Tag Archive: My Favourites


Orkney: Dark Island Reserve (Scotland: Old Ale: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown head that quickly vanishes to just a rim and a dusting.

Nose: Very vinous. Very spirity. Sour red wine. Rich sherry. Alcohol soaked raisins. Rum. Honeycomb. Golden syrup cake slices. Charcoal dusting. Hot fudge cakes.

Body: Cake sponge. Light charring. Smoke. Brown bread. Bitter core. Dry toffee. Thick feel after being light for a couple of seconds. Dry rum. Sour grapes. Dry sherry. Bitter chocolate cake. Lightly sour touch. Brown bread. Dry plums and dry figs.

Finish: Bitter chocolate cake. Sour touch. Sour grapes. Sour figs. Bitter cocoa dust. Wet moss. Smoke. Dry sherry.

Conclusion: Ok, this took me a bit of time for me to get my head around. Mainly because the aroma, the body and the finish all feel massively different while still having enough in common to give a coherent theme.

The aroma is the most spirity, vinous thing you are likely to encounter any time soon. It is thick as hell, heavy, with thick sweet syrup notes and tons of the old ale style and dark fruit notes. Every element you can imagine from its description is here and huge.

So, with that in mind, on first sip I was expecting pretty similar. Instead I got a drier, bitter chocolate cake, smoke and charring thing up front. Bitter in character but fairly subtle despite its weight. Then, over time, the old ale style sourer but still thick and heavy set of notes comes out. Subtle sour grapes, but more evident than that are the dry spirity notes. Far drier in how that are expressed in the full bodied aroma, but most definitely there.

The finish flips that a bit. It still has the bitter opening but then goes heavily into the sour, old ale like notes first, before finally the dry spirit notes show themselves around the edges.

It is not an instantly rewarding mix, which is kind of why I find it so engrossing. It had my interesting instantly with the aroma, but I had to take my time waiting in the body as it slowly laid its cards out after that, making you wait for the best notes at the latter half of the beer. It is never a bad beer, still solid early on, but the best comes to those who wait.

The beer never ends up the boozy beast that the aroma promises, and I kind of miss that – it smelled like it was going to be epic, but the drier, old ale sourness meets dry spirity character meets smoke and dry chocolate cake thing is a heck of an experience, and not one I can say I have seen like this elsewhere.

This earns its reputation, just takes a short while to do so. Give it that time and you will be rewarded.

Background: I have known this beer by reputation for ages, but somehow never got my way around to grabbing a bottle. Which changed last Christmas when I had a 750ml bottle to myself for lock-down Christmas! I didn’t do notes on it then, and have meant to for ages since. So this is me doing that , finally pulling my thumb out and doing something. For some reason this, smaller bottle, stylizes the name as DRK ISLD RSRV. Maybe because they hate me. That is most likely. Anyway, this is Dark Island that has spent time in whisky casks. Makes sense. Though considering the Dark Island I tried was sub 5% and this is over 10% I’m guessing they brewed up the recipe a bit. That or it was a heck of a wet barrel and there is a serious amount of whisky in this. Which seems less likely. Anyway, I think this was one of the earlier attempts at barrel ageing beers in the UK, but I couldn’t be sure on that. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Ulver: ATGCLVLSSCAP. I wanted something haunting to go with something this big, and as always Ulver provides. Considering the album is basically live improvised remixes of existing songs it speaks highly of Ulver that it is still so amazing.

Lowtide: Forgot To Take My Pils (England: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, clear, lightly yellowed colour. Lots of small bubbled carbonation. Large loose bubbled head.

Nose: Floral. Peppery. Clean jiff lemon on pancakes.

Body: Peppery. Clean hop oil sheen. Lemon-cakes and jiff lemon. Vanilla. Lime touch. Floral.

Finish: Peppery. Floral. Jiff lemon. Good bitterness. Mild slick hop oils. Prickly hop character.

