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.

Bowmore Tempest (Batch 5)

Screen Shot 2016-06-05 at 20.46.47Distillery: Bowmore
Bottled: 2014
Age: 10 years old
ABV: 55.9%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

I’m a massive Islay fan but Bowmore’s always sat apart from the other distilleries on the island for me.

Sure, it’s the oldest and so probably has the biggest claim to being the epitome of whisky from the region but something about it for me puts it in a different category.

The older Bowmores I’ve tried have tended to be stunning but so spectacularly expensive that they’re beyond the reach of us mere mortals. The younger, well, didn’t stand out much at all.

This bottling piqued my curiosity since it ticks a lot of boxes: It’s lightly peated, cask strength, small batch, cheap, NCF, colouring free, and matured for ten years in first fill Bourbon. Can’t knock any of that!

So how is it in the glass?

Nose: Massively citrus. Orange sherbet, tangerines, and lemons. A good whiff of coastal salt, bonfire ash, and chalky rocks. After a while, a little coconut ice and lime skin.

Palate: Rich, sweet, and malty with metallic tinned pineapple. More citrus, juicy and sweet: satsumas and bitter grapefruit. Tingly peat builds with numbing red pepper and an Opal-Fruits-esque synthetic fruit flavour.

Finish: Bowmore signature parma violets with a touch of earthy oaky peat and bitter lemon.

Mmmmmm. We have a winner.

That tropical citrus core character works well with the 1st fill Bourbon characteristics and the Bowmore smoke. This is absolutely worth buying a whole bottle of and I’m now keen to see how the other batches compare.

Thank you, Bowmore, for releasing a whisky that’s interesting, characterful and (most importantly) affordable.

At £45 per bottle on Master of Malt, this is cracking value and a perfect Summer dram for a warm evening as the sun sets.

Kilchoman Coull Point

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 20.34.13Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 2009
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon and Oloroso
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another airport treat here. I picked this up ages ago and decided to open it for World Whisky Day.

It took a little while to open up but after nearly a week I’m getting a ton more character coming through.

Nose: Oceanic and salty with a vegetal feel. Coltsfoot rock, sultanas, oily espresso and waxed leather. There’s a dusty earthiness with grist and dried herbs. With time, ready salted crisps and a whiff of tequila.

Palate: Luscious mouthfeel with a great balance of sweet and savoury. Peaty and rather Ardbeglike with the character of the smoke coming through as flavours of iodine and dark tar amid sweet notes of treacle, roasted hazelnuts, and burnt coffee.

Finish: Long and dry with bitter dark chocolate, sawdust, white pepper, and a wisp of earthy peat smoke.

This is a terrific whisky. Peaty, tasty, but subtle and evolving plenty in the glass over time.

Elements of the palate remind me of 70’s Ardbeg with its restraint and balance. I respect that’s very high praise for a whisky that’s only spent four years in wood but it turns out that you can get a very high quality distillate when you take the small batch farmyard approach and do things slowly and properly.

I picked this up for under £50 in Manchester Airport. It’s going for more than that online (a lot more in some cases). Keep an eye out for it if you fly via/to the UK, it’s well worth the RRP.

 

Lagavulin 8 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 20.09.28Distillery: Lagavulin
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Refill American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Medicinal and carbolic! Airfix glue, coal-tar soap, salt-dough, dried ham and a touch of moules marinière. Citrus peels and some sooty, ashy smoke.

Palate: Sweet lemon sherbet, barley sugar, and drying lapsang souchong smoke. Mulled wine spices: Clove, black pepper, cardamom. A little funky damp driftwood note and then bitter cocoa powder.

Finish: Long, chalky, and dry with more pepper, smoke, and creamy oak peeking through.

Very moreish. It has a young, fresh, zesty character – lighter than the 12 and less complex but more integrated and smooth. The smoke itself is very refined with trademark notes of tea and soot but the rest of the palate has that young and green character.

I’m a fan of this, and I think Diageo did well releasing it at 48%ABV. It’s a more affordable non-sherried Laga and if you like young Islay notes and savoury drying smoke then this will definitely do it for you.

Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.16.22Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 57.8%
Cask: European Oak (Cognac Cask)
More Info: WhiskyBase

Hello, hello! A cask-strength Port Charlotte release…

The PC series proved immensely popular in travel retail and now we’re onto vintages: the 2007 Cognac Cask. Always complex, never boring, and a very tempting reason to book a holiday this year.

Nose: Loving the dry, earthy Port Charlotte smoke here! Drifting through the peat we get aromas of mango pulp, dried apricot, peach, kiwi, mandarin and lime skin. Great savoury notes too – soft rubber soles, smoked cheese, roast potatoes, rosemary, and rock salt. I’ve been nosing for ten minutes and it’s still fascinating.

Palate: Campfire smoke, candied orange, more mango pulp, plums, raspberry then a whoosh of sea salt and the drying, mineral-rich peat steps in with juicy sweet malt, vanilla, and milky coffee. Wowser.

Finish: Ashy and savoury with salted cashews.

Excellent stuff, this. Reminds me of a PC valinch bottling I picked up on Islay – full of distillery character with fruit, smoke and malt beautifully interwoven and a complete bargain for the RRP.

I think Adam Hannett’s found a sweet spot here agewise for cask-strength Port Charlotte.

Can’t wait to see what comes next…

The Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 is available from World Duty Free for £67.99.

Bruichladdich “The Laddie Eight”

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 11.16.06Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016
Age: 8 years old
ABV: 50%
Cask: European and American Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

The Laddie Ten was one of the first truly exceptional single malts I ever tried, way back in Edinburgh in 2012. A whisky tasting was thrown in as a fun round-off to a technical conference and one of the Bruichladdich reps talked us through three expressions from the pre-Remy core lineup.

With the 10-year-old being pulled back to a distillery-only release recently it’s great to see another Laddie making its way onto the core lineup. With global demand still incredibly high for Scotch, an eight-year-old malt is a more sustainable age to meet the demand without resorting to multi-vintage bottlings.

Bruichladdich’s attitude to NAS bottlings is exemplary, though. They’ve always been open about the age of the whisky in the bottle (even if it’s not on the bottle, they make it known in the online literature) and their solidarity with Compass Box regarding the SWA ruling on showing “too much information” is heartwarming to see.

Nose: Fresh barley grass! Very sweet and lively. Delicate straw, candy-floss, lemon drizzle cake, and butterscotch. A whiff of eucalyptus, pear skin and granny smith, then faint salty shells and sand.

Palate: Luscious. That signature slow-distilled Laddie spirit, thick and buttery on the tongue. The flavour’s led by more fresh barley, sweet toffee, vanilla, and a touch of caramel biscuit then big waves of warming chai tea spices roll in – ginger, clove, black pepper, cinnamon. As it breathes in the glass, wafts of raspberry and peach come through

Finish: Warming and spicy with buttery oak and a salty, foamy edge.

Ahhh – fruity, malty, salty and so buttery on the tongue. Good stuff, Mr Hannett. I shall be keeping an eye out for this next time I’m at the airport!

The Bruichladdich Eight is available now from World Duty Free for £44.99.