Tasting: Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Usually we as a human race like to have special drinks (Champagne, Wine, Whisky) to celebrate special events. And then there’s the opposite: Letting a fine drink create a special event. I’ve been holding on to this sample of 50 year-old, sherry-matured Strathisla from Speyside for quite a while now. Let’s see if will succeed at creating a special occasion …

Strathisla 1965 50 yo bottled 2016 by Gordon & MacPhail

Dram data:
Distillery: Strathisla
Bottler: Gordon & MacPhail
Distilled: 09.12.1965
Bottled: 20.01.2016
Age: 50 years
Limitation: 418 bottles
Cask: First Fill Sherry Puncheon
Alcohol: 43%
Uncoloured
Whiskybase link

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Tasting: Tomatin 30 yo

Tomatin 30 yo

Sometimes you open, enjoy and share a bottle and completely forget to review it. This alsmost happened with this 30-year-old Tomatin. Originally opened for my 30th birthday it has become better and better through oxidation over the years. I guess now is the time to finally officially review it before there’s nothing left – which should already give you a hint…

Tomatin 30 yo

Dram data:
Distillery: Tomatin
Bottler: official bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 11.02.2014
Age: 30 years
Limitation: –
Cask: European and American Oak casks
Alcohol: 46%
uncoloured / not chill filtered
Whiskybase link

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Drink your whisky samples!

Who doesn’t like whisky samples? Okay, most would probably prefer full-size bottles, but for most of us mere mortal lovers of the amber nectar, samples are a great thing.

We collect samples at festivals, we bring back home unfinished drams from tastings, we swap them with friends, we get them for free or we stash a way hidden liquid treasures of times gone by. Some of us might even keep an archive – a liquid sample library of all the bottles we’ve ever opened. Is there a whisky lover out there who doesn’t have samples?

I am a sample hoarder. I have brought back samples from my Scotland trips, from tastings, festivals and meetings with friends. I also keep a liquid library. I even bought a huge archive of 6 cl samples from one entire year’s worth of entries into the Malt Maniacs Awards when they were sold by a friend for a good cause.

Needless to say, in total that’s a LOT of sample bottles kicking around, stashed away, waiting to be discovered “someday”. And so late last year I made the decision to do something about the “backlog” and start drinking and enjoying my samples. What I did not expect was how mixed my experiences would be.

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Dramming with Keith part two – aka Blair Athol and the case of the strange butts…

Blair Athol 1988 27 yo

Another set of samples from one distillery – Blair Athol in this case – are sitting on my desk and my e-mail inbox is full with conversations with Keith Wood. That can only mean one thing: A sequel to the first series where we tasted six different Talisker drams is in the works.

Four drams from this one distillery, all distilled just a few days apart in the year 1988 but matured in different casks (all of which were butts of different varieties) and bottled between 25 and 27 years of age, which should yield some rather interesting comparisons. All bottles were entered into the 2016 Malt Maniacs awards, so if you want to go ahead and compare our scores to the ones by the official judges, head over to this page.

Now, without further ado, let the best butt malt win.


Blair Althol 1988 25yo

Blair Athol 1988 25 yo

1988, 25y, 59.6% ABV
21.10.1988 – 3.7.2014 551 btls
Casks 6920 & 6924 Refill Sherry Butts
Signatory Vintage CS for GI Jane (Fortune Taiwan)

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Dramming with Keith – Two malt mates, six Talisker expressions in a vertical tasting

Talisker 18 year old

It’s a few months after the 2016 Malt Maniacs awards. I’m sitting in Keith Wood’s den and we’re talking about the whiskies I’ve helped decant into sample bottles just a few months earlier. “You know, it would be interesting if we did a vertical tasting together and publish both our notes at the same time.” One of obvious candidates is Talisker, since there are no less than six expressions that were entered into the awards. A plan is hatched, samples are filled – and about a year (or so) later, the day is finally here: A vertical tasting of the following six Talisker Expressions: Skye, Storm, Dark Storm, Port Ruighe, 10 yo, 18 yo. Let’s do this!

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Tasting: Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill Port

Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill Port

Longrow Open Day 2018 13 yo Refill PortDram data:
Distillery: Springbank
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: February 2005
Bottled: 14.05.2018
Age: 13 years
Limitation: 1096 bottles
Casks: Refill Port
Alcohol: 58,7%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Longrow. The heavily peated spirit produced at the quirky Springbank distillery in “wee toon” Campbeltown. Bottled for their 2018 whisky festival. What could possibly go wrong…?

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 red gold
The nose has a slight alcoholic punch to it at the beginning – no wonder, looking at the strength. Beneath the alcohol rich, dark goodness awaits. We’ve got dried dates, dried figs, dried plums and a few raisins on top served on a spicy, peat smoked oak platter garnished with allspice, cloves, tangerine peel and ginger. The slightest whiff of sulphur came and went quickly, a bit longer lasting is a whiff of the Campbeltown dunnage warehouse funkiness (some might call it dark chocolate…). Rather lovely start. Let’s move on to the palate! 

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Tasting: Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)Dram data:
Distillery: Bruichladdich
Bottler: Official Bottling
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2018
Age: 10 years
Limitation: –
Casks: American and French oak
Alcohol: 50%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

It came and it went, came back as a limited release – and is now back as a permanent expression in Bruichladdich’s heavily peated “Port Charlotte” range – new packaging and all: The 10 year-old! In recent Bruichladdich fashion, they even tell us the recipe: 65% 1st fill American casks, 10% 2nd fill American casks and a whopping 25% 2nd fill French wine casks.
Two weeks ago I was able to sit down with Bruichladdich’s Cristy for an hour at the distillery and chat about what’s new and upcoming (more on that in a separate blog post). On that occasion, I was kindly given a bottle of this new expression before it went out for general release (which should start right about now), so let’s crack it and test it! Oh, one more thing: Apparently the new, bespoke bottles for Port Charlotte (I like the raised lettering in glass on the back!) feature an anti-dripping lip. Err, okay. I usually don’t spill whisky – but I did when I opened and poured this one. Make of that what you will… 😉

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 light gold
The nose has a fresh, peppery kick to it upon first contact. Freshly cracked pepper with mint and tangerine oil mixed with fragrant, noticeable but not overpowering peat smoke. It takes a few minutes to fully open up. Now we’ve got sooty peat smoke mixed with aromas of whisky-marinated lamb steak, light vanilla, a hint of red berries, juicy pears, squeezed grapes, and the very typical French oak spices in the background. Interesting how much of an influence this 25 % share of French casks makes! Even more time in the glass mellows the spirit even more, bringing more of the fruity, dark components to light. Let’s move on to the palate!  Continue reading “Tasting: Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 10 yo (2018 release)”

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Tasting: Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead’s Small Batch Collection

Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead's

Deanston 1994 19 yo by Cadenhead'sDram data:
Distillery: Deanston
Bottler: Cadenhead’s
Distilled: 1994
Bottled: 2014
Age: 19 years
Limitation: 846 bottles
Casks: Butts
Alcohol: 56,4%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

I guess everybody has one – a distillery whose products they’re struggling with. There are very few of them – but Deanston is amongst them. It’s hard for me to find a Deanston malt that “connects” with me – for whatever reason. So what drove me to purchase this bottling by Cadenhead’s? Don’t remember! Let’s see if this is a Deanston malt that “works” for me…

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 dark straw
The nose is pretty light – second fill butts were probably used for maturation. We’re greeted by lemon, citrus peel, a whiff of alcohol, unripe grapes and grape seeds on a bed of candyfloss. A mix of limoncello and grappa, perhaps – aged in oak barrels. After 19 years this is still rather spirit-driven, which is not a bad thing unless you’re expecting a sherry bomb. Let it sit for quite a while and more subtle nuances appear, together with a grape and apricot sweetness and fruitiness. Not a dram to be rushed. Quite good so far – let’s see if it’s the same on the palate! 

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Tasting: Auchentoshan 1997 18 yo by Blackadder Raw Cask

Auchentoshan 1997 18 yo by Blackadder Raw Cask

Auchentoshan 1997 18 yo by Blackadder Raw CaskDram data:
Distillery: Auchentoshan
Bottler: Blackadder
Distilled: 22.10.1997
Bottled: 29.10.2015
Age: 18 years
Limitation: 247 bottles
Casks: “single oak hogshead” 2909
Alcohol: 52,3%
uncoloured / unchillfiltered
Whiskybase link

Ah yes – another one of these Raw Cask bottles where it’s best to have a fine-mesh strainer at hand, otherwise you’ll end up with a crunchy layer of charcoal in the glass. Also my second ever Auchentoshan review, a distillery I often struggle with when trying official bottlings. Let’s see how this indie bottling fares!

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 oxidised copper
The nose has a prominent, yet light and very clean alcoholic top note that’s immediately noticeable. Beneath the layer of alcohol, there’s a whiff of citrus peel, with candyfloss, vanilla, dried coconut flakes, raw banana, burnt sugar and shortbread. Just a pinch of oriental spices is to be detected. Oh, and some wormwood. The oak may have imparted a lot of colour, but it has not taken over completely, enhancing the triple-distilled spirit just enough to add supporting flavour compounds and taking away the rough edges. Nosing an Auchentoshan that’s not been killed with too much cask influence is a delight – owing to the rather lovely and delicate new make, which I got to taste back in 2014. On to the palate!  Continue reading “Tasting: Auchentoshan 1997 18 yo by Blackadder Raw Cask”

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Tasting: Compass Box Spice Tree NAS

Compass Box Spice Tree

Compass Box Spice TreeDram data:
Distillery: –
Bottler: Compass Box
Distilled: –
Bottled: 2014 (ongoing batches)
Age: NAS
Limitation: –
Casks: French/American oak
Alcohol: 46%
not chill filtered; uncoloured
Whiskybase link

Spice tree – I’m sure quite a few of you will already be familiar with this whisky – but here’s a short summary for those who aren’t: John Glaser of Compass Box once created a whisky by this name. This original version used “inner staves” in the maturation/finishing casks – basically adding additional staves of oak into the casks to impart their character. This practice was ultimately deemed illegal – and the whisky was discontinued. The version that’s now on the market (since 2009) claims to achieve the same result – but adhering to the rule set for Scotch Whisky. Never having tasted the “illegal” product I’ll take a look at the current offering:

Tasting notes:
Colour:
 honey
Yes, there’s spice on the nose! Who’da thunk! Like sticking your nose into grandma’s spice cupboard! We’ve got allspice, clove, cinnamon and a pinch of ground ginger sprinkled over a soft and sweet base of honey, Italian sweet almond cookies and shortbread. The French oak is strong in this one – but not overpowering and working well with the complex, tightly woven vatted, err, blended malt base. Let’s check the palate! 

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