Tag Archive: Scotland


Brewdog: Abstrakt AB24 (Scotland: Baltic Porter: 12% ABV)

Visual: Deep brown to black. Light toffee brown creamy head.

Nose: Brown sugar. Clotted cream. Bitter coffee. Dry roasted nuts.

Body: Treacle. Milky chocolate and cream. Sour cream. Bitter coffee. Pecans. Nettles prickle. Roasted nuts.

Finish: Sour cream. Milky chocolate. Pecans. Brown sugar. Clotted cream. Hop oils. Bitter coffee.

Conclusion: I’ve often tried to work out where Imperial Porters differ from their close cousin, Imperial Stouts. Now we have this – an imperial strength Baltic porter. That is just trying to make me confused. It is different, but I guess it is one of those you know it when you see it kind of things. However I think this is a good example for me to take a run and and try to elucidate the differences.

The coffee is dominant – creamy and milky but still bitter. This tends to be a good tell that you are dealing with some kind of porter in my experience, rather than the weightier bitter coffee notes I tend to find in an Imperial Stout.

The other real stand out difference is a savoury to sour cream thickness – It has similar thickness to an imperial stout, but without as much dominance of the sweet character. Much more grounded, though with some sweet notes around the edges.

Now, that isn’t to say that there aren’t separate sweet notes – there is a real brown sugar character – but the base is roasted nuts, thick sour cream and coffee. The sweetness feels more likely to come out as a slight sweet pecan nut character than anything else.

There, in this particular case this is how an Imperial Baltic Porters stands out from an Imperial Stout – which will help you not a jot with any other example, but I tried, right?

Anyway, that said this is delivered very smooth, with strong hints to the abv in alcohol feel not burn – they match with the thick, heavy sour cream notes so actually don’t seem too out of place here. It results in a well delivered beer, well made, but the more savoury notes are a tad over emphasised for my tastes, so it isn’t always for me. Still, I appreciated what it does, and being so well made means I can enjoy it despite that.

So – well made, a good example of the style, not 100% for me.

Background: Wasn’t quite sure if I should list this under Imperial Porter, or Baltic Porter, or go the whole hog with Imperial Baltic Porter. Went with Baltic Porter in the end. Not for any particular reason beyond the fact it is such a little used tag. I was intrigued to find out, on googling to make my mind up, that a Baltic porter generally uses lager yeast, or cold fermented ale yeast. Huh, never knew that. May be worth mentioning at this point that, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This Baltic Porter is made with coffee and brown sugar. I grabbed this directly from Brewdog’s shop and was drunk while listening to some of the over the top sound of Mclusky.

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Douglas Laing’s Provenance Single Cask: Auchentoshan 11 Year (Scottish Lowland Whisky: 11 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light and pale, with a slight brackish hue. Very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Strawberry crème. Viscous alcohol notes. Dark Belgian chocolate. Pine cones and pine needles. Water adds peppermint, more water turns menthol.

Body: Warming. Grapes. Shortbread. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Lightly peppery. Water adds slight sulphur. More water adds creamy notes and lots of grapes. Cinnamon doughnuts.

Finish: Oaken. Pine spray. Menthol. Fudge. Strawberry crème. Water makes more menthol. Mint leaves. More water adds grapes, light cinnamon and Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion:There are lots of different elements in this – ones I would never expect to see side by side. The most disparate elements never seem to overlap, instead you get each of the distinctly different elements coming out one after each other.

First aroma notes come out like Belgian chocolate and strawberry crème- yet the body after that comes out as tart grapes and light fudge. Then, as that goes out the strawberry crème comes back out in the finish.

On another run it was alcohol strong, piney and heavy on the aroma, going into a peppery body, then somehow out into menthol freshness in the finish. I’d like to claim that it is water, or time that makes this change – but while water does bring changes, it seems like any of the prior elements can return at any point.

So, to try and generalise a whisky that seems to actively resist categorisation – well, generally there are some grapes. Generally there are slight pine to pine cone notes. It is generally smooth but warming and generally there are some sweet notes behind that – be it toffee, chocolate of strawberry.

What is oddest, for all that is odd about this whisky, is that for all the odd notes, this does not actually really stand out as a whisky. It has the odd moments, as described above, but they all clinging around a solid but unexceptional whisky. Very contrary, no? Not bad, hard to sum up which is a value in itself. Not a must have, not one to avoid. Not bad.

Background: Yay, mini hip flasks of whisky- chances to try different experimentations without spending a vast amount on a full size bottle. It is especially nice with lowland ones like this as I can be a bit mixed on how I find stuff from this region. The Provenance lot, whisky taken from a single cask and bottled at just a tad stronger strength than normal, has been pretty solid so far. I grabbed it from Independent Spirit and put on Miracle Of Sound’s Level 8 while drinking – very cool drinking music.

Brewdog: Choco Libre (Scotland: Imperial Stout: 8.2% ABV)

Visual: Black. Still. Small dark brown head but one that froths up easily on a swirl.

Nose: Bitter cocoa. Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Slightly milky coffee.

Body: Brown bread. Chilli seeds. Milky chocolate. Light chalk touch. Bitter coffee. Light cream at back.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Chilli seeds. Bitter, roasted coffee. Hershey’s chocolate. Light chilli warmth, Pepper.

Conclusion: For an imperial stout that shoves a whole mess of damn skulls on the bottle, and packs itself with tons of ingredients, this actually feels kind of middle of the road.

Let’s address the chilli first, as that is the part you would expect to stand out the most. Well, it doesn’t do much. Now, I’m not a huge fan of chilli heat – so not being a mouth burner doesn’t bother me. However I am a big chilli flavour fan, so the lack of any real influence in that area does bother me. What we get us a light tingle character which tastes kind of light mild chilli seeds being chewed, which develops into a mild warmth in the finish. It adds savoury notes to the beer but little else.

So, onto the base beer then – not particularly thick for an 8% and up beer. It isn’t that it feels overly thin, just not particularly present. It could be the chilli – it does seem to have an odd influence on the mouthfeel. So possibly that is another (negative) influence that ingredient is having.

Apart from that there are moderate coffee and chocolate notes – not bad, not stand out. Solid but unexceptional and without a huge range to them. The savoury notes from the chilli mix with a set of bready notes that gives a solid flavour profile, if not mouthfeel.

The most unusual element that comes out is a slight sour cream touch to the chocolate – kind of akin to Hershey’s chocolate. An interesting touch, but doesn’t really lift up the beer to make it stand out.

Average, which is a disappointment – with all the extra ingredients it shouldn’t seem so mediocre. Meh.

Background: Ok, let’s open up with, as always, I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. Cool, that is that done. This is an attempt to recreate a spiced Mexican chocolate drink, but in a beer, which seems cool. Looking at the ingredients it is made with oats, coffee, cocoa nibs, cinnamon and chilli and well as the usual four. Quite a set. This was grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store and drunk while listening to Ulver – Childhood’s End. I seriously love Ulver’s work, and this set of covers of psychedelic 60s tracks is another brilliant haunting set of music.

Brewdog: Indie Pale Ale (Scotland: English Pale Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Clear. Large mounded bubbled head. Lots of small bubbled carbonation.

Nose: Noble hop style hop oils. Light greenery note. Vanilla toffee.

Body: Hard fruit sweets. Creamy hop oils and light bitterness. More hop oils. Clean lager feel. Cardboard. Light chalk. Soft lemon.

Finish: Hop oils and light bitterness. Flour. Clean lager like feel.

Conclusion: What sort of beer is this supposed to be? Indie Pale Ale suggest an IPA – which this sure as fuck is not. It could also be an EPA/APA I guess, which this could be called if you were feeling kind. But, basically, it feels like a lager – or maybe a low bitterness Kölsch if that makes sense – but not as good.

