Sunday, February 4, 2024

Arran Sherry Cask, Kilkerran 16, Ledaig 10, Balvenie 17, Benromach 12 CS Duo

I’m sneaking in these reviews in, while I continue my break from reviewing guilt-free and to catch up on currently pending open bottle notes.

Arran Sherry Cask (2021), 55.8%
This is new packaging from Arran, a NAS bottling at cask strength. Historically, I do like what Arran distillery does so let’s see if this keeps up. “Aged in sherry hogshead” line on the label suggests that it was aged in ex-bourbon cask that was sherry-seasoned. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that and it’s good note to have for enthusiasts. Notably, it’s quite lightly colored when compared to similar sherry-aged bottlings. The nose. oddly enough, evokes speyside notes, with orchard fruits and some sweet sherry notes, toasted sugar, and vanilla. The palate evokes more Speyside notes, with more of the same as the nose. We’ve got same orchard fruits and sherry sweetness, but it’s backed up by flavorful and nutty core, while the nose evokes red apples, the palate surprises with green apples and salted dark caramel. The aftertaste is long, meandering yet consistent, and gently spiced with a touch of chili heat. Overall: “I enjoy” is about the right summary here. It’s right up my alley, it’s flavorful but not overwhelming, it drinks slightly under its proof and it’s reasonably available. Yet, it’s a generic, sweet, NAS, sherried malt that’s bottled at cask proof and could be just about anything Speyside. Value: At about $75 this is at a price point comparable to its counterparts… I’ll note the value here as ‘reasonable’.
Score: B+

Kilkerran 16 (2021), 46%
A Campbeltown Kilkerran (Glengyle) bottling from 2021. They should get a marketing person, as putting “Matured in Oak” on label doesn’t seem like good use of real estate. Anyways… Light ash on top of malty and slightly salty nose, like an old beach campfire ashes that been sitting around for while. Balanced and mild palate with sweet malt and oak finely balanced out by some salinity and a bare touch of smoke. Long and gently fading aftertaste that gets sweeter and spicier as it lingers yet again with an absolute whisper of wood ash and smoke. Overall: This is a really good bottle. I don’t particularly love every Campbeltown product, yet this one is a solid offering and a solid drinker. Yes the light ashy smoke is there but it’s incredibly well integrated and doesn’t overwhelm. There’s nothing to really fault here, but I’m not going to buy another one of these due to personal preferences. Price: Findable at ~$150 this isn’t a particularly good value for a great drinker. Unfortunately, its price bracket contains a large number of excellent drinkers. Fans of distillery are welcome to apply and are unlikely to be disappointed. Others should know that are plenty of excellent independent bottlings in that price point and may consider something that is more interesting to them.
Score: A-

Ledaig 10, 46.3%
A core range Tobermory (unpeated)/Ledaig (peated) distillery offering. I frequently chime up about my preference for unpeated bottles, but let’s see how this compares. This is quite pungent on the nose, campfire smoke and some brine, not unpleasant by any means. With time roasted nut notes start appearing in addition to the already mentioned smoke and brine. Sweet and smoky palate, tropical fruits that’s been charred, fire-toasted bread. Medium length, lightly spiced and lightly smoked aftertaste that drops off somewhat abruptly towards the end. Overall: I’m enjoying this way more than I initially thought I would. It’s peated, but not overwhelmingly so and despite somewhat briny nose, the actual palate is quite sweet making whole experience reminiscent of smoked candies. Not overly complex but it doesn’t need to be. Value: Total wine has it listed at $70… which is somewhat reasonable for what we get here.
Score: B+

Balvenie 17, Doublewood, 43%
Sadly discontinued in 2021, The Balvenie 17 doublewood, whiskey (ex-bourbon) and sherry. Thanks Uncle Vadim! Malty, peppery, nutty, balanced. Bourbon sherry split somewhere around 80/20, bourbon is all primary notes with sherry mostly secondaries. Not going to bother writing more. It’s really good, though it needs like 3% more abv to be great. Price: Used to be $150. Discontinued.
Score: A-

Benromach 12, Total Wine SP, 58.2%
Benromach 12 Single cask selected by Total Wine. This is a sherry cask #849. As a side note, Benromach is a peated Speysider. The nose is fish bbq shack. That’s basically what it smells like. Salty and sweet, filled with old nutty smoke. Palate is nutty, and salty-sweet, erring on the sweet side, without being overwhelming. Aftertaste got a gentle touch of spice and a lingering sweet smoke note that lasts for a long time. Overall: This is my kind of peated pour. I very much like this! Whenever I say that I’m into sweet smoke… this is IT. Is it complex? No. Is it tasty? Absolutely! Value: At $68 it’s a steal in 2024 values!
Score: A-

Benromach 11, Total Wine SP, 57.5%
A bourbon cask counterpart to the Sherry Cask above with cask #967. The nose is peat, salt and vanilla. It’s punchy, it’s smoky, it’s slightly salty and it’s slightly sweet. It’s exactly what you’d expect a good peated bourbon cask to smell like. Salted, smoked vanilla palate reminds of hard dry-cured salted fish. The smoke doesn’t stick around for the aftertaste and it finishes as a salty, slightly spicy, vanilla number. Overall: Perfectly serviceable but it lacks something for me. Peated ex-bourbon fans of coastal and Islay distilleries that aren’t iodine-forward should apply. Value: Value: At $68 it’s a steal in 2024 values!
Score: B

As a side note… Mixing the two casks above together in a 1:1 combination essentially creates Benromach Batch Strength 1.

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