Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


timorous-beastie-40-year

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 40 Year (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 54.7% ABV0

Visual: Custard gold.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Very floral. Slight menthol. Vanilla. Oily and waxy. Heather. Light smoke. Battenberg. Grapes. Cream soda. Water adds sour grapes and sulphur. Butterscotch.

Body: Grapes. Caramac sweet bars. Definite alcohol. White wine. Cream soda. Water makes more marshmallow front and citrus back. Apples in a calvados style comes out over time.

Finish: Strong alcohol. Gin. Elderberry. Grapes. Waxy. Cream soda. Drying. Tropical fruit and white chocolate. White wine. Water adds more grapes and a slight make spirit style fruitiness.

Conclusion: This is not what I expected of a 40 year old whisky, not at all. It has all the vibrancy of a young whisky – especially a fruitiness that hints to make spirit, but it is matched with a smooth character and a very white wine style character that speaks of its age. It even has a very unusual cream soda style side of sweetness. It matches very vinous notes with butterscotch and even a slight sharpness in the fruitiness in a way that is very rarely seen in whisky.

There are elements that range as wide, and are as unexpected as a waxy battenberg, a sharp butterscotch, and a vinous soda. Combinations of words that you would not expect to be seen together, even less so to work as well as they do. It is very distinct and different. Most old whiskies I try are good, but feel so smooth as to be understated – the strong abv of this means that it is still forceful in its odd complexity.

Water integrates the notes and smooths it out a lot, but it still keeps a slight sharpness – what gets brought out is more white chocolate and tropical fruit – really emphasising the bourbon ageing influence.

A spritzy, unusual, gin influenced, winey, butterscotch whisky. It feels like it has been influenced by far more spirits than it can possibly have been – white wine, grappa, gin, rakia, calvados. So many styles resulting in a whisky unlike any other. It does have slight rough edges at times of sourness and alcohol, but I have not seen many spirits this fascinating and unique. So, not the best, but unique and that earns it a heck of a place in itself.

Background: 300 whisky tasting notes! I actually had a bottle set aside for this, but ended up hitting the 300 at Independent Spirit‘s uber whisky tasting. A 40 year old blended malt is one well worth the 300 mark, so what a wonderful coincidence! Sorry the photo is a bit rubbish on this – I started drinking then realised I hadn’t done the photo yet so it is a bit hurried and half empty. My bad. As before as this was a social event with five different whiskies my notes may be shorter and more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

carn-mor-caperdonich-1992

Carn Mor: Caperdonich 1992 (Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 24 Year: 58.9% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Clean and light. Citrus lemon and lime. Pencil shavings. Vanilla. Light toffee. Light floral. Water gives more floral. More water brings out peach notes and slight sulphur.

Body: Sweet. Honey and golden syrup mix. Very noticeable alcohol. Water makes much smoother. Butterscotch. Peppery. Lime. More water brings light apricot and dried pineapple and gives a slight waxy texture.

Finish: Alcohol strength. Oily sheen. Sulphur. Floral. Butterscotch. Water makes slightly soapy. White chocolate and tinned tropical fruits. Peppery and slightly waxy. More water adds dried apricot and pineapple.

Conclusion: This is far better than my first experience with Caperdonich. With the high abv this has, cask strength from a single cask, it gives a thicker, waxy texture that gives much more grip for the flavour.

It is a honey sweet whisky, using that and the waxy character as a base for some dried fruit, bourbon ageing tropical fruit and some floral notes floating over that. None of that is a too unusual style but the age of this means that it is delivered in a very clean style and, with water, pretty smoothly.

It carries what feels like a light smoke backing it up – giving it slightly more weight that a fruity floral whisky normally would have. Slight waxy and thick feel, slight sulphur and smoke at the back. In It makes if feel slightly old fashioned – like walking around in old stores and breathing in the air. In fact, while this is not stand out or special in the flavour it is very nice in the mouthfeel. It has a very special mouthfeel – kind of like what you got with direct heated whisky distilling in the old days. Don’t know if that is what is used here but it has that slightly burnt, gassy feel.

