Friday, October 31, 2014

George Dickel, No. 8 vs. No. 12

George Dickel No. 8, Tennessee Whiskey, 40%, $22
George Dickel No. 12, Tennessee Whiskey, 45%, $24

In spite of some economically uncertain times, the worldwide whiskey industry has been enjoying a sustained boom period for upwards of a decade now. But even the best of times can be terribly challenging for an industry whose products see years of aging between their making and their eventual sale. Distillers can’t just increase production levels in lock-step with demand; if that demand vaporizes by the time the whiskey reaches maturity, they risk a logistical nightmare.

Over time many producers have learned to temper their reactions to consumer trends. Between Prohibition, the two World Wars, the Great Depression, the economic recessions of the 70’s and 80’s, and the rise in popularity of clear spirits in the latter half of the 20th century, the last 100 years has seen far more bad times than good for the whiskey industry. It’s understandable that they’ve been a little slow to react to the longest sustained upswing in demand since the post WWII years.

Over the past few years though, we’ve gotten to the point in the American whiskey industry where demand is truly outstripping supply. While dramatic price increases have largely been the domain of the Scotch whisky industry over the last 10 years, American whiskey producers have only recently started to go down that path. They are trying to keep the rising prices somewhat in check though. This is primarily being accomplished by stretching inventory through lowering proof and age. Consumers sometimes view these tactics as de facto price hikes, and it has been very interesting to see how the various companies have dealt with imposing these changes and managing the impact on their images and public relations.

This post is the first in a series of four that will consider different examples of how distillers are attempting to work through their supply issues. Actually, the first case is more of a prelude: a situation where oversupply was followed by a shortage, which happened well before the current boom started causing headaches for most producers.

The George Dickel brand became part of the portfolio of a company called United Distillers in 1987 after that company acquired Dickel’s former parent company, Schenley. In the early 1990’s, United Distillers selected several of its American whiskey brands, Dickel among them, to target for major sales growth in Europe and Asia. Production was ramped up to meet the future demand that was expected from the marketing push.

Unfortunately that demand never really materialized, at least not to the extent that had been forecast. But United Distillers was a very large company that sometimes lacked focus and oversight with its many brands; a situation which led to the overproduction at Dickel continuing unabated for several years longer that in should have.

If the distillery had been producing bourbon, this wouldn’t have been as big of a big problem. The excess could be blended into other, better selling brands owned by the parent company, or even sold on the open market to non-distiller producers. However, Dickel is Tennessee Whiskey, a category unique amongst themselves and Jack Daniel’s. So the distillery was essentially stuck with whatever they had overproduced.

In 1997 Guinness (the parent company of United Distillers) merged with Grand Metropolitan (which had a large European spirits portfolio), forming Diageo. The new company had a lot of debt which required some cost cutting and consolidation. They decided to move their focus away from American whiskey and sold off most of those assets by early 1999, only retaining two brands; Dickel and I. W. Harper (in recent years Harper’s distribution was limited solely to the Asian markets, so you’re unlikely to see it in the U.S.).

The Dickel brand had a loyal following in certain regional markets in the U.S., but overall was not that well known. With the warehouses filled to capacity, production was stopped in February of 1999, the distillery was closed and the marketing budget reduced to zero.

Dickel’s core products, No. 8 and No. 12, carry no age statements, but the distillery does have a target age range for the whiskey that goes into each. With years of production that far outpaced subsequent sales, all they could really do was let the age of the whiskey that they were putting in the bottle slowly creep upwards. The retail price of Dickel was already pretty low, with the No. 12 at $14 and the No. 8 at $13 (as of 2001). Increasing prices wouldn’t help the oversupply situation, so they stayed low.

The stuff was an incredible bargain for a good number of years, which also means it probably wasn’t very profitable. It would have made sense to fire up the closed distillery for a month, or even a few weeks every year to ensure some product continuity and avoid a big gap in the age of the product. But Diageo claimed that the Dickel distillery needed some costly repairs before it could produce whiskey again, and that they wouldn’t make the investment until they were ready to go back to full production. Whether that is true or they were purposely trying to create a shortage as a tool to increase prices is hard to say (but either way, the price hikes did come). Finally, in September of 2003, the distillery was reopened and firing on all cylinders.

