Wolfburn new make, 18 months and 22 months old

A while ago I saw a blog post from Yoav G. about Wolfburn spirits. Since I have been following his whisky movements for a while I knew he hadn’t been to the distillery to get his hands on samples, which meant I could too.

They kindly sent me three of their samples: The new make at 69.7%, an 18 month old sample from an American Standard Barrel at 63.5% and a 22 month old sample from a 2nd fill Quarter Cask at 63.4%. I waited a while in publishing the reviews since I used the notes in a short article on Wolfburn in the Usquebaugh Society‘s magazine De Kiln.

 

 

Wolfburn New Make, 69.7%
On the nose it’s sweet as you would expect from new make, and a little ‘dirty’. Oily even. Scents of wet hay and fallen leaves in autumn. Slightly salty and pretty heavy, thick. Some lemon in the background but quite earthy

The palate is sharp but not as sharp as you’d expect from a spirit at nearly 70%. Lemon, alcohol, earthy and even some lime. Very dry with a slightly acidic, milky edge. Sweet, and the alcohol becomes more prominent.

The finish is quite long with hints of lemon and milk. Earthy, sweet, slightly cloying fruit and a spirity note of alcohol.


 

Wolfburn 18 months, 1st fill American standard barrel, 63.5%
The nose is a lot more calmed down than the new make, some hints of vanilla have already started to show. The lemon scent is more prevalent too. The oak added some spicy hints.

The palate is sharp and fierce, but warming. The oak influence already starts to show with some crisp spiciness. Peppermint perhaps. Lemon and straw.

The finish has more hints of oak, lemon oil and lemon peel. Quite long.


 

Wolfburn 22 months, 2nd fill Quarter cask, 63.4%
The nose is still quite spirity with earthy notes, but the oak influence is quite clear. Rather timid for a drink this strong and young. Maybe a tad more fruity than the other two samples, with hints of apple and unripe ‘Conference’ pears.

The palate is quite velvety and smooth with a small bite from the alcohol right after. Oak and old wrinkly apple. Pear peal, dry and spicy.

The finish mellows quickly and displays the oak even more. Much greener than I expected with a sudden flavor of plant stems and a hint of vanilla.

 

While they are clearly ‘not there yet’, I do find these samples very promising. They resemble the Highland style of whisky quite well, in my opinion. Also, I’m glad they didn’t hop on the peated-whisky-bandwagon. So many distilleries are going for a young dram with a mountain of peat in it that I find it refreshing that these guys aren’t doing that.

Especially the earthy tones and lemon appeal to me since I generally love such flavors. I’m also glad that the vanilla isn’t the supreme ruler of these soon-to-be-whiskies. I just hope they’re going to be affordable in another year or so!

It’s quite interesting, by the way, that drinks of this strength can be so smooth. I’ve tasted spirits that instantly turned your tongue to leather and made the inside of your cheeks look like the cliffs of Dover but these did no such thing. Way to go Wolfburn!

Oh, one more things that I find cool: They actually sent me different samples than they sent Yoav, which makes me believe they actually do draw cask samples for this kind of stuff!

Samples provided by Daniel at Wolfburn.

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The Whisky Dream – Stuart Rivans

In the rather low amount of books I’m reading this year, there of course are whisky books. The one that describes the rebirth of Bruichladdich (waking a giant, they call it) was mentioned a while ago somewhere and that reminded me to get one.

Luckily, on play.com there was a second hand version available so it only set me back a couple of bucks. Generally whisky books are fairly expensive due to high levels of production and low amounts of sales, but this one is just a paperback pocket size one, so it shouldn’t be.

The book is divided into several chapters telling the background of the main players in the Bruichladdich resurrection (Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, Jim McEwan, Andrew Gray and Duncan McGillivray), and from there it’s a bit about the buildings, the surroundings, what they had to do get it up and running and the first distillations. Then there’s a chapter on the spirits available now they’re a couple of years in, and a bit on their ambitious plans for the future (of which we know now, didn’t work out).

