Posts tagged ‘Ardbeg’

Phil’s Favorite Islay Whiskies

Nowadays, Islay whiskies are all the rage.  It seems every hipster in every bar is talking about how much they love Laphroaig.  Back off, youngsters, I was here first.  Without further ado, my favorite Islay whiskies.

Name: Ardbeg Uigeadail

Batch: N/A (circa. 2014)

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 108.4 (54.2% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This is Ardbeg aged between 7 and 12 years, with a portion of the bottling being aged in ex-Sherry casks.  The result is a whisky with rolling peat, mocha, dark chocolate, pound cake, and dried mango.  While I understand why people stay away from NAS bottlings, this whisky proves that a whisky can be complex and unique without a ton of years in the casks, or a divulging of that age.  Uigeadail is readily available and pretty damn affordable for the quality of the juice inside it.

Name: Bruichladdich Octomore

Batch: 06.1 Scottish Barley

Age: 5 Years

Proof: 114 (57% abv)

Price: $150-175/750ml

Notes: This is a massively peated whisky bottled very young at cask strength. It’s hard to believe it’s so brilliant.  I’ve liked most iterations of Octomore I have tried, but this was soundly my favorite.  It smelled of volcanic rock that had been dipped in honey and rolled in fresh sawdust.  The flavors are long and intense, but balanced and unique.  This is a hard whisky to find, and this batch is probably long gone, but the Octomore lineup is definitely worth seeking out.

Name: Duncan Taylor Dimensions – Bruichladdich

Batch: Cask #3673

Age: 19 Years

Proof: 102.6 (51.3% abv)

Price: $200-225/750ml

Notes: An independent bottling, this whisky came from a single refilled hogshead.  All the notes you would expect from the cask are present, such as orchard fruits and berries, but those notes are buffered well with notes of sea spray and cardamom.  This whisky is soft, long, and complex.  It is not a typical Islay pour, but that does not diminish the quality of this dram.  This particular bottling is probably not available anymore, but I have had a few other Bruichladdich independent bottlings aged in American Oak, and they have all been stellar.

Name: Laphroaig 10 Year-Old Cask Strength

Batch: 006

Age: 10 Years

Proof: 116 (58% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: Truth be told, there have been iterations of this stellar Laphroaig release that I could have chosen here, but this one is my favorite by a small margin.  What makes this whisky so special is that all the big medicinal, smoky, salty, peaty flavors of Laphroaig are present, but they are all counter-balanced with rich vanilla custard and toasted soda bread.  The depth and complexity of this whisky is most impressive for only 10 years of age.  This batch is hard to find now, but future batches are readily available in most higher end liquor stores, and this whisky won’t break the bank.

Name: Laphroaig 32 Year-Old

Batch: 200th Anniversary Edition

Age: 32 Years

Proof: 93.4 (46.7% abv)

Price: $900-1,000/750ml

Notes: For their 200th, Laphroaig bottled this 32 year-old gem from a refill Sherry butt.  If I tasted this one blind, I would never have thought this was Laphroaig.  This whisky is hard to describe.  The flavors are sherried, barbecued, peated, and ancient.  Think of eating the best dark chocolate while drinking rich Oloroso sherry by a bonfire with just a hint of peat burning.  That’s really the best description I can think of.  It’s not often a peated whisky comes out like this with such age.  Obviously, this is an extremely hard whisky to find, and it will cost a great deal if purchased.  But, for what it’s worth, it’s really, really good whisky.

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Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys (and Happy Repeal Day!)

Well, it’s Repeal Day, and that calls for some good ol’ whiskey fun.  December 5, 2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, and I am celebrating with a list of my Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys.

Since most of us whiskey nerds have folks in our lives that do not enjoy whiskey, it is important to remember that evangelism is just as important as enjoyment.  One should not impose whiskey on others, but the introduction to whiskey can never hurt, right?  (Note: I realize that there are ethical problems with tying somebody to a chair and pouring whiskey down their throat.)

This is a list of whiskeys that I have found useful in the conversion process.  Some people do not like whiskey for all kinds of reasons – because it is too harsh, not flavorful enough, does not accommodate their palate, or they are just plain old prejudiced.  So, I have tried to incorporate whiskeys from all over the map, and all across the flavor wheel to help you convert that loved one in your life.  Not all of these whiskeys are personal favorites of mine, but they are all readily available in most liquor stores to help you in your proselytizing.  (I have also limited the list to one entry per distillery, and there are no limited edition whiskeys on here, only standard range releases.)

