...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Red Bag #1 (Ardbeg) 16 year old 2006 Dramfool

Yesterday's indie Ardbeg was a hardy, tarry creature from a sherry butt. Today's older Ardbeg, er, Red Bag comes from an ex-bourbon hogshead and has a much lighter color. Not only do I know little else about it, but I can't remember when or why I went in on this bottle split. Anyhoo, I tried it alongside yesterday's excellent 12yo SMWS.


Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Region: Southern Islay
Independent Bottler: Dramfool
Age: 16 years (9 Mar 2006 - 18 Mar 2022)
Maturation: bourbon hogshead
Cask#: 53rd release
Outturn: 260 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 57.7%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

A quirky industrial, paralleling older Loch Lomond and Ledaig, arrives first in the nose. It lifts to reveal apricots, peaches, overripe cantaloupe, wet sand, chocolate, and soot-free peat. Oh the palate, though. Guavas, limes, tart nectarines, sweet plums, and kiwis! Of course there's also moderate peat smoke, a dash of salt, and a whiff of manure. The tart and sweet stone fruits, as well as the kiwis, live on into the finish, where they're met by salty peat and a slight herbal bitter bite.

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

The nose is a beachside car repair garage filled with ripening guavas. Extra tart limes lead the palate, with salty toffee, milder smoke, and a soft sweetness beneath. It finishes with a stellar balance of tart, salt, sweet, and smoke.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Another fab single Ardbeg cask, showing a character opposite to yesterday's cask. In fact it's reminiscent of an older pre-LVMH Ardbeg style, where the peat supports all the other elements, rather than lording over them. The fruits were a very welcome surprise that won me over instantly. I would have never imagined fruity Ardbeg appearing in the 21st century. This would have been a stellar bottle to possess were it half (or a third) of its price.

Availability - 
Sold out

Pricing - over $350
Rating - 90

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Ardbeg 12 year old 2007 SMWS 33.139

That two-week Westland run was the least read cluster so far, and had the lowest weekly turnout since the last time I reviewed Japanese whisky. Sure enough, this week's first Ardbeg post's clicky count has already passed those Westlands. Scotch brings readers to the blog. Other countries' single malts appear to be of very little interest, while some bourbon fans aren't particularly happy with how I rate the oak juice. That's okay, single malt scotch is always served in my happy place, so I shall continue with the indie Ardbegs.

Today, it's a refill 'Beg butt bottled for the 2020 Feis Ile that never happened.

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Region: Southern Islay
Independent Bottler: Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Age: 12 years (24 May 2007 - 2020)
Maturation: 2nd fill Oloroso butt
Cask#: 33.139, "You would not believe!"
Outturn: 603 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 61.3%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

Mmmmm good nose. Oysters, herbal-tinged peat smoke, almond butter, and dried cherries live on top, with hints of charred and smoked meats linger below. The palate starts out with tar, umami, kiln, lime, and salt. It's gorgeously bitter. Charred green bell pepper and iodine arrive later on. It finishes tart, salty, and savory, with that herbal bitterness looming largest.

DILUTED to ~50%abv, or > 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The nose keeps the oyster/beach note, but now there's a dirty boat dock too. Cinnamonny peat and pine needles stay in the midground. Dried cherries have joined the palate's excellent bitterness, while dark chocolate and kiln notes hug the edges. It finishes with kiln, dried savory and bitter herbs, as well as a little bit of basil syrup.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

"You would not believe!"? Ardbeg, I cannot believe you let this gem of a cask out of your sight! It knocks the current Oogie batches on their arses. Aren't you charging like $400-$800/bottle for these official single butts now? So I guess this a "thank you". Thank you for letting this cask slip out so that SMWS could charge a mere $285/bottle for it.

This whisky market sucks.

Anyway, 33.139 is how I like my peat monsters, full of savoriness and ocean and bitterness and a hint of fruit. Adding water to it felt almost tragic, but luckily it held together. To those of you who haven't flipped this bottle, just know that at least you received high quality in return for all those $$$€€€£££.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - $285 (I think) in 2020
Rating - 90 (neat)

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Ardbeg 13 year old 2005 Chieftain's, cask 700163

One way to get back into single malt scotch reviews is to dive nose-first into three Ardbegs. Indie Ardbegs, in fact.

