Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2009

Kilchoman preview

Next on my tasting list was going to be a comparison of Bowmore 12 and 18, but then my Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack arrived:

Kilchoman connoisseurs Pack

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack

This pack consists of three ages of Kilchoman New Spirit in 50ml bottles, all with a peating level of 50ppm:

One month – 63.5% ABV
One year – 63% ABV
Two years – 62% ABV

Kilchoman will be releasing their first official scotch whisky (3 years) later this year.

The Kilchoman [Kil-HOH-man] Distillery had slipped under my radar until I saw it mentioned as the 8th Islay distillery in the Black Bottle blog.  As an Islay fan, this immediately piqued my interest, and I started looking around for more information.  I checked out their distillery web site, discovered that there had actually been some mention of it in the Whisky Magazine forums that I frequent, and found an interview with the Kilchoman managing director on Singlemalt.tv.  This definitely looked like something I wanted to keep my eye on.

When I discovered that you can get samples of the New Spirit (and even a full size bottle of the 2 years), I had to order some, as I’m too impatient to wait for the official whisky release.  I ended up busy with other things tonight, and was too tired to do a full comparison of the three makes, but I couldn’t resist sneaking a wee dram of the 2 years (yes, I’ve jumped to the back of the book before to see how it ends).

Quick tasting notes: Of the other distilleries that I’ve tried, the first one that jumped to my mind upon nosing the Kilchoman spirit was not another Islay, but rather, Springbank (Longrow CV).  There is certainly a strong peat smell.  There’s also a sweetness that reminds me of burnt sugar (top of a creme brulee).  [Edit – Hmm…I just realized that Kilchoman uses “creme brulee” in their description of the 2 year nose.  They’re talking about a vanilla scent, while I’m just talking about the torched sugar on top…still, I wonder if I read that on their web site and subconsciously recalled it as I wrote this.]  I think there’s a slight sulpher influence that lends kind of a coal smoke smell as well.  I really enjoyed the nose.  I can’t believe how inoffensive it was for such a young spirit.  Not feinty at all.  The peat carries on through to the finish, and the sweetness remains on the palate.

I tasted a very small dram tonight, and will revisit this (and the other two) within the next couple of days and post my results.  My first impression is VERY favorable, though.

More Info…

[Update] My follow-up post, Cuckoo for Kilchoman, contains full tasting notes of the three spirits, as well as additional info and links about Kilchoman.

Kilchoman New Spirit bottles

Kilchoman New Spirit bottles

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack box

Kilchoman Connoisseurs Pack box

Read Full Post »

In my post yesterday, I talked about the Glenmo/Ardbeg tasting I attended, and the fact that they served a cocktail with Ardbeg in it:

Smoky Peach

Smoky Peach

Smoky Peach

  • 2 parts Navan vanilla cognac
  • 1 part Ardbeg 10
  • dash of Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
  • served on the rocks.

After the big tasting yesterday, I was going to skip my nightly dram tonight, but having purchased some Navan and Peach Bitters on my lunch break today, I wanted to try making a small Smoky Peach.  I purchased Navan vanilla cognac, the same one they used at the tasting. I was interested in Meukow VS Vanilla (yes, admittedly because I thought the bottle was cool), but after reading this comparison on Scottes’ Rum Pages blog, I decided to stick with the Navan. I want to be able to serve this to people who don’t care for a heavy “spirit” nose, and I think the strong vanilla component is important for this cocktail.

I started with 35ml of Navan and 20ml of Ardbeg, then added a little under 1/2 teaspoon of peach bitters and finally the ice. Too much bitters for me! A little really does go a long way (I guess the shaker cap was a good clue to that this was the case). I added a few more drops of Navan and Ardbeg, then let the ice melt a bit and it was closer to what they served last night. Next time, I’m going to try 44ml Navan, 25ml Ardbeg, and somewhere around 1/4 (or less) teaspoon of bitters and adjust from there.

I’ll post an update if I find the “perfect” mix (for me).

[Update 6/6/09] The 2-1 ratio of Cognac to Ardbeg seems to work just fine.  It’s the peach bitters you need to be careful with.  Start with just a drop and work up.  I made a mix with 8 oz Ardbeg and 16 oz Congnac, and I only needed a few drops of bitters.

Read Full Post »

Tonight, a couple of friends and I traveled 50 miles to a Glenmorangie and Ardbeg tasting. My neighbor’s wife was nice enough to drive us, although when we signed up, we thought the Sportsman’s Fine Wines and Spirits where it was held was located about 15 miles closer. I’m glad we didn’t realize that until today, as we probably wouldn’t have signed up, but it was totally worth it (easy for me to say, having hitched a ride). For $35, we got a cocktail, some snacks, a dram of the 7 whiskies listed below, a Reidel “O” glass, and special pricing on the whiskies in the tasting. I believe there were around 25-30 participants.

Glenmorangie/Ardbeg tasting matt

Glenmorangie/Ardbeg tasting matt

They started us out with a cocktail, which I believe they called the Smoky Peach. I can’t remember the specifics (I’ll have to email them and find out), but it contained Ardbeg 10 along with either peach bitters and cognac, or some other kind of bitters and “peach cognac” [is there such a thing?]. Anyway, it was much more tasty than I expected, and I’d like to try it on some non-whisky drinking friends sometime.

Update – I got the details:

Smoky Peach

  • 2 parts Navan vanilla cognac
  • 1 part Ardbeg 10
  • a dash of peach bitters
  • served on the rocks.

Next, we went through the following whiskies:

  1. Glenmorangie 10 year (40%) – Lightly sweet with orange blossoms. Perfectly nice, but doesn’t move me.
  2. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban (46%) – This one surprised me. A little time in port casks really made a difference over the 10 year. Richer. The port really comes through on the nose. I got some enjoyable spiciness sticking on the tongue through the finish. I like it a lot…it’s on my list to buy.
  3. Glenmorangie Signet (46%) – This I enjoyed a lot. I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion or what, but I tasted the elements of dark chocolate the organizers described. Usually I don’t sense chocolate in whiskies where other people do. I would love to buy some of this…at half the going price. The packaging is really sexy, though.
  4. Glenmorangie Astar (57.1%) – This was a big hit tonight. Lame pun alert…as this starts showing up in more tastings, expect to hear about how it was the “star” of the show. Yuck…that hurt to write. Anyway, this was supposedly the first time this was made available in Arizona, and there was a mad rush at the end to grab the available 15 or so bottles. To me, it was just a more potent 10 year old (although, admittedly a VERY drinkable cask strength).
  5. Ardbeg 10 year (46%) – This is a great value relative to the other Ardbegs in this tasting, which cost over twice as much as the 10 here in Arizona. It’s hard to go wrong with this one, and I have an open bottle in my cabinet.
  6. Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist (46%;1990 vintage) – While the Quinta Ruban surprised me in a positive way, I was actually a little let down by Nam Beist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very enjoyable drink. All Ardbeg, but a little mellower and more creamy than the 10. It does have a long, long finish though. I guess what disappointed me was that it wasn’t “beastly”…it was the tamest of the three. Of course, it IS the oldest, but that name gets you thinking it’s going to be all kinds of crazy. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this at $75-$85 a bottle (relative to the $55-$60 the 10 goes for), but Nam Beist is going for around $140 here in AZ. That disparity with the price of the 10 doesn’t work for me.
  7. Ardbeg Uigeadail (54.2%) – Mmmmmmm. That sherry influence really works with the peat, although the sherry isn’t nearly as strong as it is in the Lagavulin DE. What a nose on this one! I took advantage of the discount price and bought a bottle.

This was a great time and well run. The three of us that went together gave it a big thumbs up, and it was nice to meet Sean from the Whisky Magazine forums. Sean said the Sportsman’s Scottsdale location (much closer for me) is going to do a Signatory tasting sometime. I want to be there.

Tasting some tasty scotch

Pretty decent turn out for the tasting

Pretty decent turn out for the tasting

Nice place (Sportsman's)

Read Full Post »

Talisker 18

Talisker 18

Ahh…that’s the stuff.  If you’re looking for a fair and balanced Talisker 18 review, look elsewhere (perhaps some of the links at the bottom of this post).  I have nothing negative to say about this wonderful scotch whisky.  In fact, the first time I tasted it, I immediately declared it better than all of the other scotches I’d tasted.  Although, at the time (just four months ago), that count stood at around 8.  I’ve tried a lot more whiskies since then, scotch and others, and I’ve since given up trying to declare a single “best” one.  I’ve gone with more of a tier system, and Talisker 18 remains in the top tier along with Lagavulin 16 and DE, Highland Park 18, and perhaps The Glenlivet 18.

