Tag Archive: 45-50% ABV


Kilchoman: Port Cask: 2018 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed with a red to rose wine hue. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Oily. Burnt tyres. Potpourri. Rose wine. Toast. Petals. Ash and smoke. Cold cellars. Brown sugar.

Body: Strawberry. Tingling alcohol. Dusty. Charred toast and brown bread. Soot. Water adds peat, cherries, perfume air, soft cherryaid and salt.

Finish: Dusty. Toast. Salt. Red berries. Muted red wine. Malt drinks and malt chocolate. Water adds toffee and caramel. Riesen chocolate chews. Soot. Dried apricot. Cherries.

Conclusion: Ok, this is a lot better than my first encounter with it at a whisky tasting night. It probably helps that this time it isn’t the fourth whisky in the rotation, plus it has had some time to breath. Anyway, back then I was worried that I had grabbed a dull one and had it waiting for me at home. Now? Well let us see.

Neat it is still lacklustre and a bit closed. It is a mix of sooty and perfumed in the body, which was weird as it had a very enticing oily aroma enticing you in, just seeping slowly over the lip of the glass, but the actual sipping of it gives none of that. Without water that closed nature means you get very little of the port influence. It actually felt kind of toast like – quite drab.

Water makes a big different. It is still slightly closed and more sooty than peaty, but now it has subtle red fruit in the body, and that element raises more the more you add extra water into the mix. I find it odd as it is muted in the red fruit and muted in the Islay characteristics – both individual elements feel weak, but together it is more than the sum of its parts. The subtle red fruit behind soot works better than I would have imagined it would. Grounded, ash over muted red wine and cherries. Still not great one, but somehow these elements come together to accentuate each other well.

So, not as good in my opinion as the demand for it would suggest, especially before giving it some time to air where it was very closed. Now, well it is a solid sooty, smokey whisky against good use of port. Well with water at least. I respect it, but can’t say I would recommend it highly against the other Islays or even the other Kilchomans. Interesting as one of the little done port aged Islay, but far from a must have.

Background: Had this for a short while before trying – I had to grab it fast as it is one of 10,000 bottles and they flew off the shelves. Kilchoman has been a lovely new Islay distillery, and I’m generally a fan of Port Cask ageing so it seemed like a must buy. I was a bit nervous though – after buying it I had tried it at an Independent Spirit Uber whisky tasting and found it kind of average- plus on immediately breaking this open the first dram seemed similarly mediocre. Still, as I do with whisky these days I left it a week or so after opening before doing notes – lets see if a bit of time to breath has helped it. Put on some of The Royal They while drinking – their mix of quirky tunes yet solid lyrics delivered often in a more upbeat sound than the actual message would lead you to expect has made me a fan.

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Loch Lomond: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Slow, thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol air. Dark fruit. Blueberry. Twigs. Vanilla. Raisins. Caramelised brown sugar. Water adds menthol and gooseberries.

Body: Very smooth. Blueberries. Raisins. Light alcohol taste. Small red berries. Moss. Dried teabags and tannins. Water adds apricot syrup. Oak. Custard slices.

Finish: Moss. Charred oak. Light alcohol air. Malt chocolate. Slight sour toffee. Teabags. Water adds fudge. Tart grapes. Lightly metallic.

Conclusion: This feels like it is aiming to take Loch Lomond on the same sort of spirit journey that the more prestigious distilleries such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet do with their 18 years. You know, the ones where they emphasise the dark fruit a bit more, make the main whisky very smooth, that kind of thing. Now, those famous whiskies aren’t perfect in my opinion, but still this one feels like it isn’t really reaching their level.

Now let’s look at what it does have. It has the dark fruit – in raisins, blueberries and touches of slightly tarter small red berries. That aspect works. It is pretty smooth as well, especially with water, so not too bad on that side either. It comes within spitting distance of what it is trying to do is what I am saying.

