Hakushu Heavily Peated

Hakushu Heavily Peated 01Distillery: Hakushu
Country: Japan
Age: No age statement
abv: 48%

One of only nine Japanese whisky distilleries, Hakushu is located on Japan’s main island of Honshu. Often dubbed the ‘Forest Distillery’, Hakushu can be found at the foot of Mount Asayo in the Southern Alps. Unsurprisingly, this gives it access to some of the highest quality water sources in Japan. Hakushu opened its doors in 1973 and is owned by Suntory, one of Japan’s oldest and most famous whisky producers. The Heavily Peated expression was released as a limited edition in 2013 and is now hard to come by. I for one hope it will be relaunched soon, as this is wonderful dram that offers subtlety, complexity, and a very pleasant waft of peat smoke.

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Octomore 06.1 Scottish Barley

Octomore 6.1 Scottish BarleyDistillery: Bruichladdich
Region: Islay
Age: 5 years old
abv: 57%

Styling themselves as ‘progressive Hebridean distillers’, Bruichladdich has released its fair share of interesting whisky experiments over the years. While some of these are now found on the junkyard of bravely tried but failed ideas (such as Bruichladdich X4), the Octomore range sure has proved a big success. At 167 ppm, Octomore 06.1 was the peatiest whisky in the world when it was released, although it has since been superseded by newer Octomore expressions. In comparison, heavily peated whiskies like Laphroaig and Ardbeg are peated to ‘only’ about 40-55 ppm. Combine this with the fact that Octomore is bottled at 57% abv and this whisky sure knows how to pack a punch. The youthfulness of this whisky notwithstanding, I for one absolutely love this dram!

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Laphroaig QA Cask

Laphroaig QA Cask 02Distillery: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
Age: No age statement
abv: 40%

Although offered as a travel retail exclusive, Laphroaig QA Cask is thankfully becoming more widely available. QA refers to Quercus Alba, the scientific name for American white oak. After an initial period of maturation in the customary ex-bourbon casks, this Laphroaig was transferred to new American oak casks. The result is a much softer, sweeter Laphroaig than usual, as the virgin oak smoothes out a lot of the rough, peaty character. To experiment with a tamed version of their whisky, Laphroaig therefore decided against lowering the peat level in their barley (as was the case for the ill-fated Ardbeg Blasda for example), and instead opted to let the wood do the work. This is a decision that has worked out wonderfully well and this Laphroaig is certainly worth a try!

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Fettercairn Fior

Fettercairn Fior reviewDistillery: Fettercairn
Region: Highland
Age: No age statement
abv: 42%

A little known distillery, Fettercairn is situated in the eastern Highlands, south of Aberdeen. Initially operational as a grain mill, it was converted into a licensed distillery soon after the 1823 Excise Act made legal whisky distilling a profitable option. Although the distillery actually produces around 1.6 million litres of alcohol per year, the larger part of this disappears into blends, most notably Whyte & Mackay. In 2010 however, Fettercairn was rebranded as a premium single malt, of which Fior is one of the main expressions.

Gaelic for ‘pure and true’, Fior is a fusion of older sherried whisky (around 14-15 years) mixed with young, heavily peated spirit from first-fill bourbon casks. The peated whisky supposedly makes up only 15% of the total mix, providing Fior with wonderfully subtle smoky undertones. Although blends provide a vital stream of income for many distilleries, Fettercairn Fior is another great example of the pure joy that single malts can bring to the table. I hope we can expect more big things from this small Highland distillery.

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