Latest Entries »

Brewdog No Label

Brewdog: No Label (Scotland: Kolsch: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to lemon juice. Moderate tight bubbled fluffy head. Very small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lots of lemon and fluffy hops. Low but present bitterness. Hop oils. Apricot.

Body: Good medium intensity bitterness. Creamy. Slight bubblegum. Steam beer feel when cool. Slight grittiness when it warms. Lemon cakes. Brown bread.

Finish: Musty. Some hop character. Lime. Fluffy. Lemon. Slight milkyness.

Conclusion: Ok – I’ve put all my issues with this in the background section, so just for this moment I will leave them in the background and just examine the beer itself.

So, well, this is the second beer I have had recently that had a kind of steam beer texture to it. Shouldn’t surprise me – both Californian common and Kolsch straddle the ale/lager line. Californian common doing non refrigerated use of lager yeast, and Kolsch using ale yeast but cool lagered. Kind of mirror opposites of the unusual, so as I say, I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was. It is again that kind of fluffy steam texture that fills the mouth.

The hops are present but it is less bitter than I would expect from a Kolsch. this may be because of the mouthfeel, or possibly because it pushes the lemon cake style character which softens the beer a lot.

It actually results in a solid beer, pretty easy to drink, interesting feel, good enough bitterness to keep you interested but not to shock. It doesn’t exemplify the beer style, nor as the different beer it is does it create something special in the interactions of flavour and texture, but it does make for something easy to kick back with. If it wasn’t for the bad taste the whole events surrounding it leave in my mouth I would probably grab more, as the beer its self leaves a pleasant taste there.

A pleasant, softly citrus and moderately bitter beer. A nice take on the Kolsch and a bit different. That was happy enough, now let’s look at the background…

Background: Sigh. Ok This is a long one, So I will put it after the more tag so it doesn’t take up the entire page. This beer has a bit of background.

View full article »

Arran That Boutique-y Whisky Company Batch 4

Arran: That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Batch 4 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Nigh clear with a mix of green hints and vanilla toffee hue. Becomes hazy with water.

Viscosity: Very thin slow puckering.

Nose: Alcohol and crumpets. Rocks. Water adds heather and pepper.

Body: Warm to burning. Buttered toast. Lemon pancakes. Water makes much sweeter – golden syrup and vanilla pods. Touch of vanilla yogurt with lime as well. Fudge. More buttery.

Finish: Light lemon pancakes. Light oak. Butter. Water adds vanilla yogurt and toffee. Tins of tropical fruits.

Conclusion: I don’t think I have seen a whisky with the nose and body so much at odds for a long time. The nose is, well, a tad rough. Not just in the alcohol, that element disperses with water so isn’t that big a deal. It is the fact that it has touches of crushed rocks and pepper that kind of sticks out – it is not that appealing. Though there are soft crumpet notes in there as well, but it doesn’t quite balance.

So, how is the body? Well, neat it is mainly alcohol heat- so let’s skip straight to the part where I add the water shall we? Boom! Sweet golden syrup and vanilla pods – a real big sweetness over the kind of soft buttery base I associate with Arran, with a few lime high notes.

Unfortunately adding even more water brings the body more in line with the aroma, not heavily, but it brings out a slightly gritty character to the base. It lowers the sweetness but keeps the butteryness, which unfortunately is less capable at holding up against the newfound grit.

Still, if you keep the water on the lower end then it is a reasonable whisky that shows the strength of Arran well. Well, the body does anyway. Still, less is definitely more with water use here. Even at over 50% abv it turns far too quickly from where it works to where it is past the tipping point. It doesn’t really outdo the official bottlings i have tried – its main addition is the big sweetness with just a little water. Still, it does emphasise that buttery toast base, which is not something you see often.

So, solid body, bit of a bad aroma. Not stand out but solid enough.

Background: Ok, here we go “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. Not run into ” That Boutique-y Whisky Company” though a quick googling shows that their bottles have some pretty non standard cartoon like labels. Not bad. Arran has been a nice smooth, if not always that complex, whisky for me, so I thought this may be nice. Drunk whilst listening to the haunting Ritualz CDR.

Ok, over the years various groups have given me products, etc, which could be considered a conflict of interest and I have tried to make sure that I always list these in the notes. I always do my best to remain impartial anyway, but feel full disclosure is important. So, to make things easier I thought I would collect and list them here for future reference.

Brewdog: I am an Equity For Punks shareholder, and have been since the first release so have a financial benefit from them doing well. On the other side I have openly criticised them for times when they have been dismissive about feedback to theuir controversial promotions, especially with their response to the accusations of insulting the homeless, sex workers and transpeople in one of their promotional videos.

Brewhouse and Kitchen (Bristol): While I was doing tasting notes the staff provided a generous amount of free samples of their other beers to try after I had mentioned doing the notes for my blog.

Independent Spirit Of Bath: I have been shopping with them for a while and get along with the staff there. As of such I have written an article for their website, and they have provided several beers for review. Also they invited me to assist with tastings on the Master Of Malt Whisky Calendar 2015, which I have put up on this site.

Innis and Gunn: Their promoters have provided me with several beers for review over the years after they saw I had reviewed one of their beers favourably.

Girvan Distillery: Girvan have provided samples of their spirit for review, and also invited me up to a paid for event that involved touring their distillery, sampling whisky and staying at a hotel just outside Glasgow.

Glendronach: At a whisky show they provided a free tasting of their Grandeur for tasting notes when they noticed I was doing tasting notes of some of the Dalmore whisky on the stand next door.

I think that is everyone, if I missed any I will add as and when recalled.

Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch Big Blend

Mikkeller: Beer Geek Breakfast Brunch Big Blend (Denmark: Imperial Stout: 8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Massive dark coffee froth rock solid head.

Nose: Spiced grapes. Bitter chocolate. Strawberry yogurt. Cinnamon. Carrot. Bitter coffee. Vanilla beans. Bourbon. Cherries.

Body: Spicy. Paprika. Cherries. Bitter coffee and cocoa powder. Pepper. Tingling feel – spirity. Bourbon.

Finish: Bitter chocolate. Bitter coffee. Smoke and embers. Peppery. Vanilla beans. Bourbon. Rye crackers. Port.

Conclusion: Not as good as you would hope. Wow, that is a good start isn’t it? yeah, Well, I guess they are right – too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. Now, it still has a lot in its favour. For one it is complex as fuck. A very complex fuck involving pulleys, diagrams and advance planning. I may not be very good at analogies. Anyway, yes, complex – I don’t think it could be anything but that considering its roots, but it ends up pulling itself in far too many ways.

An example? Well, for one the insanely complex coffee I loved in Beer Geek Brunch Weasel is there, but a lot of the subtlety is lost – there is a lot of spicy packed in at the high end of the notes and it covers up a lot of the base character there, while there is a sparkling spirit character at the base doing the same to the more complex chocolate notes. The tingling isn’t so much raw alcohol – it actually feels quite smooth on that front, but more tingling with the barrel ageing notes. So what is at its base a very smooth beer ends up feeling slightly rough as all the other elements clash with each other.

Now the base beer isn’t everything – you have to expect something to be lost as well as gained when barrel ageing is brought in, but it is a bad sign when you lose too much. So what do you gain? Well, one of the best things is that you get some lovely sweet cherries into the mix, which complement the coffee and chocolate perfectly. Fantastic as the ninth doctor would say if he were a pisshead like me. In fact the best is generally the sweet notes added to the midst of the bitter chocolate and coffee. The worst is probably the excess spicy character which hides more than it adds.

Still a solid, frothy, well textured beer at its base, but it tries to do too much at once.

Background: Grabbed at Independent Spirit, this is a mix of (deep breath) bourbon, brandy, cherry wine, cognac, tequila and whisky aged imperial stout. Think it may also be a mix of Beer Geek Breakfast and Beer Geek Brunch Weasel as well, but that is a guess based on the name. The abv is closer to Breakfast, but the imagery on the bottle makes me think they may haves used the same coffee as Brunch Weasel. Google hasn’t helped out much, so much of this is guessing. I deliberately didn’t refresh my memory on what barrel ageing had been used before doing the tasting note so to keep psychosomatic influences to a minimum. I adore Beer Geek Brunch Weasel, so have been grabbing many variants over the years. Drunk whilst listening to more ocremix stuff.

Tullamore DEW 12 Year Special Reserve

Tullamore D.E.W. : 12 Year Special Reserve (Irish Blended Whiskey: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear light gold.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Grain fields. Clean and soft. White bread. Floral. Very mild gingerbread.

Body: Smooth – no burn at all. Lime. Oak. Muted liquorice if held. Lemon. Brown bread. Light orange. Water makes more fruity and open.

Finish: Lightly oaken and clean alcohol. Lime cordial. Orange crème. Waters adds lime and cream.

Conclusion: This is a very light and very clean whisky – very pure, very easy to pour down the neck. No burn and an effortless character to it. Or, as I call it, a whisky very specifically designed to be aimed at people who are not me.

I mean, I am not saying it is a bad whiskey – by far the opposite. It does what it sets out to do very well – delicious light citrus notes in a sprit so light that the flavours seem to float on your tongue in its absence. But that is its advantage for some, and the issue for me – there is no weight to it, and without that it cannot move me.

Now I can see why a lot of people who don’t traditionally like whiskey would like this – it keeps the flavour but removes a lot of the harsh edges that can put people off. With it being so light I was a little nervous about adding water, what if it vanished completely?

Water actually helped, the lemon notes became more full – almost like lemon curd rather than being so light as to be lost – somehow water managed to make it bigger but not harsher. There I will give it its due, here there is just enough weight to the citrus building up that it becomes what would be on the lighter end of what I consider an easy sipping whiskey. Now it is not going to become a favourite for me, but that is just because my tastes don’t go that way.

So I tried adding a tad more water. It killed it dead. Ooops.

So, a whiskey for these who normally don’t like whiskey, or for those who prefer the gentle end of the spectrum, and if taken with water, one for a gentle break for the rest of us.

Background: Yes, it is from the Master’s Of Malt Whisky Calendar again. So, bias warning time again! “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” this time however it is Irish Whiskey – so a bit different. Triple distilled, Irish Whiskey tends to be smoother than its Scottish cousins. This was drunk while listening to a few OCRemix tracks, including this remix of the classic Dynamite Headdy tracks. That game was cool.

Balvenie Single Barrel Sherry Cask 15 Year
Balvenie: Single Barrel Sherry Cask: 15 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year : 47.8% ABV)

Visual: Reddened bronze.

Viscosity: Very slow, very thin streaks, and many of them.

Nose: Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Alcohol warmth. Creme brulee. Sultanas. Full and rich. Water makes pencil shavings come out.

Body: Creme brulee. Malt chocolate. Strawberry jelly. Thick feel to the middle. Water makes thick sweet strawberry, though still with a touch of alcohol at the back. Orange creme and plums.

Finish: Spiced red grapes. Dry. Light oak. Dust balls. Malt chocolate. Bailies. Water brings out strawberry and brandy cream.

Conclusion: Odd timing drinking this so shortly after my discuss of the use of strawberries in beers recently. Odd as with water this really tastes like a strawberry whisky, not because strawberries were used in it. I presume anyway. Anyway a strawberry whisky, in a good way.

It is a sweet whisky, but far more robust than many sweet whiskeys, giving a whole range of spirit touched, creamy notes – resulting in trifle and bailies imagery coming out very easily. That creaminess is up front, but much more fruit is waiting to be brought out with water. The robustness is kept by backing the sweetness with spicy grapes that adds heft to the sweet trend without disrupting it.

There is a lot to bring out with water – the amount of water I was able to add while still being able to enjoy it meant that this seemed a lot larger than the actual pour I shared. It is also interesting in that I have seen sweet fruit notes like this before, but usually attached as contrast to a bigger, peatier, whisky. It is fun to encounter them in isolation here where they are the main show, not the contrast.

So, it seems a perfect match of barrel ageing to the Balvenie spirit for me – far more so than the bourbon cask. The feel of the spirit is just right for delivering the big sweetness and range while still preserving that distinct whisky character.

Of course, this is a single barrel range, so your experience may differ. My experience rocked though.

Background: Ok, you all know the score by now – ” Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. Originally I thought this was standard Single Barrel, but quickly realised this was the Sherry version, which sounded an interesting variant. Drunk while listening to New Model Army – Ghost Of Cain. Yes I am listening to them a lot, I got five albums in one pack, plenty of punk goodness there.

Firestone Walker Pale 31
Firestone Walker: Pale 31 ( USA: American Pale Ale: 4.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellow gold. Large mounded froth yellowed head. Small bubble carbonation.

Nose: Lemon meringue and creamy hops. Apricot. Key lime pie. Crushed digestives.

Body: Steam feel. Crushed digestives. Milk. Moderate bitterness. Earthy notes. Key lime pie.

Finish: Good bitterness and hop character. Steam feel. Soft lemon. Slight rustic earthy touch. key lime. Rye crackers. Pepper.

