Archive for April, 2019


That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Single Malt Irish 14 Year: Batch 4 (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 14 Year: 47.6% ABV)

Visual: Light, clear browned gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Pear. Cereal grain. Lightly nutty. Water adds Shredded Wheat. Dried apricot. Dry sherry.

Body: Smooth. Toffee to caramel. Alcohol warmth. Very milky coffee. Pears. Quite thick. Sultanas if held in the mouth. Water adds apricot touch. Light apple. More water adds fruit cake notes.

Finish: Oatmeal. Alcohol air. Crushed walnuts. Water adds milky coffee notes. Slight sultanas. Slightly more alcohol presence. More water makes creamy. Dry sherry. More sultanas. Sherry trifle comes out over time.

Conclusion: This is a very robust Irish whiskey – giving a slightly thicker mouthfeel than normal, along with a bit of alcohol weight. In fact the alcohol never seems to completely go away, even with water, which is unusual for an Irish whiskey.

What water does do though, is give it a very interesting flavour progression. Well water and time, but mainly water. Initially the flavours seemed towards the lighter end of the spectrum with green fruit notes and sweet caramel, that are towards the more common and expected notes for Irish spirit, just with a thicker texture. It can be slightly overly oak touched in the aroma but generally nice.

Water brings out what feels like a lot of sherry ageing influence – there is dry sherry, light nuttiness, more fruitcake and dark fruit notes. It feels like each drop of water darkens the fruit more until finally sherry trifle sweetness bursts out, bringing it to a sweet flip side of the original spirit.

The weight of the whisky feels like Highland Scotch whisky, but it is still smooth despite the weight and depth of character. It feels like a very Scotch whisky influenced Irish whisky, kind of like the older, more sherried Bushmills’ expressions, only with more alcohol weight to give it more to delve into.

A very rewarding, slightly dry whisky. Don’t grab it if you want a more traditional Irish easy drinking smooth thing, but if you want an Irish whiskey you can really dig into and dissect then this is a good one to go to.

Background: I’ve had a tad of free time finally recently so dropped over to the Hideout to take advantage of their awesome whisky selection again. They had just got in a bumper selection of new That Boutique-y Whisky Company expressions in, think it is about twenty five expressions. I am becoming a fan of that lot, they are reasonably priced, and put out some brilliant expressions in weird and wonderful colourful bottles that are so unlike the usual sombre and reserved bottles. This one is an Irish Single Malt from an unnamed distillery – I’ve been wanting to grab more Irish stuff for a while so this was a nice chance – If I had to guess I would say this was Bushmills, but my knowledge of Irish single malts is significantly less than the Scottish stuff, so take that with a pinch of salt.

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Infinite Session: IPA (England: Low alcohol IPA: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear, light gold. A few small carbonation bubbles. Thin white head.

Nose: Light grapefruit. Wheaty hop character. Middling bitterness. Water adds fresh dough to cake sponge.

Body: Clean, lager like base. Bready hop character. Good bitterness. Slight chalk. Lightly watery. Vanilla. Very light grapefruit.

Finish: Slightly chalky. Bready bitterness and hop character. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is very, well …clean. Good hop character and bitterness but the base underneath feels like a clean lager rather than any of the many and varied things that count as IPA malt bases. So, I would say this feels more like an India Pale Lager than an IPA – for me at least. Because of that I’m going to evaluate it as an IPL as that seems fairer than treating it as the IPA it says it is.

It is a tad watery but not hugely so – generally it is a good lager like base, slightly dry and drinkable – not special but does the job. The hops are very simple – the bitterness is good and the aroma hints at grapefruit, but the body is pretty much just the hop character and bitterness, into a lightly peppery finish, with very little to add anything to that.

It’s ok, the hop feel is good, but there is no defining feel to it. I guess it does mean that none of the flavours become wearing, meaning it is sessionable, but the lack of heavy flavours also means that there is nothing to get your teeth into.

In the old days I would have rated this as a solid low alcohol beer compared to all the chemical tasting crap. These days the bar has been risen a lot, and this no longer makes the grade.

Background: Not much to say on this one, saw a four pack of it in Sainsbury‘s, thought I needed more variety in low alcohol beers for the dry days, so I grabbed a pack to give a chance. That is all. Stocking up on more low abv beers as the weather gets hotter as it is nice to have some chilled and ready just for refreshing. I put Crossfaith – Ex_machina back on for drinking this – another instance of heavy music for light beer.

