Bowmore Small Batch Reserve – now for something a bit different

Forgive the brief departure from regaling you with more tales of derring-do in Morocco – it was just about to get really good too, particularly the part when I became really sick…

small batch
Bowmore Small Batch Reserve (Pic: Bowmore)

While I was away, those fine folk at Bowmore sent me a sample of their Small Batch Reserve to try alongside some chocolate goodies (more of the latter later).

I realise I‘ve been a little slack in my whisky tasting of late. This is partly because I‘ve been stuck in a very pleasurable rut drinking Talikser… lost in resonant memories of Skye and the West Coast while shutting out damp evenings in Mancunia.

The shipment from Bowmore was a welcome distraction then.

The Small Batch is in some ways a curious expression of this famous Islay tipple. For those familiar with more ‘regular’ Bowmores such the 12 year old, Darkest or the simply sublime 18 year old, this lighter dram may come as a disappointment.

Small Batch Reserve is matured in first and second fill ex-bourbon casks. This process imbues the younger spirit with a sweetness and creaminess that cuts quite a contrast to its peat smoked brethren.

So how does it fly?

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Tobermory 10 year old: Tell ‘em about the honey, mummy

OK, let me start with a confession. I should have posted my impressions of this whisky ages ago but it slipped my mind for some reason. I’ve just found my tasting notes scribbled in the back of a notebook that accompanied me on my Hebrides bike trip in… ahem… May. Better late than never, then, and I hope you can trust my memory.

Tobermory distillery. Well, it would have been rude not toI was keen to try Tobermory when my ferry from the Ardnamurchan reached the town’s port. My only experience of this distillery’s output was Ledaig (pronounced Lead-chig) a few years ago and was surprised that such a pale and, on first impressions, insipid looking whisky could pack such an agreeable peaty punch. The Tobermory 10 is a very different animal: sweeter, but rich nonetheless.

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Ballantine’s 17 Year Old Blended Whisky – The festive dram

I’d like to think I don’t buy into whisky hype as a rule. I buy and enjoy certain whiskies because I try them and like them… not because fashion dictates I do.

Ballantine's 17 Year Old Blended WhiskyHowever, I succumbed this year. Jim Murray’s 2011 world dram of the year and 2012 blend of the year is the Ballantine’s 17 Year old and I had to give it a try.

This was not all about blindly following the guide, though. I am trying to expand my whisky repertoire and the Ballantine’s seemed like a good direction to travel. It promised to be a more subtle Scotch: complex, yet balanced. Continue reading

Ardbeg Uigeadail

I’ve wanted an excuse to cough up for a bottle of Ardbeg Uigeadail since trying this fine whisky on Islay. My recent holiday gave me an excuse and the chance to share it. However, it was not to the taste of my Scottish hosts: the only person who did enjoy it was an ‘incomer’ from Colchester. Go figure!

Ardbeg UigeadailUigeadail is named after the loch supplying the Ardbeg distillery with that most important whisky commodity… fresh water.

So what’s different about this expression of an Islay favourite? Old sherry casks give this cask-strength smoky number a sweeter twist. Gratifyingly, it’s also darker than the standard ten-year old, which I always think is far too pale for such a rich taste. Continue reading

They seek him here, they seek him there… Bailie Nicol Jarvie

Bailie Nicol JarvieFollowing my thoughts on the mighty Black Grouse, here’s another excellent blend that’s worth searching out.

Bailie Nicol Jarvie, or B.N.J. for the sake of brevity, is now the property of Glenmorangie and boasts the highest, or one of the highest, malt contents of any blend: 60%, sourced from the Highlands, Islay and Speyside.

It is presented in a bottle with a rather splendid antiquated label, although it’s easily identifiable on the shelf (if you can find it; more of that later) as it proudly displays a bold ‘B.N.J.’ on the shoulder of the bottle. Continue reading

Just add water: Laphroaig 10 year-old

Laphroaig 10 year old (Pic: Nikon D90, Nikkor 18-105mm. 105mm f5.6)I’m ashamed to admit that I visited the Laphroaig distillery on Islay last year with a hangover. The previous evening we’d bumped into some folk in the pub who were sailing around the Scottish Isles and one became many.

A whisky tasting was the last thing on my mind then, certainly at 10.30 in the morning. Luckily, perhaps, our guide was in a similar boat and sported a pallid expression befitting a young man who’d been at a party for most of the night (he’d hit the hay for a couple of hours before heading to work).

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Whisky snobs look away now: Black Grouse

Black Grouse

I may like malt whisky, but I can’t always afford it, particularly some of the ‘gourmet’ bottlings that distilleries are keen on tempting us all with.

Consequently, I’ve dabbled with a few blends and now have a couple of favourites. If you can get it, I can heartily recommend Bailie Nicol Jarvie.

More readily available is Black Grouse, a variant of Famous Grouse, which combines Islay Malts with the usual blend.

The bottle promises that characteristic Islay smokiness and, while present on the nose and hefty for a blend, it’s subdued. Certainly not one for the salivating smoke and peat heads out there. Continue reading

The Singleton of Dufftown

Thought I’d give my unrefined palette a work out with something a bit more straightforward this week.

Hailing from the malt epicentre that is Speyside , the Singleton of Dufftown has always raised an eyebow while perusing the spirit shelves of supermarkets, not least due to its distinctive, hipflask bottle. Connoisseurs sniff at it, dubbing a ‘designer whisky’… all brand and no trousers. Continue reading

More festive malty goodness: Caol Ila

Caol Ila selection box reviewI’ve been very well served so far this festive season with the excellent Jura Prophecy – it serves me now as I write this.

I did receive another rather special whisky, though ( from someone rather special, God bless ‘em). This time, it’s an Islay malt, the rather milder Caol Ila in a selection box: the standard 12 year old, the richer 18 year and the potentially explosive cask strength. Continue reading