#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.

#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.