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.