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Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Mortlach: 12 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened spirit with fast, thick streaks coming from it.

Nose: Oily peat. Nutty chocolate. Praline. Smooth vanilla toffee. Salt touch. Water makes peppery. Dry oak.

Body: Tangy alcohol. Tangy orange. Bready. Salt. Slightly oily. Dry oak. Water adds dry soot. Vanilla. Pepper. Pears. Oily coffee.

Finish: Soot. Sugared orange. Oak. Charring. Drying alcohol air. Water makes peppery and brings out oily coffee.

Conclusion: Mortlach is always an odd one. Well, I say always. I’ve tried it like, maybe three times before this. So, basically I say that as I am pretending to be more knowledgeable about the distilleries output than I actually am. Hopefully no one will see through this sham.

Initially oily and somewhat peaty the whisky shows decent weight and throws in a touch of what would normally be Island region salty character. Below that though is thicker oily nuts and chocolate against sweet sugared orange. It is one of those that defies easy classification under the whisky regions with Highland Weight, some Islay peat and plenty of fresh Speyside sweetness. Instead what defines it is that oiliness that takes everything else and makes it its own thing entirely.

Taken neat this is just weighty enough, has just enough Island sea feel, and just sweet enough for me. Ok, it is a bit alcohol touched and a bit rough edged, but it is very distinctive and makes for an interesting dram.

Water reduces the alcohol feel, but apart from that it doesn’t really help. It makes the whisky drier and more peppery, more astringent and loses a lot of the core oily weight. It is most notable in how the oily peat instead comes across as dry soot.

So, keep this one as one to enjoy neat. Take the rougher edges it has on the chin and enjoy. It is the unusual, oily dram that mixes in a bit from each whisky region to give a complex, rich experience. Not the best Mortlach I have had – the 16 year is still the standout for me, and that is considering I haven’t tried any particularly old or unusual expressions from the distillery – but it does enough that id say give it a go if you want to drip your toes into the Mortlach style.

Background: So, sixth time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! (I’m repeating myself so much that I’m starting to feel like San at the end of a bad run on Undertale …) These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. A quick google suggests this may be the 2006 distilled, 2018 bottled version. I could be wrong though. I’ve not had a huge amount of Mortlach but have always been intrigued by its strange style. Went with Jack Off Jill, Sexless Demons and Scars for music with this one. Such a great mix of anger and singing talent.

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Senne: Bellwood: Imperial Donkey (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 8.8% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin dark brown dash of a head.

Nose: Vinous white grapes. Yeastie champagne. Liquorice. Subtle cherries. Dry Madeira.

Body: Bready bitterness. Sour cream. Dry white wine. Slightly astringent. Dry Madeira. Dry cherry. Dry spice. Tannins. Light cocoa.

Finish: Sour dough. Dry white wine and white grapes. Champagne. Sultanas. Spicy dry red wine. Subtle bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: Ok, my first though was “What type of wine barrel did this spend time in?” On first breaking open the bottle, as I desperately tried to pour it into the glass before it frothed over, I got hit with a distinct, strong dry white wine into champagne character on the nose, with the imperial stout character lost under that due to its intensity.

The stout character comes out more as a bready, earthy kind of thing in the main body. For an imperial stout those flavours come across as fairly restrained.

What makes me question the barrel ageing is then how it changes, becoming spicier with dry red wine character coming out. Initially dry Madeira like notes into full on spicy red wine by the end via a few dry dark fruit hops in-between.

It is very barrel ageing dominated, even if I can’t quite pin down exactly which wine barrel it spent time in. There are slight cocoa to chocolate notes late on, but if you are enjoying this, chances are it is because the barrel ageing brought you there, rather than anything else.

As of such, it is not really for me. I like what the ageing notes bring, but I really need more beer backing it up. The beer just feels lost here. So, very vinous, lots of wine character and range, but so very little beer. May be for you, was not for me.

Background: Been a while since I had a beer from Senne, they have been stonking good in most of their past beers, so this one caught my eye at Independent Spirit – A barrel aged English style Imperial Stout. From googling I confirmed that it was a wine barrel as I thought, but yet to find anything that tells me the type. If you know please drop a comment and fill me in. Don’t know much about Bellwood Brewery apart from the fact they are a Toronto based brewery in Canada and they did a Beavertown collab I tried. For a heavy dark beer like this I put Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin on in the background to match.

