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!

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The G&M Speyside Collection

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I really must start this review with an apology! Gordon & Macphail were kind enough to send me these incredibly ancient samples in early December and yet with the run-up to Christmas and various commitments I’ve really struggled to pin down the time required to really do justice to such prestigious whisky (I know, I know – talk about first world problems…).

Anyway! With the Betwixmas week upon us, I’ve had several days holiday to quietly and thoughtfully get to know these fascinating time capsules of liquid whisky history.

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Before I crank up the time machine, I really must salute Gordon & Macphail on their impeccable presentation. These six whiskies came with a huge amount of accompanying information and they do justice to the gravitas of the liquid inside the bottles.

One more note before we go – these whiskies have spent between 40 and 65 years inside oak barrels before bottling. That’s a very long time to be wrapped up in oak and inevitably the spirit takes on a lot of character from the barrel. This can make it a challenge to really appreciate the subtle aromas which have inevitably faded through the decades. So these complicated beasts take patience and an open mind to fully appreciate.

Let’s punch in 1972 to our controls and rev up our journey through time…

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-27-03Linkwood 1972

Casks: First-Fill Sherry Hogshead
Age: 40 years old
Distilled: 17th November 1972
Bottled: 3rd July 2013
ABV: 43%

The time machine begins our journey in 1972, the year of the Watergate scandal. While this whisky was being made, David Bowie was busy taking over the world with his Spiders From Mars and those of us at home on the sofa were enjoying a brand new TV programme called “Mastermind”.

Linkwood‘s not a distillery you see many bottlings from. Diageo have released a Flora & Fauna bottling and a couple of Rare Malts editions but the vast majority of other bottlings are from independent bottlers and the 2.5 million litre per year output mostly ends up in blends like Johnnie Walker.

Nose: Witch hazel, menthol, honey, lemon. Granny Smith apples, fresh laundry, candyfloss, Big Red gum, redcurrants, honeysuckle blossom.
Palate: Malt biscuits, baked apples and toffee sauce. Drying with fresh basil and tingly black pepper.
Finish: Salt and pepper, chewy oak.

Great nose on this, lots of complexity. The finish is rather too woody, though – very dry indeed. Four decades in first fill sherry is a tall order for a gentle spirit like Linkwood.


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-27-26Longmorn 1967

Cask: First-Fill Sherry Butt
Age: 47 years old
Distilled: 31st October 1967
Bottled: 21st September 2015
ABV: 43%

We’ve landed now in 1967. The Beatles have released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band to a rousing success in the British charts. Muhammed Ali is the heavyweight boxing champion of the world (at least until he refused to be drafted to Vietnam and was summarily stripped of the title).

When this was produced, the Longmorn distillery still had its own floor maltings and used coal-fired stills so it’s interesting to see how that impacts on what we expect from the character of a modern bottling.

Nose: Pear flesh, dried flowers, cloudy cider, sea salt, Love Hearts, dried banana, toffee brittle, dry white wine, and a little vanilla fudge.
Palate: Tequila and lime in a sweet shop. Pear drops, lemon bonbons, sherbet, and cola cubes. Gets creamy when the sweets calm down to reveal white chocolate and raspberries.
Finish: Long creamy oak with white pepper and a touch of hot cinnamon bun.

This is very drinkable indeed. Lots of sweet shop character with great delivery that evolves each time you sip.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-20-03-03Mortlach 1954

Cask: 1st fill sherry butt
Age: 58 years old
Distilled: 27th January 1954
Bottled: 20th November 2012
ABV: 43%

Here we are in 1954, the year that JRR Tolkien’s “Lord Of The Rings” is first published, Roger Bannister breaks the four-minute mile, and rationing finally ends after the second world war.

Interestingly, the Mortlach spirit is almost triple-distilled (2.81, to be precise, because the distillery’s six stills are different shapes and sizes!). I wonder how that’ll effect such an extended maturation.

Nose: Loads of sherry here! There’s a lovely salty quality with musty damp wood. Some typical sherry dark fruits: plums, dates, figs. Honeyed ham, oil paints, cold ashes, mossy dry stone walls. Mint leaves and blackberry jam. Gosh… this is astonishing.
Palate: Oooh, yes. Dry and floral. Tobacco leaves with blackcurrant and strawberries. Sloe gin. There’s a core of violet petals lurking in there and it just jumps right out at you! A rush of barrel spice – nutmeg and sweet baked peppers.
Finish: Fruity smoke, cranberries and cured cheeses.

The core spirit is alive and kicking here. Even though the heavy oak influence makes its presence known, there’s a lot of interesting fruity intensity punching its way through.


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-27-58Strathisla 1953

Cask: First-Fill Sherry Butt
Age: 58 years old
Distilled: 19th December 1953
Bottled: 20th November 2012
ABV: 43%

Back to 1953 and 25% of the population now owns a TV set and tune in to watch Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Meanwhile, Edmund Hilary reaches the summit of Everest with the help of sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Strathisla is well known for being the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland having been operational since 1786. Mostly this ends up in the Chivas Regal blend but there is an official 12 year old bottling and plenty of independents too.

Nose: This starts out very sawdusty but after time in the glass a lot of interesting things start happening. Sour cherries appear with pine resin, pistachio ice cream, damp wood, a hint of Olbas oil. Tons of dried fruit but lighter than expected: dried sultanas, pineapple. A little tropical fruit in the guise of unripe mango. After a few minutes there’s just a little bit of hard cheese rind
Palate: A little closed and oaky to start with but brightens up with dark honey, blackberries, mint leaf and white pepper.
Finish: Very heavy oak here on the finish – it lingers and lingers with barrel spices of cloves, black pepper, cardamom and a little more blackberry and bramble fruits.

Unsurprisingly with the age, this is quite a challenging dram and it takes a long time to tease out those flavours from under the decades in the cask but the complexity is very rewarding when you take the time to make sense of it all.


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-28-17Glen Grant 1949

Cask: 4 1st-Fill Sherry Casks and 1 refill sherry
Age: 64 years old
Distilled: 1949
Bottled: 6th June 2014
ABV: 40%

Back to the 40s. Colour TV has just been invented, the Federal Republic of Germany has been established, and George Orwell has published his infamous book “Nineteen Eighty Four”.

Glen Grant, owned by Campari, is the biggest selling single malt in Italy and is very popular the world over. What a treat to try such a well-aged bottle…

Nose: Ester-rich pear drops and board marker pens. Fragrant sandalwood and wood varnish but with a fruity edge of furry peach skin and tinned peach flesh with tangerine peel. Dry hay and flower seeds and a hint of salty coastal air. Very varied and interesting.
Palate: Golden apples, parma violets, bitter grapefruit. Soft oak in the background with a splash of black pepper amid sweet cereal and clementine.
Finish: Long, chewy oak with a little salt. Slightly vegetal – sweet fried cabbage.

Nearly a pensioner after 64 years in the barrel, the voice of this whisky has reduced to a soft whisper so you have to listen closely. There’s a lot of savoury going on here, balanced by fragrant fruity sweetness. With patience, this is very rewarding.


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-28-45Smith’s Glenlivet 1948

Cask: First-Fill Sherry Butt
Age: 62 years old
Distilled: 11th February 1948
Bottled: 26th July 2010
ABV: 43%

Our final destination, 1948. The first stored-program computer “Baby” runs its first program at the University of Manchester (all computers in the world are descendants of this design). The Olympics is hosted in London this year and a small company called “Porsche” starts selling cars in Germany.

Glenlivet is one of the most famous malts from Speyside and you can find official bottlings all over the world.

Nose: Astonishingly light and fruity for a sexagenarian! Red apples, sweet cider, champagne bubbles. Sweet Scottish tablet, sherbet, waxed leather and potpourri. Wow.
Palate: Caramelised apples with a touch of cinnamon – someone’s liquidised a strudel! Oak-infused vanilla ice cream with clementines, mangos, and sweet red peppers (yes, I throw an odd dinner party…). There’s a cup of Earl Grey tea somewhere in the mix too.
Finish: Tingly and tangy black pepper with orange and grapefruit peels. Very long, creamy, and chewy.

This is an absolute gem. The oak wall is demolished by a bouncy, zesty tray of fruity desserts. This Glenlivet throws one mean tea-party!


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-18-40-50Back to the Future…

Wow, what a journey this has been. Combined, that’s 329 years worth of time, care, and craft condensed into whiskies that are complex, fascinating and extraordinary.

Thanks so much to Gordon & Macphail for sharing these pieces of history.

If you’re feeling flush you can pick up the Speyside Collection on Master of Malt for a mere £10,495.95. There’s only 75 worldwide so if old, rare, collectible whisky is your thing then go grab a set. You have my infinite jealousy at being able to part company with five-figure sums to purchase whisky.

Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage

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Time to bring out The Good Stuff. Gordon & Macphail have kindly released a set of five samples from their superb Rare Vintage range just for us lucky Tweet Tasters to tuck into.

Gordon & Macphail have been bottling whisky in Speyside for over a hundred years. A proud family-run business, their back catalog of casks is mind-boggling. More than most bottlers, they’re really able to produce some exceptionally unusual vintages that give us mere mortals the chance to taste whisky from distilleries we know and love but in a much different, older form.

We’ll be starting in 1985 and winding the time machine back through the decades, all the way to 1954. What a treat this is. We begin our journey in the Highlands…

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Balblair 1985

Casks: Two bourbon refills
Age: 30 years old
Distilled: 14th January 1985
Bottled: 27th January 2015
ABV: 43%

We start off with the youngest of the five, a mere whippersnapper at 30 years old. Fun fact – I was in-utero when this was distilled.

Balblair distillery is in Edderton and has been running since 1895. The distillery and production methods have changed very little over the years.

This bottling is the marriage of two bourbon casks, #245 and #246.

Nose: Dusty fruity sherbet powder. Creamy. Waxy green apples, limes, a strawberry fool. Grilled pineapple. Lots of sweet vanilla oak. Honeysuckle blossom. Wet peppermint leaves, and a touch of fresh basil. Very classy – clean, floral, and fruity.
Palate: Wafts of honey with an undertone of muscavado sugar and caramel. There’s a rising tingle of baking spices and a tang of pineapple juice with nutmeg and cream. Overall it’s very round and soft. Gentle.
Finish: Gingerbread and black pepper with fresh hazelnuts.

An absolute belter, this. I love old bourbon matured whisky and this has all the hallmarks with a sweet vanilla creaminess and some gorgeous fruit notes.

This is available for a very reasonable £192 from The Whisky Exchange. Cracking price for a 30 year old whisky of this quality.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-46-08Smith’s Glenlivet 1974

Cask: Bourbon and Sherry refills
Age: 33 years old
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 18th February 2008
ABV: 43%

Our second whisky is Smith’s own “The Glenlivet”. This distillery came to typify Speyside so much that other distilleries added “Glenlivet” to their names for many years.

Nose: Dried apricots, sticky prunes, sandalwood, paprika. A completely different beast to the Balblair with a noticeable (but not overstated) sherry influence.
Palate: A lovely fruit progression: Freshly squeezed orange becoming soft mango, then revealing stewed plums that evolve into tart blackberries. Wow! Blackberry jelly with black pepper – very dark. Oily and custard-like on the tongue.
Finish: Dry tobacco, dark chocolate, and blueberries.

Poised and gracefully balanced. The sherry here really enhances the spirit, adding a lot of dark fruit notes to what seems to be a light and citrusy core spirit. Loverly stuff.

You can pick this up for £408 on The Whisky Exchange.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-48-29Glen Grant 1966

Cask: Four refill bourbon casks, 1 first-fill sherry
Age: 45 years old
Distilled: 1966
Bottled: 16th July 2012
ABV: 40%

Here’s a whisky that came off the still in 1966, the year The Beatles released “Strawberry Fields”, “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Penny Lane” and I believe also some important English sporting victory…

Nose: Loads of fresh fruit here. Fresh melon slices, kiwi, Golden Delicious apples. Lychee and fizzy oak. Car air freshener. A touch of celery in there, oddly.
Palate: This is insanely good. Like an oak-aged can of Lilt. Pineapple fritters, bon-bons, lemon sherbets, green tea, candied oranges and a ton of soft, creamy oak.
Finish: It lasts, and lasts. Fruit creams, white chocolate, brown sugar. Drying, ashy oak.

This is like an unpeated Port Ellen. Wow, wow, and wow. Easily, easily, the best whisky of the line-up for my money with some incredible tropical fruit notes and it’s oh-so-smooth and easy to drink. One word review: phwoar.

This is a total bargain at £585 from the Whisky Exchange, and I really mean that. You’ll not find a whisky pushing fifty years old of this quality for less.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-49-52Strathisla 1965

Cask: 1st Fill Sherry
Age: 50 years old
Distilled: 9th December 1965
Bottled: 20th January 2016
ABV: 43%

Onto the seriously elderly whiskies now with the Strathisla 1965 – a fifty year old that was filled into a single 1st-fill sherry puncheon.

You don’t see a great deal of Strathisla about – the distillery bottlings can be found in the shops but a lot of the output goes into blends, particularly Chivas Regal.

So how’s fifty years in sherry going to flavour the spirit?

Nose: Big, big sherry. Wax, chestnuts, crystallised ginger and wood polish. Supermarket cola, Medjool dates, dark rum, black liqourice, coffee beans and old waxed leather.
Palate: Raspberry syrup, herbal tea. Very, very drying indeed. Mince pies with a lot of cloves. Bitter marmalade on granary bread. Cocoa dust.
Finish: Cloves with oak and black pepper.

Great nose but bitter on the finish. Alas, I think too much time in the cask here, much as it’s a delight to taste a whisky of this vintage. It has to be the classiest and most important sherry bomb I’ve ever tasted…. yet.

Again, The Whisky Exchange comes to the rescue offering this ancient Strathisla at £658.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-20-03-03Mortlach 1954

Cask: 1st fill sherry butt
Age: 58 years old
Distilled: 27th January 1954
Bottled: 20th November 2012
ABV: 43%

Here’s the grand finalé – a staggering 58 year old whisky from Mortlach that was distilled in the year that rationing finally ended after the second world war.

Interestingly, the spirit is almost triple-distilled (2.81, to be precise, because the distillery’s six stills are different shapes and sizes!). I wonder how that’ll effect such an extended maturation.

Nose: Loads of sherry but very different to the Strathisla. There’s a lovely salty quality with musty damp wood. Some typical sherry dark fruits: plums, dates, figs. Honeyed ham, oil paints, cold ashes, mossy dry stone walls. Mint leaves and blackberry jam. Gosh… this is astonishing.
Palate: Oooh, yes. Dry and floral. Tobacco leaves with blackcurrant and strawberries. Sloe gin. There’s a core of violet petals lurking in there and it just jumps right out at you! A rush of barrel spice – nutmeg and sweet baked peppers.
Finish: Fruity smoke, cranberries and cured cheeses.

This isn’t a tired cask – it’s still kicking! And not your typical sherry bomb either; there’s a great earthy and savoury complexity running through the floral, fruity surroundings. Very impressive indeed.

If you feel like buying a whisky distilled when Churchill was still the Prime Minister then trot over to Whisky Online and pony up a mere £1,500 for a piece of liquid history.


Thanks!

Wow, what a journey this has been. Thanks so much to Gordon & Macphail for sharing these pieces of history with us and, as ever, thanks to Steve Rush for organising yet another triumphant tasting.

Tweet Tasting: The Dram Team

dramteam

Another Tweet Tasting is upon us, and this time it’s the inaugural tasting pack from The Dram Team.

Each tasting pack produced will contain six drams sent by post and you can buy them one-off or subscribe to one per month. The first pack is a tasting tour of the six whisky regions of Scotland.

Up first, the contender for The Highlands…

 


Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.08.43Inchmurrin 18 Year Old

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Age: 18
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon 1st fill, refill, and re-charred
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Toffee, heather honey and cereal with green bananas and Ester-rich pear drops. Rum-soaked raisins and a malty beeriness. There’s a lot of funky notes incongruous with the style: pickled onions, soy sauce, Manzanilla, sulphur, and fermenting fruit.

Palate: Sour cider apples and green peppercorns. Beery malt and hops. Sourdough bread and grappa. Very young and new-make-ish for an 18 year old.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Frankly, for eighty pounds a bottle I know plenty of other 18 year old expressions I’d prefer to buy. This is a flawed whisky, full of new-make character and off notes. I’m a fan of unusual flavours (in fact I prefer whiskies that surprise me) but this isn’t the kind of surprise I enjoy…

Next up, the Lowlander…

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.17.30Distillery: Auchentoshan
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%
Cask: Bourbon, Oloroso and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Oloroso sherry notes, nutty and sweet. Hot cross buns. Cough mixture and cola cubes.

Palate: Looks viscous in the glass but it’s lighter on the tongue. Gentle barley sugar sweets, old fashioned cough mixture, and a rising pepper spice. Dusty sherry.

Finish: Oaky vanilla and rum raisin ice cream.

This isn’t bad, though it is somewhat over engineered. I prefer Auchentoshan as it comes out of the cask, without watering down, chill filtering, or caramel. This just tastes like whisky-flavoured whisky.

From Campbeltown now…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.17Glen Scotia Double Cask

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Soft cotton, like sheets out of the dryer. Freshly sliced banana. Dark sugar and cracked black pepper.

Palate: Thick and resinous. Bourbon barrel spice with vanilla, cinder toffee, and caramel sauce. Sweet and tasty.

Finish: Lipsmacking with gingerbread.

Amazing nose! Really impressed all round, for an affordable NAS this is eminently quaffable.

I’m definitely getting a bottle of this on pay day!

And weighing in from Islay, we have…

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Bowmore Darkest

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15
ABV: 43%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Leathery and coastal, like a wax jacket on a clifftop walk. Dark chocolate with prunes and dates. A little marzipan with tangy marmalade.

Palate: Sumptuous sherry with juicy raisins and figs giving way to that signature Bowmore floral peat.

Finish: Dry oak and flower petals.

A classic! One of the better sherried peaty whiskies on the market. If you like this, I also recommend a bottle of its cask strength cousin, Laimrig.

Up next, the Speyside candidate…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.57Glenfarclas 105

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Age: NAS
ABV: 60%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fierce! That ABV packs a punch. A drop of water reveals ripe apple flesh, and soft toffee. Really dark bitter cocoa and burnt treacle with a touch of rubber plimsol.

Palate: Café mocha with dark berries and orange peel. Creamy and spicy, like nutmeg in rice pudding.

Finish: Warm oaky chocolate.

Great value for the ABV. This is in the same league as A’Bunadh, a sherry bomb fresh from the barrel. Both need water in my opnion, so they’re almost like a whisky cordial. The ‘farclas is a more subtle and complex beast though, some great dark low notes in it.

Finally, we go to the Islands for the sixth dram of the night…

Highland Park 21 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.12.14Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 21
ABV: 47.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Calm and gentle, soft and delicate. Chamois leather with a hint of clifftop sea breeze petrichor. Fresh blossoms. There’s an ice cream van in the distance.

Palate: Divinely balanced. Smoky grilled pineapple with black pepper. Vanilla cream and condensed milk with a handful of baking spices and waxy fruit skin.

Finish: Peat smoke reveals itself with gentle wafts that stay with you long after your last sip.

Oh, wow. I love old Highland Park and this does not disappoint. Classy, balanced, delicious. Absolute heaven.

A Pair of Indy Strathmills

Strathmill isn’t a name you see on the single malt market very often.

Another Diageo-owned blending malt, you’ll find this one in the popular J&B blended Scotch. Known for a delicate flavoured distillate, I’m hoping these two independent bottlings will showcase the distillery character without too much cask influence.

Cadenhead Strathmill 1995

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 14.28.46Distillery: Strathmill
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1995
Age: 18 years old
ABV: 54.4%
Cask: Bourbon Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fiery pepper but fruity – peach fizz sweets, unpasteurised yoghurt, strawberry ice cream, kaffir lime leaves, sage, cinnamon and caramel. A whiff of aromatic permanent marker pen.

Palate: Simple sweet malt toffee, barley malt, vanilla. Water reveals a touch of banana. Smooth to start, becoming spicy and numbing with Szechuan pepper, cinnammon, and cloves.

Finish: Tingly with allspice, ginger root and cardamom.

This is a pretty solid old-school style Speyside hoggy malt.

Sweet shop notes with esters and fruit. It’s quite unbalanced and fiery, but a great nose on it. I’d say the cask was a tad too active here with the palate starting off well and gradually cranking up the spices further than I’d like on an unpeated malt.

It’s a good whisky overall, but I wouldn’t buy it.

WhiskyBroker Strathmill 1990

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 14.27.59Distillery: Strathmill
Bottled: 2012, Distilled: 1990
Age: 22 years old
ABV: 51.9%
Cask: Refill Bourbon Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

This is four years older than the Cadenhead’s bottling, but quite a bit paler. I’m hoping the refill cask here has been kinder to the spirit.

Nose: Green fruit – apples, kiwis, limes. Spicy crème brûlée, salted fudge, lavender honey, cloudy cider, and barley grass. Some green chillies too.

Palate: Buttery fudge, cinder toffee, cheap cola, rum-raisin ice cream, sweet malt, and another rising, numbing pepper note that comes to dominate the palate.

Finish: The fire calms down to leave Bourbon barrel spices – cinnamon, sweetened hazelnuts, creamy oak.

A lot in common with the Cadenhead – fruity Speyside character coming through, but different notes and more depth of flavour and complexity. It still has that rising spice, but it’s not as harsh as the 18 and dies down to reveal more flavours on the finish.

Thanks to Andy for this sample!

Allied Glass Tweet Tasting

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Another Tweet Tasting from The Whisky Wire!

This time it’s put together with a selection of drams from Allied Glass and it’s really looking like an eclectic mix of whiskies.

We’ve got a mix of young, middle-aged, peated and unpeated with some old favourites and some new kids on the block.

Let’s dive in!


Raasay “While We Wait”

Distillery: Unknown (Raasay isn’t operational yet)
Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.05.25
Bottler: R&B Distillers
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon with finishing period in Tuscan red wine
More Info: WhiskyBase

First up from R&B Distillers is the “While We Wait” expression, released in anticipation of the distillery on the Isle of Raasay in the Hebrides.

This expression is a lightly peated Highland malt from an undisclosed distillery finished in Tuscan red wine casks.

Nose: Waxy paper, redcurrants, cracked black pepper in butter, peach and apricot skin, roses.

Palate: Peaches and pineapples, orange peel and ripe pear with fizzy peat – a lot like the bubble burn you get with sparkling wine. There’s a smoked rosé thing going on for sure.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy.

You can’t tell from the picture but this is actually a pink whisky! The flavour profile fits with rosé with fresh red and tropical fruit notes. It tastes young but it’s not a bad dram at all – reminiscent of sitting on a sun terrace with a glass of wine and a cigarette.

As for actual Raasay spirit, who knows how that’ll taste when it eventually ends up being bottled. Just as long as it’s better than Abhainn Dearg…

You can pick this up for £55.34 on Master of Malt.


 

Benriach 16

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.22.38Distillery: Benriach
ABV: 43%
Age: 16 years
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s one of Benriach’s core lineup – the 16 year old. I’ve had a fair bit of Benriach in my time but this is the first time I’ve tried the sixteen year old.

Nose: Very clean. Green apples and felt marker pens. Lots of flowers and nectar with honey and macaroons. A hint of Malibu rum, and undoubtedly the smell of honeysuckle blossom. Wow.

Palate: Strawberries with gingerbread ice cream and strüdel. Very well balanced between sweetness and spice.

Finish: A whisp of salty, tangy peat and then creamy oak.

Mmm, sublime! The nose is light and floral and the palate is perfectly balance between sweet fruit and barrel spices. This is a solid whisky and by far the standout dram of the tasting for me. I will almost certainly get a bottle on the shelf this Christmas.

Benriach 16 is on Whisky Exchange for £41.95. In my opinion, an absolute bargain.


 

Loch Lomond Original

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.56.29Distillery: Loch Lomond
ABV: 40%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the standard release from the Loch Lomond distillery. Loch Lomond Group are well known as the owners of the remaining stock of Littlemill, the infamous (and sadly closed) lowlands distillery.

I don’t often see bottlings of Loch Lomond, but they tend to be quite young and affordably priced as a result.

Nose: Salty bread dough on the nose. Olives, too. Are we making focaccia bread?? Grassy and honeyed. Vanilla cream, salt and pepper. 

Palate: Very sugary and slightly chalky, like love hearts that’ve been ground into a paste and poured onto vanilla ice cream. Bit of new-make/Grappa going on in there. Reminds me of a crystallised grape juice confectionary we have in Cyprus.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Young and punchy. Not bad for the price, but I fear it’s bottom of the league in this particular lineup. I do like the nose on it, though.

The Loch Lomond Original is available on Master of Malt for a very reasonable £26.14.


 

Tomatin Legacy

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.09.07Distillery: Tomatin
ABV: 43%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon and Virgin Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s another young and affordable dram, the Tomatin Legacy.

In homage to the traditions of the distillery and its role in the Highlands community, this release has picked up a fair few awards and got a nod from Jim Murray this year with 94.5/100.

Whether you’re a fan of “the ewok from Surrey” or not, it’s definitely proving popular amid a trend of sweeter virgin oak releases we’ve seen over recent years.

Nose: Very sweet! Barley sugar sweets and freshly sanded wood. Shoe polish and brushed suede. Pear cider and cinnamon. Green tea.

Palate: You can really taste the virgin cask in this! Vanilla oak with pear drops and spicy cloves.

Finish: Creamy and warming.

It’s not complex, but if you like the sweet vanilla flavour of oak (“ice cream in a glass”) then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. I’d certainly recommend it to people who are starting to explore Scotch as it’s very accessible, a bit unusual compared with supermarket whisky, and certainly well-priced.

You can pick up a bottle for a very affordable £25.84 on Master of Malt.


 

Old Pulteney 12

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.24.18Distillery: Old Pulteney
ABV: 40%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Bourbon and sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Mainland Britain’s most Northerly distillery, you see their twelve year old in most of the big UK supermarkets and often at a fantastic discount (I tend to see it around £20 per bottle).

Nose: It’s like eating honey by the sea washed down with strong malty beer. A complete classic.

Palate: Sweet and rich with sea salt and toffee. More beer barley, some boiled sweets and sweet oak. Milky coffee and a touch of citrus. Some baking spices towards the end.

Finish: Smooth and lip smacking.

Probably my favourite ever Highland distillery, this one’s an old friend for me and one of the first drams I had that really turned me on to Scotch whisky in my early twenties.

Definitely a landmark dram and one I’d recommend to anybody. If you’ve never tried it, I suggest you put that right!

You can pick it up on Amazon with free delivery for £24 – can’t say fairer than that!

Hyde 10 Year Old (Presidents Cask)

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 20.20.05Distillery: ???
Age: 10 years old
Bottler: Hibernia
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon, finished in Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

It’s not often I venture to the Emerald Isle in search for a dram! And for a single malt, no less.

Hyde Whiskey appeared on my radar on Twitter a few months back and has been a very prolific brand. The whiskey itself comes from a mystery Irish distillery and is bottled by Hibernia in Skibbereen, south Cork. The name is a nod to the first president of the Republic of Ireland, Douglas Hyde.

Let’s have a go…

Nose: Fruity! Overripe apples flesh, pear skin, peaches, honeysuckle. A little mineral salinity and dry hay, too.

Palate: Sweet, soft and smooth to start. Lemon cakes, toffee and vanilla build up to baking spices, cardamom, liquorice root and ginger. A touch of sour grapefruit and lime in the middle.

Finish: Peppery barrel spice, then long sweet oak.

Really interesting fruity notes on this, with a smooth start though the peppery spices at the end are quite prominent. Not a bad dram, but could be a lot smoother.

Here’s to more single malts from Ireland in future, though – it’s no bad thing to see this kind of dram on the market.

You can pick this up on Master of Malt for £50.88.