tasting notes: Caol Ila 10 year from Gordon & MacPhail

G&M Connoiseurs ChoiceGordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 10 year (dist. 1995)

Alc/vol: 46%
Color: just-slightly-bronzed gold
Legs: med. beads, slow drop
Nose: buttery pastries in paris, a crackling fireplace in winter, dark chocolate, ripe red fruits, and oranges, all wrapped up in an ocean breeze
Palette: coal, spices (nutmeg), more chocolate (milky now), and a sweetness like buttered veggies (butternut squash seems to be it) grilling over a charcoal flame
Body: a bit oily and quite fulfilling in the mouth; lots of texture (can a mouthfeel have “complexity”? – I think so)
Finish: a long, lingering chocolate éclair eaten in front of the fire
Overall: I was happily shocked when I first tasted this, and the retaste confirms everything: a well cared-for independent bottling of an often underestimated Islay. While it is as enjoyable to me as anything, it doesn’t quite have the complexity of a Talisker 10, Ardbeg 10, or Highland Park 18. Nevertheless, this dram is absolutely a peaty, smokey treat.
Score: 8.9/10

Best in Blog: Port Askaig, Caol Ila, and Previews of the Islay Festival of Malt & Music

Seems like everyone in the whiskysphere is either gearing up for the Islay Malt & Music festival, buzzing about the release of Port Askaig. Here’s the lowdown from some of our favorite whisky blogs:

  • At Malt Advocate, John Hansell reviews the 17 and 25 year old Port Askaig, bottled and sold by Whisky Exchange. From what I gather, these are independent bottlings of spirit distilled at Caol Ila (though the label looks thoroughly like an Ardbeg creation).
  • Cask Strength also got their hands on the 17 and 25 year old Port Askaig. Like Malt advocate, they too seem to prefer the 17 year to it’s older sibling.
  • At WhiskyFun, Serge takes things a little further and actually tastes the Port Askaig 25 next to four rare, independent bottlings of Caol Ila. The Askaig comes off rather well in the comparison.
  • The Whisky Exchange and Edinburgh Whisky blogs both inform us that Diageo has announced its bottlings for the Islay Festival: a first-ever official single cask bottling of Caol Ila 12 year, and a 14 year old Lagavulin.
  • Finally, our friend the Scotch Hobbyist gives his bottle of Laphroaig 15 year a try and decides that the old girl is growing on him just as she’s about to disappear off the shelves.

An Independent Bottling of Laphroaig 6 year: Signatory Un-chillfiltered

Laphroaig 6.5 year Un-chillfiltered, bottled by Signatory (dist. 2000)

Maturation: refill sherry butt
Cask no. 3671; Bottle 104/726
Alc/vol: 46%
Color: yellowish-amber
Legs: med-large beads, slow drip
Nose: big chocolatey peat at the fore, with oats and hay, then flowers, and finally a healthy slice of pecan pie
Palette: the peat and semi-sweet chocolate combo remains up front and dry, with a considerable chalk-eraser dusting of smoke on the mid-palette, balanced by an oatmeal maltiness and a hint of rhubarb tartness. All with a touch of medical bandaging woven throughout.
Body: big body; very dry, nearly powder
Finish: warming, long, with the powdery mouthfeel persisting
Overall: while not quite as phenolic or salty as the OB 10 year, smokier and peatier, perhaps. Deliciously dry, with a farms-at-sunset flavor. The sherry mixes in subtly, as if it imparted a hint of sweetness and then escaped quickly. A rival to the Quatercask, though not as complex. Only a scintilla of transmogrification by the sherry refill butt, this is very young Laphroaig at its best.
Score: 8.8/10

Best in Blog: New Tasting Notes from the Whiskysphere

Did you know that May is Scotch Whisky Month? The Scotts have all the luck . . . I think we here in the States should officially declare May whisky month as well (not least because it’s my b-day in a few weeks and a few local dram festivals around my birthday sounds perfect).

Some of our favorite whisky blogs have new tasting notes posted. Be sure to check out these links on a lazy Sunday:

  • The Whisky Exchange Blog has tasting notes on yet another independent bottling of a cult favorite: Old Bothwell Port Ellen 1982 Cask 2729.
  • Malt Advocate’s John Hansell notes that the Highland Park 21 Year Old is going to drop from 47.5% ABV to 40% ABV. He advises HP fans to buy their bottle at the traditional ABV now while they still can.
  • WhiskyFun has two new tastings on their website: a comparison of two unusual blends, and an EXCELLENT post comparing four Laphroaig 18 Year Olds. Those of you stateside will likely know that the Laphroaig 15 year old (my favorite) is being discontinued and the 18 year old will soon take it’s place, retailing at about $100. In this post, he compares the new Official Bottling to three independent bottlings from Hart Brothers, Signatory and Berry Bros. Rudd.

Sherry Monster: Mortlach 17 Year (malt trust)

As party of my recent bachelor party, Dodgydrammer picked up a bottle of Mortlach 17 year bottled by Malt Trust. It’s been collecting dust for a few months now and I thought it was well past time to pull it out for a proper tasting (we were all much to drunk, with shot palettes from some tasty Laphroaig 15 year – my favorite single malt – to make good tasting judgments when we first cracked the bottle).

