Ardbeg. One of those distilleries I have a love/hate relationship with. I’m rather fond of the distillery itself and the base distillate they produce but I’m less than enthusiastic about the over-the-top branding with all the flannel and the special releases, it just doesn’t appeal to me. These days I might get a bottle of the still very good TEN every once in a blue moon when it’s on sale but I ignore the rest. That also includes independently bottled Ardbegs. At one point Ardbeg was a distillery you HAD to buy casks of if you wanted casks from one of the higher-valued distilleries in their owner’s portfolio. These days independently owned casks are rare, sought after and priced accordingly. In my opinion and experience, the only somewhat sanely priced bottler of Ardbeg remains Cadenhead’s – and even their current prices are above what I’m personally willing to pay. So I guess this is already sold out in most markets but thanks to the shop in Vienna (who miraculously still seem to have stock, according to their website, at the time of writing) I was sent a wee sample to have a wee nose and taste…
Dram data: Distillery: Ardbeg Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: 1993 Bottled: 2019 Age: 25 years Limitation: 216 bottles Cask: Hogshead Alcohol: 51,6% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Usually we as a human race like to have special drinks (Champagne, Wine, Whisky) to celebrate special events. And then there’s the opposite: Letting a fine drink create a special event. I’ve been holding on to this sample of 50 year-old, sherry-matured Strathisla from Speyside for quite a while now. Let’s see if will succeed at creating a special occasion …
Dram data: Distillery: Strathisla Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail Distilled: 09.12.1965 Bottled: 20.01.2016 Age: 50 years Limitation: 418 bottles Cask: First Fill Sherry Puncheon Alcohol: 43% Uncoloured Whiskybase link
When I saw that Serge over at Whiskyfun HQ published a review of this whisky today, I remembered I still had half a sample from a tweet tasting in late 2018 sitting around waiting to be reviewed. So I didn’t read his notes beforehand in order not to influence myself too much and now it’s time to stick my nose in – taking my time to properly review this outside of the rush and typing frenzy that usually accompany tweet tastings. Men can’t multitask, ya know 😉
Dram data: Distillery: Springbank Bottler: Claxton’s Distilled: 10.05.1996 Bottled: 04.09.2018 Age: 22 Limitation: 249 bottles Cask: Bourbon Hogshead Alcohol: 55% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
I love blind tastings. They are a great way to make a huge fool of yourself. Ahem. Okay, let’s try this again. I love blind tastings. They are very educational and let you focus on the whisky without any preconceptions. A prime example of this was last year at a blind tasting at the Campbeltown whisky festival where I rated an Inchmurrin highest and a Littlemill lowest. Would I have scored them the same if I had known beforehand what the were? I hope so – but can’t say for sure!
Peter Moser, who runs the German-speaking whisky site fosm.de has invited me to take part in his blind tasting sets for the last few rounds – which have always yielded very interesting, sometimes sobering results. For round seven in his series, he sent us three samples, labelled #1-3 and with very little clues other than it being a big distillery in the process of reinventing itself and all of the samples being from the same distillery. In the end, the distillery turned out to be Glenfiddich. No, I did not guess that correctly but I was close-ish At least that’s what I tell myself… That has to count, right?
Now, for the full dose of public humiliation and poking fun at myself on my own site I’ll reveal the three drams – complete with translations of my original tasting notes:
Produced from malted Concerto barley and local wheat, and distilled in small batches using traditional copper pot stills, at an elevation of 1300 feet above sea level, Golani is branded as Israel’s first whisky. It won bronze in the Whisky – Israel – Grain – NAS – 40% category at the IWSC 2018.
Dram data: Distillery: The Golan Heights Distillery Bottler: official bottling Distilled: – Bottled: – Age: 36 months Limitation: – Cask: ex red wine (Cabernet) and new charred American oak Alcohol: 40% uncoloured
Sometimes you open, enjoy and share a bottle and completely forget to review it. This alsmost happened with this 30-year-old Tomatin. Originally opened for my 30th birthday it has become better and better through oxidation over the years. I guess now is the time to finally officially review it before there’s nothing left – which should already give you a hint…
Dram data: Distillery: Tomatin Bottler: official bottling Distilled: – Bottled: 11.02.2014 Age: 30 years Limitation: – Cask: European and American Oak casks Alcohol: 46% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
After the somewhat lackluster experience with the Rampur Select I tasted last week, let’s stay in India and look at this interesting bottling. Independently bottled Paul John, you say? How does that happen? Well, glad you asked! You buy some casks in India, have them bottled and shipped to Scotland, have some unlucky member of the warehouse staff empty all bottles into casks again, roll them into the warehouse for further maturation – and bottle the whisky once someone higher up in the food, err drink, chain decides to do it. Which didn’t take too long in the case of this 5-year-old whisky. Pretty easy, right? Let’s see if it was worth going through all that trouble…
Dram data: Distillery: Paul John Bottler: Cadenhead’s Distilled: – Bottled: Summer 2017 Age: 5 years Limitation: 360 bottles Cask: Bourbon Hogshead Alcohol: 57,4% uncoloured / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Put your hands in the air if you’ve heard of this distillery before. Quite a few whisky nerds have tried the offerings of the “Paul John” or “Amrut” brands, which produce very solid drams, but Rampur? A first for me in any case. It’s produced by the Radico Khaitan group, a big player in the Indian “whisky” market, (in brackets because much of Indian whisky is made from molasses) this whisky doesn’t have an age statement and was launched as their first “true” single malt release in 2016. My sample is from one of their early batches back in 2016. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Dram data: Distillery: Rampur Bottler: official bottling Distilled: – Bottled: 2016 Age: – Limitation: – Cask: oak Alcohol: 43% colouring added / not chill filtered Whiskybase link
Who doesn’t like whisky samples? Okay, most would probably prefer full-size bottles, but for most of us mere mortal lovers of the amber nectar, samples are a great thing.
We collect samples at festivals, we bring back home unfinished drams from tastings, we swap them with friends, we get them for free or we stash a way hidden liquid treasures of times gone by. Some of us might even keep an archive – a liquid sample library of all the bottles we’ve ever opened. Is there a whisky lover out there who doesn’t have samples?
I am a sample hoarder. I have brought back samples from my Scotland trips, from tastings, festivals and meetings with friends. I also keep a liquid library. I even bought a huge archive of 6 cl samples from one entire year’s worth of entries into the Malt Maniacs Awards when they were sold by a friend for a good cause.
Needless to say, in total that’s a LOT of sample bottles kicking around, stashed away, waiting to be discovered “someday”. And so late last year I made the decision to do something about the “backlog” and start drinking and enjoying my samples. What I did not expect was how mixed my experiences would be.
Another set of samples from one distillery – Blair Athol in this case – are sitting on my desk and my e-mail inbox is full with conversations with Keith Wood. That can only mean one thing: A sequel to the first series where we tasted six different Talisker drams is in the works.
Four drams from this one distillery, all distilled just a few days apart in the year 1988 but matured in different casks (all of which were butts of different varieties) and bottled between 25 and 27 years of age, which should yield some rather interesting comparisons. All bottles were entered into the 2016 Malt Maniacs awards, so if you want to go ahead and compare our scores to the ones by the official judges, head over to this page.
Now, without further ado, let the best butt malt win.
Blair Athol 1988 25 yo
1988, 25y, 59.6% ABV 21.10.1988 – 3.7.2014 551 btls Casks 6920 & 6924 Refill Sherry Butts Signatory Vintage CS for GI Jane (Fortune Taiwan)