Steel Bonnets

Bottled by: Lakes Distillery
Bottled: 2018
ABV: 46.6%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s a first! A blend of Scottish and English malt whiskies!

The Lakes Distillery have released this bottling in honour of the “Steel Bonnets”, the much-feared border reivers who raided settlements around the Scottish borders between the 13th and 17th centuries.

They did not see themselves as English or Scottish and developed a certain independence of spirit whose people were loyal to kin, not kingdom.

Check out the short film:

Sounds intriguing! Let’s get it in the glass…

Nose: Golden syrup, sourdough, roasted sweetcorn. Slightly coastal with sea shells and salt.

Palate: Salty toffee, vanilla cream, and barley sugar. Some bakings spices mingling with a soft note of wood smoke.

Finish: Cloves and oaky pepper.

A well-rounded blend that balances sweetness with smoky spices. This is very pleasant stuff to be enjoyed in the safety of your keep beyond the reach of any passing marauders.

There’s a load more information and bottles available for £65 here on the Lakes Distillery site.

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Kilchoman Port Cask 2018

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2018, Distilled: 2014
ABV: 50%
Cask: Port
More Info: WhiskyBase

Oh my! A port-cask matured Kilchoman.

I was very lucky to try the 1st edition of this at a tasting a few years back. It was jammy, earthy and all-round delicious. Let’s try the sequel!

Nose: Redcurrants, Easter egg chocolate, dirty puddles, leaf litter, engine grease, bonfire smoke, and nicotine.

Palate: Tobacco and maple syrup. A smoky serving of spices: cinnamon, clove, white pepper. An acidic red-wine edge to it – like a peppery Shiraz.

Finish: Chewy, earthy peat that lasts and lasts.

I’m a big fan of this style of whisky – it’s raw and punchy and full of the aromas of the outdoors.

Available now for around £70-£80.

TBWC Aultmore Batch 1

Distillery: Aultmore
Bottled: 2012
Age: NAS
ABV: 53.4%
Bottled by: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
More Info: WhiskyBase

Aha, it’s an indy Aultmore! And what a label, too – how often do you see a shark fighting a raptor on a container ship while an oil rig burns in the background??

Nose: Malty beer, chocolate oranges, green apples, and vanilla sponge cake.

Palate: Rich fruitcake, plums, a heap of cinnamon, cloves and dark chocolate. It’s very viscous and sweet on the tongue – like a spicy syrup.

Finish: Warming and long with ginger spice and soft oak.

It’s a tad young, but it’s wonderfully drinkable. Rich, warming and with a very pleasant and long finish.

You can still pick these (from various batches) on auction sites. Historically, Aultmore tends to end up in Diageo blends, though there are now official bottlings available too. They tend to have them available to taste in duty free, so do keep an eye out!

The Kinship Port Ellen 34 Year Old

Distillery: Port Ellen
Age: 34 years old
ABV: 61.7%
Bottler: Hunter Laing
Cask: Sherry Cask
More Info: WhiskyBase

In the wake of this year’s Feis Ile (The Islay Festival of Malt and Music), Hunter Laing have released a set of six extremely rare whiskies to celebrate Islay whisky – The Kinship range.

Hand-picked by legendary distiller Jim McEwan (formerly of Bruichladdich and Bowmore), these whiskies represent the best and rarest examples of Islay spirit. They also mark the creation of Laing’s brand new distillery “Ardnahoe” which is situated on the shores of the Sound of Islay, close to Caol Ila and Bunnahabhain.

I’m a massive Bruichladdich fan so I’m delighted that Jim McEwan will be production manager when the distillery goes into operation early in 2018.

Anyway, on with the Kinship whisky! The oldest and rarest in the range is this: a sherried Port Ellen that was distilled shortly before the distillery’s closure in 1983.

Let’s get it in the glass!

Nose: Thick candle wax, menthol, dried rosemary. New leather and citrus peel. Quite maritime in a minerally way – think chalky clifftops on a windy day. With water becomes more citrusy and a little soapy, like washing up liquid (but in a good way). Over time it gets sweeter and richer with vanilla cake sponge.

Palate: Lemon throat sweets, brown sugar, clove oil, sour cherries and gentle wood smoke.

Finish: Tingly, ashy and long. Creamy oak and a touch of vanilla.

Jim McEwan described this as “a tidal wave in a glass”. The nose is indeed a powerhouse and it transports me directly to being outdoors on the Scottish coast – much like Lagavulin 12 or a cask-strength Caol Ila.

The palate, though smoky, is a lot gentler – even at the full 61.7% strength – and you get to enjoy a deeply pleasant and life-affirming finish that lasts and lasts.

Frankly, I was a little concerned that this had spent 34 years in sherry. For my palate, that can really spoil a good whisky. Luckily, my fears are unfounded – this must’ve been a good quality refill cask and at the incredibly high ABV it’s had a remarkably slow and careful maturation over those years allowing the spirit to dominate the flavour, not the cask.

All in all, this is a really elegant and well-rounded whisky – classy, complex, and delivering all that coastal/citrus goodness you’d hope to get from a Port Ellen.

Many thanks to Nickolls and Perks for sending me this sample! Now bear with me while I weep at how badly I can’t afford whisky like this…

Currently, these Kinship bottles are available from the Ardnahoe Distillery Shop on Islay. The Port Ellen is £1,800 per bottle.

TBWC Irish Single Malt #1

Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
Age: 24 years old
ABV: 46.8%
More Info: WhiskyBase

A mystery Eurovision entry from those folks at TBWC. If you’re not familiar with “My Lovely Horse”, allow the YouTube video to enlighten you…

Oh, you’ll have a dram, won’t you? Go on. Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on…

Nose: Pineapple Turkish delight in dusty icing sugar. Bruised apples, salty toffee, whipped cream. Absolutely delicious.

Palate: Mango syrup, peach melba, Werther’s Original toffees with a gentle gingerbread tingle.

Finish: Apple skin, with a touch of Barley grist and vanilla.

Feck.

This is a stunning whiskey. Soft, delicate, fruity and sublime on the nose and tongue. Reminds me of the Midleton Very Rare I tried last year…

I could sip this happily all Summer, if all 264 bottles hadn’t already sold out.

Samples are still available via Master of Malt for £13.67 a piece.

Kilchoman 10th Anniversary Release

Distillery: Kilchoman
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 2005
ABV: 58.2%
Bottles: 3000
Cask: Bourbon & Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

The bottling of the first ten-year-old whisky is a big milestone in the life of any distillery.

A tiny, farm-run endeavour, Kilchoman have been punching well above their weight since they entered the whisky market with consistently excellent whisky from a very young age. I’m a big fan of their 100% Islay bottlings (which are only about 5 years old when bottled).

Nose: Jamaican Ginger cake but without the heavy molasses – more like golden syrup and brown sugar. A chalky, sooty, old stove quality around the edges of the sweetness. There’s a fragrant starchiness, too, like pilau rice. With water it gets waxy and slightly soapy.

Palate: Very thick and buttery, with sweet vanilla, lemon sherbet, and then a freight-train of peat and barrel spice: chilli peppers, tingly clove, black pepper. Water calms the spices and reveals cardamom, heather honey, boiled sweets, and some light floral camomile notes.

Finish: Cashew nuts, more cloves, and a lip-smacking ashy quality akin to the dying embers of a cigar.

This is definitely more rounded and well-integrated than its younger siblings.

The character of the spirit shines through and dominates both the nose and the palate, forcing the influence from the cask to take a back seat. Those floral, peaty flavours works incredibly well together and I hope this means we’ll see a 10-year-old at 46% become part of the core line-up.

Big thumbs up from me!

There’s samples of the Kilchoman 10th Anniversary available on Master of Malt, but not full bottles, alas.

Glenmorangie Bacalta

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + heavily toasted Madeira wine casks
Bottled: 2017
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Another release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition Series. I did enjoy the Milsean from earlier in the series so let’s see how this “sun-baked” member of the range lives up to expectation.

Nose: Sweet and lively. Apple sponge cake and fresh vanilla custard. Tart cider apples, Madeira wine (yes, that sticky, dark flavour is very distinct), and a whiff of tinned peaches.

Palate: More vanilla custard and soft fruit: pears, apples, peaches. Cinnamon and white pepper develop through the mid palate with a touch of dry white wine and pouring cream.

Finish: Quite short with drying vanilla oak.

This is a very pleasant dram, though not astonishing. I enjoy the fruitiness of the nose very much but the palate’s rather too cask-led for me with predictable vanilla and cake notes. I’d be pleased with this for £40 a bottle, but not £80.

Another marketing-driven whisky, alas.

Thanks very much to Andy at Malt Box for sharing this with me. If you’re interested in trying it, there are still bottles available on Master of Malt for £77.95.