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

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.

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!

Ardbeg 18yo (Master of Malt) : Day 7 #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

I’m not gonna lie. I’m quite a fan of peaty and smokey whiskies. It was a Lagavulin 16 that made me realise how truly amazing whisky could be, and since then I can’t stop myself from buying strong peaty goodness (as you can imagine, I was in my element on my recent trip to Islay). So when Day 8 of this journey revealed an 18yo cask strength Ardbeg, I was pretty happy. Having visited Ardbeg recently, I had been able to try a few of their older expressions, but this bottling from Master of Malt had evaded me when it was released (at a very good price) a few years ago. The sample was given to me by Danny Williamson (@Dramstats) of the blog Dramstats – You don’t see him around Twitter that much anymore, but he was generous enough to send me this sample out of the blue.

Ardbeg 18yo (bottled by Master of Malt) (56.3%)
IMG_0033N: Part of me wants to say that this is a classic Ardbeg-y nose, but I think I would be lying. I get lots of lemon citrus and fruit, all on a bed of creamy butter and light wood smoke. The gentle warming peat evolves in the glass, but is a component rather a clear leader. Fruitiest Ardbeg I’ve had with pears, melons and green grapes. Some chocolate orange, chilli and earthy notes too. Not half as medicinal as i expected, but water brings out smoke and tropical fruit…even a slight meaty aspect.

P: Great delivery. Peat arrives head on, showing its involvement. Peppery, salty, maritime style. Not masses of smoke, but it’s definitely there enveloped by a warming sweetness on the tongue. Quite oily and ashy with a slight bitter grapefruit note. Oatcakes, tinned pineapples, & the sherry appears at the end with some dark fruits. Gorgeous stuff.

F: Long, ashy, fresh, dry and sweet. The layer of smoke sits on the tongue coupled well with a slight citrus bitterness. Ashen and lingering with a cigar like aftertaste.

Comments: Brilliantly ashy, robust yet vibrant Ardbeg which has been nicely aged. I wish all new releases of Ardbeg had this kind of quality. I simply enjoyed drinking this and wish I had a bottle (or four). The spirit worked well with the cask over the 18 years and the marriage with the refill sherry was really successful. Similarities to the Uigeadail. 91.

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Thanks to Danny for this cracking Dram

 

 

Tomatin 30yo: Day 4 of #Whiskyfabric Advent Calendar

Tomatin is one of those distilleries that slipped my radar when I first got into single malts. This was a huge mistake as they produce some fantastic whisky. Over the past year I have been pointed towards some lovely expressions from a number of #whiskyfabric friends including a certain Ben Cops. A blogger who writes very regular reviews on Benswhisky.com, Ben has opened my eyes to a number of new distilleries, is incredibly persuasive when it comes to bottle shares and an all round good chap. We don’t meet up enough, but when we do, he is always a bad influence good fun. Not to forget he is a generous sharer of his fabulous whisky collection (I don’t know how he has space in his study!) This sample was given to me a number of months ago and has been sitting with a few others, waiting to be enjoyed and reviewed, so here we go.

Tomatin 30yo (46%)
IMG_0017N: A really full and rounded nose which noses stronger than the ABV suggests. Sweet and waxy to start. I get sour apple Hubba Bubba chewing gum straight away with huge juicy fruits, in fact very fruity without being overbearing. Apples, pears, pineapple and mangos. Old fashioned sweets such as pear drops, marshmallows and gummy bears. After some time in the glass, lots of honey and a herbal note towards the end. Quite an enticing nose this one. Enjoyable.

P: Oaky…. Very oaky in fact. Fresh and vibrant on the tongue with freshly cut grass and fresh fruits again; Bananas, apples and mangos. Lots of penny sweets, particularly Fruit Salad sweets. Victoria sponge cake with vanilla icing sugar. Hint of honey again.

F: Long, oaky finish with a soft fizzle of spice. Well balanced. Fruits still hanging on with some rich tea biscuits too.

Comments: Robust and fresh fruit bomb. Nice and vibrant for a 30yo, I would have guessed at it being a 21yo. Sweetness leads this one, but doesn’t dominate. 88.

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Thanks again to Mr Cops for the sample. Go check out his site!