Banff 24 Old Malt Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Banff | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
Sipping on a closed distillery is always something special. It give you a chance to savor something forever lost in time. Something that won’t be made again.

Good or bad it’s an experience I cherish. And because one doesn’t really come across so many of them (unless you’re willing to fork out a fortune) I like to give them their due time in the glass and on my palate.

Banff Distillery opened it’s doors in 1824 and was located on Banff Bay in Inverboyndie. What’s quite peculiar about this distillery is the sheer number of fires and explosions it had seen over the years. Not only that it was also attacked by German bombers in WWII which blew up Warehouse No 12 and destroyed a lot of stock.

It finally shut it’s doors 1983 but that didn’t prevent another fire from completely destroying it in 1991.

The sample in my hand is from a single cask bottling by one of my favorite independents Hunter Laing and their Old Malt Cask series. These guys really know how to pick winners.

My sample is from a new mini which I suspect has been bottled in the early 2000s. I say suspect because there is no official literature to be found. The spirit has been bottled at 50%

Nose: Sweet. Almonds. Hardboiled sweets. Mango. Dark chocolate. Cardamom. Cumin. Thyme. Berries. Nuts. Lavender. Get’s drier over time. Dry grass. The nose is very sweet and tends to change over time. Decent even if not overly complex.

Palate: Marzipan. Oranges. Chocolate. Cake fondant. Mild cinnamon. Bananas. Limestone. Mangoes. Extremely sweet on the palate. Maybe too sweet. The fondant has an almost sickeningly sweet resonance. And I don’t mean sickeningly in a bad way. Just that maybe it’s too much and distracts.

Finish: Long. Mild spice. Wood. Sponge cake. Fruits. Mild mint. Very sweet.

I’m not sure if these are classic Banff flavors. I have nothing to compare. Overall I thought it was very sweet. I might have liked something slightly more complex. Not a bad dram, though.

Rating: 87

Balvenie 15 Years Single Barrel

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.8% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 20 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 84

Review
Early on in my career as a whisky enthusiast I made the wise decision of picking up a bottle of the Balvenie 21 year old Portwood and the 17 year old Sherry Oak.

What an amazing stroke of luck on both bottles because back then I didn’t know my peat from my tun. Luckily for me I ran into a well informed sales person who decided to hit me with these two. I have been a fan ever since.

I think they have a solid range which covers a nice spectrum of flavors. The 12 Double Wood and the 12 Triple Cask are nice for easy drinking. As are the 14 Golden Cask and the Caribbean Rum Cask. The 17 has both a Sherry Oak and Peated Cask version which I find very interesting. Then there’s the gorgeous 21 year old Portwood.

This is without mentioning the cult classic Tun 1401 and the new Tun 1509. And also a smattering of travel retail exclusives that keep popping up frequently.

One of the newer releases from this Speyside standard is the single cask 15 year old matured exclusively in European Sherry. I notice they don’t say cask but choose to use barrel instead. Don’t know why.

My sample is from bottle #84 from cask 610 and served at an alcohol strength of 47.8%

Nose: Sour tamarind. Really sour. Rum. Bananas. Tobacco. Sweet cigar leaf. Toffee. Butterscotch. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Chocolate. Dry fruits. Nuts. Dried raisins. Prunes. Cold cuts. Stale oak. I don’t the like the nose. It’s far too sour for me. The oak seems stale too. A case of Oloroso overpower.

Palate: Surprisingly better than the nose. Chocolate. Black pepper. Oloroso sherry. Dry fruits. Cinnamon. Fudge cake. Tobacco leaf. Dark toffee. The palate works better for me. Not so sour as I was expecting. Quite thick and syrupy.

Finish: Licorice. Oak. Chocolate. Brownies. Lingers.

This is, in my opinion, not up to Balvenie’s usual high standards. There might be other casks that have fared better but this one doesn’t really cut it for me. Especially the nose.

Rating: 84

Brora 35 Years (1977)

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Distillery/Brand: Brora | Region: Highland | ABV: 49.9% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Review
Brora. The elusive spirit that is fast becoming unobtainable for ordinary mortals like me. Each year Diageo unveils a Special Release of old stock Brora lying around at a price which, if my only child was kidnapped, I would be unable to pay the equivalent amount in ransom.

