Tag Archive: Scotland


Brewdog: Abstrakt: AB 23 (Scotland: Barley Wine: 11.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale varnish red. Thin off white head.

Nose: Red cherries. Boozy. Brandy snaps. Treacle. Rum Soaked Raisins. Hop oils.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel, yet with boozy notes. Vanilla. Flapjacks. Fudge. Hop oils. Sesame seeds. Bready. Cherries.

Finish: White bread and oat slices. Light oily sheen. Oily hop character. Peppermint. Milky. Raisins.

Conclusion: Not bad, but, somehow, sometimes overly smooth, yet with boozy notes? How does it managed that?

Ok, with that quick overview for the TL/DR crowd done, let’s get down to the details. This is both an impressive base, and seeming to lack much to build on that. At that base it is smooth (Generally – see the comment on boozy notes above) with a bready and oaty character that generally keeps it from feeling light as barrel aged, or just generally aged beers can be (Again generally – as mentioned it does run to overly smooth at times) . It has a good hop oil character as it warms, giving needed extra thickness and you can see the bourbon ageing in full swing on top of that – bringing lots of vanilla, some fudge and lots of smoothness (yeah, that smoothness is something that keeps coming to mind while drinking).

Beneath that base there is … not that much. It is kind of milky, mixed with bready character to give a bread pudding sort of imagery. Which is odd as the aroma booms with hints of things to come – You are enticed in with brandy snaps, raisins, cherries and rum – all of which are very muted to non existent in the body when you get there. The hints you do get are more in the cherry direction than the others – and even there they feel light compared to the vanilla that dominates the base.

The quality of that base in ease of drinking despite the abv and occasional boozy notes is what keeps me at this, but at ten quid a pop it desperately needs more than that to be worth it. Maybe a bigger brewed base so that more survives the ageing, maybe a different, more character filled barrel for ageing, maybe a bit more done with hops. Just something. It feels supremely crafted as a base and it is begging for something more to be done with it.

Not bad, but definitely a disappointment.

Background: The latest in Brewdog’s one off special beer releases – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This one is a bourbon barrel aged barley wine. That actually seems fairly ordinary for an Abstrakt release – hope it brings more than that into play on drinking. This was grabbed directly from the Brewdog store and drunk while listening to some Bikini Kill. Still an awesome angry punk band.

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Brewdog: Prototype: Blond Ale (Scotland: Blond Ale: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow to blond. Moderate small bubbled carbonation. Moderate whiteish head.

Nose: Cheese puff crisps to cheddar slices. Slight yeast funk. White pepper. Light lemon. Slight dry champagne.

Body: Vanilla and soft lemon. Crusty white bread. Dry. Light bitterness and hop character. Milky. Light orange. Light grapes. Dry champagne.

Finish: White bread. Lemon and lime cordial. Popcorn. Orange zest. Light hop character. Cheese puffs.

Conclusion: This both feels like a good base to work from, and something that definitely needs some hard work to reach its potential.

So, let’s go with the good first – the feel of this beer is spot on. It is slightly dry and refreshing, with just a hint of yeast funk calling very mildly to Belgian blond ales, or good quality, slightly dry champagne. It lets out the light cheese funk into the aroma and backs it with a popcorn hop feel. As a feel this beer has range and delivers a very distinctive blond ale, making the most of the variety of what you can do with that. It leans towards dry, easy drinking lager influenced beer but with that milky blond ale middle.

So, let’s move onto the bad – flavour wise it adds little to that base – some light citrus, but it feels like you get a lot of setup for something bigger to happen and then get no pay off. It doesn’t need huge flavour, just something to feel like a capstone for the beer, and some subtleties to tease out over time.

It probably has the most promise of the four prototypes that came out this year, but also will need a lot of work to get it to be worth a regular release. The Double IPA prototype is significantly better as a beer in itself and would be a great regular beer release, however if they could add some better favour to this it could end up a very good beer in a style that Brewdog have not yet done a stand out beer in.

So, well worth giving a kick and if they do release a reworked version I will have my eye on it.

Background: So, the final prototype that came out from Brewdog this year, the one that came out too late to be in the original batch as they felt their first take on the beer wasn’t up to it. Grabbed from the Brewdog shop as part of a different batch pickup. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beer. This is a blond ale. Erm, that’s it. Not a style Brewdog does often, so interesting to see what they do with it. Drunk while listening to some Louise Distras – love the kind of folk punk mix of it.

Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.

Brewdog: Nine To Five Wizard (Scotland: Weizen Bock: 7.5% ABV)

Visual: Overripe banana to browned body with huge ripe banana coloured mound of a head.

Nose: Dried banana. Light cloves. Moderate hop character. Raisins. Vanilla custard. Orange skin. Fudge.

Body: Vanilla custard. Orange crème. Banana custard. Some hop character. Crushed Blackpool rock. Hop prickle. Light greenery. Quite thick. Some crusty bready character. Hop oils.

Finish: Lime sweets. Vanilla custard. Candy floss. Raspberry hard sweets. Some bitterness. Slight peppermint and pepper. Crusty white bread. Hop bitterness and character grows over time. Tart grapes and bubblegum.

Conclusion: It is amazing how fast things can change with hoppy beers. I had one of these when it first came out and it had quite the fresh, bitter hop kick. Very much felt like an IPA meets hefeweizen beer. I broke this open for doing notes, under a month later and it has really mellowed in that time.

The malt is much more prevalent now, pushing banana and vanilla custard styling at the base, with light pepper and clove notes making its weizen style more evident despite that. It is a beer with a quite thick mouthfeel, and a lot of body brought by the nearly 8% abv – not traditional weizen feeling, but with enough calls to it that the style is not lost.

The hop character is now more in the flavour than in raw kick – there is still a moderate hop bitterness and character, and also some oily noble hop mix late on, but general it mixes smoothly with the malt base.

The flavours are grapes, orange and raspberry delivered from fresh fruit to sweet crème in style, to hard boiled sweets after that. It is quite artificial sweet feeling, giving a candyfloss and bubblegum style to the middle of the beer.

There is a lot thrown into this, a lot of mixed up elements from traditional weizen spice, strong malt load, noble hop stylings and flavours, to mashed up hard candy fruit flavours. It is enjoyable if slightly brash and a tad overwhelming and not completely coherent in how it comes together.

It’s lost a lot of raw power since I first tried it, but has gained a much greater range in those few weeks – so I have no idea where this will go from here. It is fun, but the overly candy sugar sweets notes may get wearing – however in moderation it gives a heck of a lot in a short time.

Background; This came out very close after the prototype beers did, so instead of another Brewdog shop order I just grabbed a pair of these on take-out from Brewdog Bristol. Another one of Brewdog’s canned lines with cool neon style art on the cans. This one a German style weisse beer but with new world hops. I had one shortly after grabbing it, but with all the prototype beers to do notes on, waited a couple of weeks to do notes on it. Let’s face it, if the beer gets notable worse in under a month and doesn’t warn you it is not a good beer choice in the first place. Drunk while listening to Selfish C**t – No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper. Grabbed in my youth where the name alone for a punk style band made me grab it. I was more easily impressed by rude words back then. The mix of stripped down punk, discordant electronic backing and angry lyrics means I do come back to it every now and then, so stood the time better than such a shock named band deserves to.

Brewdog: Prototype: Black Rye IPA (Scotland: BIPA: 6.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark brown to black. Large creamy browned head.

Nose: Kiwi. Muggy hops. Malt chocolate. Dry roasted peanuts. Slightly dry. Sulphurous eggs.

Body: Milky chocolate. Slight brown bread to wholemeal crackers. Kiwi and grapes. Slightly peppery. Vanilla toffee. Custard.

Finish: Milky chocolate. Black pepper. Moderate hops and bitterness. Milky coffee. Wholemeal crackers.

Conclusion: A lot of rye based beers overuse the rye element, in my opinion. I find it works better used sparingly to add something to the texture, and a bit of spice to the body rather than being something that dominates the beer. This actually uses the rye fairly lightly – it builds up over time to become prominent late on, but very gentle early in the beer.

The main black IPA base is fairly simply done – moderate chocolate, but actually leaning more towards toffee and custard notes than you would expect. Feels like some influence of a traditional IPA than you usually get in a BIPA. Don’t get me wrong, of course the chocolate and coffee notes are more dominant – here in a milky and smooth style, but it isn’t just showing those elements.

For an IPA, black otherwise, the hops seem to be lesser used than normal. You mainly get kiwi on the flavours side, and moderate levels of hop character and kick. This is probably the weakest part of the beer for me – while this manages to use the rye style well, the hop use only seems competent – very minimal in what it has for range, and seems lacking compared to the many other excellent BIPAS.

So, looking at this, the main difference maker in it is the rye. Even by the end it isn’t that harsh, just adding nice peppery weight to the beer. It is a generally competent BIPA, but feels like there could be so much more done with it. Keep the malt and rye as it is, but really fruit up the hops, then they may have something here.

As the beer is now, competent bit only competent in a world of exceptional Black IPAs.

Background: Third, and what was initially the final beer of this year’s Brewdog Prototype vote. I say initially as barely a week or so after releasing the three beers, saying that they would not release the blond ale as it was not up to snuff, well they released the blond ale. Considering bottling, posting, etc time I’m fairly sure they had an idea that the blond ale would be out shortly so I have no idea why they didn’t just wait a few weeks and release the lot at once. Sigh. Ah well. Anyway, this is a Black IPA made with rye. It is pretty much all in the name – oh, also it has a decent 70 IBU. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed from Brewdog’s shop, and drunk while listening to some of Jonathan Young’s Disney covers. Because of course.


Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Brewdog: Prototype: Double IPA (Scotland: IIPA: 8.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear gold. Small bubbled carbonation. Medium off white head.

Nose: Fresh, slightly resinous hops. Grapes and grapefruit. Slight hop bitterness. Fresh, but slightly dry. Mandarin orange. Bready.

Body: Kiwi. Toffee and caramel. Clean mouthfeel. Grapes. Juicy. Clean hop oils. Slight bitterness. Mandarin orange.

Finish: Good bitterness and hops. Grapes. Pink grapefruit. Vanilla. Light peach. Hop oil. Mandarin orange. Passion-fruit.

Conclusion: This feels like a double IPA that ties to take elements from all ends of the IPA interpretation range and mash them together into a flavoursome, well balanced beer.

For example – the malt – pretty cleanly delivered and well attenuated to let the hop character show through clearly, yet still has a touch of that sweeter caramel style rather than the more neutral vanilla or toffee sweetness that usually comes in with the drier attenuation.

Another example – the hops – seems fairly fresh in a NZ style early on – tart grapefruit, grapes and such – but if you hold it then old school American peach hop notes come out matched with orange notes that seem to come from the new hotness of the hop range. It isn’t pushing one message, but giving high notes from each hop style’s strengths,

It is very well crafted and shows the advantage in working upon a well known style, rather than the raw enthusiasm of adding in cool new twists as the other two IPA prototypes do – the experience in brewing means that this is very layered, balanced and high quality. It delivers an attenuated, but not stupidly dry beer for easy drinking and big flavour and hops.

It fills the gap left by Hardcore IPA leaving their line up much better than Born To Die does and is a great well crafted beer – general enough to be a beer you can have nigh any time you are happy with the abv, and good enough that you will look forwards to doing so. This had my vote.

Background: Second of the Brewdog prototypes for this year, of which there are now four again as they finally got around to releasing the blond ale. Still debating on if I should pick one of them up. Anyway this is their double IPA, with 80 IBUs according the bottle – a decent kick – the most normal of the initial three IPA styles released. Everyone gets to vote on which one they want to become part of the main line-up. Disclaimer – as always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This was grabbed direct from their Brewdog store. This was drunk while listening to some Akala – still continually blown away by that guy’s lyrical skill.

Brewdog: Prototype: Tangerine Session IPA (Scotland: Session IPA: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Slightly burnished gold. Clear. Small bubbled carbonation. Medium sized off white head.

Nose: Very clear tangerine. Light hop character. Orange jelly to marmalade.

Body: Brown bread. Moderate hop character. Light greenery. Fresh oranges and tangerines. Orange jelly sweets.

Finish: Tangerines. Moderate hops and bitterness. Popcorn feel. Orange hard sweets. Blackpool rock. Bitterness grows over time. Brown bread.

Conclusion: A few things stand out here. First, and quite importantly, this manages to successfully avoid the overly dry character that seems to come with a lot of session IPAs. You can still feel the dryness and accompanying well attenuated character – especially in the finish – but due to its core tangerine conceit it bursts with sweetness that hides that aspect well.

Onto the tangerine then – it is very fresh and shows itself in several different ways throughout the beer. In the aroma it is very natural feeling, very fresh and very clean – it utterly dominates the nose. In the body it is now working against moderate bitterness – so not quite as dominant. It is still very present, but not as cleanly delivered – now with some soft orange sweets adding to the sweet character. Finally in the finish the sweetness takes on a more artificial kind of Blackpool rock and hard orange sweets feel against a growing hop bitterness. Not bad, but different and less cleanly done, much more artificial feeling.

While the orange is well done, this is not a varied beer in any way – you get orange flavours and bitter hop flavours laid over a dry attenuated bready base. It is well done but the simplicity means that it doesn’t play in the top ranges of beer. A one trick, fresh fruit, session beer. Probably has a place in the line up if they can add a bit of range to it – it fits a needed niche and is nice enough – however it really is not a beer for contemplation.

Background: Prototype time again! A time when Brewdog put out a bunch of new beers and the one I like least is voted to be the one they keep. Sorry. I may be a bit down on the results of voting these days. Mainly for reasons with nothing to do with beers. Anyway… They only put out three beers this time, they had a blond ale but decided it wasn’t up to snuff. All 3 are IPA variants, generally the darkest, strongest beer wins. Because of course it does. So my guess is the black rye IPA will win this year. It fits the pattern. Anyway, this is the session IPA – a style I have had many issues with over the years as 1) IPAs are by definition strong beers and 2) lots of session IPAs are crap. There have been a few good ones though, so I’ll give this a fair shake. As always I am not an unbiased actor on Brewdog beers. This is 40 IBU, low for the insane scales we have these days, but still a fair decent chunk of hops. Looking at the bottle they use actual tangerine to make this, which may be just what is needed to break the session IPA curse. This was bought from the Brewdog store and drunk while listening to Svalbard – Gone Tomorrow.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Nomad: Outland Whisky (Scottish/Spanish Whisky: 41.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and spirity. Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Raspberry yogurt chunks. Raisins. Light burning notes, but mostly smooth. Oak.

Body: Very smooth. Brandy cream. Custard. Vanilla toffee. Sultanas. Sweet red wine. Honey. Very slightly light, but warming if held. Sulphur if held. Raspberry yogurt. Condensed cream. Water makes smoother, and fuller with more raisins.

Finish: Rum soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light wood. Light waxy character. Dry sherry. Water makes trifle like.

Conclusion: This is both definitely a young whisky, and also a very smooth one. One of those odd contradictions that I don’t expect but enjoy when I find them. It has a spirity thickness, but even neat it has a restrained burn and water soon turns it into a very easy drinking thing.

It doesn’t seem to get a lot of the flavour from the base spirit – it feels like this is all coming from the barrel ageing, all the way. Lots of brandy cream notes, very creamy in general with sherry, sweet red wine and raisins all showing from the barrel ageing. It is a sweet and dark fruit laden thing with a slightly waxy feel when neat, but becomes just clean smoothness with water.

A tad simple isn’t the right words for it – there is a lot going on here, with honey and vanilla toffee sweetness backing the fruit – however there really isn’t any sign of where it came from outside of the barrel. So if you are into whisky for all the odd quirks that come from different makes of the spirit then you will not get that here. However taken for what it is it is very enjoyable. Very smooth with water, very trifle like, very sweet – it gives a lot to enjoy from the short, unusual, ageing.

So a whisky for general enjoying, fun and, with water, is amazing at not showing any rough edges from its youth. At a higher price point I would want more odd quirks from the base spirit, but as is it gives a lot for your money. In fact it reminds me slightly of the Irish style whiskey in its smooth, sweet and easy drinking style. So a Scotch touched, Irish feeling, Spain finished whisky. A true nomad – very good value easy drinking whisky.

Background: Odd ageing done with this one -it is made up of a mix of 5 to 8 year old whisky that has been aged in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, then sent to Jerez where it is finished in Pedro Ximenez casks for a year. I first tried a sample of this at Wine Rack in Leeds, just before going to see NXT wrestling. We had been aiming for the excellent North Bar and just nipped into the Wine Rack as it was right next to it – unfortunately I was a tad skint at the time, so couldn’t grab a bottle then – instead grabbing it months later from Independent Spirit. Its a good shop though, so thought I would give them a mention. Drunk while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees – never really listened to them before, but has seen an excellent tribute band to them, so was giving them a try.

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