Port Ellen 30yo (1979) : Day 24 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Wow. What a journey the last 24 days have been. I have tasted some wonderful whiskies given to me by some incredibly generous souls. It shows that the #whiskyfabric is a strong community of people that want to share their love of the water of life. I have been lucky to have met most of the “contributors” and I’ve been humbled by their generosity. I know that my #whiskyfabric journey has only just started. Whisky is for sharing guys! What better way to finish, than with the infamous Port Ellen. Again, I tip my hat to Frenchman Franck for this awesome little sample. Here we go…

Port Ellen 30yo (1979) 9th Release (57.7%)

pe1979N: Seems withheld at first, but give it a few minutes and POW! The gristly warm peat leads the way with its best Islay foot forward. It seems soft and harmonious…nothing too brash about it. Salty, coastal, slightly medicinal. Similarities to the nose of older Lagavulins. Sweet honey, dried apricots and orchard fruits. After 15 minutes there is menthol mouthwash upon a bed of zesty notes. Complex, bold, refined, mature, yet completely accessible.

P: Fantastic arrival, full on, powerful and graceful. Really coats the tongue and mouth. Rich smoke, brown sugared sweetness, peppery – rough, rugged and ready. Some nutmeg along with other gentle spices. Hint of custard cream and lemon fizz. Smoke dominates after a while, with some old sweets, oak and smoked salmon on the BBQ.

F: Very long. Lingering spices with some sweetness and a hint of liquorice. Pretty dry with smoke hanging around the mouth. I can still taste this an hour later. Balanced beautifully.

Comments: Amazing. I simply love it. Does the fact that it’s a Port Ellen play a factor? Maybe. But quite simply if I tasted this blind, I would have found it just a delightfully tasty and moorish as I do now. There is a perfect level of peat, earthiness and smoke. It is refined, not over complex and the height of beautifully matured whisky. A solid 93, and easily my favourite whisky of the calendar for me. Well done Franck…as usual.

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Well there we are. 24 whiskies tasted. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. If you have followed this, then thank you. If you have contributed to this, then an even bigger than you. I think I might take a break for a bit. Not from whisky, but from writing about it. I need to spend more time enjoying it without pen and paper to hand. I’ll be back later next year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Matt

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Springbank 28yo (1974) : Day 23 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Having visited Springbank distillery in the summer of 2014, I have come to love more and more of their special liquid. What’s even more fascinating though is the whisky produced in their stills back in the 70’s and 80’s. Even now, Springbank feels like a traditional distillery. By that I mean, everything there seems classic, aged and how it would have been done 30, 40 or 50 years ago. They are a friendly bunch and they are without a doubt up their as one of the strongest distilleries (you very rarely get a week whisky… let along a NAS!). So when I was offered a sample of this 28yo Springbank from Phil Storry, I was intrigued to see what it offered.

Springbank 28yo ‘Chieftains’ (46%)

DSC_0065N: Waxy, white pepper, wood shavings, crayola crayons and apples. Pretty malty with hints of polished wood. There is a smidgen of peat hidden in there somewhere. But after some time apricot jam and wax dominated. I found this difficulty complex. Not necessarily a fun one to nose.

P: Quite spicy. Some strong oaky notes with a dull sweetness like week old fizzy drink.. I found it quite earthy throughout the tasting. Metallic, waxy and weirdly vibrant considering its age. A certain char taste reminded me of elements of Ardbeg Alligator.

F: Medium. Cinnamon, dirty peat, smoked kippers, crayons and the remains of burnt wood. Quite bitter and drying right at the very end.

Comments: I think the bottle was open for a while, but it was still very interesting. Not only old, but weirdly complex, constantly changing without the minute hand. I wasn’t sure at first as it was a bit of a struggle, but after giving it time, it became more enjoyable and layered. Great to try. 90 (mostly down to it’s aged quality).

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Thank you Phil for all your special whiskies. Without you, this calendar would not have had the weird and wacky edge! Please go and visit Phil’s site here. He regularly has reviews of the latest SMWS bottlings and to be honest… he knows his stuff!

Brora 25yo : Day 22 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calender

Now things have started getting rather special, and that isn’t down to christmas being 3 days away. I knew this sample was in there somewhere and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited. Before this I have only had the chance to taste one or two Brora’s, with the 30yo particularly standing out. This enticing whisky has again come from my good friend Franck. Please check out his blog here.

Brora 25yo (56.3%)

Brora-25-years-old-june-2014-1N: Complex from the offset. A balanced blend of dry sherry, compact smoke, elegant sweetness and cured meats. Some fresh hay, bbq sauce and a slight sharpness similar to white wine. It felt somewhat closed, and a drop of water helped to open up the fruity, menthol and smoky flavours.

P: Granny Smith apples, conference pears and lemon sherbets. Peppered meat on the bbq, with some hay bails also. I found this quite earthy in glass. Water brought out the power of the fruit and made it even more vibrant.

F: Long. Love the lingering woody notes towards the end. Continues with the freshness of the palate, with some stewed apples and a hint of maritime salt air. This is where the smoke appears (not as much as the 30yo though).

Comments: Powerful, balanced and majestic. I’m not going to lie. The fact that this is Brora most probably sways my decision, but this really is tasty. I think I preferred the 30yo as it had a touch more smoke. 92.

Thank you again goes to Franck for his incredible generosity.

Highland Park 25yo (2004) : Day 16 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

We’re going to stay with the 25 year olds and move from Islay up to The Highlands. Highland Park was never a distillery that grabbed me. When I first got into whisky I tasted their 12 year old at a whisky shop whilst on holiday in Scotland and I found it brash, spirity and unappealing. Three years later, I bought a bottle of this 12 year old help my education, and it was one of the worst bottles I ever purchased. I am hoping that there was something wrong with that bottle, it was sulphured, off and simply disappointing. I didn’t enjoy it one bit and never actually finished it.

I mentioned the fact that I was not a Highland Park fan to some of my friends from the whisky fabric, and yet again it was the man from France, Franck Debernardi that persuaded me to try a greater range of their spirit, sending this little surprise to encourage me. Since then I have tried a plethora of OBs and single casks, and my perceptions of this distillery have definitely changed.

Highland Park 25yo (50.7%)

hlpob.25yov1 N: Stunning nose with so much going on right from the word go and a real thickness of complexity. Forrest fruits coupled with a floral character, whilst no being overly fresh. Woody, old waxed wooden furniture with some fresh polish. Vanilla and hazelnut chocolate with some menthol and mint towards the end. Water brings the gentle sherry into play with a splash of sea breeze towards the end.

P: A spirity arrival. Sherried fruits, christmas and coffee cake with some burnt toast. Fizzy on the tongue like refreshers, with the alcohol quite active for 50%. A real creamy texture with dollops on chocolate orange and vanilla ice cream. Manuka honey, lemon sherbets and bold apples towards the end.

F: Very long. Slightly sweet , zesty, dry and woody. I got some salt and pepper towards the end also.

Comments: This was a thinker with some huge flavours. Very easily the best Highland Park I’ve had in the pleasure of trying, offering so much complexity and balance throughout, showing its age beautifully. Solid 90.

Thank you Franck, you have turned me into a HP lover.

SMWS 3.79 : Day 13 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Another one from Phil Story’s marvellous collection. Can I stop for a minute and just say that  this is the 79th cask to come from distillery number 3 (Bowmore cough cough) for the SMWS. We are now on 3.234, so the 234th cask…. and this is just the 79th. Nice work Phil! I’m a big fan of society Bowmore’s, so let’s check this one out.

SMWS 3.79 14yo (1989) [name unknown] (53.3%)
DSC_0066 N: Very different from some of the modern Bowmore’s. Fragrant and oily with quite a bit of peat reek. Doesn’t have the restrained noses that most OB Bowmore’s seem to have, in fact this opens right up into some deep floral tones with honey, heather and quite a bright fruitiness. After some time, I got pepper, chilli and some brine. It stuck to the typical 80’s Bowmore profile, with parma violets and a bit of FWP. Peat subdues over time in the glass, smelling quite like a highland whisky towards the end.

P: Certainly tastes more like a Bowmore than it noses. Pepptery, anise, slightly hot on the tongue with some chilli. I found it quite meaty and briny with some gristly peat appearing just after arrival. Quite sandy too; it’s like drinking seawater.

F: Very long. Peppery, tingly and lingers very nicely. Peat provides a bed for some bitterness and salty seafood along with the parma violets.

Comments: Pretty straight forward mid-teen Bowmore. Not the most balanced SMWS dram I’ve had and seems to lack character, whilst remaining robust and full of flavour. Being distilled in 1989 gives some good strong aged qualities and it’s lovely to try a bottle an SMWS bottling  from  2003.

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Thanks again to the mischievous Phil Story.

The Ultimate Longmorn : Day 12 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

It’s always great to see two couples walk any journey together; and that includes their whisky journey. For many, that might be a pipe dream, or near impossible. The later for me as my wife will do anything to get away from any whisky….which I do not have a problem with. This is somewhat different when it comes to Thomas and Ansgar Speller, the whisky-loving couple from the Netherlands. I was lucky enough to get a small gift from Ansgar early on in the year with a beautiful hand drawn painting and a selection of special whiskies. This Longmorn being one of them. How generous. So let’s crack it open.

The Ultimate Longmorn (57.2%)
21501-584-1 N: You don’t have to be that close to the glass to tell that this whisky spent time in a sherry butt, I can tell you that. For a while, the sherry is incredibly dominant, but I found that it started loosening up after 10/15 minutes. Slightly harsh vibe going on here with sharp fruit and strong metallic notes. Then it appears to mellow into a beautiful mix of polished wood, buttery toast and chocolate. The thickness made me think of certain bordeaux wine cask matured whiskies.

P: Not as thick on the palate as I expected. Powerful, obvious sherry,slight bitter liquorice note but remains relatively thin throughout. Quite a bright oakiness with water bringing out hints of paint and orange zest. Not incredibly complex.

F: Medium. Sherried fruits and woodiness. Fruity character remains throughout. Slightly acidic and a tad bitter for my liking, whilst having quite an unbalanced quality.

Comments: Interesting, not that complex, solid use of sherry, if not too much, but fun none the less. Have to admit to being slightly let down.

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A huge thanks goes out to Ansgar and Thomas. They are pretty good at keeping their reviews going, so please check them out at WhiskySpeller.

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%)
Port-Charlotte-mainN
: 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!

Forty Creek Confederation Oak : Day 8 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Today’s dram is extra special. Not only is this the single whisky I’ll be tasting from outside of Europe, but I wouldn’t be writing on here about whisky at all if it wasn’t for the generous soul who sent it to me. Forty Creek is from Canada, as is Johanne McInnis (what an awesome segue). If you haven’t come across Johanne, or @whiskylassie as shes more commonly known, then sort yourself out. Not only does she write fantastically poignant posts, reviews and musings on her blog, she is also pretty much the pioneer of the mighty #whiskyfabric. Passionate, insightful and simply lovely, Joanne is one of those people that you really know would do anything for you. She was the first person I talked to about whisky online, the first to welcome me into the #whiskyfabric community and one of the first to generously send me samples from her collection. A lot of my passion for whisky has been encouraged by her or her writing. The pleasure was all mine when we met this summer, becoming the “Son she never wanted”, and I look forward to hopefully sharing a dram with her again in the future. This sample has been hidden away for the last year, waiting for its moment to shine. So here we go:

Forty Creek Confederation Oak (40%)
imageN: Pretty clean cut to start with, doesn’t seem willing to give too much away. Very bourbon-esq nose with warm vanilla and wide woody notes. There is a fair amount of spice here, a really nice level actually, backed up with a smooth sweetness. Some honey, maple syrup (I’m not just saying that!), bananas and some fresh sawdust. After some time in the glass it became quite nutty and slightly metallic.

P: Smooth and gentle arrival. Incredibly light mouthfeel, it just glides in and evaporates off the tongue quickly. Holding it in the mouth for longer brings vanilla, sugared sweetness, and syrup (I can’t get maple syrup out of my mind, but I might have made myself think of that). Strong oaky notes and some vanilla pipe tobacco which I have at home. Hint of spices towards the end with gingerbread men and rum soaked raisins.

F: Short/medium. More sweetness, brown sugar, sour sweets, vanilla and the tobacco still hanging around. Drying right towards the end.

Comments: Flip me, this is an easy drinker. Too easy, if that is a thing! I enjoyed so many of the elements to this; with so many beautiful and distinguishable flavours, how can you not? Sadly I just found it a tad too weak and watery on delivery which is such a shame. I’m really torn by this dram. I keep flicking between low or high 80’s due to the different factors. Due to the flavours, I think I’ll say 86 (but on another day it could easily be higher or lower). I’m very lucky to have tried this.

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Myself and the Lassie (I apologise for my stupid mouth)

 

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Meeting Johanne and a few others at the SMWS

Massive thank you to my wonderful “whisky big sis” Johanne!

Banff 21yo (1982) Rare Malts : Day 2 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Day 2 revealed not only a closed distillery, but for my palate, a new one too. Never having coming across anything from this now silent distiller, I did wonder when and if I would be able to try some of their whiskies as it’s not necessarily a brand you come across that often. Thankfully for me, a top class Frenchman stepped in to help me out. Franck Debernardi (@LaCaveDeCobalt) from lacavecobalt.com is a top man who has proved to many of the #whiskyfabric that not only is he knowledgable, but also incredibly friendly and generous. A few months back Franck saw that I had mentioned that I wasn’t too fond of the Highland Park bottlings I had recently tried, and took it upon himself to send me a sample from a very nice bottle from his Highland Park collection; all without me mentioning anything. Generosity right there. I’m really glad that we met at this years Whisky Exchange Show and had a great time chatting over some exquisite Balvenie (that’s a story for another time!) This sample was from a special batch of goodies he handed over to me then.

Banff 21yo (1982) (57.1%)
unnamed-3N: Scrumptiously rich this one. Clean and full bodied. Switched between orchard fruits with grass to dark chocolate with hazelnuts. Quite a nutty quality overall actually. Going deeper into the glass brings block palate paints from primary school and a slight metallic note. Hints of citrus and warm spices, with the fresh oak and apples dominating towards the end. Still seems pretty delicate for 57%.

P: Huge hit of fruits upfront, nearly overwhelmingly so as it’s slightly aggressive. Sharp green apples and orange zest. Some strong maltiness here with lots of oak. Sultanas, coconut and lots of thick sherry. The spices really dominate after a while and give a real zingy quality. With water, the sharp fruits simmer down and brings some hay and freshly cut grass.

F: Long. Lingering wood, spices and a slight bitterness. On some sips, even a faint hint of smoke. Quite earthy actually. I found the finish less balanced than the general body here and it had quite a peppery and bitter finish.

Comments: Incredibly fruity, spicy and oaky. It’s always good to try different distilleries, especially closed ones and for my first try of Banff, it wasn’t a let down at all. I was impressed by the chameleon like character of the nose and the fullness of the palate, even if the fruits slightly overwhelmed me. It felt slightly younger than a 21yo due to its vibrant nature, but it’s always a pleasure to try whiskies distilled in the early 80s.

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Myself and Franck at TWE Show 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks again goes to Franck.