Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

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Well if you’ve never heard of Chivas Regal, then you must be new to whisky. And possibly just new to the world. It’s truly one of the big Scottish whiskies that has thoroughly infiltrated pop culture and bars across the world. The company began, like other big and old whisky companies, as a grocery store in Scotland. The Chivas brothers opened up their grocery store in Aberdeen in 1801. They unsurprisingly sold luxury items and in the 1850’s James Chivas made their first blend, Royal Glen Dee, to suit the more delicate palates of their refined customers. In 1909 the Chivas Regal brand was born with their release of the Chivas Regal 25 year old. This has been called the original luxury Scotch and was marketed mainly toward the new wealthy class in the USA. Today their flagship whisky is the Chivas Regal 12 although they also have other expressions like the 18 and 25.  However, those come with quite the premium price tag.

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Review: Kilchoman Sauternes Cask Matured General Release

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Well, well, well. A Kilchoman general release of their famously peaty spirit aged entirely in ex-sauternes casks. For those who may have missed it, they actually released a club version of this back in the winter of 2015. So while the marketting spiel is calling this one the first sauternes cask matured Kilchoman, it’s not quite. But it is the first to be available to the general public. Although really anyone can join the Kilchoman club.

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Glencadam 10 Year Old

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Glencadam distillery has always been a bit of a puzzle to me. Founded in 1825, it is one of the oldest running distilleries in Scotland and yet it’s still quite unkown. Or at least it doesn’t seem to have the cult following that other distilleries of similar heritage have enjoyed. It’s awkwardly positioned north of the firth of Tay and thus has a bit of an identity crisis when trying to categorize it by region. Some might call it a highland malt and others say midland. It’s not technically in the highlands but it’s pretty close. It definitely isn’t lowland. It just kind of sits there near the east coast of Scotland right off a major road and yet no one seems to notice.

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Lagavulin Feis Ile 2016 (18 Year Old) Review

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Twas the 200th year of Lagavulin Distillery, and the whiskers were all abuzz about the Feis Ile 2016 release but magistrates at Diageo spoke not a peep about what was perhaps the most anticipated Lagavulin release ever. Only hours before they opened up their doors on Saturday (May 21st), the word spread round that the 200th Anniversary Feis Ile bottling would be an 18 year old with 6000 bottles produced and priced at $125. It was, to be frank, a bit of a let down considering last years 24 year old which was only 3 quid more at £128. To make it even more lackluster, the casks used were not particularly novel for them. Refill bourbon hogsheads and bodega sherry butts. Actually pretty much identical to the Lagavulin Jazz Festival 2015 bottling. And since the globally distributed 200th anniversary bottling was an 8 year old, I was hoping for something extra special for the Feis Ile bottling.

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Ardbeg Galileo Review

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The Ardbeg Galileo was released in 2012 to commemorate Ardbeg’s first space adventure. What’s all this about? Well the story goes that one of the lead people at NanoRacks (a company producing lab equipment for space missions) approached Ardbeg and asked them if they would be interested in doing a little whisky experiment. This experiment was basically to send up Ardbeg spirit into space in test tubes with oak shavings to see how the spirit would age in a micro-gravity environment. Thus the endeavor was to make space whisky. How cool is that? Very cool.

In order to mark the occasion, Ardbeg released this aptly named Galileo expression which seemed to cause a bit of confusion amongst the uninitiated. For a while (and possibly still today) some people thought that the Galileo was in fact space whisky from this experiment. While the bottles did seem a bit expensive at the time, they were no where near expensive enough or rare enough to be space whisky. That’s common sense folks.

I was particularly attracted to the Galileo because my father worked on the space mission of the same name. While I am still looking to buy a bottle at a reasonable price as a gift for him, we were able to get a sample when we visitied Ardbeg with the Water of Life Society. From a whisky standpoint this is quite an interesting whisky because it is, to my knowledge, the only official bottling of Ardbeg that was aged in wine casks (Corryvrecken was aged in ex-wine casks that had been washed out to remove all wine residue). So without further ado, let’s taste!

 

Distillery: Ardbeg Distillery

Age: 12 Years Old (Distilled 1999 bottled June 7th 2012)

Cask: Ex-bourbon and Marsala Casks

ABV: 49%

Price: Around £80 when it was first released in 2012. Now around £120 at auctions and more in stores.

 

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Bowmore Devil’s Cask Batch #3

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Tis a long story this one, with many factions developing along the way. It began in 2013 when the first batch of Bowmore Devil’s Cask was released. With 6,000 bottles and an RRP of about £60, it was sold out before most people even knew it was available. What was so special about this bottling that made people go wild? Well I guess the marketting was spot on and the packaging didn’t hurt. But probably the big deal was that it was a Bowmore fully matured in first fill sherry casks and bottled at cask strength. These kinds of things tend to excite the whisky geeks (definitely excited me). And that colour!

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Bowmore 23 Years Old Port Matured 1989

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It’s afternoon on Islay on the first day of Feis Ile and we’ve just finished the Bowmore tour. Sitting at the Bowmore bar our tour guide tells us we can try some more things if we like. My eyes instantly focus on the Bowmore 23 year old port matured sitting on the back counter. “Could we try that one?”, I say completely expecting to have my cheeky request denied. “Sure”, the bar lady says, “but just a wee bit because it’s usually £25 a dram”. Nice! That’s how AliceInWhiskyland and I got our hands on this premium spirit.

What’s so special about this whisky? Well it’s an old Islay whisky fully matured in port casks and an official bottling to boot! These days, Islay whiskies older than 20 years are somewhat hard to come by, whiskies fully matured in port casks are pretty rare and to be fully matured for 23 years is nearly unheard of. I think it’s safe to say that Islay official bottling with all these factors is super rare. So I am guessing that’s the reasoning behind the overwhelming price tag.

I was certainly excited about this expression for all those reasons (except for the price) and I am still looking forward to a Madeira Cask aged Bowmore if/when they ever release one. Or a sherry/port/madeira vatted expression like I suggested to Bowmore on Facebook for the Mizunara competition:

Bowmore Pirate’s Cask – Whisky from Port, Madeira, and Sherry casks representing the important trade routes during the 16th century (Portugal and Spain) that were often crawling with pirates looking to plunder ships filled with riches. These trading ships would bring fortified wine with them as it was more resistant to spoilage. Often these wines were Port or Sherry but also Madeira as the Island of Madeira was an important port of call where sailors could stock up on supplies before their long voyage.

Thus it is feasible that a rogue Scottish ship could have acquired these casks by dubious means and then upon returning home filled them up with spirit. Bowmore Pirate’s Cask.

Also all those casks taste great.”

Pirate’s Cask all the way!! Hint hint Bowmore ;). Here’s hoping that they’ll give me some credit if they do make this or at least send me some samples :p.

Alright, enough of the chit chat, let’s taste this!

 

Distillery: Bowmore

Age: 23 Years Old

Cask: Port cask, full maturation

ABV: 50.8%

Price: £340.00 from the Master of Malt
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Bowmore Feis Ile 2016 Virgin Oak and Sherry

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For Feis Ile 2016, Bowmore offered 3 distinct bottlings: a 25 year old “finished” in wine casks for 12 years, a “bottle your own” 17 year old PX sherry cask matured, and a NAS Virgin Oak and Sherry Cask bottling. This review is for the NAS expression which is a vatting of 4 American virgin oak barrels and a first fill Oloroso sherry butt. Some of you may remember that Bowmore released a similar expression for last year’s Feis Ile which was comprised of purely virgin oak casks. What’s with the extra sherry butt thrown into the mix this year? I dunno. Maybe they were just trying to get rid of those virgin casks? Maybe it’s a bit of an experiment? Maybe they thought it just tasted good? Mysteries abound.

While it seems last year’s bottling didn’t elicit too much excitement, I think this year’s Bowmore Feis Ile NAS expression should really be praised. While we did not sample all of the Feis Ile bottlings this year, I feel fairly confident in saying that this is the standout best value whisky of the Islay festival. At £55 it certainly is the most affordable and even though it is an NAS whisky, it’s undoubtedly unique. Virgin oak and peated spirit is rare. I think part of the reason this was overlooked last year was because of the big excitment from Ardbeg’s and Laphroaig’s 200th anniversary. Or maybe it also has to do with the lackluster reviews for virgin oak whiskies from other Scottish distilleries. Some people think it’s too much like Bourbon.

I have to admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to last year’s release or this year’s for that matter. That was until I actually tried it. It’s a powerhouse of a dram. Packed with flavour and complexity. Yes it feels young but in all the right ways! I’ve been disappointed with other virgin oak whiskies but the layers and levels on this one puts all the rest to shame. One caveat is that it’s quite a unique tasting dram so it may not be to everyone’s taste. However, I definitely recommend trying this if you get the chance. The mixture of virgin oak and sherry influence really made something special here. Even if you don’t like it, I believe it will be an eye opening experience. It certainly was for me.

 

Distillery: Bowmore Distillery

Age: NAS

Cask: 4 American Virgin Oak Barrels and a 1st fill Oloroso Sherry Butt re-racked and married together in the original oak

ABV: 54.9%

Number of Bottles: 1500

Price: £55 at Bowmore Distillery during Feis Ile 2016

 

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Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask Review

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Update 2016/6/15: Looking at the comment section for the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016, it seems some people were not selected in the ballot despite there being a release of bottles after the ballot. Not sure what happened here, but it may be that some people who entered the ballot decided not to buy, and instead of selecting more people from the ballot, Laphroaig decided just to release them on the site. It’s interesting to see that some people suggested that Laphroaig do half bottles instead so that there would be twice as many bottles, however, when they released the 21 year old, a lot of people complained about the 35cl bottles.

Update 2016/6/14: Well that didn’t last long. It appears the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 is now sold out on the Laphroaig online shop.

Update 2016/6/13: The Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Ballot has ended and Laphroaig have now released the remaining bottles on the site for FoL members. If you forgot to sign up for the ballot, have no fear because you can now go to the site and pick up a bottle with your FoL login.

Update 2016/6/9:  Like last year Laphroaig has chosen to run a ballot for those Friends of Laphroaig interested in buying the Cairdeas 2016. An email was sent out to FoL members on June 6th (Monday) with a link to ballot registration which expired on June 9th (Thursday) at mid-day. They stated in the email that the results of the ballot would be revealed by June 10th. It seems that at least a couple people I know have received emails stating that they had been selected in the ballot. In that email it states that they have until midnight June 12th (Sunday) to make the purchase. If this is like previous ballots then any unsold bottles after June 12th will be allotted to more ballot registered FoL members.

 

Who wants to try a Laphroaig aged in Madeira casks? Meeee!!

To explain a bit about why I was so excited to hear about this release, I will need to expand upon the significance of Madeira. Madeira is a fortified wine produced on the island of Madeira off the coast of Portugal. I find it to have a similar character to port but with a more zesty attitude. Its tradition harkens from the Age of Exploration in the 15th century when the island of Madeira was an important pit stop for trade ships. The wine producers on Madeira discovered that the casks of wine that returned from the long voyages had a very different character that they actually prefered. So they tried to recreate the ship aging process by aging their wine in special rooms that would get extra hot from exposure to the sun. What all this translates to is that the production of madeira is quite limited when compared to port or sherry, hence the lack of Maderia aged whiskies. Also to my knowledge, Laphroaig have never released a Madeira aged whisky before. So this is a first!

Naturally it was quite exciting to find out that this year’s Cairdeas was aged in madeira casks. Although I was slightly disappointed that it was not a full maturation like the Kilchoman Madeira Cask release. I find that there is a much greater variance of flavour for whiskies that are finished as compared to full maturations, since so much depends on how long the finish was. However, while full maturations in exotic casks can be exciting on the surface, a well finished whisky can offer a more balanced and complex profile.

Oh and for those not familiar with the Cairdeas range, they are a line of expressions that are released every year by Laphroaig as a treat to the Friends of Laphroaig (FoL). They are usually released during Feis Ile and are then available via their online shop to FoL members. Recently they have also been available in the USA at whisky retailers. We tried the Laphroaig Cairdeas 2016 Madeira Cask at the distillery during Feis Ile 2016.

 

Distillery: Laphroaig Distillery

Age: NAS

Cask: First in ex-bourbon barrels then married and finished in hogshead casks seasoned with Madeira.

ABV: 51.6%

Price: £69.30 from Laphroaig Distillery

 

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