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Sunday, 31 May 2015

Kilchoman 100% Islay Whisky Review!

Yes, you're right, this was meant to be a review of Ardbeg's new release, Perpetuum. But with Ardbeg day coming and going yesterday, I could not get my hands on a bottle, there just weren't any available for retail sale. You may recall, a similar thing happened last year, so I probably should have expected this. Wouldn't it make sense to have the Ardbeg day release available to buy on Ardbeg day? When other parts of the world have already had it on the shelves for weeks, it seems a little odd.

Anyway, I did get a taste of the Perpetuum, at the Gresham, and it's quite good, but I don't want to do a full review until I've tasted it from my own bottle. I've placed my order, and it should be arriving late this week / early next week, fingers crossed. I'll review it ASAP, regardless. My apologies for any disappointment. 

On to a lighter and brighter note, I decided to review an Islay anyway, and one that's new to me. Kilchoman is an excellent distillery, I'm a big fan of their Machir Bay & Loch Gorm standard releases, their excellent Port Cask release, and the excellent 'small batch' release I reviewed a while back. Their whiskies are young, but don't drink like their age might suggest. 

This 100% Islay bottling is a little different though, in that it's only made using Kilchoman's own barley. Being a farm distillery, they can make whisky entirely on site, from barley to bottle. Normally they only use a portion of this local barley, and source the rest from Port Ellen Maltings. Their 100% Islay line, however, is only made from their local 'in-house' barley. That local barley, by the way, is of the Optic variety, and is peated to around 25 ppm prior to distilling, around 40% lower than that sourced from Port Ellen Maltings, so this isn't going to be as peaty or smoky as their other releases. 

While it doesn't carry an age statement, it's known to be a blending/vatting of 3- and 4-year old malt matured in ex-bourbon casks. As with all Kilchoman's whiskies, it's non-chill filtered and bottled without added colouring, but it's slightly higher in strength than their standard range, getting a small bump up to 50%. This is the second edition of 100% Islay, and was bottled in 2011. Anyway, enough talk, let's get our dram on!
Kilchoman 100% Islay 2nd edition, NAS, 50%, Islay, Scotland.
Vatting of 3- and 4-year old ex-bourbon matured whisky, 100% produced at Kilchoman distillery, from 'barley to bottle', peated to around 25 ppm. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.

Colour: Pale straw.

Nose: Cola syrup, drying grass, slightly herbal, a bit of acetone / nail polish remover. Hint of ashy smoke. 

Texture: Light, slightly oily.

Taste: Dry, ashy smoke, a little sour, slightly rough around the edges, a little heat. Sweet straw, a bit of lemon oil. Some play-doh / plasticine? 

Finish: Medium-long, Dry, Earthy peat and mixed grain. 

Score: 3 out of 5.

Notes: This one seems more raw and rough than the other Kilchoman's I've tasted, it doesn't hide it's youth as well, and there's not a lot of complexity there. Still good quality though, and enjoyable. Also interesting to try a peated Islay malt which hasn't a big coastal influence at any point, with the farm and distillery being slightly in-land on Islay. 

There has already been great things from this distillery, and there will be plenty more. They know what they're doing. However, if you're keen to try your first Kilchoman, I would recommend the Machir Bay over this one. Not only is it cheaper and easier to find, it's a better representation of the distillery, in my opinion, thanks to it's (approximately) extra year of maturation, and ex-sherry cask component. 

Nonetheless, the 100% Islay is worth trying, and it'll suit those who prefer their Islay's with slightly less 'Islay-ness'. It can still be found online here at Nippy Sweetie Whiskies, which is impressive considering it was released over 3 years ago. Get it while you can...


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Ardbeg Uigeadail Whisky Review!

With Ardbeg Day coming next week (Saturday 30th May), it's time to review 'an oldie, but a goodie'. Most of you have probably tasted Uigeadail before, it's been around for over 10 years, but for those who haven't: Do it. Do it now. Preferably with a Schwarzenegger impersonator.

Uigeadail (pronounced 'oog-a-dahl') was, for a good while, my favourite whisky. These days I've tasted too many excellent whiskies to be able to pick one as a favourite, but this Ardbeg is still up there. In fact, I can still say that this is my favourite expression of Ardbeg. And I base that not only on quality and flavour, but also value for money, which it has in spades. At the time of writing a bottle can be had for around $130 AUD, and unlike many popular whiskies, that price hasn't changed greatly in the last few years. There are better bottlings of Ardbeg out there, I've tasted a couple myself, but when you take the 'Bang-for-buck' factor into account, I think Uigeadail wins it. In fact, this was the first whisky which I tasted a couple of times, then went straight out and bought a second bottle.

