Tag Archive: My Favourites



Bokkereyer (Aka Methode Goat): Framboos Vanille 2018 (Belgium: Fruit Lambic: 6% ABV)

Visual: Bright cherry red, with only a thin white rim of bubbles instead of a head.

Nose: Very fresh and very natural smelling raspberries. Toffee and vanilla notes. Soft strawberries. Cream.

Body: Soft mouthfeel. Tart apples. Creamy raspberries. Very fresh and distinctly natural raspberry. Slightly dry. Peach.

Finish: Fruity fresh raspberries. Vanilla. Cream. Tart apples. Very clean. Peach notes. Grapes. Mild tannins. Oak. Oats.

Conclusion: OK, wow, the is fruity. Now that should not be a shock, ir is a Framboos – a raspberry lambic – but I have found that while a lot of Framboos have that tart raspberry character, they often loose a lot of the fresher and sweeter elements of the fruit. None I have encountered have had quite such a full on expression of the full range of the fruit as this has.

It is fresh, mouth-filling and tart, and really expresses the flavours. I think it may be because of the vanilla beans adding a sweetness and creaminess that not just restores oft lost elements of the raspberry, but also works well against the tart apple notes of the lambic base. It makes for something very easy to drink and rich in flavour. From somewhere peach notes come out, combining with the raspberry and creamy to make this almost like a peach melba lambic, and that is just exceptional. (Note: Yes I did double check this isn’t one of the lambics they had that actually had peach in). It keeps the tart flavours, but none of the heavier horse blanket notes you see with a lot of lambics. A touch of tannins, but that is it. A very different and smooth take.

The main call to a more traditional lambic base is in the finish – here it is dry, with some oats, oak and such like. It gives a more recognisable beer and lambic character to something that is a bit away from a traditional take on the style, underlining it and emphasising everything that came before by its contrast.

Wonderfully fresh, fruity but without being fruit juice like. The tart lambic is restrained but still unmistakable – this is possible my favourite of the Framboos I have encountered. The vanilla smooths the edges but does not diminish the quality or complexity.

An exceptional beer.

Background: This is a mix of one, two an three year old lambic with a mix of three types of raspberry and made with Madagascar and Tahitian vanilla beans and bottled January 2019. Before this I had just known Bokkereyer by reputation of quality and their rarity, so reading those words gave me an idea of why this tiny brewery was making such a fuss. There were six different bottles available to try at the Arrogant Sour Beer Festival at the Moor Tap Room, and I quickly decided this one was one I wanted to try. I say Bokkereyer, as that was how they were listed, but a quick google tells me the brewery has changed its name to Methode Goat, though I can’t find why. I’m guessing a big brewer and a trademark court case threat. Anyway, was super excited to try this at the end of the festival, and had tried to pace myself so I could try to do it justice in the notes.

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Red Breast: Lustra Edition (Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold with fast, thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Brandy cream. Rich sherry. Pencil shavings. Warming alcohol. Brandy snaps. Honey. Spirit soaked raisins. Water makes lighter and citrus touched. Lime notes.

Body: Smooth, but warming. Honey and toffee. Sugared orange sweets. Madeira cake. Brandy cream. Custard slices. Spicy sherry. Fig rolls. Sweet chocolate liqueur. Water adds soft lime, soft orange and lot of caramel.

Finish: Fudge. Spicy sherry. Madeira cake. Slight chocolate. Slight oak. Orange jelly sweets. Choc toffee. Spirit soaked raisins. Water makes much more chocolate and choc orange and brings out honey.

Conclusion: This is smooth, but so big! So sweet, but with spicy sherry keeping it grounded. It has so much of the Irish pot still whiskey mouthfeel evident, that lovely smooth but robust character, here expressed in a richer and fuller way than I have previously seen for a Red Breast.