Conclusion: Ok, this is genuinely the best low abv lager that I have had. Heck it is a bloody good lager even without that qualifier.

Spoiler warning: I like it.

The big thing that grabs me about this beer is the mouthfeel. It has a clean base with more thickness that I’d expect brought in by an oily hop sheen style. There is that thickness, but not in a way that hurts the drinkability, just makes it slide down your throat in an oilier way. It has managed to avoid that empty chalky, slightly chemically tasting style a lot of low abv lagers have been cursed by, and instead works its own smooth but present grip.

It has a heavier hop character than a lot of lagers, but still in a lager way, unlike a lot of the craft beer takes on a lager. It expresses as a peppery and slightly pricky thing, and lets the base lager still show its thing. It feels like it leans towards the more bitter end of the German pilsner style for inspiration and influence.

It gives relief from the bitterness with soft vanilla, lemon and lime notes, but generally it is just rocking the gentle hop oils and solid peppery hop bitterness top to tail. Nothing too rough, so it is still very drinkable, refreshing bitter and with no tells to the nigh absolute lack of alcohol.

This is very highly recommended.

Background: Tried a few lowtide beers before, when having some low alcohol days, but this is the first I have got around to actually doing notes on them. Been pretty good so far. This was grabbed from Beercraft, who, as ever, have an impressive low alcohol selection. Was drunk while chilling out and listening to IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance. Still such a bloody good album. The can has pretty detailed ingredients, which I always like – it has oats and wheat in it, and uses Saaz, Perle and Azacca as hops, plus pilsner and caramalt for the malt.

Murray McDavid: Safe Haven 2014 – Mystery Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale darkened gold spirit. Generally slow puckering comes from the spirit with some slow, thick streaks coming out as well.

Nose: Beefy peat. Alcohol tingle. Wet moss. Thick. Christmas pudding and sherry cream. Salt. Heavy. Dry smoke. Brandy cream. Dried beef slices. Water adds grass, and sulphur. More water brings out raisins.

Body: Warming and thick. Treacle. Brown bread. Peppery. Beef slices. Peat. Malt chocolate. Christmas pudding. Vanilla toffee. Charring. Water adds cherries. Sulphur. Raisins. Fudge. Smoother peat. More water adds alcohol soaked raspberries. Strawberry. Brandy cream.

Finish: Malt chocolate and brown bread. Thai seven spice. Warming. Smoke. Christmas pudding. Sherry soaked raisins. Water adds fudge and glacier cherries. Peppercorns. More water adds brandy cream.

Conclusion: Ok, short version. This is Christmas Pudding, covered in brandy and sherry cream, peat smoked and pushed out with a good hit of alcohol character. That last bit is not a surprise considering that this is a tidy 50% abv.

Neat this thing is intense, not overly harsh, but visibly wearing its alcohol weight. The youth of the spirit means that the peat is still fresh and full of force and can easily be seen past the strong flavours. It has a mossy, Island character and a touch of salt that similarly calls to the sea, but front and centre is the Christmas pudding style and associated spirity creams. (The brandy cream starts out lighter but becomes very noticeable with water) It is heavy, slightly spicy, and lovely.

Water smooths the alcohol, but never the weight of the peat, or the Christmas pudding character for that matter. The sweetness alters from darker malt chocolate to lighter vanilla fudge, adding in cherries and other brighter fruit notes to work with. These are lovely rounding notes that come out from using water, but that heavy weight is still front and centre to the whisky.

More water makes this a bit sulphurous but also balances that with some more dark fruit, showing that, at 50% abv, this has a lot of room for exploration. This is such a booming whisky, using the unusual cask finish well to to either cover up, or work with the issues you can get with younger spirit, while also taking advantage of said youth to utterly work the peat character to its potential.

This is a lovely, heavy, peaty, spirity, Christmas Pudding dessert of a whisky. I love this one.

Background: When this first turned up in Independent Spirit, it vanished quickly. When it turned up again I decided to grab a bottle as it sounds very nice. I don’t think I’ve tried any Murray McDavid bottlings before, but they seem to be doing some very interesting and different things recently. So worth keeping an eye on. This lists itself as from a “Trade Secret” region. So I am guessing they do not have the rights to label the distillery. However since, most places list this as “Isle Of Mull” whisky it is not hard to guess that it is Tobermory, to be specific the peated Ledaig expression. I’m not sure why they didn’t just list region as “Island” as that would have been vague enough but give an idea of where it was from. At only six years this should be interesting peat wise, and peat can fade quickly as a whisky ages, so this should be pretty big. Also it spent it’s last six month in a Ximenez – Spinola PX casks, which is its big selling point, the rest of time was in a bourbon hogshead. Music wise I had recently seen that youtube musician Jonathan Young had put out a very 80s feeling album called “ Starship Velociraptor” under the band name Galactkraken, it is a wealth of fun so I put that on in the background.

Bruichladdich: Port Charlotte: OLC: 01 – 2010 (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: 55.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold, with a mix of slow puckering and a few fast streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Milk chocolate. Medicinal. Hints of black forest gateaux. Pencil shavings. Dry peat smoke. Menthol to mint. Peppercorns. Gin. Water adds so much more peat smoke. Dry white wine. Spiced cherries. Moss.

Body: Strong alcohol. Chocolate cake. Dry peat. Tart green and red grapes. Water adds sweet red grapes and spicy red grapes. Paprika. Black cherry. Tons of peat. More water adds hints of raspberry yogurt hard chunks. Strawberry crème.

Finish: Dry. Dried beef slices. Smoke. Bitter cocoa. Water adds more beef to well done beef steak character. Sweet chilli. Caramel. Strawberry yogurt touch. Peppercorns.

Conclusion: So, cards on the table, this is amazing. Ok, now with that said, let’s be harsh about this whisky first.

Deep breath. While this is good neat, unsurprisingly at over 50% abv, it is a tad burning. It means that neat it is predominantly a more medicinal, harsh and dry peat kind of thing. Punchy, but not showing any more than hints of the range that you would expect this to have based on its oak journey.

Yes, that mild criticism was me trying to be harsh to this. Did I mention I adore it?

A little water smooths it out, which somehow makes the peat much bigger, more booming and less dry. Hey, as a peat fan I am not complaining. It also managed to let a lot of the subtleties from the varied ageing come out to play, and this is where things get fun.

The chocolate, almost black-forest gateaux like, character hinted at when it was neat, now is rich, dark backing for the peat. The medicinal character from the alcohol is gone, leaving a still quite dry body but now giving a real mix of sweet cake, heavy peat and smoke and dried meat that is gorgeous.

It is dark, heavy, peaty but no longer harsh. It shows its Islay character but in far smoother ways than, say, Ardbeg or Laphroaig would do, but without compromising on the smokey character.

If you add more water then it breaks the dry character, making for an oily sheen and a mossy, Island style wet rocks character. During this time more and more grapes both red and white, sour, sweet and spiced all come out. So much now showing from its many barrel ageing influence.

So, peat laden, dark and heavy, but everything else can be from sweet gateaux or wine styled to moss and oily depending on the level of water play. Though at each level the other elements are hinted at, and giving fainter backing notes. There is so much to examine here.

With just enough water this becomes the perfect match of dessert and Islay, with so many other takes available with other amounts of water.

Come get it.

Background: Been meaning to grab a Port Charlotte bottle for a while. It is the heavily peated take on the normally unpeated Bruichladdich. Not to be confused with the very, very heavily peated take that is Octomore. I’ve tried a bunch of Port Charlotte expressions over the years, but never bought a bottle. Until now. So now I have, from the ever reliable Independent Spirit. A lot going on with this one, from the bottle it is part of the “Cask Exploration Series” and has been aged in a mix of Bourbon, Vin Doux Naturel and Syrah casks then moved for the last 18 months to oloroso casks. I cannot find what OLC means from a quick google, if you know, please let me know. Wanted big booming dark music for this, so went with Anathema: The Silent Enigma.

De Struise: Black Damnation: 09: Beggar’s Art (Belgium: Imperial Stout: 18.1% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Fairly small brown bubbled head.

Nose: Oily. Moss. Medicinal air. Wholemeal brown bread. Hints of blue cheese. Crushed chocolate bourbon biscuits. Kippers. Peat smoke.

Body: Oily. Thick. Cherries. Chocolate fondue. Medicinal. Beef slices. Peat smoke.


Finish: Meat feast pizza toppings. Oily. Slight salt. Peat smoke. Cherries. Medicinal. Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Cream. Bready. Hint of blue cheese.

Conclusion: Ardbeg is surprisingly hard to use for barrel aging a beer. It can become so dominant in its harshness that it overpowers the base beer, but also in doing that loses the subtleties that makes it work so well as a complex and booming whisky.

I think that they brewed this at over 18% abv just to try and give it a chance to go up against that Ardbeg character, and you know what? It works.

The aroma is very Ardbeg led, though a bit more oily that what I would expect from that dram. In fact that unexpected oiliness follows through into the entire beer and is very pleasant at it, giving EVEN more weight and character. There is then familiar medicinal notes and peat smoke in an almost kippers like fashion. Also very pleasing to me, there are very subtle blue cheese notes that remind me of my favourite Ardbeg expression I have ever tried.

The beer, when you actually push past the aroma and sip it, manages a heavy, thick chocolate fondue style to creamy, complex coffee body, which is amazing, then utterly brutalised by Arbeg character. In a good way.

It is smoother than you would imagine, both in lack of alcohol burn and creaminess of character but uses that to show the peat smoke, meat and that oily element off well. Somehow, with all that going on, despite the weight of the Islay character occasionally sweet cherry notes manage to poke their heads above the parapets to be enjoyed. It took 18% or so, but they did it, they made a beer that can stand up to Ardbeg.

This is a beast and I love it. It is big enough to be big and chewy by itself, and the Islay influence is huge but managed. I mean how can I not love something that occasionally brings out those blue cheese notes amongst the Ardbeg influence. Do you like Imperial Stouts? Do you like Islay? No question then, get this, it is great.

Background: A big De Struise fan here, but never managed to get hold of any of their big Black Damnation imperial stouts. Then first one I do is this, an over 18% abv one aged for two years in Ardbeg casks. Well that is a heck of a way to kick things off. Not much else to add, one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Wanted something operatic and metal for a beer this big so went with Nightwish: Dark Passion Play.

Pilot: Barrel Aged Double Mochaccino Stout (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 12.3% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still and opaque. Brown rim of bubbles around the glass and a grey dash over the centre.

Nose: Full bitter coffee to coffee cake with walnuts. Vanilla. Rye whisky undertones. Peppery. Carrot cake. Some low level rum notes. Whisky air.

Body: Smooth. Cherries. Palma violets. Black cherries. Milky chocolate to chocolate liqueur. Very light liquorice. Rum. Fruity whisky notes. Orange jelly sweets. Peppery. Coffee cake.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Milky coffee. Coffee cake. Light liquorice. Apple clean spirity notes. Cocoa. Seville orange. Pear drops.

Conclusion: You know, if they haven’t had stated that this was Speyside whisky barrel aged I would have sworn that it had spent some time in rum wood as it has some light rum spiciness in under there.

Anyway, there is a noticeable alcohol character to this, which is to be expected given the high abv and barrel ageing, but despite that it isn’t a “boozy” feeling drink. Instead it is very smooth, and dangerously easy to drink from that. In a way it is a good thing that it is in a tiny 250 ml bottle at this abv or a could quaff a lot of it, with bad results for my health.

It starts off very cake driven, with coffee cake, carrot cake, a whole cake kind of thing going on giving a very thick and often coffee led aroma. Which is part of what makes that smoothness of body such a surprise.

The body therefore starts smooth and sweet with a lot of cherries and black cherries giving a very fruity front. It is easy drinking and delicious here. As time goes on the rum like spiciness and more rye like spicy character rises to make it a slightly more savoury and complex beast that the fruity burst at the front.

The whisky ageing shows itself more late on as a subtly fruity whisky character that floats in the background. It is a clean, slightly spirity and fruity sheen that clings to everything but never dominates.

So this is a beer with a great start, lovely progress and is smooth as silk but with so much progression.

I would say, if you see it, grab it, but I don’t want more competition for getting hold of the remaining bottles!

Background: I’ve had this a few times and kept meaning to do notes, so finally I have. In a tiny 25 cl bottle, this is taken from four speyside whisky casks that were filed with Double Mochaccino Stout. So pretty much exactly what it says in the name. Grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with IDLES: Brutalism again as drinking music. Still listening to them a lot, and looking forwards to when I finally get to see them live again.

Vandenbroek: Watergeus (Netherlands: Gueuze Lambic: 6.4% ABV)

Visual: Clear, just slightly hazy, with an apple juice colour. Thin white bubbled dash of a head. Very small amount of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Horse blankets. Fresh cut apples. Dry. Light chalk. Crushed dry roasted peanuts. Crushed walnuts.

Body: Juicy apple. Brown bread. Nutty. Light chalk. Dry white wine. Slight champagne. Vanilla.

Finish: Pears. Fluffy feel. Popcorn. Yeast funk. Slight mild cheese.

Conclusion: This somehow manages to feel both dry and yet also fuller than most lambics I have tried. It is an impressive and pleasing mix.

The bigger weight side of things is felt in a fruitier, especially more apple filled, character, and touched by vanilla sweetness. However, despite that it still keeps the very dry, white wine like undertones – which gives a mouth drying, yet simultaneously refreshing style. The more refreshing notes are especially notable in the main body while the dry wine like air roars over the finish after each sip.

In-between that full front and dry finish is a yeastie experience. It calls to champagne in some ways, and the brett influence feels more like how I have encountered it in some non lambic beers – giving a fluffy, lightly cheesy notes that give real weight to the middle.

Around all that are those traditional horse blanket aroma and nutty core that make it very familiar as a lambic. This is such a showcase of lambic style. It is very telling that I have had a ton of these already, have one ageing, and have only just around to doing notes. I really enjoy it.

A fantastic lambic on every level. Expect to see more from this brewery here whenever I pull my thumb out and do more notes.

Background: Oh man, how many of these Vandenbroek beers have a I tried before I finally pulled my thumb out and did notes on them? Quite a few! Anyway, I was obviously enjoying them so decided it was my duty to do some notes and maybe bring these to the attention of people who may have overlooked them until now. This is their standard gueuze – coming in a slight bit higher abv than I’ve seen listed in other places online, so I’m guessing the abv changes batch to batch. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit, who were the people who introduced me to them and have a great lambic and sour collection. Went with Miracle Of Sound’s Level 11 to listen to while drinking, “A Long year” was especially feeling appropriate as the end of 2020 loomed in front of me. Which, reminds me – Happy New Year! Enjoy Your drink!

Laphroaig: 10 Original Cask Strength – Batch 12 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 60.1% ABV)

Visual: Burnished reddened gold. Slow puckering comes from the spirit along with a few faster, thick streaks.

Nose: Camomile. Germolene (I think). Smoke. Peppery. Peat. Meat broth. Medicinal spirit. Orange zest. Charring. Some alcohol tingly. Slightly oily. Water makes clearer, and cleaner medicinal style. Dry soot. More orange zest.

Body: Warming initially, alcohol feel builds up quickly. Dried apricot. Medicinal and slightly dry. Beefy. Lots of peat. Slight malt chocolate. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Water adds honey and makes smoother. Beef broth. Orange notes. Peach.

