Tag Archive: 21 Year


Douglas Laing: Bowmore XOP 21 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 56.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear greened grain. Mid sized streaks come out from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Smooth peat. Light moss. Very smooth and clean. Oily fish skin. Lightly medicinal. Batter. Water changes little.

Body: Oily fish skin. Sweet apples. Smooth. Cinder toffee. Grapes. Light ash. Slight salt. Water adds more grapes and some smoke.

Finish: Cinder toffee. Oily fish skin. Seaweed. Crème brulee. Slight ash. Grapes. Water adds more smoke, slightly peppery.

Conclusion: This is so clean, so smooth for the abv, so polished. It has got salt, slight medicinal character as you would expect from and Islay, but low peat and no fancy barrel ageing altering the flavour. What you get is very smooth vanilla, tinned tropical fruit and grape notes that speak to a very long time in a bourbon barrel. It doesn’t act unusually, but it does have the standard notes delivered ultra smoothly.

The lighter touch lets green fruit notes come out and mix with the lighter medicinal character. If you are worried from this description that the whisky is going to be too light for you, let me reassure you that there are still notes such as an oily fish skin heaviness, notes that bring a thicker character to a gentle alcohol weight whisky. For people who have tried a lot of Bowmore I’d say imagine a mix of the 12 and 18 year, taken the best elements of the two, smoothing massively and putting out at higher alcohol strength and polish.

Water smooths it out even more if you can believe that making for a very easy to sip Islay, but it doesn’t open up any new notes. Now it tastes nowhere near the abv it is pushing out, even taking into account the water, so smooth, with the only flaw is that it doesn’t stand out with any unique elements. It is not super different in flavour to the younger expressions but it is very polished and enjoyable. A very refined take on a classic.

Background: What is there to say for this one? – fourth of the five whiskies tasted at Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber Whisky tasting night. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best. So, I have had some bloody good experience with the XOP range from Douglas Laing. Also, seriously, I love Bowmore, though they do such a wide range of expressions it is hard to know what you will get in any bottling. To paraphrase one of my favourite quotes on Bowmore – If you can’t find a Bowmore expression you enjoy it may be time to ask if whisky is for you. This one of 317 bottles taken from a single cask.

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Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Linkwood 21 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain. Very slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Soft lime. Vanilla. Floral. Crushed digestives. Pencil shavings. Water makes gentle and slight rocks.

Body: Smooth but warming. Cake sponge. Vanilla. Soft lime. Marzipan. Crushed peanuts. Water adds vanilla custard. More marzipan. More water adds light cherries.

Finish: Key lime pine. Vanilla. Soft caramel. Alcohol air. Lightly nutty. Marzipan. Water adds cake sponge and more nuts. More water adds cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: Well, a lot more going on with this than seemed at first glance. Despite being over 50% abv, the alcohol character is not the issue that prevented me from getting into it right away. There is no burn to this, despite the alcohol being evident in the aroma and warming in the body it actual works out fairly restrained overall for this.

Initially it comes across floral with vanilla sweetness – very smooth for the abv, but nothing special in the flavor. Slowly, over time a gentle nuttiness comes out – which reminds me of my previous experience with Linkwood where it seemed like a more gentle Strathisla.

Water play adds many layers though, taking it away from that simple impression. The nuttiness merges with the sweetness to give more body to a marzipan note that was hinted at previously. More water allows cherry and digestive notes to come out that add range and more varied sweetness around the nutty character.

Gentle, smooth, works well with water and feels like a smooth Strathisla made sweeter, and very rewarding and easy to drink. Not the most complex, but complex enough for an easy going 21 year spirit.

Background: 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 one Linkwood before, I think, brought up my notes on it while trying this so I could compare. Not much else to add – put on Getter – Visceral to listen to while drinking. Nice electronic kind of chilled tunes. The only pity is the only reason I found out about the album is because of the hate and online and offline abuse the creator was getting due to it being so different to their usual work. People are scum sometimes. It is good, check it out. If you don’t like it, that is fine, but don’t send artists, or in fact anyone abuse just because their work is not to your tastes.

Glencadam 21 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Nose: Cherries. Brandy cream. Sherry soaked sponge to trifle. Pencil shavings. Custard slices. Water makes little difference.

Body: Thick. Honey. Raisins. Very clear sherry. Soft lime. Sweet lemon. Slight alcohol. Oak. Water brings more raisins. Vanilla fudge. Red grapes.

Finish: Raisins. Creamy lime. Dry oak. Malt chocolate. Fruitcake. Water adds red wine. Dry sherry. Dry spice. White grapes. Mildly waxy.

Conclusion: This is very sherry dominated. Very red wine heavy. Very fruitcake solid body. So the first thing to get out of that way, does that idea appeal to you? If not that this is not the one for you.

Still with me? Cool, let’s dig deeper then. Initial impressions is very sherry trifle, and wine soaked fruitcake. Very much heavy, sweet desserts that are appropriate to this winter season. Surprisingly, even at a nice 21 years of age, this still has a touch of alcohol character present. Nothing too bad, probably just a sign of the touch higher than normal 46% abv. Thankfully a touch of water clears that up nicely without hurting any other element of the whisky.

It is a tad simple without the water. It is nice, and big in the flavour but slightly closed. Water helps round it out as dry spice grows out adding more savoury elements around the sweetness. The sweetness also spread out with red wine and a mix of red and white grapes that provide extra elements over the stodgy fruitcake middle.

Now admittedly none of this is new to the whisky world, nor unusual. The base whisky provides the weight and a mildly waxy feel in the finish. But generally most of the character here seems to come from the sherry ageing.

It is very enjoyable, very solid, with Highland weight meeting sherried flavour. Nothing is unsual, but no complaints, and no off notes evident from the spirit – so a good job if not stand out.

Background: Only tried Glencadam once before, that was initially weak but had my attention by the end. So when I saw an aged 21 year version in minis at Independent Spirit I thought it would be nice to give it a go. Not much else to add on this one – Had just grabbed Miracle of Sound’s “Level 9” album from bandcamp – a very varied in style bunch of video game themed songs – so put that on while drinking. Goes from light pop punk to moody epics, so at least one song would probably match the whisky!


Banff: Rare Malts 21 Year Cask Strength 1982 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Very oaken. Notable alcohol. Grapes and grappa. Water brings out musty grapes.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Sherry trifle. Rapidly becomes burning alcohol strength if held. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Grapes. Water brings brandy cream. Cinnamon. Fudge. Rich red grapes.

Finish: Shortbread. Alcohol air. Quince rakija. White grapes. Oak. Slight tannins. Water brings brandy cream. White grapes and red grapes. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: I tried this first a few days ago – It, erm, it wasn’t very good. It was insanely oaken, insanely tannins filled and the alcohol was very heavy. Of course that last one was a given considering the abv, but playing with water just seemed to bring out more tannins which didn’t help it.

Bad start eh? But now let me be fair – I now nearly always do my notes a few days after opening as I’ve found whisky can be a bit rough until it has had time to air. Also, I only had the local water to use – which, while ok for drinking, is very hard water, and doesn’t work well in whisky. So, now I return to it with a bit of time to open up, and with some much softer water to bring it down to a respectable abv – so I ask, is it still a disappointment? Or does it recover?

Well, even with the intense alcohol neat it does seem different – creamier for one, with sherry trifle and grape notes. It still goes to numbing levels of alcohol heat too quickly, and leans very heavily on tannins as a main flavour, so I’m going to go straight to adding water and see if that helps.

Water brings out all the goodness hidden beneath the alcohol – the sherry trifle becomes full force, mixed with sweet vanilla toffee and more evident grapes. The tannins still head out but now are balanced by brandy cream and cinnamon. It never changes too much from this point, even with more water – it just becomes creamier and more easy to drink, oh and maybe sweeter in the grapes. It really is led by those sweet cherries, cream and grapes.

So a) This is a very good whisky now – nearly as good as its very high reputation with the oak and tannins balanced against sherry trifle and red fruit. Creamy and very full bodied, with green fruit notes keeping it fresh. Also b) Yeah, this is very expensive, and especially now where it is significantly more costly then when I grabbed it.

If you are going to go for an expensive dead whisky – this is one where the quality is very high indeed – however – the, say, 21 year sherried Timorous Beastie blended malt gives similar notes at way, way less cost. As an experience, and to have been able to have had whisky from this distillery – I am glad I have this. However if you want a similar quality whisky, albeit without the room to experiment of the cask strength – I would say go for the Timorous Beastie.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a blooming long time now, I kept saving it for a special occasion, but nothing seemed special enough. So one day I just randomly broke it open. As mentioned in the main notes I gave a few days for it to air, as I have found this generally helps get the best experience rather than doing notes on the first pour. This is a dead distillery – I try and grab a (relatively) cheaper example of these when I can afford them, and drink them later, as frankly they ain’t going to get any cheaper if I wait to when I’m just about to drink them to buy them. To really get in the mood I put on my favourite of the past decade(ish) of Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life and Death. Freaking fantastic album.

timorous-beastie-21-year-sherry-edition

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 21 Year Sherry Edition (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Strawberry yogurt. Blackcurrant. Moderate oak. Vanilla. Mince pies. Dry. Water adds dried apricot and stewed fruit notes. Treacle. Oily character. Later you get red wine, port and more blackcurrant.

