Green Spot

Following the tasting of the Knappogue Castle 12, our Irish whiskey tasting experience in San Antonio consisted of a taste of the Green Spot. Our host explained that this was a whiskey made using malted and unmalted barley using a single pot still.

Single pot stills are common to Irish whiskey. In fact, pot still whiskey used to be a very popular form worldwide.

The name Green Spot comes from the colour of the paint the distillers would use to mark the casks to indicate the age of the whiskey. There were other colours used and marketed under names such as Blue Spot and Black Spot.

We were told the whiskey used to make Green Spot is aged between 7 and 10 years. The whiskey is aged in new and refill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks. This whiskey may be hard to find, I have certainly not seen it in Quebec, Maine, or New Hampshire.

Now on to my tasting notes. I found the nose to be strong on lemon with a light floral element. A hint of sherry became noticeable after a second whiff and more distinct notes of berries on a third.

The palate was strong in honey and lemon, the sherry simmering somewhere in the background. The flavour slaps you in the face though, so be ready for it. An impression of mint crossed my mind at the time. It feels like a stronger whiskey that its 40% abv content.

The spicy finish does not overstay its welcome and balances out a unique taste experience.

A nice whiskey overall, worth a bottle for your cabinet it you can find it.


Knappogue Castle

My recent introduction to Irish whiskey began with a brand called Knappoogue Castle. The vintage in question was the 1995 edition, bottled at 40% abv. Before sharing my tasting notes of this single malt, I think it best to discuss some background to this label.

The owner of Knappogue castle began keeping casks of Tullamore in his personal reserve in 1951. He would bottle it over time and distribute to those he cherished most. The last of Tullamore casks were bottled in 1987. The tradition appeared to be over, until his son began bottling product from the Cooley distillery in the 1990s. More recent bottling a originate from the Bushmills distillery.

The colour of the whisky was a very clear yellow. The legs ran quickly and thin.

The nose exhibited the characteristics of pear and honey.

The palate was strong on pear, the spices giving it vibrancy and the citrus creating a juicy texture. Some citrus also appears in the mix. As the tasting continued, I was able to make out some serious roasted nuts.

The finish was very long, but still satisfying. Bitter cocoa is the best I can do to describe the final impression of this whiskey on the finish.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this whisky. It may not be at the same level as the Scottish malts of similar age, I was told this was a 12 year-old whiskey, but it is quite enjoyable as a daily after dinner dram. Worth a look if you’re in the market.


What is Irish whiskey?

I recently participated in a tasting of Irish whisky in of all places San Antonio,Texas. This experience lead me to explore the long and tragic history of Irish whiskey making in the hopes of better understanding the product I tasted and plan future purchases.

Irish whiskey-making on a commercial level is thought to have originated in the early 1600s. However, the industry would not reach its peak until John Jameson started distilling large quantities of the stuff in the early to mid 1800s, producing high quality whiskey for mass consumption. Unfortunately, the industry peaked around the middle of the 1800s and never fully recovered due to a series of socio-economic factors that created conditions unsuitable for Irish producers. In the early 20th century, it was still the preferred whiskey in the Unites States until prohibition ended all Irish whiskey imports into the country.

Only in the 1980s did production start to recover and today a small number of distillers produces all of Ireland’s whiskey. There are nine distilleries in operation in Ireland. These include the well-known brands from Middleton (e.g. Jameson, Green Spot), Bushmills, and Cooley (e.g. Connermara, Locke’s). In addition to these older distilleries, there are a number in construction or who haven’t yet had time to age their product, such as Alltech and Dingle. These new players are hoping to benefit for the resurgence in interest in whiskey of all types.

Whiskey from Ireland comes in several forms. Grain whiskey is made from unmalted barley in a continuous still. This is usually mixed with malted barley to creat a blend. A blend is a mixture of grain and malt whiskies. For Irish whiskey, this means blending the grain product with a pot still product. A pot still product can be made by distilling malted barely in a single pot (single malt) or by using malted and unmalted barley in a single pot. The latter is also known as pure pot still whiskey. This style is unique to Ireland.

Having explored the background and types of Irish whiskey, I will dedicate some space in the near future to reviewing the whiskey I tasted during my time in San Antonio.


Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Nikka Taketsuru 12

I have already pitted the Yamazaki 12 against the Glenlivet 12 and, more recently, the Yamazaki 12 against the Nikka Taketsuru 12. It is now time to taste test the Glenlivet 12 against the Nikka 12. This is a battle for third place within this group as the Yamazaki was the winner in both of the aforementioned showdowns.

The Nikka is a Japanese classic, bottled at 40% abv but packing a lot of flavour into its 12 years. The Glenlivet is a longtime favourite Scotch of both casual and experienced whisky lovers alike. The latter is also bottled at 40% abv.

Both look similar, though the Nikka hints more at amber than gold.

On the nose, the Glenlivet’s unmistakeably soft, sweet hues prove to be a nice welcome. However, the matchup is clearly in the Nikka’s favour as its bolder aroma of fruit, vanilla, honey, and citrus shames the Glenlivet into submission.

On the palate, the Glenlivet’s trademark sweet apple flavours provide much needed warmth on a cold winter’s day. The Nikka’s flavour profile differs significantly. It’s a deeper, darker taste that fills the senses with some of the same basic traits of the Glenlivet but mixes these with oak and nut. The Glenlivet is obviously sweeter overall but the Nikka is more complex. The Nikka has a more grainy texture as well, while the Glenlivet is smoother on the tongue. I enjoy both for their respective merits and I’m finding this tough to call. If forced, I would give a slight edge to the Nikka.

The finish on the Glenlivet is acceptably long and fruity. The Nikka is smokier, contains more oak, and dark nuts. I pick up some faint pineapple notes deeper into the finish with the Nikka. The length of the finish of the Nikka is about the same as the Glenlivet.

Overall, without considering the relative costs of the two whiskies in question, I prefer the Nikka by a small margin. The Nikka is much more interesting on the nose and the finish but both have pleasant tastes despite their differences in this regard.


Laphroaig 18

I recently did something I hadn’t done in some time: open a new bottle of whisky. The bottle in question was not just any bottle either, it was a bottle of Laphroaig 18! I had purchased the bottle last summer but the occasions for indulging in premium whisky were few and far between until the holiday season. At the bequest of a visiting friend, the opportunity arose and a drinking experience matched by few others was at hand. Laphroaig is famous for its peated, smoky whiskies. Their Islay distillery also still runs its own malting floor, peating the green malt produced on site prior to kilning.

The Laphroaig 18 is bottled at 48% abv and barrier filtered. Barrier filtering is a non-chill filtering method designed to filter out larger particles in the spirit. Laphroaig uses Maker’s Mark casks in its maturation process. This 18-year-old expression recently replaced Laphroaig’s 15-year-old in their product lineup.

But enough background, on with the tasting!

The colour is a bright gold and exceptionally clear and crisp looking. The legs run smooth, thick, and slowly down the glass.

The nose does not come across as overly smoked or peated. Instead, the peat lets itself melt into nuts, honey, pear, and toffee. Some smoke lifts the oak into the sense and neatly ties all the components together.

The whisky is exceptionally smooth on the palate. I start tasting the peat immediately, but then the extraordinary depth and balance become known to me. I find some light citrus, mostly grapefruit, complimenting the nuts and honey that fill out the tasting experience. The subtle smoke plays a role in embracing the envelope of flavours and inviting me in for more. A little more concentration yield some spice and floral notes.

The finish starts sweet and continues into nuts and oak. The smoke continues to tie the experience together and reminds me of a midsummer barbecue on the smoker, but not before leaving some vanilla and honey. After a while, I get the distinct impression of salted cashew.

Overall, a wonderfully complex and full-bodied whisky. Having already reviewed the Quarter Cask, I was expecting something good from this expression, but I was not prepared for the full extent of what Laphroaig has accomplished with its 18-year-old.
This bottle is available at the SAQ in Quebec for $158. The LCBO in Ontario charges an outrageous $180. Your best bet in the area, however, is New Hampshire where a bottle can be had for $75. I love New Hampshire, which is where I purchases my example of this fine product



Whisky Showdown! Glenlivet 12 vs. Bruichladdich the Laddie 10

Last month, I reviewed Bruichladdich’s the Laddie 10 and revealed a tender but elegant Scotch. Today, I compare the Laddie 10 to the classic 12 from Glenlivet.

Both whiskies are a pale gold and are undistinguishable from one another. I had to ensure I kept tabs on each glass as I started the tasting to make sure I didn’t mix them up from the start! The legs run quick and thin on both, a sign of their youth according to some whisky experts.

The nose on the Glenlivet 12 does not betray its reputation for being soft and unassuming. I do however notice that the side by side tasting brings out the nose of the Laddie 10. The contrast in expressions allows me to notice the peat in the Laddie. Though I hadn’t noticed during my prior tasting, there is definitely a soft peaty background that accompanies the young fruity freshness of the Laddie 10. Overall, the Laddie 10 is stronger and more complex on the nose, making the Glenlivet 12 seem rather boring.

On the palate, the Glenlivet is pleasant, mild, and quite tasty with its nice apple notes. The Laddie 10 is a more deep concoction, keeping with a fruity contrasting the Glenlivet with shades of oak and peat, qualities I had not noted on my initial tasting. The Glenlivet is also more chewy against the Bruichladdich’s juicy texture. The higher alcohol content of 46% abv on the Laddie 10 is also quite obvious here, lending some punch to the overall flavour.

The finish of the Glenlivet is oddly similar to the Laddie 10, despite the differences in nose and palate between the two expressions. While the Glenlivet sticks to fruit, the Laddie one ups it with a twist of fig and compliments the rest of the experience very nicely.

Both are nice whiskies for everyday enjoyment and I’m sure will please most people. My personal preference is with the Laddie 10. Though a younger whisky, it is just a notch more complex than the Glenfiddich and makes for a more interesting experience.


Bruichladdich the Laddie Ten

It had been a while between reviews but I’m glad to say that the time was not wasted. No, the whisky collection has been renewed, bolstered, and refined. I am happy to say a new batch of reviews will guide us through fall and comfort us during those cold winter nights.

So on to the review of a whisky from the Bruichladdich distillery. The Bruichladdich Laddie Ten is the first ten-year-old produced by the new owners of the distillery after their purchase in 2000. The distillery had been closed in 1994 which meant that no 10-year-old could be produced until 2011. The distillery, a Victorian gem on the far west coast of Islay, began producing fresh 10-year-old whisky in September 2011. Since then, they have expanded their range significantly and you will surely have noticed that I have reviewed quite a few of their expressions already. I’m sure this will not be my last experience with Bruichladdich either.

Their flagship product, the Laddie Ten is bottled at 46% abv. The bottle in my possession is dated May 16, 2012 and comes in a nearly clear bottle with minimal labeling. The gift box is Bruichladdich’s trademark light teal colour and neatly packaged.

The colour is a nice light gold. Quick, thin legs run down my glass after a good twirl.

The nose quickly betrays the age of the whisky with young and fresh aromas of red apple and lemon easily distinguished. Some honeydew melon can also be detected with a bit of concentration.

The palate is silky sweet at first, melting into honey and citrus with time. Again, the youth of the product is obvious. However, this is not a knock against the whisky as it is quite pleasant and zesty. Some barley and a hint of chocolate are also qualities that can be enjoyed as the tasting progresses. A warm, sweet, zesty delight for the palate.

The finish does not linger as some older whiskies might, but compliments the experience perfectly. Once more, it is sweet, discrete, and fruity. The taste of fig comes to mind.

A bit fo water doesn’t do much to change the nose, though it does seem to make it more powerful and easier to detect the rich scent of apple. The palate becomes juicier and more intense. The chocolate noted previously turns into a soft memory of hazelnut spread. Continued tasting provides the slightest clue of oak. The finish seems a bit longer and adds nuts and a tiny fragment of hazelnut to it.

Overall, a quality product from Bruichladdich. It is an elegant whisky for its age and a wonderful companion to a night with friends, family, and foe. Available at the LCBO in Ontario for about $63 and $55 in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, it is currently out of stock in Quebec. I urge you to pick up a bottle post haste and enjoy the refined youth of the Bruichladdich Laddie Ten.


Bruichladdich the Laddie 10