Tag Archive: 15 Year

Midleton: Red Spot (Irish Single Pot Still Whiskey: 15 Year: 46% ABV)

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

Nose: Smooth toffee and honey. Touch of cherries. Vanilla. Grain fields. Barley cakes. Light fish oil. Water adds fudge cakes and apples.

Body: Apricot. Smooth. Honey. Apples to apple pie fillings. Raisins and sultanas into Madeira notes. Cherries. Light oak. Slightly drying. Water adds more apples and makes very smooth. A touch of liquorice comes out along with shortbread and rice crackers.

Finish: Madeira. Light oak. Plums. A gin air. Slightly drying. Water adds apples, honey sponge and a light menthol touch.

Conclusion: This is so smooth and yet such a rewarding whisky. 46% abv so a tad above the norm and yet still even neat it is super smooth and just two drops of water brings out everything perfectly

It mixes between the smooth honey and toffee backbone and the other notes that then dance over that backbone. Initially light apple notes … dominate seems the wrong word considering how they are nicely subtle … are most prominent is probably the best way to put it. It is a refreshing, easy drinking dram but over time the red fruit and heavier dark fruit notes show their way through to make this a really rich and rewarding experience.

It is like you get the best bits from a fruity speyside, a rich highland and the smooth as silk Irish whiskey all in one glass, with a bit of unusual barrel ageing love on top. Water adds both a fresh menthol touch at the end, but also a more shortbread like slightly more robust middle which makes for a more substantial whiskey overall.

On the down side water also adds a slight rice to rice crackers like character mid body. Nothing too bad, a light not quite right touch, but that is the worst I can say about it. The rest of the whiskey is fantastic.

This is genuinely one of the greatest Irish whiskeys I have tried – all of the smoothness you would expect and with the extra age and barrel ageing bringing such depth of character an already great spirit.

I am so very impressed.

Background: During a short trip with the family around Ireland we ended up with some time in Arklow and not much to do so we poked our heads into a pub called The Old Ship. I asked what irish whiskeys that they had that tended not to leave Ireland and they showed me a delectable set that included this Red Spot and 21 year Red Breast. After much umming and ahhing I went for the Red Spot. It was close. The person pouring accidentally put ice in when I had asked for no ice, and so removed the ice and gave me extra Red Spot to make up for it. I have zero complaints about this at all. Top notch. I was not going to do notes on this as I had no paper, but my parents both supplied paper, and picked up the cost of the whisky. Far too kind. Many thanks. Anyway the whisky, this is single pot still whiskey that has been aged in a mix of the usual Bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, but also Marsala fortified wine.


Douglas Laing: Longmorn: Old Particular: 15 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened clear spirit. Very thin puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Clean. Sage. Alcohol tingle. Water adds cereal grains, strawberry and honey.

Body: Vibrant alcohol. Lime. Vanilla toffee. Water adds strawberry crème. Alcohol jelly. Honey. More water adds sweet apricot.

Finish: Slightly meaty. Touch of smoke. Lime. Alcohol jelly. Water adds strawberry crème. Honey. More water adds cake sponge and lychee.

Conclusion: Ok, neat this one really lost me. It has a lot of alcohol character, not harsh but very present. It results in a whisky that is kind of closed, with just very basic lime and vanilla notes that are obvious, with hints of something else around that which are hard to pin down. So I gave it some time, took a few more sips, but I just couldn’t get a feel for anything deeper from it.

Water, well water starts breaking through the shell around this whisky and changes it completely. It is very sweet, almost sickly levels of honey comes out along with gentle strawberry crème. It is still not complex, and still alcohol touched but now radically different from both itself neat and most other whiskies I have encountered.

More water lightens the sweetness, losing some of the interesting and unique notes, but it does balance things out a bit better in response.

So, in my experience this varied between closed with too much alcohol, and stupidly sweet. The thing is, there are such unusual elements here, and it is a fair chunk stronger than the base 40% abv, that I figure it is likely there is something worthwhile hidden in there, it just needs more experimentation to find the perfect water level to unlock that.

From my experience then I cannot recommend it. However I can acknowledge that there may be more to be found that my quick dalliance with it may have revealed.

Make of that what you will.

Background: So, fourth time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. Only had a few encounters with Longmorn before and I don’t feel I quite have a handle on what to expect from this distillery yet so thought this would be an interesting one. Googled for more info on this bottling and can’t find anyone selling this particular expression yet at time of writing, so may not have hit the shelves yet. If anyone knows more please let me know. Went with The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantánamo Bay for music while drinking. One of those albums I still love but wish the world would change so it wasn’t still so bloody relevant.

Highland Park: Fire Edition (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Moderate speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Dry rum and brandy cream. Slight smoke. Moss. Thick aroma. Light oak. Butter. Water adds some blueberries.

Body: Toffee. Light caramel. Light treacle. Strawberry. Alcohol is noticeable. Buttered crumpets. Water brings out sweet butter. More strawberry. Fudge. Vanilla and brambles.

Finish: Alcohol air. Toast. Light charring. Red berries. Toasted teacakes. Butter. Smoke. Water brings more butter and red berries. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is very bready indeed – like a mix of toast to toasted teacakes. Really solid, and packed through with red fruit. It is very interesting examining this one immediately after the Springbank 25 year – they both wear their port influence proudly. This is more solid, and because of that is more immediately appreciable as a whisky. However because of that it also doesn’t wear quite the same range of flavour at the tail end of its life. By the way that isn’t intended as a harsh criticism – more an examination of the trade off you get with whisky. It is very nice, with subtle vanilla sweetness matched with lightly tart red and dark berries.

It is a full on, rich berry expression – very much pushing the imagery of picking your own berries on a summer picnic kind of thing – the Highland Park base giving a solid texture and weight for the fruity experience to work from.

It feels full of brambles – and if this was just slightly jammy it would make a perfect image of full on jam covered toasted sandwiches. It isn’t so it doesn’t, but it is that kind of thing it is coming close to. As it is it is a fresher faced experience, with a solid whisky base. Without water it feels a bit more thick and musky – with water the freshness of the fruit opens up. So, Springbank 25 wins on complexity – but you cannot go far wrong with this for a solid experience. Again, maybe not worth the cost of a fancy bottle, but very much worth trying if you can.

Background: Yep, it is the fourth of the whiskies tried at the recent Independent Spirit Uber Whisky Tasting. This one, well I am a big Highland Park fan, but I can’t quite shake the impression that you are paying a lot for the bottle on this one. It is a pretty bottle I will admit. Not several hundred quid pretty, but pretty. Anyway, this is one of 28,000 bottles and is aged completely in port casks. 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.

Glen Scotia 15 Year

Glen Scotia: 15 Year (Scottish Single Malt Campbeltown Whisky: 15 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Quite a few fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Golden syrup cakes. Gingerbread. Light alcohol presence. Chestnut honey. Coffee cake. Nutty. Milk chocolate.

Body: Light up front. Coffee cake. Gritty. Alcohol at the back. Dry honey. Water brings out grassy and slightly waxy character. Apricot. Vanilla toffee.

Finish: Gritty. Bitter. Shredded wheat. Coffee cake, Grassy. Chocolate malt drinks. Sour dough. Water makes waxy and slight brown bread. Dried apricot and light spice.

Conclusion: Darn it, just when I thought I was getting into Glen Scotia. On the nose this looked to be another one playing a binder. In fact looked good on the eyes as well. It all looked set to take a deeper, darker set of flavours to play amongst the native grassy, slightly waxy character.

Yeah, well, the body didn’t deliver that. I’ve given it both time and water and neither helped that much. For such a strong aroma, and for a respectable 46% ABV, the body actually comes in very light up front. Behind that initial light impression it is then a tad gritty – you do get some apricot and coffee notes but generally it Is emptier and yet also slightly rougher than expected. I can like rough but with big flavour. I can live with a light front for a smooth character. This has neither.

The finish is more to expectations with that Campbeltown grassy character, but again coming in a bit gritty. Throughout the whisky there is a solid coffee cake character, and a light waxy style, which are the best characteristics. Together by themselves they would provide a gripping and soothing whisky. Unfortunately put together with everything else it, overall, feels rough and empty in a slightly contradictory fashion.

Not doing much to bring me back to Glen Scotia again.

Background: Bit of a mixed background for old Glen Scotia, I love the Campbeltown area, but mainly for Springbank, on the other hand I recently tried a miniature of Glen Scotia that I adored, so I decided to grab this 15 year from Independent Spirit to give a try. There are only three distilleries in Campbeltown now, two of which owned by the same people. This is the odd third child of the group. Drank while listening to Garbage – Strange Little Birds, still not as good as their first two albums but I’ve not got bored of it yet which is a good sign.

Balvenie Single Barrel Sherry Cask 15 Year
Balvenie: Single Barrel Sherry Cask: 15 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year : 47.8% ABV)

Visual: Reddened bronze.

Viscosity: Very slow, very thin streaks, and many of them.

Nose: Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Alcohol warmth. Creme brulee. Sultanas. Full and rich. Water makes pencil shavings come out.

Body: Creme brulee. Malt chocolate. Strawberry jelly. Thick feel to the middle. Water makes thick sweet strawberry, though still with a touch of alcohol at the back. Orange creme and plums.

Finish: Spiced red grapes. Dry. Light oak. Dust balls. Malt chocolate. Bailies. Water brings out strawberry and brandy cream.

Conclusion: Odd timing drinking this so shortly after my discuss of the use of strawberries in beers recently. Odd as with water this really tastes like a strawberry whisky, not because strawberries were used in it. I presume anyway. Anyway a strawberry whisky, in a good way.

It is a sweet whisky, but far more robust than many sweet whiskeys, giving a whole range of spirit touched, creamy notes – resulting in trifle and bailies imagery coming out very easily. That creaminess is up front, but much more fruit is waiting to be brought out with water. The robustness is kept by backing the sweetness with spicy grapes that adds heft to the sweet trend without disrupting it.

There is a lot to bring out with water – the amount of water I was able to add while still being able to enjoy it meant that this seemed a lot larger than the actual pour I shared. It is also interesting in that I have seen sweet fruit notes like this before, but usually attached as contrast to a bigger, peatier, whisky. It is fun to encounter them in isolation here where they are the main show, not the contrast.

So, it seems a perfect match of barrel ageing to the Balvenie spirit for me – far more so than the bourbon cask. The feel of the spirit is just right for delivering the big sweetness and range while still preserving that distinct whisky character.

Of course, this is a single barrel range, so your experience may differ. My experience rocked though.

Background: Ok, you all know the score by now – ” Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. Originally I thought this was standard Single Barrel, but quickly realised this was the Sherry version, which sounded an interesting variant. Drunk while listening to New Model Army – Ghost Of Cain. Yes I am listening to them a lot, I got five albums in one pack, plenty of punk goodness there.

The New Zealand Whisky Company Dunedin Doublewood 15 Year

The New Zealand Whisky Company: Dunedin: Doublewood 15 Year (New Zealand Blended Whisky: 15 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed amber.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Sherried trifle. Drambuie. Treacle. Liquorice touch. Buttery shortbread. Marzinpan.

Body: Toffee. Raspberry. Twigs. Alcohol builds. Sour red grapes. Water brings out trifle, oak, custard and cherries.

Finish: Dry oak. Red wine. Strawberry jam. Water brings out oak and tannins. Sour red wine and cherries. Touch of apples.

Conclusion: This is whisky, but not as I know it. Join me as I take a fun wee trail into the unknown here.

The base feel, the toffee sweetness and general, well, whisky character is there. It is not a complete unknown. What is laid over that is an initially very sherry trifle character, very sweet and creamy.

This settles down into a darker feeling whisky, more sour wine and oaken character that comes with those kind of wine coming out from under that initial sweetness. Both the sweet and the sour takes show obvious red wine influence, but there are other touches such as the bright red cherries, sweet touches over an overall quite dry whisky. It shows a complex experience and range.

The alcohol feel is the odd part, in that initially I expected a kind of sherry character to it, but instead there is a kind of drambuie alcohol feel – it is here that it feels like it departs most from what I would expect of a standard whisky – an element that is not quite to my taste but doesn’t get in the way too much.

Overall it is very impressive. The different barrel ageing is a nigh completely different experience, but the base whisky holds well enough that it doesn’t feel like a gimmick. A sign that NZ can really have their own style of whisky and not just recreate what already exists. A good sign.

