Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Ledaig - A blast of Mull peat

Ledaig's a whisky I neglected for a long time. I'd heard mixed reports about the peated Isle of Mull spirit in the past and always passed it up while out shopping for a single malt. 
     But at this year's Edinburgh Stramash, I decided to try a dram of the standard 10 year old - and loved it. And, noticing it was bottled at 46.3% and non-chill filtered, I've snaffled two bottles since that capital encounter. 
     It's also lovely and pale, suggesting a lack of added colouring - although that's not mentioned on the label.
     I also went for a sherried version of the 10 year old – this one from independent bottlers Signatory. 
     It's bottled at a much higher strength - one of the highest ABV whiskies I've ever tried. 
     It's good, too, but doesn't quite match the bourbon cask beauty of the distillery 10. Here we go!

Ledaig 10 - 46.3%

Nose: Lovely dry, woody peat. Campfire smoke, green twigs and grapefruit rind. Olive oil and Brazil nuts.

Palate: Bonfire ash, liquorice. The sweetness is kept in check by the mineral peat. Peppercorns and some dried fruit.

Finish: Lots of peat smoke but there's also a fair whack of spice. A good length which carries some brown sugar sweetness and black coffee.

This has become my go-to peated dram this winter. I've managed to find it on offer for around £32 which is a bargain. It's not hugely complex but it hits the spot.

Signatory Ledaig 10 years old - 60.4%
Matured in a first-fill sherry butt.
Distilled: November 24, 2004. Bottled June 9, 2015.
Cask no. 900175, bottle 359/439

Nose: A whiff of sulphur straight off the bat - although it's not completely overpowering. All the sherry notes you'd expect, along with peaty toffee. Dark chocolate and raspberry yoghurt - seriously! Water reduces the sulphur and ramps up the fruit.

Palate: A powerful peaty sherry arrival, then lots of dark fruit notes and chocolate. Mouthwatering. Water rounds off the flavours and brings chocolate-covered cherries to the party.

Finish: Tobacco, mineral peat, liquorice and lots of black pepper. Water adds woody ash and pot pourri - yup, that's not a mistake!

Monday, 21 December 2015

A pair of Islay bruisers

It's been a while since I reviewed a bottle from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, so let's do two! And since it's getting cold, what better way to keep the chills at bay than by slurping two crackers from Islay? 
     I've never been a big fan of Bowmore, but the single cask stuff from the SMWS has been consistently good in my opinion, and as for Caol Ila - it's one of my favourite distilleries.

SMWS 3.244 - 58.8%
Film Noir - 19-year-old Bowmore. Ex bourbon refill hogshead.
Distilled May 7, 1996 - 211 bottles - from the August 2015 outturn.

Nose: Sweet black liquorice, strawberry laces, baked plums, sloe gin, sherbet dib-dabs - and the hard-boiled strawberry lolly. Wet autumn leaves, earth, flat Irn-bru and Pepsi. Wait, there's more: Coffee beans and raspberry yoghurt. With water, more fruit, confectionary, vanilla sponge and cheap lemonade.

Palate: Lots of dried fruit, plums, blackberries and baked apples dusted with sugar. Strawberry laces, dry oak and blackcurrant Chewits. With water, added citrus and vanilla.

Finish: Sweet peat and more strawberries, burning twigs, peat smoke and smoky bacon crisps. Sugar-coated chipotle chillis and charcoal bricks. Water adds more smoke and white pepper.

SMWS 53.227 - 56.8%
Sweet, Salty & Smoky - 18-year-old Caol Ila. Ex bourbon refill hogshead.
Distilled March 3, 1997 - 248 bottles - from the September 2015 outturn.

Nose: Cardamom, slight curry powder, lemons, liquorice wheels, vanilla and salted white fish. Chilli flakes, American Cream Soda, white pepper and celery salt. Some dried fruit, too. Water brings out stronger vanilla and adds grapefruit rind.

Palate: A sweet and salty arrival (natch!). Lemons, vanilla, cinnamon. Spicy but mouthwatering. Lovely peat. Water tames the flavours and adds sour citrus. Even at cask strength, I prefer this one neat. Small sips, mind!

