Port Askaig is a small town in the north-west of Islay. Sukhinder Singh, chairman of The Whisky Exchange, now has its own range of single malt whisky under this name.
I’ve tried this one alongside the Caol Ila 12 year-old, because there’s a good chance both are made at the same distillery and share approximaterly the same age. Too bad I didn’t have the Coal Ila Cask Strength to compare.
Port Askaig ‘Cask Strength’
(57,1%, Whisky Exchange 2009)
Nose: smokey and phenolic, but at the same time rather sweet. Coals on syrup? Less notes of apple or diesel than the Caol Ila 12. Hints of bandages. A bit grassy, hints of wet stones. Some lemon. Mouth: at first, relatively shy considering the alcohol volume. There’s sweet barley with some honey. Then the peat arrives and the whole gets more intense and hotter. Finish: lingering on smoke. Sweet aftertaste. Hints of coffee (which I always like). Loses some points for getting a bit cardboardy in the very end.
There is a new kid on the block: Port Askaig, a brand from Specialty Drinks (a sister company of The Whisky Exchange). A few weeks ago, the first three expressions were launched: a 17 year-old, a 25 year-old and a younger cask strength version. Update: now there’s a 30 year-old as well.
They are single Islay malts, which means they’re produced at the same distillery on Islay. There are no official clues about the name of the distillery, but it should be easy because there’s only one distillery really close to the village of Port Askaig…
There’s a good review of the 17yo on Tim’s TWE blog, so I’ll be reviewing the other versions for now, starting tomorrow with the Port Askaig Cask Strength.
This Balveniehas been finished in 30 year-old Port pipes, and – apart from the limited edition Balvenie 30y – this is the oldest whisky in the current range. There have been younger PortWoods as well, released as 1989, 1991 and 1993 vintages.
This is the regular 40% version. In duty free, The Balvenie PortWood Aged 21 Years is non chill-filtered and bottled at a higher strength of 47.6% abv.
The Balvenie 21y PortWood (40%, OB 2006)
Nose: on one side there is the (subtle) port wine influence, on the other side there are a lot of beeswax notes. Nicely balanced and very elegant. The waxy notes remind me of older Clynelish bottlings. Creamy honey, some oranges. Hints of old, dusty oak and gentle notes of tropical fruits. Mouth: spicy attack and quite a juicy mouthfeel although it stays very polite and balanced. Dried fruit. Beeswax again. Slightly smoky and almost meaty after a while with distant hints of soy sauce. A bit underpowered maybe. Finish: warm, nutty aftertaste. Pepper. Long and gentle on raisins and pear.
The mouthfeel, which is less powerful than the nose and finish, could have gained extra points with a higher strength. I expect the duty free version to be real stunner. Still a nice Balvenie. Price: around € 80.
Springbank distillery is alive and kicking, after the 2008 rumours that it might shut down. They release whisky under three names: Springbank is distilled twice with low peating levels (+/- 15 ppm) whereas the Longrow brand is for heavier peat (+/- 50 ppm) and Hazelburn for triple distilled spirit.
This new Springbank 18 is matured in 80% sherry and 20% bourbon casks, with a limited production of 7800 bottles that sold out almost instantly (just like the Longrow 18y last year).
Springbank 18y (46%, OB 2009)
Nose: complex nose. Sweet start on berries (redcurrant, blueberry, strawberry) with underlying coal smoke and espresso. Slight notes of bubble gum and wax. Grape and apple. Fruit cake. Fresh for its age. Very balanced and very pleasant. Mouth: very fruity again and rather oily. Bubble gum again. Some violets and cassis. Almonds. Smoky undertones with hints of liquorice. Long, candied finish. A bit dusty, with more sherry influence (raisins, chocolate).
Very smooth and beautiful Springbank. A little expensive though. Around € 100.
Belgian bottler Daily Dram released some very good Laphroaigs over the past couple of years: Hag Rap Oil (distilled in 1998 as well), Aloha Grip and now this brand new Philo Raga.
Laphroaig ‘Philo Raga’ 11y 1998
(57,5%, Daily Dram 2009)
Nose: powerful and very direct, starting on coal smoke and smoked ham. Liquid tar. Lots of medicinal notes, antiseptic, phenols, wet wool. A hint of vanilla and apples. Almonds. Slightly grassy and buttery as well, certainly if you compare it to OB’s like the Quarter Cask. Beautiful. Mouth: impressive attack of peat smoke, coal and sea air. Eucalyptus. Some walnuts and pepper. Lemon notes. Finish: a barbecue that’s cooling off. Very ashy and phenolic. Getting slightly salty as well. Lovely notes of marzipan and cocoa in the aftertaste. After ten minutes: cigar.
Very smoky and peaty Laphroaig. It takes the profile of Hag Rap Oil a step further, with more complexity and maturity. Around € 65.
What’s next? Agar Pholi, Oral Hag Pi, Goal Phria,
A Girl Hopa…?
Caperdonich was the lesser known ‘backup’ distillery of Glen Grant, before being mothballed in 2002. Both are located in Rothes. Caperdonich is used in the Chivas Regal blend and although it usually has a malty, oaky, fruity profile (check the wonderful Caperdonich 36y 1972 by Duncan Taylor), a few peated versions exist. There was only one official (unpeated) bottling, a 16 year old in the Chivas “cask strength” series (only available at the Chivas distilleries).
Update: there was also an official Caperdonich 5yo in the 1970′s (now extremely rare). Thanks Luc for informing me!
This heavily peated Caperdonich was released by Single Malts of Scotland and is available at The Whisky Exchange (around € 45).
Nose: dry and peaty, but without the usual medicinal / coastal associations that you would find in peated Islay whisky. Smoky, very peaty and slightly farmy (wet wool). Grilled bread. Hints of terpentine (oil paint). Nice. Mouth: there’s peat smoke, oil, soft citrus (grapefruit), some oak and bitter tea. Rather hot. Maybe a bit one-dimensional. Peaty finish, with a dry start but getting sweeter. Medium long. Hints of pear. Big coal smoke.
Unusual for a Caperdonich, that’s for sure. Quite pleasant as well although the dry peat is rather dominant.
Three weeks ago, GlenDronach launched the new range of 12yo, 15yo and 18yo malts and already the first 3000-bottle consignment has sold out in Belgium, much to the surprise of the GlenDronach team.
GlenDronach’s Belgian importer The Nectar, represented by Mario Grooteklaes, explained: “GlenDronach has always been a well-known brand in Belgium, especially the “old” fifteen-year-old. That, and the good publicity given to the new fifteen and eighteen-year-olds by some Malt Maniacs, and on some forums, made it easy to introduce the new range to about one hundred specialised liquor stores over Belgium in just one week.”
The results of this year’s WWA09 have been announced:
Best Whisky Liqueur: Wild Turkey American Honey Best grain whisky: Compass Box Hedonism Best new release: Highland Park 40 years old Best blended malt: Taketsuru 21 years old Best American whisky: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Best single malt whisky: Highland Park 21 years old
This year, the crown jewels for best single malt have returned to Scotland, after being in Japan in 2008 (for their Yoichi 20y). I’m sure Highland Park 21y is a very decent malt, although I haven’t tried it. I have a bottle that’s still closed. This seems like a good opportunity to open it and see what the fuzz is all about. If you want one yourself, you’ll have to travel, since it’s only available in travel retail.
Other prize winners in some of the sub-categories: Tyrconnell single cask as the best Irish single malt, Lagavulin 16y as best Islay peated malt, Glenlivet Archive 21y as the best Speysider, Mackmyra First Edition as best “Other” single malt… In fact, there are so many sub-categories that your favourite malt has probably won some prize or another!