Tag Archive: 18 Year

Smokehead 18

Smokehead: Extra Black 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep golden grain.

Viscosity: Thick mixed speed streaks.

Nose; Peat, kipper and beef broth. Smoke. Light grapes underneath. Olives. Touch of vanilla. Water makes the olives more pronounced.

Body: Smooth texture. Beef. Black cherry and raisins. Peat. Dried beef slices. Olives. Rosemary. Lots of smoke. Peat. Water smoothes to custard, peat and meat. Even more sweetens to golden syrup like.

Finish: Dried beer, peat and big smoke. Light grapes. Honey. Very dry. Water adds malt chocolate, salt and bigger peat.

Conclusion: I was wary of smokehead by the name, I’ve always been fond of Islay, but smoke was just part of the island joy. Of course the name did hint at the uncompromising nature of Islay, but I wasn’t quite sure if it would obsess on just one piece of the puzzle.

So here we have it, smoked, oh yes, but much smoother on texture than I imagined and still some peat behind, though the saltiness seems to hold off until you add water. There’s even a delicious quirk of olives deep within the smoke which gives it a distinctive character of its own. A kind of dry savoury flavour that complements the beef slices and slight salt when brought out.

The body sweetens also with water, but the finish counters that by becoming dryer and saltier. This creates quite the contrast and despite the smooth texture it keeps those medicinal excesses though expressed in its own spiky way.

Very nice, though for me it doesn’t go against the big gun of the Islay league, that being Lagavulin. (This is where someone is going to tell me the mystery distillery is in fact Lagavulin, but it doesn’t quite feel like there. I could be wrong though) This whisky doesn’t have the balance or complexity of Lagavulin 16 for me. It is however delicious and dedicated to the smoke of its premises and uses that around its own distinct character.

So, not my favourite, but the way it manages such smoothness with keeping the Islay character is impressive. Pretty good, but not quite the top league for me.

Background: For some reason I always thought this was a vatted malt whisky, but now I get the chance to find it, it turns out to be Single Malt, just with the distillery not named. Anyway, drunk at Brewdog Bristol, because I just happened to be there. That’s my story and I’m keeping to it. For a long time the big peaty whiskies were my main love of the whisky scene now I have gained an appreciation for the lighter fruitier ones, but there is still a place in my heart for peat and smoke.


Talisker 18 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 years: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow thick trails.

Nose: Gingerbread. Mulled spice. Salt. Light peat and beef broth. Water mellows, touch of chocolate truffles and honey come out.

Body: Toffee sweet. Strong. Glacier cherry. Alcohol is noticeable. Salty touch. Dry smoke and peat. Beef slices. Water makes like honey in a mead fashion and adds spice amongst the salt and beef slices.

Finish:  Spicy red wine. Glacier cherries. Salt. Alcohol fills the mouth. Malt chocolate. Madeira cakes. Kippers and oils. Custard. Waters makes saltier, wet rocks and sea breeze.

Conclusion:  Talisker, the balanced heavyweight of the whisky world.  Here still with just shy of 46% abv. There is a fire to it, even with water, but as Talisker deserves, it gives you something extra in exchange for that fire.

Deliciously sweet, with rich cherry notes that become honeyed with water. Richer than the ten year and has a rounded sweet base that the salt and peat work within.  In fact considering the Talisker was the only not overly sweet whisky out of the Distillers Editions it is unusual to see this 18 year expression bring in such extra sweet notes.

As always Talisker balances that Island salt character and weight with a more restrained but delicious notes. A mix that makes it popular across the whisky lover’s spectrum. There is an alchemic mix with the sweetness not harming the heavier notes at all.

It is a whisky that asks you to work with it. No reasonable amount of water diminishes its dry finish and fire. What it does is make that effort worth it.  Varied and enjoyable in character. Sweet, spiced, salty and full of meat characteristics, harsh yet pleasant.

Talisker continues to be a spirit that shows element from the full whisky world. Rough edged and powerful, it is not as good as the distillers edition but it gives it a good run for its money.   The only real fault is the excessive burn. If, like me, you decide you can live with that then it is well worth it.

Background: Talisker has always been a solid and weighty dram, one that, to me, is up there with Highland Park on showing what people think of when they consider the loosely gathered Island Whiskies. I hadn’t hit the Rummer Hotel for a while, so with it being an extended Easter weekend I dropped over to try some good quality whisky and start off the weekend.


Bowmore: 18 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: A quite reddened copper.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smoke, just slightly oily. Meats and kippers. Light charring. Honeycomb. Smoother and with custard elements when you add water.

Body: Smooth and peaty. Marmalade. Milk chocolate. Meaty. Water smoothes adding honey. Still quite meaty with water. Red fruit and grape jam mix together. Doughnuts.

Finish: Fish oil. Chocolate and vanilla. Water adds caramel on digestive biscuits, Strawberry jam.

Conclusion: I know it has been said that there is a Bowmore for all whisky fans, but I didn’t expect them all to be combined in one glass.

This a very smooth whisky, and one that initially matches my memories of first trying it.  What was most distinctive from my memories was a light fish element, oils and kippers. Here it is present but nowhere near the level my memories suggested. Water lightens it from those notes bringing out sweet flavours and reinforces that meaty and peaty Islay way of doing things. Either way that light fish oil and kippers is a minor interesting note at the back of a very clever whisky.

What makes it stand out is that dry chocolate flavour, similar to the 15 year old, but here you get a fruity jammyness that peaks out around the edges. It’s a careful set of lighter notes that floats around the weightier main body.

It really is a careful mix of graceful sweetness and heavy flavour without ever bending to that booming medicinal nature that oft comes with the heavier Islays. It is very easy to examine and find new layers, but never feels too smooth and light. The sweetness and peat balance very well, better than you would expect for such a combination.

This is well worth sampling, distinguished without losing what you enjoy about the younger Bowmores,  A whisky that will trade you a few drops of water for a massive range of flavour. Very impressive

Background: I’m a big fan of Islay whiskies, and Bowmore is one of the smoother spirits the place turns out.  I’d tried this 18 year old whisky a few years ago at a whisky show but was a touch past my best by that point so did not review it.  I found this at the tasting rooms so decided to return to the old friend.

Glendronach: Allardice 18 year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Dark bronze to copper red.

Viscosity: A few fast and thin streaks followed by medium speed and size drops.

Nose: Butterscotch. Pencil shavings. Rum and raisin. Very smooth. Shortbread. Water brings out grain fields and more biscuits.

Body: Butterscotch. Bailies. Moderate oak pushing through. Much smoother with water. Slight sulphur. More butterscotch and a slightly obscured chocolate element. Spiced red grapes and occasionally an unexpected amount of white grapes.

Finish: Brown bread and charring. Quite dry. Water adds chocolate, oak and spiced red grapes.

Conclusion: This was a bit different to what I expected.  To the eye it is very obviously a sherried whisky, it wears its ageing on its sleeve. The aroma is very smooth and easy going which led to quite a surprise on first sip when you get a real booming oak that initially takes precedence over other flavours. The body however has this lovely butterscotch that runs straight through it once you get past that initial shock.

Despite the lovely aroma, the sheer hit of the oak led me to experiment early with water for this one. This freed it up slightly and allowed more of the expected spiced fruits to merge in with the butterscotch.  Here it starts to play with the flavours and become more the whisky I expected. There is still maybe a bit too much oak in the finish but a muted chocolate element that comes out helps with that.

The adding of water does require the sacrifice of the aroma though, it weakens significantly with even a few drops.  Since the aroma is so amazingly smooth and spicy I would advise taking as long as you can before that first sip. Just enjoy letting the aroma roam, then when you have finally succumbed and taken that first sip you can freely add water to taste without having missed out on the aroma experience.

A smooth whisky, but with spice and an underlying oak strength keep sit from being easy sipping. Instead you find whisky that you have to take your time with.

So to conclude, a spicy expression, but with butterscotch workings making it more than that. It’s not perfect, but it does work well as a darker fruited whisky that is well worth sampling.

Background: Glendronach, or GlenDronach as seems to be the tradition of capitalising it, is a whisky I have so far only tried rarely. Mainly from the 31 year version I tried at a whisky show. So I thought it was time to try something closest to a normal expression. Found at The Rummer Hotel this 18 year old version has spent it’s time in Oloroso Sherry casks.  Apparently the distillery is a category B listed building, which, considering how picturesque many distilleries are, should not be surprising.  The name allardice seems to come from James Allardice, the founder of Glendronach.

Glenfiddich 18 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years : 40% ABV)

Visual: Dark bronzed red, slight cherry liquor in colour.

Viscosity: Mix of fast and middling streaks of medium thickness.

Nose: Slight dust, mashed cherries and sherry. Moderate oak, toffee. Lightens but doesn’t overly expand with water. Grapes.

Body: Smooth fudge and toffee, vanilla comes out with water. Sweet syrup and light lemon freshness with a touch not unlike iced doughnuts.

Finish: Light charring and rising alcohol, bitter chocolate. Raspberries and brown sugar come out with water.

Conclusion: A very smooth whisky, fudge and toffee sweetness laced through its gentle core. Considering its age it doesn’t seem to play a wide range, but it is smooth and tasty. The alcohol is subtle, and it is no way a harsh dram.

Not one I find very exciting though, I definitely wouldn’t complain if I was offered a glass, but if I was picking something with this many years on it id probably look elsewhere.

Well rounded and sweet, another whisky that far from offends, but does not excite.

(Note: After trying a couple of whiskies that night, I found I was picking up less notable flavours on all of them, so its possible that either the room was a tad too cold to get the whisky roaming the air, or I was not quite on tasting form.  Whiskies I had enjoyed previously I still enjoyed, so I decided the reviews should be accurate enough to put up, but I may not have got the full range down)

Glenlivet 18 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 18 Years : 43% ABV)

Visual: Dark bronzed red, almost mahogany.

Viscosity: Glacial slow and thin streaks, some pick up pace about half way down the glass.

Nose: Subtle red grapes, planed wood and “quicksilver” feel as you breath in. Blackcherry and white wine mixed with hints of vanilla beans. No notes are particularly dominant. Water adds floral and grain, liquorish dust and spiced raspberries.

Body: Marzipan, tangerine peel and honeycomb. Golden syrup and brown sugar. Water brings light vanilla yoghurt, honey and spiced raspberries combined with a custard sweetness.

Finish: Strong oak and charring, the alcohol is pretty evident, surprisingly considering the mellow character of the rest of the whisky. Hot cross buns. The wood becomes dominant again as you add water.

Conclusion: After finding the standard Glenlivet distinctly average I was intrigued to see how the aged version played.

It’s a distinctly more complex whisky, but still muted in the force it brings. All the elements are more interesting, but they don’t shout out. It’s a mellow whisky therefore for those who like it rich and easy going, very slippers and dressing gown imagery are called to mind as I drink it.

Not a bad whisky, but not one really aimed at me (how dare they you ask) a decent expansion of the Glenlivit spirit and definitely an improvement, all subtle notes and easy drinking, but not really for a fan of powerhouse whiskies like myself.

(Note: After trying a couple of whiskies that night, I found I was picking up less notable flavours on all of them, so its possible that either the room was a tad too cold to get the whisky roaming the air, or I was not quite on tasting form.  Whiskies I had enjoyed previously I still enjoyed, so I decided the reviews should be accurate enough to put up, but I may not have got the full range down)

Highland Park 18 Year (Scottish single malt island whisky: 18 Years Old: 43% ABV)

Visual: Deep enriched amber.

Viscosity: Extremely slow and quite thin streaks.

Nose: Cherries and fruitcake, shortbread and liquorice with tiny hints of smoke. Small trace of bubblegum like flavour. Water adds light lavender touches to mellow out the flavour.

Body: Roasted nuts, blackberries. Marzipan and toffee. Lemon tart/treacle tart. Not too sweet but effortlessly mixes many dessert tastes. Water adds a spicy touch in the form of gingerbread.

Finish: Slightest salt, roasted nuts. Slight harshess and coffee granules. Rising charcoal. Builds slowly over repeated tastes to a treacle touch. Port and the tiniest peat. Water adds an almost cheesecake base element which is distinctly unexpected.

Conclusion: A masterpiece: The expected island influence is instead a subtle rounding to an altogether more complex sweet sherried whisky with wonderful dessert flavours and a fantastic range.

Sweet and just slightly fiery this whisky competes with the 25-year edition on even terms, and is far superior to the already impressive 12-year version.

A brilliant whisky at any price point.

(Thanks to mum and dad for this wonderful Christmas present)

Gordon and Macphail: Rosebank 1991 Connoisseurs Choice (Lowland Single Malt Scottish Whisky: Closed Distillery: Bottled 2009 (18yrs?): 43% ABV)

Visual: Light but striking pale yellow like shimmering morning dew.

Viscosity: Torpid slow thick trails.

Nose: Grassy, slight mintyness. Aniseed. Quite light.

Body: The flavours shift like quicksilver over the tongue. Pot pourri when breathed over your tastebuds. Light lime and floral character. Water makes it sit lighter and somewhat thin. Sweetness and grain comes through.

Finish: Toasted buns (hot cross buns?). Charcoal, grain. Slight alcohol punch. liquorice again? Sourness and honeycomb.

Conclusion: A bit too light and thin for my tastes. Quite simple for its age and water thins further without removing the few ill tasting elements.

It’s my first encounter with Rosebank and in has not impressed so far. It seems to wish to hide away and yet leaves a dissatisfying snails trail of ill flavour.

Not one I can recommend.

Yamazaki 18 Year (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Enriched bronzed: The colour of steamwork wonders.

Viscosity: Slow, thick trails which take their time to form.

Nose: Sherried notes from ensaturated wood. Thick gloopy chocolate sponge laden in syrup. Shortbread. Battenberg and almonds.

Body: Wine soaked raisins. Christmas dessert being cooked in the oven. More of the biscuits. A slight alcohol kick. Water brings out spices, livelier notes and more pronounced grapes.

Finish: Light vanilla, warm saturation like a sweet sauna of alcohol haze. Sultanas.

Conclusion: A heavily sherry influenced whisky and all the better for it. Rich sweet and full bodied with spice and a firm kick.

Not a light conversational whisky but one with presence. Definitely one for those who like their whisky with a fruit cake or dessert – a good replacement for desert wine.

Give this to those who doubt that nihonjin can turn out a whisky that can match the scotch.

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