Ardbeg Day 2013 “Ardbog”

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 52.1%
Cask: Ex-bourbon & Manzanilla sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another year, another Ardbeg Day release!

This is an older example from back in 2013 and is a salute to the peaty marshlands on Islay. The thing about this bottling that piques my interest is the Manzanilla cask finish. Ardbeg whisky is no stranger to a sherry cask, but almost always of the PX/Oloroso end of the spectrum.

Manzanilla is a much lighter style of sherry, more savoury and even (I think) a little bit salty. Consumed cold, it’s a thirst quencher on a hot day in the same way a cold pint is.

So how will a coastal pale sherry marry with a coastal peated whisky? Let’s find out.

Nose: Sweet blackberries, coal dust, leather and dry leaves. A coastal breeze with a touch of bread dough and marzipan.

Palate: Red fruits: cranberries, redcurrants, raspberries; giving way to a whoosh of coal dust and wood smoke, then followed by salty caramel and peppery oak.

Finish: Quite dry and ashy with dark chocolate and vanilla oak.

I’ve been a fan of this ever since I first tried it. Oddly, in the smoking lounge at the Four Seasons in Hamburg over a cigar (as you do, like).

It has a lot of the hallmarks of Uigeadail but the fruitiness of the sherry is balanced out with a good spectrum of savoury flavours, becoming dry and lip-smacking on the finish. There’s even a touch of yeastiness, which I’d associate with a pale sherry, so that tallies with the cask choice.

Overall, this is bloody lovely. A less sweet Uigeadail with tons of depth and a lovely dry finish. Delicioso!

You can still pick this up on the secondary market for about £140+

Ardbeg Supernova 2019 Committee Release

Distillery: Ardbeg
Bottled: 2019
Age: NAS
ABV: 53.8%
Cask: Ex-bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another space whisky has landed! Ardbeg’s 5th edition of Supernova promises to be “an abduction of the senses”. Where are Mulder and Scully when you need them?

I’m generally a big Ardbeg fan. Their whiskies have this great oily quality to them – sometimes mechanical, sometimes more like chocolate syrup or thick black coffee. There’s smoke too, granted, but it’s not the peat-smoke that conjures up muddy bogs or TCP – it’s more a faint backdrop of smoky logs on which other flavours can build.

Let’s put it in the glass!

Nose: Very coastal and briny with dark bonfire toffee, coal dust, fresh mineral oil. A touch of cocoa powder and acrylic paint.

Palate: Seriously thick and oily. Smoked caramel with cardamom pods and seaweed, becoming ashy and peppery.

Finish: Lip-smacking and long. That coastal oiliness just keeps going.

This is the best Ardbeg I’ve had in years! It’s intensely coastal but also well-balanced with sweet, briny, smoky flavours working in harmony.

Arbdeg’s NAS releases can divide opinion, particularly with odd cask choices and bordering-on-ridiculous marketing. This release is a showcase of what the distillery can do so well: a powerful mix of coastal notes and peat but with a great depth and complexity that draws you in and effortlessly puts a smile on your face.

My bottle is disappearing fast and I shall be very sad to see it go.

This went on sale on the Ardbeg site at £140 and is available on other online shops for £200+.

Glenmorangie Bacalta

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + heavily toasted Madeira wine casks
Bottled: 2017
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Another release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition Series. I did enjoy the Milsean from earlier in the series so let’s see how this “sun-baked” member of the range lives up to expectation.

Nose: Sweet and lively. Apple sponge cake and fresh vanilla custard. Tart cider apples, Madeira wine (yes, that sticky, dark flavour is very distinct), and a whiff of tinned peaches.

Palate: More vanilla custard and soft fruit: pears, apples, peaches. Cinnamon and white pepper develop through the mid palate with a touch of dry white wine and pouring cream.

Finish: Quite short with drying vanilla oak.

This is a very pleasant dram, though not astonishing. I enjoy the fruitiness of the nose very much but the palate’s rather too cask-led for me with predictable vanilla and cake notes. I’d be pleased with this for £40 a bottle, but not £80.

Another marketing-driven whisky, alas.

Thanks very much to Andy at Malt Box for sharing this with me. If you’re interested in trying it, there are still bottles available on Master of Malt for £77.95.

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.

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.

Glenmorangie Milsean

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 20.39.46Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + retoasted wine casks
Bottles: 30,000
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Glenmorangie recently released this limited edition “Milsean” bottling amid a mild furore of whether or not their re-toasted wine casks constituted as “added flavouring” (banned by the SWA as it contravenes the definition of a Scotch).

Allegedly the wood was still wet with wine and the toasting caramelised the remnants, hence the sweet shop profile and old-fashioned ice cream parlour decor of the bottle and box. Given that the industry allows caramel colouring, I think it’s more than a little hypocritical to lay these accusations at Bill Lumsden’s feet!

Regardless, they didn’t uphold their misgivings and it got the green light to be released. It’s not age statemented, but it is non chill filtered and bottled at 46% (without E150 colouring too).

Nose: Takes a while to open up but it evolves well in the glass. Very clean. As predicted, lots of fruity candy notes: Orange pith, dusty sherbet, hard candy, pear skin, lemon drops, wine gums, apple peel, peach gums. Suddenly there’s coconut ice cream! Very nice.

Palate: Vanilla bean, chilled bananas, and malt sugar with a prominent oakiness developing. Some barrel spice: white pepper and liquorice. Watered down white wine (like ice cubes have melted in it, but in a nice way).

Finish: That oaky wood note really lasts and lasts with double cream and tingly pepper.

I like the nose a lot! The palate is a little unbalanced but I like that; Glenmorangie is usually very mellow and predictable so a few rough edges gives it an appeal that I enjoy. It’s a bit too woody, if I’m honest, but it’s definitely drinkable.

However, at £90 a bottle I think the marketing has overtaken the liquid. You can get really, really good Highland malts (like Pulteney 21) for less.