On the nose, I get an earthy peat and light smoke, something slightly medicinal, and finally just a bit of toffee sweetness.  Once in the mouth, the sweetness becomes more fruity, and then a slight peppery sensation grows stronger in the back of the mouth as the drink goes down.  Finally, coming up through the back of the nose at the end is that earthy peat and smoke again.  I can’t believe how balanced this scotch is.  Those main elements of peat, smoke, iodine, sweetness and pepper come and go in waves, dancing together in harmony like…  Oh crap.  I’m starting to wax poetic over my freaking drink.  Ok…climbing back down to earth here:  This scotch whisky rocks!

Apparently, I’m not the only one that puts the Talisker 18 way up there relative to other whiskies.  It won the “Worlds Best Single Malt Whisky” award in the 2007 World Whiskies Awards, for whatever that’s worth.  This whisky is bottled at 45.8%, and I’ve purchased it in two configurations:  200ml as part of a gift pack containing the 10, 18 and DE Taliskers (highly recommended, and I’ll talk about this in another post) – $65; 750ml bottle – $70 to $80.  Currently, the Talisker 18 has gotten very difficult to find locally in AZ.  No new stock appears to be coming in.  Luckily I have a couple of additional bottles stocked up for future use.

Check out these additional tasting notes and resources for Talisker 18:

  • Whisky Magazine – Notes and ratings by Martine Nouet and Dave Broom, as well as links to WM Forum threads, including comparisons of the 10 year to the 18.
  • The Whisky Exchange – In addition to being able to buy it here, you can see the stats and additional tasting notes.
  • K&L Wine Merchants – Located in CA, selling it for $76.  The reason I’m posting the link here is so you can check out their description.  They’re saying that the 18 is “almost out of existance”.  I emailed them about it and they replied that this is what their sales rep said.  It seems to be readily available overseas, and the distillery web site doesn’t say anything about it going away, so I’m not sure what to make of that.
  • Malts.com – Tasting notes on the 18 and other Talisker varieties from the Diageo Classic Malts web site.  [This doesn’t seem to be the most reliable web server in the world].
  • Distillery location [Carbost, Isle of Skye, UK] in Google Maps:

Read Full Post »

How do the various batches of Aberlour A’bunadh compare?  What about the annual releases of Port Ellen or Brora?  How will my current (and discontinued) bottle of Laphroaig 15 year compare to the new 18 year?  I’m having trouble warming up to Ledaig 10 year because of the nose.  I wonder if that will change over time (but I won’t necessarily want to buy another 75oml bottle later to find out).

Boston Round sample bottles

Boston Round sample bottles

There are plenty of reasons to store whisk(e)y samples for use/enjoyment at a later time.  Maybe you have a large basement and plenty of space to store full size bottles.  I don’t, and I’m not sure how much more kitchen cabinet space I can take up before my very understanding wife finally pushes back.  Additionally, some would argue that it’s not a good idea to store whisky for an extended period in a bottle with lots of air in it (I’m curious to see what comes of this guy’s aging experiment).

I wanted to start setting aside some scotch for later use, and ended up placing an order from Specialty Bottle in Seattle for 15 Clear Boston Round 4 oz bottles at $0.56 each, plus another $0.04 each for an upgrade to polyseal caps.  The polyseal caps contain a cone-shaped insert that supposedly provides an extremely tight seal.  They also have 2 oz bottles for $0.44 cents each($0.48 with polyseal caps).

If you’re bottling samples to share with others, they also have shrink bands that you can cover the lid with (you shrink them with a hair dryer).  The shrink bands are only sold in 250 count packs for $5 each.  The 2 and 4 oz bottles use different size bands as well.  If you know somebody that you intend to trade samples with, you could go in with them and split the cost.

I used the first bottle to save 10cl of my Port Ellen 7th release (from a 20cl original bottle).  I suppose I could have just kept it in the 20cl bottle, but I wanted to play it safe and cut down on the amount of air in the bottle (and seal it up tight).  For the label, I used the original from the 20cl bottle.  I put about an inch of water in a pot and brought it to a boil, stuck a screwdriver in the empty bottle and held onto the handle, and dangled the bottle over the steam for about 2 minutes.  The label peeled right off, and had enough of the glue on it still to just stick it right on the boston round bottle.

[Update 6/9/09] These bottles are great!  I just bottled up some samples to exchange with another whisky fan here in town.  We’re exchanging a combination of 2 and 3 oz samples.  2 oz (60ml) seems like a natural amount to exchange for a true “sample”, so I’m getting ready to place another order for some 2 oz bottles.  I’m also going to order some shrink bands, as I’ll feel better about driving the samples around in a sealed bottle, should I happen to get pulled over or get in a fender-bender.

If you have your own tips for storing whisky, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  Would you go with Amber or Blue bottles instead of clear?  I like to be able to see the color of the whisky in the clear bottles, and any samples I’m storing will be in a dark place.

Read Full Post »

Old Pulteney 12

Old Pulteney 12

Tonight I’m sipping Old Pulteney [PULT’nee] 12 year old from the northern-most distillery on mainland Scotland.  According to the distillery web site, OP 12 is matured “wholly in air dried, hand selected ex-bourbon casks”.  The web site says 40% ABV, but my bottle says 43%.  A recent change?  A difference between the 700ml and 750ml bottlings?  I don’t know, but please leave a comment if you know what’s going on with that.  Local cost in AZ ranges from $33-$40/750ml.

On the nose and palate, OP 12 reminds me more of North American whiskey than any other scotch I’ve tasted.  It doesn’t have some of the qualities unique to a whiskey with distilled corn, but it does share a similar honey sweetness.  There’s also a spiciness that reminds me of a rye contribution.  On the whole, I’d say the similarity is closer to Canadian whisky (Crown Royal) than bourbon.  Not quite as sweet, and with an added saltiness.  I also get a pleasant pepper sensation on the finish, while it goes down very smoothly with no burn.

There’s a lot going on here for an “entry level” product, and this would make a good regular dram at the right price.  To me, that price is closer to $30 than $40.  I won’t have any problem moving through this bottle, and I’ll certainly consider buying another in the future.

Update: Being relatively new to  whisky, and having a current bias towards peaty malts, I recommend checking out these links to other people’s takes on this scotch:

  • Whiskey Magazine – Notes and ratings by Michael Jackson and Jim Murray, as well as links to related threads in the WM forums.
  • Blog (Darin Bradley) – This guy LOVES OP12 and rates it 5 of 5.  His journal entry makes for an interesting read.
  • YouTube (Peatluvr) – I really enjoy this guy’s video reviews, and have subscribed to his YouTube video feed.

Read Full Post »

No nightly dram today (I take one or two days off each week).  I am, however, watching some great whisky-related videos on Singlemalt.tv.  I discovered them through Twitter, and have just watched three very interesting interviews (click interviewee name links below to watch).

First, I watched interviews with the owners of two of the most popular whisky mail order stores in the UK.  Richard Joynson of Loch Fyne Whiskies (LFW) seems like a lot of fun and has a great sense of humor.  Sukhinder Singh of The Whisky Exchange (TWE) was very down to earth and seems extremely knowledgeable about whisky, especially older bottlings.  Next, I watched an interview with Anthony Wills, managing director of the Kilchoman distillery.  Definitely check this out if you’re a whisky geek and want to know all of the interesting stats like cask types, phenol ppm, etc.  I’ll probably talk about this a little more when my Kilchoman spirit samples arrive.

I’m definitely looking forward to watching more of Singlemalt.tv, and it sounds like they have a number of additional interesting distillery tours lined up.  One thing I’d like to see on their site is better searching capability for videos by key word.  I found it a little awkward at times browsing through the different channels trying to find a particular video.  The search on their main web page, outside of the flash player, doesn’t seem to index into the videos themselves.  Overall, though, it’s a great resource for scotch hobbyists.

The Whisky Channel

The Whisky Channel

Oh yeah…what does this have to do with the crushing of childhood dreams?  A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor came over with his Macallan CS, and I pulled out my Aberlour A’bunadh (Batch 15) and George T. Stagg bourbon.  We sampled these cask strength whiskies and talked about them while our wives and our kids hung out and did…i don’t know…something not related to whisky.  Well, at some point, my neighbor and I became aware that our better halves were mocking us and our fascination with the water of life.  We bantered back and forth a bit, and somebody mentioned that a whisky channel on TV would be perfect for us.  My daughter heard this, disappeared into the computer room for a bit, and came back out with a marketing teaser for a 24 hour whisky channel.  I thought this was great, and the poster now resides on the inside door of my whisky cupboard.

Tonight, I had to break it to her that somebody beat us to our idea (she’s actually completely unphased, but I thought it made for an interesting blog post title).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »