“Past, Present and Future”: Artbeg Exhibition celebrates 200 years of Ardbeg’s “untamed” single malt [exclusive images]

artbeg

To celebrate 200 years of Ardbeg whisky, the distillery will exhibit images which are intended to capture the “untamed” spirit of Ardbeg. This exhibition is creatively called ARTBEG.  

The Artbeg Exhibition, which will be revealed today, marks Ardbeg Day (to be celebrated on 30 May 2015). The exhibition is comprised of 20 layered digital collages which can be viewed on the external wall of the Ardbeg distillery’s West Maltings building and on www.ardbeg.com. The exhibition will be removed at the end of this year.   

The collages are created by photographer Peter Heaton, who is proclaimed to be an “ardent” Ardbeg single malt fan. After visiting the distillery in 2014, Mr Heaton created the collages by layering his photographs of Ardbeg and Islay with material from the Ardbeg archives. This includes correspondence to and from Ardbeg, bills and other records.

Mr Heaton, speaking of the exhibition, said:

“I have always had a fascination with Islay and its single malts, particularly Ardbeg. The exhibition interprets the Distillery over time and I wanted to create layered, complex imagery which would encourage people to give the work some time and think about the theme of past, present and future.”

Ardbeg’s Distillery Manager, Mickey Heads, also had a few words to say about the exhibition, and said:

“This exhibition provides an intriguing twist on the story of Ardbeg – and contains more than a few surprises. The complexity of these remarkable images makes you stop and think about the whisky’s heritage and its future”.

Malt Mileage is very fortunate to have – with thanks to EVH – received two exclusive images from the Artbeg exhibition to share with readers. 

 The committee meets (1)

The first image, “the committee meets”, is a collection of images that contain the 9th Century Kildalton Cross, which stands near the Ardbeg distillery, a vintage map of Islay and a document which makes reference to the “Sound of Islay”; the narrow straight between the isles of Islay and Jura off the west coast of Scotland.

The picture itself is dark, with what seems to be a storm brewing in the distance. The ashy and sooty look of the collage captures the mood of Ardbeg’s signature smoky peat, while the sun softly shining though the darkness seems to reflect Ardbeg’s sweetness – what some call the “peaty paradox”.

Ardbeg Distillery from the pier

The second image, “Ardbeg distillery from the pier”, captures a shot of the Ardbeg distillery rising out of old archived handwritten letters which were sent to the distillery.

The waves bashing against the rocks signals a turbulence shared in the first image, though it predominately seems calm and picturesque. Having been raised by the coast most of my life, the smell of seaweed and the sea comes to my nose just looking at this image; triggered by the yellowish roughage. This seems to capture the maritime nature of island whisky, such as that from Islay.

Art tends to be a subjective experience, and the above notes reflect what my eyes perceive. What do you perceive?

Ardbeg fans are encouraged to sign up to the Ardbeg committee at: http://www.ardbeg.com/ardbeg/members/public/index/register.

Posted in news | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bruichladdich Islay Barley

2007 islay barley

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 50%

Price: US$50-$70 (USA), AU$106.99 (Aus), £35-£45 (UK)

Reaction: :D

Barley is one of the core ingredients of malt whisky. Barley grains are malted, dried and then steeped in very hot water. That water (which is called “wort”) becomes infused with the sugars and flavours from the barley. It is then allowed to cool. Once cooled to an appropriate temperature, yeast is added to that water. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cold, the yeast will remain dormant. If, however, the water temperature is just right the yeast will ferment the wort, and convert the sugars in the wash into alcohol. Once fermented, the wort becomes something similar to a beer without hops. That beer is called a “wash”. To make whisky, the wash is distilled to extract the alcohol from it. That distilled liquid is often called “new make”, and it is as clear as water. Along with alcohol the new make will consist of water and flavour compounds from the fermentation, which include flaours from the barley (for a fuller explanation of distilling, see: The Life of Malt Whisky Part 1).

