Malt n Copper: Smoke & Fire

A bonfire-themed flight, predominantly made up of young [and/or newly released] smokers from new & established distilleries spanning Scotland, England and Japan.

 

Wolfburn NAS Morven [2017] Ob. 46% WB80.22[20] WF82

Three year old whisky with a phenol rating of 10ppm.

wolfburn.JPG

  • N: Well tempered, clean, soft, forgiving & malleable. Creamy/oily with notes of old man/BO [it gets better], mineral oak, sesame husk, airborne [nut] yeasts, sweet lemon stuff [meringue, Chris], waxed jacket lining, pickle, shandy and Appletiser.
  • T: Light tiptoe arrival on apricots & weetabix in milk, salty prickles, smokey-firm sweetcorn and husky barley. Modestly dry.
  • F: Light smokey ashy pea skins with dry cocoa on the finish. Short.
  • C: Nothing stands out as blatantly engineered and it’s fairly rounded with no obvious faults. Feels established. Only a feeling that improved casks would push it into the Chichibu league, up next.

Scores 83 points

 

Chichibu 2012/2016 Ob. ‘Ichiro’s Malt’ Peated [btl #5758/6350] 54.5% WB88.88[43] Dramble88 tOMoH7/10

Chichibu.JPG

  • N: Smoked Shreddies/All-Bran, soft herbal wasabi and sweetcorn. Clearly not Scottish.
  • T: Zooms in [Nick] with beautiful barley moving swiftly to a smoke complex – charcoal-y, camp fire smoke, nutty smoke, roasted chestnut smoke. Super full bodied and broad. Sooty and salty.
  • F: One marshmallow and some confectionary candy. The smoke now clean and firm.
  • C: A cracking 3yo that comes at a price [£120 Oct ’17].

Scores 86 points

 

English Whisky Co. 2010/2016 5yo Ob. Chapter 15 ‘Heavily Peated’ cask #180, 214-216 46% WB0

I’m still not sure whether the distillery is called St. Georges or the English Whisky Co. Different parts of the distillery and many bottles [like this one], carry both titles willy-nilly.

English.JPG

  • N: Fruity papaya>mango and puttyish linseed oil. That’s Irish in my book with further notes of wet flint, ivy green foliage, light sour lemon, mild lemon grass, Meridian yeast extract and charcoal. The oak appears quite raw yet varnished and only lightly charred.
  • T: Ideally soft/congenial with a pleasingly different tangy & malty/smokey, coppery, grassy charcoal character. Un-Scottish in other words.
  • F: Pleasant, save for a solvency/chlorine/metallic sour chew.
  • C: Different, interesting and somewhat brash & cocky.

Scores 83 points

 

So far, nothing is standing out as immature or juvenile and all three malts have displayed distinct distillery characteristics. Time to fall back to the old guard.

 

Caol Ila 2009/2017 7yo HL OMC cask #13334 [403 bts] 50% WB84[1]

At Caol Ila, they only use refill casks. Interestingly, the Clynelish stills are an exact replica of Caol Ila. [See EDIT below]

[EDIT 06/12/17]. I have this wrong, it’s the other way around. With thanks to the Foz for flagging it up. Caol Ila ran continuously from 1927 until 1972 when the old distillery was demolished to make way for a new larger distillery. Spiritedmatters.com tells us  ‘The 6 stills are based on the Brora stills, although their sizes are reversed – the spirit stills are, in a departure from the norm, larger than the wash stills, taking two runs of the wash stills to fill‘. Between 1972-74, Brora [old Clynelish], produced heavily peated malt whilst the new Caol Ila distillery was being built.

Caol ila.JPG

  • N: Right on! The main thrust is viscose buttery icing sugar with a nutty [cashew] sweetness. Also, it’s washy, as in of the wash, and a little wishy-washy. Distillate driven with light phenol levels.
  • T: Tastes the youngest of all so far. Quite lacking and spirity but with a promising mouthfeel forming.
  • F: Sour>sweet spirit.
  • C: Distillate led and little complexity but with only promising signs. So why did they bottle this at 7 years? Was it showing signs of deterioration already from a refill butt?

Scores 83 points

 

Ailsa Bay NAS Single malt scotch whisky [2016] 48.9% WB82.46[114] WF70

This single malt is made up from a combination of Ailsa Bay’s four different whisky styles, subjected to intense rapid maturation using four different US cask types.

Ailsa Bay’s 4 spirit types are [currently]:

  • Light & fruity
  • Light & fruity, slightly more sulphury
  • Medium peated
  • Heavily peated, around 50ppm

With their Balvenie-shaped stills Ailsa Bay produces 2mlpa. Phenol levels in the finished liquid measure [SPPM]:011. Apparently An Cnoc printed these details for a while, but have ceased. Not sure there is anyone else is doing it now.

Ailsa Bay.JPG

  • N: Cupcake sweet Octomore with some cleaning detergent.
  • T: How does one describe this? Smoked copper with metallic/foil bacon, Persil automatic and a PX finish. Only slightly less weird that Benriach’s Heredotus.
  • F: Short, fading,… washing powder, blanched almonds,..
  • C: It’s all so incredibly innovative at Ailsa Bay, but for this result? – its inaugural release and all! A sceptic I remain, for now. Everyone wants the bottle mind, for the substantial stopper containing a polished piece of local granite. As for the juice, it’s one fit for a smokey Highball.

Scores 75 points

 

Balvenie 2002/2017 14yo Ob. Peat Week ’Inaugural release’ [3000 bts] 48.3% WB87.30[46] WF87[Angus] Dramble87

Yet another inaugural release. Week 37/52 is Balvenie’s peat production week, this being from 2002. Made from 100% highland barley with a phenol count of 30ppm. Also, my first official vintage Balvenie!

Balvenie.JPG

  • N: Stoney, earthy/chalky, herbal, woody [US oak], honeyed/hay sweetness and apple yeastiness with light sooty smoke.
  • T: Arrives pokey & prickly yet assertive and slightly astringent. Similar notes to the nose. Turns salty with some cocoa, pepper & clove.
  • F: Smoky oaky vanilla with a bitter-sour metallic finish. Still stoney to the last. Delicate sweeter notes to be found if diligent enough. Some wafer at the death.
  • C: Good enough but hard to love in comparison to the effortlessly joyous Balvenie Double Wood we had alongside.

Scores 82 points

 

A really interesting flight. There is a general sense of work in progress, especially from the newer distilleries, yet despite all the youthfulness we are enjoying good results. I wonder though, how much of this whisky is solely designed to be peaking young? How will the likes of Wolfburn and The English Whisky Company for example with their efforts understandably focused on short term maturation, suit more prolonged maturation in the pursuit of complexity of spirit? We shall see. An exciting time to be into whisky.

Flight

With many thanks to Nick and the MnC team

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