Le Trou du Diable – Dulcis Succubus

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Le Trou du Daible is one of a handful of premiere breweries out of Quebec, and Dulcis Succubus is a flagship beer from the brewery.  At least, that’s what I gather based on its astronomical price.  This price comes from the fact that it is barrel aged and it is produced with wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation, all of which has been applied to a saison or farmhouse ale base.

Saisons with brettanomyces or other wild yeasts are one of my most adored beer styles.  There are a number of great examples out there, including Upright Brewing’s Saison du Blodget which I had quite recently.  Logsdon makes world-class examples of this style as well.  I prefer Dulcis Succubus to any of the aforementioned; it’s that good.

I think this comes largely from the barrel aging:  there is a good dose of oak flavour from beginning to end.  The nose is primarily fruit and some musty fruit skin:  apricot, pear, peach.  These are also present as flavours and combine with the big oak barrel character and a gueuze-like, complex yet gentle sourness.  The acidity of this beer is quite wonderful and is more significant than most saison-brett beers.  It’s a little dry thanks to the acidity and barrel character and wonderfully crisp from the saison side of things.

It has a high price of entry, but I truly believe if you like sour saisons, this is a must-try.

Driftwood – Bird of Prey 2014

I was genuinely filled with glee when I learned that Driftwood was re-releasing their original sour from 2011, Bird of Prey.  I have all the others in my cellar, but Bird of Prey was sadly absent.  2011 was about when I got into sours, and I missed the original release because I wasn’t as well connected as I am now with what’s going on in the beer scene.  Thankfully, Driftwood gave me a second chance.

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Bird of Prey is a Flanders Red, which is quite specific geographically, but looser in flavour profile. For instance, Duchesse de Bourgogne is very sweet and only slightly tart, whereas Cuvée de Jacobins is a pucker-fest. Bird of Prey is kind of muted on both sides.

Flanders / Flemish reds get their character from Lactobacillus, which produces a sourness by way of the production of lactic acid.  Bird of Prey has a serious lactic funk, especially through the finish of each sip.  It’s actually slightly heavy, though not unpleasant.  There is grape must, sour cherries (though not overly sweet), and a heavy tannin bill on the nose.  The palate is gentler, with the fruitiness kept fairly low profile.  It is good, though not as lively as you’ll find in some Flanders reds.

I also decided to pop open a bottle of Lustrum to compare and contrast between, though these are not the same style at all and thus comparison is kind of moot.  Mostly I wanted to see which I preferred, and I bought so many bottles of Lustrum I am always looking for an excuse to open one.

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Mostly they’re different, but they do share a common thread when it comes to that lactic funk:  both exhibit a strong lactic funk which outlasts the rest of the flavours.  Lactic acid is a welcome and important part of many sour beers, though it is a taste that ought to clean up after itself.  By that I mean other characteristics of the beer (for instance, carbonation, barrel character, fruit flavour, or hops profile) come in and neutralize the funk towards the back end of the palate.  Neither of these fully clean up after themselves in this regard, but the funk that’s left behind is by no means unpleasant.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Bird of Prey does with a little age.  It will be joined by its pals Lustrum, Belle Royale, and Mad Bruin in the cellar and the next tasting will likely involve all four.

Tangent: Single Malt Whisky

Now that I’m beginning to use this blog for all kinds of random things, let me post up about my other alcohol-related infatuation: single malts.  I’ve been into craft beer a lot longer than whisky (about 10 years), but a couple years ago my interest in single malt whisky overtook my interest in beer and I was on several whisky forums and always researching and planning my next purchase.  In the last year my interest in whisky reduced to a healthier level while my infatuation with beer is at an all-time high.

During the 18 months or so that I was totally hooked on whiskies though I collected what remains more or less my perfect dozen.  Twelve bottles was my self-imposed limit to ensure that my scotch collection didn’t get too out of hand.  It also meant I had to spend a little more time planning an appropriate range–both in cost and flavour.  Twelve probably sounds like a lot of bottles, but trust me, the limit comes quick.

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Okay, so there are thirteen bottles.  The Auchentoshan was a more recent gift and I already had my twelve.  It does suit the collection well though, as I wanted another light & smooth bottle for times when you’re not looking for a thinker.  The nature of these things is they tend to be consumed, so I’m not exactly stuck at 13.

So from left to right, this is what I have and why I have it:

The Laddie Ten:  This is an absolutely outstanding young, unpeated scotch.  Reasonably priced too at around $70.   Laddie is non-chill filtered, not artificially coloured, and 46% ABV.   These are nice features for this price range.   The flavour is quite powerful and complex for a young’in, with honey, some spices, slightly floral, and vegetal peatiness despite being unpeated.  If anything it’s a little harsh but that’s part of what comes with the territory for a young whisky.

Auchentoshan 12:  Not actually chosen by me, I don’t think this would have been one I’d buy myself but I’m glad to have it.  Unlike the Laddie this is a smooth and gentle one.  Lots of honey and caramel.  Not too complex but quite enjoyable.  This is a good one to have for guests who aren’t into the ‘hardcore’ whiskies.

Balvenie Golden Cask:  This is the only bottle in my collection that I just bought on a whim without prior research.  I was pleased with the result – this is rum barrel-aged and the rum notes of sweet apple and toffee are in there.  As I’m used to finding with Balvenie, the flavour profile is quite subtle, so it takes some careful reflection before you find a lot of what lurks within.

Balvenie 15 year Single Barrel:  This is a pretty cool whisky.  As the name implies, the contents all come from a single barrel instead of the standard method of mixing a whole bunch of barrels to produce a larger, more consistent batch.  So each barrel produces a slightly different result.  The details of the barrel are printed on the bottle:  the spirit went in June 20th, 1997 and came out August 7th, 2012.  Wonderful oak and honey, sweet floral depths.  Great complexity.  I paid $138 from BCL for this bottle, which is on par with the most I’ve spent on a bottle of whisky.  It’s been unavailable there for some time now, though.

Glenfarclas 15 year:  And onto the sherried whiskies.  Glenfarclas 15 is a gold-mine of sherry flavour, rich and smooth.  Vanilla, grape, plum, nougat, some citrus, this is a dessert scotch for sure.  I would put this in the top 3 whiskies of what I have.  BCL carries only the 17 year, which isn’t as good as the 15 but the 15 can be found in private liquor stores for a pretty reasonable $105 or so.

Aberlour A’Bunadh:  This is an infamous whisky, known for packing one of the biggest sherry punches ever produced by a scotch.  Part of this punch comes from the fact it is bottled at cask strength (about 59-60% ABV), and part is due to the first-fill Spanish oloroso sherry butts that are used.  Its colour has a rich sherry-red tinge to give visual proof of its influence.   A’Bunadh is batched based on the sherry butt it came out of, so batch variations exist and some batches are considered far superior to others.  I bought a batch #44.  Lots of dark fruit, lots of vanilla and spices.  Takes some water to get the edge off and bring out more complexity.

Springbank 10:  This is a Campeltown whisky, which are pretty uncommon.  You pay a bit of a premium for this stuff but it’s unlike anything else I’ve had, landing somewhere between a peaty Islay scotch and a sweeter Highland scotch.  Great complexity and a modest amount of peat smoke.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask:  I have this and then 10 year and they each have their own distinct peat character.  Quarter Cask packs a bit harsher punch and has a fully enveloping smokiness that wraps around a sweet and oaky body.  Very, very good and a great deal at $75.  It’s also 48% ABV which contributes to the extra flavour.

Laphroaig 10 year:  The 10 year is all about a one-dimensional but fantastic campfire smoke character.  It’s rich, gentle but powerful and fully enveloping.  Easier to approach than the Quarter Cask but by no means less peaty.

Ardbeg 10:  The Ardbeg peat is completely a different animal altogether.  I would never use the term ‘campfire’ to explain this peat.  It is much more vegetal.  The colour is surprisingly pale but that does not reflect in the flavour.

Ardbeg Uigeadail:  This is my favourite whisky.  It’s $135 yet I still think it’s a steal for what you get – not many $300 whiskies can beat it.  It has tons of sherry character with fruit, spice and sweetness which is set against what I can only describe as hugely expansive peat smoke that seems to fill the room around you.  It’s truly the whole package.  It’s also very strong stuff, so some water does help.  It takes me all evening to get through an ounce of this because the finish is just so damn long.

Lagavulin 12 year:   The 16 year is Lagavulin’s bread and butter, but this cask-strength, limited release 12 year is extremely interesting as well.  It isn’t quite as peaty as its older brother but packs great complexity and power.

Talisker Distiller’s Edition:  The Distiller’s Edition program is used across the Classic Malt lineup which includes a handful of popular distilleries.  The idea is that they take their standard whisky, in this case the 10 year, and put it in sherry casks for about another year to impart some additional flavour.  The results vary in terms of whether the finished product is an improvement over the base scotch, but in the case of Talisker, the peppery peaty 10 year meshes so perfectly with the sweet sherry polishing.  It’s absolutely stunning.