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, 26 October 2016

HIGHLAND PARK 2003 12YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING FOR BRAUNSTEIN & FRIENDS

Its been a while since the last update here on The Malt Desk itself. As always other stuff (life) seems to interfere incl a 10 day trip to Scotland (Speyside & North Highlands) did provide for updates for The Malt Desk's Facebook page and Twitter (@themaltdesk)

But there has also been a streak of writers block much derived from some of the things happening with whisky at the moment but I will not get into that in this post...

In March this year, at the Danish Whisky Fair, plans were revealed to me that Highland Park try and return to their roots and start doing stuff like single cask bottlings for various markets again - something that had not been done much of over the past 5+ years... and on the 15th October this year, the first single cask for Denmark in a number of year was released as a part of Danish Distillery Braunstein's Whisky Fair. The bottle is a 2003 12yo heavily sherried release that immediately caught the attention of Highland Park fans - especially through the Highland Park Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

I decided to order the 2 bottles per person limit in pre-order and upon receiving the bottles, the online chatter about this bottling had really taken off with most asking how to get a full bottle as it had sold out over the release weekend or asking how to obtain a sample. Some had also tasted it at the Braunstein Whisky Fair and was raving about it, statements that spiked my curiosity further. After posting of my (so far closed) bottles bottles on Facebook, I had more and more people asking for my opinion on it - both in regular posts and in private messages which means there must be at least a few people out there that values my opinion ;-)

Anyway, its good to see Highland Park returning to releases like this. The only sad thing is that people are selling them off straight away for a profit...

Oh, wait I just did get into one of the things that's been keeping me away from the blog for a while...


So, let's take a look at this single cask Highland Park... 

I had a couple of friends try this one out as well and got a couple of interesting descriptions from them :)
The most descriptive one must be this from my friend MBO:
"This whisky is so massive that its the fluid embodiment of Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardsen, sweaty and reeking of masculinity in nothing but a kilt charging down onto the beaches from the cliffs of Yesnaby while wielding a two-handed viking broadsword, defending the Islands from whisky raiders"
My other friend MP was a bit more traditional:

"This whisky is such strong sherry influenced whisky, so strong it resembles red  balsamic vinegar and spicy oak juice and leaves little else to the drinker"


You can read my personal notes and thoughts below the picture...

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

Highland Park 2003/2016, 12yo, 58,3%, 1st fill European Sherry butt#5878, 648 bottles, Distillery Bottling for Braunstein & Friends, Denmark

Colour is dark mahogany
Lets hope it doesn't have any s-notes - regular readers will know I'm sensitive to that :O


Nose:
Huge on sherry and struck matches on the nose, turning towards reduced tomato glace - a little sweet peat smoke is surfacing, but its struggling to make its way through. There's some dark chocolate, charred oak and with water some café latte and mentholated notes. The peat smoke is also more noticeable now along with a fruity sweetness subdued by the strong sherry, charred and struck match notes. The reduced nose down to maybe 45% leaves little or no trace of unpleasentries.

Taste:
Again big on the sherry, red balsamic vinegar, charred wood chips and prune juice, grilled beetroot left too long on the bbq, dark old style sugar cane rhum and burnt molasses, spicy sherry oak notes, burnt grilled sausages, damp peat and something like inhaling the smoke from burning your organic garden waste. The finish is carried a long way by the sherry but then gets the dreaded pop-up of sulphur of the matchstick kind - like on the nose. 
It's certainly quite a massive release this one and in trying to come up with a conclusion to this one and it must be that, as my initial impressions followed through...

Closest comparison I'll make is that its a Highland Park 'Dark Originis' on steroids. That said, there's still something more in this one as in quite bit more sherried, there's more peat smoke and charred notes. Sadly there's still noticeable matchbox sulphur in here too. I know that a lot of people like this note and on top of that statistics also shows that close to 30% of all people can't even pick up the note.

I remember older bottlings of Highland Park not having this distinct note (reference here are the old OBs e.g. the 12 & 18) and when I argue this its because I also find it, very vaguely though, in the new releases of the OBs and vaguely probably because they've:

1.
 Been watered down to 40/43%

2. The amount of first fill casks going into these are obviously smaller than when dealing with a single cask bottling like the Braunstein & Friends-bottling 

I'm sadly left with the feeling that its just the style of sherry casks Highland Park get from their contracted bodega - or at least it was back in the day when this cask was laid to rest in 2003.

What I'm then left to ponder over is whether the 30% not able to taste these notes + those that like these notes is such a large part of the customer base that its not worth spending time and money trying to get rid of it??

All these things said (some less flattering) its still good whisky as you can water your way out of the matchstick sulphur in this - or at least down to an acceptable level. Luckily for me the matchstick kind isn't the type I'm overly sensitive to (its the rubbery kind) so Yes, I can drink this neat but the presence of matchstick sulphur just irritates me as this bottling could have been a belter without it!

Are you looking for a score? ok, I'll give you one...

86/100

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

HIGHLAND PARK 'HOBBISTER' - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

As with many recent bottlings of Highland Park, there was also a bit of fuss surround the release of the 'Hobbister'... The fuss, however was a bit more of a technical kind. Only 1200 bottles was released of this one and it was only available at the distillery itself and/or online in the distillery webshop...

The web traffic generated when the bottles went online made the Highland Park website crash so you couldn't finish your order. People were also queueing outside the distillery to get a bottle, so what a start for this bottling, eh? :) Bottom line is that it sold out in a flash when the website was working...

Official picture by Highland Park 

Anyway, this bottling is the first of 5,  in a series called the 'Keystone'-collection where Highland Park will be focusing on the following:

  • Aromatic Peat
  • Sherry oak
  • Cool maturation
  • Harmonisation
  • Hand turned malt

This one, the 'Hobbister' is named after the moor where Highland Park cuts its peat used in about 20% of their production. The whisky itself is supposedly made up of 6yo Highland Park from 1st and refill ex-bourbon casks, mixed with some 12yo...

So how did I get my hands on some?
As I mentioned above, this sold out in a flash, leaving a lot of people frowning.
Luckily a bottle was offered up as samples by Thorfinn Craigie from the Highland Park Appriciation Society on Facebook and then kindly administered by Ian Moir- Huge thanks, gents!

The 'price'? A donation to RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) This ended up with a total donation of £700 for the RNLI, some of it also raised at a local tasting on Orkney. Well done, all! :)

The cheque of £700 is handed over to the RNLI by Thorfinn Craigie, Martin Markvardsen and Ian Moir - Picture by Jim Lyngvild (thanks for the use, Jim)

Highland Park 'Hobbister' 51,4%, 1200 bottles, Distillery bottling (RRP was £75)

Colour is pale amber

Nose:
Quite upfront with lots of burning twigs and leaves, like burning your garden cuttings, but underneath you get some very nice tropical fruit and quite a bit of floral notes, like fabric softener.

After a while the peaty smoke notes retreats somewhat allowing a more citric and malty edge to peak but also revealing a few notes of young whisky.... this, however, comes and goes and is never uncomfortable in any way and I fell it somehow carries the floral forward

Taste:
A good burst of floral peat and honey to start with, then lots of crisp malt and a brown sugary note... There's also some vanilla pods and hint of smoked pineapple here.

The sherry influence is coming through a bit more here with hints of candied apple and charred oak. The floral peat pops back up mid- to end palate and leaves a taste of something pleasant reminding me of kissing my grandmother on the cheek, like a mix of perfume and cigar...

What do I think if this? Quite good, actually - its very lively and fresh Highland Park... and very different too, I think with its very aromatic peat style. The whole thing is quite well put together and it constantly bounces back and forth producing both young and notes of older whisky. Finally bottling this at 51,4% was the right choice as I think some of its flavours would have gotten lost at a lower abv%

87/100!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

DALMORE 2001/2015 - GORDON & MACPHAIL

It's not often I review a Dalmore... Why? well, there's not many releases from the indies and frankly I find the official bottlings very much on the dull side, all drowned in E150a caramel colouring and offered at just 40%.

This time, Gordon & Macphail has stomped up some refill sherry casks no where near as dark as the official bottlings... and we know why - because they don't use E150a caramel coloring in this bottling :-)

Dalmore Distillery with the Cromarty Firth beyond, seen from the road behind the distillery, 19th October 2014 © The Malt Desk

Dalmore 2001/2015 46%, Refill sherry hogsheads, Connoisseure's Choice by Gordon & Macphail

Colour is pale white wine

Nose:
Picture by G&M
Quite light and fresh with baked apple, tropical fruit juice and dusty earthen floors. After a while some lovely malty notes appear accompanied by some fresh lime juice and hint of something floral

Taste:
Lovely mellow yellow fruit arrival, some vanilla and then a rush lemon and peppery spicyness. I find quite a mineral side to this somewhere mid palate and a surprising sharpness from a a rush of citric and grassy notes.

This is a very straight forward dram - not overly complex in any way and it holds its own against e.g. the standard 12yo distillery bottling... a very 'naked' Dalmore :-)

82/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

MORTLACH 1954/2012 58YO - GORDON & MACPHAIL RARE VINTAGE

It's been little over a year since I've reviewed a Mortlach... Time flies! and you can't dismiss the time factor with this next whisky either, it's from... hold on... 1954 !! and bottled in late 2012, making it 58 years old...

Now, with such an old whisky, the thought of 'oak juice' crosses your mind and its with both admiration and a dose of scepticism that you should approach a whisky like this... Why, you ask? Well, we all know that old whiskies these days are rarer than hens teeth and have price labels attached that makes them out of reach for a good many people... so one could fear that a cask of oak juice will be bottled just because of its sheer age and not because its good, but thankfully that's not the case with this one! I've been so lucky to try another great Speysider from 1954 last November but other than that 50s stuff really been few and far between, but if you get the chance to try old stuff like this, do go ahead... but if you like it, don't get too attached to it because of its price tag unless you're really loaded or willing to take out a 2nd morgage ;-)

Anyway, let's have a brief look at the origins of this dram. Mortlach Distillery in Dufftown, Moray has gradually appearing more and more on the radar of most whisky drinkers, who wants to enjoy something a bit more out of the ordinary and with good reason so. The spirit from this distillery is about as robust as they come in Speyside which makes it sought after by the blenders and makes it suitable for long term maturation. Add to that, that Mortlach is often matured in sherry casks which adds another dimension to the whisky from this distillery.

So how well does Mortlach actually mature? Well , of course this has to do alot with the cask it has been laid down in, but we've already seen a bottling as old as 75 years, also from Gordon & Macphail - so a mere 58 years should be no problem, right?

Here's my take on it...

The stills at Mortlach, May 1st 2010 © The Malt Desk

Mortlach 1954/2012 43% (27.01.1954/21.11.2012) 1st fill sherry butt#494, 347 bottles, Gordon & Macphail Rare Vintage

Colour is light mahogany

Nose:
Nougat/praline and strawberry and blackcurrant jam, polished oak and leather, hints of clove, cinnamon cookies, rum raisin ice cream - heavy on the rum. Also in there are charred baked banana dosed with a little brown suger and a cooling fresh feeling. The ultra clean sherry is dosed in such perfect measures, it never overpowers anything else... one to nose for a looong time :-)

Picture by G&M - 2008 version shown
Taste:
Very lively for a 58yo whisky - quite a bit in fact! The age shows, yes, but its never invasive nor thin and underwhelming.  The arrival is much like any other lovely old sherried whisky, but then it takes off on a tropical fruit, clove, cinnamon and slight orangy Xmas theme but only to return to summer with more strawberry, some sweet sun dried tomato and mild chili powder and a mixed herb finish

Ok, I'm really trying hard here to detach myself from the thought of drinking a whisky from 1954 and bottled in 2012.

I'd like to add this piece to my experience I had with this whisky...
I decided to take a short break from nosing and tasting this to give my senses a break and went into another room. When I went back to my office/desk I could already smell it from afar when entering the room - that's how expressive this whisky is.

When I finished nosing/tasting it I allowed myself to have a Pale Ale to refresh my palate - 4 sips of Pale Ale and I can still taste the whisky a bit... That should tell you just how saturated the taste is in this whisky - its just stunning old sherried whisky! Stunning... and some of the best whisky I've had so far in 2016

93/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail



Sunday, 7 August 2016

GLENTURRET 2002/2015 - GORDON & MACPHAIL

Its been quite some time since I've had a Glenturret... and I honestly can't remember if I ever had a sherry matured Glenturret - so when I opened the small parcel and discovered this, it was my first to try :-)

Located in the town of Crieff about 1½ north of Edinburgh, the distillery is a nice little spot offering both the Glenturret Single Malt, but it also promotes itself as 'The Famous Grouse Experience' which provides a look into the The Famous Grouse Blend and its different versions.


Glenturret Distillery from the road just outside the parking lot entrance, August 16th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Glenturret 2002 / 2015 43%, First fill sherry puncheons, Macphail's Collection by Gordon & Macphail 

Colour is amber
Picture by G&M

Nose:
Lots of sherry influence... Oranges and old cigarbox then candied dried apple snacks, hints of pencil shavings, maple syrup, slightly mentholated hints and old bonfire notes

Taste:
Orange zest, roasted nuts, burnt sugar, dark honey and tobacco. The overall experience is quite smooth... as in no unexpected rough edges and really stand out'ish notes.

This is very well put together! I can certainly see myself having this around as an everyday dram!

85/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Saturday, 23 July 2016

LAGAVULIN 8YO 200TH ANNIVERSARY - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This year, Lagavulin Distillery celebrates its 200th anniversary and this 8yo release is a part of that celebration. Now, we all know the 16yo Lagavulin well and there's a chance you've tried the Distiller's Edition as well - the expression matured in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks... hey, maybe you have even tried the 12yo annual release at cask strength?

Anyway, there's no doubt that Lagavulin is an Islay Great, so I was really looking forward to see if they were able to hold their flag high with this 8yo release... It's supposedly matured in both refill European and American oak and then bottled at 48% abv.

The Lagavulin Pagodas, May 11th 2015 © The Malt Desk

Lagavulin 8yo 48% 200th Anniversary edition, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale white wine

Nose:
A bit young but that was to be expected... quite some  barley sugar sweetness coming through wrapped in camp fire smoke and a mineral/flinty note. A little honey, banana and melon on the grill and smoky white rum. Very well behaved for an 8yo, I must say...

Taste:
Surprisingly little youth influence, although its noticeable...
I get the feeling that there's some whisky, slightly older than 8yo making up this one. There's a lot of campfire notes again, like lipping the end of a burnt log, very drying like ash and wet wood and leaves. Again I get that mineral and flinty note but this time its very well wrapped in gingery and slightly nutty notes... almonds maybe? - especially with water... the finish is very much on smoky, salty seaweed so here its leans a bit more on the Lagavulin 12 style... I just wish it would have been bottled at, maybe 55%??

Its certainly an enjoyable whisky and its being sold for €40 in discount supermarket here... so certainly a bang for you buck whisky here!! However that won't affect my mark

86/100!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

SPRINGBANK 1999 16YO LOCAL BARLEY - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This highly anticipated bottling have been reviewed to death on a number of blogs already, but I'm going to review it anyway. I'm of course talking about the 2016 edition of Springbank's Local Barley... it's a revival of a tradition Springbank has, using barley grown locally on Kintyre for a range of bottlings. The first ones were distilled all the way back in 1965, 1966 and 1970 and bottled mainly in the 1990s (although a couple were bottled in 2000) and are some of the biggest cult bottlings you get from Springbank except for the 1919 and Millenium bottles.

This particular release saw the light of day in February this year and the bottles flew off the shelves everywhere at a price of close to £100. I'm guessing many were bought purely in an attempt to make a quick profit as we now see many of this 9000-bottle release appearing left and right on auction sites, which is sad really 'cause its cracking whisky... but I guess its just another sign of the times.

The 99' Local Barley is made with 'Prisma'-barley, a strain not often used anymore but was used widespread around the turn of the Millennium. It was grown on Low Machrimor Farm near Southend on the very tip of the Kintyre peninsula, then malted, distilled (of course), matured and bottled on-site at Springbank Distillery. The bottling is a mix of 80% ex-bourbon casks and 20% ex-sherry casks-

So, just how cracking is it? Let's take a closer look...

The stills at Springbank, May 10 2011 © The Malt Desk

Springbank 1999 16yo (xx.09.1999/xx.01.2016) 54,3%, 9000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
My bottle has been open for about 2 weeks now and just removing the cork and splashing about 3½ cls in my glass raises delightful aromas of citrus and vanilla before my nose even gets close to the glass. I already mentioned the citrus and vanilla, but there's also quite a bit of a waxy note as if someone poured a large splash of Clynelish in here.

I get some dirty chimney and noticeable peat, honey, lemon oil, fresh grass and and wet dirt like stepping out onto the lawn after the rain. Quite refreshing and I dunno why but this gives me the feeling of nipping at a whisky mojito when water is added. The water also makes the nose give off some pineapple and lemon wrapped in a thin layer of brine... What a fantastic nose !!

Taste:
The palate is very well behaved without water, but add some and there's that whisky mojito packed with malt, loads of lemon and mint leaves on top +  plus a little peat!

The water gives the whole thing quite a Schweppes fizzyness but it never lets you forget you're dealing with a Springbank here. There's lots of light oils, like the ones you used for your toys when you were a kid. There's ash, vanilla again, mere hints of pencil shavings, juicy malt, delicate wood spices (peppers)...

Everything's just here in beautiful measures!

Brilliant stuff!!

91/100!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BENROMACH 1974 41YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Benromach Distillery in Forres in Speyside just released this oldie from 1974 as a follow-up to their release of a 35yo expression earlier this year.

The packaging is similar til the 35yo, however this is a vintage 1974 where as the other didn't carry a vintage. This is also bottled at a higher strength which I expect will do this one good :-)

To me, the 70s are one of the golden decades in whisky, so here's to hoping that also applies to this single cask from Benromach.

Time to try this...

Picture by G&M

Benromach 1974 41yo 49,1%, sherry butt#1583, 452 bottles, Distillery bottling


Colour is amber

Nose:
Picture by G&M
Polished wood, oranges, resin, bung cloth, pencil shavings, Pickwick multi dried tea leaves and hints of apricot and Madeira and just a little clove.

Taste:
A lighter arrival and initial mouth feel than expected. Through comes polished leather, dark honey, malt extract, elderberry juice, stewed apple and overripe banana and hints of rum soaked raisin. The finish is on alcohol soaked sponge cake and coffee grounds and a tiny bit of smoke.

A lighter experience than expected as already mentioned but still very delicious! Since I don't give ½ points here, it places itself along side the 35yo which I found just a tad more lively, even though it was only 43% abv.... but I'm really splitting hairs here!

90/100!

Official sample supplied by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

HIGHLAND PARK 1990 25YO - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Well, we all know by that when a distillery says it matures all its whisky sherry casks, its not true... there are plenty of examples of this, Glenfarclas, Macallan and of course, Highland Park which is the one I'll be focusing on in this review...

Now, I'd been eyeing this one for a while and decided to grab a couple of bottles and at the same time, put a bottle on a tasting as these ex-bourbon casks Highland Parks can be really delicious... and I was not to be disappointed with this one either - and adding to that the price here in Denmark was really fair (DKK 1299,- or £133/€173) which makes it a much better offering than e.g. the official 25yo Highland Park currently priced at x 2-2,5 times that. I'm aware that this isn't a sherried version like the official 25yo but with a price difference like that, I'll live ;) - in fact, I find independent bottlings more fun as they show what a distillery can do besides their regular offerings.

One such independent bottler is Cadenheads, a subsidiary of Springbank Distillers in Campbeltown and one of, if not, my favorite bottler at moment... Their offerings are just really, really good - both in terms of quality and very often also in price - this 1990 25yo Highland Park is one such and it was bottled as a part of the Cadenhead Small Batch-series.

The Highland Park Malt Floor, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 1990 25yo 50,6%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 426 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light gold

Nose:
Vanilla, loads of honey, quite fresh, a noticeable puff of smoke, sweet barley notes, some apple, bit of ginger and grass, fresh pineapple and quite a mix of herbs

Taste:
The arrival is on citrus and honey until a strong burst of tropical fruits, mainly pineapple, mango rushes ind along with loads of juicy malt wrapped in a vanilla paestry. It's also quite smooth and creamy for a 50% malt - no rough edges here. Then we have more ginger, more, now slightly burnt paestry and smoke.

The finish goes towards cold olive oil and herbs and a slight mineral touch.

Great stuff!

91/100!

Monday, 30 May 2016

STRATHISLA 1967 - GORDON & MACPHAIL RARE VINTAGE

The months of May has seen a couple of review of old sherry matured whiskies already, so why not continue with this one, a grand old Strathisla bottled by Gordon & Macphail of Elgin.

Strathisla is also know as Home of Chivas Regal as some of the malt that goes into the Chivas Regal blends comes from Strathisla Distillery. This time, however, I'll be focusing on a grand old malt from this distillery, matured for at least a good 47 years before being bottled in January 2015.

This one is bottled in Gordon & Macphail's Rare Vintage-series and is a beautiful example of how the first fill sherry butts have interacted with the Strathisla spirit - or as they say at G&M 'The wood makes the whisky'... you can read more about their wood policy here www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood

Strathisla Distillery in Keith, May 1st 2015 © The Malt Desk

Strathisla 1967 (bottled 26.01.2015) 43%, 1st fill sherry butts, Rare Vintage, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is light mahogany

Picture by G&M
Nose:
Strong whiff of strawberries, furniture polish, milk chocolate, prunes, mint/menthol - like tiger balm muscle warmer

Taste:
You get the obvious dark fruit sherry, yes - but there's more in here. There's cloves, orange peel, hint of cinnamon and then an amazing fruitiness mid-palate rushes in with vanilla baked apple, blood orange finished by rum/raisin ice cream notes and sweetened cough syrup.

This is brilliant stuff! It never feels tired in any way in spite of its age. Again, obviously a bottle from some great sherry casks of yesteryear, like the ones I talk about in this review.

91/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

GLEN GRANT 1970 35YO - DUNCAN TAYLOR RARE AULD

It's always something special to try whisky distilled the year you were born. (Darn, now I gave away that I'm an old fart!). This one, however, is just that bit more special to me as I just love, love, love old sherry matured whiskies. It wasn't that long ago that I had the chance to try a 1968 40yo sherry matured Longmorn, which was absolutely stellar - and as with the Longmorn, my expectations for this Glen Grant were quite high.

So what makes these super delicious old sherry matured whiskies?
Well, besides a good base spirit there's the obvious sherry cask... and in these cases just not any sherry casks. IMO, we just don't see sherry casks of that quality these days. 40-60 years ago, people were drinking a lot more sherry than they are today and as a result good sherry casks are hard to come by these days, which is not only reflected in the quality of the casks but also in the price... An ex-bourbon cask these days goes for around £100 where as a sherry cask is about £1000. You can read more abut the decline in the sale of sherry in this article by The Drinks Business from 2015.

As the sale of sherry drops, the need for long term storage of the wine is also declining and you don't get the wine transported in their original casks either as e.g modern bottling halls now does most of the work with the bit of sherry that does get bottled - so there's a few factors to consider when you look at the number sherry casks going in the whisky industry today... Many sherry casks have for a good number of years now also been American oak  sherry casks (typically sherry hogsheads) and not of European oak like they traditionally were - like 40 or 50 years ago with these glorious single casks used to mature e.g. the Longmorn and this Glen Grant

The decline in available sherry casks have for decades now made some whisky companies to broker exclusive deals with sherry bodegas in Spain. As with all business models this is both good and bad as some casks are filled with low quality sherry wine and then infused into the wood under high pressure. When the wood then has been 'sufficiently influenced' the casks are emptied and the 'sherry/wine' is just poured away or is sent away to be distilled into brandy as the quality of the wine often isn't good enough for it to be sold as sherry on its own... I'm not saying this happens with all the sherry casks in the whisky industry today - I'm just saying it happens - and from what I'm told, more often than we would like...

There are still some good sherry matured whiskies out there, make no mistake about that, but I'm yet to be convinced that we'll see a quality of both casks and bottlings like the ones that hit the market just a decade ago...

Glen Grant Stillhouse, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1970 35yo Cask#812, 120 bottles, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Raisins, strong cold coffee, dark chocolate, soy sauce, polished oak, blackcurrants, cooked apple, burnt sugar, dark old rum, licorice and cigar humidor. There's tonnes of Xmas notes in here too... cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a slight herbal note followed by a bit of refreshing menthol and musty bung cloth

Taste:
Quite vinous at first, old squeaky clean oloroso sherry giving away to prune juice, alcohol soaked raisins, wet tobacco leaves, cocoa, more blackcurrant but also unsweetened strawberries jam, ancient Port wine, oak spices. There's also some fruity notes coming through if you let it sit for a while (it's hard, I'll tell you that!!) overripe plums and apple are kept at bay by drying notes of cinnamon and clove. Eventually, the quite intense flavors gives away to some salivating malt and drying wood notes...

Another stunning old malt !!

93/100!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

LAPHROAIG 'LORE' NAS - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A good whisky friend of mine offered me a sample of the Laphroaig 'Lore' - and who am I to say no to that - So thank you, A! :-)

My initial thoughts were that the 'Lore' is a whisky I wouldn't go out and spend my money, at least not until I've tried it so here was a golden opportunity to do just that.

Regular readers will know that I'm not a big fan of NAS (No Age Statement) whisky as I often find that the price and quality don't match. At the moment we're seeing more and more distillers moving towards NAS and to me that's a slippery slope as a consumer as I want to know what both what I'm drinking and last but not least, paying for...

OK, enough on the NAS issue - let's if this one is compatible with my taste buds

Stainless steel washbacks at Laphroaig, June 12th 2007 © The Malt Desk

Laphroaig 'Lore' 48%, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
Immediate hit of cigar ash, some vanilla, cooking with ginger, overripe banana, fresh flowers, layer cake sweetness and only then some sweet peat. The peat seem quite restrained to me as if its not what you want as a driving force in this whisky - which too bad when its Laphroaig we're talking about. Water releases some more kiln smoke and quite some earthy notes in this one...

Taste:
OK, there's a bit more Laphroaig here. Sweet peat lands right away.
Sweetness seems to be the theme going all the way through here with vanilla, banana, lots of barley sugar (wort). More fruit notes peaks through after a little while, mainly apple and hints of citrus. Those are wrapped in more gingery notes and a bit of oak spices for a quite short finish leaving only a bit of peat...

Like the Laphroaig Quarter Cask I also felt that in this one, there's been some smaller casks involved and looking up information online confirmed my suspicion - it contains quarter casks and adds that bit too much non integrated oak notes and sweetness but no depth.

To me, it seems the profile of Laphroaig these days is one that caters for drinkers with a sweet tooth. That said, its not a bad whisky, by no means, but it just lacks both punch and character. I like my Laphroaig more rough around the edges, which is why I go for the 10yo Cask Strength edition or indie bottlings as cask strength.

Finally, is it worth around the £80 they're charging for it?
No, not in my book, its not! The problem with NAS bottlings are often that the price doesn't match the quality of the whisky and this is a good example of just that.

Will I drink this again if offered?
Yes, I didn't say it was bad, did I?

Is it good?
It's good, but frankly I've had better...

Will I be buying a bottle?
No, I'd go for an indie bottling with an age statement and at full cask strength instead!

Again, as with many official bottlings these days, its made for the large consumer group and not the whisky anorak. We need to remember that official bottlings like this are the bread and butter for the distilleries - it's where they make their money... and we need people to buy bottlings like this - if they don't, anoraks wouldn't be getting what we like ;-)

Again, thanks to AC for the sample!

83/100!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

LONGMORN 1968 40YO 7.55 LIQUID HEAVEN - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Longmorn has long been a favourite with many  malt heads, incl. myself...
Why? it just has a bit of everything and it seems to be very consistent, making it a whisky blenders favourite. It also matures very well, both in ex-bourbon and sherry casks.The production is clearly minded for blended whisky and the main part of the production ends up in owners Chivas Bros. (Pernod Ricard) blends such as Chivas Regal and Royal Salute. This, of course also reflects on the availability of Longmorn as a Single Malt.

In 2012 the distillery was expanded to a capacity of 4,5 million liter annually but it still remains to be seen if we're to be blessed with more official bottlings from Chivas Bros. At this moment you can get a NAS Distillers Choice, a 16yo and a 50cl Cask Strength version, available at the Chivas Distilleries that has a visitors center, e.g. Glenlivet, Aberlour and Strathisla.

There does seem to be escaping a fair number of casks to the indie bottlers so it shouldn't be all that hard to track down one down, indie or official bottling, if you browse the big online whisky retailers... and speaking of indie bottlers - lets move ahead to this review...

The Longmorn Still House, picture with permission from Gorm N. Jensen

Longmorn 1968 7.55 40yo 'Liquid Heaven' 54,9%, 1st fill sherry butt, 451 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Nose:
Super nice, lots of old school sherry notes, cocoa/bitter chocolates, espresso, cool chocolate sponge cake, tangerines soaked in alcohol, brown sugar, strawberry and kirsch and old polished book shelves.

Taste:
Lots of malt wrapped in sulphur free old school sherry. There's crunchy chocolate orange sweets, roasted coffee beans and brown caramels. There's a wood presence here, yes, but everything is perfectly wrapped in layers of other stuff like figs and cinnamon, figs, nutmeg - sometimes its like sipping orange liquer spiced up with a dark old rhum. The whole thing ends with a tiny hint of woods spice and mint - Brilliant, just brilliant!

This is some of the best whisky I've had in a long time!

93/100!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

BOWMORE 1996 19YO 3.256 - HEBRIDIAN HOLIDAY TINGLE - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Its been a while... In fact its been close to 2 months since my last post.
Why? Kinda ended up in a whisky existential crisis combined with a bit of a writers block, I think...

Anyways, I'm back and will be kicking off with a review of a Bowmore from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It's funny really, that I pick up again here as I often struggle a bit with Bowmore. Often, I steer clear of Bowmores, especially those dreaded perfumy ones from the 80's. I know some love that profile lavender profile in the 80's bottlings, but I just can't stand it. Now, I'm perfectly aware that the more recent ones from the early to mid-90's and onwards has almost completely shed that style but its still not that often I go there - so tastings and launches, like the ones done by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society are perfect opportunities to get ones Bowmore tasting library refreshed.

The latest Society outturn here in Denmark had the 3.256 as one of its Islay whiskies. The Caol Ila (53.234) was heavily promoted, but not at all what it was made out to be - well, according to my taste anyway, so instead I ventured to Bowmore for a bit more moderately smoky profile - and I was not to be disappointed. I took a full bottle home right then and there!

Here's a more in-depth look...

Bowmore Distillery on a quiet summer evening, 13th June 2007 © The Malt Desk

Bowmore 1996 3.256 (27.03.1996/xx.xx.2015) 19yo 'Hebridian Holiday Tingle' 57,4%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 258 bottles, The Scotch malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Distinctly Bowmore but at the same time, very subdued. Its quite delicate, there's the fresh floral Bowmore note, yes... but its wrapped in modest measure of peat, vanilla, honey melon, a coastal salt water note - burning seaweed and shellfish cooked directly on the shore. Add to that healthy amount of alcohol as a delivery agent of the above notes and everything just hits the spot! Delicate and sophisticated!

Taste:
Quite mellow for a 57%+ whisky on the first arrival, but then WHAM !! You get an explosion of flavours. A BBQ curry sauce, Sweet peat smoke, loads of sweet honey, brown sugar glaze, burnt spiced chicken skins, quite a bit of burnt smoked apple, a garden fire - burning flowers, foliage, honey and sweet charred mustard and wood.


Brilliant - just brilliant, I keep wanting to top up my glass!

As of 26 April 2016 its still available at the Danish branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society at around €120/£94 at today's exchange rate.

No half point here, so this goes all the way up to...

91/100!

Monday, 7 March 2016

HIGHLAND PARK ICE 17YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Another anticipated release for this spring, is the Highland Park 'Ice'...

It's the first Highland Park Limited Edition after their 'Valhalla'-series and with this one, they remain with the Norse Mythology, this time going back to the legend of the creation of the realms, starting with 'Ice' and ending with 'Fire' in late summer/early autumn of 2016. Official sources confirm that there will not be 9 bottlings even though there are 9 realms in the Norse Mythology - Just to clear that up right away :-)

What else, you ask? well, the 'Ice' is made up of 100% ex-bourbon casks. There is, however, a small twist to these casks... they all had toasted oak cask ends, adding just a bit more to the whisky. It's also 'limited' to 30.000 bottles, 'limited' here meaning its a one-off bottling, there will not be another batch. Its RRP is £190, which is about 5% more than the last bottling in the 'Valhalla'-series, but it may, of course, vary depending on your location.

Preliminary rumors say this will taste much like the 'Freya' from the 'Valhalla'-series, so let's see if that's true...

Official picture by Highland Park

Highland Park 'Ice' 17yo 53,9%, ex-bourbon casks, 30.000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Very closed right after its poured - this needs a little TLC. After 10 mins with my hand around my Glencairn, this is a whole other creature. The nose is very deep and warming with vanilla, papaya, pineapple, orange blossoms, fresh ginger, sugary wort, hints of mint, buttered toast and a dash of smoke. Very nice :-)

Taste:
The arrival is thick and creamy and right away it gives off a little alcohol bite. This is replaced with lashing of honey, vanilla, spicy malt, overripe lemon, hints of cinnamon, gingerbread, orange liqueur and and some mellow peat. The finish shows a little licorice and spicy/peppery and vanilla'ed malt.

Not as light in style as expected, this one...

It carries that warm and thick feeling through both on the nose and palate and I don't really think it lives up to its name in that respect, but I do see where the official statement about this one being similar to the 'Freya' comes from. They are similar, yes, but I think if Highland Park had called 'Freya' for Ice and vice versa, the names and styles, would have fitted more properly.

Other than that, its there's not much to comment on other than its good straight forward whisky...

86/100!

Sample provided by Edrington Denmark

Friday, 4 March 2016

WOLFBURN 3YO (2016) - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A very anticipated released in March 2016 is the first whisky from Wolfburn Distillery in Thurso, on the very edge of Caithness in northern Scotland.

Those of who you doesn't know Wolfburn, the distillery is rebuilt very close to where the original Wolfburn Distillery was built in 1821. The original distillery only operated for about 40 years before fell silent and into ruin.

The planning for the new Wolfburn Distillery started in 2011 and already in January 2013 the first spirit flowed off the stills at the new Wolfburn Distillery and for the past few weeks the guys at Wolfburn have been bottling their first release - a 3yo from ex-bourbon casks.

Read more about the story and resurrection of Wolfburn on their official website here: http://www.wolfburn.com/

You're probably very interested in what this tastes like, so let's get down to business...

Wolfburn Wall of Casks - Picture from Wolfburn Media Kit

Wolfburn 3yo 46% ex-bourbon barrels & quarter casks (2016) - Distillery bottling

Colour is pale white wine

Nose:
Picture by Wolfburn DK
A sweet and very mellow nose with vanilla and some apple, lemon, ginger shortbread, green banana and warm laundry out of the dryer. Yes, its young whisky, but served blind I would have guessed around 6-7 years as it has no real rough edges - you really have to take you time to find just vague hints of real youth in this, very impressive in fact!

Taste:
Just a slight bit more youth on the palate than on the nose, but still far from anything invasive. Lots of grassy and lemony notes. If left for a short while it gets slightly more fruity with nectarines coming through, along with ginger and a bit of vanilla again. Eventually some green grapes and an acidic and peppery and drying punch comes along with some cooling cucumber notes towards the very finish - a finish which is surprisingly long for such a young whisky!

OK, this is perhaps not a super complex of whisky, but people, it's just 3 years old and what they've managed at Wolfburn in such a short time is really commendable and its probably some of the best 3yo whisky I've tried.

Gonna love watching this one grow up... it definitely has potential!

83/100!

Wolfburn is available from March 18th 2016 in the UK and around Easter elsewhere, though it may vary from country to country.

Sample provided by the Danish Wolfburn Distributor

Monday, 29 February 2016

MACALLAN 1989 25YO - CADENHEAD AUTHENTIC COLLECTION

Much have been said about The Macallan amongst whisky anoraks over the past years...

First there was the launch of the Fine Oak series, which give us a look at what Macallan tastes like when you mix ex-bourbon and sherry casks. Back then there was an outcry and comments like 'its not The Macallan style' and 'You've ruined Macallan' were uttered. Still, you could get your usual sherry matured age statement Macallans along with your Fine Oaks, only that was about to change as well with the arrival of the Macallan 1824-series in 2013. Gone were the low end age statements and instead we saw the introduction of the 'Gold', 'Amber', 'Sienna' and 'Ruby' and again the uproar was there...

Now, as a whisky anorak I understand this... even if the 'Sienna' and 'Ruby' are good whiskies and the ones worth pursuing in the 1824-series, they are somewhat overpriced... but hey, what whisky isn't overpriced these days or on its way to be? More importantly - we need disclosure - whats in the bottle? if its only 7 years old, tell us so we can make an informed decision on whether we want to spend out hard earned money on what's being offered or if we want to go elsewhere.Now, I know got a bit off topic here, but those following my blog will know that this is an issue I care about *end of rant*

But what about Macallan from bourbon cask, like the ones that went into their Fine Oak series? Well, they're (so far) only available from the independent bottlers... but its my experience that it can work just fine. Macallan actually have a very good base spirit, that, that works just fine if the cask makeup is all right and a little age is added to it. You are, of course, not getting your usual expected sherried style of Macallans, but who says that bad if the cask is good?

This one from Cadenheads is a great example of just that...

Macallan old section - stillhouse no. 1 just visible to the left, June 12th 2013, © The Malt Desk

Macallan 1989 (xx.xx.1989/xx.10.2014) 25yo 51,4%, ex-bourbon barrel, Cadenhead Authentic Collection

Colour is golden

Nose:
Thick malt, a handful vanilla, some laid back citrus and a slight flora note. I also find a little warm apple pie in here. After a while, what I can only describe as gingery notes peeps through. There's white chocolate and a honeyed creaminess to go with that as well. The alcohol never gets invasive but instead delivers the above notes beautifully.

Taste:
Incredibly mouth filling with big waves of malt, oranges, vanilla custard and a little toffee. There's a red berry notes in here as well, more apple, hints of pineapple, fresh toast and birthday cake base. Mid to end palate really shows how good a malt spirit this is, as it gets incredibly smooth and the malts just keeps rushing in all the way to the end.

This is great stuff!

89/100!

Monday, 22 February 2016

IMPERIAL 1995 19YO - SIGNATORY VINTAGE SERIES

The New Year 2012/2013 saw the end of the old Imperial Distillery... the plans for its demolition was put into action, leaving only the old warehouses on site. Originally founded in 1897, it was given the name 'Imperial' in honor of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria I, though there wasn't much imperial greatness over its production span. It was closed several times over the years, so much that its actually spent 60% of being closed, rather than producing and it was mothballed for the last time in 1998.

By summer 2015 site owners, Pernod Ricard/Chivas Bros had finish building their new super distillery on site - Dalmunach, capable of producing some 10 mill. liters of spirit annually, placing it the same league as Glenfiddich, Ailsa Bay, Macallan and Glenlivet (might have forgotten about 1 or 2 more...).

Upon hearing about the plans to build a new distillery on site, I remember thinking and hoping for a new place that would not spoil the sights and tranquillity of the place. The old distillery wasn't a beauty - far from, but looking at Dalmunach, I think they've done a more than decent design job - to me it looks like a combination of both something new and old... so good job!

Time for the review...

Imperial Distillery, August 26th 2012 © The Malt Desk
Dalmunach Distillery, May 1st 2015 © The Malt Desk

Imperial 1995 19yo (21.08.1995/02.12.2014) 52,2%, Hogsheads#50165+50166, 546 bottles, Signatory Vintage

Colour is light amber

Nose:
Very rich and full - this has the making of an after-dinner dram to me...
I guessing the 2 refill sherry hoggies maybe? Lots of nuts, orange and overripe apple, lashings of thick juicy malt, a little vanilla caramel, honey. With time the nose starts heading in a clear citrussy direction. Leaving it for longer even notes of hops can be found...

Stunning nose!

Taste:
Very graceful bitter-sweet arrival, oranges and butter caramels. More fruits, apple and pears mostly along with cinnamon buns. Mid to end palate lots of malt and citrus comes through along with vanilla sticks and some peppery notes. The whole experience is very well balanced and creamy making this one of the best Imperials I've tried...

Glad I have a full bottle of this a rainy day! Excellent stuff!

89/100!

Monday, 15 February 2016

SMITH'S GLENLIVET 1974/2011 - GORDON & MACPHAIL

In continuation of Gordon & Macphail's 'The wood makes the whisky'-campaign, we once again find ourselves heading back to yesteryear, this time to 1974.

Also I always take extra care when tasting old whiskies like this as:
  1. Old whiskies like this can be quite fragile and can easily fall apart, especially if (too much) water is added...
  2. Time and oxidation in the glass and/or the bottle if not sealed properly
  3. I cherish every chance I get to try old whiskies like this...
    With the way prices are going, it looks like that old whisky like this will be only for a select few in the future (read: people with money to spend on old whiskies

That, of course, warrants a whole other discussion, one covered elsewhere, both on here and in multiple online Fora and Facebook groups, so not getting into that any further during this post 

I often get a bit nostalgic when trying old whiskies like this,as they were made before computers took over most of the production and when making whisky were still very much 'hands on' ... add to that a great visit to Glenlivet Distillery during Spirit of Speyside 2013, a good tasting and ending the whole tour with quite a bit of 1977 sherry cask matured Glenlivet straight from the cask... Now what's not to love about that :-)

Let's get down to business before the nostalgia takes over and see what the wood have made of this whisky...

Old casks mixed with new ones at Glenlivet, May 4th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Smith's Glenlivet 1974/2011 43%, refill American oak & refill sherry casks

Colour is amber

Nose:
Picture by G&M
Oh, you got to love this nose - lots of things going on...
Polished cedar wood, fresh mint, floral notes and overripe fruit. With time, what I can only describe as dried herbs peeks through. There's also a darker note in there - maybe dark roast coffee beans or dark chocolate...

I could nose this all evening :-)

Taste:
Start off slightly spicy with peppery oak, then a rush of fruit - oranges/apricot style, but getting a bit thin mid-palate which surprises me a the delivery promised so much more... It does come back on the finish with some hints of vanilla, a little anise and some 'Grand Marnier' liquor.

This nose on this one is stunning, but the palate doesn't quite follow through, I'm afraid... still, its very, very good but I did expect just a little bit more from this one...

88/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Friday, 5 February 2016

BENROMACH 35YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Early in the 1980s, the production team at Benromach laid down some of sherry casks that has gone onto to becoming the new 35yo Benromach. Very few casks from that era remains as Benromach Distillery in was mothballed in 1983 and for that reason we're now looking at a production gap from 1983 until 1998 when Gordon & Macphail started production there again.

On its way to the retailers now are the Benromach 35yo which will land at a price of around £425 depending on where in the world you are. Its beautifully packaged and if you ask me, it could have been a lot more expensive than it is, when you compare it to similar bottlings from other distilleries... that said, the price tag still places it in the premium range of whiskies out there.

So, what's all the fuzz about, you ask?

Picture by G&M

Benromach 35yo 43% - Distillery bottling

Colour is Amber

Nose:
The first thing that comes to mind is just lovely old mellow whisky. There's a bit of lacquer, lots of overripe fruit - some very tropical in style, orange peel, honeycomb, barley wine, a noticeable smoky/burnt note in there as well along with a very present cinnamon note.... there's something about this whisky that reminds me of Xmas :-)
Picture by G&M

Taste:
Again very mellow, brown banana, fresh raisins, honey cake, marinated pear, some resin, slightly musty, more oranges and chocolate. On the finish, some toasted oak and traditional tobacco shop along with a refreshing hint of mint

This is great whisky from when I was still in school - time flies!

90/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail

Monday, 1 February 2016

RARE BENROMACH 35 YEARS OLD SINGLE MALT WHISKY UNVEILED

The Benromach Distillery Company Ltd. today reveals one of their rarest expressions to date, Benromach 35 Years Old, an exclusive whisky crafted at the distillery before the Urquhart family, owners of leading whisky specialist Gordon & MacPhail, revived it in 1998.

Handcrafted using the finest natural ingredients at the Forres distillery, Benromach 35 Years Old is an exceptional whisky with real heritage and an original tale or two, having been laid down to mature in the 1980’s.  
Golden amber in colour, Benromach 35 Years Old (ABV 43%) is a most satisfying Speysider with cinnamon hints and beeswax polish, stewed pear and a delicate charred Oak edge.

The bespoke decanter style bottle protecting the precious whisky is encased within a wooden presentation box, reflecting the various elements which have gone into making the whisky; the copper stills, the dark, grained wood of the original washbacks, and the white of the limewashed distillery walls.

This rare whisky, dating back to a time before Benromach was restored in the ‘90s, exudes the heritage of the Speyside distillery. Created under the watchful eye of Donald MacDonald, former Distillery Manager, the casks this whisky was matured in have long been a part of the Benromach history. Willie McArthur, former malt man and warehouseman, was one of the workers responsible for protecting the precious casks remaining in the bonded warehouses.  

Benromach Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank said: “Benromach 35 Years Old is a very special whisky for everyone at the distillery, as very few casks of Benromach remain from this time period. “Benromach today is created respecting the traditional working practices of yesteryear and is lovingly handcrafted by sight, by sound, and by touch, using the finest natural ingredients. The 35 Years Old is the perfect dram to toast the past, present and future of Benromach.”



Official Tasting notes:

Benromach 35 Years Old, 43% ABV

Colour: Golden amber

Aroma without water: Rich sherry influences with orange marmalade, kiwi and grapefruit aromas, complemented by gorgeous cinnamon spice

Taste without water: Initially, it is sweet on the palate with honey, fruitcake, ripe banana and melon flavours. Watch out for the smooth white chocolate edge as it develops, combined with a soft menthol note, giving a full body and long and smooth fruity finish

Aroma with water: Sherry influences with honey, blackcurrant and beeswax polish aromas, complemented by a subtle hint of cloves

Taste with water: A fabulous combination of white pepper followed by dried tobacco, dewy stewed pear, raisin and zesty orange peel flavours, heightened by a delicate edge of charred oak… the result of lingering for over three decades in oak casks.

Benromach 35 Years Old is available to purchase at specialist whisky retailers with an RRP in the United Kingdom of £425. Prices may vary in international markets due to duty and import taxes. For more information on Benromach, and to explore the wide range of expressions available, please visit www.benromach.com

About Benromach

Originally built in 1898, Benromach Distillery was brought back to life when leading whisky specialists Gordon & MacPhail purchased it in 1993. The distillery was extensively re-equipped over a five-year period before it was officially opened by HRH Prince Charles in 1998.

In reopening Benromach Distillery, Gordon & MacPhail decided to create a classic Speyside single malt – a style that draws its influence from Speyside whiskies pre-1960s.

Benromach Distillery is located on the outskirts of the ancient market town of Forres. A four-star visitor centre is open to the public throughout the year for tours and tastings. Benromach Distillery is a member of the world famous malt whisky trail.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

AILSA BAY NAS SINGLE MALT - AILSA BAY

One of the upcoming releases in February is the Ailsa Bay Single Malt from Ailsa Distillery in Girvan in the Scottish lowlands.

Ailsa-what some of you might say?? Well, its the Wm. Grants & Sons (Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Kininvie, Girvan) new powerhouse of a distillery, neighbouring the Girvan Grain Distillery. It was built back in 2007 and was up until August 2013 equipped with 12 washbacks and 8 stills when another set of each was put into production, bring it up to 24 washbacks and 16 stills with a total capacity of 12.000.000 liters of spirit annually.

The distillery produces 4 types of spirit on its Balvenie-style stills. One light and fruity, one slightly more sulphury and 2 peated spirits... one medium peated and one heavily peated, around 50ppm.

The one in the review below will be the medium peated version on 21pp, around the same as Bowmore Distillery on Islay. This version was actually released in Denmark at the start of November 2015 and since its official release is coming up, it'll be a good time to review it here...

The Ailsa Bay Bottle, January 22nd 2016 © The Malt Desk 2016

Ailsa Bay No-age-statement, 48,9%, 21ppm, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
A lovely sweetness at first, vanilla, grist, pot ale, some floral notes (fabric softener?) and a few feinty notes peeking through - nothing offensive though... and then there's the smokiness. Its always there and present from the first nosing - complimenting the sweetness quite well.

Taste:
How old is this stuff? 6-7yo maybe? if so I'd say it has been in some very active casks... It has quite a decent arrival on pear notes, grass, custard, ginger, hints of white wine, lots of honey, fresh flowers from the garden and a very noticeable smoke (not peat), followed by a oaky/peppery rush. It reminds me of something in between an Arran and a Glenlivet with added smoke, so that isn't at all bad, right?

Now, regular readers will know I'm not a fan of NAS whisky unless its priced accordingly to whats in actually in the bottle - so is this one?? No, its too expensive if you ask me, at least here in Denmark where its just under £70

Is it good? Yes, its a nice fresh young whisky in a style that I could get used to... had it been at a better price.

84/100!

Finally, big thanks to Adrian for the sample