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.

English Whisky Company Founders Reserve : Day 17 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

I had only tried a few select whiskies from this Norfolk distillery, so to be able to try some of their Founders Private Cellar edition seems like quite a leap forward. Phil Story threw this my way towards the end of 2014 and told me it was a cracker. Let’s see if he was right:

English Whisky Company Founders Private Cellar 5yo [Triple distilled] (60.8%) 

english-whisky-founders-private-cellar-peated-sauternes-whisky N: Nice fragrant nose. Although ABV is quite high, its incredibly easy to nose. Fruity with thick apple sauce and blueberries. Sticky fudge from the seaside with some slight sawdust notes. Water mellows it bring forth the oak and fruity flavours. Some raisins and victoria sponge too. Mesmerising. 5yo what?!

P: Full and powerful on first delivery with some beautiful balance. Delicate, but full of big flavours including vanilla (first fill bourbon), wood shavings, stewed fruits and rose petals too. Vanilla ice cream covered in toffee sauce with some pineapple and mango on the side. Takes water like a champ, giving a few spices and a tad more sweetness.

F: Long. Full of orchard fruits and sweet fudge. A whisp of bitterness on the tongue with some strong oak lingering.

Comments: This is a velvety and elegant whisky. Great complexity, balance and incredibly moorish. At times it reminded me of some cracking Hazelburns I’ve tasted in the past, which is interesting as those are triple distilled as well. Even better with water I would say. Lets get me some more English Whisky. Easily into the 90s.

Thanks again to PS!

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.

Caol Ila 25yo : Day 15 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Why don’t we stick with the Islay whiskies and move from the south of the island to the north. I’ve always thought that Caol Ila is an underrated distillery, producing some fantastically tasty single malt whisky. Their 12yo is one of the best in its category and balances peat, oil and brine beautifully. So I was somewhat excited when Mr Johnny Stumbler sent me some of their 25yo. Let’s give this a go on my Dads birthday.

Caol Ila 25yo (43%)
caol-ila-25 N: A somewhat gentle start to this nose, with a character like a soft Bowmore. You get the smoke pretty quickly, but it’s then taken over by the linseed oil. Lots of toffee, vanilla, liquorice and some peat reek. After some time it completely changes, with lots of grassy and floral qualities along with some citrus. A real sense of the coastal qualities this distillery displays with wet rope, fresh seafood and sea salt.

P: Pretty thin on the mouth. I was expecting a bigger arrival. Very different from the younger bottlings. Peppery, slightly rich, toffee and lots of caramel. Not too much peat on this palate as it seems hidden behind the briny and salty front.

F: Medium. Oaky, warm leather and citrus again. Less floral than the nose suggested. Very drying.

Comments: This is weird. It’s rather light and somewhat delicate for a Caol Ila and seems much younger than it is. Pretty elegant though, with a sadly disappointing finish. Quite like a white wine finished whisky… maybe I’ve been spoilt by some of the recent samples. The younger bottles are definitely more interesting. Maybe this had just been opened for quite a while. Mid 80’s for this.

Thanks AGAIN to Mr S!

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010 : Day 14 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

A big round of applause goes to Nick Bird, who not only shares my love of all things whisky, but is a bit of Islay nut too and must have known how much I enjoy a Lagavulin or two. This dram is from the 2010 ‘Islay Feis Ile’, so a nice special edition from this marvellous distillery (yes it’s Diageo, but I can confirm after visiting it earlier in 2014 that it still makes incredible whisky). I immensely enjoyed 2014’s Feis Ile bottling, having bought two myself, so I have high hopes for this.

Lagavulin Feis Ile 2010, 16yo 1994 (52.7%)
Untitled2 N: Similar nose to the standard 16yo but slightly meatier with some more earth and brininess. Beautifully sweet with a nice amount of balanced peat. I also enjoyed the dried fruit flavours with some apricots and pears. Salty seaweed with some peppered squid and creamy chocolate edges too. Quite a dirty Laga this one.

P: Ashy, coffee, pepper and sea salt. The peat is integrated nicely, with quite a feisty gristle to it. Some nice smooth dark chocolate notes with some hazelnut latte too. Ice cream, iodine and slight lemon zest.

F: Long, doughy and slightly dry too. Dark chocolate hanging around with some wet mud and strong woody notes.

Comments: This is a darker, more complex and gristly version of the 16yo you can buy in the shops. I enjoyed the peat level here and though everything hung together nicely. A solid 90.

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Big thanks to Nick. I’ll repay you with some of this years Lagavulin Feis…. you lucky thing.

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!