Wednesday 15 June 2022

Ardbeg Day 2022 - Ardbeg Ardcore [Tasted #577]

If there's annual whisky event we never fail to cover on TimeforWhisky, it's ArdbegDay! The annual event sees Ardbeg Committee members over the world celebrate all things Ardbeg, whilst enjoying one of Dr Bill Lumsden's latest creations created specifically for the celebration.

This year the creation is "Ardcore", a punked-up take on Ardbeg (harkening back to the 1970's alleged "hotbed of anti-establishmentarianism" in Islay), described as "like biting on a spiky ball". Not exactly a tasting note which immediately makes me want to dive in, but I'll admit I was intrigued.

Continuing 2021's trend, Hong Kong again held an actual event this year, and whilst recent events haven't quite been on the scale of 2014's epic Sydney tasting for "Auriverdes", it was fantastic to again be able to celebrate Ardbeg in person with other Committee members.

Held at Wan Chai's TMK (a suitable venue if ever there was one), Committee members came together to taste a lineup led by local brand ambassador Leo Jockovic, including:
...preceded by a Wee Beastie Highball, and paired with a menu of TMK's delicious sushi.

I love getting the opportunity to taste an entire range side by side - particularly as it gives me the opportunity to see how bottlings (and/or my own taste) have evolved. For example while Uigeadail has always been a favourite, during this taste I had the Corry slightly ahead in terms of score.

Of course, it was the Ardcore I was most interested in though, so on that note...

Adbeg "Ardcore" (Ardeg Day 2022) (46% ABV, NAS, Islay, $2198HKD in a pack with Wee Beastie$235AUD£87.46)
Colour: Pale, light straw.

Nose: Citrus-infused peat, then a slight bittersweet choc note. Grapefruit, followed by some oak.

Palate: Sweet toffee initially, followed by some dark chocolate. There's an underlying herbal note I also got on the 10 (almost a slight grassiness), but it's subtle - the sweeter notes dominate.

Finish: Smoked herbal lonzenges with wafts of BBQ smoke.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 88/100. Not quite what I was expecting (for me, not exactly "biting on a spiky ball", but a relatively straight-forward, enjoyable dram. Given the choice though, I'd choose the Ten.

Think this sort of event is something you'd want to take part in? This year Ardbeg held many events like this, with Ardbeg Committee members getting the opportunity to attend. Make sure you sign up here for your chance next time around.


Thanks to MHDHK for the invitation, and the bottle reviewed here.

Monday 6 June 2022

Diageo Special Releases 2021 [Tasted #569 - 576]

Just like Christmas, the eagerly anticipated Diageo Special Releases Collection has arrived in Australia. Though it should be said that we do get things six months later than our Northern Hemisphere friends. The 2021 Diageo Special Releases Collection 2021 dubbed 'Legends Untold' features similar malt set to last year's collection and no, there's no sign of any ghost distillery malts such as Port Ellen or Brora. Those rare malts are now part of the Rare & Exceptional Collection.

The Diageo 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection feature:

  • The darkly robust and rich Mortlach 13yo from the Speyside Dufftown distillery
  • A briny, bold fire-breathing sea monster of malt with smoky undertones in the Talisker 8yo
  • A rare Highland expression of the Royal Lochnagar with a nimble springtime freshness
  • Two unique and enchanting expressions of the Lagavulin, ‘The King of Islay’: A fiercely intense, yet perfectly balanced sweet and salty 12yo and, 
  • The ultimate jewel in the set, a 26yo, finished in first-fill PX/Oloroso casks

I couldn't make the event that Diageo put together in Sydney but they did send the collection. I must say, when I received the package, I was blown away by the overall design and details. 

This year's collection takes inspiration from the fable world and is represented by the brilliant pop-culture designs by Digital Illustrator Ken Taylor. His striking signature style and interpretation of the mythical creatures take cues from his portfolio of pop culture artwork. The designs incorporate ancient fables and mythical creatures that are linked to Scotland's heartland. The 2021 ‘Legends Untold’ collection like all the previous Special Releases collections is there to represent the diversity of Diageo's malt portfolio.

Master Blender Dr Craig Wilson selected each of the whiskies and he commented:

“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries for the ‘Legends Untold’ collection. Taking inspiration from this year’s mythical creatures, we have revealed new depths of flavour and embraced the essence of each whisky’s unique profile, unveiling the legend it brings to life. The 2021 Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection is just the very beginning of the story.”

What's also unique this year is the use of the QR code that is found on the bottle. On the sample kit, the QR code was printed on the box that also told the tale of the legends. Diageo is using the QR code to give people the ability to dive deeper into each of the releases and promises a multi-sensory experience as well as details behind the cask-strength Single Malts’ tale. All from the comfort of people's homes.

Mortlach 13yo (55.9%, Speyside, Scotland, A$243) 


Nose: Light, freshly cut grass, vanilla granolas, there's some orange marmalade, lemon and honey lozenges.

Palate: Creamy, floral, vanilla, there's some tannin, quite tarty followed by some sweet ginger heat.

Finish: Long remnants of tannin, chalky and the spices remain for a while. 

Rating: 91/100 

Lagavulin 12yo - The Lion's Fire (56.5%, Islay, Scotland, A$234) 


Nose: Iodine, sea salt with lemon zest. It's pleasant despite the slightly peaty, briny influence. There's a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Palate: There's the smoke, bonfire smoke. The brine from the nose follows on the palate. There is lemon zest and seaweed. Simple pleasure, very Lagavulin.

Finish: Long, the smoke and lemon citrus notes lingers, as well as the brine note.

Rating: 94/100 

The Singleton of Glendullan 19yo - The Siren’s Song (54.6%, Speyside, Scotland, A$252)


Nose: The nose is fruity, with apples and licorice and currant

Palate: The palate is smooth, with peppermint, fresh mint, a hint of fresh malt, popping candies, sour cherries and quite herbaceous

Finish: The finish is sweet, light, 

Rating: 91/100 

Oban 12yo - The Tale of Twin Foxes (56.2%, Highlands, Scotland, A$189) 


Nose: The nose is herbaceous, sweet maple syrup, grassy, toffee apple, green apple, 

Palate: The palate is rich, elegant, and lightly spiced, oranges, warhead sour lollies, spices, and nutmeg hit the back of the palate

Finish: The finish is long zesty and salty (in a delicious way)

Rating: 94/100 

Cardhu 14yo - The Scarlet Blossoms of Black Rock (55.5%, Speyside, Scotland, A$216) 


Nose: Deliciously sweet, berries, strawberries and cream, plenty of dessert, icing sugar, caramelised apply to candy, vanilla and coconut shavings

Palate: The palate follows the nose, the sweet strawberries and cream, there are some fruit tingles, raspberry candy, slight sourness, popping candy perhaps?! but it's sweet through and through.

Finish: The popping and buzz from the popping candy remain along with the berry notes. Delicious.

Rating: 93/100 

Talisker 8yo — The Rogue Seafury (59.7%, Islay, Scotland, A$162) 


Nose: There's the Talisker, bold smoke with loads of unashamed peats. It's briny, there are sea salt remnants, and you can smell the ocean.

Palate: The bold peat and smoke follow through to the nose. It's charred and it hits you big time. There's some vanilla amongst the brine and ash.

Finish: Long, the smoke lingers for a while and there are some spices, peppery. The finish is also chalky with lots of tannins left behind. It's a delicious Talisker.

Rating: 92/100

Royal Lochnagar 16yo — The Spring Stallion (57.5%, Highland, Scotland, A$360) 


Nose: Fresh and fruity, honey, vanilla custard, subtle notes of mandarin.

Palate: Very surprising and different to the subtle notes. Creamy, orange and lemon zest, popping candy or is it orange juice. There are spices that develop gently, black pepper mixed with a drizzle of lemon.

Finish: Long with a chalky finish, the spices fizzle out first before leaving a sweet fruity finish.

Rating: 93/100

Lagavulin 26yo — The Lion's Jewel (44.2%, Islay, Scotland, A$2,971) 


The grandeur of the lot, the Lagavulin 26yo - dubbed the Lion's Jewel. The King of Islay guarded a gem of precious worth that has been won through decades of fire and ferocity. As the legends have it, this was truly a nice drop.

Nose: The smoke and ash hit you, in a nice way. There are raisins and stone fruits, and some berries. There is also some sweetness, honey glazed smoked ham?! 

Palate: Sweet at first but the smoke continues on the palate and continues to grow. There are ash notes that are mixed with dried fruits, and raisins. The smoke is followed by some spices, black pepper and oak spice. Overall, very creamy and complex.

Finish: Long, the peat lingers and the bonfire is still alive, you are yearning for more of that smoke. A beautiful Lagavulin rendition.

Rating: 95/100


Thank you to Diageo and Example for sending us the Diageo Special Releases 2021 Collection kit for us to spend some time with.

Friday 3 June 2022

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo [Tasted #568]

It's been less than a month since I wrote about this 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition Glen Grant, and if that was the oldest whisky I was to try this year, I'd consider it a pretty good year....but the fine people at Gordon & MacPhail had other plans, and were kind enough to send a sample of something even more special, commemorating an event that most of us will likely never again experience in our lifetimes.

I'm talking about the Queen's Platinum (70th) Jubilee, and the Gordon & MacPhail "Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo 1952 Glen Grant, bottled for the occasion. Not the oldest whisky we've tried on the site, but impressively, the equal second.

Bottled on the 6th February (the same date as Her Majesty's accession to the throne) after maturing for 7 decades in a first fill Sherry butt, the whisky serves as a fitting tribute to Her Majesty, having served the same amount of time on the throne.

Distilled on 26th January 1952, and bottled 70 years later at a cask strength 52.3% ABV, the "Gordon & MacPhail Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery" sees just 256 bottles released worldwide, with a recommended retail price of £20,000, available from Gordon & MacPhail's own online shop in the UK, and no doubt Master of Malt for International buyers in due course. No word yet on Hong Kong or Australian pricing.

In support of the Queen’s ‘green canopy’ initiative and building on the successful 2021 partnership with Scottish charity Trees for Life we mentioned here, Gordon & MacPhail is donating a further £20,000 from the proceeds of the release.

So having well and truly established the whisky's suitability for such a momentous occasion, let's find out how it tastes...

Gordon & MacPhail "Private Collection 1952 from Glen Grant Distillery Platinum Jubilee Edition" 70yo (52.3% ABV, 70yo, Cask #381, One of 256 bottles, Speyside, £20,000)
Colour: Mahogany gold.

Nose: Fresh leather, waxed apples and juicy sultanas, followed by orange marmalade. Give it time (as you must always with such an old and complex whisky), and herbal notes (mint predominantly) and cigars emerge.

Palate: Hugely rich and mouthfilling, there are initial wisps of smoke, followed by dark chocolate, then milk chocolate, cigar humidor, oranges (orange cakes actually), then slight hints of mint. After time, notes of blackcurrant emerge. It's not an in-your face sherry bomb, it's more of a subtle, complex, evolving sherried dram. Impressive, hugely impressive.

Finish: Long and minty, with lingering grapefruit hints and minimal oaky notes.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100. Not quite the same intensity of sherry in the 64yo 1957 "Mr George Legacy" 2nd Edition, more of a subtle, intricate dram giving layers of different notes as time goes on. A fitting tribute to Her Majesty if ever there was one.