Category: Whisky Tasting Notes


The Loch Fyne: The Living Cask 1745 (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 43.6% ABV)

Visual: Solid gold. Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Pungent peat. Moss. Aubergine. Brown bread. Dried beef slices. Smooth. Dumplings. Light salt. Solid. Water makes drier. Lightly nutty amongst the peat.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Alcohol warmth. Peppered beef slices. Vanilla toffee. Smooth, mouth filling peat. Water adds caramel, more honey. Even smoother and adds light apricot.

Finish: Fruitcake. Raisins. Salt. Malt chocolate. Oily. Cherries. Port. Falling apart beef and heavy peat. Water keeps fairly similar.

Conclusion: This is bloody smooth. It is honeyed, weighty in thickness but no alcohol burn at all, just a soothing warmness. The peat is meaty and filling, coating the mouth and giving a gentle mossy smoke to everything while the sweeter notes dance. Gentle isn’t quite the right word – more it just oozes into every tastebud so easily that it feels like it was always there. In fact it works so well that I was afraid to add water lest I spoil it.

I shouldn’t have worried, all the water did was make it even smoother still and bring out more sweet character – now bringing toffee notes against the meaty broth imagery.

What is most notable about this whisky is what Islay elements it doesn’t use. There are no medicinal touches, very little salt – it just balances the sweet, thick notes with big meaty peat creating an exceptionally smooth yet booming whisky. It is so different from a lot of Islays – if actually feels like what the already good Elements Of Islay whisky was aiming for – sweet, but peaty – but this actually does it so much better.

Basically, I am very impressed. So, what flaws does this have? Well it is single minded – water soothes but changes very little. What you see at the start is what you get at the end. If you are happy with that as I was, then I can recommend this whole heartedly.

Background: I’ve been intrigued by the Living Cask for a while – a blended malt whisky where the cask is topped up regularly with more malt so it is ever changing and every varying, with some of the malt sticking around each time. A fascinating concept. So, when I saw this mini at The Whisky Shop I thought I would grab it. They had a pretty decent mini selection there – I may have to grab some more for random notes. After a quick google it looks 1745 is their original Islay only blended malt, with the other Living Casks being offshoots where other malts are added. I think. Let me know if I got it wrong please. Put on Massive Attack: Mezzanine for this. Had a feeling it would be a big moody whisky and wanted tunes to match.

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Elements Of Islay: Peat (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very pale with a greenish hint, very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Medicinal. Salt. Peat smoke punch. Watered down lime cordial. Moss. Water is very similar to neat.

Body: Sweet golden syrup and maple syrup. Salt. Alcohol warmth. Barbecue glazed meat. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Water makes beefy, peaty and choc limes.

Finish: Cherries. Salt. Medicinal. Vanilla. Creamy soda. Toffee. Beef crisp’s flavouring. Lime jelly. Water adds choc limes, dried beef and oily character.

Conclusion: You know for a whisky called “Peat”, this is smooth as silk. Which is not a contradiction I guess, just not what you would expect. I mean, it is pretty peaty, but does not seem obsessed by it it an Octomore kind of way as you would think.

Initial impression tend toward the Caol Ila side of the Islay island – medicinal, dry, slightly salty but not harsh, The highest amount of peat you are going to get in the whisky comes here as the aroma floats with a nice punch of peat, making you think you are heading into a harsher whisky than it actually is.

The first sip is where your expectations shift – it is peaty and meaty, sure, but the first hit is more syrup touched – almost like maple syrup and that makes the medicinal notes it holds far smoother and easier to slip down. There are soft lime notes, but big sweetness and the kind of smoothness you generally get with a good quality vatted malt.

I feel like the name of this whisky betrays it – it makes you expected a much harsher and more assaulting whisky than the one you get. It still has the medicinal, oiliness and saltiness but smooth- and if you add water it opens up to reveal new levels of smoothness for Islay whisky.

With water light cherries comes out, choc toffee then choc lime. As before it is meaty and brothy in the peat character but the medicinal and salt character becomes smoother and smoother as you add the drops. It feels like an excellent Islay with all the edges polished off. Now the smoothed edges is something I both love and hate – it loses some of the unique charm of Islay but becomes an entity that stands as something special of its own by doing that.

An excellent vatted malt, but it is about a balance of notes of which only one part is the peat of the name.

Background: So, as mentioned in my last whisky notes, it is traditional when one of us holds a whisky night that the rest chip in and grab a bottle for the host – this was the bottle we gave the last host,and he was kind enough to let me borrow it to do notes on a measure. Many thanks. Unlike most elements of Islay, this is a blended malt rather than a single malt with the distillery identified by a pseudo elemental letter. There is also a cask strength version of this going around which I am very tempted to try some time. This was drunk very shortly after the last set of whisky notes, so I was on my second listen through of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin. Still prefer the first album, which is far more raw, but it is not a bad wee album.

Tullibardine: 225 Sauternes Finish (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Bright shining gold with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Oaken. Honey. Dried apricot. Vanilla. Sulphur touch. Lightly waxy. Water adds pears to the mix.

Body: Smooth and thick. Honey. Oak. Sulphur touch. Waxy touch. Golden syrup. Water adds custard, pears, apricot and cake sponge. Cherries and chocolate fudge.

Finish: Waxy. Cherries. Dried apricot. Honey and golden syrup. Lots of oak. Sulphur. Water adds custard slices. Pears. Light fresh cut apples. Still a waxy sheen. Chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: From what I remember from visiting the distillery, Tullibardine has a lot of experience with unusual cask finishes. Ok course back then it was to help eke out the value from their remaining supply of the odd distilleries spirit while they got their new distillery up and running. Still, experience is experience, no matter how you got it.

Neat this thing is pretty oaken – nice enough but a bit too woody for my taste. Though there are already a lot of good things going for it in the feel. It is thick, smooth but just slightly waxy – an element that gives, along with the wisp of sulphur, the imagery of candles that floats across the whisky. Even neat the sweetness from the Sauternes finish is shown with very honeyed notes – fairly simple but bright, thick and tongue coating.

Water give it what the whisky needs though and that is subtlety. The sweetness becomes gentle and breaks as if light encountering a prism, spreading into honey, custard and golden syrup against apricot notes that that work over the sweetness. Similarly more of the flavour from the base spirit seems to come out, though I will remind you that I have not encountered much from the distillery’s stock made since it reopened. Still, out from under the powerful cask finish seems to come pear and cut apple notes, along with a more recognisable general whisky feel that now back up the sweeter notes. The wax and sulphur notes lessen but still help hold some grip to the whisky.

Even with water this does pack a few rougher edges that feel like younger whisky spirit notes, but nothing that majorly hurts it, it just lacks polish.

Overall this uses the finish very well for a dessert feeling whisky. It does have a few rough edges, especially neat, but with a dash of water it is a sweet and enjoyable dram.

Background: Tullibardine is distillery I first encountered as part of a road trip around Scotland’s whisky distilleries many a year ago. It is a far cry from the usual rustic imagery, on an industrial area in the midst of grey concrete. It hadn’t been open long at that point, having been recently reopened after being mothballed back in 1995 so they were selling the remnants of the whisky from its previous existence. Since then I think I have encountered their new spirit once before, but without my notebook to hand, so this is my first set of notes for the re-opened distilleries whisky. This was given to me at a whisky night I hosted a few weeks back – it has become a tradition at our whisky nights that everyone else chips in to buy a bottle for the host. Which is nice. Many thanks. Originally they had planned to grab a different bottling, but the supermarket was out of stock, so bumped them up to this one – finished in Sauternes sweet wine casks – for free. Which was also nice. Put on Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin for this one. Seems a gentler album that their first, may take a bit of time to get used to that, but still solid.

