Tastings

The Dramble reviews One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No.12
Posted 20 February 2019 / In One Eight Distilling
The Dramble reviews One Eight Distilling Untitled Whiskey No.12

I often find myself reading producer press releases which go to great lengths to highlight the ‘innovation’ and ‘experimentation’ that has taken place in the creation of a product. More often than not, I wonder whether these buzzwords (which are excessively overused by every industry) really do represent actual advancements and progressions. Often they’re simply banded around to persuade consumers of some level of uniqueness. Then a product comes along which raises my eyebrows. The sort of product that were it made in Scotland would have the SWA up in arms and like cause some level of furore. Innovation and experimentation or just simply excessive madness? Eitherway today, we’ll be looking at a whiskey that’s been finished in a barrel which previously contained cocoa nibs.


The Dramble reviews Glendronach 12 year old Original
Posted 19 February 2019 / In Glendronach
The Dramble reviews Glendronach 12 year old Original

All of the whisky websites that I frequent have several things in common – they’re succinct, interesting, well-written and, in terms of reviewing – astute. But, they also demonstrate a key facet of being a sound whisky writer – the ability to understand expressions within the context of the wider market. It’s no easy thing after tasting countless truly exquisite whiskies to be able to reset the palate and expectations back down to earth. Reviewing entry-level and commonly accessible bottlings fairly is a fine art - and many budding enthusiast writers stand all too often on the shoulders of giants, failing to properly appreciate the composition of things deemed more ‘ordinary’.


The Dramble reviews Cotswolds Founder's Choice
Posted 18 February 2019 / In Cotswolds
The Dramble reviews Cotswolds Founder's Choice

In musical parlance, a second album can often be a difficult proposition for a band – particularly if that band found immediate success and acclaim with their first release. There’s pressure to follow-up the feat with a further triumph….indeed, there’s invariable expectations to surpass that debut with a remarkable encore. Difficult second album syndrome is well documented, but also to my mind has application for the growing category of young distilleries – some have had remarkable introductions, others have raised heckles with their initial pricing – but, regardless, there are still hopes and preconceptions for what comes after.


The Dramble reviews Douglas Laing Director's Tactical Selection 1980 25 year old
Posted 15 February 2019 / In Talisker
The Dramble reviews Douglas Laing Director's Tactical Selection 1980 25 year old

Alternative names for distilleries are fairly commonplace. There’ a raft of substitutes for Glenfarclas - Blairfindy, Probably Speyside’s Finest and Ballindalloch (though this will no doubt be utilised less seeing as there’s now another distillery of the same name). Many others exist across the Scottish distilleries - denoting teaspooned malts (such as Wardhead and Westport etc), resulting from industry chatter (Beast of Dufftown) or often because the distillery in question wants to protect their brand name for their OBs alone. This is not a new practice and has resulted in independent bottlers having to create new and sometimes less than vague monikers for their single malts and blends. Possibly my favourite comes courtesy of Douglas Laing in the form of ‘Director’s Tactical Selection’ – not the hardest to guess, especially when bottles come specifying ‘distilled on Skye’.


The Dramble reviews Four Roses Single Barrel
Posted 14 February 2019 / In Four Roses
The Dramble reviews Four Roses Single Barrel

Every year I’m bombarded with an increasing number of Valentine’s Day promotions. Sometimes it’s quite staggering what companies suggest for romantic gestures for one’s other half. So far, I’ve failed to bite at a special price superglue bundle (toxic vapours in the air rather than love), a selection of ‘romantic rums’ (what?!) and a slightly discounted bottle of Bowmore 15 – which my wife would see as an early warning of impending divorce. However, The Dramble is far from adverse from a loose calendar tie in, so seeing as we’ve not got any Ballantines to hand, today it’s roses for Valentine’s.


The Dramble reviews Cadenhead's Ledaig 1997 15 year old
Posted 13 February 2019 / In Tobermory
The Dramble reviews Cadenhead's Ledaig 1997 15 year old

Despite the complexity of whisky, the average drinker has a descriptive vocabulary of around 25 words – in baby terms, the language development of an 18-24 month old.  Indeed, looking back some years at my initial reviews for The Dramble, I’m frankly dismayed at my lack of adroitness when it comes to describing both aroma and flavour. Fast-forward to the present, and I like to think that despite frequent reuse of my favourite descriptors, there’s much greater expansiveness and expressiveness when it comes to my whisky vocabulary. All entirely individual, but broader, more articulate and importantly, built on a bedrock of constant daily repetition. And then a whisky comes along that challenges this – and I sit, solemnly trying to find the right words.


The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Skordetid
Posted 12 February 2019 / In Mackmyra
The Dramble reviews Mackmyra Skordetid

Swedish distiller Mackmyra have long been on my radar for their eclectic take on cask compositions – I rarely spot new releases from the distillery that simply focus on one cask type, or indeed, just one finishing liquid. Recently, I noticed the announcement for the eagerly awaited Mackmyra Moment Karibien – a rum influenced whisky created in collaboration with Plantation Rum. But, nothing is ever that simple with Mackmyra – Moment Kariben also includes small amounts of ex-oloroso and, rather curiously ex-cherry wine. I guess, if you’ve got it, flaunt it. For all the talk of innovation from the long established Scottish distilleries, you often need to look overseas for true examples of 21st Century experimentation unfettered by centuries of tradition and conventionality.


The Dramble reviews Claxton's Caol Ila 2012 6 year old
Posted 11 February 2019 / In Caol Ila
The Dramble reviews Claxton's Caol Ila 2012 6 year old

Peat smoke expresses itself quite differently depending on the length of maturation – fiery and bombastic with youth – relaxed and refined with age. With younger spirit it can sometimes hide a multitude of sins, from undone, feinty spirit to poor cask integration. Particularly for whiskies where intense peat is not part of their DNA, there are times it can feel more like a sticking plaster. Then, there are other times, where the inherent character of the spirit naturally suits younger, intense peating. Caol Ila is one such whisky. Indeed, to my mind, one of the strengths of this distillate is in how well composed it appears at virtually any age.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Supernova 2015
Posted 08 February 2019 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Supernova 2015

The advent of the 21st Century sparked a peated arms race. Both greater demand for smoky Islay whiskies in general, and the presentation of phenolic content (as measured by parts per million – PPM) on bottles/packaging has led to an escalation in distilleries producing particularly heavily peated expressions, and promoting these liquids based around listing high PPM values. Peat obsessed enthusiasts have by and large lapped this up – like moths to a candle. Ardbeg’s Supernova – first released in 2008 (as a Committee bottling) was probably my first experience of the emerging ‘super heavily peated’ category. Peated to 100 PPM rather than Ardbeg’s more usual 50-55 PPM, the early Supernova releases have become unicorns – now seldom seen and commanding eye-watering prices on the secondary market.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Corryvreckan
Posted 07 February 2019 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Corryvreckan

It’s rare for a distillery’s character to remain completely unchanged over generations. New managers put their own spin on things, production regimes and casks availability changes, and the desires and tastes of the market shift and adapt. Since I began my whisky journey some 20 years ago, the overarching profile of Ardbeg has developed during that time - from fruits supported by peat, to peat, possibly supported by fruit.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Uigeadail
Posted 06 February 2019 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Uigeadail

Ardbeg Uigeadail almost needs no introduction - but every post needs some form of starting point, so I’ll try my best. The original batch of Uigeadail was supposedly released on 9th October 2003 - around a similar time that Committee members were reviewing the first mature spirit produced under Glenmorangie’s ownership - Ardbeg Very Young 1998.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg An Oa
Posted 05 February 2019 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg An Oa

The marketing campaign behind the launch of An Oa drew much derision - possibly unfairly. Whilst certainly twee and old fashioned, it at least felt somewhat grounded. Perhaps having seen an Icarus-like birdman (frankly missing a trick not employing Brian Blessed) from Macallan, folks might look back on An Oa’s promo a little more kindly. At the very least, it got people talking.


The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Ten - old label 2006
Posted 04 February 2019 / In Ardbeg
The Dramble reviews Ardbeg Ten - old label 2006

It occurred to me over the weekend that despite heading towards 700 tasting notes and musings, that there are still some obvious bottlings that The Dramble has yet to write about. Walking through the aisle of my local supermarket I spotted the familiar green glass of Ardbeg, which served as a timely reminder that I’ve yet to cover this much loved (and relatively recently expanded) distillery core range. So, this week, we’ll right that wrong and log our musings on the four bottles that make up the Ardbeg ‘ultimate range’.


Posted 31 January 2019 / In Group

SMWS’s February 2019 outturn ‘Sensory Surprises’ eschews the smorgasbord of tenuous Valentine’s tie-ins to simply present us with a broad batch of new single cask whiskies. 21 new Society bottlings are being released today –  22, if you include 24.132 Engaging Warmth which is a special release for UK Society venues - it’s highlighted in Euan’s outturn introduction, but has no associated listing in the booklet – read on to find out what The Dramble thought.


The Dramble reviews Glenlivet Code
Posted 31 January 2019 / In Glenlivet
The Dramble reviews Glenlivet Code

Glenlivet Code follows on from similar mystery expressions Alpha (2013) and Cipher (2016) in that the whisky is presented without any cask information or tasting notes. Indeed, even the bottles from this ongoing series are presented in opaque black glass to hide any preconceptions around the colour of the liquid. The only information provided is the ABV of 48% and the price - £99.95 from Master of Malt. That said, if you think about the wider whisky market, you’ll find plenty of NAS bottles where behind the glossy marketing there’s a similar impervious lack of information, so at least Glenlivet are providing an element of fun with it.


The Dramble reviews Elements of Islay Lp8
Posted 30 January 2019 / In Laphroaig
The Dramble reviews Elements of Islay Lp8

When reviewing whiskies I try, as much as is feasibly possible, to ensure a consistency of both routine and environment. The same time of day, the same glass, even the same seat. Whilst this might seem particularly anal, it’s well documented that our olfactory systems are not consistent things – they ebb and flow throughout the day. Through a set repetition, it’s my belief that the most accurate results can be both observed and recorded. At yet, at the same time, despite being very style/flavour agnostic, it’s hard to overlook that sometimes whisky can feel particular seasonal.


The Dramble reviews Tobermory 14 year old Port Pipe Cask Finish
Posted 29 January 2019 / In Tobermory
The Dramble reviews Tobermory 14 year old Port Pipe Cask Finish

Before the nosing and the tasting, observing the colour of the whisky can sometimes provide hints as to its characteristics and maturation. But, whilst the hue of the liquid plays a significant part in the overall appeal of whisky, its often at this visual observation stage that our inbuilt presuppositions start to kick in. Darker whisky, being rich and sherried. Lighter whisky being light and less flavoursome. Neither of these two statements are necessarily true, and to my mind it’s a mistake to overly focus on the lustre of a particular whisky – like so many things, it is not a marker for inherent quality. But, there is one type of cask maturation which can result in an particularly vibrant hue – the pink of port casks.


The Dramble reviews Glenfiddich Fire & Cane
Posted 28 January 2019 / In Glenfiddich
The Dramble reviews Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

In the space of a single evening I flew over Dufftown like a bird, submerged myself in a bubbling washback, and admired the London skyline from a roof-top garden. Sounding more like a flight of fancy than an evening of whisky tasting, my near 600 mile journey was made possible through a VR-powered Glenfiddich/Nicholson’s Pubs brand experience. Virtual and augmented realities are now regularly utilised ‘tools’ for brand activation – designed to engender both engagement and word of mouth – whilst being a little bit cool along the way. Even though whisky is a tactile consumable VR is becoming increasingly common – Ardbeg, Glen Ord, Jura and Macallan have all explored experimental experiential experiences (try saying that after a few drams). But, how much virtual can the realities of the whisky world feasibly handle?


The Dramble reviews Glenglassaugh Octaves Peated Batch 2
Posted 24 January 2019 / In Glenglassaugh
The Dramble reviews Glenglassaugh Octaves Peated Batch 2

The interaction between spirit and cask is a complex system based on the extraction of molecules from the wood and their interaction with the distillate. Wood constituents migrate into the liquid, whilst other compounds both form and degrade over time. Levels of ethanol, wood lignins, volatile congeners, vanillins and oxygen to name but a few, all have their part to play in forming the final aroma and flavour profile of the resultant whisky. However, when you take all other things as being equal, the size of the cask and its relative surface area when compared to the distillate can also have a dramatic effect – the smaller the cask, the faster the exchange of compounds between spirit and wood.


The Dramble reviews The Whisky Agency Speyside Region 1973 43 year old TWE Exclusive
Posted 23 January 2019 / In Undisclosed
The Dramble reviews The Whisky Agency Speyside Region 1973 43 year old TWE Exclusive

1970’s distillate is held up to a higher level of esteem than it often warrants – despite there being just as many disappointments and failures as there are today. Like fine wine, good cheese and fond memories, the things we remember positively seem to only get better with age and time. Socioemotional selectivity, usually the purview of psychologists, has developed a little niche in the whisky world – rather than looking at a period of distilling history as a whole, enthusiasts tend to either recall particularly memorable bottlings, or assimilate the general viewpoint that ‘things were better then’. Nevertheless, this period in time did produce some particularly fine whiskies – and it also reflected a different viewpoint in terms of the balance between spirit and cask.


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