...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Bruichladdich 10 year old 2008 Bere Barley

And then there was the Big Bere. All the Bere barley single malts I've tried (from Bruichladdich and Arran) are very different animals than all the non-Bere whiskies. And this one is no exception. But with an asterisk.


Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: 10 years (2008-2018)
Maturation: bourbon and Tennessee whiskey casks
Barley strain: Bere
Source: Orkney
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

Some nice layering on the nose. Apple peels and lime zest. Smoked salmon and ocean air. Caramel sauce and tapioca pudding. But then the palate goes a completely different direction. A joltingly bitter grassiness smothers everything except for a hefty metallic note. A mojito and bitter citrus peels lie somewhere beneath. It finishes with bitter and tart citrus peels, like kabosu and limes, and lots of simple syrup, but even more mothballs.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Having searched online, I've found no one else who had such a visceral reaction to this whisky's palate. Just my offline drinking buddy, Dr. Springbank, and I. Other reviews are all, "Fruits and spice!", which makes me wonder if something went weird with the contents of my bottle. Meanwhile, the nose is great! How does one grade a bottle of napthalene that smells like high quality scotch?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 79

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Bruichladdich 8 year old 2009 Organic Barley

The wee 7yo 2008 Islay Barley charmed. What will the 8yo Organic Barley do? It has another year of maturation, no wine casks, and came from pesticide-free barley stalks. It has that light straw tint to it that still thrills this drinker...

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: at least 8 years (2009-2018)
Maturation: bourbon and Tennessee whiskey casks
Barley Source: Mid Coul farm in the Highlands
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

At least three things are happening in the nose. First, there's a pretty combo of lemon custard and lychee. A darker side, made of paint VOCs and wood ash, curls around the fruits. It's a held up by a foundation of barley grist, peanut dust and dried thyme. After a while, it also gains notes of guava and milk chocolate.

Malt and sugar fill the palate's early foreground, with lemons and limes in the back. Gradually, the citrus moves to the front, adding in grapefruit, which brings in more tartness.

It finishes tarter than the palate, full of grapefruit and lemon juices, the malt and sugar linger in the distance.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

A complex nose gives way to a simple palate. Neither offend, but the nose leaves more of an impression. Again, the spirit leads the way, perhaps even more than the 7yo Islay Barley. Or at least this one feels younger. If I were to get a bit vague/abstract/obnoxious about things (and why stop now?), I'd say this pour would work best in spring's earliest weeks, as the last snow melts away, snowdrops begin to ascend and, FFS, can we just skip to March already?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 85

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Bruichladdich 7 year old 2010 Islay Barley

I'd seen this wee set sitting on retailers shelves around the world for years before I got around to buying it:


As I'd mentioned in Monday's intro, I've always respected Bruichladdich's whisky exploration of various barley strains and sources. Often those bottlings have very little cask influence, which helps the drinker experience the spirit. A good thing!

I've tried other vintages of this set's trio, and even finished bottles of the earliest versions of Organic and Bere that came to The States, so this blind buy wasn't much of a risk. Dr. Springbank and Dr. Springbank and I opened these bottles a few days before this review, so I had a sneak preview of coming attractions.

First up, the Islay Barley.

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: Bruichladdich
Ownership: Remy Cointreau
Region: Western Islay
Age: at least 7 years (2010-2018)
Maturation: refill(?) bourbon and French wine casks
Barley strains: Optic and Oxbridge
Source: eight Islay farms
Alcohol by Volume: 50%
Chillfiltered? No
e150a? No
(from my 20cL bottle)

NOTES

Barley, honeycomb, apples, apricots, lemon peel and citronella arrive first in the nose. Hot candle wax, grass in the warm sunshine, and flower kiss candy appear later. The palate almost reads like breakfast cereal, with malt, confectioner's sugar and honey up front. Apple fritters, oranges and white peppercorns linger near the edges. It finishes warm, sweet and spicy, with fresh ginger and baked apples.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Utterly delightful! If other baby whiskies were this clean and crisp, you wouldn't hear me whining about them all the time. While it would be interesting to chart the whisky's complexity if this same batch was aged in refill casks for 18+ years, I'm very taken by the bright simplicity of the malt at seven years. I'd happily purchase a 750mL bottle of this batch were it easily available, four years later. Also, what French wine casks?

Availability - Set and full sized bottle are scarce
Pricing - ??
Rating - 88

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Bruichladdich Classic Laddie batch 21/208 (and another!)

This standard Laddie had never tempted my tummy, and I really struggled with The Eight, so I was flat out stunned when I liked my sample of The Classic Laddie four years ago. The one problem with my four-years-ago sample was the missing batch number. Every batch of Classic has its own combination of casks, helpfully shared on Bruichladdich's site, so I have no idea what I was drinking. But it still gave me hope that I'd come around to the distillery's standard unpeated release.

Then two months ago I found this bottle in an Ohio liquor store:


The batch number can be found on the side of the bottle. Here, it's 21/208:


I looked up the receipe on the site, and.....um......it's best if I just list it out:
  • One cask of CHILE (CABERNET SAUVIGNON) HOGSHEADS 1ST FILL
  • Five casks of FRANCE RIVESALTES VDN (MUSCAT) THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL THEN FRANCE BORDEAUX PESSAC LEOGNAN HOGSHEAD 2NDFILL
  • Six casks of Islay Barley USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 24 casks of USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Seven casks of SPAIN RIBERA DEL DUERO (TEMPRANILLO) HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL, THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL, THEN ITALY AMERONE HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL
  • Six more casks of Islay Barley USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Three casks of Organic Barley SPAIN SHERRY BUTT 1ST FILL OR 2ND FILL, THEN USA BOURBON BARREL 2ND FILL
  • 24 more casks of USA BOURBON BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Three casks of FRANCE PAUILLAC (CABERNET SAUVIGNON, FRANC, MERLOT) HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
What, no fucking pruno cask? Lame.

JFC.

Anyhoo. I also had on hand a good sized sample of batch 16/261 from 2016:

Shall I?
  • Five casks of FRENCH OAK RED WINE HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
  • 12 casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 10 casks of Organic Barley FRENCH OAK RED WINE HOGSHEAD 2ND FILL
  • 23 more casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • 13 more casks of BOURBON USA BARREL 1ST FILL
  • Five casks of SPAIN RIBERA DEL DUERO RED HOGSHEAD 1ST FILL

Not as terrifying!

I don't know, this seems like less of a Taste Off and more of a Taste Oof. Here goes something.


BRUICHLADDICH, THE CLASSIC LADDIE, BATCH 21/208, 50%ABV

NoseOaky American Chardonnay mixes with California Pinot Noir, with a dash of sawdust, upon my first sniffs. Then it picks up mint leaves, lemon juice, apple Jolly Ranchers, and Fritos. Diluted to 43%abv, it feels more pulled together, but with a big dose of cinnamon and a hint of orange oil.

Palate - It starts raw, sweet and bready. With time, notes of lemon candy, honey, cinnamon red hots and Sauternes appear. After being diluted to 43%abv it reads rawer and weirdly bitter. Some tart fruits and dulce de leche sweetness sits underneath.

Finish - Hot, sweet and tart. Cinnamon red hots floating in buttery Chardonnay. Once diluted to 43%abv, it gets bitter and tart, with more than a little tree bark showing up.

Words Words Words - Attempting to lead with the positive... Enjoy(?) it neatly, do not add water. The neat palate isn't bad as a dessert pour. On the other hand, the neat nose never ever ever works for me. It's like a personal solera bottle, but with wine added. My friends, Dr. Springbank and Dr. Springbank, seemed to like it better than I did, possibly because there are no butyric acid notes. I think they're hiding under a blanket of wine. The butyric acid notes, not my friends. Probably.

Rating - 76 (neat only)


BRUICHLADDICH, THE CLASSIC LADDIE, BATCH 16/261, 50%ABV

Nose - Either the wine is better integrated or it's just less, per the recipe. There's some actual malt in here, along with notes of milk chocolate, marshmallows and apple juice, with hints of saline and wet stones in the background. Diluted to 43%abv, it reads bigger and very toasty. Milk chocolate and almond butter up front, damp moss and ocean in the back.

Palate - It begins tart and very ashy, with an almost rum-like sweetness. Quite a bit more raw heat on this batch. A bit of lemon candy. After a while it's all Mt. Gay Rum and ash. At 43%abv, flowers and vanilla take over, while the odd bitterness from the other batch shows up here too.

Finish - Just lemon, honey and heat. At 43%abv it goes ashy, with some woody bitterness, maple syrup and flowers in the background.

Words Words Words - I adore the smell of this whisky. I do not adore the flavor. Overall, it's approachable as long as it remains undiluted, and it might match well with some desserts. No sour milk nor baby barf notes on this one either, likely a positive for many drinkers. If you have this bottle, you may just want to nose the hell out of it.

Rating - 79 (neat only)


Final thoughts...

While it's true that nothing like Classic Laddie is bottled elsewhere on Islay, I don't understand the need to attempt Black Art Junior with baby whisky. I'm not against tossing in a few wine casks, in fact it often works very well with Bruichladdich's Port Charlotte bottlings. But both of these batches feel like a mish-mosh; a mix that never mixed, not in the blending tun, nor in the bottle. I'm now looking forward to the next three Laddies, all of which are less cask-bothered and more spirit-centered. I am not looking forward to getting through the rest of my turquoise bottle.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Laddie Frickin' Dah: Bruichladdich TIRDs on the way

While I respect Bruichladdich's occasional transparency — like detailing the Classic Laddie recipes — and fully cheer on their focus on barley strains and sources, I rarely enjoy their standard unpeated productions. Perhaps like former-owner Mark Reynier's Waterford Distillery, Bruichladdich's frequent use of wine casks overwhelms many of their terroir studies. Or maybe their unpeated spirit doesn't sit well on my palate. Thus I get them intellectually, but I don't gots them organoleptically.

Or maybe I will now. So I'm going to try it out. Here are the whisky bottles I bought:


The schedule is thus:
  • Tuesday - The Classic Laddie (bottled in 2021) compared with a 2016 batch of Classic Laddie.
  • Wednesday - Islay Barley 2010
  • Thursday - Organic Barley 2009
  • Friday - Bere Barley 2008
Next week I'll taste a trio of official Bruichladdichs that have absolutely nothing to do with this week's group, but should be a hoot anyway. Now, for the "Classics"...

Friday, November 18, 2022

Ledaig 20 year old 2001 Gordon & MacPhail, cask 285

Another late work night, and I sit down at 11:48pm to type up my tasting notes for this heavily-sherried Ledaig. I can only think of two more things to include in this introduction:

1.) I like Ledaig.
2.) Can the SWA require quotation marks for sopping wet aggressively re-seasoned "refill" sherry casks? Et vos, Gordon and MacPhail?

(No, I'm not going to pretend I remember any of my high school Latin, other than "Canis est in via".)

Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Range: Connoisseurs Choice - Cask Strength
Age: 20 years (2001 - 5 May 2022)
Maturation: refill sherry butt lol
Cask #: 285
Outturn: 498 bottles
Exclusive to: United Kingdom
Alcohol by Volume: 58.4%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose says someone's grilling ribs at the beach. Sage, oregano and grapefruit peels swirl through the BBQ smoke. A whiff of manure stays in the background. The palate offers herbal (oregano, rosemary, dried mint) and bold citrus (yuzus!) to go with chocolate, Robotussin, ume candy and salty pickled ume. It finishes with yuzu, lime, mesquite smoke, Robotussin and mint.

This is a big one, so I'm trying two dilution strengths:

DILUTED TO ~50%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The herbal notes ascend in the nose, now joined by mossy smoke, baked plums, and hints of milk chocolate and almond extract. Smoked paprika, oregano and plum sauce fill the palate. The finish gets very sweet, like dessert wine sweet. Smoky residue and lime juice rests in the background.

DILUTED TO ~46%abv, or >1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

Oregano, lemon peel and wood smoke arrive first in the nose, followed by ink and almond extract. Straightforward peat and sweet on the palate, with a little bit of bitterness in the back. It finishes sweet and herbal.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

It's difficult to squelch Ledaig's spirit, but this heavy cask almost succeeds. One can be thankful this whisky didn't sit in its sauced-up vessel for any longer. Perhaps this is a peated whisky for sherry bomb fans rather than a sherried whisky for peat bomb fans, if that makes sense. It's most complex at full strength, but drinks better once diluted. I'm not sure if all the parts ever really merge, but I am a sucker for all the plummy notes and dried herbs. Thus I'm won over despite myself.

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Ledaig 19 year old 1997 Cadenhead Small Batch

Today's Cadenhead Small Batch is indeed a small batch; more specifically, it's one Ledaig hogshead. Its bottles were sold in the US of A, and I remember seeing it on the shelf. And not buying it. I had my reasons. Those reasons are called "money". Anyway, yesterday I stated my feelings about Ledaig at this age range, so I'm certainly ready for this stuff.

Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Cadenhead
Range: Small Batch
Age: 19 years (1997 - 2016)
Maturation: Bourbon hogshead
Alcohol by Volume: 53.7%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose has three lives. At first it's all metal and farmy funk. Then it gets peachy, with citrons and charred marshmallows in the background. Finally it settles into ocean brine, earth and malt. The palate also starts out metallic and farmy, then tangy citrus and sweet stone fruits move in while salty smoke plays coy. It finishes with a good mix of tart, sweet, salt, and smoke (in that order of strength).

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1 tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose gets smokier as the fruits retreat, though there's a fruit tart way in the back. The palate also gets smokier, but sweet citrus stands its ground, with hints of dried herbs and peppercorns around the edges. Smoke and citrons fill the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Full reveal: This was the 15yo's Taste Off partner. Though the 15 year old won the battle, this 19yo was still very good. This older cask read simpler and milder, and though the finish felt very balanced, the palate and nose were wobblier. I'd still take wobbly Ledaig over nearly every other peated malt on the planet, so owning this bottle wouldn't be a tragedy. And yeah, it's probably a December whisky too.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 86

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Ledaig 15 year old 2005 Single Malts of Scotland, cask 72

It's kinda difficult to go wrong with 15-20 year old single cask Ledaig, and I have three of them lined up for this week. I'll continue going in age order, starting with a......15 year old. Bottled for the possibly-cancelled 2020 Whisky in Leiden festival in the Netherlands, this Mull exited its single bourbon barrel at a not-too-terrifying 55.5%abv.

Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Elixir Distillers
Range: Single Malts of Scotland
Age: 15 years and 1 day (3 Feb 2005 - 4 Feb 2020)
Maturation: Bourbon barrel
Cask number: 72
Outturn: 237 bottles
Exclusive to: Whisky in Leiden 2020
Alcohol by Volume: 55.5%
(from a purchased sample)

NEAT

Chalk, saline, seaweed, and spent oil on hot concrete arrive first in the nose, followed by toffee and Werther's Originals. It gets peatier with time, but also gains orange zest, cinnamon and light blue Mr. Sketch markers. The palate arrives at a perfect intersection of peat, sweet and lime. Hints of pound cake and hay fill the background. A bright prickly tartness develops with time, carrying over into the earthy finish, with toffee pudding in the background.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose shows cinnamon and baked plums framed by seaweedy smoke. The palate starts with minerals and smoke, with very tart lemons in the midground, and brown sugar in the back. The finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Seeing "yummy" twice in the handwritten tasting notes, a reader could say I liked this stuff. A LOT. I'm not sure I've had a recent official Ledaig this damned good. The barrel does just enough, the spirit continues to thrive, and it swims. It may not be the most complex Ledaig around, but it works on every level. I want more. MORE!

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - It was €80. You lucky festival folks.
Rating - 89 (darn close to 90)

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Ledaig 11 year old 2007 Chieftain's, cask 700611

Though I bid adieu to Chieftain's two years ago, that did not spell the end of my Chieftain's reviews. Diving for Pearls is only timely on accident. Everything gets reviewed at least three years late around here. For instance, today's Ledaig appeared in the US four years ago. Though from a sherry butt, the whisky has taken on the color of a refill hoggie (though I tinted it a bit for my pic below).


Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Ian McLeod
Range: Chieftain's
Age: 11 years old (June 2007 - September 2018)
Maturation: B.U.T.T.
Cask number: 70611
Outturn: 528 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 58.1%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

One may find ocean water, moss, wood smoke, fresh coffee and roasted mixed nuts on the nose. The palate is nutty and salty, with some heat from chile oil and cinnamon, and just a hint of raspberry sweetness in the background. It finishes with billowing salty smoke and a squeeze of lime.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose leans more towards pork, brine, cashews, apples and basil. I'm sure there's a recipe in that somewhere. The palate arrives with a balance of smoke, salt and sweet. It gets that raspberry note again, along with a vegetal hint, with time. Again with the salty smoke in the finish, this time with dark chocolate and mint leaf.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This was definitely from a refill butt, but not too refill. This is no mezcal-like palate killer, instead it has touches of fruit, nuts and spice to go with the warming smoke. TL;DR: December whisky. Wish I had more of it!

Availability - Probably sold out
Pricing - ???
Rating - 87

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Tobermory 10 year old 2005 Single Cask Nation, cask 10

With a review of the fruity, moderately peated Ledaig era behind us, it's time to usher in the Ledaig-as-Beast era. (Actually I have no idea if the other four scheduled Ledaigs are like today's, but I can guarantee you they'll be more like this one, and less like Monday's.)

Burn Stewart Distillers bought Tobermory Distillery from Kirkleavington Property Co. (seriously) in 1993, but didn't seem to make too many immediate changes to their spirits' style. Ian MacMillan became the master distiller in 1996, yet a real change to the single malts didn't appear until the rollout of the revamped range in 2010 (thus ~2000 distillations) when Ledaig and Tobermory had new stylized duds as well as a proper bottling at 46.3%abv nc/ncf. Independently bottled Ledaigs from the new millennium were pummeling in with 35ppm peated malt that seemed to lose very little phenolic power after distillation. I enjoy both the old stuff and the new stuff, though some of those indies were WOW strong.

Today's "HEAVILY PEATED" Tobermory spent 10 short years in a refill hoggie, and has something to say about it.

Also swiped from Whiskybase
Distillery: Tobermory
Malt: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International Ltd.
Region: Isle of Mull
Independent Bottler: Single Cask Nation
Age: 20 years (July 2005 - August 2015)
Maturation: refill hogshead
Outturn: 235 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 56.7%
(thank you to St. Brett of Riverside for the sample!)

NEAT

Scorched earth peat dominates the nose: burnt moss, burnt grass, rotting kelp, black smokestacks and dead bonfires. The occasional cashew too. The palate is also massively peated, reading mostly as soot. But it doesn't quite neutralize the taste buds. Hints of lemons, almond butter, mint leaf and a tiny bit of sweetness cower beneath the smoke. It's very salty on the finish, with soot and heat in the middle, lemon in the back.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or >1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose still leans mostly on heavy dark smoke, but now there's more ocean, some dried herbs and a vegetal note. The smoke becomes pepperier on the palate. Herbal bitterness appears, and the almond butter remains. It finishes with ocean water and soot.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

My handwritten notes read, "This is sort of like Ardbeg's sharper, smarter cousin." Looking back at the actual tasting notes, I see this whisky as a stand-in for the still non-existent Ardbeg 10yo CS. It has Ardbeg Ten's soot, and then some, with hints of citrus in the background. But like many bold peaters, this Ledaig has a difficult time developing beyond its monolithic nature. So it has one big note, and the rest is all undeveloped potential. It's a good note though.

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

Monday, November 7, 2022

Ledaig Sherry Finish (bottled early 2000s)

After two weeks of international whisky reviews, Diving for Pearls is going intergalactic with two weeks of whiskies from Planet Mull, home to the Tobermoronis. The current leader of the Tobermoronis is a creature known as Ledaig, the pronunciation of which is up for debate. Ledaig used to be a genuine aquatic oddball, now it is a smoldering beast. I have here a sextet of Ledaig's distinctive fluids.



I got into Ledaig just as it was about to escape a phase that was not beloved by popular enthusiasts. Perhaps because Ledaig and I met at that awkward time in our lives, we got along very well. Aside from a 15yo and 20yo, there was the regular NAS (but sometimes 7yo) "Peated" and "Sherry Finish". (Also, am I dreaming or was there a port finish too?)

Usually when a bottle split opportunity comes along, I go in for 2oz. But when a bottle of Ledaig Sherry Finish appeared, I went for 8oz. I mean, I wanted the whole damned bottle but I dialed back my greed. Now I wish I'd gone Full Glutton.

Picture pilfered from Whiskybase
Distillery: Tobermory
Brand: Ledaig
Owner: Distell International
Region: Planet Mull
Age: probably between 3 and 6 years old
Primary Maturation: not sherry casks
Secondary Maturation: sherry casks
Bottling era: early 2000s
Alcohol by Volume: 42%
Chillfiltered? probably
Color added? probably
(from a bottle split)

NOTES

The nose begins with smoked salmon, anise and yellow peaches, gradually adding in cigarettes and damp mossy forest floor notes. After 30+ minutes, it's all peaches, seaweed and farm, always reading much bigger than its ABV.

The palate's salt, cayenne pepper and cigar smoke are well-countered by a fresh stone fruit (probably apricot) sweetness. Hints of milk chocolate and newspaper print flit around the edges.

It finishes salty and inky, with tangy nectarines and moderate smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

What a comforting surprise! Ledaig Sherry Finish hits the nose and palate as a very complete malt, all in balance and ready to go, with just a hint of weirdness to keep it unique. The only things prevenint it from being a 90-point whisky are the thinnish texture and abbreviated finish length, both likely due to the low ABV. Otherwise, this is a great young thing, and a nice trip down whisky memory lane.

Availability - Maybe in some random auctions?
Pricing - ???
Rating - 88

Friday, November 4, 2022

Things I Really Drink: The Tottori Blended Whisky

Yes, I did indeed give some of these "Japanese" blends a go. Not because they're "Japanese", but because they're sorta like World Whisky. There's probably Scotch, Irish, Canadian and/or American whisky involved, and maybe a dash of something from the land of Amaterasu (though probably just water).

Today's the whisky will be Matsui's The Tottori blend.

Something something 1910. I'm sorry, I don't have the energy for these shenanigans. The distillery was built in 2017, and the blends hit the shelves in 2015. How about the whisky?

Brand: Tottori
Ownership: Matsui-Shuzo
Distilleries: ???
Country: ?????
Type: blend
Age: minimum three years old
Maturation: "White Oak"
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

NOTES

Vanilla, roses, and buttercream frosting appear first in the nose, followed later by granola and something very sugary. Wow, the palate is sweet. Lots of berry candy up front, a little bit of grassiness in the back. After 30 minutes it turns into cardboard and lavender flowers. It finishes with sugar, artificial berry flavoring, woody bitterness and blood/iron.

At its best as a highball, the whisky merges well with citrus bitters.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Pros:
  • 43%abv rather than 40%
  • Pretty nose
  • Stands up to club soda decently
Cons:
  • The palate collapses as it gets aired out
  • The finish
  • Found this bottle to be too much work to get through. Dumped the last quarter.
I'd take the Hatozaki blend over this, especially considering their similar price points.

Availability - Slightly scarcer than the Hatozaki
Pricing - $40-$55 in the USA
Rating - 75

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Things I Really Drink: Hatozaki Finest Blended Whisky

Not every TIRD is a gem, but today's TIRD is of some interest. From the Kaikyō (not to be confused with the Kaiyō brand) Distillery, this blend is nearly colorless, looking almost like vodka in the glass. I appreciate companies that show little interest in e150a.

The distillery was built at the Akashi Sake Brewery and seems to be owned by a Swedish company that also has its hooks in the Torabhaig and The Borders distilleries as well as the Mossburn bottlers.

As for the blend, the official site says the batches have a minimum 40% malt content, and contain whiskies up to 12 years of age. Since the distillery went online five years ago, we're all left to guess where the actual liquid comes from. I did notice one thing of interest: My bottle's label says "Finest Japanese Whisky", while the official site's bottle label says "Finest Blended Whisky". One can only wonder the size of the carbon footprint on this one...

Brand: Hatozaki
Ownership: Mossburn Distillers
Distilleries: ???
Country: ?????
Type: blend
Age: minimum three years old
Alcohol by Volume: 40%

NOTES

Yep, the casks are scarce in the nose. Barley, yeast, sugar and VOCs arrive first. Then fresh lemons and wheatgrass. It gets very yeasty with time.

It has a light watery texture, but is bereft of common cheap blend ugliness on the palate. It's moderately salty and grainy, with a small dose of confectioner's sugar. But its gin-like juniper note gives the whisky its own character.

It finishes grainy but not grim. It's slightly peppery with a dash of graphite.

It completely vanishes into a highball, which isn't the worst thing. One may need to be more conservative with the soda water and bitters than I was. But this stuff vanished quickly in the late summer.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I respect the release of something so close to the grain, so far from the oak, and without aggressive coloration. It's better than any cheap NAS Scotch blend, and more pleasant than many of the age-stated ones. It's probably designed to be light as air, and thus succeeds. The finish falls short, probably due to maximum dilution and youth, keeping this stuff from getting into the B- range. But if it keeps its current price point I'd consider getting another bottle next summer to see how it competes with Suntory's Toki.

Availability - Possibly several hundred US retailers
Pricing - $35-$50 in the USA
Rating - 78

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Kaiyō 8 year old "K&L Exclusive" cask 543

Onto the last of the three Kaiyō, then maybe I'll get to a pair of Japanese blends before the week is out. The Sheri was better than expected, Cask 541 was Craftier than expected, so will Cask 543 will be ???er than expected?

Brand: Kaiyō
Ownership: Harvey the Pooka
Type: Vatted, or Blended, Malt
Country: Japan
Age: 8 years old
Bottled: 2019 or 2020
Maturation7.5 years in Mizunara oak then one year in a ruby port pipe
Cask #: 543
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 56%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

The nose begins with a clunky combo of caramel, metal and saline, but it blossoms with time. Apricot jam, honey, blackberries, black peppercorns and a touch of tawny port. The palate feels almost fizzy. And it's a real sweetie. Lots of black cherry soda and lime candy. Mild bitterness in the background. It finishes with black cherry and flowers. Plenty of sugar and just a little bitterness.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky 

Apples, cardamom and honey in the nose's fore, a hint of coffee grounds in the back. It's much oakier now, with wood spice, tannins, pepper and bitterness. It finishes with a green oak bitterness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Three Kaiyōs, three mizunara maturations smothered by other casks. That Japanese oak is rare and expensive, so I'm not sure what the point of using it is as long as it gets killed off in each release. Despite that mystery, I enjoyed cask 543 as a dessert malt. It's very sweet and juicy, but that's the port pipe talking. Dilution harms the palate, so I encourage you to keep this one neat.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $99.99
Rating - 81 (neat only)

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Kaiyō 8 year old "K&L Exclusive" cask 541

Kaiyō, the Japanese whisky brand with curious origins, has range of whiskies with names that borrow the definite article convention of certain Scotch distilleries. There's The Sheri, The Peated, The Single and The Signature. They've also rolled out several single casks for a trio of American whisky retailers. I have samples of the pair of K&L casks. First up, the refill hoggie finish...


Brand: Kaiyō
Ownership: The Easter Bunny
Type: Vatted, or Blended, Malt
Country: Japan
Age: 8 years old
Bottled: 2019 or 2020
Maturation7.5 years in Mizunara oak then one year in 2nd-fill hogshead
Cask #: 541
Exclusive to: K&L Wine Merchants
Alcohol by Volume: 56%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Eau de vie mixes with golden delicious apples, white peaches, toasted oak and saline in the nose. It gradually trades the eau for flowers blossoms and a touch of cream soda. The sharp, hot, sweet and floral palate is very barley-forward, reading like a mix of lemons, grass and pilsner. It finishes with sweet and tangy citrus, a little bit of metal and a lot of black pepper.

DILUTED to ~46%abv, or 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose is all apples and pears in caramel sauce. Now loaded with caramel, the palate reads almost like a Canadian whisky, just caramel, vanilla, metal and black pepper. The finish is just one big extra-sugary caramel blanket.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Mizunara casks are usually very subtle. In cask 541, the Japanese oak has been overwhelmed by the spirit (not a bad thing) and the American oak (not a good thing), appearing only slightly in the nose. What we're left with is a Craft whisky. It's an unfinished sentence with an exclamation point at the end. While yesterday's The Sheri felt more "produced", it also seemed more complete, a benefit that well-blended batches often have.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $99.99
Rating - 79