Chivas Regal 18 First-Fill Bourbon Cask Finish

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Distillery/Brand: Chivas | ABV: 48% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
I’m a big fan of the Chivas 18. Good solid travel retail whisky which still comes at a relatively decent price tag (compared to the absolute madness that is going on in this world!).

I’ve also attended a couple of tasting sessions of the 18. One where they broke down the different whiskies that became part of the blend and another super interesting one which compared different ways of drinking it.

So it was a nice surprise when my mate picked this particular release from the Duty Free. Called the Ultimate Cask Collection (I assume there will be more) it has been finished off in first-fill American Oak, non-chill filtered and served at quite a decent ABV of 48%.

My sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Oak. Toasty oak. Malt. Licorice. Quite floral. Vanilla. Cinnamon. Chocolate. Coconut. Barley. Nice strong sherry. Really like this nose even if it’s a touch uncomplicated. The higher ABV makes the aromas stand out more. I like it. 23/25

Palate: Nice and creamy mouthfeel. Quite robust. A little spicy. That coconut again. Dark honey. Cinnamon. All spice. Butterscotch. Almonds. Licorice. Whisp of smoke. Fudge cake. Really really liking the palate on this one. It’s quite wonderful and the texture makes it feel quite rich. 23/25

Finish: Long. Caramel. All spice. Nice. 23/25

Overall Comments: Well, what can I say? Pernod Ricard seem to have taken a quality product and made it a little better. Nice to see them keep their ear to the ground and come up with a higher ABV and non-chill filtered product. Plus the finish really does the whisky well. It’s a bit on the expensive side, mind you, but if you’re rich then you won’t mind.

Rating: 92

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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

Review
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

Glenmorangie 18 Years

Glenmorangie 18

Distillery/Brand: Glenmorangie | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94

Review
Glenmorangies rate consistently high on my scale and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. It’s generally year after year of solid whiskies even if they’re putting out experimental wood finishes like the recent Burgundy, Madeira and Sherry offerings.

I was, though, a touch disappointed with both the Ealanta and the Companta but only because I expected them to knock me out. However, I am told they need to be revisited some time after opening them so maybe that opinion changes as well.

Ok enough chit chat and on to, what is truly a scrumptious dram, The Glenmorangie 18. It’s my first time tasting this and all those who call it the stuff of legends, well, they’re bang on.

Now I’m not a huge fan of Oloroso Sherry maturation largely because it has a tendency to overshadow the actual spirit if left long enough. And I suspect it is a trick oft used to mask otherwise substandard spirit. I won’t point fingers at anyone but there’s a certain well known distillery that’s made a fortune out of doing that. You know who you are.

However, the Oloroso Sherry here is used so expertly that it transforms the beautiful American Oak spirit into a gorgeous sherried dram.

And how it’s done is a testament to poise and control.

Once the spirit has spent fifteen years maturing in American white oak casks approximately 30% is transferred into Spanish Oloroso casks to spend a further three years maturing. Then, when both elements have reached 18 years, they are blended together.

The result is a beautifully controlled spirit that hits all the high notes in perfect harmony.

Nose: Delicately floral with lovely sweet candied oranges. Tropical fruits and peach sweets sprinkled with rose water. And the strongest most vibrant of sweet melons I have ever come across.

Palate: Crisp, gorgeous delivery with just the right amount of sherry to pucker up your mouth. Lovely black and white peppers with that sweet melon chocolate. But the fruits are king here. Papaya and passion fruit with a touch of aniseed. Such controlled grace.

Finish: Long chocolate wood spices with a touch of fennel.

This is truly a masterclass in elegance.

Rating: 94

Highland Park 18 Years

HighlandPark 18

Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Island | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 93

Review
I’ve done a review before of the Highland Park 18 but that was back when I didn’t know my peat from a kiln. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way from then. However, what’s true is that I loved it back then and I love it still.

Highland Park routinely use Oloroso Sherry casks to mature their spirit but what gives their spirits it’s unique profile is the peat that they use. Orcadian peat, sourced locally, is predominately compressed herbacious plants and heather (unlike peat from farther south, which is partially formed with tree matter and/or seaweed). The peat character is mild, however, as only 20% of the mashbill comes from Highland Park’s own floor maltings (and of that, only half is peated). The rest is unpeated malt imported from the Scottish mainland

This little dance between heavily sherried casks and lightly peated spirit is what sets their expressions apart from the others.

Nose: The sherry is perfectly balanced against a back drop of green leaves and a touch of delicate peaty smoke. It’s a bit tinny to start off with but that tapers off as you let it breathe a touch. Subtle hints of cereal and juniper berries amid a crush of red grapes. Brilliantly balanced.

Palate: That delicate smoke is back and with it a fine salty creme caramel. Then a cinnamon dusted fennel with an underlying of chocolate spread.

Finish: Long with lovely black pepper and smoked chocolate.

There is probably not a lot that can be said about this malt that has already been said but it certainly needs to be reiterated.

Rating: 93

Glenlivet 18 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
Colour: Pale Straw

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

Review
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.

Solid. Dependable.

Rating: 89

Yamazaki 18

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Distillery/Brand: Suntory Yamazaki
Region: Japan
ABV: 43%
Colour: Deep Gold

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

Review
Suntory is a powerhouse and even when some of their offerings fall short they still manage to stay reasonably north of average. This 18 year expression falls into that range.

The sherried nose is quite nice even though I started to detect a hint of fatigue. Nevertheless the dark chocolate, mocha coffee and strong almond figs make for a decent bouquet of aromas. There are also subtle woody mint overtones. But all of this is rounded off by a peculiar egg yolk note which I can only attribute to sulphur.

The palate is a swirl of honey and maple syrup sprinkled with chocolate rum raisins and finished off with a pinch of banana cinnamon.

The only draw back in this expression is the finish as it leaves a cloying sulphury after taste which is quite dry.

Rating: 87

Talisker 18

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Distillery/Brand: Talisker
Region: Island
ABV: 45.8%
Colour: Pale Straw

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

Review
Ah, yes! Finally some real flavors to sink my teeth into. I had been holding off this classic for a while choosing, instead, to sample some of their newer expressions like the Storm & Port Ruighe, before turning my attention to this gem. While the new expressions from the Skye distillery are doing it no good it’s the classics like this 18 year old that keep the faith alive.

The nose is truly a work of art. First the classic peaty smoke but so distinctly understated. Confident in it’s maturity. The salty pineapple citrus is next coupled with a refined lemon-lime toffee tartness. And finally a whiff of fresh cucumber sprinkled with the loveliest of white pepper. Oh, yes. This is what I had been waiting for!

The creamy mouthfeel is laced with intense black peppers but then mellows out to give you honey, lemon and chocolate with a dash of tobacco.

The long peppery finish is fruity with a hint of limestone.

These are the classic flavors that made Talisker one of my top distilleries and this expression should be on your list of malts to try before you die.

Rating: 95