AnCnoc Rutter

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Distillery/Brand: AnCnoc | Region: Highland | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
Knockdhu opened it’s doors to the general public in the small village of Knock in Aberdeenshire thanks to the foresight of one Mr John Morisson. The year was 1892 and when he saw the peat lands surrounding Knock estate and an abundance of spring water his first thought was distillery!

One of the ‘younger’ distilleries Knockdhu lies on the edge of Speyside but is considered a Highland distillery. They also produce a strangely difficult to pronounce expression by the name of AnCnoc (a-knock) named after the nearby Knock hill – as if Knockdhu wasn’t hard enough.

While generally churning out un-peated spirits there are a few months of the year when they produce a peated distillate. And that is what has been packaged as a range of four different whiskies each differentiated by it’s peat strength and, impossible to remember, peat digging tool names.

I give you Flaughter, Rutter, Tushkar and Cutter. All tools used in the excavation of peat.

The one I have in my hand at the moment is called Rutter (which is basically a spade, guys, but I think Rutter sounded more romantic. Imagine drinking a Spade.) and has been peated to 11 parts per million or 11PPM.

While I can go on about the marketing choices that went in coming up with this theme I have to admit that this is a mighty fine single malt.

Matured in American Oak Hogshead this is a No Age Statement (WHY?????) and bottled at 46%. My sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Mild peat. Citrus. Banana. Toffee. Vanilla pudding. Strawberries. Wild flowers. Almonds. Cashew nuts. Sponge cake. Jute rope. Cardboard. Burnt bread crust. Perfumed peached. It’s lovely and understated. The mild peat works quite remarkably with all the sweetness.

Palate: Light peat. Ash. Pudding. Vanilla. Mild spices. Lots of fruits. Green apples. Pineapples. Touch of leather. And, seriously, what an insanely perfect body! Like soft velvet. Not a jagged edge in sight. Wonderfully rounded with the ability to effortlessly cascade over your entire palate.

Finish: Peat. Mild spice. Touch of fruit.

This is quite a masterful act in balance and understatement. I love whiskies like these. Young and confident with a maturity beyond the obvious. This reminded me of the 2014 Ardbeg Kildalton (which I spoke very highly of). The only difference is that the Ardbeg is four times the price.

If you want someone to appreciate the finer points of a peated whisky without overwhelming them then this is the dram to do it with.

Rating: 93

Glengoyne 21 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glengoyne | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22

Review
I bought my first Glengoyne a while ago and it was part of the first batch of single malts I bought to start my collection. I remember looking at the bottle and the color of the spirit inside and knowing instantly that this was going to be something special.

It was of course this wonderful 21 year old.

The first one I tasted was part of the older labeling and was a 2009/2010 bottling. The one I’m writing about now is from the new look bottle and is a 2013/2014 bottling.

The label and the look may have changed but the craft certainly hasn’t. Though I remember enjoying the earlier bottling a bit more.

Glengoyne pride themselves on having the slowest distilling process in all of Scotland; a method they believe extracts the best flavors. The new make spirit is distilled at around 5 liters per minute which allows longer contact with copper and therefore optimal absorption of sulfides while accentuating esters and aldehydes resulting in a smoother spirit.

I’d have to agree given the texture and taste of this 21 year old matured exclusively in European Sherry casks. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Cinnamon. Chocolate fudge. Black peppers. Figs. Raisins. Christmas cake. Eggnog. Mens’ cologne. Prunes. It’s a warm and comforting nose. The sherry is deft and the spices brilliantly balanced against the sweet.

Palate: Maple syrup. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Nuts. Chocolate fudge cake. Christmas cake. The nose translates quite nicely on to the palate. Though, I might have liked a few more percentage points of alcohol. Just to bring up the intensity of the flavors.

Finish: Long-ish. Oily. Big cinnamon. Black pepper. Oak. Tobacco leaf.

I’m pretty sure earlier bottlings were better but this is still a might fine dram.

Rating: 90

Longrow 11 Years – Rundlets and Kilderkins

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Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 51.7% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
There is something strangely fascinating about this bottle. I love the packaging with it’s bronze plaque-ish label on the front and it’s embossed lettering. It’s quite grand.

I picked this one off the shelf along with the CV of the same name to do a little head to head comparison. The CV, now discontinued, had gained quite a reputation along the way and so I was eager to see how this one would stack up against it’s brother.

The Rundlets & Kilderkins (R&K from now on) is a type of very small barrel which can be anywhere from 60 to 80 liters big. Or small, if you like. The idea is that smaller the cask the greater the interaction between spirit and wood and, hence, greater it’s influence.

These casks don’t come ready made and instead get re-proportioned from larger barrels. A Rundlet is basically one seventh of a butt making it one of the smallest cask unit holding around 74 liters and essentially used to mature wine. A Kilderkin, Dutch for small cask, was traditionally used to store beer and can hold around 80 odd liters. Think of it as a quarter-cask if you will, only a bit smaller.

This single malt is 11 years old, distilled in November 2001 and bottled in Januray 2013 and has an alcohol strength of 51.7%

Nose: Whoa! Big! Salty. Briny. Toffee. Chocolate. Coffee. Pine needles. Hay. Heather. Meaty. Boiled sausage. White salt. Black salt. Fortified wine. Soot. A different kind of peat. Ash. Dry leaves. Red licorice. Toffee apples. Medicinal. I love this nose. It’s brilliantly complex. Just layer upon layer of beautiful aromas.

Palate: Grape. Sweet wine. Chocolate. Spice. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Nutmeg. Brown bread. Roasted coffee beans. Rich earth. Butter on toast. It has a lovely crisp charring amid the coffee and the grapes.

Finish: Mocha. Mocha. Mocha. Coffee. Oak. Cinnamon. Dry leaves. Hint of smoke. Tar. Bitter chocolate. Drying.

I prefer this to the CV. Both from a packaging and over all experience and complexity point of view. The flavors are on point. The balance between char and sweet is admirable.

Longrows are notorious for breathing well over time which is why I’ve decanted some to have a go at it in six months. This could quite possibly be my favorite Longrow.

Rating: 93

Longrow CV

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Distillery/Brand: Longrow | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
I had picked up a bottle of this, now discontinued, peated expression a few years ago. Having decided I wasn’t ready at the time to savor it’s charms I let it grace my shelf all this while. Until last night, that is.

I have always been fascinated by Campbeltown expressions, especially the stuff that comes out of Springbank. They produce three expressions the year round. The unpeated Hazelburn, the lightly peated Springbank and the ‘heavily’ (by Campbeltown standards) peated Longrow.

For me it was a case of irrational fascination followed by a realization that these flavors were something I could really sink my teeth into. Because the Longrow can take some getting used to I tell you. But when you do it’s oh so worth it.

The CV (for Curriculum Vitae – yes, you read that right) is Springbank Distilleries’ way of introducing consumers to the different flavor profiles that they represent. So in the case of this Longrow the spirit inside the bottle comprises of three different vintages and four types of oak.

Six years old whisky from bourbon casks, ten years old from port and rum casks, and 14 years old from sherry casks blended together to produce this fine expression. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Mild peat. Lemon. Orange sweets. Hint of salt. Sweet caramel. Touch of sulphur – enough to be noticed and not enough to cause pain. Grass. Greens. Rice pudding. Husk. Cereal. Cardboard. Golden syrup. Black sesame creme brulee. It’s a controlled nose. I like it.

Palate: Starts off savory. Mild peat. Rice husk. Mild peppers. Brown bread. Starts getting sweeter mid-palate. Sugarcane juice. The delivery is medium bodied and I like how it changes while still on the tongue.

Finish: Long. Peat. Ash. Soot. The finish really kicks in the charcoals much more strongly than either the nose or the palate.

I like how it journeys from mildly sweet on the nose to savory on the palate and finally quite charred on the finish. Tells me that the spirit is complex and successfully draws from it’s so many influences.

This has now been replaced by the NAS Longrow Peated which I haven’t had a gander at. Various opinions tell this was not a happy change but I won’t comment on that until I pick one up for my self. Till then I’m quite happy to have this one sitting uncorked on my shelf.

Rating: 89

Mackmyra First Edition

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Distillery/Brand: Mackmyra | Region: Sweden | ABV: 46.1% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 21 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 81

Review
I was invited recently to a World Whiskies evening at a friends’ house so among a Japanese, South African, Canadian and Indian sat this Swedish young ‘un.

Mackmyra is Swedens’ first foray into whisky making and was founded in 1999. In December 2002, after 170 recipes, they finalized on two expressions and named them Mackmyra Elegant and Mackmyra Smoke.

That was also the year they moved from being a pilot distillery to a small-scale producer.

The ‘First Edition’ was bottled in 2008 and was the first large-scale production whisky to come out of this distillery.

First let’s talk about the presentation. Nice box complete with slide-out and velvet lining. Lovely colors. The bottle is funky and dumpy with an attractive label.

Unfortunately those are the only positives I’m going to be talking about.

The ‘First Edition’ has been built on the Elegant recipe and uses first-fill bourbon casks combined with virgin Swedish oak. Stored 50m underground in the Bodas mines it is bottled at 46.1%

Nose: Iodine. Lavender. Quite floral. Spicy. Melon. Banana. Jackfruit. Fennel. Aniseed. Hard boiled sweets. The nose is quite fresh with grassy overtones. It has a mild mustiness to it which some may find nice but I don’t.

Palate: Very sweet. White sugar. White melon. Fennel. Aniseed. Jack fruit. Cereals. Grain. Weetabix. Grass. Bran flakes. I don’t like the palate at all. Very watery. Flavors are not solid.

Finish: Medium. Spearmint.

This is a below average whisky which I think needs to be served at a higher strength with an aggressive maturation technique. Cask strength Oloroso sherry anyone?

Rating: 81

Bains Cape Mountain Whisky

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Distillery/Brand: Bains | Region: South Africa | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Review
I like a little variety in my single malt diet so I’m always on the lookout for expressions that are off the beaten path. Recently I was invited to a friends’ place for a World Whisky tasting which was attended by a bunch of enthusiastic newbies.

In my role as overall whisky brand ambassador for the evening I had to do a bit of reading up on the expressions for the evening lest I got blind-sighted.

This expression is the first single grain whisky from South Africa out of The James Sedgwick Distillery located in Bainskloof Pass in Wellington (45 minutes from Cape Town).

Made from 100% wheat distilled in column stills the spirit is then matured for five years in first-fill bourbon casks. It’s named after Andrew Geddes Bain, South Africa’s most famous road engineer who was responsible for building the first roads in Wellington. This has been bottled at 43%

Nose: Quite sweet. Bit bourbony. Must be all those first-fill casks. Licorice. Chocolate. Soft dates. Clove. Cinnamon. Oak. Banana. Men’s aftershave. Candy floss. It’s not bad. Column stills really produce some strong aromas. The chocolate is the strongest here.

Palate: That same mild chocolate. Marzipan. Cinnamon spices. Apricot. Assorted berries. Some wild. Some red. Some blu. Overall the palate’s a bit weak in my opinion. I think a few additional percentage points would have really hit the spot.

Finish: Medium. Oily. That same mild chocolate.

It seems to have won a lot of awards. Maybe it was for earlier batches or I have no idea what a great whisky tastes like. I think it’s not bad. Worth a try, that’s for sure.

Rating: 85

Kilkerran WIP 2 Oak Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran | Region: Campbeltown | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I seem to be on a bit of a Campbeltown run of late having reviewed around 6 or 7 in the last month alone. It’s been fun, I’ll have to admit. Some nice Longrows, some decent Springbanks and, my favorite of the lot, the Kilkerrans from the Glengyle Distillery.

The name of ‘Kilkerran’ is derived from the Gaelic ‘Caenn Loch Cille Chiarain’ (which translates as ‘head of the loch of Saint Kerran’).

I reviewed two Kilkerrans earlier this month. Both sixth editions of the Work In Progress series. The Work In Progress, or WIP, series is a line of expressions from Campbeltowns newest distillery. Basically what they did was release an expression every year since 2009 when their whiskies reached 5 years of age.

The plan was to release one every year until they hit the standard 12 years. So far I have been a fan. I can only imagine how good the 12 year old will be.

Having tried the WIP 4, 5 & 6 (both sherry and oak finishes) I managed to snag an earlier bottling. This one is a WIP 2 released in 2010 making it six years old, matured in bourbon casks and bottled at 46%.

Nose: Cereal. Barley. Light honey. Grist. Hint of lemon. Green leaves. Fresh grass. Light wood. White grapes. Mild fennel. Cucumber peel. Beeswax. Beautiful nose. Perfectly controlled.

Palate: Smooth. Cereal. Lemon. Spices. Mild herbs. Leafy greens. Wood. Barley. Get’s fruitier mid-palate. Green apples. Lemon zest. Peppers. The lovely delivery feels young and has a nice element of grist.

Finish: Medium. Spices. Oak. Dry grass.

This is what happens when you don’t compromise on the quality of your casks or your trade. No matter the age you can create truly exceptional whiskies if you do things well.

Rating: 93