Elements Of Islay: OC5 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed grain. Slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Chilli pepper. Chipotle chilli notes. Light charcoal dust. Fresh white crusty bread. Water adds dried beef, beetroot and pulled pork along with a salt touch.

Body: Golden syrup. Mass of alcohol. Barbecue glaze. Water adds more barbecue sauce glaze, custard. Salt. Drying. Syrup notes and cherries.

Finish: Barbecued meat. Pear. Smoke. Water makes more oily. Slow cooked stew. More water adds more peat, beef and syrup. Light strawberry. Chipotle sauce.

Conclusion: I’m slightly mixed on my opinion on this, as there is a heck of a lot going on in the near 60% of abv and a hundred whatever levels of peat per million it throws at you. In general I love the Octomore in all the expressions I have encountered, I love the range it brings in, but with this one it feels like there are many different mashed up elements that are great, but do not come together here.

Early on it is mainly showing the intense alcohol, with less peat intensity than you would expect as the sheer strength makes it come across quite closed. Water is definitely needed to bring out the cornucopia of clashing notes I alluded to earlier. There is a glazed barbecue backbone, smoke but still less that you would expect. It is more meaty than anything else, slow cooked, falling apart to touch meat in the stew and pulled pork imagery.

More water clashes with the peat imagery even more as an oddly sweet syrupy core comes out, another element added in that pulls the whisky in yet another different direction. First the glazed barbecue, then the meat and peat, the syrup, red fruit late on – all elements I enjoy,but not a coherent whole.

Enjoyable, and a wild ride, but doesn’t do better than the more focussed, though lower abv, intensity of the standard Octomore – and with that you get a silly shiny bottle as well.

Background: Final of the whiskies from the recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. If you are wondering what happened to the foruth whisky, I already have a bottle of it and will be doing full notes at a a later date. This is an independent Octomore bottling, from the very respectable Elements Of Islay range – Octomore being Bruichladdich’s very highly peated whisky. This is probably the only cask strength bottling of Octomore I have seen, which makes it interesting in itself. I’m a big fan of Octomore even if the super high peat level is more of a marketing gimmick than a huge element of the whisky itself. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again. I was more inebriated by the point I took the photo of the glass, so it is just a tad out of focus, to say the least.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

Clan Denny / Douglas Laing: North British : 1991 (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 46.7% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellowed grain. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Baileys. Orange cream to choc orange. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Water adds tannins, lemon cheesecake and menthol to grapes notes.

Body: Custard. Golden syrup. Apples. Calvados. Water adds icing sugar, lemon cheesecake, has more of a waxy and alcohol feel.

Finish: Apples. Pears. Creamy to baileys. Pear drops. Lightly waxy. Slight dry shortbread. Water adds light oak and white chocolate. More water brings out menthol notes and grapes.

Conclusion: This is a sweet and creamy one. Initially it really pushes a Baileys style – thick and creamy against young spirit style green fruit notes. There is a slight thickness to it, actually a kind of polish to wax feel that actually enhances the creaminess.

Water makes it drier and slightly spicier, but otherwise manages to marry the two sides of the neat whisky. The fruit notes become creamier in a soft lemon style over a sweet cheesecake like base, rather than the brighter green fruits of the neat spirit.

Here, with water, more of the bourbon cask influence shows, more oak, more white chocolate, all emphasising sweeter notes that makes this feel like a bright, dessert style, whisky. Adding just a drop of water does bring out more alcohol roughness, but if you can push through that, adding even more water mellows it down again and lets you enjoy the gentle lemon character.

It always keeps a touch of energy that comes from the grain spirit style, but matches it to a sweeter, gentler, dessert style which means it manages to be relaxing despite that grain energy. It feels like some thing to enjoy post meal and relax with.

A lovely bit of a dessert edged dram.

Background: One of about 300 bottles this is a single cask single grain whisky and the first of five whiskies I tried at the most recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. Single grain gets a lot of shit as the lesser cousin of single malt, but there are some gems hidden in its depths as I have found over the years. Time will tell if this is one of them. This was aged in a refill hogshead cask. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again.

Heaven Hill : Rittenhouse: Straight Rye Whisky Bottled-In-Bond (USA: Rye Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronze to amber. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Peppery. Rye crackers. Honey. Orange zest. Light menthol and mint leaves. Orange fruit sugars. Water keeps similar but more water adds apples.

Body: Mead. Thick. Golden syrup. Pepper. Brown bread. Syrup cake. Slight cough syrup. Water makes more menthol. Pears. Soft apricot. Vanilla. Peppercorn.

Finish: Peppery. Vanilla. Brown bread. Vanilla yogurt. Light menthol. Water adds more menthol.

Conclusion: Right, I’m never sure if American whiskey – be it bourbon, rye, corn or whatever – should have water added to it. I know the stereotype is with ice but I’ve never taken to that. What I do know though is that for this one, with and without water is a heck of a different experience.

Neat it feels like the platonic ideal of a rye whiskey in my (admittedly comparatively limited) experience. It is peppery and spicy over a sweet, syrupy base that makes it heavy and thick. Even taking into account the 50% abv this can take a metric wodge of water and still feel thick and syrupy on the tongue. It is a heavy, rustic, thick, peppery and just plain rye biscuit tasting whiskey.

Water, well, first comes out the menthol notes. Initially this is a drawback as combined with the thickness of the texture you get a kind of sickly cough syrup taste. This is but a stepping stone though, keep adding water you get past that, warning, it takes more water than you would think.

With that huge amount of water you finally get green fruit added into the menthol – lighter notes, still against the pepper spice, but hear a more revealing and subtly fruity whiskey rather than the sheer rye assault.

Neat it is the rye beast, water makes slightly too menthol, but with enough water it does have a rewardingly fruity spirit to go with the peppery rye even if it doesn’t 100% work like that. Still, this is a whiskey about the rye and going for that I have to say it does that bloody well.

Background: Since my mind has been expanded recently on the breakdown of American whiskey styles, including exactly what constituents a bourbon and what doesn’t, which I find I have been getting wrong for a while, I wanted to dance back into the American whiskey again, and I decided to go with the rye. Grabbed at Independent Spirit after having sampled a few ryes, this was drunk while listening to Guns and Roses – Appetite for Destruction. It just felt right.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Single Cask: No 2650 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 6 Year: 59.3% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Cherries and black cherries. Rich red wine. Slight darker red wine notes as well. Shortbread. Red grapes. Water makes lightly tarry and oily.

Body: Creamy. Cherries. Sweet red wine. Water brings apricot, plums and light sulphur. Chewy feel. Fudge.

Finish: Black cherry. Creamy. A mix of rye and bourbon whisky notes. Apricot. Water adds plums, lightly grassy. Light charred notes and greenery.

Conclusion: It is odd, looking at these notes, I am using a lot of the same words that I used to describe the port pipes Chichibu whisky, but when you examine them holistically rather than point by point they are very different whiskies. For example. This leans heavier on the darker fruit, and less on the lighter fruit, which instantly creates a darker, heavier impression on the tongue and in the mind.

It is heavy on the dark red wine notes, sweet but with the harder charred oak notes below. Again most of the base spirit character is lost to the weight of the barrel ageing, but the greenery notes do come out with a lot of water added. It is a lot creamier than the other Chichibu I tried tonight, giving a nice, smooth mouthfeel.

This is a rewarding dark whisky, but does not really stand out from the other similarly sherry aged whiskies around and you can get them a lot cheaper than this. This is a very good whisky, but despite that it is not a stand out one. If you like sherry, then this does sherry ageing very obviously, utterly laden with dark fruit, but from that the base character is overwhelmed.

Glad to have tried it, but there are better examples of sherry you can buy for less.

Background:. One final Chichibu whisky of the tasting – this one a single cask – cask no 2650 to be exact, aged from 2010 to 2016, so, six years aged I guess, ish. This one is a travel exclusive, so I presume only available at certain airports. Again, a bloomin’ hard one to get hold of then. This was aged first in bourbon casks then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Cask Strength Port Pipes 2012 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 59 % ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy red touched gold.

Nose: Red and black cherries. Liquorice. Plums. Raisins. Pencil shavings. Subtle custard. Cherry blossom. Water adds more pencil shavings and more liquorice.

Body: Sweet dessert wine. Cherries. Strawberries. Digestive biscuits. Water brings out oak and brown bread.

Finish: : Strawberries. Oak. Port. Blackberries and blueberries. Alcohol air. Raisins. Water makes lightly grassy. Sweet apples. Apricot. Molasses touch.

Conclusion: Oh this is so nice – an experience like utterly sweet dessert wine mixed in with wodges of sweet red fruit. It is not light, but similarly it is not a fiery one. While I will advise using water to find your right balance for the flavour, that is all your really need the water for as it is not harsh despite the stupendous abv.

While water helps find the sweet spot, your are getting a lot from the whisky from the very first moment. Huge red fruit from the port ageing – strawberries, cherries, lots of red wine, lots of dessert wine and lots of port. The greenery notes that I have come to, over the past hour or so, associate with the Chichibu spirit do come out, but you need a lot of water to do so and it is only a small backing behind the port influence. Is is the benefit and flaw or port ageing that it can punch out over nearly anything.

Now, with that tiny point to keep in mind, this is delightful. Full of sweet fruit, but not sickly – clean feeling but you can get the more greenery and rustic character out of it if you really try. It has the bright red fruit, and darker and heavier fruit notes below, hitting the high and low of that range. An amazing one to try and probably the standout of the five as long as the port dominance does not bother you.

Background:I am a sucker for whisky that is aged in port pipes, it seems to add so much to a whisky. Though it can be very dominant and override the base spirit some times, so a treat best enjoyed in moderation in my experience. If I took my notes correctly (again, alcohol was involved..) this is an exclusive bottling for the Mitsukoshi Isetan department stores in Japan, so I considered myself very lucky to get to try it. This was bottled 2017 so I am estimating it as a 5 year based on that. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichubu: IPA Cask Finish 2017 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.5% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold with slow thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Menthol liqueur. Peppermint. Greenery. Stewed apricots. Pine needles. Water adds more evident mint leaves. Guava.

Body: Apricot. Oily. Alcohol weight. Water adds passion-fruit and guava. More oils. Greenery. More water adds more fruit including orange and much more guava.

Finish: Menthol. Oily. Hop oils. Tarry notes. Pine needles. Passion fruit. Water adds orange jelly sweets.

Conclusion: First impressions on this was was pretty unimpressive. It was really thick, really oily on the aroma, which can be good points, but here it just felt muggy. The first sips were equally oily with a thick, burning character from the alcohol strength which felt rougher than the other, equally high strength Chichibu’s I had tried that night. I was beginning to think that between this and the Glenfiddich IPA cask that ageing whisky in ex beer casks, or at least IPA casks, just did not work.

Now, following the usual path I then added water and – oh wow, water really did change things in a big way. Slowly but surely the oily notes shift and oily fruit notes come out. First you get apricot, then guava, which combined with the hop oil character really sells the IPA imagery that this is sold upon, while still backing it with the whisky weight of character.

It results in a very different experience- fruity, but not in the standard whisky way of sharp hits of fruit sweets, rich vinous fruit, or subtle slivers of backing fruit in the spirit, instead coming in a creamier fruit fashion and with a range of east coast to New England fruity IPA style.

This is terrible neat, but with water it show how IPA ageing should work and is a fascinating dram.

Background: Next up in the Chichibu tastings we have this unusual bottling – the 2017 bottling that has been aged in an IPA cask. This was paired with and IPA from Uiltje which I saved until I have done the majority of my notes. Again unsure of the distilled date on this so not sure of the age of it. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

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