Posts tagged ‘Bruichladdich’

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.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Scotch Review

I do sincerely apologize for my lack of posts of late; there have been a great deal of changes in my life of late.  But, to honor those changes, I thought I would do a review of a whisky from a distillery that is constantly changing – Bruichladdich.  I have tried a great many whiskies from this distillery, all of which are different and unique.  Bruichladdich has always been a distillery known for its shifting expressions, and its use of peat in varying degrees.

Today, I am reviewing Port Charlotte Scottish Barley, a whisky with no-age-statement, bottled at 100 proof (50% abv) without any chill-filtration.  The Port Charlotte lineup is a series of whiskies comprised of peated Bruichladdich stocks.  Port Charlotte is peated from the inland peat of Islay, a contrast to the low seaside peat of Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and Lagavulin.  This leads to a slightly different flavor profile, with the Port Charlotte being a drier peat and the coastal peat being a wetter peat.  The Port Charlotte expressions tend towards a dry, woodier smoke, as opposed to the damp, medicinal smoke of the southern Islay distilleries, such as Laphroaig and Lagavulin.

The nose on this Port Charlotte expression is an earthy, dry peat, with notes of malt, burning leaves, brine, sea salt, and perfume.  The palate is soft and elegant, belying the youth of the whisky.  There are notes of honey, heather, hay, vanilla, peat, and burning wood.  The finish is short for a peated Islay whisky, whispering burning wood, honey, and barbecue smoke on the back of the tongue.

Overall, this is a delicious, young peated malt.  I love the character of the peat, and the balance of the whisky as a whole.  It is complex, balanced, and full-flavored.  This is a great introduction to Bruichladdich peat and the Port Charlotte range.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $60-70/750ml.  This is a little pricey for its age, but this is surely a wonderful peated single malt.

WhiskyLive Boston 2014 Review

Earlier this autumn, I attended Whisky Live Boston with several of my very good, whisky-loving friends. The great food, great company, and excellent whiskies always make this a highlight night of the year, and this year was no different. Here are some of my thoughts on some of the drams I really enjoyed from this wonderful evening…

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

The view from the 2nd floor of the State Room during Whisky Live Boston 2014.

Coming into the evening, the American whiskey that I was most looking forward to trying was the new 8th release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, a 13 year-old straight wheat whiskey. I was, of course, very excited when I saw a bottle of this sitting on the Heaven Hill display table, but I was a little disappointed on the whiskey overall. Perhaps my standards were too high because I was really stoked to try this one, but I found it a little too grain-driven for my tastes. This is still a very good whiskey and a great idea, but I did not like it as much as I have enjoyed previous PHC releases.

Lest you think I stormed out of the venue and swore off whiskey for the rest of my days, I did have the chance to enjoy some fantastic drams. I really enjoyed the balance between fruit, spice, and oak in the Redbreast 21 year-old, certainly one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have tried to date. I got to try some of the whiskeys that Koval is bottling, and I am anxious to find more. I was also very impressed with some of the Benromach whiskies I sampled at the Gordon & MacPhail display table (more on that in the weeks to come). I thoroughly enjoyed getting to taste the two most recent Laphroaig Cairdeas releases side-by-side. I preferred the 2013 release to the 2014 release, but they are both fantastic. The 3rd edition of the “Islands” impression from Bruichladdich was a wonderful pour, and the Speyburn 25 year-old is not to be missed. However, none of these wonderful whiskies were left holding a medal in my book at the end of the night (these medals are not real, so I apologize if I got your hopes up). Without further ado, here were my three favorites from WhiskyLive Boston 2014.

Bronze Medal Winner: The First Editions – Bowmore 17 yr. This is an independently bottled Bowmore that was distilled in 1996, and bottled in 2013 from a single ex-bourbon barrel at cask strength (52.8% abv). I think the Bowmore spirit is definitely best with a little age under it, and this one was really a zinger. The age smoothed out some of the plastic, acidic notes of Bowmore’s younger whiskies, and left a wonderful whisky. The palate was a full-bodied cavalcade of Memphis barbecue, peat, ginger, and wet clay. This one balanced the spirit and the cask wonderfully, giving a very welcome dose of peat and spices with some dark sweetness mixed in. The price tag on this bottle ($150-175/750ml) would probably be a little beyond what I would pay for the contents, but this was definitely a wonderful take on Bowmore’s spirit.

Silver Medal Winner: Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 006). I will avoid ranting about this whisky here, as I have already given it plenty of praise on the blog with previous releases. That said, this was one of the best releases of the 10 year-old cask strength that I have had. It balances the sweet flavors of the ex-bourbon casks with the rich Laphroaig peat almost perfectly. This is always reasonably priced ($70-80/750ml) for the quality and strength, and is a very worthy addition to any winter liquor cabinet. I will certainly endeavor to buy a bottle of this wonderful whisky.

Gold Medal Winner: Bruichladdich Octomore 06.1 Scottish Barley. This was my first go at the legendary Octomore, a 5 year-old, cask strength peat monster (peated to 167 ppm, nearly four times as peated as standard Laphroaig), and I was lured into its mysteries. When the barley is peated to that level, something crazy happens, and this whisky shows a depth of character that I have rarely experienced. It smells and tastes like the earth after a bonfire, with a touch of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. There are also some lovely citrus notes that mingle with the soot and coaldust, giving the palate a sublime workout. This whisky is not cheap ($150-175/750ml), nor is it easy to find, so I do not think a full bottle is in my future, but this was surely my highlight of Whisky Live Boston 2014.

I know that my highlights were all peated Scotches, but those were the whiskies that stood out most to me, so that’s what I picked. All across the board, it was a night of wonderful whiskies, great company, and a wonderful venue with a fantastic aerial view of Boston. If you’re in Boston, hope to see you at Whisky Live Boston 2015 next fall!

Bruichladdich Laddie Ten Scotch Review

Scotchvember keeps on keepin’ on at Bargain Bourbon with a review of Bruichladdich Laddie Ten.  As this is the first review I have done on this “progressive Hebridean” distillery, I’ll provide a few brief facts about this Islay gem.  Bruichladdich is located on the western portion of Islay, almost directly across the Loch Indaal from Bowmore.  Bruichladdich is a unique distillery in that they play around with all sorts of different styles of whisky-making and casking.  I do not believe I have seen a Scottish distillery that has the variety of whiskies that come out of Bruichladdich.  I am posting a link to their website, but be careful, you can get lost in cyber Bruichladdich very quickly  http://www.bruichladdich.com/the-whisky/bruichladdich/the-laddie-ten-year-old.

The Laddie Ten is one of the most widely available whiskies from Bruichladdich.  It is an unpeated single malt, meaning the barley is not smoked over a peat fire.  However, the water the whisky is made from is still very peaty, which does lend a peated character to the finished product.  The Laddie Ten is aged in 90% ex-bourbon casks and 10% ex-sherry casks before being bottled in that bright turquoise without chill filtration at 92 proof (46% abv).

On the nose, The Laddie Ten is a wonderful balance of malt, brine, salt, and peat.  There is a lot of sweet malt, surrounded by familiar sweet notes of bourbon casks, with salty brine and earthy peat rolling all around.  The palate is a backbone of earthy peat, but there is orange zest, fresh baked bread, and sweet American oak rounding out the palate nicely.  The finish is medium-long, with peat mixing in well with sweet malt, oak, and the occasional whiff of chocolate wafer.

Overall, The Laddie Ten is a wonderful, lively whisky that combines all its flavor in great balance.  Nothing overwhelms the whisky, and nothing dominates the flavor profile.  It is drinkable and balanced the whole way through.  This is a great introduction to Islay whiskies, as it drastically tones down the peat, and lets all the great flavors of a single malt Scotch whisky shine through.  My only complaint is that it often hovers around $60 for a bottle here in Boston, which is a tad pricey for a 10 year-old malt in my opinion.  That said, this is some pretty damn good whisky.  My grade: B+/A-.  Price: $50-60/750ml. This is a balanced, elegant dram that is definitely very well made, and cared for while it’s in the oak.

Just in case you need a bit of direction on the pronunciation of this wonderful distillery… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16hsejGKsNk

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.