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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Lagavulin 2023 Distiller's Edition Single Malt Scotch Review


This is the final installment in a series of six reviews. The previous in the series can be found here.


The distilleries involved are what Diageo refers to as The Six Classic Malts and are comprised of Cragganmore, Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie, Lagavulin, Oban, and Talisker. Each takes part in the DE program. Today, we’ll explore the 2023 Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition.


“Miles and miles of peat bog in the west of the island provide the raw material which imbues the barley with that distinct smoky flavour. Not to mention the rich peaty water that runs down the brown burn from the Solan Lochs and into the distillery. In case you haven’t figured it out, the smoky, peated Lagavulin is seen as the ultimate expression of this region.” - Diageo


In 1816, John Johnstone founded the first legal distillery at Lagavulin. There were many illicit ones prior, dating to at least 1742. Then, in 1817, a second distillery called Ardmore (no relation to the distillery that exists today) was built by Archibald Campbell. Ardmore went silent in 1821, and Johnstone purchased it in 1825. He ran them both, but in 1835, Ardmore was shuttered. A year later, Johnstone passed away, and Alexander Graham, a spirits merchant, purchased Lagavulin. Ardmore and Lagavulin merged operations under the name Lagavulin.


Graham’s son, Walter, was in charge until he left in 1848 to head up the Laphroaig Distillery. In 1852, Walter’s brother John Crawford Graham assumed control. Then, in 1862, it changed hands again, this time to James Logan Mackie.  


In 1878, James hired his nephew Peter. James passed away in 1889, and Peter took the helm, forming Mackie & Co


Here’s where things get interesting. In 1908, Peter got his panties in a bunch and built another distillery called Malt Mill. Malt Mill was constructed as a replica of Laphroaig’s distillery. His goal was to duplicate Laphroaig’s whisky. He failed, but Laphroaig sued anyway. The court dismissed Laphroaig’s allegations since Lagavulin utilized a different water source and peat than what Laphroaig used.


Peter died in 1924, and Mackie & Co changed its name to White Horse Distillers. Buchanan Dewar Ltd then acquired it, and in 1927, Buchanan Dewar Ltd merged with Distillers Company Limited, which eventually became Diageo.


I saved the Lagavulin for last for a few reasons. The main is that it is an Islay Scotch and should be very peaty. The second is anticipation. I love Lagavulin 16, the distillery’s core expression and the base of the DE.


Lagavulin 16 is packaged at 43% ABV (86°). The Distiller’s Edition adds a second maturation in Pedro Ximenez (PX)-seasoned American oak casks. This was the third reason; PX is my favorite type of sherry oak in whisky making.


PX sherry is made from Spanish white grapes grown around various regions, but primarily from the DenominaciĆ³n de Origen (DO) of Montilla-Moriles, creating a crazily sweet, dark dessert sherry.


Lagavulin Distiller’s Edition has a suggested price of $125.00.


While I’m about to #DrinkCurious, I realize that I’m potentially setting myself up for disappointment because of the three reasons that I kept this whisky for the last in the series.


Before I get there, I must thank Diageo for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I served this Scotch neat in a Glencairn glass. The liquid looked like dark bronze and created a microthin rim. Fast, thick tears fell, yet sticky droplets remained.


Nose: Peat and seaweed were the first smells I encountered. Aromas of raisins, apricots, caramel, and toffee followed. Salted caramel rolled across my tongue when I breathed through my mouth.  


Palate: The silky texture introduced the front of my palate to what I could swear was a caramel-rich, smoky barbeque sauce. Grilled pineapple, raisins, and apricots formed the middle. The back featured brine, tobacco leaf, and dark chocolate.


Finish: The finish was unusual, to say the least. It was like an ocean tide. It started with a peaty wave, then faded, and when I thought it would be short, another wave of peat rolled through. Overall, it was long, including flavors of tobacco leaf, dark chocolate, oak, and a distinct saltiness.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Thankfully, I was not disappointed. The PX influence was obvious. Lagavulin took an already fabulous whisky and added panache. Is this something that a peat newbie can handle? Not likely. But an Islay fan is going to go absolutely bonkers. This 16+-year-old single malt Scotch is worth the price of admission, and I’m sitting here wishing I had another Bottle.


As an added bonus, I’ll include notes from my review of Lagavulin 16 since I happen to have a bottle on hand. The tasting notes from my 2020 review of the core whisky are still dead-on:


Nose:  There was no mistaking the aroma: Peat, peat, and more peat. But, with a much more mature nose, I discovered brine and sweet caramel beneath all that peat.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all vanilla cream. 


