Bowmore 18

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Distillery/Brand: Bowmore
Region: Islay
ABV: 43%
Colour: Full Gold

Nose: 22
Taste: 21
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
I think Bowmore is a dependable distillery with some solid expressions (Tempest Batch 2) and some not-so-solid expressions (Mariner & Enigma). And that’s what makes a distillery exciting and human, in my opinion. So when I uncorked the 18 year old I had no idea what to expect.

The nose is salty and instantly reminds you of a dank warehouse. The musty smell, I imagine, can be found in the actual Bowmore warehouses housing all the maturing casks. From within the salty sea spray then comes a warm mix of bananas, tangerines and peaches followed by nutty peat and a touch of iodine. The final flourish is unmistakeable butterscotch.

The palate is strong and oaky with a vigorous application of dark spice rub. Bananas and nuts then decide to make a come back accompanied by something pleasantly sweet

The woody medium finish is, of course, peaty with a touch of salt and fennel. There is, though, a hint of something bitter but it’s faint enough not to be a nuisance.

Rating: 87

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Laphroaig 25 – 2011 Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig
Region: Islay
ABV: 48.6%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 23
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review:
I’m generally a fan of anything Laphroaig and the distillery has never let me down in all these years, though, I’ve heard of a miscreant 15 year old that may taint an otherwise perfect track record. But let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

Right. The 25 year old 2011 Cask Strength. Possibly the most un-Laphroaig nose you will ever find. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. The iodine and peat is subdued; it’s there but comes to you in gentle waves riding on a crest of sweet lemon citrus. The citrus is then enveloped in a fine spray of honey and sugarcane. This is possibly the most delicate of Laphroaig noses you will ever come across.

The lemon and honey are dominant on the palate but not before a burst of white pepper greets your tongue. The peat and smoke, as on the nose, play a supporting role as if to nudge you from time to time and let you know this is an Islay.

The finish is long, dry and spicy with a touch of oak and a smattering of nuts.

This is a lovely dram and does all the right things but the question remains; should Laphroaig be producing such delicate whiskies or focus on mouthfuls of iodine, peat and personality?

I’ll let you decide.

Rating: 92

Glenmorangie Finealta

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Distillery/Brand: Glenmorangie
Region: Highland
ABV: 46%
Colour: Full Gold

Nose: 22
Taste: 23
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
There are few whiskies that you can seldom go wrong with and Glenmorangie is one of them. So when I picked out the increasingly rare Finealta off a friend’s shelf I already had fairly high expectations.

The nose is soft smoke with sherry undertones mixed in with vanilla and fruit drops. This is followed by a touch of honey and some crushed red grapes. Finally a handful of roasted chestnuts give the nose a nice layer of complexity.

The full bodied delivery is cinnamon spicy at first and then a nice caramel and treacle sweet next. The slightly smoky oak then weaves in quite expertly and brings with it a deft minty touch.

The medium dry finish is a very nice mix of minty leaves and oak shavings.

Rating : 89

Isle of Jura 21

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Distillery/Brand: Isle of Jura
Region: Island
ABV: 44%
Colour: Pale Gold

Nose: 21
Taste: 21
Finish: 21
Balance: 21

Review
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.

Rating: 84

Ardbeg Galileo

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg
Region: Islay
ABV: 49%
Colour: Young Sauternes

Nose: 22
Taste: 23
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
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…

Rating: 89

Port Charlotte PC8 Ar Duthchas

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Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte
Region: Islay
ABV: 60.5%
Colour: Pale Gold

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
I know people say ‘What the hell is Bruichladdich doing? Churning out an expression a day?’ But you know what? They make sure each expression is worth the trouble. And the PC8 is no exception!

Obvious smoky peat on the nose, of course. Let’s get that out of the way and try to find what’s hidden amid the swirls. First some nuts. Then a nice piece of sausage on the barbecue grill. Accompanied by a glass of honey milk. Sprinkled with a nice pinch of rock salts. Quite glorious actually.

The 60.5% makes it a touch hard to get around the alcohol and the only flavors I can make out are black peppers, honey and smoke. A couple of drops of water opens up the nose and makes the liquid a touch more palatable. This enhances the honey in the mouth and introduces a touch of salt. Must be that rock salt.

The dry long (extremely long) finish is curiously minty with a touch of fennel. Certainly a powerhouse malt to be handled by seasoned experts only.

Rating: 91

Rosebank Signatory Distilled 1989

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Distillery/Brand: Rosebank
Region: Lowland
ABV: 43%
Colour: Sunlight

Nose: 22
Taste: 21
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
It’s always a treat to sample some juice from a closed distillery so it was nice to savour this particular expression from the Lowlands.

The pleasant nose starts of quite fresh and chock full of greens – almost a wet grassy morning hue in the air followed by big yellow lemons being drizzled on hard boiled candies. Finally a touch of mint and a light dusting of coconut complete a very nice nosing experience.

The velvety palate starts of white pepper spicy but then morphs into a juicy mixture of honey, mint and barley. It is very pleasant but I felt lacks the complexity favored by seasoned palates.

The dry finish is a touch minty with a not so unpleasant after taste of spicy wood.

What sets this one apart is that it is possibly the smoothest drink going down. Absolutely flawless texture.

Rating: 87