Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014

Cairdeas 2014Here is Laphroaig’s Cairdeas release for 2014. Last year’s release was double matured in bourbon and port casks, and this year’s release is double matured in bourbon and amontillado sherry casks. Laphroaig did not send this whisky to space, and nor is it being sold for $150 or more in most American markets. As a result, perhaps, there’s no disproportionate fuss being made about it. I’m not sure how old this is or what relationship it has to their Quarter Cask or regular 10 yo releases but given the rarity of official sherry matured Laphroaig and the high premiums the independents have begun to charge for their releases of sherried Laphroaig, there was no way in hell I was going to think twice about paying just about $60 for this bottle. Now, let’s see what it’s like.

Laphroaig Cairdeas, 2014 Release (51.4%; from my own bottle)

Nose: This is no outsize sherry bomb. The familiar Laphroaig iodine and cereals up top with orange peel and raisins below. Gets more savoury (ham) and briny as it sits and there’s a bit of graphite (pencil lead) too. The sweeter notes expand with time, with some toffee and vanilla showing up, and there’s a bit of pipe tobacco as well. With a lot more time the sherry notes (the orange peel and raisins) intensify but the whole stays wonderfully balanced. Water seems to pull out the vanilla, and some cream with it while muting most of the rest. Continue reading

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Laphroaig Quarter CaskYesterday, the Laphroaig 10, today its younger sibling, the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. My understanding, probably wrong, is that this is the regular spirit that would normally be destined to reach 10 years of age for the 10 yo release being re-racked at a younger age into smaller quarter casks which impart far greater wood contact and influence to it (claimed by some to “speed up” the maturation process). How much younger this is than 10 years old, I’m not sure. I’ve seen references to at least the original release (from 2004, I think) comprising five year old spirit that was re-racked for less than a year, and I think I’ve also seen references to it being a little older—the official website does not mention any ages for it. At any rate, it’s one I’ve liked a lot in the past, but I haven’t tasted it for a couple of years now and so I’m interested to see if I still like it as much.

This bottle was split with friends and had, I think, been open for at least a few months before I took my share (it’s another of the bottles left behind by a friend who left the country.) I’m pretty sure the bottle code was for 2011 or 2012—I looked when I took my share, but that was more than a month ago now and I forgot to write it down. Continue reading

Laphroaig 10

Laphroaig 10Laphroaig is my favourite distillery and in some ways the entry-level Laphroaig 10 may be my favourite real world whisky. By this I don’t mean this is the whisky I rate more highly than any other; I mean that it presents most of what I like about Laphroaig at a price that would allow me to drink it everyday if I were so constrained, and that I would not be unhappy drinking it every day—it rewards attention and it’s very pleasurable even when you’re doing other things that require more of your attention; it’s direct but it isn’t dumbed down. There may be a different whisky that fits this bill for you but this is mine*.

The only problem with it is that when I have a bottle open I go through it alarmingly fast. I took this photograph of the closed bottle a few days ago and I’m almost approaching the halfway mark already. For that reason I haven’t opened a bottle for a while now, which is why I’ve failed to review it for the blog until now. Continue reading

Peninsula (Minneapolis)

PeninsulaPeninsula is the premier Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities. I’m not sure, actually, if there even is another worth the name—if so, no one’s ever mentioned it to me. Unsurprisingly, its menu serves a sort of South East Asian greatest hits, much of which is not terribly inspiring (lots of very sweet takes on Thai dishes, for example). Some of their Malay dishes, however, can be quite good, and it’s possible to eat quite well there if you pick your way carefully around the menu. Over the last seven years we’ve done just that and through our extended trial and error I offer you the following recommendations of most of the dishes that we like best there. What follows is a report on two meals eaten a month or so apart (first in late August, and then last weekend). Continue reading

Dewar’s White Label + Some Fooling Around

Dewar's White LabelThis is the third, and probably last for a while, of my reviews of easily found mass market blends (see here for the Black Label, which I liked a lot, and here for the Famous Grouse, which I did not like a lot). Unlike the Black Label and the Famous Grouse, I have never previously tasted the Dewar’s White Label (unless I have and have suppressed the memory). Owned by Bacardi, this White Label is claimed by them to be the top-selling blended Scotch whisky in the US. Then again, the Famous Grouse is claimed to be the top-selling blend in Scotland.

The group’s premier distillery is Aberfeldy and their malt is said to be the cornerstone of all their blends. I’ve not had much Aberfeldy before either so that doesn’t really create any particular expectations for me. I’ve also never tried the age stated Dewar’s blends—I believe there’s a 12 yo, a 15 yo and an 18 yo. If you do know those and would recommend them please write in below. Continue reading

Hakushu 18

Hakushu 18I am a big fan of all the Hakushus I’ve tried (not very many): the 12 yo, the Heavily Peated (not the one released in the US but the original at 48%) and the Bourbon Barrel. I’d always wanted to buy a bottle of the 18 yo as well but failed to do so before the prices of Japanese whisky went through the roof—it’s not available in the US and in the UK now runs about £160 which is way more than I am willing to pay for 18 yo whisky. And so I’m very glad to be able to try it now through a sample swap. I don’t really know anything about how this is made or composed—if you do, please write in below.

Hakushu 18 (43%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Quite fruity at first with apricot and orange peel, but notes of light caramel and toffee soon emerge as well. Some wood polish/over-ripe banana after that. Gets sweeter as it sits, and with more time all the notes marry together. Water makes the nsoe a little muskier/sweatier and also a little grainier. Continue reading

Glenfiddich 12

Glenfiddich 12Continuing with my mini series of reviews of classic single malts here is perhaps the most famous, certainly the most ubiquitous of them all: the Glenfiddich 12. This sample is from a bottle released in 2002 though, and so is probably very like the first ever Glenfiddich 12 I ever had, which as for so many people (whether we like to admit it or not), is probably the first single malt whisky I ever had. I haven’t really had it very many times since then and so am intrigued to go back (in a sense) and see what I make of it now.

Glenfiddich 12, Special Reserve (40%; from a sample received in a swap)

Nose: Grassy and sweet (confectioner’s sugar) with some lemon peel and a bit of melon. A little bit of toasted malt below all that. The fruit gets quite musky as it sits. A few drops of water and the malt seems to expand (or maybe it’s my imagination) but I’m not really seeing any other change of note. Continue reading

Your Guide to the Diageo Special Releases for 2014

Dung SisyphusEvery year right around this time Diageo provide some public services by testing the state of the whisky bubble and the emotional state of whisky geeks everywhere, while simultaneously providing some high concept comedy to ease our strain in these troubled times. Herewith an annotated guide to the Diageo Special Releases for 2014.

Let us begin with the two categories that make the most sense. The prices listed are the recommended retail prices that are posted in the UK now—they’re usually lower in the US, and the sales situation is also usually different in the US (things hang around longer than they do in the UK or EU). Continue reading

Ardbeg Ardbog

Ardbeg ArdbogThe Ardbog was Ardbeg’s special Feis Ile release for 2013. I can’t recall off the top of my head if Ardbeg had any other special releases last year—it’s hard to keep up with them. With Ardbeg’s latest noisy releases on the market now—the new Supernova just came out—it seems like as good a time as any to review this one (I’ve had the bottle open for a long time). It is a vatting of Ardbeg of different styles, particularly ex-bourbon and ex-manzanilla sherry and it is 10 years old. It originally retailed between $89 and $120 in the US—if you’re keeping count this means it went for 2x-3x the price of the regular 10 yo. It didn’t all go though—there’s still some available.

I’ll be curious to see, by the way, what the fate of the new Supernova will be in the US market. In addition to the Ardbog we still have plentry of the Alligator and Auriverdes on the shelves of liquor stores here. Ardbeg-mania doesn’t seem to be quite as well-established here as it is in the UK and Europe. The new Supernova is priced far higher than any of those were—the lowest report I’ve seen is $125 and the highest is close to $200. If I could find it at $125 I might think about it but that’s my limit. I did like the samples of the 2009 and 2010 that I reviewed a little while ago quite a bit but I don’t want to get too caught up in Ardbeg’s marketing frenzy. There’s plenty of other high quality peated malt out there. Continue reading

Octomore 5.1

Octomore 5.1Another highly peated whisky from Bruichladdich this week, this time the far more ludicrously peated Octomore 5.1. I believe at 169 ppm this is the most heavily peated of the Octomores yet. Of course, as Jordan Devereaux and other people with actual knowledge of chemistry have pointed out, the ppm rating of barley before distillation is always a more spectacular number than the ppm rating of the matured whisky, and still shape and size can also have tremendous influence on how much of the phenols make into the distillate (Bruichladdich has very tall stills).

Anyway, I don’t mean to give the impression that I know very much about these things. I do know, however, that despite these eye-popping ppm numbers the Octomores have not been particularly outlandishly smoky in the glass and that I’m increasingly sceptical about the point of this series (see my comments in my review of the 6.1; I’ve also reviewed the 2.1, the 4.2 and the Octomore 10.)

Let’s see what this one is like. Continue reading

Tomatin 12

Tomatin 12The Tomatin 12 is another of the entry-level malts I’m reviewing this month. Unlike the Balvenie Double Wood it’s not really an iconic malt and it’s also one that I’ve gone through a number of bottles of in recent years—so there’s no real surprise for me in what’s contained in the review. This whisky continues to be one of the great values in single malt Scotch—coming in below $30 in most markets. Tomatin in general continues to be a good value in the US with the 18 year old a category killer in the $60 neighbourhood and the 25 year old challenging Glenfarclas in the most affordable 25 yo category (and even their 30 year old is cheaper than most distilleries’ 25 year olds). Here’s hoping they don’t also fall prey to the siren call of “premiumization” or start trading in good age-stated whisky for dubious NAS bottles.

This 12 yo comprises bourbon cask matured spirit that is then finished for six to nine months in oloroso sherry casks.
Continue reading