Body: Strawberry. Lots of sherry. Dried spice. Thai 7 spice jars. Dry. Sultanas. Water makes sweeter and spice raisins.

Finish: Blueberry. Mince pies. Dry. Vanilla. Sultanas. Thai 7 spice. Water makes much more spicy. Slight marzipan. Red wine.

Conclusion: This is very sherried, emphasising the drier end of the spectrum as well. It seems sweeter on the nose than it actually turns out to be – on the aroma it promises almost strawberry yogurt kind of notes. However this sweetness doesn’t really penetrate the body. Instead you get darker fruit, mince pies, Christmas spices and dry wine – it gives quite the intense but not harsh character.

There are some light sweet notes – some vanilla, and some parts of the blueberry are sweet, but these elements are rounding ones, not the notes emphasised.

It is nice enough like that – a bit one note but I was enjoying it – water however brings out a slight stewed fruitiness that gives it that tiny hint extra sweetness it needs. Now it is very rewarding, balancing and giving a huge range of flavour within the sherry style.

Then if you give it just a bit of time it rewards you yet again – giving much more red wine and dark fruits amongst the suet mince pie dryness. It is a brilliant example of sherry work here, emphasising it to heavy degree without become so overpowered by it that it becomes one note and dull which can be a flaw on heavily sherried whisky.

It is just fruity enough to let that re-emphasise the dry spiciness. Very nice and complex. I heartily approve. As a vinous, fruity, drying and sherried whisky in equal measure this is a big one I have no hesitation in recommending if you can afford it.

Background: So, Independent Spirit did another one of their Uber whisky tastings – their last one was the first of their tastings I went to and was sensational, so of course I jumped on this one. This is the first of five whiskies had that night. As it was a social event, and due to having more whisky back to back than I normally do for notes these may be slightly shorter and more scattered notes that usual. I did my best for you all though. Kicked off big with a 21 year blended malt. Don’t think I have ever tried standard Timorous Beastie – however its existence led to me winning a pub quiz once as the image of the mouse on the front meant that I knew what animal the term refers to. See? Drinking is good for knowledge.

Caermory 21 Year

Caermory: 21 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale custard touched gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Strong alcohol but soft vanilla and lime notes. Heather. Light whiff of peat smoke. Water adds oak, sulphur and brackish greenery,

Body: Very smooth. Orange crème. Vanilla custard. Alcohol builds up quickly. Fudge. Water makes even smoother and removes alcohol fire. Lime. Golden syrup. Tropical fruit hints. Slight beefy middle. Mild spinach greenery. Apples. Chocolate limes sweets.

Finish: Fudge. Slight spinach. Vanilla. Light lime. Oak. Alcohol air. Water brings out malt chocolate, more sweet lime. Beef and onion crisps. Apples.

Conclusion: This manages to both pack a punch, and be smooth as heck. Good combo. The big punch is easy to see – big abv, big flavours. It pushes a lot of straight forward fudge and vanilla custard sweet notes to sugar shock sweet levels. The smoothness is less expected – even at cask strength it hits smooth – though the alcohol fire does build up if held. Overall, good first impressions.

Tobermory is an interesting distillery with both the Ledaig heavily peated expression, and the smoother, fruitier unpeated expression. This definitely sits towards the unpeated expression, but does not entirely escape the island character. I am not sure if the malt is peated at all, but there does seem to be a light whiff of peat smoke and a beefy middle – more than that is a greenery element subtly hidden within it. It feels halfway between spinach and seaweed, but since it is is so light it is not off-putting. All light elements but give a nice island backing to what would otherwise be a fairly standard sweet whisky.

Apart from that? Well there is the more traditional Tobermory green fruit – here showing as apple and lime notes over the big sweetness. At the cask strength they are not really noticeable, but are soon evident with water.

Overall, it blends the three sets of notes (Island, sweetness and fruity) to an impressive balance and with water it is pretty easy to drink. While the years have not brought exception complexity to this, they have brought clarity of character and a very luxurious feeling. So, yeah, good times here.

Background: Yeah, this is a Tobermory independent bottling bottling, guess they were not allowed to use the distillery name. This bottle, with about a double measure of whisky left in it, was given to me by the kind fellows at Independent Spirit for me to do tasting notes on. Many thanks :-). As always I will still attempt to be unbiased in my notes. Drunk while listening to David Bowie: Black Star again. I am seriously never getting bored of the album. So damn haunting and beautiful.

Chivas Regal Royal Salute 21 Year

Chivas Regal: Royal Salute: 21 Year (Scottish Blended Whisky: 21 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Copper touched gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Nutty. Moderate alcohol. Nutmeg. Stewed fruit. Slightly musty. Water drops the alcohol and adds menthol and oaken notes.

Body: Very smooth. Honey. Lime. Some nuttiness. Walnut cake. Water adds toffee and spicy notes. More water brings back prickly alcohol but also vanilla. Stewed apricot. Coffee cake. Apples and slight oily character.

Finish: Ginger. Very milky coffee. Dried spice. Water brings out apricot and stewed fruit. Malt chocolate. Lightly dusty and oaken.

Conclusion: Royal Salute was one of the early aged whiskies I tried, all those years ago. Even these days I find the standard 12 year Chiavs Regal a reasonable enough whisky in a pinch probably due to the base of Strathisla in it, which I am partial to a dram of.

So how does this live up to the memory of it? Mixed. There is a tad more alcohol noticeable than you would expect in a spirit this old – not burning, but just slightly like an alcohol jelly taste. It is also slightly musty and with water it is over oaken. All elements I would not expect for a whisky you are dropping best part of a hundred quid on.

The things is, besides that it does have a quite a mix of pleasant elements – that Strathisla nuttiness against coffee cake, stewed fruit and apples. It manages to mix the heavier and slightly oily highland notes with the light Speyside sweetness.

Also for a 40% abv whisky it really can cope with a lot of water, doing so does bring out a touch of odd alcohol notes, but in general significantly improves it. It makes much more coffee cake like, more robust yet , in general, smoother feeling. Here it is a solid coffee and nutty whisky, with most of the rough elements taken out. In fact, as the vanilla comes out it starts to remind me of Nanaimo bars from Vancouver – which is awesome. So, in general, it is good; plays well with water, but neat it has far more rough notes than you would expect at this price point.

So, it lives up to my memories in the high points, but is a tad rough at the edges.

Background: A bit of a call to the past today. I grabbed a bottle of this back in my early whisky days from a duty free. I had decided to try something a bit more expensive than my usual fare and this was it. A lot cheaper back in those days though. Anyway, I saw this miniature in Independent Spirit and decided to give it a try for old times sake. Though admittedly this way you mostly pay for the ceramic packaging. A bit excessive for a mini, no? Anyway, drunk while listening to even more Napalm Death.

Carn Mor Vintage Collection Macduff 1991

Carn Mor Vintage Collection: Macduff 1991 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Honeyed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Heather fields. Brick dust. Water emphasises the heather.

Body: Vanilla. Smooth. Brick dust. Orange crème notes. Notable alcohol despite the smooth feel. Water adds honey, more sweet orange and sour berries.

Finish: Sour cranberries. Honey. Brick dust. Alcohol numbing. Water emphasise honey and smoothens.

Conclusion: Well, this is whisky. That is a statement that however should not be mistaken for the similar “This is Whisky!” – I am not indicating an exemplar, merely that there is not much I can say about this beyond its base whiskyness. Just thought I should clear up that potential confusion.

It has the base heather, honey and such that you can imagine as a default whisky kind of thing, but not much else. Actually, I tell a lie, it does have something else.

Brick dust.

The whole thing, despite being smooth of texture, tastes slightly gritty, like breathing in around the dust of a broken up brick. This is a twenty plus year aged single malt, yet for the gritty base character I could probably mistake it for a relatively cheap blend. Ok, that was overly harsh, it doesn’t have that cheap alcohol kick, and the texture is very much telling of the age but flavour wise it doesn’t bring much to the table.

This teams up with Tamdhu for aged expressions that fail to beat the standard expression of another distillery.

It is a bit of a duff one.

I am so sorry, so very sorry for that pun. But not sorry enough that I didn’t type it out. And post it.

Sorry.

Background: Bottled 2012. Macduff is also called the Glen Deveron for official bottling, which this is not. Glen Deveron is the better name in my opinion. Anyway this was picked up from Independent Spirit, I grabbed it as I have not tried anything from this distillery yet. Drunk while listening to more of Iron Maiden’s new album, it is definitely growing on me, but seems to work more as a album that any particular single.

Cambeltown Loch 21

Springbank: Campbeltown Loch 21 Year (Scottish Blended Campbeltown Whisky: 21 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light yellow to grain.

Viscosity: Very slow thick streaks.

Nose: Clear lemon and heather. Vanilla. Husked grain. Water brings out a grassy character.

Body: Smooth. Spritzer undertone. Grassy. Some fire. Toffee. Water soothes the fire, adds custard sweetness, more grass and heather. Light smoke.

Finish: Warming and oaken. Malt drink touch. grassy. Fudge. Water builds fudge up, adds light rocks and light meat broth. Kaffir lime. Slight sprizty touch.

Conclusion: You know, I try to be an open minded fellow – I really do. I would even like to think I do ok at it – but it some ways I am old fashioned. For example I am generally a single malt guy. I have enjoyed vatted malts, blended whisky and single grain – but my go to is single malt. So I was interested, if a tad wary at a mix of single malt and single grain.

Now first impressions didn’t help here – it opened smooth, but quickly became fiery and the finish was mainly oaken. Of course, grain’s best friend is water, and so I held back final decision until I could add water.

It turns out they are still best buds.

Water really brings out the grassy Springbank character backed here by a smoother toffee and vanilla character than most Campbeltowns – which, based on experience, may be the influence of the Girvan Single Grain. With a bit more water you even get some smoke and a meaty broth character in the finish – which is why I guess it was Springbank used – the slightly peated malt I’m thinking.

Here, with the water, it is like a smoother and sweeter Springbank 10, which is the closest comparison. It benefits from light citrus notes added top and tail, very light as the main character is very recognise grassy Springbank.

As a single malt fan I will say I prefer the Springbank 15, but this is a very nice balance between the strengths of both grain and malt, with the sweetness making it more easy drinking than usual. So on personal preference I go with the 15, but is down to just that, the personal preference. They are both very proficient expressions.

Background: Saw this at Brewdog Bristol and was intrigued. It is a mix of 60% Single Malt (I presume Springbank) and 40% Single Grain (Girvan). At 21 years it is a very interesting expression. So, as an utter Springbank nut, I of course gave it a go. Thanks to the staff who helped out with the info on this one when I asked.

Wemyss Glentauchers Liquorice Spiral 1992

Wemyss: Glentauchers: Liquorice Spiral: 1992 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slightly murky.

Viscosity: Medium thick streaks.

Nose: Not well defined. Spiced apple. Cinnamon sticks. Water adds alcohol air, light sulphur and sugar dusting.

Body: Caramel. Fire. Turmeric. Vanilla fudge. Nutmeg. Much bigger with water. Creamy and honey styled. Apples. Light sweet raspberry and strawberries.

Finish: Apples and tannins and oak. Almonds. Fudge. Ginseng. Water changes to cream and light chocolate. Coconut and stir fry notes.

Conclusion: You know, an old whisky like this should not need, nor benefit so much from adding water. Because it really does. The whisky doesn’t show much up front at all – the nose is closed, giving up very little. The problem seems to be that the notes are not well defined, for me at least – so I was nervous going in to try it.

Sipping without water was better, but not so much so to excite me. It was a bit sweet and slightly spiced – however add a bit of water, and give a bit of time, and you find the whisky as it should be.

Now it is smooth and creamy, like a honey yogurt, an introduction of which makes for a lovely first few moments. This then seeps out into red fruit, then finally, as you have swallowed and the experience fades you get a twist of tannins and ginseng. Thankfully lightly done in those last elements, as done too heavily it would be abrupt – as is it adds just the slightest almost stir fry note and grounded character. I know that element is usually considered a bad thing to have in whisky, but here it gives a kind of umami final feel which is unusual and welcome.

Neat this doesn’t live up to expectations, but with water it is remarkably complex – mixing sweetness, grounding notes, and such a range of flavour. This is a genuinely intriguing whisky, and one with lots to examine, and well worth the time it takes.

Background: Burn on! or, this was the third whisky of the pre Burn’s night tasting at Independent Spirit. I had only just tried Glentauchers for the first time a few weeks ago, and now this nicely aged example fell into my lap. There were only 339 bottles of this produced, so I considered myself lucky to get to try it – as before this was a tutored group tasting so my notes ,may have been influenced despite my best efforts.

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