Honorable Mention:  Wild Turkey American Honey – While this is not technically a whiskey, it deserves a mention here because it is the best bourbon liqueur on the market today at preserving the flavors of bourbon.  This can be a great gateway drug, especially when served on the rocks with a splash of Wild Turkey 101 on a summer afternoon.

10. Ardbeg Uigeadail – This might seem like a strange entry on this list since most folks are turned off by peat, but there is a story here.  The beautiful woman I am currently dating is a coffee drinker who has never found whiskey to her liking.  Ardbeg Uigeadail was the breakthrough whiskey for her, so to the coffee drinker in your life, Slainte!

9. Bunnahabhain 12 yr. – Another Islay entry on this list makes it here because on its simplicity, and its drinkability.  The whiff of smoke works well for beer drinkers, as does the dense sherry on the palate.  For the lover of wee heavy ales, and Belgian Tripels, Bunnahabhain 12 yr. can be very persuasive.

8. Gentleman Jack – I know few (if any) whiskey lovers that love Gentleman Jack, but I know a ton of weekend gin guzzlers that love Gentleman Jack.  It speaks to a unique audience, and works well at converting that gin guzzling neighbor you know.

7. Basil Hayden’s – This is a bourbon on the lighter side of bourbon, and it lacks a lot of the dense, sweet notes that bourbon is known for.  It is a great introduction to spicier, more floral bourbons for that sultry Southerner you’re trying to convert.

6. Bushmill’s 16 yr. – This is a port-finished single malt Irish whiskey that is both sweet and dry, reminding me a lot of port, itself.  If you are seeking to convert a wine drinker, have a bottle of Bushmill’s 16 yr. on hand at your next house party.

5. Crown Royal Reserve – This super smooth Canadian dram is great for this conversion endeavor because of its allure.  The packaging works just as much as the contents of the bottle to convince the stubborn hold out that their life is about to be enhanced by whiskey.

4. Four Roses Yellow Label – This is flat out the most drinkable bourbon available.  It is mellow and sexy, and prime conversion material, which is one of the primary reasons it was one of the first whiskey reviews I ever did.

3. The Balvenie 12 yr. DoubleWood – This is on the list precisely because it works.  I don’t have a ton of analysis beyond the fact that I know at least three people who have told me that this whiskey changed their life.

2. Redbreast 12 yr. – This silky Irish pour will always be the highlight of a dinner party because of its combination of floral, sweet elegance, and its superb drinkability.  It is also an Irish whiskey so the tough, hard-working stockyard workers in your life will be more easily swayed.

1. The Glenlivet 12 yr. – This takes the number one spot on my list because it is the whiskey that converted me.  I was miring in a world of craft beer and rum (both of which are still wonderful) until I picked up a bottle of this juice on a whim one day.  Four years and a blog later, I could not be happier with that decision.  I also happen to know that my good friend, William from A Dram Good Time, could tell you a similar story about this Glenlivet expression.

Those are my favorite conversion whiskeys; what are yours?  What whiskeys do you keep on hand for those hold outs at your house parties?  Are there any great conversion whiskeys I have left out?  Happy Repeal Day, and don’t forget to let it ride!

Ardbeg Uigeadail Scotch Review

Ardbeg UigeadailToday, I will be concluding Scotchvember on Thanksgiving with a review of a wonderfully warming Islay single malt, Ardbeg Uigeadail.  Ever since Jim Murray awarded this the greatest whisky in the world in 2009, much has been made about this highly-awarded single malt.  Before I get too far into my opinion on Uigeadail, what exactly is “Uigeadail?”  The name of the whisky comes from the loch where Ardbeg gets its peaty water supply.  There is no age statement on the whisky itself, but I have heard that most of the spirit is between seven and twelve years old.  The whisky in the bottle is a vatting of whisky aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, first-fill bourbon casks, and refill bourbon casks.  According to Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads, most batches of Uigeadail are comprised of approximately 20% sherried spirit, with the rest of the whisky being divided between first and second fill bourbon casks.  Uigeadail is non-chill filtered and bottled at 108.4 proof (54.2% abv).

