The Kinship Port Ellen 34 Year Old

Distillery: Port Ellen
Age: 34 years old
ABV: 61.7%
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Cask: Sherry Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

In the wake of this year’s Feis Ile (The Islay Festival of Malt and Music), Hunter Laing have released a set of six extremely rare whiskies to celebrate Islay whisky – The Kinship range.

Hand-picked by legendary distiller Jim McEwan (formerly of Bruichladdich and Bowmore), these whiskies represent the best and rarest examples of Islay spirit. They also mark the creation of Laing’s brand new distillery “Ardnahoe” which is situated on the shores of the Sound of Islay, close to Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.

I’m a massive Bruichladdich fan so I’m delighted that Jim McEwan will be production manager when the distillery goes into operation early in 2018.

Anyway, on with the Kinship whisky! The oldest and rarest in the range is this: a sherried Port Ellen that was distilled shortly before the distillery’s closure in 1983.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Thick candle wax, menthol, dried rosemary. New leather and citrus peel. Quite maritime in a minerally way – think chalky clifftops on a windy day. With water becomes more citrusy and a little soapy, like washing up liquid (but in a good way). Over time it gets sweeter and richer with vanilla cake sponge.

Palate: Lemon throat sweets, brown sugar, clove oil, sour cherries and gentle wood smoke.

Finish: Tingly, ashy and long. Creamy oak and a touch of vanilla.

Jim McEwan described this as “a tidal wave in a glass”. The nose is indeed a powerhouse and it transports me directly to being outdoors on the Scottish coast – much like Lagavulin 12 or a cask-strength Caol Ila.

The palate, though smoky, is a lot gentler – even at the full 61.7% strength – and you get to enjoy a deeply pleasant and life-affirming finish that lasts and lasts.

Frankly, I was a little concerned that this had spent 34 years in sherry. For my palate, that can really spoil a good whisky. Luckily, my fears are unfounded – this must’ve been a good quality refill cask and at the incredibly high ABV it’s had a remarkably slow and careful maturation over those years allowing the spirit to dominate the flavour, not the cask.

All in all, this is a really elegant and well-rounded whisky – classy, complex, and delivering all that coastal/citrus goodness you’d hope to get from a Port Ellen.

Many thanks to Nickolls and Perks for sending me this sample! Now bear with me while I weep at how badly I can’t afford whisky like this…

Currently, these Kinship bottles are available from the Ardnahoe Distillery Shop on Islay. The Port Ellen is £1,800 per bottle.

TBWC Irish Single Malt #1

Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 46.8%
More Info: WhiskyBase

A mystery Eurovision entry from those folks at TBWC. If you’re not familiar with “My Lovely Horse”, allow the YouTube video to enlighten you…

Oh, you’ll have a dram, won’t you? Go on. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…

Nose: Pineapple Turkish delight in dusty icing sugar. Bruised apples, salty toffee, whipped cream. Absolutely delicious.

Palate: Mango syrup, peach melba, Werther’s Original toffees with a gentle gingerbread tingle.

Finish: Apple skin, with a touch of Barley grist and vanilla.

Feck.

This is a stunning whiskey. Soft, delicate, fruity and sublime on the nose and tongue. Reminds me of the Midleton Very Rare I tried last year…

I could sip this happily all Summer, if all 264 bottles hadn’t already sold out.

Samples are still available via Master of Malt for £13.67 a piece.

Kilchoman 10th Anniversary Release

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2005
ABV: 58.2%
Bottles: 3000
Cask: Bourbon & Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

The bottling of the first ten-year-old whisky is a big milestone in the life of any distillery.

A tiny, farm-run endeavour, Kilchoman have been punching well above their weight since they entered the whisky market with consistently excellent whisky from a very young age. I’m a big fan of their 100% Islay bottlings (which are only about 5 years old when bottled).

Nose: Jamaican Ginger cake but without the heavy molasses – more like golden syrup and brown sugar. A chalky, sooty, old stove quality around the edges of the sweetness. There’s a fragrant starchiness, too, like pilau rice. With water it gets waxy and slightly soapy.

Palate: Very thick and buttery, with sweet vanilla, lemon sherbet, and then a freight-train of peat and barrel spice: chilli peppers, tingly clove, black pepper. Water calms the spices and reveals cardamom, heather honey, boiled sweets, and some light floral camomile notes.

Finish: Cashew nuts, more cloves, and a lip-smacking ashy quality akin to the dying embers of a cigar.

This is definitely more rounded and well-integrated than its younger siblings.

The character of the spirit shines through and dominates both the nose and the palate, forcing the influence from the cask to take a back seat. Those floral, peaty flavours works incredibly well together and I hope this means we’ll see a 10-year-old at 46% become part of the core line-up.

Big thumbs up from me!

There’s samples of the Kilchoman 10th Anniversary available on Master of Malt, but not full bottles, alas.

Glenmorangie Bacalta

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + heavily toasted Madeira wine casks
Bottled: 2017
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Another release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition Series. I did enjoy the Milsean from earlier in the series so let’s see how this “sun-baked” member of the range lives up to expectation.

