About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts, though I may wander elsewhere from time to time. The views expressed here are entirely my own!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

BENROMACH 10 100 PROOF - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Benromach Distillery in the town of Forres between the river Findhorn and the west of the Speyside 'capitol' of Elgin prides themselves in producing a style of Speyside whisky associated with the 1960 or before that...

What does that mean, you ask? Well, back then most barley was malted at the distillery and peat was used as fuel when drying the barley, instead of hot air used at many commercial malting sites today and this produced a quite peated whisky compared to todays regular offerings from Speyside distilleries.

Benromach, owned by independent bottler, Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin has successfully revived that style and has worked their was up towards it for some time now, since they acquired Benromach Distillery in 1993 and after a restoration period started distilling there again in 1998.

I've already had the opportunity to try the 10yo version at 43% but wasn't able to take any notes at the time but from memory, the 100 proof 57% version I'm about to review seems quite the more robust dram, not only in alcohol strength, but also in overall flavour profile as opposed to the 43% which seems alot more sweet. 100 proof btw, is an old Imperial measure equivalent of 57% abv.

This dram is quite sherried and I'm suspecting maybe just a slightly bit more sherry cask influence in this one than in the 43% version which supposedly is made up 80% ex-bourbon casks and 20% ex-sherry casks.

Benromach Distillery Visitors Center, August 24th 2012 © The Malt Desk

Benromach 10yo 100 Proof 57% (2014), Distillery bottling

Colour is amber

Nose:
Initial impressions are a lovely mix of dark fruit (sherry) and smoky notes all delivered to your nose by the high alcohol strength of 57% - so just be a little careful nosing this! I'm actually quite surprised at the peating level of this one...

There's lots more in there though - here we go... I've already mentioned the dark fruits, fresh tobacco leaves, mint/menthol and lots of chocolate notes, thinking After Eight mint sweets, but also other kinds without mint - e.g. Danish Anton Berg chocolates Plum in Madeira and regular chocolate covered marzipan bars. Also getting notes of burnt caramel, overripe apple, orange peel on a bonfire and thick malt. Wow!

Taste:
Somewhat more aggressive on the palate. A good part of the 57%shows itself on arrival, but turns into a dry peat smoke and with sherry showing itself as burnt figs, earthy/dusty floors, overripe/brown banana. It then turns peppery and goes into BBQ overdrive with wood chips, lots smoky meat glace, BBQ rub paprika/chili style.

The addition of water to this drams kills the complexity fairly quickly, but if the alcohol bothers you, then by all means go ahead but I suggest you just let you palate adjust to it and let your mouth produce the saliva needed to dilute this one...

I also find the some wood chips notes present on the finish suggesting the use of some very active oak, maybe to finish the whisky. This prevents me from giving this one both thumbs-up and propelling it to 90p.

There's no denying the fact that this is great whisky and I'll probably be getting myself a bottle before long...

Finally, thanks to Soren from Skjold Burne Vinhandel for the sample!

89/100!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

LAGAVULIN 12 (2013) - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This year, I'll be going back to Islay for the first time in 4 years... and I'm looking very much forward to it :-)
2015 is also the Bicentennial for 2 of Islay's most prominent distilleries, Ardbeg and Laphroaig but we must not forget the distillery located in between the two... Lagavulin!

For some die-hard Islay-fans, Lagavulin has become their new go-to distillery when they discovered a noticeable change in the make-up of their usual tipple - now, this may be a coincidence... or maybe not, as we've seen quite a few distilleries come up with new product ranges and discontinuing old ones.

Now, Lagavulin distillery seems to be a rock solid distillery with only a few different bottlings available and one of them is the annual release of their 12yo expression. It's an ex-bourbon matured version, praised highly over the past years and the 2013 edition is no exception.

Lagavulin Distillery, August 12th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Lagavulin 12yo (2013) 55,1%, refill ex-bourbon casks, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Sweet peat and citrus immediately hits the nose along with a burnt leaves, ozone, a nipping salty feeling, tar and dried seaweed, damp earth and chimney soot. After a while the citrus notes stands out more, leaving you with a feeling of fresh lemon/lime and heavily smoked salmon and mineral note like hot sand.

Taste:
A lovely sweet and creamy arrival before a peat and spice blast sets in followed by salted apple, vanilla, ash and blood oranges and some mineral and vegetal notes. The finish gets dry at first, then goes all creamy and peaty barley-lishious (that a word? well, it is now) with peppery spices running along the edges of your tongue.

This is really good whisky and goes to show that Lagavulin is truly one of Islay's best distilleries.

89/100!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

BALBLAIR 2004 TRAVEL RETAIL - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

In October 2014 I visited Balblair Distillery, but didn't take any whisky with me from there...
To be honest, my suitcase was about full at the time already (well, maybe room for 1 more bottle) and there certainly wasn't room for a Balblair in its very large box.

As I quite like the style of most of of the North Highlanders (Clynelish is one of my favourites and my first malt ever was a Glenmorangie) I made a promise to myself that I would look up some Balblair soon.

On the way home to Denmark, passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport I spotted a chance fulfil my promise there already and picked up this 2004/2014 offering at just €40 for 1 liter - a very good price, I think...

Balblair Distillery, October 20th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Balblair 2004/2014 46% 1st release bourbon matured, Distillery bottling


Colour is straw

Nose:
There's some young spirit lurking underneath the whole thing, making it quite fresh and lively. Vanilla, pear, hint of yeast, some custard and buttermilk along with fresh cut grass. Also some fresh lemony notes in there along with some ginger and a faint mustiness. Water brings out a slight floral/fresh linen note...

Taste:
Starts with an easy and gentle arrival on vanilla, overripe apple, green banana, malt and gingery notes... It soon turns spicy, though followed by some honeyed notes and showing that above mentioned freshness on the palate as well.

The younger spirit is kept in place by excellent cask management here, but it is still allowed to show its malty freshness. Water makes the whole experience quite spicy/peppery along with resinous notes, dried hops and yeasty notes.


A good dram and probably one most palates can come to terms with...

81/100!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

GLEN MORAY 2001 35.121 'YOU MAKE ME FEEL (MIGHTY REAL)' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

You know your Disco? I barely remember it myself, but apparently a few on The Scotch Malt Whisky Society's tasting panel do remember (or at least know) the Sylvester hit 'you make me fee mighty real' from 1979.

The whisky in this review, however, will not take us that far back - just back to 2001 when the spirit ran off the still at Glen Moray Distillery in Elgin.

It's also boom times at Glen Moray and by the end of 2015 they'll be able to put out 6,5 million liters of spirit annually from 6 pairs of stills :-O quite a bit!

The Visitor centre at Glen Moray Distillery (larger than it looks) October 17th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Glen Moray 2001 (11.12.2001) 12yo 'Y
ou make me fee (mighty real)' 57,9%, 1st fill bourbon barrel, 235 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Similar bottle is shown


Nose:
Heavy on the vanilla from the 1st fill bourbon barrel. Haribo wine gums, mint and loads of barley/malt, overripe cherries, hints of a toasted wood and fresh ginger too - but that's all very faint. The main theme here is the massive sweetness.

Taste:
Very spice on arrival, pepper, a little fresh ginger notes, cumin and nutmeg before another rush of sweetness sets in. Lots of malt, sucrose and artificial sweetener and more vanilla and also some honey to easy off the spicy attack. On the finish this whisky develops some raspberry, caramel and more of that oaky/peppery nip.

Quite a dram! Lots of things happening but it seems like there's just a bit too much oak influence... maybe a year or 2 less in the cask for this one would have done wonders? still not a bad dram though.

82/100!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

MORTLACH 1995 76.115 'GLAMPING IN A YURT' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Having review 12 different Mortlachs already here on The Malt Desk, its one of the high-jumpers if you look at the distilleries I've reviewed so far in the 31 months that this little blog has been running.

I've covered many things Mortlach in my previous reviews to I'm skipping right to this next one...

Mortlach warehouses behind the distillery, May 4th 2014 © The Malt Desk

Mortlach 1995 76.115 (19.07.1995/xx.xx.2013) 'Glamping in a Yurt' 18yo, 56,5%, refill sherry butt, 535 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is Full gold

Nose:
Sweet and full, mint (toothpaste), fresh, sports drink but settling down after a while offering classic dried fruit notes, milk chocolate and lovely balanced oak once it has been allowed to breathe a bit in the glass

Taste:
Huge on overripe banana, ginger in a sherry cask?, an ozone feel, more fruit - oranges and candied apple turning slightly bitter at the end, spices, honey and wood sap. Very full flavoured but producing only a little of that well know Mortlach 'meatyness'


Not the best of Mortlachs but far from bad either. Still a good experience :-)

84/100!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

CAPERDONICH 1968 40YO - DUNCAN TAYLOR

First of all I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!

The Malt Desk will be 3 years in come May 22nd 2015 which some of you know is also the legal age for Scotch Whisky. Think we might celebrate that a little when we reach the end of May :-)

Now, I just mentioned age which is something the Scotch Whisky industry haven't been very good at lately - as it seems they'd rather have no age on their bottlings... a trend I'm sad to say, that's gaining more and more ground with the producers... :-( This topic has it's been covered plenty on here and on many other whisky blogs/vlogs, and I'm afraid that we do have to get used to a range of whiskies where many are now below par in quality and over priced... and until either the whisky bubble bursts or (new) whisky drinkers become aware that whisky used to/can taste better than what's being hitting the market at the moment, we'll just have to settle with what in our cupboards, 'cause life is simple too short for bad whisky.

That said, there are a few producers out there that do put out decent No Age Statement whisky, but they are few and far between - so if you're just starting out on your whisky journey, I suggest you visit as many blogs, forums etc to try and get a lay of the whisky land as regards to the whole No Age Statement concept and from that make up your own mind...

Phew, I had promised myself that the last post in 2014 wasn't going to be a rant on missing age statements and/or anything else, but since its easy (for me) to get passionate about a thing like this, it happened anyway... and to round that off, I'll rub this whole age thing in a bit and do a review of some 40yo whisky from 1968.



Caperdonich 1968 40yo (15.10.1968/04.12.2008) 52% cask#2612, bottle no. 39 of 94, Duncan Taylor

Colour is amber

Nose:
First think that hits you is the oak, quite a bit actually but once you've gotten used to the nose tingle, it also bring crush pepper, fruit and some of the 52% alcohol. There's spirit filled chocolates, heavy vanilla, bit of varnish, mango chutney, melon, herbs (tyme?) a little hint of flowers and old veneer cigarbox

Taste:
Gentle arrival and then a rush of fruit and old oak wood spices... Ginger (ale), nutmeg, mint, lemon/lime, honey, som wood shavings and fruits all sort, but mainly the more exotic kind. Finishes mainly on ginger and also some dashes of cinnamon.

This is very much an oak driven dram and it might not be to everyones preference.
I'm actually guessing quite a few will say this has too much oak... and its walking a very fine oak branch here, I agree

89/100!

Happy New Year 2015!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

** MERRY CHRISTMAS 2014 **



The Malt Desk will be back after the holidays


HIGHLAND PARK 1979 - MURRAY MCDAVID

Xmas is upon us and its time to review the whisky pulled from the cupboard as this years Xmas whisky...
so before I move on to my review, I'd like to take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Malt Xmas! :-)

My choice fell upon a Highland Park this year. I've always had a sweet spot for Highland Park as it was one of the first distilleries I tried back when I started my malt journey. Back then it was the standard 12 which compared to the others had back then really rocked... Many drams have passed since then and I'm now entering my 16th year of my malt journey and with that in mind, I wanted to grab something special, yet still something that I could relate to through the years (I know, I know... getting a bit sentimental at Xmas here)

My choice then fell upon a 1979 Highland Park bottled by Murray McDavid in the Mission-series, a sub bottling brand of Bruichladdich, before the islay distillery was sold last year to Remy Martin.

Highland Park, however is still in the hands of the Edrington group along with Macallan in Speyside (see my previous review) and Glenturret in Crieff, just west of Perth.

The Orkney Islands are more than Orkney Mainland, this picture is from Hoy, another island worth exploring, August 7th 2009 © The Malt Desk 

Highland Park 1979 25yo 46%, ex-bourbon cask, 750 bottles, Murray McDavid Mission series


Colour is full straw

Nose:
Fruit and smoke hits you right away and both things seems to come to you in waves. It certainly feels like that when picking up your glass nosing it, putting it down and picking it up again... and surprisingly smoky it is... Maybe back in 1979 they were still doing a large portion of their own maltings at the distillery itself and this is the result of burning the peat a little too long? The fruits are quite evident, though. They are of the tropical kind... mango, sweet oranges, and melon and that ever present peat along with a fair dose of vanilla and nipping oak - just lovely!

Taste:
Good and very balanced arrival. At first there's 2 seconds of oak and bitter before lush malt and fruit comes rushing in to save the day. Clearly now papaya and several types of melon notes. Also a little pineapple and hint of pistachio and a good layer of malt. The smoky edge is again ever present along with a little salt, making sure you don't forget that this is an Island malt. This never gets boring even though you could wish for it to maybe have been bottled at 50% rather than 46%...

This is very good whisky, no doubt... and a nice and refreshing one for Xmas as opposed to the sherried whiskies usually consumed at and associated with Xmas...

88/100!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

MACALLAN 1985 24.128 'POSH LADIES ON THE PROM' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

This distillery needs no introduction, so I'm not going to bore you with one.... and instead of a rant about the 1824-series and the descision Macallan to remove the age statement from its core range, let's have a look at what Macallan actually will do for the area around the village of Craigellachie when the huge expansion of the distillery is taking place.

Due for opening in Spring 2017, the expansion of The Macallan distillery will see its production heading very much in a green direction with a bio mass plant in Craigellachie producing of the steam energy needed on site from bio fuel sourced from forests locally. Not an entire new idea as Ardnamurchan GlenBeg Distillery started doing this already this year, but its going to be on much large scale in Speyside.

Here are a few facts released so far:

  • Up to 90% of the energy need for production will be produced at the new plant
  • 120+ new jobs will be created temporarily as a result of the expansion
  • New jobs will be created on site too after the expansion is completed
  • 20.000 homes is said to be supplied with energy as well
  • Changing from natural gas to bio fuel will save as much energy as taking the equivalent of 18.000 cars of the road


But let's return to the whisky... a Macallan distilled almost 30 years ago...

Easter Elchies House at Macallan Distillery, after midnight on June 13th 2013 © The Malt Desk

Macallan 1985 29yo 24.128 (25.04.1985) 'Posh ladies on the prom!' 51,1%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 209 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is full straw

Nose:
Very concentrated of thick malt, vanilla, ginger, floral/perfumy, slightly soapy notes (in a good way!) Tangerines, honey, wax and carries overall a lovely balance oak profile thats not at all invasive at 51,1%. The nose turn more fruity as we go along, mainly on heavy banana, apple and nectarines and thick, almost ale-like maltiness

Taste:
2 soft seconds on arrival, then a hot and oaky attack which can be remedied by a few drops of water. When those are added sweet oranges, Haribo apricot winegums and raspberry meringue is immediately revealed to your palate. Also some sweet cookie dough in there.

This goes into über fruity overdrive if you give it time and a few drops of water... but it also doesn't go all over the place and displays huge complexity. It instead shows a more narrow, yet really, really good! profile and carries much of the same tropical fruitiness as Edrington's Orkney distillery Highland Park when matured for a long time on an ex-bourbon cask... minus the added smoky profile of the Highland Park, though :)

Nice dram indeed, but the initial hot attack on the palate makes this one come in a couple of points short...
and as you might imagine, being Macallan, this carries quite a heft price tag... £400 in the UK and around £300 in Denmark

87/100!

Monday, 15 December 2014

HAKUSHU 120.7 'SWEET, FRAGRANT AND SATISFYING' - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

I'll continue with the Japanese and sherry bomb theme in this next review...

Just like Yamazaki, the Hakushu distillery is owned by big player Suntory, who together with the other major player Nikka really has put Japan on the whiskymap these past few years. Before that, there were still Japanese whisky, of course, but drams from the Land of the Rising Sun is no longer a well kept secret and it shows... especially on the prices of even off the shelf No-Age-Statement (NAS) bottles. If you look at the price increase in percentage % I've spotted between a 15-20% (I may be wrong here, this was just a quick glance and comparison!) bigger increase on Japanese whisky compared Scottish ones of the same style. But again, let this not be about the pricing of whisky as there's really little we can do about it...

This next review will feature the Hakushu Distillery and a dram very much in the same style as the previous review, yet still different... I'll come to that in the review. Both were matured in a Bota Corta sherry butt, single cask and bottled by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Hakushu Distillery Stillhouse - picture from Suntory.com

Hakushu 2003 14yo 120.7 (30.09.1999) 'Sweet, Fragrant and Satisfying' 55,5%, 1st fill Bota Corta sherry butt, 517 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is Mahogany

Nose:
Gluewein (Glögg) and old Port, chocolate ice cream and soy sauce and sweet sun burnt grapes about to turn raisin and a very distinct underlying floral note. Also in there are hint of cinnamon, cooked mushrooms and hints of fresh ginger and honey Chai

Taste:
Not at all as drying as its Yamazaki companion... Think lukewarm Lumumba and/or the style of an old cognac. Very sweet, so sweet I could easily be convinced this was matured in a Pedro Ximenez cask and the Yamazaki in an Oloroso cask. Also hints of strong/fortified plum wine and marinated dark fruits, figs in particular...

What this one does, it does great and its difficult to say which one is best. My guess is that this is very much about what mood you're in and what you fancy at the time... sweet or dry - just like when drinking wine!

I'm really splitting hairs here but I still end up, also awarding this one an excellent score of...


90/100!
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