Background: Tried at Brewdog Bristol, this is a new one on me. Aged for six years in Bourbon barrels, then finished in French Oak New Zealand wine barrels (according to a quick google one source says Pinot Noir). That just fascinated me, so I grabbed a measure, wonder if craft beer sis has run into this one as she is a NZ fan.

Glencadam 15

Glencadam: 15 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain to gold.

Viscosity: Slow medium thickness puckering around the glass.

Nose: Heather. Toffee. Light alcohol touch. Roasted nuts and sugared almonds.

Body: Nutty. Custard. Lime touch. Heather. Toffee. Apples. Coffee cake. Water makes much sweeter and adds sugared almonds, and also cinnamon to the apple flavour. Very smooth with water. Late on gains Madeira cake and spice.

Finish: Alcohol air initially. Malt drinks and nuts. Light raisins. Pears. Coffee cake comes out with water.

Conclusion: What is the defining element of a whisky? Well in this case the defining element is one that barely shows up on first sip. On first examination this seems a pretty standard Highland whisky, heather, lightly sweet and nutty. I wasn’t too excited to say the least.

As time went on a light fruitiness in a speyside style came out, apples and pears into a raisins finish. It was a more interesting whisky but it still hadn’t yet reached the point that was to define it. Now, more fun, but still did not stand out from the crowd.

Them it finally came, dry crumbly coffee cake, a savoury and slightly bitter element that becomes the base which everything else works off. Then, over time, it develops into sweeter Madeira cake. This is especially noticeable with water, and it creates a fruitier, sweeter and spicier end to the dram.

The latter half of the whisky that shows the coffee and Madeira cake is what makes the whisky. It is refined, different and a good point for the other elements to work off. It feels classical, rich and refined and this makes it feel like a special treat.

So a whisky that starts off cutting close to the mould then makes its way to a delightfully different interpretation. A very interesting dram.

Background: Previously untried distillery time! I picked this up a while back, I ordered a bottle of whisky online for a friend, so decided to pick up a miniature for my own enjoyment at the same time. So, really I don’t know much on this one. Apart from the fact their tasting note on the back of the box is very bland, but since I only read that after doing my own notes I don’t think it influenced the review at all.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve: 15 Year (American Bourbon: 15 Years: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: A very dark rich amber.

Viscosity: Quite a loose mix of streaks.

Nose: Wheat and rye crackers. Quite a tingle at this point. Dry granite. Orange rind, possible liqueur like in style.  Slight sourness with water.

Body: Smooth. Spicy red grapes. Alcohol fire builds up after a while but is not immediately evident.  Vanilla toffee and glacier cherries. Water makes smoother and adds custard touches.

Finish: Milk chocolate and vanilla toffee. Orange liqueur again. With water becomes more bitter chocolate like.

Conclusion: I’m always unsure with higher abv bourbon on if I should add water or not.  The extra alcohol tends to make the drink more fiery which can hide the flavour, but most bourbons I’ve tinkered with don’t seem to react particularly well to water. Well in my experience anyway, would be interesting to get others views on this.

This is a pretty good case in point. It is significantly smoother and more easy going than the twelve year, which does it credit considering the abv, even better it plays with similar spice and red grape flavour that made the twelve year enjoyable.

However even with this smoother version, if you hold it on your tongue for a while to enjoy the sensation you find that the alcohol presence is soon made felt. At that point the smooth vanilla toffee and spice are pretty much concealed to the finish.

Now with tinkering it seems that water in moderation does quite well, allowing easier appreciation of the almost liqueur styling running through it, and also seems to bring out a custard sweetness.

The burn does still come in quicker than I would like, limiting your time to enjoy it. Enough  play with water smoothes even that out, but that point a lot of the vibrant spicy richness is also lost.

Looking back at the twelve year review to compare I am reminder of how much these two share in their main flavours and styles. This reacts better to water and is significantly smoother. While they have similar play to them, the 15 year doesn’t have quite the instant wow of the twelve year, instead pacing itself more over the entire drink. The spice and orange is more restrained, but similarly doesn’t burn out as quick.

This I would say this is the better bourbon, while it does not impress as instantly I found myself enjoying its charm to the end.

Now just to try the twenty year version.

