Tonight, the Canadian whisky awards get announced, and in anticipation, why not post a review for another batch of Confederation Oak. I have now tasted all the batches A-F, lucky indeed. E, though I didn’t review it, showed some more fresh oak than the others but didn’t impress me in my far-from-ideal tasting of it during the Forty Creek Whisky Weekend. This sample is thanks to a fun sample swap with a reader of the blog!
This bottling is a classic of the Ardbeg range, indeed, quite a classic in whisky as a whole. Originally, it combined old Ardbeg sherry-casked whisky with young, muscular and smoky Ardbeg – a classic use of different ages to balance a whisky and create complexity well (and, a worthwhile use of a no-age-statement whisky!). However, the age of the sherry casks, many suspect, has dropped since the initial releases. Batches also vary – the best are among the best you can buy, and the worst make you really wish you didn’t blow all the money to get a bottle (though I haven’t had a terrible batch, but a few I would definitely not pay for, if not all of them – is any whisky worth the $180 you pay in Ontario for this? Whisky, as fabulous as it is…is just whisky, and there is much to be had at a lower clip than this one). You can tell what batch you have by a bottle code on the side of the bottle which will tell you what batch your whisky is from (see here). This code on this reviewed bottle is L61360 31/03/2015 1500312 18:45.
And here we have, once again, another Highland Park. I love their whiskies, but I wanted to post this as sometimes there can be some significant variations in quality – if you ever tasted HP and weren’t impressed, it’s likely a bad batch. Despite this, they still remain one of my favorite distilleries as the quality of their liquid, when good, is absolutely phenomenal. However, the bottle I picked up last year was certainly sub-par.
A link to my previous review, along with a bit more discussion on this bottling, is provided here.
As I complied this list, I have realized that they were special beyond simply tasting spectacular. On that note, there is only one reason that I was able to taste all of these – friends. Particularly with rare, expensive, and/or inaccessible bottles – no one needs all of them, but everyone wants to taste all of them, and the solution to this problem is friends in a whisky community. If you don’t have any, I recommend joining a site such as Connosr to see if there are any enthusiasts in your area. Broadly, I have found, the whisky community is eager and generous – a very great quality indeed.
As the end of the year approaches, I was thinking back to some of my most enjoyable drams over this past year – standard whiskies, not special releases or necessarily the best – but whiskies that I simply thoroughly enjoyed. As much as there is always hype over special releases – understandably, as they provide something new and different – standard bottlings often don’t get their due.
The story with this whisky goes that a few stillmen found an old bottle of whisky from the turn of the 19th century and wanted to replicate it – and so, Aberlour puts forth a monster of a whisky – a cask strength, heavily sherried single malt. Each bottle has a batch label on it, and batches vary in quality but this is a longstanding classic and favorite of many connoisseurs. This bottling is from batch 44, and comes in at 59.7%, matured in first fill (i.e. new) sherry casks – deep red and brown in colour, with no coloring added or any chill-filtration. “A’Bunadh” means “of the origin” in gaelic, speaking to the old style of this whisky.
Great King Street is Compass Box’s brand for their blended scotch, and this Glasgow blend only recently came into their core line. The whisky’s inspiration comes from the big-bodied style of many of the 19th century blending houses, blended particularly with smoke and sherry notes. The blend is bottled at 43%, without colour or chill-filtration, and composed of 33% grain whisky from a Fife distillery (presumably Cameron Bridge), about 20% from a south shore Islay distillery, 33% from a sherried whisky from Benrinnes, and a malt from Brora (presumably Clynelish), and a few other Speyside and Highland malts to round out the recipe.