Blink and you miss them. That’s very much the market nowadays for calibre single casks from desirable bottlers. Now, I’m not saying the WhiskySponge is seductive in any shape or form, but for the background, I’d suggest you check out Adam’s piece on his previous cask picks.
In a realm of whisky writers and self-appointed experts and consultants, the reality is: few really matter. And by that I mean, offer insight, connect with their audience and take you on a journey. The two A’s in Adam and Angus are the best examples of what can be achieved and we’re fortunate to have them. My opinion of course and I’m welcome to it. Sadly, we don’t see too much of Angus on regular basis writing wise, with the sudden demise of Scotch whisky dot com. Outlets for full-time writers to showcase their talents are diminishing and more are chasing fewer opportunities. This means a dearth of articles that really satisfy our thirst for knowledge. And if Malt was a paying gig, if we even had a business model or even had a plan whatsoever: Angus would be on my hitlist.
The WhiskySponge is the alter ego, the Mr Hyde, of the whisky sphere. The destination where barbarous humour is delivered with poise and relentless satire. The place where no one is safe and we can all chuckle and delight in the extreme madness of it all. While realising that there’s more reality to proceedings than sheer fantasy. Ok, I think I’ve checked the Sponge is great box and we should move on.
Beyond the writing talents and knowledge of historical whisky. Angus can indeed pick a cask. If you’ve been fortunate to try one of the WhiskySponge releases or another selection, then this should be pretty evident. The Sponge series isn’t cheap at times, but it is releasing distinctive expressions, from what is an armchair or sponge-chair bottler, albeit a humorous one.
When these samples landed, it was the Ballechin that caught my immediate interest. Edradour is sitting on some fine peated casks and I’m not just meaning for Signatory. Their distillery exclusive earlier this year underlined that quality and we should revisit one of the Scotland’s most picturesque distilleries, on a more frequent basis. Sadly, even before I sat down for these tasting notes, it had sold out at £95 and the Port Charlotte at £195, vanished quicker than you can say influencer paid incentive scheme.
So, that proves the pricing is acceptable for many out there, which just does to show what I know? Bruichladdich did recently release a limited 16 year old Port Charlotte via ballot for £150, which is within my growing review pile. That particular bottling, featured more casks than preservatives within a box of Cheesey Pasta. Throw in the single cask format, a stripped back emphasis, that Islay premium and sadly the PC doesn’t seem that out of touch. Plus, if you’re already invested in the WhiskySponge series, either emotionally, from an investment point of view or just open the damn things (imagine that), then the FOMO kicks in.
The Port Charlotte is bottled at 57.1% strength and has matured in a 1st fill bourbon barrel giving 220 bottles. The Ballechin unleashed 302 bottles from a refill sherry hogshead, bottled at a splendid 55%. We’ll now check out the goods behind the cute labels.
WhiskySponge Ballechin 2005 – review
On the nose: treacle and ginger sponge cake. Cinder toffee, damp wood, carrot peelings, hessian fabric and maple syrup. Chocolate and used tea leaves follow with black peppercorns.
In the mouth: there’s a chewiness to this with plenty of autumnal peat, ginger and chilli flakes. Cereals, walnuts, wood spice, chocolate, tobacco and cinnamon.
WhiskySponge Port Charlotte 2002 – review
On the nose: yeah there’s peat obviously but it has stepped back, merging with the coastal influence including seaweed and saltiness. Apples, cauliflower, aniseed, pears and unused matchsticks. Memories of freshly prepared Arbroath smokies from the local food market linger, pine cones and lime. The smoke continues throughout into the finish with a sweet vanilla and crispy bacon.
In the mouth: well balanced, caramelised apples and the peat throughout provides gusto. Those coastal elements once more, but they are joined by a surprising degre of earthiness. Cracked black pepper, honey and sweet peat towards the finale.
The Ballechin is good fun, featuring a nicely balanced integration between the heavily peated spirit and the sherry wood. Some elements may cancel one another out, leaving you wanting more, which is always a promising sign. This is another example of the peat coming out of Edradour. In some respects, it is more modern day Lagavulin than Lagavulin, with the bonus of being more affordable.
Reflecting on the Port Charlotte, which is my favourite Bruichladdich distillate for a moment. I’d state this is the best PC I’ve experienced to date. There’s joyous interplay mixed with a degree of approachability that underlines the fact there’s more to this whisky than just Islay peat. Where a few more years in the cask might have taken us? Now, that’s exciting. This release underlines why independent bottlers are so important and the single cask format, so refreshing. An excellent pick.
Hopefully, we’re ready for the next set of releases.
Samples kindly provided by the WhiskySponge and artwork lifted from his abode.