Laphroaig 15, 43%, 200th Anniversary Edition

It’s been ages since I properly sat down to taste some Laphroaig. It’s not even that there’s nothing available since Laphroaig is one of the couple Islay distilleries that regularly have indies bottled. You don’t have to look far to find a plethora of Laphroaig available, even from the distillery itself.

Over the last couple of years they gone quite mad with their official releases. I remember a time when there was only the 10, 15 and Quarter Cask regularly available. They had some others back ten too, but those were so far out of my league that I never really bothered with them. Currently that’s different, the availability with their Triple Wood, PX Cask, QA Cask, An Cuan Mor and also the 18 (which is a pretty good dram, by the way).

Then recently they released the new 15 year old. It was available through the website first but supposedly that was a hassle since the servers couldn’t cope with the demand. They released this as a flashback to the 15 year old that was phased out a couple of years ago (much to the regret of its loyal fans), but the official reason was to celebrate the Distillery’s 200th anniversary.

The limitedness of this bottling is something to be taken with a grain of salt, by the way, since there are 72000 bottles available. It’ll sell out eventually, but there seem to not be a shortage of any kind at the moment. At a price point of € 110 or so it seems to be a bit much for a lot of whisky drinkers.

The peat on the nose is very old fashioned with some good medicinal scents. Iodine and band-aids. Not too heavy though, but there’s leather, oak and saw dust. Some licorice, bay leaf and heather. Old, dry lemons. Strangely, some acrylic paint too. Never had that before.

The palate is slightly fatty with peat and heather and smoke (not the first things that come to mind with a fatty palate). Some straw, iodine, salty with lemon oil. Some myrthe like you find everywhere on Corsica. It’s fairly gentle, but also has a note of sand paper, rope, oak and bay leaf.

The finish is lead by peat and smoke. Salt, bay leaf, rope, boats in a dock (so tar, rope, barnacles, salt, that stuff). Lemon and lime, quite dirty.

While I find a 110 bucks quite expensive, I sure love this whisky. As in, it’s awesome and it shows exactly what a typical Laphroaig should be all about I think. It might not be the most complex of drams, or one of the most intense ones, but with the current trend of cask strength violence from Islay, I like that this one does something different. And it has an age statement.

I’m now seriously considering getting a bottle of this, but I know I shouldn’t. As in, from a financial perspective I know I shouldn’t, but that doesn’t always stop me. Pondering…

It’s actually been quite a while since I had a whisky with this level of medicinal flavors. I half expected that to be something from the past, but I’m glad that is not the case. Massive kudos to Laphroaig!

Laphroaig 15, 43%, 200th Anniversary Edition. Available at for € 109.99

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Arran 13 year old, 1999, single bourbon cask 99/103, 55.3% – UK Exclusive

It took me a while to find this bottling on Whiskybase because I didn’t know the age. It being 13 years old means it’s bottled in 2013, and I thought it was a more recent release.

Anyway, I’ve been loving the combination of American Oak and Arran of late and when there used to be bourbon in that cask before it was reused in Lochranza, I’m an even happier camper.

When I saw that there was going to be a single bourbon cask in the Arran Twitter Tasting, I was very curious to find out whether or not it would trump the 18 year old, and possibly the White Stag bottling. I already knew the 18 year old (so it won’t be reviewed again tomorrow) and love it, so this one had a bar set high.

There seems to be quite a number of single bourbon casks out there. A lot of private releases and the distillery itself releases some every now and then too. What I do notice is that only recently there have been quite a number of new independent releases. Back when Arran was only ten years old and even earlier there were some too, but in between it has been rather quiet, which is interesting.

Anyway, this single cask sold out quite a while ago so I was quite surprised to find it in the Twitter Tasting. Generally those tastings contain mostly recent releases and possible something that hasn’t come out yet, like the White Stag.

The fruit hits you right off the bat. There’s both dried and fresh pineapple, some dried peach and apricot. Barley sugar, white oak. As with the others I’ve tried there also is a slight solvent like you expect to find in the new spirit. A hint of pine too.

The palate is quite sharp, as I expected. Some licorice as well as sweetness with lots of yellow fruits. Apple, pineapple, peach. It’s quite hot if you let it swim for a bit and then it picks up some ginger again too. The fruits remind me of some Lochsides I’ve had from 1981.

The finish continues on the yellow fruit road. The pine hint is back, but there also might be some mint. A hint of creamy chocolate milk suddenly, but still mostly apples, pineapples, peaches.

While this one was not everyone’s favorite of the evening, and some people even found it a bit too hot with too much boozy heat, I absolutely love it. The fruits are gorgeous, there just a hint of oak and the spirit is present too. It ticks all the boxes that I like ticked.

It’s a shame it’s gone, but keep in mind that Arran is very consistent and their new bourbon casks of 12 to 15 years old all taste more or less similar with the devil being in the details. If you like slightly spirity whiskies that show loads of fruit, this stuff is for you.

(You can get Bright Early Spring, which is a 12 year old single bourbon cask for NL here)

Arran 13 year old, 1999, single bourbon cask 99/103, 55.3%, UK Exclusive

Thanks to Arran and Steve from The Whisky Wire for hosting the Twitter Tasting!

