Thursday, 10 April 2014

BrewDog 'Brixton Porter'

This was one of BrewDog's 2013 'prototypes'; a group of beers which are trialled before one of them goes into general production. This is the one that made the cut and so (if I understand correctly) it will pop up from time to time in their range of occasional brews. The 2012 prototype run led to the Libertine IPA, a beer that I really enjoyed so I was looking forward to the latest winner.

It pours black with a milk-chocolate coloured head. Great aromas; nutty coffee and chocolate. There's a lovely smoky character to it, and the medium body combined with low abv (compared to the big imperial stouts & porters) keeps it dry, with a hop hit seeming to cleanse the palate nicely. Sessionable indeed. On the palate there's rich but not overly bitter coffee. The dryness made it a bit different to the (also very enjoyable) Fuller's London Porter I had in the pub recently. I think it's good to have these sort of variations on general beer styles.

Much as I like BrewDog's beers in general, their often hefty abv means that a lot of them don't like me. Now I'm more in the 'needing babysitters to go out once in a blue moon' rather than the 'out most nights' time of life, a 5% beer is probably as rock and roll as it gets for me if I want more than the one. Now, if we could just do something about those small bottles to save me old back. Having to get up to go to the fridge becomes a bit of a mission at a certain point in life don't you know?

5% abv, from £1.95 for a 33cl bottle from the BrewDog shop.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

'Old Malt Cask' Bunnahabhain 11

What with being busy with work and having a new baby I've been neglecting the blog of late. I do get to try plenty of new and exciting whiskies so I am going to endeavour to rectify this with some whisky reviews. With a nod to Joe over at Whisky Wednesday (whose reviews you really should check out if you're into whisky) I'll post them on a Wednesday, and so here's the first...

This was an independent bottling of Bunnahabhain from Hunter Laing, bottled from a sherry butt at 50% abv for their Old Malt Cask range.

On the nose there's lots of the sherry notes you'd expect; raisins and figs, but also a kipper-smokiness. On the palate that sweetness comes through a bit more with toffee apple and more dried fruit, but with a youthful citrus (lemon) spritz to keep it form getting bogged down with all those fruit cake notes. The finish is mellow, the sweetness gives way to a dryness that entices you back for more of that sherry-soaked fruit. Multi faceted, and most enjoyable, it's a dram I've really enjoyed lingering over while watching a film of a winter evening.

For me it had some of the qualities of Ardbeg Uigedail, a definite winter favourite for me, but with the peat brought down to a more mellow level. I really enjoyed it, as I have many of the OMC range, and so expect more to be popping up here of a Wednesday.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Glenfarclas 40

This was a completely unexpected treat, brought into work by a customer so that we could have a try. As I've mentioned before I'm a big Glenfarclas fan so I didn't need to be asked twice!

On the nose it started off very similar to younger versions of Glenfarclas; lots of almond and fruit cake, but as I let it breathe a bit it really opened up and showed a lot more depth of character; toffee, nutmeg and vanilla. The palate has layer upon layer; there's rum and raisin ice-cream, barley and juicy sultanas but still there's still some fresh orange in there. The oak is still not the overpowering element it might be on the finish, which is long, mellow and moreish.

At a time when whisky companies seem to be running out of aged stock left right and centre it's great to try a really old whisky that has maintained the vibrancy of youth so well, definitely matured rather than simply grown old.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Bristol Beer Factory West Coast Red & Glenlivet 16 'Nadurra'

After a long haul at work and rushing up and down the country for Christmas, New Year's Eve was a bit of a blessing, and a relaxing evening of watching films with the missus kicked off with a personal favourite in the form of Bristol Beer Factory's Southville Hop. I'd also managed to acquire a bottle of BBF's West Coast Red that they'd aged in Glenlivet barrels, thus giving me an opportunity to drink whisky alongside my beer, something that's definitely a favourite pastime when I don't have to work so much! On that note, The Kernel's Export India Porter was terrific alongside a dram of Mortlach 16.

The Nadurra (it means 'Natural') is a cask-strength version of Glenlivet that I first tried back in March at a tasting hosted by Phil Huckle. Phil recently made another visit to Nottingham which meant I got to taste a couple of excellent new Aberlour expressions in the 18 and the non chill-filtered 12, but the Nadurra also featured once again in the line-up, and a most welcome return it was too. West Coast Red is full of lots of fresh red fruit. I'm guessing it's all about good hop selection for this one but they've done a great job of making a hoppy beer without the usual tropical and citrus flavours and more sweet strawberry. Glenlivet is usually fruity and the Nadurra is no exception, and at cask strength the red apple flavours are strong and mouth-watering. Once the whisky is thrown into the mix with the beer it's like a fresh fruit salad, but with a lovely creaminess to it all, like raspberry meringue with white chocolate shavings on top - all very delicious!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Mortlach 16: Goodbye to an Old Friend

Back in the days when I was first discovering my own tastes in whisky beyond 'I like whisky', Mortlach 'Flora & Fauna' 16 was a revelation to me. It's one of the first whiskies I tried that really stuck in the mind as identifying a distinct style that I preferred - full-bodied, rich, sherry cask aged - and I've always gone back to the sherry monsters when given half a chance. However, continued rumours about the demise of the Flora & Fauna range have proved to be true, at least for this one, and so it's a fond farewell to this particular expression in the form of a a re-visit, perhaps for the last time.

It's a deep mahogany dram. Unsurprisingly there's lots of sherry on the nose, and there's a hint of sulphur to it too, something that's often divisive but I like it. It reminds me of Worthington White Shield and I think it complements the light smoky notes well. On the palate it starts gently; juicy sultanas coming in first, then making way for more spicy notes, with the sulphur coming through as a burnt toast and a mineral, firework taste. The finish is long and woody flitting between pepper, pencils and ginger cake. Overall a fabulously complex, primal whisky. I just hope that those in charge of these things don't feel that it's time to tame the 'Beast of Speyside' because if there isn't to be another bust cycle for whisky then I hope those with a point of difference to the greater majority can survive and not end up closed or homogenised.

If you see any of this about at a reasonable price, grab it while it's still reasonable. If you're looking for a good alternative then the Blair Athol 12 is still around, as are some big sherry-influenced drams from the likes of Glenfarclas, Glendronach and Aberlour.

If Ian Buxton is right, and the 'entry level', non age-statement expression of the new Mortlach range is pitched at a similar price level to Johnnie Walker Platinum, a good 50% more than most were selling the 16 for, then I don't think I'll be buying it until I've had a chance to give it a try it and be convinced. I'd certainly jump at the chance to get to a Mortlach tasting though, and given they've appointed a specific brand ambassador in Georgie Bell then with a bit of luck that will be on the cards. I have tried some great whiskies recently without an an age statement - notably Morrison Bowmore's newish Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch virgin oak aged expressions - but I can't really see why a regular, NAS whisky would command such a hefty price tag. I suppose it remains to be seen if it's worth it, but, while I like it, I don't think Talisker Storm is worth the jump up in price from the regular 10yo, or indeed the Johnnie Walker Double Black from the regular 12. We'll have to wait and see.