Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Fancy v2. Balblair, Bowmore, Highland Park, Bunnahabhain

Let’s get fancy again with the samples… I got a few…

Balblair 26; Vintage 1990, 46%
Kicking us off is an old Balblair distillery bottling. Dusty very dusty sherry with leather mixed in on the nose. Old wood workshop or a machine shop. Savory wood on the palate almost to the point of dill notes. Layers and layers and layers of flavor that’s so tightly bound that this becomes one flavor and none of the flavors. Mostly wood and some non-sweet sherry dominating with malt playing a 3rd fiddle somewhere. The aftertaste is medium with savory fading leaving a pleasant dusty sherry and spice sensation. Overall, this is totally not what I have expected here, an nearly over-wooded single malt with dill notes at brief glance. I really want to like this but either it’s not that great indeed, or my sample was too small to appreciate it. Interesting? Yes. Exciting? Not particularly. Will pay premium? No. Checkbox? Absolutely! Value: Its $250+… Yah, not a deal.
https://www.whiskyba … /99586/balblair-1990
Score: C+

Bowmore 24, Hunter Laing Old & Rare Single Cask. 53.2%
Got a sample via friend Jeffrey… I have to go off the sample label here since I am not able to find a record of this bottle in the whiskybase. The nose is super complicated with everything from pure malt to some iodine and some light peat that comes in goes in waves. The palate is paradoxically even more complicated, almost no peat to speak of but instead complex smoked cheese (gouda/mozzarella) flavors dominate together with complex malt sweetness. Butter pancakes, leche fruits, tropical undertones, this is incredible stuff. Long-long aftertaste that leaves some light smoke, yet again smoked string cheese and good cigar on the palate for a while. I don’t want it to go away frankly, and I’m the one that dislikes peat. Overall: Once in a blue-moon scotch experience of exceptional complexity and palate this is something that needs to be contemplated in front of the fire and taken in carefully and slowly. I don’t give out this sort of praises very often… Value: No clue on price but it’s not cheap… but holy cow! this is probably worth the price if it’s anywhere under $350.
AAAnd found it:
Score: A+

Orkney (Highland Park) 17; Single Cask Nation Stones of Stenness, 54.4%
Read the details here: https://singlecaskna … riant=40218088013997… It’s a 17 years old highland park (single cask) aged in 2nd fill oloroso. The nose is pure milk chocolate and caramel strongly reminding me of Ghirardelli caramel squares. Tiny whiff of iodine and sea salt in the back of the nose but that just makes it salted caramel squares. Palate is full of sherry funk with toasted, nearly charred, nuts and a solid streak of chili peppers; and so much wood. Malt and sherry sweetness balance off the woodiness, yet drinker beware, it’s right on the edge of being taken over. Long pleasant aftertaste carries most of the palate over for a long time with some ginger tingle coming up midway through. Overall: Deliciously nutty, woody, slightly smoky yet sherry sweet and well spiced dram. Lovers of sherry bombs will appreciate the complexity and concentration here. The overall experience could be a little too much for a casual drinker though. Value: Absolutely worth a pour, but as with most Highland Park single casks this is overpriced.
Score: A-

Bunnahabhain 28, 1991; Gordon & MacPhail 50.3%
A refill hogshead (ex-bourbon) production. I was afraid of this to be peated; yet it does not seem to be peated at all. Aren’t I a lucky one? Whelp; the nose says ‘this is a malt monster’. Vanilla extract and malt galore on the nose indeed. Superbly multi-layered palate with more oak/vanilla, tropical fruits and bourbon baking spices, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest, green jalapenos and yet again so much malt. Aftertaste is numbing and last for a while, while being surprisingly hot for its proof with chili spice and vanilla fighting for control. Overall: I’m not a fan and perhaps expected better with the pedigree. Super tightly wound ex bourbon that borders on mint, dill and green jalapeno salsa or just metallic on the palate. Slightly too many things going on in there without proper backbone; slightly too unbalanced. Stick this into refill sherry… and it’d be a winner, but alas we get ex-bourbon. This requires contemplation and no contemplation will be had at a bar. Enjoyable enough as a sample at least. Value: Circa $300… In a refill bourbon… Let’s go with medium cost at best; bordering on overpriced.
https://www.whiskyba … bunnahabhain-1991-gm
Score: C+

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Friday, September 24, 2021

Glenfarclas, Ben Nevis, North British, Tamdhu

Glenfarclas 18, 43%
An original distillery bottling that’s not available in USA… this 18 years old is from UK (and is also 1L)… Everything else is very likely standard stuff including the liquid inside. I’ve reviewed the 12 before briefly and while it was a crowd-pleaser, it wasn’t very memorable. I hope that the 18 will buckle a trend, The nose is in-my-face malty with some sherry and bourbon spice notes. Dried apricots and prunes are there as expected as well as a bit of wet rubber smell (in a good way). The palate is a little on the thinner side texturally but more than makes up for in nutty bitter sweet vanilla palate as expected out of a highlander. Still more malt and surprisingly a bit of salt come up in the aftertaste so abv isn’t a too detrimental to this. Overall: It’s a workable daily drink with reasonably alcohol/flavor balance that transcends @work drinking but doesn’t quite reach ‘in front of the fire with a glass’. Share it with a neighbour that wants to get into Scotch… they’d love it. Drink it casually while watching TV… It is a workhorse that performs well but will not win any races. Value: I got it for about $60 open… and it’s $80+ closed so the value is reasonably solid here for an 18 year old single malt.
Score: B

Ben Nevis 21, Faultline, 46.4%
A Faultline (private label of K&L) bottling of a 21 year old Ben Nevis from 1995… This comes by way of friend Charu… who is generous enough to share some of his deep collection with me on occasion. The nose is all vanilla and malt with some kind of apricot or dried orchard fruit compote mixed in. Creamy consistency with basically pecan pie flavor with some fruit underlay, mango perhaps. Unbelievable. The aftertaste is the only real let down fading fast into some mellow spice and vanilla notes. Overall… A rare gem in the ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ category of a bourbon cask single malt. Value: At $89… that’s incredibly good value at the age price and vintage. I cannot believe I didn’t get a bottle of this myself.
Score: B+

North British 30. Single Grain. Old Particular. 49.4%
Another Old Particular Single Grain by way of K&L. Single Grain is… It’s own beast and often leads to… surprisingly amazing or mediocre results but I digress. Nose is deliciously butter citrus cookie as is common with grains with lemon meringue or curd shining through. Palate is marzipan, more lemon curd, nutmeg and clove spices; it is quite sweet and potent to boot. Aftertaste: Sweet nuttyness with tropical fruits primarily mango and pineapple dominating and of course some spiced ginger. Overall: Good, unique, tasty and not a slouch this is certainly also a niche drink, with grains being essentially aged neutral spirit, typically into the direction of vodka or bourbon-like distillation process. Is it tasty? Yes… Is it for everyone? No! Value… I got it at $120 or so and I think it’s alright for the age overall buuuut single grains aren’t prominently priced to begin with so I’d judge it at about average due to being 30 years old (especially few years ago when some fantastic single grain bottles went through K&L inventory at $80-$140).
Score: B

Ben Nevis 7; 2013; Redacted (Thompson/Dornoch) Brothers 50%
A small sample shared for me for a review. Even though I try not to review same distillery multiple times. It’s a shame to not do it since it’s already there. Incredibly funky on the nose… My wife described it as “a mix of Windex, rubbing alcohol and paint stripper”… and while I certainly don’t believe it’s quite that, the nose does have that whiskey-flavored alcohol wipe sort of notes when sniffed. This also happens to be the youngest Scotch that I’ve ever tried at least to my knowledge. On the palate the story is actually entirely different. Waxy red apple skins dominate the entire palate almost to the point of soapiness (but not quite). Followed by some sherry sweetness and nutty spice character. It’s almost that feels like some sort of salinity is fighting with sherry sweetness on the palate. With repeat sips… I feel like more soap is coming to the front. Medium length aftertaste is pleasant and is quite sherry-dominant again fading slowly into pleasant peppery warmth. Overall: Very interesting, if disjoint between the nose and the rest of the palate and aftertaste experience that is rather unique. Value: This was $60 which is about the area I would have expected to pay for a 8 year old independent single cask… OK value i guess.
Score: B

Tamdhu 19, Old Malt Cask, 50.3%
Another Old Malt Cask… A refill of a refill of a refill likely of a color of pale straw. Nose is green apples in the store, perfume, bubble gum, vanilla. Palate is zippy with malt, more apples, some honey, even more vanilla. With time in the glass this develops into peppered honeycomb with perhaps just a touch of anice. Aftertaste is medium with brown sugar vanilla and oatmeal cookies, some pepper and a bit more of honeycomb. Overall, delicious for those that are seeking an interesting and subtle refill scotch and this certainly delivers layers and layers of delicate flavors. Value: This was $80 so this is super solid yes on value side with a 19 year old malt. As a personal experiment, I’ve added a few drops of sherried Clynelish to this pour… O.M.G.
Score: B+

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Edradour, Glen Garioch, Benromach, Waterford Gaia

Edradour 10, Signatory, Cask #364, 46%
An independent bottling of Edradour by Signatory, with a fairly standard 46% abv… While this isn’t from same series as Royal Brackla (reviewed here: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry210507-201920) it’s certainly seems to be from the same general direction. Lets get it out of the way… it’s a sherry bomb… mostly in a good way. The nose is wood shop varnish and sweet whiffs of charred caramel or burnt sugar (this is unpeated)… Palate is light sweet tobacco, yet again burnt sugar caramel. Mellow bitter-sweet chocolate and warming with sherry and malt. The aftertaste is long with more varnish sherry sticking around the palate and a little bit of tobacco. Quite delicious and much much better balanced vs Brackla. This does not disappoint. It may not mind-blowing but for a solid single malt and an Edradour checkbox… it’s well worth a pour and a sip.
Score: B+

Glen Garioch 10, Old Particular K&L SP, 59.2%
A bourbon-cask aged, Glen Garioch from Old Particular, by way of K&L. Interestingly, Glen Garioch 15 was one of my first reviews: https://www.aerin.or … y:entry190108-083714, though that one was Distillery/Original Bottling, vs an Independent. Nose is honeycomb with apricots and vanilla. A reasonably prominent amount of alcohol smacks me in the face since it doesn’t have anything to hide behind here. The palate is mouth-coating, velvety and oh so delicious. Little bit salty barley tea, anice, sweet vanilla-oak, and what a malty monster. The aftertaste is long, peppery with little bit bitter citrus and a dash of dustiness. Quite tasty overall. Value: Ummm it was $55… yah it’s good deal.
Score: B+

Benromach 10, 43%
This is the pre-redesign distillery bottling of a 10 year old malt. It’s also lightly peated, and considering I’m not huge peat fan let’s see how it goes. Malt, sherry and a solid bit of iodine on the nose with peat integrating nicely with that salty note. The palate is slightly off from the nose. More charcoal, salinity and a little bit of peat with not as much of a sherry sweetness of what nose would suggest. Nuts, brown sugar. Slightly bourbon-like with malt vs corn notes of course, it drinks surprisingly hotter than its proof. The aftertaste is coffee, burnt sugar, perhaps grilled (to the point of charring) fruits; it sticks around for a while but neither impresses nor disappoints. Yet again reminds me somewhat of a decent bourbon with that charcoal and roasted nut notes. Overall… it’s one of the weird ones that makes me think more of an American whiskey rather than a scotch. I’m glad I’ve tried it though, and while I’m not floored by its flavors, it’s a solid drinker that could be a bargain crowd pleaser for general whiskey drinkers and would appeal to both Bourbon and Scotch sides of the table. Value is fairly decent for the flavor levels at circa $50.
Score: B-

Waterford Organic Gaia 1.1, Irish Single Malt; 50%
I cannot quite talk about Waterford without briefly talking about terroir… but since others write better than me… I’ll summarize… Terroir is basically the area and methods of production that gives the product its specific qualities of taste smell etc… Typical terroir when disclosed is soil, elevation or region based, but Waterford takes it to some extreme levels with their transparency to nearly the point of silliness. Read this for more details: https://www.whiskymo … ng-the-whisky-game/
So back to the Gaia 1.1… It is an Irish single malt whiskey grown and produced locally and it comes in a fairly cool glass bottle with glass stopper. So their marketing team is on point here. Let’s hope the contents measure and and dig in. On the nose thick rick malt and vanilla cookies and lemon custard and a tiny bit of ammonia sharpness. Slightly oily and mouth-coating on the palate, more vanilla custard with cloves and nutmeg not very sweet, but more of a mellow yet nutty spiciness covered by oak and malt, slight salinity too. Long long aftertaste with citrus, vanilla and sichuan peppers. I really wish it was a little older than 4 years on average as there’s not a whole lot of secondary flavors that had a chance to develop. Really lovely overall and I quite appreciate the above and beyond on transparency… Seriously they got ‘Sounds of the countryside’ and every single barrel used… It’s nuts. Value: This is MSRP circa $100 and I’d say it’s worth it for the story but not when consumed blindly or at a bar… So that pushes it towards ‘average value’. As per my guidelines, price is not factored into score.
https://beta.waterfo … ir/organic-gaia-1-1/
Score: B

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Teeling/Cooley, Craigellachie Exceptional, Bruichladdich, Berry Bros malts

The madness continues!!!

Berry Bros Blended Malt, Sherry Matured, NAS, 44.2%
This is the sherry cask matured version of this: https://malt-review. … -rudd-blended-malts/. I was curious to try it as it came to me as part of a sample acquisition and it was cheap enough to try and sate FOMO. Fairly classic sherry notes in the nose with spicy plum notes. Quite a bit of spice and alcohol for a 44% abv at least while sniffing it… The alcohol mostly calms down with time with some chocolate notes replacing it. The palate is gentle, sweet, slightly nutty and malty but not much else seems to be going on in there. Little bit of char lets itself be known in the secondary notes and aftertaste. Slightly too sweet and unbalanced the aftertaste is generic malt and sherry yet again with some surprising coffee or mocha notes in the very end. Value… According to quick search this is a circa $40 bottle which makes it a solid NAS purchase. A crowd-pleaser, likely for @work (or bar) drinking this is nothing to write home about if imbibed in a more contemplative setting. I don’t particularly dislike it as I actually enjoy sherried malts… but it’s simply not at all exciting or complex.
Score: C+

Teeling (Cooley) 19, Nectar Pick, 55.6%
Irish Teeling Distillery has some interesting history but the short version is that all their older single malt is coming from their previous distillery which was called Cooley. Read here: https://en.wikipedia … i/Teeling_Distillery… Anyways, this is a 19 years old single cask in Ex-Bourbon. Nose is malty vanilla butter cookies with coconut and mango. That nose is good! The palate… Well mango-coconut again, deliciously nutty sweet and warming. The aftertaste is mostly… sweet with more tropical fruit notes and fades slowly with warm spices lingering. This is just… delicious overall… It’s so good!
https://www.whiskyba … /teeling-19-year-old
Score: A

Craigellachie 1995, 24, Exceptional Cask; 52.2%
A sherry (exceptional) cask Craigellachie… Courtesy of a friend (Orpheus, thank you). A sherry cask, single cask Craigellachie … The nose… how would I describe it… Old leather jacket, light mastic, red fruits, very perfumed, and a little musky. The palate is woody, nutty, sherried… luxury with some very tasty fruit flavors in the back. Red grapes perhaps. Late harvest zinfandel wine. An absolute beast of a palate that unravels slowly and in layers. More sweetness and fruits on the long aftertaste that fade slowly. overall… Holy cow this is great stuff. My sample rack has been somewhat stacked towards really good samples but it also suggests that I’ve more or less zeroed in onto what I enjoy drinking. Anyways… value of this being circa 250 isn’t all that great but I don’t count value in score.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/161208
Score: A

Bruichladdich 15, Chorlton Whisky, 59.5%
Another small sample by way of Orpheus. Thanks friend! This is a Bruichladdich 15 in Bourbon Barrel. The nose is nuts and apricots, marzipan and toasted sugar with ever so slight iodine note. Classic nutty Laddie that’s got huge personality on the palate. Warming alcohol, bourbon spices. Orange zest and malt, though a little bit hot on the alcohol side. Long pleasant finish with nuts a little bit of tobacco, more bourbon spices and some bitter orange zest. Beautiful but not truly spectacular, yet well worth trying. Like a gallery painting… it may not be your favorite… but it’s still in a gallery. I guarantee there are plenty of layers of flavor to discern here… but there are also plenty of other pours out there too. No idea what the value here is since it was a sample during a tasting and is a UK bottle.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/176099
Score: B+

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Friday, September 10, 2021

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength vertical

Because… Why not? So these are Billy Walker’s (who’s a legendary ex-GlenDronach (among others) master blender) signature releases that he personally blends (same distillery so still Single Malt) annually. All the components are at least 10 years old. Btw this get more sherried and darker in color with progressive batches.

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength, Batch #1, 57.1%
Coming out at number 1… This is a Oloroso, PX, Virgin Oak mix. The nose starts a bit like Aberlour Casg Annamh https://www.aerin.or … y:entry201226-170937, but with time becomes almost pure vanilla sugar. Delicious nose to say the least, reminding me of some of the best home baked goods. The palate is sweet, sherried, slightly nutty and spicy. A long, warming and quite complex, buttery finish with some spice finish. In short, all that is tasty in Speyside whiskeys. I don’t want to draw too much parallels with Casg, but it really does remind me of it, though clearly higher proofed. Basically a vanilla sugar or perhaps a vanilla butter cookie in the glass with a solid malt core, unlike some single grains which are butter cookie without the malt. Highly enjoyable full proofer and I would absolutely drink this pretty much any time.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/111366
Score: A

Wow… what a way to start… That score (above) came out of nowhere.

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength, Batch #2, 54.8%
Contender number 2 comes in as a blend of Oloroso, PX, Virgin Oak… which is similar to contender number 1… though not a guaranteed to be the same proportion. To be fair… the nose is almost the same… if perhaps a little bit more sherried. The palate is a very different number. It’s still mostly sugar coated nuts… but less complex or interesting vs #1… The aftertaste is… well, malty, spicy and sweet with sherry but not too complex. This is a great everyday pour overall but it doesn’t make me think. Very much a higher proof Casg Annamh as opposed to #1 which weared off and did its own amazing thing. Where 1 was special… this is somewhat generic. It’s really good on it’s own; yet not outstanding at the same time.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/121381
Score: B+

Both 1&2 are Oloroso, PX, Virgin Oak but the grades are a good reminder how same-ish components on paper can make for a VERY different result

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength, Batch #3, 58.2%
Coming in as #3… it is a 1st Fill Sherry Cask, Oloroso, PX mix. Oh, this nose is just pure chocolate and perhaps a little bit of a banana. The palate is nutty sherry indungence. Wood, malt, sherry sweetness, nuttyness. Fantastic. Does not drink anywhere near it’s proof either. The aftertaste is moderately long and delicious with chili spices coming to play with chocolate. It’s essentially a dark chocolate with chili. This is a slam dunk pour.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/136699
Score: A

#3 is Amazing!

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength, Batch #4, 56.1%
Batch #4 brings in…PX & Oloroso Sherry Puncheons + Virgin Oak! Quite restrained on the nose after the glory that was #3… It took me a bit of swishing to get to it open up… But once it did… Strong perfume notes, red orchard fruit jam and some chocolate covered cherries. Very gentle and silky on the palate. More of the cherry and milk chocolate notes from sherry. The aftertaste lasts for a while and as cherry fades, light chili spices comes in to replace it. A tasty fruity cherry and chocolate pour that’s not super complex aside from those main notes on the nose palate and aftertaste… yet doesn’t get boring. Also I like cherries and chocolate so I’m certainly biased.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/167436
Score: A-

#4 is a bit of a letdown after batch 3 glory…

GlenAllachie 10, Cask Strength, Batch #5, 55.9%
And finally… a PX, Oloroso, Virgin Oak, and Rioja Casks recipe in Batch #5. So this in on paper a #4 with addition of Rioja (Spanish red wine) casks. Nose is red berry punch and bits of chocolate yet again. Did I say ‘chocolate’ enough times in these reviews yet? Spicy, very complex, sherry, wood, red wine, wild berries of different sorts on the palate. Warm as it goes in. Nutmeg and cloves on top of cup of chocolate in winter. Almost dessert red wine or port notes by combining Rioja and sherry. Slightly bitter after ‘chewing’. The aftertaste is nutmeg and cloves, very warming and lasts for a long while balancing bittersweet spices. Perhaps an overly complicated due to sherry AND red wine casks, but certainly an enjoyable pour. Seems to get better the further I taste it.
https://www.whiskyba … iskies/whisky/178036
Score: A-

#5 takes a slight edge over #4 due to complexity but perhaps not quite enough for a clear A grade

My order of preference in the line up is… #3, #1, #5, #4, #2… with even numbers scoring slightly less while still being quite enjoyable overall. A fantastic choice for any Scotch lover as one really cannot go particularly wrong with either batch here.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown