This is the third batch of Arran single malt bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. The typical graphic-novel-style illustrations shows the artist, Emily Chapell, and a friend stranded on a desert island after a kayaking trip gone awry. Arran’s eagle and the Waverley ship (Glasgow – Arran) also play a part in it.
Arran batch #3
(51,5%, That Boutique-y Whisky Company 2014, 728 btl., 50 cl)
Nose: typical clean Arran, very citrusy (grapefruit, lemon) with hints of ginger. There’s also a slightly more earthy / roasted note in the back, think roasted malt and bread crust. Dried coconut flakes and soft mineral notes. Mouth: sweet and fruity (plum syrup, fruit biscuits), slightly synthetic / new-makeish at times. Goes on with malty notes and almonds. Some zesty grapefruit, as well as a bit of cocoa. Finish: medium long, with chocolate and green fruits.
Pretty standard, all-round Arran. Just a good showcase for this distillery. Around € 55 – only 50cl bottles available.
Bruichladdich says Port Charlotte Islay Barley is a milestone. Perhaps for the first time in the island’s history, a heavily-peated single malt has been distilled using Islay-grown barley.
The barley had been harvested in September 2008 from the farms at Coull, Kynagarry, Island, Rockside, Starchmill and Sunderland, peated to 40 PPM, then distilled in December of the same year and bottled towards the end of 2014.
Port Charlotte 2008 ‘Islay Barley’ (50%, OB 2014)
Nose: a salty and malty nose, with sweet liquorice and plenty of soot. Rather clean and elegant, rather rounded as well, compared to other Islay whiskies. Sweet lemon candy in the background. Something of mentholated oils. Mouth: rather dry now, with a leathery feel and some herbal hints. Dark toasted bread. A bit of sea spray and kippery notes. There’s a slight bitter edge to it, as well as a peppery heat. And always a sweet layer underneath. Finish: long, slightly hot, with ashes, plenty of salt and still these herbal (Fernet) touches.
I’m personally not very fond of this one. It seems less focused and less powerful than its Octomore sister and the herbal bitter side is quite loud. There have been better PC’s, but of course they don’t have a terroir story behind them. Around € 75.
We’ve had a succesful year on this website again. In terms of visitors, 2014 was roughly at the same level as 2013, with over 2 million pageviews. However there have been more prominent highs and lows. The summer months were quieter this year but the last two months have been consistently record-breaking, with 15% more visitors than in the same period of 2013. That means more daily visitors than ever before, with significant increases from Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Singapore…
Somehow I thought 2013 was a bit depressing: prices were going over the top, NAS releases were a new trend, and top quality was sometimes hard to find.
In 2014, prices were certainly not lower (just look at the ridiculous pricing of Diageo’s Special Releases – and notice that we’ve only bothered to review two or three) but I think we’ve become accustomed to buying less and letting more bottles gather dust on the shelves. I’d say the general quality from respected sources was okay: the excellent (and once readily available) 1970’s are gone for good, but at least we’ve discovered a couple of distilleries that are also good at lower ages. Let’s keep it at a status quo, and let’s be happy with that.
We already tried this Linkwood 1984 at Spirits in the Sky in November, but it took us some time to get a second sample to confirm. It’s part of the latest Early flying series from The Whisky Agency.
Linkwood 30 yo 1984 (49,2%, The Whisky Agency ‘Early flying’ 2014, refill hogshead, 174 btl.)
Nose: smooth, fruity nose. Honeydew melon, apple and a bit of peach jam. Green banana. Whiffs of verbena. Buttercups. It’s quite complex but also quite compact. Old-style polished furniture. Hints of mint and leafy notes in the background. Mouth: smooth and fruity again, but less emphatically so, with more oily notes and dryness now. Tobacco leaves. Some funnier notes as well, something in between potpourri and marihuana (reminds me of the undisclosed 60 year-old from Master of Malt). Herbal honey, mint liqueur, green tea. Settles on oranges and apricot. Beautiful mix of fruity notes and soft herbs. Finish: long, oaky, with lots of oranges and pepper.
It’s funny how this reminded me of another whisky that’s twice as old. Now that I think of it, that could have been Linkwood as well. In any case: this is a nice, complex and unique whisky. Around € 225.
Spirit of Freedom 30 Year Old is a blend produced by J & A Mitchell (the owners of Springbank), to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
It is composed of 75% malt whisky (from five distilleries) and 25% grain whisky – a mix of bourbon and sherry casks.
Spirit of Freedom 30 yo (46%, Springbank 2014, 2014 btl.)
Nose: herbal and floral at first. Heather honey. Becomes wider and sweeter, with nougat but also slightly exotic fruits (guava, banana). Nicely waxy, with some coconut oils. Mineral touches as well, it’s easy to detect some Springbank in there. Mouth: creamy and surprisingly fruity. Slightly exotic fruits indeed: pineapple, orange and papaya. Balanced herbal notes and waxed furniture. Vanilla. Honey. Pretty old-school, how nice to find this in a blend. Hardly any grainy notes. Finish: long, some grains now, hints of oak as well, but also fruity sweetness.
A very nice surprise, especially for a blended whisky. Well composed, interestingly old-style and very reasonably priced: around € 110.
I try to get a wide variety of distilleries on this website, but Bunnahabhain is pretty much incontournable when talking about independent Islay releases. While most of the other Islay whiskies are hard to get for independent bottlers, Bunna is still readily available.
Asta Morris’ latest release is a Bunnahabhain 1987.
Nose: punchy and coastal, with some brine and various oily notes. Leathery notes. Grasses. There’s a vague aromatic sweetness in the background, but not enough to call it fruity. Well, grapefruit maybe. Soft mint and a faint touch of smoke. Mouth: rich, much more fruity now, with less austerity and mineral notes. Ripe apple, some honey and berries, a little tangerine and banana. Still some earthy hints in the back, a little pepper and salt. Very rich. Finish: medium long, still quite sweet and fruity, almost candied with a mild earthy note and brine.
Excellent Bunnahabhain (like most other 1987’s I must add). It combines a punchy, coastal side with a big fruitiness on the palate. Around € 170.
Most of the Private Stock bottlings from The Whisky Agency go by pretty unnoticed, simply because they’re in high demand and yields are usually very low. This recent Glenrothes 1980 still seems to be available though.
Glenrothes 34 yo 1980
(48,5%, The Whisky Agency ‘Private Stock’ 2014, refill hogshead, 180 btl.)
Nose: a relatively light nose, starting on honey and almonds and slowly developing a nice fruit basket. Butter pear, nectarine, malon, freshly squeezed oranges, soft hints of guava. Subtle waxy notes too. Classic old Speyside. Mouth: rather sweet and fruity again, with apples, peaches, papaya and a little tangerine. Soft hints of cinnamon and ginger, enough to add depth but not drying. Quite oily, with hints of beeswax and polished oak. Floral honey. Finish: long, with a lime & mint combo and some resinous oak.
Really good, very bright, fruity and easy-going. Maybe not the most complex whisky ever, but it’s a rare example of the aged style of this Speyside distillery. Around € 290.
Having another Ardbeg 1974 single cask is always a treat, but with only 76 bottles this is also one of the rarest 1974’s around. Cask 3328 was released for the Italian market in September 2006.
Ardbeg 32 yo 1974
(53,5%, OB for Italy 2006, bourbon cask #3328, 76 btl.)
Nose: starts a bit heavy and heady, it’s definitely not a softie. Sharp lemon zest, walnut skins and plenty of medicinal notes. Brings along some sweeter notes like sugared almonds, herbal honey and wax candles. Great evolution and even better with a drop of water: it becomes smoother with lots of vanilla. Mouth: very powerful again. Huge sooty notes, hot ashes and a kippery side. Leather. Then some sweet and herbal notes, becoming slightly bitter as in herbal liqueur or cough syrup. Dark roast coffee. I prefer this with a few drops of water again, it seems a little unbalanced at full strength. Finish: very long, with vanilla notes, earthy peat and hints of grapefruit.
Another wonderful Ardbeg 1974, but it takes some fiddling with water to find the optimal strength to unleash its magic. Around € 2300 if you find one.