Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2014

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Distillery/Brand: Kilchoman | Region: Islay | ABV: 46% | Color: Sunlight
Nose: 23 | Taste: 24 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 23 | Rating: 93

Review
I have mentioned this in my previous reviews that after sipping my first Kilchoman I vowed never to touch it again. I can’t say which one it was because I’ve genuinely forgotten. Let’s just say my brain decided to erase that experience from my memory.

What I do remember is wishing I could tell Anthony Wills, the founder of Kilchoman and who was presenting the whiskies to us that night, how I felt exactly. Out of politeness I did not.

But now I would like to tell him that his little Islay farm distillery is fast becoming my top rated whisky. Maybe of all time. Yes, you heard that right Ardbeg & Laphroaig.

Every time I review a good Kilchoman I offer Anthony an apology in the hope that he reads it and sends me something fantastic. As a sign of his acceptance.

Looks like he’s due another one.

The Loch Gorm that I am reviewing has been distilled in 2009 and bottled in the spring 2014 making it around five years old. It has spent it’s entire length of maturation in Oloroso sherry casks making it the only Kilchoman to be completely matured in ex-sherry.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 46%

Nose: So fresh. So crisp. There’s the Islay grist. Honey. Clean peat. Oloroso. Nuts. Green tobacco leaf. Orange blossoms. Coffee beans. Faint smoke. Faint tar. Sweet and salty coastal sea air. White melons. An essay in fine tuning the perfect balance.

Palate: Smoke. Honey. Grated ginger. Peat. Cinnamon. Coffee beans. All spice. Cardboard. Delicate flavors that are on point. All the savory Islay goodness with a controlled Oloroso sweetness.

Finish: Smoke. Peat. Honey.

I don’t know what the whole hue and cry about dwindling stocks and NAS whiskies is when you can turn around a successful product like this in 5 years and be completely transparent about it.

Must be the inability to charge a bomb for young spirits. So everyone hides behind NAS.

Thank you Anthony for being honest about your craft. #RESPECT

Rating: 93

Glenlivet Alpha

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Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50% | Color: Pale Straw
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
Glenlivet decided to play a little game with us whisky noobs last year. It released a whisky with absolutely no information. Nothing on the type of cask. Nothing on the age. Also it released only 3500 bottles worldwide. And decided it would be a good idea to let people come up with their own theories.

Not a bad stunt if you ask. Though certainly not a unique one. Jim Mcewan holds that distinction with the Bruichladdich Black Art and Blacker Still. A secret he’s yet to reveal.

Glenlivet, though, made everyone wait six weeks before revealing how this whisky was made through a video on their website. Though before you could get to the reveal you had to play a little game trying to identify flavors and aromas before the video could actually be played. A fun little game if you ask me.

The video then finally revealed that the Alpha was a No Age Statement (how disappointing) whisky and without any chill filtration or added color (no real surprises there).

What is really interesting is that the casks used for maturation were actually new wood casks that previously held single malt whisky! I don’t think anyone has ever done that before. It is still typically a Glenlivet, though, and I’m not sure I found anything really different about this.

My sample is from a brand new bottle and served at 50%

Nose: Very sweet. Vanilla. Pudding. Citrus. Lemon. Hard boiled sweets. Wild flowers. Fresh grass. Pineapple. It has all the calling cards of the distillery but none of the complexity. I found it quite uncomplicated. Still not bad, though.

Palate: Spice. Pineapple. Honey. Apricots. Pear. Pudding. Sweets. Lemon. Citrus. Honey. Vanilla. Interesting palate. Feels young to me. Has quite a spicy zing to it. The fruits come out next. But once again not the most complex whisky I’ve drunk.

Finish: Medium. Spicy sweet. Hint of vanilla. Very strong oak.

This is a greatly presented whisky. I like all the marketing shenanigans that went behind putting it out there.

Did it blow me away? No.

Am I glad I have it sitting on my shelf? Why not?

Rating: 87

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

Banff 24 Old Malt Cask

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Distillery/Brand: Banff | Region: Speyside | ABV: 50% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 21 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 87

Review
Sipping on a closed distillery is always something special. It give you a chance to savor something forever lost in time. Something that won’t be made again.

Good or bad it’s an experience I cherish. And because one doesn’t really come across so many of them (unless you’re willing to fork out a fortune) I like to give them their due time in the glass and on my palate.

Banff Distillery opened it’s doors in 1824 and was located on Banff Bay in Inverboyndie. What’s quite peculiar about this distillery is the sheer number of fires and explosions it had seen over the years. Not only that it was also attacked by German bombers in WWII which blew up Warehouse No 12 and destroyed a lot of stock.

It finally shut it’s doors 1983 but that didn’t prevent another fire from completely destroying it in 1991.

The sample in my hand is from a single cask bottling by one of my favorite independents Hunter Laing and their Old Malt Cask series. These guys really know how to pick winners.

My sample is from a new mini which I suspect has been bottled in the early 2000s. I say suspect because there is no official literature to be found. The spirit has been bottled at 50%

Nose: Sweet. Almonds. Hardboiled sweets. Mango. Dark chocolate. Cardamom. Cumin. Thyme. Berries. Nuts. Lavender. Get’s drier over time. Dry grass. The nose is very sweet and tends to change over time. Decent even if not overly complex.

Palate: Marzipan. Oranges. Chocolate. Cake fondant. Mild cinnamon. Bananas. Limestone. Mangoes. Extremely sweet on the palate. Maybe too sweet. The fondant has an almost sickeningly sweet resonance. And I don’t mean sickeningly in a bad way. Just that maybe it’s too much and distracts.

Finish: Long. Mild spice. Wood. Sponge cake. Fruits. Mild mint. Very sweet.

I’m not sure if these are classic Banff flavors. I have nothing to compare. Overall I thought it was very sweet. I might have liked something slightly more complex. Not a bad dram, though.

Rating: 87

Balvenie 15 Years Single Barrel

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Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 47.8% | Color: Full Gold
Nose: 20 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 21 | Balance: 21 | Rating: 84

Review
Early on in my career as a whisky enthusiast I made the wise decision of picking up a bottle of the Balvenie 21 year old Portwood and the 17 year old Sherry Oak.

What an amazing stroke of luck on both bottles because back then I didn’t know my peat from my tun. Luckily for me I ran into a well informed sales person who decided to hit me with these two. I have been a fan ever since.

I think they have a solid range which covers a nice spectrum of flavors. The 12 Double Wood and the 12 Triple Cask are nice for easy drinking. As are the 14 Golden Cask and the Caribbean Rum Cask. The 17 has both a Sherry Oak and Peated Cask version which I find very interesting. Then there’s the gorgeous 21 year old Portwood.

This is without mentioning the cult classic Tun 1401 and the new Tun 1509. And also a smattering of travel retail exclusives that keep popping up frequently.

One of the newer releases from this Speyside standard is the single cask 15 year old matured exclusively in European Sherry. I notice they don’t say cask but choose to use barrel instead. Don’t know why.

My sample is from bottle #84 from cask 610 and served at an alcohol strength of 47.8%

Nose: Sour tamarind. Really sour. Rum. Bananas. Tobacco. Sweet cigar leaf. Toffee. Butterscotch. Cinnamon. Black pepper. Chocolate. Dry fruits. Nuts. Dried raisins. Prunes. Cold cuts. Stale oak. I don’t the like the nose. It’s far too sour for me. The oak seems stale too. A case of Oloroso overpower.

Palate: Surprisingly better than the nose. Chocolate. Black pepper. Oloroso sherry. Dry fruits. Cinnamon. Fudge cake. Tobacco leaf. Dark toffee. The palate works better for me. Not so sour as I was expecting. Quite thick and syrupy.

Finish: Licorice. Oak. Chocolate. Brownies. Lingers.

This is, in my opinion, not up to Balvenie’s usual high standards. There might be other casks that have fared better but this one doesn’t really cut it for me. Especially the nose.

Rating: 84

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

Glenfarclas 105

Glenfarclas 105
Distillery/Brand: Glenfarclas | Region: Speyside | ABV: 60% | Color: Old Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
There’s not a lot I can tell you about the Glenfarclas 105 that you don’t already know. It’s the quintessential sherry bomb which, thanks to it’s 60% ABV, is the average mans’ insanely economical bang for the buck.

Produced at the, still family-owned, Grants Distillery this is truly a Speyside giant with it’s over the top flavors and delivery. Now I know a few people who don’t like it a whole lot purely because of it’s big sherry flavors. But I actually like it for exactly those reasons.

It’s a sherry bomb. It knows it’s a sherry bomb. It’s cask strength. And not just any cask strength. It’s 60%. It’s not making any excuses. In fact it’s letting you know if you don’t like it you can suck it’s cork.

Nose: Bitter chocolate and dark plums. Big fat raisins mixed with black peppercorns. Red grapes on top of pancakes smothered in maples syrup. This is such a huge sherry nose. I really like it. Simply because it is unashamed.

Palate: So true to the nose. Bitter chocolate. Black pepper. Maple syrup. Dark chocolate. It’s impossible to hold it without your eyes watering. In a good way.

Finish: Insanely long. Cherries. Red licorice. Black pepper.

My only beef with Glenfarclas is that I couldn’t tell the difference between this and the 20 year old 105 – which costs three times the amount. If you want my advice buy three of these bad boys instead of the 20 year old.

Rating: 89

The Glenlivet Guardians Chapter

Glenlivet GuardiansChapter
Distillery/Brand: Glenlivet | Region: Speyside | ABV: 48.7% | Color: Young Sauternes
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 23 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 89

Review
About a year ago I was invited to a special Glenlivet evening. The idea was to get a bunch of whisky geeks in a room, present them with three different spirits and get a general consensus on which was the most popular.

This is how The Glenlivet decided to launch their newest expression – The Guardians Chapter. Pretty neat, I must admit.

So first we were given a whisky called The Classic. Typical Glenlivet flavors. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was just the 12 year old at a slightly higher strength. Anyway, it did not impress.

The second dram was called The Revival. Better than the first but still not good enough, in my opinion. Lacked personality basically.

The final installment of the evening was The Exotic. The best of the lot. Much more assertive than the first two. Strong flavors and an aggressive sherry attack.

This was the one that the majority (including my self) voted for at the end of the evening. And much to our smug satisfaction ended up on shelves as The Glenlivets’ latest expression – The Guardians Chapter.

A collection of hogsheads, Spanish sherry butts and American oak this is quite a tasty little whisky.

Nose: Warm chocolate and dark oranges with spicy clove. Natural caramel. Almond husks with a dry cinnamon rub. Dried fruits including dark raisins. Quite a strong vanilla and banana molasses layer to the proceedings.

Palate: Instant spice. Black peppers and dark fruits. Dark berries too. Strong cinnamon twist on an almond creme brulee.

Finish: Quite possibly the strongest coffee / mochachino and cinnamon finish I have ever experienced.

This is an above average spirit and I’d like to think I had a little something to do with it.

Rating: 89

Balvenie 12 Year Old – Triple Cask

Balvenie 12 TripleCask
Distillery/Brand: Balvenie | Region: Speyside | ABV: 40% | Color: Gold
Nose: 22 | Taste: 22 | Finish: 22 | Balance: 22 | Rating: 88

Review
There’s something about entry level Speysiders that has started to piss me off a bit. Seems like there’s a formula everyone’s using to create literally the same whisky.

I mean I understand this is the flavor profile that most people like (and buy) but must they all feel and taste exactly the same?

Let’s put it in some refill bourbon barrels for a bit and then finish it off in some sherry to get that altogether familiar flavor.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s no reason to fix something if it aint broke but it’s become a blur for me of late. They’re all starting to look and feel the same.

And the frustrating bit for me is that they’re all pretty decent. There’s really very little wrong with any of them. It’s just that I have a hard time telling them apart. Maybe a lot of you can but my palate’s not that good.

Anyway, enough rant.

This 12 year old is part of The Balvenie Travel Retail Triple Cask range. Which basically means they’ve used three different maturations. First some refill bourbon, then some first fill bourbon and finally some sherry.

Nose: Lots of honey vanilla on a floral note. Soft peaches with a hint of oaky spices. There’s something green in there as well. Quite fresh. Quite nice.

Palate: There’s the honey again but now with mild peppercorns and cinnamon. Touch of nuts. Dried fruits with a mild citrus overtone.

Finish: Medium with an unexpected late arrival of spices.

Remember the Stepford Wives? Reminds me of them. All manufactured to look and feel the same. But still pretty good looking.

Rating: 88

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