Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


Buffalo Trace: Old Rip Van Winkle: 10 Year (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold, in an almost lucozade style in the light. Fast thick steaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Touch of smoke. Lots of varied breakfast cereals. Shreddies. Maize cereals. Moderate rye crackers and peppery character. Brown bread. Crushed leaves. Brown sugar. Thick and slightly musty.

Body: Thick and warming. Oily. Vanilla. Dry oak. Treacle touch. Heavy. Buttery. Fudge. Brown bread. Orange cream.

Finish; Tannins and astringent. Peppery. Toffee and vanilla. Dry fudge. Buttery and slightly fatty.

Conclusion: This is heavy. Now the alcohol is doing a lot of the work in making it so, with a more dry character up front, but then allowing the fattier, oilier notes to come through after. There is a lot about the mouthfeel and texture that it doing the heavy lifting here to make seem very different to the other Van Winkles.

It is still slightly peppery, but initially it has none of those orange notes I usually associate with the Van Winkles. Instead, behind the fatty character is a mix of brown bread and lots of breakfast cereals into a sturdy toffee and fudge character. Still quite dry in how it is delivered, thick of body and very heavy.

Like this it is very much about the feel for me rather than the flavour. The oils, the thickness, the fatty character that is all what makes it interesting. The flavours are not unusual, but that feel really works what can be done with the abv.

Finally, late on after some time to air, the orange cream notes do finally make an appearance. It seems no amount of abv can fully hide this Van Winkle note for too long.

Not a favourite of mine, but a stand out for being different from the usual Van Winkle fare.

Background: So, writing this for the second time, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the third whisky of the evening and the only Van Winkle of the set I had not tried yet. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and each of the Van Winkles use the same mash load. After trying this I had Pappy Van Winkle 15 again for the first time in years – this time I found a softness of mushy cooked apples and pear notes, and some tropical fruit I had not found before, making it a smoother thing than I remembered before.

Buffalo Trace: W L Weller Special Reserve (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very bright gold, almost lucozade bright. Very fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Peppery spice. Rye crackers. Orange sorbet. Honey. Cream. Light milk.

Body: Honey. Honey nut cornflakes. Wheaty thickness. Lightly peppery. Smooth, but with a grip. Toffee to toffee liqueur. Cream. Orange cream. Oily. Sap. Apple notes over time.

Finish: Slight sulphur. Honey nut cornflakes. Touch of smoke. Wheat flakes. Peppery. Vanilla. Charred oak. Toffee liqueur. Grapes. Menthol and sap mix.

Conclusion: The first impressions I got from this was of a lot of spice – mainly a mix of peppery character and a touch of rye crackers. Which is more what I would have expected from a rye heavy whisky than a wheated bourbon like this. It reminds me of the Van Winkle range (for a reason that turned out not to be a coincidence as I note in the background below), even having that slight orange note to it.

That spice I mentioned is there for the whole whiskey, but it is far from the whole story. It is smooth, yet with a slightly fluffy grip that in some ways reminds me of the soft grip you get from a weissebier. I would say it makes sense but I have not encountered this in any other wheated bourbon, so I think it is just a coincidence.

Flavour wise it has a soft toffee to toffee liqueur set of notes underneath, a gentle slightly milky feel and sweeter flavours under the spice front notes. The ahem wheaty feel and pepper character makes it never completely smooth, but the toffee cream touch to the core does make it a lot smoother than most of its similar contemporaries and calls to the impressions of a far smoother whiskey.

Now, as discussed in the background, it has a lot of reason for tasting kind of similar to the Van Winkles, especially in that orange touch, but it has a lot of differences apart from that smoother character. It has a slight menthol touch that makes it fresh, and lots of honey assisting the sweetness. While it starts spice and rye, the longer you take to sip it the smoother and smoother it will get, with more vanilla, honey and finally even apple coming out for a more soothing end to the dram.

It is basically a smoother, slightly more toffee take on the Van Winkle style, but that description doesn’t do it justice. There are touches from grapes, to that creamy note. I actually mildly prefer it to a good chunk of the Winkle range. It is not as forthright, but smoother and with that character of its own that makes it distinctive.

Background: I’m going to be copy pasting the bulk of this over the next few notes, so apologies if it becomes repetitive but a lot of the info will be the same – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the first and allegedly easiest to find whisky of the evening. Well I guess it is easier, just that does not mean easy. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and uses the same mash load as the three Van Winkles that came after it. Apparently the main difference is that each barrel is sampled and select ones chosen for the Van Winkle range, the rest for this cheaper but still expensive on the aftermarket bottling.

Bushmills: Caribbean Rum Cask Finish (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Spicy. Dark rum. Sugar cane. Strawberry. Rhubarb touch. Cake sponge. Water makes cleaner.

Body: Smooth. Light lemon cakes. Dry grain alcohol. Strawberry. Red raspberries. Toffee. Sweet, dark rum. Vanilla. Water makes smoother. Adds grapes. Soft lime. Cherries. Brown sugar.

Finish: Alcoholic jelly touch. Red fruit medley. Dry rum. Brown sugar. Treacle touch. Alcohol air in general. Water makes burnt brown sugar. More clear rum. Dry rice.

Conclusion: This is rum finished, rather than fully aged in a rum cask like the Travel Exclusive Steamship edition. This is a blended whisky with grain whiskey in it unlike that Single Malt Steamship, and the classic 12 Year Caribbean Rum finish travel exclusive Bushmills. It is a no age statement whisky, similar to the Steamship but unlike the 12 year.

So, with all that said, you would expect the Steamship Rum edition to be superior and probably closer to the classic 12 year right? Yet, somehow it is not. Which is a long way around saying that this blended rum cask finish is pretty cool.

So, let’s get the bad side out of the way first. I’m not sure how much grain whiskey was used in this, but the neutral, rough grain kind of spirit is evident here. Not a great look, especially in the finish where it hangs around. Water mutes that but also takes down the vibrancy of the whisky a bit. So, the choice, especially for the aroma, is slight grain alcohol tingle or a more muted character.

That said, this feels pretty joyous despite its flaws. There are light citrus notes that are familiar to the Bushmills spirit that are evident there – lemon and lime notes particularly make a show. Now these citrus notes are by far not the main show, this is very much about the rum finish, but it does show one of the reasons I prefer this over the fully rum aged version – it gives more room for the native Bushmills character to show alongside the unusual ageing and give more complexity and range to the whiskey.

The rum is very present but not overwhelmingly dominant, showing as a mix of red fruit, rum itself obviously, and burnt sugar. Lovely and vibrant, yet the base Bushmills character gives that fresh contrast and make it pretty smooth overall despite the grain rough edges.

So, to no surprise, the 12 year old single malt Caribbean rum finish that now only exists in my idealised memories of it, is better than this. However, this, nearly 20 years on, is still slightly cheaper than that was – and we have had a long time of whiskey getting more expensive in the mean time. It is a heck of a lot easier to get than that was and , oh yes, this still exists – unlike that one.

So, go in expecting the grain edges, a slight rice in the finish and accepting it won’t be a classic and you will find a fun rum finished Bushmills. One that will do as a stand in while I plead for them to pull their damn finger out and remake the proper 12 year single malt take again. It is far from perfect, but a decent price point for a fun dram, so it does the job for me.

Background: Ok, this one has some background indeed, as has been hinted at in the main notes. The travel exclusive 12 Year Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Bushmills Single Malt was one of my first real great whiskeys I tried. So, since that was only available for a short time, I have spent the years since trying to find something similar. So, when I found this, a blended no age statement Bushmills, with that cask finish, at Independent Spirit I had to grab it and give it a try. Since it was calling back to a more innocent age I went with The Eels: Beautiful Freak as music. Loved that album and hadn’t listened to it for a while.

Isle Of Raasay: Hebridean Single Malt Lightly Peated (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 46.4% ABV)

Visual:Pale gold with a touch of overripe banana skin colour. Moderate speed and thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Salt. Wet moss. Viscous alcohol. Raisins and dry sherry. Vanilla. Rye crackers. Brown bread. Touch of smoke. Alcoholic raspberries. Water makes peppery. Menthol touch and more smoke.

Body: Honey. Dry sherry. Red grapes. Strong alcohol. Slight sour green grapes. Dry beef slices into a more broth character. Fudge. Raspberry coolers. Slight dry alcohol. Water adds strawberry and more raspberries. Slightly oily.

Finish: Dried beef slices in crusty white bread. Smoke touches. Dry sherry. Touch of alcohol. Vanilla. Menthol touch. Peppery. Water brings out brown bread. Rye crackers. Slight oily. An orange juice touch. More water brings out a touch of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Well this is an interesting one. There are a lot of different oak ageing influences, a mix of peated and unpeated and a new distillery to me here all in one package. So, how does this mix of things come out?

Well, let’s deal with the bad side of things first. There is still a rough edge to this spirit – expressed in ways that vary from a viscous alcohol in the aroma to a drier alcohol backing on the body giving a slight rough edge behind everything. I’m guessing it has enough younger spirit in this no age statement whisk to explain why it has some grain whisky like touches, which is not a good look in a single malt. None of these elements completely go away with water.

However, and this is a big however, there is so much going on here to examine. I don’t know if it maps mainly to the varied barrel ageings and is being used to overcompensate for those flaws mentioned, or it this is just part of the distilleries house character and will just expand and grow as time goes on, but there is a lot to get into here. I wonder if all their expressions with have similar complexity of barrel work or if we will ever get to see a more pure expression of the house style of whisky itself?

Anyway, Initially this has a salty, mossy, lightly smokey island character but that soon finds itself just another layer sitting on top of a red grapes and dry sherry character, which itself then opens up into alcohol soaked raspberries, sour grapes and a touch of orange. Already so much going on here. It is generally very dry, with evidence of that alcohol mentioned before but when you already have that dry spirity sherry character it seems less evident and sandwiched between the contrasting fruity character and light smoke you find it less intrusive than you would imagine.

Nothing in this whisky is very sweet – there are some fudge hints but it is more restrained in how it expressed that for the most part, and uses rye cracker and peppery notes to hold down any sweetness getting too present.

It results in a dry expression overall, with savoury notes and dry beef working its way around the core that somewhat call to a more gentle Islay . However that core is such very clear dry sherry and associated fruitier notes that this cannot be mistaken for an Islay, even a muted one.

So, this is rough edged and feels a tad youthful in places, but nestled in there is an expertise of barrel ageing that gives layers of Island salt and smoke over sherry and a dry fruitiness which is then over a peppery rye baseline and the whisky slips between and intermixes these three layers frequently.

An unpolished gem, but still high quality despite that. A good whisky as is, but my mind is on what they could do if they manage to smooth out those edges. I will keep my eye on this distillery in the future

Background: I tried the Raasay “While We Wait” a while back, which was not from Raasay, but more using other whiskies to try and express what they were aiming for. Anyway, having now tried this they are very different things, so whoops on that. Anyway, this, while not their first release, is their first regular release and I managed to grab a bottle from Independent Spirit before their stock ran out. Which it did. Very quickly. These seem to be in high demand. This is no age statement, natural colour and non chill filtered, but what makes it really interesting is the barrel ageing. This has a mix of both peated and unpeated whisky, both of which have been aged in rye whisky casks, chinkapin oak casks (I had to google that one – seems to be the new hotness of odd barrels for whisky ageing – a type of white oak native to central and eastern North America – couldn’t tell you yet what its influence is, but I am interested to learn), and Bordeaux red wine casks. That is a lot going on there. According to the box, this had a three to five day fermentation and uses mineral rich water that gives sweet blackberry characteristics before it even touches the oak. Would have to try some that had more standard ageing to be able to tell how true that is, but an interesting promise. I wanted some lovely music for trying this, so went with the ever experimental and wondrous Ulver – in this case “Flower’s Of Evil”. Probably my second favourite of their albums, and with the quality of their albums that says a lot.

Glenrothes: Whisky Maker’s Cut (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 48.8% ABV)


Visual: Very dark, deep rich gold colour. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Big. Treacle. Wisps of smoke. Tingling alcohol. Warm honey. Vanilla toffee. Cardamom spice. Nutmeg. Strawberry hints. Ginger. Cinnamon sticks to mulled spice. Apple. Gingerbread. Water adds toffee and fudge and a cleaner character. Lots of dry sherry. Grapes.

Body: Thick. Warming. Black cherry. Apple pie centres. Strawberry. wisp of smoke and dry peat. Dry meat to dry beef slices. Fudge. Cloves. Bitter red wine. Water adds lots of strawberries. Orange peel and orange crème. Treacle.

