Thursday, 26 December 2013

Drinks By the Dram - a month in whisky heaven

WITH the last drop of Glenfarclas 40 year old now a distant memory, I thought I would reflect on my Whisky Advent Calendar experience. I sampled a total of 19 new drams and I discovered several which I will be buying in 2014.
    Everyone's tastes are different, so those who have also been sampling this fine collection of 24 drams might not agree, but my three favourites (from the new drams I tried) were: The Glencadam 21, the Mackmyra Brukswhisky and the Scapa 16 year old, while old favourites such as the Yamazaki 12, Nikka From the Barrel and the Glen Garioch 12 were  fantastic. On the negative side, I really didn't care for the Chivas Regal 18, the Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage or the Dalmore 18.
    I'll definitely be buying the calendar next year from Master of Malt and I'm hoping Linkwood and Old Pulteney make an appearance in some form, so I had better start saving now for November 2014's purchase.
    Going forward from here, I've decided to keep my tasting notes along the same lines as December's entries - short and sweet and free from rambling tales. I have a barrel-load of whiskies still to review and keeping everything concise is the only way I'll get through them. Cheers

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 24/24 - Glenfarclas 40 year old - 46%

Nose: Smooth and mellow, but give it time in the glass and wonderful aromas begin to appear. There's fragrant flowers, orange oil, leather, Brazil nuts, baked apple, sugared almonds, caramel macchiato coffee, fruit Toffos, a paper bag of sherbet lemons and a sliver of fresh kiwi fruit.

Palate: Smooth, sweet and dangerously easy to drink. There's sherry, floral notes, brown sugar, dark chocolate, a shot of espresso and plump raisins, while there's an earthiness which underpins the whole experience.

Finish: Dry with strong tannins, almonds, vanilla, treacle, dates and a sprinkle of white pepper.

Notes: Well this was certainly a surprise when I opened it on Christmas Eve. Costing around £300 a bottle, it's relatively cheap for a 40-year-old single malt, but it is still well out of my price range. It was a pleasure to sample this fine whisky and I took around an hour to fully take it in. It was also my first taste of Glenfarclas (shocking, I know) but I'll definitely be taking a closer look at their range in 2014.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 23/24: Yamazaki 12 year old - 43%

Note: Like some previous advent calendar entries, I have already reviewed - and raved about - the Yamazaki 12. It really is a wonderful dram and I will definitely be buying another bottle in the new year. Here are my tasting notes.

Nose: Oranges, freshly-cut grass, green bananas, cherries, spearmint and ginger snap biscuits. There's also a sappy, herbal; scent which comes from the Japanese oak - mizunara - which gives this excellent single malt a unique character.

Palate: Runny honey, aniseed, warming spices, vanilla and dry wood.

Finish: The Yamazaki 12 leaves a lovely biscuity flavour along with that wonderful herbal note. Utterly delicious.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 22/24 - Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Distillery Edition - 51%

Nose: Toffee, custard, dried fruits, malty cereals and a slight - but not unpleasant - soapy note.

Palate: Sweet and spicy, with toffee apples, pepper and a delicious creaminess.

Finish: Dry and fruity, with marzipan, baked plums and cinnamon and a hint of black pepper.

Notes: I have tried the Glenfiddich 12 and 18 but this beats them both in my opinion. For around 40 quid you'll be getting a lot for your cash. An enjoyable and tasty dram that goes down extremely easily.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 21/24 - Scapa 16 - 40%

Nose: Zesty, with loads of orange marmalade and honey. There's also a slightly salty note, while barley sugars, fresh grass and marzipan also rise from the glass.

Palate: Rich and oily and that wonderful orange taste coats the mouth beautifully. There are also floral notes, a dribble of sweet honey, vanilla, a touch of spice and a twist of white pepper.

Finish: Spicy orange, fresh oak, chilli flakes, butter icing and it's deliciously sweet and warming.

Notes: This was my first taste of Scapa and I really, really enjoyed it. Orange is obviously a key aroma and taste here and it's dangerously delicious. I could see myself really getting stuck into a full bottle of this and you know what, I just might do exactly that in the new year. Just imagine what this could be like at a higher alcohol strength. Lovely.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 20/24 - Johnnie Walker 18 year old Platinum Label - 40%

Nose: Soft toffee, vanilla custard, mellow dark stewed fruits, cola cubes, flat Irn-Bru and a whiff of smoke.

Palate: Light and fruity, dried apricot, grapefruit and that smoke is still hanging about.

