Tag Archive: My Favourites


Bushmills: 2000 The Causeway Collection – Port Cask (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 20 Years: 54.1% ABV)

Visual: A deep heavy gold with fast, thick streaks that come from the spirit.

Nose: Summer fruit gateaux. Raspberry and strawberry. Smooth but recognisable alcohol. Plums. Pencil shavings. Lightly citrus fresh behind that – jiff lemon. Honey cakes. Crunchy nut cornflakes. Water makes very smooth. Clearer honey. More wood notes.

Body: Slightly drying alcohol. Sticky, yet smooth in how it delivers the alcohol character. Plums. Honey. Treacle. Fig rolls. Strawberry. Clean feeling sheen. Red cherry and black cherry. Water makes super smooth. Toffee. Spotted dick. More strawberry. Light greenery.

Finish: Fig rolls. Sherry. Golden syrup sponge cake. Lightly peppery. Soft citrus sheen. Water adds much more red fruit, especially strawberry. Light butter note. Thin sulphur candles air. Light charring.

Conclusion: Ok this is so port dominated – shocking I know for something that has spent 20 years in port wood – but what is actually surprising is somehow that base Bushmills character is still just about there underneath it all. This is so very unusual for a Bushmills but you can still recognise it as one.

Neat it is especially unusual, the 20 years age and triple distillation keeps the alcohol smooth despite an over 50% abv, but it is drying and sticky in a way that I have never encountered in Bushmills or even Irish whiskey before. It is pleasant, somehow managing to not be harsh even it indulges in this very unusual mouthfeel.

Here it leans towards darker fruit, with figs and plums and such like, with some lighter red fruit notes darting around that. It is quite heavy flavour, yet there is still a clean, lightly citrus note that is a recognisably Bushmills feel and flavour. It isn’t super obvious, just a light sheen under the far heavier notes. There is honey sweetness to treacle under everything, holding it all together which makes for a very different and sticky dram.

Water adds a much more recognisable smooth Bushmills character and really helps the red fruit notes shine out. Even more water, as this can take a lot, brings out a light sulphur note in the finish. There is so much room to play with the water here, you can keep neat or just with a few drops and keep the dry stickiness, or go deep with water and get super smooth and still rewarding.

Genuinely a great example of a whiskey, great use of the cask strength for mouthfeel and range of flavour, great use of the unusual barrel ageing to unlock huge flavours and somehow still got notes that marks it as a Bushmills even if that part is not the most obvious, it is still impressive it has not been utterly overwhelmed by the port ageing.

I am so very impressed indeed.

Background: Ok, I have been a Bushmills fan for a long while, but the odder releases tend to be very hard to get. Then I saw this in the Whisky Shop in Bath – 20 years old (Well possibly 21, it says bottled 2021 so hypothetically it could have an extra year but as it is distilled right at the end of 2000 it seems unlikely), aged solely in Port wood – first fill at that – and at cask strength – all very unusual elements for a Bushmills. I was a tad nervous at first fill unusual casks for such a long time in case it utterly dominated the character, but after much thinking – as this was a pricey one – I succumbed and bought it and hoped. Like many Irish whiskeys this is triple distilled which tends to lean towards a lighter smoother character, again something that should be interesting to see how it interacts with the high abv and unusual wood. Music wise I went with Pure Hell: Noise Addiction – I had just been watching Wendell and Wild and noticed a Pure Hell sticker on a cassette player in it, so had the urge to listen to them again. Also that is a great movie with a great soundtrack.

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Berry Bros & Rudd: Williamson (Laphroaig) 2014 (Scottish Single Cask Single Malt Whisky: 7 Year: 61.8% ABV)

Visual: Moderate brightness gold with slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Hot tar. Kippers. Peat. Cooked barbecued pork and barbecue sauce – ribs. Sticky. Medicinal jelly. Camomile. Charred touch. Peppercorn. Wholemeal bread with extra grains. Water adds ash and dry smoke. Hot car engines.

Body: Oily, then drying. Peaty boom. Malt chocolate. Brown bread. Dry raisins. Dry medicinal spirit. Water adds dry beef slices. Bitter red wine. Hints of red fruit. Cherries.

Finish: Brown bread. Malt chocolate drinks. Nutty to praline. Peppery. Tarry. Dry camp fire ash air. Water adds a rum spice touch.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a heavy, heavy, tarry, peaty beast of a whisky. The easiest comparison I can think of is with the Ardbeg Wee Beastie which has similar youth and massive peat, but this is a much stickier oily beast – less straight peat and yet still matching overall in intensity.

Neat it is sticky and tarry with heat and a very barbecue themed meatiness. There is that Laphroaig medicinal character, but surprisingly it is more at the back due to that weight that the kipper like oily smoke style brings. What medicinal feel there is comes across more as a medicinal salve oiliness rather than the cleaner medicinal image of standard Laphroaig. So, this is big is what I am saying.

Neat the oloroso barrel ageing is there but easily lost in the mix. A HEAVY dose of water lets it really come out, bringing red wine, red fruit and such – still not a dominant force, but adding very much appreciated sweeter notes to the brutal edged peat oiliness of the rest of it. Here there are even darker sweet notes going from chocolate to praline in a way that most Laphroaigs don’t have a way to express – again it barely offsets the weight but the darker sweetness complements rather than clashes.

Not a whisky for everyone, or even a whisky for any time – it is so thick and gripping with the intense flavours. However when you are in the mood for it, it is amazing. It doesn’t unseat the Douglas Lain XOP 18 Year single cask from its seat as favourite Laphroaig ever – that is a much more polished beast, this is the sticky unrestrained beast. However this is about a third of the price and still amazing and distinctive quality that you tend to only find in very special single casks.

Brutal and great.

Background: Ohh I had heard a lot about this. Williamson is the name used for these independent bottlings of Laphroaig spirit – and they have a very good reputation. Sometimes released as single malts, sometime teaspooned (a single teaspoon of another whisky added to a barrel so it is not technically a single malt) and released as a blended malt. This one especially had a huge reputation with some very good reviews coming in and recommendations from friends so I succumbed and grabbed a bottle. Cask strength, one of 449 bottles from cask 05057 – a Oloroso sherry cask. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit who managed to get a good chunk of bottles of it in, and was drunk while listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! That album works so well with big drinks.

Midleton: Red Spot (Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey: 15 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep, rich gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smooth toffee and honey. Touch of cherries. Vanilla. Grain fields. Barley cakes. Light fish oil. Water adds fudge cakes and apples.

Body: Apricot. Smooth. Honey. Apples to apple pie fillings. Raisins and sultanas into Madeira notes. Cherries. Light oak. Slightly drying. Water adds more apples and makes very smooth. A touch of liquorice comes out along with shortbread and rice crackers.

Finish: Madeira. Light oak. Plums. A gin air. Slightly drying. Water adds apples, honey sponge and a light menthol touch.

Conclusion: This is so smooth and yet such a rewarding whisky. 46% abv so a tad above the norm and yet still even neat it is super smooth and just two drops of water brings out everything perfectly

It mixes between the smooth honey and toffee backbone and the other notes that then dance over that backbone. Initially light apple notes … dominate seems the wrong word considering how they are nicely subtle … are most prominent is probably the best way to put it. It is a refreshing, easy drinking dram but over time the red fruit and heavier dark fruit notes show their way through to make this a really rich and rewarding experience.

It is like you get the best bits from a fruity speyside, a rich highland and the smooth as silk Irish whiskey all in one glass, with a bit of unusual barrel ageing love on top. Water adds both a fresh menthol touch at the end, but also a more shortbread like slightly more robust middle which makes for a more substantial whiskey overall.

On the down side water also adds a slight rice to rice crackers like character mid body. Nothing too bad, a light not quite right touch, but that is the worst I can say about it. The rest of the whiskey is fantastic.

This is genuinely one of the greatest Irish whiskeys I have tried – all of the smoothness you would expect and with the extra age and barrel ageing bringing such depth of character an already great spirit.

I am so very impressed.

Background: During a short trip with the family around Ireland we ended up with some time in Arklow and not much to do so we poked our heads into a pub called The Old Ship. I asked what irish whiskeys that they had that tended not to leave Ireland and they showed me a delectable set that included this Red Spot and 21 year Red Breast. After much umming and ahhing I went for the Red Spot. It was close. The person pouring accidentally put ice in when I had asked for no ice, and so removed the ice and gave me extra Red Spot to make up for it. I have zero complaints about this at all. Top notch. I was not going to do notes on this as I had no paper, but my parents both supplied paper, and picked up the cost of the whisky. Far too kind. Many thanks. Anyway the whisky, this is single pot still whiskey that has been aged in a mix of the usual Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, but also Marsala fortified wine.

Vault City: Emperor: From A Gaelic Sea Far, Far Away (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 10% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin brown dash of a head. Opaque main body.

Nose: Caramel. Clean medicinal air. Clotted cream and strawberry jam. Dry peat. Crushed custard cream biscuits. Vanilla custard slices. Touch of tarry nature.

Body: Oily. Sweet. Jam. Chocolate liqueur. Liquorice touch. Honey. Oily peat. Praline. Lightly medicinal. Salt touch. Riesen chocolate chews. Heather.

Finish: Praline. Pecans. Medicinal mixed with vanilla. Custard. Riesen chocolate chews. Smooth, oily medicinal sheen. Vanilla toffee. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: The thing with heather honey, and with Islay barrel ageing for that matter, is that they can easily utterly dominate a beer. I’ve had so many ash tray and iodine beers, or so sickly sweet that they lost that imperial stout that is meant to be the base.

This beer manages to somehow balance those two very strong flavours and a huge base imperial stout and somehow keep it all balanced, and as a result have turned out something very special.

The base stout is chocolate liqueur like and yet on the aroma you could swear there is clotted cream and jam notes floating around in there. From the ingredients I can guess what causes the cream like notes, but I have no idea where the jam comes from.

The honey is sweet but against a more oily character that gives a more savoury touch so it doesn’t get cloying. Similarly the oily character makes the medicinal and peat note much more flavoursome than harsh and so enhances the beer greatly.

It is sweet still, with marshmallow like fluffiness, toffee around the base and praline high notes, but the Islay character of peat smoke and oil, as well as those medicinal notes just ooze throughout it – everything matches the other elements so well.

A masterpiece of an Imperial Stout – sweet, medicinal, big and yet measured in all the right ways.

Lovely.

Background: I’ve mentioned Emperor brewing a few times here, basically a brewer trying to turn out the best Imperial Stouts they can, and have a huuuuuggeee reputation. I don’t think they ever do solo beers, or at least any I have seen, they always seem to be collaborations. Vault City are another big name, better known for doing odd and experimental sour beers, but they turn out the odd big stout as well, of which this is one. It is made with …. **deep breath** Heather honey, vanilla, lactose, oats and wheat and was aged in an Islay whisky cask. Lot of stuff going on there. Grabbed this from Independent Spirit, I went with History Of Guns: Forever Dying In Your Eyes as backing music. First new HoG album for years and years so was happy to slap on in the background.

Untitled Art: Non Alcoholic: Chocolate Milk Stout (USA: Low Alcohol: 0.5% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Thin off white to grey head.

Nose: Crushed bourbon biscuits in chocolate milkshake. Cocoa dust. Milky coffee.

Body: Milky chocolate. Chalk touch. Slight cold tea hints. Creamy mouthfeel.

Finish: Crushed bourbon biscuits. Milky chocolate to chocolate milkshake. Chalk touch. Slight iced tea. Coffee beans. Lactose.

Conclusion: This is probably the best alcohol free/ low alcohol stout I have had. Mainly for one big reason. It utterly nails the mouthfeel, which seems to be a stumbling block for so many low alcohol beers. It is slightly creamy, nicely slick on the tongue, and with just the lightest chalkiness so it isn’t pure creaminess and has some contrast, but not so much it feels off. It is thick enough, not super thick, but definitely replicates the grip of your average milk stout.

Impressive.

Flavour-wise it leans very heavily on the chocolate for the character, going from sweet but dusty cocoa dust, to a smoother chocolate milkshake sweetness, to a heavier crushed bourbon biscuit style. So, as you may have guess, not the hugest range – but a pleasant one. There is some milky coffee backing, which is another nice traditional stout note, and a mild coffee bitterness with that, but the milky chocolate is the main game.

There are some low alcohol hints but very well hidden indeed – the aforementioned chalkiness is one hint normally but here is made very much part of the stout character so I don’t even know if that counts. There are some iced tea notes, but they are only just noticeable if you specifically look for them as they are way below the chocolate notes that cover it.

If I had tried this blind I am fairly sure I could have mistaken it for a standard abv milk stout, and a good one at that. Not super complex, but super impressive for what it pulls off.

I recommend it highly for filling your alcohol free stout needs.

Background: I grabbed a can of this in my last Light Drinks batch, it was quite expensive for an alcohol free drink so I only grabbed one, and didn’t do notes when I broke it open. Which I instantly regretted as I loved it. So when I put in another order I grabbed another can specifically to do notes on. This is that can. It is made with cocoa nibs which explains a lot. Went with the light and poppy Japanese Breakfast: Jubilee for backing music. I heard them mentioned a few times so checked them out and they are some nice, more chilled music than I normally get.

Moor: Hoppiness (England: IPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Darkened apricot skin coloured body, with a moderate sized white creamy head. There is a very small amount of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Apricot skin. Peach. Black liquorice touch. Muggy hops. Slight tart grapes.

Body: Grapes. Grapefruit. Malt toffee. Medium sticky hop character. Apricot. Dry fudge, yet in a sticky way. Light charring. Slight sulphur. Pineapple.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Dry hoppy character. Toffee. Light grapefruit. Good bitterness. Apricot. Black liquorice.

Conclusion: Ok, I have an IPA type, and that type is this beer. My love for West Coast IPAs is well know, but I also have such a soft spot for this distinctly more local take on an IPA.

It has that real ale thickness and grip, along with that slightly sulphurous touch that a lot of real ales have on hand pump, and combines all that with a range of hops that bring out my favourite hop flavours from the mid 2000s.

The old friend of hop flavours is definitely the peach and apricot notes. They aren’t pushed too hard, but are there and welcome as I haven’t seen them much recently as newer hops get the centre stage. Similarly, hello there light grapefruit tartness and a sweet yet tart pineapple mix. Not as overlooked as the apricot, they still get some show these days, but still good to see again. This feels like the best hits from my misspent hop loving youth, delivered in a more sticky, thick real ale way than you often find.

In a trade off for that, as often found in actual cask IPAs the hop feel and bitterness is not as clear as in its non live counterparts. Instead of crisply bitter hops it is a sticky, muggy hop thing, which is an acquired taste, but again one I love and I have missed a lot in my experience with a lot of recent IPAs.

So, it has all the strengths and some of the flaws of that style, as is to be expected. One being that there is a very small black liquorice style touch in the aroma and the finish, I think expressing from the slight sulphur touches, and that liquorice style I have never been a fan of, but I am happy to take the bad with the good here.

There is a moderate toffee and malt chocolate style to the body, not heavy but again that real ale like thickness makes it stand out more than you would expect for the flavour’s intensity.

This is peak cask ale style tradition (in a can) meets mid 2000’s hop flavours all made with years of built up brewing skill. For all the good and all little bad that comes with all that, and it is definitely far more on the good side of things. I adore this and can definitely drink a lot more of it.

An IPA pretty much made for me.

Background: I have tried this a few times recently and swore to grab a can to do notes on, which I finally did – grabbing a can from Independent Spirit. This is part of Moor’s canned “Live Beer” range, which seems to be basically an attempt to do real ale style beer, but in a can. I doubt they will ever get a CAMRA says this is real ale stamp, but in my experience they deliver that. Moor don’t list the chosen hops for this, just saying it is a crossover of their favourite IPA elements from around the world. Laura Jane Grace: At War With The Silverfish. had just been released as I was prepping to do notes on this so I put it on while drinking. A lovely small burst of a mini album, feels more varied than her last solo release with lots of different styles on show.

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.

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