Tag Archive: 20 Year


Port Dundas 20 Year

Port Dundas: Special Release: 20 Year (Scotland Single Grain Whisky: 20 Years: 57.4% ABV)

Visual: Very dark mahogany red.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Tarry. Sweet. Caramelised sugar. Butterscotch. Crushed pine cones. Pou porri and perfume. Light smoke. Water adds almonds and chives.

Body: Treacle. Pepper. Tarry feel. Raspberry pavlova. Touch of salted bagels. Water makes syrup texture- golden syrup. Spice rack. Fruitcake. Rye crackers.

Finish: Vanilla and coconut. Raspberry pavolova. Oak. Creamy. Coconut macaroons. Water makes very peppery, paprika and cardamom. Milk chocolate. Caramel.

Conclusion: Such a mix here, the whisky is intense, and tarry, probably the abv showing itself with the aroma thick on the nostrils and the whisky clinging. Despite that there is a sweetness that has distinct subtlety, with coconut macaroons and sweet caramel against the thick tarry treacle character. There is an intensity to its nature, everything is big here, yet somehow managing to not overpower the more delicate notes.

Mixed in with that is a third arrow to the quiver, with rye crackers like touches that brings in a lot of spicy touches. This side reminds me a bit of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, they have a similar quality and those spice notes layered over softer vanilla character. This is especially noticeable with water where the texture becomes more syrup than tar. Here the spice and very peppery finish really starts pushing forwards and giving those rye notes.

For me I would say it is a bit too Bourbon like for my tastes. I like bourbon but the mix of the two characters isn’t quite to my taste here. It seems to become too present as you sip more of the whisky. Still, despite that comment I still enjoyed and was impressed by the whisky. Where else would I find salted bagel touches or subtle raspberry pavlova amongst such a big whisky? There are so many elements hinted at behind the forefront character. It has a very distinct character that I admire even if it is not one of my favourites.

Not a bad whisky at all, very big, a rye bourbon like whisky with lots behind. Lots of character, just not quite to my tastes.

Background: This was drunk at the amazing Independent Spirit Rare Whisky event at Circo. When they say rare they mean rare. This is one of less than two thousand bottles that exist. This was the first ever Single grain whisky to get a Diageo special release. It was first aged in refill casks for three years then split up and aged in either American Oak Bodega, new charred European, or first fill American Oak bourbon casks. We had five whiskys that night, with other guests, my friend Matt, and Chris from Independent spirits all giving their thoughts. Since I know how easy it is to get psychosomatic flavours after someone else mentions them consider the above a view of the general opinion on the whisky so I can call it a feature rather than a bug. Due to the nature of the event my notes were somewhat haphazard, but hopefully I’ve managed to put them together into something readable.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve 20 Year (American Bourbon: 20 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A dark burnished bronzed gold.

Viscosity: A slow intermittent descending sheet.

Nose: Black pepper. Honeycomb. Rye bread. Light charcoal touches. Chives.

Body: Pepper. Strong oak. Maple syrup and pancakes., Slight orange liquore. Rye bread. Water makes sweeter with more maple syrup and the addition of slight custard.

Finish: Dry. Oaken and pepper filled. Rye bread. Water adds treacle and makes the finish last even longer. Vanilla touches come out also.

Conclusion: After the previous tour of the Van Winkle bourbon I was surprised by how smooth this was in comparison to the younger versions. In comparison to being the important words as it is still quite potent.  The alcohol burn however has been traded in, unfortunately to be replaced by a very high oaken presence. You really can tastes the extra years in the oak.

This does seem to limit the room the spice and orange flavour has compared to the younger version. It is a pity but the trade off does give a very easy sipping Bourbon. The person serving me described it as quite peppery and that is definitely true. The peppery element is instrumental to giving it that impressively long finish instead of just a burning alcohol touch.

For its smoothness it seems less lively on its flavours, with the pepper and rye (Again, its odd as I’m fairly sure rye isn’t used in making this) being the main elements alongside the oak. Unusually for a bourbon water really helps by pushing forth a maple syrup like sweetness that offsets the oak and gives the orange flavour more room to play. It also brings out a bit of the traditional Bourbon vanilla sweetness.

For my money this expression is just a bit too oak emphasised to be great, but I will give it respect for the smoothness it brings. I would say the most distinguished of the range is still the 15 year for its bit of extra play in the flavour.

Not bad at all. I don’t think Bourbon quite suits ageing this much but it is a very nice experiment to try.

Background; Drunk at the Rummer hotel. I’ve been slowly working my work up the ages of the van winkle range and reached this, the 20 year. A quite remarkable age for bourbon to be aged, but what Van Winkle seem to consider their baseline expression. The bartender recommended having with ice to counteract the warm flavours but my dislike of ice in spirits overruled that.

Gordon and MacPhail: Connoisseurs Choice: Royal Brackla 1991 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick gold.

Viscosity: Only a few streaks. Medium sized and slow.

Nose: Toffee. Planed wood. Mild lime influence. Shortbread. Heather. Slight sulphur. Water makes the heather more emphasised.

Body: Moderate oak that grows quickly. Slight alcohol is noticeable. Custard. Walnuts.  Water makes smoother. Adds lime and chestnut honey.

Finish: Quite dry and oaken. Acorns? Light nuts and moss. Water makes sweeter, adding chestnut honey again.

Conclusion: A whisky that has escaped review for a while based on the misapprehension that I had already reviewed it.  Thankfully the old green tree nearly always has a bottle in. So I dropped by to correct my mistake.

Let’s talk about the whisky as it is with water added, as without that it is an overly oak dominated and touch fiery whisky. So not at its best to say the least. Water allows it to show its best elements, that of a more mellow nutty style which mingles with a light sweetness to give a kind of chestnut honey element which is quite soothing.

Now it does always keep that oak dryness around the edges. When you finish a sip the mix of alcohol and the oak leaves you quite dry and parches. It is soothing, but one that leaves you thirsty.

It doesn’t vary much from what I’ve just described. It is quite single note, pretty much a nut cluster of a whisky. Despite that it is quite reasonable. Straightforward but with a finish that just doesn’t, well, finish. You can take your time with this one, let the flavour just hand there without needing to sip again. It is one that I would imagine would suit a distinguished evening party. You do not concentrate on it, but allow the flavour to hang there as you converse with others, possibly with a wood fire beside you to add to the aromas you experience.

So not a favourite whisky, but I can see its place in the whisky world.

Background: Bottled in 2011, this Royal Brackla whisky was drunk as part of a relaxing day, wandering the whisky pubs of Bath and sampling a few spirits in a leisurely fashion. Taking a photo of this bottle resulted in a few jokes from the locals, resulting in a quick explanation of doing the reviews. It’s odd how rarely I need to do that. Royal Brackla is one I’ve had a few times, but only independent bottlings. I will have to seek out an official bottling at some point to compare. This was a brand new bottled, opened before my eyes.

Hakushu 1989 TWE 10th Anniversary Sherry cask . (Japanese Whisky: Single Cask Single Malt: 20 years Old: 62% ABV)

Disclaimer: tasted at a whisky show, this was a comparatively short measure so the tasting note is similarly reduced as I did not get time to contemplate the full range. However I still felt it worth sharing my thoughts on these whiskys I would otherwise have been unable to experience.

Visual: Deep rum red with warm brown depths.

Viscosity: Many, many fast forming streaks.

Nose: Sherry and red wine. Dry grapes. Not subtle but powerful.

Body: Very harsh alcohol punch as was to be expected. Without a touch of water most other notes are hidden. With the water it opens up with delicious trifle like notes and spicy richness. Again unsubtle but powerful.

Finish: Initial dry wood, tongue gets numb if taken at its raw strength. Surprisingly airy fields and woods develop with water for a more rounded end to this powerful number.

Conclusion: A fiery powerful sherry cask expression with simplicity and great power. It definitely needs water to appreciate and brings in everything fast and heavy. Not one that takes a long time to reveal its charm. An appealing if overpowering drink that will never be the most complex but will be appreciated.

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