Palate:  My first sip was oily and coated but not what I could describe as heavy. The first thing to strike my palate was, not surprisingly, peat and ash. The best description I can use to tell what I tasted was coffee ice cream. The coffee and vanilla were thick.  Below those, I found brine and seaweed. 


Finish:  I found it was very long, smoky, and oaky. But, punching through that was a tasty caramel, chocolate, and toffee mixture similar to a Heath bar.


Well, there you have it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my reviews of the 2023 Distiller’s Edition whiskies. I know that I relished drinking them. 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, October 19, 2022

Copperworks Distilling Co. Release No. 042 American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

I love peated whiskeys. I know a segment of whiskey drinkers don’t enjoy it. Some have only tried it once or twice and were turned off by the flavor. They’ll describe it as burnt rubber, licking an ashtray, earthy dirt, medicinal, etc. What’s not realized, however, is that peat is a highly local phenomenon and varies greatly.


Peat is made from organic plant material brewing and compacted upon itself for millennia. Trace things back, and it makes sense that the local plant life impacts it and does the immediate environment. In a coastal environment, that may include a saline quality. In a marshy area, there may be a musty or earthy influence.


The peat is then harvested, usually in blocks. Those blocks are then used to end the malting process of the barley, and the way that is accomplished is to burn the peat to dry the barley.


The peatiness of a whiskey (or phenols) depends on several factors: the temperature of the burn, how much oxygen is available, the age of the peat being burned, and that’s only the burning of the peat. Other factors include how many phenols (measured in parts per million, or PPM) and how long the whiskey ages in the barrel.


The presence of peat in American whiskeys isn’t rare, but it is unusual. It can be present in any whiskey. I’ve had peated Bourbon. When peat is used, it is associated most with American Single Malts. But, even so, a peated American Single Malt is an exception, not a rule.


That brings us to today’s whiskey, Release No. 042 American Single Malt from Copperworks Distilling Co. It begins with 100% Copeland barley grown in Washington’s Skagit Valley, and the malting process utilizes peat from a lakebed on the Olympic Peninsula.


Release No. 042 is aged at least 63 months in six casks and bottled at 51% ABV (102°). A 750ml package has a suggested price of $76.49. There were only 1043 bottles produced.


I thank Copperworks for providing me with a sample of Release No. 042 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now is it time to #DrinkCurious and explore what this whiskey offers.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass showed me a deep and dark orange amber whiskey. The medium-thin rim led to wide, crooked tears.


Nose: Surprisingly, peaty qualities were not prominent. Instead, I found thick caramel, pineapple, orange citrus, and pear. A kiss of smoke only escaped the glass to tickle my olfactory sense. When I inhaled through my mouth, I found the smokiness slightly stronger.


Palate: The texture was creamy and weighty. There was light smoke, pineapple, fig, and date on the front of my tongue, while flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, and almond hit the middle. The back offered toasted oak, salted caramel, and Brazil nuts.


Finish: Things started softly and slowly ramped up. As it did, the oak became more pronounced and took on a deeply-charred quality. In addition, I tasted white pepper, Brazil nuts, old leather, and salted caramel before everything fell off a cliff.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Release No. 042 is one of those whiskeys where I don’t really care what it costs because it is a sipping experience that must be savored. There was nothing to dislike. The peat was so light that even folks who claim they don’t enjoy peat will discard that notion. I recommend this American Single Malt to Bourbon drinkers who aren’t sold on malts – Release No. 042 will change your mind. It earns every little bit of my 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.



Monday, October 17, 2022

Glenn's Creek Distilling Millville Malt Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

There’s a story behind this label. If you look closely at the sample bottle, it says “Old Uncle Gefilte Fish Secret Recipe.” I was joking around in a Facebook group. I don’t even recall the exact conversation, but I mentioned something about Old Uncle Gefilte Fish Whiskey when referring to something I must have just tasted that was godawful.


I’m Jewish. A staple of Jewish delicacy is gefilte fish. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s the description from (I selected them since they quote from me every so often):


“Gefilte fish (pronounced geh-filt) means "stuffed fish" in and was traditionally made by Eastern European Jews on special occasions by mincing various types of fish with vegetables and seasonings and stuffing the mixture back into the skin of the whole fish, which was roasted and enjoyed chilled with a side of beet. The dish is enjoyed in many different forms today — the traditional way, shaped into patties, and even from a jar — and, as noted by Chron, sparks fiery debate among steadfast gefilte fans and those who would rather eat literally anything besides ‘pescatarian's meatloaf’ or the ‘hot dog of the sea.’”


