Friday, 24 October 2014

Glentauchers 12 (Provenance) - 46%

Distilled Autumn 1999
Bottled Winter 2012
From one refill hogshead: DMG ref: 8014

On my shopping trip to pick up a bottle of the thoroughly delicious Glenglassaugh Evolution, I also bought this Provenance bottling of Glentauchers. I had never tried a dram from the distillery, but seeing as the bottle was a good price, the whisky was non-chill filtered with no added colouring, and the fact I've had several other whiskies from the Douglas Laing/McGibbon's Provenance range, I thought, 'Why not?'
    On the nose there's loads of tropical fruit notes, primarily pineapple, mango and peach. There's also a dark malty note and it's incredibly aromatic and floral aromas rose from the glass. There was a dab of liquorice, red jelly babies, sherbet, slight banana and clean barley. I also got something which reminded me of watermelon Life Saver sweets. I also found a sour wood note running through, which got worse with the addition of water.
    Take a sip and it coats the mouth well with a lovely syrupy taste. There's also a huge smack of floral notes, honey, spicy cinnamon heat, white pepper, a touch of toffee and some wood underpinning the malt.
    The finish had vanilla, pepper, liquorice chews, malty cereals, caramel and little salt. The sour note which came through on the nose was also present here after the addition of water. Not unpleasant, but certainly noticeable. Much better neat in my opinion.
    I did enjoy the bottle, but it lacked sparkle and was missing that special something. It has me intrigued, though, and I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for more Glentauchers in the future. Glad I bought it as it's furthered my ongoing whisky education.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Johnnie Walker Black - 40%

I picked up a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black a few weeks ago. It was on offer and as my experience with the blend was limited, I decided to take the plunge. The Black is the most popular blend in the world, made up of 40 different whiskies, so if it's good enough for thousands of others, it's good enough for me.
    On the nose there's pear, toffee, cinnamon, green apples, orange marzipan, tart plums, a touch of golden syrup and slight smoke.
    The taste is full of dark toffee notes, along with vanilla, malty cereals, a touch of runny treacle and dried fruits. However, I found it a wee bit sour, with a flavour of orange pith coming out after intense swirling.
    The finish was heavy on the liquorice, orange peel, more toffee, black peppercorns, earthy with a hint of peat, spicy cinnamon and that pithy, sour note came through again right at the end.
    This is not too bad at all and thanks to its easy going nature, I can see why it's so popular. Very easy to drink and available for a decent price.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A gaggle of Glenfiddich

A few months ago I was in the local supermarket when I saw a mini-pack containing three miniatures of Glenfiddich for less than a tenner. I snapped them up as my only previous experience of Glenfiddich has been the 12, which I've had in bars several times, and the 15-year-old distillery edition which I scooped in last year's whisky advent calendar.
    When I took them to the checkout, the young woman at the counter asked me for ID. I stared blankly at her for a few seconds, before she broke the silence by laughing and said: "I'm only kiding. There's no way you're that young!" I laughed along with her - then cursed her all the way home. The cheek of it!
    Anyway, 15cl of Glenfiddichs have made their way down my throat and here's what I thought:

Glenfiddich 12 - 40%
On the nose, the 12 is light, floral and delicate. There's also hard boiled pear drops, hints of toffee and caramel, juicy red apples and a slight woody note. It also carries a hard, mineral, flinty smell. Not unpleasant, though.
    There really isn't much going on in the mouth. Those apple notes come rolling back - as do the light floral character. I also got a little cinnamon and a papery taste.
    The finish isn't complex, but I did get some gooseberries, sharp apples, caramel, some dry wood, toasted cereals and white pepper.

Glenfiddich 14 Rich Oak - 40%
Immediately, there's much more going on here. Underneath the buttery wood, there's a sweet jam taste, baked lemon, dried fruit, gentle cinnamon, citrus vanilla, a wee bit of smoke and blackcurrant Chewits. It's still quite delicate, though.
    Taking a sip, it was initially sweet and jammy - but wood - sawdust - cuts right through the pallet. There's also a little baked apple, burned brown sugar and nuts. I also found it a little too spirity for my liking.
    The finish was really, really dry, while those apples dropped in again, along with plums, toffee, liquorice and cinnamon. I also found a wee sour note at the back.

Glenfiddich 15 The Solera Vat
Right off the bat there's fizzy orange and blackcurrant sherbet. Wood then start to assert itself, with a hint of butter icing, sweet lemon and apricot jam. There's also a hint of light marmalade spread on granary toast.
    In the mouth, it was sweet with orange notes. Quite a nice syrupy mouth feel, along with spicy cinnamon-dusted baked plums.
    The finish was perhaps the best part of this dram, with lots of red fruit jam, creamy vanilla, white pepper, nutmeg and red liquorice laces. But the best part was right at the end, with a strong malty chocolate note which reminded me of a Tunnock's caramel wafer.

These three drams might not be the most complex malts on the planet, but they were all enjoyable and very easy going. The Solera Vat stood out from the other two for me and I could easily work my way through a bottle. Good value, too, if you're after a session dram.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Ardmore Traditional - 46%

When I'm whizzing the shopping trolley around the supermarket, I always reward myself with a visit to the whisky aisle. Great bargains can be had, with Old Pulteney 12 and Highland Park 12 regular purchases when they're going for around £23. However a few weeks ago, I visited Morrison's on the way home from work. Lurking around the usual suspects, I spotted the Ardmore Traditional perched on a self, clearly looking for a good home. It had a few quid lopped off the asking price, so for £22, I thought I would take a punt on it. No age statement, but it's bottled at a hearty 46% and is non-chill filtered. I threw the chicken, pizza, crisps and veg out of the trolley and grabbed the bottle. I wasn't expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by this easy going, session dram with a hint of peat.
    On the nose there was loads of toffee and caramel. There's also a lovely sweetness which brought to mind slabs of buttery tablet. Dark brown sugar is everywhere in the glass, along with a generous pour of condensed milk. The peat plays around the edges of the dram, but it never masks the lovely sweet confectionery aromas. I added a little water, left it for 10 and came back. This brought a hint of lime juice and milk bottle sweets to the party.
    Taste wise, those buttery, dark sugar notes are still there, while I also got Lee's macaroon bars, complete with toasted coconut topping. This is a good whisky to pair with dark chocolate - not too bitter, though. It's a real treat.
    The finish was toffee heavy with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon, while a slight green note cuts through right at the end.
    If I had to compare the Ardmore Traditional to another dram, it would be the Benromach 10. That's much sweeter and carries loads of fruit notes but to me, there's something similar in the taste and smell. The Ardmore Traditional has none of those fruity notes - its sweetness is more of a brown sugar, fudge type of deal.
    For the price, this is a great whisky but unfortunately, changes are already taking place. The Traditional is to be replaced - indeed, it already has in Morrison's. Ardmore have launched the Legacy which has muscled in already and knocked the Traditional out of the way.
    It's chill-filtered and bottled at a disappointing 40%. It's also on sale at the moment for around the same price, so I might pick up a bottle just to try it. Initial reports suggest the Legacy is a decent enough dram, but doesn't quite match the Traditional. We shall see. But if you see a bottle of the old stuff in your local supermarket, I suggest you pick it up before it's gone forever.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Glenglassaugh Evolution - 50%

