Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


Signatory Vintage: Coleburn 1983 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 14 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Peppery. Lots of oak and pencil shavings. Moss. Cinder toffee. Alcohol fumes. Water adds sulphur and boiled eggs. More water clears to toffee and moss.

Body: Apples to apple pie. Oak. Tannins. Soot. Peppery sweets. Cinder toffee. Light strawberry. Black pepper. Charring. Water adds vanilla toffee. Sulphur. More water makes quite clean flavour and slightly oily.

Finish: Aniseed. Oak. Greenery to moss. Soot. Slight charring. Slightly numbing. Spicy. Water brings out sulphur. More water makes slightly oily.

Conclusion: So, a commonly used phrase with whisky is that “you can add water, but you can’t remove it”. That applies double when you only have a miniature to play with. Triple when that mini is this one.

Neat this starts out fairly dull, but develops in quite interesting ways. It is initially peppery and heather led. Which is not much to write home about, right?

There is more than that to come though. Initially the only release from the more savoury notes is an apple pie sweet base, but over time it eases out into a far more fun cinder toffee sweetness. Even the peppery character starts to alter to remind me of those deliberately hot peppery sweets that I bought as a kid. It is still a bit sooty, still a bit musty overall, but now at least interesting to go along with that. There are unusual and pleasant layers under the more Milquetoast front.

Anyway, so, playing with water. Water kind of brings out the worst in this. Initially it brings out an eggy sulphur like touch into a sort of slight sulphurous oiliness. Not a good element in itself and it hurts the whisky overall by overwhelming some of the more interesting subtle flavours.

More water relaxes the influence of the worst notes, but also the good ones. It turns it into a very generic whisky. Nothing good, nothing bad.

Overall, when had neat it has some interesting quirks, but is generally straightforward. Water ruins it. As a general priced whisky this would be sub par. As an expensive dead distillery whisky I say avoid.

Background: Coleburn is a long silent distillery, so when I saw that The Whisky World had a miniature of it I snapped it up. Most silent distilleries are out of my price range, so – while millilitre for millilitre miniatures are expensive, they give me a chance to try distilleries I would normally not be able to try. Signatory Vintage tend to be a very solid one for independent bottlings so I had confidence they would be decent. This was bottled back in 1997, which explains why there was some rust on the container’s metal lid. A quick research in my books tells me Coleburn was build back in the 1890s and lived right through to the 1980s (1985 to be exact) , so this is right from the tail end of its life. It’s spirit was always intended for use in blends, so bottlings are comparatively rare. For a whisky like this I wanted some appropriate music so went with the electrical oddity wonder that is Marie Davidson’s Perte D’identite.

Walsh Whisky: Writer’s Tears – Copper Pot (Irish Blended Whisky: 40% ABV)

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

Nose: Smooth. Honey and toffee. Honey nut cornflakes. Shreddies. White grapes. Butter on crumpets. Fresh cut apples. Water adds trail mix and dried apricot. More green fruit.

Body: Smooth. Honey to golden syrup. Moderate thickness. Only gets warming if held for a while. Bready late on. Apples to apple pie. Pear to pear drops. Malt chocolate. White chocolate. Water adds more white chocolate and some grain like rough edge.

Finish: Malt drinks. Honey on toast. Margarine on crumpets. Chocolate cake. Apple pie. Water adds slight rice and grain rough edges.

Conclusion: Ok, this may be just because it is what I was told, but I can 100% believe that this is Bushmills whiskey in here. In fact a very short and sweet description would be that this feels like a better take on the charred bourbon barrel travel exclusive Bushmills I had a while back.

It is smooth, but with a bit more grip that I expected in an Irish triple distilled whisky, especially at 40% abv. Also it is, to paraphrase a comment used to recommend it to me, much juicier in how the cask influence feels. The green fruit feels bigger, the sweetness as well, and just in general juicier that most of this style.

It has a mix of the juicier and more natural feeling fruit notes, and a more artificial, sweeter notes. Apple vs apple pie and pear vs pear drops being the most notable examples. It is an interesting and refreshing mix.

There is a lovely, sweet honey base, but also a bready and margarine savoury thickness which gives a mix of weight and easy drinking sweetness. Nothing too heavy, just a bit more weight than usual.

Now, there are some bad points – for one somehow water really doesn’t help here. It brings out the more grain edged, rougher, dry rice kind of character that was hidden when it was neat. Thankfully it isn’t a huge issue, as it is smooth enough neat – it doesn’t need water and that is lucky as water just makes it a little worse.

So, what we have so far is smooth, with nice thickness – lots of show from both the sweeter bourbon ageing, and the more fruity spirit character. It is a really solid set.

It may seem expensive for a blended Bushmills based whisky, but it compares well to the ten year in quality – and shows a very different aspect by concentrating on the bourbon ageing. It is better than the bourbon cask version aged before, doing that thing’s main point better than it ever managed.

Overall a lovely easy drinking dram.


Background: So, I have it on good authority that the whiskey for this is sourced from Bushmills, of which I am already a fan. This is a mix of single pot still and single malt whisky, both triple distilled as is common in Ireland, then aged in charred bourbon casks. Fairly simple, and what I was looking for as I wanted a nice easy drinking whisky. I will note that this was described as feeling like it had a “Juicier” cask than some other of the whiskies I was looking at, and that did seem to hit home when I did notes, so I will admit I may have been influenced by that. This was bought from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Noctule: Wretched Abyss, a Skyrim influenced black metal album from the lead singer of Svalbard. I’m a huge fan of Svalbard so was definitely going to check this out. It is heavy and awesome.

Ardnamurchan: Release 2: AD/01.21.01 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Years: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Light pale gold with quite fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry soaked raisins. Vanilla. Lime cordial air. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust. Water makes sooty and adds crumpets notes.

Body: Honey. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust and charred wood. Raisins to fruitcake. Dry sherry. Vanilla fudge. Water adds Madeira. Pink lemonade and menthol.

Finish: Charring. Burnt meat ends. Dust. Fatty butter. Slightly dry. Sultanas. Water makes more fruity to fruitcake. Light crushed peanuts. More soot. Pink lemonade.

Conclusion: Well, a bit of time to air has really opened this one up. As you can see I’m in the second half of the bottle as I’ve had it a while, and generally I find that a few weeks to let a whisky air can often really help. As mentioned in the background, I’ve been a bit rubbish at this recently.

But! This is not about me, this is about whisky. So, how is it?

When I first tried this the thing I noticed most was that it was kind of fatty butter thick and slightly harsh in its soot character against the vanilla background. It was ok, interesting – especially in the texture, but generally not one I would recommend.

As mentioned, time has really opened it up. From far more raisins coming out in the aroma, to a more balanced level of fatty character in the body, to Madeira notes coming out. This now has a lot more dark fruit balancing out the dry, sooty smoke character that initially made the whisky quite harsh.

The fatty character is still there, especially later on in the body and into the finish. It gives a lot of weight and grip which is good, but the flavour of it is not quite for me. The flavour becomes a lot more evident with water, so bear that in mind if you are of similar mind.

Even odder, but more favourable to me, is that the water adds a kind of lemon and raspberry sweet note that I can best describe as pink lemonade like. Which I think is a new for me in tasting notes. Probably. I have done a LOT of notes by now. Anyway, you end up with smoke and soot, over a fatty thickness, into sweet raisins and citrus sweet pink lemonade over dry sherry. It is a weird mash up.

I think I prefer it neat though. The fatty character is more balanced, the sherry influence pleasant and still a solid vanilla character against the soot. With water is admittedly far more interesting, but also far less balanced.

A good chewy whisky, not a must have at this point as it is either solid or super interesting but never manages to marry the two. It is still a very good start for this distillery.

Background: So, I had nearly completed my attempt to try whisky from every active malt whisky distillery in Scotland (and a fair chunk of silent ones). Anyway, a whole bunch of new ones have opened up and a reasonable amount of them are actually putting bottled whisky out now. My task is never done. This is one of them, Ardnamurchan’s second release which I managed to snag from Independent Spirit before their stock vanished. As you can probably tell from the bottle I have had this a while. My taste note taking skills are dropping with ever month of this darn virus outbreak, but I am trying to keep lethargy from setting in. In good news, had my first shot now, half way to full vaccination! There is no age statement on the bottle, but a bit of googling gave the five years listed here. Similarly it told me this is aged in 65% bourbon wood and 35% a mix of PX and Oloroso sherry casks, which is nice information to know. Went with the ever haunting David Bowie: Black Star as background music when drinking.

Glenury Royal: 1970 – 40 Year Old (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40 Year: 59.4% ABV)

Visual: Moderately darkened gold, with very slow puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Cooked apple pie. Honey. Golden Grahams. Almonds. Cinnamon apples. Vanilla toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Wisp of smoke. Clotted cream. Water makes spicier. Peppery. Thai seven spice jars. Crushed hard boiled sweets or the aroma of old style sweet shops. More clotted cream.

Body: Treacle and honey. Becomes warming if held but never burning. Fudge. Clotted cream. Thick. Scones with raisins. Cherries. Water adds apples. Cinnamon. Lots of vanilla fudge. Crumpets. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Tannins and tea bags. Malt chocolate. Chives. Very drying. Water adds a rum touch. Makes spicy. Plums and red wine. Fatty butter. More chives. Almonds.

Conclusion: Ok, pretty much the most important thing early on with this was that I was really nervous about adding water. Despite in coming in at nearly 60% abv it somehow doesn’t burn at all. I guess 40 years in the oak can do that. Most of my, admittedly very limited, experience with 40 year old whisky found them to be generally very light. You really had to take your time and dig in to get the complexity from them – which is why I generally prefer to max out my whisky at 30 years. I prefer the extra umph.

This, well this is smooth, but very full flavoured and thick mouthfeel which both grabs my attention and makes me wonder if it is already at the sweet spot without adding water.

It is solidly sweet, rocking lots of honey and even some treacle mid body. Give it some time to air and it brings out a lovely, thick clotted cream character which I adore. The aroma has light, sweetly spiced apple notes, and the finish is very dry, though packed with a bit too much oak and tannins. Generally though, especially main body, this is big, rewarding and sweet with lots of subtler side notes to examine as well.

Ok, let’s take a risk. Water play time!

Water makes it a lot spicier, with more peppery notes and some Thai seven spice character – though the release from the high abv also lets more subtle sweetness come through mid body. It also makes for a much better finish – the simple dry tannins and oak now gain complex spirit and red wine notes along with spice. It is a genuine improvement, but also adds a fatty butter character which isn’t as complementary as the previous clean sweet body. Despite that both neat and with water are very good.

A very impressive whisky. Complex, deep, weighty for a 40 year old and smooth for a 60% abv one. Ok, this is a rare case where a 40 year old whisky earns it’s place beyond its slightly younger cousins. I adore this.

Background: So, how I came to pay attention to this one was noticing it was nearly 60% abv at 40 years old. With the angels share I would have though this was damn near impossible, but after contacting my better informed whisky friends it turned out it is true. Was distilled at a very high abv and probably had many other evil magic tricks to keep it this way. So, while looking I noticed that The Whisky Exchange sold it by the measure. Not just a chance to try a dead distillery that I have never tried before, but a 40 year old one. So yes I treated myself. Think that is my silly expensive whisky money gone for a long time now! Anyway the distillery was closed 1985 and has since been sold for housing development so I don’t think we are seeing this one coming back. Went with the ever awesome Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues for background music when drinking.

Kininvie: 23 Year: Batch 3 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 23 Year: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Some very small particles evident in the whisky. Fast and thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Light. Some alcohol. Oak. Barley biscuits. Peppery. Dry fudge. Water adds light lime and kiwi. Shortbread. Light sulphur. More fudge.

Body: Smooth. Tingly. Vanilla. Fudge. Peppery. Oak. Honey. Vanilla toffee. Menthol touch. Water makes very smooth. Brings out grapes. Thicker feel and more honey. Toffee style ice cream syrup. Kiwi. More menthol. Light strawberry.

Finish: Peppery. Caramel. Dry fudge. Sour dough. Water adds toffee syrup. Light sage and onion. Menthol. Brown bread. Liquorice touch.

Conclusion: This is a gentle, subtle yet complex one. Neat it has just a touch of the alcohol showing, but nothing too heavy. Water both cleans that up and also somehow makes the whisky feel heavier and more doughy.

Neat it is generally sweet notes played in quite a clean fashion, though the sweet notes vary quite well from standard toffee to sweeter honey character. It uses a peppery base to savoury it up. So, smooth, tasty, variety to the sweetness and savoury underline – enjoyable but nothing too unusual or special.

Water, as mentioned, makes it feel thicker, darker and with slight sulphur notes giving a lot more weight and character to a still smooth whisky. Similarly a touch of green fruit comes out, low at first and increasing with time. There are the not uncommon green grape notes, but also a more unusual kiwi kind of savoury-sweet character. In fact the whole thing now feels more savoury and more stodgy. The sweetness is always there as a contrast against what is now a bready main character. It feels like it makes the brighter fruit notes have to work to push through, but they are even more enjoyable for that when they do show.

It is really good, slowly revealing a whole mix of notes beyond the main ones we have already discussed, the only thing it lacks is that inexplicable element that turns a good whisky into a favourite whisky. It feels like a toffee syrup covered dessert with a bready core and green fruit high notes and somehow pulls it off.

Definitely a worthwhile whisky.

Background: Another whisky from a distillery I have not tried before – if I remember rightly it is part of Monkey Shoulder blended malt, but that is probably the limit of my exposure. Anyway, had heard good things about this, being a half bottle it was expensive for what you get, but not bank breaking to try, so I did a quick google around and found it available at Whisky World so grabbed a bottle. From my research it looks like this distilleries’ bottles were originally only available through duty free, where I have seen them a couple of times, but they are now in the wider market. Wanted something atmospheric to back trying this whisky, so went with Ulver’s Flower’s of Evil. Probably their best album since Shadows Of The Sun in my opinion. Great stuff.

Convalmore: 1984: Special Release 2017 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 32 Years: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice to gold colour. A few initial streaks come from the spirit followed by very slow puckering.

Nose: Vanilla. Soft praline. Apples. Soft white grape juice touch. Water adds a sulphur and burnt matches style. More water gives orange zest and pear drops. Madeira. Cinnamon spiced apples.

Body: Initially numbing. Oak. Grassy. Dry. Peppery. More water adds Madeira and watered down spiced rum. Spiced red grapes. Cinnamon apples. Gunpowder tea. Caramel. Cinder toffee. Very mild molasses touch.

Finish: Charring. Roasted chestnuts. Water adds sugared almonds, nut bars and a salty touch. More water makes spicier. Dry red wine. Chocolate cake. Gunpowder tea. Cinder toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, and in general a robust one, with a lot heavier nut character that I expected from a Speyside whisky. It is also an example that, even in an over 30 years old whisky, water still does the job!

While water is needed later on, the aroma always had what it takes. Smooth as silk, showing green fruit mixed with vanilla sweetness. It was pretty much exactly what I would expect of the region and the age, if not more than that.

Thus I was surprised when I took a sip and found out how dry and, while not harsh, kind of numbing the main body was. The flavour was very nutty with lots of oak influence making it woody, with little else in play. It felt like such a let down from the nose.

Similarly the finish was nutty, slightly rough, and unexpectedly slightly salty. The state of the body and finish felt like an utter let down for something this old, expensive and with a decent nose.

So, anyway, I added water and…

It was better, still simple and nutty, but now a bit spicier. However the backing seemed to become more harsh – the additional green fruit notes made it better but it was hard to appreciate it against the harsher notes.

So, heck, I may have only 3cl of these, but you only live once. So I added more water, risking flooding it, aaaand.

This is now soooo goooood. No, seriously. Like it is such a change, and such a jump in quality I found it hard to believe it. Wine like and spiced rum notes come out along with spiced fruit, toffee and many spirits. More green fruit. A creamier feel. It doesn’t feel like the same whisky at all.

It has still got a few of those salty, heavier charring and gunpowder tea notes at the back, along with a fair set of tannins, but now they seem balanced as there is so much more available to contrast that. Now it is rich, with lots of dessert like notes, Speyside fresh fruitiness, smooth with lots to examine and so easy to drink despite the harsh underline.

This needs water so much, but get it right and it is great. Still just a touch over harsh, but only minorly so, and apart from that it is great.

Just avoid it neat.

Background: Convalmore is another dead distillery, and therefore one of the few distilleries in Scotland I had yet to try. It seems to be a long lived one, closing finally in 1985, with, oddly, no official bottlings at the time – all the stock went into blends. This is one of the few official bottling that have come out since and one that there was no way I could afford a full bottle of. So, I recently had the chance to treat myself and took advantage of the fact that The Whisky Exchange was selling 3cl samples. It makes it very expensive per cl, but hey, it is pretty much the only way I was going to get to try something from the distillery. A quick google says this won Jim Murray’s best single scotch whisky 28-34 years. For what that is worth. Went with Prodigy: No Tourists for background music. May not seem like a match for this whisky but, screw it, I only just found out it existed and wanted more Prodigy. That is the whole reason.

Laphroaig: 10 Original Cask Strength – Batch 12 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 60.1% ABV)

Visual: Burnished reddened gold. Slow puckering comes from the spirit along with a few faster, thick streaks.

Nose: Camomile. Germolene (I think). Smoke. Peppery. Peat. Meat broth. Medicinal spirit. Orange zest. Charring. Some alcohol tingly. Slightly oily. Water makes clearer, and cleaner medicinal style. Dry soot. More orange zest.

Body: Warming initially, alcohol feel builds up quickly. Dried apricot. Medicinal and slightly dry. Beefy. Lots of peat. Slight malt chocolate. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Water adds honey and makes smoother. Beef broth. Orange notes. Peach.

Finish: Warming and tingling. Beef slices. Malt chocolate. Slight lime air. Numbing alcohol after a while. Cheese puff crisps. Slight caramel. Slight orange crème. Water adds cleaner orange notes and lime.

Conclusion: The first time I popped this open it was fucking intense. Possibly too intense, but still such an experience. Here, with a few weeks open under its belt, we get a much more balanced look. As always, time to air is your friend with whisky.

Neat it is still intense, though surprisingly smooth on first sip considering the abv – though the alcohol come in quickly after. It is not as numbing as you would expect but it is still numbing.

Neat it gives in exchange for the abv an even more medicinal style dram than the standard Laphroaig – not just in the dry spirit character, but even a kind of medicinal cream to medicinal bandages style aroma that I more associate with my small experience of Port Ellen.

Thee peat experience is also there, smokey and big. It is still not Ardbeg level peaty but still intense. The sweeter notes of the spirit come out more chocolatey with the bigger body, though still with vanilla backing. Similar the bigger body brings even more of the subtle citrus notes under that. Everything is bigger, and if you are fine with the alcohol weight it is 100% worth it.

Water smooths it out a lot – it is still evidently medicinal and peaty, but now with lots more sweetness. It is actually shockingly smooth all things considered and with many more fruity notes underneath including stuff I would not normally associate with Laphroaig like the subtle peach notes backing it.

Any way you take it, this is pure Laphroaig , from its most uncompromising to its most complex. I absolutely love it. Just make sure you give it some time to air before you make up your mind as first impressions are brutal!

Background: Ohh my, saw this at Independent Spirit and I wanted it instantly. Laphroaig 10 was my entry point to heavy duty Islay whisky and I still love it. Found out one of my friends in the Netherlands had actually tried this already, the lucky lucky person! Anyway, one of my mates commented that this tasted like Orange Marmite, if such a thing could exist, so that may have influenced my thoughts while tasting. I went with the live Undertale album for listening while drinking, light happy and chill, stuff I need at the mo.

Waterford: Single Farm Origin: Ballymorgan 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. A very varied mix of streaks come from the spirit – from slow puckering, fast sheet like chunks and thin streaks.

Nose: Lively. Alcohol is noticeable. Strawberry. Tart rhubarb. Pear drops. Nail polish. Butterscotch and vanilla toffee. Heather. Honeycomb. Water smooths to tart white grapes.

Body: Tingling. A young spirit feel. Pears. Peppery touch. Gooseberry. Dry rhubarb. Lightly waxy. Strawberry crème. Water adds vanilla custard. Sweet green grapes. Toffee.

Finish: Peppery. Malt chocolate to choc orange. Sweeter rhubarb. Strawberry crème. Water adds chocolate toffee and choc lime.

Conclusion: Damn I love this. Ok, maybe I should have saved that for the end, as I have just given everything away but… damn I love this!

So, to balance out that wild enthusiasm (this is 2020 you know, we can’t be having any enthusiasm or happiness) let’s get the bad points out of the way first. Neat this feels slightly young in a few elements of its character. Now it doesn’t have an age statement, and it it is fairly smooth (I would presume from Irish triple distilling practices, but their website seems to indicate they do a double distillation, so what do I know), but the character does have a few elements that would make me think this is pretty young. It is partly from a few rough edges, evident if not too harsh alcohol, considering the 50% abv – but more than that it has a very bright flavour profile which I associate with young whisky. So, it doesn’t have the refined character you may expect for the cost.

Now, water does smooth a lot of this out, but also changes the character massively as we are about to examine.

Neat it has that bright, youthful spirit character. It is very lively and very fruity – coming out as pear drops, rhubarb, gooseberry and the like over a quite clean base, with slight peppery notes. It is slightly rough, but generally all about those bright notes. Even with those rough edges it is utterly wonderful to explore and surprisingly easy to drink considering the abv.

Water changes it to a still interesting, but completely different style. Now there are loads of vanilla, toffee and some malt chocolate notes at the base. Far smoother, and sweeter, with far less fruit – though there is still a little there as high notes to contrast.

Neat is more exciting, and with far more to examine, but is rougher. Water is smoother and has a new complexity, but loses a lot of what really makes the neat whisky stand out. Both are worthy experiences and with those two options this stands out as a whisky with a great range of experiences – If this is what single terrior does then I am all for it. An absolute gem that I can recommend without hesitation.

Background: Now this caught my eye. I was lacking a bottle of Irish Whiskey in the cupboard, and I always try to keep one to hand, then this range popped up. A bunch of different whiskeys from Waterford, all concentration on the concept of “terrior ” so all the barley is from a single farm, in this case Ballymorgan.

Now I knew nothing about this difference in farms, so grabbed one pretty much at random, but the concept intrigued me. There is even a specific terrior code on the back you can enter on their website to find out more about the area, which is a nice touch. So, time to find out if it makes a difference. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Dan Le Sac’s These People Are Idiots – lovely chilled beats to drink to – I recommend checking it out.

Cooper’s Choice: Glen Esk: 1984: Limburg Whisky Fair (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 31 Year: 49.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slight yellow gold colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Tingling alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Toffee. Soft lime sorbet. Oak. Water makes cleaner. Lightly grassy. Still notable alcohol.

Body: Strong alcohol. Fatty butter. Vanilla. Peppery. Toffee. Water adds light strawberry. Still an alcohol presence. Pear drops. Polish air.

Finish: Fatty butter. Peppery. Oak. Alcohol tingle. Water adds tinned tropical fruit. A polish air. Flour dusted baps. Soft lemon sorbet.

Conclusion: This is very, well, neutral. At 49.5% abv I was expecting a bit of alcohol, so the alcohol weight is not a problem, but with 30 years in the oak I have to admit I was expecting it to be smoothed just a bit, and made into something more complex than what we have here.

It shows the weight mainly through alcohol and a fatty buttery feel – the cask strength and non chill filtered character means that there is a lot or raw, oily, fatty character there, but unfortunately it seems not much else.

It is a peppery, vanilla and toffee thing at its core. Some of which is expected character from the bourbon ageing, but, again, considering the time in the wood this has had I would expect more to it than that. The raw oak character is there fairly heavily, stomping into the spirit.

Overall it is, adequate I guess, water never really removed the rough character, though it does give more lemon and lime sorbet character over time. The peak in interesting and unusual notes is a strawberry touch that comes out from time to time, but 90% of the time it is generic vanilla, peppery and oak. It is not actively bad, it is just average, and for the cost, age and available abv, it needs and deserves more.

If this sums up the Glen Esk/Hillside experience then I can see why they went under.

Background: So, every now and then I can afford to get one of the dead distilleries I have not tried before. So, this is another one – Glen Esk, a distillery also called Hillside sometimes – that has been closed since 1985. I went with this one as it seemed fairly reasonably priced for a dead distillery, especially considering the age and cask strength, non chill filtered as well which is nice. Also as a bourbon cask aged one, I figured it would show more of the distilleries base character. It was grabbed from The Whisky Exchange a while back, and saved for a special occasion. Then lockdown hit and I though … fuck it. So here we are. This is one of 240 bottles, bottled for the Limburg Whisky Fair – which I know nothing about. Put on IDLES new album while drinking – Ultra Mono. I prefer their second album so far, but still a good album.

Maker’s Mark: Makers 46 (USA: Bourbon: 47% ABV)

Visual: Very deep reddened bronze colour. Fast and thick sheet of streak comes from the spirit.

Nose: Warm honey. Vanilla. Shredded wheat. Lightly peppery. Slight stewed apricot. Caramel. Water adds custard slice touch.

Body: Strawberry crème. Warm golden syrup. Vanilla toffee liqueur. Thick. Oaken underneath. Water makes smoother. Some alcohol jelly like touch. More vanilla. Cherry pocked biscuits. Liquorice touch.

Finish: Honey. Vanilla sheen. Toffee liqueur. Oak. Water gives a grape touch. Jelly. Shredded wheat.

Conclusion: This feels like Maker Mark’s bigger, smoother, more fulfilling brother. What I am saying is it is more bangable basically.

Neat it feels like warm honey and golden syrup drizzled over cereal. It still has that kind of rustic feel I associate with Maker’s Mark, but with the sweetness shoved way up. The extra alcohol strength , as well as upping the thickness of mouthfeel, also seems to have given it room for some odder notes to make themselves known. From strawberry notes, to cherry biscuits hints hanging around in the thick, heavy texture, there is a bit more variety – it doesn’t give release from the sweetness, but adds more depth to the thick, sweet character.

Neat is has a kind of weight that gives away that it has the higher alcohol content; Not a burn, just an unusual thickness. Water takes it into a smoother, more drinkable dram – closer to standard Maker’s Mark but still with more complexity.

Maker’s Mark has always been a go to bourbon for me for general drinking, and this, while still a touch one track minded, is more complex, more satisfying and more weighty without moving outside of the general drinking field. It feels like it pays off all the promise standard Maker’s Mark had.

It isn’t super complex but as a sipping bourbon this is excellent.

Background: Now the question I was asking myself was, why “46”? Especially as it is 47% abv, which was going to be my first guess. Well it is Maker’s Mark, but a version finished with oak staves. The fact that they were only used for finishing means that it still counts as bourbon – I think that for standard ageing they would not be allowed. Anyway I googled it, apparently this was a result of experiments with French toasted oak labelled “Stave Profile No. 46”. So they kept that as a name, because the marketing team was out at lunch or something I guess. Anyway – been a fan of Maker’s Mark for a while, since it got me through America when craft beer was hard to find – so tried this at The Star a while back and enjoyed it – they have a fair decent whisky selection at a decent price. This bottle was grabbed from Independent Spirit. Went with the new Ulver album for backing music – the wonderful sounds of “Flowers Of Evil”. Amazing as always.

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