Tag Archive: 50-55% ABV


Linlithgow (Aka St Magdalene): Silent Stills: 22 Year (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 22 Year: 51.7% ABV)

Visual: Pale Gold. Slow but thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Clean. Soft lime. Light alcohol tingle. Barley. Light honey. Crusty white bread. Soft vanilla. Water adds toffee and fudge. More honey. Apple.

Body: Clean and smooth. Soft lime. Slight alcohol if held. Rice. Peppery. Water adds cake sponge, honey and more alcohol notes. Apples. More water again adds apricot.

Finish: Rice. Slight charred oak. Vanilla. Slightly spritzy and peppery. Babycham. Water adds honey, custard and slight sulphur. Dry rice.

Conclusion: Ok, drunk neat this is, well, very simple. Smooth, with only a touch of alcohol despite the high abv. It is clean, but also kind of empty. Some light sweet notes are there, and a light lime but that is against a kind of rice to cereal backing that gives little over a generic kind of spritzy feel. Not a good start.

Water, surprisingly, makes it more robust and sweet in a way that actually reminds me of Highland whisky rather than its lowland home. Lots of honey notes now, some fudge and a cake sponge solid body. More weighty and rounded, though still with a kind of dry rice unpleasantness in the finish. Also the robustness has also seemed to bring more of the alcohol that previously had been locked away inside. So, a tad more alcohol burn but generally a lot more interesting.

So, slightly rough edged in flavours, if not in mouthfeel, but now soft green fruit comes out over big sweetness in a generally smooth (apart from that finish) dram. More water helps fine a nice balance, clearing the rough edges and giving a getle sweet and lightly fruity dram. That is several fucking hundred quid a 70cl bottle.

It is an ok dram, smooth, gentle, and reasonable flavour – but no better than say, an entry level Macallan or similar. Interesting to try, but seriously don’t go out of your way to try it unless you are either rich, or an obsessive taster like me.

Background; This was intended as my 400th whisky tasting note, until I hit that total at an Uber Whisky Tasting night. So this is now my second 400th tasting. I can do that. This is a rare one – from the dead St Magdalene distillery – aka Linlithgow. Seems different expressions were put out under different names. Anyway, a lowland distillery – not many of them around any more and they tend to be lighter and smoother so should be a bit different. I saw this mini at The Whisky Exchange a long time back and grabbed it as the chance to try these dead distilleries are not one I pass up if I can, and I just cannot afford the full 70cl bottles most of the time. Wanted some not intrusive background music so put on some Taiko drumming, used to listen to this regularly, lovely encompassing rhythmic sounds that let me really get into the whisky.

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That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Three Ships: Batch 1 (South African Single Malt Whisky: 6 Years: 53.7% ABV)

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

Nose: Thick. Stewed dark fruit. Waxy leaves. Partially melted brown sugar. Slightly oily and slight smoke. Waxy in general. Banana skins. Water brings out cake sponge. Toffee and light peppercorn.

Body: Thick and oily. Kind of oily peat. Stewed apricot. Golden syrup. Shortbread. Brown bread. Charcoal touch. Water adds fudge. Charred oak. More waxy,

Finish: Stewed apricot. Milky chocolate. Slight banana. Charcoal and charred oak. American bread. Water adds noticeable alcohol. Slight apples. Treacle. Golden syrup. More milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Wow, this is thick and chewy, but despite that and a high abv this comes across far smoother than the low number of years ageing would indicate. As mentioned in the background, I’m guessing this is at least partly due to ageing in high temperatures. This has such a smooth mouthfeel, especially considering the over 50% abv, but you can really get your teeth into it.

Flavour-wise it is very different to most whiskies I have encountered out there. It feels like it hints at a waxier take on a sweet and big Highland whisky at the base, but far chewier, and even has what tastes like a decent amount of oily smoke underneath it (I have no idea if this is peated at all, but something definitely gives an oily peat like character in there – the whole thing is a bit outside my standard set of reference points, so I’m working without a net here).

