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Thursday, 19 June 2008

We've Arrived! hits 50+ reviews!

This is it, ladies and gents. Here is our 49th, 50th and 51st whisky reviews. Actually, that's a bit of a lie as that number has included 2 beers (whisky related, of course!) but it is not bad going since we started in March of this year. When I finally pass away, I want my liver to be made into pate and served at my funeral, as it will be better than any foie gras found around today.

What have you tried so far, we hear you cry (new readers, at least). Well, here is a little list for you of what exactly we have tasted thus far:
Arran - Founder's Reserve
Ardbeg - 1977
Ardbeg - Very Young
Ardbeg - Still Young
Ardbeg - Almost There
Ardbeg - Renaissance (We've Arrived!)
Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1375 - Distilled 1975
Ardbeg - 1975 - Cask No.1378 - Distilled 1975
Ardbeg - 1990 - 18 YO - Fourth Fill Bourbon Cask - Cask No. 2553
Ardbeg - Corryvreckan
Ardbeg - Mor - Feis Ile 2007
Ardbeg / Glen Moray - Serendipity
BBR - Blue Hanger
Bowmore – 8 YO - Distilled 14th June 1999
Bruichladdich - PC7- Unity
Bruichladdich - Port Charlotte - PC6 - Ian Buxton Single Cask bottling
Buichladdich 3D3
Bruichladdich - Valinch X4+1 Deliverance
Bunnahabhain 1976 – 31 YO
Bunnahabhain – 21 Yo – Dist 1986
Caol Ila - 1991 / 2007 - 16 YO - Berry Bro and Rudd - Cask No. 286
Caol Ila - 1978 / 2002 - 23 YO - Rare Malts
Caol Ila 1991 – 17 YO
Clynelish 1995 – 12 YO
Dallas Dhu - Old Malt Cask – 21 YO
Glen Scotia 1992 – 15 YO
Grants Ale Cask Reserve
Highland Park – Old Malt Cask- 23 YO – NAS
Highland Park 1989 – 17 YO
Highland Park OB 12 yo Single Cask - 1995
Johnnie Walker - Gold Label - Centenary Edition (18 Year Old Blend)
Johnnie Walker - Blue Label
Lagavulin – 1993 / Bottled 2008 – 15 YO – OB - Feis Ile 2008
Lagavulin - 14 YO - Feis Ile Bottling 2007
Lagavulin - 8 Year Old Lagavulin - Distilled 2000
Lagavulin - 15 YO - Distilled 1993
Lagavulin - 42 YO - Distilled 1966
Laphroaig – 10 YO – Cask Strength
Laphroaig – 1989 – 17 YO – Feis Ile 2007 Bottling
Laphroaig – Cairdeas – Feis Ile Bottling 2008
Macallan - OB - Elegancia
Macallan 1990 – 18 YO
Port Ellen - Berry's Own Selection - 1982 / 2008 (25 YO)
Royal Bracklar – Rare Malts – 20 Years Old – Dist. 1978
Talisker - 10 YO
Talisker - 12 YO
Talisker - 18 YO
Talisker - 57 Degrees North
Tomintoul – Mackillops Choice – 35 YO – Dist. 1966
BEER: Islay Ales - Bruichladdich 2008 Peat Ale - 500ml - 7.6% Vol - £3.50
BEER: Innis & Gunn Original - 6.6% Vol - 330ml

Right. On with our reviews and how fitting that, as we arrive at 50+ reviews we should do a retrospective tasting of the development of Ardbeg across their Very Young, Still Young, Almost There and Renaissance (We've Arrived) range. As the fruits of their labour under the ownership of Glenmorangie, this range is a classic example of why Ardbeg is such a loved and wonderful dram. The wonders of the 3 Kildalton distillieries on Islay (Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg) are there for all to taste, but to have a range of whisky showing development over a 10 year period really is wonderful and it gives a rare opportunity to taste malt development and maturation in progress. Let's kick off with a whisky we reviewed recently. Apologies for a re-print, but it is nice to have all these tasting notes in one place:

Ardbeg - Very Young - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2004 - OB - 70cl - 58.3% Vol

Nose: Green leaves, grass and hints of smoke at the back. Sweet peas, cloves and lemon zest, soft creamy butter.
Palate: Cream, more fruit, this time apples, toffee, bonbons and more cloves.
Finish: Fresh green tea, grass cuttings, brine, leading into lemon sherbets.
Overall: When we first tasted the VY for Discussion, we thought it was a little too young and spirity, but this mixed with a little water is a really excellent whisky, its weight and complexity far outweighing its age.

Ardbeg - Still Young - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2006 - OB - 70cl - 56.2% vol

Nose: Butterscotch, Caramac bars and coaldust dominate, but there is an emergent savoury note as well. Absolutely lovely.

Palate: Very drinkable despite its youth and strength. Slightly less bumptious and more approachable than its predecessor, Very Young - but still with the big hot spices, coal tar soap and citrus character.

Finish: Long, tingling, warming, astringent. Spices, white pepper and chilli still throwing their weight around and bursting in flashes across the tastebuds.

Overall: Another epic dram from the team at Ardbeg. Strangely, it doesn't seem to suit water: the smallest drop seems to throw it off balance, and the palate becomes quite salty. But there's no need for water in this anyway - take it like a man!

Ardbeg - Almost There - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2007 - OB - 70cl - 54.1% Vol

Nose: Wet turf & wet wool to begin with, then gets very earthy with distinct bonfire aromas - more woodsmoke than coal. Like burning loose, wet, young peat rather than the heavy, dense, older stuff.
Palate: Noticeably smoother than the Very Young and Still Young, its predecessors in this series. Very approachable, with a more pronounced sweetness sitting well alongside the lemon, brine and smoke that so characterise the younger bottlings.
Finish: Sweet and salty, with the peat mixing with some faint hints of legumes (runner beans, fresh sugar snap peas) and still plenty of spice.

Overall: It is just fascinating to taste this alongside the two earlier versions and the Renaissance - to chart the development of one of the world's greatest malts from its infancy. As one would expect, this version is more balanced and complete than its younger siblings.

Ardbeg - Renaissance (We've Arrived!) - Distilled 1998 / Bottled 2008 - OB - 70cl - 55.9% Vol
Nose: Immediate sherbertiness (if that's a word) - lemony. Then some tinned fruit salad, sugar syrup, sawdust and peach melba. The peat remains in the background as the nose develops green apples and barley sugar, then comes forward: coal smoke & woodsmoke, very nice. With time, the nose becomes more peppery, with not unpleasant hints of tweed and old floorboards, like an ageing relative's attic. But the real thing is the sherbert: it's almost as if the whisky is effervescent - you can't help half-expecting it to fizz up your nose...

Palate: The very second it hits your tounge there is a real Champagne quality to it. But only for a split second. Fizz, sparkle and then a big coal hit... then the spices come rushing in - yowser! Very warming, the bonfire notes are here again, but accompanied by some exotic fruit. Then it's the turn of the coal - this is a smouldering, intense, complex whisky. It's also delicious.

Finish: As the smoke and spice roar on, the finish becomes slightly drying, with dusty oak, honey that peach yoghurt? Whatever. This is going down a treat.

Overall: A great end to the 'Young' series. Ardbeg call it the 'path to peaty maturity', but whatever you want to call it, it's been a great trip. And this stuff is brilliant. Bodes very well for the widely-anticipated new batch of 10 year-old.