Tag Archive: Single Malt


Laphroaig: 10 Original Cask Strength – Batch 12 (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 60.1% ABV)

Visual: Burnished reddened gold. Slow puckering comes from the spirit along with a few faster, thick streaks.

Nose: Camomile. Germolene (I think). Smoke. Peppery. Peat. Meat broth. Medicinal spirit. Orange zest. Charring. Some alcohol tingly. Slightly oily. Water makes clearer, and cleaner medicinal style. Dry soot. More orange zest.

Body: Warming initially, alcohol feel builds up quickly. Dried apricot. Medicinal and slightly dry. Beefy. Lots of peat. Slight malt chocolate. Vanilla and vanilla toffee. Water adds honey and makes smoother. Beef broth. Orange notes. Peach.

Finish: Warming and tingling. Beef slices. Malt chocolate. Slight lime air. Numbing alcohol after a while. Cheese puff crisps. Slight caramel. Slight orange crème. Water adds cleaner orange notes and lime.

Conclusion: The first time I popped this open it was fucking intense. Possibly too intense, but still such an experience. Here, with a few weeks open under its belt, we get a much more balanced look. As always, time to air is your friend with whisky.

Neat it is still intense, though surprisingly smooth on first sip considering the abv – though the alcohol come in quickly after. It is not as numbing as you would expect but it is still numbing.

Neat it gives in exchange for the abv an even more medicinal style dram than the standard Laphroaig – not just in the dry spirit character, but even a kind of medicinal cream to medicinal bandages style aroma that I more associate with my small experience of Port Ellen.

Thee peat experience is also there, smokey and big. It is still not Ardbeg level peaty but still intense. The sweeter notes of the spirit come out more chocolatey with the bigger body, though still with vanilla backing. Similar the bigger body brings even more of the subtle citrus notes under that. Everything is bigger, and if you are fine with the alcohol weight it is 100% worth it.

Water smooths it out a lot – it is still evidently medicinal and peaty, but now with lots more sweetness. It is actually shockingly smooth all things considered and with many more fruity notes underneath including stuff I would not normally associate with Laphroaig like the subtle peach notes backing it.

Any way you take it, this is pure Laphroaig , from its most uncompromising to its most complex. I absolutely love it. Just make sure you give it some time to air before you make up your mind as first impressions are brutal!

Background: Ohh my, saw this at Independent Spirit and I wanted it instantly. Laphroaig 10 was my entry point to heavy duty Islay whisky and I still love it. Found out one of my friends in the Netherlands had actually tried this already, the lucky lucky person! Anyway, one of my mates commented that this tasted like Orange Marmite, if such a thing could exist, so that may have influenced my thoughts while tasting. I went with the live Undertale album for listening while drinking, light happy and chill, stuff I need at the mo.

Waterford: Single Farm Origin: Ballymorgan 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whisky: 50% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold. A very varied mix of streaks come from the spirit – from slow puckering, fast sheet like chunks and thin streaks.

Nose: Lively. Alcohol is noticeable. Strawberry. Tart rhubarb. Pear drops. Nail polish. Butterscotch and vanilla toffee. Heather. Honeycomb. Water smooths to tart white grapes.

Body: Tingling. A young spirit feel. Pears. Peppery touch. Gooseberry. Dry rhubarb. Lightly waxy. Strawberry crème. Water adds vanilla custard. Sweet green grapes. Toffee.

Finish: Peppery. Malt chocolate to choc orange. Sweeter rhubarb. Strawberry crème. Water adds chocolate toffee and choc lime.

Conclusion: Damn I love this. Ok, maybe I should have saved that for the end, as I have just given everything away but… damn I love this!

So, to balance out that wild enthusiasm (this is 2020 you know, we can’t be having any enthusiasm or happiness) let’s get the bad points out of the way first. Neat this feels slightly young in a few elements of its character. Now it doesn’t have an age statement, and it it is fairly smooth (I would presume from Irish triple distilling practices, but their website seems to indicate they do a double distillation, so what do I know), but the character does have a few elements that would make me think this is pretty young. It is partly from a few rough edges, evident if not too harsh alcohol, considering the 50% abv – but more than that it has a very bright flavour profile which I associate with young whisky. So, it doesn’t have the refined character you may expect for the cost.

Now, water does smooth a lot of this out, but also changes the character massively as we are about to examine.

Neat it has that bright, youthful spirit character. It is very lively and very fruity – coming out as pear drops, rhubarb, gooseberry and the like over a quite clean base, with slight peppery notes. It is slightly rough, but generally all about those bright notes. Even with those rough edges it is utterly wonderful to explore and surprisingly easy to drink considering the abv.

Water changes it to a still interesting, but completely different style. Now there are loads of vanilla, toffee and some malt chocolate notes at the base. Far smoother, and sweeter, with far less fruit – though there is still a little there as high notes to contrast.

Neat is more exciting, and with far more to examine, but is rougher. Water is smoother and has a new complexity, but loses a lot of what really makes the neat whisky stand out. Both are worthy experiences and with those two options this stands out as a whisky with a great range of experiences – If this is what single terrior does then I am all for it. An absolute gem that I can recommend without hesitation.

Background: Now this caught my eye. I was lacking a bottle of Irish Whiskey in the cupboard, and I always try to keep one to hand, then this range popped up. A bunch of different whiskeys from Waterford, all concentration on the concept of “terrior ” so all the barley is from a single farm, in this case Ballymorgan.

Now I knew nothing about this difference in farms, so grabbed one pretty much at random, but the concept intrigued me. There is even a specific terrior code on the back you can enter on their website to find out more about the area, which is a nice touch. So, time to find out if it makes a difference. Anyway, this was grabbed from Independent Spirit and drunk while listening to Dan Le Sac’s These People Are Idiots – lovely chilled beats to drink to – I recommend checking it out.

Cooper’s Choice: Glen Esk: 1984: Limburg Whisky Fair (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 31 Year: 49.5% ABV)

Visual: Pale, slight yellow gold colour. Slow thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Tingling alcohol. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Toffee. Soft lime sorbet. Oak. Water makes cleaner. Lightly grassy. Still notable alcohol.

Body: Strong alcohol. Fatty butter. Vanilla. Peppery. Toffee. Water adds light strawberry. Still an alcohol presence. Pear drops. Polish air.

Finish: Fatty butter. Peppery. Oak. Alcohol tingle. Water adds tinned tropical fruit. A polish air. Flour dusted baps. Soft lemon sorbet.

Conclusion: This is very, well, neutral. At 49.5% abv I was expecting a bit of alcohol, so the alcohol weight is not a problem, but with 30 years in the oak I have to admit I was expecting it to be smoothed just a bit, and made into something more complex than what we have here.

It shows the weight mainly through alcohol and a fatty buttery feel – the cask strength and non chill filtered character means that there is a lot or raw, oily, fatty character there, but unfortunately it seems not much else.

It is a peppery, vanilla and toffee thing at its core. Some of which is expected character from the bourbon ageing, but, again, considering the time in the wood this has had I would expect more to it than that. The raw oak character is there fairly heavily, stomping into the spirit.

Overall it is, adequate I guess, water never really removed the rough character, though it does give more lemon and lime sorbet character over time. The peak in interesting and unusual notes is a strawberry touch that comes out from time to time, but 90% of the time it is generic vanilla, peppery and oak. It is not actively bad, it is just average, and for the cost, age and available abv, it needs and deserves more.

If this sums up the Glen Esk/Hillside experience then I can see why they went under.

Background: So, every now and then I can afford to get one of the dead distilleries I have not tried before. So, this is another one – Glen Esk, a distillery also called Hillside sometimes – that has been closed since 1985. I went with this one as it seemed fairly reasonably priced for a dead distillery, especially considering the age and cask strength, non chill filtered as well which is nice. Also as a bourbon cask aged one, I figured it would show more of the distilleries base character. It was grabbed from The Whisky Exchange a while back, and saved for a special occasion. Then lockdown hit and I though … fuck it. So here we are. This is one of 240 bottles, bottled for the Limburg Whisky Fair – which I know nothing about. Put on IDLES new album while drinking – Ultra Mono. I prefer their second album so far, but still a good album.

Ardbeg: Blaaack: Committee 20th Anniversary (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep dark gold colour with fast, thick streaks coming from the spirit.

Nose: Smoke. Wet wood. Crushed red grapes. Salt. Black and red liquorice. Medicinal touch. Slight green grapes. Pencil shavings. Salty rocks. Slight charring. Brown sugar. Water adds oily peat notes and a touch of tar.

Body: Blueberry. Salt. Wet rocks. Warming alcohol. Cake sponge. Charring. Earthy wine character. Water adds caramel. Soot. Fig rolls. More blueberry. Some subtle cherries.

Finish: Smoke. Soot. Bitter chocolate dust. Plums. Earthy. Fig rolls. Water adds dust balls. Blueberry. Charring. More bitter chocolate and a medicinal touch.

Conclusion: Ok, I’m a known Ardbeg fan, and with that taken as fact, this is still, in fact, something special.

For one it is a good quality Ardbeg – peaty, sooty, heavy, lightly medicinal and slightly dry. The Pinot Noir ageing hasn’t overwhelmed or replaced any of the distinctive Ardbeg qualities. The alcohol is present but never intrusive, even taken without water.

Neat it has an interesting look at the Pinot Noir influence. There are some red grape notes, but it has a kind of earthy wine character that reminds me of the European takes rather than the fruitier NZ Pinot Noir that they used for ageing. It adds a fruity but heavy note to the dram.

Water brings out a completely different interpretation of the wine notes. It is sweeter, with blue fruit, figs and most notably blueberry. It is subtle in how it works – the front is all Ardbeg but it has these dark fruit rounding notes that just take it to another level.

Unlike some of the committee releases – one that I still adore – this really plays to traditional Ardbeg strengths and just enhances it. A bit deeper, a bit more rounded, but not such a surprise as , say, Drum was.

If you know Ardbeg, it is that, but earthier, sweeter and slightly smoother. Utterly amazing. I could talk more, but I would probably just end up repeating myself. Flaws? Well it isn’t as good as the XOP Ardbeg 1992, but what is? And this isn’t stupid money to buy.

Are you an Ardbeg fan? If you see it, try it if you can.

Background: Another year, another Committee release, and Ardbeg have gone with something very interesting for their 20th anniversary. Pinot Noir aged Ardbeg. Now they don’t say Pinot Noir finished, so I presume at least some of the whisky is completely aged in Pinor Noir casks, but I could be wrong. Also I didn’t managed to try the cask strength version to compare like I did with Ardbeg Drum a while back. A pity, would have been cool to compare. Anyway, I love Ardbeg – Pinot Noir is one of the few wines I can recognise easily, so grabbing this from Independent Spirit was a certainty for me. Of note, the bottle is as black as its name – you have to hold it up to direct light and look carefully to be able to tell how much whisky you have left in there. A minor annoyance. Went with heavy music to back this – the hardcore punk of Gallows: Orchestra of Wolves.

Signatory Vintage: Strathmill 1996: 21 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Cask Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.3% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold with very slow, medium thickness puckering coming from the spirit.

Nose: Heather. Honey. Intense. Pine cones. Menthol jelly. Alcohol feel, but nowhere near its abv. Peppermint. Vanilla. Crushed dry rocks. Water adds more heather to it.

Body: Warming. Honey. Custard. Crushed rocks. Alcohol gets very present if held. Apricot and fruit syrup. Golden syrup. Water adds apple notes.

Finish: Clean meed sheen. Menthol. Some greenery. Golden syrup. Warming. Water adds thick pear notes. Apple pie. Malt toffee and malt chocolate. More more honey and mead as you add more water. Then fatty butter, dry oak and white chocolate.

Conclusion: Ok this somehow balances a nearly 60% abv spirit with over 20 years of soothing and it results in quite the sweet beast.

The alcohol is definitely there, but never burning – even if held on the tongue it just becomes very, very present. Instead the high alcohol shows itself as an uber thick, chewy, syrupy feeling dram.

It is very sweet, honeyed at its best into golden syrup at its heaviest with smoother custard notes in-between. There is syrupy apricot notes dropped in, and even the menthol notes have a jellied feel to them. I’m loving it. In fact I’m loving it so much that I am kind of nervous about adding water – but I need to see what happens for the notes. Right now it is just on the edge of being too much alcohol and sweetness but doesn’t quiet fall over. I love it.

Sooo, water. I put in a reasonable amount and it is still thick as heck but now with pear and apple sweetness added in for some more complexity. It is even better balanced and with better range. Score! Such a burst of big sunshine fruit.

You can pretty much batter it with water and it still works. Fatty and buttery notes comes out and it becomes a tad more easy going but still a heck of a whisky.

So, my first meeting with this distillery and I love it. Big, just about smooth enough, chewy and lots of flavours booming in a sweeter style. Oh yeah.

Background: A while back I made the list of living Scottish malt distilleries I had yet to try. This is the last of that list. Now a bunch of new distilleries have popped up since, not sure which have actually turned out whisky yet, or generally available whisky anyway, know at least one that has done a super tiny 3 year release. Still, BOOM LAST ONE! Now to make the new list. Also looking longingly at the dead distilleries I will most likely never try as they charge a grand a bottle. This was available as part of The Whisky Exchange’s “The Perfect Dram” 3cl bottlings of existing whisky – gave a me a good way of trying this older dram without dropping too much money, even if it is expensive an a per cl basis. This was from cask 2098, if that means anything to you. Went with X-Ray Specs: Germ Free Generation again as music, really giving that a play a lot at the mo. Looked this distillery up in one of Michael Jackson’s whisky books after drinking. He lists it as “The whisky world’s answer to orange muscat. With dessert” which makes a lot of sense to me after this one.

Gordon & MacPhail: Discovery Range: Tormore 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 13 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale apple juice colour. Very slow puckering into medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Barley biscuits. Lightly metallic. Vanilla. Pencil shavings. Apples and pears. Slight nail varnish. Sugar dusting. Rock dust. Water makes softer, with more green fruit and some pastry notes. Methanol touch.

Body: Vanilla fudge. Metallic alcohol touch. Pear note. Woody. Black peppery. Apple jam. Water makes softer. Custard. Pineapples. More green fruit.

Finish: Oak. Light charring and black pepper. Metallic. Strawberry cream touch. Notable alcohol. Malt chocolate. Fudge. Water adds melted chocolate toffee and menthol.

Conclusion: The first time I tried this, on first opening the bottle, I was not impressed. Slightly alcoholic, rough and not much flavour was the impression I got. It really felt like one to relegate to bulking up a blended whisky kind of malt.

So, now I have given it a few days to air, which tends to help, and there have been some changes going on here. Now, let’s be harsh first, cos the whisky sure is some times (Ba-dum-tch)

This is weirdly metallic with notable alcohol expressed – especially in the air of the finish. There is also a kind of nail varnish touch, so lots of odd off elements are expressed throughout.

So, yeah, still lots of issues with this. Water does help mellow the bad points, but they are still there – especially if you add too much water and go past the sweet spot where the rough notes come back with a vengeance. There is definitely a tipping point here when it comes to water.

However now, with a bit of time to air, there is some flavour to be found in there. Now you have soft apples, pears and general green fruit over a sweet toffee and custard base. Just a touch of water gives it a good grip and gets rid of the worst of the issues.

So, it is not a total write off now but, damn, I can’t recommend this. I can have a dram and not complain now I already have a bottle – but it has too many rough edges and too little in return for me to recommend getting a bottle to anyone else.

Not a good first impression for the distillery.

Background: This is one of the few, still running, single malt distilleries in Scotland that I have yet to try. So I grabbed a bottle. Went with Gordon & MacPhail as they have been good to me with their independent bottlings. This has been aged solely in bourbon casks so should be a quite clean expression of the spirit’s nature. This was bought from The Whisky Exchange, and drunk to the background of my mates playing Dungeons and Dragons over Skype as part of a lockdown catch up.

Ardbeg: An Oa (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 46.6% ABV)

Visual: Just slightly pale gold. A mix of slow and fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Brine. Fresh dough. Salt. Subtle white grapes. Wet rocks. Water adds peat, moss and crushed sunflower seeds.

Body: Medicinal. Sherry trifle. Salt. Solid peat centre. Fudge. Leather. Strawberry. Water adds muggy smoke and red grapes.

Finish: Ash, Peat smoke. Dry. Slight malt chocolate. Tobacco. Strawberry chocolate. Smoked beef. Slight grapes. Water adds more alcohol tingle. Trifle. Dry toffee. Toasted teacakes. White chocolate. Vanilla.

Conclusion: As always with full sized whisky bottles, I’ve had a few drams out of this already to give it time to open up and air before doing the proper tasting notes. Again, this extra time to air has definitely paid dividends.

It is mildly, and I must emphasise very mildly, restrained for an Ardbeg. Yep, what we have here is a medicinal, salty, peaty and briny beast, but just slightly mellowed from the standard 10 year. Don’t worry, this isn’t Ardbeg lemonade edition. It is still a beast, just a restrained beast. A restrained beast that can still be let loose at any time.

The restraint comes from a gentle toffee, fudge and trifle sweetness. While subtle in its neat form, this becomes very noticeable with water, even bringing out white chocolate and subtle grape notes into the mix. So, yep, another one where a touch of water really helps the whisky shine – but the bigger, booming and medicinal dram it is neat is no slouch either.

It is meaty, always smokey – from ash to smoked meat with nods to growling peat bogs when neat. However amongst the Ardbeg range it does feel like the approachable Ardbeg. Again, don’t worry it is still Ardbeg, it still fights.

The first few drams I had of this were only good. Now, with time to air, it is excellent. Lots of Ardbeg weight and salt, medicinal and peat but with more sweetness. Not Ardbeg Drum level sweet, just a more subtle, softer sweetness that really adds behind the Ardbeg punch.

At the price point this is just amazing. A must have for Islay fans.

Background: I saw this while in the duty free area of the airport in India. They were trying to convince me it was a travel exclusive. It is not. I grabbed this bottle from The Whisky Exchange. So there. This is a new(ish) addition to Ardbeg’s main line up. A no age statement whisky that has been aged in new charred oak, PX casks and first fill bourbon casks. Sounds very nice, and is decent priced so I grabbed a bottle. It also helps thats since its release it has won many an award – three of which are listed on the box – at the 2019 International Whisky Competition it got best Scottish Single Malt NAS, Best Isaly Single malt, and the distillery getting distillery of the year. Not bad, hope it lives up to its reputation. Went with Bad Religion: Age Of Unreason for music to listen to while drinking. Finally grabbed it as I had tickets to go see them live soon. Sooo, anyway, that isn’t happening now. Ah well.

Cu Bocan: Creation 1 – Imperial Stout and Moscatel Edition (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light gold. Thin slow streaks come from the spirit for the most part, with a few faster streaks standing out.

Nose: Salty. Honey. Peat smoke, Brown bread. Milky coffee. Vanilla. Water adds fudge and brandy cream.

Body: Warming. Honey. Peat smoke. Beef slices. Milky chocolate liqueur. Red grapes. Chocolate coated nuts. Brown bread. Water adds sweet red wine. Rum and raisins. Vanilla fudge. Marshmallow. White grapes. Sherry trifle.

Finish: Honeycomb. Beef slices. Slightly numbing alcohol. Fudge. Water adds glacier cherries in brandy. Milky hot chocolate. Marshmallow. Nutella.

Conclusion: Ok, I am very taken with this. Especially when you try it with water. Neat it has just a touch of alcohol fire, a touch that is numbed by water and turns it into something wonderfully chewy, But I get ahead of myself. Again.

Anyway, on the nose it is a mix of sweet highland notes, peat smoke and a hint of the imperial stout influence with a milky coffee touch. It is a nice, smooth mix with that wisp of smoke to entice you in for something a bit more daring. Oddly, here there is also a salty touch I would not expect from a Highland, calling more to the Islands – though that note does disappear with water.

The body starts to open up that barrel ageing influence, especially with water. It works the same sweet but peat touched base with lots of honey and vanilla fudge notes meets smoke – however the barrel rises it to sweet red grapes and dessert wine, and sinks it down into chocolate liqueur. Again water really brings these two poles out. Instead of that harsh touch it has neat, it becomes a smokey, chocolate liqueur dusted sherry trifle thing with water.

It needed the water to smooth and ease out the fire, but now it is relaxing, rewarding and complex. There is a bready, kind of netella covered brown toast middle that is a wonderful balance of sweet and savoury, that then leads out into a similarly mixed sweet, spice, smoked and grounded finish.

Uses peat without feeling the need to aim for Islay. Uses barrel ageing while still showing impressive work from the base spirit. Smooth but chewy. Very much recommended.

Background: So, Cu Bocan is a decent wee dram, a lightly peated take on Tomatin and now they are getting a bit wild with this! This is has been aged in imperial stout casks from Black Isle Brewery and Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal wine casks. I know only a few of the words to do with wine, but all of the ones to do with imperial stout and that had me pretty excited here. This was another one grabbed from Independent Spirit. Had no specific music on during drinking this, just shoved my tunes on random and waited to see what came up.

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.

Bushmills: Steamship Collection Rum Cask (Ireland Single Malt Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Pale bronzed gold. Lots of slow, middling thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Evident rum. Pencil shavings. Light sulphur. Oak. Water adds more pencil shavings. Strawberries.

Body: Vanilla and fudge. Noticeable alcohol. Spicy. Tinned tropical fruit. Thai spice. Cherries. Spicy red wine and bitter red wine. Strawberry. Water adds custard. Spicy rum. Liquorice touch.

Finish: Rum. Red cherries. Peppery. Tinned tropical fruit. Oak. Alcohol sheen. Treacle touch. Black licorice touch. Water adds more treacle. Fudge. Tannins.

Conclusion: Ok, first up, and to get this off my chest … This isn’t as good as the classic 12 Year Caribbean Rum Cask finished Bushmills that was a travel exclusive something like 15 years ago. That was one of my earliest favourite whiskeys so I have very strong opinions on this. Now, the fact that it was one of my early favourites may mean I am embellishing it in my mind. However a few elements of this new release, combined with the lack of age statement makes me think this is fairly young whisky. It has a slight rough alcohol edge neat, which is unusual for a quality Irish release, and so it definitely needs water to open it up. Considering this is over twice the price of that age statement declared 12 year release I feel it fair to be a tad irritated by this not living up to some very basic elements.

Now, while I am putting it through the screws it is still fairly decent, just overpriced for what it is. Anyway, let’s look at what flavour qualities it has. Well, it is quite spicy, and, as you may expect, it has a very evident rum character. It mixes that rum style with similar but different bitter and spicy red wine characteristics over time. There are some more gentle and sweeter vanilla and fudge notes, but generally the rum has free rein. Again, to go back to comparing to the 12 year rum finish, that was mainly aged in bourbon casks which gave it lots of time to smooth out and gain a good base to work from, which the well balanced use of rum added to, giving subtlety and complexity – while this feels much more one note and just slightly rough around the edges.

It may feel that I am being unfair comparing the two – but it does emphasise that, nice as this is, it feels like a real price gouge for lesser quality compared to what they used to turn out – even taking inflation and such into account. The original wasn’t that much more than a Bushmills 10, this is more expensive than Bushmills 16 is now.

Anyway it has moderate thickness but it is still reasonably easy to drink – though more weighty and harsher than most Irish whiskey. A lot of that weight is used to express the rum flavour, very spicy and well expressed but does overpower the more subtle sweetness and tinned tropical fruit notes.

Enjoyable, good rum character, but very overpriced for what it delivers. A pity that this didn’t use a bit of extra time to smooth and balance it into what it could have been.

Background: As I mentioned in my main notes, The 12 Year Caribbean Rum Finish Bushmills was one of my first favourite whiskeys. Thus when I heard about the steamship collection doing different aged Bushmills again, after years without, I was hoping for a rum release. Then when it was released, I spent ages searching for it in airports, but never finding this travel exclusive release. I finally found it at Master Of Malt when it finally got released from travel exclusivity. Woo. Master Of Malt have gone downhill a bit recently, but since they were the only place I could find it, that was where I grabbed it from. Rather than just finished in rum casks, this has been entirely aged in first fill Caribbean rum casks. Not much else to add, went with Miracle Of Sound – Level 10 for background music – his collection of his 2019 tunes Always good. Oh, and happy new year everyone – enjoy your drink!

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