Port Charlotte 2002 (Whisky Broker)

IMG_20150528_100205345Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2002
ABV: 55.8%
Cask: Gran Callejo wine cask
Bottler: Whisky Broker
More Info: WhiskyBase

An absolute treat tonight! Whiskybroker have released a single cask Port Charlotte aged for twelve years in a Gran Callejo (Spanish) wine cask.

Nose: Salty and herbaceous, with dry earthy peat mud. Well-seasoned roast potatoes and sweet fried cabbage. Ready-salted crisps. Waxy jelly beans. Red apples, and juicy plum flesh. Fruit-flavoured rolling tobacco.

Palate: A sweet-yet-salty malt biscuit flavour starts, with a pronounced peppery peaty tang. Orange candy and citrus pith. Dry savoury notes of old bitter tobacco, leaf litter, and hazelnuts. With water the peat calms right down, the texture becomes soft and silky, and sweet white wine grape flavours come through.

Finish: Long, tingly and salty with a chewy mouth-coating peat residue, and a little cigarette ash. A touch of soap foam at the very end.

Mmmm, very more-ish! Another lovely wine-matured Port Charlotte with all those earthy, salty, sweet tobacco-rich notes.

These were £55 but snapped up within about 36 hours of release – sorry, but it’s all gone! 😦 Keep an eye on Whisky Broker’s website, Twitter and Facebook for details of releases. The good ones do tend to go fast.

Ardbeg Auriverdes

Distillery: Ardbeg
Distilled: 2002, Bottled: 2014
ABV: 49.9%
Bottles: 6,660
Cask: American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Is 12 months enough time to let the hype of an Ardbeg Day release subside?

Hard to say, given the social media fever pitch (football pun intended) flying around whenever the distillery at the end of the Kildalton road sends forth a new shimmering green emissary into the foamy-mouthed, wild-eyed, peat-worshipping pandemonium.

With the spotlight firmly on the two slightly different Perpetuum releases, I felt it was time I really got to grips with last year’s Auriverdes, the world-cup bottling in honour of Brazil’s flag “Auriverdes”.

By all accounts, consensus from those who shout loudest is that this is a bit of a flop. Someone described it to me as being more a Schmeichel than a Gascoigne*. I’m not sure I’d agree there but it’s fair to say it’s atypical of Ardbeg bottlings, with the peat-junkies getting all rattly and agitated like Mark Renton after a disappointing miniature paper cup of methadone.

Let’s see if I can manage to be objective:

Nose: Very medical. Savlon cream and bandages. Lemon juice with cracked black pepper. Crispy smoked bacon fat. Vanilla pods in dark honey with a synthetic peach aroma. Thick black liquorice sticks.

Palate: Briny, but fruity. Smoky pineapple and grapefruit juice with peaty vanilla ice cream, cinnamon wafers, and a thick, oily espresso foam. Thinner and lighter than expected but still mouth-coating.

Finish: Long and dry, quite woody with ashy smoke. At the very end, a waxy/fruity/jelly sweet residue coats a medicinal, iodine-rich aftertaste.

Very interesting, this one. And very comforting to drink. I’d describe it as lightly peated (by Ardbeg standards). It has a lot in common with Caol Ila, though it retains an oily, tarry Ardbeg signature rather than the light and delicate Caol Ila zing.

In all honesty, I really like it. I’ve had a bottle open a few days now, and wasn’t sure at first, but it’s growing on me more every time I take a sip. The lack of punchy peat smoke really lets out the fruity side.

All in all, then, this is a winner. Maybe not what the peat-freaks wanted, but it’s a very drinkable and interesting dram all the same. I can see this going down well with a big salty slab of Brazilian beef steak.

After selling out last year, Ardbeg have made some more of this available on the Ardbeg shop for £79.99.

* That’s to say, a keeper not a drinker.

Bruichladdich Fishky

fiskyDistillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2007, Distilled: 1992
Bottler: StupidCask.de
Age: 14 years old
ABV: 50.2%
Cask: Bourbon, Sherry + 3 months salted herring cask
More Info: WhiskyBase (fish) and WhiskyBase (pre-fish)

Here’s a well known weird (and rare) indy bottling of Bruichladdich.

This was bottled in Germany as two different bottlings. Both spent time in a single bourbon cask and a single sherry cask with half being bottled and the other half spending an additional 3 months in a salted herring cask!

First, the pre-fishy version:

Nose: Ozone and salty air. Sour cranberries in custard with dried apricots. Thick treacle and golden syrup. A whisper of mint fondant.

Palate: Vanilla custard and bursting fresh raspberries with salt, and a light hint of peaty earth. Chocolate and espresso grounds and some juicy spiced sultanas.

Finish: Creamy with black pepper and dessert spices.

Mmmmm this is a lovely Bruichladdich. Creamy, fruity, salty and sweet. Classic.

Let’s see how the herring cask changes it:

Nose: Much oilier and dirtier. Salty wet leather. A little vanilla but the fruit notes are gone.

Palate: Nicer than I expected! Salty and maritime still but sweet with toffee and vanilla notes. Very oaky.

Finish: Drying and leathery with no hint of fish at all. Spicy wood flavours. Slightly ashy.

So the fish barrel didn’t ruin the whisky but the wood definitely imparted a strong influence, very similar to virgin oak matured whiskies. Surprisingly good!

The pre-fish is the winner for me though, in spite of how surprisingly drinkable the fish cask is. The pre-fish is fruitier and much more delicate and interesting.

You’ll struggle to find these bottlings anywhere now. Probably occasionally at auction but they’re more a curiosity than a serious investment. One for the keen Laddie fan-boy at least…

Port Charlotte 13 (RABT)

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2001
ABV: 62.8%
Cask: Jurançon wine cask
Bottler: Rest And Be Thankful
More Info: WhiskyBase

This’ll be the third bottling I’ve tried from those mysterious people behind Rest And Be Thankful. The two Octomores they produced were very interesting and this one promises to follow suit.

At any rate, you’ll not see a Port Charlotte much older than 13 years these days because there wasn’t any made before 2001 so this is a treat for me – the oldest ever peated Bruichladdich whisky I’ve tried.

And it’s whacky wine barrel finished to boot – I’m no wine buff so I know nothing about Jurançon. Let’s see what it’s like…

Nose: Salted cashew nuts, crispy bacon and black pudding, dark chocolate, mineral oil, burning pinecones with dry soil and ashes.

Palate: Runny caramel mixed with a huge handful of sea-salt. Fragrant Kaffir lime leaves with spices: cayenne pepper, cinnamon and cumin with a touch of nutmeg. There’s an element of dry white wine in there, though I’m not sure I’d have noticed without knowing it was a wine maturation – it’s chalky and floral with a tart, bitter edge to it. Gets winier with water.

Finish: Very long and tingly with lingering smokiness, leaf litter, minerality, and the bittersweet taste of mild rolling tobacco. After a while, the taste of swimming pool water (though that’s not as bad as it sounds).

Wow – another indy bottling of Bruichladdich whisky that just piles on the weird and wonderful flavours.

This is a winner for me. It’s much more savoury than other wine maturation Port Charlottes (the PC6 was a sweet shop on the palate). Very long and lip smacking, and very drinkable at full strength. Great wood influence and a slightly calmer Port Charlotte peat smoke.

If you’ve a spare £129, you can pick this up from Master Of Malt.

Littlemill 22 (Cadenhead Small Batch)

caol_il_29Distillery: Littlemill
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1992
ABV: 53.7%
Cask: Bourbon
Bottler: WM Cadenhead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Yet another interesting bottle from Cadenhead’s! This has been on the shelf a while now but it felt like time to crack it open.

Nose: Waxy with sweet sawdust and wood resin, basil in butter, citrus flowers, icing sugar, and squeezed clementines.

Palate: Oily. Very oily. Fruit and spice – baked apple, elderflower, fresh bilberries leading to cloves and black pepper.

Finish: Long with a warming cinnamon burn and creamy oak.

Big! Fruity and spicy, but without a hint of sherry. Really very moreish and pleasant.

Octomore 07.2

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2015
Age: 5 years old
ABV: 58.5%
Cask: American oak, finished in Rhône Syrah Wine Casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s this year’s cask-finish Octomore, the travel retail exclusive 07.2 finished in French red wine casks which previously held wine made with those famously peppery Syrah grapes.

I’ve been wanting to try this for a while! These TREs from Bruichladdich can go for silly money so it took a while to source one at a sane price.

Nose: Opens with salty dark chocolate, orange wine gums, blackberries. Damp earthy peat bog leading to herbaceous lavender and dry basil. A faint sulphurous edge which, combined with the salt, reminds me of the smell you get when opening a pack of vacuum packed wafer ham.

Palate: Like someone peat-smoked a strawberry cheesecake! Viscous, golden barley syrup leads only to be t-boned by the Octomore signature peat juggernaut. As the peat fades you get the soft red fruit – strawberries and raspberries, with some kirsch cherry-chocolates

Finish: Long, lipsmacking oily peat with salt and pepper, and a touch of citrus. The peat’s very sticky – you can almost chew it. Slightly ashy, like the mouthfeel after a cigar.

Clean fruit meets dirty peat! I don’t like it as much as the 06.3 Islay Barley but it’s got a certain appeal for sure. That intense muddy peated chocolate character that runs through Octomore acts as a good backdrop for those red fruit high notes.

Another worthy experiment, Mr. McEwan.

I picked this up for about £88 on WhiskySite.nl – they’ve sold out now, but they do still have the 06.2 version for the same price.

Laphroaig 25 Cask Strength

Distillery: Laphroaig
Bottled: 2014
Age: 25 years old
ABV: 45.1%
Cask: Bourbon and Oloroso Barrels
More Info: WhiskyBase

Always fun tasting an older Laphroaig! That peat smoke tends to calm down and let those fruit notes come through…

Nose: Candy floss, minty mouthwash, coal tar soap, bandages, peaches and candied orange peels, all against a faint and far-away wood smoke. Antique wooden furniture, dust and polish.

Palate: Creamy, tangy peat smoke wraps more citrus notes – lime and mandarin, developing a bitter grapefruit quality. Quite chalky and mineral-rich.

Finish: Drying with ashy smoke and burnt coffee beans.

Nowhere near as fruity and summery as the 18. The sherry cask influence gives this a much more savoury edge with heavier fruit and wood notes.

All in all, it’s very elegant. The palate’s quite straightforward, but the nose is very complex with a well-aged Islay feel that conjures up images of refined living in dusty antique studies by open fireplaces.

It reminds me of Port Ellens and Caol Ilas of similar age, which I didn’t expect as they’re both light and delicate distillates compared with the darker, dirtier, punchier peaty power associated with Laphroaig.

Be tempted to get a bottle, if I could afford it!

You can buy the Laphroaig 25 Cask Strength online from a variety of UK-based retailers. I ordered my sample from WhiskySite.nl for €17.99.