Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Feis Ile 2015

I am just back from my first Feis Ile.



You can skip to the bottom for a review of the 2 rarest Feis Ile bottlings

I have been to Islay a few times before, and I must admit that after a few days I usually get cabin fever. This year I decided to go to Islay for twice the length of time I usually stayed there. So I was a bit worried

And this time I also didn't stay in one of the major urban hubs as I usually do. Before I stayed in Port Charlotte, Bowmore or Port Ellen

This time I stayed in a cottage 2 miles outside Port Ellen

But it's hard to get cabin fever on Islay during Feis Ile. It's a bit more crowded than usual. The Island is loaded with happy whiskyentusiast. This is what makes the festival what it is.

It's an 8 days festival. Every distillery has their own "Open Day". This also includes Jura who shares its day with Kilchoman.

The biggest problem with Feis Ile is accomodation and event tickets in my opinion. Accomodation must usually be sorted a year in advance, if not earlier if you want a specific place. Event tickets sell out too fast online, so if you don't sit in front of a PC 24-7 you won't get any. Not for the good events. The Islay distilleries should look to Campbeltown to see how this is done. They just set up more similar events when things sell out. On Islay you need to be fast, lucky or know someone.

The different Open Days are somewhat similar . There's a bit of music, quite a bit of whisky, the same seafood shack, and a lot of queues. Especially for bottlings.

I managed to get to Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Ardbeg Open Days. I visited Bunnahabhain and Jura outside the open days and also had a tour at Port Ellen maltings.

Lagavulin Warehouse tour


I did the Lagavulin Warehouse tour twice. It's one of the best distillery events to do, and you can do it outside the festival as well. This is a must for all whiskyfans. Iain McArthur does a cracking job presenting a handful cask samples

Here is my short review of the five Open Days

Lagavulin
Free whisky, Lagavulin 16yo and Lagavulin DE to be tried. A fun blind tasting competion where you had to guess age on three cask samples as well. There was a long queue for buying bottles and no queue for being served whisky, so there is no price guessing where I was :-)

Caol Ila
Similar style as Lagavulin.Well organised. Big thumbs up to Diageo for their two open days

Laphroaig
Another great event. They hosted a big array of "Pick and Mix" tastings lasting twenty minutes. There was tickets enough, as far as I could see. I came down late and still got a ticket for one of the ones I wanted. It was three whiskies with the theme 2015. It was the Cairdeas 2015, The new 15yo and the upcoming 21yo. Three magnificient whiskies and that's for just a tenner. I should have come earlier

Ardbeg.
Many small fun events all over the distillery. People were throwing sheep, dipping their hand in a barrel ofsheep shit for a lottery to aee what they could find. Vaporized whisky, Ardbeg museum, food stalls, music, several themed bars and loads of Ardbeg whisky

Bruichladdich
Very crowded, You paid to get in. 5£, but that entitled you to one free dram whisky. Weather was not the best, but not too bad either. This was my least favourite event, probably because I had to drive home...

Jura
I went to their events the day before the open day. Great they decided to offer events on other days so it was possible to get in and do something there. I did a boat trip where we tried a few of the current Jura's, and a beer/whisky tasting that was great fun. I was especially fond of the Jura Tastival beer made by Drygate. Lucky to taste that one, only 500 bottles. Jura also had a bar where you could taste some of their whiskies, including their festival bottling

Bunnahabhain
I did a warehouse tour outside their festival, but there was a chance to get some BYO whisky from their new warehouse setup and that was great whisky. 3 casks to choose from, with 20cl bottlings

I think most distilleries sold one or more special festival bottlings. Some were cheap, some where expensive, Some were good, some were not. My favourites were the Laphroaig Cairdeas and the Laphroaig 15yo. The latter isn't really a Feis Ile bottling, but a special one-off to celebrate Laphroaig 200 years 1815-2015. The Cairdeas is made 100% from floor malted barley and they didn't use their big spirit still in the production but a balanced distillation of their other 6 stills. That means they paired the three wash stills with the three spirit stills.

I wasn't a big fan of Ardbeg Perpetuum which I found added nothing to their current lineup and I didn't like the Bruichladdich Open Day bottling. The Caol Ila and Lagavulin was basically their DE versions aged for about 7-8 more years in inactive (their own words) Puncheons and were good drams. I also had a wee sip of the Bowmore Virgin Oak, which I really liked, The Jura tastival was also a good one. Especially if you like Jura whisky in general and the style of Whyte and Mackay malt whiskies.

The worst thing on Islay is probably the lack of good beer. I am not a big fan of Islay Ales and not much exciting goes on beer wise on the island otherwise. At Ardbeg they had Beck's and Miller's, it's a bit like if the Brewdog bars only sold Bell's in their pubs



Highlight was, as mentioned above, the beer tasting at Jura, and then cleaning out the Coop's for good beers. Which I wasn't the only one doing. The good shelves were usually empty or almost empty at most times. Whiskyentusiasts love their good beer for sure. Luckily we stocked up on good beers at Loch Fyne Ales on the way over, but that stock dissapeared to fast really

The distilleries wasn't the only ones bottling special Feis Ile bottling. SMWS and Douglas Laing both had special Feis Ile bottling out

1. SMWS 3.243
Bowmore 17yo 57.1%
Dark, Smouldering Flamenco Gypsy

Photo by J. Hamilton

Bowmore's are hit and miss for me. The further away from the eigthies they are distilled the bigger chance for a hit. This was distilled 25 Spetember 1997 and bottled April 2015. This whisky is warm, gentle, sherried, quite peaty, floral and very drinkable. There is a hint of lavenders growing on a bed of newly molten lava in there. It has a major sherry influence, licorise especially, and a long finish

Rating 88/100

2. Old Particular Laphroaig
Feis Ile 2015 14yo 48.4%
Douglas Laing

Photo stolen from DL facebook page

As expected for a Laphroaig this punches a lot of peat. This is bottled at around the same strength as Ardbeg Perpetuum. It has a little more oomph though. It resulsts in a tender and flavourful whisky. Beneath the peat, there is a lot of wood-cinnamon like spices, some citrus and vanilla. Easy drinking peated whisky, quite complex with a lot of flavours and with a medium-long vanilla-peaty finish

Rating 88/100

I would like to thank the deerhunter(s) for the samples

But the best thing at Feis Ile is all the whiskyentusiast present. They really makes this festival great. I will say I LOVE you all for making this a great week and for all the good whisky you decided to share with me

A sunny day at Caol Ila









Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Benromach 10 100 proof versus Benromach 10 43%

Benromach 10 43%




The nose is sweet, slightly peaty, slight old school rubber, the palate is rich and sweet, the rubber is more in the texture than in the taste.Quite oily, the sweetness could be from port casks.

A nice dram, that has a lot to offer compared to other 10 and 12 year old standard bottlings from around Scotland

Score 86/100

Benromach 10 100 proof




This is 100 british proof, so 57.1%

A bit similar to the 43%, but a lot drier. I like the fact that it's not as sweet as the 43%. The peat, and the rubber texture is still there, but not as much as in the 43%. This whisky is very old school and reminds me of what I drank and tasted when i started up with whisky. Basically sweet, more sherryish than port, hint of peat and the finish is long, sweet and old school

This weirdly reminds me of sixities dumpy Cadenhead and Bowmore, I bet if you leave this in the bottle for 30 years you get something very special

Score 89/100

Drinking these gave me the idea that the new Benromach will be magnificient when it reaches 15-18 years. Both of these are tasty complex whiskies, and aimed more for the experienced demanding entusiasts than the casual drinker. The earthy, oily and sweet notes reminds me of old school whisky




