Posts tagged ‘peat’

Compass Box Peat Monster Scotch Review


Not all monsters are scary, especially not peat monsters.

Before winter is up here in the Mid-Atlantic, I’m going to talk about a little whisky from my favorite style to sip on in the wintertime – Peated Scotch.  Thus my review today of one of my favorite blended malts, Compass Box Peat Monster.  Peat Monster is a blended malt Scotch, meaning that it is comprised of only single malt whiskies, as opposed to most blended Scotch whiskies which are comprised of both malt whisky and grain whisky.  Despite its name, Peat Monster is hardly a peat-bomb.  It is comprised of peated whiskies, some heavily peated and some lightly peated, from all over Scotland, not just Islay.  It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and bottled at 92 proof (46% abv).

The nose is absolutely brilliant on this whisky, with a good ashy, Caol Ila peat coming together with full, fresh oak, salty sea spray, and big vanilla.  There is a nutty, earthy peat going through the nose, too.  It just leaps out of the glass and has great balance between the peat and sweet.  Unfortunately, I don’t think the palate holds up to the nose.  The palate is medium-bodied with medicinal, rubbery peat, a bit of smoke, and some spicy sandalwood. Those sweet notes from the nose don’t quite follow all the way through to the palate in the full force they possessed at the outset.  The finish is medium-long, elegantly peaty with twinges of vanilla.

If you are looking for a warming whisky to sip by the fire, but one with great balance between smoky and sweet, then look no further.  It is all too often that single malt drinkers are afraid to spend money on a blend thinking they will be sacrificing quality because of the input of multiple distilleries.  Compass Box makes a host of whiskies that prove this is not the case, and Peat Monster is very much in that realm.  My grade: B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  At its price point, Peat Monster competes very well with other smoky base malts, like Laphroaig and Ardbeg, and the juice in the bottle stands right there as well.

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!

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.

Ardmore Traditional Cask Scotch Review

Ardmore Traditional CaskToday, I am continuing Scotchvember at Bargain Bourbon with a review of Ardmore Traditional Cask.  Ardmore is a unique distillery because it hardly fits the flavor profile of its region.  As I discussed in my review of some McClelland’s whiskies, each Scotch region tends towards a specific flavor profile.  Ardmore is usually considered to be within the Speyside region of Scotland (even though Ardmore considers itself a “Highland Single Malt”).  Speyside is the most popular Scotch region, known for soft, elegant, fruity, and malty whiskies.  Speyside has the highest concentration of distilleries in Scotland, and the three most popular single malts in the world (Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan) all hail from Speyside.  What sets Ardmore apart is that it is smoky and peaty, much more reminiscent of an Islay Scotch than it is of a Speysider.

Ardmore Traditional Cask is the standard entry-level offering from the distillery, and it is aged in ex-bourbon casks for about 6-8 years, and then finished in quarter casks (125 liters) for an extra period before aging.  There is no age statement on the bottle, but most of the whisky in the bottle will be about 8 years old.  If the process sounds similar to Laphroaig Quarter Cask, it is.  In fact, both distilleries are owned by the same parent company, Beam Global.  Ardmore Traditional Cask is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92 proof (46 % abv).

On the nose, this whisky has a medium peat backbone (not quite the dense peat of Laphroaig, for example), with a nice rounded sweetness in the form of honey and vanilla.  The palate is medium-bodied and creamy with a lot of sweet flavors, like brown sugar, honey, and vanilla all wrapped up in a warming peat smoke.  The finish is medium-long and fairly drying.  There is a woody tannic bite that comes in on the finish, but those pleasant sweet flavors from the palate are still present.  There is definitely a lot influence from the bourbon casks in this one, which is allowed to shine through a more gentle peat than in Ardbeg or Laphroaig.

Overall, Ardmore is a lighter, softer take on a peated whisky.  It does drink a little young, but it is still a very pleasant pour.  Ardmore offers new drinkers a great introduction to peated whisky without knocking all the wind out of your palate, nor is it an especially deep whisky.  Despite its youth, Ardmore drinks well below its elevated proof point, making for a warming, yet delicate dram.  My grade: B.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  At the price point, Ardmore Traditional Cask is a fantastic value whisky, well worth letting it ride on this peated Speysider.

Bowmore Legend Scotch Whisky Review

Today, I am reviewing a whisky that I have been overdue in reviewing, Bowmore Legend.  This is one of the most reasonably priced single malt Scotches on the market today, especially from Islay.  At least up here in Boston, Islay malts have gone through the roof in popularity and price.  It is rare to find either Laphroaig or Ardbeg for under $55.  However, this no-age-statement Bowmore release is usually priced around $30, making it a quite reasonable purchase.

Legend is the first whisky that I’ve reviewed from Bowmore, a distillery located in the middle of the Isle of Islay, across Loch Indaal from Bruichladdich.  There is quite a rich history of distilling at Bowmore.  For starters, it is the oldest distillery on Islay (est. 1779), as well as being one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland.  In the last 20 years or so, Bowmore has become famous for its Black Bowmore line, a series of vintage releases from Oloroso sherry casks.  Obviously, these old, sherried whiskies fall well beyond my price range, but I have yet to hear anyone say a marginally bad word about a Black Bowmore.  The general consensus among the “experts” is that Bowmore is a spirit best enjoyed with some age and some sherry influence.  Personally, I have always been a fan of the Bowmore 12 yr., but I have not had it in a while, and would need to refresh my memory in order to do a quality review.  I had hoped to grab a bottle of Bowmore 12 when I entered the store last month, but when I saw the Legend on sale, I grabbed this young whisky instead.  Legend is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv), and aged exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels.

On the nose, Legend produces some lovely notes of smoked honey barbeque, earthy peat, salted pork, fresh barley, and cooked plastic.  Overall, it is a fairly acidic nose, which is a bit off putting.  The palate is rather light, but there is a nice blend of sweet honey and malt with smoked meat and peat.  The sensation is not all that far from a honey-glazed ham steak.  The finish is peaty, with some brine notes, some sweet barley, some salt, and a nice lingering vanilla.  In my opinion, water brings the peat to the fore, which dulls down the complexity of this one for me.  This is a whisky that pairs most beautifully with something sweet, like chocolate covered almonds or vanilla pudding.

I have to admit that it took me a while to warm up to Legend (or maybe the Legend took a while to warm to me).  When I first cracked the bottle, I thought the whisky was too acidic, with some raw phenolic, iodine flavors that came off rough, like nail-polish remover.  However, halfway through the bottle, the whisky has rounded out nicely into a very solid everyday Islay malt at a great price.  My Grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is a good, young, medium-bodied Islay whisky that makes for a good pour day to day.  I suspect this one would work very well in an Islay-based cocktail as well.


Talisker 10 Year Scotch Review (on Burns Day)

Robert BurnsWell, it’s Robert Burns day.  Time to eat some haggis, drink some Scotch, and honor Scotland’s national poet properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t actually have any haggis (surprised?), but I do have some Scotch.  So, without further ado.  Let’s get involved in reviewing some of the good stuff.  My friend William, over at  A Dram Good Time sent me a sample of this one, and I liked it so much that I did a few tastings at my local watering hole so I could review it online and spread the whisky gospel.

Today, I am reviewing Talisker 10 yr.  It is a wonderful, (relatively) young whisky from the only distillery on the Isle of Skye off the Northwest coast of Scotland.  Talisker has had an interesting history in that it is not close at all to any other distillery in Scotland.  However, it has had a rich history of mergers and separations with other distilleries from all over Scotland.  To this point, Talisker has proven a resilient distillery.  In the fall of 1960, the whole stillhouse burned down, but it was rebuilt exactly as it had been in the old days.  Ironically, the distillery might have been bought out and shut down if it had not burned down.  So, the essence of the story is that fate is on the side of good single malts.  Today, we still have the opportunity to enjoy this wonderful whisky.  The Talisker 10 yr. is bottled at 91.6 proof (45.8 abv).  Talisker 10

On the nose, Talisker 10 yr. presents a wet, earthy peat.  However, it is complimented nicely by some fruity notes that resemble apricots or peaches.  The nose is decidedly less smoky than Ardbeg or Laphroaig, but the peat is still there.  On the palate, Talisker is full-bodied and complex.  It opens with some citrus notes, but it moves quickly to spicy pepper (cayenne, cracked peppercorns?), peat, tree bark, and wet leaves.  The finish is long and spicy at full strength.

However, one of my favorite points to Talisker 10 yr. is how well it adjusts to different proof points.  Seriously, if you want to have some fun, pour a big glass of Talisker.  Take a few sips of it neat, and then add some water.  Let it sit for 10 minutes, and return to have a few more sips.  Then, add some more water.  After another 10 minutes, the whisky will still be unfolding.  Water brings out sweeter notes on the palate, like sauteed apples and cooked peaches.  It also brings the finish to an oakier spiciness, as opposed to the peppery heat that is unleashed at full strength.  Talisker is truly a journey of a whisky.

Overall, this is a very good whisky.  My complaints are that it is still chill-filtered, and it has caramel coloring added to it.  Outside of that, this is a great whisky.  My grade: A-/B+.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This one is a little pricey for such a young whisky, but the flavors in the bottle pack in the complexity of a whisky much older.  Even at the price point, this one is still very good value.

Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength (Batch 004) Scotch Review

Well, I got done my work earlier than expected this evening, so I am rewarding myself with a whisky review of one of my favorites.  I’ve had tried several bottles of this batch at my local watering hole, and I think I have done enough reviewing to preach the goodness of batch 004 of Laphroaig 10 yr. Cask Strength.  This batch was distilled in 2002, bottled in January 2012, and it is non-chill filtered at 116.6 proof (58.3% abv).

Laphroaig 10 yr Cask StrengthThis Scotch whisky carries an interesting story with it.  During Prohibition in the United States, Laphroaig was still allowed to import their whisky at its cask strength as cough medicine because the United States government deemed the whisky too strong and medicinal to be consumed recreationally.  However, in the new whisky market, the consumer’s palate has shifted to stronger, powerfully flavored whiskies, and Laphroaig fits that bill perfectly.  (Note: This stuff is plenty strong enough to be used as cough medicine, even today.)

On the nose, this whisky is classic Laphroaig – salty, peaty, and smoky.  With a few drops of water, the nose turns to a delightful, sweet smoke, like sweet Italian sausage cooked over an open bonfire.  However, the palate is where this whisky is brilliant.  Drank neat, the whisky is peat and smoke, with some malty undertones all in perfect balance.  There is a wonderful peaches n’ cream note that works through the palate of this whisky that makes me unbelievably happy.  The finish is very long, with hints of oak shavings around a warming layer of sweet, wet peat.  Water brings the palate into a more drinkable balance, but I tend to lose that lovely sweetness on the palate at lower proof points, so I usually drink this one straight up.

Overall, this is brilliant whisky if you love peated Islay single malts.  Compared to other Islay bottlings at cask strength, this one is a great deal, and phenomenal value.  That said, if you are a Speyside drinker (light, fruity, floral), this one probably isn’t up your alley.  My grade: APrice: $60-70/750ml.  This one could also be an A/A-, but I am in a generous mood this evening.  Make no mistake, though.  This is one hell of a Scotch whisky.

For a review of the 2007 bottling, here is a link to William’s review at A Dram Good Time.