Aberfeldy 21 Year Old

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Distillery/Brand: Aberfeldy | Region: Highland | ABV: 40% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
The Aberfeldy 21 was one of the first few whiskies I bought early on. Don’t really know why other than it seemed fairly affordable for a 21 year old whisky and I believe it was generally rated quite high among critics.

What do I personally think of Aberfeldy? I don’t, actually. I’ve had the 12 year old at a bar somewhere and was completely unmoved. I had this one sitting on my shelf for the longest time and was completely unmotivated to open it.

Aberfeldy, owned by Bacardi, is the largest component of malts to go into the Dewars blend which would explain it’s 3.5 million litre annual spirit output.

The distillery itself puts out three single malts as part of it’s original bottles: the 12, 18 and the 21 with the rest going into blends or snapped up by independents.

This 21 year old from the Highland region has been finished off in sherry casks having spent a large part of it’s life in both first and second-fill bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a weakish 40%

Nose: Honey. Heather. Malt. Fruits. Soft apricots. Poached apples. The tiniest of toasted oak. Puff pastry. Sliver of dough. Eucalyptus. Let it breathe and it mellows. Now more floral. Heathery. Oranges. It’s a nice enough nose. 22/25

Palate: Quite thin. Takes time to evolve. But then comes around nicely. Oranges. Butterscotch. Vanilla. Red apples. That same toasted oak as on the nose. Chew it a while to get some purple fruits. Decent. 22/25

Finish: Lingers. Quite dry. Woody. Hint of spice. Betel leaf. 21/25

Overall comments: It’s very hard to rate a whisky like this. It didn’t offer me the complexity that I was looking for nor offer me anything unusual, to be honest. And maybe that’s the reason it does well in a blend.

I have to understand that not everyone is looking for fireworks when it comes to their whiskies. Some just like to keep things simple.

And that’s exactly what this whisky is.

Rating: 87

Macallan Sienna

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Distillery/Brand: Macallan | Region: Highland | ABV: 43% | Colour: Pale Straw
Nose: 20 | Taste: 19 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 79

Review
I have had the pleasure of sitting across Mr Bob Dalgarno, the famed Macallan Whisky Maker, for an interview and a subsequent tasting and I have to admit I was left with nothing but admiration for the man.

The painstaking process he undergoes to ensure that all his whiskies are created from careful barrel selection and put together to maintain consistency in taste and color is truly an art form.

Which is why I’m pretty sure it was the sales and marketing team and not Bob him self who felt that the right way forward for Macallan was to base their entry level whiskies on the basis of color.

Stupidest thing I’ve heard in my life.

They spend an entire lifetime trying to tell people that color means nothing, and it does not. Then they come and do the exact opposite because they’ve run out of ideas to market their whiskies by convincing people that darker whiskies are better whiskies.

Look I know stocks are dwindling. Whisky makers and blenders have to start innovating and thinking of new ways to market their whiskies to travel retail. I get that. But to take something as superfluous as color as a sign of quality is surely a great disservice to the patrons of the industry, is it not?

Oh, well. The Bentley needs regular maintenance doesn’t it?

This 1824 travel retail series has four color expressions – Gold, Amber, Sienna & Ruby – each one darker than the previous one. Each one more expensive than the previous one.

The Sienna (the second most-expensive and second darkest whisky in the range) is, obviously, a Non Age Statement and is a mix of first and second fill sherry casks from Jerez. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 43%

Nose: Butter. Sherry. Nutmeg. Raisins. Hint of oak. Touch mossy. Like bung cloth. Let it sit and the vanilla comes through. Sponge cake. Cinnamon. Green apples. Touch of chocolate. Light hay. Quite a non-descript nose. Starts off smelling creamy but then thins out a bit. (20/25)

Palate: Medium bodied. Oily. Tastes of raw spirit a little. Cake. Nutmeg. Coffee. Those green apples again. Vanilla. Nutmeg. Hint of oak. Sherry. Dark fruits. It’s not the best palate I’ve tasted. Something raw and harsh about it even after 30 minutes of breathing. (19/25)

Finish: Absolutely nothing at first. Pufffff and gone. Very flat. But comes back after a while. Slowly warms your chest cavity and your mouth. Cocoa beans. Coffee. Quite malty. (20/25)

Overall Comments: I guess there’s two types of people. The 99% that are reasonably fond of whisky and not very judgemental or critical. And that’s fine and I hold nothing against them. Then there’s you and me who get upset because this once great brand has resorted to cheap tactics like this. I get it. Greatness can’t be purchased at the duty free. But it still irks me when brands don’t even try.

Rating: 79

Glenmorangie Companta

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Distillery/Brand: Glenmorangie | Region: Highland | ABV: 46% | Colour: Old Sauternes
Nose: 18 | Taste: 18 | Finish: 17 | Balance: 15 | Rating: 68

Review
Now let me tell you this. I first heard of sulphur in whiskies from Jim Murray a few years ago and he made such huge deal about it that I was literally looking over my shoulder to see when sulphur would attack.

But then as I kept tasting ‘tainted’ whiskies I couldn’t really tell if they were truly sulphured or not. Jim certainly seemed to think so but I wasn’t too sure. Then after doing some research I found out that you had to be genetically inclined to be sensitive to sulphur and more than a third of the worlds’ population was not so.

I, therefore, assumed that I was one of the third and if I could not detect sulphur then so be it. In fact I was kind of glad. What spoilt whiskies for some would have no effect on me.
That is, until now.

After sitting for a month in an open bottle with no hint of anything sulphured (even though Jim in his 2015 Bible murdered this expression) I took it out to finally write this review.

This was an absolute disaster. What seemingly tasted decent when first opened had taken on the air of a spent canon. So strong was the sulphur that I barely had the chance to identify anything else.

OK, enough about the sulphur. Here is some info on what this whisky constitutes.

Vatting of standard 9 year-old ex-bourbon Glenmorangie finished for 5 years in red Grand Cru Burgundy wine casks from Clos de Tart (from Pinot Noir grapes), with a similar 10 year-old Glenmorangie finished for 8 years in a sweet fortified wine from Cotes du Rhone called Rasteau, made from Grenache grapes. The vatting contains 60% of the first, and 40% of the second.

My sample is from an open bottle and served at 46%

Nose: Underneath the flint, gunsmoke and spent matches there is some chocolate and red grapes. But that is all lost to the spectacular smell of a grand fireworks display.

Palate: I couldn’t finish this dram. Something metallic coated my mouth and would not let go.

Finish: Metallic.

I am really shocked at how this whisky had turned after a month oxidizing. The sulphur, I guess, was always there and just needed a bit of air to bring it out.

At least now I know I am part of the two-thirds majority that can smell sulphur. And I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Rating: 68

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

Review
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

Review
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

Review
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

Review
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