I bought a case of this expression almost a year and a half ago at my Malt Society’s annual Christmas bash. It was very warmly received thanks to the cold weather and high ABV.
Now I didn’t think much of it back then; probably because I was too busy doing other stuff to really take notice. So tonight when I spotted a half-empty bottle in the back of my shelf I decided to pull it out for a swig.
Nose: It doesn’t say anything in the official literature but the sherry in this expression is enormous. There is the faintest of peat smoke on thick meat sausage. Followed by an earthy dark sugar sweetness with a handful of clove and gorgeous dried thyme; like crashing headfirst into a sweet spice rack. The aromas are made all that greater by the fine incense smoke that envelopes everything in a shroud of deliciousness.
Palate: Intense dark fruits and bananas sit on a bed of caramel and burnt sugar. The sherry, then, mixes in with screaming spices and woody cured meats. An extremely potent experience.
Finish: Once again the massive spices come through with burnt raisins.
This is a lovely malt which has become even better over time. At least I think it’s become better.
Distillery/Brand: Amrut Region: India ABV: 46% Colour: Sunlight
Nose: 22 Taste: 22 Finish: 22 Balance: 22
I have had a love affair with Amrut ever since I first heard of them a few years ago. They are easily the most intriguing brands out there. Young, exotic, brash and not afraid to take risks. And, boy, do they come out with some corkers!
And while we all go gaga over their insane experiments it’s this humble expression that started it all. Initially distilled and aged for just one year it was used exclusively in blends. However, a stroke of fate (and a blending decision) meant that there was a lot of unused stock left over. A decision was made to leave it for longer to see what would happen. The result? This particular liquid.
Made exclusively from Indian barley and matured in oak barrels this super young whisky (it’s between 3-4 years thanks to faster maturation in hot Indian weather) feels and tastes like a 12 year old!
Nose: Lots of salty sweet pineapples and lemon drops. The young age and freshness comes through a nice sugarcane, cucumber and coriander juice. The malted milk in the first couple of sniffs disappears and is replaced by a husky almond oak.
Palate: Strong like all Amruts tend to be. The lemon sponge cake is peppered with cumin seeds, husky nuts and a drizzle of fish oil.
Finish: Medium to long with it’s oaky white pepper in lemon mist.
This is not my favorite Amrut – only because my favorite Amrut is miles ahead of anything I’ve ever tasted. But if you want to be shocked and taken on an exotic journey then my advice would be to start here.
Distillery/Brand: Royal Lochnagar Region: Highland ABV: 46% Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 Taste: 21 Finish: 20 Balance: 21
There’s not a lot to say about this whisky other than it’s been bottled by Douglas Laing as part of the Provenance series. It is a Winter 2001 distillation and bottled in the Summer of 2011 from a single re-fill hogshead.
And it’ quite boring.
Nose: Shows initial promise with it’s multi-layered approach. It’s young and sprightly like fresh cut grass. Coconut shavings and warm toffee mix in sweetly with lemon drops and something a touch floral.
Palate: Not as complex as promised. Minty greens, fennel slices and lemon drops roll around in a layer of coarse brown sugar and white pepper. It was all going well until a mysterious bitterness started creeping through and began to distract. This is a brand new bottle so to be fair I’ll give it a couple of months to see if that bitterness still remains.
Finish: Medium oily with a lot of spicy herbs. And that same irritating bitterness.
Early on in my days as a malt enthusiast (read freak) I was always on the lookout for Jim Murrays’ 93+ point whiskies and this 21 year old port finished Balvenie was on top of my ‘must buy’ list. So imagine my utter delight when I discovered this at the Duty Free during one of my travels.
As expected I had no idea what I was drinking. Not only that, I had the audacity to write a three line review and post it for all and sundry to see. I praised it but had no inkling why I was praising it.
Today I know why.
Nose: Robust. Confident. As you would expect a 21 year old to be. A whisky, that is! The port finish comes through on the back of remarkably balanced cocoa beans and fruit cake wrapped in chewy toffee. Then there is the sweet beeswax complemented by gorgeous red apples and a teasing cinnamon spice. And grapes. Lots of grapes. Dark grapes.
Palate: Beautifully textured. I know it’s medium-bodied but the palate is sending thick syrupy signals to the brain. Must be all that cocoa, thick grapes and warm apple stew covered in salty nuts.
Finish: Long and seductive. The cinnamon fruitcake is back and renders you almost incapacitated.
This is truly an example of what real magic must feel like.
Distillery/Brand: Famous Grouse Region: Scotland ABV: 40% Color: Deep Gold
Nose: 23 Taste: 22 Finish: 22 Balance: 23
This little beauty was slipped in as a mystery malt at a single malt tasting recently and everyone was asked to identify it. My guess was The Macallan which made me only half right!
This is a lovely no-nonsense blend from Famous Grouse using arguably two of the most famous malts in the world – The Macallan & Highland Park. It is so no-nonsense that it doesn’t even have a label choosing, instead, to go ‘naked’ as the name suggests.
Nose: With malts matured in first-fill sherry casks the nose has a really rich and deep sherry influence. Lots of gooey rum topf and fruit cake with a raisin sprinkle followed by dark oranges, prunes and oaky almonds. A Christmas delight!
Palate: Not as delicious as the nose but quite tasty still. Cinnamon sticks on dark fruits and oaky oranges drizzled with a spicy chocolate syrup. I think it could have done with another 6% to really jar the taste buds into ecstacy.
Finish: Quite decent. Not very long but long enough, I suppose. The same dark oranges and spicy cinnamon.
This is a seriously good blend. Not only is it delicious it is an impossibly good deal in todays’ day and age.
Get a case of this (won’t cost you much) and enjoy it for a long long time.
The Octomore is one of those cult series that needs to be collected. From it’s suave packaging to it’s lofty claims of the highest peat concentration in a whisky (169 ppm in this case) it has all the flair of a spectacularly executed heist.
A heist of the senses that is.
With it’s high strength spirit (59.5%) and enormous peat levels one could be mistaken for thinking it is undrinkable and a gimmick at best. Something to pander a 5 year old spirit, perhaps. They could not be further from the truth.
Nose: A smoky pudding of peat and caramel infused with the loveliest of ginger vanilla. Dusted with the charred remains of lemon crusted kippers. The high strength takes a while to get past the nose but once it holds you it doesn’t let go.
Palate: Crisp like green apples and raisin cider with a lemony hardboiled sweetness. The burnt sea comes in next on a wave of peaty seaweed and ashy iodine.
Finish: Long and magical with the same lemony soot found on the palate.
This is truly an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like a young fiery king hell bent on pounding you into submission.
The BenRiach 20 was one of the first single malts I had ever purchased in my life – thanks to an overly eager salesperson. And I remember absolutely hating it! It tasted so vile I never wanted to see another BenRiach again in my life.
So it was with a sense of trepidation that three years later I decided to re-visit the same bottle and see if my first impressions were on point or not.
The answer is Yes and No. Yes, it is still not a great whisky. No, it’s not as bad as I remember.
I don’t know if it’s three years of oxidization or my now generous soul but this expression is OK. Not good; just OK.
Nose: Delicate Speyside with a mix of fruity florals and perfumed barley followed by a melon sweetness which is underscored by a dash of salt and pepper.
Palate: Prickly spice in a drizzle of light fruity honey. One dimensional at best.
Finish: Long and spicy with a strong bitter citrus after taste.
Look, this is not the vile swill I had a while ago but it’s not what I would serve to my whisky club. They would politely put their glasses away.