Advent Day 13: Big Strand

Thirteen days in and the whisky advent calendar delivers me something that I had not previously heard of….

Big Strand Islay Single Malt Whisky
46% ABV
$40

What the Bottler Says
Not really anything. No website, press release, or really anything.

What Richard Says
Nose: Smoky and meaty.
Palate: Surprisingly sweet with notes of roasted peppers and salty sea air.
Finish: Hot and dry.
Comments: I would pass on this one. There is plenty of Islay malt out there but this one is unbalanced and feels cobbled together. This is probably either a product of young or poorly chosen whisky.
Rating: Probably Pass

Advent Day 12: Evan Williams BIB

Day number twelve brings a classic bottled in bond bourbon from my whisky advent calendar…

Evan Williams Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
50% ABV
$17
Website

What the Distillery Says
Evan Williams White label is our signature 100 proof, Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond,” a spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery, bottled at 100 proof and aged for at least four years under U.S. government supervision.

Evan Williams White is bold and full-flavored, with all of the kick that you would expect from a 100 proof Bourbon without sacrificing any of the smoothness. Perfect in a classic cocktail, as well as neat or on the rocks.

Nose: Caramel with hints of vanilla, oak & barley
Taste: Citrus on top of vanilla & black pepper
Finish: Warm, long & dry

What Richard Says
Nose: Big vanilla candy notes with a back of corn pudding.
Palate: Malt o Meal, burnt caramel, and cinnamon brown sugar oatmeal.
Finish: Lingering dryness.
Comments: Are you thinking about getting into bourbon? Are you wanting to trying out some classic and quintessential bourbons. Evan Williams Bottled in Bond should surely be on your list. It has great flavor and versatility. Not the greatest but classic.
Rating: Average

Advent Day 11: Ailsa Bay

A new distillery, a new malt, a new day of Advent….

Ailsa Bay Single Malt Scotch Whisky
48.9% ABV
$65
Website

What the Distillery Says
With exacting precision, Ailsa Bay brings whisky-craft and innovation to a new level with its singular vision: The creation of a precision-distilled single malt, perfectly balanced between smoke and sweetness.

PPM: THIS IS THE PRECISE MEASUREMENT OF THE ‘PHENOL’ CONTENT IN PARTS PER MILLION. THE HIGHER THE ‘PHENOL’ LEVELS THE MORE ‘PEATY’ THE WHISKY WILL TASTE. AILSA BAY CONTAINS 21 PPM, WHICH IS ASSESSED PRIOR TO BOTTLING GUARANTEEING A MORE ACCURATE MEASUREMENT.

SPPM: AILSA BAY IS THE FIRST WHISKY TO HAVE AN ANALYSED MEASUREMENT OF SWEETNESS IDENTIFIED. THIS IS POSSIBLE THROUGH A REVOLUTIONARY PROCESS DEFINED BY MASTER BLENDER BRIAN KINSMAN. THE WHISKY IS DEFINED AS HAVING 11 SPPM WITHIN IT, WHICH GIVES IT THE PERFECT BALANCE BETWEEN THE PEAT AND SWEETNESS.

Micro Maturation: AILSA BAY IS ALSO THE ONLY SCOTCH WHISKY TO UNDERGO A PROCESS CALLED ‘MICRO MATURATION’. THE DISTILLERY’S NEW MAKE SPIRIT IS FIRST FILLED INTO HUDSON BABY BOURBON CASKS THAT ARE BETWEEN 25-100 LITRES IN SIZE, FOR SIX TO NINE MONTHS. THE RELATIVELY SMALL CASKS – TRADITIONAL AMERICAN OAK BARRELS CAN CONTAIN UP TO 200 LITRES OF SPIRIT – ENABLES INTENSE RAPID MATURATION. THE LIQUID IS THEN TRANSFERRED INTO VIRGIN, FIRST-FILL AND REFILL AMERICAN OAK CASKS FOR SEVERAL YEARS. THE PROCESS IS THE FIRST OF ITS KIND WITHIN THE SCOTCH WHISKY INDUSTRY.

Nose: FRESH WOOD SMOKE WITH NOTES OF SMOULDERING DAMP HEATHER AND AN EXTINGUISHED BONFIRE. FOLLOWING THE SMOKE IS A WAVE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND HOT BUTTERED TOAST WITH AN INTRIGUING HINT OF CARAMELISED APPLE.
Taste: AN IMMEDIATE PUNCH OF PEAT IS QUICKLY BALANCED BY A BURST OF VANILLA OAKINESS. THE FLAVOUR MEANDERS BETWEEN SMOKE, FRUIT, CREAMY TOFFEE AND BACK AGAIN. WITH EVERY SIP THE COMPLEXITY OF THE WHISKY DEEPENS AS LAYER UPON LAYER OF FLAVOUR IS REVEALED.
Finish: AN INTRIGUING BALANCE OF OAKY SWEETNESS AND PEATY DRYNESS.

What Richard Says
Nose: A lovely light floral smokiness. Like burning heather or dried wildflowers in a campfire wrapped in a warm nuttiness.
Palate: A rich sweetness playing with that peat smoke. Fruit preserves, amaretto, and vanilla bring the sweetness.
Finish: Short and a bit hot with the heat coming from Big Red chewing gum cinnamon.
Comments: Described as “peat and sweetness” I think that is very apt. Damn, this is a fine dram. The only shortcomings I find are the heat on the finish which tells the tail of small barrel. Even though it was only used partially in the aging process you just can’t seem to undo that. The closest dram I can think of would be the Cask Strength Compass Box Peat Monster. There’s no Ailsa there but the interplay of sweet and smokey is very similar.
Rating: Stands Out

Advent Day 10: Scallywag 13 Year

And on the tenth day of Advent, my calendar gave to me….

Scallywag 13 Year Old Blend Malt Scotch Whisky
46% ABV
$65
Website

What the Blender Says
Our Scallywag 13 Years Old Speyside Malt Scotch Whisky is a limited edition “big brother” to the original Scallywag and is the first Scallywag bottling to carry an age statement. Matured exclusively in Sherry Butts, Scallywag 13 Years Old is bottled at 46% and proudly without colouring or chill-filtration.

The nose is big, dark, distinctly sherried, raisin-y with home-baked fruitcake and molasses to the fore. Palate-wise, the sweet dark sherry opens, then detect late vanilla, nutmeg and ginger mixing with rich cereal tones: all of which combine in the still spiced finish offering a long and wagging tail-end of mocha.

What Richard Says
Nose: Rich and sherry forward with a bit of toasted fennel seed.
Palate: Less of a sherry monster than on the nose but still notes of dark chocolate fudge, baking spices, and stewed dark fruit.
Finish: The cinnamon and dark chocolate linger in a medium length dry finish.
Comments: This is a great introduction to sherry forward malt. It’s easy to drink with all of the high notes of a good sherry forward whisky with no hang ups.
Rating: Stands Out

Advent Day 9: The Naked Grouse

It gets naked on Day 9 of Advent…Naked Grouse…

The Naked Grouse Blended Scotch Whisky
40% ABV
$30
Website

What the Blender Says
Whisky at its most uncomplicated.

Convention said that blended malt got its flavour from bourbon casks, used again and again. This got us thinking… What if instead, we used first fill sherry casks to add another layer of rich and fruity flavour to our malts? It didn’t just work, it was a joyful exuberance of flavour that changed the possibilities of whisky enjoyment.

So hats off (and everything off!) to Naked Grouse, for taking a liberating leap into the unknown.

What Richard Says
Nose: Oily polished oak, stewed fruits, malt, and vanilla custard.
Palate: Very light flavored with bits of jarred cherries and vanilla cream.
Finish: Short and mellow.
Comments: Meh. Nice and easy to drink but very light and nothing that stands out to make you want more. A scotch for vodka drinkers?
Rating: Average