Tag Archive: Whisky


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.

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

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

Viscosity: Quite fast, thick streaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, ok, but no great shakes.

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

Càrn Mòr: Strictly Limited: Teaninich: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 46% abv)

Visual: Very pale clear gold.

Viscosity: Very slow, medium sized streaks.

Nose: Apples. Alcohol. Clean spirity character. Pears. Vanilla. Slightly floral. Slightly grassy. Water adds hay fields notes.

Body: Smooth texture but strong alcohol. Apples and pears. Pear drops. Slight fudge. Clean character. Soft pastry. Water makes much smoother, more fudge and lots more apple.

Finish: Pear drops. Vanilla. Very evident alcohol. Make spirit character. Water smooths out and adds apple pie.

Conclusion: This is basically what make spirit wants to be when it grows up. Ok, technically what make spirit wants to be when it grows up is all whisky ever but…. Ok technically as a non sapient entity make spirit doesn’t “want” anything. Just, ya know, run with me on this one.

Raw make spirit to young whisky is rough as fuck, but generally energetic as hell in the flavours with lots of green fruit notes and such. A few whiskies such as the Hakushu manage to keep the pear drop and apples notes as they age, but usually these green fruit notes just fade away to be replaced by heavier elements from the oak ageing.

Neat this is still a bit alcohol filled, but despite that feels smoother than that would indicate – and a wee bit of water deals with the fire very nicely. Then taken like that, all those youthful apple pie and pear drop notes are here, but now in a smooth, slightly fudge based whisky with a far more easy going character than the equivalent flavoured make spirit would ever give you.

So – while not one with the hugest range, you get all the loveliness and none of the harshness that makes this seem like the world’s smoothest make spirit in an older whisky. Not super complex, but super enjoyable to drink.

Background: Don’t see much Teaninich around, it is normally used in blends. We were given a sample of this after one of Independent Spirit‘s Rare Whisky Tasting Nights, and I remembered enjoying it – so a few weeks later I headed back and grabbed a bottle. Mainly hoping my drunken memories were not lying to me. This was bottled 2007 and is one of 725 bottles put together from two casks of whisky. Drunk while listening to more Two Steps From Hell. Yes I drank this just after Mythos. That beer was so bland I didn’t think it would interfere with doing notes much.

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

Visual: Light bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Medium size and speed streaks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visual: Pale grain with greened edges.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Alcohol touch. Lime. Caramel. Orange crème. Hint of smoke. Dry raisins soaked in sherry. Water gives grain fields. Dry sherry. Red cherries.

Body: Slight beefy character. Slight alcohol air. Slight musty character. Malt chocolate. Raisins. Water adds light liquorice. Dry sherry. Light orange skin. Slightly vinous. Green grapes. Slightly waxy. Marzipan and almonds.

Finish: Dried beef. Slight raisins and fruitcake. Musty character. Water adds fruity red wine. Black cherry. More fruitcake and some Madeira cake. Slightly waxy. Slight sour grapes touch. Almonds. Light custard slices.

Conclusion: Ok, this is completely opposite to what I said in the “Big Peat” tasting, but this vatted malt is definitely better with water. Odd how these things work out.

Neat this is ok – it has a lot of evidence of dry sherry notes that show its oak ageing well. However despite that it is a bit closed – slightly dusty, musty and with some alcohol notes that – while not harsh – do seem to obscure the flavours a touch. Still not bad, but a sub optimal way of enjoying this whisky.

So, let’s add some water and concentrate on enjoying this the way it should be enjoyed! All hail the water! Now the sherry is definitely the core at the centre. Very evident, very fruitcake, raisins and cherry in the notes as you would expect. While not as awesome in this as the Sherry Cask 21 year Beastie, it is also far cheaper. Which does have a lot to say for it.

What I find very intriguing though is that this also has some of the odder edges that typified the 40 year old. Some of that unusual take on light tart gapes, some waxy texture to which it adds a similar, but distinct set of notes in a mix of light marzipan and almonds around the edges. All very light, lightly fresh notes around the sherried core. While they are fresher notes the intrinsically very dry sherry character of the core is what really shines through.

This is good – not quite enough to be called great – but good. A lot of depth and room for water, just not quite distinct enough to stand out. However a very solid, above average whisky.

Background: Another whisky I have run into a few times before – tried this at both an independent Spirit and a Hideout tasting over the years – neither time with my notebook with me. I also got to try the excellent 21 year Sherry Cask Timorous Beastie, and the 40 year at another of Independent Spirit‘s tasting. So, quite a history. Anyway, the self same Independent Spirit kindly provided this sample for me to do some notes on. Much appreciated. Anyway this was drunk while listening to Hate In The Box again – this time the “Under The Ice” album.

Douglas Laing: Big Peat (Islay Blended Malt: No age statement: 46% ABV)

Visual: Very pale grain touch and with hint of brackish green.

Viscosity: Very slow thin puckering.

Nose: Lightly medicinal but clean. Salt and moss. Light alcohol air. Peat smoke. Water makes slightly harsher medicinal but cleaner alcohol with more moss.

Body: Beef. Vanilla and toffee. Light chocolate to praline notes. Salt. Crushed nuts. Peat. Light alcohol air. Water makes smooth – caramel and fudge notes. More water makes slight golden syrup.

Finish: Peat smoke. Smoked beef slices. Light cherries. Chocolate. Salt. Lightly medicinal. Nutty. Water makes more beefy and peaty.

Conclusion: The odd thing I find with vatted malts is that, unlike single malts or standard blended whisky, they often can work best without water. It is a miracle! I guess since they have more room to design the exact nature of the whisky it may be easier to get just the balance they want.

Anyway, that is to say, this is a good whisky with water, but best tried neat.

This is, well – not a simple whisky, but a fairly straightforward whisky if you get the difference. It seems very clean, but despite that a typical Islay style on the aroma. Not heavily done, smooth as vatted malts often are, but balances the peat, salt and medicinal notes.

The body is the biggest difference from an Islay single malt – it is very sweet for an Islay. Most Islay have some sweetness, but this has a thicker toffee, caramel or even fudge character depending on the level of water used, and behind that some chocolate notes mixed in there. A much more solid base in the sweetness. From that the peat, beef smoke and salt that the Island is famous for seem much more well contrasted and a smoother experience because of that.

So, why do I say it should be drunk with no water? Well, without water it feels more intense and – despite the alcohol being slightly noticeable – it still seems less harsh in the medicinal notes that with a little water. Now, if you add a lot of water, rather than a little water, then it gains the caramel character and becomes very smooth indeed in all things, however that comes at the cost of a lot of what you came here for – the peat. So, yep, without water is the way for me.

Now, on that note, for something call Big Peat it is, well, moderate peat on the Islay scale. So, not one in you want it super intense and peaty. However as a smooth, balanced, sweet and peaty whisky it is very good. So, not as super intense as the name suggests but that does not make it bad in any way at all.

Background: Had a few run ins with this one, first at a tasting session at Independent Spirit, then a Douglas Laing tasting at The Hideout. I never had my tasting note kit on me though,I was going for more social nights out at the time. So now, finally I get to do my notes as Independent Spirit kindly donated a measure of it for doing some notes on. Many thanks. This is an Islay vatted malt made with Ardbeg, Caol Ila, Bowmore and the closed distillery Port Ellen whisky! It was drunk while listening to some Meshuggah – hard music for heavy peat. Also drunk after watching some new Doctor Who, so in a generally good frame of mind. Also, because we are childish, at the first tasting note we were amused by the idea of having some of Big Peat in our mouth. Also we were drinking, which may explain it. Also that works better when said rather than written down.

Talisker: Storm (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No age: 45.8% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold.

Viscosity: Medium streaks.

Nose: Tarry peat smoke. Dried beef slices. Honey. Peppery. Noticeable alcohol. Sulphur. Charred oak. Cigarette ash. Water adds more smoke, salty rocks and caramel. Slightly floral.

Body: Smooth – caramel and custard. Alcohol if held. Tarry. Dried beef slices. Red cherries. Water makes more caramel and more tarry notes. No alcohol evident now. Peppery. Even more water increases the caramel.

Finish: Bready. Peaty. Some moss. Malt chocolate. Red cherries. Dry. Water adds salt, charring and mild chocolate cake. Fudge. Peppery.

Conclusion: Quick summary – with no water, meh this is ok. With water – oh yeah, this is what I am looking for. Either way, the aroma tells you exactly what is coming.

The aroma is tarry, peaty and evident from way across from the glass. I could pickup the first notes while still doing the photo shots at the start. Lots of thick notes here, but without the harsh or medicinal notes that an Islay would have in a similar whisky.

Neat it is fairly smooth – if held too long alcohol does develop, but generally nothing too heavy. However when neat the flavours doesn’t hold half the weight that the aroma promises – it is generally more dominated by the smoother caramel notes. There is some rounding – some dried beef slices and interesting cherry notes, but really lacking the tarry thickness of the aroma.

As I have been indicating at the start, water really does the job here. The alcohol is all smoothed away – a slight island salty and rocky character gets added to the smooth caramel base. More importantly the bigger notes promised come out – peppery, thick, tarry. It is still smooth bodied but now with a weight of flavour which then leads out into a chocolate and fudge finish that is matched by peat and salt.

It feels like it takes all the benefits of a harsh Islay, strips the harshness and adds it to the traditional island Talisker complexity.

Another stormer (ha-ha) of a whisky from Talisker.

Background: The final of a pack of three Talisker miniatures grabbed from Independent Spirit. This one is described as a more intense flavours take on the standard Talisker. Which sounds good by me. I was a bit nervous as I know either Storm, or Dark Storm has a really bad reputation. But, since I couldn’t remember which I tried to not let that influence me. This was drunk while listening to Ulver: The Assassination of Julius Caesar again. Still getting used to the very different nature of it, but good background drinking music.


Talisker: Skye (Scottish Island Single Malt Whisky: No Age: 45.8% ABV

Visual: Deep bronzed apricot.

Viscosity: Mix of slow and fast medium sized streaks.

Nose: Salt. Wet rocks. Smoke. Seaweed and rich caramelised brown sugar. Crumpets. Black liquorice. Water makes slight golden syrup backing and treacle.

Body: Smooth. Vanilla and soft lime. Rocks. Some alcohol character. Brown sugar. Light peaty and meaty character. Slight vanilla custard. Water makes buttery and smooth. Apricot. White chocolate.

Finish: Brown sugar. Crumpets. Slight chalk. Slight charring. White bread. Cooked pork. Vanilla custard. Water makes buttery with a mix of white chocolate and golden syrup. Tinned tropical fruits and toasted teacakes.

Conclusion: For all this does have an alcohol touch to it, this is a very smooth whisky – one that progresses from gentle sweet elements to entice you in, into the more recognisable, robust Talisker character.

It holds the gentle peat warmth, the slight salt and the gentle not-Islay island coastal character of a standard Talisker, and rides out into vanilla custard and brown sugar as the sweet base develops. This is not too unexpected – while this is less forceful than the 10 year old, it still plays in a familiar ball park.

What stands out here is the gentle bready character to the whole thing – from crusty white bread to crumpets – all touched with buttery sweetness – it gives both a gentle grip and an extra smoothness in the combination. The butteryness especially feels thick – slightly oily – full natural butter feeling with the flavour rather than cheap supermarket stuff.

Water soothes the alcohol touches it had when neat, and brings out some sweet aprictots, but the general gist of the thing remains the same.

Overall a very impressive dram that captures both the expressive island character. And a slightly more gentle sipping whisky, balanced by toasted teacake top and bottom.

A gentle yet complex and toasted dram. Very nice, very easily drinkable – very much up my street.

Background: So, after the uber whisky night I felt like more whisky a day or so later. So, I remembered I had a pack of miniature Taliskers I had grabbed from Independent Spirit a few weeks before. Time to break them out. This one is aged in a mix of refill and toasted American oak casks – apparently to give a bit smoother character. This was drunk while listening to some of the haunting Ulver tunes on the atgclvlsscap album. Very good background, yet atmospheric music for a good whisky.

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