...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Laphroaig PX Cask

During that fateful second evening at Malt Bar South Park three years ago, Odin and I discussed the progression of Ardbeg's and Laphroaig's whisky over the past four decades. In fact, we may have segued from laughing about those two Islays' recent wacky casketry and spirit shifts to talking about Kavalan, then progressing to Omar. Thus when I finally got around to scheduling my tasting of two Omars, I elected to partner them with a current Laphroaig.

Laphroaig PX Cask is sold in big ol' litre bottles at many travel retail stores. Is it aged entirely in Pedro Ximémez casks? Of course not, that's not Modern Laphroaig. It's basically Triple Wood, but ending up in PX casks, rather than Oloroso, after it passes through "American oak" casks and Beam's beloved quarter casks.

I tried this Laphroaig once before at a whisky event seven years ago. My old notes list anise, tar, salt, sugar and sherry. May I find more of the earlier notes and fewer of the latter...

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Age: NAS
Maturation: "American oak" casks, then quarter casks, then Pedro Ximémez casks
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chill-filtration? ???
Caramel colored? Probably
(from a sample pilfered at a recent event, thank you Curtis!)

NEAT
There's lots of rubber in the nose, then tar. Then more rubber. Mixed berry jam and burning tires. A hint of smoked salmon. More rubber. It's as if someone made brandied cherries with the lighter version of Hampden rum and went overboard with the sugar. A lot of the same in the palate: ash, rubber, sugar, burnt grape jam, some sugar-doped rum. Imitation vanilla extract. A sickly sweet edge builds with time. The finish is very peppery, very ashy and very sweet. A big dose of cheap cream sherry.

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose... Oh god, that was a bad idea. Buttery baby poop and eggy sulfur. Mint candy, simple syrup and brine. The palate is tannic as hell and brutally sugary. There's some ash and bitterness too. The finish matches the palate, regrettably.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is the worst Laphroaig I've ever had the displeasure of trying. At least the Select is just a *shrug*, only offensive on principle. With a nose more rubbery than a clown's and a finish sweeter than a bottom shelf liqueur, the PX Cask is drinkable when neat, if you've previously burnt your tastebuds off your face. Once diluted, it's gross. It's unfortunate. It's punishment. It made me nauseous. Omar wins the week.

Availability - Travel retail
Pricing - why
Rating - 65 (neat only; it swims in the 30s)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Omar Sherry Type Taiwanese Single Malt


There's Omar Little. And here's a little Omar:


I bought this sample during Master of Malt's final days of US shipping. Some perspective was going to be needed once the Bourbon Type bottle was opened. Well, that 700mL has been opened, and enjoyed. The world (or just I) was ready for a comparison of the Sherry and Bourbon Types.

Distillery: Nantou
Owner: TTL, which is owned by the ROC
Brand: Omar
Region: Nantou, Taiwan
Age: 7 years or younger
Maturation: sherry casks
Bottling Date: 2018 or earlier
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? ???
Colorant? ???
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
There are no generic raisiny notes in the nose, instead it's a little meaty: beef broth and jerky, ground mustard seed. There's also plenty of yeast and spun sugar. Some maple syrup and pencil eraser. The palate has some of the nose's mustard seed note, but then heads off in its own direction. Lemon juice and a big crazy bitterness (from the spirit and the oak) follow bursts of ginger ale and cream soda. Then walnuts, a slight mineral note and more vanilla than the Bourbon Type. It finishes with a woody bitterness, or a bitter woodiness, then some vanilla + sugar. Minerals and walnuts in the background.

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes nuttier, with a hint of cherry candy. A little bit of maple syrup. Less beef, more mustard. Similar to the neat version, but quieter, the palate does add some tangy dried apricots, dried cranberries and oak spice. Less bitterness but still tannic. It finishes yeasty and tannic, sweeter than when neat. Some maple and vanilla.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
On a positive note this isn't a boring sherried thing. Yet it's woodier and more vanilla-ed than the Bourbon Type. I think it improves when diluted as all its facets start tilting towards an American whiskey-style at 40%abv. Overall there's just too much oak extraction present in this expression, especially when compared to the Bourbon Type. I recognize the unevenness of this comparison, a full bottle of one and a small sample of the other, but I'm not sure how many pours of the Sherry Type I'd desire beyond one.

Availability - Asia, Europe and the United States
Pricing - $35 to $95, depending on the country
Rating - 77

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bottle Review: Omar Bourbon Type Taiwanese Single Malt

Three years ago, in a now-defunct but eternally glorious Nakano whisky bar, a Taiwanese gentleman suggested I try Omar Bourbon Type single malt. Rarely do I buy a bottle blind, but I respect the man's palate so I scooped up a bottle of the Bourbon Cask when I returned home.

Opened by the Republic of China in 1978 (a good year), Nantou Distillery made fruit liqueurs, brandies and rums for the first three decades of its existence. In 2009 a new facility began distilling malt whisky spirit, branded as "Omar" (Gaelic for amber), leading to inaugural releases in 2013 and 2014. Their core range, Bourbon Type and Sherry Type, debuted the following year. They have since released over 200 cask strength and liqueur/wine cask finished expressions.

Though Omar single malt is now distributed on three continents, it lives in the critical shadow of Kavalan, the other Taiwanese single malt. How much Kavalan deserved its initial boisterous reception is a matter of personal preference. I have found Kavalan's celebrated single cask expressions so cask-driven that I have no idea what the spirit beneath tastes like. My experience with Kavalan's bourbon cask expressions, both single cask and large-batched, is far from positive. It was my pronouncement of this concern that initiated the suggestion that I try Omar Bourbon Type.

So I did.

Distillery: Nantou
Owner: TTL, which is owned by the ROC
Brand: Omar
Region: Nantou, Taiwan
Age: 7 years or younger
Maturation: bourbon casks
Bottling Date: 2016
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltration? ???
Colorant? ???
(from the upper third of my purchased bottle)



NOTES
The nose begins with fresh whole wheat bread and croissants. Then lemons, kiwi and picked ginger. Witbier and newspapers. Hints of calvados, flower blossoms and chocolate malt. The thick, malty palate shines with a bright tartness and an herbal bitterness. There are toasted grains, toasted almonds, lemons and hot oregano to be found. Vanilla? Not so much. The finish holds that refreshing tartness, bitterness and barley......ness. It's toasty, with almonds and bran flakes. No vanilla, nearly no sugar.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
This is Malt Whisky like I've rarely experienced in products from more famous whisky-producing nations. The sizable angel's share has not turned the whisky into an oak infusion, instead the climate and quality cask management has brought the spirit's crisp character to the fore after 5-7 years. I tried Omar Bourbon Type alongside the other two whiskies being reviewed this week, as well as Glenmorangie 10. This whisky won by a large margin. Thank you, Odin, for the suggestion!

Availability - Asia, Europe and the United States
Pricing - $35 to $95, depending on the country
Rating - 85

Friday, February 21, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2005 Signatory, cask 579 for Binny's

I partnered yesterday's excellent easygoing excellent 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain with today's ??? 10yo sherried Bunnahabhain during my tastings this past weekend. This sample comes from an OC Scotch Club event right near by birthday 4½ years ago. This was the set:


I've since reviewed most of these. This Bunny and the Clynelish had just arrived at Binny's when we scooped them up. That may have been the worst Clynelish I've ever tried. Let's just say, my hopes are a little higher for the Bunnahabhain. Is hope dead?

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Exclusive to: Binny's
Age: 10 years (9 March 2005 - 13 March 2015)
Maturation: 1st fill sherry butt
Cask number: 579
Outturn: 546 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from an OCSC event)

NEAT
The nose starts with lumber, cinnamon, cloves and VOCs. Brine, rosewater and prunes escape 10+ minutes later. Dates and toffee pudding appear 30 minutes after the pour. The massively grapey palate is all PX-like sherry and wood, no spirit. Jammy sticky sweet. The finish is the same, but with a tannic edge.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose remains oaky, but there's a lot more baking spice now. No prunes. Minor dunnage, floral and vanilla notes arise. The palate has lots of woody bitterness, tannins, soap. You know, all the good things. It does pick up some nuts, meats and florals after a while. It finishes bitter, nutty and salty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
Well, crap. Though my notes make the whisky sound worse than it actually is, it actually is not good. Of course, the whiskybase community LOVES it. So, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

I mean, other than the fact that it's unbalanced and aggressively oaky with a one-note palate, goes soapy and bitter when diluted, and could be from any distillery or spirit genre, it's fine. 94 points!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 73 (only when neat, and only stays above 70 because of the nose)

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Bunnahabhain 10 year old 2001 The Whisky Agency

Oh we're not done with the sherried Bunnahabhains, no way no how. I have random samples of this stuff from everywhere. Today's sample comes from My Annoying Opinions......and I don't think he published his opinion of it, yet.

It's difficult for Americans to get a hold of a Whisky Agency bottling, unless we're physically in another country. They don't bring their stuff to The States, and very few European online retailers (who ship out here) sell TWA's single casks. They have a number of ranges and series, with beautiful labels that don't stoop to T&A (I think). Anyway, I've tried three of their whiskies and liked them all. Here's number four, from their House Malt series:


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Agency
Series: House Malt
Age: 10 years (2001-2011)
Maturation: "sherry wood"
Cask number909
Outturn: 414 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(sample provided by the gentleman named above)

NOTES
The expansive nose begins with a bright fresh cherry note, then molasses chews, fruity cinnamon, ocean air and clay. A slight meatiness, slight greasy Clynelish note and slight breakfast cereal note drift in the background. The palate is warm and lightly sherried, more fruits than oak. Brandied fruits, candied orange peel and ginger snaps. There's also a subtle phenolic note that reads more earthy than smoky. The finish picks up some pepper and tannins, berry jam, cloves and whole wheat bread crust.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
House Malt indeed! This would be an excellent everyday pour. There's an impressive complexity to the nose, and the palate holds onto its quirky angles as the whisky vanishes down the gullet. Had the finish not faltered a little, then this whisky would be getting a gaudy score. Anyway, this is great stuff. It's a shame I didn't know about this bottle way back when, but I have the official 12 satisfy this particular thirst.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Bunnahabhain 23 year old 1990 AD Rattray, cask 3515

Dewar Rattray was one of my top three favorite independent bottlers when I began reviewing whiskies. But before Monday, five out of the six previous Rattrays I'd tried were not good. Some were letdowns, others awful. In fact, in the history of this blog there has been only one non-Bowmore Rattray that was a solid B whisky. Until Monday.

One sherried Rattray Bunnahabhain kicked ass, so how about another?! This one is older and from a big ol' puncheon. And it's the whisky on the right:


Going by the visuals, this one is on another planet. Whisky looks aren't everything, but they do often hint at what's within. Would this be a dead cask???


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 23 years (5 May 1990 - 23 Apr 2014)
Maturation: sherry puncheon
Cask number3515
Outturn: 604 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant added? No
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
Surprise! Plenty of fruity sherry on the nose. Mint extract, applesauce, citronella and wee hints of cardamom and coriander. A slight medicinal whiff floats into a clean barley note. The very malty palate has a nice soft bitterness, a gentle sweetness. Toffee, apricots and moss. It gets mustier and sweeter with time. The finish keeps the moss and bitterness. Dunnage. Lemons and limes.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The whisky gets much younger, and the sherry drifts away. Pears, apples, jasmine flowers in the nose. Then hints of vanilla and white rice. The leafy palate leads with pears and ink, followed by barley and coriander. It finishes with pears, grass and a bit of earthiness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
A not-dead second-fill sherry cask, that's my guess. If you want more of its influence, drink the whisky neat. You want to wash it away? Add water. The whisky is very good because the spirit is very good. There's a little bit of darkness hiding among the fruits and sweets. Some drinkers might even like this one better than cask 5450. Like Monday's Bunny, this cask was pulled at the right time, just before tannins start knocking everything out of balance. Of course this whisky was released almost six years ago, but well done, Rattray!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88 (I prefer it neat)

Monday, February 17, 2020

Bunnahabhain 20 year old 1991 AD Rattray, cask 5450

Because I am a hollow person, whisky bottles and I have histories. About seven or eight years ago, AD Rattray's cask 5450 of sherried Bunnahabhain was recommended to me by two individuals whom had much more whisky experience than I. Of course I did not buy a bottle. If I had a dime for every glorious bottle I didn't buy, I could afford to buy one of those bottles.

Anyway, I was able to get in on a bottle split of this very bottle this year (8 years after its release). And you know what? *SPOILER ALERT* The gentlemen who recommend this bottle were on to something.


Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 20 years (2 December 1991 - 19 March 2012)
Maturation: sherry butt
Cask number: 5450
Outturn: 508 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 53%
Chillfiltered? No
mit Farbstoff? Nein
(from a bottle split)

NEAT
The nose starts off heavy on cherries, black plums and shisha. Hints of dunnage and hot asphalt. Bits of butterscotch, old rye and pipe tobacco. The palate is more salty and savory than sweet. Beef stock and brine. Salted roasted almonds. A little bit of those cherries. It shifts nicely after a while, moving towards dunnage, mint, thyme, almond extract and a bolder saltiness. Some dark chocolate slips into the long finish, along with smoked beef, dried herbs, sea salt and almond extract.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or < 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
More dried fruit shows up in the nose, alongside honey, ginger, toffee and toasted oak. It gets really musty after a while. The palate becomes earthier and grassier. Dried herbs, an herbal bitterness, ink, cayenne and hints of berry candy. The finish gets sweeter, but it remains quite herbal, along with some ink and a surprising barley note.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
It's even better than I'd anticipated! It's gorgeously complex, never gets too sweet, has multiple gears and swims well. A great winter warmer, this Bunnahabhain might even appeal to bourbon fans due its richness and fruitiness. The cask was also pulled at the perfect time. One can picture the tannin creep beginning within another year or two.

Now how did its sparring partner, another sherry cask Bunny from Rattray, fare up against this beaut? Stay tuned...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 90