Monday, 15 December 2014

Amrut Fusion - 50% Batch no.24, bottled June 2013

I tried a dram of this Indian whisky at the Newcastle Whisky festival back in March and loved it. On slightly wobbly legs, I approached the festival shop at the end of the day and bought a bottle. I even remembered to leave the pub with it later that night - a fact I'm rather proud of considering the state I was in.
    Word of advice: don't go to the pub after a whisky festival. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but it's not. Trust me.
    Now, I took my time with this one as it's a beefy dram, packed full of flavour and certainly not an every day sipper - at least, not for my palate.
    The 'fusion' in the name comes from the fact that the malted barley used to create the whisky is from both India and Scotland. Nice!
    On the nose, huge, heavy fruity notes dominate, with juicy peaches and nectarine aromas making the mouth water right off the bat. Let it settle - add a few drops of water - and the Amrut Fusion starts to evolve and show its true character. Underneath those rich golden fruit notes, there's also chewy chocolate fudge, peppermint, fruity flapjacks, dry roasted peanuts, golden syrup, dried banana chips, hard-boiled travel sweets and barley sugars. This is a pungent malt you could sit and sniff happily for hours.
    Swirl it around your tongue and those big, beefy flavours match the nose perfectly. There's a huge oak influence here but it’s peppered with cinnamon, stewed fruit, thick jam, black tea, treacle, dates and strawberry bonbons. It also has some herbal notes dancing around, with hints of cardamom and coriander clearly having a good time. It also has a good viscosity to it and it coats the mouth beautifully.
    The finish is robust - imagine licking a plank of dried oak a few times and you'll get the same drying effect here (without the splinters). There's also prickly spices, deep caramel, rich coffee cake and it also carries a slight bitter note.
    As I said previously, this isn't an every day dram - the  dry oaky note tends to dull the senses after a few glasses but it’s a whisky that would go splendidly with Christmas pudding. After dinner, don't go for a glass of port, pour this instead. For a non-age statement whisky, this is a belter. The spirit matures faster in the cask in the stifling Indian climate so don't worry about it being young - just dive in!

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

BenRiach Arumaticus Fumosus 12 - 46%

Last Christmas I was given a bottle of this Speyside beauty by my parents. Only now, almost a year later, am I getting round to reviewing it.
    The bottle is long gone but recently I realised I hadn't updated the blog with my tasting notes. I had kept a 5cl sample and compared this last week with my original tasting scribbles. I found a few new things in the glass and this dark rum-finished dram was a corker. Unfortunately, with only 1240 bottles produced, I doubt it'll still be around. Oh, it's also non-chill filtered and has no added colouring - just the way I like it!
    On the nose there was an abundance of rum and raisin milk chocolate along with sweet peat, figs, sticky medjool dates, prunes, malty Cheerios breakfast cereal, hard boiled barley sugars, plump blackcurrants, Tunes cough sweets and Vimto chew bars.
    On the palate, the delivery was initially sweet with a twist of pepper before a flood of mouthwatering dark fruit notes arrived, carried along on a puff of dark peaty smoke.
    The finish continued with the rich, dark fruit theme while smoke, vanilla and white pepper joined in the fun. Right at the end, there was the unmistakable flavour of thick cough medicine. Lovely.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tomatin Cuatro series

A few months ago, there was a Twitter tasting involving Tomatin's new range of sherry finished whiskies. I didn't take part, however, my Twitter friend Simon Smith kindly offered me some leftover samples from the event. I sent him a couple of drams to say thanks and got stuck in.
    All four expression are 12 years old and spent the first nine in American oak barrels. They were then transferred to four different sherry butts (Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez) for a further three years before being bottled.
    What's really interesting about these is seeing how the various sherries affected the spirit and although the bottles will be long gone by now, all four offered something worthwhile and different. If you see any of the four on your travels, go for it! Also, all four are bottled at 46% and are non-chill filtered.

Cuatro Fino
The nose was sweet with vanilla, Maltesers chocolates, butter icing, walnuts and alight strawberry jam. After a while in the glass, a lovely apple turnover scent emerged. There was also a hint of salt and a white flower note. A really beautiful smell.
    On the palate there was a delicious jam note along with figs, toffee, mocha coffee and wood-infused golden syrup. There was also a slight acetone note kicking around, too,
    The finish was spicy with a touch of pepper, vanilla and cranberry, while creamy white chocolate notes came through along with a touch of grapefruit and a well-fired pecan pie.

Cuatro Manzanilla
Straight off the bat, I smelled hard toffee, toasted granary bread and dark fruit notes such as blackcurrant, damson and mushed up strawberries. There was a pasty note there which reminded me of a sugar-topped donut and I also picked up undiluted Ribena, fresh mint, cumin seeds and a hint of slow gin.
    In the mouth it was sweet and incredibly mouthwatering thanks to the abundance of juicy blackcurrants, apples and plums. There was also a hint of spicy cinnamon. The finish continued the sweet tastes along with toffee, dark chocolate, prunes and lots of dry wood tastes.

Cuatro Oloroso
On the nose I immediately got orange, juicy pears, apples, blackberries, blackcurrants and strawberries. There was also treacle toffee, vanilla fudge, some granary toast notes again, pine needles, juicy fruit chewing gum, gooseberries, brown sugar and golden syrup.
    The dark fruit notes returned on the palate along with caramel, fruit and nut chocolate bars, a touch of coffee and a slight bitter note ran all the way through.
    The finish had a lovely deep sherry character along with bitter dark chocolate, treacle, damson jam, mint, a hint of creme brulee and sticky toffee pudding.

Cuatro Pedro Ximinez
Hard boiled sherbet lemons hit me straight away on the nose, followed by cola cubes, Edinburgh rock, apple juice, white sugar and a hint of marzipan. The granary toast note from the last two was nowhere to be found and the whole dram was incredibly sweet.
    On the palate, there was hard boiled fruit-flavoured sweets, treacle, woody cinnamon sticks and lots of honey-slathered dry oak. The finish was spicier than the other three, along with baked apples, prunes, red grape skins, raisins and a hint of milk chocolate.

Four cracking whiskies and my favourites in order were: Manzanilla, Oloroso, Fino and Pedro Ximinez. Hopefully this will become a regular release from Tomatin as all four were quite special.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Out and about - The Glasgow Whisky Festival

With the nights getting darker and the temperature starting to plummet, what better way to raise the spirits than to go along to a whisky festival?

Friendly faces and top drams were on show at the recent Glasgow Whisky Festival - and I was one of the fortunate souls who eagerly lined up to sample some rather excellent whiskies.

After stuffing my face with a lamb burger and more fries than I've ever seen on a plate before, my brother and I headed down to The Arches in Glasgow city centre and dived into a swirling cauldron of blends, single malts and other spirits at 1pm sharp.

Now, it should be noted here that while I enjoyed many excellent drams, jotting tasting notes down was an impossible task - and I refuse to wear one of those ridiculous lanyards. I'd rather be in full control of my glass at all times - not dangling round my neck like some oversized new age crystal.

Before I even had a dram in my hand, my good Twitter chum Neil MacKinnon came over to say hello and swiftly dropped the words "Springbank" and "new release" into the conversation. No further persuasion was needed and I happily skipped over to their table. Plenty of bottles were on display, tinkling invitingly in the subterranean gloom. But the only one I was after was the new Springbank Green. I found it quite delicate, without that powerful hit other Springbanks have - but it's very drinkable and think it would make for top summer drammage. Colour me impressed - but it is pricey.

Now, I've been a big fan of Compass Box for a while. I've always found their whiskies interesting, complex and delicious. But I had my eye on one in particular - their new Glasgow Blend. After all, being at the Glasgow Whisky Festival, it would have been rude to pass up the opportunity to have a snifter! Incredibly enjoyable stuff it was too. Lots of banana and cereal notes on the nose and a touch of spice on the palate. Great stuff and available at a good price. I marked it as "one to buy" but then I realised I have more whisky than sense (not hard I'll grant you) and decided to wait until another day to pick up a bottle.

Next it was over to the always reliable Douglas Laing table. Again, a range of bottles tempted me but not wanting to block the table I quickly plumped for their Timorous Beastie blend. I'd heard some mixed reports of this excellently packaged whisky but I found it rather good. There was a robust sherry character and it was rich and tasty. Not sure I'd buy it over their Big Peat, but enjoy it I did.

I recently picked up a bottle of Weymess Malt's Peat Chimney and I'm enjoying its rich, chocolatey notes. So I was delighted to see the company back in Glasgow. I went straight for their dramspanking new release Velvet Fig - and I'm glad to say the blend tastes as good as its name implies. Sweet, mouth-coating and luscious - this was an absolute belter. Again, it sells for a good price and I'll be picking up a bottle as soon as I can get away with it. Lovely.

It was then time to leave Scotland behind and head to the rarefied air of Colorado, USA for a splash of Tin Cup whiskey. I do like some of the stuff currently coming out of the States - but I really prefer the spiciness of rye over the sweetness of bourbon. To my delight, Tin Cup carries a wonderful rye character and I thought it was quite something. The mash bill is made up from 4% malted barley, 64% corn and a healthy 32% rye. The presentation is also rather smart, with the bottle coming with its own tin cup measure. Could see this making cracking cocktails, but it also makes for a great sipper.

The great thing about whisky festivals is getting the chance to try before you buy and I'm glad I tried the Glen Moray Port Cask finish rather than splash the cash on a full bottle. I've tried a couple of SMWS bottles of Glen Moray and they were amazing. But this was not for me. No punch, very thin and really lacking character. One of the day's rare disappointments.

And speaking of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, it was time to visit there glowing red room full of quality drams. The lad on the door was controlling the numbers in the closed-off space - a great idea as last time the SMWS were there, it was in the middle of the venue and it was almost impossible to get near the tables.


They were heavily promoting their latest huge outturn and although I had previously ordered three bottles from the new range, none of these were present. It would have been nice to get a wee preview but never mind. The bottles are now safely tucked away for the moment and will be popped some time in the new year.

Here's what I sampled. Ready? Here we go!: 53.214: Seafood Cocktail - a 17-year-old Caol Ila, 26.105: Bumblebees by the Sea - a 29-year-old Clynelish, 46.26: Killer Bee Surf Wax - a 21-year-old Glenlossie, 66.58: There is Only One...! - a nine-year-old Ardmore, G8.4 Summer Meadow Hoedown - a 25-year-old Cambus, 9.91: A Whispering Dram - a 23-year-old Glen Grant, 36.80: Dorothy Dances the Yellow Brick Road - an 11-year-old Benrinnes, 41.60: Fun to Chase - a 25-year-old Dailuaine and finally a 37.97: A Symphony of Sophistication - a 23-year-old Cragganmore. Phew!

All were nothing short of splendid, but the 29-year-old Clynelish blew me away. An absolute corker of a dram and my whisky of the day. Just lovely. In second place was the 25-year-old Dailuaine, which my brother and I agreed was top drawer.

Following the cask strength madness, we stumbled out of the room and back into the bustling throng of noisy whisky aficionados. Time for a break and plenty of water before we tightened our belts, rinsed our Glencairns and headed bravely back into the heaving mass of inebriated souls - all in the name of science.

A trip to the Balblair table was in order and within a few minutes, I had a cheeky wee glass of the Balblair 83 in my hands. Cracking stuff it was too - although it has to be said if there's a bad Balblair, I've yet to find it. Everything they produce is solid gold. Magic!

I then spotted a Cooper's Choice 1996 Ben Nevis and, seeing as I'd never previously tried a drop, I took the plunge. I'm glad I did as I found it to be pleasant stuff. However, it should be noted that by this point in proceedings, my senses weren't exactly in sparkling form. Onwards!

I then stopped by the Haig Club stand, where large blue perfume bottles glinted under the lights. This is the stuff David Beckham's trying to flog and I was wary. I'm not a whisky snob - far from it, but I'm always dubious when a celebrity puts their face to a product. All I see in my mind is wads of cash changing hands and I don't like it. This is a grain whisky. And it's young. Prejudice aside, I found it painfully average. And for about £45 a bottle, I won't be going near it again. If you want my advice and you’re looking for a really interesting young grain whisky, go for Teeling Single Grain. It's lovely and knocks Beckham's effort clear over the crossbar and into the stadium's car park.

Next was a delicious Hazelburn 12 before I sauntered over to see the hard-working Benromach team. I asked for a splash of the Benromach Organic - and I thought it was a marvellous drop. One of the highlights of the day. I do like their 10-year-old, but this has more depth and richness. Lovely.

An Arran Machrie Moor was the next drop in the glass and while enjoyable, I still prefer the standard 14-Year-old. Which reminds me - I need to buy another bottle to welcome the 2015 spring.

Now, there comes a time at a whisky festival when I decide to hit the peated drams. Usually with around 90 minutes to go, I start to get stuck in. On this day, I had obviously tried a few throughout the session but from here on out, only peated spirit would pass my lips. And when it comes to peated single malts, no one does it better than Kilchoman in my opinion.

So that's where I headed next. They had several of their 2014 releases including the excellent Machir Bay (tasting notes soon). Also here was their khaki green-labelled Cask Strength bruiser. I bought a full bottle a few weeks ago - although it remains unopened for the moment. This was a great chance to try it and discover what awaits me in the future. I'm glad to say it was impressive. Full of Kilchoman character and a bottle I'm going to enjoy spending time with. Either this or my cask strength Christmas edition of Big Peat will see in the new year with me.

Next, it was over to India for the Paul John Heavily Peated. Maybe it was the fact I had bounded over straight from Kilchoman, but I just didn't get a heavy peat note at all and found it rather disappointing. I then dabbled in a drop of the English Whisky Co and their peated Chapter 15 release. I really enjoyed it, too and I'm looking forward to delving a bit deeper into their releases in the future.

The final dram of the festival wasn't whisky. Instead, I dived into Bruichladdich's Botanist gin. I'm no expert, but I enjoyed what was in the glass and it certainly refreshed the palate with its sharp, aromatic qualities.


It was then time for fond farewells to friends old and new and off I tramped with a slightly fuzzy head to the bus stop with thoughts of a greasy fish supper taking form in my pickled brain. But before I could fill my cake hole with battered fish, undercooked chips and a couple of pickled eggs, I spied The Pot Still - one of Glasgow's finest whisky bars. Standing in the cool Glasgow twilight, I convinced myself that I clearly hadn't had enough whisky for one day, so in I barged with a fistful of crumpled notes clutched tightly to my chest.

If I was a little weather-worn and bedraggled, the guy behind the bar didn't seem to notice. I ordered a Kilchoman Port Cask finish - a bottle that disappeared as soon as it hit the shelves a few months back. I was delighted to see it out in the wild and even happier that I got the chance to sample a full dram of this ruby-coloured gem. It was rather good, although I admit by this point my sense of taste, smell and direction weren't exactly pin-sharp.

And as I gently swirled that last drop round my mouth, it marked the end of my 2014 four festival run. But the fun continues on various fronts. For the last year, myself and three friends and former colleagues have been squirrelling cash away each month in a whisky club. This weekend, the four of us will pull the cash together and head out and spent around £500 on whisky. The details about exactly what we'll spend the cash on are still slightly up in the air, but for that kind of cash, we'll get something special, I'm sure.

They're a good bunch but led me astray at the Edinburgh Stramash back in May and coerced me into throwing money at a cask at the new Isle of Harris Distillery - but more about that in the future. And as if all this wasn't enough, my good mate Yan has already secured tickets for the Newcastle Whisky Festival in March - the 11am start from what I can gather so that'll be fun. Breakfast drams, anyone?

But despite all the good things to look forward to over the coming months, I'm going to end this ludicrously long post on a downer - a bit of a rant, if you will. It's something that has plagued all the festivals I've attended this year and I need to get it off my chest because it's been twisting my melon. The subject? Blocking tables.

Please note: Tasting tables are not bars - they're not there to stand at and chat with your mates. They're there for people to sample a whisky and find out information. Once the info has been imparted, a dram poured and thanks given, move away from the table. It's not difficult. I had to ask time and time again for people to shift. Most people just glared at me - as if I was gatecrashing their own private party. It's ignorant and there's really no excuse.

So stop it or you might just find some sharp elbows in your ribs in the future. You have been warned!

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.