A Genuine Smoky Beast Whisky Review!  Lagavulin 8-Year

February 19, 2017

A Genuine Smoky Beast Whisky Review! Lagavulin 8-Year

Hello beasties,

Today I have the luxury or writing a bona fide whisky review. I know these have been few and far between this year. I, along with my partner Ben and the wife, have been putting more time into whisky than ever before. And I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported Beast Masters Club. It's a real labor of love, and it's really starting to take off. In the next few months we've got three private barrels coming out (WhistlePig, Elijah Craig, and Four Roses) and some amazing interviews including WhistlePig master distiller & all-around whiskey legend Dave Pickerell leading a tasting for us in March. Anyway thanks to everyone who has joined the club, sent amazing emails and social media posts, and showed up at our events. It's been amazing meeting so many of the people that I only knew online as readers of this blog and fellow whiskey fanatics.

Anyway, on to the matter at hand, one legitimate, non-podcast format, review! For the President's Weekend, the family headed up to the Berkshires  for a long overdue quiet several days of fires, Netflix cartoons, and of course a little nip before bedtime. I went to a random liquor store near the Stop&Shop, and lo-and-behold they had an awesome selection. I saw a bottle that I've been meaning to try, the Lagavulin 200th Anniversary 8-year sitting there for under $60 and couldn't say no. So now by the fire I'm popping it open and enjoying some warm peat on a cold night. (sure it's 60 degrees in Manhattan, but it's still in the 30's up here!).



So what do we know? We know Lagavulin was founded in 1816 and for its 200th anniversary they released a few special bottlings. One is the 25 year old which is frankly too expensive to casually pop, President's weekend or not. The other is this interesting 8-year. We've seen it cost more than the 16 year and sometimes less, so let's say it's about the same price. It is offered at a higher proof, 48% instead of Lag16's 43%, so 10 additional proof points at 96.

It comes in a very tasteful white box.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  If I nosed this blind I would not guess Lagavulin. Islay for sure, but probably I would have said Caol Ila, or wait...  maybe... Kilchoman.  Yes that's probably what I'd guess. Which totally makes sense since they're releasing very high quality younger malts. The nose has a lot of smoke, but not quite the warm smoldering campfire rocks smoke you get from older Lag. This is a more raw, slightly hot and spirit-forward and very peaty smoke. While the smoke is more in your face than what we typically think of with Lag, there are other interesting flavors that are much more prominent as well. Granny smith apples, white chocolate, citrus candies. Yes, pretty much exactly the flavors I usually pick out in Kilchoman. Funny that.

Palate: I will say in the mouthfeel department that it has a nice oiliness going on that's not as apparent in the 16. It's a bit thicker and more full on the tongue. That's kind of where the compliments end. The taste is just thinner, hotter, and not quite as complex as the 16. It's got some of the same components as the nose. White chocolate, lots of bright peat, little wood, citrus, and maybe some spice like cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Finish: The finish is where this differs most dramatically from most of the OB Lagavulin that we've tried. It's sort of thin and hot and a little bitter. Very similar to what you get from most of the off-the-shelf Islays these days like a Caol Ila or one of the NAS Ardbegs.

Review

Look I love me some Lag. It's my first and still favorite malt. This is still a really nice whisky. If you collect Lag, obviously you're going to score a bottle or two. The box is lovely. But it you're a malt drinker shopping on a budget, it's hard to see the allure here. Getting something twice as old in the standard 16 year bottling, with a little more sherry (sure and some E150 coloring too) is just a better deal and a tastier whiskey. Granted, sitting here by the fire drinking out of a ridiculously oversized snifter, and letting the peat smoke mingle with the birch I'm burning doesn't suck. And I don't mean to sound like a dick. I love that they put out higher proof stuff, love that they aren't afraid of a younger age statement, and still love me some Lag. But there's nothing "do-not-miss" about this one if you're keeping score.

Until next time.  Cheers/Steve
The Big Westland Tasting

January 30, 2017

The Big Westland Tasting

Wow what an awesome Friday night! Our little whiskey tasting club was hosted at the stunning Norwood Club and our special guest was Chris Reisbeck of Westland Distillery. We got to taste their whole lineup include the cask strength Garryana and the special release Winter edition.

Now I know what Quercus alba is (White Oak). And what Typicity is (the degree to which something reflects it's regional/varietal origins). Drink & learn...  

Thanks to everyone who's reached out to the club online. I got to meet a few of you there! I hope those of you who are into podcasts enjoy the discussion.


(or on iTunes)

Let us know if there are distilleries out there who you think would make a great episode of Beast Masters Club!  Cheers/SB
Smoke Wars: A New Dope

January 24, 2017

Smoke Wars: A New Dope

Hola Beasties!

The weather is total crap here in NYC, so it's the perfect time to cuddle up with a dark delicious smoky glass of fine single malt. In our latest installment, your's truly Mrs. Beast took on the veteran peat maniac Josh "Big Wood" Hatton in a one-on-one duel to the death to find the best peated malt in the world.

Smoke Wars: Mrs. Beast vs Big Wood



Who won?  Who do YOU think won??  What kind of question is that?  We both broke out some serious ammunition and entrenched deeply in our peat bogs for this one.  Enjoy.  /Mrs. Beast


Top 5 Limited Release Whiskies of 2016 - HYPE OR HOT

January 18, 2017

Top 5 Limited Release Whiskies of 2016 - HYPE OR HOT

Hey Beasties,

I hope everyone is having a rocking 2016.  If, like us, you were curious about some of the outrageously hard to find (not to mention expensive) allocated limited release bottles of 2016, we have lined up our top 5 and tasted them to see if they are worth the hunt!

Check it out here!
or on iTunes


Hope you enjoy it.  Don't be a stranger!  Let us know what reviews, podcast, and whiskies are getting you excited this year!  Cheers/SB


Join us for an evening with Westland Distillery!

January 11, 2017

Join us for an evening with Westland Distillery!

A bunch of really cool shit happened this week.  I rolled a whiskey barrel across a city street in Manhattan.  I don't know which was better, the baffled look on the faces of passers-by or the satisfaction of smiling and saying "Yup, it's a barrel of whiskey!".

I popped open some amazing whiskey. Booker's Rye (which won just about every award for best whiskey of 2016) and the new Parker's Heritage 24 Year Bourbon. I hadn't planned on popping open the Parker's just yet, but when we heard the terrible news about Parker Beam passing away, it seemed like the right thing to do.  We're going to review these and other super special release whiskeys in a podcast we're recording tomorrow night, and I'll post some Cliff's Notes for all you SB readers.

The other great news is that we confirmed our next Beast Masters Club tasting. It's going to feature Westland Distillery, in our opinion one of the few truly special craft distillers in a vast sea of rough young spirit that's coming into the market.  Chris Reisbeck, who we knew from his years at Gordon MacPhail will be representing Westland and acquainting us with some very special malts.



BUY TICKETS HERE!  (they sell out fast...)

Yet another piece of awesome news is that the super swanky and beautiful club The Norwood has agreed to host. They're very excited to be involved in our fresh take on whiskey events with the interview, podcast, and tasting. And we couldn't be more thrilled at the awesomeness of their upstairs barroom as our new venue.

It was a good whiskey week all around.

I know, I know, we've been somewhat neglecting our blog.  If you care, drop a comment and let us know what you'd like us to review.  We promise to get back to it.  But at the same time, we promise that if you join the club, buy a ticket to one of these events, or take a few minutes to check out the podcast, you won't be disappointed.  Oh yeah, and we have some killer private barrels coming up too. Seriously.  I wasn't kidding about rolling the barrel down the street. You're gonna want some of that.

Cheers.  Hope everyone is having a good first few weeks of '17.  Don't stress, it'll be ok. Come have a drink with us.  /SB


CLEAR THE SHELVES - TOP 5 WHISKEYS THAT WON'T BE AROUND NEXT YEAR

December 28, 2016

CLEAR THE SHELVES - TOP 5 WHISKEYS THAT WON'T BE AROUND NEXT YEAR

Happy holidays beasties!

Our latest 'cast, CLEAR THE SHELVES is out for your enjoyment!


Sorry that we haven't been as timely with our weekly reviews. We've been putting a huge amount of effort into Beast Masters Club. For those of you who haven't joined yet, BMC is the first combination of a podcast & private barrel club. Every month we do a big live tasting and interview a whiskey big-wig on the podcast and then release a private barrel of their whiskey that can be purchased by the group.

This is a labor of love for us, we hope that one day it may be a profitable enterprise, but for the time being this is us trying to share some of the great in-person experiences that we've had in the world of whiskey with you at home. You can buy an awesome private barrel whiskey, and pop it open as you listen in on our discussion with the folks who made it. And if you're in NYC anytime soon you can join us for a tasting.

So please please join the club. It's free and you'll get updates on all our future endeavors, get in on private barrel picks, and be part of something that's very special to Mr. & Mrs. Beast.

In between the big live tastings and private barrels, we're doing some fun podcasts with friends. Check out our latest 'cast with Jake Cahill where we let you in on the best whiskeys of the year that are being discontinued.  CLEAR THE SHELVES is your chance to learn the top 5 bottles you should stock up on since they won't be around next year.

Happy holidays everyone!!





Single Cask Nation - The Art of Deconstructing Blends

December 12, 2016

Single Cask Nation - The Art of Deconstructing Blends

It's always fun hanging out with friends and drinking whiskey. But this time it was serious!  We got the chance to preview Josh Hatton's new line of Single Cask Nation retail malts which are due to arrive in stores in February.  These were really interesting hand picked delicious casks strength scotch whiskies!

Check out the whole podcast where we get the full story!









Ardbeg Dark Cove - The... err... darkest Ardbeg ever... ish.

December 5, 2016

Ardbeg Dark Cove - The... err... darkest Ardbeg ever... ish.

As Ardbeg has had a penchant for doing over the past few years, they're produced something both instantly detestable and delicious. Allow me to explain.

The Ardbeg marketing machine is a serious corporate Death Star armed with three-wheeled motorized tricycles and solid gold bottles with S&M whiskey harnesses. And they seem to need this incessant hum drum of clich├ęd whiskypiphany (just made that up!) combined with over-the-top accessorization in order to pedal No-Age-Statement whiskies in a myriad of questionably different limited releases, consistently over $100/bottle. Hey, it's good work if you can get it. 

So when the latest Ardbeg limited release "Dark Cove" came out, we were predisposed to derision...





Add to our expected arsenal of abuse the fact that the label says all kinds of silly things on it.

"Take this whisky and hide it well. For its heart has been matured in DARK SHERRY CASKS, imparting waves of treacle toffee, coal tar, squid ink, noodles and toasted coffee grounds. The DARKEST ARDBEG ever."

The word "heart" actually does mean something when it comes to distilling - this isn't it. And doesn't this just seem like a list of dark things? Would you want to taste "squid ink" in your whisky? More to the point, this isn't the darkest Ardbeg ever. Not by a long shot. Here's what a dark Ardbeg looks like:



Here's the coal tar, squid ink, & coffee grounds Dark Cove:



Ok, ok, but enough kvetching about how it's not the darkest ever, it's not even that dark, and why do people keep trying to market "darkness" as if they're selling spray tan?  Let's taste it.

Tasting Notes

Nose: It really does smell delicious. There's a lot of peat, and it's just wrapped up beautifully in sweet black licorice. There's all kinds of good overripe fruits going on, like sickly sweet melons and guavas, in a good way... a really good way. There's some good leather polish, cough drops, and ocean brine. Weird bunch of notes to put together, but it's instantly recognizable as a quality malt. We'd be shocked if there wasn't at least a mix of some well-matured spirit in there despite the lack of age statement. 

Palate: The mouth-feel is just HUGE. Like sipping on castor oil, it absolutely coats your throat on the way down and lingers around the little pockets in your mouth. Very enjoyable. Note to self - if the 92 proofer is this thick, must make a point to try the 110 proof big brother, must be like crude oil. It's a very well balanced palate with more honey and traditional sherry notes like raisins & plums. 

Finish: Much lighter on the phenolic peat fire than your typical Ardbeg, the finish continues the trend here of wrapping up the smoke in the sweetness and fruit. It's memorable, but not in the "hours and hours of smoldering smoke" kind of way you've grown to expect from Ardbeg. This is a much more nuanced finish with the texture of the palate coming to the fore as the most memorable element. 

Review

Yes, yes it's still a NAS bottle for over a hundred dollars (or good luck finding the 110 proof committee version for under $250!), so we're supposed to be pissed off here. Sure, ok, we're still a little pissed off trying to pick the squid ink out of our teeth. But this stuff is GOOD. It's really an awesome drinking dram and still better than many >$100 bottles out there in our opinion. It's like what Corryvreckan was shooting for, with big fruits playing off against the peat, although Corry was a miss for us. This one nails it.

So good job Ardbeg, yet again despite having to climb the wall of marketing yakety yak, this malt is damn tasty.

Cheers/SB

Live podcast with Signatory Vintage

November 24, 2016

Live podcast with Signatory Vintage

If you're a fan of SB, you know that Signatory Vintage is one of our all-time favorite indie bottlers.  They have an epic collection (actually 3 collections) of malts focusing on Islay and Highland malts unchillfiltered, uncolored, with offerings at 92 proof and full cask strength. And they just always seem to pick the choicest barrels and release them in the perfect casks at the perfect age.

So we were very excited when Signatory agreed to lead our November Beast Masters Club tasting. This was by far the most far-reaching malt tasting we've done to date with bottles dating back to 1973, two big smoky Islay malts, and a fantastic 25 year Highland Park.

Ben (left) and Steve (right) talk with Tricia Chimento as we taste through the Signatory Vintage lineup

Please join our live Beast Masters Crew and listen to the podcast. (Or listen on iTunes)   If you're interested in any of the bottles they're available in our shop.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Oh and by the way, SmokyBeast hit a million page views this week, so thanks for all your continued love and support!!!

Cheers/SB



Interview with James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman

November 18, 2016

Interview with James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman

As part of their US East Coast Tour, James and Peter Wills from Kilchoman Distillery sat down with us for a podcast. It was a fun night as they tasted us through the entire Kilchoman line including the delicious new 8-year, and their limited release US Tour Bottle, a cask strength version of their flagship Machir Bay single malt.


I got to pour them some of my SmokyBeast SAOS Rye, which was a fitting welcome to NYC for these two.  Check out the full podcast or tune in on iTunes!