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Siphon: White Frontier: Contreras: Krypton Blood Orange Weissbier (Belgium: Hefeweizen: 6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy banana body. Inch of yellow white head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Fresh dough. Slight sulphur. Ripe banana. Coriander. Carrot sticks.

Body: Wheaty. Slightly milky. Banana. Tangerine. Blood orange. Fresh dough. Slight sulphur. Coriander.

Finish: Blood orange. Dried banana. Slight cloves. Moderate bitterness. Peppery. Moderate hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, first things first. This is actually a good old school style weisse at its base. Very evident in the classic notes – the banana, the cloves, the wheaty feel. It doesn’t over hopped for bitterness, nor new school hop flavours. It keeps the base familiar and well done. Now I like a well hopped weisse on occasion, but doing it this way really works here as it means the one deviation from tradition – the blood orange notes, really stand out more.

So, at that base it is well made with a nice weight, and good flavour. It wouldn’t beat out, say, a weihenstephaner, but it goes well from first impressions on the eye, to a nicely solid bitterness into the finish. I’d enjoy it even like that, even though there are better weisse out there it would be a welcome entry.

But that is not all there is, we also have the blood orange! The orange is far from omnipresent, nor absent, instead it feels like a very good example of how to use fruit in a beer. It adds a light tartness, orange notes coming out at a level just slightly above the banana and spice notes but don’t eclipse them. If it wasn’t so natural feeling I could have mistaken it for just another hop note, it is balanced so well – but the fresh character of it is unmistakable.

A few off notes – it is slightly sulphur touched which doesn’t quite work, but generally I quite enjoy this. A traditional weisse with one well used twist. It shows a level of restraint that is oft missed these days and is much better for it.

Not top weihenstephaner level awesome, no, but it isn’t playing that game – and it rocks at what it is doing. I respect that.

Background: This is one of the six beers in the Noble Gas project – each one a collaboration with one Belgian and one international brewery. Was wondering about the name so I googled and got “In the right hands, the six noble gases are a powerful source of light, bringing illumination and colour to people’s lives. We want The Noble Gas Project to shine a light on the values that make us excited about beer: Belgian tradition, international influence, collaborative learning and being unafraid.” A bit silly sure, but I’ve heard worse excuses for a project name before. Plus, ya know SCIENCE! So I can live with that. This one, as you may have guessed, is a hefeweizen made with blood orange. It is in the name, right? Anyway, another beer from Independent Spirit. Went with Siouxsie and the Banshees – Hyaena for music. Still can’t believe it took me so long to get into them. Such off beat but polished tunes.

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Gordon and MacPhail: Glen Mhor: 8 Year 100% Proof (Scotland Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed gold. Fast, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit. Some visible sediment.

Nose: Thick. Strong alcohol aroma. Golden syrup to honey. Stewed apricot. Light menthol. Brown bread. Malt drinks. Nutty. Water makes smoother.

Body: Honey. Warming. Thick. Golden syrup. Ovaltine. Treacle. Fatty notes. Water adds dry sherry. Vanilla. Tannins. Toffee. Cherry notes very occasionally.

Finish: Honey. Brown bread. Malt drinks. Ovaltine. Treacle. Water adds massive dry sherry. Sultanas. More alcoholic air for a while. Tannins. Nutty. Lime touch.

Conclusion: OK, damn, I don’t think I have actually seen whisky with sediment like this in it before. It is part of a whole, well, old look to the thing. Sediment, dusty glass bottle – it has only spent 8 years in the oak, but looks every inch of the years it has spent out of it.

Still despite that it shows its …ahem …youth when you actually get into the whisky itself. Strong alcohol character when taken neat. A thick and syrupy style that pushes sweet but robust notes – emphasising thick flavours like honey, treacle and golden syrup.

I tried this both with and without sediment in the glass – if you keep the sediment in it adds more fatty character, vanilla notes and a thick mouthfeel. I decided not to put these in the main notes, but felt they were still worth pointing out in case people wanted to know if they should try with or without.

As a whisky it is bloody robust, even with water it is thick, clinging and strong. You can, thankfully, tone the alcohol down with water though. However it is still fatty, thick with a malt drink to nutty comparatively neutral backing against a solidly sweet, but dry and not sickly base.

It is a pretty simple whisky – seriously – I think it would be one that is best as part of a blended malt whisky, rather than as the whole thing as a single malt. It doesn’t give enough that I would list it as a must try, especially considering its cost these days. So, yeah this is a young expression, so maybe aged up the distillery gains its legs – however even young its distinctive punch and thick character would be a godsend to many a blended malt.

Ok as is, simple, not worth the cost it goes for these days, but feels like a vital component for a blender.

Background: Ohh, another distillery I have not tried before. For good reason on this one, it is another dead distillery so can get a bit costly. So I was intrigued when I found “Hard To Find Whisky” online and saw they had some minis of comparatively young spirit going for not too silly price. Was a tad wary, as I know old and rare whisky can be a scammers market, but they seemed to have a good reputation online so I gave them a try. Both minis I got where a bit below full fills, which I’m guessing is due to the screw caps not quite sealing it so losing some to evaporation over the years. Also noticed some sediment (as mentioned in the notes), which I did not expect – a quick google suggested this is common for heavily sherried whisky that has spent a long time in the bottle, which reassured me and seemed a reasonable sign that this was not just Bells in an old bottle. I did pour carefully from one glass to another, leaving some spirit with the sediment in the first glass so I could try with and without sediment. Went with Jack Off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars for music. Still genuinely gutted I missed a chance to see them live when they did a one off reunion tour a few years back.

Boon: Oude Schaarbeekse Kriek Boon 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Dark black cherry red with a cherry-aid coloured inch of tight bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Smooth cherry. Black cherry yogurt. Light acidic apple. Pencil shavings. Brambles.

Body: Acidic and tart. Slight charred oak. Tart cherries. Tart apple. Dry white wine. Slight yeast funk. Slight peperami. Cherry jelly tarts. Dry cheesecake late on.

Finish: Tart red and black cherries. Gooseberry. Twigs. Puff crisps. Strawberries. Slight charring. Tiny amounts of marshmallows.

Conclusion: Most of the fruity Boon lambics I’ve encountered have leaned more towards the sweeter takes on the style, admittedly with one very notable exception. This definitely leans the other way – dry as can be at the base, which gives the moderate sweetness of the fruit influence a lot more punch.

While we are on the subject of the fruit, this is remarkably well developed in the fruit expression. From a tarter, slight sweet dessert style cherries, to black cherry yogurt style, to tarter notes that give an almost gooseberry tartness to the finish.

Despite the beer being dry, the sourness is restrained, coming across more as dry white wine (infused with red fruit natch) than, say, Cantillon level mouth puckering.

It really is a treat – there’s even a few rounding notes to add a few edges to it – mild oak influence and slight yeast funk. Beyond that there are some odd, possibly hallucinatory notes brought on by the acidity, but I’m listing them anyway – tiny sweet marshmallow notes in the finish and tiny pepperami meaty solid note to the middle. Again these could just be due to my sense being confused by the acidic character as I have seen before with similar beers. Besides those it is generally a dry wine like lambic base and well expressed cherry fruit.

Very dry, just sweet enough. Very fruity and subtly funky. Do you like lambics? Do you like tart cherry? Then I would highly recommend this. So easy to drink and so rewarding.

Background: Schaarbeekse Kriek! A very rare kind of cherry, which I have encountered once before in Drie Fonteinen’s take on a Schaerbeekse Kriek. That one really caught my attention, back when I was still getting used to lambics, so a chance to try a different interpretation from Boon was definitely a must have. Another one found at Independent Spirit – they recently got in a huge batch of sours and lambics. Went simple for music with this one – Metallica; Master Of Puppets. Metal. It goes with anything.

Game Of Throne: House Lannister: Lagavulin: 9 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 9 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Medium darkened gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smoked fish skins. Peaty. Smoked beef. Lightly medicinal and salty. Dried beef slices. Slight brown sugar. Brown bread. Slight golden syrup. Similar with water.

