A new series that I would like to introduce on this blog: “Ten days of…”. It will consist of 3 or 4 posts with tasting notes from a single distillery and / or with a common theme and spread over 10 days. I’ll start with a couple of peated Bruichladdich releases.
First, a word or two about peat. Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter (swamp forrest), a few thousands of years in age. It can be cut in the form of bricks, dried and used as a fossil fuel. Prior to distilling whisky, the barley is malted and dried. Traditionally on Islay, they used the heat from peat fires for this. Interestingly, peat smoke chemically ‘sticks’ to barley grains, which is the reason why the exotic aroma of peat smoke can still be experienced in the distilled spirit.
Peat in Scotch whisky is measured in parts per millions (ppm). Only a few percent of the production is peated, but on Islay that percentage is a lot higher. An “unpeated” Scotch may clock in at 5 to 10 ppm. A typical Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig will contain between 30 and 50 ppm of peat phenols which makes a huge difference in the taste. Recently, there has been a small race in obtaining the highest level of peat. Bruichladdich introduced the Octomore which contains a stunning 131 ppm. Soon after that, the Ardbeg Supernova was announced, which weighs in at around 100 ppm. This race is quite useless, but it’s a fact that peated whisky is gaining popularity and even distilleries outside of Islay are experimenting and releasing peated versions of their spirit (e.g. BenRiach, Caperdonich, Longrow…).
Although Bruichladdich is on Islay, they don’t have a tradition of using much peat in the production of their whisky. The new owners started some peated experiments in 2001, such as the 3D series (now replaced by Bruichladdich Peat) and the Port Charlotte bottlings.
Let’s have a look at some of those peated experiments from Bruichladdich in the next couple of days, starting tomorrow with the Bruichladdich 3D3.
The Laphroaig 15y is considered to be one of the most controversial bottlings in the current range of Laphroaig, and it will be replaced in a couple of weeks. The 15 year old introduced a new style of rounder, more mellow Laphroaig, but recent batches returned to a bolder style, closer to the standard 10y which itself got smoother if you compare it to batches from the 1990’s.
The Laphroaig 18y will be bottled at a higher strength of 48% alcohol (the same as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask). I’m sure this is a good thing, as it indicates Laphroaig is moving towards a more powerful, intense profile.
The price will remain more or less the same (pretty uncommon considering the 3 additional years and today’s pricing strategies).
Here’s the official tasting notes:
Nose: sweet toffee, faintly spicy, traces of delicate phenols and fruit. Overall smoothness. With water: seaweed and salt but not enough to overpower the vanilla and honey sweetness. A trace of new mown hay and peat at the finish.
Body: Exceptionally balanced and warming with intense depth. Warming smoke, smooth floral scents, oaky nuttiness. Sweetness on the taste. With water: peaty warmth with a sweet chocolate smoothness. This is balanced by rich toffee and a hint of heather and peat smoke.
Finish: Full bodied, long with a luxurious oily smoothness.
Some extra information and tasting notes by Tim at TWE blog.
This whiskey is produced at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort (USA), home of numerous other great whiskies such as Buffalo Trace, George T Stagg, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, Sazerac… William Larue Weller is a wheated bourbon (made from corn + wheat instead of corn + rye or barley) and is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.
William Larue Weller (62,65%, OB 2008, 3rd release)
Nose: BIG nose, resinous and spicy (cinnamon, vanilla). Dried figs and raisins. Pine trees. Notes of nuts, cigar box, tobacco and something of paint / nail polish remover. Really powerful and full. Mouth: dark, toasted notes, still hints of paint (don’t get me wrong, these are not necessarily off-notes, they are quite pleasant). Caramel, vanilla, lots of charred oak. Maple syrup, peppermint. Quite smokey. Finish: warm but maybe a bit short. Hints of chocolate, vanilla pudding and dark fruit.
Bourbon on steroids. Perfect after a strong chocolate mousse. Around € 120.
St. Magdalene can be a little difficult to find. The Lowlands distillery was closed in 1983, a year in which lots of good distilleries (e.g. Port Ellen) were halted because of a decreasing interest in whisky. Too bad some of the most interesting distilleries were on that list…
Douglas Laing released a number of St. Magdalene casks from December 1982 in their Old Malt Cask range (at least 7 in the last 2-3 years). Most of them were good, so let’s hope they still have some casks lying around. This one is from a refill butt.
Nose: aromatic, very grassy and slightly fruity with lots of oranges. It’s not really complex at first, but after some time (and a bit of hand warmth) it opens up. Dried flowers. Some paraffin, chalk, green tea with lemon, a hint of smoke. Chlorophyl. Hints of lemon sweets. Quite attractive. Mouth: citrus notes again (orange, lemon). Plenty of apples (including piths). Something that reminds me of tequila as well. Juicy and honeyed. Some vanilla. Subtle coastal hints as well. Finish: quite sweet, on pear and peaches with soft spices. Not very long.
Elegant but old-school whisky with a nice balance. There’s something feminine about it, although that’s hard to define. Around € 120.
Nose: sweet and fruity. A lot of estery notes. Apple cake with some cinnamon and mango. Some pineapple and milk as well (piña colada anyone?). Mouth: not very powerful. Vanilla, almonds, citrus fruit, yoghurt and floral notes (rose water which is so typical for Linkwood). A rather short finish, nice but nothing spectacular.
Overall good stuff, no flaws. But I would expect a 27 year old whisky to have something extra maybe?
This is the 50th post on my blog. For special occasions, there’s always… Port Ellen. The Norse Cask Selection is a brand of the Danish importer and distributor Quality World. In december 2007, they bottled a hogshead cask of 1979 Port Ellen. It was sold for just € 120.
Port Ellen 28y 1979 (53,7%, Norse Cask Selection 2007, Cask QW1311, 277 btl.)
Nose: very typical, wonderful Port Ellen smell. Needs of bit of hand warmth to open up but after that, it just keeps going. Wet stones, salt, lemon skin, ash, lots of smoke, seaweed, vanilla, mint… Wonderfully complex and clean at the same time. Some green leaves and grassy notes, with a medicinal touch. I’ve spent 45 minutes just nosing this, really excellent. Mouth: sweet and fruity attack but heavily peated at the same time. Pine wood, pepper. Chocolate. The aftertaste shows salty liquorice notes and lime, leaving behind some coal smoke and pepper as well.
Overall great balance between sweet, grassy, salty and peaty flavours. Terrific. A shame that I only had a small sample, every drop was more evidence for its genius!
Probably Islay’s least appreciated distillery? An outsider anyway, with less of the typical Islay characteristics. You can still detect the sea though.
Bunnahabhain 12y (40%, OB +/- 2008)
Fresh nose. Honey and ginger. Fruity with hints of dry sherry. Really mild, the smoke is only noticeable in the distance and peat is virtually absent. Mouth: mellow and really sweet. Just a tad smokey. Weak attack (it seems over-diluted) but it gets more powerful after a few seconds. More smoke and coffee in the aftertaste. A tiny bit of peat as well (or was that just imagination?).
Not bad actually. Nothing special either. Around € 30.
There are two Nikka malt whisky distilleries: Yoichi and Miyagikyo. Yoichi produces rich, peaty and masculine malt. It is located on the Hokkaido island (Japan), with influence from the sea and cold climate, just like in Scotland. The whisky gets its aroma and body from direct heating distillation, in which the stills are heated with finely powdered natural coal (the traditional method that is hardly ever used today, even in Scotland – Springbank still uses it).
The Yoichi 10yo exists in different batches that share the same flavour profile, but there can be significant differences as well.
Nikka Yoichi 10y (45%, OB, batch 08G34B)
Fresh nose on apple, apricot and pineapple candy. Orange peel. Spicy notes as well (clove, ginger). It’s immediately fruity and attractive but it shows more depth after a while. Faint notes of new leather and subtle peat. Doesn’t tolerate a lot of added water. Mouth: some vanilla. The oakiness grows stronger and the peat influence is more powerful than on the nose. Lots of sweet and roasted notes, but there’s also a salty, peaty edge towards the finish. Long aftertaste.
This Yoichi is a well made, all-round single malt, with no rough edges whatsoever (you can think of that as a positive as well as a negative remark). It contains lots of common flavours found in different types of whisky, and combines them in a balanced way. Around € 60.