Tag Archive: Scotland


Convalmore: 1984: Special Release 2017 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 32 Years: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice to gold colour. A few initial streaks come from the spirit followed by very slow puckering.

Nose: Vanilla. Soft praline. Apples. Soft white grape juice touch. Water adds a sulphur and burnt matches style. More water gives orange zest and pear drops. Madeira. Cinnamon spiced apples.

Body: Initially numbing. Oak. Grassy. Dry. Peppery. More water adds Madeira and watered down spiced rum. Spiced red grapes. Cinnamon apples. Gunpowder tea. Caramel. Cinder toffee. Very mild molasses touch.

Finish: Charring. Roasted chestnuts. Water adds sugared almonds, nut bars and a salty touch. More water makes spicier. Dry red wine. Chocolate cake. Gunpowder tea. Cinder toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, and in general a robust one, with a lot heavier nut character that I expected from a Speyside whisky. It is also an example that, even in an over 30 years old whisky, water still does the job!

While water is needed later on, the aroma always had what it takes. Smooth as silk, showing green fruit mixed with vanilla sweetness. It was pretty much exactly what I would expect of the region and the age, if not more than that.

Thus I was surprised when I took a sip and found out how dry and, while not harsh, kind of numbing the main body was. The flavour was very nutty with lots of oak influence making it woody, with little else in play. It felt like such a let down from the nose.

Similarly the finish was nutty, slightly rough, and unexpectedly slightly salty. The state of the body and finish felt like an utter let down for something this old, expensive and with a decent nose.

So, anyway, I added water and…

It was better, still simple and nutty, but now a bit spicier. However the backing seemed to become more harsh – the additional green fruit notes made it better but it was hard to appreciate it against the harsher notes.

So, heck, I may have only 3cl of these, but you only live once. So I added more water, risking flooding it, aaaand.

This is now soooo goooood. No, seriously. Like it is such a change, and such a jump in quality I found it hard to believe it. Wine like and spiced rum notes come out along with spiced fruit, toffee and many spirits. More green fruit. A creamier feel. It doesn’t feel like the same whisky at all.

It has still got a few of those salty, heavier charring and gunpowder tea notes at the back, along with a fair set of tannins, but now they seem balanced as there is so much more available to contrast that. Now it is rich, with lots of dessert like notes, Speyside fresh fruitiness, smooth with lots to examine and so easy to drink despite the harsh underline.

This needs water so much, but get it right and it is great. Still just a touch over harsh, but only minorly so, and apart from that it is great.

Just avoid it neat.

Background: Convalmore is another dead distillery, and therefore one of the few distilleries in Scotland I had yet to try. It seems to be a long lived one, closing finally in 1985, with, oddly, no official bottlings at the time – all the stock went into blends. This is one of the few official bottling that have come out since and one that there was no way I could afford a full bottle of. So, I recently had the chance to treat myself and took advantage of the fact that The Whisky Exchange was selling 3cl samples. It makes it very expensive per cl, but hey, it is pretty much the only way I was going to get to try something from the distillery. A quick google says this won Jim Murray’s best single scotch whisky 28-34 years. For what that is worth. Went with Prodigy: No Tourists for background music. May not seem like a match for this whisky but, screw it, I only just found out it existed and wanted more Prodigy. That is the whole reason.

Laphroaig: 10 Original Cask Strength – Batch 12 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 60.1% ABV)

Visual: Burnished reddened gold. Slow puckering comes from the spirit along with a few faster, thick streaks.

Nose: Camomile. Germolene (I think). Smoke. Peppery. Peat. Meat broth. Medicinal spirit. Orange zest. Charring. Some alcohol tingly. Slightly oily. Water makes clearer, and cleaner medicinal style. Dry soot. More orange zest.

Body: Warming initially, alcohol feel builds up quickly. Dried apricot. Medicinal and slightly dry. Beefy. Lots of peat. Slight malt chocolate. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Water adds honey and makes smoother. Beef broth. Orange notes. Peach.

Finish: Warming and tingling. Beef slices. Malt chocolate. Slight lime air. Numbing alcohol after a while. Cheese puff crisps. Slight caramel. Slight orange crème. Water adds cleaner orange notes and lime.

Conclusion: The first time I popped this open it was fucking intense. Possibly too intense, but still such an experience. Here, with a few weeks open under its belt, we get a much more balanced look. As always, time to air is your friend with whisky.

Neat it is still intense, though surprisingly smooth on first sip considering the abv – though the alcohol come in quickly after. It is not as numbing as you would expect but it is still numbing.

Neat it gives in exchange for the abv an even more medicinal style dram than the standard Laphroaig – not just in the dry spirit character, but even a kind of medicinal cream to medicinal bandages style aroma that I more associate with my small experience of Port Ellen.

Thee peat experience is also there, smokey and big. It is still not Ardbeg level peaty but still intense. The sweeter notes of the spirit come out more chocolatey with the bigger body, though still with vanilla backing. Similar the bigger body brings even more of the subtle citrus notes under that. Everything is bigger, and if you are fine with the alcohol weight it is 100% worth it.

Water smooths it out a lot – it is still evidently medicinal and peaty, but now with lots more sweetness. It is actually shockingly smooth all things considered and with many more fruity notes underneath including stuff I would not normally associate with Laphroaig like the subtle peach notes backing it.

Any way you take it, this is pure Laphroaig , from its most uncompromising to its most complex. I absolutely love it. Just make sure you give it some time to air before you make up your mind as first impressions are brutal!

Background: Ohh my, saw this at Independent Spirit and I wanted it instantly. Laphroaig 10 was my entry point to heavy duty Islay whisky and I still love it. Found out one of my friends in the Netherlands had actually tried this already, the lucky lucky person! Anyway, one of my mates commented that this tasted like Orange Marmite, if such a thing could exist, so that may have influenced my thoughts while tasting. I went with the live Undertale album for listening while drinking, light happy and chill, stuff I need at the mo.

Cooper’s Choice: Glen Esk: 1984: Limburg Whisky Fair (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 31 Year: 49.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slight yellow gold colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Tingling alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Toffee. Soft lime sorbet. Oak. Water makes cleaner. Lightly grassy. Still notable alcohol.

Body: Strong alcohol. Fatty butter. Vanilla. Peppery. Toffee. Water adds light strawberry. Still an alcohol presence. Pear drops. Polish air.

Finish: Fatty butter. Peppery. Oak. Alcohol tingle. Water adds tinned tropical fruit. A polish air. Flour dusted baps. Soft lemon sorbet.

Conclusion: This is very, well, neutral. At 49.5% abv I was expecting a bit of alcohol, so the alcohol weight is not a problem, but with 30 years in the oak I have to admit I was expecting it to be smoothed just a bit, and made into something more complex than what we have here.

It shows the weight mainly through alcohol and a fatty buttery feel – the cask strength and non chill filtered character means that there is a lot or raw, oily, fatty character there, but unfortunately it seems not much else.

It is a peppery, vanilla and toffee thing at its core. Some of which is expected character from the bourbon ageing, but, again, considering the time in the wood this has had I would expect more to it than that. The raw oak character is there fairly heavily, stomping into the spirit.

Overall it is, adequate I guess, water never really removed the rough character, though it does give more lemon and lime sorbet character over time. The peak in interesting and unusual notes is a strawberry touch that comes out from time to time, but 90% of the time it is generic vanilla, peppery and oak. It is not actively bad, it is just average, and for the cost, age and available abv, it needs and deserves more.

If this sums up the Glen Esk/Hillside experience then I can see why they went under.

Background: So, every now and then I can afford to get one of the dead distilleries I have not tried before. So, this is another one – Glen Esk, a distillery also called Hillside sometimes – that has been closed since 1985. I went with this one as it seemed fairly reasonably priced for a dead distillery, especially considering the age and cask strength, non chill filtered as well which is nice. Also as a bourbon cask aged one, I figured it would show more of the distilleries base character. It was grabbed from The Whisky Exchange a while back, and saved for a special occasion. Then lockdown hit and I though … fuck it. So here we are. This is one of 240 bottles, bottled for the Limburg Whisky Fair – which I know nothing about. Put on IDLES new album while drinking – Ultra Mono. I prefer their second album so far, but still a good album.

Williams Bros: Birds and Bees (Scotland: Golden Ale: 4.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Large mounded frothy white head.

Nose: Lemon cakes. Lime sorbet. Crisp hop character. Clean. Cake sponge.

Body: Lime zest. Bread dough. Slight sulphur. Lemony. Peppery.

Finish: Dough. Light sulphur. Lime. Lightly earthy and peppery. Decent hop character and bitterness.

Conclusion: This is what I would call a simple beer, but done well. It had a few points I initially took as flaws, that I am now enjoying as I come into the tail end of the beer.

So, to take the basics first, this is a gentle lemon and lime filled golden ale with crisp hop feel. Gentle up front, saving the bitterness for a hoppy and bitter finish. Tidy. Simple, but refreshing and pops the bright notes.

The flaw? Or the initially flaw seeming element, is that it is slightly sulphurous, especially in the finish. It felt kind of like it is backed by partially cooked dough amongst that and early on it felt a bit stuffy, which got in the way of the gentle sipping golden ale character.

So, yeah, early on I disliked it, but as time went on it altered, adding an odd steam beer like feel to the experience. A kind of fluffy feel that I oddly associated with direct gas heated whisky. Long story. Anyway, it is a rougher edge but now goes well with the hop punch at the end of the beer to give a nice underline to the thing.

For me anyway, your mileage may vary.

Nowt too showy, but a drinkable hoppy golden ale that slips down nicely.

Background: Back to Flavourly again, where my parents kindly bought me a box of beer to be sent to me. As always many thanks. A few I had done notes on before, and a few I just drank in general, but I made an effort to keep a few for doing tasting notes. Of which this is one. See, backstory is easy! William Bros first came to my attention years ago, back when they seemed to concentrate on brewing with older traditional ingredients. They have widened their range a lot since those days. Anyway, went with New Model Army: Impurity for backing music while drinking. Remember seeing them live a few years back, epic show, man I miss live music shows.

Douglas Lain: The Epicurean – Cognac Cask Finish (Scottish Lowland Blended Malt: 48% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened gold, with fast, thick streaks coming from the body.

Nose: Honey. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Stewed apricots. Cognac. Warming. Green grapes. Nasal hair tingling alcohol. Apple. Water adds slight oak. Makes cleaner and lighter. Adds more grapes and apple.

Body: Slick feel but warming. Honey. Custard. Slightly syrupy. Green grapes. Marmalade. Apple pie filling. Vanilla toffee. Light moss. Peach. Water adds more apple. Some pear. Brown sugar and cake sponge.

Finish: Marmalade. Cognac. Apple pie filling. Shaved wood. Quite dry. Gin air. Water adds pear. More evident lowland character. Brown sugar. Teabags and tannins.

Conclusion: This one took a good long while for it to air properly and open up. My first dram poured from this a few weeks back was very cognac dominated, very alcohol touched and the whisky was pretty much lost beneath the finishing wood. You basically got whisky feeling cognac but not much else. Fun, and a laugh to try, but not one I could overly recommend.

Things have changed since then.

Even drunk neat this is smoother than before- the lowland cleanness giving a lighter take to the thickness that the cognac gives. Together they become a smooth but surprisingly weighty dram for a lowland whisky.

It really shows its flavour range as well now. There is very definite cognac, especially those marmalade like sweet notes, and it mixes with the whisky base to show apricot and peach bright notes. However the base lowland style is now easier to notice. It show slightly mossy, clean and green fruit notes and makes it much more easy going that the sweet cognac backing.

Water brings out a lot more of the lowland character. It is still coming out with big, big sweetness, but now the whisky character actually is, just about, in the forefront. There is much more green fruit – especially apples. It is slightly sulphur touched, and kind of tannins touched in a way that doesn’t suit the sweetness in the finish, and that is probably the only weak point of the whisky. Not automatically bad elements but they don’t match, and the finish is a bit of let down with that. Here is where it is a tad more alcohol touched and rough.

Still, a very fun whisky and generally well developed. Probably best neat, or with just a drop of water to open it up. Let’s face it, if you bought this the concept of a cognac whisky is what you wanted, and taken neat or near neat that is what you get, just a bit smoother and more complex than that sounds and far more than the early days of opening.

Open it up, give it some time, and this will reward you in the end. A weak finish, but great cognac meets whisky front and middle.

Background: Another blended malt (or vatted malt as I prefer the term) – a mix of single malts from different distilleries with no grain whisky. In this case all lowland whiskies, which tend to be triple distilled – a common technique in Ireland but uncommon in Scotland. It tends to give a lighter, more easy drinking feel. This is quite an unusual variant on the Epicurean, having been finished in Cognac casks. I mainly grabbed it for that as I was intrigued on what that finish would do. This is one of only 402 bottles and was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went back to At The Drive in: Relationship Of Command to listen to while drinking. Again I think I really should buy at least one more of their albums…

Ardbeg: Blaaack: Committee 20th Anniversary (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Wet wood. Crushed red grapes. Salt. Black and red liquorice. Medicinal touch. Slight green grapes. Pencil shavings. Salty rocks. Slight charring. Brown sugar. Water adds oily peat notes and a touch of tar.

Body: Blueberry. Salt. Wet rocks. Warming alcohol. Cake sponge. Charring. Earthy wine character. Water adds caramel. Soot. Fig rolls. More blueberry. Some subtle cherries.

Finish: Smoke. Soot. Bitter chocolate dust. Plums. Earthy. Fig rolls. Water adds dust balls. Blueberry. Charring. More bitter chocolate and a medicinal touch.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m a known Ardbeg fan, and with that taken as fact, this is still, in fact, something special.

For one it is a good quality Ardbeg – peaty, sooty, heavy, lightly medicinal and slightly dry. The Pinot Noir ageing hasn’t overwhelmed or replaced any of the distinctive Ardbeg qualities. The alcohol is present but never intrusive, even taken without water.

Neat it has an interesting look at the Pinot Noir influence. There are some red grape notes, but it has a kind of earthy wine character that reminds me of the European takes rather than the fruitier NZ Pinot Noir that they used for ageing. It adds a fruity but heavy note to the dram.

Water brings out a completely different interpretation of the wine notes. It is sweeter, with blue fruit, figs and most notably blueberry. It is subtle in how it works – the front is all Ardbeg but it has these dark fruit rounding notes that just take it to another level.

Unlike some of the committee releases – one that I still adore – this really plays to traditional Ardbeg strengths and just enhances it. A bit deeper, a bit more rounded, but not such a surprise as , say, Drum was.

If you know Ardbeg, it is that, but earthier, sweeter and slightly smoother. Utterly amazing. I could talk more, but I would probably just end up repeating myself. Flaws? Well it isn’t as good as the XOP Ardbeg 1992, but what is? And this isn’t stupid money to buy.

Are you an Ardbeg fan? If you see it, try it if you can.

Background: Another year, another Committee release, and Ardbeg have gone with something very interesting for their 20th anniversary. Pinot Noir aged Ardbeg. Now they don’t say Pinot Noir finished, so I presume at least some of the whisky is completely aged in Pinor Noir casks, but I could be wrong. Also I didn’t managed to try the cask strength version to compare like I did with Ardbeg Drum a while back. A pity, would have been cool to compare. Anyway, I love Ardbeg – Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can recognise easily, so grabbing this from Independent Spirit was a certainty for me. Of note, the bottle is as black as its name – you have to hold it up to direct light and look carefully to be able to tell how much whisky you have left in there. A minor annoyance. Went with heavy music to back this – the hardcore punk of Gallows: Orchestra of Wolves.

Signatory Vintage: Strathmill 1996: 21 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Cask Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold with very slow, medium thickness puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Honey. Intense. Pine cones. Menthol jelly. Alcohol feel, but nowhere near its abv. Peppermint. Vanilla. Crushed dry rocks. Water adds more heather to it.

Body: Warming. Honey. Custard. Crushed rocks. Alcohol gets very present if held. Apricot and fruit syrup. Golden syrup. Water adds apple notes.

Finish: Clean meed sheen. Menthol. Some greenery. Golden syrup. Warming. Water adds thick pear notes. Apple pie. Malt toffee and malt chocolate. More more honey and mead as you add more water. Then fatty butter, dry oak and white chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok this somehow balances a nearly 60% abv spirit with over 20 years of soothing and it results in quite the sweet beast.

The alcohol is definitely there, but never burning – even if held on the tongue it just becomes very, very present. Instead the high alcohol shows itself as an uber thick, chewy, syrupy feeling dram.

It is very sweet, honeyed at its best into golden syrup at its heaviest with smoother custard notes in-between. There is syrupy apricot notes dropped in, and even the menthol notes have a jellied feel to them. I’m loving it. In fact I’m loving it so much that I am kind of nervous about adding water – but I need to see what happens for the notes. Right now it is just on the edge of being too much alcohol and sweetness but doesn’t quiet fall over. I love it.

Sooo, water. I put in a reasonable amount and it is still thick as heck but now with pear and apple sweetness added in for some more complexity. It is even better balanced and with better range. Score! Such a burst of big sunshine fruit.

You can pretty much batter it with water and it still works. Fatty and buttery notes comes out and it becomes a tad more easy going but still a heck of a whisky.

So, my first meeting with this distillery and I love it. Big, just about smooth enough, chewy and lots of flavours booming in a sweeter style. Oh yeah.

Background: A while back I made the list of living Scottish malt distilleries I had yet to try. This is the last of that list. Now a bunch of new distilleries have popped up since, not sure which have actually turned out whisky yet, or generally available whisky anyway, know at least one that has done a super tiny 3 year release. Still, BOOM LAST ONE! Now to make the new list. Also looking longingly at the dead distilleries I will most likely never try as they charge a grand a bottle. This was available as part of The Whisky Exchange’s “The Perfect Dram” 3cl bottlings of existing whisky – gave a me a good way of trying this older dram without dropping too much money, even if it is expensive an a per cl basis. This was from cask 2098, if that means anything to you. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation again as music, really giving that a play a lot at the mo. Looked this distillery up in one of Michael Jackson’s whisky books after drinking. He lists it as “The whisky world’s answer to orange muscat. With dessert” which makes a lot of sense to me after this one.

Gordon & MacPhail: Discovery Range: Tormore 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 13 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice colour. Very slow puckering into medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Barley biscuits. Lightly metallic. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Apples and pears. Slight nail varnish. Sugar dusting. Rock dust. Water makes softer, with more green fruit and some pastry notes. Methanol touch.

Body: Vanilla fudge. Metallic alcohol touch. Pear note. Woody. Black peppery. Apple jam. Water makes softer. Custard. Pineapples. More green fruit.

Finish: Oak. Light charring and black pepper. Metallic. Strawberry cream touch. Notable alcohol. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Water adds melted chocolate toffee and menthol.

Conclusion: The first time I tried this, on first opening the bottle, I was not impressed. Slightly alcoholic, rough and not much flavour was the impression I got. It really felt like one to relegate to bulking up a blended whisky kind of malt.

So, now I have given it a few days to air, which tends to help, and there have been some changes going on here. Now, let’s be harsh first, cos the whisky sure is some times (Ba-dum-tch)

This is weirdly metallic with notable alcohol expressed – especially in the air of the finish. There is also a kind of nail varnish touch, so lots of odd off elements are expressed throughout.

So, yeah, still lots of issues with this. Water does help mellow the bad points, but they are still there – especially if you add too much water and go past the sweet spot where the rough notes come back with a vengeance. There is definitely a tipping point here when it comes to water.

However now, with a bit of time to air, there is some flavour to be found in there. Now you have soft apples, pears and general green fruit over a sweet toffee and custard base. Just a touch of water gives it a good grip and gets rid of the worst of the issues.

So, it is not a total write off now but, damn, I can’t recommend this. I can have a dram and not complain now I already have a bottle – but it has too many rough edges and too little in return for me to recommend getting a bottle to anyone else.

Not a good first impression for the distillery.

Background: This is one of the few, still running, single malt distilleries in Scotland that I have yet to try. So I grabbed a bottle. Went with Gordon & MacPhail as they have been good to me with their independent bottlings. This has been aged solely in bourbon casks so should be a quite clean expression of the spirit’s nature. This was bought from The Whisky Exchange, and drunk to the background of my mates playing Dungeons and Dragons over Skype as part of a lockdown catch up.

Douglas Laing: Big Peat A846: Feis Ile 2020 (Scottish Blended Malt Islay Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly greened grain coloured spirit. Generally fast, middling sized streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Medical salve and medical bandages. Notable alcohol. Soft fudge. Soot and smoke. Clean medicinal iodine air. Calamine. Moss. Touch of clotted cream on scones. Water mutes it, adding sulphur. Wet rock. More smoke and still a medical cream note.

Body: Orange cream touch at front. Fudge. Lots of soot. Moss. Alcohol in a drying fashion. Drying in general. Burnt bark. Moderate thickness mouthfeel until it becomes dry. Water makes sweeter. More orange. Custard notes. Wet rocks.

Finish: Soot. Smoke and ash. Iodine. Drying. Medical cream. Harsh, slightly acrid. Vanilla fudge. Dried beef jerky. Slight dried lime air. Water adds orange cream and more fudge. Less drying character. Beef broth. Sweeter lime to choc lime.

Conclusion: So, back when I tried standard Big Peat I remember recommending having it neat over trying it with water. Water made it lose something. Also I remember that, for something called “Big Peat”, it had only moderate peat in my option. So, how does this one compare?

Well, I can start by saying that water definitely changes this one! Neat this leans very heavily into the medicinal Islay take, with soot and smoke rather than a full peat weight. It is so very drying, so much so that it is slightly too harsh and even slightly acrid.

It actually reminds me of Port Ellen in a few moments, with that calamine, medical cream and medical bandages odd notes amongst the more clean medicinal notes. There are hints of sweetness, but they are very low priority for a whisky that leaves your tongue dessicated and dry at the end of it. It feels like a whisky that could kill a cold with just a dram of the medicinal beast.

Oddly for a vatted malt it doesn’t feel smooth – it has a bit too much in the way of the rougher edges for me, and I don’t say that often. The weighty mouthfeel that it has at the front quickly dries so you don’t get the time needed to really appreciate it.

With water it is a very different dram. It is only slightly medicinal, and a tad more beefy peat and soot character – though still only moderate peat in my opinion. It is sweeter, some creamy fruit and more fudge, making a more balanced but less intense and obviously Islay styled body. It still has a medicinal, dry finish, but is a lot more forgiving in the rest of the dram.

Still not BIG Peat though. I may be a silly level peat head.

Overall – neat it is a tad too dry and astringent for me. Very medicinal. Very dry. Impressive but closed and doesn’t show the sweet contrast it has enough to pull it off. With water it loses the more interesting Islay characteristics but also becomes a more pleasant, if limited, dram.

Decent, but each version of it, with or without water, has flaws that keeps it from being one I would say to go for. It has lots to explore, but never hits its pinnacle of potential. Interesting, but there are better, similar priced islays.

Background: Big Peat! The vatted malt of Islay whiskies from Douglas Laing, this one a Feis Ile festival release limited to 3000 bottles. The A846 referenced a road on Islay, which also they reference with the 8 year old whisky and 46% abv. Very droll. Anyway, grabbed it from Independent Spirit to see how it went. Had different plans for music for this while drinking, but just as I was pouring Farewell Myth’s Made In Mexico came on , and it seemed to fit, so I left that playing.

Fierce: Magic Rock: Black DIPA (Scotland: Black IIPA: 8.3% AHBV)

Visual: Black. Massive chocolate froth brown coloured frothy head that leaves suds.

Nose: Roasted nuts. Chocolate dust. Slight charcoal. Bitter coffee granules. Mocha. Good hop bitterness.

Body: Good bitterness. Bitter cocoa. Slightly creamy mouth feel and taste. Kiwi fruit. Chocolate. Mild choc orange. Bitter hop character. Chilli seeds, with slight heat. Slight pineapple.

Finish: Chocolate dust. Bitter cocoa and chocolate cake. Bitter hops. Peppery. Earthy and turmeric.

Conclusion: This claims on the can to have pine, citrus and tropical notes from the hops. Not the set of words I would have picked I have to admit.

On examination there are fresher hop notes that could justify those descriptors, but they generally just put a general fresher, slightly easier drinking feel to a heavy, hoppy bitter BIPA.

The Black IPA side is quite balanced between the stouty and IPA styled notes – showing solid chocolate and roasted notes, but the bitterness feels IPA like bitterness, backed by the slightly bitter chocolate, but definitely the hops are the main bitterness maker here. A lot of BIPAs end up feeling like just a more roasted bitter hopped stout, but, in fairness to the can’s description, the fresh notes makes this definitely a Black IPA, not just a hoppy stout.

However I would say that more than those fresh notes this emphasises instead the peppery, earthy, chilli seed heat character to make it more grounded and warming. It is less showy than say, to pick a random example and definitely not just picking my favourite BIPA, Stone’s Sublimely Self Righteous Ale. This feels more like a British IPA, made into a BIPA and with just a few American hop influences showing.

There is some sweeter chocolate character to offset, some creamier notes, which are welcome against the grounded hops. It is slightly creamy in mouthfeel as well – slightly fresh in taste over that – but at its core it is bitter hops, bitter chocolate and an earthy, peppery touch.

Very solid, very well brewed. Could do with more of the lighter notes it claims, but still a solid grounded BIPA. I wish there were more BIPAs, but I am happy enough with this one.

Background: Black IPAs! I freaking love Black IPAs for all I complain about the nonsensical naming convention. They seem comparatively rare at the moment, so I grab a new one whenever I can. Haven’t seen Stone Brewing’s Sublimely Self Righteous ale this side of the pond for ages. Beer shops, importers, whoever, pretty please get it back in again. Anyway, yeah I grabbed this mainly because it is a Black IPA, helps that this is a collaboration with Magic Rock who are decent. Anyway, went with the Algorithm: Brute Force for music to back this – techo, electronic, mathcore, whatever the heck they are tunes to again help burn off some energy in covid lockdown.

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