Very occasionally a sad event occurs when most bottles in my collection have dwindled to a few drams. This seems to occur every 3-4 months or so and at that point I try and build the collection back with a few different single malts. This has happened again, and the first new purchase is a newly available whisky here in NH – the Double Cask matured Aberlour 12y.o.

This is basically the regular 10 year old, with a portion of the maturation in sherry casks bringing the total aging to 12 years. First impressions are very good, although I think I do prefer the 10 year old.

Coloring is a dark caramel color, a much deeper reddishness than the basic Aberlour. The aroma is fairly simple, with a sweetness and fruitiness that strongly resembles a dark Sherry or even a good Port.

The first sip is confident and spicy. I mostly agree with the bottle notes, indicating hints of chocolate, spices (the heat of cinnamon?) above the warm sherried flavour.

As this whisky finishes, a slight dry smokiness comes out as the flavour tails off to a subtle warmth.

Overall I like this whisky, and it fits nicely into the Aberlour range. I would rate this at 7.5/10 as a great whisky for the price.

Bruichladdich has been a relatively new find for me, given that a new whisky takes a while to make it into the (state owned) liquor stores here in New Hampshire. I was first drawn by the magic words on the bottle “non-chill filtered” and “colouring free” on the label. This is typically a sign that the producer cares about the quality of the product rather than the number of units it can sell to the mass market.

The amazing thing is how purist the Bruichladdich distillery is. Having been opened relatviely recently, they are creating many different and new expressions while making sure that they maintain much of the original techniques. There are no computers on the production line, and it is difficult to distinguish their mode of operation compared to, say, a hundred years ago.

For a great introduction to Bruichladdich from the point of view of Managing Director Mark Reynier, check out Single Malt TV (the price of subscription is well worth it for some excellent quality videos and the library is constantly growing). Mark obviously has passion for a great product, that shines through when tasting any of their products. The base 10y.o. is very bright (in colour, aroma and flavour) and has a light refreshing palate. The 15 year old is more robust and more recognizable as an Islay. Each whisky has its own purpose and time of day, and the 10y.o. is a great aperitif.

The main point of this post, however, is the exciting news that the Bruichladdich company are not resting on their laurels and are reopening a distillery in the town of Port Charlotte on Islay. Port Charlotte distillery was open between 1829 and 1929, but recent news is that Mark Reynier and company plan on starting production sometime in the next couple of years. Given the excellent product line from the award winning stable of Bruichladdich, this has to be great news for all whisky lovers. They even purchased a distillery from the mainland and dismantled it for use on Islay. Many of these parts will come to good use when resurrecting Port Charlotte. More information on the Bruichladdich website.

[Correction: According to the Bruichladdich website, Jim McEwan was responsible for the idea of buying the Inverleven ditillery. Thanks Armin for spotting that]

I have been jotting down notes over the last few weeks since starting this blog, and a few of those have eventually turned into posts. In the same time the number of readers is slowly increasing.

I’d love to find out what you’d like to hear about here. Would you like more tasting notes? More discussions about the production of single malt scotch? Are my posts too long, or not long enough?

Please feel free to add comments so that I can gauge how well I am doing, and get a feel for what i should keep talking about.

Alternatively you can send me an email to whiskyblog@comcast.net

More and more often now we are seeing whisky manufacturers take a more purist approach by avoiding chill filtering and colouring of their products. But what exactly are these processes, what is the reason for them and how does it affect the end product?

Firstly, lets talk about colouring. As the single malt whisky industry grew, its clientele began to expect a level of consistency between any two bottles of the same labeled product. One large area of inconsistency comes from the flavourings and colourings imparted by the cask used to mature the distilled malt whisky.

As I have mentioned in another post, the flavour aspect is controlled by the skillful blending of whiskys across casks and even ages from within the distillery. The colour tone can also be normalized in this manner, but more typically a standardized rich golden tone is provided with the addition of caramel for colouring.

Chill-filtering has an entirely different purpose. Say for example, you poured directly from a cask into a bottle. How would that be any different from a carefully blended and filtered single malt? First the whisky will contain small ‘chips’ and impurities from the inside of the cask (I’ve heard these referred to as coals). These are entirely harmless, but offputting to most consumers. These can be mostly removed using regular filtering (through a metallic filter mesh). The second difference is that the malt that is not chill-filtered will contain natural oils and proteins present from the distillation and also extracted from the cask. These oils can cause the whisky to become cloudy when chilled or mixed with water which is again offputting for the average consumer.

Chill-filtering is a process (created I think sometime in the early 20th century) whereby the liquid is chilled to around freezing point (0°C) . This causes the natural oils and proteins to clump, and once passed through a filter these elements can be more effectively removed. This process also removes the sediment and coals.

A purist typically does not care for unnatural additions to his single malt, and in fact would celebrate differences from one cask to the next. In fact, becoming familiar with how different a whisky can be between casks really does lend some knowledge to what factors do affect the final product in terms of flavour, colour, aroma and finish and to how important the cask maturation is.

The same purist would typically also not care for any extractions from the product, and the chill-filtering process does just that. Personally, I have no problem with a single malt clouding up with the addition of water, and instead celebrate the fact that the whisky almost certainly has flavour aspects and a texture that would have been very different had it been chill-filtered.

As I mentioned, more and more single malts now label the fact that they are unchill-filtered or colour free. Custom bottlings are rarely touched in this manner, and the Blackadder bottles I own contain a fair amount of the sediment talked about earlier. The Signatory collection have some great cask strength and virtually untouched malts. Most cask strength whiskys are probably non-chill filtered as well, for example the Aberlour A’bunadh.

Please feel free to post your feedback in the comments. I’d love to know if this helped anyone clear up some of the meaning behind the terms. 

I purchased this bottle (among a few others) while on a recent trip to San Francisco. If you are in Northern California this small store,The Whisky Shop , is well worth checking out and alongside the more regularly available single malts are a number of rare malts.

I settled on a Tobermory and a Signitory Vintage 10y.o. unchill-filtered Edradour, specifically Bottle 263 (of337) from case #229. This bottle is marked as being distilled on 23rd May 1995 and bottled 24th Feb 2006.

 

Being unchill-filtered this Edradour has a wonderful warm nutty brown colour do it. In fact the colour is rich and suprising given the lack of caramel or other additives to enhance the appearance.

The aroma is complex and satisfying, with florals and heather alongside a faint touch of orange and vanilla.

The flavour is very robust with a rich comforting warmth. I get caramel toffee and a faint chocolate forthe initial flavour, and the finish is medium with a gently receding warmth and ending with caramel and a hint of orange.

 

Overall I rate this Edradour quite highly, and is one of the favourites in my collection (although it is almost gone too). I would probably rate this as a 8.5/10 and is a very sophisticated and well rounded single malt.

Now that my cold is receding (after 5 horrible days), I can move onto my next tasting.

I first tried Laphroaig (pronounced laff-roig) Quarter Cask a few months ago after it appeared in the local liquor store here.
The term “quarter cask” refers to the fact that it is matured in a second smaller (quarter sized) cask after the original maturation in a regular oak cask. This adds an extra depth of flavour and aroma to an already fine malt.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask Image

One feature I particularly appreciate is that it is non-chill filtered, allowing the whisky to retain more of its real characteristics along with the natural oils that cause the whisky to cloud up slightly when water is added. Note that I recommend the addition of water for this particular single malt given the bottled alcohol strength of 48%.

1. First impressions: Appearance and aroma

The color of Laphroaig Quarter Cask is deeper from my recollection of the regular Laphroaig, which is to be expected given the additional cask maturation. The actual tone and color reminds me a lot of an apple cider, with a nice golden orange hue. The aroma is also quite ‘woody’ with a sweet and subtle peaty smokiness. There is also a hint of English christmas cake.

2. Taste and Finish

The palate is sophisticated, and the peaty flavour is much more subtle than from the nose. I get hints of anise and cloves, finishing very long and getting sweeter as the flavour diminishes.

3. Overall Impression

This is an excellent single malt. When I first started getting into single malts I really didn’t like Laphroaig, but over time as my taste became more varied I really appreciated the depth of flavour in this producers offerings. The Quarter Cask is no exception, and is probably once of my favourite Islay whiskys. I would rate it an 8 out of 10.

When talking about a Scottish Whisky (Scotch), there are two main categories of product – blends and single malts. The difference between the two is simple. A single malt is made entirely by distillations from a single producer at a single site, whereas a blend is created by mixing distillation from multiple producers.

Blends are typically also a mix of malt and grain whiskys (though there are exceptions), whereas a single malt is obviously only made from malt whiskys.

Blended whisky was first produced in the mid 1800’s, and the main goal is to produce a consistent marketable product. Typically the bulk of a blend is made up of grain whisky which is cheaper to produce, lending itself to a more cost effective product. The grain aspect is an unmalted cereal such as wheat or maize and it lends itself to a harsher flavour than whisky from malted grains. One thing to note is that over time, the availability of the base components of a blended whisky might become unavailable (either the distillery closes, or it decides to longer provide the malt whisky product to the blenders), causing quite a challenge to the blender. Good examples of popular blends are Bells, Grants, Teacher, Famous Grouse and Dewars.

Confusion can often arise when talking about a single malt. The term single actually refers to the fact that it is sourced from a single distiller and the end product is a crafted blend of malts of various ages. The goal here is to retain the character of the product while retaining as much consistency between batches as possible.

One important thing to note is that if a single malt is aged (for example, Aberlour has a single malt product aged at 10 years old), by law no whisky in the product can be younger than that age. Therefore a 10 year old might be a blend of 10 year olds, 12 year old, 16 year old and higher (each maybe from multiple hogsheads). The reason older products are used is often to give heightened character and sophistication to the younger product.

There are two more rare classes of product worthy of discussion – often referred to as single single malts, and single single single malts.

A single single malt denotes a malt whisky that comes from a single distillation from a single producer. It might still be a blend across hogsheads to obtain a level of consistency from batch to batch, but it typically gives a much better representation of the product you might obtain directly from a single cask.

More exclusive is what is sometimes referred to as single single single malt, although I prefer to refer to it as a direct bottling or whatever term is used by the bottler (such as Blackadder’s use if Raw Cask). This is a bottling from a specific barrel and the selection of this barrel is carefully considered in order to be representative of the distilleries regular product. Independent bottlers might also buy casks from a distiller and release such a product – an example of which would be the Blackadder products in my collection – although these products might be much more random in flavour as the barrels are rarely custom selected by the signitory or master distiller.

Given that the fewer components that are in a particular bottle usually means a more careful selection of those components, the best way to get a high quality product is to move up to single single malts, or the direct bottlings. Even here in New Hampshire there is a good selection available and as always it is worth looking out for new items at the liquor store or specialty spirit/whisky shop.