Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2008

PC Ilsay Barley.jpg

Recommended use: Enjoy neat

Malt Mileage Rating: stars 4.5

Type: Single malt whisky 

Origin: Islay, Scotland 

ABV: 50%

Price: £65

Cask No: 14/098-35

Distilled: 12/2008 

Drawn: 30/9/2014

Continue reading “Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2008”

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak

octomore 7.4

Recommended use: Serve neat/ with a dash of water

Malt Mileage Rating: stars 4.5

Type: Scotch single malt whisky

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 61.2%

Price: N/A

Continue reading “Bruichladdich Octomore 7.4 Virgin Oak”

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.3 Islay Barley

Octomore-07.3

Recommended use: Serve with a splash of spring water 

Rating: stars 5

Recommendation: Buy it

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 63.0%

User rating for Octomore 7.3 Islay Barley (VOTE HERE): 

Bruichladdich Octomore 7.3 is a heavily peated single malt whisky that boasts a PPM of 169. Having been distilled from a wash that is made from barley grown on the Isle of Islay in Scotland, and then matured in American oak barrels by the sea on Islay, I am expecting a salty jab in the face and a knockout blow of peat from this whisky. What I found, as the below tasting notes show, was that this whisky is not dominated by salt and peat; rather, the salt and peat buoys flavours from the American oak and malt – it is complex, balanced, and yet seriously ferocious.  

Nose:

Peat smoke, coastal notes, rubber gloves dusted with talc, powered vanilla and chocolate, apple, peach, green pineapple, mars bar, fudge, caramels and denser milk chocolate emerge with walnuts, leather and freshly varnished pine with white chalk. 

Taste:  

Served neat at an alcohol by volume of 63.0%, the ethanol snaps at the palate like grandpa’s perfectly executed moonshine. Then the palate adjusts. It is astringent, and as the vapours evapourate off the palate like a hot steam, find sea salt, heavy peat, maritime notes, toffee apple, caramel, honey, fresh apricot, cigar tobacco and wood tannins. 

Finish:

Curiously, vanilla cupcakes emerge on the finish with heavier notes of salt than on the entry and a twist of minerality. There is plenty of peat smoke and underlying smoked notes, very Russian Caravan and lapsang souchong, with candied ginger and a lingering metallic taste and the faint glow of eucalyptus.  

Bottom line:

Buy it! Bruichladdich Octomore Edition 7.3 is a peaty sea monster, a Godzilla of a dram, bashing its way out of coastal waters to bombard the palate with all the unbridled anger you would expect of a youthful Islay malt – peat, sea spray, smoke – but with the calming sweetness of American oak.   

Bruichladdich Laddie Classic Scottish Barley

Bruichladdich_Scottish_Barley

Recommended use: Serve neat

Rating: ★★★

Type: Scotch malt blend

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 50%

Nose:

Cereal, banana, caramel, creamy vanilla, peach and nectarine combine with some floral notes.

Taste:

Malty with hues of saltiness, and while initial hints of tropical fruit tease the palate, nothing really eventuates; this tastes like young whisky with unsettling bursts of alcohol. Also find some apple, cantaloupe and vanilla with very mild spice.

Finish:

Pineapple and toffee apple mostly come through on the finish.

Bottom line:

This is an overpriced whisky in my opinion – tastes young, alcoholic, rough and, according to my taste buds, undercooked and taken out of the American oak barrels prematurely. Bruichladdich will have to get this whisky back in a barrel and slap an age statement on the bottle for me to consider another look at this malt; no doubt a superbly distilled whisky, but it just tastes young.

Ardbeg Perpetuum

ardbeg_spirits_perpetuum_1068003

Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: Consider it

Type: Single malt Scotch whisky

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 47.4%

Reaction:  😀

Ardbeg Perpetuum is a single malt that was released to celebrate Ardbeg’s 200th anniversary. It is comprised of whiskies of different ages, that have been matured in both bourbon and sherry barrels, and then combined to create Ardbeg Perpetuum.

Eyes:

The whisky has a very pale white wine colour, similar to the pale yellow of a Pinot Gris. When swirled in the glass, this whisky forms a thin oily film that clings to the inside of the glass and as the film begins to recede evenly dispersed legs take form around most of the circumference of the glass. The legs stick to the glass long after the whisky is swirled around.

Nose:

Sweet toffee apple, sticky caramel, milk chocolate and luscious waves of vanilla soften the bite of peat and the sting of a ground peppercorn medley, which tease the nostrils with salty cubes of lean prosciutto. Ripe and browning peach, pear and nectarine develop with orange and lemon peel, with chocolate brownies and honey glazed pecans. This dram reminds me of a fresh cake of coal tar soap and a pecan pie… no, wait… make that also smoky myrrh and cured meats. This is an exotic and interesting bouquet.

Taste:

The flavours on the entry are somewhat subdued, though by no means boring. Peat, dark chocolate and mandarin peel are suddenly interrupted with a salty spray, and the flavours merge with spices and lead into sweet picked ginger. The whisky then becomes peppery, as a soft bed of creamy vanilla supports the peat. The saltiness progressively develops, first as salted caramel and then into cured meats – first lean and then quite fatty, with a luscious creamy film starting to form on the base of the palate. All the while there is a wooded smokiness, which remains a constant theme.

Finish:

The spices linger, with bit of butter and dark chocolate coated ginger bread. The palate seems to sweeten into the finish, first with pear and then with caramels. There is a fatty film that remains on the palate, with peppercorns and salty pancetta.

Bottom line:

Consider it, if you are a fan of Islay whisky and you enjoy a drinkable peaty malt. To say that this whisky is moreish or drinkable is an understatement, as evidenced by the fact that as soon as my whisky glass is filled with this malt it is not long before the glass needs refilling. At Ardbeg Day, similarly, five drams of this malt vanished amidst talk and laughter without much thought – now that is the best test of a great whisky. The only drawback to this malt – apart from its price – is that, despite being very enjoyable, it seems to underwhelm at first. That aside, each sip of this malt makes me want to go back for more – probably why this whisky has become my Friday night malt.

It is perfect on a cold night paired with comfy pyjamas and a good movie.

Bruichladdich Islay Barley

2007 islay barley

Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 50%

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

Reaction: 😀

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.

Port Charlotte PC 12

PC12

Rating: stars 4

Type: Single malt

Origin: Islay, Scotland

ABV: 58.7%

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!

Smokehead

SmokeheadRating: ★★★★

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Type: Single malt whisky

ABV: 43%

Price: $A58 (Aus), US$44-$60 (USA)

Ian MacLeod distillers, the makers of the peat free Glengoyne, have decided to share with the world its take on peat and release Smokehead. There are no stories of pristine streams and impressive peat bogs to tell you about. Ian MacLeod distillers seem to skip all that and instead let the whisky speak for itself. Smokehead is a single malt from Islay and while the distillery from which it is taken may be top secret, one thing is clear: this smoky delight is seriously good whisky. The whisky told me so.

Nose:

Vanilla, raisin, caramel, watermelon and cantaloupe are interwoven with peat, and a mild maritime note – imagine a vodka rinsed oyster with sour cream and chives, coriander and a slither of ginger – gently shines in the foreground with sea salt, lemon, zingy brown vinegar, earthy pear and the dusty cocoa from a cappuccino. Rich layers of oiliness and creaminess seem to define the bouquet of this whisky, along with the curious notes of crinkle cut crisps/chips – sour cream and chives, balsamic vinegar and sea salt, and, lemon and cracked pepper especially. It might be because of, one thinks, the oily undertones in this whisky. Lovely stuff!

Palate:

On the entry the peat explodes on the palate with notes of honey, citrus and passion fruit, but then it softens momentarily allowing toffee apple, chocolate, vanilla and salty maritime notes to shine though. The peace is short-lived, and a surge of peat returns only to fade slowly into the finish.

Finish:

On the finish the increasingly softening peat intermingles with fudge, lemon drops, cracked pepper and warming chili.

Bottom line:

Buy it! At its price, Smokehead is probably the best value peaty single malt on the market – its big, bold, fiery and is happy to give you a solid Scottish punch in the mouth just in case you’re not paying attention. This is a whisky for the peat lovers, as the name suggests, but don’t expect any labyrinthine oaky complexity – this is mostly supercharged peat, pure and simple but so delicious it hurts thinking how much I’ve paid for other peaty pleasures.

Match with:

This whisky was delicious with medium bodied oily cigars. Try it dashed over oysters or with some smoked salmon. Liven it all up with some sprigs of coriander and red chili. Even better, lobby your local Chinese restaurant to get a bottle of Smokehead and try it with steamed XO oysters.   

Bowmore Small Batch

wpid-20140705_120137.jpg

Score: 88/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Price: $79.99 (Aus), £36.95 (UK)

Bowmore has sat on the shore of the Loch Indaal on the Isle of Islay since 1779, and it is at this idyllic spot on the “Jewell of the Hebrides” that Bowmore has been plying its trade for about 235 years. One of its newest expressions is the Bowmore Small Batch, a No Age Statement whisky that is matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks. The idea, at least on paper, is to draw out vanillas, spices and some bourbon inspired flavours from the first fill cask (which has held whisky for the very first time, so its has lots of flavour to give the whisky) and combine with some softer flavours from the second fill cask (because this cask has been used already and therefore has less flavour to give the whisky the second time it is filled). Bowmore bring together whisky matured in both first and second fill ex-bourbon casks and marry them together to create the Bowmore Small Batch.

The bouquet is fresh, light and crisp with notes of citrus accompanying soft waves of peat, an ocean breeze, caramel, pot pouri, scented candle, honey, Ferrero rocher, sour gummy bears, sour green apple, and very mild hints of vanilla with plenty of honey. On the palate the whisky is soft and slightly oily with an enjoyable mouth-feel, offering notes of vanilla, raisin, peat, damp wood with wood spice, lime and sea salt, with a more fresh vegetal cut grass melding with the peat from mid-palate and into the finish. On the finish the peat and sea salt fade, though not entirely, remaining beneath fresh watery vegetal notes and hints of vanilla, bourbon, lime in cola and honey.

Overall, Bowmore Small Batch is a very enjoyable single malt whisky that, despite erring on the young side, is a refreshing and relatively complex dram. It is a great value whisky that is clean, fresh, smooth, relatively light and easy drinking, and particularly drinkable on ice. At its price, I have no complaints though I still prefer the Bowmore Enigma 12 year old and Bowmore 18 year old for their added complexity, depth, richness and age.

Bowmore “Enigma” 12 year old

wpid-img_20140705_121725.jpg

Score: 94/100

ABV: 40%

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Price: $80-$90 (Aus)

Bowmore has sat on the shore of the Loch Indaal on the Isle of Islay since 1779, and it is at this idyllic spot on the “Jewell of the Hebrides” that Bowmore has been plying its trade for about 235 years. Bowmore make no secret of the fact that its whisky is usually intended to have two main characteristics. The first characteristic is the smell and taste of the salty sea which is said to be infused into the spirit as the oak barrels sit maturing by the bashing waves of the Atlantic ocean. The second characteristic, and by far the most difficult to achieve in my view, is a balance that showcases all the components of this classic coastal Scotch working in synchronization without any particular component dominating – the peat, barley, alcohol, oak, and salty sea must work together to create a flavour profile that is unmistakably Bowmore at first whiff and first taste. Bowmore has produced many expressions and some hit the mark while others, at least in my opinion, do not. When making this Bowmore Enigma I think the folks at Bowmore have come incredibly close to striking the elusive bulls-eye for that highly sought-after “balance” for which Bowmore prides itself. The Enigma emits the taste of the sea with integrated flavours that are so impeccably balanced that the whisky itself is dangerously “more-ish” and makes me want to throw away the cork and melt into a Chesterfield with a cigar lit and puff away into the early hours with good company a remote control firmly affixed to my hand.

Bowmore 12 year old “Enigma” is a single malt Scotch whisky with a higher proportion of sherry matured whisky than the standard Bowmore 12 year old. This makes the Bowmore Enigma a richer, sweeter and more complex dram than the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling. This richness, sweetness and complexity also seems to play an integral part in counteracting the peat and sea salt more successfully than in the standard Bowmore 12 year old bottling – amazing what a bit more sherry influenced whisky can do!

The bouquet offers soft vanillas and layers of honey that sit behind the soft wafts of peat that intermingle with chocolate fudge, caramel and the most curious (and mouthwatering) aroma of hoisin sauce and Peking duck. On the palate the sherry wood becomes more noticeable and it wrestles with the peat and brine that immediately hits the taste buds – sherry, dried cranberries, dark chocolate and mild vanillas counteract the peat and brine, through which shines moderating rays of lemon zest, mandarin peel, honey and fresh persimmon that soften the burn of spices. The finish offers sea salt and an intensifying peaty smokiness that leaves the aftertaste of a salty seaweed laden Japanese miso with something sweet, red, sticky and delicious beaming through.

Bowmore Enigma is now in my liquor cabinet as my “go to” dram when I want an easy drinking Islay malt with great balance – a beautiful whisky. At its price, it is a Travel Retail whisky I would not hesitate buying when rushing through an international terminal or arriving home after a long flight.