Neat it is full of different spirity notes – brandy cream mixed with honey, and the time in a Oloroso sherry cask has given it lots of sweet and spicy sherry notes here. It very full on for such a smooth dram. Here, taken neat, I love it. Such a rewarding spirit flavour, with (again spirit soaked) dark fruit notes that feel like they belong to a heavier whiskey but are delivered so smooth,

With a touch of water this becomes even creamier – full of caramel and fudge notes. The honey notes that existed in the neat whiskey now is accompanied by a host of sweet notes to fight against the spirity character. Like this I love it! Smooth as silk, matching big sweetness and creaminess with everything that came before, just mellowed out. So very rewarding.

More water makes it lighter, allowing some of the more traditional Irish whiskey elements to come through – most notable some light and smooth citrus notes. Now all the elements are toned down for an easy drinking citrus, but still chocolate and sherry touched thing. Gentle orange notes mix in to bring out choc orange joy late on. So, yes, like this I love it.

Such a good whiskey all the way through. I recommend it without hesitation.

Background: Ok, first up – the background of the box describes this as having an “Endless” finish. I have tested this empirically and the finish has, as you may have guessed, ended. The lying toerags. Anyway, that aside, this is a version of the single pot still whiskey that has spent time in American and European oak before being moved into Lustra’s first fill Olorosso sherry casks. Been enjoying revisiting Red Breast recently so this very much caught my attention when I saw it in Independent Spirit. Was fairly warm again when I was drinking this. I hate the heat, so had fans on all around trying to keep the air moving. Went with Getter – Visceral for music while drinking.

Lervig: Infinite Timelines (Norway: IPA: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly hazy yellow. Large white head that mounds up. Moderate small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Creamy. Peach. Slight hop oils. Slight rye crackers. Slight pepper spice. Pumpkin. Lemon cakes.

Body: Mild lemon curd. Middling bitterness and hop character. Moderate hop prickle. Creamy pineapple yogurt. Banana milkshake. Hop oils.

Finish: Good hop character. Custard sweetness and good bitterness. White grapes. Slight pink grapefruit. Banana. Tangerine. Mild oily notes.

Conclusion: This beer has made me ask, what even is a NEIPA these days? I ask, not just because I didn’t realise this was a NEIPA when I bought it, and now I am really enjoying it, so obviously I need to mentally work out a way it is not a New England IPA so I can happily drink it while keeping up my anti NEIPA snobbery – No, there are other reasons as well! I’m just wondering where exactly the line is between a New England IPA, and all the other takes, as, well this is pretty atypical. Also awesome, maybe for me because it is atypical.

It probably doesn’t really matter. Style guidelines are just that, guidelines, a way for us to have a rough idea what it is we are getting, not some straitjacket of execution. It will still bug me. Because I am silly. Hey, at least I’m honest. On this matter at least.

The main thing that made me think about this is how it hits the eyes. It is slightly hazy, but nowhere near as cloudy as usual. I have to admit I thought that was one of the defining elements of the style, so I was already a tad confused here.

Similarly it ha a decent hop character in a way that I thought it was traditional for NEIPAS to shun – Slight hop oils, good hop prickle and middling bitterness. It feels generally like a bit smoother than normal IPA, if I had to pin down I would say closer to East Coast than any other take but not really matching any given definition – just a really good IPA. Nicely oily, but not heavy or “dank”, just definitely happy to use that part of the character.

Maybe it is the fruitiness that makes it a NEIPA. This is a super fruity mix – tangerine, pineapple, peach, lemon curd – lots of different notes that are delivered very cleanly so they come across as the fruit itself rather than a hop approximation of the fruit. There is some hop influence in the flavours, but if I had to compare them to anything I would say milkshake like. In fact, while not dominated by it, I would still say that this is a better milkshake IPA than 90% of the self named milkshake IPAs that I have encountered. A sweet banana malt base is the main part of it, and it helps everything else just slip down.

This therefore feels like it is not limited to any one particular IPA take, and I think that is why I love it. It takes the best from so many IPA takes and makes it more than the sum of its parts.

Lovely fruity, creamy and hoppy beer. Such a good IPA.