That’s actually a lovely way to talk about it. I’m in the “those who would rather eat literally anything besides” camp. I can’t even look at the stuff. It gives me the heebie-jeebies and dry heaves.


A distiller friend of mine, David Meier of Glenn’s Creek Distilling, sent me a sample of his whiskey and requested I let him know my thoughts. He told me I wouldn’t know what it was, but he’d label it “Old Uncle Gefilte Fish Secret Recipe.” I remember replying that I would do it, but he had me a bit scared.


Glenn’s Creek Distilling is housed in what was the Old Crow Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.  It had been abandoned for 30 some-odd years before David purchased it to open his distillery. He loved the building and all of its history.


“Old Uncle Gefilte Fish Secret Recipe” is really Millville Malt, a whiskey that was pot distilled from lightly peated barley. It is aged for 36 months and packaged at barrel strength, which in the case of Barrel #3, is 97°. The distillery has it listed for $72.64.


All joking aside, I want to #DrinkCurious and taste what this is all about. Thank you, David, for this opportunity, and despite our friendship, this is still a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Millville Malt was poured neat into my Glencairn glass and appeared as a darker orange amber. A medium rim created long, wavy legs.


Nose: I smelled musty books and leather. There was some cinnamon and citrus as well. What there wasn’t was any hint of peat. My concern was growing, and I didn’t want to go any further. I reminded myself that not all good whiskeys have pleasant aromas and convinced myself to trudge on. Vanilla and old oak rolled across my tongue when I pulled the air past my lips.


Palate:  An oily mouthfeel brought pineapple, coconut, and lemon peel to the front of my palate. Caramel, cocoa, and roasted coffee formed the middle, while flavors of vanilla, dry oak, and a kiss of peat comprised the back.


Finish:  The caramel, cocoa, dry oak, and peat stuck around once the pineapple and cinnamon notes fell off. The finish was challenging because it came in waves. Just when I thought it crescendoed, another wave crashed through. I got about four minutes before things finally dissipated.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While the nose was not my jam, the palate and finish more than made up for that. I had fun with the wonky shifts in flavors—the finish through me for a loop. Overall, I enjoyed sipping Millville Malt. David is obviously a talented distiller. Would I pay $73.00 for a bottle of Millville Malt? I'm not convinced. But this is one that I’d definitely want to try before committing, and it takes a Bar 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, October 12, 2022

The BenRiach 2022 Malting Season and Smoke Season Single Malt Scotch Reviews and Tasting Notes


Last year, I reviewed Malting Season and Smoke Season from the storied BenRiach Distillery. Led by Dr. Rachel Barrie, the distillery introduced these two whiskies in 2021. Well, here we are in 2022, and it is time for this year’s releases.


Both pay homage to a time when The BenRiach was mothballed. While no distillation occurred, its malting floor remained active, providing peated malt to other distilleries. Today, there are only seven floor-malting distilleries left in Scotland, one of those few is still The BenRiach.


“Passed from distiller to distiller throughout the generations, the floor malting process keeps a traditional part of the whisky-making process alive with Benriach. Meanwhile Smoke Season is a special time of year in the distillery’s calendar, and these annual releases give both the whisky novice and connoisseur the opportunity to discover the uniquely rich, sweet and smoky character of our Speyside single malt. At Benriach, we never stop exploring how fruit, oak, barley and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in our broad range of eclectic casks.” – Dr. Rachel Barrie, Master Blender


Today I’ll review these whiskies together, whereas last year, they were done separately. And, before I do that, I must thank The BenRiach for providing me samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s start the #DrinkCurious process with Malting Season first.


Malting Season



For one month each year, the crew at The BenRiach spread barley on its malting floor, oversee it while turning it by hand, and pick the “perfect” time to move it to the kiln to dry and stop the germination process.


Malting Season is distilled from 100% malted Concerto barley and aged in virgin American oak and ex-Bourbon casks. It carries no age statement, and a 48.9% ABV (96.8°) 700ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $159.99.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass displayed a bright golden liquid. It left a fragile rim that shed thick, slow tears.


Nose: Sweet and fruity, Malting Season offered an aroma of pineapple, citrus, apple, and malt. Peaches and cream rolled across my tongue when I drew that air into my mouth.


Palate: Malting Season’s texture was silky and coated the inside of my mouth easily. The front of my palate discovered raw honey, vanilla, and apple. I tasted orange citrus, peel, and nutmeg as it moved to my mid-palate. The back gave a sensation of toasted oak, clove, and leather.


Finish:  I wondered where the peaches and cream went, and the answer was in the finish. Leather, nutmeg, and orange peel joined the show. The experience lasted for a couple of minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There’s a lot of value with Malting Season when you consider how bold the flavors are and compound that with that silky mouthfeel. There’s nothing not to like about Malting Season, although, just like last year, I would love to see this one priced about $20 or so less. Regardless, experiences are worth paying for, and I’m thrilled to crown it with my Bottle rating.




Smoke Season



Smoke Season celebrates summertime when The BenRiach runs peated malt through its stills, as the rest of the year, all of the distillate is unpeated. While peated Scotch isn’t unheard of in the Speyside region, it is uncommon.


This whisky is intensely peated, batch distilled, and aged in a combination of first-fill Bourbon casks and heavily-charred and lightly toasted virgin American oak barrels. It weighs in at 52.8% ABV (105.6°), carries no age statement, and the suggested retail price is $79.99 for a 750ml bottle. Yes, that’s slightly larger than Malting Season.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Smoke Season was a few shades darker than Malting Season. A microthin rim left wide legs and sticky droplets behind.


Nose: An enticing aroma of barbecue smoke wafted from the glass. There was also a marine quality to it, which took me aback. Pineapple, pear, and vanilla were present. The pineapple remained as I pulled the vapor into my mouth. 


Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy, and there was an explosion of peat that would put many Islay malts to shame. Burnt ends, caramel, and vanilla on the front of my palate made me hungry. The middle featured cinnamon, apple, and charred oak. On the back, I tasted more charred oak, grilled pineapple, and orange peel.


Finish:  A medium-long finish consisted of orange peel, vanilla, pineapple, and charred oak, which carried all the way through.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I’m a big fan of Islay Scotches, and Smoke Season can compete effortlessly with several (and win). There’s no way on the planet I would guess this was a Speyside. After jotting down my tasting notes, I read my review to see how close this year’s matched up. While the proof was the same each year, I believe this year’s release trumps the inaugural. The $20.00 I wanted from Malting Season I would happily add to Smoke Season. This one steals my 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.


Monday, August 1, 2022

Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Some people are not fans of peated whiskies. I’ve been there myself. It took me years to wander into the land of smoke after I was introduced far too early to Lagavulin 16 as an entry point. But, once I was ready, I did things slowly – the right way – and fell in love with smoky peat.


I’m at the point where I see a peated whisky I’ve never tried, and it cuts to the front of the line of everything else I’ve queued. One such whisky is Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang single malt Scotch.


Tomintoul calls itself The Gentle Dram. It is a Speyside distillery founded in 1964 and is located on The Ballantruan Spring which runs through the Glenlivet Estate. The name comes from the highest village of the Scottish Highlands. Like most Speyside distilleries, Tomintoul is known for unpeated whisky. However, twice a year, it uses peated malt. It is owned by Angus Dundee.


“Pure ingredients and the natural environment add to smooth and mellow character of our award-winning Tomintoul Speyside Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch Whisky, “the gentle dram”.

Tomintoul “With A Peaty Tang” has been made with peated malt barley to give it a deep smoky flavour. This makes “Peaty Tang” very unusual, most distilleries in the Speyside region do not use peat.” – Tomintoul Distillery


With a Peaty Tang is a marriage of peated whisky that’s been aged between four and five years with unpeated whisky aged eight. Ex-Bourbon casks were used for both. This is a fairly new whisky for this young distillery – it was introduced in 2017.


Despite knowing the ages, it carries no age statement. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can expect to pay about $41.99 for a 750ml package. I found a 50ml taster for a couple of bucks.


How’s this one fare? The only way to find out, of course, is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s do this!


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch looked the color of light gold. A thicker rim created slow, sticky droplets. I couldn’t really call them legs.


Nose:  I could smell the peat the second I cracked the bottle. I let this one sit for almost 20 minutes as campfire smoke filled the room. Once I determined it rested enough, I brought the glass to my face, which usually results in an ability to get through the peat (because at that point I’m used to it). Nope. Campfire smoke was still dominating. Eventually, my olfactory sense cut through it and found citrus, apple, honey, and caramel. I then inhaled through my lips and smoky vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and airy and, despite the alcohol content, warming. The front featured heavy peat, brine, and malted barley. The middle became earthy and fruity with mushroom, pear, and vanilla. The back got super spicy with clove, black pepper and a big blast of burnt oak.


