Tag Archive: Whisky


Waterford: Hook Head 1.1 (Irish Single Malt Whiskey: 50% ABV)

Visual: Slightly darkened grain to gold spirit with medium speed and thickness streaks coming from it.

Nose: Oily, slightly nutty. Clay. Lime touch. Peppery. Lightly earthy – turmeric. Water adds light grassy and menthol notes.

Body: Smooth. Honey. Oily nuttiness. Earthy – turmeric. Light lime touch. Light apricot. Moderate thickness body. Water makes even smoother, a more oily nut character. Touch of strawberry.

Finish: Grit air. Light smoke wisp. Peppery. Dry white wine. Water makes smoother oily character and adds a peach air.

Conclusion: As only the second Waterford whiskey I have had, it fell to this to really show how much difference a single farm origin, a terroir as they say, can have on a whiskey. I already knew that I very much enjoyed Waterford whiskey from my first encounter with it – it was so high quality, especially considering how youthful it is – but I had yet to work out if it could live up to its base conceit of showing how much difference an environment could make to a whiskey.

Anyway, short answer to that. Yes. Yes it does.

It has similarities to the Ballymorgan 1.1 which I first tried – For one it is still far smoother than a 50% abv 3-4 year old whiskey has any right to be. It also still shows some nice fruity bright elements, though admittedly the fruit is more muted here so expresses itself differently.

So, with the similarities out of the way, how is it different? How does this show the influence of the barley? Well it is pretty darn striking. It is more oily, with a savoury oily nuttiness, and in general it has a more grounded, less bright character. There is a light earthy, peppery character than came across in a way I can’t help but think of as “clay” like after I read up on the soil where the barley was grown. Darn my easily influenced mind.

On a personal level I prefer the brighter character of Ballymorgan but this is very high quality with such a different style to play with, even a wisp of non peat related smoke there. So lovely to examine.

Waterford again proves itself as one the THE distilleries to watch at the moment.

Background: Been meaning to do notes on this for a while. I had my first Waterford a while back, and grabbed this a few months back as well. Waterford’s raison d’etre is that each release is made with barley from a single named farm, to explore the terroir of whiskey. Awesome idea and awesome whisky – the quality is so high, especially considering the age is no more than 4 years odd for each release. Initially each bottling was aged, etc the same way to keep them as similar in production as possible, but now each is aged and blended to best show off the influence of the barley. If you go to the website using the code on the bottle you can get the full detail on exactly how it was aged and mixed and details on the farm – up to an including the sounds of the farms in some cases. Anyway, I settled on this as my second bottle of Waterford as it had won ISW Gold, which seems a good start. I finally got around to doing notes on this after Independent Spirit did a horizontal tasting of six of their whiskies – and trust me, it gave me a new appreciation of exactly how different each bottle could be – it helped that several members o the Waterford team where there to answer many many questions. So, with new energy from that I finally sat down and did these notes.

Glenfiddich: Orchard Experiment (Experimental Series 5) (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Slow thick puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Apples. Viscous. Cider. Peppery. Vanilla. Honey. Tinned tropical fruit syrup. Water adds menthol and peppermint and some oak.

Body: Apricot syrup. Apple brandy. Oily – a nutty oils style. Alcohol tingle. Oak. Slight drying tannins. Water makes smoother mouthfeel, but still an alcohol tingle. Vanilla custard and toffee comes out along with apples.

Finish: Nutty. Peppery. Tannins. Water adds nettles, oily apple and oily nuts.

Conclusion: Back when I first started drinking whiskey, I was not a fan of Glenfiddich – however I will admit it has massively grown on me over the years. It is a subtle thing with green fruit notes over a restrained spirit and gains well from time in the oak. Something that my more brash whisky enjoying youth did not experience. However, now with a few years in my life I find this, an apple spirit led and finished whisky – that sounds like something that would enhance a green fruit led subtle whisky, right?

So… does it?

Kind of. I feel that either they used comparatively young spirit for this, or the cask finish really layered a rougher spirit touch to the character as this is nowhere near as smooth or polished as the similarly priced and sometime cheaper Glenfiddich 12.

So, if you haven’t guessed yet, this has a fairly rough spirity note- the texture get smoother with water but it still keeps a quite tingly, slightly rough character despite that,

So what does it do right? Lots of apple and apple brandy notes, done in a far less subtle manner than the traditional green fruit of the more standard Glenfiddich but I really can’t claim it doesn’t deliver exactly what is promised on the tin.

