Earlier in July, I ‘attended’ with a group of friends the ‘Eat, Sleep, Dram, Repeat’ tour introduced end of last year at Springbank distillery. For almost three days and three nights, you’re well taken care of by the Springbank staff, for visits, tastings, meals and accommodation. And boy, the name of the tour is right. Especially on the dram and repeat parts!Read more
I had the chance to be invited a few days ago to a Turntable Spirits tweet tasting, allowing me to taste the first three blends released by this new blending company. Turntable Spirits is a brand new blending house founded by two brothers, with transparency about the contents of their blends. Brexit made my participation to Tweet Tastings complicated to say the least, but thanks to Steve Rush, I was able to join this one. Before we start, let’s say on the record (laughs appreciated) that I received as part of this Tweet Tasting three generous samples for free, but that doesn’t have an influence on my reviews.Read more
In the east of Scotland’s famous peated whisky-producing region’s lies a distillery that has long been revered for its commitment to crafting exceptional Scotch whisky – Caol Ila. Nestled on the rugged shores of the Isle of Islay near Port Askaig, one of the two ferry terminals bringing thousands of visitors to Islay every year, this iconic distillery has been a beacon of peaty excellence for close to two centuries. Close, but not quite two full centuries have passed since our exploration, as we try a 24-year-old whisky released in 2021 in commemoration of their 175th Anniversary. We’ll compare it to the 22-year-old released for Fèis Ìle Festival in 2019.
Caol Ila 24-year-old 175th Anniversary Review
We start with the 24-year-old released in 2021 to celebrate Caol Ila’s 175th anniversary. The distillery did not disclose much about its conception, as we don’t know what types of casks were used nor if it is a single vintage from the end of the previous millennia. We do know, however, that just 3,000 bottles were released, filled at 52.1% ABV, without colouring nor chill filtration. Its original recommended price was £295, but it was sold out in minutes, and buying a bottle know on the secondary market or shops having kept a few bottles will definitely require fronting £450 or more (€500 or more).
Neat: It starts with a gentle yet robust peat aroma, accompanied by pronounced maritime elements such as iodine, sea breeze, and sea-shell notes. Hints of vanilla extract, cough syrup, a fresh but unlit cigar, and citrus notes reminiscent of freshly squeezed lemon juice are also present.
With water: Adding water to the whisky softens and rounds out the nose. The wood and smoke notes become less dominant, while a saltier element becomes more prominent.
Neat: The palate offers pronounced smokiness and woody notes, with a distinct presence of black pepper and wood. There’s a unique astringency that falls somewhere between woodiness and grapefruit, though it’s a bit challenging to pinpoint precisely. Other flavours include walnut, tobacco, dry peat, salt, and dried algae. Amidst these, tropical fruit notes emerge, primarily dominated by passion fruit with a hint of papaya.
With water: Diluting the whisky reveals flavours of smoked dark chocolate, the creamy essence reminiscent of an espresso, and a touch of olive brine.
The finish is of medium length, characterised by smokiness and a salty undertone, with the lingering presence of that wood-induced astringency.
While undeniably excellent, it falls slightly short of my preference for a fruitier profile. Nevertheless, the peat strikes a harmonious balance between being round and gentle whilst retaining a robust presence without overwhelming the palate. I really liked its saltiness, which gives it an additional appeal.
Caol Ila 22-Year-Old Fèis Ìle 2019 Review
Now, let’s turn our attention to a slightly younger (in age) release, the Caol Ila 22-year-old, which made its debut at Islay’s Fèis Ìle Festival in 2019. This 22-year-old expression packs more punch compared to the 24-year-old, boasting a robust 58.7% ABV. It was matured in Sherry-treated American Oak casks and yielded a limited outturn of 3,000 bottles. As for the 24-year-old, this single malt is not chill-filtered and retains its natural colour. Initially, it was priced at a mere £130, a far cry from the current secondary market prices.
Neat: Surprisingly, the nose presents itself softly, without any perceptible alcohol heat, which might lead one to assume a lower ABV. It features notes of sherry-red fruits and a gentle, warm smokiness from the peat. There are hints of embrocations and a pleasant sweetness akin to vanilla, accompanied by faint herbal nuances, perhaps reminiscent of eucalyptus, with a subtle hint of camphor.
With water: The addition of water brings out the influence of American oak, accentuating the sweetness of vanilla and honey.
Neat: The smokiness takes centre stage here, blending seamlessly with the sherry-induced flavours of red fruits, tobacco, and a touch of wood. The mouthfeel is pleasingly thick and oily. The palate is imbued with coastal elements such as seaweed, sea salt, brine, and iodine, which complement the sherry notes exceptionally well. Additional nuances include soot, leather, smoked bacon, and a subtle herbal undertone.
With water: The introduction of water introduces citrus notes, along with a surprising chili pepperiness that imparts a welcome kick and a new dimension to the whisky’s character, catching us off guard in the most delightful way.
The taste of burnt toast, ash, sea salt, and charred seaweed lingers on the palate for a long finish.
I can’t recall trying a Caol Ila of this age that boasts such remarkable complexity, and it makes me really regret not being able to buy a bottle at the time. Despite being two-years younger than the 175th Anniversary release, it feels more complex, fruitier, with wonderfully integrated smoke and alcohol. A must-have I … unfortunately have not.
Thank you Eraldo! Bottle pictures courtesy of Whiskybase.
Following the Secret Speyside 1994, another bottling from Les Grands Alambics found its way to our glass – an Old Rhosdhu 1990. Back in the ’70s through the ’90s, Old Rhosdhu was distilled using their straight-neck pot stills (for further insights, refer to our review of a Croftengea, also bottled by LGA). It’s worth noting that Rhosdhu presently denotes their single grain whisky range, a departure from its historical identity. However, for now, let’s return to the 1990s with this Old Rhosdhu 1990.Read more
We’ve previously reviewed just a single whisky from the French off-licence and independent bottler, Les Grands Alambics – a delightful Croftengea. It seems fitting to rectify that by exploring more of their offerings. Operating from Chambéry in Savoie, France (situated to the east of Lyon and south of Geneva), their independent bottlings fall into two prominent lines: one inspired by jazz, and another themed around birds. In today’s review, we delve into a 1994 Secret Speyside that Les Grands Alambics bottled as part of their bird series back in 2020.Read more
In the past, we’ve examined a couple of old Canadian Club whiskies. Yet, their age was determined by the distillation year rather than their actual (unknown) aging period. However, in recent times, Canadian Club has been introducing an array of progressively older releases each year. It all began with a 40-year-old age statement in 2017, and from that point on, each annual release would add another year to its age. Today, we’ll be reviewing two expressions, remarkable by their age statement: the Canadian Club 40-year-old and 42-year-old whiskies.
Canadian Club 40-Year-Old Review
I’ve come across two contradictory pieces of information about this whisky and its composition. Hence, I’ll share both versions with you.
The first source says that this Canadian Club is crafted using a unique blend of three different mash bills. The first one is made entirely from 100% corn, while the second is composed of 100% rye. Both of these blends undergo distillation in a continuous still. The third one is created with a mash bill consisting of rye, malted rye, and malted barley. A portion of this blend is distilled using traditional pot stills, while the remainder is processed in a continuous still.
Each spirit is aged using a combination of ex-bourbon casks, American oak casks, and Canadian oak casks. The ex-bourbon barrels typically feature a #3 char, whilst the American oak and Canadian oak casks undergo various levels of toasting, ranging from a deep #4 char to a lighter toast.
Canadian oak casks are particularly noteworthy as they are crafted from locally sourced white oak trees that grow slowly in Canada, resulting in a denser grain. Moreover, these casks contain higher levels of vanillin, which imparts a pronounced vanilla aroma and flavour to the whisky.
The second source, however, says this is pure corn whisky barrelled in 1977.
Which one is the correct one? No idea.
This Canadian Club Chronicles 40-year-old is bottled at a higher strength than the standard, with an ABV of 45%. Information regarding any colour additive or chill filtration, or whether they are absent, remains undisclosed.
Canadian Club 40-year-old was introduced in 2017, and a limited release of 7,000 bottles was made available at a suggested retail price of CAD250 during that time. Sold out as far as I know.
Neat: Initially, the aroma is somewhat reserved. I can, however, detect the familiar sweetness characteristic of the corn whisky found in many Canadian whiskies. Hints of corn syrup, butterscotch, and a touch of spice emerge, along with delightful notes of vanilla and honey. With aeration, subtle traces of yellow fruits like apricot and peach gracefully unveil themselves.
Neat: The arrival is pleasantly sweet with a subtle spiciness, but regrettably, the mouthfeel lacks some fullness. The flavours of caramel persist, ranging from butterscotch to a hint of diluted cough syrup. There are also notes of pepper and cinnamon, accompanied by a touch of zesty lime juice, vanilla, and a delicate woody essence of oak and cedar.
The finish is warm, displaying a spicier profile and a milder sweetness compared to the palate. Surprisingly, it carries more intensity, providing a pleasant kick, and it lingers for a while.
Normally, I’m not drawn to ‘classical’ Canadian whisky, but the extended aging of this CC Chronicles 40yo blend works well, without getting too woody. The aroma on the nose is somewhat traditional and delicate, but the palate presents bolder flavours with a pleasing sense of balance, despite being a touch thin. As for the finish, it builds upon the palate with an added kick, which is truly enjoyable and welcomed.
Canadian Club Chronicles 42-Year-Old Review
Alright, those accustomed to the European or Scottish whisky regulations are in for a surprise, as the rules governing Canadian whisky are, let’s say … unique.
Canadian Club Chronicles Issue 2, known as “The Dock Man,” is a 42-year-old whisky released in 2019. It pays tribute to the dock workers involved in loading sea freighters with crates of Canadian Club Whisky during the American Prohibition, ensuring its delivery to bar owners and consumers. This release follows the initial Canadian Club Chronicles: Issue 1 (Aged 41 Years), which was released in 2018.
At its core, the 42-Year-Old whisky is an aged Corn Whisky, originally barrelled in 1977. Back in 2017, Canadian Club unveiled this 100% Corn distillate as the Canadian Club 40-Year-Old Whisky (so it would mean the second source was the right one?). However, the master blenders couldn’t resist experimenting with this whisky. In 2018, they combined some of this whisky (now a year older) with a small amount of cognac, rye, and sherry, which resulted in the aforementioned Canadian Club Chronicles Issue 1. Then, in 2019, with the whisky now another year older, they blended it with a 16-Year-Old Rye Whisky, a 12-Year-Old pot distilled Rye, and a touch of Brandy to create Canadian Club Chronicles Issue 2 (42 Years Old). Yes, still 42 years old despite some way younger components were added to it.
As a Canadian Whisky, it’s permissible to label the spirit as a 42-Year-Old as long as what is called traditional flavouring spirit (typically flavourful whiskies or wines) represents less than 1/11 of the total whisky volume. It’s safe to assume that most of that 1/11 permitted volume, which could be filled with younger whisky, was used in this blending process. The outcome of this “stretching” of the 42-Year-Old corn spirit will be intriguing from a flavour perspective, but not as intriguing as how they can still say this whisky is still 42 years old.
Anyway. This was bottled once again at 45% ABV, with a recommended retail price of CAD300 at the time. No indication once again regarding colouring and chill filtration or their absence.
Neat: The impression leans slightly towards bourbon. Notes of wood, vanilla, and cinnamon take centre stage, accompanied by subtle hints of light orange marmalade and a touch of butterscotch. In the background, there are aromas reminiscent of dusty books. As it opens up, hints of marzipan and roasted almonds emerge.
Neat: Similar to the 40-year-old expression, but with a noticeable increase in woody notes and bolder flavours. There’s a stronger presence of pepper, intensified woodiness, and a richer caramel profile, showcasing enhanced depth. The mouthfeel is creamy and satisfyingly full-bodied, in stark contrast to the slightly thinner texture found in the 40-year-old variant.
The finish offers a combination of caramel, vanilla, wood, and spices, with a gentle warmth in the throat.
It feels quite a progression compared to the 40-year-old. Before knowing about how this ‘42-year-old’ was made, I was surprised as I didn’t expect two additional years would have changed it that much for the better. However, knowing now about the tricks used covered by the very permissive Canadian whisky rules regarding age statement, I better understand why it’s more lively and full bodied. In the end, what’s important to remember is despite all the witchcraft used by the blenders, this is a good whisky.
Thank you very much, Tyrone!
The month of May brings with it a vibrant whisky festival season, and the SMWS (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) takes advantage of this occasion by releasing special small batches specifically crafted for these festivals. These unique releases feature larger quantities compared to their usual single casks. To ensure that a multitude of whisky enthusiasts can savour these expressions, the SMWS organises a virtual whisky tasting event. They offer a festival pack containing five samples, which participants can enjoy alongside SMWS ambassadors during an online session. Now, let’s explore the selection of five drams that the SMWS has chosen for their May 2023 Virtual Festival.Read more
Kirin Fuji Single Blended is a Japanese whisky made by the Kirin Fuji Gotemba distillery. Positioned at an elevation of 620 metres, this distillery is nestled in the town of Gotemba, at the base of Mount Fuji. Kirin Fuji is made utilising 100% single malt and single grain sourced exclusively from the distillery (so this is a genuine Japanese whisky). The single malts, distilled using pot stills, and the single grains, distilled using Doubler, Batch Kettle, and Column stills, are subsequently aged in American oak casks. Single blends, a rare category encompassing blends that exclusively feature malt and grain derived from a singular distillery, are a unique find in the world of whiskies. Consequently, it is worth exploring this Fuji Single Blended Japanese Whisky.Read more
We previously provided a technical introduction to Loch Lomond distillery while reviewing a superb Croftengea whisky from Les Grands Alambics, a French bottler and shop. As mentioned earlier, Loch Lomond is a remarkably versatile distillery employing various types of stills, including pot stills, straight-neck “Lomond” stills, and both short and tall column stills. This diverse array of stills enables them to produce a wide range of malt and grain whisky profiles, providing Master Blender Michael Henry with an extensive palette to work with. While our exploration of Loch Lomond single malts may be limited to affordable options, we shall proceed with a vertical tasting of Henry’s creations nonetheless.Read more
As you may be aware, I have been ‘working’ alongside Dingle for a span of two years during their participation in Whisky Live Paris. By ‘working’, I mean engaging in tasks such as pouring whiskey, introducing various whiskies and the distillery to French-speaking visitors. However, my passion for whiskey goes beyond the surface, and I always strive to expand my knowledge. This led me to complete the first two levels of the WSET in Spirits. Yet, my thirst for knowledge persisted. Consequently, I arranged to spend an entire week at Dingle Distillery, immersing myself in nearly all aspects of distillery operations and warehouse duties. This behind-the-scenes adventure allowed me to witness and partake in activities that are not typically encountered during a standard distillery tour. Allow me to be your guide as I share this extraordinary experience with you.Read more