Monday, April 6, 2015

Danish Whisky Blog Awards 2014

Distillery of the Year

Deanston


Bung hole sniffer spotted at Deanston


The last 3 or 4 times I have visited Scotland, Deanston Distillery has been the most popular distillery in my groups when it comes to amount of bottles purchased. It's a distillery not on the radar of most entusiasts and that's a shame

The distillery itself is very interesting to visit as it is quite different to other distilleries. The buildings used to host a cotton mill, but was rebuilt into a distillery in 1966. The distillery also produces it's own power. It's a waterturbine where water from the river Teith is giving it's powerful contribution to the whisky lovers

Beside the interesting tour, the distillery buildings, which may not qualify as the most pretty in Scotland is situated in a very beautiful spot on the river bank. They do have bottle your own whisky available and usually there is a special bottling available as well if you are lucky. It may be a festival bottling or the latest batch of Deanston Toasted Oak. Especially the Toasted Oak has been a major hit in our group. Beide a range of tours, there is a shop and nice cafe. The only thing I miss on the tour is the guide opening a cask and giving us a wee taster

Independent Bottler of the Year

Smooth Ambler


Smooth Ambler is a distillery in east West Virginia. It is very limited what they have bottled from their own production still. When it comes to whisky that is. But until they are having aged stock from their own distillery they have set up a very succesful independent bottling range called Smooth Ambler Old Scout. Beside being totally open about this as sourced whisky (which not everyone sourcing whisky in the states is) they also manage to bottle a range of excellent and well vatted bourbon and ryes. And these are available in Denmark as well. The whisky is sourced from the distillery in Indiana that someone need to name. But it is usually referred to as MGP or LDI. Some of the whisky is also originating from Four Roses, probably barrels left by Seagram's in Indiana. This is the whisky of today that people will regret not have bought in five years. Unless you bought some off course

Bottling of the Year

SMWS 39.97 
23yo distilled 1990 45.7%

My whisky of the year. It has to be something good, I purchased a bottle and it have to be bottled in 2014 (or late 2013). At least it has to be something I got my hands on in 2014.

This is from Linkwood

The nose is delicate and fruity. I am talking apple and pears here. It's one of those whiskies where you can nose and dream away forever. The whisky itself is quite woody, maybe too much for some but I like this profile. It's a little bit weird whisky, it's delicate on the first taste but woody on the finish.  The whisky changes like a snap when I drink it. 

Easydrinking, complex, and my impression from when I first tasted this, was that this tasted like good whisky used to taste before the (whisky)world went crazy.. This has been the highest scoring whisky from all over blind tasting runs we have done (and that made it to a blog post, not all did)

Score 90/100





Tasting of the year

Cadenhead tasting at the Malts of Campbeltown whiskyfestival.
With Mark Watt and Grant Macpherson

In 2014 I went to the festival in Campbeltown. That was a very positive surprise. There were tours, tasting and events covering all three Campbeltown distilleries and also tasting and warehouse-tours with Cadenheads. My two favourite tastings were the Cadenheads warehouse tasting and the Cadenhead tasting. The Cadenhead tasting was presented by Grant Macpherson and Mark Watt in a very good shape. The first dram up was a blind, which caught quite a few. It was the delicious bourbon from Heaven Hill. Aged for 17 years and in Scotland since 2015. It was a cask sample but it was bottled just a couple of months later. In the tasting were a range of Cadenhead bottlings, including the very good Tomatin 1979 35yo. The highlight was a cask of 25yo Rosebank, rolled into the room (It was held in the maltings room) and sampled straight from the cask. And anyone who wished could purchase a bottle, which was drawn with a valinch straight into a your bottle on the spot. Tastings like this, or a festival like this is what it still makes it worth for me coming back to Scotland

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Diageo Lost the Tennessee Whisky War but wins in Kentucky

and bourbon can now be made from re-used barrels:

On May 13, 2013, Tennessee governor Bill Haslam signed House Bill 1084, requiring the Lincoln County process (which involves maple charcoal filtering) to be used for products produced in the state labeling themselves as "Tennessee Whiskey", along with the existing requirements for bourbon.
Diageo wanted to change these definition of Tennessee Whisky but failed. Instead they managed to change the definition of bourbon. I'll clarify below




Bill Haslam


The categorization of Tennessee Whiskey was orchestrated more or less 100% by Brown-Forman, who owns Jack Daniels Distillery, which by far is the biggest distillery in Tennessee, so big that bourbon expert Chuck Cowdery has named it "The Elephant in the Room". 

So far this law has been opposed by Diageo, which at first sight seems very odd. Diageo owns the 2nd traditional distillery in Tennessee, George Dickel. George Dickel and Jack Daniels are the two distilleries that historically has produced bourbon in Tennessee with the added twist of the Lincoln County Process, which is a filtering process prior to aging the whisky. Defining Tennessee whiskey  with the above requirements is a logical step to ensure the definition of whiskey that both Jack Daniels and George Dickel produces as the style of Tennessee Whisky. With several small distilleries opening in Tennessee, they were, before this law was enforced, able to make any style of whiskey and labeling it Tennessee Whisky. Not anymore (with one exception, Prichard's, but that's another story) 

So why is Diageo (George Dickel) opposed to this. Not because they wan't to alter the production methods of George Dickel. It's because they wan't to limit the growth of Jack Daniels

Brown-Formans Jack Daniels and Diageo's Johnnie Walker (a scotch whiskey) are the two leading whisky brands in the world when it comes to sales. The sales of Dickel is maybe 1% of that of Jack Daniels, so that is not a very important brand for Diageo saleswise. It may be strategically, but not when it comes to the economy of Diageo. If Diageo can manage undermine the "Tennessee Whiskey" style, they can get hit in on one of their biggest competitors. Because whisky american style is taking market shares from Diageo these days

Diageo ofcourse claims something else, as Chuck Cowdery writes in his blog:

"Diageo firmly believes a single company should not be able to unilaterally determine the definition of an entire category. At its base, it is anti-competitive and protectionist. Diageo supports a return to the flexibility that Tennessee whisky distillers have had for the past 125 years, up until last year when Brown-Forman convinced the Tennessee legislature to define Tennessee whiskey as the Jack Daniel’s recipe."

Diageo has mainly tried to change the aging definitions of Tennessee Whisky. They want to remove the part that states the whiskey has to be aged in NEW charred oak barrels and that it has to be aged in Tennessee

But with no luck so far. Instead Diageo managed to get in on Brown-Forman another way.

On a federal level, what constitutes Tennessee whisky is legally established under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and at least one other international trade agreement that require that Tennessee whiskey be "a straight Bourbon Whisky authorized to be produced only in the State of Tennessee". Canadian food and drug laws state that Tennessee whiskey must be "a straight Bourbon whisky produced in the State of Tennessee".

Bourbon is defined by The Federal Standards of Identify for Distilled Spirits 27 CF§5.22

By changing the requirement in §5.22 (b)(1)(i) that bourbon must be stored in "new charred oak containers" to "new or refill charred oak containers" The Federal Standards of Identify for Distilled Spirits has changed the way bourbon (and with that, Tennessee whiskey) is produced 

Personally I think this is grand work by Diageos lobbyists in Washington. Undermining the definition of the style of whiskey your biggest competitors produce, is going to make it possible for the big brand of Diageo, Johnnie Walker, to stop it's current recession and go into growth again. And that will be on expense of american whiskies, which hasn't been in recession like Johnnie Walker, but on a steady growth 

But I don't think this is good for the quality of bourbon we see. This is actually a sad day for bourbon fans. I do hope as many producers as possible will stick to the old definitions

Another thing that will backfire is the lack of used casks, which is allready in higher demand than supplies. The main part of scottish whiskeys is aging in ex-bourbon. I am pretty sure this will begin an era where scotch is aged in new wood and bourbon in refill casks!

I am not sure how this affect the bourbon produced in Japan and China




Monday, March 16, 2015

10 drams to try at the danish whisky fair

Today the official tasting programme of the danish whisky fair went online.

The danish whisky fair is happening March 28 2015 in Fredericia.

Beside Whisky, there will be several exhibitors with rums and a few with craft beer

http://www.whisky.dk/images/A5_magasin_2015.pdf

(The catalogue is in danish, but the whiskylist should be easy to understand for everybody)

For now I will only consider the whisky:

There are many very interesting stands. What about trying danish whisky from Braunstein, Stauning and Fary Lochan ?

Or try whisky bottled by Jack Wieber, one of my all-time favourite independent bottlers on the Whisky2U stand. Another favourite bottler of mine is Creative Whisky, which can be found at the DMWA stand. But there is just so many good bottlers present, which you will see if you look through the catalogue-pdf linked above

There will be a few Denmark-exclusive casks bottlings to buy and taste. FC Whisky has three bottlings in the new Adelphi Club Denmark series and Whiskymessen has a 13yo Craigellachie by Jack Wieber

13yo Craigellachie

A PC from Adelphi to Denmark


As a visitor you will have to spend some time selecting which drams to taste.

Here are my 10 recommendations of things to taste. It's a litle mix of favourite distilleries of mine, things I myself would like to taste and things you might not have considered to taste yourself.

1. Middleton Very Rare 40% at Pernod Ricard 

I would start here. Irish Whisky is delicate, 40% whisky is delicate, Old whisky is delicate. Better try this irish gem before you have too much Laphroaig

2 An Cnoc 35yo 44.3% at Vinspecialisten

An Cnoc is one of those hidden gem. The distillery is located on the border between Speyside and East Highland. I reckon this will be another delicate dram and should be had early. And it's not everyday you can find an affordable 35yo official bottling whisky


3. Arran 18yo 46% at TØNDEN



This whisky actually has world premier TODAY. Usually new releases are very slow coming to Denmark so it's very nice to something this recent here. This is oldest Arran released by The Arran Distillery. And When you are at this, why not go to the Juul's Engros stand and try another recent release, the Benromach 100 proof 10yo (57.1%)

4. SMWS 25.68 Vichy Kisses 57.8%

SMWS has an almost endless list of whiskies to try. And here is a chance to taste a whisky from the closed destillery in Falkirk. Experts still argue if it was triple or 2½ times distilled.

5. Writer's Tears Pot Still Cask Strength 53.0% at Interbrands

Irish Whisky at full  strenght. Used to be rare as a hens teeth. There you go

6. Caperdonich Raw Cask 50.2% Blackadder at FC Whisky

Caperdonich is my favourite scottish distillery. Blackadder is a great bottler. This has a chance of being good. I really hope so

And now we are here at FC whisky it's time to turn to my peated whisky recommendation

7. Kornog (Glann Ar Mor) PX Sherry at FC Whisky 46%

From the rather unknown Kornog Distillery in Brittany. Whisky made as whisky was made 100 years ago. Try it head to head with the Oloroso version. 

8. Smooth Ambler Old Scout 10yo 49.9% at Sprit & Co.

Now I have moved to Bourbon

Smooth Ambler is a rather new micro distillery in West Virginia. While their own stuff matures they bottle sourced whisky under the Old Scout label. Sourced from MGP in Indiana they say. Maybe it's Four Roses I say

And when we are at Bourbon, why not come to say hello to me for the next dram

9. Four Roses Single Barrel 50% at whisky.dk

I will be pouring bourbon for whisky.dk at their bourbon bar. Here is a chance to taste my favourite destillery, Four Roses. The regular 50% single barrel is one of the best value for money whiskies out there. And if you want to step up there will be other and older Four Roses to try

And after bourbon I think it will be suitable to finish this set with a rye whisky

10. Millstone rye 100 50% at Juul's Engros

If you like rye whisky this is a must. 100 month old. 100% rye mash and 100 american proof

The danish whisky fair usually have between 2000 and 3000 visitors.

Their website is whiskymessen.dk











Sunday, March 8, 2015

SMWS Causal Day March 7th 2015

As often before, we gathered a group of people to go through a line up of new releases from SMWS. With one guest whisky. The recent bourbon release B3.1, which is the first bourbon release from SMWS I had a chance to taste. Former bourbon releases are rare as a hens teeth and I have never seen one

This time we were 7 whisky entusiasts attending. The event was set in Aarhus' best whiskybar, Highlanders Bar (which also carries a good selection of beers, both draft and bottle. And the best pub food in Aarhus)

All whiskies were tasted blind. And we used the common 100 point scale as a reference.
The pace was rather speedy and we shared 6cl of each amongst us. Big thanks to Thomas Korsgaard, SMWS brand ambassador to help set this up.

Glasses are poured. Let's go !


Here are the groups verdict with my personal score in green:

1. Longmorn 24yo 7.113 51.7% Dist. 11/12-1989 Score 87.3 (86)
2. Aultmore 29yo  73.44 53.7% Dist. 21/4-1982 Score 86.1 (86)
3. Strathclyde G10.8 G10.8 58.0% Dist. 23/11-1977 Score 85.6 (87)
4. Glen Grant 25yo 9.84 55.6% Dist. 18/4-1988 Score 85.1 (86)
5./6. Balmenach 12yo 48.54 57.4% Dist. 1/11-2001 Score 84.9 (82)
5./6. Cragganmore 29yo 37.61 51.2% Dist 24/4-1985 Score 84.9 (85)
7. Cragganmore 29yo 37.60 52.4% Dist 24/4-1985 Score 84.0 (86)
8./9. Glen Moray 20yo 35.133 55.8% Dist 11/11-1994 Score 83.3 (86)
8./9. Glen Elgin 29yo 85.28 44.1% Dist 2/5-1985 Score 83.3 (86)
10. Cambus 25yo G8.5 59.6% Dist 12/6-1989 Score 83.0 (85)
11./12. Caol Ila 14yo 52.221 65.5% Dist 16/3-2000 Score 82.3 (81)
11./12. Girvan 22yo G7.9 57.3% Dist 21/4-1982 Score 82.3 (78)
13. Bowmore 26yo 3.230 50.5% Dist 11/4-1988 Score 81.9 (80)
14. Glen Grant 25yo 9.88 55.3% Dist 18/4-1988 Score 81.1 (79)
15. Bowmore 17yo 3.237 57.2% Dist 25/9-1997 Score 81.0 (72)
16. Rock Town 3yo B3.1 53.9% Dist  15/7-2011 Score 79.9 (74)
17. Bowmore 29yo 3.235 50.9% Dist 11/4-1988 Score 78.7 (65)

Here is a few of my comments and observations:

Whisky produced by Chivas did very well taking 1st., 3rd. and 4th places with their 4 "entrants" (Glen Grant used to be owned by Chivas before 2006)

I was very dissapointed with the bourbon. Being the bourbon drinker in the group I scored it considerable lower than the other 6. To me this tasted like newmake and was no way ready to be bottled. It didn't taste like bourbon at all. As SMWS never bottles bourbon I see this as a major FAIL

I didn't like the Bowmores. All tainted with FWP and when I got the 3rd one, it was just too much. Couldn't drink it. My tasting note was YUK. I do have hopes for Bowmore distilled after the bad period in the eighties, but the 1997 was a dissapointment as well.

Half the whiskies where distilled in April. This was mainly due to all three sets of sister casks were from April.

Only 5 whiskies managed not to get a score in 70's (or lower) from at least one in the panel. They were the top 4 whiskies on the list above and the Balmenach. The whisky that shared the 5/6 place with the Balmenach was 37.61, a 29yo Cragganmore. It was the whisky that had the biggest difference between the lowest (76) and 2nd lowest score (85). Without that odd score this Cragganmore would have been in 2nd place.

The winner had a solid set of scores of 86-86-86-87-88-88-90 (only 90's score of the day)

My personal favourite, Strathclyde G10.8 happens to be distilled in my favourite city in Scotland :-)
It was a delicious fullbodies grain with loads of butterscotch.

If you want to read about earlier SMWS tasting they can be found under the SMWS label 








Sunday, March 1, 2015

Ardbeg Uigeadail Vertical 2004-2014

Lately there has been a lot of online discussions about the pro's and cons of NAS whisky

NAS stands for "No Age Statement". This is simply a catagory of whisky where the bottle doesn't bear any clue of the age of the whisky. There is a lot of NAS whisky out there and the biggest sellers in the world are NAS whiskies, Cheap blends, Johnny Walker Red, Jack Daniels, Jim Beam White. It's not a new thing. And due to various labeling and production regulations, we know that Johnny Walker is at least 3 years old and that Jim Bema White is at least 4 years old

But this is not really the whisky people are referring to when discussing NAS whisky. It's usually when NAS whisky is replacing whisky with an age statement. The producers argument for bottling whisky with No Age Statement is that whisky should be bottled when it's ready, not when it passes a more or less random selected age mileage. If you go into a typical warehouse and open two casks of whisky, both distilled at the same, and lets say 8 years old, it's not uncommon to find that one is very good and perfectly ready for bottling and the other is not ready at all and do need more years in the warehouse.

But if the bottle line up of that distillery is that this whisky has to be at least 12 years old, that good cask can't be bottled as part of the standard lineup. It doesn't meet the age requirement yet.

So the producers say: Lets drop the age statement on the bottle and bottle the whisky when it's ready. Let's not be a slave of the age requirement. Let's just bottle the whisky when it's good.

Unfortunately, consumers say, reality is something else. The last few years we have seen a whisky shortage. A whisky shortage is when demand is higher than the supply. Whisky is popular. There is a whisky shortage both for single malts and bourbons. There is a few shortcuts the producers can take to meet the demand. One is to bottle at a lower alcohol strength. If you add more water to your whisky, you can produce more bottles. Another one is to skip the age statement. By bottling a whisky at a younger age, you shorten the production time. This will initially give you quite a larger volume to pick casks from, but also as the bottling catch up with the now extended stock there will be a slight increase in production from the fact that whisky in the cask looses 2% volume on average every year. So if you bottle whisky at 10 years instead of 12 you will eventually, apart from a shorter production time, also have around 4% more whisky to put in bottles.

Most entusiasts are not very happy with this trend. Myself included. When you go into a duty free whisky store you see a lot of NAS 40% whisky. For Scotland particular, younger whisky has a higher alcohol percent than older whisky when resting in the cask. As whisky matures in a cask the alcohol percentage slowly goes down. In short this means that if you buy a 6 year old whisky at 40% and a 15 year old whisky at 40% you can be pretty sure that more water has been added to the 6yo to get it down to 40% than what was needed for diluting the 15yo casks. So young 40% whisky is really the last kind of whisky you wan't to buy. It contains a lot of water

I like age statement for standard products. It gives a tiny little guarentee of what goes into the bottle.

Some of these you can drink when pregnant, some not


So we set up this blind tasting of one of the most popular NAS bottlings out there. Ardbeg Uigeadail.

It's Ardbeg. It's bottles at 54.2%. It, unlike most other Ardbegs, have a heavy sherry part in the vatting. It's the essential peat and sherry combo in many peoples opinion. Peat and sherry doesn't always mix very well, but this bottling has been popular for over a decade now.

We managed to gather 6 bottlings. 5 of them was the with old bottlecodes

L4 315, L6 109, L7 325, L9 327, L10 032

L7 325 simply means it was bottled on the 325th day of 2007

The 6th bottling was a very new bottling from the new bottle facility, and it had a bottle code like this L59501 29072014. I interpret this as bottled 29th July 2014

So we had a selection of Uigedails from 2004 to 2014. The earliest bottling of Uigedail I know of, was bottled in 2003, L3 282 so I think we covered the era of Uigeadail quite well.

So how did we set this up?. We tried to set this up as a blind tasting. And we set two aims for ourselves.

1. Could we identify the L7 325, which apperently should be a rather good one. Check out that link to The Ardbeg Project. A couple of years ago I tasted this at a another vertical and back then I picked it out as outstanding compared to other batches. Locating a bottle of this at one of my friends was what triggered organising this tasting.

2. Could we identify the L4315. Of the other 5 batches 3 was opened on the day, 1 a couple of days before and the 5th 3 weeks prior. The L4315 had been open for years. Untouched for years and with just around a 10cl dreg in the bottle we wondered if this could affected the whisky enough to be pinpointed amongst 5 others recently opened bottles

Fast answers: We couldn't identify the L4 315. It was easy to identify the L7 325. The cork broke and even though I tried to clean the whisky from small bits of corks it was identfiied by one of the participants.

I was pouring the whiskies and the other 3 shuffling them, I also knew which was the L7 325. I didn't need the cork bits to reveal that. It was considerable darker than the other 5.

2014 versus L7325

Here are my verdicts of the 6 bottlings. They were tasted blind. I knew which was L7325 though

L4 315.
Slight sourness on the nose. Parmesan and babypuke is what people often refer to when we meet this in whisky. It was also sulphured. The sulphurness carried over into the palate. As I am extra sensitive to sulphur, it meant I rated this lowest. This is a good example of a whisky that is not bad, but just get a low rating from me, cause I don't like it and can't cope with sulphur. Score 78

L6109
This had a very faint sourness as well on the nose. But the palate was fine. One of the particiapants really disliked this one, while us other three liked it. The nose couldn't drag it down a lot so Score 86

L7 325
We knew what is was. But it was easy no brainer to pick it out. A lot darker. With a hint of old sherried Ardbeg. A great whisky. My guess is that some 70's Ardbeg went into this one  Score 90

L9327
My favourite outside the L7 325. Just as a good Uigeadail should be with no flaws Score 87
L10032
Very well balanced and with substantial less alcohol burn than the other 5. I thought this was one that had been opened for years. Score 86½

L5950129072014
Not very good. The nose was grainy, new boiled pasta and newmakeish. Not a havy sherry influence either. What a dissapoint. The L4315 got a low rating cause I didn't like it. This got a low rating cause it was bad whisky. Score 79. In hindsight today I feel I should have score it even lower

The whisky was served in this order: 2004-2014-2010-2007-2006-2009

When the whiskies were revealed even the atheists amongst us were paraying "Let #2 not be my bottle"

I couldn't help thinking that the reason the 2014 bottling was so bad was becasue Ardbeg Uigeadail is a NAS whisky. For this particular batch they seem to have used a lot younger whisky. I don't know for sure. Maybe the casks used were exactly the same age as the casks used for other ones. Maybe the whisky was just not very good. We don't know. But if I bought this bottle I would complain to the shop, and if I had this bottle in my shop I would complain to my importer

No matter if we averagied our scores or averaged our individual rankings we ended up ranking the 6 Uigeadails like this

2007-2009-2010-2006-2004-2014

3 out 4 had the L7325 as favourite. 4th participant had the L9 327 as favourite with L7 325 on the 2nd place.


If you wan't to read more about Ardbeg batches and Ardbeg bottle codes, I recommend The Ardbeg Project