Tag Archive: Single Malt


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.

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Elements Of Islay: OC5 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 59.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed grain. Slow thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Chilli pepper. Chipotle chilli notes. Light charcoal dust. Fresh white crusty bread. Water adds dried beef, beetroot and pulled pork along with a salt touch.

Body: Golden syrup. Mass of alcohol. Barbecue glaze. Water adds more barbecue sauce glaze, custard. Salt. Drying. Syrup notes and cherries.

Finish: Barbecued meat. Pear. Smoke. Water makes more oily. Slow cooked stew. More water adds more peat, beef and syrup. Light strawberry. Chipotle sauce.

Conclusion: I’m slightly mixed on my opinion on this, as there is a heck of a lot going on in the near 60% of abv and a hundred whatever levels of peat per million it throws at you. In general I love the Octomore in all the expressions I have encountered, I love the range it brings in, but with this one it feels like there are many different mashed up elements that are great, but do not come together here.

Early on it is mainly showing the intense alcohol, with less peat intensity than you would expect as the sheer strength makes it come across quite closed. Water is definitely needed to bring out the cornucopia of clashing notes I alluded to earlier. There is a glazed barbecue backbone, smoke but still less that you would expect. It is more meaty than anything else, slow cooked, falling apart to touch meat in the stew and pulled pork imagery.

More water clashes with the peat imagery even more as an oddly sweet syrupy core comes out, another element added in that pulls the whisky in yet another different direction. First the glazed barbecue, then the meat and peat, the syrup, red fruit late on – all elements I enjoy,but not a coherent whole.

Enjoyable, and a wild ride, but doesn’t do better than the more focussed, though lower abv, intensity of the standard Octomore – and with that you get a silly shiny bottle as well.

Background: Final of the whiskies from the recent Uber whisky tasting at Independent Spirit. If you are wondering what happened to the foruth whisky, I already have a bottle of it and will be doing full notes at a a later date. This is an independent Octomore bottling, from the very respectable Elements Of Islay range – Octomore being Bruichladdich’s very highly peated whisky. This is probably the only cask strength bottling of Octomore I have seen, which makes it interesting in itself. I’m a big fan of Octomore even if the super high peat level is more of a marketing gimmick than a huge element of the whisky itself. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again. I was more inebriated by the point I took the photo of the glass, so it is just a tad out of focus, to say the least.

Douglas Laing: Platinum XOP Ardbeg 1992 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 25 Year: 50.5% ABV)

Visual: Very clear light grain with green touches. Fast, thick streaks form from the spirit.

Nose: Charcoal. Medicinal. Soot. Cheesy yeastiness to mature cheddar. Light orange zest. Burnt marshmallow. Water adds white chocolate, kippers and vanilla.

Body: Strong alcohol. Oily. Almost evaporates on tongue. Waxy and medicinal. Slight traditional lemonade. Water adds mature cheese, fudge and a lime touch. More water adds custard, smoked fish and nut oils. Later vanilla, coconut and light golden syrup notes.

Finish: Butterscotch. Oily. Charring. Tart grapes. Salt. White pepper. Water adds mature cheddar, squeezed lime and light cherry. Walnut oils. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: Well fuck me, this is one heck of a dram. Now, neat it is intense, but slightly closed. There is massive charcoal, medicinal notes, massively oily and waxy. It is one that hits the throat and then almost evaporates away, just leaving charring and salt. There some hints of more to it though – a cheese yeastiness, slight sweetness, but they are only hints. Similarly traditional lemonade imagery floats over it, but never quite forms fully.

Now, when you add water, holy shit that is when you start to get real play from this! Mature full bodied cheese flavour now matched with oily nut flavours and feel that adds such depth to the once closed whisky.

The bourbon cask notes are now slowly coming out with the usual vanilla, fudge and coconut sweetness as light notes against the heavy oils – notes that rise up the more you add water into syrup and custard fuller sweet notes. However at no point does it forget its base, booming with charcoal and smoked kipper heaviness, just now with more behind that.

This is intense, complex, sweet with delicate notes somehow surviving the oily nut character and medicinal style. Now, this is not nine hundred pounds good to me, as I don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, but it is the best damn Ardbeg I have ever encountered, so for people who have that kind of money, then yeah I would say get it.

Background: So, before we go any further, I found out how much this cost. Nearly nine hundred fucking quid. Fuck me. Anyway… this was the third whisky of Independent Spirit‘s recent Uber whisky tasting. You may have wondered where the 2nd went. It was Glenfarclas 21, I had already done notes on that. Still a good dram. Anyway, this is cask strength, single cask, bottled in 2018, unchillfiltered, Ardbeg that is one of 251 bottles, so something very special to try. As is usual for these kind of events I was slightly distracted by the event, but still tried to do the best notes I could as who would know when I would get the chance to try whisky like this again – especially for this one.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Single Cask: No 2650 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 6 Year: 59.3% ABV)

Visual: Deep rich gold.

Nose: Cherries and black cherries. Rich red wine. Slight darker red wine notes as well. Shortbread. Red grapes. Water makes lightly tarry and oily.

Body: Creamy. Cherries. Sweet red wine. Water brings apricot, plums and light sulphur. Chewy feel. Fudge.

Finish: Black cherry. Creamy. A mix of rye and bourbon whisky notes. Apricot. Water adds plums, lightly grassy. Light charred notes and greenery.

Conclusion: It is odd, looking at these notes, I am using a lot of the same words that I used to describe the port pipes Chichibu whisky, but when you examine them holistically rather than point by point they are very different whiskies. For example. This leans heavier on the darker fruit, and less on the lighter fruit, which instantly creates a darker, heavier impression on the tongue and in the mind.

It is heavy on the dark red wine notes, sweet but with the harder charred oak notes below. Again most of the base spirit character is lost to the weight of the barrel ageing, but the greenery notes do come out with a lot of water added. It is a lot creamier than the other Chichibu I tried tonight, giving a nice, smooth mouthfeel.

This is a rewarding dark whisky, but does not really stand out from the other similarly sherry aged whiskies around and you can get them a lot cheaper than this. This is a very good whisky, but despite that it is not a stand out one. If you like sherry, then this does sherry ageing very obviously, utterly laden with dark fruit, but from that the base character is overwhelmed.

Glad to have tried it, but there are better examples of sherry you can buy for less.

Background:. One final Chichibu whisky of the tasting – this one a single cask – cask no 2650 to be exact, aged from 2010 to 2016, so, six years aged I guess, ish. This one is a travel exclusive, so I presume only available at certain airports. Again, a bloomin’ hard one to get hold of then. This was aged first in bourbon casks then finished in oloroso sherry casks. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: Cask Strength Port Pipes 2012 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 5 Year: 59 % ABV)

Visual: Deep ruddy red touched gold.

Nose: Red and black cherries. Liquorice. Plums. Raisins. Pencil shavings. Subtle custard. Cherry blossom. Water adds more pencil shavings and more liquorice.

Body: Sweet dessert wine. Cherries. Strawberries. Digestive biscuits. Water brings out oak and brown bread.

Finish: : Strawberries. Oak. Port. Blackberries and blueberries. Alcohol air. Raisins. Water makes lightly grassy. Sweet apples. Apricot. Molasses touch.

Conclusion: Oh this is so nice – an experience like utterly sweet dessert wine mixed in with wodges of sweet red fruit. It is not light, but similarly it is not a fiery one. While I will advise using water to find your right balance for the flavour, that is all your really need the water for as it is not harsh despite the stupendous abv.

While water helps find the sweet spot, your are getting a lot from the whisky from the very first moment. Huge red fruit from the port ageing – strawberries, cherries, lots of red wine, lots of dessert wine and lots of port. The greenery notes that I have come to, over the past hour or so, associate with the Chichibu spirit do come out, but you need a lot of water to do so and it is only a small backing behind the port influence. Is is the benefit and flaw or port ageing that it can punch out over nearly anything.

Now, with that tiny point to keep in mind, this is delightful. Full of sweet fruit, but not sickly – clean feeling but you can get the more greenery and rustic character out of it if you really try. It has the bright red fruit, and darker and heavier fruit notes below, hitting the high and low of that range. An amazing one to try and probably the standout of the five as long as the port dominance does not bother you.

Background:I am a sucker for whisky that is aged in port pipes, it seems to add so much to a whisky. Though it can be very dominant and override the base spirit some times, so a treat best enjoyed in moderation in my experience. If I took my notes correctly (again, alcohol was involved..) this is an exclusive bottling for the Mitsukoshi Isetan department stores in Japan, so I considered myself very lucky to get to try it. This was bottled 2017 so I am estimating it as a 5 year based on that. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichubu: IPA Cask Finish 2017 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.5% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold with slow thin streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Thick. Menthol liqueur. Peppermint. Greenery. Stewed apricots. Pine needles. Water adds more evident mint leaves. Guava.

Body: Apricot. Oily. Alcohol weight. Water adds passion-fruit and guava. More oils. Greenery. More water adds more fruit including orange and much more guava.

Finish: Menthol. Oily. Hop oils. Tarry notes. Pine needles. Passion fruit. Water adds orange jelly sweets.

Conclusion: First impressions on this was was pretty unimpressive. It was really thick, really oily on the aroma, which can be good points, but here it just felt muggy. The first sips were equally oily with a thick, burning character from the alcohol strength which felt rougher than the other, equally high strength Chichibu’s I had tried that night. I was beginning to think that between this and the Glenfiddich IPA cask that ageing whisky in ex beer casks, or at least IPA casks, just did not work.

Now, following the usual path I then added water and – oh wow, water really did change things in a big way. Slowly but surely the oily notes shift and oily fruit notes come out. First you get apricot, then guava, which combined with the hop oil character really sells the IPA imagery that this is sold upon, while still backing it with the whisky weight of character.

It results in a very different experience- fruity, but not in the standard whisky way of sharp hits of fruit sweets, rich vinous fruit, or subtle slivers of backing fruit in the spirit, instead coming in a creamier fruit fashion and with a range of east coast to New England fruity IPA style.

This is terrible neat, but with water it show how IPA ageing should work and is a fascinating dram.

Background: Next up in the Chichibu tastings we have this unusual bottling – the 2017 bottling that has been aged in an IPA cask. This was paired with and IPA from Uiltje which I saved until I have done the majority of my notes. Again unsure of the distilled date on this so not sure of the age of it. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: The Peated 2016 (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 4 Year: 54.5% ABV)

Visual:Clear gold. Thin slow streaks.

Nose: Smokey. Beef crisps. Barbecue sausage. Charcoal. Honey barbecue sauce. Water adds spare ribs with Thai spice sauce glaze.

Body: Honey. Grapes. Sweet and smooth. Honey smoked sauce. Water adds spare ribs and thai seven spice.

Finish: Honey soaked barbecue sauce. Glazed ribs. Water adds Thai seven spice and dry beef.

Conclusion: This is much sweeter than I imagined it would be – the peat does kick out heavily early on, creating the image of a real meaty, charcoal tasting whisky. So that is what you would expect, what follows is far from that though.

It is smokey but in a real barbecue sauce fashion – glazed and spicy. It feels really thick on the tongue, the barbecue characteristics giving it a huge weight. It is oily, smoked and meaty backed in a sticky and sweeter fashion than you would usually expect from such a high peat level.

A completely different experience for a peated whisky with much more gamy meat in the meaty elements it has, so the peat it has, despite the weight, is actually a backing element here. The sweetness is thick and meaty so it doesn’t get sickly, instead bonding everything together.

Wonderful stuff.

Background: Bottled 2016 – Distilled 2012, so I am estimating the four years age statement from that. This is peated to 55 ppm, roughly equivalent to Ardbeg is peat levels I think. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Ichiro: Chichibu: On The Way (2nd Release) (Japanese Single Malt Whisky: 55.5% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold with fast thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Light greenery. Light sulphur. Pencil shavings. Forests. Water adds twigs into the mix.

Body: Honey. Apples. Strong alcohol feel. Oak. Water adds golden syrup, pears and tinned tropical fruit. Peppery. Malt toffee. Apricot and apples.

Finish: Drying. Oak. Water makes peppery. More water adds white chocolate, light mint leaves, menthol and peppermint.

Conclusion: This seems to be a mix of two main whisky trends. The first is a very greenery led set of notes – menthol, forests, open air after the rain, and the like in imagery. Against that is the fruit apricot, apples and pears. With a few exceptions this leans very green in the imagery it brings.

Obviously at over 55% abv it is a bit potent and burning neat, but despite that it still shows the greenery very openly. Water is needed though to bring out the subtlety though – still in the fields to rural imagery though – peppery notes and such. The bourbon oak influence is more subtle – there are white chocolate notes but fairly dryly delivered, and touches of tinned tropical fruit. It results in a menthol fresh, peppery dry mix at the front, but backed by rewarding subtlety if you experiment with water. It reminds me of Johnnie Walker green, but with more fire to it.

So, rewarding, very evidently young, and very green and forest feeling whisky that , with water, rewards with just enough sweet notes to offset. A very good first impression for the Distillery.

Background: Bottled 2015 – not sure of the age statement for this one. It is a mix of two bourbon casks and a mizunara hogshead if I remember rightly. There was alcohol involved, please forgive me for my missing some notes. Due to this being from a tasting, with the usual distractions coming from cool info being given by the host, chatting, smaller measures, etc my notes will be a tad shorter than usual. However the chance to try and do notes on these five whiskies that would set me back silly money if I tried to buy them all individually meant that I gave it my best shot. This Chichubu tasting was done at Independent Spirit but the whisky was provided by James, a private collector who did the tasting itself. At twenty five quid it was ridiculously good value. Chichibu is a tiny distillery that started operating in 2008 and I think is the newest Japanese distillery still. Never tried their stuff, but had heard many good things about them before going in.

Port Askaig: 8 Year (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow with brackish green tinge. Fast thick streaks. Water makes very cloudy.

Nose: Medicinal. Reek of peat. Peppered beef slices. Peppercorn. Light salt. Water brings out more medicinal notes.

Body: Beef slices. Peat smoke. Overdone steaks. Salt. Slightly tarry. Vanilla. Golden syrup. Some alcohol weight and warmth. Water makes smoother. Adds vanilla fudge. Pears. More medicinal notes. Apricot. Light bread. Lime cordial.

Finish: Drying. Salt. Light vanilla. Tarry. Golden syrup. Apple pies. Water makes medicinal. Adds lime jelly and slight zestiness. Apricot.

Conclusion: This is a big ‘un. Yet water makes it oh so mellow. Ok, I am kind of lying my balls off there. It is not mellow, but there is a whole other subtle set of characteristics under the peat assault that only come out when you add water.

So, first of all let’s take a look at this without water. Whoa! This reeks, utterly reeks of peat. In a good way. It has huge intense smoke and smoked beef, mixed with peat, with medicinal notes in there as well. Without water a vanilla and golden syrup sweetness backs it up over time, but the rest of the intensity does not let up.

Now at this point it is not complex, but it does show the advantage of a younger spirit in keeping the peat intensity up. It is heaven for smoke fanatics, while utterly lacking in subtlety.

Then you add water.

It happens slowly – drop by watery drop. First vanilla fudge comes out, then soft lime notes, then finally sweet apricot creeps out from under the peat nest it is birthed in. What the heck even is this? Apart from delicious I mean.

Now it isn’t quite Lagavulin 16 level must have, but the range it runs with water – going from sheer assault, to still weighty but with a great range of fruit notes – well, that makes this a steal at the 40 quid ish price it goes for.

Both heavy duty Islay, and complex restrained Islay in one whisky. I advise grabbing a bottle and adding water to your preference. Very impressive.

Background: I had Port Askaig for the first time many a year ago at a whisky show. It was very nice, but I never did get around to grabbing a bottle of it for myself since. That mistake has now been rectified. Port Askig is not a distillery, but a bottling of one of the other existing Islay distilleries under the Port Askaig brand. So far quality has been very high. The most common guess of what distillery it is from is Caol Ila and Ardbeg. I have no idea. Anyway, I grabbed this from Independent Spirit and broke it open with some Karnivool to listen to – Sound Awake to be exact. Saw them as a warm up band once, and enjoyed them enough to grab the CD there and then. Pretty soothing music for background noise.

Cardhu: Gold Reserve (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Honeyed gold with thick streaks from the spirit.

Nose: Caramel. Thick. Stewed apple. Sugar dusting. Honey. Menthol touch. Cake sponge. Water brings out lemongrass.

Body: Apples. Honey. Pears. Light alcohol sheen. Cake sponge. Toffee. Water makes thinner and lightly grassy.

Finish: Honey and pears. Cinnamon. Alcohol sheen. Raisins. Water adds menthol and peppermint. Grassy. Light pear drops.

Conclusion: Huh, this is actual one of the rarest things I can encounter in drinking. A whisky where water did not improve it. That really is a rarity. In fact it really is fairly weak with water. Thankfully the base without water is pretty solid. A good thing or this would have been a right wash out of a whisky.

Neat it is fairly simple, but pretty joyous in what it does bring. It is honey struck layered over green fruit in the form of apples and pears. Feels wise it has a light alcohol sheen – not really a burn, more a hint of blended whisky style sheen. Now this is not a blended whisky, it is a single malt, so at the risk of sounding like a total whisky snob I can but attribute it to some young whisky having been used to make this no age statement whisky.

So anyway, to finish the notes I’ve gone and poured myself another measure – it is better this way – the original measure had been so thinned by the water that it had lost the bright flavours and become just a grassy, menthol touched thing. Not terrible, but kind of empty.

Now with a neat measure back in my hand it has a bunch of big flavours, a nicely thick feel – though with slightly young spirit style rough edges. The grassy and menthol notes still come out over time, but now just as backing notes.

Overall, better than my previous expedience with Cardhu – some simple, crowd pleasing notes, but rough edged. Not worth the RRP of 40 quid. At the significantly cheaper price I dropped on it – yeah , it is a simple fun whisky at that cost. Nowt special, terrible with water but an ok general drinking experience neat, with a few rough edges.

So, an ok fallback drinking whisky, but nowt special.

Background: I had tried Cardhu 12 year along while ago, and wasn’t really impressed with it – been looking for a chance to do notes on something from them recently, but was a tad nervous about investing a chunk of change into something that I may not enjoy. Thus, this no age statement which I think is one of their new core range, which was on sale cheap at Morrisons, seemed like a good chance to give them another try without breaking the bank. Being childish that I am, the fact the bottle says “The Cummings of Cardhu” in reference to its founder John Cumming, and the Cumming family who have run it since, did make me snigger. I will grow up one day. Put on a random bunch of Madness when drinking – nice light ska tunes, nowt too heavy (heavy monster sound, the nuttiest sound around..etc..etc.).

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