Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01

For our next review we have something that I can only describe as being pretty special. It is a travel retail exclusive and so if you want to try it then you had better get yourself a holiday booked and pick it up in duty free, or hope that you have a generous friend who is going away soon. This whisky comes from the Bruichladdich (Brewick-laddie) distillery on Islay, and is one of the distilleries newest releases. It is the Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01.

Around two miles to the south of the Bruichladdich distillery lies the small village of Port Charlotte, and the remains of a long closed distillery, Lochindaal Distillery. The Port Charlotte bottling of Bruichladdich is by way of a tribute to this distillery, which closed back in 1929, and is heavily peated, usually to around 40ppm (phenolic parts per million). The whisky which goes into this bottling is matured in the original stone warehousing that is located in Port Charlotte.

This particular bottling of Port Charlotte is the 2007 CC:01 bottling, which was a recent release to the travel retail sector. Fortunately, I was recently away on holiday and so was able to get my hands on a bottle (it’s so good I may have to go on holiday again soon…). Bottled at eight years old and at a whopping 57.8% ABV, this whisky really is a rare treat. Matured solely in casks made from French oak that have previously been used in France for maturing Cognac, it is a very interesting offering of a whisky indeed, so let’s get down to it.

Nose

The first time I tried this whisky I had to have a double take at the label, I couldn’t believe that it was 57.8% it’s just so soft and smooth (I hate using ‘smooth’ in relation to whisky, it’s such a stupid term, but this whisky just is!). Immediately you know that it is Port Charlotte, it’s got such a heavy and distinctive peat smoke to it and it is just glorious. Once you get past the smoke it is a quite sweet whisky on the nose, lots of sweet vanilla, toffee and fudge. And there is plenty of fruit in there too, dried apricots and mangos, green apples and sweet lemon. With time the influence from the French oak casks comes to the fore, lots of wood spice, ginger, cinnamon and cloves all burning as they float around in a shroud of peat smoke.

Palate

Wow, there’s a lot going on here, there are so many layers to this whisky, it’s constantly changing, very complex. If this is what the result of maturing whisky in former Cognac casks is like then sign me up for more! There is lots of vanilla, toasted oak and again a creamy fudge character, as well as this there is a cereal note that is a lot more prominent here. There is also a rich, sweet, fruity character, think dried tropical fruits; apricots, papaya, pineapple, all steeped in runny honey and lemon juice. All of this riding in on the back of a big punch of peat smoke.

Finish

The finish is long and full and very warming. The finish stays with you for what seems like ages, it’s so long and flavoursome. Again there’s dried fruits, vanilla sweetness and of course a gorgeous smothering of smoke.

For an eight year old whisky this has a lot of character, it is comparable to whisky twice its age! There has been some very, very good maturation gone on here and it shows in the product. I must confess that this is the first Cognac cask matured whisky that I’ve ever tried and it has definitely made me want to try more! There isn’t a lot I can say that is bad about this whisky, if anything at all. The only thing is that I wish this wasn’t a travel retail exclusive, I would love to be able to go out and buy another bottle if I could. I suppose though that this makes it an even more special whisky. If you are heading away on holiday soon I would definitely recommend stopping in at duty free to get a sample of this, if not a bottle (around £68), you won’t regret it!

Sláinte

Gary & Steven

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Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold

Our next review is of a whisky that we were requested to review by one of our friends; he wanted to know if it was something we would recommend buying. This whisky is from the Dalwhinnie distillery, and it is their recently released NAS bottling ‘Winter’s Gold’.

The Dalwhinnie distillery is situated on the Highland/Speyside line, it is categorised as a Highland malt due to its location though its water source is a tributary of the Spey, so there is some argument as to which it should be. Perched at a lofty 1,164ft above sea level it is claimed to be the highest distillery in Scotland. Dalwhinnie is a Diageo owned distillery and is one of their ‘Classic Malts’ which also include Talisker, Lagavulin, Oban, Cragganmore and Glenkinchie. As it is one of these ‘Classic Malts’ it is fairly available as a single malt though as is the case with most distilleries the majority of their output is blended into obscurity, for Dalwhinnie it is into blends such as Buchanan’s and Johnnie Walker.

The bottling that we are trying today, Winter’s Gold, is a relatively new release onto the market, being launched towards the end of 2015. The inspiration for this bottling comes from the harsh, cold winters experience by the distillery, where they claim to have an average annual temperature of only 6 degrees! It suggests on the packaging that to reflect this you should put it in the freezer before serving…. we’ll give that idea a miss and get straight down to the tasting.

Nose

Classic Dalwhinnie nose, lots of honeyed sweetness, delicate floral heather and a sulphury-malty note running through it. Compared to the standard Dalwhinnie bottling (a 15yo) there is a lot more wood spice to it and is a bit fresher feeling too. It’s got quite a young, sappy wood character that is also fairly acidic, reminiscent of fresh wood and pine needles, as well as this, some candied lemon peel, ginger and brown sugar.

Palate

Well the nose on this whisky was fairly promising; unfortunately the palate doesn’t quite live up to that. The whisky in this bottling is just slightly too young and it’s just lacking that cask influence, it is still good stuff though. Lots of sweet vanilla, caramelised sugar and nutmeg, with plenty of honey. As well as this there is damp wood, leather and a lick of smoke, but it is fairly young feeling and quite spirity.

Finish

The finish is fairly short, and quite astringent. Again there is that sappy, fresh wood taste that carries through the finish but this is accompanied by bags of sweetness which balance it out and make it fairly pleasant.

Ok, so I realise that there are a few notes and comments that don’t seem too complimentary here, but it is actually a very good whisky. For an NAS bottling I think that Diageo have done very well here, it’s balanced, light and has plenty of character. Personally I’m not a huge fan of NAS bottling’s as I like knowing what it is that I’m drinking, but this is pretty good. The pricing for this whisky is a bit confused, I paid £25 for it, though I has seen it set as high as £45! If you get the chance to try it then I would definitely recommend doing so, though for my taste I would probably rather spend an extra £10 and get the 15yo, if you’re on a budget though, it’s got that Dalwhinnie style, just a bit spicier and fresher.

So as I previously said this review was requested by one of our friends, if anyone has anymore requests or recommendations then please let us know.

Sláinte

Gary & Steven

Aberlour A’Bunadh

For this whisky review we are taking our first jaunt into Speyside, a region in the northern highlands around the river Spey (hence the name Spey-side…who would have guessed!). This famed whisky producing region has got the highest concentration of malt distilleries in Scotland, resulting from the great water source that the Spey and its tributaries provide. Many of the malt whisky superpowers hail from Speyside, including Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and the famed Macallan. Today we will be looking at the Aberlour distillery, not quite as well known as the above distilleries but still a very popular single malt whisky.

This review will be of the Aberlour A’Bunadh, an NAS (non-age statement) bottling that offers so much for the price you pay for it. A’Bunadh, which translates as ‘The Original’ in Gaelic, ticks all the boxes when it comes to what whisky should be:

Natural colour – check

Higher than minimum bottling strength – check

Unchillfiltered – check

 

Exactly what we want, even better than this it is actually bottled at natural cask strength! Our bottle, from batch 53, comes in at a whopping 59.7% ABV so pretty strong stuff, so a few drops of water may be necessary but it is of course down to your personal taste. A’Bunadh is matured solely in former Oloroso Sherry Butts and was first released back in the year 2000, with now 54 batches having been released at the time of writing this. So, without further ado, let’s get this party started!

Nose

Straight away you are met with a gorgeously floral honeycomb, some toasted oak and plenty of raisins, currants and sultanas. There has been some very good sherry cask maturation here and it definitely shows! Its quite buttery on the nose too, possibly buttered popcorn, though it is in the background behind the sherry characteristics. Quite spicy too, lots of cloves and cinnamon, backed up with a nice whack of spirit.

Palate

Very fruity on the palate, heaps of raisins and currants also dried cranberries and blackberries. There is a sherry taste to it but it’s not as sweet as sherry, it’s more like a rich, tannic red wine. After a while the sweet raisiny fruitiness becomes more citric with orange rind/peel and again lots of woody spice. Definitely some time and a few drops of water dramatically open up this whisky.

