Pappy Van Winkle is Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was produced by the Stitzel-Weller Distillery which ceased operations in June 1992. It means there’s probably not much 20yo spirit left. It’s now part of the Buffalo Trace imperium.
Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 years old
Nose: expressive. Immediately mentholated. Slightly bubblegummy / cotton candy, some darker sugar, very big notes of varnish. Tobacco and old leather. Vanilla and other more powerful spices (white pepper). Much more oak than commonly found in bourbon, but still within the limits. Slightly dusty. Mouth: hmm interestingly weird. Not very complex, pretty much on burnt caramel and liquid wood extract (does that exist?). A bit too much oak I’m afraid. Pine trees with pepper and big hints of herbal cough syrup. Unique but rather flat, lacking richness that I do find in other bourbons. Finish: not very long, woody and resinous.
This Pappy Van Winkle 20 gained a bunch of awards but for me it’s not really worth the price (around € 110). I fear bourbon has more to say at younger ages.
As you probably know, I wasn’t too enthousiastic about the general release of Kilchoman 3yo. Let’s find out how it compares to the single cask they’ve released for La Maison du Whisky at Whisky Live Paris. It was only sold to people who attended the whisky dinner.
While the regular 3yo was finished in sherry casks, this is the first bourbon version of Kilchoman.
Kilchoman 3yo 2006
(61,1%, OB for LMdW 2009, cask #232)
Nose: amazingly different. Almost none of the banana / rhubarb smell that is so characteristic of new-make. More iodine this time, much more vanilla as well. A great farminess that was completely absent in the regular release. Big peat of course. Mouth: even bigger peat, now accompanied by smoked fish with a generous pinch of salt. I don’t know many whiskies that are this salty, but it works well. Quite unique. Less pepper than the general release. Not much fruit either, some apple maybe in the aftertaste, but certainly on a very low level. Finish on medicinal notes and peat. The smoke stays active for a very long time.
Now we’re talking! This is more or less what I expected from Kilchoman. Kudos to LMdW for making this cask available and to Whiskysamples for sharing their bottle.
ps/ I’ve just found out that this spirit was distilled on my birthday!
German bottler The Whisky Agencyannounced its upcoming releases. There’s a new Flowers series (after the Fossils, Sharks and Butterflies) as well as an undisclosed ‘House Malt’ release and a Third series of The Perfect Dram.
Laphroaig 10 year old cask strength has been a favourite of many peat heads. As of February 2009, Laphroaig started mentioning a batch number on the bottles. The first batch has been around for a while now, but still it’s not widely available so I guess batch #002 will not be released soon.
Laphroaig 10 yo Cask Strength (57,8%, OB 2009, Batch #001)
Nose: immediately smokey and medicinal. Dry ashes and tar. Lots of phenols. There’s certainly less fruit than the former 10 Year Old CS. I do get some sweet peach but the whole is too smokey to make it stand out. Charcoal. Quite a lot of rubber / tires as well and hints of pencil shavings. Mouth: peppery peat smoke, starting sweet but getting quite dry after a few moments with a remarkable wood influence. Hints of salty liquorice and seaweed. Still no obvious fruit, although there is some apple skin to be found. Finish: again smokey, quite dry and salty. Long aftertaste.
Laphroaig 10 years old CS confirms itself as a very powerful dram although a bit more mono-dimensional than previous batches. Only recommended if you’re into heavy smoke. Around € 50.
- less fruit, faint hints of vanilla
– tar, charcoal and burnt notes
– big emphasis on smoke
I’ll repeat the remark I’ve made for Ardbeg Corryvreckan and the recent Lagavulin 12 years old: there seems to be a general tendency towards heavier smoke and ‘burnt’ peat. Now that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just an observation.
In a series Philosophy for Everyone, there is now a book called Whiskey and Philosophy: A small batch of spirited ideas by Fritz Allhoff and Marcus P. Adams.
It’s interesting to look at whiskey from a philosophical side of view. Why is it such a passion for many of us? What does Hegel’s concept of the “ideal” mean in terms of whiskey? How can we compare tasting notes across different people (think Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle)? Does drinking whiskey make people immoral? I’m sure this is the first book that has been written from this perspective.
The book contains essays by philosophers, academics and whisky writers such as Ian Buxton and Charles MacLean. It is published by Wiley and costs around € 18 (check your local bookstore or Amazon).
I’m currently reading it and I’ll post a review in a couple of weeks.
Virgin Oak or New Oak is not a common choice for Scotch whisky and certainly not for a full maturation of 31 years! Could this BenRiach 1977 / 2009 Virgin American Oak be the oldest whisky that has been fully matured in a new cask?
Quercus Alba (American white oak) is normally used for maturing bourbon. It’s close-grained timber, very resistent to leakage or evaporation and low in tannins. There is a general agreement that new oak rarely produces whisky of an acceptable quality, but recently there has been quite a lot of wood research and results are getting very interesting.
BenRiach 31 yo 1977 (43,2%, OB 2009, Virgin oak cask #3798, 292 btl.)
Nose: lots of orange peel and fresh orange juice. Whiffs of green banana and vanilla. Also a little nutmeg and freshly sawn wood. After a while there are a few notes of pineapple. Orange infused tea and a little moist cardboard. Not very complex but very drinkable. I was afraid it would be too oaky but it isn’t. Mouth: rich and contemporary I would say. Starting sweet with the oranges that go on and on. Hints of sweet almonds. Growing bigger with some garden herbs and more nutmeg. Spicy vanilla cream. Finish: even more spicy now, with plain oak coming through. Nice development. Chewed pencils in the aftertaste.
If you don’t mind obvious oak in your whisky and you like the recent Glenmorangie oak experiments (Artisan / Astar / Signet), then this should get your attention. Very good although I expected a bit more complexity after so many years of ageing. Around € 165.
This concludes my review of this year’s BenRiach single casks. Overall very high quality with a couple of truly exceptional releases.
Another Pedro Ximenez finish, but unpeated this time. The BenRiach 1970 cask 1035 is over 38 years old and boasts a wonderful colour.
BenRiach 38 yo 1970 (49,1%, OB 2009, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #1035, 250 btl.)
Nose: Dried fruits (raisins, dates) but lush fruits at the same time (blackcurrants, blueberries). It’s much fresher than you would expect. There are even the wonderful hints of exotic fruits (tangerines, pineapple) that you find in other 1970’s BenRiach and which makes this the perfect fruit basket. Some bourbon-like elements as well: pine resin with a hint of mint. Lovely wood polish. Cocoa and espresso in the background. Now this is what I call complexity! Mouth: roasted coffee beans and milk chocolate. Dried figs. Hints of tobacco. Rather smokey for an unpeated bottling. The sherry is not the usual nutty or syrupy type. It’s rather winey, like a Shiraz or some Tempranillo but it works very well. A little toffee. Hints of redcurrant marmalade in the aftertaste. Finish: dark chocolate with spices. Very long.
This is head-shaking stuff. It’s different from all other sherry bottlings and simply excellent. I would buy cases if not for the price: around € 280.
As you may know, peat and sherry can be a wonderful combo (although sometimes they eliminate each other’s strength). Personally I think some of the best results are achieved with Pedro Ximenez sherry. This 24 years old BenRiach 1984 cask 1048 is a peated whisky with a PX sherry finish.
BenRiach 24 yo 1984 (49,2%, OB 2009, Pedro Ximenez finish, cask #1048, 279 btl.)
Nose: there’s indeed a good deal of peat. A dry, chalky kind of peat, not the “oceanic” Islay type. It’s nicely integrated with the sherry notes of dark chocolate and dry fruits. Nutty. Some sweet liquorice. There’s also an earthy, vegetal odour to it that I associate with liquid brown soap (not sure if that’s known in other countries). Hemp maybe? Or latex? A bit strange but not unpleasant. Mouth: very peaty and smokey. Again some fruity elements from the sherry, but I guess the balance is 65% peat, 35% sherry now. Hints of pine needles and moss. Hints of caramel, cocoa and even dark ale beer (a peated Chimay Blue?). Interesting but not easy to pin down. Finish: long, smokey and even slightly tarry.
I can’t think of other PX sherry bottlings that have this style. Very different. I can’t say that I adore it, but it’s quite unique. A curiosum.
Around € 125.