...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Single Malt Report: Finlaggan Old Reserve

Drinking Finlaggan is like making love to a partner who has no concept of personal hygiene.   One can't scrub out the Finlaggan funk.  It burrows into the flesh, deeper than soap can reach, leaving the recipient smelling like burnt hair and peated urine.  But......you know......it's still lovemaking.

Much of the word on the whisky street says this is young Lagavulin, though some folks think it may be Caol Ila.  Either way, I don't blame Diageo for not allowing the distillery to be listed.

Back in January, Oliver of Dramming.com wrote a piece on peated whiskies getting higher scores than unpeated whiskies.  It's true, I see it in my own personal whisky ratings.  Peat usually brings with it it's own range of flavors and scents.  It can even help cover up lower quality spirit and casks.  In Finlaggan's case, the phenols either fail to mask flaws or highlight them further.

This is the first whisky I'd ever dumped down the sink.  I'd previously had Kristen dump two other hideous whiskies because I found the whole whisky-fail situation much too tragic.  But I had no issue ditching Finlaggan.  (I'm not alone in this sentiment, the fellas of LAWS feel similarly.) So I was filled with giddy excitement when my buddy Whisky Josh OC brought me a sample last week.

I'd always had a feeling this would be Diving With Pearls's first 0-star whisky.  But would it come to pass?

Bottler: The Vintage Malt Whisky Company
Style: Single Malt
Distillery: Lagavulin or Caol Ila
Maturation: probably refill ex-bourbon casks
Country: Islay, Scotland
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
Chillfiltered? Yes
Colored? Yes

SAMPLED NEAT because you don't water down the Finlaggan

Color -- Greenish light gold.

Nose -- Peated urine (pronounced with a hard 'I' so that it rhymes with You're Mine).  Turpentine, aka The Turps.  Anise, rubber bands, moth balls, and milk chocolate.  Young (duh) spirit.  Sneaker rubber after it has trampled rotten seaweed.  Snickerdoodle cookies.  After 30 mins... White vinegar. Ink. Cat piss. Lead.

Palate -- Sour peat, vanilla, and tons of limp caramel.  Cloying sweetness.  Plastic ashes attempting to cover up a bland malt wall underneath.  After 30 mins... Diet Sprite. Lots of Nutrasweet. Cigarette ashes.

Finish -- No, it won't. Burnt toast, plastic ashes, loads of unnatural sourness.  Morning-after cigarette throat.  That Nutrasweet thing.  Bitter corn chips.  Bile.  No, forget bile.  Lagavulin surprise vomit burp.

You'll see a number of potentially interesting characteristics in there.  But every time it starts going down an almost-okay street, something hideous steps in the way and exposes itself.

The thing is, though, Finlaggan is a carnival ride.  It's not a zero-star whisky entirely due to its entertainment value.  I'd much rather drink it than Cutty or Dewars -- maybe even more than Red Label -- because of the intensity of its character.  Though, I can't say it is better than Speyburn 10 or Speyside 12 because those malts don't have the luxury of a peat fire blanket to cover their shortcomings.

I love peated whisky, but this......this is suited for whisky hazing.  I'm not saying it's so bad it's awesome.  More like, it's so bad that I will drink it just for the experience.  And so should you.

Availability - Trader Joe's and a dozen or so liquor retailers
Pricing - $18.99 at TJ's (they raised it a dollar?!), $30 elsewhere
Rating - 64

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Power's John's Lane 12 year old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey

First off, a moment of admiration for the coolest sample bottle label ever created:

Proper respect to Eric Sanford.  Thanks to him, I can present an of-the-moment whiskey post!

A prelude:
I love Power's Gold Label blended whiskey.
I like Power's 12 year old blended whiskey.
I love single pot still Irish whiskey.
Power's John's Lane 12 year old single pot still Irish whiskey has found its way to the United States.

John's Lane has been available in Ireland and Scotland for almost two years now.  In fact I was in Heathrow in the Spring of 2011 when the PR push began for it.  Too bad I didn't know what the heck was going on at the time.  The rep at World of Whiskies trying to tell me about it and I was all, "Yeah, but I like Powers and it's $20 at home, why would I pay $60 for this stuff?"  (Just now I sighed aloud.)  Even though he didn't sell me on it, the whiskey has since sold itself and rung up many rave reviews.

Let's back up for two sentences of history:  After a bunch of Irish distillers banded together in 1966 to form, well, Irish Distillers, they moved their production into a single large distillery, Midleton (in 1974).  Midleton Distillery, in Cork, has since grown and grown and grown in a facility with a production capacity FIVE TIMES the size of Diageo's new Roseisle Distillery.

As the whisky-makers in Midleton strive to keep as many of their old whisky brands alive they create separate whiskies by establishing different cuts in the spirit, different maturation processes, different combinations of grains, and a bunch of other elements that they are much too happy to keep confidential.  One of those brands, John Power's and Sons, was always very popular in Ireland when it was being produced at its original home on John's Lane in Dublin.  Under Midleton's watch it has continued to be one of the best (if not THE best) sellers in its home country.

Beyond the big selling blends, Irish Distillers continued to produce pot-still-only (aka Pure Pot Still and Single Pot Still) whiskey in smaller quantities for the folks at home.  But they could only keep that secret in Ireland for so long, especially when that secret goes by the names of Redbreast and Green Spot.  After an international release, the critical and sales success of Redbreast 12 year old enabled additional varieties of Redbreast as well as expansion into other single pot still brands.

And this brand is the one I have been waiting for:

Label: Power's
StyleSingle Pot Still
Distillery: Midleton
Age: at least 12 years (up to 14 years)
Maturation: mostly first* fill ex-bourbon barrels, along with some oloroso sherry butts (*though another official site says second fill)
Country: Ireland
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? Likely

In order to get some perspective on the John's Lane whiskey, I sampled it alongside some Redbreast 12yr Cask Strength Batch 1 reduced to 46%.  I've also noticed there are two schools of thought on John's Lane.  One is that it is light bodied.  The other says it is robust.  My opinion sits with the latter.

The color is a dark gold, partially due to some sherry butts, partially due to some caramel e150a.

There's a bold density in the nose that proves to be a challenge to decipher.  Like a tall thick dark brown wall made of brown sugar and semisweet chocolate.  Beneath that are some overripe white fruits and maybe some figs or dates.  A new leather jacket, fresh apricots, and hay.  Scattered baked fruit floating in a caramel fudge lake.  That's the best I can do after spending an hour with two ounces.

With a nice thick texture, the palate is either more basic than the nose or I haven't figured it out yet.  I get baked bananas, dark brown sugar, and a tangy sweetness.  Plus there's an industrial note that one can find in body temperature Power's Gold Label.

The whiskey plants its roots deep, leaving an extensive finish behind.  Spiced baked fruits, caramel sauce, dried grasses and grains.  Maybe a little of that brown sugar too.

Water doesn't help it much.  Whatever mystique and density it had evaporates.  The wall topples and Power's Gold Label is what's left standing, as it gets grainier and blendy.

Like Redbreast 12yr CS (at its full strength), John's Lane is more of a brooder than a casual beverage.  It must be insane at cask strength.  Though, as I noticed when adding water, the Midleton folks have found a good ABV point here at 46%.  I'm firmly of the opinion that this is dense stuff, especially since the reduced Redbreast CS was so light in comparison.  At the same time, I agree with Ralfy's assessment that this is a modern heavily-produced whiskey rather than a lean mean old school whiskey.  But "modern" isn't necessarily a bad thing here since the Irish Distillers have built something sturdy with many levels.

I will study further, with a bottle of my own.

Availability - Starting to arrive in the US now...
Pricing - $65-$75 in US and UK (w/shipping)
Rating - 90 (with an Irish bias)

Friday, May 24, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Compass Box Eleuthera

Finally, a throwback Compass Boxer: Eleuthera (the feminine form of the Greek word for "free", thank you Wikipedia).

One of the first of their wide releases (2002-2005), the Eleuthera is vatting of 15 year old Clynelish and 12 year old Caol Ila, both matured in recharred hogsheads.  When their supply of the 15 year Clynelish ran out, Compass Box ended production of Eleuthera. (On a side note, there appears to have been an early version that also included some older Glenlossie.)

Unlike Oak Cross and Spice Tree, this one has some peat in it, thanks to the Caol Ila.  Glaser matched that Islay-er with what appears to be his favorite blending malt, Clynelish (also in Oak Cross, Spice Tree, both Great King Streets, Flaming Heart, and Double Single)  My favorite part of the Eleuthera is, unlike Oak Cross and Spice Tree, it focuses much less on oak creativity and more on the merging of two elements into one.  I'm not necessarily saying it is better than those two, but the focus on the malt is much appreciated!

Company: Compass Box
Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Distilleries: Clynelish and Caol Ila
Age: 15 years (Clynelish) and 12 years (Caol Ila)
Maturation: recharred ex-bourbon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No

Color -- Light amber (courtesy of the refill casks)
Nose -- A nice hit of Limes and freshly cut grass, along with some vanilla cake, and almost fruity peat in the background.
Palate -- There's the soft peat TCP as expected, but there's also a strong belt of cilantro and BBQ sauce. Seaweed, honey, and mint make cameos along the way.
Finish -- More of that cilantro and BBQ combo, then cinnamon, and honeyed peat.

Nose -- Peat comes to the foreground, along with a strong gin-reminiscent herbal note.  A little more ocean rolls up as well. The aforementioned limes linger in the back with some Red "fruit drink" (cousin of Purple).
Palate -- Much simpler now.  Veggie peat rolled up in, honey, malt, and cinnamon.
Finish -- Gets sweeter.  Combines the nose and palate resulting in peat, herbs, and cinnamon.

I had twice the amount of Eleuthera to survey (thank you, Florin!), compared to Oak Cross and Spice Tree.  So I lined the first 30mL with the ST and OC in a Taste Off, then enjoyed the second 30mL casually the next day.  As I'd mentioned above, I like how solid and well-merged the Eleuthera was.  I would have thought this was a single malt if I hadn't been told otherwise.

Though Eleuthera isn't in the current Compass Box rotation, it isn't completely gone.  There are at least a dozen online US stores that claim to have it in stock, and most haven't raised the price.  At the same time, it does take some doing to hunt down.  But if you like Caol Ila, Eleuthera will please.

Availability - Getting scarce
Pricing - $50-$70
Rating - 84

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Compass Box Spice Tree

Yesterday, I was late to the party for Oak Cross.  Today, I'm catching up with Spice Tree.

In 2005, John Glaser's first release of Spice Tree was deemed illegal by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA); "illegal" meaning he could not call it "Scotch Whisky".  Inspired by his background in wine production, Glaser had the idea of doing what many winemakers have done, lining the inside of casks with new French oak staves in order to bring more spicy notes into a product, but within whisky maturation casks instead.  The SWA said this practice did not follow traditional whisky production methods, thus the product could not be Scotch Whisky.  They also said quality was irrelevant.  This sort of ingenuity and adaptation is not allowed, while caramel dye and teaspooning (adding a trace amount of one single malt to another in order to prevent other companies from releasing certain whiskies as single malts) is embraced.  Anyway, Glaser and company had to go back to the drawing board to find another way to get the same result in their Spice Tree whisky, but in a legal fashion.  They did so -- using toasted French oak cask heads instead -- and released new batches three years later.

Similar to Oak Cross, Spice Tree's malts spend the first part of their lives in American oak, a mix of first-fill and refill ex-bourbon barrels.  But Spice Tree's second maturation, more of it occurs in Compass Box's specially designed casks of American oak staves capped with toasted French oak heads:  80% of the maturation casks with this wood combination, the remaining 20% in first-fill former bourbon barrels.  The malts themselves are the same as Oak Cross's: Clynelish, Dailuane, and Teaninch.

A lot of similarities between Oak Cross and the Spice Tree.  So, what are the differences between them that have necessitated two products with two characters and two price points?  Spice Tree puts more focus on Compass Box's specially designed casks.  There are three different toast levels on these new French oak cask heads, a greater quantity of the final product has been influenced by these barrels, and the secondary maturation time is longer.  Plus the bottling has three more ABV points (46 vs. 43).

Let's see how it turned out.

Company: Compass Box
Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Distilleries: approximately 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuane, and 20% Teaninch
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: see above
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
Official product fact sheet PDF

Color -- Light gold
Nose -- Cardamom and nutmeg lead the spices.  Lots of fruit juices and orange candies, maybe some ginger too.  Strawberry jam, bananas, and toffee pudding with caramel sauce.
Palate -- Mostly sweet with some savory, and a thick texture.  Toffee with cracked black pepper.  Swirls of caramel, cinnamon, and brown sugar along with a subtle whole wheat toast note.
Finish -- Peppers and tannins. An extensive floral peppery buzz in the fore with vanilla beans aft.

Nose -- Cardamom with caramelized sugars, citrus fruit, and basil leaves in the summer sun.
Palate -- Vanilla, cracked black peppercorns, honey roasted nuts, brown sugar.  Very rich.
Finish -- Honey, vanilla, and balsamic vinegar.

Indeed, there's more spice in this one.  But also loads of individual fruits in the nose.  It's thicker and richer than Oak Cross, though this one sung better without water.  Oak Cross is a bright all-weather whisky, while this one is more of a brooder......though I'd drink in the summer anyway.

I'm going to conclude by talking about Diageo for a moment.  (Sorry!  But this is constructive!)  As I am working out my Diageo boycott occurring later this year, there are some high quality products for which I'd like to find replacements.  For instance, it'll break my whisky heart to abandon Talisker, but I have glorious (and I don't mean that lightly) independent bottlings of Ardmore to ease that transition.  But what about the Johnnie Walkers I used to adore?  In yesterday's comments, Jordan mentioned he'd be happy to go with Oak Cross instead of Black Label.  Yet what about the great Green Label?  I think Spice Tree is the closest thing I've found as an alternative.  It's not peated, but its lack of filtration and higher ABV give it a denser texture, plus all this fruit and spice are a treat.  And finally, Compass Box is a small business, while Diageo is the largest of them all.  John Glaser is doing an excellent job and I'd rather give him my business.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $55-$70
Rating - 89

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Compass Box Oak Cross

I'm going to do a trio of Compass Box reports this week.  I think I'm the last blogger in the whisky world to try some of these.  But that's what makes me such a hepcat: arriving after the party is over......amirite?

There are (at least) two great sources of online information on Compass Box.  Firstly, the company's website has data sheets on most of their products and some tasting videos led by the owner, blender grand alchemist John Glaser, wherein some extra details are divulged about the specific whiskies within.  Secondly, I recommend the K&L Spirits Podcast that co-starred Mr. Glaser in a conversation with David Driscoll.  Glaser shares so much info that I've had to do a second and third pass at it.

Aside from their Canto series, Compass Box makes blends.  They have blended grains, blended malts, and high-quality blended whiskys.  Oak Cross is their lowest priced blended malt (usually $10-15 less than Spice Tree).  As it's a blended malt, all three of its ingredients are single malt whiskys.  In fact, if my googling is accurate, they're all Diageo malts -- Clynelish (Highland), Dailuane (Speyside), and Teaninch (Highland).  Glaser's previous job with Diageo must have earned him some fantastic supply connections because I doubt Diageo parts with casks easily......though he does mention in the podcast that by keeping the distillery names off the product he has an better time at securing malts.

For Oak Cross, all of the malts spend the first part of their lives in American oak, then they are married together -- 60% in first-fill Bourbon barrels, 40% in American oak casks with new French oak heads (thus an oak cross) for up to 2 years.

Company: Compass Box
Type: Blended Malt (formerly known as Vatted Malt)
Distilleries: approximately 60% Clynelish, 20% Dailuane, and 20% Teaninch
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: see paragraph above
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
Official product fact sheet PDF

Color -- Amber
Nose -- Peppery orange candies, tropical fruit Skittles, fresh ginger (does ginger smell like it tastes?), and toffee pudding.
Palate -- Big vanilla and apple juice at the start.  Then a little burnt toast and cocoa, followed by apricots and cereal grains.
Finish -- Cherry juice, more of those soft grains, a slight (but very palatable) bitterness.  Mid-length, a little drying.

Nose -- Ooh, this did it.  Swims like a champ.  Loads of butter and butterscotch.  Orange Tang, limes, Smarties, and caramel sauce.  Yum.
Palate -- Sticky sweet butterscotch pudding.
Finish -- As often happens when water is applied to whisky, the stamina gets knocked down here.  It's still malty with the tannic drying, but there are also some stone fruits floating around.

As much fun as Oak Cross is when served neatly, I actually enjoyed it more with a few drops of water.  After applying the drips, I gave it 10 minutes to mingle, then it blossomed.  This isn't a dense sophisticated whisky.  That's not the purpose it serves.  Instead, it's a bright soft springtime whisky.

I didn't catch as many spice notes as others have, but I found a whole basket of fruits and candies.  Though I'm still working on the whisky-food-matching thing, Glaser (who knows better than I) recommends it matched with cheeses.  Sounds good to me.

Availability - Most liquor specialists
Pricing - $45-$55
Rating - 85  (water gave it an extra couple of points)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Single Malt Report: Hammer Head 20 year old 1989 Czech Single Malt


Not this:


Czech barley?  Check.  Czech water?  Check.  Czech oak?  Check.  Forged in communist Czechoslovakia?  Check.  Over 20 years old and only $60?  Check.  THIS IS AWESOME.  Seriously, this one rides alone in the whisky world.

There's a story that Churchill wowed Stalin with a bottle of scotch back in the late '30s.  Stalin wanted the Soviets to create something to match it.  Then, apparently, the Nazis became more of a priority for the nation.

Almost 50 years later, while Vaclav Havel was still a poet, Czechoslovakia's communist government distilled the Hammer Head spirit in Prádlo, Pilsen.  Twenty years later, in the midst of the iPhone Era, the world was given Hammer Head when the privatized Prádlo Distillery (owned by Stock Spirits Group - SSG) bottled the single malt just before it dropped below 40%.  The name is derived from the nickname of the old Czech mill that had ground up the malt barley.

They say the whisky sat in the casks forgotten for those 20 years.  Well, it's time to remember it...

...especially since it is not a bad drink.