Conclusion: I may be coming to this a bit late for it to be at its best, but I’ll give it a shot. I find it interesting that they call this a Californian Pale Ale, mainly because my first sip of this brought to mind the mouthfeel of a steam beer, a beer style also known as the Californian Common. Wonder if that is just a coincidence or an aimed for stylistic choice. Anyway, yes this has the unusual mouthfeel of a steam beer, but with the hops pushed up a bit.

By the time I had got to that sip I already had high hopes for it, the aroma had been promising as well – the mix of fruit desserts, creaminess and hops that had put me in mind of the Union Jack IPA. That is seriously good – so the idea of a steam beer styled APA with Union Jack quality hop character was having me excited. The body fulfils some of that promise, but not quite the full shining, wondrous, vision. It keeps things a bit lower key, a bit more earthy and rustic alongside the steam character. However you can see the more playful notes at the edges, before it finally goes into the dry and pepper spiced finish.

It isn’t bad, and I have feeling it would be even better fresh. It is a nice mix, if suffering slightly from the over attenuated dryness I associate with APAs. Despite that though, I am enjoying the experience – they do add a lot to what can be a dull style for me.

So, not perfect, definitely so, but I have a soft spot for what it is going for. If I see this fresh in the USA on any of my travels I will definitely try it again.

Background: Another beer break – This one took a while to get across form the USA – it was bottled 20/03/2015, so I thought I had best drink it as soon as possible. I am a big fan of Firestone Walker, their IPAs especially. This, described as a Californian Pale Ale, was picked up from Corks of Cotham. I grabbed a few beers while I was there, they are a bit out of my way but well worth visiting. Drink with a bit of Iron Maiden in the background, because I am still a fan of the old Irons.

Glen Scotia Double Cask

Glen Scotia: Double Cask (Scottish Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Slightly rose wine to gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big plums and raisins. Pencil shavings and ginger cake. Light smoke. Rum. Brandy cream. Beef. More toffee like if you add water, along with a grassy character.

Body: Smooth. Slight tingle of alcohol. Caramel. Sherry trifle. Slightly grassy and slightly peaty. Raspberry yogurt light edge notes. More grassy with water and gains charred oak. Also adds plums.

Finish: Grassy. Slight charred oak and dry beef slices. Strawberry. Water makes slightly oily and nutty. Slight chocolate. Blueberry.

Conclusion: Welcome back Glen Scotia, so, you have a double barrelled name this time? Very posh. let’s see if this is the one to get some Scotia love going from me.

First impressions are positive! Wooo!. Big plum and raisins right out the door, floating in the big and evident aroma. Definitely not what I expected from past experience with the distillery. The spirit is slightly smokey, not heavily so, about the same level as I would expect from Springbank, also slightly grassy in a similar vein.

In fact, a lot of this reminds me of Springbank – the grassiness, the moderate smoke and peat, the ..ok, just those two after all, but they make a big impression. The big plum and dark fruits do show up again in the body, especially with water, but far less evident than they were in the nose – a pity as I really wanted to see these big, contrasting, flavours fight it out. Instead we get a grassy, smoky whisky with hints of dark fruit.

The finish is much more what I hoped for, balancing nigh perfectly as more fruit notes come out. Another case of a whisky where top and tail does the job but the middle doesn’t manage to quite hold it together.

Despite that this is solid enough, there is the oily nuttiness to the finish that gives it a character that distinguishes it from the Springbank comparisons, calling more to the Glen Scotia identity, adding to that the dark fruit, which while not perfect, does add something, and you have a Glen Scotia I can get along with. In my mind Springbanks till rules the Campbeltown roost, but this does a lot to make me think there is room to be explored with Glen Scotia. Not great, but good and so I can live with that.

Background: Ok, copy paste the copy paste. ” Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” I am a big fan of Campbeltown, or more correctly, Springbank. There are not many Campbeltown distilleries any more. Glen Scotia has not impressed me as much so far. This was drunk while listening to Dirty Knobs: Hallow again. Warning, do not fall asleep while listening to that, you get very odd dreams. I speak from experience.

Almanac Farm To Barrel Farmer's Reserve Strawberry

Almanac: Farm To Barrel: Farmer’s Reserve Strawberry (USA: Sour Ale: 7% ABV)

Visual: Hazy yellow to apricot and very cloudy. Thin short lived white dash of a head.

Nose: Musty. Slightly stale white bread. Oatmeal or maybe muesli mix. Squeezed lime. Mild gingerbread. Stewed apricot and cake sponge.

Body: Tart. Lemon juice. Oaken. Acidic apple. Faint strawberry that is somewhat more evident as it warms. Cake sponge. White wine. Squeezed lime. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Soft strawberry. Acidic apple. Rustic in a saison like way. Lemon. Light chalk. White wine as it warms, along with lime and vanilla toffee.

Conclusion: Ok, strawberry sour. I had heard of a few, or maybe just one, strawberry lambic before, but never managed to get my hands on it. So this is my first strawberry sour experience. And it is!… not exactly whelming shall we say. Can you just say whelming? Not sure. Anyway. Possibly I started it off too cool, as I have found warming it does help. Let me go into a bit more detail and I shall explain.

Cool it is a bit musty, empty and mainly acidic apple dominated. Kind of like a sub standard cider, and since I am in west country I have access to a lot of actually good cider. At this point it didn’t do much, it refreshed with its acidity but that was it.

As it warms a kind of cake sponge feel and taste come out, still acidic, but a more robust and stable base and that seems to give some grip to the other flavours. Not so much the strawberry unfortunately, I’ve seen it rise up a few times as it warms but it always seems to vanish again quickly. The strawberry really isn’t a dominant element of this beer, possibly why it is not a common addition to sours. Maybe.

At its base it seems always a sour apple, lemon and lime, well, sour beer – with white wine companionship in some of the oak notes. It has quite a few good side notes – from vanilla toffee to rustic saison style, but none are reliable enough to make this a consistently good beer. It can seem slightly simple and empty in the middle, with the best elements top and tail.

Not that bad, but not on the better end of the sours. It feels a bit of a let down. Ah well, back to Listening to New Model Army – “I Love The World”

Background: A break in the whisky tasting notes so my beer fan readers don’t get bored. Don’t worry, more whisky is coming very soon. I don’t know if “Farm To Barrel” is part of the name, or just a take on their “farm to bottle” slogan. I included it just in case. Anyway a sour ale, packed with strawberries and aged in a wine barrel. Sounded fun. Drunk while listening to one of New Model Army’s live albums. If you get a chance to see them live they are great.

Kilchoman Machir Bay 2014

Kilchoman: Machir Bay 2014 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale greened grain.

Viscosity: No notes taken.

Nose: Dry. Smoke. Salt. Astringent. Rocks. Crusty bread. Salted lemon.

Body: Initially light. Vanilla sweetness. Salt. Moss. Slight raisins. Smoked beef. Sherry cream. Slight alcohol tingle if taken neat. Water makes more toffee and sherry sweet and brings out salted lemons.

Finish: Slight sherry trifle. Dry medicinal notes. Vanilla sweetness. Brown bread. Smoke. More trifle with water and adds salted lemon.

Conclusion: Ok, I may just be tasting salted lemons in everything since drinking Kiln Embers. Keep that in mind whilst reading these notes. Aside from that note let me say this is an interesting wee whisky. Unlike the 2007 expression it needs a touch of water to work, not much, just a drop or two, but it is still just a little fiery neat.

Despite that it feels light, not in a bad way, but in that – while salty and lightly medicinal, it does not have that booming character of the more prominent Islays. This allows more subtle elements to be there – the sherry trifle, salted lemon and vanilla toffee don’t need to be loud to be heard in the mix. Again, this is with just a slight amount of water that really lets it open up.

Initially it seemed a slightly simple, lightly medicinal whisky, but as the sweetness came out it started to portray distinct elements from both the sherry and bourbon ageing and I realised there was more to this than meets the eye. It does not eschew the traditional Islay character, but it more uses it to call the sweetness into contrast.

Not what I expected, a very easy drinking Islay that manages to keep the Islay character. Very nice. You know, I kind of hope there is at least one bad whisky in this set. Not because I want bad whisky, but at this rate everyone is going to be claiming I am a paid shill. Anyway, the whisky calendar is doing well so far.

Background: Ok, (mostly) copy paste time again. ” Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” New info! Ok, from my research this is a mix of five and six year old whisky from oloroso sherry and bourbon cask, which is unusual for Kilchoman. And by research I mean that is pretty much copied directly from their website. Sorry. Drunk while listening to even more Crossfaith. Yes I did do this set of notes immediately after the last, why do you ask?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 273 other followers

%d bloggers like this: