whisky review

Review: Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release Single Malt Whisky

Ardbeg’s Grooves is the company’s limited edition release for 2018.  Though the 60’s flower power is in full effect in name and label, Grooves is named after the grooves left in the barrels staves after heavy charring.  Those barrels, ex-wine casks, only make up a portion of this expression.  The rest, I’m assuming, is made up of ex-bourbon casks.

We’re looking at the Committee Release, which is a higher proof version available in much smaller numbers compared to the general release.  In this case, Grooves comes in at 51.6% ABV and is available in very limited numbers for about $120.

On the nose, familiar Ardbeg characteristics are here in full force: smoked meat, earthiness, and some iodine.  Notes from the wine casks join in the melody, providing a sweet and fruity counterbalance.  The palate follows the nose, with sun-baked tobacco leaf and campfire smoke hitting your tongue first, followed by a wave of sweet berries, stewed apricots, spice and a slightly savory character.  Every now and then I can pick out a tinge of vanilla.  A bit more spice and toasted oak appear on the back palate and into the long, warming finish.  Hints of coal, candied ginger, fruity sweetness and burnt orange peel linger.

Fruit and smoke is one of my favorite flavor combinations in whisky, and Ardbeg Grooves fits right in. Though I really enjoy it, my wife didn’t, and prefers the more straightforward profile of Ardbeg 10-year-old. The standard release of Grooves should be hitting shelves soon. While I’d suggest scooping up that expression, if you happen to see the Committee Release, don’t hesitate. You’ll certainly be taken on a groovy journey. 9/10

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Son of a Peat Whisky Review

Online spirits club Flaviar has released their first ever private label whisky, Son of a Peat. The blended malt is comprised of eight malt whiskies from Islay, Island, and Speyside distilleries. Bottled at 48.3% abv, the NAS Son of a Peat is a 1,500 bottle run available only to Flaviar members for $60. Bonus points for no caramel coloring and non-chill filtering.

The nose is ripe with aromas of bonfire smoke, lemon zest, orchard fruits and cinnamon toast. The higher-than-standard proof provides a bold tasting experience featuring initial hints of toffee, lemon cake and crisp apples, as a meaty smoke note builds to a crescendo. A bit of spice ramps up on the backend towards the finish, which is long, smoky and slightly sweet.

I came in with no expectations and left pretty impressed. Son of a Peat is a relatively complex peated blended malt that would work equally as a sipper and a mixer. There is a slightly youngish quality about it, but that works in this whisky’s favor. More of those lovely peat notes we love are beefed up as a result. Bottom line: Son of a Peat is a steal at $60. If you’re not already a Flaviar member, you may want to quickly reconsider. 7.5/10

Thanks to Flaviar for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017

Photo courtesy of Beam Suntory

Mmm… Laphroaig.  It’s one of those whiskies that divides the masses.  One either loves or hates the whisky’s trademark heavily peated character.  There generally isn’t an in-between.  In fact, the brand has embraced the public’s honest assessment of their whisky with their hilarious #OpinionsWelcome campaign.  Here’s the latest spot, entitled “A First for Friends.”

Every year, Laphroaig releases a different expression under their Cairdeas (gaelic for friendship) umbrella.  The 2017 edition is a cask strength version of Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  The 57.2% abv whisky started with a 5-year plus maturation in first-fill bourbon barrels, followed by a six month secondary maturation in quarter casks.  The resulting whisky features no added color and is not chill filtered.

The nose is full of that signature Laphroaig funky Islay peat, as well as vanilla and tropical fruit.  It’s a touch more closed off at cask strength, but opens up with a splash of water, which brings about more of the fruity notes.  On the palate, it’s slighlty less sweet than the standard Quarter Cask, but packed with flavor.  Toffee, brine, and tropical fruits, especially mangos, define the whisky as much as the whallop of ashy smoke in the background.  Some young oak and herbal notes appear on the backend.  The finish is long and complex, featuring notes of vanilla cream, spice and smoke.

At a reasonable price increase compared to the standard Quarter Cask, Laphroaig Cairdeas 2017 ($80) is firing on all cylinders.  It’s younish for sure, but that allows for a larger peaty punch compared to older Laphroaig expressions.  Only 177 casks were emptied for this release, so those who want a bottle should act fast.  Recommended! 8.5/10

Laphroaig.com
Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.