Tag Archive: Single Malt


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.

Kavalan: Solist: Port Cask Strength (Taiwanese Single Malt Whisky: 57.8% ABV)

Visual: Ruddy bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Mix of slow thin and fast thick streaks.

Nose: Treacle. Stewed fruit. Dried apricot. Light prunes. Caramel. Water adds toffee and light moss notes.

Body: Treacle. Very fiery. Water adds caramel. Port soaked raisins. Molasses. Very thick indeed. More water adds apple.

Finish: Fiery. Water is needed to get caramel. Dry spice – Thai 7 spice style. Raisins. Madeira. Still numbing. Treacle. Apples.

Conclusion: This is thick, heavy and very numbing. Even more numbing than even what you would expect from a heavy nearly 58% abv. It is treacle level thick and with an accompanying taste. Neat I had serious difficulty getting enough flavours to do notes – it was that numbing. I can only really speak of it properly as an experience with differing levels of water.

There, with water, you get a real heavy stewed fruit, treacle weighted and caramel thick whisky – it is almost molasses like in the thickness and intensity of flavour. It is one where I can see the appeal, while having to admit that it doesn’t overly appeal to me. A lot of water does make it more manageable – but at the same time it loses a lot of the character with it. In my time with it I couldn’t find the sweet spot where I could really appreciate it.

For an easy comparison to Scottish whisky, it reminds me or Mortlach and similar, but even more intense. It is strange – it has that range of things I like – tarry, heavy and thick – but it doesn’t quite mesh for me. Oddly, despite the high abv, when you add enough water you do find some of the interesting apple notes that I notices in the bourbon version. A little touch that makes me think that the spirit has a lot of promise, just doesn’t quite deliver here for me.

So, I can see why a lot of people at the tasting liked it – but a bit overly, well, everything, for me. And I never thought I would criticise a whisky for that. So, hope I have given enough info for you to make up your mind for yourself.

Background: Final whisky I did notes on at the “Mediocre” Independent Spirit tasting – there were two other whiskies I had already done notes on, and one new one – but by that point I think I was beyond my tasting best so I just enjoyed that one as it was. This is another cask strength monster – aged in port casks and one of only 185 bottles. By this point I was feelingly very spoiled. Due to having several whiskies, and the more social environment, my notes may not be up to my usual standards – apologies.

Kavalan: Solist: Ex Bourbon Cask Strength (Taiwan: Single Malt: 58.6% ABV)

Visual: Bright clear gold.

Viscosity: A mix of fast and slow thin streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Slightly muted. Slight sulphur. Light vanilla. Dry nuts. Water adds soft kiwi. More water adds apples, grappa and Calvados.

Body: Sweet toffee to golden syrup. Thick. Strong, stunning alcohol. Soft lime. Water makes more creamy. Kiwi and apples. As more water is added more apples comes out. Calvados. Quince rakia.

Finish: Numbing levels of alcohol. Tropical fruits and vanilla. Butterscotch. Drying. Oils. Water adds oily apples. More water adds cinder toffee and quince rakia.

Conclusion: This is not what I would have expected from a purely bourbon aged whisky. Neat it was hard to tell, frankly it was as you would expect from something at near 60% abv – very dry and very strong alcohol – despite that managing to show the vanilla notes so closely linked with bourbon ageing. It was ok, but neither surprising nor impressing me that much.

Both of these concerns were washed away with adding water. It soften it, giving it a creaminess which is nice, but again, not unexpected. So what was unexpected, and impressed me with it? Well, this has a real soft green fruit character to it – apples, touches of kiwi and such like. Early on it is subtly done, but as time and water polishes it, it seems to almost gain characteristics akin to Calvados ageing.

So, that was not what I expected at all from a bourbon aged whisky – though they are served up alongside the more traditional tinned tropical fruit bourbon notes. Even more time again altered it to quince rakia touched styling.

This starts simple, but takes you on a hell of a journey. Very much worth trying, though this goes for just a tad more for a bottle than I would drop on for something like this. Close run thing though. Very good, very distinct and unusual – a whisky showing both the strength of its base spirit and the bourbon ageing.

Background: Another whisky from Independent Spirit‘s so called “Mediocre” Whisky tasting. This one from the relatively new, but highly reputed Taiwanese distillery Kavalan. Not tried anything of theirs yet, but this – a cask strength ex bourbon cask – should be a hell of an introduction to their style. It is one of only 189 bottles released – so I was very lucky to get to try this one. As always, due to doing this in a social environment, with several whiskies my notes may be shorter than usual. Apologies.

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

Visual: Deep burnished gold (Well that is good, otherwise it would be false advertising in the name)

Viscosity: Quite fast, thick streaks.

Nose: Honey. Stewed apricot. Vanilla. Thick. Custard. Slight alcohol tingle, but generally smooth. Pencil shavings. Light menthol. Fudge. Water makes lighter – slightly more alcohol and minty.

Body: Smooth. Some alcohol. Slightly light. Custard. Golden syrup. Oak. Water makes dried and stewed apricot mix. Vanilla toffee. Enough water removes alcohol edges. White grapes.

Finish: Oak. Wet wood. Alcohol air. Slight malt drinks. Water adds slight apricot. Slight golden syrup. Chocolate toffee and or those chocolate eclair sweets. Slight spicy raisins and rim. Slight grapes.

Conclusion: Why do so few whiskies live up to their aromas? Yep, that’s always a good start for a set of notes, isn’t it? Anyway, I’ve had this in the bars a few times, but always at or neat the end of a session – so never a good time to really analyse it. So, coming at it now, as I approached its aroma I was filled with hope.

The aroma is thick and filled with promise – stewed fruits, lots of smooth, sweet flavours. Not unusual but with a very appealing weight to it.

The main body? Well it has more alcohol roughness to it – not badly, just a kind of generic blended whisky kind of rough edge which needs a fair chunk of water to get rid of. Water is also needed to bring back the stewed fruits that the aroma promised. Now, water generally does help whisky, so this is not a huge deal, but you never get the thickness and weight the aroma promised.

Time helps as well. Bringing out spicier, sherry cask influenced notes in the finish. In fact the finish (with water) is probably the best part of the whisky. Here you get a robustness and range which the main body distinctly lacks.

Not to say that this is bad, just very average – you get expected sweetness, expected oak, some of the expected sherry influenced, but with a tad rougher edged than ideal. Ok, but considering the usual huge rep of Macallan, a bit of a mediocre delivery.

So, ok, but no great shakes.

Background: Its been bugging me for a while that I have not done notes for this before. As a replacement for the Macallan 10 year this seemed to me to be the whisky that really was at the heart of the no age statement whisky debate. It was the most well known whisky to run that path and, despite having tried a few times, I had never really examined it. So, I grabbed from mini from Independent Spirit to give it a proper going over. I had just seen Mike Bird vs Matt Riddle at Chaos wrestling – an utterly amazing match so I was in good spirits.

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.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection: Sherry Cask (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Light bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Medium size and speed streaks.

Nose: Cream and strawberry. Soft alcohol air. Heather. Mild oak. Black cherry and dried raspberry bits. Dry honey. Water adds slight menthol and greenery. Sour black cherries.

Body: Smooth. Strawberry. Red grapes. Port. Slight black cherry. Warming. Red cherry. Mild oak. Light menthol. Water make smoother. Sour black cherry. Blueberry. Cake sponge. Dark fruit yogurt. Cream. Dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slight charring. Slight alcohol air. Water gives malt chocolate. Cherry pocked digestives. Cake sponge. Blue berry.

Conclusion: I’m a sucker for Bushmills – I always have been. The Bushmills 10 was a standby for me for many a year. This therefore has my love as it keeps that smooth, gentle Bushmills character that made the 10 so easy going. It has that lightly fresh feel, but here it matches it to lots and lots of red fruit character from the sherry ageing. Lovely jubbly.

So, as indicted, the base is still Bushmills. Still smooth and easy to drink. Still, with water, got some light menthol fresh character. Here however it is playing with full on Sherry character that you don’t see often in Irish whisky – the full spicy and fruity character without needing that heavier scotch whisky style to deliver it.

What results from this sherry and Irish whiskey combination is a light, smooth strawberry character early on that develops into red cherry quickly, then slowly develops onto black cherry blueberry and more along similar lines. More and more red and dark fruit are delivered alongside a nice, easy going creamy character. Delicious indeed.

There are some notes outside this area – first is the aforementioned menthol – and then for the backing a light, soft sponge cake to digestive biscuits that gives the softest grounding notes you will ever encounter – but they do the job without hurting the easy drink feel of the whisky.

Water isn’t really needed for this. It does remove the slight alcohol character that this has, which is nice, but not overly necessary considering how smooth it is – and it does round out some of the fruit notes, but in general I kind of prefer the slight extra intensity you get neat. Both are good though.

Now this doesn’t do anything outside of its main two concepts – matching red fruit with Bushmills – but for me that is enough. Easy drinking and flavoursome. The best combination of Sherry and Irish whiskey I have seen so far. An easygoing joy.

Background: Bit of a storied background, trying to get hold of this one. This is a travel exclusive, purely sherry cask aged Bushmills. I was glad to see this – Bushmills used to do some nice alternate cask ageing beers, but seemed to move away from them recently. So seeing them experimenting a bit more was good by me. Now if they can just bring back the 12 year Caribbean Rum cask finished Bushmills – That is still my all time favourite Bushmills and has not been seen for over a decade now. Anyway, I digress. I saw this when I was going on holiday last year and tried it at the duty free. Since it was nice I planned to grab it in the way back – however my flight was delayed so all the duty free shops that would have stocked it were shut by the time I was back in the UK. Not to be deterred I annoyed the shit out of all my friends and relatives going on holiday asking if they would pick it up for me and I’d pay them back. So – Thanks to my parents, who went on holiday and grabbed this for me! Yay. They nearly didn’t make it back with it though – they didn’t realise that you couldn’t bring it back in carry on, even if it was duty free, if you bought it on the way out. Still, they managed to get it into the hold through much effort and the whisky was saved. I have a great family. Anyway, drunk while listening to the Paranoia Agent soundtrack music I had only recently got back when Bushmills Caribbean Rum cask was last available. Not that I am pushing for that to be the next in this line or anything.

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.

Douglas Laing: Old Particular: Caol Ila: 20 Year (Scotland Islay Single Malt Whisky: 20 Years: 51.5% ABV)

Visual: Very pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Medicinal. Charcoal. Charred oak. Salt. Quite clean. Moss. Water is similar but smoother.

Body: Clean vanilla and caramel. Tinned tropical fruit. Tingling hint of alcohol. Water adds light custard. Cooked pork meaty notes. Oily and quite viscous. Light lemon.

Finish: Medicinal. Thick sheen. Oily. Slight tar. Mostly clean. Slight teacakes. Water doesn’t completely remove alcohol tingle.

Conclusion: This is a very clean Caol Ila. Very viscous as well in how it delivers the medicinal notes compared to the usual rather dry medicinal character of a lot of these. It really has a thickness to it, giving a thick sheen on your tongue rather than only evaporating to fill the mouth. It makes it a chewable medicinal style, with some, but not a vast amount of the Islay peat smoke coming in with it.

Flavour wise, while peat light, it lands smack solidly in the middle of what you would expect of a Caol Ila. Smooth vanilla and tropical fruit styling that I presume come from time spent in a bourbon cask – warming, with slight lemon notes and the expected salt character – it is not as unusual in flavour as it is in texture, but everything is done very smoothly indeed. So, the expected range, just polished beyond what you normally see.

It is not one that will convert people who weren’t fans of Caol Ila to begin with – but with the smoother character you find the vanilla and toffee being more present and offsetting the more medicinal notes – so it may tip someone on the fence over into liking it. Nothing is too hash, even the alcohol tingle feels more warming than burning – obviously its old age being put to good use. As long as you are not put off by Islay, then this is a smooth take on that, especially with water.

I have made this comparison before with other whiskies, but this does have small calls to Kiln Embers with its smoothness and salted lemon characteristics. This however is far more distinctively Islay and wears it more openly. A classic of Caol Ila, one that doesn’t break the style, but does it very well indeed.

Background: This is the final of the five whiskies had at Independent Spirit‘s latest Uber whisky night. This is an aged independent bottling of Caol Ila. I’m a big fan of all of Islay, and Caol Ila is definitely in the top 50% of them. Any more detailed than that is hard to call with the quality of the area. This should be an interesting one- while not the heaviest peated Islay, Caol Ila still has some character of it, and peat tends to vanish quickly with age. Should be fun. This is one of 316 bottlings for this release. 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.

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.

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