Tag Archive: Coopers Choice

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.


Cooper’s Choice: Glen Esk: 1984: Limburg Whisky Fair (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 31 Year: 49.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slight yellow gold colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Tingling alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Toffee. Soft lime sorbet. Oak. Water makes cleaner. Lightly grassy. Still notable alcohol.

Body: Strong alcohol. Fatty butter. Vanilla. Peppery. Toffee. Water adds light strawberry. Still an alcohol presence. Pear drops. Polish air.

Finish: Fatty butter. Peppery. Oak. Alcohol tingle. Water adds tinned tropical fruit. A polish air. Flour dusted baps. Soft lemon sorbet.

Conclusion: This is very, well, neutral. At 49.5% abv I was expecting a bit of alcohol, so the alcohol weight is not a problem, but with 30 years in the oak I have to admit I was expecting it to be smoothed just a bit, and made into something more complex than what we have here.

It shows the weight mainly through alcohol and a fatty buttery feel – the cask strength and non chill filtered character means that there is a lot or raw, oily, fatty character there, but unfortunately it seems not much else.

It is a peppery, vanilla and toffee thing at its core. Some of which is expected character from the bourbon ageing, but, again, considering the time in the wood this has had I would expect more to it than that. The raw oak character is there fairly heavily, stomping into the spirit.

Overall it is, adequate I guess, water never really removed the rough character, though it does give more lemon and lime sorbet character over time. The peak in interesting and unusual notes is a strawberry touch that comes out from time to time, but 90% of the time it is generic vanilla, peppery and oak. It is not actively bad, it is just average, and for the cost, age and available abv, it needs and deserves more.

If this sums up the Glen Esk/Hillside experience then I can see why they went under.

Background: So, every now and then I can afford to get one of the dead distilleries I have not tried before. So, this is another one – Glen Esk, a distillery also called Hillside sometimes – that has been closed since 1985. I went with this one as it seemed fairly reasonably priced for a dead distillery, especially considering the age and cask strength, non chill filtered as well which is nice. Also as a bourbon cask aged one, I figured it would show more of the distilleries base character. It was grabbed from The Whisky Exchange a while back, and saved for a special occasion. Then lockdown hit and I though … fuck it. So here we are. This is one of 240 bottles, bottled for the Limburg Whisky Fair – which I know nothing about. Put on IDLES new album while drinking – Ultra Mono. I prefer their second album so far, but still a good album.

Cooper's Choice Laggan Mill Cask 7977

Cooper’s Choice: Laggan Mill: Cask 7977 (Scottish Islay Single Cask Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very clear with a slight brackish tinge. Becomes very hazy with water.

Viscosity: Fast medium sized streaks.

Nose: Salt spray water. Paint pots. Wet moss. Oily. Chargrilled beef. Smoke. Rock Salts. Granite. More rocks with water.

Body: Lime sours. High alcohol. Golden syrup and custard. Beef broth. Yorkshire puddings. Blueberry and blackcurrant – slightly jammy. Smoother with water but still full bodied. More custard. Strawberry. Soft salted lemon juice.

Finish: Blueberry. Vodka. Lime jelly. Toffee. Honey. Peat and smoked beef slices. Water makes like vodka jelly mixed with custard notes. Brings out pepper, barley biscuits and malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Damn, this is nigh clear to the eye, but intense to the tongue. As mentioned in the Background I am certain this is a Lagavulin, but for that it is surprisingly fruity, while still having that lovely smoked broth character in full show.

As can be expected of a 46% abv whisky it is slightly alcohol led, but the basis of this strong Islay whisky is still easy to see. There is still those beef and peat notes but laid over a mix of toffee, custard and golden syrup in the base. I presume this was a bourbon barrel cask aged spirit and it seems much cleaner than most Lagavulin I have encountered, making it more of a shining bright and raw experience.

Maybe this is a younger expression as well than the usual 16 year old – it seems to allow more of the base spirit character show – with water however the alcohol gets toned down and you get this lovely mix of bright spirit against Islay rocks, peat and salt experience. The younger character seems to allow salted lemon to mix with sweet dark fruit in the middle, very juicy feeling and a real contrast to the harsh Islay style.

This makes for a less balanced expression that the 16 year official bottling, but it also means that this is worth trying as its own thing. You feel like you are getting another side of the Laguvulin spirit here.

Not quite as good as the 16 year or the distillers edition, but then again, Lagavulin is one of the jewels in the whisky crown. This is still awesome Lagavulin, which means awesome whisky, period.

Background: Bottled 2015, I don’t have an age statement for this one as I can’t find any indication of the distillation date. I have it on good authority that Laggan Mill is in fact, duh, duh, duh, Lagavulin as the distillery will not allow people to use their name on independent bottlings most of the time. I adore Lagavulin so this was a must grab when I found it at Independent Spirit. Anyway this is a single cask Hogshead, and one of 330 bottles. Drunk while listening to some Crossfaith – absolutely awesome band to see live if you get the chance.

Coopers Choice: Caol Ila 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Single Cask Whisky: 17 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Grain with just a hint of gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Light salt at a distance. Medium peat, though heavier than a standard Caol Ila. Warming. Light rockiness. Quite smooth. Touch of apple and custard, then peanuts and cider toffee.  Water negates most of the complexity – leave this one dry.

Body:  Very sweet and smooth front hit. Toffee and salt. Peat at the back. Tingling, stewed apples and pears. Water adds massive apple and custard sweetness.

Finish: Beef and dry moss. Whole meal bread and peanut butter. Water makes milk chocolate with light spice.

Conclusion: I had to take a look around when drinking this to make sure I wasn’t picking up someone’s food in the aroma. Each lift of the glass brought a different take on the spirit, and brought forth so strongly and so forthright that I found it hard to imagine I could have missed it before.

Water then should be avoided as, while it makes it much easier to sip, it makes for a much simpler sweet whisky. It seems its great flavours are tied up in the struggle against its force.

When taken dry it can take a bit to get past that alcohol tingle, but when you do so you get such a varied range of peanut, pear and apple that mix with the usual restrained Caol Ila take on the peat and salt.

The main weakness that is that its greatest flavours are in the struggle, and lost if opened up.  It’s still worth taking the time to appreciate, a fine if quirky take in this distinguished Islay spirit.

Background: (Distilled 1992, bottled 2009). I had drunk this a while back but had not had my tasting note kit with me, so dropped back to the pleasant theatre side pub that had this nice Caol Ila oddity.  Caol Ila is a Distillery with a spirit I have yet to find a bad example of, and seems to have a good selection of independent bottling to choose from.  Drunk mid day on a weekend with nice relaxing warmth to the day and no need to rush.

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