In Murray's 2006 Whisky Bible he gushes over the following Old Malt Cask bottling of Ardbeg:
Old Malt Cask Ardbeg 12 Years Old , Rum Finish. dist 1 Oct 92, bott 14 Oct 04 (95) n24 dry, with the peat showing signs of pre-78 depth and complexity. Toasty and alluring; t24 quite fabulous arrival of what would be ultra dry oak and peat were it not for the mouthwatering, saliva-gushing imput of the barley; lovely fruits and even nut in the form of semi-dry Danish marzipan; f22 long, pulsing peat of a once-lost style wth so many enormous sub-plots of bitter-sweet, fruity complexity; b 25 those lucky buggers in downtown Manhattan! If Park Avenue have any bottles left, beat a path to their shelves as soon as your read this and get as many as you can afford. This is a rum finish cask, and although the rum is hardly noticeable, perhaps it is this that has somehow miraculously re-created Ardbeg in its prime during the mid 70s The dryness anddepth of the malt are unlike any other Ardbeg from the early 90s I have come across. Simply one of those bottlings you just have to buy and open for those special, reflective moments of your life. Glorious! 50% Douglas Lang & Co. For Park Ave. Liquor.
Now, currently Astor Wine in New York has a number of bottles of Old Malt Cask Ardbeg that answer to the above description in most every way. It does not state Rum Finish, rather it says that it was aged in "refill hogshead" casks. Same difference or no? It says that the scotch was distilled in Oct. 92 and bottled in Oct. 04, but does not give the more precise dates that Murray does. It is 50%. It does not say that it was bottled for Park Ave. Liquor, but would it? Murray does not mention how many bottles this expression was limited to, and I don't remember and don't have the bottle with me here at work, but it's less than 400 I believe. Maybe it's the power of suggestion, but Murray's description (the substance, not the ratings) seems more or less to approximate my experience tasting this scotch, and I think I can dedect the feint presence of rum--but, again, would I have if I didn't have Murray to tell me it's there? Obviously one of the chief questions is, if this is the scotch Murray describes, how did Astor get a hold of it, exp. given its having been bottled for Park Ave. Liquor? And even if not, given the limited quantity, where were these bottles sitting through 2005 until late 2006? Very strange. Or maybe not?
I was not aware that there was another Rum Finish Ardbeg bottled for Park Ave, but there might have been.
I will give the label a more thorough examination tonight.
Hogsheads will generally be rebuilt bourbon casks. If I remember right (an increasingly dodgy proposition as the birthdays accrue), the standard bourbon barrel is 200 liters, and for some reason it is common for Scottish coopers to rebuild them to 250 liter hogsheads, which seems like an awful lot of work to me. Indeed, I was told at Balvenie (one of the few distilleries, if not the only, with their own cooperage) that they no longer bother. Sherry casks are generally 500-liter butts.
If I have any of this wrong, I am sure one of the illustrious members will set us straight.
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Just further to your comments about the source and origin of hogsheads, I recently wrote an article for a publication on how different casks influence whiskies in different ways. Below are two excerpts from my article which are relevant to this discussion: (Bold type added for relevance)
"The other feature of a cask that affects maturation is its size.
As a general rule, smaller casks will mature whisky faster
than larger casks. American casks, known as “Barrels” hold
200 litres. The next size is a “Hogshead,” which holds 250
litres. Whilst hogsheads traditionally came straight from
Spain, it is now quite common for barrels from the US to be
converted into hogsheads in Scotland by replacing the ends
with larger diameter heads. A “Butt” – always from Spain –
holds 500 litres, and “Gordas” and “Puncheons” have similar
and in relation to whether the cask's original filling was bourbon or sherry:
"So how can you tell which is which? Descriptions of the cask on the label or an author's tasting notes occasionally give a clue: Anything from a butt, gorda, or puncheon will be ex-sherry, whereas anything described as a barrel will be ex-bourbon. Hogsheads (sometimes referred to
as a “hoggie”) can be either, so look for other descriptors or clues that may hint as to its origin. Or of course, you could always rely on your tastebuds!"
Hope this assists.
This is the problem with reviews on independant bottles. Jim does really well where in most cases he is stating dates of when the whisky was bottled and distilled etc, but with other reviews these details can be lost. Independant bottlers however may well bottle several single casks of the same whiky ie, Ardbeg 12yo. This is where reviews should be defining exact details of each whisky.
Douglas Laing do state all relevant details on their bottles. If the whisky has been finished in a different type of wood this will be indicated in a circle to the top right on the label. Another way of finding the differences in Douglas Laing bottles is that they always state how many bottles were bottled from the single cask, (all OMC and Platinum range that is). This makes each batch of bottles different.
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