Nevis on Malt Madness (Johannes doesn’t seem to care much for the expressions distilled in the 1990s), I’m thinking Jeffrey Topping did a nice job with this Ben Nevis release. At $58, I think it’s a fair value for a non chill-filtered single cask. I’ll certainly be keeping Wild Scotsman on my radar, and will be trying more of their expressions. I’m curious about the vatted malts, but also quite intrigued by the John MacDougall Bladnoch single casks. In time, hopefully I’ll be able to report back on both.

Other Opinions

I was just about to write that I couldn’t find any other opinions on this rare single cask release. Then I found a review on Malt Advocate. I had looked in the review section under Wild Scotsman. It’s actually under Ben Nevis:

  • Malt Advocate – John Hansell was very impressed with this release, awarding it 87 points! I’m not ready to go that high yet, but maybe after I improve my ability to distinguish subtleties in a light bourbon-casked malt I’ll see things differently. John’s obviously got a lot more experience than I do.

Quick Take

Here’s my “quick take” graphic for Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13. For more info about this format, and my rating system, see this post.

Wild Scotsman Ben Nevis 13

Read Full Post »

whisky_and_jazz_coverIntroduction and book synopsis

If you drink scotch and enjoy listening to jazz, you don’t need a book to tell you the two go great together. You might, however, be interested in a book that offers up large, artistic renderings of some of your favorite jazz musicians and scotch distilleries, provides deeper insight into the connections between jazz and whisky, and imparts historical knowledge in a way that both entertains and inspires creative thought. Enter Whisky & Jazz by Hans Offringa, available by mail order from Charleston Mercury (a South Carolina newspaper) for $39.95 plus shipping.

The marketing blurb for Whisky & Jazz on the Charlston Mercury site says:

“Hans Offringa, whisky writer for the Charleston Mercury, ingeniously connects ten famous jazz musicians with ten excellent single malt whiskies. The result is a collection of ten unique blends, each carrying a blue note as well as a tasting note, presented in a sippin’ and tasting guide.”

I was willing to buy the book based on the promise of some great pictures for the coffee table, the hope that this correlation between 10 whiskies and jazz songs would be interesting, and the fact that it was recommended by Serge of Whiskyfun.com. However, the book offers much more than I expected, making for a pleasant surprise when I started leafing through it. I’d like to try sharing a little more about the book so that you can see why I think it’s easily worth the $40 asking price.

Book layout and content

Whisky & Jazz is a good sized “coffee table book” with a little over 200 8.5″ x 11″ pages, about half of which contain full-page and double-page pictures. There is a Forward by Dave Broom (prominent whisky writer) with his own take on the whisky and jazz combination, then an Introduction by Offringa, where he sets up the book and dedicates it to his friend Michael Jackson (the whisky writer, not the pop star).

After the introductory material, there is a section titled The Origins of Jazz, which, in addition to telling the story of the origination of jazz, explains the etymology (breaking jazz down into its component parts), and then details three principal characteristics of jazz music. The next section, The Origins of Whisky, is also divided into origins, etymology and principal characteristics. Hats off to Mr. Offringa for managing to tie the two topics together through history and traits, without it seeming overly contrived in order to push his blending agenda.

Next, we have The Musicians and The Distilleries, with two or three pages (and as many pictures) on each musician and distillery, telling their story, and what makes them unique. I haven’t read all 20 of these yet, but the ones I have read were informative and entertaining. This material is well thought-out and clearly presented, not just a bunch of fluff to fill in between the pictures. There are all kinds of interesting tidbits…did you know about the Glenrothes “Toast to the Ghost”, or that the Stan Getz collaboration with Joao and Astrud Gilberto ended after Getz and Astrud had an affair?

The 10 musicians detailed in the book are: Cannonball Adderley, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Milt Jackson, Hank Mobley, Charlie Parker, and Art Tatum.

The 10 distilleries are: Aberfeldy, Balblair, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunahabhain, Glen Rothes, Isle of Jura, Lagavulin, Oban and Springbank.

Whisky & Jazz with some whisky and jazz

Whisky & Jazz with some whisky and jazz

Finally, we have The Blends, a subjective “listening and sippin’ guide”  in which Mr. Offringa concocts “blends” composed of individual musicians and individual expressions of single malts. He acknowledges that these are subjective pairings, and encourages the reader to experiment on their own (in moderation). For each jazz/whisky blend, there is a one page summary providing:

  • A creative name for the blend
  • A “Blue Note”, with a paragraph each on the artist and whisky, tying them together
  • The blend “ingredients” (a specific expression and song)
  • Tasting notes – a blend of notes by Offringa and Michael Jackson.

Conclusion and credits

As you could tell by the time you finished reading the title of this post, I highly recommend this book by Hans Offringa. Jack McCray, a jazz historian and freelance writer, is credited as contributing editor on the book. On the book jacket, it says about Mr. McCray…”aspires to present ideas in a clear, resonant and consise style that would impart information in a meaningful way to the reader.” Whatever his influence on this book, he and the author have certainly succeeded in those aspirations. Gijs Dragt, who has apparently designed a large number of books for museums, provided most of the eye candy for Whisky & Jazz, and it’s quite the photographic treat.

Links

  • Hans Offringa, guest blogger – Hans guest blogs on The Book Case blog, providing great background information on himself and the series of books that he’s working on. Check it out!
  • Hans Offringa’s web site – Hans’ official site, with links to more info about Whisky & Jazz and his other books.
  • Whisky & Jazz – A web site dedicated to this book, including a links [spoiler alert] page that lists the jazz/whisky combinations that make up his blends.
  • The Whisky Couple – Hans and his wife Becky are known as “The Whisky Couple.” Here is their web site. Right now, it includes a video from a Whisky & Jazz book signing and whisky tasting event.
  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – A much more eloquent review and recommendation than I’ve offered (scroll down a little bit).
  • Accidental Hedonist review – A reminder that whisky and jazz are about enjoyment and spending time with friends, not sitting at home taking notes, and a recommendation for Offringa’s Whisky & Jazz and Taste of Whisky books.

Read Full Post »

Introduction

As I await the arrival of my purchased copy of Whisky & Jazz by Hans Offringa, I thought I’d go ahead and do my own Whisky & Jazz post. I was sitting with a couple of Lagavulins recently, going through my classic jazz collection, and I came across an amazing pairing: Lagavulin 1991 Distillers Edition and The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions, by Verve. This bottle of Lagavulin was bottled in 2007 at 43%.

Norman Granz and Lagavulin DE

Norman Granz and Lagavulin DE

I found out about The Complete Jam Sessions three years ago, reading about it in John Marks’ The Fifth Element article in Stereophile magazine. You can follow the link to read his article and learn all about this amazing compilation of recordings. Here are just some of the musicians Granz pulled together for these jams, recorded in 9 sessions during the early 1950s: Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, Buddy Rich, Herb Ellis, Stan Getz, Count Basie, Charlie Shavers, and Johnny Hodges. Pretty crazy, huh?

Listening and tasting notes

I want to start with the same Ballad Medley from disc 1 that John Marks raved over, which I listened to last night while drinking the Lagavulin 1991 DE.  I started up the song on my stereo system and poured the Laga while Barney Kessel kicked things off on guitar…

On the nose, the Lagavulin DE has the classic Lagavulin peat smoke. Lost from the standard Lagavulin 16 bottling, at least to my nose, is the apples and vanilla. Instead, an extra sherry presence from the PX casks is presented, rising up seductively through the smoke in the form of dried fruit and ripe berries. Meanwhile, Charlie Parker comes in on alto sax, playing Dearly Beloved. He’s drawing me right in with a solid performance, but things only get better…

On the palate, Laga DE provides a nice strong body, tickling the sweet and salty taste buds and maintaining a strong peat presence. There seems to be a little richer, weightier mouth feel than on the 16 year. Next up on the Ballad Medley is Ben Webster on tenor sax with The Nearness of You. He builds on the foundation provided by Parker with increased dynamics in the intonation that brings out more emotion.

The finish on the Laga DE does not disappoint. It’s got the same explosion of smoke that is so great on the 16 year, and the sherry stays right there front and center in the mix. And the length? I could sit through the rest of the 17 minute Ballad Medley contemplating the finish. After Webster, Johnny Hodges steps in with his rendition of I’ll get by. I was already entranced by the mastery of Parker and elegance of Webster, but Hodges blew me away. I could swear he was feeling inspired by the previous solos, and his tenor sax just oozed emotion. Marks said he was “all gelatinous” by the time Flip Phillips came in 4 minutes later, but I melted about 20 seconds into Hodges’ solo.

Similarities of dram and jam:

Lagavulin 1991 DE brings the bold flavors of Islay peat and Pedro Ximenez sherry together in a way that totally works. You might expect a disjointed effort (especially since the sherry is just a “finish”), but there’s a great interplay and harmony of flavors. Similarly, the Norman Granz jam sessions bring together some of the best jazz players of the time. Sure, there is showmanship involved. On the ballads, however, it’s all about showing emotion, and the competition at that level draws you into the song and results in a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts.

Tasting conclusion:

When I first tried the Lagavulin DE, my feeling was that it was better than Lagavulin 16. However, I’ve compared them a number of times since then, and I’ve decided that it’s like trying to decide if a Cadbury chocolate bar with caramel is better than the original. To me, they’re equally good, just different. That’s how I now feel about the two Lagavulins. With the DE, you get the extra sherry influence, and perhaps a bit more body on the palate, but you lose the apples and vanilla that provide additional complexity on the Laga 16. Right now, I’m on a sherry kick, so I might give a half point extra to the DE, but I’m going to round down and give it a 91/100 to match my score for Lagavulin 16.

Listening conclusion:

When I first started listening to the Jam Sessions, I gravitated to the ballads, listening to them over and over. Since then, I’ve really gotten to where I get a kick out of listening to ALL of the songs in the box set. It’s amazing to hear these huge names in jazz belt out solo after solo. Right now, I’m really digging disc 3, with a couple of great trumpet players strutting their stuff…Roy Eldridge blowing great solos throughout, and Dizzy Gillespie joining him on Stompin’ at the Savoy. However, for the purposes of this post, it’s the ballads that go so beautifully with the Lagavulin DE in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.

Finally, I don’t know that I’d recommend either of these to beginners. On the whisky side, I’d recommend checking out the Lagavulin 16 before venturing into the Distillers Edition. Likewise, I’d check out some of the core body of work from people like Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and Dizzie Gillespie before jumping into these extended jam sessions. Maybe next time I’ll write about a good introductory whisky & jazz combination. You can download the Jam Sessions set for $45 on Amazon, or $50 on iTunes, but I’d go for the CD version from Amazon for $59 so you can enjoy reading through the included booklet.

Other opinions

Lagavulin DE 1991

  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – Serge seems conflicted between his desire to dislike “finished” whiskies, and the fact that the Laga DE is pretty awesome. He gave it 92 points blind, but does a seemingly tongue-in-cheek downgrade to 91.
  • Malt Advocate – 91 points here, also…and a better rating than Lagavulin 21 (which I agree with).
  • Whisky For Everyone – Some info about the Lagavulin distillery, along with some nice notes on the Laga DE.
  • YouTube – Peatluvr gives his video review of the Lagavulin 1991 DE

The Complete Norman Granz Jam Sessions

Of course, there’s the Stereophile review that I linked to in the introduction, and the Amazon reviews. Additionally:

  • AllAboutJazz.com – A write-up on this set by critic Norman Weinstein. His overall opinion of it seems to be positive, even though it seems like he doesn’t want to like it (he refers to the up-tempo songs as “noisy, competitive joustlings among hornmen”. Also, given my earlier comments about Ballad Medley on disc one, it’s probably not surprising that I disagree with his assessment that Johnny Hodges seems disinterested. I do agree with him, though, that the ballads are the “real deal.”

Lagavulin DE Quick Take

Here’s my “quick take” graphic for Lagavulin 1991/2007 DE. Scoring-wise, it’s almost identical to my Lagavulin 16 rating, with a little less on the nose and a little more on the body. For more info about this format, and my rating system, see this post.

Lagavulin 1991 DE Quick Take

Read Full Post »

Quick Take

Here’s my “quick take” graphic for Lagavulin 16. For more info about this format, and my rating system, see this post.

Lagavulin 16 Quick Take

Introduction

[Update: I did a follow-up review of Laga 16 using a 2009 bottling in December, 2009]

I was going to do a write-up on a great whisky/jazz combination, involving Lagavulin 1991 DE. However, I decided I should post my impressions of the core Lagavulin 16 expression before delving into that special release, so I’ll put that one off a couple of days.

My introduction to Lagavulin 16 (bottled at 43%) came from a 20 cl bottle that I ordered from The Whisky Exchange. The bottle had a bad cork, got caught up in customs, and arrived with about half of the contents emptied into the packing box (kudos to TWE on their packing, as the smell was completely contained within the box). Upon opening the box, I was hit with a very strong medicinal smell, like band-aids and iodine. Taking in that strong odor from the spilled bottle, I was a bit skeptical of this Lagavulin stuff. This was to be my fourth Islay malt, and I was afraid I had finally met my match. However, as you can verify for yourself, the smell of a whisky spilled on paper is not indicative of the smell (nose) that you get out of the glass.

Oops! Bad cork.

Oops! Bad cork.

The Lagavulin 16 I’m writing about tonight is from another 20 cl bottle. This one is from the Classic Islay Collection 2007 gift pack, although the code on the bottle, which starts with “L6″, appears to indicate that this one was bottled in 2006.

Tasting notes

On the nose, that medicinal iodine smell is there, but to me, it serves as a backdrop to the other scents, not really standing out on its own. I’m struck by a strong fruity smell, like a combination of berries and apples. I could swear there is a sherry cask influence here, but I haven’t read anything definitive about the casks used for this expression. Perhaps it’s a mixture of bourbon and sherry casks, as there is a nice, creamy vanilla note coming out (bourbon cask influence). Finally, mixed in with the fruit and sweets is an equally strong, earthy peat influence with some associated smoke.

If you’re new to Islay whiskies, the iodine/peat might stand out to you the first couple of times you take in the nose. Stick with it, and you’ll see all of the elements integrate together beautifully over time.

The palate is substantial, with some sweetness there, but you really start to notice the peat influence. Then it grips your tongue, and becomes very dry. If you like a drying sensation from your whiskies, this one has it in spades. There’s also some spiciness, but I wouldn’t say this is one of the more spicy drams I’ve tried.

On the finish, there is an explosion of camp fire peat smoke. Hello, Islay! The berries come back, too, mixing with the smoke in a very pleasing way. I’m also reminded of the medicinal notes, but it’s still in the background. This finish goes on for a long, long time.

Conclusion:

Lagavulin 16 really hits the spot for me. It’s got earthy peat, combined with just the right amount of berries and vanilla sweets, along with enough of a medicinal character to keep you on your toes. I guess I COULD imagine an improvement with a little more of a Talisker-like pepper on the palate and finish, and possibly even a little more body. I’m reaching, though. There is an amazing balance as it stands. With the enchanting nose and endless finish, I can sit in my favorite chair, listening to a long classic jazz jam session, completely satisfied and free of life’s worries. Surely that’s worth 91/100 points.

Other opinions

  • WHISKYFUN.COM by Serge – A very good, but not great score of 89/100 by Serge. Although, I don’t see much in the way of negatives in his notes. He also discusses this classic malt from the vantage point of having tried many other versions.
  • Whisky for Everyone – They call this “a true ‘try before you die’ single malt whisky.” I agree!
  • Whisky Magazine – Huge scores of 9.5 and 9.75 from Michael Jackson and Jim Murray respectively. This article is from about 10 years ago, however. I believe I’ve read some opinions that Lagavulin 16 isn’t quite the “beast” that it was back then. I’m not sure how Murray rates the latest version in the current Whisky Bible.
  • YouTubeIslayScotchWhisky provides a very positive review. He mentions that it tastes almost exactly like it smells. That’s a good point. With the exception of my getting a lot more smoke on the palate/finish, I was amazed at how much of the profile carried through from beginning to end. Next, peatluvr gives a great account of how he didn’t like Lagavulin when he first tried it (early in his scotch drinking days), but now loves it.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 135 other followers