The Octomore is one of those cult series that needs to be collected. From it’s suave packaging to it’s lofty claims of the highest peat concentration in a whisky (169 ppm in this case) it has all the flair of a spectacularly executed heist.
A heist of the senses that is.
With it’s high strength spirit (59.5%) and enormous peat levels one could be mistaken for thinking it is undrinkable and a gimmick at best. Something to pander a 5 year old spirit, perhaps. They could not be further from the truth.
Nose: A smoky pudding of peat and caramel infused with the loveliest of ginger vanilla. Dusted with the charred remains of lemon crusted kippers. The high strength takes a while to get past the nose but once it holds you it doesn’t let go.
Palate: Crisp like green apples and raisin cider with a lemony hardboiled sweetness. The burnt sea comes in next on a wave of peaty seaweed and ashy iodine.
Finish: Long and magical with the same lemony soot found on the palate.
This is truly an iron fist in a velvet glove. Like a young fiery king hell bent on pounding you into submission.
The BenRiach 20 was one of the first single malts I had ever purchased in my life – thanks to an overly eager salesperson. And I remember absolutely hating it! It tasted so vile I never wanted to see another BenRiach again in my life.
So it was with a sense of trepidation that three years later I decided to re-visit the same bottle and see if my first impressions were on point or not.
The answer is Yes and No. Yes, it is still not a great whisky. No, it’s not as bad as I remember.
I don’t know if it’s three years of oxidization or my now generous soul but this expression is OK. Not good; just OK.
Nose: Delicate Speyside with a mix of fruity florals and perfumed barley followed by a melon sweetness which is underscored by a dash of salt and pepper.
Palate: Prickly spice in a drizzle of light fruity honey. One dimensional at best.
Finish: Long and spicy with a strong bitter citrus after taste.
Look, this is not the vile swill I had a while ago but it’s not what I would serve to my whisky club. They would politely put their glasses away.
Colour: Pale Straw
Glenlivet are not known for their brilliance, I will admit. However, their malts are carefully crafted to cater to the ever growing mass of whisky drinkers in a bid to keep them satisfied.
And this continued satisfaction ensures that the single malt industry keeps growing and allows us snobs to keep enjoying the fruits of everyone else’s labor.
So thank you for that.
And thank you for this 18 year old. I like it. It’s not overly complex, mind you, but it is sufficiently interesting. Matured in second fill European and first fill American Oak there is a nice spicy tropical balance to this.
Nose: Quite woody with an earthy sherry overtone. Salty almonds drizzled with cinnamon amid a basket of dark oranges. You can’t help but like this nose.
Palate: Interesting with a cocoa / spice rub mixture dissolved in dark honey followed by roasted nuts and citrus drops.
Finish: Almond long with a hint of mocha.
Distillery/Brand: Sheep Dip
So here’s a bit of background. Sheep Dip actually refers to a delousing pesticide used by farmers on their sheep back in the day. As was the practice during those times there was a lot of illicit whisky being made by these guys too.
So every once in a while when the excise officer would visit all the whisky would be hidden in barrels marked SD (Sheep Dip) to throw off said excise nuisance man. Quite a charming story I have to admit.
Richard Paterson, third generation Master Blender, has taken 16 single malts from all parts of Scotland and created this blend and paid homage to all those crafty farmers by naming it Sheep Dip.
Nose: Young and sprightly with a hint of dough and a squeeze of tropical fruits. The freshness continues with some nice cucumbers and celery sprinkled with rock salt. Based on the smell I could drizzle this over a salad as a midsummers’ dressing.
Palate: This is where the promise is broken. Similar tropical fruits and some spice but overwhelmed by something unpleasantly bitter. I let it breathe for a while but it can’t seem to shake that terrible taste.
Finish: Spicy short.
I’m used to being disappointed by Richard Paterson but I had heard decent things about this expression. I guess earlier batches had some good stock. This one, I suspect, might actually have some real sheep dip in it.
Distillery/Brand: Johnnie Walker
Here is a whisky which I think unapologetically bridges the gap between what earlier generations were used to and what whisky fans are drinking today.
Comprising of four signature malts from four brilliant distilleries – Talisker, Caol Ila, Cragganmore & Linkwood – it takes on their flavors quite beautifully.
Nose : First the Talisker and Caol Ila come screaming through with salty crushed nuts and smoke. Then the Cragganmore with that sweet jasmine maltiness and finally Linkwood with it’s orange peel, peaches and wild red berries. A complex nose. A lovely nose.
