Showing posts with label peat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peat. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Lately, I seem to be craving peated whiskies. I can't explain why... I mean, I know I'm not pregnant, and I don't think that I'm missing anything in my diet... but that smoky quality is just something I'm gravitating to whenever I have a choice.

I've been blessed recently with incoming samples of Scotches I've never tried. Today, it is a distillery I've never tried:  Kilchoman.  This is one of nine working Islay distilleries and is located on the northwest coast. Founded in 2005 by former independent bottler Anthony Wells, this distillery has the smallest still of any on the island and one of the smallest in all of Scotland. It claims this gives it better contact with the copper and adds to the whisky's flavor.

Kilchoman is Scotland's first single-farm distillery (Rockside Farm) and uses only 100% Islay-grown barley.  Its best-known single malt is Machir Bay. With a peat level of 50ppm and a mashbill of 100% malted barley, it is non-chill filtered and naturally colored.

"Named after one of the most spectacular beaches in Islay, Machir Bay is the flagship of our range. Matured predominantly in bourbon barrels, it balances classic Islay peat character with caramel, vanilla, and citrus sweetness." - Kilchoman 

As indicated above, most of the cooperage is former Bourbon barrels, specifically from Buffalo Trace. The remainder is Olorosso sherry butts from Jose y Miguel Martin. It carries no age statement and is bottled at 46% ABV (92°).  You should expect to pay in the neighborhood of $59.00 for a 750ml package.

Before I get to the tasting notes and final verdict, I'd like to thank Impex Beverage for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Machir Bay was the color of golden straw. It established a rather thick rim and left weighty legs that quickly fell back to the pool.

Nose:  When I first poured the whisky into my glass, I could have cut the smoky peat with a knife. But, after allowing it to breathe for about ten minutes, that smokiness transformed to sweeter, mild peat. It was joined by honey, apple, pear, and citrus. When I breathed in through my mouth, I found thick vanilla.

Palate:  An oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel featured vanilla, honey, pineapple, and orange peel on the front of my palate. As it moved to the middle, rich butterscotch, cherry, tobacco leaf, and brine tangoed with one another. Then, on the back, I tasted a blast of charred oak from the Bourbon barrels, black pepper, clove, and a hint of leather. 

Finish:  The finish was long, long, long.  It commenced with deep smoke that went beyond char. Black pepper, clove, a certain earthiness, and something herbal joined it. The herbal portion lasted the longest, and when it finally fell off, there was one more kiss of smoke.  

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I'm not a big fan of the astringent flavor some Scotches have, and thankfully, Machir Bay lacks any of that Band-Aid quality. I also found this Islay whisky to be atypical. The herbal essence was the kicker. At first, I thought it was like tar, but after other sips, it became obvious it wasn't. 

I can't believe I've waited this long to try Kilchoman. Now I want to kick myself. I enjoyed this immensely, and when I take into account the affordability aspect, this becomes a very easy Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Port Askaig 110° Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I've talked about independent bottlers in the past. If you're unfamiliar with the term, that is a brand that does not distill but, instead, buys casks from working distilleries and packages them under their own label. They may do something unique once it takes possession of the whisky. An independent bottler may or may not disclose what distillery they acquire the casks from.  Independent bottling is commonplace in Scotland, it is done in the United States but we tend to talk about it in terms of sourcing

One such independent bottler is Elixir Distillers. Located in London, Elixir is a blender and bottler and owns a handful of brands, one of which is Port Askaig. Port Askaig is named for a port town on the island of Islay. While the source of the whisky is undisclosed, someone with a very talented palate can probably figure out which of Islay's nine distilleries is the source, and several have suggested Caol Ila

"Each expression within the range is bottled in limited batches. While recognising that each bottling will vary, the aim is to achieve a consistency of quality and character over time. To ensure each whisky maintains its original flavor and character, the whiskies are not chill-filtered and no colouring is added." - Elixir Distillers

Today I'm drinking Port Askaig 110°, a US-exclusive, non-age statement single malt. While we don't know much more about this Scotch, we do know that vintage Bourbon cooperage was used for aging, but the number of casks involved is another secret. Just like in the United States, small batch has no legal definition. You can expect to pay about $65.00 for a 750ml package.

Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Impex Beverages for providing me a sample of Port Askaig 110° in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious! 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as the color of golden straw. It created a medium-thick rim that formed sticky little droplets. As they gained weight, they slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of peat, brine, toasted coconut and green apple caught my attention. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, the flavor of toasted coconut rolled across my hard palate.

Palate:  With an oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel, Port Askaig 110° started with sweeter fruit, smoke, and vanilla. On the middle was apple, and the back featured white pepper and smoked wood.

Finish:  Medium-long and warming, there was a blend of smoky and sweet peat, followed by apple, white pepper, and just as it falls off, clove. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Aside from proof, there's not a lot going on with Port Askaig 110°. And, despite that, it doesn't drink at its stated proof. This isn't a bad at all, but it does seem young. I can absolutely appreciate why the rumors point to Caol Ila as the distillery, there are reminiscent notes, but for about $5.00 more, I can pick up an excellent 12-year Caol Ila that has more depth, maturity, and flavor. Because of that, I'm going to suggest you try this one at a Bar. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

I'm almost embarrassed to write this review. You see, Ardbeg Corryvreckan is probably my favorite, readily accessible, reasonably-priced, peated Single Malt Scotches. But, about two weeks ago, when I was at an Ardbeg Day Event celebration, I discovered I've never reviewed this whisky! I have no idea how that happened, but it is time to fix that oversight right now.

If you're unfamiliar with Ardbeg, that's one of the nine working distilleries on Islay (and if you've ever wondered how that's pronounced, say Eye-Lah). Founded in 1815 by John Macdougall, it was also the first Scottish distillery run by women (Margaret and Flora Macdougall). Sold in 1977 to Hiram Walker, Ardbeg was shuttered in 1981 and remained so until 1987 when it was purchased by Allied Lyons. Ardbeg was used as a source for blends instead of bottling its own. That didn't last long, as in 1991 it was shuttered again.  Finally, in 1997, Glenmorangie purchased the distillery and resurrected it to its former glory.

So now you know about Ardbeg. What's a Corryvreckan? It is one of the largest permanent whirlpools (as in the ocean, not a tub) in the world and the largest in Europe. It located between the islands of Jura and Scarba in Scotland. 

Ardbeg chose to name its peatiest core Scotch after the storied maelstrom. There have been others with stronger peated flavor, but they're all limited edition offerings.

Corryvreckan begins with a mash of 100% malted barley, with between 50 and 55 PPM of peatiness. It is then aged in former Bourbon barrels, some first-fill, and others more vintage, plus French oak barrels, rumored to be a mix of virgin wood and former wine casks. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and bottled at 57.1% ABV (that's 114.2° for us Americans). It carries no age statement, and I'll explain later why that's important. You can expect to pay between $79.99 and $99.99 for a 750ml package.

What makes Corryvreckan special? I'll let my tasting notes explain that.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch is the color of golden honey. It presented a medium rim that formed long, wavy tears that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I smelled the smoky peat as it left the bottle and poured into the glass. As it sat for several minutes, it stuck around. Once I got the glass under my nose, aromas of toasted seaweed, brine, apple, pear, citrus, and French oak were evident. As I took the vapor into my mouth, pear was easy to pick out.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and silky. The peat on the front was sweeter than you'd guess from the nose. That was offset by the darkest of chocolate, and the two were bridged by cherry and plum. Mid-palate flavors included coffee, almond, and hickory-smoked meat. Yeah, that's an actual flavor. The back tasted of old leather, sweet tobacco, and clove.

Finish:  The big finish was constructed of coffee, white pepper, leather, French oak, and that hickory-smoked meat that left my mouth and mind longing for more.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated at the beginning, this is probably my favorite, readily accessible Islay Scotch. That equals an obvious Bottle rating. But, why? It is amazingly complex from the nose to the finish. It has immense, bold flavors and drinks way under its stated proof. More importantly, it is one of the best explanations as to why an age statement is less important than many folks believe. This NAS whisky competes easily against its age-stated brethren, both within and outside of the Ardbeg family. If peated whisky is your jam, grab a bottle of Corryvreckan. You won't regret it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Ardbeg #MonstersOfSmoke Tour Recap


Last week I told you about the #MonstersOfSmoke Tour that Ardbeg is putting on to celebrate Ardbeg Day, and highlight Wee Beastie and An Oa Single Malts. Well, on Saturday, I had a chance to check things out at its Menomonee Falls at Otto's Wine & Spirits venue.

First things first, you want to take part in this tour. To find a stop near you, head on over to the tour's official page. Tour dates on the north side of the Mason-Dixon line feature the Wee Beastie mega-truck and the south side has its twin An Oa truck. Tours run through mid-November, so there's plenty of time to get out and visit.

The Wee Beastie truck is above. I did get a peek inside, they had an amazing display of some lovelies...

As I wandered inside the store, I was greeted by these two nice Ardbeg ladies. They poured samples and handled the bottle engraving.

They also gave out some pretty cool Ardbeg swag. All you had to do was ask!

Once you decided which bottle of Ardbeg you wanted to bring home, that's when the engraving comes into play. Due to an amazing sale that Otto's ran during the event, I picked up a bottle of Ardbeg 10 for the stupid-low price of $42.88!  These sales are very common at Ardbeg events, so if nothing else, you have an opportunity to grab some amazing whiskies at a great price.

The engraving was quick and easy. The bottle is placed in a RayJet engraver. You can see my bottle on the left, the rest of the chamber is empty. But, they can do multiple engravings at once.

And then, voila!  It is done. As you can readily imagine, I had Whiskeyfellow engraved in mine.

Basically, they can do whatever you want as far as engraving goes. The only limitation is the number of characters... just look at these bottles just waiting to go home with someone (oh, yeah, that's Uigeadail on the left!).

In all, I had a great time. Social distancing is no longer required in Wisconsin, but the team is prepared if your area hasn't lifted restrictions. I put together some Facebook Live videos while I was there that you can feel free to peruse:

Let me know if you've been to one near you. I'd love to hear if your experience was similar. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Ardbeg Monsters of Smoke Tour is Coming to Greater Milwaukee


Today is Ardbeg Day! It is a day to celebrate all things Ardbeg. But, more exciting is what's happening this coming week in the greater Milwaukee area... Ardbeg's Monsters of Smoke Tour!

If you've never been to an Ardberg Day event, you have no idea what you're missing. Ardbeg puts on one hell of a show and everything is first-class. In the past, when I lived in Florida and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow worked at one of its premier liquor stores, I worked a few Ardbeg Day celebrations. The last for me was the release of Auriverdes in 2014. Since relocating to Wisconsin, these events have been unavailable.

And then, Ardbeg told me they were coming to Wisconsin!

The Monsters of Smoke Tour highlights Wee Beastie and An Oa. I reviewed Wee Beastie back in April. I'm a fan of An Oa (and am shocked that I've not reviewed it, I'll have to fix that). These are both excellent, affordable expressions out of this storied distillery. There are plenty of swag giveaways, bottle engravings, tastings, games, and augmented reality photo opportunities for visitors. You'll know you're at the right place when you see the two oversized all-terrain tactical vehicles named after the two whiskies.

The events last three hours, and you have to be at least 21 to participate. Best of all, they're free!

I'm slated to attend the event at Otto's Wine & Spirits in Menomonie Falls on Saturday, June 12th from 11am to 2pm. The address is N88 W15413 Main Street. Hit me up, I'd love to see you there!

