Tag Archive: 40-45% ABV


St George Distillery: The English: Smokey (England: Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed to grain hue. Thin, slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Dry. Dusty. Smoke. Crushed rocks. Pear drops. Water adds a brown sugar backing.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Oily. Dried beef slices. Crushed rocks. Sweet lime. Water adds fudge. Slightly more chewy texture. Apples. Raisins. Buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Ash. Smoke. Malt chocolate. Light praline. Lightly nutty. Water makes for slight sulphur and fatty butter.

Conclusion: Ok, this is much more enjoyable than the unpeated version. Mainly because, well, peat. Peat solves 76.3% of the world’s problems. As long as the problem is lack of peat.

(and the other 23.7% can be solved by more peat)

The base whisky under the peat feels just slightly more chewy than the unpeated version, especially with a drop of water. There is still some green fruit evident, a good chunk of vanilla toffee to fudge sweetness backing. Nothing stand out but a solid core to work from. The peat on top of that comes in a generally ashes, smokey and slightly dry way with a crushed rock quality to it. It feels like a lighter peat touch to an easy drinking dram rather than the more meaty, beefy and broth like of the heavier peated island and Islay whiskies.

Initially it seems ok but a bit simple, kind of like the bare minimum you would expect of a decent peated whisky. Nothing unpleasant but also nothing that really grabbed my attention. Even like this is is nicely smooth, with present peat use and a what feels like a lowland influenced base in its style.

Water make for an interesting change to that though. On the down side it adds a bit of a muggy set of sulphurous notes that don’t really fit with the smooth character but in exchange it brings in subtle notes of dark fruit that add a decent bit of complexity into the equation. It also adds a slightly fatty butter touch, if feels like that touch of water unlocks some of the advantages from this being non chilled filtered.

Water isn’t 100% a benefit to the whisky, but it does make it more interesting. This isn’t a must grab for me, but it is a huge jump up in quality from the unpeated version, and leaves me hoping that the final mini in the collection will be even better yet.

Background: Second of the three miniatures in this box set of new releases from the St George Distillery that I’m guessing will make up their main line up. This one is their peated expression, which made it instantly more interesting to me as a big peat fan. I made my “hate The English” joke last time, so that is my joke routine already wasted and depleted. Again no age statement here. After enjoying her new release recently, I went back to Laura Jane Grace’s previous solo album as music to back this – Still Alive. As before this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

St George Distillery: The English – Original (English Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly greened touch but mostly clear. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous. Apples. Pencil shavings. Dry cake sponge. Moss. Slight neutral vodka alcohol character. Water makes slightly oily. Lighter fluid touch. More water makes lightly sulphur touched. Crushed rocks with a lick of salt.

Body: Smooth. Gentle toffee. Cake sponge. Slight cream. Mild chocolate eclair sweets. Everything done in a subtle way. Neutral alcohol character. Water adds more toffee and chocolate eclairs. More water turns to crushed rocks and apples.

Finish: Wood shavings. Fudge. Apples. Clean alcohol but smooth. Light aniseed. Water adds cake sponge. Toffee. More waters adds crushed rocks, pears and a nail varnish air.

Conclusion: This needs water, not because it is harsh, as it is not (though there is a kind of neutral alcohol sheen to the whole thing, it is just a smooth alcohol sheen if that makes sense?). It does however definitely need water. Not too much water though. Adding more than just a gentle pour turns this into a slightly gritty rocks thing that loses most of the better notes. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, with the sweet spot of water this is a gentle, very gentle, toffee and fudge thing with a slightly creamy flavour – though without the associated weight. There are slightly heavier chocolate eclair hard sweet notes, but by slightly I do mean slightly, neat it was so light as to feel almost vanishing which is why it needed water so badly. Water actually makes it that tiny touch heavier and makes the so very slightly heavier flavours stand out more. So yes, add a drop of water to this to get it to open up.

Some of the apple and pear notes I remember from the very young spirit of the Chapter 6 release actually manage to still survive through to this expression, but not much.