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Arran Sauternes Cask, 50%

The first dram from the Twitter Tasting last week was Arran’s Sauternes Cask. I always feel like this is a remainder of how they started little over a decade ago.

When Arran’s first whiskies started to come out they had a mountain of cask finishes, from Sauternes, to Champagne, to Calvados and Rum and all kinds of other things. Like Bruichladdich they only didn’t release a Tequila cask, which is fine, I think.

I especially liked the Calvados cask back then, but I’m glad they narrowed the casks finishes down to just three at the moment. These being Sauternes, Amarone and Port cask finishes.

Full disclosure: I generally don’t like wine finished whiskies. There are some exceptions (like the Octomore Orpheus), but mostly, I just skip them.

Arran Sauternes Cask. Image from Whiskybase

Arran Sauternes Cask. Image from Whiskybase

The nose starts with mostly malty scents and a light fruitiness behind it. What stands out from the start is how sweet this all is. Some straw is there as well. The fruits are kiwi and orange, with some gingerbread too. A slight chemical whiff of cleaning alcohol if you inhale more deeply. The orange is just under ripe and has some bitterness of the seeds too. Melon peel, but the Sauternes keeps adding sweetness on top of everything.

The palate is sharper than I would have expected, I think that’s where the extra ABV comes in. Some alcohol, ginger and sharp cinnamon. The sweetness is slightly more honey like on the palate. The fruit is more tropical and more thick, like pineapple juice and peach. I also get a hint of licorice. Malty after a couple of seconds.

The finish loses some of the fruits that we had before. It’s more woody with dry oak shavings. Ginger, white pepper, and that sugary sweetness again.

Well, what to say. This isn’t a bad whisky at all, but it’s just not for me. The Sauternes adds a layer of thick sweetness that I don’t really enjoy and the rest of the flavors are a bit of a jumble. Not that this is not enjoyable, but I wouldn’t buy a bottle.

The main problem for this whisky might just be that there are so many affordable Arrans out there that are more tasty than this one, without having to resort to ‘strange’ casks. I’d go for the 14 year old, which is comparably priced to this one.

Arran Sauternes Cask, 2014 release, 50%. Available at Whiskybase for € 42.50

Thanks to Arran and Steve from The Whisky Wire for hosting the Twitter Tasting!

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Arran White Stag, 17yo, 54.2%

I’m going to report on last Wednesday’s Twitter Tasting in a bit of a jumble, starting with this bottling that ended the tasting. I didn’t report earlier since I took my wife to Venice for her birthday (which was in September).

The White Stag  bottling Arran is about to release on their Whisky Festival in June is the first of the range, they expect to do a bottling for their fan club every once in a while. It’s a bit like the Friends of Laphroaig and Ardbeg Committee. Most independent distilleries have a fan club program currently and it seems like a great way to give something back to your loyal drinkers.

Currently this White Stag is 17 years old but by the time the official bottling will be done it’ll be 18 years old. The whisky is drawn from a sherry cask, but in line with most of their (recent) sherry casks, white oak was used in construction of the vessel. There’ll be some 214 bottles available when it will be released. There is no information on the price yet.

The American oak is very clear from the beginning, and quite loud too. There is a light sherry influence, as well. I get peaches and apricot, pineapple and a light spicy note. After a while a tiny solventy note pops up, but not in a bad way. Oak shavings, and freshly pressed apple juice too.

The palate has white pepper, apple and pineapple. White oak, obviously. There’s some wild peach and that spicy hint again. It’s tough to pin down, but it’s there. Again, those oak shavings and I’m thinking I get a sweet hint of oloroso sherry too.

The finish is slightly more dry with white pepper, apple, pear skin and peach. I think I get a hint of coconut as well, and a light layer of sherry behind it all.

This is a cracker! It might not be my instant favorite since there are some really awesome and even more fruity single bourbon casks out there, but this is one is great still. The wood speaks quite loudly and almost overpowers the spirit, with the sherry only playing second violin and not be nearly as prominent as I expected.

The fact that they used sherry instead of fresh bourbon results in the wood being slightly subdued and the whisky not just being a carrier for white oak derived flavours, even though I like them. Depending on whether or not this bottle will become available to White Stag members that aren’t going to Lochranza in the last weekend of June, I’m buying this.

I’m becoming quite the Arran fanboy, it seems!

Arran White Stag, 17yo, 54.2%, about to be bottled and released when it just turns 18 in June. No pricing information yet.

Thanks to Arran and Steve from The Whisky Wire for hosting the Twitter Tasting!

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Yamazaki 1993-2008, 15yo, 62%, Heavily Peated

This single cask from Yamazaki stood there, on The Whisky Exchange’s website in 2008, staring me in the eye. You know, back in the day where a hundred bucks could buy you good Japanese whisky, from all over the spectrum. Karuizawa to Yamazaki, Hanyu to Yoichi. How things have changed.

Back in those days I stocked up on the stuff, almost solely for drinking purposes. The only reason I still have some is because I’m careful with it, and in those days I was already buying much more than I could drink.

This particular bottle was opened rather quickly after it arrived home but I just spent more than 6 years emptying it. Yes, some of the fierceness of the whisky goes away, but in most cases the flavor stays just fine. Whisky is a strong spirit in more than one sense.

Fun thing is that I only bought it after Jim Murray rated it 95 points in his bible. Nowadays I don’t buy those anymore, but from a financial perspective it would be a smart thing. I wish, in hindsight, I bought a case of those Yamazaki Sherry Cask thingies from 2013.

Anyway, the whisky. Heavily Peated Yamazaki is not something you come across every day. This makes for an all the more interesting bottle in my opinion. Not necessarily the peat since that can stay or go for all I care. Mostly because the guys in Japan have stepped outside their comfort zone for this bottling and I like that. Also because they did so before the astronomical rise of popularity of peated whisky. Admitted, Supernova and Octomore were around by then, but nowhere near as popular as that stuff is now.

It starts with a strong scent of drying grass and straw. Heather too, and of course quite a lot of smoke. There’s peat too, but the smoke is stronger. Quite a lot of oak (it’s Japanese after all), white oak. I’m also getting drying limes. The kind you leave on the kitchen bench too long. There’s something sweet too, like lemon cake, and pencil shavings, lead and all.

The palate is still quite tingling and hot and probably still sits pretty close to the original 62%. White and black pepper. Sweet, spicy, heather, straw, hay. Some vanilla too but not in an omnipresent way. A deep flavor that goes towards wet forest with moss on trees and such.

The finish mellows quickly, just like yesterday’s Miyagikyo. Again there’s that faint whiff of vanilla, but that’s quickly overpowered by white and black pepper again. Grass, licorice maybe? Hay and moss again.

This is good whisky. Really, really good. Maybe not 95 points good, but still a five star dram in my book. The peat is strong but well integrated and there’s enough typical Japanese-ness to differ sufficiently from Scottish peated drams. The wet forest, moss and hay flavors are rather Islay in style but done ever so slightly different.

This might not be the thing you’re going for it you like those heavily sherried whiskies from the land of the rising sun, but I sure am glad I found this before it sold out (which happened slower after the Whisky Bible’s release in those days, but still happened).

Great stuff. No samples available anymore. The last drops of this are going to a mate…

Yamazaki 1993-2008, 15yo, 62%, Heavily Peated, Single Cask 3Q70047, ‘The Cask of Yamazaki’ series.

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Nikka Miyagikyo 1989-2007, 18yo, 60%, single cask #105419

It’s been a while since I did a new review and that’s because two of my wisdom teeth were pulled last week. Alcohol wasn’t a really good idea with the painkillers I got and somehow even without the pain medication I thought it wasn’t a good idea to pour 60% ABV booze in an open wound. Anyway, since the weekend I’ve been drinking again, with a ridiculous amount of booze on Saturday (hamburgers and mezcal), but yesterday I thought it was about time I did a review again.

This Nikka whisky is one I bought in 2007 and have been going through very slowly and very carefully since. Mostly because it’s a fairly rare and awesome dram which is way beyond my reach if I ever wanted to replace it. This stuff has gotten so ridiculously expensive over the last year or two, and even before that prices were steeply on the rise as well. According to Whiskybase, this bottle will set you back € 600, and that price is probably from a year or two ago.

Miyagikyo is Nikka’s second distillery after Yoichi, and sits much further south, quite near the Fukushima area. It is also known as Nikka Sendai, but somehow at a certain point in time they stopped using that name in favor of Miyagikyo. According to good Japanese custom in whisky making there isn’t really a specific style of whisky coming from the distillery, apart from that it’s not peated and most of at least the single casks are quite heavily sherried.

The sherry is obvious, quite so. There’s a scent reminiscent of Oloroso, but with much more alcohol and impact. Lots of oak, again to good Japanese tradition. There’s dried fruits, all in the darker corner. Dates, plums, raisins. It took me a while to get a satisfactory description, but it really smells like sandalwood. There’s also a whiff of matches and almonds.

The palate is quite fierce although I think the years in the bottle have taken the alcohol to a bit below 60%. It still is quite hot though, with fiery oak and chili flavors. The sandalwood is present here too, as is a thing that reminds me of some sorts of incense. Sweet dried fruits, plums, dates. But mostly a lot of really great wood driven flavors. It’s really rich, and really dry.

The finish mellows very quickly to a lovely warming feeling. It’s full, rich and quite sherried too. Oloroso again. Lots of oak and very long.

I’m wondering if I’m doing this whisky justice, to be honest. It’s a really great dram that I am thoroughly in love with. This kind of whisky is quite rare and getting rarer. Especially in the collections of mere mortals like myself.

The scents and flavors of whisky like this can keep you occupied for an entire evening because there is a lot going on, and it’s just so, so good. I generally like whisky in which the spirit is a bit more clearly discernible, but when the oak is so well done as in this one, with that flavor of sandalwood added, I’m game!

It’s a shame stuff like this is quickly vanishing from my collection and will, most likely, not be replaced anytime soon.

Nikka Miyagikyo 1989-2007, 18yo, 60%, single cask #105419. Long, long gone.

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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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