GlenDronach 21 Year Old Parliament

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Distillery/Brand: GlenDronach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48% | Colour: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 85

Review
I’m a huge fan of the Glendronach Cask Strength series. Wonderfully sherried whiskies that pack a punch without being too overly sherried, if you know what I mean.

If you’ve been reading my reviews you know I am dead against over maturation of good distillate. It always feels like someones’ trying to hide something. Of course, that need not always be the case.

There are some folks that like their whiskies this way. Sherry bombs they are called, if memory serves me right. I think sherry bombs are a tricky business and walk an oft teetering line between whisky and WTF? Mostly I’ve realized it’s WTF.

Fortunately for me this whisky just about manages to walk that line. It’s not as marvellously balanced as other good sherry bombs I’ve had but I think it manages to keep it’s dignity intact.
Matured in both Oloroso and PX casks this is as sherry as it gets.

What’s interesting about this review is that I managed to conduct a little experiment (which I saw Ralfy do in his review of the same) and came up with a surprisingly positive result.

One sample I tasted like I normally do. Neat. The other, in order to mellow out the sherry, I covered for 40 minutes after adding a splash of water.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 48%

Nose (22/25): Very strong sherry. Dark chocolate. Cocoa beans. Dark rum. Nuts. Almonds. Walnuts. Spicy oaks. Let it air and it settles down nicely. Becomes more crisp. More sweeter. More brown sugar. Muscovado sugar. There’s a hint of sourness. Cold cuts. Dark jam. Honey. Toast. Quite a typical Oloroso nose with some complexity thrown in thanks to the PX.

Palate (20/25): Dark honey. Chocolate fudge. Fruit cake. Cinnamon. Very bold. Almost over the top. Treacle. Dates. Licorice. Lots and lots of tannins. Molasses. Overly sweet, far too big. It’s not bad but it’s just too loud.

Finish (21/25): Better. Extremely long. Oily. Cigar leaf. Touch of oak. Something bitter.

Overall a decent dram if not a bit overly thick and sweet.

___

With a splash of water and left covered for 40 minutes

Nose: Mellowed out quite a bit. Now vanilla. Delicate rose water. Pistachios.

Palate: Much smoother. More balanced. Touch more spice. Coca Cola.

Finish: Chocolate. Oak

Overall Comments: I feel the 40 minutes with water really brought out the more delicate flavors of the whisky. The sherry was cut through quite nicely and I could taste more of the base distillate if you like.
I would rate this one an additional 2 or 3 points higher with water.

While it did not turn water into wine there certainly was something to this exercise. An average dram made good. And I think that’s quite a nifty little trick.

Thanks Ralfy.

Rating: 85

Master of Malt Mystery Speysides

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Distillery/Brand: Master of Malt | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43

Review
On the eve of my 40th birthday I wanted to do something different but just couldn’t figure out what.

Finally after much rummaging through my bar and in the back of my closet I discovered three samples from Master of Malt of their mystery Speyside series.

The first was the 30 year old (5th Edition), the second a 40 year old (2nd Edition) and the 50 year old (4th Edition). I had ordered these 30ml samples a while ago and completely forgot about them.

Until now that is.

Master of Malt are accomplished independent bottlers, apart from being overly priced online retailers, and I generally consider their wares worthy of being sampled.

These mystery Speysiders by Master of Malt come in different ages and are acquired from different distilleries. If someone knows what goes into these please let me know. I will be forever very grateful.

Below are my notes on all three which were sampled in succession.

Speyside 30 Years (5th Edition) – 43%

Nose (23/25) : Mild sherry. Orange zest. Marzipan. Touch of oak. Cumin. Grains. Some oatmeal. Hard boiled sweets. Lychee bubblegum. Pineapple. This is quite a wonderful nose.

Palate (22/25) : Mangos. Mangos. Mangos. In fact there is a Pakistani breed of mango called the Sindhri and this is what it smells like. So much fruit in this. Bananas. Then mild spices. Milk chocolate. And there’s that mango again. Very nice.

Finish (23/25) : Mild spices. Little oily. Some oak. What I like is that it goes down without a trace and 30 seconds later comes straight back up.

Balance (22/25)

Overall a very nice whisky. My score is 90 points

Speyside 40 Years (2nd Edition) – 43%

Nose (24/25) : Deep sherry. Ginger. Cinnamon. Dark chocolate. Hint of oak. Cocoa beans. Coffee leaves. Under-ripe red berries. Dark warm Manuka honey. Prunes. Touch of sea salt. Coca cola. Orange. This is one of the finest Speyside noses I’ve come across. So robust without even a hint of tiredness. The oak stays strong and the spirit comes through.

Palate (23/25) : Chocolate. Fruit cake. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. All spice. Brownies. Nice crisp palate. All flavors on point. Could it have been a little more complex? Sure. But still pretty darn good.

Finish (23/25) : Coffee. Apple. Oak.

Balance (24/25)

This is a gorgeously flavored whisky. Not a single day of it’s 40 year life seems like it was lethargic. Still a spring in it’s step. Love it!

My score is 94 points.

Speyside 50 Years (4th Edition) – 43%

I was going to start this description by saying that this was probably my oldest whisky that I’ve tasted and then I remembered that I’ve had the pleasure of sampling a dram of the 64 year old Dalmore Trinitas. So in your face 50 years!

Nose (22/25) : Apricot. Lot of fruit. Light sherry. Light honey. Pineapple. French toast. Feels quite fresh though I feel that maybe the flavors are literally on the verge of fading. They haven’t but might have any second. White wine Chardonay. Maple syrup. Pears. Guava. And the tiniest and I mean tiniest whisp of smoke.

Palate (22/25) : Very smooth. Digestive biscuits. Tropical fruits. That tiny tiny smoke again. Mild spices. Milk chocolate. Soft fruits. Sweets. Nice smooth palate. I still feel, like the nose, the palate was just about going to fall out but it didn’t. Still a very nice tasting whisky.

Finish (22/25) : tropical fruits. Very mild spices.

Balance (22/25)

Good dram. Just because it’s 50 years old doesn’t make it sublime, mind you. I’ve had better but I’ve had far more worse. And with that I give it 88 points.

This now concludes my homage to the three decades on my 40th birthday which, by the way, just came in as I was writing this review.

I’m glad I brought in this little milestone doing what I enjoy doing the most.

Balvenie Peated Cask 17

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48.7% | Colour: Pale Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

Review
Balvenie by and large do it for me. Good solid expressions. They wave the flag of classic Speyside flavors high and proud for all to see. Dave Stewart, the Balvenie Malt Master, likes to work with different flavors to add that extra depth to his spirit.

Maturations like the 14 year old Rum Cask, the sublime 21 year old Portwood, Single Barrel 12, 15 and 25 years old and this 17 year old with the peated cask influence all cement his reputation as one of the more creative Malt Masters of the Scotch Whisky Industry.

And I’m not even going to mention the cult he’s managed to create with the Tun series. I know many a whisky fan simply jonesing for the 1408, 1509 and now the 1858.

However, the one in my hand at the moment is slightly easier to come by and at decent prices. It’s maturation is quite possibly one of the more interesting ones that I have come across.

In 2001 a heavily peated batch of barley was distilled and left to mature for some time. Once Stewart decided it was time to move the spirit out else where he was left with casks that had taken on quite a bit of the peated distillate flavors.

So in went some 17 year old Balvenie for a few months to take on the flavors. It was then married with another 17 year old matured in new American Oak to produce this Peated Cask expression.
My expression is from a brand new bottle and served at 48.7%

Nose: Warm sherry. Apricot. Vanilla. Hint of oak. Milk chocolate. Woody caramel. Spices. Hint of smoke. Green tobacco leaf. Jam. Lavender. Gets drier over time. More crisp. Gets greener too. More herbaceous. More savory.

Palate: Quite smooth. Tiny touch of smoke. Chocolate. Woody. Spices. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Custard. Greens. Gets slightly bitter mid-palate. Not entirely bad.

Finish: Dry. Medium-long. Mild spices. Hint of smoke.

I think this is quite a fun experiment. The resulting whisky is quite nice. Could it have been better? Sure, why not? Everything can.

Rating: 87

Glenlivet Nadurra Oloroso

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48% | Colour: Young Sauterne
Nose: 22 | Taste: 20 | Finish: 20 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 83

Review
I’m not the only one who claims the original Nadurra 16 Cask Strength as one of their favorite whiskies of all time. I mean come on! That near perfect crisp green apple served at a deliciously high strength has made many an evening.

There’s a number of Nadurras in circulation. There is the first-fill bourbon aged for 16 years and then bottled at cask strength (which varies in the mid 50s ABV). Then there is the slightly watered down to 48% version of the same whisky. There is a 1991 vintage known as the Triumph.

And now this latest NAS offering matured in Oloroso casks found pretty much only in travel retail.
For those who read my reviews know that I am wary of Oloroso influencing good whisky and completely taking over it. I have seen it happen on many occasions. Perfectly reasonable whiskies get treated with Oloroso overkill and are reduced to muddy, sweet syrup which hide the true essence of the expression.

I’ve seen it happen too many times and I’m seeing it again!

This NAS Nadurra matured in Oloroso is bottled at 48% and my sample is from a brand new bottle (code 0L0614)

Nose: Manuka honey. Orange. Brown chocolate. Very earthy. Autumn leaves. Clove. Cherry. Licorice. Strawberry jam. Port or some other type of fortified wine. Soft dates. The nose is not too bad. Quite typical Oloroso influence.

Palate: Full mouthfeel. Mild cinnamon. Bitter chocolate. Dark honey. Plums. Coconut oil. Oak. Gets quite savory mid-palate. Gets more muddy. More confused. Starts off nice but loses grip towards the end.

Finish: Barely there. Maybe some oak. Maybe some cinnamon.

Why try and fix something which is not only not broken but quite gloriously in one brilliant piece? Maybe the new Nadurra spirit coming out of Glenlivet is not as pristine as it’s predecessor and, hence, the Oloroso plays a masking game? Perhaps. I certainly hope not.

Regardless the result is slightly below average whisky which doesn’t even come close to it’s 16 year old namesake. Quite sad, indeed.

Rating: 83

Benromach 10 Years

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Distillery/Brand: Benromach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 43% | Color: Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 90

Review
I’m writing this review hot on the trails of my latest love affair from the same distillery – The Benromach 10 100 Proof. However, it was this standard 10 Year old bottling responsible for us meeting. And for that I owe it a debt of gratitude.

I am, like many other whisky enthusiasts, a fan of Ralfy and his modest yet honest ways. So when he announced this single malt as his whisky of the year I was naturally quite curious.

Benromach has had a history of closures and re-openings, however, it’s greatest fortune has come at the hands of legendary independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail. Having acquired the distillery in 1993 (10 years after it closed down) they fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning and running their very own. And it was finally in 2004 that they bottled their first whisky.

However, what I truly love about them is that they have decided to go back to Speyside roots and re-create the classic flavors of the 60s. Using stock acquired from Diageo as a benchmark they set about re-creating a lightly peated (12ppm) spirit reminiscent of the old days.

And I have to admit this is turning out to be quite a stellar comeback. Steeped in traditionalism the distillery is run by just three people and the only computer in the distillery is used to check emails. Which means that the process and the end product is truly a reflection of skill and the perfection of this art.

This is a smart blend of 80% bourbon and 20% sherry hogshead married together for it’s final year in first-fill Oloroso casks thus completing it’s 10 year journey.

My sample is from a brand new bottle with a strength of 43% and has been bottled on 07.08.2014

Nose: Mild peat. Honeysuckle. Fruit wax. Quite earthy. Vanilla. Dark chocolate. Faint spices – maybe ginger. Hint of oak. Green peas. Tobacco leaf. Dried green tea. Touch of nuts. This is wonderfully balanced with no off notes.

Palate: The delivery is quite thin without being weak. Silky is more like it. Ginger. Honey. Quite sweet with a touch of spice. Vanilla. Tobacco. Chocolate. Nuts. Roasted dark caramel. Wisp of smoke. Nice and balanced bordering on easy drinking. Very approachable.

Finish: Medium. Tobacco. Oak. Bitter chocolate.

This is a fantastic little whisky which ticks a lot of the right boxes. I really like this style of Speyside. I hope other established Speysiders can take a leaf from Benromach’s book and try and re-create the magic.

Rating: 90

PS: I don’t normally do this but if you’re in the mood try and pair it with a dark chocolate. Stunning.

Benromach 100 Proof

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Distillery/Brand: Benromach | Region: Speyside | ABV: 57% | Color: Old Sauternes
Nose: 24 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 24 | Balance: 24 | Rating: 96

Review
This whisky is the reason I take time out from my busy schedule and inflict slow damage to my liver. Just to let my whisky colleagues know that there are treasures out there simply waiting to be discovered.

I’ll be honest. Benromach was not on my radar as a must-try. I was going to get there eventually but I was in no rush. But then Ralfy decided it would be a good idea to declare their 10 year old as his whisky of the year. While I usually scoff at such titles Ralfy is a dependable chap.

So I decided this was a good time as any to put his claim to the test. So while I was in the process of procuring said title holder I saw this particular expression sitting by the 10 year olds’ side. Labelled as 100 proof it came in at 57% compared to the measly 43% that the standard 10 year old was bottled at.

What I love is that Benromach has decided to re-create the classic Speyside flavors of the 60s which means that there is a small amount of peat used in the barley (12ppm in the final product to be exact).

This 10 year old spirit is a blend of 80% bourbon and 20% sherry hogshead married together for it’s final year in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks. My sample is from a brand new bottle dated 25.09.2014

Nose: Crisp sherry. No off notes here. Green tobacco leaf. Chocolate. Oak. Dates. Dark fruits. Cinnamon. Some fudge. Dark currant jam. Strawberries. Red apple. Vanilla. Let it breathe and it becomes a little more savory. Fresh green peas. Hint of ginger. Gets dry over time. This such a beautiful nose. It’s not overly complex. All the aromas are on point and beautifully represented. This is close to being perfect.

Palate: The tobacco is king here. Smoked oak. Some sherry. Touch bitter. But a manly bitter. Nothing off here.Chocolate. Cinnamon. Maple syrup. Christmas cake. Rum topf. Caramel. The Oloroso really comes into play here. Leads the way but never overpowers. Let’s the spirit speak.

Finish: Long. Tobacco. Touch of mint. Oak.

This is an insanely beautiful whisky. Hats off to Benromach (and G&M for reviving it) for embracing traditionalism in favor of mass production and NAS profits. Truly a masterclass in elegance and a glimpse into the glorious past that is Speyside whisky.

Rating: 96

Glen Albyn 1979 Part Des Anges 27 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Glen Albyn | Region: Highland | ABV: 53.2% | Colour: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
I hadn’t heard of Glen Albyn until I came across this particular expression at an event for my whisky club. Unfortunately, there was no way I could give it any sort of attention since the evening was a social one and I was playing host to around 75 guests.

I did, however, manage to pick it up for a small tasting session at my place, along with two other closed distillery bottles from the same independent. This series is known as the Closed Distillery Series from Part Des Anges.

Each expression is served at cask strength and is from a single cask. This in it’s self is quite a rarity and I was quite eager to tuck into it and see for my self.

The distillery closed it’s doors in 1983 following a slump in whisky demand and was subsequently demolished three years later. The site is now home to a shopping complex.

Independent bottles of this distillery keep popping up now and then but expect that to stop soon once stocks are completely depleted.

My sample is from a brand new bottled and served at a cask strength of 53.2%

The following notes are a mix of two tasting sessions over two weeks apart.

Nose: Pineapple. Papaya. Apricots. Very fruity. Garam masala. White flowers. Lime. Hint of oak. Oxidization opens up the nose even more. Butter malt. Grist. Mint. Chalk. Green apples. It has an extremely fresh and fruity nose and the longer it breathes the more layers it packs on.

Palate: Again very fruity. Pineapple. Honey. Demerara sugar. White pepper. Touch of oak. Citrus. It is gentle and medium bodied. Oxidization adds more. Herbs. Butterscotch. Ginger. All spice.

Finish: Long. Oily. Touch bitter. Garam masala. Touch of oak.

This is quite an interesting whisky. It was a hit at the tasting and for some was the top performer of the evening. While I quite like it I have to admit I preferred it more the first time around. I would have easily given it a score in it’s early 90s but the second session would be closer to late 80s.

So I’ll do what is fair and mark it on the average. Regardless, it’s well worth the experience.

Rating: 90

Aberlour Abunadh Batch 50

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Distillery/Brand: Aberlour | Region: Speyside | ABV: 59.6% | Color: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review

Looks like we’re up to Batch 50 now! Aberlour have been churning out this cult classic since 1997 where they take spirit that has been maturing exclusively in Olorosol sherry butts and blend them together.

Each batch has a unique number and official literature claims each whisky has between five and twenty five year old spirit in it.

How much of the twenty five is in there (given it’s rather affordable price tag) is open to speculation. But regardless of that rather tall claim let’s all agree that the spirit inside these bottlings is quite special.

Despite it’s rather weak entry level 10 the distillery has some pretty serious expressions on offer and the A’bunadh series does nothing to dent that reputation.

It is a tribute to it’s founder James Fleming and is a throwback to the days when whisky was hand made and served at cask strength.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 59.6%

Nose: Dry leaves. Autumn. Earth. Soil. Oak. Black peppercorns. Wild berries. Toffee. Apples. Tobacco leaf. Dark honey. Treacle. Tamarind. Adding a few drops of water brings out more. Dark fruits. Plums. Red Vermouth. Hint of smoke. A deep and creamy nose with a strong oaky overtone.

Palate: Maple syrup. Chocolate. Red grapes. Black pepper. Cinnamon. Dry leaves. Oak. With water it’s creamier on the mouth feel. Just like most A’bunadhs. More minty. Licorice. Peach compote.

Finish: Long. Oak. Cinnamon. Dries slowly. Water makes it a touch bitter.

Another accomplished A’bunadh. Brought it out at a home tasting recently and was a big hit with my guests.

And why not?

Rating: 90

Longmorn 15 Years Old

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Distillery/Brand: Longmorn | Region: Speyside | ABV: 45% | Color: Gold
Nose: 23 | Taste: 23 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 90

Review
I had a super hard time trying to locate this discontinued bottle from Longmorn. The 15 year old has been replaced by the 16 making this crowd favorite quite a serious collectible.

I managed to get hold of one after reading some rave reviews pretty much every where and was waiting for some alone time to sample it. As it turned out Christmas was the day.

There is precious little information on this Speysider (cask, etc) for some reason which makes me very curious to find out the type of cask used to craft this fine spirit. I know there’s a mix of both bourbon and sherry but I would really like to know the type of sherry and the lengths of time in each wood.

While the lack of information is frustrating the spirit is anything but. This is an example of good old fashioned skill showing off in the form of nicely controlled flavors.

My sample is from a brand new bottle from 2010 and bottled at 45%

Nose: Brown chocolate. Coffee. Berries. Oak. Quite dry on the nose. Fennel. Aniseed. Hint of mint. Cherries. Black peppers. Raisins. Black licorice. Salt. Clove. Quite a bouquet. The sherry is on point without over powering.

Palate: Honey. Salt. Chocolate. Peppers. Oak. Cinnamon. Oranges. Melon. Dates. Fruit cake. Christmas pudding. The palate points to a delicate Oloroso or PX influence some where in there.

Finish: Medium. Oily. Oak. Cinnamon. Cardboard.

This is a very tasty single malt. I can understand why it has legions of fans. And I feel by discontinuing it’s production it has become even more coveted.

One of the more assertive Speyside flavors you will find.

Rating: 90

Glenlivet 17 Chivas Brothers Cask Strength

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 55.7% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 87

Review
I like this concept. Chivas has come out with a range of cask strength single cask whiskies from it’s portfolio which are presented in interesting to look at generic 50cl bottles complete with hand written labels.

Well, they’re made to look hand written anyway.

Very interesting to look at and I like the concept behind them too. Quite affordable and at ages and strengths that can’t be purchased as part of standard bottlings.

They currently have quite a few in this collection ranging from a Tormore 15 to a Glen Keith 20 and quite a few in between. What I have in my hand is a 17 year old Glenlivet matured exclusively in bourbon barrels.

My sample is from a brand new bottle from Batch GL 17 013 and served at a cask strength of 55.7%

Nose: Reminded me of the Nadurra 16 and why not? More or less the same treatment to the same distillate. Malt butter. Peaches. Bourbon. Grist. Barley. Husk. Bright honey. Sharp citrus. Marzipan. Almonds. All spice. Floral. Pink Melon. Quite a fresh nose. I like it.

Palate: Honey. Barley. White pepper Melon. Chocolate. Garam masala. Oak. Vanilla. Not as great as the nose but still pretty good. Very nice texture though it has a touch of something bitter towards the end.

Finish: The bitterness is a touch stronger now. Coffee. Cinnamon. Oak.

I like the thinking behind this range even if I this particular expression did not blow me away. The something slightly bitter threw me off towards the end. Still quite nice and drinkable.

Rating: 87