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

Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Caribbean Rum Finish

Glenfiddich 21

Distillery/Brand: Glenfiddich | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
Now here’s another distillery that is owed a lot by single malt snobs all over the world. Thanks to Glenfiddich, and their enormous marketing budgets, the world has some idea of what single malts are.

This interest keeps the industry alive and allows nerds like me to savor the fruits (or should I say nectar?) of this labour of love.

Now I’m not saying Glenfiddich are only popular on the back of the marketing dollar (unlike other distilleries). No. In fact they are one of the only mass produced whiskies with a truly remarkable level of quality and craftsmanship. Their core range and recent experiments are all extremely competent.

Which brings me to this 21 Year Old Caribbean Rum Cask finish. Had at a tasting recently this is a wonderfully crafted expression. After spending close to 20 years in bourbon barrels it has been finished in rum casks from Sancti Spiritus in Cuba for period of 5 to 9 months.

The result is pure toffee.

Nose: Toffee. Lots of it. A lot of bananas, apricots and blood oranges. All smeared with toffee. Chocolate fudge cake with dates sealed in a box of Quality Street. Hint of salt with a touch of ginger.

Palate: Smooth and creamy delivery of dates and cherry liqueur. The ginger is back and it’s grated on top of the toffee bananas. Finally black pepper on Quality Street with a hint of mint. This is a super robust delivery.

Finish: The woody chocolate peppers are long and true.

A fantastic dram that holds aloft the brightly burning torch that is Glenfiddich.

Rating: 92

Brora 18 – 1981 Signatory

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Distillery/Brand: Brora
Region: Highland
ABV: 43%
Color: Sunlight

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

Review
This is the first ever Brora I have ever tasted, although, I have a couple of original bottles stashed in my bar for a momentous occasion. I have always been fascinated with this distillery given it’s consistently well-reviewed bottles; original or independent.

Now I’m a bit wary of independents given the uncertainty of flavor one may find in various bottlings. However, I seem to have struck gold with this little sample.

Picked up as a 5cl mini from an auction site this 1981 Signatory bottling of this 18 year old spirit (matured in a sherry butt #1081) is an absolute class act. I have never experienced a nose change so dramatically as this (especially after being left to breathe for over an hour).

Nose: Immediately good quality sherry. Not so much from the color, mind you, but the first nose is unmistakable sherry with a dash of peat. Extremely fresh and extremely sweet. Like a hard-boiled butterscotch sweet smothered in grass. The sweet perfumed citrus is next covered in a dollop of honey and delicately smoked piece of vanilla wood. Quite glorious.

Leaving it breathe for an hour turned the nose on it’s head. It took on a peculiar supermarket aisle quality – fresh grains in a jute bag surrounded by detergent and cleaning liquids. I’m not sure where that came from but it was a huge surprise to see the nose change so much. It wasn’t bad, mind you. I was just taken aback, that’s all. This is probably one of the most complex and multi-layered noses I have ever come across.

Palate: There’s brittle honey and dark sugar with just the right amount of smoke. The butterscotch re-enters the fray only this time with a sprig of mint and a squeeze of citrus in it’s corner. The extended oxidization gave the spirit a lovely lemon sponge cake quality. Quite homely.

Finish: The long dry finish is quite woody with vanilla drops on cinnamon.

I had built up the Brora in my head and this independent offering managed to, not only prevent me from disappointment, but further fueled my curiosity about this great lost distillery.

Rating: 93

Compass Box The Spice Tree

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Distillery/Brand: Compass Box
Region: Highland
ABV: 46%
Color: Young Sauternes

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

Review
Compass Box has served me well. I love their packaging. I feel they are a solid independent that produce very innovative and flavorful blends. And I had been looking forward to tasting this particular offering for a while now.

However, what I love more than the malt itself is the wonderful story behind it. When they first introduced this expression in 2005 they did it on the basis of an interesting experiment.

Using 100% malts from the Northern Highlands – mainly Clynelish – all around 10 years old they re-racked the spirit in their own customized casks.

Customized, you ask? Well, this is what they did.

Using 195 year old French Oak (heavily toasted and air dried for two years) they crafted inner staves which they fitted inside used barrels, therefore, extending the life of an otherwise useless barrel.

The result? The first edition of The Spice Tree which ended up winning rave reviews and awards. Unfortunately, the Scotch Whisky Association decided this was illegal and rather than get into a tiff Compass Box decided to suspend production in 2006.

But they had another trick up their sleeve. Instead of using staves second time around they decided to, instead, manufacture heavily toasted cask heads from the same French Oak used in the first edition. Suck on that SWA!

Nose: Hint of peat on a lovely orange marmalade spread. Quite sweet with an almost fortified white wine quality to it. Soft brown raisins. But of course, as the name suggests, the multitude of spices are what sets this one apart. Ginger, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg all feature quite strongly on the nose. The French Oak in play here.

Palate: Creamy mouthfeel with a lovely citrusy sweetness to it. Must be all that Clynelish. The spicy cloves and ginger bits are at home amid the limestone sweetness of the warm brown chocolates and butterscotch raisins.

Finish: Lovely and long with an oily wooden spice.

This is quite a spectacular malt by any standards and well worth sinking your teeth into.

Rating: 92