About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts, though I may wander elsewhere from time to time. The views expressed here are entirely my own!

Sunday, 13 April 2014

ABERLOUR 1989 - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Its time for another another malt whos original bottlings are only seen as sherry cask matured versions... Aberlour. Think most of us love the uncompromising A'Bunadh - a brute force young-ish NAS cask strength sherry monster, released in batches - so far up to batch#47...

Like I mentioned with Glendronach in my previous review, there have been duds among the A'bunadh batches too (sulphur), but guess that just can't be avoided. The other standard bottlings of Aberlour are bottled at 40-43% abv, so not so much fun in those, IMO... though they are all decent drams.

If you get a chance to visit this charming little distillery, don't miss out your chance to 'Bottle your own' Aberlour. They usually have 2 options available, a sherry and a more bourbon matured version. These are usually aged between 14-16 years and are still good value for money. Last time I bottled a couple was in August 2012 and they were £65/bottle then.

Also the staff there (in 2012) were very forthcoming and enthusiastic about their whole setup, so again a thumbs up for that. I've passed the distillery a couple of times since, but not stopped by for a tour since, so please make up your own mind about the place when/if you visit... :-)

The small stills at Aberlour Distillery, September 26th 2010 © The Malt Desk
Aberlour 1989 23yo 54,9%, 2 ex-bourbon hogheads, 522 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Vanilla, mellow feel to the nose, eucalyptus (tooth paste), fresh mown grass, some mineral notes and anis peeping through along with a handful of fruit.

Taste:
Creamy, lovely easy malty edge, bit of oak spice, honey, white garden fruits, mainly apple, but also tangerines and raspberry in there. Experiencing just a slight tongue burn on the finish, but nothing to upset the very nice experience this one delivering.

A nice 2 cask vatting for sure, this one

87/100!

Friday, 11 April 2014

GLENDRONACH 1990 - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Glendronach has, in whisky circles, been called the new Macallan... and rightly so. It carries the heavily sherried style that is now gone from Macallan except for a few very high priced bottlings, ripe only for the collectors market.

Glendronach, on the other hand, is still with reach of the many, though we are beginning to see the distillery realising their potential - bottlings have seen a rise, especially the past year or so as the distillery have grown ever more popular.

Like Macallan, Glendronach produces a heavier style spirit, as in more oily and mouth filling and enhanced by (mostly, there have been some duds) good and even great sherry casks, its obvious to see why Glendronach have quickly gathered a huge fan crowd.

Also like Macallan, we sometimes see the occasional Glendronach ex-bourbon cask escape the blenders grasp and its one such I'll review below...

Dronach Burn and warehouses, April 30th 2011 © The Malt Desk 
Glendronach 1990 23yo, 53,9%, ex-bourbon cask, 162 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is straw

Nose:
Vanilla, licorice, ginger, spicy, fresh cut bell peppers, apple and gooseberries

Taste:
Spicy and lighter than expected. lemon and black pepper, vanilla and ginger again, bitter almonds and black olives - very mouth filling and oily

A good dram - no doubt and I will take a second pour if offered, but there's quite an oaky nip to this one and its not quite in full balance.

85/100!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 1985 - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

To finish off this streak of Highland Park bottlings, I have saved an indie treat for you. Like the 'Freya' I just reviewed, its matured in ex-bourbon but a single cask this time and not a 1st fill either like the 'Freya'.

It is, however, really something of a treat and if you love your whisky fruity with a dash of peat this is certainly one to go for - although the price may be a bit of a hinder, its €200 here in Denmark.

Never then less, for a bottling this quality and age, in times like these, it seems a pretty fair price. (Is this a new opinion from me? I dunno, maybe, but its what springs to mind when thinking of this bottling). Here's my short review...

Highland Park 1985 28yo 48,3%, ex-bourbon cask, 252 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Loads of tropical fruit and vanilla, fresh baking, sugars, peach, banana and aromatic smoke, bit of citrus (lemon) and a fresh garden smell (grassy?).

Taste:
Tropical fruits galore, some spice and a smoke trail, also quite some mineral notes, barley juice and green notes, carries a very creamy mouth feel and very much in balance, I'd say....

Great stuff! its certainly delivers everything the nose lines up for you. It's good to see older Highland Park from the indies, especially Cadenhead, that's put out some good stuff over the years... just last year the 25yo small batch - you remember that one??

89/100!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

OFFICIAL DANISH LAUNCH OF HIGHLAND PARK 'FREYA' IN COPENHAGEN

Just like last year, for the DK lauch of the Highland Park 'Loki', the weather was great when I headed to Copenhagen to attend the launch of this years release in the Valhalla series, the long awaited 'Freya'.
The short 40min domestic flight to get to Copenhagen from here was smooth as 25yo Highland Park and after a delicious lunch, I had had a walk through some iconic parts of our nations capitol, snapping some pictures on the way.

Whisky and Viking jewelry - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
I then headed across the city bridge to 'Christianhavn' and had a coffee to go and enjoyed the sun a bit by one of the canals there before heading to the Michelin rated Restaurant 'Kadeau' for the event hosted by Highland Park Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen and guest speaker Jim Lyngvild who was there to give his view on who Freya was and what she would be would be like in the modern world.
 
Jim is know for his impressive traditional viking long house inspired home and his general fascination with all things viking, while at the same time possessing an ability to give great twist to already existing stories - this days twist was that the focus person 'Freya' -according to historical records- may not have Norse in her origins at all, but rather from a region in further down in Europe.
 
Jim Lyngvild gives his take on who 'Freya' really was - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
To accompany the food a couple of Highland Parks from the travel retail series were served as appetisers before 'Freya' was presented - those were;
 
Highland Park 'Svein' NAS 40%, Distillery Bottling (travel retail)
 
Only a few general notes were taken on this, but very pleasant, especially since its the entry level bottling for Highland Park's travel retail range...

Very fresh, citrus (orange),vanilla and fruits, malt and aromatic smoke.

Tastes very fresh - again with vanilla, burst of citrus fruits, spices and a good smoky arrival mid palate. I'd call this a playful and very aperitif style and very lively whisky and certainly much better than expected and reputed, IMO.

Not scored as it was served with food

Highland Park 'Einar' NAS 40%, Distillery Bottling (travel retail)


Very similar to the 'Svein' but slightly heavier in style. I review the expression in full last summer in end of June.

Again, not scored on the day as it was served with food.

The 'Einar' review can be found by following this link.
 
Camilla and Martin from Edrington DK presenting the 'Freya' - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
Now lets try the latest release in the Highland Park Valhalla-collection...

Highland Park 'Freya' 15yo 51,2%, 19000 bottles, Distillery bottling

This is a bottling a bit out of the usual style for Highland Park as it comes from 100% 1st fill ex-bourbon casks.

Tasted at home from a 5cl sample

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Vanilla, ginger, tropical and citrus fruit (pineapple, orange and lemon) , bit of smoke and floral hints (rose and lavender?) and danish honey on toast. The nose gets a lot more malty with extra time in the glass.

Taste:
Orange and raspberry, ginger again but also a spicy oak nip - a clear influence from the 1st fill ex-bourbon casks. More tropical fruit and Galia and honey dew melon comes along and bring juicy barley and a whiff of smoke before turning into spicy again. The 'Freya' carries a lingering alcohol and, surpisingly, another burst of peat on your lips and tongue before disappearing with a medium length finish.

I'm guessing this is not a dram for everyone. You have to like the nipping oak and spices from the 1st fill ex-bourbon casks to really appreciate this one (and I do). On the other hand, I don't find this one quite as good as either the 'Thor' or the 'Loki', but its still close to its brethren and still very good whisky - so good I had to secure a bottle.

As with the Highland Park 'Loki', the malt used to produce this was peated with Orkney peat, but matured mainly at the Edrington warehouses in Glasgow, rather than on Orkney.
Originally destined for the blending vats, the casks making up this bottling was considered by Edrington to be too good to let that happen and 'Freya' is a result of this...

87/100!

The featured bottles of March 13th 2014 @ Kadeau in Copenhagen - Pictures courtesy of Holm & Bertung - pics by Emil Monty Freddie
Finally, thanks to Martin Markvardsen for this additional info and to Edrington DK & Holm & Bertung for the invitation to the event. Also thanks to the team at Restaurant 'Kadeau' for providing us with delicious norse inspired courses.

Friday, 28 March 2014

GIVING THE DANISH WHISKY FAIR 2014 A MISS (WHISKYMESSEN.DK)

Tomorrow, saturday 29th March is the day of the Danish Whisky Fair this year... and I was really set on going this year as I wasn't there last year.

BUT... and there's always a but...

The Danish whisky forum (whiskynyt.dk) recently sprouted a thread about what the exhibitors are bringing to the fair - and of course also the pricing. This, of course, also made me take a look at what will be served at the stands... and frankly, for an anorak with 5½ hours of train travel to/from the fair and quite a few malts under the belt, its just not good enough!

I spoke to a credible person in the retail chain today and he told me that the reason one of the larger importers here in Denmark doesn't attend any more, is the fair is now about lots more than just whisky. It's trinkets, guys with chain saws carving wood sculptures etc. - the whisky just don't have 100% attention any more... and this is a major importer we're talking about here !!

We're now seeing more and more rum too - (Att: Importers - it's not the Danish Rum Fair, guys !!!)
It's either that, or I've already tried many of the dram being served there. In fact, I found just 3-4 stands out of app. 40 that will be serving whiskies of interest to me... and the exclusive bar is just overpriced for a whole day out and since bourbon is not really my thing either, I'm not exactly spoiled for choice.

So, sorry guys - I'm giving this year a miss too... and unless the programme picks up next year (unlikely, IMO, with whisky skyrocketing these day) I won't be going then either.

A couple of tickets for this years fair that won't get used, March 28th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Among the exhibitors, though, I would like to point out a few that DO have what seems to be a good stand with fair prices and most importantly a fairly good or even great selection. One of them is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Denmark stand and the other importer FC Whisky that, among others, bring Adelphi, Signatory and Kilchoman to Denmark. Keep up the good work, guys!! (and NO, I do not get better priced whiskies for mentioning these guys).

Again, we're seeing the new trend in whisky, kicking in here. It's whisky for the masses, not the anoraks - at least not one that has 5½ hours of train travel to attend - and with the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, I just can't be bothered with the less than interesting bottling lineup.

You need to rethink the concept, IMO...

Sunday, 23 March 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 'THORFINN' - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Its time meet Thorfinn, the last of the Highland Park Warriors. We're looking at a dark sherried warrior here, the one with the highest content of first fill sherry casks of the range (see below)... Again no age is stated on the bottle.

As with the other bottlings in the series, there's a story connected to the name and supposedly Thorfinn was the greatest of them, which is why this bottling came last. Marketing/storytelling at its best ;-)

Priced at €1000, I really glad to have the opportunity to taste this is its way above my whisky budget threshold - in fact its more than double the amount I've ever paid for a whisky.

The Mighty Ring of Brodgar on Orkney Mainland - August 5th 2009 © The Malt Desk
Highland Park 'Thorfinn' NAS 45,1%, Distillery bottling (travel retail 70cl)

Colour is nutty brown

Nose:
Initially on sherry/dark fruits, lovely spicy European oak influence here. Also other fruits in play here - brown banana, overripe oranges, then hardwood and eucalyptus notes accompanied by some herbal notes along with a puff of smoke. The wine/dark fruit notes are the dominant notes, though.

Taste:
Gentle arrival turning spicy almost immediately. Again herbal and winey and a little phenolic even. A very heavy sherry profile with just a hint of something dirty (yes, the s-word - but then I'm very sensitive to this). Mid-palate it produces some similar tropical fruit notes also found in the 'Ragnvald'-bottling only to return to an almost px sherry/madeira style sweetness, chocolate and cigar box notes. On the finish a little tropical fruit comes out again, but dries off quickly.

This is very spicy and has some burst of oak that I sometimes feel goes a little over the top. It's multi layered for sure, and I feel the work of some younger very active sherry casks in this one, that sometimes take over the show a bit - mind you its purely a guess and strictly my own opinion, but there's not doubt its still very good whisky.

I was splitting hairs with this one and the 'Ragnvald' as the best of the 3, but after tasting the 'Thorfinn' again, I'm gonna declare it a tie...

As mentioned above, its priced at around €1000 in travel retail

89/100!

Official sample provided by Highland Park

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 'RAGNVALD' - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Now its on to the 'Ragnvald' bottling and we're stepping up the antics here a bit... or at least the price... now these bottlings have been called ridiculously priced, especially since they're No Age Statement bottling, but I won't go into that in this post - I've done so plenty on other occasions, instead I'll skip right to the review you're really waiting for...

Stills at Highland Park, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk
Highland Park 'Ragnvald' NAS 44,6%, Distillery bottling (travel retail 70cl)

Colour is deep gold

Nose:
This is very dark rum like for a moment, hint of cinnamon, vanilla, apple, overripe almost soft oranges, soft smoke and a hint of menthol

Taste:
Oh, this is nice... Tropical fruits, mango and melon with some spices thrown in, clove, dried apricot snacks, teak wood and just a hint of something earthy and tarry, oranges, honey, black pepper and chocolate. The finish is medium long with a tail of smoke and mouthwatering fruity/floral exit.

Now we're talking - this is a very good dram from Highland Park and there's clearly some older cask influence here. I feel that a slightly higher abv% would have taken this whisky 1 or 2 points higher... The price, though makes this a little less fun.

Priced at around €400 in travel retail

89/100!

Official sample provided by Highland Park

Sunday, 16 March 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 'SIGURD' - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

As mentioned in this post from June 27th 2013 and again in this one from September 8th 2013 Highland Park out out the warrior-series from travel retail. Over then next few posts, I'm gonna review the Sigurd, Ragnvald and Thorfinn and finish with the latest addition to the Highland Park Valhalla Collection, the 'Freya'.

The first thing that caught my eye was the 43%, which is 3% higher the previous warrior releases which were only 40% - and really suffered from it. This has made me get my hopes up as these bottlings range from 43% to 45,1% in abv...

On to the review...

Malt floor tools at Highland Park August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk
Highland Park 'Sigurd' NAS 43%, Distillery bottling (travel retail 70cl)

Colour is amber

Nose:
Very shy, citric, ginger and orange peel and a vague mashy note to it along with hints of boiled vegetables.

Taste:
Some tropical fruit, avocado, pineapple and honey, grapefruits, malt and a dark oaky appearance in the back of the mouth.

Bit of a let down as it comes across more simple than expected and guess the 43% didn't do this one much good. Still ok whisky, but not what its worked up to be, I'm afraid... it has its moments, though - the tropical fruits notes are nice...

Priced at around €150 in travel retail

84/100!

Official sample supplied by Highland Park

Sunday, 9 March 2014

ISLE OF ARRAN 1996 121.62 'STEAK AND ALE PIE' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Lots of things have been said about British cuisine over the years and a good while back people outside the UK thought that Fish and Chips was about the only thing served there... well, that's not true - they also serve Steak and Ale Pie - and being a menu regular many places, I can see why the SMWS also used this as a descriptor for this whisky. It's about as traditional as a sherry whisky from the isles can get without being peated.

Oh, and just round off the food analogy here... You can still get some killer fish'n'chips in the UK (I hear, I don't eat white fish myself) and Steak and Ale Pie are on the menues in most pubs these days... That said, you eat well in the UK these days - both in the country and cities.

I could start listing places here, but this is a whisky blog, not a food blog... so I'll skip to the whisky... though if you as nice by mail, I might recommend a few places to you ;-)

Washbacks at the Arran Distillery, August 19th 2012 © The Malt Desk
Isle of Arran 1996 121.62 (17.09.1996) 16yo, 'Steak and Ale Pie' 54,2%, sherry puncheon, 574 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Nose:
Slight sulphury hint that wears off after a while, dried fruits, oily with a mashy an earthy mushroom note, grandmother's cigars and a hint of orange

Taste:
Again a very thick texture and that hint of sulphur adding to the heavier style of this Arran, cinnamon, drying oak spices, roast beef meatiness, pear in madeira and caramel

An Arran expression on the heavy side, this one... missing a bit of balance between the things it has to offer - still good, though

85/100!

Friday, 7 March 2014

GLEN MORAY 1974 35.102 'SOPHISTICATED AND SELF-ASSURED' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Here's another whisky with the SMWS-descriptor 'Sophisticated' attached to it.

Some of the names the SMWS tasting panel comes up with often makes me smile as the names can be (as you probably know if you follow the SMWS) be quite... imaginative :-)

But are they good descriptors?? Well, first of all, far from all the names of the bottlings have notes that directly describes the tastes and smells of the whisky, though one might argue that they do so... though it does take a bit more imagination for some people to figure out how i.e. 'Sophisticated and self-assured' applies to whisky.

Some get it, some don't - I will not judge, especially if the whisky as good as this... ;-)

Glen Moray Distillery, Elgin - picture from Wikipedia
Glen Moray 1974 35.102 39yo (19.02.1974) 'Sophisticated and self-assured' 52,1%, 180 bottles, refill ex-bourbon hogshead, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Very delicate nose on this one - it needs time to wake up. Old wet oak planks, freshly ground pepper, vanilla, carrot, fresh ginger, overripe banana, coconut and multi fruit juice.

Taste:
A very dark tasting whisky, this one... Chocolate, coffee, burnt sugar as in danish 'smor-kage' (pastry). Some cardamom and ginger shows itself along with a dash of syrup. This also has some noticeable (but not bitter) oak notes and a shorter than expected finish that just takes the top off of things, I think... as in not making it to the 90p-mark.

Nevertheless, its hugely enjoyable - goes down like a treat... and that's really what its all about, isn't it? :-)

89/100!
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