Finish: Toffee, orange, a slight nuttiness, spearmint, chocolate, slightly sour and a sliver of peat runs all the way through it.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 19/24 - Auchentoshan Three Wood - 43%

Nose: Prunes, dates, fruity toffee, vanilla wood, milk chocolate and absolutely loads of cinnamon.

Palate: Very sweet, with caramel, molasses and sherry-soaked cherries.

Finish: Dark fruitcake, tobacco leaf, cinnamon, treacle and sappy green oak.

Notes: This was only my second ever Auchentoshan - shameful, as it's my local distillery as it lies just a few miles from my flat. The Three Wood is definitely a dram which really benefits from 20 minutes in the glass before diving in. The toffee and caramel notes intensify on the nose, while it seems to mellow out even more when you take a sip after giving it a bit of time in the glass. I enjoyed this - it's an easy going, every day sort of dram and for around £40 notes, it isn't bad at all.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 18/24 - Yellow Spot 12 Year Old Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey - 46%

Nose: Apricot, peach, raspberry, sharp gooseberry, sticky dates, bright floral notes, a hint of vanilla and good old sugary tablet.

Palate: Barley sugars, lemon, marzipan and liquorice.

Finish: Dry with sweet vanilla and light golden fruits.

Notes: This was my first Irish whiskey and I really enjoyed it. Would make a perfect dram on long summer nights. Towards the end of the glass, I added a drop of water which was a mistake. It drowned the whiskey's character and turned it into a rather average drop. Drink neat and you're in for a treat. Hey, that rhymed!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 17/24 - The Glenlivet 16-year-old Nadurra: Batch 0313W - 54.8%

Nose: Toasted cereals, baked apples, Edinburgh rock, vanilla, cranberries, butter icing and with a few drops of water, Cadbury's Fruit and Nut.

Palate: Oily, sharp and fresh, with sweet vanilla and creamy marzipan.

Finish: Baked almond slice, green wood, creamy vanilla and prickly spices.

Notes: I enjoyed my dram of the Nadurra but I think my tastebuds would benefit from a few more drinks from this Glenlivet. There's quite a lot going on and one dram simply isn't enough to discover all this single malt has to offer. Not bad at all.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 16/24 - Balvenie Caribbean Cask - 14 years old - 43%

Note: Like some previous advent calendar entries, I have already reviewed the Balvenie Caribbean Cask. In fact, I loved it and it's one of my favourite whiskies of the year. Here are my tasting notes.

Nose: Tropical fruits such as mango, pineapple and tart passion fruit are immediately obvious. Let the whisky settle and toffee apple, fudge, raisins and sweet vanilla custard start to appear.

Palate: Very sweet, with pineapple, honey, almonds and warming spices

Finish: Delicious, with hints of a raspberry and almond slice, lemon curd and golden fruit.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 15/24 - Dalmore 18 year old - 43%

Nose: Spicy sherry, fruit cake, orange, lemon, a touch of milk chocolate, Parma violets, pencil shavings and a hint of toffee and vanilla.

Palate: Quite a lot of sherry, tobacco leaf, orange juice, vanilla and a slightly sour note.

Finish: Fruity, cinnamon, stewed tea, white pepper and the sour note returns to sign things off.

Notes: I've previously tried the Dalmore 12 which, despite smelling wonderful in the glass, was actually a bit of a letdown. The 12 is bottled at 40% and even though the 18 has a slightly higher alcohol volume at 43%, it really could have benefited from a higher percentage to boost the overall flavour. I felt the Dalmore 18 promised much, but failed to deliver. And as it costs between £80 and £90, I don't think I'll be rushing back any time soon.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 14/24 - Tomintoul 14 - 46%

Note: Like the Glen Garioch 12, I already reviewed the Tomintoul 14 just last month. Trying it again now gave me a very similar experience, but I've marked my notes below to save you trawling through the blog.

Nose: Orange rind, grapefruit, green apple and hard Thornton's toffee

Palate: Nice viscosity, with walnuts, lemon, barley sugars and butterscotch.

Finish: A decent length with wood, warming spices, honey and a huge smack of marzipan, while a citrus note lingers in the background.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 13/24 - Balcones Texas Single Malt - 53%

Nose: Prunes, rich caramel and toffee, salted popcorn, baked banana topped with Muscovado sugar and there are definite traces of the Balcones Baby Blue here along with... wait for it... a Vicks nasal stick. I kid you not. This would make an excellent hot toddy!

Palate: Thick and sweet on entry which soon turns into a warming caramel sauce, with stewed tea and black filtered coffee - a breakfast dram? Dark fruits and dates are also noticeable.

Finish: The salted popcorn is transformed into sweet caramel popcorn along with winter spices, baked apple and butterscotch. The stewed tea note returns and it reminds me slightly of Glengoyne's Teapot Dram.

Notes: I really enjoyed this and Balcones continue to impress with their range. This is the third spirit I've tried from the Texan distillery and I've yet to be disappointed. It's also an incredibly easy to drink whisky despite its high alcohol content.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 12/24 - Evan Williams Single Barrel - 2003 Vintage - 43.3%

Nose: Creamy vanilla, lemon, raisins - typical bourbon notes and certainly nothing spectacular.

Palate: Cinnamon, raisins, a slight grassy note and burnt sugar. It's quite hot and seems to be much younger than its 10 years.

Finish: Woody grapefruit rind and then the creamy vanilla comes bounding back along with a truck load of prickly spices. There's a rather unpleasant spirit note here, too which does absolutely nothing for this bottling.

Notes: This was a disappointment. I didn't get anything new, it certainly doesn't stand out from the crowd and the spirity note just left an unpleasant taste. This is only a sample, I know, but I wouldn't rush back to this. In my opinion, there are far, far better bourbons out there.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 11/24 - Mackmyra Brukswhisky - 41.4%

Nose: Light and fruity with fresh raspberries, green bananas, crunchy green apples, fruit salad chews and golden caster sugar.

Palate: Thick, vanilla rich custard with a swirl of golden syrup, red liquorice, icing sugar, buttery pastry and a hint of lemon.

Finish: Sugar-topped shortbread, slight rye notes, a sprinkling of sawdust and a drop of vanilla essence.

Notes: I've long wanted to try something from this Swedish distillery and the Brukswhisky was everything I hoped it would be. It's a fine whisky and is beautifully balanced. I will definitely be buying a bottle early in the new year - if not before. Lovely.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 10/24 - Grant's 25

Nose: Nuts galore! There's also cigars, musty raisins, bakes apples, thick honey, crystallised ginger and chocolate covered dates.

Palate: Rich, with waves of dark chocolate, sherry-soaked dark fruit, orange and tobacco.

Finish: Chocolate cake with cream, dark cherries, oranges and After Eight mints.

Notes: This one took a long, long time to open up for me. I also added a tiny drop of water after 20 minutes which brought the whisky's fruit characters to the fore.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 9/24 - Bowmore 15: Darkest - 43%

Nose: Dark sherry notes, orange, slight smoke, raisins, sappy pine, figs, coffee cream chocolates and flat Irn-Bru.

Palate: Very sweet with more orange, understated peat, smooth caramel and a nice bit of warmth.

Finish: The coffee cream chocolate note returns along with a little mint, cracked black pepper, orange oil, tobacco leaf and a sliver of woody vanilla rounds everything off.

Notes: The Bowmore 15 is an incredibly easy to drink whisky. It's smooth and tasty, although it has to be said that I enjoy my drams with a little more punch. That said, this is another dram which seems to be perfectly suited for the festive season. Not my favourite by a long shot and I don't think I would be willing to drop 50 notes on a bottle - I still think the 12 is a better dram, but there you go.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 8/24 - Blue Hanger 9th Release; Berry Bros & Rudd - 45.6%

Nose: Fresh and floral, with sweet peat, cooked bananas, a drawer full of crayons and pencils, damp leaves, sherbet lemons and a touch of marzipan. Toffee and caramel notes start to develop after 20 minutes or so. Lovely.

Palate: Sweet entry, with honey, fresh floral notes, vanilla and a waft of smoky peat.

Finish: Long, with sweet woody vanilla, lemongrass, liquorice and spearmint.

Notes: This is the first time I've tried a Blue Hanger release and I'm very impressed. The fresh floral notes and peat play together beautifully, making this a whisky that could easily be enjoyed all year round. Great stuff.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 7/24 - Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year old bourbon - 49.5%

Nose: Sugar, cinnamon, mint, tablet, dark caramel, foam banana sweets and spicy rye.

Palate: Thick caramel, honey, more cinnamon and prickly spices.

Finish: Burnt dark sugar, eucalyptus, mint, corn and a sliver of lemon rind, although the finish fades pretty quickly.

Notes: This is a lovely smooth bourbon and I could certainly get used to this. I really like the rye character in the Old Scout and it's a highly enjoyable drop. That said, as far as bourbon goes, the ever reliable Elijah Craig 12 remains my favourite - for the moment, but I will definitely investigate this one again in the future.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 6/24 - Chivas Regal 18 - 40%

Nose: Toffee, candied orange, red apples, brown sugar, furniture polish and it has certain rum-like qualities which make this very pleasant in the glass.

Palate: The sweetness continues once you take a sip and there's a nutty taste along with honey and sultanas. I really didn't get much more than that.

Finish: Sweet vanilla, more toffee, honey, spicy orange and it all ends on a slight bitter note.

This certainly isn't a bad blend, but while the nose promises something truly wonderful, it didn't carry through for me and for a shade over 50 quid, I'm not sure I would part with my cash to add this to my collection. But then, that's the beauty of having a sample. For roughly the same price, I could have a bottle of Old Pulteney 12 and a Nikka From the Barrel. Actually, that's not a bad idea!

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 5/24 - Glen Garioch 12 - 48%

Note: Like the Nikka From the Barrel, I have already had a full bottle of the Glen Garioch 12 which I reviewed just last month. Trying it again a few weeks later gave me the same experience, but I've marked my notes below to save you trawling through the blog. Spoiler: It's a beauty!

Nose: Very rich with dates, figs, heather honey, tobacco, Amaretti biscuits, cinnamon and sweet nutty baklava.
Palate: Sweet, rich and really nutty, with floral notes and lots of dried fruit.
Finish: Magnificent, with creamy butterscotch, figs, dates, fresh ginger and cinnamon.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 4/24 - Glencadam 21-year-old - 46%

Nose: Waves of sweet vanilla, crisp green apples, hard boiled pear drops, kiwi fruit, honey, malty Cheerios, lime juice and a slight paper note. Wow!

Palate: A delicious mix of heather honey, creamy panna cotta, grapefruit juice and white chocolate.

Finish: Dry and woody, with vanilla, lemon rind, warming prickly spices and a dab of liquorice at the back.

A cracker of a dram and as a full bottle is available for a very reasonable price, I think I'll invest in a bottle in the new year. This would make a fantastic summer dram.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 3/24 - Nikka From the Barrel - 51.4%

Note: I first tried this whisky earlier this year and wrote about it back in August. As you can see from my notes below, this time, I found a few more tastes and smells.

Nose: Sweet oak, honey, mashed banana, golden syrup, marmalade, vanilla essence, freshly cut grass, ground cinnamon, chewy butterscotch toffee, dried apricots, crushed mint leaves and barley sugars. 

Palate: Rich and oily, with heaps of sweet vanilla, grass, spicy cinnamon and a dollop of thick honey.

Finish: Icing and marzipan, apricot jam, a hint of spearmint and dry oak. One of the best whiskies I've tried this year. A real cracker.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 2/24 - Talisker Port Ruighe - 45.8%

Nose: An initial burst of sea salt gives way to caramel, campfire smoke, rich orange marmalade, stewed plums sprinkled with cinnamon, lemon rind and the unmistakable scent of American Cream Soda.

Palate: Thick, sweet and oily with a decent ammount of chilli heat, along with jammy red fruit and a hint of dark chocolate.

Finish: Dry wood, caramel, spicy dried fruit, the warming heat of a mild chilli and it all ends up with a stewed tea note.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Whisky Advent Calendar: Day 1/24 - The Balvenie Doublewood 17 - 43%

TWO weeks ago, my wife totally surprised me by giving me a Master of Malt Whisky Advent Calendar. I couldn't quite believe it but I was absolutely thrilled. It has been sitting in the kitchen staring at me since then but today I finally got the chance to open window 1 and sample the dram inside. Below, I've put my tasting notes for the whisky and deliberately kept it short and sweet. Every day over the coming weeks, I'll post my tasting notes on the whiskies inside the calendar - no nonsense, no back story, just the facts straight from the glass. So, here we go.

Dram 1: The Balvenie Doublewood 17 year old

Nose: Honey, vanilla, golden syrup, icing sugar, strawberry jam, apple turnovers, caramel and cinnamon.
Palate: Sweet, with dried fruit, raisins, caramel, milk chocolate and sugar-topped shortbread.
Finish: Long with a nice balance of wood, honey, vanilla, tobacco leaf and a slightly bitter - though not unpleasant - note.