Thursday June 17th; Youthful impetuosity?, 'Bruichladdich
Rocks, but these two too'
I heard that Bruichladdich had introduced a new expression
called Rocks which was an exclusive to one English supermarket
chain called Morrison's so, as I was fyling back home at that
time I decided to get hold of a couple of bottles and bring them
back to Germany with me. There was nothing on the label to state
a Morrison's exclusive, but it certainly wasn't available
Until a few
months later when it started to appear in all the usual whisky
shops, so it would seem that Morrison's had only a limited
exclusivity. Anyway, I tried my 'Rocks' and found it quite
pleasant, a little young in character, but certainly a decent
enough whisky. But it seemed that many others disagreed with me
and offered totally different tasting notes. To cut a long story
short, there appeared to be some differences between the bottle
I had from Morrison's and the ones bought in the general release.
Not least of which was the colour of the whisky as mine was a
typical pale yellow or light gold, whereas the newer release (at
that time of late 2005) was much darker in colour with a
definite shade of deep red or almost burgundy. But still the
labels remained the same and there was no mention or even hint
of the two being any different.
In late 2008
Rocks was given a facelift by Bruichladdich in the form of a
brand new label. It remains NAS (No Age Statement) and now
appears to be one of two younger expressions in their standard
range, alongside Waves.
This evening I
am reviewing these two Rocks in a Head-to-Head as I compare
the older dark-Rocks with the latest (2009 release) and once
again light-Rocks, but is this latest release a return to the
good old days of 2005 and Morrison's?
Rocks, main release from late 2005-06 until late 2008
With a nose of fiery fruit and that typical Bruichladdich 'bilge
pump effect' this is definitely announcing its youthfulness. A
fact which is borne out by the all-out assault on the front of
the palate with flavours of fruit and barley followed by a hint
of liquorice towards the finish, which is long and remains spicy.
Rocks, new release late 2008
Firstly the colour of this whisky is totally different. The
earlier Rocks was a coppery red, bordering on burgundy whereas
this one is much lighter with just a hint of copper. The nose is
also more subtle with malt, ice cream wafer and a slight hint of
fruity white wine. Nor does this assault the palate in the way
of the first one, it's much more subtle, smoother and creamier
with hints of butterscotch.
comment: I spoke of that very first Rocks available
exclusively for just a few months at the Morrison's supermarket
chain. This latest edition of Rocks reminds me slightly of that
one, whereas the previous (Red) version is much more immature in
character, like a youth who perhaps needs a little direction
before firing off like a loose cannon. The new one has more
subtlety and a little more finesse which makes it a preferred
companion in this head to head.
Tuesday June 15th; Nicely presented Butts, or 'Mon Coeur, Mon
Amour, Oh mon Sherry'
This evening we go
in search of
richness, depth of flavour, old oak and a certain 'je ne sais
quoi' which usually accompanies, or perhaps defines renowned
sherry cask whiskies. Each of today's distilleries has much to
live up to in this area so how do these three latest offerings
Unlike the Infinty V1 which was a real sherry bomb with a short
fuse that I tried some years ago, this is much more subtle with
lots of fruit, soft and gentle sherry overtones and even hints
of peat, all combining to make a very enjoyable whisky.
According to the Glenfarclas website this 17y expression is a
special or limited edition for only a few markets which include
North America, Japan and Travel Retail. Once again, like the
Bruichladdich this is quite subtle, gentle, smooth, aromatic and
complex whilst still comprising excellent sherried attributes.
It's just a shame that most of us don't have the opportunity to
buy it locally.
A'Bunadh Batch No.30 I have now tried three different
batches of A'Bunadh; numbers 20, 24 & 30. The #20 is an
acknowledged great, perhaps one of the best three batches in
existence. I found the #24 to be not far behind #20, but this
#30 is some way behind those two. It is a good sherried dram,
powerful, rich, filled with dark fruits, aromatic oak and Alpine
cheese, but it lacks some of the little extra 'je ne sais
quoi' that would make it a great.
Monday June 14th; Typically Islay and Jura, or 'Four Peat's
It's time to
collect my thoughts
and return from Saouth Africa for a day or two, which means
let's go from one extreme to the other and once again visit
Islay and its neighbouring Jura.
all probably know, Islay distilleries are famed for their land,
or more specifically the peat which makes up most of the island
and which is used in the process of drying the barley in order
to add a mighty peat influence to the whisky.
I am reviewing four whiskies, three of them from Islay and the
fourth from Jura which is the first annual release in a series
of what will be limited edition bottlings called 'Prophecy'.
Jura is renowned for its gentle, quiet and unassuming character
which carries nicely into the whisky, in fact, I usually find
Jura whisky to be definitively Autumnal with a leafiness
reminiscent of English country lanes in September and October,
but this Prophecy is described on the label as "Profoundly
Peated" so let's see how it compares to its neighbours'
Bunnahabhain 18y is quite a surprising whisky, it has those
typical Bunnahabhain maritime notes with a little gentle peat,
but this one also has a heavy sherry influence which offers an
unusual but really quite pleasant richness for this distillery.
Ellenstown 10y This is an 'unidentified' Islay single malt
which at forst nosing had some of the traits of Caol Ila, but as
soon as I tasted this I agreed with the concensus of opinion
that it is a 10y cask strength Ardbeg. In fact, I would go as
far as to say that it is more akin to the Pre-Glenmorangie (&
LVMH) Ardbegs than the latest releases as it doesn't exhibit the
fresh eucalyptus and pine notes of these newer ones. At 58& ABV
it needs water, but rewards nicely when it's added.
Ila 13y from AD Rattray is a very a-typical Caol Ila, but in
being quite different to the 'norm' it is typical of Rattray who
do like to offer something a little out of the ordinary. This
one needs plenty of water as it is 60.5% ABV and when added, it
opens into something quite fruity and peaty with fruit and
Prophecy 1st Annual release is a quite extraordinary Jura.
It has all the gentleness of Jura whiskies, but is indeed quite,
as they say, "Profoundly Peated". This is deliciously smooth
with a big and bold dose of peat, making it my 'gentle Jura
Sunday June 13th; James Sedgwick distillery's finest, or 'Three
for the fans to try'
So last night
was another anti-climax as far as the England fans are concerned.
In fact some of today's newspapers have taken the 'hand of God'
idea a stage further and called it the 'hand of clod', but I
wouldn't be so rude (honestly) as everyone deserves a second
chance, maybe just not in this current competition.
After such a
performance and with almost a week to wait before the next game,
what could those fans turn to for consolation? Well, as a
tribute to the African continent staging this jamboree for the
first time ever I have tonight sampled my first ever South
Does South Africa
make whisky and is it drinkable? You bet they do and not only do
they bottle them young, the ones I tried were surprising and
very drinakble and, unlike those Sunday lunch crisps (no, not
chips!) the whiskies did not leave a sour aftertaste.
Bain's Single grain whisky; Very aromatic floral wood with
spicy butterscotch and toffee on the nose which translate nicely
to the palate and then offers a long, smooth and very pleasant
finish. Is this really only 5 years old? I am astounded as this
is a delightful single grain reminiscent of much older examples.
Ships 5y blended whisky; A 5y blend of South African and
Scotch whiskies which is very smooth and pleasant, but unlike
the notes from the makers, I found no 'big peaty nose', just one
which offered malt, Alpine cheese and a home-made spicy (Spanish)
tomato soup with fresh herbs. Once again this belies its 5y age
tag and compares very favourably to older blends within the 12y
or younger category, so I'm not surprised this has won verious
awards in that field.
Ships bourbon cask finish; This tastes just like a bourbon.
Aromatic, floral and, well, bourbon-like. Once again I expect
this is quite young, but it is again very drinkable, so long as
you like the typical bourbon style.
Friday June 11th; Jules Rimet, Pickles & Crisps, or '44 years
is a long time to wait'
was President of the French Football Association from 1919 to
1946 and from 1921 to 1954 he was President of FIFA which makes
him the longest serving FIFA President (33 years) to date. It
was his initiative to hold a football World Cup, the first of
which was contested in 1930 and as a tribute, the trophy was
named after him; The Jules Rimet Trophy.