Overall it is not exactly impressive. Neat it has some clean alcohol sheen and light flavours, too much water and it gets a bit gritty. At its best it is gentle and easygoing, but even with the extra flavour the water brings out it is not as interesting as a well developed smooth lowland which seems its direct competitor.

It is ok, but there are so many other gentle drinking whiskies that give so much more for the experience that I cannot recommend this one.

Background: Last time I ran into the St George Distillery they were using the name “The English Whisky Company”, now they are just listing it as “The English”. Which means every time they make a crap whisky I can now use the “I hate the English” joke. Anyway, this has no age statement but I did notes on their Chapter 6 whisky back in 2012 so I’m guessing they have at least 10 year whisky lying around. I am also fairly sure than is not youngest whisky they used in this from the notes. This was part of a three pack of miniatures grabbed from Independent Spirit, which had this along with a peated take and a rum finished one. Will be trying those another day. Was chatting with friends again while doing these notes so no backing music this time.

Buffalo Trace: W L Weller Special Reserve (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Very bright gold, almost lucozade bright. Very fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Peppery spice. Rye crackers. Orange sorbet. Honey. Cream. Light milk.

Body: Honey. Honey nut cornflakes. Wheaty thickness. Lightly peppery. Smooth, but with a grip. Toffee to toffee liqueur. Cream. Orange cream. Oily. Sap. Apple notes over time.

Finish: Slight sulphur. Honey nut cornflakes. Touch of smoke. Wheat flakes. Peppery. Vanilla. Charred oak. Toffee liqueur. Grapes. Menthol and sap mix.

Conclusion: The first impressions I got from this was of a lot of spice – mainly a mix of peppery character and a touch of rye crackers. Which is more what I would have expected from a rye heavy whisky than a wheated bourbon like this. It reminds me of the Van Winkle range (for a reason that turned out not to be a coincidence as I note in the background below), even having that slight orange note to it.

That spice I mentioned is there for the whole whiskey, but it is far from the whole story. It is smooth, yet with a slightly fluffy grip that in some ways reminds me of the soft grip you get from a weissebier. I would say it makes sense but I have not encountered this in any other wheated bourbon, so I think it is just a coincidence.

Flavour wise it has a soft toffee to toffee liqueur set of notes underneath, a gentle slightly milky feel and sweeter flavours under the spice front notes. The ahem wheaty feel and pepper character makes it never completely smooth, but the toffee cream touch to the core does make it a lot smoother than most of its similar contemporaries and calls to the impressions of a far smoother whiskey.

Now, as discussed in the background, it has a lot of reason for tasting kind of similar to the Van Winkles, especially in that orange touch, but it has a lot of differences apart from that smoother character. It has a slight menthol touch that makes it fresh, and lots of honey assisting the sweetness. While it starts spice and rye, the longer you take to sip it the smoother and smoother it will get, with more vanilla, honey and finally even apple coming out for a more soothing end to the dram.

It is basically a smoother, slightly more toffee take on the Van Winkle style, but that description doesn’t do it justice. There are touches from grapes, to that creamy note. I actually mildly prefer it to a good chunk of the Winkle range. It is not as forthright, but smoother and with that character of its own that makes it distinctive.

Background: I’m going to be copy pasting the bulk of this over the next few notes, so apologies if it becomes repetitive but a lot of the info will be the same – So, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the first and allegedly easiest to find whisky of the evening. Well I guess it is easier, just that does not mean easy. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and uses the same mash load as the three Van Winkles that came after it. Apparently the main difference is that each barrel is sampled and select ones chosen for the Van Winkle range, the rest for this cheaper but still expensive on the aftermarket bottling.

Bushmills: Caribbean Rum Cask Finish (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

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

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Spicy. Dark rum. Sugar cane. Strawberry. Rhubarb touch. Cake sponge. Water makes cleaner.

Body: Smooth. Light lemon cakes. Dry grain alcohol. Strawberry. Red raspberries. Toffee. Sweet, dark rum. Vanilla. Water makes smoother. Adds grapes. Soft lime. Cherries. Brown sugar.

Finish: Alcoholic jelly touch. Red fruit medley. Dry rum. Brown sugar. Treacle touch. Alcohol air in general. Water makes burnt brown sugar. More clear rum. Dry rice.

Conclusion: This is rum finished, rather than fully aged in a rum cask like the Travel Exclusive Steamship edition. This is a blended whisky with grain whiskey in it unlike that Single Malt Steamship, and the classic 12 Year Caribbean Rum finish travel exclusive Bushmills. It is a no age statement whisky, similar to the Steamship but unlike the 12 year.

So, with all that said, you would expect the Steamship Rum edition to be superior and probably closer to the classic 12 year right? Yet, somehow it is not. Which is a long way around saying that this blended rum cask finish is pretty cool.

So, let’s get the bad side out of the way first. I’m not sure how much grain whiskey was used in this, but the neutral, rough grain kind of spirit is evident here. Not a great look, especially in the finish where it hangs around. Water mutes that but also takes down the vibrancy of the whisky a bit. So, the choice, especially for the aroma, is slight grain alcohol tingle or a more muted character.

That said, this feels pretty joyous despite its flaws. There are light citrus notes that are familiar to the Bushmills spirit that are evident there – lemon and lime notes particularly make a show. Now these citrus notes are by far not the main show, this is very much about the rum finish, but it does show one of the reasons I prefer this over the fully rum aged version – it gives more room for the native Bushmills character to show alongside the unusual ageing and give more complexity and range to the whiskey.

The rum is very present but not overwhelmingly dominant, showing as a mix of red fruit, rum itself obviously, and burnt sugar. Lovely and vibrant, yet the base Bushmills character gives that fresh contrast and make it pretty smooth overall despite the grain rough edges.

So, to no surprise, the 12 year old single malt Caribbean rum finish that now only exists in my idealised memories of it, is better than this. However, this, nearly 20 years on, is still slightly cheaper than that was – and we have had a long time of whiskey getting more expensive in the mean time. It is a heck of a lot easier to get than that was and , oh yes, this still exists – unlike that one.

So, go in expecting the grain edges, a slight rice in the finish and accepting it won’t be a classic and you will find a fun rum finished Bushmills. One that will do as a stand in while I plead for them to pull their damn finger out and remake the proper 12 year single malt take again. It is far from perfect, but a decent price point for a fun dram, so it does the job for me.

Background: Ok, this one has some background indeed, as has been hinted at in the main notes. The travel exclusive 12 Year Caribbean Rum Cask Finish Bushmills Single Malt was one of my first real great whiskeys I tried. So, since that was only available for a short time, I have spent the years since trying to find something similar. So, when I found this, a blended no age statement Bushmills, with that cask finish, at Independent Spirit I had to grab it and give it a try. Since it was calling back to a more innocent age I went with The Eels: Beautiful Freak as music. Loved that album and hadn’t listened to it for a while.

Glen Flagler: 100% Pot Still Whisky – Rare All Malt (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, lightly grain coloured whisky. Very slow, medium thickness puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed concrete dust. Wisp of smoke. Noticeable alcohol. Menthol to lime air. Light dried beef slices. White grapes and vanilla. With water it is still rocky but cleaner and with less alcohol.

Body: Wet rocks. Vanilla. Moderate peat. Slightly gritty. Moss. Vanilla fudge. Slight sulphur. Water makes smoother. Still mossy and gritty. Peated caramel. Chocolate eclair hard sweets.

Finish: Wet rocks. Gritty. Vanilla. Moss. Smoke to ash trays. Slight sulphur. Water makes very gritty.

Conclusion: Another peated lowland? Was this a trend in the past that I missed out on or something? Though since it seems every distillery that tried it died there may not be as much demand for peated lowland as I hoped. May be just me wanting it then.

This is slightly more rough edges than the Dunglass I tried – there is definitely a more evident youthful spirit character, even though I *think* they may be the same age. If feels kind of similar to the Dunglass but grittier, rockier and with more evident peat.

Now, this isn’t the experience the whole way through. It does open up to a sweeter vanilla fudge style over time, but even then it has a sulphur led roughness to it.

Water initially just smooths the alcohol, which is appreciated, but keeps it fairly gritty as a whole. However a touch more water brings out a caramel and chocolate set of notes, kind of like chocolate eclair hard sweets. This does mean that the higher levels of peat gives it a peated caramel style which is not something I expected to ever encounter.

Now the peat isn’t heavy, just heavier than Dunglass does it, but the smoke and rocky character is definitely the defining element here.

Since we are comparing dead peated lowlands here, Dunglass did it better. This is a bit more of a rough experience, it doesn’t really full indulge the peat, nor the smoothness of the lowland character, so doesn’t make the most of either style it wears.

It still makes me want more peated lowland whisky, it is just this doesn’t quite have the spark. A nice idea that has been done better by another (also dead) distillery. We so need a running distillery to get on this.

Background: Well, this is hard one to get information on, I have bought or been given a ton of books on Whisky over the years and the vast majority didn’t even mention this one. It is a peated lowland whisky that was made between 1964 and 1985. I saw this miniature at Old and Rare whisky and grabbed it to be able to give this dead distillery a try. This is the last of a small batch of miniatures I got from there. They are a darn expensive web site, even for what they have, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to try these without having to buy a very expensive 70cl bottle. This is listed as 70% proof, which may confuse some people from the USA as by USA measures that would be 35% abv and so below the 40% abv minimum needed for whisky. However by UK 70% proof that is 40% abv. Confusing, yes? So now you know. There is no age statement on this, but the art matches the 5 year 70cl bottling, sooo, maybe that? Who knows. Went with Pulp: Different Class as backing music. Still good after all this time.

Littlemill: Dunglass 5 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold colour, with quite slow puckering from the spirit.

Nose: Clean vanilla. Ash. Dried beef slices. Alcoholic lime. Broken rocks. Alcohol tingle. Water makes gentle. Light moss and gentle peat.

Body: Smooth. Lime. Vanilla toffee. Cream. Managed peat. Water adds more ash like notes and heavier smoke.

Finish: Vanilla fudge. Smoke. Slightly dry. Water adds heavier smoke. More water brings out a wet cardboard note.

Conclusion: Now, for all they are prized for collectors, with a lot of dead distilleries I can see why they died. A lot are not particularly stand out in the whisky world. This distillery, and more so than just the distillery, this particular Dunglass style expression – why did this not survive?

As a pretty expensive dram it is fairly simple for what you are paying. It is smooth, very obviously lowland character with smooth vanilla. The peat used is gentle, and while there is a bit of youthful alcohol it is still generally smooth, and the little bump it has can easily be smoothed out with a few drops of water. It would seem to be a very stereotypical smooth lowland if it wasn’t for that gentle peat.

That gentle peat? That is such a pleasure. Not fancy, but it gives a very different character to this easy to drink whisky. A tasty peat character but without any of the harshness that usually comes with peat – in fact this is gentler than most of the unpeated whisky on the market.

If you add more than just a drop of water to this it does become more ash filled, more peaty and heavier. Not bad, but it makes it lose its raison d’etre. There are many better peatier and heavy whiskies than this with some water, but none that are as lowland smooth, sweet and yet peated as it is before you add that water. At least none that have been encountered by me. In fact I was surprised to find out Littlemill was not triple distilling at this time as this very much has that character. A bit more water also adds a less pleasant wet cardboard note, this is definitely just a drop or two of water dram.

As a rare whisky it is too expensive for what it should be – a gentle, easy drinking whisky with that surprising touch of peat weight, but I genuinely want an easier to buy whisky like this. Someone please make and release it. This is simple, satisfying, sweet and peaty and you can’t go wrong with it except for the higher price.

Background: So, another chance to try a dead distillery, thought technically the distillery is not a new one to me. I got to try a Littlemill a long time back at the Rummer Hotel. This however is a rare lightly peated expression they did in the late 1960s, with the actual distillery closing in 1992 (ish? I’ve seen 1994 listed as well, and it had closed previously in 1984 – frankly don’t trust these dates too much, I’ve seen too many different ones) and dismantled 1997. Looks like they also did a heavily peated one called Dumbuck, but I’ve not tried that one. Anyway saw this 5 year old miniature at Old and Rare Whisky. As I have mentioned before they are expensive, even for the whisky they sell, but the chance to try this whisky without needed to buy a full and very expensive bottle was an opportunity I did not want to pass up. As you can tell from the spirit being made in the 60s and this being 5 years old, this bottle has been around a while, and the cap seemed to almost fuse with the bottle. Took some proper effort to get it off and to the whisky inside. There isn’t any abv listed on the bottle, but the listing online said 40% abv so that is what I put here. Wanted some light but haunting music for backing so went with Celeste: Farewell.

Connoisseurs Choice: Millburn 1966 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Very dark, caramel to treacle brown colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel and treacle. Heavy. Treacle toffee. Light smoke. Hot sticky toffee pudding. Light pencil shavings. Water makes lighter and brings out slight menthol.

Body: Very smooth. Caramel. Light greenery. Tingle on the tongue, but not in a boozy way. Charring. Dried beef slices. Peppery. Water makes cleaner and brings out more greenery.

Finish: Stir fry vegetables. Charring. Smoke. Moss. Oak. Malt chocolate. Water brings out treacle and white pepper.

Conclusion: Well, this is both heavy and light. AT THE SAME TIME. Odd, no?

The aroma is heavy caramel and treacle, in a real thick, sweet booming set of notes – so from this I was expecting a fairly chewy character of whisky ahead of me.

So, I take a sip and the flavours are still heavily on the caramel side, but initially the body is surprisingly smooth and just slightly light. Far less chewy than the aroma had led me to expect. The flavours are still heavy though. Under the sweet notes that the aroma promised there is instead a very greenery, peppery and slightly smokey thing, with just a hint of menthol release. Instead of simple sweetness it feels like a spice jar of a whisky.

Water actually makes it feel thicker. Don’t know how that works, and as well as that extra weight makes it also feel even more spice led.

The emphasis on spice isn’t to my personal taste, so this isn’t a favourite for me, but it is still impressively weighty in the flavours it brings to the fore. I think it would make a good part of a vatted malt if it was not nigh impossible to get now. The weight would be a boon to many a blend, and if used as a backing the spice could be a great element.

A fascinating one I am glad to have tried, but not super to my taste so I am glad I don’t have a full bottle to go. Especially at current costs.

Background: So, the amount of single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland I have not tried has reduced to a small number now – mostly either newly opened distilleries, or, like this from one of the silent distilleries that have closed over the years. Bottles from these dead distilleries can be expensive beyond my capabilities. So, when I saw that Old and Rare whisky had miniatures from a few distilleries I had not tried I was very interested. I don’t use Old and Rare much, they tend to be expensive, even for what they offer – and millilitre for millilitre these minis are expensive, but compared to getting full bottles it al least gives me a chance to try these distilleries. There is no age statement on the bottle, but a google suggests that there is a 70cl bottling from 1966 by Connoisseurs Choice that looks similar that is a 16 Year. Doesn’t necessarily mean that this one is, but that is the best guess I can get. You can tell this has been bottled for a long time though – with rust evident of the outside of the cap, and the bottle not quite being full due to loss of spirit over the years. Anyway, wanted some big music for the occasion so went with Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!. Lovely haunting stuff and perfect for the occasion.

Lidl: Ben Bracken: 16 Year Old Islay (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 16 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed apricot. Fast thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Menthol. Alcohol tingle. Meat broth. Smoke. Mossy. Wet oak. Dried apricot. Dried beef slices. Water adds more dried beef and beef stock.

Body: Warming. Fairly smooth. Oily smoke. Tar touch. Salty rocks. Light medicinal. Slightly drying. Dried beef slices. Malt chocolate. Dried apricot. Water makes smoother. Brings out caramel. Still a prickle of alcohol. Slight cucumber. Beef broth.

Finish: Wet rocks. Dry peat smoke. Malt chocolate. Medicinal. Water adds raisins to fruitcake and glacier cherries. Sweeter chocolate. Madeira cake. Rice cakes.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. Everyone wants a guess at which distillery this game from. Well it is definitely not Ardbeg, or Laphroig unless they are working severely off type! Probably not Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Bunnahabhain or Kilchoman from the flavour. Best I know Ardnahoe doesn’t have any of anywhere near this age yet.

So, this has some Lagavulin like notes – the meaty broth like notes and decent peat, but it is not as polished or weighty as I would expect from them. With the tarry notes and general style, I would guess this is a high quality Caol Ila of more years than I normally encounter from them.

Though I could be wrong. It is just a guess. Anyway, less worrying about where it is from, more worrying about what it is like!

It is the heavier end of what you would expect from an Islay. Thick mouthfeel, some burning elements in the aroma when neat, but generally quite smooth despite the weight of feel. It is slightly oily and tarry, slightly medicinal and has a fair amount of dry peat smoke. Neat it can get drying overall, but still manages a general meaty character.

It has got a lot of peat in there, but not Ardbeg levels, and in general it feels smoothed out by age. That ageing means that, despite some alcohol notes, it still feels fine and weighty neat – however water does bring out just that big more dark fruit to express itself.

With water there is also some good sweetness under there as well, with chocolate and caramel hints coming out as it opens up. Generally though this is a sticky, heavy thing that emphasises the more tarry oily and peaty feel of an Islay whisky without going as full bore as the big guns of the island tend to.

So, to indulge the “Where is it from” vibe, again – this doesn’t feel as good as the Lagavulin 16, which is one of its close comparisons, especially with being the same age – it shows some similarity in the meaty, peaty character but isn’t as polished. Though since Lagavulin 16 is pretty much a desert island dram for me, that isn’t a harsh criticism, even making such a comparison bodes well for it. With the aforementioned tarry, oily, medicinal touch it would slot in nicely as a high quality aged Caol Ila, so that is what I would view it when deciding if it will be to your taste.

A very good dram, especially for the price. Not the best, if you are looking for that, but very high quality and very affordable for the age and quality.

Background: At Christmas Lidl released this special edition, a 16 year Islay from an unknown Distillery, for just under thirty five pounds. That is a good price, and reviews were positive so I decided to try and grab a bottle, but my local Lidl didn’t have any in stock. Typical, the one time I try and use the place. So, my parents came through for me, managed to grab a bottle and gave it to me as a Christmas present. Many thanks! Now, you may have realised this is a long time since Christmas – due to covid lock-down I only just finally got to meet my parents for the first time in over a year recently. So then I finally got it. Woo! Also, woo for meeting family. But, also woo whisky! I know my priorities (Sorry Mum). There has been a lot of guessing about where this could be from, but I have no additional info, so have to just guess. Music wise I went back to Akala: Knowledge Is Power: Vol 2 – pretty much the guy who got me into looking at more hip hop and it is epic.

Signatory Vintage: Coleburn 1983 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 14 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Peppery. Lots of oak and pencil shavings. Moss. Cinder toffee. Alcohol fumes. Water adds sulphur and boiled eggs. More water clears to toffee and moss.

Body: Apples to apple pie. Oak. Tannins. Soot. Peppery sweets. Cinder toffee. Light strawberry. Black pepper. Charring. Water adds vanilla toffee. Sulphur. More water makes quite clean flavour and slightly oily.

Finish: Aniseed. Oak. Greenery to moss. Soot. Slight charring. Slightly numbing. Spicy. Water brings out sulphur. More water makes slightly oily.

Conclusion: So, a commonly used phrase with whisky is that “you can add water, but you can’t remove it”. That applies double when you only have a miniature to play with. Triple when that mini is this one.

Neat this starts out fairly dull, but develops in quite interesting ways. It is initially peppery and heather led. Which is not much to write home about, right?

There is more than that to come though. Initially the only release from the more savoury notes is an apple pie sweet base, but over time it eases out into a far more fun cinder toffee sweetness. Even the peppery character starts to alter to remind me of those deliberately hot peppery sweets that I bought as a kid. It is still a bit sooty, still a bit musty overall, but now at least interesting to go along with that. There are unusual and pleasant layers under the more Milquetoast front.

Anyway, so, playing with water. Water kind of brings out the worst in this. Initially it brings out an eggy sulphur like touch into a sort of slight sulphurous oiliness. Not a good element in itself and it hurts the whisky overall by overwhelming some of the more interesting subtle flavours.

More water relaxes the influence of the worst notes, but also the good ones. It turns it into a very generic whisky. Nothing good, nothing bad.

Overall, when had neat it has some interesting quirks, but is generally straightforward. Water ruins it. As a general priced whisky this would be sub par. As an expensive dead distillery whisky I say avoid.

Background: Coleburn is a long silent distillery, so when I saw that The Whisky World had a miniature of it I snapped it up. Most silent distilleries are out of my price range, so – while millilitre for millilitre miniatures are expensive, they give me a chance to try distilleries I would normally not be able to try. Signatory Vintage tend to be a very solid one for independent bottlings so I had confidence they would be decent. This was bottled back in 1997, which explains why there was some rust on the container’s metal lid. A quick research in my books tells me Coleburn was build back in the 1890s and lived right through to the 1980s (1985 to be exact) , so this is right from the tail end of its life. It’s spirit was always intended for use in blends, so bottlings are comparatively rare. For a whisky like this I wanted some appropriate music so went with the electrical oddity wonder that is Marie Davidson’s Perte D’identite.

Walsh Whisky: Writer’s Tears – Copper Pot (Irish Blended Whisky: 40% ABV)

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

Nose: Smooth. Honey and toffee. Honey nut cornflakes. Shreddies. White grapes. Butter on crumpets. Fresh cut apples. Water adds trail mix and dried apricot. More green fruit.

Body: Smooth. Honey to golden syrup. Moderate thickness. Only gets warming if held for a while. Bready late on. Apples to apple pie. Pear to pear drops. Malt chocolate. White chocolate. Water adds more white chocolate and some grain like rough edge.

Finish: Malt drinks. Honey on toast. Margarine on crumpets. Chocolate cake. Apple pie. Water adds slight rice and grain rough edges.

Conclusion: Ok, this may be just because it is what I was told, but I can 100% believe that this is Bushmills whiskey in here. In fact a very short and sweet description would be that this feels like a better take on the charred bourbon barrel travel exclusive Bushmills I had a while back.

It is smooth, but with a bit more grip that I expected in an Irish triple distilled whisky, especially at 40% abv. Also it is, to paraphrase a comment used to recommend it to me, much juicier in how the cask influence feels. The green fruit feels bigger, the sweetness as well, and just in general juicier that most of this style.

It has a mix of the juicier and more natural feeling fruit notes, and a more artificial, sweeter notes. Apple vs apple pie and pear vs pear drops being the most notable examples. It is an interesting and refreshing mix.

There is a lovely, sweet honey base, but also a bready and margarine savoury thickness which gives a mix of weight and easy drinking sweetness. Nothing too heavy, just a bit more weight than usual.

Now, there are some bad points – for one somehow water really doesn’t help here. It brings out the more grain edged, rougher, dry rice kind of character that was hidden when it was neat. Thankfully it isn’t a huge issue, as it is smooth enough neat – it doesn’t need water and that is lucky as water just makes it a little worse.

So, what we have so far is smooth, with nice thickness – lots of show from both the sweeter bourbon ageing, and the more fruity spirit character. It is a really solid set.

It may seem expensive for a blended Bushmills based whisky, but it compares well to the ten year in quality – and shows a very different aspect by concentrating on the bourbon ageing. It is better than the bourbon cask version aged before, doing that thing’s main point better than it ever managed.

Overall a lovely easy drinking dram.


Background: So, I have it on good authority that the whiskey for this is sourced from Bushmills, of which I am already a fan. This is a mix of single pot still and single malt whisky, both triple distilled as is common in Ireland, then aged in charred bourbon casks. Fairly simple, and what I was looking for as I wanted a nice easy drinking whisky. I will note that this was described as feeling like it had a “Juicier” cask than some other of the whiskies I was looking at, and that did seem to hit home when I did notes, so I will admit I may have been influenced by that. This was bought from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Noctule: Wretched Abyss, a Skyrim influenced black metal album from the lead singer of Svalbard. I’m a huge fan of Svalbard so was definitely going to check this out. It is heavy and awesome.

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