Category Archives: Islands

Tasting: Highland Park 40 yo

Highland Park 40Dram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: ?
Bottled: 2008
Age: 40 yo
Limitation: –
Casks: refill casks
Alcohol: 48,3%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Finally, there it is: The culmination of the vertical Highland Park tasting. The coveted, sought-after, eye-wateringly expensive 40-year-old. Let’s see what all the fuss is about!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose is surprisingly light and fragrant. If the 30 yo was a Rock & Roller on crack and steroids, this is a laid-back soul singer. Err, yeah, enough with these silly comparisons, what do we actually smell? Undeniable oak in the background. Think disused, aged, dusty library shelves someone now uses to bake Christmas bakery on, infusing them with spices (star anise, allspice) and sprinkling rum aroma on top of dark fruits (dried plums and dates). Vanilla-infused icing and dark chocolate are also involved. All of this happened a few days ago and the aromas are muted and starting to fade slowly. A very intriguing, complex nose, but someone turned down the volume just a bit too much. Let’s check the palate!

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Highland Park 30 yo

Tasting: Highland Park 30 yo

Highland Park 30 yoDram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: ?
Bottled: 2013
Age: 30 yo
Limitation: –
Casks: refill sherry casks
Alcohol: 45,7%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Two whiskies down, two to go in this vertical tasting series of Highland Park. Let’s pour the 30 year-old next!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose is the most expressive of the range so far. There’s a vibrant oaky not up front – but not too much oak. There are spices, a whole bucket of spices, including cinnamon, star anise and allspice. Someone’s thrown a very sweet, candied orange into the bucket as well and poured some caramel and maple syrup (the oak aged variety) over the mixture. Oh, and don’t forget the sultanas. In fact, this smells like a dusty, oaky whisky-infused fruit cake you can buy in the visitor’s center of many a Scottish distillery (it does get dusty if you leave it open for months. Ask my brother!). Can’t say, I’ve seen them at Highland Park, come to think of it. Oh, and what’s that? Just the hintiest hint of smokiness in the background adding to the complexity. Properly aged whisky, not overdone, not too less. I just hope it doesn’t disappoint on the palate!

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Highland Park 25 yo

Tasting: Highland Park 25 yo

Highland Park 25 yoDram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: ?
Bottled: 2012
Age: 25 yo
Limitation: –
Casks: mainly European oak sherry casks
Alcohol: 45,7%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

After starting off with the 21-year-old Highland Park in this vertical tasting series, let’s take a look at the 25-year-old next. The use of mainly European oak sherry casks should make for quite a difference…

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 medium amber
The nose starts off deep, rich, with a lot going on – it reminds me of the Christmas baking season which is upon us! Caramelised orange dried over a bonfire meets pickled ginger, rum-infused sultanas and baked apples with cinnamon and star anise. A retired baker watches his apprentices from a distance and fills his pipe with sweet, black cavendish-laden tobacco, but doesn’t light it. (Oh, come on now, how many have you had today….?) The European oak is there, but it is by no means overpowering or oaky, which is always good to see or, rather, nose. We don’t want oak to spoil the Christmas bakery, don’t we? Let’s check out the palate before my mind wanders off completely! Continue reading

Highland Park 21 yo

Tasting: Highland Park 21 yo

Highland Park 21 yoDram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: ?
Bottled: ?
Age: 21 yo
Limitation: –
Casks: mainly American oak sherry casks
Alcohol: 47,5%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

How about a wee mini-series of Highland Park tasting notes, say, the 21yo all the way up to the 40? I was fortunate enough to visit the distillery this year (click here for an in-depth article) and squirrelled away the samples I got to taste on a later day – which is now. Let’s start with the youngest of the bunch, shall we?

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light amber
The first aroma I get on the nose is that of a dunnage warehouse. A whiff of earthy notes and a hint of mushrooms, which is gone after a few seconds, to reveal a dense mix of rich vanilla, very light smoke (burning heather), smoke-dried apricots and dates stored in grandma’s spice cabinet next to a fresh orange. They said, this is made up of mainly ex-American oak sherry casks, which accounts for the creaminess and not overwhelming spices. A very nice, complex nose indeed. Let’s check out the palate!
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Ledaig 10 yo

Tasting: Ledaig 10 yo

Ledaig 10 yoDram data:
Distillery: Tobermory
Bottler: original bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: ca. 2015
Age: 10 years
Limitation: –
Casks: –
Alcohol: 46,2%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

I’ve reviewed quite a lot of “special” whiskies lately – it’s time to look at the “daily dram” category again. This one fits the bill nicely, affordable, and presented the way we like it (no chill filtration, no fake colour). Oh, and it’s been called “the new Ardbeg” by some. Let’s verify that claim!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 green barley
The nose is just how I like a relatively young, heavily peated dram to be! Peat bonfire smoke (is that even a thing?) up front, like a South coast Islay, with phenols, dirty oil rags and a hint of iodine. Well, no wonder, since the malt is supplied from the Port Ellen maltings on Islay. It is, however, not only just smoke and a whole lot of nothing – there’s more going on! Fresh ginger, pepper and eucalyptus provide a welcome punch, after which sweeter notes start to appear. There are hints of fudge, vanilla, sugar-coated shortbread and a touch of flowering herbs. Vibrant, kicking, young, yet with a good balance, I can see why people compare it to Ardbeg 10. Continue reading

Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead's

Tasting: Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead’s

Jura 1986 30 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Jura
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1986
Bottled: 2016
Age: 30 years
Limitation: 66 bottles
Casks: Bourbon Barrel
Alcohol: 42,5%
unchillfiltered / uncoloured
Whiskybase link