Distillery: Prádlo Distillery
Ownership: Stock Spirits
Type: Single Malt
RegionPrádlo, Czech Republic
Age: 20 years old (1989-2010)
Maturation: Czech oak casks
Alcohol by Volume: 40.7%
Limited release: 80000 bottles

Sampled neatly from a 30mL whiskysamples bottle:
Color - Yellow gold
Nose - Smells much younger than 20 years, by that I mean there's lots of malt and very little oak.  Creamy tropical fruit zing, oranges, cardamom meets sage, and celery seed are the highlights.  But mostly it's a little dirty: dust, dirt, old coffee grounds, cigarette butts -- romanticized proletariat stuff.
Palate - Straightforward without much flourish:  wood embers, dusty vanilla, a little spicy buzz, and a soft thick barley blanket.
Finish - Mild and gets slightly sweeter. It has some dusty vanilla, black pepper, malt, and soil.

This singular whisky made my day.  Mostly it was just the anticipation.  But then it turned out to be a friendly dram.  True to its nature, it isn't a polished flawless bourgeois whisky.  Since the Czech oak had little effect on the malt, the whisky isn't prettied up.  I think one is mostly getting something close to the original spirit.

There are still some European stores that have Hammer Head in stock.  Many of them are selling it in the $55-$70 range.  Of course that's without shipping, and a lot of the stores won't ship to The States.  But with some effort you can swing the Hammer.  (I'm sorry, that's terrible.)

Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - around $60 before international shipping
Rating - 82

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Whisk(e)y at Home

It has become increasingly apparent to me that a lot of you good folks have substantial volumes of whisk(e)y at home.  My own selection has quadrupled since last year at this time.  Employment has its occasional benefits.  Though I now have an Official Whisky Cabinet (yay!), this rapid growth has now been curtailed.  It's time to enjoy what I've got.

Everyone has his own way of approaching his whisky.  Some folks open everything upon purchase.  Some keep a couple dozen in going at once.  Some say they'll only keep 2 open at a time, but are totally lying.  Not naming any names, Guy In The Monitor's Reflection.

The collection used to fit in our general liquor cabinet.  But then it grew.  Before the Official Whisky Cabinet arrived, I stashed my bottles in a sunlight-free corner of our condo.  In the process of collating the whiskys, I started ordering them not by distillery name or age, but by when I would drink them.  A tier system started, and continues today with bottles segregated in The Cabinet.

Here's my system:

Tier 3 - Tumbler Whisky
This is the anytime stuff, the whiskies that can be opened without reservation, poured generously at all times, enjoyed without guilt.  I also call them the House Whiskies.  For instance, Power's Gold Label is the House Irish.  Buffalo Trace is the House Bourbon.  Currently, Bank Note is the House Blend.  Other Tumblers have been Glenfiddich 12, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Tullamore Dew, Jameson's, and Isle of Skye 8.  I call them "Tumbler" whiskies because I can dump a splash of it in a tumbler (rocks glass), even over some ice(!), and settle into an evening or a lunch or a game on TV.

Tier 2 - Weekend Whisky
These are limited to the weekends or after great (or terrible) work days, in order to not burn through the bottles so fast.  Think Glengoyne 17 or Bruichladdich Bere or oh my friggin' gosh I don't have any indie bottles open.  Weekend Whiskies are opened per the season.  When we had an insane heat spell last year, I found the cask strength heavily peated stuff really did not cater to the weather.  But when the cool evenings came back, so did the Islays.

Tier 1 - Event Whisky
These are to celebrate achievements, friends, beauty, and life.  Or sometimes just the existence of whisky itself.  I remain hush-hush on the sealed Event Whiskies, but I'll discuss 'em once they're open (see the birthday Balblair from last year).  I look forward to a lifetime full of Event Whiskies.

Though price partially plays a role in determining a bottle's tier, cost does not get the final say.  For instance, Sullivan's Cove is an expensive whisky but due to its mild quality and impressive performance in club soda, it has become my current House Malt (Tier 3).  I have a bottle of Johnnie Walker Green Label stashed away to be my final one (*sob*), and though its price would make it a Tier 2, the event of its demise qualifies it as a Tier 1.

On that note, I have noticed some sub-tiers which come close to drifting between the levels.  For instance, Collectible Whisky.  First off, I'm drinking all of my whisky.  None will languish for eternity.  BUT, I recognize the short supply of certain bottles and thus will take that into consideration when determining the tier.  For instance, I have Kilkerran bottles that are out of circulation.  Their price would make them look like Tier 2s, but I put in some sincere footwork (or mileage on my Accord) to get them, so I ain't opening them just for gits and shiggles (thus trending towards Tier 1).  But once they're open, I will be drinking them for gits and shiggles.  Ultimately, they will be Tier 2s.

Another example of a sub-tier is American Whiskey.  I tend to find bourbon to be a Tier 3, always.  This may change once I delve into more barrel strength behemoths.  I also have yet to find a bourbon that I'd spend typical Event Whisky-level cash on.  I've tasted Pappies and a number of famous dusties, but none of them have inspired particular devotion (financially or otherwise).  Maybe if a Stagg falls into my hands someday, it would get a Tier 2.  For safety purposes.  On the other hand, I am LOONY about barrel-strength rye.  I want to make them Tier 3, but I would run out of money and white blood cells much too quickly.  They're Tier 2 in name, but Tier 3 in my heart.

There are other borderliners, like Redbreast 12, that I would love to make Tier 3s, but for financial purposes will remain Tier 2s.  Plus with whiskies like Redbreast (and Willett rye), I do not want to tire of them, nor do I want to get used to them.

So how do you guys (and gals) choose to open your whiskies?  Have you determined a tiered system?  Is that nomenclature based on tangibles or passions?  Do you find your system changing with time?

A little blog Spring Cleaning

I'll be doing some mild tinkering to the blog here and there this Spring.  For instance, there's a clickable list of whisky labels (distilleries, etc.) now in the lower right column of the page.  The labels used to be shown in a clumpy pile.  And those distillery "labels" are new.  I added them today to each whisky post.  Thinking it would take at most a half-hour, I was quickly reminded how many freaking whisky posts I've done!

