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theScotchlife

Enjoying Scotch Whisky and a few other things

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Islay

The great Peat region!

Lagavulin 8 Limited Edition

Lagavulin 8

Happy 200th Lagavulin! Though I’m a bit tardy. Of course you have to release something special, so Lagavulin has decided to go its beginnings. For you fans of peat smoke whisky, this is certainly what you have wanted and your longing for just something different to come to shelves in America. If you are curious if this should be the first scotch whisky you taste from Islay, be warned, this is not a tame spirit.

The hallmark of this brand is its intense smoke, so intense it is as if you are standing over the peat as it sets fire and infuses the barley. I love smelling this whisky as much as I like to taste it. The fact that it is a limited edition and eight years of aging has occurred before being arrested in glass is enough to make me pick it off the shelf and actually write a bit about it.

It’s a touch lighter than the typical Lagavulin 16 year that most are used to. But that is all. Its wonderful mouthfeel and richness of lemon and smoke are sublime. “Exceptionally fine” is what Alfred Barnard said in 1886, I do believe he would same the same today.

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Vacation Whisky – Oban Little Bay and Ardbeg Perpetuum

Little Bay
Oban Little Bay

While on vacation on North Carolina’s shore this  year, I decided to pick up a couple of whisky’s to enjoy. The great thing about leaving where you live is finding whisky offerings that aren’t in your home area. The ABC store I went to in NC had a surprising and wonderful collection, I settled on a Oban Little Bay offering. I’m not a huge Oban fan but it is quite popular. This is a small batch offering so it’s a bit higher on the scale as far as cost but not over $80 USD. It’s not what I’d call a remarkable or distinctive scotch whisky but a good one. In fact, this may be a perfect beach whisky. It’s light on the palate and smooth. It does not have a very strong profile to me at least. It’s a very good sipping whisky or you could even, dare I say, mix it? This would be a good whisky for people who “don’t like whisky” and would like to try something “good.”

Perpetuum
Ardbeg Perpetuum

Since I had to get back to work and leave the family behind, I purchased at home the new Ardbeg Perpetuum. This was the new whisky release on Ardbeg day that for the first time in memory, I missed. But this has shown up in good quantities on Virginia’s ABC. The marketing on the box talks about its unending taste profile, and hence its name. I first tasted it neat, no water, and soon realized why the termed it perpetuum. It does stick to the tongue and linger, at length. When you add water and have more than one offering this sensation did disappear though. I can’t say that I didn’t like this, as I enjoy any Ardbeg offering, but I cannot say that I’m blown away. The best/last Ardbeg I’ve had was the Ardbog offering. And to date, nothing beats the current offering Uigeadail. So Perpetuum is worth a purchase but temper your enthusiasm. It should cost you close to $99 USD.

Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof Scotch Whisky

20130610-201724.jpgSo recently on Islay I spent a few minutes in the Bowmore Gift Shop. What to buy? I can only fly back with so much whisky and I have the opportunity to go through “Duty Free!” You always wonder how much whisky can you get back into the States and since I was carrying precious whisky I didn’t want to push the limits. I ended up with this monster, Bowmore 100 Degrees Proof. Bowmore at 57.1% ABV is quite an experience.

The nosing of this product alone is a warning in itself. Though in the nose you can smell some amazing things if you linger long enough, you feel like you are about to experience a powerful and peated whisky. To me, this is a serious whisky. You don’t pick this up because you want a challenge, you pick this up because you appreciate what Bowmore does and you want to see what happens when you go full throttle on their product.

Well, it delivers! It delivers a sort of burnt sugar (that is still burning) as you drink it. It’s so hot that it flares up in your esophagus. Yes, I drank it neat. Then, I added water. Adding water to it brings out the peated barley quite forcibly. The water magically releases the malted and peated barley and just sets it free! You also get a nice rush of salty ocean air from Loch Indaal. The added water does not “water” down this whisky, it releases it. The taste is markedly different and really approaches what this spirit should taste like. Far be it from me to dissuade you to drink this at full strength, but, if you want the true spirit of Bowmore you will find it after adding some water. Oh, if you are wondering why the 100Proof moniker?! Well, that goes back to testing rum rations on ships, mixed with gun-powder. Yep, at full strength, this whisky tastes that powerful! It’s marketing….. so, if you are into Bowmore and want to see what a full cask strength taste is like, here you go!

The finish is warm, lingering, and full. If you are a Bowmore fan and love a full expression whisky, this is it. Bowmore’s notes are here.

Cheers!