Finish: Oaky vanilla, cinnamon and paper (!). Chilli heat with green twigs, campfire smoke, Edinburgh rock and mint. Water increases the peat and adds more sour citrus.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Spirit of Hven Tycho’s Star - 41.8%

When it comes to whisky from Sweden, the only ones I’d tried to this point had been from the Mackmyra distillery: the Brukswhisky and their First Edition - both top drams.
     So when this curiously named sample was hiding in this year’s Master of Malt advent calendar, I was excited to try it. And after spending some time with it, I’ll be ordering a full bottle in the new year.

Nose: Lots of rich honey and I get a definite whiff of peat. There’s also a real apple character, with apple skins and toffee apple aromas kicking about. The fruit character continues with pineapple juice and dried mango slices. After Eights, Crunchie bars and crystallised ginger.

Palate: A sweet and fruity arrival which is full-flavoured and rich. Red berry fruits, cranberries, sharp raspberries, baked lemon, brown sugar and milky coffee.

Finish: Cinnamon and honey, caramel, dry wood, vanilla, black pepper, malty cereals and that ginger note is back. Slowly fades with a spicy nutmeg. Mint leaves with crushed brown sugar, and a splash of Dr Pepper.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Bank Note 5-year-old blend - 43%

After demolishing two bottles of this cracking blend by the team at A.D Rattray throughout 2015, I figured it was about time to get some notes down.
     It's a step above a lot of blends currently on the market as 40% of the content is made up from single malts from the Highlands and Speyside.
     Refreshingly, it's also bottled at a thoroughly respectable 43%, carries an age statement and costs around the £20 mark. Superb stuff all round.

Nose: Rich honey cereals and grain. Cadbury's Caramel chocolate bar, golden syrup, lots of nutmeg and cinnamon. A slightly sour grapefruit note kicks around on the back end and I also get a whiff of Tunnock's Caramel Logs.

Palate: A sweet and sour arrival which feels rich in the mouth. Toffee and caramel, lots of spice and vanilla. Icing sugar and buttery fudge.

Finish: Vanilla toffee and cinnamon spice. A decent length and that spice continues to fizzle and spark the tastebuds.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Ben Bracken 28 & 22 year old

With Christmas just around the corner, supermarket Lidl recently released their festive batch of whisky in the shape of a 28-year-old Speysider and a 22-year-old Islay malt - and launched them for £49.99 and £44.99 respectively. 
     Obviously that’s cheap for whiskies of this age, and although bottled at 40%, chill-filtered and with added colouring, both bottles represent great value. They’re not spectacular, but both are easy-going drams with a lot to say about themselves. 
     Incidentally, at a time when I’m usually on the lookout for whiskies with craft presentation, the boast on the labels that they're chill-filtered made me smile. 
     Special thanks to WhiskyApocalypse who let me know the bottles were out - I rescued the last of them from a local branch of the supermarket.

Ben Bracken 28 year old (Speyside) - 40%

Nose: A trip down the biscuit aisle of the local supermarket: Custard Creams, Party Rings and lemon shortbread. Vanilla, green apple slices, golden syrup, cereal, bright barley, white pepper, slight spearmint, earthy with white sugar. Oak is there but it's quite restrained.

Palate: A sweet, honied arrival with a lovely malty flavour. A twist of pepper, rich honey, a light citrus. A touch of grapefruit rind and buttery shortbread.

Finish: Sweet and rounded. Lovely honey, slightly bitter citrus on the tail end. Malty, vanilla, burnt sugar, hard caramel sweets and milky coffee.

Obviously, there's no way to accurately tell what distillery this whisky is from. The general consensus is that it's Tamnavulin - which I've yet to try - but to my senses, this smells and tastes like a Longmorn. It has that same biscuity, vanilla stuff going on. I like it. 

Ben Bracken 22 (Islay) - 40%

Nose: Sherried with dried fruit, dates, walnuts, carbolic soap, flat Irn-Bru, green herbal notes, cinnamon, burnt toffee and orange oil. Peat is certainly there but it's not slapping me about the chops. Some damp earth and wet cardboard.