Finish: Cinnamon sticks. Cloves. Slightly numbing. Liquorice. Strawberry liqueur. Black cherry. Fortified red wine. Dried beef slices. Sulphur. Candle wax. Water adds orange crème and bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Glenrothes is often overlooked it my opinion. Despite not often being peated (to the best of my knowledge) it often has this lightly smokey, dried meat touch that I would normally associate with peat but layered into a smooth and sweet spirit. It is a criminally overlooked distillery.

This takes that base idea, and punches it out at a higher abv and a just exploding level of sherry influence. Neat it is numbing, spicy and shows bitter red wine matched with mulled spice notes, underlined by a sulphurous wax candle touch. It is utterly huge, overwhelming but delicious. There are those wisps of smoke and dried meat I mentioned before, that I could swear calls to peat use if it wasn’t for a quick google suggesting I am probably wrong. However they are made they still manage to poke their way through the bigger flavours

Water smooths it out, it is still has sulphur and wax notes but the hinted at dark fruit and sherry that was there neat now take centre stage. There are lots of strawberry and black cherry notes, lots of evident dry sherry. This feels like the epitome of a sherry bomb, sherry aged whisky and the higher abv gives lots of room for water play.

This is sticky feeling, full flavoured and full bore. It reminds me of Aberlour A’bunadh in that it can be a bit much neat, though admittedly this is more restrained and at a lower abv – however it is a rewarding roller-coaster onslaught of flavour if you stick with it.

Very sherried, very red fruit, very spiced neat – less so with water, and just a hint of smoke. Subtle this is not, but very enjoyable it is.

Background: This was a gift from a colleague at work, very many thanks! It is listed as being bottled at abv chosen by the master whisky maker, not to be confused with cask strength, but significantly higher than a standard bottling. It has been matured in only first fill sherry casks. It comes in a showy little cardboard box as you can see, with a little plastic stand inside propping up the bottle inside it for best presentation. I went with Crossfaith: The Dream, the Space as backing music – while not their best album it has a lot of raw, early album energy.

Glen Flagler: 100% Pot Still Whisky – Rare All Malt (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, lightly grain coloured whisky. Very slow, medium thickness puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed concrete dust. Wisp of smoke. Noticeable alcohol. Menthol to lime air. Light dried beef slices. White grapes and vanilla. With water it is still rocky but cleaner and with less alcohol.

Body: Wet rocks. Vanilla. Moderate peat. Slightly gritty. Moss. Vanilla fudge. Slight sulphur. Water makes smoother. Still mossy and gritty. Peated caramel. Chocolate eclair hard sweets.

Finish: Wet rocks. Gritty. Vanilla. Moss. Smoke to ash trays. Slight sulphur. Water makes very gritty.

Conclusion: Another peated lowland? Was this a trend in the past that I missed out on or something? Though since it seems every distillery that tried it died there may not be as much demand for peated lowland as I hoped. May be just me wanting it then.

This is slightly more rough edges than the Dunglass I tried – there is definitely a more evident youthful spirit character, even though I *think* they may be the same age. If feels kind of similar to the Dunglass but grittier, rockier and with more evident peat.

Now, this isn’t the experience the whole way through. It does open up to a sweeter vanilla fudge style over time, but even then it has a sulphur led roughness to it.

Water initially just smooths the alcohol, which is appreciated, but keeps it fairly gritty as a whole. However a touch more water brings out a caramel and chocolate set of notes, kind of like chocolate eclair hard sweets. This does mean that the higher levels of peat gives it a peated caramel style which is not something I expected to ever encounter.

Now the peat isn’t heavy, just heavier than Dunglass does it, but the smoke and rocky character is definitely the defining element here.

Since we are comparing dead peated lowlands here, Dunglass did it better. This is a bit more of a rough experience, it doesn’t really full indulge the peat, nor the smoothness of the lowland character, so doesn’t make the most of either style it wears.

It still makes me want more peated lowland whisky, it is just this doesn’t quite have the spark. A nice idea that has been done better by another (also dead) distillery. We so need a running distillery to get on this.

Background: Well, this is hard one to get information on, I have bought or been given a ton of books on Whisky over the years and the vast majority didn’t even mention this one. It is a peated lowland whisky that was made between 1964 and 1985. I saw this miniature at Old and Rare whisky and grabbed it to be able to give this dead distillery a try. This is the last of a small batch of miniatures I got from there. They are a darn expensive web site, even for what they have, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to try these without having to buy a very expensive 70cl bottle. This is listed as 70% proof, which may confuse some people from the USA as by USA measures that would be 35% abv and so below the 40% abv minimum needed for whisky. However by UK 70% proof that is 40% abv. Confusing, yes? So now you know. There is no age statement on this, but the art matches the 5 year 70cl bottling, sooo, maybe that? Who knows. Went with Pulp: Different Class as backing music. Still good after all this time.

Murray McDavid: Safe Haven 2014 – Mystery Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale darkened gold spirit. Generally slow puckering comes from the spirit with some slow, thick streaks coming out as well.

Nose: Beefy peat. Alcohol tingle. Wet moss. Thick. Christmas pudding and sherry cream. Salt. Heavy. Dry smoke. Brandy cream. Dried beef slices. Water adds grass, and sulphur. More water brings out raisins.

Body: Warming and thick. Treacle. Brown bread. Peppery. Beef slices. Peat. Malt chocolate. Christmas pudding. Vanilla toffee. Charring. Water adds cherries. Sulphur. Raisins. Fudge. Smoother peat. More water adds alcohol soaked raspberries. Strawberry. Brandy cream.

Finish: Malt chocolate and brown bread. Thai seven spice. Warming. Smoke. Christmas pudding. Sherry soaked raisins. Water adds fudge and glacier cherries. Peppercorns. More water adds brandy cream.

Conclusion: Ok, short version. This is Christmas Pudding, covered in brandy and sherry cream, peat smoked and pushed out with a good hit of alcohol character. That last bit is not a surprise considering that this is a tidy 50% abv.

Neat this thing is intense, not overly harsh, but visibly wearing its alcohol weight. The youth of the spirit means that the peat is still fresh and full of force and can easily be seen past the strong flavours. It has a mossy, Island character and a touch of salt that similarly calls to the sea, but front and centre is the Christmas pudding style and associated spirity creams. (The brandy cream starts out lighter but becomes very noticeable with water) It is heavy, slightly spicy, and lovely.

Water smooths the alcohol, but never the weight of the peat, or the Christmas pudding character for that matter. The sweetness alters from darker malt chocolate to lighter vanilla fudge, adding in cherries and other brighter fruit notes to work with. These are lovely rounding notes that come out from using water, but that heavy weight is still front and centre to the whisky.

More water makes this a bit sulphurous but also balances that with some more dark fruit, showing that, at 50% abv, this has a lot of room for exploration. This is such a booming whisky, using the unusual cask finish well to to either cover up, or work with the issues you can get with younger spirit, while also taking advantage of said youth to utterly work the peat character to its potential.

This is a lovely, heavy, peaty, spirity, Christmas Pudding dessert of a whisky. I love this one.

Background: When this first turned up in Independent Spirit, it vanished quickly. When it turned up again I decided to grab a bottle as it sounds very nice. I don’t think I’ve tried any Murray McDavid bottlings before, but they seem to be doing some very interesting and different things recently. So worth keeping an eye on. This lists itself as from a “Trade Secret” region. So I am guessing they do not have the rights to label the distillery. However since, most places list this as “Isle Of Mull” whisky it is not hard to guess that it is Tobermory, to be specific the peated Ledaig expression. I’m not sure why they didn’t just list region as “Island” as that would have been vague enough but give an idea of where it was from. At only six years this should be interesting peat wise, and peat can fade quickly as a whisky ages, so this should be pretty big. Also it spent it’s last six month in a Ximenez – Spinola PX casks, which is its big selling point, the rest of time was in a bourbon hogshead. Music wise I had recently seen that youtube musician Jonathan Young had put out a very 80s feeling album called “ Starship Velociraptor” under the band name Galactkraken, it is a wealth of fun so I put that on in the background.

Littlemill: Dunglass 5 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold colour, with quite slow puckering from the spirit.

Nose: Clean vanilla. Ash. Dried beef slices. Alcoholic lime. Broken rocks. Alcohol tingle. Water makes gentle. Light moss and gentle peat.

Body: Smooth. Lime. Vanilla toffee. Cream. Managed peat. Water adds more ash like notes and heavier smoke.

Finish: Vanilla fudge. Smoke. Slightly dry. Water adds heavier smoke. More water brings out a wet cardboard note.

Conclusion: Now, for all they are prized for collectors, with a lot of dead distilleries I can see why they died. A lot are not particularly stand out in the whisky world. This distillery, and more so than just the distillery, this particular Dunglass style expression – why did this not survive?

As a pretty expensive dram it is fairly simple for what you are paying. It is smooth, very obviously lowland character with smooth vanilla. The peat used is gentle, and while there is a bit of youthful alcohol it is still generally smooth, and the little bump it has can easily be smoothed out with a few drops of water. It would seem to be a very stereotypical smooth lowland if it wasn’t for that gentle peat.

That gentle peat? That is such a pleasure. Not fancy, but it gives a very different character to this easy to drink whisky. A tasty peat character but without any of the harshness that usually comes with peat – in fact this is gentler than most of the unpeated whisky on the market.

If you add more than just a drop of water to this it does become more ash filled, more peaty and heavier. Not bad, but it makes it lose its raison d’etre. There are many better peatier and heavy whiskies than this with some water, but none that are as lowland smooth, sweet and yet peated as it is before you add that water. At least none that have been encountered by me. In fact I was surprised to find out Littlemill was not triple distilling at this time as this very much has that character. A bit more water also adds a less pleasant wet cardboard note, this is definitely just a drop or two of water dram.

As a rare whisky it is too expensive for what it should be – a gentle, easy drinking whisky with that surprising touch of peat weight, but I genuinely want an easier to buy whisky like this. Someone please make and release it. This is simple, satisfying, sweet and peaty and you can’t go wrong with it except for the higher price.

Background: So, another chance to try a dead distillery, thought technically the distillery is not a new one to me. I got to try a Littlemill a long time back at the Rummer Hotel. This however is a rare lightly peated expression they did in the late 1960s, with the actual distillery closing in 1992 (ish? I’ve seen 1994 listed as well, and it had closed previously in 1984 – frankly don’t trust these dates too much, I’ve seen too many different ones) and dismantled 1997. Looks like they also did a heavily peated one called Dumbuck, but I’ve not tried that one. Anyway saw this 5 year old miniature at Old and Rare Whisky. As I have mentioned before they are expensive, even for the whisky they sell, but the chance to try this whisky without needed to buy a full and very expensive bottle was an opportunity I did not want to pass up. As you can tell from the spirit being made in the 60s and this being 5 years old, this bottle has been around a while, and the cap seemed to almost fuse with the bottle. Took some proper effort to get it off and to the whisky inside. There isn’t any abv listed on the bottle, but the listing online said 40% abv so that is what I put here. Wanted some light but haunting music for backing so went with Celeste: Farewell.

Bruichladdich: Port Charlotte: OLC: 01 – 2010 (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: 55.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold, with a mix of slow puckering and a few fast streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Milk chocolate. Medicinal. Hints of black forest gateaux. Pencil shavings. Dry peat smoke. Menthol to mint. Peppercorns. Gin. Water adds so much more peat smoke. Dry white wine. Spiced cherries. Moss.

Body: Strong alcohol. Chocolate cake. Dry peat. Tart green and red grapes. Water adds sweet red grapes and spicy red grapes. Paprika. Black cherry. Tons of peat. More water adds hints of raspberry yogurt hard chunks. Strawberry crème.

Finish: Dry. Dried beef slices. Smoke. Bitter cocoa. Water adds more beef to well done beef steak character. Sweet chilli. Caramel. Strawberry yogurt touch. Peppercorns.

Conclusion: So, cards on the table, this is amazing. Ok, now with that said, let’s be harsh about this whisky first.

Deep breath. While this is good neat, unsurprisingly at over 50% abv, it is a tad burning. It means that neat it is predominantly a more medicinal, harsh and dry peat kind of thing. Punchy, but not showing any more than hints of the range that you would expect this to have based on its oak journey.

Yes, that mild criticism was me trying to be harsh to this. Did I mention I adore it?

A little water smooths it out, which somehow makes the peat much bigger, more booming and less dry. Hey, as a peat fan I am not complaining. It also managed to let a lot of the subtleties from the varied ageing come out to play, and this is where things get fun.

The chocolate, almost black-forest gateaux like, character hinted at when it was neat, now is rich, dark backing for the peat. The medicinal character from the alcohol is gone, leaving a still quite dry body but now giving a real mix of sweet cake, heavy peat and smoke and dried meat that is gorgeous.

It is dark, heavy, peaty but no longer harsh. It shows its Islay character but in far smoother ways than, say, Ardbeg or Laphroaig would do, but without compromising on the smokey character.

If you add more water then it breaks the dry character, making for an oily sheen and a mossy, Island style wet rocks character. During this time more and more grapes both red and white, sour, sweet and spiced all come out. So much now showing from its many barrel ageing influence.

So, peat laden, dark and heavy, but everything else can be from sweet gateaux or wine styled to moss and oily depending on the level of water play. Though at each level the other elements are hinted at, and giving fainter backing notes. There is so much to examine here.

With just enough water this becomes the perfect match of dessert and Islay, with so many other takes available with other amounts of water.

Come get it.

Background: Been meaning to grab a Port Charlotte bottle for a while. It is the heavily peated take on the normally unpeated Bruichladdich. Not to be confused with the very, very heavily peated take that is Octomore. I’ve tried a bunch of Port Charlotte expressions over the years, but never bought a bottle. Until now. So now I have, from the ever reliable Independent Spirit. A lot going on with this one, from the bottle it is part of the “Cask Exploration Series” and has been aged in a mix of Bourbon, Vin Doux Naturel and Syrah casks then moved for the last 18 months to oloroso casks. I cannot find what OLC means from a quick google, if you know, please let me know. Wanted big booming dark music for this, so went with Anathema: The Silent Enigma.

Connoisseurs Choice: Millburn 1966 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very dark, caramel to treacle brown colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel and treacle. Heavy. Treacle toffee. Light smoke. Hot sticky toffee pudding. Light pencil shavings. Water makes lighter and brings out slight menthol.

Body: Very smooth. Caramel. Light greenery. Tingle on the tongue, but not in a boozy way. Charring. Dried beef slices. Peppery. Water makes cleaner and brings out more greenery.

Finish: Stir fry vegetables. Charring. Smoke. Moss. Oak. Malt chocolate. Water brings out treacle and white pepper.

Conclusion: Well, this is both heavy and light. AT THE SAME TIME. Odd, no?

The aroma is heavy caramel and treacle, in a real thick, sweet booming set of notes – so from this I was expecting a fairly chewy character of whisky ahead of me.

So, I take a sip and the flavours are still heavily on the caramel side, but initially the body is surprisingly smooth and just slightly light. Far less chewy than the aroma had led me to expect. The flavours are still heavy though. Under the sweet notes that the aroma promised there is instead a very greenery, peppery and slightly smokey thing, with just a hint of menthol release. Instead of simple sweetness it feels like a spice jar of a whisky.

Water actually makes it feel thicker. Don’t know how that works, and as well as that extra weight makes it also feel even more spice led.

The emphasis on spice isn’t to my personal taste, so this isn’t a favourite for me, but it is still impressively weighty in the flavours it brings to the fore. I think it would make a good part of a vatted malt if it was not nigh impossible to get now. The weight would be a boon to many a blend, and if used as a backing the spice could be a great element.

A fascinating one I am glad to have tried, but not super to my taste so I am glad I don’t have a full bottle to go. Especially at current costs.

Background: So, the amount of single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland I have not tried has reduced to a small number now – mostly either newly opened distilleries, or, like this from one of the silent distilleries that have closed over the years. Bottles from these dead distilleries can be expensive beyond my capabilities. So, when I saw that Old and Rare whisky had miniatures from a few distilleries I had not tried I was very interested. I don’t use Old and Rare much, they tend to be expensive, even for what they offer – and millilitre for millilitre these minis are expensive, but compared to getting full bottles it al least gives me a chance to try these distilleries. There is no age statement on the bottle, but a google suggests that there is a 70cl bottling from 1966 by Connoisseurs Choice that looks similar that is a 16 Year. Doesn’t necessarily mean that this one is, but that is the best guess I can get. You can tell this has been bottled for a long time though – with rust evident of the outside of the cap, and the bottle not quite being full due to loss of spirit over the years. Anyway, wanted some big music for the occasion so went with Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. Lovely haunting stuff and perfect for the occasion.

%d bloggers like this: