Category: Whisky Tasting Notes



Banff: Rare Malts 21 Year Cask Strength 1982 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Very oaken. Notable alcohol. Grapes and grappa. Water brings out musty grapes.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Sherry trifle. Rapidly becomes burning alcohol strength if held. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Grapes. Water brings brandy cream. Cinnamon. Fudge. Rich red grapes.

Finish: Shortbread. Alcohol air. Quince rakija. White grapes. Oak. Slight tannins. Water brings brandy cream. White grapes and red grapes. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: I tried this first a few days ago – It, erm, it wasn’t very good. It was insanely oaken, insanely tannins filled and the alcohol was very heavy. Of course that last one was a given considering the abv, but playing with water just seemed to bring out more tannins which didn’t help it.

Bad start eh? But now let me be fair – I now nearly always do my notes a few days after opening as I’ve found whisky can be a bit rough until it has had time to air. Also, I only had the local water to use – which, while ok for drinking, is very hard water, and doesn’t work well in whisky. So, now I return to it with a bit of time to open up, and with some much softer water to bring it down to a respectable abv – so I ask, is it still a disappointment? Or does it recover?

Well, even with the intense alcohol neat it does seem different – creamier for one, with sherry trifle and grape notes. It still goes to numbing levels of alcohol heat too quickly, and leans very heavily on tannins as a main flavour, so I’m going to go straight to adding water and see if that helps.

Water brings out all the goodness hidden beneath the alcohol – the sherry trifle becomes full force, mixed with sweet vanilla toffee and more evident grapes. The tannins still head out but now are balanced by brandy cream and cinnamon. It never changes too much from this point, even with more water – it just becomes creamier and more easy to drink, oh and maybe sweeter in the grapes. It really is led by those sweet cherries, cream and grapes.

So a) This is a very good whisky now – nearly as good as its very high reputation with the oak and tannins balanced against sherry trifle and red fruit. Creamy and very full bodied, with green fruit notes keeping it fresh. Also b) Yeah, this is very expensive, and especially now where it is significantly more costly then when I grabbed it.

If you are going to go for an expensive dead whisky – this is one where the quality is very high indeed – however – the, say, 21 year sherried Timorous Beastie blended malt gives similar notes at way, way less cost. As an experience, and to have been able to have had whisky from this distillery – I am glad I have this. However if you want a similar quality whisky, albeit without the room to experiment of the cask strength – I would say go for the Timorous Beastie.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a blooming long time now, I kept saving it for a special occasion, but nothing seemed special enough. So one day I just randomly broke it open. As mentioned in the main notes I gave a few days for it to air, as I have found this generally helps get the best experience rather than doing notes on the first pour. This is a dead distillery – I try and grab a (relatively) cheaper example of these when I can afford them, and drink them later, as frankly they ain’t going to get any cheaper if I wait to when I’m just about to drink them to buy them. To really get in the mood I put on my favourite of the past decade(ish) of Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life and Death. Freaking fantastic album.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 10 (USA Bourbon\Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(1 French/American hybrid wine barrel 225L. Traditional with #25 toast profile)

Visual: Deep bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Slow thick streaks.

Nose: Full. Treacle. Pencil shavings. White chocolate. Light wood smoke. Toasted teacakes. Water makes more toasted teacakes.

Body: Light front. Orange. Peppery. Slight alcohol weight. Tinned tropical fruit. Milky mocha coffee. Lightly nutty.

Finish Toasted teacakes. Milky coffee. Milky hot chocolate. Light nuts.

Conclusion: Even with the small amount I had of this, the split between two distinctly different sides was evident. So, yeah, take everything here as a small first impressions.

Up front in the aroma and on the first sip this seemed fairly booming, but not an unusual bourbon – peppery, slightly smokier than normal in a woody way, and as mentioned, quite booming. Sipping brought a familiarly bourbon orange note in kind of creamy style so, solidly big, but not unusual.

Then the finish comes around and this is where it changes to style two. Milky mocha coffee, gentle and soothing, comes out – plus it returns to some toasted teacake notes that were only hinted at in the aroma, but held off being full developed until the end.

This part is very nice, very easy going, very soothing while delivering well developed coffee flavour. Even better as my sample was coming to the end this part started backing up into the main body, indicating it was probably going to play a bigger part as the drink went on.

I can’t add much more to the notes than that as I added a drop of water to what was left and that returned it to the more standard bourbon that it seemed at the start. So, a mix of two tales, but that coffee part is lovely – hope it would have had more of that if I had spent longer with it.

Background: Kind of copy pasted with small alterations from my first experience with the wood experiments – This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a barrel constructed from two smaller barrels, then given extra charring. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the smaller ones, so I presume was one of their favourites – as of such its more a first impressions than a full tasting note. Hope that is ok with all of you – thought it was still worth sharing as it is a bit unusual. Drunk while listening to some Warrenpeace as he gave an album away free for digital download – pretty cool so far.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: No 4 (USA Bourbon Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Experiment – Whiskey Barrel 3. Standard whiskey barrel #3 char with High Mocha Cube Tube)

Visual: Deep copper gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Sherry trifle. Sour mash. Vanilla.

Body: Sherry trifle. Treacle. Warming. A tiny drop of water adds fudge and sour mash style.

Finish: Treacle. Honey. Vanilla and white chocolate. Brandy cream. Sour mash. Tropical fruit. Slight sour grapes.

Conclusion: Just a short first impression for this one, but from what I have tried it looks to be a good one. While it keeps a sour mash feeling style that is one of the more well known bourbon styles it is a lot sweeter than most of those I have encountered. The base feels slight Jack Daniels like in the sour mash style, with lots of the oak influence, but everything else feels much closer to a sherry touched Irish whiskey to me. It has a very sherry trifle sweetness matched with white chocolate and vanilla you would expect from American oak.

Between the two it gives a very sweet dessert interpretation over a solid rustic feeling base. A mix of solid grounded weight and sweet high notes makes for what feels like like a very varied whiskey and bourbon mix of an experience.

After I finished it, the sweet air sunk into what felt like a remnant of brandy cream air hovering in my mouth, and then as that slipped away into charring and sour mash again before finally vanishing.

Ok, I think that’s all I can write about my brief encounter – first impressions – this one I could definitely spend more time with. Think it will have a lot of depth to dig out.

Background: This is a bit interesting – Bourbon legally has to be aged in now oak casks that can only be used once. Yep, somewhere an oak producer has their fingerprints on that piece of legislation I’m sure. Anyway, this takes 4 year old bourbon, and finishes it in different environments- Best I can tell from the description above this one is put in a standard barrel, but has had heavily charred American oak placed within it to make for quicker ageing. Again a practice that is not allowed for standard bourbon. Anyway, I only have my hands on a small amount – Independent Spirit did a tasting on the set of 5, and let me have what was left over for doing notes on – Many thanks. This is one of the smaller ones, so I presume was one of their favourites – as of such its more a first impressions than a full tasting note. Hope that is ok with all of you – thought it was still worth sharing as it is a bit unusual. Drunk while listening to Jonathan Young’s Disney rock covers playlist. Because of course.

Auldi: Glenmarnoch: Islay (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big. Peaty. Fish oils. Slight salt. Wet rocks. Smokey. Dry charring. Water makes more oaken.

Body: Thick. Coal. Big smoke. Honey. Charring. Fish skins. Toffee. Light choc lime sweets. Warming. Water makes sweeter and also more meaty. Beef.

Finish: Smoke. Lots of peat. Beef slices. Slight golden syrup. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Water adds beef stew, vanilla and light salt.

Conclusion: With there being so comparatively few Islay distilleries, it is hard to try and unnamed Islay distillery expression and not try to guess where it came from. For example – take this one – heavy on the peat, very smokey and beefy which makes it highly unlikely to be bunnahabhain or similarly one from the lighter end of the Islay scale. Admittedly most distilleries there do do a heavy peated variant of their spirit, but I doubt Auldi would get cheap access to that.

Under the peat there is a lot of sweetness, delivered quite honey and toffee touched, which makes me think the more medicinal like Laphroaig are out of the running. It, instead, seems like the general weight I would associate with Ardbeg – not quite as intense, but in a similar ballpark. Maybe the heavier end of Caol Ila if not that.

Anyway, musings on where it could be from aside, considering this is a no age statement whisky I was very surprised at how smooth this was. It is warming, but no alcohol burn – no real signs of youth apart from the fact it has not had long enough to lose any of the peat weight.

For an Islay fan like me it feels a tad over smooth, a tad lacking in the rougher edges I like – its akin to a good vatted malt in how it smooths things out. I am aware though that for many of you that will be an advantage, not a flaw.

So, to use minor criticisms, it isn’t as full of depth as , say Laphroaig quarter cask, or Lagavulin 16, nowhere near that quality. However those are top notch whiskies, and on the price point this comes it at, it isn’t competing with them.

It is very smooth, toffee sweet and heavy peat – not one of the best whiskies, but bloody good for the price point.

Background: Yes I know there is no such place as the Glenmarnoch Distillery – the fact that they had to specify that it was the Islay release gave that away first. Most distilleries stay in one place and don’t have releases from different regions. This instead is Aldi’s name for their varied whisky releases. I’d heard that they had a surprisingly good reputation, but had never got around to trying them. Then, at a whisky tasting at mine, Tony brought this around, and said I could keep what was left of the bottle for hosting it. Many thanks mate. So, I tried it again to do proper tasting notes a few days later, whilst listening to some Jonathan Young stuff on youtube.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Glengoyne 8 Year( Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale clear spirit with a light brackish hue to it.

Viscosity: Medium speed thin streaks.

Nose: Moss. Moderate alcohol. Citrus – fresh lime. Very fresh. Mojitos. Crushed leaves. Light menthol. Gin. Water adds vanilla pods.

Body: Warming. Smooth feel despite the alcohol. Very viscous. Soft toffee. Water makes creamier. Kiwi, grapes and vanilla. Apples. Jelly. Raisins.

Finish: Light charring. Malt drinks. Lots of oak. Greenery. Alcohol air. Water makes creamier. Brown bread. Fudge. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: This really shows the energy of its relative youth. While not burning in its alcohol, it is still that very viscous styling of strong alcohol with a very melting jelly like feel to the centre and very familiar alcohol warmth with it.

Flavour wise it is also very youthful – lots of full on green fruit akin to a young spirit. Neat it is fairly raw, but water soothes that, turning it into a sweeter, creamier version of itself; In this form it seems to call slightly to Speyside character rather than its Highland home However underneath that is the more familiar sweet highland in a fudge and malt drink styled base. It is more gentle that normal, more a backing note than its more mature cousins.

In oddities that it has, there is a slight crushed leaves amongst the citrus notes – which makes if feel slightly mojitos like in its expression top and tail. Which is unexpected. A cocktail experience in a single malt.

It is a raw green fruit thing neat, becoming more recognisably highland sweet the more water you add. While I would say it is too simple neat, water gives an impressive depth for its youth with raisins and dark fruit coming out as a balance to the brighter green fruit. It is a very different experience from neat to water laden, going from super fresh to subtly dried fruit.

Not excellent, but has a decent range with water so I can’t complain.

Background: Hip flask sized bottles of whisky, one of my favourite ways of trying a wider range of whisky without having to spend a fortune on full sized bottles. This one, grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a Glengoyne bottling – done without colouring or chill filtering. I’ve actually been to the Glengoyne distillery, back when I did a tour of distilleries in Scotland – very pretty and tucked away near a waterfall. This was drunk while listening to Anthrax – Amongst The Living – no particular reason, just good tunes.

Kavalan: Solist: Port Cask Strength (Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.8% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Mix of slow thin and fast thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle. Stewed fruit. Dried apricot. Light prunes. Caramel. Water adds toffee and light moss notes.

Body: Treacle. Very fiery. Water adds caramel. Port soaked raisins. Molasses. Very thick indeed. More water adds apple.

Finish: Fiery. Water is needed to get caramel. Dry spice – Thai 7 spice style. Raisins. Madeira. Still numbing. Treacle. Apples.

Conclusion: This is thick, heavy and very numbing. Even more numbing than even what you would expect from a heavy nearly 58% abv. It is treacle level thick and with an accompanying taste. Neat I had serious difficulty getting enough flavours to do notes – it was that numbing. I can only really speak of it properly as an experience with differing levels of water.

There, with water, you get a real heavy stewed fruit, treacle weighted and caramel thick whisky – it is almost molasses like in the thickness and intensity of flavour. It is one where I can see the appeal, while having to admit that it doesn’t overly appeal to me. A lot of water does make it more manageable – but at the same time it loses a lot of the character with it. In my time with it I couldn’t find the sweet spot where I could really appreciate it.

For an easy comparison to Scottish whisky, it reminds me or Mortlach and similar, but even more intense. It is strange – it has that range of things I like – tarry, heavy and thick – but it doesn’t quite mesh for me. Oddly, despite the high abv, when you add enough water you do find some of the interesting apple notes that I notices in the bourbon version. A little touch that makes me think that the spirit has a lot of promise, just doesn’t quite deliver here for me.

So, I can see why a lot of people at the tasting liked it – but a bit overly, well, everything, for me. And I never thought I would criticise a whisky for that. So, hope I have given enough info for you to make up your mind for yourself.

Background: Final whisky I did notes on at the “Mediocre” Independent Spirit tasting – there were two other whiskies I had already done notes on, and one new one – but by that point I think I was beyond my tasting best so I just enjoyed that one as it was. This is another cask strength monster – aged in port casks and one of only 185 bottles. By this point I was feelingly very spoiled. Due to having several whiskies, and the more social environment, my notes may not be up to my usual standards – apologies.

Kavalan: Solist: Ex Bourbon Cask Strength (Taiwan: Single Malt: 58.6% ABV)

Visual: Bright clear gold.

Viscosity: A mix of fast and slow thin streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Slightly muted. Slight sulphur. Light vanilla. Dry nuts. Water adds soft kiwi. More water adds apples, grappa and Calvados.

Body: Sweet toffee to golden syrup. Thick. Strong, stunning alcohol. Soft lime. Water makes more creamy. Kiwi and apples. As more water is added more apples comes out. Calvados. Quince rakia.

Finish: Numbing levels of alcohol. Tropical fruits and vanilla. Butterscotch. Drying. Oils. Water adds oily apples. More water adds cinder toffee and quince rakia.

Conclusion: This is not what I would have expected from a purely bourbon aged whisky. Neat it was hard to tell, frankly it was as you would expect from something at near 60% abv – very dry and very strong alcohol – despite that managing to show the vanilla notes so closely linked with bourbon ageing. It was ok, but neither surprising nor impressing me that much.

Both of these concerns were washed away with adding water. It soften it, giving it a creaminess which is nice, but again, not unexpected. So what was unexpected, and impressed me with it? Well, this has a real soft green fruit character to it – apples, touches of kiwi and such like. Early on it is subtly done, but as time and water polishes it, it seems to almost gain characteristics akin to Calvados ageing.

So, that was not what I expected at all from a bourbon aged whisky – though they are served up alongside the more traditional tinned tropical fruit bourbon notes. Even more time again altered it to quince rakia touched styling.

This starts simple, but takes you on a hell of a journey. Very much worth trying, though this goes for just a tad more for a bottle than I would drop on for something like this. Close run thing though. Very good, very distinct and unusual – a whisky showing both the strength of its base spirit and the bourbon ageing.

Background: Another whisky from Independent Spirit‘s so called “Mediocre” Whisky tasting. This one from the relatively new, but highly reputed Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. Not tried anything of theirs yet, but this – a cask strength ex bourbon cask – should be a hell of an introduction to their style. It is one of only 189 bottles released – so I was very lucky to get to try this one. As always, due to doing this in a social environment, with several whiskies my notes may be shorter than usual. Apologies.

Angel’s Envy (USA: Bourbon/ Whiskey: 43.3% ABV)

Visual: Quite deep gold.

Viscosity: Slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Minty. Peppery. Banana candy sweets. Rye crackers. Banana syrup. Spicy red wine. Light cherries. Vanilla. Topical fruit. Water adds pear drops.

Body: Big. Orange crème. Dry raisins. Madeira. Water adds banana and pear drops and light Blackpool rock.

Finish: Butterscotch. Peppery. Brown bread and rye crackers. Orange crème. Madeira. Dry raisins. Rum soaked fruitcake. Water adds pear drops and dried banana along with hints of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Right – I really do like this one – it feels like a mix of traditional bourbon vanilla and rye characteristics matched with the unusual fruity raisins and dry spicy wine notes. At this point it feels like a sherry aged bourbon (Yes I know legally you can’t sherry barrel age bourbon, run with me on this one) – and like that I definitely enjoyed it.

However this is not just a good, but in fact an excellent whiskey and what makes it that is it feels like a whole host of traditional sweet shop notes have been mixed in with that – notes of pear drops on the light end, chewy banana sweets for thicker notes and a sparkle of Blackpool rock sweetness above that – lots of lighter and sweeter notes than adds a real easy going character into the bourbon style. It is a huge contrast but not in a way that creates any unpleasant dissonance of character.

This has so many subtle, interesting notes around the solid bourbon like base, and sherry aged whiskey highlights – and these are then subtly enhanced again by adding a drop of water. It calls to mind high quality bourbon, but playing with a range of complexity that normally it would not be allowed to handle.

An excellent whiskey/bourbon – one that I genuinely recommend you grab if you ever get the chance. It has been a few years between tries for me, and I hope it is not that long before I can try it again.

Background: OK, a quick explanation first on why I put both bourbon and whiskey up above. In most fashions this is a bourbon best I know, but, again as a far as I know, legally bourbon has to be aged entirely in fresh casks. This has been aged in port pipes for about 3-6 months after initial maturation, so I think it is technically not bourbon. Any which way – yep – an experimentation that I approve of. I first tried this years ago during the “Road Trip Of Awesome” in America, but did not do notes at the time. So, when I saw that it was in Independent Spirit’s “Mediocre Whisky Tasting” line-up I was a very happy bunny (Disclaimer – I am not actually a bunny). As before this was done in a more social environment, so my notes may be a tad more scattershot that normal – apologies.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canadian Blended Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Rye crackers. Light orange. Menthol. Peppermint. Vanilla. Water adds coconut, white chocolate and light praline.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Coconut. Slight bitter chocolate. Light smoke. Water makes much smoother and slightly more oaken.

Finish: Brown bread. Vanilla. Peppery. Menthol. Peppermint. Buttery shortbread. Tropical fruit. Coconut. White chocolate. Quite dry and with an alcohol air. Water makes more oaken and more menthol, with some charring to it.

Conclusion: This is one of those ones that ends up as a tale of two whiskies. Initially it shows a dry, spicy rye kind of thing; Lots of rye bourbon styling, while this is a whisky it has both the rye and a light set of orange crème notes that are definitely a call to bourbon style.

However, under those dry notes is a light vanilla sweetness matched with some white chocolate character. Items that usually would be very sweet notes, but since they are delivered so dryly they instead just add more of the flavour, with just some sweet hints to them as well.

Neat it has a light amount of menthol to peppermint that is fresh, however it doesn’t seem to match the other elements well. Thankfully even a few drops of water removes this, leaving more influence for the dry spicy and peppery backing.

Even like this is still has some slight vanilla sweetness – just enough to keep it from getting too wearing. Now this leaves me in a bit of a bind – usually very dry whiskies aren’t my thing – however even as such I can respect the complexity this has and the range it brings. Even with that the character makes it far from easy drinking so I’m more appreciating it that fully enjoying it.

So, a complex but just slightly harsh edged whisky. Enjoyable, chocolate backed dry coconut and peppermint spice – it is good, but not great.

Background: Now, recently Independent Spirit did what they called their “Mediocre Whisky tasting” Now the first whisky was this – what Jim Murray listed as his best whisky in the world for 2016, so you may have guessed they were being a tad flippant there. It was an amazing line up of very hard to find whiskies – including Hibiki 17 and Yamazaki 12, amongst some others – the notes of which will be turning up in the next few days. Now, accepting that Jim Murray’s picks may be slightly…political shall we say, I was still very interested to try this. A blended whisky made with 90% rye. Because of the tasting environment my notes may be a slight bit shorter than normal – hopefully they should still make sense.

Macallan: Gold (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold (Well that is good, otherwise it would be false advertising in the name)

Viscosity: Quite fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Stewed apricot. Vanilla. Thick. Custard. Slight alcohol tingle, but generally smooth. Pencil shavings. Light menthol. Fudge. Water makes lighter – slightly more alcohol and minty.

Body: Smooth. Some alcohol. Slightly light. Custard. Golden syrup. Oak. Water makes dried and stewed apricot mix. Vanilla toffee. Enough water removes alcohol edges. White grapes.

Finish: Oak. Wet wood. Alcohol air. Slight malt drinks. Water adds slight apricot. Slight golden syrup. Chocolate toffee and or those chocolate eclair sweets. Slight spicy raisins and rim. Slight grapes.

Conclusion: Why do so few whiskies live up to their aromas? Yep, that’s always a good start for a set of notes, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve had this in the bars a few times, but always at or neat the end of a session – so never a good time to really analyse it. So, coming at it now, as I approached its aroma I was filled with hope.

The aroma is thick and filled with promise – stewed fruits, lots of smooth, sweet flavours. Not unusual but with a very appealing weight to it.

The main body? Well it has more alcohol roughness to it – not badly, just a kind of generic blended whisky kind of rough edge which needs a fair chunk of water to get rid of. Water is also needed to bring back the stewed fruits that the aroma promised. Now, water generally does help whisky, so this is not a huge deal, but you never get the thickness and weight the aroma promised.

Time helps as well. Bringing out spicier, sherry cask influenced notes in the finish. In fact the finish (with water) is probably the best part of the whisky. Here you get a robustness and range which the main body distinctly lacks.

Not to say that this is bad, just very average – you get expected sweetness, expected oak, some of the expected sherry influenced, but with a tad rougher edged than ideal. Ok, but considering the usual huge rep of Macallan, a bit of a mediocre delivery.

So, ok, but no great shakes.

Background: Its been bugging me for a while that I have not done notes for this before. As a replacement for the Macallan 10 year this seemed to me to be the whisky that really was at the heart of the no age statement whisky debate. It was the most well known whisky to run that path and, despite having tried a few times, I had never really examined it. So, I grabbed from mini from Independent Spirit to give it a proper going over. I had just seen Mike Bird vs Matt Riddle at Chaos wrestling – an utterly amazing match so I was in good spirits.

%d bloggers like this: