GlenDronach 21 Year Old Parliament

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Distillery/Brand: GlenDronach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 85

Review
I’m a huge fan of the Glendronach Cask Strength series. Wonderfully sherried whiskies that pack a punch without being too overly sherried, if you know what I mean.

If you’ve been reading my reviews you know I am dead against over maturation of good distillate. It always feels like someones’ trying to hide something. Of course, that need not always be the case.

There are some folks that like their whiskies this way. Sherry bombs they are called, if memory serves me right. I think sherry bombs are a tricky business and walk an oft teetering line between whisky and WTF? Mostly I’ve realized it’s WTF.

Fortunately for me this whisky just about manages to walk that line. It’s not as marvellously balanced as other good sherry bombs I’ve had but I think it manages to keep it’s dignity intact.
Matured in both Oloroso and PX casks this is as sherry as it gets.

What’s interesting about this review is that I managed to conduct a little experiment (which I saw Ralfy do in his review of the same) and came up with a surprisingly positive result.

One sample I tasted like I normally do. Neat. The other, in order to mellow out the sherry, I covered for 40 minutes after adding a splash of water.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48%

Nose (22/25): Very strong sherry. Dark chocolate. Cocoa beans. Dark rum. Nuts. Almonds. Walnuts. Spicy oaks. Let it air and it settles down nicely. Becomes more crisp. More sweeter. More brown sugar. Muscovado sugar. There’s a hint of sourness. Cold cuts. Dark jam. Honey. Toast. Quite a typical Oloroso nose with some complexity thrown in thanks to the PX.

Palate (20/25): Dark honey. Chocolate fudge. Fruit cake. Cinnamon. Very bold. Almost over the top. Treacle. Dtaes. Licorice. Lots and lots of tannins. Molasses. Overly sweet, far too big. It’s not bad but it’s just too loud.

Finish (21/25): Better. Extremely long. Oily. Cigar leaf. Touch of oak. Something bitter.

Overall a decent dram if not a bit overly thick and sweet.

___

With a splash of water and left covered for 40 minutes

Nose: Mellowed out quite a bit. Now vanilla. Delicate rose water. Pistachios.

Palate: Much smoother. More balanced. Touch more spice. Coca Cola.

Finish: Chocolate. Oak

I feel the 40 minutes with water really brought out the more delicate flavors of the whisky. The sherry was cut through quite nicely and I could taste more of the base distillate if you like.
I would rate this one an additional 2 or 3 points higher with water.

While it did not turn water into wine there certainly was something to this exercise. An average dram made good. And I think that’s quite a nifty little trick.

Thanks Ralfy.

Rating: 85

Master of Malt Mystery Speysides

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Distillery/Brand: Master of Malt | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43

Review
On the eve of my 40th birthday I wanted to do something different but just couldn’t figure out what.

Finally after much rummaging through my bar and in the back of my closet I discovered three samples from Master of Malt of their mystery Speyside series.

The first was the 30 year old (5th Edition), the second a 40 year old (2nd Edition) and the 50 year old (4th Edition). I had ordered these 30ml samples a while ago and completely forgot about them.

Until now that is.

Master of Malt are accomplished independent bottlers, apart from being overly priced online retailers, and I generally consider their wares worthy of being sampled.

These mystery Speysiders by Master of Malt come in different ages and are acquired from different distilleries. If someone knows what goes into these please let me know. I will be forever very grateful.

Below are my notes on all three which were sampled in succession.

Speyside 30 Years (5th Edition) – 43%

Nose (23/25) : Mild sherry. Orange zest. Marzipan. Touch of oak. Cumin. Grains. Some oatmeal. Hard boiled sweets. Lychee bubblegum. Pineapple. This is quite a wonderful nose.

Palate (22/25) : Mangos. Mangos. Mangos. In fact there is a Pakistani breed of mango called the Sindhri and this is what it smells like. So much fruit in this. Bananas. Then mild spices. Milk chocolate. And there’s that mango again. Very nice.

Finish (23/25) : Mild spices. Little oily. Some oak. What I like is that it goes down without a trace and 30 seconds later comes straight back up.

Balance (22/25)

Overall a very nice whisky. My score is 90 points

Speyside 40 Years (2nd Edition) – 43%

Nose (24/25) : Deep sherry. Ginger. Cinnamon. Dark chocolate. Hint of oak. Cocoa beans. Coffee leaves. Under-ripe red berries. Dark warm Manuka honey. Prunes. Touch of sea salt. Coca cola. Orange. This is one of the finest Speyside noses I’ve come across. So robust without even a hint of tiredness. The oak stays strong and the spirit comes through.

Palate (23/25) : Chocolate. Fruit cake. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. All spice. Brownies. Nice crisp palate. All flavors on point. Could it have been a little more complex? Sure. But still pretty darn good.

Finish (23/25) : Coffee. Apple. Oak.

Balance (24/25)

This is a gorgeously flavored whisky. Not a single day of it’s 40 year life seems like it was lethargic. Still a spring in it’s step. Love it!

My score is 94 points.

Speyside 50 Years (4th Edition) – 43%

I was going to start this description by saying that this was probably my oldest whisky that I’ve tasted and then I remembered that I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a dram of the 64 year old Dalmore Trinitas. So in your face 50 years!

Nose (22/25) : Apricot. Lot of fruit. Light sherry. Light honey. Pineapple. French toast. Feels quite fresh though I feel that maybe the flavors are literally on the verge of fading. They haven’t but might have any second. White wine Chardonay. Maple syrup. Pears. Guava. And the tiniest and I mean tiniest whisp of smoke.

Palate (22/25) : Very smooth. Digestive biscuits. Tropical fruits. That tiny tiny smoke again. Mild spices. Milk chocolate. Soft fruits. Sweets. Nice smooth palate. I still feel, like the nose, the palate was just about going to fall out but it didn’t. Still a very nice tasting whisky.

Finish (22/25) : tropical fruits. Very mild spices.

Balance (22/25)

Good dram. Just because it’s 50 years old doesn’t make it sublime, mind you. I’ve had better but I’ve had far more worse. And with that I give it 88 points.

This now concludes my homage to the three decades on my 40th birthday which, by the way, just came in as I was writing this review.

I’m glad I brought in this little milestone doing what I enjoy doing the most.

Ledaig 18 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Ledaig | Region: Isle of Mull | ABV: 46.3% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 21 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
I recently attended a lovely tasting for Burn Stewart Distillery where they served samples from both their whiskies. The unpeated Tobermory and the lightly peated Ledaig.

The evening was conducted by their Master Blender Ian MacMillan who was there to not only educate us but share with us two exclusive firsts.

The first of those firsts was the much awaited Ledaig 42 which has been piquing curiosity around the whisky world. We were very much privileged to have tasted that.

The other, which seemingly flew by beneath the radar, was also a first for Ledaig; their 18 year old. This is the first 18 year old released by the distillery and is quite an accomplished little whisky.

Finished off for eighteen months in Oloroso casks my sample is from a brand new bottle and served un-chill filtered with no coloring at 46.3% ABV

Nose: A little musty. Apples. Cigar leaf. Jaggery. Quite earthy. Dry leaves. Caramel. Touch of smoke. Dark chocolate. Oak. Gets sweeter over time. Butterscotch. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Maybe even some red chili. Touch of salt. This is a nice enough nose. Needs to time to sit and breathe in order to lose the mustiness which I’m not very fond of. Hadn’t dissipated completely by the time I was done with it but I knew it was on the way out.

Palate: Dark honey. Caramel. Black peppers. Cinnamon. Red berries. Salt. Brown chocolate. Spiced coffee. Quite nice on the palate. The spices arrive soon after the sweetness with a touch of oak. Goes back to being sweet then spicy again. Interesting.

Finish: Peat smoke. Oily. Mild spices. Hint of oak.

My least favorite dram of the evening but still a fine whisky which should say a lot about the skills of Ian MacMillan.

Rating: 87

Ledaig 42 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Ledaig | Region: Isle of Mull | ABV: 46.3% | Colour: Oloroso Sherry
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Living in Dubai has it’s up side when it comes to whiskies. With the enormous amount of wealth and buying power this little city has there is little discussion on where luxury spirits need to be unveiled to maximize their full sales value.

I say this because I attended two back-to-back events which were quite possibly the two most exclusive launches this year. The first one was the unveiling of the Chivas Regal Icon – a $3500 blend put together by Sir Colin Scot – available only in Dubai for the next few months.

And literally the next day was the launch of the Ledaig 42 year old. Yes, a 42 year old Ledaig which has been in the news not only for it’s hefty price tag – 3,500 GBP – but the fact that it has been quite well crafted and, surprisingly for something this old, still manages to retain it’s peaty aromas.

Our host for the evening was Master Blender Ian MacMillan of Burn Stewart Distilleries and the man behind this whisky. Ian is not only an affable and likeable person he is an extremely accomplished whisky maker as was evident from all the expressions on the menu. We tasted the Tobermory 10 & 15, the Ledaig 10 and the newly introduced Ledaig 18 and finally the whisky of the evening the 42 year old.

I have to admit after last night I am now a huge fan of this distillery from Mull.

OK. Now on to why you’re really reading this review.

Distilled in 1972 there is little or no official literature on the life of this whisky other than it has been housed in various casks until in 2001 Ian transferred the remaining spirit into some high-quality Gonzales Byass oloroso sherry cask.

After five years of close supervision the casks were transferred back to Tobermory until it was time to bottle the spirit.

With only 500 bottles released my sample is from a brand new bottle with a strength of 46.3%. Un-chill filtered and all natural color.

Nose: Hint of peat. Touch of smoke. Wonderfully balanced with dark chocolate and ginger. Dry dates. Dried fruits. Dark strawberry jam. Black currant. Dried rose. Touch of mint. A dab of salt. I really really like this nose. Beautifully layered. Nothing tired about the oak. And the peat plays beautiful support to the Oloroso dry sweetness.

Palate: Cinnamon. Salt. Black pepper. Warm honey. Caramel. Solid oak. The same dark jams. Ginger. Hint of balsamic. Treacle. With an after-taste of betel leaf. Nice crisp flavors on point. Again the balance of flavors reign supreme. The spices, the smoke and the sweetness work quite nicely with each other.

Finish: Red apples. Ginger. Oak. Spices

It was indeed a privilege to be able to taste what so few people in the world will be able to try thanks to it’s rarity and premium price tag.

However, it wouldn’t be a Malt Activist post without a signature pompous opinion.

Granted the whisky is rare and quite wonderfully crafted the real question you have to ask your self is whether or not it’s worth the 3,500 GBP price tag. It’s great for discussions and to parade in front of your jealous friends but to drink I’ve had many a better. Which, of course, given the thousands out there is hardly surprising.

However, what did make me smile in ironic satisfaction was the fact that we were served the Ledaig 10 as a welcome drink to appease us before the big show. That whisky, in my inflated opinion, is hands down a much much better single malt than the one that was being paraded atop a pedestal.

Don’t get me wrong. The Ledaig 42 is a beautiful drink but if you truly want to experience an essay in simplicity and good craftsmanship try the 10.

It’s at times like these I love the fact that I write about whisky. When pre-conceived notions and slick marketing and suggested opinions come crashing down in the face of honest comparisons.

When it’s perfectly legitimate to pit a 35 GBP whisky against a 3500 GBP whisky. And the satisfaction you get when the cheaper one wins!

Love it…

Rating: 92

Hanyu Ichiros Malt 15 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Hanyu | Region: Japan | ABV: 46% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

Review
Hanyu Distillery was founded in 1941 by Isouji Akuto, a descendant of a long line of sake producers. Located north-west of Tokyo in Saitama prefecture, Hanyu distillery was built in the city of the same name, and is surrounded by vast rice fields supplied with river Tone water.

In 1980 the distillery started the production of single malt whisky, with the purchase of two Scottish pot stills. Success, however, eluded this distillery and it stopped producing whisky in 2000 and completely dismantled in 2004.

Remaining stocks previously stored on the site, were recovered by Ichiro Akuto (grand-son of the founder of Hanyu) assisted by a sake-maker Sasanokawa Shuzo, and were kept there until 2008 when they were transferred to Chichibu, a new distillery founded by Ichiro Akuto.

The spirit inside this bottle was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2010 after being finished off in French Oak. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Bourbon. Vanilla. Nuts. Chocolate. Red berries. Grapes. Hint of oak. Spices. Becomes crisp over time. Earthy with a hint of something sour. The French Oak really let’s itself be known thanks to all the spices.

Palate: Spices. Coffee swirl. Chocolate. Oak. Peaches. Earthy. Dry leaves. Dry fruits. Nuts. It threatens to become complex but then chooses not to. The oak is a bit much for me here.

Finish: Medium. Coffee. Spices. And that damn oak again.

Overall I feel this is a decent little whisky even if the oak has decided to overpower proceedings. And one can overlook minor flaws when tasting a piece of history.

Rating: 86

Balvenie Peated Cask 17

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48.7% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

Review
Balvenie by and large do it for me. Good solid expressions. They wave the flag of classic Speyside flavors high and proud for all to see. Dave Stewart, the Balvenie Malt Master, likes to work with different flavors to add that extra depth to his spirit.

Maturations like the 14 year old Rum Cask, the sublime 21 year old Portwood, Single Barrel 12, 15 and 25 years old and this 17 year old with the peated cask influence all cement his reputation as one of the more creative Malt Masters of the Scotch Whisky Industry.

And I’m not even going to mention the cult he’s managed to create with the Tun series. I know many a whisky fan simply jonesing for the 1408, 1509 and now the 1858.

However, the one in my hand at the moment is slightly easier to come by and at decent prices. It’s maturation is quite possibly one of the more interesting ones that I have come across.

In 2001 a heavily peated batch of barley was distilled and left to mature for some time. Once Stewart decided it was time to move the spirit out else where he was left with casks that had taken on quite a bit of the peated distillate flavors.

So in went some 17 year old Balvenie for a few months to take on the flavors. It was then married with another 17 year old matured in new American Oak to produce this Peated Cask expression.
My expression is from a brand new bottle and served at 48.7%

Nose: Warm sherry. Apricot. Vanilla. Hint of oak. Milk chocolate. Woody caramel. Spices. Hint of smoke. Green tobacco leaf. Jam. Lavender. Gets drier over time. More crisp. Gets greener too. More herbaceous. More savory.

Palate: Quite smooth. Tiny touch of smoke. Chocolate. Woody. Spices. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Custard. Greens. Gets slightly bitter mid-palate. Not entirely bad.

Finish: Dry. Medium-long. Mild spices. Hint of smoke.

I think this is quite a fun experiment. The resulting whisky is quite nice. Could it have been better? Sure, why not? Everything can.

Rating: 87

Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye 2013

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Distillery/Brand: Thomas H. Handy | Region: America | ABV: 64.2% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
I thought I would treat my self and pick out something special for my 300th whisky review. I wasn’t counting until recently and only just realized that I was a few short of a triple.

So I said Why not? Treat yourself, son, you deserve it for all your hard work. Because whisky drinking is just that. A treat.

I thought long and hard and settled on the 2013 bottle of the Thomas H Handy Sazerac straight rye whiskey from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s older brother by a year ended up winning top honors with a certain Jim Murray the year before. Since I didn’t have two of those I decided to open this one (of which I do have another).

I have not had a lot of experience drinking rye whiskey. I would like to, though. The spicier, drier cousin of straight bourbons rye whiskey is made from a minimum mash of 51% rye with barley and corn making up the rest. Straight rye means it’s been aged for a minimum of 2 years in virgin American oak.

This particular one ha seen a bit more ageing than the minimum. This year’s was distilled in the spring of 2007 and aged on the seventh floor of Warehouse K. At 6 years old, it is the youngster of the Antique Collection.

Bottled at 128.4 Proof (64.2% ABV) my sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Quite sweet. Almost made me salivate. Dry. Leather. Mocha. Coffee beans. Cinnamon. Pomegranate. Rose water. Vanilla. Chocolate digestives. Cherry licorice. Cola. Cherry cola. Oak. Strong, bold spicy aromas. Love it!

Palate: Very hot. Lots of cinnamon and black pepper spices. Leather. Red wine tannins. Coffee. Gets even more spicier mid-palate. I can actually taste the rye here. Spearmint. Chocolate. Vanilla. I wasn’t too taken it with on my first sip but then the second and third really drove it up a notch.

Finish: Long. Extremely long. Oak. Long. Cinnamon. Long. A touch dry. A touch bitter. And did I say long? Very long.

I’m glad I made this one signify a small milestone. These are precisely the type of flavors that drove me into the arms of whisky in the first place. So it was only fair that I pick this one up from the shelf to mark an occassion.

Rating: 92