Reflecting on the importance of barley to whisky making, it comes as no surprise that Bruichladdich – those self-proclaimed progressive Hebridean distillers – push the boundaries of the whisky world by creating a whisky that is made from barley that has been grown on the isle of Islay in Scotland. They aptly call this creation Bruichladdich Islay Barley. The barley used for this whisky was grown for Bruichladdich by Mark and Rohaise French, in the Minister’s field at Rockside Farm.  

Emblazoned on the whisky’s bottle are the words “we believe terroir matters”. The world terroir comes from French, and is commonly used to describe the land and soil of a wine producing region. It is believed that the soil in which grapes grow can influence the flavour of wine which is made from those grapes, after the juice of those grapes is fermented. Cognac makers, who distil wine into brandy, have known the importance of terroir for centuries. The most coveted Cognac is from the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, because that region has chalky soil and this soil is believed to produce grapes that are perfect for making Cognac that has finesse. Bruichladdich, standing on the shoulders of wine and brandy making giants in France, have decided to employ this theory of terroir to whisky making. This means that  the barley grown in Islay is likely, once it is used to make a wash that is distilled, to give whisky a different flavour to barley that is grown in the mainland of Scotland (or elsewhere for that matter).

Malt Mileage has been very fortunate to be able to taste Bruichladdich “new make”, with tasting notes available in The Life of Malt Whisky Part 1. This includes Bruichladdich “new make” made from Islay barley, bere barley and organic barley. The Islay barley was quite earthy and full flavoured with oils and heavy congeners weighing down the ethanol. It had earthy, herbal and peppery flavours with a foundation of vanilla, caramel, honey, chocolate, saltiness and nuttiness.  

Bruichladdich put this “new make” into oak barrels which over time give the “new make” a golden straw colour, infuse it with oak flavours and alter some of the compounds in it (for a fuller discussion of the way oak matures whisky, see: The Life of Malt Whisky Part 2.1). Bruichladdich Islay barley is unpeated, presumably to ensure that the flavour of the barley is not lost to the peat, and bottled at a generous 50% alcohol by volume.  

Eyes:

Often in Cognac circles the way a brandy looks is part of its aesthetic pleasure – its colour, the way it catches the light and clings to the glass. The colour of Bruichladdich Islay Barley is a light golden wheat colour, but the way it hugs the glass – leaving thin legs that slope down as the oily film fades – is particularly impressive.

Nose:

The bouquet is immediately quite sweet and sumptuous, with nutty Argan oil, banana, raisin, porridge, honey, whipped cream, pineapple, banana and raisin bread with crushed nuts and soft vanillas. A mild earthiness sits beneath that lovely aroma, with soft hints of pepper, mixed olives, anchovies and the backbone of the “new make” untouched by the oak- chocolate, oily nuts, nut oils and shades of golden and dark honey.  

Taste:

On the palate find vanillas and a soft creaminess, through which shines pepper, spice, mild anchovy and earthiness. There is something salty and earthy about this whisky, like a lick of rock salt and a sip of a platinum tequila. 

Finish:

The finish offers lingering flavours of honey, chocolate, nuts and a mild salt/saline. That saline is interlaced with rock and minerality, like tasting a sodium rich natural sparkling water.

Bottom line:

Buy it. Bruichladdich Islay Barley is a fascinating malt that offers a very earthy, mineral and salty character, which can only be explained by the Islay barley. This malt showcases the Islay barley without letting the wood get in the way, and it is a delicious incarnation of Islay’s saltiness, earthiness and minerality in a bottle. The French have known for centuries that the soil which feeds grapes gives brandy made from those grapes important flavours and character. Glad to see the Scots have finally caught on, with a conscious attempt at bottling a piece of Scotland… literally.

Posted in Islay | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Port Charlotte PC 12

PC12

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 58.7%

Reaction: :D

Port Charlotte PC 12 is Bruichladdich’s eighth release of the PC series, which is a series of heavily peated cask strength malts. It has been aged in oak casks for 12 years. 

Nose:

Imagine going to a coast side farmer’s festival with a bunch of cigar smokers. This bouquet is packed with barnyard aromas, wood and dry hay, with beaming heart notes of a butter, toffee, nut nougat, bubble gum, sweet rose, cinnamon, cotton candy, citrus, sweet sappy wood, and sea salt. All the while, the aroma of burning matches and the chocolaty and woodsy scent of a fresh maduro cigar gently whispers… “drink me”. The smell of Neapolitan salami and taralli, packed with anise seed, is carried by citrusy notes of lemon cake and Cointreau.

Taste:

Immediately, the sweet nip of sherry strikes the palate. It succumbs to waves of peat smoke, woodsmoke, dates, and marshmallows over a campfire of twigs and hay. There is something spectacularly complex and woodsy about this malt. Then the palate dries, buoyed by cinnamon, lime, green toffee apple, and honey.  

Finish:

The finish is smoky, peaty, peppery, woodsy, drying, spicy, and, citrusy; particularly of lime, orange peel and mouth puckering lemon meringue. Fading notes of anise seed, raisin, sarsaparilla and licorice also intermingle with warming overtones of cinnamon and pickled ginger.

Overall

Buy it. Jack Nicholson’s face has never randomly come to my mind. For some reason, I can see his raised eyebrows, trade mark smile and dark sunglasses. It might be my subconscious calling. Maybe this whisky is “As Good As It Gets”. Whatever the reason, there is very little I would change about this malt. If potent and fiery peaty malts are your thing, with a bit of sherry oak and a guaranteed 12 years of age on the clock, this is your whisky!

Posted in Islay | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bearded Lady Charred Moonshine

Score: 72/100

Type: Moonshine

Origin: United States

ABV: 40%

Batch: 

Reaction: :(

Price: AU$40

According to my trusty Oxford Dictionary, “moonshine” is not only defined as illegal or smuggled alcohol but also as foolish talk – “Bah!”, cried Tom. “Whatever Harry said was moonshine!”. The same thing goes for “hogwash”, which can be used to refer to crappy (yes, this is in the Oxford Dictionary too) booze or when someone is talking nonsense. So, it seems “moonshine” is synonymous with foolish talk and nonsense. Surely, you can guess why – just imagine all the nonsensical rambling that must have filled illicit speakeasies during the Prohibition era, fueled by – you guessed it – moonshine. Moonshine was the main poison of choice at the time because, frankly, the good stuff was illegal and limited supply of it meant it was extremely expensive. Shipments of the good stuff did make it through to the United States, whether from Canada (Canadian Club) or Scotland (Cutty Sark) but for the most part people had to quench their thirst for alcohol with home made and usually… well… crappy, moonshine. 

Bearded Lady have creatively, around 82 years after Prohibition in the United States ended in 1933, re-introduced something it calls “moonshine” into the market.Of course, it isn’t moonshine because it is neither home made nor illegal. However, it does come in a jar instead of  a bottle so you can feel as though you are roughing it… when really you’re not. The mystery as to why Bearded Lady call this product “moonshine” seems to be solved, at least in my opinion, by the fact that this “corn whiskey” is “rested” in used Bearded Lady bourbon barrels before it is bottled at a paltry 40% alcohol by volume; something the real moonshiners around town probably use to pour over their morning corn flakes. Because this spirit is rested in used barrels, this alcohol cannot be legally called a bourbon (because a bourbon must be matured in new barrels). So, even though it is not moonshine, Bearded Lady have gone ahead and called it moonshine. Fair enough, and what great marketing it is too. Why call something boring old “spirit” when you can call it “moonshine”… even though it is not. 

