Balblair 1996-2018, 54.4% – OB for La Maison du Whisky

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The image from the website, which isn’t the actual bottle.

I love Balblair. I liked them before, but ever since I visited them in 2013, I really loved them. However, I somehow barely ever buy a bottle. Some, but not a lot. Which I tried to remedy a little bit with a sample from this heavily sherried unit bottled for La Maison du Whisky.

LMdW, as it is known, is not a cheap shop. They’re in Paris, which is not a cheap city, which is a bit of an excuse. However, when they bring out a private bottling, you know you’re going to pay for it. Having said that, they do generally bottle some awesome quality hooch.

So, a heavily sherried Balblair from 1996 with 21 or 22 years of aging to it. I was enthusiastic about it right away. I’m not entirely sure what I paid for the sample, but it is still available for 185 euros, which I think is a fairly okay price for this kind of whisky.

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Now this has some color to it!

Sniff:
Lots of sweet sherry and coarse oak. Cigars, wood spices, clove and cinnamon. Some slight bitterness and some dried plums and coffee.

Sip:
A lot of pepper and sharpness. Bitter oak and sherry. Dried plums, coffee, with a lot of spice. Cinnamon, clove, pink peppercorns. Very intense.

Swallow:
Dry and surprisingly spicy. Full on on the cigars and oak. Some earthiness, with cinnamon, clove and dark rye bread.

Having tried this whisky over a couple of sittings, I can confirm that the 185 euros for it is justified. Even though I don’t want to spend any money right now, I am considering clicking the buy button. I won’t, but if you’re in the game of spending this kind of money on whisky, this is not a bad buy at all.

Highly recommended!

91/100

Balblair 1996-2018, 1st fill Spanish Oak Butt Finish, cask 022, 54.4%, OB for La Maison du Whisky. Available for € 185

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The sound of silence…

Sooo, it’s been insanely quiet here.

I don’t think there ever has been more than a week of nothing before, but now it’s up to three weeks. This happened because of summer holidays for the last two weeks. Before that, I was insanely busy with work and some side projects that took all the time I was willing to sit behind a screen.

My plan for now is to start picking up blogging a bit more from now on, so I can (hopefully) get back three posts per week or so.

During the last two weeks I spent camping in Burgundy I somehow ended up drinking quite some okay-ish beers from random supermarkets. I did bring some whisky samples that I had scattered around the house for ages. Strangely, in one of the best known wine regions of the world, I only drank a single bottle of wine in two weeks.

So my intention is to pick up the pace a little bit compared to last year(s) in which I only wrote a bit once or twice per week. Fingers crossed I can find the motivation/focus/drive to do so.

Some booze realizations I’ve done over the last couple of weeks:

  • I really don’t like the flavor of Campari. That stuff is vile.
  • Marc de Bourgogne is not something to not drink for two years. I opened my bottle two years ago and it has gone completely flat.
  • In the world of beer, price is no longer an indicator of quality. There are some many breweries trying to cash in on the hype and most of it is only so-so. This is making me kind of jaded in regards to buying all kind of 5-euro-or-more bottles of average IPA or too light stout.
  • I still like whisky the most.
  • Mezcal is too expensive for what it is. I’ve not bought any for a few years and I barely drink it, but a random bottle clocks in for a hundred or more bucks here, which is just too much.

That’s it for now.

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Glen Mhor 1963, 25 years old, 40% – Sestante

I only got this sample of ‘Fine Old Highland Malt’ yesterday from whisky buddy BvdP. He told me to taste the whisky before looking up what it was, and on the label it only had the Whiskybase ID of the bottle.

So I did just that, I only just looked it up now and tried it yesterday. Maybe not very surprisingly, there’s some names I recognize in the list of member ratings on Whiskybase.

Glen Mhor is one of the three distilleries that used to grace Inverness (the other two being Glen Albyn and Millburn). All of them have been closed down and either demolished or turned into something else. A shame for such a city to have no distilleries. Maybe even more surprising is that no one has tried to cash in on the ‘proud distilling history of Inverness’ by opening a new 13-to-a-dozen distillery yet.

Anyway, a 1963 Glen Mhor, at 25 years old. It makes for a bottling around 1988, which means this is an oldie in both ways that can be interpreted. Quite some age, and bottled a long time ago.

Sniff:
The nose first has a rather heavy scent, but that’s mostly OBE (Old Bottle Effect). It’s gotten a bit musty over the decades it’s been locked up. With a bit of oxygen it gets a lot more fresh, with a hint of star anise. There’s lots of old oak, barley and a whiff of smoke. Tropical fruit too, lots of it.

Sip:
The palate continues the fruitiness with some oak and a herbaceous edge. Oak, and herbs like thyme, but very gentle. Barley, with a creamy texture, crusty bread. Even though there’s no vanilla it does have that custard like texture and creaminess.

Swallow:
The finish is, not surprisingly, very smooth and gentle. Fruity with some barley and herbs. Very light with pear and papaya.

Unfortunately I have very limited experience with Glen Mhor, especially from this era. After tasting this I can’t help thinking that’s something I should remedy (this is the second on the blog, I think). This is a very impressive dram, with lots of different flavors going on.

Keep in mind that this is ancient and only 40%, so if you’re one that generally goes for bit whiskies with big flavors and big ABVs, you won’t really enjoy this one, I think. It’s an exercise in subtlety, with all flavors sticking their head out every now and then. One that needs attention but doesn’t demand it. An introvert whisky, if you will.

90/100

Glen Mhor 1963, 25 years old, 40%, Sestante

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Ardmore 2013-2018, 4yo, 57.2% – Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting

Last April I finally participated in a Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting. These tastings are legendary among whisky lovers and somehow I had never done one, until three months ago that is.

You might have read my shameful post about accidentally blending scraps of the Glen Scotia and Glenlossie I bought there, which sucked majorly. Luckily that wasn’t all I got, since there also was this wee Ardmore.

Mitch, who hosted the tasting and is also coming to Maltstock, wanted to surprise us with this, but chalk letters on the side of the cask stating ‘Ardmore’ kind of spoiled that surprise. After giving us a dram and asking for a guess to the age, I felt something was up. People were guessing 15 and 16 years old, but I figured he was tricking us and I went down a lot, to nine years old. I was still more than 100% off (if calculated from the actual age. If done the other way around, I was more than 50% off). A four year old Ardmore was in our glass.

Everybody loved it. All five of us on the tasting. Especially at a bottle coming in at 40 pounds, this was a steal.

20180703_212607.jpgSniff:
It’s sharp, but more like 52% than 57% sharp. There’s a whiff of vanilla and some good old Highland peat smoke coming through. Grass and hay, with custard for a bit of sweetness. Apple pie too, so I’m currently craving a proper apple crumble, or a strudel or something.

Sip:
It’s slightly sharp on the arrival, but it mellows quickly to a more warming glow. It’s still quite spirity but I think the oak has been very active to have imparted this amount of wood, sweetness and vanilla on it in four years. Even though vanilla is one of the main contributors, it’s doesn’t distract from the spirit and the gorgeous smokiness in it.

Swallow:
On the finish it gets a bit more sooty, and there are more hints of charcoal and peat than before. So, more the remains of smoke than actual smoke. Slightly bacon like, maybe? Still vanilla and apple sauce, and oak.

Well this isn’t the new best thing ever, it is a very, very good whisky for a very decent price at a ridiculously young age. For forty quid, you can’t really go wrong with a nice Ardmore at cask strength. Even if it is only four years old.

87/100

Ardmore 2013-2018, 4yo, Bourbon Hogshead, 57.2%, Cadenhead’s Warehouse Tasting.

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3 Arrans by Highland Titles

Highland Titles is a foundation selling tiny plots of land as a souvenir, a bit like the Friends of Laphroaig plots. However, where the Friends of Laphroaig are more a gimmick, the idea behind Highland Titles is to combine all those tiny plots into nature reserves and preserve Scottish forests this way.

A very good idea if you ask me, and I’m now getting rather enthusiastic about joining that. I am easy to enthuse…

Under his company’s flag Peter Bevis, who started the whole thing, released a triptych of Arran whiskies in 2012 and 2013. When dining at Wullie Macmorland’s last January we tried one of these Arrans and it turned out to be a very good one, at a very affordable price (as in, 60 bucks for a bottle of cask strength, sherry cask matured Arran at 15 years old).

When one of Peter Bevis’ Dutch friends started selling his bottles through Facebook I quickly did a bottle share with them and I got one of each of all three. One sherry puncheon and two bourbon hogsheads.

Sales through Facebook didn’t go very fast since information on these bottlings is very limited (not to say, there’s none at all) and the labels are riddled with typos. On the front it says ‘distilled in 1987’, almost a decade before Arran opened its doors. The back label has more random typographical errors (‘bottlred on…’, ‘colourd…’), and this made a lot of people mistrust the authenticity of the bottlings.

I (sort of) knew what I was getting into, so I bought them anyway. Especially since the guy who sold them is a known figure, as is Peter Bevis. And I doubt Wullie would allow fake whisky into his restaurant.

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Arran 1997-2013, Sherry Puncheon 235, 53% – Highland Titles

The nose of the sherry cask is fruity with a lot of barley in the background. Oak, with a more complex nose than I expected. Peach, apricot, and soft wood. The palate shows hints of crushed black pepper, dry oak and some chili heat. Apricot, peach and peach stones too. The finish is a bit lighter, with sweetness and bitterness nicely combined. Lots of oak ad peach stones.

88/100

Arran 1997-2012, Bourbon Hogshead 234, 53.9% – Highland Titles

The nose of this first Bourbon Hogshead is very classic. Slightly coastal with lots of barley and oak. Some oatmeal, straw and candied lemon. The palate is a bit on the sweet side with barley and vanilla custard. Slightly salty with hints of apple and iron. Ever so slightly bitter with apple seeds. Creamy with a sharp edge. The finish is more dry than expected, not very long but it ticks the boxes. Sweet and a hint of salt, with barley and oak.

88/100

Arran 1997-2013, Bourbon Hogshead 159, 55% – Highland Titles

This one is significantly sharper on the nose. Hints of straw with some vanilla and a lot of oak. Some putty, so there’s a weird note in there too. Not necessarily bad, but weird. Hazelnut, white almond, and baked apple. The palate is dry and sharper than I’d expect of 55%. Lots of fresh oak and nutty. Slightly bitter hints of apple, iron and brittle ears of barley. The finish brings back the sweet vanilla with some heat from the oak and alcohol. Dry oak, apple, iron.

85/100

As you’ve seen by the ‘Malt Marks’, I really liked the first two, and didn’t really care for the third one. I guess when tasted on its own, the third one might score a bit higher, but now it kind of falls flat against its brethren.

Still, at 60 euros a pop, all three are great deals and you get a lot of value for your money.

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Octomore 08.2/167ppm, 2008-2017, 8yo, 58.4%

20180627_091836.jpgSlowly but surely slightly older Octomore are being released. In the case of Octomore it’s a bit weird since the age on the label will not entirely reflect a decent price point. Mostly because producing the whisky is ridiculously expensive. Peating barley to this level is painstakingly slow and costs significantly more than a regular peating level like it’s sister Port Charlotte has. Therefore, there never has been an official Octomore under 100 euros, and they are sometimes way more than that.

This is peated to a level of 167 parts per million of phenols in the barley. This means the level of peat smoke in the whisky is lower than that, but the exact level is unknown (this is also why a 15ppm An’Cnoc tastes really peaty, since that’s measured in the spirit.

This batch is an 08.2 batch, and so far all the x.2 batches have been matured in wine casks. This one is no exception with a mix of “Mourvedre, Sauternes, Sweet Wine, Amarone” has been used. I’m not sure what ‘Sweet Wine’ means in this case.

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Sniff:
On the nose there’s a lot of dry peat with sweet red fruits. Typical scents for a wine cask matured whisky, with old wood and wet dirt. It’s very strong, but also quite predictable if you’ve had x.2’s before.