I said goodbye to Chieftain's more than three years ago and, oh look, here's my second post-Chieftain's Chieftain's review (with at least two more to try in the future). That means, of course, that this review isn't even remotely timely. Diving for Pearls is nothing if not consistent.

Cue the Ardbeg!

Distillery: Ardbeg
Owner: LVMH
Region: Southern Islay
Independent Bottler: Ian McLeod
Range: Chieftain's
Age: 13 years old (April 2005 - September 2018)
Maturation: Hogshead
Cask number: 700163
Outturn: 328 bottles
Alcohol by Volume: 46%
(from a bottle split)

NEAT

It reads almost like Caol Ila on the nose. No soot, but lots of ocean, seaweed, and oysters. Grapefruit and brown sugar. Lemon bars and cinnamon-loaded applesauce. But oh is it modern Ardbeg on the palate, so heavy on the bitter soot. There are some hints of dark chocolate, earth, and sweetness, but it's mostly soot. It finishes savory and peppery, sooty and salty.

DILUTED to ~42%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whisky

The fruit moves forward and the beach retreats in the gentle nose. Not much change in the palate, though. In fact it's even more monolithic, one dark big pile of soot. Just a little bit of mint in the background, maybe. The finish gets pepperier, bitterer, and mintier.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Great nose! Not great palate. It smelled closer to Caol Ila, Bowmore, and Allied-era Ardbeg, which was a thrill thwarted by the nearly one dimensional flavor. Perhaps this would have appealed to me more, like, twelve years ago, when gigantic peat was still exciting to me. Now, I'd be happy just to nose this while outdoors in autumn. Your own peat mileage may vary.

Availability - Sold out
Pricing - around $200, even in 2018
Rating - 82 (palate is in the 70s)

Friday, February 16, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 6

I'm ending this series with a horrible film.

New York Ripper (1982, Italy)

source

Eleven years after A Lizard in a Woman's Skin, Lucio Fulci vomited out the putrescent New York Ripper. Indeed Ripper doesn't even seem to have been directed or produced, rather it was mindlessly ejected — no, not ejaculated, as that verb has some positive connotations — from bored, hateful bodies. The cinematography is flat, the writing wretched, and the editing clumsy. Barely a thought seems to have gone into the "mystery", or how anything actually works within New York City, psychopaths, or humans in general. The film slumps around between extended scenes of the humiliation, torture, and graphic slaughter of women. To top it all off, Ripper commits the greatest sin of any exploitation film: It's boring. At least Fulci's The Beyond, Don't Torture a Duckling, and especially Zombi offer creativity, imagination, and craptacular entertainment. Even with its killer that tries to talk like a duck, New York Ripper has not a moment of good WTF-isms, rather it's "Why TF am I wasting my life with this" from beginning to end.

Verdict - quack quack quack flush this



Now, the whiskies.

Both of these are older than yesterday's immature 2 year olds, and one of them has special barley!

Westland 3 year old 2012, cask 34 for Whole Foods

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 39 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: New American Oak
Release: November 2015
Outturn: 174 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 55.5%

NEAT

A bit dessert-like on the nose. There's a mix of apple, cinnamon, clove, and yeast up front, with bourbony cherry syrup in the back. This might have more oak-driven baking spices in the palate than any other members of this cluster. Toffee and white chocolate sit just underneath the spice, and coffee awaits in the distance. It finishes with citrus, white chocolate, nutmeg, and coffee.

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

The nose is an apple-cinnamon pastry stuffed with golden raisins. The palate and finish are sweeter now, with a cloud of cloves, cassia, and nutmeg.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

At first, cask 34 reads like a cross between Westland's standard American Oak expression and a Buffalo Trace Distillery bourbon, but then it goes its own way, which is mostly the cask's way. I like all the baking spices and it's never too tannic, but it doesn't do much else to separate itself from the pack of B-minus-grade Westland casks.

Rating - 82



Westland 4 year old 2015, Pilsen cask 2508

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 50 Months
Mashbill: Pilsen barley, sourced from Germany
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: ex-Heaven Hill bourbon cask
Release: July 2019
Outturn: 225 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 59.8%

NEAT

Lots of barley in the nose, with raw pecans in the middle, and florals and orange peel in the background. The crisp palate is also barley-driven, with baker's yeast, lime, and a cinnamon hint filling out the rest. It finishes bready and lightly sweet, with a hint of tart lime.

DILUTED

Somehow the nose gets even nuder, presenting as a clean mix of barley and Oleo Saccharum (no that's not a Satanic prayer, look it up). The palate has, in order, barley, lime, yeast, and toasted whole wheat bread. It finishes with lime and bread.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I like this Westland variation, and wish I knew it had existed earlier! Between the German beer barley varieties and the refill cask, the distillery succeeds in their mission to allow "the grain notes space to express themselves alongside the gentle influence of a used cask". It's my second favorite whiskey of the Westland Dozen, and a nice way to end this series. If I'm ever in the market for an actual bottle of Westland, I'll keep my eyes open for a Pilsen release, or a Washington Pale Malt with a pale color. Otherwise, I'm Westlanded out.

Rating - 87

Okay everyone. Back to single malt Scotchitude next week. Have a good weekend and don't watch New York Ripper!

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 5

A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (1971, Italy/France/Spain)


I adore Lucio Fulci's A Lizard in a Woman's Skin. Does its story logic fail to hold up in multiple viewings? Possibly. Are its killer hippies unintentionally funny? Sure. Is Anita Strindberg's nudity a bit over-utilized? Probably. Does any of that hamper my love of the film? Nope!

Every other Fulci movie I'd recommend (or not recommend) is blandly filmed, half-leaden, half-gross, one-quarter-WTF, glorious crap, which is why I find Lizard so thrilling. Lucio really assembles a grown-up film. He seizes the giallo genre by the testicoli, stuffing it with eroticism, psychedelia, fake psychoanalysis, gory dogs, and one giant goose. And the police procedural isn't half bad.

Carol (Florinda Bolkan), has been having sexy dreams about her drugs-and-sex party-throwing neighbor Julia (Ms. Strindberg), which is all very well and good until Carol dreams of murdering Julia......and the sultry neighbor is found dead in exactly the same fashion the next morning. The police make a genuine effort to sort this out and Carol comes apart at the seams. Throats are cut, heads are shot, and the murderer is caught in the final scene.

Lizard gained international notoriety when the filmmakers were taken to the Italian courts because a show-stopping scene of disemboweled dogs looked much too real. Carlo Rambaldi — yes, the man who created E.T. — had to prove in court that those poor pups were just props. The scene is unnecessary to the plot, but the effects really are remarkable for their time. And perhaps they were a hint of Fulci films to come.

Aside from Stanley Baker's solid turn as Inspector Corvin, the women steal the show. Their characters and performances are much more complex than that of their male counterparts, rendering much of the film's underlying misogyny weak in their wake.

I wonder what happened to this version of Fulci. Using the entire frame and wide-angle lenses, he builds real cinematic imagery in Lizard, without stealing too much from Bava and Argento. He even offers one split-screen moment that would make DePalma proud. After this, things got bleak in his films, and not the fun kind of bleak.

Verdict - One of my top 5 gialli!



The whiskies on the other hand......

I've hit the point of Westland exhaustion, and look forward to returning to Scotch Land soon. Here's a pair of very young Seattle single malts:


Westland 2 year old 2012, cask 242

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 28 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: New American Oak, 18-month air-dried staves, #3 char
Release: October 2014
Outturn: 223 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 54.25%

NEAT

Nutty and bready notes arrive first in the nose, followed by apple skins, vanilla, and brine. Almond extract and walnuts stick around the longest. The palate mixes apples and pears with white chocolate and butterscotch chips. Pears, butterscotch, and a hint of malt finish things off.

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

The nose shows pears, caramel, barley, and watermelon rind. Malt, caramel, and a vague tartness form the palate. It finishes tart, sweet, and sort of malty.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This whiskey doesn't go too far down the Craft road with overwhelming oak covering immature spirit, thankfully. It's essentially the standard American Oak release at a bolder strength, without any of the flair or quirks that a single cask can bring.

Rating - 79



Westland 2 year old 2012, cask 266

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 27 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: New American Oak, 24-month air-dried staves, heavy toast/light char
Release: October 2014
Outturn: 220 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 54.5%

NEAT

The nose is similar to 242's, but with more vanilla powder and a slightly skunky note, as well as hints of confectioner's sugar and cardamom in the background. The palate is a mix of vanilla, champagne vinegar, and ethyl. Bits of malt and bitterness peek out here and there. It finishes with pear and ethyl.

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

The nose is just vanilla, malt, and cardamom. More sweetness and tangy vinegar, with ethyl and malt staying back in the palate. It's all sweet caramel in the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This one wasn't done cooking, yet there's a lot of vanilla. It's raw, but not as good as the distillery's new make. Unsure why they picked this cask to release, I would happily choose the standard American Oak expression over this whiskey regardless of the price.

Rating - 75

Fulci wins, and I am grateful that only one more Part remains in this series.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 4

source

Death Laid An Egg (1968, Italy/France)

And Ewa Aulin sat on the potty?

With a sexy international cast to give the film some heft, and a title that answers why the chicken crossed the road, Death Laid an Egg offers up some promising themes and ideas that are trampled by its own filmmaking. Oh, but the chickens. There are so many chickens.

Egg begins with a dizzying, half-intriguing, half-nauseating burst of cinema and sounds that suggest we're in for an experimental film. While that visual style never again resurfaces, the soundtrack remains filled with dissonant avant-barf irritations throughout. Ultimately, the direction is more of a mystery than the story itself.

Jean-Louis Trintignant's poker face in The Conformist worked wonders as it masked the character's struggle with fascism and sexuality, but in Egg it's a heavy-handed choice that leaves one wondering whether the actor is suspicious of the director, or the character is a sociopath. The latter can't be guaranteed, but with the layered auditory cacophony, and purposely misleading editing, the film screams, "This guy is nuttier than a Panettone."

You see, dear reader, Marco (JLT) and his wife, Anna (Gina Lollobrigida), are automating their chicken business, but there may be something screwy afoot, and maybe Marco has a habit of murdering sex workers, but not murdering the company's secretary, a Swedish teenager (Ewa Aulin) who really just serves as a sidepiece (for both spouses?). Then some corporate intrigue unwinds, chickens eat a lot of feed, women's bellybuttons see a lot of sunshine, and the police get involved. There's death and an ending.

While proud in its shaming of unchecked greed, Egg only briefly tosses a bone to the plight of the worker, so it never goes full commie, just Marx-ish. Its pseudo-intellectual dialogue gets unintentionally funny, but its chickens, oh its chickens, thousands of chickens, are a delight. The anxious wiggling, strutting, and clucking birds underscore horrifying capitalism better than the characters (and filmmakers) do. They are also deeply funny, until they're not.

When the film concludes, the viewer may be most fascinated by the magical feed machine that somehow grinds up bodies (both human and canine) without anyone noticing. Perhaps that machine is a symbol of the true inhumanity of consumerism. Or it's just another plot hole, in a story so packed with gaps that it nearly gets swallowed up in its own vacuum.

I'd watch it again on mute.

Verdict - Watch it for the chickens, not the people



Oh yeah, there were a pair of whiskies too:


These two Westlands were paired together because they were most likely the sugariest of my dozen samples. But were they really sweeties???

Westland 5 year old 2012, cask 4274

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 70 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: New American Oak for 60 months, then an Amaretto cask for 10 months
Release: March 2018
Outturn: 155 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 49.5%

NEAT

It's like single malt candy on the nose. Honeyed malt, white chocolate, and baked apples arrive first, followed by french vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, cloves, and a dash of rum. The palate is sweet, simple, and hotter than expected. It's just sugary apples, lemon candy, vanilla, and caramel. It finishes with soooooo much caramel, with a little bit of sour apple candy somewhere in there.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose retracts to just three notes: honey, brown sugar, and 100% rye (think Alberta distillery). Wash down white chocolate macadamia nut cookies with some apple cider vinegar, and you have both the palate and finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Had I known about the amaretto cask, I wouldn't have gone in on the but bottle split, but this was not as cloying as expected, and if not for the caramel flood, the whiskey would kinda work when neat. Not a bad experiment and (SPOILER ALERT) I liked it better than its sparring partner.

Rating - 80 (neat only)



Westland 3 year old 2015, cask 2479 for K&L

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 38 Months
Mashbill: Washington Select Pale Malt
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: Pedro Ximénez Hogshead
Release: November 2018
Outturn: 292 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 59.0%

NEAT

Wow, this was a dirty hoggie. The sulfuric nose is packed with earth, pepper, and stinky feet. It's very close to the line between gunpowder and rotten eggs. With more than 30 minutes of air, the nose becomes very raisiny, with brown sugar in the background. Sulfuric, savory, and ureic, the palate takes a long time to find its prunes. It finishes with umami, pepper, and prunes.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or 1¾ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The raisins move forward in the nose, with walnuts and honey peeking out. But still, the gunpowder and stinky feet won't leave. The palate also opens up a little with more sugar and citrus. It finishes tangy and jammy and umami.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

I don't mind a dusting of sulfur in my drink, and I often adore imperfect sherry casks, but this particular whiskey proves difficult, leaving me with a furry-feeling tongue and a gunpowder aftertaste. Dilution saves it a bit, though it's still a palate-wrecker.

Rating - 72 (diluted only)

I guess the chickens win today. At least there are no more sherry casks among the final four Westlands.

Friday, February 9, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 3

Part 3 has more twists and turns than the previous two posts. Originally my intent was to pair up a fiery film with two 60+%abv Westlands that I'd previously called "a pair of flamethrowers". I started to queue up Don't Go in the House only to realize I didn't really want to watch a man burn naked women to death. So instead I looked for a snowy film and went with...

The Werewolf and the Yeti (1975, Spain)


I love lycanthropes (they're my people), and I had the pleasure of briefly being the production accountant on Finding Bigfoot. So how bad could this be?

Bad.

The eighth in a 12-film series, The Werewolf and the Yeti quarter-heartedly tries to refresh a wolf man origin story by having Count Waldemar get bitten by saucy wolf ladies in a random Kathmandu cave. (We know he's in Kathmandu because the film offers close-ups of off-center magazine photos of stupas.) Before he gets nibbled on, Waldemar and friends(?) are in Nepal searching for The Yeti, an important subject matter for the first 10 minutes of the film, then a MacGuffin for the next 10 minutes, then completely forgotten about for most of the rest of the running time.

The first half of TWATY depicts various people standing around talking about more exciting things, then episodic lurches form in the second half. All but one of Waldemar's crew are murdered thanks to a series of stupid choices. (I almost said out-of-character choices, but there are no characteristics to speak of.) Yellowface baddies and a sadistic nurse(?) dispatch these cardboard cutouts before being chewed up by Waldemar Wolf. There's a full moon every night, and sometimes Waldie stays Wolfie in the daylight, and sometimes not. ''''¯\_(ツ)_/¯'''' He seems to get the girl at the end until OH NO HE GETS ATTACKED BY A YETI. Falling asleep, I fast-forwarded through that climactic struggle.

The violence isn't violent. The sexiness isn't sexy. The horror isn't horrifying. The yeti isn't a yeti. And more thought went into this paragraph than into TWATY's script.

Verdict - Bad.



At least Westland casks 274 and 187 improved the experience! But there's a catch. I originally matched them up because Westland's archives said they were both over 60%abv. Except the archive was wrong. Cask 274 is actually 54.95%abv. So I'm really comparing these casks because they're both Binny's picks.


Westland 2 year old 2012, cask 274 for Binny's

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 33 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: New American Oak
Release: Spring 2015
Outturn: 206 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 54.95%

NEAT

Nose = bourbon. Lots of vanilla and barrel char. Then lots of barrel char and vanilla. Then applesauce on a new carpet, and maybe some dunder? Caramel chews and hard toffee lead the palate. Some plastic bottle brandy notes heat up the middle. Malt, herbal bitterness, and dunder stay in the background. It finishes with vanilla, malt, and Mt. Gay rum.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or < 1¼ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

Oak spice takes over the nose as the vanilla and barrel char move to the background. The palate reads more complex than the nose, with vanilla, malt, chocolate, mint, and citrus. It finishes with vanilla and mint.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Westland's gone bourbon here, sort of. It was an odd experience until I stopped insisting the brown liquid was a single malt and just considered it on its own terms. Perhaps cask 274 would do wonders in bourbon-based or rum-based cocktails. Or just on the rocks. At least it was better than the movie.

Rating - 78



Westland 3 year old 2012, cask 187 for Binny's

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 36 Months
Mashbill: Washington Select Pale Malt
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: 1st-fill ex-bourbon barrel
Release: April 2015
Outturn: 179 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 63.05%

NEAT

Oh, this is a whiskey of a different color. Floral esters, plantain, papaya, and cardamom swirl around the nose, with barley and brine in the back. The palate has a bright floral fruitiness, with apples, apricots, and citrons on top of cinnamon and cardamom. It finishes with citrons, tart apples, and a dollop of molasses.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or < 2¼ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The crisp, clean nose is all barley, honey, lime, and those floral esters. Barley, witbier, tart citrus, and a sprinkle of brown sugar fill the palate. Its finish nearly mirrors the palate with just a little more tartness.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

A lovely raw whiskey. When Westland gets it right, they really get it right. With this barely-legal fruity-fruit style, they're like Chichibu's Western mate. In cask 187, the Washington malt, gentle barrel, and careful cask management have to be the main factors, because the same yeast and fermentation times have been used on all the casks in this series so far, but this one's style is its own. If you possess a bottle from this cask, beware how easily it drinks at this mammoth strength. You're bound to fall in love and down the stairs in no time.

Rating - 89

No contest here. Cask 187 won the night, and the week.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 2

While pondering the lack of dreamlike atmosphere in one of Jean Rollin's weakest softcore films the other day, I kept thinking about Mario Bava, one of the creators and masters of the Giallo genre. Bava uses the feature film medium as a canvas for visual moods and muscular depictions of violence. Colors, lights, angles, and pacing are primary concerns, with story being secondary at best.

So with my second pair of Westlands poured, I queued up Blood and Black Lace (1964, Italy / West Germany), an early Bava exercise in suspense and death awash in a Technicolor bath (quite literally in one scene).

pic source

I've seen Blood and Black Lace at least four times, and never fail to be seduced right at the opening credits by the film's immediate unreal color. The lusty reds, the warm pinks, scattered emeralds, and ghostly purple gels. Massive sets dwarf posed bodies, especially the men, who rarely stand taller than the women's shoulders.

Ostensibly, it's a tale of model murders in the 1960s fashion industry, but the plot is just a mannequin upon which Bava hangs oversized imagery. Almost all of the aforementioned towering women are quite independent for the era, and usually wiser than the males, until they go wandering into the dark after their friends have been slaughtered. The over-the-top murders are troubling to watch as the female actors (not stunt doubles) are forcibly manhandled in front of the camera. One wonders if Bava is playing out his own small male demons until the ending arrives and it all seems pretty ridiculous. I already want to see it again.

Verdict - Recommended, but beware the misogyny!



This was not the best film to watch because I couldn't focus on the whiskey, but I worked it out. The struggle is real.


Casks 801 and 685 are both Five Malt babies aged in new American Oak. Time to Taste Off!

Westland 4.year old 2014, cask 801, Distillery exclusive

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 54 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: Cooper’s Reserve New American Oak
Release: June 2018
Outturn: 192 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 56.5%

NEAT

The nose is full of new make, pine sap, and snickerdoodles, with occasional bubblegum and saline notes. It shifts with time as chocolate, apricot, and talcum powder appear. Chocolate malt and mocha arrive first in the palate, with pencil shavings in the background, and the tang and bite of Thai chiles. It finishes with the chocolate malt and pencil shavings notes.

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

There's plenty of chocolate in the nose, but also meaty and mushroomy notes. Now the palate is packed with malt and vanilla. It's sweeter, but also has a salty and tangy side. After about 20 minutes, it's all vanilla. It finishes with salt, pepper, and malt.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This cask reads like a louder, though simpler, take on the distillery's standard American Oak expression. Its fewer angles may be due to few casks types, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing here. Something is missing, and not necessarily more oak. More maturation time? Less maturation time? Different spot in the warehouse? It's a solid drink overall, a bit hot, though better when neat, yet I can't see one desiring more than a couple of pours.

Rating - 80



Westland 2 year old 2013, cask 685 for Wingtip San Francisco

Thank you to Team Westland for sending me the specs on this cask so quickly!

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 30 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: Cooper’s Reserve New American Oak
Release: 2016
Alcohol by volume: 56.3%

NEAT

The nose is very shy at first, requiring time and a warmer glass. First there's saline and oranges. Then blue cheese and crayons. Hints of metal, lemon, and chocolate stay in the background. A straightforward palate: vanilla, lemon candy, malt, and pencil shavings. It finishes similarly, but without the lemon candy.

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

Vanilla and clove on the nose. New make with a tart/bitter edge hits the palate first, followed by curious notes of balsamic vinegar and vanilla fudge. Again, it finishes like the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

This is another simple cask that shares plenty of notes with #801. I liked the quiet complexity in the neat nose, but the quirky diluted palate better. It wears its youth nicely, reminding me of the new make's quality. The whiskey won't amaze, but you'll drink it, trust me.

Rating - 81

Mario Bava won the night. Next up, a pair of flamethrowers. Gotta find a movie to match...

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Way Too Many Westlands + a Movie, Part 1

Though Westland Distillery's standard range's quality has been wobbly of late, the Seattle producer's single casks are frequently very good to excellent. Yet there comes a point when a distillery fan has too many single cask samples. That moment occurred during the peak Covid era when for some reason I lost my marbles and rounded up 12 samples in two week:


Three years later, I stared at this dainty dozen wondering how and when they were going to be consumed. How about an Ultra Cluster, knocking 12 out in two weeks? Yes, but......that still didn't thrill. I scheduled the reviews anyway, awaiting inspiration.

Then, this weekend it clicked! I was going to watch some '70s Euro-horror flicks anyway. Why not enjoy some whiskies and a movie? Why not, indeed.

Over the next two weeks you should see six posts, each one offering two Westlands and one random movie. Just know that I have higher hopes for the Westlands than for my viewing choices.



The Shiver of the Vampires (1971, France)

The poster > the film

I am always game for Jean Rollin films, which often offer a vague supernatural story as an excuse to display beautiful women draped in dreamy atmosphere and little else. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Rollin possessed the ability to compose striking visual imagery, so if the flesh doesn't do it for you, then maybe the director's style will.

Unfortunately, The Shiver of the Vampires, early unformed Rollin, offers little of the latter. Inconsistent and problematic acting, actor direction, framing, story logic, story structure, music, and editing plague the film making it look like Jess Franco and Joe D'Amato co-directed. The camera does like leading lady, Sandra Julien (who puts actual effort in), and there's more nudity (female, of course) than one can shake a stick at. Jean-Marie Durand, the leading man, wanders in and out of scenes asking WTF is going on, much like this viewer, but with much better hair.

Verdict - Many better Rollin films out there!




I really enjoyed the third edition of Westland's Garryana series, so here's #4 versus #5:

Westland Garryana Single Malt, 4th Edition 

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 44-75 Months
Mashbill: The five-malt mix + Washington Select Pale Malt
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: Ex-Rye (29%), Ex-Bourbon (29%), Garryana (19%), PX Hogshead (16%), and Refill Garryana (7%)
Release: September 2019
Outturn: 3750 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 50%

NEAT

A direct blast of cookie butter, digestive biscuits, graham crackers, and nutmeg fill the nose and never back off. Hints of Granny Smith apple skins and milk chocolate appear later on. Chocolate-covered cherries, cinnamon, and malt lead the palate, with dried cranberries and heat in the background. It finishes with cayenne, cocoa, dried cherries, and cinnamon.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose gets maltier while adding vanilla and dried blueberries. The cookie butter and nutmeg move to the background. Almonds take over the palate, with cookie butter and black coffee in the back. Its finish matches the palate.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The mix of casks looks like it's going to be a hot mess, but it mostly works, probably because the PX cask element was kept low. It's still VERY Westland with all its maltiness, spices, and cookies. It may work best when neat, because the nose glows best in that form. The finish loses some steam, and is a bit brief, but things never get too sweet, which is a pleasant thing to experience in an American whiskey.

Rating - 84



Westland Garryana Single Malt, 5th Edition

Distillery: Westland
Region: Seattle, Washington
Age: 45-73 Months
Mashbill: Washington Select Pale Malt + Baird's Heavily Peated Malt
Yeast: Belgian Saison Brewer’s Yeast
Fermentation: 144 hours
Maturation: 1st Fill Ex-Bourbon Quercus alba (64%) and Virgin Quercus garryana (36%)
Release: November 2020
Outturn: 5625 bottles
Alcohol by volume: 50%

NEAT

PEAT in the nose. It reminds me of PNW's McCarthy's single malt, with its heavy charry smoke, though this adds in burnt pine. Soil, cocoa powder, and charred meat join the pyre, with almond butter and vanilla staying outside. The palate starts and ends with wood smoke and soil. Jasmine tea and vanilla sit in the middle, malt and black pepper in the background. It finishes with salt, wood smoke, and soot.

DILUTED to 46%abv, or ½ tsp of water per 30mL whiskey

The nose becomes simpler: sooty peat, chocolate, and vanilla. The palate holds soot, sugar, chile oil, and a hint of apricot. That soot consumes the finish.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

The blenders had a heavy peat hand this time, and the Baird's malt takes over everything, choking out the Westland maltiness and whatever the Garryana had to offer. It's not a bad whiskey, but it's nearly one sooty note. It could have used some more fruit or spice or salt or something. If you're looking for a young soot-filled peater with more depth and style, Ardbeg Wee Beastie will do the trick. (Yes, I just recommended an Ardbeg in a Westland review.)

Rating - 80

Garryana #4 wins this match! And Jean Rollin loses. Onto the next matchup...

Friday, February 2, 2024

Isle of Skye Blended Whisky from the 1970s to 2010s

The Isle of Skye brand may have been created by Ian Macleod himself in the 1930s. He was a skilled blender, was born on Skye, and the island was home to his clan many centuries earlier. His whisky company (and thus this brand) was purchased by Peter Russell & Co. in 1963, and has remained under that ownership ever since.

Supposedly the Isle of Skye blends' malt elements are a mix of Speyside (think Glens Farclas and Rothes) and Island singles, with Talisker at the core. I qualified that previous sentence because I've never found any actual Talisker in the stuff.

Today's tasting is not going to be particularly helpful to those looking for a view into the brand's contemporary state. I mean, this is still Diving for Pearls. So here's my trio of Skyes:

1. Isle of Skye 8 year old, bottled in the early 2010s. I reviewed this very bottle 11 years ago, and the whisky has sat in the sample bottle for just as long. It's probably in great shape! (43%abv)
2. Isle of Skye 8 year old 5cL, bottled late '80s to early '90s. I found this mini bottle in a Campbeltown shop back in 2016. (40%abv)
3. Isle of Skye 18 year old, Private stock #45, bottled 1970s. Part of a split from a bottle that was opened just last year. Yes, this has 1950s distillate within. (43%abv)


Isle of Skye 8 year old
bottled early 2010s
43%abv
Isle of Skye 8 year old
bottled late '80s to early '90s
40%abv
Isle of Skye 18 year old
bottled 1970s
43%abv
Nose: Pleasant layers of nuts, first almonds, then acorns(!), then hazelnuts. Everything else is pretty quiet, with bits of soil, vanilla-ed grain, and cinnamon rolls here and there.Nose: Same nutty notes?! More earth, though, and some toasted coconut in the middle. Smaller notes of dead leaves and shoe polish appear later on.Nose: Heavier and brinier than the other two, though the nutty base remains. Limes and milk chocolate line the sides. Hints of seaweed and oloroso arise after 45 minutes.
Palate: I think I'm getting OBE from my own sample bottle. Who knew? But it is gently sweet, with honey and brown sugar, with moderate notes of oranges and oak spice.Palate: Oh wow, LOTS of Old Bottle Effect. It's like drinking metal, glass, and dust. And cardboard. Vanilla syrup-coated coal? It gets bitterer with time.Palate: This one has the thickest mouthfeel of the three. The least OBE, too. Sweet oranges and tart lemons balance out the vanilla and brown sugar, with a sharp peppery bite in the background.
Finish: The sweetness vanishes, leaving behind citrus and oak spice.Finish: Bitter cardboard and simple syrup.Finish: Oranges and lemons remain, though the sweetness retreats. A pinch of cayenne in there too.

WORDS WORDS WORDS

Isle of Skye 8 year old, bottled in the early 2010s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 10%
Eleven years ago it lost in a Taste Off with Johnnie Walker Black Label. Today, this version would beat the current Johnnie Walker Black blend. This Isle of Speyside, er, Skye isn't spectacular, but it's quite drinkable on its own. Might even be better on the rocks or in a highball. I don't see any reason to change the original grade.
Rating: 81

Isle of Skye 8 year old 5cL, bottled late '80s to early '90s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 25%
While I'm not sure if Old Bottle Effect was what ruins the palate, I do like the nose better than the more recent bottling's sniffer. Many minis with this generous of a fill level survive the years, but this one's a bummer.
Rating: 73 (generous)

Isle of Skye 18 year old, Private stock #45, bottled 1970s
Odds of Talisker actually being in the blend: 75%
Considering the whisky's ingredients, as well as JW Black's quality during this era, a drinker could be disappointed. And it's not of an "old school" style. But this is a blend I'd be happy to sip, in fact I'm enjoying the second half of my sample right now. It's balanced but also quirky, and requires no tinkering. It's the clear winner here. I'm sure you're all shocked.
Rating: 85