This sample was sort of an out of the blue one for me. The good folks at ImpEx sent me the sample suggesting that I might be interested in reviewing it.
I knew that Arran had a line of “Premium” Sherry and Bourbon casks but this is the first I saw where they bottled one for a specific store. This practice may be new, it may not be new. Here we have it though, a single premium sherry cask for The Whisky Shop in San Francisco.
I’ve heard of The Whisky Shop but have never shopped there before.
Like Binny’s, Julio’s and a few others, The Whisky Shop has a reputation for being experts in all things whisk(e)y.
I am curious to taste this one, for sure. Thanks to the good folks at ImpEx for sending me a sample!
Color – Muscato wine (I only mention the color as it seems light for a 16yo sherry single cask)
On the nose – Obviously sherried but no *heavy* sherry notes, I wonder if this is a 2nd fill cask. Either way, it’s smelling quite nice.
Let’s run down the list of scent, shall we?
Candied bacon and the smell of the taste of iodized salt. Cola with a side of Black pu’er tea. I need to point out something I’m not getting, something I normally get with Arran malts: Apples. No sign of that apple sweetness.
Fried dates; more gristle, less dates.
Wait a second!! Wait a *BIG* second! Apple cider vinegar becomes very evident. I am rewarded for my patience.
On the mouth – Fresh apples, bright fruits. Very forward, sweet and bright. This is almost like a high-octane dessert wine (ice wine).
Green grape skins and grape flesh (I know, a long-winded way of saying “grapes”).
Very fizzy along the tongue but a wonderful, even mouthfeel all around.
Some coastal notes as well. Really enjoyable.
Finish – Long and filled with that lovely apple cider vinegar I got on the nose.
In sum – In all honestly, to me, this is not something that those that like sherried whiskies would seek out (as a heavily sherried whisky). However, this is one of the more delicious Arran’s I had (single cask or standard bottling).
Highly recommended, dear people. This is a perfect after dinner drink. Serve in place of dessert wine. The perfect night cap!
I’ve got to hand it to the folks at Arran Malt Distillery – every single one of their single malt whiskies are bottled at a minimum of 46% ABV and are non-chill filtered.
“What does that mean?” you might ask? Well, I’ll tell you. Or, should I say, I’ll give you my opinion on the matter:
At 46% ABV, I feel I’m given the freedom to drink the stuff straight or add a wee bit of water, just incase it’s too hot. At 46%, some of the added dimension to the whisky imparted by the alcohol remains.
With the whisky not being chill filtered, there are a lot of great fatty acids that stay in the whisky which help it retain it’s maximum flavor.
OK, going to go right into this one here… Another special cask finish by Arran – a bit of a strange one but hey, I like strange.
On the nose — Spicy nose with initial hits of spiced shittake mushroom.
Cinnamon applesauce, perhaps with some raspberry mixed in.
Traces of green apple-y new make spirit.
Smoked salt on watermelon (my wife introduced me to this delicious treat – try it sometime – delicious! The woman shown is NOT my wife, by the by).
On the mouth — Fresh grapes and fizzy grape soda, Welch’s style.
A dry cool night filled with fallen leaves.
Salty on the mouth with added notes of starfruit.
Some soured milk/baby sick… an interesting group of flavors.
Finish — A tad garlicy with some hot pepper. Good length.
In sum — Light yet warming – the autumnal note in the tasting of this hit it on the head. A warmer-upper of a whisky. It’s youth is apparent but this is not a fault. I enjoyed the brightness. An extra year or two in a bourbon cask may have helped to balance this whisky out a bit but, if it were in your house house and you offered me some of this whisky; I’d not say no. I may jump at the chance to sip more. Fun stuff.
Special thanks goes out to Andy Hogan for the sample!
Yes, I know it’s Monday and I should be posting my “Rick’s Mystery Dram # 4” but, I had a very late band practice last night and did not have a chance to sample the sample. So, being that I tasted this MoM Tamnavulin a couple of weeks back, I thought I’d put up what should be my Tuesday post – “Master of Malt, Drinks by the Dram – Tamnavulin Single Cask” review.
I hope to post my “Rick’s Mystery Dram” on Wednesday. I can’t sample the stuff this evening because later today I’ll be heading out to an Ardbeg & Glenmorangie tasting event in NYC. Life is hard.
And, now, the Master of Malt Tamnavulin:
On the nose — A sharp and pointy grape bush, juicy nose but the ABV really gets ya! Sugared berries (think sugar coated blueberries) and lemons. The nose reminds me slightly (ever so) of the palate on the Master of Malt 26yr Bowmore (powdered candies and sugary fruits galore).
Oh, I want to focus on that powdered candy goodness but the lemons take over a bit here.
On the mouth — Oily, a bit chewy, honied lemony notes (minus the bitter),
some the fruit from the nose but things sort of drop off from there…
Finish — Short and a bit unimpressive.
In sum — The balance just seems off here. What starts off so nicely (When I say nicely, I actually mean quite exquisite. I love-love-loved the nose; right up my alley.) dies pretty quickly. Jim Murray gave it a 90.5 in his 2009 Whisky Bible. Not sure I agree with him… I actually have a 2nd sample of this so, I will come back to it. We’ll see…
Ok, before you begin to read my post on this dram, you may want to hit play on the youtube video below (so as to set the mood):
Is it playing? Good. Just keep it sort of quiet and in the background. Umm, a little lower in the volume… there. Good.
When I was young, about six years in age, my uncle started feeding me music from all sorts of great bands. Bands he loved and wanted me to love in kind. Two of the bands stuck out and I still love them to this day. The Ramones and Black Sabbath. In fact, the first album I ever owned was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album.
Let’s put the Ramones to the side for now and focus on Black Sabbath. Here I was six years old, listening to Black Sabbath and… was I scared? A bit (I mean, listen to this song for “Peat’s” sake – you do have the video playing, right?). But mostly, I was entranced. Even at six, I knew that these guys were on some level beyond any other band I’d ever heard.
As I got older, I became more obsessed with the music of Black Sabbath and (here comes a crazy geek moment) Dungeons and Dragons. There, I said it. I was into D&D big time. D&D, Lord of the Rings, you name it, I was into it.
You must be thinking “Hey Hatton, where are you going with this?” or, “Dude, D&D… seriously!?”
The point I am coming to is that I saw something mystical and magical in this music and those role playing games and sipping on this whisky took me back there.
Yes, nearly 31 years later and I came across this interesting and new Bruichladdich expression called Black Arts and I’m taken back to those things that got me interested in the “strange”. But, come to think of it, it was not just strange. It was new, different, unique and artistic – something I think this expression is.
What is Bruichladdich’s Black Arts expression? First, let’s take a look at their bottle:
You’ll notice a matte black finish on the bottle and cylinder. This, as I understand it, is a follow up to Bruichladdich’s “Blacker Still” expression. Just looking at it and I get a creepy-cool feeling. It’s the type of feeling you get when you’re around a campfire telling ghost stories – the good creepy. You want more.
And yes, I wanted more. I wanted to open the bottle right away but, before I did, I took a closer look at the bottle and saw a Star of David on there. Wait a sec. Hold you’re horses. What does this mean? I don’t know any Jew that works in the Black Arts – What’s going on here!?!?
I did some reading up on what this star meant and found that Bruichladdich says the star is actually “two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water”. In fact, here’s the full quote from Bruichladdich’s product sheet: “Alchemy, the black art, the eternal search for rejuvenation and immortality, gave us whisky. Gebber the Arab is said to be the first distiller of al-iksir, the water of life, in Persia around 790 AD.” (or, CE and I prefer to say. C.E. being the Common Era) “The spirits Eau de vie, Aqua Vitae, Vodka, Aquavit, Uisque Beatha all share that same original meaning. Geber understood that precious metals were hidden in alloys and ores. By the rearrangement of base metal’s qualities, via elixir, it could be transmutated into Gold. Elixir also existed as a dry, red powder made from Philosophers’ stone. If it could turn poor metal into gold – it could give eternal life. The two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water.”
Cool stuff, right?
Speaking of “red powder”, after I poured a dram, I wondered if Bruichladdich found this Philosophers’ stone and put a wee bit into each cask. The reason I wondered this….well, take a look at the color of this whisky (on your left – click on it for a larger image).
While it may be tough to see here in this picture. I will tell you that, in person, this fluid is red. Red whisky. I’ve never seen anything like this before and, just like when I first heard Black Sabbath, I was entranced. Just a note here: this is the natural color of the whisky; no color added.
How did they get this whisky red? Is it the red powder from the Philosophers’ stone? If you think the answer is “yes” then I suggest you check yourself into an insane asylum. While you may think the good folks at Bruichladdich are alchemists with all of those great expressions they come out with, this is the real world and they’re using real science here, not alchemy.
So, how did they get it red? A little birdy told me that this whisky was finished in three red wine casks, one right after the other. Awesome.
OK, I think it’s about high time I get to the tasting:
On the nose — 51.1% alcohol be damned! I can sniff this all night with no issues. Big red fruits! Raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and some fruit of the more tropical variety — passion fruit & papaya (all of these berries makes me think of my daughter’s book called “Jamberry”). Wow. Some nail polish remover notes here, something a bit sour and some over steeped green tea… I’m in love with this nose! This is just the right influence of wine on the whisky. Some spiciness on the nose and a bit of honey (which I did not expect here). With a few drops of water the fruits get very juicy smelling – almost over ripe.
On the mouth — Great entry here and I’m a bit taken aback. What a balance! The fruits are big but dry – like a good & fruity cabernet. Grassy, fresh hay. Quite grapey, quite winey. The mouth feel is nice nothing too special about it though. Let’s add a few drops of water. With water the mouth feel evolves into something completely different and beautiful. I feel like an alchemist turning dried fruits into re-ripened fruits. There’s something deep in the background that resembles the faintest whiff of smoke but, I dont think this was at all peated.
Finish — Longer and slightly burning. Wow, increasingly burning and getting stronger by the second. Cool stuff.
In sum — This is a true artisan’s whisky. And while some folks thought this dram crossed the line a bit between wine finishes and whisky; to me, the extra finishing was something of pure genius. What a great marriage between wine and whisky. While the two whiskies are nothing alike, the mystery surrounding the Bruichladdich Black Arts reminds me of the mysteries around the Glenmorangie Signet. Two very different whiskies; two very great whiskies. My hat’s off to the folks at Bruichladdich. They’ve created a magical dram here.