Nose: Sweet and lively. Apple sponge cake and fresh vanilla custard. Tart cider apples, Madeira wine (yes, that sticky, dark flavour is very distinct), and a whiff of tinned peaches.

Palate: More vanilla custard and soft fruit: pears, apples, peaches. Cinnamon and white pepper develop through the mid palate with a touch of dry white wine and pouring cream.

Finish: Quite short with drying vanilla oak.

This is a very pleasant dram, though not astonishing. I enjoy the fruitiness of the nose very much but the palate’s rather too cask-led for me with predictable vanilla and cake notes. I’d be pleased with this for £40 a bottle, but not £80.

Another marketing-driven whisky, alas.

Thanks very much to Andy at Malt Box for sharing this with me. If you’re interested in trying it, there are still bottles available on Master of Malt for £77.95.

Bladnoch Talia

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-10-05-40Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: 25 years
ABV: 49.2%
Cask: New Oak Finish
More Info: WhiskyBase

The big chief of the three new releases is this one: Talia. A 25 year old bottling released at a generous 49.2% with no colouring or chill filtering.

Nose: Poised and gorgeous. Flower petals and clean laundry. Ripe apples with icing sugar, lime juice, butter, and a whiff of banana milkshake.

Palate: Sweet and zesty. Cloudy cider, clementines, tinned peaches and cream with warming black pepper, vanilla pods, and smooth oak.

Finish: Soft and oaky with a touch of clove and cardamom.

This is an absolute beauty. Balanced, elegant and really moreish. A great example of the Bladnoch spirit: thick, buttery, sweet, gentle and fruity. Shame there’s only six hundred bottles…

What an absolute treat to try this alongside the Samsara and the Adela. I’m thrilled to see the rebirth of this wonderful distillery and looking forward to what comes next. It’ll be a few more years before they’re able to patch the gaps in their stock but I’m hopeful we’ll see a ten or twelve year old released as part of the core line up.

I’m also told that 2017 is Bladnoch’s 200th anniversary so we can expect an extra special bottling to appear to celebrate that…

Thanks very much to the distillery for the samples and best of luck with the re-launch!

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

Bladnoch Adela

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-21-19-45Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: 15 years
ABV: 46.7%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Scotland’s most Southerly distillery had a shaky few years when its parent company went into liquidation. Now rebooted, it has Ian MacMillan (formerly of Bunnahabhain and Tobermory) at the helm of distillation, bringing decades of whisky experience into the mix.

This second whisky in the new line-up, Adela, brings 15 years of Oloroso sherry maturation. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays with the character of the core spirit.

Nose: In a word, multilayered. Lots of heavy, meaty sherry tones – struck matches and boiled ham. Beneath it, sultanas, white peach and sandalwood and a base layer of buttery icing sugar like it’s younger sister, Samsara.

Palate: Redcurrants and black cherries – quite tart, but sweet and malty with vanilla cream, a hint of tobacco leaf, and dark chocolate.

Finish: Heavily roasted coffee beans and hazelnuts.

This isn’t a style of whisky that I tend to turn but there’s a lot going on here as it opens up and evolves. Intriguing and one I’d recommend to people who love their sherried drams on the more savoury side.

Onwards to the finalé, the 25 year old Talia

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

Bladnoch Samsara

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-20-14-03Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: Multi-vintage, with youngest 8 years old
ABV: 46.7%
Cask: Bourbon (I’m guessing)
More Info: WhiskyBase

One could quite easily argue that the Lowland whisky style is the least well understood in the whole of Scotland.

And it’d be hard to disagree! The region is almost the same size as the Highlands region (not including Speyside) yet it only has six distilleries! The isle of Islay has more than that all by itself.

As a result, Bladnoch is a name you really don’t see around often enough. The distillery’s had a few silent years and generally is one you can only taste on the indy bottle circuit. So what a welcome sight it is to see three brand new official bottlings, gloriously bottled at 46.7%* and without colour or chill-filtering – just the way we like it!

Purchased by David Prior, the distillery was officially re-launched last month in Australia. I’m very pleased these whiskies are now available back here in the UK! Let’s get tasting…

Nose: Buttery with icing sugar (it looks very fat and oily in the glass). Golden delicious apples, barley straw, grist, oat cakes, fresh leaves, toffee, vanilla and baked crumble.

Palate: Sweet and feisty. Baked apple, cinnamon, sweet malt biscuit, cloudy apple juice, cloves and a chalky pepperiness.

Finish: Mouth-coating and oily with soft oak, cloves, and liquorice.

It’s young, exuberant and very drinkable. A splash of water softens it up revealing more of the fruity side of its character. I’m a big fan of this – that buttery, grassy quality being something I’ve enjoyed in older Bladnochs (and Littlemills, come to think of it).

This entry-level of the new line-up is definitely worth seeking out. Time to move onto Adela, the next in the trilogy.

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

* Talia is bottled at natural cask strength of 49.2% ABV.