Tag Archives: Bruichladdich

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Trois Couleurs: Bruichladdich

I’ve had a trio of Bruichladdich bottles on my shelf for some time now: Blacker Still, Redder Still, and Golder Still. These are largely gone, but occasionally you’ll see one on the shelves or push through the sales channel, as Golder did with K&L a while back. I’ve had these for a while, but at a recent lunch with Sku of Sku’s Recent Eats, I passed him samples of each of the three. Not much happened; he suggested that we do a joint review (is that still a thing? Maybe it’s retro-revival time). A couple months passed because I still am subject to the whims of the germs my son brings into the house; and then I managed to get briefly snowed under with work.

Finally, though, here we are. The three colors of Bruichladdich. This review will in no way live up the Kieslowski trio, but as a semi-regular reader of S&I, you knew to expect that it was just a cheap culture reference, right?

These three whiskies were released in 2006, 2007 and 2008, anywhere from 3-5 years before the first “New-era” spirit from the McEwan era of Bruichladdich would be released. Blacker Still apparently hails from oloroso casks and was in wood for 20 years; Redder Still was bourbon cask aged and then was in Chateau Lafleur casks. (Bruichladdich notes — interrogatively — that this is favored by Robert Parker.) Finally, Golder Still was aged in “dumpy” bourbon hogsheads; apparently this promoted additional wood contact and an “older style”. Fantastic. Now that we’ve recounted the thumbnail sketch of these whiskies, there’s little left to do but drink them, make some cheap jokes, and assign them a place in the pantheon of Limited Edition Whiskies We Have Chatted Enjoyably About.

Golder Still is the one I have the most experience with; I first purchased a bottle in the dying days of my association with a music startup in 2011. It was both a luxury buy and evening companion to help unwind in the hotel rooms, but I think it also helped me escape the unpleasant truth that I was going to be moving on. In spite of that, I still have only good memories of it. But that was several years ago. How about now?

The nose of Golder Still leads with a slight caramel sweetness with some straightforward malt; there’s some subtle floral hints and a little faint herbaceous grassiness. It’s a little more plain than I remember it being.  The palate leads with a sort of half-waterlogged oak, watery and woody but kind of lacking focus. There’s pepper and a considerable malt profile, and heat grows.

The finish is more oak but drying out and getting a bit of focus, some Sichuan pepper for that pleasant tingle in the lips, and some fairly sweet malty notes. It’s agreeable but not really unique. That’s not to say it’s not worth a try, but at the prices this one is going to command today (unless you’re the benefactor of a Driscollian blowout), it’s not really a great bang for the buck. Golder Still was distilled in ’84 and bottled in ’08 at 23y.

Redder Still was probably the biggest enigma of the bunch for me. I’d heard people call it out as an oddball in the past; though certainly not in the same tone as the late stages of the Chenin Blanc… thing. This has the dubious distinction of a wine finish; a great gimmick for a while (and occasionally successful, even at the House That Remy Bought) but frequently just a way to mask a substandard casks. For a while we even kind of, sort of dug it. I think it’s a much tougher sell these days. Redder Still was distilled in ’84, bottled in ’07 at 22y and 50%.

The nose of Redder Still has a moderately woody backbone, but some fruity roundness smooths it out a bit – Gala apple’s taste kind of jumps out at me. There’s some white pepper and pear; it has this almost quasi-sherried dimension, but the fruit notes aren’t as dark and deep, nor as dimensional. With a little bit more air, it gets to be a bit more floral and shows a light vanilla character. It’s gentle at first in the palate, with a little heat growing, kind of mixing the tingly lip feel of Sichuan pepper and more of a white pepper quality as well. There’s the apple/pear sweetness from the nose, a faint bit of honey, and then some oaky, spicy flavor. The vanilla note from the nose is lightly present here, but the palate eventually is dominated by the drier oak notes, as well as a bit of tobacco.

The finish isn’t amazing. It starts fairly dry and bitter with oak and pepper, but it resolves to something a little less bitter, and the late-palate tobacco shows up. It’s an interesting and layered whisky, but the fruit hinted at on the nose gets overrun by the heavy oak presence on the palate. It makes for an uneasy attempt at balance, and I’m not sure it really works. It’s an interesting drink if you’re in the mood for what it has to offer, though.

Finally, Blacker Still. This one has been the star of this trio for some time; its high reviews at LAWS  (from the early days!) brought Bruichladdich as a whole to my attention.

It’s an interesting thing in this day and age: the two-decade-old cask with a heavy sherry component. We see less of these than we did even a few years ago; though occasionally it’s seen. Usually these are slam dunks for A-range whiskies, generally regarded as great stuff. There have been some slam dunks; the most recent winner in my mind was the K&L/Exclusive Malts Longmorn that was an absolute winner.

Blacker Still has that nose out of the gate. It’s rich and deep, slightly sticky-sweet fig quality, some molasses and brown sugar. It’s faintly leathery in a good way (more and more sherried whisky smells like cheap patent leather, it seems) and overall syrupy. The palate continues that syrupy character; it’s thick, rich and coating. It’s got a full mouthfeel and just screams “sherry” with dark fruits,  a little white pepper spice and a faint dab of cayenne. More figs and molasses.

The finish is again – surprise! – stamped with a sherry influence, some leather, molasses, and caramelized sugar. There’s a lingering dark fruit presence as well. It’s just a great whiskey. Is it a staggering, world-beating, grab-this-at-auction-price-be-damned one? No. It’s the best of the Still series by a wide margin, but it’s probably not in my top five sherried whiskies of the last decade. Maybe top ten? I’d have to think on that. This is worth a try but I’d say the hype has exaggerated its legend slightly. I think there are cleaner, better sherried whiskies out there — Glendronach, Glenfarclas, the aforementioned Longmorn and Tun 1401 come to mind.

It’s a fun experiment to look at these whiskies from the period when Bruichladdich was still trying to establish itself. It differs markedly from the lighter, apple-forward stuff from the 1970s; it doesn’t have the lactic character that (to me) defines much of the modern Bruichladdich output. Also fun will be reading the conclusions reached at Sku’s Recent Eats, with his companion review up now. 

At a glance:

Bruichladdich Blacker Still 20y 50.7% ABV
Nose:
  Rich, deep sherry on the nose, slightly sticky-sweet fig, maybe a touch of molasses, some brown sugar. faint nice leather, syrupy.
Palate:  Syrupy, thick, rich and coating; very full mouthfeel, great sherry presence with some white pepper spice, maybe a faint dab of cayenne. Figgy, molasses again, with some dark fruits.
Finish:  Tons of rich sherry influence, a little faint leather, a touch of molasses sweetness, some caramelized sugar; lingering dark fruit.
Comment:  Everything you want. Just a fantastic whiskey.
Rating: A-

Bruichladdich Redder Still 22y 50.4% ABV
Nose:  A backbone of moderate wood, with some fruity roundness – a touch of Gala apple. A little white pepper and a touch of pear; with a kind of quasi-sherry dimension to it, but not quite as much dimension as a sherry-aged whisky would have. With some air it gets a touch more floral and exhibits a light vanilla note.
Palate:  Gentle on the mouthfeel, moderate with a little peppery heat growing – a mixture of sichuan and white peppers. Some apple/pear sweetness, with a little faint hint of honey, and then a little more oaky, spicy richness. The vanilla note from the nose is present but in the background, dominated by the drier notes as well as some tobacco.
Finish:  A bit bitter and dry at first; some oak and lingering pepper; eventually resolves towards a little less bitter oak and some tobacco.
Comment:  Interesting and layered, but a bit of an uneasy balance between the fruit and sweetness and the drier oak and tobacco.
Rating: B-

Bruichladdich Golder Still 23y 51% ABV
Nose:  Light slightly caramel sweetness with some straightforward maltiness, a subtle floral hint. Ever so faint grassiness.
Palate:  Semi-waterlogged oak, a little pepper, fairly malty against an increasing heat.
Finish:  Drying oak, a little sichuan pepper, fairly malty sweetness.
Comment:  Generally agreeable but not incredibly unique.
Rating: B-

If You Love It, Set It Free: Bruichladdich Legacy V

When we brought our newborn son home from the hospital in August, I knew my life would change quite dramatically, but even at that point in time I couldn’t quite imagine how it might unfold. Eight months later, I continue to learn so much about myself and my tendencies. The little guy is a mirror and has taught me to be much more present in my life. It’s absolutely the most amazing experience ever.

