Tag Archive: Island


Scapa: Skiren (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened gold. Slow thick sheet of steaks comes from the spirit.

Nose: Pears. Warming alcohol. Honey. Pencil shavings. Vanilla yogurt chunks. Apples. Vanilla toffee. Jelly babies. Water lightens the alcohol and makes very clean.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Light praline. Sweet nuts. Oak touch. Apples. Slightly oily. Vanilla yogurt. Water makes clean and light. Orange notes. Bready. Pears. Slight wisp of smoke.

Finish: Brown bread. Clear honey. White chocolate. Dry. Oak. Tinned tropical fruit. Salt touch. Water adds dry rice. Slight sulphur. Mostly clean. More white chocolate. Wet rocks.

Conclusion: Only my second visit to the whisky that is Scapa and this is a fairly gentle one for a whisky from the Islands. Though admittedly that is a fairly varied area. Also, when I say gentle I only mean flavour wise – it has a mildly alcohol character that needs a touch of water to deal with it. I’m guessing from it being a no age statement whisky and the character that it has a touch of the younger whisky in it.

With just the tiniest drop of water it becomes very smooth mid body though more than a drop makes it too light. So, take just a drop and you get vanilla yogurt, green fruit and tinned tropical fruits over a honey touch. Very bourbon influenced, and a very gentle take, with just a lightly oily and sulphurous undertone for weight and Island character.

It always has a slightly young feel about it though, especially in the finish which develops a dry rice note over time, which is not great. Still, in general a decent whisky, just one with a few rough edges. Smooth overall and in general this is a great one to show the influence of bourbon ageing – the influence just booms through. It does feel like the younger spirit hurts though – it has so much good stuff in the lighter, smoother, easy drinking style that the rough edges really hurt its main appeal. In general I can dig rough edges in a whisky, but they work better in bigger, booming whisky – though this has a few of the rougher island characteristics in a pleasing way as well – some salt and wet rocks, just very subtly done as a backdrop to the bourbon style.

Decent, not a must have but decent – a tad more polish and this would be a good island take on the easy sipper with just a pinch of weight – doesn’t quite reach there but close.

Background: Scapa, bloody hell been a while since I had my one and only experience of Scapa. An Orkney Island distillery with a fairly small output if I remember rightly. So was very cool when my parents came back from Scotland and brought me this bottle of 100% first fill American Oak (so I presume bourbon casks) aged Scapa. Many thanks. Went with Svalbard: Gone Tomorrow as music for drinking to. Not much to add, this as my second Scapa, is where I try to try and start working out what parts of the spirit are distillery character and what is ageing and other such touches that alter that base.


Macleod’s: Island Single Malt (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep, heavy gold. Very slow, medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Salt. Wet greenery. Subtle fudge. Brown bread. Very clean. Lightly medicinal. Lightly peppery. Water adds light sulphur.

Body: Peppery. Slight alcohol. Soft lime. Crushed rocks. Salt. Unleavened bread. Light vanilla. Water adds peppercorns. More water adds custard and caramel.

Finish: Unleavened bread. Peppery. Water adds slight charred oak and slight gin. More water adds light custard and caramel. More charred oak. Cinder toffee.

Conclusion: Another call for the use of water here. Neat this is another ok but simple whisky. Quite clean, pretty smooth. Has a salty, lightly medicinal character that marks out a lot of the Island distilleries. Predominantly though it is just a peppery, medicinal dram.

Ok, so on the good side it shows the Island style, and is smooth for the low cost, but it is nothing really exciting.

So, water play time.

Water takes out the little alcohol character it had while accentuating some of the more medicinal notes. More importantly it brings out a slight sweetness and a thickness previously lacking. It doesn’t radically change the experience, but it gives contrast and grip that makes it much more enjoyable.

Still not stand out – has a few rough edges in the finish, but nicely shows the clean, salty island character without any real peat infusion.

Not bad, not stand out. Probably a weaker entry in the series but it does the job.

