Ardbeg 1994 Connoisseurs Choice

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 40% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 86

I’m an auction junkie. It is literally the most irritating habit I have. Every time I’m checking out obscene amounts on various auction sites for bottles that I may or may not really need I promise my self ‘No more!’

That is until I get a reminder email from another auction site letting me know that their auction is going to end pretty soon and that I shouldn’t let any other bidder get the best of me. And it works every time!

Luckily for me, of late, I have developed a certain restraint in the way I bid. I now just put up my maximum bid and hope for the best instead of furiously outbidding my challenger and ending up with an unnecessarily expensive bottle.

This particular Ardbeg is a product of that restraint. I put up, what I thought, was a reasonably underpriced bid and, lo and behold, I was staring at my congratulatory email! Which makes the sluggishness of this indie Ardbeg just a touch easier to accept.

This Connoisseurs Choice Ardbeg has been distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2004 making it nine or ten years old. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at an extremely weak 40%

Nose: Soft peat. Smoke. Quite understated. Reminds me of the Renaissance. Lime. Salt. Oyster shells. Fishnet. Gets a little sweet now. Vanilla. Some ash. Tar. Quite delicate. Quite farmy. Nice nose. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Light chocolate. Peat. Smoke. Lime. Lemon. Some salt. Much sweeter on the palate even if it feels a little underpowered. Vanilla. Oak. Mild spices. I prefer the nose if you ask me. 21/25

Finish: Musk. Oak. Lime. It’s alright. 21/25

Overall Comments: Do I love it? Certainly not. Did it need at least 6% (if not 10!) more percentage alcohol points? Most certainly! Is it nice to have it on your shelf? Sure, why not? Am I going to stop wasting my money on whisky I don’t really need? I highly doubt it.

Rating: 86

Teeling 15 Year Old Revival

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Distillery/Brand: Teeling | Region: Ireland | ABV: 46% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 21 | Taste: 17 | Finish: 19 | Balance: 19 | Rating: 76

My first brush with Teeling was with their Single Grain matured in California Red Wine Cabernet casks and I have to tell you I fell instantly in love. It was such a beautiful and unique flavor profile that I had no choice but to.

Since there’s not a lot of Teeling Whiskey where I live (Dubai) I really had to dig around to get my hands on a different expression from this extremely young distillery.

Dublins’ first distillery in 125 years Teeling is run by Jack Teeling. Jack’s family has a long history of whisky making going as far back as 1782 when a certain Walter Teeling set up a small craft distillery to make Irish whiskey. Since then the distillery, like Irish whiskey, has had it’s ups and downs but now it seems that both are back in business.

To commemorate the revival of both the distillery as well as Irish whiskey this 15 year single malt was released a few months ago to eager whisky beavers like my self who were really curious to see what older Teelings would taste like. I don’t know about anyone else but I was super disappointed.

My sample is from a brand new bottle served at 46%, distilled in 1999 and matured exclusively in ex-Rum casks.

Nose: Quite sharp. Very fruity. Like fruit sweets. Light honey. Lemon. Macarons. Hint of smoke. Dry leaves. Pineapples. Apricots. Sugar cane. Crisp green apples. One of the more sweet and fruity whiskies I’ve come across of late. But let it sit for a while and certain unwelcome astringency comes wafting through. I started off liking it but now not so much. Strange. 21/25

Palate: Oh no. Something’s wrong here. I get the fruits but the spirit feels raw here. I know it shouldn’t be but it is. There’s the light honey and canned peaches but now there’s a distracting bitterness that’s throwing me off. That astringency on the nose is in full force on the palate. 17/25

Finish: Tropical fruits. Dry lychees. And that damn bitterness again! 19/25

Overall Comments: Now I’m not a whisky expert so I’m not sure what went wrong here. The whisky is relatively new so there’s not a lot of other reviews that I can look at to see if other people had the same reaction. All I can tell you is I don’t like it. Which is sad. Because I really wished I did.

Rating: 76

Balvenie 30 Years

Balvenie 30
Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.3% | Colour: Dark Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

I’ve been on a bit of a whisky sabbatical of late choosing to concentrate on my day job for a change. One that affords me the luxury of buying all my whisky in the first place! And I had decided I’d keep November light and easy in anticipation of December and all it’s festivities.

I had to, however, make an exception when my local distributor called and asked if I wanted to interview Dr Sam Simmons, Global Brand Ambassador for Balvenie and share some drams with him.

For those of you who know me know that I’m a sucker for meeting important people from the whisky industry just to see what makes them and their distillery tick. What I didn’t know was how likeable and approachable Sam (or Dr Whisky as he is affectionately called) would be.

After conducting a very honest and entertaining interview (which can be found HERE) it was time to move on to the whiskies.

After going through the 12 Double Wood, 15 Single Barrel & 21 Portwood it was time to taste the star of the evening: the 30 year old.

Constantly distracted by Sam’s cheerful banter I tried to focus and get my senses working for this one. The thirty year old is a mix of ex-Bourbon and European Sherry married together by David Stewart. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 47.3%

Nose: Warm honey. Orange peel. Dry fruits. Spices. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. There’s prunes. Walnuts. Leather. Green tobacco. Caramel. Black peppercorns. Oak. Figs. Toffee. Wonderful sherry. Chocolate. David Stewart really knows how to craft a nose, I’ll tell you that. It’s the best part of every Balvenie, in my opinion. This is close to being perfect. 24/25

Palate: Big. Oak. Drying. But in a nice way. Dried fruits. Dark honey. Cinnamon. Apples. Caramel. Burnt sugar. Toffee. Candied orange peel. Roasted almonds. I like the palate. It’s got layers and feels mature thanks to the oak. The oak is on the verge of being a bit much but is then subdued as time goes by. Quite beautiful 23/25

Finish: Nice and long. Tobacco. Leather. Oak. 23/25

Overall Comments: This is a really good premium whisky. While priced quite high I think it’s one of the few that are close to being worth the extra cash. I really liked it. I think I liked it a bit more given my recent meeting with the lovely Sam Simmons, who is a whisky geek first and then a brand ambassador. At least, that’s what he said and I have no reason to doubt him.

Rating: 93

Compass Box vs SWA

John Glaser
Is there such a thing as too much transparency?

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, which basically controls anything whisky related in Scotland including where birds are allowed to relieve themselves should they be flying over a whisky distillery, it is.

Because what has happened is that our friends over at Compass Box decided it would be a good idea to share with their consumers the exact composition of two of their latest blends, This Is Not A Luxury Whisky and The Flaming Heart 5th Edition. This was in a bid to be as transparent as possible about what makes up their artisan whiskies.

Their website essentially broke up the blend into various percentages of different whiskies used in order to give the most accurate picture to their consumers. Now this, apparently, is against SWA laws.

Magnus Cormack, SWA director of legal affairs, explained that under Regulation 12.3 of the Spirit Drinks Regulation No 110/2008, maturation period or age “may only be specified in the description, presentation or labelling of a spirit drink where it refers to the youngest alcoholic component”.

Which is basically to say that you are only allowed to mention the youngest whisky in the blend and not any others. This is also, apparently, an EU regulation repeated in the SWA rule book. And what is even more interesting is that an unidentified member of the SWA filed a complaint against Compass Box through the SWA citing far too much information being given out by Compass Box.

So let me get this straight. The rules state that it is illegal for companies to divulge in full transparency about a product that people are paying for. So, in essence, you are not supposed to tell me what is inside the whisky that I am, more often than not, paying top dollar for.

Well, fuck you.

Since Compass Box was forced to take the exact recipe off their site thanks to SWA and the unidentified complainant I would like to share the exact recipe of both the blends with you.

Flaming Heart 5th Edition
Here’s what Compass Box can no longer tell you, their customers: the 27.1% Caol ila is 30 YO whisky. The 24.1% Clynelish is 20 YO whisky. The 10.3% Highland malt is 7 YO blended malt whisky made up of whisky from Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuiane; this whisky was finished in very active hybrid casks made up partially of French oak. Finally, the remaining 38.5% of Caol ila is 14 YO whisky.

FlamingHeart Recips

This Is Not A Luxury Whisky
The 79% Glen Ord is 19 YO. The 10.1% Strathclyde is 40 YO. The 6.9% Girvan is 40 YO. The 4% of Caol ila is 30 YO.

ThisIsNotALuxuryWhisky Recipe

So there it is. Now you, the customer knows.

Well done John Glaser & Compass Box for doing what is right. Shame on you SWA for acting like a bitch.

Port Ellen 1979 32 Years Old 11th Release

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Distillery/Brand: Port Ellen | Region: Islay | ABV: 53.9% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 25 | Taste: 25 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 98

Port Ellen Maltings was one of the first whisky related structures I saw as I drove into Bowmore from Islay Airport. It’s nothing but a huge drab structure with massive chimneys billowing peat smoke. And there’s pretty much nothing there to remind you of the distillery that once stood there till 1983. Except for maybe the warehouses that now hold stocks of maturing Lagavulin and Coal Ila instead of Port Ellen whisky as they rightfully should.

You see the distillery has been closed for 32 years, which coincidentally is the exact age of the whisky I am writing about, however, there is constant malting taking place there to supply the islands’ distilleries. The malting is an automated process and prepares the malt to the exact specifications of each distillery. This is quite a convenient little process allowing the distilleries to free up malting floors and convert them to more lucrative functions like maturation.

My first Port Ellen was a single cask Part Des Anges distilled in 1982 and aged for 24 years. Unfortunately for me I had it very early on in my career as a whisky enthusiast and, while appreciated, did not truly grasp the true essence of tasting that rare liquid.

This time around I wasn’t going to make the same mistake.

Unveiled at a stunning tasting I attended a couple of days ago I excused my self rather rudely from the rest of the guests and found my self a secluded corner to sit and savor this piece of whisky history.

Distilled in 1979 and matured in second-fill American Oak for 32 years this is, by far, one of the most sublime whiskies I have ever tasted. My sample is from a brand new bottled and served at a cask strength of 53.9%

Nose: Before I begin let me tell you everything about this whisky is an essay in perfection. The poise. The balance. The lightness of the smoke. The hint of peat. That lime. That zest. Those green pears. A touch of hay. Enveloped in a coal fire those under-ripe green berries. That delicate sweet vanilla. That soft brine on green olives. So much understatement, yet, everything so profound. This is perfect. This is what dreams are made of. 25/25

Palate: If the nose was an essay in perfection the palate is like rain after drought. The perfect mouthfeel coated in sharp white pepper pricks of pleasure. The smoke is back. So is the lime. And the zest. Vanilla pudding. Perfectly poised oak. Ash. Green pears. Ground spice. The spirit sits on your palate and coats it wonderfully. Each flavor sublime on it’s own. 25/25

Finish: Wonderfully long and smooth. Ash. Oak. Lime. Lemon. 24/25

Overall Comments: I don’t know what to say, really. I’m at a complete loss for words here. This is truly one of the most beautifully crafted whiskies mere mortals have ever made. Diageo makes a killing every time it releases a disgustingly priced bottle from the stocks lying around. But let me tell you something. What ever the price, this one is a bargain.

Rating: 98

Paul John Bold

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Distillery/Brand: Paul John | Region: India | ABV: 46% | Colour: Dirty Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Amrut, after having blazed an Indian trail across the whisky landscape, has in it’s wake a solid single malt offering from Paul John Whisky from Goa.

Their spirit is nice and flavorful with a lot of tropical fruits. They also have a nice mix of peated and unpeated expressions to choose from alongside some rather tasty single cask offerings.

For the last few months or so I’ve been working hard to rub shoulders (read connect on Twitter) with whisky bloggers from around the world to basically increase my knowledge base and learn from the good ones. One of those bloggers is @TheWhiskyWire who routinely holds ‘Tweet Tastings’ for different expressions.

Essentially how this works is that interested bloggers get a 90ml sample from him and then at the exact same time around the world the samples are opened. What follows is a sort of collective global tasting notes on Twitter which allows for different opinions and comments. Needless to say it’s a super fun exercise which lasts for about an hour.

You get to connect with other bloggers and share tasting notes making it a cool way to taste a whisky.

The Bold is fully peated, served at 46% and, as you can guess, my sample is from a 90ml mini.

Nose: Deep peat. Oak. Dates. Bananas. Chocolate. Wild berries. Sandalwood. Warm it up and the flavors come through more. Now more dark honey. Warm citrus. Bourbon. Vanilla. Hint of black pepper. Soft leather. Green tobacco leaf. Cigar box. I really like the nose. It’s multi-layered and you can sit with it for a while. 22/25

Palate: Full bodied. Smoke. Tobaccos. It’s quite savory. I might have wanted it to be just a touch on the sweeter side. All spice. Cinnamon. Oak. Bitter chocolate. Touch of salt. Brine. Aniseed. All enveloped in woodfire. The palate is nice enough but I feel the nose promise more. 21/25

Finish: Medium to long. Oak. All spice. 21/25

Overall Comments: Look, this is not a bad whisky. I like the peat in here. It’s different and nicely layered (especially the nose). I would have liked some of Paul Johns’ signature fruity flavors to come out more but they didn’t. Maybe they were going for a different approach. Does it work? Yes and No. Lovely nose, average palate and finish. Should you buy it? Sure, why not? Or maybe better split with a couple of friends.

Whatever said and done this was my first Tweet Tasting and so the experience was top notch even if the whisky really wasn’t.

Rating: 85