Arran 18, 46%

Woohoo! It’s here.

The new Arran 18 has been released over the last week and today it arrived in Krommenie at our local bottle shop. Jolanda, who owns the place got nine bottles and I sure as hell am happy about asking her to hold one for me, because they sold out in a few hours.

For a place with a big internet presence like The Whisky Exchange that wouldn’t be too much of an achievement but for a small town shop who mostly runs on locals it’s quite something. Kudos to Jolanda.

But, as said, she held one back for me and I went to pick it up for multiple reasons:

  1. It didn’t feel right to let it just sit there while she could’ve sold it easily
  2. I really felt like opening something cool
  3. I wanted it
  4. I’m hosting a tasting tomorrow in which this will be a highlight.

Arran distilled their first spirit in August of 1995, which means there can technically already be 19 year old spirit out and about, and there’s an SMWS one, but just one. Unfortunately for Arran, their 18 year old isn’t the first 18 year old Arran, but it is the first ‘generally available’ one. There have been some 16 others (according to Whiskybase, so there might be more) that already have a bottling out. The distillery released one last year as well, at 52%, for their Malts & Music festival in June.

But still, this thing was highly anticipated by quite some folks on the interwebz, and most likely even more that aren’t as prolific about their desires online as some of us are, me included.

Sniff:
There’s vanilla custard, with a thin dusting of baking spices and caramel. A hint of stewed apple and golden syrup and treacle. Honey too and a slight floral note behind it all. Straw too, all very well integrated and gentle.

Sip:
The palate is drier than expected, and has more bite too. A dusty feel of toasted oak, with caramel candy, Scottish tablet and butterscotch. Treacle, latte machiato, golden syrup and apple strudel. Some almonds too, and brown sugar.

Swallow:
The finish goes back to the slightly stronger notes of vanilla I got on the nose, but the dryness stays, as does the dusty, toasted oak feel. It’s very warming and long with gorgeous notes of everything that came before.

This is a true milestone for the distillery. I love what they’ve done with the brand without going completely overboard. They were fooling around a bit much with cask finishes a decade ago, but that was born out of necessity. They’ve limited that significantly nowadays, but I keep finding that I much prefer the sherry and bourbon cask matured ones. The bourbon ones most, although this baby is a bit of a mix-up since it’s from sherry hogsheads, so sherry, from American oak.

The whisky then. It’s gorgeous. It’s absolutely delicious. It might not be the most complex 18 year old whisky around, but the flavors are all there and they’re all lovely. I love the baked apple, butterscotch combination. The vanilla notes are kept in check so this whisky doesn’t become, well, vanilla.

In short. If you have the chance of getting one, do yourself a favor and order it now, while there is still some left.

Arran 18, 46%. Prices vary from € 82.50 to € 100. Check for availability on Whiskybase

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Blair Ahtol 1991-2014, 46%, ‘Foraged Fruit Fool’ – Wemyss

The second Wemyss review this week, and the third will follow soon (of the new Bowmore called ‘The Rock Pool’). This Blair Athol comes in a period of about a year or so in which quite some independent Blair Athols have been released.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t miss most of them. I only tasted one from Dutch bottler The Ultimate and I really didn’t like that. Way too sweet and too much like the syrup you create when making stewed pears. All flavors were pear, cinnamon and cheap port wine. Not my cup of tea.

Then this one from the Highland distillery. A fruit fool is an English dessert of fruit and custard. I just looked this up since I didn’t get the name and now the name seems a lot more appropriate than before.

Sniff:
It’s quite malty at first, with some white oak in there too. I get hints of vanilla and creme brulee. It’s very fruity with galia melon, Doyenne pears and a hint of chili pepper heat. It gets more sugary and sweet after a while.

Sip:
The palate is warming with flavors of San Francisco biscuit (this is a vanilla flavored biscuit you can get here). A light hint of pepper, malt. Hints of white bread and corn bread. Pear again, as well as melon but with the addition of more tropical mango and papaya. Creme brulee and strudel with vanilla sauce.

Swallow:
The finish is very consistent with the palate and just gently fades all those flavors. It is slightly lighter though with a new fruity hint of white grapes. Quite long.

Apparently my hints of fruit are not the same as the tasting panel’s at Wemyss. At least I don’t generally reckon mango and melon to be forageable fruits. Anyway, the vanilla flavor and slight layer of bready flavors send me more towards biscuits than to custard, but I can get into that.

It’s a really good dram, this. The fruits are great and diverse. The background of those fruits it lovely with malt, bread and pepper. There’s quite something to discover here and I really enjoy that. Tasting this blind I don’t think I would have guessed this at 46% but slightly higher, towards 50 or so.

In short, I love this one!

Blair Ahtol 1991-2014, 46%, ‘Foraged Fruit Fool’, Wemyss. It was released in the UK only yesterday and the price sits at £ 112 (slightly over € 150)

Thanks to Wemyss for the sample! Loved it, guys!

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Glenugie 1980-2010, 29yo, 43.4% – SMWS (99.11 Tickled by ‘monstera deliciosa’)

Glenugie bottlings are incredibly hard to come by. While the distillery closed in 1983 like some 25 others there never was much of this to go around, far less than Port Ellen and Brora and the likes. And those two are also of the more rare kind of whisky than some others that closed.

The distillery has long since been demolished and in its spot now sits some kind of church and a vacant lot, with some houses around it (approximately).

I tried my first Glenugie at the Lochranza Hotel in 2010, on my first trip to Scotland, and was blown away by it. And by the vast dram I got for just five quid. I still regret not buying the rest of the bottle, since that 1968 one by Gordon & MacPhail was just plain awesome.

Since then I’ve managed to buy two bottles of Glenugie, of which one has been finished last year or so. That one was another 1980-2010 bottling from SMWS, the cask following this one (99.12 that would be). I traded a sample of that for a sample of this with Ben, who’s blog you’ve probably seen by now since I’ve been linking to it a lot.

This bottle comes from refill bourbon hoggie, which doesn’t say much but probably lets the spirit speak loudest. Let’s dive in.

Sniff:
Old and overripe fruit, with an almost cloying sweetness. Lots of good oak, but not overpowering in any way. Lots of furniture polish and leather. The fruity scents are like mango peel, brown banana and there’s a hint of walnut. Lots and lots of aromas. Sweet bread, like a brioche. It’s heavy, fruity and feinty.

Swallow:
The finish mellows very quickly, but that’s not too surprising with only 43.4% alcohol in here. It is of medium length, and fruity and feinty. Exactly as expected.

This is a very interesting dram. One I wouldn’t regret owning a bottle of and drinking it with pleasure. It is, however, slightly less complex and enticing as the 99.12 with the flavors being more bold, in your face and heavy.

I do love the combination of heavy fruits and the feinty hints of leather and polish. It makes for a nice combination of flavors and for something you don’t come across every day. A gorgeous whisky, but just shy of greatness.

Glenugie 1980-2010, 29yo, 43.4%, SMWS, 99.11 Tickled by ‘monstera deliciosa’.

It used to be around £ 75 according to WhiskyBase, but expect to pay much more now. Last November it auctioned in the UK for £ 325

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Aberfeldy 1999-2014, 46%, ‘Toffee Tuile’ – Wemyss

This week my first ever pack of samples from Wemyss arrived. A while ago I asked them politely if they were willing to include me on their sample list, as they do with many other bloggers. They kindly agreed, after some pruning of my blog I think.

The pack was incredibly well wrapped and had three samples in it. This Aberfeldy, a Bowmore and a Blair Athol. Those others will be reviewed shortly.

Now, Aberfeldy. One of the distilleries I have never bought anything of, except a sample of the 21 year old to get that crossed off from the first 101 Whiskies to try before you Die by Ian Buxton. It was nice, but you really had to search for individual flavors. It was so timid and gentle that I called it a whisky for people who don’t like whisky.

After that, I only had a bottling by David Stirk, which was rather good. Then it got quiet. They revamped their brand recently, and more things happened of course, but I couldn’t really be bothered. It’s not really my cup of tea, Aberfeldy is.

Sniff:
It’s got lots of oak and butterscotch. There are spices, toffee and crusty bread. It’s rather sweet and biscuity, with baking spices, but also some apple and some ‘green’ notes.

Sip:
The palate is dry and has quite a lot of baking spices to it. Rather sharp for a 46% whisky too, but in a good way. Butterscotch and toffee again, hazelnut too. That green note is here again, green malt and granny smith apples. Because of that it comes of as slightly younger than 15 years old. Quite some oak though, and slightly bitter with caramel.

Swallow:
The finish is medium long with a bigger focus on the biscuits and bread crust, and other malty flavors.

I have to be honest and say that I was a bit skeptical about this whisky. Mostly because of my previous experiences with Aberfeldy. This one however, is at least aptly named since there are lots of crusty, biscuity flavors with heaps of butterscotch and caramel and toffee.

I love the slight bitterness on the finish too, and all flavors are well integrated with a nice progression from nose to palate to finish. This might not become my favorite whisky of the year, but it sure is nice.

This whisky is part of the March 2015 releases, but I haven’t been able to find it online yet, and don’t know what it’s going to cost yet.

Aberfeldy 1999-2014, 46%, ‘Toffee Tuile’, Wemyss

EDIT: It just became available at The Whisky Exchange at £ 80.95

Thanks to Wemyss for sending me this sample!

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Sediment – Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs, CJ & PK

The second wine book I’ve ever read. I’m not sure how I got to hear about this book, but it must have been through their website. Now how I got there has been lost in the mists of time.

Anyway, CJ & PK, as they call themselves, are two guys writing a rather funny to read and highly critical wine blog. They are not filthy rich so you don’t get reviews of the new Chateau Latour or Chateau Petrus bottlings, if you get a review at all.

What they do mostly is vent opinion on everything in the world of wine, and things just outside it. They’ve bundled their most popular posts in the book ‘Sediment, Two Gentlemen and their mid-life terroirs’.

As you might sometimes deduct from my own ramblings, I like cynicism. I think a good dose of it keeps things a bit more real and keeps me from getting my nose too high up in the air when it comes to whisky. If you’re like me and find the everyday of a booze industry interesting, this book might just be the thing for you.

In that cynicism, however, is also one of the biggest drawbacks of the book. At some I stopped believing they actually like wine, or the wine industry. Most of the articles are badly covered complaints on all things pompous in the wine industry, and the ridiculously bad wines you drink if you’re not part of that pompousness.

The other major drawback is that these are blog posts. This in itself, is not a bad thing but when you try to read Sediment as a book (which I did) it tends to get a little bit tedious. It works better if you leave it in the loo and read an article every time you’re taking a rest there.

Having said that, both CJ and PK are both clever and witty enough to keep every post relevant and got me laughing out loud on the train and the loo every now and then (not simultaneously, mind).

So, concluding, read this book if you like to read the excerpts of the Statler and Waldorf of the wine industry and how two, slightly grumpy, midlife gents try to worm their way into a life of enjoyable wines, and more often than not failing horribly.

The reports of those failures are fun to read, but you’d do best to spread out the reading of this book into a lot of short bits.

Sediment – Two Gentlemen and Their Mid-Life Terroirs, is available from Amazon.co.uk for £ 12.99

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Caol Ila 30, 1984-2014, 56.2% – Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection

The Caol Ilas we’ve seen over the last couple of years have shown some true greatness, especially those bottled at some 30 years old. The early eighties seem to have been some great years for the Port Askaig distillery.

This review is based on a sample I got from whisky buddy Ben in a trade. We send each other some great drams every now and then. I can’t find much info on this whisky, and I don’t think there is much to say, apart from what’s already in the title.

Oh, and it comes from a bourbon hogshead. Which to me is a good sign.

Sniff:
The smoke is really nice from the start. Old, full and rich. There’s oak, obviously, and some light vanilla notes. I also get lemon and a slight leathery hint. Very Port Ellen like, but with the addition of the Caol Ila oiliness, and I get some hints of banana.

Sip:
The palate shows some pepper on top of the smoke, with vanilla and oak. Lemon candy (Napoleon) and leather. Shammy leather and that typical Caol Ila milky flavor. Quite full and rich, very typical.

Swallow:
The finish is quite smoky and sweet, with hints of crushed black pepper. Not overly long but very, very nice. Lightly sweet and smoky, but still very dessertlike.

In a way, this is a weird whisky. In the current climate, you expect there to be ‘something’ with each whisky, and that’s not the case with this one. This Caol Ila is just plain and simple Caol Ila, but to an awesome level.

That is to say, this is a cracker. An absolutely stunning dram that does everything right. This kind of dram makes me reassess my plan to not buy overly expensive whiskies anymore and stick to a more affordable category. While I know you can get really delicious drams at about € 80, you just don’t get this kind of quality in that bracket.

Oh, and in the bracket this is in you can get a wee drop of Port Ellen, but I prefer this one to many from that distillery. The lemon candy and shammy leather notes are here, but there is much more going on. And I have a weak spot for the engine oil and milk flavors of Caol Ila.

So, thanks a million, Ben, this was gorgeous!

Caol Ila 30, 1984-2014, 56.2%, Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection. Should cost just below € 200, but I think it’s sold out now.

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Inverleven 1991-2008, 40% – Gordon & MacPhail

As with that awesome Convalmore from a while ago, I got this one in that sample swap with buddy MZ. I don’t know how this trade came to be and who asked who for what, but based on that Convalmore, I’m a happy camper.

Inverleven is one of the many silent Lowlands distilleries and this one was located in Dumbarton. The Dumbarton complex produces single grain whisky for the George Ballantine company. Within that complex there was the Inverleven ‘distillery’ and the Lomond ‘distillery’. Mind, not Loch Lomond which is close, but not the same.

The distilleries of Lomond and Inverleven were not actual distilleries in their own right, since they were within the Dumbarton complex and buildings. Both distilleries were shit down in 1991 and mothballed and demolished later on, after which grain whisky distilling recommenced.

The Inverleven whisky varies slightly between batches since they used a Lomond still to produce it with rectifier plates. With these plates one can adjust the distilling regime and therefore the resulting spirit.

A couple of years ago some of the pot stills of Inverleven were bought by Bruichladdich to reinstall these in the Port Charlotte distillery. As we all know, this hasn’t happened yet and Port Charlotte is still a dream (of Jim McEwan).

Inverleven 1991-2008. Image from Whiskybase

Inverleven 1991-2008. Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
The nose starts with soft vanilla and soft caramel scents (those Caramac bars). Behind that is an array of field flowers like poppies and daffodils and such. I even think I get a tiny hint of salt, but that’s gone quickly. Butterscotch, dried pineapple and maracuja, but also a whiff of mutli-purpose cleaner.

Sip:
The palate starts floral, with some straw and ears of barley. The fruit is stronger after that with passion fruit, pineapple and regular apple. Light, candy like and a tad chemical again.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more malty but the fruit is definitely here. All tropical and light. The floral hints are more restrained.

I didn’t really know what to expect since I haven’t tasted many Inverlevens before and they can vary a lot. Not even only because of the randomness of the occasional single cask that pops up but also because of the way it’s distilled.

This one, whether or not it’s a single cask, is awesome. There’s a slight hint of chemical flavoring like used in candy, but the huge and delicious notes of fruit combine well with it. Liquid candy, with a fruitiness that’s not found often these days.

And, as with the Convalmore, I’ve added Inverleven to the list of distilleries I want a bottle of. Shame that the ones that are available are ridiculously expensive, and they don’t pop up in auctions all that much. I’ll be watching.

Inverleven 1991-2008, 40%, Gordon & MacPhail. This used to go for some € 80 not long ago, but it’s very hard to find.

Thanks to MZ for the sample!

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