Tag Archives: Lavender

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar dram # 10 – Samaroli “Islay” 9yo, cask # 80006


Region – um, Islay – ABV – 43%

Unnamed Islays seems to be the way things are going now when it comes to independently bottled cask of Islay whisky. Most, based on comparisons to “Original Bottlings,” or “Owner Bottlings,”  seem to be Caol Ila, Ardbeg or Lagavulin if you’re really lucky. All I’ve tasted have been great <shameless plug> including the 3, soon to be 4 “Undisclosed Islay” Single Cask Nation releases </shameless plug>.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015This one is the first, however, that I will taste that is not bottled at full cask strength.  Another 43% ABV for this Samaroli.  Samaroli = elegance in my mind though I’ve rarely seen anything lower than 45% ABV until now.

Let’s see what happens with this 9yo at 43%:

On the nose — Soft peat wreathed in lavender rests on a bed of licorice nibs. Heather to the fore with gorse in the distance.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015Some iodine and hospital beds make themselves known as does beach pebbles and blue slate.

A flinty minerality brings me in to sip…

In the mouth — Initial pepper sting that sticks to the tip of the tongue as the oily build dances about mid-palate. If I had to guess, I’d say this is a Caol Ila.

Very edgy stuff, not rounded in any way, which is nice. You get the softness from the lower ABV but the edginess from the youth of the whisky.

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2015Think flint stones (not Flintstones) meets burnt brush and driftwood meets seaweed and burning peat meets dandelion jam and lavender with a hint of lemon rind.

Finish — Lasting, citrusy and sooty

In sum — What a way to enjoy a younger Islay whisky. Though I normally prefer the brash in-your-face-ness of young Islay whisky, the water tamed it to the perfect just-sit-and-relax ABV. My initial reaction was “another 43% whisky from Samaroli, really?” However, this was simply loverly whisky. I enjoyed the interplay between youth and elegance (by way of lower ABV).

21yo Old Malt Cask Cragganmore bottle for the Loch and K(e)y Society. A Juio’s exculsive.


The bottle shown is not the actual bottle but, close enough.
The bottle shown is not the actual bottle but, close enough. Click the picture to be brought to Julio’s site. Contact them for more info.

Speyside region – 52.2% ABV – $99 (for now) and sold exclusively through Julio’s in Westboro, MA.

Here we are again; reviewing a store exclusive single cask of whisky.

If you live in the Northeast of the US, chances are you’ve heard of or frequent Julio’s in Westboro, MA.

Store owner and Keeper of the Quaich, Ryan Maloney, is known for having perhaps the most whisky-centric stores in our neck of the woods.  He also has his own whisky society called the Loch and K(e)y Society and bottles whisk(e)y for them on a very regular basis.  Loch and K(e)y are the first and only group to ever have a cask of Balvenie bottled exclusively for them.  (I had a taste once and it was a yummy, yummy thing).

I visited Julio’s a couple of weeks ago to pick up a bottle of George T Stagg and Ryan was nice enough to give me a taste of today’s whisky.  This is a cask of Cragganmore that he personally chose to bottle.

I fell in love with it almost immediately and when he told me it was only $99, I had to get a bottle.  Hey, it was my birthday.  How could I not buy myself a bottle?

So today, I’m reviewing one of my birthday whiskies (happy birthday, again, to me):

On the nose –  A charming start with whiffs of *faint* smoke and lavender.

CRAGGANMORE-21-OLD-MALT-CASK-JULIOS-2Quite clean and bright with lightly spiced Bartlett pears.  Applewood and unscented candle wax.

Heavenly, and decidedly malty.

I have to say, this nose is really, really good.  Again, clean and fruity and very, very confident.

CRAGGANMORE-21-OLD-MALT-CASK-JULIOS-3On the mouth – Loads of malted barley and very chewy.

Lively and oily, honied and spiced.

Still quite fruity with touches of light citrus.

CRAGGANMORE-21-OLD-MALT-CASK-JULIOS-4Hints of salt but not brine and now some hints of Limon.

Getting back to what I said before, this is a very confident whisky.  Drying and slightly smokey toward the finish.

Finish – A spritz of citrus, a dash of spice and some malt.  It goes on for a good bit here.

In sum – The more I think about this one the more I agree with the thought in my head that this is not the most complex whisky in the world. (My apologies for the horrible, run-on-like, structure of the preceding sentence.)

However, it’s not simple at all.  It’s easily understood and hides very little from you.

This is in my top ten list as one of the finer whiskies I’ve had this year from a rock-solid-satisfying-whisky standpoint.  If there were ever a self-actualized whisky, it would be this one.

Weymss Malt “The Dunes.” A 29yo single cask of Inchgower.


Highlands region – 46% ABV

Weymss is sort of a new bottler for me.  Sure, I’ve heard of them but I’ve only had one of their releases until now.  That one, btw, was the Smooth Criminal Gentleman I reviewed with the one and only Malt Impostor(s).

The Weymss line of single casks all seem to be diluted down to 46% ABV rather than bottled at cask strength.  While I tend to be a fan of cask strength whiskies (especially with single cask), I can understand some of the reasons to bottling at a lower ABV.  Primarily, and from the customer perspective, a lower ABV can make whisky a little more approachable to the person just getting into whisky.

So, let’s see what this single cask has to offer.

On the nose — Brittle flat bread.

Sort of like poppadum.

Lots of bright notes but all seemingly restrained: lemon wedges, salted green apples, citrus infused honey.

Jaffa cake bread (less the chocolate).

On the mouth — Whoa, this is some exotic stuff!

Buttered naan.

Candied butter (if there were ever such a thing).

A host of light Indian spices, sweet verging on savory but not savory at all.

Imagine a bake shop (breads and sweets) and a Nepalese restaurant were combined.  That’d be this.

Exotic and foodie and surprisingly different than most whiskies out there.

Finish — A touch of spice and lavender (?).  Decent length.

In sum —  It is whiskies such as this one that makes me LOVE the single cask.  This whisky is like a spotlight on the odd, unique and lovely.  A whisky well worth your time and consideration.  This is a mid-summer whisky, one reserved for drinking in the heat with some ice water on the side.

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 4 – Bowmore & my review of Dawn, their older Portwood bottling


Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part IV (of VIII)

I started this series just four weeks ago and am just so pleased as to how well it’s being received.  Thank you all SO MUCH for tuning in (and commenting) to this series!

So, let’s tally up what’s happened so far.  Part one: Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80’s. (They get their very own decade!)

Today in part IV we will have a chance to discover Bowmore’s older “Dawn” bottling.

Whisky aficionado and co-author of the 6th edition of Michael Jackson’s Malt Whisky Companion, Bill Meyers, introduced me to this whisky not too long ago.  Thanks again, Bill!  It was one that wowed me at the time.  I liked it enough to seek out a bottle and below are my tasting notes.

My previous posts in this series started off with the whisky review first then the Rock band comparison just after.  I’ll run the entire series this way.  So’s you know…

Bowmore “Dawn” Portwood – 51.5% ABV – $|£ – ??

On the nose — Immediate blast of smoke upfront.  However, as quickly as it hits you, it’s overtaken…

While the smoke remains, it waits patiently in the background as red gem candies and grape soda take center stage.

Coming back — there’s an underlying dankness, or earthy quality, quite like a mix between potting soil and fresh lavender.  The lavender is actually massive here.

This whisky has a lovely sweet and floral nose that’s balanced quite well with the smoke and earthy tones.

On the mouth — Remember that grape soda I mentioned?  It’s here, it’s queer, get used to it!  Queer as in its flavor not being one you’d normally associate with a whisky; especially an Islay whisky.

That lavender is back as well.

The port casks make themselves known with touches of spice on the back of the tongue (plus more of that fresh potting soil – the taste of the smell of, that is).

Spider mums and other flower-like scents.  This is quite the feminine whisky.  Me likey.

Finish — Spicy (lightly so) and with red fruits and just a touch of smoke.

In sum —  Coming back to the nose after every sip and that (sweet) smoke returns in a very nice way.  This is a solid, solid whisky.  If you’ve stayed away from port casked whiskies in the past, this may be one to change your mind and one to search out (just save me a bottle or two…).  I think I’ve discovered why it’s called dawn — this would make a solid breakfast whisky!  Wake, pour, sip and invigorate.


Bowmore – The Band!

I’ll get this one out in the open — I LOVE 70’s and 80’s Bowmore.  90’s Bowmore makes me happy too.  The variations of Bowmore released in the 2000’s+ seem to be a bit all over the place for me – a bit of a moving target.

However there have been some *solid* winners in my eyes.  The Bowmore Tempest releases come directly to mind.  As do Bowmore Dawn (reviewed above), Mariner, 25yo… heck, I really enjoy Bowmore Legend.  One of the most uniquely delicious whiskies I’ve had in years was the 26yo single cask Bowmore put out by Master of Malt (so G-d darned brilliant a whisky!!).

There are also Bowmore whiskies that I find to be ok but not overly thrilling – Bowmore 12, 15 and 18yos come to mind.  Decent whiskies but they don’t excite me like other Bowmores do…

While I may not be overly thrilled with that portion of their current standard range, I have a feeling that the addition of Rachel Barrie to the Bowmore team will put a shine upon their whiskies like we’ve not seen in a few years.  Alongside Dr. Bill Lumsden, Rachel Barrie has done some solidly good things during her time at Glenmorangie and Ardbeg.  Rachel, I can’t wait to taste all of the good whiskies that will come from Bowmore under your watch!

So, who are you, Bowmore??

I am actually reminded of David Bowie when I think of Bowmore.  With his every changing styles/fashion and outfit coupled with a good mixture of some of the best Rock and Rock to come out in the 70/80’s (followed by some albums later in his career, during the 90’s and 2000’s, that were not up to par with the his earlier work but still pretty damn good).  Not only am I a fan of 70’s glam, I’m a total Bowie Junkie.

Like Bowie, Bowmore is some something that others strive to be like but just can’t match.  Are you Hunky Dory or just Aladdin Sane?