Ardbeg Wee Beastie

The new Ardbeg in the standard range is surprisingly one with an age statement. And it is a young statement. The youngest whisky in the mix is only 5 years old and called the Wee Beastie.  The rest on the front label states `The Ultimate Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky`. And at the bottom of the label `A Monster of a Dram. Young and intensely smoky, with a rich explosive mouth feel of chocolate, tar and Savoury Meats. Cracked Black Pepper and Sappy Pine Resin on the snout´. Well that´s a statement to fulfil…… Oh it comes at a bit strange abv of 47, 4%. (Bottled 23-03-2020).

Ardbeg 5 kleinNose: Gentle peat at first. Somewhat sweet and herbal. Needs a bit of time in the glass to open up.  It is slowly getting there. The distinct smokiness of an Islay whisky is even so gentle picking up some power. Giving away hints of freshly grinded pepper on piece of meat just coming of the BBQ. Playful but not overly smoky/peaty.

Taste: Modern Peat. Mostly fresh, young and sweet at first. Mind the smoke and peat playing around those first mentioned words. Again the longer you keep the sip in your mouth the peat, smoke and ashes picking up and forcing the sweetness and grainy notes to the background.  Becomes more peppery too.

Finish: Longer as you would expect from a young Ardbeg at this ABV. Quite long lingering smoke and ashes but still a bit gentle. Sweetness appears again at the very end of the finish combined with a little bit of saltiness and resin.

Conclusion:  Well. I like that the use an age statement on the bottle. Forget all the commercial lines on the label. Yes it is young, but intensely and explosive is nowhere to be found. A monster of a dram? Maybe they filled mine bottle with something else. It’s lacking the punch you get from other young Islay whisky. But saying that there is more to this dram then only a punch of Peat. It is a bit on the sweet side but it is a nicely rounded and balanced Ardbeg to be enjoyed on daily bases if you want.

Did I like it? Well yes, it is a nice dram to enjoy but for me it’s nowhere near the Ten (I have to say it has been a while since I tasted a modern batch of the Ten). But again for me I like it more than the An Oa.  For me at this moment I would score it 82 points.  It will be widely available for around 40 euro’s.

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Glenallachie 15 year old

A product of Billy Walker. Billy worked on this 15 year old since he bought Glenallachie over in 2017. It is as are the other standard bottling of Glenallachie a finished product. This has matured for years in bourbon hogsheads before finished in different sized PX and oloroso casks for a period of twenty months. The version on hand is the 16.08.19 bottling.

Nose: At first a lot of sherry notes. PX Sweetness taking the win at first, but also a little bit sour notes as from cranberries.  Quite balanced between the three cask types used. Pleasant and gets you discovering more layers again and again at every whiff.  It is getting darker and more robust nutty after a while. Roasted almonds combined with ripe fruits with a hint of old (leather bound) books in an ancient library.

Taste: Gentle mouth-feel at first. Sweet notes are present. Meaty and a bit waxy also. But in fact much mellowed and not that interesting anymore. Some sharp notes appearing also with feint woody notes. It is turning a bit bitter.

Finish:  As you would expect from the abv. Not overly long or powerful but not short also. The bitterness and sharpness winning from the sweet, fruity and waxy notes. The somewhat sour note is getting back also in a bit strange cocktail.

Conclusion:  Nose promises quite a lot and is pleasant. Then the dram is getting a bit unbalanced with wood (bitterness in the form of tannins) and sharpness overtaking the enjoyment of the dram.  It isn’t a bad dram at all, but from the first sniff you expected more and wanting it to give you more than it does.  Scoring it 84 but a steep line down from nose to finish unfortunately.

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Mortlach The Six Kingdoms

This is Diageo’s hopefully last edition within the Games of Thrones series. It is a 15 year old Mortlach bottled at 46% and despite being a “limited” edition with colouring. It has been finished in Bourbon Casks. I tasted and reviewed the Lagavulin within the same very commercial range already and wasn’t impressed. Curious about how this one will hold itself.

Image from whiskybase

Nose: Hmmm a bit underwhelming at first whiff.  Quite standard ‘oak’ influence with caramel and lots of vanilla. Luckily it improves with a little bit of breathing.  Gentle hints of peach, raisins and something like fresh wood shavings. The wood influence is still very present with a nutty feel.  Not bad at all.

