Tag Archive: Scotland


Port Askaig: 8 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with brackish green tinge. Fast thick streaks. Water makes very cloudy.

Nose: Medicinal. Reek of peat. Peppered beef slices. Peppercorn. Light salt. Water brings out more medicinal notes.

Body: Beef slices. Peat smoke. Overdone steaks. Salt. Slightly tarry. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Some alcohol weight and warmth. Water makes smoother. Adds vanilla fudge. Pears. More medicinal notes. Apricot. Light bread. Lime cordial.

Finish: Drying. Salt. Light vanilla. Tarry. Golden syrup. Apple pies. Water makes medicinal. Adds lime jelly and slight zestiness. Apricot.

Conclusion: This is a big ‘un. Yet water makes it oh so mellow. Ok, I am kind of lying my balls off there. It is not mellow, but there is a whole other subtle set of characteristics under the peat assault that only come out when you add water.

So, first of all let’s take a look at this without water. Whoa! This reeks, utterly reeks of peat. In a good way. It has huge intense smoke and smoked beef, mixed with peat, with medicinal notes in there as well. Without water a vanilla and golden syrup sweetness backs it up over time, but the rest of the intensity does not let up.

Now at this point it is not complex, but it does show the advantage of a younger spirit in keeping the peat intensity up. It is heaven for smoke fanatics, while utterly lacking in subtlety.

Then you add water.

It happens slowly – drop by watery drop. First vanilla fudge comes out, then soft lime notes, then finally sweet apricot creeps out from under the peat nest it is birthed in. What the heck even is this? Apart from delicious I mean.

Now it isn’t quite Lagavulin 16 level must have, but the range it runs with water – going from sheer assault, to still weighty but with a great range of fruit notes – well, that makes this a steal at the 40 quid ish price it goes for.

Both heavy duty Islay, and complex restrained Islay in one whisky. I advise grabbing a bottle and adding water to your preference. Very impressive.

Background: I had Port Askaig for the first time many a year ago at a whisky show. It was very nice, but I never did get around to grabbing a bottle of it for myself since. That mistake has now been rectified. Port Askig is not a distillery, but a bottling of one of the other existing Islay distilleries under the Port Askaig brand. So far quality has been very high. The most common guess of what distillery it is from is Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I have no idea. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit and broke it open with some Karnivool to listen to – Sound Awake to be exact. Saw them as a warm up band once, and enjoyed them enough to grab the CD there and then. Pretty soothing music for background noise.

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Cardhu: Gold Reserve (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Honeyed gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel. Thick. Stewed apple. Sugar dusting. Honey. Menthol touch. Cake sponge. Water brings out lemongrass.

Body: Apples. Honey. Pears. Light alcohol sheen. Cake sponge. Toffee. Water makes thinner and lightly grassy.

Finish: Honey and pears. Cinnamon. Alcohol sheen. Raisins. Water adds menthol and peppermint. Grassy. Light pear drops.

Conclusion: Huh, this is actual one of the rarest things I can encounter in drinking. A whisky where water did not improve it. That really is a rarity. In fact it really is fairly weak with water. Thankfully the base without water is pretty solid. A good thing or this would have been a right wash out of a whisky.

Neat it is fairly simple, but pretty joyous in what it does bring. It is honey struck layered over green fruit in the form of apples and pears. Feels wise it has a light alcohol sheen – not really a burn, more a hint of blended whisky style sheen. Now this is not a blended whisky, it is a single malt, so at the risk of sounding like a total whisky snob I can but attribute it to some young whisky having been used to make this no age statement whisky.

So anyway, to finish the notes I’ve gone and poured myself another measure – it is better this way – the original measure had been so thinned by the water that it had lost the bright flavours and become just a grassy, menthol touched thing. Not terrible, but kind of empty.

Now with a neat measure back in my hand it has a bunch of big flavours, a nicely thick feel – though with slightly young spirit style rough edges. The grassy and menthol notes still come out over time, but now just as backing notes.

Overall, better than my previous expedience with Cardhu – some simple, crowd pleasing notes, but rough edged. Not worth the RRP of 40 quid. At the significantly cheaper price I dropped on it – yeah , it is a simple fun whisky at that cost. Nowt special, terrible with water but an ok general drinking experience neat, with a few rough edges.

So, an ok fallback drinking whisky, but nowt special.

Background: I had tried Cardhu 12 year along while ago, and wasn’t really impressed with it – been looking for a chance to do notes on something from them recently, but was a tad nervous about investing a chunk of change into something that I may not enjoy. Thus, this no age statement which I think is one of their new core range, which was on sale cheap at Morrisons, seemed like a good chance to give them another try without breaking the bank. Being childish that I am, the fact the bottle says “The Cummings of Cardhu” in reference to its founder John Cumming, and the Cumming family who have run it since, did make me snigger. I will grow up one day. Put on a random bunch of Madness when drinking – nice light ska tunes, nowt too heavy (heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around..etc..etc.).

Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 25 (Scotland: Barley Wine: 13.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark black-cherry red. Thin brown dash of a head.

Nose: Treacle. Fudge. Vanilla. Toasted marshmallow. Liquorice all-sorts.

Body: Treacle. Liquorice. Vanilla. Toffee. Buttery notes. Charred meat ends to charcoal. Chalk touch. Black cherry. Brown sugar.

Finish:Liquorice all-sorts. Butter. Charred notes.

Conclusion: This is … very buttery, very buttery indeed. That is not such a good thing. There is a good base beer apart from that; Solid treacle notes, very smooth body that hides the alcohol and good toffee and vanilla from the bourbon barrel ageing. I mean I even enjoy the liquorice that they manage to use in moderation and have slight liquorice all sorts sweeter notes.

But…. yeah, as you go on that real thick buttery character just grows and grows. Now I don’t know if it from a brewing fault in the base beer, from the barrel ageing, a combination of both or what, but something just doesn’t click here. Generally butter notes are considered off notes in beer, but I have defended them from time to time where they seem to accentuate the high points of the beer they are in, but that doesn’t apply here – they are distinctly off notes.

Now, to look on the bright aside of the beer – it is very good at concealing its high alcohol – I’ve seen beers of roughly half the strength seem far rougher, and the smoothness doesn’t stop it playing with big flavours either, dodging another common flaw in aged beers where the smoothness comes with an associated lightness. This all grinds to a screeching halt sooner or later though as the buttery notes come out again. Now, maybe this is another beer where a bit of ageing may sort it out, but since they are selling it now, I expect it to be good now.

The buttery character is a greenery pocked, thick and fatty thing – so, I guess high quality for butter? But that doesn’t make it a better experience – it keeps hiding the better notes underneath it. Late on black cherry and similar dark fruit notes come out from under that shell, and it would have been nice to see more of them.

At a cheaper price this would be flawed but with a quality of the base against it that makes it worth investigating, At ten quid a pop this cannot be a worthwhile purchase I’m sorry to say. A potentially good beer stomped by its worse elements. So there we go.

Background: Another of Brewdog’s one off speciality beers – this one a Barley Wine that has spent 6 months on a bourbon barrel. That actually doesn’t sound that unusual. Ah well, they can’t all be super odd high concept brews. Let’s just hope it is really good to make up for it. Anyway, another one grabbed directly from their online store. Put on Ritualz –CDR for this. Not listened to it for a while and it is a really out there, moody electronic set of tracks that I felt the need to jump into again.

Brewdog: Native Son (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Moderate sized off white head.

Nose: Peach, kumquat and musty hops. Thick feeling aroma. Resinous. Dried apricot. Light tart pineapple. Flour.

Body: Lemon sherbet. Oily hops. Moderate bitterness. Kiwi. Apricot. Mandarin orange. Greenery. Apples. Peach. Smoke.

Finish: Creamy lemon. Good hop character and bitterness. Creamy lime. Mandarin orange. Popcorn. Greenery. Dry. Ashes.

Conclusion: What we have here is another example for the fact that you can actually have heavily hopped beers too fresh. I had a can of this when it first arrived and, back then, it felt rough and kind of dull. Now, a few weeks later, I break it open to do notes, and I find something much more pleasant.

It still has solid, prickly and musty bitterness with a rough ash tasting hop character on the way out – but now it also lets the fruit really play in the mid body. When it bursts with fruit it pushes out peach, Mandarin orange and lemon – it is dry based, but just slightly creamy in the fruit flavours.

Now it still isn’t perfect. For example, you may have seen the words “rough ash tasting” earlier and thought “Now, that doesn’t sound pleasant”. And you would be right. It isn’t. The finish still goes into rough and charred notes making the oily bitter character now feel burnt. When the rest of the beer is playing well it isn’t ruinous, but when there is a lull it comes out and is an unfortunate end to each sip.

It is a pity as the dry body that keeps out of the way and lets a mix of fruit and oily bitterness do the job is moreish – but those last moments stomp over that. Nearly very good, but not. Considering how much it has improved in the last two odd weeks I do wonder if it will become a proper working beer with a few more. However, let’s face it – the beer should work now. Good front, but unpleasant end – close, but not quite good.

Background: This would normally go in the IPA glass, but I, erm broke that – so I wondered how it would work in the wheat glass. Didn’t really suit it visually but worked ok. Anyway, as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This is their new west coast style IPA – big fan of a good west coast so thought I’d give it a try/. Grabbed directly from Brewdog’s store, and drunk while listening to Andrew WK’s new album – You Are Not Alone. For a guy who loves partying so much it is a pretty heartfelt album – cheesy but I won’t claim not to enjoy the hell out of it. It is just crazy fun and feel good.

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.

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.

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