However due to that strong influence from the finish a lot of the more subtle green fruit notes are lost, you don’t really get the base Glenfiddich spirit realised much here – instead it feels like the apple brandy influence is layered over a more standard, peppery,tannins touched and nut oils led whisky base. Not bad, but it means that the barrel finish feels less a compliment to Glenfiddich spirit that as a completely separate thing.

Background: So, a whisky finished in Somerset Pomona (A mix of apple juice and cider brandy) Casks. That caught my eye. So far I have had good experiences with the rare apple spirit aged whisky – including an excellent Calvados Highland Park bottling which was one of my earlier set of notes on this site. Anyway, yes, I saw this an Sainsbury‘s and decided to give it a go. With the heat wave recently, I drank this quite late at night when it was faintly cooler – darn the evil day star, Music wise I went with Beast In Black: Dark Connection – My mate Andy recommended them to me (thanks mate) and they are a very over the top, oft sci-fi referencing metal band and a lot of fun so far).

Lochlea: First Release (Scottish Lowland Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellow gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Thick, stewed fruit. Toffee apple to apple crumble. Plums. Pencil shavings. Sherry trifle. Custard slices. Water adds green grapes, chocolate dust and crushed walnuts.

Body: Thick. Booming oak. Vanilla. Fudge. Raisins. Tannins. Water makes very smooth with a slightly nutty oiliness. Fruitcake. Tinned tropical fruit.

Finish: Light charring. Light bitter chocolate. Peppery. Dry and bitter red wine. Water adds fruitcake and glacier cherries. Milk chocolate, a touch of white chocolate and a nutty character. Some tinned topical fruit.

Conclusion: Ok, I know this must be fairly young spirit – the distillery hasn’t been around that long, only being licensed in 2018, and this was the first release, as the name indicates. Despite knowing all that this has some nice polish to it for its age.

Neat it is slightly closed in the main body, but utterly booming in the aroma, with very little harshness despite its youth and a slightly higher abv that the default.

I am guessing the PX barrel ageing may be doing some of the heavy lifting here, especially in the aroma, but when you hit the body there is a surprising amount of weight from the bourbon as well. There are plenty of vanilla and tinned tropical fruit notes, especially if you use a touch of water to open it up.

However, as mentioned before,the PX brings a lot to the game here – Lots of stewed fruit notes as the thicker aroma of a young whisky meets the dark fruit from the barrel, and yet is smooth enough to make an enjoyable and viscous peak.

Water really helps the slightly closed body start to match that joy of the aroma though. It brings a savoury, oily nuttiness which I’m guessing hints more at the character of the base spirit – I could be wrong, we will see as other expressions come out. Any which way it blends nicely with the shiny, fruity high notes.

Overall it is a very good first release and introduction to the distillery. Lots of promise here and generally worth enjoying just for the whisky it is. Not a must have, especially as this release is starting to get a tad expensive with rarity, but a very nice and polished first release.

Background: Ok, Independent Spirit were bigging this up before it came out, and so I had to grab a bottle. The first release from Lochlea, who kept very quiet up until just before they were ready to release a whisky. As well as coming from the land of Robert Burns, a fact they make a big deal about, they have picked up quite a range of talented people in the whisky industry to work there. I would give names and where from but I lost my notes on that. So, erm, important people. The best. I remember John Campbell was previously at Laphroaig as Distillery manager so that is a heck of a good start. This release was aged in first fill Bourbon cask and Pedro Ximenez casks, natural colour and no chill filtration. Went with some X-Rey Spexs as background music while drinking. No reason, just wanted to listen to again.

Cooper’s Choice: Inchdairnie Distillery – Finglassie Lowland Smoke Madeira Finish (Scottish Single Cask Lowland Whisky: 53% abv)

Visual: Pale, slightly greened grain colour. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Tarry. Oily. Peat smoke. Cinder toffee. Salty. Fudge. Water adds moss. More salt. Slight crushed rocks.

Body: Thick and oily. Slightly tarry. Sweet red dessert wine. Sweet raspberry yogurt. Slightly drying. Vanilla toffee. Strawberry jelly. Water makes smooth. Sherry trifle touched. Chocolate toffee and chocolate liqueur.

Finish: Tannins. Shortbread. Cake sponge. Peat smoke. Dried beef slices. Madeira soaked raisins to fruitcake. Strawberry jam. Water adds melted toffee to chocolate and vanilla toffee. Oily peat. Tarry.

Conclusion: Ok, after encountering some dead distilleries’ take on a peated lowland and absolutely loving it, I’ve been searching for a modern day, more easily available, peated lowland.

This may not be super easy to get, being from a new distillery with, so far, very few releases, but it is both from the lowland area and fairly heavily peated. So, does it fit the bill?

Well it isn’t a traditional lowland. Instead of that smooth triple distilled light style it is slightly salty and with a thickness that calls more towards Island or Highland than to Lowland, so it didn’t fit that niche I was hunting out. However …

This is still great.

It’s oily, almost tarry in a way that reminds me of some of the heavier Mortlach expressions I have encountered, mixed with those slightly salty, rocky Islay like notes. It is still smooth though, which calls to the lowland origins – and is impressive considering the over 50% abv.

So, I’m guessing even without the unusual cask finishing this would still be a solid whisky, but boy does that Madeira finish make it stand out. There is a vanilla sweetness at the start, but as you get deeper into the whisky it mutates into a sweet raspberry, almost jelly or jam like notes which somehow work so well with that oily peat. The sweetness is understated and yet so rounded and well developed in the character it delivers. It makes for an odd, peaty, oily, trifle like feel – which works better than that sounds.

Neat it is still slightly alcohol touched, which again, this is 50% abv and up that is not a surprise, but water turns that into a very slick drink. It is still peaty and oily, don’t worry on that note, but now the red fruit notes are clearer and the base becomes sweeter and smoother, with choc toffee notes that make it more peaty dessert feel, a heavier sweet note that again works brilliantly with the peat.

It’s genuinely good, the base oily peat spirit is very well expressed and matches well with the almost dessert wine feeling Madeira influence to make an enthralling experience. Not the peated lowland I was looking for, but one I’m glad I encountered instead.

Background: As referenced in the notes, I deeply enjoyed some peated lowland whisky I had tried, that are not defunct, so when I saw this – a new distillery, doing a peated lowland it caught my eye. Looking on their website they seem to be doing a wide range of experimental whisky so it may be one to watch in the future. Doesn’t seem to be many official bottlings yet so was happy to get my hands on this Cooper’s Choice independent bottling. Finglassie or also KinGlassie seems to be the distilleries name for their heavily peated expressions. They also seem to have a rye release which is very unusual for a Scottish distillery. This is cask 409, one of 270 bottles, and was finished in a Madeira cask. Bought from the always great Independent Spirit, this was drunk while listening to Cancer Bats: Psychotic Jailbreak – I’d seen them live a few times and really enjoyed the energy of their live performances but had not bought an actual album of their until now.

Starward: Ginger Beer Cask #6 (Australia Single Malt Whisky: 4 Years?: 48% ABV)

Visual: Dark copper to bronze, with reddish touches. Very slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Ginger. Menthol. Peppermint. Dessert wine. Toffee touch. Rose wine touch. Dried apricot. Rose petals. Water adds more menthol, more ginger and burnt brown sugar.

Body: Smooth front into a lightly burning strength. Sour red wine. Tannins. Butterscotch, Ginger. Vanilla. Fatty butter. Dried apricot. Apple. Water makes slightly waxy, but smoother. More ginger. Even more water brings out a strawberry touch.

Finish: Fiery ginger bread. Sweet ginger beer. Grassy. Dry oak. Tannins. Bitter red wine. A waxy remaining air. Water adds lots of ginger and fatty butter comes out. Sulphur candles air. More water makes peppery.

Conclusion: Ok, let’s get it out of the way quickly. This is, obviously, heresy, but is it tasty tasty heresy?

Well, it answer that I will first examine nearly everything else I can, because I am an evil shit. Like a lot of warmer country aged whisky this is thick and chewy, with an unusual texture, that reminds me of whisky that has been directly gas heated (from the few times I have had a chance to try whisky described as such anyway) . Anyway, this has a distinct feel that I can best describe as slightly like the fluffy feel of a steam beer, but not. I am good at this words lark honest. Despite the higher abv and being younger whisky it is fairly smooth initially, the alcohol does become noticeable fast, but never painful and easily dealt with by adding some water.

The base whisky has a rose wine air to it, with more red wine like notes around edges. Early on it feels more towards the red wine, but even a few drops of water soothes it towards the more rose style. That lighter wine touch seems to allow a lot of room for lighter, menthol like notes to roam around over everything.

A lot of the evident character is in the feel, as well as that lightly gassy fluffy touch mentioned before, there is a waxy sheen at the end and a sulphurous candle touch in the air and feel, heck even a kind of fatty butter touch. The quicker ageing in a hot climate really gives it some feel. On that is a lightly sweet, red and rose wine touched whisky, with some more traditional sweet vanilla and such notes as well, but a lot is in that mouthfeel.

So, ginger beer finish eh? The ginger is very evident, as you can probably tell from the main notes above. The ginger thankfully doesn’t overpower the whisky but I is very clear indeed. Lots of spicy ginger early on, with sweeter ginger beer touches mixing into that vanilla style as it integrates into the whisky, then out into a peppery spice dryness in the finish. While the ginger is clear it feels like the edges fade nicely into the whisky making it feel like a coherent whole. It doesn’t feel out of place, it stands out as a dominant element, not an alien one. It is worth noting that it is far more integrated with a drop of water, being a tad more fiery neat, but still never an issue.

So, conclusion, tasty heresy. Now I will admit I hope, tasty though it is, this doesn’t become a popular trend in whisky – a craze that the bigger distilleries copy – as I am enjoying very much here as the exception, not the norm, and also as I feel a lot of the less heavy whiskies would not cope half as well as this does with it.

As is, while I am not as crazy about it as a lot of its fans, this is definitely tasty heresy.

Background: Starward has been on my radar for a while, then Independent Spirit did a comparatively recent Starward tasting, where I got to enjoy a good chunk of their line up, It was a very good night. There, lots of people were raving about a whisky that was not in the line up though. A Starward that had been finished in Ginger Beer casks. Now that sounded like a horrible mess to me, but everyone was so enthused about it I decided, when it turned up, to give it a go and see if it was worth the hype. First thing I noticed is that it is in 50CL bottles, which is an odd choice and always makes the bottle look like it is slightly further away than it really is. The whisky was distilled 2017 and bottled 2021, so is somewhere around 3 or 4 years in age. Whisky in hot countries always seems to age very differently, and requires less time to become quality, if very different, whisky so I was confident this would not taste as young as that sounds. It is a mix of Apera (Australian Fortified wine) and red wine aged whisky, that then,as the name suggests was finished in ginger beer casks – the distilleries own ginger beer casks in fact. So lots of very different elements from a Scotch or Irish whisky there. I went with Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero as backing music, the fact this concept album was initially set in 2022 seems far too accurate these days.

St George’s: The English – Rum Cask (English Single Malt Whisky: 46% ABV)


Visual: Pale greened grain. Slow, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Raspberry. Caramel. Strawberry pocked digestives. Honeycomb. Mild rum. Water adds sweet red wine. Lightly spicy. Light wisp of sulphur and smoke.

Body: Light front. Marshmallow. Raspberry. Alcohol builds up over time. Dry rice. Dry fudge. Caramel. Water makes slightly oily, but smooth and generally slick. Lightly spicy. Strawberry. Sweet wine.

Finish: Dry. Raspberry. Strawberry pocked biscuits. Dry red wine, spicy red wine after a while. Water adds glacier cherry. Slightly oily. Strawberry jelly. Toffee.

Conclusion: This takes some time to build up and get going, but while you are waiting for that it brings a lightly tart raspberry front in from the first moment to keep you interested. That tides things over while the lighter spirit gets a chance to build up some layers on your tongue so it can start delivering the rest of the flavour.

I’m guessing it is the rum influence that brings those raspberry notes, though that is an unusual one for a rum cask, but its the best explanation I can come up with. The more traditional, and spicier rum notes seem to wait until you add some water to show themselves.

The base spirit still shows some of that youthful edge that I have associated with the main “The English” releases – not too harsh, just a kind of neutral to rice touched alcohol character.

Time brings out more toffee, and some spicy rum character as it builds up the layers, but to get the motor really running on this whisky you need to add a drop of water.

With water the character smooths right out, with a slightly oily touch. There is still a kind of grain spirit to rice character in flavour, but the texture is lovely and smooth now. The rum really comes out here as well, with that previous tart raspberry character now overwhelmed by dark rum, red wine and spice.

I mean, even now it isn’t a huge, heavy flavour, but before the flavours were kind of fragile – so it didn’t take much to crush them. Now there is sweet strawberry notes, and more evident toffee that makes it a tad more robust.

Now it is a gentle, sweet thing – I think the barrel ageing is doing the heavy lifting but despite that the smooth red fruit notes are pleasant.

Not a must have, not polished, but relaxed and tasty.

Background: The final of three miniatures got that cover “The English” main range of whisky releases and the most unusual being aged in rum casks. It has been a long road to get here, with the St George Distillery turning out preview bottlings of their spirit over the years, and now we have their main core line releases. Since I sometimes try to theme music by the country of origin, but rarely do that for England as, well I live here, I decided to go with some English music and put on Pulp: Different Class. That was the reason honest, I wasn’t just looking for an excuse to put it on again. Anyway, another one from Independent Spirit as the entire set was.

St George Distillery: The English: Smokey (England: Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale yellowed to grain hue. Thin, slow puckering comes from the spirit.

Nose: Dry. Dusty. Smoke. Crushed rocks. Pear drops. Water adds a brown sugar backing.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Oily. Dried beef slices. Crushed rocks. Sweet lime. Water adds fudge. Slightly more chewy texture. Apples. Raisins. Buttery.

Finish: Vanilla. Ash. Smoke. Malt chocolate. Light praline. Lightly nutty. Water makes for slight sulphur and fatty butter.

Conclusion: Ok, this is much more enjoyable than the unpeated version. Mainly because, well, peat. Peat solves 76.3% of the world’s problems. As long as the problem is lack of peat.

(and the other 23.7% can be solved by more peat)

The base whisky under the peat feels just slightly more chewy than the unpeated version, especially with a drop of water. There is still some green fruit evident, a good chunk of vanilla toffee to fudge sweetness backing. Nothing stand out but a solid core to work from. The peat on top of that comes in a generally ashes, smokey and slightly dry way with a crushed rock quality to it. It feels like a lighter peat touch to an easy drinking dram rather than the more meaty, beefy and broth like of the heavier peated island and Islay whiskies.

Initially it seems ok but a bit simple, kind of like the bare minimum you would expect of a decent peated whisky. Nothing unpleasant but also nothing that really grabbed my attention. Even like this is is nicely smooth, with present peat use and a what feels like a lowland influenced base in its style.

Water make for an interesting change to that though. On the down side it adds a bit of a muggy set of sulphurous notes that don’t really fit with the smooth character but in exchange it brings in subtle notes of dark fruit that add a decent bit of complexity into the equation. It also adds a slightly fatty butter touch, if feels like that touch of water unlocks some of the advantages from this being non chilled filtered.

Water isn’t 100% a benefit to the whisky, but it does make it more interesting. This isn’t a must grab for me, but it is a huge jump up in quality from the unpeated version, and leaves me hoping that the final mini in the collection will be even better yet.

Background: Second of the three miniatures in this box set of new releases from the St George Distillery that I’m guessing will make up their main line up. This one is their peated expression, which made it instantly more interesting to me as a big peat fan. I made my “hate The English” joke last time, so that is my joke routine already wasted and depleted. Again no age statement here. After enjoying her new release recently, I went back to Laura Jane Grace’s previous solo album as music to back this – Still Alive. As before this was grabbed from Independent Spirit.

St George Distillery: The English – Original (English Single Malt Whisky: 43% ABV)

Visual: Very pale, slightly greened touch but mostly clear. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Viscous. Apples. Pencil shavings. Dry cake sponge. Moss. Slight neutral vodka alcohol character. Water makes slightly oily. Lighter fluid touch. More water makes lightly sulphur touched. Crushed rocks with a lick of salt.

Body: Smooth. Gentle toffee. Cake sponge. Slight cream. Mild chocolate eclair sweets. Everything done in a subtle way. Neutral alcohol character. Water adds more toffee and chocolate eclairs. More water turns to crushed rocks and apples.

Finish: Wood shavings. Fudge. Apples. Clean alcohol but smooth. Light aniseed. Water adds cake sponge. Toffee. More waters adds crushed rocks, pears and a nail varnish air.

Conclusion: This needs water, not because it is harsh, as it is not (though there is a kind of neutral alcohol sheen to the whole thing, it is just a smooth alcohol sheen if that makes sense?). It does however definitely need water. Not too much water though. Adding more than just a gentle pour turns this into a slightly gritty rocks thing that loses most of the better notes. I am, however, getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, with the sweet spot of water this is a gentle, very gentle, toffee and fudge thing with a slightly creamy flavour – though without the associated weight. There are slightly heavier chocolate eclair hard sweet notes, but by slightly I do mean slightly, neat it was so light as to feel almost vanishing which is why it needed water so badly. Water actually makes it that tiny touch heavier and makes the so very slightly heavier flavours stand out more. So yes, add a drop of water to this to get it to open up.

Some of the apple and pear notes I remember from the very young spirit of the Chapter 6 release actually manage to still survive through to this expression, but not much.

Overall it is not exactly impressive. Neat it has some clean alcohol sheen and light flavours, too much water and it gets a bit gritty. At its best it is gentle and easygoing, but even with the extra flavour the water brings out it is not as interesting as a well developed smooth lowland which seems its direct competitor.

It is ok, but there are so many other gentle drinking whiskies that give so much more for the experience that I cannot recommend this one.

Background: Last time I ran into the St George Distillery they were using the name “The English Whisky Company”, now they are just listing it as “The English”. Which means every time they make a crap whisky I can now use the “I hate the English” joke. Anyway, this has no age statement but I did notes on their Chapter 6 whisky back in 2012 so I’m guessing they have at least 10 year whisky lying around. I am also fairly sure than is not youngest whisky they used in this from the notes. This was part of a three pack of miniatures grabbed from Independent Spirit, which had this along with a peated take and a rum finished one. Will be trying those another day. Was chatting with friends again while doing these notes so no backing music this time.

Isle Of Raasay: Hebridean Single Malt Lightly Peated (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: 46.4% ABV)

Visual:Pale gold with a touch of overripe banana skin colour. Moderate speed and thickness streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Salt. Wet moss. Viscous alcohol. Raisins and dry sherry. Vanilla. Rye crackers. Brown bread. Touch of smoke. Alcoholic raspberries. Water makes peppery. Menthol touch and more smoke.

Body: Honey. Dry sherry. Red grapes. Strong alcohol. Slight sour green grapes. Dry beef slices into a more broth character. Fudge. Raspberry coolers. Slight dry alcohol. Water adds strawberry and more raspberries. Slightly oily.

Finish: Dried beef slices in crusty white bread. Smoke touches. Dry sherry. Touch of alcohol. Vanilla. Menthol touch. Peppery. Water brings out brown bread. Rye crackers. Slight oily. An orange juice touch. More water brings out a touch of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Well this is an interesting one. There are a lot of different oak ageing influences, a mix of peated and unpeated and a new distillery to me here all in one package. So, how does this mix of things come out?

Well, let’s deal with the bad side of things first. There is still a rough edge to this spirit – expressed in ways that vary from a viscous alcohol in the aroma to a drier alcohol backing on the body giving a slight rough edge behind everything. I’m guessing it has enough younger spirit in this no age statement whisk to explain why it has some grain whisky like touches, which is not a good look in a single malt. None of these elements completely go away with water.

However, and this is a big however, there is so much going on here to examine. I don’t know if it maps mainly to the varied barrel ageings and is being used to overcompensate for those flaws mentioned, or it this is just part of the distilleries house character and will just expand and grow as time goes on, but there is a lot to get into here. I wonder if all their expressions with have similar complexity of barrel work or if we will ever get to see a more pure expression of the house style of whisky itself?

Anyway, Initially this has a salty, mossy, lightly smokey island character but that soon finds itself just another layer sitting on top of a red grapes and dry sherry character, which itself then opens up into alcohol soaked raspberries, sour grapes and a touch of orange. Already so much going on here. It is generally very dry, with evidence of that alcohol mentioned before but when you already have that dry spirity sherry character it seems less evident and sandwiched between the contrasting fruity character and light smoke you find it less intrusive than you would imagine.

Nothing in this whisky is very sweet – there are some fudge hints but it is more restrained in how it expressed that for the most part, and uses rye cracker and peppery notes to hold down any sweetness getting too present.

It results in a dry expression overall, with savoury notes and dry beef working its way around the core that somewhat call to a more gentle Islay . However that core is such very clear dry sherry and associated fruitier notes that this cannot be mistaken for an Islay, even a muted one.

So, this is rough edged and feels a tad youthful in places, but nestled in there is an expertise of barrel ageing that gives layers of Island salt and smoke over sherry and a dry fruitiness which is then over a peppery rye baseline and the whisky slips between and intermixes these three layers frequently.

An unpolished gem, but still high quality despite that. A good whisky as is, but my mind is on what they could do if they manage to smooth out those edges. I will keep my eye on this distillery in the future

Background: I tried the Raasay “While We Wait” a while back, which was not from Raasay, but more using other whiskies to try and express what they were aiming for. Anyway, having now tried this they are very different things, so whoops on that. Anyway, this, while not their first release, is their first regular release and I managed to grab a bottle from Independent Spirit before their stock ran out. Which it did. Very quickly. These seem to be in high demand. This is no age statement, natural colour and non chill filtered, but what makes it really interesting is the barrel ageing. This has a mix of both peated and unpeated whisky, both of which have been aged in rye whisky casks, chinkapin oak casks (I had to google that one – seems to be the new hotness of odd barrels for whisky ageing – a type of white oak native to central and eastern North America – couldn’t tell you yet what its influence is, but I am interested to learn), and Bordeaux red wine casks. That is a lot going on there. According to the box, this had a three to five day fermentation and uses mineral rich water that gives sweet blackberry characteristics before it even touches the oak. Would have to try some that had more standard ageing to be able to tell how true that is, but an interesting promise. I wanted some lovely music for trying this, so went with the ever experimental and wondrous Ulver – in this case “Flower’s Of Evil”. Probably my second favourite of their albums, and with the quality of their albums that says a lot.

Glenrothes: Whisky Maker’s Cut (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 48.8% ABV)


Visual: Very dark, deep rich gold colour. Fast thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Big. Treacle. Wisps of smoke. Tingling alcohol. Warm honey. Vanilla toffee. Cardamom spice. Nutmeg. Strawberry hints. Ginger. Cinnamon sticks to mulled spice. Apple. Gingerbread. Water adds toffee and fudge and a cleaner character. Lots of dry sherry. Grapes.

Body: Thick. Warming. Black cherry. Apple pie centres. Strawberry. wisp of smoke and dry peat. Dry meat to dry beef slices. Fudge. Cloves. Bitter red wine. Water adds lots of strawberries. Orange peel and orange crème. Treacle.

Finish: Cinnamon sticks. Cloves. Slightly numbing. Liquorice. Strawberry liqueur. Black cherry. Fortified red wine. Dried beef slices. Sulphur. Candle wax. Water adds orange crème and bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: Glenrothes is often overlooked it my opinion. Despite not often being peated (to the best of my knowledge) it often has this lightly smokey, dried meat touch that I would normally associate with peat but layered into a smooth and sweet spirit. It is a criminally overlooked distillery.

This takes that base idea, and punches it out at a higher abv and a just exploding level of sherry influence. Neat it is numbing, spicy and shows bitter red wine matched with mulled spice notes, underlined by a sulphurous wax candle touch. It is utterly huge, overwhelming but delicious. There are those wisps of smoke and dried meat I mentioned before, that I could swear calls to peat use if it wasn’t for a quick google suggesting I am probably wrong. However they are made they still manage to poke their way through the bigger flavours

Water smooths it out, it is still has sulphur and wax notes but the hinted at dark fruit and sherry that was there neat now take centre stage. There are lots of strawberry and black cherry notes, lots of evident dry sherry. This feels like the epitome of a sherry bomb, sherry aged whisky and the higher abv gives lots of room for water play.

This is sticky feeling, full flavoured and full bore. It reminds me of Aberlour A’bunadh in that it can be a bit much neat, though admittedly this is more restrained and at a lower abv – however it is a rewarding roller-coaster onslaught of flavour if you stick with it.

Very sherried, very red fruit, very spiced neat – less so with water, and just a hint of smoke. Subtle this is not, but very enjoyable it is.

Background: This was a gift from a colleague at work, very many thanks! It is listed as being bottled at abv chosen by the master whisky maker, not to be confused with cask strength, but significantly higher than a standard bottling. It has been matured in only first fill sherry casks. It comes in a showy little cardboard box as you can see, with a little plastic stand inside propping up the bottle inside it for best presentation. I went with Crossfaith: The Dream, the Space as backing music – while not their best album it has a lot of raw, early album energy.

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