...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Craigellachie 14 year old 2000 Old Malt Cask, cask 10892

Craigellachie Week began, yesterday, with the vibrant, zesty 13 year old official bottling. That one was from refill ex-bourbon casks. Today's Craig is from a single sherry butt bottled by Hunter Laing in the Old Malt Cask range. I bought this sample (amongst many others) from Master of Malt a month before InBev took them over and further damned Americans' access to scotch whisky.

Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Old Malt Cask
Age: 14 years (Feb 2000 - Oct 2014)
Maturation: Sherry Butt
Cask #: HL10892
Bottles: 680
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

The nose is intensely earthy and herbal at the start. Roots, leaves and grass. Lemons and teeny bit of vanilla. Hints of wet cardboard and menthol. On the palate, it's tobacco, bitter herbs, limes and silky toffee pudding. More limes and herbs with time. Lingering smoke and some chili oil heat. One can really feel the citrus in the big finish, along with the nose's dusty earthy note. The toffee has its moment, but that earthy thing expands with time.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Let us gaze upon the bottler's tasting notes:
Not only do those notes sound oaky and unappealing to me, they also read like generic American oak sherry cask stuff. One can get those flavors and smells from many whiskies. There's no need to go to Craigellachie for them. Also, see "smooth".

The good news is, my notes are nearly the opposite of Laing's. It's not a perfect whisky. I could have done without the cardboard note, and the palate was much tamer than the entertaining nose. But this is the kind of dirty sherry cask Craigellachie I'm in the market for, as opposed to the sherry cask something from the official notes.

Availability - Maybe a few continental Europe retailers
Pricing - ~€80
Rating - 86

Monday, September 17, 2018

Craigellachie Week begins with Craigellachie 13 year old

I could say I've always liked Craigellachie, but I've really only tried four Craigellachie single malts. Only one of those four were disappointing, but I think that was more of a Dimensions problem than a Craigellachie problem. The other three Craigs didn't behave like clean crowd-pleasing Speysiders. Yes there was fruit, and they were all well textured, but they each had something dingy underneath while herbs and wax and cereal notes floated above.

It's time for me to further explore this distillery. This week I'm going to review five Craigellachies. You'll notice there are no NASes or single-digit whiskies here. Each have some age on them. And most are from sherry casks.



First up is the official 13 year old, rolled out to the market by Bacardi in 2014. Like its mates in the Craig range, it has a proper 46%abv + no chill-filtration + no colorant presentation. And they all come from American oak casks, exclusively. The 13 is just refill casks, so someone's got some pride over there at Bacardi.


Distillery: Craigellachie
Ownership: Bacardi
Region: Central Speyside
Age: minimum 13 years
Maturation: refill American oak
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Sample gifted by St. Brett of Riverside. Thanks, Brett!)

The nose starts off with peaches, apricots, saltwater and chocolate malt. There's an exotic citrus note — can't put my finger on the fruit — but it's a stinger. A whiff of hot tar. It gets maltier with time, picking up a slight raspberry candy note. The palate is warm, malty and grassy. There's a great trio of mellow herbal bitterness + light sweetness + lemons that lasts throughout. Another hint of something tarry and phenolic. The long finish ditches the sweetness altogether. It's malty, salty, herbal, peppery with gentle bitterness and citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This whisky has triggered some curious reactions. Serge tried it twice, had issues with it twice, finding it too raw. Ruben of Whiskynotes was similarly unimpressed. Meanwhile, Josh of The Whisky Jug thought it was great. After reading Josh's take on it, Andy (of LAWS and LASC fame) had me taste Craigellachie 13 blindly. We both were less enthusiastic about it than Josh. Now I try it four years later, and I like it. And per Andy's LAWS notes, it's grown on him as well.

I'll agree with Serge, this whisky is nearly oakless, which means the spirit runs free. But I dig it. It's much less raw than all the recent 5-8 year old single cask indies I've tried. And it's certainly more mature and complex than the Wolfburn bottlings that have received better reviews (but not from me).

Ignoring everyone's opinions, for a moment, I think we may all confirm that this is not an easygoing whisky. And if you're looking for oak, you'd be better off going with bourbon. Or one of many NAS single malts.

Availability - Many specialty liquor retailers worldwide
Pricing - $40-$70 (USA)
Rating - 86

Friday, September 14, 2018

Springbank 12 year old 2003 Single Cask, port pipe

Single cask Springbank releases are more frequent in Europe than they are in the US, and often considerably cheaper. The retailers than ship internationally aren't much help because their supply vaporizes amongst their expanded customer base. An American is left with two choices, either one can stare wistfully at each release announcement, or one can start a blog just so one can mooch off of one's better connected friends.

My friend Matt, who seems to have every single release, shared a sample of this single port pipe, a release I'd never heard of.


