Laphroaig Cask Strength Batch 008

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.2% | Colour: Deep Gold
Nose: 8.8 | Palate: 8.8 | Finish: 8.8 | Overall Score: 8.8

Review
Is this one of the greatest Islay whisky series ever? I’m inclined to think so.

I first came across this series when the Batch 003 caught my eye. I didn’t know much about whiskies back then but I knew I liked cask strength whiskies and I liked Islay whiskies. And at 35GBP this one was a no-brainer.

Of course, once I opened the bottle and had my first sip I knew that I would have to own every single release from this series – past and future. Given the fact that I have mild OCD anything with a numbered batch meant I had to have the entire set.

Thus, began my journey of securing earlier releases and, like a hound, finding new ones and adding them to my collection. I was fortunate enough to grab the last few straight from the distillery. Believe me there’s nothing like drinking this whisky straight from the bottle while sitting on the stone pier in front of Warehouse No. 1

Ah, nostalgia.

The CS series is matured in first-fill bourbon casks and bottled at natural strength. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a whopping 59.2%

Nose: Iodine. Lots of it. Red fruits. Moschino cherries. Red grapes. Liquorice. Fishnets. Sea salt flakes. Green tobacco leaf. Mint leaf. Dark cherry chocolate. Cardamom. Betel leaf. Toasted oak. Hint of spice. Very sweet nose which mellows out to a touch of savoury. Fantastic. 8.8

Palate: Boom! Big. Strong. Lots of bite. Strong oak. Jolts the taste buds. Lindt red chilli chocolate. The red grapes again. Fennel. Dries mid-palate. Sea salt. Ceylon black tea. With some water the iodine increases. Becomes even more dry. Prefer it without water, for sure. 8.8

Finish: Long. Oak. Cardamom. Spices. Green tea. 8.8

Overall Comments: Well, what can I say. This one is an absolute corker. Love everything about it. Love it all the more for bringing back memories of Islay.

Overall Score: 8.8

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Tamdhu Batch Strength 001

Tamdhu Batch Strength
Distillery/Brand: Tamdhu | Region: Speyside | ABV: 58.8% | Colour: Copper
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
I’ll be honest. I think this is my first or second Tamdhu that I’ve tasted. If it’s my second then the first one failed to impress me completely (even though I have a fantastic memory when it comes to remembering what I’ve tasted).

Mothballed a number of times since it was founded in 1896 it has, once again, re-opened it’s doors in May 2013. Situated on River Spey in Speyside this once ultra modern facility boasts 6 stills and an annual production of more than 2 million liters most of which finds it’s way into the Edrington blends.

There’s not a lot of single malt bottlings to come out of the distillery (though there’s a fair number of independents floating around) and so finding OB age statements is fairly hard.

This expression that I’m tasting is the first one to come out of the distillery since they opened a couple of years ago – which means it comprises mainly of older stocks lying around. How old I have no idea and they’ve not been very forthcoming with the literature. But given it’s rather inexpensive price tag I doubt very old.

My sample is from a hip flask which belonged to a guest who came to my house for a whisky tasting and felt it would be a good idea to smuggle some of his own. It has been bottled at a fairly high cask strength of 58.8%. It is a mix of American and European sherry oak (most of which is first-fill).

Nose: Quite oaky. Lots of sherry. Quite crisp. Nice and spicy. Raisins. Cinnamon. Almonds. Cocoa. Very bitter chocolate. A little malty. Hops. Settles down to a milk chocolate. Rose petal. Hint of sourness. Tamarind. Gets sweeter over time. I like it. No major flaws. 22/25

Palate: That strong oak again. Cinnamon rub. Quite spicy. Bitter chocolate. Coffee beans. Typically sherried. Oloroso. I feel the American sherry oak lends a new variety of flavors. Almonds. Orange peel. Quite strong. But the young-ish age comes through a little. Maybe just a touch raw. Still not bad. 21/25

Finish: Very warm. Very long. Cinnamon. Oak. Chocolate. 22/25

Overall Comments: This pretty good. I’m sure people will try and find faults and blow them out of proportion. That’s fine. I’m less inclined to do that. Decent whisky with a really nice finish even if it’s slightly over-oaked.

Rating: 87

Highland Park SMWS 4.195

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Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Isle of Orkney | ABV: 59.3% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
Highland Park does some questionable stuff and some pretty awesome stuff at the same time. The older HPs (18, 21, 25, 30) are all pretty awesome in my opinion. All this other business with vikings and the NAS stuff is by and large quite questionable in my opinion. With the exception of Thor, mind you. That’s a peach.

So I don’t really know what to expect when opening a bottle from this Orkney distillery. Which is irritating because, based on the age statement expressions, I genuinely want to like everything they do.

And so I was in two minds before deciding to open up this SMWS. To be honest I got it only because it was SMWS and was up for sale at a decent price. Also because the name on the label got stuck in my head.

Acrobat In An Orchestra.

I mean, come on! How awesome is that name. It tells me absolutely nothing yet compels me to buy it. In fact, in honor of this creative naming system, I am going to dispense with my boring old method of describing flavors and be as SMWS as possible.

The spirit has been matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel for 14 years. Distilled on October 15, 1999 it is served at a cask strength of 59.3%

Nose: Young girl in love for the first time. Gentle breeze rocks the patio chair. Purple petals fall to the ground. Grandma in the kitchen is prepping for dessert. Two children run excitedly in the tall grass. Father is back from the butchers. It’s the first day of Spring. 22/25

Palate: Everyone at the dinner table. The dog knocks over the fruit basket. Fire roars strong. Crackles and pops. The walls have memories. Family picture hangs crooked. 22/25

Finish: It’s been a long hard day. Hands are calloused. Trying to sleep but the mind is wide awake. 22/25

Overall Comments: OK I have no idea what I’ve written. But you know why I wrote it so you’re going to have to live with it. Don’t blame me. Blame the acid trippers over at SMWS. Do I like it? Yes, of course. It’s pretty damn good!

PS : I’m going to destroy the original notes so that I never come back and taint this version.

PPS : Add a splash of water and it turns to summer.

Rating: 88

Lagavulin 12 – 2014

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Distillery/Brand: Lagavulin | Region: Islay | ABV: 54.4% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
I remember my first Lagavulin and, yes, it was the 16; just like everyone else. Unlike most first-timers who can get dissuaded by the ashy peat and smoke my palate actually cut through that and went to the delicate sweetness that nestled underneath.

It was one of the first whiskies that I had reviewed (quite a cringe-worthy review if you ask me) but at least I knew a good whisky when I saw one. Even back then.

Since then, I am quite happy to report, that I have yet to be disappointed by a Lagavulin. They don’t release a million expressions a year, instead, choosing to focus on what they do best.

One of the standard expressions they churn out now is the 12 year old cask strength which they’ve been releasing every year for the last 13 years. Each edition is a different strength and with minor variances in taste.

What I’ve done for this particular tasting is, for the very first time, pair a dark chocolate with the whisky and report on the how the palate is influenced.

The 2014 bottling has been vatted from re-fill American Oak from spirit distilled in 2001 and 2002. My sample is from a previously opened bottle (almost full) and served at a cask strength of 54.4%

Nose: Oysters. Sharp lime. Understated ash. Apples. Apricot. Jute bag. Melon rind. White pepper. Gets sootier as you let it breathe. Touch of water will open it up a bit. Becomes slightly sweeter, though, not by much. Becomes drier. Almost cardboard dry. Good nose. And I didn’t expect anything less. 23/25

Palate: Chocolate. Lime. Lemon. Pineapple. Salt. White pepper. Very intense. Ash. Smoked barbeque. Quite savory. Touch bitter. With water it’s a gentler dram. Less spice. Quite chewy. 22/25

Finish: Long. Oily. Touch of oak. Grass. Almost mentholated. Leaves the mouth numb, though. With water is much nicer with more accentuated flavors. 23/25

For my chocolate pairing experiment I decided to go with 70% Lindt. A small piece to coat my mouth before tasting the spirit.

Tasting notes with chocolate:

Palate: Very interesting. Creatives a protective coating and cuts the spice. Brings out more fruit. Makes it seem full-bodied. I definitely prefer it after a small piece of dark chocolate.

Finish: The finish sees the most dramatic difference after the introduction of chocolate. Lots of mocha. Java. Espresso. Cocoa beans. Cinnamon. Lovely.

Overall Comments: True to it’s range it is a big and bold whisky. It doesn’t promise layer upon layer of complex flavors but what it has are on point. Very tasty dram. Made even more tasty with a bit of bitter dark chocolate.

Rating: 90

Glenugie 1977 Part Des Anges 29 Years Old

Glenugie 1977 part des anges
Distillery/Brand: Glenugie | Region: Highland | ABV: 49.6% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
This is part 3 of three Closed Distillery whiskies that I tasted recently. After tasting the 1979 Glen Albyn and the 1977 Inverleven the third one in this lineup from Part Des Anges was this Glenugie.

Distilled in 1977 this single cask, cask strength is 29 years old. After almost three decades in a barrel it barely squeaked through being an actual whisky. Barely 50% ABV at the time of bottling. Another few years and the ABV would have definitely dropped below 40%

Established in 1831 Glenugie was quite a prolific little single malt distillery and in the late thirties even managed a total overhaul to it’s equipment with oil replacing the coal fires used to operate the stills.

Silent during World War I it resumed distilling soon after but 1983 saw it (and a dozen other distilleries) being mothballed due to extremely high competition and a drop in global demand for single malts.

The distillery has since been demolished.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a cask strength of 49.6%

Nose: Chocolate. Honey. Toffee. Tobacco. Coffee. Oak. Seems like there’s some old school sherry involved here. But given that it’s a single cask may seem unlikely. Though there’s every possibility this may have been re-racked earlier on in it’s maturation. Let it breathe and it mellows out. Lemon. Rock salt. Cherries. Sherry.

Palate: Dark honey. Sherry. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Mint. Lack of literature on this particular expression leaves a lot of room open for interpretation. I’m guessing some Oloroso influence early on in life and then a re-rack into second-fill bourbons. I could be wrong or dead right!

Finish: Oak. Eucalyptus.

I’d say this is another fine whisky from Part Des Anges. The general consensus, when we tasted the three that night, was that all were at par with each other and generally of a high standard.

What was truly amazing was how all three morphed into completely different animals the longer you spent with them.

This will need your undivided attention.

Rating: 89

Glen Albyn 1979 Part Des Anges 27 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glen Albyn | Region: Highland | ABV: 53.2% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
I hadn’t heard of Glen Albyn until I came across this particular expression at an event for my whisky club. Unfortunately, there was no way I could give it any sort of attention since the evening was a social one and I was playing host to around 75 guests.

I did, however, manage to pick it up for a small tasting session at my place, along with two other closed distillery bottles from the same independent. This series is known as the Closed Distillery Series from Part Des Anges.

Each expression is served at cask strength and is from a single cask. This in it’s self is quite a rarity and I was quite eager to tuck into it and see for my self.

The distillery closed it’s doors in 1983 following a slump in whisky demand and was subsequently demolished three years later. The site is now home to a shopping complex.

Independent bottles of this distillery keep popping up now and then but expect that to stop soon once stocks are completely depleted.

My sample is from a brand new bottled and served at a cask strength of 53.2%

The following notes are a mix of two tasting sessions over two weeks apart.

Nose: Pineapple. Papaya. Apricots. Very fruity. Garam masala. White flowers. Lime. Hint of oak. Oxidization opens up the nose even more. Butter malt. Grist. Mint. Chalk. Green apples. It has an extremely fresh and fruity nose and the longer it breathes the more layers it packs on.

Palate: Again very fruity. Pineapple. Honey. Demerara sugar. White pepper. Touch of oak. Citrus. It is gentle and medium bodied. Oxidization adds more. Herbs. Butterscotch. Ginger. All spice.

Finish: Long. Oily. Touch bitter. Garam masala. Touch of oak.

This is quite an interesting whisky. It was a hit at the tasting and for some was the top performer of the evening. While I quite like it I have to admit I preferred it more the first time around. I would have easily given it a score in it’s early 90s but the second session would be closer to late 80s.

So I’ll do what is fair and mark it on the average. Regardless, it’s well worth the experience.

Rating: 90

Amrut Cask Strength – Bottled May 2006

Amrut caskStrength May2006

Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 62.6% | Colour: Deep Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 94

Review

Everyone knows I have a soft spot for Amrut whiskies. It is easily in my Top 3 distilleries of all time. Not because it’s from India (where my wife and so many close friends are from). And not because it’s brand ambassador and Whisky Icon of 2012, Mr Ashok Chokalingam, is a dear friend.

It is actually because they ensure that the local community benefits from gainful employment. They employ scores of women to work in their distillery even though they can quite easily automate the process and save a ton of money.

But they choose not to. And for that they will have my undying respect.

Now add to that extremely lofty work ethic the ability to produce some of the most delicious spirit the planet has ever seen and you will begin to understand my infatuation with this little giant of the whisky industry.

Don’t ask me how but some how I managed to snag the holy grail of Indian whiskies: the first ever cask strength Amrut ever released. A beautifully complex young ‘un that has been first matured in virgin oak and then in first-fill bourbon.

So intense is the transfer of flavor from the bourbon barrels that, before I fact checked with Ashok himself, I was quite convinced that there was some sherry involved in the making. But that’s not the case.

This is a gorgeous cask strength spirit served at 62.6% and bottled in May 2006. My sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Cadbury chocolate. Hint of smoke. Caramel. Oak. Red grapes. Red berries. Clove. Black pepper. Red apple. Demerera sugar. Touch of salt. There is a sweet earthiness to this whisky with the spices in the fore. A few drops of water will make it even more spicy. Tremendous.

Palate: Clove. Chocolate. Fudge. Cinnamon. Garam masala. Red grapes. Caramel. Burn oak. If I didn’t know any better I would think there was some sherry involved. Almost PX like. But now I know it’s the virgin oak. Powerful stuff.

Finish: Long. Oily. Cinnamon. Oak.

As with all Amruts the magnificent oak almost always plays a central role. Such is the case here as well. This is one cracking dram which I’m quite privileged to have gotten my hands on.

And you know the best part? I’m meeting Ashok next week and he has no idea I’m going to serve him this.

Rating: 94