After doing a wee bit of reading about Glenglassaugh's fairly recent revival, I decided to explore something from their range. After all, they've gone for the full craft presentation, adding no colouring and not chill-filtering their whisky. I'm always eager to support distilleries who treat their product with a bit of respect, so I took a wander into town on an overcast Saturday morning a few months ago and left the liquor store with a bottle of the Evolution.
    The other two on the shelves are the Revival, which is aged in a mixture of first-fill and refill bourbon casks for a handful of years and then finished for six months in first-fill Oloroso sherry butts, and the Torfa, a peated malt aged in ex-bourbon barrels.
The Evolution is young like the other two expressions, but it's been aged George Dickel Tennessee bourbon barrels. I thought this would add something a little extra to the flavours - along with the fact it's been bottled at a thoroughly respectable 50%.
    In we go!
    On the nose, there's a confectionery mountain of banana-flavoured toffee. If any of you remember Toffos, this has that smell in abundance. Once it settles down, I get apricot jam sweetness, barley sugars, Mackintosh apples and a hint of fresh mint. A wee dribble of water brought out chocolate-covered raisins, lychee, glace cherries, white grape skins, caramel, red liquorice laces, pear juice, green wood sap, crumbly custard cream biscuits and an amazing aroma which reminded me of red and black jelly babies. For a very young whisky, this is a complex and delightful beast.
    Taking a sip, it has a wonderful mouth feel, covering the tongue with a rich, syrupy flavour sensation. There's loads of fruit jam, rich vanilla custard, a good dollop of honey, liquorice, sweet lemon and the merest hint of tangerine juice.
    The finish carries on the jammy note and there's a little creaminess which creeps in and a rounded bitter lemon. However, it's here where the whisky's youth comes through, with a slight metallic taste lingering a little too long.
    That said, I really enjoyed the Glenglassaugh Evolution. For a young malt - and I'm guessing 4-5 years - this has stacks of character and it is bursting with flavour. I'll definitely be exploring the rest of their range. If they're half as good as this, I'm in for a treat.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Balvenie Signature 12, batch 4 - 40%

My previous experiences with Balvenie have been extremely positive. My first blog post in July last year featured their Doublewood 12 and I really enjoyed the 14-year-old Caribbean Cask. But recently, I bought another bottle of the Caribbean Cask and it just didn't click with me at all. It's been over a year since I tried it and a lot more whisky has passed my lips since then. Maybe my tastes are changing, but the CC had a bitterness all the way through, which I found really unappealing. I don't think it was there before otherwise I would have jotted it down. Perhaps it was a bad cask - who knows.
    However, despite my disappointment, I saw a bottle of the Signature 12 on special offer and I thought, 'why not?' Unfortunately, I again found a spirity, bitter note in the glass - exactly the same as my recent CC purchase. It wasn't all bad, though, so here's what I thought.
    On the nose I got a lot of mashed banana, peach, kiwi fruit and baked apple. Adding to the fruity aromas was toffee caramel, vanilla, a creamy sherry trifle, melted candle wax and a hint of mustard seeds. There was also that sharp, bitter green note lurking at the back, which wasn't exactly pleasant.
    Taking a sip, I immediately noticed a tight, astringency. After a few minutes it receded and apples, caramel, spicy cinnamon, hard boiled pineapple cubes and foam banana confectionery came through. I also got a hint of flat sugary Pepsi. The finish was bitter with green peppercorns, sour wood, custard cream biscuits and that touch of kiwi fruit returned.
    The Signature's been aged in a mixture of Oloroso sherry butts, first-fill bourbon barrels and refill bourbon casks - and in my opinion, at least one of these was sub-standard. I went back to the bottle time and time again over the course of several months, but that sharp, bitter note just wouldn't go away. A higher alcohol percentage might have helped, but I was left a bit disappointed and it's left me unsure about whether I'll return to Balvenie's range any time soon.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tomatin Cu Bocan - 46%

In my last review, I mentioned that my good mate Yan dropped off a wee selection of samples to whet my appetite. I thought the Talisker Dark Storm was a tasty and easily enjoyable dram. But the next sample he threw my way, I'd heard mixed things about.
    Tomatin's Cu Bocan is a lightly peated single malt. It carries no age statement, is non-chill filtered, and has spent its short life in ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and virgin oak casks. Some reviews I've read say it's not quite there and Tomatin should stick to their rather fabulous standard range. Well, I'm all for malts mixing it up and I'm always eager to try different flavours. So I poured a healthy amount of the golden liquid into a polished Glencairn, eager to see what those crazy cats at Tomatin have been up to.
    Now I love my peated malts - I have three heavy peat monsters currently open - but I'm also partial to a drop or two of peated Highland malts. They obviously have a completely different character to the Islay bruisers and I like the interplay between light fruit and dark peat. The best one to get, if you're asking, is the amazing AnCnoc Rutter. It's an incredible dram and well worth the asking price. But I digress, this is about Tomatin's Cu Bocan, so here we go.
    There's a load of complex citrus notes when this dram has been left to settle for 10 minutes. I get a lot of grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange. The peat is definitely there, but rather than dominate, it adds a dark character to the Cu Bochan. There's definitely a hint of sherry, along with white pepper, caramel, coffee, mint and pickled ginger. I also get smoked paprika, a slight nuttiness and dark barley. A dribble of water brings out vanilla Edinburgh rock, a little Sugar Puff sweetness, paper and something akin to a bag of liquorice all-sorts.
    The taste is fresh - young - with more citrus. This time it's the rind rather than the juice and it's followed by cinnamon, hard boiled barley sugars, spicy peppercorns - but the peat seems to have completely disappeared. With a wee dollop of water, the whole dram becomes sweeter.
    The finish is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Cu Bocan. I find it is here where the whisky's youthfulness makes itself apparent. That said, I also get fresh fruit, liquorice, espresso and chocolate caramel. To get there, though, I really had to dig down and spend a lot of time with it. The water is the key here, as with it, the finish produces a lovely malted chocolate milkshake note, although the young spirit note never quite goes away.
    Would definitely like to investigate the Cu Bocan further, but I think a little longer in the cask would have worked wonders.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Talisker Dark Storm - 45.8%

Early last month, my old mate and whisky buddy Yan came to visit. He's the one that led me astray by dragging me to the Newcastle Whisky Festival back in March and made me drink a ridiculous amount of single malts. When I think back to the train journey home the next day, I still feel ill.
    However, being a generous sort of chap, he dropped off a few samples from his collection while he was here. I'm only now getting round to sampling them, so on with the show.
    I like Talisker's standard 10-year-old offering but it's the only expression I've tried from the Skye distillery. So I was looking forward to trying this travel retail exclusive. And while I think it would make for an easy going session dram and also appeal to those who don't like their peat too overpowering, I couldn't really find any Talisker characteristics in the glass.
    When I first poured a dram, I could have sworn it was a Bowmore 12. It seems to share that flat Irn-Bru smell which seems to infiltrate most Bowmores I've tried in the past.
    Along with that soft-drink note, there's also Terry's Chocolate Orange on the nose, along with raisins, golden sultanas, undiluted Ribena, pine, salted cashews, creamy vanilla and a Starbucks caramel macchiato. There's also a smokiness present - not billowing peat, but more of a campfire note. I would say like a burning campfire in a pine forest, but that would be a wee bit too much, eh?
    A drop of water increased the sweetness and brought in candied peel, baked apples, sweet mint and chilli and lime chocolate - one of my favourites.
    On the palate, there's quite a lot of salted caramel, red chilli flakes, black coffee, dark chocolate and a dab of orange marmalade. The smoky character seems to round off the edges of this non-age statement dram and gives it a bit of depth.
    The finish is spicy, with black peppercorns, orange rind, more coffee and chocolate, while that mellow smoke round things off.
    I really quite enjoyed this one and like I said, it would make for a decent wee session dram with friends on a windy autumn night. I think it retails for around 48 notes, but add in the cost of a flight, and it will set you back quite a bit more.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Glen Garioch - 1994 Vintage - 53.9%

