Distillery/Brand: Laphroaig | Region: Islay | ABV: 59.2% | Colour: Deep Gold
Nose: 8.8 | Palate: 8.8 | Finish: 8.8 | Overall Score: 8.8
Is this one of the greatest Islay whisky series ever? I’m inclined to think so.
I first came across this series when the Batch 003 caught my eye. I didn’t know much about whiskies back then but I knew I liked cask strength whiskies and I liked Islay whiskies. And at 35GBP this one was a no-brainer.
Of course, once I opened the bottle and had my first sip I knew that I would have to own every single release from this series – past and future. Given the fact that I have mild OCD anything with a numbered batch meant I had to have the entire set.
Thus, began my journey of securing earlier releases and, like a hound, finding new ones and adding them to my collection. I was fortunate enough to grab the last few straight from the distillery. Believe me there’s nothing like drinking this whisky straight from the bottle while sitting on the stone pier in front of Warehouse No. 1
The CS series is matured in first-fill bourbon casks and bottled at natural strength. My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at a whopping 59.2%
Nose: Iodine. Lots of it. Red fruits. Moschino cherries. Red grapes. Liquorice. Fishnets. Sea salt flakes. Green tobacco leaf. Mint leaf. Dark cherry chocolate. Cardamom. Betel leaf. Toasted oak. Hint of spice. Very sweet nose which mellows out to a touch of savoury. Fantastic. 8.8
Palate: Boom! Big. Strong. Lots of bite. Strong oak. Jolts the taste buds. Lindt red chilli chocolate. The red grapes again. Fennel. Dries mid-palate. Sea salt. Ceylon black tea. With some water the iodine increases. Becomes even more dry. Prefer it without water, for sure. 8.8
Finish: Long. Oak. Cardamom. Spices. Green tea. 8.8
Overall Comments: Well, what can I say. This one is an absolute corker. Love everything about it. Love it all the more for bringing back memories of Islay.
Overall Score: 8.8
Distillery/Brand: Highland Park | Region: Island | ABV: 43% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 93
I’ve done a review before of the Highland Park 18 but that was back when I didn’t know my peat from a kiln. I’d like to think I’ve come a long way from then. However, what’s true is that I loved it back then and I love it still.
Highland Park routinely use Oloroso Sherry casks to mature their spirit but what gives their spirits it’s unique profile is the peat that they use. Orcadian peat, sourced locally, is predominately compressed herbacious plants and heather (unlike peat from farther south, which is partially formed with tree matter and/or seaweed). The peat character is mild, however, as only 20% of the mashbill comes from Highland Park’s own floor maltings (and of that, only half is peated). The rest is unpeated malt imported from the Scottish mainland
This little dance between heavily sherried casks and lightly peated spirit is what sets their expressions apart from the others.
Nose: The sherry is perfectly balanced against a back drop of green leaves and a touch of delicate peaty smoke. It’s a bit tinny to start off with but that tapers off as you let it breathe a touch. Subtle hints of cereal and juniper berries amid a crush of red grapes. Brilliantly balanced.
Palate: That delicate smoke is back and with it a fine salty creme caramel. Then a cinnamon dusted fennel with an underlying of chocolate spread.
Finish: Long with lovely black pepper and smoked chocolate.
There is probably not a lot that can be said about this malt that has already been said but it certainly needs to be reiterated.
Distillery/Brand: Isle of Jura
Colour: Old Sauternes
So here’s the ridiculously hard to pronounce (and even harder to spell) Diurachs’ Own 16 year old. Another trademark syrupy offering from Jura.
Nose: The thick Oloroso sherry comes screaming through on the back of toasted almonds, thick chocolate fudge and dark woody caramel. Mixed in with cereal milk and a seasoning of cloves and cherries the nose leaves little doubt to its’ ancestry.
Palate: Thick and syrupy with tangy dark chocolate giving way to a briny rock salt and pepper combination. It’s a struggle if you ask me.
Finish: Cloyingly oily with spicy clove.
Another one dimensional ‘I knew what to expect’ dram from this predictable distillery.
Colour: Old Gold
One has come to expect, and quite fairly, good things from Talisker. The standard 10, the lovely 18 and the delicious 57 North are the reasons for that. So, as a fan, it’s disappointing to try hard and eke out positives from their last two No Age Statements; Storm & Port Ruighe. And this is what I think about the latter.
The nose has the reassuring and familiar sea salty dampness that one expects from all malts from Skye. There is then a healthy ladle of meat stew with thick chunks of sausage sprinkled liberally with fiery black peppercorns. Cold cuts on the side are accompanied by a bowlful of pomegranate and raisins. I quite like it which makes the delivery that much more disappointing.
You are greeted with an unbalanced palate of caramel, molasses, spicy clove mixed with cherry syrup and a stick of licorice on a bed of mild peat. It has all the ingredients to make this a cracker but I think the spirit weighs far too heavy on the spicier notes not allowing the gentler sweeter profiles to come through. Plus there is a nagging bitterness in there some where which is hard to catch.
The lingering, spicy finish also retains that irksome bitterness.
I really wanted this to blow me away. Instead it chose to remain borderline average.
Colour: Young Sauternes
Talisker created quite a bit of buzz around this particular No Age Statement bottling with many speculating that this would be the complete Skye malt. But it was not to be…
The typical salty Talisker nose is at first comforting as it brings with it the traditional Skye notes like lemon zest, melted butter with herbs drizzled on a salmon and cream pie soaked in brine. I quite liked the nose.
The palate, on the other hand, is a touch disappointing for me. While the delivery is quite intensely spicy with a lemon honey twang it is the presence of something mysteriously bitter which throws me off towards the end. Quite unsettling if you ask me.
The oily finish, unfortunately, retains the nagging bitterness which I can only hope later editions address.
Distillery/Brand: Isle of Jura
Colour: Pale Gold
Mr Richard Paterson, who I’ve met at a tasting, seems hell bent on hiding behind intensely sweet flavors. Some time he does a decent job. Most times he doesn’t. This time I think he just might have succeeded.
The peaty sweet nose has all the trademarks of a Paterson expression. Earthy molasses and jaggery with a hint of something floral followed by a not-so-nice sprinkling of dusty talcum powder. A bit confusing for my liking.
Strong spicy nutmeg on the palate gives way to a thick dollop of jaggery mixed with dry nuts and wild berries.
The finish is long, oily and spicy with a hint of dark chocolate. All yummy flavors on paper but never in harmony when you taste them.
Colour: Young Sauternes
If anyone wants to know how to build a cult following have them intern with the folks over at Ardbeg. Who would have thought of sending new make spirit up in space? And then releasing an expression commemorating that? Say ‘hello’ to the Galileo.
I would like to say it has a typical Ardbeg nose but it doesn’t. I mean it has the trademark peaty smoke (which is more pronounced than it’s cousins) and strong honey notes. There is a slight saltiness with a touch of grass which gives way to a chocolatey fruit basket. But the smoke and the wood tend to overpower a little.
The full bodied palate is much more familiar though not as sophisticated as you would expect from this monster distillery. Intensely spicy amidst the dark chocolate, nuts and some citrus.
The rather long oily finish has slivers of phenol and aniseed. There is also, dare I say it, a drop of something bitter.
This is an increasingly rare bottling and a must in the collector’s bar. Even though I would prefer to admire it on the shelf more than on my palate it still is a very drinkable expression.
Besides I heard it just won the World Whisky Award for best Single Malt. I must be daft or something…
Colour: Full Gold
This magnificent bottling of the 1996 distilled single sherry cask Arran is quite rare so when it was brought out at a friend’s house it was received rather warmly. And for good reason too.
The gorgeous dark nose has a number of complex layers upon which it is built. Chocolate covered raisins dropped in an oaky bowl of chopped plums and drizzled with citrus are followed by a whiff of something slightly musty. Then delicate purple flowers with a hint of mint. Quite the experience.
The chewy palate is strong and aggressive. Black pepper, chocolate and finely ground coffee give way to plums and raisins. There is then unmistakeable charred orange zest with a touch of cardamom.
The woody dry finish is long and spicy making this Arran possibly my favorite expression from this distillery.
Normally kept for post-dinner drams, my Scapa 16 was pulled out of the bar for an early evening taste. A good choice!
The Islander has quite a colorful nose – aromatic purple flowers like lavender sit in a fruit basket of papaya and apricots as citrus infused honey is drizzled quite liberally over the bouquet. All the while sitting next to a bowl of cereal and kneaded dough. A pleasant nose to awaken all your senses.
The medium bodied oily palate starts off white peppery spicy followed by the pleasant sweetness of honey and toffee.
A decent finish brings you rock melon and papaya. The papaya! It’s so strong in this one.
All in all a very decent dram – something to be had quite regularly.
Distillery/Brand: Highland Park
Bottling: 25 Year old
Colour: Old Sauternes
I opened this glorious expression last New Year’s Eve which was really my way of telling my friends and family how special they were to me.
A thick syrupy nose, dripping with dark honey, chocolate, char grilled tangerines, breakfast marmalade and that scrumptious layer of burnt sugar found on top of a perfectly cooked caramel pudding. I was so glad I chose to go with this expression to impress my friends! Cuddle with it a little more and you will experience a sprinkle of aniseeds atop a rum fruit cake. All of this is then perfectly balanced against the backdrop of mature oak. Perfect!
The velvet delivery first comes with black pepper and then quite expertly balances out with a spread of maple syrup, orange zest followed by a sprinkling of dark chocolate flakes.
At nearly cask strength the finish is satisfyingly long, dry and oaky. There are cloves with the minutest touch of tobacco and leather and, just as you’re about to bid adieu, there is that delicious burnt sugar on top of the caramel pudding.
Even though there is a slightly bitter aftertaste I don’t think it will affect my popularity with my friends!