Background: An odd thing I noticed on this one. It describes itself as a younger version of the 20 year old pappy van winkle.  Which I guess means they consider the 20 year version the default. Bloody hell that’s old for bourbon, I will have to get round to trying it at some point.  Drunk during the day at the Rummer Hotel. It was a relaxing day, and I enjoyed talking with the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff. A pleasant way to pass time I must say.

Gordon And Macphail: Imperial 1991(Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Light yellowed gold.

Viscosity: Takes a moment for streaks to pucker from the spirit, then they come down fast.

Nose: Floral and potpourri. Custard sweetness. Butterscotch. Lightly oaked. Orange peel and pomegranate. Very little alcohol feel. Water makes shortbread biscuit come out.

Body: Thick and tarry with a big oak back initially. Lazy aged beef and stew styling come out. Dried apricot. Custard. Very sweet with water, more dried fruit and maybe some kiwi and lime.

Finish:  Cured beef slices. Oxo cubes. Maybe some peat.  Water adds a hint of lime jelly. Lightly cinnamon dusted.

Conclusion: Since trying a beer aged in this whisky’s casks I’ve been keeping an eye out for some of the original product, and here it is.

With whisky in hand I find a booming meaty product with sweet and fruit overtones. If I had to compare it I would say it was somewhat like a non island character Highland Park. Lots of power, little to no alcohol burn and lots of flavour.

Balances brilliantly between power and drinkability. It’s always there, but never so much that it gets annoying. That light lemon and kiwi surrounding the main body keeps it very fresh.  The body is defiant, especially in comparison to the aroma, which sees light and floral in contrast to the massive main body.

Overall very impressive. Powerful, drinkable, and flavoursome. Smooth texture and little burn makes it characterfull whisky. This is a good dram to sip through the day. I hope the new owners are turning out as high quality whisky.

Background: The Imperial Distillery has been up and down in recent years having been mothballed in 1985 and 1998 with a short run inbetween. It is now back, but this version I presume is from the short open period between the two mothballings. If tried a few Imperial influenced beers and found its influence very appreciateable, so was glad of the chance to grab a mini to try of it.

Gordon and Macphail: Old Pulteney: Cask Strength 1995 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 59.9% ABV)

(Bottled 2010)

Visual: Burnished gold with somewhat of a cherry red influence.

Viscosity: Deathly slow streaks for the most point with the occasional outburst.

Nose:  Brandy cream and raisins. Mild liquorice and a touch of shortbread. Light planed wood. Fruitcake. Water relaxes it slightly giving planed wood prominence and adds a slight tar.

Body: Treacle and alcohol burn. Fruitcake, plums and oak.  Water makes sweeter. Toffee style. Very slick. Somewhat of a charring touch, though this lightens to light coffee with more water.

Finish: Charring and alcohol at first. Tongue numbing. Bitter chocolate. Water makes much more chocolate and toffee and much more appealing. Slight salt and raisins here.

Conclusion:  It’s always fun having a cask strength whisky. Spending time adding water drop by drop trying to reduce the burn whilst keeping as much flavour as you can.   This keeps very close to the influence of its choice of casks and wears it proudly.  The sherry gives a huge amount of fruitcake and toffee, with raisins and alcohol punch to end it. This really punches home the difference using a first fill cask can make as the flavours are potent indeed.

Fun as that is, and boy is it fun, it does make it feel more of a display of the cask than of the spirit.  The spirit struggles to show its house character. There is that slight salt evident in the finish that is a Pulteney trademark, but apart from that it doesn’t manage to fight the sherry enough to stand out from the plethora of sherry heavy whiskies on the market.

So it is a nice whisky, but it isn’t that distinctive and thus doesn’t really get the full advantage of its cask strength.  A mixed blessing then.

Background: From a first fill sherry butt. Don’t know if it is single cask as that would indicate. I’d imagine so but wouldn’t want to say for sure.  Drunk at the Rummer hotel after the Ardbeg reviewed previously. Had a lot of water in-between to try and refresh the senses. I have had Old Pulteney official bottling before this independent bottling, but it has never been one of my favourite whiskies. Still it looked fun enough to give a try, and I do love playing with a cask strength. Oh, I got so caught up in doing the tasting notes I only got a photo of the bottle this time and forgot the glass. My bad. Oh and yes that is a ladder to reach the higher shelves of sprits you see there in the photo. There is quite the selection.

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