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.

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.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 (2nd Edition)

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-16-29-11Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016, Distilled: 2006
Age: 10 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 57.3%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, Grenache Blanc
More Info: WhiskyBase

Towards the end of 2016, Bruichladdich released a “Troika of Tens” – three exciting ten year old releases in limited quantities. One for the unpeated Bruichladdich, one for the heavily peated Port Charlotte, and one for the super heavily peated Octomore.

The last round had Jim McEwan’s signature on them; this one is adorned with the autograph of Mr Adam Hannett. I love Jim’s Laddies but Adam’s have consistently exceeded all expectations.

At £150, it’s definitely not an every day dram but I’d just paid off my student loan so that seemed a good enough cause for celebration…

Nose: This takes me straight to the Atlantic! Very mineral-rich and coastal: salt-crusted seashells, damp driftwood, and dark green seaweed. It smells like rain (the proper word for this is “petrichor”, according to Jake) and there’s a great chalky/waxy quality in there, too. I love Octomore, it always paints a picture – this is a walk on a beach on a typical Summer’s day in Scotland. With time, some fruit appears in the form of orange and lemon peel.

Body: Viscous and mouth-coating but not cloying. That slow-drip distillation combined with the cask strength really works wonders.

Palate: Ok, a lot happens here. Briefly sweet and tart like a crisp green apple. The thick mouthfeel cocoons the impending peat smoke briefly and then *whoosh* the smoke is released! It goes straight to your sinuses like a good blob of wasabi. The savoury/spicy food continues with salt and pepper beef in chilli oil – very drying and tingly. As the tingling subsides, lime chocolate creams, peppermint, liquorice, and a hint of soft fruit (think honeydew melons/kiwis)

Finish: Quite savoury with that trademark chewy, tooth-coating Octomore peat. Malty and peppery and very, very long.

Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they? I love Octomore at five years old, all kicking and feisty. This hasn’t lost any of its kick with the additional five years but it’s gained a wonderful structure and nuance that gets better with every sip.

There’s a lot to discover here. Well done, Adam –  an absolute belter!

You can pick up the Octomore 10 2nd Edition in the Bruichladdich Shop for £150.

Bruichladdich Laddie Five-O

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-13-18Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 47.7%
Bottled For: Feis Ile 2013
More Info: WhiskyBase

If you’ve ever been on Islay in May, you’ll know all about the reputation and buzz surrounding the Feis Ile bottlings from each of the eight distilleries on the island.

This bottling here represents something special – this is Jim McEwan’s liquid celebration of his fifty years in the whisky industry. Jim handed over the Bruichladdich baton to Adam Hannett in 2015 (and he’s doing a cracking job!) so bottlings like these won’t come by any more.

And given that it’s Christmas, I decided it was time to appreciate Jim’s legendary whisky talents. This is somewhat frustratingly released without an age statement but I’m confident it’s got some interesting older casks from the depths of the Laddie warehouses rolling around inside it.

Nose: A good mix of things here. Gingerbread, Scottish tablet, dusty wooden furniture, hard cheese rind, cherry skin, raspberries.

Body: Syrupy! Nice and viscous.

Palate: Tangy and sweet. Clementines, stem ginger, dark honey, cloves and cinnamon.

Finish: A soft (and slightly soapy) coastal tang with oak and marzipan.

Unusually, for a Bruichladdich special bottling, there’s nothing outrageous going on here at all.

However, what is going on is a really good solid, honest and well rounded whisky. It has all the hallmarks and core character of the distillery and it’s an easy sipping and classy flavour with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

You can pick this one up at auction or buy it on Amazon for £275.

Bruichladdich Infinity 03.1

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 21.57.01Distillery: Bruichladdich
Age: NAS
ABV: 50%
Cask: Temperanillo and Sherry Casks
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another Laddie distillery bottling – this one was part of a plethora of small experimental releases in the noughties as the distillery found its feet again after revival by Mark Reynier and Co.

This one’s a lightly peated (20PPPM) “multi vintage” expression matured in refill sherry barrels and temperanillo wine casks.

Nose: Reminiscent of cognac, yet coastal and sandy. Dusty plum skin, pine resin, bramble jam, lime zest, and tinned fruit. A good whiff of rubber soles and josticks.

Palate: Syrupy sour plums. Malty shortbread and fruit syrup wraps up a rising and spicy peat tang. Slightly unripe red grapes and sour apples with soy and aromatic chow mein.

Finish: Chalky with Brazil nut skins, salty smoke, and more lime zest. Slightly soapy at the end.

This took a while to grow on me but I’m finding the complexity more appealing. Loads of funky sherry notes, the kind that you’ll love or hate. Pleasingly coastal and warming with great mouthfeel at that higher strength ABV.

The trouble for me with this dram is the lack of integration. The Bruichladdich distillery character is recognisable (malty, coastal, limey) but the wine/sherry influence feels very separate – like the two flavour profiles don’t get on with each other.

Overall: A flawed-yet-entertaining expression. Worth trying as a curiosity.

You can find this on auction sites for well under £100. Pretty tin and a good edition to a Laddie collection.

