...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Amrut Bagheera, batch 1

Next up, Black Panther and the Amrut Multiverse, or something. Amrut has framed Bagheera as a limited special edition, but I'm not sure what's so special about it. It's an NAS sherry-finished whisky packaged with two little glasses but without a clear reason for its existence. Wouldn't an NAS sherry-finished whisky would fit right into their core range? All I really know about Amrut Bagheera is that a bottle of it appeared at April's Columbus Scotch Night. And here's my review of the liquid.

Distillery: Amrut
Region: Bangalore, India
Expression: Bagheera
Batch: 1, September 2020
Age: ???
Barley: allegedly 99% unpeated + 1% peated malt
Maturation: probably bourbon casks first, then sherry casks second
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? probably not
Color added? ???
(sample spirited away from an event)

NOTES

The nutty and sulfurous start to the nose recedes into a mix of figs, baked apples, cloves and cassia bark. Notes of molasses chews and funky honey appear later. Black pepper, salt and clover honey cover the palate's foreground with bits of ginger and bitter citrus in the back. Earthy walnutty dry sherry gives way to something sweeter after 20+ minutes. It finishes with cinnamon red hots candies, raw walnuts, candied citrus peels and candied ginger. Like the palate, it gets sweeter with time.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It is drinkable, but its raison d'etre remains unclear. Seems like it could sit side-by-side with the standard Amrut Indian Single Malt and Amrut Peated Indian Single Malt bottles on mid-shelves, especially since it has the same 46%abv presentation, and is not an upgrade in quality. Serge thought it both weirder and better than I do, FWIW. If anyone knows more about this release, please let me know in the comment section below. Cheers.

Availability - North America, Western Europe and South Africa
Pricing - $85-$100 in The States
Rating - 81

Monday, July 4, 2022

Three batches of Amrut Fusion

Time to bring this unintentional Baby Whisky series to a close with Amrut. Ten samples of single malt from the Bangalore Bruiser are staring at me right now, daring me to figure out how to schedule them. I'll take them up on that challenge...

Amrut Fusion was my favorite non-Scottish peated whisky, ten years ago. It is possible that my opinion was influenced by influencers back then. Murray, The Maniacs, and Whisky Advocate all raved about Fusion between 2009 and 2011. Who was I, a mere neophyte whisky blogger, to disagree with their well-published palates?

After trying a number of Fusion batches in the decade since, I believe batches vary considerably, especially since the whisky is so young (3-4 years), but have never sat down to test that out. Until now.

For some unknown reason Because I can see into the future, I saved a sample from my bottle of batch 29 (March 2015), so that I could try it against batches 85 and 88, which were bottled in early 2020. Those two samples were sourced from a recent Columbus Scotch Night event during which two different drinkers independently said, "These don't taste like Fusion".

Karnataka Triplets



Amrut Fusion
Batch 29, March 2015
Amrut Fusion
Batch 85, January 2020
Amrut Fusion
Batch 88, March 2020
The peatiest of the trio. A mix of smoked paprika and wood smoke starts the nose, followed by cinnamon, cardamom, packaged cookie dough and 3 Musketeers. It gains vanilla bean and in-season plum notes with time.Wow, the nose is all over the place. Lemon, ham, nutritional yeast, Spam, cinnamon and a dash of peat create a sense of "WTF am I about to sip?" It gradually simplifies into barley, yeast, cinnamon, brown sugar, and a hint of florals.Peat, milk chocolate, basil and melted candle wax sit up front in the nose, with kiwi and pineapple in the background.
The palate leads with cinnamon, ginger powder, limes and heavy smoke. Milder notes of baklava and wormwood-esque bitterness arrive later.The palate begins sweet and tangy with a hint of smoke. Lots of raw heat, apple cider vinegar and cinnamon red hots. Ash ascends with time, as does a floral note.The palate is gingery and peppery, though less raw than batch 85. It's tangy and grainy with a grassy smoke in the background. Feels almost like a blend.
I wish I knew my limes because I'd love to detail the finish's vibrant lime notes. Instead all I can say is: salt, limes, good bitterness and a touch of sweetness.The harshest of the three Fusions, batch 85 finishes with heat, salt, pepper, ash and agave syrup.It's a bit edgier in the finish, with tangy citrus and ginger, bitterness and heat.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Batch 29 (Mar 2015) - No competition here. This batch exists on a different plane than the more recent two. There's more cohesion and depth, and it's a joy to drink. It may not be the best thing Amrut has ever produced, but it reads like a complete whisky, something I'd be happy to buy again.

Batch 85 (Jan 2020) - The vast contrast between this one and #29 made for a jarring transition as I went from one to the other. This batch did not absorb any of the benefits of the Bangalore seasons, reading like a three-year-old whisky. And there was clearly a different blending staff on hand for this one, compared to the 2015 bottling. It may be my least favorite Amrut bottling thus far.

Batch 88 (Mar 2020) - Though more closely related to #85 than #29, batch 88 does feel more pulled together and better assembled than its 2020 cousin. Still, the palate's a bit thin and forgettable, almost begging for some ice and/or club soda, which, while not a tragedy, seems beneath Amrut Fusions of the past. I don't know. Do you want to pay $70 for highball whisky?

RATINGS:
Amrut Fusion, Batch 29, March 2015 - 85
Amrut Fusion, Batch 85, January 2020 - 78
Amrut Fusion, Batch 88, March 2020 - 81

Friday, July 1, 2022

Kilkerran Work In Progress, Sixth Release (Sherry Wood)

Of the ten standard Kilkerran Works in Progress, there is only one I have yet to review, until now. For some reason, it took a loooooong time to source a sample for Work in Progress, Sixth Release (Sherry Wood). But now it's here in front of me. Let's close this up. Thank you, Gridley's Redemption!

The WIP List with review links:
WIP 1: White label
WIP 2: Gray label
WIP 3: Light green label
WIP 4: Beige label
WIP 5: Blue label (Bourbon Wood & Sherry Wood)
WIP 6: Pink label (Bourbon Wood & Sherry Wood)
WIP 7: Dark green label (Bourbon Wood CS & Sherry Wood)

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~10 years (2004 - 2014)
Maturation: sherry casks
Label color: Pink
Limited release: 9,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No

NOTES

I'm getting "clean" sherry casks on the nose. Lots of dried fruits, but no raisins. More like dried apple and dried pineapple. Roasted almonds. Dark chocolate with dried raspberries. That midpoint between white peaches and roses. Subtle peat notes don't arrive until much later on.

The palate has the nose's dried fruits (especially dried pineapples), but with dried currants added to the mix. Raw walnuts, mulling spices, tart limes and herbal bitterness fill the midground. It gets tarter with time, but no sign of peat to be found.

Dried cherries, dried currants and raw walnuts show up in the early sips' finishes. Later sips pick up distant moments of smoke, hay and herbal bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This feels cask-forward, but never sweet, gooey, nor oaky. Perhaps a mix of refills and dry casks seasoned with dry sherry were used. Not many refills, though, because this is one of the least peaty Kilkerrans I've ever had. If memory (and my notes) serve me right, this fits into the WIP Sherry Wood family, but is still its own whisky. Thank you, Glengyle, for this series! It was terrifically nerdy, and also delicious. New distilleries, take note, if you dare!

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Kilkerran Work In Progress, Second Release (re-review)

I often thought of Kilkerran WIP #2 (gray label) as my favorite whisky of the Work In Progress series, with #5 Bourbon Wood and #7 Bourbon Wood as its main competitors. Then I went through a bottle, finding it very good but not astounding. Then during the final in-person Columbus Scotch Night event of the pre-Covid era (technically, February 2020), the group tried the whisky alongside two other Kilkerrans, and I had the same sensory response: very good, but not nearly as amazing as I'd once thought it was. I took home a sample of the whisky from that bottle, saving it for some unknown evening.

That unknown evening has arrived tonight. Work In Progress #1 has been poured as well, in order to provide perspective.

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~6 years (2004 - 2010)
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks (I think)
Label color: Gray
Limited release: 15,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No
(from an event bottle)

NEAT

Ah there's the nose I always look forward to. Dead leaves, soil, wet concrete, a hint of engine grease on one level; fresh peaches, lychee candy and white gummy bears on another; with dark chocolate and mild seaweedy peat joining them together. Its palate reads much calmer than WIP1's. In fact it's comparatively austere. Salt and herbal bitterness frame barley, hay, earth and lemons. A tiny bit of sweetness appears much later on. It finishes with barley, lemons, soil and bitter herbs.

I've never added water to WIP2 before, but I'm going to try a few drops now to see if it opens anything up.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 2mL of water per 30mL whisky

The nose feels more closed than opened now. Less peat, less fruit, more dark chocolate. The palate gets much sweeter. Most of the character vanishes, leaving behind some oranges and salt, which is how it finishes as well. So don't do this.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Yeah, don't add water, instead appreciate the palate for being lean, focused and oak-free. As you can probably tell, I still find the nose gorgeous gorgeous, as if it were from a whisky era earlier than this one. That must be the romantic idea I held onto for so long, a sturdy old school autumn malt. I still enjoy this whisky, but when my final bottle of WIP2 is opened, it will be accepted for what it is.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $54.99 in May 2013
Rating - 88

Monday, June 27, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Kilkerran Work In Progress, First Release

Though last week I bemoaned, "Whew, all these young malts are beginning to get to me," I have made an executive decision to break out some young single malts that will hopefully represent better examples of whisky in its early bloom. And I'm going to start with one of my favorite retired whisky series, Kilkerran's Work In Progress. I'm going to try an old favorite, and as well as the only two WIPs I've yet to review. I'm beginning with one of the latter, Work In Progress, First Release, pouring from my bottle.

For those who haven't read my previous WIP raves, I'll recap 'em. Springbank's parent company (re-)opened Glengyle in 2004, then started to roll out annual whisky-as-status-updates known as the Work In Progress series once the whisky was of legal age. The year after reaching Batch 7, the distillery offered up their first 12 year old single malt. I enjoyed some, adored others, seeing many of them as "ready to go", as opposed to "works in progress". But I never reviewed the first batch. And I had a bottle. Then I opened it and now I am really drinking it, making it an official TIRD!

Distillery: Glengyle
Owner: Mitchell's Glengyle Limited
Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
Age: ~5 years (2004 - 2009)
Maturation: bourbon and sherry casks
Label color: White
Limited release: 9,000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a added? No
(from my bottle, upper half)

NOTES

In the nose, cocoa mixes with the Kilkerran dried leaf / forest floor note, followed by fruits (peach skins, lychee, lemon and dried cherries) and starches (fresh whole wheat bread and witbier). After 20 minutes, orange zest and roses. After 30 minutes, apples and seaweed.

Bright citrus tanginess matches the autumnal forest peat beat for beat in the palate. Bitter herbs, mild honeyed sweetness and a distant bonfire arrive next. After 40 minutes, I find a pair of Hampden notes: diesel and olives.

It finishes with dried leaves, a little bit of seaweed, limes, yuzus, honey and a hint of kiln.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The old Ben Wyvis stills worked wonders from the start. While this 5-ish year old is not as round and focused as it could be at thrice its age, all the great components are already there, matching up and spinning together better than many other whiskies thrice its age. It neither reads raw, nor feels raw on the tongue. And the casks are present only to work their invisible chemistry. This is my style.

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - $59.99 in April 2013
Rating - 87

Friday, June 24, 2022

Three Yoichi Key Malts

Given the choice of Nikka's two Japanese distilleries, Miyagikyo and Yoichi, I'll always pick the latter. With more than a decade of maturation, Yoichi can hold its own with, or surpass, Scotland's best peated whiskies. Of course, "more than a decade of maturation" is quite the qualifier, presently. The Key Malts I have here today are likely very young, judging by the Miyagikyo set I reviewed on Wednesday. It may not be Waterford-young, rather Kilchoman-young. But of the two sets, this is the one I've been looking forward to.

Sapporo Triplets


Yoichi
Woody and Vanillic - 55%abv
Yoichi
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yoichi
Peaty and Salty - 55%abv
The nose is woody indeed. With peat thrown in, it registers like mesquite. After 10 minutes the vanilla bursts in, carrying mint and sugar with it. Rosemary, hazelnuts and dried apricots stay in the background.The nose starts out earthy with a little bit of wood smoke. Vanilla, lemon and caramel sit on top. Nutty sherry on the bottom. It develops a cheesy yeastiness with time."Laphroaig Jr." (per my notes) on the nose. Old bandages and antiseptic. Ham, dry peat, citronella candles and eucalyptus.
The palate is REALLY HOT, like 65%abv. Very sweet too. Once the tastebuds recover, they pick up something a lot like Craft bourbon. There's burnt wood, wood smoke, mint and pears. Maybe some kiwis in the distance.Generic sherry cask notes lead the palate, with black raisins and cherry syrup. The peat barely makes it to the midground. Basic.The palate shows a good balance of smoke, sweet and bitter. Notes of lime, mint leaf, fresh ginger and cayenne ease in gradually.
It finishes hot and sweet, with mint and lumber.The finish offers dried cherries and currants. Very little smoke, but plenty of woody bitterness.Lime, ginger, wood smoke and a touch of herbal bitterness fill the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose has sugar cookies and pine, with hints of farm and dried herbs. The palate is very bitter and very sweet, with vanilla extract and pineapple. Nothing but bitterness and vanilla in the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Sulfur and roses in the nose, followed by vanilla and golden raisins. The palate starts out well with dry oloroso and lemon, but then the black raisins and tannins take over. It finishes with maraschino cherries and woody bitterness.
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose feels gentler and more pulled together. Lots of ocean and dry peat. The palate becomes tarter and more herbal, with kiln smoke filling every corner. It finishes with dry herbs, limes and kiln.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Woody and Vanillic - The whisky fulfills the label's promise. It's also the worst Yoichi I've ever tried. I don't know why they'd punish the lovely spirit so. The nose saves this one from getting a lower score, as is often the case with over-oaked whiskies throughout the world.

Sherry and Sweet - Another bummer, this one somehow underperforms Miyagikyo's Sherry & Sweet, even though the Yoichi has much less sulfur. It'd be forgettable were it not for the constant reminder that this is somehow Yoichi, and not a lazily sherry-finished mass production from Scotland.

Peaty and Salty - Huzzah. One good pour. This Yoichi hits all the right notes, reading like a stronger, better version of their standard NAS release. Yes, it's quite young, but it's mezcal-free, well-balanced and very drinkable even during this humid season.

I'm short on words words words here. Disappointment is what I'm feeling, like that "Really?" reaction I had when tasting an early batch of Suntory's Distiller's Reserve whiskies. Seriously, I just poured Yoichi product down the sink. It's more like "Yoichi loses", rather than "Miyagikyo wins" this week. Back to Scottish stuff next week.

RATINGS:
Yoichi Woody and Vanillic - 74
Yoichi Sherry and Sweet - 78
Yoichi Peaty and Salty - 85

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Three Miyagikyo Key Malts

Beatrice rounded up

Belated Happy Father's Day wishes to all the pappies out there. I hope you had plenty of time to drink alone, like I did.

Damn, that came across precisely as dark as I'd intended it.

Anyway, I'm back. The older folks out there might remember that Nikka's Japanese distilleries had a few 12yo versions of their Key Malts in previous decades. I had a chance to try a pair in Shinjuku, seven years ago.

But on this past Father's Day Eve, I did a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the trio of Miyagikyo Key Malts that were released in 2015-2017. All three were NAS (boooo), bottled at 55%abv (yay?). They were named Malty and Soft, Fruity and Rich, and Sherry and Sweet.

Were they any good, and did they do exactly what it says on the tin......?

Sendai Triplets


Miyagikyo
Malty and Soft - 55%abv
Miyagikyo
Fruity and Rich - 55%abv
Miyagikyo
Sherry and Sweet - 55%abv
Yep, malt on the nose. Malt, marshmallows, green apples and VOCs start things off. Complexity builds with time as orange peel, anise, grapefruit juice, caramel chews and a hint of barrel char appear.The VOC/raw note appears here too, but more forward than in the M&S's nose. It does have fruit though, specifically kiwis, oranges and yellow nectarines. Malt as well. Some banana pudding. Hint of toffee, hint of farm.Oloroso-style dry nuttiness leads the nose, followed by malt (again), brine, honey butter and the same raw note as the others. It picks up gunpowder and black raisin notes with time.
Wow, the palate is green. Barley, grass, thyme, rosemary and a hint of yeast fill it edge to edge for a while. Notes of ginger and tart kiwis materialize after some time.The palate reads more floral than fruity, and less graceful than expected. I find unripe peach, mild lemon, toasted rice and a hint of savoriness first. It gets sweeter slowly, picking up perkier citrus and Ito En's Genki sweet tea.This one has the thickest mouthfeel of the trio. A big A'bunadh-style sherriness leads the palate. Sweet cherries, bitter walnuts, dried currants and salt follow later.
It finishes with grass, ginger, malt and lime.The finish is both sweet and drying. Tannin, perhaps? It's also sort of dusty, with mild notes of lemon and lychee.Luxardo cherry syrup, milk chocolate, black raisins and a hint of dates in the finish.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Nice nose: malt, apples, roses, oranges and nut bread. The palate and finish get fruitier, with kiwis, limes and lychees, balancing the sweet and tart well. 
Diluted to 45%abv:
The nose loses its excitement and complexity. It feels blander, though it does hold onto flowers and citrus. The palate is bitterer, rougher. Peppery and acidic. It finishes tangy, tannic and lightly sweet.
Diluted to 45%abv:
Honey, raw nuts, dried currants and mild sulfur make up the nose. More sulfur on the palate now, with lots of dried fruit in the background. It finishes with tannins, raisins and sulfur.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Malty and Soft - It was malty, but I'm not sure about soft. None of these three were soft, possibly because they're all very young. But I really liked the greenness of the M&S's palate, as well as the nose's variety. Once dilution brought out the fruits, this one became the easy winner of the bunch. Still, this may not appeal to all palates.

Fruity and Rich - Japanese single malts can be gorgeously rich (and you have to be rich to buy them), but this one ain't rich. And the M&S may actually have been fruitier. But the palate got more interesting once ignored the "fruity" description, and the nose was very engaging. Just please keep it neat.

Sherry and Sweet - I'd read some complaints about the sulfuric nature of this one. When neat, I didn't sense that much of an issue, but at 45%abv there was some serious S. As mentioned in the notes, this Key Malt had a stylistic similarity to some Aberlour A'bunadh batches, though I'm not the biggest fan of that series. Curiously, despite the sulfur, this was the most forgettable of the three Key Malts.

Whew, all these young malts are beginning to get to me. I'm pretty sure M&S and F&R would have improved with 12+ years in casks, though who knows what would have happened to the S&S&S. Were I able to time travel and redirect part of my 2015 trip to Miyagikyo Distillery, I'd be happy to get the Malty and Soft. But I wouldn't change one moment of that voyage, and I don't have a time machine, yet. So it was great to have this opportunity to try these Key Malts.

RATINGS:
Miyagikyo Malty and Soft - 87 
Miyagikyo Fruity and Rich - 83
Miyagikyo Sherry and Sweet - 81

Friday, June 17, 2022

Waterford Bannow Island 1.1 Irish Single Malt

I'm finishing up this Waterford Week with Bannow Island 1.1. Yep, it's 3 years old. Yep, there are a bunch of casks involved. To that point, perhaps drinkers need to be careful before we say, "I can't wait until it's older!" At some moment in time those casks are going to topple the spirit. Excellent blending may be able to fashion something interesting from that mix for a couple years, though one can kiss any "Irish" elements goodbye. After that, it's just another over-oaked thing on the market. A balance will need to be established, and I'm hoping this 3-4 year old range is not the peak.

Anyhoo, Bannow Island appears to be "Bannow Peninsula" on Google Maps because the channel that separated the island from the mainland was silted up in the 14th century, per Wikipedia. Internet research! This release's Overture barley comes from Ed Harpur's farm.

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Barley strain: Overture
Age: 3 years old (2016-2020)
Maturation: 35% first-fill Jack Daniels, 20% new American oak, 25% French oak, 20% Oloroso casks
Outturn: 8616 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Of this week's five Waterfords, this one's nose is the closest to the earth. It starts with barley grist, corn meal, baker's yeast, roses and citrons. Subtler notes of chocolate malt and orange blossoms arise after some time. The salty and slightly bitter palate has toasty grains, tobacco and orange blossoms, with a lime juice note appearing later. It finishes with the grains, sunflower butter and grapefruit.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose feels a bit emptied out. Barley, blackberry jam and roses are all that remain. The diluted palate actually reads hotter and rawer than the neat one. Barley and pencil graphite up front, hints of limes and roses in the background. The finish has also faded, with hushed notes of barley and bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

For a few moments this Waterford was my favorite of the bunch, especially on the nose. But it turned brittle in less than 20 minutes, and water seemed to strip it further. Will time help it? And what is that magical peak time? One doesn't want the new oak to overcome the great early nose, nor any aggressive sherry wood to wipe it out entirely.

In two years, these Waterford whiskies will turn eight years old, depending on what remains. If their pretty blue bottles don't have a giggle-inducing price, perhaps I'll give one or two a try. But not before then.

Availability - getting scarce in Europe
Pricing - $60-$120 (w/VAT, w/o shipping)
Rating - 78, but drink it quickly and keep it neat

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Waterford Sheestown 1.1 Irish Single Malt

Yesterday's Ballymorgan gave me some hope that I'll find a good Waterford. Sheestown 1.1 now gets a try. Again, I can't get over the casks being used: First-fill JD, new US oak, French oak, and Oloroso. What was that about Irish terroir again?

But farmers are awesome and I'll pretend like "tēireoir" is more than marketing fluff, so I'll give Philip O'Brien of County Kilkenny (beautiful countryside) a shoutout for his Irina barley here.

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Barley strain: Irina
Age: 3 years old (2016-2020)
Maturation: 35% first-fill American oak (Jack Daniels and Seagrams), 21% new American oak, 25% French oak, 19% Oloroso casks
Outturn: 9000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose is quite floral, going from flowers to flower candy after some time. It also has a good dose of dried berries (blueberries and currants?). Bits of ginger candy and barley too. The palate has a bit of iron and ethyl, but it also has a greater measure of apricot and raspberry jam. It's sweet but tart oranges and tart raspberries balance that out. Iron shows up in the finish, but it disappears in later sips. Roses, raspberries and tart citrus remain.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Flowers and berries up front in the nose, corn syrup and yeast in the back. No sulfur. Lots of floral eau de vie in the palate, a mix of berries as well. It finishes with tangy berries, flowers and ethyl.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Found one! I like a Waterford! 10th try is the charm. This is nearly newmake (or poitín), but it's good. And it's difficult to know what the right age would be for this whiskey. The casks may kill it before its first decade is through, and 3.9 years is too damned young. But maybe five years? Six? Will Reynier allow it? I'd say six years is right about......now.

Availability - still available throughout Europe
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 80

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Waterford Ballymorgan 1.1 Irish Single Malt

The Ballykilcavan (1.1 and 1.2) whiskies followed the narrative I set out in this week's introduction: extremely young whiskies and French casks forced upon Irish terroir. Please let me be proven wrong this week!

This Ballymorgan's barley — Overture strain — comes from Robert Milne's farm in County Wexford. The whisky's cask mix is different than the Ballykilcavans', and the Vin Doux Naturel is actually Oloroso per the official site.

Let's see if they can wrastle some ballyhoo out of baby Ballymorgan.

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Barley strain: Overture
Age: 3 years old (2016-2020)
Maturation: 37% first-fill Jack Daniels, 18% new American oak, 27% French oak, 18% Oloroso casks
Outturn: 9000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

A bit raw, the nose has a combo of barley, peaches and a floral hard cider that works well. Hints of grapefruit and ocean stay in the background. The palate is hot and sweet, with fresh berries, dried currants, flowers and grape jam. Hints of metal and dried leaves offer some angles. That metallic note, specifically iron/blood takes front stage in the finish, with notes of chile oil and grape jam in the back.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Apples, lots of apples, in the nose, along with orange gummy bears and a whisper of sulfur. More citrus and berries in the palate. It's still raw, but very approachable. The apples return for the finish, with some blackberries and much less iron.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Despite its potentially grim cask combination, Ballymorgan 1.1 is a step ahead of both Ballykilcavans, but the neat finish falls far short of the rest of its parts. The whiskey also takes to water better than the Ballykilcavans, so it's probably a good idea this wasn't released at cask strength. As much as I appreciate the whisky, it still feels very par-baked. If Ballymorgan ever has a 6-8 year old release, that doesn't cost €150+, then I'd consider buying it blindly.

Availability - still available throughout Europe
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 78

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.2 Irish Single Malt

In yesterday's Waterford intro, I left out one fun fact about all five of this week's single malts: each uses a single farm's barley. No matter what my feelings are about the final products' immaturity and cask choices, I do adore the single farm idea. The Ballykilcavan barley (Taberna strain) comes from David Walsh-Kemmis's farm in County Laois, a ways west down M7 from Dublin.

Ballykilcavan 1.2 is about 3 months older than the 1.1, taking it into the 4 year old realm except for the fact that the distiller mixed some 1.1 into the 1.2, so it technically has the same age statement.

Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.2

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Age: (2016-2020) mostly 4 years with some 3 years mixed in, so 3 years old
Maturation: 55.5% American oak, 22% French oak, 22.5% Vin Doux Naturel casks
Outturn: 9000 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

At first sniff, the nose is perkier than that of the 1.1 with less sulfur and more French sauvignon. Then come the flowers, raspberry jam and grape candy. While a yeast note remains, this reads more like newmake than wort. The palate comes off hotter than the 1.1's. It's full of sweet grapes, tart apples, and sharp peppercorns. There's some savory earthy sulfur, but not much. It gets sweeter with time. Honey, sultanas and tart apples mix with dry Oloroso in the finish.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose reads yeastier and more floral, some sour apple candy in the background, and (ah ha!) the first sighting of actual barley! The sweet and salty palate still has that raw edge, and the sulfur gives off a ureic note. It finishes raw and sweet, with a hint of lemon.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Despite the difference in styles and the extra few months, the 1.2 doesn't top the 1.1. It didn't take to water particularly well, and the palate reads simpler and flatter than the younger sibling's. The 1.2's finish is its strongest point when neat, and the nose works better with less sulfur, but I'm seeing less potential here than I did with the 1.1.

Tomorrow, a different farm in a different county...

Availability - 
still available throughout Europe
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 75

Monday, June 13, 2022

Waterford Week begins with Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.1 Irish Single Malt

I love Ireland and I love Irish whiskey, so I'm rooting for one of the scores of new Irish distilleries to legitimately challenge the old guard. Waterford Distillery seemed like it was best dressed for success. Mark Reynier had a dozen years of experience resurrecting Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay. With Waterford his team has put a lot of emphasis on Ireland's terroir (or tēireoir per the website), and the official site is loaded with geeky details about every bottled batch. So I decided to start sourcing Waterford samples.

Then I attended a tasting of six Waterford whiskies. And I enjoyed approximately 0 of them.

Two elements troubled the whiskies. Firstly, they're three-year-old whiskies that tasted like three-year-old whiskies, hot, yeasty, and too unformed to get a sense of the barley. Secondly, not only can Reynier not quit his love of wine + whisk(e)y, but (per his interviews) he's committing to it 100%. I have a difficult time discerning how French wine casks promote Irish terroir, both in theory and the reality of the liquid.

So I stopped amassing Waterford samples with those I'd obtained via bottle splits before that tasting. I'm going to try each of the five this week.

First up:

Waterford Ballykilcavan 1.1

Distillery: Waterford
Owner: Renegade Spirits
Region: Waterford, Ireland
Type: Single Malt
Age: 3 years (2016-2020)
Maturation: 45% American oak, 37% French oak, 18% Vin Doux Naturel casks
Outturn: 8640 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from a bottle split)


NEAT

The nose starts with wort and white grape juice. Then...is that peat? No. No, that's sulfur. With time, smaller notes of grape candy, apple cider and nectarines appear. The palate, more manageable than the nose led on. It's very doughy with an undercurrent of stout. Some hairy sulfur mixes with a moderate honeyed sweetness. The finish has a good length to it, with tart apples, sultanas and yeast. A little bit of element S, as well.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Less sulfur, more apple and grape juices on the nose. Some florals on top, walnuts underneath. The palate becomes more acidic, less sweet. Some lemons, salt and sultanas. Kinda flat overall. It finishes with salt, honey and vague citrus.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Sadly, this fits right into my struggles with the 6 others I'd tried a year and a half ago. Many distilleries produce gin and vodka to scare up revenue while their whiskies age. Others release barely legal whisk(e)y. Waterford has chosen to do the latter. All the pretty packaging and nerd-heaven website data can't make up for this really young product that has the same theme of the world's capital "C" Craft whiskey: immature spirit and aggressive cask influence. All the grapes, sultanas and S point to the Vin Doux Naturel vessels, and perhaps those French oak casks as well. The sulfur-sensitive population may want to stay away, as there's enough S to trigger a feces-filled fedora.

At least with Bruichladdich's early Local Barley products, the distillery waited 6-8 years, and though the spirit was upfront and young, it wasn't raw. Tomorrow I'll review the 4 year old Ballykilcavan 1.2.

Availability - close to selling through in Europe and USA
Pricing - all over the place
Rating - 76

Sunday, June 12, 2022

The "I'm Very Sorry" sample and the resulting cocktail

Within a recent parcel from the gentleman who runs the My Annoying Opinions website, I found a mystery sample labelled, "I'm Very Sorry".


I accept his apology and now I'm going drink the bottle's contents. As a disclaimer, I'm pretty danged certain I know what this "whiskey" is thanks to a hint Mr. Opinions provided. More on that product in a moment.

All that follows was typed live (with some edits)......

NEAT NOTES:

Nose - Allspice, cardamom, ginger beer, a hint of yellow nectarine and LOTS of fresh cilantro. It's starting to go Full Hippie with notes of holy basil, ashwagandha and a dash of manure.

Palate - Um......It is strongly flavored. This is going to stain my glass and my taste buds. Okay, so there be lots of holy basil, cassia, pepper, mustard seed and tree bark here. Fresh ginger, lots of bitterness, hints of cocoa, white rum and juniper. It's like some sort of zany gin.

Finish - Bitter (wormwoodish?). Cilantro, holy basil, fresh ginger and white JM Rhum by turns.

This unique, fragrant, but not entirely palatable creation is most likely Masala Chai Flavored Whiskey from St. Paul's Studio Distilling. Per the official site, "The Masala Chai Whiskey begins with a rye malt whiskey base to which we add a curated mix of Assam tea and whole spices. The blend is distilled and then aged in oak barrels."

As much as I enjoy rye and Assam and whole spices, I don't understand why they all had to meet this way. I never thought anything could fully obliterate rye notes, but alas this collection of "whole spices" have done so. The bitterness reads like extremely over-steeped black tea, so perhaps that's where the Assam lives.

There's something very entertaining about the nose's herbal bundle. And there must be some gin cocktail that this could electrify. But I'm electing to create a whiskey-based cocktail. In honor of the caucasians who leaned on masala chai for their product, I shall also take part in some cultural appropriation for the cocktail's name. I present...

NAMASTE AWAY
a bazaar Old-Fashioned

The Ingredients:
1.5 oz of Masala Chai Flavored Whiskey
2 tsp of Demerara simple syrup
3 dashes of Angostura orange bitters
5 dashes of Strongwater Golden cocktail bitters
¼ of an orange peel
Ice cubes

The Process:
Muddle the peel, syrup and bitterses together at the bottom of a hefty tumbler. Stir in the flavored whiskey. Give it 5-10 minutes to mingle, then add plenty of ice cubes.

The Why:
I adore Strongwater's Golden bitters and thought its generous aromatics would mingle well with those of the whiskey. There's a good batch of Demerara syrup in my fridge, and it ups the cocktail's imperialist core. Finally, just in case the above doesn't work, I'm orange-ing the shit out of this.

The Results:


Jeezus Franciscan Cripes this is terrible. Every element was a mistake. The herbs and spices overwhelm everything (even the orange-ing!) more, and now it's so awfully cloying that I just powered down the quarter-naked orange just to introduce something else to my mouth. The "whiskey" was better neat.

I'm very sorry about this cocktail. Happy Sunday!

Availability - around the Twin Cities and the official online store
Pricing - $24.99 for a 375mL
Rating - 66 (maybe? I don't know.)

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Expectation versus Reality: Burnside 24 year old 1988 AD Rattray, cask 1739

Burnside (aka "teaspooned" Balvenie) distilled in the late 1980s can be a gorgeous thing. During my last trip to Japan (sigh), I had a chance to try several of such malts in bourbon cask form, and they were all flawless Speysiders. So when my buddy, Secret Agent Man, gave me a generous pour from his bottle of this particular 1988 single cask, I was very excited. Then he said, "Try it and tell me what you think," which sent me from thrilled to curious. Sipping the whisky, I winced out a "What the hell?" He nodded in agreement, then gave me a pour to take home so that I could attempt to put "What the hell?" into more words. Here it goes.

My fabulous sample label.
I don't think this was actually selected by Binny's.

Distillery: Balvenie (plus a teaspoon of Glenfiddich)
Owner: William Grant & Sons
Region: Speyside (Dufftown)
Bottler: AD Rattray
Age: 24 years (29 Nov 1988 - 7 Dec 2012)
Maturation: hogshead
Cask #: 1739
Outturn: 212 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 52.1%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(thank you to Secret Agent Man for the sample!)

NEAT

The nose begins with strawberry candy and red pixy stix, then takes a turn for bubblegum and perfume. Then paint VOCs. Barrel char and tar. Cottage cheese and chalk. The palate's woodiness is outrageous. Perhaps there are some oranges, yuzus and hazelnuts in there, but they are fucking trampled by bitterness and tannins. There's some cloying stuff happening around the edges as well. It finishes with split lumber, barrel char, mothballs, limes and agave nectar.

Dare I water it?

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Berry candy, peach candy, copper and chalk make up most of the nose. Some VOCs in the background. Perfume joins late. The palate remains full of bitter oak, but now burnt things and acidity join the carnival. Lots of sweetness too. Limes and menthol add some interest in the background. The tannins back off of the finish now, but the burnt stuff and acid remain. Some strawberry gum and lime candy hints linger in the back.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

There are too many sensible-chuckle-inducing Expectation versus Reality memes for me to choose from, so I'm afraid I'll have to refrain from memes this time. Sorry, not sorry. Either someone (Rattray) sat on this cask for way too long, or its contents were never right. I'm not going to give it a failing rating because the nose has plenty of entertainment value, but the palate is a wreck.

I've had a few too many weird casks from Rattray, so I've stopped trying to source samples of their stuff. This may be my last review of their single casks.

(For what it's worth, Whiskey Jug (2.5/5) and especially Whisky Musings (76/100) found this cask problematic as well.)

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 70 (saved by the nose)

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Lefty Gomez, a dead hamster, and Fujikai 10 year old

Lefty Gomez, the always quotable ace of the Yankees pitching staff across the late Babe Ruth era, Lou Gehrig era and early Joe DiMaggio era, passed away on February 17, 1989.

A week later, my family bought our first pet, the most adorable of domesticated rodents, a hamster. I named him Lefty. I don't know if he was really a southpaw (zing!), but I was a baseball history geek who'd just turned 10½, so it didn't matter. Lefty was fuzzy and fast, didn't mind being held, and had a great time making nests in his wood shavings. He also had virulent case of wet tail, and had to take medicine every day.

Seven months later I found my hamster on top of his bedding, expired from dehydration, having shit himself to death. It was summer, we wrapped him in a sock and buried him in the backyard. My mom and I cried.

This is a bottle of whisky someone abandoned at a Columbus Scotch Night event this year:


Distilled at Japan's Monde Shuzou distillery, Fujikai 10 year old single malt is loathed by the whisky world. Of course I had to try it.

Fujikai 10 year old, 43%abv, aged in bourbon casks, 8088 (lucky?) bottle-outturn

Well, it smells of garbage. Rubber garbage, cardboard garbage. Someone tossed new sneakers into the bin, doused them in armagnac eau de vie, and lit them on fire with dry peat.

There's a lot of bitter wood and soy sauce on the palate, along with menthol, raw wheat, oversteeped pu-erh tea, and hamster piss.

It has a WOWEE level of bitter oak in the finish, along with burnt wheat, burnt hair and tar.

That was Fujikai 10 neat. I thought perhaps a proper mizuwari would salvage the whisky.

A proper mizuwari did not salvage the whisky, but did change it.

Into my dead hamster in liquid form.

I can't rate this. The remaining liquid will be buried.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Concluding the Loch Lomond cluster

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

I'm wrapping up this cluster a few days late due to some rare travel last week, thus this conclusion awkwardly drops on a Monday.

Speaking of awkward, I used to think Loch Lomond Distillery produced the most awkward whisky in Scotland. (Seamless transition!) Something changed abruptly once Exponent bought Loch Lomond Distillers. That "Something" was the magical disappearance of the rancid Taco-Bell-garbage-dumpster note I used to identify as Distillery Character. That "Something" was also the distillery's sudden focus on single malt promotion. That "Something" was also the constant rebooting of package design.

The last two somethings are corporate decisions, but the first is more mysterious. Was former owner, Glen Catrine, that bad at selecting casks for official bottlings? And very consistently so? That doesn't explain where that unsettling garbage note went. I found it a grand total of 0 times during this cluster, with the '90s bottling of Inchmurrin 10yo coming the closest to that style of murky fluid. You will rarely rarely rarely hear me speak well of investment groups and VCs, but Exponent built something new upon takeover, something that works. And maybe fished the dead rats out of the stills.

All four of Loch Lomond's single malt styles shown brightly during this cluster:

Inchmoan was the biggest surprise, since I didn't even enjoy that malt after the takeover. But here it averaged the best scores of the four types (tied, actually). Each of the four Inchmoans were read differently, so the only constant was quality. But what quality!

Inchmurrin was probably the weakest of the four styles, possibly because it didn't have peat to hide behind, but at least the aforementioned '90s Inchmurrin highlighted how much has changed for the better.

Croftengea, a remedy for those of us tired of the same-old-same-old peated stuff, remains my favorite non-Islay peated whisky. And I wonder if we've even seen the best of it.

Like Inchmurrin, the Loch Lomond type doesn't have the luxury of peat to cover up spirit flaws but, aside from the 18yo, it can be a solid, fruity whisky. The older stuff improved with water, and the 12yo was the closest thing I've had to a "daily drinker" for years.

The cluster's 14 modern Loch Lomond malts averaged 86 points! A decade ago a Loch Lomond cluster would have peaked at 68 points and I would have quit whisky blogging. (Don't everybody sigh at once.) 88- to 90-point scores made up 40% of the reviews in this cluster, which I admit sounds like some dreamy, Whisky Advocate stuff. But it's real. Loch Lomond makes good whisky.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Loch Lomond 30 year old

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

It's time to bring the Loch Lomond cluster reviews to a close with the eldest of the siblings, the 30 year old bottling the distillery rolled out in 2020. I'm not sure what the outturn was for this batch, but the official site does say that it's made from unpeated spirit that was first aged in "American oak casks" (again), then finished in first fill Oloroso casks. Though I'm not a fan of finished brown spirits, there are many types of finishes, fashioned by different producers for varying amounts of time. Let's see what Monsieur Henry's team has created here.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: at least 30 years (??? - 2020)
Maturation: first "American oak casks", then 1st-fill Oloroso casks
Outturn: ???
Alcohol by Volume: 47.0%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? Not much if any
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Many things going on in the nose: eucalyptus, milk chocolate, tangerine, saline, cardamom and newspaper print. Some warm hay in the background. The milk chocolate note expands with time. The peachy palate has lots of peaches, sweet peaches, tart peaches and floral peaches. But there's also a squirt of lime juice, some fresh parsley and a hint of metal. More nectarine than peach in the finish, with touches of brine and amaro bitterness.

Normally I don't add water to a 30 year old single malt, but this one is telling me it needs a few drops. Or at least I think that's what it's saying. I don't speak Gaelic.

DILUTED to ~43%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Nothing was lost in translation. Figs, dried apricots, dried cherries, aromatic toasted oak and newspaper print highlight the nose. The peaches mellow out in the palate, and are met by bitter citrus, a hint of savoriness and an almost-peat earthy note. The finish's length expands, mixing amaro, newspaper print, sweet citrus and sea salt.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It swims! As much as I adore fruity whisky, the extra depth brought out by dilution improved the experience. Though older Loch Lomond exists, 30 years may be this whisky's peak; after that the oak can start stomping around. The Oloroso finish worked well, to the point that I wonder if this was more of a secondary maturation, or a gentle warehouse? No matter what the secret is, this was a good malt to bring the cluster to a close.

Availability - Europe
Pricing - $500-$700, depending on the conversion rate
Rating - 88

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Loch Lomond 21 year old 1996 Cadenhead Small Batch

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

When buying a single cask of Loch Lomond, make sure to note whether it's a single malt or single grain, since I've seen both out there. I am not reviewing any of their single grains in this cluster (though the official 18 was pretty darn close), not because I have anything against LL's single grains, but because I have everything against single grain whisky in general.

Today's Loch Lomond is a double cask (two hoggies) of 21 year old whisky bottled by Cadenhead. It was well received by the Whiskybase community, especially for a Loch Lomond. I wonder if I'll be able to detect if it's really "Loch Lomond" or another one of the distillery's styles. Probably not, but it's worth a try!

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Small Batch
Age: 21 years (1996 - 3 Dec 2018)
Maturation: two bourbon hogsheads
Outturn: 450 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 51.5%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Lots of citrus fruits, mint leaf, raspberry jam and cardboard arise from the early nose. Hard toffee gradually morphs into buttery caramel. Hints of dried leaves, balloons and peach skin appear after 30+ minutes. It has a toasty palate. Toasted barley, toasted mixed nuts, toasted nutty bread. Some tangy, tart oranges fill the middle, with white peaches in the back. The finish reads sweeter than the palate, mostly on the oranges. Salt and wood smoke linger in the background.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or ¾ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Oooh. I like this better. Honey, grapefruit, blossoms and shortbread biscuits on the nose. Malt and bolder fruit (limes, grapefruits and tart apples) in the palate. It finishes less sweet, but plenty fruity and malty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I was on the fence about this one when trying it neatly, as I'm really not a cardboard (plus balloons!) fan on the nose or palate, and the finish was just so-so. Though I did like the palate's toasted notes. Dilution lifts it up. Everything in this whisky works better at 46%abv. Perhaps with a full bottle and a steady hand, one can find the perfect strength. It tops the official 18yo with ease, but can't quite top the OB 12. Good stuff though. And no, I can't tell if this is Inchmurrin or regular Loch Lomond.

Availability - Central Europe, though possibly sold out by now
Pricing - ???
Rating - 85 (diluted only)

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Loch Lomond 18 year old

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

After having consumed plenty of Loch Lomond's twelve-year-old, I was excited to try more of this improved, fruity, unique spirit. Unfortunately my options were a bit limited here in the USA since my favorite European sellers promptly cut off shipping to The States once Covid went wild. The 17 year old cask strength Organic bottling was of particular interest, but that one went bye-bye.  At ~90USD the 18 year old also intrigued me, but I waited until a sample could be sourced. I'm glad I didn't have to wait too long!

Like Loch Lomond 12, the 18 is aged entirely in American oak casks; though also like the 12, the type of casks aren't specified. Hoggies? Barrels? New oak? First-fill? Eighth-fill? The 12 seemed like refills, which worked very well for it. For the purposes of this review, the 12 served as the 18's sparring partner.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: at least 18 years
Maturation: American oak casks
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? Not much if any
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

A pleasant mix of ocean brine, pears, peaches and flower kiss candy greets the nose first. It gradually settles onto a base of barley, Fritos(!) and toasted granola. Limes, kiwi and lychee arrive first in the palate, but it feels flat and thin. It gets a little bit peppery. Then the tannins arrive. And neutral spirit. In early sips, the finish has the palate's fruits, but it becomes more acidic, tannic and ashier in later sips.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Loch Lomond 18 year old reads like a fatter version of grain whisky, but it still has a single grain's limitations, thus the flatness and inability to hold back the oak's onrush. This doesn't bother the nose, as the 18 smells very pretty, but the palate and finish gradually fall apart. With that developing note of neutral spirit + tannin, the whisky gives the impression that it will devolve into Kessler after an hour on the glass. It's not even close, the 12 wins.

Availability - Available in Europe and North America
Pricing - $70-$100
Rating - 78 (though that might be generous)

Monday, May 30, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Loch Lomond 12 year old

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

There are TIRDs, and then there are TIRDs. This is a real TIRD. I went through three bottles of Loch Lomond 12 year old over an 18 month period. And I don't "go through three bottles" of anything ever, except when I was in my Power's phase one decade ago.

After being genuinely shocked by the quality of a LL12 sample in 2019, I sought out a bottle in 2020. And sure enough it arrived in local OHLQ stores. As a gift pack with Inchmoan 12 and Inchmurrin 12 minis. For $29.99. The Covid Era was just beginning and this seemed like proper apocalypse whisky, so I bought three gift packs. This is why I had all of those Inchmoan and Inchmurrin minis, and this is why my daughters have three large blue caskets for their small stuffies.

As per the picture, I'm reviewing the green glass version of the 12. The owners changed the packaging yet again in 2021, so the bottle you'll see in stores now is made of clear glass and the label font is different.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Loch Lomond
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company
Region: Highlands (Western)
Age: at least 12 years
Maturation: American oak casks
Bottling date: 14/08/2019
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? Not much if any
(from my third bottle)

NOTES

The nose begins with a waft of fermenting white fruits. Citrons, oats, wet stones and whole wheat bread crust arrive next. Hints of pilsner, cocoa and almond extract highlight the background. Malt fills the palate's foreground, with a lively bitterness and moderate sweetness around the edges. Lemons gradually take over, with wisps of wood smoke and flowers in the back. It finishes with zesty, bitter citrus, malt, ginger and a little extra sweetness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

As I noted three years ago, "Leave Loch Lomond neat and it will kick Glenfiddich 12's and Glenlivet 12's asses all around the block." And that's just the palate. The nose has a heft, quirk and complexity not found in $30 whiskies anywhere anymore. But the whisky's performance in a highball is what really made the liquid disappear from my bottles. Yes, a single malt highball. The 46%abv and lack of filtration boosted the whisky to stand up boldly to club soda, ice, bitters, and any sort of garnish. This Loch Lomond 12 year old was a joy and a surprise, and I look forward to trying the newest version as well.

Availability - Widely available, but probably with the new packaging
Pricing - $30-$40
Rating - 86

Friday, May 27, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Croftengea 10 year old 2006 Exclusive Malts, cask 485

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

Just a reminder, I do indeed try to purchase whiskies I've reviewed. Well, I did. International shipping has become impractical or nonexistent, and prices are......a spectator sport.

But here's a whisky I tried more than three years ago and, after enjoying its filthy style, I bought a bottle, a bottle that was opened this month in honor of the Loch Lomond cluster. The baby of this week's Croftengea trio, this TIRD whisky did indeed make it into the double-digit age range, spending a decade in a generous hogshead (judging by the outturn).

This review is of the fourth and fifth pours, still in the upper third of the bottle.

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Croftengea
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company (Hillhouse Capital Group)
Region: Highlands (Western)
Bottler: Creative Whisky Company
Range: Exclusive Malts
Age: 10 years (22 March 2006 to April 2016)
Maturation: a happy hogshead?
Cask #485
Outturn: 302
Alcohol by Volume: 56.7%
(from my bottle)

NEAT

Firstly, the color is much lighter than the filtered photo shows. I'll call it light gold. Cold kiln, rotting seaweed and broiled eel hit the nose first. Mmmmm. Then pear, orange peel, cassia and winter wood stoves. Savory + Sweet + Soot perform in unison in the palate, with lots of lime juice around the edges. Then pear juice mixed with chipotle Tabasco sauce. It gets meatier and mintier with time. It finishes with pear, lime, mint candy and lots of salt.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp water per 30mL whisky

The nose begins similarly. Then the fruit notes drift towards floral notes. More cinnamon, a hint of wood glue. Things get slightly flintier. The palate gets simpler, sweeter, though there's still plenty of charred meat and peppery smoke. It finishes sweet and tangy, with mild kiln notes.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

My notes differ quite a bit from those I typed 3+ years ago. The whisky reads less odd now, or maybe I am odder. That's not impossible. But from the first moment of the first pour it's clear that a great-but-not-amazing Croftengea is a legitimate alternative to the more popular Islay peat monsters, and preferable to some of them. I'm going to repeat myself here, but......if the official Loch Lomond 12yo (46%abv) can sell for $30-$35, how about a Croftengea 12yo? It could even have a 50% premium, pointing to a $45-$55 tag, and I'd buy two bottles, in lieu of Ardbeg 10 and Laphroaig 10.

Sorry, I've strayed from the review. For my face, this whisky works better at full power. The palate isn't particularly complex but it's very well balanced and would drink much better in November than May. This is young, hardy stuff with plenty of spirit, but it's neither raw nor par-baked. And the price was right, back in the day.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - it was less than $80 with shipping included
Rating - 86

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Croftengea 15 year old 2002 SMWS 122.21

(Loch Lomond cluster homepage)

Sherry cask Croftengea is unknown territory for me. Fortified wine and aggressive peat often don't dance well, but when they do the result can be fabulous. SMWS had a solid approach with this whisky. The Croftengea spirit spent its first four years in a bourbon barrel, then its next 11 in a second-fill sherry barrel. Then again, there are second-fill sherry casks and there are second-fill sherry casks. Lemme see...

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Style: Croftengea
Owner: Loch Lomond Distillery Company (Hillhouse Capital Group)
Region: Highlands (Western)
Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 15 years (16 April 2002 - early 2018?)
Maturation: 4 years in bourbon barrel + 11 years in 2nd fill sherry cask
Cask: 122.21 - "What's cooking?"
Outturn: 220 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.8%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose begins with grilled pork ribs and new sneakers, followed by orange peel, marzipan, Andes candies and vanilla bean. Salty barbecue pork, cocoa powder and grapefruit arrive first in the palate. Then there's ink, Thai chiles, tangerines and smoked almonds. A flawless balance of peat and sweet. Dried cherries join the pork in the finish above a swirl of savory, salt, smoke and sweet, with a squeeze of lime.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1⅓ tsp water per 30mL whisky

Dusty smoke blankets baking chocolate, coffee ground, blueberry juice and toffee in the nose. That smoke needs time to build in the palate. Lemons, horseradish, smoked almonds and a smoky porter fill in the rest. It finishes like a cigar and a glass of porter, with dried berries on the side.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another terrific SMWS Loch Lomond! Priming Croftengea in a bourbon barrel, then pouring it into a moderate 2nd-fill sherry-season vessel did indeed do the trick. At this rate, I might need to stop making fun of that bottler. Or not. At least the name, "What's cooking?", sort of works, with all the pork, nuts, fruits and chiles. The nose and palate are pristine, and the finish elicits monosyllabic nonsense from the drinker. I cannot ask for anything more.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - less than $100 four years ago
Rating - 90