Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


Brora: Silent Stills: 18 Year (Scotland Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 52.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Very slow puckering forms into thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed rocks. Mild smoke and soot. Planed red wood. Lime hints. Barley. Water adds more rocks and grit. Soft apricot. More water keeps roughly the same.

Body: Light front. Lemon and vanilla. Subtle smoke. Slight salted rocks. Alcohol warms over time. Lemon cakes and lemon curd. Brown sugar. Honey. Water adds more honey. Apricot. More noticeable alcohol. Thick American pancakes. More water. Buttered crumpets. Raisins and plums.

Finish: Honey. Crushed rocks. Soot. Lime touch. Maple syrup touch. Brown sugar. Lemon cakes. Vanilla. Water adds American pancakes and malt chocolate. More water – crumpets. Raisins. Red wine.

Conclusion: Very different first impression on this to anything I expected. Gentle, definitely not showing the cask strength level alcohol, but with crushed rocks and smoke. The aroma especially seemed full of those wood and rock notes that made me a tad worried this would be a rough tasting experience. However first sip was very smooth, with light sweet notes and that rocky character a backing solid character as it should be.

Now I know Brora is generally peated, so was expecting a heavier influence from that than what I found here. Instead I get just a smoke wisp, present but gentle wafting though the sweeter main character of lemon cakes and vanilla. It very much shows the sweet Highland home here with honey and brown sugar weight to the spirit. It is well aged though, even neat the 50% abv is smoother than it has any right to be, only becoming noticeable if held on the tongue for a while. In fact it is so well balanced in alcohol weight that I was hesitant to add water to it for a while lest I ruin it.

I was then unsure again just after adding the water. The aroma became even grittier, and the body had a bit more alcohol evident. However with that it did open up to bring brighter fruit notes and an American style pancake feel. So, after a moment of examination I decided, maybe it had just started its journey of change? Maybe a touch more water was needed?

More water did settle the alcohol down again, and have a thick, bready, crumpet and thick pancake kind of feel, all backed by that understated smoke. Here I can wholeheartedly say that it is very good. Highland weight and sweetness, subtle smoke, slight citrus notes and so incredibly smooth for the abv. That is some aged cask strength spirit used well. No fancy unusual barrel ageing used here – it just lets the spirit itself show itself at the best with the oak adding everything it needs.

In fact, here in its final moments I find more sherry barrel like ageing notes coming out – dark fruit and red wine adding yet another layer to this. It really made wish I had a bit more of this so I could explore where it was going – hints of much more dark fruit to come. Unfortunately I cannot afford more, even if I could find it.

So, on that, is it worth the high very cost? Probably not. Probably nothing is worth the cost that super rare whisky like Brora goes for now. However it is very good indeed. Wonderful in fact. If this went for the kind of cost a premium 18 year old whisky would go for from a living distillery, even the high end of that, I would recommend it without hesitation. One of the best Highland whiskies I have had – so smooth, so complex and the smoke wisp just adds that extra touch.

Downsides? The aroma really does not show it at its best. Everything else is so very good. Just, ya know, damn, that steep cost.

Background: Two thousand tasting notes! WOO! I made it with my liver vaguely intact! I had been keeping this one back for a while, knowing that full bottles of Brora – a distillery that has been dead since 1983 – go for insane amounts of money – part rarity, part the 30 year plus age any new releases are now. So, when I found a miniature at The Whisky Exchange at 18 years, and so vaguely within my price range, I grabbed it and held on for the right moment. This seemed just right for a big two thousand celebration. Previously called Clynelish, the distillery was renamed to Brora when the newly referred to Clynelish distillery came online in 1968. As far as I am aware it is a lightly peated whisky. It is worth noting there is talk of reopening Brora – I don’t know how much of the original stills are still intact so have no idea if the new spirit will be similar, or just cashing in on the name. This mini is bottle 33 of 294, and was distilled n 1983 and bottled in 2001 so I consider it very lucky that it was still around to be grabbed. Wanted some beautiful music to go with the big 2K tasting note so went with the Ulver: Shadow Of The Sun album. Still a haunting masterpiece.

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The GlenAllachie: Cask Strength: Batch 2: 10 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 54.8% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold. Spirit comes down in a slow, solid sheet across the edges of the glass.

Nose: Brown sugar. Alcohol warmth. Golden syrup. Blueberry crumble. Stewed apricot. Madeira cake. Custard. White sugar dusting. Water smooths. Adds Calvados and apply jelly.

Body: Smooth front into an alcohol burn. Apple pies. Dry honey. Water adds custard notes and smooths. Adds lots more apple. Still some alcohol evident. More water adds Calvados. Strawberry jam. Madeira. Pinot Noir.

Finish: Numbing alcohol. Sour dough. Oak chips. Dry. Apples. Water adds raisins. Strawberry jam. Blueberry. More water adds Calvados and sulphur.

Conclusion: Ok, two big things to address here. One there is lots of barrel ageing influence in this. Like … tons. Dark fruit in blueberry and strawberry jam style, lighter sweetness, wine notes. Lots going on. Second thing – there is a lot of apple in here, from apple jelly to Calvados, to everything in-between.

Oh, wait, I missed one. Three – the alcohol in this thing is immense! Not surprising as it is over 50% abv, but taken neat this goes from tasty to burning pretty fast. It means that you only really get the edge of the flavour profile before your tongue gets numbed. The first few seconds are surprisingly smooth, then the potent alcohol booms. Definitely experiment with water for this one.

So, as you may have guessed, taken neat it is just a bit too booming, going into a dry and oaken finish. Water however really brings out the range of the experience.

As indicated before, there is a lot going on. The barrel ageing brings many spirity notes – Madeira being the most notable, more red wine notes come out as you add more water – now smoothed out by more vanilla and custard notes which I’m guessing are from the bourbon and virgin oak. No idea where the apple comes from – maybe the base spirit? – but it becomes more and more evident the more water you add and really is the backbone of this varied spirit.

It is complex, but very barrel ageing led – I like the apple character of the (maybe) base spirit, but there are also slight sulphur, slight muggy notes and rough edges. It feels slightly like it is relying on the barrel ageing to override the existing rough edges.

Still, despite that it is a tasty experience, with lots going on – so as an examination of the oak influence this is very good, but it has a a few off notes under its charms.

Background: Time to try a distillery I have not tried before! Wooo! Though is it just me or does GlenAllachie sound like one of those knock offs where they try and mash two famous whiskeys together to fool you – like if you saw a bottle of Jim Daniels or something. Possibly just me. Anyway, grabbed this from the whisky exchange. The cask strength grabbed me eye as it would give more room to experiment with water and see what it could do. It has been aged in a mix of PX and oloroso sherry, first fill bourbon and virgin oak casks. That also caught my attention I have to admit, that is some sweet barrel ageing going on there. Not much else to add – put on some Mclusky to listen to while drinking, music as varied and mixed up as that barrel ageing selection.

Heaven Hill: Mellow Corn (USA: Straight Corn Whiskey: 50% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Thick fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Buttery popcorn. Gentle alcohol presence. Soft lime. Shredded Wheat. Slight caramel.

Body: Alcohol warmth. Shredded Wheat. Toffee. Vanilla. Lime. Water smooths the alcohol. Crumpets. Soft apple and honey come out.

Finish: Honey. Shredded wheat. Pepper. Alcohol air. Lime. Water adds crumpets and soft apple.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. This is fairly simple. It has a fairly basic set of flavour notes, and it shows the same notes from the aroma through to the finish. This is not a whiskey to use for close examination, attempts to dissect and analyse, or even one to do an overly long set of tasting notes on.

So, does that mean it is bad? Fuck no.

It is a really a stripped down smooth version of what people first think of when they think American whiskey. It has the vanilla, the caramel, the cereal notes and – on the outer edges of expectations, a light peppery note. The notes are clear, bright and, especially considering it is 50% abv – fairly easy to drink.

There is a slight alcohol burn, but if that worries you, a little water helps get rid of that, and it just makes all the other flavours even more clear. Even more than that the water adds just the slightest crumpet style savoury note and pushes the lime touch just slightly stronger – just a few tiny rounding notes that is all this needed to be solidly satisfying.

Its main strength is that it is so easy to drink – yet feels like it has a slight weight behind it, like a weightier take on the Irish whiskey style – it is smooth, but nowhere near as light as the average Irish character. It is sweet and honeyed in that slight extra weight. It is a great one for just relaxing with and completely different to what I usually enjoy. Simple and stripped down, normally that would put me off, but is is so enjoyable that I am glad I have a bottle.

The quality whisky to have while relaxing with friends and pouring freely. Not complex, but I guess not everything has to be.

