Tag Archive: 11 year


Douglas Laing’s Provenance Single Cask: Auchentoshan 11 Year (Scottish Lowland Whisky: 11 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light and pale, with a slight brackish hue. Very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Strawberry crème. Viscous alcohol notes. Dark Belgian chocolate. Pine cones and pine needles. Water adds peppermint, more water turns menthol.

Body: Warming. Grapes. Shortbread. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Lightly peppery. Water adds slight sulphur. More water adds creamy notes and lots of grapes. Cinnamon doughnuts.

Finish: Oaken. Pine spray. Menthol. Fudge. Strawberry crème. Water makes more menthol. Mint leaves. More water adds grapes, light cinnamon and Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion:There are lots of different elements in this – ones I would never expect to see side by side. The most disparate elements never seem to overlap, instead you get each of the distinctly different elements coming out one after each other.

First aroma notes come out like Belgian chocolate and strawberry crème- yet the body after that comes out as tart grapes and light fudge. Then, as that goes out the strawberry crème comes back out in the finish.

On another run it was alcohol strong, piney and heavy on the aroma, going into a peppery body, then somehow out into menthol freshness in the finish. I’d like to claim that it is water, or time that makes this change – but while water does bring changes, it seems like any of the prior elements can return at any point.

So, to try and generalise a whisky that seems to actively resist categorisation – well, generally there are some grapes. Generally there are slight pine to pine cone notes. It is generally smooth but warming and generally there are some sweet notes behind that – be it toffee, chocolate of strawberry.

What is oddest, for all that is odd about this whisky, is that for all the odd notes, this does not actually really stand out as a whisky. It has the odd moments, as described above, but they all clinging around a solid but unexceptional whisky. Very contrary, no? Not bad, hard to sum up which is a value in itself. Not a must have, not one to avoid. Not bad.

Background: Yay, mini hip flasks of whisky- chances to try different experimentations without spending a vast amount on a full size bottle. It is especially nice with lowland ones like this as I can be a bit mixed on how I find stuff from this region. The Provenance lot, whisky taken from a single cask and bottled at just a tad stronger strength than normal, has been pretty solid so far. I grabbed it from Independent Spirit and put on Miracle Of Sound’s Level 8 while drinking – very cool drinking music.

Springbank: Local Barley: 11 Year (Campbeltown Single Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 53.1% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Mix of slow puckering and fast streaks.

Nose: Peat smoke. Wheat field. Vanilla. Slight grapes. Slight sour character. Buttery shortbread. Sulphur touch. Menthol. Water brings more sour fruits.

Body: Slight sour grapes, alcohol touch. Vanilla toffee. Oily. Water brings slight caramel, lightly grassy character. Apples and peppery character.

Finish: Floral air. Strong alcohol. Quince rakia. Slight white wine. Vanilla. Light oily nuts. Malt chocolate and toffee. Dry Madeira. Water gives a menthol air, smoke and apples. Drying notes.

Conclusion: This is very unusual for a Springbank. It does have the grassy character, the slight smoke – it is identifiable as a Springbank. However it is unusual in that it has a slightly sour, kind of fresh taste to it. It reminds me a bit of quince rakia, and it it makes it a fresher, less heavy base that gives this an entirely different feel overall.

Into that freshness is a light vanilla sweetness – the two interact interestingly with those aforementioned Springbank core elements – the grassiness isn’t very pronounced, instead giving a slight solid grounding to what is actually a quite clean feeling spirit. Also, in that clean spirit some of the younger spirit flavours – apples and green fruits, but delivered in a smooth aged whisky style. It even has a slight menthol freshness mixing in with unusual base, resulting a a minty touched mouth tingling feel overall.

It really does emphasis that unusual base – sour grapes touched and tingling. I would call it unique, except I actually have a recent reference point – this feels like a single malt equivalent to the 40 year Timorous Beastie that confused me so much at the last Uber tasting. This isn’t as complex, but is heavier and thicker – however they both show the same unusual tart mouthfeel.

I find this more an interesting experience than an awesome standout whisky, so it isn’t the best of the Springbank range – however it still shows the Springbank quality and is very good. One I’d say to definitely try if you get the chance, but hard to justify grabbing a full bottle of.

Background: Second of the whiskies I tried at the second Uber Whisky tastings that Independent Spirit have done this year. I am a huge fan of Springbank, so this was one I really looked forwards to. This is the second release of “Local barley”, whisky made with barley from local farms (in this case Bere barley from Aros Farm). The first release was a 16 year, this one is 11 year and one of approximately 9000 bottles. Anyway, as always for these events – I was doing my notes in a social environment, with five strong whiskies back to back – my notes may be affected by other peoples thoughts, the drunkenness, and the other whisky I had. However, as before, for trying five expensive and rare whiskies like this I could hardly miss the chance to do some notes. Hope they are ok by you.

Provenance Glen Spey 2012

Provenance: Glen Spey: Single Cask 2012 (Scottish Single Cask Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Brackish water.

Viscosity: Mix of fast and middling streaks.

Nose: Strong cheap vodka spirit. Fiery. Raw make spirit. Pear drops. Green apples.

Body: Surprisingly smooth. Vanilla toffee and apples. Fire rises. Zest orange, quite sweet into orange crème. Smoothes over time. Water smoothes the fire massively but flavours diminish. More apples come out though.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Pears. Vanilla. Orange sorbet. Shredded wheat. Lime sorbet. Cheap vodka. Water makes less distinctive, adds digestives.

Conclusion: I’ve said it a lot really but…huh. It is a good word/utterance. You could hold an entire conversation with it if you add enough body language to aid.

The first sniff of this was pretty much rocket fuel. It felt half way between cheap vodka and raw make spirit. Now, I will admit I hadn’t given it long to air before drinking, but it was still far rougher than usual. So, I waited, and then took the first feared sip and…

Pretty darn smooth. There is a thick feel like cheap vodka spirit in the middle but the fire is way down. Subtle green fruit and vanilla notes against a lovely sharp orange. So, confused, I held the glass to the light. It still looked the same, brackish greened water, so light that it could be mistaken for very young spirit. Yet here it was, the flavours were similar to younger spirit, but far smoother than the aroma warned. There was that thicker texture, like cheap vodka, and the fire never completely dies down but still much more impressive than expected.

So onto the next step, adding water. It kills the fire, but the flavours become more indistinct with it, making for a whisky that tastes like a mix of biscuits and lime. Not unpleasant actually, not as harsh, but I did prefer the sharp fresh notes you got neat, for all the issues. So a bit of a trade off then. There’s also quite a bit of apples with water, like calvados aged whisky against malted drinks. Again interesting, but not as fresh as when taken neat.

So, a very interesting experiment, very fresh and raw. Even with water you do get good flavour, all green fruit and limes (which yes, I know is a green fruit, but I felt was worth pointing out separately for its prominence), if muted. If you ignore the aroma it is even nicely smooth. With the aroma it is a bit rough, and far from the compete package for a whisky. I would compare it as a rougher Hakushu 12, and it feels younger than its 11 years, but it does have charm in its exhuberance.

I cannot recommend this over the Hakushu, which does everything better, but it is a lively one to visit, for all its raw spirit like issues.

Background: 20cl bottles, a nice compromise between the risk of buying blind 70cl of spirit, and the one off visit of a 5cl mini. This independent bottling was found at The Tasting Rooms in Bath. I’ve never tried Glen Spey, nor any bottling from Provenance before, so it seemed a god time to give them a shot. Looking online, this seems to be one of their seasonal set of releases, this being a spring release. This is single cask and unchillfiltered. Broke out a bit of Nine Inch Nails as a backdrop to this tasting.

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The Old Malt Cask: Allt-A-Bhainne 50 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 11 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Buttery gold.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Very thick toffee pavlova. Slightly tarry. Butterscotch and barley. No burn but feels very whisky styled on the nostrils. Water makes banoffee and peanuts.

Body: Thick. Lime touch. Nutty. Grapefruit at the front. Water adds key lime and meringue. More water makes lightly tarry and quite sweet. A mix of banoffee and treacle tart.

Finish: Light nuttiness. Butterscotch. Charred oak. Grapefruit again. Water makes toffee and malt biscuits. The alcohol feels numbing here. Milky chocolate and banana. Treacle tart with more water.

Conclusion: Hard to get a grip on this whisky initially as it seemed to almost evaporate on hitting the tongue. The whisky air filled my mouth with a strong, and very distinctly whisky feel, but with few distinct elements coming out. I found that odd as the aroma before that had been very distinct – sweet and slightly tarry with pavolva elements.

Now, this is a 50% abv whisky, so I wasn’t overly surprised that a bit of water helped out, especially in the previously numbing finish. A mix of banana and toffee elements came out amongst a light nuttiness.  There was still a slight indistinctness mid body, yet at no point did it seem to lack flavour. It just seemed very much to taste like whisky, a fact which could explain its popularity in blending- it feels very archetypical.

Even more water finally helped define it. Light banana became evident instead of that odd, almost citrus flavour in the raw and powerful neat whisky.  Here you can see smooth dessert treacle tart sweetness and light nuttiness. Here it becomes a very pleasant whisky, and very distinct in the elements I recognised in Chivas Regal.

Neat it was a bit harsh edged, water makes much more easy going. A whisky banana liquor mix and nicer than that sounds. The whisky is always the defining characteristic. It’s more like little banana chunks thrown into the mix.

I enjoyed it both with and without water, and the dessert sweetness was very soothing but it isn’t better than a lot of the better known malts. What I did get great enjoyment from was the experience of it having previously tried both the Chivas Blend and the Strathisla single malt which gives an intriguing insight into how the whiskys combine.

As a whisky very smooth and, while simple neat, becomes quite flavoursome with water. There are better, so if the status as a component of Chivas doesn’t interest you then you may want to look elsewhere. However if you are interested then this is a nice way to explore, and the strength means you can really experiment with the full range it can bring to the table.

Background: According to a bit of research this whisky is mainly used in Chivas Regal blended whisky and is pretty uncommon as a single malt.  This bottle was a gift from my parents for Christmas, and a good choice to pick one of the distilleries I have never tried before. The bottle is referred to as “Advance Sample” which, according to master of malt, is because they are intended to duplicate the sample bottles sent out for deciding if a cask should be bottled. This was put in a single sherry butt in 2000 and bottled 2011.

Talisker: Distiller Edition (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 45.8% ABV)

(Age is based on distilling 2000, bottling 2011, may be slightly off depending on the months)

Visual: Honeyed gold.

Viscosity: Comes down as a clear sheet at medium speed.

Nose: Smoke, aniseed and peat.  Underlying gooseberries.  Prickle like just off ripe berries. Shortbread. Water adds pomegranate and dried orange.

Body: Big peat and smoke. Syrupy back. Dried beef slices. Slight mulled wine spices. Elderberry at the back. Water adds marmalade to the mix and toffee. Possibly orange crème centres.

Finish: Dry beef crisps/Dried beef. Peat and smoke. Water adds milk chocolate.

Conclusion: By far the most subtle of the Distillers Editions for the influence of the secondary maturation. Odd as subtle is not a word oft used with the delicious Talisker whisky. However without water this actually is possibly even a tad heavier than the standard Talisker whisky, as opposed to most of the other Distillers Editions which were all significantly sweeter. There is subtle fruit notes rounding it out but they are all distinctly background elements.

It’s still a very nice whisky, but when you add a few drops of water, that’s when the show really begins.  A light orange sweetness is revealed, still understated but it lends a new lightness of touch to a forceful whisky.

Always slightly tongue numbing, even with water, it uses that extra punch to really bring the flavour home rather than just bring a burn, and it is very welcome.  The more water you add the sweeter the whisky gets, within reason of course, but it never comes close to overpowering the peat and smoke main whisky. This gives a lot of room to find just the right balance for your whisky, well as long as you are a fan of the heavier whiskys to begin with.

The dry fruit is a great addition, all oranges or apricot flavours which complement rather than fight this peat gripped whisky. Not as different an expression as other distillers edition but easily as high quality.

Background: Based on research (ok, ok google, that vaguely counts as research) this was double matured with Oloroso sherry casks used for the secondary maturation.  I love the varied distillers editions and have been trying to review them all. Now all I’m missing is the Lagavulin which oddly is the one I have actually drunk the most often.  Drunk at the Rummer hotel which has friendly knowledgeable staff and a great spirit selection.

Signatory Vintage: Caol Ila 1999 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky. 11 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very light grain tinge.

Viscosity: A mixed set of thin and fast streaks, medium thickness and slow streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Moderate peat and smoke. Almonds or maybe marzipan. Pencil shavings. Water makes slight charcoal and a sweet touch of orange crème centres.

Body: Smooth. Custard. Kippers. Dry touches. Beef undertones. Salt lightly. Orange. Water makes sweeter, a mix of custard and broth. Grapes.

Finish: Smoke. Very dry. Peat. Vanilla and orange. Less dry with water. Fudge and chocolate come out. White grapes.

Conclusion: I’ve spent so long trying different independent bottlings of Caol Ila that it gets hard keeping track of them for mental comparison.  I have an image of the one I consider my favourite and all items are compared to that, but I fear I have built up that whisky too much in my mind compared to its actual stature.

This the fact that this impresses me and stands out on its own is amazing as it has to fight against not just great Caol Ila expressions but my romanticised memories thereof.

Caol Ila always does a great balance of sweet spirit against a moderate salty island character. This does that but also adds the oddity of light fruit cream centres and grapes. The elements are so light that they could be nigh illusionary, but they float there making the base flavours just that touch brighter and more drinkable.  The subtle contrast you find makes it that slight cut above the usual expectations.

You need a touch of water to fully appreciate it. Without that it is too dry, similar to a lot of SV bottlings I’ve noticed. I can overlook that as with water the grape rounding to the main body give the impression of a complex whisky that has spent a few short years in an unusual cask ageing. All this in a comparatively young and standard aged whisky. Very nicely done.

A very well done independent expression and well worth it for any Caol Ila fan.

Background: Drunk in the tasting rooms. I’m a huge Caol Ila fan, though notoriously I have never tried the standard expression. A wealth of independent bottling. Yep. Aged version yep. Unpeated version. Yep. Distillers edition. Yep. The bog standard expression. No. I really should get around to that at some point.

Gordon and Macphail: Scapa 1993 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 40% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Slow but thick streaks with some areas coming down in sheets.

Nose: Toffee, quite smooth. Vanilla. Touch of banana. Slight noticeable alcohol. Grain. Water makes for a distinctly more floral whisky.

Body: Big golden syrup comes in after several moments of distinctly light front. Toffee. Water adds sugared almonds, chocolate and honeycomb.

Finish: Charring and chocolate. Truffles. Slight rum filled chocolate liquors.  Water makes even more chocolate filled, but into a drier end. Buttered malt loaf, hint of syrup, lime and chocolate orange.

Conclusion: This is a really sweet whisky, with lots of chocolate, syrup and a very smooth texture. A big counterpoint to the stereotype of the harsh and briny island whisky, and very different to its island brother Highland Park.

This would get sickly fast as the only drink you have for an entire night, but does work well as a one off. It is all sweet flavours with nigh nothing offsetting it.

I did enjoy this as a simple and joyful whisky, distinctly non complex.  It plays with a similar chocolate finish as Bowmore 15 but without the slight harsher edge that keeps that one so very interesting

A cheerful whisky, but not a favourite,

Background: Oddly the bottle lists this as Highland Whisky, when research says this is from the Orkney Islands, the same islands that house the Highland Park distillery.  This particular bottling being matured in Refill Sherry American Casks.  I’ve seen Scapa whisky in the pubs a few times, but have never sampled it before today. Possibly due to the remarkably bland labelling never really catching the eye or the imagination.

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