Recent whisky reviewed...

Following Christmas gifts, I am now replete with Talisker 10 yo, Dalwhinnie 15 yo, Bunnahabhain 12yo and Glenlivet Founders Reserve.

I had very low expectations for Glenlivet Founders Reserve being a NAS high production volume Speyside. In fact I was pleasantly surprised, it is not going to win any awards for complexity, yet a very pleasing rather straightforward yet satisfying dram.

The Dalwhinnie 15yo I have not had in a while and tried this the other night. It is supposed to be from the highest distillery in Scotland and bottled at 43% ABV. It is really quite an interesting flavourful dram with ashtray smoke (in a good way) and light delicate floral flavours.

Bunnahabhain 12 yo (46.3% ABV) natural colour un-chill filtered - is interesting as it is is an unpeated Islay and plenty going on - I think there must be some Sherry cask influence and whilst not the most complex, it really does benefit from adding water - which it takes very well.

Talisker 10yo 45.8%ABV is still an all time classic. I wish they would remove the caramel colouring as there really is no need and the customers would still buy it - they could even put a note in the box to explain to customers what they have done. No TN here yet this is a very full flavoured smokey Island whisky - really great stuff.
 
During my brief period of returning to drinking over Christmas we did try a few bottles I had been saving to try.
The Ardbeg is sooooo peaty
The Cameronbridge remains one of my favourite all time whiskies
The TWS 1989 was an absolute bargain. If they do something similar again, fill your boots
The George V was purchased duty free and although complex and interesting not worth the money imo59B695F4-86B8-49BB-855E-80338B510886.jpeg9E919741-789B-487C-AFFC-9FE7677D726E.jpegF3004D92-8664-4FAD-A02A-ADF513904731.jpeg546E0116-05B2-4D63-9612-942B5B2D1190.jpeg
 
@Ian Russell - that 19 year old Ardbeg must be pretty rare. Last night I was drinking the Ardbeg 10 year old and thinking that this is really decent quality and actually very delicious and fresh tasting (I was comparing with Talisker 10yo). I wonder though does the 19yo lose a lot of its intensity, and assuming it does, is it more than replicated by gained complexity?

Your other bottles look fascinating too.
 
The 19 year old Ardbeg is incredibly intense. It really needed a few drops of water to soften it. It was a recent purchase ie last 3-6 months. Iirc appellations
 
The Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19yo batch 2 was a release towards the end of 2020. I picked up a bottle as well although haven't cracked it open yet. It's not cheap but I am not sure how rare it is as Ardbeg is owned by LVMH now so will have some fine marketing talent working on it. Ardbeg is certainly one of the most collectible distilleries now. It had a very lean period in the 80s and 90s being shut down for a while so any old product from that time would be very sought after.
 
Thanks Andrew. You are right about limited edition OB of Ardbeg being highly prized by collectors. Is yours bought to drink? Sounds like a lovely drop.

These days I think Springbank amongst most highly coveted. I remember when they released the 12yo Cask Strength and you could browse the different batches on offer. Now TWE is frequently sold out of even the 10 yo. Available elsewhere of course - yet no other in production whisky has the same demand.
 
I will drink mine. I am definitely a sipper not a flipper as they say in the whisky trade to distinguish the drinkers from the collectors.

A friend of mine bought a full barrel of Ardbeg in 1994 with a friend of his. The barrel was moved to Springbank when Ardbeg closed in the mid 90s and a couple of months ago they sold it to some buyer from Hong Kong for a princely sum. There was only 70 litres of whisky left in the 200 litre barrel and the abv had come down to just below 50% so the angels had taken a good share over the 26 years.

I usually like an age statement, at least 43% abv, no colouring and non-chill filtering when I buy a Malt. The only real exception to that rule that I buy regularly is Lagavulin 16 which does have some colouring in it.
 
Five bottles I've opened recently, organised a tasting to share them with friends (over zoom it should go without saying).

Aberfeldy 14 year old, 43%, Gordon and Macphail bottling. Apparently first fill sherry cask, but didn't look or taste it to me. Very drinkable, without being particularly challenging. 3/5
Macmyra svensk rök - very different this one. Smoked with juniper smoke, which does give it a very different taste to standard Islay bottlings. I liked it, but I'm unsure how often I'm going to reach for it. 2.5/5
Glenfiddich XX - deceptive marketing aside (a story for another day) this is actually very good. Not a distillery that really interests me much, but the added 47% abv really did give it some oomph. Tastes like there's some sherry involved, but suitably complex and balanced. Very nice. 3.5/5
Lagavulin 11 - a USA exclusive (available from the distillery though) and tie in with Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson of Parks and rec fame). Very nice lagavulin, but I'd be hard pressed to pick it out from the standard 16 blind. Maybe slightly more peated and agressive, but not much in it (from memory though, would like to try them side by side) 3/5
North Star Chaos - 12 year old Caol Ila that has been aged in sherry casks. There's something I really love about the mixture of sherry and peat, and this is great. It was available for that rarest of things in the current whisky market, an actually sensible price of circa £40 so of course sold out everywhere straight away but if they do a third batch (this was batch two) I'd highly recommend getting hold of it. 4/5
 
I am currently organising a Zoom tasting for 17 people, myself included. The theme for this tasting is the selection of whiskies in a shop around the corner from where live that is closing down. Their entire stock is on offer at wholesale plus 10% and 5% GST. The following is what I've selected:

Bearface One Eleven (42.5%) - Ten parts Canadian whisky (4 year old corn) blended with one part Mexican agave (2 year old), hence the "one eleven", and aged for a few months in virgin oak.
Sullivan's Cove Double Cask (40%) - Tasmanian single malt blend of American and French oak.
Tullibardine '225' Sauterne Finish (40%) - This is their basic bourbon cask 'Sovereign' finished in Chateau Suduiraut barrels about a ear.
GlenAllachie 12 YO (46%) - a new release from their new core range brought about by the former
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Limited Edition Virgin Oak (46%) - an archive bottling , as are the two below.
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Limited Edition Bourbon Cask (46%)
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Lightly Smoked (46%)
Bowmore 'Darkest' 15 YO (43%) - this is a slightly older bottling as it has a previous label
Cooper's Choice 'Laggan Mill' Secret Islay (46%) - one of 870 bottles and is likely to be a Lagavulin
BenRiach 'Curiositas' 10 YO (46%) - a peated malt, now discontinued.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Scottish Barley (50%) - another archive product
Ardbeg 10 (46%) - no notes necessary for the Ardbegs.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57.1%)
Juan Santos 'Antigua Reserva' 21 YO Rum (40%) - Columbian rum aged in bourbon casks and apparently on the dry side.

Cheers ............................... Mahmoud.
 
I am currently organising a Zoom tasting for 17 people, myself included. The theme for this tasting is the selection of whiskies in a shop around the corner from where live that is closing down. Their entire stock is on offer at wholesale plus 10% and 5% GST. The following is what I've selected:

Bearface One Eleven (42.5%) - Ten parts Canadian whisky (4 year old corn) blended with one part Mexican agave (2 year old), hence the "one eleven", and aged for a few months in virgin oak.
Sullivan's Cove Double Cask (40%) - Tasmanian single malt blend of American and French oak.
Tullibardine '225' Sauterne Finish (40%) - This is their basic bourbon cask 'Sovereign' finished in Chateau Suduiraut barrels about a ear.
GlenAllachie 12 YO (46%) - a new release from their new core range brought about by the former
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Limited Edition Virgin Oak (46%) - an archive bottling , as are the two below.
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Limited Edition Bourbon Cask (46%)
Tomatin 'Cu Bocan' Lightly Smoked (46%)
Bowmore 'Darkest' 15 YO (43%) - this is a slightly older bottling as it has a previous label
Cooper's Choice 'Laggan Mill' Secret Islay (46%) - one of 870 bottles and is likely to be a Lagavulin
BenRiach 'Curiositas' 10 YO (46%) - a peated malt, now discontinued.
Bruichladdich Port Charlotte Heavily Peated Scottish Barley (50%) - another archive product
Ardbeg 10 (46%) - no notes necessary for the Ardbegs.
Ardbeg Corryvreckan (57.1%)
Juan Santos 'Antigua Reserva' 21 YO Rum (40%) - Columbian rum aged in bourbon casks and apparently on the dry side.

Cheers ............................... Mahmoud.

Sounds like an epic Zoom tasting in the making. I recently participated in a rum virtual tasting and I was very impressed because the organiser sent us all a couple of Glencairn glasses to raise the glassware standards - all courtesy of the host.

My preferred glass tends to be the Sherry Copita for whisky tasting or second choice Glencairns, although I do sometimes use brandy glasses. I don't personally use tumblers much but can see that they have their place - i.e. for less refined pours and especially where ice is involved.
 
Sounds like an epic Zoom tasting in the making. I recently participated in a rum virtual tasting and I was very impressed because the organiser sent us all a couple of Glencairn glasses to raise the glassware standards - all courtesy of the host.

My preferred glass tends to be the Sherry Copita for whisky tasting or second choice Glencairns, although I do sometimes use brandy glasses. I don't personally use tumblers much but can see that they have their place - i.e. for less refined pours and especially where ice is involved.

I did a big glassware comparison. Zalto sweet wine did work really well, but makes me look/feel like a prick. Zalto digestif and the riedel tumbler (can't remember the exact name, it's small and surprisingly thin glass) were great but mostly I still just use a glencairn, it's still the benchmark for me
 
Graeme, when I drink whisky I choose either a Glencairn or a brandy glass, never a tumbler unless somewhere other than home. By the way, in a video where two chaps were tasting the Canadian Bearface One Eleven with the master blender, Andres Faustinelli, the two interviewers were using Glencairn glasses but the blender used a wine tasting glass.

If you're interested:


Cheers ................................. Mahmoud.
 
Thanks for the comments. Tom interesting your observations re Zalto and how you feel using them. I found the Universal works well for spirits too except would never reach for one in the first instance as does not feel right at all! Mahmoud - good to hear about high glassware standards in Canada.
 
No Crown Royal in the list.
Are you making lots of 30ml sample drams from the bottles if they have to go 17 ways?

In the "old days" when the tasting took place at home the tasting was limited to 14 people sampling 14 whiskies with a lucky draw at the end where everyone, from one to fourteen, took turns choosing the bottle they wanted to take home. This is much too difficult to do over the internet so I divvied up the entire bottle. Using a laboratory measuring cylinder and a syringe each person will get 41 ml from a 700ml bottle and 44ml from a 750ml bottle. The cost of the whiskies and the glass bottles are divided equally.

No Crown Royal, though I do have one in my small collection. It's an old bottle that was gifted to me, with a tax paper over the stopper that reads 1981. I don't particularly care for Canadian whiskey because I find them sweet but there are exceptions. Among the few that I've tried, the ones I would recommend are Goderham & Worts, Wiser's Legacy, and Alberta Premium Cask Strength (Jim Murray's choice for Whiskey of the Year in 2019) and, if you like bold, spicy rye, the Lot 40.
 
I have gotten into bourbon and rum a bit more during lock down, some good malternatives out there.

I like the Foursquare rums from Barbados as they do some good cask strength expressions.

For value for money recommendations I would say Arran 10yo for a single malt, Wild Turkey Rare Breed for a good high proof bourbon and any of the Foursquare Exceptional Cask Selection bottlings, although they sell out very quickly. You could pick up all 3 bottles and have change out of £150 here.
 
Currently drinking Port Charlotte 10yo which I picked up "Reduced to Clear" at Waitrose for £33.00. I don't like the new bottle design - very ugly and the opening is too wide so easy to spill. The spirt is absolutely lovely though. Almost a wine drinker's whisky. Whilst it is 50% ABV I am not adding water as I find it is reasonably light on its feet despite the ABV. Definitely peat and whilst peated to 40PPM it is not really a peat dominated whisky in the same sense that some other Islays are. The peat is there at the start but underneath there is a very clean and relatively complex yet refreshing and gentle fruity taste. I like this, quality stuff and can forgive the ugly bottle design.
 
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That certainly is a good price for the Port Charlotte 10, and I agree with you about the aesthetics of the bottle. I much preferred the previous look though it too had the wide opening and thick lips.

A recent find for me was a peated blend called Islay Mist 8 year-old. It's a blend that dates back to 1920s, when it was thought that Laphroaig might be too bold or peaty for the mainland guests invited to celebrate the 21st birthday of the son and heir of the Lord Margadale. Therefore they tamed Laphroaig by blending it with some Speyside malts and grain whisky. It's rather nice if simple, but has some clean sweet notes and fresh, sea breeze peat, and at only 40% abv it requires no water. And for only £16 all in it makes for an attractive easy sipper.

New to the house are a pair of Aultmore 12s that I just purchased. A few years ago I tasted an earlier release of this, the first original bottling of Aultmore as I understand it, and quite liked it.
 
I quite like the Laguvullin 8yo, or at least the anniversary edition was decent. May well reach for an official bottling as it appears to be part of their regular line up. I found it had more personality than the 16yo. Any thoughts?
 
Location
London
I agree, the Laga 8yo and 12yo tend to be good. Not sure whether the ennui with the 16 is inherent to the whisky or just because it's more familiar, but I agree, the 16 isn't really interesting enough to bother buying - I'm happy to have it as a reliable friend in a bar, say.
 
I quite like the Laguvullin 8yo, or at least the anniversary edition was decent. May well reach for an official bottling as it appears to be part of their regular line up. I found it had more personality than the 16yo. Any thoughts?
When the 200th anniversary edition Lagavulin was released in 2016 quite a few reviewers were very impressed, some preferring it to the standard 16yo. In fact they thought Lagavulin ought to make it a part of their regular lineup. I guess they took the advice to heart. I think what they liked was the essence of the Lagavulin distillate was much more pronounced and clean. I've heard it said that peated whiskies can work very well without a lot of aging and as if to confirm that Ardbeg has released a 5yo called Wee Beastie that has also received a lot of attention.
 
Lagavulin 21yo cask strength was always my favourite. When they released it the best part of 15 years ago it retailed around £120 and quickly shot up to £1K and beyond. I was lucky enough to taste the Lagavulin 37yo at the Diageo Rare Malts release a few years back but slightly preferred the 21yo.

Whilst the 16yo is a decent benchmark Malt the general release range isn't that interesting with the 8yo, 12yo and Game of Thrones edition and occasional Distillers Editions. The Feis Ile releases are expensive from the outset with the common supply and demand issues of sought after whiskies.
 
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