Tag Archive: 40-45% ABV


Nomad: Outland Whisky (Scottish/Spanish Whisky: 41.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and spirity. Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Raspberry yogurt chunks. Raisins. Light burning notes, but mostly smooth. Oak.

Body: Very smooth. Brandy cream. Custard. Vanilla toffee. Sultanas. Sweet red wine. Honey. Very slightly light, but warming if held. Sulphur if held. Raspberry yogurt. Condensed cream. Water makes smoother, and fuller with more raisins.

Finish: Rum soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light wood. Light waxy character. Dry sherry. Water makes trifle like.

Conclusion: This is both definitely a young whisky, and also a very smooth one. One of those odd contradictions that I don’t expect but enjoy when I find them. It has a spirity thickness, but even neat it has a restrained burn and water soon turns it into a very easy drinking thing.

It doesn’t seem to get a lot of the flavour from the base spirit – it feels like this is all coming from the barrel ageing, all the way. Lots of brandy cream notes, very creamy in general with sherry, sweet red wine and raisins all showing from the barrel ageing. It is a sweet and dark fruit laden thing with a slightly waxy feel when neat, but becomes just clean smoothness with water.

A tad simple isn’t the right words for it – there is a lot going on here, with honey and vanilla toffee sweetness backing the fruit – however there really isn’t any sign of where it came from outside of the barrel. So if you are into whisky for all the odd quirks that come from different makes of the spirit then you will not get that here. However taken for what it is it is very enjoyable. Very smooth with water, very trifle like, very sweet – it gives a lot to enjoy from the short, unusual, ageing.

So a whisky for general enjoying, fun and, with water, is amazing at not showing any rough edges from its youth. At a higher price point I would want more odd quirks from the base spirit, but as is it gives a lot for your money. In fact it reminds me slightly of the Irish style whiskey in its smooth, sweet and easy drinking style. So a Scotch touched, Irish feeling, Spain finished whisky. A true nomad – very good value easy drinking whisky.

Background: Odd ageing done with this one -it is made up of a mix of 5 to 8 year old whisky that has been aged in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, then sent to Jerez where it is finished in Pedro Ximenez casks for a year. I first tried a sample of this at Wine Rack in Leeds, just before going to see NXT wrestling. We had been aiming for the excellent North Bar and just nipped into the Wine Rack as it was right next to it – unfortunately I was a tad skint at the time, so couldn’t grab a bottle then – instead grabbing it months later from Independent Spirit. Its a good shop though, so thought I would give them a mention. Drunk while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees – never really listened to them before, but has seen an excellent tribute band to them, so was giving them a try.

Advertisements

Auldi: Glenmarnoch: Islay (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big. Peaty. Fish oils. Slight salt. Wet rocks. Smokey. Dry charring. Water makes more oaken.

Body: Thick. Coal. Big smoke. Honey. Charring. Fish skins. Toffee. Light choc lime sweets. Warming. Water makes sweeter and also more meaty. Beef.

Finish: Smoke. Lots of peat. Beef slices. Slight golden syrup. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Water adds beef stew, vanilla and light salt.

Conclusion: With there being so comparatively few Islay distilleries, it is hard to try and unnamed Islay distillery expression and not try to guess where it came from. For example – take this one – heavy on the peat, very smokey and beefy which makes it highly unlikely to be bunnahabhain or similarly one from the lighter end of the Islay scale. Admittedly most distilleries there do do a heavy peated variant of their spirit, but I doubt Auldi would get cheap access to that.

Under the peat there is a lot of sweetness, delivered quite honey and toffee touched, which makes me think the more medicinal like Laphroaig are out of the running. It, instead, seems like the general weight I would associate with Ardbeg – not quite as intense, but in a similar ballpark. Maybe the heavier end of Caol Ila if not that.

Anyway, musings on where it could be from aside, considering this is a no age statement whisky I was very surprised at how smooth this was. It is warming, but no alcohol burn – no real signs of youth apart from the fact it has not had long enough to lose any of the peat weight.

