Monday, April 24, 2023

Talisker 11, GlenAllachie 4, Ledaig 15, Caol Ila 13, Port Askaig 10th; “Smokey”

Pronounced “Smo-KAY”.

Also, at least one not Islay. As an aside… I don’t even like peated whiskeys… Why do I subject myself to this!? Oh yeah, it’s the FOMO. Let’s get it over with.

Talisker 11, 2009, Old Particular, K&L SP, 59.6%
Well this smells like ashy and salty smoke with very light perfume together in a glass; salt, iodine, wet ash, minerality, very high proof. Rich, slightly salty, citrusy and buttery palate with fairly high proof but almost no smoke notes. The smoke comes back into its form in the aftertaste but not oversaturating and provides a fitting salty-smoky send off to the experience. Overall: Flavorful, wild and disjointed in a good way. It’s youthful and exciting and all sorts of interesting, not to mention it’s bursting with flavors. All in all this is extremely drinkable. Value: At $119 I feel it is slightly overpriced and should have been $99 instead.
Score: B+

GlenAllachie 4 Year Old “Future Edition” Billy Walker 50th Anniversary First Peated Cask Strength, 60.2%
Well, this is something alright. This is the 4th bottle in the series of limited Billie Walker Anniversary editions that look at past, present and future of the Glenallachie’s distillery. It also celebrates that fact that Billie Walker has been working in the whisky industry for 50 years. This is peated with mainland peat so it theory it shouldn’t be too much… Let’s dig in. I dunno what they say about mainland, the nose is very salty smoke. It smells almost exactly like a fish smoker smells like after just finishing a fresh batch in there. We’ve got salt, smoke, iodine, high alcohol content. The palate is… salt, smoke, sweet fruit, some bourbon spices, iodine, gentle on the alcohol surprisingly. Lingering aftertaste follows with salt sticking around the palate, but backed up by warming spices, light orchard fruits and more savouriness. Overall: To be clear, I personally flat out do not like how peated it is… and it’s very strongly peated. But I have to give credit where credit is worth and it’s not bad whiskey, especially surprising for the age. I’d have easily given this 12 years old blindly. Value: Listed at $129 at K&L this is certainly a better value vs Octomores… But it’s also not an Octomore. Quite terrible at the specs, perhaps worth it for collectors of limited edition bottles. For context, the British MSRP on this is 80 pounds ($99).
Score: B

Ledaig 15, K&L SP, Old Particular, 51.8%
My first Ledaig (aka peated Tobermory). Distilled in 2006 and aged in refill sherry butt. Perhaps? Maybe? I do like sherry+peat in certain cases. The color is dark straw, so it’s going to be sherry-light for sure. Lots of wood smoke and only a little salt surprisingly for an Islay, perhaps the sherry is hiding that iodine. With time, more sherry fruit notes float to the surface giving an impression of dried fruit compote, complete with a touch of smoke and salt… Think sun-dried apricots and bbq-baked apples. On the palate, clean smoke, sherry sweetness. Notable absence of salt or iodine. Aftertaste adds light cigar ash to the palate and lasts for quite a while. With water… peat takes a step back but sherry doesn’t. I’m 50/50 on water as the overall experience also loses some of its edge. Overall: Hate to admit it, but this is solid. Yes, it’s peated. But it’s also sherried and I like this combo. Very tasty pour. Value: $99 for the 15 year old single cask spec. Solid price.
Score: A-

Caol Ila 13, K&L SP, Old Particular, 56.9%
A 2008 distillate from a refill sherry butt… This cask has heard of sherry 40 years ago I feel… the color here is very white wine. Visually there’s nothing even remotely resembling sherry in here. The nose has some of the interesting sherry notes, though subdued and overwhelmed by intensely ashy peat smoke and lots of iodine with sea salt. Sweet and intensely salty palate, bright citrus and orchard fruits follow. With repeated sips, more fruit and sweetness with gobs of vanilla custard replacing salt. There’s an odd flavor note there I am unable to place, like a balled up cluster of every sherry spice together. Long aftertaste with warm spices and salty smoke. Overall: This is intense. Much more intense than any other Caol Ila I’ve tried before. Intense chameleon of flavors that goes from intense salt to intense sugar, also hello sherry leftovers! Was it white sherry of some kind? Also intensely smoky. Definitely off-profile Caol Ila. Value: This was $75 certainly a solid deal for smoke-heads.
Score: B+

Port Askaig 10th Anniversary, 55.85%
Obviously Caol Ila here. At 10 years old, this is a blend of 33 casks of 3 different types: refill American Oak hogsheads used in Askaig 100%, first-fill bourbon casks, and ex-solera sherry casks. The color is rich straw, at best. The nose is sweet with few sherry sweetness notes, then mostly salty smoke as is typical of Caol Ila, the backing note is an interesting and slightly fishy funkyness. The palate is a mix of sherry sweetness and salty smoke. The sherry mostly brings the sugars and lets the peat shine through integrating together well. It’s basically salted light apples and smoked white fish. The aftertaste is extremely mellow, and while lingering smoke continues for a while, overall it’s a letdown. Overall: Enjoyable, sweet and uncomplicated 10 year old Islay is pretty much a solid casual pour. There’s nothing outstanding and nothing wrong, just a high proof Caol Ila done well. Amen for higher proof here! Otherwise, it’d be too thin. Value: At $99 this is a decent proposition to fans with the proof and age. Yet again, middle of the pack.
Score: B

Outro: I’m rating peated whiskeys with high grades. What’s wrong with me! Arg!

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Bruichladdich 2011, Bunna OP 15, Bunnahabhain 12 CS 2021/22/23, ‘Vaguelay’ Islay

Pronounced “Vague-LAY… Ai-LAY”. Here are some peated or lightly peated islays.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011, 50%
2010 edition has been reviewed here. Yet again, this is a showcase of local barley producers. This time it is 2011 vintage year and if you care about colors this one came in a grey tin. Aged 6 years in oak casks there’s nowhere to hide. Ripe melons, honey, cantaloupe on the nose, some butter and a touch of sea salt. The palate starts sweet and citrusy crisp, then punches with char and smoke notes together with generous serving of numbing sichuan spice mix. Long finish with buttered, candied and very toasty nuts. There’s a touch of smokiness at the very end of the aftertaste that lingers, very alike to after-effects of breathing smoke during a night in front of a campfire. Overall: Well, this is a surprise! A very entertaining Laddie-in-a-glass. And while this is slightly smokey for me, it certainly got that ’smoke-not-peat’ thing going in spades. Chalk it up as a success for 2011. Value: Still findable for ~$70, this is a solid value for an interesting and perhaps underrated bottle.
Score: A-

Bunnahabhain 15, Old Particular, K&L SP, 53%
A 2006 unpeated Bunna. The nose is brightly acidic, reminding me of Sauvignon Blanc wine with citrus and melons. There’s also a bit of a perfume there which I rather quite like but I cannot put my finger on the actual source. Let’s just settle for it smelling like yellow citrus and flower blossoms. The palate starts sweet and buttery with light mineral saltiness, then there’s a one-two punch of spice and wood that hits a flavor peak. From the peak, it gently fades into more salty minerality mingled with some malt sweetness and a bitter end note that’s not all that enjoyable. A splash of water tames that flavor peak, for better or worse smoothing out some of the interesting edges in the process. Overall: Quite off the beaten path in terms of profile this was not a great cask to pair with a Bunna. It’s certainly a fresh, light, citrusy, and fragrant but also unbalanced in its experience. It flows from one facet to the next in a disjointed manner. I’m really not a fan of a touch of bitterness note in the aftertaste either. Value: On paper, this is solidly priced at $109 for a well known distillery and a very reasonable age statement.
Here’s the original listing
Score: C+

Bunnahabhain 12, Cask Strength, 2021 Edition, 55.1%
It’s a well known fact that limited editions from Bunna are quite tasty. Let’s try this 2021 edition of cask strength 12 year old. Color is dark amber. The nose is quite intense with dried fruit and bourbon spices. There also seems to be a touch of chocolate in the mix. More intensity on the palate but the profile is mostly same from the nose. Surprisingly consistent aftertaste follows with warming pepper that lingers for a while. It is a little intense on the proof to be an easy drinker, though it reacts decently to water, I’d recommend skipping water here due to relatively low age. Overall: This is clearly a mix of bourbon and sherry casks but it definitely leans towards bourbon side of things. I like this quite a bit. It’s extremely consistent and while multi-layered it’s also easy to ‘understand’. This is right up the alley for folks that enjoy bourbon cask influence in scotch. Value: This is ~$89… Probably solid value.
Score: B+

Bunnahabhain 12, Cask Strength, 2022 Edition, 56.6%
It’s a well known fact that limited editions from Bunna are quite tasty. Let’s try this 2022 edition of cask strength 12 year old. The color is light chestnut. Quite intense sherry on the nose, dried cherries and prunes. The palate has more of the dried cherry fruit and spices but not overly complex. Medium length aftertaste with sherry sweetness and yet again more dried fruits there. Due to some viscosity this stick around the mouth for a while. Water doesn’t change or adds much other than diluting flavor. Skip the water. Overall: Bunna pairs well with sherry, but it’s not a particularly complex proposition here, leaving some nuance being hidden by sherry. This bottling will please sherry cask lovers, but will have others asking for more. Value: At ~$89 this is a solid value.
Score: B+

Bunnahabhain 12, Cask Strength, 2023 Edition, 60.1%
Injecting 2023 edition review here nearly a year later. It’s mostly same as 2022, slightly proofier so a few drops of water may be of benefit to calm it down. 2023 replaces toasted wood notes with toasted coffee thus changing some of the secondary spice profile to a slightly nutty profile. Overall though, the change is subtle enough that the two years are roughly equivalent to each other. Value: At ~$99 may still be worth it, though not for any more increases.
Score: B+

In the Bunna 12 CS 2021/22 showdown, there’s no clear winner… It really comes down to what the drinker enjoys. If they enjoy sherry: then choose 2022; If it’s bourbon casks then 2021 has the edge… Mixing the two in a roughly 1:1 proportion is, to me, tastes a little better than having them apart.
For the record, the ‘old’ Bunna 18 is much better than the ‘new’ Bunna 18.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Friday, April 14, 2023

Port Dundas 28, Glenglassaugh 9, Fukano, Linkwood 11, CB Juveniles, … A “Welcome Back” Blend

Welcome back! Some things changed, most things stayed the same. Plenty of bottles finally emptied out, some bottles have been opened, and life as we know goes on. The first few reviews are going to be a mix of thoughts as a catch up and go through several miscellaneous samples that are hard to put into any specific group.

Port Dundas 28, Single Grain Scotch, Sovereign, 51.3%
A 1990 Port Dundas grain, bottled by Sovereign. I have a bottle of this and got some hopes for it, though the quality of casks seems to be inconsistent. The nose starts gentle and vanilla-forward, but then picks up momentum into light tropical fruit direction with mangos and pineapple notes that are topped with grapefruit or blood orange zest. Let’s be honest, it smells like mango and blood orange custard pie, complete with spiced graham crust. The palate is (white) tropical fruit punch that’s been spiced with some peppers. Lots more spicines on the aftertaste but it doesn’t become sichuan hot, instead it fades into warm and sweet vanilla that lingers for a while. Overall: This is a spiced light tropical creme pie, and there’s nothing particularly wrong with it, though I wish it had a bit more oily character to leave a presence. As it is, it’s vibrant, sweet and fresh but not memorable enough to wistfully recall few years down the road later. Value: That was $80 in ‘ages’ ago, in 2019. A solid price that doesn’t exist anymore.
Store Page:
Score: B

Glenglassaugh 9, Wine Hogshead, @SFWBSS SP Cask #2148, 57.1%
A bottled in 2022 as a SF group pick… At 9 years old and aged in a (Red) Wine cask. I’m not fully opposed to the distillery, but I’ve not found their product amazing. Of course this is the SF group pick… and in the spirit of getting single malts they put out… I’ve dipped my toes into this one too. The color is light-chestnut with a pink tinge to it. The nose is… well it’s proofy and young with addition of coat of red wine frosting all around bringing overabundance of dried red fruit notes. The palate is very sweet, and mostly filled with rich red dried fruit flavors and alcohol. Candied cherries and some plums dominate. The aftertaste is medium-length at best, slightly spicy but nothing of note happens there. Little bit of a water helps with the alcohol avalanche and lets the dessert wine notes forward. Overall: “It’s a fruit cake (pie)!” I keep on saying to myself. There’s nothing that pushes it above ‘drinkable dessert pour’. Enjoyable and situational but certainly not an everyday drinker. I’ll be quite interested in their product as the stocks gain few more years under their belt. Value: Eeeeeh, Glenglassaugh single casks go for around $99 and so it was the case here. I’ll argue this is about average price for what we got, including a fancy box.
Score: B-

Fukano “Amabie” SCWC/K&L SP Manzanilla Sherry #MS326, 42.2%
This single cask aged in sherry butt is distilled from rice and has no age statement. As an aside, manzanilla sherry is a lighter-textured, funky and spicy sherry, quite unlike Oloroso and PX which tend to be thicker and sweeter. The nose is sherry forward and is rather enjoyable with rice alcohol adding another layer to the ‘funk’ of the overall bouquet. The palate is pleasantly filled with spiced candied nuts and sweet rice undertones. Aside from rice sweetness notes, it’s got gently notes of nutmeg, cloves and some anice. Aftertaste is yet again slightly nutty and is rather spicy; quickly falling down into gentle pepperiness. Overall: This is a mix of very good sake flavors with an excellent sherry note. There’s very little cask influence beyond sherry and rice doesn’t bring anything groundbreaking or complex to the table. Perhaps there’s something to be said about this being ‘good’ because of its ’simplicity’ and lack of nuance. Just like sushi, there’s nowhere to hide here. This is equivalent to a piece of nigiri that’s got two components where typical complexity of scotch is a paella of flavors. I can tell it’s a ‘good quality’ product, because anything other than good would have been a disaster. Do I enjoy it? Yes I do… Is it anything like other japanese (malt) whiskeys? No, it’s an excellent soju/sake with sherry flavors that is a whiskey only by definition. Value: At $100 I’ve paid, and no age statement, this is probably a little over expensive, at $74 on sale… that’s about the right price.
Score: B (maybe)

Linkwood 11, Signatory, K&L SP, Charred Wine Hogshead, 59.2%
A Linkwood distilled in 2010. I’m a fan of Linkwood. Rather dark colored, but this is a *recharred* wine hogshead. The nose is proofy, with wine funkiness, toasted honey and red fruits. Palate is yet again very proofy, toasted honey, red fruits, wine tannins. The aftertaste is warming, generously peppered, lingers for long time with more red fruits and a touch of toasted sugar. With water it sorta falls apart with too much wine influence overtaking everything. Overall: I really want to like it but I cannot love it. It’s wild and proofy and decent at full proof, even if full proof is very punchy. Definitely a weird and a wild one, this will be my adventurous dessert pour as it’s certainly not a casual one. It does provide an interesting counterpoint to Glenglassaugh above it. With this one being more cask forward and Glenglassaugh being more spirit forward. Value: At $89… This was decent value for cask strength 11 year old malt…
Score: C+

Compass Box Juveniles Limited Edition, 46%
Another Compass Box bottling… John Glaser of CB is a savant in blending, to be fair. This bottle got a BELL in the punt! Unpeated malt, mostly from Clynelish and Balmenach distilleries with Strathmill the mix and a few others. The nose is extremely malty, almost overwhelmingly so. The palate is citrusy creme soda or light honey mead with a touch of alcohol, light honey wax, gentle spices. Quite thick, sweet and mouth-coating, lots of malt yet again. The aftertaste is long, delicately spiced and lingering. Overall: This is really bloody good pour. Thought this is much thicker and creamier on the palate that most ex-bourbon unpeated malts. Value: IIRC this was priced ~$100 in Costco… It’s a solid deal for a limited Compass Box bottling. I would struggle to pay more for a relatively non-premium release.
Read technical details here
Score: B+

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown