Tag Archive: 45-50% ABV


Waterford: Hook Head 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 50% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened grain to gold spirit with medium speed and thickness streaks coming from it.

Nose: Oily, slightly nutty. Clay. Lime touch. Peppery. Lightly earthy – turmeric. Water adds light grassy and menthol notes.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Oily nuttiness. Earthy – turmeric. Light lime touch. Light apricot. Moderate thickness body. Water makes even smoother, a more oily nut character. Touch of strawberry.

Finish: Grit air. Light smoke wisp. Peppery. Dry white wine. Water makes smoother oily character and adds a peach air.

Conclusion: As only the second Waterford whiskey I have had, it fell to this to really show how much difference a single farm origin, a terroir as they say, can have on a whiskey. I already knew that I very much enjoyed Waterford whiskey from my first encounter with it – it was so high quality, especially considering how youthful it is – but I had yet to work out if it could live up to its base conceit of showing how much difference an environment could make to a whiskey.

Anyway, short answer to that. Yes. Yes it does.

It has similarities to the Ballymorgan 1.1 which I first tried – For one it is still far smoother than a 50% abv 3-4 year old whiskey has any right to be. It also still shows some nice fruity bright elements, though admittedly the fruit is more muted here so expresses itself differently.

So, with the similarities out of the way, how is it different? How does this show the influence of the barley? Well it is pretty darn striking. It is more oily, with a savoury oily nuttiness, and in general it has a more grounded, less bright character. There is a light earthy, peppery character than came across in a way I can’t help but think of as “clay” like after I read up on the soil where the barley was grown. Darn my easily influenced mind.

On a personal level I prefer the brighter character of Ballymorgan but this is very high quality with such a different style to play with, even a wisp of non peat related smoke there. So lovely to examine.

Waterford again proves itself as one the THE distilleries to watch at the moment.

Background: Been meaning to do notes on this for a while. I had my first Waterford a while back, and grabbed this a few months back as well. Waterford’s raison d’etre is that each release is made with barley from a single named farm, to explore the terroir of whiskey. Awesome idea and awesome whisky – the quality is so high, especially considering the age is no more than 4 years odd for each release. Initially each bottling was aged, etc the same way to keep them as similar in production as possible, but now each is aged and blended to best show off the influence of the barley. If you go to the website using the code on the bottle you can get the full detail on exactly how it was aged and mixed and details on the farm – up to an including the sounds of the farms in some cases. Anyway, I settled on this as my second bottle of Waterford as it had won ISW Gold, which seems a good start. I finally got around to doing notes on this after Independent Spirit did a horizontal tasting of six of their whiskies – and trust me, it gave me a new appreciation of exactly how different each bottle could be – it helped that several members o the Waterford team where there to answer many many questions. So, with new energy from that I finally sat down and did these notes.

Lochlea: First Release (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

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

Nose: Thick, stewed fruit. Toffee apple to apple crumble. Plums. Pencil shavings. Sherry trifle. Custard slices. Water adds green grapes, chocolate dust and crushed walnuts.

Body: Thick. Booming oak. Vanilla. Fudge. Raisins. Tannins. Water makes very smooth with a slightly nutty oiliness. Fruitcake. Tinned tropical fruit.

Finish: Light charring. Light bitter chocolate. Peppery. Dry and bitter red wine. Water adds fruitcake and glacier cherries. Milk chocolate, a touch of white chocolate and a nutty character. Some tinned topical fruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I know this must be fairly young spirit – the distillery hasn’t been around that long, only being licensed in 2018, and this was the first release, as the name indicates. Despite knowing all that this has some nice polish to it for its age.

Neat it is slightly closed in the main body, but utterly booming in the aroma, with very little harshness despite its youth and a slightly higher abv that the default.

I am guessing the PX barrel ageing may be doing some of the heavy lifting here, especially in the aroma, but when you hit the body there is a surprising amount of weight from the bourbon as well. There are plenty of vanilla and tinned tropical fruit notes, especially if you use a touch of water to open it up.

However, as mentioned before,the PX brings a lot to the game here – Lots of stewed fruit notes as the thicker aroma of a young whisky meets the dark fruit from the barrel, and yet is smooth enough to make an enjoyable and viscous peak.

Water really helps the slightly closed body start to match that joy of the aroma though. It brings a savoury, oily nuttiness which I’m guessing hints more at the character of the base spirit – I could be wrong, we will see as other expressions come out. Any which way it blends nicely with the shiny, fruity high notes.

Overall it is a very good first release and introduction to the distillery. Lots of promise here and generally worth enjoying just for the whisky it is. Not a must have, especially as this release is starting to get a tad expensive with rarity, but a very nice and polished first release.

Background: Ok, Independent Spirit were bigging this up before it came out, and so I had to grab a bottle. The first release from Lochlea, who kept very quiet up until just before they were ready to release a whisky. As well as coming from the land of Robert Burns, a fact they make a big deal about, they have picked up quite a range of talented people in the whisky industry to work there. I would give names and where from but I lost my notes on that. So, erm, important people. The best. I remember John Campbell was previously at Laphroaig as Distillery manager so that is a heck of a good start. This release was aged in first fill Bourbon cask and Pedro Ximenez casks, natural colour and no chill filtration. Went with some X-Rey Spexs as background music while drinking. No reason, just wanted to listen to again.

Barton Distillery: 1792 Small Batch (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 46.85% ABV)

Visual: Darkened, slightly browned gold. Mainly slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Cereals. Wisp of smoke. Shreddies. Quite dry. Slight butter. Peppery. Vanilla. Slightly dusty.

Body: Slick. Honey. Vanilla. Slight peach. Lightly waxy. Vanilla yogurt. Flower petals. Light strawberry. Toffee. Water lightens and makes more generic.

Finish: Butter. Peppery to rye crackers. Dried apricot touch. Brown bread. Slight chives. Vanilla yogurt. Water adds slight sulphur and general cereals quality.

Conclusion: This reminds me a bit of Maker’s Mark, just bigger. That is a good thing though, Makers Mark was my go to bourbon for many a year and bigger is generally welcome.

It has the same slightly rustic, peppery and cereal led character but here with extra touches that really pushes it up a notch. The mouthfeel is slick, but a bit waxy, a bit buttery, which makes everything a bit more interesting behind the more traditional vanilla and toffee flavours. There is even a wisp of sulphur adding a touch of weight. Not peat smoke, just a slightly sulphur touched dry air to the whole thing.

There are hints at fruit notes at the edge which is unusual for a bourbon. Nothing showing through strongly, just calls to rounding apricot or strawberry that adds a faint sweetness to what is a dry, cereal led whiskey.

A lot of those flavours are enhanced by the bigger mouthfeel. The slightly waxy, touch really gives grip to a slick bourbon. Despite the touch higher abv it only shows in grip and flavour, no real extra harshness. In fact, on that note, don’t add water to this, it only mutes what is an already good bourbon. In my opinion obviously, I’m not going to slap the whiskey out of your hands if you think differently.

It isn’t a must have bourbon, but feels like a posh Makers Mark and that is no bad thing. Definitely better, but still an easy drinking bourbon and worth the extra pounds it costs. I enjoy it very much.

Background: Fairly simple story for this one. I had a bourbon shaped gap in my whisky selection at the time, was perusing the whiskey selection in Waitrose and noticed this one. Was not silly money, seemed to have a good reputation, and so I grabbed a bottle. Simple. Didn’t know much about it at the time so not much else to add. Had seen IDLES live recently, my first gig for years due to the darn plague going around, so went with IDLES: Crawler as backing music. Enjoyed the gig but was a tad worried that I was pretty much the only darn person masked up. Sigh.

Starward: Ginger Beer Cask #6 (Australia Single Malt Whisky: 4 Years?: 48% ABV)

Visual: Dark copper to bronze, with reddish touches. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Ginger. Menthol. Peppermint. Dessert wine. Toffee touch. Rose wine touch. Dried apricot. Rose petals. Water adds more menthol, more ginger and burnt brown sugar.

Body: Smooth front into a lightly burning strength. Sour red wine. Tannins. Butterscotch, Ginger. Vanilla. Fatty butter. Dried apricot. Apple. Water makes slightly waxy, but smoother. More ginger. Even more water brings out a strawberry touch.

Finish: Fiery ginger bread. Sweet ginger beer. Grassy. Dry oak. Tannins. Bitter red wine. A waxy remaining air. Water adds lots of ginger and fatty butter comes out. Sulphur candles air. More water makes peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get it out of the way quickly. This is, obviously, heresy, but is it tasty tasty heresy?

Well, it answer that I will first examine nearly everything else I can, because I am an evil shit. Like a lot of warmer country aged whisky this is thick and chewy, with an unusual texture, that reminds me of whisky that has been directly gas heated (from the few times I have had a chance to try whisky described as such anyway) . Anyway, this has a distinct feel that I can best describe as slightly like the fluffy feel of a steam beer, but not. I am good at this words lark honest. Despite the higher abv and being younger whisky it is fairly smooth initially, the alcohol does become noticeable fast, but never painful and easily dealt with by adding some water.

The base whisky has a rose wine air to it, with more red wine like notes around edges. Early on it feels more towards the red wine, but even a few drops of water soothes it towards the more rose style. That lighter wine touch seems to allow a lot of room for lighter, menthol like notes to roam around over everything.

A lot of the evident character is in the feel, as well as that lightly gassy fluffy touch mentioned before, there is a waxy sheen at the end and a sulphurous candle touch in the air and feel, heck even a kind of fatty butter touch. The quicker ageing in a hot climate really gives it some feel. On that is a lightly sweet, red and rose wine touched whisky, with some more traditional sweet vanilla and such notes as well, but a lot is in that mouthfeel.

So, ginger beer finish eh? The ginger is very evident, as you can probably tell from the main notes above. The ginger thankfully doesn’t overpower the whisky but I is very clear indeed. Lots of spicy ginger early on, with sweeter ginger beer touches mixing into that vanilla style as it integrates into the whisky, then out into a peppery spice dryness in the finish. While the ginger is clear it feels like the edges fade nicely into the whisky making it feel like a coherent whole. It doesn’t feel out of place, it stands out as a dominant element, not an alien one. It is worth noting that it is far more integrated with a drop of water, being a tad more fiery neat, but still never an issue.

So, conclusion, tasty heresy. Now I will admit I hope, tasty though it is, this doesn’t become a popular trend in whisky – a craze that the bigger distilleries copy – as I am enjoying very much here as the exception, not the norm, and also as I feel a lot of the less heavy whiskies would not cope half as well as this does with it.

As is, while I am not as crazy about it as a lot of its fans, this is definitely tasty heresy.

Background: Starward has been on my radar for a while, then Independent Spirit did a comparatively recent Starward tasting, where I got to enjoy a good chunk of their line up, It was a very good night. There, lots of people were raving about a whisky that was not in the line up though. A Starward that had been finished in Ginger Beer casks. Now that sounded like a horrible mess to me, but everyone was so enthused about it I decided, when it turned up, to give it a go and see if it was worth the hype. First thing I noticed is that it is in 50CL bottles, which is an odd choice and always makes the bottle look like it is slightly further away than it really is. The whisky was distilled 2017 and bottled 2021, so is somewhere around 3 or 4 years in age. Whisky in hot countries always seems to age very differently, and requires less time to become quality, if very different, whisky so I was confident this would not taste as young as that sounds. It is a mix of Apera (Australian Fortified wine) and red wine aged whisky, that then,as the name suggests was finished in ginger beer casks – the distilleries own ginger beer casks in fact. So lots of very different elements from a Scotch or Irish whisky there. I went with Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero as backing music, the fact this concept album was initially set in 2022 seems far too accurate these days.

St George’s: The English – Rum Cask (English Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)


Visual: Pale greened grain. Slow, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Raspberry. Caramel. Strawberry pocked digestives. Honeycomb. Mild rum. Water adds sweet red wine. Lightly spicy. Light wisp of sulphur and smoke.

Body: Light front. Marshmallow. Raspberry. Alcohol builds up over time. Dry rice. Dry fudge. Caramel. Water makes slightly oily, but smooth and generally slick. Lightly spicy. Strawberry. Sweet wine.

Finish: Dry. Raspberry. Strawberry pocked biscuits. Dry red wine, spicy red wine after a while. Water adds glacier cherry. Slightly oily. Strawberry jelly. Toffee.

Conclusion: This takes some time to build up and get going, but while you are waiting for that it brings a lightly tart raspberry front in from the first moment to keep you interested. That tides things over while the lighter spirit gets a chance to build up some layers on your tongue so it can start delivering the rest of the flavour.

I’m guessing it is the rum influence that brings those raspberry notes, though that is an unusual one for a rum cask, but its the best explanation I can come up with. The more traditional, and spicier rum notes seem to wait until you add some water to show themselves.

The base spirit still shows some of that youthful edge that I have associated with the main “The English” releases – not too harsh, just a kind of neutral to rice touched alcohol character.

Time brings out more toffee, and some spicy rum character as it builds up the layers, but to get the motor really running on this whisky you need to add a drop of water.

With water the character smooths right out, with a slightly oily touch. There is still a kind of grain spirit to rice character in flavour, but the texture is lovely and smooth now. The rum really comes out here as well, with that previous tart raspberry character now overwhelmed by dark rum, red wine and spice.

I mean, even now it isn’t a huge, heavy flavour, but before the flavours were kind of fragile – so it didn’t take much to crush them. Now there is sweet strawberry notes, and more evident toffee that makes it a tad more robust.

Now it is a gentle, sweet thing – I think the barrel ageing is doing the heavy lifting but despite that the smooth red fruit notes are pleasant.

Not a must have, not polished, but relaxed and tasty.

Background: The final of three miniatures got that cover “The English” main range of whisky releases and the most unusual being aged in rum casks. It has been a long road to get here, with the St George Distillery turning out preview bottlings of their spirit over the years, and now we have their main core line releases. Since I sometimes try to theme music by the country of origin, but rarely do that for England as, well I live here, I decided to go with some English music and put on Pulp: Different Class. That was the reason honest, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to put it on again. Anyway, another one from Independent Spirit as the entire set was.

Isle Of Raasay: Hebridean Single Malt Lightly Peated (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 46.4% ABV)

Visual:Pale gold with a touch of overripe banana skin colour. Moderate speed and thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Salt. Wet moss. Viscous alcohol. Raisins and dry sherry. Vanilla. Rye crackers. Brown bread. Touch of smoke. Alcoholic raspberries. Water makes peppery. Menthol touch and more smoke.

Body: Honey. Dry sherry. Red grapes. Strong alcohol. Slight sour green grapes. Dry beef slices into a more broth character. Fudge. Raspberry coolers. Slight dry alcohol. Water adds strawberry and more raspberries. Slightly oily.

Finish: Dried beef slices in crusty white bread. Smoke touches. Dry sherry. Touch of alcohol. Vanilla. Menthol touch. Peppery. Water brings out brown bread. Rye crackers. Slight oily. An orange juice touch. More water brings out a touch of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Well this is an interesting one. There are a lot of different oak ageing influences, a mix of peated and unpeated and a new distillery to me here all in one package. So, how does this mix of things come out?

Well, let’s deal with the bad side of things first. There is still a rough edge to this spirit – expressed in ways that vary from a viscous alcohol in the aroma to a drier alcohol backing on the body giving a slight rough edge behind everything. I’m guessing it has enough younger spirit in this no age statement whisk to explain why it has some grain whisky like touches, which is not a good look in a single malt. None of these elements completely go away with water.

However, and this is a big however, there is so much going on here to examine. I don’t know if it maps mainly to the varied barrel ageings and is being used to overcompensate for those flaws mentioned, or it this is just part of the distilleries house character and will just expand and grow as time goes on, but there is a lot to get into here. I wonder if all their expressions with have similar complexity of barrel work or if we will ever get to see a more pure expression of the house style of whisky itself?

Anyway, Initially this has a salty, mossy, lightly smokey island character but that soon finds itself just another layer sitting on top of a red grapes and dry sherry character, which itself then opens up into alcohol soaked raspberries, sour grapes and a touch of orange. Already so much going on here. It is generally very dry, with evidence of that alcohol mentioned before but when you already have that dry spirity sherry character it seems less evident and sandwiched between the contrasting fruity character and light smoke you find it less intrusive than you would imagine.

Nothing in this whisky is very sweet – there are some fudge hints but it is more restrained in how it expressed that for the most part, and uses rye cracker and peppery notes to hold down any sweetness getting too present.

It results in a dry expression overall, with savoury notes and dry beef working its way around the core that somewhat call to a more gentle Islay . However that core is such very clear dry sherry and associated fruitier notes that this cannot be mistaken for an Islay, even a muted one.

So, this is rough edged and feels a tad youthful in places, but nestled in there is an expertise of barrel ageing that gives layers of Island salt and smoke over sherry and a dry fruitiness which is then over a peppery rye baseline and the whisky slips between and intermixes these three layers frequently.

An unpolished gem, but still high quality despite that. A good whisky as is, but my mind is on what they could do if they manage to smooth out those edges. I will keep my eye on this distillery in the future

Background: I tried the Raasay “While We Wait” a while back, which was not from Raasay, but more using other whiskies to try and express what they were aiming for. Anyway, having now tried this they are very different things, so whoops on that. Anyway, this, while not their first release, is their first regular release and I managed to grab a bottle from Independent Spirit before their stock ran out. Which it did. Very quickly. These seem to be in high demand. This is no age statement, natural colour and non chill filtered, but what makes it really interesting is the barrel ageing. This has a mix of both peated and unpeated whisky, both of which have been aged in rye whisky casks, chinkapin oak casks (I had to google that one – seems to be the new hotness of odd barrels for whisky ageing – a type of white oak native to central and eastern North America – couldn’t tell you yet what its influence is, but I am interested to learn), and Bordeaux red wine casks. That is a lot going on there. According to the box, this had a three to five day fermentation and uses mineral rich water that gives sweet blackberry characteristics before it even touches the oak. Would have to try some that had more standard ageing to be able to tell how true that is, but an interesting promise. I wanted some lovely music for trying this, so went with the ever experimental and wondrous Ulver – in this case “Flower’s Of Evil”. Probably my second favourite of their albums, and with the quality of their albums that says a lot.

Glenrothes: Whisky Maker’s Cut (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 48.8% ABV)


Visual: Very dark, deep rich gold colour. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Big. Treacle. Wisps of smoke. Tingling alcohol. Warm honey. Vanilla toffee. Cardamom spice. Nutmeg. Strawberry hints. Ginger. Cinnamon sticks to mulled spice. Apple. Gingerbread. Water adds toffee and fudge and a cleaner character. Lots of dry sherry. Grapes.

Body: Thick. Warming. Black cherry. Apple pie centres. Strawberry. wisp of smoke and dry peat. Dry meat to dry beef slices. Fudge. Cloves. Bitter red wine. Water adds lots of strawberries. Orange peel and orange crème. Treacle.

Finish: Cinnamon sticks. Cloves. Slightly numbing. Liquorice. Strawberry liqueur. Black cherry. Fortified red wine. Dried beef slices. Sulphur. Candle wax. Water adds orange crème and bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Glenrothes is often overlooked it my opinion. Despite not often being peated (to the best of my knowledge) it often has this lightly smokey, dried meat touch that I would normally associate with peat but layered into a smooth and sweet spirit. It is a criminally overlooked distillery.

This takes that base idea, and punches it out at a higher abv and a just exploding level of sherry influence. Neat it is numbing, spicy and shows bitter red wine matched with mulled spice notes, underlined by a sulphurous wax candle touch. It is utterly huge, overwhelming but delicious. There are those wisps of smoke and dried meat I mentioned before, that I could swear calls to peat use if it wasn’t for a quick google suggesting I am probably wrong. However they are made they still manage to poke their way through the bigger flavours

Water smooths it out, it is still has sulphur and wax notes but the hinted at dark fruit and sherry that was there neat now take centre stage. There are lots of strawberry and black cherry notes, lots of evident dry sherry. This feels like the epitome of a sherry bomb, sherry aged whisky and the higher abv gives lots of room for water play.

This is sticky feeling, full flavoured and full bore. It reminds me of Aberlour A’bunadh in that it can be a bit much neat, though admittedly this is more restrained and at a lower abv – however it is a rewarding roller-coaster onslaught of flavour if you stick with it.

Very sherried, very red fruit, very spiced neat – less so with water, and just a hint of smoke. Subtle this is not, but very enjoyable it is.

Background: This was a gift from a colleague at work, very many thanks! It is listed as being bottled at abv chosen by the master whisky maker, not to be confused with cask strength, but significantly higher than a standard bottling. It has been matured in only first fill sherry casks. It comes in a showy little cardboard box as you can see, with a little plastic stand inside propping up the bottle inside it for best presentation. I went with Crossfaith: The Dream, the Space as backing music – while not their best album it has a lot of raw, early album energy.

Ardnamurchan: Release 2: AD/01.21.01 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 5 Years: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Light pale gold with quite fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Sherry soaked raisins. Vanilla. Lime cordial air. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust. Water makes sooty and adds crumpets notes.

Body: Honey. Fatty butter. Charcoal dust and charred wood. Raisins to fruitcake. Dry sherry. Vanilla fudge. Water adds Madeira. Pink lemonade and menthol.

Finish: Charring. Burnt meat ends. Dust. Fatty butter. Slightly dry. Sultanas. Water makes more fruity to fruitcake. Light crushed peanuts. More soot. Pink lemonade.

Conclusion: Well, a bit of time to air has really opened this one up. As you can see I’m in the second half of the bottle as I’ve had it a while, and generally I find that a few weeks to let a whisky air can often really help. As mentioned in the background, I’ve been a bit rubbish at this recently.

But! This is not about me, this is about whisky. So, how is it?

When I first tried this the thing I noticed most was that it was kind of fatty butter thick and slightly harsh in its soot character against the vanilla background. It was ok, interesting – especially in the texture, but generally not one I would recommend.

As mentioned, time has really opened it up. From far more raisins coming out in the aroma, to a more balanced level of fatty character in the body, to Madeira notes coming out. This now has a lot more dark fruit balancing out the dry, sooty smoke character that initially made the whisky quite harsh.

The fatty character is still there, especially later on in the body and into the finish. It gives a lot of weight and grip which is good, but the flavour of it is not quite for me. The flavour becomes a lot more evident with water, so bear that in mind if you are of similar mind.

Even odder, but more favourable to me, is that the water adds a kind of lemon and raspberry sweet note that I can best describe as pink lemonade like. Which I think is a new for me in tasting notes. Probably. I have done a LOT of notes by now. Anyway, you end up with smoke and soot, over a fatty thickness, into sweet raisins and citrus sweet pink lemonade over dry sherry. It is a weird mash up.

I think I prefer it neat though. The fatty character is more balanced, the sherry influence pleasant and still a solid vanilla character against the soot. With water is admittedly far more interesting, but also far less balanced.

A good chewy whisky, not a must have at this point as it is either solid or super interesting but never manages to marry the two. It is still a very good start for this distillery.

Background: So, I had nearly completed my attempt to try whisky from every active malt whisky distillery in Scotland (and a fair chunk of silent ones). Anyway, a whole bunch of new ones have opened up and a reasonable amount of them are actually putting bottled whisky out now. My task is never done. This is one of them, Ardnamurchan’s second release which I managed to snag from Independent Spirit before their stock vanished. As you can probably tell from the bottle I have had this a while. My taste note taking skills are dropping with ever month of this darn virus outbreak, but I am trying to keep lethargy from setting in. In good news, had my first shot now, half way to full vaccination! There is no age statement on the bottle, but a bit of googling gave the five years listed here. Similarly it told me this is aged in 65% bourbon wood and 35% a mix of PX and Oloroso sherry casks, which is nice information to know. Went with the ever haunting David Bowie: Black Star as background music when drinking.

Convalmore: 1984: Special Release 2017 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 32 Years: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice to gold colour. A few initial streaks come from the spirit followed by very slow puckering.

Nose: Vanilla. Soft praline. Apples. Soft white grape juice touch. Water adds a sulphur and burnt matches style. More water gives orange zest and pear drops. Madeira. Cinnamon spiced apples.

Body: Initially numbing. Oak. Grassy. Dry. Peppery. More water adds Madeira and watered down spiced rum. Spiced red grapes. Cinnamon apples. Gunpowder tea. Caramel. Cinder toffee. Very mild molasses touch.

Finish: Charring. Roasted chestnuts. Water adds sugared almonds, nut bars and a salty touch. More water makes spicier. Dry red wine. Chocolate cake. Gunpowder tea. Cinder toffee. Creamy.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, and in general a robust one, with a lot heavier nut character that I expected from a Speyside whisky. It is also an example that, even in an over 30 years old whisky, water still does the job!

While water is needed later on, the aroma always had what it takes. Smooth as silk, showing green fruit mixed with vanilla sweetness. It was pretty much exactly what I would expect of the region and the age, if not more than that.

Thus I was surprised when I took a sip and found out how dry and, while not harsh, kind of numbing the main body was. The flavour was very nutty with lots of oak influence making it woody, with little else in play. It felt like such a let down from the nose.

Similarly the finish was nutty, slightly rough, and unexpectedly slightly salty. The state of the body and finish felt like an utter let down for something this old, expensive and with a decent nose.

So, anyway, I added water and…

It was better, still simple and nutty, but now a bit spicier. However the backing seemed to become more harsh – the additional green fruit notes made it better but it was hard to appreciate it against the harsher notes.

So, heck, I may have only 3cl of these, but you only live once. So I added more water, risking flooding it, aaaand.

