In the beginning, there were thirteen samples...
...and then there were three:
Here's the intro that I've been regurgitating: 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 have been tasting in the controlled environment of my home.
Because most of the samples tended to be smaller than my usual reviewed samples, I haven't been providing number grades, instead I've used letter grade ranges. Since I spent 45 minutes with each of these last three samples and I want to give them number grades. Especially the final one.
I'll be listing these three in an order opposite of which I tasted them:
Ardmore 17 year old 1996 Gordon & MacPhail (43% ABV)
according to whiskybase this cask was matured in refill sherry hogshead
Color -- Gold
Nose -- Begins with paint fumes and paper. Needs a moment, then the citrus tones arise, followed by vanilla custard and caramel sauce. With more air it grows more candied. It's mostly oak though. Something about it is reminiscent of Yamazaki 12, maybe it's the sherry + US oak.
Palate -- Thickly textured considering the ABV. Smoked butterscotch, nougat, and toasted grains. Soft bitterness and sweetness.
Finish -- Sweet and creamy with a hint of smoke and a little citric tartness. Not very long though.
Nose -- Vanilla and malt. Cardboard in the distance, but limes and oranges up front.
Palate -- More bitterness, which is nice. More malt. Some wood smoke. Seems tighter and tarter.
Finish -- A wisp of smoke, more drying and bitter. Not much.
Verdict: I love Ardmore, but not this one. It's only the second Ardmore I've found disappointing. It's not bad, but it seems like not much more than an oaky high-malt blend; though I'm sure a 17-18 year old Teacher's would be much better. The peat barely shows up, which is a shame because all of the '90s Ardmores I've had (before this one) register as peaty as Caol Ila. With the vintages from 1990 to 1997, G&M have released reduced ABV single casks of Ardmore. After tasting this one, I'm not sure why they water the casks down. I won't be chasing after any of them, so at least I saved a few bucks in the process.
Rating: 79 (C+)
Springbank 17(ish) year old 1995 for The Whisky Exchange (56.5% ABV)
a single cask with a retro label bottled exclusively for TWE
Color - Pale amber
Nose -- Lemon, pineapple, citronella candles, tropical fruits, and melons are packed in the beginning. Floral hand soap and almonds develop with time. A strong alcohol burn remains throughout.
Palate -- Intensely nutty and bitter. Very rich caramel meets sharp bitter peat. Lemon Warheads candies.
Finish -- Bitter and drying. Lemon peel and almonds. Very simple.
Nose -- More nuts (almonds and walnuts), lemons, roses. It's very grassy. And something milky in the mix too.
Palate -- Brightens up a bit. More tartness too. Mango and lemon.
Finish -- Lemony malt. Sweet and tart.
Verdict: As you can probably tell, the nose was a lot of fun. The palate and finish were very mild and, frankly, bland for a Springbank. The Whisky Exchange's site suggests that this might be a Longrow, but aside from the lemon notes I get nothing Longrow-like. I would never have even guessed it was a Springer. It's very pretty and grunge-free. Almost peat-free too. I probably would guess it was a Speyside or a mild Highland malt if I'd tried it blindly. It's not bad by any means, especially the nose. But, like with the Ardmore, the standards are set high. I'd take this one over the Ardmore G&M though.
Rating: 81 (B-)
And to close it up...
Inchmoan (Loch Lomond) 11 year old 1994 for Whisky Fair (54.8% ABV)
cask 646, probably a refill bourbon barrel
Color -- Very light, like watered down pinot grigio
Nose -- Oh, so much stank. At first sniff, there's the greasy industrial stuff missing from the Springbank but on a VERY intense level. Then some moss, sugar, and baby powder. But then something very bad starts to happen. It smells of chemicals, as if it was made to unclog sinks and polish metal. Then there are notes of cheap blends (Lauders, Clan Macgregor, Hanky Bannister). Then it's a dead rat in the drywall. Infected puss. And vanilla extract with orange peel.
Palate -- Rotten bananas. Garbage. Lots of garbage. Week-old Taco Bell dumpster garbage; I worked at Taco Bell in high school, I wore this scent on my purple uniform. Then up bursts a ton of sugar and moss.
Finish -- Dumpster. All dumpster. An acrid chemical bitterness.
Nose -- Sour smells. Cabbagey peat. Industrial cleanser mixed with honey.
Palate -- Better, I guess. Very bitter. Less sugar. Lots of veg. Less garbage, though it still tastes unsafe.
Finish -- Bitter garbage.
Verdict: When I added water, I expected a dead body to float to the surface. While this might have challengers amongst the worst single malts I've ever experienced, there is no doubt that this Inchmoan brings with it the worst finish ever. While the nose is almost so bad that it's entertaining (Finlaggan-style), the palate is not funny. And the finale made me nervous about what I'd consumed. And if you're interested, The Whisky Exchange has it on sale.
Rating: 43 (F)
Yes, let's end on that note.
Here is the final Peatin' Meetin' Scorecard:
-- 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) - Grade Range: A-
-- Ardbeg Supernova SN2010 (OB, 60.1% ABV) - Grade Range: B/B+
-- Ardmore 17 year old 1996 (Gordon & MacPhail, 43% ABV) - Grade Range: C+
-- Springbank 17(ish) year old 1996 (The Whisky Exchange, 56.5% ABV) - Grade Range: B-
-- Inchmoan (Loch Lomond) 11 year old 1994 (The Whisky Far, 54.8% ABV) - Grade Range: F
The two big winners from the group were the Port Askaig 19 year old and Longrow 10 year old Sherrywood. The Laphroaig '98 from Signatory and the Supernova 2010 were good but are not priced at a level I'd recommend to anyone.
The two big losers were both Loch Lomonds. Official "Peated" NAS bottling is actually sorta drinkable. The indie Inchmoan is not.
The highs didn't quite match the lows, but the whole experience was a lot of fun. Thanks for sticking with this series. Hopefully it was of some use to you. Now it's time to move on.