Bold and Beautiful: Lagavulin 12 Cask Strength (2012)

Lagavulin has every right to serve their whisky in a dark green bottle. Why? To save us from ourselves and our ridiculous biases, that’s why. I will admit that, conditional on knowing that a whisky hasn’t been artificially coloured, I’ll look at any darker whisky within its own class (that is, bourbon cask, sherried, etc,)  and say, “well, the darker whisky will be more flavourful!” I know this is wrong, so you don’t have to chastise me for it. But still, it’s something I’m subject to, on occasion, even subconsciously. Lagavulin 12 looks like a chardonnay. 12 years in the wood, cask-strength, and it looks paler than the 6 year Bruichladdich Barley. But it’s so much more. Easily as big as Laphroaig’s QC, and more complex than Caol Ila’s CS (at least to this nose and palate). Book, cover, yada yada yada.

Nose: Coal, tar, salt, brine, caramel, honey. Peat is quite understated. Anise and tangy BBQ sauce (hickory plus worcestershire). Wood fires.

Palate: Super oily. Coal smoke, wood-fired pickles. Peat, lemon, caramel, fudge. Barbeque sauce.

Finish: Medium-long. Peaty, creamy dill pickle chips. Drying.

Grade: A-

Simply great whisky. Perhaps a little pricey, but we need to treat ourselves sometimes.

ArdBen: The BenRiach 10 Curiositas

I haven’t been kind to BenRiach as of late. Kind I have not been, but fair.. that I have. As it stands, the core range at 16 years and under are uninspiring, and I would never buy a bottle for the cabinet. The 20 year old is another story, and at $80, very affordable for a 20yr. That said, I’d rather spend such money on a 20yo Bladnoch at cask strength, given the choice.

Cue the Curiositas. An inexpensive peated Speyside that has picked up some attention and high praise in the whisky community. At $64, I decided to try it. I have not been disappointed. It comes off rather like a sweet heavily-peated Islay than a peated sweet Speyside. Where I draw the line here is in how the peat comes across. In peated non-Islays, they always come across as rather synthetic peat to my tastes. That is, the peat has been noticeably ‘added’ in some way. Islays, on the other hand, feel so organically joined, the spirit and the peat. They’ve done some good work here at BenRiach, and at such a young age. Puts my faith back in the distillery.

Nose: Peat and smoke upfront. A true Islay nose. Banana bread. That’s right, you heard me: banana bread. This might be why I love it so much. Cinnamon. A couple drops of water opens it all up nicely.

Palate: The peat is there, but it takes a backseat to the BBQ smoke.

Finish: Long and pleasant.

Grade: B

I can’t fault this whisky in many ways: it’s delicious, and a great wood-fired dessert dram that works both in the winter, and as the sunsets on a cooler summer evening. If all your new releases have this quality/price ratio, BenRiach, you can be sure that I’ll be picking up what you’re putting down.