Islay

Review: Port Charlotte 10 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port+Charlotte+10+1.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
10 yrs; ex-bourbon and wine casks
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is the first regular age-stated Port charlotte, matured in whiskies coming from about 65% first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, 10% second-fill bourbon berrels and 25% second fill French wine casks. With this, Port Charlotte now has its own bottle alongside its Bruichladdich and Octomore siblings (though I like the old bottle more…). Nonetheless, this is a terrific whisky - see below!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L162454 18/286 2018/09/06 15:10

  • Bottling Date: 2018

Beautiful, rich aromas – limestone, smoke, dark cacao, lemon peel, ocean shells, sea breeze, salt stone – quite farmy – turf fires, white pepper, charred green bell pepper, and a bit of vanilla and creaminess. What an awesome nose! Further to this, some pear, golden delicious apple, clove, and orange peel. There is a bit of really bright, tropical fruit – guanabana, perhaps? It’s quite slight. The palate is rich, full of rich earth and balanced by vanilla and gorse flowers. Dense dried fruit, almond, raisins, smoke, turf fires, marmalade, allspice, and a touch of sulphury pepper.

The finish is earthy and spicy, with clove-studded oranges, white pepper, pink peppercorn, rich earth, coconut oil, and heather. Cloves, too. A great whisky!

I had a great Port Charlotte last year – a cask strength cognac cask – how does this compare? The CC:01 has more smoke, more toffee, more smoke, and more cognac (hmm…), but less earthy richness and fruitiness, particularly dried. This is a bit broader and richer; I like it more (but both are good)!

This is quite a terrific edition to the baseline age-stated Islay whiskies -  Bowmore 10, Bunnahabhain 12, Ardbeg 10, Laphroaig 10, Caol Ila 12 and Lagavulin 8. Those are all terrific whiskies, and all a different take on islay. Not to single out Kilchoman, who are also producing terrific and distinct whiskies.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: High. A very nice peated, earthy whisky for the price. If you quite like the style, like me, it’s a worthwhile buy. If you are an Islay fan, this is probably a must-try. If you don’t like peated, earthy whiskies this probably isn’t worth your money.


Review: Ardbeg An Oa Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Ardbeg+An+Oa+1.jpg
ABV
46.6%
Aging
PX Sherry, Charred New Oak, and Ex-Bourbon
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Ardbeg (Port Ellen, Scotland)

This Ardbeg has a bit of a focus on French oak, and introduced as part of Arbeg’s core range in 2017. As is the growing trend these days, it has some charred new oak in it and was married in a French oak vat to bring together the varying flavours created from the sweet, dried fruit character of the PX cask, the creamy corn influence from the ex-bourbon cask, and the oaky, sweet character of the new oak.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: L70562 13/07/2018 18007341 11:42

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is so rich – cacao, deep smoke, charred lemon peel, fresh lemon peel, rich earth, ground unroasted almonds, baking spices, iodine, turf fires, and biscuits. A touch of brilliant minerality, dried brown rice, dried apricot, prune, plum jam, and sharp smoke. A fascinating nose, and very Ardbeg. The youth is a bit present on the nose, but it’s a good youth.

The palate has an incredible dried smoky character to it, like charred chickpea or nut skins. Further, rockpools, white pepper, and coconut oil. And some sweet oak, ketchup (indeed), and a finish full of a smoked sea character (smoky seaweed, smoked fish, etc.). The finish is dry, oaky (French oak, quite so), ashy, and slightly marine. Minerality comes out on the finish more than other places.

A very nice whisky. How does it compare to the 10? This is a bit younger (more oily, a bit more raw) – smokier but not as fruity or balanced, or, indeed, as intriguing. But a bit bigger, and perhaps richer – but less mature. So, it depends what you are after. I like both quite a bit, but prefer the 10, which has the best of this – but more elegantly integrated and balanced. All that to say – this is still fantastic, and it’s a welcome addition to the range for me.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. A very nice peated whisky, but at a price. On a value scale, it’s better to go for the 10, which I find a tad better, and is a bit cheaper. Nonetheless, this is a decent buy if you like smoky, peated whiskies.


Review: Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Release 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
59.1%
Aging
15 years; Refill and rejuvenated American oak, ex-bodega European oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

Another unpeated Caol Ila, this time 15 years old and at a whopping 59.1%! I quite liked the 2015 release, so I’m rather eager to see how this one plays out. I do prefer the peated caol ilas, generally, but I can’t help but be fascinated to see the unpeated spirit come through. This was distilled in 2002.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is fruity and spicy, with stone fruits, dried apricot, light spice, and oak underneath. Still more….toffee, vanilla, a bit of earthiness, pear, mint. A bit tropical, and quite creamy especially at higher proof. Very candied at cask strength.

The palate carries all the flavours through – fruity, tropical notes, grain – and a touch of nice arugula at the end. Very well integrated. Lots of toffee, spice, and a bit of juniper too. Terrific mouthfeel. The finish has toffee, pear, canned peaches, white pepper, sugar candy, and a light herbal influence.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low to Average. It isn’t terribly expensive, and it’s a good bottle of whisky - it’s not quite on par with the average price for Scotch whiskies this good, but it’s close.


Review: Caol Ila 35 Years Old Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky (Diageo Special Releases 2018) by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Diageo.

Image courtesy of Diageo.

ABV
58.1%
Aging
35 years; Refill American oak hogsheads, refill American and European oak butts
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Caol Ila (Port Askaig, Scotland)

The flagship whisky of the 2018 Diageo special releases. The oldest official Caol Ila bottling - I’ve had a few old independent bottlings of Caol Ila (like a 31 year old from Signatory which was quite good but not outstanding). Old peated scotch, matured in refill casks…nice!


Review (2018)

  • Batch: Diageo Special Releases 2018

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

The nose is unbelievable. Leather, wax, ever-so-light smoke - wow! Unbelievable nose. A bit of mint, dried strawberries, guava, hazlenuts, almond, ashiness, menthol, cedar, dry earth, and old orange peel. The palate is rich, spicy, and a bit smoky! Very spicy - shocking - but this works really well and softens as it sits. Rich and balanced, with more leather and waxy notes and classic old whisky notes. Loads of toffee and spice develop towards the finish. The finish has light spice, and is rich and complex, with honey, sweet peat, light tannic oak, herbal notes, pistachios, and an elegant dryness. The smokiness fits so well. And then grainy, too!

The tropical notes are fascinating throughout, and I love them. One of the best scotch whiskies I’ve tasted - really good.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Low. Not a cheap bottle of whisky.


Review: Lagavulin 12 Year Old Limited Edition Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Lagavulin 12.jpg
ABV
~56%
Aging
12 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Lagavulin (Lagavulin, Scotland)

This whisky is a limited release, but it comes around every year, so it's not very rare. It usually clocks in at a higher price than the 16 year old - this is because of the cask strength and limited nature of the release. Lagavulin is a terrific distillery for just about all their releases - I really quite like what they do.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: 2012 Release (56.1%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2012

Big, slightly sour peat. Smoke, vanilla, tar, gooseberries, smoked paprika, stewed peaches, grape, vanilla, lots of minerality, smoke, soot, seaweed, cucumber, earthy, marula, a bit briny, …terrifically complex and interesting. It’s voluptuous and creamy, with lots of peach here too. The palate shows tar, slightly burnt lentils, terrific minerality, bonfire, smoking dried leaves, tinned and fresh peaches, custard – all with perfect tannic grip. Earthy peat, too – but this doesn’t dominate. The finish is fabulous: smoking leaves, freshly baking bread, charred chickpeas, strawberry jam, vanilla, custard, brine, dried peaches, lime, cilantro, and light tannins. Top notch stuff – and the tannins are just perfect. Incredible whisky. This is the biggest, and most muscular between the regular (terrific) releases of the 16 year old and distiller's edition. It’s just so big…if this wasn’t at cask strength it would be a 92 – but the cask strength shows through so well, particularly the finish.

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: Very High. For a terrific batch of this, $130 was not a bad price to pay.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2017 Special Release (56.5%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

Smoldering smoke, saltstone, lightly sweet, raisins, cacao butter, slightly farmy and peppery too. The palate is buttery, full of wood smoke, also including rich cacao and lots of earthiness – brilliant. Sweetness is perfectly balanced. The finish is beautiful, and rich – including roasted malt, woodsmoke, white pepper, peppery radish...dries to heather brush.

Very peppery – more than I remember. Brilliant. I’d call this one cloying, in a positive sense, with all the sweetness – but I suppose it’s never used in a good way, eh? I guess we’ll settle for "syrupy” or "syrup-laden” or something...

They are pricy, but they are good! Likely my favorite regular Islay, though I do like the Ardbeg 10, too.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2018 Special Release (57.8%)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2018

I do love trying these! It’s very much in line with the above releases - though it seems a bit sweeter and a touch less rich. Burning leaves, oil, tar, marine notes, lemon, and a light waxinesss too! Spicy and smoky finish. These things are such classics. Wonderful at cask strength.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Great whisky, expensive price.


Review: Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Port Charlotte CC01 2.jpg
ABV
57.8%
Aging
9 yrs; ex-cognac cask
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a cask strength travel retail edition of Port Charlotte, Bruichladdich’s line of heaviy peated single malts. This has been fully matured in cognac casks, not just finished, which means we benefit not only from the cognac liquid soaked in the cask but also the cognac oak because significant aging took place in the French oak barrels. I’m always surprised there aren’t more cognac finishes, but I expect it’s because cognac producers are less willing to give up barrels or “wash” new barrels for the Scotch industry.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: CC:01

  • Bottling Code: L/161648 17/329 2017 1106 13:23

  • Bottling Date: 2016

I love the farmy nature of Bruichladdich distillates. Intensely earthy smoke, like a peat fire, yet, it’s offset by the cognac character which comes through with surprising presence – raisins, rich dried fruit, baking spices, and cardamom. It’s quite sweet. The smoke is much more intense than my recollection of Port Charlotte Scottish Barley. Hmm...one of the better cognac finishes I’ve had, which is surprising given all of the peat. If you like peated Scotch and you like cognac, I think this one is a must-try. We also have green olives (Castelvetrano), green walnuts (very distinct, if you happen to have a walnut tree – it’s a nutty, piney aroma), coconut, lemongrass, and sea salt. Very nice nose.

The palate is ashy and smoky, yet contrasted with all the fruit-forward cognac notes. Again, I’m surprised at how assertive the cognac is amidst a powerful smoky single malt. It’s also quite sweet – quite a juxtaposition of flavours from lemon rind to sharp earthy peat to burning wood.

The finish is slightly sweet, carrying on tannins and baking spices with more peat fires. Grows in medicinal notes too. Takes water very well, and I think I like it most with a touch of water so it’s around 48%.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. It’s close to average, but still a bit pricy, unless you’re a peat head and like CS peaters.


Review: Kilchoman Machir Bay Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
~6 Years; first-fill bourbon, oloroso sherry finish
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kilchoman (Rockside, Scotland)

I really enjoy Kilchoman. Machir bay is named after a bay near Kilchoman on Islay, a beautiful white sand beach.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

As I review this, it is summer – 90% of my peated single malt consumption happens in the winter. It’s a nice time for a peated dram. Islay peat is special....

The nose is full of smoke, tar, cinnamon, and some really fascinating notes of bright orange zest and bubblegum. It is rich and it is balanced. The palate is full with rich BBQ smoke throughout, caramelized lemon, and rich earth, cinnamon, and clove. Still, quite bright – the citrus works really well. There is rich BBQ smoke (hardwood) on the finish, and throughout the centre of the palate. Palate is also full of earth and lemon.

Sweetness balances everything really well, too.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average. Par for the course, in terms of value for whisky taste, at $96. Especially (or only?) if you like smoky whiskies.


Review: Bruichladdich The Organic 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Organic.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
Ex-bourbon and Ex-tennessse barrels
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This was made from organic barley farmed at mid coull cross farms in daltross, from a 2008 harvest (crop rotation means this farm only produces it every 7 years!). It was matured for 8 years before its release.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: : L/161658 17/333 2017 1115 15:55

  • Bottling Date: 2017

    Very creamy – with some nice corn notes....seems there is some first-fill bourbon in this one. Very raw, oddly, it is sharper and feels more raw than the 2009 islay barley release which is 2 years younger. Fresh, sharp pear and banana, green grass...doesn’t have the same raw earthiness and farmy nature of the Islay Barely 2009 (I am tasting them side by side) but still has a very nice nutty grain nature to it. The palate is big, still with quite the influence of bourbon, slightly salty, earhty, and nutty, and some dried fruit – the finish is very earthy, with light vanilla, oak, custard, and pear coming in at the end. Very nice! I like it with just a touch of water, to dilute down to 46-48%.

    I quite like it, although I do tend to like the less bourbon-cask driven Laddie’s – a bit less sweet, more earthy, and less dessert-like. I love the whisky, but do prefer Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley style more (if you don’t know what I mean, think of first-fill bourbon scotch whiskies like Balvenie single cask – speaking of which, if you like that, you’ll probably like this...). There is a slight bit of dissapointment that they aren’t done quite the same way so I can compare the barley more one-to-one, but I guess I’d need new make to do that...

    Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher). Very nice stuff.

    Value: Low, at $110.


Review: Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2009 Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Bruichladdich Islay Barley.jpg
ABV
50%
Aging
6 yrs; American Oak
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Bruichladdich (Bruichladdich, Scotland)

This is a 6 year old product from the Craggan, Cruach, Island, and Mulindry farms on Islay - matured for 6 years and now released. The barley was publican and oxbridge, not the best yielding, but used for flavor.


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 2009

  • Bottling Code: L/160404 16/176 23 08 16 12:02

  • Bottling Date: 2016

    Earthy, farmy, and clean – nicely grain driven as are the best bruichladdich whiskies. Sharp marine and salt notes on the nose, lemon peel, vanilla, root beer...the palate continues in the same way, farmy, earthy, sharp, and salty with dried pineapple and clove. Magnificent stuff – complex, interesting, rich, full. Quite unique in the whisky world, in my view – this profile – earthy, barley driven, with fruity and an incredible marine essence to it. Finish is very biscuity, roasted malt type finish.

    Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

    Value: Average. But on the high end of average at $85.


Review: Kilchoman Coull Point Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Kilchoman Coull Point.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
4-5 Years
Recipe
100% Malted Barley
Distiller Kilchoman (Rockside, Scotland)

Kilchoman is a very new Islay distillery - founded in 2005. It was the first distillery to be built on Islay in over 120 years, though there are new ones currently being build. It is a "farm distillery" - a proportion of the barley used in production is grown and malted at the distillery. Coull Point is a rugged outcrop of rocks on the west coast of the island. The whisky is composed of a vatting of a 4 and 5 year old single malt, with the 4 year old being finished in oloroso sherry butts for 4 weeks prior to bottling. I have been quite impressed with all of Kilchoman's bottlings.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2014

Interesting on the nose - not that old, but not showing the perils of youth with some raw oiliness – though, with some time, this fades and towards the end of the bottle I didn’t notice it much. An intricate balance of dry smoke and fruit. The peat has a really nice amaro quality – quite like cynar, and still good minerality is shown – all balanced well with some creamy vanilla (some good bourbon casks here!). The palate isn't quite as impressive as the nose, but still very interesting, with, perhaps, some turnip! Grape fights the peat in the end...and the peat leaves some impressive dried vegetation on the finish. For a smoky peated dram that is still quite light – they do really well. Very enjoyable.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, at $112 (if you like peat, of course…)