Bladnoch Talia

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-10-05-40Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: 25 years
ABV: 49.2%
Cask: New Oak Finish
More Info: WhiskyBase

The big chief of the three new releases is this one: Talia. A 25 year old bottling released at a generous 49.2% with no colouring or chill filtering.

Nose: Poised and gorgeous. Flower petals and clean laundry. Ripe apples with icing sugar, lime juice, butter, and a whiff of banana milkshake.

Palate: Sweet and zesty. Cloudy cider, clementines, tinned peaches and cream with warming black pepper, vanilla pods, and smooth oak.

Finish: Soft and oaky with a touch of clove and cardamom.

This is an absolute beauty. Balanced, elegant and really moreish. A great example of the Bladnoch spirit: thick, buttery, sweet, gentle and fruity. Shame there’s only six hundred bottles…

What an absolute treat to try this alongside the Samsara and the Adela. I’m thrilled to see the rebirth of this wonderful distillery and looking forward to what comes next. It’ll be a few more years before they’re able to patch the gaps in their stock but I’m hopeful we’ll see a ten or twelve year old released as part of the core line up.

I’m also told that 2017 is Bladnoch’s 200th anniversary so we can expect an extra special bottling to appear to celebrate that…

Thanks very much to the distillery for the samples and best of luck with the re-launch!

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

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Bladnoch Adela

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-21-19-45Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: 15 years
ABV: 46.7%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Scotland’s most Southerly distillery had a shaky few years when its parent company went into liquidation. Now rebooted, it has Ian MacMillan (formerly of Bunnahabhain and Tobermory) at the helm of distillation, bringing decades of whisky experience into the mix.

This second whisky in the new line-up, Adela, brings 15 years of Oloroso sherry maturation. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays with the character of the core spirit.

Nose: In a word, multilayered. Lots of heavy, meaty sherry tones – struck matches and boiled ham. Beneath it, sultanas, white peach and sandalwood and a base layer of buttery icing sugar like it’s younger sister, Samsara.

Palate: Redcurrants and black cherries – quite tart, but sweet and malty with vanilla cream, a hint of tobacco leaf, and dark chocolate.

Finish: Heavily roasted coffee beans and hazelnuts.

This isn’t a style of whisky that I tend to turn but there’s a lot going on here as it opens up and evolves. Intriguing and one I’d recommend to people who love their sherried drams on the more savoury side.

Onwards to the finalé, the 25 year old Talia

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

Bladnoch Samsara

screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-20-14-03Distillery: Bladnoch
Age: Multi-vintage, with youngest 8 years old
ABV: 46.7%
Cask: Bourbon (I’m guessing)
More Info: WhiskyBase

One could quite easily argue that the Lowland whisky style is the least well understood in the whole of Scotland.

And it’d be hard to disagree! The region is almost the same size as the Highlands region (not including Speyside) yet it only has six distilleries! The isle of Islay has more than that all by itself.

As a result, Bladnoch is a name you really don’t see around often enough. The distillery’s had a few silent years and generally is one you can only taste on the indy bottle circuit. So what a welcome sight it is to see three brand new official bottlings, gloriously bottled at 46.7%* and without colour or chill-filtering – just the way we like it!

Purchased by David Prior, the distillery was officially re-launched last month in Australia. I’m very pleased these whiskies are now available back here in the UK! Let’s get tasting…

Nose: Buttery with icing sugar (it looks very fat and oily in the glass). Golden delicious apples, barley straw, grist, oat cakes, fresh leaves, toffee, vanilla and baked crumble.

Palate: Sweet and feisty. Baked apple, cinnamon, sweet malt biscuit, cloudy apple juice, cloves and a chalky pepperiness.

Finish: Mouth-coating and oily with soft oak, cloves, and liquorice.

It’s young, exuberant and very drinkable. A splash of water softens it up revealing more of the fruity side of its character. I’m a big fan of this – that buttery, grassy quality being something I’ve enjoyed in older Bladnochs (and Littlemills, come to think of it).

This entry-level of the new line-up is definitely worth seeking out. Time to move onto Adela, the next in the trilogy.

The new bottlings can now be purchased in the UK via House of Malt.

* Talia is bottled at natural cask strength of 49.2% ABV.

Highland Park Ice

screen-shot-2017-02-15-at-22-46-28Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 17 years old
Bottles: 30,000
ABV: 53.9%
Cask: First fill Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Another special edition series of Highland Park bottlings. This time it’s not Gods but the elements themselves.

The first in the series, “Ice”, is rumoured to be similar to the Freya bottling of the Valhalla Series – a 1st fill Bourbon Highland Park with a light, sweet, gentle character.

Nose: Fresh green apple flavoured candyfloss. Sour chewy sweets. White peach. Damp, sweet grass.

Palate: Sweet, luscious and honeyed with fresh green fruit – white grapes, green apples, gooseberries. A rising wave of white pepper numbs the tongue through the mid palate.

Finish: Oaky, nutty and sweet with vanilla.

The nose is delicate, balanced and very alluring but the palate lets it down. Even with a fair bit of water that rising pepper burn dominates the palate. It doesn’t feel peaty, but rather spirity, and very atypical of what I’ve come to expect from Highland Park, especially at this age and price bracket.

Sadly forgettable. Definitely not worth the £180+ price tag.

Bruichladdich Octomore 10 (2nd Edition)

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-16-29-11Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2016, Distilled: 2006
Age: 10 years old
Bottles: 18,000
ABV: 57.3%
Cask: First-fill Bourbon, Grenache Blanc
More Info: WhiskyBase

Towards the end of 2016, Bruichladdich released a “Troika of Tens” – three exciting ten year old releases in limited quantities. One for the unpeated Bruichladdich, one for the heavily peated Port Charlotte, and one for the super heavily peated Octomore.

The last round had Jim McEwan’s signature on them; this one is adorned with the autograph of Mr Adam Hannett. I love Jim’s Laddies but Adam’s have consistently exceeded all expectations.

At £150, it’s definitely not an every day dram but I’d just paid off my student loan so that seemed a good enough cause for celebration…

Nose: This takes me straight to the Atlantic! Very mineral-rich and coastal: salt-crusted seashells, damp driftwood, and dark green seaweed. It smells like rain (the proper word for this is “petrichor”, according to Jake) and there’s a great chalky/waxy quality in there, too. I love Octomore, it always paints a picture – this is a walk on a beach on a typical Summer’s day in Scotland. With time, some fruit appears in the form of orange and lemon peel.

Body: Viscous and mouth-coating but not cloying. That slow-drip distillation combined with the cask strength really works wonders.

Palate: Ok, a lot happens here. Briefly sweet and tart like a crisp green apple. The thick mouthfeel cocoons the impending peat smoke briefly and then *whoosh* the smoke is released! It goes straight to your sinuses like a good blob of wasabi. The savoury/spicy food continues with salt and pepper beef in chilli oil – very drying and tingly. As the tingling subsides, lime chocolate creams, peppermint, liquorice, and a hint of soft fruit (think honeydew melons/kiwis)

Finish: Quite savoury with that trademark chewy, tooth-coating Octomore peat. Malty and peppery and very, very long.

Gosh, they grow up so fast, don’t they? I love Octomore at five years old, all kicking and feisty. This hasn’t lost any of its kick with the additional five years but it’s gained a wonderful structure and nuance that gets better with every sip.

There’s a lot to discover here. Well done, Adam –  an absolute belter!

You can pick up the Octomore 10 2nd Edition in the Bruichladdich Shop for £150.

The G&M Speyside Collection

screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-17-44-07

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.

img_20161230_175654

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.

Bruichladdich Laddie Five-O

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-20-13-18Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottled: 2013
Age: NAS
ABV: 47.7%
Bottled For: Feis Ile 2013
More Info: WhiskyBase

If you’ve ever been on Islay in May, you’ll know all about the reputation and buzz surrounding the Feis Ile bottlings from each of the eight distilleries on the island.

This bottling here represents something special – this is Jim McEwan’s liquid celebration of his fifty years in the whisky industry. Jim handed over the Bruichladdich baton to Adam Hannett in 2015 (and he’s doing a cracking job!) so bottlings like these won’t come by any more.

And given that it’s Christmas, I decided it was time to appreciate Jim’s legendary whisky talents. This is somewhat frustratingly released without an age statement but I’m confident it’s got some interesting older casks from the depths of the Laddie warehouses rolling around inside it.

Nose: A good mix of things here. Gingerbread, Scottish tablet, dusty wooden furniture, hard cheese rind, cherry skin, raspberries.

Body: Syrupy! Nice and viscous.

Palate: Tangy and sweet. Clementines, stem ginger, dark honey, cloves and cinnamon.

Finish: A soft (and slightly soapy) coastal tang with oak and marzipan.

Unusually, for a Bruichladdich special bottling, there’s nothing outrageous going on here at all.

However, what is going on is a really good solid, honest and well rounded whisky. It has all the hallmarks and core character of the distillery and it’s an easy sipping and classy flavour with enough complexity to keep it interesting.

You can pick this one up at auction or buy it on Amazon for £275.