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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!