For an Islay fan like me it feels a tad over smooth, a tad lacking in the rougher edges I like – its akin to a good vatted malt in how it smooths things out. I am aware though that for many of you that will be an advantage, not a flaw.

So, to use minor criticisms, it isn’t as full of depth as , say Laphroaig quarter cask, or Lagavulin 16, nowhere near that quality. However those are top notch whiskies, and on the price point this comes it at, it isn’t competing with them.

It is very smooth, toffee sweet and heavy peat – not one of the best whiskies, but bloody good for the price point.

Background: Yes I know there is no such place as the Glenmarnoch Distillery – the fact that they had to specify that it was the Islay release gave that away first. Most distilleries stay in one place and don’t have releases from different regions. This instead is Aldi’s name for their varied whisky releases. I’d heard that they had a surprisingly good reputation, but had never got around to trying them. Then, at a whisky tasting at mine, Tony brought this around, and said I could keep what was left of the bottle for hosting it. Many thanks mate. So, I tried it again to do proper tasting notes a few days later, whilst listening to some Jonathan Young stuff on youtube.

Angel’s Envy (USA: Bourbon/ Whiskey: 43.3% ABV)

Visual: Quite deep gold.

Viscosity: Slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Minty. Peppery. Banana candy sweets. Rye crackers. Banana syrup. Spicy red wine. Light cherries. Vanilla. Topical fruit. Water adds pear drops.

Body: Big. Orange crème. Dry raisins. Madeira. Water adds banana and pear drops and light Blackpool rock.

Finish: Butterscotch. Peppery. Brown bread and rye crackers. Orange crème. Madeira. Dry raisins. Rum soaked fruitcake. Water adds pear drops and dried banana along with hints of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Right – I really do like this one – it feels like a mix of traditional bourbon vanilla and rye characteristics matched with the unusual fruity raisins and dry spicy wine notes. At this point it feels like a sherry aged bourbon (Yes I know legally you can’t sherry barrel age bourbon, run with me on this one) – and like that I definitely enjoyed it.

However this is not just a good, but in fact an excellent whiskey and what makes it that is it feels like a whole host of traditional sweet shop notes have been mixed in with that – notes of pear drops on the light end, chewy banana sweets for thicker notes and a sparkle of Blackpool rock sweetness above that – lots of lighter and sweeter notes than adds a real easy going character into the bourbon style. It is a huge contrast but not in a way that creates any unpleasant dissonance of character.

This has so many subtle, interesting notes around the solid bourbon like base, and sherry aged whiskey highlights – and these are then subtly enhanced again by adding a drop of water. It calls to mind high quality bourbon, but playing with a range of complexity that normally it would not be allowed to handle.

An excellent whiskey/bourbon – one that I genuinely recommend you grab if you ever get the chance. It has been a few years between tries for me, and I hope it is not that long before I can try it again.

Background: OK, a quick explanation first on why I put both bourbon and whiskey up above. In most fashions this is a bourbon best I know, but, again as a far as I know, legally bourbon has to be aged entirely in fresh casks. This has been aged in port pipes for about 3-6 months after initial maturation, so I think it is technically not bourbon. Any which way – yep – an experimentation that I approve of. I first tried this years ago during the “Road Trip Of Awesome” in America, but did not do notes at the time. So, when I saw that it was in Independent Spirit’s “Mediocre Whisky Tasting” line-up I was a very happy bunny (Disclaimer – I am not actually a bunny). As before this was done in a more social environment, so my notes may be a tad more scattershot that normal – apologies.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canadian Blended Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Rye crackers. Light orange. Menthol. Peppermint. Vanilla. Water adds coconut, white chocolate and light praline.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Coconut. Slight bitter chocolate. Light smoke. Water makes much smoother and slightly more oaken.

Finish: Brown bread. Vanilla. Peppery. Menthol. Peppermint. Buttery shortbread. Tropical fruit. Coconut. White chocolate. Quite dry and with an alcohol air. Water makes more oaken and more menthol, with some charring to it.

Conclusion: This is one of those ones that ends up as a tale of two whiskies. Initially it shows a dry, spicy rye kind of thing; Lots of rye bourbon styling, while this is a whisky it has both the rye and a light set of orange crème notes that are definitely a call to bourbon style.

However, under those dry notes is a light vanilla sweetness matched with some white chocolate character. Items that usually would be very sweet notes, but since they are delivered so dryly they instead just add more of the flavour, with just some sweet hints to them as well.

Neat it has a light amount of menthol to peppermint that is fresh, however it doesn’t seem to match the other elements well. Thankfully even a few drops of water removes this, leaving more influence for the dry spicy and peppery backing.

Even like this is still has some slight vanilla sweetness – just enough to keep it from getting too wearing. Now this leaves me in a bit of a bind – usually very dry whiskies aren’t my thing – however even as such I can respect the complexity this has and the range it brings. Even with that the character makes it far from easy drinking so I’m more appreciating it that fully enjoying it.

So, a complex but just slightly harsh edged whisky. Enjoyable, chocolate backed dry coconut and peppermint spice – it is good, but not great.

Background: Now, recently Independent Spirit did what they called their “Mediocre Whisky tasting” Now the first whisky was this – what Jim Murray listed as his best whisky in the world for 2016, so you may have guessed they were being a tad flippant there. It was an amazing line up of very hard to find whiskies – including Hibiki 17 and Yamazaki 12, amongst some others – the notes of which will be turning up in the next few days. Now, accepting that Jim Murray’s picks may be slightly…political shall we say, I was still very interested to try this. A blended whisky made with 90% rye. Because of the tasting environment my notes may be a slight bit shorter than normal – hopefully they should still make sense.

Macallan: Gold (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep burnished gold (Well that is good, otherwise it would be false advertising in the name)

Viscosity: Quite fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Stewed apricot. Vanilla. Thick. Custard. Slight alcohol tingle, but generally smooth. Pencil shavings. Light menthol. Fudge. Water makes lighter – slightly more alcohol and minty.

Body: Smooth. Some alcohol. Slightly light. Custard. Golden syrup. Oak. Water makes dried and stewed apricot mix. Vanilla toffee. Enough water removes alcohol edges. White grapes.

Finish: Oak. Wet wood. Alcohol air. Slight malt drinks. Water adds slight apricot. Slight golden syrup. Chocolate toffee and or those chocolate eclair sweets. Slight spicy raisins and rim. Slight grapes.

Conclusion: Why do so few whiskies live up to their aromas? Yep, that’s always a good start for a set of notes, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve had this in the bars a few times, but always at or neat the end of a session – so never a good time to really analyse it. So, coming at it now, as I approached its aroma I was filled with hope.

The aroma is thick and filled with promise – stewed fruits, lots of smooth, sweet flavours. Not unusual but with a very appealing weight to it.

The main body? Well it has more alcohol roughness to it – not badly, just a kind of generic blended whisky kind of rough edge which needs a fair chunk of water to get rid of. Water is also needed to bring back the stewed fruits that the aroma promised. Now, water generally does help whisky, so this is not a huge deal, but you never get the thickness and weight the aroma promised.

Time helps as well. Bringing out spicier, sherry cask influenced notes in the finish. In fact the finish (with water) is probably the best part of the whisky. Here you get a robustness and range which the main body distinctly lacks.

Not to say that this is bad, just very average – you get expected sweetness, expected oak, some of the expected sherry influenced, but with a tad rougher edged than ideal. Ok, but considering the usual huge rep of Macallan, a bit of a mediocre delivery.

So, ok, but no great shakes.

Background: Its been bugging me for a while that I have not done notes for this before. As a replacement for the Macallan 10 year this seemed to me to be the whisky that really was at the heart of the no age statement whisky debate. It was the most well known whisky to run that path and, despite having tried a few times, I had never really examined it. So, I grabbed from mini from Independent Spirit to give it a proper going over. I had just seen Mike Bird vs Matt Riddle at Chaos wrestling – an utterly amazing match so I was in good spirits.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection: Sherry Cask (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Light bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Medium size and speed streaks.

Nose: Cream and strawberry. Soft alcohol air. Heather. Mild oak. Black cherry and dried raspberry bits. Dry honey. Water adds slight menthol and greenery. Sour black cherries.

Body: Smooth. Strawberry. Red grapes. Port. Slight black cherry. Warming. Red cherry. Mild oak. Light menthol. Water make smoother. Sour black cherry. Blueberry. Cake sponge. Dark fruit yogurt. Cream. Dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slight charring. Slight alcohol air. Water gives malt chocolate. Cherry pocked digestives. Cake sponge. Blue berry.

Conclusion: I’m a sucker for Bushmills – I always have been. The Bushmills 10 was a standby for me for many a year. This therefore has my love as it keeps that smooth, gentle Bushmills character that made the 10 so easy going. It has that lightly fresh feel, but here it matches it to lots and lots of red fruit character from the sherry ageing. Lovely jubbly.

So, as indicted, the base is still Bushmills. Still smooth and easy to drink. Still, with water, got some light menthol fresh character. Here however it is playing with full on Sherry character that you don’t see often in Irish whisky – the full spicy and fruity character without needing that heavier scotch whisky style to deliver it.

What results from this sherry and Irish whiskey combination is a light, smooth strawberry character early on that develops into red cherry quickly, then slowly develops onto black cherry blueberry and more along similar lines. More and more red and dark fruit are delivered alongside a nice, easy going creamy character. Delicious indeed.

There are some notes outside this area – first is the aforementioned menthol – and then for the backing a light, soft sponge cake to digestive biscuits that gives the softest grounding notes you will ever encounter – but they do the job without hurting the easy drink feel of the whisky.

Water isn’t really needed for this. It does remove the slight alcohol character that this has, which is nice, but not overly necessary considering how smooth it is – and it does round out some of the fruit notes, but in general I kind of prefer the slight extra intensity you get neat. Both are good though.

Now this doesn’t do anything outside of its main two concepts – matching red fruit with Bushmills – but for me that is enough. Easy drinking and flavoursome. The best combination of Sherry and Irish whiskey I have seen so far. An easygoing joy.

Background: Bit of a storied background, trying to get hold of this one. This is a travel exclusive, purely sherry cask aged Bushmills. I was glad to see this – Bushmills used to do some nice alternate cask ageing beers, but seemed to move away from them recently. So seeing them experimenting a bit more was good by me. Now if they can just bring back the 12 year Caribbean Rum cask finished Bushmills – That is still my all time favourite Bushmills and has not been seen for over a decade now. Anyway, I digress. I saw this when I was going on holiday last year and tried it at the duty free. Since it was nice I planned to grab it in the way back – however my flight was delayed so all the duty free shops that would have stocked it were shut by the time I was back in the UK. Not to be deterred I annoyed the shit out of all my friends and relatives going on holiday asking if they would pick it up for me and I’d pay them back. So – Thanks to my parents, who went on holiday and grabbed this for me! Yay. They nearly didn’t make it back with it though – they didn’t realise that you couldn’t bring it back in carry on, even if it was duty free, if you bought it on the way out. Still, they managed to get it into the hold through much effort and the whisky was saved. I have a great family. Anyway, drunk while listening to the Paranoia Agent soundtrack music I had only recently got back when Bushmills Caribbean Rum cask was last available. Not that I am pushing for that to be the next in this line or anything.

spencerfield-spirits-company-sheep-dip-blended-malt

Spencerfield Spirits Company: Sheep Dip: Blended Malt (Scottish Blended Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and peach. Smooth. Light alcohol. Smoke. Slight chalk. Water adds pencil shavings.

Body: Custard and peach. Honey. Rising peat and beef. Slight salt. Thin back. Smooth. Sweet grapes. Apricot. Water brings out more grapes.

Finish: Salt. Golden syrup. Slight smoke. Slight chalk. Slight malt drinks. Raisins and Madeira. Slight caramel. Water adds grapes.

Conclusion: Oh, so close. So very close. This has a lot going for it. Despite its heavy duty sounding name, the smoke and peat brought into play in this is carefully measured – subtlety adding to rather than overpowering the sweet smooth body. For the most part the emphasis is on the fruity, easy drinking body – with a few salty, peaty notes rounding it out. The sweet base does a lot to give enough flavour for this to work – a sweet mix from custard to caramel. So, decent amount of variety, balanced well.

So, what does it get wrong? Well it feels like it could do with a few more points of abv, or a thicker choice of whisky in it, just something to give it a bit more grip. Oddly enough, up front it actually has the grip – and up front is usually where things have their thin point. Instead, here it is the back end to finish that feels too light. Water adds a bit of green fruit, but keeps the slight lightness. The main change is the smoke feels a bit more present in the finish.

So, despite that flaw the flavour is well balanced for sipping, and it comes in at a decent price. The extra peat gives a different style to the usual sipping whisky, without harming the ease of drinking.

So, a bit light but not bad all things considered.

Background: Second of the two pack of Spencerfield Spirits Company whiskies I picked up recently – this one the blended malt of the batch – made up of 16 different single malts. This was grabbed from Independent Spirit before Christmas, and drunk while listening to even more music from Grimes. Yes I am listening to her a lot. Good stuff. Not much more to say, mainly grabbed as I keep an eye out for decent whiskies that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Prices are going up a lot these days.

spencerfield-spirit-co-pigs-nose

Spencerfield Spirit Co: Pig’s Nose (Blended Scottish Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Shredded wheat. Hint of smoke. Honey. Apricots. Water does little to change.

Body: Light. Honey and vanilla custard. Stewed apricot. Sweet lime. Light alcohol influence. Water adds more apricot and some peach. Slight salt. Slight dried beef.

Finish: Slight peat smoke and dried beef taste. Honey. Dry oak. Similar with water.

Conclusion: How does water make a whisky taste thicker? I’ve run into a few like that recently. I mean, I know practically that if the water is a thicker liquid than the whisky then mixing the two will result in a thicker liquid than just the whisky alone – well barring the two not mixing. I’m fairly sure that is not the case here. Whisky is more viscous than water in all cases that I am aware of, yet somehow it feels thicker with it. Go figure. Anyway…

So, yes, neat this feels very light- a simple apricot style fruity thing. A tad more smoke than usual in your standard blended whisky, but not an extreme amount. Just an extra bit of spice in the dish, metaphorically speaking. Still, despite that very simple when taken without water.

Water – well it is interesting. For one, as indicated it feels thicker than before. How? Why? I do not know why whiskies keep doing this. Anyway, it makes for a better texture and brings out light smoke and salt in the mid body. Still sweet dominated, but with a tad heavier backing.

Even like that it feels, well, like a basic level single malt. Both a complement and a criticism when I say that. It doesn’t have the rough edge of some blended whiskies – and with water it is done well enough and mixes enough elements that it reminds me of the charm of a single malt, with the sweet character of a blend. There is not much more to it than that – it has the very basic level feel of a single malt but none of the character that would make it stand out. Basically it has the feel and the basic flavour set, but no wow to it.

So, a competent blended whisky, but no more than that. No point that makes it stand out.

Background: Grabbed as part of two pack from Independent Spirit (The other is a blended malt which I saved for later). It was fairly cheap, so I thought worth a shot – I have run into very good
cheaper whiskies before, and terrible expensive ones – so always worth checking these out. Drunk while listening to The Eels: Electro Shock Blues – some good happy music for enhancing drinking. That is a lie, it is in no way a happy album – the first song is about the lead singer’s sister’s suicide for example. But it is a very good album.

the-macphail-collection-balblair-10-year

The Macphail Collection: Balblair: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked grain. Smooth. Lime. Vanilla. Water changes little.

Body: Light alcohol touch. Slightly empty. Murky water. Water adds vanilla, white chocolate and vanilla toffee. Lime touch. Honey. More water adds raisins and spiced red wine.

Finish: Oak. Malt chocolate. Alcohol sheen. Murky water. Water adds white chocolate. Honey. Gin air and juniper berries. More water adds spiced red wine.

Conclusion: This seems extremely non distinctive for a whisky, especially for a Balblair. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with the distillery, but every one has stood out, and also stood on their own two feet. This – less so.

Without water it actually feels pretty empty. Alcohol touched but not heavily so, with just a kind of murky taste. If you take your time to let it open up then you do manage to get some hints of what I presume is the bourbon side of the ageing – white chocolate comes out and such like. However it is still indistinct and pretty bad as a whisky, let alone a Balblair whisky.

So let’s jump straight on to after we have added that often game changer – water! That makes it better, right? Yes. Yes it does. That makes it worth drinking, right? No. No it really doesn’t.

It brings out what feels like some sherry barrel influence – as opposed to the slight burbon influence that showed up neat. There is slight spiced red wine and raisins – nothing too unusual and far less distinct than in nearly every other sherry touched whisky I have tried. More water brings out a tad more of this, but also makes everything else even less distinct.

It isn’t actually painful (unlike, say Isawa whiskey) but it is bad. Probably duller than the Tamdhus I have encountered. I generally like Balblair, but this does nothing for me.

A let down and a bad whisky.

Background: Saw this miniature at Corks Of Cotham when I was up there recently – lovely wee place. You don’t see many miniatures of independent bottlings, nor of Balblair, so fished it out and grabbed it. Put some The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay on while drinking. That album is 8 years old now – Wish a lot of the themes in it about anti Islam sentiment weren’t still as relevant today as they were back then.

Glenrothes 2001

Glenrothes: 2001 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Slightly bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Very slow but comes down as a sheet.

Nose: Black cherry. Black forest gateaux. Forest fruits. Honey. Brambles. Caramel shortbread. Creamy chocolate. Thick and slightly musky. Water adds custards slices and slight pepper.

Body: Thick and syrupy. Golden syrup. Strong alcohol. Blueberry pie. Woody oak influence. Slight tannins. Water makes smoother – vanilla custard on blueberry. Red cherries and slight apples. Toffee. Malt drinks and whipped cream.

Finish: Wood. Toffee and honey. Slight gooseberry. Slight tannins. Water makes for forest fruit, light musty smoke. Slight musty air and charring. Malt drinks and slight bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: This is such a fruity whisky – with very natural feeling fruitiness. It feels like a mashed up barrel of dark fruit; There is that musty air, and a feel akin to that hairy fuzz you get on berries. Then sweetens so it is like deep amounts of forest fruit coated in golden syrup.

Not all of that is immediately evident – the aroma does give a good show, but on sipping it is a bit alcohol heavy resulting on a drier, less open whisky. Water is what brings out all the dark fruit you were promised – now smoothly delivered, with a whisky that feels dark in all things. From slight charring, malt drinks and slight bitter chocolate it all gives that coherent, complementary imagery. With the creamy notes it all comes together like a black-forest gateaux – the whisky. A very nice look, with just a few hints towards the brighter, shaper green fruit to freshen it up.

With water it is very luxurious, thick, creamy and filled with flavour. It plays in the same realm as the Dalmore whiskies for flavour. Always a good thing to be compared to in my opinion. It is very much worth trying – it doesn’t quite have the unique twist to be one of my favourites and a must try. However it is about as good as a whisky can be without reaching that level.

It is a dark alcohol dessert for delectation in decadent environs. Treat yourself with this one.

Background: Glenrothes have always been an odd one – the vast majority of their output I have seen has been vintage based names, rather than list by age. An interesting habit. In this case I am fairly sure I tried the 2001 at one of Independent Spirit’s tasting sessions. But I was quite drunk on whisky so I am not 100% sure. Any which way The Tasting Rooms had this 100ml bottling of it, so I decided to grab it and see if it was the tasty one from my memories. Drunk while listening to the Black Lagoon anime OST for a mix of light relaxing and high octane background music

%d bloggers like this: