Tag Archives: nas

Aberlour A’Bunadh Review

Distiller: Aberlour. Region: Highlands. ABV: 60.7% (varies slightly by batch). Price: $65-80.

Looking for your go-to sherry bomb? Look no further.

Aberlour A’bunadh (pronounced ah-boon-AR, means “origin”) is a powerhouse cask-strength dram at a fair price. There’s batch-to-batch variation, naturally, so Google a bit to make sure you’re getting a good one. And there are plenty of good ones.

This one, the Batch 47, was a masterpiece.

It has a big nose of stewed prunes, French Roast coffee beans, molasses, and spice, especially allspice and clove. All these carry through to the palate, revolving around a rich, malty core. There are more stewed sherry fruits–apple, peach, and fig. Somehow it still maintains balance–and starting at a huge 60.7% ABV, it will take as much water as you’ll give it. Long spicy finish.

Love the Glenfarclas 105? Dreaming of the long-gone Macallan Cask Strength? Then the A’Bunadh is a can’t-miss.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Laphroaig Select Review

Distiller: Laphroaig. Region: Islay. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $50-60.

As most Axis readers will know, I’m an Islay malt fanatic. For me, these whiskies are the pinnacle of the craft. Drinks that draw from the land for both inspiration and history. The kind that force contemplation of nature with every sip. And lately, there’s so much great stuff coming from Islay. From Ardbeg’s Dark Cove to the ongoing great work by Bruichladdich to the ever impressive Lagavulin Distiller’s Editions, these distilleries continue to innovate, while also honoring their heritage. And no one’s doing it better these days than Laphroaig.

I reviewed the Laphroaig Lore some months back and adored every sip, although (spoiler alert) I loved the Cairdeas 2016 even more. That’s vaulted into one of my all-time favorites–and a review is forthcoming.

But it would be a shame if the Laphroaig Select got lost in the glories of the Cairdeas and the Lore. It’s not a traditional Laphroaig, to be sure. It’s softer, which you’d expect from a whisky that finishes the standard 10-year-old in new American Oak, then blends in the Quarter Cask, the PX, and the Triple Wood, adding some Oloroso sherry influence. Think of it as the end of a summer beach bonfire. There’s smoke, but it’s easy to digest and it heralds the advent of fall and richness coming from the earth.

Okay, enough with the poetry. On to the review. There’s oh-so subtle peat on the nose, along with ripe plum and a hint of dry oak. The palate, initially, was underwhelming, but as I’ve enjoyed more of the bottle, its beauty has blossomed. There’s the most delicate peat imaginable, along with marzipan, slight citrus, and rich oak. And befitting a Laphroaig, there’s oak and sherry on the beautifully sustained finish.

I know there are reasons that hardcore Islay fans may dismiss this one as “Laphroaig Light,” but to me it’s a wonderfully divergent strain of a whisky that I’ll never tire of trying.

Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Laphroaig online at Mash + Grape

A company representative graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Ardbeg Blasda Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Region: Islay.

We’ve seen Ardbeg turn up the peat in their series of Supernova releases, but they did just the opposite with the Blasda–a minimally peated (8ppm) release of 18,000 bottles.

Some Ardbeg disciples would call it sacrilege, but I embraced the opportunity to taste what those stills on the southern coast of Islay could distill without ultra-peated barley.

There’s still light smoke on the nose, mixed with interesting sweet notes. The palate shows some youth, and has a citrus base with light sweet candied flavors and slight sea salt. Subtle smoke is on the finish.

It’s definitely not your typical Arbeg, but I support distillers breaking their own mold sometimes. Cheers! – JTR

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Koval Single Barrel Millet Whiskey Review

Distiller: Koval. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Grain bill: 100% millet. Price: $45

As a life-long Chicagoan and a whisk(e)y drinker of slightly younger vintage, I’ve long enjoyed the very fine spirits produced by the Ravenswood neighborhood distiller, Koval. I love that they’re not afraid to play, that they have a commitment to organic production, and that they continue to seek out new and interesting grains. So when I saw they had a millet whiskey, you better believe I was intrigued.

The Koval Millet is aged in new American oak from Minnesota, and according to the distillery, is the first whiskey to spring from millet. Millet is sometimes known as the “fourth grain” of whiskey manufacturing–a flavor component that can be added to the more common corn, rye, and barley–and it’s a kosher-friendly grain. (For comparison, see our Koval Four Grain Whiskey review.) Koval’s innovation is distilling from 100% millet.

It creates a very interesting whiskey. I got a smokey vanilla nose and a sweet palate of spice and rich caramel.There is a definite viscous element to the drink, which won’t appeal to all. I found the finish to be fairly quick, although not so much so that you don’t get the heat that rises throughout.

Overall, I’m quite glad I tried it and there was much to enjoy. I wouldn’t say it’s a must buy, it’s a very interesting and complex whiskey.

Cheers, friends! – TM

Buy Koval Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

Ardbeg Uigeadail Review

Distiller: Ardbeg. ABV: 54.2%. No age statement. Price: $65-85.

“Uigeadail” is said to mean “dark and mysterious”– though I think it should mean “no-brainer.”

This core release from Ardbeg (pron. OO-ga-dal) is an unbeatable one-bottle argument that no-age-statement whiskies can be not just as good as their age-statement cousins, but flat-out brilliant. (If you wanted a two-bottle argument, I’d add the Aberlour A’Bunadh.)

Like the beloved Lagavulin 16, the Oogie wraps peat, sherry, and bourbon influences into a rich, velvety whole. But unlike the Lag, it’s cask strength. Perfectly drinkable without a drop of water. Bright and dense, intense and rounded, with citrus and baked goods and cocoa and more.

It’s also a great value at $65-85. There’ve been some fine annual special releases from Ardbeg, but I’m hard pressed to think of many I’ve liked more than the Oogie.

Hope all your drams are as good as this one, friends! Slàinte! – BO

Buy Ardbeg whisky online at Mash + Grape

Arran Illicit Stills Vol. 1 Review

Distiller: Arran. ABV: 56.4%. No age statement. Region: Islands. Price: $100.

We may not be in a golden age of whisky, but we’re sure as hell in a golden age of whisky packaging.

Exhibit A: Arran Illicit Stills Volume 1, which I got to try courtesy of my man WhiskyGeekdom. The great shot above is his, and you can see he takes his packaging as seriously as Arran does.

The Illicit Stills was made as an attention-grabbing super-premium NAS–a genre with its hits and misses. This is right in between. Looks stunning, of course. It was sold at about $100, though it’s going for a good deal more on the secondary market, as it sold out quickly. The juice is a mix of peated and unpeated, bourbon-barrel-matured and port-finished.

So how is it?

The nose is, characteristically for an Arran, bright and fruity, with a strong cask strength punch. Caramel apple. Golden syrup. Baked goods with vanilla icing. The bourbon fruit leads the palate too, but with a heavy dose of oak tannins. Saddle leather. And a softer white smoke that recalls the Laphroaig 15 and carries through to the finish, with tobacco and some bitter oak.

With water, it’s more fiery and alive. There’s more citrus on nose–lemon-lime. And on the palate. Along with an overarching sourness that doesn’t quite spoil the proceedings, but isn’t ideal. The charred underside of an overdone lemon tart.

Give it 30-40 minutes in the glass, and it’ll continue to unfold. But it’s not the surpassing experience you’d hope for given the magnificent package. Between this and the K&L Wines Cask Strength Arran 15, say, I’d take the 15.

Thanks again to WhiskyGeekdom! Slàinte, friends! -BO