Uigeadail (translates to 'dark and mysterious place' in English) is named after Loch Uigeadail, pictured above, which is the distilleries' water source. It's a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry cask matured whisky, with the ex-sherry component making up around 15-20% of the finished product. While it doesn't carry an age statement, it's bottled at 54.2%, and like the rest of the current Ardbeg range, without chill filtration or added colouring. I can easily deal with the NAS thing, as long as the quality is there of course, if all the other boxes are ticked (higher strength, natural colour and non-chill filtered). And Ardbeg are doing exactly that. Excellent stuff.

Having been around for so long, there is undoubtedly some variation between batches. Older bottlings are generally regarded as better, although I've not tasted any older than my original buy, which was bottled in 2011. The one I'm reviewing tonight is a sample taken from a 2014 bottling, which is what you're most likely to find on the shelves.
Ardbeg Uigeadail, NAS, 54.2%, Islay, Scotland.
Matured in a mix of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, with 15-20% sherry matured content. Non-chill filtered, natural colour. 

Colour: Deep bronze.

Nose: Salty fresh seaweed, rich salted caramel sauce. Spiced butter, slightly sour & vegetal peat. Some oak, milk chocolate with spiced caramel, rotting root vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin). Stewed spiced apples in salt water.

Texture: Medium weight, rich and slightly oily.

Taste: Peaty, earthen and slightly salty. Then treacle / toffee sweetness, and a pleasant dab of chilli pepper heat. Smoked and slightly burnt pudding, and a bit of cocoa.

Finish: Long, with earthy peat, slightly tarry, dries the mouth. A bit of spiced butter biscuits and salty water.

Score: 4 out of 5. 

Notes: I definitely prefer the 2011 bottling, there's more richness, fruit and sweet peat in that one. Perhaps some older stock went in back then. This is still a great Ardbeg though, deserving of it's good reputation, in fact I can't see any bottling of Uigeadail being labelled anything less than good. Those Oloroso sherry casks add a lovely touch of richness and spice, but the big peaty-smoky hit is still there, and the whole package is very well balanced.

Ardbeg are constantly striving for consistency, and while they may be forced to use younger stock or less-lively casks, for whatever reason, they're trying their hardest to 'stick to the recipe'. Which is commendable.

Ardbeg Day, by the way, is next Saturday, the 30th of May, (see what I did there?) and this year's special release is named 'Perpetuum'. Confusingly, so is the current 'distillery only' bottling (which you can only buy from the distillery itself), so don't get them mixed up, they're different strengths and likely different whiskies as well.

Anyway, apparently Perpetuum is meant to represent the past, present and future of Ardbeg. It's NAS (duh), the strength has dropped to 47.4%, and there's no specific information on casks or maturation, but it apparently is a mix of old and new Ardbeg whisky, which was matured in both ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks. Which isn't very revealing at all.

Personally, I wish they'd done something special for their 200th birthday. A sherry-cask only bottling perhaps? Or a new experimental cask exploration? Given the success of ardbog, galileo and alligator, there's no reason to shy away from trying something new and different. But I haven't tasted this one yet, so let's wait and see.

I'll be tasting the Perpetuum on Ardbeg Day, and all going to plan, will post a review ASAP. I just hope it's far better than the Auriverdes from last year, and at least on par with Ardbog, which I really liked. I'm both excited and concerned at the same time. Watch this space...


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Balvenie Peated Cask 17yo Whisky Review!

In the same vein as the previous review, here's another whisky which has been finished in casks which previously held heavily peated malt!

The Balvenie (pronounced bell-venny) is a huge distillery, with an annual production capacity of around 5.5 million litres of spirit. It is also one of the highest profile distilleries in the industry, although overshadowed by it's (bigger) sister distillery, and neighbour, Glenfiddich. Both are located in Dufftown, Speyside, and are owned by William Grant & Sons, an independent distilling company which is still run by the descendants of the original founder and namesake, William Grant.

Balvenie are a step apart from (and above, in my opinion) their bigger neighbour though, for a few significant reasons. They grow their own barley, and malt that barley at the distillery using traditional floor maltings, they have a team of coopers on site to maintain and build their casks, and they use a small amount of peat in the drying of that local barley.

The distillery actually produced an experimental run of heavily-peated malt back in 2001, which hasn't yet been released, and when that spirit was transferred to new casks, the now empty casks were using to finish / double mature a batch of un-peated 17yo whisky, which had been maturing in ex-bourbon casks. This spirit was then married (blended and matured together) with more un-peated 17yo Balvenie, which had been matured in New American Oak casks. Confusing? Yep. Anyway, this process gave us the 'peated cask' bottling I'm reviewing a sample of here, which was initially released back in 2010.

