Tag Archive: 40-45% ABV


Kininvie: 23 Year: Batch 3 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 23 Year: 42.6% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellow. Some very small particles evident in the whisky. Fast and thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Light. Some alcohol. Oak. Barley biscuits. Peppery. Dry fudge. Water adds light lime and kiwi. Shortbread. Light sulphur. More fudge.

Body: Smooth. Tingly. Vanilla. Fudge. Peppery. Oak. Honey. Vanilla toffee. Menthol touch. Water makes very smooth. Brings out grapes. Thicker feel and more honey. Toffee style ice cream syrup. Kiwi. More menthol. Light strawberry.

Finish: Peppery. Caramel. Dry fudge. Sour dough. Water adds toffee syrup. Light sage and onion. Menthol. Brown bread. Liquorice touch.

Conclusion: This is a gentle, subtle yet complex one. Neat it has just a touch of the alcohol showing, but nothing too heavy. Water both cleans that up and also somehow makes the whisky feel heavier and more doughy.

Neat it is generally sweet notes played in quite a clean fashion, though the sweet notes vary quite well from standard toffee to sweeter honey character. It uses a peppery base to savoury it up. So, smooth, tasty, variety to the sweetness and savoury underline – enjoyable but nothing too unusual or special.

Water, as mentioned, makes it feel thicker, darker and with slight sulphur notes giving a lot more weight and character to a still smooth whisky. Similarly a touch of green fruit comes out, low at first and increasing with time. There are the not uncommon green grape notes, but also a more unusual kiwi kind of savoury-sweet character. In fact the whole thing now feels more savoury and more stodgy. The sweetness is always there as a contrast against what is now a bready main character. It feels like it makes the brighter fruit notes have to work to push through, but they are even more enjoyable for that when they do show.

It is really good, slowly revealing a whole mix of notes beyond the main ones we have already discussed, the only thing it lacks is that inexplicable element that turns a good whisky into a favourite whisky. It feels like a toffee syrup covered dessert with a bready core and green fruit high notes and somehow pulls it off.

Definitely a worthwhile whisky.

Background: Another whisky from a distillery I have not tried before – if I remember rightly it is part of Monkey Shoulder blended malt, but that is probably the limit of my exposure. Anyway, had heard good things about this, being a half bottle it was expensive for what you get, but not bank breaking to try, so I did a quick google around and found it available at Whisky World so grabbed a bottle. From my research it looks like this distilleries’ bottles were originally only available through duty free, where I have seen them a couple of times, but they are now in the wider market. Wanted something atmospheric to back trying this whisky, so went with Ulver’s Flower’s of Evil. Probably their best album since Shadows Of The Sun in my opinion. Great stuff.

Bulleit: 95 Rye (USA: Straight Rye Whiskey: 45% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold. Fast thick sheet of streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Rye crackers. Black pepper. Orange zest. Planed mahogany wood. Sulphur. Brown sugar. Water adds a honey touch. Apricot skin. Smoke. Peppermint touch.

Body: Thick. Leather. Rye crackers. Black pepper. Dry toffee. Water adds Chilli seed. More leather. Buttery. Vanilla. Soft lime.

Finish: Black pepper and rye crackers. Water makes leathery. Sulphur. Smoke. Dry fudge.

Conclusion: I’ve been sitting here for a while thinking about how best to describe this. Usually rye heavy whiskies are one I find fairly easy to sum on. This is just different enough from those for me to have to take a bit more time and thought on it.

Ok, despite what I said above it is noticeably rye heavy. Possibly even 95% rye heavy. Yes I know, ha fucking ha, ha. Anyway, you get lots of rye crackers, peppery spice and some sulphurous smoke – but there is more to it than that.

I think it is that this is slightly, only slightly, sweeter than your average rye. Gentle but dry toffee, slightly buttery thickness that leans almost savoury but with a sweet touch. All this makes it a slightly more gentle and open rye than most, but again only slightly.

I mean it is still leathery, giving a thick mouthfeel, with a slight chilli seed heat that gives pep – but it is not the one note spice bomb that often comes through with a rye. A drop of water really exposes the contrast, but it is even there neat.

It is … pleasant. Not a masterpiece but pleasant and comparatively easy to drink for a rye.

Spicy, but just eased up a bit for a sweeter rye. I can spend a chunk of time with this. Not a must have but very decent for the price.

Background: I heard about this one a while back, it was recommended as a good, easy to get hold of rye. Since it was available in supermarkets for a while I thought it would be super easy to pick up. My mistake, no-one here seems to have it. After months of searching I gave up and ordered it from The Whisky Exchange. Not much else to add, did these notes after returning from India – I put on At The Drive In: Relationship of Command while drinking. I’m sure At The Drive In also did other albums. Probably.

Marks and Spencer: Kenmore: 5 Year Blended Scotch Whisky (Scottish Blended Whisky: 5 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, slightly reddened gold. Very fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel. Neutral spirit alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Dry rice. Orange skin.

Body: Smooth front quickly into burning alcohol. Dry rice. Caramel. Cherries. Vanilla fudge. Light smoke. Dried beef. Water makes smoother, more dried rice.

Finish: Dry rice. Alcohol air. Dry stir fry veg. Soot. Rough. Dry bamboo. Charring. Water adds more rice and makes peppery.

Conclusion: This is pretty rough – though with a few oddly smooth notes amongst them. Neat it is pretty alcohol touched. It is not too bad on the nose – fairly neutral in the alcohol feel there amongst sweet caramel and vanilla notes. Nowt too complex but decent, if fairly basic.

The first sip comes in smooth vanilla toffee … for about two seconds … then nope, alcohol burn as fuck. I was pleasantly surprised for those two seconds before the burn cut in, and then it leads out into a finish that is way too rough.

Still, no worries, it is a young blended whisky and there are some good notes in there – orange in the aroma and cherries in the body, a touch of smoke as well against caramel and vanilla toffee. I know how this works, young whisky just needs a drop of water to open it up, right?

Turns out the answer is fuck no.

Dry bamboo, stir fry and rice notes are prevalent – along with a rough general alcohol air. Though I will say at least the alcohol fire is doused with water. Unfortunately everything else is significantly worse – especially in the unpleasant, long lasting dry bamboo finish.

Neat it has hints of adequacy – sweet, subtle soot and smoke, some fruit. Hints, but unfortunately with far too much alcohol that makes most of it hidden. Water kills the fire, but makes it shit.

Avoid.

Background: This was a kind gift from a colleague at work for Christmas. Many thanks. Despite how much I slagged it off. Still many thanks. I notice it lists caramel as an ingredient, which explains how it looks so dark for a 5 year old whisky. Not much else to add. I put on Siouxsie and the Banshees to listen to while drinking, felt like something a bit strange, joyous and alternative.

Scapa: Skiren (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened gold. Slow thick sheet of steaks comes from the spirit.

Nose: Pears. Warming alcohol. Honey. Pencil shavings. Vanilla yogurt chunks. Apples. Vanilla toffee. Jelly babies. Water lightens the alcohol and makes very clean.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Light praline. Sweet nuts. Oak touch. Apples. Slightly oily. Vanilla yogurt. Water makes clean and light. Orange notes. Bready. Pears. Slight wisp of smoke.

Finish: Brown bread. Clear honey. White chocolate. Dry. Oak. Tinned tropical fruit. Salt touch. Water adds dry rice. Slight sulphur. Mostly clean. More white chocolate. Wet rocks.

Conclusion: Only my second visit to the whisky that is Scapa and this is a fairly gentle one for a whisky from the Islands. Though admittedly that is a fairly varied area. Also, when I say gentle I only mean flavour wise – it has a mildly alcohol character that needs a touch of water to deal with it. I’m guessing from it being a no age statement whisky and the character that it has a touch of the younger whisky in it.

With just the tiniest drop of water it becomes very smooth mid body though more than a drop makes it too light. So, take just a drop and you get vanilla yogurt, green fruit and tinned tropical fruits over a honey touch. Very bourbon influenced, and a very gentle take, with just a lightly oily and sulphurous undertone for weight and Island character.

It always has a slightly young feel about it though, especially in the finish which develops a dry rice note over time, which is not great. Still, in general a decent whisky, just one with a few rough edges. Smooth overall and in general this is a great one to show the influence of bourbon ageing – the influence just booms through. It does feel like the younger spirit hurts though – it has so much good stuff in the lighter, smoother, easy drinking style that the rough edges really hurt its main appeal. In general I can dig rough edges in a whisky, but they work better in bigger, booming whisky – though this has a few of the rougher island characteristics in a pleasing way as well – some salt and wet rocks, just very subtly done as a backdrop to the bourbon style.

Decent, not a must have but decent – a tad more polish and this would be a good island take on the easy sipper with just a pinch of weight – doesn’t quite reach there but close.

Background: Scapa, bloody hell been a while since I had my one and only experience of Scapa. An Orkney Island distillery with a fairly small output if I remember rightly. So was very cool when my parents came back from Scotland and brought me this bottle of 100% first fill American Oak (so I presume bourbon casks) aged Scapa. Many thanks. Went with Svalbard: Gone Tomorrow as music for drinking to. Not much to add, this as my second Scapa, is where I try to try and start working out what parts of the spirit are distillery character and what is ageing and other such touches that alter that base.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection Rum Cask (Ireland Single Malt Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Pale bronzed gold. Lots of slow, middling thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Evident rum. Pencil shavings. Light sulphur. Oak. Water adds more pencil shavings. Strawberries.

Body: Vanilla and fudge. Noticeable alcohol. Spicy. Tinned tropical fruit. Thai spice. Cherries. Spicy red wine and bitter red wine. Strawberry. Water adds custard. Spicy rum. Liquorice touch.

Finish: Rum. Red cherries. Peppery. Tinned tropical fruit. Oak. Alcohol sheen. Treacle touch. Black licorice touch. Water adds more treacle. Fudge. Tannins.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, and to get this off my chest … This isn’t as good as the classic 12 Year Caribbean Rum Cask finished Bushmills that was a travel exclusive something like 15 years ago. That was one of my earliest favourite whiskeys so I have very strong opinions on this. Now, the fact that it was one of my early favourites may mean I am embellishing it in my mind. However a few elements of this new release, combined with the lack of age statement makes me think this is fairly young whisky. It has a slight rough alcohol edge neat, which is unusual for a quality Irish release, and so it definitely needs water to open it up. Considering this is over twice the price of that age statement declared 12 year release I feel it fair to be a tad irritated by this not living up to some very basic elements.

Now, while I am putting it through the screws it is still fairly decent, just overpriced for what it is. Anyway, let’s look at what flavour qualities it has. Well, it is quite spicy, and, as you may expect, it has a very evident rum character. It mixes that rum style with similar but different bitter and spicy red wine characteristics over time. There are some more gentle and sweeter vanilla and fudge notes, but generally the rum has free rein. Again, to go back to comparing to the 12 year rum finish, that was mainly aged in bourbon casks which gave it lots of time to smooth out and gain a good base to work from, which the well balanced use of rum added to, giving subtlety and complexity – while this feels much more one note and just slightly rough around the edges.

It may feel that I am being unfair comparing the two – but it does emphasise that, nice as this is, it feels like a real price gouge for lesser quality compared to what they used to turn out – even taking inflation and such into account. The original wasn’t that much more than a Bushmills 10, this is more expensive than Bushmills 16 is now.

Anyway it has moderate thickness but it is still reasonably easy to drink – though more weighty and harsher than most Irish whiskey. A lot of that weight is used to express the rum flavour, very spicy and well expressed but does overpower the more subtle sweetness and tinned tropical fruit notes.

Enjoyable, good rum character, but very overpriced for what it delivers. A pity that this didn’t use a bit of extra time to smooth and balance it into what it could have been.

