Dram Review: White Oak Akashi Aged 15 Years

[58.0%•15 Years Old•Bottled in 2013•Official Bottling•Cask No. 40100•Single Cask Release of 795 Bottles]

I would like to put this on record, the White Oak Akashi I have tasted prior to this expression have been, to put it mildly, rather average.

Granted, the stuff I had were the recent releases; mostly NAS, others aged between 3-5 years. I never got the chance to sample their older offerings. So when I was at Bar White Oak, that was the bottle I jumped on almost immediately after seeing it.

Nose:

On the nose, the stark contrast is immediately noticed. A dignified and regal mahogany note, there is a rich cheese influence from the sherry. Vague incense with a touch of burnt toast. An addictive coal smoke note lurking as well.

Palate & Finish:

Blindingly sweet on the palate, the syrupy note is excessive but also very satisfying. Lemony with malted biscuits as the smoke develops. Intense date syrup with a heavy assertive woodiness coming on. Rustic and grungy, it’s a powerful whisky with a mean character.

It finishes off with the indulgence of chocolate mud cake and a vegetative note.

Thoughts:

It’s a whisky that makes one asks, “what the fuck happened to Akashi?!”… I suppose it’s the dram to try if you have not experienced the glory of White Oak Akashi before.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Octomore 10 Years

Tasting Notes:

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 Years

Style: Farmhouse-esque and Complex

Nose:

Dry hints of haystack and creamy milk for the sweetness. Old timber shed tweaking and  some”organic” peat. Who grew up in a farm? Tones are heavy, low, like a solo cello, solemn but calm… Mr. Jim Murray nailed it, cow shed is the best descriptor here.

Palate:

The cow shed theme continues on the palate but with more upbeat vanillin fragrance. Honey notes and some soothing sweet malt marches in with stimulating chilli spices. We have a lighter presentation on the palate, the weight lessens, and dry organic notes wanes. Touches of salt and peat smoke strapped at the back seat.

Finish:

Softens up to release more of the sweet milky notes, with light brushes of brine and oak. Long and Enjoyable.

Thoughts:

Heavy, powerful and complex. The interplay between the peat, smoke, vanilla and smoke was exceptional and created such an unique farmhouse profile. Rarely you have Octomores dialed down to a lower strength to unveil their refined side. Less muscular but with much more flair. I took another sip again and for an instance I thought, perhaps 50% might work even better for them.

☆ [Recommended]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Yoichi 15 Years Old

Tasting Notes:

Yoichi 15 Years Old ☆

Style: Fruity and Smoky

Nose:

Raw green mango-like sour fruitiness and a hint of sweet liquorice building upon a nice foundation of tender vanilla, honey and malt, such a special set of aromas at the nose! Charred oak and smoked salmon notes can be felt lurking at the rear.

Palate:

Sweet honey drop with smoky flavours on the palate, followed by vanilla and citrusy orange notes which bring in some fruity fragrance and soft but lively sourness…Spice goes into a mini-burst and burns on the tongue for an instance at the back, freshly roasted coffee beans with smoky steam gives a good kick towards the finish.

Finish:

The oak, smoke and peat elements synergise to give a dry and ashy, but not offensive bitter finishing. Subtle vanilla and tropical fruits notes roll in to back up and enhance body as well as the flavour.

Thoughts:

Yoichi 15 serves up a dazzling and bold profile here! The unique raw fruit tartness gives a fresh and salivating injection to the nose and palate, and brings out more of the full-body sweetness… Then there is the ashy smokiness which is so chewy and savoury, direct coal-firing perhaps? Enjoy!

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Lagavulin Aged 8 Years 

Tasting Notes:

Lagavulin Aged 8 Years

Style: Smoky and Vibrant

Nose:

The majestic smoke wraps around the vanilla licked honey core, timber log lightly crackling in the fireplace. Dim, smooth and satisfying… Followed by peaty notes with a touch of balsamic vinegar, lightly rubbed with sea breeze. Fruity notes slowly unfold, start with soft lemon citrus, then there are more tropical fruits, pineapple and coconut lifted by vivid white pepper spice.

Palate:

Pick up from what we have on the nose, white peppered tropical fruits hit in first. Lively and energetic honey coated pineapple leads the charge, tailed by delicate vanilla floral notes. Then again we indulge in the incensed, charred oak smokiness that floods the palate. Honey, malt biscuit in the middle. Gradually the smoke infused into the chocolate with an extra dash of sea salt. Ending with light spice sparkles to give a nice texture.

Finish:

Delicate finish with the tone slowly dissolve into a Chinese Tie Guan Yin fashion. Smoke lingers, chocolate, oak and more malt biscuits in the mix. Great finish!

Thoughts:

A light and vibrant Lagavulin! Stellar smokiness perfectly captured, which I can sit down, contemplate and admire it for hours. It has a strong, spicy and energetic character, when compared to its siblings, Lagavulin 8 has showcased the very best of the youthfulness from this distillery. A wonderful addition to the family!

(48%/2016/NCF/NC/LE/OB)

Esmond

You can read Nicholas’ review of the Lagavulin Aged 8 years Here.

A sit down with Mr. Brian Hollingworth of Black Gate Distillery

A decade ago, it might have seemed strange to celebrate world whisky day with a nip of Australian whisky. I wouldn’t know, I was in middle school back then. Times are a bit different now, with website getting crashed from eager fans trying to get their hands on the latest release, to award winning casks skyrocketing through the roof, Australian whisky producers are being celebrated and finally getting the due recognition for making some of the best new world whiskies currently in the market. So how does the latest cult leaders in the industry navigate through the sudden surge in popularity?

“We used to sell our whiskies at farmer’s market, did you know that?” said Mr. Brian Hollingworth of Black Gate Distillery “We only started working with Kathleen 18 months ago” Things have certainly changed for Brian and Genise Hollingworth since selling their rum to the locals. After signing on with Ms. Kathleen Davies of Nip of Courage and becoming the sensational hit at the Oak Barrel whisky fair last year, the couple from the small NSW town of Mendooran have since gone on and achieve a whole lot in the space of a calendar year, there were the BG005 and the 520 that practically flew off the shelves; then a pop up restaurant named Noma decided that they would offer Black Gate whiskies on their menu.

We sat comfortably inside the tasting room  at Stitch Bar, just one of the specialist bars in Sydney that has become the gathering ground for whisky lovers in the past couple of years. I told him how the 007 appeared to be indicative of the growing on the distillery; definitely less rugged, certainly more refined.

 
“No two whiskies we have made have been the same, the thing I focus on is consistent quality rather than consistent flavours” Brian explained and I can attest to that having been a keen follower of their releases so far. It is perhaps unfair to expect that Black Gate’s latest offerings to closely resemble their earlier batches; after all, they have had a new still installed and their production philosophy primarilly revolves around single casks due to their limited scale of production.
“I think I have told you this story before, when I first tried BG002, I was so disappointed because it was nothing like what I have tasted in the past”.

I hazily remember the first time I first heard Brian saying that. It was during the 2015 Whisky Fair, I had already tasted BG002 back then and I was keen to speak to the maker who had nailed what I thought was an uniquely Australian whisky. BG002 has this fascinatingly dirty diesel note on the nose that is so endearing, it works well emotionally even though it had only spent a little over two years in a sherry cask. The malt feels young but it’s bright and sugary, an embodiment of the beauty of youthfulness. As far as I was concerned, that was the moment I became a fan.

And with each release, the keen observers in Australian whisky circle have had the unique opportunity to watch this boutique distillery grow before their eyes and in their Glencairns. BG005 is dirtier and grittier still, soaked mandarins and caramel fudge packed with spices; it’s big on sherry influence.

Then Brian released the 520..

  The 520 is a big sherry bomb, it offers a generous dose of bright floral and fruity notes but also sturdy injection of diesel, tannins and minerals that makes the whisky quintessentially Australian from the on set. A luscious body that is syrupy and full on, it excels with a rather complex finishing of ginger infused Christmas cake, peanut butter and peat. As an archiver of some sort, I do honestly believe I can pinpoint the Oak Barrel launch of 520 as the point in time when Black Gate became more than just an amateur distillery in the general public’s eyes. Unlike a lot of their Aussie counterparts, the 520 is a drop that yields a complete delivery, a whisky that actually finishes rather than just falling off a cliff after the mid-palate. The 520 is a true winner in my eyes and I often refer it as the expression that propelled Black Gate to where they are now.

I was surprised to learn that it normally takes Brian and Genise 10 distillation runs to produce about 100 litres of new make. The inherent restrictions due to their small scale production present obvious challenges; looking from afar, it does seem like Black Gate is a happy accident of some sort, driven by circumstantial factors rather than an intended direction from the on set. I suppose it is no wonder the two humble distillers are darlings of the whisky circle, they are fundamentally nice people who have put in a lot of work and despite adversities they have managed to realise their dream in producing  whiskies they can proudly call their own.

I am not worried that the sudden surge in popularity will affect them that much. In fact, the chat with Brian remains most enjoyable to say the least; naturally he was surprised at how well his whiskies have been received, but he has no doubt gotten more used to it after some months and it really hasn’t changed who he is,  he is still one of the warmest human beings you can meet. And Genise is the same, a kind soul who has no doubt had a positive influence on how things are done up at the distillery. You can see her small touches here and there when you visit them at Mendooran. Not to mention she’s an accomplished spirit maker in her own right, as a rather partial rum punter, I find Genise’s Black Gate rum to be throughly enjoyable, it’s simply a glass of heavy, gooey satisfaction, enhanced by the use of sherry casks.

“I think she is one of four working female distillers in Australia,” Brian said with a broad grin, “I am very proud of her.”

It’s hard not to root for them.

Nicholas

Dram Review: Black Bowmore New Limited edition

[40.5%・42 Years Old・Distilled in 1964・Bottled in 2007・Original Bottling・Limited Release]

The Black Bowmore, so often trotted out as the whisky that symbolises the “illuminati” aspect in whisky appreciation, is somewhat of an enigma. The fact is that there has been a decent outturn over the years and you are bound to come across an opened bottle at a reputable whisky bar if you search for it patiently; and yes, that longing does unfairly add to the expectation, as human nature would dictate… but then again, a great whisky is a great whisky.

This particular release was distilled on 5 November 1964, matured in five Oloroso sherry casks and finally bottled in 2007 after 42 long years as part of The Trilogy release and the 4th edition of the Black Bowmore.

Nose:

Lush raisins, along with well polished mahogany and a dignified note of malted barley forms the backbone of the nose. There is a balsamic acidity that goes with syrup laced walnuts, slow-cooked ginger simmering away in brown sugar and cinnamon dust. The thickness though is soothed by a hint of savoury note that is simply mouthwatering. Pepper seasoned oak with a fine char note are present yet they are not overpowering at all despite the casks having years to exert their dominance, displaying such finesse instead with a soft touch of brine on the backend. The smoked barley note grows and grows in time with the presence of ripe fruit peels and a distant grassy note.

Palate & Finish:

Sweet fragrant oranges, naturally dried ripe mangos and papayas served in a velvety body. Thick toffee sweetness merges with the dark oak tannins to make it known that this is a whisky that has been well matured. What’s unexpected is that the spices still managed to retain the strength after all these years, and still they gel seamlessly into the fluidity of things. Thin peaty note being held in place by the extravagant fruitiness with the oak acting as a supplement to accentuate the lavishness. Honey roasted nuts and raisins dusted with cinnamon sugar, every drop is to salivate for indeed as notes of vintage leather, earthy coffee ground and roasted tobacco flow through. The taste of an elegant smoke lives long after the last drop.

Thoughts:

It’s a dram to remember and one to savour in memory. Lofty expectation but it surely has delivered in my honest opinion.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

Nicholas

Whisky Review: Bowmore “Tempest” Aged 10 Years Batch VI

Tasting Notes:

Bowmore “Tempest” Aged 10 Years Batch VI

Style: Bright and Feisty

Nose:

Delicious coconut cream and aromatic tropical fruits big on the nose. Beaming sweetness from freshly sliced pineapples and passionfruit pulp. Maverick spices blitz with white oak notes, opens up a soft layer of sea salt thinly cloaked with a whip of peat smoke. Fruity, malt syrup recovers at the back.

Palate:

Fragrant tropical fruits and honey sweetness fired up by overloaded spice on the palate. A light brush of vanilla and coastal peat are quickly conquered by crisp kumquat zest and green papaya notes. More oak-y undertone, spices continue the onslaught, leaving scattered touches of spearmint and dry nutty notes. Finishes with subtle, creamy malt.

Finish:

Faint oak bitterness, grapefruit peels with a drop of honey malt.

Thoughts:

Massive, fragrant Bowmore loaded with ramming spice. I like the concept. Great synergy between the what-I-think is a very fragrant spirit and youthful maturation. Subtle coastal influence and peat give a nice balancing touch. Oak component magnifies significantly over multiple sips, shipwrecks after storm perhaps?

(54.9%/2015/NCF/CS/OB/LE/Batch Number 6)

Whisky Review: Lagavulin Aged 16 Years 

Tasting Notes:

Lagavulin Aged 16 Years ☆☆

Style: Smoky and Serene

Nose:

Sweet, smoky aroma emits a calming aura. All edges have been well polished… Within lemon fruits there is the slightest hint of raisins and flowing nectar, sweet and nicely layered. A drier side is unfolded when you plunge deeper, orange peels, pine nuts with a touch of brine and oak.

Palate:

Sweetened smoke condenses on your palate in liquid form. Citrus orange and red fruits weave the palate beautifully with soft bonfire smoke and peat filling up every possible gap in the silkiest fashion… Beautiful barley waltz in with vanilla pods. Oak contributes, almost black tea like at one point, while fireside smoke churning lightly from background. Delicate texture with extra gentle spice. Stunning quality.

Finish:

Resilient vanilla towards the end, in which there is reminiscent of earthy peat, ember and beachside campfire smoke lingering and fading slowly.

Thoughts:

A must-try for every whisky lover, especially for those who just started their whisky journey and not sure what whisky (and Islay whiskies to a certain extent) is about. Delicate, sweet, nice introduction of peat with graceful smoke which makes you savour every sip… Brilliantly constructed, top quality dram with an attracting price. Highly recommended.

(43%/2013/OB/GR)

Dram Review: Glenfarclas 2015 Christmas Malt Whisky Edition

[51.5%・24 Years Old・Distilled in 1990・Bottled in 2015・Cask No. 7089・Official Bottling・Single Cask Release of 284 Bottles]

Glenfarclas has been one of the few distilleries that was able to keep up with the soaring demands during the early stages of this whisky boom; but even then, it has become somewhat of a rare sight to spot a recent bottling of a 24 year old single sherry cask, such as this one exclusively bottled for The Whisky Hoop.

Nose:

It’s a bit reserved on the nose, but with time comes cinnamon stalks and bright red natural cherries getting crushed. Vanilla grain and zesty oranges in the mix as well.

Palate & Finish:

Freshly pitted cherries and soothing honey water on the palate. Fresh cream paired with finely cut orange peels prepared for an old fashioned. The dry run like spices cut through to reveal a more traditional sherry hogshead inspired raisin note.

It mellows out into a warm finish of milk chocolate and liquor cured oranges.

Thoughts:

This is a dram bottled for Christmas and whomever is lucky enough to get a wee nip must have been very good indeed.

[Recommended]

– Nicholas

Whisky Review: Benromach 10 Years Old 100° Proof

Tasting Notes:

Benromach 10 Years Old 100° Proof ☆☆

 
Style: Fruity and Spicy

Nose:

Robust aromatic and spiced nose of vanilla flower, apple pie, cinnamon sticks and pear. A hint of lime zest running through the sharp edge of red hot spice. A side glimpse of dry haystack, honeycomb and milk that makes the nose deep, complex and powerful.

Palate:

Rather fresh grape and cherry notes landed with mighty spice which gives a really good kick. Followed by a special concoction of red liquorice, honeycomb, blood orange, raisins and oak with lovely waxiness. Comforting oily texture with a compact and intense structure. Vanilla and milk entering the final scene to mellow down the tune.

Finish:

Red fruit notes strides on at the finish but the oak influence is more profound. A more bitter bite with smokiness and bonfire ashiness. Faint drop of vanilla oil and honey is released towards the end, giving a balancing sweet touch for the dram.

Thoughts:

What a beast we have here! Personally I like whiskies with good strength which can also offer great complexity, this is immediately my new nightcap favourite after I tried it in a tasting session. Compact, unique blend of sweetness, dryness, spiciness and waxiness empowered by the alcohol monster… This is the whisky that can really tug you to bed!

(2014/57%/OB/NCF/GR)