I've also updated the "Whisky Rankings" page, splitting the whiskies up into different categories.  In fact, I'm on the fence about even keeping the rankings.  The more whiskies I review, the more obtuse it is to try to compare apples to hubcaps.  So, for now at least, whiskies are ranked within their types.  If y'all prefer that I continue to compare apples to hubcaps, let me know, and I'll mush all of them back together.

And that Dram Quest is moving along well.  Does anyone know where a whisky brother can get him a single toot of Loch Dhu?  My sources have all run away screaming upon hearing my inquiry.  It must be some amazing stuff.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Single Malt Report: Goldlys 1991 Bourbon Wood Belgian Single Malt

After Australia and South Africa, our whisky trip brings us to Europe and...


Woo hoo, Belgium!!!

When I'm buying samples for these reports, I usually do what I can to pick up whiskies that are obtainable for the folks who read these posts.  But sometimes, I'm just a big arsehole and I buy weird hard-to-find samples to soothe my nerdy inclinations.

The Belgian Owl Distillery is the largest and best known of the whiskymakers in België.  Their malts can be found in a number of European countries and even in the US if you know where to look.  But today's whisky is not from Belgian Owl.

It's from the folks at Filliers who, in addition to producing a wide range of jenevers, also make Goldlys single malt whisky.  The 'Goldlys' name comes from the nearby River Lys which can take on a golden hue from the flax rotting in the water.  Though Filliers's website says "Barrels of Goldlys Whisky have been ageing in our warehouses in Bachte-Maria-Leerne for hundreds of years", it also notes that in 2007 Goldlys "wrote history when it launched the first whisky in Belgian bars".  So, I guess they had kept those ancient whiskies to themselves for centuries?

Normally, I do not like posting a report when all I have is the official website from which to glean whisky facts.  Normally, I go through my library of whisky books and then some reliable online sources.  But this ain't Normally.  There isn't a word about the Filliers Distillery among my sources.  If anyone has additional reliable info about Filliers and Goldlys please let me know and I'll update this report!

Here's what I have seen online:  Filliers used to have a 3 year old Goldlys Double Still malt which has been given some brutal online reviews (Jim Murray liked it though, natch).  That whisky appears to have been replaced by an Owner's Reserve.  There are also currently four limited edition malts with wine barrel finishes.  They've released a number of other limited editions over the past four years.  One of those editions is the first release of a 1991 20 year old malt that was aged in former bourbon barrels.

Sorry for the crummy pictures today. :(
Distillery: Filliers Distillery
Brand: Goldlys
Type: Single Malt
RegionFlanders, Belgium
Age: 20 years old (1991-2011)
Maturation: ex-bourbon American oak barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Limited release: 1100 bottles
Chillfiltered? No
Colored? No

I really had no idea what to expect of this whisky.  And that was kind of thrilling.  I was anticipating something unspeakably terrible.  I was wrong.

Sampled neatly from a 30mL whiskysamples bottle:
Color - Light gold
Nose - Must have been refill oak because, though the spirit has been softened, the whisky isn't oaky.  It walks the fine line between pleasant and muted at first.  Vanilla toffee, a little peach (maybe), biscotti, and some malt in the background.  With time peach schnapps, caramel, and hay sneak out.
Palate - Gentle black cherry varnish at first, softly textured.  Then fresh stone fruits, a little spice (cinnamon and pepper), hazelnuts, and sweet apples arrive.
Finish - Stewed cherries, flower blossoms, peach candy, and peach crumble with some caramelized brown sugar.

Goldlys 1991 Bourbon Wood is the opposite of The Corryvreckan.

It has taken me years to appreciate subtler, gentler whiskies.  I love to be socked in the face with outrageous tones, but this Goldlys is as soft and breakable as tissue paper.  They probably had to release it at 46% since it would evaporate into vapor at 43%.  It's likely a little rougher while younger, so maybe their four fancy finishes work at 12 years of age.  But at 20 years, this (likely) refill American oak prevents the delicate nature of the malt from being wrecked by sweet wine.  Their site recommends it for warm spring or summer days and I'll second that.  I'm not sure if it would taste like anything on ice (their recommendation), but served neatly it's a wispy little Lowland malt cloud.

I saw it had once been selling for $45 on one international site.  If you can find it via a Belgian seller, it'll likely be going for $60-$70 before shipping.  In the meantime, whiskysamples.eu still has samples left at a very reasonable price.

Availability - Happy Hunting!
Pricing - probably in the $60-$70 range (before shipping)
Rating - 81

Friday, May 10, 2013

Single Malt Report: Three Ships 10 year old South African Single Malt

Next stop on the whisky voyage...

South Africa, specifically the Western Cape, where James Sedgwick Distillery (JSD) has been producing Three Ships whiskies since 1977.  The JSD remains the big whisky dog in South Africa right now.  The other distillery, Drayman's, has been better known for their microbrewery.

JSD makes a trio of Three Ships blends, one of which, the 5 year old, has been bringing in some international awards (World's Best Blended Whisky 2012 from WWA and Gold 2012 from IWSC).  They also have a young grain whisky, Bain's Cape Mountain, and a number of cheaper budget-priced blends.

The Three Ships 5 year old blend is a combination of South African and Scotch whiskies.  But their one single malt, this 10 year old, is 100% South African.

Distillery: James Sedgwick Distillery
Brand: Three Ships
Ownership: Distell Group Limited
Type: Single Malt
Region: Wellington, South Africa
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: Likely mostly ex-bourbon casks, but also possibly some ex-sherry or french oak casks as well (okay, it's obvious I'm guessing on this one; if anyone knows JSD's oak facts please let me know, cheers!)
Batch: 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

The first batch of this single malt arrived in 2003 -- see Serge pan the hell out of it here.  The next batch didn't come out until 2010.  Once that sold out, batch #3 was released in October 2011.  Here it is:

Sampled neatly only, from a 30mL sample
Color - Rosy gold
Nose - Restrained nutty sherry and pencil shavings first.  Then cigarette butts, followed by orange creamsicles, peaches, apricots, and brown sugar.
Palate - Toasted almonds, citrus, a tiny bit of sweet wine, and mellow malt.  There's some nice soft rich American oak that gets chased around by some distant persistent phenolics.
Finish - Here comes the citrus again, mostly limes this time.  Brown sugar, faint dried fruits, and a hint of pepper.  It's actually kind of rummy.

Firstly and most importantly, this is very tasty stuff.  Compared to the Sullivan's Cove, there seems to be less of an attempt at complexity.  But that's not a problem because this South African single malt achieves success in its simplicity.

Secondly, there have got to be some former wine casks worked into the maturation.  If I am wrong, I will eat some Marmite. (Take that, Vegemite!)

Thirdly, if you were scared away by Serge's review, I just want to remind you that he was covering the first batch from 10 years ago.  Though I haven't tried that batch, I really do think JSD has made some leaps in whisky production in order to compete internationally.  If am I wrong, I will eat some Marmite.  (I'm going to regret these promises.)  Here's a link to Oliver Klimek's positive review on the recent batch and here's a link to whiskybase's decent reviews on it as well.

Finally -- here it comes -- the price.  You can get Three Ships 10yr via UK retail shops; with shipping it can run up to $80.  BUT, this same whisky sells for $30-$40 in South Africa.  To me, that's the perfect pricing for it.  This is what $30 whisky should taste like.  Lively with a little zip, it drinks well.  You're not going to write a thesis on it, but it's amicable for all seasons.  I'm always on the search for whiskies like that.  Anyone going to South Africa soon?

Availability - some UK retailers, many more South African retailers
Pricing - $50-$80 if ordering from UK, $30-$40 in South Africa
Rating - 85

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Single Malt Report: Sullivan's Cove Australian Single Malt

Now that considerably dark clouds of discontent regarding the scotch whisky industry have set in...

Now that Bourbon whiskey market is likely about to go down the same path (see this, then this)...

I've decided that right now is the best time to take a little (figurative) whisky voyage away from the United Kingdom, United States, Ireland, Japan, and Canada and towards a few of the countries newer to the whisky world.

First stop: Australia.

Australia (specifically Tasmania) actually has quite a buzzing, burgeoning whisky industry.  Companies like Lark and Sullivan's Cove lead the way in size and media coverage.  Meanwhile Bakery Hill, Belgrove, Hellyers Road, Limeburners, Nant, Old Hobart, and Timboon are growing, cranking out more whisky every year.  Though the distilleries follow most of the classic Scotch/Irish distilling methods, they're using local barley and water.  And they've been experimenting with the maturation process.  For instance, Bill Lark has been aging much of his whisky in former port pipes split up into smaller barrels.  Also, the local peat is made up of different vegetation than that of Scottish peat, so when any of these companies smoke-dry their malt, the phenolics are unique.

The one on the right is the Sullivan's Cove.
Maybe we'll explore the bottle on the left this summer?
Thanks to two of Kristen's coworkers (Chris for purchasing and Connor for couriering), I have a bottle of Sullivan's Cove Double Cask.  As mentioned above, Sullivan's Cove is one of the major players in the Australian whisky industry.  And, as of very recently, some of their single malts have been showing up at American specialty liquor retailers.  AND, for some good P.R., Jim Murray raved about their Single Casks in this year's Whisky Bible.

As for the Double Cask, there's some ex-bourbon American white oak cask-matured whisky in here, along with French oak casks that had previously held port.  According to their site, they turn it out in small batches: one French oak cask to two American oak casks.  It is married together for four months, then is bottled at 40% ABV, non-chillfiltered and uncolored.  But how does it taste?

Distillery: Tasmania Distillery
Brand: Sullivan's Cove
Type: Single Malt
Region: Tasmania, Australia
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: 1/3 ex-port French oak casks + 2/3 ex-bourbon American white oak
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? No
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

Color - Amber
Nose - Fresh out of the bottle there's a subtle smoke (somewhere between wood and vegetal), then there's some fudgy chocolate.  Lots of fresh bananas.  Notes of sugary oak, sweat, varnish, and baked goods bounce around.
Palate - Kit Kats!  Lots of 'em.  Plummy dessert wine spilled onto notebook paper.  Some cracked pepper floating in urine (What? Don't act like you haven't drunk your own pee.  And someone else's.  In college.  For $12.)  A little bitterness arrives after a while.
Finish - Decent length for 40% ABV.  Malt and red wine.  Very tannic.  Floral notes meet vanilla notes.  Some bitterness shows up after a while.

Okay, water really does not help matters.  Here are my notes anyway:
Nose - Toilets overdue for a cleaning (use your imagination).  Glade Plug-In floral scent.  Some French oak.  Sugary dried fruits and perfume.
Palate - Goes quiet, though the texture is pleasantly soft.  All caramel and vanilla.
Finish - Bitterness increases.

I'm almost halfway into this bottle and I'm still having a difficult time figuring it out.  There are some notes that don't seem to jive, like a homemade blend that's not quite right (see any of my posts on my own failed blending attempts).  It makes me curious about their Bourbon Single Cask, as perhaps that lets the spirit run free?  But the Double Cask isn't bad for a starter malt.

BUT due to the expense behind relatively small distilleries producing whisky in a country enforcing considerable taxes/tariffs, Australian whisky is very expensive.  Lark's whiskies run $150-$250 for 9 to 11 year-olds.  This Sullivan's Cove Double Cask is usually $90.  Had it been in the $20-$30 range, I would recommend it as an intriguing alternative to the Glens 'Livet, 'Fiddich, and 'Morangie.  At $40, I'd say it was borderline.  But at $90, Double Cask leaves me without much to say.  At that price range it is up against some of the most spectacular spirits ever designed by humans.  It can't compete, and I'm not sure it is meant to.  Perhaps the Single Casks (priced near $150) can flex their muscle some more.

If you buy the Double Cask, then you're supporting a growing whisky industry.  But that industry would flourish much more if their government (which has let its wine industry avoid certain excises, thus all the cheap Yellow Tail) gave their spirits industry some tax help so that the whisky companies can lower their prices.  And I mean, right now.  The whisky industry is in a state of explosive growth, growth that may not last forever.  Catching this comet would benefit Australian exports.

My rating below ignores these financials.  So, digging through the two previous paragraphs, the important whisky point is that Sullivan's Cove makes for a challenging starter malt.  In fact, the way I like to serve it best is as follows:
5 shakes of Angostura bitters
2 fl oz of whisky
2 fl oz of club soda
Several ice cubes
This allows cinnamon and nutmeg notes to emerge, along with a mouthful of vanilla.  It's a refreshing Spring weekend drink.

(And yes, I did consume the Vegemite from the first picture.  It tasted like yeasty creamed barbecued bird feathers.  Never has something that looked so much like chocolate not been chocolate.  It could lead a man to drink his pee whisky.)

Availability - A couple dozen liquor specialists (US)
Pricing - $80-$100 (US)
Rating - 76

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Irish Are Coming

With many thanks to Sku of Recent Eats, I am now addicted to checking for TTB's (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) newest registered COLAs (Certificates of Label Approval).  Here's the site: https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/publicSearchColasBasic.do.

It's all public info, so there are no secrets.  But what can be found on the site are approvals for labels of new liquor products before those bottles ever hit the shelves.  Seriously.  Have at it.

Here are some recent discoveries of the Irish sort:
1.) Redbreast 21 year old.  Yup.  Sku found it and tweeted it.  I exclaimed, "WOO HOO!"  May I naively hope they keep it under $100?
2.) Tullamore Dew Cask Strength.  56% ABV.  Looks like it starts out in bourbon casks, then spends its last 2 years in sherry casks.  What most interesting is that it appears to be a blend.....
3.) Power's John's Lane Single Pot Still.  This one made me squeal.  Like a pig Like a Belieber Like a grown-ass man.  Whiskycast scooped the news first on Mark's April 28th episode.  Interestingly, though John Ryan from Irish Distillers said that this SPS will have no age statement, there was COLA registered last September for the 12 year old version.  Perhaps the demand was anticipated to be too large to for the actual amount of 12yr available?  Either way, I'm pretty geeked about this one.
4.) Power's Gold Label.  As per the same Whiskycast episode, the whole Power's range is getting refreshed.  My favorite go-to whiskey is getting a new label, and (via a COLA from last month) it's getting bumped from 40% to 43.2% ABV.  I will drink it.

If this post seems just like a bunch of Irish whiskey industry cheerleading......well......I'm cheering for the whiskey.  I have a soft spot in my liver for Irish whiskey.  Thus more variety and new experiences are good things.  And maybe I'll be able to bring some of you over to my side someday...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Single Malt Report: Laphroaig Triple Wood

I was going to save this report for later this month, but after reading Oliver Klimek's recent excellent post on wood usage, I figured the Laphroaig Triple Wood would (sorry) be one example of the whisky's industry's current mania over oak.

The Triple Wood (which has its own site) is essentially Laphroaig Quarter Cask with additional maturation time in oloroso sherry butts.  In more detail, per the video with John Campbell on the official site, the distillery takes their usual single malt that's been aging in refill bourbon barrels for 5-13 years, then ages it for an additional 9 months in 125-liter quarter casks, then ages it for 9 months in first fill oloroso butts, THEN ages it again for 21-24 months in refill sherry butts.  So, according to that video, it's a quadruple maturation.  Quadruple Wood doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Triple Wood started out as a Duty Free-only release for a year or two, then entered the larger markets around 2009.  It is priced higher than the Quarter Cask, likely due the additional maturation expense.  Or because Laphroaig is trying to market it as a more premium whisky.

My notes below come from two tastings.  The first is from the enormous Laphroaig Vertical I attended in December.  The second tasting was done here at home last month as I lined up my 30mL sample with a dram of the Quarter Cask.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam, Inc.
Type: Single Malt
Region: Islay
Age: 8 to 16 years
Maturation: refill bourbon barrels --> quarter casks --> refill oloroso sherry butts --> first fill sherry butts (see above)
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Possibly
Alcohol by Volume: 48%

Color - Very bright gold
Nose - At first it's Frosted Flakes and overripe stone fruits sitting on a peat pillow.  Then there's a bunch of nondescript dried fruits and mango.  After a while cinnamon, sweet lemons, and rotting apples arrive.  The sherry has shorn off all the spirit's rough edges.
Palate - A much softer entry than the Quarter Cask, sweeter too.  Smoked dried cherries, chocolate, lavender flowers, and creme brulee.  In the far back hides sooty tobacco and a slight bitterness.
Finish - The peat strengthens here as does the bitter note.  Beyond that there's some vanilla, peated molasses, along with some farminess.  It's more tannic than the Quarter Cask, and has a snuffed cigarette note.  The sweetness carries the longest.

Nose - It dries out a bit.  Only a little sherry left, and the American oak takes over.  There's also some grass, hay, and soil, along with lemon rind.
Palate - Goes quiet.  There's still lots of soot & soil, though it is creamy soot & soil.
Finish - Remains lengthy with the peat soot and bitterness hanging on.

As per the notes above, with a quadruple maturation, this is one of the increasing number of modern malts with tons of woodwork.  But it's debatable why Laphroaig needs all this woodwork since its malt is so strong on its own.  Here, the whisky is beginning to stray away from the Laphroaig character.  The oceanside peat, seaweed, iodine, band-aids are gone.  As a result it's probably the most approachable of the Laphroaig line, for those who aren't big Laphroaig fans.  So perhaps that's the reason for the four maturation rounds.

But it still tastes and smells great, and that cannot be completely discounted.  I would be more than happy to drink this again (note the 48% ABV!).  As mentioned above it does carry a premium ($10-$15) above the Quarter Cask, so one is trading cash for the extra fruits and sherry.

For me, a Laphroaig fan, it sits a full step below the Quarter Cask because I love that whisky's bold intensity, its ramping up of the Laphroaig character.  I also would prefer both the regular Laphroaig 10yo and the 10yo cask strength over the Triple Wood.  But again, that's my palate.  Ultimately, the Triple Wood is a decent whisky that delivers the Laphroaig spirit cloaked in a series of barrels.

Availability - most liquor specialists
Pricing - $60-$75
Rating - 86

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Single Malt Report returns with a Kilchoman Taste Off!!!

Sometimes, after a couple of drinks, I attempt to make a Top Distilleries list.  You know, a Top Five or Top Ten.  There's no data to back up the lists, just a half-crocked subjective brainstorm.  Kilchoman always makes the Top Ten and often makes the big Five.  While its whisky is very very young, it is also very very good.  Anthony Wills and John MacLellan have found a way to design a malt that is ready to go when it is less than a handful of years old.  That's fantastic for their business and fantastic for us drinkers.

I'm a big fan of their Summer 2010 release.  Their Machir Bay is as good as you've heard, maybe better.  And last year's K&L Exclusive 100% Islay Single Sherry Cask is killer.  So far they were three for three in my glass.  I had to try to more!  So I assembled three different Kilchomans from three different sources and dug in.

As you can see, I assembled these guys from a number of sources.  And I'm going to list these in the reverse order from which they appear above.  They'll be in order of their age, oak influence, and (not so coincidentally) color.

Kilchoman 3 year old Inaugural 100% Islay -- 30mL sample from Whiskysamples
Kilchoman Spring 2010 -- 30mL sample from Florin
Kilchoman 2007 -- 20mL sample from the Whiskybase shop

Bottling: Inaugural 100% Islay
Barley Varietal: Optic
Age: at least three years (bottled 2011)
Maturation: former Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Limited Bottling: 11,300+

Kilchoman has been gradually releasing 100% Islay bottlings, which contain Optic barley grown on a local Islay farm.  The peating levels, 10-20ppm, differ from their non 100% Islay releases.  The barley from their regular releases comes from the Port Ellen maltings with the Ardbeg specs, approximately 50ppm.  Thus one feels less of the peat hammer on the Kichoman 100% Islay whiskies and more of the malt spirit.

The color is very light, almost clear.

The nose starts with peated snickerdoodle cookies, boldly so.  It's very spirity with just a hint of charred oak.  Way in the back, there's some lemon zest, brown sugar, and toast.

Cinnamon leads in the palate, followed by marshmallows.  A strong barley element with little oak.  Almost reminds me of a higher peated version of 'Laddie Bere.  But it's the malted grain that speaks the loudest, with the peat staying more subtle than that of the other two Kilchomans here.

It finishes boldly at first.  Then fades.  Then returns.  All barley spirit.

The nose holds fresh cherries, cinnamon red hots, and dusty peat.

The palate and finish are earthy with some dried grass and cracked pepper.  The spirit remains spicy and the ethyl stays strong, but it does become easier drinkin'.

This is a very young whisky.  In fact it's the only Kilchoman I've had that has tasted very young.  One of the most admirable aspects of the Kilchoman single malts is that they taste and nose considerably older than their age.  This one doesn't.  This is a zesty punchy spirit that pushes the oak into the background.  Happily, the spirit is good.

Availability - Several US retailers, though it's getting harder to find
Pricing - $90-$100 in the US, similar price internationally without shipping rate
Rating - 80

Bottling: Spring 2010
Age: more than three years
Maturation: 3 years in former Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, then 3-1/2 months in former oloroso sherry casks
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Limited Bottling: 8,500+

In 2010 and 2011, Kilchoman started rolling out their releases with each season.  I tried the Summer 2010 and LOVED it.  So I was excited to try the previous release.  The malt is heavily peated (~50ppm), the spirit ages for its first three years in former Buffalo Trace barrels, and then is finished off in (possibly first-fill) oloroso sherry casks.  This finish is nowhere nearly as aggressive as other sherry finished whiskies (I'm talking about you, Lasanta), instead it's more of a seasoning.

The color is a medium amber

The nose leads with those peat-laced cinnamon sugar cookies, then lemon cake, a little bit of dried grass and grain, followed by white and green fruits (green grapes and pears).

Here comes the peat in the palate, deeply sooty.  Ripe apples, smoked dried fruit, a little granulated sugar.  The texture is light though the alcohol punch feels stronger than 46%.

It finishes a little dry.  Ashes, toast, black pepper, and some of those cookies from the nose.

Candied apples arise in the nose.  There's also some sap, menthol, and honey roasted nuts.  The peat recedes into a farmy note.

The peat is much softer in the palate now.  The texture thickens and some peppery spice kicks up.

The finish is peat, sugar, spice, and nuts.

This one swam relatively well, though I prefer it neatly.  The oak, though more apparent than in the 100% Islay, remained quite restrained.  This one would taste and smell familiar to the fans of the Machir Bay releases.  It's younger than those whiskies, but you can sense the roots taking shape.

Availability - less than a dozen retailers worldwide
Pricing - around $70 in the US, similar price internationally without shipping rate
Rating - 86

Bottling: 2007
Special Release: Whisky Import Nederland
Age: five years (Nov 2007 - Nov 2012)
Maturation: first fill sherry hogshead
Region: Islay
Alcohol by Volume: 58.4%
Cask: 456/2007

Now, we jump to something big.  This one is older, cask strength, and full-on sherried.  The other Kilchoman sherry cask I've tried, the K&L exclusive from last year, was darned scrumptious.  This one is also on the tough-to-find side of things, but I thought it would represent the sherry single casks well, as there are a number of single sherry casks out there to be found, released in every country.

The color is dark gold.

The first thing I find in the nose is, *sniff*, charred nose hair.  Just kidding.  Maybe.  Roasted peat, dark dried fruit, cinnamon and molasses arrive in a group.  Then there's a scotchy butterscotch and a hint of chlorine.  Vanilla beans (wrong oak!), caramel sauce, walnuts, honey, and a tiny bit of (good) sulfur.

The palate leads with toffee and butterscotch.  A brief hammy moment is suddenly covered by an enormous smoke cloud.  Gorgeous sherry highlights mingle with peat very well and for a moment it's like a big Lagavulin 16.  Though it is barely five years old.

It finishes on hay, burnt toast, and a candied peat that lingers on and on.  It's a beach bonfire that's just been snuffed.

The nose is still very dense, though it's a bit farty.  There's still toasty peat, honeys and sugars, and dried apricots.

The palate and finish are full of very vegetal peat, salty meat, and soot (think Ardbeg 10's chimney sweep).

My goodness, do this neat.  A little water is fine, but if you're dropping this sort of cash you'll want the whisky where it shines.  Let it roar, big and beautiful.  That's two for two with Kilchoman's single sherry casks, for me.  Add the Machir Bay into the equation and we're seeing this baby malt playing very well with oak.  That's a good sign so far.  What's it going to be like when it hits eight years old next year...?

Availability - Netherlands :-\
Pricing - $100-$130 before shipping
Rating - 91