On the nose, Ardbeg Uigeadail presents that famous Ardbeg peat, but that is not all.  There are also notes of mesquite BBQ sauce, asphalt, and mocha. There is a dark sweetness that works beautifully with the peat on the nose.  The palate, however, is where this whisky truly comes alive.  The palate is full-bodied with a brilliant balance between sweet and peat.  The luscious, rolling peat is present throughout the palate, but it is rounded out beautifully by honey, vanilla, raisins, and dried mangos.  The finish is long and complex, starting out peaty, and then evolving into sweet, dark cigar tobacco (Maduro) and black coffee.  Water brings out sweeter flavors in the nose, such as roses and honeysuckle, while bringing forth dark chocolate and sherry on the palate.

This whisky continues to evolve as I go through the bottle and as I add water to the glass.  Different flavors come alive with each drop of water, but I love this whisky most at its full bottle strength.  The complexity and balance is superb throughout the sip at a level few whiskies can seek to achieve.  I truly believe this is one of the finest whiskies I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying.  If you love peat, Ardbeg Uigeadail is the pinnacle of peat and cask influence in a young, affordable Islay whisky.  My grade: A/A+.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price makes this a reasonable dram, and the whisky in the bottle screams to be unleashed on the most special of occasions.

Ardbeg 10 Year Scotch Review

Well, I have been debating about whether or not I wanted to review this one for a while now.  It is a cold night in Boston, and I poured myself a dram.  Honestly, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.  I wanted to rant and rave about this one, so that is what I decided to do.  Without further ado, my review of the Ardbeg 10 year-old single malt Scotch whisky.  It is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof (46% abv).

Ardbeg 10Ardbeg Distillery has an intriguing history.  Distillation first began at Ardbeg on Islay in 1794 (only Bowmore is an older distillery on Islay), although the current site of the distillery began crafting whiskies in 1815.  Over the years, Ardbeg became known as one of the peatiest malts in Scotland.  However, due to problems with ownership and demand, Ardbeg closed between 1982 and 1989, and it was closed again in 1996.  Even still, Ardbeg remained a highly-sought whisky for many connoisseurs.  Just when it looked like the distillery would be closed forever, it was bought out in 1997 by Glenmorangie, and Ardbeg was revived.  In 2000, Ardbeg introduced the 10 year-old, which I am reviewing today.  Many other brilliant whiskies followed, and Ardbeg is now regarded as one of the finest distilleries in the world.

On the nose, the 10 yr. takes you right to Islay.  There is a salty, peaty backbone to the nose, but there is a lot of depth.  There are notes of potpourri, black pepper, citrus fruits (limes), evergreens, gin botanicals, and pears.  The palate is medium-bodied, but full-flavored.  The backbone is the earthy, wet, salty peat, but there is a ton of depth in this one.  There are salty hearty notes, like bacon and prosciutto, followed by sweet notes of cocoa powder, milk chocolate, burnt chocolate, citrus peels, and some floral arrangements.  The finish is long and complex, with fresh bell peppers, crackling black pepper, sauteed peppers, leather, tobacco,  all backed by that wonderful Islay peat.  As the finish lingers, it moves back and forth from sweet chocolate to spicy smoke and wet peat.

Overall, this is a brilliant whisky that has layers of depth.  It is an Islay malt that will get you through a fall day, but it won’t bulldoze your palate.  There is good reason that this whisky is sought after; it drinks beautifully anytime.  It can take water beautifully, but I prefer it neat.  My only complaint about this one is that it is expensive given its age.  It is only ten years old, yet it is rarely priced under $55-60 here in Boston.  On the other side of that coin, it is a brilliant single malt for only $55, regardless of its age.  Age is just a number, but in the case of Ardbeg, 10 years age is damn near perfect.  My grade: A-.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is my favorite base malt to date, and it is a special occasion after dinner dram worth every penny.  If this one is on sale, I usually grab a bottle (or three).

To compare tasting notes, check out my friend William’s review here.

(What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet

Happy New Year!  To kick of the New Year, I am starting a new section on the blog called (What’s In) Phil’s Cabinet.  People ask me all the time what I am drinking at present, what they might expect if they came by for dinner and a dram.  So, on the first of every month, I will update what is in my whisk(e)y cabinet, both opened and unopened bottles.  This is also an opportunity for you to put in requests as to what you would like to see me review in the future, whether it is Scotch, Irish, Bourbon, Rye, Welsh, Indian, Japanese, or other type of whisk(e)y.  So, leave me a comment, or drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter.

Here is what is in the cabinet as of January 1, 2013:

Bourbon:

Angel’s Envy (unopened) – This is a bourbon that some folks have asked about, and I should have a review of it up by the end of spring.  It is a bourbon finished in port wine casks, and I am very excited to try it.

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage – This is a wonderful everyday bourbon, and I looking forward to grabbing a bottle of the 2003 Vintage that just hit shelves a few weeks ago.

Maker’s 46 – This is very good bourbon, with a very nice, deep sweetness that unfolds beautifully.  If it were a few bucks cheaper, it would contend for one of my favorite value bourbons.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed (unopened) – Another whiskey that has been requested a lot, this is a barrel-strength offering from Wild Turkey.  I am excited to try it, review it, and here what y’all have to say about it.

William Larue Weller (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is a barrel strength, limited-release wheated bourbon from Buffalo Trace that my father found as a Christmas present.  Not necessarily a value bourbon, but it is one of the most anticipated bourbon releases every year.

Rye:

Jim Beam Yellow Label – A solid every day pour that makes a very nice cocktail, too.

Sazerac 18 yr. (fall 2012 bottling) – This is my favorite whiskey currently in my cabinet.  I love this one.  Not necessarily an ideal price point, but you get your money’s worth for $70.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac (fall 2012 bottling) (unopened) – This is the younger, brash brother to the Sazerac 18.  Jim Murray rated this bottling as his Whisky of the Year in the 2013 Whisky Bible (William Larue Weller was his runner-up).

Willett Single Barrel Estate Reserve 4 yr. (unopened) – This is an LDI rye, bottled at cask strength.  My affinity for Bulliet 95 is what made me seek this one out.

Scotch:

Ardbeg 10 yr. – This is one of my favorite Islay Scotches from one of my favorite Scotch distilleries.  As far as Scotches go, it is a pretty good value, and I’ll probably put up a review here in the next few weeks.

The Black Grouse – A nice, peaty blended whisky that works well for an everyday Scotch.

Highland Park 12 yr. – Another beautiful Single Malt Scotch from Scottish islands.  I should have my review of this one up soon.

Those are the whiskeys in my cabinet at present.  What’s in your cabinet?  What whiskeys do you want to see reviewed on the blog?  What whiskeys are you hoping to try in 2013?  Once again, Happy New Year and let it ride!

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Review

Well, today is my birthday, so I am going for pure pleasure.  Today, I am doing a review of one of the finest whiskies on the planet, Bunnahabhain 12 year-old single malt Islay Scotch.  If you would like to know how to pronounce Bunnahabhain, let Brian Cox help you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=JanRqMtGtOI

I have talked a little about Scotch regions in the past, yet I have not yet talked about Islay.  Islay is my favorite Scotch region; it is known for massive, powerful whiskies that take your taste buds for one hell of a ride.  “Peat Monsters” like Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin all come from Islay.  However, there is a lighter side of Islay as well, with distilleries like Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain.

Bunnahabhain is a non-chill filtered whisky, aged in Sherry casks, bottled at 92.6 proof.  It has a rich, amber color, a much darker color than most Islay Scotches.  On the nose, it is sweet and salty.  The sweetness comes primarily from the Sherry influence, giving way to almonds, dark fruits, berries, and sweet oak.  The saltiness comes primarily from the peat, offering a soft whiff of smoke every soft often in the nose.  The palate has the traditional fullness of an Islay Scotch, yet the flavor profile is much different.  The front of the palate picks up a full array of sweetness, with notes of hazelnuts, almonds, some light cinnamon sugar spiciness, blackberries, boysenberries, and dried apricots.  As the whisky moves towards its finish, it begins to show its Islay roots.  The back of the palate begins to get smokier, until the smoke finally releases its power in the finish.  The finish is long (another Islay trademark).  It starts off with a big puff of peat smoke, yet it becomes deliciously sweet over time, echoing the sweet and salty balance of the nose.  The finish seems to take you right to the sea, where a cool autumn breeze is blowing salt into your nostrils as you eat freshly picked raspberries.

As you might have guessed, I love this whisky.  My only wish is that the Sherry would not be quite so strong on the front of the palate.  Occasionally, you can find this whisky for under $50, which makes it a pretty good deal.  Honestly, I have seen other Scotches with this depth and complexity cost twice that much.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a whisky for special occasions, and it comes through beautifully.  It tastes well beyond its price point.