Saturday, August 27, 2016

07/20 - Bowmore and Laphroaig

Wednesday morning, the first day of our stay on Islay. We woke up early, had an awesome full Scottish breakfast and decided for a spontanuous visit to Bowmore which's just down the road from the Bowmore House as there was plenty of time until we'd to be at Laphroaig.

In the bar of the visitor's center we'd the chance to try the top whiskys of their actual standard range: the 23yo. matured in Portcasks, the Devil Cask III (no clue about the two others before) and the 25yo. Small Batch Release. If I remember the 23yo. is the most expensive of that three and that's the one which was definitely not my favorite. I preferred the "cheapest" which's the 25yo. Well, cheap is relative of course, as this bottle is also around GBP 230... it would be interesting to compare it with an older 25yo., e.g. with the one I have at home...

After this little tasting we decided to make the standard tour through the distillery as it was starting a few minutes later with just a small bunch of other guys... and we had two more drams after the tour, one from a Bourbon, one from a sherry cask... and one more for the road...

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Back at the Bowmore House Andrew organized a taxi for us which brought us the way to the South coast of Islay, to Laphroaig where we have booked the "Water to Whisky Experience". After our arrival we still had some time until the tour would start, the perfect opportunity for... of course... another wee dram. I made my decision for the new bottling of the 10yo. Cask Strength, a whisky with which you never fail. That's the true Laphroaig flavor for a really fair price!

Our experience started with a standard tour and it felt very strange to walk through the distillery which looked and felt like a ghost distillery. Also in the silent season like Bowmore but it seemed that nobody was doing anything. Dead silence.

After the tour we took the car and were brought up the hills and took a little walk to reach the water source of Laphroaig where we also had a little lunch. Every participant had his own lunch box with different stuff, the guide poured out some different whiskys and I also had some Swiss cheese with me which went very well with the whisky. A great experience and luckily the weather wwas stable enough that it did not rain.

Strengthened by the food, and some whisky, we walked back to the car which brought us to the peat areas of Laphroaig. Laphraoig has it's own peat moss and they're the only distillery on Islay having their own. There we'd the chance to make some experience in peat cutting, stacking it for drying etc. Still an old school method in an industry which gets more and more modern, at least in regards of fancy marketing and packaging... all those stops were accompanied by different drams of whisky of there core range...

All were curious for some Laphroaig beside the main stream stuff and so everybody was looking forward to the last part of the tour: the warehouse tasting and the chance to fill your own bottle of Laphroaig. The selection was the following:
  • 12 or 13yo. from a Quarter Cask
  • 22yo. Bourbon Cask
  • 18yo. Sherry Cask
The Quarter Cask was ok, but nothing to be too excited about but the other two really rocked! Reto drew his bottle for the Sherry Cask, I drew mine from the Bourbon Cask, therefore we'd the chance to drink both later during the evening again...

Conclusion of the day: standard (but interesting) tour at Bowmore with some really nice drams and an outstanding afternoon at Laphroaig with a lot of interesting experiences and lots of good whisky!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A long row of Longrows - the US edition

Many of my friends in the US have not that access to Scotch Single Malt Whisky as we have it here in Europe... and some of those have a good taste and appreciate the Single Malts that I'm enjoying over here... one of them is Mel and so I sent him the sampling package of the Longrows that we have tasted back in 2015.

Here comes his impression:

Back in October 2015, after commenting on his blog that I had never encountered Longrows here in the States, my friend Heiko sent me samples of the very same six expressions of Longrows whisky that he and his group had tasted in September. Unfortunately, during the next months, I was dealing with family issues which took precedence over reviewing whisky. Those issues have resolved themselves now, and I thank Heiko for his patience in allowing me to delay this review. I hope that it was worth the wait.

I used a standard tasting scoresheet for notes and scores, nosing glasses for sampling, and RO water to cleanse the palate after each sample. I sampled in the same order as did the original tasting group, youngest to oldest with the NAS Peated expression last. All samples were tasted neat. I scored each sample on a 1 to 5 star scale, 5 being the best score. (Scoresheets attached)

Editorial note: The scoresheets all identify the Region as Islay. That is in error, which I found out after completing the tasting. I was under the mistaken impression that Longrows was an Islay distillery, when in fact, it is a Campbelltown distillery. The seaside aromas and flavors of Islay are very much present in these six expressions of Longrows, which led me astray. I apologize for not knowing this in advance, but I do not believe that it affected my reviews in any appreciable way. Live and learn…..

10 Year Old
I found this whisky to be well balanced, with nose components of citrus fruit, hay and sweet flowers, with peat and mild smoke. The taste was sweet, with definite citrus flavors, a very nice peppery spiciness and more peat taste than the aroma conveyed. The finish was very nice, sweet and fruity with a lingering peppery bite. I scored this whisky 3.5 stars but I would welcome a chance to become more acquainted.

Red, Shiraz Casks, 11 Year Old

This whisky exhibited a definite aroma from the wine casks, with a peppery spiciness, the scent of ripe fruit and toffee, and a mild peat and smoke component. I liked the creamy mouthfeel of this whisky. The flavors were surprisingly complex, with nutty undertones blending with pepper, woody and peaty components. The finish was long with spiciness and peat lingering at the end. I scored this whisky 4 stars. 

Rundlets and Kilderkins, 11 Year Old
This bottling was very aromatic with fresh apple and pear, mild black pepper, and definite seaweed, iodine and smoke. This sample smelled the way a fine seaside malt should, in my opinion. Golden in color and smooth, the taste unveiled fresh fruit with some mild citrus component, more pepper and spice than the aroma indicated, with a subtle sweetness of caramel and vanilla. The peat and smoke evident in the aroma were very subdued on the palate. On the finish, the flavors diminished fairly quickly, with mild seaweed and medicinal taste at the end. I scored this fine whisky 4 stars, and I believe it could have benefitted from a bit higher proof than the 45% it was bottled at.

14 Year Old

To my surprise, this expression turned out to be my favorite over the 18 year old. The nose revealed cooked apples with some citrus, damp wood, honey and the smoke and peat expected of an Islay malt. The taste was very smooth, with the mouthfeel a bit thinner than the other samples, perhaps due to the higher proof. Another complex mélange of flavors, with seaweed and iodine giving way to a slight sweetness of oatmeal and baked cookies. The smoke and peat were present but not overpowering, accompanied by an earthy component. This was a complex flavor profile. On the finish, which was of medium length, the seaweed and peat lingered with a slight hint of brine. This was a whisky that meets all of my criteria for an outstanding seaside malt. I scored it 4.5 stars.

18 Year Old

The aromas in this expression were complex and intriguing, with the sweetness of dried fruit and oatmeal combined with mild peat and damp ash. Undertones of leather and sawn wood were also present. Another high proof whisky, the taste was smooth with a thin mouthfeel. Components of flavor include baked fruit and spices along with smoke and earth. The taste was not as complex as the aroma led one to expect. The finish was subtle but fairly long, with mostly peat tempered by some sweetness. This was a very nice expression, which I scored 4 stars.

Peated, NAS

If I was disappointed in any of the samples, it was this one. The nosing revealed a slight presence of sweet fruit dominated by seaweed, peat and smoke. This sample had a very nice mouthfeel, creamy but still thin. The taste was peaches and apricots combined with black pepper, and strong wood, seaweed and iodine. On the finish, the iodine and bitter peat were predominant, resulting in a not necessarily pleasant aftertaste. I scored this sample 3 stars. 

Thanks again to my friend and whisky mentor Heiko for the opportunity to experience Longrows whisky.

Additionally please find below the scoresheets:

Sunday, August 07, 2016

07/19 - 07/23 - Islay

For this years' birthday a got a voucher as a present for a flight to Islay. My first visit was back in 2013 and I enjoyed the trip (which brought us also to Campbeltown and Oban). This time it's an Islay only trip. It was obvious that I will stay at the Bowmore House, the booking was done quickly and luckily I found a flight at a reasonable price. Initially I planned to go on my own but when I asked a friend, he was more than excited about the idea and so he joined me for that trip.

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With the flight from Zurich to London Heathrow then another stopp in Glasgow before the small propelller plane reached our final destination: the airport of Islay. Slightly delayed but finally there after a total traveling time of approx 12 hours. We've been picked up at the airport and found us soon sitting at the dinner table with a load of fresh Islay oysters and a nice Bruichladdich in the glass! What followed after the oysters was simply mindblowing: lobster, langoustines, cray fish, mackerel and scallops. Of course all accompanied by more Islay whisky! Top quality hospitality as I knew it already from my first visit here!

After dinner we took the chance for a little walk which felt really good after the traveling... especially as we'd a very nice day with a lot of sunshine there.

The next morning started with a full Scottish breakfast and a whisky to kickstart our morning... we already had plans for our first tour of this visit, the "Water to Whisky Experience" at Laphroaig but decided spontanously to spend a quick visit to Bowmore before. All the distillery visits, tours and tasting will be the topic of different blog postings, one post for each day, so stay tuned.

After we came back in the evening from Laphroaig Andrew had prepared his version of the Bowmore House Burger that I will also prepare at home to use it in my new burger book. And of course we enjoyed some whiskys together with Andrew... a nice evening for sure...

Thursday started early too and after a good breakfast with scrambled eggs and salmon I made a little walk up to the Round Church and had a can of Irn Bru while overlooking the harbor area. BTW: if you have a hangover... Irn Bru and walk will help you definitely... not that I needed it...

After the tours and tastings at Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich we went for dinner to the Lochside Hotel and thought about having some drams at the bar later. I remember that they had a really good range when I was there 3 years ago. The food was very good but the whisky selection was a bit boring, therefore we changed the location to Lucci's, the bar of the Bowmore Hotel just around the corner.

On Friday morning we again decided for a full Scottish breakfast to have a good base for the day as there were some more tastings and whiskys waiting for us. Sensory tating at Lagavulin and after that we made the "Deconstructing the dram" Tour including a nice amount of drams at Ardbeg. After my disappointment at my first visit this experience was definitely much better!

The evening program was the same as the night before: dinner at the Lochside Hotel and some more drams at the Lucci's, a place that I will miss when being back in Switzerland... their range of whiskys is amazing!

On Saturday morning it was time to catch our flight back home, another long trip for that short distance.... but it's worth it! Islay, I will come back for sure!