The spirit offers lot of vanilla with spice, brown sugar and the bite of bourbon. There is a pleasant note of charred oak on the entry, but then the ethanol annoyingly scratches away at the palate like an angry cat. Toward the finish, however, the harsh alcohol begins to soften but what emerges, apart from undertones of caramel, is far from enjoyable – fly spray, a wet tree log doused with bourbon and a bitter finale. This sure does taste like moonshine. Pity it isn’t moonshine, technically speaking.  Overall this spirit struck me as a harsh alcohol that was overly simple and not enjoyable to sip. Save your money, as well priced as this is, and buy yourself a bourbon – Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, Makers Mark, Buffalo Trace or even just Bearded Lady with do just fine. As for this moonshine, I just do not get it.  

Posted in AMERICAN WHISKEY | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda

spirit-of-hven-seven-stars-no-3-phecda-single-malt-whisky

Score: 94/100

Type: Single malt

Origin: Sweden

ABV: 45%

Reaction:  :D

Price: Approx. £90

Oak: Matured in American white chinkapin oak from Missouri and French Oak from Alliers

Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda is the third release in a series of whiskies produced by the Swedish distillery Spirit of Hven. As with the releases that came before it, the Phecda takes its name from the stars above; the Phecda being a star in the asterism (pattern of stars) Ursa Major. Phecda is described as being somewhat hotter and larger than the sun around which our planet circles.

An image of Supernova SN 1993J which occurred in galaxy M81, which is located in Ursa Major 10,000 light years away. Image: NASA

The whisky itself is a medium peated malt which is crafted, from barley to bottle, by the family owned Spirit of Hven on the island of Hven in Sweden.  After the wash (similar to beer without hops) is distilled, the spirit is placed in barrels made from Quercus Muehlenbergii (American white oak known as chinkapin oak) from Missouri and Quercus Petraea (French oak) from Allier. Over the course of whisky’s maturation, during which the spirit soaks up flavours from the oak, the oak seems to have infused the whisky with some very distinct aromas and flavours; the most interesting of which are a fiery spice and a winy base note of fortified wine and brandy over which floats a thin smokiness.

Nose:

Soft waves of vanilla are immediately noticeable, and the bouquet quickly develops into Panettone soaked in brandy and a dash of Sambuca, ground coffee, tobacco, new leather, stewed dark berries, banana, fragrant woodsmoke, scorching charcoals and peppermint Fisherman’s Friend.

Taste:

The taste of fortified wine is followed by a fiery spice, which is peppery with a mildly burning jalapeño bite, dark chocolate,  tobacco and pencil shavings. The peat is there, but it tastes more of tobacco. As the burning spice recedes, the fortified wine morphs into young style “hot” brandy, similar to Spanish brandy matured in sherry casks. There is the constant taste of rock salt underlying the winy sweetness, and an oily film coats the tongue and emits flavours of butter and caramel.

Finish:

The finish is somewhat smoky, with the aftertaste of prunes, sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry interwoven with more drier fortified wine, brandy filled chocolates and the faint kiss of lapsang souchong. Oily and buttery undertones linger on the base of the tongue, with salted caramel and coffee lollies.

Match with:

This whisky pairs impeccably with a fine mild-medium cigar, such as a Macanudo Estate Reserve or a Romeo y Julieta No 1; cigars that seem to appeal to the mass market for their smoothness, which ensures they will not dominate over the malt. This whisky was also delicious with chocolate, especially coffee or hazelnut truffles, and spicy cured meats.

Bottom line:

Buy it, if you enjoy a spicy whisky with a fortified wine/brandy base note and mild undertones of peat that resemble tobacco. Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No. 3 Phecda is a creative and balanced malt, with a mouthwatering kick of flavour. It is also smooth and quaffable, and coincidentally the perfect accompaniment for a night of star gazing. Bra gjort Spirit of Hven! Bra gjort.

Posted in Swedish whisky | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hellyers Road Pinot Noir Finish

????????

Score: 95/100

Type: Single malt 

Origin: Tasmania, Australia 

ABV: 46.2%

Reaction: :D 

Price: Aus$86.90

Oak: Matured in American white oak, finished in Pinot Noir barrels  

This whisky inspired a poetic mood, and as cheesy as that sounds, the mood rubbed off while writing this review. Here’s to words, and, trying to make them rhyme – a dying Australian tradition. 

A long time ago, in 1825 to be exact, a man named Henry Hellyer set food on very alien looking tract. A far cry from Hampshire in England, his place of birth, this new land was rugged and had waters that did not much look like an English firth. As Chief Surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company he was there to make the wild land more tame, but took his own life in 1832 some think because people tried to blacken his name.  On lives his legacy though, with a Tasmanian malt named Hellyer’s Road. The Betta Milk Company, with some nervous cows probably on the brink, decided that Australian’s were thirsty for a different kind of drink. So they decided to make whisky, Tasmanian whisky to be precise, but they don’t seem to be milking consumers and blaming the big Australian tax excise. Hellyer’s Road whisky sells for a good price, and aren’t we all lucky; their whisky usually tastes so nice. Here’s to an Australian distillery that makes me very proud, for making malt whisky that is good value and stands out from the crowd. One whisky they’ve produced is my favourite Australian booze, having drawn most of its flavour from being placed in American white oak and then French oak pinot noir barrels and taking a six month snooze.  It tastes of berries, orange and spice and when I reach for another Australian whisky, I always seem to think twice. 

Nose:

On the nose – which is sweet, dusty and granular – find caramel, lemon and floral scented soap, orange zest, dry oats, vinegar, pear salad, vanillas, pine wood, wood working glue and saw dust. 

Taste:

On the palate the whisky is winy, with a drying yet sweet flavour profile. Find orange peel and blood orange, mixed fresh berries and a gentle flurry of spice. There is also the taste of crushed wedges of lime soaked in cola and dark chocolate towards the finish. A bitter floral hue, somewhat being a trademark of Hellyer’s Road it seems to me,  glows softly. 

Finish:

The finish is offers flavours of chocolate, dried cranberries, cold drip coffee, wood,  and a lingering sweetness in the form of reduced berries. 

Match with:

In typical Hellyer’s Road style, in my view, this whisky pairs nicely with a mild-medium strength cigar, cheese (whether goats cheese or brie), cured meats (such as prosciutto) or some seafood.

Bottom line:

Buy it.  Rarely do you see an Australian whisky of this quality finished in Pinot Noir barrels, and even more rarely do you see such whisky below $100! The Hellyer’s Road Pinot Noir Finish is a vibrant, smooth and drinkable dram that sells for a very reasonable price for an Australian whisky. It offers a very distinct style though, so  be on alert. Do not expect big oak driven notes, or a malt hijacked by sherry or port. Expect subtle shades of flavour from that American white oak, re-shaped by the extra time the whisky spent in Pinot Noir barrels. The result? Berries, citrus and spice with some tones of chocolate and cold drip coffee. 

?????????????????????????????

Posted in Australian whisky | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Malt Mileage set to tour Scottish whisky distilleries in May 2015

strathisla-distillery

Strathisla Distillery

After a long two year run of weekly reviews Maltmileage.com has not been updated for the last two weeks, and for that I am sorry. I have been busy writing my PhD. There is however something exciting on the horizon planned for Malt Mileage: a two week tour of Scottish whisky distilleries set for May 2015!

Malt Mileage will have private tours of a number of Scotch whisky distilleries and then capture in words, imagery, video and sound the whisky, people, culture and architecture of each distillery we visit. We hope to bring you a VIP experience of each distillery.

Please stay tuned for posts and features on each distillery. While admittedly the distillery tour plans are still in the early stages, Malt Mileage has confirmed private tours and/or exclusive access to sample rooms with the following brands (in no particular order):


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment