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Ardbeg Supernova Battle (Supernova 2009 versus Supernova 2010)


Well the much anticipated Ardbeg Supernova 2010 edition finally made it into my hands.  There has definitely been a lot of talk about this release.  Ardbeg has done well with their marketing lately.  Between the original Supernova, Correvrecken, Rollercoaster and now this 2010 release of Supernova they have managed to create quite a stir.

Well, I really enjoyed the 2009 Supernova.  You can see my review of that release here. So I was hoping that the 2010 release would live up to its predecessor.  There were some changes to the 2010 release including a slight bump in the ABV – from 58.9% to 60.1%.   I am not going to go into all of the details of the two releases as there is plenty of information available on other sites.

To make things a little more interesting I decided to do a semi-blind tasting on these two.  I wanted to compare them without bringing in the baggage of my preconceived ideas of which one should taste like what.  So I found myself staring at two identical classes without knowing which one was which – all I knew was they were both Supernova.

Glass One:

Color – Pale straw

Nose – As expected BIG peat, hints of chocolate, ashes, lemon/lime.

Palate – Again, as expected – peat up front, oak, some ashy-ness, strong alcohol backbone really brings a big punch.

Finish – Did I mention peat?  some sweetness at the end and a nice mid-tongue numbness

Glass Two:

Color – Pale straw

Nose – Peat, the alcohol seems brighter, sweet, hints of orange, some ash

Palate – A lot of heat, intense, peat and ash, a slight bitter note, oranges again, oak/wood, tongue numbing

Finish – Peat and that slight bitterness, you get the sweetness at the end too, a nasal alcohol burn.

So, which one was which???




Glass one = SN2010

Glass two = SN2009

The main characteristics of Supernova were present in both – big intense peat and alcohol.  There were some slight differences between the two.  I don’t think I would be able to pick up any difference if I wasn’t trying them back to back.  So the following comments are more of splitting hairs than anything else:

The difference to me was that the 2009 seemed more raw and had more rough edges.  There was a sense of a greater intensity in the 2009 – but trust me the 2010 is plenty intense.

The 2010 seemed to tame the alcohol better, even though it got the slight bump in ABV over the 2009.  There was a better incorporation of the flavors.

So what’s the bottom line for me?  I personally preferred the 2009.  It is loud and proud of what it is and doesn’t give a d@mn if you don’t like it.  Isn’t that kind of the premise of the Supernova?

*Sorry for the crappy cell phone pictures – this was an in prompt to tasting*


Filed under Ardbeg, Whisky Impressions

1976 Old Malt Cask 28 Y/O Dallas Dhu Review

Unfortunately for my wallet, I have a strong affinity for distilleries that are no longer open.  Rosebank, Brora, Port Ellen and of course Dallas Dhu.  I have a lot to thank Dallas Dhu for.  The first Dallas Dhu that I was introduced to was the magnificent Signatory Cask Strength Collection expression.  This was when I was first starting to explore single malt whisky.  At the time I was all about Talisker and its signature pepper and smoke as well as the Islay’s.  In my uneducated and stubborn opinion (according to my wife this hasn’t changed much) everything else was uninteresting and boring.

This was until Roger, who I like to think of as my whisky teacher during my formative years, pulled the above referenced Dallas Dhu out of this cabinet.  I know around the whisky blogosphere it is common to find long descriptive tasting notes, but I can sum up that dram up with one word: WOW! And maybe with a little: What the hell was that?  I had no idea that whiskies not from Islay or the Islands could have so much flavor.  I was forced to re-evaluate my position.  So to Dallas Dhu – and Roger – thank you for setting me free from the bondage’s of peat, smoke, pepper and other coastal flavors so that I can enjoy and appreciate what the rest of the world of whisky has to offer.

So this brings me to the expression on hand:  Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu.

Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu

Old Malt Cask Dallas Dhu

Distilled in 1976 and bottled in 2005 at 50% ABV

Color – Medium straw

Nose – Apples, lemon, definite alcohol singe, cinnamon, cherry pie

Palate –  Surprisingly sweet, oak, spices, full bodied, malty, very different than the nose – loses a lot of the fruit, hides the alcohol well, hint of smoke on the tale

Finish – long, tongue numbing on those spice and smoke notes.

This did not disappoint, very satisfying.  The sweetness balanced well with the hints of smoke and spices.  Too bad it costs so much!

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Glen Grant 10 OB Review Take 1

I think of Glen Grant as whisky’s classic old guard.  The Fenway Park or Augusta National of whisky you might say.  I am not sure why I think this, but for some reason I do.  Currently the behemoth Italian company Gruppo Campari owns the Glen Grant distillery.  In the past I have had some of the Gordon & MacPhail realeases, but never an OB release so I wanted to give it a try.

I was a little wary of purchasing this bottle for our tasting event as it was amongst some heavy hitters.  I was afraid that it was going to get lost in

Glen Grant 10

the mix or plain just blown out of the water.  There were 2 cask strength bottles (Auchentoshan and A’Bunadh) as well as a Port Ellen in the mix that same night.  The thinking was to use the Glen Grant as a sort of palate cleaner after the two cask strength bottles and before the Port Ellen.  My fears were somewhat put to rest by the friendly staff at the Whisky Shop on Sutter Street in San Francisco.  Dara felt that the Glen Grant would be able to stand on its own two feet amongst the other bottles.  So I went for it…and I was definitely not disappointed.

Glen Grant 10 OB, Speyside, bottled at 40%ABV

Color – Yellow, light straw

Nose – Banana runts (if you remember that candy), malt background, apples

Palate – Smooth, cereal, hints of apple pie, a little difficult to get through, makes you work for it, sweet.

Finish – fast and clean.

This is definitely an easy drinker, but still has enough character to make it interesting.  It is a great value at ~$45/bottle.  I am looking forward to trying the 16 year old OB next.

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One Prospective of the 18 Year A.D. Rattray Auchentoshan

A.D. Rattray Auchentoshan 18 Year, Distilled 1990, Bottled 2009 @ 56.5%


This whisky had a lot to live up to in my mind.  First, A.D. Rattray has been consistently one of my favorite independent bottlers.  The whiskies they release have a way of being very unique while at the same time not losing the distillery flavors that we like.  Some independent releases get too far away from the basic distillery flavor profile.  What also sticks out in my mind about A.D Rattray bottlings is the viscosity.  Both the Balblair and Bowmore bottlings were thick and chewey (if you can get that from a liquid?). A.D. Rattray is relatively new to the independent bottling arena even though the business itself was founded in 1868.  You can read more about the company here.

Second, I am a big fan of the lowlands.  It is a weird dichotomy as I love diving head first into the peat bog, even better if it is at cask strength! But I also really enjoy the soft subtle flavors of the lowlands.  Auchentoshan distillery releases haven’t wow’d me in the past however.  In any event, here we go!

Color – Light, pale yellow

Nose – Honey, medicinal, malt, a lot of straw, baked sweets like a sugar cookie

Looking up at what is left of the Dewar Rattray Auchentoshan

Palate – Full mid tongue weight, apples, a distinct sweetness, heather, floral tones, the heat comes through well

Finish – long and lingering on the heather and sweetness.

A great balance of subtle flavors with the punch of cask strength.  I really like this whisky.

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Quick Nikka Yoichi Single Cask 5 Year Review

Nikka is one of favorite distilleries out there.  I love the 10 year old version of the Yoichi Single Cask but this 5 year old is an odd one.  Really odd.

Nikka Yoichi Single Cask 5 Year

Nikka Yoichi Single Cask 5 Year Label

Cask 400862  Bottled at 64%

Nikka Yoichi Single Cask 5 Year

Color –  light gold, slight shade of copper

Nose – dark and menacing, a lot of layers, strong alcohol vapors, hints of blue cheese, italian herbs, malty sweetness

Palate – Raw spirit, hints of oak and spice, malty

Finish: tongue numbing, short, viscous.

This is waaaaaay too young, needs more time to develop, the 10 year is so much better. One dimensional.  It is interesting to compare this with the 10 year old and see how much of a difference those 5 years make.

*Update* Joshua over at the Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society gives a lot better review and description of this expression here.


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Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust. A Whale of a Whisky…

Bunnahabhain 17 year Malt Trust [53.3%].  Truth be told, I have inexplicable reservations about reviewing the whiskies I am absolutely floored by.  That being stated, I caved in and decided that it was time to set the record straight.  And by straight I mean to write of a whisky I absolutely delight in to the exclusion of most.  So here comes some un-abashed praise for one of my top three whiskies that I intend to describe in laudatory, effusively complimentary, and absolutely (and justly) biased terms.  The first Bunnahabhain I had was at a joint off of Columbus Street around a decade ago.   It was a non-distiller’s release and it stood out, delighted me with its intense flavors that I didn’t have much of an appreciation for in the details but that I savored in the overall effect.  I had a Royal Lochnagar Reserve that night as well that was tasty, but that is another tale.  Since then I’ve enjoyed the distillery releases of Bunnahabhain though I’ve never been ‘blown away’ by any.  But then there was a night I stumbled into Whisky Thieves with the usual suspects and was, in my already malleable instability, intrigued by the etched whale rounding a bottle of impossibly dark whisky in the already dark interior of a reliable establishment.  And I had heard tales of this particular whisky, perhaps this particular bottle.  Good, cryptic and appreciative tales.  The color of the pour sold me, a warm darkness in a dark and boisterous place.  The nose and flavor that followed put a drive in me to obsess in a vague but no-less-earnest fashion about the pour I had enjoyed.  It was well over a year before great fortune, the assistance of the Whisky Shop and the concerted efforts of two friends who had joined me on an all-day birthday-crawl put in my hands a bottle of the Bunnahabhain 17, Malt Trust edition.  And we drank quite a bit then, appreciated it enormously I am sure, but I definitely was not in a state to review let alone recall the fine and wonderful details at that time.  What the hell, I’m sure it was good.

Which brings us to now: dried out to get some music done, I broke my fast with the aforementioned and took notes.  A phenomenally dark brown with red tones.  Rich and foreboding.

Dense nose, aged wood, preserves, a certain sweetness, almost a cola syrup.  I thought it didn’t have any legs until I realized that they were simply slow in descending.  Used a wonky glass, too (my bad).  The flavor was dark and layered with hints of roasted seaweed and grain.  Burn and heat reared their heads quickly, seizing the front of the palate in the wake of a briefly water-textured mouth-feel.  Dense roasted flavors, some once-burnt hay giving way to tightly bound smoke and dark sugar notes hiding traces of peat and more aged grain somewhere.  A lingering chewiness leading to numb cheeks and gums set in.  There were no floral qualities, no joyous combination’s of a lighter wine notes and heather-full-of-wind fun.   This whisky is a dark and resilient thing hearkening to an era of profound and simple flavors both robust and compelling.  N. Nicoll.


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From Walker to Not-Water

More Single Malt Reviews Soon… but first a few odds and ends that must be addressed…

“Johnnie Walker Gold Label, The Centenary Blend”.  As for the nose, a little heat, gentle grain, smoke, and a medicinal note.  Soothing start, slightly viscous, caramel, malt, mild spice and trace of smoke.  The flavors are well integrated yet retain character. 40%

“Not-Water” aka White Lightning.  Don’t ask where it came from, but yes the jar was the original “packaging”.  Not too sure what this is but when you shake it small bubbles form for a brief moment, which I am told is, in Kentucky, a sign of good quality.  When I cracked the jar and stuck my nose in it I was a bit shocked, a lot of medicinal and cleaning notes.  Childhood memories of stripping varnish off of coffee tables.  When nosed from a small shot-glass the nose is pleasantly buttery and light.  Surprisingly clean palate with a distinctive nutty-ness.  Mild, sweet aftertaste. ?%

NyQuil Cold & Flu”.  Got hit by a cold, that is why there haven’t been as many whisky notes.  So I got to drink this OTC dram.  Dark, translucent green, FD&C Green #3, mostly.  Nose: best avoided, definitely medicinal with a gummy sweetness.  Not really much of a sipper, this is best quickly put down the hatch.  Very viscous, more medicinal notes of a dark and cloying variety.  Best taken with a water back as the tail really sticks around with a lingering high-fructose anti-septic note. 10%ABV

“Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whisky”.  Color, honey with a hint of red.  Nose, heat, mild oak/vanilla, citrus/lime?  Smooth, watery mouth-feel, flavorful sweet, not overpowering, warm grain notes.  Leaves a pleasant caramel/nut taste on the roof of the mouth, lingering, chewy sugar.  Tasty. 44%

“Alaskan Baltic Porter”. Very dark brown/copper.  Nose, vanilla/oak even at a distance, light sour notes and sweet malt.  Lush but not syrupy.  Rich body with only light carbonation, the cherry flavors are muted and delightfully inseparable from the dark malt tones.  Touches of an almost dark chocolate sweetness.  A muted oak note joins in with lingering vanilla in the background.  Amazingly well-rounded imperial stout-like porter.  Complex yet easy to enjoy… great with breakfast.  9.7%

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New Review Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park #Whisky

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Bottles

This is an independent bottling of Highland Park from the island of Orkney by Signatory – through their Un-Chillfiltered Collection.  My experience with the Un-Chillfiltered series has been hit and miss.  Many have just been plain unimpressive and forgettable.  A young Caol Ila comes to mind; I will have to look back through my notes to find which one that was.  This HP wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t anything bad.

This HP is 13 y/o.  Distilled in 1993 and bottled in 2007 at 46%.

Signatory Un-Chillfiltered Collection Highland Park Label

Color: light yellow, gold, champagne;

N: Hints of citrus, lemon?, smoke in the background, brine;

P: fresh, malty, refined, sweet, cinnamon spice notes, no noticeable smoke.

F: watery, the sweetness lingers.

With water: N: brings out the sweetness, loses the smoke and brine.

P: More vibrant and fresh, more malty.

Decent expression of HP. Doesn’t get too far away from the distillery flavors like some Independents do. Definitely clean and refined like an HP should be.

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Ardbeg Supernova Tasting Review #whisky #malt

Ardbeg Supernova Bottle and Box

It was a long week so I decided to go with something a little more “extravagant” tonight.   This bottle originally came in a

Ardbeg Supernova UK Duty Label

couple months ago, but I didn’t take the time to sit down and write some notes.  A good friend picked it up in the UK while over there for business – you can see the UK Market label in the pictures. The Supernova is a no age statement whisky – so I am assuming there are some youngin’s in there.  It is bottled at 58.9% and is touted as having a peatiness level over 100 ppm.

Color – Gold, champagne

Nose – Peat, smoke, moss, barbecue, intense!

Palate – WOW! Big punch of peat, honeyed sweetness, creamy, mouth coating, the alcohol burn is intense but fits well with this dram, melon, you can definitely tell it has youthful origins, a dark spice,

Finish – long, you can feel/taste the peat drag its feet on the way out.

Ardbeg Supernova Front Label

Intense and Powerful are the adjectives that immediately come to mind here.  This is an in your face peat and alcohol bomb.  Should be enjoyed with others though I think – the impressions and flavors that it leaves you with must be shared.  Reminds me of why I love Islay whiskies so much.  I look forward to bringing out the Octomore bottle and having a little peat showdown soon.


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Scott’s Selection 1984 Bladnoch Review 20 y/o #whisky

Independent bottling of this lowland malt.  Distilled in 1984, bottled in 2004 at 55.1%

Scott's Selection Bladnoch

C: light yellow/gold.

N: straw/hay, ginger ale, sweet lemon, sea sweat toffee.

P: Deliciously complex, cherry, citrus rind, toasted malt, soapy candy sugar, lemon, straw, the nose fairly represents the palate.

F: loooooong, tongue coating, complex.

Interesting lowland, it is subtle (typical lowland flavors) yet aggressive at the same time. The finish just keeps going. Great whisky!

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