Tag Archive: 40% ABV


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.

Paddy Old Irish Whiskey

Paddy: Old Irish Whiskey (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Grain to yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Viscous. Strong alcohol jelly like fumes. Toffee. Grain. Hay fields. Fudge. Water smooths and makes nuttier. Light lemon comes out.

Body: Light. Sweet caramel. Lemon meringue. Very light alcohol character. Slightly nutty. Water adds nutty chocolate. Walnuts. Soft lemon. Banoffee pie.

Finish: Caramel. Orange crème. Light wood notes. Flour. Neat spirit air. Nutty. Water makes nuttier and mixed with chocolate. Coffee cake. Soft lemon. Banoffee.

Conclusion: Ok, from the aroma I was expecting something much worse. The aroma is very viscous and alcohol filled, while being pretty simple. Not a good start.

The main body then wasn’t actually to bad. A gentle sweetness, lemon and a small but gently rising nuttiness. In fact later on that nuttiness seemed to take more of a centre stage. There are notes that state the alcohol strength, but more in flavour than any harshness or fire. It isn’t the most complex whiskey I have encountered, nor the most smooth, but it definitely does the job.

Water enhances the nuttiness and brings out nice banoffee pie notes. It is very gentle like this – you can still feel the rougher edges at the centre (edges? At the centre? Ah, ya know what I mean. Hopefully). There are also some rough edges in the finish- not harsh – just a very raw spirit kind of air. This doesn’t stop it being a pretty gentle drinking and satisfying whiskey. A gentle lemon comes out and that keeps the nutty and banoffee notes from dominating and becoming too sweet, thus keeping the sipping character of a good Irish whiskey.

If I hadn’t known how inexpensive this is then, barring the aroma, I would never had guessed. It is not a special, take your time to examine, whiskey, but for the price it is great value. Frankly it is very easy to justify just keeping a bottle around for enjoying with mates. It is genuinely better that a bunch of more expensive whiskeys I have gad. A solid sweet whiskey with a nice range – there is a touch too many alcohol flavours there and a not so great aroma, but mid body it is rock solid. Definitely worth the asking price.

Background: Grabbed this one on a whim, I was already grabbing some whisky from The Whisky Exchange and this mini was under three quid, so seemed a fair thing to take a risk on. A full 70cl bottle is fairly cheap as well – a quick google shows prices between 20 and 25 pounds. The bottle is plastic rather than glass, but that is not too unexpected at this price point. Drunk while listening to Ihsahn: After – I hadn’t listened to that strange mix of guitar noise for awhile, so broke it out.

The Pogues: Irish Whiskey (Irish Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy gold.

Viscosity: Generally fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and custard. Lightly floral. Some alcohol burn. Smooth. Oak. Heather. Brown sugar. Water adds pears.

Body: Smooth and light. Stewed fruit – apricot slices. Honey. Guava juice. Apples in pastry. Pears, also in pastry with dash of cinnamon. Water adds more pears and green fruit. Toffee and caramel. Kiwi.

Finish: Light, Brown sugar. Apricot syrup and honey. Guava juice. Cinnamon spiced pear. Some oak. Water adds caramel and a light menthol air.

Conclusion: I’ve been on the scotch too long, the first sip of this was so light and smooth I damn near did not notice it – I had to pause and reset my expectations before going on. It especially was unexpected, while smooth, the aroma had a quite full character and even a hint of some alcohol. The body, well, the first sip was more just a feel of whiskey than flavour, giving a clean sheen over the mouth. This was not a good sign.

Though, now prepared I returned and took a larger mouthful. That did the trick. Still no heat; still smooth as heck, but now filled with gentle soothing fruitiness – a mix of green and orange fruit. Now lifted by gentle sweetness in a honey style. Almost too easy drinking, this is a 40% abv drink I had to remind myself, but rewarding for it.

I was hesitant to add water – it seemed like the whiskey was set just right, and considering how light it was to begin with I could only see things going downhill. Still, as a whiskey explorer I need to take suck risks, for you, my dedicated readers. So I added a few drops. It genuinely did it some good – and actually seemed to even thicken the body somehow. I’m guessing it was more the fact that I already had previous layers of whiskey already on my tongue, but any which way it did not hurt. It brought out more green fruit, more sweetness. I didn’t add much water I will admit, but yeah, against all my expectations this really boosted up the flavour while keeping it lovely and smooth.

I am impressed, I was expecting an ok but mediocre whiskey relying on the tie in to the band. I got something that really shows the smoothness of Irish whiskey perfectly, and the flavour as well. It even survived a bit more water which I tested adding it at the end of the dram, and brought more green fruit out. Considering 40% abv is the absolute lowest a whiskey can go and still be whiskey, and the light feel, it is pretty darn robust water wise.

So, yeah, good if light neat, very good with a touch of water, not too expensive – Yeah, impressed indeed. Not a gimmick, just a damn good whiskey.

Background: I have to admit, I have no real attachment to The Pogues, I just grabbed this as it was a chance to try some different Irish whiskey without committing to buying a full bottle. Sorry to all Pogues’ fans. Anyway, grabbed from Independent Spirit, the official whiskey of The Pogues. Drank while listening to Black Sabbath – Paranoid. Just to be a bit of a dick really.

Strathisla 12 Year

Strathisla: 12 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 12 Years: 40% ABV)

Visual: Apricot touched bronze.

Viscosity: A mix of fast thick streaks and a couple of slower ones.

Nose: Honey. Sugared almonds. Alcohol. Heather. Perfume. Water adds wood dust and cinder toffee.

Body: Peach syrup. Alcohol. Walnut clusters. Honey. Roasted nuts. Charred oak. Water adds apples, cinder toffee, treacle and praline.

Finish: Perfume. Nuts. Alcohol. Charred oak. Dried apricot fruit sugars. Malt chocolate. Water makes treacle, liquorice, cinder toffee and custard.

Conclusion: Well, it’s been a while since I danced with a Strathisla, let’s see how well I remember the steps.

It is sweeter than I remember, brings a real thick honey set of notes that make up the base of this dance – it is also surprisingly alcohol touched for a 40% abv whisky that has racked up 12 years in the oak.

Initially this seemed less nutty than I remember – for me that nuttiness has always been the predominant element of my Strathisla memories. However a touch of water, as well as dimming the alcohol fire, also brings out a sweet nutty and praline mix of notes that settles in as a second line of flavour attack…dance steps. I think I may have lost track of my metaphors.

Anyway, pre water there are some rough charred notes, but they are soon smoothed out and overtaken by a darker sweetness that the water comes out – more liquorice and treacle notes amongst the honey.

It definitely pushes heavy the stereotypical but hard to define “whisky” character, albeit with more emphasis on the aforementioned notes. The speyside fruitiness is less noticeable, but shows as a light apple and apricot notes if you add just the exact right amount of water.

I’m still a fan, and Strathisla definitely holds a warm place in my heart due to my history with the whisky, though on a more objective level it is not as complex or subtle as many a Speyside whisky. Instead it is a solid, robust whisky that pushes a very familiar base whisky with its set of a few extra notes added as a twist to that. Still good, but not so showy.

Background: Again, many thanks to Independent Spirit for providing this bottle with a couple of doubles left in it for tasting notes purposes. They are pretty much single handedly handling my whisky reviews at this point! I grabbed a cask strength Strathisla back in my early days of doing notes, but, while I have tried the standard 12 year, I had never got around to doing notes on it. Good time to rectify that oversight then. Drunk while listening to the many Architects tracks on the youtube channel – may have to grab some of their CDs.

Isawa Blended Whiskey

Isawa: Blended Whiskey (Japanese Blended Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold.

Viscosity: Thick fast streaks.

Nose: Alcohol in thick jelly style. Some lime. Sulphur. Rice and grain. Toffee. Actually more alcohol style with water.

Body: Kind of empty. Toffee. Dry rice and rice crackers. Vanilla. Water adds, well a slight watery character. Still mainly toffee.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Rice crackers and boiled white rice. Dust balls. Grit. Muddy water. Light lime and chocolate. Water makes, well, pretty much the same.

Conclusion: You know how Japan has a very hard earned and well deserved reputation for high quality whisky? Well this is trying to shit all over that reputation then flush it down the toilet. It is possibly, simultaneous, the most empty and most unwelcome whisky I have ever encountered.

Let’s jump straight past the aroma and go onto that first sip. There is nearly nothing as it hits the tongue, now over time toffee will come out, but for now the best I can define an element is just kind of stale rice crackers. That is it.

Then, oh the, the finish hits. Dust, grit and muddy water. How can something so empty end this badly? There is still some toffee, but generally it is just rough and without any real intended or good flavours.

Now may be a good time to bring up something I encountered from googling. This is described as having a “unusual and intriguing flavour”. That is possible the closest we will find to truth in advertising for this thing – It is definitely unusual, and well I am intrigued how they made a whisky this bad. I have said many a time that there is nearly never such a thing as a bad whisky, even rough whiskies can be made better with water, and generally they have the hard to define “whisky” character that brings you to the game. Not here. I can imagine a bunch of advertising execs sitting, and their long withered conscience nagging at them. Even they can’t describe these in the usual flowery terms. It would be a lie too far

So, “unusual and intriguing flavour” it ended up then.

Incidentally I mentioned water above, no amount of water helps this. It just seems to same but more, well, like dirty water. Water just makes it taste like water.

So, erm, to be fair, what is the good side of this? Erm, toffee notes exist. Occasional lime notes come out. Ok, being fair done!

So, back to why this is shit. It feels rough. It feels empty. It, somehow, manages to make a finish that is only grit and dry rice last an insanely long and painful time.

I was sceptical when warned about this, but no, they were right, this is possibly the worst whisky that exists, it is at least the worst I have ever tried.

It is bad.

Seriously bad.

Background: This may be the whiskey I tweeted about earlier in the week. Maybe. This is the second of a set of whisky bottles given to me with about a double of spirit left in them for tasting note purposes, provided by Independent Spirit. Many thanks! Drunk while listening to Ritualz: CDR album, a weird electronic, haunting thing of which I am very fond. Chris of Independent spirit did warn me this was bad up front, I thought he was exaggerating… This is described as being made with a malted barley “close to” pearl barley in style, which from a quick google is a barley with all the bran removed. Not sure that sounds like a good idea.

House Of Commons 12 Year

House Of Commons: 12 Year (Scottish Blended Whisky: 12 year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Burnished gold.

Viscosity: Thin fast streaks.

Nose: Cinnamon and cinder toffee. Chalk dust. Oak. Water adds honey and a slight eggy sulphur note.

Body: Smooth. Toffee. Black liquorice. Dry rice. Slightly rough edged. Quite oaken. Cinnamon. Water adds more toffee and cinder toffee.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Steamed rice. Dry. Slight oak. Water adds cinnamon and cinder toffee. Treacle. Stir fry.

Conclusion: I had a measure of this on the night it was given to me, and it was a tad rough and seemed poor quality. However, over the years I have found that a bottle of whisky may take a few days of breathing after breaking a bottle open to settle. So, now, I take another measure for doing notes on.

So, still a tad rough edged. That fiery like note that I associate with cheaper blends is there, but generally the whisky seems to have settled down somewhat. It is basally a sweet toffee and cinnamon whisky. Not bad on the base, especially with the nice cinder toffee notes but still with a few off rough edges. A lot of the rough off notes are familiar to whisky veterans – dry rice, stir fry – not notes that are automatically bad, Nearly everything has a place somewhere, but generally not a good sign. Here? Not a good element.

It actually is a whisky that does better without water – the alcohol touch is stronger, but the sweetness is stronger too so the off notes are less evident.

It is not the worst whisky I have had, but it does show the cut corners quite obviously. There is a decent base, but with too much rough character for me to recommend.

Let us say it is a sub-optimal whisky.

Background: So, many thanks to Paul from work for this. He won it back in the mid 80s in a raffle, but he isn’t a whisky fan, so kept hold of it until now, when he gave to to me for doing notes on. Not much info on this from google – looks like it is discontinued these days, but according to the label is whisky bottled, shocking, for the house of commons – probably for sale as a gift shop style thing I would guess, but who knows maybe everyone in the house of commons in the 80s drank this. Would explain a lot of the shit that went on in the 80s. Anyway, put my music on random, poured a dram and saw how it went.

Wemyss Spice King 12 Year
Wemyss: Spice King 12 Year (Scottish Blended Malt: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Medium speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Honey and menthol. Greenery. Vegetable samosas. Danish pastry. Water adds heather notes.

Body: Very smooth. Honey. Alcohol touched body. Oak. Turmeric. Water makes much bigger honey and less alcohol. Vegetable samosas. Curry paste. Cinnamon.

Finish: Paprika and honey. Dry oak. Alcohol drying feel. Water adds green peppers.

Conclusion: Honey and lightly spiced vegetable samosas is what is coming to mind here. Not something I expected going in, but I am getting used to being surprised these days.

Initial impressions was that this is a very bright, simple, alcohol warmed whisky with heavy emphasis on the honey. It was slightly oaked, slightly light but generally enjoyable, if not earning its “Spice King” name.

Water initially pushed up the sweetness and dimmed the alcohol, but quickly the eponymous spice came out. Here is where we find that samosas character I mentioned earlier. Kind of a mix of vegetables, especially peas, mixed with a mild curry paste character. It is a gentle, vegetable spice, that is not harsh but becomes more and more to the fore as the amount of water increases. The thickness of the spice seems to fill the slightly thin cracks that existed in the whisky before, making it overall much more balanced.

It is full of that gentle spice, now only slightly sweet and actually quite rustic feeling – relaxing to drink despite the spice. For me it does what it says on the tin – spice, delivered smooth and gentle, but it does feel a tad one dimensional. I can’t complain that it doesn’t do what it sets out to do, but I feel it could do with a bit more depth and variety for it to appeal to me.

Ok, but more inoffensive than exciting.

Background: Keeping up the run of whisky miniatures with this blended malt from Wymyss. Grabbed from Independent Spirit who get mentioned a lot around here. Not much to say, Wymyss have done pretty good in their independent bottling so far. I think there is also an eight year version of this whisky going around but haven’t tried it.

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