I’ve been thinking long and hard about this for a while and have finally come to the conclusion that my current rating system of marking whiskies out of 100 has started to limit my scoring.
I have essentially a 20 point scale (largely) from 80 to 100 which I feel doesn’t accurately represent what I really want to mark. I began using my current system based on connosr.com who in turn, I believe, borrowed from Jim Murray. I have realized now that system is flawed.
I will, therefore, now adopt the scotchwhisky.com scoring scale preferred by Dave Broom which marks whiskies out of 10 and includes decimal points. However, that system does not individually account for scoring the nose, palate and finish instead awarding an over all score to the whisky. I feel it’s important to score each facet of a whisky.
Henceforth, I will now rate the Nose, Palate & Finish each on a scale of 1 – 10 (including decimal points) and award the whisky an average score out of 10 based on the total of the three scores.
This will allow me the luxury of having a greater spread of scores and a more distinct demarcation across my tastings.
Here’s the scale (taken from scotchwhisky.com)
0-3+ Appalling/Faulty = Are you kidding me?
4+ Poor = What’s the point?
5+ Average = Meh
6+ Good = Hmmmm, not bad
7+ Really good = Now we’re talking
8+ Great = I could get used to this
9+ Outstanding = You complete me
I think I’m going to like this system better. Here’s a link to my older system in case you’re looking.
Distillery/Brand: King Car | Region: Taiwan | ABV: 46 | Colour: Deep Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89
My first brush with this legendary distillery was through their insanely awesome Kavalan Solist Fino Sherry. I mean it literally grabbed me by the tenders and swung me through the air. There was no way I was prepared for that type of sensory onslaught. But one thing was certain, I was going to find out more.
I ran into a couple of more Kavalans in the next few months and was equally impressed. My curiosity grew. As did my appetite for whiskies from this Asian phenom and, given the slew of awards being won by them, I was obviously not alone in my opinion.
The brand Kavalan is owned by a Taiwanese group called King Car which, when you check their website, you realise is a massive industrial giant producing everything from root beer, processed foods, coffee, green tea, water to, of course, whisky. While the facade may seem monolithic there is certainly something wonderful happening behind those whisky doors to produce spirit of such brilliant quality.
While most of their expressions carry the name Kavalan they have also released one called the Conductor and is named after the distillery, King Car. There’s not a lot of literature to go around regarding this specific release except that it’s been composed of eight casks, two of which are bourbon and sherry and the rest only Ian Chang, the master distiller knows.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%
Nose: Rose water. Dark honey. Sherry oak. Red berries. Wild berries. Black salt. Chocolate. Betel nut lead. Tobacco lead. Cigar box. Quite herbaceous. Leafy greens. It’s quite crisp. It has more of a sherry attack than bourbon which might shed some light on the remaining casks in play. Overall I like it. 22/25
Palate: Dark honey again. Bitter chocolate – the kind I like. Sweet molasses. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Rock salt. Tobacco. Red berries. Once again I feel the sherry is the dominant force here. Probably some type of Oloroso cask. It’s quite a lovely crisp palate. There’s a certain tanginess to it too which I quite like. 23/25
Finish: Nice and long. Spicy. Touch of oak. Oily. Pomegranate. 22/25
Overall Comments: I wish there was more info to be had so that I could really see how the various components had been put together. It’s not as good as the Solist series but certainly better than the core range. Solid whisky with absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 48% | Colour: Bronze
Nose: 20 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 83
Those who know me know that I have the softest spot in the world for Laphroaig. It was the first distillery that I had ever visited. I have had some of my best drinking experiences with whiskies from this iconic giant. Sure, like any other love affair, there have been low points in our relationship but those have largely been off set by some stunning spirits.
And since there’s very few recent Laphroaigs that I’ve not tasted I’m always jumping at the opportunity to sink my teeth into any latest offering from them and offer my unsolicited two cents. As was the case with this eleven year old travel retail launched exclusively for Amsterdam Airport.
I was at my friends’ house just ploughing through one independent after another when he put this on the table much to my glee. I had been meaning to get my hands on this but trips to Amsterdam are very few and extremely far between so it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise.
Now I didn’t know much about this particular offering other than it was exclusive to Amsterdam but I swear as soon as I nosed it I blurted out the words ‘Triple Wood’ ! Upon further examination it was revealed that the maturation process of this and the Triple Wood is exactly the same. First-fill bourbon, followed by Quarter Casks and finally in European Oloroso Sherry, thereby, rendering both spirits almost identical.
This forces me to speculate that maybe my favourite distillery is simply coming up with creative ways of flogging the same spirit to different markets simply by using different labels. I can’t say I’ve not heard that before and, to be honest, it’s being done so much nowadays that it’s almost the norm. But it’s a little frustrating when you pay 150 Euros for an eleven year old whisky who’s taste profile is exactly the same as another NAS from the same portfolio and available at less than 40% of the retail price.
I expect something more and something unique if you’re going to name it and package it differently. Bit of a rip off if you ask me.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48%
Nose: That extremely typical Laphroaig peat. Iodine. Liquorice. Red fruits. Pomegranate. There’s a certain thick sherry sweetness to it as well -like molasses. Nuts. Almonds, actually. Touch of milk chocolate. Malted milk (that’s the Oloroso sherry before it settles down) – like Horlicks. Oaky. Red berries. Black rock salt. Something mineral about it too. Sea washed pebbles. Kelp. And a coastal saltiness. Do I like it? Not really. It’s just so mainstream. 20/25
Palate: The same. Exactly as I imagined it would be. Red fruits. Berries. Tobacco leaf. Quite spicy. Very spicy infact. A red chilie spice – quite sharp. But mixed with milk chocolate. Touch of mint. And a really sharp betel leaf quality to it as well. Again, so expected. 21/25
Finish: Strange finish. Can’t quite put my finger on it. A bit out of balance. Oak. Quite oily. Cinnamon. And that sharp red chilie again. 21/15
Overall Comments: What am I supposed to say? It’s the Three Wood disguised as an eleven year old and sold at more than twice the price. Is that fair? Nope.
Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 54.3% | Colour: Sunshine
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 95
The Supernova series is, in my opinion, why one should start drinking whisky. It is also one of the reasons I have tolerated Ardbeg’s nonsense of late. Because deep in my heart I, like all Ardbeg fans, know that hiding in those dank warehouses lie some stellar casks which, when expertly blended together, are going to set my soul alight.
And that is what the Supernova 2015 has done.
The fourth, and last, of the Supernova series this is quite possibly my favourite of the lot. The first one came out in 2009, then 2010, 2014 (which I had the pleasure of tasting at 9AM in the morning on a farm in Islay) and for the final time in 2015.
If you don’t already know it’s significance let me tell you real quick. In 2011 Ardbeg, with the help of a company known as NanoRacks, decided to send some new make and oak shavings inside a capsule into outer space to test what effects micro-gravity had on maturation. They kept an identical sample here on mother Earth and, once, the space sample returned Dr Lumsden released his findings on how the two samples differed.
Why would they do that, you ask me? Well, because they’re attention whores, that’s why. But not just any attention whores. Attention whores that can also create one hell of a whisky.
The 2015 version doesn’t have much literature but I know it’s a blend of ex-sherry and bourbon casks made from 100 PPM malted barley. There’s no age statements but you know it’s rather young. Which is fine as long as it tastes like this.
My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 54.3% ABV
Nose: Very soft peat. It’s there but you have to fight for it. Touch of ash. More iodine and TCP in here compared to earlier ‘Novas. Almost like a delicate eucalyptus. Touch of the standard Ardbeg coastal salt. Rock salt. But then the sweetness. The really nice rounded sweetness which envelopes the smokiness and the saltiness and almost makes you swoon. Milk chocolate. Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks. Now there’s fruits. Citrus fruits. Not sharp citrus. But a softer, sweeter citrus. Pineapples. Lime. Orange candy. Stick with it and the earthiness is next. You can almost taste the barley. The wild mushrooms. The Islay earth. This is an essay in balance. 24/25
Palate: That ashiness again. Soft peat. Sooty. Great delivery. The first palate is surprisingly savoury. I mean it’s more savoury than I expected it to be. But then the sweetness breaks through mid-palate. Like sunshine. On an overcast day. Pineapples. That sweet citrus again. Lemon and lime. Touch of spice. White peppers. And in the midst of it all – some good quality oak. 24/25
Finish: Nice and long. Chewy. Oily. White pepper. Oak. 23/25
Overall Comments: Phew! What a ride. Absolutely loved it. Ran a head-2-head with this and the SN14 for a video review which made the differences and the balance really stand out. This is just a superb example of right cask selection to create something that will stand the test of time.
Decided to put two power-hitters against one another – The Ardbeg Supernova 2014 vs 2015. One, in my opinion, is a touch better than the other.