Salt: Jute Session IPA (England: Session IPA: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy to cloudy pineapple juice. Medium white creamy head.

Nose: Gentle pineapple. Vanilla. Flour. Soft grapefruit to pineapple juice. Lemon meringue.

Body: Soft,slight creamy to the outside of marshmallows in mouthfeel. Lemon juice. Light nettle hop prickle. Flour.

Finish: Lemon and pineapple juice. Flour. Moderate hop bitterness. Pineapple pieces.

Conclusion: Holy poop, another good session IPA. I was beginning to think that the world had set a hard cap on the number of good session IPAs allowed in the world at one time. Glad to see I was wrong.

This is gently done, soft and almost feels like licking the outside of a marshmallow, for an oddly specific image there. It is slightly dry from attenuation but has none of that painfully dry character that curses a lot of session IPAs.

Helping it is the hop flavour choice – lightly tart pineapple and lemon, freshening and making the beer easy to drink without needing to lean on a larger malt body for contrasting sweetness. The bitterness is moderate, but feels heavier due to the lack of malt contrast. It has picked its presence well to prickle and show the bitterness, but not get up in your face too quickly. It is set up well to take advantage of the beer style and let you have a few in the session.

It is gentle, but prickly – dry but lightly tart and backs it with hops, just enough lovely bitter hops. As a beer it goes down your neck far too easily, which is my excuse for the short notes, I’ve finished drinking it and I’m now trying to fill out the rest of the notes without an example in front of me. Something I am spectacularly bad at doing,

So, I’m going to leave it there and point out the fact I finished the beer before the notes is a pretty good recommendation in itself.

Background: This is one that Chris from Independent Spirit was raving about, so I overcame my slight aversion to the Session IPA style and grabbed it to give a go and do some notes on. Had not tried anything from Salt before, but with a recommendation like that I was intrigued to see how it went. Not much else to add, went back to my youth for tunes with The Eels – Beautiful Freak, some lovely melancholy tunes.


Douglas Laing: Bunnahabhain: Provenance: 10 Year (2019 Release) (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold. Slow thick puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Lightly oily, in a fish skin way. Salt. Sea breeze. Lime. Seaweed. Sweet syrup. Light menthol mint. Slight pepper. After Eight mint centres. Water adds more salt and wet rocks.

Body: Alcohol warmth but smooth. Honey. Pear drops. Dried beef slices. Vanilla toffee. Water makes smoother, more salt. Moss and honeycomb.

Finish: Honey. Dried beef. Soft sweet lime. Toffee. Water adds honeycomb.

Conclusion: This is significantly different to my last experience with Provenance Bunnahabhain, so I am glad I decided to do notes on it. This one is gently sweet, with the Islay salt and sea breeze character wafting over it.

There is an oily character that is appealing, giving a nice thickness, though neat the alcohol, that also gives weight to it, comes in a tad over warming. Water soothes it out easily though – and it can take quite a bit of water and still work, thought I will admit I feel it works best with just a few drops to take off the heat.

It balances sweet toffee with gentle Islay character. It doesn’t feel full Islay, as is Bunnahabhain’s want it is just slightly salty sea breeze touched, but that is enough here. It remains mostly on the sweet side, and has no harsh edges coming through.

The gentle Islay gets some nice rounding here with lime sweetness and definite honey – all in all a very nice, relaxing, but definitely Islay present drop of a dram.

Background: So, third time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! 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. It doesn’t list on the bottle but I think this is the bottled November 2018 edition. I nearly didn’t do notes on this, as I have done notes on the Douglas Laing Bunnahabhain Provenance 10 Year. Then I remembered these are single cask releases, so good odds it will be significantly different to previous notes. So here we are. Bunnahabhain is the (generally) unpeated side of Islay distilleries, which is odd as I keep getting smoke notes from them in the past. Probably psychosomatic, as I expect smoke when I encounter Islay notes. Anyway… went with Ozzy Osbourne – Memoirs Of a Madman while drinking. Still prefer Black Sabbath in general, but there are some cracking stand-alone tunes.

De Molen: Бакунин: терпение и труд (Patience & Labour) (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 10.6% ABV)

Visual: Hazy dried apricot with a cloudy centre. Thin off white head.

