...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Where's the whisky? And where are the rye barrels? Important questions.

It has recently come to my attention that I drink whisky. Like, ofttimes. On the reg. Et cetera. Since this blog went whisky — and especially since parenthood commenced — I have rarely gone more than two days without a pour. When healthy, I have not gone more than five days without a single drink since.......since.

As of today (Friday), it has been one week since I last consumed an alcoholic beverage. The reasons are threefold. Firstly, I had an awesome whiskey experience a week ago, something I intend to write about shortly, and the body needed a rest afterwards. Secondly, a giant turd of a winter dropped early this year, ushering compounding colds into my home. If I can't trust my nose, then I'm not wasting liver cells. Thirdly, I appreciated the challenge.

After a week away from the sauce have I become a new man, clear of mind, sharp of reflex, calm of temper? Not even remotely. But I did it. Hooray for me. Now I would appreciate a glass of whisky.

Luckily I had Wednesday's Ledaig review in the queue, so there was some sort of content here, because no drinking means no reviews. I mean, Randy Brandy could have posted a review but he's busy doing......doing......what does he actually do?

Speaking of mysteries, where are all the rye barrels? I mean all the rye barrels. Society will never hear the end of bourbon barrel this and bourbon barrel that. Bourbon barrel-aged wine, beer, tequila, rum, brandy, every whisky not made in America, hot sauce, feta cheese and husbands. But what has happened to all the former rye whiskey barrels?

I've seen a few microbreweries age ales in ex-rye barrels. Johnnie Walker did their short-lived rye barrel-finished blend. Glenmorangie did a thing. There's a quarter-cask rye barrel-finished Tamdhu floating around out there (thank you to Jordan for pointing that one out!). But where are the other 99% of rye barrels going?

Does anyone have a lead on this? Am I missing something? Also, for goodness' sake, why isn't rye barrel scotch a thing? It can be done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ledaig 11 year old Time IV, TWE Exclusive

TWE stands for The Whisky Exchange, and Time IV stands for Time IV one more Ledaig review!

Hey, where are you going?

Come back!

That was only the first of many many jokes.

Oh well, I guess it's just me and......me this time.

If I remember correctly, TWE's "Time" series focused on the effect time has on a whisky's spirit, using refill casks so that time ≠ oak. Tobermory's peated single malt, Ledaig, was a good choice due its spirit's vibrant character. This particular whisky's color is very very light — which you can't actually see in the bottle pic below — much lighter than that of its sparring partner, last Wednesday's sherried 6yo Ledaig.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: The Whisky Exchange (per Whiskybase's listing)
Age: minimum 11 years (???? - 2016)
Maturation: my guess is one refill hogshead
Outturn: 319 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 48%
Chillfiltered? No
Color added? No
(Thanks to MAO, yes that guy, for the sample! See his review here.)

The nose is full of yeast and barley, salty ocean air and smoked fish. Then saltines, golden delicious apples, rock candy and cotton candy. Even though the whisky is almost colorless, the palate is not raw. It's mildly tart, mildly sweet and mildly bitter. Salty smoke, sea water and apples. A fruity sweetness builds with, you know, Time. Barley, apples and sea water lead the finish. It's moderately sweet with an almost savory smoke.

At half its age, this cask could have been a palate killer, but here at age 11 this Ledaig enters maturity without any woody burden. There's a variety of smoky notes and plenty of oceanic character. Gentle sweet and tart fruit notes give it extra dimension at its spot-on bottling strength. Without modern bells and whistles, it probably wasn't the fastest-selling Ledaig single cask, but kudos to those who did pick it up. It's a drinker.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85

Friday, November 8, 2019

Laphroaig 10 year old Cask Strength, batch 011

The plot escaped me somewhere along the way. I was going to review each batch of Laphroaig's cask strength expression each year.

005 was the weakest batch to date.
006 was better but not quite there.
007 was very good.
I had 008 when I visited the distillery.
I bought 009, then gifted it to a friend.

Thank the whisky gods (who are otherwise still on their lunch break) that MAO sent me a sample of this year's batch 011. And yes, MAO and I are doing simul-review of this one too! Yay! Here’s his review!

It’s been a very MAO-y week, has it not? You're welcome.

Distillery: Laphroaig
Owner: Beam Suntory
Region: Islay
Maturation: ex-bourbon barrels
Age: minimum 10 years
Batch: 011, Feb 2019
Chill-filtration? No
Caramel colored? Probably
Alcohol by Volume: 58.6%

There's a low lemon/citron/citronella rumble in the nose and a bonfire at the beach (like an Ardmore but three times the volume). Eucalyptus smoke and pine needles in the salty air. Charred beef and mustard seed. Brown sugar and Beam-like peanuts arise after a lot of time in the glass. Big smoldering smoky kiln notes in the palate. Then some brine, seaweed, menthol and a hint of bitterness. It's moderately sweet with some cinnamon candy notes. It finishes with smoke, cinnamon, smoke, limoncello, smoke, bitterness, smoke.

DILUTED TO ~48%abv, or 1⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The peat reads greener on the nose, less smoky. A brief farmy whiff. Eucalyptus, mint leaf, lemon and hot sand. The palate becomes sweeter but not as sugary as batches 005 and 006. It also gets brinier and tangier, while staying smoky and lightly bitter. The finish stays a good length with mild smoke, salt, bitterness and tanginess.

There's nothing technically wrong with this batch. It's neither oaky nor too sweet. There's plenty of salty seaweed things and heavy smoke. But I can't seem to find anything to rave about. The nose is right on, but the palate is, well, fine. Simple and reserved. No "Oh goddamn this Laphroaig Glory" going on.

Per the picture above, this whisky had two sparring partners: the first batch of Ben Nevis Traditional (which it bested) and Westland's Peated single malt. It did not best the Westland, which says something about either Westland or Laphroaig. Or both.

Have I built up my expectations too high for these Laphroaig CS batches? Or is it Lagavulin 12yo CS's fault for being so damned good year after year? I don't know. Batch 011 is good and so is its (pre-tariff) price. But though there is goodness there is no glory.

Availability - Available in many of these American states
Pricing - $60 to $90 as of this post's date
Rating - 86

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Ledaig 6 year old 2004 Murray McDavid

Gonna keep this intro brief:

I'm not a fan of this decade's rash of single cask baby whiskies, and I doubt you'll find anyone who has complained about Murray McDavid's whiskies as much as I. So, I'm setting my expectations low low low low.

My Annoying Opinions is also reviewing this whisky today. I'm curious to see what he thinks of it. I'll link to his post in the morning. And here it is!

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Murray McDavid
Age: 6 years (2004-2010)
Maturation: sherry casks
Outturn: 1100 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? probably not
Color added? probably not
(Thank you, Florin!)

Whoa, I like the nose. It's very autumnal, with moss and wet leaves. There's also a big figgy note from the sherry cask. Hints of smoked salmon and tennis ball as well. After 30 minutes, these elements all come together creating one solid unit. Similar to the nose, the palate has the autumnal notes and a sherry influence that reads mildly sweet but not jammy. Dark industrial smoke drifts around notes of honey, toffee, citrus and bitter herbs. The smoke registers the loudest on the palate. Minor notes include tart grapes, citrus and a little bit of sweetness.

A bit stunned by how much I enjoy this, I'm digging into the archive to withdraw a sample of a very difficult 6 year old 2005 Ledaig sherry cask by Blackadder for comparison purposes.

Lowering that one's ABV to 46%. Waiting a bit...

Ledaig 6 year old 2004 Murray McDavid, 46%abv
Hey here's some elephant dung in the nose. Cheers! Also burning leaves. Then dried stone fruits, tennis ball fuzz and moss. The dark industrial smoke still leads the palate. That's followed by lemon candy, honey and cayenne pepper. The finish feels longer this time. It's all dark chocolate with a mix of sweet and bitter smokes.

Ledaig 6 year old 2005 Blackadder, reduced to 46%abv
Dark chocolate and gasoline on the nose. Gigantic peatin'. Ocean air and ham. Old rubber ball. A whiff of rotten eggs. Cleaner than the nose, the palate has some good vegetal peat, a nutty note from the sherry cask and herbal bitter liqueur. Its finish is shorter than the 2004's, though it's devoid of sweetness. It's mostly big salty smoke with subtle nutty notes.

Yes, this is good. And I enjoyed it more than the 2005 in the head-to-head. Murray McDavid eschewed its usual awkward cask work which may have been the key to this whisky's success. In fact, kudos to MMcD for pulling this cask before it got all wonky, woody and winey. As it stands (or sits), the whisky is young but it avoids the Mega Mezcal notes baby peaters usually haul out. I wish I'd gotten in on this bottle back in the day (2010!) rather than the 6yo Ledaig I did buy. In any case, thank you, Florin, for sharing your bottle with us!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Monday, November 4, 2019

Lagavulin 11 year old Offerman Edition

For a few years there was a lot of Parks & Recreation playing in loops on the television  in my living room. Often there was a beautiful pregnant woman sitting across from the television, with interior design magazines and her one cup of tea in hand. Every scene with Ron Swanson was my favorite scene in each episode with my favorite Parks & Rec moment being Ben Wyatt's first sip of Lagavulin (NBC removed the YouTube vid, damn them).

Nick Offerman, the now-bearded gent who played the mustachioed Swanson, loves Lagavulin. The character visited the distillery on the show and the actor stars in YouTube videos for the brand. So successful was this pairing that Diageo gave Offerman the opportunity to create his own Lagavulin expression. Offerman, who seems a more sensitive soul than his character always comes across as humble in interviews, especially during this product's media blitz.

A certain Man With Opinions purchased a bottle of this whisky and sent me a generous sample. (Thank you, MAO!) So today we are doing one of our highly-fêted simul-reviews! Here's MAO's review also posted this morning.

Distillery: Lagavulin
Owner: Diageo
Region: Southern Islay
Age: minimum 11 years
Maturation: ????
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? ???
Color added? ???

Since Offerman says he doesn't add water to his whisky, neither shall I.

The nose is fruitier than expected, think orange peel and canned peaches. The peat is much gentler than that of its 12-year-old CS sibling, like a soft band-aid smoke floating atop seaside notes. With time in the glass the nose transitions into a bowl of sugary candy and smoked hard caramels. The palate is similar to the nose, walking right up to the border of Too Sweet before some herbal bitterness pulls it back. The peat reads toasty and tangy here. There's also a mix of zippy pepper notes, apricots and vanilla. Tangy woody smoke leads the finish. As with the palate, there's more sugar than salt. Hints of vanilla and dried apricot stay in the background.

This is the kindest, cuddliest Lagavulin I've ever tried. Whether that's a good thing or not depends on one's palate preferences. I appreciated the nose's fruit notes and sincerely wished they came though louder in the palate. The sweetness was a bit of a surprise and required a few sips before I could adjust to it. One wonders if Nick Offerman's love of carpentry had an influence on the casks he chose, as active American oak influence can be found throughout the whisky. Personally, I'll take the 12yo CS's assault and the 16yo's balance over this whisky's sugar. Still, it's a very pleasant drink and bound to appeal to those who don't normally enjoy Lagavulin.

Availability - Mostly in the US, though a few retailers carry it as well
Pricing - $70-$100 in the US, over $250 in Europe (why?)
Rating - 83

Friday, November 1, 2019

Ledaig 19 year old 1998 Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish

Monday: Ledaig 19 year old Oloroso Cask Finish, 46%abv
Wednesday: Ledaig 19 year old Madeira Cask Finish, 51%abv
Today: Ledaig 19 year old Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish, 55.7%abv

Each of these had different "finish" periods. The Oloroso expression spent 13 years in sherry casks, while Wednesday's bottling spent less than a year in Madeira casks. This whisky's PX cask finish lasted two years, so it was neither a quickie nor an extended second maturation.

I'm usually not a fan of PX finishes, but I'm willing to give this a chance because it's a 19 year old Ledaig. Expectations set to: Moderate.

Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Age: 19+ years (9 July 1998 - 2018)
Maturation: bourbon casks for 17+ years, then either "almost" or "more than" two years in Pedro Ximénez casks
Outturn: 1650 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 55.7%
Chillfiltered? No
Colorant Added? No

The nose begins with fudge and red wine. Salty seaweedy peat. Calvados, damp moss and a hint of gunpowder. Some raw peated spirit in there too. The palate is more metallic and sweet than peaty. It gets tangier by the minute, like a lemony vinaigrette. Sooty peat and mixed berry jam notes build with time. The finish is puckeringly sweet and tangy. Bits of bitter smoke and berry jam linger behind.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
Peated raspberry jam and roses on the nose, with hints of marizpan and the beach. Peaty berry jam again on the palate. It's still tangy and sweet. It's less metallic now and a little bitterer. The finish matches the palate.

Since I did it for the other two:

DILUTED TO ~40%abv, or 2⅓ tsp of water per 30mL whisky
The nose becomes peatier and brighter. Subtler berry and rose notes. A hint of cold kiln. The palate feels very thin. Mild sweetness and bitterness. Mild peat and dried herbs. It's back to the tangy and sweet thing in the finish. A puff of bitter smoke.

This was better than I'd expected, in fact the nose was great throughout. I'm not sure how I feel about the metal and vinegar combo in the palate. At least it wasn't winey. Unlike the other two, this one fares best at full strength, even though it has the highest ABV. Overall, it's probably a near tie with the Oloroso expression.

All three of these Ledaigs were of moderate quality. The wood rarely intruded and the grapes mostly stayed out of the palates. While that is more than one can say for the majority of finished whiskies, I'm glad to have split a bottle rather than shilled out $$$ for an entire bottle, especially at the asking price.

Availability - A few dozen retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $170-$200 (ex-VAT)
Rating - 84