Generated for a post by the world’s #1 blog site malt-review.com, it’s hard to believe that my lowly website has snuck in on ‘The World’s Top 100’ Whisky Website Rankings – a completely unofficial, “meaningless” [MR] yet interesting/useful/informative/fun snapshot of the current online whisky blog & magazine landscape.
I say ‘lowly’, given this is one man’s rather idiosyncratic 100% self-funded opinion page, devoid of advertising, revenue links, free samples, or connections within the industry. Furthermore, I tend to review more obscure malts and alternative spirits – many long-gone, unavailable, bespoke, or just damn weird and unusual [see pic]. Indeed, I often go out of my way to avoid malts that are trending – always have – for everything. It’s funny then, that Amazon’s Alexa algorithms have picked up my site at all.
Neither do I spend any time or money ‘flashing up’ the site. Simpler the better, you might say. Then there are all the errors which many of you have been kind enough to point out to me over the years. I’d like to think my research and writing skills have improved slightly since I started whiskylovingpianist.com, and the more we forget about my ‘minimal punctuation mission’ phase, the better.
If I’d been ranked at #101, I’d have been none the wiser and would have continued on my merry way which I will continue to do regardless. I think of all the thousands of other sites out there, really good ones written by brilliant whisky minds/people – philipstorry and theoldmanofhuy for example – that also deserve a mention.
So what a surprise then, to receive some form of recognition for four years of typing away [or scribbling away in notebooks, then typing] and staring at a screen whilst researching and drinking my way through thousands of samples and bottles as well as travelling to festivals in the UK & beyond in my campervan in the name of whisky loving! This has brought me a great deal of satisfaction.
It was Dave Worthington’s positive influence that finally pushed me to post my first blog on October 3rd 2016, my first entry being a ‘lowly’ review of a 10yo Strathclyde [WLP] I’d been enjoying and enjoying. As the years have past, my writing style and perspectives have changed – crikey, the whisky arena has changed – but my thirst for discovering, unpicking and experiencing the new, the old, and the wacky, has remained.
To celebrate [any excuse] my #100 ranking, I reach for something special. It’s time to finish the last of my 2020 Old & Rare festival samples that have been staring at me since February.
I rarely revisit Lagavulin, perhaps because I know it’s there. Of course, it’s the 16yo I’m talking about. Until the 8yo and 12yo appeared relatively recently, alternative expressions rarely came up – none via the independents that I’ve tried. Sure, there are the festival bottlings and special releases, but they are, at best, annuals [if you can get your hands on them]. This festival expression came from the 2013 Islay Jazz Fest, the same year as I visited Islay for the first time in October. I picked up this samples from the Old & Rare show for a steal [just £5 for a very generous 25ml pour], from the equally generous Tomislav Ruszkowski.
- N: The abv-strength appears formidable but offers up glorious oils, most gentile/relaxed oily phenols, grated carrot & cabbage [that’s a new one], a dry-crusty saltiness,…. With the smoke being more of a passing glance, it’s the salty oiliness which is this one’s most attractive feature.
- T: My my, that is a glorious and effortless arrival, everytime. There’s me raving about a single cask 10yo Edradour and a 9yo SMWS Allt-a-bhainne as ‘divine’ and ‘composed’ respectively [reports to follow], but here, we are on an altogether different level. The arrival into the journey continues along savoury oily lines, the more bitter peat always quietly working behind the scenes yet present and expanding, the overall development so involving, and again, so effortless at 51.9%. Phenomenal!
- F: From start to finish, this keeps on dancing and dancing. What’s lacking? Nothing. The peaty earthy phenols seep deep, leaving a savoury-sweet ash on the palate top.
- C: Phenomenal indeed. A contemporary classic without a shadow,…. With thanks to Tom.
Scores 92 points
Following on from that fabulous 18yo comes this 21yo, rated by Serge at a whopping 95 points. How can one not have expectations?
- N: Objectivity, go! Wow, that is awesome though, an old Old & Rare style nose with oodles of freshness and strength. It reminds me of a number of [G&M] 45-50yo bottlings [Glen Grant, Strathisla etc,..] that I’ve tried and been disappointed by their fragility and impactfulness at 40% abv [and dropping]. A bottling like this, presented at cask strength, gives us the best of it all. Being creamy, phenolic and slightly mucky yet beautifully composed, those Spanish sherry butts help support that O&R air, with a certain nudge towards TTR [tamari, tomato and rancio]. Without doubt one of the most amazing contemporary old skool noses I’ve ever smelt, not quite in tOMoH’s 1955 Bowmore league [WLP96] just yet, but give it a few more decades. It’s delectable now with only 13 or so years in glass.
- T: The nose translates well on the palate, the sherry casks present yet respectful and positively influential. Unlike the 18yo, this needs a little water [in the mouth only], to help clear away any prickly palate shocks and allowing the flavour compounds to work their magic. Add a little water for a luscious yet slightly dry and somewhat heavy sweet < bitter peatiness to slowly emerge and expand. Reminding me more of a heavier dirtier Ledaig, this hasn’t the finesse of the 18yo, yet held in the mouth, the taste-combos are a real treat.
- F: Slightly drying oaky dried-fruity chocolate on the turn, eventually into light creamy milky chocolatey [again] barley – all slightly salty – and with any number of older whiskies & other spirit references from various eras that may ensue. Oaky O&R-sherried salty earthy-peaty coke combos ring and ring with a herbal Vermouth note at the death. There’s a slight lighter fluid note somewhere along the tail not to mention Milk of Magnesia and rose water, but these are fleeting top notes.
- C: With 6642 bottles released, is there a fair chance of finding one for a fair price one day? For the nose alone, I wonder how much I’d be prepared to pay for such an aromatic treasure? I find it less sublime on the palate but I’m nit-picking at this high level. Cracking whisky!
Scores 93 points