Distilled 1994, bottled 2011 - batch 32

When I left my last job back in July, my co-workers kindly gave me gift vouchers for Glasgow's Buchanan Galleries. I could have bought a few shirts from Gap, a jacket from John Lewis, or a year's worth of vitamin tablets from Boots. But, with The Whisky Shop in the mall, there was really only ever going to be one winner. So, with vouchers folded safely in my wallet, off I went and brought home two bottles. This Glen Garioch is the first.
    I've always really enjoyed Glen Garioch's products - the 12-year-old, Founder's Reserve and the Virgin Oak have all been excellent. So when I saw this bottle from the 94 range, I dived in immediately. 17 years old, bottled at cask strength, non-chill filtered and - although it doesn't state in on the label - there is no added colouring. Its golden straw-like colour is a world away from the Founder's Reserve, which looks more like Irn-Bru - although it tastes much better than Barr's soft drink.
    First impressions were that it was quite tight and astringent - but it really starts to reveal its character once a few drams have been poured and oxygen begins to circulate in the bottle.
With 3/4 of the bottle gone, time to get the notes up to date.
    It's an incredibly perfumed single malt, with flowers and pears coming to the fore straight away. Dig down and leave it to settle for 15 minutes, and a lovely warm citrus note comes through, along with honey, hard-boiled sherbet lemons, caramelised apples, spearmint, sharp gooseberries and a hint of cranberry.
    Take a sip, and there's a jam note which hits immediately. It gives way to liquorice, lemons, white pepper and vanilla. However, it doesn't take long for the oak to really kick in and I found it a little too dominating. The finish is packed with more citrus notes, warming vanilla, a little sour wood and a slight, sappy green note.
    While I'm glad I bought this, I still prefer the 12-year-old. Once I noticed the dry oakiness, I couldn't get past it and it took the shine off the experience.
    For the price, you could but a bottle of the 12 AND  bottle of the Founder's Reserve. Job done.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Kilchoman 100% Islay - 4th Edition - 50%

Back in May, I jotted down a handful of tasting notes for Kilchoman's Loch Gorm 2014 edition. I stated back then that, to my shame, I had yet to buy a full bottle of Kilchoman and vowed to put that right. Happily, I did just that, buying a bottle of Loch Gorm together with this bottle of their 100% Islay, 4th edition.
    The Loch Gorm is long gone, with only a 5cl miniature in my whisky drawer proof that it ever existed. And, as I type this, I have just poured the last dram from the 100% Islay. So, before I carefully lower the bottle into the recycling bin, it's time for another live tasting session.
    It's a sad day, but I will definitely be buying more Kilchomans in the near future because I don't want to be without one of their products ever again. Everything I've tried has been quite brilliant and I'll continue to support Islay's newest distillery by throwing money at them every few months. So let's get this show started.
    There's a lot going on with the 100% Islay. It's non-chill filtered, has no added colouring, and is bottled at a robust 50% and as soon as you smell it, wonderful, complex aromas leap from the glass.
    On the nose I initially get a distinctive grappa note, which gives way to vanilla thins, lightly smoked ham, dry sugar puffs, sugar-encrusted barley, hints of a well used wooden pencil case, dusty grapefruit, banana leaf, pulped paper, salt and vinegar Pringles, an empty cigarette packet, pickled ginger and a sliver of lemon rind.
    Taking a sip, there's a lovely salty note, combined with thick apricot jam, old-fashioned liquorice wheels, white pepper, tobacco, burnt planks and there's a green vegetal note knocking about too - perhaps a butter-smothered Brussel sprout? Go with me here.
    The finish is long with sweet peat, campfire smoke, pipe tobacco, spicy pepper and a little vanilla, and it's all wrapped up in golden syrup.
    This is an absolute belter of a whisky and I'm truly sad to see the empty bottle staring back at me. I took my time with this one and think it's one of the best whiskies I've ever had. Stunning.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

A Taste of Teeling

Many months ago, I picked up a bottle of Teeling's rum cask finish Irish whiskey. The bottle didn't last long as I was eager to share it with friends. It disappeared quickly, but not before I bottled a 5cl dram, which I tucked away for a rainy day. Well, it's dry in Scotland today, but it's time I got a few notes down, after all, other bottles need to be opened, tasted and blogged about, right.
    I'm also taking the opportnity to review Teeling's Single Grain Irish whisky alongside the rum cask finish. I bought a bottle for a great price in my local Oddbins and it's running low so in front of me, I have two drams, so I'm about to do a 'live' tasting.
    Usually, I get into a bottle, taking notes as I go and then transfer them to the blog when I get a chance. Not tonight. I'll sniff and taste the whiskies and type up my findings as I get 'em, which is actually a good and immediate way to get things done.
    Both whiskies are 46% and non-chill filtered and neither have an age statement. As Teeling are going for the full craft presentations - which I heartily approve of - I'll say right now that they're worth looking out for on your travels.

So, on with the show 

Teeling Small Batch Irish Whisky - Rum Cask Finish
The rum influence jumps straight out for me as soon as I put my nose to the glass - not a heavily sweet dark rum, more of a lighter, fresher spirit. There's also juicy blackcurrants, blackberries, a musty vanilla, dark chocolate ganache, toffee, orange oil, sharp apples and a smudge of butter icing.
    Take a swig and the light characteristics of the nose are instantly kicked into touch by a full bodied, rich sweet sensation. Again, blackcurrants are there, as are strawberries, lemon, cinnamon and vanilla. It's sweet, but not cloying and would make a very decent after dinner dessert whiskey.
    The finish is dry and spicy, with loads of vanilla, oak, baked apples and burnt sugar. There's also a little caramel tucked away for good measure.

Time for a glass of water to cleanse the old palate.


Teeling Single Grain
Everything I've been led to believe in the past is that single grain whiskies take longer to age than single malts. This has no age statement - and I think it's quite young - but it packs a huge amounts of flavour. It should also be noted thatTeeling Single Grain is finished in wine casks, which I think has taken some of the rough edges away. Anyway...
    On the nose it's floral, with Juicy Fruit chewing gum, vanilla, soft golden fruit, red jelly babies, white icing, tarte tatin - there's a definite buttery pastry note kicking about - light liquorice, a slight smokiness and red grapes.
    A sip and a swirl reveals a slight rubbery note - not as pronounced as when I first opened the bottle - apples, golden syrup, treacle tart, sweet red fruits galore, nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper.
    The finish is thick and rounded, with more treacle, wood, sweet spices, custard creams and a slight sour note right at the back.

So, two excellent light, easy going whiskies with a good deal of complexity. Definitely worth adding to your shopping list.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bowmore White Sands - 43%

A TRIP across the white sands of The Big Strand on Islay leads me straight to another Bowmore - this time a travel retail exclusive. How did I get my grubby hands on a bottle of this peaty whisky? Well, I entered a competition back in April on Twitter and won. I've never really won anything before, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the email came through. I've been happily sharing the bottle with friends and before those white sands bury this tasty 17-year-old, I thought I had better take a few notes.
    First things first: this whisky is an awful colour, looking more like Irn-Bru than a fine single malt. Some whisky producers add colouring to make it more appealing for the mass market (although I don't see the point) but in this case, too much has turned it a rusty orange colour - it really does look unappealing. I have no doubt this has been chill-filtered, too, but there you go.
    Talking of Irn-Bru,I can definitely smell it once a glass is poured - a scent I find in most Bowmores. Not fizzy, freshly poured stuff, but flat Irn-Bru. There's also a whole tablespoon of sweet caramel, while lemon and orange rind lie just under the gentle peat. I also pick up chocolate here - specifically chunks of mint Aero.
    Take a sip and the peat becomes much more pronounced, but that Bowmore sweetness is still very much to the fore. Orange characteristics are all over this malt along with light marzipan and a little lemon and black pepper
    The finish is smoky with wood and orange notes. Banana also plays across the back of the tongue and it's a decent length.
  I enjoyed this offering from Bowmore, even if it doesn't have the most complex of characters and as it's travel retail only, not everyone is going to have the pleasure of trying it. It's also far too expensive, weighing in at £79.99 and, in my opinion, there are far better whiskies out there for half the price.