Tag Archive: 17 Year


Berry Bros and Rudd: Orkney Islands 17 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 56.4% ABV)

Visual: Very light yellowed gold. Fast, thick streaks come initially from the spirit, followed by slow puckering.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee. Honeyed shreddies. Wisp of smoke. White grapes. Pencil shavings. Water makes mossy and brings out more oak.

Body: Burning alcohol. Crumpets. Charred oak. Butter. Water makes more buttery and adds shortbread.

Finish: Charred oak. Bitter. Light salt and sea breeze. Water adds wet rocks. Butter. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, for one, this needs water. Neat it is burning, buttery and very much lacking in any subtlety. Not that the aroma lets you know what is coming, oh no, that aroma is a sneaky one. It tells you that what is coming is sweet and gentle with just a wisp of smoke. Lying fucking aroma.

Now water does its job and smooths the alcohol down, making it into a very robust (and I mean VERY robust) crumpety, bready, buttery dram, with a peppery finish and still that wisp of smoke. It is heavy feeling and still very different from that sweet, gentle aroma. If you pay attention there are slight grapes, slight vanilla, but generally it is just a straight forward crumpets and butter kind of savoury thing.

So, with that said, it is not a favourite of mine. Some people at the tasting seemed to get more from it than I did, but for me it is too burning neat, and still too simple with water, so overall is a comparatively empty dram flavour wise.

Feels solid in texture, but feels like the base of a whisky to be built from, rather than a decent whisky in itself. A pity as I love a good Highland Park (sorry, a good “Orkney Islands” WINK), but this one doesn’t grab me.

Background: Uber whisky time again at Independent Spirit. I love these events, where you get to try some pretty rare whisky that would normally be prohibitively expensive by the dram. As always with events like these, it was a busy event, with talking and other people describing notes so I may have been influenced by that and my notes may be shorter and more incoherent than even normal. Now, while this could be one of two Orkey distilleries, it is blatantly a Highland Park. They barely even try to hide it. I’m a big fan of Highland Park, not revisited them for a while so had high hopes for this. From the bottle it was distilled 2000 and bottled 2018.

independent-spirit-arran

Independent Spirit: Arran (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Years: 58.7% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain to gold.

Viscosity: Generally slow thin puckering, with a few fast streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol jelly. Lime. Salted caramel and apple. Water brings out more caramel, a touch of milky coffee. More water adds floral notes.

Body: Alcohol touched. Salted toffee. Moderate oak. Salted caramel. Water adds apples and makes smoother. Much more salted caramel. More water adds more apples and pears. Light cinnamon. Creamy notes and some lemon curd.

Finish: Charred oak. Apples. Alcohol. Toffee malt drinks. Drying. Water adds salted toffee. More water adds lemon curd and light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, this has a lot of water room to it. Like a proper serious amount. Not entirely unexpected at best part of 60% abv, but what does stand out is that it is actually pretty approachable even when neat; Which means that you have more room for quality water play as you don’t have to add a ton just to get it to where you can taste it. No innuendo on water play please. That is my job.

Neat to middling amounts of water it is very unlike any Arran I have encountered. Very toffee and caramel driven. Salted interpretation of both no less. Neat it is a little alcohol thick but still very drinkable, if a tad burning. Even a little water though turns it into a very smooth, kind of salted toffee doughnut style whisky. I was kind of addicted to salted toffee doughnuts for a while, I know of what I speak.

More water, like heavily more water, adds a mix of traditional green fruit that feels like a more Arran by way of Hakushu whisky style. Initially just soft notes around the toffee, enough water means that the green fruit takes centre stage with the salted caramel around the edges.

Initially as a salted caramel heavy whisky I found it soothing, smooth and easy drinking but not too complex. I was going to call it a whisky that did one thing but very well – a whisky for the high end of enjoying to sooth and relax with rather than examine.

Water turned that on its head; lots of fresh green fruit, a good mix of character. It is still easy to drink but now more freshening than soothing, and with a touch of that creamy Arran character. Very enjoyable either way, and with lots of room to explore. Both defies Arran expectations and confirms them depending on how you take it. A very high quality whisky.

Background: Second of Independent Spirit‘s independent bottlings of whisky. This time an Arran bottling – one of 57 bottles, distilled in 1997 and aged for 17 years in a sherry puncheon. Bottled non chill filtered at cask strength this definitely caught my eye. The label may look identical to the last, Fettercairn bottling – but if you look closely the cape colour has changed. Huge difference. Drink while listening to a general mix of metal – around the thrash to death side of things.

Connoisseurs Choice Tomatin 1997
Connoisseurs Choice: Tomatin: 1997 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick grain to light gold.

Viscosity: Very many thin, very slow streaks.

Nose: Caramel. Stewed fruit. Thick alcohol. Wheat husks. Oatmeal. Water brings feathers, but more water adds tropical fruit and pineapple.

Body: Soft vanilla. Noticeable alcohol. Salted fudge. Water adds custard and white chocolate. Still warming in the alcohol. Sugared almonds. More water removes heat, adds pineapple and more white chocolate.

Finish: Honey. Stewed apricot. Fudge and white chocolate. Water makes honey nut cornflakes. Lightly salty. Tropical fruit tins and lightly oily. More water makes more white chocolate, grapes and a hint of raisins.

Conclusion: Tomatin always seem surprisingly wide ranging in the notes it hits – it comes in first with a simple, easily catchable hook up front, but it you pay attention you find much more going on behind the scenes.

Initially big on caramel sweetness and stewed fruit it plays on the sweetness heavily. Water helps bring out the aforementioned range – the whisky has been very evidently influenced by the bourbon ageing – lots of tropical fruit and white chocolate, all very fresh and bright. The only thing that could fool me into thinking this was a sherry barrel is slight subtle raisins notes in the finish. Everything else shouts bourbon. However, while this is good, we have seen many whiskies that are good at showing the barrel ageing, what interests me here are the more subtle notes.

One of the subtleties is the light saltiness. Neat it comes across as salted fudge or caramel – adding an interesting aspect to a sweet whisky. The other noteworthy subtlety is a slight oiliness. A sheen that keeps the whisky clinging and the flavours delivering for a very long time.

When I tried the partially virgin oak aged Tomatin I took the heavy white chocolate influence to be from the fresh oak – however here is still shines through. Guess it must be more how the natural spirit acts when influenced by the bourbon cask.

On the downside neat it is, while not harsh, still very obviously alcohol influenced – though water deals with that easily enough. So, overall, while not overly surprising, it is a very tasty, smooth (with water) whisky with just those slight oddities that manage to make it stand on its own two legs. A subtle twist on a good example of bourbon ageing.

Background: Bottled 2014, which by my estimation puts this at 17 years, though may be off a tad depending on exact dates. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this gives me a chance to expand my exposure to Tomatin in miniature format. Gordon and MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice have always been a great independent bottler, so I trusted that I would get something worthwhile here. Drunk while listening to some Sabaton – I saw them live recently, awesome as always, so have been kicking back with some of their albums.

Benriach Solstice 17 year

Benriach: Solstice 17 year 2nd Edition (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold, with light rose hints in the light.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Peat and beef broth. Mixed spice. Light potpourri – rose petals. Water adds dried raspberries.

Body: Very smooth. Toffee, cherries and port. Growing peat at the tail end. Liquid chocolate. Water smoothes even more. Caramel. Beef broth, liquorice and figs come out.

Finish: Light medicinal note. Red cherries. Drying. Touch of smoke, salt and oak. Rose wine. Light spice. Water adds stewed apples and strawberry then figs.

Conclusion: Ok, after the virgin oak we have this, looks like today is “smoother than it has any right to be” day. At 50% abv this still comes in velvet smooth, if you go so far as to add water it becomes caramel soaked velvet.

Wait that sounds horrid. I mean that in a good way!

It is far more complex than the initial impressions give as well. The aroma is big and peaty, with beef broth and the like, with rose hints at the back the only variance. That is a good whisky, but a bit one note. The body on the other hand, while peated, is really pushing dark fruit to the foreground. I am aware that “Velvet fig” is already taken as a whisky name, however it seems appropriate – figs mix with cherries and smooth chocolate. The peat is a backing that slowly grown to the foreground, but never eclipses the dark fruit.

The, erm, well harshness, as it can barely be called, is in the finish. Lightly medicinal and salt, with what came before only showing as hints now. All water does to this whisky is change the emphasis and level of smoothness.

This really makes the peat work for the whisky rather than the other way around, and shows how to do a heavy and peated whisky without being defined by the Islay style.

This is a lovely and decadent whisky – since “Velvet fig” is taken, maybe peated velvet fig is allowed? As that is what this whisky is.

Very impressive in all things.

Background: Solstice is the heavily peated take on Benriach, here finished in port pipes. I’ve been meaning to do a Benriach review for a while, and since this turned up at Brewdog Bristol I decided to give it a go. In fact this was had immediately after the very impressive Auchentoshan Virgin Oak.

Pearls Clynelish 17 Cask Strength

Pearls Of Scotland: Clynelish: 17 Year Cask Strength (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 17 years: 53.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold.

Viscosity: Thick fast streaks.

Nose: Light smoke. Touch of meat and broth. Varnish. Water adds old fashioned sweet shops.

Body: Thick. Touch of fire. Burnt caramelised brown sugar. Tar. Waters adds more caramel sweetness. Crème brulee. Custard pudding and toffee sponge cake.

Finish: Tar touch. Light fire. water adds cinder toffee and smoke. Pepper and touch of salt.

Conclusion: Wow, this is completely different from the last Clynelish that I tried. So does that make it a good whisky? Well, at high abv it also pushes a booming whisky to go with it, so at the very least I am not going to be complaining about it being too light.

This is chewy as hell, up front it has got a bit of smoke and meat – closer to the heavier whiskys than I would have expected. However once you get into the main body you realise that, while it is big, it is big in its sweetness – like treacle and steamed toffee pudding – very thick and full as it fills your mouth.

The two styles then combine on the way out – the smoke and the sweetness meld for a big but balanced finish. The more water you add to this, the sweeter and smoother it gets – unusually, adding too much water doesn’t seem to make the whisky thin, instead seeming to give it a too cloying sweet character, like it has finally been let off the leash. Still a reason not to add too much water, but an interesting variation on expectations.

It is an enjoyably big whisky, heavily chewable – the only problem is that, despite the contrasting sweet and smoke, it still feels somewhat one note. In everything it is very sweet – very treacle, very toffee, but no real point to relax or be released. Enjoyable to experience, but it does wear out its welcome.

So, for people who want a whisky that as big as the islands, but without the medicinal character – this could be right up your street. For me, it is a bit too one note – still fascinating, but not a favourite.

Background: Nearing the end of the Burn’s night five. This is only the second Clynelish I have had, so not much to compare it to. Also this is one of only 333 bottles, so the night was a nice chance to try a few uncommon whiskys over at Independent Spirit. As before this was part of a group tutored tasting so I may have been influenced by the people around me for my notes.

Balvenie 17 Year oublewood

Balvenie: Double Wood 17 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Menthol. Rum raisins. Battenberg. Meringue. Honey. Water emphasizes the raisin elements.

Body: Smooth feel. Fudge. Large amount of oak. Raisins. Raspberry pavolova. Some alcohol. The alcohol eases with water and adds cake sponge, custard. Treacle, spicy orange and blueberry.

Finish: Wholemeal biscuits. Raisins. Gin air rises. Water adds fudge cake and treacle. Then some dry oak, custard and chocolate.

Conclusion: Age and maturity, wisdom and…flavour? I’m not quite sure where I was going with that. Probably something about one does not always mean the other. Anyway, another double wood, this time with a few more years on it. Let’s go.

There are a lot of touchstones shared between the two whiskys. The cakes sponge character, here pocked with fudge. The blueberry notes. The toffee and other such sweet notes. The biggest new note is the obvious massive raisins and dark fruit influence that has come with the extra years.

Taken neat this really doesn’t hold up that well. It is over oaken and somewhat closed off. With a bit of water play it becomes much better. The texture is always smooth in that way that comes with age, but the water removes the alcohol fire that seems to still hold on otherwise. Even better is that the blueberry really comes out here, playing well with the raisins and playing well against the fudge cake in a very satisfactory way. Add in a touch of spice orange and it finally completes the flavour set it needed.

Other elements that didn’t match so well also fade, with the menthol element diminishing. There is still a slightly odd air to it though that does not die easily, taking more water to drown.

Overall it is solid, and I like the fruitiness and extra weight that comes in here, but it just isn’t exceptional. Without water it is very meh, with water it is much more solid, but everything feels like it could still shine more. It is like the base character is just a touch too leaden.

Not bad, but the Caribbean rum version gives much more for less.

Background: last of the three Balvenie’s in the mini sampler set. This one an older 17 year take on the double wood. This has been aged in both bourbon and sherry wood. So Double Wood. Pretty simple really. This was picked up from Independent Spirit of Bath.

SV Glen Elgin 1995

Signatory Vintage: Glen Elgin: 1995 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light banana gold.

Nose: Slight stewed apples. Cinnamon. Nuttiness. Slight black cherries. Condensed cream. Apricot. Slight pepper. Water adds more apples, even more water makes very soft.

Body: Lime and nutty behind. Alcohol presence. Apricot and apples. Peppery late on. Toffee sweet. Water brings out more toffee and apples, and not much is needed to dim fire. More toffee and chocolate with more water.

Finish: Peppery. Barley. Slight salty mild cheese. Nutty. Fudge. Water adds chocolate. Water makes mainly fudge and chocolate with a hint of spiced apricot.

Conclusion: As a first introduction to Glen Elgin this has some fine range on it. Very full fruitiness, light apples and apricot with tantalising cherries on the nose. A bit full of fire neat, but tasty. Water brings a whole new level to it; the subtle nut backing becomes rounded into chocolate fudge sweetness which early on provides a backing for the fruit. Later on the sweetness becomes forefront with the fruit backing it. It is a good progression that never leaves a weak point mid shift.

With a reasonable amount of water it becomes more simple and more toffee based though still pleasant. With less water you get much more play, a peppery note to the body, and sweet cream in the nose. While fiery it is worth it for the extra levels of play.

Both the base whisky flavour and this particular expression are pleasant. It reminds me of the Hakushu 12, though this has more grounding to it. I prefer the Hakushu, this is not as fresh and open, but is still fine.

A very fine fruity and sweet expression.

Background; Drunk at the tasting rooms. Yes again. They have become quite the starting point to the week day drink up. This time Glen Elgin, not one I have had before, and coming in at a nice 17 years, so hopefully should have had plenty of time to smooth out the whisky. Spent a lot of time chatting with the staff while drinking so it had plenty of time to air.

Hibiki 17

Suntory: Hibiki 17 Year (Japanese Blended Whisky: 17 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Clear darkened gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Stewed apricots and dates. Marzipan and plums. Crumble topping. Rich. Water brings out oak.

Body: Smooth. Apricots. Golden syrup. Light oak and bamboo. Milk chocolate behind. Dry underneath. Water makes more fuller bodied but also much more noticeable alcohol.

Finish: Milk chocolate. Orange liquore. Raisins. Light oak. More oaken with water and potatoes comes out. Bean sprouts.

Conclusion: Most water goes better with a drop of water, this goes doubly true for blended whisky. It tends to help the whisky open up and takes off the alcohol burn. That said, don’t add water to this whisky. Not one drop. Seriously.

Neat it is as smooth as you could ever need, and with all the lovely elements fully on view. The aroma can be detected across the table, and yet is not overly punchy up close. There is a rich and dessert like smell, full of stewed fruit and sweetness. This lovely sugary sweet delicacy of an aroma is just murdered by water. Don’t do it.

The body is a lighter feel than any single malt you care to mention, not my preferred texture style, but I will concede on the technical scale it is well done. The flavour on the other hand needs no such reservation, it is lovely smooth fruit and sweetness that has a light touch and yet full character.  Again, worse with water, the alcohol becomes more burning and hides the flavours behind it.

The finish finds you with around off of smooth chocolate and liquore than all vanishes with water, replaced with a vegetable and oak remain.

So, if I haven’t got my point across yet, without water this is great. Dessert like and slips down remarkably easy. The over smoothness of this kind of blended whisky works against it for me, but I am aware that for many it is a benefit. This is an easy going and yet flavoursome whisky and very impressive.

Just don’t abuse it with water. Please.

Background: I didn’t get the chance to try too much whisky in Japan. Mainly because the price was higher than the UK in most places, and the range about the same. So, when I got home I decided to go for a bit of the hibiki. Drunk at the Tasting Rooms. While I can be wary of blended whisky the Japanese really seem to have the nack for it.

Bladnoch: 17 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 17 Years: 55% ABV)

Visual: Slightly yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Very slow puckering that drips down in a steady fashion from the spirit.

Nose: Slight eggs. Not harsh for the abv. Pencil shavings. Bags of rice. Pancake mix. Water makes much more musty and sulphur touched with a hint of sugar dusting.

Body: Slick. Sweet custard. Alcohol is noticeable here. Cream doughnuts. Touch of sweet lime. Much sweeter with water. Also adds malt loaf and raisin. More water brings out chocolate cupcakes and banana.

Finish: Clinging and viscous remains.  Butterscotch? Warming with a good dose of oak. Slight milky chocolate.  Waters adds a squeeze of lime and more chocolate – almost a dry chocolate cake.  Slightly milky. More water makes almost banoffee like or light coffee cake.

Conclusion: Lowlands whisky tends to remind me of Irish whiskey for some reason. Probably the habit of triple distilling. Which this distillery no longer does. Yet it still reminds me of it. Huh.

For all its imposing abv this whisky has the same light touch and sweetness I attribute to its Irish cousins. Light fluffy doughnut in the body, chocolate in the finish and benefits massively from a touch of water to open up. However even neat the years of it prevents the alcohol from burning too much. Very smooth and easy going.

It took a while to grow on me. It’s not got a huge range on the nose, but you get a nice range of sweet flavours when you hit the body. Very easy drinking and the chocolate finish really lasts.

I’ve heard this referred to as a dessert whisky and it does make sense to view it as such. Don’t put it against anything too heavy, but the sweetness would suit pavlovas or banana splits or the like.

Overall decent though not varying much from the sweet theme.  There is much more on each level though. Nose is light, body better and finish brings occasional coffee cake like rises into the mix. Don’t hurry the sips then, let it soak in and roam.

Overall I would say I enjoy it. I also hear Bladnoch play with quite a range of peating and casks. So I think there may be a whisky out there from that really fits into the whisky milieu I prefer, but even as it is it bodes very well for spirit as it takes a style that is not my favourite and makes me appreciate it.

With this expression I am impressed, with hope for the distillery more so.

Background: Lowland malts often have an image problem. These date way back to late 1700’s when Highland whisky was not allowed to be sent below the highland line and lowland whisky turned out massive amounts of low quality whisky.  They never seem to have quite recovered despite a massive change in quality over the years.  Bladnoch has closed and reopened many times over the years and is currently one of the few surviving lowland distilleries. From the age I’m guessing this expression predates the reopening back in 2000. From what I can see, unlike many low land distilleries Bladnoch is no longer triple distilled and hasn’t been for about 50 years. My research could be wrong on this though.

Coopers Choice: Caol Ila 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 17 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Grain with just a hint of gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Light salt at a distance. Medium peat, though heavier than a standard Caol Ila. Warming. Light rockiness. Quite smooth. Touch of apple and custard, then peanuts and cider toffee.  Water negates most of the complexity – leave this one dry.

Body:  Very sweet and smooth front hit. Toffee and salt. Peat at the back. Tingling, stewed apples and pears. Water adds massive apple and custard sweetness.

Finish: Beef and dry moss. Whole meal bread and peanut butter. Water makes milk chocolate with light spice.

Conclusion: I had to take a look around when drinking this to make sure I wasn’t picking up someone’s food in the aroma. Each lift of the glass brought a different take on the spirit, and brought forth so strongly and so forthright that I found it hard to imagine I could have missed it before.

Water then should be avoided as, while it makes it much easier to sip, it makes for a much simpler sweet whisky. It seems its great flavours are tied up in the struggle against its force.

When taken dry it can take a bit to get past that alcohol tingle, but when you do so you get such a varied range of peanut, pear and apple that mix with the usual restrained Caol Ila take on the peat and salt.

The main weakness that is that its greatest flavours are in the struggle, and lost if opened up.  It’s still worth taking the time to appreciate, a fine if quirky take in this distinguished Islay spirit.

Background: (Distilled 1992, bottled 2009). I had drunk this a while back but had not had my tasting note kit with me, so dropped back to the pleasant theatre side pub that had this nice Caol Ila oddity.  Caol Ila is a Distillery with a spirit I have yet to find a bad example of, and seems to have a good selection of independent bottling to choose from.  Drunk mid day on a weekend with nice relaxing warmth to the day and no need to rush.

%d bloggers like this: