Whisky Review: Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu IPA Cask Finish 2017

Style: Fruity, Gingery and Bright

Nose:

Begins with a comfortable blend of vanilla cream and marmalade. Tropcial fruits, pineapple and overripe honeydew building on a citrus edge. Quiet forest breeze, spearmint and green pine gently sheathed by the sweetness at the core. Floral notes crystallized into sugary confectioneries which are elevated by energetic spices. A near-invisible whiff of dunnage malt towards the end.

Palate:

Orange and pineapple infused into fizzling ginger ale, setting a fresh and vibrant tone on the palate, very nice. Green peppermint and pine notes soaring high again, luscious passion fruit syrup drizzling generously on a beer-flavoured milkshake (imagine that!). An aromatic layer of hops lying in between. Rich vanilla milk at the back, a bit of caramel sauce and oatmeal to finish.

Finish:

Faint beer signatures, citrus malt with ginger shreds and orange bitters to finish. Still fresh and delicious but dries up quicker than usual and leaving a curious void.

Thoughts:

I was stunned when I first tried a sample of this (thanks Jose), not only by the high standards of this malt, but very much by how beer cask maturation has opened my eyes to a new flavour dimension of malt whisky – a novel set of ginger and floral traits; the extra lightness and crispness instilled by IPA casks in such an agreeing way. The synergy is definitely there, and it works exceptionally well with Chichibu’s bright and citrus-driven distillate, making it an immensely fresh summer whisky. Beautiful dram, extremely close to 2 stars.

☆ [Recommended]

[57.5% • Original Bottling • 2017 Bottled • No Age Statement • Cask Strength • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • 6082 of 6700 Bottles • *+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu “The First”

Style: Youthful, Sweet Orange and Vanilla

Nose:

Powerful spirit heat hitting the nose, peppermint surfing on top, while bright orange confectioneries chorusing full-throatedly at the core, vanilla cream settling in with bits of floral overtone. Rich and round aroma.

Palate:

Refreshingly sweet and crisp on the palate. Powerful heat pushes through, while orange drops flourish beautifully, peppermint and grassy notes fly high, vanilla brushes painting the side, a few floral blotches stacking up at the back. Still young with discrete white spirit signatures, liquorice roots, cereal malt, orange core reducing to bitters and citrus oil at the back.

Finish:

A final squeeze of citrus oil, orange notes integrating with peppermint and some vanilla oatmeal.

Thoughts:

I am really impressed with the completeness of the spirit given this is only a mere 3 years old. It’s still young, don’t get me wrong, but to me this feels more like a 7 – 9 years old Speysider. Honestly, I have totally forgotten about this bottle until I dig this out at the corner of my cabinet the other day, I guess it did not make a big impression on me back then (yet the bottle is suspiciously empty). Revisiting it now and compare with the current Chichibu gives me an interesting insight of how the distillate has developed overtime. Anyway, it is a young, bright and sweet Chichibu we have here.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[61.8% • Original Bottling • 2008 Distilled • 2011 Bottled • Aged 3 Years • Non Chill Filtered • Non Coloured • Matured in Bourbon Casks • 2588 of 7400 Bottles]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Asta Morris Chichibu (Cask No. 702)

[52.3%・5 Years Old・Distilled in 2010・Bottled in 2016・Asta Morris Bottling・Cask No. 702・Single Cask Release of 380 Bottles]

Nose:

The nose boasts a indulging creaminess, oozing out vanilla custard and gooey egg tart centre, it’s quite a dense, unrelenting sweetness. Within the sweetness, ripe fruits are also present followed by a casual pinch of chilli and sichimi powder.

Palate & Finish:

The palate is bursting with honey and honeydew, quite a matured ripeness and incredibly sweet. The apple nectar ropes in the wood to provide a momentary dryness before making way for another wave of syrupy sweetness. It’s slightly gingery on the back palate with more honey and a lovely expression of malt coming out.

Quite a lovely finish with some honey and menthol.

Thoughts:

Chichibu and Asta Morris have both released quite a few quality bottlings but I think both of them will remember this bottling fondly.

Such a indulging gem, the profile is also quite unique.

It’s certainly one of the more memorably good virgin oak casks out there, not entirely balanced but certainly enjoyable enough to be in consideration of a two star recommendation.

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Ichiro’s Malt Chichibu Selected by Bar Barns

[62.1%・4 Years Old・Distilled in 2010・Bottled in 2014・Official Bottling・Cask No. 657・Single Cask Release of 227 Bottles]

This expression has been made with floor malted optic barley.

Nose:

On the nose, we have some citrus nicely propping up the bourbon cask influence with its creamy and velvety char up; it’s also floral in a rustic sense but somewhat boozy.. the high alcohol content gives a sharp edge to the dram. In time, we have a stickily sweet popcorn note.

Palate & Finish:

The blend of citrus marmalade and salted caramel is  perhaps quite heavily handed initially, but the delivery carries a certain dose of umami and it does open up into folded soft caramel and well churned butter. The wood chimes harmoniously before the spices come raining down, a wee pear sweet note does sip to the surface on the back palate, charming but rather inferred.

The finishing proves to be quite a malty affair, with just a hint of menthol evaporating away together with some liquorice as well..

Thoughts:

Unmistakably Chichibu, though it’s structurally fine taking into account of the house style, I am not sure if this is one of the standouts after so many spectacular Chichibu expressions in the past 3 to 4 years..

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

-Nicholas

Dram Review: Laphroaig Original Cask Strength Straight From the Wood 10 Years Old

[57.3%・10 Years Old・Bottled Circa 2000・Official Bottling・Limited Release]

Nose:

Full bodied goodness of smoked haddock and rubber-y particles from a car drifting by.  Truly attention grabbing with a stupendous dose of iodine, pepper and Chinese watermelon flavored throat spray followed by an affirming wave of sea salt.  Traces of ginger, lemon and honey follow suit, very masculine indeed.

Palate & Finish:

The profile is surprisingly mild with rich ripe fruits before the peat spectacularly takes over without first announcing its presence, truly exhilarating with its sootiness, the spices extend the roller-coaster ride but at the same time, the delivery is unfathomably balanced.

A lasting finish as the peat proves to be relentless, though it does get soothed eventually by the underlying toffee.  Soot and menthol striding on as some dark chocolate serves to round out the tail pleasingly.

Thoughts:

What an uncompromisingly great dram, the strength elevates the enjoyment level of the dram tremendously.  I can hardly think of an OB Laphroaig I have derived as much joy as this, those who have hoarded cases of this should feel very smug indeed.

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: Laphroaig PX Cask Triple Matured

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Fragrant, smoked-infused baked apples and pineapples served with fresh cherry pie. Cinnamon and ginger shreds dressed on top of it, a very dessert-like (with some smoke though) aroma on the nose. A pinch of black pepper sprinkled on smoked bacon at the back, soy beans undertone. All enveloped comfortably by an extra syrup coat. Nice.

Palate:

Delicate red fruits riding on a vibrant smoke-fruit core. Mocha and furnace ashes side touches, tropical fruits dripping with heavy cherry chocolate. A mix of liquorice roots, iodine blotches and earthy notes at lower levels, whereas peppermint hitting small peaks on top of the round, citrus-edged sweetness. Hay smoke lightly torched, moss and maritime influence at its tail.

Finish:

Ambers dying down, fading toasted apples, a final touch of hay smoke at the end.

Thoughts:

A Laphroaig nicely sweetened by Pedro Ximenez sherry. People (including me) can be wary/sceptical of PX maturation, as its influence can be overwhelmingly sweet, which can badly disrupt the dynamics of the spirit. However, I also believe if you can get the balance right it will work very well, and this is what we have here – just a light touch of extra PX sweetness to polish off the edges, and create a coherent expression. Lovely dram.

☆ [Recommended]

[48% • Original Bottling • Non Chill Filtered • Travel Retail Exclusive • General Release • Circa 2015 • *]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Laphroaig 18 Years Old (circa 2009)

Style: Fruity and Smoky

Nose:

A healthy dose of bonfire smoke, iodine drops. Vanilla and charred oak working around some lay-low mocha. Tropical fruits shining through with a subtle hint of green moss. Rich and structurally sound. Nice.

Palate:

Radiant Tropical fruits beaming with astounding sweetness on the palate. A soft perfume touch, while condensed smoke, Lapsang and bonfire ashes orbiting around the fruity core. More barbeque briquettes, fruits crystallized beautifully and dropped into chocolate Mocha. Everything in place, sophisticatedly crafted and perfectly balanced.

Finish:

Smoked chocolate fused with yellow fruits and roasted coffee beans waning softly, elegant finish.

Thoughts:

What a dram. Resoundingly rich, smoky and fruity. At this spec, we have optimum balance, good architecture and perfect coordination, what else can you really ask for? I guess a little more magic can make this from great to legendary. An all-time classic me thinks. I can even argue this is 2 stars.

☆ [Recommended]

[48% • Original Bottling • General Release • Non Chill Filtered • circa 2009 Bottled • *+]

-Esmond

Whisky Review: Signatory Vintage Laphroaig 1998 Aged 16 Years Cask Hand Picked By The Whisky Exchange

Style: Sweet and Smoky

Nose:

Fairly powerful aroma on the nose, a bit hot. Maritime peat flowing in, hay stack sits at the deep then we are graced with delicate lemon tea notes and acid pop. Followed by subtle touches of fried onions and bacon. A whiff of gunpowder, while brine mixes with emerging earthy tones, ginger and nutmeg. Black liquorice at the back.

Palate:

Lip-smacking lemon honey drops fusing into the fruity core. Powerful smoke and peat. Hay stack laying the foundation, whereas red fruits and chocolate whipping up a most satisfying roundness… Molasses overtone, brown sugar introduced to give a syrupy sweetness which is then melded into the briny and mineral side of the Laphroaig. Red liquorice and liquorice roots smoked gently. Bonfire lingers till the end. Intoxicating.

Finish:

Tropical fruits taking in a small portion of cherry juice. Smoky water, more liquorice roots and chocolate mocha to finish.

Thoughts:

Very delicious. Definitely one of the best (modern) Laphroaig I have ever had. The sherry injects a perfect dose of sweetness and lifts up the spirit beautifully, while the smoky and peaty elements lacing charmingly around the sweet fruity core. Really, really addictive stuff. Honestly, I am a bit worried that I will finish the bottle before I write up the review, luckily I showed some self-restraint and manage to pen this down when the fill is going down to the final third. Laphroaig is generally good, but when it is as awesome as this, it is so hard to resist…

☆☆ [Highly Recommended]

[59.9% • Independent Bottling • Single Cask • Cask Strength • 585 Bottles • Cask Number: 700389 • 1998 Distilled • 2015 Bottled • Matured in a Refill Sherry Butt • **]

-Esmond

Dram Review: Kingsbury Islay 1988 Distilled at the Laphroaig Distillery

[59.1%・NAS・Distilled in 1988・Bottled Circa Early 2010s・Kingsbury Bottling・Limited Release of 238 Bottles]

This Laphroaig is from Kingsbury’s quite well known Celtic Series.

Nose:

Iodine! The dram very much embodies the maritime landscape with freshly shucked oysters drizzled with fish sauce. Some light honey note to add to the undertone whilst some citrus and pepper add to the top notes, with a gentle layer of caramel being applied in time.

Palate & Finish:

A moment’s stay on vanilla and honey before getting forcefully dragged through a wet forest with rain soaked wood. The peat is robust, sucking out moisture alongside hints of hard toffee lollies, cappuccino chocolate powder and quite a pinch of Sichuan spices.

The peat carries on strong into the finish, but is allowing hints of citrus and dark honey to come through.

Thoughts:

Oh wow, quite a brute Laphroaig we have here.. violently satisfying however..

☆ [Recommended]

-Nicholas

Whisky Review: SMWS 93.80 Glen Scotia ‘Rough around the edges’

Style: Fruity, Peaty and Ashy

Nose:

A whiff of sea breeze at fish market, barbeque smoke, followed by kelp, and acidic mineral notes. Lively maritime influence in the air. Tight with spirit hotness, Acrylic glue transition in the middle. Uplift the smokescreen and we have fragrant, overripe peaches which has been waiting at the back. Creamy vanilla and toffee to round the aroma off at the back.

Palate:

Smoke and fruits switch sides on the palate. Smoky water retreating to the back as overripe fruits filling up the front rows. Vanilla cream tipped into round and rich sweet fruitiness. Toffee sauce drizzling down, then the maritime influence resurfaces again – more kelp, sea salt, iodine and a touch of acidity start rolling back. Finishes with some tobacco ash.

Finish:

Barley taking in minimal amount of honey as flavours are drying up. Burnt wood ashes and hickory smoke finish.

Thoughts:

Young Glen Scotia(s) are always fun to play with, maybe that’s because of its distinctive, expressive and multi-facet spirit character. Adding cask influence into the equation, you quite never know what you are getting but usually there is plenty to play with. Now, for this Glen Scotia, we have a honey cask which injects beautiful sweetness to carry the minor elements through, fruity, funky and smoky. Quite delicious.

✓ [Recommended if you like the style/ distillery]

[60.6% • 2010 Distilled • Aged 7 Years • Single Cask • Cask Strength • Non Coloured • Non Chill Filtered • Matured in First Fill Bourbon Cask • t+]

-Esmond