Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.

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Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 1 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Standard whiskey barrel with #3 char)

Visual: Very dark reddened bronze.

Viscosity: Very fast sheet of streaks.

Nose: Thick and full of alcohol. Rye crackers and brown bread. Honey. Aniseed. Treacle. Light prunes.

Body: Honey. Charring. Slightly dry back. Rye crackers. Water makes more honeyed and smooth. Slight dried apricot. Slight sulphur.

Finish: Alcohol. Rye crackers. Honey. Slightly rough. Charring. More honeyed with water. Light mocha. Slight cloying sour cream note. Slight sulphur air.

Conclusion: This is – well – the most pedestrian of the 5 experiments I would say. It matches the more simple description of the process it went through – a more charred standard barrel – by being a very stripped down whiskey/bourbon compared to the complex language and layers of the others. A baseline I guess – the base experience that the other experiments build off.

Neat it is very much rye crackers touched with honey backing – pretty much the base bourbon concept but with none of the frills. At this point it is also a tad alcohol touched which doesn’t help it.

Water does help to a degree – it takes out some of the alcohol and lets the honey notes seeps over the harsher charring; It still has a bit of sulphur and other harsh notes – stuff that work with bigger whiskeys or bourbons, but feel off notes here.

It is … sub optimal shall we say – feels a very basic bourbon, with a few off notes. Not one I would recommend – especially considering the equivalent price you are paying for the set of the experiment bourbons as a whole. There is hints of some good stuff, and some mocha notes in the finish which are nice – but generally it feels very generic, with a few points letting it down.

To give it a more positive spin – this is the base, it lets you see how the other experiments develop in relation to it. As itself, it is not much, especially for the cost, It is only really useful as a benchmark to see how the other experiments differ.

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 standard barrel, just more charred – so is probably the most normal of the experiments. 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 the largest one, so I could spend a bit more time with it.

Nomad: Outland Whisky (Scottish/Spanish Whisky: 41.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and spirity. Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Raspberry yogurt chunks. Raisins. Light burning notes, but mostly smooth. Oak.

Body: Very smooth. Brandy cream. Custard. Vanilla toffee. Sultanas. Sweet red wine. Honey. Very slightly light, but warming if held. Sulphur if held. Raspberry yogurt. Condensed cream. Water makes smoother, and fuller with more raisins.

Finish: Rum soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light wood. Light waxy character. Dry sherry. Water makes trifle like.

Conclusion: This is both definitely a young whisky, and also a very smooth one. One of those odd contradictions that I don’t expect but enjoy when I find them. It has a spirity thickness, but even neat it has a restrained burn and water soon turns it into a very easy drinking thing.

It doesn’t seem to get a lot of the flavour from the base spirit – it feels like this is all coming from the barrel ageing, all the way. Lots of brandy cream notes, very creamy in general with sherry, sweet red wine and raisins all showing from the barrel ageing. It is a sweet and dark fruit laden thing with a slightly waxy feel when neat, but becomes just clean smoothness with water.

A tad simple isn’t the right words for it – there is a lot going on here, with honey and vanilla toffee sweetness backing the fruit – however there really isn’t any sign of where it came from outside of the barrel. So if you are into whisky for all the odd quirks that come from different makes of the spirit then you will not get that here. However taken for what it is it is very enjoyable. Very smooth with water, very trifle like, very sweet – it gives a lot to enjoy from the short, unusual, ageing.

So a whisky for general enjoying, fun and, with water, is amazing at not showing any rough edges from its youth. At a higher price point I would want more odd quirks from the base spirit, but as is it gives a lot for your money. In fact it reminds me slightly of the Irish style whiskey in its smooth, sweet and easy drinking style. So a Scotch touched, Irish feeling, Spain finished whisky. A true nomad – very good value easy drinking whisky.

Background: Odd ageing done with this one -it is made up of a mix of 5 to 8 year old whisky that has been aged in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, then sent to Jerez where it is finished in Pedro Ximenez casks for a year. I first tried a sample of this at Wine Rack in Leeds, just before going to see NXT wrestling. We had been aiming for the excellent North Bar and just nipped into the Wine Rack as it was right next to it – unfortunately I was a tad skint at the time, so couldn’t grab a bottle then – instead grabbing it months later from Independent Spirit. Its a good shop though, so thought I would give them a mention. Drunk while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees – never really listened to them before, but has seen an excellent tribute band to them, so was giving them a try.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 11 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% ABV)

(Original Barrel: Inserts for used wine barrels. High mocha)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Lightly milky coffee. Tiramisu. Some alcohol. Toffee. Salted lemons. Water adds menthol.

Body: Orange cream. Peppery. Peppermint. Some alcohol. Shredded wheat. Slight sour tang. Orange jelly sweets. Water adds honey and menthol.

Finish: Alcohol. Peppermint. Orange cream. Lime tang. Water adds menthol and mint. Slight milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, like the no 5 whiskey/bourbon I tried before this, this leans towards a more traditional bourbon but with one unusual element that comes out.

What you have here at the base is a sweeter, slightly orange cream touched bourbon – fairly normal, albeit with more alcohol feel than normal.

What comes out, especially with water, is a slightly peppermint to menthol character – a much fresher set of notes than usual. If you need a comparison I would say it comes in kind of similar to Johnnie Walker Green, to my hazy recollection of last time I tried that – however the menthol notes don’t seem to mesh quite as well to the bourbon style as they did to that blended whisky take.

It is odd that that peppermint style freshness is what stands out, as the aroma was quite coffee touched, which made me think that this was going to be similar to experiment 10 – while, admittedly the coffee does come out in the finish, for the most part the coffee really doesn’t seem to have much influence here. A pity.

It’s not terrible, but the twist and the main bourbon don’t mesh in a way that enhances either side. So, interesting, but one of the weaker experiments.

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 standard barrel, with wine barrel wood staves put in for extra oak influence, and charred for mocha styling. 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 larger ones, so I could spend a bit more time with it. Drunk while (still) listening to Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks – yes, I did this one immediately after doing notes on experiment 5.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment: 5 (USA Bourbon/Whiskey: 46% BV)

(Whiskey barrel 3: Standard whiskey barrel. #3 char with a cuvee cube tube.)

Visual: Deep bronzed to red.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Rye crackers and pepper. Caramel. Water adds more crackers and some brandy cream.

Body: Warming. Cherries. Oak. Honey. Vanilla. Slight alcohol dryness. Water makes much more cherries. Slight fudge. Aniseed.

Finish: Charring. Treacle. Dry. Oak. Slight menthol. Water adds cherries. Slight brandy cream. Peppery.

Conclusion: This is a more standard bourbon/Whiskey than the last two I tried, but still has a few twists in its tail. First impressions are a honeyed bourbon with charring, oak and similar peppery notes. Nothing bad but also nothing unusual.

A bit of time taken and the first oddity comes out – a slight cherry sweetness that isn’t something I see often in bourbon. It is nice, and gives a slight Irish Whiskey style call – especially the sherry aged examples of such. An easy going spirit meeting the more peppery spiced bourbon.

Water brings this side out much more – more sweet cherries matched with slight brandy cream – a quite rich experience and one I enjoyed very much. As time passes the more traditional bourbon notes rise again to take centre stage, with the sweeter elements pushed to the side.

So, overall it has a slight showing of a good twist to a fairly standard bourbon. Fairly solid quality in general. If it managed to balance the sweetness with the bourbon style over a longer time scale this would have been well worth recommending. As is, its a nice twist but not a must have.

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 standard barrel, with cuvee cube tube added for extra wood exposure, 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 larger ones, so I could spend a bit more time with it. Drunk while listening to Scroobius Pip – No Commercial Breaks – still listening to the music Speech Development Records gave away for free digital download.


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.

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