Longmorn 15 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Longmorn | Region: Speyside | ABV: 45% | Color: Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

I had a super hard time trying to locate this discontinued bottle from Longmorn. The 15 year old has been replaced by the 16 making this crowd favorite quite a serious collectible.

I managed to get hold of one after reading some rave reviews pretty much every where and was waiting for some alone time to sample it. As it turned out Christmas was the day.

There is precious little information on this Speysider (cask, etc) for some reason which makes me very curious to find out the type of cask used to craft this fine spirit. I know there’s a mix of both bourbon and sherry but I would really like to know the type of sherry and the lengths of time in each wood.

While the lack of information is frustrating the spirit is anything but. This is an example of good old fashioned skill showing off in the form of nicely controlled flavors.

My sample is from a brand new bottle from 2010 and bottled at 45%

Nose: Brown chocolate. Coffee. Berries. Oak. Quite dry on the nose. Fennel. Aniseed. Hint of mint. Cherries. Black peppers. Raisins. Black licorice. Salt. Clove. Quite a bouquet. The sherry is on point without over powering.

Palate: Honey. Salt. Chocolate. Peppers. Oak. Cinnamon. Oranges. Melon. Dates. Fruit cake. Christmas pudding. The palate points to a delicate Oloroso or PX influence some where in there.

Finish: Medium. Oily. Oak. Cinnamon. Cardboard.

This is a very tasty single malt. I can understand why it has legions of fans. And I feel by discontinuing it’s production it has become even more coveted.

One of the more assertive Speyside flavors you will find.

Rating: 90


Glenlivet 17 Chivas Brothers Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.7% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

I like this concept. Chivas has come out with a range of cask strength single cask whiskies from it’s portfolio which are presented in interesting to look at generic 50cl bottles complete with hand written labels.

Well, they’re made to look hand written anyway.

Very interesting to look at and I like the concept behind them too. Quite affordable and at ages and strengths that can’t be purchased as part of standard bottlings.

They currently have quite a few in this collection ranging from a Tormore 15 to a Glen Keith 20 and quite a few in between. What I have in my hand is a 17 year old Glenlivet matured exclusively in bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle from Batch GL 17 013 and served at a cask strength of 55.7%

Nose: Reminded me of the Nadurra 16 and why not? More or less the same treatment to the same distillate. Malt butter. Peaches. Bourbon. Grist. Barley. Husk. Bright honey. Sharp citrus. Marzipan. Almonds. All spice. Floral. Pink Melon. Quite a fresh nose. I like it.

Palate: Honey. Barley. White pepper Melon. Chocolate. Garam masala. Oak. Vanilla. Not as great as the nose but still pretty good. Very nice texture though it has a touch of something bitter towards the end.

Finish: The bitterness is a touch stronger now. Coffee. Cinnamon. Oak.

I like the thinking behind this range even if I this particular expression did not blow me away. The something slightly bitter threw me off towards the end. Still quite nice and drinkable.

Rating: 87

Paul John Brilliance

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Distillery/Brand: Paul John | Region: India | ABV: 46% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Paul John are the newest players to come out of India with some solid single malt offerings (after Amrut of course!). They’ve been in the industry longer than that, though. Since 1992 they have been producing their special style molasses ‘whisky’.

What I didn’t know was that they are the sixth largest producer of whisky in the world (WHAT?) producing over a million cases a month. However, their single malt foray is relatively recent (not more than eight years old).

This was my first Paul John and I can understand what all the commotion is about. Jim Murray thinks very highly of them and I respect that he has made it a point to champion the lone distilleries fighting to carve a niche for them.

Their Master Distiller Michael John (no relation to Paul) started at the distillery in 1995 and is responsible for the distillery’s single malt range. They have also moved from a more traditional Scottish production process to one that is more tailored to their raw ingredients.

Their biggest difference to Scotch is that they use Indian barley in production, Himalayan 6-row grain rather than the more usual 2-row European grain. This gives a lower alcoholic yield than is often found with Scottish production, but gives a more complex wash and thus more potential for flavor in the spirit.

Like Amrut they too have issues of enormous Angels Share (12%-13%) and so their whiskies are quite young.

Paul John Brilliance is part of their standard range and is made solely from unpeated barley and aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Quite delicate. Vanilla. Cucumber. The bourbon influence is quite obvious. Coconut. Mild coffee beans. Nuts. Understated herbs. Milk chocolate. Barley. Oak. Sandalwood. Grist. Honey. Quite pleasant. Reminded me of a typical Speyside whisky.

Palate: Coffee. Chocolate. Star anise. Grist. Ginger. Vanilla. Barley. Natural sugars. Oak. Banana. Tastes like a typical Speysider, too, if you ask me. Quite nice.

Finish: Long. Coffee. Vanilla. Oak. Spices.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this distillery and can’t wait to tuck in to the other expressions.

Rating: 88

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2014

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

I have mentioned this in my previous reviews that after sipping my first Kilchoman I vowed never to touch it again. I can’t say which one it was because I’ve genuinely forgotten. Let’s just say my brain decided to erase that experience from my memory.

What I do remember is wishing I could tell Anthony Wills, the founder of Kilchoman and who was presenting the whiskies to us that night, how I felt exactly. Out of politeness I did not.

But now I would like to tell him that his little Islay farm distillery is fast becoming my top rated whisky. Maybe of all time. Yes, you heard that right Ardbeg & Laphroaig.

Every time I review a good Kilchoman I offer Anthony an apology in the hope that he reads it and sends me something fantastic. As a sign of his acceptance.

Looks like he’s due another one.

The Loch Gorm that I am reviewing has been distilled in 2009 and bottled in the spring 2014 making it around five years old. It has spent it’s entire length of maturation in Oloroso sherry casks making it the only Kilchoman to be completely matured in ex-sherry.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: So fresh. So crisp. There’s the Islay grist. Honey. Clean peat. Oloroso. Nuts. Green tobacco leaf. Orange blossoms. Coffee beans. Faint smoke. Faint tar. Sweet and salty coastal sea air. White melons. An essay in fine tuning the perfect balance.

Palate: Smoke. Honey. Grated ginger. Peat. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. All spice. Cardboard. Delicate flavors that are on point. All the savory Islay goodness with a controlled Oloroso sweetness.

Finish: Smoke. Peat. Honey.

I don’t know what the whole hue and cry about dwindling stocks and NAS whiskies is when you can turn around a successful product like this in 5 years and be completely transparent about it.

Must be the inability to charge a bomb for young spirits. So everyone hides behind NAS.

Thank you Anthony for being honest about your craft. #RESPECT

Rating: 93

Glenlivet Alpha

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Glenlivet decided to play a little game with us whisky noobs last year. It released a whisky with absolutely no information. Nothing on the type of cask. Nothing on the age. Also it released only 3500 bottles worldwide. And decided it would be a good idea to let people come up with their own theories.

Not a bad stunt if you ask. Though certainly not a unique one. Jim Mcewan holds that distinction with the Bruichladdich Black Art and Blacker Still. A secret he’s yet to reveal.

Glenlivet, though, made everyone wait six weeks before revealing how this whisky was made through a video on their website. Though before you could get to the reveal you had to play a little game trying to identify flavors and aromas before the video could actually be played. A fun little game if you ask me.

The video then finally revealed that the Alpha was a No Age Statement (how disappointing) whisky and without any chill filtration or added color (no real surprises there).

What is really interesting is that the casks used for maturation were actually new wood casks that previously held single malt whisky! I don’t think anyone has ever done that before. It is still typically a Glenlivet, though, and I’m not sure I found anything really different about this.

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

Nose: Very sweet. Vanilla. Pudding. Citrus. Lemon. Hard boiled sweets. Wild flowers. Fresh grass. Pineapple. It has all the calling cards of the distillery but none of the complexity. I found it quite uncomplicated. Still not bad, though.

Palate: Spice. Pineapple. Honey. Apricots. Pear. Pudding. Sweets. Lemon. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Interesting palate. Feels young to me. Has quite a spicy zing to it. The fruits come out next. But once again not the most complex whisky I’ve drunk.

Finish: Medium. Spicy sweet. Hint of vanilla. Very strong oak.

This is a greatly presented whisky. I like all the marketing shenanigans that went behind putting it out there.

Did it blow me away? No.

Am I glad I have it sitting on my shelf? Why not?

Rating: 87

Port Charlotte PC 11 Heavily Peated

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Distillery/Brand: Port Charlotte | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.5% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

I’m a huge fan of the Port Charlotte series from Bruichladdich. It is the brainchild of the legendary Master Distiller Jim Mcewan and is an experiment in cask exploration.

Port Charlotte sits in between the mildly or non-peated standard range and the highly peated Octomores. The PC spirit was laid soon after the distillery was re-opened thanks to the foresight of independent bottlers Murray McDavid. Jim Mcewan, who had worked at Bowmore since he was 15, was hired as Master Distiller and Production Director.

Under his guidance the PC series was born in 2001. The aim was to release a cask strength whisky every year from the time it reached five years of age. And so PC5 was the first in the series.

Now up to 11 the PC range has accumulated quite a following and for good reason too. No chill filtration, artificial coloring and served at cask strength this is a throwback to the days when there was no wifi and whiskies were hand made.

The PC 11 is titled Eòrna Na h-Alba which is Gaelic for Scottish Barley. Yes, you guessed it, all barley used in the making is Scottish. The spirit has been matured in Oloroso sherry butts and walks a lovely line between sherry sweetness and Islay flavors.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 59.5%

Nose: Quite salty. Lots of coastal sea air. Lemon. Peat. Hint of smoke. A little sour. Wet wood. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Coconut. Caramel. Takes time for the nose to adjust. The fumes are super strong. A couple of drops of water opens it up quite nicely. What’s not to like?

Palate: Smoke. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Peat. White pepper. Black peppers. Fish oil. Classic Islay flavors working well with the sweetness of the Oloroso. Adding a couple of drops makes it more palatable and creamier. Coffee comes out stronger as does the oak.

Finish: Cold cuts. White pepper. Oak. Chocolate.

This is not a beginners whisky by any standards due to the high strength and fairly strong peat levels. Takes very well to water, though. Can’t wait for the PC 12!

Rating: 89

Balvenie 17 Year Old Sherry Oak

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43% | Color: Copper
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

This particular expression has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. It was my first serious purchase of a single malt. I remember looking at it sitting on the shelf at my duty free and thinking what is that insanely captivating bottle with that deep dark liquid inside of it?

I picked it off the shelf and, unlike what I do nowadays, I literally uncorked it the moment I got home. This was a number of years ago and I had no idea about sherry maturation or generally anything to do with single malts. All I knew was if something tasted this good then I was on the right path.

I’ve tasted a number of Balvenies down the road and they are one of the few extremely reliable distilleries when it comes to releasing top stuff. I like the different experimentations they have been up to also with different casks.

First launched in 2007 this 17 year old expression has been matured exclusively in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. There is always the danger of the sherry overpowering the spirit when you do that, however, when you have master craftsmen at work that seldom happens.

My sample is from a brand new bottle (2012) and served at 43%

Nose: Vanilla. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. Fruit cake. Christmas cake. Raisins – the big dark kind. Clove. Dark plums. Berries. Sugarcane. Ginger. Oak. Cola. The nose is thick and quite syrupy. But not in a sickly way. It just makes you feel warm inside.

Palate: Chocolate. Oak. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Fruit cake. Maple syrup. Rose water. Tobacco leaf. Vanilla. Classic Oloroso flavors. Brilliantly put together.

Finish: Sweet. Vanilla. Maple syrup. Rose water.

One of the truly good whiskies of our time.

Rating: 93

Hakushu 18 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Suntory Hakushu | Region: Japan | ABV: 43% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Not unlike most whisky drinking enthusiasts I also have a soft spot for Japanese single malts. For no other reason than that a non-traditional country is showing giants how the good stuff is made.

Their maturation techniques and unique weather conditions have created some of my most memorable moments of whisky sipping.

Hakushu (pronounce hak-shoo) was established in 1973, in the forest on the slopes of Mount Kaikoma which would explain the inherent earthiness that most of their spirits tend to have.

As a fan of the 12 I was quite excited to have a go at the 18. There is, however, shockingly little information on what goes into the making of this fine whisky. I understand the Japanese are insanely secretive about how they do things but some information would really help.

I suspect the spirit has seen multiple casks and a blending at some stage. I can safely assume bourbon and sherry in the mix with quite possibly some Japanese oak too. And there is some peat thrown in for good measure.

My sample is from a brand new bottle (circa 2014) and served at a strength of 43%

Nose: Tobacco. Peat. Smoke. It’s quite savory. grapes. Red apple. Cumin. Coffee. Chocolate. I’m suspecting Oloroso sherry here. Husk. Citrus. Ripe oranges. Soft dates. Clove. Now I’m pretty sure it’s Oloroso. Burnt toast. It’s quite a robust nose. Very controlled and on point. I like it a lot!

Palate: Sweeter than the nose. Honey. Citrus. Cinnamon. Those apples again. Mint. Very juicy and velvety delivery. The clove is back too. I love the texture of this one. Makes you salivate as it does the rounds around the palate.

Finish: So long. Amazingly long. Oily. Clove. Cinnamon. Mint. Oak

This was quite a complex undertaking with loads of flavor. I’ve seen a lot of reviews in favor of the 12 versus this. But those could be earlier bottlings because what I had was quite top class.

Rating: 93