Arran Single Bourbon Cask 99/103

Distillery: Arran
Bottled: 2013, Distilled: 1999
Age: 13 years old
ABV: 55.3%
Cask: 1st-Fill Bourbon
More Info: Twitter

Here’s the third whisky in the lineup for the Third Arran Tweet Tasting April 2015 – a premium single cask bottling from a first-fill Bourbon cask.

Nose: Wow. You can really get lost in this nose… Mmmmmmm…. Soft and waxy woodshavings with greengages and lychee. Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles. Sweet pickled cabbage. Tons and tons of Bourbon spice: nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. Salty rock dust. Vanilla custard.

Palate: Oh my god – it’s like someone poured a can of Lilt into the cask! Fizzy tropical fruit notes, sour and sweet with zesty lemon sherbet. Cola cubes, and tart cranberry juice.

Finish: Loads more of that Bourbon barrel spice. Long and tingly.

This dram just keeps on giving. A big, happy, bear-hug of a whisky. I adore bold 1st-fill Bourbon expressions and this is one of the best I’ve tasted. My favourite of the night. So sad it’s already sold out!

There’s currently a similar 15 year old expression available for £71.99 online. I haven’t tried it, but if it’s anything like this one then you’re in for a treat!

Finally, we have the highlight of the evening – a preview taste of the 1st official White Stag bottling due for release in June…

The tweet tastings organised by Steve Rush are a lot of fun. Get involved over at www.thewhiskywire.com

Arran 18 Year Old

Distillery: Arran
Bottled: 2015, Distilled: 1997
Age: 18 years old
ABV: 46%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry Hogsheads
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the second whisky in the lineup for the Third Arran Tweet Tasting April 2015 – the hotly anticipated Arran 18 Year Old.

Nose: A little leathery, with sweet apple blossom, fresh peaches, juicy pears, white wine, and a sherbety (almost) smoky edge. Vanilla fudge and Highland chewy toffee. A pear strudel emerges. Bananas and salted cashews. Wow.

Palate: Toffee and cinnamon. Runny honey. Barley sugar sweets. A lovely, almost peaty tingle runs through the middle. Mellow fruit notes of tangerines, pineapples and ripe plums.

Finish: Slightly drying with tea leaves, egg custard, dried mangoes and apricots.

Those Oloroso hogsheads, being smaller than those big butts (tee hee!) get more wood contact so they’re imparted some great flavour here.

This is a refined and sexy whisky. Balanced, fruity, and very more-ish. Well worth the £72.99 asking price on the distillery website.

Next is an exclusive premium single Bourbon cask bottling

The tweet tastings organised by Steve Rush are a lot of fun. Get involved over at www.thewhiskywire.com

Arran Sauternes Cask Finish

Distillery: Arran
Bottled: 2014
ABV: 50.0%
Cask: Ex-Bourbon, finished in Sauternes wine
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the first whisky in the lineup for the Third Arran Tweet Tasting April 2015 – the Sauternes finish.

Nose: Glacé cherries, salty caramel wafers and cream. Sweet meadowy notes – grass, flowers and pollen. Bit of a meaty, sulphurous note in there too. Spicy gingerbread. Wet raspberries and melon rind. A bit musty too. Anti perspirant, but in a good way.

Palate: Cold black coffee and chocolate. Orange hard boiled sweets. Lovely luscious oily mouthfeel on this. Golden delicious apples, grapes, and sultanas.

Finish: Dry tobacco, leaf litter and slightly ashy.

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a Summer whisky but this is definitely it! Sweet, floral, luscious and mouthwatering. A perfect dram to enjoy in the recent bout of sunshine we’ve had in the UK.

Next is the hotly anticipated Arran 18 Year Old

The tweet tastings organised by Steve Rush are a lot of fun. Get involved over at www.thewhiskywire.com

Highland Park 30

Distillery: Highland Park
Bottled: 2007
Age: 30 years old
ABV: 48.1%
Cask: American Oak and European Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the first of several 30-year-old whiskies I’m trying this year in the run up to my thirtieth birthday.

Highland Park endeavour to maintain the 25, 30 and 40 year-old expressions available as part of their core line-up with several different versions of each appearing over the years. This version, to my knowledge, is the most recent 30-year-old bottling and is still widely available.

Nose: Grassy and gristy, with honey-roast ham, sultanas and sea-spray. Some herbs and spices as well: cardamom, paprika, thyme, and mint.

Palate: Barley candy, spiced honey, tinned peaches with cinnamon; leading to a smoky mix of cacao, tobacco leaf and burnt coffee.

Finish: Very long and oaky with toasted hazelnuts.

Distinctively Highland Park’s flavour profile – gentle savoury smoke, a little saltiness, and some deep and rich malt and spice.

The time spent in barrel is very apparent here with a lot of the flavours coming directly from the wood. It’s not unpleasant at all but the oak is very much in-evidence. Though not made clear, my money’s on a vatting of bourbon-matured spirit with some refill sherry butts.

Personally, I would’t buy one of these. There are some sensational indy bottlings of Highland Park out there for a lot less money and I’m not convinced the age is bringing anything special to the table in this case.

I do like it, though – it’s refined and restrained with the flavours coming out slowly and gently. A quiet sipper and contemplater for special occasions.

This is at the higher end of Highland Park’s core expressions, with bottles going for £400 on their online shop. You can also get 3cl samples of the Highland Park 30 on WhiskySite.nl for €19.99.

Highland Park Odin

Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 16 years old
Bottles: 17,000
ABV: 55.8%
Cask: First fill and refill sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

I have to say, I’ve been looking forward to this. Highland Park’s Valhalla series ends with year four’s release, Odin, following in the steps of Thor, Loki, and Freya.

As ever, the lads from Orkney have done a cracking job with their marketing and the online buzz for this whisky reached absolute fever pitch a couple of weeks back when the whisky was released.

But what’s it like..?

Nose: Sticky dates, lime skin, tangerine juice, spiced honey and grated chocolate. With time and water, brandy-soaked apples, sweet rolling tobacco and burnt paper ashes.

Palate: Thick and sticky with muscavado, fruity coffee, metallic tinned peaches, and crystallised ginger. A rising edge of smouldering tangy peat that brings sea salt and dusty dark chocolate powder.

Finish: Long, oily, smooth and drying with powerful smoked oak and soft ashes.

As ever, the Highland Park peat is dry and restrained, adding great smoky, ashy elements to the whisky without drowning out the softer fruity notes beneath. A splash of water really opens this up as well, though the full cask strength mouthfeel is gorgeously syrupy.

The sherry casks used here are absolutely wonderful. Such dark and rich bass notes of fruit and chocolate, but interesting flavours rise up beyond the clichéd “christmas cake” profile that we expect from other alleged sherry monsters.

I have to say, I think this whisky is worth the fuss and the price tag. It’s neither a peat, nor a sherry monster; nor is it a monster of any other kind.

Odin the Allfather is a gentleman of depth, power, subtlety and character.

Well played, Highland Park. Make more whisky like this soon!

Talisker Special Vatting

Distillery: Talisker
Bottled: 2007
Age: NAS
ABV: 53.9%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Boot leather, sea water, crayons. Sweet malt, with a slight whiff of sulphur.

Palate: Boiled sweets, vanilla, apricot, acidic peat, lemon, and iodine.

Finish: Salt and pepper, and slightly drying mouthfeel of stewed tea leaves.

Quite a simple, but tasty dram. Sweet and peat, at a good cask strength. It’s more interesting than standard Talisker but I don’t think I’d buy a bottle at the distillery for £90.

There’s nothing outrageous going on with the flavour, but it’s a solid whisky. If someone was offering, I wouldn’t turn down a second measure.

Samples available on WhiskySample.nl for €14.50.

Douglas Laing’s Rock Oyster

Those folks at Douglas Laing sure can put together an interesting blend.

I’ve been a big fan of Big Peat for a few years now, especially the Xmas edition*. Their other regional blends, Timorous Beastie (for the Highlands), and Scallywag (for Speyside) are less to my taste, but very well put together all-the-same.

This one looks right up my street – the new blend, Rock Oyster, comprised purely of whisky from Scotland’s Islands region. I’m expecting maritime, salty, peaty goodness here. Let’s go!

Nose: Leathery, damp sand, mud, brine. Very mineral rich and salt-crusted, with a hint of icing sugar.

Palate: Quite savoury. Lemon, bitter grapefruit, thyme, cloves, olives and a crisp, tangy smoke. There’s a biscuity element in there too, among the tangier notes, which comes through later. A little bit of honey, vanilla and flowers once the smoke’s died down but only a bit.

Finish: It starts off oily in the mouth and progresses to a drying, lip-smacking finish of salt, cured meat, and white pepper.

I think the name here is bang on – it’s like sitting in a rock pool while you smoke seafood over a beach-fire.

It’s certainly one of the most savoury whiskies I’ve had in a while – not much in the way of fruity, malty notes. Thick bodied, too, with wide legs ending in big beads. Looks like a higher strength dram than 46.8%.

Sleuthing out the Components

The distilleries aren’t listed like they are with the Big Peat but it’s worth a bash all the same…

I’m thinking there’s a good dose of Highland Park in here – the way they peat their own barley on the island imparts that savoury smoke and the distinctive drying, grainy quality on the finish.

Since Jura and Arran only have a single distillery each, those are easy conclusions to come to! Though I don’t get any of the toffee or tangerine that I usually get from those whiskies (respectively), so that’s unexpected. I suspect their contribution to the whisky is relatively small compared to the others.

Which leaves the Islay component…

It’s a very maritime whisky, rather than an out-and-out peaty profile. Ardbeg is earthier, Laphroaig more medicinal, and I can’t see Lagavulin or Kilchoman being easily available.

The texture isn’t right for Bruichladdich, and Bunnahabhain is usually very sweet so the overall palate wouldn’t be this savoury…

Add the salty, lemony, olive-oil characteristics into the mix and… I’d have to say it’s a Caol Ila.

And Finally…

I like this one a lot. It doesn’t blow your head off like Big Peat (although that experience is not unpleasant) so it’s a bit more accessible – a weeknight dram for the coastal whisky fan, rather than a late-night mood whisky for a smoke-headed lunatic.

I’m not a huge advocate of food-pairing with spirits usually, but I can totally see this being nice with seafood. Maybe a bowl of prawns or mussels… I must buy a bottle and do some more research!

The important question now is, when will Master of Malt’s Sam add the Rock Oyster to the Douglas Laing Crimefighting Force…?

* In fact, one of the highlights of the London Whisky Show for me was being given a Big-Peat pen projector that casts the face of the windswept hero into the distance like Batman’s Bat Light.

You can pick up a sample or a bottle of Rock Oyster over at Master of Malt for £37.82.