Bruichladdich 10yo (Single Cask) : Day 10 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

I mentioned in my last post just how much I enjoy bottlings from the marvellous Bruichladdich, and out of the distilleries I have been privileged to visit, I would have to say that they are currently my favourite. So it seems right that Day 10 brought me another one of their delicious whiskies. However, this time I am treated to a private single cask of a 10 year old Bruichladdich.

Every time I meet another member of the #whiskyfabric, I find the conversation flows, along with the whisky. Andy Purslow (@Ardbaggie) is not an exception to the rule. Andy is a whisky investor, chairman of the Wet We Whistle Whisky Society, Limburners brand ambassador and a mad West Brom fan. After meeting for the first time in February, we spent hours chatting over everything from Ardbeg (did I mention he is an impressive collector too?) to jazz. It’s always exciting when he’s around and whenever we meet, I know we are going to have a fun filled evening filled with laughter and catch ups. Along with his vast knowledge of all things whisky, he has proven himself to be more than generous (randomly giving me half a bottle of single cask Port Charlotte as a gift back in October). I look forward to heading up to his in the near future, and when I do… I will update you!

Bruichladdich 10yo Single Cask (1st fill sherry) (56.3%)
(A 1st fill sherry with a wonderful colour)
B3uBTddIYAEn2q_N: The first thing that jumps out is the heavy sherry – dark fruits, cherries and blackcurrant jam. Thick, dark, old leather and freshly cut wood. Little Islay character, perhaps more of a Glendronach feel to this. Then a slight briny note appears with a small layer of sweat peat smoke. When opening up it brings some gentle sweetness some peppery spices. Water brings cured meat with some sulphur.

P: Intense arrival here with a strong taste of alcohol. There is quite a powerful sherry hit too. Strongly sweet with raisins, sour fruit, dark chocolate and saltiness. Hard to pick out any particular laddie notes until a slight maritime taste with seaweed towards the end. Water makes it saltier and calms down sherry, becoming earthier and fruitier.

F: Long and lingering. Pretty dry with lots of sherry still. Wine like tannins too. Some spices right at the end with hints of peat.

Comments: Very interesting Laddie here. Profile seemed hidden behind the sherry. Meaty and peppery. Water calms it down but looses complexity slightly. A fun experience. (Think I prefer the Port Charlotte he gave me…. watch this space!)

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Thanks again to my good friend Andy!

Port Charlotte PC10 Tro Na Linntean : Day 9 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

If you had to push me for my current favourite whisky or distillery, I would currently be torn between two: Springbank and Bruichladdich. That that know these kind of things would tell me off for cheating as most people know that both these distilleries produce three different whiskies. Springbank produces the standard Springbank, triple distilled Hazelburn and peated Longrow and Bruichladdich producing the unpeated Bruichladdich, heavily peated Port Charlotte and the crazy smack me in the face peated Octomore. Having visited both these distilleries in the summer, my love for them continued to grow. Bruichladdich was incredibly welcoming and gave us some simply stunning whisky. Port Charlotte has quickly become my go to whisky as its such a great mix of peat, smoke and power without it being a one dimensional peat bomb.

I’ve tasted a large amount of Port Charlottes recently (well, the few that are available) and I haven’t tasted a poor one yet. I’ve been wanting to taste the flagship PC10 for quite a while now, but it’s been rather difficult to get my hands on some. Luckily a lovely gent by the name of Steve Prentice came to my rescue. Steve (@steveprentice) has become a good buddy of mine, and we spend most of our time teasing each other. He’s a top chap, great reviewer at the SomersetWhiskyBlog and it’s always great when we get to meet.

PC10 ‘Tro Na Linntean’ (59.8%)
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: Raw, earthy and gritty. There is quite a bit of peat here, but in the classic Port Charlotte way. It in no way seems overbearing. Having nosed a large amount of PCs & Octomore recently this, although peaty, has an elegant style. Soot, ash, tar and slightly medicinal. The slight baby vomit note sometimes found in the Laddie 10 is there too. Quite oily (linseed oil) with some strong bright woody notes too. Sugared sweetness towards the end with some iodine. Lovely whiffs of smoke. Immense.

P: Wow, huge arrival. Peat jumps straight out hammering around the mouth, more so than the nose. This is coupled with some ashen smoke and harsh peppery notes. Tar again, reminds me of newly laid road. Rather oily this, gliding all over the tongue. It’s like smoking cuban cigar in an old leather armchair. When the peat widens it opens up some vanilla and ripe squashed berries. Awesome.

F: Long, very warming and beautifully lingering. End of a peat BBQ (which I had on Islay in July – I’d highly recommend it). Slightly bitter, salty and coastal.

Comments: Such a perfect Port Charlotte. I’ve had a number of single casks recently, and this is just as good. Power, precision and perfection! 91.5
A big thanks again to Steve for this brilliant sample!

Whisky Live

Shhh! Don’t tell anyone… But I attended my first ever whisky show the other week. I know it’s bad. It’s taken me this long to get myself in gear. However, I can tell you something else. It will not be my last. I had heard quite a bit about Whisky Live from my numerous twitter/blogging friends, so I made sure I didn’t miss out on this years. Held at the beautiful Honourable Artillery Company (a somewhat hidden gem in London), Whisky Live gives whisky lovers the opportunity to socialise, try lots of new whisky and meet brand ambassadors.

After a fantastic night at the SMWS the night before, and an exciting tour round The London Distillery on Friday; a large rowdy group of us descended upon Whisky Live with Glencairns in hand and a gleam in our eyes.

 

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Teeling Single Grain, Small Batch Blend & Vintage Reserve 21yo

First port of call was the Teeling Whiskey stand. I’d heard too many good things about this whiskey, so I thought it would be a great start. I met the familiar friendly faced Sam (who gave me my first ever SMWS dram) who represents Teeling. He not only gave me three crackers to try, but also a great knowledge of them all.
Teeling Single Grain: Sweet grainy nose with slight menthol/smoke hint. Incredibly smooth leathery palate, with some grass, sweets & wine on the finish.
Teeling Small Batch Blend: Again quite a sweet grainy nose, but rum finish is apparent upfront. Warming, grassy, slight metallic rum note. Lingers nicely leaving cut grass & raisins. I liked it a lot.
Teeling Vintage Reserve 21yo: A powerful, fruity nose. Really intriguing palate delivering smooth sweetness before dark sour fruits bounce over the tongue. Mysterious & complex, I loved it! Thank you Teeling Whiskey, you’ll be in my cupboard soon.

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Mark Thompson: The Grain Man!

Following the Grain theme, I ventured over to the legends of grain – Girvan – where I met Mark who treated me to four of their delightful grains. And delightful they were.

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Girvan No.4 Apps

Girvan No.4 Apps: Oily, musky, floral nose. Palate was fresher & more vibrant with a slight savoury edge. Lingered nicely with a small hint of smoke on the finish.

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Girvan 25yo

Girvan 25yo: Slightly withheld nose, remaining fresh & vibrant considering age. Vanilla, pear drops, ginger & toffee with some dryness on the finish.

 

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Girvan 30yo

Girvan 30yo: Subtlety floral, musty, fruity & chocolate notes on nose (some corn too?!) Oaky, sweet, sawdust and leafy character. Stays fruity & smooth throughout whilst having a slight zestiness to it. Again pretty vibrant for age.

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Girvan 40yo

Girvan 40yo: Rich and quite spicy on the nose. Pretty creamy. More oak and sherry here. Warming with red berries and hint of sawdust. Nicely aged with lots of sawdust and sherry sweetness. Magnificently mature.

 

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Preparations for the masterclass

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Neil spinning his magic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was lucky enough to attend two masterclasses on the day, the first being led by three cracking gentlemen: Rob Allanson, Neil Ridley & Joel Harrison (Caskstrength). Providing knowledge and humour, they led us through the previous nights WWA Winners – weren’t we lucky! All interesting whiskies in their own right, showing the vast quality and variety we are lucky to have in the current market.

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WWA Winners

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Nikka Taketsura 17yo

Nikka Taketsura 17yo: Gentle, mossy, spicy, floral, dried fruit and tobacco – complex nose. Dark arrival with oak, cinnamon and liquorice. Fruity, floral characteristics before hidden whisp of smoke appears. Relatively smooth & slightly drying.

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The Lost Distilleries Blend

The Lost Distilleries Blend: Strong but mellows. Grainy, woody & spicy before peat starts to appear. Some leather armchairs too. Floral/citrus notes upfront with coriander and gentle peat balanced with a hint of zest. Very smooth dustiness with hints of peat here and there. Quality!

 

 

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Sullivans Cove

 

Sullivans Cove French Oak Cask: Musty, oaky, bourbon, cereal and almonds on the nose. Quite thin on arrival. Vanilla, honey and spices.Woody, drying and complex. The vanilla continues into the finish with some nuttiness too. Nice, but not my favourite (although it was voted worlds best single malt!)

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Overeem

Oveream: Powerful, sherried & slightly metallic. Fruitcake, caramel and spice. Sweeter on palate, with BBQ and burnt barley. I keep getting cinnamon. Nutty with vague smokey notes. Long finish with dark fruits & spiciness. Some cocoa there too before the sherried fruits take over.

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Balcones Brimstone Resurrection

Balcones Brimstone Resurrection: Very different. Oily, sweet BBQ meat, burnt hay & smoke on nose. Even meatier on palate, with powerful dark dusty flavours coupled with some menthol on the long booming finish. Yikes!

 

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A selfie with Balcones Chip Tate – Legend!

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Balblair tasting

I obviously wasn’t content enough with one masterclass, so I popped along to Balblair’s later that afternoon. We weren’t led as well this time around, but we still got to try some of their nice vintages.

Balblair 2003: Spirity, grassy and floral, really fills the nose. Full on palate with sweet oranges and apricots. Similar to certain new-make. Evaporates quickly leaving apples, wet wood, vanilla and hint of sherry.

Balblair 1997: More tropical fruits on nose with raisins and a sweetness again. More fruity and delicate with some citrus and heather. Vanilla, brown sugar and bourbon notes on finish.
Balblair 1990: Fresher nose, with sherry soaked fruit and sawdust. Dusty, floral, smoothly sherried with very small hints of peat. Long warm finish with lots of depth.
Balblair 1983: Dark fruits, wet wood, toffee and an old sweet shop on the nose. Palate’s less sweet, giving a dry maltiness mixed with a fruity depth. Slightly edgy on finish showing its maturity and smoothness. I love this one.

 

Twas time to move away from the Scotch and try something else, and after chatting with my friend Scott, we decided to head to the Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. All five whiskies we tried were well made, with the Kavalan Classic and Kavalan Port getting some good nods and the KingCar whisky giving me a big juicy, fruity, briny, smile! It was the three ‘Solist’ bottlings that stood out however.

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Kavalan Soloist Bourbon

Kavalan Solist Bourbon: Strong bourbon nose with sour fruits and sawdust. Strong palate giving lots of berries, raisins and some earthiness. I could have drunk it for days.

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Kavalan Solist Sherry

Kavalan Solist Sherry: Big, rich and dark! This is serious sherry on the nose, palate and eye. Holds the tongue with dark fruits, brown sugar and sawdust. Long long finish.

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Kavalan Solist Wine Cask

Kavalan Solist Wine Cask: Cracking nose, subtle yet powerful. Sweet, wet wood, grapes, some tannins and dryness. I just wrote “lovely lovely stuff”.

 

 

 

We decided to try some non distillery bottlings after this, so slid over to That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The delightfully cool Cat Spencer guided us through some of the cracking bottles they had on show. I’ve got a few of TBWC’s bottles, and I can tell you that their awesome comic book bottle labels are just the start!

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TBWC Clynelish

TBWC Clynelish: Strong, meaty, salty and lovely. However, not a typical Clynelish. Some forrest fruits and nuttiness balanced with a whisp of smoke.

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TBWC Caol Ila

TBWC Caol Ila: Classic Caol Ila. Big peat, big smoke, some delicate TCP, earthy and strong. This was like smoking a quality cigar.

 

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TBWC Kilchoman

 

TBWC Kilchoman: Peat-tastic! Slight farmyard peat on nose, with floral notes lurking behind. Doesn’t feel too young (even though it obviously is). Great mix of apples, earthiness, peat and biiig sweet smoke. This was awesome and my favourite of the TBWC bunch!

