...where distraction is the main attraction.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Notes from a tasting: Peatin' Meetin' Whiskies at Home, Part 4

The Peatin' Meetin' sample journey continues.  This is technically Part Four.  If you're looking for Part Three it was the Schlenkerla post.

Anyway, here's the intro again.  Though I attended Peatin' Meetin' this year, I did not drink during the event.  Instead I picked up a baker's dozen samples, all of which I will be (and have been) tasting in the controlled environment of my home.

The stash, at the start
Since the samples tend to be smaller than my usual reviewed samples, I probably won't be providing numerical grades.  Instead, I'll be giving each one a letter grade range.

This week, I chose two samples that are well known but dissimilar in style.  The Port Askaig 19 year old and Ardbeg SUPERNOVA SN2010.

Yes, SUPERNOVA.  Relevant!  If you've made the mistake of regularly reading whisky news (pronounced: ad-ver-tahy-zing) as I sometimes do, you've been getting socked in the ear with the trumpets preceding this (or next?) week's release of the new Supernova.  My review is not of the new 2014 version.  It is of the 2010 version.  I'm classic like that.

I actually do hope the new version kicks ass.  And if it does, I hope to get a wee sippy of it because I won't be hauling out the $150-$250 it'll probably cost.  The 2010 version is bracing, but more on that below.

Here's the Peatin' Meetin' Scorecard so far...
-- Balvenie 17 year old Islay Cask (OB, 43% ABV) - Grade Range: B-/B
-- Loch Lomond Peated, green label (OB, 46% ABV) - Grade Range: D+/C-
-- Bowmore 16 year old 1990 Sherry Cask (OB, 53.8% ABV) - Grade Range: B-
-- Laphroaig 13 year old 1994 (Cadenhead, 54.7% ABV) - Grade Range: B-/B
-- Bladnoch Lightly Peated 11 year old 2002 K&L exclusive (OB, 51.5%) - Grade Range: B
-- Longrow 10 year old Sherrywood (OB, 46% ABV) - Grade Range: B+/A-
-- Laphroaig 15 year old 1998 K&L exclusive (Signatory, 61% ABV) - Grade Range B/B+
-- Schlenkera Rauchbier Spirit (40% ABV) - Grade Range: B-/B
-- Port Askaig 19 year old (Specialty Drinks, 50.4% ABV)
-- Ardbeg Supernova SN2010 (OB, 60.1% ABV)
-- ???
-- ???
-- ???

Normally the younger whisky goes first in a tasting, but Supernova is a scorcher and I'd like to have my taste buds present to try the Port Askaig.

Port Askaig 19 year old (Specialty Drinks, 50.4% ABV)
Unofficially, this is Caol Ila. It isn't sold in the US, so I'm glad I was able to sneak a 20mL pour.
Color -- Pinot grigio
Nose -- Very beachy and sandy.  A candy shop in the summer heat.  Lots of lemons and honeydew, maybe some subtle mango.  Smaller notes of mustard and peppercorns.
Palate -- The peat rolls in here, mostly as smoke and embers.  Vanilla cupcakes and roses.  Sea air and sea salt.
Finish -- A snuffed bonfire that lingers and lingers.  Rose petals.

Grade Range: A-
Terrific.  Lovely.  Now I want my own bottle.  It's too bad that UK shipping costs as much as an additional single malt bottle.  Anyway, enough bitching.  This graceful whisky topped my expectations.

Ardbeg Supernova SN2010 (OB, 60.1% ABV)
Distilled from barley that was peated to 100pm at its malting, this whisky was bottled in 2010, back when Bill Lumsden had the confidence in his malt to release an all non-rejuvinated bourbon cask whisky. Look at me with the sassy talk.
Color -- Very light amber
Nose -- Dingy stinky peat.  Baked fruit breads.  Sprite and black licorice.  Yeasty and slightly cheesy.  This is really young.  Makes Kilchoman Machir Bay look like Dalmore Sirius (agewise).
Palate -- Massive inky mossy dirty peat.  Toasty malt and cinnamon buns.  Salty and bitter.
Finish -- Peat.  Maybe some cinnamon candy.  Peat.  Slight bitterness.  Peat.  Ashtray.  Peat.

Grade Range: B/B+
In the graphic-novel-sounding Octomore versus Supernova battle, Octo is more complex and has more depth.  Supernova has more raw power.  It does one thing and does it completely.  This is my second time trying Supernova 2010 and this new tasting has clarified how I see it.  Imagine Ardbeg Ten infused with peat moss, parched dirt, and Marlboro** ashes at its inception, but then bottled the moment it reaches the legal 3 years.  Octomore wins the war, but Supernova is good if you want to char your tongue with peat concentrate.

** - the man, not the cigarettes

This was an entertaining duo.  Port Askaig was a layered late-night indulgence, while Supernova punched me in the mouth.  The not-so-secretly-Caol-Ila Askaig tops the group so far, becoming the second of the ten samples that I would consider tracking down if I could.

In Part Five: The Final Chapter, I'll be tasting the last three samples, none of which are actually from Islay...