Amrut Blackadder Raw Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Amrut | Region: India | ABV: 62.3% | Colour: Dark Copper
Nose: 8.8 | Palate: 8.4 | Finish: 8.6 | Overall Score: 8.6

Review
I don’t need to remind anyone of my complete and obvious bias towards Amrut whiskies. Pioneers of fearless whisky making is what they are. They do things to their whiskies that would make the collective Scotch Whisky Association turn in it’s grave. Once it’s dead and buried, of course.

Cask seasoning, multiple flavour staves in one barrel, maturing on different continents – you name it, they’ve done it. They’re the mad scientists of the whisky world except instead of blowing stuff up they make some of the most delicious liquid on the planet.

Aside from their weirdly wonderful experimental expressions are their single cask offerings which are universally quite phenomenal if you ask me. And independent bottler Blackadder seem to think so too. They’ve bottled this sherry cask as part of their Raw Cask series which essentially means that the spirit is drawn straight from the cask without any dilution or filtering. Proof of which you can see in the form of charcoal bits floating in the bottle.

Whisky the way it’s meant to be drunk, I strongly believe.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a scrumptious 62.3%

Nose: Coffee. Lots of it. Tiramisu. Dark chocolate. Burnt caramel. Betel nut. Betel leaf. Starts off sweet then turns savoury. Green cigar leaf. The oak here is solid. Cracking nose this. High-pitched aromas hinting at a young whisky but enough complexity and intensity to keep me entertained. 8.8

Palate: Big. Big. Drying. The oak is the dominant force here. Just about threatens to overwhelm but is pulled back by a late dark chocolate and cinnamon coffee arrival. With water it mellows out a touch. The chocolate is a touch sweeter now and more pronounced. However, overall it remains quite savoury. 8.4

Finish: Huge. Oaky. Drying. Quite spicy. Touch of fruits with a drop of water. 8.6

Overall Comments: Great little whisky this. I don’t expect any less from these guys. My first Blackadder bottle as well and so I’m quite happy to search for new ones. Find it. Drink it.

Overall Score: 8.6

Compass Box Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary

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Distillery/Brand: Compass Box | ABV: 48.9% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 91

Review
As I write this review a few days ago Compass Box launched a much needed transparency campaign. This was basically to get whisky enthusiasts from around the world to sign a petition urging the SWA to allow for greater transparency in this increasingly muddy industry.

While I dutifully did my part we all know what petitions like these really accomplish. A fleeting awareness of the issue followed by vague promises from the powers that be and, well, pretty much nothing after that. Like when everyone signed a petition to get Joseph Kony arrested. Now few even remember who he is.

Though there has been some good to come out of this. Major player Bruichladdich has promised to stand behind Compass Box and promised complete transparency about the Laddie. I can only hope that more brands follow suit and play their part. But that remains to be seen.

What does this have to do with my review? Well, the whole fracas was created thanks to SWA asking Compass Box to take down the recipe for two of their blends, This Is Not A Luxury Whisky & The Flaming Heart 15th Anniversary Edition.

Frankly, I think this whole drama did more good for Compass Box, and these two blends in particular, than the unnamed drinks giant that registered their complaint to the SWA in the first place. I for one couldn’t wait to get my hands on these whiskies and taste for my self what I was not allowed to find out!

And so here we are.

I’m a huge fan of The Flaming Heart and loved the 10th Anniversary Edition and this one is also nothing short of beautiful.

Here are the whiskies that have gone into the mix : 27.1% Caol Ila (re-fill American hogshead), 24.1% Clynelish (rejuvenated American hogshead), 10.3% of an un-named Highland Malt (New French Oak Hybrid Barrel) and 38.5% Caol Ila (from another re-fill American hogshead).

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48.9% ABV

Nose: Lime. Smoke. Touch of peat. Touch of oak. Spicy. Fennel. Green tobacco. Nice and crisp. White melon rind. Quite savory. Some cumin. Like a spice rack. Green grape. Some salt. Fishnets. Green apple. It’s controlled. I can very easily tell where one whisky component starts and the other one ends. And that’s just confirming the art of the master blender. Solid. 23/25

Palate: Sharp. Whisp of smoke. Peat. Salt. Ground coffee beans. Oak. So much coconut. White pepper. Quite drying as it goes mid-palate. Citrus. That lime again. That apple. A little sooty. Quite herbal. Green berries. Once again quite beautifully composed. All the profiles are individually recognisable yet work brilliantly together. 23/25

Finish: Medium to long. Oak. Drying. Sea washed pebbles. And the tiniest hint of something bitter. 22/25

Overall Comments: What can I say? John Glaser has a habit of hitting it out of the park more than any other whisky maker I know. And this is no exception. To take four good quality whiskies and make them simply work. I just wish the finish could have been a touch better for this to be flawless. But I’m happy with what I’ve got.

Rating: 91

Glenugie 1977 Part Des Anges 29 Years Old

Glenugie 1977 part des anges
Distillery/Brand: Glenugie | Region: Highland | ABV: 49.6% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
This is part 3 of three Closed Distillery whiskies that I tasted recently. After tasting the 1979 Glen Albyn and the 1977 Inverleven the third one in this lineup from Part Des Anges was this Glenugie.

Distilled in 1977 this single cask, cask strength is 29 years old. After almost three decades in a barrel it barely squeaked through being an actual whisky. Barely 50% ABV at the time of bottling. Another few years and the ABV would have definitely dropped below 40%

Established in 1831 Glenugie was quite a prolific little single malt distillery and in the late thirties even managed a total overhaul to it’s equipment with oil replacing the coal fires used to operate the stills.

Silent during World War I it resumed distilling soon after but 1983 saw it (and a dozen other distilleries) being mothballed due to extremely high competition and a drop in global demand for single malts.

The distillery has since been demolished.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a cask strength of 49.6%

Nose: Chocolate. Honey. Toffee. Tobacco. Coffee. Oak. Seems like there’s some old school sherry involved here. But given that it’s a single cask may seem unlikely. Though there’s every possibility this may have been re-racked earlier on in it’s maturation. Let it breathe and it mellows out. Lemon. Rock salt. Cherries. Sherry.

Palate: Dark honey. Sherry. Chocolate. Coffee beans. Mint. Lack of literature on this particular expression leaves a lot of room open for interpretation. I’m guessing some Oloroso influence early on in life and then a re-rack into second-fill bourbons. I could be wrong or dead right!

Finish: Oak. Eucalyptus.

I’d say this is another fine whisky from Part Des Anges. The general consensus, when we tasted the three that night, was that all were at par with each other and generally of a high standard.

What was truly amazing was how all three morphed into completely different animals the longer you spent with them.

This will need your undivided attention.

Rating: 89

Mortlach 22 Year Old Maltman

Mortlach Maltman 22
Distillery/Brand: Mortlach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
It’s always exciting to sample a distillery for the first time and I’d had my eyes on Mortlach for a while now. Especially after reading a lot of rave reviews about the 16 year old Flora & Fauna release.

After managing to snag one I went out in search of other Mortlachs only to realize there was no such thing as an original Mortlach. Owned by Diageo this distillery simply produces spirit for the Johnnie Walker blend and, thus, never released as an original single malt.

However, the spirit is so good that independent bottlers routinely buy casks from the distillery to mature and bottle as their own. And this 22 year old Maltman is an example of that.

Owned by Meadowside Blenders Maltman produce a range of award-winning single malts. Run by the father and son team of Donald & Andrew Hart this independent bottler has a solid reputation.

Distilled on March 7, 1990 and bottled April 19, 2012 this 22 year old spirit has spent it’s entire life in a bourbon cask (#1650).

Nose: Crisp barley. Green apples. Melons. White grapes. Vanilla with hints of peat oak. Sugarcane. Ginger. Lemon grass. Very fruity and fresh. A very familiar Speyside nose.

Palate: Those classic Speyside flavors again. Sugarcane. Ginger. Mild lemon. Vanilla. Coconut (husk). Hint of fennel. The medium bodied delivery is strong and confident.

Finish: Medium. Mildy bitter fennel.

These are such classic flavors that there is no way you could not like this whisky.

Rating: 89

The Lost Distilleries Blend – Batch 4

Lost Distilleries Blend Batch4
Distillery/Brand: The Lost Distilleries Blend | ABV: 50.9% | Color: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 20 | Rating: 84

Review
OK. First off. I’m not a whisky snob. I like blends as much as single malts as much as bourbons as much as grain whisky. I do not thumb my nose at anything. If it tastes good it has my approval.

So let’s get that out of the way.

And at the same time I try my hardest not to be influenced by anyone. Be it awards or distinguished whisky critics. The latter being the toughest thing for me.

And so I found it a little hard to put together my review of the multi-award winning, critic loving Lost Distilleries Blend Batch 4.

Master of Malt are fast becoming extremely competent independent bottlers. This includes their Master of Malt bottlings, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, The Secret Distilleries, The Lost Distilleries and not to mention their own Vodka, liqueurs and bitters. So these guys know what they’re doing.

The Lost Distilleries Blend series is, as the name suggests, spirit from closed distilleries put together in a blend. No ages are given and neither are percentage of whiskies inside it. On the face of it I think it’s a brilliant idea. Very marketable.

The batch four includes whiskies from Rosebank, Littlemill, Imperial, Mosstowie, Glen Keith and Port Ellen.

Nose: Very sweet. Overripe mangoes and apricots. Vanilla and chocolate orange with a wisp of smoke (Port Ellen?). Custard. Dry sherry. Hint of wood polish and a sprinkle of very mild green herbs. Smells very Speyside-y to me. In a nice way.

Palate: Spicy. Much too spicy. Almost enough to overpower. I don’t like that. Some mild honey. Orange sponge cake. Apple strudel with cherry on top. But again lop sided spice.

Finish: Long. Mixed fruit salad.

The nose is decent enough. Nothing out of the ordinary that would make me go damn. The palate is simply not in sync for me. The finish is OK.

I really, really tried to like this. Multiple sittings. Letting it breathe for longer. Just didn’t cut it.

What did make a difference was water. A few drops and the bouquet just erupts in an explosion of vanilla. Nothing but vanilla every where. The palate mellow. The custard becomes stronger and sweeter. The finish more fruity.

I’m guessing the panel at the WWA dropped some water in this. But I’m going to have to mark it straight.

Rating: 84

Ardbeg SMWS 33.125 Salted Caramel Lollipop

Ardbeg SMWS Alligator

Distillery/Brand: SMWS | Region: Islay | ABV: 64.2% | Color: Pale Straw

Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 94

Review
I was at an Ardbeg tasting recently and after sampling the Auriverdes (which left a lot to be desired) we were told there was a surprise waiting for us right at the end.

The surprise happened to be an absolutely wonderful bottling of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This one was bottle 33.125 aptly named the Salted Caramel Lollipop. This single cask Ardbeg was seven years old and served up at a delicious 64.2%.

Our host for the evening, an ex-SMWS chap, claimed that the spirit inside was actually a seven year old Ardbeg Alligator which, if true, completely blows my mind!

We’ve been having debates on how hard it is for distilleries to bring out flavors in younger whiskies given the state of high demand and here you have a fledgling powerhouse that delivers a slap in the face of all these claims.

If this really is the Alligator then I’m definitely in love with the younger sister.

Nose: The smoke is upfront and unapologetic. Salty barbecue sausages with a fresh fennel and cucumber salad on the side. For dessert there is a toffee pudding served with a side of citrus orange and pineapple. Sublime.

Palate: Firing on all cylinders! Sweet apricots soaked in sugarcane juice with a garnish of fresh mint. But it’s the spices that are king. They come at you with a thousand prickles of pleasure. You want to savor it for a long time but instinct forces you to swallow.

Finish: Gorgeously long and with all the spices in all their glory.

This is truly a sublime single cask whisky and forces me to ask this question. Is getting young spirit to taste awesome so hard?

Rating: 94

Benrinnes 14 Year Single Cask 1998 Master of Malt

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Distillery/Brand: Benrinnes
Region: Speyside
ABV: 55%
Color: Deep Gold

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

Review
The guys over at Master of Malt are quite accomplished independent bottlers and their range of self-titled single cask releases are supposed to be quite delightful.

So I was glad to finally make acquaintance with this 14 year old sherried Speysider from Benrinnes.

Distilled in 1998 it spent 14 years in a sherry butt before being bottled at 55% as one of 570 bottles. And I tell you this is a damn fine whisky.

Nose: Lemony sweet and sharp watermelon at first. Allow it to breathe for a dollop of warm toffee, cloves and cinnamon. There are rum soaked bananas sprinkled with salt and lovely drying Vermouth.

Palate: Citrus first and then a chocolate spice rack on the heels of stewed peaches and red grapes. The flavors are on point and made that much more intense with the high alcohol strength and that much more delicious with the creamy mouthfeel.

Finish: Gorgeously long with lip smacking spices.

This is quite a fantastic drop and just goes to show how good the guys over at Master of Malt really are.

Rating: 90