On the Laphroaig engima and a review of Laphroaig Quarter Cask

The Laphroaig enigma, the marmite of whisky: Some people love it, some hate it, and, to be honest, for years I was in the latter camp.

I am quite sensitive to TCP and, when I first got into whisky and tasted Laphroaig 10 year old, I couldn’t get past that note. It completely dominated so that I didn’t know whether to bathe my cut finger in it or drink it (and I wasn’t enjoying drinking it).

I’ve since learnt to appreciate the sticking plasters/TCP note, yet I can’t help agreeing with a certain distillery worker whose theory was that the first two drams of Laphroaig 10 are to numb the tongue so that you can enjoy the third!

However, Laphroiag 10 is the standard expression and an admirable introduction to the medicinal style. It’s all about the coastal, medicinal peat, right up in your face, and that’s it’s selling point. Once you move past the 10 year old, you can discover the sorts of things Laphroaig can deliver through that medicinal style and that’s what has sparked my interest in Laphroaig.

There are some excellent SMWS bottlings, the “Lime and Leather in a Smokey room” I tasted recently being an excellent example, but there are also some very interesting standard expressions. Laphroaig 18 is very much worth trying if you can find it and this dram, Laphroaig Quarter cask, is a total bargain…

It’s matured as normal in bourbon barrels then, transferred into quarter casks (quarter the size) for a final period. This allows it to mature faster (as there is greater contact with the wood) and introduces a number of interesting notes compared to the standard 10 year old.

Here are the dramstats:

laphroaig025

  • Price £32 (from the distillery in 2012)
  • ABV 48%
  • NAS

Nose: Rich, earthy peat, sticking plasters, with grilled kippers and seaweed. Loving the kippers!

Palate: Definite vanilla sweetness right before the peat crashes in with sticking plasters and brine.

Finish: Sweet TCP and rock pools with wet seaweed.

Verdict: Certainly this is a mood dram, but a total bargain and, for me, much more interesting than the 10 year old. I filled a hip flask with this and went for a cliff top walk near Portnahaven on a windy winter day on the south coast of Islay. This is how Laphroaig was meant to be enjoyed and now, every time I pour of dram of this, I’m back there on that Islay cliff top. Freezing but happy!

Benrinnes Batch 1, That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks once again to Master of Malt for sending me this for review.

Benrinnes is an interesting distillery. Last time I was in Speyside, you may remember I spent a lot of time cycling around looking for distilleries. Benrinnes was one of those I looked for and found.

Overlooking the peak of the mountain after which it was named, Benrinnes, one of the Diageo group of distilleries, cuts a very run down figure from the outside. It’s not open to the public and the sign looks as if weather beaten since the early seventies. I cycled round the plant and, to be honest, felt sorry for the place. “This is what happens to those distilleries that don’t make it into single malts”, I thought.

Still, Benrinnes makes a lot of malt for the Diageo range of blends and we have the odd expression to taste. That includes this baby from Master of Malt. As usual, this is blended from multiple casks of Benrinnes by the Master of Malt crew and bottled with a stylish cartoony style label, this one depicting the characters from the whiskyfun comics, Pete McPeat and Jack Washback having a conversation about the Benrinnes process.

Here are the dramstats:

BenrinnesTBWC

  • Price £43.95 here.
  • ABV 48.9%

Nose: Slightly burnt toffee and lychee, touch of rubber (from a bunsen burner cable), apricot, peach and raisin. Baked apple crumble.

Palate: Drying, chalky mouthfeel, lychee juice that gets over run by the burnt notes and that rubbery quality from the nose.

Finish: Burnt rubber and fireworks. Dries a lot.

Verdict: I really don’t like this. Sorry Master of Malt. Nice notes linger in the background and threaten to show themselves, but my nose and tastes can’t get beyond the rubberiness and the drying.

 

Braes O’Glenlivet Batch 1 That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Another Boutique-y gem from the guys at Master of Malt. This time the label depicts the master of malt chaps driving up to Braes with a car full of Evian water. Those guys…

Here are the dramstats:

Braes_o_GlenlivetTBWC

  • ABV 47.2%
  • Price £51.95 here

Nose: Touch of honey, vanilla and brandy sauce (the stuff us brits have on christmas pudding, or used to before we all switched to double cream). Faint whiff of pineapple when water is added. I get a touch of aftershave, which I’m not so keen on.

Palate: Spicy with vanilla and oak pepper followed by faint um-bongo tropical fruit juice.

Finish: The faint um-bongo suddenly releases a very nice burst of cocoa powder so that there is a dark chocolate truffle feel to the end as oak rounds the finish. This is a long and lovely finish. Good value per sip!

Verdict: The nose is quite closed but I love the finish. So unexpected given what went before. There is something on the nose I’m not a fan of, so it’s not for me, but this finish really shows off the skills of the blenders and I like it. So if you do buy me a bottle, it won’t go to waste!

 

Dram Review: Ben Riach Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Thanks to master of malt for sending me this sample. Ben Riach is the sister distillery of Glendronach and, when you pass it in Speyside, it looks like it should have a visitor centre. For example, there are flags and attractive signs outside that are not normally seen at distilleries that are closed to the public. However, they do not admit visitors (at least not at the time of writing), though I hear this could be changing soon…

This expression is part of master of malt’s “Boutique-y whisky company” range. This means artistic labels, 50cl bottles and, usually, excellent whisky! On the label, you see monkey’s turning the barley. This links to the distillery because Ben Riach malt their own barley. If you are not sure about the monkey’s, read up on “Monkey Shoulder”.

Here are the dramstats:

BenRiachTBWC

  • ABV 48.2%
  • Price £49.95 here

Nose: Vanilla, fruit pastils, faint green apple and citrus, creme brulee, faint hint of fudge and cherry yogurt.

Palate: Fudge, toffee, vanilla, hint of salted milk chocolate (yes you can buy that now and it’s awesome!), strawberry (but the kind that you find dried in a cereal bar).

Finish: Vanilla fudge and toffee with drying oak. It becomes calky with furniture polish and a hint of chocolate to cover the fudge.

Verdict: I like it and the price is good to. To be honest though, I’d like to try an unpeated official bottling before deciding whether this was an excellent example of a Ben Riach. I mean they could all be amazing and this could just be par for the course 😉

 

Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey Tasting

Firstly, I have to apologise for a lack of posts recently. I’ve been busy preparing for and attending job interviews and havn’t had time to blog.

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to join fellow whisky fans on twitter in a tasting of 4 single pot still irish whiskies distilled at Middleton distillery. Hosted by Steve Rush, the keeper of the excellent TheWhiskyWire website, this was another excellent tasting featuring Redbreast 12 year old, Green Spot,  Powers John Lane release and Middleton Barry Crockett Legacy. An excellent and intriguing line up and I’m about to tell you what I think of them.

Here are the dramstats:

Redbreast 12 year old

  • ABV 40%
  • 12 Years old
  • Price £38.95

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, caramac bars, condensed milk (the layer of caramel in a caramel shortbread), apricot, waft of raisin and vanilla wafer. After a taste there is some nuttiness. Chopped nuts on your ice cream sir?

Palate: Vanilla sweetness with wafers and caramac bars. Not getting a lot of fruit on the palate.

Finish: A hint, but no more, of spicy oak then a vanilla bomb goes off. After taste of Mr Whippy + wafers with mild raisin.

Verdict: At £38 this is a decent dram and a real session whisky or first dram home from work.

Green Spot

  • ABV 40%
  • Price ~£36

Nose: Hob nobs, buttery crumble note, herbal note and a touch of menthol, double cream.

Palate: Very sweet with black pepper, very creamy vanilla and bitingly bitter grapefruit.

FInish: Slight bitterness of grapefruit dries with the oak.

Verdict: I absolutely love the wave of bitter grapefruit in the finish and the lasting impression it leaves. I will definitely be buying a bottle of this. My pick of the night.

Powers John Lane Release

  • ABV 46%
  • Price ~£46

Nose: Spicy, vanilla, ryebread, menthol throat sweets (Halls extra strong), cut grass and parsley

Palate: Herbal note, vanilla, lots of spice with pepper, oak and foam bananas. Banana milkshake.

Finish: This has a great finish. Wave upon wave of spicy oak and pepper attacks a vanilla ice cream background. Looooong!

Verdict: I love the finish, but not as much as the unusual grapefruit on the Green Spot.

Middleton Barry Crockett Legacy

  • ABV 46%
  • £138

Nose: Vanilla, spicy, bread dough, citrus, worcester sauce, prunes, dark chocolate and oloroso soaked raisin.

Palate: Vanilla and some green apple before a hint of mixed herb, green banana and lemon tart filling. Wow!

Finish: Waves of fruit again with raisin then foam banana, mixed herbs, coffee whipped cream coated in chocolate. Finish of the night!

Verdict: The nose really didn’t suggest this palate and the finish keeps coming and coming. Pretty awesome! I really enjoyed it, but price wise it’s not for me. I’ll be buying green spot.

Overall Verdict: I’ve had a few irish whiskies and enjoyed them, but did find them to be not as complex as some single malts. This range of single pot stills though has been impressive. This is an excellent whiskey category and one that I hope continues to grow and deliver new exciting expressions.

 

 

 

 

Dram Review: Aultmore batch 1 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for sending me this to review.

This is one of those “Boutique-y” whiskies with the the cool labels and unique expressions from each distillery (see here).

The Aultmore label is beyond cool. A raptor attacking a shark! Apparently they couldn’t find any good enough stories about Aultmore to make the distillery label, so they just went all out cool!

Here are the dramstats:

aultmore-big

  • Price £34.95 only here
  • ABV 53.4%
  • 50cl

Nose: Red apples and pears, touch of sweet vanilla creme brulee. Water releases liquorice with black jacks and sweetshop uncarbonated cola. Time leads to green gauges and a slight crumble note. This really benefits from the water.

Palate: Sweet icing sugar and slightly biscuity. Water makes this like thick cola syrup and malt.

Finish: Vanilla, drying with lots of chilli pepper when water added, then aspartame and vanilla cola.

Verdict: The label rules and the price is fine so I really want to like it. No doubt value at the strength, but it needs water and time to show itself. It’s nice but not something I’d enjoy a whole bottle of.

 

Dram Review: Bowmore batch 1 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for sending me this sample for review.

As regular readers will know, the range of “That Boutique-y Whiskies” are crafted by master of malt and given a craft presentation with 50cl bottles and a specially designed label evocative of the distillery that the whisky represents.

The Bowmore label shows the front of the distillery in Bowmore with a schoolboy carrying a bra being chased by one of the life guards from the pool that is heated by waste heat from the stills at Bowmore. Here are the dramstats:

bowmore-that-boutique-y-whisky-company-batch-1-250

  • Price £52.95
  • ABV 48.7%
  • 50cl

Nose: Mmmm, that’s a nice fruity Bowmore nose! The peat is there of course, but is wrapped in dark fruits, blackcurrant liquorice and fishermans friends. Sniffs alternate between fruity peat and coastal notes such as a seafood platter with lemon, lobster traps. There is also cherry crumble in there. Gorgeous nose!

Palate: Salty peat, vanilla, grilled prawns and sea spray with blackcurrant liquorice and black jacks.

Finish: Black jacks, briney then peat with an ashy vanilla finish.

Verdict: One of those palates where the “notes” I’ve given just do justice to the pleasure given by the combination. It’s excellent.