Big Peat is a regular amongst the heavily peated blends. This cask strength Islay blended malt includes Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen – I suppose this last distillery still helps it fly off the shelves although it may be a very limited amount. It also includes two other malts from the south side of the island (Laphroaig and Lagavulin).
Like last year, Douglas Laing created a Big Peat Christmas Edition. It’s supposed to be an even more wintery version.
Big Peat ‘Christmas Edition’ 2013 (54,9%, Douglas Laing 2013)
Nose: surprisingly youthful. Young peated malt, full of pear drops and smoked grains. Heathery peat, big phenols and some antiseptic. Briny Caol Ila up front, maybe some 2000’s Bowmore in the middle and young Ardbeg sweetness underneath. Clean, bold, but with some new-makeish notes. Mouth: very peaty again. Pepper. A similarly young (synthetic) fruitiness. Some rubbery notes. Quite some medicinal notes as well, and a hint of black coffee and cocoa towards the end. Rather straightforward. Finish: long, with some liquorice and ashes.
It didn’t impress me as much as the original Big Peat, but it’s still a nice Islay vatting, just a little youngish. Around € 60.
Another one of these Karuizawa releases that went directly to Taiwan. Cask #6568 distilled in 1980.
Karuizawa 31 yo 1980
(56,4%, OB 2011, sherry butt #6568)
Nose: one of those burnt sugar / dark honey / tarry noses. Overripe – not to say rotting – melons. Quite some wet leaves and moss in there. Fungi. Undeniable gunpowder and sulphury spent matches as well. Raisins. Roasted nuts. Over time it develops some acidity, sour red fruits compote with overtones of raspberry vinegar. Not the best start. Mouth: big and dark, smoky and again not without gunpowder / sulphur notes. Dates. Coffee and liquorice. A woody astringency as well, tannins and the acid sherry notes again. A nice honey / plum liqueur theme in the background though, too bad it doesn’t get a chance. Allspice and incense towards the end. Finish: powerful and spicy. Lots of liquorice.
Firecrackers, rotting organics and highly acidic sherry… Too bad for the nicer red fruits and honeys that are buried underneath. This is definitely the bad side of Karuizawa, maybe even the worst I’ve tried. Originally around € 360.
The Sovereign is one of the ranges of Hunter Laing, the company of Stewart Laing and his sons Andrew and Scott, since Douglas Laing was split between the two brothers in February 2013. Some of their better known ranges are Old Malt Cask and Old & Rare Platinum.
Cameronbridge is a grain distillery which was established in 1824 as the Haig distillery. In 1826 it became the first distillery to produce grain whisky using the column still concept. For some time it produced both grain and malt whisky, until it shifted exclusively towards grain in 1929. The current still house is much younger, it was expanded and reopened in 2000.
Nowadays Cameronbridge is owned by Diageo and it’s the largest grain distillery in Scotland. Their grain production is a key element in the Johnnie Walker blends, but they produce other spirits like Pimm’s, Smirnoff, Tanqueray and Gordon’s gin as well.
Nose: grainy and oaky at first. Vanilla, quite some oak varnish and a whole warehouse full of freshly sawn wood. Pencil shavings. White pepper. Underneath is some icing sugar. Also typical coconut notes. Mouth: sweet and spicy, with a big alcohol / wood kick. It’s simply too hot. With some water, fruity notes come out (slightly synthetic pineapple and banana, also lemon sweets and tinned peach). Vanilla and coconut cream. The oak stays pretty loud: clove, pepper and an oaky bitterness. Finish: medium, warm, sweet with some zesty grapefruit.
Slightly difficult to assess. Some nice grain whisky notes, but the palate needs water. At the same time this makes the nose a little tame. Also the oak is hard to filter out. Around € 100.
Maltbarn has a new agreement for Belgium. Bottlings are now available through Dram242. Of course you can also contact Maltbarn directly or Whiskybase in Holland.
This Caol Ila 1979 is 33 years old and part of the recent batch by Maltbarn.
Caol Ila 33 yo 1979 (52,7%, Maltbarn 2013, ex-bourbon cask, 55 btl.)
Nose: starts in an assertive way, with lots of seaweed, hessian and camphor. Oysters and walnuts. Hints of mercurochrome. Quite bold. Some wet stones. Some embering hay. Linseed oil. It may seem really austere, but in fact it is very attractive in all its power. Mouth: oily, salty, zesty and medicinal. Again a bold example of this style. Some antiseptic and iodine. Quite peaty for Coal Ila as well, hints of tar and soot. Liquorice. Hints of bitter grapefruit and aspirin in the background. Evolves on herbal liqueur. Alive and kicking. Finish: long, clean, with liquorice and citrus zest.
We love gentle old Coal Ila but this is great as well. Coastal, punchy, pleasantly austere. Around € 220. Available since yesterday.
An official Balmenach. I’ve never come across one so far. This 27 year-old 1973 vintage was released in 2000, a couple of years after Inver House bought the distillery from Diageo.
Nowadays it seems most of the production is used for blends. A significant part of their focus is on the Caorunn gin by the way.
Balmenach 27 yo 1973
(46%, OB 2000, 2150 btl.)
Nose: lots of polished oak, furniture wax and tobacco. Dusty cellar. Underneath is a sweet fruity layer (berries and oranges) as well as some honey. A big malty core. A few leafy / vegetal notes, moss and hay. Not an easy nose, but certainly enjoyable. Mouth: vivid and oily, with more sweet fruit now (apricot, orange, banana) and a dollop of caramel. Vanilla toffee. Cake. A whole series of herbs and spices: mint, cinnamon, soft pepper. All this held together with nice oak. Finish: medium long, still a combination of sweetness (marzipan) and herbal notes.
A complex Balmenach, that’s quite wide and rather gentle at the same time. Needs some time to unfold, but certainly a nice dram. Nowadays around € 200.
Remember the Teelings, who started the Cooley company, sold it and now started their own company again. I already wrote about the excellent Teeling Whiskey 21 Years a couple of months ago.
This one is the base offer, a blended Teeling Whiskey with a high malt content and no age statement. Note that it has been ‘rum married’, i.e. finished in Flor de Caña rum barrels after blending.
Teeling Whiskey (46%, OB 2013)
Nose: lots of apple notes, freshly cut green ones but also baked apple with a dash of white rum. Some spices, a grassy prickle and rhubarb. Orange peel. Nice enough for a blend, although the grainy notes are pretty loud. Mouth: a very nice, typically Irish fruitiness and creamy vanilla. Apple and grapefruit. Quickly taken over by grains, some alcohol heat and finally dried herbs with some bitter tonic. Pepper and clove. Something of pine wood as well. Finish: grainy and peppery. Not too long.
I real like some parts of this Teeling blend. There’s no denying Irish whiskey like this is very attractive and offers great value for money. But in other parts the sharpish grain takes over, which masks some of the nice fruits. Undecided. Around € 40.
Nose: hmm, certainly not what I expected. Very dusty, with lots of hay and old oak (with most of its polish gone). Hints of mint and minerals, maybe metallics. Wet newspaper. Hints of grapefruit, if we dig very deep, but it’s far from the citrusy profile that we love in the 1988-1992 bottlings. Mouth: again a bit dull and uninspired. More citrus, sure, but not the brightest kind. More on nutmeg and liquorice. Herbal notes. Finish: medium long, a slight disappointment.
This is the kind of whisky Littlemill’s so-and-so reputation was based upon, until the wave of wonderful citrus bombs was discovered a couple of years ago. A mediocre oldie.
In the 1830s, as a tavern keeper in Louisville, Augustus Bulleit set himself on a mission: to create a bourbon unique in flavour. Unfortunately he died suddenly (or rather vanished) and his bourbon adventure was lost as well, until in 1987 his great-great-grandson Tom Bulleit revived the brand (currently under the wings of Diageo, that is). As of 2008 the brand is also being exported to certain European markets and Australia.
Bulleit bourbon is distilled at the Four Roses distillery in Kentucky and aged in small batches. First they only had a NAS version (said to be around 6 years old), known for its relatively high share of rye in the mash (about 30%). In 2011 a Bulleit Rye was introduced (95% rye). Obviously the modern Bulleit recipe isn’t related to the original one, which would have contained about two-thirds of rye.
At the beginning of 2013, this Bulleit Bourbon 10 Year Old was launched.
Bulleit Bourbon 10 yo (45,6%, OB 2013, Kentucky straight bourbon)
Nose: a nicely elegant nose with lots of fragrant cinnamon and vanilla, as well as some dry herbal notes. Plenty of toasted oak with traces of polished furniture. Hints of dried fruits as well. Marzipan. There’s a uplifting, spicy rye element, but it’s very well balanced and an attractive ensemble. Mouth: a big spicy kick now. A lot of oak, mint / eucalyptus, pepper and this special rye touch. Herbal tea. Liquorice. Less elegant than on the nose, this is very oak-driven and there’s just traces of fruity sweetness. Finish: moderate length, really dry and oaky. Returns to cinnamon and vanilla in the very end.
This is a very spicy and oaky bourbon. I love the nose for its dry / sweet balance and overall elegancy, but the palate is a little too much. I hear a lot of people actually prefer the NAS version. Around € 75.