Body: Smooth and warming. Slight charring. Brown bread. Salt. Dried beef slices. Alcohol is more present if held. Chocolate. Cherries. Water makes more bready. Some white and red grapes.

Finish: Chocolate. Slightly dry. Soot. Dust-balls. Dried beef. Slight cherries. Lightly medicinal. Light sherry touch. Water adds slight sulphur and malt drinks. Slight peanut butter.

Conclusion: Man this is good. Though, as is nigh always true these days, I am glad I gave it a few weeks to air after opening before doing notes. The first few drams I had of it were good but very much sub the quality expected from a Lagavulin compared to the standard 16 year expression. Now, this still doesn’t reach the heights of that night perfect dram, but now definitely earning its place in the line up.

It has the dried meat, slight smoky, lightly medicinal Lagavulin character and is fairly smoothly delivered despite the traditional 46% abv alcohol bump.

What makes it stand out on its own, rather than as a lesser imitation of the 16 is the slight bit more presence from the sweeter notes. There’s sweet cherry, brown sugar and even some chocolate notes which was very unexpected for an Islay. It is only slightly sweeter but that gives more contrast and a slightly easier going style despite all the Islay notes. In some ways it feels close to the Distillers edition in that use of sweetness, if not quite as awesome.

Water smooths it even more, but also generally mutes things a bit, so I would recommend taking this one neat. Still, generally very nice – the only thing that keeps it from being up there with the best is a slightly more neutral, malt drink like middle that doesn’t express itself as well as either the peatier or the smokier notes. Later on, with water, there was even a mild peanut butter like note which wasn’t horrible, but similarly did not quite work.

Still a bloody good whisky, and the sweeter side of Lagavulin.

Background: So, Game of Thrones is still stupidly popular right? Nothing happened in the final season to put people off. This tasting notes is still relevant and hip right? Anyway, totally had to grab this one – Lagavulin is probably my favourite distillery, so a nine year expression of it, brand new for the GOT line, definitely caught my eye. Not terribly priced either all things considered. I put off opening it for a while as I had a few Islay bottles already open, but finally its time has come! Went back to New Model Army – The Ghost Of Cain for music for this, my music taste continues towards the more political again in these strange times. Yet another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Broaden and Build: Tired Hands: Awamori – Koji Saison (Denmark: Saison: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale lemon juice colour with small bubbled carbonation to the mostly clear body. Massive white mounded head that leaves suds.

Nose: Jiff lemon. Slight lactic notes. Peppery. Coriander. Slightly sour but milky. Lightly earthy. Bread dough.

Body: Coriander. Lightly earthy. Light tart kiwi. Peppery. Tart grapes. Lactic notes. Cut apples. Tannins and dry teabags.

Finish: Kiwi fruit. Earthy. Coriander. Cut apples. Dry teabags. Peppery. Light vanilla. Light apricot.

Conclusion: This is completely on the other side of the saison style from my usual preferred take – that being the more clean hopped takes by brewers such as Fantome and Dupont. However with that said, this is really good.

The beer is heavily leaning towards the earthy, peppery and spicy take on a saison at its base, this is very much on the robust side of the possible takes, but it doesn’t end there.

There are fresher lemon and fresh cut apple notes that brighten into tarter sour grape notes. Kind of lactic, lightly acidic, sour notes, kind of lactose touched. It results in something that is umami, tart yet slightly savoury, all odd yet mouth filling notes. It is very different, keeping the earthiness from becoming wearing and resulting in a beer that can very much stand on its own two metaphorical feet.

Beyond that there is a kind of Steam Beer, or Saison De Pipaix, oddly gassy texture as well. Not carbonation, just a slightly odd feel, something unusual again in an already strange beer.

Very non standard, mixing earthy, fruity and a mix of odd notes together easily. Not one to have a lot of – the earthiness is balanced well over a single can, but feels like a one and done beer rather than one to session – but lovely to have for one.

A great twist on a familiar style and a very good beer.

Background: Ok, this is a koji saison, so, what the fuck is Koji?
https://www.clearspring.co.uk/blogs/news/8024723-koji-the-culture-behind-japanese-food-production

Ok, well now I know, I guess. Thank you google. This is the second time I have tried this. First time I was just having general drinking and was very impressed so grabbed another can for doing notes on. Don’t know much about either of the two collaborators on this one, so can’t say too much there. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, and I went with Miracle of Sound – Metal Up! For some melodic but thrashy metal tunes. Miracle of Sound is insanely talented, so always a good one to go back to.

Oersoep: Madame Funky 2018 (Netherlands: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy peach skin colour. Thin white rim of a head. Some small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Tart. Cider. Soft peach. Wet oak. Peach Melba yogurt. Lemon squirt.

Body: Soft peach. Tart apples. Cider and perry notes. Acidic to slight vinegar. Charred touch. Some yeast funk. Vanilla.

Finish: Acidic apples. Vanilla. Slight sulphur. Slight charred oak. Sour grapes. Yeast funk. Puff crisps. Peach syrup.

Conclusion: This is a tasty mix of a fresher, tart lambic style sour with gentle peach sweetness, with neither getting lost in the mix. That ain’t an easy balance to pull off.

Initially it is pretty cider and tart apple led, tart, with even a slight vinegar like touch at times. ( though don’t worry it is generally smoother than that, this isn’t a Rodenbach Grand Cru harsh tart and sour notes bomb) The peach notes are there at this point but subtle. Time lets the peach build up, getting a just slightly more syrupy touch against the dry main body, along with a hint of vanilla sweetness that soothes everything nicely.

So a sour, very gueuze like thing, using an odd fruit in a way that balances the tartness, yet also accentuates the contrast which means all the positive elements stand out so much better while hiding the usual negative qualities that can come from a sour.

As time goes on even more a slight yeast funk is added to the previously dry and clean sour. Oddly for a beer called “Madame Funky” that element is fairly restrained and only really prevalent in the end third of the beer. That element brings out a slight puff crisp (sans cheese dust coating) kind of fluffy feel, adding a bit more thickness to the mouthfeel and more grip for the flavour.

This is really good, smooth and dry for the main part, with hints of harsher and more solid notes. Well used but not dominating fruit that brings the sweeter notes when needed.

Highly recommended.

Background: Ok, another new brewery on me – Oersoep are one I had not heard of before, but this intriguing little sour ale caught my eye. Made with white peach – which is another thing I had not heard of before. White peaches. So many new things I am learning today. Anyway, a new brewery, a new sour made with a new fruit. Lots of new experiences to try so of course I grabbed it from Independent Spirit. Went with B.Dolan, Kill the Wolf for music while drinking. Feeling a lot of the more politically active tunes recently for some reason. I wonder why…

Macleod’s Highland Single Malt Whisky (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, heavy gold. Medium speed and thickness streaks comes from the spirit.

Nose: Honey. Toffee. Wood shavings. Thick. Stewed apricot. Water adds more wood and slight sulphur.

Body: Honey. White grapes. Toffee. Custard. Apricot. Dry oak. Malt drinks. Water makes very smooth. Similar notes but with slight sulphur.

Finish: Drier oak. Honey. Golden syrup. Slightly milky coffee. Malt drinks. Pepper. Water makes smoother and adds apricot.

Conclusion:This is a solid Highland whisky, a good pick to show what a Highland whisky emphasises and concentrates on. It’s heavy on the sweetness, but pretty smoothly delivered. There being no age statement for this, especially when the previous version was listed as an 8 year, had me worried, and in fact expecting that I was going to run into some serious roughness, but none came. In fact it is smoother than a lot older whiskies I have encountered.

There are lots of honey and golden syrup notes, a bit of toffee – it is hitting a lot of the thick and sweet notes over and over. Hints of apricot and grape fruity sweetness expand while still keeping on theme. There is no real alcohol burn behind that, resulting in a real easy going crowd please of a whisky.

Instead there is a touch of oak, and a quite peppery style into the finish which helps keeps things balanced. Water makes it even smoother, not that it really needed that, but on the down side also makes it a tad sulphur touched – but only very minor so not a huge impact. Still better neat though I would say. There was never any rough edges or closed character that needed water to deal with it.

It is good, solidly sweet, but with slightly more base malt drinks to milky coffee backing mid body to ease that down, and a nicely peppery finish. Nothing unexpected, but pretty cheap for something nicely smooth, and it shows the highland style well.

A good introduction, or a good general drinking dram, if nothing unusual. No complaints, just not a stand out must have either. Pretty cheap and good quality for the price-tag though.

Background: This was a bit of a random pick up – Independent Spirit had a bunch of Macleod single malt minis in – each without a listed distillery, just identified by region, and it was fairly cheap, so I picked one up on a whim. Went with Highland as it is one I tend to try less, so felt like expanding my experience a bit. So, no idea of distillery, so little to prep expectations going in. Googling tells me this used to be listed as an 8 year, but now is a no age statement, go guess is that it has some fairly young whisky in there. Music wise I went with Slipknot – Iowa. Possibly not thematically appropriate for the whisky, but their recent album properly got me back into Slipknot.

Cloudwater: Are We Unique? (England: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy, dark yellowed to apricot body. An inch of bubbled white head and lots of small bubbled carbonation in the body.

Nose: Vanilla. Custard. Crisp hops. Tangerine. Lemon sherbet. Banana custard. Guava.

Body: Juicy. Guava. Dry underneath. Kiwi. Grapes. Peach and peach syrup. Slight cucumber. Banana.

Finish: Grapes. Moderate bitterness. Slight gritty bitterness. Mandarin orange. Good hop character. Slight cucumber. Slight sulphur. Lettuce leaves. Resinous.

Conclusion: Ok, yeah, I can see what they mean now. As mentioned in the background this was described as a mix up of west cost and hazy style IPA, which seemed a contradictory mix – but I get it now. Mostly.

Up front this is pretty juicy and feels thick (well, I say “feels” – I will get to that in a moment). Lots of juicy, fruity notes. It was described as hazy IPA style, but in all honesty it feels more like the sweet juiciness of an East Coast IPA, just with a lot less malt backing, if that makes any kind of sense. Lots of grapes, peach and some bright mandarin orange notes.

So, back to that comment, I said that it “feels thick”, that’s because despite that feel, it quickly falls into a drier west coast out of the way body, making me feel that it is not that the body is thick, but that the flavours give an illusion of extra thickness. Up front there are hints of vanilla and custard which just never come to the front and bring the body they promise.

There is good, if fairly moderate, bitterness and hop character that comes along with that drier body – the balance between a juicy fruit front and drier bitter back is enjoyable, but not without issues of its own.

Where the two sides meet there is a kind of greenery, water cucumber, savoury kind of note. It is not terrible, but not the best way to make a stepping stone between the two sides. It is a kind of neutral to slightly bad note in itself, stuck between two much better sides.

Still, in general a very enjoyable IIPA that wears a lot of influences on its sleeve. In fact it feels more an IPA that an IIPA in general, probably due to the more out of the way malt, but maybe does use the abv to push a bit more of the fruitiness.

Fun flavours, not perfect but bloody enjoyable and a heck of an experience on the way.

Background: So, Cloudwater are known for their hop forwards beers. Tend to be pretty good, if not quite up to their insanely high reputation. This caught my eyes, promising to mix west coast IPA dryness, with hazy (so I’m guessing NEIPA) IPA style juiciness, but in an Double IPA. Ok, sounds fun. Hope they can pull it off. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Had just picked up Le Tigre’s self titled album after being introduced to them via Jessica Jones. Thought they sounded familiar so wasn’t surprised when I found out they had the same lead singer as Bikini Kill. More pop and catchy than Bikini Kill but with non of the vitriol lost.

BioNoc’: Asso Di Coppe Impombera (Italy: Sour Ale: 6% ABV)

Visual: Deep black cherry red. Clear body. Thin dash of a reddened head. Small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Cherries. Tart raspberry. Clean. Light twigs. Tart. Blueberry.

Body: Dry. Tannins. Brown bread. Yellow raspberries. Black cherry and red cherry. White wine. Gooseberry.

Finish: Full and tart raspberries. Astringent. Light wood shavings. Gooseberry. Yellow raspberry. Jammy blueberry.

Conclusion: This is dry, almost wine like and matched with a very fruity take on a red wine in how it uses the berries, matched against a crisp, kind of lambic like take on a sour base character. Initially the beer is slightly closed, but as you get used to the dryness it really opens up into a range of tart fruit. Until that though, well it isn’t Cantillon level mouth puckering but it is very well attenuated.

The fruit pushes the raspberry tartness up front, with a darker set of black cherry like fruit notes and such making for a sweet but still refreshingly tart backing note. Time lets a more jammy sweetness come out, making fuller notes that had been hinted at before. The aroma especially hinted at sweeter notes that only really develop in the body later on.

This is very good, initially dry and wine like, later on full bodied and, erm, wine like but a different kind of wine. Always fruity giving a good range of fruit notes from raspberry, through puckering gooseberry and into sweeter cherries. Only slightly closed a for a short while, and for the rest progressing in delicious and fascinating ways.

Very much worth getting your hands on, this is a treat of a fruit sour.

Background: Second and final bottle that I brought back from the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival at Moor’s Tap Room. This is from a brewery I have not encountered before, but was highly recommended, and looks to have had a few awards so I decided to give it a go. I googled what an Impombera was and ended up very confused. Anyway, by googling the beer I found out it is a raspberry sour, so I presume at least one of the many variants has a raspberry style fruit. Had just picked up Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind so put that on as background music. Had heard it was a return to form and, yeah it is amazing, heavy and brutal. Thought I was slightly going off Slipknot but nope, I am back in.

Linlithgow (Aka St Magdalene): Silent Stills: 22 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 22 Year: 51.7% ABV)

Visual: Pale Gold. Slow but thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Clean. Soft lime. Light alcohol tingle. Barley. Light honey. Crusty white bread. Soft vanilla. Water adds toffee and fudge. More honey. Apple.

Body: Clean and smooth. Soft lime. Slight alcohol if held. Rice. Peppery. Water adds cake sponge, honey and more alcohol notes. Apples. More water again adds apricot.

Finish: Rice. Slight charred oak. Vanilla. Slightly spritzy and peppery. Babycham. Water adds honey, custard and slight sulphur. Dry rice.

Conclusion: Ok, drunk neat this is, well, very simple. Smooth, with only a touch of alcohol despite the high abv. It is clean, but also kind of empty. Some light sweet notes are there, and a light lime but that is against a kind of rice to cereal backing that gives little over a generic kind of spritzy feel. Not a good start.

Water, surprisingly, makes it more robust and sweet in a way that actually reminds me of Highland whisky rather than its lowland home. Lots of honey notes now, some fudge and a cake sponge solid body. More weighty and rounded, though still with a kind of dry rice unpleasantness in the finish. Also the robustness has also seemed to bring more of the alcohol that previously had been locked away inside. So, a tad more alcohol burn but generally a lot more interesting.

So, slightly rough edged in flavours, if not in mouthfeel, but now soft green fruit comes out over big sweetness in a generally smooth (apart from that finish) dram. More water helps fine a nice balance, clearing the rough edges and giving a getle sweet and lightly fruity dram. That is several fucking hundred quid a 70cl bottle.

It is an ok dram, smooth, gentle, and reasonable flavour – but no better than say, an entry level Macallan or similar. Interesting to try, but seriously don’t go out of your way to try it unless you are either rich, or an obsessive taster like me.

Background; This was intended as my 400th whisky tasting note, until I hit that total at an Uber Whisky Tasting night. So this is now my second 400th tasting. I can do that. This is a rare one – from the dead St Magdalene distillery – aka Linlithgow. Seems different expressions were put out under different names. Anyway, a lowland distillery – not many of them around any more and they tend to be lighter and smoother so should be a bit different. I saw this mini at The Whisky Exchange a long time back and grabbed it as the chance to try these dead distilleries are not one I pass up if I can, and I just cannot afford the full 70cl bottles most of the time. Wanted some not intrusive background music so put on some Taiko drumming, used to listen to this regularly, lovely encompassing rhythmic sounds that let me really get into the whisky.

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