#81 – Balmenach 11 Year Old (Douglas Bottling)

Distillery: Balmenach
Name: N/A
Age: 11
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £64 (The Whisky Shop)
Distilled: December 2003
Bottled: September 2015
Cask Reference: 11939
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Bottles: 357
Nose: Citrus, sherry, cigar & wood smoke
Taste: Creamy, fruity, spicy
Finish: Medium, spicy, tobacco
Rating: 7/10

This bottling of Balmenach is an independent bottling by Douglas of Drumlanrig which I picked up in the Loch Fyne Whisky Shop in Inverary on my holiday last year (2016).

This is a light coloured whisky with a fresh citrus aroma to it. There is a hint of sherry to it which gives it a little depth to the nose but there is a massive surprise waiting on the finish, a mix of cigar and wood smoke. Just comes out of the blue. You take in a deep breath of that nose and you get a hint of it, breath back out and it’s right there, it’s great.

Onto the palate and you are struck by an initial creamy feel all around your mouth, a silky smoothness to it. This moves into a real light fleshy fruits quality, a slight fruity sweetness coming with it, but not too much. What follows is a slow build up of spice that just keeps going, getting more and more intense. It’s not the only quality on the finish however, remember that cigar smoke from the nose, well now you get the tobacco on the finish, subtle but a pleasant addition (coming from a non-smoker too).

Overall I have really enjoyed this bottle of Balmenach, it’s the first time I have tried it and have been happy with what I have got. A smooth easy drinking yet slightly smokey dram, just smokey in a different sense to what people usually think for a whisky.

#80 – Kilchoman 2008 Vintage

Distillery: Kilchoman
Name: 2008 Vintage
Age: 7
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £66 (The Whisky Exchange)
Nose: Citrus, barley, peat
Taste: Slight sweetness, smoke, blueberries
Finish: Medium, spice
Rating: 8/10

Kilchoman is the newest of the Islay distilleries, the first in 125 years in fact, opening in 2005 and is actually a farm distillery. The expression I am trying today is the 2008 Vintage that I purchased when I visited the distillery last year (2016), such a wonderful location too.

The nose is not too complicated with this dram (but not in a bad way, trust me), it starts with a heavy hit of citrus and barley, giving it a wonderfully fresh aroma. This leads onto a lightly creamy note and then into a peaty finish, the creaminess really softening the peat out however, just lovely.

Onto the palate and you are first tempted into a slight honey sweet note, but then get gently guided away by the smoke and lead towards a light blueberry mid-palate, what an experience. Nothing heavy or forceful here, all just well balanced. I guess the most ‘overpowering’ thing is the spice on the finish, and even then, it’s a push to say overpowering to be honest.

I’ve been privileged enough to have tried most common expressions of Kilchoman and I have to say, this is by far my favourite. It’s just so well balanced, it’s awesome chilled on a warm summers day and yet can equally be savoured on cooler days thanks to the spicy finish.

If this is what we get for a 7 year old whisky, I really can’t wait to see what the 10 year old equivalent is like.

#79 – Wolfburn Single Malt

Distillery: Wolfburn
Name: Single Malt
Age: 3
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £46 (The Whisky Exchange)
Nose: Sweet, light fruits, citrus, minerals, malt, peat
Taste: Honey, malty, coastal, spicy
Finish: Long, floral, smokey, spicy
Rating: 5/10
Wolfburn has a long history, the distillery originating back to 1821 and is the most northerly mainland distillery in Britain. This particular bottle was from the first release as I got my pre-order in as soon as I heard about the new distillery. A long wait later and here we are, ready to review.
As you would expect from such a young whisky, it is very light, straw colour. The initial nose has some sweetness to it with some light, fleshy fruits present. This moves into a citrus aroma with some slight mineral notes and a hint of peat. Given a bit of airing time the malty notes start to come through.
Onto the palate and you get an initial honey sweetness but is again quickly dismissed, this time by the spicy malt that follows. The malt dies down mid palate, though the spice remains for some time and blends in well with some subtle coastal/salty notes which, in turn leads into a slightly smokey floral edge on the finish. After a bit or aeration the sweetness begins to make a bold return and holds it’s ground which I found an interesting turn of events.
For 3 year old whisky this is actually quite a pleasant dram. It obviously has some of the youthful qualities you would expect with a whisky of this age, but with a drop of water/ice in it, this is an amazing dram to sit out in the sun with, or I dare say that youthfulness would be interesting in some cocktails.
I’m looking forward to trying some of their later expressions.

#78 – Brenne French Single Malt Whisky

Distillery: Brenne
Name: French Single Malt Whisky
Age: 7(ish)
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 40%
Lot No.: 002
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £46 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Rhubarb & custard sweets, Strawberries & cream sweets, banana
Taste: Sweet, viscous, toffee, spicy, woody
Finish: Medium, slightly dry, spicy
Rating: 6/10

Brenne is a French whisky that was launched in 2012 by Allison Patel in collaboration with a distiller in Cognac. It is harvested, distilled, matured and bottled in Cognac, some of the maturation taking place in ex-Cognac barrels too, yum. It is a no-age statement whisky as each cask that gets bottled is different depending on the length of time the Cognac was in the finishing barrel, but they say it is usually around 7 years old.

