Tag Archive: Whisky


Douglas Laing: Scallywag: 13 Year (Scottish Speyside Blended malt Whisky: 13 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Plums. Some alcohol air. Vanilla fudge. Honey. Treacle. Water adds grapes to the mix.

Body: Smooth but warming. Honey. Raisins. Grapes. Some tannins and oak. Golden syrup. Water makes silky smooth. Adds grapes, quince rakija and pears. More water adds plums and dried apricot.

Finish: Light oak. Slightly peppery. Fig rolls. Tannins and tea bags. Honey. Water adds tart white grapes and pears.

Conclusion: Ok, with and without water is like night and day for this whisky. By which I am not saying that one is good and one is bad – just that they are radically different in emphasis while still having slight reflections of the other in some circumstances.

Neat it is very sherried, from a plum aroma to a tannins and grapes filled body layered over honey sweetness. There are hints of green grapes as well as the more expected red grapes in the there, but generally it is heavy sherried spice added to the native speyside sweetness. Water releases that green fruit so it can come to the fore, still matched with speyside sweetness, now with the plums and raisins at the back as mere sherried hints.

Time lets the two sides come to a compromise – the sherry raisins, pepper and tannins merging with the clear vanilla toffee and green fruit to give a very satisfying and silky smooth whisky. The slight raw alcohol it has neat, while never heavy in the first place, now has completely vanished.

This is a very good example of both the wide range that different Speyside distilleries can bring, the range you can get from blending the malts, and the smooth package that such blending can result in. No real rough edges, but manages to keep a lot of the individual malts character, and give room for water experimentation. I’m impressed.

Background: The first age statement release of the Speyside blended malt from Douglas Laing – this one matured in sherry butts in its entirety. So far their blended malts have impressed me highly – generally keeping the smoothness of the blended malt, without completely losing the character that their malt components bring. This was another of the rarer releases that Independent Spirit had a minis, so I, of course, grabbed one while I could. Felt like some straight forwards metal for music while drinking after being more experimental recently – so went for Shadows Fall – Fear Will Drag You Down.

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Douglas Laing: Timorous Beastie: 18 Year (Scottish Highland Blended Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Clear pale yellow.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Madeira cake and plum pudding. Old sweet shops. Pear drops. Slight alcohol. Hard sugar coating. Water makes similar but with varnish like notes.

Body: Light front, with warming alcohol that builds in intensity quickly. Vanilla toffee and vanilla custard. Oak. Madeira. Lime jelly. Raisins. Water makes more caramel like, and adds red wine. Pears and pear drops.

Finish: Oak notes. Alcohol air. Madeira cake. Raspberry yogurt bits. Water adds sweet red wine. Raisins. Pear drops and slight varnish notes.

Conclusion: As someone who has really enjoyed the various Timorous Beastie takes I have tried recently, I am kind of split on this one. Some of this may be because of the first impressions you get on sipping. The age seems to give it a tad overly light front, but then a stronger than normal alcohol burn quickly rises to overwhelm it. So, when taken neat you only really get hints of the flavours that it may carry, too much burn, and no pay off for that burn. You get the idea there is a tale going on below that, but nowhere near the full story. You need to use some water to get some decent play from this.

So, onto trying with water then. Water does help, and there is more play from the flavours here with more sherried notes coming out in an understated but rewarding way. It matches red wine and raisin notes that feel sherry influenced to pear drop flavours that remind me of younger, cleaner spirit. However even with water it feels a tad rough, with a slight varnish like touch. Normally I can dig rough edges, as long as they give extra layers of complexity. This has a decent range of complexity, with fresh lime jelly sweetness and Madeira mixing, but doesn’t create something special that feels like a reward for the need to use the slight varnish like notes.

Now it has promise, but it seems either too light, or too varnish touched, depending on when you have it – it feels like the promise of this is delivered in their far superior, and excellent dram that is the 21 year sherry cask version, for which this feels like an inadequate replacement for that one’s vanishing.

So, this has lots of good notes – a nice mix of spirit influences, and nice use of sherry cask ageing, but has a few too many off notes to be great – odd, especially for a blended malt where usually they usually mix things to within an inch of the most smooth it can be.

Ok, but far from top bombing.

Background: This was grabbed in a mini from Independent Spirit – as before they have a bunch of rarer limited edition minis of the blended whisky range. I’ve been enjoying them a lot so far, so grabbed this one to give a try. I drank this post watching the piece of shit that is the Netflix adaptation of Death Notes, and I have to admit I think I was a bit distracted so these aren’t my best notes. Tried to tidy them up on write up before posting, hope they are ok.

Douglas Laing: Rock Oyster 18 Year (Scottish Island Blended Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46.8% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold.

Viscosity: Slow thin streaks.

Nose: Wet rocks. Sherried raisins. Alcohol tingle. Sea breeze. Brown sugar. Salt. Water adds more grit.

Body: Very smooth but warming. Brown bread. Honey. Sour dough. Slightly light at the front. Quince. Dried mango. Water makes lightly medicinal. Vanilla. Apricot. Beef slices. Peach.

Finish: Salt. Sherried raisins. Crushed rock dust. Light peat smoke. Sour dough. Dried beef slices. Tart grapes. Very light liquorice. Water makes a lightly medicinal air. Vanilla. Orange crème.

Conclusion: This took a lot of examining before I felt happy writing this conclusion. By which I mean I spent time drinking whisky. Such hardship. Such pain. Still, it is a difficult one to sum up.

Initially it seemed simple enough; The rocky, slightly salty touched air that comes with Island whisky was there, but here matched by sweet sherry and raisin notes that enhances what is normally a quite clean character. As is to be expected it is nowhere near as harsh as the Islays, despite sharing a few notes, instead walking the line of sweet notes and salty island character well. Here it is slightly empty up front in its smoothness, despite slightly rocky character – it is impressive in what it matches together but not overly exciting.

Water changes it a little, time changes it more. Water adds an Islay medicinal touch together with vanilla notes – quite lightly done but recognisable – more harsh is the additional grit and rock notes added to it along with a hint of beef slices and peat. Time, well, time is what made me look at this again with new eyes. Soft creamy fruit from peach to orange comes out – carefully used sweet notes against the more medicinal character before. It gives a whole new rewarding layer that takes this from impressive in what it does, but not great, to a genuinely good experience.

As time goes on the more medicinal notes take the fore again, but by that point it has taken you on a worthwhile taste journey. Not an instant classic, but earns its keep.

Background: I enjoyed the Douglas Laing range a while back at a tasting at The Hideout, and since have been trying to grab examples to do notes on. This one is a bit special, being an 18 year old limited edition take on their standard Rock Oyster – the vatted malt made up of spirits from the varied Island distilleries. I found it at Independent Spirit as part of their range of miniatures – which makes it very easy to try, which is awesome. Drunk while listening to some Willy Mason – not listened to him for a while, but awesome gentle, but meaningful folk style music to sink into while enjoying whisky.

Nomad: Outland Whisky (Scottish/Spanish Whisky: 41.3% ABV)

Visual: Burnished deep gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Thick and spirity. Sherry trifle and brandy cream. Raspberry yogurt chunks. Raisins. Light burning notes, but mostly smooth. Oak.

Body: Very smooth. Brandy cream. Custard. Vanilla toffee. Sultanas. Sweet red wine. Honey. Very slightly light, but warming if held. Sulphur if held. Raspberry yogurt. Condensed cream. Water makes smoother, and fuller with more raisins.

Finish: Rum soaked raisins. Vanilla toffee. Light wood. Light waxy character. Dry sherry. Water makes trifle like.

Conclusion: This is both definitely a young whisky, and also a very smooth one. One of those odd contradictions that I don’t expect but enjoy when I find them. It has a spirity thickness, but even neat it has a restrained burn and water soon turns it into a very easy drinking thing.

It doesn’t seem to get a lot of the flavour from the base spirit – it feels like this is all coming from the barrel ageing, all the way. Lots of brandy cream notes, very creamy in general with sherry, sweet red wine and raisins all showing from the barrel ageing. It is a sweet and dark fruit laden thing with a slightly waxy feel when neat, but becomes just clean smoothness with water.

A tad simple isn’t the right words for it – there is a lot going on here, with honey and vanilla toffee sweetness backing the fruit – however there really isn’t any sign of where it came from outside of the barrel. So if you are into whisky for all the odd quirks that come from different makes of the spirit then you will not get that here. However taken for what it is it is very enjoyable. Very smooth with water, very trifle like, very sweet – it gives a lot to enjoy from the short, unusual, ageing.

So a whisky for general enjoying, fun and, with water, is amazing at not showing any rough edges from its youth. At a higher price point I would want more odd quirks from the base spirit, but as is it gives a lot for your money. In fact it reminds me slightly of the Irish style whiskey in its smooth, sweet and easy drinking style. So a Scotch touched, Irish feeling, Spain finished whisky. A true nomad – very good value easy drinking whisky.

Background: Odd ageing done with this one -it is made up of a mix of 5 to 8 year old whisky that has been aged in Sherry butts in Scotland for three years, then sent to Jerez where it is finished in Pedro Ximenez casks for a year. I first tried a sample of this at Wine Rack in Leeds, just before going to see NXT wrestling. We had been aiming for the excellent North Bar and just nipped into the Wine Rack as it was right next to it – unfortunately I was a tad skint at the time, so couldn’t grab a bottle then – instead grabbing it months later from Independent Spirit. Its a good shop though, so thought I would give them a mention. Drunk while listening to some Siouxsie and the Banshees – never really listened to them before, but has seen an excellent tribute band to them, so was giving them a try.


Banff: Rare Malts 21 Year Cask Strength 1982 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 21 Year: 57.1% ABV)

Visual: Clear gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Very oaken. Notable alcohol. Grapes and grappa. Water brings out musty grapes.

Body: Smooth and creamy. Sherry trifle. Rapidly becomes burning alcohol strength if held. Cherries. Vanilla toffee. Grapes. Water brings brandy cream. Cinnamon. Fudge. Rich red grapes.

Finish: Shortbread. Alcohol air. Quince rakija. White grapes. Oak. Slight tannins. Water brings brandy cream. White grapes and red grapes. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: I tried this first a few days ago – It, erm, it wasn’t very good. It was insanely oaken, insanely tannins filled and the alcohol was very heavy. Of course that last one was a given considering the abv, but playing with water just seemed to bring out more tannins which didn’t help it.

Bad start eh? But now let me be fair – I now nearly always do my notes a few days after opening as I’ve found whisky can be a bit rough until it has had time to air. Also, I only had the local water to use – which, while ok for drinking, is very hard water, and doesn’t work well in whisky. So, now I return to it with a bit of time to open up, and with some much softer water to bring it down to a respectable abv – so I ask, is it still a disappointment? Or does it recover?

Well, even with the intense alcohol neat it does seem different – creamier for one, with sherry trifle and grape notes. It still goes to numbing levels of alcohol heat too quickly, and leans very heavily on tannins as a main flavour, so I’m going to go straight to adding water and see if that helps.

Water brings out all the goodness hidden beneath the alcohol – the sherry trifle becomes full force, mixed with sweet vanilla toffee and more evident grapes. The tannins still head out but now are balanced by brandy cream and cinnamon. It never changes too much from this point, even with more water – it just becomes creamier and more easy to drink, oh and maybe sweeter in the grapes. It really is led by those sweet cherries, cream and grapes.

So a) This is a very good whisky now – nearly as good as its very high reputation with the oak and tannins balanced against sherry trifle and red fruit. Creamy and very full bodied, with green fruit notes keeping it fresh. Also b) Yeah, this is very expensive, and especially now where it is significantly more costly then when I grabbed it.

If you are going to go for an expensive dead whisky – this is one where the quality is very high indeed – however – the, say, 21 year sherried Timorous Beastie blended malt gives similar notes at way, way less cost. As an experience, and to have been able to have had whisky from this distillery – I am glad I have this. However if you want a similar quality whisky, albeit without the room to experiment of the cask strength – I would say go for the Timorous Beastie.

Background: I’ve had this in the cupboard for a blooming long time now, I kept saving it for a special occasion, but nothing seemed special enough. So one day I just randomly broke it open. As mentioned in the main notes I gave a few days for it to air, as I have found this generally helps get the best experience rather than doing notes on the first pour. This is a dead distillery – I try and grab a (relatively) cheaper example of these when I can afford them, and drink them later, as frankly they ain’t going to get any cheaper if I wait to when I’m just about to drink them to buy them. To really get in the mood I put on my favourite of the past decade(ish) of Iron Maiden – A Matter Of Life and Death. Freaking fantastic album.

Auldi: Glenmarnoch: Islay (Scottish Islay Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Bright gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Big. Peaty. Fish oils. Slight salt. Wet rocks. Smokey. Dry charring. Water makes more oaken.

Body: Thick. Coal. Big smoke. Honey. Charring. Fish skins. Toffee. Light choc lime sweets. Warming. Water makes sweeter and also more meaty. Beef.

Finish: Smoke. Lots of peat. Beef slices. Slight golden syrup. Malt chocolate. Toffee. Water adds beef stew, vanilla and light salt.

Conclusion: With there being so comparatively few Islay distilleries, it is hard to try and unnamed Islay distillery expression and not try to guess where it came from. For example – take this one – heavy on the peat, very smokey and beefy which makes it highly unlikely to be bunnahabhain or similarly one from the lighter end of the Islay scale. Admittedly most distilleries there do do a heavy peated variant of their spirit, but I doubt Auldi would get cheap access to that.

Under the peat there is a lot of sweetness, delivered quite honey and toffee touched, which makes me think the more medicinal like Laphroaig are out of the running. It, instead, seems like the general weight I would associate with Ardbeg – not quite as intense, but in a similar ballpark. Maybe the heavier end of Caol Ila if not that.

Anyway, musings on where it could be from aside, considering this is a no age statement whisky I was very surprised at how smooth this was. It is warming, but no alcohol burn – no real signs of youth apart from the fact it has not had long enough to lose any of the peat weight.

For an Islay fan like me it feels a tad over smooth, a tad lacking in the rougher edges I like – its akin to a good vatted malt in how it smooths things out. I am aware though that for many of you that will be an advantage, not a flaw.

So, to use minor criticisms, it isn’t as full of depth as , say Laphroaig quarter cask, or Lagavulin 16, nowhere near that quality. However those are top notch whiskies, and on the price point this comes it at, it isn’t competing with them.

It is very smooth, toffee sweet and heavy peat – not one of the best whiskies, but bloody good for the price point.

Background: Yes I know there is no such place as the Glenmarnoch Distillery – the fact that they had to specify that it was the Islay release gave that away first. Most distilleries stay in one place and don’t have releases from different regions. This instead is Aldi’s name for their varied whisky releases. I’d heard that they had a surprisingly good reputation, but had never got around to trying them. Then, at a whisky tasting at mine, Tony brought this around, and said I could keep what was left of the bottle for hosting it. Many thanks mate. So, I tried it again to do proper tasting notes a few days later, whilst listening to some Jonathan Young stuff on youtube.

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.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canadian Blended Whisky: 45% ABV)

Visual: Light gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Rye crackers. Light orange. Menthol. Peppermint. Vanilla. Water adds coconut, white chocolate and light praline.

Body: Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Coconut. Slight bitter chocolate. Light smoke. Water makes much smoother and slightly more oaken.

Finish: Brown bread. Vanilla. Peppery. Menthol. Peppermint. Buttery shortbread. Tropical fruit. Coconut. White chocolate. Quite dry and with an alcohol air. Water makes more oaken and more menthol, with some charring to it.

Conclusion: This is one of those ones that ends up as a tale of two whiskies. Initially it shows a dry, spicy rye kind of thing; Lots of rye bourbon styling, while this is a whisky it has both the rye and a light set of orange crème notes that are definitely a call to bourbon style.

However, under those dry notes is a light vanilla sweetness matched with some white chocolate character. Items that usually would be very sweet notes, but since they are delivered so dryly they instead just add more of the flavour, with just some sweet hints to them as well.

Neat it has a light amount of menthol to peppermint that is fresh, however it doesn’t seem to match the other elements well. Thankfully even a few drops of water removes this, leaving more influence for the dry spicy and peppery backing.

Even like this is still has some slight vanilla sweetness – just enough to keep it from getting too wearing. Now this leaves me in a bit of a bind – usually very dry whiskies aren’t my thing – however even as such I can respect the complexity this has and the range it brings. Even with that the character makes it far from easy drinking so I’m more appreciating it that fully enjoying it.

So, a complex but just slightly harsh edged whisky. Enjoyable, chocolate backed dry coconut and peppermint spice – it is good, but not great.

Background: Now, recently Independent Spirit did what they called their “Mediocre Whisky tasting” Now the first whisky was this – what Jim Murray listed as his best whisky in the world for 2016, so you may have guessed they were being a tad flippant there. It was an amazing line up of very hard to find whiskies – including Hibiki 17 and Yamazaki 12, amongst some others – the notes of which will be turning up in the next few days. Now, accepting that Jim Murray’s picks may be slightly…political shall we say, I was still very interested to try this. A blended whisky made with 90% rye. Because of the tasting environment my notes may be a slight bit shorter than normal – hopefully they should still make sense.

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