Background: As I mentioned in my main notes, The 12 Year Caribbean Rum Finish Bushmills was one of my first favourite whiskeys. Thus when I heard about the steamship collection doing different aged Bushmills again, after years without, I was hoping for a rum release. Then when it was released, I spent ages searching for it in airports, but never finding this travel exclusive release. I finally found it at Master Of Malt when it finally got released from travel exclusivity. Woo. Master Of Malt have gone downhill a bit recently, but since they were the only place I could find it, that was where I grabbed it from. Rather than just finished in rum casks, this has been entirely aged in first fill Caribbean rum casks. Not much else to add, went with Miracle Of Sound – Level 10 for background music – his collection of his 2019 tunes Always good. Oh, and happy new year everyone – enjoy your drink!


Macleod’s: Island Single Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, heavy gold. Very slow, medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Salt. Wet greenery. Subtle fudge. Brown bread. Very clean. Lightly medicinal. Lightly peppery. Water adds light sulphur.

Body: Peppery. Slight alcohol. Soft lime. Crushed rocks. Salt. Unleavened bread. Light vanilla. Water adds peppercorns. More water adds custard and caramel.

Finish: Unleavened bread. Peppery. Water adds slight charred oak and slight gin. More water adds light custard and caramel. More charred oak. Cinder toffee.

Conclusion: Another call for the use of water here. Neat this is another ok but simple whisky. Quite clean, pretty smooth. Has a salty, lightly medicinal character that marks out a lot of the Island distilleries. Predominantly though it is just a peppery, medicinal dram.

Ok, so on the good side it shows the Island style, and is smooth for the low cost, but it is nothing really exciting.

So, water play time.

Water takes out the little alcohol character it had while accentuating some of the more medicinal notes. More importantly it brings out a slight sweetness and a thickness previously lacking. It doesn’t radically change the experience, but it gives contrast and grip that makes it much more enjoyable.

Still not stand out – has a few rough edges in the finish, but nicely shows the clean, salty island character without any real peat infusion.

Not bad, not stand out. Probably a weaker entry in the series but it does the job.

Background; Third of the Macleod’s regional whiskey minis. Yeah, while they have not blown me away, for the competitively low cost they come in at they have amused me enough that I keep grabbing another region I have not tried from them yet. So the Island region – more a set of regions as they have quite a diverse set depending on where they come from, but hey, its a way of grouping them. Anyway went with IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance as music. Finally going to see them live soon and very excited about it. Bottle was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Macleod’s : Lowland Single Grain (Scotland Lowland Single Grain Whisky: 40% ABV)

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

Nose: Alcohol air. Clean. Vanilla. Muesli.

Body: Light and smooth front. Alcohol jelly touch to the middle, but not heavy. Jelly babies Marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate. Toasted teacakes. Buttery notes.

Finish: Tinned tropical fruit. Clean. Vodka. White chocolate. Apricot. Water adds more white chocolate. Some chocolate cake. Sugar dusting.

Conclusion: You know, considering the dark gold colour this has, I was expecting a bit more to the flavour it comes with. Or at least a bit more weight to it. Ok, yes this is a lowland single grain, but man this looked utterly soaked in its bourbon ageing.

Instead, without water, this is a fairly clean, smooth spirit. It is a tad alcohol touched, but not too much, just a bit more than you would expect from a 40% abv lowland. It is kind of vodka with whisky flavours added in style more than anything else.

So, yeah, this definitely needs water in order to get it going. Which is no real surprise with the exception of the aforementioned colour of the spirit. I’m guessing that this isn’t old spirit, despite it being generally smooth, so a bit of water always helps, and this is doubly true with grain whisky.

Now water makes this a fluffy, marshmallow, lightly sweet thing – against a still sweet, but bready toasted teacake backing. It is still nothing like what you would expect from the darker gold colour, but, oh yeah, this is some easy drinking fun.

It is still not up there at brilliant, the tail end finish is kind of neutral alcohol which is .. meh – but generally it is a gentle, sweet, light fluffy thing. In fact it very much shows the bourbon influence – maybe that is all that is shown – like a lot of grain whisky the base is very neutral, so nearly all if not all the flavour is from the oak.

Still, it is nice bourbon ageing. It is very much a one style whisky, and very much needs water, and even with that has a few off notes buuut generally you will find it an easy drinking, sweet and fun whisky for a fairly decent price.

I dig it.

Background: I can’t actually find much on this whisky. I can find a lot on Macleod’s Single malt regions range, but, while this is visually very similar, and comes from the lowland region, this is in fact a single grain whisky. Which does not get listed with the regional single malts for obvious reasons. Anyway, there are not many lowland single malts, which I guess is why they went with a single grain for their pick for this – I’ve only had a few single grains, and while very different from single malt they have earned their place. Tend to be much more influenced by oak ageing than base spirit in my experience. Anyway- have been playing the utter hell out of Celeste for a while, so went with Celeste: farewell OST for drinking music. Such a good game. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Connoisseurs Choice: Glenlochy 1974 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

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

Nose: Honey. Thick. Menthol to peppermint. Pencil shavings. Pear drops. Oak. Honeycomb. Water adds varnish and more noticeable alcohol.

Body: Treacle. Warming alcohol. Oaken. Some liquorice. Malt drinks. Pear drops. Light varnish feel. Water adds sticky toffee pudding. Raisins. Vanilla. More water adds apricot and toffee.

Finish: Dry oak and tannins. Charred. Varnish air. Water makes slightly waxy. Raisins. Peppery. Slight smoke.

Conclusion: This is a thick one, especially considering that it comes it at exactly the 40% abv cut off line for being considered whisky. It is very thick, and with it very treacly. The initial honey notes in the aroma quickly becoming those heavy treacle notes as you sip.

Despite its thickness there are lighter fruit notes backing it up, though they do come across in an artificial pear drop kind of way. That then leads out into a lightly waxy, almost varnish touched air and feel. It is a very unusual mouthfeel, and the strange varnish like air heads out into the finish. Despite how it may sound it is not unpleasant, that’s just the best way I could find to describe the odd feel – a feel that is very clingy.

Water helps smooth off some of the edges, bringing out more gentle fruit and sweet notes. As it leads out into the finish it tends to get a bit tannins and oak heavy. Basically the finish is not the best part of the experience is what I am saying.

Overall it is fairly solid. It feels quite youthful, but not painfully so. Good weight to it, some decent flavour and some very different mouthfeel. If it was a not too expensive single malt I would find it a solid experience and one to keep around.

However, it is a dead distillery. A very expensive dead distillery. So, in its time it would have been a heavy but balanced sweet to fruity thick dram. Now, it is sub optimal for the money to say the least.

Like many dead distilleries, not worth the cost it goes for these days, interesting though it may be.

Background: Second and final mini I picked up from Hard To Find Whisky, and as of such another dead distillery I have not tried before. After the previous mini worked out ok I was much less nervous going into trying this one – being confident now that they are selling legitimate old whisky. Speaking of old, no idea of the age statement of this one – the Connoisseurs Choice miniatures don’t seem to have the bottled date, unlike their 70cl cousins, so could be any of the many 1974 distilled bottlings. At a guess I would say at the younger end of the scale though. Anyway, after many, many people recommended the new album to me I went with Tool: Fear Incoulum. OK, what the heck even is this album? Going to have to take a few more listens to get my head around it. Expect it to turn up in the background of more tasting notes.

Macleod’s Highland Single Malt Whisky (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, heavy gold. Medium speed and thickness streaks comes from the spirit.

Nose: Honey. Toffee. Wood shavings. Thick. Stewed apricot. Water adds more wood and slight sulphur.

Body: Honey. White grapes. Toffee. Custard. Apricot. Dry oak. Malt drinks. Water makes very smooth. Similar notes but with slight sulphur.

Finish: Drier oak. Honey. Golden syrup. Slightly milky coffee. Malt drinks. Pepper. Water makes smoother and adds apricot.

Conclusion:This is a solid Highland whisky, a good pick to show what a Highland whisky emphasises and concentrates on. It’s heavy on the sweetness, but pretty smoothly delivered. There being no age statement for this, especially when the previous version was listed as an 8 year, had me worried, and in fact expecting that I was going to run into some serious roughness, but none came. In fact it is smoother than a lot older whiskies I have encountered.

There are lots of honey and golden syrup notes, a bit of toffee – it is hitting a lot of the thick and sweet notes over and over. Hints of apricot and grape fruity sweetness expand while still keeping on theme. There is no real alcohol burn behind that, resulting in a real easy going crowd please of a whisky.

Instead there is a touch of oak, and a quite peppery style into the finish which helps keeps things balanced. Water makes it even smoother, not that it really needed that, but on the down side also makes it a tad sulphur touched – but only very minor so not a huge impact. Still better neat though I would say. There was never any rough edges or closed character that needed water to deal with it.

It is good, solidly sweet, but with slightly more base malt drinks to milky coffee backing mid body to ease that down, and a nicely peppery finish. Nothing unexpected, but pretty cheap for something nicely smooth, and it shows the highland style well.

A good introduction, or a good general drinking dram, if nothing unusual. No complaints, just not a stand out must have either. Pretty cheap and good quality for the price-tag though.

Background: This was a bit of a random pick up – Independent Spirit had a bunch of Macleod single malt minis in – each without a listed distillery, just identified by region, and it was fairly cheap, so I picked one up on a whim. Went with Highland as it is one I tend to try less, so felt like expanding my experience a bit. So, no idea of distillery, so little to prep expectations going in. Googling tells me this used to be listed as an 8 year, but now is a no age statement, go guess is that it has some fairly young whisky in there. Music wise I went with Slipknot – Iowa. Possibly not thematically appropriate for the whisky, but their recent album properly got me back into Slipknot.

Game Of Thrones: Night Watch: Oban Bay Reserve (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold. A thick sheet comes down from the spirit slowly.

Nose: Raisins. Brandy cream. Cereal grains. Oak. Brown sugar crystals. Water adds pine cleaning spray. Pencil shavings. Fudge.

Body: Smooth. Oak. Warming alcohol. Chocolate cake. Black liquorice touch. Mild smoke and stones. Subtle fruitcake. Toffee. Water adds subtle cherries. Charring. Bitter coffee cake. Brandy cream. Orange liqueur touch. Grapes.

Finish: Chocolate cake. Bitter cocoa dust. Light smoke. Dry. Dry stones. Dry oak. Slight caramel. Water adds slight dry liquorice. Bitter red wine.

Conclusion: This is a very dark tasting whisky, mixing what tastes like deep sherry ageing, slight smoke and rocky coast takes on the spirit with bitter chocolate and coffee cake. It is a hefty mix.

This is smooth, but with alcohol warmth if held on the tongue – it smooths even that out very easily with a drop of water. It shares with Talisker that kind of character that, while definitely not Islay, still brings sea breeze, smoke and wet rock touched. A feeling of a match of Highland and Island would be the best way I would describe it.

Over that is a delicious mix of dark fruit, spirit soaked cream notes, generally dark feeling notes, but with slight light sweetness and grapes brought out by water to provide gentle release. It feels thematically appropriate to the Night Watch in bottle design, flavour and general look. Which is nice.

It doesn’t quite reach a must have status, but easily in the top 50% of whisky. It has the complexity, smoothness, lots up front and easy to open up to more complexity. The extra 3% abv feel like it gives a lot more depth to the whisky with little burn in exchange.

Solid and steadfast like the Night Watch. (Well, as far as I read in the books, for all I know this seems massively naive to all those of you who are up to date on the show. I know how GRR Martin works) Heavy and slow drinking, well worth grabbing if you can.

Background: Second of the three game Of Thrones whiskies I bought and the first that is a whole new expression for the GOT line. I got this particular one for two main reasons. One, it has been a while since I have tried a new Oban expression and I have a soft spot for the distillery. Two, look at that bottle, it looks lovely. Yes nothing to do with the whisky I know, but I am easily influenced. Grabbed from Independent spirit, this was drunk while listening to Epic Beard men’s new album “This Was Supposed To Be Fun”. Needs a more detailed listen, but sound like they are on point again with some very cutting and political raps.

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