Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Whisky Review: Bowmore 15 Year Mariner (New Label)

Bowmore Mariner was another whisky that was aimed at the travel retail market during the 2000s and (I think) was discontinued around 2013.

This whisky was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, then bottled in 2009 at 43% with coloring and chill filtration.

I purchased this miniature as part of a set at the Bowmore distillery in 2013.

Bowmore 15 Year Mariner (New Label)

Nose: classic Bowmore notes - balanced fresh malt and light herbal peat, red wine and berries in the background, seashore, a bit savory with a touch of something floral. After adding a few drops of water the wine notes mostly fade, leaving a soft bed of malt with more peat and a touch of ex-bourbon oak and caramel.

Taste: sweet wine opening, clear red wine and raspberry right behind, fading out through mild oak and a little bit of herbal peat, all on top of a base of clean malt with light violet/lavender top notes. After dilution it becomes more integrated, with less peat and a slight waxing and waning of the wine notes across the palate.

Finish: red wine residue, raspberry, a bit sour, a little oak, fresh malt, a touch of salinity

While the construction of this whisky and the Enigma are nominally very similar, the results are very different. The wine notes are far more present right off the bat, but they end up reading more like a red wine than a fortified wine finish to me. If it had hit like I expect a sherry finish to, sort of a more subtle Darkest, I could see myself drinking a lot more of this. It's nuanced but not flat, with excellent balance. I wouldn't pay over the odds for this, but if you like peat and wine finishes, this would be a good one to grab if you happen to stumble upon a bottle (WhiskyBase currently has a few at not wildly inflated prices if you're so inclined).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Whisky Review: Bowmore 12 Year Enigma

Bowmore Enigma was part of their travel retail lineup from the early-2010s. It was constructed similarly to the standard 12 Year, but with a higher proportion of sherry casks in the mix, much like the standard 18 Year.

This whisky was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, then bottled in 2009 at 40% with coloring and chill filtration.

I purchased this miniature as part of a set at the Bowmore distillery in 2013.

Bowmore 12 Year Enigma

Nose: classic Bowmore mossy/ashy peat with a healthy dose of wood smoke, leather, cured meat, sweet sherry underneath, clean/fresh malt, vanilla, some jammy fruit. After adding a few drops of water the malt, peat, and barrel char become more clear, a little floral perfume emerges, while the oak and sherry retreat/turn into maple syrup.

Taste: opens with sweet malt and a layer of sherry, quickly overlaid with oak tannins, barrel char, and a rising wave of mossy peat smoke that crests and resolves into more oak tannins and some fruity malt going into the finish, plus a light citrus note riding over everything. After dilution the oak backs off a bit to reveal more sherry but less peat and it is generally more mellow throughout.

Finish: polished oak, tannins, dry peat smoke, a little sherry residue, background malt, tropical fruit

This is a solid Bowmore, especially considering that it's not at its best at their bottling strength and with their usual manipulations. I'd need to try them side by side, but this seems pretty close to the standard Bowmore 12 Year, albeit with a little bit more going on. The aromas and the tropical fruit notes in the finish are probably the best pieces, while the flavors are OK but unspectacular. Water helps in the sense that the oak is less assertive, but both the aromas and flavors become more simple. If you happen to stumble upon a liter bottle for, say, $50 or less it wouldn't be a bad deal if you already enjoy the 12 Year, but it's not something that I would go out of my way for.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Armagnac Review: Delord 25 Year

If you go looking for older armagnac in the States, odds are that you will end up finding something from Delord. They're one of the few nearly ubiquitous armagnacs in the U.S. and offer a large number of age-dated and vintage releases at seemingly attractive price points.

Delord was founded by one of the mobile distillers of the region in 1893. His sons turned it into a permanent operation in 1932 with an estate in the Bas Armagnac region. They distill from a mixture of ugni blanc, colombard, baco, and folle-blanche grapes that are vinified separately and then distilled using both continuous and batch stills. The continuous still distillate is primarily used for spirits destined to age for a significant amount of time while the double distilled spirit is primarily used for younger expressions.

Thanks to Florin for this sample.

Delord 25 Year

Nose: balanced between raisin and sharp oak, some creamy vanilla, herbal, musty chalk/cardboard, floral pink bubblegum, and caramel. After adding a few drops of water the oak becomes a bit softer and lets the raisins shine more, but the overall structure is largely unchanged.

Taste: bittersweet throughout, grape notes underneath up front, slowly transitioning into almost pure syrup-y oak tannins with a little bit of caramel at the back. After dilution the bitterness retreats significantly and the grape notes are more clear up front, but the overall structure is largely unchanged.

Finish: dominated by tannic oak with generic brandy notes in the background and an artificial edge that I associate with spirits that have been tinkered with

I am not a fan of this armagnac. While it is an excellent value on its face - a quarter century old from an old house - it feels like too much has been done to the spirit to make up for inadequate or over-active casks. Like too many spirits these days, it feels engineered for a price point rather than to display what Delord is capable of. Alternatively, it could be created to capture drinkers who believe that older spirits are inherently oak-driven. I'm very thankful to have seen just enough skeptical reviews to keep myself from buying a whole bottle, as it was very tempting when I saw it available locally.

With all that said, if you're a bigger fan of bourbon this might click for you. The overall flavor structure is somewhat similar, albeit with grapes instead of grain, and the density of the aromas is very strong for the strength of the spirit. Just maybe try to find it at a bar before you spring for an entire bottle.

For two slightly different takes on samples from the same bottle, check out MAO and SKU.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Eighth Anniversary - Four More Years of Booze Blogging

I've been out of habit of marking the anniversary of this blog's creation, but it seems like a good time for another retrospective.

Things have been quieter over the last few years, not necessarily because I don't have anything to write about, but because I just haven't been drinking as much. Sometime after I finished my PhD in 2016 I more or less stopped entirely. Given that it was something of a rough time mental health-wise, that was probably for the best considering the alternatives, but it's taken quite a while to get back up to speed.

Lately that's been making me ask why I still write this. I'm not getting paid. The heyday of cocktail blogs that I was in the thick of when I started has mostly faded as people either turned pro or simply found that there was too much competition for their time. While I found a second wind in the rise of whisky blogging, even that seems to be losing steam for many of the same reasons.

What it really comes down to is that I feel like I have gotten a lot out of reading other folk's blogs and I still want to contribute. While not perfect, independent voices are still deeply needed right now. Sure, that gives me mixed feelings when I review spirits that haven't been available for years or are now wildly expensive when they can be found, but there is still value in chronicling where we were to understand where we are now.

Part of this is also wanting to get back to writing about the science of spirits. If you follow me on Twitter you can probably guess what my next post will be about. It's one of the ways that I feel like I can really add to the community by translating complex concepts into something more understandable. So there will definitely be more of that in future.

You can also expect to see more non-whisky posts. I have managed to whittle down my open bottles of malt whisky to three right now and I'm hoping to get it down to zero just for a change of pace. There should be more cognac, armagnac, rhum agricole, and other spirits on the horizon as I try to expand my palate. With that said, I also ordered a giant pile of whisky samples recently, so there should still be plenty of those sprinkled throughout as well.

Overall my goal is to keep from feeling like I'm in a rut. Grinding out whisky reviews has been useful in a lot of ways, but I was starting to feel like I was drinking too many for academic purposes instead of because they were enjoyable in and of themselves.

Here's to enjoying what we drink.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Drinking in Barcelona: Dux Cocktail & Gin Borne

I was recently in Barcelona for a project meeting, but I made sure to give myself a few days to
explore the city before and after. Unsurprisingly, one of my first plans after checking into my hotel and getting some food in my stomach was finding somewhere for a drink.

After a slightly confusing walk through the Gothic Quarter to find that the places I had been looking for were closed, I stumbled upon Dux while trying to get back to a main street. While very quiet on a Tuesday night, it looked inviting.

Dux is set up in the now-classic craft cocktail bar mold, with a vague speakeasy style. The decor harkens back to the early-20th century and there is live jazz on more happening evenings. While the bartenders have more of a Portland hipster vibe in checked shirts and aprons instead of the previously regulation arm garters and handlebar mustaches, they know their trade and make extremely good drinks, many from an array of infused gins.

In keeping with the craft cocktail vibe, many of the signature drinks from their menu have a somewhat over-the top presentation (I saw at least one being served in a tiny bathtub), but their construction is always impeccable. Despite the crowded weekend night conditions, I got an absolutely stellar Last Word that was perfectly balanced between bitter, sour, and sweet.

Overall, I would highly recommend dropping by if you're in Barcelona and looking for a fancy but not overly pretentious drink. They will treat you well, whether it's a quiet Tuesday or a slammed Saturday.