...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Auchroiskin' all week: Auchroisk 18 year old 1988 Blackadder cask #8954

This is a curious whisky. I'll list what I've observed. Here's the label, from whiskybase:
It has a different design than the usual Blackadder label, though they kept the font in the same family. The whisky was reduced to 46%abv (not the usual Raw-ass Cask approach), but somehow only 105 of these diluted bottles came from a hogshead which doesn't appear to have been split with anyone. And this is the first "Aberdeen Distillers" bottling I've seen. More do exist and they do appear to be a lightweight version of Blackadder bottlings, like a cross between Signatory's "Vintage Collection" and "Unchillfiltered" ranges.

So, it's a diluted Blackadder from a rarely seen (at least in my whisky shopping travels) range from a cask that may have had serious evaporation or leakage or fell victim to a warehouse worker's thirst. But it is Auchroisk and I'm having some Auchroisk luck recently. Thank you Florin, a prince, for this sample.

(UPDATE: Florin may have explained the weird bottle count issue in the comment section below. It seems likely there was at least a second release of this same cask...)

Distillery: Auchroisk
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Speyside (Central)
Independent Bottler: Blackadder
Range: Aberdeen Distillers
Age: 18 years (December 1988 - August 2007)
Maturation: Oak hogshead
Cask number8954
Limited bottling: 105
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Note: as per the photo above, I tried this alongside the whisky from the next review.

The nose is loaded with orange peel, white gummi bears and tropical fruit candy right up front. An undercurrent of brininess keeps things from getting too wild, but it remains fresh and crisp throughout. With time it picks up more lemons and a hint of overripe melon. The palate is malty, salty and tart. A bit sharp up front, creamy around the edges. Tropical fruit candy, sweet limes, apricots and a hint of oak. It has a nice long finish highlighted by peach, vanilla bean, baked pear, apricot preserves and a slight earthy note.

Damn. Whatever happened to this cask, Blackadder might want to (accidentally?) replicate it. In fact, I liked this more than most of the full-powered Blackadders I've tried. It's right up there with Monday's official 20 year old Auchroisk. So don't be weirded out by anything on the label, in fact pretend you didn't even read my intro.

Availability - ???
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, November 28, 2016

Single Malt Report: Auchroisk 20 year old Limited Edition (2010)


Okay, okay. Stop shouting. I'll review more Auchroisk this week, damn it.

First up, is Diageo's limited edition release from 2010. Not too long ago, a number of retailers couldn't seem to give this one away, dishing out massive price cuts to clear this from their shelves, but finding limited success. In 2012, Diageo dropped another limited edition Auchroisk (a 30-year old) which is also still easily available throughout Europe. Not to be outdone, they released another Auchroisk limited edition this year, 25 years old but priced higher than the 30 year old. Um, if you're a retailer, are you really picking that one up too?

But what if the original, 20 year old, limited release was actually great? I'd like to find out. Many thanks to Brett, certified whisky fan from Riverside, for this opportunity to find out.


Distillery: Auchroisk
Ownership: Diageo
Range: Special Releases / Limited Editions
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: at least 20 years
Maturation: American and European oak casks
Limited Bottling: 5856
Bottling year: 2010
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? Not much, if any

The color is thankfully short on DiageoGold™. The nose leads with mangoes, canned pears, vanilla and cocoa. With 10-15 minutes of air, seashore and berry candy notes appear. Then York peppermint patties, toffee and pencil shavings. The palate has a lot of toasted oak and roasted malt. A citric tang, tobacco, toffee and a ginger beer buzz. It's both peppery and sweet. Slight notes of sherry cask and smoke after a while. Ah, plenty of nutty sherry in the finish. Malt, salt, cocoa, grilled meat. Lengthy sweetness meets subtle wood smoke.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The nose is much different, but remains high quality. Lemon, peach and apple skins, toasted malt. The palate now has more of the nose's fruit and a pleasant sweetness. Malty and gingery. Some dried fruit from the sherry casks. The finish is shorter and lighter, but more acidic. Mint, sugar, lemon candy and a hint of wood smoke.

This Auchroisk 20 year old was such a nice surprise. It has high quality ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks in the mix, lending a hand while letting the fruity maltiness sing through. Water turns up the fruit notes, but I think I prefer the neatness's complexity. It also drinks easily, considering its ABV. If you were smart and grabbed this when it was on sale, then enjoy! And if you're still looking for it, it's easily found.

Availability - a couple dozen retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $130-$160 Europe (w/o VAT, w/o shipping), $140-$225 US
Rating - 88

Friday, November 25, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, barrel 176 for Cleveland Bourbon Club

Are you still full from Thanksgiving or are you chewing on a cold drumstick as you read this? Well, how about a serving of Wild Turkey, the most relevant whiskey for Turkey Day? Though there's also that viski Tekel distills in Ankara...which is the capital of Turkey. Man, this intro is crap.

I had the pleasure of obtaining a bottle from a Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit single barrel purchase by the Cleveland Barrel Club. My bottle was promptly opened but has not been drained terribly quickly. At the time of typing, I'm still not at the midpoint of the bottle. But it's time for a review!

I only realized yesterday that the bottle's frilly ribbing
was meant to depict a turkey's tail feathers. I'm slow.
Brand: Wild Turkey
Owner: Gruppo Campari
Distillery: Wild Turkey Distillery
Location: Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Mash Bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley
Age: 8 years 8 months
Bottling date: September 8, 2016
Barrel #: 176
For: Cleveland Bourbon Club
Alcohol by volume: 50.5%

The nose starts out very woody, with ashy wood smoke, sawdust and tree bark. Slight vegetal note, with soy sauce underneath. LOTS of corn chips. Fryer oil meets dijon mustard. The palate is also woody, but less so than the nose. It's very minty with lemon and a slight medicinal tinge. Some low rumbling rye. Hints of raspberries, almonds and hazelnuts. The finish is very tannic and drying. But it also has substantial notes of raspberries and cherries. Some more lemon and a peppery tingle. Long and sweet.

WITH WATER (~40.5%abv, from 101 proof to 81 proof)
The nose has softened considerably. Some barrel char. A little bit of rye and mint. Slight manure note. Not much else. The palate has also gotten milder, but has a good herbal bitterness to it, meeting up with the corn sweetness. Still has some of that berry fruitiness. It finishes with barrel char, cherry-flavored cough syrup and cracked black pepper.

AS A HIGHBALL (1:1 ratio and few shakes of Angostura bitters)
It performs best here. The spices from the bitters meets well with brown sugar and fruit from the bourbon. A good drink. I've enjoyed it two nights in a row.

I struggle a little bit with Wild Turkey's products. I do not like their 81 proof bourbon and rye, nor their regular 101 bourbon. But I like Rare Breed and all the Russell's Reserve whiskies. This one sits somewhere in the middle. Its strange nose might be kind of cool if not for the aggressive wood. The palate is pretty decent, especially when the fruit appears. As with the rest of their whiskies, I don't recommend proofing it down to 40.5%. But BUT it works very well as a highball, which I'll probably be using it for going forward.

Availability - Exclusive to the Cleveland Bourbon Club
Pricing - sold out
Rating - 80 (bonus points for the good highball)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Single Malt Report: The Singleton of Auchroisk 10 year old 1985 (US release)

The Tale

Auchroisk distillery is younger than many of my readers. In 1972, Justerini & Brooks (aka J&B) started building Auchroisk in Banffshire, but before the year was over the company was bought by Watney Mann which in turn merged with Grand Metropolitan. Construction completed in 1974, and Auchroisk has been used primarily, often entirely, for blends (including J&B) ever since. Today the distillery is surrounded by "ten, huge racked warehouses with the capacity of storing 250,000 casks and further planning application for another four has been approved," as per The Malt Whisky Yearbook. Either Diageo thinks this spot has prime maturation climate for its many distilleries' casks, or it's some cheap open land.

The Bottle

Like Monday's Singleton, this Singleton of Auchroisk also has a quirky age statement.

You can't really see it from the above photo, but the bottom label tells a similar story as the 1981's. (Whiskybase has this info as well.) I'll just repeat what I wrote yesterday because it's the same tale:

Distilled in 1985, bottled in 1997.......10 years old? One of four things is happening here:
1. Bad Math
2. Casks were dumped into steel in 1995 or early 1996, thus the whisky had only aged for 10 years.
3. There is some 10 year old whisky in the mix, that was not distilled in 1985
4. The brand wanted to keep the 10 year old age statement on The Singleton range. So they called it 10 years old, which doesn't actually break any rules because the whisky is in fact at least the age stated on the label. If they had said it was a 15 year old, then it would have been a violation of SWA laws.

Got it? Cool. I obtained a sample of this from an SCWC event two years ago. Time to drink.

The Review

Distillery: Auchroisk
Brand: The Singleton
Ownership: Diageo (Grand Metropolitan, at the time)
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: at least 10 years old (1985-1997, see above)
Maturation: ex-sherry casks
Bottling year: 1997
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered: Maybe
Colorant Added: Maybe, but not much

Note: I tasted this side by side with the 1981 Singleton to gain some perspective.

The nose has a lot of bright dried fruit notes from the sherry cask, especially golden raisins and dried apricots. There's also some celery and musty funky barrel notes in there. And just a thin floor of vanilla bean. The palate begins with mellow milk chocolate, black tea and prunes. Very little sweetness to it. With time it sharpens up. Black peppercorns, tart cherries and a hint of bitter coffee. It finishes with a nice sherry cask feel, reminiscent of recent GlenDronach 12. Some cherries in dark chocolate. Black grapes and a peach. More spicy than sweet.

I think this could be compared favorably to GlenDronach 12yo overall. The sherry/European oak cask notes are rich and focused. It doesn't have the subtle peat note that the 1981 had, but the '85 does have a bit of funky old whisky character to it. I liked it a lot. It's not smooth nor is it sweet, so I can imagine it wasn't a crowd pleaser 19 years ago. Sadly this was the last vintage they put on the 10 year old before it became vintage-less, and then was plucked off the market soon after. I recommend this vintage over the 1981 and it's probably equivalent, in my irrelevant estimation, to a $40-$50 whisky if you ever see this gathering dust on a shelf.

Availability - Secondary / auction market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Monday, November 21, 2016

Single Malt Report: The Singleton of Auchroisk 10 year old 1981 (US release)

The Tale

A decade before Diageo unleased The Singleton Trio of Glen Ord, Glendullan and Dufftown to the world, they had kept things simple with one Singleton, The Singleton of Auchroisk.  This Auchroisk series had actual disclosed vintages—ranging from 1974 to 1985—until those were removed for the final batch bottled in 2000. Many of the Auchroisk Singletons had a listed 10 year age statement but some did not. And at least two versions' age statements were a little quirky, as you'll see in today's and tomorrow's posts. Yes, I have samples of TWO The Singleton of Auchroisks. What a lucky boy am I!

The Bottle

Here's the bottle from today's review:

Okay, now lemme take a look at that label on the bottom:

Distilled in 1981, bottled in 1993.......10 years old? One of four things is happening here:
1. Bad Math
2. Casks were dumped into steel in 1991 or early 1992, thus the whisky had only aged for 10 years.
3. There is some 10 year old whisky in the mix, that was not distilled in 1981
4. The brand wanted to keep the 10 year old age statement on The Singleton range. So they called it 10 years old, which doesn't actually break any rules because the whisky is in fact at least the age stated on the label. If they had said it was a 15 year old, then it would have been a violation of SWA laws.

Riveting stuff. I got my hands on this bottle when someone reached out to the Orange County Scotch Club looking to sell or swap for this bottle. So we took him up on it. And I made it part of our February 2016 event. It had some things going for it. The whisky was matured in ex-sherry casks, it was bottled at 43%abv rather than 40, it's an extinct brand and it had 20+ years of bottle aging (if you believe in that sort of thing). Now to taste it.

The Review

Distillery: Auchroisk
Brand: The Singleton
Ownership: Diageo (Grand Metropolitan, at the time)
Region: Speyside (Central)
Age: at least 10 years old (1981-1993, see above)
Maturation: ex-sherry casks
Bottling year: 1993
Alcohol by Volume: 43%
Chillfiltered: Maybe
Colorant Added: Maybe, but not much

The nose starts off with malt, caramel, fennel seed and nutty Oloroso. Some hints of tar and sulphur in the midground. Moderate notes of mint leaves, tobacco and a funky honey (my nickname). The palate has some peat-like notes, even though Auchroisk's spirit might not be peated. But it's quite organic. There are also plums, apricots and leather. Dry sherry and spicy heat. Floral esters and vanilla. A nice oily texture to it all. The finish is short-ish and slightly drying. Soft fruity sweetness, peach candy and a slight grain note.

This is better than the current three 12yo Singletons. It has a MUCH better mouthfeel and the sherry cask influence is impressive. It's not a super duper secret find—the finish is short and a bit bland, while the nose fades out after 15+ minutes—but it is a good starter whisky and would fit in comfortably with "The Classic Malts". I don't recommend splashing out on a bottle if you see one at auctions or a dusty on the shelf. This Singleton of Auchroisk is a good $30-$40 anytime drink. While it's kind of a bummer Diageo retired this one, I think the current price of sherry casks wouldn't let them turn this out at a starter price. So that was the 1981. We'll try another vintage in the next review.

Availability - Secondary / auction market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83

Friday, November 18, 2016

WTF Is This? Corti Brothers Exquisite Whiskey

Yeah, I know Friday is bourbon and rye day, but WTF is this "Exquisite" stuff? It's neither fish nor fowl, Shinola nor santorum. Okay it technically started out as bourbon, but the result is. The result is. I'll come back to the result in a moment...

The Players

The Corti Brothers have a history of releasing exclusive single malt whiskies, stretching back several decades. Whiskyfun has a bunch of reviews of old Corti stuff we'll never be able to try, so feel free to porn out to that. Though they bottled this Exquisite Thing under their own label in 2014, Corti Bros neither distilled it nor matured it...

In 2013, Amador—a Sierra foothills distillery founded in 2012—obtained 13 barrels of Kentucky bourbon and finished for eight months it in casks that held batches of a sweet wine called Mission del Sol for 40 years. So Amador neither distilled the whiskey nor produced the wine...

Mission del Sol was made at Harbor Winery in Sacramento, from the Mission grape. Their last batch of Mission del Sol was produced in 1986 and bottled in 2014. They no longer make the sweet wine.

And finally, the bourbon was distilled by a mystery Kentucky distiller from a 70/25/5 mashbill in 2006. In 2013 they sold 13 of the barrels to Amador Distillery who finished the stuff in wine casks from Harbor Winery and then bottled the stuff under Corti Brothers' label. And we're back at the beginning again.

The Review

Thank you to Florin for this nice big sample. He and I also drank some of this together (what seems like) a million years ago. For the long and winding data on this whisky see the section above.

Its color is a very red brown. The nose starts with bubblegum, raspberry jam and corn syrup. Cherry-flavored children's medicine, eucalyptus and a hint of vanilla. Lots of oak: sawdust and bark. The palate is almost all Port, for a while. Then black grapes and Schweppes raspberry ginger ale (circa 1980s). Not much whiskey in this whiskey. Maybe some rye spice. Dark cherries and tart blackberries. A liqueur's sweetness. It finishes like high strength Port. Very sweet. Cheap maraschino cherries. Maybe some jammy PX.

This is a Port + Chambord barrel-aged liqueur. Is that a good thing? That depends on one's preferences. This stuff is beloved by Sku, be-not-loved by The Whiskey Jug, generates contrasting responses from LAWS, and somehow garners a positive review from Serge who always HATES this level of imbalanced wine bomb. I think this stuff would be great poured over rich vanilla ice cream, or matched with bitter dark chocolate. Drinking it straight didn't gross me out because I like port and berry candy. It's not terrible; in fact, I liked it more than the first two batches of Bruichladdich Black Art. But I've sipped this whisky on three occasions now and I am happy to say that's all the Exquisite Whiskey I need. I'll have some crap rye now, thanks.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $30 (375mL), $50 (750mL)
Rating - 79

Thursday, November 17, 2016

WTF Bruichladdich: X4+3

The Story

One thing is true about the Reynier / McEwan Era, Bruichladdich was not afraid to experiment. These enterprises paid off in the birth of two excellent brands, Port Charlotte and Octomore. Their trials also resulted in the X4+3, the failed espionage droid designed to monitor English aggression.

Unfortunately it affixed itself to some schnook's head, became mayor of London and then totally upended the national economy. So perhaps it didn't entirely fail in its mission--

Sorry, X4+3 is a whisky. I was thinking of something else.

Having already created a triple-distilled single malt, known as Trestarig, Bruichladdich tried out a quadruple-distilled whisky in 2006. It came off the still at a heartwarming 90%abv. A year later they endangered Feis Ile attendees with X4+1 Deliverance, a spirit drink aged one year and bottled at 65.4%abv. Two years later, X4+3 Uisquebaugh Baul left the hangar, now a legal whisky, bottled at 63.5%abv. It was aged in a combo of ex-bourbon and virgin American oak casks. People experienced it and lived to tell the tale. Now it's my turn.

I had to steel myself with some recent Glenfarclas 105 (what is it, a 5yo now?) for this task.

Blogger won't let me display this content. Too many Xs.

The Review

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Age: 3 years
Bottling year: 2009
First Maturation: 50/50 mix of ex-bourbon and virgin American oak casks
Product full name: Bruichladdich X4+3 Uisquebaugh Baul
Alcohol by Volume: 63.5%
Limited Bottling: 15,000
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to Brett, Patron Saint of Happy Pups, for the sample!)

The nose starts off with some creamy barley, salty butter and hay. Imitation vanilla extract. With time, some fruit notes roll in. Offseason apples and tinned pineapple. Reducing it to ~50%abv brings out some cinnamon and florals. More sugars. When reduced further to ~43%abv the nose is nearly gone. Light grainy notes, vanilla and caramel.

The palate is a much different creature. Medicinal and metallic with burnt barley and burnt herbs. Plenty of heat, of course. Some caramel, but more wool. And a mineral sparkle. When reduced to ~50%abv it loses some of those unique phenols, but picks up more sweetness. Peppery. Maybe some ham. Dropped to ~43%abv it gets sweeter still. The edge is gone. All that's left is caramel and brown sugar.

Not a lot going on in the finish. Mostly spicy ethyl, grass and a grain eau de vie. Some hints of ham and bitter burnt bread. When dropped to ~50%abv, it's hot, burnt and peppery, with tart lemon and a hint of florals. At ~43%abv, it's tangy and peppery.

Like yesterday's whisky, the nose and palate are totally different, but flipped around. The palate is kinda wacko, and I like it. Reminds me of the weirder refill cask Auchentoshan (triple-distilled) indies I've had. But the nose is almost grain whisky...with new oak. I have no idea if this linked to the very high alcohol content the X4 and grain whisky both have when they're fresh off the still. But the similarity is striking. The finish doesn't have much going on, but that's probably because it's young. I do like the eau de vie characteristic though. If the finish and the nose matched the palate, I'd be shouting "Get Some X4" right now. But they don't.

It's still worth a try if you can find a single pour somewhere, just for the palate's rude glory. I wish I could say that the X4 will blossom with additional aging, but there's a lot of new oak in there. Serge may have been on to something 10 years ago; the X4's peak might have been when it was born.

Availability - Scarce, you may have to search the auctions
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83 (just for the palate, don't add water please!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Winey Bruichladdich: 21 year old Cuvee 382 La Berenice


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Age: minimum 21 years
Bottling year: 2012
First Maturation: ex-bourbon casks
Finish: Limousin oak ex-Sauternes and ex-Barsac sweet wine casks
Product full name: Bruichladdich 21 year old Cuvée 382 La Berenice MG41 L'Age D'Or
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Bottle was from an OCSC event, sample poured from mid-bottle two days after opening)

The color is medium gold, much darker than Monday's 19yo Signatory. The nose starts off pretty quirky, with burnt oak, grass and cucumber skin. But after five minutes it changes completely. Lots of toffee, bright white fruit notes and a creamy crème fraîche thing. It's a little on the perfumy side. But there's also a salty beach air note and green grapes. The palate is, er, odder than the nose. It's very sweet and very perfumed. Also bitter, fizzy and acidic. Soapy. A whirlwind of weird. There are some oranges and fresh ginger mixed in. After 20 minutes, it becomes violently sweet. The finish has the acid and the perfume, too. Also golden raisins and bitter almonds.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
The nose is rich and candied now. Full of toffee pudding and nutty sherry-like notes. It's still grassy in the background. The palate has mellowed out. Still too sweet. Soft and creamy, a little floral and bitter. And soapy. The finish is sweet, soapy, drying and creamy, with orange peel.


Remember when soap didn't smell like anything. When it was just, you know, Soap. White and awful—kind of like Trump, though he's sorta salmon-colored. Soap was just there to strip the world of several layers and not to make it smell like honeydew lavender rosemary.

When I was a kid we had an industrial-sized vat of Soap tucked under the rusty lawnmower blades and spider nests. When it was cleaning time, we'd grab Soap and the dented black iron cabbage-picking bucket that sat behind the broken chainsaw. All you'd need was a small squirt of that white spunk and you'd suddenly have a bucketful of fluffy Soap foam once the hose spray hit it. We needed that nuclear saponification when it was time to scrub the rotten egg crust and horse blood off the west side of my uncle's garbage truck using only the discarded shih tzu heads from the taxidermy dumpster next door.

And that, my dear Mathilda, is why soapy whisky makes Papa Bear sad.

This whisky's nose and palate are from two different dimensions. The nose can almost be called lovely, which more or less screws the fakakta palate because one's expectations are set so high. But the nose is a bit heavy on the perfume, which makes me wonder—between the soap and perfume—if the whisky isn't trying to warn us of something. Like, perhaps a certain Bruichladdich taxidermist was too busy trying to apply Rogue Dior to a stuffed Highland grice to recognize the whole thing belonged in the dumpster.

But it smells nice.

Availability - Many specialty retailers in the US and Europe, four years after its release
Pricing - $130-$180 (w/o VAT & shipping) in Europe, $180-$200 in the US
Rating - 71

Monday, November 14, 2016

Indie Bruichladdich: 19 year old 1992 Signatory UCF, cask #3627

There were more posts planned for last week but Shit Happened and—unrelated—I suddenly received a lot of paid work. But now let us return to our regularly scheduled Bruichladdich program.

Last week, I reviewed the second edition of Bruichladdich 12yo and a previous version of Bruichladdich 10yo. Both of these were distilled before Mark Reynier and Jim McEwan controlled the distillery, as was today's whisky. This hogshead was matured (at least partially) and bottled by my favorite indie, Signatory. The Pitlochry-based company has put out at least a dozen of these Unchillfiltered Collection bottlings of 1992 Invergordon Distillers Bruichladdich. I regrettably passed up many of these when they were on the shelves at a good price. Luckily for me, Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail did not! He sent me a sample of cask 3627 (thanks!) when we did a swap.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Age: 19 years (November 20, 1992 - March 5, 2012)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask#: 3627
Bottle: 87 of 342
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

Its color is a medium amber. The nose is all barley up front. Then lemons, yellow plums, cocoa and a hint of vanilla. There are hints, here and there, of beach sand, orange blossoms and Belgian ale. The big notes in the palate are toffee, butterscotch and something peat-ish (smoked nuts & bandages?). It picks up a sharp bitterness halfway through. Some subtler notes of flowers, vanilla bean and peppery arugula. A bit of bitterness in the finish as well. Then toffee and caramel. Tart acidic limes. It gets sweeter and more aromatic with time.

WITH WATER (~40%abv)
Some more stone fruits and caramel in the nose. More of the briny/beachy salt note. And barley. Big pepper and better bitterness (okay enough Bs) in the palate. It's also sweeter with gentle barrel notes. Tart citrus (probably grapefruits) and a hint of soap. The finish becomes mild, sweet, malty and citric. A little bit of caramel in there too.

This Signatory Bruichladdich is a nice simple drinker. The oak notes are mostly reserved, though when they do show, they decently complement the spirit. Its highlights and flaws are both relatively minor. The good palate stuff is all mildly pleasant, while the bitterness tends to be a bit much and the diluted version's soap note is, well, soapy. Overall this Siggy 'Laddie will appeal most to those who like a little barley in their whisky. But for folks looking for lots of wood, there are plenty of options elsewhere.

Availability - Less than a dozen US specialty retailers
Pricing - was $90 upon release, now it's $120-$150
Rating - 84

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Meditations on Fatherhood and the Bruichladdich 12 year old Second Edition (2011)

As per the first sentence below, I did indeed write this post before Election Day. Sunday night to be precise. The intent was to post it on Wednesday, but when that day came I felt that a day of silence would be best. Though it may look as if I foresaw the election result, I did not. I was really just commenting on the general swamp of the long term American mood. Anyway, here's the post, on Thursday.

I write this post before Election Day, knowing it will be scheduled for The Day After Election Day. Perhaps it'll be my least read post ever because this is the last thing anyone's going to want to read this morning. Or maybe people will be flocking to non-election related news in order to take care of their own mental health. It's likely that the anxiety which preceded today will continue long past tomorrow.

Two floors above me, my two-year-old daughter sleeps quietly, or maybe with a little snore since she's under the weather. When she has a cold she requests hugs nonstop. My wife and I are happy to oblige, partly because my daughter is swooningly beautiful and partly because we know that once she's well again there will be fewer hug appeals. Watching her while she napped this afternoon, I thought about the world she'll grow up in. I knew that, between my parents' generation and my own, we'd leave her a garbage world. But I'd always thought it would be a broccoli-filled kitchen trash bag reality. Not a dumpster fire.

I love Mathilda and want to do everything I can to help her grow into being a strong confident woman. The first two and a half years of childhood have been tough for her and her parents, and I've heard the next year will be a challenge as well. My missteps have outnumbered my successes, but I have more time to get things right. All I want to do in this life is to get things right. Today, when discussing what video she and I were going to watch or what music we should listen to, Mathilda held up her index finger and said, "One thing at a time."

I'm crumbling just typing that.

So clearly what is important right now is this review of the second edition of Bruichladdich 12 year old. Bottled in the wake of the retirement of the first ten year old by The Reynier-McEwan Era of Bruichladdich, this 12yo contained only whisky distilled by the previous ownership, Whyte & Mackay (who had purchased Invergordon Distillers).

Two things of note about this whisky. The ten year old which it replaced was made from a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, while this 12 was from only bourbon casks. I assume the ownership realized they could put those sherry casks into more expensive bottles. Secondly, the distillery was mothballed from 1995 to 2001, except for a few weeks of peated production (by the Jura folks!) in 1998. That means there's a very good chance there's a considerable amount 17+ year old whisky in this 2011 bottling of the "12" year old. Must be one of the reasons they retired it by the end of that year.

In any case, I had no idea of either of any of these facts when I conducted my tasting. I will say this is a very good whisky, old content or no. Thank you to Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail who recommended this whisky when we did a sample swap.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership that released the whisky: Bruichladdich Distillery Co. Ltd.
Whisky distilled by: Whyte & Mackay
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: at least 12 years old
Maturation: refill and first fill ex-bourbon casks
Bottled: May 2011
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

The nose lifts off with some bright candy notes, think Skittles and gummi bears. After a minute of air, those notes fade out, replaced by caramel sauce, butter, some milk chocolate, and definitely something peaty. Less than Springbank- or Ardmore-peaty, but it's there. There's also rubber cement, strawberry candy, Concord Grape Manischewitz, and some really nice toasty oak. A few drops of water bring out ripe autumn apples, vanilla bean, and hint of the old 10's florals.

Vanilla fudge, fruity tobacco and baking spices start off the palate. The sweetness remains mellow even as the palate gets very berried. I'm thinking tart blackberries and raspberry jam. Then limes, brown sugar and a hint of green tea. With a few drops of water it gets naked-er. Sweet, fruity, slightly tart, some funky maltiness. Never mind, here's some oak. But it's like a vanilla cookie to go with the berries.

Vanilla bean, bitter chocolate and tart berries in the finish. Small notes of barley and green tea too. With a few drops of water it develops a balance of barley and vanilla. Mild sweetness meets mild tartness.

Damn it if I'm not a decade late on discovering this one. I'd love to have this as a regular drinker. The blenders (McEwan included?) really nailed it. The palate and its berries(?!) hit all the right spots, with the sweetness staying in control, then the tartness and bitterness roll in late to complete the experience. The whisky is one of those increasingly rare examples that oak and spirit can coexist in peace. And the end result is we all win. Or at least those who get a chance to drink it. :(

I know I'm reducing my chance of chasing down a dusty of this now by posting this review, but there's no need for me to hoard the goodies. I wanted to share it with those of us who stand in the wreckage of former democracies. Don't go crazy, shilling out $100+ for this bottle. It ain't A or A- whisky, but it's a high B, maybe just on the cusp of a B+. Yes, I'm aware of the ridiculousness of the previous sentence. But if I find it for $50-$60...

Availability - maybe collecting dust on shelves somewhere, and at auctions
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, November 7, 2016

Pre-McEwan Bruichladdich: 10 year old (2002)

Master Distiller Jim McEwan was quite lionized by the whisky industry long before his retirement last year thanks to his extensive career and large personality. While he likely created a considerable number of very good whiskies during his five whisky decades (though I'm having a difficult time naming anything other than Port Charlotte and Octomore, partially because I'm from a more recent anorak generation and partially because well...), he also was responsible for the ugliest non-Loch-Dhu non-Loch-Lomond single malts I have ever consumed -- FWP Bowmore, the Murray McDavid sweet wine casks, Kool-Aid finished young Bruichladdich, and Wine Spit Cup Luxury 'Laddie (aka Black Art). But I'm not going to spend my time besmirching his name because that's mean and pointless. It takes a village to raise a whisky, good or bad. What I will say is I enjoy the Bruichladdich single malt distilled by Invergordon Distillers much more than the non-peated stuff made by the Bruichladdich Distillery Co. Ltd.

There were a number of different 10 year old releases in the '80s and '90s by Invergordon Distillers (and Whyte & Mackay), but this version of the 10 year old was released in 2001 by Bruichladdich Distillery Co. utilizing the stock picked up from the previous owners. Because the distillery was mothballed from 1995 to 2001, this 10yo had a limited existence, expiring in 2006 and then semi-replaced by a 12 year old (watch this space!). A new 10, distilled by Jim McEwan & Co., was released in 2011 to extensive fanfare, but was then retired less than three years later. At the moment there are no official 10yo Bruichladdich's, though an 8yo came out this year.

Today's sample was acquired via sample swap with Jordan of Chemistry of the Cocktail. His bottle was from 2002 and had a bottling code of 02/0072.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Ownership that released the whisky: Bruichladdich Distillery Co. Ltd.
Whisky distilled by: Invergordon Distillers
Region: Islay
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: at least 10 years old
Maturation: 40% ex-bourbon casks + 60% ex-sherry casks
Bottled: early 2002
Alcohol by Volume: 46%

The nose starts off a little raw. Sap, yeast, and wort. But then canned peaches roll in, along with European oak-inspired dried fruits. A bit floral (blossoms, not perfume) around the edges. A hint of grilled meat. Roasted marshmallows. The oak feels more toasted than charred. With a few drops of water the floral notes rise up a bit, as does some wort. Then brown sugar and honeydew.

Barley, butterscotch, and a spicy zing in the palate. Some nice oak notes of vanilla and honey. A small peep of horseradish bitterness. Oh, maybe orange bitters. An easy drink. With a few drops of water it gets sweeter. Caramel starts to appear, but also a bigger bitterness. Vanilla bean. Butterscotch candy.

It has a simple finish. Barley, apples and ground black pepper. A little of that rooty bitterness. With a few drops of water it gets a little more complex with more sweetness to match the pepper, as well as additional vanilla and butterscotch.

This is a nice balanced young whisky. It never WOWs, but there are no false steps. Oak is present but it never smothers the youthful spirit. There's no ethyl heat despite the youth and strength. I'd say the palate is the best part, delivering a little something for everyone (except peat lovers). It would be great slotted into the $30-$35 range, as I believe it was 14(!) years ago. If you can find it near that old price (and not much more), I'd recommend it.

Availability - mostly at auctions
Pricing - ???
Rating - 83

Friday, November 4, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: Jefferson's Ocean Bourbon, batch 19

There's a whole story behind Jefferson's Ocean bourbon, but it doesn't matter. It's a non-age statement, non-distiller producer, diluted whiskey. The rest is a diversion. It's there to put you off the scent, to hypnotize you into paying irresponsibly for non-age statement, non-distiller producer, diluted whiskey. If you want the marketing tale then google "Jefferson's ocean". Even Fox News has a page on it.

Since it's whiskey, what matters is quality. That's what I'm going to try to suss out of my sample provided to me by The Recent Sku, MGPhD.

And that's it for the intro. I had an angrier one queued up, but it ain't worth it.

Brand: Jefferson's Ocean
Ownership: Castle Brands, Inc.
Distillery: Since they dropped "Kentucky" off the label, who knows where the bourbon is from. Many Great Possibilities.
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: due to the lack of age statement, it should be at least 4 years old
Mashbill: I'm going to go out on a limb and say it has corn, rye and barley in it
Maturation: in charred white oak barrels coopered in Billy Ocean's backyard
Batch: 19
Alcohol by Volume: 45%

The nose runs thick with vanilla, cinnamon and wheat bread. Very floral, but it's not roses, nor jasmine (helpful!). A hint of dried apricots in the back. Mild green herbal notes (between oregano and chives). With 30+ minutes of air, it opens up into orange blossoms and Ferrero Rocher. Its palate starts off mildly, with some heat, green pepper, and a little bit of sweetness. After a few minutes it picks up rye-like spice and, ooh, lots of cherry sweetness. A bitter bite keeps it from going overboard (as it were). It expands with more air. More vanilla, more hot spirit, but also some limes and oranges. Bitter dandelion stems. Again, not much going in the finish at first. But then the cherry sweets arrive. Brown sugar. Orange candy. A slight bitter oak note.

That was much better than I had expected. The nose is cuddly, the palate never offends, the finish is a sweetie. The bitterness is necessary to balance things out. As can be corroborated by Sku and MAO (who, I've just learned, stole my Billy Ocean joke), this batch of Jefferson's Thing is perfectly bourbon bourbon. I'd be happy to pay $25-$30 for it. I don't know what the current batch number is but one can find Jefferson's Ocean for $65ish if one is lucky. Otherwise a number of retailers are selling batches for $150 BECAUSE POLLS SHOW THAT 100% OF GODS BLESS AMERICAN RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM. Keep up the good work everyone.

Availability -
this batch and others can be found at many US specialty retailers

Pricing - $65-$150 (because if it's that expensive it has to be amazing)
Rating - 83

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Single Malt Report: Glen Scotia 14 year old 1999 SMWS 93.61

So wait...

You're telling me I can pay a huge cover charge in return for the privilege to overpay for my drinks once I'm inside? I ditched this crap in the LA night scene two decades ago and I have zero tolerance for it now in the whisky scene(?). No live music or even a DJ? No thanks. Oh, I'm allowed to pay for $100 dinners? Yeah, no.

Yes, Scotch Malt Whisky Society has picked a number of very good single casks over the years, but so have dozens of other independent bottlers that don't make one join a "society" nor charge a $229 fee so that one can then spend $125 on a 12 year old Balmenach, $135 for a 14yo Inchmurrin or $115 for an 11yo Mannochmore. This may be where you and I part ways. SMWS makes no sense to me. I can buy some great whisky for $229 and then pay much less elsewhere for similar young single casks from the referenced distilleries.

Are you finished?

I guess so.

I do have the occasional friend or three to whom the SMWS does makes sense. And that's fine with him and me. I won't be competing with him to buy the next $150 bottle of Royal Brackla. And sometimes he ignores what an asshole I am and then shares samples from his bottles. I love him for it. Makes me want to belong to a club that would have someone like him for a member.

In this case, Saint Brett gave me a sample of this Glen Scotia (and a zillion other things, really). I'm pretty optimistic about a Glen Scotia from a refill ex-bourbon hogshead. Gimme gimme crazy Scotia.


: Glen Scotia (SMWS 93)
Ownership: Loch Lomond Group (via Exponent)
Region: Campbeltown
Type: Single Malt
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Funny name: Calmac welder’s tea break
Age: 14 years (June 1999 - 2014)
Maturation: refill ex-bourbon
Cask#: 93.61
Alcohol by Volume: 58.3%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No

At full strength, this nose is all over the place. Sawdust, lavender, ham, industrial chimneys and grape drink. Really. The palate proves to be less adventurous. It starts with raw cocoa, salty ocean air, ashy peat and a pinch of granulated sugar. That's followed by Frangelico, dried apricots and burnt notes. The finish tastes like a mouthful of gravel...along with some burnt, bitter, sweet, and malty notes.

WITH WATER (~46%abv)
The ashy peat moves up into the nose, where it's joined by wood chip mulch, synthetic fabrics and plastic. There are some coffee grounds, slight floral notes, and a newly opened bag of rubber bands. The palate has become very malty and salty. Brown sugar and subtle smoke meet a wormwood bitterness. Mmm, more good sharp bitterness in the finish. There's the salty coastal note. Hints of smoke and sweetness, along with the rubber band bag.

Without the water, the whisky had me going, "Hmm. Pretty weird, pretty cool." But once I added water I was all "OH YEAH!" like the Kool-Aid Man. At 46%abv, it sits somewhere between good Talisker and older odder-era Ledaig. If you were bananas courageous enough to buy a bottle of this for $135 and the aforementioned style doesn't appeal to you but you'd love to give your bottle to someone for free, email me. Cheers!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - original price around $130
Rating - 88 (with water)