I was a mere 7
years old when England last won The Jules Rimet Trophy, an event
which I do remember as this was truly a team of legends,
although only one; Jackie Charlton was from my own 'home' team
Anyway, after 'we'
brought the cup home (well, England is the home of football
isn't it?) it was displayed at a sport and stamps exhibition at
Central Hall in Westminster, London, from where some daring
bling-spotter decided to half-inch The Cup which just happened
to be made of solid gold and believed to be worth around
£30,000 at that time.
considered too heavy for the tea-leaf? Was gold just not his
favourite colour? Nobody knows, nor will they ever now, but we
are all indebted to Pickles, a white mongrel (dog) who just
happened to dig under the specific tree where the tea-leaf had
loosely buried Jules' Trophy. The day was saved, or at least The
Trophy was found and it lived to be fought for another day, or
in fact a few more years until the 1980's when it was stolen
again, but alas, this time never to be recovered as it is believed to have been melted down for some bling-style trinkets.
course The Jules Rimet Trophy was replaced and to this day,
every four years National Teams battle to be crowned 'World Cup
Winner' in the modern amphitheatres we usually call football
stadia. In fact, today; Friday June 11th sees the commencement
of the 19th FIFA 'World Cup' which takes place this time in
the planet going 'World Cup Mad' I have decided to dedicate my
Dram-atics blog this weekend to the said event by offering my
own flavour of reviews which are of course only very
loosely related to Jules Rimet, Pickles the four-legged hero of
1966, (Sir) Geoff Hurst the two-legged hero of 1966 and the
English warriors of 2010 who we all hope will finally bring home
that for which we have waited an eternal 44 years!
say flavour of reviews? You may be surprised to
learn that a certain English company has designed a range of
potato crisps, or what many of you readers would term 'chips' (although
if you've ever visited England, or Scotland, Ireland and Wales
you would know that 'chips' are actual pieces of potato,
traditionally deep-fried in artery clogging animal fat, although
these days slightly more healthy oils tend to be used and then
best served in yesterday's local newspaper, swimming in salt &
vinegar). Goodness, get to the point man! Sorry, I digress,
but as I was saying 'Walkers' have designed a whole new, limited
edition range of crisps (not chips!) specifically for the 2010
World Cup and I have managed to get my hands on six of the
fifteen flavours, so as a tribute to South Africa 2010, Jules
Rimet, Pickles et al I now offer for your personal perusal, edification &
enjoyment, my own guide to The World Cup
I suppose the first question we need to ask is whether one needs
the hand of God to get into
this packet? Well, unlike that goal there's nothing fishy about
these crisps, in fact they do taste of decent steak with a hint
of the char-grill in the background. They could only be (possibly)
bettered if they had original streaks from the bars of the
grill. Score; 92/100
How I expected a bag of spicy sunshine, only to be
disappointed by something rather too vegetal and a little too
sweet. Not quite my cup of tea although I'm sure they'll remain
a favourite with many neutrals. Score; 82/100
Beef & Yorkshire Pudding Ahhh good old Sunday roast although
as I'm a Yorkshireman I must point out that Yorkshire pudding
should be considered a starter, served in multples of four with
rich onion gravy and never in that strange 'southern' way of
being a receptacle for a main meal. But what of the crisps, have
they really managed to capture the unique flavour of Sunday
lunch? Unbelievably they have, but unfortunately this comes with
a slightly strange aftertaste which I can only explain as the
inclusion of having to wait (at least) 44 years! Score;
As I live in Germany, or at least that Southern (wannabe)
Principality called Bayern which is geographically connected
with Germany, I happen to know that Bratwurst is indeed a type
of sausage, but what of the crisps? Amazing, a genuine bratwurst
flavour including the sense of open grill on which they were
cooked, straight out of the local Volksfest! Score; 92/100
I happen to love Japanese style food, in fact my favourite
Japanese restaurant is right in the middle of Manchester's
Chinatown and having said that, my second favourite restaurant
in Manchester's Chinatown is a rather special Italian one, what
does that say about Chinatown? Anyway, having thoroughly enjoyed
genuine Japanese food I happen to know that the sauces like
Teriyaki are intended to enhance the food, not overpower it.
Unfortunately this Teriyaki rather overpowers the chicken to the
point where there is almost no chicken, just Teriyaki. Nice
flavour, but not quite right. Score 86/100
I used to own a bar which was acclaimed as offering the best
burger in Munich, in fact many (Americans) said it was the best
they had eaten outside of the States, so I do claim to know what
I'm talking about here. I preferred to allow people to
select their own sauces for their burgers as not everyone likes
them swimming in ketchup, mustard or whatever else. How I wish
that was the case with these crisps as for me, unfortunately, they appear to be
too heavy on the extras (mainly ketchup) which mask what could
otherwise have been a great success for me. Score; 83/100
As a conclusion,
the idea of this range is a good one and I would love to try a
few of the others, but unfortunately only these six are
available to me, so I have to say that on the evidence of my
personal review, this year's final will be between Argentina and Germany
with no sign of an end to that painful 44 year wait, although I
live in hope!
Tuesday June 8th; More sampling or 'A wild Scotsman, a select
oak & a northern island'
samples selected from the array on my desk this evening as I
try a wild Scotsman from Cincinnatti, Macallan's Select Oak and
Wild Scotsman is an independent
bottler based in Cincinnatti USA, specialising in Scottish
single malts and blends. This one is labelled "a blend of single
malt casks" and is a very drinkable whisky, smooth, malt, honey,
hay and butterscotch. Very nice.
Scapa 14y is a good solid
islander, in fact my notes for the nose express this perfectly;
air and rugged cliffs lined with a little vanilla and topped
with some peach" This may not be a 'great', but is is
very pleasant and offers much for an everyday dram.
Macallan Select Oak is
another Macallan mixture of sherry and Bourbon casks, although
from the taste it is a little more sherry than bourbon. It's
solid, dependable and fruity, but lacks just a little something,
perhaps a few more % abv.
tasting notes can be found by clicking on the pictures or the
paragraph headers above. As for me, I'm trying to get into a
mood for a footy-fest as I look at my four South African samples
and look forward to he coming weekend when I shall celebrate the
start of the whisky world cup! See you then!
Monday June 7th; Sampling again or 'A taste of the great
I have selected three rather different drams to review; the
first was bottled some years ago now and was the second issue in
Bruichladdich's 'links' series, being The 16th hole, Augusta at
14 years old. My second choice was released earlier this year
and is the acclaimed Ben Nevis, 25 years old, single cask No.
98/35/1, then my third choice is another single cask, but this
time a Connemara and at 46% abv.
Why did I choose to
set these three very different whiskies together? Well, I was
hoping they might each offer a taste of the outdoors in their
own inimitable ways. I mean, come on, they do represent a golf
course, a famous Scottish peak and some of the most beautiful
Irish countryside, but can the whiskies themselves compete with
their landmarks? Let's see .....
Bruichladdich, Links II, 16th hole, Augusta, 14y, 46% ABV
other 14y Bruichladdich editions that I've tried, this is a
really fresh whisky with malt, some nuts, grass and even a
little new shoe leather on the nose, whilst the palate is
smooth with lots of fruit, some hay and grass and filled
with that Mr. Whippy ice cream from my childhood. Overall a
most enjoyable dram.
Ben Nevis, 25y, Single Cask No. 98/35/1, 56% ABV
Here is a
serious whisky, the dark and heavily sherry-influenced
walnut colour hints at what is to come. The nose offers old,
well waxed antique oak and leather, then plums and prunes
softly marinating in orange. The palate does nothing to
dispel the promises of the nose, it just further enhances
those delights and then leads into a long, rich, smooth and
Connemara, 1992-2009, Single Cask No. 112, 46% ABV
I have enjoyed
my Connemaras to date as Irish peat tends to be gently
warming and not as heavy or intrusive as its Scottish
counterparts, but this is different, very different. Firstly
the nose (I quote my notes) "Sitting
around a camp fire, drying wet hiking boots on an Atlantic
beach on a misty autumn day." Then the palate is
filled with slightly medicinal peat and heavy sherry
overtones. A power which is most unusual for Irish peat, but
which I have just decided I like, a lot!
Was I correct in
setting these very different drams together? Did I fulfil my
hope of 'the great outdorrs'? Absolutely! These are three
totally different styles, but in their own way each offers a
different perspective to the great outdoors. The hay, grasses
and fruit of the Bruichladdich would indeed be ideal for the hip
flask on a Sunday afternoon's trip to the golf course, whereas
the Ben Nevis offers the power and richness needed on a cold
winter day, perhaps helping to keep the elements at bay whilst
scaling the peak itself. As for the Connemara, it is pure
outdoors; the beach, the gently smoking camp fire burning a fair
old lump of peat, the hiking boots and the slight damp and mist
typical of an autumn day. How I wish I were there now ...... are
we back on that desert island again?
Sunday June 6th; Whisky in the Garden or 'any time, any place,
any old excuse'
the last month stranded on a desert island I'm pleased to
announce that I'm back again. I hope my guests looked after you
during May, but not too well, or else you might get ideas about
banishing me again and letting everyone else run the show around
here. Mmmm, maybe a lifetime spent on that paradise island has
something going for it after all!
Nah, only kidding
as June sees Emporium Towers getting back into the swing of
things with a wee soirée on the Estate yesterday evening which
was more akin to a wildlife park than a garden. Don't get the
wrong idea, this isn't a comment on my guests, more of what was
on offer, so if I tell you we had a Bunny, a 'laddie, a Peacock,
a rather impressive pair of antlers, a big colourful tree and
something light and floral you may begin to guess the delights
in store, but more of those soon.
It really did feel
like monsoon season for the last week, but they tell me it's
'good for the garden' although I'm not too sure as I only cut
the grass a week ago and it's already looking like a wild Alpine
meadow again, but more of that An Cnoc soon too. So, the scene
is set, the time is nigh, the sun shining and my guests are
awaited when the 'phone rings; "Hi Keith, sorry we're running
late and will see you in about 20 minutes" no problem it gives
me a few extra minutes for final preparations, then the 'phone
rings again "Hi Keith, sorry, we're on the train at St. Koloman
and some bloke has keeled over and the driver is asking if
there's a Doctor on board". "No problem" says me, "It's only
down the road, stay there and I'll come and get you".
Maybe not the most
auspicious start to the evening, but after a short delay we're
finally set and Whisky in the Garden is about to begin and yes,
it's good to finally have the weather which allows outdoor
enjoyment of some of Scotland's finest!
I'll not go through
the full tasting notes here as these are already online in my
tasting notes section under the relevant distilleries,
just click on the above pictures to find them, but I will give
you an impression of this fine evening which, to no surprise,
turned into a rather late night.
I have now
tried the 1991 & 1993 An Cnoc vintages and was delighted by
both as they offered lots of light and complex floral
elements, although I think the 1993 was the better of the
two. This 1994, in my opinion, sits just behind the
1993 with lots of very smooth, aromatic grasses, hay, Alpine
meadow (did I say my grass needed cutting again?) and soft
honey. I am a big An Cnoc fan!
I went to great
lengths to source this Arran Peacock (thanks Mark!)
especially as it won the WhiskyX3 forum award for the best
new release of 2009. It's a very complex mix of bourbon &
sherry casks with lots of citrus (mainly orange) and hints
of Galia melon and fresh herbs on the nose which translates
well to the palate as these are joined by a quick and
momentary rush of liquorice. Yes, it's good, but I think my
own choice of Hazelburn 12y as best new release of 2009
Next was the
Icons of Arran 2010 release; The Rowan Tree. Smooth,
creamy, luxurious dark chocolate! I think I just went to
heaven. There are hints of raisin and farmyard on the nose
but the palate is just dominated by the most wonderful dark
chocloate. Move over Peacock, you just lost your mantle to
the Rowan Tree.
In general I do
tend to be a Bruichladdich fan, but my preference is for a
minimum of 12y which ensures the smoothness and subtle
fruits have time to develop. This Links XI (Vancouver)
is the 2009 release and at 16y I was hoping for something
pretty good. It really didn't disappoint, this is a lovely
dram, smooth, creamy, slightly oily in texture and offering
lots of fruit including the typical Bruichladdich passion
fruit alongside cherry, peach and bramble, with a hint of
red wine in the finish. Very nice!
On my recent
trip back to Blighty I was hoping to find something special
to bring back home but suffered great disappointment with
the lack of choice at Manchester airport. After much
deliberation with the lack of choice I selected the
Bunnahabhain Darach Ur which means 'New Wood'. Surely
this can't be too good? A bunny in new wood?
wholeheartedly for doubting this dram. It is a wonderfully
aromatic whisky; smooth, creamy, complex and very floral
with just a hint of freshly sawn tree trunks. I love it!
The last dram
of the evening was the limited edition Dalmore MacKenzie
which commemorates the Clan MacKenzie gathering in 2010
whilst raising much-needed funds for the restaration of the
family seat. But is the whisky any good? You bet it is!
Lovely Dalmore dark fruits, a hint of marzipan and an
over-riding presence of an oil of orange, almost like a dark
chocolate (Terry's) orange. A very good whisky and a fitting
end to a great evening.
So, we're up and
running again with whisky reviews and I'm sure lots more little
tidbits and snippets during the rest of the month. Keep looking
in as there are some pretty tasty looking samples in the queue
on my desk and if you want an idea of what's in store for June,
then over on the right under my latest reviews you'll find a few