Finish:  Medium and dry, barrel char, clove, dry oak, and vanilla stayed for the encore. And then, without warning, a wave of astringent.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Tomintoul With a Peaty Tang was similar to a low-end Islay, except with less complexity. I can usually find something nice in those Islay whiskies, I struggled with this Speyside. I initially didn’t find the Band-Aid flavor until after my fourth sip, then couldn’t get it out of my mouth. Some astringent is fine. Bold astringent is not (but it does have its fans). There was nothing gentle about this dram. I am willing to try other things from Tomintoul. I would never drink its With a Peaty Tang again. This takes a Bust. 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, April 20, 2022

Highland Park 12 Year Viking Honour Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

Photo courtesy of Highland Park

There are several storied, well-loved Scotch distilleries out there, and one of those is Highland Park, a Highland distillery in Orkney. Orkney is off on its own, way up north, and consists of 70 islands, 20 of which are inhabited. The primary industry in Orkney is agriculture, with only 4% of that dedicated to cultivating cereal grains. The average temperature in Orkney is about 46°F, with an average summer temperature of only 54°F, meaning there isn't a lot of room for whiskey to pull flavor from a barrel. 

The islands have been part of human history going back about 8500 years. There is a rich Viking history in Orkney due to its historical ownership by Norway. As such, it should come as no surprise the distillery, established in 1798, names its various expressions after Viking mythology and culture. Their 12-year expression is Viking Honour, a single malt, natural colored Scotch bottled at 43% ABV. Retail on Viking Honour is $59.99.

Is Viking Honour a worthy namesake of the brave Vikings? The way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Viking Honour presents as a dull gold. Creating a thick rim on the wall, thick, fast legs dropped back to the pool of this icy liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Floral aromas, mixed with sherry and light peat, greeted my olfactory senses. Underneath those were bright orange citrus.  When I inhaled through my lips, there was a grassy quality that ran across my tongue. 

Palate:  Passing my lips, the mouthfeel was watery and thin.  That light peat from the nosing crossed onto the front palate along with rich honey. Mid-palate, it transformed into a blend of coffee, clove, and orange peel. On the back, there was a combination of dry sherry, mace, and cinnamon. 

Finish: A concise finish left dry leather, dark chocolate, and oak behind, but it required several sips to pick them out. It became a chore to discern them because nothing stayed behind long enough to allow me to enjoy it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I know there are a lot of Highland Park fans out there, and everyone's palate is different. I found Viking Honour to be unexciting, and a disappointing finish made it even more so. I would, at the very least, have preferred more peat both on the nose and palate.  But fans of Highland Park definitely need to try this one.  As such, Viking Honour will earn a Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Amrut Peated Cask Strength Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes


Have I been on an Indian single malt whisky kick lately? Yes. For the most part, I’ve been stunned by how well the subcontinent handles single malt whisky, especially in light of almost no regulation.


Amrut is the original, single malt distillery of India. Founded in Bengaluru in 1948, it didn’t produce its first single malt whisky until 2004 and grabbed worldwide attention when Jim Murray gave Amrut Fusion a 97 rating in 2010. Bengaluru is about 3000 feet above sea level, with temperatures between 61°F and 94°F, while the average humidity is 66%. The climate causes whisky to age about 3.5 times each year compared to what Scotland experiences, translating to about 12% loss annually to the angels.


Today I’m sipping on Amrut Indian Peated Single Malt Cask Strength. Unlike many Indian single malts, including those from Amrut, this version is distilled from 100% peated barley sourced from Scotland. Although it carries no age statement, it spent between four and six years in former Bourbon barrels and new, charred oak. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and weighs in at a hefty 62.8% ABV (125.6°). You can expect to pay around $105.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get to my tasting notes, I want to thank Glass Revolution Imports (Amrut's US importer) for providing me a sample of this whisky in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Poured neat into my trusty Glencairn glass, this single malt presented as gold bullion. A fragile rim released a colossal curtain that crashed into the pool, leaving tiny, sticky droplets.


Nose: As you might guess, the first aroma picked out was peat. It was more sweet than smoky, although the latter was easy to discern. What followed was salted chocolate, brown sugar, apricot, date, orange, and, finally, fresh pastry. When I pulled the air into my mouth, it was as if a vanilla bomb went off with date as the aftermath.


Palate:  An oily, heavy texture greeted my tongue. The front of my palate tasted vanilla, cooked plantains, and date. As it transitioned to the middle, I could imagine biting into brisket straight off the smoker, accompanied by toffee, orange peel, and lemon peel. The back featured salted caramel, clove, and charred oak.


Finish: A long-lasting, spicy finish consisting of dry oak, smoke, clove, slightly tempered by salted caramel and cooked plantains. My tongue sizzled for just under five minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had several peated Indian single malts and expected more of a peated punch than what I experienced. Oh, it is there, but it steps aside easily enough to make the other flavors shine. I have to admit, this cask-strength version Amrut Peated Single Malt wowed me. Personally, I found this to be a hell of a deal, and it would be a mistake to pass it up. A Bottle rating for sure, 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.


Thursday, December 30, 2021

Octomore 12.3 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Transparency is important. If there’s a possible conflict of interest, you need to know about it. For the last two years, I’ve been part of a group of influencers selected to launch Octomore to the US market. Last year, it was series 11, this year, series 12. Bruichladdich compensated me to write content for the release of each. It also provided me with samples of 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3. Bruichladdich tasked me with putting together tasting notes for 12.2. That left me with samples of 12.1 and 12.3 to review above and beyond my now-completed assignment. You can read my review of 12.1 here, and today I’m sipping 12.3, and this is my final review of 2021.


If you’re curious about the numbering system, that’s pretty easy to explain. The first number refers to the series release number. In this case, it is 12, meaning the 12th release of Octomore. The other numbers are slightly less indicative:  x.1, x.2, x.3, and x.4. What do they mean?


  • The first is the standard for the release, the core whisky, if you will. It always starts with 100% Scottish barley and is typically aged in first-fill Bourbon casks.
  • The next, x.2, follows the same base as x.1 but is aged in some variation of European oak.
  • The third, x.3, is a single vintage, single field, single malt expression. It is 100% Islay malted barley grown on the Octomore farm. They’re typically aged in a combination of American and European oak.   
  • The last, x.4, is released every other year and matures in virgin oak or a combination of virgin and vintage oak. When x.4 is off-year, it is replaced by Octomore 10-Year.

For the 12th edition, 12.3 starts with a 2014 harvested crop of concerto barley from Church Field on Octomore farm, which was distilled in 2015. The PPM of phenol is 118.1. The distillate aged in first-fill Bourbon casks (75%) and first-fill Pedro Ximenez sherry butts.


Those sherry butts are essential. In this case, they came from the Fernando de Castilla bodega in Juarez. These are retired from its solera system, so you’re getting a real sherry influence versus a sherry seasoned one.




While 12.3 carries no age statement, it rested in its cooperage for five years. Once dumped, the only thing added was a quick splash of Octomore spring water. Nothing that would have even a negligible impact on proof. Octomore is naturally-colored and non-chill filtered. Bottled at 62.1% ABV (124.2°), you can expect to pay about $289.00 for a 750ml package. That is if you can find it.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch appeared as brilliant gold. It formed a medium rim that created thick, speedy legs.


Nose:  I let this whisky sit in the glass for about 15 minutes before I approached it. At that time, the air in my whiskey library filled with sweet barbeque smoke. When I brought the glass to my face, I smelled brine, lemon and orange peel, pineapple, apricot, and malt. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, it was like a vanilla bomb exploded.


Palate:  You’ve heard of Big Oil, right? Well, that pretty much describes the mouthfeel. It was full-bodied for sure! The front of the palate featured citrus, pineapple, honey barbeque sauce, and dry smoke. Following were brine, caramel, and malt. The back offered flavors of English toffee, apple, pear, vanilla, and oak.


Finish: Here’s where things really got interesting. The finish was dry and very long. Barbeque smoke, pimento wood, honey, citrus, caramel, and brine remained.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I say the finish was interesting because there were a lot of bold qualities competing with one another, yet none overpowered. Instead, they were complimentary. Look, I’ve been fascinated with the Octomore line, and 12.3 doesn’t disappoint. In fact, this one is my favorite between 12.1, 12.2, and 12.3. Is it worth the price? If you’re a fan of peat and of Octomore, this is a slam-dunk Bottle. However, this may be too big of a whisky at too high of a price for the casual drinker. 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.