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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Thursday, 26 November 2015

SPEYBURN 1991 - GORDON & MACPHAIL

Another whisky featured by Gordon & Macphail in their 'The Wood Makes the Whisky'-campaign comes from Speyburn Distillery. Hidden away on the outskirts of the village of Rothes, you can catch a glimpse of it of you look to the right when you reach the top of the hill on the A941 road to Elgin. Not much single malt comes from here though... you mostly only seen the their own 10yo and their NAS expression called 'Bradan Orach' and the rest finds its way into blended whisky.

Luckily we have companies like Gordon & Macphail, who over the years have bottled around 3 hand fulls of Speyburn. 

Again no bottling year is given on this sample, but this one is bottled in the 'Connoisseurs Choice'-series, a series that has been around since the mid-60s, albeit with different designs. It has also been bottled at a slightly higher strength of 46%.


Speyburn Distillery, August 26th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Speyburn 1991, 46%, Connoisseurs Choice, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is white wine

Nose:
Similar picture by G&M, showing a 1989
As mentioned above this carries no exact age statement, but rather a vintage, but my best guess would make this around 23-24yo. It's fresh, yet mature with citrus, a little honey and some floral notes. If served blind, I'd have guessed Glenlivet by the nose alone. I also detect a little banana in here.

Taste:
A lovely slightly dry and acidic arrival. Lots of barley sweetened lemons, more honey, vanilla and also a little rosehip, something I don't find much of in whisky. Only on the finish a little spicy fresh wood and ginger notes appears along with vague hints of mint.

A very straight forward light-in-style Speyside dram, an easy drinker, summer aperitif - very good!

84/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

GLEN GRANT 1954 - GORDON & MACPHAIL

Elgin-based independent bottler and Distillery owner (Benromach), Gordon & Macphail has launched a campaign to enlighten people's perception on how much the cask means for the maturation of whisky.

The campaign is called 'The Wood Makes the Whisky' and comes complete with a booklet and a website (www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood
explaining the casks are chosen to match a specific spirit and how the wood interacts with the spirit and resulting in that lovely tipple we all enjoy so much. All the very well made angles on maturation incl. wood types, time and cask sizes are covered in both the booklet and on the very well made website - good job!

'The Wood Makes the Whisky' also comes with almost a handful of samples and I'll start in the deep end with this Glen Grant. No bottling year is given on the sample, but looking at bottling dates for the released versions, this is probably around or just over 50 years old.

The still at Glen Grant, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1954 40%, 1st fill sherry butts, Gordon & Macphail


Colour is chestnut

Nose:
Picture by G&M
This just reeks of old whisky. Lots of red fruit and figs soaked in alcohol. Given some time the whole experience turn more towards tropical fruit, a direction I didn't expect from this old sherried number. Also in here are freshly polished hardwood and a little licorice.

Taste:
Quite a powerfull presence and incredibly mouthfilling even at only 40%. Overripe/browned apple, dark honey and Wiener Melange but heading in a spicy/herbal direction. Dark fruits, moist raisins springs to mind later. There's a mint theme popping up on the finish along with what can only be described as an almost smoky/toasted feel, which suits this oldie quite well as everything is very well integrated. This finish just goes on and on... and on :-)

This is most certainly a blast from the past - amazing stuff!

91/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

HIGHLAND PARK 1988 27YO - CADENHEAD CASK ENDS

Its time for the last Cadenhead review this time around, but don't worry - more are coming soon :-)

As I mentioned in my Benriach review from 4th October, I was looking for something special to take home for the Cadenhead tasting and this Highland Park was it... It was first tried in a warehouse in Campbeltown where Mark Watt took us through a few of Cadenhead casks and my choice fell on this Highland Park, even though there were other very good offerings :-)

Mark Watt doing what he does best, May 7th 2015 - Photo by my whisky-compadre Johnny Rose

Highland Park 1988 27yo 52,6% ex-bourbon hogshead 1988/2008+ sherry hogshead 2008/May 2015, Cadenhead Cask Ends

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Thick heavy molasses syrupy notes, a slight dirty, smoky musty note as well, burnt caramel and figs and black cherries. The sherry is just about over the top and leaves no room for other than some dark chocolate notes as well...

Taste:
Again heavy, lots of dirty notes bordering on sulphury but the again not, especially when allowed to breathe a bit. Notes of strong espresso, black olives, soy sauce and a the obvious wine/sherry and a slight charred finish.

This is big whisky, though not an incredible complex one...
You'll need to be into massive sherry bombs to appreciate this one, but then who doesn't like a whisky like this from time to time.

Again lovely stuff, this time directly out of the Cadenhead Warehouse in Campbeltown.

89/100!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

AUCHROISK 1989 24YO - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Auchroisk Distillery, located not far from the small village of Mulben in Speyside, must have what is probably one of the quirkiest designs of a distillery ever. Its Architecture is inspired by a Gothic style and along with its sheer size (warehouses included) it could have doubled for a medieval castle had it had a wall and moat and been all black. The Distillery and especially the warehouses, however, are slightly blackened with fungus from the maturing whisky on site.

And there is quite a lot of whisky there. Owners Diageo have around 250.000 casks maturing there from various distilleries and further warehouses are planned on site. Warehousing is not the only thing bit at Auchroisk. The production is close to 6 million liters of spirit annually and there has been talk of an expansion in that area too.


Auchroisk Distillery and one of the warehouses behind it, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk
Auchroisk 1989 (xx.xx.1989/xx.03.2014) 24yo 57,5%, 2 sherry butts, 1140 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Nutty and slightly sulphury in style but not enough to put me off. It also has a faint metallic note. Stale/brackish water, earthy notes and some orange. It then takes off in a herbal direction after a while, maybe juniper? It sounds kinda freaky, but it works...

Taste:
Pleasant arrival on toffee, fruit and nuts before the alcohol rushes in reveals a slight sulphury edge on the palate along with malt and crusty Danish. Mind you, the sulphur is still not strong enough to put me off. I'd say the main there here is toffee/candied apple - it doesn't really stray far from that.

OK, maybe not a whisky that would inspire you to start sprouting poetry, but still pretty decent - and I really like the funky nose on this one :-)

81/100!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

BALBLAIR 1990 22YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Its been 10 months since I last reviewed a Balblair so its about time to do so again. Like I mentioned in my previous review from January, I really like the style of most of the North Highland distilleries so I had high hopes for this expression... Balblair and Cadenhead - that can't possibly be a bad combination, eh?

Even though this expression carries a colour that could easily be mistaken for a sherry cask, it is actually matured in an ex-bourbon barrel - a fact that made me just a tiny bit worried that this would be overly oaky.

So was it? read below...

The very crammed stillhouse at Balblair, August 23rd 2012 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 1990 22yo (xx.xx.1990/xx.07.2012) 57,4%, ex-bourbon barrel, 192 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection


Colour is amber

Nose:
Ohh, lovely!
Quite some cappuccino notes extending all the way to hot chocolate. The alcohol seems a little aggressive at times, but eventually calms down, leaving rooms for more delicate notes of overripe apple and earthy notes. Also in there are heavy, 
sometimes slightly burned caramel notes and a little orange peel and clove - sounds kinda Xmas'y, don't you think?

Taste:
The oak shows itself a bit more on the palate, but its doing it in the nicest way possible. Again there's the apple, hints of mushrooms and what it must feel like to lick a hardwood floor. Time lets an understated vanilla and cinnamon theme and dark honey/slight syrupy notes come through. The medium long finish gives away to some peppery oak and a little mint.


This whisky comes and goes when you drink it and I quite like that.It also shows that even though the colour hints at some big oak influence, its not the case (here, at least)

Great stuff!

89/100!


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

BRAES OF GLENLIVET 1989 19YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

It's no secret that some distilleries are more popular than others and when looking at different online whisky shops, I often see empty product categories and/or sold out labels across the pictures of these popular ones... However, one category that is also often empty is the Braes of Glenlivet aka Braeval, but not because its popular but because there's not much of it around - why, you ask?

Well, there's several reasons...

It is, in distillery terms, a fairly 'new' place, starting production in 1973 under the Braes of Glenlivet name. The name was then changed to Braeval in 1994 to prevent mistaken identity with nearby Glenlivet distillery. Owners Chivas Bros has never been promoted it as a single malt as almost all of its production is used as a dressing malt in Chivas Bros' blends. Add to that that the distillery has been closed from 2002 to 2008 means that the few releases available now all carries a bit of age.

Still, there's a few bottlings to be found here and there and I suggest you try it if you like a light, yet full flavoured single malt. I'd place my bets on Cadenhead and/or Signatory if you want try this malt. In fact, this particular expression was so good that it was voted overall best bottling at the Cadenhead tasting I hosted about a month ago, with 2 votes more than a 27yo Highland Park from a sherry cask - how about that? Personally, I had it in 2nd...

So, what's all the fuss about?

Braes of Glenlivet or Braeval as the distillery is called today, May 3rd 2010 © The Malt Desk

Braes of Glenlivet (Braeval) 1989 19yo (xx.xx.1989/xx.10.2008) 58,4%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 240 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
You need to be careful with this one as its 58,4% - Chances are you'll numb your nose trying to pick up the delicate nose of this one and instead only get alcohol and we don't want that!

There's pear, grassy, vanilla, honey, hint of pineapple, ginger and a little spicy oak and delicious malt notes... This reminds me quite a lot of Glenmorangie 10 back in the early 00's - lovely!

Taste:
Again, you also need to be careful with this one on the palate. make sure you have either plenty of saliva or just a little water to take the top of the alcohol here.

This one starts with grass and white wine cooler, overripe pear, cider and then heads off in the sweet and spicy direction with vanilla, raspberry and ginger notes. The addition of water makes the whole thing rather creamy and extremely malty - a trait I really like and also allows fruit notes dressed in barley sugar to really play on the finish.

I could drink this all evening...

89/100!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

BRUICHLADDICH 1991 21YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Phew, time flies and personal stuff has lately interfered with my writing a bit more than I'd like, making my reviews a bit sporadic lately. Anyway, Let's skip straight on to the next Cadenhead bottling.

When I first started drinking whisky around Y2K, I remember trying Laphroaig 10 and Lagavulin 16 and thinking that Islay whisky wasn't for me... However, I had not yet made the acquaintance with Bruichladdich and to be honest I'm not quite sure when I did except it was around 2003/2004, which means it was some 3-4 years into my whisky journey.

Back then I fell in love with the 10yo and 15yo 1st edition even though both Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg had also already made their way onto my drink list by that time. It would then be another 3 years before I visited Islay and Bruichladdich for the first time (2007) and since then I've been back to Islay 4 more times 08, 09, 11 and May 2015.

In May I brought a bottle of 1966 40yo Bruichladdich bottled by Duncan Taylor with me to Islay to drink while we were there - seems only fitting a bottle like this goes 'home' to end its days, yes? :-) you can read my review of that bottling by clicking here.

Anyway, back to the 1991 from Cadenhead. This is a bottling from the Authentic Collection-series, which means its a single cask-bottling.

Distilling Port Charlotte at Bruichladdich, October 7th 2008 © The Malt Desk

Bruichladdich 1991 21yo (xx.xx.1991/xx.10.2013) 52,1%, ex-bourbon hogshead, 176 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
This noses like classic bourbon matured B'Laddich. It also feels like that the cask hasn't been all that active. Its all very fresh and malty long with vanilla, apple tart leaning towards citrus (grape fruit?) notes. It also reveals a slight floral note, some mineral and cooking oil notes + the tiniest hints of peat.

Taste:
I think my suspicions about a fairly inactive cask sticks. The arrival is very mellow and pleasing with soft white fruit (apple, melon), truckloads of malt, some licorice and barley sugar. The finish is almost entirely malt driven with a slight salty burst and a herbal edge at times.

This is maybe not the most complex of malts, but just drinks so incredibly well and that counts for something in my book too. I'd say it one of those malts you'd pour a large dram of, when you need to relax after a busy week.

86/100!


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

LITTLEMILL 1990 24YO - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

It's been 2½ years since I last reviewed a Littlemill here on The Malt Desk - a sure sign that this closed Lowland distillery often is hard to come by.

A second reason is that it has had a a bit of a dodgy reputation a few years back, but indie bottlings over the past 2-3 years has show that Littlemill did, in fact, produce good whisky in the years leading up to its closure in 1994. 10 years later in 2004, what remained on the site was destroyed by fire.

Looking through old reviews online, it seems like young version of Littlemill have never been held in high esteem... could this be a case of Littlemill not shining until it reaches its late teens early 20's? much like Port Ellen, IMO... That said there's (of course) always the exception to the rule, but from what I've tasted myself over the years, e.g. from Port Ellen, I never really thought much of it at 13-14yo.... Anyway, this is just my stray thoughts on the matter. :-)

Now back to the Cadenhead Littlemill...

Littlemill Distillery - picture from WikiMedia

Littlemill 1990 24yo 53,7%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 582 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Ohh, a very tropical little number this one, exotic wood, very noticeable coconut, then vanilla, mango fruit juice, melon and oranges. There's also a slight mineral-like edge to this nose. Wet gravel/dirt perhaps? Almonds/marzipan in here too It also shows some herbal notes at times... even notes of old Calvados

Taste:
Mango, peach and oranges peel held back by malt. There's more coconut, vanilla creme and overripe green grapes in there as well. What really strikes me with this one is how well the alcohol is integrates with the flavours here. The finish is not as heavy as one would expect but it goes on for a while and when its about to disappear you just want to take another sip!

It's the best Littlemill I've tried - it's deeeeelicious! :-)


At the first nosing/taste this came across with a bit of varnish/paint thinner which often can be the cask with Littlemill, but leave this one to breathe and a whole other world appears - in fact its up there with the most brilliant stuff I've tasted so far in 2015

91/100!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

BENRIACH 1996 19YO - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Its time to throw myself into a world of Cadenhead bottlings - what's not to like about that? :-)

Its been one of my favourite bottlers for quite a few years now - why? because of the quality of their bottlings - that why! I agree, there's the occasional dud out there (at least according to my taste - regular readers will know I'm sensitive to sulphury notes) but they are few and far between at Cadenheads, IMO... and I wonder if there's any in the bunch I'll be reviewing next. 

The plans for a Cadenhead tasting took form already early this year.
I already knew then that Campbeltown would be on the agenda for my 2 weeks in Scotland so it was not just a matter of keeping my eyes open for a special bottle to bring home for the September tasting. The rest of the bottles for this tasting was bought at the Cadenhead shop in Odense, Denmark.

First up was the BenRiach Small Batch...


The stills at BenRiach Distillery, May 6th 2013 © The Malt Desk

BenRiach 1996 19yo 47,1%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 558 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Classic Speyside nose... lots of apple, vanilla and honey and grassy notes - it gets a bit sharp-ish, but a few drops of water calms it down at bit.

Taste:
Sweet arrival with vanilla custard, overripe pear, some ginger and a hot sensation mid-late palate and again some water can take the edge of things.
With water it gets very citrussy on the palate and also has some gingery notes peeing through at time.

Except for the little hot-streak, this is a classic Speyside profile and one most can drink. I can't really put my finger on what its missing for me to take this one higher... but it is missing a little something.

Still, its perfectly good whisky!!


83/100!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

ISLE OF ARRAN 1996 18YO - CÀRN MÒR CELEBRATION OF THE CASK

The last review in this series of Arrans is the bottling that actually inspired me to have a look at Arran again.

There's now quite a few bottlings available in their teens and looking at the reviews they've been getting (other than my own) they're great whiskies.

But back to the Càrn Mòr Arran... As mentioned in the review of my 'reference Arran, the 14' I attended the Càrn Mòr tasting with Peter Mackay at the Spirit of Speyside Spring Festival earlier this year... some good whiskies were had for sure, but one blew me away - the 18yo Arran from their 'Celebration of the Cask'-series.



Isle of Arran 1996 18yo (18.12.1996/30.03.2015) 52,6%, sherry puncheon#2135, 560 bottles, Cárn Mór - Celebration of The Cask

Colour is amber

Nose:
A gentle attack of stewed fruits (apple), mellow malt and honey.
There's also a nice creamy/waxy feel to the nose accompanied by hint of sweet tobacco leaves, cocoa and ozone. Everything here comes in perfect measures and in perfect balance - love this!

Taste:
Again the arrival is very gentle. It starts very creamy sweet with the sherry making its entrance. Then wow, what a surprising mid-palate - it goes into tropical fruit overdrive, kiwi, mango, pineapple but still manages never to go over the top with its sweetness or on fruit as there's always just that little oak to keep everything in place. The finish heads in direction of milk chocolate, tea and honey, but has some nutmeg notes as well. The sherry makes a short appearance at the end rounding everything off beautifully!

This is one of the best whiskies I've had so far in 2015!

92/100!

Monday, 21 September 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 2001 13YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR GLASGOW WHISKY CLUB

We're almost at the end of this Arran Verticale, but this a couple of more to go - this one included.

As a member and Chairman of a Whisky Club myself, its always fun to try bottling done for other clubs/societies. This one I was looking particularly forward to as I through acquaintances with some of the guys in gWc had heard many good things about it... But we all know how tastes can vary - so would this also fit a Danish palate?



The Arran Malt 2001 13yo (28.05.2001/06.01.2014) 54,7%, sherry hogshead#2001/098, Distillery bottling for Glasgow Whisky Club

Colour is mahogany

Nose:
A deep almost syrupy nose, raisin, prunes, truffle, chocolate and overripe oranges - absolutely fantastic!

Taste:
Sun dried grapes, very PX (is this a PX sherry-cask?) blackberry, prunes, nutmeg, dark cherries. There's an underlying herbal note and some licorice in there as well. The finish hangs on for quite a while, but there is a slight dirty pop-up of something there which prevents this one from hitting the 90-mark.

89/100! it's fantastic whisky! Good job, Lads!

Friday, 18 September 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 1999 15YO - DISTILLERY EXCLUSIVE

Next up is another Arran Distillery Exclusive, but this time from an ex-bourbon cask, probably from a barrel when you look at the relatively low bottle output.

I also tried this at the distillery in May this year and quite liked it so I was looked forward to trying it again at the Arran Verticale.


The Arran Malt 1999 15yo (19.07.1999/13.02.2015) 53,5%, ex-bourbon cask#130, 164 bottles, Distillery Exclusive

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
Ohh nice... Fresh cut apple, some lemon, ginger and vanilla shortbread, truckloads of malt heading in direction of breakfast bran cereal and some mineral notes as in clay/wet sand, gravel - very 'highland' in fact.

Taste:
Vanilla, grapeskins, a little honey, love fruits notes of melon, citrus, kiwi and apple. The mouth feel is quite creamy at 53,5% - the oily feel of Arran showing itself beautifully here. The finish heads towards more spices, pepper, ginger, caraway seeds, but its never invasive in any way... 

Love this! A very 'naked' Arran and I think its incredibly delicious!

90/100!


Monday, 14 September 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 1997 17YO - DISTILLERY EXCLUSIVE

Now straight on to the next Arran, this time a Distillery Exclusive bottling.
This I first tried at the distillery in May this year and I was taken with it right away and knew a couple of bottles of this had to follow me to Denmark.

One ended up on the Arran Verticale - here's my take on it:


The Arran Malt 1997 (10.02.1997/05.11.2014) 57,1% sherry cask#169, 189 bottles, Distillery Exclusive

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Certainly lighter than the previous expression(read: less sherried).
This is far from bad though, as it present itself beautifully with thick mentholated malt, brown sugar, milk chocolate/cappuccino and whiffs of Madeira wine. After a while some hints of cinnamon and overripe apple comes through.

Taste:
I normally find the Arran malt very oily, but this is a bit different. Some of the oily mouth feel is still there, yes, but its lighter and more lively than usual. Again overripe apple is a big theme here (love that note!) but there's also some light ginger and a little aniseed in here.

On the finish, a big rush of malt sweetness comes through along with a little nutmeg and a burst of menthol and peppery oak... Quite a fun finish and 'cool' finish and it works - for me at least :-)

Another gr8 Arran malt!

89/100!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 1998 16YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR DENMARK

Just like shops have bottlings done for them - like then one I mentioned in my previous review, bottlings are also done as country exclusives.

One such is the 1998 16yo bottled for Denmark. It doesn't have a fancy name like the last one, but it is a lovely sherried edition, actually quite noticeably more than the the one in the previous review.

Heavy sherry doesn't make a whisky though, it also needs good spirit - so let's check this one out...


The Arran Malt 1998 16yo (17.08.1998/20.10.2014) 55,3% sherry hogshead#1998/1129, 260 bottles, Distillery bottling for Denmark

Colour is dark amber

Nose:
Lots of dried fruits, sultana raisins, figs and also hint of orange/apricot. It also releases some peppery spices, enhanced a bit by the alcohol. Leaving it for a bit lets the sherry really pop out accompanied by a very enjoyable maltiness.

Taste:
Quite a pungent sherry presence but never over the top - it lets the malt shine along with some orange chocolate, dark honey and cocoa dust and hint of marzipan. Some dark sweet cherry appears on an almost perfect balanced finish had a drying spicyness not show its face on the finish, but is really just me trying to find trying to find something to put a finger on.

This was also voted the winner of flight no. 1 consisting of the first 4 bottles from the left in the above picture.
This is great stuff! 

89/100!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 2000 15YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR WHISKYBASE.COM

Whiskybase.com has a nice habit of once in a while releasing bottles exclusively bottled for their website/shop. One of the more recent was a 15yo Arran bottled in April this year - and one that fit perfectly into my lineup the verticale.

The bottling was named 'My Precious' by the guys at Whiskybase.
The reason for that was that there was already to other private cask bottlings out there (not by whiskybase, though) with references to names from The Lord of the Rings. Those bottlings were The Dark Lord and The White Wizard and the guys at Whiskybase thought it would be very appropriate with a follow-up to that... and if you like a whisky very much, why not call it ... 'My Precious' :-)

Another fun fact not normally disclosed about this bottling is that its actually a re-racking, meaning it has spent the first years of its life in one cask before being transferred to another. This one was re-racked in 2004 from a cask of unknown origin and then spent the remaining years in its sherry hogshead.

Anyway, here's my take on 'My Precious':



The Arran Malt 2000 15yo (24.02.2000/02.04.2015) 56,9%, Sherry hogshead#2000/135, 220 bottles, Distillery for Whiskybase.com

Colour is Amber

Nose:
Liquid caramel (Dooleys), brown sugar apple saute, cinnamon sticks, honey and choco müsli bars. Also a slight mentholated (cold) feeling is given off of the nose along with hints of orange and a few mashy notes. Lovely!

Taste:
Very mouth coating, creme brulee burnt sugar, vanilla, apple again and lots of oils and malt. Again we also have cinnamon, fresh raisins, a slight floral hint, mixed bag candies fruits - the supermarket snack bag, some faded gingery notes and a little pepper

This is good stuff, no doubt! Unfortunately its sold out...

87/100!

Monday, 31 August 2015

THE ARRAN MALT 14YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A week and a half ago, I hosted an Arran tasting in the local club.

It was a tasting brought on mostly by the fact that I stumbled across an absolutely stellar 18yo Arran by indie bottler Morrison Mackay in their Carn Mor-series at a tasting with Peter Mackay during the Spirit of Speyside Festival in May this year. It was then further sparked by my second visit to the Arran distillery later on the same trip where some distillery exclusive bottlings convinced me it was time to have a good hard look at what the Arran Malt has become... 

We started with the standard 14yo...


The complete tasting lineup © The Malt Desk August 20th 2015

The Arran Malt 14yo, 46% Distillery bottling

Colour is white wine

Nose:
Sweet garden fruit and vanilla. Hint of raspberry, lots of honeyed malt and a hit of spicy oak. After a short while the spicyness becomes more dominant but never spoils the party

Taste:
Malt and apple, apple and malt, followed by spicy ginger notes, all delivered by a quite oily spirit. Some vanilla sweetness rushes in along with some lemon and peppery notes.

A very straight forward and honest dram on the oily and slightly side.
The combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks works quite well here, but I'd still not recommend this as a first buy to a whisky newbie... maybe as a bottle no. 3 or 4 when you've had a couple under the belt!

Nice stuff, for sure!

84/100!

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

GLENBURGIE 1994 20YO - CHIVAS BROS CASK STRENGTH EDITION

Like the distillery in my previous review (Miltonduff) Glenburgie is a major contributor to the Ballantine's Blend - in fact so much that the owners has named it 'Home of Ballantine's'. Other major malt contributors to Ballantine's, BTW, are as mentioned Miltonduff, along with Glentauchers -also in Speyside- and Scapa Distillery on Orkney. 

As with Miltonduff, you often have to look to the indie bottlers to find a Glenburgie, but again Chivas Bros has done us a favour and bottled one in their Cask Strength Edition-series...

The Glenburgie Stills - Thanks to Bruce Crichton for the use of the picture

Glenburgie 1994 20yo (20.06.1994/05.08.2014) 50,7%, Batch#GB20006, Chivas Bros Cask Strength Edition, 50cl bottle

Colour is white wine

Nose:
A bit restrained and spirity at first, but it opens up after a few minutes in the glass and gives off notes of soft fruit (apples and a little peach mostly), hints of coconut and a handsome dose of vanilla and sweet malt and some crushed red berries and a little nipping oak.

Taste:
A good malty backbone wrapped in fruit, both a citrus and apple/pear style fruitiness. It has a slight waxy mouth feel with honey and hints of tinned pineapple. The finish gets slightly ginger- and peppery. Some good middle-of-the-road flavours takes this a long way without straying in any strange direction at any point. I see why this is a blenders favourite - this may even make it to be someones malt favourite!

Finally, thanks to Kalle for the sample

87/100!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

MILTONDUFF 1998 16YO - CHIVAS BROS CASK STRENGTH EDITION

A few miles south west of Elgin in Speyside, we find the Miltonduff Distillery.
Built on the site of an old Benedictine Abbey, its a huge distillery with 16 washbacks and 6 stills and an output of close to 6 million liters of spirit annually.

Miltonduff is one of the cornerstones in the Ballantines Blend. As a single malt, you have to seek out independent bottlings as official ones are few and far between until owners, Chivas Bros/Pernod Ricard decided to include it in their Cask Strength Edition series - so let's give this one a try...

Miltonduff Distillery - picture from Wikimedia Commons

Miltonduff 1998 16yo (06.03.1997/06.08.2014) 52,9%, Batch#MD16004, Chivas Bros Cask Strength Edition, 50cl bottle

Colour is white wine

Nose:
Comes across a bit hot on the nose, but there's also herbs, malt and apple appears there. Short after it gets very grassy and shows hints of pineapple as well...

Taste:
As on the nose its really hot on the palate, not 52,9% hot but another kinda hot, like a spirit cut that's run a bit off... Some pear and vanilla, a green note like biting into a straws of grass. Besides the already mentioned hot notes, it also delivers some else that I can only describe as a mild chili burn along with black pepper.

My palate is not agreeing with this one. It was to hot and I'm thinking it keeps the other notes down, not allowing this one even the slightest chance to shine. It can, however be drunk with a good splash of water - so its not all a waste.

A partial dud, IMO

Finally, thanks to Kalle for the sample

76/100!


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

TORMORE 1998 15YO - CHIVAS BROS CASK STRENGTH EDITION

Tormore Distillery, located right on the A95 road, is an impressive sight no matter from what direction you approach it. Its big, cathedral-like and has a large front garden with bushes cut in the shape of stills. But there are a lot of pretty distilleries in Scotland and also ones making more noise about themselves than Tormore does. So are this malt best off living a quiet life or can Tormore play with the big boys?

The impressive looking Tormore Distillery, October 17th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Tormore 1998 15yo (20.07.1998/19.06.2014) 57,4% Batch#TM001, Chivas Bros Cask Strength Edition

Colour is straw

Nose:
A variety of garden fruit and malt, warm apple pie,  and a vague hint of varnish. Green pesto, bread croutons and vague hints of curry, add to that some vanilla and grassy notes - a pretty much straight forward Speyside style. Do I detect notes of elderberry and cantaloupe in here as well?? The alcohol shows itself a bit but calms down with a few drops of water. This also brings out some lemon peel and herbal notes

Taste:
A malty and fruity floral theme comes out straight away. Also quite the spice, ginger and peppers. Pears are in here for sure along with sweet almonds. The fruits notes turn more tropical over time with honey melon and mango. The whole thing finishes of with a rush of thick malt and just a little oak.

Can this play along? yes, it certainly can! its a dram on the sweet side, yes, but an amazing nose and lovely malty finish takes this one a long way...

Good stuff!

Finally, thanks to Kalle for the sample!

86/100!


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

MORTLACH 1988 19YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Its been 6 months since my last Mortlach review and in the meantime I found and opened a Mortlach that I first tried at a tasting all the way back in 2008. No notes were taken back then, but I remember it as traditional style sherried Mortlach and a very enjoyable dram.

So, does my taste buds of today agree with the ones I had 7 years ago?

The old maltings at Mortlach across the road from todays facilities, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk 

Mortlach 1988 19yo (b. 02.2008) 57,6%, ex-sherry butt, 664 bottles, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is light mahogany


Nose:
Very obvious and quite spicy sherry here - a very heavy classic Mortlach style showing in this one. Its quite dirty and moldy with some struck match and burnt toast. There's dried fruits (raisins) and hints of blackberry and cloves


Taste:

Dried fruit, candied orange and dark chocolate, wet tobacco and black cherries. sulphur as in wine style and quite an earthy note. Goes on with a little smoky nuts and dark caramel and a burnt wood note.





I'm not a fan of sulphury whisky, but this one has just the right amount to add to an edge to this whisky and the sensation is so evident here that I'd say for sure that the cask is the main contributor here. Its just too much for it to be the spirit on its own.

I don't think its as good as I remember it to be - from memory I'd maybe rate it an 86-87p, but its still a more than decent whisky!

83/100!

A few added thoughts...

This one comes across quite differently now than it did 7 years ago. So much that I have to ask myself a few questions about what stands out in this whisky from then 'till now...

Have I become more sensitive to sulphury notes ... and did know what they were 7 years ago?
I'm sure I have and yes, I did know back then... 


Have daily factores like time and food consumed been taken into account when tasting whisky?
Yes, I almost always taste whisky/take notes early in the evening and never after having strong or heavily flavoured food, like chili or curry

Has oxidation after opening and up to the point where I now review this bottle contributed to change the character of the whisky?
It sure has, which is why I don't review a whisky until its at least 1/3 down


So what can we conclude from this?
There are many factors that influence your sense of taste and smell, but most of all -or in this case for me- I'd say that 7 more years drinking whisky has made a difference.

In 2008 I was already well on my whisky-way, but its really from 2008 and onwards that I have made the biggest steps on my whisky journey - making that periode of time a huge part of how I've experienced this Mortlach and whisky in general! I'm picking up stuff both on noses and palates of whisky that I haven't before and I'm sure that if you ask me again in 5 years time, there's a chance its changed a somewhat again.

So get out there and try some whisky! There's great experiences to be had - especially if you try and go for older stuff/bottling and its certainly educational when you compare it with whats on the market today!

Friday, 24 July 2015

ANCNOC KNOCKDHU 1975 (2014) - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A little over a year ago, I reviewed an earlier version of the AnCnoc 1975, bottled in 2005 - and its was very nice whisky indeed!

Recently, a good whisky friend of mine, provided me with the opportunity to try the 1975 bottled in 2014 which I of course was very happy to do :-)

During the Spirit of Speyside I also toured the distillery for the first time and a visit to the place is highly recommended. Its a smaller distillery, but its run by a group of people who really takes pride in the place and its whisky and it shows! 

As I mentioned in my previous AnCnoc review, call ahead as they're a working distillery and the good folk there will try and fit you in...


Some old tools of the trade at Knockdhu Distillery, May 4th 2015 © The Malt Desk

AnCnoc 1975 (2014) 44,2%, 1590 bottles,  Limited Edition, Distillery bottling

Colour is nutty brown

Nose:
Old lacquered cigar box, obvious oak, but the kind that provides dark honeyed notes. Alcohol soaked plums, overripe oranges and apricot, coffee with milk and lots of sugar, dark chocolate biscuits and old wood. Polished leather in there too and sometimes it seems like there's a little peat in this one?

Taste:
Bitter sweet sherry, hints of ginger, Danish spice cake and then oranges again, but there's also some sweet tropical fruit in here which makes me think of older BenRiach and/or Tomatin, add to that a very thin layer of thin cream caramel coating and a dusting of cocoa and wet tobacco leaves. Again I get the sense of a little peat, especially on the finish...

This is fantastic stuff and I'd take a bottle if it wasn't to damn expensive!

Finally, thanks to Stuart Terris for the sample

91/100!


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

BENRINNES 2002 36.81 - 'A MAD HATTER'S TEA PARTY' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Benrinnes Distillery was up until 2007 one of the more odd ones in the family of distilleries. Why? Because it used partial triple distillation of its spirit - a practise only still used at Mortlach and Springbank distilleries. A complete triple distillation, however is still done at the Auchentoshan Distillery on the outskirts of Glasgow and, of course, with the Springbanks Hazelburn.

Like the other distilleries using this method, Benrinnes has been known to put out a slightly heavier and natural slight sulphury style of spirit which has often been used as a backbone in owner, Diageo's blends. Benrinnes also used worm tub spirit condensers, which is also said to add to a heavier spirit character.

Its not often we see an official bottling of Benrinnes, so if you want to try this you'll most likely have to turn to the independent bottlers like the one I'll be reviewing below...


Benrinnes Distillery from the road, August 26th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Benrinnnes 2002 36.81 (14.08.2002/xx.xx.2014) 11yo 'A Mad Hatter's Tea Party' 60,1%, 1st fill ex-bourbon barrel, 203 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
Quite full, vanilla, hay, lemons, grist/draff, hints of raspberry and ginger and cooked sweet vegetable notes, oils and hints of mint and wet rocks

Taste:
Be careful with this - its over 60%! It's on stewed and candied fruit (citrus and apple) followed by a rush of barley, vanilla custard creme and waxy/oily feel to it. Added water brings out a white winey edge and also some floral notes.

Quite the dram with some of heavier notes coming through - one that'll grow on you!

86/100!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

GLENFARCLAS 12 (2014) - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Last week I reviewed a cracking 15yo Glenfarclas at Cask Strength bottled for The Whisky Exchange... so I thought I'd continue the Glenfarclas theme by reviewing the 12yo expression.

For more background information on Glenfarclas, I'd like to suggest you read the introductions to some of my other Glenfarclas reviews.



Glenfarclas casks in one of their traditional dunnage warehouses, May 4th 2015 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 12yo (2014) 43%, Distillery bottling

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Sherry and malt sweetness. fresh raisins, ginger, nuts, toffee and slight floral notes. The sherry is ever present though never invading, easily letting the other notes through.

A great nose, in fact... everything seems to be in just the right measures 

Taste:
Candied fruits, mainly oranges, honey, ginger, milk chocolate, more toffee/cream caramel and nuts. The experience gets quite malty on the finish along with some nice balancing oak spiciness.

This is a noticeable lighter in style than the 15yo standard bottling at 46%.
I'm not quite sure of the exact cask makeup of this, but I'm guessing maybe a ration of 60/40% sherry/bourbon casks.


This will make for a nice introduction to new whisky drinkers and will also satisfy the more experienced drinker, maybe as an every day dram.

It's straight forward, no BS whisky and for a standard 12yo offering it does what its supposed to do + a little more. Add to that, that it can be picked up for around €35 in Mainland Europe - for 1 liter !  - so great value!!

85/100!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

GLENFARCLAS 15YO 103 PROOF - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR THE WHISKY EXCHANGE

There's no denying it - Glenfarclas is one of my favourite distilleries and has been for over 10 years. Why? It's family owned (not really a reason - but I'm kind of a romantic, buhu!)...

No, let's be serious - I find Glenfarclas to deliver an incredibly consistent whisky and bottlings at every age, from the young and brute'ish 105 NAS to expressions as old as 60 years (out of most people's price range, of course). Add to that their incredible Family Cask series - so far the ones I've tried have all been excellent.

So what do I think makes Glenfarclas so good? Is it the barley? who knows... its about spirit yield these days and whatever strain of barley gives the best yield is often used and the barley for Glenfarclas comes from both the UK and mainland Europe - so no 'terroir' is really traceable there. The malting process is straight forward - done by commercial maltsters, so not guessing there's something special here either...

So how about water? its taken off of Benrinnes behind the distillery and is soft natural spring water, much like that many others producers use - so nothing special there either... in fact, some people say that the water doesn't have an effect on the final taste of the whisky...

Fermentation then? well, its done in stainless steel washbacks using a distillers yeast and goes on for at least 48 hours and usually longer over weekends. This creates the flavour compounds in the wash and without a degree in chemistry, its hard to pinpoint if some of the reason is hidden here...

So what do I think really matters - or at least stand out? 

First of all, the distillation process. This is certainly on my shortlist for what I think makes Glenfarclas one of my favourites... But isn't it done just at other distilleries? well, yes - but one main difference though. At Glenfarclas they direct fire their still using gas flames enclosed underneath their stills. This gives a more uneven heating of the stills, creating a fluctuation in the vapours making it across the swan neck before it condenses back into spirit.

I was told a story about how Glenfarclas from back when most distilleries were switching to steam heating (late 80s, I think it was).Glenfarclas also did some tests with this, but lab tests came back revealing a whole other composition of the Glenfarclas spirit - so they decided to stick with direct firing of their stills, although they did make adjustments to hide the naked flame to comply with new health & safety rules. As to a style change in other distilleries, I will not make any conclusions and have not heard any - although you often come across people mentioning the quality of whisky from when most distilleries still operated direct fired stills.

Also, one of the most important as well, is the casks used at Glenfarclas.
Mainly Oloroso sherry casks are used for maturation, but also Fino sherry casks are seen from time to time along with Port pipes. Bourbon casks are also used, but these are mainly sold off to the blending industry. The quality of the casks at Glenfarclas is kept high by a long time relationship with the Jose and Miguel Martin sherry bodega in Spain and the distillery is always involved whenever casks are picked to ensure a consistent high quality sherry casks... 

Finally, add to that the advantage of being a family owned distillery and being able to do what you want at all levels! Oh, and let's not forget the very passionate people working at Glenfarclas - both in production and Visitor's Center! :-)

Now, on to the review:


The Glenfarclas stillroom, May 5th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glenfarclas 15yo 58,6% (103 proof), Distillery bottling for The Whisky Exchange

Colour is gold

Nose:
Quite approachable... creamy, even if its 58,6%...
Notes of alcohol marinated fruit - peeled plums, peaches and some apple with a sprinkle of cinnamon, some nuttiness, vanilla custard, nutmeg and clove and some damp earthy notes

Taste:
A lighter style of 15yo Glenfarclas, this one...
Spicy orange and plums, quite a load of malt, hints of sweet licorice, mid- to end palate spicy citrus fruit confit gets more prominent and the whole thing is carried there in perfect measures by the never overpowering alcohol. Finishes on cooked and apple and a little nuttiness

The standard version bottled at 46% is one of the best standard bottlings out there and still available decent price for a 15yo whisky these days.

But this is not your average 15yo Glenfarclas, for sure... as mentioned above it carries a slightly lighter style which really allows this whisky to shine. You can add a little water to reduce the alcohol if you like, without harming it...

A great pick by the folks at The Whisky Exchange!

Thanks to MBO for cracking this one open at a recent private tasting!

90/100!

Still available @ The Whisky Exchange for £79.95