Macallan Whisky Makers Edition

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Distillery/Brand: The Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 42.8% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

I drank this whisky for the first time with Mr Bob Dalgarno, Macallans’ famed whisky maker, when my whisky club hosted him not too long ago. He was a wonderful and pleasant guest and the whiskies weren’t too bad either.

The one thing that stuck with me as I interviewed him for my YouTube channel was essentially how hard his job is. To match color, taste and maintain consistency in all his whiskies without any caramel is quite an astounding feat.

Add to the fact that he started his career at Macallan as a warehouseman and then worked his way through every stage of whisky making – mashman, brewer, stillman, warehouse supervisor, operations manager – to finally join the panel which selects casks for bottling in 1994 you can be sure he has my respect.

Known as the Whisky Maker he set about creating this one-off NAS expression exclusively for travel retail. When asked about the curious 42.8% alcohol strength he told me that prior to January 1980 the standard bottling strength used to be 75 Imperial Proof before it was dropped to the current 40%. This is a homage to that era.

Using a combination of European sherry-oak balanced by American sherry & ex-bourbon this whisky has a number of ages in it but apparently none younger than 12. I will take his word on that. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 42.8%

Nose: Quite crisp. The sherry is quite sharp. Hops. A touch malty. Bitter chocolate. Milk chocolate. Hazelnut. Praline. Lots of oak. Gets earthy after a while. Jute bag. Barley. Then fruity. Orange peel. Red apple. Red grapes. Then spicy. Ginger. It’s not a bad nose. It started off nice and crisp but the slight maltiness threw me off a little. This could have been perfect. But it’s not. 22/25

Palate: When I first had a sip of this at our tasting I was floored. It tasted absolutely amazing. However, I’m now convinced that the mood and the setting had a huge part to play in that. Quite thin. Lots of oak. Cinnamon. Peppercorns. Almonds. Hazelnut. Bitter marmalade. Clove. Feels a little raw for some reason. It shouldn’t. But it does. 21/15

Finish: Long. Coffee. And that oak again. 22/25

Overall Comments: I’ll be honest. I liked it a lot better when it was Bob and myself sharing a drink. Not so much right now. Though, I must be honest. My friend and I pretty much killed this bottle while watching a horror movie at his house. Not sure if I liked the whisky too much or if I was just using it to take the edge off.

Probably the latter.

Rating: 86

Tamdhu Batch Strength 001

Tamdhu Batch Strength
Distillery/Brand: Tamdhu | Region: Speyside | ABV: 58.8% | Colour: Copper
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

I’ll be honest. I think this is my first or second Tamdhu that I’ve tasted. If it’s my second then the first one failed to impress me completely (even though I have a fantastic memory when it comes to remembering what I’ve tasted).

Mothballed a number of times since it was founded in 1896 it has, once again, re-opened it’s doors in May 2013. Situated on River Spey in Speyside this once ultra modern facility boasts 6 stills and an annual production of more than 2 million liters most of which finds it’s way into the Edrington blends.

There’s not a lot of single malt bottlings to come out of the distillery (though there’s a fair number of independents floating around) and so finding OB age statements is fairly hard.

This expression that I’m tasting is the first one to come out of the distillery since they opened a couple of years ago – which means it comprises mainly of older stocks lying around. How old I have no idea and they’ve not been very forthcoming with the literature. But given it’s rather inexpensive price tag I doubt very old.

My sample is from a hip flask which belonged to a guest who came to my house for a whisky tasting and felt it would be a good idea to smuggle some of his own. It has been bottled at a fairly high cask strength of 58.8%. It is a mix of American and European sherry oak (most of which is first-fill).

