About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

LAGAVULIN 8YO 200TH ANNIVERSARY - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This year, Lagavulin Distillery celebrates its 200th anniversary and this 8yo release is a part of that celebration. Now, we all know the 16yo Lagavulin well and there's a chance you've tried the Distiller's Edition as well - the expression matured in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks... hey, maybe you have even tried the 12yo annual release at cask strength?

Anyway, there's no doubt that Lagavulin is an Islay Great, so I was really looking forward to see if they were able to hold their flag high with this 8yo release... It's supposedly matured in both refill European and American oak and then bottled at 48% abv.


Lagavulin 8yo 48% 200th Anniversary edition, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale white wine

Nose:
A bit young but that was to be expected... quite some  barley sugar sweetness coming through wrapped in camp fire smoke and a mineral/flinty note. A little honey, banana and melon on the grill and smoky white rum. Very well behaved for an 8yo, I must say...

Taste:
Surprisingly little youth influence, although its noticeable...
I get the feeling that there's some whisky, slightly older than 8yo making up this one. There's a lot of campfire notes again, like lipping the end of a burnt log, very drying like ash and wet wood and leaves. Again I get that mineral and flinty note but this time its very well wrapped in gingery and slightly nutty notes... almonds maybe? - especially with water... the finish is very much on smoky, salty seaweed so here its leans a bit more on the Lagavulin 12 style... I just wish it would have been bottled at, maybe 55%??

Its certainly an enjoyable whisky and its being sold for €40 in discount supermarket here... so certainly a bang for you buck whisky here!! However that won't affect my mark

86/100!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

SPRINGBANK 1999 16YO LOCAL BARLEY - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

This highly anticipated bottling have been reviewed to death on a number of blogs already, but I'm going to review it anyway. I'm of course talking about the 2016 edition of Springbank's Local Barley... it's a revival of a tradition Springbank has, using barley grown locally on Kintyre for a range of bottlings. The first ones were distilled all the way back in 1965, 1966 and 1970 and bottled mainly in the 1990s (although a couple were bottled in 2000) and are some of the biggest cult bottlings you get from Springbank except for the 1919 and Millenium bottles.

This particular release saw the light of day in February this year and the bottles flew off the shelves everywhere at a price of close to £100. I'm guessing many were bought purely in an attempt to make a quick profit as we now see many of this 9000-bottle release appearing left and right on auction sites, which is sad really 'cause its cracking whisky... but I guess its just another sign of the times.

The 99' Local Barley is made with 'Prisma'-barley, a strain not often used anymore but was used widespread around the turn of the Millennium. It was grown on Low Machrimor Farm near Southend on the very tip of the Kintyre peninsula, then malted, distilled (of course), matured and bottled on-site at Springbank Distillery. The bottling is a mix of 80% ex-bourbon casks and 20% ex-sherry casks-

So, just how cracking is it? Let's take a closer look...

The stills at Springbank, May 10 2011 © The Malt Desk

Springbank 1999 16yo (xx.09.1999/xx.01.2016) 54,3%, 9000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
My bottle has been open for about 2 weeks now and just removing the cork and splashing about 3½ cls in my glass raises delightful aromas of citrus and vanilla before my nose even gets close to the glass. I already mentioned the citrus and vanilla, but there's also quite a bit of a waxy note as if someone poured a large splash of Clynelish in here.

I get some dirty chimney and noticeable peat, honey, lemon oil, fresh grass and and wet dirt like stepping out onto the lawn after the rain. Quite refreshing and I dunno why but this gives me the feeling of nipping at a whisky mojito when water is added. The water also makes the nose give off some pineapple and lemon wrapped in a thin layer of brine... What a fantastic nose !!

Taste:
The palate is very well behaved without water, but add some and there's that whisky mojito packed with malt, loads of lemon and mint leaves on top +  plus a little peat!

The water gives the whole thing quite a Schweppes fizzyness but it never lets you forget you're dealing with a Springbank here. There's lots of light oils, like the ones you used for your toys when you were a kid. There's ash, vanilla again, mere hints of pencil shavings, juicy malt, delicate wood spices (peppers)...

Everything's just here in beautiful measures!

Brilliant stuff!!

91/100!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

BENROMACH 1974 41YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Benromach Distillery in Forres in Speyside just released this oldie from 1974 as a follow-up to their release of a 35yo expression earlier this year.

The packaging is similar til the 35yo, however this is a vintage 1974 where as the other didn't carry a vintage. This is also bottled at a higher strength which I expect will do this one good :-)

To me, the 70s are one of the golden decades in whisky, so here's to hoping that also applies to this single cask from Benromach.

Time to try this...

Picture by G&M

Benromach 1974 41yo 49,1%, sherry butt#1583, 452 bottles, Distillery bottling


Colour is amber

Nose:
Picture by G&M
Polished wood, oranges, resin, bung cloth, pencil shavings, Pickwick multi dried tea leaves and hints of apricot and Madeira and just a little clove.

Taste:
A lighter arrival and initial mouth feel than expected. Through comes polished leather, dark honey, malt extract, elderberry juice, stewed apple and overripe banana and hints of rum soaked raisin. The finish is on alcohol soaked sponge cake and coffee grounds and a tiny bit of smoke.

A lighter experience than expected as already mentioned but still very delicious! Since I don't give ½ points here, it places itself along side the 35yo which I found just a tad more lively, even though it was only 43% abv.... but I'm really splitting hairs here!

90/100!

Official sample supplied by Gordon & Macphail

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

HIGHLAND PARK 1990 25YO - CADENHEAD SMALL BATCH

Well, we all know by that when a distillery says it matures all its whisky sherry casks, its not true... there are plenty of examples of this, Glenfarclas, Macallan and of course, Highland Park which is the one I'll be focusing on in this review...

Now, I'd been eyeing this one for a while and decided to grab a couple of bottles and at the same time, put a bottle on a tasting as these ex-bourbon casks Highland Parks can be really delicious... and I was not to be disappointed with this one either - and adding to that the price here in Denmark was really fair (DKK 1299,- or £133/€173) which makes it a much better offering than e.g. the official 25yo Highland Park currently priced at x 2-2,5 times that. I'm aware that this isn't a sherried version like the official 25yo but with a price difference like that, I'll live ;) - in fact, I find independent bottlings more fun as they show what a distillery can do besides their regular offerings.

One such independent bottler is Cadenheads, a subsidiary of Springbank Distillers in Campbeltown and one of, if not, my favorite bottler at moment... Their offerings are just really, really good - both in terms of quality and very often also in price - this 1990 25yo Highland Park is one such and it was bottled as a part of the Cadenhead Small Batch-series.

The Highland Park Malt Floor, August 6th 2009 © The Malt Desk

Highland Park 1990 25yo 50,6%, 2 ex-bourbon hogsheads, 426 bottles, Cadenhead Small Batch

Colour is light gold

Nose:
Vanilla, loads of honey, quite fresh, a noticeable puff of smoke, sweet barley notes, some apple, bit of ginger and grass, fresh pineapple and quite a mix of herbs

Taste:
The arrival is on citrus and honey until a strong burst of tropical fruits, mainly pineapple, mango rushes ind along with loads of juicy malt wrapped in a vanilla paestry. It's also quite smooth and creamy for a 50% malt - no rough edges here. Then we have more ginger, more, now slightly burnt paestry and smoke.

The finish goes towards cold olive oil and herbs and a slight mineral touch.

Great stuff!

91/100!

Monday, 30 May 2016

STRATHISLA 1967 - GORDON & MACPHAIL RARE VINTAGE

The months of May has seen a couple of review of old sherry matured whiskies already, so why not continue with this one, a grand old Strathisla bottled by Gordon & Macphail of Elgin.

Strathisla is also know as Home of Chivas Regal as some of the malt that goes into the Chivas Regal blends comes from Strathisla Distillery. This time, however, I'll be focusing on a grand old malt from this distillery, matured for at least a good 47 years before being bottled in January 2015.

This one is bottled in Gordon & Macphail's Rare Vintage-series and is a beautiful example of how the first fill sherry butts have interacted with the Strathisla spirit - or as they say at G&M 'The wood makes the whisky'... you can read more about their wood policy here www.gordonandmacphail.com/wood

Strathisla Distillery in Keith, May 1st 2015 © The Malt Desk

Strathisla 1967 (bottled 26.01.2015) 43%, 1st fill sherry butts, Rare Vintage, Gordon & Macphail

Colour is light mahogany

Picture by G&M
Nose:
Strong whiff of strawberries, furniture polish, milk chocolate, prunes, mint/menthol - like tiger balm muscle warmer

Taste:
You get the obvious dark fruit sherry, yes - but there's more in here. There's cloves, orange peel, hint of cinnamon and then an amazing fruitiness mid-palate rushes in with vanilla baked apple, blood orange finished by rum/raisin ice cream notes and sweetened cough syrup.

This is brilliant stuff! It never feels tired in any way in spite of its age. Again, obviously a bottle from some great sherry casks of yesteryear, like the ones I talk about in this review.

91/100!

Official sample provided by Gordon & Macphail


Tuesday, 17 May 2016

GLEN GRANT 1970 35YO - DUNCAN TAYLOR RARE AULD

It's always something special to try whisky distilled the year you were born. (Darn, now I gave away that I'm an old fart!). This one, however, is just that bit more special to me as I just love, love, love old sherry matured whiskies. It wasn't that long ago that I had the chance to try a 1968 40yo sherry matured Longmorn, which was absolutely stellar - and as with the Longmorn, my expectations for this Glen Grant were quite high.

So what makes these super delicious old sherry matured whiskies?
Well, besides a good base spirit there's the obvious sherry cask... and in these cases just not any sherry casks. IMO, we just don't see sherry casks of that quality these days. 40-60 years ago, people were drinking a lot more sherry than they are today and as a result good sherry casks are hard to come by these days, which is not only reflected in the quality of the casks but also in the price... An ex-bourbon cask these days goes for around £100 where as a sherry cask is about £1000. You can read more abut the decline in the sale of sherry in this article by The Drinks Business from 2015.

As the sale of sherry drops, the need for long term storage of the wine is also declining and you don't get the wine transported in their original casks either as e.g modern bottling halls now does most of the work with the bit of sherry that does get bottled - so there's a few factors to consider when you look at the number sherry casks going in the whisky industry today... Many sherry casks have for a good number of years now also been American oak  sherry casks (typically sherry hogsheads) and not of European oak like they traditionally were - like 40 or 50 years ago with these glorious single casks used to mature e.g. the Longmorn and this Glen Grant

The decline in available sherry casks have for decades now made some whisky companies to broker exclusive deals with sherry bodegas in Spain. As with all business models this is both good and bad as some casks are filled with low quality sherry wine and then infused into the wood under high pressure. When the wood then has been 'sufficiently influenced' the casks are emptied and the 'sherry/wine' is just poured away or is sent away to be distilled into brandy as the quality of the wine often isn't good enough for it to be sold as sherry on its own... I'm not saying this happens with all the sherry casks in the whisky industry today - I'm just saying it happens - and from what I'm told, more often than we would like...

There are still some good sherry matured whiskies out there, make no mistake about that, but I'm yet to be convinced that we'll see a quality of both casks and bottlings like the ones that hit the market just a decade ago...

Glen Grant Stillhouse, April 29th 2011 © The Malt Desk

Glen Grant 1970 35yo Cask#812, 120 bottles, Duncan Taylor Rare Auld

Colour is dark mahogany

Nose:
Raisins, strong cold coffee, dark chocolate, soy sauce, polished oak, blackcurrants, cooked apple, burnt sugar, dark old rum, licorice and cigar humidor. There's tonnes of Xmas notes in here too... cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and a slight herbal note followed by a bit of refreshing menthol and musty bung cloth

Taste:
Quite vinous at first, old squeaky clean oloroso sherry giving away to prune juice, alcohol soaked raisins, wet tobacco leaves, cocoa, more blackcurrant but also unsweetened strawberries jam, ancient Port wine, oak spices. There's also some fruity notes coming through if you let it sit for a while (it's hard, I'll tell you that!!) overripe plums and apple are kept at bay by drying notes of cinnamon and clove. Eventually, the quite intense flavors gives away to some salivating malt and drying wood notes...

Another stunning old malt !!

93/100!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

LAPHROAIG 'LORE' NAS - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

A good whisky friend of mine offered me a sample of the Laphroaig 'Lore' - and who am I to say no to that - So thank you, A! :-)

My initial thoughts were that the 'Lore' is a whisky I wouldn't go out and spend my money, at least not until I've tried it so here was a golden opportunity to do just that.

Regular readers will know that I'm not a big fan of NAS (No Age Statement) whisky as I often find that the price and quality don't match. At the moment we're seeing more and more distillers moving towards NAS and to me that's a slippery slope as a consumer as I want to know what both what I'm drinking and last but not least, paying for...

OK, enough on the NAS issue - let's if this one is compatible with my taste buds

Stainless steel washbacks at Laphroaig, June 12th 2007 © The Malt Desk

Laphroaig 'Lore' 48%, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale gold

Nose:
Immediate hit of cigar ash, some vanilla, cooking with ginger, overripe banana, fresh flowers, layer cake sweetness and only then some sweet peat. The peat seem quite restrained to me as if its not what you want as a driving force in this whisky - which too bad when its Laphroaig we're talking about. Water releases some more kiln smoke and quite some earthy notes in this one...

Taste:
OK, there's a bit more Laphroaig here. Sweet peat lands right away.
Sweetness seems to be the theme going all the way through here with vanilla, banana, lots of barley sugar (wort). More fruit notes peaks through after a little while, mainly apple and hints of citrus. Those are wrapped in more gingery notes and a bit of oak spices for a quite short finish leaving only a bit of peat...

Like the Laphroaig Quarter Cask I also felt that in this one, there's been some smaller casks involved and looking up information online confirmed my suspicion - it contains quarter casks and adds that bit too much non integrated oak notes and sweetness but no depth.

To me, it seems the profile of Laphroaig these days is one that caters for drinkers with a sweet tooth. That said, its not a bad whisky, by no means, but it just lacks both punch and character. I like my Laphroaig more rough around the edges, which is why I go for the 10yo Cask Strength edition or indie bottlings as cask strength.

Finally, is it worth around the £80 they're charging for it?
No, not in my book, its not! The problem with NAS bottlings are often that the price doesn't match the quality of the whisky and this is a good example of just that.

Will I drink this again if offered?
Yes, I didn't say it was bad, did I?

Is it good?
It's good, but frankly I've had better...

Will I be buying a bottle?
No, I'd go for an indie bottling with an age statement and at full cask strength instead!

Again, as with many official bottlings these days, its made for the large consumer group and not the whisky anorak. We need to remember that official bottlings like this are the bread and butter for the distilleries - it's where they make their money... and we need people to buy bottlings like this - if they don't, anoraks wouldn't be getting what we like ;-)

Again, thanks to AC for the sample!

83/100!

Saturday, 7 May 2016

LONGMORN 1968 40YO 7.55 LIQUID HEAVEN - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Longmorn has long been a favourite with many  malt heads, incl. myself...
Why? it just has a bit of everything and it seems to be very consistent, making it a whisky blenders favourite. It also matures very well, both in ex-bourbon and sherry casks.The production is clearly minded for blended whisky and the main part of the production ends up in owners Chivas Bros. (Pernod Ricard) blends such as Chivas Regal and Royal Salute. This, of course also reflects on the availability of Longmorn as a Single Malt.

In 2012 the distillery was expanded to a capacity of 4,5 million liter annually but it still remains to be seen if we're to be blessed with more official bottlings from Chivas Bros. At this moment you can get a NAS Distillers Choice, a 16yo and a 50cl Cask Strength version, available at the Chivas Distilleries that has a visitors center, e.g. Glenlivet, Aberlour and Strathisla.

There does seem to be escaping a fair number of casks to the indie bottlers so it shouldn't be all that hard to track down one down, indie or official bottling, if you browse the big online whisky retailers... and speaking of indie bottlers - lets move ahead to this review...

The Longmorn Still House, picture with permission from Gorm N. Jensen

Longmorn 1968 7.55 40yo 'Liquid Heaven' 54,9%, 1st fill sherry butt, 451 bottles, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

Colour is mahogany

Nose:
Super nice, lots of old school sherry notes, cocoa/bitter chocolates, espresso, cool chocolate sponge cake, tangerines soaked in alcohol, brown sugar, strawberry and kirsch and old polished book shelves.

Taste:
Lots of malt wrapped in sulphur free old school sherry. There's crunchy chocolate orange sweets, roasted coffee beans and brown caramels. There's a wood presence here, yes, but everything is perfectly wrapped in layers of other stuff like figs and cinnamon, figs, nutmeg - sometimes its like sipping orange liquer spiced up with a dark old rhum. The whole thing ends with a tiny hint of woods spice and mint - Brilliant, just brilliant!

This is some of the best whisky I've had in a long time!

93/100!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

BOWMORE 1996 19YO 3.256 - HEBRIDIAN HOLIDAY TINGLE - THE SCOTCH MALT WHISKY SOCIETY

Its been a while... In fact its been close to 2 months since my last post.
Why? Kinda ended up in a whisky existential crisis combined with a bit of a writers block, I think...

Anyways, I'm back and will be kicking off with a review of a Bowmore from The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It's funny really, that I pick up again here as I often struggle a bit with Bowmore. Often, I steer clear of Bowmores, especially those dreaded perfumy ones from the 80's. I know some love that profile lavender profile in the 80's bottlings, but I just can't stand it. Now, I'm perfectly aware that the more recent ones from the early to mid-90's and onwards has almost completely shed that style but its still not that often I go there - so tastings and launches, like the ones done by The Scotch Malt Whisky Society are perfect opportunities to get ones Bowmore tasting library refreshed.

The latest Society outturn here in Denmark had the 3.256 as one of its Islay whiskies. The Caol Ila (53.234) was heavily promoted, but not at all what it was made out to be - well, according to my taste anyway, so instead I ventured to Bowmore for a bit more moderately smoky profile - and I was not to be disappointed. I took a full bottle home right then and there!

Here's a more in-depth look...

Bowmore Distillery on a quiet summer evening, 13th June 2007 © The Malt Desk

Bowmore 1996 3.256 (27.03.1996/xx.xx.2015) 19yo 'Hebridian Holiday Tingle' 57,4%, Refill ex-bourbon hogshead, 258 bottles, The Scotch malt Whisky Society

Colour is full gold

Nose:
Distinctly Bowmore but at the same time, very subdued. Its quite delicate, there's the fresh floral Bowmore note, yes... but its wrapped in modest measure of peat, vanilla, honey melon, a coastal salt water note - burning seaweed and shellfish cooked directly on the shore. Add to that healthy amount of alcohol as a delivery agent of the above notes and everything just hits the spot! Delicate and sophisticated!

Taste:
Quite mellow for a 57%+ whisky on the first arrival, but then WHAM !! You get an explosion of flavours. A BBQ curry sauce, Sweet peat smoke, loads of sweet honey, brown sugar glaze, burnt spiced chicken skins, quite a bit of burnt smoked apple, a garden fire - burning flowers, foliage, honey and sweet charred mustard and wood.


Brilliant - just brilliant, I keep wanting to top up my glass!

As of 26 April 2016 its still available at the Danish branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society at around €120/£94 at today's exchange rate.

No half point here, so this goes all the way up to...

91/100!

Monday, 7 March 2016

HIGHLAND PARK ICE 17YO - DISTILLERY BOTTLING

Another anticipated release for this spring, is the Highland Park 'Ice'...

It's the first Highland Park Limited Edition after their 'Valhalla'-series and with this one, they remain with the Norse Mythology, this time going back to the legend of the creation of the realms, starting with 'Ice' and ending with 'Fire' in late summer/early autumn of 2016. Official sources confirm that there will not be 9 bottlings even though there are 9 realms in the Norse Mythology - Just to clear that up right away :-)

What else, you ask? well, the 'Ice' is made up of 100% ex-bourbon casks. There is, however, a small twist to these casks... they all had toasted oak cask ends, adding just a bit more to the whisky. It's also 'limited' to 30.000 bottles, 'limited' here meaning its a one-off bottling, there will not be another batch. Its RRP is £190, which is about 5% more than the last bottling in the 'Valhalla'-series, but it may, of course, vary depending on your location.

Preliminary rumors say this will taste much like the 'Freya' from the 'Valhalla'-series, so let's see if that's true...

Official picture by Highland Park

Highland Park 'Ice' 17yo 53,9%, ex-bourbon casks, 30.000 bottles, Distillery bottling

Colour is pale straw

Nose:
Very closed right after its poured - this needs a little TLC. After 10 mins with my hand around my Glencairn, this is a whole other creature. The nose is very deep and warming with vanilla, papaya, pineapple, orange blossoms, fresh ginger, sugary wort, hints of mint, buttered toast and a dash of smoke. Very nice :-)

Taste:
The arrival is thick and creamy and right away it gives off a little alcohol bite. This is replaced with lashing of honey, vanilla, spicy malt, overripe lemon, hints of cinnamon, gingerbread, orange liqueur and and some mellow peat. The finish shows a little licorice and spicy/peppery and vanilla'ed malt.

Not as light in style as expected, this one...

It carries that warm and thick feeling through both on the nose and palate and I don't really think it lives up to its name in that respect, but I do see where the official statement about this one being similar to the 'Freya' comes from. They are similar, yes, but I think if Highland Park had called 'Freya' for Ice and vice versa, the names and styles, would have fitted more properly.

Other than that, its there's not much to comment on other than its good straight forward whisky...

86/100!

Sample provided by Edrington Denmark