It is a very gripping, kind of waxed leaves feel and even hints of flavour, and that grip means that all the other flavours stick around as well. The highland like impressions come across as a heavy, weighty sweetness – burnt brown sugar, fudge and what tastes like a relatively restrained sweetness version of golden syrup. These become especially evident with water – the alcohol is never burning, and never really obscures, but it does open up brilliantly with just a few drops, and can cope with a lot more.

Its unique character is that waxy greenery, an element I don’t recognise from any other whisky and adds a real savoury weight to this, mixing well with the oily, charred notes to make for a dark, savoury undertone.

A lovely mix – Highland meets a dash of Islay, meets elements I have only previously encountered in Indian whisky and makes for something really rewarding, multifaceted, recognisable as whisky but different. Well worth trying.

Background: This caught my eye a while back at The Hideout. I’d not tried any whisky from South Africa before, and I wondered what it would be like. So after an amazing Paul John whisky tasting held there I grabbed myself a measure. Was very impressed so went back later to do notes on it. This has been aged in American Oak and PX sherry casks (or so a quick google tells me). Six years is not old for a whisky, but I’m guessing that similar to ageing whisky in India (as the Paul Johns guide told us) the higher heat means a much higher loss to the angel share, and a much more rapid ageing. Three Ships is one of the brands of whisky from the James Sedgwick Distillery that also does the Bain’s single grain whisky. Again, so google tells me.

Douglas Laing: Cambus Old Particular 25 Year (Scottish Single Grain Whisky: 25 Year: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened gold with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Strong alcohol. Thick aroma. Lighter fluid touch. Apples. Praline hint. Nutty. Vanilla. Oak. Water adds jelly babies, slight sulphur and eggs.

Body: Soft. Vanilla. Creamy. Oily alcohol evident but not harsh. Apricot. Dry oak. Water makes smooth. Hot cross buns and butter. Jelly babies.

Finish: Oily alcohol. Pear drops. Vanilla. Oaken. Dry. Water adds hot cross buns. Slight raisins. Slight dry spice. Soft bitter red wine.

Conclusion: Ok, this one is packed with some viscous, oily alcohol. Be prepared and warned. I was worried from the waft of alcohol that came out on first pour that this was going to be pure lighter fluid.

So, yeah a tad nervous as I went onto the first sip and … it is comparatively restrained actually. There is still a thick watered down jelly like alcohol feel, but there is no burn with it. The flavours are similarly gentle, with soft vanilla and creamy notes against subtle fruity backing.

It still definitely benefits from water though – the thick alcohol is smoothed out and given a bready, hot cross bun like feel and taste which helps it stand out from the ok, but fairly generic flavours it had before.

Similarly water brings out what I would guess at sherry ageing, though the light colour of the whisky makes me unsure on calling that one. 25 years in a sherry butt would give more colour I would guess, unless it was third fill? I dunno. Anyway, it brings out subtle red wine and spice notes in an understated sweet way that makes me thing of a more gentle take on some young Glenfarclas.

Despite that it doesn’t really stand out as a must have. It has got a nice weight to it, a surprising lack of alcohol burn, but feels like basic notes done well rather than a stand out wonder.

Ok, but I’d expect more from a 25 year whisky.

Background: So, second time around – Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. Cambus is a lowland single grain distillery which I have never tried anything from before, so this should be interesting. Decided to go for some heavy contemplation music, so went for the experimental masterpiece from Godspeed you! Black Emperor! That is Don’t Bend Ascend. Such haunting, background yet weighty music for serious whisky tasting.

Ardbeg: Drum – Committee Release (Islay Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Very clear and light. Mix of fast and slow medium sized streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Heavy peat. Lightly waxy. Slight salt. Waxed fruit. Slight sugar cane. Fresh brown bread. Ripe banana. Banana leaves. Water adds nail polish and dried meat.

Body: Banana. Oily. Oily peat. Caramelised sugar. Rum. Palma violets. Water adds banana yogurt. Peat. Grapes.

Finish: Caramelised brown sugar. Molasses. Cherries. Rum. Peat. Banana and banana leaves. Waxy. Pear drops. Banana custard. Fatty sausage.

Conclusion: This feels like the most unexpected of experiences for me. It is a tropical tasting Ardbeg. It comes in with such a punch of a peaty aroma, but then drops you into smooth (and yes still peat influenced) perfection behind. It punches peat out, punches out waxy and heavy, burnt brown sugar and oily notes. It feels initially like it is going to be one to punch your teeth out.

On that first sip instead it comes in with subtle waxy, oily notes below the peaty weight, and leaves a touch of room which is nigh instantly filled by the rum coming in. It floods in with spicy and dry notes backed by lots of burnt, caramelised brown sugar and even molasses like notes.

More than that, what makes this seem so utterly different is that it has so much banana character added into this – waxy banana, mashed banana, banana yogurt, banana custard. Lots of banana notes really selling the tropical imagery and working so well against the spicier rum notes. Very sweet, always present behind the oily, peaty character.

Heavy peat, heavy sweet, thick waxy mouthfeel, meaty weight. It has full Ardbeg weight but is so sweet, rum touched and vibrant behind that. This is a legend, so polished, weighing the Ardbeg character but unlike any Ardbeg I have tried before.

It is something I never expected – a dessert meets Ardbeg peat whisky. It is both different and amazing, If you get the chance, and it is not silly money, try it. Genuinely great

Background: Final of the five whiskies tried at Independent Spirit‘s Uber Whisky Tasting. Ok, there was a sixth bonus one, this was the last official one, ok. This is this year’s take on the annual Arbeg Committee Release and one I was very excited to try – a rum finished Ardbeg! Going for stupid amounts of money if you try and find it online now, I was so chuffed to see it in the tasting so I could give it a go. As always with sessions like this I was doing notes in a group environment, so may be a tad more scattershot than normal but I do my best.

EDIT: This is the Committee Release version which is 52% abv compared to the standard release which I just found out exists and is 46% abv.

Amrut: Naarangi (India Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Deep honeyed gold. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Sugared oranges. Trifle and brandy cream. Subtle oak. Shortbread. Light bay leaves. Lightly earthy spice. Water adds some vanilla. Tinned tropical fruit. Rose wine.

Body: Dry red wine. Earthy spice. Sugared orange. Shortbread. Dry oak. Water adds treacle. Orange peel. Dry plums. More orange. Rose wine. Vanilla.

Finish; Ovaltine. Dry oak. Dry red wine. Chilli. Tannins. Dry tea bags. Orange peel. Dry plums. Slight trifle. Water brings out turmeric.

Conclusion:This is about as different as you can get from from a whisky – an experiment that could not be done in Scotland and one that brings a very different experience with it.

There are so many different elements in the different moments of this journey – Initially sweet orange mixed with herbal dry notes, it provides a contrast of sweet taste matched by a dry feeling body. Lots of dry red wine notes come out from it, emphasising the spice which seems to be a popular touch in India whisky in my limited experience.

Water makes such a difference in what you get – bringing out vanilla and tinned tropical fruit that calls to more traditional whisky character that you would expect from a bourbon ageing, but still moves out into contrasting dark fruit notes and more dry red wine notes.

More water changes it again to bring out a lighter rose wine character, something that calls to more unusual barrel ageing against the still present sweeter notes. The contrast from sweet aroma into dry spice meets orange aroma now with a good range over the dry backing.

Very different, red wine and spice with great variety around that core. Sweet, warming spice, definitely not the traditional whisky experience while still definitely being whisky, not a liqueur.

Very much worth trying.

Background: This was the second of five whiskies at Independent Spirit‘s Uber whisky tasting. I love those things, a chance to try five whiskies I might not otherwise get to try. Why no first set of notes? The first whiskey I had already done notes on in the past. So, the first set of new notes is this very unusual one from India – a whisky aged in oloroso sherry casks, which had been filled with orange peel packed wine. Not something that would be allowed to be called whisky in Scotland, but in India – experiment away! As always with tastings like this, it was in a social environment so I may have been influenced by people around me and the notes may be slightly shorter than usual. Hope you still enjoy.

Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Linkwood 21 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain. Very slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Noticeable alcohol. Soft lime. Vanilla. Floral. Crushed digestives. Pencil shavings. Water makes gentle and slight rocks.

Body: Smooth but warming. Cake sponge. Vanilla. Soft lime. Marzipan. Crushed peanuts. Water adds vanilla custard. More marzipan. More water adds light cherries.

Finish: Key lime pine. Vanilla. Soft caramel. Alcohol air. Lightly nutty. Marzipan. Water adds cake sponge and more nuts. More water adds cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: Well, a lot more going on with this than seemed at first glance. Despite being over 50% abv, the alcohol character is not the issue that prevented me from getting into it right away. There is no burn to this, despite the alcohol being evident in the aroma and warming in the body it actual works out fairly restrained overall for this.

Initially it comes across floral with vanilla sweetness – very smooth for the abv, but nothing special in the flavor. Slowly, over time a gentle nuttiness comes out – which reminds me of my previous experience with Linkwood where it seemed like a more gentle Strathisla.

Water play adds many layers though, taking it away from that simple impression. The nuttiness merges with the sweetness to give more body to a marzipan note that was hinted at previously. More water allows cherry and digestive notes to come out that add range and more varied sweetness around the nutty character.

Gentle, smooth, works well with water and feels like a smooth Strathisla made sweeter, and very rewarding and easy to drink. Not the most complex, but complex enough for an easy going 21 year spirit.

Background: Mini whisky samples! Woo woo! These were donated to me by Independent Spirit for me to do notes on – much appreciated! Being a sample this is a smaller measure than normal, so may be slightly shorter notes that usual, not that I’m complaining. Only had one Linkwood before, I think, brought up my notes on it while trying this so I could compare. Not much else to add – put on Getter – Visceral to listen to while drinking. Nice electronic kind of chilled tunes. The only pity is the only reason I found out about the album is because of the hate and online and offline abuse the creator was getting due to it being so different to their usual work. People are scum sometimes. It is good, check it out. If you don’t like it, that is fine, but don’t send artists, or in fact anyone abuse just because their work is not to your tastes.

Lagavulin: Feis Ile 2018: 18 Year ( Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 53.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Slow thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Peat. Soft champagne. White grapes. Beef broth. Cherry pocked digestives. Dry black liquorice smoke. Burnt rubber. Salt touch. Menthol liqueur. Sulphur. Water adds very light aniseed. Slightly more evident alcohol. Dry white grapes.

Body: Smooth. Dry. White wine. Light white chocolate. Oaken. Water adds cake sponge. Smoke. Soft lime. Dried beef and beef crisp dusting. More white chocolate. Toffee. Soft cherry.

Finish: Dry oak. Smoke. Alcohol air. Dried beef. Champagne. White grapes. Water adds pepper. Vanilla. Thai seven spice. Malt toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. Beef crisp dust. White chocolate. More water adds vanilla and soft apricot.

Conclusion: Ok, let us start with how this is different to my usual Lagavulin expectation, via what those expectations are. So, my expectations for Lagavulin are that it will be big, meaty, peaty, weighty and complex.

This is drier, but does not feel lighter with that. Instead it emphasises what taste more like white wine, clean notes. Instead of heavy peat it feels more the dry smoke side of things, similarly dried meat instead of chewy slabs. There is room for subtle fruit notes to come out. It is still Lagavulin but restrained in how it punches out the notes. Still Islay, still big, but the heavier Islay meaty, medicinal, peat and salt notes feel calmed compared to the younger 16 year. It is a take that took me a short while to get used to.

Without water it suffers from being too much on the dry side, which alongside the ..ok, not lighter …brighter? Cleaner? Any which way, the different flavours seem to suffer in the higher alcohol environment. Ok, but overly oaken and the dryness makes it seem harsh.

So, yes, water play is definitely needed for this one. With water the smoke is still less peaty, and the beef still is dry, but the white wine notes rise to become slightly yeasty Belgian beer influenced and fuller champagne notes. The other elements have more room to roam and softer, with subtle red fruit coming out around the edges.

Grapes and soft fruit, across light salt hints now match the dry, smoke, dried meet and champagne. Still Lagavulin but a fascinating different take. Fascinating thought it is, I will have to admit. Lagavulin 16 and Distillers Edition are both better and cheaper. Then again those two whiskies are masterclasses in how to do a good Islay. This feels like an interesting alternate universe take. So, get the 16 and Distillers Edition first, if they are to your taste, and you have money to spare, this is an interesting one.

I love seeing what can be done with the spirit in this one, but it just makes it different, definitely not better. That is not to say this is bad – I have yet to encounter a bad whisky from this distillery – but it is not up with their usual amazing high quality. Still a fun one to dissect.

Background: I fought with myself so much over if I should get this. I genuinely love Lagavulin. Probably my favourite distillery, and one that has a relevantly restrained number of releases. Thus, a nice 18 year old release, especial a limited release that I would normally have to travel to the Feis Ile Islay festival to get, caught my eye. On the other hand it was just a tad expensive for an 18 year of whisky, mainly due to people having to head to Islay for that festival to grab it. As you can tell I eventually weakened and bought it. Otherwise this set of tasting notes would be admission of stealing. Grabbed from Independent Spirit ,this has been aged in Refill American oak hogsheads, Rejuvenated American Oak hogsheads and Bodega European Oak butts. This is bottle 4199 of 6000 bottles. I put on Akala – Knowledge Is Power 2 while drinking. I freaking love Akala, such a wordsmith and cutting in his political critique in his raps.

Brora: Silent Stills: 18 Year (Scotland Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 52.9% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. Very slow puckering forms into thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed rocks. Mild smoke and soot. Planed red wood. Lime hints. Barley. Water adds more rocks and grit. Soft apricot. More water keeps roughly the same.

Body: Light front. Lemon and vanilla. Subtle smoke. Slight salted rocks. Alcohol warms over time. Lemon cakes and lemon curd. Brown sugar. Honey. Water adds more honey. Apricot. More noticeable alcohol. Thick American pancakes. More water. Buttered crumpets. Raisins and plums.

Finish: Honey. Crushed rocks. Soot. Lime touch. Maple syrup touch. Brown sugar. Lemon cakes. Vanilla. Water adds American pancakes and malt chocolate. More water – crumpets. Raisins. Red wine.

Conclusion: Very different first impression on this to anything I expected. Gentle, definitely not showing the cask strength level alcohol, but with crushed rocks and smoke. The aroma especially seemed full of those wood and rock notes that made me a tad worried this would be a rough tasting experience. However first sip was very smooth, with light sweet notes and that rocky character a backing solid character as it should be.

Now I know Brora is generally peated, so was expecting a heavier influence from that than what I found here. Instead I get just a smoke wisp, present but gentle wafting though the sweeter main character of lemon cakes and vanilla. It very much shows the sweet Highland home here with honey and brown sugar weight to the spirit. It is well aged though, even neat the 50% abv is smoother than it has any right to be, only becoming noticeable if held on the tongue for a while. In fact it is so well balanced in alcohol weight that I was hesitant to add water to it for a while lest I ruin it.

I was then unsure again just after adding the water. The aroma became even grittier, and the body had a bit more alcohol evident. However with that it did open up to bring brighter fruit notes and an American style pancake feel. So, after a moment of examination I decided, maybe it had just started its journey of change? Maybe a touch more water was needed?

More water did settle the alcohol down again, and have a thick, bready, crumpet and thick pancake kind of feel, all backed by that understated smoke. Here I can wholeheartedly say that it is very good. Highland weight and sweetness, subtle smoke, slight citrus notes and so incredibly smooth for the abv. That is some aged cask strength spirit used well. No fancy unusual barrel ageing used here – it just lets the spirit itself show itself at the best with the oak adding everything it needs.

In fact, here in its final moments I find more sherry barrel like ageing notes coming out – dark fruit and red wine adding yet another layer to this. It really made wish I had a bit more of this so I could explore where it was going – hints of much more dark fruit to come. Unfortunately I cannot afford more, even if I could find it.

So, on that, is it worth the high very cost? Probably not. Probably nothing is worth the cost that super rare whisky like Brora goes for now. However it is very good indeed. Wonderful in fact. If this went for the kind of cost a premium 18 year old whisky would go for from a living distillery, even the high end of that, I would recommend it without hesitation. One of the best Highland whiskies I have had – so smooth, so complex and the smoke wisp just adds that extra touch.

Downsides? The aroma really does not show it at its best. Everything else is so very good. Just, ya know, damn, that steep cost.

Background: Two thousand tasting notes! WOO! I made it with my liver vaguely intact! I had been keeping this one back for a while, knowing that full bottles of Brora – a distillery that has been dead since 1983 – go for insane amounts of money – part rarity, part the 30 year plus age any new releases are now. So, when I found a miniature at The Whisky Exchange at 18 years, and so vaguely within my price range, I grabbed it and held on for the right moment. This seemed just right for a big two thousand celebration. Previously called Clynelish, the distillery was renamed to Brora when the newly referred to Clynelish distillery came online in 1968. As far as I am aware it is a lightly peated whisky. It is worth noting there is talk of reopening Brora – I don’t know how much of the original stills are still intact so have no idea if the new spirit will be similar, or just cashing in on the name. This mini is bottle 33 of 294, and was distilled n 1983 and bottled in 2001 so I consider it very lucky that it was still around to be grabbed. Wanted some beautiful music to go with the big 2K tasting note so went with the Ulver: Shadow Of The Sun album. Still a haunting masterpiece.

Elements Of Islay: LP9 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 54.3% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed cherry.

Nose: Smoke. Charred dry grass. Gunpowder tea. Moss. Black pepper. Spicy. Tar. Sherry. Light menthol. Water adds dried tea leaves, tannins and sulphur. Smoked bacon.

Body: Cherry. Intense peat. Thai 7 spice. Black cherry. Thick. Water adds orange crème touch. Mulled wine. Cloves and turmeric. Smoked bacon.

Finish: Thai 7 spice. Tarry. Smoke. Intense. Bitter red wine. Plums. Oily charring. Bitter cocoa. Water adds cloves. Mulled wine. Spiced orange skins. Lots of smoke.

Conclusion: Ok, this is intense. I have been spoiled with intense, aged smooth but peaty Laphroaigs recently of which this is the latest wonder.

This one has lost some of the medicinal Laphroaig character , but more than makes up for it by pushing a) A smokey peaty thing – very burnt greenery, burnt moss and general just smoke intensity. It shows a drier, more herbal smoke than is usual with Laphroaig – giving it a peppery and intense kick.

Against that is super spicy mulled wine and bitter red wine character that takes that pepper note and throws handfuls and handfuls of spice in after it. Holding these two heavy sides apart is a thin red line of sweet cherry and black-cherry which just about keeps everything in control.

Water brings out even more smoke, if that can be believed, smoked bacon notes come out as a rewarding extra to the main body in addition to subtle variance in the existing flavours.

Unlike the also awesome Laphroaig XOP 18 year I tried recently, this does not feel like a traditional Laphroaig in all things, just with extra boost from barrel ageing character. This feels like it keeps all the soot, smoke and peat from from Laphroaig – that is true – however the more medicinal elements seem to be lost under the spicy red wine like character. It is equally amazing, but different in how it expresses it. XOP is more traditional, this is more experimental. Both are great.

Another top notch, immense Laphroaig.

Background: Ok, wow, this was not one I expected to get to try. Independent Spirit had it on at a tasting I couldn’t make it to, and all the bottles sold out very rapidly. However they very kindly let me have a small sample to try and holy shit this is one that sounds awesome. Very many thanks! Distilled in 1998 this must be around 19 ish years old Laphroaig , aged in a single Pedro Ximénez Sherry Butt and bottled at cask strength. I tried this after getting back from seeing Progress Wrestling in Manchester for one of the best shows I have ever seen from them, so was on a high already. Put on some IDLES to listen to as Jim Smallman from Progress got me into listening to them due to tweeting about them, so they were on my mind. Awesome band.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. 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 – especially for this one.

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