Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ardbeg - 23 year old - Director's Cut - Douglas Laing - Review

Well here we are, the final update from the Big Peat tweet tasting that has taken over a good chunk of the whisky blogging world over the course of the last week.  As the previous four updates have shown Douglas Laing treated all those taking part to some absolutely stunning drams and the last one was no exception.

For the final sample of the evening we were privileged to have in our hand an unreleased single malt from none other than Ardbeg, arguably the most popular distillery on Islay.

Coming from Douglas Laing's "Director's Cut" range this was a 23 (YES 23!!) year old Ardbeg which was bottled at 53.1% ABV.  Other information provided stated that this was from a single cask which yielded 114 bottles and that the spirit was distilled in 1991 before being bottled in 2014.

Seeing as all whiskies were revealed after we had tasted them we all were absolutely stunned to learn that this was from Ardbeg.  Usually known for it's big peaty notes this Ardbeg just blew us away with it's stunning flavours and deep complexity.  As I nosed the whisky  the peat didn't arrive and as a result it reminded me a lot of the new Balblair '90 vintage which I previously reviewed here.

Onto the notes:

Nose - Tropical beyond belief. Banana, pineapple, coconut deep orange, bubblegum, banana on toast.  Banoffee pie and slight touches of blackcurrant cordial.  With time the age begins to show itself with distinct notes of sweet tobacco and leather dustiness.  Truly amazing.

Palate - Sweet, fruity with huge blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry and in fact all berries seem to be present.  More tropical banana with definitely more of the old dustiness hiding within the whisky.  The strength is perfect, not too much at all and allows the spirit to completely open up in the mouth.

Finish - Long, lingering and completely fantastic!! Old and rich fruit combine with great wood spice complexity.  Totally moreish.  

Overall this is simply out of this world.  In my opinion this is very un-Islay like but still breathtakingly brilliant.  The fruitiness from the spirit has combined so perfectly with the cask to produce one of the finest drams I've ever had the pleasure to sample.  The fact that this comes from Ardbeg just impressed me even more.   It just goes to show that they don't always need to mess around with fancy, sometimes gimmicky, releases and instead they should treat us all to these utterly gorgeous whiskies that are lying dormant around their warehouses.  If they don't then thank goodness we have Douglas Laing who will.

Incidentally, if you wish to get your hands on this whisky you had best save up and keep your eyes on "Master of Malt".  With the price still to be confirmed I can only imagine this will cost a pretty but believe me it's worth it.

As with the last four updates, all relevant links can be found below.

Well that is that.  All five drams sampled and reviewed and I'm sure you can all agree what a set of whiskies they were.  

All I shall finish with is to once again thank Douglas Laing, "Big Peat himself" and of course Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire for this amazing opportunity.  I can highly recommend to any new whisky fans, or experienced connoisseurs, to get themselves onto Twitter and check out @TheWhiskyWire.  The tastings that Steve Rush manages to set up are nothing short of fantastic.  Thanks to social media, @TheWhiskyWire allows us all, experienced or not, to get involved in the world of whisky while making new friends, expanding our knowledge and trying some of the best drams around.  Can't argue with that.

Until next time,



The Whisky Wire -

The Whisky Wire Twitter -

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Big Peat - Batch 59 - Douglas Laing - Review

As promised I'm back again to bring you my review of the penultimate dram of the recent "Big Peat" tweet tasting which was superbly hosted, as always, by @TheWhiskyWire.

For this fourth dram we were treated to the big man's own dram - Big Peat himself.

Bottled at 46% ABV, Douglas Laing's "Big Peat" is a blended Islay malt containing spirit from Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and, amazingly, Port Ellen. It's reputation is further backed up by the fact it picked up the top prize in its category at the World Whisky Awards 2010 and for those anoraks out there this sample was from batch 59.

Nose - Buttered cut grass, smokey lemon, salted caramel and more lemon with it becoming more like zingy cheesecake.  Peat and smoke soon take over with the saltiness from the salted caramel becoming more coastal.  A well rounded nose with great balance of peat and spirit fruitiness.

Palate - Soft sweet smoke, still extremely well balanced and very smooth.  Some darker dried fruits arrive and combine with the citrus notes on the nose to make something similar to the dried fruit citrus mix you would get for making cakes.  The alcohol contained within is not drying in the slightest and given time in the mouth disappears to allow the dram to become very like a fantastic apple juice.

Finish - Clean, short and very refreshing.  Fresh fruit juice ending.

Overall this is everything I expected it to be.  A perfect blend of all that's great about Islay.  The fantastic peat, the fruity spirit and the coastal style that only comes from maturation on the rugged island itself.  An excellent dram and well worth the price which is very reasonable indeed.  One could say a whisky that everyone should own.

Well after the four drams we had sampled I could get a great sense that something very special was about to be unveiled as the grand finale...and how right I was, 23 year old Ardbeg no less and I shall return tomorrow to bring you my notes on this absolutely awesome whisky.

As with all of these updates relevant links can be found below.

Until next time,



Big Peat by Douglas Laing -

The Whisky Wire -

Monday, 26 May 2014

Bowmore - 12 year old - Old Particular - Douglas Laing - Review

Here we are again to follow on from my recent update, where I introduced the "Big Peat" tweet tasting, to take you onto the 3rd of the 5 drams sampled.

For the third dram of the evening we headed north from the south coast to the oldest distillery on the island, Bowmore.

This dram is 12 years old and comes from Douglas Laing's "Old Particular" range.  Bottled at 48.4% ABV, this bottling is from 1 refill hogshead which was filled in 2001 and bottled in 2014.

Onto the notes:

Nose - Mashed banana, fresh, gentle smoke. Smokey bacon which becomes more earthy with smoke becoming mineral peat. Distinct hints of toasted oats and milk chocolate. Very appetising.

Palate - Initial blast of good quality peat. Very contrasting sweet and sour notes flash around the mouth. Milk chocolate raisins, sweet malt and sour lemon sweets.

Finish - Long and juicy yet slightly drying.  Flavours go on and on making this very moreish. The peat remains to the very end.

Overall this is a fantastic malt. Great depth and complexity surround it. The constant peat is welcome as sometimes, in my opinion, Islay whiskies can die away at the very end. The sweet and sour contrast is extremely engaging with perfect levels of both which are highlighted by the great flavours that accompany them. Top notch stuff and highly recommended.

As with all of these updates relevant links can be found below and I'll be back tomorrow with the 4th dram sampled.

Until next time,



Sunday, 25 May 2014

Laphroaig - 8 year old - Provenance - Douglas Laing - Review

To follow on from my update yesterday, where I introduced the recent "Big Peat" tweet tasting, I'm back again to take you onto the 2nd of the 5 drams sampled.

Incidentally if you missed the first update it can be found by clicking here.

For the second dram of the evening we moved to the south of Islay, to the ever popular Laphroaig Distillery. 

This whisky also comes from Douglas Laing's "Provenance" range and is a youthful 8 years old.  Bottled at 46% ABV, this particular bottling is from 1 refill hogshead which was filled in 2005 and bottled in 2014.

Onto the notes:

Nose - Fruity and tropical with sting hints of lemon and banana.  Distinctly young alcohol can be detected along with some brine.  With a touch of water buttered peat arrives along with a very strange sense of newly printed magazines (weird I know, but quite nice).

Palate - Big malty, sweet arrival.  The young alcohol is here in abundance with a hot nip in the mouth.  This is backed up with a good whack of menthol.  Spicy, stewed oranges bring the sensation back to a more fruity feel.  When the water is added the heat is definitely toned down allowing the experience to become sweeter with the smoke and peat making a return.

Finish - This dram leaves a big heat kick in the mouth and is intensely drying.  The final finish is one of pear and apple.

Overall this is a bit of an untamed beast.  Compared to the Caol Ila, in the first update, this seems more suited to the moniker "Young & Feisty".  That said, this whisky definitely has it's good points.  The fruitiness of the spirit is evident and I feel this gives a great insight into a well known distillery.  Distinctly coastal with a great deal of pleasure to be found given time with the dram, along with some water.  Unfortunately, due to the very nature of tweet tastings, time was not something I had.  Hopefully in the future I can obtain another sample of this and discover what hidden treasures are sure to be found within this whisky.

As with all of these updates relevant links can be found below and I'll be back tomorrow with the 3rd little gem.

Until next time,



Saturday, 24 May 2014

Caol Ila - "Young & Feisty" - Provenance - Douglas Laing - Review

On Wednesday 21st May 2014 I was lucky enough to take part in the latest "Tweet Tasting" to be hosted by Steve Rush @  

This latest tasting was provided by none other than the big Islay man himself - "Big Peat" (kindly assisted by Douglas Laing & Co.)  Founded in 1948, Douglas Laing & Co. are "whisky specialists".  As mentioned on their website they aim to steadfastly create a quality, handcrafted selection of the finest blends, with an extensive range of single and ‘vatted’ malts together with some old grains gleaned from their large stocks, gathered and replenished over many decades.

For the night in question they dished up a fantastic assortment of goodies including 5 mystery drams to be sampled on the night.

They also went all out to set the scene by including some "Peat Reek" cones, to be burned whilst sampling, along with a pebble to chill the whisky and some authentic Islay rain water.  Top marks for presentation!!

Now, onto the whisky. 

For starters we headed to the north east of the island of Islay to the Caol Ila distillery.  This was showcased via the "Young & Feisty" Provenance bottling by Douglas Laing & Co.  Bottled at 46% ABV it is a no-age-statement whisky but we were informed that it was distilled in 2009 and bottled in 2012.  Young indeed.  We were also told that it is a bottling from 2 refill hogsheads.

Nose - Light grassy notes arrive first.  Clove rock, lemon, orange and peppery heat.  The peat takes a while to arrive but when it does it's subtle and earthy.  Understandably there's not much wood influence going on here and over time a distinct bacon note comes through.

Palate - Instant peat that turns into sweet malted barley with the peat turning into a light smokey background.  This is not as harsh as the nose, or age, would lead you to assume.  Very smooth for such a young whisky.  Mint, menthol, more orange and more clove.

Finish - In my opinion a touch short but undeniably clean and refreshing with a gentle warming heat.

Overall this is a lovely young whisky that is full of life.  A great start to the evening indeed.

Well after that fine start you can only imagine how excited I was as to what lay ahead in the tasting and over the next 4 nights I shall bring you the next 4 drams with a short introduction to each.  Believe me they're worth hearing about.

Also, for these updates, I shall be providing links to the whiskies and also those who kindly brought them to my door.  A huge thank you to all once again.

Well, until next time,



The Whisky Wire -

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Bowmore - Surf - Review

Building up to "The Whisky Wire's" latest tweet tasting, which focuses solely on the Douglas Laing dram "Big Peat", I decided to delve into a sample from the oldest distillery on Islay.

I am, of course, talking about Bowmore and the sample I'm delving into is their "Surf" release.

Released for the European travel retail market, Bowmore Surf is a no-age-statement bottling, bottled at 40% ABV and is described as 'Bursting with warm smoke, oak and honey, balanced with a hint of zesty lime'.

Having previously tried their "Small Batch" release, which I touched upon in an earlier blog update found here, I had some idea of what to possibly expect and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Nose - Fresh and clean.  The peat is light and mineral in nature.  Lemon zest, light toasted oats and some sweet malted barley.  There is also a distinct perfume note that runs through the nose.  If the name "Surf" was chosen to relate this dram to the freshness of the Islay surf then I think Bowmore have hit the mark with their marketing given the nose on display.  In honesty a touch of water causes the scents to begin to disappear.

Palate - Mineral, almost metallic, arrival.  The peat that was evident on the nose is now a light smoke.  The whisky is light and barely coats the mouth while falling apart rather quickly.  Not much alcoholic peppery heat and is very smooth and drinkable.  What little alcohol there is fades away, with menthol, to leave a light citrus based fruit juice.

Finish - Nothing at all but a very end note of red apple.

All in all this is a lovely wee dram, even though it's obviously young with little complexity, it's extremely refreshing, easy drinking and is a perfect pour for a warm summer evening.  Without doubt there is a lot to be said for Islay whiskies that aren't necessarily loaded to the gills with phenols and I highly recommend you look a bit further than your Ardbegs and Caol Ilas and see what other gems this island has up it's sleeve.

I'll be back with you all soon enough as tomorrow evening (or rather later today) I shall be partaking in the tweet tasting I alluded to at the beginning of this update.  I hope you can all join in, via Twitter, as myself and the other participants work our way through 5 fantastic Islay drams.  You can tune in from 7pm and follow along via the hashtag #BigPeat.

Until next time,



P.S. Huge thanks to Jamie for the sample.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Eddu - "Grey Rock" - French Whisky - Review

I write this latest update after experiencing something truly amazing, for within the last week Belfast, Northern Ireland and Ireland, as a whole, welcomed the Giro d'Italia.

With around 165 countries watching, what is the second biggest cycling race in the world, I don't think I can remember a time when so much focus was on our small patch of the world.  

Anywhere you looked you were surrounded by a sea of pink.  Shops, clothes, painted bikes, ribbons around was everywhere.  In addition, to the colour displayed, the public embraced the 3 days of competition by matching the explosion of colour with an explosion of excitement and encouragement.  

It only takes to watch any of the highlights to see that our response to this mainland Europe event was one of true enjoyment, which leads me onto my latest whisky review.

If only my recent sample of a "mainland Europe whisky event" was able to be enjoyed and embraced with the same vigour that our general public, and myself, gave the Giro.

The whisky I am talking about is of course the one mentioned in the title - Eddu "Grey Rock".

This little known whisky comes from a French distillery named "Distillerie des Menhirs".  The distillery is located in the North West region of Brittany, close to a town called Plomelin.  Founded in 1986 it initially produced other spirits until it released the first of it's Eddu whisky range in 2002.

Using only cereals and products grown in Brittany, during the whisky making process, leads them to include the rather unusual buckwheat and this particular release, the "Grey Rock", contains 30% buckwheat.

The spirit is double distilled and blended before maturing in oak casks in Brittany's mild climate.  It has been bottled at 40% ABV and I've no doubt it has been chill filtered and added with colour.

A visit to the Distillerie des Menhirs' website reveals some interesting tasting notes.  They would suggest that "Eddu "Grey Rock" has woody and broom-flower flavours. Fruity orange and apricot notes, slight mineral sea-breeze aromas with a subtle touch of cinnamon. A balance of flavours and an astounding persistence on the palate."

But they don't stop there, they continue by informing us that sampling Eddu "Grey Rock" neat is "very pleasing on the palate".


There is only one way to advise you all about this liquid that is described as "whisky"....stay well clear!!

I will concede that the nose has a little clean crisp fruit about it but the experience just descends into farce.  For what it's worth, here's my notes:

Nose - Light and a bit plasticky.  Clean, crisp fruit.  Not overly complex and the alcohol can be spotted amongst what little flavours there are.  One particular note is that of dry apple cider.  With a bit of time I picked up a hint, and I stress "a hint", of smoke and dried fruit.

Palate - FLAT!!  Young alcohol spirit that tastes more like vodka than anything I know to be whisky.  With a lot of searching, around my mouth, I can only find some oak wood and peppery heat.

Finish - Now it just turns into to out and out vodka.  Nothing like whisky at all and just feels like it needs a lot of any mixer to make it palatable.  Once the horribleness eases away you can eventually pick up some of the fruit that was on the nose but what's the point of putting yourself through hell just to get a weak, flat, fruit flavour?

I could not have been more happy to finish this glass and can only conclude by quoting a famous D-Ream song - "Things Can Only Get Better".

Until next time (when we will have better whisky to talk about),