I’ve had these two whiskies reviewed for sometime now and, for the life of me, I could not locate any of my notes. I consider myself fairly organized and to misplace my notes pissed me off… just a bit.
Luckily, they have now been found so I can stop kicking myself in the arse.
Also lucky for me (and for you), posting the review of these two whiskies right now is perfect for the season as I found them to be fairly light and refreshing.
They’re a bit odd as well but hey, that’s a good thing. I quite enjoy trying whiskies from different regions and countries as they help to challenge what you think you know about whisky on the whole. Look around the the world-wide-interwebs and you will find reviews of Penderyn that run the gamut. From delicious to not-so-delicious. You’ll find it all.
What I ask of you is that you go into to this (or any whisk(e)y that is new to you) with an open mind. There are a lot of bourbon people out there who hate Scotch whisky; and vice versa. We all need to get out of our comfort zone and try to learn a bit. The following is my blinders-off-assessment of these two Penderyn whiskies and I’m glad that I went in without any preconceived notions as, in the end, I quite liked these whiskies.
Penderyn Madeira Wood
On the nose — Wafts of juniper; fresh & bright. Grinning a grin and stinking of gin.
Light with limes and white flesh peaches soaking in fine muscato wine.
Burning leaves in the springtime – I imagine myself as a little boy using a magnifying glass to light said leaves (this is not smoky in anyway, mind you. The aroma is just bringing back memories).
Far off scents of the railroad.
On the mouth — Light and almost grain-like in flavor (like an aged grain whisky).
Very one-sided with its light quality and bright, sweet citrus notes (think lime leaf and fizzy like seltzer with lime).
Thinnish in mouthfeel.
A touch of honey. Actually, a good amount of honey as we near the finish line.
Finish — Lots of cereal notes – very malty all of the sudden. Honey covered muesli.
In sum — A summery whisky that can be applied to any social situation. I can see a lot of blend drinkers liking this one. Light, sweet, fairly balanced and, simply approachable by anybody.
Penderyn Sherry Wood
On the nose — Similar to the lightness I got on the Madeira Penderyn except there’s no juniper.
It’s all on dark chocolate covered, raspberry nougat chews (if you can imagine a light version of that).
Rain puddles and sidewalk chalk.
It’s got a bite-y little nose on it too; prickily-dickily-doo.
Big-ass bails of hay.
On the mouth — Viscous mouthfeel with a very sherried influence.
Not ooey, sweet and cloying like some sherry bombs; fairly well integrated.
Fruit marmalades (grapefruit, orange and lime).
Thick and chewy but oh so light and brisk in flavor.
Finish — Slightly nutty and tannic (think halved walnuts). Faint notes of rye (?).
In sum — More complex than the Madeira version yet still light and easy going. Like the Madeira, I can picture myself pouring this in a very social setting where both whisky snobs and whisky noobs are hanging out – a easy pleaser.
Special thanks to Luke at Penderyn for the samples!
A few weeks ago I was in Seattle on business. For a couple of evenings while there, I had the opportunity to have dinner and drinks at a great place called Liberty Bar. Liberty specializes in sushi (pretty damn good sushi at that – well, I can vouch for the vegetarian rolls…) and fine spirits of all kinds including Japanese whisky, Pisco, Scotch Whisky, American Whiskey, Mezcal… the list can go on and on.
While I was at Liberty, Andrew, one of the proprietors and reader of of the JSMWS blog, introduced me to some super fine spirits. And this one, the Suntory Single Grain Chita whisky, was one of them. Thanks again, Andrew!
I was quite impressed with the Chita and wanted to share the good word on it so I reached out to my friend Yoshi Morita for a review sample. Yoshi was kind enough to send me some and now I can share my thoughts with you – ヨッシー、ありがとう！
I will soon be posting the details regarding my Seattle trip and my full whisky experience while I was there. It was an amazing ride for me and my palate!
For now, let’s get to this whisky!
On the nose — Sweet oranges – even orange creamsicles. Better yet, baby aspirin.
Fresh grains and farm hay.
Even a little farmy or, better yet, “farm catty”. What do I mean? It’s like sticking your nose in a farm cat’s neck and taking a whiff.
I’m a cat guy and I’ve known some farm cats, what can I say?
Smelling the taste of endive spears now…
In general, there’s a fresh produce feel to the nose – a mix of many scents to form one solid “produce” scent.
Very pleasant nose.
On the mouth — Back to the oranges, perhaps tangerines better describes the flavor of this.
Like drinking silken pantyhose or a licking velvet – that’s what the mouthfeel is like.
A bit salty (hello, unexpected!).
Finish — Medium in length with a few more of those “produce” notes.
In sum — The nose is great! While in flavor it’s not incredibly complex, it’s completely delicious. Very drinkable, very easy going. Lovely for the summer time and I imagine you could mix this quite nicely with some Chambord and perhaps a little Grand Marnier with a few other components to make a super fruity funtime drink.