Judging by the bottle count, this was a proper port pipe. And though Springbank may practice similar "single cask" hijinks as GlenDronach, they have less motivation to do so. Glendronach finds itself under pressure to keep putting out rich sherry cask whisky every several months, while Springbank can announce the release a three year-old Hazelburn matured in a used colostomy bag and it would still sell out in a minute.

Okay, maybe not Hazelburn.

Now I will rinse my brain with cask strength single malt. Won't you join me?

^^^ Whisky Data!
NEAT
The whisky has an apricot gold color to it. A tawny port pipe, maybe? It's that fortified wine that's parked in the nose's foreground. Mixed berry compote, grape drink, agave nectar and candied citrus peels. Not much peat or smoke, if there's any at all. A metallic note appears after a bit. The port retreats in the palate, replaced by sooty smoke, chili oil and a wee farmy edge. There a subtle berry note to it, but the whisky's sweetness feels more honeyed than fruity. The 58.3%abv feels manageable. With time in the glass, the whisky gets farmier, and suddenly there are notes of black licorice and unaged rye. The finish has that chili oil and soot, and a little of the rye. The sweetness stays mild and there are small notes of blueberry jam and tart lemons.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1.5tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The metallic note gets much louder in the nose, and is joined by little bit of charcoal barbecue smoke. There's still plenty of pretty stuff, like maraschino cherries, strawberry bubble gum, flowers and orange oil. The palate is farmy and grassy. Sweeter than before. Agave nectar, leather and cinnamon-y unaged rage. The finish is sweet and sooty and long. A little bit of cinnamon and seaweed-y peat.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
With its strength, cask, and (what used to be considered) youth, the whisky was expected to be expressive, and in that it does not disappoint. The ABV isn't too intrusive. Water doesn't open the whisky, so much as it calms it down. If you're wine cask-phobic, then the nose will put you off, but be brave and give it a sip because the spirit gets top billing in the palate. So, yes, this Springbank goes off in different directions, but all are decent and none are too extreme.

One thing I did notice this week, was that all three of these Springbanks read young. Which means they were neither overbaked nor entirely done baking. The sparring partners — Springbank Green 13 year old and this 10yo indie port cask — felt more mature and well-rounded. Yes, those two were not bottled at cask strength, but heat and tightness weren't the issues with the CSes. There's no conspiracy at hand, though. Each of this week's whiskies were distilled in different years and bottled at different times utilizing different casks. And with that, let's move on to a different distillery next week.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Springbank 1997 Vintage, batch 1


This relaxing tasting included Monday's 19yo 1991, the organic Green 13yo and today's whisky, the 1997 Vintage. Springbank released two batches of this "vintage", the first in 2007, the second in 2008. Batch 2 was from regular sherry casks, while the first batch was from re-charred sherry butts.

Back in 2014, whisky man Florin picked up a bottle of this stuff in Germany at a price of $84, and split it up. In the four years since, it's one of the very few Springbanks that haven't become outrageously expensive on the secondary market. Though one can find it at European shops for $200+, it's gone for ~$100 at auctions this year.

I bought 1/3rd of the bottle four years ago, and saved the last two ounces for a Taste Off such as this.


Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 9-10 years (1997 to June 2007)
Maturation: Recharred Sherry Butts
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 55.2%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose has some decent complexity for a whisky of its age. White peaches, roses, cocoa, plastic toys and moss up front. It gets both smokier and more floral with time, while developing a sugary citrus note. The palate feels bigger and more complex than the 1991. Orange sorbet, mild smoke and lots of oak spice. It has a savory and salty angle, tangy limes, cinnamon and burlap. Its finish is long and spicy with tangy limes and peppercorns.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼tsp per 30mL whisky
The nose shifts and expands, releasing notes of cherries, plum wine, dark chocolate and sugary peat. There are also smaller notes of roses and ocean air. The palate balances a grassy herbal side with a dried fruit and carob side. It gets sweeter with time. The finish is sweeter than the neat version, and warmer. Notes of anise, peat and roses.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The opposite of Monday's Springbank, this one is mostly cask, especially when neat. Still, the casks are good, reading more re-toasted than re-charred. There's more complexity when it's neat, but I enjoyed it more at 46%abv. Overall, it makes the Monday's '91 seem kinda crappy in comparison.

BUT, the Green 13yo won fair and square. And the current official 10 year old is both more complex and a better drink than this one. So I'd recommend both of those whiskies over batch one of the 1997 Vintage.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $100-$225
Rating - 86

Monday, September 10, 2018

Springbank 19 year old 1991-2011 Murray McDavid

I started some Springbank tastings last week, and I now I can't stop. So, how about three more this week? Yes? Good!

One bottle of Springbank Green 13yo was opened for the Kill Bottle event two weeks ago. Opening a bottle when trying to empty existing bottles makes a whole lot of sense. But from the first sip, I was reminded why I like Green 13yo so much. A week later, I set up a tasting of today's whisky, Wednesday's whisky and the Green 13yo. And it was good.

The oldest of the three was this 19 year old from Murray McDavid. Murray McDavid is probably best known for their "ACEing" (a branding(?) word for cask finishing), a practice of theirs that has produced some of the vilest whisky I've ever tried. This is one of their whiskies they — for whatever reason — chose to keep in one cask for its entire life.

Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Independent Bottler: Murray McDavid
Age: 19 years (1991 - 2011)
Maturation: refill sherry cask
Outturn: 559 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.1%
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Its color is very pale. How many refills did this cask weather? The nose shows anise, lime zest and LOTS of butter. In fact the butter note overwhelms all else. There's the occasional dried fruit note and some flowers. After 30 minutes, there are oranges, pears, rye new make and wet cardboard. The palate is sweet, peppery and more pleasant than the nose. Vanilla, cinnamon and mild heat. It picks up some industrial notes and arugula later on. It finishes tart, peppery, grassy and less sweet than the palate.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is farmier, more focused and without wet cardboard. Cinnamon hot candies and cinnamon coffee cake. Lemons and limes. The palate is puckeringly tart and peppery. Less sweet than before, with cinnamon, butter and acidic citrus. Butter in the finish as well. Lots of pepper and a generic tartness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, that was a nearly dead cask. The whisky read less than half its age, except not as fun. Dilution improves the nose and seems to wake up the palate. The finish neither soars nor sucks.

This whisky seems like it would have been the perfect candidate for a MMcD cask finish. I don't know why this one escaped their ACEing claws (or clause?). Perhaps they were out of first fill garbage barrels that day.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 79 (dilution preferred)

Friday, September 7, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 16 - 14 year old Ben Nevis and Blair Athol from 1978

Haven't had enough Birthday Booze posts? Great! Here's one more.

Step into my office...


In this episode, number 16, I compare a pair of Highland single malts that have the same age, distillation year and bottler; and I am very happy about it.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Springbank 15 year old 2000 Jamaican Rum Barrel for Springbank Society

On Monday I reviewed a single cask of 15 year old Springbank that was distilled in 2000. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the unspecified rum utilized to season that cask was not Jamaican. I come by this uneducated guess because I tried that whisky head-to-head with today's whisky, a Springbank aged in a Jamaican rum barrel.

For the readers out there who think every rum is tooth-rottingly sweet syrup, may I encourage you to try a Jamaican rum or two or three. Jamaican rum, especially Hampden, has more spunk, funk and wallop than nearly any whisky in production. Of course, it's getting tougher to find Hampden now that Whiskyfun lavishes every Hampden release with wild praise. Accordingly one should also anticipate rising prices.

But it's true what you hear. Hampden Estate, it's Esterrific!

There are at least a half dozen Jamaican distilleries other than the big H. So who knows what sat in this barrel first...
Distillery: Springbank
Brand: Springbank
Owner: Springbank Distillers Ltd.
Region: Campbeltown, on Well Close, just off of Longrow
Age: 15 years (November 2000 to October 2016, almost 16!)
Maturation: Jamaican Rum Barrel
Exclusive to: Springbank Society
Limited release: 228 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.2%abv
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No
(from a sample purchased via Sjoerd)

NEAT
The nose is grungier than Monday's whisky, though still sugary. There's a balance to it: limes, oranges, beef, hot dirty hay, subtle peat. It gets brinier and fruitier with time, picking up a brief whiff of sulphur. Woooo, the palate. Think young bourbon barrel Springbank + Smith & Cross + Thai chilies. Rich creamery butter. Cinnamon hot candies and sea salt. A smoke/fuel note. It gets grassier with time. More chilies in the finish, then salt, sugar, ethyl and tannins.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2/3tsp of water to 30mL whisky
The nose is cleaner, fruitier. A little bit of peat and sugar. Dried herbs and that flinty note. The palate is a lighter, sweeter take on the neat version. Some curry-ish spice rises up to make things more fun. The finish actually improves, with soil and tangy citrus join the heat-and-sweet party.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
While the gnarliest of Jamaican rums was not in play, there be hogo here. And that's fine, because when an aggressive cask is used the rum wins out, like in this Amrut thingy. Instead, this Springbank shows off some balance. The (whisky) spirit comes across more rugged than the usual 15yo Springbank, but that's what was needed, resulting in fruit and fuel and salt and spice. It's far from being an artful Springbank, but I don't say that as an insult. It's a vigorous creation, especially once the chile note kicks in. If you're vigor triggered, then dilution is key. I'd take this over Monday's whisky any day.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85