Berry’s Islay Reserve

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Distillery/Brand: Berry’s
Region: Islay
ABV: 46%
Colour: Sunlight

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

Review
Berry’s (or Berry Bros & Rudd if you like) are a dependable independent bottler responsible for a string of award winning experiments. Including winning Independent Bottler of the Year on multiple occasions.

Which means that this Islay blend was under tremendous pressure to perform. And it looks like it suffered from a case of performance anxiety.

Nose: Hhmmmm is there a Laphroaig in here some where? The mild iodine certainly thinks so. The hardboiled sweets and sea salt come next with a side of cardboard peat. But I feel there is something missing.

Palate: A touch one-dimensional in my opinion. A spicy lemon tartness with a touch of honey and chalky limestone. Is this a Caol Ila mixed in with the Laph? Could very well be.

Finish: Quite spicy though too short for my liking.

It’s half decent. But don’t expect it to blow your socks off.

Review: 85

The Naked Grouse

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Distillery/Brand: Famous Grouse
Region: Scotland
ABV: 40%
Color: Deep Gold

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

Review
This little beauty was slipped in as a mystery malt at a single malt tasting recently and everyone was asked to identify it. My guess was The Macallan which made me only half right!

This is a lovely no-nonsense blend from Famous Grouse using arguably two of the most famous malts in the world – The Macallan & Highland Park. It is so no-nonsense that it doesn’t even have a label choosing, instead, to go ‘naked’ as the name suggests.

Nose: With malts matured in first-fill sherry casks the nose has a really rich and deep sherry influence. Lots of gooey rum topf and fruit cake with a raisin sprinkle followed by dark oranges, prunes and oaky almonds. A Christmas delight!

Palate: Not as delicious as the nose but quite tasty still. Cinnamon sticks on dark fruits and oaky oranges drizzled with a spicy chocolate syrup. I think it could have done with another 6% to really jar the taste buds into ecstacy.

Finish: Quite decent. Not very long but long enough, I suppose. The same dark oranges and spicy cinnamon.

This is a seriously good blend. Not only is it delicious it is an impossibly good deal in todays’ day and age.

Get a case of this (won’t cost you much) and enjoy it for a long long time.

Rating: 90

Sheep Dip

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Distillery/Brand: Sheep Dip
Region: Scotland
ABV: 40%
Color: Sunlight

Nose: 22
Taste: 20
Finish: 20
Balance: 20

Review
So here’s a bit of background. Sheep Dip actually refers to a delousing pesticide used by farmers on their sheep back in the day. As was the practice during those times there was a lot of illicit whisky being made by these guys too.

So every once in a while when the excise officer would visit all the whisky would be hidden in barrels marked SD (Sheep Dip) to throw off said excise nuisance man. Quite a charming story I have to admit.

Richard Paterson, third generation Master Blender, has taken 16 single malts from all parts of Scotland and created this blend and paid homage to all those crafty farmers by naming it Sheep Dip.

Nose: Young and sprightly with a hint of dough and a squeeze of tropical fruits. The freshness continues with some nice cucumbers and celery sprinkled with rock salt. Based on the smell I could drizzle this over a salad as a midsummers’ dressing.

Palate: This is where the promise is broken. Similar tropical fruits and some spice but overwhelmed by something unpleasantly bitter. I let it breathe for a while but it can’t seem to shake that terrible taste.

Finish: Spicy short.

I’m used to being disappointed by Richard Paterson but I had heard decent things about this expression. I guess earlier batches had some good stock. This one, I suspect, might actually have some real sheep dip in it.

Oh well.

Rating: 82

Johnnie Walker Green Label

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

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

Review
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

The Lost Distillery Company – Gerston

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Distillery/Brand: The Lost Distillery Company
ABV: 46%
Colour: Gold

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

Review
So here’s a nifty little trick. Find out which distilleries closed in the last 100 years or so never to open again. Do extensive research and get an understanding of what their malts might have tasted like. Blend some malts together to recreate that whisky. And then proceed to blow me away!

Thank you Lost Distilleries for what you have undertaken for it is nothing short of brilliant!

I will not go into the history of the Gerston Distillery (1796-1882 & 1886-1914) but suffice to say they ran out of business after a good long run. The distillery was located in Halkirk in Caithness – a remote area in the far north of Scotland. So expect a lot of salty and briny peat in the mix.

Nose: Wonderfully sweet with a strong salty peat lash. Some vanilla and tropical fruits in the second breath and then a long lasting rosemary, five spice and thyme combination that stays on for hours and hours. A lovely beam act between sweet and spice.

Palate: The robust spirit is confident in it’s maturity. I am told there are spirits older than 20 years in this bottling. They don’t mention it but I’m told. The chocolate honey is smooth and silky with a smear of spicy plum jam. Really quite well balanced and lovely.

Finish: Satisfyingly long and full of spicy cocoa.

This is a treat to drink and I’m pretty sure the original was no where close to being such a class act.

Rating: 94

Wemyss Peat Chimney 12 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Wemyss
ABV: 46%
Colour: Sunligh

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

Review
This particular expression was third in line at a Wemyss tasting I attended recently. An interesting independent bottler which goes after a particular flavor profile rather than the other way around. And made all the more interesting thanks to the great Charles Maclean at it’s nosing helm.

Nose: The peaty nose has a lot of red apple sweetness sitting on a bed of oaky maple syrup. A quick breath and there is nutmeg and clove in the spice department. Interesting. Pleasant.

Palate: Sweet on the palate too, with it’s clove infused dark chocolate and purple fruits.

Finish: Nice, long cinnamon finish.

Magnificent? No. Pleasantly forgettable? Sure.

Rating: 88

Chivas Century of Malts

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Distillery/Brand: Chivas
Bottling: Chivas Century of Malts
ABV: 43%
Colour: Gold

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

Review
These drink giants are known for their marketing gimmicks and will do anything to get rid of stock lying around. And I was pretty sure this expression with 100 single malts was just that.

I was wrong.

It has a lovely fruity nose with tangerines, honey melon and pomegranate seeds. All clumped together with sticky toffee and candied fruits. Finished off with a touch of wood, fresh cucumbers and a hint of smoke.

The palate has all that the nose had on offer. But with it comes a creamy limestone chocolate quality with a wisp of smoky peat. Very, very nice.

The finish is long and satisfying with a touch of wood and cherry cinnamon.

If this is a gimmick it’s certainly a successful one!

Rating: 92