First Tasting, Aberlour 10,12,16,18, A’Bunadh

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Tastings are a wonderful opportunity to try multiple expressions (types) of whisky. I surprisingly enough am not made of a magical never ending whisky tree.  So the opportunity to enjoy a dram  without having to buy the bottle is an economic no brainer, and also a test of the senses.

My first tasting was at the Hotel Omni. This is not a whisk(e)y bar per se but they do a nice job of hosting a tasting almost every Wednesday.IMG_3697

How best to make use of a tasting (in my opinion). Take your time, be a it a two expression tasting or five. You generally will get a proper 1oz pour per glass. With one ounce per dram you need the time to reflect and ponder the intricacies of each individual expression. Well at least, I do.

Tasting 5 different expressions from the same house can be a challenge, and I worried that i would not be able to differentiate between them. How different can they be, the answer is decidedly a matter of taste and willingness to find something different.

This tasting was a good first entry into the fray.  I had already tasted some of the expressions on their own but never had i compared them to one another in one sitting. I was kind of exited to try and test my palate. I tried tasting from youngest to oldest in order to not loose the subtleties from the younger expressions.

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The Aberlour 10yr has light oak and vanilla perfume with notes of plum.

The palate starts with a slight spice that leaves way to a candy sweet taste that is pleasant and then it quickly fades away to the finish which transitions quickly to a hint of sweet honey.

The first one is always a little easier to discern, if only because the there is nothing to IMG_3694compare it to, and this is were I worried that is would not be able to detect noticeable differences in the the 12yr old expression. I finished my last sip of the 10yr, took a sip of water to cleanse my palate and chatted with the bartender for a short while to give  some distances between the two  drams. I was anxious to see if there would be enough of a difference in the two years between the two scotches for me to pick up on.

IMG_3700But what a difference 2 years make…when they are in a sherry barrel. It was with great relief that when I tasted the Aberlour 12yr, this expression was noticeably  different from the first. The credit goes to the double cask aging. The 12yr spends ten years maturing in a oak casks and then transitions to a sherry casks (casks that had previously been used to age Sherry)for the last two years. This process imbues a secondary taste that balances with the oak barrel.

The Aberlour 12yr’s nose has an aged raisin aroma (and a very slight nostril burn similar to the 10yr). The palate is spicy and honey sweet up front and slightly oaky in the back of the mouth, the dram slides of the tongue and expands pleasantly through the mouth. The finish lingers with notes of toffee.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/ValdiviaJerez55.jpgI was relieved to have been able to perceive the difference, next was a favorite of mine the 16yrs Aberlour. I have previously reviewed this particular expressions, but for continuities sake, here is the short version. The nose is sweet and with floral notes and light honeycomb. The palate starts with a spicy sweet hit and transitions to a deep complex Oloroso that is carried through with a consistently creamy mouthfeel.

The next was the 18yr old and i had a thought that the trend of deep and creamy deliciousness would continue, I was wrong and that was ok. It was a surprise to taste a clean and more subtle dram. The nose has a sweet and light floral characteristic with honeycomb undertones. The palate has a quick hit of Oloroso raisins and really just a smooth slow tickling of the tongue. The spiciness evolves to into a nice citrus nuttiness that fills the mouth. The mouthfeel for this dram is markedly different from the 16yr old the creaminess is replaced with a slight glycerol like coating. The finish is smooth and light. The bottle was a surprise and a welcome one. It challenged my senses and showed the diversity within the Aberlour line of products.

The Aberlour A’Bunadh, now this is a beast of a bottle. It is cask strength, that is to say that they don’t cut alcohol content with water, the ABV (alcohol by volume) is 59.6%. This strength can make some think that there will be some serious burn to accompany the dram, but really it’s surprising how smooth this rolls and stays steady no the palate. The nose is assertive with a deep Oloroso Sherry, spices and a hint of orange. The palate is a strong mixture of black cherries, spices, and a warm ginger that roll through the mouth and lingers. The mouthfeel is a full creaminess that lasts through the finish exposing notes of vanilla, more spice, bitter chocolate and light oak. The finish lasts and lasts in a good way, really a great expression.

The A’Bunadh has not been chill filtered which might lead to the  extra notes of complexity. The process of cold filtering removes extra impurities and is done generally to improve the clarity of the liquid.

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    And so ends my first tasting. With all that tasting I highly recommend that notes be taken. Weather it’s for a single bottle or five, trying to remember your experience in detail later on will be well served by a few  scribbles on a note pad, or voice memo on your phone. However you choose to document the experience it will be rewarded when you try to remember all the awesome you have just experienced.

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    Nikka Coffey Grain

    Woops, spelling matters.  I have been erroneously telling people that the Nikka Coffey Grain whisky was produced in old coffee stills, this is not the case and upon further (or initial) research the “coffey” in coffey grain refers to the method of distillation and not the use of coffee (but i swear i can smell it on the nose).

    A Coffey still is a method of distillation utilizing a double column system to continuously draw out the steam and vapours from the processsing of malted barley and other grains. This system allow for higher production and a lighter flavour profile  as opposed to the more commonly used single pot still.

    Now to the matter at hand:

    IMG_3679This might be a lighter style of whisky but it is by no means less complex. The nose gives off a bourbon-y vanilla aroma with a slight singe on the nostrils. Hidden in the back of my mind I want to say I smell a single roasted grain of coffee that was dropped in the mash by accident (the brain does crazy things when it wants to be right)

    IMG_3683The palate develops slowly with a spicy floral taste and hints of vanilla bean. The aromas and taste leave slowly off the tongue to a tingling on the cheeks.

    The finish is a film light glycerine that is barely there but pleasant and an instant later gone. This allows for easy sipping and general enjoyment.

    IMG_3682Final thoughts on the Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky are what i think a nice light summer whisky should be; clean, light and what a grain whisky can show without the deep burn of bourbon.

    Ardbeg Uigeadail

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    The Ardbeg Distillery is located on the southern coast of Islay, this region is renown for its peaty/smokey style.  The moment you smell this scotch there is no  mistaking its provenance. The nose bursts with a pleasant aged leather and underlying peat. Now peat you may not be familiar  with if your preferences have been to stay on the smooth and mild bodied whiskys. Peat is a moss that grows in bogs or bodies of water (lochs in Scottish).  The water and the peat are taken to produce this expression (a particular production). The barley is dried by smoking the peat, this process imbues  not only the smoke but the peatiness that is so singular

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    The palate fill the mouth to the brim with a balanced mixture of sweet fruit and dark molasses which gives way to deep roasted barley and smoke. The fullness in the mouth is maintained straight to the finish.

    The finish is strong in this one, as the palate dissipates the smokiness remains with caramel and sweetness emerging.

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    Overall, as powerful as it is, it remains a beautifully balanced affair. The is no rushing through this dram, it grabs your attention and holds it throughout. When I first tried this expression for the first time with friends, we all agreed that it was intense, requiring the addition of a moderate amount of water, to calm the smoke down.  As i write the review either my palate has been accustomed or maybe I’m turning into a peat-head. Only time and more trial will tell.

    Oban 14yr

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    I have a history with this bottle. There was an incident in my youth involving “gastro” (the gastro-intestinal nightmare that is the stomach flu) and the slightest whiff of a glass of Oban. The aroma triggered a chain reaction that lasted 2 days and resulted in a loss of 12lbs. I was scarred and it kept me away from whisk(e)y for a decade (no pictures are available or wanted from the incident). Skip ahead 15 years.

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    The Oban 14yr is a fine expression, demonstrating reserve and the nose gives of a smokey wood scent with hints of west highland coast sea spray.

    The palate isn’t as thick and engulfing as advertised but still gives off a pleasant mouthfeel throughout.

    The finish lasts long enough to draw some notes of dry oak and citrus-y fruit and whisps of sea salt.

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    Since my first encounter I have come to appreciate why my father had this as his staple for all these years. It’s a proper staple of the upper middle shelf.

    Macallan 10yr

    IMG_3475The Macallan Fine oak cask is a fine example of a the Speyside single malt. Favoured by most as the top shelf distillery with its long lineage and brand presence.

    The 10yr fine oak does not disappoint. The nose is rich in fruity crispness with a light woody note.

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    The palate has a medium build and that’s to say that it keeps it clean while giving a nice mix of mouth feel and spice.

    A bit of a bourbon burn at the end, short and sweet though.

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    The over all impression from the Macallan 10yr is that it doesn’t disappoint but it doesn’t knock it out of the park either. Its a nice upper middle class.

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