Colour: Old Gold
One has come to expect, and quite fairly, good things from Talisker. The standard 10, the lovely 18 and the delicious 57 North are the reasons for that. So, as a fan, it’s disappointing to try hard and eke out positives from their last two No Age Statements; Storm & Port Ruighe. And this is what I think about the latter.
The nose has the reassuring and familiar sea salty dampness that one expects from all malts from Skye. There is then a healthy ladle of meat stew with thick chunks of sausage sprinkled liberally with fiery black peppercorns. Cold cuts on the side are accompanied by a bowlful of pomegranate and raisins. I quite like it which makes the delivery that much more disappointing.
You are greeted with an unbalanced palate of caramel, molasses, spicy clove mixed with cherry syrup and a stick of licorice on a bed of mild peat. It has all the ingredients to make this a cracker but I think the spirit weighs far too heavy on the spicier notes not allowing the gentler sweeter profiles to come through. Plus there is a nagging bitterness in there some where which is hard to catch.
The lingering, spicy finish also retains that irksome bitterness.
I really wanted this to blow me away. Instead it chose to remain borderline average.
Colour: Young Sauternes
Talisker created quite a bit of buzz around this particular No Age Statement bottling with many speculating that this would be the complete Skye malt. But it was not to be…
The typical salty Talisker nose is at first comforting as it brings with it the traditional Skye notes like lemon zest, melted butter with herbs drizzled on a salmon and cream pie soaked in brine. I quite liked the nose.
The palate, on the other hand, is a touch disappointing for me. While the delivery is quite intensely spicy with a lemon honey twang it is the presence of something mysteriously bitter which throws me off towards the end. Quite unsettling if you ask me.
The oily finish, unfortunately, retains the nagging bitterness which I can only hope later editions address.
Distillery/Brand: Isle of Jura
Colour: Pale Gold
Mr Richard Paterson, who I’ve met at a tasting, seems hell bent on hiding behind intensely sweet flavors. Some time he does a decent job. Most times he doesn’t. This time I think he just might have succeeded.
The peaty sweet nose has all the trademarks of a Paterson expression. Earthy molasses and jaggery with a hint of something floral followed by a not-so-nice sprinkling of dusty talcum powder. A bit confusing for my liking.
Strong spicy nutmeg on the palate gives way to a thick dollop of jaggery mixed with dry nuts and wild berries.
The finish is long, oily and spicy with a hint of dark chocolate. All yummy flavors on paper but never in harmony when you taste them.
Colour: Young Sauternes
If anyone wants to know how to build a cult following have them intern with the folks over at Ardbeg. Who would have thought of sending new make spirit up in space? And then releasing an expression commemorating that? Say ‘hello’ to the Galileo.
I would like to say it has a typical Ardbeg nose but it doesn’t. I mean it has the trademark peaty smoke (which is more pronounced than it’s cousins) and strong honey notes. There is a slight saltiness with a touch of grass which gives way to a chocolatey fruit basket. But the smoke and the wood tend to overpower a little.
The full bodied palate is much more familiar though not as sophisticated as you would expect from this monster distillery. Intensely spicy amidst the dark chocolate, nuts and some citrus.
The rather long oily finish has slivers of phenol and aniseed. There is also, dare I say it, a drop of something bitter.
This is an increasingly rare bottling and a must in the collector’s bar. Even though I would prefer to admire it on the shelf more than on my palate it still is a very drinkable expression.
Besides I heard it just won the World Whisky Award for best Single Malt. I must be daft or something…
Colour: Full Gold
This magnificent bottling of the 1996 distilled single sherry cask Arran is quite rare so when it was brought out at a friend’s house it was received rather warmly. And for good reason too.
The gorgeous dark nose has a number of complex layers upon which it is built. Chocolate covered raisins dropped in an oaky bowl of chopped plums and drizzled with citrus are followed by a whiff of something slightly musty. Then delicate purple flowers with a hint of mint. Quite the experience.
The chewy palate is strong and aggressive. Black pepper, chocolate and finely ground coffee give way to plums and raisins. There is then unmistakeable charred orange zest with a touch of cardamom.
The woody dry finish is long and spicy making this Arran possibly my favorite expression from this distillery.
Normally kept for post-dinner drams, my Scapa 16 was pulled out of the bar for an early evening taste. A good choice!
The Islander has quite a colorful nose – aromatic purple flowers like lavender sit in a fruit basket of papaya and apricots as citrus infused honey is drizzled quite liberally over the bouquet. All the while sitting next to a bowl of cereal and kneaded dough. A pleasant nose to awaken all your senses.
The medium bodied oily palate starts off white peppery spicy followed by the pleasant sweetness of honey and toffee.
A decent finish brings you rock melon and papaya. The papaya! It’s so strong in this one.
All in all a very decent dram – something to be had quite regularly.
Distillery/Brand: Highland Park
Bottling: 25 Year old
Colour: Old Sauternes
I opened this glorious expression last New Year’s Eve which was really my way of telling my friends and family how special they were to me.
A thick syrupy nose, dripping with dark honey, chocolate, char grilled tangerines, breakfast marmalade and that scrumptious layer of burnt sugar found on top of a perfectly cooked caramel pudding. I was so glad I chose to go with this expression to impress my friends! Cuddle with it a little more and you will experience a sprinkle of aniseeds atop a rum fruit cake. All of this is then perfectly balanced against the backdrop of mature oak. Perfect!
The velvet delivery first comes with black pepper and then quite expertly balances out with a spread of maple syrup, orange zest followed by a sprinkling of dark chocolate flakes.
At nearly cask strength the finish is satisfyingly long, dry and oaky. There are cloves with the minutest touch of tobacco and leather and, just as you’re about to bid adieu, there is that delicious burnt sugar on top of the caramel pudding.
Even though there is a slightly bitter aftertaste I don’t think it will affect my popularity with my friends!
Isle of Mull
The first thing about this single malt from Mull is it’s absolutely gorgeous wooden packaging. The beauty of the presentation alone is worth acquiring this gem.
The nose is a big white dish of dark purple fruits stewed in the oven and then removed. There’s blueberries, blackberries and thick chunks of plum. The fruits are then piled on to a rich, chewy fruit cake with layers and layers of fudge. Finally a light drizzle of spices, a hint of oak and a touch of something floral.
The delivery is a bold smearing of burnt marmalade on toast in tandem with juicy dark berries. Suddenly massive spices explode with a showering of chocolate chips and wood shavings. Adding a drop of water makes the palate a bit dry and definitely more oaky.
This is a fantastic dram with a lot of complex flavors. And funnily enough I love it because of it’s massive spices.
Rating : 93
I’ve been lucky enough to own multiple bottles of this beauty so I tend to drink this one at will! But I gloat. Let’s talk about the nose, shall we? The powerful aromas make me feel like a captain on a fishing trawler – braving the rough seas and the salty waves that pound the edge of the boat time and again. Strands of seaweed and kelp are flung on the ship in quick succession. No matter how hard the deck hands try they can never rid themselves of that. Out of the corner of my eye I see my first-mate neglecting his duties and tending to a succulent sausage barbecue. In between the sausages are the most delicious pieces of salty fish, sprayed with lemon zest, that I have ever tasted.
I want to discipline him but I can’t – something tells me to just accept the things the way they are.
As I bring the crystal nosing glass to my lips I am treated to three distinct emotions. First the full bodied malt announces it’s arrival with a touch of salt and a glimmer of smoke. Then, immediately fighting for attention are a tumble of autumn fruits and a lovely soft pudding. As your mind tries to come to grips with the two distinct flavors you are treated to the gentlest of iodine sprayed spices as they signal the end of the journey.
At 57% this is one of the longer finishes I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. If you don’t have one I suggest you go out there right now and procure yourself possibly one of the best tasting single malts out there!
Rating : 95
Isle of Jura
I had the Isle of Jura Superstition at a tasting with Richard Paterson lately and so I wasn’t sure whether it was his infectious energy or the actual malt that actually had an impact on me.
The nose was quite pleasant if not a bit too sugary sweet. Instantly reminded me of a Def Leppard classic ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me!’. Rolling in the heavy honey were tangerines and dry nuts after which a few vanilla pods came dancing along. Finally there was the faintest wisp of spicy peat. The nose is actually quite pleasant but belies what is in store for you.
The delivery is surprisingly light. I was expecting a thick creamy liquid instead I was greeted with quite a silky texture (and I don’t mean that in a good way). The palate is very light and quite dry. First there is a mixture of grass and hay followed by a drop of lemon. But a very mild lemon at that! Some where along the way you feel the presence of milk chocolates which quickly give way to cinnamony spices.
I want to really like this dram but I can’t get my head around it. Would I specially take it out and share it with my friends? Maybe some not so special friends.
Rating : 86