...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Undisclosed Distillery (Caol Ila) 7 year old 2008 Single Cask Nation

While low scores help bring my average ratings back down to Earth, and the usage of online snark can be tasty, panning a whisky gives me little pleasure. (Also, I'm investing liver cells here.) But Monday's Clynelish was crap when neat. The next Clynelish (next week) will be 13 years old, from a different sort of cask and at a lower ABV. So I'm cautiously optimistic.

But enough about Clynelish, because we're back to Caol Ila! Probably.

Today's whisky was labelled "Undisclosed Distillery" by J&J of Single Cask Nation, and is listed as of the "Islay Region". This situation often = Lagavulin. But I was told by someone in the know that this is in fact Caol Ila. And the site says, "We believe this whisky was produced at Islay's powerhouse distillery located near Port Askaig." So there.

Last week's 5 year old CI perfectly illustrated my qualms about all the market's immature single casks, while the 6 year old CI proved the opposite. I'm hoping this will trend towards the 6yo.

Distillery: Undisclosed (Caol Ila)
Ownership: Who knows? (Diageo)
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 7 years (August 2008 - August 2015)
Maturation: refill bourbon hogshead
Cask: 613-2
Outturn: 235
Alcohol by Volume: 57.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to Brett for the sample! Again!)

Pine sap, confectioner's sugar, wheatgrass, cocoa and kirsch on the nose. The peat smoke starts off delicate, but builds with time, hoisting up a marzipan note along the way. The palate is less hot than I'd expected. There's plenty of sea salt, smoked peanuts and woody peat smoke. Also tart limes and marzipan. A little bit of ganja. A little bit more honeyed sweetness. It finishes warm and peaty. Lots of limes and nuts. It gets sweeter with time.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes farmy barny. Also plenty of orange zest, simple syrup, ocean air and cream of wheat. The palate balances citrus, sugar, vanilla and peat. It also has some smaller floral, peppery and savory notes. It finishes sweet and floral with a puff of wood smoke.

I'm going to guess this was a second-fill hoggie because there's some actual maturation here and a touch of good American oak (when diluted). It's still a youngster, but it's not palate-stripping. The salt, citrus and nuts worked well, though the sweetness got a bit aggressive. But no huge plusses, no huge minuses. Sturdy at seven years. Though at that price...

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $125
Rating - 83

Monday, December 10, 2018

Clynelish 7 year old 2008 Signatory for Binny's, cask 800001

I might as well tell you now, Caol Ila-Clynelish Month will start mostly with the Islay distillery. Four out of the first five reviews, in fact. More Clynelish will follow as the whiskies get older. Today's post is the single Clynelish review out of the first five. It's a very young single cask that was selected by Binny's from the Signatory warehouses. We bought a bottle for an OC Scotch Club event three years ago. I remember it being raw, which is unsurprising considering its low age and high ABV. But I don't remember anything else about it.
Distillery: Clynelish
Ownership: Diageo
Independent Bottler: Signatory
Exclusive to: Binny's
Age: 7 years (1 March 2008 - 17 March 2015)
Maturation: bourbon barrel
Cask#: 800001
Alcohol by Volume: 63.8%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(from a OCSC whisky event)

It's like a melon-scented eau de vie on the nose, at first. Then lemon-scented Windex, sour apple Jolly Ranchers, flower kiss candy and orange oil. The palate is......ugh. Vodka, vanilla, sugar and bitterness. Like a cask strength Canadian Club, with bitter lemon soda. Lemon pepper, bitterness and citronella in the finish.

That was unpleasant. How about some water?

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Midori, citronella, pears and a hint of OFF roll-on bug repellant on the nose. The palate is "less awful" (my actual notes). It's sweeter, with more citrus. Hint of horseradish. Bitter lemon soda. Good mouthfeel. More bitter lemon in the finish, along with pink peppercorns and Smirnoff.


DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or 3½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose is a slushie of Sprite, lime popsicles and Midori. Citrus, sugar, vanilla and bitterness in the palate. Bitter lemon soda and vanilla in the finish.

Binny's picks are usually reliable. This is a rare raring misfire. In fact I was ready to dump this whisky after sipping it neatly. The nose is kooky and quirky, but the palate was shockingly bottom-shelf-cheapie poor. Luckily dilution improved things, though not enough to recommend this to anyone. I'm sorta sorry we unleashed this whisky on the OCSC group.

For a different perspective, see the review by My Annoying Opinions. MAO didn't like this Clynelish either, but there are some positive comments about the whisky in his comment section.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 71 (with water, 10+ points lower when neat)

Friday, December 7, 2018

Killing Whisky History, Episode 19: J&B Jet 12 year old from the 1990s

I like this whisky. In fact, while you're reading this, I am drinking this:

Come along and meet J&B Rare's short-lived tall dark and handsome sibling whose contents might be a little older than the bottle says.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Caol Ila 6 year old 2009 Hepburn's Choice for K&L

Yes, I'm following up a 5 year old hogshead-aged Hepburn's Choice Caol Ila bottled for K&L Wine Merchants with a 6 year old hogshead-aged Hepburn's Choice Caol Ila bottled for K&L Wine Merchants. How much trouble am I asking for here? Who needs taste buds anyway?

A couple of differences between Monday's whisky and this one, other than one whole additional year of maturation. This Caol Ila is somewhat more recent, released in 2016, rather than 2014. Wow! And, oh yeah, today's CI lived in a sherry hogshead for its 6+ years.

And with that, I'm going to start drinking.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 6 years (2009-2016)
Maturation: sherry hogshead
Bottles: 291
Alcohol by Volume: 58.9%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to Monsieur Florin for the sample!)

Its color is nearly identical to the straw hue of the 5 year old. Those nose isn't the veggie patch that 5yo presented, but something a little more complex. There are the familiar youthful notes of green peat, pear and a whiff of mezcal, but there's also salted butter, lemon zest, fresh bread, charcoal ash and some fresh apricot. The palate is......good. Less pepper and heat than expected. Milder peat than in the nose. Solid combos of limes + apricots, and toffee + brown sugar are ever-present. More sherry and sweetness with time. Brown sugar, peat, pinches of pepper and salt in the finish. Just a sparkle of heat.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
A straightforward nose. Peat, sand, smoked salmon and orange zest. Very rich peat in the palate. Roasted almonds and fresh apples. A little bit of sherry and brown sugar. It finishes with peat, salt, apples and lemons.

I'm going to take Monday's rant and tuck it away today. This is a comfy whisky, providing a quality close to what Kilchoman can do at this age. The sherry is present, and may help to cover up a problem or two, but it never bullies the rest of the whisky away. In fact, the more I drink this, the more I like it. It even swims well. While this whisky would likely be better at twice its age, it would also risk too much cask action. So I have no problem with it right here. Hopefully I won't have to whip out that rant again next week.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $49.99
Rating - 85

Monday, December 3, 2018

Caol Ila 5 year old 2008 Hepburn's Choice for K&L

I'm starting off this Caol Ila-and-Clynelish Month with the youngest of the bunch, a 5 year old from the distillery on Port Askaig. It was bottled by the Laing family via their Hepburn's Choice label, and sold exclusively in the USA by K&L Wine Merchants.

My luck with ≤8 year old indie bottlings has been poor. Why indie companies choose to bottle such young single malt (and why retailers elect to sell it) is a little fuzzy to me. I mean, people are buying these babies......though not with tremendous speed, as can be seen by the growing number of options on European retailers' websites. I mean how many concurrent bottlings of 8 year old Glentauchers is enough? Anyway, Caol Ila.

Distillery: Caol Ila
Ownership: Diageo
Region: Islay
Independent Bottler: Hunter Laing
Label: Hepburn's Choice
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Age: 5 years (2008-2014)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Bottles: 314
Alcohol by Volume: 61.1%
Chillfiltered? No
Caramel Colorant? No
(Thanks to St. Brett of Riverside for the sample!)

It's the color of straw. The nose is very vegetal. Cruciferous specifically, without being farty. There's also cocoa power, cumin, celery juice and a little bit of tar. The peat is similar to that of current Ardbeg 10. The palate is warm. Very warm. It's also aggressively sweet, with cinnamon, lemon candy and Blue Moon beer. Then comes a massive chili oil strike, followed by clay. It finishes hot and sweet and peaty and tangy.

It's time to apply a quantity of water Ralfy would be proud of.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 2 tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose gets brighter. More sugar and a squirt of lemon juice. Grassy and ashy. Unfortunately, the palate goes the other direction. It's just hot and peppery. Not very palatable. Some late cloying aspartame and a strange bitterness. It finishes cloying, grassy and bitter.


Why this gotta be?

I traded a blown out palate for confirmation of my intro's complaint. This whisky isn't even half baked. Caol Ila can grow up to be such great whisky (which is one of the motivations behind this month's reviews), why dispose of all the potential? When neat, this whisky is brash and violent, but not unique or weird enough to be its own monster. And it is, frankly, awful when diluted. What the hell awaits me on Wednesday?

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $49.99
Rating - 75 (when neat only; 15-20 points lower when diluted)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

A December of Clynelish and Caol Ila

The Clynelish and Caol Ila distilleries are two of Diageo's most prized assets, producing some of the most important ingredients for the behemoth's blended scotch empire. I'm going spend the month exploring a flock of each, as released by independent bottlers. They'll be posted youngest to oldest, from the late aughts back to the early eighties.

There'll be a Killing Whisky History episode this coming Friday (hopefully), but it won't be from the aforementioned distilleries. And there will be one additional whisky review that will be far different from anything else I've reviewed.

But the girls are asleep now, so it's time to play with their toys while I tumble through a drink.