Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ardbeg Almost There against the ten year old

Comparing two whiskies head to head gives me often a better experience than analyzing them individually. This time it is the Ardbeg Almost There against the ten year old.

I must face the sad fact that I have reached the bottom of my Almost There bottle. What did I do with the last drops? To make the most out of the last memory, I needed a frame of reference. What better way than to use the ten year old? As Mickey told me when I asked for more of the rough rich style: "Almost There, I call it Almost Perfect".

I find AT richer and more intense than the 10Y. The abv (54.1% versus 46%) and the balance between first and refill bourbon casks plays a major role. Both whiskies are very pale, though the AT is slightly more golden. AT has an intense brutality that makes it still to tear links, although it has reached nine years and is about to be tamed. The smoke of the AT is more intense and richer than in the 10Y. AT shows more sweetness, fruitiness, citrus and vanilla than the 10Y. This contributes to the richness. The Ardbeg finish of salt, pepper and seaweed is also more intense in AT, which has a more intense astringent aftertaste than the 10Y. I feel I get closer to the barrels in AT than in the 10Y, which is characterized by being rounder and more balanced than the AT. I find the smoke in the 10Y more abraded than in the AT, which is more reminiscent of a fire plot. I think the 10Y has a cleaner, sharper and more acidic smoke with a trace of ashes, although the overall impression is that the smoke in the 10Y is more balanced.

The savagery of Ardbeg Almost There will be missed.
Ardbeg Almost There, 27th February 2007 to 14th November 2014


Monday, 10 November 2014

Chill filtration

The purpose of chill filtration (CF) is to avoid haze when adding water or ice to the whisky. Many people consider chill filtration to have a bad influence on the whisky. Others are indifferent to CF. It seems harder to find people who claim that CF has a positive effect. A couple of blind tests seem at first sight to support that CF has no effect on aroma, flavour or mouth feel.

Let us take a closer look at the two tests.

If we for a moment forget the limited test panel and number of samples of the test at,
it is striking that all three whisky experts agreed that none of the unfiltered (NCF) whiskies were better than the corresponding CFs. This is a clear indication that CF makes a difference. With an expectation that NCF is best, it is no surprise that the best whiskies were identified as NCF by the test panel. As a result, they were not able to identify the NCF samples.

It is also interesting that the novice with a good nose managed to pick all the NCF whiskies.
It seems that this person has focused on viscosity and oiliness. Does CF cause some unpleasant notes to disappear, while the difference in body is so subtle that most people are not able to detect the difference?

Here we are so close to a random result that I could be tempted to conclude that CF does not make a difference, or more probable that the testers did not know what to look for to identify a NCF. The test also states that no difference was detected in quality between the whiskies. That does not necessarily mean that the test panel did not experience a difference.

After reading the two reports, I am tempted to conclude that there is an experienced difference between the CF and NCF, but the test panel seems not to know what they are looking for to identify a NCF whisky. It does not seem to be a quality difference between the CF and the NCF. Some prefer CF, while others prefer NCF.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Comparison between the Laphroaig 10y and the PX

Laphroaig has some nice smoky and medicinal whiskies. This evening’s treat was a comparison of the Laphroaig standard 10 year old and the Laphroaig PX. Both are easily recognised as Laphroaig whiskies with their woody peat smoke and medicinal character with salt and seaweed.

I find the woody peat smoke more pronounced in the 10y than in the PX, while the rubbery character is more pronounced in the PX. Both are medicinal with vanilla and cinnamon flavours, but the 10y is more intense. The 10y has a fresh acidic fruitiness with a taste of apple about it, while the PX is influenced by the dried fruity character from sherry casks.
The PX has a longer and drier aftertaste than the 10y. It is quite astringent, probably due to the tannins of the PX cask. 

The PX is more woody, sweet and heavy that the 10y. The PX has dried fruits on the nose, compared to the lighter fresh fruity 10y. The 10y is rounder and easier to drink, and it seems more mature than the PX, which seems quite young. This could be a good reason for marketing the PX as a NAS whisky.

The conclusion is that both are nice drinkable whiskies, with the PX a bit more challenging.