Josh's Blog

Bruichladdich – The Organic 2020

A wild youngster throwing elbows in the mosh pit – but also has an appreciation for ska.

  • Bruichladdich
  • 50 percent
  • Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • Non chill filtered
  • No color added (I believe)
  • 8 year

Nose: Watermelon, banana, peach, pear, lime, over ripened melon, faint hint of cocoa, orange peel, green apple, butterscotch

Taste: Raisin, chocolate, smallest hint of tiramisu, banana, vanilla, cantaloupe

Quite a flamethrower when you first crack the bottle, but it simmers down over time as the air sorts out the temper. Its age forever locks away much smoothness, but it beams in character – suggesting that another 8 years in the cask might have maximized its potential. With a little water and patience however. it becomes quite the pleasant experience. With a complex bevy of notes to decipher on the front, and a contemplative finish that lingers.  Its simple presentation of lightness in color and no frills packaging underscores its brute confidence. 

Overall score:  6.75 out of 10

Dewars 12 Year

A prop whiskey. 

  • Dewars
  • 40 percent
  • Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Likely chill filtered
  • Likely color added
  • 12 year

Nose: Subtle hints of prune, kiwi, mango, faint bit of Elmers glue.

Taste: Extremely mild flavors with very little heat. Sweet and citrusy on the front end, tiny hint of banana and vanilla with a quick decline into general periphery with some added bitterness. 

Without question an entry level dram built for purpose. Like a White Zin, the flavors are vague beyond sweet. It is also watery. So watery in fact that I found myself wondering if it would have any negative impact on an actor who bottomed it up for a movie scene. That isn’t all that bad though. It is a whiskey with training wheels, a helmet on a treadmill. A starting line for someone to cautiously step into the world of whiskeys from. It might also be a good trainer spirit for a learning mixologist. 

Overall score: 4/10 + 1 for being a gift from family. So 5/10

Ledaig 10 Year

Smokey peat oversees a delightful bevy of distant flavors

  • Ledaig
  • 46.3 percent
  • Single Malt
  • Non chill filtered
  • Natural color
  • 10 year

Nose: slightly burnt wet timber, salty lemon, beef jerky, pepper, mandarin, peach, over ripe fruit, popcorn

Taste: campfire, hint of butterscotch, oats, bitter chocolate, maple syrup, touch of fudge, bit of pear, and a fresh band aid

The flavors, the quality, the presentation…all are beautifully represented in this lovely gem from the Scottish Isles. The way Ledaig have managed to include such depths of flavour in the limited real estate that a peaty profile allows is amazing – especially at just ten years old. Equally amazing is that Ledaig packed this kind of quality into a bottle under £50. I don’t mean to be a gate keeper – but Im glad that Tesco, Asda, and other retailers in the UK are selling various big named brands at this price point. It saves the quality for the rest of us out there who relish it. In a world where vintage scotch whiskey has become a commodity – because new wood isn’t as good as old, because more ingredients are sourced from tired soil…because demand ravages supply, this is one of those thoughtful specimens that will probably be remembered by the current generation of scotch drinkers – once old – of the good old days – when there were still examples of premium products for the common man.46.

Ben Bracken 40%

A slightly better than plain jane little Single Malt from the Highlands.

         Ben Bracken  ·    40 percent  ·    Single Malt  ·   Likely chill filtered  ·    Color added  ·  No age

I’ve been progressively taking scotch seriously for around ten years now. Watched Ralfy’s wonderful reviews for over five of those. I’ve toured some remarkable distilleries around Glasgow and the Isle of Arran and been to a few tasting events. Compared to someone like Ralfy, I feel this experience has netted me around maybe 10 to 12 percent of a true connoisseur’s ability to discern a good scotch from a bad one. Aside from tasting notes, focusing on the dram in both pure and watered form, and scrutinizing the label for those magic 41+ percent numbers, I always look out for respectable age statements, non chill filtration, and natural color. That’s about it. It is hard for me to home in on some of the finer tasting notes on the label or from other reviewers…but Im kinda getting there…md I don’t chew gum whilst tasting. So knowing that about me, I am happy to share my opinions about these various expressions.

Ben Bracken does not have any of the abovementioned qualifications on its label. It is vey much colored, pegged at 40 percent, has no age statement and almost certainly chill filtered. To make matters worse – I jumped into this bottle at the same time I was experiencing Ledaig 10 year (a Ralfy favorite), which is a superb single malt with peat perfectly balanced to allow access to its fantastic depth of spicey flavors.

Ben was given to me for my Birthday by my father-in-Law and brother-in-Law. While this is adds a bit of bias in my review – I will try to remain as objective as possible. Its not bad, but it isn’t especially good either…but, as I have noticed with many other bottles – it does get better as the bottle ages after opening.

Nose: glue, light citrus, prunes, chocolate

Taste: Tiny notes of nuts, chocolate, hint of vanilla, very little finish.

Initially, I was underwhelmed by the experience. It felt like it was pulled off a production line before it was even complete. I think this is largely to do with how fast the flavors dissipate after they hit the tongue. The initial taste is the arrival, and the finish happens with an abrupt stutter, and flattens out into a somewhat bitter aftertaste. The flavors – during their short glow – offer a few pleasant notes of that sweet highland charm that we all expect from this region – but just cant hold it quite long enough. In other words, the expression was clouded by noise and distraction. However, I received this bottle in May, and I finished it in October – and I have to say, throughout this timespan I found the bottle to become a bit smoother and settled. The sweet end became little sweeter, lasted a little longer, and the overall experience a little friendlier on the palette. It sort of hit some of the bases that scotch drinker looks for – but none of them particularly well. It is a scotch for folks who like the concept of scotch whisky, have a limited knowledge of it, and use affordability as the guiding light. It is also for folks that are out to buy a gift for a scotch drinker.  Would I personally go out and purchase this? No. Would I recommend it? Not really. Would I say its not worth trying? No, not at all. It might even make a good base to mix in a better single malt with to prolong the superior bottle – but I suspect there are better choices out there for this purpose. Is it an okay scotch, further heightened as a gift from family, that was a pleasurable experience for me on that merit alone?


Observations of Dirty Old Town by the Pogues

Here we take a look under the hood at some of the interesting dynamics contained within this classic Irish tune…

The introduction is set in the key of D, using the following progression:

D, G. Em, Bm.   The progression degrees are I, IV, II, VI

The beginning vocals “I met my love…” transition us to the key of G – the body of the song –  with the following supporting progression:

G, C, D, Em.   A progression of I, IV, V, VI

The song then changes into the key of C for the solo section

F, G Am A progression of I, IV, V, VI

The relationship of the key changes themselves are observed as D -> G -> C -> G

As a transition observation, the key changes follow this order: D to G; G to C; C to G.

D -> G = I, IV        G -> C = I, IV        C -> G = I, V

This resides within the I, IV, V – the classic major progression of countless songs.                                                                                         

The Circle of Fifths illustrates the close relationship the chord degrees and key changes have with eachother.

We also see that each family of chords within the keys reside very close to one another on the circle and occupy a little of the other’s space.

As well, the relative minor for each key is also included in the chords (VI).

This relative minor element serves as the catalyst for each key change.

The change to G of from Bm grabs your attention in an agreeable way as we leave the key of D.

From VI to I

The change to C of from Em grabs your attention in an agreeable way as we leave the key of G.

From VI to I

And the change to G from Am grabs your attention in an agreeable way as we leave the key of C.

From VII to I

Busking at the Leyton Super Store Center​

Busking at the Leyton Super Store Center

Had a really nice time today busking with my new friend Lilly in the gritty area of Leyton. The area was a busy shopping center – where, to liken to something similar in the US – would be one of those large shopping centers scattered across the nation where both a Walmart and Home Depot would be within the same proximity. This was s first time busking for me in a couple of years. The last time I busked proper with someone else was with a Scottish Ukelele player named Graeme, who has long since moved to Australia. Anyways, Lilly and I had a great time. As a first time jam with one another, it was a great exposure to one another’s playing style and I think we will only get better over time. It was also a lot of fun, and, we each made a cool 2.50GBP – just enough for a budget pint of swill at the local Whetherspoons. 


Halloween Carving Party

Yesterday the boys and I made some Jack’o’Lanterns in preparation for Halloween . One of the kiddos went above and beyond with his pumpkin interpretation of Captain Jack Sparrow. We needed a beard so we cut my hemp bracelet in half to complete the look, using magnets for the beads. In all it was a lot of work and a lot of fun. We played Halloween music on my phone as we carved. \m/

Btw, the random etch’a’sketch photo is of Davy Jones form Pirates of the Caribbean. I drew it for the kiddos and was so damned impressed with myself I had to snap a pic!

Croucher & Co Periodical / Suntory Whisky Toki

An unlikely pairing of a Scottish lowland single malt and middle Japan blended whisky yields an interesting voyage into famiiar flavours. 

Periodical – Oloroso Barrel
Nose: Pronounced banana, honey, orange rind, hints of apricot, vanilla, and mixed fruit
Age: 14 years
Region: Lowlands (Loch Lomand)
ABV: 50%
Pallate: Spicey vanilla, boiled fruits, watercress, sea salt
Finish: Long, with very little bitterness. Doesnt dry the mouth, shallow depth of melon flavors.
Source: Purchased form Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow<

I am learning that whiskys I initially dont like tend to grow on me as I make my way through the bottle. I am the same way with music, actually. I recall that many a favorite song today was a tune I initially cared very little for until I ‘got it’. I think some aspect of that plays into my still juvenile journey of appreciating good drams… but there is no doubt something else going on. Oxygen i reckon. The venom like potency of this Periodical spirit softens over time. The more air that replaces the liquid in the bottle, the more tame it becomes. I suppose this is why a tasting legend like Ralfy always articulates that patience is the master key toward enjoying a good whisky, going as far as to recommend that one should wait at least one minute for each year listed on a bottle’s age statement prior to tasting. So 21 year Balvenie should sit in its glass for 21 minutes before it is experienced. Periodical benefits greatly from some time with the windows down. However, at 50% ABV it is still a handful after using Ralfy’s formula. Indeed, it is  a very hot drink out the gate. Enter a second technique, the controlled introduction of water.  Interestingly, Periodical has a glass jaw when it comes to water. A drop too many and you instantly get a hazy bathtub of worn, stretched flavours of no value. Get the balance right however, and you’ll break through the fire and into a corner of delightfully rewarding flavors. Periodical’s flavor profile does not contain much depth. however, it is the voyage to get there that makes the experience worthwhile.  At 50% ABV, Periodical is the strongest bottle of Scottish whisky I’ve had yet. It is a unique dram, and one that seems geared entirely for those who’ve been through the introductions already. For the rest of us, it might take a few jams on the headphones before we can actually ‘get it’.

Rating: 6.5/10

Suntory Whisky Toki
Nose: Citrus flavors, vanilla extract, ripe cantelope, hint of lemon drop
Age: No age statement (Blended whisky)
ABV: 43%
Palate: Floral, Hints of fig, honey, pear, vanilla
Finish: coasting finish of diminshing flavours, a bit dry towards the end, but overall pleasing through its course.

A smooth blend that is extremely welcoming, both in its flavor profile and its smooth delivery. At 43% it is a cut above most blends Ive had in its price range, and it is simple to enjoy. At its heart is a soothing sweet charm that that somehow manages to be almost perfectly balanced. At 43 percent it retainsa nip out of the cask, and allows for a bit of water to assit in accessibility. It really is almost too easy. to enjoy. Its only shortcoming  is that there is very little depth of flavor for me. It says what it says at the beginning (very sweet , affable whatnots) then sits down shly until the next sip. This was a very nice bottle to enjoy along with the Periodical. They both have similar characteristics, but deliver them defferently. One with the fire of a short tempered Spanish brunette (that wants you in the sack), and the other with a much more courteous approach. But almost so much as to they become invisible amongst the rest of the crowd.

Rating: 6.5/10


Four on the floor

Tonight I am polishing off 4 bottles of dram. A Clynelish 14 year, a Mortlach Rare Old, a Chivas Regal XV Balmain, and an Arran Barrel Reserve.

Mortlach Old Rarebig hat for the cattle.
Type: Single Malt
Age: No Age Statement
Region: Highlands/Speyside (east coast)
ABV: 43.4%
Pros: All rounder, allows for quick acclimation to its character, lovely bottle
Cons: No age statement, colour likely added, chill filtered, short finish, shallow depth
Nose: Scent of lemon, salt, vanilla spice, passion fruit
Taste: Dates, a bit of raisin  and vanilla, overripened fruits, chocolate, a bit of peatiness, and nippy for 40% abv
Finish: Leaves the mouth dry but physically watery
Comments: While it does deliver on some nice overall flavours, none of them quite possess the depth needed to impart a lasting impression. However, this lovely little bottle was a suprise gift from my Father in Law for my 47th birthday, which propels this to an all time fav. 6/10 + 4 in sentimental value

Chivas Regal XV Balmain – a notable blend after some time.
Type: Single Malt
Age: 15
Region: Highlands/Speyside
ABV: 40%
Pros: A decent bttle of dram for the price point
Cons: Colour likely added, chill filtered, nice flavours but fade very quickly, plastic bottle cap
Nose: Scent of lemon, salt, vanilla spice, passion fruit
Taste: Dates, a bit of raisin  and vanilla, figs, melon, cool on the bite
Finish: A nice lingering of the same flavours that seems to develop into a faint floral sweetness
Comments: A medley of sweet flavours that culminate into a satisfying experience. No water necessary but a small taster spoon also doesnt take away from it. 6/10

Arran Barrel Reserve – not nearly to my fancy as the 10 year, but still chum-worthy
Type: Single Malt
Age: No Age Statement
Region: Highlands/Lowland divide/Isle
ABV: 43%
Pros: A peaty addition to the Arran collection, natural color,  smooth and mildly complex
Cons: No chill filter statement, seems a bit young, not quite on the maturity mark
Nose: sea salt, passion fruit, apple, vanilla spice, mango and pear
Taste: A nice echo of the nose, with the vanilla ripened fruit bcoming more pronounced as it develops, a bit of peach and a taste of peat.
Finish: Best finish of the bunch so far, with a gradual fade into  subtle vanilla and maple creaminess.
Comments: While not as mature or a impressionable as the legendary 10 year Arran, this bottle stand on its own as a quality bottle for its low price point. 6/10

Clynelish 14 – the Alpha of the bunch
Type: Single Malt
Age: 14
Region: Highlands
ABV: 46%
Pros: The most quaiity for price I have had in recent memory.
Cons: No chill filter statement, no colour statement
Nose: Wonderful aroma of butterscotch, sea salt, caramel, and mixed fruits, apricot melon, and orange specifically.
Taste: Rich, sweet notes compared to the other spirits in this list.It just covers the tongue in floral notes, butter, faint toffee, hints of cocao, and more. 
Finish: Apple peach, apricot, banana, 
Comments: This little tasting adventure truly ended on the best note that it could have. The Clynelish dwarves the other drams in just about every facet of its expression.A long smooth finish a beautilful balance of alcohol and flavour, a wonderful nose. An absolute joy of an experience. 8.5/10

RedBreast 12 Year

Fruity, zesty, bright and light, easy to drink with little bite.

Purchased from the House of Malt onn the 27th of September of 2021. Finished this evening, on the 29th of April 2022. Price was 42.40 GBP.

Region: Ireland                              ABV: 4o%

Expressions also enjoyed during this time were Arran 10 year, Glengoyne 18, Arran Barrel Reserve, Chivas Regal XV Balmain, and Arran Cream Liquor.

Pros: Tropical overtones. Easy on the tongur with just enough heat. Few flavors to unpack make this a terrific bottle to devlop a palate with. 
Cons: Was not the same dram at the end of the bottle as it was at the beginning. First pull was not impressive, yet last pull was stellar. This was over six months, Not sure which flavrou RedBreast was going for. 

Nose: Lemony candy, seasalt, fresh fruit
Taste: Orange peel, ripe melon, peach, tiny bit of butterscotch. No need to add water to its 40 percent ABV. 
Finish: A nice long finish that moves from the citrusy tang to very faint, yet perfectly satisfying cholocate creamy coconut.   

Additional notes: This bottle has really suprised me over the several months of pulling off it. When I first popped it I thought it was a bit too ordinary, with a very average overall whisky tone. However, the time in the bottle has really opened this dram into a delightful experience, with all sorts of flavours having come out of the woodwork, and all of them very chummy with the taste buds. RedBreast is also a pot still whisky from Ireland. 

Dram Rating: