Port Charlotte, Islay Barley

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Port Charlotte, Islay Barley, Heavily Peated.  50% ABV.

The Port Charlotte, Islay Barley, is a single malt Scotch whisky from the Bruichladdich distillery.  Their peated whisky is bottled under either the Port Charlotte or the Octomore name.  The peat component of a whisky is measured by the parts per million (PPM) phenol levels.  The Octomores are have very high PPM, in the 160-250 range.  This Port Charlottle, Islay Barley whisky has a PPM of 40.  The barley is from six farms on Islay, all designated on the bottle.  It is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for 5 years.

On the nose, the smoke is clearly present, but subtle.  There are elements of pear, and apple, producing a pleasant smoke-sweet blend.  On first sip, the peat comes on initially, but again not overpowering.  I find a malty sweetness, appricots mixed with salty elements, maybe salted cashews.  On mid palate there is smoke and a tease of  cinnamon.  The finish is medium, balanced, with the peat smoke mingling with fresh fruit sweetness.

I find myself going back and forth on this whisky.  Not from bad to good, more about where I place it in the good range.  Generally, when I think of peat, my leanings are more to the slightly higher PPM offerings of Ardbeg or Laphroaig.  I may have come to this thinking of an Octomore-light type of offering, and it is not that.  But, if I set that notion aside, I find this a very pleasant whisky.  Indeed, what makes this a very good dram, is it’s balance, one where no one element dominates.   I like the dance between light peat and the natural fruit sweet elements.  Another Bruichladdich which I am happy to have in my single malt cabinet.

Dalmore 15

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Dalmore 15, 40% ABV.

While it is always good to have some whisky at hand, there are times when it is particularly beneficial.  This is one of those moments, on a weekend where venturing outside is not advised due to the advancing ice storm.  The only question was which whisky I would pull out of the cabinet.  After some thought, I decided upon revisiting a Highland Scotch.  With a little exploration, I selected my bottle of Dalmore 15.

Dalmore 15 is a Highland single malt that is initially aged for 12 years in ex-bourbon casks, then is divided equally into each of three different sherry casks.  According to the Dalmore web site, the three types of sherry casks are Amoroso, Apostoles and Matusalem oloroso.  After three years, the whisky is merged again in a sherry butt for the finish.

Given both the origin and this aging process, it is not surprising that this whisky comes across rich and sweet on the nose.  The sherry comes on immediately.  As I take a second and third pass, I find a bit more nuance in the sweetness, bringing to mind raisins, plums, and a bit of a ginger-influenced spice.  On the palate, I initially find a rich, smooth, sweet sherry presentation.  There are elements of orange and raisin in the taste, and mid-palate brings some spicy notes, maybe a little nutmeg.  The sweet, rich, nature of this whisky carries into the finish.  The warmth on the finish is relatively short, perhaps reflecting in-part the lower ABV, with the sweet sherry mingling with some cinnamon and orange peel.

I think that this is a very fine whisky with a good balance of sweet and lightly-spiced sherry.  If you are a fan of the more sherried whisky, I would think that you would enjoy including a bottle of Dalmore 15 in your collection.   For my taste preferences, it is a bit more like a dessert whisky, an alternative to a nice after dinner port.

Two other observations.  First, the price on this whisky is reasonable for today’s market, giving one a better dram-per-dollar than for many with similar profiles.  Second, at 40% ABV, it will be more for those who find too much burn in standard 46% and higher cask-strength whisky.

Whiskey Del Bac, Dorado

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Whiskey Del Bac, Dorado.  45% ABV.  Non-chill filtered.

A dear friend gave me a unique gift during a visit this year.  A bottle of Wiskey Del Bac from Hamilton Distillers in Tucson, Arizona.  As I near the bottom of the bottle, I am overdue in writing my tasting notes.  The bottle notes state that they malt their barley “over a velvet Mesquite fire” and mature the whisky in small batch using American oak barrels.

On the nose, the smoke comes forward immediately.  In one sense, it is a bit like my first impression of the smoke on the nose of Talisker whisky.  Yet, it is not the same smoke, there is no ambiguity regarding the mesquite origins.  On first sip, it is certainly mesquite-dominant,  quickly bringing to mind a barbeque, and probably what influences my impression of the flavor of peppered sweet-jerky.  On subsequent sips, I find semi-sweet elements, mostly vanilla, perhaps a bit of carmelization.  The finish is medium length, warm, with the mesquite smoke enveloping the other flavors.  As the smoke retreats, I find a dried cherry flavor on the back of the finish.  It is a well balanced and smooth whisky.

This is a very fun, unique whisky.  I really enjoy it.  I would not attempt to compare it to any particular single malt scotch.  The parallel I would draw is one of a good quality young whisky.  I find that the mesquite smoke imparts a flavor profile that is unique, distinct from the peated expressions I typically enjoy.

It is a whisky that I like neat.  I suspect that some have found creative ways to use this distinctive flavor profile in cocktails, but that would not be my preference.   Either way, if you like whisky and can find a bottle, I recommend giving it a try.

Bruichladdich 1989

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Bruichladdich 1989, Carmel Wine Cask Finish, 46% ABV

Since my Paul John tasting made me think of Bruichladdich, I thought it would be fun to visit one from my whisky cabinet.  I decided on a limited release Bruichladdich 1989 that was aged 18 years in oak and then finished in a Carmel wine cask.  I know that it will not have a similar peat profile, so it is not really a comparison to my prior tasting.  For that, I would be wiser to turn to one of Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte offerings.  A tasting note for another day.

On the nose, my first impression is dark chocolate.  As I explore it more, there are floral and possibly toffee elements.  On first sip, I get a strong spice and clove rush, with a tease of peat.  In mid-palate I find pepper and heat.  The maturity of this whisky brings a smoothness to the overall impression.  The finish is medium-to-long, and I find a little peat-infused-sweetness, like a saltwater taffy, that emerges as the pepper heat subsides.

I am a bit unsure about this whisky.  To my taste preferences, the balance seems a bit off, where the mix of sweet and spicy somehow translate into dominant clove-like elements.  It does not give a complexity of flavor profiles that I prefer – more one-note that I would expect from a whisky bottled with this age profile.

Paul John Edited

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Paul John Edited, 46% ABV, non-chill filtered

Recently, I have been reading about single malt whisky from places other than Scotland.  The local shop where I buy my whisky has had some single malts from Japan and now has added some from India.  I decided it was time to take a personal look.   After scanning a few reviews, I decided to try one of the single malt whisky offerings from Paul John, a distillery in India.

Among the available choices, I was very interested in tasting Paul John Edited.  As with all of the Paul John offerings, this is a non-age statement single malt whisky.   All of the Paul John single malt whisky is aged a minimum of 4 years.  The Edited is unique in that the whisky is the product of blending Indian barley and Scottish peated barley.  I have read different accounts, but the most consistent summary is that the final barrel aging has about 15% of the whisky from the peated component.   The aging is in American Oak Barrels and the final expression is 46% ABV, non-chill filtered, and without coloring.

It is fun reading about the nuances of aging this whisky at the distillery on the west coast of India.   The heat and humidity variations, compared to those in Scotland, are argued to produce an accelerated aging process, and an increase in the “angel share” of the whisky lost to evaporation annually.

So, at many levels I was curious to explore this particular Paul John offering.

On the nose, I get sweet honey and pineapple mixed well with light peat and charcoal.  On second and third pass, I find a bit of spice added to the balance.  One the palate, I find it to be initially sweet.  I find flavors of spiced apricot and banana with gentle waves of peat following.  The finish is medium-long, smooth, a mix of sweet and spicy mint.  The smoke and peat first mingle with the spice and then persist as the sweet elements fade away.  At the end, there is a bit of peppery heat to remind your tongue of where you have been.

I do like this whisky.  I find it to be very well balanced, particularly for a young whisky.  And I would find it hard to distinguish from some of the single malt scotches that I have sampled.  The qualifier is, of course, that I do not pretend to have the palate nor expertise to detect finer distinctions that others may well find in such a comparison.

With that qualification in mind, in my tasting I find that something about the sweetness intermingled with light peat reminds me of an Islay whisky finished in sherry casks.   While I have not tried a side-by-side sampling, my initial perception is that the profile of Paul John Edited would be comparable to some of the Bruichladdich single malts I have tasted.

When you add a price comparison, the Paul John Edited is a very good buy – particularly if you are looking for a whisky with this sweet and peat profile.  It is certainly not going to be my last Paul John purchase (I do hope my local shop acquires more of their offerings).

Looking forward to 2017

I am sure that I will be adding something to the scotch cabinet in 2017.  But, from the list of whisky on which I have yet to post tasting notes, I should be able to keep myself occupied revisiting some of these:

Aberlour 15
Allt-a-Bhainne 16 Cheiftans
Ardbeg Corryvreckan L11
Ardbeg Ardbog
Ardbeg Perpetuum
Ardbeg Alligator
Auchentoshan Three Wood
Balvenie 12 Double Wood
Balvenie 15
Balvenie 17 Peated Cask
Balvenie 17 Rum Casks
Bowmore 12
Bowmore 15
Bowmore 18
Bruichladdich 10 The Laddie
Bruichladdich 18 1989
Bruichladdich Rocks
Bruichladdich The Organic
Bunnahabhain 12
Caol Ila 12
Caol Ila 14 James MacArthurs
Caol Ila Distillers Edition 1996
Caol Ila Distillers Edition 2000
Caol Ila Stichell Reserve
Clynelish 14
Cragganmore 12
Dalmore 15
Dalwhinnie 15
Glenfarclas 12
Glenfarclas 105
Glenfiddich 12
Glenkinchie 10
Glenmorangie 12 Madeira Wood
Glenmorangie 12 Sherry Wood
Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban
Glenrothes 1991
Highland Park 12
Highland Park 18 1989
Kilchoman Spring 2011 Release
Kilchoman 100% Islay Release
Lagavulin 16
Laphroaig 15
Laphroaig 18
Oban 14
Oban Distillers Edition 1995
Macallan 10
Macallan 12
Macallan 17 Fine Oak
Port Charlotte PC7
Port Charlotte Scottish Barley
Talisker Distillers Edition 1998
Tobermory 19 Alexander Murray
Singe Malt Whisky Society Bottlings
SMWS 29.174 20   (Laphroaig) Shetland ponies at the seaside
SMWS 10.87 10   (Bunnahabhain) Sea breezes over the vernal machair