However there is, well, a kind of alcohol air, like cheaper grain spirit, along with heavy teabag like tannin notes that would have worked in a heavier whisky but felt odd in this smoother fruit fest. Water does help with that, bringing out a smoother flavour, but still with an odd, slightly closed element that is half way between tart grapes and slight metallic notes in the finish.

It feels close to what it should be – the flavours are big all the way into the finish, which is good, it is smooth in the body which is good, but tainted by those off notes that makes it feel like an also ran of the whisky world.

Ok, but far behind the competition.

Background: This is another one grabbed from The Whisky Shop in town, they had a huge range of Loch Lomond in minis so I decided to grab a bit older one to see how it goes. Not been a huge Loch Lomond fan up to now, but some whiskies only really shine in their later years. Put on The Eels: End Times while drinking- only just grabbed it. I always like The Eels, they always feel happy in a sad way, or sad in a happy way, and says that is ok either way. Which is nice.

Loch Lomond: Inchmurrin: Madeira Wood Finish (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Salty. Cooked fish skins. Hard sweets. Raisins. Sour red wine. Strong alcohol air. Light turpentine. Peppermint. Water adds menthol and cherries.

Body: Smooth. Oily. Cherries. Smoke. Salt. Shortbread. Vanilla. Lightly waxy. Water adds golden syrup. Brown sugar. Soft peat and dried beef. Apricot. Spicy raisins. Madeira cake.

Finish: Peppery. Light charring. Dry peat. Oily. Vanilla custard. Water – raisins. Smoke. Menthol. Madeira cake and salt.

Conclusion:This is not an Islay, I am aware of that before you all jump on me, however it does seem to be trying to pick up a lot of the Islay traits, so I will be referring to that region quite a lot here. I think it is as most not Islay/Island whiskies that use peat only take the peat element, and none of the rest of the Islay character. Which is cool, it creates a different experience. This however has a saltiness and an oily, fish skin character that actually brings to mind the less brutal and medicinal of the Islay range. This is especially true neat where it is a bit of a harsher edged thing.

Neat it has a touch of red wine in the character, and some cherry notes, all of which I presume are due to the odder Madeira barrel ageing, but I have to admit it doesn’t seem like how Madeira usually shows itself – in fact it is a tad sour red wine rather than the sweeter notes I would expect. This results in the neat whisky feeling like someone took a lighter Islay and added a bit of a heavier wine barrel ageing to it. It has what would be rougher notes if they were heavier and thicker, but are manageable as it – something like turpentine if it was heavier, but thankfully not so at the moment.

Now, when you add water to this it does two big things. First it brings out the more neutral natural sweetness and the fruitiness of the unpeated side of the whisky. Second it brings out the more traditional Madeira styling with fruity raisin sweetness. Both element involve sweetness yes, and fruit, yes I did already notice that.

Overall it is an ok bit of peat, an ok bit of base spirit and an ok bit of Madeira ageing. It is not a common combination of styles so I will say it has value for that, but each individual element has been done better elsewhere – it is only the combination that makes it stand out.

Still an Islay influenced Highland whisky in Madeira oak, something a bit different and ok as that.

Background: People who have been following these notes for a while will know I like getting the chance to try a lot of different whiskies, but often miniatures only have the more common expressions. Which means you have to buy a big bottle – yes I know, woe is me, but it still means you are taking a risk dropping money sight unseen. So when I saw a bunch of Loch Lomond, and their peated offshoot Inchmurrin at The Whisky Shop in Bath I decided to grab a few. This one is a Madeira finished expression, which I tend to be a fan of, though I don’t think I have tried many, if any peated whiskies with Madeira finishes. Should be interesting. I’d grabbed Ozzy Osbourne – Memoirs Of A Madman recently and was listening to that while drinking. I prefer the Black Sabbath stuff, but still some great tunes in there.

Clan Denny / Douglas Laing: North British : 1991 (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 46.7% ABV)

Visual: Very pale yellowed grain. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Baileys. Orange cream to choc orange. Crushed bourbon biscuits. Water adds tannins, lemon cheesecake and menthol to grapes notes.

