Posted on December 23, 2020by Evan
The End Is Nigh! - on the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. When we pull out this bottle we will have opened all twenty-four panels on the front of the Whisky Calendar box, and we will only have the special bottle up top to open tomorrow. What do we have to look forward to today, so close to the holiest of days when we crack into that secret and special SMWS bottle? For Day twenty-four we have the Loch Lomond 12 Year Old!
The Loch Lomond 12 Year comes to us from Loch Lomond Distillery. Founded in 1965, Loch Lomond is a bizarre operation that is capable of making multiple different styles of spirit all under one roof. The distillery is capable of producing Single Malt, Single Grain, and Blended Whisky entirely at one site. It can and does do this, and it also makes Single Malt in and a wide variety of styles, including both peated and unpeated types.
There are a total of thirteen stills within the Loch Lomond Distillery, however, they are definitely not all the same. Included in this number are your typical swan-neck style pot stills: the type you see at most Scottish distilleries that make single malt whisky. Beyond that though, things get weird. There are also three pairs of straight-neck pot stills, which are sometimes called Lomond stills. One of these pairs has a water cooling system installed on the top of the still that the heated vapour hits before going through the narrowing neck/pipe for collection. This results in much more reflux and leads to a lighter, softer, fruitier spirit being produced.
Last but not least, there is a six-story Coffey/column still that is actually split in two to accommodate the three-story building it resides in. This still is used to distill malted barley, but due to SWA regulations it is still classified as Single Grain spirit. The whisky made with this still is used in their blends, but you can occasional find it bottled as Rhosdhu by indie bottlers.
With this unusual combination, Loch Lomond Distillery is capable of producing its own blended whisky entirely on-site, without having to source whisky from other distilleries. It is one of the very few (possibly only) active distilleries in Scotland and even the world to be able to do this.
Loch Lomond as a brand currently has three product lines for the different styles the distillery is capable of producing. Inchmurrin is the unpeated, lighter and fruity side of Single Malt Scotch. Inchmoan represents the more meaty, heavily peated end of the spectrum. Loch Lomond itself covers the space in between, focusing on a moderately peated style that still showcases plenty of fruity notes.There are other names that have been used on bottles in the past or on indie bottles as well - such as Croftengea which is another of Loch Lomond's peated styles.
Just to make things even more confusing - Loch Lomond just announced they are once more revamping their product line...
Posted on December 23, 2020by Evan
Day 23 brings us something a little bit different: this is a peated malt from the Highlands. Today's mini bottle is the Ardmore Legacy.
Ardmore distillery was founded in 1898 and was purpose built to provide whisky for Blending, as pretty much all distilleries were at the time. However with Ardmore that hasn't changed much - even today just about all of Ardmore's still being used for blending, trading stock, or selling.
Only a small portion of Ardmore Single Malt Scotch lands in official bottles released by Ardmore and its parent company Beam Suntory, and the only official bottle that makes its way to Alberta the Legacy that we will be trying. Ardmore does also release three other bottlings, but one of them is duty-free only and the remaining two have yet to make their way to Canada.
Beam Suntory seems to treat Ardmore as the red-headed stepchild in its Scotch Whisky portfolio. When it comes to profile and releases, Bowmore and Laphroaig get plenty of attention, being the Islay darlings that they are. Auchentoshan in the Lowlands gets similar treatment. Even Glen Garioch gets more releases, and that is saying something!
Maybe they are reluctant to give Ardmore any love publicity or release wise because they don't want to take away stock from its use in the Teacher's Highland Cream Blended Scotch. Or perhaps they don't want to focus on Ardmore and lose focus on another one of their peated brands such as Laphroaig, Bowmore or Connemara.
Or perhaps Beam Suntory is just happy to have Ardmore be a workhorse distillery that steadily produces whisky out of the limelight, just as they seem to be with Alberta which seems to be similar to the treatment Alberta Distillers has been given for much of the past decade or more. Did you know that Beam Suntory also owns Alberta Distillers? I am not sure that they do - I just did a check on the brands listed at beamsuntory.com, and the only Canadian Whisky listed is Canadian Club. What the hell, Beam Suntory!?!
At least they do mention Ardmore under Scotch though.
But I digress. Though there is a lack of official bottlings of Ardmore available, you can find indie bottlings of it quite regularly - the Scotch Malt Whisky Society has especially been a fan of it over the past few years. This is probably because Ardmore offers peated whisky at non-Islay prices. The 100 ml bottle that capped off our 2019 version of the KWM Whisky Calendar included an Ardmore titled 'BIG ON BACON'. That bottle sold out a long while ago sadly.
One of the reasons Ardmore is the heart of Teacher's Highland Cream and also sought after by independent bottlers is that just about all of the whisky produced at the distillery is moderately peated. I have only tasted one unpeated Ardmore that I can recall. There is also a lighter peated style that the distillery makes which is...
Posted on December 22, 2020By Evan
Day Twenty-Two in our 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar brings us another bottling from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. This is the fourth we have seen thus far - and the second we have Single Malt we have gotten from them. We are heading back to Islay today for That Boutique-y Whisky Company Bunnahabhain 10 Year Old!
2017 was the last time we had any Bunnahabhain in our KWM Whisky Calendar, which is a bit of a travesty by my estimation. Bunna is my personal favourite distillery on Islay - I love it for both unpeated and peated Single Malt distilled there.
Bunnahabhain Distillery is the northernmost distillery on Islay – it lays off the beaten path and is somewhat remote even when compared to the rest of the island. The distillery was actually only reachable by boat until the 1960s, when a road was finally built to it. Bunnahabhain is one of a trio of Scottish Single Malt Distilleries owned by Burn Stewart (Distell Group).
Burn Stewart and its parent company also own Tobermory Distillery on the Isle of Mull which we discussed on both on Day Four and Day Seventeen. and Deanston Distillery which resides on the Scottish mainland in Perthshire. Like its siblings, most of the flagship single malts Bunnahabhain range are bottled unchill-filtered and with no added colouring at the the curious but commendable strength of 46.3% ABV.
This Islay distillery was founded in 1881 and started its life making the heavily peated whisky that the region is famous for. For most of its history its whisky was exclusively used in blends such as Black Bottle, and even today only a fraction of its production is bottled as a single malt. In 1963 production was increased and at the same time the distillery's style was changed to the lighter, unpeated single malt whisky it is known for today. Since 1997 there have been small amounts of heavily peated (35 PPM malt spec) single malt made each year but it is not what the distillery is known for.
The core of Bunnahabhain's production and lineup doesn't show a very noticeable peat if it shows at all as they use a malt spec with a maximum phenolic level of 2 PPM. This makes it one of the more gently peated Islay single malts available. The distillery and its whisky are sometimes referred to as the 'Gentle Giant of Islay' What it lacks in smoke and peat it typically makes up for in nuanced and complex character and plenty of sherry cask influence, at least in official bottlings. Will this Bunnahabhain have any sherry cask influence to it? Based on the colour, I would guess not... Shall we find out?
That Boutique-y Whisky Co. Bunnahabhain 10 Year Old - 50.5%
We did not receive any of the 1287 500ml bottles of this 10 Year Old Bunnahabhain from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, but we did get some 50ml mini bottles of it! This 10 year old was bottled a...
Posted on December 23, 2020by Evan
We are going all Boutique-y once more: behind Door Twenty-one lives the oldest whisky in the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar by a whole four years! This is the Strathclyde 31 Year Old Single Grain Scotch from That Boutique-y Whisky Company.
This Strathclyde whisky marks the second Single Grain Scotch Whisky in this year's KWM Whisky Calendar, and possibly only second in this style we have ever put in during the six years of making our own Whisky Calendar. The first Single Grain was from a closed distillery we tasted back on Day Three. So, what is the deal with Strathclyde?
Seriously, I am asking.
I honestly don't know much about Strathclyde Distillery off the top of my dome. I have only tasted a handful of bottlings from this distillery that I can recall - most of them have been from indie bottler Cadenhead. Give me some time and I will get back to you with a bit more information, okay?
--- Hours Later ---
Phew! Okay, so here's the deal: Strathclyde is a Distillery located in Glasgow, on the South side of the River Clyde which bisects Scotland's largest city. Like many Grain Distilleries that have come and gone or still exist, the Glasgow location means that it resides in the Lowlands region-wise. Strathclyde was one of two Single Grain Whisky-producing distilleries in Glasgow until Port Dundas Distillery was closed in 2009. With the recent boom times that Scotch Whisky has enjoyed, there have been a few other distilleries popping up in the city along the River Clyde but all of them are dwarfed production-wise by this veritable Grain Whisky factory.
Strathclyde's history begins in 1927 on the site which previously held a cotton mill. It did not start producing Grain Whisky until nine years later in 1936 - before that, it focused on making neutral grain spirit used for gin. For a nearly two-decade period between 1957 and 1975 Strathclyde also housed a set of pot stills that produced Single Malt Whisky that was called Kinclaith.
The Grain Whisky Complex is owned by Chivas Brothers/Pernod Ricard and has been the company's only such distillery under that Pernod Ricard ownership. Since it is capable of producing more than 40 million litres of spirit per annum, which cover's most of the company's needs for its blends. Strathclyde's Grain Whisky is used in the number two and number three best-selling Blended Scotch Whisky brands' Ballantine's and Chivas Regal.
No official bottlings of Strathclyde Single Grain Scotch are currently being released by Pernod Ricard - not a shock since the company doesn't do a very good job at showcasing many of its own distilleries. There have been a few different indie bottlings of Strathclyde to make up for Pernod-Ricard's shortsightedness such as Cadenhead, Cooper's Choice, and this mini from That Boutique-y Whisky Company which we are tasting today.
Posted on December 19, 2020by Evan
Day Twenty is here, and we are getting to the tail end of the 2020 KWM Whisky Calendar. Today, we will be revisiting Balblair Distillery. This time we will be trying one of the Highland Distillery's newer age-stated releases: The Balblair 18 Year Old.
As we discussed eleven drams back on Day Nine, Balblair has quite recently undergone a large shift in philosophy when it comes to the distillery's own releases. What happens when a brand reinvents itself like this? There had to be a bit of worry that Balblair would lose all of it's previous fans but also not create any new ones in the process, right? On top of that: would the distillery character and DNA survive the change from vintages to age statements as well?
The 1997 Vintage we tasted on back on Day Nine was matured solely in ex-Bourbon casks. The Balblair 18-Year-Old we will be tasting today has some sherry cask influence in the mix. This 18 Year Old purportedly spends the first fifteen and a half years in refill ex-Bourbon casks before a finishing period of more than three and a half years in first fill Spanish Oak that previously held Oloroso Sherry.
Math is definitely not my forte, but doesn't that total add up to a potentially more than eighteen years in cask? I don't have enough fingers and I am too lazy to take my socks off right now, but I think this means that there is potentially -even likely- nineteen-year-old whisky in this mini bottle...
That possibility is one of the benefits of forgoing vintage statements on your whisky, where you are handcuffed to selecting from just that one year's worth of ageing casks. The beauty of age stated bottles of whisky is this: The age you put on the label is only the minimum age of any whisky in the bottle, so this 18-year-old in front of us may actually contain some nineteen-year-old liquid in the bottle as well. They could go even older than that if they wanted to.
This means that when selecting casks for a batch of 18-Year-Old Balblair, they can choose any casks in their warehouses that are at least that old or older. It opens up a lot of possibilities and makes it a lot easier to remain more consistent between batches. It may not be as fun for us whisky geeks, but for many consumers knowing that the Balblair 18 Year Old that the purchase today is as close the company could make it to the previous batch and the batch they bottle five years from now can be important.
Like the 1997 we have already tasted, the 18-year-old is bottled at 46% ABV, is unchillfiltered and contains no added colouring. Tasting two single malts from the same distillery but with different philosophies behind them still gives us a great opportunity to discover Balblair's true character. The basic principles on quality are still in place for the new line, so let us try this newer look Balblair out!
Balblair 18 Year Old<...