Sonoma County Rye

ABV: 48%
Cask: Charred New American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Time for something a little different tonight!

After the wildly wonderful Balcones tasting earlier this month (after which I was, admittedly, grinning and stumbling about the house*) it occurred that great American whiskey needn’t be Bourbon and it needn’t be from Kentucky.

With that in mind, I was recommended Sonoma County whiskey (from California, dontchaknow) and I grabbed a sample of their rye bottling. I haven’t tasted a whole lot of rye but I do enjoy the spicy and savoury flavours that typify the genre.

Nose: Grape skin, planed wood, dry grass, and white pepper. Tinned peaches and salty sour dough.

Palate: Sweet, sour and spicy. Cloves, menthol, cinnamon, burnt sugar, ginger cake and liquorice root.

Finish: Long with lingering liquorice, dry tobacco, and blackcurrant throat sweets.

Oooh, interesting. I feel like this is a pretty young expression but it’s definitely got a lot going for it. Since I mostly drink Scotch, the nose felt a little shallow but the palate and finish are excellent. Smooth, spicy and lip smacking with a great long finish.

It’s always nice to drink an unfiltered, low-tech, traditional whiskey. With direct fired pot stills and no filtration, Sonoma County Distillery have done very well here.

Here’s to Californian whiskey!

You can pick up a bottle for £55.95 on The Whisky Exchange.

* Give me a break – most of the samples were above 60%ABV!

Allied Glass Tweet Tasting

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.01.09

Another Tweet Tasting from The Whisky Wire!

This time it’s put together with a selection of drams from Allied Glass and it’s really looking like an eclectic mix of whiskies.

We’ve got a mix of young, middle-aged, peated and unpeated with some old favourites and some new kids on the block.

Let’s dive in!


Raasay “While We Wait”

Distillery: Unknown (Raasay isn’t operational yet)
Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.05.25
Bottler: R&B Distillers
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon with finishing period in Tuscan red wine
More Info: WhiskyBase

First up from R&B Distillers is the “While We Wait” expression, released in anticipation of the distillery on the Isle of Raasay in the Hebrides.

This expression is a lightly peated Highland malt from an undisclosed distillery finished in Tuscan red wine casks.

Nose: Waxy paper, redcurrants, cracked black pepper in butter, peach and apricot skin, roses.

Palate: Peaches and pineapples, orange peel and ripe pear with fizzy peat – a lot like the bubble burn you get with sparkling wine. There’s a smoked rosé thing going on for sure.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy.

You can’t tell from the picture but this is actually a pink whisky! The flavour profile fits with rosé with fresh red and tropical fruit notes. It tastes young but it’s not a bad dram at all – reminiscent of sitting on a sun terrace with a glass of wine and a cigarette.

As for actual Raasay spirit, who knows how that’ll taste when it eventually ends up being bottled. Just as long as it’s better than Abhainn Dearg…

You can pick this up for £55.34 on Master of Malt.


 

Benriach 16

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.22.38Distillery: Benriach
ABV: 43%
Age: 16 years
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s one of Benriach’s core lineup – the 16 year old. I’ve had a fair bit of Benriach in my time but this is the first time I’ve tried the sixteen year old.

Nose: Very clean. Green apples and felt marker pens. Lots of flowers and nectar with honey and macaroons. A hint of Malibu rum, and undoubtedly the smell of honeysuckle blossom. Wow.

Palate: Strawberries with gingerbread ice cream and strüdel. Very well balanced between sweetness and spice.

Finish: A whisp of salty, tangy peat and then creamy oak.

Mmm, sublime! The nose is light and floral and the palate is perfectly balance between sweet fruit and barrel spices. This is a solid whisky and by far the standout dram of the tasting for me. I will almost certainly get a bottle on the shelf this Christmas.

Benriach 16 is on Whisky Exchange for £41.95. In my opinion, an absolute bargain.


 

Loch Lomond Original

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.56.29Distillery: Loch Lomond
ABV: 40%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the standard release from the Loch Lomond distillery. Loch Lomond Group are well known as the owners of the remaining stock of Littlemill, the infamous (and sadly closed) lowlands distillery.

I don’t often see bottlings of Loch Lomond, but they tend to be quite young and affordably priced as a result.

Nose: Salty bread dough on the nose. Olives, too. Are we making focaccia bread?? Grassy and honeyed. Vanilla cream, salt and pepper. 

Palate: Very sugary and slightly chalky, like love hearts that’ve been ground into a paste and poured onto vanilla ice cream. Bit of new-make/Grappa going on in there. Reminds me of a crystallised grape juice confectionary we have in Cyprus.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Young and punchy. Not bad for the price, but I fear it’s bottom of the league in this particular lineup. I do like the nose on it, though.

The Loch Lomond Original is available on Master of Malt for a very reasonable £26.14.


 

Tomatin Legacy

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.09.07Distillery: Tomatin
ABV: 43%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon and Virgin Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s another young and affordable dram, the Tomatin Legacy.

In homage to the traditions of the distillery and its role in the Highlands community, this release has picked up a fair few awards and got a nod from Jim Murray this year with 94.5/100.

Whether you’re a fan of “the ewok from Surrey” or not, it’s definitely proving popular amid a trend of sweeter virgin oak releases we’ve seen over recent years.

Nose: Very sweet! Barley sugar sweets and freshly sanded wood. Shoe polish and brushed suede. Pear cider and cinnamon. Green tea.

Palate: You can really taste the virgin cask in this! Vanilla oak with pear drops and spicy cloves.

Finish: Creamy and warming.

It’s not complex, but if you like the sweet vanilla flavour of oak (“ice cream in a glass”) then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. I’d certainly recommend it to people who are starting to explore Scotch as it’s very accessible, a bit unusual compared with supermarket whisky, and certainly well-priced.

You can pick up a bottle for a very affordable £25.84 on Master of Malt.


 

Old Pulteney 12

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.24.18Distillery: Old Pulteney
ABV: 40%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Bourbon and sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Mainland Britain’s most Northerly distillery, you see their twelve year old in most of the big UK supermarkets and often at a fantastic discount (I tend to see it around £20 per bottle).

Nose: It’s like eating honey by the sea washed down with strong malty beer. A complete classic.

Palate: Sweet and rich with sea salt and toffee. More beer barley, some boiled sweets and sweet oak. Milky coffee and a touch of citrus. Some baking spices towards the end.

Finish: Smooth and lip smacking.

Probably my favourite ever Highland distillery, this one’s an old friend for me and one of the first drams I had that really turned me on to Scotch whisky in my early twenties.

Definitely a landmark dram and one I’d recommend to anybody. If you’ve never tried it, I suggest you put that right!

You can pick it up on Amazon with free delivery for £24 – can’t say fairer than that!

Springbank 12 Port Pipe

107701-bigDistillery: Springbank
Bottled: 2015
Age: 12 years old
ABV: 58.3%
Cask: Port Pipe (full maturation)
More Info: WhiskyBase

You don’t see many single cask full maturation port pipe whiskies! This is a limited release of 696 bottles from earlier this year and I couldn’t resist grabbing a sample.

Nose: Very atypical. Joss sticks, deodorant, dry grass, cloves, peach skin, orange essential oil, and vodka with cranberry juice.

Palate: Oily, salty toffee. Quite sharp to start (water helps). As it calms down, it gets fruitier with prunes and dried cranberries. There’s a flicker of blueberry muffin, then smoke, tar and oil mixed with bitter dark chocolate and cloves.

Finish: Long and dry, with cinnamon, salt and pepper.

This is a challenging one, but worth persevering with (and hey, what do you expect from a single cask!).

Full term port pipe maturation has imparted some interesting fruit and spice notes. The Springbank coastal elements still come through with the oily sweet smoke you expect and yet it’s still quite savoury and dry.

It took me a while to “get” this dram but it’s definitely got its charms. A bargain at around £60 RRP but scarcity on the secondary market’s doubled the price 😦

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 16.23.55Distillery: Laphroaig
Age:
~9 Years Old
Cask: 1st-fill Bourbon, finished in Amontillado Hogsheads 
ABV: 
51.4%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

You’ve probably seen this one around – that bright yellow tin is hard not to notice!

Released for Feis Ile 2014, this bottling is released with no age statement but widely believed to have spent eight years in first fill Bourbon and a further one year in Amontillado sherry casks.

Nose: Wood-smoked cashew nuts, grapefruit juice, roast chicken crisps, marker pens, flint and coal dust.

Palate: Sweet and mouthcoating, then a whoosh of astringent coal tar soap leaving tangy sweet oranges, lemon throat sweets, warm honey and lingering peat.

Finish: Warm and comforting with a creamy, smoky ash.

This is a cracking dram, hands down. All that midwinter fireplace character you expect, but the Amontillado brings some interesting sweet notes instead of the usual vanilla flavour you get with the ten year old. No water needed either – it’s perfect as it is.

You can still get this for reasonable prices, and with an out-turn of 28,000 bottles it’s not too hard to find. Some online stores are charging over £100, but I picked up a bottle at auction for about £60 so it’s worth shopping around.

Bruichladdich Ribera Del Duero (Micro Provenance)

105181-bigDistillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2004
Age: 10 years old
Cask: #007
Bottles: 303
ABV: 63.6%
Cask: Quercus Robur – Ribera del Duero Wine Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

I’ve been looking forward to this one!

Now Bruichladdich have their core range pinned down, it seems their main avenue of creative weirdness has been channelled into their Micro Provenance series, a set of single cask whiskies produced with unique formulae.

The labels spell out every detail of their production and the series endeavours to do things that haven’t been widely done before in the industry.

The defining trait of this bottling is a full ten years in a Spanish red wine cask. It’s not unusual for a whisky to be finished (or *ACE’d, in Bruichladdich vernacular) in a wine cask after years in a Bourbon barrel, but full term maturation is a lot less common.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Menthol, sandalwood, crystal ginger, tequila with salted limes. Dusty icing sugar and sherbet. With water, still lots of salty citrus notes, but opening up to cake batter, red grapes, sour cherries and plum flesh.

Body: Very silky and buttery, even with a fair whack of water added.

Palate: Cranberries and hot cinnamon. Big, raw, chilli pepper burn. Yowzer. Needs water on the palate for sure.

At 40-50% ABV we get a lot more character. More salty citrus, but served in an egg custard tart. Nutmeg, raspberries, sour guava, and bitter green apple skin with developing white pepper.

Finish: Long and warm. Becomes malty, oaky, and dry, with baking spice and vanilla double cream.

This is a lovely dram. Really solid core character of the distillery (malty citrus, buttery palate, coastal saltiness) and the wine cask has imparted a notable but delicate influence on the whisky.

Really looking forward to tasting more in the series! They release more every now and then through online tasting packs on their online shop so do keep an eye out.

You can get this (and other) Micro Provenance bottling exclusively through the Bruichladdich online shop.

* Additional Cask Enhancement

Lagavulin Batch 1 (TBWC)

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 17.47.05Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2015
Age: ???
ABV: 54.5%
Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s a rarity! An indie bottling of Lagavulin.

Nose: Tequila in porridge (a great breakfast favourite of mine), salted oatcakes, sourdough and marzipan.

Palate: More tequila notes, perhaps with grappa. Dry smoke wafts through candied lemons and tart, tangy plums.

Finish: Oaky and buttery with more peat tang and sea salt.

I’m sorry to say, this is too young for the price. Those white spirit notes of tequila are classic signs of young/new make whisky. They’re not unpleasant per se, but you get better notes with age.

Lagavulin spirit is excellent, as far as new make goes. But it needs longer than this in cask before it’s ready for drinking. I’d guess this is around the 5 or 6 years old mark. That might work for more robust distillate like Kilchoman but Lagavulin needs more time.

Sorry chaps at Master of Malt, but this isn’t a winner for my money! 500ml for £100. I’d rather have 700ml of 12 year old and have cash to spare…

Hyde 10 Year Old (Presidents Cask)

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 20.20.05Distillery: ???
Age: 10 years old
Bottler: Hibernia
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon, finished in Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

It’s not often I venture to the Emerald Isle in search for a dram! And for a single malt, no less.

Hyde Whiskey appeared on my radar on Twitter a few months back and has been a very prolific brand. The whiskey itself comes from a mystery Irish distillery and is bottled by Hibernia in Skibbereen, south Cork. The name is a nod to the first president of the Republic of Ireland, Douglas Hyde.

Let’s have a go…

Nose: Fruity! Overripe apples flesh, pear skin, peaches, honeysuckle. A little mineral salinity and dry hay, too.

Palate: Sweet, soft and smooth to start. Lemon cakes, toffee and vanilla build up to baking spices, cardamom, liquorice root and ginger. A touch of sour grapefruit and lime in the middle.

Finish: Peppery barrel spice, then long sweet oak.

Really interesting fruity notes on this, with a smooth start though the peppery spices at the end are quite prominent. Not a bad dram, but could be a lot smoother.

Here’s to more single malts from Ireland in future, though – it’s no bad thing to see this kind of dram on the market.

You can pick this up on Master of Malt for £50.88.