Friday, December 21, 2018

Armagnac Review: Chateau de Pellehaut 17 Year 1996/2013 Folle-Blanche

A bit of trivia about Château de Pellehaut is that they used to produce entirely from ugni blanc grapes until 1996, but turned entirely to folle-blanche in 1997. This particular armagnac represents the brief transitional period while they were using both, but keeping the wines and distillates separate.

This brandy was distilled in 1996 from folle-blanche grapes, filled into new oak casks, then bottled in 2013 at 50.4% without coloring or chill filtration for K&L Wines.

Thanks to Florin for this sample.

Chateau de Pellehaut 17 Year 1996/2013 Folle-Blanche

Nose: slightly sharp oak comes first with richer grape notes in the background plus some vanilla bean ice cream. After adding a few drops of water it remains largely unchanged, but the vanilla is more prominent plus some pineapple/orange and cocoa notes come out

Taste: big oak and grape sweetness up front, a syrupy thickness around the middle, becomes more bitter/bittersweet with big oak and some creaminess towards the back. After dilution the sweetness is stronger up front, the oak turns into cedar in the middle, and the bitter turn at the back is more aggressive.

Finish: Fairly hot, balanced oak and grape, a little orange peel

This was kind of disappointing. I had read a lot of really positive reviews as this release helped cement Pellehaut's reputation in the U.S. Might just be that I sat on the sample for too long, but water at least got it closer to those expectations.

For a more favorable perspective, see MAO's review from the same bottle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Armagnac Review: Château de Pellehaut 15 Year 2001/2016 Folle-Blanche for K&L Wines

Château de Pellehaut seems to be one of the more well-known armagnac houses, at least in the States. Located in the Ténarèze region in the middle of Armagnac, it follows the traditional practice of distilling their wines in a mobile still. The output is at a rather mild 54%, which helps to explain both their robust flavors and the often low-ish strength of their single casks. They fill all of their fresh spirit into 420 liter new oak casks.

This particular cask was distilled from wine made entire from folle-blanche grape in 2001, filled into a new oak cask, then bottled in 2016 at 48.6% without coloring or chill filtration for K&L Wines.

Thanks to Florin for this sample.

Chateau de Pellehaut 15 Year 2001/2016 Folle-Blanche for K&L

Nose: rich berry and juicy grape, wild honey, moderate but not overbearing oak, a little cedar, vanilla, citrus peel, baking spices, peanut brittle, a thread of wood smoke/incense. After adding a few drops of water it gets flatter and loses most of its intensity except for the oak, with the fruitier brandy notes becoming grain.

Taste: lots of grape, berry, and honey sweetness starting up front and continuing through, orange peel in the background, some heat and a savory note in the middle, fading into moderate oak and grape tannins. After dilution almost all of the heat disappears, the oak becomes less tannic, and some raisin (rather than grape) notes come out around the back, but the overall structure remains about the same.

Finish: balanced fruit and oak, tannins linger

As Bozzy noted, this is very much a bourbon, and even more specifically a wheated bourbon, drinker's armagnac. It doesn't have the spiciness that you would expect from rye bourbons, but the balance of sweetness, fruit, and oak are basically spot-on. I was a little disappointed by how much the aromas faded with water, but if you leave it alone they're all good.

At the $50 it went for retail, I think this pretty handily beats most comparably priced bourbons as long as your expectations are set for brandy rather than whiskey. It's not the most complex thing, but it definitely hits all the right notes.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Whisky Review: Isle of Skye 12 Year

Isle of Skye is a product of Ian Macleod, an independent bottler and the owner of both Glengoyne and Tamdhu distilleries. The brand was pretty low-key for decades with old school, rather plain labels on their bottles and prices to match. They relaunched the lineup a few years ago with new labels and older limited editions. Unfortunately that also means that the price has gone up locally, but I've still been itching to try the older version.

This blend is constructed from grain whisky plus Speyside and Island (of course strongly hinted to be Talisker from the name) malts that are married together in casks before bottling at 40%, almost certainly with chill filtration and possibly a little coloring.

Isle of Skye 12 Year

Nose: rather light - sherry, hints of savory peat, mixed nuts, raisins, vanilla. After adding a few drops of water the sherry gets stronger, there is more peat and oak, plus some baking spices come out.

Taste: balanced malt/grain up front, sherry throughout, a little chocolate and oak in the middle, not a lot of development. After dilution it becomes a little brighter, but with less heat, more noticeable peat at the back, and more vanilla.

Finish: sherry-driven, bittersweet, mild oak, hints of peat

Well, that was kind of disappointing. I really enjoyed the 8 Year, which was far more bold. This is smoother, but just doesn't offer anything particularly interesting. I would buy it over a lot of standard 12 year old blends as the peat adds a little something, but it's just not engaging enough to make me want to drink it on the regular. I'd give this a miss in favor of the younger, cheaper version.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Whisky Review: Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend

While I was in Washington D.C. in early November, I dropped by Black Whiskey for dinner and a couple of drinks. Glancing at their back bar I noticed a decent collection of blends that I decided to try.

I've had a few releases from their Great King Street lineup. The Artist's Blend was perfectly decent, but somewhat uninspiring. The one-off New York Blend was far better and a peat-y treat. So I was very interested when the Glasgow Blend was released, which looked to combine the peat of the NY Blend was sherry cask whisky. Unfortunately it is rather expensive locally, so I haven't been able to bring myself to buy it.

The whisky is composed of a mix of 35% grain whisky from Cameronbridge and 65% malt whiskies from a number of distilleries and cask types, the details of which can be found on Compass Box's site. It is bottled at 43% without coloring or chill filtration.

Compass Box Great King Street Glasgow Blend

Nose: strong but not overwhelming Laphroaig smoke, solid underpinning of malt and grain, backdrop of sherry, Speyside floral notes in the background. After adding a few drops of water it becomes a little washed out leaving peat smoke on a smoothly grainy bed, less sherry.

Taste: opens with balanced malt/grain/sherry sweetness, joined by moderate but not tannic oak and caramel in the middle, sherry in the background throughout, rising but not overwhelming peat smoke at the back. After dilution it becomes smoother but maybe too much, a little washed out but more sherry.

Finish: balanced malt/peat/sherry/oak

This is a good whisky, no doubt about it. It's a well-composed blend that uses its grain component as a base while letting the malts do most of the work. I think I missed a bit because I was served this whisky in a tumbler, but the general sense was still very positive. If I can ever find this for under $40 with shipping I will definitely be grabbing a full bottle.