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.

Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage

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Time to bring out The Good Stuff. Gordon & Macphail have kindly released a set of five samples from their superb Rare Vintage range just for us lucky Tweet Tasters to tuck into.

Gordon & Macphail have been bottling whisky in Speyside for over a hundred years. A proud family-run business, their back catalog of casks is mind-boggling. More than most bottlers, they’re really able to produce some exceptionally unusual vintages that give us mere mortals the chance to taste whisky from distilleries we know and love but in a much different, older form.

We’ll be starting in 1985 and winding the time machine back through the decades, all the way to 1954. What a treat this is. We begin our journey in the Highlands…

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Balblair 1985

Casks: Two bourbon refills
Age: 30 years old
Distilled: 14th January 1985
Bottled: 27th January 2015
ABV: 43%

We start off with the youngest of the five, a mere whippersnapper at 30 years old. Fun fact – I was in-utero when this was distilled.

Balblair distillery is in Edderton and has been running since 1895. The distillery and production methods have changed very little over the years.

This bottling is the marriage of two bourbon casks, #245 and #246.

Nose: Dusty fruity sherbet powder. Creamy. Waxy green apples, limes, a strawberry fool. Grilled pineapple. Lots of sweet vanilla oak. Honeysuckle blossom. Wet peppermint leaves, and a touch of fresh basil. Very classy – clean, floral, and fruity.
Palate: Wafts of honey with an undertone of muscavado sugar and caramel. There’s a rising tingle of baking spices and a tang of pineapple juice with nutmeg and cream. Overall it’s very round and soft. Gentle.
Finish: Gingerbread and black pepper with fresh hazelnuts.

An absolute belter, this. I love old bourbon matured whisky and this has all the hallmarks with a sweet vanilla creaminess and some gorgeous fruit notes.

This is available for a very reasonable £192 from The Whisky Exchange. Cracking price for a 30 year old whisky of this quality.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-46-08Smith’s Glenlivet 1974

Cask: Bourbon and Sherry refills
Age: 33 years old
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 18th February 2008
ABV: 43%

Our second whisky is Smith’s own “The Glenlivet”. This distillery came to typify Speyside so much that other distilleries added “Glenlivet” to their names for many years.

Nose: Dried apricots, sticky prunes, sandalwood, paprika. A completely different beast to the Balblair with a noticeable (but not overstated) sherry influence.
Palate: A lovely fruit progression: Freshly squeezed orange becoming soft mango, then revealing stewed plums that evolve into tart blackberries. Wow! Blackberry jelly with black pepper – very dark. Oily and custard-like on the tongue.
Finish: Dry tobacco, dark chocolate, and blueberries.

Poised and gracefully balanced. The sherry here really enhances the spirit, adding a lot of dark fruit notes to what seems to be a light and citrusy core spirit. Loverly stuff.

You can pick this up for £408 on The Whisky Exchange.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-48-29Glen Grant 1966

Cask: Four refill bourbon casks, 1 first-fill sherry
Age: 45 years old
Distilled: 1966
Bottled: 16th July 2012
ABV: 40%

Here’s a whisky that came off the still in 1966, the year The Beatles released “Strawberry Fields”, “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Penny Lane” and I believe also some important English sporting victory…

Nose: Loads of fresh fruit here. Fresh melon slices, kiwi, Golden Delicious apples. Lychee and fizzy oak. Car air freshener. A touch of celery in there, oddly.
Palate: This is insanely good. Like an oak-aged can of Lilt. Pineapple fritters, bon-bons, lemon sherbets, green tea, candied oranges and a ton of soft, creamy oak.
Finish: It lasts, and lasts. Fruit creams, white chocolate, brown sugar. Drying, ashy oak.

This is like an unpeated Port Ellen. Wow, wow, and wow. Easily, easily, the best whisky of the line-up for my money with some incredible tropical fruit notes and it’s oh-so-smooth and easy to drink. One word review: phwoar.

This is a total bargain at £585 from the Whisky Exchange, and I really mean that. You’ll not find a whisky pushing fifty years old of this quality for less.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-49-52Strathisla 1965

Cask: 1st Fill Sherry
Age: 50 years old
Distilled: 9th December 1965
Bottled: 20th January 2016
ABV: 43%

Onto the seriously elderly whiskies now with the Strathisla 1965 – a fifty year old that was filled into a single 1st-fill sherry puncheon.

You don’t see a great deal of Strathisla about – the distillery bottlings can be found in the shops but a lot of the output goes into blends, particularly Chivas Regal.

So how’s fifty years in sherry going to flavour the spirit?

Nose: Big, big sherry. Wax, chestnuts, crystallised ginger and wood polish. Supermarket cola, Medjool dates, dark rum, black liqourice, coffee beans and old waxed leather.
Palate: Raspberry syrup, herbal tea. Very, very drying indeed. Mince pies with a lot of cloves. Bitter marmalade on granary bread. Cocoa dust.
Finish: Cloves with oak and black pepper.

Great nose but bitter on the finish. Alas, I think too much time in the cask here, much as it’s a delight to taste a whisky of this vintage. It has to be the classiest and most important sherry bomb I’ve ever tasted…. yet.

Again, The Whisky Exchange comes to the rescue offering this ancient Strathisla at £658.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-20-03-03Mortlach 1954

Cask: 1st fill sherry butt
Age: 58 years old
Distilled: 27th January 1954
Bottled: 20th November 2012
ABV: 43%

Here’s the grand finalé – a staggering 58 year old whisky from Mortlach that was distilled in the year that rationing finally ended after the second world war.

Interestingly, the spirit is almost triple-distilled (2.81, to be precise, because the distillery’s six stills are different shapes and sizes!). I wonder how that’ll effect such an extended maturation.

Nose: Loads of sherry but very different to the Strathisla. There’s a lovely salty quality with musty damp wood. Some typical sherry dark fruits: plums, dates, figs. Honeyed ham, oil paints, cold ashes, mossy dry stone walls. Mint leaves and blackberry jam. Gosh… this is astonishing.
Palate: Oooh, yes. Dry and floral. Tobacco leaves with blackcurrant and strawberries. Sloe gin. There’s a core of violet petals lurking in there and it just jumps right out at you! A rush of barrel spice – nutmeg and sweet baked peppers.
Finish: Fruity smoke, cranberries and cured cheeses.

This isn’t a tired cask – it’s still kicking! And not your typical sherry bomb either; there’s a great earthy and savoury complexity running through the floral, fruity surroundings. Very impressive indeed.

If you feel like buying a whisky distilled when Churchill was still the Prime Minister then trot over to Whisky Online and pony up a mere £1,500 for a piece of liquid history.


Thanks!

Wow, what a journey this has been. Thanks so much to Gordon & Macphail for sharing these pieces of history with us and, as ever, thanks to Steve Rush for organising yet another triumphant tasting.

Wemyss Tweet Tasting: Batch Strength Editions

 

Oh, I do love what those folks at Wemyss Malts do. Their single cask bottlings are exceptional and their core range of blends is excellent.

So what about a cask strength line up of those core range blends? Ooooh, do tell me more. I was lucky enough to be on the tasting last year where they introduced the standard editions. It’s going to be fun tasting them at full cask strength!

The Hive Batch Strength 001

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-22-35-12Bottler: Wemyss Malts
Age: NAS
ABV: 54.5%

In to start with is the cask strength counterpart to Wemyss’ “The Hive” blend, a sweet honeyed dram that’ll have all the Highland malt fans sitting up and paying attention.

Nose: Surprisingly…honey! That light, runny supermarket stuff. Boiled toffee sweets. Menthol. Throat sweets. A whiff of the coast with wax jacket, salty air, and chalky cliffs. There’s an orangey, beery thing happening. Like a pint of Blue Moon with a slice of orange in it. Very three dimensional.
Palate: Sweet, exuberant, and spicy. Honeycomb, yellow sultanas, menthol, and sweet fizzing oak. Orange pith. Waxy and luscious on the tongue.
Finish: Easter egg chocolate, more runny honey and a tingly black pepper numbness.

It’s young and kicking this one. Lots of fun to drink and with bags more going on than it’s bottle strength counterpart.

 

Spice King Batch Strength 001

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-22-34-56Bottler: Wemyss Malts
Age:
NAS
ABV: 
56%

Up next is the Spice King, a very popular blend since its release a few years ago. So how is the full cask strength edition compared with the standard release?

Nose: Meaty with a sweet edge. A strong, peppery, smoky quality, too. Salt and pepper pork ribs. Dark, sticky prunes. Chargrilled pineapple. Salted caramel cake served with roast potatoes (weird, yes, but good weird). Wow.
Palate: Toffee apples with sweet cinnamon. Warm vanilla syrup. Cigar tobacco, mellow oak, smooth caramel. Not as spicy as the name would lead you to think!
Finish: Warm, long, and comforting. Rice pudding with nutmeg. Faint oak.

This is a lovely, complex, rich whisky that warms the cockles of your heart.

Peat Chimney Batch Strength 001

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-22-34-39Bottler: Wemyss Malts
Age: NAS
ABV: 57%

The final dram is the heavily peated “Peat Chimney” blend – an Islay blend special with a ton of beautiful smoky notes to enjoy.

Nose: Cured gammon over a pine log fire. Smoky and sweet. Roasted sweetcorn. Black coffee with cloves and treacle. A touch of o-zone with muddy boots and dry stone walls.
Palate: Boom! There’s the peat. Burnt lemons, followed by caramelised seaweed coated in hot butter. A mug of Ovaltine. Wafts of dry, hot smoke revealing sweet plum flesh and chilli peppers.
Finish: Very tingly, almost chewy peat. Cashew nuts and sweet peppers.

Oh yes. This is a rush. Loads of peat but balanced so well by a host of complementary flavours. I really do like this.

 

Rob Roy Cocktail

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And finally… Wemyss have treated us Tweet Tasters to a pre-mixed cocktail: A Rob Roy made using the heavily peated Peat Chimney blend.

In a nutshell: Sweet smoky cherries. The smoke really balances the sweetness and the cherry bitters and PX give it a rounded texture and complexity. Very compelling indeed. I’m not usually a cocktail drinker but this is very pleasant… Bravo!

As ever, many thanks to Steve Rush at The Whisky Wire for organising and thank you to Wemyss Malts for letting us taste your lovely blends. All the blends are available to buy from Wemyss’ directly.

 

The Half Century Blend

Bottled: 2016
Number of Bottles: 768
ABV: 45.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Far back in the mists of time, there existed an extraordinary era of whisky production where distilleries were unbridled by accountants and the constant demand for efficiency.

Whiskies produced in the 1960s and before display altogether different properties whether long-aged in barrel or in antique bottlings. The spirit production was slower with smaller yields but this more considered approach lead to a style of whisky that people are increasingly pining for.

To quote the chaps at The Blended Whisky Company,

“The result of all this inefficiency, waste and lost commercial-opportunity? Flavour, subtlety, poise, an incredible depth of fruit-character and a beguiling, ethereal quality sadly missing from many of today’s whiskies.”

This isn’t their first foray into exquisitely old and rare blends. Their Lost Distilleries blend and “The Golden Age” have each won multiple awards over the years so they really do know what they’re doing. This time around they’re decidedly tight-lipped as to the constituents. Maybe if we ask nicely they’ll give us a clue…

This blend is comprised entirely of whiskies aged for fifty years or more. That’s bonkers. You simply don’t get many chances to taste something like that. The challenging question is: is fifty years too much? Can the spirit stand up to that much oak?

God, I can’t wait to find out…

Colour: Amber – not as dark as you might expect for the age.

Body: Very viscous – thick beads and long legs.

Nose: Fruity and resinous. Apple blossom, brandied cherries, crème anglaise. Very clean, like fresh laundry, but with a spirity marker pen edge. As it opens up, there’s a little milk chocolate, sultanas, allspice, and fragrant wood resin. Cor, this is well layered.

Palate: Beautiful soft delivery with a promise of pepper that never quite stands up to the velvety oak. Yes, the decades in the cask has certainly left this feeling oaky but certainly not tired. There’s sweet satsuma, malty toffee, fiery gingerbread, warm strudel and viscous ice cream.

Finish: It just goes on… Warm, chewy oak with toasted coconut flakes and vanilla cream. Twenty minutes later and I can still taste it.

This is absolutely delicious. Very easy to drink (I found it needs no water) with a lot of classy whisky notes and plenty of character left after such an extended maturation. A tumbler of this in a wingback chair by an open fire and you’d be left wanting for nothing.

This stunning blend is available from today for the very reasonable price of £599.95 from those lovely chaps at Master of Malt. You can also find it at Amathus, Amazon, Harvey Nichols, Hedonism, and Ocado.

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.

Lakes Distillery Cask Sample

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 09.53.24Distillery: Lakes Distillery
Age: 1 year
ABV: 63.4%
Cask: First-Fill Bourbon (Heaven Hill)
Cask Number: 2015/#23

Now this is a proper treat – a preview taster of the Lakes Distillery’s malt spirit after a year or so in the barrel!

Founded by Paul Currie (who also co-founded the Isle of Arran distillery) the Lakes Distillery at Bassenthwaite first ran spirit off their stills in late 2014 to much local fanfare.

Let’s see how it’s coming on…

Colour: White wine

Nose: Delicate and floral with apple blossom and sweet hay. Soft, creamy egg custard and sliced banana. A whiff of salty lime skin. With water it opens up with: poached pear, choux pastry, hazelnuts and sultanas. After some time, mineral rich white wine akin to Chablis.

Palate: Perfectly drinkable at cask strength. Very creamy with old fashioned barley sugar boiled sweets. With water, apple and pear flesh – very clean and light – then a rising menthol spice with bitter grapefruit.

Finish: Creamy oak, more hazelnuts, and a touch of white chocolate.

This is a really fabulous spirit. It has a lot of unsherried Speyside character to it: floral, clean, and creamy. At only a year old, this bodes very well for older expressions.

If you’re planning a holiday to the lakes (or just fancy a detour from the monotony of the M6) then it’s well worth a visit.

Thanks very much to John Drake for the sample.