I knew beforehand that Mark and Simon came from a wine background in London, but the way they got into the whisky industry was quite interesting to read and well written, as is the whole book. Jim McEwan is not a secret to anyone who has spent a year or so being fanatical about whisky and reading some things here and there. Mr. McEwan is one of the big guns in the industry. Duncan is an important person at Bruichladdich too and I knew of him beforehand but to read his story was interesting too. Only the chapter on Andrew Gray seemed a bit out of place and the tone of the entire book shifted a little bit after that.

The bits on the distillation, the buildings and the town of Bruichladdich were all handled by than and while interesting didn’t tell any spectacular anecdotes of any kind. It was just well written and easy to read information, but still rather dry.

The second half of the book shifts its point of view a little bit. Whereas the first half was factual information and stories from the ‘main characters’, the second part feels like a huge marketing exercise. A lot of information is given about the plans with Bruichladdich and their spirit, but it’s of just ever so slightly lower quality than the first bit. And, while the first bit was about how cool the resurrection of a distillery is, the second is just about how awesome the whisky is and why everybody should be drinking it.

Of course, we all know Jim McEwan’s view on finishing or ACE’ing of whisky in all kinds of wine casks, since we all need more variety in what we drink (do we, really? of that kind?), but it just rambles on about the awesomeness of Port Charlotte. I had a weird feeling that they consider that to be the most important spirit of the distillery by how they went on about it.

Also, there are some minor things that didn’t sit right with me regarding the correctness of the information, and those stood out way more in the second half too. Simple thing like (not a quote) ‘when we were distilling our PC5′. I find it hard to believe that at such an early stage they already knew about the final whisky it would end up as. There’s more such things.

So, what to expect when picking up this book from the shelf. You get a very well written book on the resurrection of Bruichladdich. There’s a weird focus on Port Charlotte, and a lot of justification of wine cask usage. The anecdotes mostly by Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier are fairly awesome. There’s a lot of marketing done in the second half of the book which diminishes the story a little bit, but there’s still information in there too, so it’s not too bad. All in all, it’s all very well written and easy to read. I’m not entirely sure if a lot of background information is needed, but I don’t remember thinking it was a good thing I read a lot about whisky.

A fun read, but it won’t change your life or your outlook on Bruichladdich if you’re already familiar with the place and how it came to be.

The Whisky Dream by Stuart Rivans is available from Amazon for £ 0.01 (?)

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Caol Ila 25, 1983-2008, 53.2% – Bladnoch Forum

It’s been a while again, but this one came from my own collection. Came, past tense, since I finished the bottle over the weekend. That also means that the review came from the tail end of the bottle, which makes a difference over a freshly opened one.

Early 80s Caol Ila is pretty awesome in general. They are usually a tad older by now with the first digit often being a 3, instead of a 2, but this one sat around for a while. Even the bottler is no longer around with Bladnoch’s bottling works going to WhiskyBroker.co.uk a couple of years ago. A smart move since Blanoch’s closure a little while ago!

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Light smoke at first with a hint of vanilla. White pepper and that typical Caol Ila milky thing. Oak, pretty sharp but apart from the sharpness is quite smooth. Heather, slightly spicy with apple. It screams ‘Islay’, and the light saltiness and caramel flavors really help too.

Sip:
The palate is very heathery with quite some smoke, oak and pepper. Rather hot again and milky, but it doesn’t have that Caol Ila oily feel. Again, apple, but also pear skin and some warm vanilla sauce.

Swallow:
The finish is very typical of Caol Ila, with oak and heather and smoke. Some orchard fruits again too, so mostly apples and pears.

When I first opened this bottle I was thrilled by having a 25  year old Caol Ila at a bargain (£ 50 I believe). Upon drinking it I was a little bit let down by it not being such a good one. A couple of years in a half drunk bottle has really helped this whisky show its potential. It has become much more typical of early 80s Caol Ila with comparable flavors to older and much more expensive bottlings.

So, while I wasn’t a big fan at first, the last 20cl of the bottle went really fast since it became absolutely gorgeous. I loved the last drops, and I loved finishing this last Saturday with one of my best friends. And it’s another one down to get to 40 open bottles by the end of the year.

The Bladnoch Forum occasionally had such gems, but most of what came from there was rather mediocre. I remember a bottle-share of which I can barely remember the individual whisky’s. This one is terrific, but apparently you have to give it time. I think I like this one even better than their 30 year old I have, that was bottled a few years later.

Caol Ila 25, 12/10/1983 – 18/10/2008, cask 4807, 53.2%, Bladnoch Forum

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Bunnahabhain 1987-2014, 51.3% – Liquid Art (The Osprey)

Another one of those freaky animal/insect mash ups on the label. This time it’s an osprey with a moth body. I wonder how much of the whisky they’ve had before they come up with this stuff…

Bunnahabhain is a bit of a hit and miss distillery in most of our books. To me, personally, their old(er) stuff is pretty great, but I can’t wrap my head around the peated versions. The Moine ones, as they call them, are actually pretty tasty, but I don’t think they add anything to what Islay already had on offer. Their lightly or unpeated whiskies, however, are without parallel on the island.

Since the stock of late sixties Bunna seems to have run out, and somehow I haven’t spotted all that much bottlings from the 1970s, they skipped right to the late eighties. But, their late eighties stuff is amazing. I tried one last summer from Berry Brothers, and some others that were slightly less spectacular. Then this one came along. Obviously sold out, since everything from that era that is even slightly affordable (€ 150 for this kind of stuff, unfortunately, fits that category).

Sniff:
Sweet fruits from the start, with fresh peaches, mango, but also a whiter shade of fruit with pears and lychee. A hint of coconut too, so my mind wanders to Sherry Hogshead (no info, unfortunately). Also drier hints of straw mats, and dusty oak. Ever so slightly nutty with hazelnuts.

Sip:
The palate is strong and sharp with lots of oak and a more spicy approach. The fruit is still present. Again, pear and lychee, but the more tropical mango and peach are present too.

Swallow:
The finish continues on the fruity path, but has a slightly more fatty feel to it. The dry hints of straw and oak go on as well, but then there’s fruit, fruit and fruit.

This. Is. Awesome. I was happy that this fulfilled my expectations of being awesome. It’s so deliciously fruity with a nice combination of more ‘northern’ fruits and the tropical kind. Simply gorgeous. And, what I also like is that even though this whisky is some 26 years old and the oak has far from overpowered the spirit. The slight nuttiness of Bunnahabhain and slightly spicy notes are still coming through nicely.

I wish I was aware of this dram when it came out last year, since I would certainly have bought a bottle back then. As I should have. I think this is a gap in my collection to not have a Bunnahabhain like this, since it’s quickly becoming an iconic kind of whisky, I think.

Bunnahabhain 1987-2014, 51.3%, Liquid Art (The Osprey). Was € 149 but sold out now.

Again, thanks to Serge R. for the sample. Very much obliged. This one was awesome!

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Ledaig 2004-2014, 51.6% – Liquid Art (Pink Salmon label)

Right. A pink salmon, with insects for fins or so. Weird.

Anyway, to get this out of the way: I don’t like Ledaig. It displays flavors that I don’t find interesting. It has a weird smokiness that is strangely clean, and apart from that I generally get a lot (too much) of cask influence.

And before you start throwing great Ledaig references to me: No, I haven’t tried those 1973 ones. Prove me wrong and send me a sample.

Having said that, it does make for a recognizable whisky which gets me some points in the Blind Tasting Competition every year. So there’s that. But still, I’ve never come across one that I wish I bought a bottle of.

The limited enthusiasm for Ledaig is shared by others too, I expect, since this is the only Liquid Art bottling of which there are still quite a few available. 41 according to their site.

Let’s see where this one comes in.

Sniff:
I get fresh leaves, a rainy forest with snapped twigs, bushes and such. There’s a lot of smoke and quite a bit of saltiness too. It’s quite sharp but there’s also vanilla and a hint of espresso, or maybe just coffee beans. Minerals and slate too.

Sip:
The palate is dusty and chalky with oak, smoke and minerals. The slate is here too. Quite austere. Some vanilla, but not as much as on the nose, and a hint of caramel, salt and coffee again.

Swallow:
The finish is somewhat more gentle and less austere. Less demanding. The smoke and salt and vanilla are still here, so it’s very consistent too. Oak, leaves and twigs.

Well, this is pretty okay for a Ledaig. It’s likable and has somewhat more complexity than I’m used to in those young ones. It’s that austerity, with the huge smoke and minerals that don’t sit well with me. Ardbeg shows a similar profile, often, but less clean and somehow more to my liking.

The foresty flavors are nice, but are strange in combination with the salt, which makes you think more of a sea side dram than anything else. That does, I must say, fit Tobermory well. There’s quite some trees behind the village, from the pictures I’ve seen, and it’s a harbor.

So, summarizing, the quality of this dram is high. I think I like this better than I expected and better than most Ledaigs I’ve tasted the last couple of years. But still, my least favorite dram of the range so far.

Ledaig 2004-2014, 51.6%, Liquid Art (Pink Salmon label). Available here for € 70.

Thanks to Serge R. for the sample!

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Two new bottle-shares

At some point I promised my wife that I’d stop doing bottle-shares for a while. I suck at keeping promises like that.

Here’s another two:

Irish single malts

Irish Single Malt, 12yo, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, 52.9%
Irish Single Malt, 14yo, The Nectar of the Daily Drams, 51.5%

10 cl of each for € 26, 5cl for € 13.
15 cl available.

BenRiach 25yo

BenRiach 25yo, 50%
BenRiach 25yo, Peated, 46%

10 cl of each for € 50, 5cl for € 25
35 cl available.

Please let me know if you’re interested!

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Clynelish 1997-2014, 53.3% – Liquid Art

Most people know I love Clynelish. Luckily, there have been a lot of awesome bottlings over the years varying from a couple years to a couple of decades old. In the last couple of years, the more recent bottlings that have been very popular have mostly come from 1997.

That means to me that when a new one from 1997 pops up, I want to try it. I missed this one initially, but since Serge sent me samples of his bottlings for the Liquid Art label, I get a chance after all. The obvious and massive drawback is that it’s long since sold out.

Generally, my preference goes towards bourbon matured Clynelishes, since sherried ones can quickly get gluey. I’ve tried a couple that were just plain weird and in which the waxy notes really didn’t combine with the sherry. On the other hand I’ve also tried The Whisky Exchange’s 18 year old, heavily sherried Clynelish from last year’s retro labels. That was a stunner.

This one then. There’s not too much info about it online, apart from it being a 1997 Clynelish. It doesn’t even say whether this is from a sherry or a bourbon cask, but if I had to guess it would be a sherry hogshead, or another cask made of American oak.

Sniff:
I think I get a clear sherry influence, with some added ‘greenness’, like yesterday’s Glen Elgin. With this that develops slightly different with a scent not unlike cooked vegetables. That’s a form of sulphur, if you care. It becomes more sweet after a couple of minutes with slightly spicy sherry. Spiced sponge cake.

Sip:
The palate is light but sweet and hot, with a flavor like manzanilla sherry (but what do I know). There’s oak and furniture polish. Dried plums and dried apricots, syrupy. But also with a hint of vanilla cream.

Swallow:
The finish becomes even sweeter and has flavors that remind me of Schwarzwalder Kirsch (Black Forest Cake). The German cake with black cherries. It’s a long finish.

I just read up on other reviews of this, but it seems Ruben and Serge and I have vastly different palates. Quite intersting, actually. Serge states it’s very waxy and while that wasn’t a note that was overly prominent to me, I do agree there’s some wax. He also notes a hint of clay, and that’s what I found interesting. Clay and sherry is probably what makes for that green note that sherry casks can sometimes display. I found it in my Auchentoshan 18, but when I last tried it last week I couldn’t really find it anymore.

Having said that, it means that whisky does change quite a bit in the bottle after there has been some air let in. Quite interesting!

Regarding the whisky. It’s good. I had to get used to that vegetable/clay note at first, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Far from it. I actually quite love this and, as with yesterday’s Glen Elgin, if it would have been available I’d buy a bottle.

The more gentle flavors from the sherry, combined with the big fruitiness of the whisky is pretty awesome. A kick ass pick by the guys at Liquid Art.

Clynelish 1997-2014, 53.3%, Liquid Art. € 95 upon release but long gone.

Thanks to Serge for the sample!

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