Octagon live tasting

Octagon tasting at the Maltman Mike and Friends show on Youtube

On the evening of the 19th of September I had the pleasure to be invited as a guest at the Maltman Mike and Friends show on Youtube. 8 drams tasted live on camera with a quiz – what’s not to like? If you missed the live show, you can go watch it below. While you’re at it – please give the video a like and subscribe to the channel!

Production Director Allan Logan and Head Distiller Adam Hannett inspect trial plots planted on Islay in 2016.(Picture: Bruichladdich)

From distilling to farming – and beyond? – Bruichladdich purchases croft for barley farming trials

Production Director Allan Logan and Head Distiller Adam Hannett inspect trial plots planted on Islay in 2016.(Picture: Bruichladdich)

Production Director Allan Logan and Head Distiller Adam Hannett inspect trial plots planted on Islay in 2016.(Picture: Bruichladdich)

This past weekend a press release by Bruichladdich appeared in my inbox. Getting press releases is nothing new when you’re covering any kind of topic and especially in a booming market like the current, bloggers like myself are often flooded with sometimes good and sometimes cringeworthy examples. I usually don’t bother covering the latest whiskies – others are better and quicker at covering the “business news” and I don’t even attempt to compete.

And yet this press release was different – confirming what had already been murmured behind the scenes: The Islay-based distillery has acquired the Shore House Croft with 30 acres of former farmland in the immediate vicinity of the distillery. Why would a distillery buy farmland? Well, no, they won’t use it to build another mega distillery or any other construction project, they plan to use it as – drumroll, please – farm land, plain and simple.

Bruichladdich identifies itself by the slogan “Progressive Hebridean Distillers”. Some might roll their eyes at the idea of being “progressive” in the production of booze or when someone mentions “terroir” in conjunction with brown spirits. Why is this? In a whisky world where mass is king and most of the whisky is produced by using high-yield malting barley and high-yield yeast in search of ever more efficiency (at the potential cost of losing flavours) attempting to do things differently and looking left and right of the highway are good things – at least in my book. Bruichladdich has never shied away from trying things – and trying is the key phrase with this latest project:

The land will be used to conduct soil surveys followed by farming trials to “test the viability of different barley varieties on Islay soil.” In doing so they will look at heritage barley varieties “outside of the ‘recommended list’.” Now that’s where it gets interesting. Personally, I tend to think that different barley varieties, especially old varieties, can bring variety in distilling and anyone who has tried one of Bruichladdich’s Bere Barley bottlings can taste the difference themselves. I’ve baked with beremeal and if you’ve tasted the raw ingredients you can nose and taste it in the finished whisky. Now, at first there will be trials and what will come of these is too early to tell but I wholeheartedly agree with looking left and right of the mainstream raw ingredients and experimenting – especially if the end results are a mighty fine dram.

The 30 acres are rather insignificant in size compared to the current 1000 acres farmed by 17 farmers on the Island for the distillery, but the research conducted there might very well benefit their partners due to varieties emerging successfully seeing more widespread planting.

Now, there’s only one key production step missing in making whisky and that is malting the Islay-grown barley on Islay instead of shipping and tankering it off to Inverness. But that’s something for another press release, maybe in a couple of years time…

Carsebridge 1982 33 years Single Grain Whisky by The Grainman

Tasting: Carsebridge 1982 33 years Single Grain Whisky by The Grainman

Carsebridge 1982 33 years Single Grain Whisky by The GrainmanDram data:
Distillery: Carsebridge
Bottler: The Grainman / Meadowside Blending
Distilled: 1982
Bottled: March 2016
Age: 33 years
Limitation: 258 bottles
Casks: Bourbon 74679
Alcohol: 48,9%
uncoloured/not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

Ah, an old Grain whisky from a distillery that closed in the early 80s when more whisky was made than consumed. Let’s see if shedding a tear for the closure of this grain spirit production plant is warranted …

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 dark straw
The nose starts off very well! Grainy goodness! We’ve got a hint of alcohol mixed with vanilla, cornflakes, hubba bubba, burnt molasses, caramel, all stored in grandma’s old oak spice cupboard. Not overly complex, which was to be expected, yet very entertaining and “old enough”. If there’s one thing grain whisky needs to shine on its own then it’s a good refill cask and lots and lots of time. This seems to have had both!  Let’s move on to the palate!  Continue reading

Longmorn-Glenlivet Pure Malt 12 yo (1980s)

