Tag Archive: Island

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.

Arran That Boutique-y Whisky Company Batch 4

Arran: That Boutique-y Whisky Company: Batch 4 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 52% ABV)

Visual: Nigh clear with a mix of green hints and vanilla toffee hue. Becomes hazy with water.

Viscosity: Very thin slow puckering.

Nose: Alcohol and crumpets. Rocks. Water adds heather and pepper.

Body: Warm to burning. Buttered toast. Lemon pancakes. Water makes much sweeter – golden syrup and vanilla pods. Touch of vanilla yogurt with lime as well. Fudge. More buttery.

Finish: Light lemon pancakes. Light oak. Butter. Water adds vanilla yogurt and toffee. Tins of tropical fruits.

Conclusion: I don’t think I have seen a whisky with the nose and body so much at odds for a long time. The nose is, well, a tad rough. Not just in the alcohol, that element disperses with water so isn’t that big a deal. It is the fact that it has touches of crushed rocks and pepper that kind of sticks out – it is not that appealing. Though there are soft crumpet notes in there as well, but it doesn’t quite balance.

So, how is the body? Well, neat it is mainly alcohol heat- so let’s skip straight to the part where I add the water shall we? Boom! Sweet golden syrup and vanilla pods – a real big sweetness over the kind of soft buttery base I associate with Arran, with a few lime high notes.

Unfortunately adding even more water brings the body more in line with the aroma, not heavily, but it brings out a slightly gritty character to the base. It lowers the sweetness but keeps the butteryness, which unfortunately is less capable at holding up against the newfound grit.

Still, if you keep the water on the lower end then it is a reasonable whisky that shows the strength of Arran well. Well, the body does anyway. Still, less is definitely more with water use here. Even at over 50% abv it turns far too quickly from where it works to where it is past the tipping point. It doesn’t really outdo the official bottlings i have tried – its main addition is the big sweetness with just a little water. Still, it does emphasise that buttery toast base, which is not something you see often.

So, solid body, bit of a bad aroma. Not stand out but solid enough.

Background: Ok, here we go “Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Masters Of Malt Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!”. Not run into ” That Boutique-y Whisky Company” though a quick googling shows that their bottles have some pretty non standard cartoon like labels. Not bad. Arran has been a nice smooth, if not always that complex, whisky for me, so I thought this may be nice. Drunk whilst listening to the haunting Ritualz CDR.

Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1998

Connoisseurs Choice: Ledaig 1998 (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light grain gold.

Viscosity: Very slow moderate sized streaks.

Nose: Peat smoke and beef broth. Radishes. Smoked fish skin. Light salt and medicinal. Cinder toffee. Water makes more grassy.

Body: Peach and peat. Light alcohol burn. Lime notes. Melted chocolate. Smooth texture. Dried apricot. Vanilla custard notes. Water makes grassier, with more peat. Sea weed.

Finish: Oily fish skins. Dry beef. Peat and smoke. Light alcohol tingle. Water adds salt and rocks.

Conclusion: Ledaig – always good to return to this, one of those in the unusual set of a smooth ,fruity, peated whisky. Peach and peat is not exactly a tasting note I expected to ever need, but there it is, clear as day.

It doesn’t open up that way, the aroma is all peat smoke and beef broth – but as soon as you get to the main body those fruity Tobermory notes are there – evident as can be. They work easily with rather than against the peat, creating the impression of a wonderfully fruity sauce layered over thin cut smoked beer. Very nice.

I always find it odd to have a whisky where the water actually makes the whisky harsher – however it does that here. Though it doesn’t make it harsher in the alcohol rising, but in that the flavours tend to wards the harsher end of the spectrum. It becomes more grassy, and the peat becomes much more evident. The grassy character that comes out makes me think of some of the Springbank expressions that exist – Overall I’d say take it easy with the water – it works much better as a peat touched fruity whisk than as a sub optimal more heavily peat touched whisky with water.

Taken as that it is a lovely whisky, smooth, balanced – forceful and fruity. This continues to expand my respect for both Ledaig and Gordon and Macphail.

Background: Another chance to grab miniatures to try a wider range of whiskies. This one from Gordon and Macphails excellent Connoisseurs Choice range. Ledaig is the peated version of Tobermory. This was bottled in 2014. Ok, I think that about covers it.

Arran Machrie Moor

Isle of Arran: Machrie Moor (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No Age Statement: 46% abv)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast middling sized streaks.

Nose: Smoke and peat. Dust. Honey glazed chicken. Tobacco. Chewy. Medicinal touch. Burnt beef.

Body: Light caramel. Rising tar and alcohol. Solid peat. Honey and toffee. Cinder toffee. Apricot and cream when water has been added. Burnt sugar.

Finish: Dry oak. Light sweet toffee and cinder toffee. Light apricot after water has been added.

Conclusion: This is by far a less booming whisky than the aroma would have you imagine. The aroma promises a real medicinal, smoky whisky, but actually delivers a surprisingly restrained expression – so much so I can’t even call it a restrained beast, just, well restrained.

I use the word “surprisingly” a lot in notes. I am easily surprised it seems.

The body has a kind of cinder toffee effect, calling to a smoky fire cooked, bonfire night feel, but with a big sweetness to it. There is a kind of burnt sugar feel that is much more of a notable aspect than the smoke – all burnt brown sugar, cinder toffee and the like. It is interesting but far from what the aroma would have you expect.

There are calls to the Arran house character with some soft apricot and cream notes, which gives a nice amount of complexity – however the peat doesn’t add enough to give it an edge over the more standard Arrans, and it covers up some of the style which makes those expression seem different. It is still an interesting mix, even if the split between aroma and body maxes it seem more a contrast than ever actually mixing.

Nice, but not a favourite – could make a nice Halloween or Bonfire Night whisky though.

Background: The final whisky of the (pre) Burns night whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. This is the (moderately) peated expression of the normally very creamy Arran malt. There is some tale attached to this, something about a dog, I have to admit by this point me ability to comprehend non whisky ideas may have been somewhat reduced. As before, this was a tutored group tasting so, despite my best efforts, I may have been influenced in my tasting notes.

Adelphi Tobermory

Adelphi: Selection: Tobermory 18 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 58.8% ABV)

Visual: Very dark copper bronze.

Viscosity: Quite thick fast steaks mixed with some thin puckering.

Nose: Stewed dates. Figs. Peaches. Thick. Almonds. Noticeable alcohol. Crème brulee. Treacle. Opens up to fresher fruit with water, stewed apples comes out.

Body: Thick and tarry feel, Caramel. Honey. Alcohol burn only comes out if held for a while. Very smooth initially. Softens to toffee and smoke. Mandarin orange. Water mainly makes smoother for longer. Gives more custard, almonds and syrup.

Finish: Almond slice. Caramel and smoke. Malt chocolate and chocolate orange. Burned oak. Water makes bigger and sweeter.

Conclusion: Holy shit this was the house whisky! This bloody lovely. Despite the high strength it takes a long while held on the tongue before it starts the alcohol burn and the feel is viscous as hell. This really uses the years of age to make it feel luxurious and all this praise is even before we get to the flavour.

It is mainly rich caramel over light charred wood and smoke, the flavour as thick as the texture. This sweetness develops allowing a fruitiness previously promised by the aroma to develop with mandarin orange amongst chocolate. However despite this development you never get the full promise of the aroma. That thing was all stewed fruits and dark flavours, it spilled from the glass and dragged you back to it to take the first sip. If the body had held to the promise of the nose it would be an all time favourite, as is it is still lovely.

The balance of full thick toffee sweetness over smoke is potent and fulfilling, and despite its smoothness neat, it manages to smooth more with water and give a larger range of sweetness. You don’t get that much change of flavour with water, which is a pity considering the strength, but it does sooth and open it. It is always the same whisky, but you get to pick the intensity.

A great pick for a house whisky that shows the fantastic quality of the Tasting Rooms, and also a fine whisky by any measure.

Background: This is one of the Tasting Room’s house whiskies. Seriously. An 18 year Island whisky. Since my experience of Aelphi at whisky shows so far has been very high quality I had to give it a try. This was drunk while waiting for the rest of my friends to turn up (they were late in the end, but it gave me more time to review). This was in the wood between 1994 and 2012.


Talisker 18 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 18 years: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Viscosity: Quite slow thick trails.

Nose: Gingerbread. Mulled spice. Salt. Light peat and beef broth. Water mellows, touch of chocolate truffles and honey come out.

Body: Toffee sweet. Strong. Glacier cherry. Alcohol is noticeable. Salty touch. Dry smoke and peat. Beef slices. Water makes like honey in a mead fashion and adds spice amongst the salt and beef slices.

Finish:  Spicy red wine. Glacier cherries. Salt. Alcohol fills the mouth. Malt chocolate. Madeira cakes. Kippers and oils. Custard. Waters makes saltier, wet rocks and sea breeze.

Conclusion:  Talisker, the balanced heavyweight of the whisky world.  Here still with just shy of 46% abv. There is a fire to it, even with water, but as Talisker deserves, it gives you something extra in exchange for that fire.

Deliciously sweet, with rich cherry notes that become honeyed with water. Richer than the ten year and has a rounded sweet base that the salt and peat work within.  In fact considering the Talisker was the only not overly sweet whisky out of the Distillers Editions it is unusual to see this 18 year expression bring in such extra sweet notes.

As always Talisker balances that Island salt character and weight with a more restrained but delicious notes. A mix that makes it popular across the whisky lover’s spectrum. There is an alchemic mix with the sweetness not harming the heavier notes at all.

It is a whisky that asks you to work with it. No reasonable amount of water diminishes its dry finish and fire. What it does is make that effort worth it.  Varied and enjoyable in character. Sweet, spiced, salty and full of meat characteristics, harsh yet pleasant.

Talisker continues to be a spirit that shows element from the full whisky world. Rough edged and powerful, it is not as good as the distillers edition but it gives it a good run for its money.   The only real fault is the excessive burn. If, like me, you decide you can live with that then it is well worth it.

Background: Talisker has always been a solid and weighty dram, one that, to me, is up there with Highland Park on showing what people think of when they consider the loosely gathered Island Whiskies. I hadn’t hit the Rummer Hotel for a while, so with it being an extended Easter weekend I dropped over to try some good quality whisky and start off the weekend.


Signatory Vintage: Highland Park 1987 (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 24 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Gold.

Viscosity: Slow to break into streaks from the liquid. Thin and light when streaks do form.

Nose: Sweet vanilla. Light salty rocks. Smooth and toffee notes.; Dims when water is added.

Body: Smooth with slight rocks character. Sweet lime. Custard and toffee. Honeycomb. Water bring out full on honey and makes very sweet and an almost syrup texture. More toffee with water.

Finish: Lime jelly custard and, yes, toffee.  Dry shortbread. Light oak and smoke. Malt chocolate. Water makes for more chocolate and cough drops like honey taste.

Conclusion: This is very smooth, even for a Highland Park. By default it is notably smooth, but with water it becomes exceedingly so.  There is barely any island character, a touch of light salt and rocks but the main notable element is this real thick honey flavour.  There can be an almost cough drop like take on it with water and the texture, though smooth, has a syrup like quality to it.  Despite the finishes cough drop imitations at time it is still shockingly easy going.

It took me a while to get use to this, mainly as it was completely different to what I expected. There’s nice sweet notes of toffee, vanilla and chocolate dusted throughout laced over that light salty rocks.  It is very relaxing and , when you get used to it, a great texture that just slips down.

The honey can get too heavy, especially in the finish where it can be a bit sickly sweet, but that very slight rocks helps balance by reigning it in just a touch.  It’s a tasty whisky but doesn’t have anywhere near the robust range I was hoping for.

So a great texture, utterly smooth, good sweetness and a dash of rough offset. Could do with a bit more range but still tasty.

A good relaxing island walk of a drink.

Background: Bottled 2011, I found this independent bottling at the Tasting Rooms in Bath. Since I had a gift voucher for there form Christmas it seemed the perfect time to treat myself.  I love Highland Park and find it a nice balance of smoothness to island character.  The 18 year in particular is a favourite.

Talisker: Distiller Edition (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 11 Years: 45.8% ABV)

(Age is based on distilling 2000, bottling 2011, may be slightly off depending on the months)

Visual: Honeyed gold.

Viscosity: Comes down as a clear sheet at medium speed.

Nose: Smoke, aniseed and peat.  Underlying gooseberries.  Prickle like just off ripe berries. Shortbread. Water adds pomegranate and dried orange.

Body: Big peat and smoke. Syrupy back. Dried beef slices. Slight mulled wine spices. Elderberry at the back. Water adds marmalade to the mix and toffee. Possibly orange crème centres.

Finish: Dry beef crisps/Dried beef. Peat and smoke. Water adds milk chocolate.

Conclusion: By far the most subtle of the Distillers Editions for the influence of the secondary maturation. Odd as subtle is not a word oft used with the delicious Talisker whisky. However without water this actually is possibly even a tad heavier than the standard Talisker whisky, as opposed to most of the other Distillers Editions which were all significantly sweeter. There is subtle fruit notes rounding it out but they are all distinctly background elements.

It’s still a very nice whisky, but when you add a few drops of water, that’s when the show really begins.  A light orange sweetness is revealed, still understated but it lends a new lightness of touch to a forceful whisky.

Always slightly tongue numbing, even with water, it uses that extra punch to really bring the flavour home rather than just bring a burn, and it is very welcome.  The more water you add the sweeter the whisky gets, within reason of course, but it never comes close to overpowering the peat and smoke main whisky. This gives a lot of room to find just the right balance for your whisky, well as long as you are a fan of the heavier whiskys to begin with.

The dry fruit is a great addition, all oranges or apricot flavours which complement rather than fight this peat gripped whisky. Not as different an expression as other distillers edition but easily as high quality.

Background: Based on research (ok, ok google, that vaguely counts as research) this was double matured with Oloroso sherry casks used for the secondary maturation.  I love the varied distillers editions and have been trying to review them all. Now all I’m missing is the Lagavulin which oddly is the one I have actually drunk the most often.  Drunk at the Rummer hotel which has friendly knowledgeable staff and a great spirit selection.

Jura: Elixir (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 12 Year: 40% ABV)

Visual: Reddened bronze.

Viscosity: very fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick sulphur style and pungent. Quite eggy. Almonds and marzipan. Sultanas. Smoke. Slight peat. Red wine and fruitcake. Water makes almonds and sulphur the main elements.

Body: Smooth and sweet. Marmalade and ginger. Beef broth. Caramelised fruit. Red wine. Water makes sweeter bringing out custard and red grapes.

Finish: Dried beef slices. Almond and raisins. Malt chocolate. Dry beef crisp dustings. Water adds glacier cherries and slight tar. Also banana oddly.

Conclusion:  Jura, like Caol Ila, seems to be a well placed spirit to survive many different interpretations. From the peated Superstition and Prophecy to this fruity number.

Up front you get a very sulphur and egg dominated aroma in that challenging island way, but even before you push past that to dive in and take a sip you get that light marzipan sweetness edging out to let you know you are in for something a bit different to that.

Thus we are given a hint of what I the mainstay of this whisky. A surprisingly sweet and nuanced Jura, with fruit, marzipan and almonds all backed by the smoke and weight Jura spirit brings. The two merge surprisingly well, and the sweetness and thickness make for an almost liquore like feel at times. A few drops of water does much to enhance this element.

The whisky feels spicy and complex. Again the mix of island style to marzipan and banana create such contrasting views that make the range stand out so much more. An impressive mix of elements that would be easy to make muddled and indistinct.

This is the heavy end of the dessert whisky, it has all the flavour for that style, but never loses its Jura roots or the punch that entails.  That makes it stand out a bit from the crowd. Smooth, heavy sweet and complex, I’d say you could do a hell of a lot worse than this one.

Background: I love little bottles of whisky. they give you chance to try out a wider range that a 70cl commitment does not. Therefore when I saw this 12 year of the always fun Jura range in Sainsbury I thought id give it whirl. I now find out that this bottle is exclusive to Sainsbury. Go figure. Anyway, Jura is a distillery that is always fun and while it does have island character it never brings it in too hard and heavy.

Tobermory: 10 Year (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 10 Years: 46.3% ABV)

Visual: Light grain colour.

Viscosity: Very slow streaks. Moderately thick

Nose: Squeezed lime. Vanilla. Grain fields. Oak. Sulphur. Water makes less distinct.

Body:  Quite fiery alcohol. Lime cheesecake. Milk chocolate and kiwi fruit. Sweet strawberry undertone. Water makes toffee chocolate and sweet lime yet still fiery. Some golden syrup comes out.

Finish: Kiwi fruit and milk chocolate. Dry. Strawberry. Slightly dusty. Water adds toffee and more chocolate. Pears. More water makes praline like.

Conclusion: I ran into the peated Ledaig version of this a while back but I realised I had never really played with the unpeated Tobermory expression. So when I saw it in a tidy little 5cl bottle I thought I might as well rectify that.

The unusually high abv for a base expression seems like an odd pick for the style of whisky.  The whisky is light and citrus fruit filled which doesn’t seem like it needs the extra grip the abv brings.  Oddly the aroma breaks up a bit with water as well, and water is recommended to break up the fire a little.  After a bit of play adding water I started finding the chocolate toffee coming out in the body which helps play against the fruitiness. This is where it gets most interesting, though by this point the water has pretty much nullified all but the egg sulphur like elements of the aroma which matches the flavour badly.

It’s nice like that but still fiery, which definitely doesn’t match the style.   In fact the alcohol burn can survive a surprising amount of water being added.  This is probably the whiskys main weakness.  Thankfully a bit more water will eventually balance the fire out and adds a nice praline touch.  However by this point the delicious toffee elements seem to have been submerged by the water.

Overall a range of nice elements that you can’t seem to get all at one time. The aroma breaks before you get the toffee and the toffee breaks before the fire does.  It gives it a nice bit of exploration but it does mean that you never reach that balanced level where everything works at one.  A nice whisky to play about with but not a favourite.

Background: Tobermory is a distillery I know better for their more peated expressions bottled under the “Ledaig” line.  This miniature was picked up to give the lighter less peated base expression a try.

%d bloggers like this: