Port Charlotte `Prediction’

Back in February 2012, Mrs dramstats and I took a pilgrimage to the holy land. Round the peninsula to Kennacraig and then on the ferry to the magical island of ISLAY!

As part of this trip we toured Bruichladdich distillery. What a fantastic tour! I recommend anyone visiting Islay must journey on the road around Loch Indall from Bowmore and pay a visit to Bruichalddich.

They employ so many people, and this strikes you immediately. Even though we were the only one booked on the tour, the car park was full! Most of the machinery in there is old. Really old. Some of it original. It is fascinating to watch whisky made “the old fashioned way” so to speak with so many things done by hand. We actually met a few workers on our tour, and they were happy to stop and chat with us, they let us taste the wash (:) ) and generally gave the impression of a friendly and fun place to work.

Some of the features of this tour will appear in future reviews of Laddie products. One of my favourites was the bottling hall. A first bottling hall tour for me!

Onto the post tour tasting. There, waiting for us, was a dram each of the Laddie ten. I explained I had a bottle of this, (the review is here). The tour guide, offered us a few more drams…

I got to try PC9, The Organic, Chardonnay finish (boy I wish I could have afforded that baby), Dark art II, and the latest (in Feb12) Octomore. I was tempted by the port charlotte when I was handed another sample (bear in mind it’s 11.30am), this was for the current “Valinch”.

The “Valinch” series is a bottle your own from the cask series, like the Aberlour I reviewed a couple of days ago. This one, Jim Mcewan had called “Port Charlotte Prediction” and was supposed to be a precursor to PC10. He took 9 year old Port Charlotte and finished it for 6 months in a Chateau la tour cask. This was supposed to be a prediction for what PC10 would taste like. I tasted, I bought! Here are the dramstats:

  • ABV 63.5%
  • 9.5 years
  • Finish: Chateaux la tour for 6 months

Nose: Sweet BBQ sauce, fruity, lots of smoke. Underneath that classic balloons dipped in natural yogurt `Bruichladdich note’. There is also a vegetal, almost like unmalted barley, note. With water, cured meat (think pancetta) comes to the fore with raspberry jam in the background. Excellent.

Palate: Smokey brown sauce/BBQ blend, chilli, brown sugar. This needs water! Water added brings red grape, raspberry bakewell, almond, honey glazed ham, bacon and maple syrup (like served at breakfast in the states).

Finish: Long smoked paprika, smokey bacon in maple syrup.

Verdict: Epic! If this is the prediction, sign me up for 2 bottles of PC10 immediately. If the PC10 lives up to this prediction, Port charlotte will be the new dramstats favourite Islay!

anCnoc Peter Arkle Facebook tasting

Last night was the first Facebook whisky tasting I’ve taken part in or ever heard of. Having attended lots of twitter tastings (the first of which was anCnoc), the idea to try a different social media seemed a good one.

We were sent 2 samples. One of the anCnoc Peter Arkle Travel Retail exclusive, and one of the Peter Arkle limited edition #2. Here are the dramstats:

  • Peter Arkle Travel retail exclusive
  • Non coloured
  • Non chill filtered
  • ABV 46%
  • Ex Bourbon Cask
  • Price £36.99

Nose: Honey, Orange, Sweet lemon sherbet, touch of sea salt, tea cakes, chalk, vanilla.

Palate: Lemon and honey lockets, white pepper, toffee and vanilla.

Finish: White pepper, juicy raisins and dates.

Verdict: Lovely bourbon cask, very drinkable. At the price I’d be a happy buyer. I really enjoyed the nose on this one.

  • Peter arkle limited edition #2
  • ABV 46%
  • Non coloured
  • Non chill filtered
  • Mixture of bourbon and sherry casks

Nose: Raspberry and red apple jam, oak, caramel, burnt rubber, furniture polish and sherried fruit notes. I am not a fan of the burnt rubber note. It seems to get in the way of the fruity notes.

Palate: Dry, oaky and fruit. Some raisin and sherry before chilli takes over.

Finish: Chilli, werthers original and supermarket brand milk chocolate raisins.

Verdict: I like the chilli note from the palate into the finish, but I’m really not a fan of the nose. The fruit is nice, but there is an unpleasant note for me that spoiled my enjoyment. Not one I would buy, personally.

Overall verdict: Firstly a verdict on facebook as a place to hold whisky tastings. It doesn’t work. The site never refreshes and, in the end, I had to use my phone to get semi-frequent comments. Twitter just seems much better designed for live type conversation required for whisky tastings.

Of the two drams, the travel retail was a clear winner for me. Of course, my word is not gospel, many tasters on the night preferred the limited edition, so it could be worth a go, but I wouldn’t buy it for myself. If you don’t plan to travel soon but would like to try anCnoc, I can heartily recommend the 16 year old, a bottle I’ve bought twice in the past. The 12 is also excellent.

Lastly, I’d just like to say thank anCnoc for bottling at 46%, not adding colour and not chill filtering. It really makes a difference to the quality of whisky!

Aberlour 16 Bourbon cask

Back in March 2011, Mrs dramstats and I did the Aberlour distillery tour. Back then, this tour had just won the whisky magazine award for best whisky visitor attraction and it didn’t disappoint. The sort of detailed tour that involved tasting the wash (please all distilleries start offering this!), and really went the extra mile.

The tour culminated in one of the warehouses with a very generous tasting session. Aberlour 10, 12, 16, 18, Single cask bourbon 16, single cask sherry 16. The last two were from casks that you could bottle your own whisky from (for a mere £65) right there at the distillery.

So after 4 drams and having really enjoyed the tour I wanted to bottle my own, and the choice was between 16 year old bourbon and 16 year old sherry. I liked the bourbon. “Huge red apple like the 10 year old on speed” I said at the time.

I enjoyed filling the bottle from the cask, putting the stopper and seal on, writing the labels and sticking them on, and putting it in the box. As far as I was concerned, total bargain. But how did the whisky inside hold up to review 2 years down the road? Here are the dramstats

 

  • Price £65
  • ABV 60.3%
  • Age 16
  • Cask type: first fill Bourbon

Nose: Red apples, vanilla, touch of mens aftershave, pear drops, hint of nail varnish remover. Needs water. Boiled sweets. Very “bourbony”.

Palate: Pepper, red apples, vanilla and icing sugar.

Finish: Oaky and peppery before long vanilla cream.

Verdict: This is not the greatest whisky I’ve spent £65 on. I wouldn’t buy it from a shop. However, the experience of filling the cask at the time was definitely worth the money. If you are in Speyside the Aberlour tour is well worth it. Really excellent experience and a cool little distillery.

Glen Garioch 1986 Vintage

I managed to bag a very generous sample of Glen Garioch 1986 vintage (10cl) and thought I’d review it for you. Glen Garioch (which is pronounced ‘Glen Geery’), is nestled on the East coast of Scotland and is one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland.

This 25 year old was bottled in 2011 at cask strength. Here are the dramstat

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  • Age 25 years
  • ABV 54.6%
  • Price around £120

Nose: Frangipane, green apple, vanilla essence, madeira cake. 1 teaspoon of Water releases very soft peat, malt loaf and blackforest gateaux. After some time in the glass comes wine gums, sherry soaked sultanas, forest fruit tea. One more teaspoon of water releases spearmint and ozone.

Palate: Rich medjool dates in honey, black grape peel, black wine gums. Oak tannins develop after time in the glass. Ground coriander.

Finish: Touch of pepper, oaky spices, then juicy dark fruits unleash. The fruit just keeps coming. Blackcurrent, brambles, dark black grape, blueberry that takes an age to fade over a spicy background. Excellent long fruity finish.

Verdict: No doubt this is an excellent whisky that really benefits from some respect and time in the glass. An intriguing and developing nose with a long long fruity finish. At £120 it’s expensive but not unaffordable so I would consider it. If you have been bought it, or you are really tempted to buy it, enjoy! It’s a great whisky and you won’t be disappointed. For my personal taste I was hoping for a touch of smoke in an old Glen Garioch and it wasn’t there. A little kiss of smoke and I might be putting a bottle in my online shopping basket right now!

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Glenfiddich 15 Solera Vat

Having reviewed Glenfiddich 18 here I thought I’d best put up my review of what I judge to be the best malt in the core Glenfiddich range: their 15 year old solera.

So what does “Solera” mean? Basically a solera vat is a big container in which spirit is married for a kind of extra maturation. What you do is bottle a certain amount of the vat’s contents and then top it up fresh. Over the years the complexity of the spirit develops as new batches are married with old. It is common for sherry and, I believe, brandy, and here Glenfiddich have done it with their 15 year old spirit.

The result? Here are the dramstats:

  • Price paid £30
  • ABV 40%
  • Age 15 years

Nose: Rich christmas cake, sherry soaked raisins and dark grape. Rich and malty but with dates, a touch of blood orange and a very pleasant note of fig rolls.

Palate: Grape hits first then cherry, blood orange, malted milk biscuits, fig rolls.

Finish: Slight oak then malted milk biscuits dipped in tea with lingering faint fruit and barley sugars.

Verdict: Tasty, a real session dram and excellent for only £30. Even though it’s 40% and chill filtered (and probably with caramel but it doesn’t say) it is very complex and entertaining. Something that shines on the supermarket shelves and should be flying off! One to enjoy whilst making your christmas cake this year!

The run up to Christmas

In the run up to christmas, dramstats will be the blog to read! As well as reviewing a number of “christmassy” drams and reporting on festive tastings I have 2 special series planned.

The first special series will be on Christmas gift tips. I’ll review a whisky nosing kit, offer tips for where to shop, give plenty of liquid and not liquid suggestions and explain my tried and tested path to receiving quality whisky surprises on christmas morning.

For the second I’ve purchased one of these bad boys:

The Master of malt whisky advent calendar. Everyday in December I’ll open the window and review the whisky inside.