Anyway, not a world shaker, but interesting to examine, much better than my last experience, and solid in flavour.

Background: This is the second ever Caperdonich I have encountered – it is a dead distillery- closed in 2002 and demolished 2010, so we will see no more once it is gone. My first encounter was ok but nothing special – so when this was the second whisky in the Independent Spirit Uber whisky tasting I was intrigued to give it a go. As before, due to doing more notes that usual in a social environ this may be less detailed than usual, but I do my best.

timorous-beastie-21-year-sherry-edition

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 21 Year Sherry Edition (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Strawberry yogurt. Blackcurrant. Moderate oak. Vanilla. Mince pies. Dry. Water adds dried apricot and stewed fruit notes. Treacle. Oily character. Later you get red wine, port and more blackcurrant.

Body: Strawberry. Lots of sherry. Dried spice. Thai 7 spice jars. Dry. Sultanas. Water makes sweeter and spice raisins.

Finish: Blueberry. Mince pies. Dry. Vanilla. Sultanas. Thai 7 spice. Water makes much more spicy. Slight marzipan. Red wine.

Conclusion: This is very sherried, emphasising the drier end of the spectrum as well. It seems sweeter on the nose than it actually turns out to be – on the aroma it promises almost strawberry yogurt kind of notes. However this sweetness doesn’t really penetrate the body. Instead you get darker fruit, mince pies, Christmas spices and dry wine – it gives quite the intense but not harsh character.

There are some light sweet notes – some vanilla, and some parts of the blueberry are sweet, but these elements are rounding ones, not the notes emphasised.

It is nice enough like that – a bit one note but I was enjoying it – water however brings out a slight stewed fruitiness that gives it that tiny hint extra sweetness it needs. Now it is very rewarding, balancing and giving a huge range of flavour within the sherry style.

Then if you give it just a bit of time it rewards you yet again – giving much more red wine and dark fruits amongst the suet mince pie dryness. It is a brilliant example of sherry work here, emphasising it to heavy degree without become so overpowered by it that it becomes one note and dull which can be a flaw on heavily sherried whisky.

It is just fruity enough to let that re-emphasise the dry spiciness. Very nice and complex. I heartily approve. As a vinous, fruity, drying and sherried whisky in equal measure this is a big one I have no hesitation in recommending if you can afford it.

Background: So, Independent Spirit did another one of their Uber whisky tastings – their last one was the first of their tastings I went to and was sensational, so of course I jumped on this one. This is the first of five whiskies had that night. As it was a social event, and due to having more whisky back to back than I normally do for notes these may be slightly shorter and more scattered notes that usual. I did my best for you all though. Kicked off big with a 21 year blended malt. Don’t think I have ever tried standard Timorous Beastie – however its existence led to me winning a pub quiz once as the image of the mouse on the front meant that I knew what animal the term refers to. See? Drinking is good for knowledge.

ailsa-bay-eponymous-bottling

Ailsa Bay – Eponymous bottling (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 48.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big smoke. Chinese stir fry vegetables. Moss. Salted rocks. Vanilla. Peppermint. Water cleans out the vegetable notes.

Body: Vanilla. Smoke. Light fudge. Salt. Slightly medicinal. Water smooths. More vanilla. Slight lime. Slight bready character. Malt chocolate.

Finish: Peat. Malt chocolate. Light salt. Vanilla. Slight greenery. Water adds honey sweetness. More malt chocolate to choc orange. Quite drying. Slight Chinese stir fry vegetables.

Conclusion: This is another whisky that I am glad I gave a while to open up before doing notes. When I first broke this open about a week ago, it seemed very dominated by a stir fry vegetable character behind the smoke. A very bad look for nearly any whisky. Anyway, these days where I can I give the whisky a week or so before I do notes, time for the vapours to roam the now less than full bottle. It often helps, so, we now try the whisky in that state.

This is still very peat forward, drying and smokey with slightly medicinal and salted notes – though it is not overly tied to those last two concepts. Instead the main backing to the peat is a gentle, smooth toffee sweetness. Neat it still has a bit of the stir fry in the aroma, but that goes with water. With a lot of water that stir fry returns to linger in the finish- so it is a balancing act to find the sweet spot on this one.

Still, in the middle, with just enough water you get a nice balance of both worlds. You get the sweetness, the peat – a good intensity backed by a good sweetness. Despite the texture it is never easy drinking, but it is not due to any fire or harsh spirit notes – in fact it plays very smooth, and even enhances itself with some chocolate notes as the water comes in.

So, with water, does it have any problems? Well, a couple – a big one is the cost. For all the peat and sweetness it brings, and the impressive texture, it is still a young whisky. It lacks a certain complexity – I find the Ardmore does sweet and peat better and with more subtlety – or if you want the intense side, for this cost you can get Laphroaig Quarter Cask – which is a legend that shows how to really get the most out of small cask ageing.

This is a good show for a first release, though marred by those stir fry notes mentioned – but it does not match the complexity or quality you would expect for the price. There are much better, similar whiskies. I anticipate good things from this distillery, but unless you really must try the first release, I would hold out for a later, richer, expression.

Background: This was a Christmas gift from my parents – many thanks! This is a no age statement bottling, but the Ailsa Bay Distillery has been part of the Girvan distillery since 2007, so it with this being released in 2016 it would probably have a max age of about 8 years, and probably less. This highly peated whisky has been “Micro matured” by which I presume they mean aged in a smaller cask so there is more contact with the wood. The label lists this as having a pppm of 21 (peat raing) and sppm of 11 (google tells me this is the sweetness rating -not seen that before). Drunk while listening to Ulver – atgclvlsscap, a weird experimental mash up that gave a lovely haunting backdrop to the drinking.

spencerfield-spirits-company-sheep-dip-blended-malt

Spencerfield Spirits Company: Sheep Dip: Blended Malt (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and peach. Smooth. Light alcohol. Smoke. Slight chalk. Water adds pencil shavings.

Body: Custard and peach. Honey. Rising peat and beef. Slight salt. Thin back. Smooth. Sweet grapes. Apricot. Water brings out more grapes.

Finish: Salt. Golden syrup. Slight smoke. Slight chalk. Slight malt drinks. Raisins and Madeira. Slight caramel. Water adds grapes.

Conclusion: Oh, so close. So very close. This has a lot going for it. Despite its heavy duty sounding name, the smoke and peat brought into play in this is carefully measured – subtlety adding to rather than overpowering the sweet smooth body. For the most part the emphasis is on the fruity, easy drinking body – with a few salty, peaty notes rounding it out. The sweet base does a lot to give enough flavour for this to work – a sweet mix from custard to caramel. So, decent amount of variety, balanced well.

So, what does it get wrong? Well it feels like it could do with a few more points of abv, or a thicker choice of whisky in it, just something to give it a bit more grip. Oddly enough, up front it actually has the grip – and up front is usually where things have their thin point. Instead, here it is the back end to finish that feels too light. Water adds a bit of green fruit, but keeps the slight lightness. The main change is the smoke feels a bit more present in the finish.

So, despite that flaw the flavour is well balanced for sipping, and it comes in at a decent price. The extra peat gives a different style to the usual sipping whisky, without harming the ease of drinking.

So, a bit light but not bad all things considered.

Background: Second of the two pack of Spencerfield Spirits Company whiskies I picked up recently – this one the blended malt of the batch – made up of 16 different single malts. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit before Christmas, and drunk while listening to even more music from Grimes. Yes I am listening to her a lot. Good stuff. Not much more to say, mainly grabbed as I keep an eye out for decent whiskies that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Prices are going up a lot these days.

that-boutique-y-whisky-company-laphroaig-12-year-old
That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Laphroaig 12 Year Old (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 52.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale clear and light, just slightly gold touched, spirit.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Quite creamy. Slight lemon. Orange crème. Butterscotch. Very light medicinal. Water makes slightly salty.

Body: Lightly salty. Some alcohol presence. Water makes creamier. Chocolate toffee eclair sweets. More medicinal and light custard sweetness. Light lemon meringue.

Finish: Dry peat intensity. Light grapefruit. Malt chocolate drinks. Water adds caramel and cream. Light lemon sorbet air. Light beef slices. Salted notes. Shredded wheat and honey.

Conclusion:An easy going Laphroaig? Kind of, yes, but with a sting in the tail. Spoiler – in a shock twist it is not the high alcohol level that gives the punch that provides the sting in the tail. In fact for the abv it is remarkably easy going, and while you only get a few of the notes neat, it only needs a tiny amount of water to start opening it up.

This is a mix of three definite, and distinct styles. There is the expected, though lighter than usual, medical, salty, salted rocks and such like notes that makes up the traditional Laphroaig elements- much more subtly used than normal though. The second string is a heavy twist on a note that can sometimes be seen in Laphroaig – lemon. Here it is far from normal – creamy, between lemon sorbet and lemon meringue, but now bringing light grapefruit and orange fruitiness that nigh unheard of from the distillery. It actually reminds me of traditional lemonade at times, that odd mix of flavours. Third and final is the chocolate caramel sweetness – there is normally a sweetness in Laphroaig backing everything but never as ramped up and thick as it is here.

Together it is only just recognisable as Laphroaig – until that sting in the tail – that being a peat punch pounding out in the finish; Finally stamping the Islay styling home.

Over time the more beefy, peaty notes rise up, more towards the standard ,expected notes- so by the end if feels like a more traditional expression, but enhanced by all that additional creaminess, sweetness and fruitiness.

Oft I have seen the expressions from the big Booming Islay distilleries mocked for the impression that they all taste the same. This shows this as the lie it is and slays the concept – this is recognisable, but different and delicious.

Background: After my last notes at the Hideout, I resolved to go back and try this. A rare independent Laphroaig bottling, with a cool Back To The Future inspired label. That Boutique-y Whisky Company always has cool, cartoon labelling which I dig. Apparently the people on the label are the winners of a contest. This is one of 421 bottles. While I do not control the music when in public, The Cranberries : Zombie came on while doing these notes, which was pretty nice.

hideout2

jura-tastival

Jura: Tastival (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 51% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Honey. Cinnamon rolls. Light tar notes. Thick. Sugared orange. Stewed fruit. Water adds cinnamon pears.

Body: Strong. Alcohol presence. Orange liqueur. Spiced rum. Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Water makes cinnamon pears. Slight charring. More water adds apples, a touch of salt. Vanilla toffee and treacle.

Finish: Malt chocolate and light oak. Spiced wine notes. Cinnamon and pepper. Light charring. Water adds treacle and chocolate liqueur. Light salted rocks.

Conclusion: Jura have been a go to whisky for me for a while now. Their entry level stuff is very nice, and generally not too expensive – while their Prophecy expression stands out as a great, complex peaty whisky. This is different again from those. The higher abv gives it a bigger, thicker character and a lot of room to roam.

This is a dark, rich expression with deep chocolate liqueur notes and light charring – all darker notes which calls to Bowmore Darkest or some of the Dalmore series for inspiration. It has that similar, very luxurious character, albeit with a strong alcohol punch if taken neat, and they are accentuated by a definite cinnamon sweetness and rum to red wine spiciness. It really, even when with the force of being neat, gives a decadent dark dessert feel. Death by chocolate meets cinnamon doughnuts.

Water soothes out the alcohol weight and gives hints of lighter notes hidden below it; Never huge, but there are feelings of subtle cinnamon pears and such like in there. Also water brings out, on the opposite side, subtle more traditional island characteristics – light salted rocks – again very minor, but gives it a grounding so it is not just a sweet, thick whisky.

Overall these just balance out an already very good experience – it gives hints of the more familiar expressions of Jura, but matched with that luxurious chocolate and cinnamon – making it like an island character backed dessert expression. Just enough added edge to make it unusual.

Very nice indeed, and probably now my tied favourite Jura with Prophecy.

Background: The 14 year is from a quick google that says the youngest spirit in this is 14 years. Anyway – this was my first tasting note done at The Hideout – a new whisky bar in Bath. Damn they have a nice selection – will try and take advantage of them to get some more unusual whisky tasting notes up on here. It is always nice to be able to try the more unusual stuff by the dram. This one is the Jura whisky done for the 2016 festival and has been aged in Palomino Fino, Amoroso and Apostoles sherry casks. Which actually goes beyond my knowledge of Sherry, so I will assume that is good.

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spencerfield-spirit-co-pigs-nose

Spencerfield Spirit Co: Pig’s Nose (Blended Scottish Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Hint of smoke. Honey. Apricots. Water does little to change.

Body: Light. Honey and vanilla custard. Stewed apricot. Sweet lime. Light alcohol influence. Water adds more apricot and some peach. Slight salt. Slight dried beef.

Finish: Slight peat smoke and dried beef taste. Honey. Dry oak. Similar with water.

Conclusion: How does water make a whisky taste thicker? I’ve run into a few like that recently. I mean, I know practically that if the water is a thicker liquid than the whisky then mixing the two will result in a thicker liquid than just the whisky alone – well barring the two not mixing. I’m fairly sure that is not the case here. Whisky is more viscous than water in all cases that I am aware of, yet somehow it feels thicker with it. Go figure. Anyway…

So, yes, neat this feels very light- a simple apricot style fruity thing. A tad more smoke than usual in your standard blended whisky, but not an extreme amount. Just an extra bit of spice in the dish, metaphorically speaking. Still, despite that very simple when taken without water.

Water – well it is interesting. For one, as indicated it feels thicker than before. How? Why? I do not know why whiskies keep doing this. Anyway, it makes for a better texture and brings out light smoke and salt in the mid body. Still sweet dominated, but with a tad heavier backing.

Even like that it feels, well, like a basic level single malt. Both a complement and a criticism when I say that. It doesn’t have the rough edge of some blended whiskies – and with water it is done well enough and mixes enough elements that it reminds me of the charm of a single malt, with the sweet character of a blend. There is not much more to it than that – it has the very basic level feel of a single malt but none of the character that would make it stand out. Basically it has the feel and the basic flavour set, but no wow to it.

So, a competent blended whisky, but no more than that. No point that makes it stand out.

Background: Grabbed as part of two pack from Independent Spirit (The other is a blended malt which I saved for later). It was fairly cheap, so I thought worth a shot – I have run into very good
cheaper whiskies before, and terrible expensive ones – so always worth checking these out. Drunk while listening to The Eels: Electro Shock Blues – some good happy music for enhancing drinking. That is a lie, it is in no way a happy album – the first song is about the lead singer’s sister’s suicide for example. But it is a very good album.

independent-spirit-arran

Independent Spirit: Arran (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Years: 58.7% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain to gold.

Viscosity: Generally slow thin puckering, with a few fast streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol jelly. Lime. Salted caramel and apple. Water brings out more caramel, a touch of milky coffee. More water adds floral notes.

Body: Alcohol touched. Salted toffee. Moderate oak. Salted caramel. Water adds apples and makes smoother. Much more salted caramel. More water adds more apples and pears. Light cinnamon. Creamy notes and some lemon curd.

Finish: Charred oak. Apples. Alcohol. Toffee malt drinks. Drying. Water adds salted toffee. More water adds lemon curd and light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, this has a lot of water room to it. Like a proper serious amount. Not entirely unexpected at best part of 60% abv, but what does stand out is that it is actually pretty approachable even when neat; Which means that you have more room for quality water play as you don’t have to add a ton just to get it to where you can taste it. No innuendo on water play please. That is my job.

Neat to middling amounts of water it is very unlike any Arran I have encountered. Very toffee and caramel driven. Salted interpretation of both no less. Neat it is a little alcohol thick but still very drinkable, if a tad burning. Even a little water though turns it into a very smooth, kind of salted toffee doughnut style whisky. I was kind of addicted to salted toffee doughnuts for a while, I know of what I speak.

More water, like heavily more water, adds a mix of traditional green fruit that feels like a more Arran by way of Hakushu whisky style. Initially just soft notes around the toffee, enough water means that the green fruit takes centre stage with the salted caramel around the edges.

Initially as a salted caramel heavy whisky I found it soothing, smooth and easy drinking but not too complex. I was going to call it a whisky that did one thing but very well – a whisky for the high end of enjoying to sooth and relax with rather than examine.

Water turned that on its head; lots of fresh green fruit, a good mix of character. It is still easy to drink but now more freshening than soothing, and with a touch of that creamy Arran character. Very enjoyable either way, and with lots of room to explore. Both defies Arran expectations and confirms them depending on how you take it. A very high quality whisky.

Background: Second of Independent Spirit‘s independent bottlings of whisky. This time an Arran bottling – one of 57 bottles, distilled in 1997 and aged for 17 years in a sherry puncheon. Bottled non chill filtered at cask strength this definitely caught my eye. The label may look identical to the last, Fettercairn bottling – but if you look closely the cape colour has changed. Huge difference. Drink while listening to a general mix of metal – around the thrash to death side of things.

the-macphail-collection-balblair-10-year

The Macphail Collection: Balblair: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked grain. Smooth. Lime. Vanilla. Water changes little.

Body: Light alcohol touch. Slightly empty. Murky water. Water adds vanilla, white chocolate and vanilla toffee. Lime touch. Honey. More water adds raisins and spiced red wine.

Finish: Oak. Malt chocolate. Alcohol sheen. Murky water. Water adds white chocolate. Honey. Gin air and juniper berries. More water adds spiced red wine.

Conclusion: This seems extremely non distinctive for a whisky, especially for a Balblair. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with the distillery, but every one has stood out, and also stood on their own two feet. This – less so.

Without water it actually feels pretty empty. Alcohol touched but not heavily so, with just a kind of murky taste. If you take your time to let it open up then you do manage to get some hints of what I presume is the bourbon side of the ageing – white chocolate comes out and such like. However it is still indistinct and pretty bad as a whisky, let alone a Balblair whisky.

So let’s jump straight on to after we have added that often game changer – water! That makes it better, right? Yes. Yes it does. That makes it worth drinking, right? No. No it really doesn’t.

It brings out what feels like some sherry barrel influence – as opposed to the slight burbon influence that showed up neat. There is slight spiced red wine and raisins – nothing too unusual and far less distinct than in nearly every other sherry touched whisky I have tried. More water brings out a tad more of this, but also makes everything else even less distinct.

It isn’t actually painful (unlike, say Isawa whiskey) but it is bad. Probably duller than the Tamdhus I have encountered. I generally like Balblair, but this does nothing for me.

A let down and a bad whisky.

Background: Saw this miniature at Corks Of Cotham when I was up there recently – lovely wee place. You don’t see many miniatures of independent bottlings, nor of Balblair, so fished it out and grabbed it. Put some The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay on while drinking. That album is 8 years old now – Wish a lot of the themes in it about anti Islam sentiment weren’t still as relevant today as they were back then.

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