Early on there is some promise – creamy and hard fruit sweet notes, but they soon vanish. You are left instead with a substandard lager mouthfeel and some oily hop character and … that’s it. This is, well, dull. I’ve had shitter Brewdog beers, but they tended to at least be adventurous and experimental. This is just dull and empty. It is almost a slightly chalky mass market lager masquerading as an *PA. I mean, come on, it is some sort of wildcard-PA – that is the style that is right in the centre of Brewdog’s beer set and this is still complete tug.

There is a touch of vanilla, but the chalky touch makes it so you can’t really enjoy this as a lager. In the first few moments it has flavour but soon becomes watery and empty. The oily hop character, while it does have a nice texture touch, is the only thing this beer has going for it.

Tripe. Utter tripe. Avoid.

Background; Ok, As indicated in the main notes I am kind of guessing when I list this as English Pale Ale. I put that as “shit” turns out not to be an accepted style category. Who would have thought? Ratebeer lists it as Session IPA. From the name I would guess IPA but it does not explicitly state that so I can’t use my usual “Go with what they call it” definition. So, kind of close to English Pale Ale I guess. If you squint and presume the brewer didn’t know how to brew. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers – but as this review probably shows I try not to let that alter my tasting notes. This is one of Brewdog’s new core beers and was grabbed directly from their online shop. This was drunk while listening to the Paprika OST – such an awesome surreal anime move and such good music.

Douglas Laing: Independent Spirit: Old Particular: Port Dundas 13 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 13 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Brackish water to pale yellow. Fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous alcohol. Apples. Menthol. Water makes creamy and adds light peppermint.

Body: Baileys. Green apple. Strong alcohol. Water makes more creamy. Light peppermint. Toffee. Pears. More baileys. Viscous jelly alcohol feel.

Finish: Alcohol air. Menthol. Baileys. Pear. Water adds white chocolate. Tinned tropical fruit. Creamier and with peppermint notes.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unexpected. I had tried this in the shop before buying and I have general memories of being impressed by it. Hence why I bought it, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, right?

On first open of this bottle this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t work out why it had jumped out at me before. It had green fruit that spoke of a younger spirit matched with a thicker, viscous body – warming with a jelly like alcohol feel, but not burning like a young spirit would be. Good, but hardly stand out.

Which is why, these days, I do notes about a week after breaking open a bottle. It really seems to make all the difference.

Now, a week on, it has a lightly creamy liqueur like set of notes which becomes distinctly Baileys like with water. It is a completely unexpected blast that mixes with the green fruit to crate a thicker and heavier single grain experience. It is still that thick, viscous alcohol character in the body that you often get of grain, but with the creamier flavours heading out into a fresh peppermint and menthol endgame.

Usually I expect single grain to show more of the cask influence, but here the whisky is very much its own thing. There is white chocolate, toffee and tinned tropical fruit notes, that say bourbon ageing to me – but they take time to come out and take the stage.

This is very good – it does have some rough alcohol edges and slight overly heavy jelly alcohol character at times which are not the best, but generally it is very enjoyable. A touch of water helps but never quite removes the alcohol character – a flaw but not one that ruins this interesting experience.

Background: Another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this time in collaboration with Douglas Laing. This is one of 126 bottles and was aged from 2004 to 2017. Port Dundas was a single grain distillery that stopped production in 2011. I’ve tried a 20 year bottling of it before, but is my sole experience of this distillery and not quite to my tastes. This was drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy CD for the 2nd time– seems more varied than prior albums, taking a bit of time to get used to it.

Tempest: Attack Of The Killer Crab (Scotland: IIPA: 9.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow. Clear body with many bits evident floating in it. Medium sized white head.

Nose: Dried mango. Thick hop character. Musty and slightly resinous hops. Lightly bready.

Body: Creamy mouthfeel. Cake sponge. Grapes. Good hop bitterness and hop oils. Peach. Dried apricot. Mango. Light hop prickle. Thick hop feel. Resinous. Caramel.