Background: Holy shit how ugly is this bottle? It looks like artificial mass produces squeeze bottle mustard. And that is the most polite description that came to mind. However, I’ve never tried a straight corn whiskey before, and the more I find out about American whiskey, the more I realise there is a huge range there I have only started to tap. So I grabbed a bottle from independent Spirit to give it a go. Expected some fun, party times when drinking, so put on Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet. Time to PARTY HARD!

Powers: John’s Lane Release- 12 Year (Irish Single Post Still Whiskey: 12 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Medium intensity gold. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry. General red fruit. Redcurrants. Smooth. Golden syrup touch. Lightly floral. Pencil shavings to heavier oak. Honeyed apricot. Water makes nuttier and adds crushed grains.

Body: Smooth. Honeyed apricot. Light alcohol warmth. Buttery shortbread. Golden Grahams cereal. Slightly rocky notes. Water adds more shortbread. Buttery puff pastry. Slight orange notes. Sherry notes.

Finish: Buttery shortbread. Light alcohol. Viscous sheen. Toffee. Very biscuity. Savoury bready notes. Water adds jelly babies. Dried apricot. Red fruit and sherry trifle.

Conclusion: This is a mix of that Irish whiskey smooth, lighter character combined with a slow building viscosity from the extra abv that gives it a thicker, more gripping sheen over the tongue than would be expected for a lighter whiskey. That extra grip brings some more sturdy expressions of the flavours – which gives a lot to dig into, so let’s examine it and see what we get.

Initially it hits very heavily on the sherry and red fruit notes in the aroma, before settling into a more apricot fruit middle with shortbread to crumbly pasty notes adding to the feel. It is very gentle in feel, very smooth, with a very buttery pastry character that crumbles away to reveal a surprisingly viscous finish that is simple but lasting.

Time lets the viscosity build up and the flavours with it. Water lets the whiskey open and and the notes spread out. In combination that shakes up the experience quite a bit. A simple but smooth whisky now opens to reveal those sherry notes that the aroma promised. Red fruit rounds out the body and finish creating complex pastry dessert imagery.

This is a whiskey that hits a lot of bases. Irish whiskey light and smooth early on that is dangerously easy to drink, it slowly gains mouthfeel over time before becoming viscous and tongue coating by the end that makes it hard to imagine it was ever so light at to almost unnoticeable at the start. The easy going apricot at the start ends up full on shortbread meets sherry trifle by the end, given time and water. This is easy going but ends up very flavoursome, walking the balance between easy going Irish and full on sherry aged fullness.

I am very much impressed.

Background: Think I have tried standard Powers before in a pub, but I’ve not had much experience with it. This is a single pot still whiskey – which if I understand right means it is from a single distillery, and uses a pot still in a similar manner to Scottish malt whisky, but it can use unmalted barley, or even in small amounts other cereal grains in the mash. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit and I put on B. Dolan – House Of Bee’s Vol 2 while drinking. I love the track “Which Side Are You On?” and in general it is a great album. Also, this is my first set of notes done in 2019! Woo, happy new year!

Glencadam 21 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Nose: Cherries. Brandy cream. Sherry soaked sponge to trifle. Pencil shavings. Custard slices. Water makes little difference.

Body: Thick. Honey. Raisins. Very clear sherry. Soft lime. Sweet lemon. Slight alcohol. Oak. Water brings more raisins. Vanilla fudge. Red grapes.

Finish: Raisins. Creamy lime. Dry oak. Malt chocolate. Fruitcake. Water adds red wine. Dry sherry. Dry spice. White grapes. Mildly waxy.

Conclusion: This is very sherry dominated. Very red wine heavy. Very fruitcake solid body. So the first thing to get out of that way, does that idea appeal to you? If not that this is not the one for you.

Still with me? Cool, let’s dig deeper then. Initial impressions is very sherry trifle, and wine soaked fruitcake. Very much heavy, sweet desserts that are appropriate to this winter season. Surprisingly, even at a nice 21 years of age, this still has a touch of alcohol character present. Nothing too bad, probably just a sign of the touch higher than normal 46% abv. Thankfully a touch of water clears that up nicely without hurting any other element of the whisky.

It is a tad simple without the water. It is nice, and big in the flavour but slightly closed. Water helps round it out as dry spice grows out adding more savoury elements around the sweetness. The sweetness also spread out with red wine and a mix of red and white grapes that provide extra elements over the stodgy fruitcake middle.

Now admittedly none of this is new to the whisky world, nor unusual. The base whisky provides the weight and a mildly waxy feel in the finish. But generally most of the character here seems to come from the sherry ageing.

It is very enjoyable, very solid, with Highland weight meeting sherried flavour. Nothing is unsual, but no complaints, and no off notes evident from the spirit – so a good job if not stand out.

Background: Only tried Glencadam once before, that was initially weak but had my attention by the end. So when I saw an aged 21 year version in minis at Independent Spirit I thought it would be nice to give it a go. Not much else to add on this one – Had just grabbed Miracle of Sound’s “Level 9” album from bandcamp – a very varied in style bunch of video game themed songs – so put that on while drinking. Goes from light pop punk to moody epics, so at least one song would probably match the whisky!

Midleton: Green Spot (Irish Pot Still Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright yellowed gold. Fast sheet from the spirit, then thin secondary streaks.

Nose: Slight alcohol and grain. Bright lime notes and kiwi notes. Later on dried banana comes out. Dried apricot. Slight golden syrup and pencil shavings. Adding water makes very light.

Body: Smooth and light. Honey. Slight alcohol. Custard. Pears. Water adds apples. Makes lighter. Adds more pears.

Finish: Pears. Custard. Apricot syrup. Honey. Light tannins. Light oak. Water adds a green fruit sheen. Slight cardboard. Banana.

Conclusion: Darn Irish whiskey is smooth, especially this one we have here. Even with the small amounts of grain and alcohol notes from what I presume is younger spirit, this still is super smooth, light and easy to drink. Just what I need as a change after having a few heavy duty Islays over the past few weeks. Water manages to take out the small alcohol harshness pretty much completely as well.

As a whiskey it is mainly a game of two halves, with the emphasis of the whiskey decided by if you have added water or not.

One side is light, sweet honey and golden syrup. The aroma promises banana, but the actualisation of this is put off until much later. Generally it is sweet, easy going, but with a subtly honeyed weight. The very, very slightest weight, In general this is soft and easy drinking.

The other side is paying off a lot of what is promised by the aroma, but this side is only shown if water is added. Soft green fruit comes out, initially lime in the aroma, then apples and pears in the main body. As mentioned, neat it really doesn’t show too much of this but water brings it out in full flow. However this does come at the expense of a lot of the honey notes vanishing, along with the slightly thicker texture. It feels just a tad too light here in mouthfeel.

So, on balance I would say this is just slightly better neat. It is not as complex, but the extra grip to the mouthfeel makes it such a pleasant one to spend some time with. I wonder if a slightly higher abv would help or hinder this? Dunno, but I would love to try it to see.

So you have to pick between great texture, or good variety of flavour – it never quite manages to bring both at the same time, but still a fine easy sipping whiskey.

Background: I have been meaning to do notes on this for a while. I tried an unusual barrel aged version of this at the #Brisdram event a while back and it was great, then I tried Green Spot at The Hideout during an amazing Midleton whiskey tasting event. So, when I saw a mini of this in Independent Spirit I grabbed it to bring back and give a proper going over. The name of the whiskey relates to the markings they used to use on barrels to indicate their age – Blue was seven years, Green ten, Yellow twelve and Red fifteen. However a quick google indicates that the age statement has been removed from green spot whiskey recently due to it now using a mix of between seven and ten year old whiskey. Cheeky if so. I’d been re-watching new Doctor Who recently before drinking this, and had noticed one of the character’s had a Slayer t-shirt on, resulting in me using Reign In Blood as the background music for this, despite it not exactly matching thematically.

Elements Of Islay: LP9 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 54.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed cherry.

Nose: Smoke. Charred dry grass. Gunpowder tea. Moss. Black pepper. Spicy. Tar. Sherry. Light menthol. Water adds dried tea leaves, tannins and sulphur. Smoked bacon.

Body: Cherry. Intense peat. Thai 7 spice. Black cherry. Thick. Water adds orange crème touch. Mulled wine. Cloves and turmeric. Smoked bacon.

Finish: Thai 7 spice. Tarry. Smoke. Intense. Bitter red wine. Plums. Oily charring. Bitter cocoa. Water adds cloves. Mulled wine. Spiced orange skins. Lots of smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, this is intense. I have been spoiled with intense, aged smooth but peaty Laphroaigs recently of which this is the latest wonder.

This one has lost some of the medicinal Laphroaig character , but more than makes up for it by pushing a) A smokey peaty thing – very burnt greenery, burnt moss and general just smoke intensity. It shows a drier, more herbal smoke than is usual with Laphroaig – giving it a peppery and intense kick.

Against that is super spicy mulled wine and bitter red wine character that takes that pepper note and throws handfuls and handfuls of spice in after it. Holding these two heavy sides apart is a thin red line of sweet cherry and black-cherry which just about keeps everything in control.

Water brings out even more smoke, if that can be believed, smoked bacon notes come out as a rewarding extra to the main body in addition to subtle variance in the existing flavours.

Unlike the also awesome Laphroaig XOP 18 year I tried recently, this does not feel like a traditional Laphroaig in all things, just with extra boost from barrel ageing character. This feels like it keeps all the soot, smoke and peat from from Laphroaig – that is true – however the more medicinal elements seem to be lost under the spicy red wine like character. It is equally amazing, but different in how it expresses it. XOP is more traditional, this is more experimental. Both are great.

Another top notch, immense Laphroaig.

Background: Ok, wow, this was not one I expected to get to try. Independent Spirit had it on at a tasting I couldn’t make it to, and all the bottles sold out very rapidly. However they very kindly let me have a small sample to try and holy shit this is one that sounds awesome. Very many thanks! Distilled in 1998 this must be around 19 ish years old Laphroaig , aged in a single Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt and bottled at cask strength. I tried this after getting back from seeing Progress Wrestling in Manchester for one of the best shows I have ever seen from them, so was on a high already. Put on some IDLES to listen to as Jim Smallman from Progress got me into listening to them due to tweeting about them, so they were on my mind. Awesome band.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection: #3 Char Bourbon Cask (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Yellow to grain. Clear. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Quite strong alcohol. Lime. Pumpkin. Toasted teacakes. White chocolate. Crumpets. Burnt sugar. Butter. Light charring. Water adds an aniseed touch.

Body: Creamy. Alcohol warmth. Vanilla toffee. White chocolate. Buttery. Toasted teacakes. Water adds fudge. Light pepper. Very smooth. Creamy lime.

Finish: Toasted teacakes. Butterscotch. Buttery. Creamy lemon. Creamy lime. Water adds more creamy lime. Slight caramel. Aniseed.

Conclusion: This a very gentle Bushmills’ flavour-wise compared to the huge cask ageing influence of the previous two steamship expressions I have tried. That is something that seems somewhat of a mixed blessing here, for as much as a gentle, easy drinking Bushmills can be a cool thing it feels like there is some quite young spirit in this which makes it feel a tad alcohol rough up front and runs roughshod over the lighter flavours.

Neat, and on first pour, it is a bit alcohol rough and empty behind that. It is creamy in feel and taste, but it is hard to dig into the whiskey and get any depth from it. Time helps, clearing the rough fumes and gets this one going. The gentle Bushmills’ spirit character is there now, and showing very clearly the bourbon cask influence. Lots of creamy, buttery character with white chocolate and bready toasted teacakes flavours.

It is very much about the Bourbon influence though – the base spirit seems to give only gentle lime notes and a smooth but solid character to work at as the base.

Water helps bring out the creaminess and adds a touch of peppery spice that gives a bit of pep the whiskey needs. This is where it is at its best – creamy and easy drinking with more of the creamy lemon and lime notes coming out, against the bourbon influence of soft fudge and caramel sweet notes, but with just a few spicier notes. Now, at 40% abv and gentle you need to be careful not to add too much water, and what you get is not unexpected for Bourbon ageing, but here you do get a very clear expression of what that charred bourbon oak can do. It feels for the most part that the base spirit is just a delivery system for that experience.

Not the greatest Bushmills – lacking the range or vibrancy of their best expressions – It seems that pure ageing in charred oak isn’t the best use of their spirit to accentuate its strengths, but it is still an easy drinking and creamy whiskey that really shows the cask. Ok, but not a must have.

Background: Back in the day I loved the more unusual barrel aged expressions of Bushmills that popped up every now and then and I was sad to see them vanish. Thus when they started doing these Steamship expressions, aged in odd cask, they jumped onto my must grab list – though they are only available through travel retail which has made hunting them bloody difficult. This one was grabbed by my parents for me while they were on holiday – many thanks! It is a more standard expression that the past two (Port and sherry casks) being aged as it is, in charred bourbon barrels. Still, it was one I was happy to grab. Went with Arch Enemy – Will To Power while drinking, and went through a few measures as I contemplated my thoughts on it.

Kilchoman 2018 European Tour Bottling – Machir Bay Cask Strength (Islay Scottish Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale brackish grain. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Peaty. Oily character. Light menthol and moss notes. Peppermint. Water adds dust balls and soot. Slight salt.

Body: Thick. Oily. Toffee and caramel. Thick peat. Oily charring. Oily chocolate. Oily peppermint cream. Water makes creamier. Salt touch. Honey. Sweet apricot. Sauternes wine. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Peppermint cream. Peat smoke. Light charring. Water adds dessert wine notes.

Conclusion: this is not what I expected, not at all. The extra abv seems to have utterly changed how the Machir Bay whisky expression comes across.

At normal abv strength this seemed slightly light back when I last tried it – very enjoyable and complex but gentle. This booms with oily thickness in feel, matched with huge honey to trifle sweetness. Everything feels like it is delivered in a oily fashion – oily peat, oily chocolate, oily charring, and now added to that is a completely new element -oily peppermint notes. This minty menthol to peppermint character is fresh yet creamy and adds both a sweetness and a slight natural mint leaves that I did not find in the standard expression. It makes it feel fresher, bigger and more greenery touched, adding to and massively changing the overall character.

This Islay character Kilchoman have become well known for is more subtle here than in a lot of their expressions. It is smokey, slightly salt touched, but the huge, thick oily and sweet character used here means that the sea breeze and peaty characteristics are less prominent that usual. Instead the apricot spirit note I have noticed at the back of Kilchomans before is now pushed to the forefront here in big dessert wine like flavours.

Oddly considering what makes this so different is what the extra abv brings to the game, this actually works better with water. Only a few drops are needed to bring out the best, so it is still a lot higher abv than the base expression, but those few drops make it smoother and really bring out the sherry trifle complexity from below the oily character.

Again the distillery does brilliantly – a sweet dessert wine meets Islay whisky that is rewarding on every level. Highly recommended.

Background: Second of the samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this – an exclusive bottling for the 2018 tour. It is a cask strength take on the Machir Bay which I was already a fan of. This was tried directly after the prior Kilchoman tasting, so I was still listening to the new Spektrmodule podcast.

Kilchoman: Loch Gorm 2018 (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Moderate gold colour with fast thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey. Lightly salty. Sea breeze. Raisin loaf. Charcoal dust. Spicy. Turmeric. Seaweed. Water adds greenery and moss, plus a mix of rocks and salt.

Body: Sherried raisins. Smoke. Dried smoked beef. Paprika. Light custard sweetness. Drying alcohol. Water adds cherries, makes very smooth. Peaty. Light apricot.

Finish: Soot. Salt touch. Dried smoked beef. Overcooked streak. Malt loaf. Water makes beefier in a broth style. Malt chocolate and a red fruit touch.

Conclusion: This is both distinctly forceful Islay in its style, and yet somewhat restrained with great subtly being showed in the openings this provides. The sherry use isn’t overpowering, but instead interwoven throughout the whisky to add light extra spice, and a little extra sweet dark and red fruit character. It adds a gentle sweetness that smooths the edges of a solid Islay core.

So, lets talk about that solid Islay core then. It is restrained but still evocative of the sea breeze and wet salted rocks of Islay, showing sooty smoke and dried beef to overcooked steak meaty roughness. So, distinctive as an Islay but not leaning into the punching medicinal or peat assault of the more intense ends of the scale, just weighing in with a character that brings imagery of a seaweed laden rock pool and wild island character that the region espouses. It is very well done, layered and expressive.

Water brings out more subtleties from the spirit – cheekier red fruit, but more tellingly an apricot sweetness that seems to belong to the spirit itself rather than the sherry ageing. An odd element but one I have seen in the background of a couple of Kilchoman now. The Islay character is still the core, but the more restrained expression lets a surprising amount of lighter notes through to play.

This is very good indeed – as mentioned in the background, I had the choice between buying a bottle of this, or the port aged cask, and I really feel I should have bought this expression instead back then as this is very impressive.

Subtly understated, rewardingly solid – this is a Kilchoman that brings weight and range from the sherry but is not lost to it. Very highly recommended and my respect from this distillery is rising with every expression I try.

Background: This is the first of two samples I was given by Independent Spirit for doing notes on, many thanks! They had done a Kilchoman tasting night I had to miss, but kindly let me try this, a sherry aged take on the spirit. This came out at the same time as the port cask, and back then I decided to go with that expression over this one. Time to find out if that was the right choice. Warren Ellis had put out a new Spektrmodule podcast – a collection of ambient and haunting music, so I put it on while doing the notes.

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