Here’s what I got recently in a second go-round:

Mortlach 17 Year

Mortlach 17 Year


Mortlach 17 Year bottled by Malt Trust
Single Barrel, Natural Cask Strength
59.6%ABV
Cask #4718, Bottle Number 380
Distilled November 1988, Bottled March 2006.

Nose: All sherry. Not quite as smooth as The Macallan, more attacking. At 59.6% ABV, you can’t get your nose in too close or the alcohol kills you. Other tasters suggest spice and a hint of fruit, and the official notes say spice and coffee, but I’m not getting them.
Color: Amber/Bronze
Taste: Hugely sherried – it’s the only taste that can overcome the hotness of the ABV.
Palate: syrup, substantial and very hot
Finish: Long, slow fade on the sherry, very prickly from the high ABV. Almost distractingly so.

With a dash of water added:

Nose: It’s still a sherry monster, but a few coffee notes have crept in as the alcoholic edge takes a back seat.
Taste: Sherry continues to dominate, but it is quickly followed by warm spicyness. Rather than attacking, the dram is now warm and inviting.
Finish: Not quite as long with the sherry and spices fading to a light caramel before disappearing altogether. With just a tiny amount of water, the pricklyness is also gone.

The ABV on this bottle is a little prohibitive to enjoying a glass neat, but it opened up nicely with a little water. Still, it’s not a hugely complex scotch as the sherry continues to dominate the nose, taste and finish.

Two Indie Highland Park 13 years

During my run of HP tastings, I decided to indulge in a couple of independent bottlings of the stuff. The first is from Signatory’s Un-chillfiltered series. The second is by an excellent bar in Chicago, Delilah’s, done specially for their 13th anniversary (and, thusly, only available to you if you visit the Windy City’s northside).

Highland Park Signatory Un-chillfiltered 13 year (dist. 1993)
Bottle no. 34/339, matured in a Hogshead
Alv/vol: 46%
Color: very pale gold, like a white wine
Legs: medium beads, pretty slow drop
Nose: floral, rose petals, sea salt and brine, alcohol, cold biscuits, honey and cranberries developing with time
Palette: warm honey up front, lots of rotted wood, a smokey note buried in there (what I imagine used charcoal tastes like), some apple turning to apple cider, then to vinegar.
Body: medium-full bodied, slightly metallic feeling
Finish: medium-long finish, woody
Overall: I remember liking this one more… maybe it went bad in the bottle (but after just one year opened?) Still, good nose.
Score: 5.75/10

Highland Park 13 year old, special Delilah’s bottling from a 2nd fill sherry butt
Proof: 115.4
Color: deep cherry red
Legs: sm. beads, med. drip
Nose: cherries, marshmellows, orange creamsickles, alcohol
Palatte: lots of berries, honey, malt, and a light smokeyness with definite hints of bacon; the sherry fruitiness is balanced nicely by the honey to create a deep berry flavor, rather than just light fruit.
Body: full with a slightly rounded mouthfeel despite the alcohol
Finish: nice, long, leaves the stain of cherries, strawberries, and other berries, along with some charred oak just behind the tongue.
Overall: Great. Much more enjoyable than the Signatory. Complete opposite, straight away from the color on down. So much sherry, what with the straight bottling from a 2nd-fill cask and all. But, the HP flavor profile (deep and intense) was able to handle all that sherry quite nicely, providing a very berried but yet balanced treat. So if you’re ever in Chicago…
Score: 8.6/10

35 Japanese Malts and a Visit to Parliament

If you don’t read the WhiskyFun or Cask Strength blogs, you should be. Both have new tastings up today that are worth checking out.

Over at WhiskyFun, they are reviewing 35 Japanese Malts. This isn’t something I’ve ever explored yet, so this is a bang-up introduction to the topic. Here’s a quick taste, but go read all 35 reviews:

Nikka Taketsuru 12 yo (40%, OB, pure malt, +/-2008) A pure malt named in honour of Nikka’s founder. We already tried the 17 (80) and the 21, that we liked quite a lot (85). Colour: gold. Nose: this is very floral and fruity and really reminds me of the Balvenie 10yo. Apple pie, plum jam, dandelions, nectar, vanilla crème and cappuccino. Very good presence and a very clean profile, with very soft tannins in the background. Mouth: very, very sweet attack on, well, sweetened apple juice and nutmeg, with more malty notes and cereals after that. Gets then more on roasted nuts and butterscotch, with an amusing salty touch. Not really big nor complex but highly sippable. Finish: medium-long, all on vanilla cookies and apple pie topped with a few grains of salt. Comments: warning, this is good and highly drinkable. Remember, no refills! SGP:621 – 80 points.

WhiskyFun also tells us that ground zero for reviews on Japanese malts in the blogosphere is Nonjatta. We’ll have to check that out and add them to the sidebar.

Over at Cask Strength, one of my personal favorite whisky blogs, they are reviewing bottlings by the House of Lords and House of Commons. Pretty interesting stuff – who knew that the House of Commons rocked out their own bottling of the Macallan 10.

Great reviews and great blogs all. Go give them a read.