But that’s OK. If that’s where the industry is headed then so be it. I’ll simply contend my self with a 3cl sample just to satisfy my curiosity.

Not because I’m curious to see what it is that costs so much but that I genuinely like a Brora. Not that I’ve drunk a truckload of them but when ever I’ve drunk one I’ve enjoyed it. I think the flavor profile is truly original.

I have an unopened 30 year old bottled in 2010 which looks very tasty. But given where the prices are going I might hold on to that for a while. Let’s see.

So the dram in my hand is part of the famed 2013 Special Release from Diageo. The 35 year old spirit was distilled in 1977 and is a mix of re-fill American and European oak. It is bottled at a cask strength of 49.9%. I suspect another 10 years and it would not have remained whisky any longer.

Nose: Mild peat. Perfumed wood. White grapes. Pears. Berries. Chenin Blanc. Jute bag. Clove. Rice husk. Digestive biscuits. Green lime. Vanilla. Very strong nose. Stays assertive. Let this one breathe for as long as you like. It stays true and refuses to waiver. Quite remarkable even if not overly complex.

Palate: Quite sprightly. Burnt wood. Citrus. Butterscotch. Juicy apples. Pears. Stewed fruits. Berries. And that mild peat again. The medium bodied delivery is very nice. Quite juicy. Makes you salivate. There’s a hint of spice but that dissipates quickly amongst the fruit basket.

Finish: Long. Oily. Iodine. Hint of spice. White melon. Oak.

Once again this is a very tasty beverage. The 35 years have been manipulated quite expertly. There is not a wrong note any where. My only criticism would be that it’s not as complex as I would want it to be. But that’s OK.

Sometimes beauty lies in simplicity.

Rating: 91

Talisker 27 Years (1985)

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Distillery/Brand: Talisker | Region: Islands | ABV: 56.1% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
Diageo has come up with this marketing gimmick designed to bankrupt the average whisky fan. It’s called the Special Release. Every year they release a series of expressions from their portfolio which are increasingly being priced beyond the realm of ridiculousness.

Sure there are a couple of average priced malts in there but by and large expect to take out a second mortgage if you’re planning to procure the lot.

The 2013 Special Release included, among others, a 35 year old Brora (£750), a 34 year old Port Ellen (£1500), a 37 year old Lagavulin (£1950) and this, the dram in my hand, a 27 year old Talisker distilled in 1985 priced at a reasonable £475.

Now I’m not the one to harp on about price because frankly this is a whisky review site and I feel I should stick to reviewing whiskies instead of prices. But I’d like to take a little exception here.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is quite a solid bit of craftsmanship; as you would expect from Talisker. Their Port Ruighe and Storm series notwithstanding this distillery knows it’s strong suit and plays it beautifully.

I refer to the lovely 10 year old, the 57 North, the 18 and the Distillers’ Edition. That means there is no way they were gonna screw this one up. I mean it’s been maturing for 27 years for peats sake. That’s a lot of equity to mess up.

Now this is where I have a problem. This tastes almost exactly like the 57 North or a high strength 18 or a slightly more sophisticated 10. I know I shouldn’t expect a radical new profile but paying close to £500 for something that tastes exactly like something that costs £80 can be a bit disappointing.

That being said this is a very nice single malt. Matured for 27 years in refill American Oak this has been bottled at a cask strength of 56.1%

Nose: Lime. Mild peat. Wisp of smoke. Black pepper. Hint of iodine. Mild chocolate. Understated ash. Cardboard. Wood shavings. Fresh grass. Coconut. Crisp citrusy aromas that stay on point.

Palate: Controlled lime. Lemon. White pepper. Black pepper. Chocolate. Nuts. Green apples. Pears. Crisp peat. Sugarcane. Raisins. Quite an intense delivery with the spices in full force. The sweetness takes a while to come through. Still quite nice though tends to taper towards a slight bitterness mid-palate.

Finish: Long. White pepper. Oily. Woody. Spices.

A very nice whisky which doesn’t seem like it emerged with even a bit of lethargy after 27 years in hibernation. Though, if you want to know what it tastes like I suggest grabbing a bottle of the 57 North.

Rating: 88

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