Review: ARDBEG 10yo – #11 hit

At 46% abv. & non chill-filtered this whisky is supposed to be the peatiest, smokiest and most complex single malt in the world. If I hadn’t tasted or heard about Ardbeg before I would have regarded this as pure bragging. I guess it is still bragging but maybe in a justified kind of way? I mean guys like Jim Murray can’t be wrong. Can they?

If we get a bit nerdy we find out that Ardbeg is far from the most peaty whisky available on the market. As you might know the peating level is expressed as phenols in PPM. The 10 year old Ardbeg contain a phenol level of 52+ PPM whereas the 5 year old Octomore Edition 5.169 of Bruichladdish reach an impressively 169 PPM. Hence there is no question that Octomore claim first place in the smoke category (with at least four different editions). To Ardbeg’s defense the Supernova edition is next in line with 100 PPM. Still you can find Speyside, Campbelltown and Irish whiskies with higher phenol levels than the 10 year old bottling of Ardbeg.ardbeg-10

Nonetheless this dram is very close to perfection. While the wide range of smoky flavors develop in my mouth I picture myself standing on a shore with waves coming in with oily remnants entangled in dark brown seaweed. It IS a smokebomb compared to other Islays like Laphroaig which makes perfectly sense given that the most peated Laphroaig (10yo edition) contain 40-43 PPM phenols. It is not all about smoke and peat though. There is a freshness to it emerging as sea salt and different grassy notes. You also find traces of vanilla and citrus vaguely appearing at the end. The finish is short and there is a moderate after-bite which in my opinion is neglectable.

VERDICT: There isn’t anything not to love about this whisky. The finish may be a bit too short but I don’t think this ruins the experience. Is it the most complex dram in the world? I think this is hard to say, especially considering that I have a long way to go before I’ve tasted all the whiskies out there! At this point I will leave this question to the experts.

  (8/10)

Review: GLENFARCLAS 12yo – #67 hit

The other day when I bought this 12 year old Glenfarclas I thought I added another Highland single malt to the collection. Then I looked into its background and realized that the distillery is actually deeply rooted in the Speyside region. I find it a bit misleading to state “Highland Single Malt” on the label when it is really a Speyside. Not that it matters much I was just a bit puzzled by that. Anyways I had read several good reviews about this particular bottling on the web and I also noticed that it won gold at the Stockholm Beer & Whisky Festival in 2007 and 2008 which in itself was enough incentive for me to run down to the liquor store and spend my last 40 bucks. Was it worth it?Glenfarclas_12

I think it was BUT…

In contrast to how this whisky is described elsewhere I don’t find it remotely sweet, fruity or sherried. Okay maybe a bit sherried but not considering it being matured in sherry casks. What I do find is an intense mixture of heather, moss, and oak. It has a very organic feel to it which is hard to describe. On the softer side you will find butterscotch and nuts lurking in the background and it is also a very creamy, none-harsh and round bodied whisky.

VERDICT: I like the mossy and organic taste. I like the fact that it is thick and creamy. Actually I like everything about this whisky. It is currently my nr.1 Speyside and I highly recommend it to people who want to taste something different.

  (7.7/10)

Review: LAPHROAIG 10yo – #66 hit

Laphroaig is one of the oldest distilleries on Islay, if not the oldest, and since I am a dedicated Islay lover I had really high hopes for this one.laphroaig_10

Just before I poured my first glass I noticed it said “the most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies” on the bottle. This is really putting the bar high I thought. I guess it all comes down to how you define “richly flavoured”. It certainly has a distinct taste if that’s what it means. Anyways I love this dram. It starts off with notes of citrus and spring grass along with caramel that quickly turns into something reminiscent of freshly paved tarmac and burning tires. All along the caramel notes linger in the background and perfectly balances the peat and smoke. The finish is soft, light and rather short but still enjoyable. There are no excessive alcohol flavours in this ten year old bottling and it is one of the most approachable Islay whiskies I’ve tasted. Highly recommendable.

VERDICT: I really like the way it enters all sweet and caramel like before it hits you from behind with tarmac and burned rubber. There is good complexity, softness, and sweetness in this very accomplished Islay single malt.

  (8/10)

Review: JIM BEAM Black – #54 hit

In this price range this is clearly one of my favorite bourbons. It also got its recognition last year at the 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition where it pulled home a gold medal. When comparing it to Jim Beam White the main differenJim Beam blackce is in the age while the distillation process is the same. Jim Beam Black Label ages for eight years rather than four years. Due to this the differences in flavor comes more from the longer aging than anything else. Taking my first sip I expected the usual alcohol punch you normally receive from these relatively cheap bourbons. Nothing came. Instead my mouth was filled with buttery and creamy brown sugar accompanied by mellow notes of spices. The finish is delicious with a combination of caramel and hints of cherry. This is truly a soft and straight forward bourbon. Perfect as an everyday drink.

VERDICT: This is some smooth stuff! Not much character though, but at 25 bucks that is perfectly alright.

  (6.8/10)

Review: RON ZACAPA Centenario 23yo – #23 hit

At 2,300 meters above sea level close to the Pacific coast of Guatemala you will find the origin of this high quality rum. Here it matures for up till 23 years in casks that previously stored bourbons, sherries, and wines. My expectations were extremely higron-zacapa-solera-centenario-23-gran-reservah for this one. A rum that can claim the first place five years in a row (International Rum Festival : 1998-2002) must be close to perfection. For some reason I do not share the popular opinion here. Yes this is certainly good rum. I would even say great rum. But a masterpiece? Well not if you ask me. But then again I like rums with more edge and character; smooth rums are good but kind of dull in the long run I think. It should be mentioned that my review is based on two or three tastings. Maybe this is just one of those rums that will grow on you with time. We shall see.

VERDICT: This is a wonderfully smooth and delicious rum but lack complexity in my opinion.

  (8/10)

Review: TOMINTOUL Peaty Tang – #65 hit

“The gentle dram”, it says on the bottle! I couldn’t agree more.tomintoul-peaty-tang-whisky

The Tomintoul distillery is mostly known for producing whisky for various blends and personally I had never heard about it before accidentally stumbling into it on a whisky run to Germany. Originally released in 2007 Tomintoul Peaty Tang uses peated malted barley which is pretty unusually in the Speyside Glenlivet region. I had my doubts with this one, primarily because I have never tasted a good peaty smoky whisky outside Islay before. Would this be the exception? Well yes and no.

To me Peaty Tang is better than most young none-Islay whiskies. But I am also a sucker for everything that tastes like bonfire, seaweed, peat, ocean yeah you get the point. BUT it does not qualify into my top 10, mainly because it is too light-bodied and watery. I prefer them thick, strong and complex. Peaty Tang is just the opposite. Still this makes it a great everyday drink and as I said I do prefer it over many other whiskies.

VERDICT: Tomintoul Peaty Tang is a great entry into the world of peaty smoky whiskies and at its price definitely recommendable. Pros: easy to drink, peaty, and the nose is amazing. Cons: a bit watery, very short finish, one dimensional.

  (6.7/10)

Review: CLYNELISH 14yo – #63 hit

With only around 1% of the whisky production dedicated to single malts, it is not strange iclynelish14yof you never heard about Clynelish before, I certainly hadn’t! The distillery resides at the northeastern coast of Scotland and has gained quite a reputation since its release of the 14 year old bottling in 2002.  Even though I had very low expectations for this single malt I must say I was slightly impressed. I am not much of a Highland guy but do appreciate a good dram when I taste one. What took me by surprise was its syrupy and creamy texture, especially considering its 46% abv., and its gentle contributions of both NaCl, Vanilla, and some vegetal notes. A rather unusual combination that works very well nonetheless. On the finish you have a little touch of oak and peas together with butterscotch. It is not a harsh whisky but somewhere in-between. A good everyday dram.

VERDICT: Very creamy, very gentle. A good Higland whisky without too much complexity.

(6/10)

Review: MALIBU black rum – #42 hit

Okay before I lose your respect here please read the full review. I promise you that this bottling is nothing like the traditional Malibu that makes you queasy just by the smell.Malibu black

This rum makes me reminisce about exotic islands with hot women using tons of sun lotion and walking around in bikinis smelling like oh so sweet coconuts. Maybe my memories cloud my judgment and you are probably thinking “what is Malibu doing here”? If you associate Malibu with underage girls and cheap booze you may not be that far off. Actually this is still cheap booze. However, this black edition is an upgrade that can’t be compared to the traditional Malibu. This is why: 1) It has gone from measly 21% abv. to 35% abv. 2) It is much darker, viscous, and spicier than its predecessor. 3) If you have female visit this is always a safe drink, even neat. 4) In contrast to many other coconut flavored rums Malibu Black is not overly sweet and it tastes like dry fermented coconuts and leaves a slightly woody aroma in your mouth. 5) It is also ridiculously cheap (around 15 bucks). So there are five reasons for you to get yourself a bottle. I know most of you are probably still shocked but I can give you my word that this is worth trying out.

VERDICT: If you like coconut rums you have to give this a try.

  (7.4/10)

Review: REDBREAST 12yo – #13 hit

Out of the four distillers still operating in Ireland New Midleton is the only one producing whiskey like in the 18th Century: Pure Pot Still Irish Whiskey. Nowadays it is referred to as Pot Still Irish Whiskey and the 12 year old bottling of Redbreast is, at least in my opinion, the best that have come out of this distillation method. Instead of only using malted barley like in single malts, Pot Still Irish Whiskey allow the addition of unmalted barley before proceeding with the triple distillation. This gives the finished product a more natural barley flavor which is especially apparent in this very outstanding Irish whiskey.redbreast 12

With the 12 year old Redbreast it was love at first sight….or rather taste. No wonder this whiskey appears on so many top 5 lists. The palate opens up with something that tastes like earthy hazelnuts that have been dipped in maple syrup and rolled in caramelized vanilla. Delicious. Then you have a later entry introducing sharp notes of citrus fruits and pine needles followed by subtle notes of sherry. Still the taste is very unique and hard to put an exact finger on. On top of all this you have the oily creaminess that Irish whiskeys are so well-known for.

VERDICT: In regards to Irish whiskeys this is definitely the breast..I mean the BEST!

(8.4/10)

Review – NIKKA YOICHI 10yo – #62 hit

Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Japanese whisky, established the first Japanese distillery in 1924. Several people had attempted the art of producing whisky from corn and rice before him but had all failed. In 1934 Masataka Taketsuru opened Yoichi 50km west of Sapporo city, a distillery that has continued to use old Scottish traditions until this very day. Whereas most distilleries have abandoned the aYoichi 10yort of heating pot stills with coal fire this is still common practice in Yoichi.  In 1952 Masataka Taketsuru adopted the name Nikka Whisky and 17 years later he established his second distillery.

They could have fooled me. If blindfolded I would never have guessed that this single malt originated from the other side of the world. When that is said I do not have anything special to say about this dram. It is soft and has a good balance between dried fruits and oak but lacks character.

VERDICT: Not particularly bad but not exceptional in any way either.

  (5.1/10)