About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

COOLEY'S (PEATED) CONNEMARA 1991 118.3 'SELF-ASSURED, BUXOM AND REWARDING' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Hmm where to start? Don't really know... This is only the 2nd Irish Whiskey I'm reviewing here on The Malt Desk... Why? don't really know, other than I usually only drink Irish whiskey at the pub as I find most whiskeys from The Emerald Isle best for that purpose as they're easy drinkers and that's what you'd (or at least I want) usually when out...

Then sometimes like this next whisky comes along and knocks about all your usual perceptions about a certain style of whisky - and in this case, its really a lot of fun :-)

Distillery 118 from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is Cooley's from Northern Ireland, located on the peninsula of the same name. They produce several of the Irish brands on the market, names like 'Kilbeggan', 'Tyrconnel' and a grain 'Greenore' and have also contributed with a couple of malts to the acclaimed 'Knappogue Castle' series. They also produce Connemara, a peated malt expression, something rarely seen in Irish whiskey.

The 118.3 is one such... This one is also only double distilled, unlike many other Irish whiskies, which goes through x3 distillation...

Cooley pot stills - picture from Wikimedia

Cooley's (peated) Connemara 118.3 (14.10.1991) 22yo 'Self-assured, buxom and rewarding' 57,9%, 2nd fill ex-bourbon barrel, 206 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

No bottle picture available, but it comes in the standard SMWS bottle

Nose:
Sweet, instantly typical Irish whiskey notes hit your nose, with at times, almost a grain whisky style to it. There's wild flowers and Geranium and lavender, honey, slight hint of high quality tequila, vanilla, red berries (raspberry?). Have you tried the Knappogue Castle 1993? take that and add 15 years of maturation and add a good measure of smoke to it as well. Hugely expressive!

Taste:
Full force floral and perfumy front, then malt, more honey, fresh pear and smoke. Also vanilla, cough mints, licorice, and musty white wine. After a while the whole experience gets alot more fruity, with added banana and melon notes. Water brings out a bit more smoke and a few darker notes, more oak and spices.

I've tried this a few times now and it has grown a bit on me... sadly, a price tag of £270 here in Denmark will keep me from getting one.

A fun and interesting dram, though...

87/100!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

GLEN GRANT 1985 - A.D. RATTRAY

I came across this Glen Grant bottling just recently at a very fair price for a 24yo Cask Strength whisky these days (£70) so I decided to put this one in the basket while I was shopping for something else - and I'm glad I did :-) and its not often you see bottlings like this from 2010 still around...

I'll get right on with the review...

Glen Grant washbacks April 29 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1985 24yo (20.09.1985/20.02.2010) ex-bourbon cask#12364, 210 bottles, A.D. Rattray


Colour is bright gold

Nose:
Ripe fruit, pear and peach, ginger, oak spices, vanilla and hint of varnish/glue and sometimes a hint of metal on the nose. Wood sap, grass and lots of creamy malt comes out with the addition of water

Taste:
Ahh nice, lovely arrival on vanilla cream and fruit... top that with a dash of something peppery. Water brings out distinct orange notes, malt and honey. This is maybe at times a tad sharp'ish but adding a bit of water levels this one out beautifully

A very nice Glen Grant for sure!

86/100!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

GLENDRONACH 2002 12YO BATCH 10 - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Not long after the release of Glendronach's Batch 10 of Single Casks was announced, the hype surrounding these bottlings showed itself - especially in a couple of dedicated groups on Facebook... and as soon as they hit the shops, they sold out too, especially the 1993 vintage, which apparently has a reputation for being one of better 'recent' vintages - but of course, not at all comparable to the fabled 1972s.

This time, there were only 2 oloroso casks in the batch, a 1992 and a 1993  - the rest were from PX casks... and no really old vintages this time, with a 1990 24yo being the oldest release in this batch.

I'll be skipping 30 years ahead from the fabled 1972s to 2002 and, as you might have guessed by now, a bottling from the recent batch 10 release.

The Glendronach Spirit Safe, April 30th 2011 © The Malt Desk
Glendronach 2002 12yo (11.06.2002/xx.06.2014) 56,7%, PX cask#1500, 565 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Starts off promptly with a thick sweetness of fresh raisin, Madeira?, burnt sugar, dried tomato. Lots of must and dark earthy notes in here as well. Cheap cola notes, dark toffee and some herbal notes lurke in the background as well. The addition of about a teaspoon of water bring out danish marzipan and milk chocolate notes... I even find hints of smoke on the nose :-O

Taste:
Rush of sweetness, extremely mouth coating, molasses and old rums, some but in no way invading wood spices, honey'ed mead, sweet orange notes, medium roast coffee beans, chocolates again filled with Grand Marnier liquor, some BBQ tomato/pepper/mustard marinade as well...

What a great single cask bottling this is...

89/100!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

GLENGOYNE 12YO CASK STRENGTH - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Not long ago I reviewed the new Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch 2 - a bottling that replaced the old 12yo Cask Strength version... and by chance I just recently stumbled across a version of the old 12yo version, so in the name of whisky science, I had to get one of the those to compare with...

In my previous post you'll find, that I don't mind a NAS whisky, as long as it carries the qualities that the batch 2 version does (and I'm told the batch 1 is even better)... but it'll now come down to if 12 years of maturation does wonders or if its just a number within the Glengoyne hierarchy - 'cause the batch 2 is really good!

My recent purchase for comparison purposes ;-) © The Malt Desk

Glengoyne 12yo Cask Strength 57,2%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Hello there, much more sherry evident that in the CS batch 2... but I guess that's a dead give away anyway looking at the colour, which is the natural colour, so no E150 caramel colouring added - this has not been chill filtered either, BTW.

As with sherry influences at this level, there's the usual dried fruit notes in here, slightly dirty notes that goes away after a short while, lots of malt and oak spices, in fact pretty noticeable oak spices - but they're never over the top. The whole thing calms down after a while revealing an underlying vanilla and honey chocolate bar sweetness and incredible clean crisp malt, just like in the batch 2

Taste:
Very mouth filling... again with the spices and sherry on full frontal attack here. Very nice, indeed! Raisins, honey, oranges, walnut bitterness, back to honey and malt, strong tea and a rush of oak spices, mainly peppery ones and spirit soaked plums.

Phew, this is hard call to make... I like both the style of the NAS Cask Strength version and this one... but I also like my sherried whisky and, unlike in the NAS Cask Strength version, I do not get slight feinty notes and this 12yo seem like a more balanced whisky compared to the NAS version.

Like in my previous review, I don't give ½ points, which would have made this one climb to 87½... but it still isn't good enough to make it to 88...

87/100! ...because the styles are so close, yet so far a part...

Remember to compare the above with my review of the Cask Strength Batch 2 from July 23rd this year... you'll find that here

Saturday, 2 August 2014

HIGHLAND PARK 'DARK ORIGINS' - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Highland Park's latest release, the 'Dark Origins' is a tribute to the founder of the illicit distilling going on at High Park Farm... before there was a real distillery on the outskirts of Kirkwall on mainland Orkney. The man doing this illicit distilling was a man named Magnus Eunson and, according to the records, a churchman and butcher by day and illicit distiller by night, which has resulted in a box portraying a picture of someone looking a bit like a mix of Robin Hood, David Beckham and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Anyway, I'm not going to get into all the marketing surrounding Highland Park these days, it's been well covered elsewhere... but that said I actually like the presentation (bottle) of the 'Dark Origins'... (Have I fallen a victim to the evil hordes of the marketing people??? I hope not... )

This is about the whisky... and I've really have had my hopes up for this one, since I first heard about it earlier this year - why, you ask? because of the 46,8% abv this bottling carries - all a sign, I would like to think, that the good gents at Highland Park has realised and picked up on the voices concerning the abv% on e.g. their 'Warrior'-series not really delivering the punch it should and could have, being at only 40%... I, for one, commented on that in the review of the 'Einar' which can be found here.