One of the things that I’ve come to view with a much more negative eye in the last few months is the hoarding and deep collecting mentality. It’s no doubt because of my inclination in that direction at times. However, having this little guy (and his stay in the NICU) have really given me a deeper appreciation for our mortality and how fragile life can be.

Yeah, I know, what a downer for another whisky post. How does it relate, you ask?

Well, if you follow the whisky blogs, you will have no doubt seen the endless(ly tiring) discussion of collectors, hoarders, speculators and so on. I tried to steer clear of this one because I didn’t really have much to offer on it at the time, and it’s not really my intention to become another voice in the echo chamber with nothing new to say. However, this week brought a new perspective on it it for me as a bunch of things in my life all led me to a shared conclusion.

If you know me in person you likely know that I’ve amassed a fairly decent collection of musical instruments. Over time the cost to store them has gone up and it finally reached a breaking point. I was no longer willing to pay what was being asked to store them. I’ve spent the last few weeks thinning the herd through auctions and have found the forced decision-making to be really refreshing. I’ve tried to plow through my stuff semi-regularly and toss things I haven’t used in a year or more, but my instruments were sacrosanct. Now I’m reducing the collection to the things I use regularly and love, or have plausible near-term need for. Sure, things may break and wear out, but it’s through use and not neglect.

Second, I am reminded of my tasting last summer with Sku who graciously opened a trio of incredible Broras. I didn’t have much to offer – a decent Glencraig. Turns out those three Broras were incredible, and one is high on my list of favorite Scotch whiskies of all time. He could have sat on them indefinitely, waiting for…. who knows what… but he demonstrated that whisky is best enjoyed (ideally with friends, acceptably with random people you’ve met online ;) ), not jealously guarded in sealed bottles hidden from light.

Finally, I was faced headlong with the use vs disuse issue recently when I reopened my Bruichladdich Legacy V whisky. This was the first whisky I’d had that was older than me (an achievement all whisky dorks inevitably feel the need to unlock – go ahead and do it sooner rather than later because it only gets more expensive every year). Fortunately, at the time I opened it, it was absolutely amazing – huge apple notes and floral hints. It really just smelled like an orchard in early fall, with cider presses running full tilt – great grain and fruit notes but never seeming old and tired. Opinions varied widely (Serge liked it; Sku was less taken) but that was beside the point for me – this was one I really, really liked. And I decided this would be the “special occasion” whisky. I would pour it on those most special occasions and savor its endless fruit and goodness and be transported back to my youth in the midwest, making apple butter, apple cider, visiting local orchards and so on.

The problem, as you’ve likely experienced at some point, is that at a certain point, a whisky may go flat. And inevitably there are never enough special occasions to really enjoy and merit pouring of the thing which you found so amazing and special.

Recently I decided I’d waited long enough as there wasn’t anything special to open this whisky which just blew me away. I decided to pour a glass and…. it was a pale imitation of its former self. Oh, it was good. It’s still a B whisky which means I’d rate it good and maybe worth a purchase, but it was previously in the A- to A range for me personally. I’d opened this whisky and in the time since I’d opened it, it had completely lost its magic. What a shame. What a waste. This to me was yet another affirmation of my current state of mind – enjoy the things that are special to you because life moves fast, and it’s better to have great experiences and special memories versus a chronicle of lost potential.

