Tag Archives: Islay

Bunnahabhain 9-year-old (SMWS 10.93)

Bought: SMWS, 6th May 2016

Ratings:
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Those who have read my SMWS Review (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) wont be surprised to hear that this Bunnahabhain will be my last ever SMWS bottle in my collection. Although the majority of what this illustrious independent bottler produce is excellent it was their customer service that let them down and I allowed my membership to expire last year. Nevertheless the opportunity to get a cask-strength Bunnahabhain was too good to resist, so I purchased 10.93 entitled ‘Sweet but Dangerous’ before leaving the society.

I love the standard 46.3% bottling of the Bunnahabhain 12yo, perhaps a little too much, which is why this 9yo by the SMWS failed to impress me. The distillery’s 12yo is mature, refined, smooth and well crafted. Unfortunately this 9yo has none of those qualities and at 61.8% it was very difficult to tame. Maybe I didn’t get the water right, or perhaps it will improve over time as it sits in an open bottle. It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t go as far as scoring it 88/100 as one member does on Whiskybase. For me it was more like an 85/100 compared to 90/100 for the standard 12yo.

Here are the tasting notes as provided by the SMWS for the Bunnahabhain ‘Sweet and Dangerous’ 9yo:

“Flavour profile: Peated

The nose took us to a beach bonfire – peat smoke, heather, gorse, salty sea air and moules marinières – but one panellist had his own barbeque in a hospital car-park. With water, we imagined coal-tar, liquorice and teriyaki-glazed ribs, an Islay High Street in winter and Dick Van Dyke’s chimney-sweep cap. The neat palate was enormous – deep smoke, chewy dark toffee, mechanics overalls, a disinfected operating theatre, hints of farmyard and pork and apple sausages roasting on a smoky barbeque. The reduced palate – liquorice and clove confectionery – sweet but dangerous (like Mary Poppins!) – and all enjoyed down-wind of an Islay pagoda.

Drinking tip: At a beach bonfire – or while watching a certain movie.”

Ardbeg ‘Kelpie’ Committee Release

Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017

Ratings:
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)

Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.

Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:

  • Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
  • Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
  • Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
  • Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes

After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.

Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):

Ardbeg ‘Galileo’ 1999 12-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 26th October 2016

Ratings:
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86.9/100 – Whiskybase (from 609 member votes)

15,000 bottles of the Ardbeg ‘Galileo’ were released in June 2012 to make the distillery lots of money. Oh, and to commemorate some of the whisky going into space in 2011 for some zero gravity maturation. Reports of people floating about after drinking the Galileo have been greatly exaggerated.

Although 87.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Galileo as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” it’s quite a low score from Jim Murray for an Ardbeg. He normally scores distillery bottlings over 90/100 with the more pocket-friendly 10yo getting 97/100 and the Uigeadail a staggering 97.5/100.

Having been matured in ex-marsala and ex-bourbon casks a few reviewers have been caught out by the sweetness in a negative way but they’re in the minority. Nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score with comments of “quite stunning”, “sweet Ardbeg, how nice, how unexpected!! A real stunner!” and “a good whisky, no doubt about this. At current prices, I would skip this one and fetch an Uigeadail instead.” Jim Murray would agree with that!

One reviewer concludes with “too bad that this has become one of those collectors’ items that generally stay closed forever.” Yes, you’ve got me there! I’d like to think I’ll drink the Galileo one day but if prices keep rising it’s very easy to move the bottle from my ‘collection’ to my ‘investment’ shelf. But if Donald Trump starts launching nuclear missiles I’ll drink the Galileo in a pint glass and hope it floats me off to Mars to avoid the fallout!

Here’s Mark Dermul on You Tube with his thoughts on the Ardbeg Galileo (Sept 2012):

ardbeg-galileo-12yo-70cl

Ardbeg ‘Almost There’ 9-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 26th October 2016

Ratings:
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
87/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 12 maniac votes)
86.28/100 – Whiskybase (from 267 member votes)

When Ardbeg distillery reopened in 1997, production to create a new 10-year-old single malt began in earnest in 1998. This resulted in a 4-bottle series named ‘Very Young’ (2004, 6yo), ‘Still Young’ (2006, 8yo), ‘Almost There’ (2007, 9yo) and ‘Renaissance’ (2008, 10yo). Here are the scores for all 4 bottles from Whiskybase and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible:

Renaissance – 87.56/100 (from 354 votes), 92/100 – Whisky Bible
Almost There – 86.26/100 (from 267 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Still Young – 85.23/100 (from 259 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Very Young – 84.82/100 (from 159 votes), 91/100 – Whisky Bible

The scores grow with the age of the Ardbeg on Whiskybase (much as you’d expect) but Jim Murray feels the Renaissance loses a point to the younger 9yo and 8yo. He remarks about the ‘Almost There’ with “further proof that a whisky doesn’t have to reach double figures in age to enter the realms of brilliance”. Nevertheless the scores for all 4 bottlings are excellent and scoring over 86/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic mark.

Now I have the ‘Almost There’ will I get the other 3 bottles in the series? Probably not, mostly because the ‘Very Young’ goes for £250+ at auction. As much as I love collecting whisky my spending has limits. I enjoy drinking Ardbeg and the standard 10yo (£40) scores 86.5/100 on Whiskybase, which is nearly 2 points more than the ‘Very Young’. But there’s no denying that bottles such as the ‘Almost There’ are a good investment if the worldwide interest in whisky continues to grow.

Here’s ‘The Whisky Snob’ on You Tube, August 2016 with his review of the Ardbeg ‘Almost There’. Ignore the fact he says it’s a 10yo released in 2008, it’s a 9yo released in 2007 (he was obviously think of the Renaissance).

ardbeg-almost-there-9yo-70cl

Port Ellen 1979 14-year-old (600th post)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016

Ratings:
85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 maniac votes)

It seems fitting that my 600th Whisky Den post is about the iconic Port Ellen, arguably the most famous closed distillery of them all. Production stopped in 1983 and Diageo now own the remaining stock. The maltings from the old Port Ellen buildings still exists and continues to supply the other Islay distilleries to this day.

Whiskybase members have added 996 different releases of Port Ellen to their database. 26 of these are the distillery releases by Diageo, the rest are independent bottlings with the top 3 being: Douglas Laing (166 bottlings), Signatory (154 bottlings) and Gordon & MacPhail (90 bottlings).

My miniature of Port Ellen is by Signatory and scores a very respectable 85/100 on Whiskybase albeit from 1 vote. The bigger bottle, which is effectively the same whisky (listed here on Whiskybase) scores 84.67/100 from 3 votes. One member leaves the comment “tropical, juicy citrus-y starfruit with coconut oil. Touch of pungent fermenting malt. Refine smokes building up on palate gradually and sticky spicy oil remains. Rather short finish with ginger hot and ash smokes take over at the tail.”

81/100 on Malt Maniacs is a good score from them. One of the maniacs, Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun, gives the score of 83/100 and the following tasting notes:

Nose: Fresh, spirity, feinty and peaty. Smoke, cereals, rubber.
Mouth: Peaty, feinty and peppery… that’s more or less all.
Finish: Rather long but really lacks complexity.

Here is a video of the Port Ellen maltings, Islay, by Whisky.com (Feb 2016):

port-ellen-1979-14yo-5cl

Port Askaig 100 Proof

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
96.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.74/100 – Whiskybase (average from 96 member votes)

I’ve wanted an example of the mystery malt Port Askaig for several years so it’s nice to finally add it to my collection. The ‘100 Proof’ is non-age statement and the cheapest of the latest Port Askaig bottlings listed on their website (here), which includes a 16yo, 19yo, 30yo and 45yo. But, saying that, The Whisky Exchange list an 8yo that’s £5 less than the 100 Proof.

A few weeks after I bought the Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ I got my copy of the Whisky Bible 2017 and discovered it had come second to the Glenlivet Cipher in the category of ‘best single malt, no age statement (multiple casks)’. With a score of 96.5/100 the author, Jim Murray, considers the ‘100 Proof’ to be a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. He says of the taste, “the sugars melt in the mouth on impact. Just a light oiliness coats the mouth sufficiently for the citrus phenols to ensure there are two distinct weights on display. Yet, somehow, they seem equally poised.” He concludes with “just exemplary, high quality Islay: a must experience malt. If you find a more beautifully paced, elegant and weighted Islay this year, I’d really like to hear about it.”

The Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ is believed to be Caol Ila as mentioned on Whiskybase and the video by ‘Single Malt Maniac’ below. Comments on Whiskybase include, “lovely fruity texture, well balanced by a nice peat fire and an intensely warming spiciness. Quite quaffable both neat or diluted with a few drops of water.” And “the best peaty NAS whisky I have tasted in a long time, what a pleasant profile.”

Single Malt Maniac review on You Tube (September 2016):

port-askaig-100-proof-nas-70cl

Bruichladdich ‘The Laddie 8’

Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow Airport), 10th September 2016

Ratings:
83.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 29 member votes)
86/100 – Malt Box (his YouTube review below)

This new 8-year-old Bruichladdich first appeared as a Travel Retail Exclusive in March 2016 for £44.99. It then went up to £46.49 and by September it was £48.99. Ah yes, the slow creep of the greedy world of whisky. Nevertheless I was so excited to find a new ‘age statement’ from Bruichladdich I decided that nearly £50 was worth it. Hard to believe it’s only 3 year since I paid £20 for a bottle of the dearly departed Laddie 10. But obviously my salary has gone up by 150% since 2013 so I’m able to keep buying whisky! 🙂

83.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and compares well against the Classic Laddie Scotch Barley NAS (non-age statement) with 82.3/100. Comments for the Laddie 8 include “satisfying and with its own distinguishable signature” and “a light, easy-sipping dram at first glance, but it pays off to take your time and dig deeper.” A Whiskybase member scoring the Laddie 8 a representative 84/100 leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Very fresh and light with lemon curd, lime and kiwi at centre stage. Also grass, honey and vanilla with sweet breakfast cereals.
Taste: Fairly spicy at first, but those quickly make way for fruitier flavours of lemon, apple and pear. Some nuttiness in the background as well.
Finish: Subtle aniseed, lemon rasp and almonds. Drying and pretty long.

Here’s Andy of Malt Box with his review on You Tube (April 2016):

bruichladdich-the-laddie-8-8yo-70cl

Bruichladdich ‘The Classic Laddie Scottish Barley’

Bought: Auriol Wines, 8th August 2016

Ratings:
78.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Whisky Bitch (video review below)
83.41/100 – Whiskybase (average from 19 member votes)

This 20cl version of the Classic Laddie was an impulse buy because you can’t go wrong with Bruichladdich – or can you? Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible isn’t impressed and 78.5/100 classifying this dram as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. 83.41/100 on Whiskybase might seem good but those members that leave comments have scores ranging from 70/100 to 85/100 so it seems it’s not to everyone’s taste. At least the Whisky Bitch likes it so it has one fan and counting.

Jim Murray says “despite some obviously complex and promising moves, the usual infiltration of sub-standard casks has undone the good of the local barley.” And summarises with “if you manage to tune out the off-notes, some sublime moments can still be had.”

There are no comments in English on Whiskybase but a member from the Czech Republic says (translated) “very tough and sharp” and “when compared with Port Charlotte this is a flop”. The 70cl version scores slightly less than the 20cl with 82.71/100 and again none of the comments are in English. Perhaps this bottling was mostly for the mainland Europe market. Nevertheless, 83.4/100 is a very good mark so clearly a lot of silent Whiskybase voters like it.

Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her review on You Tube (Dec 2014):

bruichladdich-the-classic-laddie-scottish-barley-nas-20cl

Big Peat – 20cl

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2011
8.5/100 – Jo from Whisky Wednesday (video below)
84.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Big Peat first appeared in the Whisky Bible in 2011 with a fantastic score of 96/100. In the latest edition batch 30 scores 92/100 and batch 31 scores 90.5/100, which means quality has slipped a little (according to the author) but not by much. Unfortunately my 20cl bottle doesn’t have a batch number on it but according to Whiskybase this quarter bottle first appeared in 2009. I’m hoping my version dates back to that time and the epic 96/100. The author concludes with “had the Caol Ila been reduces slightly, and with it the oils, this might well have been World Whisky of the Year”. Praise indeed.

Big Peat is a vatting together of Islay single malts. Douglas Laing who make Big Peat describe it as “Caol Ila spirit bringing sweetness, Bowmore the perfect balance, Ardbeg the medicinal, earthy quality and Port Ellen, a degree of elegance”. But as the price of Port Ellen rises you have to think there’s very little going into the Big Peat mix. I bet I won’t be able to identify it. Nevertheless Big Peat is a classic of its time and a dram that every whisky enthusiast should try eventually.

20cl tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:

Nose: Earthy, mossy and briney. That smoked kipper quality. Some ripe fruits lurk.
Taste: The smoke coats and fills the mouth. A decent oak roasted salmon oiliness. Leaves a little salt as well.
Finish: Long with plenty of smoke and sweet honey.

Here’s Jo from Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2015):

Big Peat NAS 20cl

Bowmore 12-year-old

Bought: Waitrose, 4th June 2016

Ratings:
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.95/100 – Whiskybase (from 436 member votes)

I’m surprised it’s taken me nearly 600 whiskies before adding this classic Bowmore to my collection. Or am I surprised? It’s a nice enough whisky but unlikely to be an investment and there are cheaper examples of Bowmore on the market. As Islay whiskies go the Bowmore 12yo is in the same price bracket as the Laphroaig 10yo, which is arguably nicer malt for Islay fans. But the Bowmore 12yo does have its place on the market, especially for those who’d like to give peat a try without going headlong into an Ardbeg gustatory tongue-tango.

Scoring 91/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies this single malt as “brilliant”. Mr Murray says of the taste “soft, beautiful delivery of multi-layered peats; lots of effervescent spices and molassed sugars; spices abound.” He summarises with “this new bottling still proudly carries the Fisherman’s Friend cough sweet character, but the coastal, saline properties here are a notch or three up: far more representative of Islay and the old distillery style. Easily by far the truest Bowmore I have tasted in a long while with myriad complexity. Even going back more than a quarter of a century, the malt at this age rarely showed such relaxed elegance. Most enjoyable.”

81/100 on Whiskybase is a good mark but what you’d expect from an average of over 400 votes for a 12-year-old single malt. Comments include “disappointing overall, too watered down, I expected more from the price and pedigree”, “works better overall compared to the disappointing 15yo” and “very nice profile, of course not complex or full bodied, but nice entry malt/intro to the Bowmore distillery.” Several members feel this single malt would benefit from being stronger than 40% to help with the depth and body.

Here’s Luke Rymarz with his review on You Tube (January 2014):

Bowmore 12yo 70cl