Tag Archive: CC

Connoisseurs Choice Tomatin 1997
Connoisseurs Choice: Tomatin: 1997 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick grain to light gold.

Viscosity: Very many thin, very slow streaks.

Nose: Caramel. Stewed fruit. Thick alcohol. Wheat husks. Oatmeal. Water brings feathers, but more water adds tropical fruit and pineapple.

Body: Soft vanilla. Noticeable alcohol. Salted fudge. Water adds custard and white chocolate. Still warming in the alcohol. Sugared almonds. More water removes heat, adds pineapple and more white chocolate.

Finish: Honey. Stewed apricot. Fudge and white chocolate. Water makes honey nut cornflakes. Lightly salty. Tropical fruit tins and lightly oily. More water makes more white chocolate, grapes and a hint of raisins.

Conclusion: Tomatin always seem surprisingly wide ranging in the notes it hits – it comes in first with a simple, easily catchable hook up front, but it you pay attention you find much more going on behind the scenes.

Initially big on caramel sweetness and stewed fruit it plays on the sweetness heavily. Water helps bring out the aforementioned range – the whisky has been very evidently influenced by the bourbon ageing – lots of tropical fruit and white chocolate, all very fresh and bright. The only thing that could fool me into thinking this was a sherry barrel is slight subtle raisins notes in the finish. Everything else shouts bourbon. However, while this is good, we have seen many whiskies that are good at showing the barrel ageing, what interests me here are the more subtle notes.

One of the subtleties is the light saltiness. Neat it comes across as salted fudge or caramel – adding an interesting aspect to a sweet whisky. The other noteworthy subtlety is a slight oiliness. A sheen that keeps the whisky clinging and the flavours delivering for a very long time.

When I tried the partially virgin oak aged Tomatin I took the heavy white chocolate influence to be from the fresh oak – however here is still shines through. Guess it must be more how the natural spirit acts when influenced by the bourbon cask.

On the downside neat it is, while not harsh, still very obviously alcohol influenced – though water deals with that easily enough. So, overall, while not overly surprising, it is a very tasty, smooth (with water) whisky with just those slight oddities that manage to make it stand on its own two legs. A subtle twist on a good example of bourbon ageing.

Background: Bottled 2014, which by my estimation puts this at 17 years, though may be off a tad depending on exact dates. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this gives me a chance to expand my exposure to Tomatin in miniature format. Gordon and MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice have always been a great independent bottler, so I trusted that I would get something worthwhile here. Drunk while listening to some Sabaton – I saw them live recently, awesome as always, so have been kicking back with some of their albums.

Connoisseurs Choice Auchroisk 1996

Gordon and Macphail: Connoisseurs Choice: Auchroisk 1996 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold.

Viscosity: Thin slow puckering.

Nose: Heather. Vanilla toffee. Gooseberry. Quite thick. With water becomes lighter with apple notes.

Body: Vanilla custard. Mandarin orange. Gooseberry. White grapes. Thick feel. Apples. Toffee. Slight muskiness. Sweeter with water, bringing out caramel and honey.

Finish: Gooseberry. Soft vanilla. Dry oak. Cake sponge. Apples. Water enhances the green fruit and adds honey. Also yellow raspberries, greenery and sulphur touch.

Conclusion: This is a very green fruit whisky, and half manages to deceive you into thinking it is a gentle one. Ok, deceive is not quite the right word, brings negative connotations with it, let me explain.

This is smooth, no alcohol burn evident and only a gentle warming feel to show the alcohol presence. The flavours are smooth, green fruit and toffee, so you can see how you would think that everything is pushing towards a soft gentle whisky.

However, it feels thick, with musky notes and that mouthfeel, similar to what you get from the hairs on freshly picked raspberries. I can’t quite work out if it works overall, if it benefits or weakens the whisky, but it is definitely distinctive.

It seems to result in the flavours feeling more melded and less individually sharp, but with water the gooseberry still pokes through, so it doesn’t hide the flavours. I would say over time a clearer spirit would probably have made it easier to drink, but less unique.

Overall a pleasant, and slightly odd take on the green fruit whisky, but one that feels slightly muted by its weight. Not bad and a bit different.

Background: Bottled 2014. Grabbed from The Whisky Exchange as, well, I was buying a standard size bottle so thought I may as well grab a bunch of minis from distilleries I had not tried at the same time. By the way, Canada beer reviews will return, but I thought I would put up a whisky review so whisky fans are not left out. Drunk while listening to Lada Laika: Dream Machine, because I enjoy listening to the fun chiptune style stuff online.

CC Balmenach 2004

Gordon and Macphail : Connoisseurs Choice: Balmenach: 2004 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 9 years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Slightly brackish grain.

Visual: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and pungent. Heather. Lime. Pencil shavings. Light smoke and sulphur. Peppered beef. Water makes more grassy and toffee.

Body: Soft vanilla. Moss and greenery. Toffee. heather. Malt chocolate. Beefy back. With water becomes treacle and honey. Grassy and slightly soured.

Finish: Light medicinal. Salt. Vanilla and toffee. Malt chocolate. Peppered beef. Water adds sour dough touch.

Conclusion: It’s always an exciting and mildly nerve inducing experience going for one of the lesser known distilleries. Excitement comes in blazing a trail little travelled, nerve inducing comes as you are worried that you may just have brought back 70cl of alcoholic piss. Or Tamdhu.

This is an interesting find, pungent on opening, and it doesn’t seem to neatly fit into any one whisky area’s expectations. It is grassy, almost mossy in fact, thick textured but with a sweet toffee back , and yet also with light medicinal touches and salt in the finish. Very light but there. If I may be excused one of my horrifyingly bad analogies – it kind of tastes like a sweet toffee swamp. Ok, that sounded really bad, let’s try that again, bear with me .. Hmm, it is like a big ball of salted toffee that has fallen through a moss pit.

I may give up on analogies. New years thingy. Given up. Completely. Honest.

While this is not one of the all time greats it is a robust whisky, and without a lot of the harsh extreme flavours that come with a lot of the big whiskys. It has mellow grassiness, heather flavour, sweet easy going base, but thick and with medicinal hints. Kind of the easy going whisky for someone who only has the barest grasp on what easy going means.

Any which way, while it is not a world shaker, I have no regrets to having a bottle. A very solid general drinking whisky.

Background: Bottled 2013, so I am guessing 9 years, may be 8. This is part of my effort to try more distilleries I have yet to try, so I grabbed a bunch – mainly miniatures with this one being the exception. This one is a distillery used mainly as producing elements for blended whisky, but good old Gordon and Macphail have some independently bottled expressions.

Gordon and Macphail: Connoisseurs Choice: Port Ellen 1982 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 27 Year: 43%)

(Bottled 2009)

Visual: Clear grain to yellow.

Viscosity: Very fast middle sized streaks.

Nose: Brine. Salt. Fish oil. Seaweed. Slightly antiseptic. Slightly sour white grapes. Little sign of the alcohol presence for the aroma. Water changes little but for making it more salty.

Body: Smooth. Brine. Seaweed. Medicinal. Grapes. Mild chocolate back. White wine. Water brings out the contrast between salt and grapes. More water adds meaty broth.

Finish: Peat, grapes and salt. Caramel after a while. Wet rocks. Milky chocolate.. Water actually makes saltier, like anchovies.

Conclusion: So I finally break open this whisky time capsule from the legendary Port Ellen. 150 Whisky reviews with this as the capstone.

And it is…drum roll please.

Actually (and thankfully) pretty darn nice. First impression are very Islay. Medicinal, salt, brine and seaweeds. The first few moments made me remember my first ever impression of Laphroig all those years back, but as if it had been smoothed by many years in the cask.

What surprised me was for all the salt and medicinal touches, the usual meaty peaty body was very restrained. You only got hints of it late on and when water was added. The base whisky is quite clean as a flavour delivery system.

Instead there is this grape sweetness that rises up over time, and a caramel like finish. Sweetness against medicinal bite makes for an effective combo, and combined with the cleanness of the spirit is very easy to drink. As mentioned it is very smooth, the age has done well to hide the alcohol and let it be the Islay character that is challenging, not the alcohol fire.

Oddly, early on in adding water the whisky becomes more polarised, more salt and more gapes clashing to create a new intensity rather than smoothing it.  More water still settles it once more, so it’s worth having a quick play with water for effect if not flavour.

So is it worth the high, and ever rising, asking price? Considering the age of the whisky the asking price for an independent bottling is high, but not insane. The quality is high, like an easy going Laphroaig if that contradiction is not too much to bear. I think at this point you are paying for the experience more than the whisky.  It does have it’s own unique niche though, nestled between the heavy and light Islays, a bridge between the two. This particular expression furthermore is very smooth yet with good expression of it’s harsh elements.

Admittedly for the cost of this you could get a whole lot of Islay. Lagavulin distillers edition and Laphroaig Quarter cask and 18 year Bowmore.  It isn’t better than having those three bottles, but as a dose of history it is also a very nice whisky.

Background: The 150th Whisky review, and 800th review. A double celebration, and for that only one thing could do. Port Ellen. A distillery that closed back in the early 1980’s and the only Islay whisky I had yet to try. (The second to last for me to review, I’ve still not reviewed the newest Islay’s distillery’s product). I’m a huge Islay fan and this bottling was picked up a year ago.  I knew I wasn’t going to be drinking it for a while, but with Port Ellens legendary status, and the lack of stock, I knew price would only go up. So I bought it while I could rather than pay more later.  My review was based on the price I paid for it a year ago, it’s jumped about a third again since then so take that into account please. Technically I could have kept this unopened and sold in a few years for a nice profit, but sod that, whisky is for drinking.

Gordon and MacPhail: Connoisseurs Choice: Royal Brackla 1991 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick gold.

Viscosity: Only a few streaks. Medium sized and slow.

Nose: Toffee. Planed wood. Mild lime influence. Shortbread. Heather. Slight sulphur. Water makes the heather more emphasised.

Body: Moderate oak that grows quickly. Slight alcohol is noticeable. Custard. Walnuts.  Water makes smoother. Adds lime and chestnut honey.

Finish: Quite dry and oaken. Acorns? Light nuts and moss. Water makes sweeter, adding chestnut honey again.

Conclusion: A whisky that has escaped review for a while based on the misapprehension that I had already reviewed it.  Thankfully the old green tree nearly always has a bottle in. So I dropped by to correct my mistake.

Let’s talk about the whisky as it is with water added, as without that it is an overly oak dominated and touch fiery whisky. So not at its best to say the least. Water allows it to show its best elements, that of a more mellow nutty style which mingles with a light sweetness to give a kind of chestnut honey element which is quite soothing.

Now it does always keep that oak dryness around the edges. When you finish a sip the mix of alcohol and the oak leaves you quite dry and parches. It is soothing, but one that leaves you thirsty.

It doesn’t vary much from what I’ve just described. It is quite single note, pretty much a nut cluster of a whisky. Despite that it is quite reasonable. Straightforward but with a finish that just doesn’t, well, finish. You can take your time with this one, let the flavour just hand there without needing to sip again. It is one that I would imagine would suit a distinguished evening party. You do not concentrate on it, but allow the flavour to hang there as you converse with others, possibly with a wood fire beside you to add to the aromas you experience.

So not a favourite whisky, but I can see its place in the whisky world.

Background: Bottled in 2011, this Royal Brackla whisky was drunk as part of a relaxing day, wandering the whisky pubs of Bath and sampling a few spirits in a leisurely fashion. Taking a photo of this bottle resulted in a few jokes from the locals, resulting in a quick explanation of doing the reviews. It’s odd how rarely I need to do that. Royal Brackla is one I’ve had a few times, but only independent bottlings. I will have to seek out an official bottling at some point to compare. This was a brand new bottled, opened before my eyes.

Connoisseurs Choice: Littlemill 1991 (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 19 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Slightly banana hued gold.

Viscosity: Medium quite thick streaks.

Nose: Planed wood. Banana skin and vanilla. Toffee. Slight alcohol air. Lime. Grain fields. Cream. Dry roasted peanuts.

Body: Wood. Chestnut honey. Light custard slice influence. Nutmeg. Chestnuts. With water becomes more nutty and even more water brings out malt loaf.

Finish: Honey. Perfume that has been breathed in. Light oak. Roasted nuts. Milk chocolate. Light alcohol burn. The nuts really last. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: So, another closed distilleries spirit hunted down and sampled. This one is a very light whisky, as is oft expected from the lowlands. What isn’t as expected is the flavour being predominantly dedicated to exploration of rounded nuttiness. It seems like a smooth lowland take on the Strathisla spirits. In fact the nuttiness last impressively on the finish. For such a light whisky it manages to hold the flavour for an age after you have finished sipping.

It is a whisky that works better on larger mouthfuls than smaller, and enjoys just a drop or two of water to get it set right. Taken like that the sweetness and nuttiness seem to have much more room to grow.

Not the most complex whisky, but it does have a few notes of chocolate and lime to round it out. Overall very easy to drink, and while straightforward in style it is very much a whisky that knows what impression it wants to give and delivers it well. In its ideal few drops of water state the flavour just floats through the air of your mouth perfectly.

A dead distillery that will be missed on the basis of this whisky.

Background: Bottled 2010 and aged in refill bourbon casks.  Littlemill is a closed distillery. I had seen this at the Rummer Hotel a while back and kept meaning to give it a try as it’s a new distillery on me. It was a friend’s birthday recently and we decided to enjoy some whisky there; it seemed a perfect time to give it a try. Connoisseurs choice has always been a hit with me for bringing good priced bottles of rare and closed distilleries to the market which gives me a chance to try a lot of distilleries that would otherwise pass me by.

Connoisseurs Choice: Caol Ila 1997 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 12 Years:43% ABV) (Bottled 2009)

Visual: Reasonably dark toffee gold.

Viscosity: Initially quite solid, but forms into fast thick streaks.

Nose: Smoke, treacle and slightly tar like. Salt, vanilla and oak. Liquorice. Water opens it up heavily to a floral style, adds more vanilla along with raisins and orange peel.

Body: Salt and golden syrup mix with toffee. Light peat grows throughout, Meaty. Water again makes large changes. Custard sweet, more salt, yet still slightly tar influenced.

Finish: Milk chocolate, dry oak and again slight tar stylings. Water makes salty yet sweet with a good dose of peat.

Conclusion: Another Caol Ila! As a big fan of them, I love comparing the different bottlings to explore the range, so jumped on this one at a tidy 12 years of ageing or thereabouts.

This one is quite a heavy duty expression for the spirit, initially quite thick and tarry with a bit more peat than usual.  That said the extra weight does it good and doesn’t harm the spirit at all.  The difference may put off people who enjoy the normally more mellow restrained Islay character of Caol Ila, but for them there is still hope.  With water you get a large change, with massive sweetness coming out to counterpoint, resulting in a dulled, but not completely overpowered Islay character.

So a very nice take, with two competing styles when with or without water, a tale of two whiskies as it were. Tarry, peaty and sweet, it’s very distinctive and enjoyable.  A very interesting take on the spirit and a fine independent bottling for anyone who wanted just that touch more force to the spirit.

Background: I’m a big fan of Caol Ila and love the fact that Connoisseurs Choice make available a mix of their bottlings to sample quite cheaply.   Drunk at a local pub which has Michael Jackson’s whisky guide behind the bar, and an ever rotating stock of CC bottles.  Caol Ila is often viewed as one of the more subtle Islay whiskies, though I find it still has enough of the style to stand out, it only seems mellow compared to say Ardbeg and Laphroaig.  Note: If you look carefully, you can see my god awful handwriting in my current notebook in the photo.

Gordon and Macphail Connoisseurs Choice: Glen Keith 1993 (Speyside Scottish Single Malt Whisky: Closed Distillery: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light banana mixed with grain.

Viscosity: Medium speed but comes down in a sheet more than in streaks.

Nose: Banana, dust and lime. Potpourri, vanilla. Water brings out thistles and hawthorn. Sugared almonds.

Body: Light lime and golden syrup. Sweet and fresh. Water adds toffee front, but more noticeable the floral and lime grows quickly. oak and burnt pastry with light peanuts.

Finish: Light grain and syrup air. Apricot. Water makes more wood evident, and strangely make the alcohol more evident in the air. Light malt drink and spice.

Conclusion: A very light whisky with a sour touch.  Initially seemed odd in that the alcohol  on the finish seemed to increase with water, which was somewhat counter intuitive.  After a bit of research into distillery it became clearer.  Glen Keith was one of the few Scottish triple distilled whiskys, which I would guess provided that distinctive feel and the oddity of the end.

As you can guess from that digression this was my introduction to this distillery and it didn’t really put itself on my must have list. The middle is sharp and the end malty, but it doesn’t get you excited.

The flavours are hidden by the sharp and lemon influence and that doesn’t let it roam.

Ah well.

Thanks To Dylan Ransom for his assistance with this tasting note

Gordon and Macphail: Rosebank 1991 Connoisseurs Choice (Lowland Single Malt Scottish Whisky: Closed Distillery: Bottled 2009 (18yrs?): 43% ABV)

Visual: Light but striking pale yellow like shimmering morning dew.

Viscosity: Torpid slow thick trails.

Nose: Grassy, slight mintyness. Aniseed. Quite light.

Body: The flavours shift like quicksilver over the tongue. Pot pourri when breathed over your tastebuds. Light lime and floral character. Water makes it sit lighter and somewhat thin. Sweetness and grain comes through.

Finish: Toasted buns (hot cross buns?). Charcoal, grain. Slight alcohol punch. liquorice again? Sourness and honeycomb.

Conclusion: A bit too light and thin for my tastes. Quite simple for its age and water thins further without removing the few ill tasting elements.

It’s my first encounter with Rosebank and in has not impressed so far. It seems to wish to hide away and yet leaves a dissatisfying snails trail of ill flavour.

Not one I can recommend.

Gordon and Macphail: Caperdonich 1994 Connoisseurs Choice (Speyside Single Malt Scottish Whisky: Closed Distillery: Bottled 2009 (15yrs?): 46% ABV)

Visual: Thin coloured pail grain. Very light and colourless.

Viscosity: Fast forming thin and quick streaks.

Nose: Quite a heavy musky experience with planed wood and fine dust balancing it out. Vanilla and cream, the flavours are light but the effect is punchier than you would expect.

Body: Vanilla pods comes through strong. Slight sourness. Sweet – mixed jam and whipped cream. Doughnuts. Water adds more citrus and some toffee syrup.

Finish: Dancing sharp and bitter. Rock dust and oak wood. Sweet. Very mixed in the flavours simmering underneath. Icing sugar and burnt wood. A dry end. It does not change much with water.

Conclusion: A very mixed whisky. What seems at first to be a standard sweet floral whisky gets unexpected elements rippling through its finish to make you question what you have just experienced.

It does not rate at the high end of the spectrum but the solid main character and the oddities that come through holds the attention throughout the length of the dram.

The main vanilla notes are very pleasing and well done and I can’t complain, in part it suffers due to the high quality set by the CC range that it does not quite live up to.

But as I say, I cannot complain.

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