Background: This was a pretty random grab. Saw it at Independent Spirit, thought that Lervig beers had been pretty good to me so far, so picked it up. So as mentioned in the notes, I didn’t notice this was a NEIPA, one of my less preferred takes on the IPA style. It is made with rye and oats as well as the usual malt barley and hopped with Mosaic, and two I don’t know – Denali and Idaho 7. Went with a bit of Mclusky for some awesome, heavy but weird music to back it up.

Big Drop: Citra Four Hop Special Edition Pale Ale (England: Low alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to grain. Thin off white bubbled head.

Nose: Peach. Fresh cut apple. Cake sponge. Lime. Lemon sorbet. Very fresh. Light raspberry pavlova.

Body: Soft lime. Grapes. Slight chalk. Low to moderate hop character and bitterness. Slight peach. Tannins.

Finish: Chalk touch. Good hop bitterness and character. Soft lime. Cake sponge. Lemon cake. Apple. Dried banana. Tannins.

Conclusion: First up, the aroma on this is great. Lots of soft, fruity hop action. It is gentle, but lively in flavour. Here the beer is significantly different from the original Big Drop Pale Ale and all the better for it.

The body is more similar to its parent brew, still showing cake sponge, still a good use of hop character and soft lime notes. If you have been looking at the notes above you would probably expect me to say there is more difference than there actually is. The thing is there definitely are a range of different notes, it is just that they are not consistent, just occasional , pleasant, hiccups of flavour that pop in and out throughout the beer.

Now, the base, standard Big Drop Pale ale is one of my favourite ever low alcohol beers – this has a far better aroma, and a just slightly better body. So, of course, I love it. Again it feels like a very good beer, not just a good low alcohol beer – only some light tannin notes give away the low abv character.

So, yeah, if you get a chance to grab it this is an awesome low abv beer of character. If you can’t find it, the standard Big Drop Pale Ale is still flipping great and this isn’t so big a difference that you must hunt it out for this.

Still a nice twist on a a still awesome beer.

Background: I adore Big Drop’s Pale Ale. It is still possibly my favourite low alcohol beer, which has been getting to be an actual hard fought category over the past year, which I admit is something I never thought I would say. This is a limited version of the beer which I spotted at Beercraft. I don’t use them that much as they can be a tad expensive, but their low alcohol selection at the moment is fantastic. I put on Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues while drinking- still an utterly fantastic album.

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.

Lervig: Saskatoon Cheesecake Stout (Norway: Imperial Stout: 12% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Short lived brown head that settles quickly into a brown rim around the glass.

Nose: Blueberry. Cheesecake. Boozy. Raisins. Liquorice touch. Toffee liqueur. Raspberry.

Body: Chocolate liqueur. White chocolate. Cheesecake. Blueberry. Boozy. Malt loaf. Bready backing. Cocoa.

Finish: Malt loaf. Blueberry cheesecake. Bready. Bitter cocoa. Earthy bitterness.

Conclusion: This feels like it should be a white/blond stout. Getting the flavours you do but from a dark beer feels confusing, or at least partially. There are very obvious cheesecake notes, white chocolate notes. It isn’t overwhelmed by these notes but they are present enough that it leads to a very different experience to your standard imperial stout. Over that base tart, kind of blueberry but not, notes are layered. It feels kind of like a blue raspberry if that makes sense. I wonder if such a thing actually exists. Will have to google it.

So, as a result this is very much a dark fruit cheesecake beer, but against that are the darker standard imperial stout undertones. There are more expected cocoa notes and a solid bready base, even a slight earthy bitterness in the finish – lots of notes to add complexity and offset sickly sweetness.

So, it is just about recognisable as a standard imperial stout, mixed with lot of big blond stout notes, mixed with fruit desserts. It is so good. Like a lot of beers in this style it feels a tad “boozy”, heavy but not burning alcohol, which is fine by me, but a turn off for some – so be warned.

That extra boozy character does come with benefits though- a good mouthfeel, thick and tongue coating. The malt gives sweetness, but with bitter cocoa and tart fruit to contrast well. This really is a master-work of a high abv beer. Different to the norm, high quality, varied and shows the alcohol but isn’t dominated by it.

I whole heartedly recommend this. An excellent dessert beer that doesn’t forget the beer side of the equation.

Background: Saskatoon is a place in Canada, also a blueberry looking berry. I presume this is named after the second, though who knows, beers that taste like places may be the new big thing for all I know. My finger is not on the pulse is what I am saying. Anyway, Lervig have made some tidy heavy beers, and boy do I like cheesecake, so this jumped out at me when I saw it at Independent Spirit. Genuinely been feeling out of sorts this week with all the politics bullshit, so had on Marie Davidson – Perte D’identite for music that sounds as weird and disjointed as I do. Possibly not the best thing for my mental health but great music.

Tiny Rebel: Big Drop: Imperial Mocha Vanilla Shot Stout (Wales: Low abv Stout: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Large beige head.

Nose: Milky coffee. Massive amounts of espresso coffee. Vanilla. Rich roasted coffee. More rounded coffee notes. Basically a lot of coffee. Milky chocolate. Hot chocolate drinks. Roasted nuts.

Body: Milky coffee. Vanilla. Quite light texture. Creamy. Lightly bitter coca. Sulphur. Tannins.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Vanilla infused coffee. Bitter chocolate cake. Slight sulphur. Cashew nuts. Tannins.

Conclusion: Ok, Tiny Rebel claims this is the low abv equivalent of a big 12% abv imperial stout. It is not like a 12% abv stout. Ok, let’s correct that, it doesn’t have the feel of a 12% abv beer. For all the good work they do with the flavour they just can’t duplicate the viscosity of such a high abv beer without the equivalent malt load.

However, with that out of the way, if you had told me this was a 4-5% abv stout made with coffee, cocoa and vanilla? Yep, I would have believed you easily. Beyond that I would have happy recommended it as being a very good example of that style, a top notch one even. I even tested it by letting my mates try it, and they had no idea of the abv (only single blind test – I was aware of its low abv, my mates were not). This is an utterly amazing low abv beer and would be a very good standard stout, that is bloody impressive.

It has a slightly light mouthfeel, but offset by good use of a creamy note and packs in vanilla and restrained chocolate in the body before heading out into a very coffee filled finish. Now good as that is, it did not manage to live up to the aroma which gives just epic levels of coffee. I mean, based on the aroma alone you would expect this to be competing with full abv Beer Geek Brunch Weasel – unfortunately, good as it is, it is not quite that good!

The main hint of the low abv style of it is a slight tannin character, but thankfully hear that actually works very well with the stout style, turning what could be a flaw in most low abv beers into a positive instead.

Ok, yeah, this is competing with Big Drop’s Pale Ale for best low alcohol beer ever. Pale is a better anytime beer, which is often what you want from a low abv beer – however for a beer to examine, have range of flavours, and just blowing away your expectations, this is the best low abv beer I have encountered. Genuinely impressed.

Background: So, for their 7th anniversary the ever fun Tiny Rebel did a box pack of collaborations they did with various breweries. This one especially caught my attention – in collaboration with Big Drop, the master of low abv beers they did what they pitch as a low abv Imperial Stout. Yeah, silly name, but gets across the gist of what they are trying to do. This was made with oats, rye, cocoa nibs, cocoa powder…ok the text is really hard to read on the can, it’s blue on slightly darker blue. I give up. It is made with ingredients. Special ingredients. Probably vanilla pods, maybe coffee beans. I dunno. Anyway, went with some punk music for this big/small beer – Propagandhi – Victory Lap.

Brora: Silent Stills: 18 Year (Scotland Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 52.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Very slow puckering forms into thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed rocks. Mild smoke and soot. Planed red wood. Lime hints. Barley. Water adds more rocks and grit. Soft apricot. More water keeps roughly the same.

Body: Light front. Lemon and vanilla. Subtle smoke. Slight salted rocks. Alcohol warms over time. Lemon cakes and lemon curd. Brown sugar. Honey. Water adds more honey. Apricot. More noticeable alcohol. Thick American pancakes. More water. Buttered crumpets. Raisins and plums.

Finish: Honey. Crushed rocks. Soot. Lime touch. Maple syrup touch. Brown sugar. Lemon cakes. Vanilla. Water adds American pancakes and malt chocolate. More water – crumpets. Raisins. Red wine.

Conclusion: Very different first impression on this to anything I expected. Gentle, definitely not showing the cask strength level alcohol, but with crushed rocks and smoke. The aroma especially seemed full of those wood and rock notes that made me a tad worried this would be a rough tasting experience. However first sip was very smooth, with light sweet notes and that rocky character a backing solid character as it should be.

Now I know Brora is generally peated, so was expecting a heavier influence from that than what I found here. Instead I get just a smoke wisp, present but gentle wafting though the sweeter main character of lemon cakes and vanilla. It very much shows the sweet Highland home here with honey and brown sugar weight to the spirit. It is well aged though, even neat the 50% abv is smoother than it has any right to be, only becoming noticeable if held on the tongue for a while. In fact it is so well balanced in alcohol weight that I was hesitant to add water to it for a while lest I ruin it.

I was then unsure again just after adding the water. The aroma became even grittier, and the body had a bit more alcohol evident. However with that it did open up to bring brighter fruit notes and an American style pancake feel. So, after a moment of examination I decided, maybe it had just started its journey of change? Maybe a touch more water was needed?

More water did settle the alcohol down again, and have a thick, bready, crumpet and thick pancake kind of feel, all backed by that understated smoke. Here I can wholeheartedly say that it is very good. Highland weight and sweetness, subtle smoke, slight citrus notes and so incredibly smooth for the abv. That is some aged cask strength spirit used well. No fancy unusual barrel ageing used here – it just lets the spirit itself show itself at the best with the oak adding everything it needs.

In fact, here in its final moments I find more sherry barrel like ageing notes coming out – dark fruit and red wine adding yet another layer to this. It really made wish I had a bit more of this so I could explore where it was going – hints of much more dark fruit to come. Unfortunately I cannot afford more, even if I could find it.

So, on that, is it worth the high very cost? Probably not. Probably nothing is worth the cost that super rare whisky like Brora goes for now. However it is very good indeed. Wonderful in fact. If this went for the kind of cost a premium 18 year old whisky would go for from a living distillery, even the high end of that, I would recommend it without hesitation. One of the best Highland whiskies I have had – so smooth, so complex and the smoke wisp just adds that extra touch.

Downsides? The aroma really does not show it at its best. Everything else is so very good. Just, ya know, damn, that steep cost.

Background: Two thousand tasting notes! WOO! I made it with my liver vaguely intact! I had been keeping this one back for a while, knowing that full bottles of Brora – a distillery that has been dead since 1983 – go for insane amounts of money – part rarity, part the 30 year plus age any new releases are now. So, when I found a miniature at The Whisky Exchange at 18 years, and so vaguely within my price range, I grabbed it and held on for the right moment. This seemed just right for a big two thousand celebration. Previously called Clynelish, the distillery was renamed to Brora when the newly referred to Clynelish distillery came online in 1968. As far as I am aware it is a lightly peated whisky. It is worth noting there is talk of reopening Brora – I don’t know how much of the original stills are still intact so have no idea if the new spirit will be similar, or just cashing in on the name. This mini is bottle 33 of 294, and was distilled n 1983 and bottled in 2001 so I consider it very lucky that it was still around to be grabbed. Wanted some beautiful music to go with the big 2K tasting note so went with the Ulver: Shadow Of The Sun album. Still a haunting masterpiece.

De Molen: Hair Of The Dog: Binkie Claws: Woodford Reserve Barrel Aged (Netherlands: Barley Wine: 11.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Thin grey rim of a head.

Nose: Brandy cream. Sweet liquorice allsorts. Figs. Dried sultanas. Brown bread.

Body: Smooth. Creamy. Figs. Plums. Liquorice. Toffee liqueur. Pepper. Clearly evident Woodford Reserve bourbon. Brown sugar. Creamy cherries/ Cherry yogurt/ Cherry liqueur.

Finish: Vanilla toffee. Vanilla. Glacier cherries. Light charring. Bitter hop oils. Rye whiskey. Bourbon.

Conclusion: This so smooth, lightly creamy but with tons of that barley wine dark fruit flavour. I vaguely remember Doggie Claws from all those years ago, but I don’t remember it being quite as awesome and rewarding as this one is.

It is creamy in a way that calls to sherry trifle, alcoholic plums and figs (if there is such a thing, if not their should be) and burnt brown sugar that gives a crème brulee imagery to it. Really rewarding, rich alcoholic dessert notes all the way.

Under that are the more traditional barley wine notes – dark fruit, cherries, and some more unusual beer elements for a barley wine like some bitter hop oils that give grip and a recognisable beer edge in this almost liqueur like barley wine.

Finally, but far from least, there is the Woodford reserve influence and it is massive! From the more generic toffee and vanilla notes you expect from bourbon, to unexpected rye whisky like notes, to what can basically be best described as raw recognisable Woodford flavour. The barrel ageing doesn’t just add smoothness to this beer, it pounds out a good chunk of its flavour as well and builds this from a good beer to an excellent, layered experience.

From an easy-going start, to a thick barley wine middle, to the hop oils and bourbon finish – this is a ride that soothes you in and then kicks you out. Seriously wonderful, then again, it is Hair Of The Dog and De Molen, what else did I expect?

Background: I would have grabbed this a lot earlier than I did if I had noticed it was a “Hair Of The Dog” collaboration. Absolutely love those guys and their beers are super hard to get hold of in the UK. De Molen are darn decent as well. From the name I’m guessing this is a take on Hair Of The Dog’s Doggie Claws – which has been aged here in Woodford Reserve barrels. Woodford is a darn nice bourbon, so sounds like a combo made in heaven to me. Put on an EP called “Rotten Citizens Vol1” while drinking – a mix of artists doing dark electronic tracks for moody drinking music. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Kilchoman 2018 European Tour Bottling – Machir Bay Cask Strength (Islay Scottish Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale brackish grain. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Peaty. Oily character. Light menthol and moss notes. Peppermint. Water adds dust balls and soot. Slight salt.

Body: Thick. Oily. Toffee and caramel. Thick peat. Oily charring. Oily chocolate. Oily peppermint cream. Water makes creamier. Salt touch. Honey. Sweet apricot. Sauternes wine. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Peppermint cream. Peat smoke. Light charring. Water adds dessert wine notes.

Conclusion: this is not what I expected, not at all. The extra abv seems to have utterly changed how the Machir Bay whisky expression comes across.

At normal abv strength this seemed slightly light back when I last tried it – very enjoyable and complex but gentle. This booms with oily thickness in feel, matched with huge honey to trifle sweetness. Everything feels like it is delivered in a oily fashion – oily peat, oily chocolate, oily charring, and now added to that is a completely new element -oily peppermint notes. This minty menthol to peppermint character is fresh yet creamy and adds both a sweetness and a slight natural mint leaves that I did not find in the standard expression. It makes it feel fresher, bigger and more greenery touched, adding to and massively changing the overall character.

This Islay character Kilchoman have become well known for is more subtle here than in a lot of their expressions. It is smokey, slightly salt touched, but the huge, thick oily and sweet character used here means that the sea breeze and peaty characteristics are less prominent that usual. Instead the apricot spirit note I have noticed at the back of Kilchomans before is now pushed to the forefront here in big dessert wine like flavours.

Oddly considering what makes this so different is what the extra abv brings to the game, this actually works better with water. Only a few drops are needed to bring out the best, so it is still a lot higher abv than the base expression, but those few drops make it smoother and really bring out the sherry trifle complexity from below the oily character.

Again the distillery does brilliantly – a sweet dessert wine meets Islay whisky that is rewarding on every level. Highly recommended.

Background: Second of the samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this – an exclusive bottling for the 2018 tour. It is a cask strength take on the Machir Bay which I was already a fan of. This was tried directly after the prior Kilchoman tasting, so I was still listening to the new Spektrmodule podcast.

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