Brewdog Paradox Islay

IMG_20160708_184117073_HDRBrewery: Brew Dog
Style: Imperial Stout aged in Islay Cask
ABV: 15%
More Info: Brew Dog

Who can resist a stout aged in an Islay malt cask? Yep, I sure can’t!

Ever the experimenters, let’s see if Brewdog have succeeded where others failed – peaty beers I’ve tried in the past have tended to be just too weird to be enjoyable.

Right-o, to the glass…

Nose: Damp Guinness-flavoured sponge cake. Iron filings. Liqourice root, chocolate fudge brownie, oak smoked meats.

Palate: Dark, rich and malty. Bourbon biscuits, thick sweet oily espresso, bitter citrus peel, and a rising oceanic peat (think crushed shells and dried peat bricks).

Finish: Tarry and ashen with a growing lip-smacking oakiness.

This is an interesting blend of two different worlds and one that I think Brewdog have pulled off beautifully.

The balance is masterful with enough peaty whisky flavour to make itself known but without overpowering the palate like other peaty beers. The stout itself is superbly indulgent – rich, chocolatey and velvet-smooth. That peat cask influence gives it that subtle twist to contrast against and bring out the depths of flavour.

Brewvo, Bradog.

Tweet Tasting: The Dram Team

dramteam

Another Tweet Tasting is upon us, and this time it’s the inaugural tasting pack from The Dram Team.

Each tasting pack produced will contain six drams sent by post and you can buy them one-off or subscribe to one per month. The first pack is a tasting tour of the six whisky regions of Scotland.

Up first, the contender for The Highlands…

 


Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.08.43Inchmurrin 18 Year Old

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Age: 18
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon 1st fill, refill, and re-charred
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Toffee, heather honey and cereal with green bananas and Ester-rich pear drops. Rum-soaked raisins and a malty beeriness. There’s a lot of funky notes incongruous with the style: pickled onions, soy sauce, Manzanilla, sulphur, and fermenting fruit.

Palate: Sour cider apples and green peppercorns. Beery malt and hops. Sourdough bread and grappa. Very young and new-make-ish for an 18 year old.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Frankly, for eighty pounds a bottle I know plenty of other 18 year old expressions I’d prefer to buy. This is a flawed whisky, full of new-make character and off notes. I’m a fan of unusual flavours (in fact I prefer whiskies that surprise me) but this isn’t the kind of surprise I enjoy…

Next up, the Lowlander…

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.17.30Distillery: Auchentoshan
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%
Cask: Bourbon, Oloroso and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Oloroso sherry notes, nutty and sweet. Hot cross buns. Cough mixture and cola cubes.

Palate: Looks viscous in the glass but it’s lighter on the tongue. Gentle barley sugar sweets, old fashioned cough mixture, and a rising pepper spice. Dusty sherry.

Finish: Oaky vanilla and rum raisin ice cream.

This isn’t bad, though it is somewhat over engineered. I prefer Auchentoshan as it comes out of the cask, without watering down, chill filtering, or caramel. This just tastes like whisky-flavoured whisky.

From Campbeltown now…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.17Glen Scotia Double Cask

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Soft cotton, like sheets out of the dryer. Freshly sliced banana. Dark sugar and cracked black pepper.

Palate: Thick and resinous. Bourbon barrel spice with vanilla, cinder toffee, and caramel sauce. Sweet and tasty.

Finish: Lipsmacking with gingerbread.

Amazing nose! Really impressed all round, for an affordable NAS this is eminently quaffable.

I’m definitely getting a bottle of this on pay day!

And weighing in from Islay, we have…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.33

Bowmore Darkest

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15
ABV: 43%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Leathery and coastal, like a wax jacket on a clifftop walk. Dark chocolate with prunes and dates. A little marzipan with tangy marmalade.

Palate: Sumptuous sherry with juicy raisins and figs giving way to that signature Bowmore floral peat.

Finish: Dry oak and flower petals.

A classic! One of the better sherried peaty whiskies on the market. If you like this, I also recommend a bottle of its cask strength cousin, Laimrig.

Up next, the Speyside candidate…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.57Glenfarclas 105

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Age: NAS
ABV: 60%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fierce! That ABV packs a punch. A drop of water reveals ripe apple flesh, and soft toffee. Really dark bitter cocoa and burnt treacle with a touch of rubber plimsol.

Palate: Café mocha with dark berries and orange peel. Creamy and spicy, like nutmeg in rice pudding.

Finish: Warm oaky chocolate.

Great value for the ABV. This is in the same league as A’Bunadh, a sherry bomb fresh from the barrel. Both need water in my opnion, so they’re almost like a whisky cordial. The ‘farclas is a more subtle and complex beast though, some great dark low notes in it.

Finally, we go to the Islands for the sixth dram of the night…

Highland Park 21 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.12.14Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 21
ABV: 47.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Calm and gentle, soft and delicate. Chamois leather with a hint of clifftop sea breeze petrichor. Fresh blossoms. There’s an ice cream van in the distance.

Palate: Divinely balanced. Smoky grilled pineapple with black pepper. Vanilla cream and condensed milk with a handful of baking spices and waxy fruit skin.

Finish: Peat smoke reveals itself with gentle wafts that stay with you long after your last sip.

Oh, wow. I love old Highland Park and this does not disappoint. Classy, balanced, delicious. Absolute heaven.