Tag Archive: 50-55% ABV


Waterford: Peated Ballybannon 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 3 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Barbecued pork. Menthol to mint. Crushed charcoal. Alcohol tingle. Gooseberries. Smoked dried beef. Figs. Water adds more charcoal, red grapes and cherry pocked biscuits.

Body: Smooth initially, then drying if held on the tongue. Dried beef slices. Dry peat smoke. White chocolate. Honey touch. Nutty. Red cherries. Green grapes. Water adds vanilla toffee, crusts of bread. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Finish: Charcoal dust. Dried beef. Dry smoke. Vanilla. Dry coconut. Spicy red wine. Water adds vanilla toffee. Vanilla yogurt. Green grapes. Dry charring. Cherry pocked biscuits.

Conclusion: On the surface level this is a fairly simple whisky – dry peat smoke and dry meat over a light green fruit touched base. At least that is what I got from it the first few times I poured this out just to enjoy for fun. Now I am taking my time to examine this for doing notes I am finding a lot more going on.

Neat it starts off fairly similar – a more fatty cooked meat note on the aroma compared to the drier meat smoke in the body, but still with a slight gooseberry aroma. Also a bit of the bourbon ageing showing through in white chocolate and coconut notes. The peat is an easy going style similar to the highland take on peat and the body mainly a clean bourbon influence.

Then time and some air changed it, with more red fruit and red wine subtle notes showing through for a richer experience along with more notable sweetness. Now it is subtly complex and rewarding – the dry peat still leading, but with a lot to examine behind.

Water weakens it in my opinion. More bourbon styling come out in a very vanilla toffee way, and more obvious red fruit is there, so not all bad, and it is easier to drink, but it feels less vibrant on the tongue. It is a more mellow and merged experience. Good, but without the shine it has neat.

Overall a really good balance of peat and Waterford complexity and letting the barley shine. Needs time and examination as on surface level it is only ok, but let it open up and it will reward you.

Background: If you have been following the blog for a while you know my love for Waterford whisky – they make each release from a single farm’s barley, allowing them to really show off the effect of the environment on the growing and flavour of the barley. I have found it utterly enthralling and thankfully also enjoyable despite the youth of the whisky. They do very long and slow distilling and are very careful with the cut, which seems to reduce the roughness I would normally expect with whisky this young. Anyway at a recent horizontal Waterford whisky tasting they mentioned they were doing their first peated release – something that as a peat fan I was intrigued by, especially seeing how they could showcase the peat without losing that terroir idea of their whisky. Also in comes in a cool black box, and a black logo on the blue bottle which just looks ace. I am shallow. Anyway Independent Spirit got it in for me, and now I have it and I am drinking it. A win all round. I had recently heard Arch Enemy have a new album out, so went back to Arch Enemy: Will To Power for music while drinking.

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Waterford: The Cuvee (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 4 Years: 50% ABV)

Visual: Darkened, slightly browned gold. Moderate speed, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Crushed peanuts. Subtle notes of crushed love hearts sweets. Sugared oranges. Nut oils. Light alcohol tingle. Raspberry yogurt hard chunks. Water adds wet rocks.

Body: Nut oils. Light meaty juiciness. Light strawberry. Slightest charring. Slight dry, white chocolate. Lightly astringent. Dry green grapes. Honey comes out as it warms. Custard. Water adds toffee and caramel. More water adds subtle trifle notes.

Finish: Dry beef slices. Hint of smoke. Slight tinned tropical fruit. Touch of tobacco. Green grapes. Salted caramel and toffee. Water adds wet rocks. Slight sulphur. Unleavened bread. More water. Subtle white wine. Subtle trifle cream. Tiramisu. Lemon cakes.

Conclusion: The first time I had this I was quite disappointed and was ready to say so. It tasted quite similar to the Hooks Head Waterford, with little added to it. Now Hooks Head is a good whiskey, but I would expected more from such a medley of individual distinct whiskies such as this.

Then I started adding water and things changed quickly, not better per se, but each time added water a new layer was exposed different to the one before, like a traffic light layered whiskey of each component within.

Now I do this, my actual tasting notes, about a month later and it seems time in an opened bottle has really allowed this to similarly open up. Then during the time I had this dram in the glass it has also changed again, and on top of that I , of course, added water again for even more change.

Turns out this really needed that bit of time to really show itself, so with that done – let’s go!

Neat it against starts off tasting a lot like the Hook Head expression – nutty and oily, but now more open. Still pretty similar but with white chocolate and tinned tropical fruit notes that show more of the bourbon ageing than that one did, and hints of sweeter and fruitier flavours under that. Not spectacularly different at this point, but Hooks Head already was a good dram, and this shows many signs of promise.

Time though, time brings out sweeter highland like notes, with honey, salted caramel and such, thicker and sweeter notes that I would not have expected from a whisky this young, even taking into account the amount of farms they have access to. It is a big surprise and really adds weight and character to the drink.

So, with a new eye on the base whiskey, I go back to adding water. The water doesn’t seem to cause as big change as it did before, maybe because all the notes already felt better integrated and on show than before. When I had just opened the bottle, adding water made it feel like it was shifting between distinct different levels of the whiskey. Now it just mellows the alcohol and thus makes it easier to enjoy. Oddly this means this is an expression that I initially enjoyed more with water but now I enjoy more neat.

What an odd whiskey.

Water still does change it somewhat, especially with larger amounts where sherry trifle, tiramisu and similar dessert notes coming out in the now lighter body. I’m guessing this is showing some time in sherry casks, but even wih that I prefer the extra weight you get in this neat, or with just a few drops of water to help it.

Overall, give it time and it is an interesting wee one, not quite the master-stroke I had hope for given the quality and range of farm’s whiskey they had available to work from, but a welcome whisky to try.

Just give it time, ok?

Background: I’ve been raving about Waterford for a while now, their whiskey fascinates me. Normally each whiskey is made with barley from but a single farm, showing off the effects of the terroir as they call it with wine. From the ones I have had they are genuinely different and genuinely exciting, even though the whisky tends to be around 3 to 4 years old. This then, goes against that idea, but heads to a new one. Taking each of those expressions of the farm and blending them to create a blend based not on different distilleries but different farms. It was interesting enough that when I saw a bottle in The Whisky Shop, I put one aside and grabbed it when I could. This is that bottle. Music wise I went back to Tom Morello and The Bloody Beetroot’s “The Catastrophists EP”, for something with a bit of energy to back this up. Looking up the code for this whiskey on their website to get more information I saw, despite its seeming similarity to that dram, exactly zero of the whiskies used to make this were from Hooks Head farm. Huh. 73 casks and not one from what I thought it tasted most like.

Bushmills: 2000 The Causeway Collection – Port Cask (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 20 Years: 54.1% ABV)

Visual: A deep heavy gold with fast, thick streaks that come from the spirit.

Nose: Summer fruit gateaux. Raspberry and strawberry. Smooth but recognisable alcohol. Plums. Pencil shavings. Lightly citrus fresh behind that – jiff lemon. Honey cakes. Crunchy nut cornflakes. Water makes very smooth. Clearer honey. More wood notes.

Body: Slightly drying alcohol. Sticky, yet smooth in how it delivers the alcohol character. Plums. Honey. Treacle. Fig rolls. Strawberry. Clean feeling sheen. Red cherry and black cherry. Water makes super smooth. Toffee. Spotted dick. More strawberry. Light greenery.

Finish: Fig rolls. Sherry. Golden syrup sponge cake. Lightly peppery. Soft citrus sheen. Water adds much more red fruit, especially strawberry. Light butter note. Thin sulphur candles air. Light charring.

Conclusion: Ok this is so port dominated – shocking I know for something that has spent 20 years in port wood – but what is actually surprising is somehow that base Bushmills character is still just about there underneath it all. This is so very unusual for a Bushmills but you can still recognise it as one.

Neat it is especially unusual, the 20 years age and triple distillation keeps the alcohol smooth despite an over 50% abv, but it is drying and sticky in a way that I have never encountered in Bushmills or even Irish whiskey before. It is pleasant, somehow managing to not be harsh even it indulges in this very unusual mouthfeel.

Here it leans towards darker fruit, with figs and plums and such like, with some lighter red fruit notes darting around that. It is quite heavy flavour, yet there is still a clean, lightly citrus note that is a recognisably Bushmills feel and flavour. It isn’t super obvious, just a light sheen under the far heavier notes. There is honey sweetness to treacle under everything, holding it all together which makes for a very different and sticky dram.

Water adds a much more recognisable smooth Bushmills character and really helps the red fruit notes shine out. Even more water, as this can take a lot, brings out a light sulphur note in the finish. There is so much room to play with the water here, you can keep neat or just with a few drops and keep the dry stickiness, or go deep with water and get super smooth and still rewarding.

Genuinely a great example of a whiskey, great use of the cask strength for mouthfeel and range of flavour, great use of the unusual barrel ageing to unlock huge flavours and somehow still got notes that marks it as a Bushmills even if that part is not the most obvious, it is still impressive it has not been utterly overwhelmed by the port ageing.

I am so very impressed indeed.

Background: Ok, I have been a Bushmills fan for a long while, but the odder releases tend to be very hard to get. Then I saw this in the Whisky Shop in Bath – 20 years old (Well possibly 21, it says bottled 2021 so hypothetically it could have an extra year but as it is distilled right at the end of 2000 it seems unlikely), aged solely in Port wood – first fill at that – and at cask strength – all very unusual elements for a Bushmills. I was a tad nervous at first fill unusual casks for such a long time in case it utterly dominated the character, but after much thinking – as this was a pricey one – I succumbed and bought it and hoped. Like many Irish whiskeys this is triple distilled which tends to lean towards a lighter smoother character, again something that should be interesting to see how it interacts with the high abv and unusual wood. Music wise I went with Pure Hell: Noise Addiction – I had just been watching Wendell and Wild and noticed a Pure Hell sticker on a cassette player in it, so had the urge to listen to them again. Also that is a great movie with a great soundtrack.

Cooper’s Choice: Inchdairnie Distillery – Finglassie Lowland Smoke Madeira Finish (Scottish Single Cask Lowland Whisky: 53% abv)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened grain colour. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Tarry. Oily. Peat smoke. Cinder toffee. Salty. Fudge. Water adds moss. More salt. Slight crushed rocks.

Body: Thick and oily. Slightly tarry. Sweet red dessert wine. Sweet raspberry yogurt. Slightly drying. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry jelly. Water makes smooth. Sherry trifle touched. Chocolate toffee and chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Tannins. Shortbread. Cake sponge. Peat smoke. Dried beef slices. Madeira soaked raisins to fruitcake. Strawberry jam. Water adds melted toffee to chocolate and vanilla toffee. Oily peat. Tarry.

Conclusion: Ok, after encountering some dead distilleries’ take on a peated lowland and absolutely loving it, I’ve been searching for a modern day, more easily available, peated lowland.

This may not be super easy to get, being from a new distillery with, so far, very few releases, but it is both from the lowland area and fairly heavily peated. So, does it fit the bill?

Well it isn’t a traditional lowland. Instead of that smooth triple distilled light style it is slightly salty and with a thickness that calls more towards Island or Highland than to Lowland, so it didn’t fit that niche I was hunting out. However …

This is still great.

It’s oily, almost tarry in a way that reminds me of some of the heavier Mortlach expressions I have encountered, mixed with those slightly salty, rocky Islay like notes. It is still smooth though, which calls to the lowland origins – and is impressive considering the over 50% abv.

So, I’m guessing even without the unusual cask finishing this would still be a solid whisky, but boy does that Madeira finish make it stand out. There is a vanilla sweetness at the start, but as you get deeper into the whisky it mutates into a sweet raspberry, almost jelly or jam like notes which somehow work so well with that oily peat. The sweetness is understated and yet so rounded and well developed in the character it delivers. It makes for an odd, peaty, oily, trifle like feel – which works better than that sounds.

Neat it is still slightly alcohol touched, which again, this is 50% abv and up that is not a surprise, but water turns that into a very slick drink. It is still peaty and oily, don’t worry on that note, but now the red fruit notes are clearer and the base becomes sweeter and smoother, with choc toffee notes that make it more peaty dessert feel, a heavier sweet note that again works brilliantly with the peat.

It’s genuinely good, the base oily peat spirit is very well expressed and matches well with the almost dessert wine feeling Madeira influence to make an enthralling experience. Not the peated lowland I was looking for, but one I’m glad I encountered instead.

Background: As referenced in the notes, I deeply enjoyed some peated lowland whisky I had tried, that are not defunct, so when I saw this – a new distillery, doing a peated lowland it caught my eye. Looking on their website they seem to be doing a wide range of experimental whisky so it may be one to watch in the future. Doesn’t seem to be many official bottlings yet so was happy to get my hands on this Cooper’s Choice independent bottling. Finglassie or also KinGlassie seems to be the distilleries name for their heavily peated expressions. They also seem to have a rye release which is very unusual for a Scottish distillery. This is cask 409, one of 270 bottles, and was finished in a Madeira cask. Bought from the always great Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Cancer Bats: Psychotic Jailbreak – I’d seen them live a few times and really enjoyed the energy of their live performances but had not bought an actual album of their until now.

Buffalo Trace: Blanton’s: Single Barrel Gold Edition (USA: Bourbon Single Cask: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Visual: Deep, slightly bronzed, gold. Slow, thin streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Rye crackers. Peppery. Alcohol tingle evident. Warm orange creme. Subtle menthol. Warm custard. Red grapes. Water makes smoother and brings out more rye crackers.

Body: Warming. Honey. Peppery. Very mild aniseed. Peach syrup. Slightly astringent. Water adds apricot. Red grapes. Fatty butter.

Finish: Dry oak. Juicy grapes. Custard. Wholemeal crackers. Drying. Peppery. Water adds menthol. Vanilla. Slight savoury cream touch.

Conclusion: This is so rewarding, so recognisably bourbon but with tons of elements I would not normally associate with the style and the mix makes it stand out as something special.

At its base it is a slightly rye crackers tasted peppery thing. So I am guessing that there is a moderate amount of rye in the mash bill – but I could be wrong. Along with that there is some of the traditional bourbon style vanilla backing it but less so than you would imagine. It is slightly drying and astringent from the alcohol weight when taken neat, but not especially so, especially considering the over 50% abv.

Above that is a honey sweetness, along with a slight strange more custard like sweetness that seems to be there in place of the more traditional vanilla in most areas. This is still in the ballpark of bourbon expectations, it just feels like higher abv and care taken in its selection has given it a weightier, bigger expression of which the custard replacing the vanilla is the most obvious element.

What makes it really stand out is a slight sweet peach syrup note, and a sweet grapes touch – in a red grapes style that I really would not have expected considering that, with this being bourbon, it will have been aged in virgin oak, and so I cannot attribute to subtle use of sherry oak ageing like I normally would. Even more there is subtle green grapes and menthol touches that are wonderful and unexpected extra flourishes over the bourbon base. These elements are noticeable neat, but become super evident with a touch of water smoothing out the more astringent alcohol notes.

These all combine to give it a subtle, but impressive variety of flavour, while still delivering the expected bourbon notes very well as a base that everything else works from. It is covering a complex range, but without sacrificing what bourbon is known for best and that combination makes it probably the best bourbon I have tried. Very impressive.

Background: I’ve missed a chance to pick up some Blantons a few times before, it has a great reputation as a single cask bourbon and always vanished while I was umming and ahhing in on if I should grab a bottle. So this time when some came into Independent Spirit I grabbed a bottle right away, the Gold Edition in fact. There is a lot of information on the, very pretty indeed, bottle – everything from barrel number, rack number, warehouse and date dumped. Most of it doesn’t tell me anything as I don’t know where those places are, but it is a nice touch. Really brings out the individuality of this single barrel expression. There wasn’t a new Miracle Sound release for 2021, so for music I picked up his earlier album – Level 6 – and went with that as backing music.

Buffalo Trace: Old Rip Van Winkle: 10 Year (USA: Bourbon Whiskey: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: Bright orange gold, in an almost lucozade style in the light. Fast thick steaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Touch of smoke. Lots of varied breakfast cereals. Shreddies. Maize cereals. Moderate rye crackers and peppery character. Brown bread. Crushed leaves. Brown sugar. Thick and slightly musty.

Body: Thick and warming. Oily. Vanilla. Dry oak. Treacle touch. Heavy. Buttery. Fudge. Brown bread. Orange cream.

Finish; Tannins and astringent. Peppery. Toffee and vanilla. Dry fudge. Buttery and slightly fatty.

Conclusion: This is heavy. Now the alcohol is doing a lot of the work in making it so, with a more dry character up front, but then allowing the fattier, oilier notes to come through after. There is a lot about the mouthfeel and texture that it doing the heavy lifting here to make seem very different to the other Van Winkles.

It is still slightly peppery, but initially it has none of those orange notes I usually associate with the Van Winkles. Instead, behind the fatty character is a mix of brown bread and lots of breakfast cereals into a sturdy toffee and fudge character. Still quite dry in how it is delivered, thick of body and very heavy.

Like this it is very much about the feel for me rather than the flavour. The oils, the thickness, the fatty character that is all what makes it interesting. The flavours are not unusual, but that feel really works what can be done with the abv.

Finally, late on after some time to air, the orange cream notes do finally make an appearance. It seems no amount of abv can fully hide this Van Winkle note for too long.

Not a favourite of mine, but a stand out for being different from the usual Van Winkle fare.

Background: So, writing this for the second time, it has been about a year and half since Independent Spirit did one of their whisky tastings. For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on right now, probably something small and unimportant. So they opened with this – a six USA whiskey, predominately bourbon, rare as hell set of a tasting. Joking aside, I was nervous about going, due to, well covid and not wanting to be a virus spreader, but it was held in the well ventilated, covered back area of Wolf Saloon, which had a decent amount of room as well, so I thought I would give it a go as part of my attempt to return to being social in this new world. Of the six whiskeys I had already done notes on two, and this was the third whisky of the evening and the only Van Winkle of the set I had not tried yet. Chris from Independent Spirit did give a lovely amount of info the background of each whiskey, but I will admit due to alcohol I have forgot most of the fine details. This is a wheated bourbon, and each of the Van Winkles use the same mash load. After trying this I had Pappy Van Winkle 15 again for the first time in years – this time I found a softness of mushy cooked apples and pear notes, and some tropical fruit I had not found before, making it a smoother thing than I remembered before.

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.

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.

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