#89 – Bruichladdich Micro-Provenance Series

Distillery: Bruichladdich
Name: Cask Evolution Exploration 2006
Age: 9
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 64%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £70 I think
Distilled: 2006
Bottled: 2015-07-24
Bottle: 253 or 273
Barley: Optic
Cask Type: Fresh Bourbon
Oak Type: Quercus Alba
Warehouse: 02. L01
Nose: Sugar cane, barley, vegital
Taste: Hot! creamy, dry, vegital, slight sweetness, spicy
Finish: Medium, dry
Rating: 8/10

One of the bottles I picked up as part of my 2016 Scotland trip when I visited the Bruichladdich distillery. The Micro-Provenance Series as Bruichladdich describes it is:

“An ongoing exploratory series of single casks, specially selected to examine the evolutionary influences on maturing Islay Single Malt Whisky – the variables of age, vintage, wood, barley, storage, humidity, heat and marine climate – the very essence of provenance.”

The nose is quite light but heavy on the sugar cane. Barley notes come through too but sugar is the predominate aroma. If you cover it for a while and then nose it you get some vegital notes and slight underlying maritime notes too but it quickly gets bullied out of the way by the sugar cane. It is a pleasant enough nose but not overly complex most of the time but it certainly hides that 64% well, no ABV burn at all.

Boom! there’s that 64%, my god does this have a kick on the palate. It is a little more viscous than most whiskies having quite a creamy quality, but also quite dry, a little strange. The vegital notes that were hiding on the nose make their presence know on the palate and work really well with the whisky’s creamy nature. The sugar cane from the nose makes a brief appearance mid-palate which takes you from an initial dryness to sweet and back to dry again, it’s an experience this whisky that’s for sure. The tail end of the palate is full on spice before going into a medium length and quite dry finish.

In conclusion then, awesome! The nose could be better in truth, pleasant but not quite complex enough for me given it is a savouring whisky. The palate however is all sort of awesome. There is plenty going on but it is really well balanced too so there are not too many overpowering qualities going on. There were lots of options to choose from at the distillery and I’m just glad that the one I chose was a good’n.

#88 – Springbank 10 Year Old (Caged Bottle)

Distillery: Springbank
Name: Caged Bottle
Age: 10
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 58.4%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: £45
Distilled: 2005-08-19
Bottled: 2016
Bottles: 1
Nose: Creme brulee, marzipan, oily, hay, musty, minerals
Taste: Oily, creme brulee, dark chocolate, treacle
Finish: Long, dry, spicy
Rating: 9/10

So I have a very special treat for you today, I will be sampling my Springbank 10 year old Caged Bottle. What is the Caged Bottle? I hear you ask, well let me explain. When you visit the distillery shop you have the opportunity to view their Caged whiskies, which are literally caged off. I there are an assortment of one off bottlings, yes that’s right, bottle number 1 of 1. To help make the experience a little more special you also get to sign the bottle out of the cage, so your name will forever be in the caged bottlings log.

The nose is just out of this world for a 10 year old, seriously amazing. I am hit with creme brulee initially with some marzipan coming through just afterwards. It also has an oily nose to, I think linseed oil. At the tail of the nose there is a slight floral note with hay coming through. After a while it begins to take on a musty quality with a slight mineral edge.

The palate has a lovely thick oily texture to it with some real spice there too. I’m happy to say that the creme brulee makes an appearance again along with some dark chocolate and some treacle. It also has a good woody quality which is bought out with a touch of water.

In conclusion then, Amazing! It just has so much going on from the nose to the palate and onto the finish. I love how it has the signature Springbank flavour but you have to work your way through so many layers of awesomeness before you get there. Unfortunately because it is so damn nice I don’t foresee it lasting long so I suspect I will have to make another trip to the distillery sometime soon.

#87 – Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 23 Year Old (WM Cadenhead)

Distillery: Glen Elgin-Glenlivet
Name: WM Cadenhead bottling
Age: 23
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 46%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: About £75 I think
Distilled: 1991
Bottled: 2015
Bottles: 630
Nose: Sherry, dark chocolate, ripe fleshy fruits
Taste: Pear, spicy, subtle summer fruits
Finish: Short, oaky,
Rating: 6/10

I spotted this bottle in a shop during my 2016 Scotland visit. It’s a distillery that I was not familiar with which always catches my attention and I had never tried a WM Cadenhead bottling so was interested in trying one.

So the bottle usefully comes with it’s own tasting notes, for the nose it states “Dark chocolate; some meatiness along with a good glug of sherry. Bruised bananas; distant smokiness and some maple syrup”. For me I can identify the sherry, dark chocolate and can see where they are coming from with the bananas, I do not get that specifically but do get ripe fleshy fruits. I can also see what they mean with the meatiness too, I would not have initially used that word, but I like it, I’ll stick with it.

Onto the palate and the official notes state “More chocolate, although softer than on the nose. Cinnamon buns; strawberry yoghurt and poached pears.”. Personally I can get pears (never had poached so can’t confirm that) and I get a general summer fruits quality coming through, although this is subtle. There is also a nice spice to it, nothing overpowering but adds nicely to the palate.

The finish is noted as having “Some soft oaky notes along with red fruits. Faint dunnage warehouses with raspberries and lychees”. I get the oaky notes and a bit of spice to go with it but also the summer fruits notes from the palate does continue onto the finish.

It is rare that I read official tasting notes and can honestly say that I agree with them, that one of the great things about whisky, each tastes different to everyone. These tasting notes however were clearly written by someone with a similar palate to myself  (albeit someone with a more sophisticated palate) as I can agree with many of the flavours identified.

Overall it has been a pleasant dram, it has a good body to it, a little heavier than most, with enough complexity there to entertain the palate. It has not blow me away however but I would say that it’s quality does match the price I paid.

#86 – Blended Scotch Whisky #3 23 Year Old

Bottler: That Boutique-y Whisky Company
Name: Blended Whisky #3 Batch 1
Age: 23
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 48.2%
Bottle Size: 50cl
Price: £80 (Master of Malt)
Bottle: 119 of 463
Nose: Rich, dark toffee, sherry, summer fruits
Taste: Rich, sherry, oily, spicy
Finish: Long, sherry, spicy
Rating: 6/10

You can’t go wrong with a TBWC dram, every one I have tried has been exceptional, will this 23 year old blend stand up to such a reputation? Lets see.

The nose is rich with a good amount of dark toffee going on but without the sweetness. There is also a well balanced sherry note there too. Given a little time it briefly hints at some metallic qualities but this disappears and some summer fruits begin coming through and settles with some marzipan too.

The palate is predominantly sherry for me, lovely and oily with a good spice kick mid through to end palate. Think of a good quality sherry finished whisky, just with a little less complexity. It’s just that nothing else quite stands out enough, maybe some chocolate notes but that’s about it.

This has a complex, developing nose to it. Plenty going on and strangely I find it keeps toing and froing with the sherry notes, very interesting. The palate is less complex, more balanced. There are not really any stand out notes, just a balanced sherry heavy blend. As a result it’s a strange one, a savouring dram for it’s nose but just an enjoyable dram on the palate.

#85 – Auchroisk 23 Year Old (A.D.Rattray)

Distillery: Auchroisk
Name: A.D.Rattray Bottling
Age: 23
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 49.1%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price:  ?
Distilled: 19th February 1993
Bottled: 21st March 2016
Bottles: 282
Cask #: 8641
Nose: Light, fleshy fruits, floral, marzipan
Taste: Light, banana, malty
Finish: Dry, spicy, woody
Rating: 7/10

I picked this bottle up at the A.D.Rattray shop last year during my Scotland trip as Auchroisk is a distillery I am unfamiliar with.

The nose is light with a lot of fleshy fruits present at first along with a slight floral note in the background. After a while this fruitiness softens and is replaced with marzipan and a touch of malt. When covering the glass for a few seconds you then get subtle hints of damp forest floor.

The palate is initially quite light with a bit of banana present but then quickly transforms into a malty, spicy dram, a lot richer than the colour and nose would suggest. With the addition of water the malt softens but the spice is still present. There is also a hint of pineapple in there too. The finish is quite short in flavour but long in spice.

Overall a quality dram, complex without being a challenge to identify it’s qualities. Powerful enough when neat but smooth with just a touch of water, and the spice just keeps building on the finish, lovely.

#84 – Bunnahabhain 22 Year Old

Distillery: Bunnahabhain
Name: Whisky Broker Bottling
Age: 22
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 47.2%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable (was £45)
Distilled: 25th November 1991
Bottled: 15th August 2014
Bottle #: 77 of 206
Nose: Light, malty, slightly floral, sugar cane, hay
Taste: Smooth, spicy, barley
Finish: Medium, spicy, woody
Rating: 7/10

A bottle I have had in for a while now and never got around to opening, but thankfully a couple of months ago I got to crack it open at last. With such a long wait and built up anticipation, was I going to be impressed or disappointed?

It’s a Bunnahabhain, what do you think, it’s great 😊

It is light on the nose with an initial malty note and slight floral note too, I get subtle lavender. With a little aeration a real sugar cane note starts to become prominent with a subtle hint of hay in the background. It’s not super light as the malt and sugar cane add some depth but works well on a warm day still.

Onto the palate and you get a really smooth yet spicy dram with a barley note present. There is a slight sweetness there but it is subtle. The spicy continues onto a medium finish with a woody note coming through towards the end. It’s not as complex as I’d expected for a 22 year old but that does not make it an unpleasant dram, oh no, very enjoyable in deed.

Overall I am very pleased with this dram, especially for £45, I mean how can you not be. Not particularly complex but a bit meatier than you would first expect from the colour. It is not worth what you would ordinarily pay for a 22 year old in my opinion, but I didn’t so it’s great 😊. It is good on a warm day but also with food. I had it with a few meals and found that it complimented succulent pork quite nicely.

#83 – Caol Ila 15 Year Old Unpeated Style

Distillery: Caol Ila
Name: Unpeated Style
Age: 15
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 60.39%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable (£89 for 2016 release at Master of Malt)
Bottled: 2014
Nose: Light, barley, sugar cane, marzipan, mineral
Taste: Malty, citrus, slightly coastal
Finish: Medium, malty, spice
Rating: 6/10

Another bottle from my Scotland trip last year. I had the opportunity to pop into the Caol Ila distillery for a quick tasting session when this lovely golden delight stood out to me. An unpeated Caol Ila, I had to give it a try.

At 60.39% ABV the nose is a might punchy undiluted, although it does actually die down quite quickly on it’s own. The aroma is light with a barley note taking the first step followed by a sugar cane sweetness. There is also a subtle marzipan and mineral note that begin to edge forward too.

The ABV hit is initially strong as you would expect but now as bad as you may think. As with the nose it is light with a maltiness as the forbearing quality but with a citrus note there too, specifically limes. On mid palate I get some coastal notes coming through which turns back to malt for the medium length spicy finish.

With a splash of water the aroma obviously looses the burn and the marzipan notes become a little stronger, as does the barley. The palate becomes more creamy and very surprisingly it becomes insanely spicy, maybe something to do with 15 years in a first fill bourbon barrel. It also develops a little more sweetness on the palate too.

Overall it has been a really enjoyable dram, I love how much spice this dram can kick out with the addition of the water. I am a big Caol Ila fan and can safely say this is nothing like any other Caol Ila I have tried, however despite being the most expensive bottle of Caol Ila I have purchased, I am not disappointed. I still prefer the peated variety but love that they have stepped out of their comfort zone with this unpeated expression.

#82 – Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Edition

Distillery: Ardbeg
Name: Dark Cove (2016 Committee Edition)
Age: N/A
Chill-filtered: No
Strength: 55%
Bottle Size: 70cl
Price: Unavailable
Nose: Petroleum, tar, dark chocolate, toffee
Taste: Peat, dark chocolate, coffee,
Finish: Medium, peaty, spice
Rating: 8/10

I had the pleasure of visiting Islay around this time last year and while there I made the trip to the Ardbeg distillery to do the Warehouse Tasting. What a great place and great location/atmosphere to do a tasting. While at the distillery I spotted the Committee Edition of Dark Cove, knocked out at 55% rather than the 46.5% of the standard.

The initial hit on the nose as I pour is of petroleum, it’s strong but very short lived. It then opens up into a hot tar and dark chocolate mixture, if you can even imagine that. Give it a bit more time and it starts to soften and you begin to get a little more creamy toffee note. The ABV is very obvious at first but it does soften as it aerates and after a couple of minutes any burn has gone.
Onto the palate and you are presented with that much sort after Ardbeg peat, but it’s not alone. Oh no, it brings some welcome friends, high cocoa dark chocolate and a little bit of coffee come along for the ride, giving this peaty monster some real depth. Given a few minutes I start to detect a subtle sweetness coming through, some of that toffee from the nose maybe. This leads into a medium length finish that is a little dry, unsurprisingly peaty with a real spicy hit.
A truly wonderful expression from Ardbeg yet again, different enough from the core range with a much deeper quality to it coming from those sherry casks, and yet still light enough to be enjoyed on a summer evening. A great dram any time of the year.

#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.