Nose: Quite oaky. Lots of sherry. Quite crisp. Nice and spicy. Raisins. Cinnamon. Almonds. Cocoa. Very bitter chocolate. A little malty. Hops. Settles down to a milk chocolate. Rose petal. Hint of sourness. Tamarind. Gets sweeter over time. I like it. No major flaws. 22/25

Palate: That strong oak again. Cinnamon rub. Quite spicy. Bitter chocolate. Coffee beans. Typically sherried. Oloroso. I feel the American sherry oak lends a new variety of flavors. Almonds. Orange peel. Quite strong. But the young-ish age comes through a little. Maybe just a touch raw. Still not bad. 21/25

Finish: Very warm. Very long. Cinnamon. Oak. Chocolate. 22/25

Overall Comments: This pretty good. I’m sure people will try and find faults and blow them out of proportion. That’s fine. I’m less inclined to do that. Decent whisky with a really nice finish even if it’s slightly over-oaked.

Rating: 87

Highland Park SMWS 4.195

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Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Isle of Orkney | ABV: 59.3% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Highland Park does some questionable stuff and some pretty awesome stuff at the same time. The older HPs (18, 21, 25, 30) are all pretty awesome in my opinion. All this other business with vikings and the NAS stuff is by and large quite questionable in my opinion. With the exception of Thor, mind you. That’s a peach.

So I don’t really know what to expect when opening a bottle from this Orkney distillery. Which is irritating because, based on the age statement expressions, I genuinely want to like everything they do.

And so I was in two minds before deciding to open up this SMWS. To be honest I got it only because it was SMWS and was up for sale at a decent price. Also because the name on the label got stuck in my head.

Acrobat In An Orchestra.

I mean, come on! How awesome is that name. It tells me absolutely nothing yet compels me to buy it. In fact, in honor of this creative naming system, I am going to dispense with my boring old method of describing flavors and be as SMWS as possible.

The spirit has been matured in a first-fill bourbon barrel for 14 years. Distilled on October 15, 1999 it is served at a cask strength of 59.3%

Nose: Young girl in love for the first time. Gentle breeze rocks the patio chair. Purple petals fall to the ground. Grandma in the kitchen is prepping for dessert. Two children run excitedly in the tall grass. Father is back from the butchers. It’s the first day of Spring. 22/25

Palate: Everyone at the dinner table. The dog knocks over the fruit basket. Fire roars strong. Crackles and pops. The walls have memories. Family picture hangs crooked. 22/25

Finish: It’s been a long hard day. Hands are calloused. Trying to sleep but the mind is wide awake. 22/25

Overall Comments: OK I have no idea what I’ve written. But you know why I wrote it so you’re going to have to live with it. Don’t blame me. Blame the acid trippers over at SMWS. Do I like it? Yes, of course. It’s pretty damn good!

PS : I’m going to destroy the original notes so that I never come back and taint this version.

PPS : Add a splash of water and it turns to summer.

Rating: 88

English Whisky Co. Chapter 13

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Distillery/Brand: St George’s Distillery | Region: England | ABV: 49% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I’ve had the Chapter 14 before trying this one and felt it was a decent enough whisky. Not amazing but worth a sip to satisfy my curiosity about the first single malt whisky produced in England for 120 years.

This Norfolk distillery produced it’s first spirit back in December 2006 with the help of recently retired Laphroaig distiller Iain Henderson and they managed to cask 29 barrels of the new liquid. In August 2007 they opened to the public and the distilling reins were handed over to David Fitt, a brewer from Greene King.

Since then, it seems, they’ve been motoring along nicely using a bunch of casks and distillates to produce a variety of whiskies. Since this is only the second whisky I’ve tasted I really don’t know how good or bad the average spirit is. But by and large the word on the street is positive.

I had heard good things about Chapter 13, a lightly-peated malt matured in Sassicaia casks (Sassicaia is a Bordeaux style red wine) with an absolutely gorgeous label depicting a fire-breathing dragon.

What is even cooler is that, superstition be damned, the whisky was released in time for Halloween with 13 featuring prominently. The ABV is 49% (4+9=13), it was launched on Friday the 13th (September) and priced at £66.60 (get it?). Nice little fun and games here.

The whisky inside is a vatting of casks 527, 528, 827 and 830 distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2013 and served at an alcohol strength of 49%

Nose: Chocolate. Warm honey. Touch of smoke. Toffee pudding. Custard. Hint of cured meats. Nice cured meats. Something bitter. But something sweet too. Like a marmalade glaze. Celery sticks. Nutmeg. Coffee beans. Sweet oak. Like a sandalwood but not really sandalwood. Berries. I like this nose. Really like it. 23/25

Palate: Great weight. Medium but silky mouth feel. Quite peppery. Savory. Marmalade on burnt toast. Toffee apples. Oak. Cinnamon. Coffee. Vanilla. Quite a sharp barley. Not as good as the nose but quite nice. 22/25

Finish: Very smooth. Cigar leaf. Coffee. Bitter chocolate. Quite drying. 22/25

Overall Comments: The first nose on the whisky will take your breath away. It’s quite gorgeous. But as it sits and breathes it loses it’s intensity a touch. Same on the palate and finish. Fresh out of the bottle when the spirit is wound up tight all the flavors pack quite a punch. Let it breathe and it mellows out a touch. Is that a good or bad thing? I don’t know. Still a mighty fine whisky.

Rating: 89

Kilchoman Single Cask Bourbon

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 60% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I’ve been on a bit of a Kilchoman run of late. Nothing intentional. Just a series of coincidences that’s all. Came back from Islay after tasting a bunch. Organized a tasting which featured a couple. Got invited to a tasting which had four expressions on the menu.

So, really, not my fault.


It was at this very Kilchoman tasting that I had the pleasure of sitting down with Peter Wills, son of owner Anthony, who is incharge of marketing for the distillery. A very standup young man who was extremely passionate about his whisky. We went out for a few more afterwards which turned out to be quite a brilliant evening.

The glass in my hand holds spirit from a single cask matured exclusively in a first-fill bourbon barrel from Buffalo Trace. Distilled on 26th August, 2010 and bottled almost five years later on 11th May, 2015 this is bottle number 435 of 2010 and served at a very high cask strength of 60%

Nose: Sweet smoke. Peat. Cardboard. Citrus. Pineapple. So much citrus in this. That nice gristy barley that I’ve come to associate with Kilchoman. A bit of malt. Fresh fruits. Apricots. White wine chardonay. DIgestives. Vanilla. Quite drying Lemon tart. LIme zest. White pepper. Lots of aromas here. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Lemon. Lime. Custard. That sweet smoke again. Char. Oak. Cinnamon. Hint of chocolate. Burnt toast. Quite savory. The spicy arrival is quite massive and needs a touch of water to mellow it down. With water the barley comes through nicely along with that Islay grist. Honey. Very creamy now. Much smoother. With water I would give it an additional point. 23/25

Finish: Very long. Massive spices. Very dry. Cinnamon. With water the finish is nicer. Much smoother. 22/25

Overall Comments: At 60% there is no option but to have this with a touch of water. Normally I would mark it neat but I’ll make an exception this time around. A good powerful whisky with a lot of flavors.

Rating: 89

Kilchoman 100% Percent Islay 4th Edition

Kilchoman 100 Islay 4th Edition
Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 50% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 86

It’s been a while since my last review mainly because I’ve been making an effort to scale back a bit. I’m running a marathon in a couple of months so training is taking priority over whisky drinking.

I did, however, come out of this temporary hiatus to attend a Kilchoman tasting organized by our local whisky distributor. To top it off Peter Will from the distillery was at hand to talk to us about his wares.

Before I settle down to talking about what I drank there was a cool bottle of smoky Kilchoman bramble liqueur that Peter had brought with him to make cocktails out of. While the bar thought it would be a good idea to make vodka cocktails I was adamant that this would taste only good mixed with the Kilchoman Loch Gorm. And I was right!
Kilchoman Bramble Liqueur Cocktail

Managed to get some seriously good flavors out of this mix.

Once we got our palates reasonably ready it was time to taste, among others, this 4th edition of the 100% Islay release.

100% Islay is made from barley that is grown on the newly acquired Rockside farm (opposite the distillery) which is then processed, mashed and distilled before being laid down in the Kilchoman warehouses to produce a whisky made from 100% Islay ingredients. Hence, the name.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50%

Nose: Some char. Quite nice. Smoke. Peat. Singed jute bag. Citrus drops. Under ripe pears. Green apple. Vanilla. Barley. It’s quite delicate. Fairly mild ppm levels here. I think around 12 if I remember correctly. Green berries. Very fresh. I like it. 22/25

Palate: Lime. Citrus. Barley. Smoke. Mild spices. Pear drops. Gets sweeter over time. Hint of milk chocolate. Quite herbaceous. I prefer the nose, to be honest. There’s a touch of something raw here. Not terrible, mind you. Just not up to Kilchoman’s lofty standards that’s all. 21/25

Finish: Quite drying. Oak. Spice rub. Again not as stellar as I expected. But not bad. 21/15

Overall Comments: I think this is decent whisky. Maybe I’m too used to being blown away by Kilchoman all the time. But that’s OK. I like the fact that this one is unapologetically Islay complete with minor flaws. Like the island itself. And I’m happy to live with that.

What is nice is that I managed to spend a lot of time with Peter discussing the travails of running a distillery in todays’ day and age. And I have to admit I was not envious.

Rating: 86

Laphroaig 25 – 2014 Edition

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 45.1% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94


I think I will always remember this day. It was my last day on Islay, having gone there for the Islay Festival, and I was just headed back after a fair amount of festivities at the Ardbeg open day.

As me and my friend headed back around 3PM we figured we’d stop by at Laphroaig for a quick tour or a tasting they might have on. In the car park we saw that there was a Premium Tasting scheduled in half an hour.

Quite excited at the prospect we walked into the visitors’ shop only to be told that the tasting was full and there were no more seats available. I almost pleaded and made the saddest face I possibly could. The gentleman behind the counter couldn’t do anything but maybe if we spoke to David, the Tasting Manager, he might be able to do something.

David, while apologetic, said there wasn’t much he could do since the tasting was limited to 11 people and it was all pre-paid and sold out. Once again I made the most pitiful face that I could.

Now let me tell you something about David. He has a heart of gold. It took me about four seconds of pulling that sad face to break him and so he said ‘Fine! I’ll let you two lads in on the tasting.’

And what a tasting it turned out to be! There were a couple of Cairdeas’, the new 15, a single cask from Warehouse No1 and a couple that David let us taste from behind a locked cupboard (though he made us promise not to tell anyone!). But I was extremely happy to see that this 25 year old, bottled in 2014, was also part of the lineup.

I’ve had the previous 2011 bottling which is quite beautiful so I was anxiously waiting to see how this one would taste.

My sample is from an open bottle and bottled at cask strength of 45.1% – it is a mix of Oloroso and ex-Bourbon casks.

Nose: TCP. Iodine. Seaweed. Hint of peat. Soft. Perfectly balanced. Soft lemon citrus. Lychees. Hint of cherries. Quite fruity. Quite dry. This is such a beautifully restrained nose. Has all the glory of Islay and the finesse of perfect ageing. 23/25

Palate: Hint of char. Sweet. Again beautifully balanced. Soft fruits. Lemon citrus. That oak is just perfect. Cinnamon. Touch of dark chocolate. The perfectly layered flavors work seamlessly and the extra years add to the complexity. Love it. 24/25

Finish: Nice and long. Quite drying. Ashy. Cinnamon rub. Could be a touch of something bitter but a pleasant bitter at that. 24/25

Overall Comments: This particular age statement from Laphroaig will always be a favorite of mine. I think the oak and the spirit really come together beautifully here. Of course near flawless cask selection is key. But more importantly I will remember this whisky for the unexpectedly brilliant tasting we had thanks to kindly David.

I owe you one.

Rating: 94