So, has Highland Park gotten wiser? have they rid this new release of the quirks of their previous releases? (at least from an anoraks view...?)

Let's give it a try.. and from a full bottle payed for by myself.

Entrance to the Highland Park Distillery, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 'Dark Origins' 46,8%, NAS, Distillery bottling

Colour is deep amber

Nose:
It's alive! and certainly a Highland Park, as the honey and floral/fruity intensity is very up front here as is a rougher smoky side. It's not Islay smoke - it's more delicate and rushes in after the fruity notes has hit your nose, staying very evident all the time after that. When you nose this, it's either fruity smoke or smoky fruit (Does that really make sense? No? oh, well... )

There's strong tea, hint of nutmeg, ginger powder, baked banana and orange peel and heavy, slightly burnt, toffee notes and sometimes a hint of farmyard. The increased use of 1st fill sherry casks are indeed noticeable here. Then there's the smoke which, by design according to Highland Park, is much stronger than in the standard offerings from then. It works very well with the sherry influence. At times I get like standing in a garden surrounded by flower beds with the BBQ on as the floral notes pops back up again... I'd like to say heather as its usually one of Highland Park's prominent features, but I'm not sure that's it here.

Very good nose!

Taste:
Sweet, yet drying sherry at first arrival, then the smoke rushes in along with dried fruit all sorts, smoked pineapple from that BBQ on the nose above. Also whisky soaked apple wood chips, cinnamon, orange chocolate notes, old cigar boxes and warming spices I'd normally associate with dark rums. The whole thing finishes off drying with a slightly dirty edge to the sherry, but is very soon replaced by notes of bran flakes and an earthiness until finally the smoke takes over completely, leaving a beach bonfire in your mouth for a good length of time. If you feel this is a little rough, it takes a teaspoon of water just fine. It's all very nice, indeed, though I do get a feeling that the palate sometimes is a bit restrained...

The guys at Highland Park has done something right here and as I mentioned above it starts with upping the abv to 46,8%... it makes a big difference in the arrival and general delivery of flavour in this whisky! Also, there's no doubt that the increase in use of 1st fill sherry casks as well upping the smokiness has done wonders.

But what about it being a NAS bottling, I hear you ask? Does it contain a lot of young whisky? Does it show? and, most importantly, is it worth the price tag they've slapped on it? Well, I'm sure it does contain some young whisky, but honestly if it does, it works fine here as its covered in sherry and smoke and doesn't come across as young. The only slight young'ish feeling I get is at the very edges of the mouth and a hint on the very finish where the smoke gives up and you get a cereal note instead - that's it for me, at least - do make up your own mind about this!

And the price, you ask? I payed £60/€76/$100 for a bottle of this. They do have to pay for the marketing flannel and the fancy black bottle for this and, even though I like the design, I can do without it... but it wouldn't be a 'Dark' Origin if it came in a clear bottle, would it? :-O though if it did, we could admire the lovely colour of the whisky :-) Anyway, I'd be more a satisfied punter with a £47 price tag on this.

Bottom line... it's good whisky! and it will no doubt, become a hit with the regular punter!

85/100!

Post amended 8th August 2014:

Now that this bottle has been open for a week, the younger whiskies in this vatting is starting to show itself more dominantly. The fruit, especially the delicious pineapple has subsided and now leaves me with alot more younger (slightly feinty?) notes. Also the sherry has moved a bit to the background and, honestly (and honesty is what we're all looking for, right?) this is not as good now as it was, just out of the bottle... :-( The smoke edge is very much still there, trying its best to cover up its (I hate to use the word) shortcomings...

I would have reduced this to (still) a decent 83½/100, but since I don't do ½ points it's now down to 84/100...

84/100!