Dalwhinnie 25 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Dalwhinnie | Region: Highland | ABV: 52.1% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
What fascinates me the most about my hobby is that I will routinely stumble across some facts and information that I did not know about before. Some times it is through a learned friend. But mostly it is through complete accident.

And those accidents normally happen when I’m researching facts about a certain whisky I’ve drunk and want to know more of.

Which is what happened when I sat down to taste the Dalwhinnie 25.

My initial thoughts were that this whisky had at some point come in contact with European sherry. I make it a point not to research the whisky before I drink it so as not to be biased.

My notes contained a few references to sherry, however, upon research I discovered that this Dalwhinnie had been matured exclusively in American Bourbon hogsheads.

Strange, I thought.

But as I pressed on I discovered that those were not ordinary American Hogsheads; they had been rejuvenated. Now I didn’t really know what that meant until I dug a little deeper.

Rejuvenating casks is a pretty recent phenomena (not more than 20 years old) and has been put into practise to combat the scarcity of oak casks from around the world. Essentially rejuvenating casks is done by scraping off the tired wood from the existing staves to bring out new wood from the layers underneath, re-racking them and re-toasting them to create a new surface for the spirit to interact with.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Rejuvenated casks are commonly seasoned with Pajarete which is a colouring and sweetening wine consisting of a Pedro Ximenez reduction. This is done using a process called ‘bain marie’ which is basically a fancy way of saying ‘hot bath’.

This seasoning is done to give the wood a certain sherry-cask profile.

Now I don’t know for sure but I’m pretty certain that this whisky’s profile is the result of this particular treatment. I could be wrong since there is no concrete evidence to support this but I would love to be right.

My sample is from a brand new bottle, distilled in 1987 and bottled in 2012 at a cask strength of 52.1%

Nose: Lovely warm sherry. Chocolate milk. Touch of oak. Sweet honey. Wild berries. Mocha frappuccino. Caramel. Touch of limestone. Lime zest. Something green. Gets sweeter over time. Strawberry jam. I like noses like these. 23/25

Palate: Full bodied. Nice texture. Spices. Sweet chocolate. Coffee. Butterscotch. Caramel. Mocha. Cinnamon. Gets woody. Fudge cake. Berries. Hint of tannins. I think the oak had just about started to give up when this was bottled. Might have been different at 24 years of age instead of 25. Just a thought. 22/25

Finish: Long. Lip smacking. Oily. Cinnamon. Woody. 22/25

Overall comments: This is one of my more long-winded posts but I wanted to touch upon my new learning. It’s always nice when things connect. I like this whisky, though, I think it would have been fabulous had it been bottled a touch younger (I don’t know what the infatuation with multiples of five is) but I guess we’ll never know.

But mostly I will remember this whisky for teaching me something new.

Rating: 89

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Aberfeldy 21 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Aberfeldy | Region: Highland | ABV: 40% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
The Aberfeldy 21 was one of the first few whiskies I bought early on. Don’t really know why other than it seemed fairly affordable for a 21 year old whisky and I believe it was generally rated quite high among critics.

What do I personally think of Aberfeldy? I don’t, actually. I’ve had the 12 year old at a bar somewhere and was completely unmoved. I had this one sitting on my shelf for the longest time and was completely unmotivated to open it.

Aberfeldy, owned by Bacardi, is the largest component of malts to go into the Dewars blend which would explain it’s 3.5 million litre annual spirit output.

The distillery itself puts out three single malts as part of it’s original bottles: the 12, 18 and the 21 with the rest going into blends or snapped up by independents.

This 21 year old from the Highland region has been finished off in sherry casks having spent a large part of it’s life in both first and second-fill bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a weakish 40%

Nose: Honey. Heather. Malt. Fruits. Soft apricots. Poached apples. The tiniest of toasted oak. Puff pastry. Sliver of dough. Eucalyptus. Let it breathe and it mellows. Now more floral. Heathery. Oranges. It’s a nice enough nose. 22/25

Palate: Quite thin. Takes time to evolve. But then comes around nicely. Oranges. Butterscotch. Vanilla. Red apples. That same toasted oak as on the nose. Chew it a while to get some purple fruits. Decent. 22/25

Finish: Lingers. Quite dry. Woody. Hint of spice. Betel leaf. 21/25

Overall comments: It’s very hard to rate a whisky like this. It didn’t offer me the complexity that I was looking for nor offer me anything unusual, to be honest. And maybe that’s the reason it does well in a blend.

I have to understand that not everyone is looking for fireworks when it comes to their whiskies. Some just like to keep things simple.

And that’s exactly what this whisky is.

Rating: 87

BenRiach 1994 Virgin Oak Single Cask

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Distillery/Brand: BenRiach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.3% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
It takes a while to get over a bad initial meeting that can, literally, leave a bad taste in your mouth. For those of you read my reviews you probably know that my first encounter with a BenRiach was with a terrible 20 year old.

I can still recall the acrid taste in my mouth as I sipped it for the first time. I vowed never to try another BenRiach again. Of course, my forgiving nature (and reading countless good reviews of other BenRiachs) got the best of me and I gave in eventually.

In fact, trying to make up for lost time, I ended up on a BenRiach binge buying pretty much anything I could get my hands on. What I discovered was a solid Speyside distillery with a beautiful variety of spirits to choose from with almost all of them hitting an above average score in my books.

Like most seasoned whisky drinkers there’s something about single cask whiskies that holds a certain allure. Especially if they’re served at cask strength. I believe this version of whisky is the truest way of consuming the good stuff.

This particular BenRiach in my hands has been distilled in 1994 and put in 344 bottles in October 2013 at a cask strength of 55.3%.

Now this is what I don’t understand. The label on the bottle claims that it is a single cask whisky. But it also states that it is finished in Virgin American Oak (hogshead). Now to the best of my understanding a finish is when you take the whisky out of one cask and put it in another cask for a short period of time towards the end of it’s maturation phase.

So if that’s true this is technically not a single cask is it?

Oh, well. Who cares what the label says when the liquid inside is this good.

Nose: Dark honey. French beans. Caramel. Chocolate. Leather. Tobacco. Roasted cigar leaf. Maple syrup. Banana. Breakfast jam. Vanilla. Coconut. Almonds. Red berries. Gorgeous nose bursting with flavor. Love it! (24/25)

Palate: So creamy smooth. Banana. Chocolate. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Touch of oak. Quite sweet. That dark honey again. Plums. Raisins. Fig. Burnt toast. An honest reflection of the nose. (23/25)

Finish: Long. Jambolin. Salty. Spicy. (23/25)

Such a gorgeous whisky this. The complete package in my opinion. Lovely to nose and taste with the just the right balance of sweet and spicy. So glad I decided to forgive them.

Rating: 93

Macallan Sienna

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 20 | Taste: 19 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 79

Review
I have had the pleasure of sitting across Mr Bob Dalgarno, the famed Macallan Whisky Maker, for an interview and a subsequent tasting and I have to admit I was left with nothing but admiration for the man.

The painstaking process he undergoes to ensure that all his whiskies are created from careful barrel selection and put together to maintain consistency in taste and color is truly an art form.

Which is why I’m pretty sure it was the sales and marketing team and not Bob him self who felt that the right way forward for Macallan was to base their entry level whiskies on the basis of color.

Stupidest thing I’ve heard in my life.

They spend an entire lifetime trying to tell people that color means nothing, and it does not. Then they come and do the exact opposite because they’ve run out of ideas to market their whiskies by convincing people that darker whiskies are better whiskies.

Look I know stocks are dwindling. Whisky makers and blenders have to start innovating and thinking of new ways to market their whiskies to travel retail. I get that. But to take something as superfluous as color as a sign of quality is surely a great disservice to the patrons of the industry, is it not?

Oh, well. The Bentley needs regular maintenance doesn’t it?

This 1824 travel retail series has four color expressions – Gold, Amber, Sienna & Ruby – each one darker than the previous one. Each one more expensive than the previous one.

The Sienna (the second most-expensive and second darkest whisky in the range) is, obviously, a Non Age Statement and is a mix of first and second fill sherry casks from Jerez. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Butter. Sherry. Nutmeg. Raisins. Hint of oak. Touch mossy. Like bung cloth. Let it sit and the vanilla comes through. Sponge cake. Cinnamon. Green apples. Touch of chocolate. Light hay. Quite a non-descript nose. Starts off smelling creamy but then thins out a bit. (20/25)

Palate: Medium bodied. Oily. Tastes of raw spirit a little. Cake. Nutmeg. Coffee. Those green apples again. Vanilla. Nutmeg. Hint of oak. Sherry. Dark fruits. It’s not the best palate I’ve tasted. Something raw and harsh about it even after 30 minutes of breathing. (19/25)

Finish: Absolutely nothing at first. Pufffff and gone. Very flat. But comes back after a while. Slowly warms your chest cavity and your mouth. Cocoa beans. Coffee. Quite malty. (20/25)

Overall Comments: I guess there’s two types of people. The 99% that are reasonably fond of whisky and not very judgemental or critical. And that’s fine and I hold nothing against them. Then there’s you and me who get upset because this once great brand has resorted to cheap tactics like this. I get it. Greatness can’t be purchased at the duty free. But it still irks me when brands don’t even try.

Rating: 79