Friday, October 24, 2014

Bladnoch 1992, 21 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 54.9%

A Lowland malt this time, a region that I recently realised was embarrassingly lacking on my shelves.

I'm not entirely sure what the story is with Bladnoch at the moment - is it definitely closed, or will someone snap it up and revive production? It certainly seemed to be a startling - and frankly almost bizarre - outlier that a distillery would actually be closing amidst all the backslapping optimism of the current whisky boom, so conditioned have we become to the nearly weekly tidings of a new distillery opening or an existing one expanding.

Bladnoch 1992, 21 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 54.9%

Nose: Citrus at first, along with some apples, followed by a light, nutty maltiness. Water releases some sweetness, followed by some increasingly lifted floral notes.

Palate: Piercing, narrow, grapefruit at first. A little water knocks back some of the intensity and booze. That's more like it. Papaya followed by chocolate and then a whole lotta floral and herbal notes - thyme and lavender. Herbs de Provence maybe?
It becomes oppressively chocolatey for a while actually, but after more time, and a wee bit more water, the fruit reveals itself again, with that extra dilution also serving to make the texture nice and creamy.

Finish: Neat, the finish is all citrus and booze. Let's go straight to the water. Now, the chocolate continues into the long, creamy finish, joined by some salt and spice, becoming slightly drier and drying as it fades.

A wonderfully complex Lowlander, full of character, that bursts from the glass and continues to evolve and interest as it progresses. Water is essential, to my taste.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old

I've written before about my aversion to, and unwillingness to get caught up in, the marketing bullshit that surrounds and supports whiskies/brands like Ardbeg. Not that I don't drink nor enjoy them at all, of course, just that I try to remain resolutely impassive in the face of the (rarely convincing or interesting) PR bombardment that accompanies/presages new releases in these heady times.

Glenmorangie, Ardbeg's slutty sister, should, then, be just about anathema to me. This is the whisky, you'll all remember, that not only bears the brunt of Bill Lumsden's exotic wood obsession, but is also simultaneously subjected to the best soft-focus, glammed up marketing make-overs that LVMH's money can buy. 

Yet despite all this, I've always enjoyed the spirit profile itself. The 10 year old remains a firm favourite in the summer months, where its gentle, fruity profile - surrounded by that (increasingly virgin, I believe, but I could be wrong) American oak vanilla - works a treat, especially with an ice cube to keep the heat at bay. And I've even enjoyed some of the special releases with the stupid names. Heck, I was that bloke who bought a bottle of the Artein and kinda liked it.

It just goes to show, I guess, that we can put our innate and/or hard-won resistance and opposition to one side occasionally and enjoy something simply for what it is.

Or, it shows that I've been brainwashed (or long-range lobotomised) and soul-stripped by a corporate behemoth who is clearly better at this than I am and a worthy winner.

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare 43%
This review is based on three pours from the very top of the bottle.

[Don't ask me what is so extremely rare about this bottle. They seemed in plentiful supply at the store I bought it in (sometimes I like to actually go in to a booze shop and look at actual bottles and talk to actual people. I do it so rarely it seems almost special when I make the trip - in this case to the other side of town - and it's almost always pretty satisfying, even if a little tough on the wallet), and were going at such a good price that I picked it up almost as an afterthought on the way out.]

Nose: Tropical! The first pour is full of mango, apricots - a whole bowl of tropical fruits. Some citrus notes too. Coconut and vanilla soon follow. After even more time the malt comes further to the fore, along with something a little less sweet, like a very light soy sauce.

Palate: Lots of sweet malt at first. Milk chocolate and apricots cover the palate. Orange, vanilla and sweet spices. Mouth filling, luscious Glenmo goodness. Tongue coating and rich. There is, though, perhaps the ever so slightest trace of a hole in the mid-palate.

Finish: The apricots and chocolate from the palate return as a gentle spiciness rises at the back of the palate and remains, leaving a refreshing tingling sensation on the lips. A touch of smoke swirls around too, as some wood bitterness emerges at the death and lingers.

Look, I think you need to be a fan of the house style and profile to really get maximum pleasure from this whisky as it's not a super-complex one. What it lacks in interest, though, it more than makes up for in sheer enjoyment and drinkability.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Highland Park 21 Year Old

I picked up this Highland Park 21 for around $100 AUD - about a third of the original asking price for it here in Oz - after an extremely welcome tip-off on Twitter. I'm assuming this is the later, non-Duty Free, release of this particular HP OB.

I was extremely curious as to the provenance of such a bottle - a long time in a well heated shipping container perhaps? - so I cracked it almost immediately. Cracked - or crumbled - proved to be a fairly apt description as this is exactly what the cork (damn you cork!) did upon (almost) opening. The plot thickens...

Highland Park 21 Year Old 47.5%

Nose: Wood, varnish, sherry, smoke and spices. Over ripe oranges. Much later, fresh stone fruit arrives as well. Water brings out this fresh fruit a little too.

Palate: Varnish, smoke, dried fruit and sherry spices - cloves, oranges. After a while some sweeter, lighter fruit emerges underneath too.
Water freshens things up, as the fruit brightens and the spicy texture fans out and grips. Be careful though, it can't take too much before losing both texture and intensity of flavour.

Finish: A nice transition. It becomes increasingly spicy and tingly on the back palate as the smoke builds. Long. Some wood bitterness develops right at the end and lingers, entwined with that classic HP smoke.

Time and air were/are very kind to this HP. When I first opened the bottle it was extremely woody and almost acrid. I had genuine fears for its health, particularly given the concerns born of the extraction operation I had to undertake with the aforementioned cork. Halfway down (and well before, to be fair) and the bottle has evolved into an absolute pleasure.

Is there anything more comforting than a good OB Highland Park?