Wednesday, 1 February 2012

LCBO Vintages Release for January 2012

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers! With a new year comes new whisky, new friends and new events.  So what does this mean for you?  More blogging and work on my end will mean more rewards for you the reader.  That being said, lets begin with the LCBO vintages line up for January and the special imports for Robbie Burns Day.

For the January 07/2012 release we have a few peaty selections brought in specifically for the great Scot himself - Robbie Burns.  In honor of Robbie Burns Day (January 25), a feast is held in which Haggis is a central item and an Address to A Haggis is traditionally read before dinner.  Check out Robert Burns World Federation for further information on the beloved Scottish poet and for ideas to plan a Burn's night of your own.

First up a not so classic, but very becoming Bowmore.  Bowmore Laimrig (Gaelic for pier, dock, or wharf or something along those lines I'm told); is a 15 year old, heavy sherryied, cask strength, unchillfiltered Islay monster.  With notes of robust sherry, almonds, rich figs, coca and cherries are balanced with the typical wet peat, campfire smoke, sulphur, brine and burnt rubber notes of a true Bowmore.  From what I understand, the majority of this will end up in the hands of  Bowmore collectors (think of them as Coca-Cola collectors but for alcohol).  Either way this be a dragon that require slaying with some water.  By some, I mean quite a bit!  It can handle a good dollop (at 54.5% ABV), and with it reveals more rich red fruits, floral notes and quells some of the smoke and flames.  The nose softens and it becomes quite palatable.  This is a thick and heavy dram, but sold at a respectable $98.95, it's not a bad investment into a CS Bowmore.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #263681.

Also released in this round Hazelburn CV from Springbank Distillers.  This is a triple distilled Scotch from the Campbeltown region, and is made with non-peated barley.  The CV is new to the LCBO, and very similar to the Hazelburn 8 year old (with the exception being this is created from 6-10 year old casks vatted together).  For 12 dollars cheaper than the 8 year old, you'll get the lots of citrus and herbal notes on the nose.  Fresh spice cake (orange peel, ginger cloves), and vanilla on the palate.  There are some interesting and slightly unpleasant notes though like acetone, and warm blood (that metallic fruity note).  It's a medium body but short finish make for a refreshing whisky.   I don't want to come off as an ageist, but the 8 year old has much more going on and seems to have worked out the few kinks experienced here.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #262709 for the CV bottling, and Sku #180380 for the 8 year old.

Also released in this round is the Laphroaig 10.  Intricate smoke and sweet barley come through in this dram.  Jim Murray gave it a 91, and for only 10 bucks more than the quarter cask ($69.95), I think the 10 year old is a seriously good buy.  I am still working my way into the heavy peats, and I found this to be a very good representation of what a good peat is.  That being said, I'm somewhat new to peated whisky and you can take that how you will.  The nose shows immense smoke and sour peat notes.  Layers of brine, seaweed and sweet barley grains feather through the whisky.  In the mouth, the grain sweetness cuts through to take centre stage, and the olive brine follows.  There is an earthiness that accents the peat and brine making the mouth feel longer, and the finish linger. Check your local LCBO for Sku #248997, and grab yourself a bottle.

Last but not least for Robbie Burns day is another peat form the Isle of Mull.  The non peated Tobermory (brother to the peated Ledaig) arrives in a 10 year old form for $61.95. Arriving in at 46.3% ABV and 'un chillfiltered' written right on the box; this make me a pretty happy guy!  In fact, stopping by their website, they have an excellent video demonstration that shows what chillfilteration works, and what it strips out of the Whisky.  All that aside, the nose shows wonderful grassy notes with sweet cereal grains and citrus notes.  In the mouth it shows the gingerbread and fruit notes with a slight hint of brine and oak. Medium body, short finish, but an excellent whisky.   Check your local LCBO for Sku #37259 for availability.

There is one more bottle that got a special page to itself, and I'll admit I'm a huge fan of this distillery, Mortlach 15 year old.  They don't have a web page, or much information about themselves or their product.  They don't put out an original bottling, in fact the only bottle of recent memeory is the Flora & Fauna which failed to capture much of the distillery's majesty.  This whisky is another one of the core components of the Johnnie Walker blends.  Though Diageo doesn't bottle their own, some can still be found in the hands of the independent bottlers.  It's really a shame that so much gets blended down as I am in love with the complex noses and heavy, chewy flavors of Mortlach. I really believe that if they bottled their own product once in a while, they might gain their own following.  This bottling comes from Gordon & MacPhail's Distillery Labels lineup and totes an age of 15 years.  With warm sweet malt on the nose to open, flowers, fruits, maple sugar, wood smoke, and orange peel are present.  There is a sulphury note from the heavy sherry influence that somewhat dissipates, and doesn't deter from the nose.  In the mouth, rich dried fruits, with hints of sherry, chocolate, roasted almonds,  gentle dried floral notes and oranges.  This is a very well-rounded whisky with a medium finish.  An excellent addition to any collection or cabinet.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #262873, and grab a bottle for $99.95.

For the January 021/2012 release there are a few more stragglers for the Robbie Burns celebration and a few welcome additions.  Let's delve into the release and see what's worth your buck!

Let's start with the big guns this time!  Laphroaig 18 makes a reappearance at the LCBO, but at a massive cost!  $180 per bottle is a hefty fine for the golden spirit, especially when a 2 minute Google search nets me prices in the 30-40% less range.  All bitching aside, this is a wonderful dram!  Deep rich barley cream blend softly and subtly with the peaty fires of a typical Laphroiag.  This is a far deeper dram that the 10 year old, with an incredible richness that the extra few years provide. Check you local LCBO [Sku #183368] for locations.  If you happen to have an overtime cheque or 2, go for it, otherwise find it at a tasting bar or go in with a group of friends on it.

Next up, is another return for Robbie burns day, the Isle of Arran Robbie Burns single malt (see above for their connection to the World Burns Society).  This is a no age statement, 40% single malt whisky.  This is an interesting sort of dram, Arran spirit, with a younger maturation. With plenty of fresh apples and green fruits on the nose, and hints of cinnamon and ginger snap cookies.  This is a pleasing well-rounded dram, albeit simple, that will put a smile on your face and won't break your bank at only $40.  I grabbed a bottle last year around this time when they showed up, and have been pleasingly rewarded with the Arran malt.  Check your local LCBO [Sku #981084], for a bottle.

Also released is another Highland monster!  Dalmore 12 year old single malt arrives again in all it's stag head emblazoned glory.  This is a really rich dram with heavy sherry overtones, and the colour to match!  Dark amber in colour (most likely assisted via e150), and only 40% ABV.  This is possibly one of the prettiest bottles I've seen at the LCBO for an entry level whisky.  A golden stag's head is emblazoned on the front of the bottle and the black embossed labels all feature shiny gold writing.  Presentation aside, the nose shows deep rich plums, roasted almonds, orange marmalade and dark chocolate.  The palate is intense, with citrus notes dominating the palate, notes of cocoa powder, spiced coffee cake and hints of sherry pepper throughout.  The finish is excellent, starting smooth and ending up dry.  At only $65/bottle this is a definite buy for someone who wants to experience a classically styled Scotch whisky!  Check your local LCBO [Sku #38901], for locations near you.

Last up, but certainly not the least is the Dailuaine arriving via Gordon & MacPhail's Connoisseurs Choice line.  That's pronounced Dal-you-ayn for us non-Scottish folks.  This is a core component to the Johnny Walker lineup, and is a not often seen distillery.  This is another bottling from the independent Gordon & MacPhail's group, bottled at 13 years old and 43% ABV, it's not a bad deal at $65.  The nose features fresh notes of vanilla and raisins with Sherry playing the lead.  The palate is a bit harsh, with a hot notes of fruit and toffee.
  This settles down a bit with water allowing more green fruit/grassy notes and citrus to present themselves.  Not a bad dram.  Check your local LCBO for Sku #263301.

So that's quite a bit to digest for all of you, but there are quite a few good releases this month.  Check out your local LCBO and seek out a tasting bar if you can too.  This is still the best method for trying before buying, and your best chance to evaluate a bottle to see if it's worth a place within your collection. So until next time, keep your stick on the ice and the ice out of your glass!