...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Octomore Edition 08.1

ALL HAIL LORD OCTOMORE!
Again. This sentence is required by law.


Look upon me and you will see greatness. And also virility. Don't forget to write the virility part.
--Lord Octomore
Edition 07.1 fell short of His Mercifulness's grandiloquent standards, though my saying so has likely put me at risk for a Royal Ass Whupping. All of the Octomore 08 editions were part of His Highnessness's Masterclass in mastery. 08.1 has an 8 year old age statement rather than the usual 5. Lord Octomore is generous.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Peatsburg
Maturation: First fill American oak casks
Age: minimum 8 years (2008-2017)
Outturn: 42,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 59.3%
PPM: 167

NEAT
The nose is more aggressive than 07.1's even though this whisky is older and has a lower peat level. Once the heat subsides there's some good stuff underneath. Smoked almonds, hot asphalt, corn syrup, caramel sauce and molasses. After a while, notes of lime, vanilla and ocean appear. Hmm, the palate is gentler than 07.1's. There's some sweetness and tart citrus. Consistent, persistent wood smoke. It's salty, savory and nutty. Red Hots candies. The salt and smoke get heavier with time. It finishes salty and savory as well. Moderate smoke and pepper levels. A little bit of brown sugar.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The burn lifts out of the nose, revealing smoked fish, dried oregano, lemon and hay. There are also some distant notes of plums and guava. The palate has mild brown sugar sweetness and an aggressive chili oil burst. Underneath that are oranges, cinnamon and tame peat smoke. The finish, curiously longer than when neat, is all smoke, pepper, sugar and cinnamon.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
I tried 07.1 and 08.1 side by side, resulting in more of a beating than a peating. My tastebuds were scorched until the next morning.

08.1 has the same issue as 07.1, the nose provides a full, detailed experience. The palate doesn't. With water, the nose gets even better. The palate doesn't. The palate doesn't do anything most other young peated Islay malts don't also do. And the finish, though lengthy, is a half step above bland.

The gap between the nose and palate is problematic and I'm hoping Lord Octomore will let me try one more edition this week. Though will that get me in even deeper trouble with His Many Limbed Graciousness?

Availability - Europe and USA
Pricing - Europe: $100-$160 (ex-VAT), USA $160-$200
Rating - 83

Monday, November 12, 2018

Octomore Edition 07.1

ALL HAIL LORD OCTOMORE!


Though his competitors were more popular and successful, Dennis Octomore seized power through brute force, then dissolved all local governments and burned down the courts, naming himself Lord Octomore, el jefe de Peatsburg. He then had his competitors murdered, so now he is the most popular and successful and handsome in all the land.
Everyone who is not me is just terrible.

--Lord Octomore 
Thanks to the kindness of Lord Octomore, I am allowed to review Octomore 7.1. Peated at the ungodly brilliant measurement of 208 phenolic parts per million, it has the usual 5 year old Octomore age statement.


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Brand: Octomore
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Peatsburg
Maturation: American oak casks
Age: minimum 5 years (bottled 2015)
Alcohol by Volume: 59.5%
PPM: 208

NEAT
It has a well-layered nose. On one level there are dried grasses, leaves and roots. Then there's sugar, cinnamon and apples. Then there's cured meat and a hint of horse manure. It's also tangy (if one can smell "tangy") like fermented veg. The palate comes in hotter and plainer than the nose. Dried leaves and hay. Loads of peppercorns. Salt, peat smoke and hints of lemon and anise. It finishes earthy and grassy, with plenty of smoke and pepper.

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or >1tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is full of sugar and limes, as well as eucalyptus and mint extract. There are also notes of jalapeño oil and burlap. The palate is all char, ash, burnt things. It's tangier and sweeter than when neat. Also some Tabasco sauce and smoked meat. The finish is hotter, somehow. Mint and char and Tabasco.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
The combination of high ABV and stunt-level peating in a barely legal whisky is something I'd usually stay away from, but Octomore has always worked for me. Except...

Lord O is going to have my neck for this but the palate on 7.1 is both monolithic and moderate, if that makes any sense. It's huge but very simple. It's "Whew!" but "Okay". On the other hand, the nose is great, complex and pleasurable. Young but not raw. It also sets one up for a tremendous experience that the palate doesn't deliver. Yet I'm probably going to give this too high a rating because of the grand sniffer.

If His Lordship allows, another Octomore review will arrive on Wednesday.

Availability - Europe and USA
Pricing - Europe: $100-$150 (ex-VAT), USA $150-$200
Rating - 85

Friday, November 9, 2018

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance versus Glen Garioch 15 old label

This wasn't intended to be a Taste Off. I was going to taste the official 12yo and the 15yo Renaissance in the same sitting, which I did, but then I added the old 15 as an aperitif.


When single malt insanity began in my home (and worldwide), eleven years ago, the olde Glen Garioch 15 was one of my preferred drinks. It then disappeared within a couple of years as the brand was reworked. When I picked up a sample of the whisky four years ago, I was looking forward to reviewing the once reliable whisky, but then The Whisky Jug reviewed a sample from the same bottle and gave it a 57.


That gave me pause.

Years of pause.

When I added it to this weekend's tasting, it was as a lark. I wanted to rid myself of the sample. But the whisky wasn't terrible. So...

Glen Garioch 15 old label versus Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 15 years old
Maturation: probably just bourbon casks
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Bottled: 2007 or earlier
(from a purchased sample)

VERSUS

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 15 years old
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 51.9%
Bottled: 2014
Outturn: 12,000 bottles
(from a purchased sample)

Glen Garioch 15 old label (neat only)
Nose -  Apples, dark chocolate and burnt barley start matters off. Then there be lemons, grass, cucumber skins and fresh shredded red cabbage.
Palate - Warm and sweet. Vanilla, barley and confectioner's sugar. Hints of herbal bitterness. Little smoke, if any. It does pick up some sourness and cardboard with time. A brief whiff of perfume.
Finish - Mostly sweet and tart citrus. It gets sourer here as well, but not off-putting.

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance (neat)
Nose - Flowers, orange marmalade and pineapple. Peach macarons? Hints of butter and lawn.
Palate - It has two gears! First gear: Warm, not hot. Lots of toasted oak spice. Fresh stone fruits, as opposed to the dried ones. Second gear: Tart limes, ginger candy and a little bit of salt.
Finish - Slightly more toasted oak and tannins here, then tart fruit and chocolate malt.

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance (diluted to 48%abv)
Nose - The same pretty flowers and fruit, but at a lower pitch. Chocolate, dried oregano and barley.
Palate - Bitter chocolate with a dash of cayenne. Salt water and bigger tannins. Somehow younger, hotter and more aggressive.
Finish - Warm, but simple and tannic. A sprinkle of confectioner's sugar.

CONCLUSIONS

The old Glen Garioch 15yo is neither gross nor the solid reliable thing I used to enjoy. BUT. And there's always a but. I have no idea when this thing was bottled. AND. I have my own full bottle waiting in the cabinet, so I will return to this whisky. In the meantime, this bottling certainly showed signs of being a sturdy middle-of-the-road malt. Plenty of barley, low oak levels, some fruits. The key is to drink it within 15 minutes because the metaphorical roof starts to metaphorically slouch at that point.

The first chapter of modern Glen Garioch's The Renaissance shows well when neat. Good nose, good palate. Much brighter than the old 15. It also has significantly more cask influence than the current 12 year old. In fact, the staves come out swinging once water is added to the broth. (The hell is that sentence?) It's not winey, nor bourbony, mind you. It's just that the drinker feels the weight of the tannins pushing in. So keep it neat.

Still, I know which one I like best:


see that one's review here
Glen Garioch 15 old label
Rating - 79 (but don't tarry!)

Glen Garioch 15 year old The Renaissance
Rating - 85 (keep it neat)

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Glen Garioch 12 year old, six years later

As of 2012, there was a bar in Hollywood that used to have Yamazaki 18 at the same price as Glenmorangie 10. I drank a lot of Yamazaki 18 there. When they were out of that, I went with Glen Garioch 12, which they had for a great price. Though I was at home when I typed up my review of Glen Garioch 12, I did the actual tasting at the bar.

That was 2012. I haven't tried Glen Garioch 12 since. As was concluded in my review, I enjoyed the whisky. And I was going to buy a bottle. But as I watched its price jump from the high $40s to mid $60s within a year, I lost the motivation.

Garioch 12 is still in the low to mid $30s in Japan. In Europe it's often high $30s ex-VAT. So the price issue appears to be a US importer/distributor issue. Shocking, right?

Price quirks aside, I'm looking forward to trying it again.

Distillery: Glen Garioch
Ownership: Beam Suntory
Region: Eastern Highlands
Age: minimum 12 years old
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT
The nose starts off with barley, green grapes and golden raisins. Then flowers and farm. Raspberry jam and yellow cherries. Almost no oak here. The warm palate leads with chocolate stout, malt and tart lemons. There's a combo of brown sugar, honey and cayenne pepper. A big barley note takes over after 20+ minutes. The very long, warm finish is all tart fruit, honey and barley

DILUTED TO ~43%abv, or ⅔ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is similar but quieter. Malt and farm. No more raspberry jam. Plums rather than cherries. Hints of cinnamon and bananas. More tart fruit, fewer sweets in the palate. Apples and slight floral note. Plenty of maltiness remains. The finish is tinglier and toastier. Honey, barley and aromatic fruit notes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS
If you live in a place where Glen Garioch 12 is priced in the $30s, then you're looking at one of the best bargains on Planet Single Malt. I'm not going to use the word terroir because who knows where the barley is coming from, BUT this all gently-aged spirit with excellent texture.

While this isn't the most complex of things, it is a pristine snapshot of nearly oak-free (and smoke-free) malt. After this point only more wood would enter the picture. Dilution is fine, but I think it works best at the generous 48%abv.

I thought I'd have more cynical things to say six years later, but the whisky is solid and I'm feeling almost wistful for official bottlings that aren't soaked in oak juice. There will be a bottle of this in my home in 2019.

Availability - Most specialty liquor retailers in Europe, Japan and USA
Pricing - Europe: $35-$55 (ex-VAT); Japan: $30-$40; USA $55-$75
Rating - 87

Monday, November 5, 2018

Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 7 versus Aberlour A'bunadh batch 60

Oh, sherry.


Oh, Sherrie. Un low. Hoes ah. Hoes ah. 

?

What the hell is Steve Perry singing about? And why can't he enunciate?

Too much Sherrie sherry, perhaps?

Speaking of too much sherry:


Glendronach Cask Strength batch 7 VERSUS Aberlour A'bunadh batch 60

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Distillery: Glendronach
Ownership: Brown-Forman (ugh)
Region: Eastern Highlands (on the edge of Speyside)
Age: minimum
Maturation: a mix of Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks
Alcohol by Volume: 57.9%
Batch: 7
Bottled: 2018

VERSUS

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Distillery: Aberlour
Ownership: Pernod Ricard
Region: Speyside (Banffshire)
Age: minimum 3 years
Maturation: Oloroso butts
Alcohol by Volume: 60.3%
Batch: 60
Bottled: 2017

It's about time for this blog to hold a Taste Off between these two sherry-sopped titanic tots. And don't tell anyone, but these two batches are sort of recent. Shhhhhh.

The prices for these two are usually similar. Neither has an age statement, of course. The A'bunadh always has a very high ABV and comes from Oloroso butts. Meanwhile the Glendronach CS batches come from a mix of Oloroso and PX casks. The previous six batches all were around 55%abv, while this one is almost 58%.

With Glendronach's new ownership and this batch's high ABV, I don't know what to expect. So far I've preferred the Glendronach CSes over the A'bunadhs I've tried. I always want to love A'bunadh, but you can't force love.

Where does my heart beat now?



NEAT

GlenDronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Nose - Cherries and a lot of alcohol. Gradually notes of flowers, orange oil and Twizzlers sneak out. Then there's citrus, berry compote and cracked peppercorns, along with hints of soil and grape jam.
Palate - Much less heat here than on the nose. It's fruity and sweet: honey, limes, red plums and brown sugar. A little bit of raw nut bitterness. Silky texture throughout.
Finish - It's sweet and fruity: berries and limes. Some fresh ginger and a touch of bitterness balance it out.

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Nose - Lemon sorbet, rosemary and pine sap start things out, followed by molasses, dark chocolate and freshly split lumber. After 20+ minutes in the glass the whisky releases notes of flowers, berries and almond butter.
Palate - Tart, warm and slightly bitter. Specifically bitter oak. Pine sap, lemons, dried currants and dried apricots make up most of the body. Gets saltier and more gingery with time.
Finish - Long, bitter, hot, almost numbing. Lemons, salt and mildly sweet sherry.

DILUTION TO ~46%abv

GlenDronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Nose - It's lighter now (obvs!). Fruity candy, chocolate, plums and black raisins. A hint of leather.
Palate - Still a sweetie. Honey, oranges, vanilla pudding, brown sugar and salty hard toffee.
Finish - Cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and cloves.

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Nose - Though this is the sherriest moment of the tasting, there's still plenty of vanilla, pine, ginger and lemon to go around.
Palate - Milder and more pleasant than when neat. Still some bitter oak, though. Tangy citrus, baking spices, peaches and vanilla.
Finish - Oak, fresh stone fruit, black pepper, vanilla and a floral hint.

CONCLUSIONS
Glendronach wins hands down. So if that's what you're looking for, there it is.

The A'bunadh was different than any other batch I've tried. Exposed beams, if you will. Lots of aggressive American oak. The spirit's fruit, the sherry and the wood never come together. Much like politics, everyone sits in his corner refusing to move. The elements cooperate better with dilution.

Batch 7 may be the simplest of Glendronach's cask strength series, but it's plum delicious. It's also one of the rare whiskies with a better palate than nose. It's moreish, an adjective I used to type weekly but haven't used in years. It's friendlier when diluted, but I like it best neat.

I'm not motivated to try another batch of A'Bunadh any time soon. Perhaps I'll check back in a couple years. Glendronach, though? Looking forward to batch 8.

Glendronach Cask Strength, batch 7
Rating - 87

Aberlour A'bunadh, batch 60
Rating - 81 (with water only)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 18: Playing Dusty Detective

Is your dusty bottle confusing you? Spending too much time staring at bottles' bottoms? Measuring your misery in milliliters? Then I'm here to help.


Now with 10% better audio!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Amrut Spectrum 004, US Release

Of all the Amrut gimmicks, this one seems like the most fun: Purposely build a cask out of multiple cask types, then fill it up with whisky and watch what happens. I'm surprised Amrut beat the Scotch industry to it.

There should be an asterisk on this bottling, though. It's made of staves from four different types of casks: new French oak, ex-oloroso, ex-PX and new American oak. It is not made up of four "different oak woods", or at least there's no additional detail given other than what had seasoned the staves. In fact there are only two types of oak listed on the bottle's labels: French and American. American oak makes up the vast majority of whisky casks, including ex-sherry, for cost and structural purposes, so it's likely that American oak makes up three-quarters of each Spectrum cask.

An interesting, and educational, experiment would be to age whisky in each of these four separate cask types in the same corner of the warehouse as the Spectrum casks, then blend or marry the four cask types' contents together, then compare the results of Spectrum and this other "Four Wood" creation. Perhaps someone would learn something.

And in case you were wondering, yes, Spectrum is only finished in the custom casks. I'm not sure if I should I be grumbling about that. Time to find out.

Distillery: Amrut
Region: Bangalore, India
Age: minimum 3 years
Batch: 004 (It's a James Bond joke. Get it?)
Maturation: first aged in ex-bourbon casks, then finished in casks made with the aforementioned four stave types
Outturn: 1,800 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? ???
(from a bottle split)

The whisky's color is very very dark. The nose leads with roasted nuts, specifically walnuts and cashews. Then coffee beans and a hint of dried currants. Later it's carob bark, mint leaves and maple candy. What's extraordinary about the palate is that it's nothing but espresso upon the first two sips. That's it. Then gradually comes salt, dried cherries and limes. Honey, wood smoke and toffee pudding. The PX starts to take over, as do plenty of tannins. There's also a significant musty oak note, just to keep the drinker on his or her toes. The espresso shows up in the finish as well. Then limes, brown sugar, grape jam, honey and pencil shavings. It grows sweeter with time.

Going into this, I knew the spirit was only present to deliver the product in a liquid medium. The result, the piles of tannins and sherries, is......Fun. There's something exceptional about its thumping shifts and volume. One moment it feels like a 40 year old sherry cask, the next moment it's a gloppy PX-finish, then it's honeycomb, then it's coffee. Does it ever come together as one piece? Maybe in the nose, which is subtle compared to the rhinoceros-playing-piano palate. The price, though. Jeez. That's wackier than the rest.

Availability - a few specialty European and American liquor retailers
Pricing - Europe: $300-$350 (ex-VAT); USA: $400-$500. Yes, you're reading that correctly.
Rating - 89 (that's some good wood)