Body: Custard. Golden syrup. Apples. Calvados. Water adds icing sugar, lemon cheesecake, has more of a waxy and alcohol feel.

Finish: Apples. Pears. Creamy to baileys. Pear drops. Lightly waxy. Slight dry shortbread. Water adds light oak and white chocolate. More water brings out menthol notes and grapes.

Conclusion: This is a sweet and creamy one. Initially it really pushes a Baileys style – thick and creamy against young spirit style green fruit notes. There is a slight thickness to it, actually a kind of polish to wax feel that actually enhances the creaminess.

Water makes it drier and slightly spicier, but otherwise manages to marry the two sides of the neat whisky. The fruit notes become creamier in a soft lemon style over a sweet cheesecake like base, rather than the brighter green fruits of the neat spirit.

Here, with water, more of the bourbon cask influence shows, more oak, more white chocolate, all emphasising sweeter notes that makes this feel like a bright, dessert style, whisky. Adding just a drop of water does bring out more alcohol roughness, but if you can push through that, adding even more water mellows it down again and lets you enjoy the gentle lemon character.

It always keeps a touch of energy that comes from the grain spirit style, but matches it to a sweeter, gentler, dessert style which means it manages to be relaxing despite that grain energy. It feels like some thing to enjoy post meal and relax with.

A lovely bit of a dessert edged dram.

Background: One of about 300 bottles this is a single cask single grain whisky and the first of five whiskies I tried at the most recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. Single grain gets a lot of shit as the lesser cousin of single malt, but there are some gems hidden in its depths as I have found over the years. Time will tell if this is one of them. This was aged in a refill hogshead cask. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again.

Heaven Hill : Rittenhouse: Straight Rye Whisky Bottled-In-Bond (USA: Rye Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Bronze to amber. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Vanilla. Peppery. Rye crackers. Honey. Orange zest. Light menthol and mint leaves. Orange fruit sugars. Water keeps similar but more water adds apples.

Body: Mead. Thick. Golden syrup. Pepper. Brown bread. Syrup cake. Slight cough syrup. Water makes more menthol. Pears. Soft apricot. Vanilla. Peppercorn.

Finish: Peppery. Vanilla. Brown bread. Vanilla yogurt. Light menthol. Water adds more menthol.

Conclusion: Right, I’m never sure if American whiskey – be it bourbon, rye, corn or whatever – should have water added to it. I know the stereotype is with ice but I’ve never taken to that. What I do know though is that for this one, with and without water is a heck of a different experience.

Neat it feels like the platonic ideal of a rye whiskey in my (admittedly comparatively limited) experience. It is peppery and spicy over a sweet, syrupy base that makes it heavy and thick. Even taking into account the 50% abv this can take a metric wodge of water and still feel thick and syrupy on the tongue. It is a heavy, rustic, thick, peppery and just plain rye biscuit tasting whiskey.

Water, well, first comes out the menthol notes. Initially this is a drawback as combined with the thickness of the texture you get a kind of sickly cough syrup taste. This is but a stepping stone though, keep adding water you get past that, warning, it takes more water than you would think.

With that huge amount of water you finally get green fruit added into the menthol – lighter notes, still against the pepper spice, but hear a more revealing and subtly fruity whiskey rather than the sheer rye assault.

Neat it is the rye beast, water makes slightly too menthol, but with enough water it does have a rewardingly fruity spirit to go with the peppery rye even if it doesn’t 100% work like that. Still, this is a whiskey about the rye and going for that I have to say it does that bloody well.

Background: Since my mind has been expanded recently on the breakdown of American whiskey styles, including exactly what constituents a bourbon and what doesn’t, which I find I have been getting wrong for a while, I wanted to dance back into the American whiskey again, and I decided to go with the rye. Grabbed at Independent Spirit after having sampled a few ryes, this was drunk while listening to Guns and Roses – Appetite for Destruction. It just felt right.

Port Askaig: 8 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with brackish green tinge. Fast thick streaks. Water makes very cloudy.