Background; Third of the Macleod’s regional whiskey minis. Yeah, while they have not blown me away, for the competitively low cost they come in at they have amused me enough that I keep grabbing another region I have not tried from them yet. So the Island region – more a set of regions as they have quite a diverse set depending on where they come from, but hey, its a way of grouping them. Anyway went with IDLES: Joy As An Act Of Resistance as music. Finally going to see them live soon and very excited about it. Bottle was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

Berry Bros and Rudd: Orkney Islands 17 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 56.4% ABV)

Visual: Very light yellowed gold. Fast, thick streaks come initially from the spirit, followed by slow puckering.

Nose: Caramel. Vanilla toffee. Honeyed shreddies. Wisp of smoke. White grapes. Pencil shavings. Water makes mossy and brings out more oak.

Body: Burning alcohol. Crumpets. Charred oak. Butter. Water makes more buttery and adds shortbread.

Finish: Charred oak. Bitter. Light salt and sea breeze. Water adds wet rocks. Butter. Peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, for one, this needs water. Neat it is burning, buttery and very much lacking in any subtlety. Not that the aroma lets you know what is coming, oh no, that aroma is a sneaky one. It tells you that what is coming is sweet and gentle with just a wisp of smoke. Lying fucking aroma.

Now water does its job and smooths the alcohol down, making it into a very robust (and I mean VERY robust) crumpety, bready, buttery dram, with a peppery finish and still that wisp of smoke. It is heavy feeling and still very different from that sweet, gentle aroma. If you pay attention there are slight grapes, slight vanilla, but generally it is just a straight forward crumpets and butter kind of savoury thing.

So, with that said, it is not a favourite of mine. Some people at the tasting seemed to get more from it than I did, but for me it is too burning neat, and still too simple with water, so overall is a comparatively empty dram flavour wise.

Feels solid in texture, but feels like the base of a whisky to be built from, rather than a decent whisky in itself. A pity as I love a good Highland Park (sorry, a good “Orkney Islands” WINK), but this one doesn’t grab me.

Background: Uber whisky time again at Independent Spirit. I love these events, where you get to try some pretty rare whisky that would normally be prohibitively expensive by the dram. As always with events like these, it was a busy event, with talking and other people describing notes so I may have been influenced by that and my notes may be shorter and more incoherent than even normal. Now, while this could be one of two Orkey distilleries, it is blatantly a Highland Park. They barely even try to hide it. I’m a big fan of Highland Park, not revisited them for a while so had high hopes for this. From the bottle it was distilled 2000 and bottled 2018.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Talisker: Storm (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No age: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Medium streaks.

Nose: Tarry peat smoke. Dried beef slices. Honey. Peppery. Noticeable alcohol. Sulphur. Charred oak. Cigarette ash. Water adds more smoke, salty rocks and caramel. Slightly floral.

Body: Smooth – caramel and custard. Alcohol if held. Tarry. Dried beef slices. Red cherries. Water makes more caramel and more tarry notes. No alcohol evident now. Peppery. Even more water increases the caramel.

Finish: Bready. Peaty. Some moss. Malt chocolate. Red cherries. Dry. Water adds salt, charring and mild chocolate cake. Fudge. Peppery.

Conclusion: Quick summary – with no water, meh this is ok. With water – oh yeah, this is what I am looking for. Either way, the aroma tells you exactly what is coming.

The aroma is tarry, peaty and evident from way across from the glass. I could pickup the first notes while still doing the photo shots at the start. Lots of thick notes here, but without the harsh or medicinal notes that an Islay would have in a similar whisky.

Neat it is fairly smooth – if held too long alcohol does develop, but generally nothing too heavy. However when neat the flavours doesn’t hold half the weight that the aroma promises – it is generally more dominated by the smoother caramel notes. There is some rounding – some dried beef slices and interesting cherry notes, but really lacking the tarry thickness of the aroma.

As I have been indicating at the start, water really does the job here. The alcohol is all smoothed away – a slight island salty and rocky character gets added to the smooth caramel base. More importantly the bigger notes promised come out – peppery, thick, tarry. It is still smooth bodied but now with a weight of flavour which then leads out into a chocolate and fudge finish that is matched by peat and salt.

It feels like it takes all the benefits of a harsh Islay, strips the harshness and adds it to the traditional island Talisker complexity.

Another stormer (ha-ha) of a whisky from Talisker.

Background: The final of a pack of three Talisker miniatures grabbed from Independent Spirit. This one is described as a more intense flavours take on the standard Talisker. Which sounds good by me. I was a bit nervous as I know either Storm, or Dark Storm has a really bad reputation. But, since I couldn’t remember which I tried to not let that influence me. This was drunk while listening to Ulver: The Assassination of Julius Caesar again. Still getting used to the very different nature of it, but good background drinking music.


Talisker: Skye (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No Age: 45.8% ABV

Visual: Deep bronzed apricot.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast medium sized streaks.

Nose: Salt. Wet rocks. Smoke. Seaweed and rich caramelised brown sugar. Crumpets. Black liquorice. Water makes slight golden syrup backing and treacle.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla and soft lime. Rocks. Some alcohol character. Brown sugar. Light peaty and meaty character. Slight vanilla custard. Water makes buttery and smooth. Apricot. White chocolate.

Finish: Brown sugar. Crumpets. Slight chalk. Slight charring. White bread. Cooked pork. Vanilla custard. Water makes buttery with a mix of white chocolate and golden syrup. Tinned tropical fruits and toasted teacakes.

Conclusion: For all this does have an alcohol touch to it, this is a very smooth whisky – one that progresses from gentle sweet elements to entice you in, into the more recognisable, robust Talisker character.

It holds the gentle peat warmth, the slight salt and the gentle not-Islay island coastal character of a standard Talisker, and rides out into vanilla custard and brown sugar as the sweet base develops. This is not too unexpected – while this is less forceful than the 10 year old, it still plays in a familiar ball park.

What stands out here is the gentle bready character to the whole thing – from crusty white bread to crumpets – all touched with buttery sweetness – it gives both a gentle grip and an extra smoothness in the combination. The butteryness especially feels thick – slightly oily – full natural butter feeling with the flavour rather than cheap supermarket stuff.

Water soothes the alcohol touches it had when neat, and brings out some sweet aprictots, but the general gist of the thing remains the same.

Overall a very impressive dram that captures both the expressive island character. And a slightly more gentle sipping whisky, balanced by toasted teacake top and bottom.

A gentle yet complex and toasted dram. Very nice, very easily drinkable – very much up my street.

Background: So, after the uber whisky night I felt like more whisky a day or so later. So, I remembered I had a pack of miniature Taliskers I had grabbed from Independent Spirit a few weeks before. Time to break them out. This one is aged in a mix of refill and toasted American oak casks – apparently to give a bit smoother character. This was drunk while listening to some of the haunting Ulver tunes on the atgclvlsscap album. Very good background, yet atmospheric music for a good whisky.

Highland Park: Fire Edition (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 15 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Moderate speed and thickness streaks.

Nose: Dry rum and brandy cream. Slight smoke. Moss. Thick aroma. Light oak. Butter. Water adds some blueberries.

Body: Toffee. Light caramel. Light treacle. Strawberry. Alcohol is noticeable. Buttered crumpets. Water brings out sweet butter. More strawberry. Fudge. Vanilla and brambles.

Finish: Alcohol air. Toast. Light charring. Red berries. Toasted teacakes. Butter. Smoke. Water brings more butter and red berries. Blueberry.

Conclusion: This is very bready indeed – like a mix of toast to toasted teacakes. Really solid, and packed through with red fruit. It is very interesting examining this one immediately after the Springbank 25 year – they both wear their port influence proudly. This is more solid, and because of that is more immediately appreciable as a whisky. However because of that it also doesn’t wear quite the same range of flavour at the tail end of its life. By the way that isn’t intended as a harsh criticism – more an examination of the trade off you get with whisky. It is very nice, with subtle vanilla sweetness matched with lightly tart red and dark berries.

It is a full on, rich berry expression – very much pushing the imagery of picking your own berries on a summer picnic kind of thing – the Highland Park base giving a solid texture and weight for the fruity experience to work from.

It feels full of brambles – and if this was just slightly jammy it would make a perfect image of full on jam covered toasted sandwiches. It isn’t so it doesn’t, but it is that kind of thing it is coming close to. As it is it is a fresher faced experience, with a solid whisky base. Without water it feels a bit more thick and musky – with water the freshness of the fruit opens up. So, Springbank 25 wins on complexity – but you cannot go far wrong with this for a solid experience. Again, maybe not worth the cost of a fancy bottle, but very much worth trying if you can.

Background: Yep, it is the fourth of the whiskies tried at the recent Independent Spirit Uber Whisky Tasting. This one, well I am a big Highland Park fan, but I can’t quite shake the impression that you are paying a lot for the bottle on this one. It is a pretty bottle I will admit. Not several hundred quid pretty, but pretty. Anyway, this is one of 28,000 bottles and is aged completely in port casks. Anyway, as always for these events – I was doing my notes in a social environment, with five strong whiskies back to back – my notes may be affected by other peoples thoughts, the drunkenness, and the other whisky I had. However, as before, for trying five expensive and rare whiskies like this I could hardly miss the chance to do some notes. Hope they are ok by you.

jura-tastival

Jura: Tastival (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 51% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Honey. Cinnamon rolls. Light tar notes. Thick. Sugared orange. Stewed fruit. Water adds cinnamon pears.

Body: Strong. Alcohol presence. Orange liqueur. Spiced rum. Treacle toffee. Cinnamon. Water makes cinnamon pears. Slight charring. More water adds apples, a touch of salt. Vanilla toffee and treacle.

Finish: Malt chocolate and light oak. Spiced wine notes. Cinnamon and pepper. Light charring. Water adds treacle and chocolate liqueur. Light salted rocks.

Conclusion: Jura have been a go to whisky for me for a while now. Their entry level stuff is very nice, and generally not too expensive – while their Prophecy expression stands out as a great, complex peaty whisky. This is different again from those. The higher abv gives it a bigger, thicker character and a lot of room to roam.

This is a dark, rich expression with deep chocolate liqueur notes and light charring – all darker notes which calls to Bowmore Darkest or some of the Dalmore series for inspiration. It has that similar, very luxurious character, albeit with a strong alcohol punch if taken neat, and they are accentuated by a definite cinnamon sweetness and rum to red wine spiciness. It really, even when with the force of being neat, gives a decadent dark dessert feel. Death by chocolate meets cinnamon doughnuts.

Water soothes out the alcohol weight and gives hints of lighter notes hidden below it; Never huge, but there are feelings of subtle cinnamon pears and such like in there. Also water brings out, on the opposite side, subtle more traditional island characteristics – light salted rocks – again very minor, but gives it a grounding so it is not just a sweet, thick whisky.

Overall these just balance out an already very good experience – it gives hints of the more familiar expressions of Jura, but matched with that luxurious chocolate and cinnamon – making it like an island character backed dessert expression. Just enough added edge to make it unusual.

Very nice indeed, and probably now my tied favourite Jura with Prophecy.

Background: The 14 year is from a quick google that says the youngest spirit in this is 14 years. Anyway – this was my first tasting note done at The Hideout – a new whisky bar in Bath. Damn they have a nice selection – will try and take advantage of them to get some more unusual whisky tasting notes up on here. It is always nice to be able to try the more unusual stuff by the dram. This one is the Jura whisky done for the 2016 festival and has been aged in Palomino Fino, Amoroso and Apostoles sherry casks. Which actually goes beyond my knowledge of Sherry, so I will assume that is good.

p1050465

independent-spirit-arran

Independent Spirit: Arran (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 17 Years: 58.7% ABV)

Visual: Quite light grain to gold.

Viscosity: Generally slow thin puckering, with a few fast streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Alcohol jelly. Lime. Salted caramel and apple. Water brings out more caramel, a touch of milky coffee. More water adds floral notes.

Body: Alcohol touched. Salted toffee. Moderate oak. Salted caramel. Water adds apples and makes smoother. Much more salted caramel. More water adds more apples and pears. Light cinnamon. Creamy notes and some lemon curd.

Finish: Charred oak. Apples. Alcohol. Toffee malt drinks. Drying. Water adds salted toffee. More water adds lemon curd and light milky coffee.

Conclusion: Ok, this has a lot of water room to it. Like a proper serious amount. Not entirely unexpected at best part of 60% abv, but what does stand out is that it is actually pretty approachable even when neat; Which means that you have more room for quality water play as you don’t have to add a ton just to get it to where you can taste it. No innuendo on water play please. That is my job.

Neat to middling amounts of water it is very unlike any Arran I have encountered. Very toffee and caramel driven. Salted interpretation of both no less. Neat it is a little alcohol thick but still very drinkable, if a tad burning. Even a little water though turns it into a very smooth, kind of salted toffee doughnut style whisky. I was kind of addicted to salted toffee doughnuts for a while, I know of what I speak.

More water, like heavily more water, adds a mix of traditional green fruit that feels like a more Arran by way of Hakushu whisky style. Initially just soft notes around the toffee, enough water means that the green fruit takes centre stage with the salted caramel around the edges.

Initially as a salted caramel heavy whisky I found it soothing, smooth and easy drinking but not too complex. I was going to call it a whisky that did one thing but very well – a whisky for the high end of enjoying to sooth and relax with rather than examine.

Water turned that on its head; lots of fresh green fruit, a good mix of character. It is still easy to drink but now more freshening than soothing, and with a touch of that creamy Arran character. Very enjoyable either way, and with lots of room to explore. Both defies Arran expectations and confirms them depending on how you take it. A very high quality whisky.

Background: Second of Independent Spirit‘s independent bottlings of whisky. This time an Arran bottling – one of 57 bottles, distilled in 1997 and aged for 17 years in a sherry puncheon. Bottled non chill filtered at cask strength this definitely caught my eye. The label may look identical to the last, Fettercairn bottling – but if you look closely the cape colour has changed. Huge difference. Drink while listening to a general mix of metal – around the thrash to death side of things.

Caermory 21 Year

Caermory: 21 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 48.2% ABV)

Visual: Pale custard touched gold.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Strong alcohol but soft vanilla and lime notes. Heather. Light whiff of peat smoke. Water adds oak, sulphur and brackish greenery,

Body: Very smooth. Orange crème. Vanilla custard. Alcohol builds up quickly. Fudge. Water makes even smoother and removes alcohol fire. Lime. Golden syrup. Tropical fruit hints. Slight beefy middle. Mild spinach greenery. Apples. Chocolate limes sweets.

Finish: Fudge. Slight spinach. Vanilla. Light lime. Oak. Alcohol air. Water brings out malt chocolate, more sweet lime. Beef and onion crisps. Apples.

Conclusion: This manages to both pack a punch, and be smooth as heck. Good combo. The big punch is easy to see – big abv, big flavours. It pushes a lot of straight forward fudge and vanilla custard sweet notes to sugar shock sweet levels. The smoothness is less expected – even at cask strength it hits smooth – though the alcohol fire does build up if held. Overall, good first impressions.

Tobermory is an interesting distillery with both the Ledaig heavily peated expression, and the smoother, fruitier unpeated expression. This definitely sits towards the unpeated expression, but does not entirely escape the island character. I am not sure if the malt is peated at all, but there does seem to be a light whiff of peat smoke and a beefy middle – more than that is a greenery element subtly hidden within it. It feels halfway between spinach and seaweed, but since it is is so light it is not off-putting. All light elements but give a nice island backing to what would otherwise be a fairly standard sweet whisky.

Apart from that? Well there is the more traditional Tobermory green fruit – here showing as apple and lime notes over the big sweetness. At the cask strength they are not really noticeable, but are soon evident with water.

Overall, it blends the three sets of notes (Island, sweetness and fruity) to an impressive balance and with water it is pretty easy to drink. While the years have not brought exception complexity to this, they have brought clarity of character and a very luxurious feeling. So, yeah, good times here.

Background: Yeah, this is a Tobermory independent bottling bottling, guess they were not allowed to use the distillery name. This bottle, with about a double measure of whisky left in it, was given to me by the kind fellows at Independent Spirit for me to do tasting notes on. Many thanks :-). As always I will still attempt to be unbiased in my notes. Drunk while listening to David Bowie: Black Star again. I am seriously never getting bored of the album. So damn haunting and beautiful.

%d bloggers like this: