Big Peat Small Batch Christmas Edition Review 2012

Big Peat Christmas Edition

Big Peat 2012 Christmas Edition Cask Strength

Distillery:  Douglas Laing & Co.  (Independent Bottler)
Expression: Big Peat 2012 Christmas Edition Cask Strength
Region: Islay
Category: Pure (Vatted) Malt Scotch
ABV: 53.6%

Well ho ho ho …. Merry Christmas boys and girls.

Look at what we found lurking around some closet-sized liquor store in a back alley Taipei City Liquor store.

The 2012 seasonal Christmas offering from the Big Peat!

Everyone knows that naughty children get a lump of coal from Santa.
But for the baddest of the bad, Old St. Nick gets down and dirty and fills their stocking filled with piles of peat.

And that’s what this edition of the Big Peat promises …. and let me tell ya … IT DELIVERS!

Next to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the most ingenious idea in the past 200 years was creating a vatted (pure) malt with four Islay beasts: Ardbeg, Caol Illa, Bowmore, and the mysterious Port Ellen.

We’re well familiar with the three usual suspects (Ardbeg, Caol Illa, and Bowmore) but  Port Ellen was a wild card to the equation as this old Islay distillery shut its doors down in 1983.

But before they did, Diageo swept in and carried off the remaining inventory, which its been dolling out in dribs and drabs ever since.

Anyways back to the Big Peat …

It’s Christmas season and the whole family is home for the holidays.
Like any dysfunctional family unit on special occasions they scrap, scrape, tussle, and cuss.

Uncle Bowmore turns up late, has a few too many, and starts telling filthy jokes.

Port Ellen won’t shut up about his younger days in the Navy.

Aunt Caol Islay tries to maintain sanity in the commotion but she’s one step away from a nervous breakdown.

And in the end, Ardbeg gets pissed off, takes control, and throws them out of his house.

Astute admirers of Islay Scotch will be able to pick out some individual nuances that are characteristic of each malt, as there is some wonderful interplay between them.

Was the whole shebang entertaining?

You’d better believe it.

Will these Malty Maniacs reunite again next year to sing Jingle Bells?

Who knows, but we sure hope that Douglas Laing and crew will make it happen!

Big Peat 2012 Christmas Edition Cask Strength Tasting Notes

Color: Showdown Noon Pale Straw Hay
Nose:  Oh let the salt beat down upon my face. Peat to fill my dreams.
Palate:  Luscious layers of raw Islay peat is on parade. Enthusiasts will detect some intermingling among the Islay malts. Caol Islay is present but rather tame. The Bowmore adds some oily chocolate notes. Port Ellen certainly adds some extra oomph but in the end the Ardbeg grab the helm and steers this one through the mist.
Finish:  A Herculean sheet of bonfire peat with some spiciness and a tinge of cane sugar makes an appearance to provide balance to this otherwise rowdy malt.

Score 89 / 100

Bruichladdich Laddie Ten Review

Bruichladdich Laddie Ten
Bruichladdich Laddie Ten Review

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Expression: 10 year
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Islay
ABV: 46%

It’s always tough to say goodbye to old friends.

Especially old ones that have stuck with you through thick and thin.

Tis a shame to reach the end of a bottle purchased at the 2012 Whisky Live Show — The Laddie Ten

How could I ever forget her?

She was the first Bruichladdich whisky that I have tasted.

Although she’s often overshadowed by her older Islay kinfolk (Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lavagulin to name a few) the Laddie Ten is definitely a keeper.

Distilled by Master distiller Jim McEwan, this unpeated, non-chill filtered Islay gem puts forth a distinctive layer of oak with a salty-bacon-smokiness bubbling in the background.

It was the first 10-year-old whisky distilled at Bruichladdich after it returned from its hiatus in 2001 and one helluva way to usher in a new era at the legendary distillery.

The Laddie Ten is quite a mouthful of the Islay sea followed up by a mellow
creaminess with an oily, grainy finish, accompanied by this beautiful smokiness.

Such an excellent bottle that it made me go out and stake my claim to a Bruichladdich Sherry Classic which left me hungry for even more offerings from this distillery that is hitting full stride.

Fear not dear Laddie, another replacement is on the way along with some other gems from Bruichladdich.

Thankfully, it appears that the rumor of your discontinuation is just a myth — or else heads will roll!

Bruichladdich Laddie Ten Tasting Notes

Nose: Peppery sea air with notes of honey and lemon
Palate: Smoky Bacon, Seaweed, Chewy Toffee, with hints of vanilla and charred sugar to sweeten the pot
Finish: Fairly long and drifting with some spicy ginger and additional nuttiness

Score 87 / 100

Auchentoshan 12 Review

Auchentoshan-12

Auchentoshan 12 Review

Distillery: Auchentoshan
Expression: Auchentoshan 12
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Lowlands
ABV: 40%

After so many forays into Islay and the Highlands, tis’ occasionally nice to spends a bit of time with a Lowlands whisky for change of pace.

And in our book Auchentoshan is right there at the front of the Lowlands pack.

Established in 1800, the Gaelic name Auchentoshan translates into “the corner of the field.” 
The distillery is rumored to have been started by Irish settlers, which would help to explain why Auchentoshan is one of the few Scotches which triple-distills its whiskies.

It’s been dubbed “the breakfast whisky” due to its sweet and light character.

Auchentoshan whiskies are typically matured in bourbon, sherry, and fine French wine casks which adds even more sweetness to the equation.

So, you’re not going to find any traces of peat or smokiness here — just plenty of nutty/chocolate/caramel flavoring that makes for some pleasant sipping.

On the nose, the Auchentoshan 12 is rather bland and offers little more than a few weak lemon-citrus and floral notes.

Yet on the palate, you’re immediately hit with a pretty powerful one-two combination of nuttiness and American oak which belies Auchentoshan’s usual gentle nature present in its other expressions.

Yet the dram eventually returns to form as the oak splinters off into vanilla creaminess and the initial harshness smooths out as it approaches the finish line.

Although we’re quite big fans of the triple pot still distillation approached used in many Irish whiskies, some of the flavor seems to have leaked away in the case of this particular Auchentoshan expression.

It’s certainly not a bad whisky by any stretch, but it’s a little on the dull side.

Those in search of a smoother and fuller lowland should probably pony up the extra cash and opt for the Auchentoshan’s Three Wood instead.

Auchentoshan 12 Tasting Notes

Color:  Golden Honey
Nose: Weak floral and lemon notes
Palate: Heavy on almond and oak, some coffee as well
Finish: Fairly long and drifting with some spicy ginger and additional nuttiness.


Score 80 / 100

Tomatin 18 Review

tomatin-18-year-old

Tomatin 18 Review

Distillery: Tomatin
Expression: Tomatin 18
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Highland
ABV: 46%

Tomatin was once the largest malt distillery in Scotland, but for years it remained under the radar because 80% of its output was designated for blended whiskies.

As of late, they have refocused their efforts on single malt offerings and the results have been quite impressive.

The Tomatin 18 is a non-chill filtered whisky that is aged in refill (bourbon) American oak casks and finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks.

Make no bones about it; the Tomatin 18 is a supremely elegant whisky.

The taste of clean, sulfur-free sherry is present throughout and it’s one of the main highlight of this whisky.

Although the nose is rather inviting, it only hints at that the magic that’s to come.

It hits your palate with a firework display of dried fruits, cinnamon, vanilla, oak, and plenty of other surprises begin to sparkle.

The finish remains a complex interplay of sherry, oak, and dried fruits and it is long and satisfying.

After a small initial tasting, I poured an extra long dram and spent the next 30 minutes or so slowly sipping away and trying to pick out the lovely variety of notes in this whisky.

The Tomatin 18 is a fine addition to any whisky collection and an excellent introduction to older more mature whiskies.

Plus, it’s reasonably priced to boot.

In fact, James Bond should consider ditching his beloved Vesper martini and more recently, Heineken, (I mean seriously, how much did they have to pay for that product placement?) and consider making Tomatin 18 (served neat) his go-to drink of choice.

Tomatin 18 Tasting Notes

Color:  Harvest amber
Nose: Oak, vanilla, fresh sherry and nutmeg
Palate: Extreme elegance. There’s lots going on here.
Vanilla, cinnamon, dates, apple, oak, plus a small tinge of peat to keep things interesting.
Finish: Quite suave and invigorating finish that never gets out of line.


Score 91 / 100

King Robert II Blended Scotch Whisky Review

King Robert II Blended Whisky

King Robert II Blended Scotch Review

Distillery: Ian Macleod Distillery
Expression: King Robert II Blended Scotch
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV: 40%

King Robert II Blended Scotch Whisky is produced by the Ian Macleod Distillery.