Finish

The finish is long and so rewarding with this whisky, having not been chillfiltered and being cask strength it just keeps going, fantastic. Tannic drying, sweet sherried oak and again lots of spice, nutmeg and cinnamon.

To be honest I find it very hard to find much wrong with this whisky, it has got everything and is just so satisfying to drink, it’s the kind of whisky you just need to relax with later on in the day and take time to savour it. If you like sherried whiskies then you would be a fool not to try this, especially when you can buy it for around £40-£45. By way of a recommendation I must confess that I’ve already ordered another bottle of the batch 53, even though I still have the majority of this bottle left, it’s just that good!

Sláinte

Gary & Steven

 

Auchentoshan American Oak

For our next review we are taking a venture into the lowland whisky producing region of Scotland. Generally characterised by their lighter style the lowland region encompasses all distilleries south of Glasgow in the west and Dundee in the east. Over the years the vast majority of malt distilleries in this region have closed down, reaching a low of just 4 in 2014. Since then there have been several established, with many more planned for the coming years. Today we will be looking at what is by far the best known of these Lowland distilleries, Auchentoshan.

Auchentoshan, owned by Morrison-Bowmore (a subsidiary of Suntory Beam Inc.), is the only distillery in Scotland that can claim to triple distil all of their spirit. There are some distilleries such as Springbank and Benrinnes where partial and near triple distillations are performed but Auchentoshan is the only distillery today that triple distils all of its make. The process of triple distillation makes the spirit far lighter in character, and with a higher ABV. This lighter spirit allows the casks to have a greater overall impact on the flavour of the whisky, as there has been less imparted from the process itself. Today we will be reviewing the Auchentoshan American Oak, a Non-age-statement bottling where all of the spirit has been matured in American oak casks (former Bourbon Barrels). So before we drag on too much and get all geeky with the process, let’s have a dram!

Nose

One thing that I always associate with Auchentoshan is that it has a very nutty nose to it, and it really comes across in this version. Almonds/Hazelnuts, then after this you get all the signatures of American oak cask maturation; sweet vanilla, coconut, milk chocolate and some lemon zest. After a while the smells all merge together into a really sweet and nutty smelling marzipan.

Palate

Very light and delicate on the palate, it’s not as sweet as it is on the nose but the sweetness is still there. The citrus is much more powerful here, lots of lemon peel and lime zest. A light hint of malted barley and a sprinkling of toasted almonds.

Finish

The finish is short-medium in length and is quite sharp/spirity. There is lots of bitter lemon peel and some cereal starting to come through in the end.

To be honest I’ve never really been a big fan of the idea of triple distillation, I feel it takes a lot of the character of the whisky out before you’ve even begun. That said, we really enjoyed getting stuck into this whisky, it is very light but at the same time still has plenty of character, lots of cask influence. It’s not the most complex of whiskies by any means but is still a very good dram. Because it’s so light it is quite a summery whisky, I could quite happily sit outside on a summer evening and sip away on some of this. It’s also fairly competitive pricewise; usually coming in at around £30 or less it is pretty reasonable for the quality of the whisky. I would definitely recommend trying any of the Auchentoshan bottlings, lots of flavour, bags of cask influence and a pretty unique offering too!

Sláinte

Gary & Steven

 

Laphroaig 10yo

For our next whisky review we are jumping on the ferry and heading over to the isle of Islay. Islay is renowned for its peaty whiskies, and today we will be taking a look at what is one of the most heavily peated whiskies out there, the infamous Laphroaig, 10yo. (Pronounced La-Froyg).

Laphroaig is one of the better known of the Islay distilleries, likely due to its ‘unique’ style, when you think of Islay, or smoky whiskies, it is usually one of the first to come to mind. Officially established in 1815, on the south coast of Islay, Laphroaig have been producing their heavily peated style of whisky for just over 200 years now. Owned by Suntory Beam Inc. the majority of their whisky is matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels from the Makers Mark distillery (also owned by Suntory Beam Inc.) in Kentucky. These first-fill barrels, as well as all the sea air and the huge blasting of peat smoke make for a very interesting dram, so let’s get stuck in!

