Ardbeg 5yo “Wee Beastie” (47.4%, OB, 05/05/2020)

Looking at Ardbeg’s core range (at the time of writing), one release was missing on these pages. After An Oa, this 5yo Wee Beastie is the latest member of the Ardbeg core clan. Since demand has risen considerably for Single Malt Whisky, one of many reactions of the industry was to expand the NAS portfolio, to be able to sell younger Whiskies and lay down larger ageing stock for the future. The public however, as often the case with changes, wasn’t very keen on NAS bottlings, feeling the consumer would be paying a higher price for younger Whiskies, which is largely true anyway. To give an example, Talisker “Skye” or “Storm” or “Port Ruighe” actually were new NAS bottling sold for more than the original 10yo. In the end, the consumer kept asking for an age statement, and in the process was already warming up to Whiskies with a low age statement. When Benromach released their 5yo a while back, the move towards a low age statement, compared to other NAS bottlings with a funny (Gaelic) name was welcomed beyond belief. Industry baffled. So low age statements are now rather accepted, and with Islay Whiskies, younger expressions are also interesting because the peat should be more pronounced,fresher and heavier than in well aged releases (peat gets softer over time). Ardbeg, always being different in their ways, saw the time fit for a new addition to their core range, and thus one with a low age statement (5yo) ánd a name (Wee Beastie), thus promising hefty peat!

Color: Light Gold.

Nose: Appetizing peat yet not really beastie, more of a gangnam poodle style. Tiny hint of smoke from the fireplace. It doesn’t hit you in the face like Iron Mike would. No, quite the opposite actually. It’s rather friendly, warm, dusty and citrussy. Like Iron Mike hugging you in the ring, you feel the soft gloves in your back. Mike is whispering peaceful words in your ear, in stead of biting it off. Surprising, so not really beastie to me. Iodine, perfumy smoke and cold ashes from the fireplace. Remember Christmas when it’s cold outside with lots of snow? Salty and soapy. Sometimes some battery acid, acidic fruits, black and white powder and licorice. Sometimes milky (this is the youth showing, we know this from young Lagavulin’s and other mostly NAS peated whiskies, (there will be some more reviews of this “effect” in the near future, I can tell you that). The citrus bit is borderline milky, new make spirit and it is a big part of the freshly opened bottle. Luckily, this acidic fruity milky bit wears off a bit when this gets enough time to breathe. Doing the dishes with pink or yellow rubber/latex gloves. If fire would have a smell, this might be it. Ardbeg Fire, which is still a masculine name. After a while more, the fruit shows itself, with crushed beetle. Quite a soft and friendly nose with lots of aroma’s. Appealing, definitely young, but given time it gets balanced. I like it very much, smells tasty! So not really a wolf in the nose but more a domesticated poodle wearing a Christmas jumper. Adorable.

Taste: Sweet, young (but not milky), malty and biscuity. A lot of sweet black and white powder from the nose, sweet smoke, licorice, warming. Plastic, stormy seaside, sea spray laden with salty air. Soap powder. Burning garden surplus off. Slightly less balanced than the nose. Still this soapy, slippery feel on my palate and tongue. The soapy taste is kept in check though. Licorice with crushed beetle. Black tea, fruity. Quite nice and somewhat different than expected. Beast? A very friendly beast! Young but not too young. Very appetizing. The taste may be a wee bit too young though, with a little bit of new make spirit to it, slightly underdeveloped. Just like the nose, this wears off after a while in my glass. Through the fruity bit some slightly bitter and slightly prickly wood emerges and this soapy edge stays behind in your mouth (a.k.a. the aftertaste).

Maybe they should add an 8yo expression which would make an interesting comparison with this 5yo, or maybe a cask strength version of this Beastie as well while they’re at it? Yes, in the end this is yet another very good core range bottling. If you have this Wee Beastie, Corryvreckan and an Oogie, what else do you need from Ardbeg, apart from their beautiful older bottlings? A big compliment is due for Ardbeg, for keeping a very high standard in their core range. Amazing, so not only Kilchoman does well @ 5 years. Although Kilchoman at this age shows no milky new make bits at all. You just gotta love Ardbeg, for the first time ever, a distillery puts out a core range that might be better than most of their NAS special releases. In this day and age, that is truly amazing. In my opinion both Ardbeg and Kilchoman do a lot better at this young age than f.i. Lagavulin. In a way, far fetched as it might be, this Beastie reminds me in a certain way of Perpetuum, has it something to do with that? Is it some sort of younger version of it?

After a few hours, the empty glass smells of soft iodine, smoke and burnt plastic.

Points: 85

Thanks again to Nico for the sample!

Ardbeg NAS “Perpetuum” (47.4%, OB, Bourbon & Sherry casks, 72.000 bottles, 30/03/2015)

Most of today’s Ardbeg core range has been featured on these pages now. I already liked Ardbeg in the past, but all modern Ardbeg’s seem to be to my liking as well, but they are quite different from the old ones obviously. I have to say that the core range of Ardbeg might be quite unusual to some; a 5yo (Wee Beastie), a 10 yo (Ten), and three NAS bottlings of which one has a lower strength (An Oa) and two are at a rather high ABV (Uigeadail and Corryvreckan). These bottlings show that Ardbeg is still a wonderful Whisky today. This prompted me to look beyond the core range and buy (at auction), some of the special releases Ardbeg has been doing for a while. First one up, is one that has been released for the 200th anniversary of the distillery, and honouring this fact, this must be a stellar release. Looking at auction, this might not be the case, since prices are still reasonable today, even at the time of writing. Sure 72.000 bottles is not really a limited release, but even with the popularity of Ardbeg, these are still widely available (at auction) and affordable, although at least twice the price of any of the core range bottlings.

Color: Light pale gold.

Nose: Right upfront soft peat and warm smoke from the fire place, soft wood and tar. Sea spray, barley sugar (quality Rum sweetness) with a hint of cardboard. Tarry rope. Salty, aromatic and balanced. After a while, more iodine is noticeable as well as some lemon notes. Grandma’s old bar of perfumed soap, found after many years in the back of a closet (behind her rather large knickers). Nice subdued yellow fruit. Green garden plants (not flowers, nothing blooming), just the leafy stuff. Black tea (the dry leaves) and do I detect some chlorine (mixed in with the lemon)? The “hefty” peat notes that jumped out of my glass before, dissipates rather quickly, making the nose rather soft. I’m guessing this is quite a young Malt or has at least quite some young stuff in the blend, without it being anyway near new make. Nothing wrong in that sense, because young Ardbeg can be damn good. When the peat takes a back seat, the iodine I already mentioned, is accompanied by some plastic and pencil shavings and some deeper older peat, so probably some older casks were used as well. Since this is another modern sea faring Malt, lets call it tarry nylon rope, shall we? The warm smoke I mentioned before, has some more staying power. More of the faint citrussy note, as well as some cold butter and maybe even some unripe yellow fruits, but as I said, it’s faint. Late in the mix another faint note of spices emerges. This is again a very nice smelling Ardbeg, still a force from Islay to reckon with. This promises a lot for what is to come next…

Taste: Sweet, soft and friendly. Somewhat fruity already with molten vanilla ice cream and toasted wood. Lots of licorice, black and white powder and chlorine on the palate as well. Salty. Fruit and fruity acidity. Initially lacking a bit of balance, and it seems overall simpler as well. It tastes a bit like a dram to which I’ve added a little bit too much water. (I haven’t added any water at this point). Wee hint of a bitter note in the back and traces of coffee. Quite tasty, but not truly powerful. A fruity Ardbeg. Crushed beetle, prickly smoke and not so soft peat. More fire and fireplace. Sometimes it seems like the fruit and the peat aren’t very happy with each others presence. For instance, the fruit and the peat did like each other much more in the Benriach Latada I reviewed recently. Also, the promise made by the nose, isn’t kept by the taste. A shame really, because the nose is really good. So what went wrong here? Has this suffered from too much reduction? I do think that might be one of it’s problems, as well as the youthy bit and therefore lacking some depth of the whole. Seems to me they tried to get too many bottles out of this batch. Maybe this should have had a higher ABV and maybe some more older casks blended in. I don’t know, I’m not a blender. However, having said that, I do like this expression quite a bit, there is a lot good stuff here, and it sure has some weak points, in the end it has more strong points. I had a lot of fun with this one. The Ardbeg quality is certainly there.

In the big world, this is quite an unloved Ardbeg, This is the quintessential Ardbeg, that in the beginning of gym class never gets picked for the side, even when it’s liked by everyone. It just doesn’t seem to perform or isn’t considered a winner, and we play to win now, aren’t we? There is most definitely nothing wrong with the nose, because this is a very nice nose with lots of nice things to smell. Taste wise, yes, sure, it is a bit weaker, reduced, but given some time to breath this Ardbeg do catches its breath and reaches a higher level. This would make for a nice addition to Ardbeg’s core range as a third high ABV, NAS bottling. But as is, this might be something of an underdog. Lets be clear, the nose is nothing short of wonderful and the taste, although lacking some oomph, is likeable and easily drinkable. An easy Malt to be around with. Soft and friendly, with a good character and tasty as well. If you feel, taking part is more important than winning, than this is still a good Ardbeg if you allow it to be. If you are critical and expect every Ardbeg has to be an absolute winner or stunner, than no, this is not for you. Get a Twenty Something instead, which is relatively recent and easily a 90+ points Whisky to boot.

Points: 86

Because its different from my two favourites out of the core range: Uigeadail and Corryvreckan, then sure, you can get this and it won’t fail you. It didn’t fail me. But in the end, both NAS bottlings are slightly better and both together cost more or less the same as this one Perpetuum by itself, definitely something to consider.

Bowmore 15yo 1996/2011 (57.3%, Wilson & Morgan, Barrel Selection, Sherry Finish, Butt # 960005)

I don’t know why, but every time I saw this bottle on a shelf, (when it was still readily available), I just wanted it. Which is quite strange. I’m not the world’s biggest Bowmore’s fan. Bowmores from yesteryear surely yes, but more modern Bowmore’s somewhat less so than other Islay distillates. Maybe this has something to do with Bowmore’s FWP*-problem from the eighties? Who knows. But why did I want this one? 15yo sounds nice, Bowmore, definitely not so bad, Sherry, yes, finished, what?… but why not? Wilson & Morgan and Sherried bottlings (Macallan, Mortlach, yes pretty damn good!) And last but for me certainly not least, I have always been a sucker for green glass bottles. Dark Whisky just looks fantastic to me through green glass. I even hosted a large Whisky tasting once, you guessed it, only with Whiskies bottled in green glass.

So, I always felt, more likely assumed, (the mother of all fuckups), but there is some educated guessing involved here, this would be a good one. Excuse me for this unnecessary complex sentence. Right after getting one of these Bowmores, I found another discounted one, so I snapped that one up as well, just in case. Better safe than sorry ‘eh? As most anoraks/aficionados/connoisseurs already know, Wilson & Morgan is an Italian private bottler, led by the über-Italian Fabio Rossi, who seems to prefer to focus more on bottling Rums lately, and doing a great job there as well. I already reviewed some Rums bottled by Fabio’s Rum brand; Rum Nation, as well as Whiskies from his Wilson & Morgan range. Ohhhh that Mortlach, nom, nom…

Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Perfect peat and smoke. Syrupy Sherry. Spicy chilli pepper powder. Vanilla and boiling vegetable water. Hot motor oil, licorice, tar and a faint whiff of plastic and latex paint, all adding to the complexity. Raspberry jam. What an amazing smelling Malt. The label states this as a Sherry Finish. Often Oloroso comes to mind, but in this case it reminds me more of PX, not claiming this really came from a PX cask though. Leafy, vegetal. Fresh air in between the peat and the smoke with some hidden vanilla underneath. Excellent wood spice, and fresh oak vanilla. Soft, creamy and lovely. Cigarette ashes from an ashtray. Licorice and some minty black and white powder. The Sherry finish brought a lot to this Malt without overpowering it. It is still an Islay Malt, with this added bonus to it. Wonderful work Fabio. I wonder how the original Malt was before it was finished to see what this finish exactly did. I guess we will never know. The smoky and ashy industrial feel wears off a bit over time, exposing some burnt newspaper, sinaspril and chlorine as well as the vanillin of American oak. Excellent balance throughout the nose. Dark cherries on syrup and a tiny whiff of the oil from orange skins and warm mineral oil as well. It’s just the orange skin oil, but it isn’t very orange-y. Some cigarette smoke as well as some more tar at this point. Black tea and leafy with hints of smoked kippers and some clay. Quite a complex Malt, changing directions several times, yet always well balanced. When Bowmore gets is right it can really hit it out of the ballpark.

Taste: Ahhh, wonderful, strong and prickly peated plastic and smoked rubber on entry. Gravy and lots of (tarry) red fruits. Black fruits and ripe strawberry. Sweetish at first, turning dry. Black coal, steam and tarry with rubbery cherry syrup. Bitter licorice. Laurel licorice. Unlit cigarette. It really does taste thick. Quite some wood but never really bitter, the wee bitter note here comes from the smoke. It’s dry and smoky throughout and quite fruity as well. Ashy. If this wasn’t peaty and smoky and spicy, it would have been a lemonade. I’m sure, part of the smoky notes come from the Sherry cask and not the Whisky alone. On the palate it may not be as wonderfully complex as the nose, but at this point, who cares, this is such an outstanding Malt. Wonderful. Quite a dry aftertaste, waxy and woody with the plastics and the peat, the medium waxy bitterness has the longest breath.

This one right after Tamdhu Dalbeally No. 3 is simply stunning, Dalbeally brings out the best out of this one, coal, machines etc. Man, when Bowmore is great it is truly stunning. Never thought a Bowmore from the nineties could be so great. If I had tasted this blind, I would have guessed this was an older Bowmore, probably from the seventies costing a lot more than this one did me.

Points: 92

*French Whore Perfume

Kilchoman 4yo 2007/2012 (60.9%, OB, Bourbon Cask #390/2007, for The Nectar Belgium)

The Kilchoman I’m about to review was just bottled when I wrote the last Kilchoman review on these pages. When I bought the bottle I’m about to review, it was already an oldie in Kilchoman-time. Both this bottling and my two previous Kilchoman reviews came from 2012, the year I reviewed the 2010 Spring and 2010 Summer editions. All this already 8 years ago! Well, a lot has happened at Kilchoman since then, mostly good (f.i. they make terrific Whisky), but unfortunately also some bad (a kiln fire and an exploding boiler to name but a few).

Kilchoman is a farm distillery on the isle of Islay (Scotland). You know, the place where legends are like Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and a few others that are also well known in the world of Whisky. In comes this “new” distillery (Founded in 2005). Today we have a bottle that is a mere 4 years old (and some months), all the other distilleries on Islay have mostly properly aged Whiskies on the market, so can this offering be anything good at so young an age, from a fairly new distillery? I already know the answer to this, but please read on to find out for yourself.

Color: White Wine, with microscopic small cask sediment particles. Macro flavour molecules, probably a good sign!

Nose: Thick fat peat, and lots and lots of smoke. Licorice. Black and white powder. Salmiak and crushed beetles. Smoked (white) flowers and more peat. More smoke, sweet smoke and an underlying citrussy note. Fresh air, combined with a zesty citrussy aroma. Not the oily bits from the skin, but the fruit within. The fresh air then gets accompanied by whiffs of the smell of a fireplace in winter. Don’t you just like to be outside on a cold winter evening, or night, where people are burning logs in their fireplace at home? Don’t you feel the warmth of family now? Next, (fresh) oak and some dried fish, but foremost sweet licorice. This just screams peat and smoke. However, the smoke may have started out sharply, but it is not sharp now, it’s quite soft and very well integrated into the peat notes. Its almost as if the whisky itself is smoked. Very big, yet not brutal. Hints of vanilla from American oak underneath and cold sweet black tea. Very well made Whisky by these ‘novices’. It already smells the part. It may very well be only 4 years of age, but the profile of the smell remind me of Whiskies from another time. Underneath all this, there is also this sweet fruity aroma. A highly aromatic Malt altogether. Wow!

Taste: Thin toffee with lots of fresh oak, green youthful oak and quite sweet on entry. Hints of wax and cardboard. Dare I say a snuff of Talisker pepper, yes? Peat and crushed beetles are present here as well. What amazing balance in this expression. Eventually the sweetness oozes away a bit, leaving room for the body to be taken over by peat, smoke and quite some (slightly bitter) wood for a 4yo. On top, a fruity acidity, which combines just nicely with the wood and the waxy notes this Malt has. The aforementioned beetle has some staying power in to the less big of a finish than expected. The aftertaste is warming and spicy.

Well, this 4yo from the new kid on the block can really blow many offerings from the big guys right out of the water. For me, this is better than f.i. the Laphroaig Lore, which, compared to this seems a bit boring, for me anyway. You might prefer the more elegant side of the Lore, so please don’t send me any hate-mail over this. Just to be sure, the ‘Lore’ isn’t a bad Whisky at all…

Points: 87

Ardbeg “An Oa” (46.6%, OB, L69049, 2017)

I bought, reviewed and finished Corryvreckan and Uigeadail quite recently and was amazed by the quality you get for the price. Especially since these two are very, very good yet aren’t overpriced special releases. Ardbeg caters to that as well, but that’s another story entirely. No, these two are readily available core range bottlings. When An Oa came on offer, it was a no-brainer to get that one as well, it’s an Ardbeg after all! When freshly opened, whilst I was killing off both aforementioned Ardbeg’s, I wasn’t all that impressed. It’s hard to come out of the shadows of both stronger ABV, NAS Whiskies. This doesn’t say much about An Oa though, but more about how good Corryvreckan and Uigeadail actually are.

An Oa is the latest, widely available, addition to the core range, together with the 10yo and the two I already mentioned several times already. So how did they blend An Oa together, what is its unique selling point, what makes it stand out? For An Oa, Pedro-Ximénez casks, heavily charred virgin oak casks and first-fill Bourbon barrels were used, married, and here comes the unique selling point, wait for it, married in a French oak vat in The gathering room at the distillery. Yes the gathering room. I’ll run that by you again, The gathering room. By the way, some suggest, other casks might have been used as well, maybe there even will be some batch variation over the years because of using different types of casks in the marrying process?

Color: Light sparkly gold.

Nose: Softly peaty and softly smoky. All very restrained and held back. Green. Hints of dried fish, ground coffee and tar, but also a fresher and fruitier note, almost citrussy. Dusty and soft. Good job again. Salty, cigarette smoke, powdered vanilla. Hmmm some chlorine even after it had some time to breathe. Spicy and cold, sweet vanilla pudding. Lots of typical Islay markers. Virgin oak yes, Vanilla notes from American oak yes, PX, on the nose, barely, not right now, the virgin oak is much stronger. PX? not so much when looking at the color of this Whisky. I really wonder about the PX though. What did or should it do for this Whisky? An Oa, again like the other NAS Ardbegs, doesn’t smell young or unfinished. It’s not very complex though. Nevertheless it does smell good.

Taste: Wood, paper and cardboard, mixed in with sweet licorice, tar and some ashes. Ashy toffee and almonds, does that make any sense? That right there is what this Whisky is all about. (Slightly bitter) wood, (sweet) licorice and (burnt toast) ashes. These three are omnipresent in this Whisky at any time. Again, very accessible, due to its sweeter side. More licorice even, oily, and a nice warm feeling going down. It tastes familiar. Even when this is a new expression is feels a bit like coming home. Warm and cozy. 46.6% ABV is nothing to worry about. It is enough, and works well for this expression. More wood notes emerge. Sappy fresh oak, not old dry planks. Does carry some woody bitterness towards the finish. Quite green and lively. Some raspberry and citrus notes. Some sort of brooding hidden fruitiness on the back of my tongue. This is from the PX. The finish is of medium length and there isn’t all that much happening in the aftertaste apart from some woody bitterness reminding me of…earwax. Here it shows its apparent youth. Its all in your face right from the start but it lacks in depth and experience older guys, I mean, Whiskies have. Very drinkable. I fear, this won’t last long on my ledger too. I sticked it in the back for a while, but that hardly helped…

What can I say, I’m a sucker for green glass bottles and I like the look as if it was made in the thirties. I love Ardbeg, even these modern ones. They are of high quality and very accessible. Just read back and see how good the Uigeadial and the Corryvreckan are. Laphroaig makes one expression especially for Whisky ‘fans’, the 10yo Cask Strength, made in annual batches. Ardbeg even makes two! Both are way less expensive and even more readily available than the Laphroaig is. Yes they don’t carry and age statement.

Alas, both have been finished already, but boy, do I miss them. When I’m on Islay time, I start out with Lagavulin 10yo which, compared to all the Ardbegs mentioned in this review, seems milky, and unfinished, young, new make-y. They must have used some pretty tired casks for that one I guess. The unusually low ABV of 43% (these days) doesn’t help either. Where the Ardbegs are accessible and just ‘right’, crash tested and approved, the newest young Lagavulins just are not. I’m definitely not a fan of the 10yo nor the 8yo, (but I am of the 12yo and the 16yo core range offerings). Oops, the 12yo is a special annual release. I do welcome the age statements on the 8yo and the 10yo (as well as on the Game of Thrones 9yo, and the Nick Offerman 11yo), but in this case I prefer the NAS Ardbegs and the trusty old Lagavulin 16yo and the 12yo Cask Strength over the 8yo and the 10yo. I have yet to try the 9yo and the 11yo.

Word always was that it’s hard to meet up with the demand for the 16yo, so are all these new and younger editions ways to lure some of us away from the 16yo, to keep it more visible? Wait a minute, is there really some sort of shortage of the 16yo? I see it everywhere, it’s never sold out, and I see them often on offer somewhere. Maybe another ploy to scare the consumer. Making him or she believe, it may sell out and not come back? A rumour always surrounding Talisker 10yo because of al the NAS offerings from Talisker released in the past few years.

This An Oa, because that is where this review is actually about, is a nice one. Its fun stuff. As said above, for me both the Uigeadial and Corryvreckan are just better and very hard to top. I just like higher ABV’s, but I also understand many of you don’t. Should it stand aside them? Nope, it shouldn’t. An Oa is made for different people than Uigeadail and Corryvreckan are, but I do feel it does have a place right by the side of the 10yo, to offer another take, with a different composition and being a NAS.

Points: 84

Port Charlotte 8yo 2007/2018 “CC:01” (57.8%, OB, Heavily Peated, Cognac Casks, 18/006, 2018)

Those of you who have checked the title meticulously will have a question. How can this be 8yo (so stated on the bottle), when this is distilled in 2007 (so stated on the bottle) and bottled in 2018 (so stated on the bottle)? Has it been transferred into glass after 8 years or as often happens, the Whisky in the bottle is (and is allowed to be) older than the stated age. We may never know. This expression is abbreviated as CC:01, meaning that this is the first (01) release of Whisky, fully matured in Cognac Casks (CC). I’m sure there will be more of these abbreviations reviewed on these pages in the foreseeable future.

Finally, this is one of those bottles which I almost missed reviewing before it is gone. One of those bottles I reach for easily, despite the high ABV. One of those bottles I believe to have reviewed earlier already, even being surprised I can’t find the review on these pages. So from the last drops in the bottle, here it goes.

Color: Gold

Nose: Bonfire, spicy wood, creamy but not really vanilla like. Big. Paper and smoke. More bonfire. Beautiful, perfumy smoke notes. Wonderful smelling Malt this is. Hints of medium sweet Rhum Agricole. (J.M style). Next leafy, autumn garden. Extremely well balanced and very appetizing. All just fits together so well. Some breaths of fresh air, bonfire smoke next, with a luxury feel to it. And this nice lazy hidden sweeter and fruitier note (lime juice). Lazy, because it lets me know its there, but allows me to enjoy the other notes first. Soft yet spicy wood. In no way harsh. Creamy, leafy with mocha. It keeps developing. Black tea. Dry, old, dusty oak. Hints of raspberry ice-cream, the vanilla notes emerge after all just before the first notes of pencil shavings. Good one, I love it. No it’s not finished yet. Notes of well aged Calvados now. Will it ever end? Let me just say, nothing really Cognac-y or winey or peaty. Capiche?

Taste: Spicy and sweet on entry. Skip that last remark though, maybe there is some Cognac to it after all. Quite hot going down. Some indistinct fruity notes come next, on top of dry oaky notes. Both are on top of each other, so a bit less well integrated, or maybe the cement between the bricks is missing. Sweetish yellow fruits, partly dried, combined with a nice ashy note and maybe some old licorice. Notes of bitter oak towards the finish and a bit of waxiness emerges. See Lagavulin, this is younger than your 10yo and no milky, too young tasting Whisky here. Nice restrained smoke. Earthy or maybe grounded is a better word. Slightly less balanced than the nose, and also less beautiful, but still very good nevertheless. Fairly long finish, but after that it all went down, leaving just a medium amount for the aftertaste.

Well, what can I say, me likey. It didn’t take me all that long to buy me another one of these. Very good Port Charlotte. I Hope Bruichladdich will do more Cognac Casks in the future (and release them, obviously).

Points: 88

Lagavulin 10yo (43%, OB, Travel Exclusive, L9102CM004, 2019)

Lagavulin, does it ever disappoint? well, for me, not yet anyway. Although the 8yo was stretching it a bit if I’m honest. It did manage to get the mean score down a bit. If only it was as good as the recent Talisker 8yo! After the 8yo, we already planned to have the 9yo Game of Thrones edition, but it went back into our stock in favour of this 10yo. Recently a 11yo Offerman Edition was released. Still have to look into this one though. No idea yet, who this Nick Offerman is at the moment. I vaguely knew about the existence of the 10yo, but stumbled upon it on a ferry en route to the Whisky Show in London, so we bought a few on the way back, at a very fair price I might add. however, after the 8yo and a few drams of this 10yo, I’m already wondering what all these bottlings have to add to the greatness (and the price) of the 16yo. Not sure what Diageo is doing here, diverting attention away from the 16yo? Winning new souls? Enlarge the portfolio, like the one of its white labelled neighbour?

Color: Dark Gold, slightly orange.

Nose: Soft peat and earthy. Even softer smoke. Quite closed and restrained, or is it so much reduced that the aroma’s have to fight to make it out of my glass? Maybe this is a Whisky more suitable for my new and highly amplifying 1920’s blenders glass? Not for this review. Still soft, yet sweeter and fruitier notes emerge. Soft and elegant. Lagavulin’ s answer to Laphroaig’s “Lore”? Way in the back, there is a lovely dried fish note, making it more salty and coastal, thus more interesting. Soft and hugely toned down Sherry notes from the 16yo come to the fore. After a while it is still a softly playing tune on the radio, but the balance seems there. Its definitely more mature than the raw, milky and unfinished 8yo. Smells sweet, images of refined sugar pop into my mind. Some sort of Caribbean Lagavulin, with ghosts of many yellow fruits trying to contact me telling me they are here. Still I can’t “see” them.

Taste: Sweet and malty, and way closer to the 8yo than the nose. This, dear reader, is a bad thing. Ashes and toasted oak. Spicier than I expected. Black and white powder and licorice. Sweet licorice, with more smoke than peat. Liquid slow burning small bonfire, with just the tiniest bit of bitterness to give it some backbone it so badly needs. With every sip it’s relative youth comes to the fore, just like the 8yo, but less of it. Weak sweet sherry, milk and buttermilk (without the acidity), maybe I should call it sweetened buttermilk. Again this milky unfinished note I get from the 8yo and young modern Tomatin’s. I don’t like that. To be honest this is a fairly simple Whisky, hardly any development, probably killed by the reduction. Please can someone explain to me why one would get this (or the 8yo) and pass on the wonderful 16yo, which probably costs less to boot? Come on Lagavulin you can do so much better than this!

Soft and sweet with wood spice and smoke (and milky acidity). That’s it in a nutshell. Why is this bottled at 43%? Its doing this Lagavulin harm. Is this another of those bottles aimed at people to bring them into the peaty fold, by reducing the peat so much it hurts? Why not 48% for instance? Even the 8yo was 48%. I’ll tell you why, because the novice doesn’t like that much alcohol. Get a root beer instead, dear God. Why so much effort to do this, to ruin it. We already have the (rather weak) 8yo, the 9yo Game of Thrones (which I haven’t tried yet), and now this (rather weak) 10yo? Enough already. I can only hope the 11yo “Offerman” is better. Lagavulin is going mainstream, like Laphroaig and in the process ruining it for the people with taste. Just like Laphroaig with it’s 10yo cask strength, Lagavulin makes for us the 12yo cask strength and all hail to the 16yo which is still with us! The 8yo and the 10yo I can do without. These two I really don’t need, and I don’t understand the need for it too. It offers nothing more, they add nothing to Lagavulin. I haven’t tried the 9yo GoT bottling yet, nor the 11yo Offerman, but I will already lower my expectations a bit before starting that review. I hope it ends here, this is already quite damaging the wonderful feeling I get from Lagavulin. Sure it is a decent score, if you are into mediocrity, but Lagavulin was never about mediocrity, it always was, secretly, the best of the class, one you could depend on deliver. Has Lagavulin been bought by Beam-Suntory recently?

Points: 82

If I were Greek, I would have thrashed my glass after this (being a big fan of Lagavulin).

Laphroaig ‘Brodir’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L8239, 2018)

We can now conclude our Laphroaig Travel Retail Trilogy with a rather recent batch of the Laphroaig ‘Brodir’. ‘Brodir’ looks more like a Laphroaig we know so well with its pristine white label and black lettering, but this time with a big fat bordeaux colored band on it. ‘Brodir’, not unlike other bottlings, starts its life in ex-Bourbon barrels and is finished in Port pipes made of European oak. Beforehand this seemed to me to be the one of the Travel retail Trilogy to be the safest bet buying a whole bottle of. The ‘Cairdeas’ from 2013 (also a Port finish), as well as previous batches of Brodir, gained a lot of fans.

If I’m not mistaken, the first ‘Brodir’ that saw the light of day was the one bottled for Viking Line in 2012. The next try was the 2013 ‘Cairdeas’ already mentioned, although ‘Brodir’ was not on the label since ‘Cairdeas’ already was. In 2014 ‘Brodir’ Batch 001 surfaced, Batch 002 in 2015 and since 2016, no batchnumbers were given. Odd, since, batchnumbers are pretty popular with the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ versions, but there probably is a reason for this.

Color: Orange gold with a reddish hue.

Nose: Some peat but way more smoky than it is peaty. Right from the start a bit harsh. Winey and industrial. Very smoky indeed yet also a breath of sharp and fresh sea air. Ever been under water too long? Remember the moment you sniffed up some water right before coming up a bit too late. Well, this smells like that to me. Like breathing in water. Metallic. Hints of licorice. Italian laurel licorice. Warm log fire. Smoked mackerel. A harbour with some motor oil floating on top. The Port seems well integrated and used with taste. After it had some time to breathe, this develops a more perfumy edge to it.

I can’t help but feel that even though the Port did it’s work, this shares some common ground with the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’.

Taste: Starts with smoke and almonds. Ash tray. A bit raw. Meaty maybe. Burnt paper, ashes, bitter licorice. Hints of vanilla way back. Coal and steam. Plastic and rubber. Not bad. Although a NAS bottling, in no way does it come across as too young. It has quite some complexity, and seems to be a nice version of Laphroaig. A sort of Industrial Revolution version of Laphroaig. The licorice turns sweet a bit. The sweetness, which doesn’t reach ‘Lore’ levels, adheres to the smoke and to a lesser intent, the peat. It doesn’t taste like Port sweetness. But then again, this doesn’t feel very “Porty” to me.

Personally ‘Lore’ is an all-right yet a-typical Laphroaig. The ‘1815 Legacy Edition’ turned out to be quite a surprise, after all the on-line negativity. Since I liked ‘An Cuan Mor’, I expected a weakened or ruined version of the ‘An Cuan More’, but au contriare. So very nice it is, and worth the reduced price it is sold for today. The original price, which most markets still have, is a bit too much compared to the competition. Finally here we have this ‘Brodir’. A Laphroaig that feels like having some proper Laphroaig under the bonnet, just differs on the outside. ‘Brodir’ is nothing to scoff about even though the first batches are said to be better. There are many aspects I like, so I’ll remember this one fondly. In the end I guess I may have liked the ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’ best, but this one is hot on it’s heels, and sometimes I feel it might be even better. If you try these Whiskies in the order published, all goes well, however for me the ‘1815’ is lost when tasted after ‘Brodir’ making the ‘Brodir’ the bigger Whisky. I’m not even trying the ‘Lore’ after ‘Brodir’.

Points: 85

Laphroaig ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L7345VB1, 2017)

Here is number two in Laphroaig’s travel retail trilogy. We started the trilogy with the smooth and soft ‘Lore’ made for manbuns and suits, where the classical feel of Laphroaig is of weather worn fishermen, storms and salt. Today we are going to have a look at a different, but similar looking travel retail bottling, ‘The 1815 Legacy Edition’. Both bottles have dark green labels on green glass, and in my opinion look very smart and sets them apart from the white labels we know. Just like the ‘Lore’, the copywriting on the packaging is something to forget rather quickly, and luckily Whisky can help you do that.

This ‘1815’ (for short), is made up with first-fill bourbon barrels and new European oak hogsheads which sounds similar to the make-up of the ‘An Cuan Mor’ and Ardbeg’s ‘Corryvreckan’. The ‘An Cuan Mor’ has spent around 8 years in first-fill Maker’s Mark barrels, after which they were finished for a further two years in virgin European oak casks. Laphroaig have more bottlings using virgin oak, like the ‘Select’ and ‘QA Cask’ (Quercus Alba), but both bottlings use American Virgin oak, giving off more vanillin than European oak, which is more about tannins. I’m guessing they changed the name of the ‘An Cuan Mor’, as well as the packaging, because (some of the) timings for the ‘1815’ are different. Nevertheless, knowing I rather liked the ‘An Cuan Mor’, I guess this should be a very nice Laphroaig as well, contrary to popular belief.

Color: Dark Orange Gold

Nose: Soft, fruity and ashy. Definitely starts with the same Christmas spices as the Lore. After a while these spices just disappear, or are overpowered by other aroma’s. Soot. Creosote. Quite a big nose this Laphroaig. Dirty. Love it. Along for the ride comes this fruity fresh citrus note and it retains a bit of its sweetness. All in good balance. This one shows some earthier notes as well. Maybe more restrained, but also somewhat more promising. A hint of peat I know from the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ bottlings. After some breathing more of the restrained beauty emerges. I’m liking where this is going. Only just now more woody notes come along. Yes fresh, virgin oak, but different from the omnipresent virgin American oak. After a while a metallic breath of fresh air whiffs by. After drinking this, the nose takes it up a notch. Getting better and better over time. Fresh oak and a lot of depth. In this sooty, tarry nose lies a nice and white floral heart (and some yellow fruits as well). You have to inhale as if your life depends on it, but it is there ready for you to behold.

Taste: Sweet yellow fruits in sweet yoghurt and Greek style yoghurt. Even more liquorice than ‘Lore’ had, and the whole starts out much harsher, but also more honest and more powerful, although that term should be used lightly here. Dirty is a better word, ashtray. On entry this reminds me a bit of some Rhum Agricoles. Ginger notes combined with some nice sooty notes. Sharp, dry fresh oak. Yes lots of wood influence, especially the acidic oak could be a wee bit less. Definitely some virgin oak, but less vanilla and butter-like so the more tannic European oak influence makes sense. Compared to this, ‘Lore’ was sweeter, easier, more polished and seemingly more refined. Definitely a lot of wood now and the ashes and soot remain. Spicy and bitter. Warming going down. It still doesn’t resemble a proper Laphroaig like the 10yo ‘Cask Strength’ version, but closer to it than the ‘Lore’. Nope, the difference is much greater than the difference in ABV alone. Way longer finish than the ‘Lore’, with wood, and a slight bitterness. Tannins and even a soapy element. Tarry and bitter. Warm asphalt. Dirty for sure. Maybe a bit less balanced than usual, but no problem in this. Still don’t discard this Laphroaig’s sweetness, it might be big and dirty but it also has plenty of sweetness underneath. Winey a bit… no they didn’t, didn’t they? PX, in this? (They did with Ardbeg ‘An Oa’).

As said above, this one doesn’t get a lot of love from other people, but considering this is a NAS and the virgin oak doesn’t overpower the whole, I’m actually pretty amazed with what was achieved here. I found it a Laphroaig and even a tasty one. I’m not against the usage of virgin oak, as long as it is done sparsely and done with taste. It works for me in this and it works for me in Ardbeg’s ‘Corryvreckan’. Even though this is more raw and unrefined, less balanced even, I still would prefer this over the Lore. However, if you prefer Lore over this, I can definitely understand that as well. Having said all that I actually prefer ‘Corryvreckan’ over the ‘1815’. Its just better and has a higher ABV (which I like) to boot and costs less. Easy.

Points: 86

‘The 1815’ H2H ‘An Cuan Mòr’ The ‘1815’ is slightly darker in color. Nosing them, I would say that they seem very similar, with some slight differences. The ‘An Cuan Mòr’ seems more mature and slightly better balanced, with a nice, warming bonfire note. ‘1815’ seems somewhat simpler, yet also more rough (in a good way as described above). ‘1815’ is waxier and has these wonderful whiffs of Christmas spice. Given more time they both come closer to each other. The differences in taste are a bit similar to the differences in the nose, where the ‘1815’ seems a bit rougher and more oaky, shorter in barrels, longer in the European oak? Both are essentially the same Whisky and the differences described may be accountable to batch variation, and not because they are blended differently. Both are good, and almost like twins, but the beauty lies in the details. And trying them both together, there is one that starts to shine a bit more, let it breathe a bit and the ‘An Cuan Mòr’ is the (slightly) better one, especially when tasting it, it is better balanced, more complex, just better. Still, I prefer both over the Lore, which for a Laphroaig is too easy, too soft, maybe even a bit weak. But that’s just my opinion. For me it also lacks complexity considering older cask(s) were used. It just doesn’t impress, but bad it is not.

Review #750.

Laphroaig ‘Lore’ (48%, OB, for Travel Retail, L8297, 2018)

When surfing, reading the odd review or two, I find that NAS and/or travel retail Laphroaigs don’t get much love and sure enough, are even hated by many. For instance, Lore and the 1815 Legacy Edition are the replacements for previous travel retail bottlings like the PX cask, QA cask and An Cuan Mòr, to name but a few. So, why this dislike? First of all, do they taste bad, or are they badly made, do they taste super young, unfinished?

Laphroaig has been taken over by Beam-Suntory, and since then, a plethora of NAS travel retail offerings have emerged. Big Bad company trying to make a lot of money with supposedly immature Whisky over your back, coaxing you out of your hard earned cash. Maybe that is the reason these bottling do not recieve a lot of love? Or is it the travel retail channel, making them a little bit harder to get, although I see all of these bottling in lots of shops. Also, travel retail also has some sort of stigma of offering mediocre, highly reduced (often to 40% ABV), litre bottles. And last but certainly not least; NAS, which often means lots of three year old Whisky mixed in, or so we, the consumer, like to believe. By now we don’t trust anyone, or any company, anymore. They are just in it for the money and not for the art of making Whisky, made for us the discerning drinker, and lover of malts.

In Laphroaig’s case, the bottles which are to be replaced, seem far from sold out as well, even when marked down. So shops are stocked up with many Laphroaig NAS bottlings. Being a big fan of the older/other bottlings, the 10yo (Green Stripe) Cask Strength comes to mind, or even the 10yo at export strength (43% ABV), the 15yo, I somehow lost interest with all these new NAS bottlings.

However, time has come for me to have a go at some of them. The An Cuan Mòr I have reviewed earlier, and I liked it, where lots of fellow drinkers didn’t. I will be the first to admit that it isn’t a daily drinker type of Whisky, but still the quality is there (for me), and I did like it. So which one of the “new” Laphroaigs to pick then? And what if they aren’t any good, as many people are so passionately claiming? In comes plan B. Bottleshares! Always a good way of getting to try expensive bottles without losing a lifetime’s worth of savings, or for spreading the risk in case of imminent anticipated disappointment. Is the risk low, share it/buy it with one friend. This time however the risk seemed pretty high, (I so believe everything I read), so time for a bottle share with three friends, which was a first for me. I still have to give the parties involved (parts of) their share, due to low stock of empty sample bottles. Through this four-way bottle share, I got the “Lore” and “The 1815 Legacy Edition”, and I bought a whole bottle of Brodir, which seemed a somewhat safer bet.

Lets start with Lore. On Tweet-ter John Campbell mentioned that Lore contains: “7 to 21 year old liquids with 3 more ages in between” so if it was stated on the label it would have been officially a 7yo Whisky, so no 3yo NAS people, even though older components were used to make this expression, so let’s call it by its name and not its unstated age, I give you: Lore…

Color: Dark Gold

Nose: Very aromatic thick smell. Sweet, syrupy, but not sugary, no, more like condensed sweet smoke. Perfumed smoke, Christmassy smoke. Cigarette smoke infused car interior. Licorice and an amazing freshness hovering over it as well. Quite promising right from the start. Very fragrant and spicy. Smells wonderful and different from most other Laphroaigs I know (mostly those bottled a while back). Paper announces the turn towards the softer side of Laphroaig, since it becomes very medium and soft, still meaty and smoky though. Velvety, almost, and still a bit sweet smelling. Some fruity notes and when smelling/drinking these, whiffs of black fruits are sometimes noticeable. Very soft peat, mostly from the well aged kind. So the older casks are definitely recognizable. No wood, not even soft wooden notes, no, its fresh and thick (almost impossible together), and very fruity. Sweet and accessible. To me this doesn’t smell like a travel retail exclusive but more as a holiday season exclusive. Softer than usual. Warming fire place and hardly any peat. This one is about aromatic smoke. Well done thus far, now let’s taste it, since something’s gotta be wrong with this, it just has to.

Taste: Black and white powder, liquorice and quite sweet. Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts. Sweet, also on the lips. Even though this has 7yo Laphroaig in it, it still isn’t heavy on the peat. Reminds me a bit of An Cuan Mòr, even though this is not its direct successor. Again more a smoky one. More of the softer stuff comes forth. The whole of the Whisky is sweet, dominated by it in fact and the lack of upfront peat makes it also very drinkable. Not sure about the sweetness in the long run though. Makes it a bit flatter, smoother. I hate that word when describing a Whisky. Smoky yes, peat, no, not so much. Starts out quite sweet and going through the body of the Whisky, the drier smoky notes take over. Salty lips, which is a nice effect after the initial sweetness. Somewhat simple in its approach. The finish is somewhere between short, shortish, cloying sweetness and of medium strength/length at best. The aftertaste; only some sweet liquorice again (and some smoke). Quickly gone. Quite a simple Whisky actually and definitely from Laphroaigs love-it-or-hate-it series. Nope for this one, Laphroaigh came down from it’s big rock in a storm, to club level on Ibiza. Miami Vive attire. Don’t I like it then? It’s nice, its different, still made up of good casks. A bit to sweet, for my taste, and therefore a bit too flat, and definitely too short. Laphroaig is always a bit sweet, but in the old days, most of it was well hidden by all those sea and peat aroma’s for which we love Laphroaig. The taste is ok, but it is the nose that presents all those awesome aroma’s. The original price is too high for what it is, but I paid half price for it (even before the bottle share), and then it is one you shouldn’t pass by, or maybe you should, because maybe one of the others mentioned above, might be better…

Knowing now what kind of Whisky this is and how it tastes, the copywriting on the packaging is a load of BS. “The richest of the Rich”, or, “…is our richest expression ever”? WTF? (I just stopped believing everything I read). Some Laphroaigs definitely are, but this Lore, nope, sorry, metro man territory, yes, manbun, yes, tailored suit, yes, this is for the travelling business class metro man, with coiffured beard. Doesn’t even come close to how a proper Laphroaig can be and should be. Darling can you pass the green stripe please?

Points: 84