Tag Archive: 10 Year


the-macphail-collection-balblair-10-year

The Macphail Collection: Balblair: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked grain. Smooth. Lime. Vanilla. Water changes little.

Body: Light alcohol touch. Slightly empty. Murky water. Water adds vanilla, white chocolate and vanilla toffee. Lime touch. Honey. More water adds raisins and spiced red wine.

Finish: Oak. Malt chocolate. Alcohol sheen. Murky water. Water adds white chocolate. Honey. Gin air and juniper berries. More water adds spiced red wine.

Conclusion: This seems extremely non distinctive for a whisky, especially for a Balblair. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with the distillery, but every one has stood out, and also stood on their own two feet. This – less so.

Without water it actually feels pretty empty. Alcohol touched but not heavily so, with just a kind of murky taste. If you take your time to let it open up then you do manage to get some hints of what I presume is the bourbon side of the ageing – white chocolate comes out and such like. However it is still indistinct and pretty bad as a whisky, let alone a Balblair whisky.

So let’s jump straight on to after we have added that often game changer – water! That makes it better, right? Yes. Yes it does. That makes it worth drinking, right? No. No it really doesn’t.

It brings out what feels like some sherry barrel influence – as opposed to the slight burbon influence that showed up neat. There is slight spiced red wine and raisins – nothing too unusual and far less distinct than in nearly every other sherry touched whisky I have tried. More water brings out a tad more of this, but also makes everything else even less distinct.

It isn’t actually painful (unlike, say Isawa whiskey) but it is bad. Probably duller than the Tamdhus I have encountered. I generally like Balblair, but this does nothing for me.

A let down and a bad whisky.

Background: Saw this miniature at Corks Of Cotham when I was up there recently – lovely wee place. You don’t see many miniatures of independent bottlings, nor of Balblair, so fished it out and grabbed it. Put some The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay on while drinking. That album is 8 years old now – Wish a lot of the themes in it about anti Islam sentiment weren’t still as relevant today as they were back then.


Ballechin: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Very slow, thin streaks.

Nose: Massive peat and beef broth. Grassy. Beef crisps. Slight alcohol, but mainly smooth. Water adds a slight menthol character.

Body: Sweet apricot front. Light granite and alcohol. Intense smoke. Peaty beef. Short lived toffee. Lime syrup. Brown bread. Caramel and treacle. Water makes smoother and grassier. Fruitcake. More water adds apples, slight creamy character and dried apricot.

Finish: Barbecued charred beef. Smoke and peat. Lightly grassy. Caramelized brown sugar and malted drinks. Light custard. Water adds cherry and black cherries. Orange crème. Caramel. Chocolate liqueur.

Conclusion: Well, this really is different to Edradour, which you may feel goes without saying, but even for a peated expression this felt different. Question is, is it any good?

Well, intense peat booms out from the front – beefy, smoky, you know the drill by now. Not much else at this point – none of the Islay harshess that peat often calls to mind, and the native Highland sweetness is well hidden. There is a slight grassy character, Springbank style, but otherwise you just get the peat ascendant here.

There is a sweet front when you sip, but it is rapidly punched down by the peat. In fact, let’s skip ahead a bit – basically all I was going to say for the experience without water is peat and beef – simple, ok, but very one note. Let’s get past all that and get some water play going already.

Now the goof old Edradour character I know comes out – there is still booming peat, but now matched by a lightly creamy and very fresh fruit whisky underneath. In fact even some of the caramel sweetness starts coming out to play. More recognisable as a cousin to Edradour and much better for it.

Lots of fresh apples and cream, drying smoke and peat – the sweetness is more treacle and caramel with lots of dark touches. Even with water there is some prickly alcohol though. It feels pretty unbalanced – the flavours aren’t well matched, but it is an interesting experience. It feels like an attempt to shove all the whisky regions into one – grass from Campbeltown, Islay peat, Highland sweetness and Speyside fruitiness. Island and lowland, erm, ok, I can’t think of any for them, but run with me on this one ok?

I can’t say I would recommend it as it is too all over the place, but it is not bad. However we seem to have a renaissance of peated, sweet and light whisky going on right now and there are many that play the game far better. Ok, but with nothing to call its unique element.

Background: Doing a lot of the peated variants on distilleries whisky at the moment it seems. This is a peated take on the Edradour whisky which I grabbed from The Whisky Exchange. Thought it was worth grabbing a bunch of miniatures while I ordered a normal sized bottle . Not much more to add. Drunk while listening to Against Me!’s live album.

Whistlepig 10 Year

Whistlepig:Straight Rye Whisky: 10 Year ( Canadian Whiskey: 10 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold.

Viscosity: Thick fast streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Vanilla. Honey and syrup. Perfumed orange. Spicy. Water adds light pepper notes.

Body: Warming. Orange. Rye crackers. Vanilla and honey. Water adds treacle and light liquorice. Malt drinks. More orange, brown bread and maybe light peach with more water.

Finish: Orange. Vanilla. Toffee. Water adds white pepper, brown bread and maybe light peach.

Conclusion: First up, this kindly given sample is about a half a normal measure, so please consider this more of a first impressions than a full tasting note, but I will still give it my best shot!

The most notable characteristic is the smoothness. Despite a 50% abv it is warming, but no more than that – and water soothes even that level of fire if you need it more easy going still.

Next up, and also easily distinct, is the base. It has that shredded wheat, rye crackers and brown bread kind of base that I would associate more with bourbon than whiskey – however it is not too harshly pushed. There is some spice from the rye, but again that is balanced. It also doesn’t push the sweetness too hard, it has honey notes, and familiar bourbon barrel aged vanilla, but very smooth. Generally smooth sums up the base well in all its implementation.

So, what it does push however, and what is probably the most interesting characteristic for this for me, is a soft creamy orange note. Very unexpected and tasty. It nestles amongst the rye notes nicely and adds a bright middle to it. There is also, and here again softly done, a mild fruitiness in other ways.

It feels like a whisky that has a lot of character but no need to push them too hard, it just lets them slip out slowly. It would be very interesting to see what comes out of this with more time for experimentation.

So, at the end of these first impressions, it looks good. Very easy to drink, soft, but well developed flavours. Uses the rye without being dominated by it. Definitely warrants full investigation.

Background: A very unusual one here, Independent Spirit gave me a small sample, about half measure, of this to try. Many thanks. They also provided a photo of the bottle as I did not have my camera with me, the sample I took in the cleaned out Masters of Malt jar photographed. The whiskey is distilled in Canada, aged for a while but then moved to the USA for further ageing. In interest of simplicity I have listed this as Canadian.

Ichiro's Malt The Final Vintage Of Hanya

Ichiro’s Malt: The Final Vintage Of Hanya (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 59% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Initial fast streaks then thin slow streaks follow.

Nose: Big, very big. Chocolate fudge and honey. Praline. Crushed peanuts. Pencil shavings. Mild orange peel. Mild coffee. Water expands with white grape and smoke. More water makes for a more wood character.

Body: Very warming. Milky coffee. Burns if held but not initially. Charred oak. Bitter. Slicker with water – sour white grapes. White chocolate. Dried beef. Sweeter grapes and beefier as more water goes in. Still very viscous with water.

Finish: Dry oak. Water adds dry beef slice notes. Malt chocolate. More water adds pepper and spice racks, grapes and bitter cocoa.

Conclusion: I’m being very careful with this one, trying a little slice of history. I knew that the whisky would be harsh neat – is is 59% – but I still needed to try just a little sip like that, to do otherwise would feel like a waste. After my little mouth numbing indulgence I then had to walk the thin line between adding enough water to get it in the perfect state before I had finished it, and the fear of drowning the whisky.

The aroma, as the item that is most easily examined without consuming, therefore gives the best insight into what we have here. It is deep, thick and a mix between praline chocolate and fudge. When water enters the equation it remains thick, but now with viscous grapes freshening it without diminishing the weight of character. In all things it feels big, yet somehow not raw.

Even as I enter the main whisky, sipping upon the liquid I find one that becomes burning if held too long, and numbing in the finish, one that needs water, but despite that, even neat there is a smoothness to it. It is numbing, but not harsh in raw alcohol character. Water takes it from this deep, heavy, coffee touched beast to a lighter, yet still peat or beef touched, grape sweet style. The balance swaying between those depending on water and there is plenty of room to find your balance.

On the once through I gave it I find that I feel unprepared to give a complete verdict. I can feel that there is a lot of complexity to this- I have seen a lot of depth already and I have feeling that there is more to find. It makes full use of its high abv.

Purely based on what I have experienced I am happy to say that even with water this is a dark and almost bitter whisky. It allows you to find your level with the grape contrast but the main core is that bitterness, chocolate and nuts. If somehow you are lucky enough to try this, please do so.

Many thanks again to Chris of Independent Spirit for giving me this chance.

Background: Again- many, many thanks to Chris from Independent Spirit for this one. He got a small amount of this, the final vintage from the now closed Hanya distillery, and gave me some of that to sample. Distilled 2000 for bottling 2010 by my quick bit of internet research. With it being a necessarily small, yet awesome, sample my notes are not as long pondered as usual, but I do my best. To do any less in this situation would be a crime. I needed appropriately epic music for this, something elegant and yet bombastic. So I listened to Napalm Death. It is the only way. The container in the photo is not the original container. I took a photo of the original at Independent Spirit with a cheap phone camera, but as you can see below, I managed to get pretty much everything but the whisky in focus.

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Provenance Craigellachie Single Cask 10 Year

Provenance: Craigellachie Single Cask: 10 Year (Scotland Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, almost make spirit colour.

Viscosity: Many very thin, slow streaks.

Nose: Crushed peppermints. Vanilla. Make spirit. Gritty. Water makes more floral.

Body: Chocolate limes. Warming to burning. Vanilla toffee. Broth. Water adds some peat and beef slices along with honey and lime. More water brings out big toffee, honey. Smoother, with vanilla custard and apples.

Finish: Alcohol air. Chocolate limes. Wood. Dusty. Water brings out beef broth and dumplings. Lime and chocolate separate now. Sweeter with more water, light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Craigellachie can be an awesome wee dram – a fact I was reminded of by the recent Wemyss Barrista’s Dram which I tried at a recent whisky tasting. I was having a chilled night so didn’t do notes of that one – instead I later grabbed this hip flask sized bottle to try a different and younger expression.

Well, this is very definitely younger -almost make spirit in colour. Neat it has more of a feel than a taste for the most part; In fact it us a quite simple dram, though thankfully without that vodka jelly feel that some strong, young, spirits have. Anyway, not much to write home about. However at 46% abv there is plenty of room for water, so let’s see how that goes.

It helps. Brings out a light peat and the associated broth kind of notes, but the main help is that it really smooths out the sweetness that is the mainstay of the whisky. Vanilla custard sweetness and honey being the most noticeable it brings to the fore.

It is far smoother and more enjoyable here. Oddly at ten years it still plays with the fresh apple notes that I would associate with a far younger spirit. It, however, gains a more noticeable, kind of malt chocolate, traditional whisky character. Albeit less noticeable than in most whisky.

So, in the end we have a very fresh and vibrant whisky, with hints at rather than shows the full range of Craigellachie’s depths. It is nice enough with water, however it feels younger than it is and I know Craigellachie can do more.

So, ok, but not the best show of what the distillery can do.

Background: Think this is the first time I’ve done notes for a Craigellachie – it is a fine whisky, so I decided to grab this independent bottling from Independent Spirit. Nice hip flask size, always a favourite for sampling new whisky. On eye it looks a heck of a lot lighter than most Craigellachie whisky I have seen. Should be an interesting dram. Dunk while listening to the Paranoia Agent OST – that anime is mind blowing.

Hyde 10 Year Rum Finish

Hibernia: Hyde: 10 Year Rum Finish (Irish Single Malt Whiskey:10 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Raisins, or rum and raisin ice cream. Alcohol air but creamy and floral.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Rum and raisin ice cream. Alcohol warmth. Vanilla and almonds. Toffee. Water smoothes and makes even creamier. orange crème and chocolate.

Finish: Raisins. Ice cream. Light oak. Currants. Creamy. Water adds strawberry crème and Belgian chocolate. Oatmeal in milk.

Conclusion: What I have always like about Irish whiskey is the smoothness, however sometimes it can become too light for me, but I have found a big oak ageing can result in the best of both worlds. For example Teeling small batch matches lovely with the rum ageing. This takes that idea but puts in a more viscous character that a single malt can bring to really fill out both the creaminess and the raisins characters, adding to that smooth base.

The result is basically a rum and raisin ice cream whisky and it is delicious – so very easy to drink, but it doesn’t need any time to build up the flavour – you can grasp it almost immediately with the big but smooth flavours coming through.

Water doesn’t really alter the character, just lets you shift the intensity until you find a point where you are happy. I didn’t go overboard, but I did add a reasonable chunk of water and this still had a good grip and texture. The only real change was this kind of milky oatmeal mouthfeel that came out.

For flaws? Well, while this has a wonderful theme and keeps to it well, it does not change much – playing the same sweet toffee and vanilla base, with rum and raisin ice cream as the main deal the entire way through. You don’t really need to examine it too deeply.

Still, it is very easy drinking, and with the consistent character it would do well for a sharing session with friends. Well worth taking some time to kick back with and very enjoyable.

Background: Bias warning – This sample was provided to me free for tasting noting as part of a promotion the distillers were running on twitter. As always I will attempt to be unbiased. Based on Teeling Small Batch, Irish Whiskey seems to work well with rum finish, so I was looking forwards to trying this. Drunk while listing to some Fear Factory- I had seen them live recently so they were still in my head.

Miltonduff 10

Miltonduff: 10 (Scottish Speyside Single malt Whisky: 10 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: A mix of fast and medium speed medium streaks.

Nose: Slight sulphur. Cake sponge. Heather. Coriander. Water adds oats and dried raisins.

Body: Sharp lime. Honey. Light oak. Energetic feel. Slight bready middle. Orange crème. Apple liqueur. Water smoothes and integrates elements. Some fudge comes out.

Finish: Orange liqueur. Light oak. Apple liqueur. Pepper. Water adds toffee, aniseed and a floral air.

Conclusion: This is quite the pleasant whisky – everything I had heard before trying it seemed to be damning the distillery with faint praise. So, with that in mind I was very happy to find it a pleasing experience.

It has a lot of fruit spirit and fruit liqueur flavours, sweet but without becoming syrupy. It is like a mix of sharp and creamy fruit liqueurs laid over a solid whisky template, In fact it reminds me of what would happen if those very bright flavours you often get in a make spirit managed to keep themselves present into a fully aged spirit.

Without water it is tasty but a bit over energetic which gives a slight fire to it. With water a soft toffee character rises, but more importantly the fire softens and the characters integrate together creating a very bright and cheery whisky.

I think what ties it together is the solid middle. The touch of sulphur in the aroma seemed out of place to me, but in the body it became a thickness, along with the bready character, which provides not so much a flavour, but instead a stability of character under the sweet elements.

It is a remarkably cheery whisky, easy to drink and a joy to do so. It I may fear to damn it with faint criticism, it does not do anything really to make it a stand out whisky – no fine polish or unique character. However it is a joy to drink for a night – I would guess anyway – I may have to test the theory with a larger bottle some time.

Background: Last of the set of miniatures I grabbed from The Whisky Exchange, a set I had grabbed to try sample whiskys from distilleries I had yet to do notes on. This one was drunk while listening to Rise Against: Endgame. Yes, recent comments in reviews made me return to more albums with “against” in the name.

Tomintoul 10

Tomintoul 10 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain.

Viscosity: Very fast, medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Grain fields. Alcohol tingle is noticeable. Vanilla. Wet heather. Lime. Light sulphur. Water adds a subdued gherkin prickle instead of the alcohol one.

Body: Smooth. Light lime sorbet. Cake sponge and vanilla. Light custard. Water sweetens, adding sugar dusting and light toffee.

Finish: Light alcohol tingle. Brown bread. Lime. Cake sponge. Chocolate. Soft lemon. Water loses the alcohol tingle.

Conclusion: Been a while, Tomintoul was one of the first single malts I tried. In fact, this exact one, the ten year, is the first single malt I distinctly remember paying attention to while drinking. Well, first Scottish single malt anyway. As mentioned in the background – I didn’t take to it. However there has been a nigh whisky lifetime between then and now, and I have found some Tomintouls I enjoy, so, returning to this one I find it…..?

Eh, still not a favourite. With water it has some play though, unlike taking it neat where it seems to contradict its raison d’etre as “the gentle dram” by having a bit of a cheap spirit alcohol burn top and tail. However thankfully water deals with that.

With water it is gentle, like cake sponge crumbling on the tongue in dram form, with soft toffee notes. The water doesn’t add much, so much as much as make pleasant, but it is pretty much the definition of gentle whisky. Now for me the other expressions from this distillery offer more of what I would like, still the gentle dram, but with a twist. This, like several other gentle whiskys, feels more like a base that can be built on rather than a decent whisky in itself. Admittedly it is a very proficient base, with water this just glides down, but it doesn’t make much of an impression as it does so.

So, eh, not a favourite, but it is still interesting to return to this after all this time, and after finding other whiskys from the same distillery that I like. It is like a guide to where they started from, which was a nice moment in itself.

Background: “The gentle dram” as it is so called. I ran into this ten year expression many years ago when I was first getting into single malt, it was part of a Tomintoul mini three pack. I wasn’t impressed. Anyway, since then I have grown to respect a wider range of whisky so though I would give it another go. This was picked up from “Independent Spirit“, and was drunk while listening to the “Super Meat Boy” soundtrack, because obviously I like to be reminded of times of my own suffering.

Dailuaine Provenance Single Cask

Provenance: Dailuaine: 10 Year: Single Cask (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 10 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Grain to gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Jelly babies. Spice. Pencil shavings. Water opens to crushed meringue, paprika and cinnamon. Some oak.

Body: Trifle. Raspberry. Spicy warmth. Brandy cream. Oak. Vanilla. Water lightens and adds coriander.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Oak. Brandy cream. Water gives a warming air and slight vodka feel. Coriander.

Conclusion: A while back I was discussing Amrut in Brewdog Bristol, and the resident whisky expert on the staff mentioned that he liked it as it had an almost Indian spice character which was unique to it rather than just copying scotch style. Now, I never really got that so much, but I bring it up as, well, it looks like Scotland has done that as well now.

This, not so well known distillery, is an odd mix. There is quite thick, cheap vodka, feel initially, but soon after it vanishes if you let it air. Then you get the meat of it, with brandy cream, raspberry trifle sweetness, mixing with Indian spice warmth.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Sounds shit right? You wouldn’t pour coriander on a trifle (Seriously don’t do that, it’s awful. Someone did that to me as a prank once). The odd thing is, I am really liking this. It has sweetness, warmth, and grounding oak. They compliment each other remarkably well. I can see why this isn’t a better known distillery if this is typical for the distillery, it is very unusual, but I would say it deserves recognition. It is dry and spicy for much of the time, then you get dessert treats rewarding you for your patience.

It does weaken with water, well mostly, the aroma does get far better and loses the harsher edges, but that is a contrast to the body which loses a lot of the complexity, becoming a more simple, if still unusual, spicy whisky.

So, based on this experience, this is a distillery well worth seeking out for something off the beaten track, and I will be keeping my eyes open for further expressions.

Background: Hip flask sized whisky! Again I found a 20cl bottle of a distillery I had not tried before at “The Tasting Rooms“, and after the success of the last one I was happy to grab this one to try again. This was distilled 2003, and drunk while listening to quite insane Pon Pon Pon meets metal. Before anyone judges me, Pon Pon Pon ties back to a memory of holiday in Japan, and metal makes everything better.

Speyburn 10

Speyburn: 10 Year (Scottish highland single malt whisky: 10 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Light grain gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Heather. Floral. Rose wine. Pencil shavings. Cake sponge. With water cereal grains.

Body: Soft. Vanilla. Cake sponge. Heather. Earthy touch. Cereal grains. Husked grains. Custard. Lime sorbet. Even softer with water, more cake and now a cream centre. Maybe a touch of jam with it.

Finish: Slightly earthy touch. Clean alcohol touch. Malt chocolate. Heather. Orange crème. Oddly slightly bigger with water.

Conclusion: Is it actually ironic when a whisky named “Burn” is actually really soft or is it just Alanis Morissette Ironic?

Either way this is gently sweet, with a slight earthy and fields like touch. Mildly rougher on the way out than when it comes in, but not massively so.

It is quite a neutral whisky, slight cake sponge, vanilla and such, with a bit of cereal like character coming out with water. It has a kind of cereal grain texture almost as it goes along the tongue, though never a roughness. It is a pleasant whisky, but not one I overly remember when I am done drinking it. There is a certain element of rustic charm, of fields and earth, but they are at the very edge against the sweetness.

Again it is one of those whiskies that I feel is well designed for people who aren’t me. It is a whisky of gentle days and long time sipping, refilling the glass over and over, as you watch the day while away. To be enjoyed by the session, not by the measure.

For my taste it feels like the base of a whisky, rather than a full whisky itself. It is the starting point you add elements to. It does however nicely encapsulate that whisky character in a smooth and easy going way.

So a gentle whisky, and not badly made, however it doesn’t fall under I style I overly appreciate, so I do not feel qualified to say if fans of softer whisky will enjoy it. For me it is a moment spent, not painfully, but not memorably either.

Background: So, my attempt to try a whisky from every active distillery in Scotland continues. Now with Speyburn. Technically I had tried them before at a few whisky festivals, but they tended to be quite late on in the proceedings, so probably didn’t show them in the best light. This was picked up as part of a three pack in Independent Spirit. I drank this while listening to some of the “Useless Trinkets” album from The Eels. I had seen the Eels live a few weeks back and was enjoying this B sides and oddities album.

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