Longrow 14 Year Old Burgundy Wood

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Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 56.1% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I have a confession to make. Actually a confession made on the back of a revelation.

About a couple of years ago I picked up this Longrow to satisfy my ever increasing curiosity for Campbeltown. To be fair I didn’t know much about it and relied on the salesman to pick something out for me.

A couple of months after purchasing it I had a poker night at my place and one of the guys wanted to have a taste. I duly obliged. He liked it. I wasn’t too impressed.

As it turns out he has much better taste in whisky than I do. Not only did I not think much of it I had the gall to write a review about it and label it average. This was, of course, over two years ago. In my defense I live in Dubai so two years is actually closer to eight in whisky years. You know, because of the temperature. So I think I can be forgiven for being naive.

This 14 year old gem has been matured for 11 years in bourbon barrels (1997-2008) and then for a further three in French Burgundy Casks (2008-2011). It’s peated like all Longrows are and it’s served up at a juicy 56.1%

Nose: Warm dark honey. Natural caramel. Toast. Cranberries. Malt butter. Cherries. Red licorice. Star anise. Cinnamon. Tannins. Mint leaf. Cured meats. And that lovely peat.

Palate: Strong cinnamon. Clove. Dark cocoa. Coffee beans. Actually superbly roasted coffee beans. And spices. Roasted too. Burnt sweet caramel. The delivery is full bodied and the flavors brilliantly balanced.

Finish: What a finish! Long, oily and chewy. Minty with lots of coffee. Cherries. Cinnamon. Warm Coca-Cola.

Thanks to my friend The Whisky Snob who raved about it so much he made me give this another go. Incidentally this score is 6 huge points above the last.

I was either stupid or the oxidization helped. I’m going with stupid.

Rating: 93

Redbreast 15 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Redbreast | Region: Ireland | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 21 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

Review
I recently reviewed the Redbreast 12 Cask Strength and it was days before I could get it out of my mind. It was so insanely good.

I had a bottle of it’s 15 year old older brother lying around as well and so tonight I decided to give it a whirl. Given the fact that I was positively giddy over the 12 Cask Strength you can imagine my anticipation at trying out the 15 year old.

Distilled using the legendary Irish method of employing a mix of malted and un-malted barley and then triple distilling in copper stills. This method produces a unique spirit known as Pure Pot Still Whiskey. And Midleton Distillery, where Redbreast is made, are masters of this craft.

Which is why this whiskey is a bit of a disappointment for me. Not that it’s horrendous but when it follows on the trail of the 12 year old Cask Strength it is average at best.

Matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Oloroso Sherry casks the spirit is bottled at 46%.

Nose: My glass was left covered for over 20 minutes to allow all the aromas to accumulate. The first nose was quite sour. Tamarind water. Light soy sauce. Let it breathe and the grains come through next. Barley. Gets sweeter over time. Warm honey. Toffee. Berries. Dark chocolate. Spicy next with clove and other spices. Almond husk. Oils. Not my favorite nose. The sourness threw me off.

Palate: Feels grainy. Quite sweet and fruity. Hard boiled sweets. Apricots. Peaches. Oily. The berries are back. So is the fennel and the clove. With hints of oak. The flavors are quite unique but they’re not really doing it for me for some reason.

Finish: Long. Oily. With a hint of bitter oak.

This is drinkable and some might even say enjoyable. I have no arguments on that. Is it gorgeous like it’s 12 year old sibling?

Nope.

Rating: 86

Mortlach 22 Year Old Maltman

Mortlach Maltman 22
Distillery/Brand: Mortlach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
It’s always exciting to sample a distillery for the first time and I’d had my eyes on Mortlach for a while now. Especially after reading a lot of rave reviews about the 16 year old Flora & Fauna release.

After managing to snag one I went out in search of other Mortlachs only to realize there was no such thing as an original Mortlach. Owned by Diageo this distillery simply produces spirit for the Johnnie Walker blend and, thus, never released as an original single malt.

However, the spirit is so good that independent bottlers routinely buy casks from the distillery to mature and bottle as their own. And this 22 year old Maltman is an example of that.

Owned by Meadowside Blenders Maltman produce a range of award-winning single malts. Run by the father and son team of Donald & Andrew Hart this independent bottler has a solid reputation.

Distilled on March 7, 1990 and bottled April 19, 2012 this 22 year old spirit has spent it’s entire life in a bourbon cask (#1650).

Nose: Crisp barley. Green apples. Melons. White grapes. Vanilla with hints of peat oak. Sugarcane. Ginger. Lemon grass. Very fruity and fresh. A very familiar Speyside nose.

Palate: Those classic Speyside flavors again. Sugarcane. Ginger. Mild lemon. Vanilla. Coconut (husk). Hint of fennel. The medium bodied delivery is strong and confident.

Finish: Medium. Mildy bitter fennel.

These are such classic flavors that there is no way you could not like this whisky.

Rating: 89

Glengoyne Teapot Dram Batch 3

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Distillery/Brand: Glengoyne | Region: Highland | ABV: 59.4% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 89

Review
Everyone loves a story. Though in today’s day and age of whisky there seem to be plenty abound disguising cheap marketing ploys and PR stunts. All in the hope of catching the consumers’ eye.

But every now and then comes along a tale that makes you nod your head with a wry smile. Reminding you, yet again, of the romance that was once part of this noble art.

For a century and a half Glengoyne would allow three large drams a day for all workers on duty. The brewer would choose a new cask every week from which to draw the drams.

Workers would gather in the staff canteen at 9am, noon and at 3pm to collect their three fingers worth of cask strength spirit – the three fingers normally belonging to the chubbiest man.

Since not everyone had the capacity to withstand three extremely large drams of cask strength whisky by mid-day the weak among the lot would dispose off their share in a large copper bashed teapot. It was from here that the more seasoned of workers would be able to enjoy a little extra at the end of the day.

And, thus, was born the story of the Teapot Dram and the inspiration behind this expression. Never has a story of corporate alcoholism sounded so endearing.

Matured exclusively in 5 Oloroso Sherry Butts (each aged for around 12 years) and a Hogshead (aged for around 8 years) this is the third edition in the series and served up at a cool 59.4%.

Nose: Malt. Intense dark fruits. Rum topf. Clove. Cinnamon. Oaky chocolate. Fudge brownies. Dark brown sugar. Black raisins. As one would expect from exclusive Oloroso influence. I like it because it manages to walk the fine line between sherry bomb and WTF.

Palate: Super intense. Clove. Black peppers. Maple syrup. Cigar. Dark honey and chocolate. Sprinkle of black salt. Very tough to hold on your palate for long. Benefits from literally a couple of drops of water.

Finish: Long. Woody cinnamon with spices.

This is a nice dram. Not as good as the Batch 2 if I remember correctly. Not sure why. But I love the inspiration behind it and for that I will give it an extra point.

Rating: 89

Macallan 18 Year Old Fine Oak

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Macallans’ reclusive Mr Bob Dalgarno and came away immensely impressed with his humility and his considerable skill as a whisky maker.

The Fine Oak series is his baby and I recall him telling me that after the Sherry Oak all eyes were on him to come up with a new type of expression. His idea was something that would drastically change the way Macallan matured it’s spirit. Traditionally using only sherry casks the Fine Oak range uses ex-Bourbon, ex-European Sherry and ex-American Sherry casks.

The experiment paid off and catapulted both Bob and Macallan into whisky royalty. Now only third behind Glenfiddich in global single malt sales Macallan deservedly enjoys its place as the malt to be seen with.

Using only 16% of the spirit cut for maturation I guess one could begin to understand the price tag this whisky demands. Unlike other ‘premium’ status symbol whiskies (like Blue Label) which the connoisseur will avoid Macallan manages to walk the fine line between consistent quality and packaged prestige.

Before I share my notes let me tell you this 18 year old is quite possibly the smoothest delivery you will ever experience in your life.

Nose: Dark jam. Marmalade. Cinnamon. Dry fruits. Almonds. Malt. Crisp grass. Melted butter. Vanilla. Honeycomb. And the richest of sherries. Quite a lovely nose.

Palate: As I let the spirit cascade into my mouth my eyes actually widened at the unexpectedly smooth texture. On the sweeter side the flavors are perfectly balanced. Light honey. Marmalade. Very mild peppers. Oranges. Vanilla. Figs. Prunes. And that luxurious sherry yet again. Brilliant.

Finish: Medium. Touch of oaky fruitcake.

Bob is a gifted individual and a passionate one at that. And this 18 year old is testament to that.

Rating: 93

Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release

Kilchoman Small Batch Release 2013 Sherry
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 58.2% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
So this is what happened. Around three years ago (in 2011) our local distributor organized an evening with a certain Anthony Wills of Kilchoman.

Having read interesting things about the distillery (it being 100% Islay – from growing it’s own barley, malting it, distilling it and maturing it on the tiny island) I decided to pick up two expressions before even attending the evening – a sherry finish and a bourbon single cask both 2011 and both around 5 years of age. As yet unopened.

The two that I tasted that evening with Anthony were, frankly, not to my liking at all. In fact they were quite less than ordinary. One was a Summer 2010 Release and the other introduced only as a special bottling for the Dubai Duty Free which I think was also a 2010 release.

Anyway both were quite terrible and I decided to write off the distillery scoffing at their plans to market such young whiskies. I just assumed that it was the lack of maturation that was responsible for the quality or lack thereof.

How wrong I was.

My curiosity was aroused recently when the Loch Gorm and Machir Bay started receiving rave reviews and so when I spotted this 2013 Small Batch Release sherry finish sitting on a friends’ shelf I decided to pull it out for a swig.

Distilled in October 2008 and bottled on 30th November 2013 this five year old spirit is served at a cool 58.2%. After 4 years in first fill bourbon casks it’s finished in Oloroso and is bottle no 87 of 1000.

Nose: Peat. Cinnamon. Orange marmalade. Nutty peppers. Sherry. Hint of iodine. Bay leaf. Wood shavings. Mild fennel. Feels perfectly balanced with the just the right amount of sweet and spice with a nice bay leaf twist.

Palate: Simply stunning. Oily with lots of sherry and peppers. Red spices. Cumin. Clove. Mid-palate it turns sweet. Orange citrus. Fudge. Dark plum. And that crisp betel leaf and acacia mix.

Finish: Long. Minty with a hint of pepper and green tobacco leaf.

A stingy splash of water will make the delivery juicier and brings out the citrus even more so.

A beautiful young whisky. Kilchoman, I owe you an apology for writing you off.

Rating: 93

Suntory Yamazaki Distillers Reserve

Yamazaki Distillers Reserve
Distillery/Brand: Suntory Yamazaki | Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
Yamazaki is a powerhouse of a distillery. Competing alongside Nikka for my affections it is routinely churning out brilliant expressions. The 12 and the 18 – both having secured cult status. The 25 that I have sitting on my shelf which I am saving for the most momentous of occasions.

Then there are the Hakushus coming out from the same gates. Saltier and more maritime in nature and equally good.

But what I love most is the air of intrigue and minimalistic sophistication Japanese whiskies bring with them. There is nothing which is too much or unnecessary. Nothing is loud or overbearing. Instead there is a controlled elegance to everything they represent.

While the Yamazaki Distillers Reserve may not be the best Yamazaki I have tasted it is quite decent in it’s own right.

Expertly blended by Shinji Fukuyo, the fourth Chief Blender of Yamazaki, the Distillers Reserve is a mix of three unique casks; Wine, Sherry & Mizunara. And there seems to be something from each in the final spirit.

Nose: Malty. Butterscotch. Pepper. Dry fruit. Sugar frosting. A ton of pineapple. Jack fruit and papaya. All the tropical fruits in the world. The wine comes through in a fruity chardonnay with a hint of oak. Decently accomplished if not magnificent.

Palate: Very thin. Apples. Light honey. Mid-palate it becomes fruitier. It’s the same tropical suspects. Bananas with the faintest of mangoes. Hints of oak. I think it’s trying to be a Speysider but not really doing a good enough job of it.

Finish: Medium with a touch of spice. My least favorite part.

Look, I keep saying this one is far from magnificent but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve a pour.

Rating: 87