 

 

Another indie cask strength stand, and our friends over at The Whisky Exchange offering some Elements of Islay. The wonderful Billy and (my good old friend) Andy had some great choices.

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Br5 – Bruichladdich

Br5: Old Bruichladdich nose, salty, briny, earthy with some grass and sultanas. Strong on the palate with apples, grass, bourbon and hint of smoke on the tail. Beautifully balanced with some toffe at the end. This seems like an older laddie to me…. but I could be dreaming.

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Bw3 – Bowmore

 

Bw3: Great nose. Mellow peat, some salt with a slight fragrance to it. Peaty clings to top palate with some ripe fruit (grape & blackcurrent). Nice stuff, seems like a mid-aged Bowmore to me.

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Lp4 – Laphroaig

LP4: Less TCP than other Laphroaigs. Sweet peat, smoke and a very small savoury hint. Smooth palate with peat gliding over the tongue with a earthy quality. The smoke here was spot on. All three bottles showed some real quality.

 

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Chris – Cracking Chap!

We did make it to various other stands, but sadly 6 hours just wasn’t enough time to  visit them all, which is a shame. A big shout out to Chris on the Compass Box stand. As usual, he was delightfully personable and gave some lovely whiskies to sample. [Watch out for an upcoming Compass Box vertical]

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Chris chatting to John Glaser… Mr Compass Box!

Some of the other whiskies I got to try throughout the day: Glencadam 14 Olorosso, Glencadam 18, Compass Box Hedonism, Balcones Baby Blue, Balcones Brimstone, Balcones Number 1 and Nikka 15yo.

 

A wonderful afternoon, trying some marvellous whiskies. Could you ask for more? Oh yes… the fantastic company I had throughout the day. New friends brought together by the love of this magical liquid. A big shout out goes to Scott (@saunders_afc), Tommo (@ifotou), Stevo (@steveprentice), Ben (@ben_copps), Jon (@dvdbloke), Dave (@whiskydisovery), Andy,(@ardbaggie) Dave (@whiskyrepublic), Kat (@whiskydiscovkat), John (LRwhisky), Adrian (@mynameisgone), Stewart/Kirsty (@whiskycorner). Just a selection of the #Whiskyfabric

 

* Thanks goes again to Whisky Live for the pass and for putting on a great event *

SMWS London Visit

Like many whisky drinkers out there, I had heard about the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS). Until last year however, I had never realised there was a tasting room/bar in London. And it wasn’t until 2 weeks ago that I discovered how brilliant ‘St Greville Street’ was! Cue Adrian Barnet (@mynameisgone), a brilliant member of the twitter #Whiskyabric who I had got to know over 2013. He asked if I fancied meeting him and a few others up there on the first Saturday of January as he could sign me in. Well….. How could I decline?!

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[For those who don’t know, SMWS bottle single cask whiskies. Each outturn of each cask is given a unique numerical identifier, representing first the originating distillery and second the individual cask from which the bottle was taken. The Tasting Panel also gives each bottling an awesome name with some whimsical tasting notes. It’s my kind of place]

 

After a nightmare journey to Farringdon, I arrived to meet Adrian. This was only the second time I’ve met someone from the #Whiskyfabric, and the first time I had met Adrian. Top bloke. He took me into the rooms, where I discovered some sofas, a fire and what can only be described as a treasure cove of whisky. I also discovered two more drinking buddies in the form of Dave and Scott. Dave Worthington (@whiskydiscovery) was one of the first whisky-ers I followed on twitter, and is the author of the first whisky blog I properly read. We had chatted many times before online, but again, this was our first meeting. Scott (Saunders_AFC) on the other hand, had only cropped up on my twitter feed in the recent weeks, but this didn’t stop us getting along like a house on fire. Great company all round.

 

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SMWS 84.12 ‘Party in the Vineyard’ (58.2%)

Glendullan, 12yo
This was our first dram of the afternoon and chosen by Scott. This was my first Glendullan and I was pleasantly surprised. On the nose it was sweetly floral with some oakiness. On the palate it became incredibly fruity, especially green apples. Hints of woodiness became more apparent with time. This was Incredibly smooth for 59%. It was quite dry on the finish but retained its sweet quality.

