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.

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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.

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.

Douglas Laing’s Epicurean

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 20.02.38Bottler: Douglas Laing
Region: Lowlands
Age: Unknown
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the latest regional blend from indy bottler, Douglas Laing.

“The Epicurean” steps up to represent the Lowlands region, alongside “Big Peat” for Islay, “Scallywag” for Speyside, “Timorous Beastie” for the Highlands and “Rock Oyster” for the Islands.

Some of them are completely up-front about their blending components and some aren’t. The Epicurean remains enigmatic about the source malts that have gone into this blend but the Lowlands region isn’t exactly stuffed full of distilleries so maybe we can work it out…

Nose: Very young. Grappa and yeast, sourdough, rock salt. Lots of unripe fruit – crab apples and green bananas. After breathing, some stewed baking apple and even a whiff of smoke and cured meat.

Palate: Grassy and green with barley sugar and sour cherry. Touch of banana bread then becoming quite hot and spicy. Numbing cinnamon and cloves with a milky chalkiness akin to those candy necklaces you get in sweet shops.

Finish: Quite short with liquorice root and a little peppermint tea.

Dear, oh dear. As a fan of Laing’s blends on the whole, this one falls flat for me.

This chap’s far too young to be an epicurean. It’s just barely beyond new-make spirit in terms of flavour profile and really lacking in the regional traits that I know the Lowlands for – floral, buttery, delicate and subtle.

As for which distilleries may be in the blend… given the price tag of this, I doubt whether much malt from silent distilleries has made its way into the blending tun. Perhaps a minute splash of Littlemill, like the dab of Port Ellen they put into the Big Peat.

Daftmill have never yet sold any of their whisky and Annandale spirit isn’t legally whisky until 2018. That leaves Ailsa Bay, Auchentoshan, Bladnoch, or Glenkinchie.

Given the slightly smoky nose, cinnamon palate and youthfulness I’d wager there’s a fair chunk of Ailsa Bay in this blend. It is a little grassy to start with, which makes me think Bladnoch’s in there too.

Wherever the components came from, I can see this being a lot more interesting after more time in the barrel.

They really need to give this little bruiser some time to get potty trained, colour in some books, discover music, rebel against the establishment, dye its hair, move out, discover tweed and armchairs and settle into a dusty bookshop with its long term partner, Graham.

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.

Andy’s Pick ‘n’ Mix

Thanks to Andy for these samples. I drained these ages ago but I’ve finally typed up my tasting notes…!

Producer: Hamish Robertson & Co
ABV: 43%
Age: 5 years old
More Info: Master of Malt

These are always fun – a blended whisky from the 1960s. You can find bottles like this on a lot of auction sites and they tend to sell for a lot less than you might imagine, taking a backseat to all the high flying single malts.

Nose: Malty caramel, candle wax,  menthol, and pears. A gentle floral edge develops after a while.

Palate: Syrupy! Very rich and rounded malty flavour with more menthol and a little pepper mint.

Finish: Quite short with black pepper.

This, as with many blends, is all about the core malt flavour. It’s soft and sweet, like nectar with no hard edges or dominating notes. Very drinkable and smooth, much moreso than modern low-end blends where the malt content has dropped dramatically since the 1960s.

 

Royal Culross 8 year old Blended Malt 1972

Distillery: Glen Scotia
ABV: 43%
Distilled: 1972
Age: 8 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

Don’t know a great deal about what’s in this, besides it being put together by the Glen Scotia distillery in Campbeltown in the seventies…

Nose: Orchard smells of ripe apples and pears, with desserty notes of custard. There’s a dessert-wine character to the aroma too – sweet juicy grapes.

Palate: Very appley. Tart and crisp cider, with cinnamon spice and ripe barley grain. Reminiscent of Irish whiskey, with a gristy, unmalted barley note.

Finish: Toasted nuts and warm oak with a lingering apple edge and a touch of pepper spice.

I wonder if there’s any Macallan in this… Very nice malt, and quite three dimensional for a blend.

 

Longmorn 20 Year Old Single Cask

Distillery: Longmorn
Bottler: Whisky Broker
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1992
ABV: 55%
Age: 20 years old
Cask: Sherry Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Good old Whiskybroker. You can get some very nice whiskies (by the cask, as well as by the bottle) at very reasonable prices indeed. This one’s a sherried Longmorn.

Nose: Orange candy, pine resin, pencils, barley mash, freshly ground hazelnuts and a pinch of ginger.

Palate: Crystalised white grape sugar, malty bread, and toasted oak with rising nutmeg and anise spices. Becomes drying and fruitier with water – a plummy note comes through.

Finish: Tingly and peppery.

Great nose on this, and the palate gets better with water. At 55% ABV it’s a little too fierce but maybe watered down to 45%-50% and it’s perfect.

 

Springbank 19 year old (Master of Malt)

Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Master of Malt
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1993
ABV: 55.2%
Age: 19 years old
More Info: WhiskyBase

I love an indy bottling of Springbank! MoM’s single cask bottlings usually sell out quickly and have a good reputation for quality cask choice.

Nose: Sticking plasters, cough syrup, and leather with smoked caramel and pebble beach.

Palate: Oily, sweet, and salty with rich malt and cinder toffee. Cinnamon in custard, with a slow-rising, lip-tingling chilli oil burn.

Finish: Oak and smoke, with hazelnuts.

Balls to salted caramel latté – if you want an oily, malty, coastal zing then this is the whisky for you. My word, do they know how to do whisky at Springbank. Another cask well chosen, chaps!

 

Caol Ila G&M 2001 Cask Strength

Distillery: Caol Ila
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 2001
Bottler: Gordon & Macphail
ABV: 59.2%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Refill sherry butts
More Info: WhiskyBase

Gordon & Macphail have a ridiculously large catalog of whiskies. One of Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers, they’re still owned and managed by the Urquhart Family. Well worth a look at their offerings, and the prices are usually very reasonable.

Nose: Beach bonfire, salty clifftops, sawdust, motor oil, buttery kippers.

Palate: Coal dust, cough drops, with custard creams and sweet milky fudge.

Finish: Salty black liquorice.

Yummy – great coastal peat notes here. No citrus, which is unusual for Caol Ila. Tasting blind I think I’d have pegged this as an Ardbeg – that coal dust flavour’s really full-on, like you’ve actually licked a coal scuttle.

 

All done! Thanks again, Andy – some cracking drams there.