Tasting: Longmorn-Glenlivet Pure Malt 12 yo (1980s)

Longmorn-Glenlivet Pure Malt 12 yo (1980s)Dram data:
Distillery: Longmorn-Glenlivet
Bottler: Gordon & Macphail, licensed bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 1980s
Age: 12 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 40
unknown colouring/filtering
Whiskybase link (similar, but older bottling)

There are things you just can’t say no to – like this wee old miniature bottle of whisky I stumbled across in Arkwright’s Wine and Spirit shop earlier this year. Who would pass on the opportunity to experience what whisky bottled decades ago tasted like? This was bottled in the 1980s as a licensed bottling by Gordon & Macphail, distilled in the 1970s – some of the new make might have even been produced when Longmorn was a distillery with only two stills and those were fired directly. Back then what we now call “Single Malt” was called “Pure Malt” and distilleries proclaimed their region by attaching “-Glenlivet” to their name. Those were the times – and they are now bottled history! Anyway, all of that means almost nothing if the whisky is bad, so let’s dive right in!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose features a surprising amount of alcohol for a 40% whisky. Once the alcohol settles down, a dry, layered, spicy, sherried whisky is revealed. We’ve got orange peel, ginger, nutmeg, a whole truckload of cloves and cinnamon and dusty beeswax on a base of dried apricots and sulphured sultanas with a smidgen of motor oil on top (the good kind, you know…). Nicely layered and balanced, not flabby at all. We’re off to a very good start here.  Let’s check the palate!  Continue reading

Bladnoch 1992 26 yo by Cadenhead's

Tasting: Bladnoch 1992 26 yo by Cadenhead’s

Bladnoch 1992 26 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Bladnoch
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1992
Bottled: Summer 2018
Age: 26 years
Limitation: 246 bottles
Casks: Bourbon Hogshead
Alcohol: 49,3%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Now that we’ve got a Cadenhead’s store in Austria again I can be a bit more timely with my tasting notes on some of their wares. So let’s take a look at their recent release of a 26-year-old Bladnoch, a distillery I’m usually quite fond of …

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 white wine
The nose is quite fresh, yet sophisticated. A good marriage of refill wood and spirit, so it seems. We’ve got citrus (with peel), apple and pear peel, a strawberry or two, a hint of fading summer flowers on a slate board, sweet grapes, old banana and a touch of icing sugar. Light and delicate but with lots of little things going on in there. Delightful!  Let’s check the palate! 

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Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill Port

Tasting: Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill Port

Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill PortDram data:
Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: February 2005
Bottled: 14.05.2018
Age: 13 years
Limitation: 1096 bottles
Casks: Refill Port
Alcohol: 58,7%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Longrow. The heavily peated spirit produced at the quirky Springbank distillery in “wee toon” Campbeltown. Bottled for their 2018 whisky festival. What could possibly go wrong…?

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red gold
The nose has a slight alcoholic punch to it at the beginning – no wonder, looking at the strength. Beneath the alcohol rich, dark goodness awaits. We’ve got dried dates, dried figs, dried plums and a few raisins on top served on a spicy, peat smoked oak platter garnished with allspice, cloves, tangerine peel and ginger. The slightest whiff of sulphur came and went quickly, a bit longer lasting is a whiff of the Campbeltown dunnage warehouse funkiness (some might call it dark chocolate…). Rather lovely start. Let’s move on to the palate! 

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Cadenhead's Vienna storefront

A malt head’s Mecca named Cadenhead’s has landed in Vienna!

If you’ve been into whisky for any length of time you will have noticed single malts being items of luxury. In a world where whisky is more often than not sold at a premium in fancy, shiny boxes due to people going crazy for old, aged whisky, we maltheads must take care not to pay way over the odds. One of the best names in the independently bottled whisky market is Cadenhead’s. Established in 1842 it is the oldest independent bottler in Scotland – and one of the biggest. Size is important – if you’ve got the stock you can afford to buy casks of whisky young and cheap(ish) and wait years and decades before bottling instead of having to sell it quickly. Add to that their no-frills packaging (to quote Mark Watt, Director of sales: “You can’t drink packaging”) and a reasonable price and you’ve got a winner.

Cadenhead's Vienna storefront

The Cadenhead’s Vienna store front with Florian (right) and Jenna (middle)

The only trouble is getting access to their wares. Cadenhead’s offers two different product lines: Their “international range” (mostly vattings of two or three casks) is available, well, internationally through a network of retailers while their rarer, single cask “Authentic collection” is only available at Cadenhead’s branded stores – of which there are only nine spread throughout Western Europe. Up until the end of 2017, when they stopped operating under the Cadenhead’s brand, we Austrians were lucky enough to have a shop in Salzburg. After eight long months of absence (though my wallet quite liked the reduced whisky spending…), on Tuesday, the 14th of August 2018, a new Cadenhead’s shop opened its doors in Austria. Did I rush to be there for the opening day (and night)? You can bet on it!

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Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)

Tasting: Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)Dram data:
Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2018
Age: 10 years
Limitation: –
Casks: American and French oak
Alcohol: 50%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

It came and it went, came back as a limited release – and is now back as a permanent expression in Bruichladdich’s heavily peated “Port Charlotte” range – new packaging and all: The 10 year-old! In recent Bruichladdich fashion, they even tell us the recipe: 65% 1st fill American casks, 10% 2nd fill American casks and a whopping 25% 2nd fill French wine casks.
Two weeks ago I was able to sit down with Bruichladdich’s Cristy for an hour at the distillery and chat about what’s new and upcoming (more on that in a separate blog post). On that occasion, I was kindly given a bottle of this new expression before it went out for general release (which should start right about now), so let’s crack it and test it! Oh, one more thing: Apparently the new, bespoke bottles for Port Charlotte (I like the raised lettering in glass on the back!) feature an anti-dripping lip. Err, okay. I usually don’t spill whisky – but I did when I opened and poured this one. Make of that what you will… 😉

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light gold
The nose has a fresh, peppery kick to it upon first contact. Freshly cracked pepper with mint and tangerine oil mixed with fragrant, noticeable but not overpowering peat smoke. It takes a few minutes to fully open up. Now we’ve got sooty peat smoke mixed with aromas of whisky-marinated lamb steak, light vanilla, a hint of red berries, juicy pears, squeezed grapes, and the very typical French oak spices in the background. Interesting how much of an influence this 25 % share of French casks makes! Even more time in the glass mellows the spirit even more, bringing more of the fruity, dark components to light. Let’s move on to the palate!  Continue reading

Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead's

Tasting: Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead’s Small Batch Collection

Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Deanston
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1994
Bottled: 2014
Age: 19 years
Limitation: 846 bottles
Casks: Butts
Alcohol: 56,4%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

I guess everybody has one – a distillery whose products they’re struggling with. There are very few of them – but Deanston is amongst them. It’s hard for me to find a Deanston malt that “connects” with me – for whatever reason. So what drove me to purchase this bottling by Cadenhead’s? Don’t remember! Let’s see if this is a Deanston malt that “works” for me…

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 dark straw
The nose is pretty light – second fill butts were probably used for maturation. We’re greeted by lemon, citrus peel, a whiff of alcohol, unripe grapes and grape seeds on a bed of candyfloss. A mix of limoncello and grappa, perhaps – aged in oak barrels. After 19 years this is still rather spirit-driven, which is not a bad thing unless you’re expecting a sherry bomb. Let it sit for quite a while and more subtle nuances appear, together with a grape and apricot sweetness and fruitiness. Not a dram to be rushed. Quite good so far – let’s see if it’s the same on the palate! 

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Glendronach 1995 21 years cask 1523 for Shiuh Heng

Tasting: Glendronach 1995 21 years cask 1523 for Shiuh Heng

Glendronach 1995 21 years cask 1523 for Shiuh HengDram data:
Distillery: Glendronach
Bottler: official bottling for Shiuh Heng
Distilled: 24.03.1995
Bottled: 04.2016
Age: 21 years
Limitation: 684 bottles
Casks: PX Sherry Puncheon
Alcohol: 54,6%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Glendronach in Sherry, what else? And matured for “twenty-one long years”. Well, thank god, because I hate whisky that’s matured for a number of short years! Anyway, let’s get on with it!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose has quite a lot of alcohol sitting up front – and a load of dark aromas lurking behind. Burnt sugar (Demerara), molasses, old Caribbean rum, burnt caramel, raisins, 100% cocoa chocolate-covered orange peel. A lot of “dark” aromas, not much in terms of sweetness (as one would expect from a PX Puncheon). A tough one, it does have its qualities, but it doesn’t seem to connect with me.  Let’s see if it’s the same on the palate! 

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