Tag Archive: Highland


Loch Lomond: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Slow, thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol air. Dark fruit. Blueberry. Twigs. Vanilla. Raisins. Caramelised brown sugar. Water adds menthol and gooseberries.

Body: Very smooth. Blueberries. Raisins. Light alcohol taste. Small red berries. Moss. Dried teabags and tannins. Water adds apricot syrup. Oak. Custard slices.

Finish: Moss. Charred oak. Light alcohol air. Malt chocolate. Slight sour toffee. Teabags. Water adds fudge. Tart grapes. Lightly metallic.

Conclusion: This feels like it is aiming to take Loch Lomond on the same sort of spirit journey that the more prestigious distilleries such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet do with their 18 years. You know, the ones where they emphasise the dark fruit a bit more, make the main whisky very smooth, that kind of thing. Now, those famous whiskies aren’t perfect in my opinion, but still this one feels like it isn’t really reaching their level.

Now let’s look at what it does have. It has the dark fruit – in raisins, blueberries and touches of slightly tarter small red berries. That aspect works. It is pretty smooth as well, especially with water, so not too bad on that side either. It comes within spitting distance of what it is trying to do is what I am saying.

However there is, well, a kind of alcohol air, like cheaper grain spirit, along with heavy teabag like tannin notes that would have worked in a heavier whisky but felt odd in this smoother fruit fest. Water does help with that, bringing out a smoother flavour, but still with an odd, slightly closed element that is half way between tart grapes and slight metallic notes in the finish.

It feels close to what it should be – the flavours are big all the way into the finish, which is good, it is smooth in the body which is good, but tainted by those off notes that makes it feel like an also ran of the whisky world.

Ok, but far behind the competition.

Background: This is another one grabbed from The Whisky Shop in town, they had a huge range of Loch Lomond in minis so I decided to grab a bit older one to see how it goes. Not been a huge Loch Lomond fan up to now, but some whiskies only really shine in their later years. Put on The Eels: End Times while drinking- only just grabbed it. I always like The Eels, they always feel happy in a sad way, or sad in a happy way, and says that is ok either way. Which is nice.

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Loch Lomond: Inchmurrin: Madeira Wood Finish (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold. Fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Salty. Cooked fish skins. Hard sweets. Raisins. Sour red wine. Strong alcohol air. Light turpentine. Peppermint. Water adds menthol and cherries.

Body: Smooth. Oily. Cherries. Smoke. Salt. Shortbread. Vanilla. Lightly waxy. Water adds golden syrup. Brown sugar. Soft peat and dried beef. Apricot. Spicy raisins. Madeira cake.

Finish: Peppery. Light charring. Dry peat. Oily. Vanilla custard. Water – raisins. Smoke. Menthol. Madeira cake and salt.

Conclusion:This is not an Islay, I am aware of that before you all jump on me, however it does seem to be trying to pick up a lot of the Islay traits, so I will be referring to that region quite a lot here. I think it is as most not Islay/Island whiskies that use peat only take the peat element, and none of the rest of the Islay character. Which is cool, it creates a different experience. This however has a saltiness and an oily, fish skin character that actually brings to mind the less brutal and medicinal of the Islay range. This is especially true neat where it is a bit of a harsher edged thing.

Neat it has a touch of red wine in the character, and some cherry notes, all of which I presume are due to the odder Madeira barrel ageing, but I have to admit it doesn’t seem like how Madeira usually shows itself – in fact it is a tad sour red wine rather than the sweeter notes I would expect. This results in the neat whisky feeling like someone took a lighter Islay and added a bit of a heavier wine barrel ageing to it. It has what would be rougher notes if they were heavier and thicker, but are manageable as it – something like turpentine if it was heavier, but thankfully not so at the moment.

Now, when you add water to this it does two big things. First it brings out the more neutral natural sweetness and the fruitiness of the unpeated side of the whisky. Second it brings out the more traditional Madeira styling with fruity raisin sweetness. Both element involve sweetness yes, and fruit, yes I did already notice that.

Overall it is an ok bit of peat, an ok bit of base spirit and an ok bit of Madeira ageing. It is not a common combination of styles so I will say it has value for that, but each individual element has been done better elsewhere – it is only the combination that makes it stand out.

Still an Islay influenced Highland whisky in Madeira oak, something a bit different and ok as that.

Background: People who have been following these notes for a while will know I like getting the chance to try a lot of different whiskies, but often miniatures only have the more common expressions. Which means you have to buy a big bottle – yes I know, woe is me, but it still means you are taking a risk dropping money sight unseen. So when I saw a bunch of Loch Lomond, and their peated offshoot Inchmurrin at The Whisky Shop in Bath I decided to grab a few. This one is a Madeira finished expression, which I tend to be a fan of, though I don’t think I have tried many, if any peated whiskies with Madeira finishes. Should be interesting. I’d grabbed Ozzy Osbourne – Memoirs Of A Madman recently and was listening to that while drinking. I prefer the Black Sabbath stuff, but still some great tunes in there.

Aberfeldy: 12 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold with fast streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Soft lime. Grain fields. Alcohol air. Soft toffee. Apples. Water lightens everything.

Body: Smooth. Quicksilver alcohol notes. Soft lime sorbet. Malt chocolate. Floral. Fudge. Water adds soft vanilla, more fudge and walnuts.

Finish: Nutty. Light charred oak. Malt chocolate air. Malt biscuits. Fudge. Water adds more nuts, bitter chocolate, honey and grain field air.

Conclusion:This feels like a kind of middle of the road Highland malt. Which is possibly appropriate considering it is predominantly used in the popular, but actually not bad Dewars blended whisky.

Now it being middle of the road is not exactly high praise, but neither is it a massive insult, it is just there is little to surprise you here. Initially the alcohol is a tad present, holding back some of the notes from showing themselves, but already you have a gentle but solid sweet backing of malt chocolate and toffee. An element that only becomes more gentle, yet also more obvious as water is added and the alcohol touch recedes.

What build upon this base is a floral air and a solid nutty character which is what gives it its main flavour – around that light green fruit notes work at the edges, especially when tried neat, but the nuttiness is what stays when ever other element has faded away.

It is slightly alcohol rough neat, and never really showy – it is offensive but shows the main highland characteristics solidly. It isn’t bad, but I cannot really recommend it as there are so very, very more interesting whiskies out there.

Background: I went to the Aberfeldy distillery back in my early whisky note taking days, quite a fun place, aimed at a more touristy front and concentrating more on its Dewars blended whisky than the single malt, but I did get to try a decent range of their whisky at a tasting there. Then I don’t think I have tried it again until now – after seeing it at The Star Inn I decided to give it another go. I have expanded my range massively since then so I wondered how it would hold up. Was nice to have a bit of shade and a spare moment to drink this as I had an otherwise busy day, so the break was welcome. The Star has a nice whisky selection – nothing too unusual, but a fair decent range, and some good cask ales. Think I may have to get back into the habit of sticking my head in every now and then to do notes.

Tullibardine: 225 Sauternes Finish (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Bright shining gold with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Oaken. Honey. Dried apricot. Vanilla. Sulphur touch. Lightly waxy. Water adds pears to the mix.

Body: Smooth and thick. Honey. Oak. Sulphur touch. Waxy touch. Golden syrup. Water adds custard, pears, apricot and cake sponge. Cherries and chocolate fudge.

Finish: Waxy. Cherries. Dried apricot. Honey and golden syrup. Lots of oak. Sulphur. Water adds custard slices. Pears. Light fresh cut apples. Still a waxy sheen. Chocolate toffee.

Conclusion: From what I remember from visiting the distillery, Tullibardine has a lot of experience with unusual cask finishes. Ok course back then it was to help eke out the value from their remaining supply of the odd distilleries spirit while they got their new distillery up and running. Still, experience is experience, no matter how you got it.

Neat this thing is pretty oaken – nice enough but a bit too woody for my taste. Though there are already a lot of good things going for it in the feel. It is thick, smooth but just slightly waxy – an element that gives, along with the wisp of sulphur, the imagery of candles that floats across the whisky. Even neat the sweetness from the Sauternes finish is shown with very honeyed notes – fairly simple but bright, thick and tongue coating.

Water give it what the whisky needs though and that is subtlety. The sweetness becomes gentle and breaks as if light encountering a prism, spreading into honey, custard and golden syrup against apricot notes that that work over the sweetness. Similarly more of the flavour from the base spirit seems to come out, though I will remind you that I have not encountered much from the distillery’s stock made since it reopened. Still, out from under the powerful cask finish seems to come pear and cut apple notes, along with a more recognisable general whisky feel that now back up the sweeter notes. The wax and sulphur notes lessen but still help hold some grip to the whisky.

Even with water this does pack a few rougher edges that feel like younger whisky spirit notes, but nothing that majorly hurts it, it just lacks polish.

Overall this uses the finish very well for a dessert feeling whisky. It does have a few rough edges, especially neat, but with a dash of water it is a sweet and enjoyable dram.

Background: Tullibardine is distillery I first encountered as part of a road trip around Scotland’s whisky distilleries many a year ago. It is a far cry from the usual rustic imagery, on an industrial area in the midst of grey concrete. It hadn’t been open long at that point, having been recently reopened after being mothballed back in 1995 so they were selling the remnants of the whisky from its previous existence. Since then I think I have encountered their new spirit once before, but without my notebook to hand, so this is my first set of notes for the re-opened distilleries whisky. This was given to me at a whisky night I hosted a few weeks back – it has become a tradition at our whisky nights that everyone else chips in to buy a bottle for the host. Which is nice. Many thanks. Originally they had planned to grab a different bottling, but the supermarket was out of stock, so bumped them up to this one – finished in Sauternes sweet wine casks – for free. Which was also nice. Put on Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Modern Ruin for this one. Seems a gentler album that their first, may take a bit of time to get used to that, but still solid.


Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Douglas Laing: Provenance Single Cask: Glengoyne 8 Year( Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale clear spirit with a light brackish hue to it.

Viscosity: Medium speed thin streaks.

Nose: Moss. Moderate alcohol. Citrus – fresh lime. Very fresh. Mojitos. Crushed leaves. Light menthol. Gin. Water adds vanilla pods.

Body: Warming. Smooth feel despite the alcohol. Very viscous. Soft toffee. Water makes creamier. Kiwi, grapes and vanilla. Apples. Jelly. Raisins.

Finish: Light charring. Malt drinks. Lots of oak. Greenery. Alcohol air. Water makes creamier. Brown bread. Fudge. More water adds raisins.

Conclusion: This really shows the energy of its relative youth. While not burning in its alcohol, it is still that very viscous styling of strong alcohol with a very melting jelly like feel to the centre and very familiar alcohol warmth with it.

Flavour wise it is also very youthful – lots of full on green fruit akin to a young spirit. Neat it is fairly raw, but water soothes that, turning it into a sweeter, creamier version of itself; In this form it seems to call slightly to Speyside character rather than its Highland home However underneath that is the more familiar sweet highland in a fudge and malt drink styled base. It is more gentle that normal, more a backing note than its more mature cousins.

In oddities that it has, there is a slight crushed leaves amongst the citrus notes – which makes if feel slightly mojitos like in its expression top and tail. Which is unexpected. A cocktail experience in a single malt.

It is a raw green fruit thing neat, becoming more recognisably highland sweet the more water you add. While I would say it is too simple neat, water gives an impressive depth for its youth with raisins and dark fruit coming out as a balance to the brighter green fruit. It is a very different experience from neat to water laden, going from super fresh to subtly dried fruit.

Not excellent, but has a decent range with water so I can’t complain.

Background: Hip flask sized bottles of whisky, one of my favourite ways of trying a wider range of whisky without having to spend a fortune on full sized bottles. This one, grabbed from Independent Spirit, is a Glengoyne bottling – done without colouring or chill filtering. I’ve actually been to the Glengoyne distillery, back when I did a tour of distilleries in Scotland – very pretty and tucked away near a waterfall. This was drunk while listening to Anthrax – Amongst The Living – no particular reason, just good tunes.

Càrn Mòr: Strictly Limited: Teaninich: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% abv)

Visual: Very pale clear gold.

Viscosity: Very slow, medium sized streaks.

Nose: Apples. Alcohol. Clean spirity character. Pears. Vanilla. Slightly floral. Slightly grassy. Water adds hay fields notes.

Body: Smooth texture but strong alcohol. Apples and pears. Pear drops. Slight fudge. Clean character. Soft pastry. Water makes much smoother, more fudge and lots more apple.

Finish: Pear drops. Vanilla. Very evident alcohol. Make spirit character. Water smooths out and adds apple pie.

Conclusion: This is basically what make spirit wants to be when it grows up. Ok, technically what make spirit wants to be when it grows up is all whisky ever but…. Ok technically as a non sapient entity make spirit doesn’t “want” anything. Just, ya know, run with me on this one.

Raw make spirit to young whisky is rough as fuck, but generally energetic as hell in the flavours with lots of green fruit notes and such. A few whiskies such as the Hakushu manage to keep the pear drop and apples notes as they age, but usually these green fruit notes just fade away to be replaced by heavier elements from the oak ageing.

Neat this is still a bit alcohol filled, but despite that feels smoother than that would indicate – and a wee bit of water deals with the fire very nicely. Then taken like that, all those youthful apple pie and pear drop notes are here, but now in a smooth, slightly fudge based whisky with a far more easy going character than the equivalent flavoured make spirit would ever give you.

So – while not one with the hugest range, you get all the loveliness and none of the harshness that makes this seem like the world’s smoothest make spirit in an older whisky. Not super complex, but super enjoyable to drink.

Background: Don’t see much Teaninich around, it is normally used in blends. We were given a sample of this after one of Independent Spirit‘s Rare Whisky Tasting Nights, and I remembered enjoying it – so a few weeks later I headed back and grabbed a bottle. Mainly hoping my drunken memories were not lying to me. This was bottled 2007 and is one of 725 bottles put together from two casks of whisky. Drunk while listening to more Two Steps From Hell. Yes I drank this just after Mythos. That beer was so bland I didn’t think it would interfere with doing notes much.

Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie (Scottish Blended Malt Highland Whisky: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain with greened edges.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Alcohol touch. Lime. Caramel. Orange crème. Hint of smoke. Dry raisins soaked in sherry. Water gives grain fields. Dry sherry. Red cherries.

Body: Slight beefy character. Slight alcohol air. Slight musty character. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Water adds light liquorice. Dry sherry. Light orange skin. Slightly vinous. Green grapes. Slightly waxy. Marzipan and almonds.

Finish: Dried beef. Slight raisins and fruitcake. Musty character. Water adds fruity red wine. Black cherry. More fruitcake and some Madeira cake. Slightly waxy. Slight sour grapes touch. Almonds. Light custard slices.

Conclusion: Ok, this is completely opposite to what I said in the “Big Peat” tasting, but this vatted malt is definitely better with water. Odd how these things work out.

Neat this is ok – it has a lot of evidence of dry sherry notes that show its oak ageing well. However despite that it is a bit closed – slightly dusty, musty and with some alcohol notes that – while not harsh – do seem to obscure the flavours a touch. Still not bad, but a sub optimal way of enjoying this whisky.

So, let’s add some water and concentrate on enjoying this the way it should be enjoyed! All hail the water! Now the sherry is definitely the core at the centre. Very evident, very fruitcake, raisins and cherry in the notes as you would expect. While not as awesome in this as the Sherry Cask 21 year Beastie, it is also far cheaper. Which does have a lot to say for it.

What I find very intriguing though is that this also has some of the odder edges that typified the 40 year old. Some of that unusual take on light tart gapes, some waxy texture to which it adds a similar, but distinct set of notes in a mix of light marzipan and almonds around the edges. All very light, lightly fresh notes around the sherried core. While they are fresher notes the intrinsically very dry sherry character of the core is what really shines through.

This is good – not quite enough to be called great – but good. A lot of depth and room for water, just not quite distinct enough to stand out. However a very solid, above average whisky.

Background: Another whisky I have run into a few times before – tried this at both an independent Spirit and a Hideout tasting over the years – neither time with my notebook with me. I also got to try the excellent 21 year Sherry Cask Timorous Beastie, and the 40 year at another of Independent Spirit‘s tasting. So, quite a history. Anyway, the self same Independent Spirit kindly provided this sample for me to do some notes on. Much appreciated. Anyway this was drunk while listening to Hate In The Box again – this time the “Under The Ice” album.

the-macphail-collection-balblair-10-year

The Macphail Collection: Balblair: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked grain. Smooth. Lime. Vanilla. Water changes little.

Body: Light alcohol touch. Slightly empty. Murky water. Water adds vanilla, white chocolate and vanilla toffee. Lime touch. Honey. More water adds raisins and spiced red wine.

Finish: Oak. Malt chocolate. Alcohol sheen. Murky water. Water adds white chocolate. Honey. Gin air and juniper berries. More water adds spiced red wine.

Conclusion: This seems extremely non distinctive for a whisky, especially for a Balblair. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with the distillery, but every one has stood out, and also stood on their own two feet. This – less so.

Without water it actually feels pretty empty. Alcohol touched but not heavily so, with just a kind of murky taste. If you take your time to let it open up then you do manage to get some hints of what I presume is the bourbon side of the ageing – white chocolate comes out and such like. However it is still indistinct and pretty bad as a whisky, let alone a Balblair whisky.

So let’s jump straight on to after we have added that often game changer – water! That makes it better, right? Yes. Yes it does. That makes it worth drinking, right? No. No it really doesn’t.

It brings out what feels like some sherry barrel influence – as opposed to the slight burbon influence that showed up neat. There is slight spiced red wine and raisins – nothing too unusual and far less distinct than in nearly every other sherry touched whisky I have tried. More water brings out a tad more of this, but also makes everything else even less distinct.

It isn’t actually painful (unlike, say Isawa whiskey) but it is bad. Probably duller than the Tamdhus I have encountered. I generally like Balblair, but this does nothing for me.

A let down and a bad whisky.

Background: Saw this miniature at Corks Of Cotham when I was up there recently – lovely wee place. You don’t see many miniatures of independent bottlings, nor of Balblair, so fished it out and grabbed it. Put some The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay on while drinking. That album is 8 years old now – Wish a lot of the themes in it about anti Islam sentiment weren’t still as relevant today as they were back then.

Raasay While We Wait

Raasay: While We Wait (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Clear rose wine.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Rose wine and glacier cherries. Perfume. Vanilla toffee. Pencil shavings. Stays the same with water.

Body: Smooth, with some alcohol to the middle. Rose wine. Perfume. Malt chocolate toffee drinks. Light wood. Water makes smoother and adds more toffee. Cherry pocked biscuits. More water adds light treacle.

Finish: Light charred wood. Alcohol numbing. Vanilla custard. Water brings out rose wine and light white grapes. Cherry pocked biscuits and light treacle.

Conclusion: This is my second dram of this. I have found that the first pour out of a bottle tends not to be the best, so I have taken to doing notes on the second dram onwards where possible. The first drink came across as quite perfumed, and turned out a bit simple and unappealing – just perfumed frippery.

This dram? Well it is still fairly perfumed, which is not my favourite way of doing things, but not intrinsically bad. The rest of the whisky? Well it has pulled itself up a bit.

The main thing, which I think is also what gives such a perfumed character, is the unusual barrel finishes’ influence. Lots of rose wine styling, lots of cherries. It doesn’t really change that much with water, will get to what does change in a moment, but in general it just gets clearer and a less alcohol touched base to work from.

The main thing that the water does change is bringing out a more recognisably traditional whisky style base. It is much more identifiable as what you would expect with toffee sweetness and a treacle thick set of notes – a more typical expression that the atypical rose wine flavours that they enhance. This pretty good progression – neat it is still too perfumed, this gives it some depth.

So, neat it is still not quite for me, but it is interesting. With water I can appreciate it though – not the fanciest or best put together whisky, but the more traditional feel helps. Though I will say the traditional feel and the rose style notes don’t mesh perfectly, but it manages ok. Hope when they turn out their own whisky they balance it a bit better, but for now it is an interesting enough holding pattern to turn out.

Background: Ok, picking a region for this one was difficult. Raasay is a new distillery on, surprise, the island of Raasay. So, obviously this is under the Island set right? Nope. You see the Raasay distillery has only just opened, their whisky will not be showing up for a long time. This is a mix of peated and unpeated whisky from an unnamed Highland distillery – so that is what I have listed it under. It is also finished in Tuscan wine casks. I know nothing about Tuscan wine, but it sounds interesting. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to the odd noise to music ambient thing that is Clonic Earth.

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