It’s available in 40 markets worldwide and reportedly sells  a total of 500,000 cases annually.

Make no bones about it — this is a budget whisky for budget shoppers.

It’s conveniently available in several sizes including 20cl., 35cl., 70cl.*, 75cl.* and 1 liter.

Although there are certainly a few noble malts employed in King Robert II’s ranks, most of his men are young, grainy mercenaries.

Half-shaven, inexperienced, and reckless they lead the way, by storming the castle walls and recklessly setting your palate ablaze.

No subtlety. No strategy. No complexity.

Just burn baby burn in the harshest sense.

Yet soon the exuberance of youth comes crashing down to Earth and the attack putters out.

Defeated and dejected, the finish is a long, quite  era of peace that is mildly comforting but lacks excitement and flavor.

I could see this one coming in handy in the former Soviet Union if one were waiting on a bread line in the dead of winter.

But unless you consider yourself a malt masochists, this one’s strictly a mixer.

King Robert II Blended Scotch Tasting Notes

Color: Light Bronze
Nose:  Old hay, carnation flowers.
Palate:   Young grains on parade. A substantial weight to it though. A lone sliver of honey tries to assert itself but it’s quickly trampled underfoot.
Finish:   Some tobacco. Long, warm, and smooth. The finish is the highlight but it’s still rather bland and flavorless.


Score 66 / 100

Dun Bheagan 15 Review

dun-bheagan-15

Dun Bheagan 15 Review

Distillery:  Dhun Bheagan (Independent Bottler)
Expression: Dun Bheagan 15
Category: Single Malt Scotch
Region: Highland
ABV: 43%

The Dun Bheagan 15 is a non-chill filtered limited edition release.

It’s been aged in Hogshead wood, which seems to give the whisky a more pleasant and tender oak taste.

I came into this tasting knowing little about Dun Bheagan offerings, but after taking a few sips I was quite impressed.

From start to finish it’s an extremely well balanced whisky with fantastic delivery.

The oak provides a solid baseline that allows the sweeter notes to mingle and dance across your palate.

The oaky, sweet, and nutty notes all play together without anyone trying to steal the show.

Dun Bheagan 15 Tasting Notes

Color: Pinkish Copper
Nose:  Baked apple pie with cinnamon and vanilla frosting
Palate: Juicy Korean pear, toasted almonds, a slight tropical tang
Finish:  Long and dreamy

Score 89 / 100

Poacher Valley Blended Scotch Whisky

Poacher Valley Blended Scottish Whisky

Poacher Valley Whisky Review

Distillery:  Poacher Valley (Independent Bottler)
Expression: Poacher Valley
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV: 60%

Poacher Valley might be the most under-the-radar whisky we’ve ever reviewed.

I spotted it for the first (and only time) while whisky window shopping at Will’s Wine Bar.

(Try saying that fast five times)

The fact that it was 60% ABV and available at a measly NT$550 (US$16.50) immediately piqued my interest.

However, a rather thorough background search revealed zero information on the brand.

No reviews
No website
Absolutely nada

It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this was a cheap blend designed solely for the Asian market.

The English description on the back was um … eh …. well have a look for yourself.

Poachers Valley Whisky

Say what? (Click to Enlarge)

The kind folks at Will’s were nice enough to let me sample a dram of it anyway.

Considering all the intangibles it was quite clear from the get-go that I was dealing with an wild and unruly beast.

While the nose was far from fragrant, it was better than expected.

However, on the palate, it was a quick descent into Hades.

You get a tiny bit of oak and a whole lotta’ heat.

Despite what the label says, it’s hard to call Poacher a whisky.

It’s more like a vodka spiked with plenty of caramel coloring to give the impression of age.

The finish is long, painful, and memorable, as in you’ll never forget the day you walked through a minefield and had both of your legs blown off.

The crowd at Will’s DID find a use for it though:

Mixing it with plenty of CC Lemon and wine to create some sort of Sangria from Hell.

Despite the low rating, the Poacher Valley may come in handy if you’re trying to go Old School and revisit your college days.

Mixing some kinda monstrosity with purple Kool-Aid probably wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

purple-kool-aid

But if  you find yourself praying to the porcelain gods after streaking through the streets like Frank the Tank, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Poacher Valley Whisky Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold
Nose: Heavy whiff of ethanol with caramel.
Palate: Oak and a whole lotta’ heat. Tastes like vodka.
Finish: Long, hot, and painful. Memorable in a bad way.

Score: 49 / 100

The Black Grouse Review

black-grouse-review

The Black Grouse Review

Distillery:  Famous Grouse
Expression: Black Grouse
Category: Blended Scotch
Region: Perth, Scotland
ABV: 40%

Twas a rainy, mild-typhoon August day in Taiwan when I decided to give the Black Grouse a whirl.

After weeks of dancing with flavorful Irish whiskeys and sweet bourbons I started jonesin’ for something a bit different.

But for the sake of Whisky Jerk readers and to satisfy my own sneaking curiosity I settled on The Black Grouse: a peaty version of the Famous Grouse.

Truth be told, I had recently sampled the original Grouse and while it was fine (in an entry-level-blend kinda way) I wasn’t particularly impressed.

However I would soon discover that the Black Grouse is a different beast entirely.

It was developed back in 2007 to satisfy the peaty taste buds of the Swedish market and soon after launched worldwide.

The nose of the Black Grouse offers a hint of the bonfire to come with a delightful  sultana sweetness interlude.

On the palate it gets a bit spicy with some milk chocolate and a clean sheet of vanilla icing to sweeten the pot.

The finish is long and contains a nice bit of peatiness …. but it’s not a full on assault.

It’s like a contained, surgical peat bombing campaign on the outskirts of your tongue.

While it’s not as nearly as raging, powerful or complex as an Islay single malt by any stretch, this is a fantastic peaty-teaser blend that you can pick up at one helluva low price.

For bartenders, if you’re looking to experiment with some smoky cocktail ideas consider making The Black Grouse your go-to bottle for the early stages of you drink’s evolution.

Then upgrade to an Islay big dog if required.

In some cases, it might not be necessary.

Black Grouse Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Gold
Nose: Peat, Sultanas, and Dried Apricot.
Palate: Light peat, milk chocolate, with a sugary sheet of vanilla cake icing leading the way.
Finish: Long and peaty but contained. Well orchestrated to remain smooth.

Score 81 / 100

Final Results: Taiwan 200 ml Midnight Whisky Run

Taipei Whisky Selection from 7-11

200 ml Whisky Selection at a Taiwanese 7-11

Truth be told, I went into this 200 ml Whisky Challenge a bit skeptical, expecting the worst.

Cheap blends really aren’t my bag baby.

But I came out of the whole shebang a believer in the power of cheap blends.

I discovered that for under NT$200, you can have yourself a pretty darn enjoyable blended-whisky-hullabaloo of an evening.

But when the rubber meets the road and you can only select one, which whisky do you choose?

Here’s a quick roundup of the competition:

McAdams Rye Whisky

McAdams Rye Whisky

Jim Murray called McAdams Rye Whisky “delicious stuff” when he reviewed it in his Whisky Bible.

I find a lot of his reviews to be spot on but the McAdams was pretty unremarkable and bland to my taste buds.

At NT$160 it’s overpriced in this talented field.

At NT$135, the price would be just about right.

Jim Beam (White Label) Bourbon

jim-beam-1l-435910

My rational on this one is pretty simple.
If you’re in the mood for a decent bourbon, pick up the Jim Beam.
You’ve got no other choice.

While I’m never overjoyed to spend a whole evening with Jim Beam (White) it certainly doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it has in some snobbish whisky circles.

Johnny Walker Red

Johnnie Walker Red Label

To be fair, Diageo states pretty clearly that they only recommend using this beast as a mixer, so it’s no surprise that Johnnie Red didn’t perform so well in this contest.

That being said, even if you’re making cocktails for the evening, at NT$159 Johnnie Walker Red is a bit overpriced.

You’re better off going with the Famous Grouse or one of the Suntory twins as a mixer.

Famous Grouse

A bottle of the Famous Grouse

Since the 1980s, Famous Grouse has been the #1 selling blended whisky in Scotland.
I’ve heard wonderful things about The Finest Grouse, The Black Grouse, and the 30-year expression but I don’t see the regular ole’ Grouse making it into the Jerk’s regular rotation of blended whiskies any time soon.

It’s charming for a grainy-blend but like the bird itself the Grouse has some trouble getting off the ground.

Johnnie Walker Black

johnnie-walker-black-review

I quite like Johnnie Walker Black but at this price you gotta be fucking kidding me.

JW black  can compete with the top dogs in this field but it’s nearly twice as expensive.

If you’re a die-hard Johnnie Black fan, go ahead and experiment with the Old Matisse or splurge for a full bottle of Johnnie Walker Black for a much better value.

Suntory Black Kakubin

Suntory-Kakubin-BlackLabel-suntory-43

It’s stronger than its yellow sibling but it lacks the finesse and flavor.

If these two laced em’ up and met in the squared circle, Suntory Black would be Foreman and Suntory Yellow would be as Ali.

Whether you’re mixing or sipping, spend the extra NT$5 (16 cents) and upgrade to the Suntory Yellow.

The Medal Round

Finally we get down to the nitty gritty and we have three horses running neck and neck down the home stretch.

In third place, the bronze medal winner is ….

Prime Blue

A bottle of Prime Blue Malt Blended Scotch Whisky

A lovely little vatted whisky that’s readily available in Taiwan (and throughout Asia) but it’s a little harder to come by in Europe, Canada, or the States.

Overall, it’s a nicely-balanced blend that is definitely worth a try.

And in second place, the silver medal goes to …..

Suntory Yellow Kakubin

 

Suntory-Kakubin-Yellow-review

Really enjoyable, nice introduction to Japanese blended whisky.

It’s got some hints of Irish pot-still goodness while still retaining its own character.

Which means …. the gold medal winner and NEW champion of convenience store whisky in Taiwan is

Old Matisse

A 200 ml bottle of Old Matisse whisky

Don’t let the conservative refined and classy marketing fool you.
This one’s got some funky stuff going on underneath the hood.
Like a chocolate-tier, chewier version of Johnnie Walker Black available at just a fraction of the price.

Dare I say I spotted a 700 ml bottle at the local Welcome Supermarket the other day for under NT$500.

How’s that for value?

Conclusion

So, in the end Old Matisse takes it in a photo finish.

But that’s just our opinion.

What do you think the best convenience store whisky is in Taiwan?

Let us know in the comments below.

Johnnie Walker Black Review

johnnie-walker-black-review

 Johnnie Walker Black Review

Distillery:  Johnnie Walker & Sons
Expression: Johnnie Walker Black
Category: Blended Scotch
ABV: 40%

Let’s get real.

Despite being a perennial bestseller, Johnnie Walker Black isn’t one of the greatest whiskies out there.

Sure, it was reportedly Winston Churchill’s favorite whisky.

But at that time he was so hellbent on beating back the Krauts that it was unlikely he wasted much brainpower into this whisky selections.

Nonetheless, the Whisky Jerk will admit that he too has a certain fondness for JW Black deep down there somewhere in his blackened corazón. 

It’s the Swiss utility knife of whiskys.

Something you can turn to in almost any situation.

Scenario 1:

You’re at a wedding with limited whisky offerings.

Furthermore, the bartender can mix a drink worth a lick and it’s clear he can’t tell his arse from his Ardbeg.

Whaddaya do?

Order some a double of Johnnie Walker Black and you’re on your way.

 

Scenario 2:

You lost your job.

Sipping drams of 18-year old Highland Park on Tuesday evenings doesn’t feel right considering its putting a massive dent in your savings.

Who’s got your back?

Take a break from single malt and let old JW Black keep a roof over your head.

 

Scenario 3:

Your friends send you to the liquor store on a late-night run.

It’s closed, so you head to the nearest convenience store.

There’s ton of cheap shit you can move for mixing, but only JW Black can double as a mixing / sipping whisky.

Booyaka!

Easy choice.

*******************************************************************

So, don’t be a Johnnie B hater.

Johnnie Walker Black have some interesting nuances to it that come out over time and make it a bottle worth checking back with occasionally.

(When you can’t get your hands on some really good shit)

Johnnie Walker Black Tasting Notes

Color: Dark Amber
Nose: Pepper, Maple Syrup, Malt, Raisin, Ripe Fruit
Palate: Slight Oil, Buttery feel, Caramel, Toffee
Finish: Big lasting smoke, light sherry, well balanced


Score 84 / 100

What’s your take on Johnnie Walker Black?
Is it something you can enjoy neat or do you use it as mixer?
Let us know in the comments below.

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