Nose

Wow, well erm, yeah, that’s Laphroaig. If you have ever experience Laphroaig before then you’ll know what I’m on about, if not…you should try it at least once. Immediately there is just a huge punch of peat smoke that just blows your face off, love it! It’s just a fantastically pungent smoke; medicinal-peat, bonfires, burning rubber and seaweed. Once you get past the smoke there is a sweetness, plenty of vanilla, some fudge, then lightly toasted oak and salted roast peanuts galore.

Palate

On the palate again you are just immediately overwhelmed by bellows of smoke, fires and seaweed which linger. It’s also fairly spicy, with pepper, chilli and nutmeg. It is a very spirit driven whisky, with not a huge amount of influence from the cask, but that spirit is just so, so good! Burning seaweed is probably the best way to describe it – smoky, vegetal, smoky and slightly salty, oh, and smoky.

Finish

The finish is medium in length and is just a continuation of that lovely, heavy peat smoke. There’s smouldering peat, rubber and a dusting of salt and pepper.

Ok, so we’ll come straight out and say it, this whisky definitely isn’t for everyone, but if you like it you will love it. Once you’ve had it once and you know what to expect you will definitely be going back for more. It’s the perfect dram for just relaxing after dinner in front of the fire with, you have to take your time with Laphroaig, you can’t just knock it back. We got our bottle on sale for £25, and you can get it on sale fairly frequently, it usually comes in at around £35 but if you shop around you will find it for less. We’d recommend trying it, at least once, even if it is just to experience it.

Sláinte

Gary & Steven

 

Old Pulteney 12yo

For our next review we are taking another trip up north, way up north, to the Pulteney Distillery (bottled as Old Pulteney). Old Pulteney recently won several awards, including an award from the World Whisky Awards, where their 1989 vintage was awarded ‘world’s best single malt’! Unfortunately for this review it won’t be the 1989 vintage (maybe one day), but the standard 12yo which by all means is still a fantastic whisky.

Built in 1826 the distillery is located in Wick, and was Scotland’s most northerly distillery on the mainland until the opening of Wolfburn distillery just over 3 years ago now. Hailed as the ‘Maritime malt’, it has been loved by the seafarers of the Pluteney fishing village for hundreds of years, as is represented on their packaging with trawler boats. Pulteney, for the 12yo at least, is matured solely in former bourbon barrels and has a lovely saline note to it, thanks to its coastal location. Anyway, enough waffling, time to taste!

Nose

Straight away there is loads of honey, just honey, honey, honey. This leads on to vanilla, toffee and a kick of coconut too. It is a very sweet and light whisky on the nose. With time the whisky relaxes and becomes much fruitier and more floral, with peaches, apricots and heather.

Palate

On the palate it is again very sweet but not as you would expect from the nose. There is still that massive honeyed character but there is also a drying, malty influence which stops it from being too sweet. After the cereal begins to fade away it becomes quite salty/briny feeling on the palate, which sounds horrible but it really isn’t, and it is typical of Pulteney.

Finish

There isn’t a huge finish to this whisky, it’s fairly short. Plenty of malt, some sweet citrus and salted nuts, that’s about it. That said it is quite pleasant and makes you want to drink more.

The Pulteney 12yo is a very good entry level bottling. It’s sweet, complex, and very easy to drink…too easy…dangerously easy, it’s so moreish that one dram is never enough. I’ve always enjoyed the Pulteney as a malt, especially for the price you pay for it. It’s always on sale somewhere and you can usually pick it up for around £25, which is an absolute steal! If you want to get into drinking whisky or aren’t a fan of smoky drams then get yourself a bottle of this, no hint of smoke and it goes down very well indeed! Obviously a higher bottling strength would be nice, but it is what it is, a soft, easy drinking whisky, perfect for relaxing.

Sláinte

Gary & Steven