Palate: Slightly sour arrival with lots of orange, black coffee, caramel, brown sugar, mellow smoke and green twigs.

Finish: Smoke with burnt orange rind, dark honey, black tea tannins, dried fruit and the flat Irn-Bru note returns.

If I were to take a punt on a distillery, I'd go for Bowmore - simply because I’ve only ever experienced that flat Irn-Bru smell and taste in Bowmores in the past. A good session Islay.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Rittenhouse Rye 100 proof - 50%

I picked up this bottle in early 2014 as I was looking for something to tickle the tastebuds after finishing my bottle of High West Double Rye.
     I gave some consideration to grabbing another bottle but as the Rittenhouse - from the Heaven Hill distillery - was going for a good price, I took the plunge.
     Here's what I thought.

Nose: Mint, grass, caramel and vanilla ice cream with a dusting of ground cinnamon. There's also toasted rye bread, honey, orange peel, a twist of lemon and some distinct juniper scents. With water, stewed tea and floral aromatics.

Palate: A sweet, woody arrival that swiftly transforms into vanilla caramel. The spicy oak surrounds the flavours at every step. Lots of bitter honey, coffee, pepper and dark chocolate. Waters adds liquorice and chocolate covered cherries.

Finish: Incredibly spicy with brown sugar, mint, cinnamon, sour cherries, fresh ginger and a load of vanilla. Goes on for ages. Water softens the sharper tastes, although the grip of the spicy rye is never far away.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 10 year old - 50%

Yes. Another spirit from the US - and this time it’s the Smooth Ambler Old Scout 10 year old bourbon. 
     It’s from the West Virginia craft distillery and bottled at a very respectable 50%. Unlike my last review, this hugely enjoyable bourbon has a healthy shovelful of rye added to the mashbill which gives a lovely spicy character. It’s not the first Smooth Ambler I’ve tried – I tucked into a seven-year old version back in 2013.
    Just for the record, this particular bottle is from Batch 16 and bottled on April 29, 2014.

Nose: Buttery cream-filled cannoli dusted with spicy ground cinnamon and icing sugar. The rye is definitely adding that edge of spice. There’s also black cherries mixed with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream (Having thoughts of creating a syrup with this bourbon and pouring it over ice-cream). A little nail-polish remover astringency makes itself known, but it’s softened by golden syrup, a drizzle of honey, mint and good old-fashioned Scottish tablet.

Palate: A sweet arrival which remains sweet right the way through. The rye adds green spice, which sits just underneath honey, apple and caramel notes. It’s rich and mouth coating, with more mint and a teaspoon of cough medicine.

Finish: Sweet and herbal with prickly cinnamon. Some baked lemon, coffee and dark chocolate.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

W.L. Weller 12 Wheated bourbon - 45%

My round-up of American spirits continues - and there are two more to come. I bought this delicious wheated bourbon in early 2014 and demolished the bottle in no time at all. I kept a sample - as I do with all good spirits that pass my lips - so I'm finally getting round to getting some notes down.
     It's made by the team at Buffalo Trace and they substitute the spicy rye in the mashbill and replace it with wheat. This gives the spirit a softer edge and this is a special drop. My only regret is not buying a second bottle at the time as it's a rare find these days. If you see it, grab it.

Nose: Incredibly deep with rich, dark caramel, toffee, sugared almonds and big, fluffy pink and white marshmallows. There's also Frosties breakfast cereal, muscovado sugar, ground cinnamon, mint and a touch of eucalyptus. There's fresh vanilla, golden syrup, subtle baked lemon, polished wood. Bounty bars with a dash of water. Complex stuff.

Palate: A sweet arrival which quickly gives way to dry oak. There's plenty of lemon infused caramel, toffee, malty cereals, chocolate liqueur and black cherry syrup, too.

Finish: Creamy vanilla, more toffee, crushed sugar and mint, dry wood, polished oak furniture and pink peppercorns. There's also a hint of cognac, cinnamon dusted pastry and well-toasted seeded granary bread.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Stillhouse American Whiskey - 40%

I'm back! After a long time away from the blog, it's time to get right back on track. I've decided to kick things into action with my thoughts on Van Brunt's Stillhouse American Whiskey.
     It's a young and feisty spirit which carries a very unusual character. It's sold in 375ml bottles and I took a punt on this particular bottle while on holiday in New York as you just can't get it over here and I was intrigued. So, on with the show. And don't worry, there are dozens more whisky reviews on the way. Your patience will be rewarded!

Nose: This is very young with notes of iced tea and stone fruits such as peaches and sour plums. A distinct white grappa scent is also apparent, along with nail polish remover, warm grass, a slight caramel, fruit syrup and cranberries. 
     The addition of a couple of drops of water brings sawdust into the mix and the peach stone note intensifies. There's also chopped coriander buried in there too. Interesting.

Palate: The youth of the spirit is unmistakable. That grappa note from the nose comes straight to the fore but there's also a slight red fruitiness which softens the spirit. Water drops a huge plank of wood into the glass along with a slight musty grape note.

Finish: Dry white grapes, stewed tea and incredibly dry. Schezuan peppercorns and grass. It tastes like sucking on a plum or cherry stone. Water doesn't really add anything to the finish.

Verdict: This is young, rough stuff and really not that enjoyable neat at room temperature. I don't like chilled whisky (or whiskey), but I dropped a whisky stone straight from the freezer to see if it made any difference. It did. The spirit became much more rounded and smoother on the nose, while flavour followed suit and performed much better.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Make mine a double - Longrow

Late last year, I picked up a bottle of the latest limited-edition release from Longrow - the Red 11-year-old Port Cask. Not long after, I picked up a bottle of their Longrow Peated - a recent bottling to replace the Longrow CV which has shuffled off to the great big bottle bank in the sky. 
    So rather than review them separately, I thought I'd put them side-by-side and get my notes down. Both are from Springbank, both are non-chill filtered, both have no added colouring and both are excellent. Read on!

Longrow Peated - 46% (No age statement)

I immediately got mineral peat wrapped in sweet honey. There's also clean barley notes and chunks of vanilla Edinburgh rock. In fact, despite the ever present peat, this is a dram with a lot of vanilla. After a few minutes in the glass, I got the scent of wood - a bit like sticking your nose into a big box of matches.
    The Longrow Peated carries a hard, flinty edge but along with its angular character, it has a soft, fluffy centre - charred white marshmallows, a hint of sage and a paper bag full of sherbet lemons. A little water adds a bunch of citrus notes, a whiff of gentle tobacco and a touch of salt.
     Take a sip, and the delivery is sweet and mouth-coating. There's loads of vanilla here again, but the earthy peat soon makes itself known and there's a taste which brings to mind chilli-covered twigs! The honey sweetness return, though, and coats the flavour of malty Cheerios breakfast cereal. A little water brings salted lemons to the party.
    The finish is again packed with rich vanilla, while it's also slightly chalky with a little sour citrus. After a few sips, butterscotch-flavoured Werther's Originals come through. That drop of water adds an amazing tobacco taste but adds to the sourness. I think I prefer this one neat.

Longrow Red - 11-years-old Port Cask - 51.8%

As soon as I took a sniff of this whisky - which has spent all 11 years in a port cask - I got sticky toffee pudding complete with plump raisins and rich toffee sauce. Wow! The peat is certainly there, but it's actually quite restrained and help push dark fruit to the front of the stage, specifically dates, prunes and cranberries. It's also got quite a heavy menthol thing going on which reminds me of Tunes cough sweets (can you still get those?)
    A baked orange notes lurks around the edges and after a few minutes, ham-marinated in cola comes through. I also get a slight putty smell. Water lightens the whole dram, bringing with it an increase in that orange note and adds a little tangerine to the mix. Bear with me here, but the smell with water reminds me of Pimm's with a drop of grenadine.
    Tasting this neat, I found it quite astringent and closed up. It's unmistakably sweet with a jammy, peaty edge. Water is most definitely your friend with this whisky and it opens the whisky up revealing even more red, jammy fruits and seems to intensify the peat. I also get a flat Irn-Bru taste which I always find in distillery bottlings of Bowmore.
    The finish is smoky and sweet and made my mouth water. It carries a fair whack of cinnamon spice and there are heavy tannins at work here, too. Water brings raspberry jam , buckets of smoky vanilla and then disappears leaving a hint of pomegranate, cranberry and orange rind.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Kilchoman crazy!

Over the course of the last eight months, I've been buying lots and lots of Kilchoman. After my mate Yan send me up a sample of the Loch Gorm, I immediately ran out to snaffle a bottle for myself. After that, I picked up the 100% Islay.
    Since then, I've also bought the 2014 edition of the Machir Bay and the Cask Strength release which launched back in October. As if that wasn't enough, my whisky chum Ben Cops from Ben's Whisky Blog very kindly sent me a sample of the PX finish which was exclusive to Abbey Whisky.
    So with two reviews already in the bag , I thought it was about time to take a closer look at the Machir Bay, Cask Strength and PX finish.

Kilchoman Machir Bay - 2014 edition - 46%

The smell from the glass was fresh and initially reminded me of Caol Ila. Give it some time and grapefruit and lemon rind come to the fore, along with smoke, brine, seaweed, peat and a touch of chlorine. It's lovely and malty and there's a slight red fruit note trying to come through, together with sweet ash and that green, slight herbal note which Kilchomans seem to share.
    It also carries a mineral note with Thornton's special toffee and the inside of a well used wooden pencil case. A drop of water brings a lovely and mellow sweet pipe tobacco note.
    Take a sip and sweet and salty notes are unmistakable. There's also slight golden syrup,  dusty charcoal, sharp menthol, green twigs, damp embers and the merest hint of apple.
    The finish has prickly spices with sweet peat, dry burnt wood, spearmint, toasted liquorice, a hint of vanilla and a slight buttery note along with a wee bit of lemon.

Kilchoman Cask Strength - 59.2%

On the nose there's pungent, farmy peat! But its character is quite unlike other Islay malts. Despite the peat blast, there's a light freshness to the dram with a bundle of delightful golden barley and smouldering twigs in autumn. I also picked up baked lemon and grapefruit rind.
    There's also honey covered charcoal bricks and fresh bandages and a hint of liquorice and a whiff of cooked ham. Vanilla and toffee notes are also present along with a light presence of soap, sweet honey and mint. The addition of two teaspoons of water really opens this cask strength beauty right up and immediately, delicious toffee and tobacco leaf scents gentle rise from the glass.
    The flavour is dark and rich with treacle and sweet powerful peat smoke. Without water, this is tough to get a handle on. A few drops blow through the smoke to reveal sweet citrus and toffee with a twist of white pepper.
    Hints of golden syrup emerge to coat the tongue and orange oil appears after a few good swirls. The peat is always present adding a dark backdrop to the flavours. Magnificent stuff.
    The finish carries lots of pungent peat along with a touch of citrus and vanilla. A well-made espresso follows right at the end of the long finish. A herbal note also adds an added dimension and tobacco notes cling to the back of the tongue.

Kilchoman PX sherry cask - 58.3%. Abbey Whisky Exclusive
Distilled on June 11 2009, bottled on July 17 2014. Four and a half years in a fresh bourbon barrel with an extra four months in a Pedro Ximinez sherry cask

This is heaven to sniff! Seriously good. A mass of deep, dark fruits such as sticky dates, juicy prunes, blackberries, blood orange and baked apple rise but the PX cask has given this a glorious gloopy sweetness.
    As it settles down, I get a dried tobacco smell - specifically cigarette tobacco. Almost like a ripped open cigarette. The peat lurks in the background but nowhere near the intensity found in other Kilchomans - it's sweet and mellow. In Ben's tasting notes, he mentions travel sweets and I see exactly where he's coming from - those icing sugar dusted tinned sweets come straight through. A teaspoon of water brings even more sweet tobacco to the fore.
    The palate is thick, sweet and mouth coating with fruits of the forest jammy notes asserting themselves. It's slightly herbal with fruity toffee and dark runny caramel. There's also apple, liquorice, a slight nuttiness, baked peaches and soft brown sugar. Mouthwatering stuff.
    On the finish the tobacco smoke is really prominent but dark molasses and those jammy fruits soon come through. It's thick and chewy with a lovely bitter note. Black coffee and good quality bitter chocolate are also there. I don't smoke these days, but this would be stunning with a cigar.

Three more excellent Kilchomans! My thank again to Ben for the PX sample which I really did appreciate as I want to try as many Kilchomans as possible. And it's a sure thing that throughout 2015, I'll be trying to pick up everything they release as they've fast become a favourite.
    If you've yet to sample a Kilchoman, go for the Machir Bay. It's a good price and is a great introduction to the range.

Friday, 9 January 2015

SMWS Caol Ila duo

Right then. I've been thoroughly enjoying a rather splendid Caol Ila from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society over the last few months. I've been rationing the 53.212 but thought it was about time to update the blog with this beauty. And, seeing as Mr Ben Cops from the excellent Ben's Whisky Blog had sent me a sample of a previous SMWS Caol Ila: the 53.210, it seemed like the perfect time to get some notes down. Off we go!

SMWS 53.212 Peat Smoke and Para Handy Puffers - 56.4%
A 22-year-old Caol Ila. 
Distilled: January 17, 1992 and one of 291 bottles. 
Cask: refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

On the nose, there's initially a huge blast of ash, but underneath that there's the beautiful scent of honey-glazed ham. Heavily salted smoky bacon crisps are also present. The refined peat is wonderfully sweet and helps to bring out a rich tobacco leaf note. This is ramped up considerably with the addition of a small drop of water and there's also crushed mint leaves and if you leave the whisky to settle for 15-20 minutes, a bag of salt and vinegar crisps rustles into view to join the snack party. A faint rubber note is also in the background but it's not unpleasant as it really is tucked away and doesn't overpower the malt - unlike that nasty Ardbog stuff.
    Take a sip and this Caol Ila has an incredibly sweet arrival which then turns to fresh burning embers and campfire smoke. The sweetness remains throughout and the peat gives it tremendous depth. Black liquorice laces are also in the mix along with black cherry cough sweets and fine sawdust.
    The finish is splendid, with tobacco leaf, sweet peat, a hint of spearmint, coffee beans, faint black pepper, cumin and undiluted blackcurrant cordial.

SMWS 53.210 Fantastic Stuff - 53.3%
A 24-year-old Caol Ila. 
Distilled: December 19, 1989 and one of 240 bottles. 
Cask: refill hogshead, ex-bourbon

Taking a sniff, the fist thing I got when sticking my beak in the Glencairn wasn't peat but pomegranate juice. Spend a few minutes with it and the peat becomes noticeable but it's not a phenolic blast - it's refined and restrained and gives dark depth to the dram. I also got an earthy farm note which I often find in Kilchomans but again, it's not in your face.
    Burning green twigs are also in the fire along with a delightful vanilla note along with a thick spoonful of banana and toffee yoghurt. The dram actually reminds me of a well matured Ardmore and I remember thinking the same during a blind tasting of another Caol Ila last year. Caught me completely off guard. A drop of water brings out dusty cinnamon and waves of vanilla. Lovely.
    On the palate, the whisky is refined and elegant, with a delightful brown sugar sweetness. Again, the peat is there but it plays around the edges and forces some wonderful dark fruit notes through such as ripe plums and blackberries. There's also charcoal, creamy vanilla, white pepper and dried tobacco leaf.
    The finish is sweet with slight wood and a kiss of vanilla, dark salted toffee, pipe smoke, blackcurrant notes and delightfully refined peat. Wonderful.

So there you have it - two absolute corkers from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. It's safe to say I'll be buying more SMWS Caol Ila bottles in the future - in fact, I already have. I picked out a cheeky wee 14-year-old from this month's outturn. I just can't get enough of the stuff.

A huge thank you to Ben for the sample of the 53.210 and for giving me the opportunity to try it. It really was Fantastic - the label didn't lie!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Benromach Organic - 43%

I had a small glass of the Benromach Organic at the Glasgow Whisky Festival back in November and declared it one of my drams of the day. So when I saw a bottle out in the wild, I promptly scooped it up and brought it back home. Seems like I'm not the only one, as it's disappearing from the shelves rather quickly.
    I've spent a bit of time with it now and the bottle is about half full, so it's time for some tasting notes.
    On the nose, there's a copious amount of fresh wood - no real surprise as this six-year-old Benromach was matured in virgin American oak casks. Give it a bit of time and the spirit begins to settle down. I even found that a drop of water helped release some of the aromas which were initially hidden behind the fresh sawdust notes. Cranberry and sharp raspberry became immediately apparent, along with dark toffee and hints of vanilla latte. There's also citrus rind in there, too, in the shape of orange and lemon, while a rich maltiness attacks the senses. This is definitely a whisky which improves the more time you spend with your nose wedged in the glass. I also picked up white sugar, a little candied mixed peel and that delicious porridge and honey smell which also appears in the 10 year old.
    Take a sip, and the delivery is hugely sweet, which gives way to fruity wood after a few seconds. Vanilla, warming winter spices and a little citrus then take over. But the fresh oak is never far away and it lingers in the background as you swirl it around. I also got a slight green note (fresh twigs) which was quite pleasant.
    The finish was packed with vanilla and baked lemon, while some white pepper notes danced around the back of my tongue, along with a sweet coffee note.
    I have to say that while I've been enjoying this bottle over the last few months, it's not the most complex whisky in the world. But then, sometimes it's good to just kick back and enjoy something without trying to analyse it too much.
    Benromach also go to great lengths on the bottle to let us know that the Organic has been created with Scottish organic barley and it also carries the British Agriculture logo and the Organic Soil Association badge. That's all well and good, but I'm confused why the distillery has chosen to add colouring to this malt and chill-filter it. I am assuming this is the case as there's nothing on the bottle to say otherwise. By presenting a product as organic, why not go for full craft presentation and bottle it at a little higher percentage? It's also on the pricey side for a young whisky.
    Still, these grumbles aside, this is a very decent dram - although I'd probably plump for the 10 over this in the future.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Clynelish 14 - 46%

My introduction to Clynelish was at last month's Glasgow Whisky Festival - and I was rather spoiled considering the fact I was swirling a 29-year-old cask strength humdinger. 
    While I knew this 14 would struggle to match that SMWS behemoth, I happily took the plunge to better appreciate the Clynelish character. The bottle hasn't lasted long - a sure sign I've enjoyed it - while a hip flask brimming with this fine single malt accompanied me on a trip to London a few weeks ago. It certainly improved the four and a half hour train journey!
    On the nose, the first thing I encountered was glue and corned beef! Honey, dried mixed fruit and salted lemon followed and there's a smokiness to the malt but not peat - more like a whiff of campfire smoke from a mile or so away. I also found marzipan, icing sugar-covered bonbons, a slight yeasty note, musty tangerine, a hint of petrol, butter icing, honeydew melon, orange oil, Lee's macaroon bars and a herbal note which reminded me of sage. Sweet and savoury in perfect balance. Left for 30 minutes I got a smell which reminded me of walking into a Mexican deli - chipotle chillies and all! With a dribble of water, the savoury scents took a step back and the orange citrus notes moved forward. In some ways it reminded me of Old Pulteney 12
    The palate had a slight alcoholic nip at first which then gave way to orange oil, golden syrup, vanilla, milky coffee, a fair bit of chilli flake heat along with chicory leaves and peppery rocket. The finish was spicy with more vanilla, a light caramel sauce, dried fruit and was slightly bitter.
    I really enjoyed this one and found it a bit of a challenge at times due to its sweet and savoury character. Some days it would be fruity and sweet, while on others, those savoury, meaty notes seemed to be more pronounced. It's really made me want to taste more from the distillery and since quaffing this bottle, I've bought a 16-year-old independent bottling of Clynelish. I'll be opening that one in the near future - perhaps for my birthday later this month. We'll see!