Nose: Medicinal. Reek of peat. Peppered beef slices. Peppercorn. Light salt. Water brings out more medicinal notes.

Body: Beef slices. Peat smoke. Overdone steaks. Salt. Slightly tarry. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Some alcohol weight and warmth. Water makes smoother. Adds vanilla fudge. Pears. More medicinal notes. Apricot. Light bread. Lime cordial.

Finish: Drying. Salt. Light vanilla. Tarry. Golden syrup. Apple pies. Water makes medicinal. Adds lime jelly and slight zestiness. Apricot.

Conclusion: This is a big ‘un. Yet water makes it oh so mellow. Ok, I am kind of lying my balls off there. It is not mellow, but there is a whole other subtle set of characteristics under the peat assault that only come out when you add water.

So, first of all let’s take a look at this without water. Whoa! This reeks, utterly reeks of peat. In a good way. It has huge intense smoke and smoked beef, mixed with peat, with medicinal notes in there as well. Without water a vanilla and golden syrup sweetness backs it up over time, but the rest of the intensity does not let up.

Now at this point it is not complex, but it does show the advantage of a younger spirit in keeping the peat intensity up. It is heaven for smoke fanatics, while utterly lacking in subtlety.

Then you add water.

It happens slowly – drop by watery drop. First vanilla fudge comes out, then soft lime notes, then finally sweet apricot creeps out from under the peat nest it is birthed in. What the heck even is this? Apart from delicious I mean.

Now it isn’t quite Lagavulin 16 level must have, but the range it runs with water – going from sheer assault, to still weighty but with a great range of fruit notes – well, that makes this a steal at the 40 quid ish price it goes for.

Both heavy duty Islay, and complex restrained Islay in one whisky. I advise grabbing a bottle and adding water to your preference. Very impressive.

Background: I had Port Askaig for the first time many a year ago at a whisky show. It was very nice, but I never did get around to grabbing a bottle of it for myself since. That mistake has now been rectified. Port Askig is not a distillery, but a bottling of one of the other existing Islay distilleries under the Port Askaig brand. So far quality has been very high. The most common guess of what distillery it is from is Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I have no idea. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit and broke it open with some Karnivool to listen to – Sound Awake to be exact. Saw them as a warm up band once, and enjoyed them enough to grab the CD there and then. Pretty soothing music for background noise.

Douglas Laing’s Provenance Single Cask: Auchentoshan 11 Year (Scottish Lowland Whisky: 11 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very light and pale, with a slight brackish hue. Very slow streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Strawberry crème. Viscous alcohol notes. Dark Belgian chocolate. Pine cones and pine needles. Water adds peppermint, more water turns menthol.

Body: Warming. Grapes. Shortbread. Vanilla fudge. Oak. Lightly peppery. Water adds slight sulphur. More water adds creamy notes and lots of grapes. Cinnamon doughnuts.

Finish: Oaken. Pine spray. Menthol. Fudge. Strawberry crème. Water makes more menthol. Mint leaves. More water adds grapes, light cinnamon and Belgian black chocolate.

Conclusion:There are lots of different elements in this – ones I would never expect to see side by side. The most disparate elements never seem to overlap, instead you get each of the distinctly different elements coming out one after each other.

First aroma notes come out like Belgian chocolate and strawberry crème- yet the body after that comes out as tart grapes and light fudge. Then, as that goes out the strawberry crème comes back out in the finish.

On another run it was alcohol strong, piney and heavy on the aroma, going into a peppery body, then somehow out into menthol freshness in the finish. I’d like to claim that it is water, or time that makes this change – but while water does bring changes, it seems like any of the prior elements can return at any point.

So, to try and generalise a whisky that seems to actively resist categorisation – well, generally there are some grapes. Generally there are slight pine to pine cone notes. It is generally smooth but warming and generally there are some sweet notes behind that – be it toffee, chocolate of strawberry.

What is oddest, for all that is odd about this whisky, is that for all the odd notes, this does not actually really stand out as a whisky. It has the odd moments, as described above, but they all clinging around a solid but unexceptional whisky. Very contrary, no? Not bad, hard to sum up which is a value in itself. Not a must have, not one to avoid. Not bad.

Background: Yay, mini hip flasks of whisky- chances to try different experimentations without spending a vast amount on a full size bottle. It is especially nice with lowland ones like this as I can be a bit mixed on how I find stuff from this region. The Provenance lot, whisky taken from a single cask and bottled at just a tad stronger strength than normal, has been pretty solid so far. I grabbed it from Independent Spirit and put on Miracle Of Sound’s Level 8 while drinking – very cool drinking music.

Douglas Laing: Independent Spirit: Old Particular: Port Dundas 13 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 13 Year: 48.4% ABV)

Visual: Very pale. Brackish water to pale yellow. Fast streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous alcohol. Apples. Menthol. Water makes creamy and adds light peppermint.

Body: Baileys. Green apple. Strong alcohol. Water makes more creamy. Light peppermint. Toffee. Pears. More baileys. Viscous jelly alcohol feel.

Finish: Alcohol air. Menthol. Baileys. Pear. Water adds white chocolate. Tinned tropical fruit. Creamier and with peppermint notes.

Conclusion: This is a mix of the expected and the unexpected. I had tried this in the shop before buying and I have general memories of being impressed by it. Hence why I bought it, it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, right?

On first open of this bottle this seemed familiar, but I couldn’t work out why it had jumped out at me before. It had green fruit that spoke of a younger spirit matched with a thicker, viscous body – warming with a jelly like alcohol feel, but not burning like a young spirit would be. Good, but hardly stand out.

Which is why, these days, I do notes about a week after breaking open a bottle. It really seems to make all the difference.

Now, a week on, it has a lightly creamy liqueur like set of notes which becomes distinctly Baileys like with water. It is a completely unexpected blast that mixes with the green fruit to crate a thicker and heavier single grain experience. It is still that thick, viscous alcohol character in the body that you often get of grain, but with the creamier flavours heading out into a fresh peppermint and menthol endgame.

Usually I expect single grain to show more of the cask influence, but here the whisky is very much its own thing. There is white chocolate, toffee and tinned tropical fruit notes, that say bourbon ageing to me – but they take time to come out and take the stage.

This is very good – it does have some rough alcohol edges and slight overly heavy jelly alcohol character at times which are not the best, but generally it is very enjoyable. A touch of water helps but never quite removes the alcohol character – a flaw but not one that ruins this interesting experience.

Background: Another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this time in collaboration with Douglas Laing. This is one of 126 bottles and was aged from 2004 to 2017. Port Dundas was a single grain distillery that stopped production in 2011. I’ve tried a 20 year bottling of it before, but is my sole experience of this distillery and not quite to my tastes. This was drunk while listening to the new Arch Enemy CD for the 2nd time– seems more varied than prior albums, taking a bit of time to get used to it.

Independent Spirit: The Hideout: Aberlour (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Honey. Warming alcohol. Nutmeg on apple. Vanilla. Pears to pear drops. Almond slices. Water adds light sulphur, more pears and slight raisins.

Body: Warming and slightly waxy. Sugared apples. Cake sponge. Water makes very smooth. Salted caramel to fudge. Sherried raisins. Iced Christmas cake. More water adds subtle orange to blood orange notes.

Finish: Waxy. Cake sponge. Lightly oily. Almonds. Malt chocolate and toffee drinks. Water adds salted caramel, apple pie and light choc orange. Rum and raisin. Slight red wine. More water adds marzipan over fruitcake. Sugar icing and tangerines.

Conclusion: It always seems odd to encounter an Aberlour that hasn’t been sherried to within an inch of its life. This, which does have some sherry influence I think – a refill cask maybe? – does a lot more in showing the native Aberlour elements that are often hidden behind that (admittedly tasty) sherry shell.

For one thing this is more fruity, with soft pear and apple notes – lightly spiced, but coming out in a way that calls to the bright fruit of a young whisky. However this is smooth, warming when had neat but not burning and that is soon soothed with a drop of water. This more natural, more open Aberlour character allow a more waxy and oily character to show themselves, giving a nice thickness for a matching salted caramel and fudge sweetness to back the fruit.

The sherry influence comes later in, especially when you add water. It brings raisins and vinous notes into fruitcake like imagery – starting sultana like and building over time. Here is feels like more traditional Aberlour, but it never gets so heavy as to hide those more intriguing characteristics below.

Finally, the capstone on this is a moment that allows a cake sponge to almond slice like flavour and feel to come out – a delicious savoury to sweet mix that becomes marzipan like by the end – A solid, hefty point to give the whisky some grip.

As you can probably guess by now, this uses the often hidden side of Aberlour to create a smooth and complex whisky – I am impressed.

Background: So, another independent bottling from Independent Spirit – this one done in conjunction with the excellent whisky bar – The Hideout. This one is an Aberlour – one I’ve been a fan of since I encountered them doing their excellent distillery tour with their incredibly friendly guides. On the eye this looks sherried, but less sherried than most Aberlour releases which should make it an interesting one to try. Drunk while listening to Testament -Low. It was only a few quid and gave me a chance to listen to more of Testament’s stuff before seeing them live. A very solid album as well.

Kilchoman: Sanaig (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Rich deep gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Smokey and peaty. Wet rocks. Salt touch. Big aroma. Brown bread. Kippers. Water adds vanilla and light apples.

Body: Smooth mouthfeel with caramel, fudge and vanilla. Warming. Beefy. Peaty. Stew character. Salt. Water adds apples with cinnamon. Sherried raisins. Nutmeg. Dried apricot. Oily.

Finish: Medicinal. Salt. Brown bread. Paprika spice. Dried raisins. Dry cake sponge. Malt chocolate. Light peat. Dry in general. Water adds cherries, sherry and now juicy raisins. Creamy coffee. Menthol. Caramel.

Conclusion: There is a nice mix to this – I’m going to break it down into its layers and examine each individually as there is a lot going on here.

On first pour you get a big booming aroma that you can’t mistake for anything but Islay, and it is recognisable from metaphorical miles away from the glass. Classic Islay peat, smoke, salt and rocks all delivered thick and oily.

Drinking a sip keeps the thick character, but now with that peat expressed in a beefy style – layered over thick caramel and fudge notes. It is a dry sweetness, very chewy, very big and a great backing and contrast for the big Islay flavours.

The finish finally shows the story of the sherry influence – coming in as dry spice and raisins over the, still showing but now medicinal, Islay character. All of the levels has alcohol warmth, but the texture is luxury level smooth.

So, what can water do with this then? Quite a bit actually – soft green fruit and sweeter spice notes while the sherry influence ramps up nicely giving cherry and sherry notes into dry nutty finish. Well the finish was always quite dry – I forgot to mention that before. Forgive me please there is a lot to get through here. Anyway, compared to the chewy main body the finish is a nicely done dry underlying, drawing a line under the experience.

So, yeah, the fact I’m forgetting stuff while trying to get the notes done is showing how much this has going on – huge peat, big Islay, big sherry, yet with enough room to show the lighter notes. Big, but not so big that it becomes simple from overpowering notes.

It lacks only that “je ne sais quoi” to make it an all time great, but it is as good as you can get without that. Bloody nice.

Background: Another chance to dip into Islay’s youngest distillery – not got much info on this one. It’s a no age statement made with a mix of bourbon and sherry casks. Grabbed in ickle mini form from Independent Spirit so I could give it a try. So lacking in detail on the whisky – I listened to a collection of No Doubt’s single while drinking this. While I didn’t like all of the musical directions they took they were always good – just some of the tracks were not for me. When they were at their best IMHO was when they took on topics akin to the punkier scenes I enjoy so much, but delivered in such a way that it reached a much wider crowd without descending to the saccharine Spice Girls style “Girl Power” delivery. So there you have it.

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