That sample took a while to reach me! It went from Salzburg to Vienna, was forgotten and finally found its way into my hands at its bottling place, Campbeltown, this May, only for me to bring it back to Austria to finally taste it. Apparently, it’s a very good Jura (which you can’t say of all whiskies by this distillery), so I’m very much looking forward to giving it a go!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is rather promising. Rich and properly aged with quite a noticeable oak influence, but not too much. We’ve got an oak storage cupboard with a slight layer of waxy varnish and quite a few kinds of fruit – dried bananas, dried peaches, dried pineapple, tinned lychees, sweet red apples, rhubarb some pickled ginger. Add to that a hint of orange peel, honey and a box of tutti frutti. This is unlike most Juras I’ve tasted – the spirit has been taken over by the cask in a very advantageous way. Continue reading

Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yo

Tasting: Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yo

Highland Park Ice Edition 17 yoDram data:
Distillery: Highland Park
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2016
Age: 17 years
Limitation: 30.000(!)
Casks: 1st fill ex-Bourbon
Alcohol: 53,9%
unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

When I wrote a rant about the overhyped, way overpriced, marketing-driven Highland Park Ice last year, I never thought I’d actually get to taste the whisky. I was sure Edrington would never send me a sample after what I wrote and I’d also never shell out that kind of money for what I regard as being 10% whisky and 90% hype. However, when an opportunity presented itself recently to get a “dregs bottle” of it, I had no choice but to take it home with me to find out, whether my statement “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a lovely dram”, made in my rant, was in fact correct. Let’s do it!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 gold
The nose is full of ex-bourbon honesty. Quite fresh, I’m sure there’s loads of refill oak in the mix, which accentuates the character of the distillate. Lemon zest, lemon juice, heather, very slight, fragrant peat smoke (heather bonfire?) up front. Once you cut through these initial, light aromas, you get to a slightly beefier core: A hint of flambeed vanilla pudding, smoked peaches and tangerines and a background layer of oak spices. After a few minutes in the glass, these heavier components take over, increasing the complexity.
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Tobermory 19 yo by Cadenhead's

24 drams till Christmas 2016 #14: Tobermory 19 yo by Cadenhead’s

Tobermory 19 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Tobermory
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1995
Bottled: 07.2014
Age: 19
Limitation: 498 bottles
Casks: Sherry Butt
Alcohol: 54,2%
unchillfiltered and uncoloured
Whiskybase link

What’s that wee dusty miniature back there buried below other samples? Tobermory? Haven’t had one in a while – don’t mind if I pour one…

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 amber
The nose opens on… aaah! Dirty sherry whisky profile! None of this highly polished, clinically, modern stuff! Burnt rubber and oily rags with a bottle of Manzanilla poured over them on first contact! Not for wimps, that’s for sure. But what else is there? Almost burnt roasted dried fruits (any fruit, really), lovage, burnt toffee (hey, how many more burnt things can you cram into a Sherry butt?), high-octane chocolate and a handful of cloves. Sulphur, you ask? Well… err… maybe a burnt matchstick, but that’s about it. With water: not too much change, just a tad more accessible for people not used to this style of whisky. Let’s check the palate!  Continue reading

Arran 1996-2013 17 yo Bourbon cask #547

24 drams till christmas 2016 #4: Arran 1996-2013 17 yo Bourbon cask #547

Arran 1996-2013 17 yo Bourbon cask #547Dram data:
Distillery: Arran
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: 17.06.1996
Bottled: 10.09.2013
Age: 17 years
Limitation: 202 bottles
Cask: Ex-Bourbon (barrel?)
Alcohol: 52.4%
unchillfiltered and uncoloured
Whiskybase link

One thing I like about the Arran distillery is their twice-yearly release of official single cask bottlings at very affordable prices. This is one of them – from a few years back. What intrigued me to buy it back then was the extremely dark colour for an ex-bourbon whisky…

Tasting notes:
Colour: amber
The nose is perhaps not the most typical Arran profile, thanks to the “freak cask”, but it’s certainly a good one! Right off the start we’ve got a light citrus on caramel and almost smoky toasted chocolate-covered toffee with creme brulee (now that’s a first for me, don’t beat me up about the spelling, please!). There are also tropical fruits – dried mango and papaya with lychees but also apricots and physalis. A hint of oak and slight cask spices in the background. Light-ish, as is the Arran style, but sophisticated and fruity, very nice! On to the palate! Continue reading

Tasting: Abhainn Dearg NAS Single Malt

Abhainn Dearg NAS Single MaltDram data:
Distillery: Abhainn Dearg
Bottler: Original bottling
Distilled: 2008(?)
Bottled: ?
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: Single Cask
Alcohol: 46%
Unchillfiltered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Now that the blog’s moved to the new domain and the new server, let’s find something interesting to review for the “first” post on the new site. How about this one? A single malt from the only distillery on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides? A rather low-key and rarely mentioned farm distillery with a homemade setup! I finally tracked down a mini in Speyside this year! Info on it is hard to come by – the website describes it as the inaugural bottling (no other miniature available?) and the mini itself mentions it’s a single cask bottling. Without any further info I’ll have to classify it as NAS of unknown vintage… Well, let’s crack it open and have a wee nose and taste!

Tasting notes:
Colour: 
pale white wine
The nose opens on a light whiff of alcohol, quite fresh – minty – with a touch of vanilla, custard and a very noticeable background oak note which I can only describe as new oak press board in a joiner’s workshop – strange, but interesting! There’s also a light citrus-like note, something along the lines of a mix of slightly older limes and tangerines. with a slice of ginger thrown in for good measure. Very fresh and light overall, but no off notes as can often be found in very young 3yo whisky. Continue reading