Taste:  Again at first a bit watery even, but don’t swallow it directly and you will get a treat. It is evolving in the same way as the nose did. Quit sugary with stewed stone-fruit giving the dram a more dark fruity flavour. The wood is still present with some wood-spices and just before you swallow a hint of black pepper.

Finish: Medium long and very coating. It is oily (understatement) and tingling with spices combined with the sugary fruitiness.

Conclusion:  At first whiff I thought “Here we go again”, but after letting it open up in the glass for several minutes it opened up a lot and ended in the conclusion this is a good and pleasant  Mortlach which you can’t fault much. It is decent and good balanced. Very enjoyable!  Scoring it 86.

Still available in several shops for somewhat over a 100 euro’s (this is a pity for I won’t buy any bottle with a price above 100 euro’s)

 

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Caol Ila 17 years Gordon & Macphail Netherlands Exclusive 2019

Image from Whiskybase

It’s time to visit Islay after some smoky Ardmore’s. So let’s start with a Caol Ila. Not a regular one, but one from the Gordon & Macphail Connoisseurs Choice – Cask Strength range.  This one is distilled in 2001 and bottled 23.04.2019 with a stated age of 17 years.  Cask number Batch 19/064 (1st Fill Bourbon Barrel). 107 bottles at 55,4% for the Netherlands.

Nose:  Starts with fruity tropical notes. After a little time followed by burnt wood combined with brine.  Coastal (Seaweed, salty wind while sitting around a campfire at the beach).  Burnish with a little bit ashy notes. Tiny hint of grilled ham/bacon over a charcoal fire. The fresh fruits are gone and cooked/baked fruits appearing.  A little bit of sweetness is shining through.

Taste: Lemon hits the senses first, followed by the peat/smoke. Less burnt/ashy than the nose promised, but the charred wood is very well present.  Also a bit sweeter then the nose gave away. Vanilla and citrus-fruits combined with stone-fruit in a baked dish combined. Touch off salt and some feint spices.

Finish:  Medium long and far more burnt/ashy than one would expect. Sweetness is gone; spiciness is showing with hints of pepper. Charred wood is playing a main part in the finish.

Conclusion:  Hmmm a combination of modern peated whisky (more sweet) with a finish that is old school…… It is a good Caol Ila, but something is missing for the greatness as Caol Ila can be, certainly at this mid range age. Dubbing about the score, think 87 it will be  due to the fine finish .  (Still available for around 130 euro’s).

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Ardmore The whisky show old and Rare 2018

A rare release from Berry Bros & Rudd for the 2018 Whisky show Old and Rare. This Ardmore is bottled at a respectable age of 21 (so distilled in 1996) at a staggering alcohol level of 60,1%. Tasted blind in the Blind Tasting Competition 2019 (Usquebaugh Society Netherlands)

Image from whiskybase.

Nose: Lots of smokiness and peatiness. But to be correct different from the Islay stuff. Also clean and zesty citrus.  Screams Ardmore for me. Nice lingering and balanced notes of the wood smoke with the fresh citrus notes. The wood is falling apart to ash and is gentle but also very present.

Taste: Again very balanced, a gentle citrus but always reminding your senses to not forgetting the ashy wood smoke. More earthy then the nose showed at first. Again very balanced but also very intense.

Finish: Long and more ashy. Citrus notes disappearing a bit to the background. A tiny bit of sharpness appearing (probably still the high alcohol contents after a long period).  A very pleasant lingering bonfire which slowly dies in your mouth as if the fire is slowly extinguished.

Conclusion:  For me it was clear that it was an Ardmore and a great one. The balance is great. Suspected it to be a lot younger (turn the numbers around). Scoring it short of the 90 mark at 89.

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Kingsbarns Netherlands Exclusive bottling cask 1510292

A new review from one of the new distilleries. The distillery, owned by the Wemyss family started producing in 2015 in the Lowlands. The subject is a special release for the Netherlands in 2019, distilled 22.07.15, aged in an American Oak Bourbon Barrel (cask number 1510292) for over 3 years (exact date of bottling isn’t given). High ABV as expected from such a young with 61, 9%. The cask yielded 254 bottles.

images by whiskybase

Image from whiskybase.