Ardbeg 10yr Single Malt Scotch Whisky

This whisky has been written about so many times I feel like I’m saying,me too, but I think it only proper to review it. I have had TEN out many times but have never really purchased a bottle many times. Typically I shoot for the special releases of Ardbeg which I invariably end up paying way too much for due to their availability.

But today they had a sale on the TEN and my inner Islay was saying do it. So I did. I had the Ardbog (not a misspelling) special release yesterday and it was simply marvelous. I really expected a bit more peat in it though, but it’s really polished. The TEN is a lighter side of Ardbeg. Still delivers lots of peat and pepper on your palate but really is a good daily drinker for those of us who prefer some peat in our whisky.

Fire anyone?
Fire anyone?

So when I decided to take a photo of this precious one, I thought I’d find a nice patch of green grass to complement the green bottle.I happened to walk by my fire pit, or Chimnea. I had placed some small wood in it already and thought, yes, it is only fitting for a peaty “fired” malted barley whisky to be placed in there. So there you go.

So tasting this expression is unmistakable Islay peat. It is really a level tasting experience. The spirit is consistent from taste to swallow and your first couple of sips will be formative. After a few your buds become numb and you notice more of the flavors. Overall a fine whisky…. just don’t make it your first Scotch whisky. At 46% ABV you may want to add water, I find it pleasing neat however.

If it makes you want to eat bacon, you are normal.

Their web-site is quite nice!

Bowmore Distillery Tour and the No.1 Vault

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For me, visiting a distillery is like a child going to Disneyland, I just cannot wait to get there. At the end of my Ultimate Adventure courtesy of Bowmore, my colleague Lucas and I were treated to a grand tour led by none other than Eddie MacAffer, the Distillery (and legendary) manager. If you have done a distillery tour, or several, you know the progression, malted barley, drying floor, washbacks, and then stills. It’s a great lesson if you are passionate about whisky as I am. This tour was more like a back stage pass though. Not only did I turn the malt on the malting floor, I got to go into the fire pit underneath the drying floor, drink from the #2 Washback and then drink the new spirit from the whole process (if I didn’t know, I thought I’d been drinking a light gin). Eddie went through great pains at each station to explain the significance of each part of the process. He is a dear man and passionate about making his whisky and that is enough for me.

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So during the process I found that I’m not meant for the malting floor (too aggressive) but I did seem eager enough to prompt Eddie to let me drink from the #2 Washback. I have to say, one may be hesitant to drink something that doesn’t look all that attractive, but, when else would I be given the opportunity!? It wasn’t bad really, basically an unfinished beer but not something you’d want to taste all the time.

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The distillery itself is polished and clean, well-organized, and run by people who move with a purpose. I like that. I also like Eddie’s candor about the whole process. He doesn’t hide anything, doesn’t dodge any question, and wants to make sure you understand everything.

What came at the end of the manufacturing process really had me excited. We approached the famed No. 1 Vaults and all I could think is how long I have waited to see behind this door. The No.1 Vault is the oldest holding area for aging casks on Islay, and for that matter almost all of Scotland. There is a rich history in this vault, it was originally part of the distillery and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten the details and history of the vault, I do apologize.

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Walking into this area is walking into the area where the most valuable and cherished whisky lies maturing. It is from this vault the most valuable and desired Bowmore products age. It is here where Eddie educated us on their operations, and then, he opened a cask. Not just any cask, but a 13 yr aged cask. It was a bourbon cask from America. I will keep some of the secrets to whence it came from in America. Eddie extracted the whisky and poured it into a tulip glass. We passed it around, nosed and drank. It was simply marvelous. But then it got better.

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Sitting next to the bourbon cask was a sherry butt that had been resting for 18 years. We drank, we swooned. Just a simply amazing product.

I wondered around the No.1 vault and marveled at the numerous resting casks that were producing some of the most desired whisky in the world. I secretly wondered, if I just hide, would they notice?

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So like most things in life, the tour had to come to an end. The experience was amazing though! I do hope to visit No.1 again, and maybe this time, I will hide.

Cheers!

The Balvenie Islay Cask Scotch Whisky

Islay Cask
Islay Cask

Heaven. End of review…… This is one of my all-time favorite Scotch whiskys. I had this a couple of years back, or so, at an event in Vegas. The Balvenie reps had rounded up all the 17 year releases and we did a tasting of them all. This was, and is, my favorite. I was fortunate enough to have a collector round this bottle up for me in an auction in the UK. Yes, I paid a few bucks for this one.

So I’ve been waiting for an occasion to open this and I finally thought, well, I’ve been to Islay so now I should open this. Basic reasoning really. So I did, and oh, it’s just as good as I remember it.

So if you are familiar with the 17 year aged line of Balvenie you may actually have never seen this one. You probably have seen the Peated Cask which replaced this original. This bottle inspired the peated cask but the peated cask is no Islay cask, no sir.

This lovely Balvenie classic spirit was finished up in a Laphroiag cask. Affectionately  known as “lafrog,” the very essence of Laphroiag is a strong punch of the sea and earth on your palate. What is great about the Balvenie honeyed spirit slipping into that barrel for a spin is the sweet peat finish takes on a gentlemanly charm and drops the t-shirt for the tails in this bottle.

I’d go on and on about how it tastes, but, chances are you have had this, have it but not have opened it, or will never have the opportunity. Pity.

Bowmore Tempest Batch 2 Scotch Whisky

Tempest Batch 2
Tempest Batch 2

So to kick off World Whisky Day 2013 I decided to pull out a new favorite I discovered while on Islay experiencing the trip of a lifetime. First things first, do not let the “Aged 10 Years” statement prejudice your mind! This is not just another 10 year offering. In fact, it’s quite unlike anything in the Bowmore line and reminds me of the forward leaning Bruichladdich whisky’s just across Loch Indaal. It’s bright, lemony and honey-peppered. It is a first fill whisky which means the cask is ready to give all flavor over to it. It’s a little warm and the finish is bright and flavorful. It’s like having a young Angelina Jolie. No disappointment there!

This whisky is a bit expensive (I paid $114 USD) but there is reason why. When you take the very best casks and this is the first new spirit from the Distiller (in this case Bowmore) it sees. The previous American Bourbon Spirit’s conditioning of that cask is ready to produce an excellent product. In this whisky, only first fill is used, that is what makes it exceptionally brilliant. Then on top of that these casks were aged in the famous No.1 vault that lies right next to the Loch Indaal waters that constantly thrash just meters away. These factors come together brilliantly and produce one of my favorite products that I discovered while in Islay.

I took this picture while the rain started to fall this Saturday morning and that along with the bottle’s label had been roughed up at some point seemed at home with the Tempest labeling.

So this is batch 2. I did not catch batch 1 and batch 3 I had while on Islay. I really like this batch 2. It is 56% ABV! So it is a sipping whisky. Bowmore describes this batch as:

Tempest Batch No. 2 – 56% ABV

On the eye warm gold.

Breathe in dry peat smoke perfectly balanced by delicious zesty lemon pepper.

Sip initial bursts of lemon pepper followed by the signature Bowmore peaty set salt tang. The citrus returns at the end adding balance and complexity to the mouth feel.

Savour fresh lemon pepper.

I had this whisky before I experienced at 5:30am hail storm on the beach one morning. I smiled during the storm and said, ah, yes, Tempest.

Cheers!

Bowmore Darkest 15 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

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Though Bowmore whisky will always be special to me, the Darkest 15 will always be the whisky that takes me back to Islay, Jura, and Scarba Islands. We enjoyed this whisky throughout the day, I’m talkin morning, noon, and night! This is the perfect late night whisky around the camp fire or modern fire pit. The trademark subtle peat of Bowmore dances with the Sherry Cask wood that it was finished in creating a unique finish. I’m actually writing this out on the porch on my iPhone and listening to the nighttime din of insects. It’s simply perfect. I hope you can find this whisky in your market! If you love a sherry finish and peat of Islay, this is your whisky. Head over to www.bowmore.com for the tasting notes because its too dark out here for me to read them off the bottle.

Cheers Ken, Colin, Lucas, Joe, and Ali!

Bowmore’s Ultimate Outdoor Adventure winner!

Is ME! Technically there are two winners and I somehow found favor by the Whisky gods! I’ve been keeping this under my hat for months now but next week I will literally be going on the trip of a lifetime.

It was a dreary December morning when I woke up to an email from Morrison Bowmore to congratulate me, it was a bit surreal. I’m a firm believer in the adage of “too good to be true” and it has taken me awhile to accept this amazing gift.

I will be putting out as much data as possible about this trip in this blog in a couple of weeks. There will likely be extensive photography, including a lot of nature shots.

As a bonus, I will be stopping in on Auchentoshan in Glasgow also and I look forward to the opportunity. I wish you all could come with me but I’m going to have to pack quite a lot of outdoor gear so there may not be enough room to put you in my luggage.

Anyhow, just wanted to put it out there because many people entered this contest and a special thanks to all the bloggers who promoted the event because that is how I found out.

Cheers!

http://www.bowmore.com/news/bowmore-ultimate-adventure/

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