Diageo did reinstate a marketing budget for Dickel in 2002. That may have paid off in a big way or it may have been the case of a rising tide lifting all ships, as American whiskey in general was in the midst of a major resurgence. Either way, demand surged in the ensuing years.

But whatever the cause of its new found popularity, that four and a half year gap in production was coming back to haunt the company. By mid 2007 a shortage of the No. 8 was becoming apparent. Of course whiskeys sell at different speeds in different regions, so supply dried up at different times around the country. Late in 2007 a new product called Cascade Hollow was introduced. It carried an age statement of 3 years (most American whiskey categories require an age statement if they are under 4 years old), but its label was almost identical to that of the No. 8, and they shared the same retail price.

By mid to late 2008 they had switched the Cascade Hollow’s black label over to a new red label. This change could have been in response to complaints of deception, or because the company decided to keep the new whiskey around after reintroducing No. 8 and wanted to avoid confusion.

At the end of 2008, after an absence of more than a year, George Dickel No. 8 was back on store shelves, now with a significantly higher price of about $22. The Cascade Hollow bottling remained as a lower priced part of the Dickel lineup until 2013. There was never an outright supply interruption of the No. 12 bottling, but there was a period around 2009 where inventory got pretty tight and it could be hard to find in some areas. Between early 2008 and mid 2009 the price of No. 12 jumped from $14 to $24. Of course some areas move through product more slowly than others, so there were instances where individual stores were selling No. 12 at a lower price than No. 8 for a short period of time.

Looking back and considering that the distillery didn’t produce a drop of whiskey for four and a half years, it’s pretty amazing that the No. 8 was only unavailable for a little over a year and the No. 12 was never completely unavailable. Obviously there was a great deal of liberty taken with the age range of the whiskey that went into these bottlings. Even though these are both no-age-statement bottlings, distillery personal will occasionally mention the age ranges used, and while I wouldn’t trust such statements absolutely, they can be insightful.

I dug up a newspaper article from September of 2003 where Dickel’s master distiller David Backus is quoted as saying that the No. 12 on store shelves is actually 12 years old, and they would prefer it to be about half of that age (I interpret that as 7 years old).

In an interview in the 4th quarter 2006 issue of Malt Advocate, Dickel’s new master distiller John Lunn state that generally Barrel Select is 11 to 12 years old, No. 12 is 10 to 12 years old, and No. 8 is 8 to 10 years old. The most recent info I could find came from a combination of Dickel’s website and a few fairly reliable blogs. They put the Barrel Select at 10 to 12 years, the No. 12 at 6 to 8 years, and the No. 8 at 4 to 6 years.

My first experience with George Dickel was a bottle of No. 12 that I believe I bought some time in 2008. I still have the empty bottle, and according to its code, it was bottled in mid 2007. The whiskey was pretty phenomenal, and I do remember only paying $14 for it.

The bottle of No. 8 that I’m tasting for this post was bottled late in 2008 and the No. 12 that I’m tasting was bottled some time in 2013.

George Dickel No. 8
The nose is full but soft, with mellow corn, complex oak notes, a hint of vanilla sweetness and subtle clay-like earthiness.
On the palate there’s some sweetness up front which is soon overshadowed by a soot-driven smoke and mineral quality. As that mellows, it becomes more vanilla-centric.
The finish sees a nice progression of dry oak and warming spice notes.
Overall it has good complexity but comes across as being a little youthful, though not to the point of being disjointed.

George Dickel No. 12
The nose is similar to the No. 8, though more restrained (surprising given the difference in proof). There is also more of a funky oaky/minerality quality.
On the palate it seems promising up front, but a bitter, astringent mineral-driven character quickly comes to the fore.
This mellows slightly on the finish revealing some dry oak, but it’s pretty one-dimensional overall.

While I didn’t expect this bottle of No. 12 to impress me as much as the one from 2007 (that surely had much older whiskey in it), I was surprised to find the No. 8 so much more to my liking. Many people describe the signature George Dickel character as tasting like Flintstone’s Vitamins. I think this is what I’ve been describing as minerality. While present in the No. 8, it wasn’t to the point of being off-putting. Unfortunately, that seems to be the driving force in flavor profile of the No. 12.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Balvenie, 12 year DoubleWood vs. 17 year DoubleWood vs. 14 year Caribbean Cask

Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood: single malt Scotch, Speyside, 43%, $57
Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood: single malt Scotch, Speyside, 43%, $150
Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask: single malt Scotch, Speyside, 43%, $68

I’ve never been an ardent admirer of the Balvenie. I have nothing against the brand and the whisky is highly regarded by most people; it’s just that the house style not really compatible with my personal preferences. I’ve always had a hard time enjoying single malts that have a strong floral component, as the Balvenie does. That being said, I do find some of their expressions a little more palatable than others. Those tend to be the longer aged and/or cask finished bottlings, where to original character of the spirit has been somewhat muted by the maturation process.

When I was whiskey hunting in New Hampshire last year, I was quite excited to come across a three-pack of Balvenie miniatures. I’m always keen to sample whiskies that I’ve never had before and the distillery has been putting out quite a few new expressions in recent years. But it seems silly to buy expensive bottles of single malt that I’ll likely be indifferent toward; three miniatures for $20 is the perfect solution.

I started looking into the history of Balvenie and found some interesting things, especially regarding a few related distilleries. Established in 1892 by William Grant & Sons, Balvenie was built to supplement demand for whisky from its nearby sister distillery, Glenfiddich, which had gone into production just five years earlier, in 1887.

In that era very little single malt Scotch was sold as such; almost all of it was bought by blenders and married with grain whisky. In 1898 William Grant & Sons launched the Grant’s brand of blended Scotch whisky. This move made the company less dependent on other blenders and helped to ensure sales of the malt whisky they produced.

In 1963 the company made a couple of interesting maneuvers. Having grown Grant’s into a very successful line of blended Scotches, they built the Girvan grain distillery. This put them into a position where they were producing most of the whisky (both malt and grain) that went into their blends. In the same year, they started bottling and selling Glenfiddich as a single malt. They weren’t the first distillery to do this, but up until then single malts had been a niche market and were really only sold domestically. Glenfiddich was the first to build a brand around a single malt distillery and they did pioneering work to develop “single malt Scotch” as a category, especially in foreign markets. The company eventually followed suit with Balvenie, officially bottling it as a single malt in the early 1970’s.

With Glenfiddich enjoying rapid sales growth, the company likely felt the need to produce more single malt for their blends. I suspect this situation is what prompted them to build the Ladyburn distillery in 1966. It was a single malt distillery with four pot stills, which was located within the Girvan grain distillery. The whisky industry downturn that started in the 1970’s and lasted through the 1980’s is likely the reason that Ladyburn was decommissioned after just ten years, in 1976. But that wasn’t the only “distillery within a distillery” that the company would construct.

The industry had started to rebound in the late 1980’s, and in 1990 William Grant & Sons built the Kininvie single malt distillery, which may be Scotland’s most obscure. It is located within the Balvenie distillery and really consists of nothing more than a stillhouse. The rest of the whisky making process is carried out in Balvenie’s facilities. Kininvie does maintain a dedicated mash tun and group of washbacks, but they housed in buildings that are an integral part of Balvenie.

I have seen the argument put forth that Kininvie shouldn’t even be considered a separate distillery; that it should rather be classified as Balvenie’s second stillhouse. But if you dig around online you’ll find pictures of Kininvie’s stills, and their shape is dramatically different than those of the Balvenie. In my mind, that makes all of the difference in the world, and entitles Kininvie to its status as a separate distillery. Those who have tasted all three say that the whisky from Kininvie is stylistically midway between that of Balvenie and Glenfiddich. With nothing more than a stillhouse that visitors rarely get to see inside and the fact that no Kininvie was bottled as single malt until a limited release in 2013, it’s easy to understand why this is possibly the least known distillery in Scotland.

Then, in 2007, William Grant & Sons made another big move. They built the Ailsa Bay distillery; a new, modern single malt distillery within the Girvan grain distillery (quite close to where Ladyburn had originally been). In 2010, three years after Ailsa Bay went online, Kininvie was mothballed, but there are rumors that it went back into production in 2013.

What really surprised me though were the relative sizes of these distilleries. Glenfiddich maintains the title of best selling single malt in the world. As such, one would expect the distillery to have a pretty big production capacity, and it does at 10 million lpa (liters per annum) of alcohol.

While the single malts from Balvenie can’t match those of Glenfiddich in terms of sales volume, they do garner more prestige and respect. The Balvenie also projects an image of producing a more handcrafted whisky on a smaller scale. Even though the distillery went through the typical period of modernization in the 1960’s, they have held onto some traditions. Chief among them is growing barley on their 1000 acre farm and malting barley on a traditional floor malting. Like most of the handful of distilleries that still malt barley in-house, it is only a percentage of the total that they use each year. As production goes up and the amount of floor malted barley remains the same, that percentage goes down; it is currently between 9% and 10% at the Balvenie. The distillery is also one of the last to have its own cooperage and a coppersmith on staff to maintain the stills, although those resources are shared with Glenfiddich.

In spite of its artisanal image, production at Balvenie is still quite massive at 5.6 million lpa. Considering that there is little more to Kininvie than a stillhouse, which is often disparagingly referred to as a shed behind Balvenie, it’s natural to assume that a lot less whisky is made there. Surprisingly, Kininvie is capable of putting out 4.8 million lpa of alcohol. Ailsa Bay, which likely won’t be bottled as single malt since the primary purpose of the distillery is to provide malt whisky for the Grant’s blends, originally had a capacity of 5 million lpa. But the number of washbacks and stills at Ailsa Bay were doubled in 2013, increasing capacity to 10 million lpa, and equaling the output of Glenfiddich.

Just to put all of that in perspective, Edradour and Kilchoman, which are some of the smallest distilleries in Scotland are each capable of producing just 100,000 lpa.

Okay, enough of the history lesson, on to the whisky. Most of the bottlings in the Balvenie range were matured in former bourbon barrels (or traditional oak whisky casks, as the company prefers to call them). Many of the expressions have an additional cask finish, usually done for short periods of time. When their 10 year Founder’s Reserve expression was retired in 2009, the 12 year DoubleWood moved into the position of being the Balvenie’s flagship offering. It is aged primarily in bourbon barrels with a finish of just a few months in European oak Sherry casks. The 14 year Caribbean Cask bottling was introduced in 2011. This expression is also aged primarily in bourbon barrels, with just a short finish in American oak casks (I suspect these were also former bourbon barrels) that had been seasoned with rum from the West Indies at Balvenie. The 17 year DoubleWood was introduced in 2012. Like its 12 year sibling, it sees a relatively short finish in European oak Sherry casks, but it spends an extra four years in bourbon barrels beforehand.

Balvenie 12 year DoubleWood:
The nose is floral and grassy, with perhaps a slight vegetal note. Some dry oak aromas come through as well.
On the palate, vanilla and honey also come into play but the floral notes become more dominant by the mid-palate.
As it moves into the finish a dry woodiness emerges along with a very subtle Sherry influence and just a whiff of peat smoke.
Overall, it is well balanced and approachable.

Balvenie 17 year DoubleWood:
The nose is somewhat restrained. Although similar to the 12 year, the aromas lean a bit more toward vanilla and clay.
On the palate it has a little more sweetness up front, but it’s also primarily driven by vanilla and honey. The floral notes are still present, but subdued and playing second-fiddle to the vanilla notes that carry further through on this expression.
It does eventually become dry on the finish, which is much more spice driven compared to the 12 year. The Sherry and peat are still there, but have an even more delicate presence.
Overall, the flavors are more robust throughout compared to the 12 year.

Balvenie 14 year Caribbean Cask:
The nose is oaky with vanilla and a hint of molasses.
On the palate it stays somewhat dry, in spite of the vanilla and demerara sugar notes.
The floral aspect doesn’t really emerge until it moves into the finish, where it also becomes spicy and notably bitter. The peat smoke is all but undetectable.
Overall, it is surprisingly less floral than I expected, but it becomes astringent too a fault on the finish and doesn’t have enough other redeeming qualities to sway my opinion.

With or without my anti-floral biases, the 17 year DoubleWood is the clear winner here. Of course, I’m not about to run out and plunk down $150 for a bottle of it. As for the other two, even though the 14 year Caribbean cask is less offensively floral to me, I can still be unbiased enough to say that the 12 year DoubleWood is clearly its superior.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin vs. Kilchoman Sherry Cask Release

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin: single malt Scotch, Islay, 51.2%, $80
Kilchoman Sherry Cask Release: single malt Scotch, Islay, 46%, £60

I have quite a few unopened bottles of whisky in the collection, and last week’s Laphroaig tasting served as a good reminder that I’d been meaning to crack open the bottle of Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin that I’d been sitting on for two years. While I was at it, the bottle of Kilchoman Sherry Cask Release that I’d brought back from Scotland in the spring of 2012 seemed like something that would make for an interesting comparison.

Since Laphroaig’s quarter casks play a prominent role in this story, I should address a few common misconceptions about them. They are re-coopered from fresh bourbon barrels, not made new. Also, they are not ¼ the size of a standard 200 liter bourbon barrel. They are 125 liter casks; ¼ the size of the 500 liter butts that were most common when the ¼ casks were originally developed for easier transportation.

Laphroaig has been a bit cryptic when describing the compositions of some of their past Cairdeas bottlings, so it took some research to get a solid idea of what I was dealing with. The Cairdeas Origin is the 2012 release, which celebrates 18 years of the Friends of Laphroaig. The description on the label states that it “combines some of the original liquid used to first create Cairdeas, further matured and complimented with newer Laphroaig spirit that has been fully matured in quarter casks”.

Additionally, I found a quote attributed to the “Distiller’s notes” which states “We specially retained some of our very first Cairdeas for the 'Friends' 18th birthday expression .This whisky is now between 13 and 21 years old. We then blended it (50:50) with some new spirit fully matured in quarter casks for 7 years and bottled it without any chill filtering for maximum flavour”.

The first Cairdeas was released in 2008; I actually tasted it when I toured the distillery in April of 2012. At the time, I was told that it was a vatting of 33 casks – two 17 year 2nd fill sherry butts and 31 bourbon barrels. The bourbon barrels were 9 to 15 years old when the liquid in them was transferred into fresh 1st fill bourbon barrels and aged for another four years. However, that information seems to have been slightly inaccurate.

There’s an interview with Robert Hicks, the master blender who created the original Cairdeas, where he talks about using barrels from an experiment that was done in the development of Laphroaig Quarter Cask. It appears they had started off entering new make spirit directly into the quarter casks for several years, likely starting in 1993. They eventually figured out that it was better to take whisky that had been aging in 1st fill bourbon barrels for several years and then finish it for seven to eight months in the quarter casks. At that point, in 2004, they transferred the whiskey from those experimental quarter casks into 1st fill bourbon barrels to see how it would develop. That is the whisky, along with the two 17 year 2nd fill sherry butts, that was used for the 2008 Cairdeas. It ranged from 9 to 15 years old total, so it was distilled between 1993 and 1999.

The most common production number for 2008 Cairdeas is 3600 bottles. I’ve seen higher numbers, from 7000 to 12,000, but I don’t think they are accurate. I did some calculations to account for evaporation losses, and found that if the 3600 number is correct, it would have been 31 quarter casks that were transferred into an unspecified number of bourbon barrels along with the two sherry butts to compose that bottling.

So, that brings us back to 2012. From the “Distiller’s notes” quoted above, they say that the whiskey from the original Cairdeas is now between 13 and 21 years old. That leads me to believe that there was more of the whisky that had started in quarter casks between 1993 and 1999, and that by 2012 it had been in bourbon barrels for 8 years. That would give it a range of 13 to 19 years old. If more of the sherry butts that were 17 years old in 2008 were aged until 2012 that would put them at 21 years. Of course, that’s just half of the whiskey in the 2012 Cairdeas, the other half is 7 year old that has been aged entirely in quarter casks.

Assuming a somewhat high evaporation rate with the quarter casks, roughly 80 of them would have been needed to represent half of the whisky in the 20,000 bottles of Cairdeas that were released in 2012. That leaves some interesting questions. Did they continue experimenting with quarter casks that were filled with new spirit after 2005? Did they fill quarter casks with new spirit between 2000 and 2004? If so, how many of these quarter casks were produced each year, and has any of the whisky from them been transferred to larger casks?

It seems like there are really interesting stories behind the creation of some of these Cairdeas bottlings. I just wish Laphroaig had chosen to tell us those stories and had been be a little clearer with the details of the composition of the whiskies.

Laphroaig Cairdeas Origin (2012):
The nose has a dry, earthy peat smoke character, but it’s also slight grassy. Imagine throwing straw and a small amount of fresh cut grass on a dying campfire. Oaky notes persist as well.
The palate has just a touch of vanilla up front which quickly gives way to stronger flavors. The earthy peat smoke seems mild at first, but it gradually builds in intensity. Dry, woody oak notes come into play as well.
Some warming spice notes emerge on the finish, but it’s really all about the peat and the oak, each of which has a very dry quality, vying for dominance.
Overall I was a little unsure of this one on the first sip, fearing that it was fatally over-oaked. As I took some time to get to know it however, I found to be an unusual but interesting face of Laphroaig. This is an instance where I don’t find the whisky to be terribly complex overall, but it makes up for that evolving nicely from start to finish.

I wasn’t too fond of the 2008 Cairdeas when I tasted it at the distillery, but maybe it didn’t stand a chance in the company of the 25 year and the 30 year. Compositionally, the 2012 Cairdeas is sort of an evolution of the 2008, so I wasn’t really expecting to care for it, but it has definitely grown on me.

After being quite impressed with Kilchoman’s Spring 2011 Release, I was very exited to visit Islay’s newest distillery while I was in Scotland in the spring of 2012. Their visitor center was well stocked with a good variety of miniatures, which I wrote about here and here. I could only fit so much whisky in my luggage, so I was very selective about the full size bottles that I purchased; no sense in buying anything I could easily get at home. The first bottle I decided to pull the trigger on was Kilchoman’s Sherry Cask Release, which had just become available. Production was limited, and even though some of it was going to the U.S., it was highly unlikely that I’d come across one of those 600 bottles.

Looking over Kilchoman’s website today, I was pleased to see that things seem to have been progressing nicely there since I was there two and a half years ago. In October of 2013 they completed a new, much larger warehouse capable of holding 10,000 casks. The beginning of 2014 saw the addition of several new pieces of equipment that would improve production: two new vatting tanks where batches will be married prior to bottling, a new corking machine and a bottle conveyor, as well as a malt conveyor to move barley from the malting floor to the kiln.

Kilchoman has released quite a few single cask bottlings along with an annual Feis Ile festival bottling and even a Travel Retail (Duty Free) offering. But the bulk of the distillery’s output is seen in four different bottlings. Each of the four carries either a vintage date or an edition number, as they are gradually increasing the age of each bottling year by year.

Machir Bay is their core expression and the whisky is matured in bourbon barrels to a variety of ages, and some of it has been finished in sherry casks. The Vintage series is aged exclusively in bourbon barrels, both 1st fill and refill, and uses some of the oldest stock they have on hand. The 100% Islay bottling is made from barley grown at the distillery which has been malted on their traditional malting floor, and is aged in bourbon barrels. It is peated to a lower level than all of their other expressions, which are made using malt from Port Ellen Maltings.

The fourth expression, Loch Gorm, is aged exclusively in sherry casks. It was introduced in 2013, but the Sherry Cask Release bottle that I have from 2012 is essentially the predecessor to the series. The three bottlings (Sherry Cask Release, 2013 Loch Gorm and 2014 Loch Gorm) are all aged primarily in Oloroso butts, but specific details beyond that are a little spotty. As best as I can tell, the Sherry Cask Release is all 5 year old, the 2013 Loch Gorm was aged 5 years and had an additional 6 week finish in Oloroso hogsheads, and the 2014 Loch Gorm was aged exclusively in Oloroso butts for 5 years.

Kilchoman Sherry Cask Release (2012):
The nose very sherry-forward, with aromas of dark candied fruits being nearly as dominant as the dense peat smoke, which is very full but not in a sharp way. Subtle floral notes add complexity on the nose.
On the palate, it is full bodied and richly flavored. It has an element of sweetness up front, which is quickly followed a big wave of peaty intensity, then sherried fruit notes (more sweet than oxidized).
The finish is lengthy, with the peat smoke subsiding and making way for malty baked goods and warming spice notes.

The flavors are bold and interesting, but they tend to dart around a bit. Overall it feels like a whisky that’s yearning to be more mature and refined, but it can’t quite find its way there. I’d call this a work in progress; it has elements of greatness, and while the individual components aren’t completely at odds with each other, they haven’t really come together yet. I’m really curious to see how the Loch Gorm series progresses as the age of the whisky creeps upward.

This was a very interesting compare / contrast, with two heavily peated Islay single malts that are near opposites in terms of how they are aged (younger Oloroso butts vs. older bourbon barrels and quarter casks). At the same time, a quick revisit to the 2014 Cairdeas revealed that it is quite different from both, with its lack of subtlety and an initial dose of sweetness followed by its dry nutty finish.