Longrow Red 2014, Fresh Port Casks, 51.8%

As said in a previous post, I’m kind of enamoured with peated whisky from a port cask. Whether it’s a finish or a maturation doesn’t really matter to me, as long as the cask doesn’t fully overpower the whisky. How much like it depends on the quality of both the whisky and the casks of course.

In the case of Longrow I at least know that the quality of the whisky is taken care of. I love that stuff, unless they finish it in a Tokaji cask. They’re fairly consistent although they sometimes mislabel a Longrow as a Springbank (I think).

In this case they decided to put their newest Red release straight in my current area of interest. Their previous releases were from red wine casks and even though those usually raise my skepticism they were both pretty okay. Let’s see how this one fares!

I generally don’t comment on the color of a dram since it usually doesn’t mean anything, with the creative wood management that currently exists, but this one is definitely of a pink/orange hue.

Longrow Red, from Fresh Port Casks

Longrow Red, from Fresh Port Casks

Sniff:
Pretty heavy with some nuts, smoke and an earthy scent to it, like mushrooms, or wet leaves. Slightly salty with cigar smoke and a hint of red fruits behind that. More timid than I expected.

Sip:
The palate has two faces. There is a sharp, slightly salty side to it, with some barley and smoke. The other side has the warmth of the fruits, the dark oak and port like flavors. It blends rather well after a couple of seconds, but it seems the peppery bite is getting a tad overpowering.

Swallow:
The finish is definitely smoky with fresh wood smoke, but also some cigars. Some stewed red fruits (strawberries mostly), with oak, peat and that earthy flavor I also found on the nose.

While this might not be the most complicated of drams, it sure is a tasty one. I love the combination of fruit, smoke and warmth it gives, and I think Springbank has timed the release of this bottle well, since we’re heading for some colder months now.

The port is not overpowering at all, but does sure add flavor that otherwise isn’t found in Longrow. The salinity of the whisky with the crisp smoke is familiar, but the earthy flavor and scent is new, and I like it very much. This is a keeper! I might have to get myself a full bottle instead of just a wee sample…

Longrow Red 2014, Fresh Port Casks, 51.8%.

Pretty easy to get at the moment but I suggest trying a local specialty shop. Drinks & Gifts has it, so does De Whiskykoning. Master of Malt stocks it too, but the exchange rate for the Pound Sterling does you in, if you’re used to Euros. In The Netherlands it should be between € 60 and € 65, and it’s well worth it!

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Blind Tasting Competition 2014

It’s been a while since I posted a review, but I’ve been trying to work my way through a cold that my lovely daughter brought home from daycare. It’s going in the right direction so I hope to be back at more regular postings after the weekend.

This post is just to get your attention for our club’s annual Blind Tasting Competition. This year it’s running for the fourth time and it’s promising to be a good one with already 65 contestants.

The competition has been opened to non-members now and you only need an account on our website to participate (www.levenswater.nl) from December 6th to 23.

What is it:
You get 18 samples of whisky that can come from anywhere in Scotland, and are all single malts. Apart from that it can be any bottling that is on Whiskybase.

wpid-IMAG0998.jpg

Every day you taste one sample and fill in what you think is the right answer, and by scoring points on multiple categories you hope to end high on the list:

  • 40 points for the correct distillery, subtract 20 if you only get the region right
  • 40 points for the correct age, subtract 10 for each year you’re off (minimum of 0)
  • 20 points for the correct ABV, subtract 1 for each tenth of a percent you’re off.

I generally suck at this, but I’m hoping to do better than I did last year. Plus, technically the samples are cheap for what you’re getting!

So, go to www.levenswater.nl and sign up! There’s some 7 spots left!

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Port & Peat – A small bottle share

A couple of years ago in a whisky magazine, I can’t remember which one, I read an article about port casks being the new sherry casks.

The main reason behind this train of thought was that Port still pretty popular, where most sherry drinkers are (as our town’s former liquor shop owner put it) six feet under. I find this interesting and so far I’ve been able to find some really tasty port cask finishes and maturations.

The one thing that I have been missing from port cask matured whisky is diversity. This is possibly due to a lack of interest from the industry so far: Mostly Tawny Port casks are used but where’s the white port and vintage port? Where are the differences between casks from 10 years ago and casks from 100 years ago (since Port can mature ridiculously long).

In the past I did find one thing particularly appealing, and that is the combination of Port matured/finished whisky and peat. For me the whiskies that were made with peated barley before being put in a port cask have been miles ahead of the non-peated ones.

This little bottle-share is therefore not to prove myself wrong, but just to enjoy some really good (hopefully) peated whiskies that were matured or finished in port pipes.

I expect to start writing notes somewhere next week when my cold is hopefully over. Also, the bottle share is already full so no point in wanting to be in this time.

The line-up:

  • Longrow Red 11yo – Fresh Port Casks
  • Kilchoman 3yo – Port Cask Matured
  • BenRiach Solstice 17yo – 2nd edition
  • Talisker – Port Ruighe

EDIT: Apparently there is a White Port matured Ben Nevis, but that’s not a very peaty whisky. But it does exist, and is available from Master of Malt

Posted in BenRiach, Kilchoman, Longrow, Talisker | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Diageo Special Releases

My post is a bit late to the party, but I didn’t get around to it yesterday.

In the mysterious of Diageo the list of Special Releases was announced yesterday, but not through their PR company (Cognis PR) or their ‘dedicated’ Twitter account (@SpecialReleases). For some reason, blogs were the ones getting the news out this year.

The list of special releases, including their Recommended Retail Price in pounds is below.

DISTILLERY
AGE AT BOTTLING
YEAR DISTILLED
UK RRP
%
# OF BOTTLES
SINGLETON OF GLENDULLAN 
38
1975
£750
59.8%
3,756
CAOL ILA UNPEATED
15
1998
£75
60.39%
10,668
CAOL ILA
30
1983
£425
55.1%
7,638
CLYNELISH
SELECT RESERVE
1999* (youngest whisky in vatting)
£500
54.9%
2,964
CRAGGANMORE 
25
1988
£299
51.4%
3,372
LAGAVULIN
12
2002
£80
54.4%
31,428
PORT ELLEN
35
1978
£2,200
56.5%
2,964
ROSEBANK
21
1992
£300
55.3%
4,530
BENRINNES
21
1992
£240
56.9%
2,892
BRORA
35
1978
£1,200
48.6%
2,964
STRATHMILL
25
1988
£275
52.4%
2,700

(Table comes from Neil and Joel at Caskstrength Whisky Blog)

Of course, the discussion has been about Diageo’s pricing which automatically makes these whisky unreachable for all except the wealthiest of us, or those who saved up enough money over the last year for that one special bottle.

I have to say that compared to the last couple of years, I have the feeling the prices haven’t soared that much higher. And, whether the Port Ellen costs £ 1200 or £ 2200, the likeliness of me buying one is there in none of those two situations.

I am interested in the 12 year old Lagavulin, as I am every year and this year I just might have enough budget to get it when it gets there. Usually I forget about these releases, spend all my money and then have to start saving again when they popup, only to find they’ve all been sold by the next month.

Anyway, I let you form your own opinion on these bottles. I’m sure all of them sell eventually, with the Port Ellen and Brora being gone in minutes after release. It’s a strange world we live in.

They look gorgeous, though!

They look gorgeous, though!

Posted in - News and Announcements, Benrinnes, Brora, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Glendullan, Lagavulin, Port Ellen, Rosebank, Strathmill | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The General, 53.4% – Compass Box

Compass Box is a highly regarded whisky ‘releaser’. They release all kinds of whiskies that they generally blend in their London offices. I don’t call them a blender in the regular sense of the word since I think they’re more than that.

What they do is so much more crafty than releasing the next 20.000.000 bottles of Johnnie Walker Red Label that there is just no comparing them. Their releases are blends, blended malts, blended grains and I bet there have been some single malts over the years too.

A while ago I reviewed some whiskies from their core range, the Peat Monster, Oak Cross, Spice Tree, long before that I’ve reviewed some random releases of them too. I finished my bottle of Great King Street blended whisky and wouldn’t be surprised if I bought one again since it’s great, and very affordable.

In 2013, for me it came out of the blue, they released The General. A blended whisky that has a rather epic label and came in a fancy plastic museum like showcase. It scared me a little bit since upon release it already cost you £ 200 or so.

It sold out quickly and then the reviews started coming in. It turned out I should have bought it, according to the world. Luckily I could still participate in a bottle share of it so at least I get to try it.

The blend is unique since it’s not blended before bottling or blended young, but both. It consists of two parcels of blended whiskies that have been in oak for many years AFTER blending, and those two parcels were blended just before bottling. Funny, that.

Sniff:
On the nose it’s ridiculously rich with all the old fashioned scents that one could associate with whisky. There’s leather and pipe tobacco, arm chairs, oak, a hint of smoke and fruit. Spices too, of course. I get banana, nutmeg and clove. Dried apple, spiced cake, sherry, chocolate and cappuccino.

Sip:
The palate is sharp and dry. Fruity again but more citrusy. Some orange and pomelo, lemon too. The spices are present, mostly baking spices and it packs a punch. It gets a bit thicker after a couple of seconds when you get your tongue around the alcohol. Peach syrup, oak, some vanilla. Leather and furniture polish. Very warming, very gentle although it’s pretty sharp.

Swallow:
The finish just screams ‘classic’. It’s very old fashioned, again with leather and all those flavors. It’s long with slightly more sherry shining through than before. The boozy fruit cake is back in full swing too. Candied fruits, maraschino cherries, rummy even.

I’m not one to quickly save money for expensive bottles like this, but in this case I wish I was slightly more so. This is a very, very good whisky that absolutely ticks all the boxes. It’s a bit more wintry than I am used to in blended whiskies, but that’s only adding to the perception of it.

The flavors are well married, it’s not a jumble of random senses being trigger, which is my main problem with blends. This one works. And it works well. The sherry is never overpowering and the strength of oak and all other flavors really shines. Damn…

I wish I had a bottle of this.

The General, 53.4%, Compass Box. Apparently it’s still available from obscure shops in France and Switzerland, but it’ll set you back some € 300

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Laphroaig 1995, 17yo, 61.5%, Nurses and Doctors attend a Beach BBQ – SMWS (29.134)

Another wee drop of SMWS booze. Let’s hope this one is more to my liking than yesterday’s Highland Park.

Laphroaig is a bit of a strange whisky. There’s quite a lot of independent bottlings out there, as well as an increasing number of official ones. For some reason, I’ve spent quite some money on the brand, buying some of their Friends of Laphroaig bottlings in the Cairdeas series. I’ve stopped doing that a couple years ago, but I did end up buying (I think) batch 2 of their cask strength releases.

I love that dram, although I’ve kind of fallen out of love with their Cairdeas stuff. Mostly it consists of young peated whisky, which you can get from almost every distillery by now. While the booze is then of high enough quality, it hasn’t had the time to properly grow into it’s own, I think. Which means it all kind of feels a bit generic. Young and peaty. Maybe the 12 year old Cairdeas one from some years ago is better, but I haven’t tried it yet. I know the port cask from last year was far from nice. LaphRose

Islay Distillery. Image from http://www.islay.org.uk/, by Arwin Grewe

Islay Distillery. Image from http://www.islay.org.uk/, by Arwin Grewe

This cask is what, in my opinion, Laphroaig does best. Get a great bourbon barrel, put great spirit in there and take some time before bottling it. Not too long, mind! 17 years seems about right.

Sniff:
A typical Laphroaig punch in the face. No messing about. Peat, straw, heather. It’s clean, it’s fierce, there’s salt and sand and I also get some lemon curd. Laphroaig often has lemon flavors that are just lovely. It gets a bit sweeter after about fifteen minutes, with more oak, brown sugar, vanilla syrup and treacle.

Sip:
The palate is dry at first, just before the strength hits you. This one is hot! It doesn’t have much alcohol in a flavor-wise way though. Straw, heather, crushed black pepper. Some vanilla and the peat is not that overpowering. It’s definitely there but in balance with the other flavors. After a bit of swimming I get apple cake, treacle and thyme.

Swallow:
The finish mellows quickly and leaves a lovely warming glow. Lots of herbal flavors like the thyme from before. Slightly salty and sweet at the same time. Sugar, and even some coffee like bitterness.

This is a very Laphroaigy whisky. Which is enough reason to want a bottle of it, and I wish I had spotted this earlier since 68 quid for this kind of booze is a steal. Of course, it’s all gone by now.

The flavors are well balanced but still develop over tasting this whisky. The nose is different from the palate, and the direction it’s taken is continued in the finish. This is something I thoroughly enjoy. I very much like the addition of the thyme on the palate and the coffee flavor in the finish.

I think I could ramble on about this bottle for a while, but let’s keep it short. Epic stuff. I want more whisky like this. Absolutely fantastic.

But, as I’ve come to expect from the SMWS, an utterly bullcrap name and tasting notes that I can’t do anything with. Still, they know how to pick some great casks!

Laphroaig 1995, 17yo, 61.5%, Nurses and Doctors attend a Beach BBQ, SMWS (29.134). It used to be only £ 68.

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Highland Park 1999, 11yo, 56.6%, Sherbet Fountains and Rainbow Drops – SMWS (4.158)

Due to quite a lot of sample buying and sharing from and with whisky buddies in England, I’ve gotten my hand on some SMWS samples. Apparently the SMWS there is loads more fun than it is in The Netherlands. Bummer for us, but luckily we are not without options.

This Highland Park bottling was bought in a small share of this and a bottle of Laphroaig. I participated in it, even though the bottlings were not that appealing. As in, they were random, young and there was not anything truly ‘special’ about them. I have known some Highland Parks and Laphroaigs from the SMWS that did turn out to be rather stellar drams.

Of course, results from the past are no guarantee, but these weren’t too expensive so let’s just give it a go, right?

Highland Park Distillery

Highland Park Distillery

Sniff:
It smells a lot younger than it actually is. And it smells like there’s a lot more alcohol than there actually is. There’s a lot of apple juice like scents, but also a trace of smoke, some pear and American oak. The vanilla is there too, but in the background.

Sip:
The palate is very sharp too with loads of alcohol again. Quite some bite! It’s hot even. There’s oak, charcoal and smoke, with hints of sponge cake, buttermilk and some orange. Not very dry, which I expected with this intensity.

Swallow:
The finish is rather typical of Highland Park from bourbon casks. Again, very sharp but mellows down quite quickly. A trace of smoke again with apples, unripe pear, vanilla and some lemon.

Right. I am not sure what to think of this one. It’s not, in itself, a bad whisky, but it’s not very appealing either. I think I find the whisky rather off balance. The idea is great with not too old bourbon matured Highland Park having the possibility to be really great, but this is not it.

The apple juice scents on the nose and the massive alcohol that’s all over this dram is just not it for me. I’m actually glad I only got a sample of this. On the other hand, I did finish the sample right away. A bit of water does mellow it a bit, but also starts drowning it right off the bat.

Compared to some other youngish Highland Parks from bourbon casks, this is just not a very good one.

Highland Park 1999, 11yo, 56.6%, Sherbet Fountains and Rainbow Drops, SMWS (4.158). Used to cost some £ 50 to 60 I think.

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