Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength

RedBreast12 CaskStrength
Distillery/Brand: Redbreast | Region: Ireland | ABV: 57.7% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 95

Review
Oh yes! These are the moments you wait for. When simply bringing the glass to your nose gets your pulse racing because you know if it smells this good it’s going to taste even better!

Irish whiskies are making a huge comeback of late. I read some where that for the first time since 1930 the US consumes more Irish whisky than Scotch whisky. Quite a remarkable statistic that.

Must be all those awards they’ve been picking up in the last year or so. This cask strength liquid gold being one of them.

Owned by Irish Distillers this cask strength version is basically their standard 12 (which is bottled at 40%) but with more bite.

While matured almost exclusively in Oloroso casks it does not allow the sherry to overpower. Instead it maintains a firm grasp on the integrity of the spirit.

This style of whiskey is now exclusive only to the Irish and is known as Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey (by law). This basically means that a combination of malted and un-malted barley is used in the production process and the spirit is triple distilled in a single pot still.

Nose: Absolutely gorgeous. Very sweet. Almost winey. But has a pinch of salt too. Honey on pink lemon. Love hearts. Nectarines on top of vanilla sponge cake. Ripe figs and unripe bananas covered in sweet lime. This one renders you almost speechless.

Palate: Lots of spicy citrus. The same honey on melon but now with a dash of oaky cinnamon. All of this against a backdrop of soft fruits expertly complementing the spices.

Finish: Arrives late but when it does it stays. The fruits are back. So are the spices.

I know the Scots and the Irish are always arguing over who invented whisky. I don’t know the answer to that. But I do know who just might end up doing a better job.

Rating: 95

Laphroaig 10 Year Old Cask Strength Batch 006

Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch006
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 58% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Laphroaig, since 2009, have been churning out a cask strength version of their 10 year old every year. Each edition identifiable by the batch number.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed each and every one of these releases though Batch 003 is slightly ahead of the pack. This Cask Strength series is also one of the reasons why Laphroaig is on top of my Brilliant Distillery list. If there’s anything dependable in the world right now it’s that the next release in this series is going to be bloody good.

Just as this one is.

Bottled at a hefty 58% it is closer to the Laphroaig core flavors compared to the other batches. While the others were a touch restrained this one goes all out.

Nose: Immediate soot and ash. Dying embers on a smoldering barbecue that’s just seen a plateful of sausages. Cold cuts on the side. Faint seaweed and salty fishing nets bring out the maritime nature of the spirit. Earthy peat mixed with dried tea and cherry sweets. It’s a strong captivating nose. Darker and stormier than it’s predecessors.

Palate: Remarkably sweet. Figs and raisins. Then some citrus. Oranges, lemons and lime all covered in ash. Brewed black tea. Finally powerful white spices on peat. This is sexy jet fuel.

Finish: Insanely long. All I can think about is lemons. Lots of lemons. Spicy lemons.

So happy Laphroaig is taking the time out to put these spirits together. It makes being disappointed by Ardbeg that much easier.

Rating: 92

The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter

Glenlivet GuardiansChapter
Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
About a year ago I was invited to a special Glenlivet evening. The idea was to get a bunch of whisky geeks in a room, present them with three different spirits and get a general consensus on which was the most popular.

This is how The Glenlivet decided to launch their newest expression – The Guardians Chapter. Pretty neat, I must admit.

So first we were given a whisky called The Classic. Typical Glenlivet flavors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just the 12 year old at a slightly higher strength. Anyway, it did not impress.

The second dram was called The Revival. Better than the first but still not good enough, in my opinion. Lacked personality basically.

The final installment of the evening was The Exotic. The best of the lot. Much more assertive than the first two. Strong flavors and an aggressive sherry attack.

This was the one that the majority (including my self) voted for at the end of the evening. And much to our smug satisfaction ended up on shelves as The Glenlivets’ latest expression – The Guardians Chapter.

A collection of hogsheads, Spanish sherry butts and American oak this is quite a tasty little whisky.

Nose: Warm chocolate and dark oranges with spicy clove. Natural caramel. Almond husks with a dry cinnamon rub. Dried fruits including dark raisins. Quite a strong vanilla and banana molasses layer to the proceedings.

Palate: Instant spice. Black peppers and dark fruits. Dark berries too. Strong cinnamon twist on an almond creme brulee.

Finish: Quite possibly the strongest coffee / mochachino and cinnamon finish I have ever experienced.

This is an above average spirit and I’d like to think I had a little something to do with it.

Rating: 89

Balvenie 12 Year Old – Triple Cask

Balvenie 12 TripleCask
Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
There’s something about entry level Speysiders that has started to piss me off a bit. Seems like there’s a formula everyone’s using to create literally the same whisky.

I mean I understand this is the flavor profile that most people like (and buy) but must they all feel and taste exactly the same?

Let’s put it in some refill bourbon barrels for a bit and then finish it off in some sherry to get that altogether familiar flavor.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s no reason to fix something if it aint broke but it’s become a blur for me of late. They’re all starting to look and feel the same.

And the frustrating bit for me is that they’re all pretty decent. There’s really very little wrong with any of them. It’s just that I have a hard time telling them apart. Maybe a lot of you can but my palate’s not that good.

Anyway, enough rant.

This 12 year old is part of The Balvenie Travel Retail Triple Cask range. Which basically means they’ve used three different maturations. First some refill bourbon, then some first fill bourbon and finally some sherry.

Nose: Lots of honey vanilla on a floral note. Soft peaches with a hint of oaky spices. There’s something green in there as well. Quite fresh. Quite nice.

Palate: There’s the honey again but now with mild peppercorns and cinnamon. Touch of nuts. Dried fruits with a mild citrus overtone.

Finish: Medium with an unexpected late arrival of spices.

Remember the Stepford Wives? Reminds me of them. All manufactured to look and feel the same. But still pretty good looking.

Rating: 88

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 51.4% | Color: Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 93

Review
I have to admit the last year or so hasn’t been very good for my two favorite distilleries, Ardbeg and Laphroaig. Generally an honest, if not a tad overzealous, fan of anything to come out of these two Islay giants I had been having a hard time justifying my obsession.

Ardbeg has decided to continue disappointing us every year on June 2nd, Ardbeg Day. The Auriverdes being a very good, and latest, example of that.

Laphroaig, too, had a less than stellar year, in my opinion. Of the new releases the Cask Strength series are quite noteworthy. However, I wasn’t very taken with last years’ Cairdeas Edition – the 2013 Portwood. Quite weak and listless and representing just a shadow of the great flavors this distillery produces year after year.

This was followed by the QA which, in my opinion, is possibly one of the worst whiskies to be released to an unsuspecting public. This was followed by the Laphroaig Select which has, to put it mildly, been described as ‘tepid bum water’.

So you can imagine my growing sense of dread as I began to fear if I would ever taste anything sublime with the word ‘Laphroaig’ on it. Well, I should not have worried.

2014′s Feis Ile, the Amontillado finish, is quite possibly one of the best whiskies to come out of Laphroaig. Matured in first-fill bourbon casks and then finished for a year in Amontillado wine there is a complex brilliance to this spirit.

Nose: An immediate sprinkle of mild spices. Garam masala and cinnamon. Quite lemony too. The citrus is layered with that familiar iodine but there is a hint of spearmint too. A bit like iodex. A second wave brings strong black licorice and peat with a touch of cardboard. This is a beautifully balanced nose.

Palate: Subtle smoke and curry powder. Freshly baked biscuits with a lemon and butterscotch centre. But what I liked best was that truly unusual under-ripe savory plum. The creamy texture coats your palate beautifully and caresses your taste buds in layers. Scrumptious.

Finish: Clove and that dry licorice again with a touch of bitter oak.

This is an absolute corker of a whisky and has allayed any fears I might have had about the decline in quality of my Laphroaigs.

Rating: 93

Laphroaig An Cuan Mor

Laphroaig AnCuanMor
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | ABV: 48.7% | Region: Islay | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Everyone’s into this whole travel retail BS. That’s where the big bucks are I suppose. Ignorant travelers with fat wallets who will buy anything that’s sitting on a well lit shelf. Usually surrounded by ill-informed staff who are hell bent on selling you what ever it is that makes them the most commission.

And it seems like most distilleries are quite happy to package their mediocre NAS spirit and sell it at a lovely profit. I won’t give you any examples – you know very well what I’m talking about.

So when Laphroaig decided to do a Travel Retail exclusive I was quite curious even though I’m not a fan of this marketing gimmick, as you must have guessed by now.

The PX was the first. Quite nice, I must admit. The QA was next. Quite dreadful, actually. Which left the third and final installment in this lineup wide open. Was it going to be worse than the QA or better than the PX?

Well, it was not only better than the PX it knocked it’s socks right off. This is a beautifully crafted spirit. Put together from some of the finest first-fill 18 year old bourbon barrels the spirit was then re-casked in European Oak for a period of time.

The result is an exquisitely textured malt which is quite delicious.

Nose: Quite sweet, mandarin sweet. Raisins and black currant. Followed by eucalyptus. The 18 year old maturity starts coming through next on the back of leather and peaty almonds. Finished off with a musky, iodine nutmeg. Lovely.

Palate: Subtle peat and smokey black pepper on chocolate burnt orange. All smeared on an oaky brown bread sandwich.

Finish: That all too familiar iodine with traces of chocolate.

This is by no means simply a marketing gimmick. This is the real deal.

Rating: 92

Ardbeg Alligator

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 51.2% | Color: Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
This is, in my opinion, the last of the good special release Ardbegs. I haven’t cared much for the stuff that came after like the Day, Galileo and the AuriVerdes – though I quite liked the Ardbog for some reason.

Unashamed in it’s approach it is brash and hard hitting but if you look close enough has a gentler, softer side to it as well.

The spirit is essentially the standard 10 year old but finished in heavily charred barrels to give it a stronger smokier (barbeque) flavor. These new barrels were charred so much that they started cracking on the inside and began to resemble alligator skin.

Or as some intern in their marketing department likes to call it, Islay-Gator.

(I will pause now for you to softly facepalm yourself)

Moving on…

I tasted the ‘Gator when it came out and remember being blown away by it. It was actually one of the first Ardbegs I had ever tried (yes, I’m very new to whisky!) and, boy, am I glad it was this smokey monster!

These notes are from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Lots of ash with a sharp citrus drizzle on top. Butterscotch on barbequed sausage. I like how the smokey sweets play in tandem and don’t let one overpower. The peat rolls in next on a bed of faint white flowers but what surprised me a touch was the red candy/licorice which added that touch of exotic. Wonderfully balanced nose.

Palate: The citrus on the nose turns into a lovely bitter marmalade spread. There is peaty ash with a generous green chili and black peppercorn garnish. The delivery is quite creamy and has hints of mint sprig.

Finish: Long with that same exotic red licorice and spicy oranges.

This is a glorious dram and deserves the reputation it has garnered.

Rating: 93