If you can't make that event, here's the entire Milwaukee-land tour schedule:

  • June 10th, 11am to 2pm, Olsen's Piggly Wiggly, 6111 W Mequon Rd, Mequon
  • June 10th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 919 N Barstow St, Waukesha
  • June 11th, 11am to 2pm, Otto's, W63 N157 Washington Ave, Cedarberg
  • June 11th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 5031 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee
  • June 12th, 11am to 2pm at Otto's in Menomonee Falls
  • June 12th, 4pm to 7pm, Aman's Beer & Wine, 262110 W Loomis Rd, Wind Lake
  • June 13th, 11am to 2pm, Total Wine, 8700 W Sura Ave, Greenfield
  • June 13th, 4pm to 7pm, Total Wine, 17330 W Bluemound Rd, Brookfield

If you live elsewhere and want to see the entire Monsters of Smoke Tour, you can visit the tour's website. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Caol Ila 12 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I love smoky Scotches. Don't get me wrong, I love unpeated ones as well. The peat adds an entirely new layer of adventure to the drinking experience. The peatiest stuff comes from Islay, a relatively small island off the coast of mainland Scotland. 

You've probably heard of the Islay distilleries:  Ardbeg, Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain, Kilchoman, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig.  There are two others that aren't quite as well-known: Ardnahoe and Caol Ila. The weird thing is, the largest Islay distillery is one of those two, namely, Caol Ila.

Pronounced Kull eye-la, the distillery was founded in 1846 and mostly remained active except during World War II. It was then taken off-line and demolished in 1972, with the plan to build a brand-new distillery that opened in 1974.

The reason Caol Ila is less recognizable despite its production capacity is about 95% of what's produced winds up going into blends, most notably, Johnnie Walker Black and Double-Black. Caol Ila makes both peated and unpeated whisky. Its peated versions use the same Port Ellen malt as Lagavulin at 35ppm. 

One of the most interesting things about Caol Ila is its distillation process. The stills are filled at about 33% capacity and run 24/7. What this does is allow more contact with air and copper, which, in turn, produces a more mellow whisky. 

Today I'm reviewing its core single malt, Caol Ila 12. As you've probably figured out, this one's 12 years old. This is a peated Scotch and is bottled at 43% ABV (86°). You can expect to pay about $69.00 for a 750ml.  And now, let's #DrinkCurious and find out what this is all about.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Caol Ila 12 presented as the color of straw. It produced a medium-thick rim that generated fast, fat legs to drop back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I could smell the peat the second I cracked open the bottle and poured my dram. I allowed it to breathe, and peat filled the room. As I brought the glass to my face, beneath all that peat, were pear, green apple, honeydew, and brine. When I pulled the air into my mouth, I sensed melon rind and light smoke.

Palate:  From my first sip, it was like I took a spoonful of a smoky chocolate mousse. That was both the mouthfeel and what I tasted on the front. The middle was almond, brine, and melon, while the back offered flavors of citrus, sweet tobacco, oak, and peat.

Finish: The finish was a nice combination of sweet and smoky. The peat remained and was joined by sweet tobacco, smoked oak, dried fruits, and then, late to the game, black pepper. Initially, I thought the finish was short, but after another sip, it grew into medium-long.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the start, I love peated Scotch. Despite the fact this has a 35ppm phenol, placing it in the heavily-peated category, the distillation process tamed it, and it worked. It was a welcomed surprise. There was no astringent (Band-Aid) quality to it. As simple as the palate was, I found it enchanting. Frankly, it is a shame that most of this winds up as a blended component for other whiskies. I'm happy to spend $69.00 on Caol Ila 12 and it is a welcome addition to my whiskey library. An obvious Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Grand Traverse Distillery Islay Rye Review & Tasting Notes - Updated 5-18-2021


I love peated whiskeys. Peated American whiskeys are so rare that when I stumble upon one, I just feel like a kid at 4:30am on Christmas morning who can't wait for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can bust into my presents. I have samples that I have to review, but sometimes I shove something to the front of the line because it is so unusual that I must satisfy my curiosity.

That's exactly what happened when the FedEx dude dropped off a package of Islay Rye from Grand Traverse Distillery.  I couldn't psych myself up too much, otherwise, it would bias my opinion before I had a chance to try it.

"Islay Rye is a small-batch Rye Whiskey that takes two of our favorite things and combines them ton something awesome and unique!  [T]his is a Rye Whiskey with a heavy nod to Islay Single Malt Scotches." - Grand Traverse Distillery

The first thing to know about Grand Traverse is they're not sourcing anything.  It is a grain-to-bottle distillery located in Traverse City, Michigan.  It utilizes a custom-built Arnold Holstein still.  All of the grain is supplied by Send Brothers Farm in nearby Williamsburg. The Rye itself is distilled from a mash of 80% rye and 20% peated malted barley. It carries no age statement, which means it is at least four years old and is non-chill filtered, then proofed to 90°.  A 375ml bottle runs about $50.00.

How's it taste?  Well, before I get to that, I thank Grand Traverse Distillery for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let's #DrinkCurious...

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Islay Rye appears as a bronze amber.  It created a medium rim that left a heavy curtain that fell back to the pool. Behind that were fat, slow drops. 

Nose:  The smell of peat filled the room, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow commented how strong it was. But, as I raised the glass to my face, that peat was surprisingly muted. Aromas of grass, oak, malt, caramel, nutmeg, and rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered brine and grass.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and oily.  I had no issues having it fill every corner of my mouth. The first flavors were peat, dry oak, and earth. Mid-palate, mace, allspice, caramel, and dill take over. Then, as it approaches the back, banana, citrus, tobacco leaf, and rye spice round things out.

Finish:  The long, dry, and sweet finish was a blend of clove, dry oak, raisin, citrus, and rye bread. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let's talk about a few things. I really, really enjoy Islay Scotch. This isn't it, it isn't even close, and to be fair, I didn't expect it to be.  The peated malt was a nice addition but the rye overwhelmed the barley. This was absolutely unique, and that's something I find attractive. Value is part of the recommendation process. At $50.00, that's not obnoxious. But, this is also a 375ml, so in reality, this is a $100.00 bottle comparatively speaking. For me, the return on investment wasn't there. I enjoyed this, I'd enjoy it a lot more if it were less painful on the wallet. I'm giving this one a Bar rating - you should definitely try this for yourself before making the commitment. Cheers!

Update - 5/18/2021:  Grand Traverse reached out to me today after taking my recommendation above to heart. Islay Rye is now available in 750ml packages with a retail price of $68.00. As an added bonus (you're going to love this), it is now a Bottled-in-Bond whiskey! That drives the proof up a full 10 points to 100°, and, moreover, that means a minimum four-year age requirement. All three are big deal issues and I'd be very interested to try this new version, which is now called Isles O Rye

This is one of the reasons I try to provide details in my overall rating, especially with Bar and Bust ratings - to give the distiller a chance to revise and improve.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Port Charlotte OLC:01 2010 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Experimental whiskies are something I find exciting. It really doesn't matter if it turns out good or bad, because I love it when a distiller does something outside the box. Obviously, my hope is that things would turn out good (or great). But I'll try any experimental whisky to see what was done.

The fun happens when a distillery is fully transparent about what it tried. That's something Bruichladdich is known for. If you visit its website, they'll tell you pretty much everything you'd want to know, to the point where even a whisky geek will, if you'll excuse the pun, geek out

Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's heavily-peated brand (with Bruichladdich as its unpeated lineup, and Octomore as its super-peated brand).  I've reviewed some from each of the expressions, and for me to be truly transparent, I'm a fan of Port Charlotte. As such, when Bruichladdich sent me a sample of OLC:01 2010 to review, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of it, and had no idea what to expect.

What I learned is OLC:01 is part of Port Charlotte's Cask Exploration Series, which is an experimental line of single malt Scotches. It starts with a 2009 harvest of 100% Invernesshire malted barley. Once distilled, it was then aged from 2010 to 2018 in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon barrels, first-fill Vin Doux Naturel barrels, and second-fill Syrah wine barrels. Once that's done, it was then transferred to first-fill Fernando de Castilla Olorosso sherry hogsheads where it rested for another 18 months. 

"These Olorosso hogsheads are superb casks. They're smaller than your average butts. So they've quickly left a lasting impression on this complex single malt." - Adam Hannett, Master Distiller

It is non-chill-filtered, naturally colored, and has a 40ppm phenol rating, which is something you'd expect with Port Charlotte. Bottled at 55.1% ABV (110.2°), it carries a nine-year age statement and you can expect to pay around $124.99 for a 750ml.

The big question, of course, is, How did this experiment turn out? That's answered by a simple tasting, and I'd like to thank Bruichladdich for sending me the sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, OLC:01 presented as a soft mahogany color with an amber tinge. It formed a medium ring that created slow, medium-thick legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This was an extremely fragrant Scotch. As I allowed it to breathe, the aroma of barbeque filled the room. When I went to nose it, I smelled peat, plum, cherry, apricot, apple, honey, and chocolate. Yes, it seemed like I was in an orchard with a bit of smoke in the air. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out honey and milk chocolate.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and very oily. My first sip consisted of a peat bomb - more than anything I've had from either Port Charlotte or Octomore. Once I got past the palate shock, the second sip had amazingly muted the peat. Orange, apricot, and peach were at the front. The middle offered flavors of honey, date, and vanilla. On the back, I tasted tobacco leaf, clove, and citrus.

Finish:  A medium-long finish started with citrus, smoked salt, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. One thing to note is this Scotch drinks at its stated proof, and that was eye-opening.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was happy when I smelled the typical Port Charlotte barbeque but it was missing from the palate. I was shocked with how heavy the punch of peat was and how quickly it dissipated. I expected fruit, yet not the entire orchard on the palate. Finally, this may have been the "hottest" Scotch I've ever had, and I've tried plenty of cask-strength offerings. All of this makes for a unique drinking experience, and I believe that makes OLC:01 well worth the price tag. Obviously, this one earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Ardbeg Wee Beastie Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

The minimum age a whisky must have in order to be called Scotch is three years. I've seen a lot of labels, and not too many will offer a three-year age statement. 

If I called something The Ultimate, my guess is you'd expect it to be a premium product. How many of you would consider five years a premium whisky?

Now, wait just a darned minute, Whiskeyfellow! Aren't you the one who has said time and time again that age is just a number and an age statement is not an indicator of quality? Why, yes, yes I have.

Ardbeg is a name that is well-known by fans of Islay Scotch. Heavily-peated between 50 and 55 phenol parts per million (ppm), Ardbeg doesn't fool around. While Ardbeg is known for having no-age-statement whiskies (including one of my personal favorites, Corryvrecken), they're not known for bottling young whisky. But, today, I'm writing about a five-year single malt called Wee Beastie

Wee Beastie is the youngest expression Ardbeg has ever released and is the newest addition to its permanent lineup. Bottled at 47.4% ABV (or 94.8°), it is also the most affordable from the distillery at only $39.99. Like everything else Ardbeg releases, it is non-chill filtered. Wee Beastie was aged in both Bourbon and Olorosso Sherry casks.

"Young and intensely smoky, this is a dram untamed by age. Matured in ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, Wee Beastie is perfect for enjoying neat or as the mouth-watering main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail." - Ardbeg

I purchased my bottle of Wee Beastie based on my long experience with Ardbeg. Prior to purchase, I'd never tasted it. But, it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this youngster is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Wee Beastie looked like the color of straw. It formed a medium ring with incredibly slow legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  This is typical Ardbeg, meaning the peat can be smelled from across the room. It was sweeter than many of what Ardbeg offers, somewhat comparable to An Oa. But, beyond that was something I've rarely encountered - smoked meats, and of that, both brisket and pastrami. It made me salivate. I also smelled apple and pear. When I sucked the aroma in my mouth, I could swear I tasted freshly-cut pine trees.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. The more I sipped, the oilier it became. On the front of my palate, I found apple, pear, and oak. There was also a dusting of cocoa powder. As it moved to the middle, it became briny with a hint of raisin (likely from the sherry) and dark chocolate. The back had flavors of sweet tobacco, barbeque sauce, and barrel char.

Finish:  Dry and chewy, the finish consisted of charred oak, pastrami, black pepper, dark chocolate, and brine. Originally the finish was medium-short but expanded to medium-long with additional swallows. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  It is difficult to see a bottle of Ardbeg at this price and ignore it, youthful or not. There are some distillers that have that sort of magical power, and I'm not talking hype. Wee Beastie doesn't disappoint with its smoky punch, character, and distinct mouthfeel. Not only do I think this was a good purchase, but I believe it is a steal. Wee Beastie is a slam-dunk Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

BenRiach The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve Reviews & Tasting Notes


Earlier this month, I reviewed BenRiach's The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten single malt scotches. They both received Bottle ratings from me, and of the two, I preferred The Original Ten. 

Today I'm exploring The Twelve and The Smoky Twelve. Similar to the ten-year expressions, these are not simply sisters with one unpeated and the other peated. They're both non-chill filtered and both naturally colored. They're both bottled at 46% ABV (92°).

The BenRiach does things differently than most Speyside distilleries. It tends to follow a more classic Highland region attributes of peated, light-bodied, and maltier. Guided by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, The BenRiach touts itself as "unconventionally Speyside."

Just as with the 10-year whiskies, I'll do a side-by-side comparison with the 12-years. Before I do, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me these samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.  Let's #DrinkCurious and learn more.

The Twelve

The Twelve is triple-cask matured, using former Bourbon, sherry, and Port casks. It is distilled from 100% unpeated malted barley.  A 750ml bottle will set you back $49.99.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Twelve presented as the color of brass. It formed a medium rim that led to thick, wavy legs that fell back into the pool. It left sticky droplets on the rim.

Nose:  Aromas of honey, candied orange, and (good) fruitcake provided a rather simple nosing experience. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, malt rolled over my tongue.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be creamy with a medium body. On the front, I tasted black cherry, vanilla, and honey. As the liquid moved to the middle, cocoa, malt, and coffee were easy to discern. Then, the back consisted of oak, spiced fruitcake, and ginger.

Finish:  Ginger continued into the medium-length finish. The black cherry and oak returned, and the three were joined with mocha.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found The Twelve to be tasty, but when I compare it to The Original Ten, it lacked much of the same big fruity notes. Granted, the casks were different, both used the same Bourbon and sherry casks, but The Twelve used Port for the third cask whereas The Original Ten used virgin oak. There's only a $5.00 difference between the two. I enjoyed this enough to convey a Bottle rating, but between the two, I'd choose The Original Ten.


The Smoky Twelve

The Smoky Twelve is also triple-cask matured, recycling Bourbon, sherry, and marsala casks. Incidentally, this was Whisky Advocate's #3-best whisky of 2020.  You can expect to pay around $64.99 for a 750ml.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Twelve featured a dull gold color. It formed a medium rim which generated husky, slow legs that crawled back to the pool. It also left sticky, thick droplets on the wall.

Nose:  Fennel and an herbal astringent quality nearly overwhelmed the smoky peat. I was able to pick out apricot and plum beneath those dominating aromas. When I brought the bouquet in my mouth, cherry gave me some respite.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy with a medium-weight body. The front offered vanilla cream and molasses. I discovered orange and dark chocolate at the middle, and then, on the back, things got spicy with black pepper and smoked oak.

Finish:  Medium-long in length, peat and char had a definitive presence which was rounded out by sweet tobacco leaf and black pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was not a fan of the nose. I'm not big on herbal notes or astringent qualities. Thankfully, none of that carried into the palate or finish, and I loved those. Sans the nose, this was a very enjoyable pour. I can certainly understand why this one is popular. Despite the nose, it would be a mistake for me not to confer a Bottle rating for it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, March 15, 2021

BenRiach The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten Reviews & Tasting Notes


Speyside whiskies aren't exactly known for smoky qualities. These are the Scotch workhorses, the region where many newbies begin their Scotch journey. They tend to be easy drinkers, and for the most part, lack nuances that some drinkers can find off-putting. The Speyside region is known for rich, fruity flavors, little-to-no peat, and is where a majority of Scotland's distilleries are located. 

The BenRiach does things differently than most Speyside distilleries. It tends to follow a more classic Highland region attributes of peated, light-bodied, and maltier. Guided by Master Blender Rachel Barrie, The BenRiach touts itself as "unconventionally Speyside."

I've decided to do a side-by-side comparison of two ten-year single malts from this distillery.  The former is The Original Ten, which is the core whisky for The BenRiach, and the latter is The Smoky Ten. This is an interesting exercise because while similar in some aspects (both single malts, both aged in three types of cooperage, both aged a decade, both are naturally-colored), they also can't be any more different from one another. In a preview of an upcoming review, I'll also do the same with its twelve-year cousins.

Before I #DrinkCurious with these whiskies, I'd like to thank The BenRiach for providing me samples of The Original Ten and The Smoky Ten in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.

The Original Ten

This is the flagship whisky representing this distillery. It has matured in Bourbon, sherry, and toasted virgin oak casks. Bottled at 43% ABV (86°), you can expect to spend about $45.00, offering a low barrier of entry.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, The Original Ten suggested the color of golden straw. It formed a medium ring, with medium-weight legs that fell back into the liquid sunshine.

Nose:  If you were blindfolded, you'd swear you were walking through an orchard. Aromas of cherry, orange, and plum were everywhere. Honey and brine followed. When I took a whiff with my open lips, it was pure honey. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily with a medium body. On the front, I tasted apricot, pear, and orange peel. The middle was simple with malt and honey, and the back featured oak, vanilla, and almond paste.

Finish:  Out of nowhere, there was a puff of smoke, it was very slight but unmistakable. Oak, honey, clove, and pink peppercorn offered a medium-to-long finish. I was a bit taken back that my hard palate sizzled at only 86°.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Original Ten goes down easy while being a memorable pour. I'm assuming that while aging it picked up peat from the air, that or a small portion of the malted barley used peat in the drying process. The fact that my hard palate reacted was puzzling. In my opinion, someone new to Scotch would love this - it lacks any astringent (Band-Aid) quality. At the same time, an experienced fan of Speysides would find this a nice change of pace. Looking at the price, this seems like a no-brainer Bottle rating. 


The Smoky Ten

If you assume this is simply a "smoky" version of the flagship Scotch, you'd be wrong. The three types of casks used to age The Smoky Ten are Bourbon, Jamaican rum, and toasted virgin oak. It also utilizes peated barley from the Highland region.  Packaged at 46% ABV (92°), a bottle will set you back about $49.00. Considering the proof and age, that's a decent price for Scotch.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Smoky Ten gave a yellow gold appearance, like what you'd see on a nice watch. It made a thin rim, but slow, sticky, thick legs dropped back to the pool.

Nose:  The peat is obvious. It isn't the same as you'd find as something from the Islay region, but it is true to its name:  smoky. Once you get past it, honey, apricot, and orange marmalade gave it a sweet nose.  When I took the fumes into my mouth, smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was medium in weight, but lacked the oiliness of The Original Ten. Similar to the nose, peat was the first sensation experienced. The front also had flavors of vanilla wafer and honey. As it worked its way past, it became malty with roasted pear and orange citrus. The back brought the peat back, along with oak, clove, and tobacco leaf.

Finish:  Long and drying, The Smoky Ten had a bit of pucker power. I almost instinctively smacked my tongue against the roof of my mouth as peat, dry oak, and brine eventually yielded to black pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If you've been reading my reviews for a while, you know I'm attracted to the unusual, and peated whisky out of the Speyside region is that. Peat is something I enjoy, and I realize that's not for everyone. But I'll go on out on a limb and suggest if you don't like peat (or you've never tried it), this may be a good opportunity to dip your toe in the water. The price gives a lot of bang for the buck, and it's a tasty dram. My Bottle rating is well-deserved.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It