Nose: Buttery shortbread. Cake sponge. Dry sultanas. Oily, peppery hop character. Sake. Bready. Dried apricot.

Body: Dried apricot to standard apricot. Golden syrup. Peppery hop oils. Dry cake sponge. Sake. Cherry pocked biscuits. Oily bitterness. Vanilla.

Finish: Peppery hop oils. Dry sultanas. Dry cake sponge. Oily bitterness. Nutty oily character. Oak.

Conclusion: This is a oily, peppery barley wine. Not what I expected considering that part of this beer’s gimmick is it being made with apricots. Now the fruit is there, but in a dry, relatively restrained fashion. The sultana and apricot character are dry, clinging on through a similarly dry, and highly attenuated base. There is very little residual sugar for such a high abv beer.

There’s subtle vanilla woven through the beer, a fragile lace mesh of flavour, easily permeable by the dry oily base, oily peppery character and dry fruit. It only puts up the impression of a fight against the heavier flavours but that is enough to keep the drier character manageable.

It gives a subtle nutty backing over time, again a dry character but with hints of sweeter nut notes. Overall the beer is a heavy, slow drinker. The peppery, dry character last far beyond the end of the last sip in a long lasting finish. It is never unwelcome, but it does last beyond what I would call its best moments.

It is more dry than my preferred barley wine style, but I can appreciate its more savoury styling with only slight sweetness for a more peppery and restrained barley wine than usual.

Not the best, but a very well made and a tad different barley wine. A very polished beer that isn’t 100% aimed at me, but I can still appreciate.

Background: For people wondering, apparently the romanisation of the brewer Бакунин is Bakunin. Had to do a bit of searching for the right characters for терпение и труд as well – I was nearly ready to just give up and put the English in there. Бакунин is a Russian based brewery I have not encountered before – De Molen is an old favourite of mine, simple labels but utterly solid in the quality they turn out. This one, another one grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a barley wine made with dried apricot and raisins. De Molen seem to be generally spot on with barley wines, which I currently have a bit of a hankering for, so was looking forwards to this. Had grabbed Crossfaith – Ex_Machina recently so I put that on and it as banging mix of Prodigy like electronics and metal as you would expect from them. Great tunes.

Big Drop: Stout (England: Low alcohol Stout: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Moderate sized beige head.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Lactose. Milky chocolate. Praline.

Body: Good mouthfeel. Nutty. Slightly chalky. Slight charring. Earthy bitterness. Muted bitter cocoa. Sour dough. Slight teabags.

Finish: Charring. Roasted nuts. Slight chalk. Lactose. Earthy bitterness. Sports energy drinks.

Conclusion: First, to get it out of the way – No this is not as awesome as the Big Drop + Tiny Rebel collaborations stout. Then again, it is about half the price and easier to get hold of. However, this does have a few positives of its own, so let’s dig in and take a look.

One advantage this has over its fancier cousin is a slightly thicker texture, which does a fair job in negating the main flaw of low abv beers, that being a watery mouthfeel. If over chilled the extra feel is easily lost, so I’d recommend to go for this lightly chilled, and like that it holds up well.

Flavour-wise it is solid if not exceptional – nutty, muted chocolate and good lactose notes. It can be a tad chalky and charred at times, but generally a solid if not exceptional milk stout taste which seems very impressive for such a low abv.

The most evident hint of the lower abv is again a kind of teabag and tannins into slight sports energy drink notes. Nothing major as a problem, it is just something you can notice if you look for it.

Solid enough, if I was drinking alcohol I wouldn’t take it over a standard stout, but for a non drinking day this is spot on.

Background: This is the second time I’ve tried this. First was when it first came out, and I had left it in the fridge a while before drinking, like that I found it overly chalky and dull. Since then they have had time to tweak the recipe and I’ve found that low abv beers work best only slightly chilled, so I decided to grab another and give it a try. This was drunk on a stupidly warm Easter weekend. I put on Metallica – And Justice For All while drinking. Heavy music for a low abv beer. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Douglas Laing: Cambus Old Particular 25 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Strong alcohol. Thick aroma. Lighter fluid touch. Apples. Praline hint. Nutty. Vanilla. Oak. Water adds jelly babies, slight sulphur and eggs.

Body: Soft. Vanilla. Creamy. Oily alcohol evident but not harsh. Apricot. Dry oak. Water makes smooth. Hot cross buns and butter. Jelly babies.

Finish: Oily alcohol. Pear drops. Vanilla. Oaken. Dry. Water adds hot cross buns. Slight raisins. Slight dry spice. Soft bitter red wine.

Conclusion: Ok, this one is packed with some viscous, oily alcohol. Be prepared and warned. I was worried from the waft of alcohol that came out on first pour that this was going to be pure lighter fluid.

So, yeah a tad nervous as I went onto the first sip and … it is comparatively restrained actually. There is still a thick watered down jelly like alcohol feel, but there is no burn with it. The flavours are similarly gentle, with soft vanilla and creamy notes against subtle fruity backing.

It still definitely benefits from water though – the thick alcohol is smoothed out and given a bready, hot cross bun like feel and taste which helps it stand out from the ok, but fairly generic flavours it had before.

Similarly water brings out what I would guess at sherry ageing, though the light colour of the whisky makes me unsure on calling that one. 25 years in a sherry butt would give more colour I would guess, unless it was third fill? I dunno. Anyway, it brings out subtle red wine and spice notes in an understated sweet way that makes me thing of a more gentle take on some young Glenfarclas.

Despite that it doesn’t really stand out as a must have. It has got a nice weight to it, a surprising lack of alcohol burn, but feels like basic notes done well rather than a stand out wonder.

Ok, but I’d expect more from a 25 year whisky.

Background: So, second time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! 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. Cambus is a lowland single grain distillery which I have never tried anything from before, so this should be interesting. Decided to go for some heavy contemplation music, so went for the experimental masterpiece from Godspeed you! Black Emperor! That is Don’t Bend Ascend. Such haunting, background yet weighty music for serious whisky tasting.

Tiny Rebel: Siren: Dark Cherry and Chocolate Barley Wine (Wales: Barley Wine: 11% ABV)

Visual: Deep, cloudy brown. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Coca. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Mild black coffee.

Body: Black cherry. Bourbon biscuits. Slightly light mouthfeel. Liquorice. Bourbon whiskey. Vanilla. Slight rye whiskey. Brown sugar. Slight brown bread. Slight chocolate liqueur. Earthy bitterness.

Finish: Black-forest gateaux. Bourbon biscuits. Watery coffee. Rye whiskey. Alcohol air. Liquorice.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m going to open up with the side of this where it is weaker. This is slightly watery on the mouthfeel, which is bloody surprising considering it rocks in at over 10% abv. It isn’t terribly weak, but just slightly thin at the edges, while letting through some of the rawer alcohol notes in the finish. So not light in a super smooth fashion unfortunately. It is definitely lacking a few points in the polish side of things for sure.

So, on a more positive note, this uses the cocoa to chocolate notes well, adding a strong chocolate character while still letting the barley wine come through so it doesn’t just end up feeling like an imperial stout. It mixes well with the brown sugar notes to make a kind of Belgian dubbel meets barley wine kind of thing.

If there is an upside to the rawer alcohol character it is that it results in some bourbon and rye whiskey like notes that makes it feel like this has been barrel aged, (which, while not something they have done for this beer I know is something they plan for the future) though not with the smoothness barrel ageing brings. It does make me genuinely intrigued to see what the barrel aged version of this would be like.

The black cherry (or dark cherry) could do with a bit more prominence here. It is nice but is a gentle backing note to the chocolate. In fact the lighter body seems to make a lot of the non cocoa ingredient flavours seem slightly muted.

So, an ok barley wine with a few nice notes, but definitely needs another run though with a bit more polish.

Background: Final beer from the Tiny Rebel seventh anniversary collaboration box set and I’ve been saving this one for last. I’m a big fan of barley wines and despair that they don’t seem to get as much love as the Imperial Stouts, so this, made with cocoa nibs and dark cherry definitely caught my attention. Totally going against expected mood music for this, went a bit retro with Radiohead – O.K. Computer. It just scratched an itch of awkward, moody music I wanted right then. The box was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Ardbeg: Drum – Committee Release (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Very clear and light. Mix of fast and slow medium sized streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy peat. Lightly waxy. Slight salt. Waxed fruit. Slight sugar cane. Fresh brown bread. Ripe banana. Banana leaves. Water adds nail polish and dried meat.

Body: Banana. Oily. Oily peat. Caramelised sugar. Rum. Palma violets. Water adds banana yogurt. Peat. Grapes.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Molasses. Cherries. Rum. Peat. Banana and banana leaves. Waxy. Pear drops. Banana custard. Fatty sausage.

Conclusion: This feels like the most unexpected of experiences for me. It is a tropical tasting Ardbeg. It comes in with such a punch of a peaty aroma, but then drops you into smooth (and yes still peat influenced) perfection behind. It punches peat out, punches out waxy and heavy, burnt brown sugar and oily notes. It feels initially like it is going to be one to punch your teeth out.

On that first sip instead it comes in with subtle waxy, oily notes below the peaty weight, and leaves a touch of room which is nigh instantly filled by the rum coming in. It floods in with spicy and dry notes backed by lots of burnt, caramelised brown sugar and even molasses like notes.

More than that, what makes this seem so utterly different is that it has so much banana character added into this – waxy banana, mashed banana, banana yogurt, banana custard. Lots of banana notes really selling the tropical imagery and working so well against the spicier rum notes. Very sweet, always present behind the oily, peaty character.

Heavy peat, heavy sweet, thick waxy mouthfeel, meaty weight. It has full Ardbeg weight but is so sweet, rum touched and vibrant behind that. This is a legend, so polished, weighing the Ardbeg character but unlike any Ardbeg I have tried before.

It is something I never expected – a dessert meets Ardbeg peat whisky. It is both different and amazing, If you get the chance, and it is not silly money, try it. Genuinely great

Background: Final of the five whiskies tried at Independent Spirit‘s Uber Whisky Tasting. Ok, there was a sixth bonus one, this was the last official one, ok. This is this year’s take on the annual Arbeg Committee Release and one I was very excited to try – a rum finished Ardbeg! Going for stupid amounts of money if you try and find it online now, I was so chuffed to see it in the tasting so I could give it a go. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

EDIT: This is the Committee Release version which is 52% abv compared to the standard release which I just found out exists and is 46% abv.

Douglas Laing: Bowmore XOP 21 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 56.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear greened grain. Mid sized streaks come out from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Smooth peat. Light moss. Very smooth and clean. Oily fish skin. Lightly medicinal. Batter. Water changes little.

Body: Oily fish skin. Sweet apples. Smooth. Cinder toffee. Grapes. Light ash. Slight salt. Water adds more grapes and some smoke.

Finish: Cinder toffee. Oily fish skin. Seaweed. Crème brulee. Slight ash. Grapes. Water adds more smoke, slightly peppery.

Conclusion: This is so clean, so smooth for the abv, so polished. It has got salt, slight medicinal character as you would expect from and Islay, but low peat and no fancy barrel ageing altering the flavour. What you get is very smooth vanilla, tinned tropical fruit and grape notes that speak to a very long time in a bourbon barrel. It doesn’t act unusually, but it does have the standard notes delivered ultra smoothly.

The lighter touch lets green fruit notes come out and mix with the lighter medicinal character. If you are worried from this description that the whisky is going to be too light for you, let me reassure you that there are still notes such as an oily fish skin heaviness, notes that bring a thicker character to a gentle alcohol weight whisky. For people who have tried a lot of Bowmore I’d say imagine a mix of the 12 and 18 year, taken the best elements of the two, smoothing massively and putting out at higher alcohol strength and polish.

Water smooths it out even more if you can believe that making for a very easy to sip Islay, but it doesn’t open up any new notes. Now it tastes nowhere near the abv it is pushing out, even taking into account the water, so smooth, with the only flaw is that it doesn’t stand out with any unique elements. It is not super different in flavour to the younger expressions but it is very polished and enjoyable. A very refined take on a classic.

Background: What is there to say for this one? – fourth of the five whiskies tasted at Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber Whisky tasting night. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best. So, I have had some bloody good experience with the XOP range from Douglas Laing. Also, seriously, I love Bowmore, though they do such a wide range of expressions it is hard to know what you will get in any bottling. To paraphrase one of my favourite quotes on Bowmore – If you can’t find a Bowmore expression you enjoy it may be time to ask if whisky is for you. This one of 317 bottles taken from a single cask.

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