Hanyu Ichiros Malt 15 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Hanyu | Region: Japan | ABV: 46% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

Hanyu Distillery was founded in 1941 by Isouji Akuto, a descendant of a long line of sake producers. Located north-west of Tokyo in Saitama prefecture, Hanyu distillery was built in the city of the same name, and is surrounded by vast rice fields supplied with river Tone water.

In 1980 the distillery started the production of single malt whisky, with the purchase of two Scottish pot stills. Success, however, eluded this distillery and it stopped producing whisky in 2000 and completely dismantled in 2004.

Remaining stocks previously stored on the site, were recovered by Ichiro Akuto (grand-son of the founder of Hanyu) assisted by a sake-maker Sasanokawa Shuzo, and were kept there until 2008 when they were transferred to Chichibu, a new distillery founded by Ichiro Akuto.

The spirit inside this bottle was distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2010 after being finished off in French Oak. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Bourbon. Vanilla. Nuts. Chocolate. Red berries. Grapes. Hint of oak. Spices. Becomes crisp over time. Earthy with a hint of something sour. The French Oak really let’s itself be known thanks to all the spices.

Palate: Spices. Coffee swirl. Chocolate. Oak. Peaches. Earthy. Dry leaves. Dry fruits. Nuts. It threatens to become complex but then chooses not to. The oak is a bit much for me here.

Finish: Medium. Coffee. Spices. And that damn oak again.

Overall Comments: Overall I feel this is a decent little whisky even if the oak has decided to overpower proceedings. And one can overlook minor flaws when tasting a piece of history.

Rating: 86


Laphroaig 15 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 43% | Colour: Muddy Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 85

Laphroaig is my forever fighting with Ardbeg for a top spot in my heart. But Ardbeg has taken upon itself to disappoint me more often than not which means I instinctively take refuge in the arms of the other Islay giant.

After having checked my records I realized that Laphroaig is by far my highest reviewed distillery and I also own the most number of it’s bottles too. A little more than Ardbeg. Just goes to show how much I enjoy this ‘most richly flavoured of all Scotch whiskies’.

The 15 has had a bit of a bad rep. Before I tasted one (a few years ago) there were some who hated it, some who loved and some who were totally indifferent. I ended up being in the latter group. It didn’t exactly set my world on fire and I was happy to let it sit on my shelf for eternity.

Someone then gifted me a more recent bottling (2013) and I just had to see whether they’d made any inroads into improving it. This is after the whole hue and cry of it being discontinued and people throwing themselves off cliffs in grief.

Well, let me tell you something. I think something might have happened here. Five years after being discontinued in 2008 a fresh new spirit was introduced, complete with new label, which I suspect has some much older vintages in it than Laphroaig is letting on.

The result is a restrained sort of Laphroaig without the usual characteristics but which is certainly a step up from it’s older defunct sibling. My sample is from an almost new bottle and served at a weak-ish 43%

Nose: Quite fruity. Some apples. Some pears. All shrouded in delicate smoke. Quite green. Coriander. Some herbs. Garam masala. Mild lemon. Lime. Citrus. Hint of iodine. Coastal sea salt. Fishnets. Brine. I like the nose.

Palate: Hint of sweetness. Mild smoke. Nutmeg. Some citrus. More pineapple than lemon. A touch of char. Dry leaves. The nose does better.

Finish: Took a while to stick. Some smoke. Hint of spice.

Overall I think this is a decent whisky. I am not crazy about it but maybe because I expect huge flavors from Islay whiskies especially this distillery and this one decides it’s a good idea to hold back a touch.

I’m sure this decision garners it more fans. Good on them!

Rating: 85

Ardbeg 15 Years Cadenhead 1994

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Distillery/Brand: Ardbeg | Region: Islay | ABV: 56% | Color: Chardonnay
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

There’s a certain old school way of making single malt whiskies that I really like. No frills. Just good old-fashioned traditional whisky making.

Distill some quality spirit. Stick it in a high quality bourbon cask. Let it sit and pull out all the flavors. Don’t mix it with any other liquid to balance out any flavors. Serve it at cask strength. Sit back and enjoy.

I miss those days. Of whisky making, that is. I’m not old enough to miss those actual days. But I sure as hell can appreciate them. Which brings me to my first ever Cadenhead whisky. It is also my first ever independent Ardbeg. And most importantly it is my first ever single cask Ardbeg.

So there’s a lot of special firsts here for me. And I tell you this is well worth the occasion.

There’s not a lot of literature for this particular bottling (most independents are notoriously difficult to get info on) and so the only thing I know is that this was distilled in 1994, bottled in February 2010, matured exclusively in a bourbon hogshead for 15 years, one of 268 bottles produced and served at a cask strength of 56%.

Nose: Peat. Grist. Lemon. Lime. Citrus. Fruits. Melon. It’s very sweet. Crystallised sugars. Cigar ash. Vanilla. Liquorice. Barley. Oak. Toast. Smoked oysters. Green apple. Reminds me of the Still Young when I first had it. Same controlled peaty elegance. Also very similar to the recent spate of young Kilchomans that I’ve been tasting. This is a beautiful nose. Something very old-fashioned about it.

Palate: Lemon. Spices. The delivery is quite sharp. Sponge cake. All spice. Mid-palate it starts to get a little burnt. Oak. Cigar leaf. Quite salty. But very crisp. Young green apple crisp.

Finish: Long. Oak. Spices. There’s something mildly bitter here.

I love whiskies like this. Straight up no nonsense. No maturing in ten different casks with ten different types of vatting. No marketing BS. Let the spirit speak, I say, if you’re brave enough.

Also makes me realize why Ardbeg is cult. All the stock from the 90s that I’ve tasted is insane. Why are they having such a hard time re-creating the magic? Why?

Rating: 93

Bowmore 15 Year Old Laimrig

Bowmore Laimrig
Distillery/Brand: Bowmore | Region: Islay | ABV: 53.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge fan of Oloroso finishes. Not because I don’t like Oloroso but I feel that some less than stellar whisky makers tend to hide behind it’s bold flavors and use it as a shield to mask their spirit.

However, when it’s done well it can be an absolute treat. And I think it takes special kind of guts (read skill) to harvest the spirit when the Oloroso influence is just right.

And this exactly what the Laimrig does.

Poured out at a cask strength of 53.7% my bottle is 11780 of 18000 making this batch number 3. The first batch was a run of 4500 bottles available only in Sweden. I don’t know why. The second batch was 15000 bottles and literally flew off the shelves. This one is a larger run and I suspect flew off even faster.

Matured for 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels and then a year in ex-Oloroso this is a beautifully balanced dram.

Nose: As one would expect from Oloroso maturation. Chocolate. Burnt orange peel. Dark rum bananas sprinkled with cinnamon. Dark figs, raisins, cherries with a hint of peat and dry spicy leather.

Palate: Chocolate fudge with sweet cinnamon and dark honey. Woody molasses. Dry honey. Dry spices. I like that it does not fight with water. A few drops will open up it’s sweeter profiles and make the delivery more creamy.

Finish: Long. Dry. Spicy honey on wood.

Brilliantly crafted spirit. Love it!

Rating: 93

Glendronach 15 Year Revival Sherry Cask

Glendronach 15

Distillery/Brand: GlenDronach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Color: Young Sauternes

Nose: 21 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

Glendronach seem to have a cult following. I follow their page on Facebook and can see the intensity and the passion that the fans have for it. And I think that’s fair. It is a wonderful distillery with some very special releases. Their single casks are a stuff of legend, though, I feel that their core range could do with a bit of a lift.

This 15 year old sherry bomb has quite a reputation and even before I started writing anything about it I posted a pic of it on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page. The response was immediate and quite flattering.

But do I think this one is the stuff of legends? Well, not really.

Nose: I think I can sniff out the Oloroso Sherry cask from a mile away. It is so strong and meaty that there can be no doubt. Once the black salts fade away you are greeted with a black pepper rum and fudge cake liberally sprinkled with chopped pistachios and cardamom seeds. Oxidization brings out red wine tannins and black raisins. I think the Oloroso overpowers and doesn’t let the malt speak.

Palate: Chocolate and mocha form the base of this delivery. They are then layered with black peppercorns, cinnamon and cardamom pods. Once again quite thick and chewy with the Oloroso.

Finish: Creamy long with cinnamon.

I like this whisky but I think the sherry is far too overbearing in all aspects. I would have liked to see a more measured sherry finish because I feel the base malt is quite good. But maybe that’s what the people want. And I’ve seen enough fans to prove that.

Oh well…

Rating: 86

Bowmore 15 Year Old – Darkest


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

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

I initially had a rocky relationship with this distillery, having sampled some less than stellar expressions earlier on in my quest as a malt enthusiast. Luckily a friend of mine, who has an obsession with this single malt, insisted I keep trying.

Good call.

This 15 year old was finished in Oloroso sherry for three years after spending the first twelve in bourbon barrels.

Nose: Quite dry like autumn potpourri and crushed leaves. The strong Oloroso sherry is remarkably balanced with a nice dark chocolate and treacle mix. Red wild berries covered in black salt are next followed by a nice woody vanilla and rustic raisins.

Palate: Medium bodied delivery which at first sip seems a bit weak but gathers steam as your palate plays with it. Fresh red berries on dark salt strewn over a plank of cedar cinnamon vanilla. Finally tasty autumn fruits with a touch of peaty smoke.

Finish: Medium long with slightly drying clove.

This is a solid malt which one can drink without being too overwhelmed. And I mean that in a good way.

Rating: 88

Johnnie Walker Green Label


Distillery/Brand: Johnnie Walker
Region: Scotland
ABV: 43%
Color: Sunlight

Nose: 23
Taste: 22
Finish: 24
Balance: 22

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.

Rating: 91

Nikka Miyagikyou 15


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

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

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

Macallan Fine Oak 15


Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Pale Gold

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

I’ve been on a recent quest of collecting Macallans ever since I met (and interviewed) their highly likable whisky maker Bob Dalgarno. And the real reason I truly appreciate the Fine Oak series is because I know first-hand what goes into creating these exceptional whiskies.

The Macallan nose is what Speyside is built on and this 15 year old stays true to that. First a bowl of white melon and vanilla pods drizzled with a lovely golden syrup. Then a delicate garnish of lavender petals with a touch of clove. Finally a sprinkle of soft chopped nuts.

The palate continues it’s journey of sweet honey but this time with a touch of lemon, barley and cloves. However, the white pepper is a smidge too strong for my liking.

The finish is strong and dry with a nice clove after taste.

Rating: 89