Balvenie 17 Year Old Sherry Oak

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43% | Color: Copper
Nose: 24 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
This particular expression has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons. It was my first serious purchase of a single malt. I remember looking at it sitting on the shelf at my duty free and thinking what is that insanely captivating bottle with that deep dark liquid inside of it?

I picked it off the shelf and, unlike what I do nowadays, I literally uncorked it the moment I got home. This was a number of years ago and I had no idea about sherry maturation or generally anything to do with single malts. All I knew was if something tasted this good then I was on the right path.

I’ve tasted a number of Balvenies down the road and they are one of the few extremely reliable distilleries when it comes to releasing top stuff. I like the different experimentations they have been up to also with different casks.

First launched in 2007 this 17 year old expression has been matured exclusively in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. There is always the danger of the sherry overpowering the spirit when you do that, however, when you have master craftsmen at work that seldom happens.

My sample is from a brand new bottle (2012) and served at 43%

Nose: Vanilla. Nutmeg. Cinnamon. Fruit cake. Christmas cake. Raisins – the big dark kind. Clove. Dark plums. Berries. Sugarcane. Ginger. Oak. Cola. The nose is thick and quite syrupy. But not in a sickly way. It just makes you feel warm inside.

Palate: Chocolate. Oak. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Fruit cake. Maple syrup. Rose water. Tobacco leaf. Vanilla. Classic Oloroso flavors. Brilliantly put together.

Finish: Sweet. Vanilla. Maple syrup. Rose water.

One of the truly good whiskies of our time.

Rating: 93

Kilchoman Machir Bay

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
I’ve just got back from a very interesting Japanese whisky tasting event. Some good classic Japanese whiskies (Nikka from the Barrel, Hakushu 12, Yamazaki 18, to name a few) coupled with some delicious food made for an extremely satisfying evening.

But I decided to leave early and come back home to the Kilchoman Machir Bay as my last expression of the evening.

Kilchoman and I have a history. Three years ago I tasted a couple of young releases in the presence of Anthony Wills (founder of said distillery) and it was all I could do to prevent my self from spitting the liquid back out in the glass.

This was followed by a three year program on Kilchoman abstinence which was eventually broken by the Kilchoman 2013 Small Batch Release finished in Oloroso sherry casks.

I was floored. What an absolutely amazing whisky.

Anthony Wills here is another apology from me for writing you off.

This got me interested in other, newer, Kilchoman releases and when I heard good things about the Machir Bay I just had to get my self one of their dumpy bottles.

Machir Bay 2014 is a vatting of 5 and 6 year old ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled at 46% ABV

Nose: Very sweet peat. Sugar cane. White wine. Chardonay. Very tart. Crisp. Fresh white oak. Fennel. Lime. Raspberry. Cumin. Cedar plank. Vanilla. Let it breathe and white dough comes wafting through. Finally pineapples. White grapes. A very fresh and lovely nose.

Palate: Very smooth. Extremely smooth to drink. Coffee. Apricots. Pears. Peat. White grape. Black peppers. Macaroon cake. Cumin seeds. Very palatable.

Finish: Smooth. Peat. Mint. Oily. Cumin. White melon lozenge.

This is another extremely accomplished spirit from Kilchoman. Wonderfully smooth and completely thought through.

Rating: 90

Something magical about pouring yourself a dram of quality #SingleMalt #Scotch #Whisky #Kilchoman #MachirBay

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Bowmore 10 Year old Tempest Batch 5

Bomore Tempest V
Distillery/Brand: Bowmore | Region: Islay | ABV: 55.9% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 92

Review
It’s been a month since my last review. Not that I was short of any whiskies to drink. Far from it. It’s just that I like to take an alcohol sabbatical once every year just to take a break and replenish my self both physically and mentally.

My first two weeks go by in a flash and I barely even think about what I’ve given up. In the third week I start preparing for all the expressions I’m going to be tasting once the month is up. By the fourth I can’t wait to get back to doing what I love the most.

And so it’s really important that I pick a solid expression that I know for sure will not disappoint. There’s nothing like waiting for something for such a long time and discovering it tastes like piss. I hate that.

So I decided to pick the latest Bowmore Tempest Batch 5 as my first whisky of the new season. Because I figured if it’s anything like the last batch it was going to be cracking.

Matured for ten years in Bowmores’ legendary No1 Vault in first-fill bourbon barrels this is allegedly a small batch release. I say allegedly because I don’t know how many bottles make up a small batch. I think anything under 6000 should be small. I think.

Nose: Quite lovely. Very fresh. It’s sweet, almost winey. Like a tart chardonnay. Mixed with a lot of bright lime juice and mild vanilla extract. Dark cocoa tossed in coarse sea salt and crushed cornflakes. Cinnamon sprinkled on juicy nectarines.

Palate: Quite a kick! Strong lemon sweet candies and fiery white pepper prickles. Mandarins become the sweeter citrus. Dark unsweetened cocoa. Adding a few drops of water makes it more herbaceous and adds a touch of garam masala. (I prefer it without the water, though.)

Finish: Long. Very oily. Very chewy. Salty. Peppery with honey cocoa.

This is a great series by Bowmore (who I’m increasingly beginning to like) that is nurtured well and executed with amazing skill.

Rating: 92

Kilkerran WIP 5 – Sherry Wood

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Distillery/Brand: Kilkerran
Region: Campbeltown
ABV: 46%
Colour: Sunlight

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

Review
I’m a big fan of the Kilkerran Work In Progress series. These are remarkably robust expressions belying their fairly young(ish) age. This one has been matured in Sherry Wood and given that it’s the 5th installment in the series should make it any where between 8 and 9 years old. I say should. I don’t really know for sure.

Nose: It has a crispy fresh nose. There’s fruity musk with lots of chocolate orange, boiled almonds and a perky pink melon. There is also that mildly tart sour dough quality to the proceedings as well. Quite a clean and arresting bouquet.

Palate: Quite silky and traverses your mouth coating it in lemony sugarcane and chocolate covered dates. The grated ginger on top adds that much needed layer of complexity.

Finish: Decent finish with torn green herbs sprinkled with lemon and a dash of something bitter.

Thank you Campbeltown. Now this is what I’m talking about!

Rating: 90

Glendronach Cask Strength – Batch No. 1

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Distillery/Brand: GlenDronach
Region: Speyside
ABV: 54.8%
Colour: Old Sauternes

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

Review
I am increasingly impressed by the expressions this distillery produces and this one is no exception. This cask strength Oloroso and PX matured dram is an absolute beauty.

The powerful nose is as heady as it is delicious. The glorious oak envelopes a thick slice of nutty orange fudge sprinkled with a generous layer of raisins and smothered in caramel. This is finished off with a gentle drizzle of grated ginger.

The palate is not for the faint hearted. The underlying oak sits in complete balance with burnt citrus which is mixed with a rich dark chocolate and and equally dark fruits. All this is served with a dollop of marmalade infused with clove and cinnamon.

The long and oily finish is woody with a touch of clove and stays with you for ever.

So good!

Rating: 93

Arran Single Cask Sherry 1996

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Distillery/Brand: Arran
ABV: 54.1%
Region: Island
Colour: Full Gold

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

Review
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.

Rating: 92

Kavalan Solist Fino

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Distillery/Brand: Kavalan
Bottling: Solist Fino
ABV: 59.4%
Colour: Madeira

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

Review
If I had been blindfolded and given this single malt from Taiwan I would have bet my first born that this was a bourbon from Heaven Hill. No questions about it!

The first thing to draw your attention is the deep burgundy color sitting inside the bottle which immediately causes you to salivate uncontrollably. Such is the allure in the eyes alone.

The heavy sherried nose is bursting with dark autumn fruits – plums, berries and humungous red grapes. The fruits are then reduced in a mixture of red wine and sugar and then poured on top of a soft gooey chocolate fudge cake. As the glistening syrup trickles down the side a few slices of over-ripe bananas, sprinkled with coconut dust, are layered on top to complete the presentation.

Intense black peppers on the tongue is the first thing you notice. But before you have time to wipe the tears from your eyes (tears of joy, I might add) blackberry laced maple syrup swoops in and takes you to a very special Christmas memory. A touch of leather, black currants and berries add yet another layer of delicious complexity.

The mammoth woody finish has a touch of anis but that is rounded off by the overpowering jaggery that rushes in at the end.

There are few times when a whisky will leave me speechless. This was one of them.

Rating: 96