I remember hearing about this a few years ago and instantly wanted to try some, I love whisky and I love Cognac, it was surely going to be a match made in heaven. Well it took me until early this year before I my hands on a bottle as nowhere seem to have any in stock in the UK.

The nose is like nothing I have ever smelt before, you just get this huge whiff of rhubarb & custard sweets mixed in with strawberries & cream sweets, it’s amazing, not really a whisky nose, but amazing nonetheless. It therefore obviously has a sweetness to the nose, a sugary sweetness which is difficult to get through. After aerating for awhile though you do begin to get some baked banana notes coming through.

Onto the palate and it is predictably sweet and really quite viscous, almost liqueur like. The strawberries & cream is still predominate for me with some of the banana coming through too. This leads onto a more toffee sweetness and slightly more depth along with it. Mid-palate is when the oak and the spice start to come through which both follow through to the medium length finish, giving a slight dryness too.

So what do I think overall? Well it’s hard to say, as a whisky I suppose it is not great if you are after depth, complexity and/or a traditional Scotch. As a spirit though, I really think it works, as long as you take it for what it is. The nose is amazing, the palate is what you would expect from the nose and the finish is something completely different.

Was I disappointed after waiting so long to try it? No. A little surprised by what I got I will admit, but not disappointed. It is a great drink in it’s own right and I say congratulations to Allison Patel for creating something so unique and enjoyable.

Incidentally it is a great cocktail drink, it has more than enough to hold it’s own as a mixer, and there are several recipes on the Brenne website for you get try too.

#77 – Glenrothes 25 Year Old – 1995 (Murray McDavid)

Distillery: Glenrothes
Name: 1995 – Benchmark Collection
Age: 25
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Batch No.: 15/136
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £135 (Master of Malt)
Bottle No.: 1 of 255
Cask No.: 14341
Cask Type: Jurançon Wine Cask
Distilled: N/A
Bottled: October 2015
Nose: Toffee, marzipan, slightly floral
Taste: Rich, dry, spicy, raisins
Finish: Long, spicy
Rating: 8/10

This is an independent bottling of Glenrothes 25 year old by Murray McDavid as part of their Benchmark Collection. It has been matured in a wine cask from Jurançon, South West France, who produce both dry and sweet white wine, I am unsure which was used for the finish however.

glenrothes25yomurraymcdavid

It has a medium body to the nose with strong hints of light toffee, without too much sweetness though, and some initial marzipan. It is picked up a little by some floral notes making it lighter on the nose than the colour would suggest. On that note, Jurançon is known for white wines (according to Wikipedia) which again the colour would not suggest. The official notes also mention anise too which I can get a hint of once left to aerate a while.

The palate has a boldness to it; there is some initial sweetness but it is really well balanced by a dryness that follows and into a soft spice. All of this leads in to a raisin mid-palate. The finish is long and strong. There is an oaky dryness and spice to it too, lovely.

A real winter dram this one; very different finish from the wine cask but in all the right ways. I don’t have a sweet tooth but I like how well this balances the sweetness with the dryness. Credit to the guys at Claxton’s.

#76 – Tobermory 20 Year Old (Claxton’s)

Distillery: Tobermory
Name: N/A
Age: 20
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 48%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £? (was a present)
Bottle No.: 32 of 294
Cask No.: 1501-652
Cask Type: Refill Hogshead
Distilled: 26th April 1996
Bottled: 2016
Nose: Light, straw, malty, herbal, white pepper
Taste: Slight sweetness, malt, coastal, slight spice
Finish: Long, dry, spicy
Rating: 8/10

This is an independent bottling of Tobermory 20 year old by the York based bottler Claxton’s and is Natural in colour and Non-chill filtered.

Firstly, what an awesome looking bottle, a little more awkward to pour out of, but what it lacks in practicality it makes in style 🙂

tobermory20yoclaxtons

So the nose is light and delicate with a lovely hit of straw and some subtle malt coming through. There is also a well balanced herbal note to it making it very refreshing on the nose. There is a soft spice to it on the finish like white pepper.

The palate is light like the nose with a hint of malt to it. As you hold it in you mouth for a while you get some coastal notes coming through, not too overpowering, just enough to work with the slightly sweet mid-palate leading to a soft spice. The finish itself is long and dry with the spice building to a nice fiery heat.

Overall this has been a very enjoyable dram, the whole bottle has gone down well, especially over the summer when the majority of it went. It is light and easy drinking but has some depth to it when you are in the mood to take notice.

#75 – Arran 18 Year Old (Whiskybroker Bottling)

Distillery: Arran
Name: N/A
Age: 18
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 51.1%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £45 (No longer available)
Bottle No.: 8 of 319
Cask No.: 551
Cask Type: Refill Sherry Hogshead
Distilled: 17th July 1996
Bottled: 28th August 2014
Nose: Dried fruits, marzipan, almonds, sweet
Taste: Rich, sherry, oaky, dry
Finish: Long, warm, spicy
Rating: 7/10

This is an independent bottling of the Arran 18 year old offered by Whiskybroker. It was actually available a little before the official 18 year old release which is one of the reasons I bought it.

The sherry cask is very obvious from the lovely rich colour. The nose I found interesting, not as deep as I was expecting but does have some richness from the dried fruits, I can pick out dates in there, it is very sweet though, a sugary sweetness too. The usual fruity nose that I expect from an Arran is not present in this one, the sherry cask has definitely had an affect on that.

The sherry finish becomes very apparent on the palate, very rich with some spicy oak notes, leaving it a little dry. There is also some alcohol burn in there too without water. Speaking of which, in the unlikely event of you finding yourself with a dram of this, add some water as it helps to open it up a little. The finish is long and warm, the spice from the oak seems to go on forever.

Well I have enjoyed the bottle but I do think it is a little too overpowering on the sherry front, the delicacies that I can usually find in an Arran just aren’t there which is a shame. Fantastic value for money though, well worth checking out the website for their ever changing range.

#74 – Tweeddale 14 Year Old Batch 4

Distillery: Tweeddale
Name: N/A
Age: 14
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 46%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £38 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Sugar sweetness, grass, apple pie
Taste: Smooth, light, smokey, spice
Finish: Long, spicy
Rating: 6/10

The Tweeddale is a blended whisky and something I am looking forward to. I have not had the chance to try any of the previous batches, they started at the 10 year old, so I have nothing to compare it to, Batch 5 is now out however so I may need to try that. Blends are something I steered clear of for many years, until I tried some Compass Box offerings that is. I have since matured and accepted that good blends do exist, here’s hoping this is one of them.

The nose has a very sugary sweetness to it at first, kind of sponge cake qualities. There are also some subtle notes of baked apples too, with that sweetness it reminds me a little of apple pie. Strangely there is also a slight grassy note to it too which seems a little out of place.

Smoothness, a quality I expect from a blend and the Tweeddale does not disappoint. It is light and smooth initially with a very unexpected smokey quality that I did not get on the nose, but it works. This then develops into a lovely spice which continues onto the long finish.

Really not what I was expecting, the nose and palate do not line up for me, I was totally thrown when I first tasted it, but not disappointing which is important.

#73 – Tomatin 18 Year Old

Distillery: Tomatin
Name: N/A
Age: 18
Chill-filtered: ?
Strength: 46%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £75 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Light, fresh, cereal, vanilla
Taste: Light, sweet, dry, cereal
Finish: Medium, dry, spicy
Rating: 6/10
The Tomatin 18 year old has been finished in Oloroso sherry casks which is very surprising when you first nose it. It is very light and fresh, cut grass with some floral notes too, not what I was expecting to be honest. To mix things up a bit though there are also some cereal notes there too that help to add a little depth to the nose.
Onto the palate and that light quality remains but it is sweeter than the nose suggests, but only initially. The cereal notes then take over along with quite a dryness. There are not really any of the sherry qualities in there though, I was expecting them to be there, if somewhat subtly as I do not suspect it has been in the sherry casks for long. The finish is medium to long with a very dry and spicy quality to it.
This will be 5th Tomatin I’ve had and although none have been bad, none have really stood out for me either. I will persevere however as I think it has the potential to be a whisky I can enjoy,  I just need to find the right one.

#72 – Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection – Four Wood

Distillery: Woodford Reserve
Name: Master’s Collection – Four Wood
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 47.2%
Batch No.: N/A
Bottle Size: 3cl
Price: £144 (Master of Malt)
Nose: Rich, maple syrup, toffee, ripe fruits, nutty
Taste: Smooth, spicy, oaky, nutmeg, berries
Finish: Long, dry, spicy
Rating: 9/10

I couldn’t resist buying a sample of this when doing a recent Master of Malt order, it just sounds so interesting. Initially matured in American oak, finished in barrels made from Maple Wood, Oloroso Sherry Wood and Port Wood, how awesome is that?

Huge depth to this one, great body to it. There is a sweetness present from the maple, toffee and ripe fruits, it’s not a sickly sweetness though. There is a spice presence too, I can’t pick it out but it makes me think of cake, so I’m guessing something used in baking. Given a few minutes I can pickup on some subtle walnut and the cake style sweetness begins to develop more. Very impressive.

The palate is very rich, silky smooth and viscous with a lovely level of spice. There is a fruity and maple sweetness there but reasonably subtle as the oaky dryness quickly reins it in, taking the sweetness but leaving the flavour. There is a hint of nutmeg and maybe some dark berries in there too. The finish is long with a warming spice and just a little dryness to it.

Exceptionally good dram this one, it has definitely lived up to my expectation. Very complex, continues to develop over time making it a great savouring bourbon. At £144 it is not cheap, but I’ve had more expensive whiskies that are not as good, I’d say it’s worth the money to be honest.