Finish: Kiwi. Good hop oils. Dried apricot. High bitterness. Lightly bready. White grapes. Resinous. Fudge.

Conclusion: Ooohh, a nice, bitter, oily, resinous double IPA matched with sweet fruit flavours. Sign me up! This is right in my wheelhouse. There is sweetness from the malt, but it is offered up twisted and spanked by the oily hops to create a bittersweet sensation. The malt provides more a creaminess and thick mouthfeel than anything else, so everything else in this beer really grips.

To go back a moment, this is visually an odd one – not cloudy like the New England IPA style, and it definitely doesn’t taste like that style, but it has lots of floating bits in it that gives it a very odd look to the eye. As you drink the bits swirl around the glass, catching and reflecting the light. I was temporarily worried I had grabbed a bad bottle until I sipped it and found out that – nope – it still tastes great.

When I say tastes great, I mean genuinely great – I like the … sigh ok I’ll call it “dank” hop character. I love the oily and resinous style with big bitterness, but it uses the creamy mouthfeel and sweet peach, kiwi and grapes to punch through making for great contrast. This is a beer that loves balance – everything is intense, but it doing that it creates a fragile true between the elements that lets everything work without having to compromise either side.

We are early in 2018 and we already have the first truly great beer. An old school fruity, USA style double IPA with extra resin and hop oils. Just what you need when you are beginning to think you are getting blasé to the style.

Background: Been a while since I had a tempest beer, and this one’s name and art caught my attention – so it seemed like one to grab. It was only after I bought it that I worried that it may actually contain crab. Thankfully the “Vegan Friendly” label on the side made me fairly sure there is no crab in this. Unless crab got redefined as a vegetable recently and no-one told me. Which is fairly unlikely. I think. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy album – “Will To Power” – which I’m presuming is a reference to the original Nietzsche not the dickhead Nazis who appropriated and misused it.

Springbank: Bourbon Wood: 14 Year (Scottish Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 55.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold. Thick slow streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Moss. Dry nuttiness. White chocolate and vanilla. Water adds vanilla toffee to fudge.

Body: Thick and spirity. White chocolate. Grassy. Oily character. Vanilla. Orange notes. Shreddies. Water adds lime and fudge. Still strong feel. More grassy and moss. Apples. More water adds toffee liqueur.

Finish: Menthol air. White chocolate. Nutty oils. Creamy orange. Light smoke, Water adds lime, grassy character. Peat character comes out. Apples. Marshmallows.

Conclusion: I tried this whisky first at one of Independent Spirit’s Uber whisky tastings – I was taking it easy that night so did not take any notes at the time. What I did take though was a bottle of this home with me. Ok, technically I took it home a short while later – I try not to make such purchases after alcohol has influenced my decisions.

On first sip of this, my own bottle of it, I feared that my drunken memory had fooled me – it was still a solid Springbank – grassy, mossy, smoke and hint of peat, but it didn’t live up to my memory of an excellent stand out whisky. The alcohol character gives this thick, warming, oily character that is really overwhelming and lets little of the subtlety out to play.

Still, at an abv like this has, why was I surprised? So, let us hope that water, as is usual, is the difference maker. So I added a little. Daaaamn. That was indeed, the difference maker. This is now sweeter than the average Springbank – it seems that spending its full time in bourbon wood has given a solid vanilla toffee, fudge and white chocolate set of notes that make a huge contrast to the native grass and peaty character that makes this stand out. Odder still you have this lovely apple character behind it that seems to be an element of the spirit that has not really shown itself before.

It is delightful – the slightly heavier, but not Longrow level peat character comes out now. The savoury grass notes work brilliant against the bourbon backed white chocolate sweetness. Despite me mentioning them several times the sweetness is used in a subtle way – not sickly and nowhere near overpowering the basic Springbank character. They just come together naturally to make a whisky that is very different, while still giving what makes Springbank enjoyable.

While this is not my favourite Springbank, it is probably one of the more unusual, and considering some of the odd oak casks Springbank has been aged in, that says something. It is not that it is radically showy, just that the elements come together for a very different experience – an almost marshmallow like backed Springbank thing of joy. Enjoy it if you can.

Background: As mentioned in the notes I tried this at an Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit and was very impressed – so was at least confident that I was going to enjoy this one when I got home. Springbank is from one of only three distilleries in Campbeltown and is probably my favourite (Though I am unsure if the Springbank set, or the more peated Longrow expressions are the best the distillery turns out). This one is, as the name would suggest, purely aged in Bourbon casks which should give quite a different character. Continuing recent efforts to break out classic tunes when drinking – put on some Jack Off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars. Such a great, angry and powerful album.

Independent Spirit: The Hideout: Aberlour (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Honey. Warming alcohol. Nutmeg on apple. Vanilla. Pears to pear drops. Almond slices. Water adds light sulphur, more pears and slight raisins.

Body: Warming and slightly waxy. Sugared apples. Cake sponge. Water makes very smooth. Salted caramel to fudge. Sherried raisins. Iced Christmas cake. More water adds subtle orange to blood orange notes.

Finish: Waxy. Cake sponge. Lightly oily. Almonds. Malt chocolate and toffee drinks. Water adds salted caramel, apple pie and light choc orange. Rum and raisin. Slight red wine. More water adds marzipan over fruitcake. Sugar icing and tangerines.

Conclusion: It always seems odd to encounter an Aberlour that hasn’t been sherried to within an inch of its life. This, which does have some sherry influence I think – a refill cask maybe? – does a lot more in showing the native Aberlour elements that are often hidden behind that (admittedly tasty) sherry shell.

For one thing this is more fruity, with soft pear and apple notes – lightly spiced, but coming out in a way that calls to the bright fruit of a young whisky. However this is smooth, warming when had neat but not burning and that is soon soothed with a drop of water. This more natural, more open Aberlour character allow a more waxy and oily character to show themselves, giving a nice thickness for a matching salted caramel and fudge sweetness to back the fruit.

The sherry influence comes later in, especially when you add water. It brings raisins and vinous notes into fruitcake like imagery – starting sultana like and building over time. Here is feels like more traditional Aberlour, but it never gets so heavy as to hide those more intriguing characteristics below.

Finally, the capstone on this is a moment that allows a cake sponge to almond slice like flavour and feel to come out – a delicious savoury to sweet mix that becomes marzipan like by the end – A solid, hefty point to give the whisky some grip.

As you can probably guess by now, this uses the often hidden side of Aberlour to create a smooth and complex whisky – I am impressed.

Background: So, another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this one done in conjunction with the excellent whisky bar – The Hideout. This one is an Aberlour – one I’ve been a fan of since I encountered them doing their excellent distillery tour with their incredibly friendly guides. On the eye this looks sherried, but less sherried than most Aberlour releases which should make it an interesting one to try. Drunk while listening to Testament -Low. It was only a few quid and gave me a chance to listen to more of Testament’s stuff before seeing them live. A very solid album as well.

Kilchoman: Sanaig (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Rich deep gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey and peaty. Wet rocks. Salt touch. Big aroma. Brown bread. Kippers. Water adds vanilla and light apples.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel with caramel, fudge and vanilla. Warming. Beefy. Peaty. Stew character. Salt. Water adds apples with cinnamon. Sherried raisins. Nutmeg. Dried apricot. Oily.

Finish: Medicinal. Salt. Brown bread. Paprika spice. Dried raisins. Dry cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Light peat. Dry in general. Water adds cherries, sherry and now juicy raisins. Creamy coffee. Menthol. Caramel.

Conclusion: There is a nice mix to this – I’m going to break it down into its layers and examine each individually as there is a lot going on here.

On first pour you get a big booming aroma that you can’t mistake for anything but Islay, and it is recognisable from metaphorical miles away from the glass. Classic Islay peat, smoke, salt and rocks all delivered thick and oily.

Drinking a sip keeps the thick character, but now with that peat expressed in a beefy style – layered over thick caramel and fudge notes. It is a dry sweetness, very chewy, very big and a great backing and contrast for the big Islay flavours.

The finish finally shows the story of the sherry influence – coming in as dry spice and raisins over the, still showing but now medicinal, Islay character. All of the levels has alcohol warmth, but the texture is luxury level smooth.

So, what can water do with this then? Quite a bit actually – soft green fruit and sweeter spice notes while the sherry influence ramps up nicely giving cherry and sherry notes into dry nutty finish. Well the finish was always quite dry – I forgot to mention that before. Forgive me please there is a lot to get through here. Anyway, compared to the chewy main body the finish is a nicely done dry underlying, drawing a line under the experience.

So, yeah, the fact I’m forgetting stuff while trying to get the notes done is showing how much this has going on – huge peat, big Islay, big sherry, yet with enough room to show the lighter notes. Big, but not so big that it becomes simple from overpowering notes.

It lacks only that “je ne sais quoi” to make it an all time great, but it is as good as you can get without that. Bloody nice.

Background: Another chance to dip into Islay’s youngest distillery – not got much info on this one. It’s a no age statement made with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Grabbed in ickle mini form from Independent Spirit so I could give it a try. So lacking in detail on the whisky – I listened to a collection of No Doubt’s single while drinking this. While I didn’t like all of the musical directions they took they were always good – just some of the tracks were not for me. When they were at their best IMHO was when they took on topics akin to the punkier scenes I enjoy so much, but delivered in such a way that it reached a much wider crowd without descending to the saccharine Spice Girls style “Girl Power” delivery. So there you have it.

Brewdog: Make Earth Great Again (Scotland: Saison: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale light yellow to grain, very clear. An inch of white froth for a head but still main body.

Nose: Wheaty. Vanilla. Light lemon citrus character. Dried banana. Light cloves. Crusty white bread. Light white chocolate. Cheese puff crisps styled funk.

Body: Bitter. Slight cloying cream character. Cream cheese and chives. Slight chalk and prickly feel mix. Cheese puff crisps. Hop oils. Light lemon. Palma violets. Dried banana.

Finish: Cream cheese and chives. Dried banana. Light yeast funk. Light tart yellow raspberries. Hop oils. Palma violets. Light bitterness. Mature cheese.

Conclusion: This actually reminds me of Wild Beer Co’s bretted lager “Chronos” – it has that mix of lager like easy drinking character with a yeast funk style.

At its base it feels clean, slightly lemony and very lager styled with noble hop feeling hop oils and a light palma violets touch to it. Layered over that clean base is a kind of cheese puff into cream cheese and then mature cheese notes – a real contrast of feel and taste going on here. It opens with the cheese funk first, then lets the lighter lager drinking feel through, rather than the other way around that you might expect.

Now, that funk gives some flavour but there is also a light berry tartness below those heavier funk notes that works as a nice bridge between the lager like notes and the more saison like funk. Good use of hop oils smooth out the remaining rough cracks that may have existed, and a moderate bitterness caps off the finish.

Everything works – it doesn’t declare itself as a must drink – instead concentrating on being very easy to drink, mixing smooth feel and funk. The flavour is gentle but tasty, and the beer feels far too close to a session character for a beer of higher abv. It doesn’t break the world, but once you start drinking it is easy to just keep continuing to drink this in a dangerously drunken way – so it definitely has something for it!

Background: So, Brewdog making a beer to protest USA removing itself from the Paris agreement and gives the profits to a climate change charity – I can get behind that. A few gimmicks to go with that, the saison is made with melted ice cap water and cloudberries which are endangered (A few people have asked if that is a good idea, using endangered berries- I presume using the berries isn’t a prob – it’s the plants environment being in danger that is screwing it – I could be wrong). As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop and drunk while listening to the final CD of Mclusky – Mcluskyism. So you will probably hear me mention it less for a while. Great 3 CD set and great value. Proper loving the insane energy it has.

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