Whisky Review – Lagavulin 16 year old

Lagavulin 16 year old
43% ABV
£51.90 available from Whisky Galore at the Green Welly Stop

It’s cold and rainy outside. Winter. Need a good warming dram for that kind of climate. So, why not, after all this time of my whisky adventure, having never tried the Lagavulin 16, let’s give it a go. The weather demands it.

Nose.

Smokey and phenolic, but at the same time some soft richness. The smoke is a nice balanced combo of good old fashioned bonfire and a touch of medicinal tcp notes. It’s not a massive in your face smoke monster, it’s just about right, you can get your nose in without being burnt and really savour of aroma of good quality peated barley. There are apples, dried fruits, a touch of sherry christmas cake about it without being too overpowering. Clove, pepper and cinnamon round off the spice elements. Touches of road tar. There are soft toffee and a brown sugar sweetness in the mix as well. A well rounded, beautifully balanced nose.

Palate.

Sweet and sour arrival. Burnt salty caramel. Some chocolate, raisin, a gentle nuttiness. It is very fruit and nut chocolate bar for me. The smoke sits alongside nicely. The mouthfeel is quite nice and has an oiliness, but I can’t help think this would be so very much improved at 46% and non-chill filtered (hint hint). Further into the development we have more dark dried fruits, and some sweet earthy moss. Touches of other vegetation, maybe a spot of heather. Then some bitter honey, and some stewed tea.

Finish.

The finish is smoky. Wafting around the senses, with the burnt sugars and tannins hanging around. It’s a long finish with lots of smoke and a very satisfying warmth on the chest. Hugged by a gentle bonfire. Quite a prolonged finale of added caramel sugar, and a touch of maple syrup.

Adding water.

Personally believe this is watered enough, but will add a small drop. The nose is much calmed on the smoke and the sweetness overtakes, with a little added flower fragrance, nearly perfume. The palate has lost some of the previous oiliness, and reflects the diluted nose, except there is a little more tannin bitter to the development, the finish is more mossy and earthy, and also translates more of the stewed tea/tannins into the shorter finish. Basically…easy….DO NOT WATER!

Conclusion.

A superb companion to crappy seasonal evening, be it rain, snow, ice or wind, this suits the lot, sip away and let slip the weather of winter by. I really like this and can’t believe I’ve taken so long to get around to it. You can’t have any regrets with whisky like this though. Lovely stuff. But stay off the water/ice with this one.

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Whisky Review – Port Charlotte PC11 ‘Eòrna Na h-Alba’ (Bruichladdich)

Port Charlotte PC11 ‘Eòrna Na h-Alba’ (Bruichladdich)
59.5% ABV
Non Chill Filtered
No added Colouring
~£95 available from Airports

Port Charlotte PC11 has been out for a while now and I’ve had a bottle open for a good few months so I thought it about time I should jot a bit about it. 🙂

Nose.

Quite a bit of iodine. Sea air. A touch of mackerel. Glazed ham. Deeply malty maltloaf. Bonfire smoke of course, and a touch of medicinal (TCP) smoke about the nose also. There’s sherry notes amongst the meatiness, some raisin, christmas spices, clove, cinnamon and chocolate. Very complex and worthy of your time to investigate.

Palate.

Big flavours, quite a nip from the ABV, but getting past that there is waves of intensity. Arrival is immediately complex, sweet, hot, intense sherry notes. Raisin, plum, fruitcake, then as the nip fades we have more meaty elements, ham, smokey bacon, then back to fruit again and cinnamon spices, sweet baked brown sugar notes. All through this time the viscosity of the whisky is clinging around every part of the mouth delivering more and more variance. It’s really remarkable. I don’t know how I’ve managed to keep this bottle so long.

Finish.

The long finish exhibits more from the palate, classic Islay maritime, amongst the meatiness of ham, burnt caramel, dark dried fruits and the spices (cinnamon/clove) from the sherry casks. The finish goes on for an age.

Adding water.

Splash added. With the reduced ABV you can get into the glass a little more and explore the new depths of the aromas. In fairness not a lot chaos changed, it’s still awesome! The palate has changed, the fruit is more integrated now and we have some intense things going on. The mouthfeel still thick, transports a heavier laden fruit filled extravaganza, with the meat elements reduced somewhat, but still ever present. There is some additional juiciness to the fruit, with the spices toned down a little. There are cherries and chocolate now alongside the fruitcake, and thick burnt mossy smoke. The finish, long as ever and beautiful with it.

Conclusion.

A beautifully constructed and deeply complex dram. It’s quite gutting in some ways this is a travel exclusive, because it is so bloody good and totally unfair to make it only for the airports. But anyway, I can cry about it as much as I like, where there’s a will there’s a way, and I have willpower to ensure I get a bottle. :-). You should too. It’s amazing stuff. If you like Islay drams, sherried to perfection, or you’re a fan of Bruichladdich, well, why haven’t you got one already? 🙂

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Whisky Review – Arran 2004 (bottled 2014) Orkney Bere Barley

Arran 2004 (bottled 2014) Orkney Bere Barley
56.2% ABV
Non Chill Filtered
No added Colouring
£55.15 available from MasterOfMalt

Nose.

A lively, spicy, Barley rich nose. Vanilla. Pepper. Creamy fudge. There’s a not unpleasant oaky dust to the nose which takes forefront. Time in the glass and we get more butterscotch and creamy vanilla coming forward.

Palate.

Intensely rich vanilla custard. Creme brûlée. The mouthfeel is immense and silky. Touches of lemon rind and pith. A slight saltiness mid development which evolves into more lemon tart and cream notes. Really tasty and mouth twanging. This is a sour citrus dominant palate, and it’s very good at it. There’s a little sweetness offsetting this late in the development into the finish.

Finish.

Medium to long, citrus juices and peel, sugar and salt, custard and cream. Complex and enjoyable.

Adding water.

Added a few drops. The nose is more citrus dominated now, with many of the flavours from the palate now appearing intensively on the nose. The pleasant dustiness is more integrated with the lemon juices and vanillas more balanced. The palate has even more depth of flavour, with more richly intense lemon cheesecake notes and creamiest of vanilla. The sweetness comes much sooner and really is glorious now. Fantastically explosive palate. Very very impressed. The finish is longer, richer, warming and extremely satisfying. With a sour lemon note coming back at the very end, making the final lip smacking all that so much more enjoyable. A drop of water is a must for me with this whisky.

Conclusion.

This is a very complex and enticing dram. It’s possibly not for everyone as it is quite sour intensive, but I love it as a different dram to the normal, there’s a lovely balance end development and into the finish which sees some lovely sugar notes and adds complexity and intrigue. When you add water it’s another ball game entirely, and this whisky becomes a tour de force of sweet and sour lemon and vanilla. Fantastic stuff. Beautiful.

Great thanks to Arran for providing the review sample.

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Whisky Review – Clontarf 1014 Single Malt Irish Whiskey (Aldi)

Clontarf 1014 Single Malt Irish Whiskey (Aldi)
40% ABV
£19.99 from Aldi

Nose.

Lots of intensely sweet fruit. Citrus, orange, lemon, green apple, pineapple. Liked boiled down jelly sweets. Very sweet, almost sickly, but pleasantly though and very juicy. Not much in the way of spice, but possibly a touch of very light pepper in the background. There is a wee touch of oak presence. Time in the glass and more confectionary favourites come forward, pineapple cubes, marshmallow, orange and lemon fizz bombs and even a touch of cola.

Palate.

Sweet and oaky arrival, touch of bitter saltiness, then waves of fruit, not quite as intense as on the nose, but prominent pineapple, lemon and lime, touches of orange juice. It’s very juicy. There is a touch of drying oak into the development.

Finish.

The finish is short-medium, concentrates on the drying oak shavings, kind of like chewing on a pencil, but with a rubber made from fruit jelly sweets.

Adding water.

Just a touch added. The intensity of the fruit has diminished slightly in favour of the dusty oak. The palate has weakened also, and while the drying oak elements are quieter, so is the juiciness, the finish isn’t quite as drying, but overall I prefer this dram without dilution.

Conclusion.

A very nice low budget whiskey. It’s very easy drinking and juicy stuff. A perfectly good session dram to see you through Xmas.

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Whisky Review – Cragganmore 12 year old

Cragganmore 12 year old
40% ABV
£32.51 from MasterofMalt

Nose.

For a Speyside whisky this has a little smoke on the nose. I’m not sure if this has been peated at all, or if it’s matured in very heavily toasted (or even re-charred) casks. There’s lots of oak. Some honey. Caramel and confectionary sugar. Apples. A little cinnamon and some ginger. But despite all the sweet notes it still senses and comes across as dry. Very different!

Palate.

Being chill filtered it does have quite a thin mouthfeel, but there is a whole bunch of sweet, honey malty goodness. The fruit is crisp apples, some sultana and a touch of pear. Loads of caramel and dry syrup. A touch of effervescence and a bunch of charred wood.

Finish.

Not as long as the box would suggest, I would put this a medium finish at best. Lots of drying burnt wood, honey, apple pie and toasted sugar. The finale is very drying, with a touch of wood bitterness.

Adding water.

It’s been watered quite a bit before the bottle so only a drop. The oak is toned down a little now and the nose is softer with a little more complex oak, apples and honey all integrated very nicely. The palate reflects this also, and is a touch chewier, with more fruitiness in the front, a little salty sour going on as well, actually making the event a lot more interesting. The finish has now lost the bitter effect, and has a pleasant warming honeyed nature. I’m actually surprised by this but a small drop of water makes this dram a lot better indeed. A little more time in the glass and we have some additional fruitiness coming through in the form of stewed bananas.

Conclusion.

This is a surprisingly complex whisky, which isn’t for the beginner. I think it would actually be a little off putting to a first time single malt drinker, and is more attuned to the next level of single malt drinker. Something to challenge the senses and really appreciate how much a small drop of water can change the experience of a whisky. Good stuff.

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Whisky Review – Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley (Bruichladdich)

Octomore 6.3 Islay Barley (Bruichladdich)
64% ABV
Non Chill Filtered
No added Colouring
£145.00 available from Whisky Galore at the Green Welly Stop

Bruichladdich have done it again by beating all records for most peaty whisky in the world! Chemically this spirit holds 258 phenols per million, quite a step up from their previous high score of 169ppm (Octomore 5.1). This time the spirit is made up from 100% Islay Barley, farmed by James Brown at Lorgba, one of his fields on Octomore farm.

Nose.

Intense smoke and bacon. It’s like someone put a pig in the centre of a bonfire. While I know that doesn’t sound politically correct it does smell very correct! It’s a fascinating nose, which gives some used engine oil, heather, honey, golden syrup and a touch of vanilla sponge cake. Considering the high alcohol volume it doesn’t abuse the senses as much as I would expect. Time in the glass and the smoke fades and the nose becomes softer with more of the honey cakey notes coming forward.

Palate.

The arrival is immediately sweet, vanilla and cake, thick in the mouth with those awesome oils, then a bang of alcohol hits, quickly subsides with waves and waves of oily sweet delights. After that initial nip it becomes quite smooth, I can’t express how oily this is and the whole experience takes over. That’s the thing I’ve always found with Octomore, it’s an experience, not just a combination of aromas and tastes, it’s ethereal! Ok, try to analyse. Thick vanilla, a touch of ginger and chilli, a touch lactic, cake mix, filthy earthy moss (that’s good by the way!), charred oak, some salt, sweet and sour now, and starting to get drier. Every time I’m sipping this dram it’s changing slightly, it’s softer now, more honeyed notes. So sipable at cask strength! I’m getting low on dram actually and need to add water!

Finish.

Goes on for a millennium. I could probably write tomorrow about the finish on this one it’s so long. Smoke returns and wafts around. Cake mix. Quite dry, some sea salt, but then there is also some old sherry notes in the background I can’t quite explain, dark dried fruits. A touch of oak dust lingers in the dryness.

Adding water.

A good few drops added. On the nose the smoke is reanimated. This time more peaty and earthy, dirty and real. More pepper is evident now. Less of the vanilla and cake, but it’s all together a smokier whisky now. The palate is sweeter, there are a few fruity elements coming into play now, soft overripe melon and peaches alongside the earthy smoke. The finish continues to be huge and long, slightly sweeter, with loads of smoke, oak, some BBQ sticky sauced ribs and a touch of bitter oak. I’ve added some more water now, and things have become a lot more fruitier and it’s all about those fruits and the smoke is a little sidelined, still present, but not as in your face as it has been up to now. This well watered Octomore is a completely different (but equally excellent) experience from the undiluted. Well, well, well, to water or not to water? For me…both… pour 2 drams and only water 1 and have 2 amazing experiences.

Conclusion.

Ok, this has been a bit of a rambling review. I’m sorry, excitement is a big thing with me and whisky, and Octomore is one of those that gets me overexcited – through the roof! The thing with Octomore for me is that I loose time, senses become overwhelmed and comprehension becomes warped, and not due to the alcohol, but the whole journey that this whisky takes you on. It’s a crazy road, but one worth travelling time and again. Love this stuff! Bottle bought.

Great thanks to Bruichladdich for providing the review sample.

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