Tag Archive: Cask Strength


Edradour Casks Chardonnay

Edradour: Straight From The Cask: Chardonnay Cask (Scotland: Highland Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 56.1% ABV)

Visual: Ripe banana hued gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thick puckering into streaks.

Nose: Key lime. Banana skin. Honey soaked barley. White grapes. Noticeable alcohol. Overripe fruit sweetness. Vinous. Becomes muted with water. Dry passion fruit, cheesecake and husked wheat.

Body: Ripe banana. Grapes. Sweet. Alcohol burn level is quite high. Sweet lime. Crumble topping. Honeycomb and treacle. Water makes golden syrup like with still present elements of grapes and banana.

Finish: Crumble toppings. Banoffee pie. Grapes. Dry at the end. Honey into treacle. Feels more alcohol like after water oddly. Alcohol then fades with a little more water. The flavour with water is white wine, lots of grapes and wheat fields.

Conclusion: Big is not a word I previously associated with Edradour, but this is big. It is partly the alcohol, with noticeable alcohol burn it would be hard not to comment on that element, but more than that it is the thick texture and strong banana and treacle flavours.

Even a decent amount of water finds it hard to dent it, it more has the effect of drying the flavours rather than lessening them. Water drying the flavours, yeah that still sounds odd. It is remarkably robust.  The wine cask influence only actually seems wine like with water though, dry and sparkling. Before you add the water it is very full, like rich fruity grapes.

The whisky is full of character and ripe with potential room to play, almost overripe and laden with opportunity.  It shows how you can bring this level of weight without going the Islay route, and without sacrificing the sweet and fruity character.  Now you need a bit of play with water to get it just right, and you need to be able to put up with the strength of alcohol to get anything out of it, but if you’re up for that is shows a good use of both unusual cask ageing and cask strength.

Well worth checking out.

Background: 2000 Vintage. Drunk at Brewdog Bristol. Yes I’m doing whisky reviews there now. It is like they are trying to steal all my money by stocking things I enjoy. Anyway, with one thing or another it has been a while since I did a whisky review. Good to be back in the saddle. Edradour is the distillery I only nearly visited. Certain mistakes in navigation resulted in us turning up after the last tour. Ahh well, we only hit another ten distilleries that week, so we didn’t suffer too much.  This, finished in Chardonnay barrels and at cask strength has been of interest to me for a while, but I wasn’t quite willing to grab a full bottle on a whim. A chance to try by the measure on the other hand…

Gordon and Macphail: Old Pulteney: Cask Strength 1995 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 15 Years: 59.9% ABV)

(Bottled 2010)

Visual: Burnished gold with somewhat of a cherry red influence.

Viscosity: Deathly slow streaks for the most point with the occasional outburst.

Nose:  Brandy cream and raisins. Mild liquorice and a touch of shortbread. Light planed wood. Fruitcake. Water relaxes it slightly giving planed wood prominence and adds a slight tar.

Body: Treacle and alcohol burn. Fruitcake, plums and oak.  Water makes sweeter. Toffee style. Very slick. Somewhat of a charring touch, though this lightens to light coffee with more water.

Finish: Charring and alcohol at first. Tongue numbing. Bitter chocolate. Water makes much more chocolate and toffee and much more appealing. Slight salt and raisins here.

Conclusion:  It’s always fun having a cask strength whisky. Spending time adding water drop by drop trying to reduce the burn whilst keeping as much flavour as you can.   This keeps very close to the influence of its choice of casks and wears it proudly.  The sherry gives a huge amount of fruitcake and toffee, with raisins and alcohol punch to end it. This really punches home the difference using a first fill cask can make as the flavours are potent indeed.

Fun as that is, and boy is it fun, it does make it feel more of a display of the cask than of the spirit.  The spirit struggles to show its house character. There is that slight salt evident in the finish that is a Pulteney trademark, but apart from that it doesn’t manage to fight the sherry enough to stand out from the plethora of sherry heavy whiskies on the market.

So it is a nice whisky, but it isn’t that distinctive and thus doesn’t really get the full advantage of its cask strength.  A mixed blessing then.

Background: From a first fill sherry butt. Don’t know if it is single cask as that would indicate. I’d imagine so but wouldn’t want to say for sure.  Drunk at the Rummer hotel after the Ardbeg reviewed previously. Had a lot of water in-between to try and refresh the senses. I have had Old Pulteney official bottling before this independent bottling, but it has never been one of my favourite whiskies. Still it looked fun enough to give a try, and I do love playing with a cask strength. Oh, I got so caught up in doing the tasting notes I only got a photo of the bottle this time and forgot the glass. My bad. Oh and yes that is a ladder to reach the higher shelves of sprits you see there in the photo. There is quite the selection.

Ardbeg: Uigeadail (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: No age statement: 54.2% ABV)

Visual: A rich but light gold.

Viscosity: Medium thickness streaks form from the spirit, neither slow nor quick.

Nose: Charred wood. Light iodine and salt. Warming. Heated oils. Smoke. Barbecued fish. Oak.

Body: Very strong. Charring and charcoal up first. Lots of alcohol and old oak feel. A touch of boggy peat. Water adds a light sweetness, possibly custard like, which contrasts the harsher content.

Finish: Dry peat and very dry charring. Gin like in dryness. So yes, very dry. Water makes a massive smoke come out with the charring. Salty. Water also adds the lightest malt chocolate sweet offset

Conclusion: Huh. I never knew it was possible to burn a whisky. This thing is all charred husks and salt. Oddly it seems to favour the slightly medicinal character that I would associate with Laphroaig rather than the usual Ardbeg peat explosion.

Lots of salt character, however most noticeable is the extreme dryness which puts me in mind of the cask strength Glen Ord I had a while back. Again, like the Glen Ord playing with water to offset the cask strength didn’t seem to dampen the dryness. However here we did get a light sweetness contrast, I presume from the increased sherry representation

So unfortunately while this is a nigh universally well received whisky, like the glen ord it was too dry for my tastes.  The gin and salt style feels like it needs more to work with, as otherwise the alcohol punch feels like it has too much free reign.  I suppose that is what the sherry is meant to do, but I can’t quite see it.  Possibly it just needs the right water balance to bring out, something it’s hard to do without having a full bottle to play with. I can but review the drink I drank however and that I’m afraid to say was not to my tastes.  It just lacked that meaty grip, or mainstay component to grab onto. The alcohol strength, massive charring emphasis, and an attempt more subtle style just doesn’t play well together.  Ah well.

Background: At the time of trying I did not know how well regarded this whisky was. No less that Jim Murray called it world whisky of the year in 2009. Probably for the best I didn’t know so not to have expectations up. This whisky has a significant chunk of it sherry aged compared to the normal Ardbeg.  I’m a huge fan of Islay whisky, with Lagavulin being my favourite. Drunk at the Rummer Hotel in Bristol which has a quite quite silly sized spirit selection.  There was a zombie walk going on at Bristol at the time creating very odd atmosphere.

Signatory Vintage: Glen Ord 1998 (Scottish Highland Single Cask Single Malt Whisky: 12 Years: 59.6% ABV)

Visual: Pale Grain.

Viscosity: Thin but quite fast streaks.

Nose:  Planed wood and light nuttiness. The alcohol burn is uncompromising unsurprisingly. Distinct dry oak.  Water makes slight perfumed and more towards crushed peanuts on the nuttiness. A touch of peat possibly?

Body: Sweet syrup. Nut liquore. Tingle of aniseed. Salt. Water makes sweeter yet brings out a charcoal feel to fight it.

Finish: Dry charring. Slightly medicinal. Iodine and a dry gin air. Becomes very dry as you drink more.

Conclusion: This is very dry. It’s a desiccated tongue inducing drink and no mistake. Very slightly medicinal and definitely astringent with a gin like touch to the alcohol.  I’ve probably put off some of you already, and have the others on tenterhooks.

Odd then, that compared to what I have just described, the front of the whisky is massively sweet which makes the dry wine like finish even more unusual.  Initially I took this to be just part of the high alcohol content of the cask strength, but it’s dry nature survived a significant water induced dilution.

It is obviously very unusual, its most standard element is probably the nut character, but it is the dry medicinal touch that stands out. Very different from Laphroaigs take on it, and doesn’t match it with the same level of booming flavour as that beast.

Definitely a whisky that works better with more in your mouth, where the sweetness can tease itself out before the dry finish mutilates you. An interesting and harsh whisky. Fascinating, but too dry for my tastes.  Despite being one for the extremes in whisky I couldn’t take to it.

Background: I’ve never drunk a Glen Ord whisky before. This one I found at a new café/restaurant in Bath. I had noticed their impressive selection of whisky (Many more than on the web site) in their wine shop below earlier that day and decided to give the place a try.   The restaurant looked pretty impressive, and was very friendly staffed, though we limited ourselves to just drinks on this occasion.

Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength (Scottish Cask Strength Speyside Single Malt: No Age Statement: 60% ABV)

Visual: Slight reddened amber, quite darkened in colour.

Viscosity: Quite fast but thin streaks mixed with middling speed puckering.

Nose:  Toffee, pungent passion fruit. Evident alcohol and pencil shavings. Slight tangerine and golden syrup. Water brings out grain, over ripe banana and more toffee.

Body:  Honey, burning alcohol and apricots. Water brings out huge sweetness with golden syrup, vanilla, and now dried apricots. Touch of mocha and a banana.

Finish: Milk chocolate, light charring and lots of alcohol. Milky coffee, marzipan. Water really brings out the chocolate and dried apricots, with some banana revealing itself. Still tongue numbing levels of alcohol.

Conclusion: This is whisky with a punch and a proud pedigree. Powerful and fruity in the raw, it becomes sweet smooth and stylish but with still a cheeky hint of fruit when water is added. Classy yet cheeky.

Lots of range to play with, the abv and style means that you can get a lot of variance by adding in just as much water as you would prefer. There are a lot of delicate flavours that expose themselves as the alcohol presence is whittled away.

This really balances perfectly the power of a cask strength with the grace of a good quality whisky.

Very good indeed, and a sign of how to do a cask strength with class.

Background: I am eternally bemused by why Glenfarclas lists itself as a highland whisky when it is right in the middle of the speyside area. Maybe I’m missing something.  Anyway Glenfarclas has a big rep, with one bottling listed it as “Speysides favourite whisky”, and the cask strength has been recommended to me several times before.

Glen Moray Bourbon Single Cask 1995: Bottled At Distillery (Scottish Whisky: Cask Strength Single Cask Speyside Single Malt: 14 Year: 60.7% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly cloudy yellow gold. Light in colour.

Viscosity: Quick thin trails.

Nose: Very strong and sharp initially, slight detergent nose before water is added.

Body: Very sweet and string; choc chip cookies. Touch of malt chocolate and barley; syrup.

Finish: Alcohol punch; dry shortbread. Wholemeal cheese cracker and dry powder. Light.

Conclusion: Simple but punchy. Definitely benefits from water and has a brilliant cookie style body. Would go brilliantly with jam sponge.

A nice cask strength for those who don’t like the sharper edges. Not perfect, simple and direct to good effect.

Thanks To Dylan Almond For Supplying This Whisky

Chivas Brother: Cask Strength Strathisla (Highland: Single Malt Scotch Whisky: 14 Year :56.9% ABV)

Visual: Light yellow gold. Due to being unchillfiltered it gains a heat haze shadow when water is added.

Viscosity: Takes a while to form and has slow but very thick streaks.

Nose: Dry and nutty. Harsh but sweet. Fromage frais. The cask strength alcohol bite grabs the back of the throat. Water added gives the feeling of a sweet stream on your tastebuds and brings out lighter vanilla notes.

Finish: Very sweet, lemon meringue; harsh burnt wood after which leaves the mouth slightly dry. With water treacle tart emerges and a huge amount of nuttiness.

Conclusion: A brilliant nutty whisky which expands a lot with application of varied amounts of water due to its cask strength. The alcohol punch is obvious but unlike some cask strengths it does not harm the nature of the whisky even undiluted. A strong dram with a lot to say. A fine whisky for discussion or maybe perhaps post a theatre play would be appropriate given its refined air.

Far better than the already reasonable chivas regal of which strathisla whisky makes up a significant part.

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