Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch 1

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Distillery/Brand: Glengoyne | Region: Highland | ABV: 58.7% | Colour: Full Gold
Nose: 23 | Palate: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22
Strength: 25 | Variety: 22 | Quality: 21 | Harmony: 22
Final Score: 89

I may have mentioned this before but Glengoyne was one of my very first purchases when I started discovering single malts. Luckily for me it was the 21 year old that I was getting flogged.

I remember having a taste and thinking ‘Bloody hell! What have I been missing all these years?’ That bottle was soon gone and I picked up another for a rainy day.

Since then Glengoyne has been quite a dependable distillery for me. They mature everything in sherry and I have to give them props for the way they source their casks.

They cut down oak trees in Spain and make their own casks which are then dumped with Oloroso. Twenty eight months later, after emptying out the sherry, the casks are then shipped to the Highlands for use at Glengoyne.

This NAS cask strength replaces the earlier 10 year old cask strength version. It is a blend of first and re-fill sherry casks bottled at 58.7%. My sample is from a brand new bottle.

Nose: Damp earth. Wet autumn leaves. Bitter chocolate. Spicy oak. Red wine tannins. Black pepper. Cinnamons. Dates. Dark plums. Gets crisp over time. The dampness goes and settles into something floral and a touch spicy. Like sandalwood. And nutmeg. 23/25

Palate: Full bodied mouth feel. Cinnamon. Heavy chocolate. Oak. Tannins. Dark plums. Bitter chocolate. Gets quite savory mid-palate. Cocoa beans. Quite an aggressive attack without being nasty. 22/25

Finish: Long. Oily. Cinnamon. 22/25

Balance: 22/25

Strength: Full marks for strength as it comes at you all guns blazing. 25/25

Variety: The Oloroso brings a nice bouquet of flavors but could have done more. 21/25

Quality: Some rough edges. Not a lot, though. But there. 21/25

Harmony: Works well with all the flavors. 22/25

Rating: 89

Stronachie 10

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Distillery/Brand: Benrinnes | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 86

I was on a bit of a shopping spree when I came across this funny sounding whisky. What’s a Stronachie? I asked my self. Never heard of it. Tried to do a bit of research but there was precious little.

After much digging I managed to unearth some facts. Independent bottlers AD Rattray wanted to re-create spirit from a closed distillery and decided to go with Stronachie, a Highland distillery closed sometime in 1904.

However, rather than actually create a unique spirit (like how Richard Paterson did for the Mackinlay or how The Lost Distillery Company does with it’s Stratheden, Gerston and Auchnagie) AD Rattray figured that the spirit over at Benrinnes Distillery was the closest to what Stronachie would have tasted like.

So, in essence, this is simply a 10 year old Benrinnes bottled by AD Rattray under the Stronachi name.

Oh, well.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Citrus. Malt butter. Pineapple. Touch of dough. Hint of oak. Custard. Chocolate. Floral. It’s quite fresh. Delicate. Lingers. Some turmeric. Gets more malty with water. More floral. Some musk. Black salt.

Palate: Quite thin prickly delivery. White pepper. Citrus. Custard apple. Pears. Fruity. Becomes slightly bitter mid-palate. Oak. Bourbon. Chocolate. Herbs. Vanilla. Mellows with some water. The spices fade.

Finish: Long. Lingering. Some spice. Oak. Citrus.

This one is quite understated. No real fireworks here. Wasn’t sure what to expect. One dimensional at best. Not entirely bad. Great value for money, though.

Rating: 86

Brora 35 Years (1977)

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Distillery/Brand: Brora | Region: Highland | ABV: 49.9% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Brora. The elusive spirit that is fast becoming unobtainable for ordinary mortals like me. Each year Diageo unveils a Special Release of old stock Brora lying around at a price which, if my only child was kidnapped, I would be unable to pay the equivalent amount in ransom.

But that’s OK. If that’s where the industry is headed then so be it. I’ll simply contend my self with a 3cl sample just to satisfy my curiosity.

Not because I’m curious to see what it is that costs so much but that I genuinely like a Brora. Not that I’ve drunk a truckload of them but when ever I’ve drunk one I’ve enjoyed it. I think the flavor profile is truly original.

I have an unopened 30 year old bottled in 2010 which looks very tasty. But given where the prices are going I might hold on to that for a while. Let’s see.

So the dram in my hand is part of the famed 2013 Special Release from Diageo. The 35 year old spirit was distilled in 1977 and is a mix of re-fill American and European oak. It is bottled at a cask strength of 49.9%. I suspect another 10 years and it would not have remained whisky any longer.

Nose: Mild peat. Perfumed wood. White grapes. Pears. Berries. Chenin Blanc. Jute bag. Clove. Rice husk. Digestive biscuits. Green lime. Vanilla. Very strong nose. Stays assertive. Let this one breathe for as long as you like. It stays true and refuses to waiver. Quite remarkable even if not overly complex.

Palate: Quite sprightly. Burnt wood. Citrus. Butterscotch. Juicy apples. Pears. Stewed fruits. Berries. And that mild peat again. The medium bodied delivery is very nice. Quite juicy. Makes you salivate. There’s a hint of spice but that dissipates quickly amongst the fruit basket.

Finish: Long. Oily. Iodine. Hint of spice. White melon. Oak.

Once again this is a very tasty beverage. The 35 years have been manipulated quite expertly. There is not a wrong note any where. My only criticism would be that it’s not as complex as I would want it to be. But that’s OK.

Sometimes beauty lies in simplicity.

Rating: 91

Glengoyne 21 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glengoyne | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22

I bought my first Glengoyne a while ago and it was part of the first batch of single malts I bought to start my collection. I remember looking at the bottle and the color of the spirit inside and knowing instantly that this was going to be something special.

It was of course this wonderful 21 year old.

The first one I tasted was part of the older labeling and was a 2009/2010 bottling. The one I’m writing about now is from the new look bottle and is a 2013/2014 bottling.

The label and the look may have changed but the craft certainly hasn’t. Though I remember enjoying the earlier bottling a bit more.

Glengoyne pride themselves on having the slowest distilling process in all of Scotland; a method they believe extracts the best flavors. The new make spirit is distilled at around 5 liters per minute which allows longer contact with copper and therefore optimal absorption of sulfides while accentuating esters and aldehydes resulting in a smoother spirit.

I’d have to agree given the texture and taste of this 21 year old matured exclusively in European Sherry casks. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Cinnamon. Chocolate fudge. Black peppers. Figs. Raisins. Christmas cake. Eggnog. Mens’ cologne. Prunes. It’s a warm and comforting nose. The sherry is deft and the spices brilliantly balanced against the sweet.

Palate: Maple syrup. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Nuts. Chocolate fudge cake. Christmas cake. The nose translates quite nicely on to the palate. Though, I might have liked a few more percentage points of alcohol. Just to bring up the intensity of the flavors.

Finish: Long-ish. Oily. Big cinnamon. Black pepper. Oak. Tobacco leaf.

I’m pretty sure earlier bottlings were better but this is still a might fine dram.

Rating: 90

Glen Garioch 1997 Vintage

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Distillery/Brand: Glen Garioch | Region: Highland | ABV: 56.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

My first Glen Garioch (pronounced Geeree By the way – don’t ask me why) was a 1797 Founders Reserve. I thought it was OK. Nothing to really excite me. Pleasant enough without being marvelous and I think that’s fine. I just place far too many expectations on every whisky I try for the first time I feel.

My second Glen Garioch is this 1997 Vintage (bottled 2012) at a lovely cask strength of 56.7%. This is more to my liking. I think the higher strength manages to shift the delicate flavors I remembered from the 1797 Founders Reserve into a higher gear here.

Glen Garioch, like Glenrothes, prefer to put vintages on their whiskies rather than age. I actually prefer that over the age statement (and definitely over the No Age Statement!). Tell me when it was distilled and bottled and let me do the math, thank you very much. The more information you give me the more I will be interested in your product.

This particular expression was distilled in 1997 (sorry, no month mentioned here) and bottled in 2012 and is batch no 12 (I’ll leave you to do the math). A travel retail exclusive at 56.7%.

Nose: Lots of wood. Tropical fruits. Jack fruit. Banana. Yellow pears. Pecan nuts. Reminds me of pancakes. Strawberry jam. Aniseed. Honey. This one is completely unsmoked. I remember the 1797 have a wisp but not this one. Very fruity. Very estery.

Palate: That banana. So strong. Honey. Nuts. White pepper. Soft chocolate caramel. The tropical fruits are back. Soft apricots. Pears. Oak. Confident mouthfeel and I feel the high ABV accentuates all the flavors.

Finish: Long. White pepper. Black licorice. Toffee.

I think this is quite a nice single malt. One of the more fruity ones I have come across of late. I think my interest in this distillery has been piqued.

Rating: 89

Glengoyne Teapot Dram Batch 3

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Distillery/Brand: Glengoyne | Region: Highland | ABV: 59.4% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 89

Everyone loves a story. Though in today’s day and age of whisky there seem to be plenty abound disguising cheap marketing ploys and PR stunts. All in the hope of catching the consumers’ eye.

But every now and then comes along a tale that makes you nod your head with a wry smile. Reminding you, yet again, of the romance that was once part of this noble art.

For a century and a half Glengoyne would allow three large drams a day for all workers on duty. The brewer would choose a new cask every week from which to draw the drams.

Workers would gather in the staff canteen at 9am, noon and at 3pm to collect their three fingers worth of cask strength spirit – the three fingers normally belonging to the chubbiest man.

Since not everyone had the capacity to withstand three extremely large drams of cask strength whisky by mid-day the weak among the lot would dispose off their share in a large copper bashed teapot. It was from here that the more seasoned of workers would be able to enjoy a little extra at the end of the day.

And, thus, was born the story of the Teapot Dram and the inspiration behind this expression. Never has a story of corporate alcoholism sounded so endearing.

Matured exclusively in 5 Oloroso Sherry Butts (each aged for around 12 years) and a Hogshead (aged for around 8 years) this is the third edition in the series and served up at a cool 59.4%.

Nose: Malt. Intense dark fruits. Rum topf. Clove. Cinnamon. Oaky chocolate. Fudge brownies. Dark brown sugar. Black raisins. As one would expect from exclusive Oloroso influence. I like it because it manages to walk the fine line between sherry bomb and WTF.

Palate: Super intense. Clove. Black peppers. Maple syrup. Cigar. Dark honey and chocolate. Sprinkle of black salt. Very tough to hold on your palate for long. Benefits from literally a couple of drops of water.

Finish: Long. Woody cinnamon with spices.

This is a nice dram. Not as good as the Batch 2 if I remember correctly. Not sure why. But I love the inspiration behind it and for that I will give it an extra point.

Rating: 89

Macallan 18 Year Old Fine Oak

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

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Macallans’ reclusive Mr Bob Dalgarno and came away immensely impressed with his humility and his considerable skill as a whisky maker.

The Fine Oak series is his baby and I recall him telling me that after the Sherry Oak all eyes were on him to come up with a new type of expression. His idea was something that would drastically change the way Macallan matured it’s spirit. Traditionally using only sherry casks the Fine Oak range uses ex-Bourbon, ex-European Sherry and ex-American Sherry casks.

The experiment paid off and catapulted both Bob and Macallan into whisky royalty. Now only third behind Glenfiddich in global single malt sales Macallan deservedly enjoys its place as the malt to be seen with.

Using only 16% of the spirit cut for maturation I guess one could begin to understand the price tag this whisky demands. Unlike other ‘premium’ status symbol whiskies (like Blue Label) which the connoisseur will avoid Macallan manages to walk the fine line between consistent quality and packaged prestige.

Before I share my notes let me tell you this 18 year old is quite possibly the smoothest delivery you will ever experience in your life.

Nose: Dark jam. Marmalade. Cinnamon. Dry fruits. Almonds. Malt. Crisp grass. Melted butter. Vanilla. Honeycomb. And the richest of sherries. Quite a lovely nose.

Palate: As I let the spirit cascade into my mouth my eyes actually widened at the unexpectedly smooth texture. On the sweeter side the flavors are perfectly balanced. Light honey. Marmalade. Very mild peppers. Oranges. Vanilla. Figs. Prunes. And that luxurious sherry yet again. Brilliant.

Finish: Medium. Touch of oaky fruitcake.

Bob is a gifted individual and a passionate one at that. And this 18 year old is testament to that.

Rating: 93

Old Pulteney Duncansby Head Lighthouse

Old Pulteney Duncansby Lighthouse
Distillery/Brand: Old Pulteney | Region: Highland | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

This is the second installment of the latest Old Pulteney Travel Retail series to hit the Duty Free shelves after the WK editions. I’ve just finished writing a review for the Noss Head Lighthouse so I used up all my Old Pulteney preamble there. Basically all I want to say is the three expressions are named after Lighthouses.

I guess their marketing department needed a story so they simply looked out the window and, I’m guessing, saw three lighthouses.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. Maybe a bit lazy. Because what’s next? They’ve done boats. Now lighthouses. That leaves lifesavers. Right? Anyway, I’ll let the marketing department take care of that.

The Duncansby Head Lighthouse is second of the series and is matured in ex-Bourbon and ex-Spanish sherry casks. I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s basically the same spirit as the Noss Head Lighthouse (which has been matured exclusively in ex-Bourbon barrels) finished off in sherry casks. I could be wrong but there’s too many similarities between the two.

Though not mentioned I’m assuming the sherry is Oloroso (please correct me if I’m wrong!).

Here’s the official blurb about the Duncansby Head Lighthouse on the OP website:

Featuring a coral red label and tube, the eye catching packaging depicts an image of Duncansby Head lighthouse. Situated near to John O’Groats at the very northern tip of Scotland, the lighthouse protected a dangerous part of the Pentland Firth where the Atlantic waters flow into the North Sea.

Nose: Damp chocolate. Cake. Assorted nuts. Vanilla. Coconut (oil). Beans. Cabbage leaves. Dark dry raisins. Hint of peat? The nose smells familiar. I think it’s the ex-sherry treatment which I find across so many expressions. It’s not bad, mind you. Just get a sense of ‘been there, done that.’

Palate: Chocolate. Lemon and black pepper. Natural caramel on mixed fruit sweets. Coffee powder. It’s not bad. Just lacks the complexity that was needed to elevate it a bit.

Finish: Decently long. Cinnamon. Mocha.

Not a bad whisky by any standards. But not challenging enough.

Rating: 87

Glenglassaugh 36 Years (1975)

Glenglassaugh 36

Distillery/Brand: Glenglassaugh | ABV: 43% | Region: Highland | Color: Deep Gold
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94

I had the pleasure of meeting Stuart Nickerson (MD of Glenglassaugh) almost two years ago when he decided to visit my neck of the woods. I remember him to be an extremely humble person who was immensely proud of the whiskies he was sharing with us that day.

Among some stunning whiskies (which included a 39 year old Massandra Connection) was this beautiful 36 year old single cask – part of the Rare Cask series.

Basically the distillery got shut down in 1986 and only re-opened it’s doors after 22 years in 2008. This meant that there was a lot of stock lying around waiting to be bottled and this 1975 distilled spirit was part of it. Aged for 36 years it saw light in 2010 and was presented in a gorgeous decanter, complete with certificate of authenticity and a red wooden box. Interestingly the bottle states ‘Aged over 30 Years’ instead of giving the exact age.

But what is truly remarkable is that the sample I write about now is about two years old from a bottle (decanter) that was 90% empty. As I poured my self a small dram I expected the worst. Sitting for two years in the back of my closet I was sure oxygen had done it’s best to destroy the spirit inside.

But that was not to be.

Nose: There is first the slightest hint of peat which immediately gets lost in a beautifully layered fruit salad where there is a more than proportionate share given to mangoes and passion fruit. There is a delicate orange marmalade and red berry mix to make the nose even more exotic. I am not sure if this particular spirit has seen a sherry cask but I detected some.

Palate: So creamy and velvety. Lots of passion fruit and then a surprisingly late arrival of nutty spices. Rounded off with a sweet lemon tart citrus coat.

Finish: Comes back up for your second surprise and lingers with delicate spice.

This must be one skillfully crafted malt because two years of non-stop oxidization failed to make a dent in it’s beautiful personality. At around 500GBP a bottle this is not your every day whisky.

But I sure wish it was!

Rating: 94

Glenmorangie Astar

Glenmorangie Astar

Distillery/Brand: Glenmorangie | Region: Highland | ABV: 57.1% | Color: Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

The Astar is a beautiful example of a wood-driven designer whisky. It is made from ‘slow growth, air seasoned, heavily toasted, lightly charred, ex-bourbon American oak barrels’.

It doesn’t have an age statement but is in the 9-10 year range. It certainly has more character than the standard 10 – thanks both in part to higher ABV and the careful selection of very good oak.

Apparently newer 10 year olds have a lot of this Aster type liquid in it to give it that extra edge. So that should be something interesting to look forward to.

And if you prefer your Glenmorangie without any fancy wine finishes then this dram is the one for you.

Nose: Immediate lemon sharpness softened by warm butterscotch hard-boiled sweets. Lots of honey vanilla on fruit cake with a sprinkle of almonds. It’s quite a sweet treat as the fig and raisin trifle comes through quite strongly as well.

Palate: Raisin sweet at first and then the white spices. Honey with lots of fruits; mainly papaya. Nuts. And freshly baked Danish butter biscuits.

Finish: Long with tropical fruit spiciness to it.

This is a gorgeous dram and sits well among it’s peers.

Rating: 92