Interestingly, Balvenie have also released an 'Islay cask' bottling in the past, which was 17yo whisky finished in casks which had previously held Laphroaig whisky. While that one was apparently quite peaty, this 'peated cask' isn't going to be a peat monster, by any stretch. The house style of the standard bottling's is quite sweet, light and fruity, so let's see how it's held up to a little bit of peat.
Balvenie 'Peated Cask' , 17yo, 43%, Dufftown, Speyside, Scotland.
Released in 2010. Aged for around 16 years in ex-bourbon casks, then transferred to casks which previously held experimental heavily-peated Balvenie, then married (blended) with un-peated Balvenie from new casks (phew), before being bottled at 17 years of age. Chill filtered, and added caramel colouring.

Colour: Amber.

Nose: Slightly peaty, a sour & astringent peat, but fades quickly. Honey sweetness, slightly lactic, and sour cereals - bran flakes with Greek yoghurt! Weird, but the nose knows what it knows! Toasted barley, under-ripe tropical fruit, and sweat. Not overly unpleasant though.

Texture: Light-to-medium, unremarkable.

Taste: A little hot for a 17yo at only 43%! Slightly phenolic, a little honeyed barley, some toasted grains, a hint of stewed or dried fruits. Not much going on here, and seems a little rough.

Finish: Short-to-medium, slightly bitter. A hint of smoke, some of that sour cereal from the nose, dried fruit.

Score: 2 out of 5.

Notes: Really uninteresting, and frankly boring. The nose is interesting, and a little weird, but the taste, finish and mouth-feel are a disappointment. Had to make sure it wasn't my palate (with some Benromach), it wasn't. The standard Balvenie 12 is a decent starter whisky for beginners, and I would prefer it over this one I think, even as a peat-freak!

Really quite disappointing. Perhaps the standard spirit is too soft to handle a 'peated cask', and it just gives up? I'm glad I tried it though, I was curious, and now I know! I would still like to taste that original heavily peated Balvenie that was the previous occupant of the casks used here, just to see what happened. Although, it's already 14 years old, and has been transferred to different casks at least once, so perhaps they're trying to bring down the peat level. Hopefully they release it sooner rather than later.

On a lighter note, it was World Whisky Day yesterday, so I hope you all celebrated appropriately! I myself shared my time between Macallan Amber, Laphroaig Triple Wood, and Caol Ila 12yo, and a movie with the wife & some friends. Not a bad way to spend an evening. Not bad at all...


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Old Pulteney 1990 23yo Whisky Review!

I've been sitting on some interesting samples for quite a while now, but it's time to get them out of the way. *Sigh*, what a chore!

Old Pulteney (pronounced pult-knee) distillery is located in Wick, on the North Eastern coast of Scotland, and is the most Northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland. Wick is an old fishing town, and both it and the distillery were initally only accessible by sea. The fishing industry has since disappeared, but the distillery embraces this maritime history and character, naming itself 'the genuine maritime malt', and featuring a herring-fishing boat on their label.

I haven't found a great deal of that character in the 12yo, which is the only Old Pulteney I've tasted so far, falling short of the influence you'd expect in an Islay or Talisker (at least for now: most of Talisker's whisky is now matured on the mainland). In fact I found the 12yo to be very mild and basically uninteresting to my taste buds. This particular expression here, however, promises to be quite different.

The 1990 vintage was released in 2013, and being matured in Wick for that 23 years, we can expect a fair bit more maritime influence in this one. Oh, and this bottling has been matured in refill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, which previously matured an un-named heavily-peated whisky, believed to be an Islay malt. It's also been bottled at 46%, and without chill filtration or added colouring. Interesting...

The practice of maturing a normally un-peated malt in casks which previously matured a heavily-peated one is becoming a little more common, usually adding a mild peaty & smoky depth to the whisky. The new spirit itself has not been peated, of course, so there's no change to the production process, and any influence comes from the residual contents of the casks. Let's see how it goes...
Old Pulteney 1990 vintage, 23 years old, 46%, Wick, Scotland.
Bottled in 2013. Aged in refill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks which previously held un-named heavily-peated whisky. Non-chill filtered, natural colour.

Colour: Gold

Nose: Quite fruity, salted honey (Is that a thing? That should be a thing!), a decent bit of earthy peat adds another dimension. Stone fruit & light lemon oil, a little floral as well. The maritime influence is there, a nice, lightly salty, coastal breeze.

Texture: Light to medium. Not a great deal of mouth-feel.

Taste: Spicy, dry peat. More stone fruit and a light sweetness. A little heat, as well. I wasn't expected this level of peat influence, it's very enjoyable. Not much else happening here though.

Finish: Quite long, drying with peat & salt, spice, and a hint of biscuit-y malt. Dried fruits, malt and brine comes out towards the end.

Score: 3 out of 5.

Notes: A surprisingly peaty and spicy malt, those refill casks had a lot left to give. Not a great deal happening on the palate though, but the nose is lovely, and the finish is decent. While my experience with Old Pulteney is limited, I can't help but wonder if the casks have overpowered the spirit?

This 1990 vintage release of Old Pulteney actually won the top prize at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2014, and was part of my Fringe Festival tasting pack from Nippy Sweetie Whiskies. I wouldn't score it that high, in fact the Kilchoman Small Batch would have won it for me (so far). Nonetheless, the Old Pulteney can still be found overseas for around the $250 mark, although I wouldn't count on finding a bottle hiding in your local.

Very impressed with the influence of those ex-heavily peated casks though! An interesting technique, let's hope we see more of it.


Monday, 4 May 2015

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 Whisky Review!

But first, it's Peated Perfection's first birthday! A big thanks to all of you for your support, I hope you've enjoyed the blog so far, and I'm looking forward to the future! Now stop getting emotional, and let's have a whisky.

It was tempting to review something very rare, and very special, to mark the occasion. But instead I've gone for something which is relatively easy to get (for the time being), still quite special, and priced quite reasonably. It was also released in 2014, so it seems quite fitting.

Laphroaig's Cairdeas ('friendship' in Gaelic, and pronounced 'car-chiss') range are released each year during 'Feis Ile', the annual Islay festival, both online for Friend's of Laphroaig, and at the distillery. The first release was back in 2008, but over the last couple of years, the Cairdeas releases have appeared in retail stores around the world. In Australia we haven't seen many, in fact I believe this is only the second (after 2012's 'Origins'). This 2014 release appeared suddenly, out of nowhere and without announcement, on the shelves of a major retailer. It can now also be found at a couple of smaller online stores, at a slightly lower price no less.

This release has been finished in Amontillado sherry casks, and although the bottle does not carry an age statement, it is believed to be aged around 9 years. It spent 8 of those years in first-fill bourbon casks, and around another year in the aforementioned Amontillado sherry casks. It was then bottled at 51.4%, although there is no mention on the label as to whether this was cask strength or not. Likewise there's no mention of chill filtration or added colouring, and while, since tasting it, I don't believe it to be highly chill filtered or coloured, we can't be sure.

Regardless, this is a young, sherry-finished Laphroaig bottled at higher-than-usual strength. Yes please.
Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014, NAS, 51.4%, Islay, Scotland.
Aged in first-fill bourbon casks for around 8 years, and finished in Amontillado sherry casks for around 1 year. No mention of chill filtration or added colouring, but if present, not extensive. 

Colour: Bright yellow gold.

Nose: Oh yeah, concentrated essence of Laphroaig straight away. Intense peat, salt, fresh nikko / marker pen (that's new-and I dig it!), iodine, singed rubber erasers, and a slightly milky, caramel sweetness. Slightly nutty as well. Very nice.

Texture: Thick & weighty, slightly milky. 

Taste: Nice big whack of peat, slightly sweet and medicinal peat. Some salt and more of that fresh marker pen (which I enjoy, but some may not). Charcoal and rubber. Assorted burnt things, slightly carbolic. Very burnt sugar/toffee that has stuck to the pan and won't budge. Quite well balanced and dynamic, very interesting.

Finish: A bit of chilli heat here, but pleasant and passes quickly. Peat is still there, with salted nuts (hard to pin down- walnut maybe?), a little smoke and wood embers. Medium-long, and delicious.

Score: 4 out of 5. 

Notes: Quite a different laphroaig, with some very interesting notes to it. I like it, but I can see some people, even Laphroaig fans, not being that taken by it. Certainly night & day to the 15yo, although you'd expect that. The Amontillado sherry cask has given a result that is nothing like the Oloroso sherry finished Triple Wood, or the Pedro Ximinez finished PX

The Cairdeas '14 is also very good value at the moment, at Nippy Sweetie Whiskies it's currently going for $160, which is downright cheap for a 50%+ Laphroaig with fancy cask finishing. On that note, I understand that Laphroaig will be doing away with the cask finished Cairdeas bottling's soon, and switching to a limited annual release of the 15yo. So get this one while you still can! 

Laphroaig are also celebrating their 200th anniversary this year, along with Ardbeg, and are planning some very interesting releases to commemorate the occasion. Including the temporary return of the Laphroaig 15 Year Old, which should start appearing on shelves in June. Let's hope the 2015 Cairdeas, if there is one, makes it to Australia...