Sip:
Even though the ABV is high but not *that* high, it tastes a lot stronger on arrival. Razor sharp at first and it takes a while to mellow. Earthy with peat smoke and peat. Lots of oak and red fruits. Grapes, cherries. And very dry.

Swallow:
The finish isn’t much different than the palate. Of course it mellows a bit, but the flavors fade rather swiftly.

Well, Octomore is getting better with the years. It improves with a little bit more age to it. However, that also means that the peat in the spirit mellows, and it makes me wonder if this wouldn’t have been better as a ‘Port Charlotte’. It feels a bit strange to pay extra for the insane level of peat, and then again for prolongued aging.

Anyway, a rather good whisky, but not one that will change my opinion on Octomore (which is: too strong, too peaty). Having said that, the wine casks do add a nice layer of flavors to the whisky, and so far these wine casks have been my favorite Octomores.

86/100

Octomore 08.2/167ppm, 2008-2017, 8yo, Mourvedre, Sauternes, Sweet Wine, Amarone casks, 58.4%. Available from 110 euros and up

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My accidental blend…

Last week I blogged about Ardbeg and spontaneously comparing it to my ‘accidental blend’. This blending happening deserves a post of its own, which also is a bit of a ‘look at me fucking up’ post… I’ve embarrassed myself in a new way, so to say.

In the run up to our recent Scotland trip I got a lot of requests from people asking me to bring them bottles. For a lot of them I said no, since I was planning on doing some buying myself. Also, my friends wanted stuff for their collections and I had some requests from family members already.

Also, I’m not overly comfortable bringing bottles for random people that I don’t know very well, or in which case I’ve not covered the risks properly (breakage, customs, you know). Lastly “bring me a bottle of something good from Bowmore” is a bit too arbitrary an order for my liking.

However, after all was said and done, I brought bottles for some people, and quite some bottles for bottle sharing. There was overlap in this, and that’s where things went wrong.

One specific case with bottles from Cadenhead’s AND a loose order resulted in:

  • Half a bottle of 1993 Glenlossie for FV, who I was at Cadenhead’s with
  • Half a bottle of 1993 Glenlossie for my father in law
  • 20cl for myself
  • 50cl of this for bottle sharing

In that bottle share was a bottle of 2001 Glen Scotia from a rather ‘dirty’ sherry cask, but with the exact same colour as the 1994 Glenlossie.

After splitting the bottle and doing the share everything was actually fine. Everything was divided, everything was poured. I could sit back and relax. However, my sense of warped customer service kicked in, because the half bottle I had taken out of the original bottle was sitting in a random empty bottle of something I had emptied the week before (and cleaned, obviously).

 

I thought it would be nice for my father in law to have the original bottle, which I had sitting with 20cl in it.

What happened next was that I grabbed what *I thought* was the 20cl of Glenlossie, but turned out to be the 20cl of Glen Scotia. I poured 30cl of the Glenlossie into the Glen Scotia.

I then continued to start drinking the remaining 20cl of Glenlossie, because that was my share.

It wasn’t until a week later, with the bottles still sitting ready for dispatch, I suddenly glimpsed the label saying ‘Glen Scotia’. I did a double take, and panicked a bit, because it hit me right away what I had done. By this time, the remaining 20cl of Glenlossie had almost gone, and I had only some random blend left.

A blend of 20cl of Glen Scotia and 30cl of Glenlossie. My evil side popped up with thoughts like “since nobody tasted it before, I could get away with it”, which I probably could, but I didn’t want to be such a dick.

The drawback was, obviously, that this blended variant of what I actually purchased was less good than both the original parts. The fun fact was that it still was quite a ways better than the Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release.

It is actually quite interesting to taste something like this, because it turned out okay-ish. Neither of the whiskies really overpowered the other, although the dirtiness of the Glen Scotia (which I really liked) was toned down a bit. Maybe that was a good thing?

Edit: As it turns out, I’m still confused since I got Glenlossie/Glen Scotia wrong. That’s fixed now.

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