 

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SMWS 2.84 ‘Katherine Hepburn in a Vintage Jaguar’ (53.3%)

Glenlivet 20yo
For the second instalment, the gentleman that is Joe McGirr (@SMWSlondon) brought over this little treat for us from the January Outturn that had been causing a stir on twitter. It matured for 20 years in a first-fill ex-sherry cask, with only 77 bottles of this release. The most notable thing about this dram was its unusual dark colour… Especially for a Glenlivet. The nose on this was fantastic. Huge sherry notes, woody/sawdust, nuttiness and some cocoa too. My main note was “Nose = Lovely”. On the palate sweet syrup, liquorice, anise, chocolate. Lovely level of woodiness. I did find this a tad thin on the palate, but man this has a smooth, delicate, lingering finish. This was special and know why people will go for it.

 

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SMWS 3.193 ‘Baby Faced Arsonist’ (58.2%)

Bowmore, 14yo
Dave’s turn to choose and he brought over one that really excited me. Originally the nose was interesting. Farmyard peat, peppery & nice sherry. Dave & I detected a slight hint of struck match, but not in a bad way. I wouldn’t have guessed bowmore straight away. The palate made me smile. Real POW factor. Beautiful marriage of slightly harsh peat and sherry, it tingled on tongue perfectly. There were sweet juicy fruit flavours at the front, whilst an explosion was occurring at back of the palate. This Bowmore didn’t hang around, and left my mouth feeling slightly abused, but clean. If there were any bottles left I would have bought one without a doubt.

 

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SMWS 29.150 ‘Hand Rolled Cuban Cigars’

Laphroaig, 18yo
It was my turn to choose the weapon of choice, and after looking through the menu, one particular bottle caught my eye. I’d heard SMWS Laphroaig’s were pretty nifty, so when I saw an 18 year old on the menu I jumped & ordered one for us all. I had also tried the OB 18yo on the #LaphroaigTT in November, and I LOVED it. The nose had similarities to 18yo OB. Rather sweet, with a smooth level of peat & smoke. Not as heavy a peat as 10yo or Quarter Cask. Beautifully medicinal. The palate was beautifully balanced. Peat works the tongue smoothly, whilst the sweet woodiness takes over. Medicinal, but less so on palate. It peters away nicely, with the gentle smokiness lingering beautifully. Great stuff. Plus I love the label!

 

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At this point, I thought we were drawing to a close. We’d had four great drams, and had been there a few hours. This, however was when Philip Storry (@philipstorry) jumped into the equation. I had never met Phillip before, but had been told he was a bit of a stalwart member of the SMWS. He was with another group, but that didn’t stop him popping over to chat throughout the afternoon. After a while he brought over a glass for each of us. “What dangerous substance could this be”, I thought to myself. He then handed me the bottle. It turned out to be a 1986 Bruichladdich bottled in 2005. I have come across very few independent bottlings of this awesome distillery, especially before it’s re-opening. It was sublime to say the least. The generosity of the surrounding whisky drinkers didn’t stop there, as two more “Money can’t buy bottles” found their way into my glass. Firstly a 20yo Heaven hill SMWS bourbon, followed by a Brora 2005 30yo special release. I was not only amazed by this generosity, from people who I had never met before and might never meet again, but the quality of these three fantastic bottlings.

 

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SMWS 23.52 ‘Teenage Dreams’ (55.9%)

Bruichladdich, 19yo
Some classic Laddie notes on nose, but amplified and more refined that usual OB’s. Beautiful, light, slightly floral, balanced, hints of peat there too. At first taste I fell in love with the stuff. It is Bruichladdich as its meant to be. Peat is there, but only showing its face now and again. Some real salty brinyness holds it all together. It stuck to my tongue and wouldn’t let go. Making sweet love with my taste buds. Incredibly drinkable. Correction. Incredible. [I love what Dave wrote on his blog: “Distilled in 1986, this would have been the Bruichladdich Mark Reiyner would have been enjoying before realising his dream and reopening the distillery in 2001”. Well said Dave.]