So here’s my advice. That bottle of Pappy sitting on your shelf? That rare Port Ellen? You should open it. You should enjoy it. Life is short. Are you looking for that special occasion? Make some random weekday in April that special occasion where you opened the bottle that you’d been sitting on and enjoyed it. John Hansell agrees. And those open bottles? Just enjoy them. Share them with friends, swap samples, or host a tasting. Or just enjoy it yourself. This deterioration is yet another reminder that nothing is permanent and that life is short. Sku wrote a great blog post on deterioration with age (it does) and Ryan over at Value Whisky  began a series himself (we’ll see if it continues there or at his new blog, Value Bourbon – [looks like he's decided to close up shop totally...])

So in the interest of what was great and what it’s become, I’ll post the tasting notes. I’m sensitive to note that this is the second post I’ve done about the changes in a Bruichladdich in the last few months. Please don’t interpret this as a hidden agenda to say all Bruichladdichs fall apart. I’ve noticed tendencies on this end among other whiskies I’ve owned, but to see a favorite go from “life changing” to to “good” drove me to write this call to open the bottles.

At A Glance

Bruichladdich Legacy V (33y) 40.9% ABV – initial opening
Nose: 
Satisfying deep wood, a character very similar to an old bourbon. Wood paneling. Light fruits – a hint of pineapple. Lightly floral as well, but wood dominates. Some gentle saltiness, red apples, far-off hints of raisins. A bit of gentle waxiness.
Palate: 
Medium bodies. Initially grain-based, warming more than ABV would suggest. Fruits here – very strong apples, light pear. A honeyed quality, with some barley reappearing later and some gentle sherry notes.
Finish: 
Smooth. Apples again. Quick initial disappearance, reemerges momentarily, some gentle wood and light waxiness.
Comment: 
If this is early ’70s Bruichladdich I’m going to go broke securing more bottles.
Rating:
A-

Bruichladdich Legacy V (33y) 40.9% ABV – a year after opening
Nose: 
Slightly dusty with some old wood, but some significant bourbon influence on the nose. Well-developed vanilla, a bit of caramel. Some brighter fruit notes; pears evident against some white pepper and cinnamon. 
Palate:  
Pears initially on the palate with some white pepper and cinnamon, old wood that’s slightly bitter. A bit of apple, some light barley. 
Finish: 
Old wood, pepper, a bit of cinnamon, pears. Waxy apple notes as well.
Comment: 
This isn’t quite as amazing as I remember it being. It’s a good but undeniably old whisky. It’s gotten quite a bit simpler in the time it’s been open. The clarity of the fruit notes have been subdued and now it’s more of a (good) fruit compote or canned fruit than fresh fruit. 
Rating:
B

Octomore 02.2 Orpheus

I recently posted a fairly unflattering account of the Chenin Blanc finished Bruichladdich, which will go down in memory as one of the more peculiar bottles of whiskey I’ve had in my life. Well before having that adventure, I’d planned on opening a bottle of Octomore early in the new year. I’ve had the bottle open for a while now and let it develop as I’ve gotten to know it, and I think it’s safe to confirm that the Chenin Blanc just had something weird going on. Bruichladdich (and Jim McEwan) can make a great whiskey, no doubt about it.

Octomore, for those who aren’t following the intricacies of whiskey nerd-dom, is a whisky produced by Bruichladdich. Unlike Bruichladdich, though, Octomore is heavily peated. If you’re thinking Ardbeg peatiness, think again. Ardbeg measures 24ppm (ppm is a measure of the phenols from peat smoke). Octomore Orpheus? Oh, not much – just 140ppm. Yes, it’s a little crazy and extreme – but there’s nothing wrong with that. Beer drinkers have their IBU wars with hops; why can’t whiskey go extreme with ppm?

Orpheus actually is my first encounter with a super-peated whiskey. Though it had gotten good reviews, I half-expected it to have the nose and palate of a raging inferno at a tannery. Unlike the mainline Octomore releases, Orpheus is finished in Chateau Petrus casks. Sometimes wine finishes can be a little gimmicky or overpower the underlying spirit. In this case, the spirit is so intense that I wondered if the wine finish would have much influence.

As expected, the nose initially had a strong kick of intense peat – an earthy richness with a faint rubber note. Underneath the peat were some grains – barley and a hint of popcorn (of all things). Not unexpectedly for a Bruichladdich, it was lightly briny and had just a slight bit of perfume. After this initial show, the nose started to reveal the fruit – hints of cara cara oranges, lemons, and after some time, a touch of grilled pineapple and apricot. There’s also the faintest hint of buttercream vanilla as well. Despite the high ABV it wasn’t initially strong on the nose (though subsequent pours have occasionally been a bit sharp).

The palate is rich and coating, and low heat despite the proof. Obviously there’s plenty of peat influence – tar, rubber, and some smoke. Underneath the peat on the palate, citrus fruit notes come through again – orange and lemon. There’s some slight brine and faint fennel; hay and gentle malt provide a foundation for it all.

The finish is as long as you’d expect – eternally long. It’s more reminiscent of a cookout than a campfire. Again, on the finish, the fruit notes pop up a bit – lemon and orange, but they fade relatively quickly. There’s a rubbery note again, and the grilled pineapple from the nose makes an appearance again, as does a bit of banana.

At 61%, I thought I’d check to see what happens when a little water is added. It simplifies things in a fairly pleasing way, but it does cost some of the more unusual fruit notes. The nose focuses on barley and lemon, with the peat providing a foundation for everything. The palate is similarly changed – barley comes through in a big way and subdues the fruit influence overall. A bit of white pepper creeps in too. Finally, the finish becomes more generally sweet, but has a more pronounced kick of fennel.

Overall, Orpheus is a richly nuanced whisky. Despite the massive peat, it’s still fruity and light. In fact, I’ve had pours where the peat recedes quite dramatically and you’re mainly left with the fruit notes. I tend to think of Orpheus as a December cookout just off the Pacific Coast Highway. Despite the high ABV and intense peat, it can have a light character.

It’s a pretty interesting whisky – I’ll be interested in trying more Octomores in the future. It’s possible that without the wine finish they’re much more one-dimensional. However, this is a great one to start with.

At a glance:

Octomore 02.2 Orpheus 5y (61% ABV) – 140ppm
Nose: 
An initial strong kick of intense peat – earthy and rich, with a faintly rubbery tone. Underneath, some grains – barley and a hint of popcorn. Slightly briny tone, lightly perfumey. There’s a lot of fruitiness – slight hint of cars cars oranges, a little lemon, and a touch of grilled pineapple with some apricots. There’s the faintest, faintest buttercream vanilla as well. Water focuses the nose more on barley and lemon with the peat. 
Palate: 
Rich and coating, low heat despite the high proof. Plenty of peat – tar, rubber, smoke. Some orange underpins it and lemon too. Slight brine, faint fennel, some hay and gentle malt flavors. Water brings up more barley notes, subdues the fruit influence and adds a bit of white pepper. 
Finish: 
Eternally long smoke and peat. Cookout versus campfire. The fruit notes pop up a bit – lemon and orange fade. Hints of rubber, some grilled pineapple, and a touch of banana. Water makes the finish sweet but with a pronounced fennel kick.
Comment: 
Richly nuanced. Fruity and light around all the massive peat – it’s like a December cookout with fruits and veggies off of PCH. Despite the intense ABV it still has a light nature.
Rating:  
B+

The December Bottles, #4: Bruichladdich Chenin Blanc Finish

The December Bottle series wraps up today with the most confusing and vexing bottle I’ve had in some time: the Bruichladdich Quarts de Chaume Chenin Blanc finish that was a K&L exclusive bottling for this year.

I’d intended this to kick off the series, having not had a Bruichladdich in some time and generally being a fan of the distillery despite the peaks and valleys. However, this one proved to be a little harder to pin down than I’d expected. As the days moved on, the notes became more confusing and contradictory – such that I ended up enlisting the palate of Sku (via a blind sample) to get his impression of it.

His impression was not great. Suffice it to say that he wasn’t a fan. His notes were wildly off where mine were and I was genuinely confused. I reopened my bottle (having been splitting my time between the now-empty Glenmorangie Signet and Glenlivet Archive 21 and the fast-draining Laphroaig 25) for another pour. My subsequent email to Sku led off with “This isn’t the whisky I opened…”

Clearly something was afoot. I took it upon myself to try and figure this out – was this changing quickly due to oxidation? Did I have a strange read on it? Did it just need to be reduced to a target ABV? This Bruichladdich took center stage as a nightly science experiment.

I’d muddled through the remainder of the bottle trying to figure it out, sending the occasional email to David Driscoll at K&L to get his take on it and taking notes the whole while. Then the other shoe dropped with an email from David last night, which I’m reprinting in its entirety to give this context:

Hello everyone,
We here at the K&L Spirits Department hope you have had a restful and relaxing Christmas and we also hope you have celebrated it with some fine booze in hand!  I’m writing, unfortunately, to address a problem we’ve had and to make sure any of you who are affected are taken care of.
If you’ve recently purchased a bottle of the Bruichladdich K&L Exclusive Chenin Blanc cask, you may have noticed that it has become quite different than the whisky I describe in the tasting notes.  There has been some tremendous bottle variation and some bottles taste nothing at all like the whisky we originally tasted.  While the bottles were perfectly tasty on arrival, they no longer resemble the malt we selected.  Some have deteriorated completely, however, into a sour and somewhat tart malt that seems completely volatile and spoiled.  It’s a problem I first noticed last week and have been monitoring ever since.  What’s clear to me now after popping a recent bottle is that some of the whiskies are simply bad.  I don’t want anyone to associate that whisky with us, K&L, or Bruichladdich.  Something happened to this malt that I can’t explain, but I don’t want any of you to think that we purposely chose a whisky that tasted like that!  I’d rather take the hit than damage our reputation for selecting world class whiskies.
So, if you have a recent bottle that has been affected please feel free to contact me and exchange it for something else.  My apologies for the situation, but I’m seriously shocked as to what exactly happened.  I’m currently communicating with the distillery to see if we can get some more information.  Thanks for your understanding.  Hopefully some of you got to enjoy this whisky while it was still beautiful and exciting!  Enjoy your holiday!
David Driscoll
K&L Spirits Buyer

And as of this afternoon, the whisky is currently not available (with a Waiting List option). A fair course of action – and I certainly don’t think the Davids would have picked what this has become. (I have tasted several other K&L exclusives that line up closely with their notes and have been generally quite good – the Madeira-casked Springbank, the Banff and the Ben Nevis are among my favorites)

So let’s trace this whisky’s utterly confusing evolution.

The first week of this whisky, my notes were shaping up as follows:
Nose: Lightly leathery – like a new Coach wallet but not overbearing. Abundantly but not overbearingly fruity – hint of bananas, a little peach and pineapple. Faintest pepper. Water opens it up greatly, revealing hay, the trademark Bruichladdich brine notes, a faint rubberiness and a bit more peach and passionfruit.
Palate: Full mouthfeel. Quite warm and gets warmer. Leather in abundance. Fruity again – the peach notes tempered by darker fruits. Light malt in the background. Some cherries providing depth; some raisins there as well. Faintest hint of bubblegum. Water again bings the brine up into clear focus; some faint peat notes lie in the background as well as some wet grass.
Finish: Warm finish. Fruits pull to the forefront with some wood, leather and apple. Some peach, some white pepper. Extremely long, very chewy. Slight mint – the finish continues to develop over a long time. There’s some famines and brine as well.
Comment: This is eye-wateringly powerful like many Bruichladdichs can be. It’s a very curious blend of fruit and leather. It’s hard to pin down at full strength. Water makes this one a little more familiar – and it will take a lot of water. It’s not like much else that I’ve had. Enigmatic, slightly overripe.
Rating: B

A few days later I note that “As the bottle ages the overripe notes start to dominate”.

Mid-month, Sku posts an unflattering review and set of tasting notes. I’m genuinely surprised – I found the palate so dense that I just didn’t quite know what to make of it. I decide to revisit it. It’s completely a different whisky at this point.

Around halfway full the bottle is changing for the worse. Here’s what it looked at half full around ten days ago:

Nose: Gaseous with a strong kick of shoe polish. Overly sweet, bordering on sickly sweet. Strange whiff of vanilla. Smells slightly chemical and artificial.
Palate: Pungent. Earthy. Warming. Overripe fruits. Raisins and a dab of chili oil. The chemical, artificial leather and shoe polish note from the nose is present.
Finish: Dry and bitter. Leathery. Chewy. White pepper – hot and slightly industrial.
Comment: The flavors are separating out but not for the better.
Rating: C-

At this point I was in full science-experiement mode. Dilution became my next avenue of attack and showed the most promise. A few days later I had the most successful dilution of this one at around 40% ABV, perhaps slightly higher.

Diluted to 40%
Nose:
Fruit cocktail that’s a bit overripe. It’s kind of like a less overtly sugary Balblair. Leather. Pears. Light pepper. Cinnamon. White wine.
Palate: Moderate wood presence, a white wine lightness to the flavor. Somewhat effervescent. Sugary with a hint of pastry like a beignet. Heavy mouthfeel, some apricot notes.
Finish: White pepper, a bit of heat. White wine, a faint hint of leather. A bit of woody maltiness at the end.
Comment: This is almost certainly the way to have this. At cask strength it’s too overbearing. At 40% it’s actually fairly pleasant.
Rating: (dilution only) B-

Diluted, it was interesting though unremarkable. It still remained a curiosity. Last night I had the remaining pour of the whisky, emptying the bottle. By then, the complexity had completely faded and where there was once an overwhelming rush of aromas and tastes, it was a simple, straightforward and unpleasant whisky. It got to the point where there was an involuntary wince after the first swallow.

Last Pour Notes
Nose: Overripe fruit. Pleather. Acetone. Decay and garbage.
Palate: Objectionably bitter. Weird tartness. Like licking a cheap purse. Plenty of heat and a nasty overripe fruit flavor.
Finish: Hot; fake and cheap leather, a bit chewy.
Comment: Whatever this had, it’s lost.
Rating: D

So we end up with an interesting case of “when whiskies go bad” with this one. The accepted wisdom is generally that whiskies are more or less stable, but can go flat with some oxidation. (Some bottles perk up a bit in a half-open bottle). Some bottles on rare occasion do seem to go horribly wrong – the Bowmore 21 from the mid 90s that I reviewed a while back and become an interesting case study. The head-scratcher here was how this one completely fell apart in a month’s time. It started with almost impenetrable complexity which was what caused my delay in getting notes. Everything was good but there was so much going on. In a few short weeks though… it winds up being one of the worst in recent memory.

I’m more than happy to take the Davids at their word – as I said, the other samples I’ve had have been great and shouldn’t stop you from buying or cause you to second-guess their judgement. Likewise, the distillate out of Bruichladdich under Jim McEwan has been good – Port Charlotte especially is a high point. Something in this experiment went horribly wrong. I’ll be listening for updates and posting them as they come in. It’s very curious. Since this bottle is seemingly unavailable and weirdly unstable at this point I’m not giving this one an official grade. It can be as high as a B or well into low D territory. Ultimately, it’s been an interesting ride and I haven’t had a whisky this challenging or interesting in a while.

With this curious close to the December Bottles series, I thought I’d call out some highlights. The Glenmorangie Signet was the first bottle I’ve finished. I still think it’s overpriced but it develops nicely with some rum raisin cake notes as the bottle drains. You should definitely seek out a pour.

Glenlivet Archive 21 did not change appreciably in its lifetime. It was a good bottle that I’ll buy again at some point.

Laphroaig 25 seems to have lost some of its complexity. It’s still enjoyable but there’s less here to draw me back. Nevertheless it is down to the last few pours.

Of the bunch I think I enjoyed Signet the most but I think Archive was the best bang for the buck.

Thanks for reading.. the new year will bring some more interesting Scotch whisky; a few bourbon odds and ends and some random spring-cleaning notes. Hopefully the third release of the Single Oak Project will show up soon as well.