Nikka Miyagikyou 12

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka Miyagikyou
Region: Japan
ABV: 45%
Colour: Young Sauternes

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

Review
There is something oddly comforting about opening a Japanese single malt, especially from the power house Nikka, because you know you’re always in for a treat. And this entry level 12 is a must have on any shelf.

The warm chocolate Christmas cake sets the tone for a complex nosing experience. First come the dried figs and raisins with a healthy drop of vanilla. Juicy fruits are next in the shape of pears. Let it catch it’s breath and in come salty wild red berries and a handful of almonds. A very complex nose on a relatively young malt.

The full-bodied spirit cascades in with luscious chocolate, black peppercorns and candied orange. Chew it for a while (you will want to, believe me!) to welcome red grapes and hazelnuts in a swirl of sticky toffee.

The distinct aftertaste has a curious ‘twang’ to it. Not too oily, not too dry, it ends with lovely citrus and mint.

Just another malt that re-affirms my faith in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Rating: 92

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Nikka Miyagikyou 15

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Distillery/Brand: Nikka Miyagikyou
Region: Japan
ABV: 45%
Colour: Gold

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

Review
This particular 15 year old was sampled fresh on the heels of it’s magnificent younger brother the 12 and so expectations were high. Add to that the reputation Nikka brings with it and you can imagine the burden on it’s young shoulders.

The nose is not bad. It’s not magnificent, mind you, but then everything can’t be hit out of the park all the time. There is woody brown sugar syrup mixed in with sweet melon followed by a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on nectarines. Quite interesting.

The palate is aggressive and reminded me of pancakes smothered liberally with woody maple syrup, dark chocolate and cinnamon.

The dry finish is spicy and full of cloves.

This is not a bad malt by any standards. It is a touch brash, in my opinion, and I wish it held it’s poise like it’s 12 year old sibling.

Rating: 88

BenRiach 17 Year Old Solstice Second Edition

Benriach 17 solstice

Distillery/Brand: BenRiach
Region: Speyside
ABV: 50%
Colour: Young Sauternes

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

Review
I have developed a fascination with BenRiach ever since I tasted a truly horrendous 20 year old. Vowing never to touch another one I went back on my words and actually ended up binge buying eight expressions. This 17 Year Old Second Edition Solstice is one of them. The First Edition is supposed to be legendary, unfortunately, this one is not.

Nose: Finished in Tawny Port pipes and using strong peated barley the nose reminded me of an understated Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Probably had to do with all that smoky peat and iodine on the nose. Purple grapes and cherry drops offer up the sweetness. It then takes on salty overtones with a slight hint of dankness. Get around it and there is a bubbling meat stew underneath it all. Certainly a lot going on here.

Palate: Smokey with burnt toast smeared with chocolate molasses. There’s a hint of toffee apples and some nuts but overall the delivery is fairly one dimensional.

Finish: The finish of cardamom and dark fruits left me wanting. It was completely absent on the first sip yet there on the second. I don’t know why.

This is a decent whisky but I suspect a step down from the First Edition.

Rating: 86

Glenfiddich 30 (2008)

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Deep Gold

Nose: 24
Taste: 24
Finish: 23
Balance: 23

Review
I have a deep rooted respect for Glenfiddich because they are responsible for making single malts popular across the globe. Not only with their strong marketing efforts but with their consistently good tasting malts.

I reviewed the 30 year old a while ago but recently came across this 2008 bottling which is rumored to have spirits from as far back as the 60s.

Nose: The nose reminds me of the 18 but is more refined with a strong elegance. The sherry is unmistakeable and brings out the chocolate nuts and burnt orange which is so characteristic of this distillery. And for the first time in my life I got a whiff of blue denim jeans. Don’t ask my how. It flashed in my head so I’m writing it down.

Palate: The candied orange on the palate is just gorgeous. Dark pepper and chocolate syrup rule in a creamy dance of decadence. This is the perfect mouthfeel intensifying the longer you hold it.

Finish: The long gorgeous finish clings to your mouth urging you to give the malt another go. Quick!

Rating: 94

Glenrothes 1975

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Distillery/Brand: Glenrothes
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Deep Gold

Nose: 24
Taste: 22
Finish: 22
Balance: 22

Review
I was gifted this one by a friend of mine for my last birthday but didn’t open it so it was a welcome dram at a tasting I attended recently.

The absolutely gorgeous nose is chock full of nuts and red berries signaling some strong sherry. Let it breathe and a salty cherry licorice emerges from the wood works. Lovely.

The medium bodied delivery has the usual chocolate fudge cake and dark fruits on oak. But, once again, I’m faced with a malt with a wonderful nose that falls a touch short of spectacular on the palate. Is it the age? Is it the ABV? It could be both, I don’t know.

The medium finish is dry with a hint of wood.

Maybe my expectations got the better of me. Never again.

Rating: 90

Glenfarclas 40

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Distillery/Brand: Glenfarclas
Region: Speyside
ABV: 46%
Colour: Deep Gold

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

Review
I try and be as unbiased as I can before tasting a particular whisky lest I am swayed by it’s packaging, it’s age or glorious reputation. With the Glenfarclas 40 I was face to face with all three.

Strong strong sherry with grated ginger on the nose with a dark chocolate pounding. This is followed by dark figs, raisins and dry date husk brought together with a lovely burnt orange spiciness. A familiar, and reassuring, sherry inspired nose.

The palate. Oh, the palate. This is what I get for being presumptuous. I was expecting a crisp, full on attack of unexplored adventures instead I received a warm hug of familiarity. The palate is honest to the point of being almost mundane. Almost. The dark fruits, black pepper and maple syrup come together nicely. But nice is all they do.

The finish sees off a bit of woody spice and that date husk on the nose.

Oh, how I wanted this to sweep me off my feet. Never again.

Rating: 89

Glenmorangie Traditional Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Glenmorangie
Region: Highland
ABV: 57.1%
Colour: Chardonnay

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

Review
The Glenmorangie Traditional Cask is basically the 10 year old at cask strength, un-chill filtered and without any coloring. This is as raw as a Glenmorangie will get.

A bit like new-make the nose is flush full of tropical fruits like mangoes, papaya and apricots enveloped in a, not-so-unpleasant, cloud of brine. Oxidization brings out woody chocolate citrus overtones which sit nicely atop all the fruits. (Note: a drop of water made the spirit sweeter and more biscuity / malty).

The palate is quite intensely spicy with a white pepper burst. Let it traverse your palate and the spirit mellows down to a honey pudding sweetness. (Note: a drop of water made the mouthfeel creamier but did not add to the flavor profile).

The finish is a touch chalky without being bothersome.

Am I impressed? Let me get back to you on that.

Rating: 87