 

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SMWS Bourbon (66%)

Heaven Hill, 20yo
Dusty, woody, yet sweet on the nose. Really pure & classy. I haven’t had a huge experience of bourbons, but man this was good. Full. Powerful. Massive on upper palate. Strong & sweet. Lingers forever… I was tasting it 2 hours later. Incredibly smooth for 66%. So different, yet so enjoyable.

 

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Brora 30yo Diageo special release 2005

I was so excited to try this, especially after a 10-minute chat with an enthused Philip on Brora/Clynelish. On the nose there were similarities to certain Clynelish bottlings. Spicy, coastal brineyness. Peppery, with hints of fruit & smokiness. The palate was serious stuff though. Meaty, peppery. Heavy and strong, sticking to my palate and powering through. A lovely delicate whisp of smoke on finish. Slightly dry, holding my taste buds for what seemed like days. After 15 minutes in the glass,  it just got bigger & smokier. Wow, this was something special!

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I had a truly wonderful afternoon. My eyes were opened to the glory of the SMWS & St Greville Street. I got to meet some cracking guys, who I look forward to meeting again. And it showed not only how fun the #Whiskyfabric can be, but how generous and encouraging too. Here’s to many more.

2013 Review

For some 2013 was a tough year. I’ve seen family and friends go through some difficult times and I hope that 2014 will be good to those that didn’t have it so well over the last 12 months. For me, 2013 was a good one as years go. Work went along nicely without too much of a glitch. I started playing more music, finally started this blog and we bought/moved into our first house.

The move took more out of me than I expected. I didn’t realise how much there was to do and my past times/hobbies such as whisky, golf & sport took a back seat. Luckily that didn’t stop me from trying some special whiskies along the way. Some of which I’ll highlight below. These aren’t necessarily my “favourite” whiskies of the year, just particular bottles that poked their heads above the crowd and made me take notice.

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Kilchoman Machir Bay
On the 3rd January 2013, I walked into The Whiski Rooms in Edinburgh, saw a bottle of the Machir Bay behind the bar & ordered a glass. Seeing as it was a mix of three, four & five year old whisky I didn’t know what I was expecting… But what I got was a punch of young, explosive but not overbearing peaty goodness. Simply a well produced, sherry-finished, peaty whisky.

Considering its youth, it sits on the tongue nicely with some intricate flavours. I found the finish long & delicate with an incredible complexity for its “age”. It’s an exciting young whisky that I enjoyed so much… I ordered one the next day. This really is a solid expression from the artisan ragamuffins at Kilchoman and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a different Islay.

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Bruichladdich The Laddie 10
I received a bottle of this from my brothers last Christmas. They obviously love their big brother to bits! Now I was lucky enough to try an incredible 1986 19yo bottling of Bruichladdich recently [But that will come in another post], the style of whisky it seems Bruichladdich are trying to bring back with this Laddie 10. This marks a new era for this distillery and shows of all the exciting things to come. It’s non chill filtered, no colouring & bottled at 46%, plus it lovely stuff.

Smashes round your mouth boldly, with all the sea salt, iodine, sweetness and hint of peat smoke (un-peated?!) you could ask for. It became one of my favourite bottles of the year rather quickly. If you don’t have one, do yourself a favour a buy it. For a smidgen over £30 it’s a cracker.

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Port Charlotte An Turas Mor
This was my first Port Charlotte and I was pretty excited to see how it was. As you can see above, I love Bruichladdich and I’m also a fan of strongly peated whiskies… Enter Port Charlotte. My good twitter friend Tom Thomson (@ifotou) from Toms whisky reviews sent me a sample of this back in March/April and I devoured it in record time.

It is a multi vintage whisky with its name meaning “The Great Journey”. The nose provides the coastal saltiness that Bruichladdich brings, but with an earthier, creamier base. The gentle peat smoke is there too. The palate is incredibly balanced and powerful, whilst retaining a gentle quality. It’s fiery and spicy with a combination of smoke, ash and BBQ.

This really excited me and I can’t wait to see what they do with this Port Charlotte brand. You can’t get bottles of this anymore… But if you see one, I’ll give you good money for it!

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Glen Garioch 1986
In June I received an email from Morisson Bowmores master blender Rachel Barrie (@TheLadyBlender) inviting me to take part in a lovely little tweet tasting of Glen Garioch for fathers day. We had a great time tasting the 12 year old, 1986, 1995 and (what we later found out was) the new virgin oak. I enjoyed each expression for different reasons & it increased my appreciation of this underrated distillery. It was this ’86 however that stuck out for me.

Most of us found peaches, malt and ginger on the nose. I also noted some toffee and a wisp of smoke in the background (interesting – noting the year). On the palate it was sweet, full bodied and fresh. Some ripe fruit, slight earthiness and even some gentle smoke in there too.

This was eloquent, easily drinkable and enjoyable (I’m all about the alliteration). Glen Garioch has produced an intricate and refined whisky right here. If it was an ’87 (my birth year), I would have snapped up a few bottles.

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Laphroaig 15 Signatory (The Whisky Exchange)
I stumbled across this corker of a dram on the 29th October. You may be wondering how I remembered that particular date? It was my birthday… And what a dram to celebrate with. My lovely wife took me up to London for the day and one of her lovely “gifts” was to let me look round as many whisky shops as I liked. We ended up at The Whisky Exchange and I was like a child in a sweet shop. I was encouraged/escorted/helped by Sam who gave me a pretty generous amount of special samples to taste (too many to remember/list), but this Laphroaig was the winner by a mile.

On the nose classically Laphroaig – peat smoke, medical notes, sea salt and gentle spice. The palate gives some earthiness, sweetness, sherry and spice. This is then followed with warm smoke, chocolate and fruit. The cask strength gives this a soft but lingering finish.

I would have walked away with a bottle (or three) if it wasn’t for the fact that it was £100. My wife was in a generous mood…. But I wanted to keep her that way!! I’m still trying to find away of getting this bottle, maybe even a bottle share at some point. I’ll be surprised if there’s any left though, as this is a slap in the face peat/sherry beast!

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Bunnahabhain 23 (Abbey Whisky)
I had only heard good things about Abbey Whisky’s bottlings. That’s why I was incredibly lucky to get on their tweet tasting run by the Whisky Wires Steve Rush (@thewhiskywire). For this tasting we tasted a Caperdonich 17, this Bunnahabhain 23 and a Ben Nevis 16 – the first three in their rare cask series. All fantastic. We also got to try a blind dram, which later turned out to be a ’93 single cask Glendronach. I’ll leave all that for another blog post.

All four whiskies in this tasting were great, but I kept coming back to this Bunna. Its nose, palate and finish were all stunning providing a huge complexity of flavours. The delicate nose is fruity, briney and smooth with some chocolate and a hint of peat smoke there. I could have nosed it all day. The palate is gentle and creamy before a build up of beautiful fruity flavours kick in. Some honey, cinnamon and vanilla hang about with hints of brine and smoke linger in the background. I didn’t want this to end.

In layman’s terms…. I liked it. A lot! Although I already have a Bunna 23 from The Whisky Broker, this one from Abbey Whisky is at the top of my wish list for 2014 and I better be quick as there is a limited supply.

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Flaming Heart Compass Box
If you follow me on twitter (I can only apologise), then you may have seen me tweet about a visit to Milroys of Soho whilst I was in London back in December. I timed this visit to perfection as I discovered Chris from Compass Box in there, armed with their core range of quality whiskies.

My first encounter with Compass Box’s GKS was great, as you can read here, but this was expression was even better. The Flaming Heart has a great nose, quite vegetal with touches of sea salt, pepper and refined coastal peat followed by some oiliness and soot. It improves with the palate. A lovely mix of fruit, brine, salt and zest. It’s very smoky too, with a beautiful warm peaty finish.

Suffice to say, I loved all their whiskies and would implore you to try them all too.

 

 

Some other ‘Honourable Mentions’
– Ardbeg Day
– Caol Ila 21 Old & Rare
– Kavalan Soloist
– Glen Garioch ‘86
– Invergorden Clan Denny 44yo
– Blair Athol 15 Old & Rare
– Laphroaig 18
– Caperdonich 17 (Abbey Whisky)

 

Here’s to a wonderful 2014!