Just for fun, let’s see how badly Google translates my tasting notes into Japanese:
Suuitoorenji – creamsicles orange on the nose too. Better yet, a baby aspirin.Hay, grain and farm fresh. Farmy little or, better yet, “Farm loaf.” I do you mean?This is like taking a nose to smell and paste the farm cat’s neck. I am a cat man and I knew some of the farm cats can I say? One solid “production” of fragrance mix to form the smell of many – now smell the taste of endive spears … In general, fresh produce not feel my nose. Very pleasant nose.
In the mouth – in orange on this page are perhaps better illustrates this orange.What is the taste – like drinking bread Miya Yoshi silky velvet. Bit salty (Hello, unexpected!)
Finishing – these notes are a combination of the number and length of the “Generate.”
In short – a great nose! The flavor is incredibly complex, but it is completely delicious. Drinking, go very easy. I am very fruity and your lovely summer funtime Shan and some very clean and some other components to make a drink, please imagine that most probably a mix of Grand Marnier it.
Delving once more into the world of the unpronounceable names.
Well, there’s the ever famous YHVH (you can see the Hebrew to the left); the Tetragrammaton (or unpronouncable name of G-d… sorry folks, it’s not pronounced Yahweh. Like I said, it’s an unpronounceable name).
But, this is not a religious site it’s a whisky site so let’s talk about unpronounceable names of whisky.
A while back we discussed Ardbeg’s Airigh Nam Beist (pronounced Ari Nam Baysht). And, let’s not forget the Ardbeg Uigeadail (pronounced Oo-g’dal, or so I’m told).
Today we’re faced with USQUAEBACH (gesundheit!) blended whiskies. Some people pronounce it as “Oosk’eh-bah”. Some say “Us-quay-batch”. I’ve even heard this brand referred to as “Whisk-ay-bay” (which I think is the way speakers of Gaelic may say it). Either way, the pronunciation I hear most in the US is “Oosk’eh-bah” so, until I am told otherwise, that will be how I pronounce it.
So, what is Usquaebach? Other than the Gaelic way of saying “Water of life”, it’s a blended whisky brand out of the Highlands which has recently be re-launched here in the US with three standard expressions: Usquaebach Reserve, Usquaebach 15yo vatted malt whisky and Usquaebach Old-Rare.
Usquaebach Reserve blended whisky – 43% ABV
On the nose — A pleasant nose filled with notes of pears and charcoal.
Beat up Chuck Taylors and maybe even some white pepper.
A grainy sweetness fills my nostrils as does the scent of heavily used pencil erasers.
On the mouth — Light mouth feel.
Grassy and flowery.
Slightly salty and hints of citrus hit the front of the tongue.
Finish — A peppery finish, medium in length.
In sum — Dangerously easy to go down the gullet yet nothing overwhelmingly magical about it. A pleasant blend.
Usquaebach 15yo vatted malt whisky – 43% ABV
On the nose — Hot sauna stones in a wooden sweat lodge.
Incredibly saltily smelling.
Mushroom & barley; earthy yet hints of honeysuckle and cucumber sauce.
Wow, those mushrooms come back in full force with a thin backbone of smoke, very subtle smoke.
On the mouth — Peppery entry with cured meats and vinegar – very foodie.
A touch of jasmine.
Browned lemons and freezerburn.
Grassy notes – farm hay on a hot summer’s day.
Finish — Medium finish with what I’d swear is very mild green olive but others would disagree…
In sum — A very enjoyable vatted malt with nearly too much meatiness but just enough for me to be OK with it. There’s a fine line for me on the “meaty”malts and this one walks it quite well. I had this whisky as part of a tasting event I did for 20 some-odd people and I kept going back to it. Very enjoyable stuff.
Usquaebach Old-Rare blended whisky – 43% ABV
On the nose — Fun-fun-fun nose filled with dark roasted coffee beans and hot peppers.
Spiced fruits and stewed prunes.
Dates and chewy date bread.
On the mouth — A slithery smooth mouthfeel (did I just use the word slithery because Conan the Barbarian is on TV right now and Conan just killed that big-ass snake? Could be…).
Something slightly coastal about it.
More coffee, a bit lighter than the nose.
Raisins, simple syrup and cream sherry.
Apples and peppers (like on the nose).
Finish — Beach pebbles, dates and sea air – a lengthy finish
In sum — A fantastic blend. Beautifully balanced with lip-smacking sherry notes. A bit of a warmer-upper – perhaps best on a cold early spring night.
Over all, I think each of these three whiskies has a time and a place. The “Reserve” is a good any day dram (not to be confused with an everyday dram though). The 15yo is an impressive malt that goes well with rich foods and good company. And lastly, the Old-Rare is a celebratory dram.
Ok, before you begin to read my post on this dram, you may want to hit play on the youtube video below (so as to set the mood):
Is it playing? Good. Just keep it sort of quiet and in the background. Umm, a little lower in the volume… there. Good.
When I was young, about six years in age, my uncle started feeding me music from all sorts of great bands. Bands he loved and wanted me to love in kind. Two of the bands stuck out and I still love them to this day. The Ramones and Black Sabbath. In fact, the first album I ever owned was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid album.
Let’s put the Ramones to the side for now and focus on Black Sabbath. Here I was six years old, listening to Black Sabbath and… was I scared? A bit (I mean, listen to this song for “Peat’s” sake – you do have the video playing, right?). But mostly, I was entranced. Even at six, I knew that these guys were on some level beyond any other band I’d ever heard.
As I got older, I became more obsessed with the music of Black Sabbath and (here comes a crazy geek moment) Dungeons and Dragons. There, I said it. I was into D&D big time. D&D, Lord of the Rings, you name it, I was into it.
You must be thinking “Hey Hatton, where are you going with this?” or, “Dude, D&D… seriously!?”
The point I am coming to is that I saw something mystical and magical in this music and those role playing games and sipping on this whisky took me back there.
Yes, nearly 31 years later and I came across this interesting and new Bruichladdich expression called Black Arts and I’m taken back to those things that got me interested in the “strange”. But, come to think of it, it was not just strange. It was new, different, unique and artistic – something I think this expression is.
What is Bruichladdich’s Black Arts expression? First, let’s take a look at their bottle:
You’ll notice a matte black finish on the bottle and cylinder. This, as I understand it, is a follow up to Bruichladdich’s “Blacker Still” expression. Just looking at it and I get a creepy-cool feeling. It’s the type of feeling you get when you’re around a campfire telling ghost stories – the good creepy. You want more.
And yes, I wanted more. I wanted to open the bottle right away but, before I did, I took a closer look at the bottle and saw a Star of David on there. Wait a sec. Hold you’re horses. What does this mean? I don’t know any Jew that works in the Black Arts – What’s going on here!?!?
I did some reading up on what this star meant and found that Bruichladdich says the star is actually “two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water”. In fact, here’s the full quote from Bruichladdich’s product sheet: “Alchemy, the black art, the eternal search for rejuvenation and immortality, gave us whisky. Gebber the Arab is said to be the first distiller of al-iksir, the water of life, in Persia around 790 AD.” (or, CE and I prefer to say. C.E. being the Common Era) “The spirits Eau de vie, Aqua Vitae, Vodka, Aquavit, Uisque Beatha all share that same original meaning. Geber understood that precious metals were hidden in alloys and ores. By the rearrangement of base metal’s qualities, via elixir, it could be transmutated into Gold. Elixir also existed as a dry, red powder made from Philosophers’ stone. If it could turn poor metal into gold – it could give eternal life. The two triangles that represent the reconciliation of the opposites of fire and water.”
Cool stuff, right?
Speaking of “red powder”, after I poured a dram, I wondered if Bruichladdich found this Philosophers’ stone and put a wee bit into each cask. The reason I wondered this….well, take a look at the color of this whisky (on your left – click on it for a larger image).
While it may be tough to see here in this picture. I will tell you that, in person, this fluid is red. Red whisky. I’ve never seen anything like this before and, just like when I first heard Black Sabbath, I was entranced. Just a note here: this is the natural color of the whisky; no color added.
How did they get this whisky red? Is it the red powder from the Philosophers’ stone? If you think the answer is “yes” then I suggest you check yourself into an insane asylum. While you may think the good folks at Bruichladdich are alchemists with all of those great expressions they come out with, this is the real world and they’re using real science here, not alchemy.
So, how did they get it red? A little birdy told me that this whisky was finished in three red wine casks, one right after the other. Awesome.
OK, I think it’s about high time I get to the tasting:
On the nose — 51.1% alcohol be damned! I can sniff this all night with no issues. Big red fruits! Raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and some fruit of the more tropical variety — passion fruit & papaya (all of these berries makes me think of my daughter’s book called “Jamberry”). Wow. Some nail polish remover notes here, something a bit sour and some over steeped green tea… I’m in love with this nose! This is just the right influence of wine on the whisky. Some spiciness on the nose and a bit of honey (which I did not expect here). With a few drops of water the fruits get very juicy smelling – almost over ripe.
On the mouth — Great entry here and I’m a bit taken aback. What a balance! The fruits are big but dry – like a good & fruity cabernet. Grassy, fresh hay. Quite grapey, quite winey. The mouth feel is nice nothing too special about it though. Let’s add a few drops of water. With water the mouth feel evolves into something completely different and beautiful. I feel like an alchemist turning dried fruits into re-ripened fruits. There’s something deep in the background that resembles the faintest whiff of smoke but, I dont think this was at all peated.
Finish — Longer and slightly burning. Wow, increasingly burning and getting stronger by the second. Cool stuff.
In sum — This is a true artisan’s whisky. And while some folks thought this dram crossed the line a bit between wine finishes and whisky; to me, the extra finishing was something of pure genius. What a great marriage between wine and whisky. While the two whiskies are nothing alike, the mystery surrounding the Bruichladdich Black Arts reminds me of the mysteries around the Glenmorangie Signet. Two very different whiskies; two very great whiskies. My hat’s off to the folks at Bruichladdich. They’ve created a magical dram here.