Finish: Warming and tingling. Beef slices. Malt chocolate. Slight lime air. Numbing alcohol after a while. Cheese puff crisps. Slight caramel. Slight orange crème. Water adds cleaner orange notes and lime.

Conclusion: The first time I popped this open it was fucking intense. Possibly too intense, but still such an experience. Here, with a few weeks open under its belt, we get a much more balanced look. As always, time to air is your friend with whisky.

Neat it is still intense, though surprisingly smooth on first sip considering the abv – though the alcohol come in quickly after. It is not as numbing as you would expect but it is still numbing.

Neat it gives in exchange for the abv an even more medicinal style dram than the standard Laphroaig – not just in the dry spirit character, but even a kind of medicinal cream to medicinal bandages style aroma that I more associate with my small experience of Port Ellen.

Thee peat experience is also there, smokey and big. It is still not Ardbeg level peaty but still intense. The sweeter notes of the spirit come out more chocolatey with the bigger body, though still with vanilla backing. Similar the bigger body brings even more of the subtle citrus notes under that. Everything is bigger, and if you are fine with the alcohol weight it is 100% worth it.

Water smooths it out a lot – it is still evidently medicinal and peaty, but now with lots more sweetness. It is actually shockingly smooth all things considered and with many more fruity notes underneath including stuff I would not normally associate with Laphroaig like the subtle peach notes backing it.

Any way you take it, this is pure Laphroaig , from its most uncompromising to its most complex. I absolutely love it. Just make sure you give it some time to air before you make up your mind as first impressions are brutal!

Background: Ohh my, saw this at Independent Spirit and I wanted it instantly. Laphroaig 10 was my entry point to heavy duty Islay whisky and I still love it. Found out one of my friends in the Netherlands had actually tried this already, the lucky lucky person! Anyway, one of my mates commented that this tasted like Orange Marmite, if such a thing could exist, so that may have influenced my thoughts while tasting. I went with the live Undertale album for listening while drinking, light happy and chill, stuff I need at the mo.

Waterford: Single Farm Origin: Ballymorgan 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. A very varied mix of streaks come from the spirit – from slow puckering, fast sheet like chunks and thin streaks.

Nose: Lively. Alcohol is noticeable. Strawberry. Tart rhubarb. Pear drops. Nail polish. Butterscotch and vanilla toffee. Heather. Honeycomb. Water smooths to tart white grapes.

Body: Tingling. A young spirit feel. Pears. Peppery touch. Gooseberry. Dry rhubarb. Lightly waxy. Strawberry crème. Water adds vanilla custard. Sweet green grapes. Toffee.

Finish: Peppery. Malt chocolate to choc orange. Sweeter rhubarb. Strawberry crème. Water adds chocolate toffee and choc lime.

Conclusion: Damn I love this. Ok, maybe I should have saved that for the end, as I have just given everything away but… damn I love this!

So, to balance out that wild enthusiasm (this is 2020 you know, we can’t be having any enthusiasm or happiness) let’s get the bad points out of the way first. Neat this feels slightly young in a few elements of its character. Now it doesn’t have an age statement, and it it is fairly smooth (I would presume from Irish triple distilling practices, but their website seems to indicate they do a double distillation, so what do I know), but the character does have a few elements that would make me think this is pretty young. It is partly from a few rough edges, evident if not too harsh alcohol, considering the 50% abv – but more than that it has a very bright flavour profile which I associate with young whisky. So, it doesn’t have the refined character you may expect for the cost.

Now, water does smooth a lot of this out, but also changes the character massively as we are about to examine.

Neat it has that bright, youthful spirit character. It is very lively and very fruity – coming out as pear drops, rhubarb, gooseberry and the like over a quite clean base, with slight peppery notes. It is slightly rough, but generally all about those bright notes. Even with those rough edges it is utterly wonderful to explore and surprisingly easy to drink considering the abv.

Water changes it to a still interesting, but completely different style. Now there are loads of vanilla, toffee and some malt chocolate notes at the base. Far smoother, and sweeter, with far less fruit – though there is still a little there as high notes to contrast.

Neat is more exciting, and with far more to examine, but is rougher. Water is smoother and has a new complexity, but loses a lot of what really makes the neat whisky stand out. Both are worthy experiences and with those two options this stands out as a whisky with a great range of experiences – If this is what single terrior does then I am all for it. An absolute gem that I can recommend without hesitation.

Background: Now this caught my eye. I was lacking a bottle of Irish Whiskey in the cupboard, and I always try to keep one to hand, then this range popped up. A bunch of different whiskeys from Waterford, all concentration on the concept of “terrior ” so all the barley is from a single farm, in this case Ballymorgan.

Now I knew nothing about this difference in farms, so grabbed one pretty much at random, but the concept intrigued me. There is even a specific terrior code on the back you can enter on their website to find out more about the area, which is a nice touch. So, time to find out if it makes a difference. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Dan Le Sac’s These People Are Idiots – lovely chilled beats to drink to – I recommend checking it out.

Ardbeg: Blaaack: Committee 20th Anniversary (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Wet wood. Crushed red grapes. Salt. Black and red liquorice. Medicinal touch. Slight green grapes. Pencil shavings. Salty rocks. Slight charring. Brown sugar. Water adds oily peat notes and a touch of tar.

Body: Blueberry. Salt. Wet rocks. Warming alcohol. Cake sponge. Charring. Earthy wine character. Water adds caramel. Soot. Fig rolls. More blueberry. Some subtle cherries.

Finish: Smoke. Soot. Bitter chocolate dust. Plums. Earthy. Fig rolls. Water adds dust balls. Blueberry. Charring. More bitter chocolate and a medicinal touch.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m a known Ardbeg fan, and with that taken as fact, this is still, in fact, something special.

For one it is a good quality Ardbeg – peaty, sooty, heavy, lightly medicinal and slightly dry. The Pinot Noir ageing hasn’t overwhelmed or replaced any of the distinctive Ardbeg qualities. The alcohol is present but never intrusive, even taken without water.

Neat it has an interesting look at the Pinot Noir influence. There are some red grape notes, but it has a kind of earthy wine character that reminds me of the European takes rather than the fruitier NZ Pinot Noir that they used for ageing. It adds a fruity but heavy note to the dram.

Water brings out a completely different interpretation of the wine notes. It is sweeter, with blue fruit, figs and most notably blueberry. It is subtle in how it works – the front is all Ardbeg but it has these dark fruit rounding notes that just take it to another level.

Unlike some of the committee releases – one that I still adore – this really plays to traditional Ardbeg strengths and just enhances it. A bit deeper, a bit more rounded, but not such a surprise as , say, Drum was.

If you know Ardbeg, it is that, but earthier, sweeter and slightly smoother. Utterly amazing. I could talk more, but I would probably just end up repeating myself. Flaws? Well it isn’t as good as the XOP Ardbeg 1992, but what is? And this isn’t stupid money to buy.

Are you an Ardbeg fan? If you see it, try it if you can.

Background: Another year, another Committee release, and Ardbeg have gone with something very interesting for their 20th anniversary. Pinot Noir aged Ardbeg. Now they don’t say Pinot Noir finished, so I presume at least some of the whisky is completely aged in Pinor Noir casks, but I could be wrong. Also I didn’t managed to try the cask strength version to compare like I did with Ardbeg Drum a while back. A pity, would have been cool to compare. Anyway, I love Ardbeg – Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can recognise easily, so grabbing this from Independent Spirit was a certainty for me. Of note, the bottle is as black as its name – you have to hold it up to direct light and look carefully to be able to tell how much whisky you have left in there. A minor annoyance. Went with heavy music to back this – the hardcore punk of Gallows: Orchestra of Wolves.

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