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.   

Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015)

Flaming heart

Recommended use: Serve neat

Rating: ★★★★★ Top pick

Recommendation: Buy it

Type: Scotch malt blend

Origin: Scotland

ABV: 48.9%

Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015) is a blend of malt whiskies including 38.5% 14 year old Caol Ila, 27.1% 30 year old Caol Ila, 24.1% 20 year old Clynelish and 10.3% seven year old blended malt from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine.

Nose:

Vanilla, caramels, waxy green apples, grape lip gloss and honeycomb add some sweetness to what is otherwise a very complex bouquet of old whisky with a beating heart of smoky Coal Ila malt; find a whole workman’s shop, textiles, freshly varnished wood and saw dust. Some of the peat is softened and refined from many years in oak, while the rest is younger and carries more vibrant maritime qualities. A fascinating medicinal note hits my nose mostly in the form of cough drops and menthol chest rub, with a minty burst; but as the whisky rests the smell of sweet and sour barbecue pork with dried orange zest and pineapple leaps out and stays.

Taste:

Like smoking the butt of a heaven sent but dry and flaky Cuban cigar, burning embers and ash carrying the taste of tar and spicy wood spark to life on the palate. There is the taste of a smoldering hot barbecue, and peat smoke gives way to dry apple cider. Oysters Kilpatrick seem to be pronounced, with spicy Worcestershire sauce and smoky bacon, and, a dollop of barbecue sauce.  With that taste of oyster is the faint bite of rock salt, perfect.  This beautiful whisky is spicy, sweet, smoky and downright delicious. Also find cinnamon, dried orange zest and mango skins.

Finish:

The finish is smoky with barbecue, dried cranberries, drying peat, dark chocolate, wood, roasted hazelnuts, lingering spice and a resurgence of that herbal menthol and minty note detected on the nose. 

Overall:

Buy it!  The Compass Box Flaming Heart Limited Edition (2015) is the kind of whisky we all dream about, but rarely have the opportunity to taste; it is basically a Frankenstein of a whisky with a number of different component parts which combine to electrify the palate with lots of smoke, spice, old wood, refined and aged peaty malt, younger peaty malt, herbs and mild medical notes. This very special whisky melds the finest qualities of young and old whisky to create a seasoned peat head’s fantasy, all designed and brought to life by Compass Box; all the bottle needs is two bolts on either side of its neck.

Beam Suntory smoky whisky tasting and some tips on how to nose and taste whisky


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On 2 December 2015 Malt Mileage had the opportunity to attend a Beam Suntory event at the Henry Bucks menswear store in Melbourne, “Peated Malts of Distinction – a journey through five world class smoky whiskies”.

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Beam Suntory’s core smoky whiskies were on tasting, paired with a delectable assortment of cheeses. The whiskies included Ardmore Legacy Highland malt whisky, Connemara Irish whiskey, and, Islay malts Bowmore 12 year old, Laphroaig Select Cask and Laphroaig Triple Wood. On the night we were guided through the whiskies by Brendon Rogers, whisky ambassador for Beam Suntory. Brendon proved to be extremely knowledgeable in whisky production and maturation.

wp-1449296757068.jpgBrendon reaffirmed the importance of good tasting practice to fully appreciate a whisky, and shared with the group how to nose and taste a whisky; an important but often overlooked aspect of whisky tasting. This good tasting practice seemed to be in line with accepted practice, including much of Richard Paterson’s approach to whisky tasting, and included: (1) agitate a whisky by swirling it in the glass before nosing or tasting it, not only does it look cool but it also seems to enliven the whisky after its time resting in the bottle; (2) use the right glass, preferably a Glencairn in my opinion, to catch all those beautiful aromas and hold them in the glass ready for your nose; (3) don’t stick your nose in the glass when first nosing a whisky, but hold the glass just under your nose and breath in through your mouth to smell the whisky and also reduce the aroma of alcohol (think of it as whisky foreplay); (4) when tasting the whisky, swish it gently around your tongue and savour it; and (5) after swallowing a whisky, breath in and then out to really get the flavour of the finish. It was great to see this knowledge being shared with whisky consumers, in addition to the great work of Richard Paterson in his online videos.

The star of the night, for me, was the Laphroaig Triple Wood – a complex smoky malt with beautiful notes of oloroso sherry and Spanish oak cutting through the peat and American oak driven vanillas – one of my very favourite Islay malts which I return to time and time again at home. The Bowmore 12 year old and Ardmore Legacy hit the spot too, though they did not light my night on fire like the Triple Wood did. As for the Connemara and the Select Caskimage, they seemed to be the least enjoyed among the people within my vicinity; far too mild mannered, though this is to be expected in such “breakfast drams” such as the Select Cask.

Overall, this Beam Suntory tasting was a fantastic night with one stand out whisky – the Laphroaig Triple Wood – that makes me praise whoever first decided to store peaty whisky in used sherry casks. Peaty malt and sherry wood: a brilliant composition if done properly which is probably one of the world’s best flavour combinations for the devout peat head. Amen. Try the Laphroaig Triple Wood with some blue cheese to accentuate the peaty smack in the face.

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.

“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.

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.