To Øl: Cloudwater : CPH – Quick Splash (Denmark: APA: 5.6% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy apricot. Large mound of white head.

Nose: Flour. Dry peach. Flour like hop prickle. Slight custard.

Body: Moderate hop character and bitterness. Purple peppers. Dry grapefruit. Pink grapefruit. Flour. Vanilla. Slight custard.

Finish: Purple peppers. Grapefruit. Flour like hop character. Lychee. Pink grapefruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I’ll admit I was wrong. In what way? Well when I looked at this and saw that the New England virus had spread from IPAs to its nephew style, the APA, I was worried. Was this to be the beginning of the end? Were we to see NE Saisons, NE Brown Ales or even NE Stouts. IS? THIS? THE? END? OF? EVERYTHING!?

Ok, I exaggerate, NEIPAs are not that bad, even if they are often not for me, but I was worried that- like how we ended up with every kind of IPA under the sun, we would end up with everything being NE style. I still don’t know if that will happen, but you know what, this is genuinely pretty good.

The drier APA character here is compensated for by the tart fruit character, while the lower bitterness of the NE style gets reinforced slightly as the drier APA character makes what bitterness there is punch harder, but unlike some APAs, due to the freshness the flour like hop character doesn’t get gritty. It feels like a lot of the possible issues I have with some APAs and NEIPAs actually offset each other here by the other style pushing back the other way to create an actual balance between the two.

So, tart matched by a dry, well pushed grapefruit notes that go a touch outside the standard tart grapefruit flavour range for a bit of variety. There is even a touch of soft vanilla from the malt, but general that side of things just gives that New England style extra thickness and mouthfeel.

It is a good APA, and an area where I genuinely think the New England take on things works, adding to rather than detracting from the beer style. I am impressed. Nicely done, I applaud everyone involved.

Background: As you may have guessed from the notes I am generally not taken by the New England IPA style. Still, this is a beer made at To Øl’s brewpub, so is a rare chance to try something from there. Even more than that it is made with Cloudwater, who have a good hand with hop heavy beers, so I was interested to see how it works out. Oddly this is a New England Pale Ale, not an IPA, something I did not even know existed until this moment. Not much else to add – bought at Independent Spirit, put back on Visceral by Getter while drinking for some nicely done backing music.

Burning Sky: Saison Houblon (England: Saison: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to lemon juice. Large mounded bubbled white head with brown clumps.

Nose: Banana custard. Wheaty. White pepper. Mild grapefruit. Moderate cake sponge hop character. Orange zest. Slight sour dough. Apple.

Body: Slight tart grapefruit. White pepper. Tart grapes. Slight sour dough. Fresh cut apple. Earthy middle. Coriander.

Finish: Wheaty bitterness. Tart grapefruit. Peppery. White pepper. Coriander. Muesli and dried raisins.

Conclusion: This is nice, but boy the aroma promised something with far more subtlety and range. It makes the decent body that you actually get feel slightly disappointing on comparison. Ah well, let’s look at what we actually get then.

The body is fairly rustic style saison – peppery, solid earthy saison style but made fresh with gentle tart grapefruit hops so the body refreshes you before pushing out into a solidly bitter and peppery once again finish.

Refreshing, but yet earthy and grounded. A solid beer and one at not too high abv. The thing is, the aroma has so much more range to it – much more in the tart fruits and hints of a sweeter malt touch that calls to the classic that is Saison Dupont. If those notes had carried through into the body then this could have been similarly a classic beer.

Ah well, let’s look at what it is, not what it could have been. It fits bright hop character well into the base earthy saison without compromising either. A fairly solid twist on the saison, not a classic – it needs a few more layers for that – but it is solidly drinkable with solid hop bitterness.

Could do a lot worse for a saison, give it a go if you are in the mood for something refreshing but with weight.

Background: So, houblon just means hop in French. So this is a hoppy saison. Simple. Burning Sky really haven’t got the attention they deserve from me, may have to make an effort to reverse that. This is step one in trying anyway. Not much else to add – I wanted something comparatively easy drinking, with a not too high abv, so I hoped a saison would do the job when I broke it open for the night. Another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. I returned to IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance to listen to while drinking. Still amazing mix of anger and sensitivity. I still should pick up some of their other albums to see if they are all this good.

AB Inbev Belgium – Leffe: Blond 0.0% (Belgium: Low Alcohol: 0.0% ABV)

Visual: Bright yellow gold. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large yellow-white mound of a head.

Nose: White sugar. Wheaty. Sweet lemon. Sweet lime. Candyfloss. Dried banana.

Body: Slight sweet tea. Banana. White sugar. Sweet lemon. Syrup. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Lemon syrup. Sugared tea. White sugar. Light pepper. Vanilla to vanilla toffee. Later on banoffee.

Conclusion: This is an odd mix of sweet sugary Belgian beer and sweetened tea style. Yep, the low alcohol tea style notes are here again, in fact here the very sweet tea like base character really stands out.

Now Leffe has always been on the sweeter side of the varied abbey styles, and this tries to lay that on with raw sugar, and sweet lemon, sugary orange and vanilla notes. All very artificially done, sweet as heck and so very much in the character of a standard Leffe blond. Though they are, as is to be expected, much lighter due to the lower abv, and because of that the tannin and tea notes come back again a lot on the tail end.

Oddly, while the mouthfeel is nowhere as thick as a standard Leffe blond, it still is pretty solid for a zero alcohol beer – a bit thicker than most in the range. So, past that, is this any good? Eh, it is pleasant enough, and does call to the original beer’s style. Original Leffe blond was always, simple, sweet and cheerful and this is similarly artificially sweet but fun, so I’ll give it that.

Basically the tea aspect isn’t bad in itself, but it really makes you aware that this is not a standard beer and will ruin any illusion of that. It is nice enough and the first low abv beer of this style that I have encountered, but it definitely needs a lot of polish for it to be a proper stand in for an alcoholic beer.

Still, enjoyable enough as long as you know going in what it is you are getting.

Background: Low alcohol time again! Raided Beercraft‘s low alcohol selection again for this one. Leffe was one the earliest Belgian beers I tried, something which I think is a lot of people’s experience. Now, yeah, it is a bit one note compared to a lot of less mainstream abbey blonds, but I still have a bit of a soft spot for it. Oddly, I checked and this is the first Leffe I have done notes of for the blog. Huh, I used to drink tons of these. Go figure. Anyway, put n a bunch of random Crossfaith for listening to while drinking, on a huge Crossfaith kick at the mo.

Douglas Laing: Provenance: Dailuaine: 8 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Honey. Caramel. Floral. Heather. Oak. Whiff of sulphur. Water adds slight lychee.

Body: Warming alcohol. Honey. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Slight custard. Water more fudge. Lychee touch. Cinnamon. Brandy cream.

Finish: Dry oak. Slight sulphur. Soot. Water adds lychee. Fudge. Slight coriander.

Conclusion: This feels gentle and slightly generic. Easy to drink, but just slightly empty. A lot less viscous that last time I encountered a Provenance bottling from this distillery, with less jellied alcohol feel – thought still slight spice, albeit more gentle than before.

Neat it is simple sweet fudge flavour with honey and light floral backing. It is slightly light which is pretty surprising considering this packing an extra 6% abv over the minimum which would usual give a bit more grip. Water doesn’t change that but does add slight extra fruity edges and drying cinnamon sweetness into a coriander savoury touch in the finish.

It is still fairly simple – the contrast is nice, but doesn’t really address the lightness at the heart of the character. It is ok, very gentle, especially with water, and the spice edge does not alter that. It does keep it from becoming too samey moment to moment, but still never really grabs me.

Understated, not bad but doesn’t really earn its place either.

Background: So, fifth time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! (I’m repeating myself so much that I’m starting to feel like San at the end of a bad run on Undertale …) These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. From a quick google I think this is made 2010, bottled 2019, and aged in a sherry butt. I have tried a Provenance Dailuaine before, last time was a 10 year though. Put on Television Villain‘s self titled album while drinking – still a blinder of an album, and I’m not just saying that ‘cos they are mates. Seriously, give it a listen.

Wolfburn: Aurora (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light vanilla gold. Fast, thick streaks fom the spirit.

Nose: Sugared orange. Clean. Pear drops. Pencil shavings. Water adds vanilla and apple pie.

Body: Apple pie. Oak undertone. Pear drops. Slight alcohol burn. Water adds thick toffee. White pepper. More water adds sherried spice. Light soot.

Finish: Dry sherry and spice. Dry oak. Pear drops. Water adds dry toffee. More oak. Malt chocolate. More water adds spicy red grapes. Paprika and tannins.

Conclusion: This is quite the experience and not what I expected. For a sherried whisky this barely shows that side when drunk neat. Instead it comes in fresh and clean with sweet pear and orange notes, calling to a younger spirit style, but very clean and with some, but less than expected alcohol burn.

The sweet fruit continues through to the very end where finally the dry spice and sherry character comes out to underline the experience. While there is a touch of alcohol warmth, as referenced before, here it is bright, fresh and very pleasant with only that final hint of the sherry.

Water brings out a heavier character with the brighter front quickly moving out of the way to reveal a stodgy, thick dry toffee character and waaaay more of that sherried experience, with peppery and dry spice notes coming out.

While much more what you would expect from a sherry whisky with water, I actually prefer it neat. The contrast between the light, bright notes and the underlying sherry is striking and enjoyable – more than worth the trade off for the slight extra alcohol presence. By comparison with water it feels ok, good, but much more standard and doesn’t really stand out.

So, two very different takes on the whisky, both good, but much better neat in my opinion.

Background: Yay, had free time to to hit the Hideout again! Spotted that they had some Wolfburns there last time I went, and since I have not tried anything from that distillery before, promised myself I would drop back to give them a try. So I did. Success! Plus ten experience points. Quest Complete. Anyway this one is their sherry oak aged version, which sounded mighty tasty to me so I gave it a try. The place was bloody busy when I was in, turns out it was post a rugby match, so I couldn’t find a seat to use while doing my notes, but I tried my best for y’all.

To Øl : CPH – The Boss (Denmark: IPA: 6.8% ABV)

Visual: Cloudy lemon juice. Good inch of yellow white loose head.

Nose: Crisp bitter hop character. Bitty pineapple chunks. Grapefruit. Slightly bready hops.

Body: Tart grapefruit. Light flour. Low level bitterness. Vanilla. Mandarin orange develops over time.

Finish: Grapefruit. Pineapple. Low level hop character. Custard cream biscuits. Slight flour. Mandarin orange.

Conclusion: Ok, a short while back I bemoaned the lack of IPAs these days that truly commit to the tart grapefruit heavy IPAs that you got back when Nelson Sauvin hops were first all the rage. Well, sometimes you ask for something and end up getting it is spades!

This is grapefruit dominated all the way baby! Some pineapple backing as well, but mainly grapefruit. However it feels different to the big grapefruit IPAs of old. They were clean and tart, either dry and with the malt out of the way or sweet and tart. This uses the texture of the beer to call to ragged grapefruit and pineapple chunks that are nearly falling apart, leaving bits everywhere on the tongue. It is a style that allows the beer to call back to those previous classic while still innovating nicely.

Very nice, very tart, if kind of one note at the start. It takes a while for the vanilla character from the malt to come out, instead you mainly get a very New England style thicker texture, slightly wheaty or oat thickened mouthfeel to the body. Hops are present in a low level but pricking bitterness way. Enough to definitely be an IPA, but far from heavy.

Finally, late on, tart mandarin orange comes out, a much needed extra note to bring back a bit of interest and zest at the end. It is still a tad too one note to be a classic, but mixes a solid bitterness, a new take on grapefruit tartness, a nice use of New England style mouthfeel without otherwise bowing to the NE style, and puts it together to make a pretty damn nice IPA.

Background:Also listed as being brewed by Brus, this is brewed at To Øl’s brewpub (the aforementioned Brus). Normally To Øl do contract brewing if I remember rightly, so a chance to grab some of their brewpub’s stuff in can was very special. Grabbed from Independent Spirit this is a double dry hopped IPA made with Citra, Amarillo and Simcoe (no Nelson Sauvin, much to my surprise as you may notice from the notes). I put on Rise Against – “The Suffering and The Witness” while drinking, a pretty good one, even if it can’t quite live up to Endgame for all time great album status.

7Bräu: Han River Ale (South Korea: Belgian Wit: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy lemon juice. Slight white head. Some peppery looking sediment.

Nose: Light grapes. Light grapefruit. Orange.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Tart grape touch. Wite pepper. Vanilla. Bready. Light tangerine. Milky.

Finish: White pepper. Tangerine. Lemon. Wheaty.

Conclusion: Ok, trying 7Bräu beers, round 2! aaaand, I’m already sensing a trend. Again this is lightly bready, less so than before. Again there is light orange. Now apparently the orange beer had a wit base, and this is apparently a take on a wit, so dunno if the trend will run to their other beers, but yeah, they have that in common so far.

Thankfully this beer has a bit more going on with it than the Dalseo orange ale. It is lightly milky, kind of wheaty, despite not actually showing much in the way of traditional wit beer characteristics. It does have a more varied citrus range, going between lemon and grapes which makes it moderately fresh. It feels like a bready orval meets a wit meets a bit of new wave citrus hops. Again though, not as great as that sounds.

It is, again, a bit staid, but is definitely more enjoyable than the orange ale. It feels like a moderately sessionable character from the earthy base and gentle flavours, with a bit of pepper from white pepper character which adds a much needed bit of kick to it. That pepper is probably the best aspect, it really stands out as a bit different, and gives life to what is otherwise quite average.

The big problem is that the flavours are generally slightly muted. They need to be a bit crisper and clearer, maybe a touch lower abv to match the session style it seems to be aiming for. If they could make those tweaks then this could end up as quite a pleasant sipping beer.

A good base idea, but one that could do with a lot of work to make it better crafted to bring out its potential.

Background: Take 2! This is a nice treat. My mate, Tony, went over to South Korea a short while back and brought a few of their beers back. He invited me over to his place to try them with him, and was willing to indulge me in me doing tasting notes on two of them (of which this is the second). Very many thanks! It is not often you see Korean beers over here so I did not want to miss the chance. Also if the photo looks like it is in a much fancier place than normal that is the reason.

Just to add, as both these notes have been very middle of the road, I also tried their Gangseo Mild Ale which was a very pleasant blond mild. That one is worth checking out – if I had known before I totally would have done notes on that one instead. Ah well.

7Bräu: Dalseo Orange Ale (South Korea: Fruit: 4.2% abv)

Visual: Lightly hazy apple to lemon juice. Thin white dash of a head.

Nose: Orange juice. Rose petals. Brown bread to bready hop character. Slight sulphur.

Body: Brown bread. Savoury orange juice. Bready hops. Lemon. Vanilla. Sweeter orange juice later on.

Finish: Brown bread. Light hop bitterness. Crumpets. Petals. Slight lemon. Grows in earthy bitterness over time.

Conclusion: This is a, erm, gentle, kind of bready beer at the base. Imagine the kind of bready, yeasty character of Orval, but imagine it is nowhere near as complex, just in the same ballpark to give kind of an idea.

The orange character feels fairly savoury at the start, a gentle backing that develops a light sweetness over time. While the bready character is generally dominant it feels like a nice balance for a not too fruit dominated beer – it always feels beer first but never loses the fruit character,

However, with that said, the flavours, while balanced are also quite pedestrian. There is early bitterness, simple orange with a touch of vanilla – it isn’t bad but is overly savoury and doesn’t use much of the wit character which I think is there at the base.

It is ok, kind of dull but drinkable. Without the orange character it would have been an exceptionally dull beer, as it seems to very much lean on that extra ingredient for character. With it, it passes the time nicely but really doesn’t stand out.

Drinkable but not much more than that.

Background: This is a nice treat. My mate, Tony, went over to South Korea a short while back and brought a few of their beers back. He invited me over to his place to try them with him, and was willing to indulge me in me doing tasting notes on two of them. Very many thanks! It is not often you see Korean beers over here so I did not want to miss the chance. Also if the photo looks like it is in a much fancier place than normal that is the reason. This one is, I think, a wit made with orange. I have no skills at reading Korean so I am relying on google or this.

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