Look out for these special series and read dramstats everyday in the run up to christmas! If you have any requests for whisky gift ideas to review please comment and let me know.

 

Wemyss Twitter Tasting

Tonight I was picked to take part in one of The Whiskywire’s series of twitter tastings. A format where a group of chosen people gather on twitter and taste a series of whiskies. This time we were tasting a range of Wemyss products under the hashtag #WEMYSSTT.

Wemyss, or “weems”, as it’s pronounced, is named after the Wemyss family who’s estate was home to the first distillery built by John Haig (founder of Haig’s). They produce their own blended malts and blends, and also have a range of excellent single cask bottlings. Tonight, we were tasting their ultra popular 12 year old blended malt, ‘The Hive’; the 15 year old blend, Lord Elcho; A 24 year old single cask Tormore called “White chocolate torte”; and a 14 year old single cask Laphroaig called “Beach Bonfires”.

Here my set up for the twasting.

 

I’ll give tasting notes on each dram first, then add my thoughts on the range as a whole. The price indicated is the cheapest found via quick google search and my verdict takes that price into account. Here are the dramstats:

First up the popular and multi-award winning “The Hive 12 year old” Blended malt scotch whisky (Vatted malt to me).

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £35

Nose: Almost cliche to go with a first note of “honey” given the name and the little picture of a bee on the bottle, but this is the most honeyed dram I’ve ever nosed! There is also a touch of smoke, crunchie bars, toffee, pear drops, cream and a white wine note, possible sauvignon blanc.

Palate: Sickly sweet, clotted cream and honey. Smoke comes through with the lighter notes from the nose left behind.  The smoke is sweet like Ardmore and the mouthfeel is very oily as if Craigellachie is in there.

Finish: Slightly drying oak, followed by sweet honey and a kiss of smoke. Short.

Verdict: An excellent introductory dram for beginners. In fact it’s so sweet and rich it’s almost a liqueur! For the more experienced palate it’s a great session dram or a dessert whisky. One to start with before breaking out the peat monsters. I would certainly buy it at this price and would probably get through it quite quickly! Good one!

Next up we have Lord Elcho 15, Blended Scotch

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £50

Nose: Quite closed at first, glass needs warming to coax out the aromas. Once you do, wow! Raspberry ripple ice cream, campino, vanilla, raspberry sauce, marzipan, Pledge furniture polish. Some really nice grain in this

Palate: Sweet delivery, creamy vanilla, raspberry sauce, Szechuan pepper, black cherry, chocolate.

Finish: Sweet lingering honey and vanilla with cherry, oaky dryness, mocha, and a twist of pepper.

Verdict: Excellent blend. Lovely grain and an enjoyable polish note. Sweet, spicyish and a great finish. A blend to recommend. I shall be picking up a bottle of this, but perhaps I’ll wait to see if the price stays so high. I only found this available at one retailer and I suspect, when it becomes more widely available, the price may drop. We’ll see!

Onto “White chocolate torte” a single cask Tormore distilled in 1988.

  • ABV 46%
  • Age 24
  • Price £83.95

Nose:  Yogurt topped flapjack, vanilla, white chocolate, spirit (angels share) and oak like being in a bonded warehouse.

Palate: Bam! White chocolate mini eggs. They’ve named this very well. Ice cream, (a white chocolate magnum). Water brings out coconut cream and guava. Someone said “white chocolate bounty” and I think they were bang on!

Finish: Pepper, oak then creamy white chocolate coconut with a bitter aftertaste of artificial sweetener.

Verdict: The nose on this one is worth the £80. I’ve saved some for later and I’m really looking forward to it!

Lastly to the Laphroaig “Beach Bonfires” distilled in 1998.

  • Age 14 years
  • ABV 46%
  • Price £74.50

Nose: I’m sensitive to the medicinal TCP note and it’s the first thing that appears for me. The malt is very coastal. Salty, lobster traps, crabs, sweet BBQ sauce (mild) fennel, seaweed covered rocks.

Palate: Very sweet. The expected coastal peat takes an age to arrive. Firstly it’s sugared almonds and icing sugar, then the peat arrives like the American armed forces at the end of a James bond film.

Finish: Burst of salty peat and a rush of icing sugar into a bitter aftertaste.

Verdict: It’s not a bad whisky but the “Islayness” doesn’t shine enough and too often is dominated by icing sugar and sweetness. Not one for my palate.

Overall verdict on the tasting: We tasted some excellent whiskies today. The Tormore certainly stood out, for the nose alone. However, I think the blends are the ones that tempt me to part with my money. The Lord Elcho was excellent and will hit my shelf at some point (though I’ll wait to see how much Master of malt, single malts direct or the whisky exchange sell it for). I loved The Hive, but worry that if I bought a bottle it wouldn’t last a week!

In short Wemyss make some cracking blends and bottle some excellent casks. If I’ve gained anything from the experience it’s that I want to sample the other blends in their range. In particular “The spice king” and “Peat chimney”. Now, where can I source a sample from…?