Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 2 – Ardbeg & my review of Lord of the Isles

Last week I started my eight part series where I would try and explain Islay Distilleries and their whiskies, specifically to people that are new to whisky, by way of Rock and Roll.  In that post I compared Bruichladdich to the Sex Pistols – true punk rockers of the Scotch whisky world!

Most people seemed to agree (about 95% of all that gave feedback) with my analysis though I did get a suggestion that The Ramones were more fitting or perhaps The Clash.  Whether  the band choice was agreed upon or not, everyone seemed to agree that Punk Rock was the correct Genre.  Huzzah!

Now we move onto comparison number two.  As with my Bruichladdich post from last week, first the whisky review then the Rock Band comparison.

Ardbeg “Lord of the Isles” 25yo – 46%ABV£650 (£542 ex. VAT)

On the nose –  Strong nose with a fair amount of smoke and soot (more so than I expected, what with this being 25 years old; I expected something a touch rounder or, shall I say, softer).

Lemon pledge.

A good deal of green apples (who came up with the name “Granny Smith”?) and spicy thai red curry sauce.

Burning notebook paper; the white lined, 5 subject type notebook.

Oak, smoke, char and cherry syrup.  Interestingly reminiscent of mizunara oak (notes I’d get from a Yamazaki, actually).

Strong, oversteeped tea (green & white).

This nose is all over the place and has an unorganized feel rather than one that gives you a sense of evolution.

On the mouth – Now the roundness kicks in!  Soft, creamy, viscous & soothing but smoke starts to kick in after a few seconds.

Marzipan and lemons.

Then more peat smoke – warming, growing and growing leading up to the finish…

Finish – Mint and menthol, salt and lemons.  Looooong and zesty and slightly numbing after a while.

In sum – This was a odd one, for sure!  The nose seemed to be all over the place, hard to follow yet not unpleasant in anyway.  However, upon tasting the whisky it all comes together, gets buttoned up and starts to make sense.

A lovely, odd, old Islay that’s very different from the Ardbeg style of today.  It’s not my favorite Ardbeg but a nice one none the less.

Special thanks to David B for the 2nd sample (note: whisky does not hold well in baby bottles.  Hence the 2nd sample – thanks again, David)!


Ardbeg – The Band! — Perhaps the most CULT Islay single malt, Ardbeg has a truly devout following.

I’ve heard stories from the very recent past about people waiting in the rain for 30 hours during the Islay Feis Ile festival just to pay £300 (or so) for the distillery only, Feis Ile festival bottling.  If I had the time and money, I suppose I’d do the same…

Ardbeg tattoos are common place among devotees.  There’s also a well know website by Malt Maniac Tim Puett called the Ardbeg Project that deals with even the most minute of details about Ardbeg… all the way down to various bottle codes.  Talk about devotion!!

Given the above, my initial reaction is that Ardbeg is most like The Grateful Dead.  However, I personally can’t stand The Grateful Dead (sorry people) and their successors, Phish, turn my stomach even more.

Let’s compare it to their house style of whisky… Bright, brash, in your face, lively and invigorating.  Peaty without being a smoke bomb.  Clean and very confident.

So, big cult following +  an attention demanding, big ‘ol elephant in the room style…  You, my dear Ardbeg are Slayer (minus all of the death and devil stuff)!

Yikes!Oh my gosh! —  See, I told you (albeit without gore…)!!

…or perhaps it should read:

..perhaps this comparison is more fo Ardbeg’s fans (myself being one of them) rather than Ardbeg itself….  Hmmm… you decide.

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 1 – Bruichladdich & my review of Octomore Orpheus 2.2

I had a “sit” and a “think” the other day and wondered if I could explain Islay distilleries and their whiskies, specifically to people that are new to whisky, by way of Rock and Roll; which is a universal language.  Right?

Sure, scientists will say that math is the universal language.  If that’s so, why did we send a Rolling Stones tune into outer space?  Answer me that.  It’s not Freakonomics, it’s Jaggernomics is what it is!

So, let’s see if this works out.  I’ll go over the eight existing distilleries and make my comparisons…  First the whisky review then the Rock Band comparison.  Cool?  Cool.

Octomore Orpheus 2.2 – 61%ABV – Petrus Wine Finish$145

On the nose –  Whoa.  Huh.  Interesting.  This is huge.  We’re talking huge.

I’m not sure what has the most influence – the levels of phenol (peated to 140ppm) or the wine finish (Petrus).  Lots of root vegetables with parsnip seeming to win that battle.

Fresh soil and port wine spice.  Grape jam, sweetened overly so.

No smoke whatsoever, this is peat.  Peat and a bit herbaceous, briny capers too.

Currently, I’m sitting outside and with the sun on me and the cool breeze… I could nose this forever.  The day is perfect and this is shining even more so because of the day.

With water, there are some fantastic coastal elements that come to the fore.  Salty sand castles, browning apples, ocean stones.  I am LOVING this with water!

On the mouth – A numbing quality upfront that forces the focus on the finish rather than the flavors upfront.  I need to give this some time and a second go…  An elusive whisky, aren’t you??

Very ashy for sure after the 3rd sip, and once it’s noticed it’s a bit of an affront.  *However*, there are these fine wine influenced notes that offer up some tanniny grape skins (think dark Rose where they use a better part of the skins in production).

Very creamy, ooey.  Yummy.  Me likey.  Reminds me a bit of an heavily peated Black Arts (that Bruichladdich spirit quality shines through).

The addition of water brings out notes of chocolates and spent welding flux.  The mouthfeel becomes massive with a dash water.

Finish – Heavy wine influence, good wine influence.  Not very long though…

In sum – Don’t let the high ABV and 140ppm peating level scare you off (if those do in fact tend to scare you off).  All it takes is a dash of water to subdue this baby and s/he will be yours.  Big, powerful and full of character.  If you can find some, grab some and enjoy sparingly.  A dram will go a long way.  I envision many wonderful conversations being had over a dram of this whisky!

Special thanks to Ronnie R for the sample!!

Gal of Whisky Israel reviewed this one quite a while back as a head-to-head review with Octomore 2.1 and it’s well worth a read!


Bruichladdich – the band! — Man, this is an easy one for me.  Sex Pistols.  Simple.  Easy.  Let’s move on.

Wait, you need more explanation?  Ok, ok…

Back in 1976/77 few major bands had the look or (raw) impact on the music like the Sex Pistols.  Rock was stagnating and Disco was becoming more popular.  But the Sex Pistols burst upon the scene like a lion on new kill.

Compare this to Bruichladdich, look at their kick-a$$ packaging or their all-over-the-place releases of yesteryear (and by yesteryear, I mean the past 8-10 years and up until the newest Laddie Ten).  From the moment they released their amazing new “Laddie Ten“, it takes people from a scratch-your-head, “what are these guys doing?!” position to a more, “Ah, NOW I get it!” position.

And then, like Springbank, they’re making three different whiskies in the same place.  An unpeated one (Bruichladdich), a heavily Peated one (Port Charlotte) and the world’s most peated whisky (Octomore).

What’s more is they have a still (called Ugly Betty, by the way), they they installed a short while back that now makes what I feel is one of THE best gins on the market – The Botinist.  Seriously, A-MAZ-ING gin!

My point?  They are doing what they want to do and not what people might expect from them.  They don’t give a $#!?.  Solid.

“We are Bruichladdich – love us or leave us.”

To me, that’s punk rock and that’s why the are the Sex Pistols of whisky.

Peat’s Beast Single Malt Whisky

Region of Scotland – ?? – ABV 46% – Released on March 27th, according to the bottlers, specifically in conjunction with “World Whisky Day.   You can find a bottle at Mast of Malt for £38 (not available in US stores but MoM does ship to the US).

A few months back I received an email that basically said:  Hey there, I’m sure you hear this all of the time but, we want to send you a sample of a single malt, un-chill filtered whisky and are curious to know your thoughts.

The obvious response to a statement such as the above is, well, “Ummm, OK.”

I followed up, mind you, with some questions:

What are the details of the whisky?

Who produces or who bottles it?

The response was basically… well, there was no response.  But you know what?  I sort of liked that!!

A short while later, just prior to the whisky arriving at my doorstep, another email came my way telling me that the whisky in question was to be called “Peat’s Beast” and that it was a intensely peaty whisky.

There was also mention of Richard Paterson giving his tasting notes on the Peat’s Beast website but they were very clear – Richard’s review was simply that – a review and they were independent and in no way tied to Whyte and Mackaye.

So, all I knew at this point (as well as all I now know) is that:

  1. Peat’s Beast is a single malt whisky, not a blend
  2. Peat’s Beast is, well, peaty
  3. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and there is no chill filtration.

Nothing about age, distillery, terrior.  Nothing.

You sneeky-cheeky-monkeys!!!

Let’s investiage…

Color — Very pale – like a Sauvignon Blanc (young 1st fill bourbon casks or a 2nd fill?  A mixture of 1st, 2nd and refill casks?  The world may never know…).

On the nose –  This little beastie does offer up some smoke infused notes (peat smoke indeed) but what I find most striking, and enjoyable, is the waft of lavender then lilac that floats above it all.

Reminiscent of a whisky dunnage warehouse, dirt and oak in all.

A tiny hint of apricot and buttery crumpet.  Fruits that tend to give away a whiskies youth: Pear and maybe (maybe) a touch of apple.

Not so much a big beast but I’ve had other self-proclaimed peat monsters that haven’t offered up some of the interesting floral tones I’m getting with this one.

So far, so good.

On the mouth – This is where the fiery roar comes in to play.  Lots of burning twigs.  Very peppery.  A snuffed out spring campfire (snuffed by spring morning dew with the slightest hint of spring moss rolling around here).

Not big with the mouthfeel but not overly watery.  A young effervescing quality to this whisky.

New buds, young wood.

Not sure if this is all inspired by spring fever but it’s all on the burning of old brush and in the with new life for me with this one.  This does pack a smokey wallop (though not very peaty as the nose initially suggested, just very smoky).

Finish – Longer than I expected given that this is supposed to be a younger whisky.  Peppery and smoke lasts and tingles the sides of the tongue.

In sum – A satisfying young, brash whisky that will satisfy most (I include myself that that “most” category).  Bottled at a solid ABV (46%) and the fact that it’s non-chill filtered and there was no color added makes me smile.

I can find myself pouring this as a no-brainer, “I need a smoky whisky”, whisky.  I like young peaty whiskies and if you do, too, then you can’t go wrong with this whisky.

Special thanks to Pauline G for the sample!

The final in the Icons of Arran Series – The Golden Eagle

Islands region – 46% ABV – £41 (£34 excluding VAT – Value Added Tax) – not sold in US shops…

Let’s hear it for the fourth and final Icon of Arran bottling!

They started off with the “Peacock” then went onto the “Rowan Tree”.  “The Westie” did not have its tail between its legs when he appeared as the third Icon of Arran and following that one is this: The Golden Eagle.

If you look closely on any Arran bottle, you’ll see that, embossed in the glass of the bottles, there are birds.  Those birds are the famous Golden Eagles that nest themselves around the distillery.  On any given day, if you look up in the sky, you’ll see those beauties flying about.  They fly so strong and sure – gorgeous creatures and a fitting end the the title of the last Icon of Arran.

On the nose  Incredibly soft (like sniffing the softness of a baby’s behind… sans the poop and such).

I detect and interesting mix of tangerines and light incense (sandalwood – again, light).

Baby aspirin (orange cream) followed by some pear candies and a tad spice of spice…

On the mouth Great mouthfeel – very… Arran.  Very full/viscous.

This flavors here follow the lead of what I got on the nose – very soft and delicate, *subdued*.

The Arran apples are here in baked form (I often find apples in Arran whiskies).

Fresh rain on a spring day.

Reminiscent of many Arrans I’ve had but a much more restrained version. Like and aerated chocolate bar, if you catch my meaning… it’s still a chocolate bar but something is different about it, the flavors are held back/elusive.

Finish Speaking of chocolate, there’s a touch of milk chocolate on the finish which, by the way, is medium in length.

In sum This is such an easy going whisky!  Perfect on a cool spring night or a warm fall evening and a good entree for your friends that are scared to try Scotch whisky.

For me, I was hoping for a bit more presence for the final Icon – something that would go out in a bang.  Then again, perhaps the goal was to match the elegance of the Golden Eagles that fly about the Arran distillery.  If this is the case, Arran has met their goal.

Special thanks to JJY for the sample!  

Speaking of JJY, you can check out his review over at


A whisky to celebrate with – Glenfarclas 1968

Highland region – 43%ABV – $270

This little sample of the 1968 Glenfarclas came to me by way of Yoni M.  I first met Yoni a couple of years back  at a tasting I did in conjunction with the Kosher Wine Society, Isle of Arran, Usquaebach and Glenmorangie.

The event (which was organized by the Kosher Wine Society – a great group, BTW) was held at an amazing Glatt Kosher restaurant in NYC called Solo.  With me was Noah Goldstein, formally of Usquaebach and Andy Hogan, formally of Isle of Arran.

I specifically remember pairing Arran's 14yo expression with this wonderful baked pear with crepe dish... That was... heavenly!

The idea was that I was supposed to pair five whiskies with five separate courses.  Whisky & food pairing, when done right, is both fun and down-right delicious.

Anyway, back to Yoni.  He came up to me right after the tasting and had mentioned that he was a fan of the blog (that was very nice to hear.  I always blush a bit when people say they like my reviews!).  It was obvious that Yoni was a true whisky lover and though our conversation wasn’t very long I enjoyed it greatly.  It’s a treat when you get to discuss whisky with whisky geeks.

Since then, he and I have kept in touch and have seen one another at various whisky shows.

Later last year (I think it was at the NYC Whisky Guild Whisky Cruise) Yoni had mentioned to me that he and his wife were expecting a baby and have since that time they had their boy – Aiden Joseph is his name.  The whisky of choice to celebrate the birth of their first born was this Glenfarclas.

In March, Yoni was nice enough to share a sample with me.  Thank you so much, Yoni!!  I’ve said it before but, Mazel Tov to you and your wife on the birth of your son!  Being a dad is a wild ride (as you’re finding out).

Finally, and this is more of a thank you than a shameless plug but, Yoni is now a member of the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society – thank you so much for your membership, Yoni!

On to the whisky:

On the nose –  Fan-tab-u-lous nose.  Really, quite stunning.

A mixture of fresh blood orange and the New York Public Library, polished wood, leather, old paper.  Glorious.

Pickled walnuts, cherries, stewed prunes (but the pickled walnuts really shine here).

Apple stems and fine grappa mixed with cigar smoke – so inviting.

Big, thick and full of brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Did I mention that I like this?

On the mouth – A mature and sexy cougar of a whisky!

While a tad drying up front (just a tad), this is big, robust, rich, oily and mouth watering.

Cherry skins, flesh, juice and pits.  Sweetened prune juice.

It sort of feels wrong reviewing this rather than celebrating with it… Medjool dates.  Medjool dates, spot on.

Having spent about forty years in a cask, this is bright yet warming, alive and full of all you’d want from a heavily sherried whisky.

Finish – Spiced orange, orange zest over cinnamon.  Long, long, long…

In sum – Very fitting for the birth of a child.  Yoni, my hat is off to you, your wife and your son, Aiden Joseph.  You chose just the right whisky to celebrate with.  I’m sure you’ll find more reasons to celebrate your son and, thankfully, you have some fine hooch to do it with.  Mazel Tov!