Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Quick Mini Reviews - Caol Ila 18 and Glen Keith 1992, Signatory Vintage

Two short and sweet whisky reviews today - the new(ish) Caol Ila 18 and a Glen Keith 1992 21 YO Signatory Vintage. Both from small sample bottles bought from Whiskybase.

Caol Ila 18 Year Old (OB, 2014 release) 43%

Nose: Some mild peat at first sniff, soon followed by brine and, after a little more time, light wafts of fruit.

Palate: Very soft arrival - almost a smooth caress. Light smoke, mild peat, salt and sweetish citrus fruit. [I didn't try adding any water to this as I didn't think the combination of small sample size and low ABV warranted it.]

Finish: Reasonably long. It's gentle throughout the finish, but it never feels too soft nor particularly dilute, despite the low ABV. The brine/salt combination continues to the mildly bitter end.

Such a soft and easy going aged Caol Ila. But it's an absolute pleasure to drink - I could imagine drinking a lot of this, very easily. I like it a lot.

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Signatory Vintage 57.5% (Bourbon Casks 120566 + 120569)

Nose: Slightly invasive and hot at first sniff, but underneath there's some buttery fruit and a hint of spice. Water makes things much fruitier, bringing out a whole range of fresh yellow fruits, while also levelling out the wood spice a fraction too.

Palate: Prickly hot, but again some lovely fresh stone fruit hovering below. With water the heat dissipates allowing the fruit to come to the fore. Honey and perhaps even a hint of cream now too.

Finish: Medium long. The fruit lingers for a moment, before it becomes a touch woody and astringent. Water makes it both fruitier and broader. It also becomes much less astringent with the fruit now stretching out across the now-longer finish.

Really good drink this, particularly with water. Such lovely fruit. I wish I had a bottle.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Springbank 10 Year Old 100 Proof

Both MAO and Michael have reviewed batches of Springbank 12 YO Cask Strength this week (MAO Batch 7 and Michael Batch 6 and Batch 7) so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and open some Springers to review as I'm a sucker for both Springbank and the power of suggestion.

I still have a couple of batches of the 12 CS tucked away (which I'll probably open sooner rather than later as I've been busily emptying bottles during my newborn-induced sleep deprivation of the last two weeks) but thought I should at least try to be a little different and open this (slightly) older bottling of the 10 Year Old 100 Proof. The bottling code is 07/86 which I believe signifies a 2007 bottling, but I could be wrong. In any case, it has the pre-2008 label so it's thereabouts.

This review is based on the second and third pours from the bottle.

Springbank 10 Year Old, 100 Proof, 57% (circa 2007)

Nose: Very aggressive, it's almost painful to sniff at close-range such is the alcohol heat coming off it. Quite meaty and funky first up, with a bit of ginger ale coming out too. There's a whole lot of savoury, earthy notes coming off it now too. The meat fades a little after some time in the glass, and some dried fruit - sultanas and raisins - emerges, along with some other sherry notes like cloves and oranges. Water does little to the nose beyond taming that powerful punch it's packing neat.

Palate: Big arrival. Salt, leather - all that Springbank goodness - and sherry spices. Oily mouthfeel. There's no way you could call this whisky sweet, but its essential dryness has a seam of sherried (dried) fruit running through it that supports it all the way through to the finish. The addition of water releases that sweetness just a fraction more though.

Finish: Long. Salty to the end. Those sherry spices linger for a long time too, coating and numbing the mouth. There is also a faint echo - at the very end, when everything else has melted away - of that funky meat note found on the nose. Water seems to both enhance the presence of those tingling spices and extend the already rather long finish.

Having previously tried later versions of this (not sure which but they had the newer label so I'm guessing post-2010) I knew to expect an even more savoury, meaty Springbank than found in the 12 CS (which I think is consistently awesome and count as one of my all-time favourites), but this exceeded those expectations in all its salty, funky glory. So good. It's a rougher, less polished experience but, boy, what an experience.

Gotta love Springbank.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teaninich 1983, 27 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Another Duncan Taylor Rare Auld sample, following on from yesterday's Mortlach.

Will this one scale new heights, or plumb those same depths? The excitement is killing me...

Teaninich 1983, 27 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, 45.9%

Nose: Quite fruity - a little bit stonefruit, a little bit tropical - with a touch of gunpowder first up. Some vinegar appears after a short time, along with some malt and a sweeter soy sauce. Water brings out a little more fruit again, perhaps even a hint of some red stuff.

Palate: The fruit continues through to the fore-palate initially, but as it makes its way back it becomes increasingly drier and astringent as the wood takes over. The booze makes itself readily apparent back there too, feeling every bit of its 45.9% and then some. Water doesn't add much really, if anything it oppresses further what fruit there was to begin with.

Finish: It remains pretty hot and dry for most of its length, but after a little while some of the stonefruit re-emerges underneath, but never manages to completely wrestle its way out from beneath the dry oak. As with the palate, water flattens out any extant fruit on the finish, leaving us with that dry and drying oak.

This started out quite promising on first sniff but rapidly descended into a joyless dry oak fest. I can still taste the rasping tannins as I write these notes actually.

I've not had a lot of experience with Teaninich and its flavour profile - beyond a few Compass Box blends I think - and after this wood-drenched sample I guess I still haven't.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mortlach 1989, 22 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Sample time, one of a few I bought with a recent order from

These Duncan Taylor samples I've tried - here, here and here, all purchased from the same place - have been a bit hit and (a lot) miss. I guess there's a reason why these bottles are still kicking around on the other side of the world four or five years after release.

Mortlach 1989, 22 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld, 54.1%

Nose: It seems a little biscuity at first, but this soon evolves into a kind of nutty, woody note. This is quickly followed by some sweetish citrus (clementine?), apples, licorice and faint spices. The addition of water shows us a little more of that orange citrus.

Palate: Quite rough initially. Hot, prickly and vaguely plasticky. Lots of wood here too. Is there any fruit here? Some apple perhaps. Water calms things down a little here and relieves us of that plastic note, replacing it with something more floral (and slightly less offensive) and lavender-like.

Finish: The wood continues as, thankfully, some of the heat burns off. Something green and herbal rises in the upper palate, as the spices continue to do their puckering work. Water forces some of the spice back and, as with the palate, leaves a floral, perfume-y impression.

No, no thanks.
The nose is OK, and the finish acceptable, but the palate is awful. Coming so soon after trying this really good (and super value) young Mortlach (which, incidentally, I had a nip of to calibrate my palate before trying this one), this was supremely underwhelming.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Highland Park 1988, 25 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch

I haven't had a look at this bottle for quite some time so thought now might be a good time to put it back into circulation. It's been open for about a year I think, and stored under argon for the majority of that time. Oxygen will still probably have had its way with it in some small way, though, no doubt.
As you can see in the photo below, this review is from about two thirds of the way down the the bottle.

Highland Park 1988, 25 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 55.7%

Nose: Cola, coffee, cloves, nutmeg - loads of lovely sherry spice notes. Smoke, heather, sultanas and raisins. There's also leather and some nice spicy wood tannins too. Water brings out a little more fruit, with just the slightest suggestion of ripe stonefruit lurking beneath the heavier, dried stuff.

Palate: Huge arrival, starting sweet and spicy at the front and becoming drier as it fans out through and across the palate. Dark chocolate, coffee, dried fruits, those spices again - although now they're even spicier and more peppery - nuts and cigars. The addition of water releases a little more sweetness, while the spiciness continues on with its mouth-coating tingliness.

Finish: Quite long, the spices seemingly outlasting all else. It finishes quite dry and smoky actually, with just a hint of acridity emerging right at the death. Water seems to further extract those smoky notes and, as with the palate, increases the spiciness as it does so. It also seems to extend the finish somewhat.

This was as tasty as I remember it being, although it certainly opened up a whole lot quicker - right out of the bottle really - than I recall it doing when I first cracked it. A hugely powerful sherry blast that still manages to let the distillery's character peek through.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Compass Box Canto Cask 35

The Canto Cask range was apparently borne out of John Glaser's work on Oak Cross, with the 16 different "Cantos" being those experimental barrels that were not chosen for the final Oak Cross product. They were all re-fill American oak casks that had been re-fitted with new French or new American oak heads toasted to varying degrees. They all contained the same original blend of malts - Clynelish, Teaninich and Dailuaine. You can read all about it here.

All of these were bottled in 2007, and although it doesn't mention it anywhere on the bottle, according to the link above the final malt blend is apparently 13 years old. Compass Box gave a different cask to each of their importers/distributors around the world. This Canto was bottled for Maurizio Cagnolati of Arnolfini in Italy, and had new American oak heads that were toasted to a level of 5 (on a scale of ten).

Compass Box Canto Cask 35, 54.4% 

Nose: Pretty aggressive. Salt, sherry spices - cloves mainly - toffee, caramel and vanilla all assault the nose, as well as a hint of some wood-derived herbal tannins. As the glass empties stonefruit emerges in the form of ripe peach and nectarine. With water there's still salt, caramel and spices, but the peaches come through a little earlier.

Palate: Quite a thick and viscous mouthfeel, full of salt, caramel, wax and something green and herbal, like thyme or za'atar maybe.  Hot and sweet. As with the nose, there's a load of sherry spices, this time accompanied by some aniseed, perhaps, too. Time in the glass again ushers in the arrival of some stonefruit. With water, it loses none of its luscious mouth-coating feel and feels slightly broader and, naturally, not so hot.

Finish: Salty, spicy and sweet. Big finish, with waves of flavour rolling in. Some wood bitterness at the tail too. If anything, water releases a touch more fruit and lengthens it even further, extending the salt and the sweetness. It's really grippy actually, and feels like I'll still be tasting it tomorrow.

Wow, interesting booze this. I really like it, though I imagine it's not going to be for everyone. It's pretty huge, with the wood imparting loads of flavour, but man, is it delicious.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Six Isles Blended Malt

An inexpensive blended malt this time.
I think this is a relatively recent addition to the Australian market (I could be wrong though), but is, I believe, fairly ubiquitous elsewhere. I picked it up on a whim at my local booze supermarket as I hadn't seen the label before and the idea appealed to me - they sure saw me coming.
The shtick here is that there is a malt from each whisky-producing Scottish island included in the blend.

The Six Isles 43%

Nose: Peat (of the Islay variety) dominates first up, wrapped up in light wafts of vanilla. This is soon followed by musty cupboards, old socks and sneaker rubber. Smells kinda dirty.

Palate: A fairly light mouthfeel, with a bit of a void mid-palate. There's plenty of that Islay peat, along with toasted grains and that sneaker rubber again. Sweetness builds in the background through sweet peat and some heather-y honey, but by and large it fails to displace that sense of dirtiness that pervaded the nose and has now re-emerged on the back palate.

Finish: Soot is at the forefront, becoming ashy as it fades, while the simple honeyed sweetness lingers long.

This is a pretty simple and largely inoffensive whisky which, I guess, delivers a quick and dirty peat hit for those in need at a relatively cheap price. The Islay malt (Caol Ila at a guess but I'm not certain) certainly dominates proceedings.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mortlach 2003, 11 Year Old, Van Wees The Ultimate (Cask 800209)

There are some benefits to having children - these late nights (or rather conjoined days) of the last few days since the birth of my second son have tossed up some quality drinking time. And with no work to go to in the morning for the next couple of weeks - aside, obviously, from that work arising out of the needs and wanton destruction of my own flesh and blood - a rather carefree and cavalier approach to my usual (self-imposed) strict weekday drinking quota has taken hold. Long may it prosper.

Mortlach 2003, 11 Year Old, Van Wees The Ultimate 46% (Cask 800209)

Nose: Spiced fruits. Light malt. It's all fairly restrained though. After being open for a while, the fruit develops a very white wine-like quality. Water further releases some lovely bourbon fruits along with a hint of vanilla.

Palate: There's this strange, but not unpleasant, white wine (chardonnay to be exact) fruitiness and nuttiness going on. Time brings out some nice ripe stonefruit, vanilla and spice. Smoke. Water frees up the fruit again, and resolves some of those those white wine notes just a little.

Finish: Relatively long and smoky. A spiciness rises in the tail, and wraps around the smoke along with some wood bitterness. Water keeps it a touch sweeter perhaps as the peach notes linger, while broadening the finish somewhat as well.

A lovely whisky. Not complex or massive, just delicious to drink and really enjoyable to spend some time with. I guess the white wine-like notes are technically faults, but I'm willing and happy to consider them as providing additional character.

This was about 35 Euro from whiskybase - crazy cheap and fantastic value, particularly in an Australian context where, under the current regime of spirit duty and taxes, any sense of original value simply evaporates.

Good on van Wees for providing such a great value malt, amongst, it seems and must be said, a plethora of other such releases. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Balvenie 15 Single Barrel (Bourbon Wood) No.10787

The Balvenie 15 Single Barrel Bourbon Wood has apparently been discontinued and replaced by a sherry cask version. Should it be lamented? Much like everyone else, I've drunk a bit of this over the years but I've not re-visited for quite some time, so I figured I'd give it one last spin to see how a (relatively) recent iteration from 2013 was looking.

Balvenie 15 Year Old Single Barrel (Bourbon Wood) No.10787

Nose: Honey, Manuka honey, lots of honey. With water there's honey, peaches and nectarines. Vanilla. It's become increasingly maltier as the bottle has emptied.

Palate: Honey - again and of course - but this time against a backdrop of thyme and maybe lavender. A strange oxidised white wine note follows, but largely fades after a short time. With more time and water there's also pineapple, vanilla and apricots.

Finish: Quite long. Nearly cloying in its sweetness at first. With water the finish loses some of this sweetness and seems to gain some tannin. There's still honey on top of stonefruits, but the wood is more prominent and there is something green and herbal - much like menthol - emerging halfway through the tail as well, leading to quite a bitter finish. This too has become much more pronounced as the bottle has emptied.

To be honest, I've had better versions of Balvenie 15, but based on this bottle I wont much miss this.
Simple, sweet, and increasingly not particularly enjoyable to drink.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Longmorn 12 Year Old Gordon & Macphail

This is a bottling from a few years ago - around 2008/9 I think - when it was bottled at 40%, as opposed to the current bottling's 43%. There's a few of these bottles still kicking around Dan Murphys' shelves, and as they're still at '08 prices, worth a look. Let's see...

Longmorn 12 Year Old Gordon & Macphail, 40% (circa 2008)

[This review comes from near the end of the bottle, which is now disposed of. Thought I had a photo but can't seem to find it, so here's a nice shiny pic instead.]

Nose: At first a small burst of tropical fruit, but this is quickly followed by, and washed over with, malt vinegar and wet cardboard (a very similar oak profile to the G&M Mortlach 15 actually). With a fair bit of time in the glass (and indeed the bottle, for the end of the bottle is a bit better in this regard than the beginning) some stewed fruit does also eventually emerge, and it's quite nice.

Palate: Some decent sherried fruit and lots of spices initially - cloves, cinnamon, pepper - before that wet cardboard takes over again, the latter keeping it on the dry side. Some struck match appears after a while as well.

Finish: The spices continue, and some fruit - dried apricots, orange rind - hangs about for a bit. It finishes a little dry and dusty, along with - you guessed it - wet cardboard and malt vinegar too. These last two linger longest, and remain with you as the abiding impression.

There are some nice Longmorn-y notes lurking in this malt, but unfortunately it's impossible to get past the crappy cardboardy casks that dominate the spirit. At $60 AUD, this is pretty cheap (in Australian terms), but still probably not worth the dosh.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Bladnoch 1992, 21 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 54.9%

A Lowland malt this time, a region that I recently realised was embarrassingly lacking on my shelves.

I'm not entirely sure what the story is with Bladnoch at the moment - is it definitely closed, or will someone snap it up and revive production? It certainly seemed to be a startling - and frankly almost bizarre - outlier that a distillery would actually be closing amidst all the backslapping optimism of the current whisky boom, so conditioned have we become to the nearly weekly tidings of a new distillery opening or an existing one expanding.

Bladnoch 1992, 21 Year Old, Cadenhead Small Batch 54.9%

Nose: Citrus at first, along with some apples, followed by a light, nutty maltiness. Water releases some sweetness, followed by some increasingly lifted floral notes.

Palate: Piercing, narrow, grapefruit at first. A little water knocks back some of the intensity and booze. That's more like it. Papaya followed by chocolate and then a whole lotta floral and herbal notes - thyme and lavender. Herbs de Provence maybe?
It becomes oppressively chocolatey for a while actually, but after more time, and a wee bit more water, the fruit reveals itself again, with that extra dilution also serving to make the texture nice and creamy.

Finish: Neat, the finish is all citrus and booze. Let's go straight to the water. Now, the chocolate continues into the long, creamy finish, joined by some salt and spice, becoming slightly drier and drying as it fades.

A wonderfully complex Lowlander, full of character, that bursts from the glass and continues to evolve and interest as it progresses. Water is essential, to my taste.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old

I've written before about my aversion to, and unwillingness to get caught up in, the marketing bullshit that surrounds and supports whiskies/brands like Ardbeg. Not that I don't drink nor enjoy them at all, of course, just that I try to remain resolutely impassive in the face of the (rarely convincing or interesting) PR bombardment that accompanies/presages new releases in these heady times.

Glenmorangie, Ardbeg's slutty sister, should, then, be just about anathema to me. This is the whisky, you'll all remember, that not only bears the brunt of Bill Lumsden's exotic wood obsession, but is also simultaneously subjected to the best soft-focus, glammed up marketing make-overs that LVMH's money can buy. 

Yet despite all this, I've always enjoyed the spirit profile itself. The 10 year old remains a firm favourite in the summer months, where its gentle, fruity profile - surrounded by that (increasingly virgin, I believe, but I could be wrong) American oak vanilla - works a treat, especially with an ice cube to keep the heat at bay. And I've even enjoyed some of the special releases with the stupid names. Heck, I was that bloke who bought a bottle of the Artein and kinda liked it.

It just goes to show, I guess, that we can put our innate and/or hard-won resistance and opposition to one side occasionally and enjoy something simply for what it is.

Or, it shows that I've been brainwashed (or long-range lobotomised) and soul-stripped by a corporate behemoth who is clearly better at this than I am and a worthy winner.

Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Extremely Rare 43%
This review is based on three pours from the very top of the bottle.

[Don't ask me what is so extremely rare about this bottle. They seemed in plentiful supply at the store I bought it in (sometimes I like to actually go in to a booze shop and look at actual bottles and talk to actual people. I do it so rarely it seems almost special when I make the trip - in this case to the other side of town - and it's almost always pretty satisfying, even if a little tough on the wallet), and were going at such a good price that I picked it up almost as an afterthought on the way out.]

Nose: Tropical! The first pour is full of mango, apricots - a whole bowl of tropical fruits. Some citrus notes too. Coconut and vanilla soon follow. After even more time the malt comes further to the fore, along with something a little less sweet, like a very light soy sauce.

Palate: Lots of sweet malt at first. Milk chocolate and apricots cover the palate. Orange, vanilla and sweet spices. Mouth filling, luscious Glenmo goodness. Tongue coating and rich. There is, though, perhaps the ever so slightest trace of a hole in the mid-palate.

Finish: The apricots and chocolate from the palate return as a gentle spiciness rises at the back of the palate and remains, leaving a refreshing tingling sensation on the lips. A touch of smoke swirls around too, as some wood bitterness emerges at the death and lingers.

Look, I think you need to be a fan of the house style and profile to really get maximum pleasure from this whisky as it's not a super-complex one. What it lacks in interest, though, it more than makes up for in sheer enjoyment and drinkability.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Highland Park 21 Year Old

I picked up this Highland Park 21 for around $100 AUD - about a third of the original asking price for it here in Oz - after an extremely welcome tip-off on Twitter. I'm assuming this is the later, non-Duty Free, release of this particular HP OB.

I was extremely curious as to the provenance of such a bottle - a long time in a well heated shipping container perhaps? - so I cracked it almost immediately. Cracked - or crumbled - proved to be a fairly apt description as this is exactly what the cork (damn you cork!) did upon (almost) opening. The plot thickens...

Highland Park 21 Year Old 47.5%

Nose: Wood, varnish, sherry, smoke and spices. Over ripe oranges. Much later, fresh stone fruit arrives as well. Water brings out this fresh fruit a little too.

Palate: Varnish, smoke, dried fruit and sherry spices - cloves, oranges. After a while some sweeter, lighter fruit emerges underneath too.
Water freshens things up, as the fruit brightens and the spicy texture fans out and grips. Be careful though, it can't take too much before losing both texture and intensity of flavour.

Finish: A nice transition. It becomes increasingly spicy and tingly on the back palate as the smoke builds. Long. Some wood bitterness develops right at the end and lingers, entwined with that classic HP smoke.

Time and air were/are very kind to this HP. When I first opened the bottle it was extremely woody and almost acrid. I had genuine fears for its health, particularly given the concerns born of the extraction operation I had to undertake with the aforementioned cork. Halfway down (and well before, to be fair) and the bottle has evolved into an absolute pleasure.

Is there anything more comforting than a good OB Highland Park?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Laphroaig Quarter Cask 48%

It's been a while between posts.

A ridiculously relentless and stubborn cold (my espresso tasted like soil and my malts like metal - something ferrous, bizarrely enough), a (seemingly) increasingly energetic and demanding son (and another on the way very soon - what was I thinking? I blame the booze), together with an ailing relative have conspired to make time both at once scarce and seem to fly past at a blistering rate.

Anyway, at one of my visits to said relative's house I saw a bottle of this turn up one day, a Duty Free  gift from a recently returned traveller. I haven't had it for a long time so I promptly poured a measure or two into a clean empty jar (I was driving) and took it home.

Like many people, I cut my single malt teeth on peated Islay whisky and that meant - particularly in this part of the world - that I drank a lot of Laphroaig and Lagavulin (this was in the period prior to the re-birth of Ardbeg and Bruichladdich, kids, and the subsequent arms race (both in peat and marketing) that ensued). I say "a lot" in relative terms of course, as whisky at the time was still more of an 'occasion drink' for my friends and I - teenagers and young men/women that we were - as opposed to a regular session one. Regardless, the profile of Laphroaig remained the one that I associated with quality single malts, and the yardstick by which others would be measured.

Subsequent years would, of course, see an expansion in both the range of malts available here as well as in those that I myself tried and enjoyed (travel would also help broaden some of these new horizons too, of course). And thus taste, palate and expectations change and whisky exploration proper begins, meaning more whiskies from further afield (and more whisky in general, if truth be told). So much so, in fact, that I note with some bemusement that this is the first Islay whisky I've reviewed here.

It's not that I don't drink them anymore - I always have at least one open - I probably just don't drink that much of them proportionate to other malts. I'm not sure why this is. Certainly marketing bullshit - an epidemic taking on Ebola-like proportions on Islay, but prevalent on the mainland and elsewhere too of course - plays a part in this. There's only so much of this soul-destroying, brain-shrinking stuff one can take.

And then, that most Quixotic of whisky quests, the search for the perfect dram, also plays a part in this, I suspect. Whether it be the Perfect Dram Ever, or simply the perfect dram right at this moment, this tilting at whisky windmills has sent many a whisky drinker down often dead-end detours in a search for both the Ideal and, I guess, for Difference.

But then there is also simply the aforementioned taste and palate. These change, indeed are constantly changing, so that any definitive answers to questions such as "What do I like?" are necessarily shifting, elusive and, most likely, unanswerable.

In any case, I found myself contemplating this Laphroaig Quarter Cask with some interest and expectation, not having tried it since its initial release (which I think is about four or five years ago, but I may be wrong here). Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask 48% (circa 2014 release)

Nose: First up it smells immediately, irresistibly, like a recently used bong. Moist ash, smoke, and plant matter. Brings back some vague memories. Rubber and TCP lie underneath. After a while some sweet malt wheezes its way in too. The rubber emerges further after a while.

Palate: Soot, peat, sweet honeyed malt, and earth. A touch of spice develops too, keeping the palate - not huge by any measure, and almost, perhaps, a little dilute - nice and lively.

Finish: Sweet, spiced honey continues from the mid-palate before smoke and ash develop and continue, keeping the finish essentially dry. It remains largely on the forepalate and tongue, and is not massively long, but it is still tasty and moreish.

A well crafted young malt that delivers everything you'd expect. I just feel that it's a little thin and lacking in depth.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Glenlivet 16 Year Old Nadurra, 53% (Batch 0911P)

The Glenlivet Nadurra, particularly the early batches, gets a lot love from whisky geeks. While I've not had too many different examples, those I have tried I have enjoyed. It's about 100 bucks here in Australia, so while that doesn't make it quite the bargain it seems to be in the US and Europe, if you get a good batch it would still seem to be money well spent.

I picked this 2011 iteration up relatively recently - late last year - from a major booze chain store where it was collecting dust on the shelf along with some other, more recent, bottlings. Serge has since quite enjoyed this particular batch, so I thought it might be time to have a look myself.

This review is from the very first pour of the bottle.

Glenlivet 16 Year Old Nadurra, 53% (Batch #0911P)

Nose: Something green and pickled gherkin-like (reminiscent, to me, of notes I found distractingly all through the Redbreast 12 CS) leaps out at you at first. Pretty boozy and sweet too. The greenness fades a little given some time, and some nutty malt comes to the fore.
Water draws out some stonefruit and tempers the greenness and booze a touch. It also tones down some of the overt sweetness a little, morphing into something like sweet soy sauce.

Palate: Hot, textural, with thick honey sweetness first up. After a little time in the glass, some fruit emerges - ripe stonefruit and maybe even some mango - layered over some nice clean malt.
Water makes it less fiery, while releasing more of that tropical fruit that time in the glass gave us .

Finish: Quite long. Warm and luscious, with some spiciness - and a little astringency - developing and lingering on the tail, once the fruit fades.
Water thins out the texture somewhat but, for me, increases the drinking pleasure. The numbing spice on the tail remains, and perhaps even lingers a touch longer.

A really nice Glenlivet that I think was vastly improved with the addition of water, which sees some lovely fruity notes finally taming that initial overt greenness. It will be interesting to see what happens to those green notes as the bottle empties.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hanyu Ichiro's Malt Ace of Spades

Not being an adept in the sometimes mind-bendingly complex (for me anyway) world of Hanyu/Ichiro bottlings and releases, I got myself all confused trying to work through the apparent discrepancies in accounts and details of this one, having purchased a sample from

Long story short (and as I'm sure many are well aware), there were two releases - a year apart - from the same barrel, with this, the second one, coming in 0.7% stronger than the first.
Both were from a hogshead (#9308) that was transferred around 19-20 years later (at some point in either late 2004 or 2005), to a Spanish Oak Sherry Butt for finishing. So this release got 15 months in the butt (bottled 2006), and the 1st (bottled 2005) got 4 months.

Thanks must go to Dramtastic and Whisky Saga whose reviews clarified all that for me.

Hanyu 1985, Ichiro's Malt Ace of Spades 2nd Release, 21 Year Old 55.7%

Nose: At first pour there's a strong scent of warm cola. This is followed quickly by orange, dates, sweet toffee and sherry spice. After more time, some roasted nuts emerge too, with a touch of leather. It's pretty huge. Water doesn't do a whole lot to the nose, beyond toning things down a fraction.

Palate: Spicy, mouth coating and thick, but the palate still feels pretty lively. There's a heap of sweet dried fruit, along with licorice, exotic spices and (brazil?) nuts. A touch of sulphur too. It becomes increasingly expansive with time, searching and warming.
Water broadens the palate a little, and brings out even more toffee sweetness.

Finish: Numbing and slightly astringent but still quite sweet with toffee and dried fruit. Long. A bit of sandshoe-rubber right at the tail. Water increases the sweetness here on the finish somewhat too.

A big old sherry monster, but jam-packed full of interest in that uniquely Japanese way. Readily drinkable without water despite its strength, it's very nice and eminently satisfying. The closest thing I've had to this recently would have to be a SMWS bottling of Karuizawa (132.5), with which I reckon it shares several characteristics.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hazelburn 2003, 10 Year Old, Rundlets and Kilderkins 50.1%

Hazelburn - Springbank's triple distilled whisky.
It can be big and sweet. And it can also sometimes be a little light on complexity. But we don't always want or need super complex drams, so this is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is the third (and apparently final) Rundlets and Kilderkins release, which sees the whisky matured in very small barrels for the duration of its life. This extra wood contact is supposed to hasten the ageing process and thus give it a sense of maturity beyond its (relatively few) years.

I've tasted the earlier Longrow and Springbank R&K releases - and have got some bottles tucked away too - and found them to be pretty good examples of the distinctive style of each.

The bulk of this review comes from the very first pour after the bottle was opened - significant, as we shall see, due to the appearance, and subsequent disappearance, of a somewhat surprising note.

Hazelburn 2003, 10 Year Old, Rundlets and Kilderkins 50.1%

Nose: Wow, very heavily perfumed at first - it smells like a rose petal bath bomb (not that I've ever used such a thing, you understand. The better-half uses them. Honestly). After quite a while in the glass it dissipates a little - not entirely though - and some of that Campbeltown salt emerges. After even more time the perfume does eventually get taken over - by salted caramel, apricots and sweet vanilla.

[A second pour from the bottle two days later and the floral perfume notes have disappeared entirely. It comes across immediately as very Spingbank-like. Think early batches of 12 YO Cask Strength. A lot sweeter here, obviously, and less leathery, but the family resemblance is clear.]

Palate: Intense. A bit fiery at first. A burst of sweet honeycomb, followed by ripe papaya, honey and then ash. It's quite oily and slippery too.
With the addition of water the fruit comes to the fore. Something like heather comes out too. The oil becomes more viscous and rich as well. It's unmistakably Springbank-distilled.

Finish: Quite spicy. Ginger, honey, ash and smoke. A lingering sense of dry smoke persists for a very long time after the sweetness fades.
With water the finish becomes much sweeter and richer, extinguishing the ash and smoke somewhat.

It will be interesting to see how this whisky evolves over time. That floral perfume nose from the first pour was pretty bizarre. I've never encountered anything like it in a Springbank-distilled whisky before.
A belter of a malt otherwise, though. The small casks have done their job well here. Quite complex and full of interest, its oily mouthfeel ensures that this Hazelburn is also lovely to drink.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mortlach 1995, 18 Year Old, C&S Dram Collection 56.2%

A single bourbon cask Mortlach from German bottlers C&S Dram Collection.

Mortlach has gained the majority of its renown through its interaction with and maturation within sherry casks, but there are of course a few bourbon cask incarnations floating around as well. Maybe not so many in the near future, though, as the distillery's owner "re-positions" the Speyside whisky into a "super-premium" "brand".

I've ranted about this before - elsewhere - and don't think I can muster the requisite outrage to do so again at this point in time, what with the ongoing slaughter of children in Gaza and such.


Mortlach 1995, 18 Year Old, C&S Dram Collection 56.2%

Nose: Nice and fruity from the outset, bourbon-derived fruits like peach dominating at first, with further time in the glass seeing the emergence of something like orange. There's cream, too, coupled with some sweeter custard notes. A dash of soy sauce lurking in the background as well.
Water doesn't add too much to the nose.

Palate: Pretty aggressive at first, a spike of intense heat and fruit on the front of the palate. Spicy pepper, with a hive-load of sweet beeswax and honeyed peaches. There's spiced (cloves) orange here as well. A hint of bitterness emerges, too, after a while.
The addition of water tones down the spice, but the palate becomes more mouth-coating and generous.

Finish: Lemon and apple develop on the finish, joining the honey and pepper. It's reasonably long, with some astringency emerging towards the end, along with a bit of wood bitterness.
Water abbreviates the finish somewhat, though makes it slightly less astringent and bitter.

Enjoyable whisky this. The bourbon cask brings out the lighter-and-brighter fruit aspects of Mortlach that you might not immediately recognise or find in a sherried version, and the finish offers enough complexity to hold one's interest to the bitter (sorry!) end.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kilkerran Work In Progress 6, Bourbon Wood, 46%

It took this bottle three days (from the time of ordering from whiskybase) to arrive in Australia. It then took another 25 to reach my house. This is extraordinary incompetence, even by Australia Post's standards.