Palate : At first there is a certain coconut oiliness to it (which I didn’t like) interspersed with spicy nuts and a lemon meringue. But whisky is a game of patience and I let this one sit. The coconut oil disappears after a while and is replaced with a lovely honey sweetness.
Finish : Spicy long and a touch bitter. I think that’s old fashion-ness coming through. Quite complex. Sits with you a while and makes you think.
This is a whisky that needs to be appreciated by experienced palates only. Its’ subtle nuances catch you off-guard with flashes of brilliance. It kept evolving as I kept writing forcing me to track back and re-edit.
It’s almost like this is the reward you get for finally showing how mature you’ve become.
I’m wary of independent bottlings, to be honest. I never know what to expect. There’s not a lot of information on most of them. And they can go horribly wrong. So when I happened to taste this with a friend I had no expectations.
Which I think is the best way to taste a whisky because if it’s not good you’re not let down and if it is then you’ve scored! And, luckily for me, this expression falls into the latter category.
This one was distilled on October 4 1990 and bottled from cask 22393 in April 2011 and is bottle #141 taken from a single cask.
Nose: Sweet, classic Speyside. Lots of vanilla, pudding and toffee. Sugared barley amid crumbly biscuits. Sprinkled with a touch of white spice and a garnish of mint.
Palate: Silky with a wonderful delivery. There is honey mixed in with the same butterscotch drizzled on green pears and a hint of oak with a touch of fennel shavings.
Finish: Spicy with sugared pears. A memorable end to this treat.
A lovely dram.
Distillery/Brand: Glen Breton
We’ve all had Canadian Club growing up, I presume, slumming it in a bar some where. It’s not a bad drink with Coke but then what is? Anyway, it’s not Canadian Club I want to talk but it’s cousin Glen Breton and it’s 10 year old single malt.
Had this at a recent tasting of my single malt society and it was unveiled amid much curiosity. However, intrigue did not give way to wonderment as this one failed to excite on all levels.
Nose: Weakly floral, with a hint of woody cashew nuts soaking in a broth of milk balls. There are some fruits – maybe some apples and pears – but I really couldn’t tell so weak is the nose.
Palate: Not bad. It’s not amazing but it’s ok. It’s quite sweet with a lemony tartness to it with some heather. But it’s generally quite flat and one dimensional.
Finish: Moderate with a spicy clove and stale coconut oil residue. Not the most pleasant, I must say.
I guess I’m disappointed because I wanted this to shine but it didn’t. It’s not entirely bad, mind you, but it does not blow you away.
Distillery/Brand: The Irishman
Colour: Young Sauternes
Now I honestly don’t know how many of you have heard of The Irishman. I hadn’t heard anything about it till a few days ago until a friend popped it out of his bar for a surprise curve ball at a tasting.
And what curve ball! With a corny name like that I was expecting this to be some cheap attempt at whisky making – how wrong I was.
Triple distilled and aged in both bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks this one’s won quite a few medals which I was, frankly, ignorant about. With only 6000 bottles in every batch this one is numbered L0170 – what ever that means!
Nose: Robust sherry with a lovely mix of cherries, dark raisins, chocolate chips with a nutmeg and chili grating on top. Finished off with a mist of orange blossom and vanilla fudge.
Palate: As creamy as the nose suggests with the same dark raisins and chocolate chips you find on the nose. There are then the toasted almonds, apricots and dark grapes in a swirl of orange liqueur – like Cointreau.
Finish: Bitter chocolate. Long with a handful of chestnuts.
I love moments like these. When something unassuming takes you on such a splendid ride!
Distillery/Brand: Isle of Jura
Colour: Old Sauternes
So here’s the ridiculously hard to pronounce (and even harder to spell) Diurachs’ Own 16 year old. Another trademark syrupy offering from Jura.
Nose: The thick Oloroso sherry comes screaming through on the back of toasted almonds, thick chocolate fudge and dark woody caramel. Mixed in with cereal milk and a seasoning of cloves and cherries the nose leaves little doubt to its’ ancestry.
Palate: Thick and syrupy with tangy dark chocolate giving way to a briny rock salt and pepper combination. It’s a struggle if you ask me.
Finish: Cloyingly oily with spicy clove.
Another one dimensional ‘I knew what to expect’ dram from this predictable distillery.