This is now soooo goooood. No, seriously. Like it is such a change, and such a jump in quality I found it hard to believe it. Wine like and spiced rum notes come out along with spiced fruit, toffee and many spirits. More green fruit. A creamier feel. It doesn’t feel like the same whisky at all.

It has still got a few of those salty, heavier charring and gunpowder tea notes at the back, along with a fair set of tannins, but now they seem balanced as there is so much more available to contrast that. Now it is rich, with lots of dessert like notes, Speyside fresh fruitiness, smooth with lots to examine and so easy to drink despite the harsh underline.

This needs water so much, but get it right and it is great. Still just a touch over harsh, but only minorly so, and apart from that it is great.

Just avoid it neat.

Background: Convalmore is another dead distillery, and therefore one of the few distilleries in Scotland I had yet to try. It seems to be a long lived one, closing finally in 1985, with, oddly, no official bottlings at the time – all the stock went into blends. This is one of the few official bottling that have come out since and one that there was no way I could afford a full bottle of. So, I recently had the chance to treat myself and took advantage of the fact that The Whisky Exchange was selling 3cl samples. It makes it very expensive per cl, but hey, it is pretty much the only way I was going to get to try something from the distillery. A quick google says this won Jim Murray’s best single scotch whisky 28-34 years. For what that is worth. Went with Prodigy: No Tourists for background music. May not seem like a match for this whisky but, screw it, I only just found out it existed and wanted more Prodigy. That is the whole reason.

Waterford: Single Farm Origin: Ballymorgan 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. A very varied mix of streaks come from the spirit – from slow puckering, fast sheet like chunks and thin streaks.

Nose: Lively. Alcohol is noticeable. Strawberry. Tart rhubarb. Pear drops. Nail polish. Butterscotch and vanilla toffee. Heather. Honeycomb. Water smooths to tart white grapes.

Body: Tingling. A young spirit feel. Pears. Peppery touch. Gooseberry. Dry rhubarb. Lightly waxy. Strawberry crème. Water adds vanilla custard. Sweet green grapes. Toffee.

Finish: Peppery. Malt chocolate to choc orange. Sweeter rhubarb. Strawberry crème. Water adds chocolate toffee and choc lime.

Conclusion: Damn I love this. Ok, maybe I should have saved that for the end, as I have just given everything away but… damn I love this!

So, to balance out that wild enthusiasm (this is 2020 you know, we can’t be having any enthusiasm or happiness) let’s get the bad points out of the way first. Neat this feels slightly young in a few elements of its character. Now it doesn’t have an age statement, and it it is fairly smooth (I would presume from Irish triple distilling practices, but their website seems to indicate they do a double distillation, so what do I know), but the character does have a few elements that would make me think this is pretty young. It is partly from a few rough edges, evident if not too harsh alcohol, considering the 50% abv – but more than that it has a very bright flavour profile which I associate with young whisky. So, it doesn’t have the refined character you may expect for the cost.

Now, water does smooth a lot of this out, but also changes the character massively as we are about to examine.

Neat it has that bright, youthful spirit character. It is very lively and very fruity – coming out as pear drops, rhubarb, gooseberry and the like over a quite clean base, with slight peppery notes. It is slightly rough, but generally all about those bright notes. Even with those rough edges it is utterly wonderful to explore and surprisingly easy to drink considering the abv.

Water changes it to a still interesting, but completely different style. Now there are loads of vanilla, toffee and some malt chocolate notes at the base. Far smoother, and sweeter, with far less fruit – though there is still a little there as high notes to contrast.

Neat is more exciting, and with far more to examine, but is rougher. Water is smoother and has a new complexity, but loses a lot of what really makes the neat whisky stand out. Both are worthy experiences and with those two options this stands out as a whisky with a great range of experiences – If this is what single terrior does then I am all for it. An absolute gem that I can recommend without hesitation.

Background: Now this caught my eye. I was lacking a bottle of Irish Whiskey in the cupboard, and I always try to keep one to hand, then this range popped up. A bunch of different whiskeys from Waterford, all concentration on the concept of “terrior ” so all the barley is from a single farm, in this case Ballymorgan.

Now I knew nothing about this difference in farms, so grabbed one pretty much at random, but the concept intrigued me. There is even a specific terrior code on the back you can enter on their website to find out more about the area, which is a nice touch. So, time to find out if it makes a difference. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Dan Le Sac’s These People Are Idiots – lovely chilled beats to drink to – I recommend checking it out.

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