Anyway, the tyranny of distance and all that.

Kilkerran. From Glengyle. Working their way to a 12 Year Old release. This one (it is assumed, but we are nowhere actually told that) comprises 10 year old whisky from bourbon barrels. Like last year, there is an accompanying Sherry Wood release as well.

I have really enjoyed previous Kilkerran releases. Last year's WIP 5 proved to be popular among many others too - Serge in particular loved it - but I know there are others who have yet to fully warm to it. Florin, for example, has told me on Twitter that he likes it but finds it too sweet - (SPOILER!) this one aint gonna be changing your mind on that front, alas, Florin.

Kilkerran Work In Progress 6, Bourbon Wood, 46%

Nose: A very immediate nose, it jumps right out at you from the first pour. Initially sweet, with something savoury and herbal going on in the background. There's lots of lush, heathery peat too. Some salt and oil as well. Soot develops and begins to assert itself after further time in the glass. A touch of malt vinegar and soy sauce too, perhaps, after even more time.

Palate: A whole lotta honeyed-fruit sweetness. But it's spicy and salty too. A lovely slippery mouthfeel, building in waves from front palate to back. Clean. Very clean. A strong background note of peat lending solid support. And after a while a waft of smoke, too.
Water smooths out some of the spice, while brightening up some of the fruit.

Finish: A seamless transition. There's a bit of ginger ale as it develops, together with chocolate and orange. It's quite long and intensely focused. Smoke actually builds through the finish, while a wisp of ash finally carries it out.

I really like this. In fact, I think I may even prefer it to last year's. It does seem sweeter to me though - but this may just be Florin's Jedi mind powers.

It's got such great depth of flavour and character for a 10 year old malt. It certainly bears a lot of the familial traits of its bigger Campbeltown brothers - the peat profile is eerily (and deliciously) similar to Longrow (although not, I hasten to add, as heavily peated), while the oily maritime notes take you instantly to Springbank - but ultimately it's just a very, very good drink in its own right.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Littlemill 1989, 24 Year Old, Archives, 53.0%

Another recent (though now no more, I think) Littlemill from Whiskybase's own Archives label, this one apparently a joint bottling with a Dutch whisky club called CasQueteers.

I really need to become a member of a club that bottles its own whisky.

Littlemill 1989, 24 Year Old, Archives (Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale) with CasQueteers, 51.9%

Nose: Lots of sweet malt upon opening. Soon after, there's green apple and vanilla - quite a lot of vanilla actually, after a while. A little note of Baileys develops as well. Acetone. Seems to be a smidgeon of stone fruit lurking back there too, giving it a bit of lift and trying to make its way out.
Water brings some of this fruit out - peach.

Palate: A bit of heat upon entry. Underneath, there's honey and malt again, along with a good dose of toffee. There's plenty of apple juice here as well, with perhaps the slightest suggestion of grapefruit. Almonds. Water doesn't add too much, beyond levelling out what is already there.

Finish: Sweet, long and expansive. It begins slightly nutty and winds it way around the palate becoming increasingly peppery as it tails off.

Good drink this.

I immediately prefer it to the 1988 Littlemill from Archives I tasted a little while back, which was much drier on the palate, although similar in many other respects. It has that extra layer of fruit that I was searching for in the previous one, making it highly, enjoyably, drinkable.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Springbank 1967, 35 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Peerless, 40.5%

Single (bourbon) cask Springbank from the '60s?! Bloody hell, yes thanks.

The regular reader of this blog (Hi mum) will know that Springbank remains one of my favourite distilleries, so when I saw this sample for sale at I had to get me some.

How different would it be to the modern day releases? Not too much has changed in the distillation process at Springbank over the intervening years, but I expect we'll still find some interesting differences and divergences.

Springbank 1967, 35 Year Old, Duncan Taylor Peerless, 40.5%

[You'll note that the label states the vintage as 1965, but it is fact 1967, from cask no. 1943. This is a labelling error. There was in fact no DT Springbank from 1965, as far as I can tell.]

Nose: Straight out of the bottle there's sweet grassy peat. Wow, interesting. Soon, lovely (and readily recognisable) salty notes develop, and these begin to dominate as time passes. Later still, stonefruits emerge, along with some leather and tobacco notes.
The addition of water does little for the nose.

Palate: A little spicy upon entry, creating a lively front palate. There's peach and honey at first, followed quickly by leather, meat and smoke. It hasn't got a massive presence in the mouth, but neither is it too light nor hollow. (Looking at the ABV, they've obviously bottled this as late as they possibly could, just making it to that 35 years). There's a real ebb-and-flow quality to the palate. It changes back every time you think you've got a handle on it.

Water levels things out somewhat. It's not exactly flattened, more a cessation of that aforementioned tidal quality.

Finish: Lovely transition here, as those notes from the palate are joined by lit cigars and spice, with that stonefruit lingering in the background. The medium-long, dry finish trails off in a wisp of smoke. Nice.

Quite a complex, changeable beast, this one, with hints of peat and smoke that recall Brora and even Caol Ila. Yet it's clearly Springbank, in all its dry, salty, leathery glory.

This aged malt just feels and tastes old school. Comfortable but challenging. Familiar but exciting. And so enjoyable to drink. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Littlemill 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives, 51.9%

A Littlemill sample bought from Whiskybase, one of three Littlemills bottled by them recently under their own Archives label.

Littlemill 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives (Voyage dans l'Amérique Méridionale) 51.9%

Nose: Quite malty at first - a really strong scent of bran cereal. Soon enough honeyed apples arrive, while later still notes of peach develop, along with some vanilla.
Water perhaps adds a touch more vanilla, levelling out some of that overt maltiness a tad.

Palate: Lots of sweet malt combined with a bit of vanilla to start, attacking the front of the palate with a bit of heat. There's a little of that apple from the nose, but the fruit is pretty restrained here. A bit of spice on the palate - nice mouthfeel that becomes increasingly spicy as it develops.
Water brings out a little more fruit - peach, again - without detracting from the mouthfeel in any way.

Finish: Quite long and searching. The palate continues seamlessly. It's a little dry (though not drying), with some gentle smokiness coming through too.
The addition of water seems to increase the breadth of the finish. That extra fruit lingers as well, increasing the enjoyment (for this drinker).

Water really improves this I reckon. A really nice Littlemill that, for me, is just lacking a little extra fruit.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brora, 12th Release, 35 Year Old 49.9%

This needs no introduction, I suppose. But anyway...

The most recent release of Brora (at time of writing, obviously) from Diageo's annual Special Releases 2013.
Stupidly expensive (upwards of 750 quid on release), rare (I guess, though I believe the make was around 250 dozen so if you really wanted one and were willing to drop all that cash I'm sure you weren't disappointed), and, perhaps, the apotheosis of the whisky world's bubble and its not always particularly dignified rush to super-premiumisation. Although there can be no accusing this particular 'brand' of jumping on the bandwagon in that regard. Leads from the front.

This was from a wee 20ml sample bought (drunkenly, but je ne regrette rien) from Whiskybase.

Brora, 12th Release, 35 Year Old 49.9% (2013)

Nose: Straight out of the bottle there's smoke and peat, but it's all still rather tight and closed. Needs a little time probably.
After a while there's still smoke and peat, of course, but they're now joined by honey, butter, sweet fruits and hay. The hay becomes more pronounced with further time in the glass. Impeccable balance.

Palate: Sweet fruit up front, evolving into a myriad of flavours as it writhes its way into every corner of the palate. Oily. Peat, salt, honey and smoke. Less explosive than the 5th release, if I remember correctly (says the batch number-dropping expert who's tried all of two). A more nuanced delivery here.

Finish: Honey, spice and citrus. Quite gentle actually, a sensation of wispiness as it trails off into a lovely ashy finish. Again, the balance here is superb. Not a foot wrong.

Fantastic whisky. Its smell and taste is redolent of times long past, yet it remains fresh, vital and, indeed, refreshing. At once powerful and gentle.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Longmorn 1969, 41 Year Old, Gordon & Macphail

I was shopping on Whiskybase a little while back and saw that this had become available, both as a full bottle and a sample. Now, I was never going to be able to try this in its regular large format (it was somewhere in the vicinity of 450 Euro, but long gone now so I cannot confirm that) but as a sample it offered a window into the whisky-past that I thought I couldn't turn down. Respect to the guys at Whiskybase for sample-bottling this kind of thing - just awesome.

I love a good Longmorn (though I don't much like a poor one, it must be said, but more on that another time) and this promised to be a ripper. So....

Longmorn 1969, 41 Year Old, Gordon & Macphail Reserve, for Van Weese, 59.4%

Nose: Undiluted and straight out of the (tiny) bottle it is a pure sherry bomb - chocolate, raisin and fruitcake. With water and some air, some lovely powdery tannins develop, melding beautifully with the heavily sherried fruit. Yet after even more time, some lighter fruits begin to emerge too - stonefruit, at first, but now tropical stuff, too, like mango and melon. Amazing.

Palate: Wow, massive. Mouth coating lusciousness. 42 years old! It's so vibrant. Plenty of that sherried fruit turns up, but it's never too heavy nor sickly sweet (or sulphury). Exceptional balance. On arrival there are immediate sweet fruits, which flood back and expand across the palate, becoming more sherry influenced as they reach the back of the palate and extend. Layers of fruit and texture reach out.

Finish: Nigh on pristine - the development is perfect. And fucking long. Remarkably, it's never bitter nor overtly syrupy, it's just a pure sherried, fruity, delight, astounding in its freshness and vitality. Delicious.

I don't think I've had a better whisky this year. 'Tis just a pity there was so little of it.

*I've realised much late (after reading MAO's review) that I had for some reason listed this as 42 YO when it is in fact a 41 YO - now fixed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Archives The Fishes of Samoa 51.5%

Glen Keith. Two first names? An earnest but failed country and western singer? A slightly obscure, once-silent-but-now-singing-again Speysider?
Another short review from a wee sample bought from

Glen Keith 1992, 21 Year Old, Archives The Fishes of Samoa 51.5%

Nose: Pretty boozy and fumy straight out of the bottle. Needs a bit of time. Then, we get vanilla, banana, almonds and some citrus. A touch of rice wine too, perhaps.
It comes together a little more after even more time. It's more immediately pleasing actually, with some stonefruit emerging as well and coming to the fore.

Palate: It's quite malty and spicy as it hits the tongue, but then some of that stonefruit from the nose re-appears. Some sweet red berries in there at the back somewhere, too - nice.

Finish: Honeyed oak, vanilla, orange. Even more oak after a while, but it's never overbearing or too bitter. Shows some good length as the oak sustains what's left of the fruit.

I enjoyed this, my first (I think) Glen Keith. Some very pretty fruits intertwined with what must have been a pretty decent cask. Tasty.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Glenrothes 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives Fishes of Samoa 53%

Glenrothes is imported to and distributed in Australia by one of the country's largest wine distributors and is, for this reason, quite readily available (in OB mode) in booze stores large and small. I've tasted a number of the core range vintage bottlings at tastings over the years, but have never really been particularly excited by them.

I haven't tried an independent bottling before though. I bought this sample with a handful of others from

Glenrothes 1988, 25 Year Old, Archives Fishes of Samoa 53%

Nose: It opens with a burst of citrus, soon evolving into something floral and herbal. Later, there's also a honeyed sweetness developing, with a malty undercurrent of almonds.

Palate: Quite light and slippery in the mouth. There's honeyed malt and spice overlaid with some tarter fruit - citrus, green apple - as well as some vanilla, gum leaf and a hint of pear.

Finish: Rather tingly and numbing as the gum leaf/menthol notes follow through and dominate. Decent length. It becomes maltier after some time in the glass.

Not bad this. Some complexity and interest, while those gum-leaf notes also add a refreshing quality to the honeyed malt. Not earth-shattering, but a nice, aged and very drinkable Speysider.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Royal Brackla 1993, 20 Year Old, Mackillop's Choice 50.1%

Another first-time malt for me.
Royal Brackla, so Ralfy tells us, was used in the first ever Scotch blends, so it's a whisky that's been around for a while.
It's fair to say you don't see a lot of it about, though. This was a sample from whiskybase that I think the guys threw in for free amongst some others I bought.

Royal Brackla 1993, 20 Year Old,  Mackillop's Choice 50.1%

Nose: Intensely fruity at first - lots and lots of green apples. But it's also quite floral, perhaps even verging on herbal, too. A little later something a little cheesey emerges and begins to dominate, becoming quite distracting as I go to taste.

Palate: Piercing intensity as it hits the back palate, forcing its way up along the roof of the mouth. The apples remain, coupled with some sharper citrus notes. There's also pepper, mingling with a nice whack of malt. And cheese.

Finish: There's decent length here. The malt and citrus continue on the finish, now joined with something like mustard. Can't get rid of that cheesey element, though. Although perhaps now it's more of a memory than a distinct flavour.

This was interesting. Quite enjoyable to drink, in a whack-in-the-face-in-the-morning kind of way. Not sure about the cheese though.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Highland Park 1989, 23 Years Old, Malts of Scotland 53.2%

A short (and thus somewhat limited) review from a 20ml sample bought from
(Also, I'll posit, yet another entry for Worst Ever Bottle Image)

Back in the day, Highland Park 12 was one of the gateway malts that got me properly into whisky. Affordable, reliable and distinctive, it remains one of the malts I'll recommend as a starting point for new, curious whisky drinkers.

Highland Park 1989, 23 Years Old, Malts of Scotland 53.2%

Nose: Quite spirity at first. Then nutty - almond and marzipan mainly - and slightly green and heathery. Lemon appears after some time in the glass, as does a dose of oak and a fairly rich maltiness.

Palate: Intense, piercing grapefruit up front, becoming all chocolate and malt as it hits the back palate and coats the mouth.

Finish: Quite a big finish - lots of booze poking out here, showing every bit of its 53.2% - without being exceptionally long. That grapefruit and chocolate profile continues with little development.

To be honest, I reckon I would have picked this as a Tomintoul or something similar had I been served this blind. There is very little to remind one of this distillery's trademark profile, save perhaps that heathery note on the nose. There's nothing wrong or particularly strange about this of course - sherry casks do a lot of the heavy lifting to complete that profile, I guess - it was just something of a surprise.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Clynelish 1997, 17 Year Old, Alambic Classique 55.6%

This bottle has come (unusually for a review of mine) straight off the boat (or from the Post Office, if you want to be pedantic).
I had a hankering for some Clynelish and had none left at all (!!) at home, so I ordered this on spec from Whiskybase.

Now, it's not always wise to buy a malt from an independent bottler that you've not tried before, but a good vintage, combined with a good rating from a Whiskybase member whose palate I have come to trust, were enough to get me over the line in this instance.

(Alambic Classique, by the way, are, apparently, a German bottler and retailer of whisky, cognac and other fine spirits. They've bottled this from an ex-bourbon barrel un-chillfiltered, with no colouring and, amazingly and wonderfully, without a cork stuck down its neck, instead utilising a neat synthetic substitute. Well done them. If only this would catch on).

Clynelish 1997, 17 Year Old, Alambic Classique Special Vintage Collection 55.6%

Nose: Straight out of the bottle, it's all ripe fruit, honey and salt. A little later it becomes slightly more savoury - there's something interesting coming through underneath that I can't quite put my finger on. A soy sauce kinda thing, yes, but a little more subtle. Well balanced. Water adds a little nuttiness, but also further integration, the fruit again making an appearance.

Palate: Fruity up front, developing into a lip-smacking, mouth-coating saltiness.
Water levels it out somewhat, allowing the stonefruit to shine through a little more. There's a very satisfying progression happening here.

Finish: Dry, salty and waxy, with a tongue-coating spiciness that lingers on and on.
The addition of water releases the fruit on the finish, too. It's really quite long and exceptionally well balanced, with no element overpowering another.
The fruit is the thing that lingers longest though, strangely enough. Delicious.

This is how I like my Clynelish - simultaneously mouth-watering, more-ish and refreshing (and bourbon-matured, I suppose).


Friday, May 23, 2014

SMWS 125.67 Clean and Innocent

Everyone's been a little sick in my household this week.
Something, at last, to blow out the cobwebs.

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 125.67 Clean and Innocent (Glenmorangie)
14 Years Old (Distilled 1999) 58.7%

Nose: Immediately, lush tropical fruits - lots of mango, passionfruit - and vanilla leap from the glass and swell in the nose. These, though, very quickly recede a little as a (skin-on) peanut maltiness emerges and takes over.

Palate: Very fiery initially, particularly on the back palate, but those same descriptors from the nose prove true enough on the palate, albeit masked by all that booze.

Finish: The finish is, still, fruity and fiery. And then rather bitter. This needs water.

With water:
Nose: Those beautiful fruits and spices that quickly faded when neat are released and blend in and overlap with the vanilla and nuttiness. This is instantly, irrefutably, recognisable as Glenmorangie. Think the 10 Year Old on steroids. Or better yet, (a slightly drier) Astar.

Palate: Again, a pretty steady progression of flavours to the palate but without, obviously, that initial blast of warmth. Now, it's a lively, tingly palate courtesy of wood tannins and the still evident but now somewhat tamed alcohol presence. There's vanilla, some milk chocolate, and some juicy stonefruit.

Finish: It's a dry finish, but that initial fruit continues to announce itself in that mouth-coating prickliness. The wood remains, but the bitterness is now more evenly spread out across the palate - not so tightly focused and astringent as it was neat - serving to give structure and length rather than dominating proceedings entirely.

A really nice malt this, particularly so if you're fan of the house style. Not super complex, but what it lacks in interest it makes up for in drinkability.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hanyu Nice Butt

Another of the samples bought recently from

An OB Hanyu for Full Proof Europe - a Dutch whisky enterprise apparently - that formed part of a series of bottlings of Hanyu casks featuring somewhat different, and award-winning (I believe), labels, designed by Hans Dillesse.

Hanyu "Nice Butt", 1988 - 2008, for Full Proof Europe 55% (Cask 9307)

Nose: A little reticent at first, but soon enough full-blown sherry notes develop. Raisins, roasted nuts, spices and chocolate. Meaty, too. A bit later, a hint of rubber develops.

Palate: A blast of fruit hits the fore palate initially - huge sherried notes of dried fruits, ginger and leather - before some grippy tannins take over, lending a mouth-coating electricity to proceedings. Hold on, what's this? Peat makes a late entry after even more time in the glass. Intriguing.
Finish: Quite long - those tannins leaving the impression of length long after the flavours themselves have disappeared. It finishes quite dry first up, but after some time in the glass some honeyed sweetness comes through. Later, rubber and wood develop without ever dominating.

A rather tasty sherry bomb, this one, from a nice clean cask. That late-to-the-party, gate-crashing peat, however, really gave it an extra layer of complexity that I wasn't expecting. Lovely.

And here, below, I've re-produced a copy of the original label from Full Proof Europe.
For posterity.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A couple of Littlemills

A couple of samples of Littlemill to try.

One, from The Whisky Agency, a 20ml sample bought from, the other, confusingly, a 60ml sample of a Whiskybase release bought from

Littlemill 1989, 24 Year Old, The Whisky Agency 50.4%

Nose: Quite nutty. Almonds - marzipan - at first. Then walnuts and chocolate. Vanilla and banana begin to seep through. With water, stone fruits emerge too.

Palate: A nice enough mouthfeel. Quite boozy up front though, with a hint of fruit lurking beneath.
With water, a little more malt comes through. Water also releases a bit of that hidden fruit - orange, primarily.

Finish: Quite a woody finish, although the addition of water tames the oak somewhat. Decent length, although what fruit there was on the palate has long since gone.

Too woody for me, this one, with the finish leaning towards the astringent side of things. The nose was quite enjoyable though.

Littlemill 1990, 22 Year Old, '40,000 Bottles on the Wall' 56%

Nose: Honeyed fruits at first. Almonds, again. Then some chocolate-coated banana and vanilla.
Water brings out coconut, and some sweet fruit wrapped up in quality spices.

Palate: Huge entry, bursting out from the back of the palate. Both silky and oily. There's wood here, but it's kept well in the background initially. Very spicy. There's a fantastic zing and zip on the palate. Later, chocolate malt makes an appearance, coupled with some stone fruit.
Water tames it a fraction, of course, and while it loses some of that excitement, the nice silky feel remains. Those stone fruits develop a fraction and become more prominent. It comes together really well.

Finish: Very long finish, full of coconut, chocolate, fruit and wood.
Water smooths out the bitterness (which, to be honest, is neither distracting nor out of place here) and accentuates the fruit, as it spirals on and on.

This was delicious, plain and simple. A beautiful aged lowlander.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Brora 30 Year Old, 5th Release, 2006 55.7%

My first Brora (and I do have another one to try), a sample bought from a new (to me) Dutch operation,, who sell samples of old and rare whiskies from their own collection. Good stuff.
This was from a 20ml bottle, but most of their gear is bottled in 60ml bottles, which is a great size for sample tasting, I reckon.

Brora 30 Year Old, 5th Release, 2006 55.7%

Nose: Whoah. Big, fresh nose. It's all smoke, peat and hay at first. Later, sweet malt develops and takes control, wrapped around walnuts, apples and a hint of citrus. Much more too, I'd have thought, if I had some left to savour. It's so complex - 20ml is nowhere near enough to fully appreciate this malt.

Palate: A luscious, oily feel. For a split-second, in fact, it's as if it may be a gradual lubrication, before suddenly it explodes on the palate. Peat, ash and smoke dominate. Later, salt, spice and honeyed citrus develop. Wood plays such a minor role here. Amazing.

Finish: Long. So long. Huge smoky finish. It just winds on and on, the salty, spicy tail continues to prickle and excite long after the liquid has gone.

I was almost hoping that I wouldn't really like this (well, you know what I mean, that I'd think it overrated or something), due to both the scarcity of the spirit nowadays, and the increasingly stratospheric pricing that accompanies those rare sightings that do pop up.

No chance there I'm afraid. This was a stunning malt, everything that a peated Highlander can be, and more.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Clynelish 1995, 16 Year Old, Kintra Whisky 53.7%

Another of the samples I recently purchased from Whiskybase.

These reviews are somewhat brief and shorn of detail due to the 20ml sample from which they arise. I still enjoy tasting these sample bottles though, despite their rather fleeting nature. They offer an opportunity to further my whisky education (which, being in Australia, is nearly always of the long-distance variety) without breaking the bank. (They also, by virtue of their smaller size, arrive packaged together at our house in a far less threateningly-sized box than full-sized bottles otherwise would, thus pre-emptively appeasing the ever-watchful eyes of my better half, who becomes - in my opinion unreasonably - increasingly agitated by the seemingly (in her words) incessant waves of whisky deliveries).

Clynelish 1995, 16 Year Old, Kintra Whisky 53.7%

Nose: Initially it's quite big and fumy, all soy sauce and booze. After settling down a little, it eases back into a salty, malty, slightly nutty affair.

Palate: Similar to the nose, it starts out quite big. Thick and rich. There's a mouth-coating saltiness that clings to the mouth. A touch cloying and claggy as the sherried sweetness develops.

Finish: It becomes quite spicy and peppery as it tails off into a long-ish finish. And yes, there is a little wax here. There's a herbal, perfume-y quality present too, that becomes increasingly off-putting.

Not a bad Clynelish, but it lacks definition on the palate, while the nose remains a little too malty for my tastes.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old 43%

As best as I can remember I have never tried this before now. Strange really, considering the ubiquitous nature of the brand and its rather healthy reputation among some malt drinkers. Regardless, I recently found a bottle at a reasonable price and thought I may as well grab a piece of history to help warm me up during the cold months that are now well and truly settling in.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old 43%

Colour: Coloured.

Nose: Quite a rich nose of honey, smoke and tropical fruit.

Palate: A nice slippery mouthfeel is let down somewhat by a near total absence of a mid-palate. Bizarre. This does, however, fill out a little with time in the glass. Stone fruit, honey, a light maltiness, and smoke predominate.

Finish: It becomes more complex through the finish, coupled with some decent length and body. Much like the mid-palate, after some time in the glass it gains some weight. There's some spiciness, with echoes of smoke and peat, tailing away to a dry, slightly woody finish.

I get a whole lot of Linkwood when I sniff and drink this, probably because I've been drinking a fair amount of (average) Linkwood recently, a Hart Brothers bottling that I picked up cheaply a little while ago (and that I've been ploughing through late at night some nights so as to try to move the bottle on a little quicker). There's a distinct honeyed-fruit sweetness that is just so noticeable - albeit in the Hart Bros. version it becomes waaaay too cloyingly so, whereas here it is cleverly blended back with the smokiness of the Caol Ila and Talisker to knock it back into submission somewhat.

I do enjoy drinking this Green Label though, it's just that it lacks a little - a lot, to be honest - interest and excitement.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength 52.3% (Batch 7)

For some reason Whiskybase, from where I bought this bottle, call this particular bottling Batch 8, whereas everyone else (ie other retailers) classify it as Batch 7. There is no doubt a very good reason for this, but I haven't yet investigated. Someone might even be able to tell me. I've gone with the majority here though, primarily because it is this numbering system upon which I have based my own previous experiences of this label. Batch 5, for example, is my personal favourite.

 Springbank 12 Year Old Cask Strength 52.3% (Batch 7)

Colour: Copper

Nose: Sherry, spices, chocolate. Not entirely what I was expecting. Smoke and a little leather. Caramelised sugar and strong citrus (orange) notes develop later.

Palate: Straight away I get loads of sherry - spices and dried fruit, both. A little later, bbq sauce arrives. A spiciness lends some tension to the palate.

Finish: Develops well, pushing back and expanding on the palate, those sherried spices and fruit rounding out and coating the tongue. It's both dry and sweet. And long, very long. Salty, tingly and grippy. Licorice and clove emerge, enhancing and bolstering some light touches of red fruit. If you wait long enough, those typical Springbank savoury notes do emerge.

To be honest, I was a little shocked by this whisky at first. It was unlike any other Springbank 12 YO Cask Strength I had tasted, thus smashing my expectations and leaving me feeling a little cheated. But that's what expectations are there for, I suppose. 

There has clearly been a much stronger sherry influence in this batch than in any of those preceding it, so much so that that savoury, leathery, saltiness that I so readily associate with this whisky is at first nearly invisible. These elements do develop, it's just that they're not so obviously in your face as they are perhaps normally.

However, the change in cask make up has indeed produced a delicious whisky. It took me a couple of drams to really appreciate it though, primarily because of those aforementioned expectations and my subsequent need to re-calibrate. But such clean, strong and well-integrated flavours make this batch another worthy addition to the line, I reckon.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Strathmill 1974, 37 YO, Archives (Whiskybase) 44.5%

My first Strathmill, I think.
From a bunch of samples bought with a recent Whiskybase order, although I should note that I neither ordered nor paid for this particular one - it was just thrown in with the others. The whisky is long gone, though, I believe.

Strathmill 1974, 37 Year Old, Archives (Whiskybase) 44.5%

Colour: Full gold.

Nose: Lots of plush tropical fruit. Cream and honey. Vanilla develops after a while. A hint of citrus after a little while longer. It's pretty amazing actually.

Palate: Quite a divergence from the nose here. Lots of wood up front, with bitter notes - green tea at first, then grapefruit - coming to the fore. A suggestion of fruit emerges later. A delicate, supple, mouthfeel.

Finish: There's more spice to the oak now, as the whole quickly fades to a gentle, still slightly bitter finish.

Such a beautiful nose, you could really spend a lot of time sniffing this whisky. And while the finish didn't do a great deal for me, I felt that there was still enough on the palate to hold one's interest.

Monday, April 28, 2014

SMWS 93.58 A Manly Adventure

We had our first SMWS tasting for the year (and my first since joining) here in Melbourne a few weeks ago where we had ten different malts from the recent Outturn on tasting. The format was a stand up affair where you'd wander over to one of the five different stations - each with two different whiskies - hand over your 'passport' for a stamp, and in turn receive a 15ml pour to taste.

Now, this format, in my opinion, isn't particularly conducive to a decent tasting environment, particularly when the room is rather full of people and there are constraints on time, space, etc. It becomes more of a social/drinking session as opposed to a tasting one - which doesn't necessarily bother me, mind you, but left the whisky geek in me longing for more.

Some of the whiskies I had hoped to taste weren't on offer, unfortunately, but there were plenty of other interesting ones to try - a fantastic Karuizawa (132.5), and a huge, awesome Aultmore (73.62) being the picks for me.

In the end, I ended up coming home with this bottle which wasn't even on tasting (I don't know why, exactly - I had heard good things about it and was very keen to try it, I guess).

Scotch Malt Whisky Society 93.58 A Manly Adventure (Glen Scotia) 
14 Years Old (Distilled 1999), 60.4%

Colour: Sauternes

Nose: A fairly intense hit of peat, but with some really interesting pangs of bbq sauce, Lee & Perrins, and leather lurking around the edges. Some sweet notes wrap around lashes of iodine.

Palate: As with the nose, the peat is readily apparent, and comes coiled in some really quite nice honeyed sweetness. Mint rushes to the fore.

Finish: Spicy, tingly menthol fumes rise up from the lower palate, coating the tongue and roof of the mouth. While I wouldn't call it super long, this sweetly numbing freshness leaves a great impression.

I've had a number of goes at this bottle with a couple of mates and it hasn't yet failed to please. It appeals to a number of different palates, I think.
It's also just so damn drinkable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Old Pulteney 17 Year Old

I first tasted Old Pulteney 17 a few years ago, back when I was first starting out on my whisky trip. I think I'd been experimenting with heavily sherried malts at the time, before turning to a bottle of this (perhaps being drawn in by the somewhat strange bottle shape and striking gold colour of the spirit) and it's fair to say that I really enjoyed it, the bottle lasting an obscenely short amount of time.

Would I still enjoy it now?, I found myself wondering the other day whilst ordering some other booze.

[Incidentally, my most recent encounter with Pulteney (after a couple of other versions since that first bottle, including a fantastic G&M Cask Strength bottling) was in the form of the OP 12 Year Old. I was at Heathrow with my partner and our son, at the beginning of our looooong journey back home after visiting her family in the UK, and thought I'd better get some whisky to get me through our stopover in Singapore (Our stowed luggage was of course already heavily laden - within the strict parameters of Australian customs, naturally - with Scotch that I was taking home to Australia. The UK, to an antipodean whisky drinker, is a dangerous place - such amazingly cheap booze, and so much variety. I'm not exaggerating when I say that we here in Oz probably only see about 5-10% of the whisky that is seen in UK and Europe. And what we do see is very, very heavily taxed). A very handsome little half-bottle of the OP 12 immediately stood out as being attractively priced, packaged and sized. (This begs the question, of course, as to exactly how much whisky is enough when travelling with an 18 month old child. The correct answer is probably 'none' or 'not enough', but on this occasion I settled on 350ml for our 3 days (of sleepless hell) in our luxurious suite). It was pleasant enough as a drink (and to be honest my partner and I have sworn to never talk of or think about those 3 long, long days ever again so I can't pass fair comment here), but as a relaxant it was also more than adequate.]

Old Pulteney 17 Year Old 46%

Colour: Gold.

Nose: Tropical fruits mingle with clean vanilla aromas. Later, green jelly babies develop, along with the faintest hint of salinity.

Palate:  It slips into the mouth softly, all sweet, juicy fruit, before the salty elements begin to take hold.

Finish: An expansive finish. It really fans out and envelops the mouth, gripping the palate with it's salty spiciness. There's a sense of power here. The finish is essentially dry, but those fruity vanilla notes echo throughout, leaving you with a sense of sweetness.

 A delicious whisky really. At once powerful, refreshing and dangerously moreish. A great OB OP, and one of the better "standard bottlings" available in Australia.