Nose: Fairly pungent at the first sniff.  Opening up with a lemon/lime/vanilla blend. Light flavoured, but fruity. Young and grainy. Not that much depth in the flavours yet, but not overly spirit-driven too. It feels like the spirit had fun playing with good quality wood but wanted to play some more. Lowland character present. Not a bad start at all.

Taste:  Young, powerful and biting your tongue. Then mostly wood-driven hints combined with barley. Gentle fruit notes are gone, this is abv power and in need of water.  After adding some drops it eases down and shows more fruit again. But the freshness stays gone. It has gone from fresh citrus note too stewed fruity notes (which isn’t a bad thing off course). It feels less subtle on the fruit notes after adding water for cutting down the abv power.

Finish:  Still biting but fruit is back in the present of sweeter fruit notes then the citrus-notes it started with. Not sure to pin-point the exact fruits, maybe some stewed apricot like combined with vanilla and some uncooked plain flour.  With water the uncooked flour is gone and the stewed fruit pie wins some momentum.

Conclusion:  I usually don’t add water to my dram while writing a tasting note. With this one I added some drops (it was a 2cl sample so had to be careful).  It improved a bit, but I can’t help feeling this spirit is in desperate need of more time in a Bourbon barrel. The nose promised a lot for such a young whisky, but it couldn’t fulfil it to the end unfortunately.  Still the quality of the spirit is more than good and promising for older editions, which hopefully will be more rounded and balanced. Scored it 79 points. It seems to be still available in a Dutch shop for around 110 euro’s (which is a steep price i.m.h.o)

 

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Ardmore CWC 1999 Rum Barrel 18 years

This time the victim is a bottling from the Creative Whisky Company (David Stirk). It is an Ardmore which appeared in The Exclusive Malts Range aged for 18 years in an ex-Rum Barrel (801671) and bottled at a respectful  56,4%. And the review is just in time, the bottle will be going to the ‘graveyard’ very soon.

Nose:  Direct a powerful smoke appears while pouring the dram. Almost equally as with Islay drams. After a moment it is becoming more Ardmore ‘ish for me.  Softening up on the smoke and peatiness and giving more and more space for other distinct flavours in this case. The sweetness (sugarcane, sugar candy) from the aging in a former rum barrel is shining through giving it a somewhat smoked tea with honey feel.

Taste: Definitely smoky, but balanced with the sweetness. Both playing with each other without ever dominating each other.  The sweetness is becoming a more fruity sweetness with a tiny hint of lime instead of the sugar candy feel. The gentle smoke is sometimes at a distant followed by a ‘hello I am still there moment’.  Pleasant feeling dram without being overly complex. It is just Ardmore smoke and a rum barrel.

Finish: Sweetness is losing it here. Mostly a lingering and tingling smokiness is staying for a long time. The sweetness is coming back as the flavours are fading away, but way gently.

Conclusion: As I tasted and scored this dram before (in 2018) and having the bottle open since then it didn’t lose anything, in fact it became slightly better albeit that writing a tasting note or scoring a whisky will ever be a thing that is subject to the day you taste it on. This is a saying goodbye to a pleasurable good balanced whisky which should be enjoyed in a slow pace. Scoring it today, it will be 86. (According to whiskybase it is still available for 120-140 euro).

 

 

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Lagavulin House of Lanister Limited edition.

Well after a long time (mostly due to personal/medical reasons) I’m going to reboot my blog. It might be irregular and there might be some other drinks passing by but so long as it is pleasurable for me I will try to keep you up to date with what I’m tasting.

For the first blog post in more than 5 years I’ve chosen a very commercial limited editions. It’s the House Lannister Game of Thrones Limited Edition (so a 9 year old Lagavulin 46% and off course albeit a limited edition coloured). Game of Thrones didn’t especially rock my boat after season 3,but maybe some of the whisky will (Have the Mortlach lying around also).

Nose:  Gentle nose. Restraint. Not that much character or smoke/peat as other younger Lagavulins. Wood-driven with vanilla, lemon and banana-candy. Feint hints of smoke and brine. Some fruity notes as in stewed/baked apricot. Underwhelming at the most.

Taste:  Quite a shock from the underwhelming nose. This is more like you would expect from (a younger) Laga. The feint hints of smoke are gone and a roar of smoke/peat/brine is overflowing your taste buds. But wait a minute where did it go ? Apparently  the pleasure is only there for a very short amount of time, before it switched  back to candy. Again lacking a definite power as you would expect from Lagavulin. It is a somewhat more pleasurable then the nose, but that is all.

Finish:  Again somewhat more smokiness, somewhat tar and ashes as occurred at the taste. The wood-driven influence appears also. The dram ends a bit bitter. Overall the finish isn’t that long also.

Conclusion: I can’t say it isn’t balanced. It is at all three points underwhelming so that is balanced. Taste is the best part of the dram.  Is it a bad dram then ? No, but it lacks power and is quite a shy dram. Maybe it is what I would expect from a Laga,  I scored this (80,83,82) 82 at whiskybase.  Still available at several shops (but I would chose the standard 16 and keep the change) for around 82 euro’s.

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Littlemill Archives Crab series 1988/25 years old

The first of an upcoming series around Littlemill. This is part of the “Voyage dans l’Amérique Méridionale” serie, or simpler the Archives Littlemill’s with a crab on the label. The subject to the taste surgery this evening is distilled 11/1988 and bottled 02/2014 at a nice strength of 51,9%, it is derived from cask 12, which was a bourbon hogshead. Let start the surgery!

littlemill-1988-archives cask 12Nose: Quite restraint and winey at first, after a while opening in a waxy fruitiness accompanied with a good floral honey (clover perhaps). Fruitiness with hints of Gallia melon, white grapes, green apple and peach with hints of lemongrass. Some cereals also in the background. Slight hint of oak.

Taste: Creamy honeyed softness to start with. Again the same fruitiness as on the nose, but also some banana is coming to the playground. As a carrier of these flavours there is also some cereal present. A typical herbal spiciness which I can’t determine.  After a while some stronger flavours of ginger, pepper and toasted oak arrives just before the moment you would say yes time to swallow…

Finish: Again that waxy, creamy, oily type at first. Vanilla and honey, with more powerful oakiness which shows in a light not unpleasant bitterness to balance the experience. Again that herbal spiciness, but still no ah-moment to determine this which is really annoying….. but also forces me over and over again to take a sip…. enslaving……

Conclusion: A dram that builds in my opinion. At first sniff it is somewhat shy… give it time and the dram catches you and makes you a slave, wanting more and more…..its goooood!  Used to be on sale at the whiskybase shop for € 135.

Thanks Adri for the sample!

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Benromach 10yo new 2014 edition

A while ago I received two official samples from Benromach. One is the new 10 year old edition and the second one is the 1976 Vintage edition. The package did go with a nice letter from the managing director (Michael Urquhart) explaining the meaning of this combination in a single phrase “A Fingerprint to connect the old with the new”. The samples are from the same distillery, but different eras and by different owners (Present owner Gordon & Macphail, since 1993). Let start with the new edition of the Benromach 10. It is a combination of 80% Bourbon Barrel and 20% Sherry casks before the spirits are combined for a final year in Oloroso casks. Bottled at 43%. A nice amber colour is the result (no colouring added).

benromach-10-pack-shot-high-res-emailNose:

Very aromatic nose with an instant hint of smoke. Quite a bit of oak combined with a sweet fruitiness. Honeyed apple (stewed apple comes in mind with cinnamon and vanilla sugar), peach and raisins combined with a dark tone of spice, perhaps some other wood spices in the background.  All combined with a chocolate and smoky topping. Surprisingly complex.

Taste:

Quite some power, despite the ABV of 43%, initially the smoke comes first and plays with the sweet influence of sherried notes (a bit vinegar, raisins, honey, peach, apple) also a bit oaky. Again there is also an influence of cinnamon (ginger or even some pepper also present). Very waxy also, very coating and extremely pleasant.

Finish:

Surprisingly loooooong… a tad bitterness at the end, but mouth coating and –watering greatness….very warming sherry notes, combined with a vanilla freshness from the bourbon casks and again that fruit stewed in sugar and honey to give it a complex and very enjoyable finish.

Conclusion:

Very pleasant surprise, it is a joy to enjoy this whisky, which never feel his age (much older), nor has the feel it could use more ABV.  And now the most stunning part, it only sets you back a 35-40 euro!  How’s that! You certainly should try this! Benromach keep up the good work!

Also thank you Jan Beek for the help for receiving these samples, looking forward to taste the 1976!

 

 

 

 

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