Peat Unusual – Loch Lomond Peat 46%

Sometimes a whisky is picked up not for marketing schpeels, glowing reviews or word of mouth enthusiasm… Sometimes a whisky is acquired for more whimsical reasons… like a nod to pure childhood sentiment. Yes Tin Tin comics and their Loch Lomond whisky.

This is exactly the motivation for adding the Loch Lomond Peat to an evening of Peat Unusual – all peated whiskies but ones that did not necessarily follow the standard peaty Islay style.

So what did we think?

Loch Lomond Peated 46%

  • Nose – Honey sweet, organic, some caramel custard, floral grasses, tube roses and white flowers and more honey… after tasting there was even a hint of ginger… after sitting for much longer took on an almost sour mash quality
  • Palate – Sweet ginger and a quality that was almost tequila like, some spice
  • Finish – There but… quite shy

Overall this had us scratching our heads wondered where was the peat? Was there any peat? Wasn’t there supposed to be some peat?

Another joked it somehow reminded him of left-over pub tequila. Hmmm…

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad it just wasn’t stellar either, just something to pass away some time, sipping while you engaged in activities… an easy accompaniment

And what do the folks over at Loch Lomond have to say?

Not much as you can’t even find this particular expression on their website!

However the TWE folks have this to say instead:

The peated release of Loch Lomond was launched in 2008 by popular demand. Home to a cooperage, malt distillery and a grain distillery (which produces the best selling Glen’s Vodka), Loch Lomond is a multi functioning site. This has notes of soft fruit and is hugely peated.

Um… hugely peated? That certainly wasn’t our impression.

We opened this bottle in November 2017 and I strongly suspect this was picked up at The Whisky Exchange where it can be purchased for approx £14. And at that price? You can afford to indulge in a bit of pure Tintin nostalgia.

Our “peat unusual” whiskies featured:

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

Last in our Port Charlotte cask evening was one that stumped our entire group. We sampled it blind, with no clue beyond everyone knowing the whiskies sampled that evening were from the same distillery, similar age, barley, peat level yet matured in different casks.

What did we find?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Virgin Oak Cask #005 63.5%

  • Colour – Dark amber
  • Nose – Dark chocolate, cinnamon spice, raisins, prunes, apricot, such fruity sweet, almost sweet wine-like, shifting from dark to white chocolate nougat, vanilla, cappuccino, marmalade, walnut, not a hint of peat… then after some time, became almost meaty with a subtle ash and… believe it or not… bubblegum! After even more time… was that lemon custard? Or coconut cream pie?
  • Palate – Spice, even more than the others this one was sooooooo sweet! Then a roaring spice behind the sweet which eased into a ginger spice, followed by salt, roasted coffee bean and a gentle peat, with wonderful oils
  • Finish – Lovely
  • Water – Needs a splash of water – then it becomes juicy, fruity and simply fabulous!

For some, this was the favourite or runner up of the night!

There was something so completely appealing about the complexity of the aromas and, once water was added, it was absolutely wonderful on the palate. There was a lovely balance between the fruits, chocolate and light peat… which initially had a ‘barely there’ quality but revealed itself after adding water.

And our cask speculation?

After tossing out possibilities from rum to muscatel to sherry PX, most settled on Port thanks to its rich sweet character. No one even came close to guessing French virgin oak.

With the reveal, everyone was stunned!

On two counts…

  • First, did it really get all these elements from virgin oak?
  • And second, while it really came into its own with water, how could it be 63.5% after 10 years!

For both… there was more to the story which can be found in the MP5 broadcast with Adam and Allan.

Let’s start with the alcohol strength…

63.5% seems nearly impossible for 10 years until you consider the approach taken at Bruichladdich. Unlike other distillers that first add water to their new make spirit to bring it to a uniform 63.5% before maturing, Bruichladdich puts it into the cask at the full force of a true cask strength which is closer to 70%.

And what about the cask?

They shared that after nearly 10 years in an ex-bourbon cask, it was finished for 6 months in a French virgin oak with a medium char from Seguin Moreau cooperage which held nothing before… they credited the virgin oak for providing the depth of colour to the whisky.

An interesting twist… all we know is that we really enjoyed the results!

What more do we know from the bottle?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 30.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Virgin Oak
  • Warehouse: P4. L8 – Dunnage

I purchased this set at The Single Cask in Singapore and we opened the bottles in August 2018 in Mumbai.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

We also started our evening comparing casks with a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8%.

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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

One of the ‘traditions’ of our original whisky group is to taste blind… In this case, I gave a bit of a twist by openly sharing we were sampling whiskies from the same distillery, peated at the same level and nearly the same age with the only difference the cask.

My goal was to eliminate wild speculations to instead focus on the narrow range of variable – cask. With the reveal made only after we tasted each whisky separately and then compared them to each other, sharing thoughts on the possible cask(s) used.

We began with the Cognac cask – while not part of the MP5 series – I chose it to calibrate the palate. We then moved on to the Bourbon cask, then this one… which added a Bordeaux finish.

What did we think?

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Bourbon/Bordeaux Cask #0013 59.9%

  • Colour – A clear touch of red – which we later found clearly came from the Bordeaux cask finish
  • Nose – Initially greeted with curd and tobacco, quite strongly spirit driven, some sulfur – like we just set off some crackers ‘patakar!’, then settled down with less peat, revealing chocolate, and a range of aromas that went from wine to sweet and salty dried fruits, pistachios and raisins
  • Palate – Very spicy at first, with an interesting over brewed tea quality, like tannins from red wine, sweet with an interesting spice, shifting into raspberries and walnuts
  • Finish – A long finish with a strong peppery close
  • Water – Initially made it spicier then really opened up with many finding it quite fabulous once opened up with a splash of water

While we found this one a bit thin on the palate, lacking the body of the MP5 Bourbon, it had quite a distinctive and appealing quality. We also found it less salty than the 1st with almost negligible peat.

For one, he confessed that if he wasn’t already told this was a peaty Islay whisky, he never would have guessed. We wanted to know how that could possibly be the case – given similar ppm from other distilleries retain a much more pronounced peat.

The answer in part can be found in the Laddie MP5 broadcast in which the head distiller Adam Hannett speaks with Allen Logan, distillery manager.

Around the 20 min mark, they shared how their PC style is to always start at 40 phenolic parts per million (PPM). However the phenol content changes as it is mashed, malted and further softened through the slow distilling process. The shape of the still is another factor, which enables lighter flavours to come through. Then, as the spirit ages, it loses more phenols…

The result? You end up with considerably less ppm than you started with… And for Port Charlotte (PC) specifically, it means the whisky is surprisingly versatile with different cask types, particularly if it is aged for a longer period.

Yet without this insight or knowledge of the re-casting, what did our merry malters think?

After much speculation, most votes veered to sherry with one clear it could not be sherry as it had a wine quality. Clearly this taster was exceedingly close!

What Adam shared in the broadcast is this whisky began in an ex-Bourbon cask for 10 years then was finished for 9 months in the fresh Bordeaux cask from the town of Margeaux.

When asked why they recast the spirit, the answer was:

“We wanted to see what else we could explore, do and try new things.”

In part this was motivated by a recognition the whisky needed an extra ‘boost’ from re-casking.

And when the topic of the wine cask finish arose, Allen spoke of their early experiments with finishing 15 and 20 year stock using ex-Bordeaux casks, which turned the whisky pink after only a short period of time! What to do? Jim McEwan suggested releasing the whisky as a special edition for Valentine’s Day, what else?

As for this whisky? I revisited it the next evening and found the wine element unmistakable… and think we underestimated it in our first foray. Or perhaps with just a little oxidation, it revealed its balanced complex character. Superb!

What more do we know?

  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 29.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Bourbon / Bordeaux
  • Warehouse: WH5. L2 – Dunnage

I purchased this 200ml tasting set trio for an embarrassingly high amount from The Single Cask in Singapore.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

Before we tasted the MP5 series, I opened a Port Charlotte 8 year Cognac Cask 57.8% to help calibrate our palate to the Port Charlotte style.
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Port Charlotte MP5 10 year Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

For over a year, I waited impatiently to dive into this Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance aka MP5 trio!

I came across the set in Singapore at The Single Cask. taking a good long whiff of their open bottles and was intrigued. I kept thinking about them… and on my next visit, I was delighted they still had a closed set remaining. So I packed it up and brought it back to Mumbai for our merry malters!

I decided to do it in the same order Adam and Allan did on their YouTube broadcast… so we began with the ex-bourbon. While I knew what we were sampling, my fellow whisky explorers tried it blind.

Port Charlotte MP5 10 year (2005/2016) Fresh Bourbon Cask #1999 56.9%

  • Colour – Bright straw
  • Nose – Bounty chocolate with roasted coconut, tropical fruits – particularly pineapple, cashew fruit when nearly ripe, subtle peat, ripe bananas, dates, lightly leather and wood polish, faint iodine then evolved into a fresh clean delicate citrus
  • Palate – Spicy cinnamon, jute kopra, coconut barfi, lightly oily, a wonderful mouth feel, coffee, coconut shell
  • Finish – Medium length, a bit bitter, chillies, coconut
  • Water – Opened up beautifully, lovely balance of spice then sweet, delicious with a gentle orange citrus

We loved it! It began as a pure tropical treat and evolved into creme brule, bubblegum… We really enjoyed this whisky And found it was a fabulous easy drinking dram. It had a lovely balance, very tasty, becoming even more enjoyable as it opened further with water and had a little more time sitting in the glass.

Remarkably, there was very little peat – just a light leather curl of smoke enveloped in creamy sweet goodness. Equally no one came even close to predicting the alcohol strength – there was talk of 46% or 48% with no one imagining 56.9%!

I challenged my tasting cohorts to give their best guesses on what cask(s) went into creating this dram. After the Cognac surprise, speculation ranged from rum to virgin oak to bourbon… with the last spot on!

What more do we know?

  • PPM: 40
  • Barley type: Optic
  • Distilled: 17.11.2005
  • Bottled: 2016 – Aged 10 years
  • Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
  • Warehouse: P2. R19 – Dunnage

We loved this whisky and wished there was more! By the end of the evening there were just a few drops remaining… clearly a good sign.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

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Revisiting Bruichladdich’s Port Charlotte 2007 CC:01 57.8%

Over a year ago, we had two different evenings exploring whiskies from Bruichladdich… doing a peat progression from no peat to peat to super turbo charged peat. At the time, I specifically remembered how the Cognac Cask surprised, given it was a different cask that the usual ex-bourbon, with an interesting inter-play with the peaty Port Charlotte style.

So when planning my special evening with the Port Charlotte Micro-Provenance 5 trio, I thought of having a ‘starter’ to push our palates into the smoky mode. My logic was this would better enable us to discern nuances in the trio, past the peat. Picking up another duty free bottle of the Cognac Cask seemed a perfect fit, in keeping with the cask theme.

I began our session warning my fellow tasters that this was the ‘appetizer’ before the main course. And while we sampled blind, I shared all four were from the same distillery and started at the same ppm – 40 in case you were wondering – but from there diverged.

Only after we sampled all four whiskies blind did they get revealed – one by one – after a round of trying to “guess” what cask magic produced that particular single malt.

Here is what we thought of the Cognac Cask…

Port Charlotte 8 year 2007 CC:01 57.8%

  • Colour – Coppery gold
  • Nose – Sour lemon, apricot, dark chocolate, cinnamon, a sharp “snuff” like quality, pungent like wasabi peas… as it settled down, the bite of tobacco sweetened, with more of the fruit coming to the fore, eventually taking on a chocolate creme
  • Palate – Strong cognac, bitter, dusty, rock salt, despite the almost brash aromas, the flavours were much less phenolic
  • Finish – Chilli, lightly bitter
  • Water – Makes it sweet, beginning with an explosion of pepper of all types – from black pepper to cayenne – settling into a cinnamon sweetness

This one needs time… when we returned to it, we discovered creme brule, a delicious custard, vanilla baked goods quality. Delicious!

The speculation began…

  • Thoughts of alcohol strength hovered around 48%… a far cry from the actual 57.8%
  • As for cask type? It was split between ex bourbon, virgin American oak to one lone voice wondering if it may have a French wine twist… none guessed it could be a Cognac cask

It turned out to be the perfect “kick start”. The bolder peat in this Port Charlotte cleared the path to focus on the more subtle peat of the MP5 trio.

Port Charlotte MP5 Single Casks:

And what did we try last year? Our Bruichladdich peat progression evenings featured:

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North Star Discovery – Ardmore Peat 8 year 58.7%

Next up in our North Star Discovery was another from their inaugural series… this time from Ardmore. We’ve not come across much Ardmore in our whisky explorations – my only brush has been a speed sniff and swish of the Ardmore 1997 45% (G&MP).  at Whisky Live Singapore at the Gordon & MacPhail booth.

Ardmore Peat 8 year (June 2008 / Oct 2016) 58.7% 1 of 198 bottles

  • Nose – PEAT, oily, sulfer, soapy, capsules… like walking into a doctor’s or chemist shop, iodine, steam engine, musty… then started to shift character revealing waves and waves of cinnamon, plums, mosambi juice, dark juicy fruits, black cherry, cinnamon apple juice, sour cherries…. kept evolving shifting from fruits to a slightly oily soot, like sacred ash, then a bit lactic, old flowers like malas after a day or so… then dark chocolate… and yet another element revealing such a delicious BBQ honey bacon, lots of smoked meats, light tar… followed by coffee, creamy yoghurt… an absolutely unbelievable nose
  • Palate – Sweet roaring spice, lots of sweet peat, stewed chewy fruits, then sweet meats and BBQ. Has good body, lots of character, oodles of spice yet still beautifully balanced between all the elements.
  • Finish – Chocolate cinnamon with a slight orange zest with a “hold” that really stays… dry
  • Water – Brilliant with! Becomes so sweet, lovely honey bacon with a mandarin perfume twist on the nose, silky smooth with a lovely rolling cinnamon sweet on the palate and fantastic finish.

We began to speculate, while it clearly had peat, we thought it wasn’t an obvious Islay dram, yet still likely Scottish. It has a gentle peat quality, pronounced, firmly there but with a subtle hand.

Thinking about the cask, we wondered about french oak? Something that gives a good kick like the way the virgin oak does for Spice Tree.

Again we guessed cask strength and absolutely loved the way water gave it even more “something.”

One remarked that it was a bit “naughty” in the nicest possible way…

Could any of us pick out that it was Ardmore! Not a chance… and that too from a new independent bottler? Impossible.

Which made the reveal all the more enjoyable.

And what about the official tasting notes?

  • Nose: Delicate peat, smoked meats & iodine
  • Palate: Sweet fruit juices & smoke from a BBQ
  • Finish: A great balance of savoury, smoke & chocolate orange

What were we fortunate to sample in our introductory North Star Trilogy?

Unfortunately North Star bottles fly off the online “shelves” quickly!

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Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

From thriving to languishing to a recent resurgence, the Campbeltown whisky “region” that technically lost its status according to the Scotch Whisky Society. Today Campbeltown has only two producers – Springbank Distillery with its ‘extra’ plant Glengyle and Glen Scotia. Some of the distilleries that closed with prohibition and depression became brands under the Springbank family – Glengyle, Hazelburn and Longrow.

What do the Springbank/Glengyle folks have to say about their Kilkerran brand? A fair bit on the bottle label:

Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd. are very proud to be continuing and adding to the great Campbeltown Distilling tradition and the choice of name reflects that Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Sait Kieran had his religious cell and Campbeltown now stands. Kilkerran is thought to be a suitable name for a new Campbeltown Malt since it was unusual for the old Campbeltown distilleries to be called after a Glen, a custom more usually associated with the Speyside region.

A not to subtle dig at Glen Scotia?

But I digress… on to the most important matter at hand… what did we think of the Kilkerran 8 year seated cask strength whisky? Note… we sampled completely blind so the tasting notes are based purely on our thoughts and speculation before the “great reveal.”

Kilkerran 8 year Cask Strength 56.2%

  • Colour – I rather fancifully dubbed it “light sunshine”
  • Nose – Initially quite an oily peat, almost kerosene, sharp, a hospital dispensary, but then it began to mellow in the glass, revealing a fruity sweetness, some light seaweed and hint of brine, a bit of blue cheese or wet socks, shifting back to the peat with campfire embers, an earthy aroma, then more citrus sweet like a lemon tart and then betel nut
  • Palate – Fabulous! Peat perfectly balanced with sweet cinnamon and spice. Just a great balance between the three elements like a well cooked beautiful meal. Some chilli spices, more of that paan character too.
  • Finish – Sweet cinnamon
  • Water -This was a whisky that welcomes water and enables so much more to come to the fore…. Absolutely fabulous with water with a delicious creme caramel, milk chocolate, very creamy quality, like a salty caramel cheese cake, a bit perfume too

There was no doubt we loved it however a few remarked how the peat in the nose was initially so intense it took over the show. However after time to oxidate and the addition of water, everything clicked into perfect harmony. Particularly the balance on the palate was simply outstanding.

Our speculation turned to discussion the quality of peat – what was clear was this was no Islay yet most hesitated to guess beyond that. Overall we found it well constructed and clearly cask strength.

The reveal of Campbeltown and for most of us, only our second Kilkerran, was a cementing of a growing opinion that these folks clearly know what they are doing.

What else do we know? That it was distilled at Glengyle in Campbeltown, is non-chill filtered with no added colouring. We understand it is a 50 PPM.

This was their 1st release which is now sold out, so if you were curious about how much would this set you back…. will need to check out a different version of this whisky – currently retailing at Master of Malt for approx £49.96 – complete value for quality!

Here is our pedigree trio:

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Compass Box – No Name 48.9%

Last in our Compass Box quartet was “No Name”…. in a black as sin bottle, a neck dripping in tar like wax… And what did we discover?

No Name 48.9%

  • Nose – Our immediate reaction? Who needs a cigar with a whisky like this! Smoke was in your face, campfires burning, sweet, charcoal, burnt leaf, acrid, tar…. yet still an underlying sweet
  • Palate – Sweet, almost too much sweet, more cigar, spice, bitter and dry, one even remarked “its like burnt plastic” chased by dark fruits
  • Finish – Bitter
  • Water – The verdict was out whether it helps or harms

This is no easy whisky. And for our resident sherry aficionado, it was the complete opposite of the kind of whisky he would chose. Even those who enjoy a good peaty dram found it a bit much. Clearly it is unique, and one cannot ignore it… but it is certainly not for everyone.

And what do the folks at Compass Box have to say?

For this our peatiest whisky yet, we have decided on No Name. The idea for this limited edition was sparked by the discovery of a parcel of casks of mature, heavy-peated single malt whisky from a well-known distillery located along Pier Road, in the Southeast of the island of Islay.

Even peatier than our whisky called ‘The Peat Monster’ – the staple peated Blended Malt Scotch Whisky in the Compass Box range – the resulting blend is massive in terms of the intensity and complexity of flavour; a whisky brimming with complex peatiness, but tempered with hints of fruit character and an underlying sweetness.

Flavour Descriptors A bonfire-like smokiness on the nose with a peatiness that is by turns tarry and medicinal with hints of autumn leaves. A powerful smokiness and peatiness follow, accented by hints of ripe cherries, plums and spice.

Recommendations This is a whisky for slow sipping either neat, with a splash of water or with an ice cube, which will reveal the layers of massive complexity this whisky offers as the whisky very slowly dilutes.

BMC’s Compass Box Quartet:

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Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach 46.3%

Bunnahabhain is known as the un-peated Islay dram… which makes their Ceòbanach a bit of a departure.

Knowing this limited edition expression was new to the market, one of our Whisky Ladies decided it was just the right twist to bring to our “Contributors Choice” evening.

Bunnahabhain Ceòbanach 46.3%

  • Nose – Perfumey peat, sweet, way more peat than had anticipated, creamy, slightly astringent until it settled down, almost salty
  • Palate – Bacon, bloody mary, spice kick, quite direct, black pepper, citrus and bitter yet smooth and almost oily
  • Finish – Long finish, not heavy, spicy and sweet with a dash of salt too

This was one of those drams that is hard to go back to anything else after such peat. It certainly wasn’t “clobber over the head” peat but it wasn’t a push-over either.

Here is what the folks at Bunnahabhain have to say:

Ceobanach [pronounced kyaw-bin-och] means ‘Smoky Mist’ and harks back to a simpler time; when island life depended on peat for warmth and trade, a time when smoke from the open fires mingled with the salty sea air, to create a ‘Smoky Mist’ you could almost taste.

Bunnahabhain Ceobanach has an unusually rich character; from the sweetness of the Bourbon casks, to the intense Islay malt peatiness, not to mention the characteristic sea air influence from more than 10 years maturing on the coast.

  • Colour – Lemon gold
  • Nose – Intensely pungent depths of sweet oak, seaweed, smoke and elegant light tar with mild antiseptic
  • Palate – Exceptionally balanced malt sweetness, then tangy yet mellow vanilla, white pepper, bitter orange and salt
  • Finish – Lingering oatcake saltiness and sweet peppered smoke

For the ladies in the mood for peat, this one hit its mark.

So what did we sample in our Whisky Ladies “Contributor’s Choice” evening?

Here are a few more Bunnahabhain’s sampled over the last couple of years…

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Trying to give Smokehead a chance….

So we tried Smokehead once before – the Rock edition. To say that it didn’t impress the Whisky Ladies is putting it mildly. While we are always curious to try different things and no strangers to peat, ashtray is generally not our preferred style.

However when approached by the folks over at Ian MacLeod distillery suggesting their standard Smokehead is more accessible than the Rock edition, I didn’t have the heart to refuse their rather sincere representative, though did warn him our tasting would be unbiased and honest.

The little Smokehead mini sat patiently waiting for many months until finally one evening it was time to try a range of peat whiskies. Thus was born the evening of minis of a peaty persuasion – Peat Chimney 12 year 40%Big Peat 46%Longrow 46%BenRiach Peated Quarter Cask 46%Ledaig 10 year 46.3%. Smokehead came along for the ride but the others politely but firmly declined.

What to do with our poor rebuffed Smokehead sample? Try try try again… finally a fateful evening occurred when Smokehead finally was cracked open.

Smokehead 40%

  • Nose – Sweet smoky “breathable” want pulled port, braised steak craving, cinnamon, sweet BBQ rub
  • Palate – Watered down, then ash tray, came out as oddly flat
  • Finish – Queer finish, almost off

Our conclusion “All talk, no action”… in other words the nose was more promising than the palate.

Full disclosure – this sample was provided by the folks at Ian McLeod.

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